It's important to understand your character's history. It helps shape who they are and how they move about the world. Coming up with that history can be difficult, though. I'm always looking for ideas, worry about playing the same character over and over in every campaign. Below are five non-tragic backstories (because those are easy) with simple plot hooks you and your DM can use to integrate your character into the world.
God Friended Me
You are an acolyte, slowly rising the ranks of your local church. You heal the sick and help the poor regularly. Your only aspiration in life is to serve the will of your god or goddess.
Or you shun religion. The higher powers have forsaken you, or you have some other reason for turning your back on them.
And then one day, they speak to you. Maybe they need your help. Maybe they're humbling you. Whatever the reason, the gods and goddess of the world have a plan for you. It's probably best you head the call.
The master and the apprentice
Maybe you're from a small town, where you looked up to this person. Maybe you're from a large city and after months of begging and pleading they finally decided to show you their craft. Whether it's been fun and exciting or terribly difficult, you're learning their trade.
One day, they decide you need some real-world experience, so they sent you on a quest: search for a rare reagent or metal, find their old partner, recover the blood of a fabled beast. Or perhaps they went missing, and their journal states that they were meeting a colleague or old friend a few towns over. Maybe they went to find that reagent or blood themselves and haven't been heard from since.
Whatever the case may be, your mentor is why you're traveling. Maybe you'll see them along the way. Maybe the people of your region know of your mentor and can fill you in on more of who they really are. Maybe their smile is a facade or maybe they're hard on you because they lost their previous apprentice. But, that's up to the DM to weave into the larger picture.
Mapping the world
You've heard tales of distant lands, or maybe even just the tales of the local area. But you've never been able to see it for yourself. For whatever reason, you're stuck where you are. You have a growing collection of maps from travelers that you use to map out your future journey across every hill and pond. And then, one day, your chance. You come into money, you're entrusted with ferrying an item, whatever. You get a chance to see the world and you record what you find across every coordinate and continent.
Or, maybe, you've been studying maps your whole life. You've already trekked high and low, recording each of your findings accurately. You're well known for your cartography. But then, either by your eye or someone else, an error is pointed out on your map. The distance between one point and another isn't right. But you've done that journey a million times -- it must be correct. So, you go to find it, stumbling into something much bigger than anything else you've come across before.
On the run
You can't say your life was much of anything before. Or maybe you're the socialite of your hometown. Perhaps you're just passing through. Whatever the case may be, you suddenly wake up covered in blood and the highest-ranking member in that town is dead. Or, the classic case of mistaken identity: you look exactly like the person of interest. A long lost twin? Or has this been a long con and your journey to this town or your good fortune lately have all been to set you up for this moment?
Maybe you actually did it. And you were foolish enough to get caught. Amateur.
Regardless, now your face is plastered all over for miles. What you did -- allegedly -- was the highest offense. Time for a new identity and some clever makeup.
Collecting what is owed
You are a goody-two-shoes, Lawful Good with a dash of Lawful Evil: you are a debt collector. On any outstanding payments, you are the one recruited to "settle" that debt. Maybe you do this by pure intimidation -- you're naturally scary and just found a job to save up money. Maybe you cause a bit of pain. Your skills with your fists, knives, or swords are more than just scare tactics. Whatever the case may be, you get the job done.
Your most recent quarry has fled town and -- never one for failure -- it's your job to track them down. They certainly are elusive, though. You always seem one step behind.
You can always make these a little more tragic-y if that suits what you're going for, but remember that not every adventurer lost their entire family to a dragon with an angel rider hellbent on cleansing the planet and you just happened to be out gathering supplies for the town...
... wait, that sounds cool.
Got any more ideas? Share them with me on Twitter: @GatlingXYZ.