May 24, 2009
Here's a background I'm particularly fond of that does not use the murder/revenge hook:
7,000 years is a long, long time...
It is enough time to thoroughly explore the nature of one’s consciousness. It is enough time to lose one’s sanity and enough time to find it once again. As near as I can tell that is how long I remained trapped in ice.
I’ve come to realize that my story is quite unique among those living today. Perhaps I should start at the beginning.
My Maker was of a people known as the Derros, and I was the first Guardian to be crafted. My given name, Daedrikar Raith, reflects this as in the language used by the Derros daedrikar would translate to guardian and raith would translate to first, or perhaps prime. If those who now call me ally realized the nature of my construction they may think twice about our association. Before I speak of my construction however I will tell you why I was made.
Reflecting back on the Derros it is clear that they were an insane, power obsessed people. They sought to harness the power of the banished primordials and to make the Devils their slaves. The rituals used to tap into the primordial’s power were taxing and took far too long for the mages to be safe from the Devil’s counter-assaults. So they needed to create a force of Daedrikar to keep watch while they worked their rituals.
Unlike the Warforged from later eras, the Daedrikar were constructed around organs or power sources found from other beings, most of them of dark origin. My own construction began with an exceedingly questionable source. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Devil Beleth? Also known as the Witch’s Viscount, and the Prince of Imps? He is the spymaster of Glasya who is the daughter of Asmodeus and ruler of Malbolge. As the story goes Beleth once had a brother, equally as powerful if not as crafty. It was the crowning victory of the Derros to have defeated Beleth’s brother but they did not stop there. They removed the slain Devil’s brain, brainstem, and spine, purged it of all sense of identity and used it as a central system for the first Daedrikar, Daedrikar Raith, me. It is from this central system that I gain my telepathic and other psychic abilities.
The central system however was bereft of life and needed something to power it. And so the Derros gathered primal essence from Archon Lords of each of the elemental types and used them to power my systems. Around these internals they assembled the massive war construct that is my body. Finally, they added purpose. I was to guard and protect the Derros as they cast their rituals. I would protect them from the Devils, the agents of the primordials, and any other foes. Hundreds of spells and rituals went into this final component and the result was a sense of purpose so complete, so strong, as to push aside any true consciousness. Only some extraordinary event could penetrate a purpose so overpowering.
An extraordinary event like, perhaps, 7,000 years trapped in ice to reflect on the nature of one’s consciousness...
My last memory before finding myself in the ice was charging forward to intercept the commander of a force of Devils. I don’t know how I came to be entrapped, nor do I know what became of the Derros. Not many today even recognize the name of the Derros and those who do don’t know much about them. I’ve heard that it was the World Serpent that crushed their homeland and dragged it beneath the earth’s crust to keep them from awakening the Primordials, but really there is no way to tell.
As far as I know there are no other Daedrikar surviving today. So it seems that I am now the last Daedrikar as well as the first.
The Nentir Vale
It is chance that freed me from the ice. Over time the earth slowly shifts and can build up enormous pressures in any solid ice found above it. When the pressure reaches a point the ice tears apart in a great fissure. I’m not sure if it was greater luck for such a fissure to form where it would free me, or if it was greater luck that I survived the release of such force. Regardless, after 7,000 years I was free of both the ice and of the purpose that blinded me from consciousness.
I now know that the ice I was trapped in was high in the Dawnforge mountains, north of what is called the Nentir Vale. I travelled south, figuring the warmer weather would more likely support whatever civilization existed today, and found myself among the people and the struggles of the Vale.
The first time I was welcomed was in a small guards tower outside the city of Kiris Dahn where I met the rightful ruler of the city and his aid. I helped them destroy a deadly artifact buried in the now monster infested city and in so doing gained both their gratitude and a letter of introduction to Lord Markelhay, ruler of the city of Fallcrest.
