At the start of every new campaign, players struggle to come up with interesting backgrounds for their characters. Most often their character is a lone wolf, who lived a varied and interesting life before meeting the other characters as a complete stranger. That is certainly fun, and the “band of strangers bonding through adversity” is a pretty standard trope in fantasy and sci-fi lore.
But what if your character wasn’t a stranger to everyone? Interesting background possibilities open up when you involve another character in your back-story. The most common method is to make your characters related, and I have had a lot of fun playing the sister/brother/parent of another character. It adds a great dynamic to your role-playing. But sometimes the familial relation can be over-used by players, to the point where you might wonder if adventurers all come from the same extended family.
Luckily, there are myriad ways for characters to have known each other before the first adventure. All it takes is a little imagination and a willingness on the part of both players to use that common background. That last is important, because none of these backgrounds will work without the participation of both players. Though I’ve written five, really there are ten backgrounds here, because you could play either of the roles in each example. Feel free to use these backgrounds as written, tweak them to fit your campaign, or use them as inspiration for your own shared character background.
1) Your character’s family worked as servants for another character’s noble/wealthy family. You had no intention of becoming an adventurer, but when the noble character left to start his/her new life, you were sent to take care of him/her. Like it or not, you are stuck travelling with and protecting this adventuring scion, or your family may suffer for your failure.
2) Your characters served together as lay members of a church, before you lost your faith. When you were devoted you were close friends, but harsh words were spoken when you left and you’ve carried that with you. Now that adventuring has brought you back in contact, can you find a way to work together? And is there a chance you could be friends again?
3) You are a wanted person, a fugitive on the run from your home town. You’ve managed to stay ahead of the law by taking up the adventuring life in a foreign land. Much to your chagrin, one of the other characters is also from your home town. You’ve changed, but it’s only a matter of time before he/she recognizes you. Will he/she betray you? Or will you deal with the situation pre-emptively?
4) You served faithfully in the town guard for years. Until, that is, you were investigated and wrongly accused of abusing your position. You avoided going to jail, but your name was ruined and with few options you were forced into the mercenary life. Looking around the table at your new band of adventurer’s you see a familiar face: the investigator who ruined your life.
5) An orphan, your character grew up on the streets. He might not have survived except for the friendship of one of the other characters, a fellow orphan. Inseparable growing up, you were lucky enough to be plucked from the streets and given a life. Maybe you were taken in by the church, maybe you apprenticed with a prosperous merchant. Regardless, you haven’t seen your friend since you were pulled apart. Until, that is, you answered a call for adventurers and saw him/her at the table.
Do you have an interesting shared character background idea? Share it in the comments!