Ryan McRae

Ryan McRae

Creator of Burn the Tavern Down.
Bringing Creativity Back to Gaming.

BTTD #11: Whoooooo are you. . . .who who, who who.

Hey friends,

Let’s get to it.

Backstories for Your Character

A lot of people ask me about when they should provide the backstory for their character. Many people—and I am the guiltiest—show up with their starting character and oh the backstory they have. Pages on pages.

And then they take a bullet or arrow and alas, they are gone. Their story about losing their parents in the village or growing up on the streets on the moon of Blacar is simply deleted or even worse, just handed off to the next character (it’s my uncle! Whoops!)

I think every time a character levels, gets better, receives a new skill or boon, they get to answer one simple question about their backstory.

  • What is a fear they have?
  • What is something that they have sacrificed and why?
  • What is the name of a childhood friend they’ve lost touch with?

(I wouldn’t have the same question for every character. I suggest making it random or at least a batch of questions you’re interested in.)

As the character grows, their backstory does as well.

The Trees—Look What You Did

I’m playing a game on Apple Arcade called Outlanders and I have to cut down a million trees to keep my village going. A million!

What if lumberjacks or miners were simply doing their job and they inadvertently let something out—something druids or whomever wanted to keep tucked away long ago.

  • These could be children of the gods.
  • An experiment gone awry and it just needed to be buried.
  • Weapons that belong in the hands of no one.
  • The materials for an incantation that evil cult members have been looking for for-ev-er.

I’m thinking of writing a short story about construction workers that are tearing down a building and whoops, some summoners locked something away that got out. You shouldn’t have busted through that cement, Larry. Way to go. You should run.

Boards games you would dig.

I played Tapestry recently and I really enjoyed it. Bit of a brain burner. And I’m premiering King’s Dilemma with some non-gamers this weekend. I hope they love it as much as I do.

Feel Free to Steal

A lot of times I’ll come up with something and I’ll think, “Oh that has been done before.” A heist. A villain. A plague. You know—the usual.

But no player is going to sit across from you and accuse you of stealing if you put your own riff on it.

You can completely steal something from Lord of the Rings, like a cursed evil ring. Go for it. But you change it that the ring doesn’t want to go to a master, it instead wants to destroy a city or even the planet.

Tweak one thing, just one thing. People do it all the time. Don’t believe me? How many westerns are there? Murder mysteries? Fantasy novels? Tweak away, for example:

  • What if there are a small set of orcs out there who are dedicated to a goddess who wants only good in the world. They need your help. You have to help orcs now. GOOD FOR YOU.
  • What if in your world clerics can only be women and wizards can only be men?
  • What if people in a city cannot get pregnant? Until . . . (DUN DUN DUNNNN)

If you are struggling with a unique idea—steal, steal and steal (and then tweak.)


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