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Dungeon Master Just Frakked Your D&D Backstory What Do You Do

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Ever have your Dungeon Master totally ignore your D&D backstory? Here are some tips, tricks, and advice for DMs and players to get their game back on track. Below you’ll find the video and transcription.

Dungeon Master Just Frakked Your D&D Backstory What Do You Do Video

Dungeon Master Just Frakked Your D&D Backstory What Do You Do Video Transcription

Ted: “ We’ve been playing this campaign for a while, right?”

Dave: “Yeah, so.”

Ted: “All my character’s looking for as long lost brother.”

Dave: “Yeah. What’s your point?”

Ted: “Why haven’t I found him yet?”

Dave: “Ted, he was lost at sea. You’re in the middle of a desert.”

Ted: “I wrote like four pages of backstory. I don’t think you even read it.”

Dave: “ I sent you a 30-page campaign brief stating clearly this was a desert world. I don’t think you read it either.”

Ted: “Clearly, if you would have read my backstory, you would have known that I didn’t read the campaign brief.”

Dave: “In this video, we’re going to tell you what to do when the dungeon master fraks your backstory and what to do when they do that.”

Dave: “Welcome to Nerdarchy, for nerds, by nerds I’m Nerdarchist Dave and today I’m hanging out with this nerd,”

Ted: “Nerdarchist Ted.”

Dave: “ And maybe this is your first time hanging out in Ted’s basement. It’s a place where we’d like to talk about news, views, and homebrews for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons. Hey, sometimes we even talked about other role-playing games.”

Ted: “So if you don’t want to miss a single video, don’t forget to crit hit that subscribe button and to attune to that notification bell.”

Dave: “ All right, so we’re going to talk about the backstory of role-playing games. And this, this is kind of generic. This could go for any kind of role-playing game, not just 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons or any of the versions of D&D.”

Ted: “ Absolutely. And backstories are one of those things that some people they dive in, you know, they create this rich character and go into way more depth than any DM, you know, really wants to dive into. And others like backstory. What’s that So it winds up being, you know, there’s a wide spectrum for a, you know, role-players.”

Dave: “All right, so let’s start with both sides of the screen, right And ask the question, when does the backstory not become relevant what happens when it messes up the whole dichotomy between the game master and the players and incorporating the backstories.”

Ted: “Do we want to, you know, focus on one side first or do we want to bounce back and forth How do you want to go into this I think this?”

Dave: “I think this particular part of the topic is both right and what happened in that disconnect where the players show up with a backstory that’s not working and the DM is completely ignoring the player’s backstory. You know For me it starts with, well, did you have a session zero? Was there any dialogue before the campaign started Some kind of campaign brief I mean we joked about a 30-page campaign, but there should be like something in a couple of sentences of some, some idea for the players to know what kind of characters to build, what kind of stories they should have. The biggest time I see this being a problem is when everything’s done in a vacuum, the DMs like I’m running a new game, who wants to play and players are like, I do, I do. Then everyone shows up with our stuff, but no one has any dialogue or conversation before the game starts.”

Ted: “So that could come up of like, all right, the DM wants to run your traditional fantasy game. And the players like, well I just got the unearthed Arcana about Eberron and I want to dive into the artificer. You know, so it’s like, well the two of them might not mesh. So you could have issues with, you know, setting versus character. You could have just terrain issues. You know, you mentioned, you know, oh, this was a desert game and you know, my quote-unquote character, you know, a brother was lost at sea. So an aquatic game versus a desert game is going to be vastly different. If I decide I’m going to play a storm sorcerer that’s all about, you know, aquatic and I’m a water Genasi and we’re never going to see water, the kind of powers and my character has, they’re going to be useless.”

Dave: “ Yeah. So step one is just, you know, if you want to have an effective backstory, know what game you’re playing in, right as The DM you want to be able to incorporate your player’s backstories until the game. know what kind of players are going to be in your game. Have everything where it kind of meets in the middle and really if you are a four-page style, of backstory kind of player, do it too long, didn’t read your DM so they can get the jest and a couple of bullet points.”

Ted: “ Crib notes are incredibly helpful.”

