Tuesday, December 27, 2011

AGE Brew: Player Created Backgrounds

December 10th, 2011. A day to be remembered. Once again, due to a lack of players showing up for one reason or another, mostly legitimate ones involving real life, we played an improvised game of Dragon Age RPG.

I am falling more and more in love with this game the more we play it. However, the game setting itself, while intriguing, I find does not do it for everybody at my table. So, I proposed an idea to the three players able to make it that week: create our own backgrounds based on what we want the character to be, and the setting will create itself as we move on from there.

It was a success. It started with one player deciding to play a mute that had his tongue cut out years ago. We talked and decided his tongue was removed due to torture while being imprisoned. The background he received was called Tortured Soul, a background for prisoners detained in a military-run facility. This led to me deciding that the country this prison was in was run by the military. The entire nation has been placed under martial law and has been that way for as long as the current royal family has been in power.

The second player wanted to work in something oppressive into their background as well and, as someone who wanted to play a warrior, we started with talking about her being sold at a young age as a gladiator. Slowly, we determined that she had been raised a slave but was eventually sold as a concubine. This became her background. We then worked in her final master buying her for her freedom and teaching her how to defend herself and others against oppression and slavery. We jokingly referred to him as a samurai and called him Jack. As a side note, a later session determined that the military-state had a Japanese theme.

The final player wanted to break convention entirely, even though he was already the party's only spellcaster. We had previously determined that humans and an elf-like race of people called the Fae existed in this universe, but this player wanted something more original. He settled on something robotic and logical to play off a Mage's need for the Cunning ability. We created the Lore Golem background. It'll be explained in more detail below, but we worked it all out before a single die was cast.

With only a vague idea of the setting, we worked out how they initially met. The Lore Golem was faulty, giving it the ability to cast magic which replaced its formerly high intelligence. When this fault became apparent, the noble family that owned him sold him to slavers, who bound him with specially made magic-suppressing cuffs that would not disturb the magic that created the golem in the first place, just the magic it could cast.

The golem was then sent to work as manual labor in a quarry near the border of the Arab-like nation (where the Concubine background is from) and the military-state, where the Lore Golem and the Tortured Soul came from. The Tortured Soul was working the quarry as well as part of a prisoner work force. The golem was put to work; manual labor due to it not needing sleep and keeping the books due to its ability to calculate the lowest amount of food and sleep the "organic laborers" needed to create a more efficient work environment. The freed Concubine, now a trained warrior, set about to free the slaves of the quarry. We officially began the game after the escape.

None of this was pre-planned. We worked out their mechanical backgrounds as a group and the story flowed from that. We eventually ended the game with three countries (the Arab-like kingdom, the military-run empire, and a third kingdom that boasts a relation to this world's Eden), several story elements tying the elements of the world together, and a fully original monster for the players to fight. I highly recommend learning how to improv as a Dungeon/Game Master. It can improve your gaming experience tenfold.

Below, I offer you the backgrounds of the players that appeared that night. We worked out just the bits that they wanted, as long as they made sense for the background. The rest has been filled in by yours truly.

Tortured Soul

In the prisons of the Nevin Empire, every cell is filled with The Enemy, defined by the Nevi Royal Family as, well, whoever they want it to be. As such, each prisoner suffers a certain amount of torture which equals to how long it takes them to admit a wrong doing they more than likely have not committed, or until they are physically broken. The lucky ones are the prisoners who are left alone because the guards find them boring.

Those that have been released, or escaped, from the Nevin prison system scoff at others who talk about their time in other prisons. The torture of the Nevin prisons have been known to scar even the soul, something other prisons have not been able to duplicate.

Note: If you escape the prison system of the Nevin Empire, the chances of you being hunted down are dependent on your importance to the Nevi Royal Family. Talk with your GM about the different interesting possibilities and how it can play a part in your ongoing campaign.

If you choose to play a Tortured Soul, modify your character as follows:
  • Add 1 to your Perception ability. A Tortured Soul has trained themselves to keep one eye open and on a guard at all times.
  • Pick one of the following ability focuses: Perception (Hearing) or Dexterity (Stealth).
  • Choose whether you are a human, a fae, or a telrinair (těl-rěn-âr).
  • You can speak and read Basic Kelrin, Saloom, and Tel.
  • Choose a class. You can play as a mage, a rogue, or a warrior.
Roll 2d6 twice on the appropriate chart, adding the two die together for additional benefits.

