Backgrounds

Backgrounds determine a lot about an individual. Would the Royal Shepherd who is interrogating prisoners in the sure knowledge that the Empire is a force of benevolence believe so had his parents been in Delhi for the Massacre of 1921? Would the manipulative dilettante have such smooth manners and gilded tongue had she been a feral child evading witches in the wastes of Siberia? Backgrounds do not preclude any outcome, but they have an impact on the trajectory of an individual’s life. And so, to create a character, first you must select the place and manner of their birth:

Academic

Boundless knowledge awaits the eager, and all answers come to those that ask. In this age of discovery, there are many scholars, and you were born to such parents. You were taught everything, brought everywhere, and shown everything. You were taught to ask questions and think for yourself. Though not wealthy, you lived apart from the ”real world” in many ways. You are out of touch with the world outside of academia, and may find you are unable to recognize danger.

In which a young student begins to learn to finer points of the low cost of lighter than air transit's impact on society.
A young student learns the finer points of how the low cost of lighter than air transit impacted global society.
  • Birth Trait Modifiers: +1 Education, +1 Paranormal, +1 Travel.
  • Examples: Son of a professor, daughter of an archaeologist explorer, scientist’s child.

 

Feral

You were abandoned, and had to make your own way. No one took you in, no one helped you. On the outskirts of society, isolated, you stubbornly refused the peace of death, and struggled successfully to keep yourself alive. You have difficulty interacting with others, and may, in some circumstances, have never learned a spoken language at all.

Fig. 2.2: In which we see a street urchin cowering upon a rooftop. Truly, it is a hardscrabble life for those less fortunate, even in the glittering cities of our great Empire.
Truly, it is a hardscrabble life for those less fortunate, even in the glittering cities of our great Empire. Street urchins such as the one depicted here, cowering on a roof, may come to resent the warm glow of the light of civilization if denied it for too long.
  • Birth Trait Modifiers: +1 Survival, +1 Hard Living, +1 Combat.
  • Examples: Lone beggar in the slums, stranded child, survivor of a frontier raid.

Frontier

The frontier beckons, as always. A land of opportunity, and a land of peril. Into this land you were born, and brought up to weather any hardship and put your stamp upon the world. The wilderness holds no surprises for you.

Fig. 2.3: In which we see a Mongolian Eagle hunter accompanied by what may be an avian cryptozooid of some kind. On the fringes of the empire, it takes hearty Imperial citizens to forge a lifestyle that can approach that offered within the comfortable borders of complete Imperial governance.
On the fringes of the empire, it takes hearty Imperial citizens to forge a lifestyle that can approach that offered within the comfortable borders of complete Imperial governance.
  • Birth Trait Modifiers: +1 Survival, +1 Hard Living, +1 Travel.
  • Examples: Son of a sea explorer, daughter of the American prairie, Mongolian nomad.

Lower Class

Your parents just barely scraped by. They did their best, but success wasn’t in the cards for them. It does not appear to be for you either – if there’s a way out of the slums, the village, the mining town for you, you will have to make it yourself. You grew up thinking on your feet.

Fig 2.4: Young men of the lower classes are a vital part of the world economy. Without the tireless labor of the working man, the grand Empire would grind to a halt. The Empire salutes the working man!
Young men of the lower classes are a vital part of the world economy. Without the tireless labor of the working man, the grand Empire would grind to a halt. The Empire salutes the working man!
  • Birth Trait Modifiers: +1 Hard Living, +1 Combat, +1 either Streets (urban poor) or Survival (rural poor).
  • Examples: Sharecropper’s daughter, son of a fisherman, parents both work in a textile mill and expect you to do so as well, peat cutting family in a peat cutting town.

Merchant Class

Your parents worked hard at a nine-to-five job and made a place of relative comfort in the world. They weren’t anything out of the ordinary, but they provided for you well both monetarily and in your upbringing. You are fairly unremarkable, and if anything unusual happens to you, it would be rather “out of the blue.” You spent your time in a market area, and so you picked up on what goes on in the city: both the good and bad.

Fig. 2.5: In which a mercantile factor financier reviews accounts over the international telegraph network without the aid of an android.
A mercantile factor financier reviews accounts over the international telegraph network without the aid of an android.
  • Birth Trait Modifiers: +1 Education, +1 Wealth, +1 Streets.
  • Examples: Tailor’s son, daughter of an account and a dentist.

