Character Backgrounds

One of the things that I always try to do when I start a campaign, or have new players join and existing game, is to tie their characters into the story. Working with players to tweak their character’s background is a great way motivate their PCs to follow a plot hook in your adventures.

I think this is particularly important if you are running a “sandbox” style campaign,  where players have great flexibility in choosing where their adventures lead. Knowing your PC’s motives makes it easier to setup story ideas that are meaningful to the players. As a DM, it can be incredibly frustrating when your players decide to bypass a great encounter you’ve spent hours designing because something else drew their character’s attention. Knowing the backgrounds of your players’ characters and their motivations helps to reduce how often that may happen.

For my Dads and Kids D&D campaign, I decided to run the Lost Mine of Phandelver, the adventure that comes with D&D’s 5th Edition’s Starter Set. In my humble opinion, I think this is an excellent adventure, well worth purchasing for someone interested in giving  D&D a try.

Although this was to be the first D&D experience for a number of the kids in our group, I was hopeful that they would have fun and wish to turn our dad/kids experiment into a long running campaign. So, I decided to look beyond the starter set adventure and consider what I might run to keep the group interested. The Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat adventures seemed like they might be a good fit. Working to stop the the biggest, baddest of evil dragons would surely be worthy of a heroic quest.

So when working with my new players to develop their backgrounds, I tried to include links that related to both the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure, but also to  future threats that might be posed by the main adversaries found in the hoped for future adventures.

Here’s the character backgrounds we ended up with when we started our campaign:

  • Caelynn Siannodel (Claire), High Elf Wizard with an owl familiar, Noble Background
    • PERSONAL QUEST: Travel to Phandalin and find the wizard Iarno Albrek. Seek out proof of her grandfather’s heroic deeds by finding the elvish prince Galdor’s Tomb wherein it is also hoped that a token of Galinndan Siannodel can be found.
  • Kiyram Totoroff (Aidan), Half-Elf Ranger, Outlander Background
    • PERSONAL QUEST:  Merchants, honest folk and shipments have gone missing along the roads north of Jumell Keep, likely the result of highway brigands preying on the innocent. There are rumors that these brigands may be goblins or orcs – Kiyram’s favored enemy. Dispensing justice upon these evil bandits seems a worthy task, and one that will help Kiyram’s tribe’s memory become legend.
  • Asha of Dragetann (Patricia), Human Barbarian, Outlander/Sage Background
    • PERSONAL QUEST: Travel to the ruins of Thundertree to recover a set of magical stones hidden under the floor of her friend Brudgepiddle Radishfoot’s old tower.
  • Tymar Fireborn (Ray), Dwarf Fighter, Soldier Background
    • PERSONAL QUEST:  Gundren Rockseeker saved Tymar’s life during a terrible battle. Gundren has asked for his help with a new venture, but has said he will only reveal it once his supplies have reached Phandalin.
  • Magnus of Dragetann (Jim), Human Druid, Outlander/Folk Hero Background
    • PERSONAL QUEST: Recover a Dragetann’s sacred dragontooth amulet that was recently stolen by relic hunter’s who wore black leather masks stylized to look like dragon’s horns.
  • Liya (Sophie), Human Bard, Spy Background
    • PERSONAL QUEST: On behalf of the Order of the Golden Pheasant, discover why a small group aligned with the Cult of the Dragon are heading, find where the cult is taking their ill-gotten treasures and why they intend to do with the wealth

When reviewing the personal quests above, you might notice that I’ve included details unrelated to any of the published adventures – the elf wizard’s grandfather and an elvish prince’s lost tomb being perfect examples. Also, if you’re familiar with the Lost Mine of Phandelver, some of the names mentioned above will be unfamiliar – Jummel Keep, Dragetann, Order of the Pheasant. This is because I decided to place the campaign in my home-brew world rather than the adventures default Forgotten Realms setting. Here’s a regional map for where the adventure takes place:


In my future posts, I’ll look at how I used these backgrounds to expand on the published adventures in hopes of making it an even more engaging story for the players to follow.

About the scheming dm

dad. husband. gamer. human Zamboni. trying to squeeze money from electrons.
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