The Ultimate RPG Character Backstory Guide: Expanded Genres Review

When it comes to crafting a story, no matter what medium it’s for, arguably the most fun aspect is creating characters. The people and creatures that populate your story are the focal point; they make things happen. We experience stories through their experiences. Considering how many stories have been written, there are seemingly an infinite number of character types, archetypes, stereotypes, and more. It’s getting harder and harder to come up with an original character without difficulty. However, there may be a solution in The Ultimate RPG Character Backstory Guide by James D’Amato. This book can be a helpful tool for your next crafting session. The first version was limited character creation to a specific genre, but this expanded version includes sections for all the most popular RPG categories.

The Goal Of The Guide

There are many types of RPG and tabletop games that take character creation very seriously. Since they’re’ the driving force behind the adventure, they need to be given a lot of thought to every aspect of their being. Abilities and skills are nice, but it’s more important to know how they got those things and for what purpose. Games that need such characters frequently have systems in place to help players put something together. Although, these usually serve as a foundation and leave a majority of the building to the player. This book takes a more intricate approach by having a lot of activities and asking very specific questions to really give the character some depth. The expansion also dedicates a fair amount of space to providing useful details for the genres you’d like to base your character on.

Guide Strengths

Role-playing can be a very fun and relaxing activity, but there’s a lot of effort that goes into making it fulfilling and worthwhile. With this RPG guide, you’ll be able to make a character with which you can develop an attachment. One of its strengths is the amount of coverage it provides. There are many genres, but there are a few in particular that come up often in RPGs. The guide lists them as Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror, X-Punk, Superhero, and Western. The X-Punk section is particularly effective as it manages to find similarities between all the genres that have “punk” in their names. The fact that it covers these key genres makes it handy for the average tabletop gamer since it tailors its questions and details to each one specifically.

Then there are types of questions and activities included in the book. Each section focuses on crafting a character for a specific genre. After an intro describing the genre in a clear and concise way, it goes into the elements that are common in characters within it. They apply to things like personal relationships with allies and enemies, history with certain factions and organizations, criminal past, personal philosophy, the standards the characters hold themselves to, and far more. The questions can be surprisingly specific to really make you think about your character so you can create a unique combination of traits.

The book is also written in a very fun way. Although it’s a guide, it’s also an activity book with charts, bubbles to fill, and blank spaces to write in. Character creation can take an unexpected amount of time, and this book turns it into an entertaining experience. The decision to use dice and cards in order to add to the randomness of your character crafting while encouraging you to think outside the box.

Guide Weaknesses

Books are reliable but they can also be quite delicate. The main flaw with this book is that it expects you to write in it. Many pages are filled with blank spaces. This means that there are a lot of missed opportunities to go into greater detail. Even if you are planning to use this guide for multiple games, the pencil will fade and stain the pages creating a mess within. Erasing can only do so much before it starts to damage the page and ink. A section of completely blank pages may have been better-suited for this kind of book. Until such a version becomes available, keep a notebook handy.

Finally, though the book is quite easy to follow, RPG elements are not always that simple. There are few moments and sections where things seem a bit unclear. There are also times where the prompt is vague and then the following questions don’t always mesh well. Unfortunately, this is very difficult to plan for since the imagination has no limits. It does well to cover the bases, but this sometimes makes questions too vague or inflexible.

Seek Character Guidance

The Ultimate RPG Character Backstory Guide: Expanded Genres Edition is a guidebook for creating a fully-fleshed out character for key RPG genres. James D’Amato has put together a fun and accessible activity book that makes you really think about who your character is and what they’re all about. Sometimes questions don’t sync up with players thoughts, though, and this book can wear out quickly for repeated sessions. However, these concerns are easy to get over and this version trounces the previous one in terms of coverage and variety. You’ll still have access to loads of narrative resources to make the ultimate RPG character backstory. Grab the guide, a pencil, some dice, and cards to start playing with your ideas.