Have you ever had a character with a happy backstory?


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So many people have the sad backstory and dead family, So I wanted to ask if anyone here has gone the other way and had a happy backstory and living family?

I had a Halfling Cavalier, Who grew up on a farm, And joined the milita to protect his home village, But during a extended period of peace was struck by wanderlust and his family and friends helped provide him with suplies to set out on his journey to see the world. And so he traveld, Meet up with some adventurers, Saved the continent from a evil lich, And returned home with loads of money to spend on helping his village and order.

I liked his backstory, And the fact that his story had an eventual happy ending aswell.


Absolutely.

Ja'lin Silverblade, half-elven Bard. Son to two half-elven priests in a town in Ustalav. One brother and one sister. Strange happens lead him away from the town he grew up in and saved the world from eldritch abominations.

Sedrick Springhammer, halfling fighter (viking). Was raised by a bunch of dwarven vikings after being found washed up on the shore. Reached the age of maturity, went exploring. Got wrapped up in an adventure far from the tundra of his homelands and eventually found his birth parents. Saved the city, retired happily.

Have a few more but its isn't strictly all 'happy' backstory, as there is elements of tragedy. But that's life for the adventurers.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I have been in three Pathfinder campaigns, and the current campaign is the first one in which the PC had a dead parent. The triggering events had the potential for tragedy but turned out well.

In the first campaign, the PC was traveling with his high level mythic father when his father disappeared through a magic portal that closed behind him. My PC (and I) assumed that he was permanently lost, but we eventually found him being held prisoner (which in itself was a clue to the power of his captor) and rescued him.

In the second campaign, an evil relative had decided to prune a noble family tree of everyone who was ahead of her in the line of succession. My PC set out to track down this relative after she and her younger siblings barely survived an assassination attempt.

In the third campaign, my PC's mother decided that the location where they were living was too dangerous for my PC, but my mother felt a duty to remain where she was to defend that location -- so she sent my PC away to what she believed to be a safer location in the village where her older daughter lived. The way the campaign has gone so far, my PC would probably have been safer in her original location, as nobody could have anticipated just how dangerous that village would become once it was full of player characters.


Rayna (human barbarian), grew up on a rice farm with her parents and younger siblings. Loves them very much. Got apprenticed to a monster hunter, which is how she ended up in the big city for the start of the game.

Reed Skinner (halfling ranger), has been part of the local peacekeepers for a few years and was planning to propose to his girlfriend before ominous visions in his dreams set him on the path to fix it. (Post-campaign he did in fact return home to put a ring on it)

Jasper Geone (human fighter), has been happily working in his mining guild alsongside a ton of dwarves and his probably-retiring-soon parents. Has plenty of friends, even if he ends up being the freakishly tall one of any group. Now, if he hadn't been captured by kobold cultists on his way to make a supply run then his life would be a whole lot simpler.


I don't think I've had one that survived contact with the DM. But I've had several that started happy. Usually there's a bit of a mix during their life so it isn't all tragic and it isn't all happy fun times either.

The most peaceful and happy backstory I've had was an old farmer who retired leaving his farm to his enormous horde of children. He then rented an apartment in a nearby city and took odd jobs and detective work to pass the time. But then the DM abducted his family for scientific research.


I've had a had a few characters for which the backstory was essentially having been well raised by his parents and extended community, s/he was then encouraged to travel and see the world before coming back to the community a more valuable member of it for all the experiences.


A majority of my characters have non-tragic back stories just to stand out from all of the tragedy of the other characters. But almost none of them are exactly "happy", because they need to have some reason to be out there adventuring instead of safe at home. And you can only make so many tourist heroes before that gets stale.


Yep! Until the campaign-required trait kicked in for Curse of the Crimson Throne, he was perfectly happy gardening and learning about the Green Faith. And Scram (homebrew campaign) was too stupid to realize that his noble goblin family was embarrassed by his throwback ways, so from his perspective life was swell--even when they ended up shipping him to a frontier kingdom to play sheriff in hopes that he'd get killed by monsters or something.

