View Full Version : Hoping For Some Backstory Review

2012-10-30, 08:51 PM
I recently made a chaotic neutral human alchemist for a 3.p game. I understand that my writing leaves much to be desired, but that perhaps, also, somewhere in the playground is somebody willing to steel himself and suffer through it. To the end of hopefully receiving a review of the story, I have posted it here, spoilered for length.

Warning, Wall of Text (Although I Assume You Probably Assumed That)

Caelain Blackbottle and His Origins

Caelain is of average height, lithely built. He wears his black hair in a longish fashion, although it is occasionally cropped close due to burn damage. This makes sharp contrast with his skin, which is rather pale. His eyes are a shockingly bright green—he attributes the enhanced coloration to an experiment gone awry. Caelain has a rather outlandish taste in clothing, but is well dressed in his choice of garb. A black velvet slouch hat with green ribbon and silver buckle can easily be pulled down to conceal his singular eyes when he so chooses, greatly aiding any attempts at disguise. A black duster worked with silver thread conceals dozens of tiny vials in secret pockets; the bulky nature of it is useful for concealing his movements, and on occasion, his identity. The coat is also crafted from sturdy leather, which has been very valuable over the course of his rather hazardous exploits. Under the jacket he wears a silk shirt and pants, customarily in dark green, blue, black, or some similarly somber color. Close-fitting boots crafted from soft leather encase his legs from the calf down, fastened with a column of silver buckles on the sides. Numerous belts and bandoliers replete with alchemical components and additional bottles of various substances complete the attire.

Caelain is a decently attractive young man, and has a charming personality when he so chooses. However, this amicability is quickly forgotten by those with less zeal for his research than himself. Often performing acts with questionable or downright disagreeable ethical ramifications to further his studies, this heedless fervor eventually resulted in his exile and disinheritance. To worsen matters, Caelain is of a mercurial nature, and has little regard for the consequences of his actions upon others. He isn’t evil by nature, but this callous disregard for others is a contemptible trait. It may even be postulated that if it weren’t for the inconvenience that committing evil acts causes, and the fact that a stigma might be at times suboptimal, he would disregard morality entirely.

Caelain is gifted with good manual dexterity and reflexes, a keen intellect, a hearty constitution, and on top of it all, is slightly stronger than most men. His solitary great failing is an incredible lack of wisdom, or as many would term it, good sense. To give an example, Caelain once murdered a city watchman, injured several others, attempted to escape from the guards of the town, failed, was cast into the desert, and brought a plague of undead down upon the aforementioned—and extremely unlucky—city, all because it was “easier” than admitting he had been trespassing in the sewers. Caelain often pays more attention to his own thoughts than his immediate surroundings, which has precipitated a great deal of misfortune. To alleviate this, Caelain relies upon his closest friend and confidante, Tybalt, King of Cats, Lord of Shadows and Lost Places. Tybalt is an extraordinarily attractive young cat, and is much tougher than the average alley cat. He joined Caelain as he left the city, and received his moniker due to his royal appearance and poise. Tybalt’s natural resilience is an extremely fortunate circumstance, when one considers Caelain’s penchant for finding himself in remarkably dangerous situations. Tybalt usually surveys the surrounds from a perch on Caelain’s shoulder, and even if he does not alert him to a danger, Caelain learned early on in their relationship—in a rather abrupt and painful manner—that it is best to duck when Tybalt runs for cover. Although Caelain initially fancied their relationship as a pet/master relationship, Tybalt quickly disabused him of that absurd notion. Ironically, Tybalt is better at manipulating Caelain than the reverse. More than one of Caelain’s dissections has been interrupted by Tybalt’s insistence upon the immediate removal of the choicest cuts of meat, which Caelain has learned to locate, regardless of species. Fortunately, Caelain has never dissected a fresh human corpse, or things would swiftly become very awkward. Despite his haughty refusal to do most anything Caelain requests, Tybalt does stay, and has chosen Caelain as his companion, although the reason for this adoption is anyone’s guess.