Roll Human Fae Telrinair
2 +1 Constitution +1 Magic +1 Constitution
3-4 Willpower (Self-Discipline) Communication (Persuasion) Cunning (Military Lore)
5 Communication (Persuasion) Cunning (Military Lore) Perception (Seeing)
6 Communication (Deception) Perception (Seeing) Perception (Smelling)
7-8 +1 Willpower +1 Constitution +1 Cunning
9 Constitution (Stamina) Willpower (Morale) Willpower (Self-Discipline)
10-11 Dexterity (Light Blades) Magic (Creation) Constitution (Stamina)
12 +1 Dexterity +1 Cunning +1 Willpower


The desert nation of Salooma is home to a small handful of nobles, as the land is not entirely desirable. Each noble controls a coveted oasis for which the commoners must pay for access to. With wealth comes temptation, and there is no better way to sate those desires than with a harem of concubines.

The concubines of Salooma are different than the common whores of other nations. For starters, they are slaves, and though this quality may not make them solely unique, it defines them to the core. They are largely unwilling to perform the deeds that are required of them.

Secondly, they are trained from a very young age. Other nations would call it disturbingly young. A concubine's life is all they know.

Finally, a fully realized concubine can be a greater influence on their master than the most trusted adviser.

If you choose to play a concubine, modify your character as follows:
  • Choose a race. You can play as a human, a fae, or a telrinair.
    • If human, add 1 to your Communication ability. Human concubines are adept at acting out their role.
    • If fae, add 1 to your Constitution ability. Fae concubines need to be tougher than the average fae to endure the desires of their masters.
    • If telrinair, add 1 to your Cunning ability. Telrinair concubines are given every opportunity to educate themselves in Salooma.
  • Pick one of the following ability focuses: Communication (Seduction) or Constitution (Stamina).
  • You can speak and read Basic Kelrin and Saloom.
  • Choose a class. You can play either the rogue or the warrior.
Roll 2d6 twice on the chart, adding the two die together for additional benefits.

Roll Benefit
2 +1 Strength
3-4 Speak Tel
5 Constitution (Stamina)
6 Communication (Performance)
7-8 +1 Dexterity
9 Cunning (Cultural Lore)
10-11 Communication (Persuasion)
12 +1 Constitution

Lore Golem

In the land of nobility, where the coin flows freely, families are able to afford to have mages create lore golems to educate their children, and their children's children, and further down the family line as long as the golem exists. In order to have this level of interaction with "organics", the lore golem gains some measure of sentience, where other golems are mindless constructs.

Adventuring lore golems are usually accompanying their master, or a descendant of their master. If no member of their master's lineage exists, a lore golem will attach itself to whomever it sees as one to take orders from.

Note: As a rule, golems should be incapable of using magic. If you choose to become a mage, there is something wrong with the spell that created you.

If you choose to play a lore golem, modify your characters as follows:
  • Add 1 to your Cunning. Lore golems are created to educate and should therefore be educated as well.
  • Pick one of the following ability focuses: Constitution (Stamina) or Cunning (Historical Lore).
  • You are a construct, and are therefore not technically alive. You can survive without eating, drinking, breathing, or sleeping. However, in order to regain health or mana, you must be in a state of rest for the required amount of time. This does not allow you to automatically succeed on certain Constitution based tests, as determined by your Game Master.
  • You can speak and read Basic Kelrin, Saloom, and High Kelrin.
  • Choose a class. You can become a mage, a rogue, or a warrior.
Roll 2d6 twice on the chart, adding the two die together for additional benefits.

Roll Benefit
2 +1 Magic
3-4 Cunning (Cultural Lore)
5 Constitution (Stamina)
6 Cunning (Historical Lore)
7-8 +1 Constitution
9 Willpower (Self-Discipline)
10-11 Cunning (Religious Lore)
12 +1 Willpower

Designer Notes: The Telrinair are a race of lizard-people who have an air of nobility about them. They look something like humanoid frill-necked lizards, though their frill is small and doesn't provide any mechanical benefit or penalty. However, feel free to use the frill as part of strong emotional responses.

These backgrounds were designed for use in the Dragon Age RPG by Green Ronin Publishing.

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of background choice influencing the setting. That seems like it'd be a really good approach for a generic fantasy AGE supplement to take: here are a bunch of possible backgrounds, let your players choose or create their own, then build the world around those choices.