Players have a lot of decisions to make when they put together a Dungeons & Dragons character. Spell choices, weapon choices and where to put ability scores influence how a character comes together mechanically. But what about the fictional side of the character? In D&D, the Background choice offers some mechanical support for what a character as before they became an adventurer, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. A character with a good background can give a Dungeon Master several wonderful ways to hook a character into dashing into danger.
A useful background doesn’t have to be a full-fledged biography about a character’s life before 1st level. Most serial stories take their time to spool out juicy bits of background info as the story unfolds. Sometimes it makes more sense to leave specific elements open so that they can be filled in by information informed by what happens in the game. This series of articles offers five background questions for each class that a player can answer with a few short sentences whenever they want (yes, we’ll be doing one for each class). Players can answer these questions ahead of the first session, or DMs can facilitate this character building exercise with a session zero.
Who Taught You How To Play Your Instruments?
Bards often channel their magic through music. Your bard had to learn to play their instruments from somebody. Was your magical and musical training at the same time? Which of your three starting instruments did you choose first? Is there an instrument that you would like to learn?
How Would You Like To Be Remembered?
Bards deal in legend and lore. Heroes and villains always leave some sort of legacy, be it a tale of tragedy or rowdy bar song. What does your bard want to have accomplished by the time they settle down from the adventurer’s life? Do they want to found a new College to pass on their knowledge? Create a magic item to pass down to the next generation of heroes? Seek out the truth of their favorite legend and add themselves to the story?
What Was Your Worst Performance Ever?
Every performer has a story to tell over a few drinks in a tavern about the last time they bombed on stage. Did you forget your lines in front of a king? Did you miss the high note of your favorite song? Did a fellow performer get set on fire due to a potion switch? Was the foul up your fault or an accident out of control? Knowing your character’s worst moment can help define how they handle adversity.
What Performer Inspires You?
Artists often inspire other artists. Regardless of whether they are also a bard and an adventurer, there should be someone whose art moves you in the way you move others. Where did you first encounter their work? Have you met them? Did you establish a relationship? Remember what they say about meeting your heroes…
What Is Your Character’s Theme Song?
Every character should have a theme song. They can help the player get into the right mindset on the way to game. A bard’s connection to music makes this choice even more important. Don’t worry about finding music that is period appropriate; this is about communicating your character’s concept through song. Though, these days, finding modern songs in older styles is a lot easier than it used to be.
Tell us the best tidbits of your bard’s backstory in the comments below!
More bardic inspiration!
- Use these pop culture archetypes to for inspiration for your Bard!
- The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Bard In D&D
- Customize Your D&D Spellcaster By Customizing Your Spell Requirements
Images Credits: Wizards of the Coast, Dreamworks Animation,
Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He’s worked on dozens of different tabletop games ranging from Star Wars and Firefly to his own creations like CAMELOT Trigger. He can be hired as a professional Dungeon Master for in-person or remote games. His Twitter is here. You can watch him livestream RPGs with the Theatre of the Mind Players here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.