In my last two posts, I’ve played with the idea that Magic Users can be established in a campaign as hermits, con-men and outcasts. This can be done without changing the rules or the class in any appreciable way, aside from perhaps changing the way the Read Magic spell is learned.
Here’s a few brief character backgrounds that you might find useful.
Renard (level 1) was a wagon driver’s son. When a hitchhiking traveler felled bandits by throwing rainbow lights from his hands, he was in the way, but lived. The old man’s chanting suddenly made sense to him, which lead to nightmares. Years later, as an apprentice to a bookbinder, he discovered he could read a client’s book that contained the old man’s verse. This was First Spell (read magic). He copied the entire book and has memorized one other poem from it (magic missile). He can’t wait to say the verse aloud to see what happens.
Nicolette (Level 2) married well, passing from her father’s modest but noble household into the house of her husband’s father, the Count Dufresne. The morning after her wedding night, her mother-in-law instructed her in the expectations of the ladies of House Dufresne. She was horrified to discover that the women of Dufresne, unbeknownst to their husbands, have maintained the family position and wealth through the use of witchcraft. After a year she escaped, hoping to find some way of atoning for her great sin of sorcery. Unfortunately, she cannot get through the day without spells in her head, so she has brought along a spell book. She has no idea where she will go and is sure her mother-in-law is hunting her. (She is right but does not know her mother-in-law is a lich).
Asa (Level 5) is a wife, mother of four and the matriarch of troupe of traveling performers. She is no longer the acrobat she once was, but the magic she learned as a child from her grandmother has helped her on many occasions. She uses it to enhance fireworks, catch falling acrobats, cover the tracks of her pickpocket son, and grow and remove the beard from her prettiest daughter. The women of her clan know the spells of illusion and scrying. The men learn magical combat and the ceremonies of summoning. Her husband is level 4. Most of the clan’s adults are levels 1-3.
Le Grognard (Level 12) is what the locals call Pollard of Huc. He mumbles to himself as he goes about his day. He is old, fat and unkempt. He spends most of his time traveling to far-away cities, looking through old libraries and temples for bits and pieces of spells. He is convinced that he can unlock the secrets of the spell creators. Although he himself knows a fortune’s worth of spells, he considers them of little value and sells them to anyone with the coin he needs to keep up his research. He cares not for good nor evil and is capable of both in great extremes, provided they further his quest.
Prince Johann (Level 4) wanted to be a mage since his nanny first tried to frighten him with stories of mages who turn bad little princes into newts. He killed an outcast mage girl for her spells, after making her teach him the First Spell at knifepoint. He pays top dollar for spells and kills any seller he deems weaker than himself. This expensive habit could not be hidden from his father’s bookkeepers, so he has incurred considerable personal debt in pursuit of his hobby. He has considered going on the road to seek out new spells and new treasures, hoping to either pay back or kill his debtors.
Leo (Ex-Cleric level 5, now a Mage level 2) was the Abbot of the Swan Abbey. He had sent a Knight of the Sun on a quest to bring him a scroll that, according to Leo’s interpretation of scripture, outlined the long lost vigil prayer Raise Dead. Leo was close, but wrong on one crucial detail. The scroll contained the First Spell, followed by an arcane spell which animated the bodies of the abbey’s long-dead abbots. After those monsters killed all Leo’s brothers and burned down the monastery, Leo was, to say the least, a changed man with a crisis of faith. He is now quite mad, and knowing no other spells, casts animate dead almost daily, hoping to resurect his lost monks. (Yes, he isn’t high enough level to cast it normally. Who cares? He’s an NPC.)