Dave: “I believe if you like writing incredibly long and detailed backstories, write them for yourself, not for the DM, not the players at the table. Write to them because you enjoy them and let that be enough. If other people decide that they enjoy them and they want to partake in your backstory later on in the game, it’s optional, you know, give them the choice.”

Ted: “And that kind of stuff does have the ability to come out during gameplay. You know, you can piecemeal it out over, you know, sessions are over and over that the entire campaign if you so desire.”

Dave: “And you should really. No one wants to be info dumped on, not from the dungeon master and not from your fellow players either. You don’t want to have someone sitting there monologueing for 20 minutes like there’s some kind of super villain.”

Ted: “I can’t believe he’s monologueing!”

Dave: “and he’s on our side quick get him!”

Ted: “From the player side, there are several things are that are going to come up specifically of, okay, the DM is not caring about my backstory as a player. You know, what do I do.”

Dave: “Right This is like we’re already in it. We’ve gone past all of that stuff we just talked about, right Yeah. That, that’s no longer in the cards for us. We’re playing the game. How do we course correct How do we fix it and make it better while we’re doing it?”

Ted: “One of the great things that we’ve seen throughout, you know, years of play is you can have, you know, essentially downtime. You can have a break in between your adventures and this is a great place for you to say, Hey, with your DMs approval, can my character accomplish this task It might be something that pertains to a backstory. It could pertain to a goal, but it’s like I want to progress my character story forward and since the DM is not incorporating that stuff into a campaign, this is a great place for you to say, look, can I just do this little thing Maybe haven’t do dice rolls it. It could even be handled via messages and you know, email, text and what have you in between sessions. So it’s not even taking time away from the table.”

Dave: “Yeah Especially too, if you’re at a table where your GM does do downtime, this could be a way for you to reflect that backstory that you came up with and have it come back in because you know downtime. If you look at Xanathar’s guide to everything and the DMG, there is a ton of activities. Some of them are almost like mini adventures themselves. There’s pit fighting, there are carousing and gambling. There’s, you know, religious activities. There are scholarly activities, there’s creating magic items. There’s pulling off a heist. If you’re a criminal, there are so many things that you could be doing that, yeah, maybe just gets resolved with a couple of dice rolls and then you build the narrative around it. Then you can maybe later on work that backs into the session through role-playing.”

Ted: “ And if you can do a heist, you know, there’s no reason why you can’t do a quote-unquote dungeon delve or rescue mission if you’re trying to locate, you know, that character’s lost, brother.”

Dave: “Yeah. If it’s something significant to the character, but the GM does it want to take the main game in that direction, perhaps it is something that can be done that way. And we’ve seen it done in other games like that. So there’s no reason why I couldn’t. Just a matter of what the players want and what the GM wants. But also too, as a player, if you request this and your dice roll suck, but this is how we’re resolving it. You’re going to have to own whatever the bad stuff is and accept the consequences for handling it this way.

Ted: “Yep. Your long lost family member could die. You could not retrieve your soul from hell.”

Dave: “There are a whole plethora of things that could go wrong.”Dungeon Master

Ted: “All right, so what else do we have?”

Dave: “So now you’re into the game. The campaign’s been going on for a while. There is no way you’re working this stuff in with a backstory. I mean desert planet, middle of the sea. Maybe it’s a time to kind of course correct and edit your backstory. If your DM agrees, this is something you approach with them.”

Ted: “So changing your backstory, if nothing has come up that would affect the plot or the story in any way, shape or form, you really can, you know, pull the DM d aside and say, hey look, I think this is kind of an important decision for my character. I want to make this happen. And I goofed up. I didn’t read all the information. I just thought, hey, you know, my brother’s a sailor. This will be kind of cool to have him lost at sea and I want to find him. But maybe he wasn’t lost at sea, you know, maybe his ship, you know, crashed and he was lost, you know, in here and you know, there’s still a chance to find it. However, you have the ability to get the story back into the plotline so that it still has the potential to come up.”

Dave: “ Maybe the sea’s a metaphor in this particular game, it’s a desert planet. Perhaps there are these windswept planes that are as smooth as glass and they sail ships across them, unlike razor blade runners. Right. And you know, pitch an idea like that to your DM, something different. Or like in Dark Sun they had silt seas. So maybe there is a way to kind of incorporate the essence of what was before and re-flavor it a little bit, especially if it hasn’t come up. And the only place that lives and exists is on paper someplace. Right, You can always save that for your next character or another character down the road.”