The past year I have spent exploring the Vale and assisting Lord Markelhay when he calls. He has given me a new name, Aegis, one that is more recognizable to the locals, yet one that retains the meaning of my given name. Thanks to the existence of a race called the Warforged I am generally accepted and Fallcrest has become my home. Lord Markelhay has offered me a permanent position as an agent of Fallcrest but for now I can’t accept. Already I feel the Purpose I was created for driving me to guard this city. I will help, but I must keep some distance if I am to remain self aware. Perhaps when I have had more time to experience this modern age for myself, and to solidify my own sense of self, I might be more willing to bind myself to another purpose.
At a massive 6’8” and 350 lbs., Aegis stands solid and ready. Whatever alloy makes up his body is the color of the darkest clouds just before a terrible storm. At the edges of each of his body plates are runes of some dark blue stone, embedded in the plates so as to be flush. The lines traced out by these runes seem to lead the observers eye to what can only be some sort of master rune on his chest. Whether they serve some purpose or are purely design can’t be understood from observation alone.
Despite his intimidating stature Aegis does not seem threatening unless someone or something he is guarding is in danger.
Notes on Character Mechanics and Story
- Aegis is hybrid Warden/Battlemind but the flavor of both classes is different then presented in the default class descriptions. He is a warden in the sense that he is a defender with a primal power source. I mean literally with a primal power source. His primal powers come from the essences of many Archon Lords used to power him. He is not particularly concerned with the natural world. Similarly, his psionic powers and anything with a dark flavor come from the Devils brain, brain stem, and spine used in his creation as the central system.
- Scales of War background used. Fits perfectly into story.
- Guardian theme used. Would actually like to try something different this time but Guardian is just too thematically perfect for Aegis.The Derros referenced in Aegis’ background are a real part of the ‘Points of Light’ timeline. There is very little information about them though so I took liberties in using them how I saw fit. Let me know if you want me to send you what little information I can find on them.
Aug 19, 2007
The only one of my characters for whom murder plays a big part in their background is my ranger Molly Borden - a reboot of a 3.5 character (twf handaxe ranger named Hatchet), I randomly decided that the character should be female for 4E. Someone on the forums had just posted that Lizzie Borden's story would make an interesting character backstory and gave a link to the wikipedia entry on her, so I happened to be rereading the story (which, being a New Englander I was well acquainted with) when Molly Hatchet's "Fall of the Peacemakers" came on the radio and the backstory and character's name just sort of fell into place. The Lizzie Borden story stretched into a six-generation-long tale of one family's tragic history of murder, madness and misfortune (possibly) caused by a (possibly) cursed waraxe brought back from a war against a gnoll tribe by Molly's great-great-etc.-grandfather Harris Borden.
A stranger in town, a former mercenary who never exactly said just where he got the axe (or even actually mentioned which side he'd been fighting for during the afforementioned war), Harris Borden came to the city with a bunch of local veterans returning home and settled down to start a family and open an inn. He reforged the magical waraxe into a regular woodcutter's axe, and never spoke of it again. His wife gave birth to a daughter, Eloise "Elsie" Borden. Over the years, as the inn began to fail, Harris became more and more secretive, becoming obsessed with the axe and eventually began abusing his wife and daughter. Possessed of her own unhealthy obsession with the axe, young Elsie killed her abusive father and her mother with it. Unable to believe sweet little Elsie murdered her parents, the locals chalked it up as proof of the rumors that someone was intentionally stirring up the gnolls again. A neighbor took over the inn and raised Elsie.
Years later, Elsie married a distant cousin and took over the inn again. The couple had three children, all sons. On the first anniversary of their wedding, Elsie presented her husband with a shiny new hatchet. Less than a year later, the man lost several fingers while using it to chop wood. Within a decade, the man died of influenza and Elsie passed on two years afterward.
Not long afterward, the inn was closed down when Elsie's oldest son split the skull of his younger brother with the hatchet over a disagreement. The people of the town began to whisper that the family was cursed. The youngest son married and had two sons who died young and a daughter that went mad. In each generation there was always something - madness, murder, incest or illness... Eventually the people of the city forgot about the origins of the Borden family and the "family curse" faded into legend, commemorated only by a nursury rhyme sung by young children.
