Character Mush

I had to come up with a background for my character to send to the DM.  I don’t know anything about the setting, the character we’re in service of, or anything really, so I had to keep things vague.  This isn’t what I sent.  It’s Character Mush.  Not polished, not paced, not very good.  Just mush.  But from it, I was able to get enough of the basic facts to send as bullets.  Anyway, even though I didn’t feel like spending enough effort on this to make it “good”, it seemed like a waste to just delete it.  And yeah, he’s a weaver-turned-warlord.
Bregar’s long and unlikely career began same as many children in the city: as an orphan scouring the streets for food an coin. Originally, Bregar had been the son of a weaver and a carpenter, though heavy taxes stole too much bread from their mouths, leaving them weak and succeptible to the seasonal plagues which afflicted the city. He was 10 when the cough took his parents. The city’s taxmen took everything else.

Larger than the other children, Bregar often found himself in the roll of footpad; his friends would set them up and he would knock them down. Usually the fat bureaucrats; the men working for the city were generally the only ones who had anything to take. He might have made a name for himself in the underworld, had not one of his victims been both a capable fighter and person of some importance in the city. At the age of 15, he was given a death sentence: to be sent to the frontier as part of the slave, debtor and prisoner auxilia for five years. He spent those years on the frontier, defying all odds time and again, surviving battles that few walked away from. Bregar proved his worth as an ambusher and skirmisher, and was soon given a small command of his own; some were fellow scoundrels, debtors and petty criminals who were fighting for their freedom, but others were volunteers and career military men.

Near the end of his fifth year, the auxillia faced a foe led by powerful magicians. Fire rained down and the army was decimated. The regulars retreated toward their supply line while the auxilia scattered, fleeing through the countryside. Though his sentence was almost up, Bregar was faced with a choice: return to the land that had took from him his parents and his freedom or live for himself, a free man? He rallied what he could of his companions and fled into the hills.

For a few years, the group hired out as mercenaries, guards or freelance adventurers, but many of the group still had dreams of returning home, paying off their debts, settling down. The massive defeat their homeland had suffered presented enough cover for them to eventually return, and those who could did. Bregar continued to hire himself out, usually as either a guard captain or scout leaders to powerful men who could afford someone with his skill and experience. Several years left him wealthy as a noble, and exploits in the name of a prince had earned him a title and an accompanying pension.

Bregar spent the days in opulent repose and the nights in drunken revelry. One night, on his way to his apartments, Bregar found himself confronted by a few dirty looking children. He was about to tell them to get out of his way when a loud, wet crack presaged his failing vision.

Bregar woke up in a strange bed, his head throbbing. He did not even bother to check his valuables. He knew they were gone. He had become what he had once hated. A fat pensioned nobleman, drawing his wealth from the purses of others rather than the labor of his hands. He’d gotten what he deserved.

“You are awake.”
“I am.”
“City life does not agree with you.”
“Doesn’t it, though?”
“You were once one of the most brilliant commanders, cunning scouts, and foremost warriors, I have heard. The Hero of Amun Hill. Leader of the Silent Slingers. A mercenary force to be feared and admired! And look at you now. Laid low by a child!”
Bregar sat up and touched the back of his head. It was bandaged, though wet with blood. “It would seem that I owe you my life.”
“I hope that the life you owe is not the one you lead now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, look at you? You’re a mess! You were taken down by a mere boy with a stick! No, if you wish to thank me, I choose only to be thanked by the man who led a thousand ambushes. You see, my name is Palantir, and I am a travelling merchant. I have need of one who was skilled as he. You. You will not do the trick. Not yet.”

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12 responses to “Character Mush

    • Thanks. I’m actually not used to coming up with stories for high level characters. I mean, when you think about how many adventures a PC has under their belt by the time they’ve ground it out to level 12, that’s several lifetimes worth; and to think that a character has had several lifetimes worth of adventure prior to even STARTING a campaign? Boyshuckshowdy! :O

      Then again, MERC 4 LIFE is the most plausible backstory as for why any character of such a high level would be hiring on for an escort mission. Plus, it’ll let me get my “name rank” stuff in or not based on DM’s discretion. Basically, he is Ben Hur meets Bogart’s character from Dead End.

