4 Reasons to Adventure Later in Life

Most adventurers are young striplings, fresh out of adolescence. Hell, depending on your game system or edition, half-orcs can take up an adventurer’s life at the tender age of fifteen!

 

Normally, during character generation, a player rolls his character’s age, notes it on his character sheet and then forgets all about it. Basically, a character’s age has no real impact on the game at all. That’s cool and all, but sometimes its fun to use a character’s age as part of his background.

While many adventurers are no doubt young (and annoyingly healthy), there is a place in many parties for older adventurers. I don’t mean by this, an elf or a dwarf. While they have lived decades or perhaps even centuries, they are still young.

Rather, sometimes a player might get a hankering to play an older character–a grizzled man-at-arms or aged wizard, for example. While such a character could have any of the typical reasons for adventuring he or she might have other reasons for taking up an adventurer’s mantle later in life.

Here is a selection of such reasons. This by no means a comprehensive list; feel free to post your additions in the comments below.

I’m Fighting For My Family

The character’s family is in terrible danger. This danger could come from rampaging orcs, a sinister local lord hellbent on persecuting them or some other source. Alternatively, the family could be destitute for some reasons (perhaps the sinister local lord has raised taxes to intolerable levels or the local economy has collapsed) and adventuring is the best way the character has of providing for them.

You Killed My Wife/Husband/Child

Sometimes a young adventurer embraces the adventuring lifestyle because the seeks revenge against the person who slew his mother or father. An older character could also out for revenge after his family has been ripped apart, but in this instance it might be a wife, husband or child that has been slain.

Alternatively, the character’s relative(s) could still be alive, but have been taken by slavers, imprisoned by a local lord as hostages and so on and the character works to free them.

My Wife/Husband/Child is a Hostage

In this scenario, someone has imprisoned one or more of the character’s family and is using them to force the character to complete some task. The character—left with no real choice—adventures to complete the task or perhaps to gain the means to rescue his family.

I’m Having a Mid-Life Crisis

Having reached middle-age, the character has realised he is bored of his safe, “normal” life and craves a life of adventure, daring and glory. The character has left his family—perhaps with their blessing or perhaps without their blessing—and sets out into the world to experience all it has to offer. Such characters are perhaps even more carefree and hedonistic than normal adventurers.

A Final (Warning) Note

Using a character’s age as a dynamic part of his background and personality is cool. Using a character’s age to get bonuses to your prime requisite(s) is cheesy. GMs—keep an eye out for this practise!

Got Any Other Reasons?

So that’s four reasons why a character could take up an adventurer’s mantle late in life. Did I miss any? Let me know, in the comments below.

 

Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

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11 thoughts on “4 Reasons to Adventure Later in Life

  1. Nice ideas…

    As a DM aged 50, the article resonates well with me. In my Pathfinder Rise of the Runelords campaign, I have a mix of 20, 30 and 40 year old players.

    Interestingly, the youngest plays a teenage Varisian gypsy rogue, and the oldest plays a 40+ year-old Magnimaran wizard. His back story for ‘starting late’ is that he was locked up in prison from age 20-40. His revenge quest against his false accuser (Justice Ironbriar) was a nice tie-in to the back story of Book Two of the Runelords campaign.

    And at the game table, the older gamer’s advice for the young player works out very well, and feels like they are role-playing the wizard’s wisdom vs the gypsy’s youth. And – of course – all too often she ignores it, leading to all kinds of fun/trouble!

  2. This is my favorite article so far! I mostly play the game with men with families and we pick older characters. I find them better motivated than the youngens full of piss and vinegar with little need for reason to prod everything with their sword! A disgruntled adult who has experienced life makes for more complicated characters as a general statement. Not because of the character themselves (necessarily) but because of the player’s own life experience they bring to the table!

  3. I started my life in the oil field in my late thirties. Yeah, I’m not as good with a hammer as the twenty-year-old boys, but I also know that it’s better to give three seconds before you start something, and think, “Is this safe?” It’s why I’m usually the chemical assistant on our sites, and anything to do with caustics is handled by myself. Plus, my base saves are better than their bonuses from their ability scores.

  4. The character used to act as a hireling for fairly well known adventurers who have either moved on to bigger things, retired and moved away, or passed on. While the character never did anything particularly brave or noteworthy, they were around those who had. The character has often told stories of the other adventurers exploits to the younger folks around town. Now some of those younger folks are setting out on their own adventures, and the character has been asked to come along so the young adventurers can access their “expert knowledge”, or has decided to tag along in order to relive their “glory days”, besides someong need to carry the iron spikes, coils of rope, and ten foot pole.
    The character has a child that has grown up around adventurers that the character knows, and had worked for, and is now determined to set out on adventures of their own. The character decides to go along to keep an eye on their child, because they realize that the child will head off with or without their blessing.

      • It is “art imitating life” so to speak. Back in 91/92 a friend of mine got me involved with the Renassaince club at the college she went to. I have been involved to some extent ever since. While never in a leadership position, or playing a star part in their dinners or faires, I have done various things with the group to help them out. Over the years I did a lot of tech/stage crew stuff for their dinners and faires. While never a “big name” I was there.
        I now have a daughter in her mid teens who has grown up around the group. She enjoys hanging out with both current, and past members that we are still in touch with. We recently went to a halloween get together thrown by one former member. Several people wore garb as costumes, and there were weapons present. My daughter, who is tall for her age, was wearing garb, and one of the guests who didn’t know her assumed she was an adult. I was the oldest person there by at least 15 years, and my daughter is around 15 years younger than our hostess. While we didn’t make any plans to fight the orc hordes, seek out hidden magical knowledge, or take a dragons treasure trove, several of us did, at one point, go down to the crawlspace under the house to check out the creepy mirror that was left there by the previous owner.
        Roleplaying the old hireling who is accompanying a group of younger adventurers, while keeping an eye on his child who has decided to tag along with them, would not be much of a stretch for me.

  5. We have players that run characters from all different ages. Some I’ve seen… A crusty old dwarf trying to prove he still has value to his clan. An aged warrior who quit soldiering to farm, and now has sold his farm and wants to adventure in his golden years, a wizard who is (probably deep down afraid of his own death and so is) studying Necromancy so that death has no meaning…. etc.

    Age is just a number. It’s up to players to decide what that number is.

    Hey, remember when casting spells, being under a spell effect, aged you?