Roleplay: How to use your bonds of your character to enhance them!

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What are bonds?

According to the official rules, “Bonds represent a character’s connections to people, places, and events in the world. They tie you to things from your background. They might inspire you to heights of heroism, or lead you to act against your own best interests if they are threatened. They can work very much like ideals, driving a character’s motivations and goals.
Basically, the main thing your bonds ask is who drives your character. Could it be the one who murdered your family, edgelord style? Or could it be the military squad that you spend time with, as part of your solider background.

Background bonds

Surprisingly, bonds might be the most straightforward when making a character, due to how simple they are. This is likely because as real people, we tend to have connections with other people, so it is kind of like second nature to choose connections to people when making our backstories for characters. Of course, you don’t HAVE to have connections with people. You bond could reflect yourself, or even a treasured item you might have, as is detailed in the Criminal background, “I will become the greatest thief who ever lived.”

Your bonds, like your ideals, can change

Much like your ideals, your bonds can become prone to change throughout the course of the campaign. For example, regarding the Criminal background, perhaps your ambitions to become the greatest thief has began to hinder your relationships with your fellow party members. This could cause you to go through a humble experience, and it would change from your currrent bond to, “my actions have endangered my friends. I hope they can come to forgive me.”

Backstories: Concept #3: The Possessed!

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We’ve all heard of ghosts, whether or not we believe in them. They come in many shapes and forms, but in D&D, they do serve a role. One of their key traits, Possession, will be the subject of discussion today. And not just ghostly possession either; we will also be discussing being possessed by a demon.

What is this backstory concept about?

This backstory focuses on the idea of a character who was at the wrong place at the wrong time after an encounter with a ghost/demon, and now they are trying to prevent it from possessing them completely. For the time during the campaign, this could manifest through a simple change in personality and/or appearance. As the ghost/demon within gets more powerful, however, it will be harder for the player to regain control when the ghost takes control. An entire story arc could resolve around them trying to figure out the identity of their would-be possessor, and trying to find a way to either kill it, thus freeing themselves from it, or grant it peace.

Why this backstory is great for players

This backstory could work for those players who want to play a character with the Haunted One background, or play as a Fiend Warlock. It helps establish a clear threat and stakes for the party, and also can give a player good motivation for staying together with the rest of the party, as the spirit might have ties with other members of the campaign

Example backstory: Grok, half-orc Ancestral Guardian barbarian

Grok never knew much of his childhood before the dreaded encounter with the ghost. As an adult, he was walking down a street when he encountered the spirit, seeminingly running from something. The spirit jumped into his body, almost like for protection. Now, whenever he gets angry, the spirit takes over, and protects him and his friends. Grok now wanders the land, trying to figure out the truth behind the spirits identity.

Roleplay: How to utilize Ideals better!

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Hey there, this is part two for helping with your character’s personality! Today, we will be discussing ideals, and what exactly it means.

What exactly are ideals?

As discussed when I first discussed personality with you guys, ideals are, in a way, your character’s strongest beliefs, and what drives them forward in their adventure. These could include your personal codes of conduct, what you strive for, or what your personal philosophy is.

A good way to help determine your ideal is to look at your character’s alignment. For example, let’s say that you are Chaotic Neutral. This alignment is about holding your own personal freedom above all else. Thus, an easy thing to put in your ideal is that you desire freedom.

Background ideals

Ideals found within backgrounds are also amazing ideas for your character. It can help determine your backstory, such as what events in your life led to your main ideals and goals.

For example, let’s go simple and focus on the Acolyte background. This background assumes that you have spent your entire life within a religious order of sorts, devoting yourself to a specific deity.

For ideals, you could put the Faith ideal found in that. It states it like this: “I trust that my deity will guide my actions. I have faith that if I work hard, things will go well.”

Your ideal could also change

Now, this is the case with all of the four personality components, but once you have your ideal you don’t have to lock it in for the rest of the campaign. Some of the best characters grow along with the story

For example, back to that acolyte background example. Say that they were a Paladin who has devoted their entire life to a deity of justice. What would happen to the Paladin if they wind up having a crisis in faith, due to a recent catastrophe that was set in motion during the campaign? Maybe he begins to feel disillusioned with his deity’s ways, and changes both his ideal and his oath entirely. Maybe he strives to prove that his god’s ways are ineffective at making the world a better place. Moments like these can truly define character development between a party.

Backstories: Backstory Concept #3: Everything involving Warlocks!

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Not to be biased or anything, but when it comes to creating backstories, my favorite class for this is without question the Warlock.

Why, you may ask?

