I have a history of getting over-involved when writing my dnd characters' backstories, and it seems like a shame to let them fade into obscurity in a folder on my computer, so here they are, in the order created / played!
my very first dnd character, whose name I'd been wanting to use for something ever since I realized how cool my name sounded backward. my party challenged my background choice of cartographer, saying it didn't make sense, so I wrote this more or less out of spite.
ELLEIRA, gnome bard cartographer
On the outskirts of town, ‘neath the shade of the trees,
lived a young mapmaker who did as she pleased.
She traveled about from this sea to that,
and the leaves of her trees always welcomed her back.
As centuries passed, her renown grew and grew —
the folk came and clamored for the maps that she drew.
But her bones began aching, new journeys were rare;
It wouldn’t be long ‘fore she needed an heir.
A gnome girl she knew ‘neath those same shady trees
could often be heard piping soft on the breeze —
from a family of scribes, she’d the heart of a bard,
and the older gnome knew ‘twouldn’t be very hard
to strike up a plan with the girl’s future in mind,
to allow her to leave her bland life behind.
The bargain was struck ‘neath the shade of those trees,
the parents informed (a feat not done with ease) —
The girl would take over the older gnome’s trade:
not just the maps, but the bow and the blade.
And when she was ready, new schooling would start
at the College of Lore to learn that great art.
The girl would learn barding as long as she swore
to return once a decade with new maps and new lore.
The little gnome learned as quick as a fox
to draw meadows and deserts and rivers and rocks,
to depict all the lands she may ever encounter,
to hold on to her tools, whatever may hound her.
The old taught the young all this and more,
and after some years, she showed her the door.
The little pan piper, now a young lady gnome,
was off to begin her first journey from home.
With tears in her eyes but a thrill in her soul,
she strode firmly ahead on her way to her goal.
She learned just as well as back home in the shade,
and she sang and she spelled as well as she played.
Again, though, she’d learned just as much as she could,
and she had a promise on which to make good.
The young gnome set out in search of adventure
(hoping that nothing too scary would get her):
“I’ll draw and perform and maybe I’ll fly, ha!”
And thus begins the true tale of Elleira.
I DM'd for a bit before realizing that I wasn't enjoying it and much preferred playing as a single character!
ADELAIDE, dwarf artificer / alchemist
who doesn't have a written backstory but does have this adorable art by Harry Gray!
AERIN, water genasi life cleric
who also doesn't have a written backstory, but spent most of her time reminding everyone "I'm blue!" and was constantly entertaining children & fish-people with magical water puppets
our DM (my husband) asked us not only for our characters' backstories, but for backstories for an important NPC in their life who he could work into the story
ETCH, changeling forge cleric
Etch was found outside a forge in Shiran with nothing but a tiny metal bracelet, etched intricately with a beautiful, unidentifiable pattern, which is what gave her her name. The smith brought her to the nearby temple of Eldath to be raised.
Etch showed signs of being ... special from very early on. as an infant, her hair and skin would change color based on her moods, which was less alarming than it could have been, as it helped her caretakers to know what she wanted before she could tell them with words.
As she grew into childhood, she learned to control her emotions and no longer flashed from appearance to appearance. She settled on one she liked more than others, and tended to hold that image most of the time. She was also cautioned against revealing too much of her unusual nature, that many people will not trust one who can so easily alter herself.
Etch knew the story of her discovery and wore the tiny bracelet on a chain around her neck. Whenever she was taken on outings into the city, she always begged her caretaker to let her spend time watching the smith at work. The smith did not mind her small eager audience, and would even narrate her work as she went. As she got older, etch was permitted to visit the forge on her own, and began learning simple workings there.
When she wasn’t working in the forge, she was in the temple, learning what she could there. The temple was built partway into a lake at the edge of the city, where its inhabitants and visitors could best enjoy the peace of the water and greenery.
