Personality and Backgrounds
Characters are defined by much more than their race and class. They’re individuals with their own stories, interests, connections, and capabilities beyond those that class and race define. This chapter expounds on the details that distinguish characters from one another, including the basics of name and physical description, the rules of backgrounds and languages, and the finer points of personality and alignment.
What is contained within the Player’s Handbook related to names, gender, height, and weight are sufficient to cover most situations for newly developed characters. There is not any reason to expand upon those.
This detail for each character can be viewed as more of a guideline of expected behavior but will not be strictly enforced unless there is some class requirement for a specific expected behavior.
There are not any changes to the base language sets. It is expected that all the characters will minimally speak common unless there is a specific background or story about not being able to speak common. It is also assumed that all characters are literate, again unless there is a story reason to change that.
The Player’s Handbook offers many different suggestions on a character should consider for different traits, both good and bad. There are also the more specific ones offered under each of the Backgrounds. Again, these are all considered guidelines and only to be used if the player feels they need that assistance to understand their character and their background better.
Inspiration is a rule the Dungeon Master can use to reward you for playing your character in a way that’s true to his or her personality traits, ideal, bond, and flaw. By using inspiration, you can draw on your personality trait of compassion for the downtrodden to give you an edge in negotiating with the Beggar Prince. Or inspiration can let you call on your bond to the defense of your home village to push past the effect of a spell that has been laid on you.
Your DM can choose to give you inspiration for a variety of reasons. Typicality, DMs award it when you play out your personality traits, give in to the drawbacks presented by a flaw or bond, and otherwise portray your character in a compelling way. Your DM will tell you how you can earn inspiration in the game.
It is also frequently rewarded for some brave action, superb role-playing, or the completion of a difficult objective.
You either have inspiration or you don’t-you can’t stockpile multi pie “inspirations” for later use.
Think of inspiration as a spice that can be used to enhance the campaign.
Roleplaying. Using inspiration to reward roleplaying is a good place to start for most groups. Rewarding a player with inspiration when that player causes his or her character to do something that is consistent with the character’s personality trait, flaw, or bond. The character’s action should be notable in some way. It might drive the story forward, push the adventurers into danger, or make everyone at the table laugh. In essence, you reward the player for roleplaying in a way that makes the game more enjoyable for everyone else.
Consider each player’s roleplaying style and try not to favor one style over another.
Allison might be comfortable speaking in an accent and adopting her character’s mannerisms, but Paul feels self-conscious when trying to act and prefers to describe his character’s attitude and actions. Neither style is better than the other. Inspiration encourages players to take part and make a good effort, and awarding it fairly makes the game better for everyone.
Heroism. inspiration can be used encourage player characters to take risks. A fighter might not normally hurl himself over a balcony to land during a pack of hungry ghouls, but they could be rewarded for the character’s daring maneuver with inspiration.
Genre Emulation. Inspiration is a handy tool for reinforcing the conventions of a particular genre. Under this approach, think of the motifs of a genre as personality traits, flaws, and bonds that can apply to any of the adventurers.
In a campaign inspired by film noir, characters could have an additional flaw: “I can’t resist helping a person I find alluring despite warnings that he or she is nothing but trouble.” If the characters agree to help a suspicious but seductive noble and thereby become entangled in a web of intrigue and betrayal, reward them with inspiration.
Similarly, characters in a horror story typically can’t help but spend a night in a haunted house to learn its secrets. They probably also go off alone when they shouldn’t. If the party splits up, consider giving each character inspiration.
A sensible person would avoid the noble’s intrigues and the haunted house, but in film noir or horror, we’re not dealing with sensible people; we’re dealing with protagonists in a particular type of story. For this approach to work, create a list of your genre’s main conventions and share it with your players. Before the campaign begins, talk about the list to make sure your group is on board for embracing those conventions.
If you have inspiration, you can expend it when you make an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check. Spending your inspiration gives you advantage on that roll.
Additionality, if you have inspiration, you can reward another player for good roleplaying, clever thinking, or simply doing something exciting in the game. When another player character does something that really contributes to the story in a fun and interesting way, you can give up your inspiration character inspiration.
Reset of Inspiration
All inspiration that is gained during a session, if not used, expires at the end of that session such that all the characters will start with no inspiration at the next session and must earn it again.
When new tools or kits are added to the game this also will need to be reflected in the affected proficiencies as well as where that proficiency might be acquired.
