Theory and advice, like my previous post is well and good but sometimes it helps to have concrete examples. The following is an example of the types of background that result from discussion between me and the players.
Remember this not just my work but a collaborative effort on the part of the player and myself.
This is typical of the one page backgrounds I write.
Background for Edward Albion
You were first apprenticed to Halfred of Goodnap. He took you in at the age of seven and gave you your first training in Thothian magic. After five years, at the age of twelve, Halfred took you to a secluded part of the woods.
Edward, you have been coming quite well in your studies of magic. I would like to complete your training but unfortunately I can't. Now you are a big lad, so we don't need any tears or such nonsense. I will place with you with Marfran, a friend of mine. He will complete your training and initiate you into the order.
But there is a more important matter I wish to speak of you. I am not a just a Thothian mage, but also a member of a band known as the Regulators. This is an important secret of mine that nobody must know of me or... you. I cannot stress this enough, if the Order of Thoth ever finds out that I was a member of the Regulators, they will hunt me down and all those I trained including you.
This is because since the days of Lucius the Great, the Regulators have supported the Overlords. We often go out and adventure, our interests and duties take us to many corners of the Wilderlands, but first and foremost we owe our loyalty to the Overlord of the City-State.
The Regulators started under Atrabilorin. He was a dwarf who ruled City-State over 300 years ago brought the city safely out of the fall of the Dragon Empire. For the next 100 years we served the City-State, protecting it from many danger. Finally over 200 years ago Salm-Lorin, a mage of our Order, rose and made himself tyrant. Seizing control of the Guild of Arcane-Lore, he used its mages to take control of the City-State and the lands around it. Outcast we dedicated ourselves to his overthrow.
Lucius and his father, the first Overlord Halius, were able to defeat Salm-Lorin and with our help bring him to justice. Unfortunately before we could imprison him, he escaped and killed himself by throwing himself off the highest tower of the Cryptic Citadel. Because of their just cause we pledged our loyalty to Halius, his son Lucius, and to Clan Bulwark.
We are a small band, numbering only several hands each generation. What we lack in number we make up in our skill and our dedication. From time to time we look for promising young folks and begin to train them. You Edward are one of those.
If you decide to pursue this path, you will be watched and tested from time to time. When you have grown enough in experience and wisdom you will be brought into the Regulators. Your first task will be to form a band of adventurers around that you know and trust. The other members will watch you from time to time to see how you are doing.
Plus after your initiation into the Order you will be given a medallion. The medallion is recognizable to any official of the Overlord and will aid you in your endeavors. Plus a enchantment will be laid on you that prevent any Mage from forcing the fact that you are a Regulator.
Remember, being a Regulator isn't about power or wealth but about doing a duty that few other can or will do. Bringing peace and justice to the Wilderlands. Use your wits and keep your eyes open you will find yourself going far.