Backstory Villain
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Basic Information

The backstory villain is a character from the protagonist's past who has played a significant part in forming their direction in life - usually the person that killed their family/mentor/home village or committed some other crime that either drives the protagonist to specific revenge or motivates them to prevent such things happening in future.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Subverting this character can be great fun:
    • The backstory villain actually is the character's long dead parent/mentor - only works if the killing occurred off camera.
    • The character's parent/mentor was the backstory villain's backstory villain (for legitimate reasons or otherwise - finding that the guy you have dedicated your life to destroying is generally regarded as a hero and the loved one you hope to avenge is better known as a villain can be extremely subverting).
    • The villain has since become a hero - or at least The Atoner.
    • The character needs the villain's assistance against something far worse.
  • Also, consider the but for me it was Tuesday phenomenon - where the villain is genuinely surprised by the character's motivation and/or doesn't recall them or the incident they are avenging.
  • Likewise subverting this trope is when the revenge quest is set overly wide - for example the stereotypical fRPG character who has sworn genocide against orcs because of an orcish raid on his village when he was a child. Played straight this should actually be a far less wholesome character than it is often portrayed as being.
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