Friday, 17 March 2017

Fifty Word Fiction: An exercise in character background generation

In between the excitement of new artwork and painting spiky jet bikes I am continuing with my daily writing challenge also known as Fifty Word Fiction.  I've written a couple of one off pieces I might throw into an article at some point in the future, but the current focus has been writing a character background.

I love it when players put some thought into their characters beyond "I put the highest stat roll into Strength and take Weapon Focus in Great Sword", and this is one tried and trusted way to do just that; develop a back story by answering a questionnaire.

Let's give it a go.

This is a sword, not a character concept

So let's meet Bail Whitebeam, one of a small team of trusted "advisors" to the Chamberlain of the Keep on the Borderlands. At least that's what he told me he was called.

Describe your childhood/early years
I was born and raised in the Keep on the Borderlands. My parents were merchants and ran a market stall selling fruit and vegetables. I grew up around the market, listening to the stories of the farmers and the waggoneers who brought the food into the Keep that my parents would then sell. I loved to hear the stories of life on the road and its dangers; bandits, wild creatures and worse, and I would spend time daydreaming about all the faraway places they visited.

When I was 10 years old I got into trouble. There was a gang of older kids who fancied themselves as thieves and rogues; stealing from stalls and lifting purses, and I started hanging out with them. I found I had a light fingered touch; I was good at thievery. I wasn’t so good at not getting caught; a bunch of the gang got themselves arrested by the guards and up before the magistrate.

Turns out my talent had been noticed and I was given a choice; apprentice myself to the Keep’s “Chamberlain” as one of his servants for 5 years or spend the same amount of time in prison. Easy decision really; I’ve served my apprenticeship and now work as one of the Chamberlain’s private “advisors”, but I’ll explain more about that later.

What’s your profession/what are your skills?
I’m known as one of the Chamberlain’s “Advisors”. There are a handful of us; our role is to help to enforce peace and law in the Keep. Whilst the guards are the visible, obvious manifestation of such power, we work in the shadows; seeking information and rooting out hidden sources of trouble. I’m skilled in disguise, stealth and information gathering. And if something rotten needs removing I’m more than capable of removing it!

Describe your appearance
My appearance depends on the task in hand. I could appear as a guard, a servant, a merchant or a stable hand. I can be young or old, fit or plagued, clean shaven or with a full face of hair. It is my job to blend in and ensure you remember me or not as I dictate. As for my true visage, it is how I appear to you now: I have blond hair, blue eyes and a slightly crooked nose. I am 6 foot tall and thin for my height. Or perhaps I am not; can you tell?

Describe your personality
I’m confident in my skills, but don’t like to shout about it; being vocal isn’t very sensible in my profession. I like to think I’m observant, quick witted and astute. I try to keep my emotions under control, even if I’m in danger and think through my options; I don’t like losing!

I don’t have many friends, but I do trust the few I have. I have a reputation for being reliable and loyal among that small group, and I value my reputation with them.

Proudest moment?
Easy; that would be the time I uncovered a cell of Chaos Cultists operating within the Keep and foiled their plot to infiltrate the Castle Guard and blackmail senior officers. Several of the rank and file cultist were killed during the raid on their headquarters (which I had entered undetected earlier) but I subdued their leader which allowed him to be captured and subsequently  tried and executed.

Darkest secret?
I killed a man who didn’t deserve to die. I was working undercover trying to infiltrate a gang of smugglers who were bringing illegal goods into the Keep and an early meeting was interrupted by some guards. Things kicked off and got out of hand very quickly; a guard came at me with a sword, I stabbed back with a blade on reflex; I hit, he missed. I will take the look of surprise on his face to my grave.

What is favourite/most valued possession?
I have a fondness for the weird and wonderful fruit and vegetables my parents would sometimes stock and sell. I love the taste of some of those herbs! At the back of my modest rooms I grow herbs and other plants in pots; some of the produce I keep for myself whilst the remainder I sell for some extra pocket change. I enjoy the simple process of tending, growing and harvesting in my little garden; it is so much simpler than my job!

So now we have got to meet Mr Whitebeam. I'm sure my players will get to meet him as well!

Pleased to meet you Bail
And the next Fifty Word Fiction will be another background piece. I've had an idea based on this article! See you next time.

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