New 5e Backgrounds

I’m Andrew Beahm. Over the past few years as D&D has exploded in popularity, I’ve always felt like something is missing. Even with the explosion of live streams, YouTube communities, and every accessory imaginable it still seemed like there wasn’t enough high-quality written content about the hobby. Now granted there are great sources like Boccob’s Blessed Blog, but I wanted more. With this in mind, I decided the remedy the issue by creating my own site CharmstoneGames.com, where we do things like pair beer with D&D classes, talk to zoo keepers about how hard it would be to train Girallons, and just generally try to go places other haven’t in talking about TTRPGs.

Now, you’re probably asking, “Why am I here? Weren’t you just going on about how you have your own dang website?” Thing is, I try to avoid talking about the mechanics of D&D or any other RPG system on my blog. I’m simply more interested in exploring things like real life booby traps. However, now that I’m stepping out of my home turf, all bets are off.

Have you ever heard of Wizard’s of the Coast SRD? If you haven’t, it’s basically the magical (legal) blessing the owners of D&D have instituted that allows people to publish and sell their own original D&D content. It covers most of the core rules, spells, and a good chunk of the creatures in the Monster Manual. However, almost every single character background, which is an essential part of character creation, is off-limits. The only one you’re allowed to reference in any materials you create is the Acolyte. So I decided to help out the community and provide you with 5 new backgrounds you can use in any of your D&D related projects. Free. Gratis. Complimentary. It’s my gift to you. Without further adieu, here they are.

Gambler

You live by your luck and are always after the next big win; you’re most at home at a gaming table matching wits with others in games of skill and chance.

Skill Proficiencies: Deception, Insight

Tool Proficiencies: Playing Card and Dice Set

Equipment: Game set (of your choice), a set of traveler’s clothes, a pouch containing 20 gp, and a lucky mundane item such as a rabbit’s foot, novelty coin/chip, or other small trinket.

Feature: Always a Table 

You have a knack for rounding up a group of players and getting a game going. As long as you have access to a public place where gambling is permitted (such as a tavern), you can attempt to win a few extra coins.

Suggested Characteristics

d8    Personality Trait

  1. I’m always taking little mementos and souvenirs from wherever I go.
  2. My facial expression is almost always neutral.
  3. I’m fidgety and occupy one of my hands with a coin.
  4. I like to keep a hidden weapon on me at all times- in case things get hairy.
  5. I pepper conversations with colorful aphorisms.
  6. I’m competitive and love to challenge others to contests.
  7. I like to place little bets with friends to make things more interesting.
  8. I don’t like being tricked or made to seem foolish.

d6    Ideal

  1. Charity. I know how quickly your luck can change, so I’m kind to those down on theirs. (Good)
  2. Rules. I respect the law and am offended when others don’t. (Lawful)
  3. Excitement. If I see a chance to shake things up, I do. (Chaotic)
  4. Greed. How much is enough? More. (Evil)
  5. Friends. Find people you can trust to watch your back- so they can watch yours in return. (Neutral)
  6. Aspiration. Anything I do I want to be the best at. (Any)

d6    Bond

  1. I owe a huge debt back home, and I can’t return until it’s paid.
  2. I lost a massive sum in a game of chance to a rival, and I intend to win it back.
  3. I won one too many games against the wrong noble, and they want revenge.
  4. My parents never thought I’d amount to anything, so I’m going to prove them wrong.
  5. I escaped poverty through three card monte schemes and made many enemies.
  6. I spurned a powerful ex-lover.

d6    Flaw

  1. I think I’m luckier than I actually am and can be reckless.
  2. I never quit while I’m ahead.
  3. I’m not above cheating to get what I want.
  4. I love the party life a little too much.
  5. I’m not careful with money and splurge on frivolities.
  6. I don’t think of the long term consequences of my actions.

 

Alchemist

The laws of nature have always fascinated you and you’re determined to discover their secrets. Through rigorous study and experimentation, you developed a strong understanding of how substances react with one another. Although many mistake this aptitude for magic, you know you’re harnessing the fundamental rules that govern all matter.

Skill Proficiencies: Nature, Medicine

Tool Proficiencies: Alchemy Set

Equipment: A bottle of black ink, a quill, a notebook detailing your past experiments, alchemy set, a set of common clothes, a small vial containing a substance you’ve yet to identify, and a pouch containing 10 gp

Chemiser: You are able to synthesize simple substances such as soap, some acids, and gunpowder. Through dedicated study you have also been able to learn to craft the infamous substance, Alchemist’s Fire by purchasing it’s ingredients for 25 gp. The availability of any materials you need are subject to DM’s discretion.

