Character Generation - Part 5

Make It Readable!

The background is important. It tells us more about your character than any other aspect of your application. We look over a lot of backgrounds, and when we have to read and re-read a background several times to understand it, the entire approval process is slowed down.

Please, do your best to make your BG readable. That means accurate spelling, and reasonably accurate punctuation and grammar. We understand that not everyone has great writing skills, and perhaps English isn't your first language. But technology can help. If you don't have a word processing program that can check your spelling and grammar for you, there are numerous free services online that will do so, such as

Step 5: Background

Probably the most important part of your character is your background. We are not looking for a novel, just a few paragraphs describing the character’s back-story.

Background Requirements

  • Third-Person Perspective: Just give us the facts. If you want to tell your character's story from his or her point of view, or some other interesting perspective, please do so on your wiki page.
  • Keep It Concise, But Complete: Please give us roughly 300-400 words. As mentioned above, feel free to put an expanded BG on the wiki. In fact, we encourage this. But we prefer more concise, easy-to-digest backgrounds in the game itself.
    • It can be tough restricting one's verbosity. But it makes it easier on staff and speeds up the approval process; and it also obliges you to focus on what's really important about your character.
    • When trying to reduce your BG to fit the preferred size, try cutting out words like "very", "that", "quite", and "almost".
    • Word Counter is a great tool for keeping track of your BG size while you work on it.

Background Guidelines

You don't need to answer every single question below. But this should give you a good sense of what kind of content we look for in a BG.

First Paragraph: Family Information

  • Born: Full name, date, location.
  • Family: Mother's name and maiden name. Father's name. Siblings? How many? What are their names? How old are they and where does the character fit in the birth order?
  • Lineage: Is your character a pure-blood, half-blood, Muggle-born, Squib, Muggle, goblin, etc.? Note that some species cost Cookies to play.
  • Family Dynamic: Does the family get along? Militant and disciplined? Loveless? Too lovey? Tight knit? Scattered to the winds?
  • Upbringing: What sort of wealth level is the family the character was raised in. What sort of upbringing was involved in your character's childhood?

Second Paragraph: Education

  • What school did your character attend? (All British wizards attend Hogwarts.)
  • What year did the character begin school?
  • What sort of Electives did you take? (2 minimum, up to 3: Ancient Runes, Arithmancy, Care of Magical Creatures, Divination and Muggle Studies.)
  • In what subject(s) did your character excel or do poorly? (Core classes everyone takes up until 5th year: Astronomy, Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, History of Magic, Potions, and Transfiguration)
  • Did your character leave school after O.W.L.s (Fifth Year)?
  • What N.E.W.T. classes did the character take? (Chose from both Electives and Core Classes. Can be as few as a single class, or up to five classes.)
  • What was the year that the character graduated in?
  • Did your character play Quidditch? What years and what position?
  • Was your character a prefect and/or Head Boy or Head Girl? Prefects are chosen in their Fifth Year. Head Boy and Head Girl are always Seventh Years, and usually prefects.

Third Paragraph: Recent Events

  • What is the character's occupation?
  • What sort of wage/wealth/earning does the character make now that he or she is out of Hogwarts?
  • Has your character started a family?
  • What sorts of recreations and hobbies does the character engage in?
  • What sort of personality has been shaped by the events above?

Glamers and Conjuration

The Wizarding Skills list can be deceiving, leading some to refer to Glamers and Conjuration as courses taught at Hogwarts. Read those skill descriptions carefully. These two skills are merely aspects of Charms and Transfiguration, respectively, and taught in those classes.

Background Pitfalls

Here are a few things that come up in backgrounds frequently that almost always require revision or removal. Avoiding these pitfalls will expedite the approval process.

  • Surprise Wizard — Magical children that don't display magical ability until right before they're ready to go to Hogwarts. This would be exceedingly rare, as wizard children have magical outbursts all through their childhoods. The families of Muggle-born wizards that witness these events justify what they can, and often ignore what they can't…and when all else fails, the Ministry has their memories altered.
  • Underage Practitioner — Wizard children practicing magic prior to Hogwarts. It's illegal, and could mean trouble for their families.
  • Contacted by Hogwarts Faculty — Muggle-born children are contacted by a Muggle Liaison from the Ministry of Magic, not strange wizards from Hogwarts. Harry Potter and Tom Riddle are exceptions to this because they are exceptional cases. Said Muggle Liaison will also determine the Muggle family's suitability for knowledge of the wizarding world. If they are deemed a threat to secrecy, they will have their memories altered, and will believe their wizard child is attending an exclusive Muggle boarding school.
  • Impure Slytherin — Muggle-born simply are not sorted into Slytherin at this time. Half-bloods can possibly be Slytherins, starting in the 1940-41 school year, but even this will be uncommon.
  • Cookie Specials — Anything that requires a Cookie reward that you cannot afford. Please review the Cookies page to determine what character options require Cookies.
  • Psychological Disorders — It may seem fun to play someone with mental instabilities. But usually it just makes others uncomfortable, paints you as an attention-hog, and is rarely played realistically. Mental illness isn't wacky fun time. It is very serious, very sad, and frequently disturbing. In both the Muggle and wizarding worlds, such people are typically confined to a sanitarium or St. Mungo's (or Azkaban). If you are actually considering playing a character with a mental disorder of some kind, please talk to staff first. We want to handle this subject with the respect and seriousness it deserves.
  • Child Warrior — Students are not combatants. Not every student is in Duelling Club, nor does every student in Duelling Club turn into a mighty warrior. Harry Potter and his allies trained above and beyond to combat Dark forces. They are the exception, not the rule.
  • Muggle Knowledge — Wizards who are raised in the wizarding world (which is pretty much all pure-bloods and the vast majority of half-bloods) generally know very little about the Muggle world. What they do know is often skewed and poorly understood. When we see such characters with knowledge of Muggle sciences, literature, culture, martial arts (fencing was a common one we saw) etc., we want to see a good explanation for it. Enjoy the wizards' ignorance of the Muggle world, it can be fun!
  • Because Harry/Ron/Hermione/etc. did it — As mentioned above, the characters in the books are the exception, not the rule. They are extraordinary, either due to their talent or circumstances. It may seem counter-intuitive, but many examples from the books are rather bad examples of how things go for the average wizard. Hermione and Harry cast a lot of spells that other students their age would flounder with. Tom Riddle was an exception in almost everything he did, both as a boy and as Voldemort. Dumbledore is one of the most powerful wizards that ever lived. These people do not represent the common wizard.
  • Pop Culture References — Though it may seem amusing, building a real life pop culture reference into your character is distracting and detrimental to the IC atmosphere. This includes things like naming your character or family members after television show characters, or mirroring life events of a character your Actor has played. Taking inspiration from an Actor's role is fine, but don't simply convert the character into the Potterverse.
  • Those things that are discouraged or disallowed in the What We Do Not Need section of What Should I Play.
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