Still, on some level it is the DM's role to pester the players - so I am still looking for odd things that can be added to the background generator that will make players take notice. After all, if I'm not provoking a response, I'm only doing half a job.
With this in mind, I've been working on the Father's table. I don't mean that to be sexist; I'm working on a result that gives an equal chance for it being the "Mothers table" just now. The point is that a character's secondary skills (or benefits) come as a result of whomever may have had an influence on the character at a young age. In many cases, since characters occasionally lose both their parents at a young age, are foundlings or grow up on the streets, "Father" here is a mutable term. Progenitor may be a better term, but it distinctly does not sound 'fantasy,' eh? Sounds lawyerish.
One possible result is that one's progenitor is a grandmaster/grandmistress of assassins or thieves. I've puzzled about the 'benefit' of that - apart from money. With this result the character gets a nice bonus there. Here's what I've landed on:
|Ciela and her Protector by Benlo|
We may propose that the 1st level character (all my player characters start at 1st, regardless of the level of the party) has a father or mother who is naturally concerned about their child, and has the power to compel others to be concerned. In this case, the 1st level character starts with a 'bodyguard,' a 2nd to 5th level thief or assassin (depending on the guild) whose role it is to protect the player character - with or without the player's permission.
The bodyguard would be completely loyal to the character, except where the character was clearly attempting to put themselves in unreasonable danger. For example, the character decides to climb a wall and infiltrate a castle. The bodyguard might approve of this - IF there is room for the bodyguard to come along. If not, the bodyguard might physically restrain the player's character from taking such action. Whether the party comes to the aid of the character, that's up to them.
The bodyguard would fight with the character and the party, but would not move farther away than the distance that could be covered in one round, if the character got into trouble. This could be very useful for the character - IF the character were prepared to play within the bodyguard's rules. It gives the character considerable clout at the start of the campaign, particularly if everyone starts at 1st level.
For my world, which doesn't allow player-vs-player, I would not let the player direct the bodyguard to intimidate others in the party. The bodyguard's attitude would be more like, "Listen, you need to be friends with these people - that will keep you safer. You should apologize and make nice." The bodyguard is not a toy. He or she sees the long range benefit of the character having friends in the party and would work towards that.
After a time, the character would level (and the bodyguard too, as a henchman, getting half the player's experience), and might not want the bodyguard any more. This might involve ditching the bodyguard (who could then appear later at the DMs discretion, out there and always searching for the character), killing the bodyguard or perhaps finding a way to communicate with Mom or Dad about ending this annoying presence. On the other hand, once the character hit a certain level and got control over the bodyguard, the bodyguard could be adopted as a loyal henchman (according to my rules). Or the character could just enjoy the extra presence of a loyal guard ready to get up and fight, so long as the character doesn't do something really stupid. Most of my players do not run stupid characters and would not find this a problem.
Still, I like the idea of a character trying to run from his or her own bodyguard and getting tackled, getting a lecture and getting hauled by forcibly to a safe place.
Railroading? No. NPC foil to character's usual 2-dimensional expectation of success.