Backstory: Three alternatives to being an orphan

When playing Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, or any other table top game before you can even break in your first set of dice you need a character. And the key to a good character, in part, is a great back story.

Backstories are the beginning of every dungeons and dragons adventure. Not only can these stories inform your D&D style of play but they can also strengthen the bonds that you make in game with other party members. Today I want to talk about a popular trope in back story; being an orphan. It worked for Aladdin. It worked for Batman. I’ve made dozens of characters that have no parents. It brings in some immediate depth to a new character before you have the chance to get to know them. However, when everyone at the table has a character that is an orphan is it reasonable to start questioning the parenting methods of the Forgotten Realms?  Besides life would be dull if everyone is an edgy street rat just trying to get by. So what are some alternatives to this popular trope?

1. Family to Model : Sometimes having a family is actually a GOOD THING. When your dice fail they can be your ace-in-the-hole. They can bail you out of jail. They can be the reason you love the things you love. If you are starting off as a squire, make your dad a royal guard. If you are a level one monk, make your mom in charge of a famous temple. As many people know, sometimes parents make great superheroes.

2. Family to Reject : A family to reject is a great way to highlight what makes your character different. Think of Daryl Dixon from the Walking Dead versus his evil brother Earl. Or maybe your family is known throughout the land as the paragons of virtue and they make you torn up about your choice to be evil (Kylo Ren). Or maybe even loving someone with such different values make you want to try to save the big bad evil instead of destroying it (Luke Skywalker).

3. Family in the Party : This is one of my favorite. Being related to people in your party is a great way to generate trust and up the stakes when your friend is in trouble. They do not have to be your parents. It could be an uncle, a sibling, a cousin. I once played in a party of half breed characters (Elf, orc, tiefling, to name a few.) We were all half brothers with the same dad; the famous Arc-mage Bigby! We were… the Brother’s Bigby. Let me tell you it was one of the most enriching roleplaying experiences of my life. It helped us not only care about our characters but the characters of everyone at the table.



October 20, 2018 — David Derus



RyujinZero said:

My tiefling paladin was raised by his take-no-sh*t single mom, a tavern cook, and one of his life goals is to save up enough to buy the tavern for her out from under the skeevy halfling owner.

My halfling sorcerer’s family still live in the large town where she grew up and she writes letters home once in a while.

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