My favorite roleplaying campaigns are the ones where my players have been really invested in their characters. Not just raising levels and accumulating powerful trinkets (although that’s fun too), but building characters who have their own personal reasons for doing things.
As a gamemaster, I love it when players come up with at least a rudimentary backstory for their characters, and as a player, I always do it whether the DM asks for it or not. It helps me get into the persona, and it’s easier to decide what to do when you know why your character would want to do (or not do) any given thing.
A lot of players have trouble coming up with the specific incidents and situations that make a good backstory. And even when there’s plenty of backstory to work with, a GM still often needs to fill in gaps.
Even the most seasoned and inventive gamemaster will sometimes struggle to come up with plausible and interesting scenarios, especially when players take the game into territory you didn’t plan for (which happens all the time; it’s part of the fun of gaming).
That’s why I got all geeked out when I came across this resource a couple of days ago: 36 Dramatic Situations, a free PDF published by dicegeeks.com. I’m already building a list of what we call “story hooks” for FAR Western, which in many respects function just like those 36 dramatic situations.
You’ll have to wait for the FAR System and FAR Western, because we’re still building it, but this is something you can put to good use right now. Download at DriveThruRPG.