Despite what many people think about different RPG games, RPGs are by their very nature all about roleplaying not roll-playing. By extension, this involves a character or characters of some sort, each with their own histories, backgrounds, personalities, motivations, and general character quirks. Background Noise, a new product from Second Rat Games, helps one with exactly those mentioned aspects of creating a character. It allows one, through a multitude of tables, to generate a fully detailed, fleshed out and most importantly flavorful character. Background Noise contains more tables than most people would need, and certainly quite a few that many wouldn't even think of. While some players of RPG games might not want this kind of rigid structure, it's a marvellous source of inspiration for extending character concepts that players have envisaged.
This 34 page pdf product comes as a single pdf file. The product contains both a table of contents, and an extensive list of bookmarks, allowing you to easily navigate through the pdf. The bookmarks are doubly useful as they actually link to specific tables, which makes it easier to find what you want. Layout and editing is good, with the addition of some wonderful stock art from the talented people at Cerberus Games. The majority of the pdf contains over 40 different tables to use when creating a character, and good advice is provided on both using the tables, and what each table is for. As is almost natural for most products on the market these days, there are one or two minor writing/editing blips, but nothing that's needs specifically pointing out. Presentation is overall very good, with an easy to use product, good and liberal use of art, and good writing in the tables.
This product is all about breathing life into your character, fleshing out his or her personality or background, and generally making them more flavorful as an individual and a person (or creature, as there's no reason this can't be used for something like that, albeit it might require some modification here and there). The large variety of tables include details such as family status, birthplace, childhood events, personality, hobbies, good or bad events in a character's life, pets a character may have had, love events of the past or present, curses, crimes, disfigurements, etc. There is literally something for most areas or aspects of a character's life that you can think of. And most of the writing detailing, for example, a childhood event, shows some imagination and is generally a good fit for a typical individual. The product should be useable for any genre, although it feels like it's more geared towards fantasy, rather than modern or space.
I found this a useful, and often thought-provoking pdf. It does exactly what it says on the cover, and does so well. The product doesn't help to create concepts per se, but it does help to flesh out a character once you've decided on a specific concept, and it's possible that the process of working through the tables of this product will inspire a specific interesting concept. You could argue against the utility of the product, as other useful resources exist to determine a character's background, but having all the right information in a single place is a good utility. I think the areas covered by the product are covered well, although here and there a little more imagination, or perhaps an additional table or two would've enhanced the product. Overall, extremely useful, well presented, shows good imagination, and decent value.
[4 of 5 Stars!]