One way to form a character concept is to sketch out what they're like at the start of the adventure, and then let the adventure shape the player as time goes on. That is certainly a valid way to do it, but it is not the only way.

It can also be fun to think of a high level character, figure out what they were probably like at level 1, and then attempt to build the high level character through the course of your DM's campaign, ultimately resulting many months later with the character you envisioned on day 1. But while that might be fun... it can be difficult. Since we can't predict the future (who knows? the character might die?), how can one attempt to make this sort of thing happen in a campaign starting at level 1?

For example, let's say I have the idea of a two weapon fighter, who uses unique magic weapons - a flaming burst long sword and an icy burst short sword that has a chance to do bonus damage when both weapons hit in the same round. Obviously such powerful weapons would not be available to the level 1 fighter.

What is the best way to get the ball rolling to create such a character? Obviously there would have to be DM support. I was thinking, something like "my father had these weapons, but he was killed and they were stolen", then the weapons could be somewhere in the universe, I'm tracking them down and then many levels later I finally find them and have to kill the guy who has them when I'm at an appropriate level to find them. Or maybe I shouldn't build them into the backstory at all, as long as the DM creates these artifacts somewhere in the universe. Perhaps I read a book that "tells me about a quest" sort of how it's done in Skyrim.

Is it a good idea to have such a long-reaching character development arc? Are these good ways to do it?

I'm tagging this as I'm familiar with it and I used some concepts from that game, but the question could be applied to most versions of D&D and other similar games

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    \$\begingroup\$ My knee-jerk reaction is to invent the phrase "player-based railroading". \$\endgroup\$
    – raylu
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 0:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ My knee-jerk reaction is that this is too broad and primarily opinion-based. How can we answer aside from "Ask you GM what will fly?" \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 0:35

1 Answer 1


In a sandbox, the pre-generated background will be difficult to realise. You can use the method to create a starting character, but anything might happen to the character in play. Maybe they will lose an arm, participate in a mystery of some god and join their pacifist cult, or simply never find the weapons? There are no guarantees. If you would be disappointed by such an event, then don't pre-create the character.

In a game where players have some narrative control, or in a game where the game master guides play towards the story they want to tell, you should be fine as long as everyone knows what is happening. Also, there might be surprises along the way - maybe the weapons are wielded by a sympathetic character who quite likes them?

Rules-wise, Pathfinder and modern D&D which allow character optimisation and planning are fairly suitable for pre-planning the future of the character. Games where character change is not under control of the player would cause problems.


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