As you might already know, Warlocks are defined by the magical pacts they make with otherworldly and powerful beings known patrons, either for desperation, meeting said beings by chance, or just for pure selfishness. These beings can range from powerful devils and demons to Cthulhu-like beings, just to name a few. The warlock would ask for knowledge, power, or anything else they may want, in exchange for being a servant to the patron.

Why Warlocks are great for backstories

The personal reason why I enjoy warlocks for the backstory is because it can drive the campaign in interesting and unexpected ways. Since warlocks are basically under the leash to this patron, they might be forced to do what the patron wants them to do.

It’s also a good way to ground them into the campaign, by making them a warlock to an established figure in whatever world the DM is making for the players. The warlock might even try to break free from their patron if they wish to do so.

Why this class is great for new players

This class is great for new players if they are prepared to play a more complicated character, in exchange for a backstory that gives the DM a lot to work around, and is interesting enough to where the player can get invested in them.

Backstory example: Wyll

This example will be a bit different. I will be providing an example of a warlock from the video game Baldur’s Gate 3, a D&D 5e game coming out next year.

Wyll from Baldur’s Gate 3

This is Wyll, a companion you can meet in the game. His backstory is that his village was raided by goblins, so he made a pact with a devil from the Nine Hells, to harness its magic in exchange for his soul. He was praised as a local hero and monster hunter, but he came to regret his decision, so his main motivation is to try to end his connection for the devil before it can claim his soul.

Roleplay: How to use personality traits to the fullest

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As a player, it can sometimes be difficult to create a character with personality. Heck, most characters I encountered as a player are one dimensional. Classic examples include the kleptomaniac rogue, or the bard seducing everything and everyone.

So this blog will serve as a means of helping you make a character with personality traits!

1. Use multiple personality traits to better define your character

While the personality traits found in the Player’s Handbook are invaluable to helping make a character, I find people tend to only pick one and use that trait for the rest of the campaign.

Why not pick more than one? Perhaps that kleptomaniac rogue only steals from the rich, Robin Hood style, and would never try to steal from the poor. That same rogue might also have a soft spot for cats. Examples like these can help make better personalities for the characters around you.

2. Look at your character sheet, and build the personality off of your stats

This one might be a bit tricky to understand, but hear me out.

Building your character’s personality off of your stats on the sheet can actually do wonders to help. It helps because it seperates a character that’s basically numbers on a page to a living, breathing character

For example, I once had a Half Elf Fighter named Felix Hardgrove, a once arrogant noble who was killed by a demon, and then later resurrected. I decided that since he had a low Wisdom score, he would tend to make agreements with shady beings, or charge headfirst into a fight if demons are involved, at the risk of his own safety.

3. Build it around the theme of the campaign and your party

This one sounds a bit obvious, but it is still vitally important. There’s nothing a DM hates more than a character who, personality wise, just does not fit in with the campaign, whether it be the “unique for the sake of unique” characters, or gimmicky characters.

Instead, communicate with the DM about what the world is like, what cities or nations there are, then consider your personality. That way, it makes the DM’s job much easier to handle characters.

Backstories: Unique Concept #2: Reincarnation

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The reincarnate spell can be… interesting at times.

What is the Reincarnate spell?

For those who don’t know, the reincarnate spell is a 5th level spell learned by Druids, that allows you to resurrect someone into another body of a randomized race.

On paper, this spell isn’t the best, as it might entirely mess up your playstyle depending on the race you are given.

But using this spell as a part of your backstory leads to all sorts of possibilities!

Why this concept could be good for a backstory

This backstory is good because it allows your character to start a campaign in a body not their own. For example, an elf who is known for hunting orcs is suddenly reincarnated into an orc herself when she died. Or a dying human striking a deal with an unknown being to start a fresh life in a new body, and then they get their wish.

Backstories like these can lead to all sorts of amazing character arcs.

Example character using this concept: Cornelius, the Elf Ranger reincarnated as an Orc

Backstory: Cornelius was an elf known for a great hatred of orcs, and has been hunting them for centuries. Eventually, however, the orcs managed to get to her, and in a cruel sense of irony, an orc druid casted Reincarnate on him, and caused him to reincarnate into an orc. Now in a body of his most hated race, Cornelius sets out as an adventurer, struggling to keep his hatred in check.

Roleplaying: How to roleplay better during combat!

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Hello! At this point in my blog, you should be complete with your own backstory and how you’re going to roleplay your character

Now, on to another point in D&D.

Combat. I don’t know if it’s just me, and not to point any fingers, but it seems that every time I play D&D with my friends when I’m the DM, and we wind up rolling initiative, the players never seem to roleplay DURING combat. They just say, “I roll to hit”, or “I cast insert spell here“. That’s it.