Admittedly, it's less common than the alternative. People are driven to adventure for many reasons, but necessity is by far the most common. And as many a writer will tell you, happiness is boring.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

Hell's Rebels
El Brujo is an long-lived aasimar shaman, doling out witch-doctor healing and advice in Kintargo. Nourished by sunlight, he spends his days bare-chested, helping the people.

Wrath of the Righteous
Marquess Lofdynn "Riario" of Girolamo is a member of a tight-knit family of adventurers. His father participated in Second Darkness, his aunt liberated The Slumbering Tsar, and his sister assisted in Hell's Rebels.

Shattered Star
Brienna Soldado was an NPC in Curse of the Crimson Throne wherein she was patient 0 with a particular illness. Still, she was nursed back to health and ultimately the experience - together with her Vudrani blood - unlocked some rather odd (akashic) magic within her. Yes, her mother is a single mom, but loss of her father doesn't play negatively into her outlook or situation.


Yes..yes...wait...no. He inherited his parent's tragic backstory.


Elanor Benedetto Giuseppe Pietro da Milano (Or Elli)

Elli was just an Alchemist Tiefling born to a Crusading Noble family around the World-wound. She actually wasn't bullied, feared, or anything like that. Sure a few off putting moments but she had a happy upbringing. Well as well as you could near the World-wound.

She actually took off to Numeria not because her family died or she was driven out, she just did it cause as a kid she got a small wind up robot/golem toy from a traveling merchant which lit a fire under her. She was no warrior but what if she could turn the relics buried under Numeria into weapons FOR her and the crusaders? Eventually this desire became more about "Better life through tech" than warfare.

This of course led her to butt heads with the Technic League and lead her to hide out in Scrapwall. When the rest of the party found her.

Sure she's had to struggle a bit with her Demonic nature when she gets really mad but Elli didn't have dead parents, lost love, trauma, etc etc.

She was fun to play.

The Exchange

Sure. I rarely go for the “tragic backstory” unless the campaign forces the PCs into it.

- A monk, raised from early childhood in a monastery. Nurtured, taught, and cared-for. It was only when a remote village asked the monastery for help fending off an invasion of magical beast (that ate the sheep, not the villagers) that he got a thirst for adventure.

- The eldest son of an Asmodean missionary to Qadira. Well-provided for, with many siblings and a large extended family. One of his father’s wives was a very successful merchant, so he got the best education and experiences money can buy. Left home to carry on Dad’s work of bringing Asmodeus to the heathens. (Evangelist cleric).

-Closest to “tragic” is a Molthune arsenal chaplain. She served many years in the Molthuni army and saw plenty of compatriots die. But that’s not tragic, that’s just what happens in war. (She is very pragmatic.)


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

It depends... A good part on the concept/personality hooks, but also a lot of it on the GM.

The "tragic history/sole survivor" trope is 1) an easy way to explain many concepts and 2) reduces the "leverage" a GM has on the character. Some GMs just love threatening/abusing family, friends, and love interests of characters - either because of the melodrama or because they want to "force" the PC into certain actions/choices.

On the other hand, sometimes the "dark secret" a PC is hiding is that they come from a happy, stable home, their family is alive and well, and they're adventuring under an assumed name so the BBEG doesn't target the PC's family in revenge.


Many children hear the tales of heroes growing up. Some of them become heroes themselves, inspired by deeds and accomplishments of their idols.

Some people go on adventures to gain fame, wealth, and power.

Some people are prophesied to be heroes or adventurers, so they adventure to fulfill those destinies.

Some come from families of heroes. For example, there can be a family of vampire slayers, or hunters of werewolves.


Dragonchess Player wrote:
2) reduces the "leverage" a GM has on the character. Some GMs just love threatening/abusing family, friends, and love interests of characters - either because of the melodrama or because they want to "force" the PC into certain actions/choices.

