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Adventuring as a Mid-Life Crisis

An Unusual Character Concept For TTRPGs

By Neal LitherlandPublished 3 months ago 5 min read

A heavyset man in boiled leather armor dismounted from what looked like a hard-shoed plow horse, and approached the seneschal's table. The man didn't look like much at a glance. He was tall and broad-shouldered, it was true, but his wide middle looked more at-home behind the bar of a tavern, and what hair he had left was starting to go gray. The sword at his side was old, and dust still clung to the grooves of the hand guard, but he seemed familiar enough with it.

"Heard you were looking for someone to clear out the caverns outside of town," the man said, resting one hand on the hilt of his weapon.

"You heard correctly," the seneschal said, eyeing the man up and down. "And who are you?"

"Garro Thane," he said, blowing out the hanging ends of his mustache.

"I see," the seneschal said slowly. "Is that supposed to mean anything to me?"

"Don't see why it would," Garro said. "I doubt you've ever been near the Oak's Rest Inn."

"Why should that matter?" the seneschal asked.

"I ran the place, up until a few months back," Garro said, waving one meaty hand through the air. "Now it belongs to someone else. I was told there was trouble brewing up this way, and rode to see about it."

"You're an inn keep?" the seneschal asked, his forehead furrowing.

"I did my time with the militia," Garro said, shrugging his big shoulders. "And more than my share of throwing drunks and braggarts out on their ears. I think I can handle a few goblins, don't you?"

The seneschal said nothing. Instead he presented Garro with a form to sign, sprinkled writing sand over the ink, and carefully rolled it closed. "The writ is sealed. I wish you luck in your endeavor, Mr. Thane."

Adventure Isn't Just a Young Person's Game

When we think of a stereotypical adventurer in an RPG, we usually picture someone young, inexperienced, and hungry for gold and glory. The farm boy with an inherited sword and broad shoulders, the newly-minted wizard fresh from her apprenticeship, or the young street tough ready to start making big scores instead of just shaking down people for pocket money.

But sometimes people don't answer that call to adventure when they're young. Maybe they take a job as a town guard because they got a girl pregnant, and now they have to become a family man. Maybe they have the responsibility of caring for aging family members, or taking over an inn, a mine, or an orchard. Perhaps they never really felt that call when they were younger, but now that they feel their life is slipping past them, they want to get out there, and have at least one good adventure before they can't anymore.

Because even fantasy characters can have mid-life crises.

This is a character concept that flies in the face of the idea that well-off, well-adjusted people don't hunt dragons, or go out stoving in zombie heads with a mace. It's the same reason you see people go sky diving, take up falconry as a hobby, or even get involved in cults; because those things fill that need for thrills, danger, and to really feel alive. A concept which can only get stranger when you have particularly long-lived characters like dwarves and elves, who may find the world outside their little area has changed significantly in the past century or so, and re-discovering things can be its own kind of adventure as they learn updated forms of language, realize certain towns may not exist anymore, and even entire nations have changed over the intervening years.

While not every game out there has age categories for characters, those who do can give you additional drawbacks and benefits to your concept. For example, someone who worked as a minor wizard in a library for decades may finally take a field assignment just to experience the world. Physically they're quite frail, but their increased Intelligence may make them a far more potent force to deal with when they start casting spells. And if you're a Pathfinder player, you might want to consider looking into options like Spring Rage for an older barbarian (as it lets you ignore your age penalties when raging), or the Gray Blades prestige class in my supplement Sellswords of Sundara (available for Pathfinder or for DND 5E).

Lastly, for those who are looking for a little inspiration to go with this character concept, consider checking out 100 Fantasy Professions (That Aren't Adventurer). Whether you're looking for a previous career to have left, or you're simply trying to be more "adventurous" within that field, many of these can make great starting places for finding a character who just needs to work out their ongoing crisis.

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That's all for this week's Unusual Character Concepts post!

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About the Creator

Neal Litherland

Neal Litherland is an author, freelance blogger, and RPG designer. A regular on the Chicago convention circuit, he works in a variety of genres.



Blog: Improved Initiative and The Literary Mercenary

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  • Dan Mello3 months ago

    Great article as usual. When I say the Wizard for Pathfinder I was impressed that the example character had some grey hair and was not some snot nosed kid right out of some magic academy, he had some mileage on him. I don't recall any RPG doing that before this point, they all assumed that when you start off your adventure you are a young adult. Pathfinder has escaped that trap they even have an obvious human child as their standard Kineticist character. I have had old and young characters in my games over the years, but the default is a young adult. I was always pleased to work with a player who wanted to escape the default and try something new.

  • Emily Ashburne3 months ago

    I love this concept! I'm so tired of teenage or young adult PCs (at least in the games I played in the past).

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