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 was your favorite magic teacher?
No matter where your wizard learned their magic, they had to learn it from someone. A single mentor is still likely somewhere in the world. If not, what happened to them? Did they die? Are they trapped on another plane? Perhaps the character’s favorite teacher is the reason your wizard specialized in the magic they did. Did they get along? Did the teacher help out your wizard in a jam? What caused your special bond?
What was the hardest spell for you to learn?
Learning spells take time and effort. Sometimes it takes a little more of both. Does this spell suggest a school where your character is weak? Does the spell connect to an event in your past that makes it difficult to concentrate? Was learning the spell a moment of triumph?
What is the most interesting feature of your spellbook?
A wizard’s spellbook is central to their existence. Everyone is unique to the wizard and each one should have at least one detail that stands out from the others. Are the pages made from an unusual material? Is there a giant gemstone on the front? Has it been passed down from generation to generation? What detail would let your wizard pick ou their spellbook from any others on a shelf?
Who first saw your magical potential?
Someone had to send your wizard off to the Arcane Academy or the Archmage’s Tower. Was it a relative hoping they would return to pull the family out of poverty? Was it someone in a nearby town fearful of their power? Was is someone special who was driven away by their study? Does your wizard know where that person is now?
What spell that you do not have now do you want to get the most and why?
Once a player is a few levels in, it’s good to look to the future. Wizards acquire knowledge and power for new spells. Does having a high-level spell allow you to fix a mistake in your past? Is being able to fly or teleport a way to escape people looking for you? By answering this question, you’re giving the Dungeon Master a way to hook you into a future adventure. Rather than a pile of gold, the mysterious stranger in the tavern might agree to give you a scroll to copy when you return with the item she wants. Would you spare an enemies’ life if they offered to teach you that spell in exchange?
Tell us the best tidbits of your wizard’s backstory in the comments below!
More wizardly goodness!
- Use these pop culture archetypes to for inspiration for your Wizard!
- The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Wizard In D&D
- Customize Your D&D Spellcaster By Customizing Your Spell Requirements
Images Credits: Wizards of the Coast
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.