So, I put down the word mechanics, because, magic economy could also describe the level of magic in your world and how much of a vibrant magic trade set up there is. But in Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, you have a magic economy of…
We’re onto the last column of alignments, and we’re looking at those chaotic characters. I think, and on the Total Party Thrill podcast they talk about this, chaotic good should be the default position for most adventurers. When you think about it, most adventurers don’t…
Now we’re getting towards the edges of the races you can play in Dungeons and Dragons from the main Players Handbook. There are additional races or race options in other books. I’m going to call out some Tiefling things are from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes.
Tieflings, for those not familiar, are tainted in their bloodline somehow by demons. Mainly, the lord of the nine hells. In the players handbook you get the rules for creating a character who has some influence of Asmodeus in their bloodline. In Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, you get it for the rest of the Lords and Ladies of the nine hells. All Tieflings are generally charismatic as they all get an improvement to that stat, that generally makes them good at being Warlocks which makes a ton of sense. However, Bard and Sorcerer are also Charisma casting races. Most interestingly, the Paladin is also Charisma based, so that could make a really interesting role playing experience. As you’d expect, the main feature for a Tiefling is that they are resistant to fire.
Now, how that infernal influence gets into your bloodline is going to be up to you as a player. You could have had a relative that screwed one of the Lord of Hell, but that isn’t the only way. If your family worshiped one of the Lords of Ladies of Hell for a long time, it’s possible that they just became tainted through that and spawned the PC. I think that either of them provide some interesting role playing opportunities, but the biggest thing that the Tiefling provides for role playing is the fact you look different and that tells people that somehow your family consorted with someone evil.
Tieflings, themselves, don’t have to be evil, but might lean towards that alignment. And even if you don’t, again, people aren’t going to trust you, because you are very different. In the PHB (players handbook), you feel like most likely a Tiefling came from a human line, but there is no reason that your Tiefling couldn’t be based size wise off of some other race. But, back to my main point, the distrust of your character is going to be something that you are going to have to role play out with your DM. Maybe even your party doesn’t fully trust you because you are a Tiefling, and I find this interesting, because as a charismatic humanoid, you are not just naturally magnetic. It’s more of a situation that you can just sit down and win people over if they give you the time and aren’t running screaming when they see your horns and tail.
So what are some backstory ideas for playing a Tiefling?
When you were born, there was a lot of shock in your community, and you were tossed aside and left to die. However, the old Priestess in your town wouldn’t allow that to happen and went and took you from the woods where you had been left. She, in secret for several years, raised you and taught you the ways of the church. When you reached the age of ten, a new priest came to town as the priestess was getting old and frail. He didn’t treat you as well, but he promised the priestess he wouldn’t kick you out or abandon you. When you were old enough, he told you it was time to go on a mission and spread the word of your god to others and help where you could. So you went out and found a group that seemed to be doing good.
Alignment: Neutral Good
Note: I would play some into the tension between the infernal and the divine.
Your parents told you that the village you had been born in burned when you were young, and that’s why you lived all alone with only a few close family friends who had been able to survive. You found out later that might have been the case. As you grew to know more, you found out that your parents and their friends were worshiping a devil. And it turned out, as you overheard, that the village had burned because the village hadn’t wanted your family there when you were born, and your family and their friends had burned it to the ground while everyone was trapped in the temple. That didn’t sit well with you, so when you were a teen, you escaped and started wandering the woods, hunting and gathering as you needed. Then, one day, there was a tug on your heart and you went into a village, in disguise to see the humans as thralls and your family and their friends controlling them. You knew they had to be stopped.
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Being a Tiefling is generally looked down upon, but you were bred to be that way. Your kingdom is very pragmatic living in the shadows of a Red Dragon. Tieflings really make good firefighters being able to handle the heat and flames better than any humans. So each generation, a few women are selected to be part of the ritual and give birth to Tiefling children. However, your mother had told you that when she was carrying you a seer had told her that you were going to be important at a time when the world was in flames and that you could bring on the end of the world. You didn’t want to do that, but as compared to other Tieflings, it quickly became obvious that you had more power and that whichever Lord of the Nine Hells had sired you was helping keep you alive. Now you’re running, hoping that will protect you from what the seer foretold.
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Note: What I like about this idea is that your character has a different feeling Warlock patron because they were given it as a way to defend themselves and stay alive, not because they made a deal, could offer some interesting role playing options.
So, what about you? Have you played a Tiefling before? How easy are they to play in your opinion? How hard are they to fit into the group?