Molly was thirteen when she killed her abusive parents with the family hatchet. A neighbor who knew of the family "curse" found her sitting catatonic next to their bodies still holding the axe, and dragged her out of the house, threw the axe back in with the two bodies and set the whole place on firein an attempt to finally put an end to it. He told the authorities when they arrived that the fire was accidental. Molly was placed in an orphanage, but spent most of her time wandering around in the woods, particularly around the ruins of her former home. Eventually, at the age of nineteen, she wandered away from the orphanage and wasn't seen again until a ranger found her living feral in the woods several years later, the hatchet tucked into her belt and a long trophy rope woven from strips of the pelts of a disturbing number of gnolls hanging down next to it.
The character became an exploration of the dysfunctional psychology of a broken mind, a person doing their best to deal with the world as a survivor of horrific events at an early age. As an interesting roleplaying challenge and a great plot hook for whatever DM I might play the character under, I specifically called out that whether the events of the story were truly a result of an evil magical weapon, an actual family curse of some sort, or just a long family history of mental illness and misfortune was entirely up to the DM to decide.
Harrow, my eladrin feylock, was raised among human, never even knowing he was an eladrin. He accidentally became lost in the Feydark (the Feywild's version of the Underdark) the first time he used his fey step ability, and wandered there for weeks before being discovered and sent home. The experience drove him quite mad.
Teased mercilessly by everyone for his strange appearance and odd behavior, he became an outcast and wandering madman, always leaving town after town one step ahead of the consequences of the last time he lost his temper or his mind. Eventually, he was walking down the road toward the next settlement (having been run out of town for starting a bar brawl after a drunk spilled ale on him), when a tiny Tinkerbelle-style fairy came up to him and introduced herself in an annoyingly high-pitched voice. The fairy's name was thirty-seven syllables long.
Harrow, already in a black rage, was in such a frothing, howling, bleeding-from-the-eyeballs state of madness by the time that she finished introducing herself that, when she asked him what was wrong and told him that he should smile more because smiling makes everything better...
... He grabbed her out of the air and ate her.
Harrow thus became, in a sense, his own pact patron.
Being an immortal fey, the fairy (whom Harrow calls Alma for short, or "that damn annoying mosquito") didn't die despite being digested. She was, however, driven mind-rippingly insane by the whole ordeal. Unable to survive on her own, her physical form dispersed throughout Harrow's body and reformed as sort of a second central nervous system. She draws on Harrow's life essence to survive, and he draws on her magic to fuel his powers. She percieves the world through Harrow's senses, and he hears her as a voice in his head, sort of a split personality. She's even capable of speaking through him and sometimes controlling his movements. He's known for constatly squabbling with himself in two different voices at the same time, and occasionally falls to the ground flailing and foaming at the mouth as the two fight over control of his body.
Whenever Harrow uses one of his powers, one of his blue eyes turns green, and when Alma is in control of him both eyes turn green.
My other warlock, Malachaiah Hartsworn, was raised through a rather normal happy childhood by loving parents in an isolated village of hereditary warlocks called The Pure who worship a demonic being known as He Who Walks Between The Trees. Born of a strong bloodline blessed with great magic, Malachaiah quickly grew to become the youngest Elder of her village. A responsibility she took seriously, being completely devoted to her people's Dark Lord and to her people themselves.
Wise and caring, Malachaiah didn't object when her family married her off to a man from a family with more temporal power than magical might "for the good of her people". A year or two after she was married, the priests of her village gave her the news that she was to have the great honor of bearing their Dark Lord's child. Malachaiah was overjoyed. Her husband much less so.