I’m not really sure why players run from that. It’s just another opportunity for your character to stand out. Better to let your tragedy play out in game than have it be just some bit of backstory that no one but you knows or cares about.


I've had 2 ... well 1.5

Kyeanna, a half-elf Monk/Cleric (Evangelist) of Iomedae. She was the youngest of 7 siblings who just wanted to see the world, so she went adventuring with a bunch of Paladins. I spent a lot of the first adventure jumping into the fray and getting KO'd. She's had so many near-death experiences that she sees herself as protected by her goddess (she's been eaten by a dire-bear, fallen down a cliff, mauled by a lion, stabbed, beaten, set on fire ... you name it she's done it). But when you're adventuring with Paladins you're only dead when you're fully dead.

The other is a middle-aged gnome snake-oil-salesman (Alchemist) named Winston Thornberry, basically THIS GUY. His back-story could be tragic if you go far enough back I guess, but I didn't put anything tragic into it.


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Melkiador wrote:
Dragonchess Player wrote:
2) reduces the "leverage" a GM has on the character. Some GMs just love threatening/abusing family, friends, and love interests of characters - either because of the melodrama or because they want to "force" the PC into certain actions/choices.
I’m not really sure why players run from that. It’s just another opportunity for your character to stand out. Better to let your tragedy play out in game than have it be just some bit of backstory that no one but you knows or cares about.

What if I want to play a heroic fantasy, not a tragedy?


I don't know that I've ever made a character with a tragic backstory.

I find those characters cliche and boring.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Melkiador wrote:
Dragonchess Player wrote:
2) reduces the "leverage" a GM has on the character. Some GMs just love threatening/abusing family, friends, and love interests of characters - either because of the melodrama or because they want to "force" the PC into certain actions/choices.
I’m not really sure why players run from that. It’s just another opportunity for your character to stand out. Better to let your tragedy play out in game than have it be just some bit of backstory that no one but you knows or cares about.
What if I want to play a heroic fantasy, not a tragedy?

Either way, that's completely on where the DM and story take you. You can either heroically rescue your family members or tragically lose people you don't care about.


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Most of my Pathfinder characters have been for PFS, so their back stories have rarely been very long or detailed, because organized play tends not to the best forum for in-depth character development. For example, my dash-1 started with just enough back story to explain why a Keleshite rogue had a religion trait for Cayden. (His well-to-do merchant father apprenticed him to a dwarf brewer. No tragedy there, just adolescent restlessness!) He's ready for Seeker tier now, and I still haven't elaborated more on his early years. All the relevant character-forming moments I've needed for him (like taking that one level of Cayden cleric) happened during play.

My PFS character with the happiest back story is probably my tiefling investigator, who had a highly privileged upbringing among the faithful of Asmodeus. (And yes, the irony there is very deliberate!)


And then there's Strange Aeons, where your backstory may not be your backstory. : D


Kaleb Kimberfrost, and his wolf animal companion, Magnus.

Kaleb is a NG M Halfling Hunter 3/Warpriest (Erastil) 5. While his father endured a minor tragedy escaping Irrisen, Kaleb was raised relatively happy.

He made friends with a powerful grey-white wolf as a pup and they became inseparable; he helped his father establish a hunter's lodge and dedicate a shrine to Erastil; Kaleb became a deputy and eventually sheriff of his tiny village before feeling a compulsion of wanderlust. Eventually however snow fell upon the northern border in midsummer and Kaleb took up the task of discovering the power of the White Witches.

Needless to say when I played the character and we got to some of the more grizzly, macabre stuff that the evil NPCs do in the Reign of Winter AP, I acted mortified. I went off on one of them and even had a period of ennui through 2 sessions as Kaleb grappled with the very real horror of the lands of Irrisen.

If you're really into playing your character and acting out a role, playing a happy backstory character can be just as grueling as one born of tragedy. Its just a different kind of arc.


Garretmander wrote:

I don't know that I've ever made a character with a tragic backstory.