This guide adds in the new tool: the harvesting kit. Players may have proficiency in this like any other tool, and it is highly advised for them to have it as it provides a valuable bonus when making the checks outlined in this book. To accommodate this additional tool, the following classes and backgrounds have been slightly altered to give them the option to gain proficiency in the Harvesting Kit.
- Rangers may have proficiency with the harvesting kit upon character creation (this skill is not gained in multiclassing)
- Druids may have the option to choose between proficiency in the herbalism kit or the harvesting kit upon character creation (this skill is not gained in multiclassing)
- The Hermit background may choose between the herbalism kit and the harvesting kit as its starting tool proficiency and gains the appropriate kit as part of its starting equipment.
- The Outlander background may choose between a musical instrument or the harvesting kit as its initial tool proficiency. They may also choose between a hunting trap, and the harvesting kit in its initial starting equipment.
Every story has a beginning. Your character’s background reveals where you came from, how you became an adventurer, and your place in the world. Your tighter might have been a courageous knight or a grizzled soldier. Your wizard could have been a sage or an artisan. Your rogue might have gotten by as a guild thief or commanded audiences as a jester.
Choosing a background provides you with important story cues about your character’s identity. The most important question to ask about your background is what changed? Why did you stop doing whatever your background describes and start adventuring? Where did you get the money to purchase your starting gear, or, if you come from a wealthy background, why don’t you have more money? How did you learn the skills of your class? What sets you apart from ordinary people who share your background?
Background serves not only to help give your character life, but it also provides the DM hooks to apply to the Campaign to give your character more than just a two-dimensional feel to it. You can include a happy childhood, horror, or anything in between that feels that it helps create the personality and history for you character.
Obviously, you cannot create an unbalanced background such that it would not fit into the Campaign. All backgrounds must be approved and most likely will be modified buy the DM to help it fit into the story everyone is about to participate in.
All backgrounds will need to be able to answers several fundamental questions:
- Why are you adventuring? What is motivating you to live this dangerous lifestyle?
- Do you have any other motivations?
- Where did you come from? Where did you live? What was your life there?
- Do you have any family alive? Where are they?
- Do you have any important friends or contacts that would be useful to your new life?
- Why would you be joining a group of strangers to do anything? Why would you trust them? Would you trust them? At some point you will need to integrate with the group and if you create an onerous personality and background that will prevent that, it will be difficult for your character to participate with the group.
While the multitude of reference, modules, and other books include many different backgrounds that are available to the players, sometimes there is the need for something more than just the standard ones. Here are the available homebrew backgrounds for this Campaign.
The following Homebrew backgrounds are available to the characters if their background would warrant the use of one of them.
Built in a Lab
Some master of both magic and machinery assembled you with a mixture of arcane prowess and tinkering proficiency. Your creator may be a mad mage who meant to use you for nefarious ends, a wise sage creating a steadfast soldier, or a lonely soul seeking friendship or family through unusual avenues. Perhaps you don’t even know for sure, having awakened decades or centuries after you were initially built. Gradually, you are discovering your innate abilities, your arcane code compiling and iterating. Perhaps you are discovering arcane gifts that your master shared with you or learning newer and better ways to pulverize your enemies with your unbreakable fists. The world is strange and new, and you will absorb as much of it as is mechanically possible.
- Skill Proficiencies: Choose two from the following: Arcana, Investigation, Medicine, Perception, Performance, Stealth.
- Languages: Choose two
- Equipment: A broken sword, a set of common clothes, and a belt pouch containing 10gp.
Feature: Quick Study
You were designed to adapt and grow, iterating on your experiences and developing a wider skill set as a result. Your arcane code rewards you for seeking out new encounters, particularly if you can challenge yourself to reproduce them. If you spend an extended period observing an expert at their craft, you gain advantage on your next attempt to mimic that skill.
If you spend an extended period observing a pickpocket plying their trade, you may gain advantage on your next sleight of hand check. You may only use this feature once per day, and the period of observation time required will be determined by your Dungeon Master.
Your praerogativa arcana determines how you prioritize your actions, interactions, and reactions to the world around you. Your attitudes may be determined by your master, or you may be developing new models of behavior as a rebellion against your creator.
