Page 1306 - Them's Dicin' Words, Part 5

30th Nov 2019, 5:00 AM in Intermission 13
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Them's Dicin' Words, Part 5
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Author Notes:

Newbiespud 30th Nov 2019, 5:00 AM edit delete
Author: Paper Shadow

Guest Author's Note:
"My third character's backstory had them deemed as on the verge of being Grand Master Thief, despite being Level One. In my defence, they were a Pony Tales character, and as I've come to understand, Pony Tales really front loads its Out of Combat power. It's easy to feel like a super thief when you have +18 to Stealth and ways to buff that number even higher. But that's what I love about the system too.

Them's Fighin' Herds also has unequal backstory power levels. Tianhuo is the Captain of the Imperial Guard, and Oleander spent thirteen years reading the Unicornomicon. Conversely, Arizona is a young calf, and Pom may have never been in a fight before. Of course, when you fight an experienced Pom, it certainly doesn't feel that way. Scary stuff."

Notice: Guest comic submissions are open! Guidelines here. Deadline: January 27th, 2023.



andreas002 30th Nov 2019, 5:28 AM edit delete reply
The Handbook of Heroes (another D&D webcomic) also recently covered backstories that are way too epic for the starting level:
Digo Dragon 30th Nov 2019, 7:03 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
Yeah, I agree with the HoH theory there. The epic stuff should be for what's to come. I always feel that backstories should be humble beginnings that focus on why your character has the personality and beliefs they do starting out.
andreas002 30th Nov 2019, 5:54 AM edit delete reply
There is one instance where having an epic backstory at low level is fine, and that's if you have a justification how you lost that power.

Like say, a venerable character that retired decades ago, settling down in a remote village and starting a family, whose skills have rusted to the point where they're effectively level 1 again. The various magic items gathered while fighting off the army of demons invading through the Worldwound given to descendants, to ensure they would survive in the adventuring life they've chosen. Knowing a natural death of old age is likely to come within a few years, but not wanting to go out quietly. And then, when a hoard of goblins attack the village during the Swallowtail Festival, it's the perfect chance to once again fuse with the bonded outsider suit, pick up the old sword, and kick these troublemakers off my damn lawn!
Lurking Lizard 1st Dec 2019, 12:40 PM edit delete reply
One of my friends in our recent campaign did something like this! His character was a 200+ year old Asamir who was part of basically a superhero group leader back in the day, inflicting GREAT JUSTICE upon evildoers.

Then he got frozen in time when trying to slay a magic eating vampire. Only got unfrozen 200 years later, joining the group at about level 12? and was scaled for such because 'yeah you spent 200 years locked in time you're a bit rusty Tarayn'.

It was fun watching him get into the groove again, plus the shouts of JUSTICE were very entertaining.
Star_Sabre 30th Nov 2019, 7:36 AM edit delete reply
Depending on the edition, a level 1 character is already a cut above your average mook with a sword.

That said, there's plenty of reasons for a character to have an overhyped reputation- they might have a lot of magical power and talent they don't really know how to use yet; they might be recognised for their potential rather than their accomplishments; they might have gotten a lofty position through nepotism and are barely competent enough to maintain it; or they might be a big fish in a small pond that doesn't realise it.
Anvildude 30th Nov 2019, 9:05 AM edit delete reply
To be fair, a lot of people don't quite realize the relative power levels of characters.

Level 5 is effectively World Class for characters- Fighters at that level are capable of fighting for hours, striking 4 times with a greataxe in the time it takes most people to stab once with a spear. A single Wizard has enough magical power at their fingertips to level a small village, via Fireball and Magic Missiles and the like. At that level, Bards are capable of performances that can make Emperors weep, their songs so inspiring that to hear one is like having a master at your back to help you.

A level 5 character could TOTALLY have that sort of mundane-epic backstory like Captain of the Guard or Master Thief.
Borg 30th Nov 2019, 9:41 AM edit delete reply
It's funny you should mention that . . . our fifth-level party just had a situation progress in a single round from a cultist insisting on starting a duel with our cleric to our monk joining in and consequently all the other cultists (who considerably outnumbered us) drawing their weapons to the fight being effectively over because I took out all the reinforcements with a Fireball.

This would have been a better choice if we hadn't been inside a wooden building at the time.
CrowMagnon 30th Nov 2019, 9:29 AM edit delete reply
It is kind of a fine balance when you want your character to have an interesting backstory that informs who they are as you play, but have to keep in mind that at 1st level your standing relative to the rest of the world around you is 'a bit above average'.

When I was making my constable, Brenna Sloane, my backstory didn't involve a lot of massive displays of power or skill that wouldn't be feasible until later on, but I did give her a past as an undercover cop with an interesting childhood.
Winged Cat 30th Nov 2019, 11:25 AM edit delete reply
Winged Cat
Just recently I bordered on this, out of plot necessity.

Star Wars campaign. Slicing (hacking) ship registration records to steal a ship is nearly impossible, especially for a fresh-out-of-character-generation type...yet my character had just done that, immediately before (as in, within a few minutes of the start of) the first session.

This was to be the party's ship, and an excuse both for how they had title to the ship and for why he was in a position where he wanted to get to the ship and GTFO the planet (the premise of the starting campaign module). The other PCs were fleeing the locals and were willing to take any ship leaving the area that would have them.
Jennifer 1st Dec 2019, 3:53 AM edit delete reply
I could see a "good" backstory as justification for adding a new 1st-level character to a high-level party. For example, the new player is a newbie but the grognards are 5th level? They have just been hired by a young, rich noble who wants to come along on the quest to ensure her money is well-spent.

Or is it a military game? The party is joined by a "Rupert," a rookie junior officer. He's very inexperienced, but he's higher-ranked than the party and also better-educated. They may have to protect him and baby him along (this is where a good Sergeant comes in handy) but he can still be a valuable party member.
Wulfraed 1st Dec 2019, 11:40 AM edit delete reply
Shows how far out-of-date I am...

Never had to worry about "backstory" -- the only game system that came close was the character generation phase of Traveller, since that typically covered age 18-38 before the character even got to "adventure". One's service tours provided the "background" (especially with the later supplements that broke each 4year tour into 1year events)

The other systems I'd played we always started with neophyte characters with no justification for adventuring other than idiocy <G>.

RuneQuest 3rd Ed. did add "parent's occupation" to affect one's skills during character generation, but still used relatively neophyte characters

RQ 4th, however, puts a lot of "influences" into the character generation system, since it runs some 40 years of history starting with grandparents (born 1561, parents born 1582, PC born 1604, end of generation 1625 at age 21).
Cliff_Robotnik 26th Dec 2019, 12:23 AM edit delete reply
I am loving Srs Bsns Scottish Pom!

..and yet, I dread Paprika's inevitable arrival.