Best Character backstories/protrayal in a long-term campaign

Jd Smith1

Explorer
Another thread got me thinking about this. I'm 'meh' about non-Human races because a few sessions into a campaign they're virtually indistinguishable from Human PCs.

What I enjoy seeing, and reward lavishly, are PC backgrounds which are portrayed, and impact, the entirely of a long campaign (say 30+ sessions).

Here are four that have cropped up at my table over the years:

A 6' 3" Human in a War Hammer campaign who, because of a traumatic brain injury (pre-game), believed he was a Dwarf, and continually strove to locate 'his' clan and family, interacting with real Dwarves at every opportunity, no matter how small.

A Windling bard in a fantasy setting (12" high winged fairy) who had what amounted to ADD and an aversion to violence. He was utterly useless at everything, and got into everything.

A Chinese cook in a setting taking place in an alternative history occult setting where the Mexican Revolution got underway in 1889. The party, other than him, were hardened gunmen out to make a buck off the troubles in Mexico.

A noble in a Fading Suns who took looking down on peasants as lower beings to a truly epic degree.
 
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Shiroiken

Adventurer
The best of mine was a Gold Elf from Evermeet (in the Forgotten Realms) who's family was disgraced. His father was a powerful high mage who helped power the defenses and my mother was a druid who tended to the land. My elder brother and sister, however, sided with a renegade elf to attack Evermeet, distracting my parents to bypass the defenses. The attack was eventually repelled, but my mother was killed and my father became withdrawn. I vowed to redeem my family name, and sailed to the mainland with my friend and bodyguard (another PC).

Over the course of the campaign, we found that my brother had allied with the Fayrie (demon elves, possibly misspelled). They attempted to seduce me as well, and almost succeeded, since they had the rest of the party captured and were torturing them until I agreed. We managed to escape, but I never forgave myself for leading the party into that trap. Eventually when we faced them again, much later in the campaign (they'd allied with the Shadowvar, the other major threat in the campaign), I was forced to face my brother's daughter, deciding if I could kill her. I couldn't, almost dying, but my bodyguard was able to finish her off instead.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Heh- I’ve burned a LOT of great backgrounds on campaigns that cratered in weeks or months. Some that didn’t:

I had a drow MU/TH that believed it was an Android from another dimension, that had been programmed to perform the role of a Drow MU/TH in a competitive LARP game- think of the original Westworld or Dream Park. While the campaign lasted a while, the truth was never revealed.

Alien gladiatrix who won her freedom, found Earth, and turned superhero. She had to eat her normal body mass in food daily in order to power her super abilities. But because of her alien biology, she also sometimes had adverse reactions to terrestrial food.

A superhero in power armor whose main arsenal was designed around taking down other power armor goons, AIs, robots, Androids, cyborgs, etc., with a side dish of crowd control. He was extremely concerned-almost paranoid- that mechanical intelligences should never dominate humanity, He was so paranoid, in fact, that he intentionally built his suit to be difficult to use by anyone unfamiliar with the unique programming language he himself had created for the project.

A Diviner/Ranger/Spellsword based on Indiana Jones, used a whip and Shortsword for TWF. Because the 2 players in the campaign running healers moved out of state, this character was retired @9th level or so, in favor of...

A Cleric/Sorcerer/Geomancer based mainly on DC’s Vertigo-era Swamp Thing. His devotion to slo things green had been rewarded with becoming increasingly plantlike- all of his Geomancer Drift mutations w of the floral variety.
 

Legatus_Legionis

< BLAH HA Ha ha >
I have a PC that fits this, but none of the players knew any of the other PC's background because....
... the players all wanted a campaign with tons of espionage, secrets,
... the players all wanted to create a PC they wanted to RP,
... the players all created their PC with only the DM present,
... the players were only allowed to reveal details of the PC in role playing they wanted to let out.

So to the group, my PC was a holy human male warrior, high in honour.

None of the players knew I was role playing an Illrigger of Orcus (LE Paladin) who was sent to Greyhawk to assist Iuz in its battle with St.Cuthbert.

While the players were all looking at a NPC as a mole, a spy, whatever, they never expected it was in reality my PC. When I created my PC, the DM loved the idea so much together we decided my PC was going to be a mole (there might be more, but I was one for sure.)

My Illrigger helped mentor a junior knight of st.cuthbert, helped preserve the life of the high priestess of iuz, returned the dead body of the knight to the main temple of st.cuthbert (while never entering onto its "holy" grounds, was given special access after having been named a "friend of the knights of st.cuthbert" to the living quarters of the knights and backdoor access to the main temple, etc.