Early on, she helped the followers of eldath by weaving endless narrow cloth bandages and collecting, drying, and grinding herbs for salves and potions. As she grew, it became obvious that she had a talent for magic — on more than one occasion she unwittingly enchanted her materials, only a tiny amount, but enough to be noticed by those who knew what to look for, and the patients who used them seemed to heal just a little bit faster.
She continued to make bandages and grind herbs, but lessons with the clerics were added so she could learn to put her natural skills to more effective use. She still managed to find time to spend at the forge, graduating from nails and horseshoes up to armor pieces and even some small blades.
As the years passed, she began working on the same level of items as the smith herself, and could create weapons and armor of a quality to match or surpass any other smith in the city.
And that is how she spends her days — split between her work at the forge and her work at the temple, and she is content, even if she may keep an eye on the horizon and wonder what else might be out there ...
EVELYN, the blacksmith who found ETCH
The Bakers hailed from a town so small, your name came from what you do. They were an affectionate pair, and often had more buns in the oven than the ones made with flour. It was nice to have a handful of helpers, though they did tend to be a handful indeed, and when one of the older ones started showing signs of wanderlust, her parents happily encouraged her to pursue her dreams. Her name was Evelyn, and she’d set her eyes on becoming a master weaponsmith.
The tiny hamlet where the Bakers lived happened to be on a relatively well-traveled road, and adventurers were constantly passing through, stopping for a hearty roll and paying much more than asked, in both gold and stories. And what stories they had! Evelyn never missed an opportunity to meet such travelers, and she grew increasingly obsessed with them, along with the idea that for all their wild tales, none of them would ever have made it far without well-crafted armor and weapons.
When she was about 12, her parents took her on the two-day journey to Shiran, stopping for the night at a small inn just off the main road. When they arrived, Evelyn could hardly take it all in. She’d never seen so many people or heard so many sounds or smelled so many smells. Her father was almost in the same state, having only been to the huge city once or twice in his lifetime, but her mother, who grew up in Shiran (and left just as soon as she could, thank you very much) snapped her fingers and led them northwest to a forge on a bustling street.
Evelyn’s mother introduced her to the smith, a large middle-aged human man with the biggest arms she had ever seen. He had exchanged a few letters with her mother and agreed to take her on as an apprentice: housing her, feeding her, and most importantly, teaching her all there was to know about working in the forge. After a few rounds of tearful goodbyes, her parents set off, and she settled in.
She was shown to her room, a tiny cubby off the side of the forge, with a small cot, a musty wardrobe, and a rickety table with an even more rickety chair. Once she was alone, she unpacked her few belongings: two spare sets of clothes, a pair of comfortable shoes to replace the sturdy traveling boots she currently wore, a few small trinkets from her siblings, and a small sack of coins, which she had saved from years of generous — or financially clueless — adventurers. She was just starting to wonder what she was supposed to do next when she heard the smith shouting for her to finish up and come get started.
She did eventually become a master weaponsmith, and then when she was about 35 years old, she had the biggest shock of her life. She was woken in the middle of the night by the screech of a hungry baby, and as she rushed down her stairs and to the front door, sure enough, there it was. The strangest looking infant she had ever seen was suddenly looking up at her, slowly calming down, but as she gazed at the baby, she could swear that it was … changing. At first all she saw was silver and white, and a flash of metal on the wrist. But as she held the baby she watched it slowly morph to more natural flesh and hair tones — eerily similar to her own, in fact.
Despite having grown up tending to more younger siblings than she could count on one hand, Evelyn had no idea what to do with this clearly magical little creature. Her mind flashed through a few possible options, but finally she decided the only reasonable place to take her would be to the clerics of Eldath at the temple up the road. She’d gotten to know them very well over the years, first as they (very frequently) treated her accidentally self-inflicted burns and hammer-smashed thumbs, and later simply as a quiet place to escape the heat of the forge. She knew that they would take good care of this tiny puzzle.
As she carried her precious bundle through the near-empty streets, something within flashed in the street light — the smallest metal bracelet she’d ever seen was wrapped on the infant’s arm, and as she looked closer, she could see a beautifully etched design. She decided then, as she walked up the steps of the temple, that her mystery baby’s name would be Etch.
