I thought I’d share some backgrounds I created for my current D&D campaign, Hinterlands of Elandria. (If you’re interested in checking out my campaign, I have the actual play of our game sessions as part of my Game Master’s Journey podcast.) These backgrounds can be used in pretty much any D&D setting. Presented below are the Alchemist’s Apprentice, Cartographer, Farmer, and Independant Merchant.
You’ll notice I’m not including Ideals, Bonds and Flaws in these backgrounds. There are two main reasons for this. The first reason is that I don’t find Ideals, Bonds and Flaws to be terribly useful or relevant in my games. The second reason is that when the players do get into them, they usually like creating their own, or riffing off an example, and we already have plenty of example for Ideals, Bonds and Flaws in the official books. Those of you who’ve listened to Game Master’s Journey or read this blog much know that I like to be very strategic with my game designing. I prefer to focus my time and energy on designing features that give me the most “bang for my buck”—features that will be used and enjoyed by the players. I don’t like spending time designing or fleshing out things we won’t actually use at the table.
If you use these backgrounds for your own game, feel free to come up with your Ideals, Bonds and Flaws for them, or, better yet, let the players do so when they choose these backgrounds. If you do come up with some Ideals, Bonds and Flaws, feel free to share them with the rest of us in the comments below.
You have apprenticed under an alchemist in the city of Elandria. You have learned the basics of herbalism and alchemy, and you know how to make antitoxin and potions of healing. Although you’ve left your apprenticeship to pursue the life of an adventurer, you left on good terms and you are always welcome at your master’s laboratory and shop.
Skill Proficiencies: Arcana, Nature
Tool Proficiencies: Alchemist’s supplies, herbalism kit
Equipment: Herbalism kit, a set of common clothes, 3 vials and a pouch containing 10 gp.
Feature: Alchemist Mentor
You and the alchemist you apprenticed under are on good terms. You may use your mentor’s alchemy lab and alchemist’s supplies free of charge during off hours, although you may need to pay for reagents and supplies you consume. Your mentor is also a source of information on alchemy and herbalism, although there are limits to their knowledge. If you remain on good terms, you may inherit the lab when the alchemist retires or get a good price to buy them out.
You have trained as a cartographer and have learned to make accurate maps. You look forward to not only living the adventurous life of an adventurer and explorer, but also being able to pass on what you see through accurate maps for the people of Elandria.
Skill Proficiencies: Perception, Stealth
Tool Proficiencies: Cartographer’s tools, navigator’s tools
Equipment: Cartographer’s Tools, 3 sheets of parchment, ink pen, 1 bottle of ink, a set of common clothes and a pouch with 5 gp.
Feature: Mind for Terrain
You can map things you’ve seen up to 24 hours after you’ve seen them with no penalty to the roll to remember details accurately. You have advantage on Cartographer’s Supplies rolls to map something you are currently observing.
You were raised as a farmer. Your family may be one of the lucky few to farm lands within the outer wall of Elandria, or you may farm some of the subterranean fields. Although your origins are humble, you understand the importance of the peasant class to society as a whole in a way few nobles or merchants do.
Skill Proficiencies: Animal Handling, Nature
Tool Proficiencies: Vehicles (land) and one of your choice from among brewer’s supplies, carpenter’s tools, cook’s utensils, leatherworker’s tools, smith’s tools or woodcarver’s tools
Equipment: A set of artisan tools this background gave you proficiency in, a set of common clothes, a pouch with 10 gp
Feature: Farmer’s Hospitality
You are known in the farming community of Elandria. You have advantage on social rolls with other farmers of Elandria. Given time, you can find a farmer willing to let you and up to five of your companions to bed down in a hay loft, under a hay stack or even in a spare room. The family will also provide meals for you and up to five companions, as long as you all help out with chores during your stay. You will only be able to stay for a few days, however, before needing to find another farm. This feature also allows you to gain similar favors from farmer families in other lands, giving you advantage on any social roll to request temporary room and board.
You are a merchant and trader, however unlike the Guild Merchant, you are unaffiliated with a guild. This means that you either trade in goods that aren’t represented by a trading guild, or you’ve managed to avoid the notice of the guild so far, likely because you are too “small time” for them to notice or bother with. Before the Retreat, you likely traveled far and wide by ship and/or caravan, but in recent years your trading has been limited to Elandria and the handful of cities it has Portals to.
Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Persuasion
Tool Proficiencies: Vehicles (land) or an additional language
Languages: One of your choice
Equipment: A mule and a cart, set of traveler’s clothes, a letter of introduction from your guild (if you’re part of one), and a pouch containing 15 gp.
Feature: Merchant Connections
Trade is your bread and butter, and as such, you have a good knowledge of the merchants of Elandria and its trading partners. You know where various goods and services can be procured, and you know which merchants are known for reasonable prices, quality merchandise, etc. At the DM’s discretion, you also may get better deals with a handful of merchants you’ve established trading relationships with, trading your own good for theirs at cost.