In briefly thinking about this in the course of our conversation, and as (tentative) DM, my mind began racing to rationalize this commonly found type of situation. The thought occurred that much as there are, were, and have always been the youth that have run away from their family, from tradition, or from culturally imposed expectations, so too would there be this same demographic in any Fantasy RPG type setting. That is to say, alienation from family, tradition, cultural expectations, or even other personal issues (sexual identity, loss of a loved one, sexual or other forms of abuse) might readily explain why a player character might decide to strike out on his or her own, seeking redemption, fame, closure of some kind, or just personal satisfaction in the adventuring life (actualization). Many an American youth has done just the same, perhaps stereotypically going to California (Hollywood!) to find themselves and to "be discovered". The pioneering/rebirth life is still and has always been a major part of the American dream. Who knows what sorts of conflicted feelings and emotional damage a half-orc or half-elven character might have to deal with, as well? Racism (presumably) is not limited to our own workaday world any more than to your characters' campaign setting. And how do you rationalize the existence of a 150+ year old 1st level elf? What exactly have you been doing with yourself, 'lo this past century, is the question we're tempted to ask! Are elves the classic underachievers? One might reasonably conclude so, given their upper level limits in class progression (versus the human race's unlimited abilities). In any event, it should come as no surprise that the social lubricant of alcohol, commonly found in the form of the
Assuming the likelihood of troubled pasts in our potential adventurers' pool, we can see that we're really left with an angst filled, troubled lot of characters indeed. It's no wonder that RPGs can particularly appeal to adolescents, struggling as they are to sort out the neuroses of the larger society from those which have been (potentially) already imprinted upon them from family and upbringing.