Over the years, little Etch grew into an adorable and enthusiastic student, showing up at the forge every moment she could. Evelyn happily taught her everything she knew, until the little changeling girl (for that’s what she was, as it turned out, though you’d never hear it from Evelyn, who knew what could happen to such a creature should she become known to the wrong sort) was almost as skilled as the smith herself. She seemed to have a deeper connection to the metal than Evelyn could understand, and sometimes she’d end up with something that could not have possibly come from the same raw materials she’d started with.
And then one day, that wrong sort showed up. Evelyn told them nothing, and eventually they left her alone. She hoped that the clerics would see this coming and that her little sometimes-apprentice would not end up in the clutches of those awful people. So she continued her work, for there was always work to be done, but she kept an eye and an ear out for any more trouble …
2021 - current
ok, this one may be the most ridiculous. first, when picking a background, I found one called "inheritor" and decided that the object I inherited would be a fancy version of a game, and rather than just making up a title and calling it a day, I ... invented an entire game. (like, for real. you can buy your own in my shop!) and then when I sat down to write my backstory, I got kind of caught up in my characters' grandparents' story, so whoops on that one too.
HYACINTH, healer halfling, frost giant soul sorcerer
Bramblesprings was not the first town to flourish on the banks of the [Casey, where am I from?] River. It was built on the centuries-old ruins of some previous settlement that had succumbed to time.
Eighty-odd years ago, a young halfling traveler, soothing her weary feet in the cool water, tripped and fell in, and the current snatched her away. The waves were brutal and she’d never been a strong swimmer. After what seemed like a lifetime of frantically scrabbling for the surface, she felt something lash out at her; she’d gotten tangled in some vines, and their vicious thorns were grabbing at her clothes, her hair, her skin, whatever soft bits they could sink themselves into. She felt a twinge of irritation — was she not only to drown, but to be impaled as well? Would the river like to insult her mother next? But then she realized: the current had let her go. The vines had somehow pulled her out of its violent grasp and she could feel soft sand beneath her feet once more.
She heaved herself out of the water, gasping and coughing and covered in tiny bleeding cuts, but alive. Once she could breathe normally again, she took stock: her clothes were torn ragged, and so was her pack … her pack! It had miraculously clung to her, and even appeared to have remained latched. She peeked inside, and found a sodden mess where her food, maps, and other belongings used to be. But she had eyes only for one item: a small canvas pouch that was giving off a faint glow. She fished it out and opened it — not only was it completely dry itself, but so were the contents. She breathed a sigh of relief and placed it gently back inside.
The halfling stood up and surveyed her surroundings. Beside the rushing river and a large thicket of brambles, which had apparently saved her life, she saw nothing but grass all the way to the horizon. The sky was darkening and silly as it may seem, she didn’t want to sleep close to the river. She walked until the sound of the current subsided a bit, unfurled her waterlogged bedroll to dry, and laid down to sleep in the grass beside it. Her brush with death had exhausted her, and she didn’t wake until the sun was fully shining.
She flipped her still-slightly-damp bedroll over to start drying the other side and looked around again. To her surprise, the meadow was not unbroken, but in fact dotted liberally with flat stone shapes. She wandered over to the closest one, a large rectangle, and leaned down to inspect it: just plain gray stone, nothing unusual, aside from it obviously not having grown there like a flower. She glanced toward the other shapes nearby, trying to make sense of them. But after a few minutes, her rumbling belly put an end to her exploring. She knew that plenty of the plants growing under her feet were edible, and she had herself a little snack, but she’d need real sustenance soon.
While she pondered her predicament, more out of curiosity than fear, for she’d been traveling for a while and had managed not to die yet, she heard a shout from the direction of the river. Being a helpful sort, and with yesterday’s ordeal still in mind, she rushed toward the shout, which was now turning into more of a sputtering, with some very creative curses thrown in. As she approached, she saw a familiar sight: someone caught in the thorny vines, exiting the river just as gracefully as she had done herself just yesterday: that is to say, not at all. A panting, sodden mess of a … yes, as she looked closer, definitely another halfling.
