I once ran a campaign that was a single long dungeon crawl. It was short on lore (at least, by my standards) with the world designed to give an excuse for this massive dungeon to exist. As such, I wasn’t expecting much in terms of backstories from my players, just enough to give them a reason for dungeon crawling. However, I was not prepared for Grimscythe Basterade, dwarf barbarian, whose entire backstory was “The son of a rock and a slightly smaller rock.”
Grimscythe was … a strange character, to put it mildly. At times we was a typical dwarven berserker, at other times he would start going on about the power of friendship. The dungeon was packed with traps, causing the rest of the PC’s to take a cautious approach, carefully inspecting each door and passage before proceeding. Grimscythe did not have patience for this, cursing the party’s ‘love affair’ with doors and bursting forward. I should mention this is while he also had some of the best trap-senses of the party (which lacked a trap-finding rogue), so he would be breaking down doors while his stonecunning ‘spider-senses’ told him this was a bad idea. He also had a habit of going off on his own, only to return to (loudly) return to the party just as they needed their stealth the most.
I like to try and make player’s backstory’s relevant to the campaign. Grimscythe’s simple and weird backstory presented a challenge, but I was up to it. When the players returned from the dungeon one day to report on their progress, they were greeted with messages from their friends/family/rivals/whatever was dramatic at the time. And Grimscythe had a message waiting for him as well. He was handed a massive hunk of adamantine with a message carved in it in broken dwarvish:
You have been away from home for too long. We hope wherever you are digging you are well and surrounded by friends. Listen to the earth, it will help you find what you are looking for.
We found this rock and thought of you. It is strong and solid like you are. Make it into something nice, like jewelry or a waraxe.
Love, Mama Rock and Papa Rock.
Not too long after, Grimscythe met the wrong end of a Minotaur’s horns and wound up dead. Instead of going to an afterlife appropriate for his alignment, his spirit went to the elemental plane of earth, where he came face to face with his parents: two earth elementals (one of which was slightly smaller than the other). They were able to provide his spirit with another body (a Grimscythe carved from the stone) and send him back to the material plane with the instructions to ‘spread the word of power of friendship’. In typical Grimscythe fashion, he rejoined the party at an inconvenient moment. The PC’s where considerably more interested in the strange dwarf’s backstory after that.
Unfortunately, the campaign did not run for much longer after that (scheduling conflicts) so we never got the chance to properly explore the mystery of the earth-carved dwarf and his earth elemental parents, but I did learn a valuable lesson from this character: no backstory is too silly or too barebones for a determined DM. Though…maybe don’t make your DM work that hard? ‘k thanks.