D&D Background: Charlatan

Continuing the series, lets talk about about charlatans. It’s an interesting one because the next one on the list is criminal, so they are clearly making a bit of a distinction between the two. Your con might not be completely legal, but if people knew about it, you’d probably get into a lot of trouble.

The Players Handbook gives a number of ideas for what your charlatan could be like, they  might cheat at games of chance, be a forger, or take on new identities. There are a ton of different ways that you can go with it. It gives you some skills that you’d expect with deception and disguise, you’ve become good at those. It also gives you a second identity that you have already prepared, yes, you’re always going to have the charlatan background, and your class won’t change for it, but it provides very interesting role playing opportunities.

So, without further ado, what are some backstories?

Image Source: D&D Beyond

You came from a poor family and you saw the wealth that various religions and religious officials had, and it was something that you really wanted to have yourself. So you started coming up with a con, you went to a new town, found out what temples were there, and founded a new one of your own. A little bit of flattery and you got the city lord to help you get it started. You didn’t believe in the deity at all, this was your way to have money and live a plush comfy life. Things were going great, you have people fawning over you, you had all the money and food that you’d ever want. Then one day you were sitting in the temple by yourself and you had a vision, the vision of the deity that you’d be pretending to serve. They told you that even though you hadn’t meant to do their work. But now it was time to pay back what I had taken from the poor and the needy, those who didn’t deserve to have their money taken. The deity gave me a list and told me to use my skills to pay back and spread their word across the lands.

Class: Cleric
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Just a few notes on this one, their background is chaotic good because I’m going to have them following a good deity, but because of the charlatan background they are going to be pretty chaotic. And that works, while they were scamming people they might have been neutral evil, but now as time has passed, they can easily be chaotic good having moved up on the spectrum.

I can’t resist a pretty face and a good story and good drink now that you mention it. Some would call it a flaw, but I just consider myself to be blessed with a strong appreciation for the finer things. Now, that isn’t to say that it doesn’t get me into trouble every now and again, but I can get out of trouble in a pinch. Didn’t I say I have a silver tongue before? When you accidentally sleep with the betrothed the day before their wedding, their parents get a little pissed off at you, when you accidentally sleep with the parents before the wedding, the betrothed get pissed off. But I was so charming, so what would you expect. This means I kind of have to change who I am pretty often, it’s a bit tricky, remembering where I’ve all been, what faces I’ve put on, but I’m pretty sure that I can juggle it easily enough and one of these times it will be true love. Then I found out that one of my dalliances might have led to a kid to try and keep me around, that was a big mistake. But I’m not a bad person, so I’m trying as hard as I can now to make the world a better place for them.

Image Source: Wizards

Class: Bard
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
This would generally be thought of as a male character trope, but have some fun with it. It’s very possible that your character while having a fling with a bride to be talked about how she wanted to eventually settle down and have kids, and the bride to be, calls off the wedding for the character (at which point the character skips town to avoid the parents of the betrothed) and ends up getting knocked up and letting your character know that she’d started a family for them. It would be fun twist on how it normally would go.

The sound of coins clinking together is what I love, nothing makes me happier than money, at least that’s what I thought. I was one of the best as games of chance, but that was because they weren’t chance for me. Whenever I could find cards or dice, I’d hop into a game and swindle them until I’d taken just enough of their money that they wouldn’t be too mad at me. It was a solid way to make a living for myself and my younger sibling. Then I got into the game with the Count of [Insert City/Land Name] and got a lot of money from him. He was pissed off, he couldn’t prove that I cheated though. That night while resting in the tavern, I was having a drink while my younger sibling was sleeping. I go back to our room to find them dead, stabbed in their sleep with a handkerchief of the Count resting across their face. I’m not a fighter and I was scared for my own life, so I ran and hid in the woods where I met a druid who taught me skills that might help me get my revenge, now I’m ready to come back out of the woods, find some help, and get my revenge.

Class: Druid
Alignment: True Neutral

Bits and Bobs was a great shop. I’d buy people worthless junk, or even go digging through their trash, polish it up a little bit, and convince the nobles that it was going to be perfect for their sitting room. If I charged them 100x what it was worth, that’s their own fault for believing me. Plus, it gave me a great life. I spent my money faster that I made it, and soon I found myself in debt to some less than savory characters. I’m now trying to figure a way out of that debt, I’m getting close, but they keep on having me steal from people. It’s not like I’m bad at it, I’ve had experience with my scrounging before, and it was all going well. But there was this man, down on his luck,  you could easily tell it, it was his one prize possession and actually worth a chunk of money and might have gotten me out of my debt. I’m fine screwing over the rich, they don’t need all of their money, but this guy would have been out on the street if I’d taken it from him, so instead a ran. Now I have the unsavory characters after me and I need to leave town. Maybe I’ll find some other way to pay them back later.

Class: Rogue
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
I went lawful here because this character has a set of moral codes, they might not match the laws because they are willing to swindle people as long as they are rich. However, they clearly have defined who they are willing to steal from, and prior to being made to steal stuff to pay off, stealing wasn’t something that they did. They’d scrounge for stuff and maybe had a liberal opinion of what had been thrown away, but they weren’t a thief.

Image Source: D&D Beyong

I was young when I found out about my powers. I didn’t know how to control them well back then, but I noticed that I had an ability that really let people open up to me. I found out all sorts of juicy gossip about my little town, and as a kid, I didn’t think anything about it, until a couple of really pissed off adults, because I told the baker’s son that his dad might actually be the blacksmith, because his mom wasn’t going there to get smithing work done for them like she claimed. That one got me in trouble, and got me run out of town. My parents stood up for me and were going to protect me. I used my ability on them to tell them that it was okay, and that I had left for a better reason. I’m not sure if it worked on them, someone will likely remind them of what I’d done, but I was on the run. My ability was useful though, stick me in front of someone who looked like they could help me for a few minutes, and I got enough information about them that I was able to play off their fears, desires, and sometimes even blackmail. I made a name for myself, not for being a sneak, because who wants to admit that I knew a dark secret about them when I could then blab that secret to anyone willing pay and listen. The only tough part for me is that I’m moving around a lot. I’ve made some great friends and that is what really matters to me, but when I find out a secret about them, I’m never sure if it’s because of my ability or because they really like me. It’s hard and I can’t stand it, so I leave. I want to know that I have a real friendship with someone some day, that’s what I really want.

Class: Sorcerer
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral

There are a number of ideas for how you can play a charlatan. The rogue class is the most obvious answer when thinking about classes, but I started with a cleric who had been a charlatan. It’s helpful to remember that this is your background, so you don’t need to lean into it too much. For one of them, I even went with the personality trait of that really suggests you steal whenever you can. So, this is one that I’d recommend being careful (as well as Criminal which will be next week), as you can end up playing against the party if you aren’t careful. But, as my examples show above, you can find ways to play a former charlatan or still an active one without being mean to your party.

Have you used the Charlatan background, what are your thoughts on it?

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