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D&D General Your Characters' Families

BookTenTiger

He / Him
How have the families of your characters, or characters in your games, impacted your campaigns?

In the 5e game I was playing in, one played played an older dwarf cleric who had recently lost his wife in an accident, and was seeking out a diamond and enough divine power to cast a resurrection spell.

I loved that motivation! So sad and sweet!

The BBEG of that campaign was also the paternal head of the dwarven clans three players belonged to. It was really fun because we all got to add to his backstory and character.

How have your characters' families impacted your campaigns?
 

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Jmarso

Adventurer
Past family backgrounds of some characters (Greyhawk):

One half-elf rogue (swashbuckler / privateer build), raised from infancy in the Dreadwood by his maternal uncle (a noble of the Silglen) after his parents died defending against a humanoid incursion. He grew older, fell in love with his pure-elven cousin, and fled home for the sea and a 'human' lifestyle after a MAJOR falling out with his uncle.

Twins, half-even male fighter, female mage. Illegitimate children of the Baron of Grayhill, in Keoland and the Dreadwood. Both had the noble background but not quite all the benefits of it due to the bar sinister; her goal was to become a powerful archmage, while his was to achieve knighthood and renown somewhere in the Flanaess despite the circumstances of his birth. The two were an inseparable team. The two could go home and visit whenever, but while their father was kind enough to him, those around them saw them as a threat/embarassment/hindrance, because Baron Skotti was in line for Keoland's throne.

One elf ranger who was the cousin of the top character, and brother of the sister the top character was in love with. The two wound up reuniting out in the world and adventuring together.

So these characters had family, per se, but mostly as backstory and not an active part of any adventuring they did.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Oh yeah, it's always fun to have another PC be your relative!

In that same 5e game we had three dwarven cousins, and two half-elf half-brothers.
 

Composer99

Explorer
One of the PCs in my Hoard of the Dragon Queen/Rise of Tiamat games is a goblin raised by dwarves, who has parlayed extended family connections to benefit the party (he arranged to have dragon eggs they found sold through the family network).
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
One of the PCs in my Hoard of the Dragon Queen/Rise of Tiamat games is a goblin raised by dwarves, who has parlayed extended family connections to benefit the party (he arranged to have dragon eggs they found sold through the family network).
I am playing a Goblin Paladin right now whose family has been sponsored by a dwarf for generations! I think that's a really fun dynamic.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I don't really involve my characters' families in the campaign much except to have it as a Bond or the like. I also don't expect the DM to include them as part of the adventures.

One such Bond I've had was a character trying to make as much money as possible to restore his family's wealth which they lost on a scheme to buy up or craft all the 10' ladders in the kingdom, remove the rungs, and then sell the two rails as 10' poles which were more valuable. It turned out there was a change in the market which saw the price of 10' poles plummet and the family fell on hard times. My character was trying to bail them out so he took a bunch of 10' poles and started adventuring.
 




payn

Legend
Usually the families dont enter into it. Often, the PCs are travelling around the world/galaxy and dont spend much time in any particular place. I like the idea though.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
In my current Ghosts of Saltmarsh+ campaign, a recurring antagonist is actually the estranged husband of the party druid. The party went from thinking he was a victim of the bad guys, to thinking he was one of the bad guys, to. . .well, something more complicated.

In the last 3.xE campaign I was a player in, the big bad claimed to be my character's mother, but the campaign ended before that was ever confirmed - it seemed like a dodge.

In a 2E campaign I ran back in the day, the party visited one member's family, since it was not far from where they were seeking out an adventure. Unfortunately, when the party bailed out of their assault early because the priestess lost a limb and then spent a night back at the family farm before heading off to a distant big city (a trip of about two weeks) to see about regeneration, the bad guy necromancers had traced the interloper PCs to the farm, transforming most of the family into undead. It was tragic. One of the older of the PC's younger siblings managed to get away and was encountered as an urchin in a later campaign, and the two youngest were kidnapped by the necromancer to raise as wards. I have to admit these days I hope I'd come up with something different than kill off the whole family, but at the time - the PCs leaving such a clear trail to something they cared about immediately after trying to raid this place and killing various guards and stealing some stuff in the process seemed like a bad choice and it was all I could think of as a natural repercussion of their choices.

In a 2E campaign I was a player in, I wrote session recaps in the form of letters sent back home to my halfling rogue's sister.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
In Odyssey of the Dragonlords, my siren mother has been kidnapped by the green dragon former lover of my father, Pythor, god of Batlle. He is a drunkard and a womaniser, and has always ignore me, which resulted in confliting relationships until I managed to save his favourite daughter, and was at last recognised. And now, he has embarked on our odyssey with countless wine barrels, so that he can watch over me. Things are still complicated.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I encourage people to have familial ties, if they don't have any I'll sometimes invent them. They get used in a variety of ways, sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes just for flavor.

