"Welcome to BRAZEN BACKGROUNDS, a character-background generator written specifically for role-playing games in Bronze Age fantasy settings - and written by a professional scholar, with a doctorate in the study of ancient history and archaeology. System-neutral, this resource can also breathe life into characters for any low magic, low fantasy, or sword-and-sorcery campaign.
From the moment of character generation, these backgrounds will ease players into a setting that many find less familiar than the faux-medieval worlds more common in fantasy games. While some character background products offer a one-word or one-sentence description of each career, BRAZEN BACKGROUNDS describes twenty-four period-appropriate backgrounds, and then expands each background with small random tables for further detail. Many backgrounds add a piece of appropriate equipment to character inventories, or suggest character motivations and personalities. With this guide and a handful of dice, you can easily generate thousands of medium-detail backstories for Bronze Age characters who lived a little before becoming adventurers.
Reflecting the writer’s own background as an ancient historian, the introduction also briefly discusses tips on gaming in a Bronze Age-inspired setting, and provides a short list of suggested titles for those wanting to learn more about Bronze Age history, archaeology, religion, equipment, and fighting techniques."
Tell us more! Can we have examples?
Why yes, of course.
|A 1-page background description.|
There's a robust .pdf preview available on the DriveThru page, but I'll unpack a bit more here too.
For example, here's just one sub-category within the "Performer" background:
"You were a puppeteer. Several times each year, the great cities hold puppet-shows reenacting the oldest legends and deepest tales. New cults also hire puppeteers to help spread their counter-narratives. You are adept at crafting and using puppets, at ventriloquism, and at copying funny voices. Add “medium humanoid puppet” to your equipment inventory."
As you can see, a few lines of added detail for this background flesh out what a character might be good at, imply the setting in which adventures take place, and add a swank piece of gear to play around with (I imagine there are a million ways characters could get in or out of trouble in a dungeon with ventriloquism and a medium humanoid puppet...). Then, you can roll to see why this character left the profession. To give two examples, there is a world of difference between two reasons a "Priest/Priestess" might have left:
"You couldn't bring yourself to carry out your first human sacrifice"
"You couldn't bring yourself to carry out your seventh human sacrifice."
Yikes! Not all are quite so gnarly, of course. Whether grim or not, many of these will open up room for those players who want to explore character personalities and motivations. Add two or three backgrounds together and you'll get a character with a very mixed, unique backstory, only requiring a few dice-rolls to set up [Can you imagine a character with the Performer-Puppeteer background AND the Executioner background? A sinister creep carrying a big axe - and a puppet? Just gives me the willies thinking about it].
The .pdf is fully bookmarked for easy navigation.
One of the things I really aimed at here was more than just loading this thing up with trivia. I tried to evoke some big themes, particularly the ways in which Late Bronze Age Mediterranean societies seem to have struggled with social tensions between the controlling palaces and those living outside the system (see my "Burning Palaces" post for more on that). The backstories here are very diverse, but many reflect a world of oppressive control that is also teetering just on the brink of anarchy. Many characters generated using this tool have had experiences, or have made choices, that reflect that difficult reality. This is not to say that this is a very grimdark product; it isn't. But Brazen Backgrounds implies a setting with a lot of antiheroes - as well as champions seeking some kind of redemption for themselves and the ones suffering around them.
Folks, I'm delighted to make this available. Please check it out. If you grab a copy, I'd love to hear your feedback, either here or on the DriveThru site. Thanks, and very happy gaming!