I find those characters cliche and boring.

It's fun for characters with a limited skill set, bad perception, or poor survivability. You can pout and "why does this always happen to me" every time you're useless or dying.


Weirdly enough, my wizard in RoftRL was basically a recent college grad from a middle class family trying to find a job. I intended his raven familiar to be an imp in disguise but through play it turned out that a nosoi psychopomp made a lot more sense for the goofy bird.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Jeb Surleygut (Gnome Sorc) went out into the wider world to research Tall Gnomes (Dwarves). Nothing tragic, just !SCIENCE!

The Lost (Elf Rng) could progress no further in his local temple to Calistria, lacking the sexual proclivities or divine magics needed to do so. They encouraged him to go get some experience in the world.

Robearto of Pharasma (Human Rng) was just a rank and file member of the Wati temple of Pharasma, part of the Voices of the Spire sect. After a certain ethically dubious action committed by one of the Voices of the Spire's leaders to combat the events of Mummy's Mask book 2, Robearto left the sect and joined the party out of peaceful protest against the temple's leadership.

Grand Lodge

Generally speaking, people who live happy and content lives are not prone to running off on some grand adventure.

That does not mean all adventurers need some tragic, horror filled back story...sometimes one event can trigger someone to go adventuring...some people were raised/destined to become adventurers...some races in particular inspire wanderlust and adventure...some were pampered growing up and choose to adventure to prove themselves...and so on.

In my ~40 years of tabletop RPG playing, I've had characters of just about every conceivable background.


It's difficult to find a meaningful reason to go adventuring if you're living a good life - something has to happen for a person to feel the need to join such a risky and transient profession. And I really don't consider wanderlust to be a compelling reason unless you're a gnome, and I don't like gnomes.

Not to say I always play characters with tragic backstories, mind you. I've had a couple characters that were compelled to adventure because of a vision and a greater responsibility to their deity and the world around them, and I've had some characters that adventure because it's a more lucrative "killing people" career than joining a standing army and isn't as likely to get law enforcement on you as being an assassin.


I had a farmboy turned sorcerer, Alavian, in the last Forgotten Realms game I played in. Sage bloodline. He left home because he decided it was time to get off the ol' farm in Eveningstar and see the world. Family wished him the best, told him to come home for the holidays (his friends were welcome to come too if they didn't burn down the place), and go out and have some fun. It was for a party of all mages (wizards & sorcerers, no bards or maguses; no one went witch). Campaign didn't last long. He had a talent for alchemy and was trying to build a crossbow to extend the delivery range of various items.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Garretmander wrote:

I don't know that I've ever made a character with a tragic backstory.

I find those characters cliche and boring.

I 100% get the "I find" part of that but... really?

Shattered Star
Deathmeddle is a vampire, or at least that's what he tells people. He's actually been telling that "lie" for as long as he can remember... which isn't very long given he's quite the addled individual, what with not feeding in several hundred years. As a musician, his whole "schtick" is based around the idea of him being undead, and as such he avoids sunlight, garlic, and holy symbols. When (his part of) the adventure starts, he's highly confused, but willing to join "the band". A few fights and bites later, he's reluctantly come to realize that the "lie" he's been telling is actually true. He doesn't know how old he is (definitely hundreds of years) and he doesn't know his actual name. He doesn't remember the "tolerance experiments" that he was put through for years, slowly incrementing the purity of holy water, sunlight, and other vampire-irritants he was exposed to in the name of finding a cure. He doesn't remember his escape, his family (if any), or - really - anything about his past. But it colours his actions, and it shapes his fractured mind.

This guy was tortured into senility. And he's fun, personable, witty (if highly confused), and reasonably kind. Best of all... when the adventure is done, I can have him experience a teleport accident somewhere sunny and magic-free, so he has to take shelter for a long time... and the starvation will kick in and he'll lose his memory again. So I can reuse the character, with a completely different build.

