Chapter 5: Backgrounds
The backgrounds described in the Player’s Handbook are all found in Faerûn’s various societies, in some form or another. This chapter offers additional backgrounds for characters in a Forgotten Realms campaign, many of them specific to Faerûn or to the Sword Coast and the North in particular.
As in the Player’s Handbook, each of the backgrounds presented here provides proficiencies, languages, and equipment, as well as a background feature and sometimes a variant form. For personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws, most of the backgrounds in this chapter use a thematically similar background in the Player’s Handbook as their foundation.
You have served the community where you grew up, standing as its first line of defense against crime. You aren’t a soldier, directing your gaze outward at possible enemies. Instead, your service to your hometown was to help police its populace, protecting the citizenry from lawbreakers and malefactors of every stripe.
You might have been part of the City Watch of Waterdeep, the baton-wielding police force of the City of Splendors, protecting the common folk from thieves and rowdy nobility alike. Or you might have been one of the valiant defenders of Silverymoon, a member of the Silverwatch or even one of the magic-wielding Spellguard.
Perhaps you hail from Neverwinter and have served as one of its Wintershield watchmen, the newly founded branch of guards who vow to keep safe the City of Skilled Hands.
Even if you’re not city-born or city-bred, this background can describe your early years as a member of law enforcement. Most settlements of any size have their own constables and police forces, and even smaller communities have sheriffs and bailiffs who stand ready to protect their community.
Languages: Two of your choice
Equipment: A uniform in the style of your unit and indicative of your rank, a horn with which to summon help, a set of manacles, and a pouch containing 10 gp
Feature: Watcher’s Eye
Your experience in enforcing the law, and dealing with lawbreakers, gives you a feel for local laws and criminals. You can easily find the local outpost of the watch or a similar organization, and just as easily pick out the dens of criminal activity in a community, although you’re more likely to be welcome in the former locations rather than the latter.
Rarer than watch or patrol members are a community’s investigators, who are responsible for solving crimes after the fact. Though such folk are seldom found in rural areas, nearly every settlement of decent size has at least one or two watch members who have the skill to investigate crime scenes and track down criminals. If your prior experience is as an investigator, you have proficiency in Investigation rather than Athletics.
Use the tables for the soldier background in the Player’s Handbook as the basis for your traits and motivations, modifying the entries when appropriate to suit your identity as a member of the city watch.
Your bond is likely associated with your fellow watch members or the watch organization itself and almost certainly concerns your community. Your ideal probably involves the fostering of peace and safety. An investigator is likely to have an ideal connected to achieving justice by successfully solving crimes.
The Stout Folk are well known for their artisanship and the worth of their handiworks, and you have been trained in that ancient tradition. For years you labored under a dwarf master of the craft, enduring long hours and dismissive, sour-tempered treatment in order to gain the fine skills you possess today.
You are most likely a dwarf, but not necessarily—particularly in the North, the shield dwarf clans learned long ago that only proud fools who are more concerned for their egos than their craft turn away promising apprentices, even those of other races. If you aren’t a dwarf, however, you have taken a solemn oath never to take on an apprentice in the craft: it is not for non-dwarves to pass on the skills of Moradin’s favored children. You would have no difficulty, however, finding a dwarf master who was willing to receive potential apprentices who came with your recommendation.
Tool Proficiencies: One type of artisan’s tools
Languages: Dwarvish or one other of your choice if you already speak Dwarvish
Equipment: A set of artisan’s tools with which you are proficient, a maker’s mark chisel used to mark your handiwork with the symbol of the clan of crafters you learned your skill from, a set of traveler’s clothes, and a pouch containing 5 gp and a gem worth 10 gp
Feature: Respect of the Stout Folk
As well respected as clan crafters are among outsiders, no one esteems them quite so highly as dwarves do. You always have free room and board in any place where shield dwarves or gold dwarves dwell, and the individuals in such a settlement might vie among themselves to determine who can offer you (and possibly your compatriots) the finest accommodations and assistance.
Use the tables for the guild artisan background in the Player’s Handbook as the basis for your traits and motivations, modifying the entries when appropriate to suit your identity as a clan crafter. (For instance, consider the words “guild” and “clan” to be interchangeable.)
