Hey, nerds. Today we’re going to talk about character ages. Most people go for younger protagonists, younger D&D characters. Twenty-somethings tend to be the staple in most games I’ve been involved in, and that makes sense to a degree. Part of the allure is wanting to watch a character mature, play them from an early age and see them grow into someone else, especially if you’re starting at Level 1 and don’t have a lot of room for back story.
But not every campaign starts at Level 1 and that’s to say nothing for NPCs and other works of fiction. There’s a place for older characters; it’s something I don’t see done often, but I’d like to see it done more.
There’s a proverb: “Beware of an old man in a profession where men usually die young.” The meaning here is generally, “watch out for this person, they are a survivor.” They know how to do what it takes to stay in the game, they have a lot more experience than you do, they’re heckin dangerous.
So I’m going to toss around some shout outs to a few of my favorite older characters in media.
Ana Amari from Overwatch. She’s 60. She’s got loads of history. She has an interesting weapon and is really fun to play. Her connections to the back story of other characters as well as the history of the world she’s in make her an excellent opportunity to connect with things that happened before, and that connection to history is a good reason to use an older character.
People tend to get bored talking about history in real life, but in fiction the history of the world we’re in fascinates us. What better way to expose that kind of information than through a character who was there and saw it happen?
Madame Foster from Fosters Home of Imaginary Friends is another great example. She’s been around a long time, long enough she knows when something isn’t worth stressing out over. She’s funny, engaging, and downright crafty. At one point she straight up pickpockets the protagonist under the guise of a hug.
Captain Hector Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean. Okay so he was undead for a long time, and I’m not sure how much that counts as being old, but he’s worth a mention here because he is intelligent in a way you wouldn’t expect an old pirate to be. The man’s vocabulary deserves its own wiki entry. It would have been so easy just to set him up as a cardboard cut-out, grizzled pirate, but his parlay skills make him memorable. Even likable, considering, you know, he was the bad guy.
Finally, let me take a moment to give a shout out to my favorite NPC in the Scarlet Sisterhood of Steel and Sorcery game, Lala Midge; she’s ancient, she’s wise, she’s still deadly, and she absolutely reads like a real old person would. She’s a little bit racist when it comes to Troll the Ogre, she’s definitely a meddler (“I just wish you’d make more halfling friends”), but there’s no question she commands respect.
There’s something to be said for more mature heroes, and plenty of stories to be told about them. Hands down, this is something I would love to see more of in the future.
Do you have a favorite older character in fiction? One that you’ve played or seen played in a game you’ve been in? Have some thoughts about this that haven’t been covered, or just want to babble a little about an older character you’ve been thinking about playing? Please let me know in the comments below.
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