And that got me thinking: how can players roleplay DURING combat? Well, that’s what this blog is for! This blog will give you some ideas on how you can roleplay during combat!

1. Making the action more character centered through roleplaying

As a player, it’s understandable for you to act more strategic as combat goes on. After all, what good in roleplaying if you character dies due to a poor strategy?

But why not also focus on something important: “What would my character do?” instead of acting strategically

For example, Player A is playing Jorben the Orc Fighter, who has the protection fighting style. Perhaps Jorben has been getting along with the rogue of the party, so Player A has Jorben stick close to the rogue, and making sure to protect her from enemy attacks. Moments like these can help build comradery within a party, and turn a normal combat encounter into a memorable one.

2. Use every tool at your character’s disposal

This one requires a bit of homework on your part, but it is still important to understand you. You should know what your character has, as it could lead to clever moments, and you just be hitting things.

For example, Jorben has access to rope. Instead of killing that raging orc, he could instead knock him prone, then hogtie. What would’ve been a predicable combat now becomes an interrogation moment for the party.

3. Completely understand your character

This may ask a little too much, but this is good advice nonetheless

It’s a good idea to completely understand your character’s motivations during combat

Jorben’s motivations involving protecting others, which is his greatest strength and worst weakness at the same time. So he might protect civilians during a fight, but he himself might end up dying for the cause.

Backstories: Unique Concepts #1: Isekai

Hello again! If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know I gave feedback on how to make your own backstories for your first characters.

From here on then regarding backstories, we will be talking about interesting backstory concepts that you could utilize for your characters. The first backstory concept will resolve around isekai characters for D&D.

What is isekai?

Isekai is a type of genre, typically found in anime and manga, in which the main character, who is usually from our own Planet Earth is transported into another world, and has to survive in it. These worlds range from a virtual world to a fantasy world

Why this concept could be good for Dungeons and Dragons:

This backstory is best for the newer players who don’t know how to roleplay and simply want to play themselves. Thus, having themselves be transported to the world of D&D would be a fantastic idea as a starting point. The motivation for the character would also be there: perhaps the motivation is the character is trying to find a way back home, or perhaps they died in the real world, and they mysteriously woke up in the current fantasy, with little memory as to what happened.

Example character of an isekai backstory: Melvin Muller

Melvin Muller is a Human Battle Master Fighter, whose main motivation is to defeat the villains who attack the party so that he can find a way home. Here is what his simple backstory would be using the isekai concept:

“When a violent earthquake rocks Southern California, hapless teenager Melvin Muller finds himself careening through a hole torn in the fabric of time. Melvin awakens in the Middle Ages, where he is recruited to rid Bant (the world the game takes place in) of evil. Melvin must use his 20th-century street smarts to outwit despicable villains.”

With this backstory, we have a character who has a very clear motivation, and there’s also a mystery aspect through the hole torn in the fabric of time that the DM could incorporate into the campaign to make for memorable moments.

Roleplaying: Tips for first time players before their first session!

Hello, again! If you followed the tips I gave from last week’s blog, you most likely came up with a backstory for your first character.

Now, the next step is figuring out how to roleplay! It may sound intimidating at first glance, don’t worry! Here are five easy steps that you can use to help out with roleplaying!

1. Define your character’s personality, and don’t be afraid of using inspiration to do it!

When thinking about how your character should act, always look to the four characteristics shown in the Player’s Handbook: Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws

Personality Traits are small and simple ways that your character stands out from others, such as habits they might do or their general manners

Ideals represent what your character believes in most strongly, such as principles that you will never betray, your philosophical beliefs, etc.

Bonds represent the connections that your character has with people, towns, or the world. Bonds are what inspires characters to rise to great, or terrible, acts. These bonds can also be used for motivations, whether it be revenge, or a desire to protect the innocent

And finally, flaws represent what is holding your character back. This can be anything someone can exploit to plot your ruin, and may even force you to act against your best interests

You don’t have to put too much into these for your first character. You can always use inspiration from a character from other sorts of media as ideas to make your character.

2. Don’t worry too much about your character’s voice.

A lot of people who play Dungeons and Dragons aren’t professional voice actors, and most likely, neither are you. As such, don’t stress out too much on what your character sounds like in terms of their voice and accent.

If you do want to do an accent, look at videos that teach how to do those accents. That way, you can come prepared when you do the voice for the first session. If that accent tires your throat, be sure to bring water.

3. Consider your character’s alignment

Alignments in D&D are a great way to help convey a character’s moral and personal attitude. Here are the nine alignments in the game:

Lawful Good: these characters can be counted on by society to do the right thing

Neutral Good: these characters do the best they can to help others according to their needs

Chaotic Good: these characters act as their conscience directs, with little regard for what others expect.

