I've announced a one shot in a Discord server, and prospective players have contacted me to join it. We don't know each other.

I asked them to prepare their character before the session, and it turned out that one of the player has not yet submitted their character because he is still writing the backstory.

While usually I'm very appreciative of an extensive backstory of a character, I don't plan to use them for this particular one shot. I don't plan this scenario to be RP-heavy. However, I don't want to break his attachment to this character or break his immersion in the world. I just want to make him know that we won't be using it for the one shot.

How can I tell him we won't be using any background story for the one shot, without ruining his excitement in writing the background?

Note: Other players didn't submit any background story, just background.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe the player is hoping to reuse the character at a later time in a different adventure? This one-shot could be an event he can add to the character's backstory. It's also quite possible that the player is just using this opportunity to practice writing and world building. Does he have an interest in writing? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kapten-N
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 16:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kapten-N not that I know of. I haven't seen this guy chat often, so I can't confirm that. However that might be possible. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vylix
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 16:48

4 Answers 4


"This one-shot won't be focused on characters' backstories: I prefer you not to spend so much time writing yours. I need you to submit your character by the date of XXX, you can send me the backstory later if you want: I don't need it for this scenario."

The fact this player has a detailed background shouldn't be a problem by itself. What can be a problem is:

  • This player may make the game start later than planned, because he needs more time to write.

  • This player may be disappointed by their backstory not coming up at all during the game.

  • This player may develop a My Guy Syndrom

None of those problems have to happen, they just are possibilities. Without knowing the person it is difficult to know how likely they are to come up.

Those problems are caused by the amount of time and effort the player puts in writing. You can't really judge how much effort is actually deployed, but apparently it takes time. With my suggestion you mention the logistical time problem of sending their character late and you tell about your intentions of not using the backstory. It doesn't do much to prevent My Guy Syndrom but I honestly think you shouldn't anticipate this very problem at this point: it is too early and you don't know the player enough to know if it has a chance to happen.


There's no way to deal with this other than talking to them.

However, you can do this before, or after. Basically, whether or not the character has a backstory is irrelevant. Even if they do have one, it's not going to be used at all, so there's not harm done if they do have one or not. If you talk to them about it beforehand, because you're on a tight schedule, and they are holding everyone up, just basically tell them how it is. They can continue writing the backstory in their own time, but it's not going to impact the game either way.

If you decide to just not say anything beforehand, and wait until after, this can be brought up by yourself; "Hey, just wanted to point out that the reason your backstory wasn't brought up was because...", or they might bring it up, to which you can explain.

Ultimately though, I don't see this as being such a big deal right now, the only issue is whether or not it develops into My Guy Syndrome during play.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah yes, one of the reason I'm concerned about this because I'm rather new in this server and I don't know the people yet. I might have overthinking this a bit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vylix
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 3:53
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ When you do talk to them, make sure that you are clear that you don't have a problem with the backstory. It is more effort than is required, and you are worried that they might have unrealistic expectations of what the game will be, but the backstory itself isn't a problem. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 7:28


You know this is just a one-shot, one-off game, right? I love writing extensive character backgrounds as much as the next guy, but I have to tell you, this game doesn't support them very well, and I hate to see you put so much time and effort into something that will never be used. Moreover, we gotta get this thing going.

So here's what I need: I need half a page to a page of information, with just basic background stuff like these specific items... and I need it by Tuesday, so we can get started on Friday.



You do it just like that: Short, sweet, to the point, sympathetic rather than hostile, and with a concise but firm list of guidance at the end.

The fallacy here is thinking that there is a magic, guaranteed way to both get what you want (low resolution data right now) without actually influencing the way your player feels. There isn't, because your player is a person and is going to feel the way he or feels.

But you can be courteous and direct, sketching out your reasons while telling the player exactly what you need.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "I hate to see you put so much time and effort into something that will never be used" - I suspect the player would use it, even if the DM doesn't. Furthermore if the player enjoys writing it, I sincerely doubt the DM would "hate" that it was written. \$\endgroup\$
    – starchild
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 19:43

Set expectations, but don't curtail the player's fun

I strongly suspect the backstory writeup is more about organizing the player's thoughts into a coherent character than it is about giving you source material to leverage for world-building or adventure writing. With this sort of player, the backstory will come into play. Even if it doesn't impact your planning, it will impact the character's thoughts and actions. Because this sort of player enjoys playing a wholistic character with a well-formed personality. And moreover, thoroughly enjoys spending a lot of time building up that character history and persona.

All you need to do is ensure the character sheet is submitted on time. There is no need to curtail the player's writing process.

If you are particularly concerned that you won't get the sheet on time or that the player expects you to incorporate the background, then when the player asks for more time to finish the backstory, you can remind them that you only need the stat sheet, and that you won't have time to incorporate character histories in this one-shot.


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