Kristin Brumley is the creator and executive producer of Basic Adventuring 101, a webseries about Live Action Role Play (LARP). The series highlights women in the hobby as well as in the Indiefilm world, and is currently looking for audience support on their Seed&Spark campaign.
Whether you are in a LARP, playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons, or you are writing your own novel, you see these character backstories everywhere.
Character tropes are fun to play. They are simple, and they have inherent conflict that bring interest to a story. There is a reason why so many people choose these sorts of backgrounds for their characters.
However, it’s time we recognize these character backstories are a lazy form of character development which becomes hard to maintain in a group setting such as a LARP or table-top game.
Your tragic past is marked by the fact that you have no family alive to speak of. Your parents died in a tragic accident or brutal murder, and so you have no ties or responsibility to speak of in this world.
But at least you’re not the only one!
With the amount of people you’ve met who are also orphans, it’s quickly become apparent that this is a prerequisite when becoming an adventurer.
This one goes hand in hand with Number 5. Your dead parents or family were brutally murdered, and so now you are seeking revenge. You would stop at nothing to enact the same punishment on whoever caused you your tragic backstory.
Unfortunately, because everyone around you is also dead-set on revenge, your LARP has become the next setting of a brooding vampire novel.
You come from a very rich and powerful family, but you gave up that lifestyle–either for necessity, or because of #5 and #4.
How dare these peasants treat you like a lower class citizen. You are nobility! And for some reason so is everyone else around you.
What better way to write your backstory, then to write none at all. With amnesia, you don’t need to do any research, or really any work at all. Your character simply does not remember what happened in the past.
Since no one in your group has any real backstory to speak of, you never really have any conflict at all! It’s really a win-win situation.
You, above everyone else, are one special snowflake.
You are different from everyone in your family, and it’s all up to you in order to save the world. You’re smarter, better looking, and all around more special than everyone else. If you were nobility, you should be. Who needs parents when you are Superman?
As well as all those other special snowflakes trying to be as cool as you.
Perhaps it’s time we consider some better character backgrounds when playing in a group setting. There’s a big difference between playing a solo-player video game and crafting a story with 3-50 other people.
What other character tropes have you seen in a game that didn’t work? Are there instances where the above backstories worked better than expected? Share with us!