“Hey! You, uh, you good?” His head shot up in alarm. She smiled at him and started to approach, gesturing with her scabbed arms. “Those brambles got me yesterday, too. But it’s hard to be too mad at them; I think they saved my life. You need a hand?”
He sheepishly allowed her to free him from the biting vines, still coughing every few moments. “I don’t even know what happened! One moment I was upright, and the next I was underwater! I’m usually a very strong swimmer, you understand, best in my village in fact, but the current was … I’ve never felt anything like it! I’m Flax, by the way, Flaxseed Hollyhock. I know, I know, a ridiculous name, but I had nothing to do with it, you see, most babies don’t when they’re named, do they?, and it’s kind of grown on me anyway, so I keep it around. I mean, it’s been this long already, doubt I’d be able to get used to being called anything else at this point…” and he dissolved into another fit of coughing.
Flax looked up from where he was still sprawled on the ground, coughs slowly subsiding, into the gently smiling face of his rescuer, who, he realized quite suddenly, was the prettiest young woman he had ever seen. “Forsythia! You’re beautiful! I mean your name, Forsythia, it’s beautiful, my mother’s favorite plant in fact, she has them all around our house back in my village, and she’s always bragging about how hers are the biggest and brightest of all our neighbors, though I don’t really see a difference to be honest, a big yellow bush is a big yellow bush. Not that you’re not special! Or, well, I guess I don’t know you, maybe you aren’t special … but no! You came all this way to help a complete stranger, so you must be special! Anyway, um, thanks for that. Those thorns are no joke. I’m, um, I’m bleeding pretty badly I think, um, you see, I normally do quite well with pain and blood and all that, I’m studying to become a healer actually, so I’m around blood quite often, but, well, I think maybe LOOKING at blood and LOSING blood are a bit different from one another, you see—“ and he passed out in her arms.
Forsythia, for that was our traveler’s name, looked down at him in alarm. One of the thorns had caught him more aggressively than she’d realized, and now that the river wasn’t washing it all away, the blood was much more apparent. She quickly ripped a sleeve off her shirt to stanch the flow, held it in place with her foot, then ripped off a long strip from the hem to use as a bandage. Once she was satisfied with her work (for she was also studying to become a healer! What a coincidence!) she carefully picked Flax up; he was surprisingly light, and she had had some practice in carrying patients; and brought him over to her makeshift camp, which was, to be fair, really just a damp bedroll, a backpack, and some weird flat stones.
She kept watch over him, checking periodically for fever, which, thankfully, he never developed, and thought about what they were going to do. She noticed that he, too, had managed to keep his bag, but it would have been rude to rifle through it, so she just held him in her lap while the sun warmed them all up: halflings, bedroll, and gear alike.
A couple hours after noon, Forsythia noticed Flaxseed’s eyes starting to flutter open. She quickly pulled her hand away from his head, where she’d been absentmindedly stroking his hair, and cleared her throat. His eyes snapped fully open and she saw his confusion turn to understanding as he caught her gaze.
“Ok, I guess I owe you two now, huh?” He chuckled lightly, but made no move to get up from what was an admittedly very warm and cozy lap.
“You owe me nothing. I’m a healer, like you. It’s just what we do.”
Flax chuckled again, “Ah! A poet!” When Forsythia furrowed her brow at him, he continued, “You know, the rhyme? You said… nevermind. So, uh, what’s our plan? Am I fit for service or are you going to have to put me out of my misery?”
She smiled down at him, not minding one bit that he was still in her lap. “I think it was more the shock than the blood loss. You don’t have a fever and nothing is infected. Although I can’t promise it’ll stay that way, and I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty hungry.”