Your bond is almost certainly related to the master or the clan that taught you, or else to the work that you produce. Your ideal might have to do with maintaining the high quality of your work or preserving the dwarven traditions of craftsmanship.
As a child, you were inquisitive when your playmates were possessive or raucous. In your formative years, you found your way to one of Faerûn’s great institutes of learning , where you were apprenticed and taught that knowledge is a more valuable treasure than gold or gems. Now you are ready to leave your home—not to abandon it, but to quest for new lore to add to its storehouse of knowledge.
The most well known of Faerûn’s fonts of knowledge is Candlekeep. The great library is always in need of workers and attendants, some of whom rise through the ranks to assume roles of greater responsibility and prominence. You might be one of Candlekeep’s own, dedicated to the curatorship of what is likely the most complete body of lore and history in all the world.
Perhaps instead you were taken in by the scholars of the Vault of the Sages or the Map House in Silverymoon, and now you have struck out to increase your knowledge and to make yourself available to help those in other places who seek your expertise. You might be one of the few who aid Herald’s Holdfast, helping to catalogue and maintain records of the information that arrives daily from across Faerûn.
Languages: Two of your choice
Equipment: The scholar’s robes of your cloister, a writing kit (small pouch with a quill, ink, folded parchment, and a small penknife), a borrowed book on the subject of your current study, and a pouch containing 10 gp
Feature: Library Access
Though others must often endure extensive interviews and significant fees to gain access to even the most common archives in your library, you have free and easy access to the majority of the library, though it might also have repositories of lore that are too valuable, magical, or secret to permit anyone immediate access.
You have a working knowledge of your cloister’s personnel and bureaucracy, and you know how to navigate those connections with some ease.
Additionally, you are likely to gain preferential treatment at other libraries across the Realms, as professional courtesy shown to a fellow scholar.
Use the tables for the sage background in the Player’s Handbook as the basis for your traits and motivations, modifying the entries when appropriate to suit your identity as a cloistered scholar.
Your bond is almost certainly associated either with the place where you grew up or with the knowledge you hope to acquire through adventuring. Your ideal is no doubt related to how you view the quest for knowledge and truth—perhaps as a worthy goal in itself, or maybe as a means to a desirable end.
In your earlier days, you were a personage of some significance in a noble court or a bureaucratic organization. You might or might not come from an upper-class family; your talents, rather than the circumstances of your birth, could have secured you this position.
You might have been one of the many functionaries, attendants, and other hangers-on in the Court of Silverymoon, or perhaps you traveled in Waterdeep’s baroque and sometimes cutthroat conglomeration of guilds, nobles, adventurers, and secret societies. You might have been one of the behind-the-scenes law-keepers or functionaries in Baldur’s Gate or Neverwinter, or you might have grown up in and around the castle of Daggerford.
Even if you are no longer a full-fledged member of the group that gave you your start in life, your relationships with your former fellows can be an advantage for you and your adventuring comrades. You might undertake missions with your new companions that further the interest of the organization that gave you your start in life. In any event, the abilities that you honed while serving as a courtier will stand you in good stead as an adventurer.
Languages: Two of your choice
Equipment: A set of fine clothes and a pouch containing 5 gp
Feature: Court Functionary
Your knowledge of how bureaucracies function lets you gain access to the records and inner workings of any noble court or government you encounter. You know who the movers and shakers are, whom to go to for the favors you seek, and what the current intrigues of interest in the group are.
Use the tables for the guild artisan background in the Player’s Handbook as the basis for your traits and motivations, modifying the entries when appropriate to suit your identity as a courtier.
The noble court or bureaucratic organization where you got your start is directly or indirectly associated with your bond (which could pertain to certain individuals in the group, such as your sponsor or mentor). Your ideal might be concerned with the prevailing philosophy of your court or organization.
Many organizations active in the North and across the face of Faerûn aren’t bound by strictures of geography. These factions pursue their agendas without regard for political boundaries, and their members operate anywhere the organization deems necessary. These groups employ listeners, rumormongers, smugglers, sellswords, cache-holders (people who guard caches of wealth or magic for use by the faction’s operatives), haven keepers, and message drop minders, to name a few. At the core of every faction are those who don’t merely fulfill a small function for that organization, but who serve as its hands, head, and heart.