Noble

Born into a family of relatively high station and able to claim some trivial royal connection, you had every advantage in life. You had the very best in education and care, and have many friends, and enemies, in high places. Without much temporal power to bring to bear from your station, you have none the less had the privileges of a life of leisure, wealth, and refinement. The advantages of your upbringing come with a significant drawback: you are notable, and notability makes you a target.

Fig. 2.6: Lady Elginswerth, daughter of the Governor of Thailand and Duchess of Rayong, descends from her personal airship. She is accompanied, as always, by her customized android factotum, Kedg.
Lady Elginswerth, daughter of the Governor of Thailand and Duchess of Rayong, descends from her personal airship. She is accompanied, as she is always, by her extensively customized android factotum and bodyguard, Sedgwick.
  • Birth Trait Modifiers: +1 Education, +1 Wealth, +1 Influence, +1 Travel.
  • Examples: Third-born prince of the Raj of Rajastan, daughter of the Duke of Islington, great-nephew of the Governor of Germany.

Pariah

Shunned by society, something has placed you on life’s lowest rung. You are universally hated in the place you live, given nothing except perhaps refuse to pick through. Your parents survive, and they love, and they die, all covered in the filth and disdain of a world that is solidly against them. Your caste will always be a mark of shame when you meet someone from your place of birth. It may incite distrust or even violence against you.

Fig. 2.7: In which a Badlander mother shields her children from the prying eyes of reporters in the North American territory of Nevada. The Badlanders are not welcome in Nevadan towns and outposts, but have discovered means of existing in on the outside of civilized society. It should be noted that they do not exist completely without social contact, needing to approach those that shun them to trade for live-giving supplies.
A Badlander mother shields her children from the prying eyes of reporters in the North American territory of Nevada.
  • Birth Trait Modifiers: +1 Survival, +1 Hard Living, +1 Streets.
  • Examples: Untouchable, garbage-picker, witch ancestry in a Catholic city, oppressed anti-imperialist.

Thug

The world is a hard place, and your parents were hard people. Living by violence and larceny, you have learned a thing or two about surviving in the city. You know people, and you have enemies, and you have skills and experiences most never encounter. You may have a brand, tattoo, scar, or other mark that identifies you as a criminal.

Fig. 2.8: Not all citizens of the Great British Empire embrace an honest days work for an honest days pay. Here we see Jack "Long Bones" Malone engaging in extortion by threat of violence while one of his many daughters keeps a lookout for the authorities.
Not all citizens of the Great British Empire embrace an honest days work for an honest days pay. Here we see Jack “Long Bones” Malone engaging in extortion by threat of violence while one of his many daughters keeps a lookout for the authorities.
  • Birth Trait Modifiers: +1 Hard Living, +1 Combat, +1 Streets.
  • Examples: Son of a crime boss, orphan jumped into a gang, daughter used as the distraction by a family of scam artists.

Ward of the Church

As a ward of the church, you were raised in the proud traditions of your culture. You grew up hearing tales of saints, martyrs, witch-hunters, and missionaries, and reading from the vast libraries of the church. This church, temple, mosque, or monastery may be Anglican or Catholic, or Judaic or Islamic, or for some characters perhaps even Buddhist. In any event, you lack name or parentage but have been well taught and well prepared for the world. You have no significant enemies, though your church most certainly has some, and you may be in danger by association. You have the great benefit of the support of an organization that spans countries and continents. Influence for Wards of the Church represents the ecclesiastical significance of their adoptive family – is he an impoverished monk or a cardinal?

Fig. 2.9: In which we see an orphan taken in by a Buddhist monastery in Tibet. Religious organizations play a vital role in the care of the wayward and lost children of the Empire, who often take to the familial unity of the church community with zealous fervor.
Religious organizations play a vital role in the care of the wayward and lost children of the Empire, such as this orphan taken in by a Nepalese monastery.
  • Birth Trait Modifiers: +1 Education, +1 Paranormal, +1 Influence.
  • Examples: Orphan left in the churchyard, given to the church due to parents’ poverty or your illegitimacy.