A Good Back Story Should Create Options, Not Extra Work
A good back story is an amazing thing. It helps a player feel a greater connection to his/her character and make writing adventures easier for the DM. A bad back story on the other hand, creates work for the Dm and infringes on his/her story arc. Keep your character’s past in the past, and don’t let it affect the present; leave that option to the DM.
I remember a game I played in a few years back. One of the other characters had a very detailed back story for his character, and it was clear that he’d worked really hard on it. The only problem was that it detailed a kingdom and massive political group that didn’t exist in the DM’s game world. The player had created a powerful story that had nothing to do with the campaign we were about to embark on.
So how does a player create a back story that is detailed and exciting and fits with the campaign? Here are some tips:
Learn about your GM’s game world.
GM’s spend a lot of time detailing the world that you play in and often times that level of detail seems to get overlooked by some players. See if there are new or different twists that your GM uses in his/her system and write your background to include some of those unique elements.
Mention interesting characters or family members
If you mention a run in you had with a crime boss, or that your character has a planes-traveling uncle with a penchant for mischief, for example that gives your GM great fodder for side quests.
Lost family treasure
Maybe the character’s family treasure was taken by a marauding band of barbarians or a dragon. The ideas create possible places to take your character without infringing on the present.
Maybe they character inherited a broken sword, or a mysterious arcane object. These may not be more than family gossip and worthless, but they may give your DM a place to go if his idea well runs low.