by Benjamin Magtoto Jr.
In this piece, Fellowship member Benjamin Magtoto Jr. shows you how to make your background stories stand out:
We all know experience makes for higher levels. However, levels alone do not accurately portray an experienced character. The PC’s life events and social interactions make a character more than boosted stats.
So what do you do when you have a newly minted character above L1? Pretend you adventured in the past. Create the Defining Adventure – that mission which made the PC’s career.
Here are some guidelines to get you started.
1. Find your Tier
The tier serves as a guide to the challenge certain levels will face. Gleaning info from the
handbooks the tiers can be described by threat level and fame of the PC:
- Tier 1 L1-4 minor threats, affects small locales like homes and villages
- Tier 2 L5-10 locally important, larger threats to small cities and kingdoms
- Tier 3 L11-16 known personage, threats to regions and continents
- Tier 4 L17-20 Pinnacle of the class, threats to the universe and beyond
2. Write your Defining Adventure
Write a summary of the adventure. Most likely, this was the last adventure that secured your current Level and Tier rank. Describe the situation. Tell the reader how you became involved and how it was resolved. Detail the most memorable moments. Did someone actually bring a 10 foot pole and use it? Did someone forget they had a useful ability?
3. Who helped you?
These are the people who pointed you to the adventure and helped you overcome it. It is the Lord who needs a dungeon cleared, the Mage looking for an item, even the barkeep with all the rumors. It could be the herbalist who healed your wounds, the party you adventured with or the city guard who let you off this one time.
Define the characters and your relationship. They become your contacts.
4. Who is your antagonist?
Often the main enemy is the Big Bad in the last room of the dungeon. Tell the audience why he was so bad and why he was so tough. Sometimes the chief antagonist is that NPC getting in your way. It can be that moneylender sullying your reputation. Tell us why he is annoying and how you deal with him.
5. How did it change you?
Aside from the levels and items the experience of adventure affects a character’s mind and soul. Did overcoming great adversity boost confidence? Did it make the PC more cynical? Were there mysteries you discovered or solved?
There are also social implications. If you come home a war hero, chances are people will now recognize you. If you recover a lost religious icon the faithful will know you. Maybe the lords and ladies now invite you to parties. On the other hand, your enemies could put a price on your head.
How does it help?
Writing these details gives a new character some history in the world. The PC is better tied to the setting and will help others become immersed in it. You have war stories to share and events you can reference. The DM will have contacts and plot hooks tied to your character. It adds color to interactions.
The stereotype meeting in the tavern could then play out better:
The tavern is hushed. The patrons are disturbed by the newcomer’s night black horns and dull red skin. Except for the halfling. He crosses the room and stops at the table. “I know you, Hezzak,” he says. “Put a crossbow bolt through a demon ridden sorcerer when you couldn’t cast any more spells. And you were bleeding out your guts. I could use someone like you.”
“Alright, lets go,” the tiefling replies.
The room falls silent.
The surprised halfling blurts, “I haven’t told you what the job is!”
“You don’t need to,” Hezzak puts down the mug. “I know you. Dannon. They call you Fiend Slayer. We’ve been doing the same job… only in different places.”
The halfling snorts, then laughs and finally nods. “That… we have.”