At that, Flax seemed to remember himself, and he leapt up from the ground. He wobbled, stumbled, and would have fallen if not for Forsythia steadying him. They shared a shy glance, but he was on a mission, and he marched over to his untouched pack. She expected to see similar results to her own, but everything he pulled out was pristine and dry.
“I knew that extra gold I spent on this bag would be worth it! Would you like sweet or savory?” And he held out two large rolls.
“Sweet, please.” Forsythia took the roll he held out and devoured it in three bites. It was bursting with fruit and honey and was one of the most delicious things she had ever eaten. She looked at him with wide eyes and he laughed.
“That happens a lot; my mom may not be the most famous baker in the land, but she’s certainly the best. Wanna try the savory? I’ve got a ton.” Forsythia just nodded, eyes still huge.
Flaxseed had plenty of food for a day or two, so with that problem solved for the immediate future, the pair decided to rest their wounds for a bit longer. They sprawled in the soft grass, getting to know one another. Flax’s home village wasn’t far from Forsythia’s, and they even had a few acquaintances in common. Both had been traveling alone as the final part of their healer training, a journey that wasn’t so much required as encouraged, to learn, among other things, to independently identify the herbs, roots, and other plants most commonly used in medicine. Now that they’d crossed paths, it seemed silly to part, and they decided to continue on together.
Night fell, and the weather turned chilly. Both halflings, being healers, were aware of the dangers of freezing to death (the fact that it was hardly even cold enough for a light frost in the morning somehow didn’t come up), and they agreed it was only logical that they share Forsythia’s now-dry bedroll for the night. You know, for safety.
In the morning, both felt much rejuvenated, and Forsythia decided to point out the strange stone features to her new friend. He bounced from shape to shape, growing more excited with each one. He ran back over to Forsythia and exclaimed, “It’s perfect!”
She grinned at his enthusiasm. “Perfect for what?”
“For my university! I’ve been looking for a place to start one, where anyone who wishes can come and study! The stones here can be the start of it and we can build upward and keep the beautiful meadow just as it is!! What do you say?!”
“What… what do I say? Why does it matter what I say?” Forsythia looked at her new friend, who she’d met barely a day ago, wrapped in thorns and coughing up water, and quietly decided that yes, she could definitely see herself growing old with him.
“Why does it matter what you say? WHY does it MATTER what you SAY?! Because I need you! I would have drowned if it weren’t for you, and the brambles, I suppose, but the brambles almost killed me too! You have to stay! Well, you don’t HAVE to stay, you’re your own person and you seem very competent and I don’t want to take you away from your own plans, but you DID say you’re a healer didn’t you? My school will need healers! And teachers and carpenters and blacksmiths and cooks but mostly healers! And it won’t just be a school, it’ll be an entire house of healing! And a library! Yes, an enormous library! And, and, and—“
Flax took a second to process the single word he’d just heard, then he rushed over and picked Forsythia up in a celebratory twirl, then quickly placed her back down as he remembered that (1) he barely knew this girl and (2) they were both still covered in thorn wounds.
Over the course of the next five years, the pair traveled back to their villages, brought in friends and family to help build the first small building, where they moved in together, then more and more additions, not just in architecture but in personnel, until Bramblesprings Academy was able to open its doors for the first class of students.
Word spread that anyone could enroll, regardless of pedigree or coin, and that room and board would be provided to any who studied there. Other crafts were welcomed as well, for even academics need to eat and live outside of their school’s halls, and in came a blacksmith and a butcher and a tailor and several stationers, and a baker in the form of Flaxseed’s mother, who decided to move her bakery into town, partly to help feed all the hungry students, but mostly to help take care of her new granddaughter, Grapevine.
Bramblesprings Academy blossomed into Bramblesprings Town and its renown only grew. Flax and Forsythia grew old together, continuing on in their roles as caretakers, teachers, healers, and anything else required of them for their school to continue to flourish. They watched their daughter Grapevine grow up and follow in their footsteps, attending the school and becoming a powerful healer. Their second daughter, Gardenia, tried to do the same, eager to please her parents, but it became clear to everyone who knew her that her calling had skipped a generation, and she instead took up the whisk and rolling pin of her grandmother’s bakery.