Ted: “Absolutely. So having these twists, having these changes now and it allows you to still accomplish something and you know as, as with any kind of change you do kind of have to seek you secret DMs permission.”

Dave: “ So lastly, the point that I would like to make and bring up is if the game that you’re playing in isn’t really heavily bringing back stories into it, then you as the player can take responsibility for your backstory and you can bring it out in the course of the game by role-playing with your fellow players by roleplaying with the Dungeon Master when you encounter NPCs, you know, you could bring up stories from your backstory as well. I mean, as long as they’re a briefing, you’re not in for dumping all at once. But you know, throughout the course of the campaign, that four-page backstory, there’s no reason why you can’t get a bunch of it and to the game and kind of, you know, flavor you’re role-playing through it and really let it guide and shape how your character interacts with the world.”

Ted: “ Again, with that whole, that whole last brother, you have the ability to like, all right, this is going to affect my decision-making process. I can say when you encounter new players or new NPCs, new characters, you can be like, Oh, you know, oh, have you ever been to this place Have you ever seen, you know this person, maybe your long lost brother was a twin and you could be like, have you seen this face before And they’re like, yeah, it’s right there. No, no, I have a brother. You know, so you, you have the ability to kind of pull this out. And I think characters who have a standard thing that they do when they get to a new town, you know, whether it’s an, Oh, I always had straight from the tavern or I always check to see what nobles are here because I want to socialize. You know, if you have the backstory of that, you know, missing family member, you can be like, well, I’m looking for my brother. And that’s, that’s always what I do. I try to get that information. Even if you’re never going to have a chance to get that family member back because of the course the GM is running, you have the ability to have this focus of your character and people will expect it and if all of a sudden you know, you stopped doing it for a reason, like, oh, has he given up, you know, if something changed, you can have this thing and it’s going to really give you a roleplaying tool that you can fixate on and go to over and over again to really make that character stand out.”

Dave: “Yeah. Not only that, there are other ways to like say the GM throws out a hook, like in the middle of the game and the rest of the players aren’t that interested in it, but it’s like you run into a woman who’s lost her brother or her sister and you’re like, oh no, we, we have to help this person. I know what it’s like to lose your sibling. If there’s any way I can help this person not go through what I felt that I have to do, whatever it takes. And you know, you may be the one that kind of like pushes the party, are pleads with the party or convinces them, bribes them, threatens them, controls whatever it takes or even go goes on the side quest by yourself in order to, you know, help this person because you don’t want them to suffer the way you’ve suffered.”

Ted: “ That’s a really great point.”

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Ted: “ It’s now that we want to look at this from, you know, why would a DM want to not care about a backstory?”

Dave: “He just hates you so much. And he hates your roleplaying No, there’s a lot of reasons why this might happen. One of the reasons and you’ve experienced at your table is there are just too many players. You know we’ve played with players up to like 14 people at the table. Even seven and nine are very unwieldy four to five. It’s a lot easier to work in backstories, but then when you have a huge table it gets harder and harder with every person you add, especially if everyone has their intricate backstory they expect an arc for.”

Ted: “ So throughout the last, you know, full campaign that I ran, we had anywhere from three players showing, showing up all the way to I think nine. But over the entire course of the game, there were more than 14 players that sat at that table. So to have all these different components affect throughout, I think it was like 48 to 50 sessions, there’s a lot of information to take that. Now, some of those players were only there for like, you know, one to four sessions, you know. Some were there for all of it. So I, I tried my best to incorporate what I could where I could, but when you’ve got a long game, you’ve got the ability to add fractions of a session here, fractions of a session there or you know, every once in a while you could devote an entire session to someone’s, you know, arc other times, you know, you might just not have players that are presenting a solid enough story. Some players don’t want to dive into intricate backstories and you know, when this happens, there’s nothing for the DM to work with.”

