In a discussion with two of my Iron Gods players, I discovered that it was because my players talk about their characters to the point where everyone knows everything about them already. This excitable chatty phase was really important to them, though, and while it removed the chance for in-game discovery it gave them the ability to figure out just what they really liked about their characters.
So I settled on a compromise. They were able to talk about their character concepts and generate them together in an initial character generation session but then after that point I would run each one through a secret prelude that they couldn't describe to each other. The players were happy with this and it led each one to have a better understanding of their characters *and* meant that there were tasty little details that no one else knew about.
Our characters include:
Luna, a tiefling summoner (God Caller) from Sarkoris who is a demon-tainted elf (tiefling stats but elf appearance and longevity) who can summon a blue elemental dragon and who has worked at the Torch for the past several decades using her fire resistance to her advantage. As with any elf, she has a long and colourful history that mainly focused on her childhood, adolescence and early adulthood.
Nathaniel, a telekinetic germ-phobic psychic who grew up in the Marrymaid Brothel in Torch, whose prelude was mostly day-in-the-life and building background ties with many of the NPCs which allowed him to have a great big list of characters. The player was also allowed to have access to a map of Torch. Since he's sixteen he has to hide his later delve into Black Hill from his mother and also gets a lock of flack during the final half of his prelude which was shared with Maxx since his mother bribed Maxx to shake his hand (Maxx requested disinfectant first which meant Nathaniel was okay with it) and to spend the day with him. A few others not in the know thought they might be on a date when they went to the Copper Coin tavern which led to an incredibly awkward dinner and then Maxx ended up at the Evercandle Inn.
Maxx, a newly reborn android occultist with purple hair whose player conveniently modelled her appearance on the image found on the cover of the player's guide to Iron Gods, and who has inspired me to have all androids share one of 200 likenesses. His prelude included a Shocking Beginning before he was finally picked up by Jhestine, the Torch apothecary, on her return to town and then he was introduced to Nathaniel and the two given the task of helping Jhestine make her deliveries.
Bort was a wizard (BlackFire Adept) from Mendev who was accidentally dropped onto Nathaniel due to a teleportation mishap. His prelude involved the loss of the Wardstones and his subsequent escape from Mendev as well as a grand conspiracy. The locals thought him a high level wizard because he teleported in and didn't realise it was someone else's botched attempt to grab him.
Finally we have Cerulean / Rosa who woke up in Evercandle Inn with no recollection of her past and some sort of injection gun laying near her outstretched hand. Her player didn't know what to have for her back story so I told her to leave it to me. Foolishly she has chosen to do so. The town of Torch contains many little hints and tidbits about who she is but as she isn't local those hints are few and far between.
As you can imagine there's a lot of easter eggs and references to previous occurrences in their histories which lend the game extra gravity and interest. The short preludes also really set up the characters with some all the more interesting conversations and miscommunications. Of course it helps that I've woven in their plot lines with the Iron Gods campaign and unintentionally they have helped me with this (such as Maxx's shared appearance with a certain purple-haired someone).
It already feels more cinematic with a great sense of interwoven narrative that has me squeeing with joy after only one session. Will do the session write up soon though most of it will be minor social details as they haven't begun adventuring yet.