Suggested Characteristics

d8    Personality Trait

  1. I have a thirst for knowledge and always want to learn.
  2. I have a mechanical mind and am very logical.
  3. I only speak when I have something important to say.
  4. My clothes are disheveled and stained with unknown alchemical substances.
  5. I’m leery of tall tales and boasts.
  6. Every problem is a puzzle, and I love finding the solution.
  7. I’m a voracious reader and will eschew social interactions to do it.
  8. I’m working on the next great chemical breakthrough and love to talk about it.

d6    Ideal

  1. Progress. I do what I do to expand and share knowledge. (Good)
  2. Logic. Decisions should be made from a cool, dispassionate perspective. (Lawful)
  3. Experimentation. Knowledge should be pushed to its limits. (Chaotic)
  4. Self-Interest. I seek to hoard knowledge not share it. (Evil)
  5. Detachment. I know what I can affect and I don’t concern myself with that which is outside my control. (Neutral)
  6. Self-Improvement. The no greater pursuit than honing one’s intellect. (Any)

d6    Bond

  1. My mentor turned my life around by teaching me the wonders of alchemy.
  2. The school where I learned my skills is on the verge of financial ruin. I’ll do anything to prevent that.
  3. My last experiment was a failure that I just can’t get over.
  4. An explosion at my last laboratory drew the ire of the local populace.
  5. I am the only one who knows a secret formula powerful interests want for themselves.
  6. I seek an ancient tome containing marvelous secret knowledge.

d6    Flaw

  1. I’m fastidious to a fault and am harsh with the disorganized.
  2. I’m absent minded and forgetful.
  3. My curiosity overrides my caution.
  4. I never let go of my failures.
  5. My emotions are often more volatile than the substances I work with.
  6. My dedication to my work takes precedence over my loved ones.

 

Intelligentsia

You have spent your life among thinkers, philosophers, and occasionally radicals. This life has honed your ability to craft arguments and push the limits of accepted thought.

Skill Proficiencies: Persuasion, History

Equipment: A set of fine clothes, a diploma of academic achievement, a treasured book relating to your field of study, and a purse containing 15 gp

Languages: Two of your choice

Specialty

The only hope for mastery of a subject is to choose one area and delve deeply into its study. Although you may be informed in other fields, you are truly an expert of one of the following.

  1. Philosophy
  2. Politics
  3. Literature
  4. Art
  5. Warfare
  6. Theology
  7. Mathematics
  8. Astronomy/Astrology

 

Feature: Milieu 

You have a network of academics you can contact in the pursuit of specific knowledge. If you don’t personally know an expert in a given subject, you can make a history check to recall the current authority in any given field of study.

Suggested Characteristics

d8    Personality Trait

  1. I speak fast to try to convey my intelligence.
  2. My speech is peppered with jargon from my field of study.
  3. I love to see new sides to an argument and seek out differing points of view.
  4. My interests are extremely narrow, which makes talking to most people… difficult.
  5. I correct the grammar of others.
  6. I affect a highbrow accent that is befitting of my education (although my native voice still sneaks through from time to time).
  7. I am a social maladroit and uncomfortable in large groups.
  8. I nitpick semantics and insist on defining terms precisely.

d6    Ideal

  1. Growth. All improvements to one’s life begin with one’s mind. (Neutral)
  2. Community. The world thrives when experts share their knowledge and challenge each other. (Good)
  3. Impartiality. Personal preference and biases must be checked when making decisions. (Lawful)
  4. Questioning. No subject should be considered settled, all ideas and systems should be challenged. (Chaotic)
  5. Exclusivity. Knowledge should belong to a privileged few. (Evil)
  6. Self-Betterment. The pursuit of higher learning is virtuous for its own sake. (Any)

d6    Bond

  1. I will do anything for my alma mater.
  2. I was embarrassed in a public debate and still want redemption.
  3. I must tirelessly continue to contribute and advance my field of study.
  4. I will do anything to prove my pet theory correct.
  5. A rival school of thought is spreading dangerous, false theories and must be stopped.
  6. A wealthy patron put me through university. I must find some way to repay them.

d6    Flaw

  1. I am rude and dismissive to the uneducated.
  2. I will jot down an idea in the middle of a conversation no matter how distracting it is.
  3. I can’t stand to be corrected or proven wrong and will pout if it happens.
  4. I am willing to overlook ethics if it means expanding my knowledge.
  5. I start arguments over trivial things just for the sake of it.
  6. I don’t think I can be tricked or influenced, which makes me all the susceptible to cons.

 

Spiritualist

You are in tune with the unseen forces all around us. Some see the world as chaotic and random, but you know everything is foretold if you just stop to listen.

