Many times, we gamers will come up with nice detailed backgrounds for our personal PC’s that may or may not work with either the DM’s vision or the desires of the rest of the party. Sometimes coming up with a background for the party before finalizing characters can make some of the choices for roleplaying more intuitive, and allow for greater party cohesion. At the very least, it answers that question, “Why are these eclectic individuals with different goals adventuring together?” A better understanding of who the party is can help everyone better understand who the characters are.
This background is based on one I wrote for a party in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying game. It’s been edited to be more accessible for a wide-variety of games, including fantasy, modern, horror or even some futuristic settings. The original can soon be found on forsakendestiny.com. Please steal this, edit it, do what you want with it, and have fun. Let us know your thoughts on party identity.
Party on the Run
The PC’s at one point were all involved with a man by the name of Tarkus Rex. He was a natural-born leader who inspired fierce loyalty in the men under his command. One day he was given an order to destroy a small village for alleged heretical corruption. Rex believed the danger was exaggerated and saw no sign of these charges. He refused his orders and was declared a traitor, punishable by death. Such was Tarkus’ popularity, military distinctions, personal charisma and connections that he avoided this fate and was dishonorably discharged instead.
Forced into the civilian life, Tarkus turned his personal wealth into the beginnings of a network of businesses and contacts that would soon rival those of the wealthiest mercantile families. Tarkus was realizing great success, even though the wealthy elite of the city made business hard because of his dishonorable status. Noting this, he allowed his interests to spread to illegal activities. He quickly opened a slew of dicing parlors, whorehouses and other dens of illicit vices. Somewhat ironically, some of the services offered were so expensive and elite that the only clients (and there were many) were part of those wealthy few who would tarnish his name.
Tarkus’ network evolved into a criminal syndicate known as Tarkus’ Trust, so named because he surrounded himself with people whose trust he earned and, who in turn, were trusted by him. Included were former soldiers from his command, criminals of varied talents, and his support staff, such as a butler, driver, personal physician, etc. This last group (from which the player characters hail) were his most trusted and served dual roles, that of their surface profession and that of spy/informant/confidant/crime planners, etc., the brains not just brawn of his syndicate (although nothing stops a player from being one of his trusted former soldiers, either). Tarkus also maintained partnership in many legitimate businesses to account for his wealth and standing in high-society.
At last, the opportunity came for Tarkus to make a fool of one of his loudest detractors, Judge Magister Karl Strond. Strond was throwing a party for his daughter’s coming-of-age and many were the wealthy suitors in attendance. Tarkus had planned a caper that would involve stealing the dowry set aside for her nuptials and planting (actually legitimate) evidence of the Judge’s peculiar tastes. Pivotal to the plan was Strond’s wife, Judgess Vanessa who Tarkanian had turned (with the help of the damning evidence) and subsequently seduced (or so he thought…)
Vanessa’s role was to provide Tarkus access to the family vaults where the evidence could be left and the Judge’s wealth obtained, two crimes in one. Tarkus unwittingly walked right into her trap. Unbeknownst to him, Vanessa was the leader of a diabolical cult that was close to being uncovered by The Church. She needed patsies, and that’s where you come in…
Long story short, Vanessa’s cult murdered her daughter, killed Tarkus (a very public figure), and implicated you and your friends. Now, (1) the authorities (civil and religious) believe that you are a group of murdering cultists, (2) a powerful and wealthy Judge has an extremely personal grudge against you, and (3) a criminal syndicate (that is falling apart and resenting it) blames you for murdering their beloved leader, bringing to life the phrase, “There’s no honor among thieves.”
Putting your past behind you, you have faked your deaths and fled the only city you ever lived in for a hard life on the run. Good luck, it’s a tough world in the backwoods of the empire where there is not always the benevolence and glory of the Church to keep the evil at bay…