When we left the group last Bokken was talking with Sanphire and learning how to use a throwing dagger. Thrain and Barrai are down in the tunnel getting ready to explore the area that they had found out about during the dragon attack when they …
Tag: Dungeons & Dragons
Wait, there was a Dungeons and Dragons post yesterday, and there will probably be a Friday Night Dungeons and Dragons post tomorrow, so even more Dungeons and Dragons? Yes! I wanted to talk about one half of Dungeons and Dragons, and that is the dungeon. …
This was something that I saw on twitter, I believe, earlier this week or it was part of a podcast, Total Party Thrill, that I’ve been listening to, but it was a hypothetical about why someone might join an adventuring group if they have a nice normal backstory.
Why would a farmers kid who has had a nice life on the farm, loves their family, their whole family is still alive, and they have a sweetheart, why would they join an adventuring group?
Why would a noble who might not be in line to inherit the throne but they would have a very comfy and relaxed life with basically anything they could want join an adventuring party?
Why would a wizard who has a comfy job in a wizarding school with a family and their students love them and they won’t have anything else they want join an adventuring group?
Why would a cleric who has a community surrounding them that attends their temple, they all believe in the deity of the temple, and they have found their calling, why would they join an adventuring group?
The answer most of the time is that they wouldn’t. It doesn’t make sense for them to join a group because they have a good life. The most common reason would be that they want something more and something greater. That’s a pretty safe and simple story, but not all that interesting if you’re playing that character. So how are you going to able to spice up your characters story?
And when I say spice up the story, I don’t mean add in some tragedy. How are you going to make it more interesting without adding in some tragedy, some death in the family, some desire for revenge, some scandal happening to your PC?
Let me see what I can do with the four examples I gave of pretty comfortable backstories:
As cleric you’ve had a good life and have set up a nice temple and community in your peaceful little town. You have made friends and settled into a nice groove. One evening while you are praying you are shocked to hear a voice speak to you. It commends you for doing so well and tells you that there will be another cleric of your deity coming to town. They are older and have some information that you must carry on for them and find for them while they take over your duties. The next day a cleric comes to town and they tell you of an artifact, a relic of long ago, that would help increase the bounty of your farming communities crops and help the kingdom as a whole find peace. They are too old now to continue their quest to look for it, but your deity had sent them here to find you so that could continue the quest. It’s hard, but you have heard the word of your deity, and everything they said came true. You pack up your bags, promise to return, and say many a sad farewell as you head out on the road to find those who can help you complete the quest.
The life of an academic suits you greatly, you’ve spent years at the university studying, then teaching, and the city that you’re in has become your home. You have a family and two kids. You’re in the middle of a class when you get a message sent to you from an old teacher. They have some exciting news, they have discovered a lost ruins and texts for magics that you thought had been lost ages ago. You agonize over it for a week, but eventually, at the prompting of your spouse, you send a message back saying that you will head out there, you just need to convince the school that they should fund your research. When they hear about it, they quickly help you find an adventuring party so that you will be safe on your travels.
Your life has been practice sword fights, sitting through fairly interesting meetings, and generally learning how you’re going to be able to rule your lands when you inherit the seat of power. It isn’t much of a lands and you are going to be under the king, but that’s just fine with you. You’ll have a simple but nice life dealing with the problems of a few farmers about whose cow is whose when someone’s fence breaks. But you know before that you have one last thing coming up. You’ve been putting it off for a while now, because it isn’t something that you wanted to do, you’d rather learn from watching your parents at home. But every generation, the child who is taking over the seat of rule has to go out and see the real world like they were nobody. You understand why, it will give you a perspective on things, but you’re not all that excited about it. Your parents have put together a group for you to travel with, so the time has finally come, and you set out on your own, not sure what you might find.
Life on the farm has been wonderful to you thus far. You love the routine of it. You love your cows, your parents and siblings, and your sweetheart. The only thing you’re not sure about is if they think enough of you. They are the child of the towns doctor. You’re just the child of a farmer. You are betrothed and everything is set for you to be married in two years time. With the blessing of her parents and your parents, you decide that you are going to go out and see the world for a year so that you are going to better be able to provide for and help your sweetheart with their dreams as well as yours. After a tearful good bye, you set out on the road where you run into a band of adventurers who take your under their wings.
Those aren’t my normal backgrounds, there is no revenge in them, though I did keep the quest for a lost artifact that I’ll often use as a potential backstory plot hook. But in the case of the first two there is a big plot hook for the DM to latch onto. The last two fall more into the adventuring for adventuring sake. But because everyone has their family still, and they have a clear objective of what they are looking for and possibly timelines for things as well, there’s plenty to play around with as a DM.
With the cleric, the artifact 100% won’t do exactly what the legends say it will do, so yeah, you’re going to have to deal with that. Also, you’re going to be racing against someone else to get the artifact.
With the wizard, you are going to get to the ruins and find everyone dead from some curse and then you’re going to find that you’ve been cursed as well. Now you have a deadline to figure out how to break the curse that was laid upon the ruins so that you don’t end up dead as well.
With the noble, as DM I would have you stumble across a plot against yourself and your family to kill all of you. However, you’re only ever going to see the edges of the plot, unless you want to keep your disguise and infiltrate the organization and find out who is at the top of it and who is after your family.