Malachaiah's husband, not at all pleased at the thought of someone (something) siring a child on his wife, forbade her to go through with the rituals. Passersby outside their house hearing the ensuing argument were soon running for cover as the fiery corpse of Malachaiah's husband was blasted out a second story window. Seven months after the rituals in which Malachaiah was impregnated and swore her own personal pact with the Dark Lord (a ceremony she considers to be a wedding), she gave birth to a cambion child. Which she never saw, as the village's priests took it from her immediately.
Some time later, a wizard was captured on the lands of the Pure and brought to the village to be interrogated. It was eventually decided that the man would be sacrificed at an upcoming holy festival several months away. Meanwhile, the wizard was kept in a small shed in the village and questioned by the Elders. In the course of Malachaiah's interrogations, the wizard revealed that he was also an amateur archaologist, and that he believed the village of warlocks who knew themselves as the Pure was actually descended from a lost group of slightly heretical Pelorites known as the Humble who had originally set out into the wilderness during the time of the last Great Empire a thousand years ago in order to found a utopian colony where they could live a simple life and worship in peace.
The ensuing thousand-year history of the Humble and the Pure incorporates a number of groups and events from real-world Early American history, starting with the Humble as a fantasy version of the Quakers, then becoming more like the Amish, the Puritans (from which they tale their name) and finally following a Joseph Smith-like prophet out into the wilderness to found a utopian colony in the manner of the Mormons. Eventual tension between the Pure and their neighbors follows the real-world events of the Utah War and the Mountain Meadows Massacre, leading an army of Pelorites to eventually battle and largely destroy the Pure, diverging from the real-world where the US Army never actually invaded Mormon territory.
Broken and and scattered, eight groups of the Pure flee in the eight compass directions attempting to escape and found new colonies. Of these, most are recaptured or surrender, one falls to disease and deprivation, while another briefly founds a small nation that doesn't last long. Only one group, the eventual founders of Malachaiah's village, manages to survive to the current time.
However, by the time of the destruction of the larger group of the Pure, the original slightly heretical version of the Pelorite faith practised by the original Humble has been largely subverted by human failings amongst the leadership, and when the last group of the Pure face a Donner Party-like situation while fleeing, they are finally corrupted by the demonic being calling himself He Who Walks Between The Trees. At which point they vanish into history - the last remaining evidence of their existence being found fifteen years later by an adventuring party who stumbles on their encampment, abandoned but for evidence of demon worship and a mass sacrifice and a single phrase in Abyssal carved into a tree that translates into common as "Our Lord is Come", a re-imagining of the events surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the Roanoke Colony in Virginia.
Over time, the last surviving group of the Pure lose the truth of their origins, falsely indoctrinated into a completely different version of their founding by their Dark Lord. Having only rarely been in contact with the world at large, the Pure follow archaic modes of dress and methods of speaking, and truly believe that the alternate version of history provided by their "god" to be the gospel truth. The current flavor and ambience of the Pure's isolated village is drawn from such sources as the Salem Wich Trials, Nathanial Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", Steven King's The Children of the Corn (particularly the name of He Who Walks Between The Trees) and Jerusalem's Lot, and a short story called The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.
When the people of the village try to sacrifice the wizard by burning him at the stake, he simply disappears after telling Malachaiah to find the truth for herself, leaving behind only a cloud of smoke and serious doubts in her mind. Knowing that her people deserve to know the truth of their origins and feeling a responsibility to them to discover it, as well as beginning to wonder what became of her demon-sired child, Malachaiah sets out into the world as an adventurer in search of answers.
As a further plot hook, unbeknownst to Malachaiah, the being calling itself He Who Walks Between The Trees with whom she made her personal infernal pact is not only dead, having been slain by it's enemies shortly after it recieved Malachaiah's child, but it's not even the original He Who Walks Between The Trees... The original HWWBTT was killed hundreds of years ago, and the warlock pact contracts of Malachaiah's people have passed through the clawed and taloned hands of no less than eleven other beings all claiming the mantle of the original creature. Currently, Malachaiah's and her peoples' contracts are sitting long forgotten on some giant stack of contracts on a dusty table in a room full of tables piles high with contracts in some long forgotten wing of Asmodeus' palace...