Both sisters eventually fell in love, both with students at the academy, and married within a year of one another, Grapevine to a shy half-orc whose skill in her studies was matched only by her ability to soothe even the crankiest baby, and Gardenia to a creative halfling who exasperated every professor with his loopholes and unconventional solutions. Grapevine and her wife adopted an orphaned human infant around the same time that Gardenia announced her own pregnancy, and the cousins were raised more like sisters.
Hyacinth was barely a year younger than Hibiscus, and the girls started their schooling together. They both did exceptionally well, thought they weren’t without mischief, and are often getting into scraps and scrapes. Being human, Hibiscus was a bit bigger than Hyacinth, but the halfling child didn’t stop growing, and she soon towered over all of her family members, with the exception of her aunt and cousin. She finally settled in around 3’5” and was very proud of being the family’s “giant.”
When Hy was around sixteen, strange things started happening around her when she got angry, or excited, or impatient. Luckily, since Bramblesprings Academy was full of knowledgable people from all over the globe, a kindly old professor, who had traveled far to teach there, noticed the signs of a budding sorcerer. She didn’t know exactly where it was coming from, and neither did anyone else, but it was clear that there was some source of magic inside Hyacinth.
Magic classes were added to her curriculum, which she probably would have started taking anyway, because who turns down magic class?! (Ok, maybe people were scared of it, or nervous about being bad at it or whatever, but Hyacinth didn’t see it that way) But now she had a reason — if she couldn’t control this magic seeping out of her, it could start acting in ways she didn’t like. (She’d already seen what it did to a bully she’d noticed picking on the younger kids — he’d had painful boils on his face for a WEEK)
A few more years passed, and the source of her magic became a background mystery. Something she’d love to solve, but no amount of time spent in the library was telling her anything. Until one day, she was looking for a book in her grandmother’s study, and a small pouch caught her eye. She’d seen it before, of course, but it wasn’t anything special, probably held paperclips or something. Only this time … was it glowing? And was it glowing … brighter as she approached it? She reached for the bag slowly, a rushing noise growing in her ears, when out of nowhere, a small wrinkled hand reached up and snatched her wrist away. Hyacinth gasped, confused, and looked down into the twinkling eyes of Forsythia.
“That is … interesting. I haven’t seen it do that in a very long time. Do you know what you’re reaching for, Hy?”
Forsythia chuckled. “Not quite. Here, look.” And she took the bag, no longer glowing (or was it? and was that sound coming back?), and emptied the contents onto her desk. Hyacinth’s gaze followed and she saw, there on the table, what looked like…
“Is that just a copy of Frost Giant’s Folly?? I don’t understand! Hibiscus and I both have that game, and so do half the kids here! It’s just … it’s just a game, isn’t it?”
Forsythia nodded solemnly. “Yes, it is a very popular game these days, isn’t it? Funny how fads change. In my youth, everyone was all about Storm Cloud’s Lightning! Yes, yes, a game to be sure, but never JUST a game. This copy has been in our family for generations. I suppose I should have given it to your mother or aunt at some point, but I could never decide who should get it, and then I must have forgotten about it. But it obviously is calling out to you.”
“How can a game call out to me? What do you mean?” Hyacinth was confused, and growing a little alarmed with how serious the conversation seemed to be turning. “I don’t … I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I, to be honest, but I won’t deny the will of this thing I’ve had with me for as long as I can remember. It’s brimming with magic, and so are you, and it seems that you’re connected to it. So it’s yours.”
Forsythia carefully put the pieces back into the bag and cinched it shut. She held it out to her granddaughter, who was looking at her nervously. As the game got closer to Hyacinth, they both started glowing with a pale blue light, like the sun shining through ice. Forsythia suddenly remembered something she’d heard ages ago, about ancient giants and loose soul fragments.
“Hyacinth, let’s go to the library. I want to look something up with you.”