For example in my current campaign two of my PCs come from families that are business rivals which has caused some fun RP moments as they tried to bring the family together. In another case, a PC's father has been turned into a vampire.

Sometimes families are helpful, sometimes it's just fun for story purposes. I've had PCs descended from retired PCs (which can be interesting) and PCs related to each other.

My general motto is that everyone has a family. Even orphans were primarily raised by someone.
 

Scribe

Hero
In ranges.

Most of the time, not something I worry about.

Depending on my race/class choice, I'll sometimes tie it in because its too basic of a trope. Aasimar/Tiefling/Genasi/Sorcerer "why am I like this." type thing.

One of my characters was the reluctant adventurer type though, who was only doing it out of a desire to protect his son (a brash over confident fighter for justice, truth, and goodness!) and his wife (a fanatical Paladin).

He on the other hand, was just a bookbinder, who was given the wrong job, and read things he shouldnt have (Warlock). ;)
 

IMO family should have some aspect in a character's background. It might only be that they exist, but they would have had some impact on the character's growth. Even my scumbag teifling fiend warlock has a sister he loves very much, even if he's unlikely to ever see her again.

My favorite 3E character left Evermeet to find his sibling and bring them to justice for betraying the family. While I never found my sister, my brother had joined in with the Fay'ri, which became a major point of the campaign. We eventually made a final stand against them, and I had to face the BBEG that was using my newfound niece as a human shield.
 

Our party Bard's family (tailors who worked their way up from near-poverty to high upper-middle-class) has been a huge support, allowing the PCs to live in their large house for the various times they stay in the city. Elder bro is solid and reliable, a Temple Knight. Younger bro is hella ambitious but looking out for the family's interests.

The bigger thing is the mystery. Both parents are tieflings: mom's maternal grandmother was a succubus, but dad's devil ancestor is an ongoing mystery. Whoever it is, they're powerful...and probably manipulating the family line. See...the dad's family tree doesn't spread out. For over a thousand years, always one heir carries on the line. If there are siblings, all others die young, die childless, or just disappear. That bloodline has never had cousins--ever. We all know that's bizarre. Families near-always either spread out or die out, so something must be ensuring a one-to-one generation turnover. What--or who--is making this happen is unknown.

The Druid's family has been a more distant background thing. Hereditary chiefs of a nomad tribe (druids in-setting are much more politically active than they're stereotyped in "traditional" D&D). Dad was a good druid teacher, but he died when the Druid and his brother were relatively young (late teens at the latest). Elder brother took over but (from the PC's perspective) has gone kinda tyrannical

The Battlemaster, a half-elf, has a racial feature (from the Grim World 3PP book for Dungeon World) that gives him a powerful Elven relic from the ancient days, when the elves had greater magic. This has been revealed to be a relic of the El'Adrin civilization, which disappeared thousands of years ago under mysterious circumstances. It's become one of his new missions to investigate this. He doesn't have any other surviving family currently, so this extended "my people" aspect takes its place.

The party's Ranger has a vast extended family due to being one of the leading heirs of a nomad clan matriarch. She has tried to bring the clan into the city to promote its survival, while he wants to go back to the Old Ways. Turns out he's descended from the legendary First Sultan through both her (his paternal grandmother) and his hated maternal grandfather, through two of the First Sultan's three wives (an orc, whose descendants are common among the Nomads, and a human, whose descendants are common among the merchant-class; the third wife was an air genie princess, but who descends from her is not yet known).

Our newest party member, the Spellslinger, hasn't been around long enough for her family to matter too much, but she hails from a distant island of the Sapphire Sea, much closer to the far-western shore of Yuxia, where she learned her arts. She's a little older (mid-/late-30s as opposed to late-20s or younger), so she may not have much surviving family at present--she's more interested in her art and finding worthy apprentices for it. She does, however, provide new dynamics for an NPC, Tenyru Shen (whom she refers to as Tenryu-Priest), who is a native of Yuxia himself (and secretly a gold dragon in disguise). So for her it will probably be less "family" and more "culture"/"students" that matter--family as a more diffuse or more chosen thing.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I try to stay away from the "I'm an orphan/family killed/abandoned/sole survivor" type of backstory, though used judiciously it can still be fun. If my family comes into play is more up to the DM.

Some recent 5e characters:

Jillian Briarfoot - talked about his grandmother whom he was named after, the best cook in three counties. But he came from a far away island reminiscent of Eberron Talenta halfling after some civilization, and the party never went there.

