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Character Background Table

Random Character Backgrounds (Andrew Smith)
Random Character Backgrounds (Andrew Smith)

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Below is a table of 100 background ideas. The backgrounds are meant to be generic enough to be used in any setting of any game. I also included a basic follow up question to each of the backgrounds. This should help get you thinking about how the background affects the character. They are good for NPC's and PC's alike, while they don't describe the entire background of your character they can be used as a highlight an aspect of your character. From there you can fill in the rest.

With each of these backgrounds you should ask yourself a variety of questions to help flesh out the character. Most importantly, "How?" does this event shape the character I have made and "Why?" did this event happen? You can ask further questions as well, I've included an example for each of the different backgrounds to help start the brain juices. Write down your responses on the back of your character sheet or on some scratch paper. Enjoy!



Table of 100 random backgrounds

Useful in nearly any setting, use these as a point to start. To use this table roll 1d100 and compare the roll to the chart below.

roll outcome Example questions on top of "why?"
1 You lived on the outskirts of civilization. How did you live?
2 Grew up in a highly religious environment. How did that impact your world view?
3 You helped heavily with the family business. Did/do you resent the lack of a "childhood"
4 Your house was always filled with friends and laughter. Whose friends were they?
5 You were sheltered as a child. What were you not exposed to growing up?
6 The house you lived in was always cold and drafty. Was this "normal"?
7 You did not get formally educated or you did not do very well. What did you do instead?
8 You survived a monumental event that had a lasting impact. What happened during the event?
9 You were the favorite of one of your parents. How did this impact your other family members?
10 Your family is famous. Has this fame followed you?
11 A distant relative raised you. What is the relation to this relative?
12 Many partners have come and gone in your life. Was there one that had "got away?"
13 You are the black sheep in your family. How does your family treat you?
14 As you grew up you were heavily influenced by someone. How did they change your life?
15 You've grown close with friends and/or family over the years. Did you start the bonding?
16 You're the oldest. Do others look up to you?
17 You did well in academia. Who pushed you to excel?
18 You were taken care of by your sibling(s). What were your parent(s) doing at this time?
19 It's hard to talk to your family about something. Was it your fault?
20 You were criminally accused of doing something. Are you innocent?
21 You barely survived a debilitating sickness as a child. How did your survival affect your life?
22 Grew up on a farm. What did you learn from it?
23 One or more of your parents took little care in raising you. What did the parent(s) do instead of raising you?
24 One of your parents was a member of some clergy. Were you pushed towards joining?
25 Your family held some important government position. Are you expected to do the same?
26 You were raised in unusual circumstances (e.g. raised by wolves) What did this teach you about the world?
27 Money was never a thing your family had. How did your family get by?
28 You are the first in the family to do something (e.g. attend university) Does your family support this decision?
29 You were raised on the ideals of "hard work and determination." Do you follow them?
30 Your family is huge! When was the last time you saw them all?
31 You have big dreams for the future. What are you doing to persue them?
32 You always felt like something was missing in your life. Do you know what's missing?
33 One of your parents was cruel to you and(or) your siblings. Has justice been done?
34 You started your own business. Was it successful?
35 You've grown apart from old friends and family over the years. Have you replaced them?
36 Servants would come at your beck and call. Is that how everything should work?
37 You were taken away from your family when you were young. Did your family find you?
38 Your family always had tons of animals. Were they treated as family?
39 You grew up with only one other person. Was the other person family?
40 You were bullied growing up. Did they ever stop?
41 You are an only child. Did you want siblings?
42 You were a trouble child. Was it malicious?
43 You grew up in a small town, where gossip was rampant. Was the gossip about you or your family?
44 You spent most of your youth at a friend's house. Did you have to?
45 Your family was very well respected in the community. Are you just as respected?
46 You grew up an orphan. Did you get adopted?
47 Your family was(is) in hiding. Were they ever found?
48 One of your family members does not like you. Do you deserve it?
49 Vacationing with family and friends was an annual event. Where did you travel?
50 Life was pretty good, but it was time to move away. What drove you away?
51 You're the youngest. Did your siblings pick on you?
52 You grew up in the military. Did you accept the dicipline and routine as life?
53 You were adopted. Were you told?
54 Your best friend was/is imaginary. Do you have other friends?
55 Your family is very proud of you for something. Are you proud of you for what you did?
56 Your parents often helped out others around them. Did they expect anything from the people they helped?
57 Your family moved a lot while you were growing up. Did you make new friends each time you moved?
58 One or more of your family members is in prison. Do they deserve it?
59 You grew up in a blue collar family. Were you expected to perform the same job?
60 Your family were avid hunters. Is that an acceptable way of life?
61 You can't remember where you grew up. Can you remember a name?
62 One or more of your parents focused more on work than you. How did you cope with the lack of attention?
63 Grew up on a (star)ship. Do you miss it?
64 You lost your best friend when you were young. Were you there for it?
65 Your parent(s) wouldn't allow any pets in the home. Did you want pets in the house?
66 You got in lots of fights growing up. Who started them?
67 Your family has a social unacceptable quirk or opinion (e.g. racism). Do you share this quirk or opinion?
68 You did not have a lot of freedom as child. Do you resent it?
69 Family is all you have. What happened to everyone else?
70 You broke at least one bone growing up. Were/are you active, clumsy or both?
71 You felt you had everything you needed. Did you get everything you wanted?
72 Religion is scorned by your family. What do they do instead?
73 You learned a particular skill at a very young age. Who taught you this skill?
74 Your family is well known in particular groups. What are these groups?
75 You grew up on the streets. Was it always that way?
76 You held a job throughout your youth. Did you want the job?
77 You were gifted a family heirloom. What is the significance of this heirloom?
78 Your family lost their good name. Did they deserve it?
79 You were a child of two homes. How did your family handle it?
80 Your family praises and/or uses you for a special skill you have (e.g. art). Do you willingly help your family?
81 People mistreated you. What did your close friends and family do?
82 You were a bully growing up. Did you stop?
83 Your family lost everything. Was it an accident?
84 You were the middle child. Did you feel ignored?
85 You had lots of friends growing up. How close are these friends?
86 You have scars from your youth (e.g. missing teeth). Are they from mistreatment or accident?
87 Your best friend growing up is still your best friend. What has come between you two in the past?
88 Your family was a laughing stock. Were you able to move beyond the mockery?
89 You helped out those in need. What did you expect out of it?
90 You were raised in a foreign land. Do you wish to return?
91 Your imagination got you into trouble. Was your imagination encouraged?
92 Money was not an issue in your family. Is money still not an issue?
93 You felt envy for the lives of others. Did you act on this envy?
94 You lived in a large city surrounded by people. Did you enjoy the anonymity?
95 You ran away when you were young. Where did you run to?
96 Your family gained a good name. Did you help?
97 Your family ostracized you for something you did or the way you are. Have you tried to repair the bond?
98 You won an amazing award! What does your family/community think of the award?
99 You had a life changing epiphany. How did this change your life?
100 You were pressured to be something you are not. Who pressured you?


If you have any interesting character backgrounds please share them in a comment below or on my facebook page! See you for the next blog. In the meantime, have fun adventuring!


“Love is often harder to come by than food.”

Andrew Smith is one of The Spokesman-Review's IT gurus and resident dungeon master.