Are backgrounds restricted to just adventurer-level environments?

So we're kicking off a 13th Age campaign, and I'm trying to make an elderly character. In his backstory he was a high-ranking paladin who made some terrible decisions, led a misguided crusade north of the Iron Sea, fell, went home to his tiny village defeated and was intended to be a ranger at level one at the beginning of the game.

My DM says that's a no go.

His argument boils down to my character having visited champion- and epic-tier environments before the game, described on page 183 of the core book.

But I'm looking at the suggested backgrounds like those of the fighter on page 102 of the core book, which suggest things like "Sea Wall veteran," implying a character with such a background has fought giant monsters; or "bankrupt nobleman," which implies a character with that background, at level 1, would come from a bigger city described in part on page 183 as a champion-tier environment.

Naturally I think the adventurer/champion/epic distinction doesn't kick in until the game starts, since 183 describes environments as "any place in the game world that a player might want to make a skill check."

Any guidance?


  • I think that whole thing is absolutely fine; there's no mention of backgrounds being tier-relevant at all.  Of course, it's your DM's game and his say-so at his table.
  • As raggedhalo says, what your DM says goes.

    However, I think your DM is being very short-sighted here.  There is absolutely nothing in the rules that even implies that backgrounds are restricted by tiers.  And the idea of an elderly ex-paladin who is starting life anew as a ranger is rife with roleplaying and adventure opportunities, and as a DM I would love to have such a character in my game.  13th Age is all about being freeform and allowing creativity, and cutting that off just because of tiers makes little sense.

    Talk to your DM further.  Maybe the worry is that you'll always try to use your history as a former high ranking paladin to get what you want from Imperial officials, or try to wring mechanical advantages by saying "I used to be a mighty paladin!  Smite Evil as a ranger!"  Assure the DM that you won't be any weaker or stronger, mechanically, then any other level 1 character, and that the backgrounds are just flavor.  Maybe that will be convincing enough.
  • I like your background.  Hopefully, your DM just needs some clarification. Since your character will be a first level ranger, and not running around with high level paladin abilities, it should be fine.  Your character will be great at montages when you do go to higher tiers. If your group uses the montage mechanic. Good luck!
  • The rules don't put any type of restrictions on what your background can be, and doing so goes against the spirit of the game. Further, the game doesn't say that 1st-level PCs can't enter champion and epic areas, it's just that if they did they'd fail at most skill checks and combats they attempted.
  • Indeed it seems a lack of imagination to disallow such a excellent character background BUT and this is a huge but I can see where the DM is coming from.

    For instance this would give you knowledge of places and people and perhaps challenges that the DM has not even thought up yet!

    Also it might be that he thinks you want too much out of a background. What you are really saying (or what he might just think you are saying) is you want as many points to put in backgrounds as a 10th level character because that's what you were.

    I love this idea for a background but you need to talk it over with the DM and find ways for it to work.

    Ideas: You character had dealings and knowledge over people and places you are not likely to ever see again. That entire area might be part closed off kingdom now!

    It was long ago and a lot of your knowledge is no longer current. Well Prince Ivan used to be a good sort a Paladin could turn to for help but now and ever since his legs were crushed he does nothing but drink and whore and cares nothing for the kingdom.

    What you want to do is make sure this Background is no more or less important than any other characters background could be.

    It might be that your DM wants you to split it up into multiple backgrounds even.
  • "as many points to put in backgrounds as a 10th level character"

    ..except you don't get any more backgrounds for being higher level
  • oh I forget that our rule is a house rule sometimes. Seems kinda obvious that as the player levels she should get more points to spend on backgrounds but that isn't the official rule.

    I guess even less of a reason to take issue with the players character idea then!
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