Ideas for Character Backgrounds

The following are a series of questions to try to help prompt players when they are writing character backgrounds. None of these questions represent required info, I just find such a list helpful to anyone writing a character's history.

Some of these questions are partially redundant. Others will be influenced greatly by the campaign world. — e.g. The question on political beliefs. I can't really imagine any Hurvan not accepting the role of the Monarchy and the aristocracy. It's just not within their paradigm. Nor could I see then even conceiving of communism. I included such questions in order to make this list as complete and as versatile as possible.

Players in my campaign, if you wish to submit answers to any of these questions to me privately, as opposed to being public knowledge in your character's background, please feel free to do so.

Webmaster's note: Many of these were culled off of the web or rec.games.frp.dnd. If you can demonstrate that you are one of the original authors, please email me so I can credit you.

Physical Description & Personality

What does the character look like? How often does your character bathe? How do they wear their hair? Are they neat or sloppy? What colors does your character tend to wear? Does he have any scars or tattoos? If so how did he get them?

Does the character have any unusual habits or physical traits? How do others tend to react to them?

Character Titles or Nicknames? How did you get them?

What is your motto or favorite saying?

What kinds of clothes, jewelry, etc. do you wear when you're not in armor or other "adventuring gear"? Do you have "a look"? Do you dress up (or down) to go out?

What is the character's normal daily routine? How does he feel when it's interrupted for whatever reason?

What do you wear to bed at home? While adventuring? Where do you put your weapons, magic items, etc. when you're asleep?

What is your favorite food? Your favorite drink? Dessert? A particular cuisine?

Does the character have any mental problems? Phobias? If so what are they? What do they stem from?

Why might someone dislike your character?

What skill (nonweapon) are you most proud of?

What is your greatest strength? (i.e. honest, loyal, brave?)

What is your greatest shortcoming or personal flaw? (i.e. cowardly, drinks too much, lies?)

Whom does your character most admire? Whom does your character most love? Name three personality traits your character most admires in others. Name three traits your character most dislikes.

Does your character like crowds?

What are your hobbies (collecting, jam sessions in a bar, dining out, etc.) when you're not adventuring or training in your class skills? What would you do if you woke up with insomnia and had to find something to do all night?

What is your favorite animal? Color?

What makes your character angry? What happens when you're angry?

If your character could ask an all-knowing oracle one question, one would it be?

Rate yourself with these traits on a scale of 0 (you barely, or do not, possess this trait) to 10 (you have great amounts of this trait).

* Calm temper * Forgiveness * Optimism
* Charm * Generosity * Patience
* Cheerfulness * Greed * Self-sacrifice
* Confidence * Helpfulness * Valor
* Courtesy * Honesty * Wit
* Curiosity * Loyalty  

Background

Where was your character born & raised?

Who were the character's parents? Did they raise the character? If not why? If not them who?

Describe your character's family.

Describe your childhood. What was childhood like for the character? Calm and peaceful or turbulent and traumatic?

Does the character have any or did the character have any role models? Describe them.

Has your character ever had a pet? If so, what was it, what happened to it?

What was the worst thing that ever happened to your character & how did it affect them?

Describe a recurring nightmare your character had once.

What kind of relationships does the character currently have? Does he have any close friends? Describe your character's friends. Bitter enemies? If so who? What are they like?

Do you have a best friend (not a child or a lover) whom you'd protect with your reputation or life? Who? Why?

Has your character had any romantic interests? If so, who, when, what? (you can leave out how).

What is your most important personal possession? Not the magical item you value most but the possession that means the most. How much would your character sacrifice to keep/save this possession?

Name the one thing your character has done which makes him the most proud. Name the one thing of which your character is most ashamed.

What did the character do before he entered the story? Who trained the character to do what he does now?

Alignment, Ethics and Religion

What is your character's religion? Who is your patron deity? Are you a devout worshipper? How often do you attend services or make sacrifices?

What are the character's moral and religious beliefs? What lengths will the character go to defend those beliefs? Who or what taught those beliefs to the character?

Do you have a moral code that you follow? If so, what is it?

Can the character kill? (Not 'kill' in the sense of slaying evil monsters, but killing another human, possibly as a murder or manslaughter.) Why would the character kill? Does he have any enemies at all? Would or could the character kill them?

How does the character generally treat others? Does he trust easily? Or not?

What are your political beliefs? (i.e., do you prefer democracy, monarchy, rule of the aristocracy, communism, anarchy, etc.?)

Is there any race, creed, alignment, religion or the like against which you are strongly prejudiced? Why? (Note that most Hurvans are prejudiced against elves.)

What, if anything, would your character sacrifice their life for?

Are there any circumstances under which you would abandon your adventuring companions in an hour of need?

What does 'justice' mean to your character?

Motivation

What are the character's dreams? Ambitions? Goals?

How does he seek to obtain them? How does adventuring fit into this dream, or does it at all?

What type of person would be your ideal mate?

Does the character ever want to have a family of his own someday? If so with who or what type of person? Does your character want children?

What (if anything) would make you stop adventuring? (i.e., death of a loved one, physical mutilation, enough money to retire on, marriage, etc.?)

If your character had to quit adventuring for some reason, what would they do?

What are your immediate goals? (i.e., what would you like to be doing in the coming year?)

What are your long-term goals? (i.e., what would you like to be doing twenty years from now?)

Would your character consider a brief romantic fling? A one-night stand?

What is your greatest fear? (it can be rational or irrational)

Work out with DM — Clear any of these ideas with the DM.

Was the character present during any key events in the history of the campaign world? How did that event affect the character?

Does the character have a notorious or celebrated ancestor? What did he do? What do people assume about the character when his ancestry is known? Does the character actively try to live up to the reputation, try dispel it or try to ignore it?

Are you an extremely loyal member of any cause? (i.e. a loyal servant of a noble, devoted member of a guild or order, etc.?)

Campaign

The following questions are not intended to be answered at character creation. They are merely prompts for those who wish to further write of their character's history beyond the point at which they join the campaign.

How would your character describe his current adventuring companions to a friend he trusted? (this can be a work in progress).

If your character had to spend a month without any demands on his time, what would he do to relax?

If there was one thing about the world you could change what would it be (a border, a tradition, a custom, an empire.... cultural/societal/political things not physics)?

Why do you adventure — why have you chosen to risk your life as a career choice?

Has the character ever considered the possibility of his own death? Has he made a will?

What would you like to be remembered for after your death?