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The Ultimate RPG Character and Backstory Guide (Book) Review

Looking to create that perfect character for your favorite tabletop role playing game? That’s the goal of Adams Media’s The Ultimate RPG Character and Backstory Guide.

Playing a part

I last played a tabletop game (in a meaningful way) back in the 90s. Using cherrypicked rules and miniatures, my friends and I built our own universe. We crafted play maps, drafted original stories and quests, and yes – created our own characters.

It was a lot of work, looking back on it, but it was also tons of fun. Maybe even more than actually sitting down and playing was. While there was a lot to making what was basically an original game, one of the toughest things was building characters.

Details were lost quite easily, since we limited ourselves to a pretty basic looking index card with stats on one side and a brief story on the other.  So intricate backstories, we did not have, and most of the stuff that we made up on the fly was pretty quickly forgotten.

But we didn’t have a book like The Ultimate RPG Character and Backstory Guide. Because holy cow is this thing in-depth. Author James D’Amato has built what might be the quintessential character guide for anyone looking to create and stick with an RPG character for a tabletop title.

Choose your own adventure(r)

Depth. This book has it in spades. And honestly, it’s a little daunting when you first crack open its pages. It’d be understandable if you felt like this was maybe a little too deep for you, but don’t. Once you star treading and doing the activities, you’ll see D’Amato has made this whole process quite a bit of fun, even if you’re someone who’s not making a character for anything in specific (cough).

When you open up the book, you’ll see that the sections are divvied up into three different areas. The first is for “Humble Beginnings”, the second “Veteran Heroes”, and the third for “Myths and Legends”. Needless to say, those three parts basically translate to starter, mid-level, and high end characters.

Each one contains a whole bunch of questions that you can fill in in order to build the hero that you want. These sections are also labeled with “level” designations, but these can probably be scaled pretty easily to whatever you’re playing. I’m pretty sure that one of the games I played with my buddies only had like 4 or 5 levels, so you’d have to figure where each of these three sections would rank on a scale like that. Not too tough of a task.

Getting in-depth

Let’s get a better look at things, starting with the first chapter since… well it’s the first chapter. Humble Beginnings has a part close to its start called Save the Cat, and it’s a great way to show just what this book does. Save the Cat, simply, is about what your character would do in this basic situation.

The choices are based on what kind of character you want to make- Evil, Neutral, or Good. From there, you can either choose to pick what answer you like, or roll for a random one. That’s something that you can too for almost everything it seems, by the way. So you can leave a good deal of this up to chance if you like. And that’s a much more fun option, in my opinion.

It should also be posted out that, while some of these options have serious answers that uyoou can pick, some are pretty comical. That’s due to D’Amato’s background in comedy, and goes towards making this book so much fun to read and work with. I actually laughed out loud a few times… maybe not all at stuff that I should have. I’m not sure. I could be Neutral… definitely not Evil though. Definitely not… maybe not.

Anyway, other questions posed by this intro section are:

  • Holidays
  • Orphan Details (if your character is an orphan, some parts are optional)
  • Five things you packed but shouldn’t have
  • Prophesy half-remembered
  • Red Flags
  • Visualizing Intellect

And those are just a few. There are tons more. All of this works out to create a charter that’s not just full and robust, but stunningly complete. There’s just so much here, as you can see, that you can’t help but fill out a very real feeling hero by completing it. Not that you have to.

Playing and creating

I kind of view this book as a kind of “as you go” kind of thing. I think that’s probably a good way to look at it, since doing the entire book will probably take you a while. If you did that, you’d never get down to playing! I’ll liken it to like diving into a character creator in a video game like The Elder Scrolls.

While you can blow through that process if you want, you won’t get the full experience that taking your time will net you. And creating a character in a game like TES is almost all dealing with visual stuff! You can imagine how much time you can invest into a book like this one, which really forces you to detail your creation, making as much of a “real” person as you can.

It’s both awesome and time-consuming. And that’s why I think creating and working on your character as you play games with him or her is probably the way to go. Heck, it’s even an option acknowledged by the publisher, and I think is the smartest way to incorporate the book. That way you can even incorporate choices that you’ve already made in the games that you’re playing. A fun on-the-fly experience.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to like here. And if you’re a tabletop fan then I don’t think there’s any way that you won’t like this tome a ton. It’s stunningly deep, loaded with humor and fun activities, and will definitely give you a better chance at creating a “full” RPG character than pretty much anything else that I can think of.

Check it out today.

The Ultimate RPG Character and Backstory Guide
Release date:
 October 2nd, 2018
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Written by:
James D’Amato

It's alive!

Insane creative options, almost too many - 97%
Allows you random options for answers as well as direct - 95%

96%

Deep

The Ultimate RPG Character and Backstory Guide is exactly that. It's deep and complex book that nonetheless is loads of fun and a joy to work at. I would definitely recommend filling gin its myriad of data while you're playing, since doing it before you start up a game will take you way too long. But nonetheless, this is a book that any RPG fan should be able to appreciate.

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About Jason

Jason
Jason's been knee deep in videogames since he was but a lad. Cutting his teeth on the pixely glory that was the Atari 2600, he's been hack'n'slashing and shoot'em'uping ever since. Mainly an FPS and action guy, Jason enjoys the occasional well crafted title from every genre.

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