Welcome friends, the name is Charlotte Corvin, but everyone calls me Charlie. I will be your wizard mentor for today. I have no idea what I am doing… I shouldn’t have said that. I know exactly what I am doing, yes, nailed it! Okay let’s do this!
I will bring up two campaigns I run or am going to run in order to highlight the points I will try to make. Although this is from a Dm’s perspective I have played in games as a player and have noticed the same things.I have run two main games with players online. One has taken place in the module Princes of the Apocalypse, which will henceforth be referred to as PotA, and the other is a Homebrewed world, which I will call World G.
Getting right into it, In the world of PotA I let the players make their backgrounds whatever they wanted and then I later took those ideas and did my best to incorporate them into that world. I asked a few questions and changed a few things but overall there wasn’t much communication outside of that when it came to character creation. One player most definitely had more input and I think it showed in the campaign because their character felt the most connected to the story, the others… not so much.
PotA is still currently ongoing, at the time of writing this, and at this point in the campaign the characters very much feel apart of the world and are impacting it in big ways…now. But it took a long time for most of the characters to feel that way. In the beginning of the campaign we started with the module Lost Mine of Phandelver, referred to as “Mines”, and then we transitioned into PotA. We had all agreed upon this from the very beginning. I worked for weeks to try and find ways to connect the character backstories into PotA with reasons for everyone being in Mines, it was a struggle but I eventually did it. Throughout the campaign there have been a few hiccups, little plot holes as well, but most of all there have been a few moments, early on, of a few players and I having ideas clash. Nowadays everything runs really smoothly but those early days were extremely rough.
Then there is world G. It is a homebrew campaign that I built from the ground up over the course of more than a year. I plan to run it for some friends in due time but they have all already built their characters in anticipation.
And, let me tell you, that process was so so sooo very smooth. Yes, one could argue that because the world is a homebrew one it could mean that I am more comfortable running it, and although that argument is true and I agree to some extent; there is still something more than that. I worked with my players to make their backstories be intertwined in the world itself.
World G will start after we wrap up PotA. However, there is already a stark difference with the way the players feel about their characters and with how smoothly things are going. Each player has worked together with me, extensively, in order to make their ideas for backstories be as ingrained in the world as possible. They asked me extensive questions like “How are tieflings treated in this world?” “How are Dragonborn viewed in this world?” “What cities or regions would fit this kind of character best?” Together we have built characters that already have existing allies, families, histories, and neighbors.
The game of World G hasn’t even started yet and already it feels so much smoother than PotA did when I was in the same stage of development. And this time around I made sure that each person was more involved in the design of their backstory, it was something we each did together; funny enough that a game that relies on collaborative storytelling seems to work better when you collaborate together. I can not tell what the future holds but if my players’s excitement is any indication then it should hopefully go smooth and well.
As a player I have been in multiple campaigns now as well. There have been campaigns where I worked extensively with the DM and communicated very openly with them in order for us to be on the same page and work together. There have also been campaigns where I have built my characters and backstories to a specific idea of what I had in mind and didn’t work as extensively with the DM. Granted in the more rare instances where I didn’t work as extensively with the DM, it still worked out well and I’m pleased to say that I had a blast but that is due in no small part to the hard work of that specific DM. I know I got lucky.
In conclusion, be it as a player or DM, I now make sure to do all I can to make the DMs job as easy as possible and work as extensively as I can with players. Anytime I am going to make a character I want to make sure to set aside some time with the DM to really work together to make the character backstory mesh well with the world. And anytime I run a campaign I will make sure to work with my players in order to incorporate the backstory and world closely together. If you are a player, make sure to do all you can to make your DMs job easier, and if you’re a DM don’t be afraid to pull out your players from their shells and work together to build those backstories; respectfully of course.
Now go out there adventurers! Go out and build your worlds together!