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PC Backgrounds: Opening and Closing Doors

If you imagine the hooks and plot elements in the PCs’ backgrounds as open doors, it’s a good idea to close those doors during play. Not all of them, of course, and not according to some secret formula — but closure is important, and if nothing in a character’s background ever gets resolved during the campaign, why was it there in the first place?

The problem with closing doors, though, is that if you close enough of them then your players will have fewer points of entry into adventures, and fewer obvious avenues for character development.

The trick is to open new doors as you close the old ones. This will happen organically just by playing the game (for example: you introduce a new nemesis for the party, who becomes a hook for several adventures), but it’s helpful to keep the creation of new doors in mind when you’re writing scenarios.

These new elements can be tied to closed doors (or grow out of them), or they can be completely new, with no connections to past background elements. The key is to keep providing fuel for your players to work with.

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#1 Comment By Micah On August 13, 2007 @ 10:05 am

This is good advice. I’ve been focusing too closely on one of the PCs and neglecting the stories of the others. On the other hand, his character is a local and everyone else is “from a faraway land…” That obviously makes it much easier to drop adventure hooks and tie things together.

#2 Comment By Martin On August 13, 2007 @ 1:34 pm

Like several recent posts, this one was inspired by the end of my group’s Stargate campaign. Our GM was very good about closing doors, opening new doors connected to the old ones and — on occasion — reopening old doors. Good stuff.

drow: Your dungeon door photo pick is excellent. I’ve shied away from the ones that have “…and you must notify the photographer if you display this image in public” thus far, just because I don’t need one more step in the picture process. ๐Ÿ˜‰

#3 Comment By Telas On August 13, 2007 @ 8:10 pm

Good way to think of it. I’ll hang on to that one.

In the campaign I just ended, I had some issues with lack of hooks from some players, but the plots rolled on regardless. :/

One player gave me a lot to work with, and was heavily rewarded with spotlight and occasional bennies (riding Dire Badger, anyone?), but he had to drop for work reasons. ๐Ÿ™

#4 Comment By Patrick On August 14, 2007 @ 10:36 am

I have a big issue with closing doors. I too seem to combine the doors. In my current campaign, I haven’t closed a single door. There are also doors open that the PCs don’t even know are open – yes, it makes as much sense as it read.

One thing that I’ve picked up on is a key question from the players: “Why are we doing such-and-such again?” If you give an answer and they don’t go “Oh, yea, that’s right!” – or worse yet, if fellow PCs can’t answer the question, then it’s time to wing it and closely tie what they are doing to someone’s door.

And for everyone’s sake, it should most defiantly close it.

#5 Pingback By of Dice and Dragons » Closing Plot Doors On August 14, 2007 @ 10:39 am

[…] Over at Treasure Tables Martin made the following statement in his posting PC Backgrounds: Opening and Closing Doors If you imagine the hooks and plot elements in the PCsโ€™ backgrounds as open doors, itโ€™s a good idea to close those doors during play. […]