The Dungeons & Dragons role playing game is, essentially, a two-part game. The first part, as everyone well knows, is centered on combat. Your character can wield dual weapons, cast deadly spells, come flying out of the shadows, and so on. This is the first part of the Dungeons & Dragons experience. The second part is the role playing. Role playing is what your character does when they are not in an encounter, be it fighting an orc, solving an ancient puzzle, or disarming a trap. Role playing is what actually gives your character personality. It breathes that little spark of life into them that makes them more than a sheet full of numbers.
Consider your favorite fantasy novel. Now think about the main characters involved in that novel. As the story unfolds, the characters do much more than fight monsters. They explore their past, talk with each other, and interact with the world around them. Were that novel to be nothing more than back to back combat descriptions, it would probably get pretty boring. You would know nothing about that character. What are their likes? What are their dislikes? What do they do when they’re not in combat? What were they like as children? Do they have any talents, aside from fighting? All these things help make a character a memorable one. Instead of telling your friends that your character can deliver 80 damage in one attack, you’ll be able to tell them about how your character has overcome adversity in their youth, worked their way up to the status of hero, and are recognized wherever they go as someone who made a difference.
Presented here are a few different methods by which you can flesh out your character. Some are no more than the player writing up a description of their character’s past, while others go very in-depth into a character’s history, allowing them to hand-pick their family, their interests, their fears, and so on. Players and DMs alike are encouraged to use whatever methods work best for their game. If background history has little bearing on your game, then so be it. However, if having a virtually living, breathing character sounds more interesting, then read on.