As a prelude to your adventuring career (and in preparation for it), you served as an agent of a particular faction in Faerûn. You might have operated openly or secretly, depending on the faction and its goals, as well as how those goals mesh with your own. Becoming an adventurer doesn’t necessarily require you to relinquish membership in your faction (though you can choose to do so), and it might enhance your status in the faction.
Skill Proficiencies: Insight and one Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma skill of your choice, as appropriate to your faction
Languages: Two of your choice
Equipment: Badge or emblem of your faction, a copy of a seminal faction text (or a code-book for a covert faction), a set of common clothes, and a pouch containing 15 gp
FACTIONS OF THE SWORD COAST
The lack of large, centralized governments in the North and along the Sword Coast is likely directly responsible for the proliferation of secret societies and conspiracies in those lands. If your background is as an agent for one of the main factions of the North and Sword Coast, here are some possibilities.
The Harpers. Founded more than a millennium ago, disbanded and reorganized several times, the Harpers remain a powerful, behind-the-scenes agency, which acts to thwart evil and promote fairness through knowledge, rather than brute force. Harper agents are often proficient in Investigation, enabling them to be adept at snooping and spying. They often seek aid from other Harpers, sympathetic bards and innkeepers, rangers, and the clergy of gods that are aligned with the Harpers’ ideals.
The Order of the Gauntlet. One of the newest power groups in Faerûn, the Order of the Gauntlet has an agenda similar to that of the Harpers. Its methods are vastly different, however: bearers of the gauntlet are holy warriors on a righteous quest to crush evil and promote justice, and they never hide in the shadows. Order agents tend to be proficient in Religion, and frequently seek aid from law enforcement friendly to the order’s ideals, and the clergy of the order’s patron gods.
The Emerald Enclave. Maintaining balance in the natural order and combating the forces that threaten that balance is the twofold goal of the Emerald Enclave. Those who serve the faction are masters of survival and living off the land. They are often proficient in Nature, and can seek assistance from woodsmen, hunters, rangers, barbarian tribes, druid circles, and priests who revere the gods of nature.
The Lords’ Alliance. On one level, the agents of the Lords’ Alliance are representatives of the cities and other governments that constitute the alliance. But, as a faction with interests and concerns that transcend local politics and geography, the Alliance has its own cadre of individuals who work on behalf of the organizations, wider agenda. Alliance agents are required to be knowledgeable in History, and can always rely on the aid of the governments that are part of the Alliance, plus other leaders and groups who uphold the Alliance’s ideals.
The Zhentarim. In recent years, the Zhentarim have become more visible in the world at large, as the group works to improve its reputation among the common people. The faction draws employees and associates from many walks of life, setting them to tasks that serve the goals of the Black Network but aren’t necessarily criminal in nature. Agents of the Black Network must often work in secret, and are frequently proficient in Deception. They seek aid from the wizards, mercenaries, merchants and priesthoods allied with the Zhentarim.
Feature: Safe Haven
As a faction agent, you have access to a secret network of supporters and operatives who can provide assistance on your adventures. You know a set of secret signs and passwords you can use to identify such operatives, who can provide you with access to a hidden safe house, free room and board, or assistance in finding information. These agents never risk their lives for you or risk revealing their true identities.
Use the tables for the acolyte background in the Player’s Handbook as the basis for your traits and motivations, modifying the entries when appropriate to suit your identity as a faction agent. (For instance, consider the words “faith” and “faction” to be interchangeable.)
Your bond might be associated with other members of your faction, or a location or an object that is important to your faction. The ideal you strive for is probably in keeping with the tenets and principles of your faction, but might be more personal in nature.
Almost all of the common people and other folk that one might encounter along the Sword Coast or in the North have one thing in common: they live out their lives without ever traveling more than a few miles from where they were born.
You aren’t one of those folk.
You are from a distant place, one so remote that few of the common folk in the North realize that it exists, and chances are good that even if some people you meet have heard of your homeland, they know merely the name and perhaps a few outrageous stories. You have come to this part of Faerûn for your own reasons, which you might or might not choose to share.
Although you will undoubtedly find some of this land’s ways to be strange and discomfiting, you can also be sure that some things its people take for granted will be to you new wonders that you’ve never laid eyes on before. By the same token, you’re a person of interest, for good or ill, to those around you almost anywhere you go.
