Social caste, character back story, PC context

Anyone have suggestions, opinions, or comments on this topic? I am curious, if this has much value for other DMs.

There are times when I have had players create a brief (one or two sentence) back story for their character during creation. Mostly to provide motivation and a reason for being in the adventure.

My intent has been to give the player context for roleplaying their character. Not all players need help. Many experienced gamers can spontaneously generate their character’s back story, personality, motivation, and reason for risking life and limb on adventuring for fame and fortune.

But when I am playing OSE solo and/or when I am starting a new set of players who may not play RPGs often, I find having a brief written back story helpful.

So, I have been considering the creation of my own character back story creation with social status based random tables with mechanics such as NPC resources: patron, underworld contact, noble title (obligations + income). This would be based on roughly medieval upper, middle, and lower classes. My goal is to have just one page for random tables with only two, three or four actual dice rolls (1d6) to get a result.

Dragon issue #70 page 12 has “A ‘caste’ of realistic characters” that discusses social status being useful fuel for roleplaying. I am not sure social strata that places characters within the group at different social class levels would be a good idea. Perhaps having a group social status as a start position. Then, characters might be at the bottom, middle, or top of the group’s social class level.

Dragon issue #25 page 12 has “THE PROPER PLACE OF CHARACTER SOCIAL CLASS IN D&D” by Gary G. [James M. Ward has “Judging and YOU!” on page 7"] Gary’s proclivities shine pretty strongly. Again, I do not want to create bad player to player interactions.

Central Casting: Heroes of Legend by Jennell Jaquays - which is cool, but takes a long time to create a full character back story from birth to adventuring age. Nice, but too much for my purpose. This works well for a 5e character with a lot of plot-armor. And you need hours to fill out the characters full back story and history. It can be fun, but too much for OSR where death is nearby.

Dragon issue #3 page 14 " Birth Tables for D & D" by Brad Stock & Brian Lane - this is pretty close to what I have in mind. Only bit missing for me is better in-game mechanics associated with the results. I am looking for adventure hooks and character context. This article is almost too much.

What I need is something quick and purposeful.

If folks are interested, let me know. I will put a one page draft together.

Best regards,

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I am definitely interested!

For myself, I’d want something simple and generic so I could easily map it to my setting. I think the elements I’d want would be:

  • birth location (terrain, town, or city)
  • family/upbringing occupation
  • ally (generic that I can match to an applicable NPC)
  • enemy (generic that I can match to an applicable NPC)
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Screenshot 2024-03-21 165236

I threw this together just to see what something might look like. I think the Call to Adventure might be fun if the campaign had a particular overarching goal to it.


Swapped out one of the Crime Lord and Local Lord entries for a Monster and a Demon/Divinity. :grin: