The Joy of Character Backstories

Posted on January 10, 2018

I like characters I play to have an established place in their world, a sense of what they were before they became adventurers. So when I decided to DM for a couple of college friends, I asked them to give me one-page bios of their characters.

Hirotoro Nevah was a prince from a ruined land, his kingdom destroyed by betrayal when he was only a small child. He was rescued and raised by a dragon that owed his family a favor. He was brave, honorable, an excellent warrior, but only civilized as much as living alone in the mountains with a dragon can make a man. Izzy was an Eladrin that ran away from her home to live among the exotic and exciting humans. She worked in a high-class brothel for some time, and took to protecting the other girls from abusive patrons, which occasionally led to stripped bodies being found in the city's canals. She decided to skip town once there was serious public concern over the dead men.

After a few adventures filled with delightfully in-character bickering, they were back in the city where Izzy had worked, with an invitation to a ball thrown by one of the leading nobles. Izzy was over the moon—she hadn't worn fancy clothes in a long while and was thoroughly looking forward to it. Hirotoro was only willing to go because he wanted to speak to some of the attendees, and had every intention of showing up in the battered hide armor he wore everywhere else. Izzy insisted he wear something nice, but since he refused to spend money on such frivolities, she stormed off to the brothel, dug out a few things she had from former clients of hers, and provided him with a decent set of clothes.

The ball was a great affair. Izzy got to dance and flirt with many leading men of the city, and Hirotoro was working out the property laws regarding a silver mine they had recently cleared of goblins. Out of nowhere, a man ran up to Hirotoro, punched him in the face, and accused him of murder. My players were just as shocked as the PCs and NPCs.

Hirotoro denied it, of course, and asked, "What makes you think I killed him?"

The response: "You're wearing the shirt he was last seen in before we found him in the canals!"

The squeal of horror Izzy's player made was one of my favorite moments of DMing.

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