No matter the character class, here’s some of the elements that I think would be neat to include in a game.
What media have influenced your thinking:
- Final Fantasy XIV: it’s a high-fantasy game, but it’s remarkably grounded and mundane in important ways. People get sick, poisoned, or hurt. Mundane matters like trade deals or revenge motives are much more common than mind-control curses. There’s no generically evil Dark Lord, just a paranoid magic-free empire that took a laudable goal (protect the world from false gods) and simply became corrupted by power. Similarly, the way the game handles non-humans and humanoids (the six playable races can’t interbreed with a couple of rare exceptions, but they’re free to marry, adopt, and otherwise form “mixed-race” family units without any sort of stigma) is inspirational.
- Hilda: airing on Netflix, a wilderness girl moves to the city in a world of giants, rock trolls, and dream-haunting specters. Her world isn’t safe, but the show depicts a world where people can go about their daily lives in the presence of a dangerous supernatural sub-world.
- Star Wars: yeah, it’s tropey, but young people caught up in the spirit of adventure - or escape from awfulness - are very well depicted in the franchise.
Why your family is here:
- The Fallen City: disaster befell a city, temple, library, or other important place, and the family retreated from there to Lauder.
- The Retired Hero: one or more parents used to be an active hero or adventurer, and passes their skills on to their child.
- The Secluded Child: the PC, themself, is being kept under wraps because of their heritage (noble birth, magical ability).
What motivates you to adventure:
- Boredom: you’re too full of life and ambition to stay in a sleepy farming town!
- The Call: something (prophetic dreams, a magic sword) beckons you on a quest.
- Curiosity: strange and interesting things attract you. What haven’t they told you about the world? What did they warn you about that you didn’t heed?
- The Debt: your parents or a mentor figure were harmed (revenge) or owe an obligation that ought to be discharged.
What themes does your backstory explore:
- Fading greatness: the world was more magical, your parent was more heroic, there was once more knowledge, something. Things are fading away, and you want to protect what’s left.
- Learned lessons: Lauder might be a sleepy village, but what you saw or learned there will stay with you, and continue to be relevant.
- The price of peace: things are sleepy here because of someone’s hard work. There are people patrolling the perimeter of the village, or marauding bandits were defeated, or the invading army was routed, but things aren’t in good shape unless someone works to keep them that way.
Aside from this, playing Masks reminds me that emphasis on a character’s mundane life - who’s doing the cooking, what do people talk about over the campfire, how do you react when the pretty barmaid winks at you - really, really makes characters feel real. I want a game where at least some of the session can be given over to this sort of thing. Non-combat tool proficiencies are an example of a mechanic that amplifies this part of play, and I’m happy to invest Background proficiencies into stuff like cooking or gambling if they’ll see use in the game.
Barbarian: Wolf Totem. This comes in two flavors.
- Someone who escaped from a nearby town or city that was destroyed by hostile forces. They now live quietly in the forest, wanting revenge (or just the chance to burn off some aggressive emotion). They may have lost their family, or surviving family members may be training them in fighting. Inspired by Goblin Slayer, minus most of the grimdark.
- An over-the-top cheerful brawler, in the spirit of Batman: the Brave and the Bold’s AQUAMAN (“OUTRAGEOUS!”). Less developed backstory, more emphasis on personality.
Cleric: Two options.
- A Knowledge Cleric, someone shepherding and curating knowledge of the old world. They inherited a cache of scrolls (or some more obscure record-keeping device), or a famous library burned around their ancestors, or something similar.
- A Life Cleric with Magic Initiate to take up Druid spells like Shillelagh and Goodberry, effectively an FFXIV White Mage in D&D. In the MMO, White Mages are healers and protectors of life and nature, so this is one way to do that.
Druid: A Circle of Dreams Druid, a healer and protector of nature. Someone aligned with the spirits of the forest or the sylvan folk there. Either this or a Life Cleric would make a great White Mage template.
Fighter: There’s a few options here.
- A budding Robin Hood-type archer, serving as the village’s bowhunter but longing for more adventure. Inspired by every young do-gooder hero in fiction ever.
- Child of a gladiator or other hardened warrior, now wields a greatsword in the village’s defense.
- Someone trained as a samurai, perhaps as the child of an exiled or hidden noble - someone with a secret heritage.
Monk: A Shadow Monk, trained by a parent who’d formerly been a spy or secret agent of some kind, inspired by FFXIV’s Rogue. Less of a charismatic backstabber, more of an infiltrator, someone who can fight unarmed, blend into a population, and so on.
Paladin: Squire to a disgraced knight, who secretly takes up their mentor’s arms and armor - whether to avenge a wrong, fight evil, or some other grand and glorious purpose. With a dip into Hexblade Warlock, the character might be the recipient of a blessed weapon, a la the Holy Avenger, whose power must be awakened by great deeds and selfless acts.
Warlock: A full Warlock is unlikely, but a Hexblade + Paladin or Valor Bard multiclass has a lot of neat opportunities. The idea of a magic sword calling a hero to adventure is an old one in fiction, but there’s room to develop it in new or interesting ways.
Wizard: A Divination Wizard inspired by the Astrologian from FFXIV, crossed with Lando Calrissian and a touch of FFVI’s Setzer. A mystic who understands the celestial and terrestrial through games and chance.