Home / Delve into the Depths in the Kobold Blog / Building Character: Note Card Backgrounds

Building Character: Note Card Backgrounds

Building Character: Note Card Backgrounds

The Arabian Nights by Maxfield ParrishSometimes we just do not have the time or ability to write up a detailed background but want something to guide us in roleplaying situations. For those times, writing down three short, concise statements on a note card will give you something you can use. This method takes only as long as you need to come up with three statements, and it has the added benefit of being useful to gamemasters who want to provide fun roleplaying challenges.

The note card should be large enough for you to write three statements on one side. Too small and you might not have enough room. Lines can help you keep things clean, but are not required. The point of the card is to prevent you from going overboard and to help you keep the statements brief and clear.

You can make each statement cover whatever you wish, but it is recommended that the statements be the most important parts of the background. With only three statements, you can’t afford to use one of them on something you won’t be using every session. As a result, a character’s convictions, habits, beliefs, or desires are great topics for one of the statements.

For example, a good note card background could be the following:

  • When danger presents itself, I meet it with violence.
  • My father taught me that honor is everything, and I do not suffer my honor being insulted.
  • My hometown of Gerro is where my fondest memories take place, and I will defend it with my life.

Each of these statements is short, covers a useable part of a character’s personality and background, and can be used by both the player and gamemaster. They are open enough that you can add to them later if you want to do so, but specific enough that you know instantly what they mean. If they are unclear or too general, you could end up with contradictory or confusing results.

For example, if one of the statements was, “I hate orcs,” there isn’t enough to really work with. The character hates orcs, but there isn’t any reason behind it or anything for a gamemaster to work with. A much better statement would be: “I watched orcs perform evils on my family before killing them, and I grant them no mercy because of it.” This statement gives a reason behind the hate as well as plenty of other details.

The note card background is a great way to quickly set up something you can use in roleplaying encounters. It forces you to keep it simple as well as work in as much information as you can into each statement. Best of all, it can be used by a gamemaster to easily flavor encounters so that your character can be further challenged.

So what statements would be in your note card background?

2 thoughts on “Building Character: Note Card Backgrounds”

  1. Nice article Taylor. 2nd offering from you and both are useful for getting the game started a little quicker and getting a background together that is quick and concise.

  2. Totally. This is somewhat borrowed from the Mouse Guard RPG, or at least inspired by it. In that game you have Instinct, Belief, and Goal as actual required parts of your character and the GM is expected to challenge those and reward you based on how you played with them.

    I used it to great effect in a modern game I just finished, and it was great to see how these note card backgrounds changed over the course of the campaign.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Join the Kobold Courier and Earn Loot!

Stay informed with the newest Kobold Press news and updates delivered to your inbox weekly. Join now and receive a PDF copy of Prepared 2!

Ghouls in a graveyard, the cover of Prepared 2

Join The Kobold Courier


Be like Swolbold. Stay up to date with the newest Kobold Press news and updates delivered to your inbox twice a month.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
Scroll to Top