The player whose knight had died, loved my role playing so much he asked the DM if he could look at my backstory, to help him better RP a knight in the future. So with the approval of the DM, I let him read my PC's entire history and backstory.

He was so floored. It was so detailed, so full of the things the PCs were trying to find from a mole, he never suspected it was my PC. His motivations. His reasons to not killing the high priestess, to allowing the knight to get killed, to giving advice to the high priestess before letter her go. To honorably returning the body of the dead knight to his temple. To never saying whom he worshipped, to never saying the names of any deity. To never showing his un-holy symbol to any PC.

Even after reading it twice, he had to ask both me and the DM, "Really? It was him all along? Holy fcuk! "

Reading the part of my history his knight helped create, he could only shake his head.

It was only when my PC and the knight were alone with the cornered high priestess did my PC show her my symbol before quickly hiding it again. He turned to the knight saying "Are you going to attack and kill an unarmed woman? Are you not going to ask for her to surrender into your care? Is that the type of knight you want to be known as? A butcher of defenseless ladies?"

The expression on the high priestess changed after that. She was now a pawn in an even bigger game. When the knight ask her to surrender herself into his care and the knight swore to protect the high priestess with his life, until he could deliver her to be tried by his elders did she say yes.

The other players were not only amazed, they cheered. They have never seen anything like this before. The only time they cheered more was after my PC refused to enter the temple of st.cuthbert after he returned the body of the now dead knight "As I am covered with dust of the road, and blood of goblins and orcs and other monsters. I don't your priest would like such stench into the temple. Besides, this is his (points to the body of the knight) moment. I would be a distraction."

He was here they said they would show me to the living quarters away from the temple and the priests, so I could wash up. While washing up he continued to refusing everything they offered him, from gems to gold coins. My (un-)holy warrior would have nothing with such material things. That was when a player suggest about why not then pronounce him a "friend" of the knights of st.cuthbert.

It was that suggestion, which the DM agreed to do, and to which my PC relented to accepting. The players all cheered loudly.

The player who's knight died could not believe how expertly I role player my Illrigger. And how it eventually lead to the destructed of the whole knighthood of st.cuthbert.

Sadly, I had to leave the group/campaign before that day happened. But was told how my PC opened the door to that fateful day.

< BWAH HA Ha ha >
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Another thread got me thinking about this. I'm 'meh' about non-Human races because a few sessions into a campaign they're virtually indistinguishable from Human PCs.
Dang, what are the players doing? Are they just picking for ability bonuses/features and not giving any thought to how to RP the race they chose so it just defaults to generic personalities?

I've seen some half-elves seem human, but generally race is a large component in the personality and RP of the character.

Sorry, that must have triggered a nerve. I know that race is one of the big touchstones when I do personalities, either as player or DM.
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
Dang, what are the players doing? Are they just picking for ability bonuses/features and not giving any thought to how to RP the race they chose so it just defaults to generic personalities?

I've seen some half-elves seem human, but generally race is a large component in the personality and RP of the character.

Sorry, that must have triggered a nerve. I know that race is one of the big touchstones when I do personalities, either as player or DM.
LIke I said, I'm sure that the player thinks his or her depiction is amazing, but the reality is its just another bad accent and off-the-cuff wit.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So, for a three year live-action campaign, I was playing a mechanic/engineer from a post-apocalyptic world (it was a sort of shattered-many-worlds game). I had figured out the role I wanted to play in the group, the character's basic personality, skill set and all, but I needed a backstory. This game generally used backstory to drive plot, but I just didn't have a great idea.

So, last day of character submission, I just filed all the serial numbers off King Arthur, changed the names and setting, but kept the basic plotline. And, the actual campaign started effectively after Arthur is sent to Avalon - he heals up and the game is the next phase of his life.

And for two years, just being one of the top engineers and science characters in the game gave me far more than enough to do. None of the writers touched my backstory. And, by that time the game had moved so far away from the origins, that I figured none of that mattered, and that was fine. I was busy.

Then, in the third year, came up a bunch of scenarios I was sent on that I didn't really understand why. I spend a large part of that year of campaign uncovering the Caliber-X, a high-tech weapon encoded to my character's DNA, that we eventually built into the defense systems for the symbolic city the sixty-plus PCs were building to be the cornerstone for the system that would bind the shattered world together.

The whole business raised the possibility that my character was his own ancestor - that a future-me built the weapon and sent it back to myself, but that was a question that never got answered.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
So, for a three year live-action campaign, I was playing a mechanic/engineer from a post-apocalyptic world (it was a sort of shattered-many-worlds game). I had figured out the role I wanted to play in the group, the character's basic personality, skill set and all, but I needed a backstory. This game generally used backstory to drive plot, but I just didn't have a great idea.

