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.
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.