This The Story Collector Fighter Backstory works well for Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder. The story also works for Paladins or really any character looking to be a hero.
Feel free to use it and adapt it for your own character.
Content Heads Up: This backstory features children, physical abuse and being kept locked in a room.
The Story Collector
I have no one left. I had no one when I was born. No family. No one who loved me. The orphanage barely kept me fed and clothed and as soon as I could work I was sent to a wealthy family where I worked as a servant. It’s not the orphanage’s fault, really. There are just so many of us. Orphans. People without anyone.
My life as a servant wasn’t all bad. I got fed and had a bed which I shared with only one other. It felt like a luxury. I got to eat twice a day. I was warm and dry.
I worked hard and did my best not to get caught doing something wrong. The butler was quick to anger and generous with a rod.
The house where I worked had a girl about my age in a room. She wasn’t allowed to leave. It was my job to bring her food and clean her quarters.
She and I would talk for hours. She was kind and wonderful and so full of beautiful stories.
I remember the first time she told me a story. I had taken too long with her the day before and was badly whipped. She was worried about me. I guess she saw the pain in my face because she made me tell her what happened. I cried as I told her. I feel embarrassed now, thinking back at how soft I was. She held me while I cried, careful not to touch my hurt back. And then she told me the story of a brave knight who fought a dragon and saved a princess. How the princess was so happy to be free from the awful dragon and how the brave knight was lauded throughout the land.
I kept that story close to my heart and would recall her telling it to me every time I felt sad or helpless.
The next time I was hurt she told me another story and another the time thereafter. And that became our routine. I would cry and she would tell me stories of hope and redemption and of good triumphing over evil.
For years this was our routine. It was comforting knowing that there was at least one person in this world who cared about me. One person who loved me.
And then one day they found her hugging me while I cried. They ripped me away and beat me to near death before tossing me into the frozen night alone and barely alive.
I don’t know how long I lay there for before I was found by a woman named Ailin Machvaya. She took me back to the camp on the outskirts of town and nursed me back to health. For some time I lived with them in a kind of peace I had not known before. And then I began to learn about the terrible ways of the world. The monster who watches all. How he dominates, threatens and kills the people of this realm. How he bends even creatures to do his awful bidding. How he won’t let anyone live in peace.
And I thought back to all the stories of the people who stood up to monsters. The knights, the heroes, the ones who made a difference despite the odds. And for weeks I toiled with the idea that maybe I could find the person who could help.
When I asked Ailin she told me not to be foolish because folks who wanted to be heroes all ended up on pikes or hanged. But I would not be dissuaded and I set out to find the hero who could save everyone. Seeing that I could not be persuaded to stop my pursuit Ailin guided me to seek a hermit who lived deep in the forests by the name of Laren Woodsburn.
The journey was perilous and I was still young. I was terrified of the wolves who howled all night in the forests and the crows who watched me every step of the way.
Finally I found Laren. Half starved and desperate I banged on her door and cried when she answered and I finally saw another person.
A strong, proud woman, Laren towered over me. One of her muscular arms were the size of both my scrawny legs, her hair was cut short and her clothing was practical.
Laren wasn’t pleased to be interrupted. She valued her peace and quiet above all else but she wasn’t a cruel woman and tossing a child out into the woods to fend for themselves seemed like cruelty to her. So she let me stay.
When I told her of my quest she watched me for a long moment before walking to the fireplace and stirring the pot of food. It was then that I noticed the large sword hanging over the fireplace. I stood next to her and admired the weapon, more convinced than ever that she was the person I had been searching for. She was the hero who could save the world and save my friend.
After dinner she put me to bed and I slept with a peace I had never felt before. I finally felt like there was an answer. Someone to stop the villain.
Laren granted me three days of peace in which we spoke a lot, ate a lot and she taught me some basic potion making. I was thrilled and soaked in every story she told me. I loved to hear of her exploits as a city guard before things went bad for her. I relished in her telling me of the way she defeated beast, monster and man as they tried to bring evil past the city walls. And I was happy.
On the third day Laren stood in front of the sword for a long moment before taking it down. “If you want a hero,” she said and handed me the weapon. “I will teach you to be a hero. But I cannot be what you need. That is up to you.”
It had never occurred to me until then that I could be the hero in the story. I could slay the dragon and free the princess. And as I took the sword from Laren my future crystallised in a clear plan in front of me. I would save my friend and then I would save the world.
My training began in earnest that day and for years Laren taught me to read and research, fight and plan. Make potions and poisons, make my body hard and strong, make my mind ready to take a life without losing myself.
I loved learning to write and would spend hours writing down the stories that I remembered into a book she got me. I would often press her to tell me more stories and I would write them down too. I could get lost in the stories for hours especially when I needed to escape from the terror of the real world.
On hard days she would smile indulgently when I asked her to tell me a story or I would sometimes tell her one that I remember.
I remember the very moment I discovered (This is where you insert the discovery from the hermit background or just a discovery that pushes you out of your comfort zone. Chat to your DM to find out what it was).
And one day I was ready. There was nothing more she could train me to do and the next step was my own. Leaving was hard but knowing I had a purpose gave me a direction and I walked straight up to the house where they were keeping my friend. I was determined to free her. But before I could even knock on the door I saw the stable boy who I knew from my time there. He was grown now and tending to the garden. He told me my friend had been gone a year now.
It seems like she saved herself. Still, there are many people who need saving and many monsters that need slaying.
I am the hero of this story and maybe I can start to write down my own stories now too.
The Hermit Background works particularly well for this backstory. It states that while you were in seclusion you discovered something powerful. Work with your DM to figure out what the discovery was.
This background also gives you a herbalism kit. Ask your DM about time and costs for making healing potions and how that works in your game.
Campaigns this works well for: The Curse of Strahd but can be adapted to most settings.
If you enjoyed The Story Collector Fighter Backstory then feel free to use it in your now campaign.