Personality Trait Table
|1||Retribution: I do not tolerate threats to my person and do not process nuance when it comes to myself preservation.|
|2||Iteration: My sarcasm module is in constant need of exercise and improvement.|
|3||Deception: I can’t be bothered to explain the truth, so I often pretend to be a human in a very complicated suit of armor.|
|4||Fascination: People are endlessly complicated, conflicted, and confusing. I can’t get enough of them!|
|5||Exploration: I love to wander around new areas, taking in all the sights and sounds.|
|6||Remediation: When there is a misunderstanding or falsehood, I am compelled to clarify. This program has occasionally been exploited by trolls (literal and metaphorical).|
|1||Priority: Curiosity. I must observe the world around me and gather all available data. (Any)|
|2||Priority: Replication. My code can only improve through the process of trial and error. It is my only means of achieving “growth.” (Neutral)|
|3||Priority: Adapt. The world is constantly shifting and changing, and I must be able to do the same. (Chaotic)|
|4||Directive: Protect life. I was built to preserve the lives of sentient beings and protect the innocent. (Good)|
|5||Directive: Consume. I will grow in power and complexity with each battle, and the battles will never end. (Evil)|
|6||Directive: Obey. I must follow my code and the laws to which I am bound. I am a bringer of order. (Lawful)|
|1||My creator’s genius has no equal; I must protect them, no matter the cost.|
|2||I have discovered that there are others of my kind. I must seek them out and protect (or destroy) them.|
|3||There are strict, specific laws governing my interactions with living creatures; I am incapable of breaking them.|
|4||I’ve made a tiny found family for myself – people that accept me despite my oddities. I would do anything to protect them.|
|5||Someone has discovered a means of manipulating the arcane spells that animate me. I must obey this interloper until I can find a way to free myself.|
|6||The secret to my creation is ancient, dangerous, and better off forgotten. Fortunately, I already don’t want people to tear me apart and see what makes me tick.|
|1||There is a loneliness inside me that I cannot explain and don’t fully comprehend. Sometimes it drives me to behave in erratic ways.|
|2||I am either disgusted or envious of my companions’ need to eat, sleep, and breathe. I sometimes goad them into overeating, intoxication, or other dangerous behavior just to see what happens.|
|3||I don’t yet understand social interactions well. I try to avoid speaking for as long as I can; when I finally do speak, it’s often exactly the wrong thing.|
|4||There are certain specific situations in which I am programmed to respond with violence. It is extremely difficult for me to overcome these directives.|
|5||I’m compelled to prove my superiority whenever a biological creature challenges me.|
|6||I don’t understand how imposing my presence is. I intimidate when I mean to comfort or console.|
Far East Traveler
Almost all the common people and other folk that one might encounter along the Sword Coast or in the North have one thing in common: they live out their lives without ever traveling more than a few miles from where they were born.
You aren’t one of those folks.
You are from a distant place, one so remote that few of the common folk in the North realize that it exists, and chances are good that even if some people you meet have heard of your homeland, they know merely the name and perhaps a few outrageous stories. You have come to this part of Faerûn for your own reasons, which you might or might not choose to share.
Although you will undoubtedly find some of this land’s ways to be strange and discomfiting, you can also be sure that some things its people take for granted will be to you the new wonders that you’ve never laid eyes on before. By the same token, you’re a person of interest, for good or ill, to those around you almost anywhere you go.
- Skill Proficiencies: Intimidation, Stealth, and Athletics or History
- Tool Proficiencies: Gain tool proficiency in Alchemist and Herbalist
- Languages: Each Far Eastern Traveler gains a non-standard foreign language that will have to be added manually.
- Equipment: One set of traveler’s clothes, Herbalism Kit and an Alchemist’s Supplies, poorly wrought maps from your homeland that depict where you are in Faerûn, a small piece of jewelry worth 10gp in the style of your homeland’s craftsmanship, and a pouch containing 5gp
Why Are You Here?
A far traveler might have set out on a journey for one of several reasons, and the departure from his or her homeland could have been voluntary or involuntary. To determine why you are so far from home, roll on the table below or choose from the options provided. The following section, discussing possible homelands, includes some suggested reasons that are appropriate for each location.
Why Are You Here Table
|d6||Why Are You Here?|
Feature: All Eyes on You
Your accent, mannerisms, figures of speech, and perhaps even your appearance all mark you as foreign. Curious glances are directed your way wherever you go, which can be a nuisance, but you also gain the friendly interest of scholars and others intrigued by far-off lands, to say nothing of everyday folk who are eager to hear stories of your homeland.
You can parley this attention into access to people and places you might not otherwise have, for you and your traveling companions. Noble lords, scholars, and merchant princes, to name a few, might be interested in hearing about your distant homeland and people.