Tool Proficiencies: Any one musical instrument or gaming set of your choice, likely something native to your homeland
Languages: Any one of your choice
Equipment: One set of traveler’s clothes, any one musical instrument or gaming set you are proficient with, poorly wrought maps from your homeland that depict where you are in Faerûn, a small piece of jewelry worth 10 gp in the style of your homeland’s craftsmanship, and a pouch containing 5 gp
Why Are You Here?
A far traveler might have set out on a journey for one of a number of reasons, and the departure from his or her homeland could have been voluntary or involuntary. To determine why you are so far from home, roll on the table below or choose from the options provided. The following section, discussing possible homelands, includes some suggested reasons that are appropriate for each location.
Where Are You From?
The most important decision in creating a far traveler background is determining your homeland. The places discussed here are all sufficiently distant from the North and the Sword Coast to justify the use of this background.
Evermeet. The fabled elven islands far to the west are home to elves who have never been to Faerûn. They often find it a harsher place than they expected when they do make the trip. If you are an elf, Evermeet is a logical (though not mandatory) choice for your homeland.
Most of those who emigrate from Evermeet are either exiles, forced out for committing some infraction of elven law, or emissaries who come to Faerûn for a purpose that benefits elven culture or society.
Halruaa. Located on the southern edges of the Shining South, and hemmed in by mountains all around, the magocracy of Halruaa is a bizarre land to most in Faerûn who know about it. Many folk have heard of the strange skyships the Halruaans sail, and a few know of the tales that even the least of their people can work magic.
Halruaans usually make their journeys into Faerûn for personal reasons, since their government has a strict stance against unauthorized involvement with other nations and organizations. You might have been exiled for breaking one of Halruaa’s many byzantine laws, or you could be a pilgrim who seeks the shrines of the gods of magic.
Kara-Tur. The continent of Kara-Tur, far to the east of Faerûn, is home to people whose customs are unfamiliar to the folk of the Sword Coast. If you come from Kara-Tur, the people of Faerûn likely refer to you as Shou, even if that isn’t your true ethnicity, because that’s the blanket term they use for everyone who shares your origin.
The folk of Kara-Tur occasionally travel to Faerûn as diplomats or to forge trade relations with prosperous merchant cartels. You might have come here as part of some such delegation, then decided to stay when the mission was over.
Mulhorand. From the terrain to the architecture to the god-kings who rule over these lands, nearly everything about Mulhorand is alien to someone from the Sword Coast. You likely experienced the same sort of culture shock when you left your desert home and traveled to the unfamiliar climes of northern Faerûn. Recent events in your homeland have led to the abolition of slavery, and a corresponding increase in the traffic between Mulhorand and the distant parts of Faerûn.
Those who leave behind Mulhorand’s sweltering deserts and ancient pyramids for a glimpse at a different life do so for many reasons. You might be in the North simply to see the strangeness this wet land has to offer, or because you have made too many enemies among the desert communities of your home.
Sossal. Few have heard of your homeland, but many have questions about it upon seeing you. Humans from Sossal seem crafted from snow, with alabaster skin and white hair, and typically dressed in white.
Sossal exists far to the northeast, hard up against the endless ice to the north and bounded on its other sides by hundreds of miles of the Great Glacier and the Great Ice Sea. No one from your nation makes the effort to cross such colossal barriers without a convincing reason. You must fear something truly terrible or seek something incredibly important.
Zakhara. As the saying goes among those in Faerûn who know of the place, “To get to Zakhara, go south. Then go south some more.” Of course, you followed an equally long route when you came north from your place of birth. Though it isn’t unusual for Zakharans to visit the southern extremes of Faerûn for trading purposes, few of them stray as far from home as you have.
You might be traveling to discover what wonders are to be found outside the deserts and sword-like mountains of your homeland, or perhaps you are on a pilgrimage to understand the gods that others worship, so that you might better appreciate your own deities.
The Underdark. Though your home is physically closer to the Sword Coast than the other locations discussed here, it is far more unnatural. You hail from one of the settlements in the Underdark, each of which has its own strange customs and laws. If you are a native of one of the great subterranean cities or settlements, you are probably a member of the race that occupies the place—but you might also have grown up there after being captured and brought below when you were a child.
