Dev Blog #18: Character Traits and Backgrounds


Dev Blog #18: Character Traits and Backgrounds

Battle Brothers is a game where attachment to the individual characters in your retinue is an essential part of the game. Today we explain how we use character backgrounds and traits to create characters that feel unique from the moment you hire them, and that you can relate and get attached to (only to see them getting horribly slaughtered by some axe-wielding skeleton).

Character Backgrounds

Each Battle Brother comes with a background trait that should give you an idea of the character’s former life, the childhood or profession before he was hired to join your warband.

A Battle Brother may have once been a noble from an established and wealthy family that ended up losing its fortune, or he may have been a simple farmer forced to take up arms and sell out his swordarm to get by after his farm was raided and burned to the ground. Perhaps he is a former soldier that fell in disgrace with his superiors and had to disappear, or a former thief that had a change of heart.

Whatever the case, these background traits come with a short procedurally generated story for flavor and an actual game play effect. Depending on the background, characters have different starting attributes and equipment. A farmer will be used to work the fields all day long and will not fatigue easily, whereas a noble may have benefitted from lessons in swordfighting at court. And whereas a farmer will have only the most basic of weaponry, a noble may bring his own sword or armor.

The characters that make up your group are a colorful, mixed bunch that will grow together into a band of brothers over the course of the game. We realize that not every one of you will care for character backstories – some are in just for the tactical battles. However, for those of you who like to have their creativity and imagination run wild when playing, we try to give you as much inspiration as possible.


Character Traits

In a recent blog article [Dev Blog #16] we talked about the perk system and how the perks help specializing your Brothers and change the way you employ them in battle. Character traits work very similar. However, they generally don’t have as much impact as perks do and can not be chosen on levelup. Instead, each Battle Brother comes with a random 0 to 2 character traits from the beginning that can be positive, negative or something inbetween. Below are some examples of what traits you can expect – keep in mind, though, that those are still heavily subject to change at this time.

Tough – This character is tough as nails, shrugging off hits and blows, and gains additional hitpoints.

Eagle-Eyed – This character can see a fly on a zombie’s nose from across the battlefield and gains increased view range.

Fearless – There are a lot of old friends to meet in the afterlife. This character is not afraid of death and has a higher maximum morale.

Dumb – Umm, what? This character isn’t the brightest, and new concepts take a while to really stick with him. Experience gain is reduced.

Tiny – Being rather short of build, this character is used to getting pushed around and does less melee damage.

Clumsy – This character is as dangerous to himself as he is to his opponents. The to-hit chance for melee attacks is reduced slightly.

These traits are not designed to be fair and produce balanced characters. On the contrary, the traits are designed to add flavor to characters and elevate them from being mere clone soldiers to individuals with strengths and weaknesses exactly by being imbalanced and distributed randomly. The impact of these traits will never be prohibitingly strong, and every single character will have something to contribute to your group. However, some characters may be naturally better suited for specific roles than others, and some may be less suited for the hard life of a mercenary in general.

Imagine a Battle Brother that is both “tiny” and “clumsy” – seemingly not a good point to start out. However, these traits do not affect his ability to use a ranged weapon and this character may still end up becoming one of your best archers. As the commander of a mercenary outfit, it is your responsibility to make the best out of the men you have available. And we really want to make sure that it feels like men, not just a bunch of anonymous units. Indeed, we feel that it is situations like the cowardly and overweight Brother surviving battle after battle against all odds and ultimately saving the day by slaying the lich-king when all hope seemed lost, that contribute to an enjoyable emerging narrative and make for fun anecdotes.

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About Jaysen


  • Avatar photo
    Jul 9, 2014 @ 19:17 pm

    I like the idea of traits and unique characters, like in the latest XCOM where every soldier had their own name, appearance, nationality and kill counter. But this sounds even more in-depth, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in-game.

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    Jul 25, 2014 @ 5:16 am

    I do love traits for anecdote and flavour building. Might be nice to see some medieval and Viking style traits such as Bloodthirsty/Beserker, Insane(random number added or subtracted to attack damage?), Superstitious, and maybe a phobia trait which causes the brother to become paranoid around certain non-human enemies.

    I’m sure you will pick some fun ones anyway, nice update.

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      Jul 25, 2014 @ 9:52 am

      Thanks for the input, I especially like the superstitious one. Didn’t think of that!
      Right now we have a backlog of roughly 30 different backgrounds and 50 character traits, so there will be a whole lot of diversity.

      Generally our world is inspired by early medieval europe and has a strong viking vibe going on but we don’t want to make it too “nordic”. Same goes for the weapons and armor. As you can see the equipment is mostly inspired by early medieval arms so you won’t find a full plate armor in the game. But we won’t say that its never going to happen, we’ll see ;)

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        Jul 25, 2014 @ 10:00 am

        Hey Zrau,

        just wanted to add a little thing. Our plan is do do some future addons which will be culture-themed. For example a nordic theme featuring weapons and armor from Byzantium over the Rus regions unto Scandinavia. Alongside with that of course new environment (snow etc) and according enemies.

        Same thing would be possible with any cultural region and period of the medieval world, like the Middle East or northern Africa. We’re just concentrating on the central European theme for the beginning.


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          Jul 25, 2014 @ 16:35 pm

          I see, thanks for replies. :)

          50 traits is quite a few, I can imagine there will be some fun combos.

          I think a possible Nordic themed expasion like you mention would look really nice (being a Norwegian I get easily interested in Viking themes.)

          I do really like the artwork and attention to detail on the equipment and weaponry. I’m sure the themes you are able to include will look great. Anyway I’ll put this on my watchlist and mention it to other TBS gamers.

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        Aug 6, 2014 @ 0:18 am

        30 background + 50 character traits (of which 0 to 2 are chosen) = 75030 different possible outcomes.

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          Sep 22, 2014 @ 13:20 pm

          30*(50*49/2) + (30 * 50) + 30 = 38280 possibilities The /2 = having trait 50 and trait 38 is the same as having trait 38 and trait 50.
          But maybe various backgrounds will only allow certain traits like Farmer background wouldnt have a “well educated” trait or Monk/Priest background wouldnt have an “alcoholic” trait (oh wait!)

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            Sep 22, 2014 @ 13:31 pm

            Indeed, some backgrounds will disallow certain traits, as will some traits disallow others. For example, a character can not be both physically strong and weak, or eagle-eyed and short-sighted.

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