The Guide To Mortal Backgrounds

Ah, background stories. The very flesh of a character. Solid. You can role-play for ten years with the same character and it will change. It will get better, and worse, and then better again. It will ebb and it will flow, but your background story will always remain the same. It's stable. Once you write it out, it cannot be changed and you're stuck with it. It's often the first impression that a Storyteller will ever get of your character. The past of your character is completely based on whatever words you choose to put into it. What good is his past, though? You're role-playing in his present and that's the important part! I beg to differ. If you have the right Storyteller, you might very well find that your past does affect your present and even your future. Trust me, you have the right Storyteller(s) here. The act of telling a story is a fire and if you don't feed it, you're going to be very cold. You feed it with your role-play, but also with your background story. Believe me! I'm not just making this stuff up. Honestly. Being as this section is for mortal backgrounds, allow me to first hand you a list of details that could come in handy when writing the background for your characters.

How old are you?
When were you born? How old do you look to others? Are you more or less mature than you seem?

What was unique about your childhood?
What do you remember about your early years? What forged your basic motivations and attitudes? Where did you go to school? Were you a good student? Who were your immediate family members? What is your clearest childhood memory? Did you go to high school? College? Did you have a hometown, or did your family move often? Ever run away from home? Did you play sports? Did any of your childhood friendships last until adulthood?

What kind of person were you?
Were you a kind and gentle person, or an arrogant bastard? Were you popular, or a social outcast? Did you have a family? How did you earn a living? Did you have any real friends? Or just acquaintances? What kept you going from day to day? Did anyone miss you when you were gone?

Ever had a brush with the supernatural?
Do you know any of what is out there? Have you ever dabbled in the occult? Have you ever met a werewolf? What about a vampire? Did you even believe in them? When you met one, were you scared? Curious? Disbelieving? Angry?

Did you have a mentor, and how did they treat you?
What do you know of your mentor? Were they seductive, forceful, abusive, cryptic or open? Why do you think they chose you? Did you even know your mentor? How long did you remain with them? Did they teach you anything at all? Where did you go? Did you meet any other people while with your mentor? Did your mentor care for anyone else? Do you often judge other people by the opinions that your mentor carried?

How did you meet those you associate with?
Were you brought together by chance, or design? Are you united in purpose, working toward the same goal? How long have you been together? Do any of you share the same mentor or family? What keeps you together when things are at their worst?

Where is your home?
Where do you sleep? Do you have a permanent home, or do you migrate from day to day? How do you pay for your home?

What major hurdles have you conquered?
Did you learn anything special to overcome those challenges? Has it caused you much trouble? Has it caused you to accidentally harm someone you care for? Did you ever become obsessed with conquering your challenges?

What motivates you?
Are you bent on revenge? Do you lust for power? Fame? Do you long for a normal life? Do you have ambitions among mortal society? Do you just want to be left alone? Are you involved with inter-mortal or inter-supernatural conflict? If you could have any one thing in the world, what would it be?

The last set on that list, I believe to be the most important of them all. Those without motivation are not likely to do well in the world, often falling prey to things such as depression. Although a mortal's values often differ greatly from those of a vampire or a werewolf, they still must have something worth existing for, or they would likely just get it all over with.

I hope that this helps those who read it to create better, more rich and full backgrounds for their mortals. My only other advice is to think outside of the box! Don't be afraid just because a particular concept might not have been well-received elsewhere. My only other other advice is this: DETAILS GALORE. I want you to use this guide to help build a better mortal so that I can use those delicious backgrounds to torture you and/or to help you torture those around you during storylines! And if you're reading this sometime in 2015 and I'm no longer a Storyteller, let's hope that there is another out there who wants to do the same thing for you, right?

Mortally Yours,
Aetherwild

P.S. - One more piece of advice, since I'm just chock full of the damned stuff. When you finish your background, let it set for a night. The game isn't going anywhere. Go do something else. Mix a stiff drink. Watch the sun rise or set for the last time before role-play consumes your real life. Come back the next day and read it over again. I can guarantee that you'll find something that you want to fix or change entirely.