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Whether you were conscripted into the army at young age or are a grizzled veteran of many wars who hasn’t known anything but the army, there are a lot of different ways to play someone with a soldier background. You can play anywhere from a rough and tumble infantry who was born for the brawl or the cook keeping busy trying to feed a thousand troops, you can have a lot of different options when looking at someone involved in the military. In D&D Fifth Edition, that is more of what the background looks like, from the lowliest stable hand to the highest ranking general, all of those can be the soldier background. That diversity definitely makes the background more interesting to play. Without it, you could have plenty of other unique character traits, but the background would be pretty vanilla.
Skill wise, it is what you could expect. You have better abilities with athletics and with intimidation. Both of those are good skills to have, so for that reason, the soldier background is one of the stronger ones to have. It is interesting though, because intimidation is based off of charisma, and charisma is often a dump stat for someone who is playing a fighter character, it can make the proficiency a whole lot less useful. You also get a rank which people recognize as part of your background. Even if you were just a cook, they recognize that you were in the military, but if you were a general, the common folk still might defer to you.
So, what about some backgrounds?
I was taken away from my family when I turned fourteen. The hundred years war was going full swing and they needed more bodies. I was small for my age, though, so instead of sticking me on the front lines, they had me run water, help with the cooking, and wash clothes. It wasn’t a glamorous job, but it kept me away from the fighting, for the most part. I was running water out to a band of troops when a sneak attack was sprung on them and I was caught in the midst of it. Most of the troop was routed, and I froze not knowing what to do when the retreat was sounded. I was staring at a horse and rider that were prepared to skewer me when I finally was able to move. I grabbed a sword from the ground, ducked under their swing and cut their saddle from the horse tumbling them to the ground. I killed that man, and that was the first person that I killed, ever. Turns out that he was a leading commander on the other side. And while it didn’t change the outcome of the war, it turned the tide of that battle and I became a hero. I was offered my own division, but I declined. I knew that it had been pure luck and I would have been dead. Now I travel around and I’ve found a group where I can help around the camp and cook. Lately though, I feel like enemies from the war are trying to hunt me down and I’m not sure I will be able to stay safe.
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
No one appreciates my true genius. I know so many ways to make people burn that it isn’t even fair. And at this point in time I’ve gotten it pretty much under control. Even my breath and make someone burn. That’s why the army loves me to so much and why I love them so much. I can be a siege weapon by myself. It was such a wonderful life in the army, I got to lead a division of troops who all we did was burn things, it was my dream. Now that was an issue that they had with me, I started burning things that weren’t meant to be burned, but I was effective, and that is what matters. When they complained that I had burned down a whole village when it really wasn’t needed, just their opinion mind you, I was understandably annoyed. Now, I’m not saying that I started my superiors tent on fire, and I think it was unfair that they blamed me, because no one saw me do it. Dishonorable discharge wasn’t too bad, but what is someone like me supposed to do in the outside world? I have a fire inside me and all I want to do is burn.
Alignment: Chaotic Evil/Neutral
Comments: I’d try and play this chaotic neutral. Play off the idea that it is an internal struggle inside the character that it’s almost a voice telling them to burn things. A Warlock would work well for this. A Wild Magic sorcerer is also interesting for the idea of being out of control.
There is nothing better than a bit of order in your life. According to my mother, the last time I saw her, I was always someone who loved order and who wanted things to be in a specific order. I’d cry as a small child if something wasn’t where I expected it to be. It made perfect sense for me to join the military for that reason. It gave me order. I was disappointed when I joined, the drills had solid order, but many of the other soldiers weren’t nearly disciplined enough. I quickly rose to the top of my class because I was disciplined and then worked my way up through the ranks until I was commanding large numbers of troops. I drilled those troops until they met the order that I demanded of them, and we were a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. When i was getting older, I saw that the new troops coming in were lacking order, and I couldn’t get them to respond like I used to. So I decided it was time to take my leave of the army. I founded an adventuring guild where I can take a team with me and we can become well known that way. It helps with the itch that I have to still be in that disciplined environment.
Class: Battle Master Fighter
Alignment: Lawful Good/Lawful Neutral
Comments: This might seem like a dull character, but it would actually give a lot of role playing chances, because the other characters won’t be as disciplined, so how does the character deal with things that aren’t going as planned or characters who don’t act like they expect?
I never thought that I would fight, and for the most part I tried avoid fighting when I did join the army. I was an ideal scout for them and a spy. It kept me out of the fighting at most times, but I did have to fight once in a while. It was not something that I relished. I wouldn’t have even joined the army if I wasn’t trying to keep my lands protected. Once the war was over I wanted to leave, but I was too good, and they refused to let me go. So I ran away. Now I’m a deserter and they have an eye out for me to bring me back in if I were to resurface. I’m looking for a team that I can help guide somewhere so I can make enough money to leave these lands.
Alignment: Neutral Good
Comments: I like this as a wild shape druid who changes into an animal to spy/scout. Ranger and Rogue work as well, but the druid seem much more like the reluctant member of the military.
