Every D&D game that you’re going to run is going to have some sort of hook for the players. To me, this is a two part thing. The players have to be willing to invest in the story as it gets going, even if that […]
This was something that I saw on twitter, I believe, earlier this week or it was part of a podcast, Total Party Thrill, that I’ve been listening to, but it was a hypothetical about why someone might join an adventuring group if they have a nice normal backstory.
Why would a farmers kid who has had a nice life on the farm, loves their family, their whole family is still alive, and they have a sweetheart, why would they join an adventuring group?
Why would a noble who might not be in line to inherit the throne but they would have a very comfy and relaxed life with basically anything they could want join an adventuring party?
Why would a wizard who has a comfy job in a wizarding school with a family and their students love them and they won’t have anything else they want join an adventuring group?
Why would a cleric who has a community surrounding them that attends their temple, they all believe in the deity of the temple, and they have found their calling, why would they join an adventuring group?
The answer most of the time is that they wouldn’t. It doesn’t make sense for them to join a group because they have a good life. The most common reason would be that they want something more and something greater. That’s a pretty safe and simple story, but not all that interesting if you’re playing that character. So how are you going to able to spice up your characters story?
And when I say spice up the story, I don’t mean add in some tragedy. How are you going to make it more interesting without adding in some tragedy, some death in the family, some desire for revenge, some scandal happening to your PC?
Let me see what I can do with the four examples I gave of pretty comfortable backstories:
As cleric you’ve had a good life and have set up a nice temple and community in your peaceful little town. You have made friends and settled into a nice groove. One evening while you are praying you are shocked to hear a voice speak to you. It commends you for doing so well and tells you that there will be another cleric of your deity coming to town. They are older and have some information that you must carry on for them and find for them while they take over your duties. The next day a cleric comes to town and they tell you of an artifact, a relic of long ago, that would help increase the bounty of your farming communities crops and help the kingdom as a whole find peace. They are too old now to continue their quest to look for it, but your deity had sent them here to find you so that could continue the quest. It’s hard, but you have heard the word of your deity, and everything they said came true. You pack up your bags, promise to return, and say many a sad farewell as you head out on the road to find those who can help you complete the quest.
The life of an academic suits you greatly, you’ve spent years at the university studying, then teaching, and the city that you’re in has become your home. You have a family and two kids. You’re in the middle of a class when you get a message sent to you from an old teacher. They have some exciting news, they have discovered a lost ruins and texts for magics that you thought had been lost ages ago. You agonize over it for a week, but eventually, at the prompting of your spouse, you send a message back saying that you will head out there, you just need to convince the school that they should fund your research. When they hear about it, they quickly help you find an adventuring party so that you will be safe on your travels.
Your life has been practice sword fights, sitting through fairly interesting meetings, and generally learning how you’re going to be able to rule your lands when you inherit the seat of power. It isn’t much of a lands and you are going to be under the king, but that’s just fine with you. You’ll have a simple but nice life dealing with the problems of a few farmers about whose cow is whose when someone’s fence breaks. But you know before that you have one last thing coming up. You’ve been putting it off for a while now, because it isn’t something that you wanted to do, you’d rather learn from watching your parents at home. But every generation, the child who is taking over the seat of rule has to go out and see the real world like they were nobody. You understand why, it will give you a perspective on things, but you’re not all that excited about it. Your parents have put together a group for you to travel with, so the time has finally come, and you set out on your own, not sure what you might find.
Life on the farm has been wonderful to you thus far. You love the routine of it. You love your cows, your parents and siblings, and your sweetheart. The only thing you’re not sure about is if they think enough of you. They are the child of the towns doctor. You’re just the child of a farmer. You are betrothed and everything is set for you to be married in two years time. With the blessing of her parents and your parents, you decide that you are going to go out and see the world for a year so that you are going to better be able to provide for and help your sweetheart with their dreams as well as yours. After a tearful good bye, you set out on the road where you run into a band of adventurers who take your under their wings.
Those aren’t my normal backgrounds, there is no revenge in them, though I did keep the quest for a lost artifact that I’ll often use as a potential backstory plot hook. But in the case of the first two there is a big plot hook for the DM to latch onto. The last two fall more into the adventuring for adventuring sake. But because everyone has their family still, and they have a clear objective of what they are looking for and possibly timelines for things as well, there’s plenty to play around with as a DM.
With the cleric, the artifact 100% won’t do exactly what the legends say it will do, so yeah, you’re going to have to deal with that. Also, you’re going to be racing against someone else to get the artifact.
With the wizard, you are going to get to the ruins and find everyone dead from some curse and then you’re going to find that you’ve been cursed as well. Now you have a deadline to figure out how to break the curse that was laid upon the ruins so that you don’t end up dead as well.
With the noble, as DM I would have you stumble across a plot against yourself and your family to kill all of you. However, you’re only ever going to see the edges of the plot, unless you want to keep your disguise and infiltrate the organization and find out who is at the top of it and who is after your family.
With the farmer, something is going to happen to your village or your sweetheart. Most likely a questionable noble is going to show up in your village, fall in love with your sweetheart and demand to marry them. When that gets turns down because you are betrothed already to them, they are going to start demanding taxes and making the life of your town miserable and you’re either going to have to deal with that noble yourself or do something to get the attention of someone higher up to rein in that noble.
