Histories are one of my favorite little things tucked away in BREAK!!’s character creation. While relatively small and simple in comparison with some of the other facets, they immediately insert a character into Outer World’s setting by defining who they were and their place in the world before the start of their Saga. They also help build on the game’s setting, both within the book itself and in the mind of the character’s player.
There are numerous good reasons as to why you might want to make your own histories. A player may want a particular backstory for their character that none of the existing histories match or a GM might want to make their own History Table for a customized setting.
One thing to note before you start - you may not need to make a new History at all. Just like Callings and Abilities, Histories can be re-skinned to suit your needs. For example, a Blight Raider could be used to create a No-Folk’s Land Bandit if you change the corresponding Homeland from the Wistful Dark to the Blazing Garden.
If you still feel the need to create a new History from scratch, the below guidelines should be of assistance. In addition, the existing Histories in the BREAK!! rulebook should give you a good idea of what they should look like.
The standard Histories are created to be fairly broad, allowing a player some insight into their character’s place in Outer World while providing a good amount of room for interpretation. If you are creating your own Histories for general use, you should stick to the same design philosophy. On the other hand, if you’re creating one for a particular character you should feel free to be as specific as you like!
Character Histories have three components; the fiction that attaches them to the setting, the 3 Purviews they provide, and their list of potential bonus gear.
There are no strict requirements for the fictional aspects of a History. Generally, it should represent a lifestyle or profession that justifies the purviews and bonus gear it provides and ties in with the Homeland it hails from.
Every History needs 3 Purviews. They should be flexible enough to be applied to many Rolls, but not so broad that there are no situations they are not applicable. Of course, don’t be so specific that they are unlikely to see much use at all! Finally, it’s all the better if the wording of the purview can be interpreted in multiple ways.
For example, “Dealing with difficult situations” is much too broad to be a purview and frankly a little boring. There is a story behind “Getting out of the mud” but it’s probably a bit too specific for a purview. “Cleaning up a mess” is getting somewhere because it can be taken literally or metaphorically and apply to a broad (but not too broad) range of situations.
The list of bonus gear should be 4 distinct items. One should be worth more than 25 Coins and at least two should be items that can be used by any character regardless of Calling or Species.
Generally it’s best to avoid having an item worth more than 70 coins in this list unless it is something that has a very specific use or mildly benefits the whole party, such as a merchant having access to a cart. Still, this should be done sparingly if at all.
Bonus Gear is also a good way to hint at various interpretations of a History. For example, taking Medium Armor and a Large Shield with the Town Guard History could suggest having to defend a town from monster attacks often, whereas taking an Authoritative Outfit might belong to a character who was once an investigator of some kind.
Avoid giving out things like imbued Items, property, or large vehicles with a History. These are game-changing items and if you really want the players to have them at their disposal from the get go, it’s better to just give them to the group as a whole instead.
Like anything, a custom History is subject to GM approval. If you are not the GM of the current Saga, make sure to let them look over the history before applying it.
Now then, let’s take a look at a new History created with these guidelines in mind:
Creative (Homeland: Other World)
It might not be your day job, but you have an expressive passion that steals away much of your free time. A webcomic, mytube channel, or even a tabletop game - you pour your heart and soul into it even if the world may never quite appreciate your work. Some of the things in this weird fantasy world even remind you of it, actually…
Note: Note that the Calling’s name and description are pretty broad - this makes it applicable to a wide range of characters but retains enough definition for the History to be useful.
Coming up with something new
Enviously noting the talents of others
Comparing things to your own work
Note: These purviews all manage to hit the sweet spot of allowing some creative uses without being too broad. For example, Enviously noting the talents of others can be used with a Check to size up someone, or perhaps during a negotiation where the Creative uses the things they notice to flatter the target.
Starting Gear (Pick 2)
Other World Device (Noid Phone with excellent camera)
Urban Item (Sketch Pad and Mechanical Pencil)
Luxury Item (Musical Instrument)
Beginner’s Tome for Famous Figures in the Outer World (Concept Art Book)
Note: As this is an Other World History, the bonus starting gear is all a bit odd, but generally useful. The Other World Device is a good example of gear that is normally fairly rare or expensive being available to choose as bonus gear: it’s interesting and useful in the hands of a creative player, but not so generally useful as to be overbearing at the start.