Skill Proficiencies: Religion, Arcana

Language: One of your choice

Equipment: Prayer beads, ceremonial garb, a set of common clothes, and a pouch containing 15 gp

Feature: Ethereal Connection

Through good luck or misfortune a lesser spirit has attached itself to you. The spirit can only interact very weakly on this plane of existence. You can communicate with this spirit although others are unaware of its presence. Although it is often vague and cryptic, by communing with it, you occasionally glean useful bits of information or warnings of impending danger.

Suggested Characteristics

D8 Personality Trait

  1. I take the omens I see seriously and am quick to anger if others don’t.
  2. I can seem blaise or aloof because my attention is on the next life not this one.
  3. I am eager to learn of other religions and customs.
  4. I prefer quiet contemplation to raucous revelry.
  5. I always spare a coin or two for local shrines or temples.
  6. My dreams are filled with symbols, warnings, and advice that inform my actions.
  7. Local festivals and celebrations enthral me. I can’t resist joining in the fun.
  8. The denizens of my home village often sought my council, which has given me a bit of an ego.

d6    Ideal

  1. Heritage. Our ancestors laid the groundwork for our lives. We should honor them. (Lawful)
  2. Grace. There is no greater calling than to ease suffering. (Good)
  3. Renewal. We must not cling to the old ways and move boldly forward. (Chaotic)
  4. Masterhood. When you see the future, you control the future. (Evil)
  5. Restraint. We shouldn’t meddle with forces we don’t understand. (Neutral)
  6. Understanding. The path to enlightenment begins with listening. (Any)

d6    Bond

  1. I would do whatever it takes to unravel the mysteries of the afterlife.
  2. I am dogged by spirits to solve mysterious murder.
  3. My life’s work is dedicated to allowing lost souls to rest.
  4. I seek to bring honor and glory to my home town.
  5. The masses must learn to revere the spirit world, and I will teach them.
  6. I must find the meaning of a cryptic, recurring nightmare that has plagued me since childhood.

d6    Flaw

  1. I am reluctant to seek advice.
  2. I fixate on bad omens and they become self-fulfilling prophecies.
  3. The dead mean more to me than the living.
  4. I give advice whether it’s asked for or not.
  5. I am extremely superstitious.
  6. My mind wanders and I often tune others out.

 

Reeve

You were a member of a small volunteer force dedicated to keeping the peace in your homeland. For a predetermined period of time (usually a year) you were drafted to assist in crime prevention and investigation. Here you learned to keep a critical eye open at all times. You developed your skills of deduction and critical thinking to piece together information and make a complete picture.

Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Investigation

Equipment: A badge of your former office, a set of iron manacles, a set of common clothes, and a pouch containing 10 gp

Feature: Veteran 

You still carry yourself like an officer of the law. This makes town guards, sentries, and those in positions of authority more trusting of you. They are more likely to take your accounts seriously. Though they won’t let you get away with anything special, they’re unlikely to treat you with hostility without cause.

Suggested Characteristics

d8    Personality Trait

  1. I carry myself with an air of authority.
  2. I’m always alert and suspicious by nature.
  3. I focus on details and can ask questions that seem trivial.
  4. I don’t tolerate nonsense or suffer fools.
  5. I don’t need anything fancy and prefer spartan accommodations.
  6. I’m tough and I want to show it.
  7. I have a strong sense of right and wrong and won’t hesitate to speak my mind.
  8. I’m the strong silent type.

d6    Ideal

  1. Community. People should feel safe in their homes and we all must pitch in to help with that. (Good)
  2. Order. I follow the law and expect others to as well. (Lawful)
  3. Judgement. Justice is more important than process. (Chaotic)
  4. Authority. I know what’s best for everyone and won’t tolerate descent. (Evil)
  5. Discretion. Let the little things go and focus on big problems. (Neutral)
  6. Duty. You must fulfill your obligations. (Any)

d6    Bond

  1. My home town means everything to me. I’ll do anything to protect it.
  2. I can’t stand idly by when criminals abuse innocent people.
  3. My old captain is a hero in my eyes and would still follow their orders if asked.
  4. A criminal escaped my grasp and I’m still on the lookout for them.
  5. I once wrongly imprisoned a suspect and I’ve been trying to make up for that with good deeds.
  6. I spoke up against the corruption of a judge making a powerful enemy.

d6    Flaw

  1. I cannot admit that I’m wrong.
  2. Once my mind is made up nothing can change it.
  3. I assume the worst in everyone.
  4. I am bossy and have been known to bark orders.
  5. I defer to authority more than I should.
  6. I’m overly aggressive with people.

 

2 Responses to “New 5e Backgrounds”

  1. Mike Bridges Says:

    Well done sir! Creating backgrounds is a great service because yes, using the usual PHB stuff gets stale REAL fast. Kudos!

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