Have you played a character with the solider background before? Were they a willing member of the military or someone conscripted into it?
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The final installment of the D&D Classing It Up series! We end with Warlock (since we’re going primarily in alphabetical order).
Warlocks are one of the more interesting classes. A Warlock makes a pact with another entity of some sort to get their powers. It’s the “deal with the devil at the crossroads” sort of idea. You get power, but the power comes at a cost, and you have someone who can take away your power if you don’t do what they want. You can make a pact with a fiend, a great old one, a fey, or even a blade, and they’ll become your patron. The reason this makes for interesting storytelling is that no matter who you are, there has to be something in your history that shows why you made the deal you’ve made. People generally make deals for a couple of reasons — either to help someone they love, or to hurt someone who hurt them or someone they loved.
Mechanically, you are a simplified spell caster. You don’t have the spell options that a Sorcerer, Wizard, or Druid would have — probably more on level with a Paladin in terms of number of spells. However, the spells themselves are very limited, and you don’t have the weapon proficiency that a Paladin would have. You get a nice advantage in that your spell casting is based off of Charisma — this means that you get to have some face-of-the-party abilities as well. Generally, that charisma seems to be balanced out role-playing-wise by some level of twistedness or some broken part of your character, as again, the inciting incident for becoming a warlock generally isn’t good.
Let’s look at some ideas for Warlock backstories:
You watched in horror as your father and mother cried. Your life had been normal up to this point, but at 16, when you came of age, the told you a horrible secret. At your birth, you hadn’t been alive. You had been stillborn, and your parents didn’t know what to do. They had been trying for a child for so long, but it hadn’t worked out until your mother got pregnant with you. They cried, pleaded, hoped, and prayed, but you were dead. And then a voice had come to them, and time seemed to stop. “You wish to save your child?” it had asked them. They had told the voice that yes, that they would do anything. “Your child can live, but there is a price. On their sixteenth birthday, they are mine to do my bidding when I need them.” In their grief, they had agreed. And now, as a 16-year-old, you got powers that you never would have imagined — and along with that, a curse, as your parents still didn’t know who had brought you back to life. You felt a tug on you, and you left your home searching for answers as to whom they had made a deal with, to figure out if there was a way you could get out of the deal. However, you hadn’t been trained to study, so you needed to find someone to help you, someone who could determine whom the deal was made with.
Background: Haunted (Curse of Strahd) or Guild Member (?)
Patron: Great Old One
You found the blade as you cleared lands for your farm. You and your new spouse were building near where their family lived. The blade didn’t seem like it was anything special. You brought it back and placed it above the fireplace mantel. You weren’t a fighter, but it didn’t feel right to leave the blade out in the woods. A raiding party of giants came out of the hills, and while they hadn’t been seen in a while, there were many more that you’d expected, based on the stories people had told about them. Your farm was in their path, and you rushed from the far fields back home in hopes of getting to your spouse in time. You got back to the farmhouse just before the giants came, and bursting into the house, you saw your spouse hiding in the corner. The giant crashed into the house, and the whole thing shook. You could see through a window that they were going to strike again to bring down your house on top of you and your spouse. You grabbed the sword from the mantel, knowing that in your hands, it wasn’t going to be effective. But you felt a jolt of energy and a voice in your head that asked you if you accepted its power. “To protect my spouse, yes.” That’s what you said out lout, and the power flowed into you. With a lucky dash and blow, you took down the giant. The rest fled after seeing someone to stand up to them, but they are still raiding out there. You left your spouse with their parents and have vowed to finish off the giants and then return.
Background: Folk Hero
The best time of the year was when the peddler came through town. The adults liked it because they were able to replace things that had broken and hear the news of the world; the kids loved it because the peddler always told great stories and could make them laugh. They could even do a little bit of magic. The peddler had been coming around for generations to your village, and you knew a number of his stories by heart. When everyone had gone to bed one night, you couldn’t sleep because you were too excited to see the peddler. He’d come in late that night, so he hadn’t been able to tell any stories. You snuck out of your bedroom and into the inn next door where he was staying. You were able to go and find his room, and timidly, you knocked on his door. He answered, looking a little tired, but fully dressed and with a jovial smile on his face. He let you into his room, and he told you a story, then asked if you wanted to be able to help him and tell stories like he did. You said yes, of course — what child wouldn’t want to be like him? He smiled and bent down to touch your head. You felt power go through you, and he told you that you were his. When he left the village a few days later, he hid you away in his cart, and you learned from him. Then one day, he disappeared without leaving you a message. You found out that he and his cart weren’t appreciated in some towns — something to do with the mayor’s daughter — and soon, those stories cropped up in more and more towns, and people hated you. Now you need to find him again to get a normal life back.
Background: Guild Member or Entertainer
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