Hell's Rebels
Calistriana Adriana Chiara Scabbia was an aspiring young actress in Kintargo. Long story short, she married, had a baby, and shortly afterward was murdered by a jealous co-star in a Chelish play which turned murderplay without her knowledge or consent. She returned decades later as a ghost, freed from traditional mindless haunting by the critical events taking place in her home town, feeling little but the need to make the town a better place.

This one's cool because her final act in Hell's Rebels was to destroy herself, dropping a ghost touch dagger into the table of her surviving granddaughter (who she did not meet during the adventure, but who she realizes is the purpose of her return to coherence). The daughter is on-deck now for some day as a haunted life oracle. She's named Gwenethys. 'Cuz I've always liked the real-world derivation of deity names for children, and have introduced the practice into my lore.


My very first character had a happy backstory. Trig Taliesin, a doll-like gnome who made decorative hair combs, rococo style. She and her brother Thumblesford (Thumbs for short) were orphaned as babies and raised by a Varisian caravan. They had a happy, healthy childhood on the road, and it gave her a joyous, inquisitive outlook. The only reason she started adventuring was to follow her brother (played by my partner), who wanted to test his mettle beyond defending the caravan.

Ironically after our first adventure, our GM ran us through Carnival of Tears (https://www.aonprd.com/SourceDisplay.aspx?FixedSource=Carnival%20of%20Tear s) which left my character cursed (Bad Luck: You take a –1 penalty on all attack rolls) and her brother so psychologically broken that we decided to retire them. They're still in Magnimar somewhere, minding a small stall selling combs and jewelry on the Dockway.

Honestly I do feel that, had our characters had a more rough and tumble upbringing, they might have been able to process what they went through.


I never really developed much of Lini the Archaeologist's backstory due to her dying quickly. (I was a very new player and made a couple of mistakes.) What I did get made was her love of learning, so I doubt she would have had a tragic past.

My group is about to start a new campaign, and my current character has loving parents, 4 younger siblings, and two best friends that he grew up with.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Melkiador wrote:
Dragonchess Player wrote:
2) reduces the "leverage" a GM has on the character. Some GMs just love threatening/abusing family, friends, and love interests of characters - either because of the melodrama or because they want to "force" the PC into certain actions/choices.
I’m not really sure why players run from that. It’s just another opportunity for your character to stand out. Better to let your tragedy play out in game than have it be just some bit of backstory that no one but you knows or cares about.

But when just about every "plot twist" is something bad happening to the PC's parent(s), sibling(s), friend(s), lover(s), neighbor(s), etc. (or even pet dog, like John Wick), it gets old really fast. And some GMs that pull this on a regular basis tend to be pretty heavy handed about "moral dilemmas" (false dilemmas, usually) and all of that rot; especially when the PC is trying to be a "white hat," the GM uses it in attempt to "drag the goody-two shoes down" (or even worse, puts the PC in a "no win" situation; i.e., "your paladin falls" no matter what action is taken).

For that sort of GM, I don't want to deal with their idea of what constitutes "character development."


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Astrid Nea Liligradd was my first Pathfinder character, she had a happy backstory and still does to this day whenever I bust her out of retirement. She is a nearly-human Aasimar with an Oracle Mystery related to the sky like Wind, Solar, Lunar, Sky, or etc who came from a rich family. Her days as an adventurer are partly to find some good husband/wife material, party to gather wealth for her family, and partly to fulfill her job as a noble to support the common people.

Of course, she's a ruthless socializer who will use a diplomacy check every other sentence to get whatever she can for free. She's a huge coward and will try to talk down, plot away, and only as a last resort fight her foes. She relies entirely on others to fight for her, including at times an army of summoned monsters, buffed allies, or her own animal companion. Lastly, she generally believes that the laws are for the little people of the world to help make society function and that as a noble woman she is above them provided her actions are in support of the greater good.

Happy backstory, all her family is alive and functioning, she just has some negative personality traits as a result of never really facing adversity in her life.