      • I’ve played — one — PC now from 3rd level to about 21st, and that really helped me understand some of the implications of long-term adventuring. I also ran a campaign from 1st to 30th, which helped me figure things out on the other side of the screen.

        Now that I’ve had a taste, it’s all I want — long-term adventures that follow characters throughout their lives. Sure, the idea of starting higher than 1st level is exciting — but never *quite* as exciting as the idea of starting out at 1st with the promise of a long career.

        #LeSigh

        –Dither

      • Yeah. I know what you mean. Anyway, I’ve been told this will be a fairly short campaign, so I hope that I’ll get a chance to meet some folks interested in running a B/X game. I’ve been paring down Isle of Dread to run as a Native Sandbox campaign. It really depends on how self-sustaining the players I meet prove to be, but I’d like to see what happens if I go “And the ship arrives and men wearing metal clothes march warily into Taranoa; what do you do?” Of course it has to be established with the set-piece of the vision of the elder preceded by a triceratops madly attacking the village. But maybe it would end up having something of a Pacific Overtures feel to it?

      • I almost want to count Skyrim now for really nailing some of the escalation aspects of adventuring. You’re a nobody, per the ES standard, and your destiny is unveiled over the next few missions. You can spend a good long time out in the wilds, and turn the tide in the civil war.

        You don’t really get to do the plane-hopping of Oblivion — which would have been awesome for the “big middle” part of the game — though exploring Labyrinthian and taking down the dragon priests has a good midgame feel to it…

        …And you can’t really fault it for falling short of the world-changing, deicidal rampage that lots of epic parties get up to — you get the one, at least, as part of the main plot. You can go around scooping up Daedric artifacts though.

        Yeah, I’d *almost* count my Skyrim Imperial as one of my “moar epic” characters. If not for all the learning mistakes I had to make along the way cramping my style. Harumph.

        –Dither

      • It’s hard to speak to skyrim, as I’ve never played it, but the biggest obstacle to the truly epic feel in ES games is a lack of credible threats late game. Nothing in the world can stand against a character with 100s in all stats, and NPCs in the world don’t have the benefit of min-maxing and custom spell development, which can mean a weak-sauce mid-game. Ironically, the game worlds don’t cater well to the type of gamer that Elder Scrolls games attract: Crazy obsessive players who have to find everything and become gods in the process. The balance works fine for players who pick it up and play it for as long as you would a shooter or a sports game. But meanwhile I’m fearful that the game’s code is too unstable to have further adventures as my guy who has completed the Thieves Guild, Morag Tong, Tribunal Temple, Imperial Cult, Bloodmoon Imperial Legion, Mages Guild, and half of the Telvanni Quest lines… a hero so awesome that his base awesomeness has corrupted the fabric of the universe(his save files). I’m sure that the million gold worth of unique item artifacts that’s pilled up in the streets of Vivec like so much garbage hasn’t helped…

        I really think that a key component of keeping epic play interesting is reminding the player that they’re not gods and there’s always something more powerful and dangerous than them. For all my love of ES games, I’m always more worried about bad code than whatever monsters are lurking beyond.

        I honestly can’t think of any ‘western’ rpgs that keep the tension high at higher levels in a rewarding way. A lot of JRPGs have the fake difficulty of higher HP ratios and more one hit kill attacks, and some western RPGs i’ve played, like Neverwinter Nights, will kill you over and over again in stacked all or nothing encounters (the one with the lich comes to mind), but I can’t think of anything that really have that ‘epic’ feel.

      • You have to be willing to pull some weird shenanigans to keep epic play fun. I’ve run a couple games on the epic scale, and it can get pretty surreal.

        After a couple weeks into 3e, I had combed the Monster Manual for all the threats there were — I took one look at the tarrasque and said, “no.” That night I promised my group I would never, under any circumstances throw a tarrasque at them. It was way too “Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies,” to me.