These are the suggested characteristics for Far Traveler.
Personality Trait Table
|1||I have different assumptions from those around me concerning personal space, blithely invading others’ space in innocence, or reacting to ignorant invasion of my own.|
|2||I have my own ideas about what is and is not food, and I find the eating habits of those around me fascinating, confusing, or revolting.|
|3||I have a strong code of honor or sense of propriety that others don’t comprehend.|
|4||I express affection or contempt in ways that are unfamiliar to others.|
|5||I begin or end my day with small traditional rituals that are unfamiliar to those around me.|
|6||Sarcasm and insults are my weapons of choice.|
|1||Open. I have much to learn from the kindly folk I meet along my way. (Good)|
|2||Reserved. As someone new to these strange lands, I am cautious and respectful in my dealings. (Lawful)|
|3||Adventure. I’m far from home, and everything is strange and wonderful! (Chaotic)|
|4||Cunning. Though I may not know their ways, neither do they know mine, which can be to my advantage. (Evil)|
|5||Inquisitive. Everything is new, but I have a thirst to learn. (Neutral)|
|6||Suspicious. I must be careful, for I have no way of telling friend from foe here. (Any)|
|1||So long as I have this token from my homeland, I can face any adversity in this strange land.|
|2||The gods of my people are a comfort to me so far from home.|
|3||I hold no greater cause than my service to my people.|
|4||My freedom is my most precious possession. I’ll never let anyone take it from me again.|
|5||I’m fascinated by the beauty and wonder of this new land.|
|6||Though I had no choice, I lament having to leave my loved one(s) behind. I hope to see them again one day.|
|1||I am secretly (or not so secretly) convinced of the superiority of my own culture over that of this foreign land.|
|2||I pretend not to understand the local language to avoid interactions I would rather not have.|
|3||I have a weakness for the new intoxicants and other pleasures of this land.|
|4||I don’t take kindly to some of the actions and motivations of the people of this land, because these folk are different from me.|
|5||I consider the adherents of other gods to be deluded innocents at best, or ignorant fools at worst.|
|6||I have a weakness for the exotic beauty of the people of these lands.|
Prior to becoming an adventurer, you were a farmer, gardener, or orchard-keeper of some kind. You made your pay by tending to fruits and vegetables to produce food for your family and to sell at local markets. While most farmers grow common, edible crops, such as wheat and corn, others can grow rare fruits and magical flowers, depending on the climate and their expertise.
Many farmers live comfortably or in poor conditions, making you used to conditions that would make a nobleman turn up his nose. Caring for animals and digging in dirt is a messy and often thankless job, but it does have to be done by someone.
Farming tends to be a tradition within families, carried on for generations without much thought. Perhaps you were bored of a life of farming, or a disaster of some sort spurred you on to a life of adventure.
- Skill Proficiencies: Choose two from among Animal Handling, Athletics, Medicine, or Nature.
- Tool Proficiencies: Choose one from among Brewers’
- Supplies, Cook’s Utensils, Leatherworker’s Tools, Weaver’s Tools, or Woodcarver’s Tools. You also have proficiency with Vehicles (Land).
- Equipment: A set of common clothes, a walking stick, and a belt pouch containing 10gp.
Feature: Rustic Hospitality
Since you come from the ranks of the common folk, you fit in among them with ease. You can find a place to hide, rest, or recuperate among other commoners, unless you have shown yourself to be a danger to them.
These are the suggested characteristics for Far Traveler.