So, last day of character submission, I just filed all the serial numbers off King Arthur, changed the names and setting, but kept the basic plotline. And, the actual campaign started effectively after Arthur is sent to Avalon - he heals up and the game is the next phase of his life.

And for two years, just being one of the top engineers and science characters in the game gave me far more than enough to do. None of the writers touched my backstory. And, by that time the game had moved so far away from the origins, that I figured none of that mattered, and that was fine. I was busy.

Then, in the third year, came up a bunch of scenarios I was sent on that I didn't really understand why. I spend a large part of that year of campaign uncovering the Caliber-X, a high-tech weapon encoded to my character's DNA, that we eventually built into the defense systems for the symbolic city the sixty-plus PCs were building to be the cornerstone for the system that would bind the shattered world together.

The whole business raised the possibility that my character was his own ancestor - that a future-me built the weapon and sent it back to myself, but that was a question that never got answered.
He is the One! Foretold in myth and song!
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
One that came up in my current campaign was an otherwise-typical Thief who had two things going for (against) him.

One was that he was constitutionally incapable of uttering two sentences to anyone without saying something offensive or insulting (this to explain his awful Cha score - 6 I think). This included the parties he ran with, to the point that they'd generally end up ignoring anything he said or suggested even when his point or idea was later found to be completely correct.

The other is that at some point he decided he was going to try to ascend himself to divinity, pretty much by simply declaring it so and hoping for the best. He chose fashion as his domain, wrote his own holy book, and started proselytizing at every opportunity during downtime in whatever town or settlement the party was in. Unfortunately said proselytizing usually consisted of telling people how awful their style was (insulting them in the process, of course) and how it needed improvement that could be best achieved by conversion to his faith.

Amazingly, and very much against the odds, he even managed to acquire one - count 'em! - worshipper. True to form, however, he managed to so abuse this poor worshipper that the worship didn't last...

Wrapped around all this he managed to bang together a decent - and marvelously entertaining! - adventuring career before sailing off into the sunset.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
He is the One! Foretold in myth and song!
Yeah. It gets better. As far as is known, the weapon was made by one of the first "technomages" in the setting. Same guy's also credited with having invented the nano-technology that enabled the technomages to reach far greater heights of accomplishment - the shattered universe could not have been stitched back together without them.

It is now some... ten years since that campaign ended. A couple of the original writers are writing a one-shot reunion sort of game. If the character, or one of his descendants, created that technology... and my character as yet has not yet created it or had children... what happens if he dies? Is he effectively incapable of dying, because causality requires things to happen, or does the universe fall apart if he gets killed without fulfilling the future history?

In game terms, I, the player, know (?) the character is not invulnerable, and they won't make the universe fall apart just based on me. That'd be silly. However, the question is whether the character, or anyone else, will think that. I am half-hoping for an in game moment for using a rant on this with an aggressor as a heck of an intimidate/stall for someone else to get into position... "Do you know who I am? If you shoot me, maybe the universe unravels! Maybe history gets rewritten so you never get born! Do you want to take that chance? Do you feel lucky...?"
 

Kel Ardan

Explorer
A few from memory:

A Orphaned Moon Elf rogue who was raised by a human street performer/ cat burglar. After he was older his adopted father was killed by Zhents in a Zhentarim controlled area and he started living a double life (a gambling establishment owner and a robin hood style rogue who harassed the Zhentarim as much as he could.

An elder Malkavian who had multiple personality disorder and during stressful times the GM would roll a 10 sided die to see what personality he would switch to (All kinds of fun to role play). He also had disciplines that allowed him to pull off things to fit the personalities and they ranged from Thor God of Thunder to more mundane things like an accountant or a woman in labor.

A female rogue who used a mask of disguise and other minor magics to impersonate her father to fit in with his old adventuring group to find out who either killed her father or where he might have disappeared to. Fun character who I constantly gave hints about her being a woman of higher station with the constant need to bathe brush her hair and simple ways she held herself whenever I would fail a check to keep fooling the others in the party.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I was part of a play test for GURPS: VtM.

My character was a P.I. before he was embraced by an ancient and powerful Brujah. But the process of becoming undead caused him to have a mental breakdown. In his insanity, he “reasoned” that his newfound speed and strength meant he had become a superhero. Thus was born Major Mosquito, a Brujah as mad as a Malkavian- and a vampire who often fought vampires as he patrolled the city of Austin at night.
 

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