With the farmer, something is going to happen to your village or your sweetheart. Most likely a questionable noble is going to show up in your village, fall in love with your sweetheart and demand to marry them. When that gets turns down because you are betrothed already to them, they are going to start demanding taxes and making the life of your town miserable and you’re either going to have to deal with that noble yourself or do something to get the attention of someone higher up to rein in that noble.
Which of these backstories would you want to play? And have you made a character before with a non-tragic backstory?
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Welcome back to season two of Dungeons and Flagons. The best laid plans of Nori, Von’thre, and Syldi go sideways pretty quickly on them. What is the next twist and turn? If you have questions for Nerdologists: Dungeons and Flagons emails them to email@example.com …
A lot of RPG characters and D&D characters seem to come from humble backgrounds and work their way up into a more favorable position by gaining money and fame from their adventuring. But what if it’s the other way? What if adventuring is a step down for a character, but still seems better to them than any other option? That’s where this background slots in to Dungeons & Dragons for me. These characters are bored with life, have been kicked out of nobility, or possibly are just undercover seeing how the poorer of their lands live. Whatever reason, you have a character who has taken a step down in life.
Now, it’s very possible the noble doesn’t consider it a step down. Maybe they consider it to be more exciting or interesting to be an adventurer than to be doing whatever they were doing before. Regardless, I do still think there are some key differences between your standard adventurer and one who is or was a noble. The noble is often going to care or know more about the history of the locations they and their party are going to. A noble gets the skills of history and persuasion from their background, so they are going to look at situations differently than just another chance to kill monsters in a dungeon; they will care more about the history of the dungeon or at least know more about it. It is also probable that a character with a noble background will expect to be more in charge. They’ve had people waiting on them for much of their life, and camping out in the woods might not be quite their thing.
Before I give away all my story ideas while talking about the background, let’s get to them. Here are some suggested backstories for your D&D Noble.
I was only a child when my uncle killed my father and took over his lands. I was supposed to have been killed myself, but my father gave his life to give my mother and myself time to escape into the woods. We walked for days before we were taken captive by a native tribe living deep in the woods. I was young, and my mother says she was terrified for both our lives, but they didn’t kill us. They saw how hungry we were, and they fed us and taught us to live off the land. I honed my skills as a hunter, and my mother instilled a hatred of my uncle in me by telling me stories of a father whom I could barely remember. Much later, we were forced to run again as my uncle tried to clear his lands of all the natives. The tribe used me as a scout, and I realized I could integrate myself back into society and get my revenge. I said goodbye to my aged mother and my spouse from the tribe, promising to return. Now I am trying to get revenge on my uncle, take back my lands, and let the tribe return to their lands. But taking down my uncle won’t be easy — I’ll need help.
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
I put the last of my money down onto the table. It’s not that I’m a bad gambler, I just have bad luck when it comes to games of chance. I felt the weight of my signet ring in my pocket and thought about putting that on the table. Or maybe I could sell it if I found the right vendor. It might get me enough money to get back to my lands. I didn’t really want to come back to my parents as a beggar. I had run away from home several years ago, and I had a decent amount of money with me. It’s amazing how much things you don’t own will sell for when they come from a noble’s household. If I don’t come back with some money, it’s going to go very poorly for me. I have a sword still, and I can fight; maybe that will be my plan, since I just lost the last of my money.
When you come from a large family, you can’t always get what you want. In my case, I wanted to just live an easy life. My parents are rich — what would you expect for someone who is nobility? I was given a few options. I could marry into another family to strengthen an alliance, I could join the military, or I could join the temple. Those were the only positions that were good enough for me; anything else was too much of a step down. Ideally, I’d choose one of the last two and still do the first anyway. I might be ready to settle down sometime, but it is going to be on my terms, and I am not much of a fighter. So my option was to join the temple. That life was a little bit boring for me, but I found ways to make it interesting, much to the chagrin of the temple. Turns out, that might not have been my brightest plan, because they have decided I would be a good person to start an offshoot of the temple in a small town. I need to travel there, but maybe I’ll do it in a roundabout way and have some fun as I go. They can’t complain if I say I’m spreading the good word, right?
Alignment: Chaotic Good
There are expectations for every child born into my family. You had to look a certain way, you had to behave a certain way, and you could not be connected to magic at all. Magic is evil — that is what I was taught from a very young age. I believed that too. But a voice came to me in the middle of the night, and took me away from my bedroom. According to my parents, I was gone for less than a day, but to me it seemed like a week. They could tell that something had changed when I came back. There was magic running through my veins. The doctors said that my blood had been tainted, and my parents believed them, and I believed them. They kicked me out even though I cried. I said that I wouldn’t use the power, but the law of our land is clear — I’m an outcast. I want to find out how I got these powers to see if I can get rid of them, but they have helped me, so I need to know more to see if they are evil or not. I don’t know much about the world, so I probably should find someone to travel with.
Alignment: Neutral Good
What sort of Noble have you played before? Is it a background that has interested you, or does it seem too simple/straightforward?
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Welcome back to season two of Dungeons and Flagons. Resting after their nearly fatal encounter with the drow, Von’thre, Nori, and Syldi decide to use the tunnels that Von’thre had found out about to see if they could track down the drow and their way …