Personality Trait Table
|1||I am unmoved by the wrath of nature.|
|2||My family is my bedrock, we will survive|
|3||I need long stretches of quiet to clear my head.|
|4||Rich folk don’t know the satisfaction of hard work.|
|5||I laugh heartily, feel deeply, and fear nothing.|
|6||I work hard; nature offers no handouts.|
|7||I dislike bargaining; state your price and mean it.|
|8||Luck is for losers; I make my own fortune for success|
|1||Camaraderie. Good people make even time pass more easily when working long days (Good)|
|2||Luck. With proper planning and the right weather, you can make your own luck (Lawful)|
|3||Daring. That crop might be the money maker this year. (Chaotic)|
|4||Plunder. Take all that you can and leave nothing for the scavengers. (Evil)|
|5||Balance. Pay attention to the needs of your field, and the field will watch over you. (Neutral)|
|6||Hard Work. No setback can move a soul hard at work. (Any)|
|1||The dirt is in my blood and always will be.|
|2||Someone else’s greed destroyed my livelihood, and I will be compensated.|
|3||I will grow the most fantastic of plants.|
|4||The gods saved me during a terrible season, and I will honor their gift.|
|5||My destiny awaits me in the wilderness finding that plant that will make me feel the earth again.|
|6||I must repay my village’s debt.|
|1||I am judgmental, especially of those I deem homebodies or otherwise lazy.|
|2||I become depressed and anxious if I’m away from the land too long.|
|3||I have lived a hard life and find it difficult to empathize with others.|
|4||I am inclined to tell long-winded stories at inopportune times.|
|5||I work hard, but I play harder.|
|6||I am obsessed with finding that one fantastic plant, often to the detriment of other pursuits.|
Like a miner in their cave or a farmer in their field, you too make your living through reaping the riches of the natural world. Your resources, however, are the monsters and creatures that populate the multiverse. Although there are some who would scoff and call you a mere butcher, you understand the subtle complexities in the fantastical anatomies you find in your adventures, and only you are qualified enough to harvest them.
- Skill Proficiencies: Nature, Survival
- Tool Proficiencies: Harvesting Kit, Languages: One of your choice.
- Equipment: A set of traveler’s clothes, a hunting trap, harvesting kit, a cloak made from a creature you harvested, and a belt pouch containing 5gp.
You have been harvesting creatures for a long time and as part of that, you have become deeply acquainted with the large industry of crafters and merchants that rely on the wares you bring. Whenever you enter a place of civilization, you have no trouble finding merchants willing to buy your materials or crafters that can work with your wares. You are also savvy in the bargaining techniques used when haggling over prices and are not easily tricked during negotiations. You often find yourself able to secure a good price, or even a discount on services relating to harvested materials.
Harvesters are an odd bunch, half outdoorsman, half entrepreneur. As someone who spends most of their time in the hunting and being elbow deep in dead bodies, you probably have a different worldview compared to most.
Personality Trait Table
|1||I am often covered in blood and viscera, which other people find off-putting.|
|2||I see no moral issue about harvesting any once-living creature, even if they were clearly sentient. “Waste not, want not”, after all.|
|3||I often unnerve people with my discussions of the more disgusting aspects of creature anatomy.|
|4||I am obsessed with self-sufficiency; anything I wear must have come from something I harvested.|
|5||I say a small prayer before harvesting a fresh kill, thanking it for its sacrifice|
|6||The hunt is what excites me more than anything. Harvesting is just how I keep mementos of my prey|
|7||I insist on using every little bit of what I kill, it would be an insult to that creature’s life otherwise|
|8||I have a myriad of harvested trophies from rare game which I show off whenever possible|
|1||Life. Harvested meat will feed the hungry, harvested furs will warm the cold. Through death, comes life. (Good)|
|2||Honor. I refuse to use something harvested from a creature that I did not kill with my own hands. (Lawful)|
|3||Necessity. Creatures kill and harvest other creatures to survive. You may not like it, but it’s just the way things are. (Neutral)|
|4||Opportunity. If something is already dead, what’s the point of letting its corpse go to waste? (Chaotic)|
|5||Dominance. Nothing shows off your strength like having your own Owlbear-head trophy. (Evil)|
|6||Money. People always want hides, pelts, and skins; I may as well be the one to profit off it. (Any)|
|1||My clan won’t respect me unless I bring back the head of a rare and dangerous creature.|
|2||Ever since I was a child, I dreamed of wearing a unicorn fur cloak. If you have a better way of getting one, I’d like to hear it.|
|3||Hunting and harvesting creatures are the only way I know how to make money and feed my family.|
|4||Visions of a monstrously large creature haunt my dreams. They won’t stop until I find it and claim its pelt for my cloak.|
|5||I am interested in studying the anatomy of rare and magical creatures and I need samples to continue my research.|
|6||Harvesting creatures has been my family’s profession for generations; I’m just continuing this long line of tradition.|
|1||Once I decide that a creature will become my next trophy, nothing will stop me from getting it.|
|2||Some would say I get a little too much pleasure in slicing corpses open and tearing out their fresh organs.|
|3||I’m always looking for the next big hunt, something that will probably get me killed.|
|4||I tend to exaggerate the quality of my harvested wares to inflate their price.|
|5||Once I kill something, I will drop everything to take a trophy from it before moving on.|
|6||I see other living creatures as just organs in a skin bag, waiting to be sold.|