Mephistopheles Foolsdark (3.5 spiked chain rogue/swashbuckler/fighter) was the son of a cold, emotionally distant man who operated a company of mercenary caravan guards. Meph grew up splitting his time between hired tutors and travelling the trade roads with his father's company. A brilliant child, Meph tried everything to please his father, mastering all sorts of skills. Able to ride by the time he could walk and keep the books for the company by age twelve, Meph picked up both the finer points of diplomacy and business from his tutors and the rougher points of survival and combat from his father's men. However, nothing he did was ever good enough for his father, who treated him as just another employee. Years of constant attempts to win the man's affection and constant rejection left him a borderline sociopath with an extensive list of accomplishments and skills, the perfect recipe for an adventurer. It was from one of his father's men, a nameless wanderer from a foreign land with a hidden past, that Mephistopheles had learned to use the spiked chain - an elegant yet vicious finesse weapon that suited his personality perfectly and complimented his tactical approach to combat.
When Meph was eighteen his father passed away. Meph sold the company of caravan guards to his father's former second-in-command and set out on the trade roads once again as an aimless wanderer, occasionally adventuring inbetween jobs as a hired caravan guard, scout and general scoundrel-at-large.
Several years after I created Meph, I was exploring the mechanical aspexts of optimizing the spiked chain when I decided to make a swashbuckler/swordsage build. It was purely a mechanical optimization exercise, but a little bit later on I decided to come up with a backstory for it. While pondering a name, I happened to get an image in my head of how the character fought - the mystical overtones of the swordsage class and the use of an exotic weapon reminded me a bit of Chinese Opera, and I'd recently rewatched a Jackie Chan movie where he'd been fighting with a firehose using moves that might be practiced by a master of the spiked chain. And then it occurred to me that Jackie Chan's own backstory would be perfect for the character. Raised in a faraway land, the character had been trained in his exotic fighting style at some sort of analog to the Chinese Opera School that Mr. Chan had trained at.
Needing a reason for the character to be residing in the current campaign area, I came up with a backstory about having fled the school after unwillingly killing his jealous best friend in a duel over a woman they both loved, the daughter of the school's head teacher. Hitting the road to escape his past, the man eventually ended up working as a mercenary and caravan guard...
...and became the very same Nameless Wanderer who taught Mephistopheles Foolsdark to fight with the spiked chain.
Anna Domenica Nella Giorgio's (tempest fighter|ranger) backstory is loosely based on that of real-life Irish pirate Grace O'Malley. Her family were minor nobility famed for their merchant fleet and developing a particular style of rapier-and-main-gauche swordfighting as well as holding the ear of the King himself at Court, while also secretly operating as a notorious pirate clan. Unbeknownst to all but a few, the family were actually working for the King as adventurers and privateers. Anna Domenica grew up seamlessly moving back and forth between the two worlds of attending Court and sailing the seas.
Unfortunately, an unscrupulous political rival of her father's turned the King against her father, and the family lost their title and lands. Cut off from their former influence and wealth, the family took up the "family trade" of piracy for real.
Anna Domenica's father passed away years ago, and she's taken up adventuring to escape the accumulated heat of being a successful pirate, which eventually landed a bounty on her head. Never having been much for the Court side of her childhood, Anna Domenica has no real ambitions of restoring her family's honor and title and much prefers the adventuring life.
Polyphemia Peregrine Pureheart, Pint-sized Paladin of Pelor, female halfling paladin, started out as a joke character...
As a young child every day Polly would wake up, go outside, stretch and look up at the sun. And she'd say, "Hello, Mr. Sun."
As she'd play during the day, Polly talked to "Mr. Sun", talking to him as though he were a friend sitting next to her.
Polly was polite, helpful, honest and truthful. Everyone thought she was the cutest thing on the planet.
