The Outlander background generally focuses in on a character who has grown up or chosen to live alone from the rest of the world. In the information on the background, it actually gives you various ideas for why your character might be a long ways away from society. They might be a trapper or a homesteader or they could be a guide through a certain area of the lands or a bounty hunter. There is something that has placed them into the wilds and what that might be is up to you.
One of the most common pitfalls, though, with playing an Outlander is placing them outside of society. That is really more the role of a hermit, while an outlander generally has some connection back to the world, and while their being on the fringes of the world, they are going to know how to interact with the normal society better than a hermit would. As I talked about in the hermit background, having a lone ranger character is far from ideal for a game that is a cooperative storytelling game where players are all part of a group. So when building an outlander, think of why they would be connected into the party, what they might want from the party, or why they would change from being a homesteader to being an adventurer.
The Outlander background also gets the skills of survival and athletics, which make a lot of sense. You have to be strong and smart at survival to live on your own or with very few around you out in the worlds of Dungeons and Dragons. The amount of random encounters and monsters that are roaming around would require you to be knowledgeable on survival. One interesting thing that the outlander gets is a language of the players choice. This goes against the loan wolf idea, this background gives a nice tie in to some other race that isn’t your own. Why would your High-Elf outlander known dwarven? Why would your halfling guide know undercommon? There’s a story that is built in for you, in some ways, with the language.
So what are some different backstories for the Outlander background?
There is much disappointment in life. Mine was not an exception to that, my parents were killed when I was young, my aunt who took me in soon abandoned me, and I was an outcast in the small town that I grew up in. Things became better when a traveling missionary came through the town preaching about their deity. They took me along with them and gave me a spot to live. All of this happened before I was ten years old. Now a lot of time has passed and it is my turn to spread the word. Things have gone well for the most part, but now I’ve started to hear rumors of issues coming out of my order. That there are those who are subverting it and turning it against everything I was taught. I’ve tried to reach my old teacher to find out more information, but I haven’t been able to get a hold of them. I know that they were off looking for a relic, and their party hasn’t been heard of now in two months. I’m worried that the issues in the order might have set them up for failure, and I need help finding them.
Alignment: Neutral Good
A lot of kids see a man putting out a fire, a woman arresting a criminal, or a doctor saving a life and they decide to go into one of those noble professions. I’m less interested in those professions. What peeked my interest as just a small one, was seeing a dragonborn being dragged out of the inn across the street from my parents house. “Savan” was really friendly with us kids and very helpful in the inn and around town. What we didn’t know was that he was actually a pirate known as Estevan Clawfist who was one of the most brutal pirates of all time, and that the crown wanted to capture him. The idea of a double life intrigued me, and he towering half-Goliath who had caught him became someone I idolized. That was the only childish game that I wanted to play, I was the bounty hunter and my friends would be criminals who I brought in. It led to some scuffed knees and a black eye or two, but my desire to become a bounty hunter never changed. When I grew older, I found out how to be one, it was a less glamorous life than it had seemed as a child, but I love the work. Now I have a large bounty, but this gang might be too much for me to bring in by myself.
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
I was raised as part of a nomadic tribe. We wandered around and were friends with dwarves, humans, and elves alike. Our business was our own until one day a conquering force came in and subjugated us. We were forced to go live in a town and many of the older people just seemed to stop caring and did nothing. Our situation had become dire when I decided to run away. I knew that I could avoid the soldiers and live like I was meant to live roaming in the wilds. I became a guide to smugglers who were helping my people as well as a small uprising against the conquering forces. Some day I hope that what I will do will help my people be able to wander again. Then the soldiers found out where the smugglers were going, and I was on the run again. I’ve found a group to catch on with and now I hope to convince them to help me make a difference.
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
The rich spend money on stupid things. I saw that while growing up. Our village was in the middle of nowhere, but notables would still show up every summer to hunt in our forests. It was good business for the town, otherwise the only other option would have been to move. I met a lot of interesting folks and I saw how they lived and I wanted to live like that. I’d sneak off into the woods while I wasn’t helping at my parents armory and pretend to be a great hunter. On one of those excursions where I had been gone for a few days, it wasn’t that odd for me and it annoyed my parents, I came across a valley that I didn’t know was there. It wasn’t on the normal hunting route or, when I came back into town and looked, on the maps. I’d find somewhere new to hunt, and I quickly went back there again and again. I mapped it out in my head and studied the creatures in there. There were so many exciting creatures there, and as I listened to what the rich were talking about, I realized that I had found a way to make my fortune. I convinced one rich person to hire myself as a guide for a new hunting grounds, and soon my fame spread and I was making good money, but then other hunting guides found my spot. I got mad and left town with my money and realized how quickly money spent. Now I’m on the search for the new best hunting spot so that I can make my money back again.
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Have you used the Outlander background before? If so, what was your characters story?
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