If you are a true Underdark native, you might have come to the surface as an emissary of your people, or perhaps to escape accusations of criminal behavior (whether warranted or not). If you aren’t a native, your reason for leaving “home” probably has something to do with getting away from a bad situation.
Feature: All Eyes on You
Your accent, mannerisms, figures of speech, and perhaps even your appearance all mark you as foreign. Curious glances are directed your way wherever you go, which can be a nuisance, but you also gain the friendly interest of scholars and others intrigued by far-off lands, to say nothing of everyday folk who are eager to hear stories of your homeland.
You can parley this attention into access to people and places you might not otherwise have, for you and your traveling companions. Noble lords, scholars, and merchant princes, to name a few, might be interested in hearing about your distant homeland and people.
|1||I have different assumptions from those around me concerning personal space, blithely invading others’ space in innocence, or reacting to ignorant invasion of my own.|
|2||I have my own ideas about what is and is not food, and I find the eating habits of those around me fascinating, confusing, or revolting.|
|3||I have a strong code of honor or sense of propriety that others don’t comprehend.|
|4||I express affection or contempt in ways that are unfamiliar to others.|
|5||I honor my deities through practices that are foreign to this land.|
|6||I begin or end my day with small traditional rituals that are unfamiliar to those around me.|
|1||Open. I have much to learn from the kindly folk I meet along my way. (Good)|
|2||Reserved. As someone new to these strange lands, I am cautious and respectful in my dealings. (Lawful)|
|3||Adventure. I’m far from home, and everything is strange and wonderful! (Chaotic)|
|4||Cunning. Though I may not know their ways, neither do they know mine, which can be to my advantage. (Evil)|
|5||Inquisitive. Everything is new, but I have a thirst to learn. (Neutral)|
|6||Suspicious. I must be careful, for I have no way of telling friend from foe here. (Any)|
|1||So long as I have this token from my homeland, I can face any adversity in this strange land.|
|2||The gods of my people are a comfort to me so far from home.|
|3||I hold no greater cause than my service to my people.|
|4||My freedom is my most precious possession. I’ll never let anyone take it from me again.|
|5||I’m fascinated by the beauty and wonder of this new land.|
|6||Though I had no choice, I lament having to leave my loved one(s) behind. I hope to see them again one day.|
|1||I am secretly (or not so secretly) convinced of the superiority of my own culture over that of this foreign land.|
|2||I pretend not to understand the local language in order to avoid interactions I would rather not have.|
|3||I have a weakness for the new intoxicants and other pleasures of this land.|
|4||I don’t take kindly to some of the actions and motivations of the people of this land, because these folk are different from me.|
|5||I consider the adherents of other gods to be deluded innocents at best, or ignorant fools at worst.|
|6||I have a weakness for the exotic beauty of the people of these lands.|
You are the heir to something of great value—not mere coin or wealth, but an object that has been entrusted to you and you alone. Your inheritance might have come directly to you from a member of your family, by right of birth, or it could have been left to you by a friend, a mentor, a teacher, or someone else important in your life. The revelation of your inheritance changed your life, and might have set you on the path to adventure, but it could also come with many dangers, including those who covet your gift and want to take it from you—by force, if need be.
Tool Proficiencies: Your choice of a gaming set or a musical instrument
Languages: Any one of your choice
Equipment: Your inheritance, a set of traveler’s clothes, the tool you choose for this background’s tool proficiency, and a pouch containing 15 gp
Choose or randomly determine your inheritance from among the possibilities in the table below. Work with your Dungeon Master to come up with details: Why is your inheritance so important, and what is its full story? You might prefer for the DM to invent these details as part of the game, allowing you to learn more about your inheritance as your character does.
The Dungeon Master is free to use your inheritance as a story hook, sending you on quests to learn more about its history or true nature, or confronting you with foes who want to claim it for themselves or prevent you from learning what you seek. The DM also determines the properties of your inheritance and how they figure into the item’s history and importance. For instance, the object might be a minor magic item, or one that begins with a modest ability and increases in potency with the passage of time. Or, the true nature of your inheritance might not be apparent at first and is revealed only when certain conditions are met.