Iomedae called me when I was very young; I don't remember a time that I didn't want to go out into the World and Smite Evil. My noble family accepted and supported me in this.

I joined the Pathfinder Society rather than wander Golarion randomly... Ha ha! my Venture Captains provide plenty of random travel. As I seem to be hunting monsters and Smiting Evil just about everywhere they send me, this arrangement is working out splendidly. I have organized support and comrades-in-arms all over the place. I am living the Dream!

'Tis a pity I missed the closing of the WorldWound...


Dragonchess Player wrote:
But when just about every "plot twist" is something bad happening to the PC's parent(s), sibling(s), friend(s), lover(s), neighbor(s), etc. (or even pet dog, like John Wick), it gets old really fast.

Maybe I'm just really lucky, but I've played with several DMs and this has never come up enough to get old. And I'm wondering if this has actually happened to many other people either. Are people just afraid that a DM could do this, without ever giving it a try?


Melkiador wrote:
Dragonchess Player wrote:
But when just about every "plot twist" is something bad happening to the PC's parent(s), sibling(s), friend(s), lover(s), neighbor(s), etc. (or even pet dog, like John Wick), it gets old really fast.
Maybe I'm just really lucky, but I've played with several DMs and this has never come up enough to get old. And I'm wondering if this has actually happened to many other people either. Are people just afraid that a DM could do this, without ever giving it a try?

I've made villains who would certainly exploit such relationships if they knew about them, but I've only made one BBEG mastermindy enough that they were likely both able and willing to pull it off, and that was intended as a near-capstone encounter near the end of a homebrew campaign and would more likely have gone after relationships formed during the campaign instead of in backstory anyway. (And it had several built-in ways for PCs to foil the plan anyway, especially high-level PCs.) Paizo APs are more likely to kill your little sister than me.

I guess it comes down to this: In the default case, players usually feel like they own their PCs. Do players feel like they own characters that they invent as part of their backstory? If so, it could to see such characters manipulated or destroyed by the GM without the player having any say in it.


I actually haven't had a lot of Pathfinder campaign characters. I've had a grand total of four: a half-orc paladin for a homebrew, an aasimar wildsoul vigilante for Strange Aeons, an aasimar paladin for Giantslayer, and a tiefling paladin for Rise of the Runelords.

The half-orc paladin was kind of a blank slate. I think he had a rough childhood, but nothing too traumatic. Due to the nature of Strange Aeons, I had no clue about the aasimar vigilante's backstory.

But for the aasimar paladin and the tiefling paladin, they both had fairly stable childhoods. The aasimar paladin, Iomax Lumenson, was born to a lesbian couple consisting of a cleric and paladin of Iomedae. His birth was immaculate and he grew up in a loving, safe environment. When he was of age, he took up the sword and the vow to become of paladin of Iomedae himself.

Baros, the tiefling paladin, had a rough childhood, but not a miserable one. He was taken in by the Temple of Sarenrae in Korvosa after he was abandoned at their doorstep. He was restricted to staying within temple grounds, but this was for his own safety due to his tiefling nature. He snuck out when he was a small child and was instantly pelted with rocks by the first group of children he approached. When he returned to the temple, the priests comforted him and he ultimately made a vow to show the world he was a trustworthy soul.

Silver Crusade

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Slyme wrote:
Generally speaking, people who live happy and content lives are not prone to running off on some grand adventure.

Well, sometimes they go to a festival... :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I've had a bunch. Most notably would be my character for Kingmaker. A Paladin of Iomedae, who became the king (and funny enough, the only character to survive from level 1 through the end of the campaign due to luck and resurrections.).

His backstory was somewhat simple. He was a rich noble boy who revered the Iomedae and wanted to serve her. He left his noble house to join the paladin order. His family remained alive and well. Shortly after finishing his training and being granted the rank of paladin, he was recruited with the rest of the party to clear out the Stolen Lands of bandits. Long story short, he became the king.


