Tell us a little bit about yourself…

You’ve probably come up with some oddball character backgrounds, either trying to justify your twinked and leveraged character build, or just because a Somali Pirate-Ninja would be cool. (What’s not to like about a swashbuckling sneak with his own supertanker?)

But have you given much thought as to your own background? What elements from your own past have you used, either to run or play RPGs? (Hey, GMs are a players, too!) I’ll bet that you’re using some skills and abilities, and maybe even a feat or two from the Real Live version of some obscure sourcebook…

I’ll start. I spent my teenage summers at a canoe camp, I did a fair amount of hunting and fishing, and I spent a few years in a little mountain town in Colorado. I’ve pretty much always been familiar with ‘roughing it’, especially with how the weather and terrain can be your best friends or worst enemies. I’ve learned what is and isn’t possible when you’re out in the boonies, especially with more primitive technology. I also learned that overland movement through the mountains is much slower than half speed, Mr. PHB.

While in Colorado, I took a job as a waiter just to pay the bills. Waiting tables teaches a number of valuable skill sets: prioritizing, short-term memory, thinking on your feet, and social skills (among many others). But I also adopted an aggressively friendly personality that my customers enjoyed. The net result was that I became much more comfortable and confident with strangers. I attribute my abilities to speak publicly, manage a table of gamers, and entertain people while getting things done to my waiting experience.

I left Colorado to join the U.S. Army Infantry (hoo-ah!), and learned about military operations, organization, tactics, and the military mindset. I also learned what it means to be a good leader, and how to earn the respect of your team. Some of these skills are useful anywhere, but some of them are tailor-made for gaming. (Honestly, how many other places are small unit tactics going to come in handy?)

After the Army, I burned some of my GI Bill money at a local community college, learning about computers. On a lark, I took an acting class to fill a gap in my schedule. Perhaps the timing was right (after the confidence-inspiring waiting and soldiering jobs), but I learned more than I expected from the two acting classes I ended up taking. I’ve never been much for playing in a true RP-heavy game (it often feels like a teen melodrama), but my GMing is much better because of those classes.

So there’s my character background: camping, waiting, military, acting. Although there’s much more to my past (heck, I’m 42 this year, and I didn’t touch my martial arts or shooting experience), these are the elements that contributed the most to my GMing and playing.

What are the bits and pieces of your history that have helped make you a better gamer? Is there anything that you’d recommend to others?