Lawful Neutral: these characters act in accordance with law, tradition, or personal codes

Neutral: these characters prefer to steer clear of moral questions and don’t take sides, doing what seems best at the time

Chaotic Neutral: these characters follow their whims, holding their personal freedom above all else

Lawful Evil: these characters methodically take what they want, within the limits of a code of tradition, loyalty, or order

Neutral Evil: these characters do whatever they can get away with, without compassion or qualms

Chaotic Evil: these characters act with arbitrary violence, spurred by their greed, hatred, or bloodlust

When making your first character, I’d highly advise you don’t pick any of the evil options. That’s a surefire way to singlehandedly ruin a campaign by working against the party. Instead, pick one of the good alignments and give it a try.

4. Consider your class

When thinking about how your character would act, look at what they are capable of on their character sheet, such as what class they are and what skills they are proficient in. Each class has their own level of expertise, and each class can also bring up great moments of roleplay.

One example includes the Warlock, a class that’s all about an individual’s shaky relationship with an otherworldly patron, whom they made a bargain with to gain power, knowledge, or both. This incredibly uneven relationship could lead to all manner of possibilities, such as the warlock regretting making the bargain, to their patron treating them like a slave

Another good example is the Paladin, a class that’s about a holy warrior who takes up a sacred oath, whether that oath be for justice, vengeance, or the light, just to name a few. Roleplay wise, a paladin could be wandering the world with the party fighting monsters, with each fight challenging their beliefs in one way or another.

5. Worst case scenario, just be yourself!

If all else fails, you can always fall back to the person you know best: yourself! This way, you won’t have to worry about being uncharacteristic of what your character might do. When making a first character, this might be the best tip you can get, so you don’t have to act embarrassed as you act weirdly, and instead acting as yourself!

Backstories: How to make your first character’s backstory for a campaign

If you’re reading this, it is most likely because you are making your first character, and you’re struggling with making a backstory. While it appears to be a daunting and scary task at first, don’t worry! Here’s a few things that you should know about to help make a more compelling backstory.

1. First things, first: what is a backstory?

A backstory, at it’s core, is what separates characters from just mere stats on a piece of paper. It helps showcase a character’s past, present, and potentially their future. Making a good backstory should also help you with figuring out how your characters acts towards the world around them. For example, a character that comes from a loving family might be more optimistic, while the orphaned character would act more gloomy.

2. Don’t make it too big or significant. Instead, make it short and to the point.

As tempting as it is to make a few pages worth of a backstory, complete with an entire kingdom, a pantheon of gods, and an entire hierarchy, that amount of detail is usually up to the DM to make for you. It’s also worth mentioning that depending on what level you are starting out at, your beginnings as a character should not be that significant.

For example, you shouldn’t make a backstory about how your character is a destined hero of a prophecy who will save the world, or that they’re heir to a throne of a far away kingdom, when they’re only starting at level 1.

Instead, make it a shorter backstory, around 2-3 paragraphs, with a backstory that focuses on how it made your character into who they are in the present, complete with their own goals.

3. Make sure to add conflict to the backstory

What is a good story without conflict? One of the things that make characters so compelling are the conflicts, both internal and external, that come from their backstories. Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker are iconic examples of characters with conflicts.

When making your character, it is generally a good idea to have at least one conflict with an NPC. This could be a multitude of things, ranging from a rival who trained alongside a character, to the mad scientist who experimented on them. When making the character, consider questions such as:
1. What is keeping them from attaining their goal?
2. How will they attain it?

4. Make sure it’s connected with the world and the people around you

The hardest thing to justify in a campaign is why a party is staying together in the first place, especially if they are always arguing amongst each other.

Thus, making a backstory that actually has connections with at least one of the party members has multiple benefits. One, it helps add a bit of comradery between the players and their characters, which helps give a good reason as to why the party is staying together. Secondly, it helps the DM with worldbuilding, as they don’t have to come up with a reason themselves.

For example, let’s say that Player A’s character is a Hill Dwarf Ranger, who has dedicated his life to hunting those who threaten nature. Perhaps Player B’s Human Sorcerer, who has uncontrollable and unnatural magic, was the Ranger’s mortal enemy, but the two are now forced to work together to defeat a common foe. Examples like this can improve your backstory from a simple one to an amazing one.

5. Talk to your DM

Arguably the most important aspect of making a backstory is talking to your DM about it. Work together to talk about the tips mentioned above to help make your character and to ensure that they would fit right in with the world that the DM is creating.

Communication between a player and a dm is not only important for backstories but also in roleplaying, combat, all that good stuff. Which we will discuss more of next week.