KingGramJohnson wrote:
He was a rich noble boy who revered the Iomedae and wanted to serve her. He left his noble house to join the paladin order. His family remained alive and well.

The problem with backstories without tragedy: for the most part they aren't memorable, they don't generate sympathy for the character, nor do they set up plot hooks.

You can still make a non-tragic character with interesting motivations or an unusual personality, of course. But "non-tragic backstory" and "I didn't bother to write a backstory" are usually pretty similar from the viewpoint of the other players.


Matthew Downie wrote:
KingGramJohnson wrote:
He was a rich noble boy who revered the Iomedae and wanted to serve her. He left his noble house to join the paladin order. His family remained alive and well.

The problem with backstories without tragedy: for the most part they aren't memorable, they don't generate sympathy for the character, nor do they set up plot hooks.

You can still make a non-tragic character with interesting motivations or an unusual personality, of course. But "non-tragic backstory" and "I didn't bother to write a backstory" are usually pretty similar from the viewpoint of the other players.

So having a living family and friends, Is a worse backstory then the classic "I'm an orphan who have no family or friends and no attachment to anyone in the world"? How does that work? How does having a living family and friends give less plothooks then having nobody at all?


Having everyone you know wiped out is not the only type of tragic backstory.


But it is the most classic cliche tragic backstory.


Merellin wrote:
So having a living family and friends, Is a worse backstory then the classic "I'm an orphan who have no family or friends and no attachment to anyone in the world"? How does that work? How does having a living family and friends give less plothooks then having nobody at all?

How did the orphans lose their friends and family? Each one is a potential plot hook.

Living family are also good plot hooks, but how good is roughly proportional to the tragedy in your lives. If your parents were cheated out of their inheritance, or they were bandits and you refused to work with them and fled, or they are being held hostage until you can raise a ransom, or they tried to sacrifice you to a demon, or they're dying from an ancient curse, or they tried to force you to marry for political gain, or they have a legacy that is so great your PC feels like he can't possibly live up to it, that's somewhat interesting.

If they are happy and healthy and working in a temple and you get on great, then they're really only good for being held hostage by the monster of the week. And that's also a cliche.


I do non-tragic backstories quite often.

Like Usari Heshoman, Half-Orc Summoner (with the Half Celestial template, it was a game where we all had a free template to go a bit wild with). His family was wealthy and ran a shipping business. His father is a human wizard of some power, and his mother is a powerful orc sorceress who captains one of the ships. He ended up half-celestial, it was normally attributed to Shelyn smiling upon his parent's marriage as a triumph of love over traditional bigotry. (Later he found out that his father was actually an angel who wanted to live as a human). He grew up with his parent's familiars (a pseudodragon and a Silvanshee) as his best friends. This led to his interest in summoning, and manifesting an eidolon who he loved like a son. A devout Shelyn worshiper, his shaping of the eidolon was also treated like an art. His ediolon was vaguely dragonish, but covered in bright red and blue feathers like a tropical bird.

Or in an older game, I had a Nezumi (rat people from the 3.0 Oriental Adventures book, and ultimately Legend of the Five Rings) ranger Rik'Tuk. He had a very happy home life, just had wanderlust that led him to joining a caravan over the Crown of the World to Avistan as a scout. When he left, his siblings all donated some of their fur, which was woven into magic armor (the equivalent of magic hide armor), to keep him safe on his adventures.

More recently, I did a ratfolk gunslinger (I like rat people) Twikven, who likewise came from a happy family life with many siblings but had wanderlust to go see the world (his defining trait was boundless enthusiasm and love for the world and it's people). Ended up in Alkenstar where he latched on to a dwarven barkeeper who was a retired shield-marshal. Annoyed the hell out of the guy at first, but eventually the old dwarf warmed up to the weird little rat-guy and became a mentor (his wife on the other hand always loved him, treating Twikven like the son they never had. Twikven really loved her cooking). Inspired by his dwarven friend (and the fact that he loves tech) he became a gunslinger, so he could protect all the awesome people in the world. Wore his chin hair in a dwarven-style braid in honor of him too (the beard was a weave, as rats don't really grow long chin-hair normally). After a while ended up adventuring in Numeria, getting some mythic power and mastering advanced technology. Eventually, after we finished the campaign, he got a hold of a functioning spacecraft and flew off to go get into shenanigans in space. Shenanigans is also the name of his ship. As he says, "Shenanigans, are the best kind of nanigans." His crew is his Ratfolk girlfriend, a strange blob-creature he made friends with and named Blobert and a Skittermander. He kind of started Starfinder early.

