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).
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.
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.