If you’re new to Handbook-World, you might not realize that our girl Thief has a history with piracy in general, and Swash and Buckle in particular. If you don’t feel like working through 678 comics worth of backlog, rest assured that our purple pilferer has plenty of reason to flex her grappling skills in today’s comic. One can only hope that Buckle’s physiology is based in 5e dhampir rules. Unfortunately for our semi-undead swashbuckler, recent history would seem to indicate otherwise.

Any dang way, while our Heroes are busy negotiating passage to the distant shores of Who-Knows-Where, what do you say the rest of us talk about backstory? The subject is on my mind as, for the first time in many a long year, I’ve been invited to join a Pathfinder game as a player rather than a GM. I find myself returning to form, scribbling page after page of convoluted backstory. No doubt Wizard would be proud. And yet, the forever GM in back of my head seems to have antithetical opinions.

Skimming back over the draft of my novella, I started to ask myself questions. “How would a GM actually use this information? If I want these ideas to see play rather than getting swallowed up in the 3 Ring Binder of Forgotten Notes, how should I structure my backstory?” The thought occurred to me that bite-sized chunks with clearly-labeled plot hooks would be a good start. I’ve written plenty of these things for published modules after all. So why couldn’t I, as a PC, do the same thing for my GM? Here’s what I came up with:

  • Important NPCs
    • Family: Beloved father was a skilled stonemason. That made him uncommonly valuable as a slave. He was sold deeper into Evil Empire mere weeks before emancipation. Though my PC hopes to find and free him one day, she has no idea where to start.
    • Ally: Best friend from girlhood still works in the kitchens of House [Slaving Jerks]. Quiet and meek, the human nobility think nothing of letting their secrets slip in front of her. She’s a valuable source of information for my PC’s struggling detective agency, and  I make sure to tip her handsomely for the latest gossip.
    • Enemy: Pampered Daughter of House [Slaving Jerks] hates my guts. With Pampered Daughter’s family losing influence and struggling for cash in our newly independent nation’s upper class, the release of her latest book was supposed to help maintain prestige. The ‘literary event of the season’ was ruined when I crashed the release party and revealed myself as her ghost writer.
  • Struggling Business: Thanks to the notoriety I earned at the book release, I’ve since opened my own “poet for hire” shop. Unfortunately, it keeps getting vandalized. I can’t prove that the thugs are on the payroll of Pampered Daughter, but business is bad. I’ve had more luck using my knowledge of local nobility to peddle information. All those years writing scandalous epigrams about Pampered Daughter’s enemies has gained me a reputation as somebody who can find things out.
  • Relationship to [Other PC]: After a bungled attempt at recovering [Other PC’s] McGuffin, the pair have decided to leave the city behind until the heat dies down.  As the campaign begins, these city kids have just survived a wilderness misadventure involving hallucinogenic mushrooms and a pair of carnivorous plants. When they wander into town, they are in dire need of a bath, a hot meal, a cure for a hallucinogenic hangover, and perhaps a pair of tweezers to pull out the remaining thorns still stuck in their flesh.
  • Motivation for Adventuring: After reading so many fanciful poetry books describing natural wonders, I want to see them for myself. If I can raise enough funds to reopen my storefront or buy my father out of bondage, so much the better.

I’m sharing this with you guys for a couple of reasons. In the first place, I’m super excited about my character and let me show you my pokemans. But as a GM, I look at those bolded section titles and think, “OK. I could work with this.” The father is an obvious rescue mission. The ally and enemy are both potential quest sources, as the one could need my help while the latter could send any number of ne’er-do-wells to seek restitution. The wilderness misadventure is an immediate hook for session 1, while my motivation for adventuring is a long-term arc. Dangling natural wonders or a publishing deal in front of my character will likely get her attention. All of these are at-a-glance tools for my GM. They’re accessible shorthand for a menu of quest objectives. And just as important, they’re reasonably tied into the starting campaign lore.

So here’s my question for today’s discussion. How do you go about giving your GM hooks for your character? Is the full-on novella useful? Do you prefer to go in with a minimal backstory, the better to hook in to an existing campaign? Or are you one of those sad souls who hopes vainly to see their ideas included in the plot, only to be disappointed session after session? Whatever your take on PCs backstories, sound off with your own approach down in the comments!


ARE YOU THE KIND OF DRAGON THAT HOARDS ART? Then you’ll want to check out the “Epic Hero” reward level on our Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Like the proper fire-breathing tyrant you are, you’ll get to demand a monthly offerings suited to your tastes! Submit a request, and you’ll have a personalized original art card to add to your hoard. Trust us. This is the sort of one-of-a-kind treasure suitable to a wyrm of your magnificence.