As Polly got older, people began to wonder about her. Even at the age of twelve, she'd still look up at the sun each morning and say, "Hello, Mr. Sun." and tell him about her day. A friendly, caring girl, she'd been apprenticed to the village's healer and had a reputation for standing up to bullies and protecting the other children. She'd also retained both her childlike sense of wonder and child-like black-and-white view of the world.
By sixteen, everyone knew that Polly was touched in the head. All those years of staring at the sun had fried her brain...
Or so they thought.
What nobody knew was that, when Polly was six years old, she'd looked up at the sun and said, "Hello, Mr. Sun..."
...And "Mr. Sun" had replied, "Hello, Polly..."
Despite starting out as a joke character, Polly quickly became a serious exploration of how someone with a very black-and-white, childlike view of right and wrong interacts with a very shades-of-gray world.
Jack Daw is a pixie preda-charger druid, at least mechanically speaking. In-game, he's actually a shapechanging fey crow spirit from the Feywild, who fell in love with the Raven Queen after she flew past him in the shape of a raven and subsequently led him on a merry chase through the Feywild that ended with him stuck in the everyday world. He spends nearly all his time in the shape of a crow, fights in the shape of a crow and often pretends to be another character's familiar. All his powers are fluffed as his innate magical abilities, and his personality is very crow-like: he's loud, raucous, covetous, loves secrets... and has a nasty habit of snacking on dead things.
I am the Magic Man.
(Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.)
I am the Lawnmower Man.
(I AM GOD HERE!)
I am the Skull God.
(Koo Koo Ka Choo)
There are reasons they call me Mad...
Aug 12, 2009
My character has a pretty convoluted backstory, though knowing some gamers it's probably not that matter.
She is a half human half Eladrin(human mechanically so far as it just worked out). She was raised by her birth mother but an adpotive father, who was actually the mother's original partner. When she was living with him, the Eladrin community didn't like her because she originally came from an Eladrin town somewhere in the east that ended up becoming very multicultural so saw her as a mongrel. She was witch and brewed potions; she was chased out of the village/town she settled in because she was blamed for causing a disease with her remedies(it turned out it was actually spellplague). She broke things off with her current partner and fled to Waterdeep under an alias. Soon after she realised she was pregnant with a child, she was afraid she couldn't give her a proper life so ended up giving her to some nobles who were looking for an heir. Not long after she met an alchemist who happened to be working on spellplague cures among other things, and had a short fling with him. That produced a child, my character. The alchemist ended up chased by someone, probably due to some formula he'd discovered. He ended up kidnapped along with the child as ransom.
Eventually her original lover returned and they made up and had a marriage of sorts. The alchemist eventually returned, and dropped off the now two year old child. He disappeared soon after, and was not seen by the two Eladrin. The husband eventually accepted the child as his own. However they were very concerned about the upbringing of the child and what would happen if they ran across more conservative Eladrin. Because of this, she hid her ears with big hair and had a charm cast on her eyes to make them look slightly more human.
Eventually my character ran across her sister. They realised they looked alike, so formed an act where they refered to themselves as the Prismriver Sisters. They were successful musicians and got involved in the theatre. Of course, it turned out they were real sisters, and it caused trouble. They changed their appearances to look different to one another. The noble family didn't like my character's somewhat rogueish influence, so eventually they barred from(as she was still technically a child by Eladrin terms).
The character had seen a lot of crappy places in her touring and this ended up souring her off nobles in general. She ended up wandering around on her own and ended up arrested for singing dirty songs about Lord Neverember in Neverwinter, which is how she met the rest of the party.
I was originally going to go with the father being the birth parent but figuring out a way for the mother to be that instead was a bit more challenging. Still trying to figuer out how to figure in the Half Eladrin thing. I'm guessing they intended Half Elf to work for it but it sort of doesn't and it's a bit too generic for a Bard. Human is more versatile so it was the best choice. I'm thinking of maybe a tattoo or some item slot being filled up in exchange for gaining low light vision and maybe a daily fey step. Or having a potion or something.