City of Heroes
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Writing Your Hero's Backstory

As you might have guessed from all the written content on this site, I like to write. Writing is one major way I express myself, and my City of Heroes gameplay is no different. I find that when I create a new character to play, I like spending time coming up with a great backstory to go with the cool costume and neat pair of powersets.

Creating a backstory is not just a matter of writing "My hero has these power sets and likes to pwn the bad guys." To create a backstory that gives your hero some depth and some believability, you need to think about a few big important points:

  1. How did your hero get his or her powers to begin with? Think about the Origin you chose for them to help you expand your thinking on this. If you chose Magic for their origin, then a backstory including lots of scientific experiments and genetic mutation would probably not make much sense.
  2. What kind of family life does this hero have? Were they raised by two parents, one parent, or other family members? Were they orphaned? How many brothers and sisters do they have, if any? What was the family situation like for them growing up? Questions like these will help you flesh out any backstory, because it makes you come up with some likely personality traits along the way.
  3. How does this character think, feel, and act? Determining what kind of person your hero is (even if he or she is basically yourself in heroic guise) is important--it can help explain why he or she has the powersets you chose.
  4. Does this hero have any relationships to any characters already in the game, even an alternate character of yours? Creating bonds between characters can help your character connect more realistically to the CoH universe, and it adds another layer of interest to your story. Check out my example of this below.

Actually Writing the Story

The story that you use in the "Origin Story" text box does not have to be long. In fact, it is better if you don't type a whole bunch of text into your "origin story" space--the text box is remarkably temperamental and not friendly towards the Backspace key, I've found. But you can type in a brief summary of the answers to the questions above.

However, for your own personal reference, you can create a longer story in a word-processing program of your choice. This can help you engage with the character more--I find that I have more fun playing the characters if I know exactly where each character has been in their fictional life. Even if you don't do role-playing with your character, it's always fun to imagine and flesh out how they got their powers, what their pre-heroic life was like, etc.

From here, the actual content of the story will consist of the answers to the open-ended questions I presented you with above, plus whatever details and/or other information you would like to provide. Usually, a chronological style of writing will work well for your hero's backstory--almost like a biography of his or her life up until the present day. For my six characters, I started out telling a bit about their childhoods, and then moved into how they got their powers, referencing their Origin and their power sets along the way. You may choose to just tell about how they got their powers if you want to keep your story shorter.

Examples of Backstories

Origin Stories of My Characters:


I chose to have two of my characters' stories intertwine, through tragic twists of fate. Catarinya, my Mutation origin Claws/Regen Scrapper, does not remember anything of her life except the last three years, which means that she has forgotten nearly a quarter-century of time. Her story of being captured, cryogenically frozen, and then slowly reprogrammed into being a villainous assassin by the Arachnos Council is a powerful story of self-determination; after years of imprisonment, she finally escapes and goes to Paragon City to redefine herself as a hero instead of a villain. By contrast, her younger sister Salartha was raised by the Arachnos Council and now works for them--as a Science origin Dark Blast/Dark Miasma villain. She was told that her heroic parents abandoned her to die in the wilderness outside Paragon City, and she has grown to hate all heroes for their apparent hypocrisy; the Council never told her that they actually killed her parents and their four oldest children, only leaving the two youngest daughters alive so that they could become weapons for the Council. Of course, the elder daughter escaped to become a hero, but Salartha does not know that. Salartha does not even know she ever had siblings, because she has been so brainwashed. The tragedy of the two sisters, unaware of each other and unable to reach each other across the gulf between Paragon City and the Rogue Isles, is poignant and bitter.