        Fast forward two years later, and I agree to run a one-shot 3e adventure for the group at 40th level — and pit them against a “mated pair” of templated tarrasques. One of my more astute players recalled that I said I would never use the tarrasque. My reply? “I said I would never use ONE tarrasque…” ;)

        –Dither

      • Tarrasque-lich.
        My ultimate 2e monster was a crystal golem trucker driving a flat-bed truck across the countryside. His cargo? A living-wall whose base was comprised of a lich, a dracolich, and Tarrasque.

      • The climactic battles of my epic 4e campaign included one in which a PC was dominated by a nemesis of his and forced to fight the rest of the party, and another with Zeus’s “hunting hounds” which hit the entire party with about a dozen lightning attacks during the surprise round alone.

        The party was at a supreme disadvantage because the Big Bad knew they were coming, and yet they somehow thought that with literal divine intervention they were going to skip the “Boss Rush” at the end.

        There was also a puzzle room that took them a good 3-4 hours to solve despite having “unethically” spammed divination beforehand — they were searching for the phylactery of a dracolich who not only knew they were coming, but had superior access to divination magic.

        (I say “unethically” because they calculated how many times they could perform a particular divination ritual that granted true answers to Yes/No questions, and a programmer in the group was able to demonstrate to me how they could circumvent each trap in X questions or less. I gave them a pass, but only at the cost of basically all of their material wealth. Suckers.)

        Despite knowing ‘approximately’ where the phylactery was (in a specific cave), and said location being relatively small (no more than 80×80 feet), and knowing how to bypass the traps so there was no physical danger to them, they had to dig up something like 60+ “false” phylacteries and ultimately collapsed the cavern before finally finding the true phylactery.

        And then they took 5-10 in-game minutes trying to destroy it because they discovered that despite being epic tier they weren’t prepared to deal the kind of damage necessary to break a magically-reinforced object with physical force, and they hadn’t brought or prepared anything that could help.

        I still picture them all standing around the egg-shaped phylactery, five of them completely useless while the sixth hit it over and over again for five minutes until it finally shattered. Priceless. xD

        The final failing was in how the players never really realized the war wasn’t one of dealing damage but of information and gambits. Despite access to game-breaking divination magic and asking a few favors of the Olympians the group *hadn’t* pissed off, their plan was to trigger the trap.

        The end of the campaign included a pair of Anticlimax Boss “fights” — the campaign baddie (the dracolich) sacrificed himself to complete a ritual (i.e. No Fight) — and when Zeus showed up to deliver a “The Reason You Suck” speech to the party, the party aggro’d him (Bait And Switch Boss).

        The PCs lost to the god and were dumped into Tartarus. TA-DAA! Campaign threat ended, world changed, hubris punished. >:D

        –Dither

      • Man, that’s the laziest problem solving I’ve ever heard of. “Yeah, your dungeon? The party is just gonna take 20, alright?”

      • A couple of my players took the situation in good humor. We have some interesting problems facing our particular group.

        One problem is several players are either still new to the game or they’re ‘followers,’ and the single most vocal-assertive player is full of bad ideas that have resulted in a couple TPKs, with no change in group dynamic.

        One of our players is an Extreme Doormat and Butt Monkey. Unfortunately he takes his lead from our player with bad ideas nine times out of ten.

        The programmer is busy all the time and can only make about every third session, and when he does he comes up with clever solutions to problems — which he’d know were doomed to failure if he’d showed up the previous two weeks. And he doesn’t handle failure well.

        They constitute about half of our gaming group, which means whenever the party is “split down the middle” our fence-sitters side with them, sensing a majority, and the party gets in over its head again (since they’re being led by the player with all the bad ideas, after all).

        So, I decided to take a break from GMing after the last TPK.

        Since I started playing a few months ago, one of our other players has come out of his shell a little bit and I’m hoping he’ll be ready to take more initiative in the future. We had a bit of a shakeup in our roster so we may need to pick up another new player or two.

        Eh, it’ll be interesting no matter what happens.

        –Dither

      • Good luck. Since we haven’t actually started playing yet, I have no feel for the guys in my new group. All I know is that one of the older guys, who has been gaming since the Little Brown Book days, has a preference for rules-lite systems in the games he runs, and, as both the cleric and oldest guy in the group, will likely be the ‘leader’, I’m looking forward to maybe some roleplaying undermining the dice-heavy mechanics of 3e.

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