There are others as well. I do tragic backstories too, but probably less often actually.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'll quite often run a character who's happy, well-adjusted, and for that reason, going along with their buddies to keep them safe.

"This ain't your fight, Doc."
"That's a hell of a thing for you to say to me."

I'm also big on putting tragedy off until whatever calamity starts a given adventure or campaign- my ranger in my first playthrough of Rise of the Runelords was a fairly well-adjusted (if asocial) guy who mostly kept to himself and regarded Sandpoint as a nice enough place that he was reasonably fond of visiting in short intervals- so when those goblins attacked during the Swallowtail Festival, he took it kind of personally. You're gonna menace the people he buys his bread from? Try to kill the people who buy the furs he brings in? Eat the dog belonging to that girl he's wanted to spend time with but never found the right way to bring the subject up? THIS MEANS WAR.


Well, Rajnish was "happily adopted", so I guess I got to have my cake and eat it, too?

I mean, sure, he picked up that "whatever happened to his original parents" was a taboo topic when he was around and likely involved Kytons, and his adoptive family of Shae is a bit odd sometimes (as happens when you're raised by non-native outsiders instead of humanoids), but all in all he's quite happy.


Cole Deschain wrote:

I'll quite often run a character who's happy, well-adjusted, and for that reason, going along with their buddies to keep them safe.

"This ain't your fight, Doc."
"That's a hell of a thing for you to say to me."

I'm also big on putting tragedy off until whatever calamity starts a given adventure or campaign- my ranger in my first playthrough of Rise of the Runelords was a fairly well-adjusted (if asocial) guy who mostly kept to himself and regarded Sandpoint as a nice enough place that he was reasonably fond of visiting in short intervals- so when those goblins attacked during the Swallowtail Festival, he took it kind of personally. You're gonna menace the people he buys his bread from? Try to kill the people who buy the furs he brings in? Eat the dog belonging to that girl he's wanted to spend time with but never found the right way to bring the subject up? THIS MEANS WAR.

Yeah, that's pretty similar to how a lot of my well adjusted characters get involved in things. They aren't always looking to be adventurers, but they happen to be around when initiating events happen and get sucked in. We're currently are also playing RotR, and my character there is another one with a relatively happy background. She was in town checking out the Old Light, and staying for the Swallowtail Festival, because it sounded like a lot of fun, and she's a Desnan. She was one of the people who managed to successfully fight back when the attack happened, and so she joined up with the others to continue to look into the threat. It was something that needed to be done, and they turned out to be pretty good at this kind of thing. So how could she turn that down?

There are plenty of hooks for characters with happier backgrounds to get into things. And the APs tend to have good hooks getting characters from diverse backgrounds into adventuring. Having a good alignment helps too. Simply being able and willing to help others when the need arises is just as much of an adventure hook as being an orphan who's village was destroyed by monsters and looking for revenge. Not all heroes need to be broody. Some are, one of my favorite characters was a self-loathing, teifling inquisitor of Iomedae, an orphan rescued by his crusader parents from the cultists who were going to sacrifice him. He got significantly less broody over time as he developed and came to peace with his nature. So I'm not saying that one type of background is better than the other. Just that there is room for both.


It should also be stated that a happy backstory can still have some tragedy in it. For instance, a character could be raised in a loving orphanage.


Sure. Sometimes, they're just young lads setting out to make their way in a big magical world with stars in their eyes and hope for the future.

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