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Going behind the screen – Back to the Story

Editor’s note: Going Behind the Screen is a series where an experienced role player tackles becoming a DM for the first time. You can read the first part of this series, here

by Cody Dube

After weaving my story of the realm, it was time to get my players involved. I believe that no idea is perfect, even my own. As a player, I truly enjoy the chances I get to help shape the world we play in. I felt this was important to me to incorporate that into my DMing. I feel it draws a player in deeper and makes them more engaged when something they mentioned comes out of the folds in front of them. I gave my players the backstory of the region they would be starting in.

The Muir Peninsula was founded by Lord John Muir the first. Muir was the first son and heir to the King of Kyntor. He had been called to duty by his father during the Great Dust War. Returning to Kyntor only after victory had been achieved, John found his Father dead and the throne being kept warm by his younger brother and sister. A treacherous set of twins that turned the grand council against him. Securing their hold on Kyntor’s throne.

Seeing little left of his life in Kyntor, Muir rallied his loyal supporters and left the kingdom of his birth behind. The Muir party set out north across a vast mountain range where they found a wild goblin infested peninsula beyond.

Muir and his party fought furiously with the goblins and finally scratched out a settlement they donned Val’Muir. Muir and his supporters laid siege to the goblins eventually toppling the goblin king and scattering the remaining pests across the land into smaller, more manageable tribes.

With the Goblin Wars over, Muir and his supporters set about settling this untamed land. They eventually made quite the home for themselves as they established communities on all sides of the peninsula.

Now, with John Muir passed on, his grandson, John Muir the Second, is the sovereign leader of the land.  Muir the second leads his people with the help of an advisor as he is only twelve years of age. The bulk of his land’s concerns tend to come from the goblin tribes still infesting the land.

Next came crafting characters with the players. Since most of them had never played before, I helped by roughly setting a partying frame work. Then, I explained that in Muir there was less racial diversity than the rest of the realm. The majority of Muir was made up of human and dragonborn as they were the followers of Lord Muir. Our party ended up a dragonborn paladin, a human rogue, a human cleric and an air genasi warlock.

I realize the last one is not what I mentioned to the players previously but, the air genasi player came to me with an amazing backstory idea that I couldn’t argue. I feel like 95% of the time it’s our job as DMs to say “Yes!” to the players. It’s hard to say no when they come with a good plan, too.

With races and classes locked in, now comes my favorite part. If you haven’t guessed yet based on the title of this article it’s character backstories. Backstories are juice for me as a DM, and what I get to use make the story twist my players into the web of the adventure.

Backstories for me as a player have always been the point where I found purchase as that character.

Let’s look at an example, one of your players a gnome barbarian or with a little backstory your player is Rigg Frostsprocket, sole survivor and heir to their nomadic gnome barbarian clans’ crown. Now not only does this character give the player a feel but it gives you as a DM multiple launching points for things in your campaign. It also leads to questions which make an even deeper character and therefore more juice. What happened to make him the sole survivor?  Is he truly the sole survivor or does he only think he is? Was his clan attacked by someone or thing? If yes who or what destroyed his clan? How was he not lost with the rest of his clan? You can hopefully see what an amazing difference the backstory gives the player and us as DM’s.

Back to my Muir players, I gave my them free reign to craft whatever story called to them with the caveat being I talk the backstory over with them and tweak it where needed to fit the world.

I was so impressed by what I received from each of them. It was to be the backbone of what their adventure would become.


Cody Dube, DM claiming no TPKs yet, but there is always tomorrow!

© 2016, Patrick Cossel. All rights reserved.

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About Patrick Cossel,

I am a journalist and gaming enthusiast.

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