Erevan Majarra - Noble of Waterdeep, his family came into play (usually putting obligations on him) with some frequency.

Droozh - Loxodon with a large family, which came into play when he got embroiled in political maneuvering that branded him an outlaw. Including avoiding his very stern mother who was a servant of the law, convincing his elder brother who was following in his mother's footsteps, trying to work ut if he could go to his younger sister after he had been framed for an explosion killing soldiers in the legion she was part of, etc.

Vaeris Lianon - masked androgonous elf that every assumed was a man, turned out to be a horribly scarred woman who lost her child and husband in a black dragon attack. She then took up martial magics. She never talked about family until near the very end of the campaign.

Duris of the Sacred Heart Tribe - one of the other players was his big sister, and our mother was a big NPC from an earlier campaign in the same world.

Padraig ap Liam - sucked away to the mists of Ravenloft, no chance to meet his family. But talked about both his father and mother frequently. They were both alive.

So, one who avoided even talking about family, two who talked about them but due to inaccessibility (distance, The Mists) they didn't enter play, and two whom enter play enough they had plot points.
 

Richards

Legend
My PC in our previous 3.5 campaign had married a crimelord's daughter, who then died in childbirth while they were in hiding during a major crime war. He then placed his newborn daughter into an orphanage (if anybody learned of her existence, she'd be a target for the crimelord's enemies) and sent a good chunk of the money he earned as an adventurer to the orphanage. That became a major plot point when the DM made the infant daughter one of only two remaining members of her mother's bloodline whose deaths could help unleash a pit fiend and his fiendish army upon the world.

My next PC is going to be the youngest son of a noble family, cast out when his sorcerous abilities start manifesting and causing embarrassment to his strict father (who'll be convinced this sudden spellcasting is evidence of his son having trafficked with fiends). I'll be running a "fish out of water" who has to figure out how to live like a commoner who - gasp! - has to do things for himself instead of relying upon the servants. It ought to be fun.

My current PC is a lizardfolk who has no idea the reason his egg was taken from the surface world and he spent his life as a slave to the drow is because his brother sold the egg to the drow in the first place. So even though I'm technically the son of the chieftain and next in line to run the tribe after my brother, I have no idea about any of this (and wouldn't really know how to interact with other lizardfolk in any case).

Johnathan
 

aco175

Legend
My PC in our previous 3.5 campaign had married a crimelord's daughter, who then died in childbirth while they were in hiding during a major crime war. He then placed his newborn daughter into an orphanage (if anybody learned of her existence, she'd be a target for the crimelord's enemies) and sent a good chunk of the money he earned as an adventurer to the orphanage. That became a major plot point when the DM made the infant daughter one of only two remaining members of her mother's bloodline whose deaths could help unleash a pit fiend and his fiendish army upon the world.

My next PC is going to be the youngest son of a noble family, cast out when his sorcerous abilities start manifesting and causing embarrassment to his strict father (who'll be convinced this sudden spellcasting is evidence of his son having trafficked with fiends). I'll be running a "fish out of water" who has to figure out how to live like a commoner who - gasp! - has to do things for himself instead of relying upon the servants. It ought to be fun.

My current PC is a lizardfolk who has no idea the reason his egg was taken from the surface world and he spent his life as a slave to the drow is because his brother sold the egg to the drow in the first place. So even though I'm technically the son of the chieftain and next in line to run the tribe after my brother, I have no idea about any of this (and wouldn't really know how to interact with other lizardfolk in any case).

Johnathan
This would be fantastic if you planned to have a lost orphan from one campaign tie to the next campaign, to the next and eventually be the lost orphan in one of them.
 

Richards

Legend
This would be fantastic if you planned to have a lost orphan from one campaign tie to the next campaign, to the next and eventually be the lost orphan in one of them.
The funny thing is my youngest son - the DM for the first and last campaigns mentioned above, which are set in the same game world and cover the same overlapping time frame - has made the five PCs in our current game prophetic figures destined to protect the world from the return of an illithid Elder God. The prophecies state two main ways we can prevent his return and if all else fails, the third way involves a follow-on campaign (set 20 years later) where one of us would be playing the grown daughter of my first PC, who was raised in an orphanage for the first several years of her life. (At the end of that first campaign my PC fighter retired from the adventuring life and started raising his daughter himself, since his crimelord father-in-law had been slain and the pit fiend had likewise been dealt with.) It turns out she's the third potential way to avert the illithid Elder God's plan, wielding her father's magical morningstar...but so far things are on track that it looks like we're going to be able to take out the Elder God on our own. (We're at 15th level, so 75% of the way through the campaign.)

Johnathan
 

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