Dave: “Also, sometimes the players just build their backstory as they play the game as well, which is perfectly fine. I don’t think you need to come to the table with a fully fleshed out backstory. There is nothing wrong with building that backstory as you play the game. It’s, it’s a viable way of doing it in your own game. That game spanned of course, of like four years pretty much. And I think you delved into, I want to say like four solid backstory arcs and then a bunch of like mini spotlights because that’s kind of what was there. That’s what was presented by the players and that’s only one thing. That’s the size of the table. Then another thing might be how many sessions is the game going to be? We would play with the GM that would run like, it was like three, five, seven or nine sessions, something like that. I don’t even think it was nine, but I think it was like three, five, seven. If you’re doing a three-session or a five-session arc, it’s going to be very hard to incorporate backstories into the game anyway. And if you had more players to it, it gets even harder. And the save or dice game Carra Stones guy slander from how to be a great GM, he tried to make sure he gave everyone a least a session arc and we were doing like 12 sessions, five players. But you know, he’s guy slander, how to be a great job. Uh, so yeah, so that’s a high expectation. Even for him, it was still difficult to incorporate everyone’s story enters and even have players die and come back with new characters. Another added difficulty, if you think about it, think about the GM who’s been gearing up to do this arc for a character. The character dies. They come in with a new character. So you know, what do they do because now they have to reshuffle and figure out what they’re doing. And I believe there are other reasons why a GM might not do backstories as well.”

Ted: “Related to what you’re saying now, my campaign that I, I just started, we’ve, we’ve had the first session and it was planned with that same, a limited number of arcs. So there are 12 sessions, you know, playing over a year and there are seven players. If I were to devote a single session arc to each player, that gives like five extra sessions to weave in a, you know, an overall plot and you know, the chance of what happens if somebody dies that does offer, you know, significant challenges and know. So I look at it as, okay, well can I tie enough in that I can highlight different aspects of their backstory or give them moments to shine related to a backstory or their mechanical choices so they feel like as a DM, I care about what’s there without saying we’re going to devote a lot of time to it.”

Dave: “Yeah. Well, any other thing that comes up too is the idea that as the GM, you’re going to know all seven players backstories well enough to implement into your game. That’s on a limited number of sessions that I can think of. One other thing is you’re playing a prewritten adventure or module or even campaign. It’s going to be so much harder than to incorporate everyone’s backstory that can be done and you know. I’ve seen them do it, but it’s a lot of work, but at the same time it comes back to how many sessions do you plan on playing? How many players are involved, and again, I think is a GM, one of the secrets. The secret sauce is looking for those moments where you can just pull out little bits of their backstory instead of doing a whole arc on it. Now you know, at your table, your game, you might do it differently, but these are some of the things that I see from having played for so long.”

Ted: “Yeah, I have to, you know, double down on what you’re saying with that, you know, momentary, I’m just going to insert something. Whether you’re running a pre-written adventure, whether you’re running something that’s brand new that you’ve created or you know, somewhere in the middle, you know, a hodgepodge of both. Having moments where we’re going to change this NPC from what is written or what I had planned. Well, this is going to be affected by that character’s story because there’s something similar enough or useful enough that you could have it affected. And I think in those moments you’re going to have the ability to be like, wait for a second, I wasn’t expecting this. And you know there’s a character is going to love that. That you as a DM took the extra time, put in the extra work, and now you’ve got your character’s bought into what’s going on. Because it’s tied into your story.”

Dave: “Absolutely. So the question is how do you handle backstories in your game? Are they mandatory Is the GM, do you do some kind of DM campaign guide for your players When you start a new game, do you just weigh it Everyone shows up with our character sheet, their dice, and they’re just ready to rock. Let us know down in the comments below why are out it Don’t forget to like share and subscribe.

Ted: “On the way down there. Don’t forget to stop by the description and check out the link to Easy Roller Dice in that Promo Code. Help out the channel by helping out our sponsors.

Dave: “So until next time,”

Both: “Stay nerdy!”

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david friant

My name is Dave Friant I've been gaming off and on for over 27 years. But here is the thing it's always been a part of my life I've kept secret and hidden away. I've always been ashamed of the stigma that gaming and my other nerdy and geeky pursuits summon forth. Recently I decided screw it! This is who I am the world be damned. From now on I'm gonna be a geek, nerd, or however folks want to judge me and just enjoy life. Currently one of my greatest joys is introducing my 13 yr old son to table top RPG's.

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