marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

backstory, RPG vs. novel

Again contemplating the differences between the games and the writing.  In particular backstory.

In a RPG with backgrounds, the players will probably choose their backgrounds based on mechanical advantage.  A novelist should choose the background that fades into the background -- unless it's a plot point, in which the higher the contrast, probably the better.  Then, a player who choose to be a rogue of noble background doesn't have to explain how he learned to pick locks, climb walls, undo traps, and the rest unless it amuses him.  A novelist can hardly get away with that, and the explanation is likely to trigger the bulk of the plot.

Indeed, RPG characters get away with leaving a lot of questions open.  Do sorcerers have their powers manifest spontaneously?  Or does someone have to notice their potential and teach them how to cast the spells?  (A DM would have to consider that the first would limit the ability to multiclass into it -- which may be wise.)  Do clerics and paladins have to be ordained, and if so, what connection does that give them to the ordaining church?  In my Gamelit world, there are secular clerics and paladins:  a scholar at a university might be a cleric of the knowledge domain, and as time goes on between the novels, it grows more and more likely that any given magistrate will be a paladin.  But those are jobs.  The question of true, freelance clerics and paladins -- well, there are always the cults, but adhering to them has problems of its own.

Sometimes, in true sword & sorcery style, you can write a novel about a character whose background doesn't matter, generally the professional adventurer who finds ordinary life dull, but you can't count on it.
Tags: backstory, beginnings, genre: fantasy, role-playing games, the dm vs the writer

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