Caelain originally put his extraordinary intellect to use studying at a wizards’ college. The son of a particularly wealthy and influential nobleman, combined with his good looks, made it only a matter of time before he succeeded the kingdom’s current court wizard. Caelain however, was impatient. He was clever, and had a knack for the arcane arts, but he lacked the self-discipline necessary for practicing wizardry. The first couple years of college he managed to get by using only his marvelous intellect. As his studies progressed though, his lack of work ethic manifested itself. Less and Less of his attention was focused on his studies, and more on his passions, alchemy and anatomy, disparate as those may seem. These two subjects were intensely interesting to him, much moreso than his teachers’ fruitless attempts to explain higher arcana. In an explosive—quite literally—finale, he was expelled when a singularly volatile concoction nearly destroyed the dormitories. Determined to show others his brilliance, he published a series of essays on both alchemy, anatomy, and their interrelation, postulating wild theories such as chemicals from the brain influencing people’s actions, even that the brain, not the heart was the seat of man’s soul and intelligence. He retracted these statements when he was accused of heresy by the church of Pelor. Adding to his ill circumstances was that neither of his chosen pursuits was held in good esteem. Alchemy was seen as insane experimentation mainly carried out by lunatics with a mediocre understanding of magic. Anatomists were held in even worse regards, only slightly better than necromancers. Because any injuries could be healed by a simple trip to the local cathedral, and the illegality of studying human remains, anatomists were widely held to be grave-robbing ghouls. The fact that such poor public support of the science made hiring thugs and criminals for “bodysnatching” did nothing to ameliorate the situation. His stunning intellect and wit was the only thing that made even these few publications as successful—meaning he was not lynched—as they were, he even managed to attract a small clique of followers. It was during this period that Caelain took his second name in a rather unusual manner. An opponent to his research compared his publications to "The noisome buzzings of the pestilential fly." Caelain noticed the potential irony and ran with it; Blackbottle is not, as one would think, merely a reference to his vocation, but a play on the green and bluebottle flies. . The final straw for Caelain’s father came when Caelain was discovered in a graveyard attempting to procure a cadaver for study, he was disinherited and driven out of the city with only his personal possessions (which was still a small fortune relative to the common man). It was then that Caelain made the decision to go adventuring. This would give him the opportunity to quickly rise to his former status in society, and to dissect a great deal of different specimens without inquiry. As an added bonus, opportunities to field test his various alchemical substances would abound. As struck out from his home city, a handsome young cat sauntered over to him from an alley.

2012-10-30, 09:19 PM
Fortunately, Caelain has never dissected a fresh human corpse, or things would swiftly become very awkward.
Hee. Digging the subtext here.

It's a pretty interesting backstory and quite solid, especially if it was written with the setting already in mind.

2012-11-01, 08:38 AM
Thanks, I appreciate you taking the time to read it. Anything that could be improved? Also, to the rest of the playgrounders, I wasn't serious when I said just one person...

2012-11-01, 09:12 AM
Yay for putting more thought into characters than the stats you put on the page! Have to advocate my support for using wisdom as a dump stat. Who uses will saves anyways? Overall he seems like a really fun and quirky character. I am convinced something devious is afoot with his cat. The fall from grace is a compelling reason for him to take to adventuring. I would actually be interested in reading more. Have you ever ventured into the tread titled "D&D Snippets II: The Snippeting"? There are usually a couple of people there who are more than happy to read and critique each other's writing. It would be a good place to put this and any other continuity you might want to add.

2012-11-01, 09:46 AM
Where is this thread? It sounds like just what I'm looking for. Thanks for reading it.
As for the Wisdom...Well...It seemed better than the alternatives. Actually it may be that the dumping is a reflection of the rather sub-par Wisdom of the author...
Yeah, I took rich parents so I could stock up on acid prior to the start of the game, and I needed some reason for him to not simply stay wealthy and safe. I recently read Stiff by Mary Roach, and it talked about the history of anatomy as an aside, so seeing as the character is a vivisectionist (in name, as was noted in the essay, he keeps mostly to dissection).
On the topic of the cat, I'm probably going to awaken him when I get the cash to buy the spell, and then hopefully I can further develop him. I own a cat (or vice versa depending on who you ask), and a Warbeast (to prevent immediate death) Cat only costs 25 gp, so I thought, why not? I gave it a high Cha to balance the racial penalty, and invested ranks in handle humanoid, with a vague idea of luring guards away from their posts.

2012-11-01, 09:53 AM
That is probably true, seeing as how my usual reasoning for a low wisdom score is: You call it making bad decisions. I call it taking advantage of unorthodox role playing opportunities. What could possibly go wrong?

2012-11-01, 09:55 AM
Hey, thanks. I've gotta go (I'm posting this during lunch), but later this afternoon I'll swing by there and check it out.

2012-11-04, 02:04 AM
It's always refreshing when a player devotes some thought and time to creating a good backstory for their character. Such characters, in games I run, have a tendency to live longer :smallbiggrin:

Backstories like this also give DMs a chance to cull meaningful subplots which are then tailor-made for the character. This makes for a more personal, and enjoyable, gaming experience for the character. All too often, player-characters are heroes who "just happen to come along and save the day." There's no real emotional attachment or investment in the story.

I started a campaign several years ago in which I asked my players to give me a backstory for their characters. I then took those elements and wrote a 5-10 page short story for each character, which explained why they got into the adventuring life and what had happened to them prior to the start of the game. They didn't catch on right away that elements from each of their stories -- even some of the most banal ones, like one character's preference for potato soup -- overlapped with the others', and even became intricate parts of the overall plot of the campaign.

It was one of the best campaigns I had ever run.

Dr Bwaa
2012-11-06, 06:52 PM
White_Drake, I put a critique for ya over in the Snippets thread that PM linked. I'm not going to cross-post it though, so there.