Which of these backstories would you want to play? And have you made a character before with a non-tragic backstory?
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It’s Halloween time, and that means we need to create some D&D monster fun and build one of the most iconic horror movie characters of all time. Freddy Krueger This classic monster from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies has long razors on his hands […]
This is going to be a goofy segment where I work on updating D&D monsters into wonderful puns and things like that, so you can use them in your campaigns and make your players groan. Obviously, these are going to be silly things that I’m creating, though some of them might end up being cool. What I’m looking to do to make these monsters more thematic for those puns.
So how do you go about updating a monster to make it more thematic for your game? There are a number of things that you can do, the first being look at the damage that the creature does or the weapons that the monster uses. If you’re going for a super hero type of monster where they have everything with fire damage, start with a monster that has spell casting and then focus in on fire damage spells. Dragons are a great spot to pull these spell type focused monsters from. They have a variety of challenge levels and you have builds that already focus in on a certain type of damage. Beyond that, you can look at resistance or weaknesses to damage types. If you’re trying to build a vampire because you need a specific type, you will need to consider the weaknesses that a vampire should have, or resistances, and that way you can make your creature more unique. Finally, it’s your chance to take a monster and make them unique. With the example of a vampire, maybe it doesn’t have a specific weakness, but it has another one instead. For example, in the Dresden Files, there are three different types of vampires, each which have different powers and do things slightly differently. So this is your chance to build that out.
In this case we are doing an update to the Black Bear. It’s a pretty simple update, this half CR bear is going to probably become what would be around a 1 CR (CR is challenge rating) with just a few small updates.
Baseline, it’s a pretty good build. But for our bear, we want to give them some resistances that will make sense. You can see what we’re building off of in the link above. The two types of damage that make a lot of sense for this bear to resist are bludgeoning and piercing. Now, it won’t be immune to them, they’ll still take damage, but they’ll take half damage instead. Since I’m trying to increase the challenge rating for this creature, and it’s still going to be one that faces off against pretty low level parties, I’m not going to give it any weaknesses to damage types as well.
Next, looking at it’s stats, I don’t think there is anything that I’m going to change. Since this is for theme and theme wise it wouldn’t make sense for it to be smarter or more charismatic. The physical stats are plenty good already, so need to update them.
The biggest change though will come from the action section of the Black Bear. We’re removing the piercing damage type from both the bite and the claw attacks. Instead it’s going to be bludgeoning damage. Now, what type of bear could I be creating by taking away the claws, literally from a bear?
Description of the bear would be that it is brightly colored and moves with a bit of a wobble. That is right, this bear won’t bite you to kill you, it’ll gum you to death.
Yes, I’ve created the Gummy Bear.
So, now, this is where the real fun is going to happen. I’m going to come up with a way that you could use a gummy bear in a game.
A gummy bear is clearly not a natural bear, they would melt in the rain or just generally erode over time. So someone must have created a gummy bear, unless you’re playing on the plane of eternal sugar, then they might be naturally occurring there. So if someone has created them, who has done so? It could be a minor deity who loves to play jokes on people. However, I like the idea that it’s a wizard who has been conjuring up these gummy bears.
So my idea is that you have a high wizard that you’ve been working with. She has been very helpful and while you don’t go and meet with her in person, she’s been sending you letter and couriers with information you need. All of a sudden that information dries up. And beyond that, the party starts to hear about strange goings on from where they were getting the information, about crazy beasts that have been roaming and gumming people to death. Now clearly your party is going to head out and try and figure out what is going on because the information has been very useful to them. They get there to find that the high wizard has snapped. She delved into some divination magic that she shouldn’t have, saw something so horrible that is coming down the line for your characters that she couldn’t deal with reality anymore. Her mind reverted back to the point where she was a kid and she remembered these treats that she used to get as a kid, aka gummy bears. So she decided, since they made her feel safe and her brother would march them around making them roar, that she’d create an army of them to protect herself. However, as a childlike mind, she wasn’t able to control them, and now they are terrorizing the country side.
That would probably be a short side quest that I’d throw in for the characters at some point in time, then it could also lead to a larger quest to find someone who can either get the information from her as to what she saw or found out, or they could try and find someone who can just heal her mind for her as well, probably the better thing to do. But I’d probably give the players both options, make the one where they just get the information quick and dirty versus the other one being a larger quest, probably with multiple smaller quests built into it, fetch quests basically.
How dumb is the idea of a gummy bear, very. But could it be funny to have in a game, absolutely.
UPDATE: Shane from Total Party Thrill gave me a suggestion for this. Since the bear is a gummy bear, give them a gelatinous cube type of ability. On the bite attack, you make a DC10 strength saving throw. If you fail, you are grappled, and at the start of your turn, you are restrained and take 1D6 sugar damage. Acid sugar!
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Welcome back to season two of Dungeons and Flagons. Von’thre and Nori find out that what they think is happening isn’t quite what it seems. Syldi on the other hand has to spend some time with the enemy. If you have questions for Nerdologists: […]
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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