When you begin your adventuring career, you can decide whether to tell your companions about your inheritance right away. Rather than attracting attention to yourself, you might want to keep your inheritance a secret until you learn more about what it means to you and what it can do for you.
|d8||Object or Item|
|1||A document such as a map, a letter, or a journal|
|2–3||A trinket (see “Trinkets” in chapter 5 of the Player’s Handbook)|
|4||An article of clothing|
|5||A piece of jewelry|
|6||An arcane book or formulary|
|7||A written story, song, poem, or secret|
|8||A tattoo or other body marking|
Use the tables for the folk hero background in the Player’s Handbook as the basis for your traits and motivations, modifying the entries when appropriate to suit your identity as an inheritor.
Your bond might be directly related to your inheritance, or to the person from whom you received it. Your ideal might be influenced by what you know about your inheritance, or by what you intend to do with your gift once you realize what it is capable of.
Knight of the Order
You belong to an order of knights who have sworn oaths to achieve a certain goal. The nature of this goal depends on the order you serve, but in your eyes it is without question a vital and honorable endeavor. Faerûn has a wide variety of knightly orders, all of which have a similar outlook concerning their actions and responsibilities.
Though the term “knight” conjures ideas of mounted, heavily armored warriors of noble blood, most knightly orders in Faerûn don’t restrict their membership to such individuals. The goals and philosophies of the order are more important than the gear and fighting style of its members, and so most of these orders aren’t limited to fighting types, but are open to all sorts of folk who are willing to battle and die for the order’s cause.
The “Knightly Orders of Faerûn” sidebar details several of the orders that are active at present and is designed to help inform your decision about which group you owe allegiance to.
Tool Proficiencies: One type of gaming set or musical instrument
Languages: One of your choice
Equipment: One set of traveler’s clothes, a signet, banner or seal representing your place or rank in the order, and a pouch containing 10 gp
Feature: Knightly Regard
You receive shelter and succor from members of your knightly order and those who are sympathetic to its aims. If your order is a religious one, you can gain aid from temples and other religious communities of your deity. Knights of civic orders can get help from the community—whether a lone settlement or a great nation—that they serve, and knights of philosophical orders can find help from those they have aided in pursuit of their ideals, and those who share those ideals.
This help comes in the form of shelter and meals, and healing when appropriate, as well as occasionally risky assistance, such as a band of local citizens rallying to aid a sorely pressed knight in a fight, or those who support the order helping to smuggle a knight out of town when he or she is being hunted unjustly.
Use the tables for the soldier background in the Player’s Handbook as the basis for your traits and motivations, modifying the entries when appropriate to suit your identity as a knight of your order.
Your bond almost always involves the order to which you belong (or at least key members of it), and it is highly unusual for a knight’s ideal not to reflect the agenda, sentiment, or philosophy of one’s order.
KNIGHTLY ORDERS OF FAERÛN
Many who rightfully call themselves “knight” earn that title as part of an order in service to a deity, such as Kelemvor’s Eternal Order or Mystra’s Knights of the Mystic Fire. Other knightly orders serve a government, royal family, or are the elite military of a feudal state, such as the brutal Warlock Knights of Vaasa. Other knighthoods are secular and nongovernmental organizations of warriors who follow a particular philosophy, or consider themselves a kind of extended family, similar to an order of monks. Although there are organizations, such as the Knights of the Shield, that use the trappings of knighthood without necessarily being warriors, most folk of Faerûn who hear the word “knight” think of a mounted warrior in armor beholden to a code. Below are a few knightly organizations.
Knights of the Unicorn. The Knights of the Unicorn began as a fad of romantically minded sons and daughters of patriar families in Baldur’s Gate. On a lark, they took the unicorn goddess Lurue as their mascot and went on various adventures for fun. The reality of the dangers they faced eventually sank in, as did Lurue’s tenets. Over time the small group grew and spread, gaining a following in places as far as Cormyr. The Knights of the Unicorn are chivalric adventurers who follow romantic ideals: life is to be relished and lived with laughter, quests should be taken on a dare, impossible dreams should be pursued for the sheer wonder of their completion, and everyone should be praised for their strengths and comforted in their weaknesses.
Knights of Myth Drannor. Long ago, the Knights of Myth Drannor were a famous adventuring band, and Dove Falconhand, one of the famous Seven Sisters, was one of them. The band took its name to honor the great but fallen city, just as the new Knights of Myth Drannor do today. With the city once again in ruins, Dove Falconhand decided to reform the group with the primary goal of building alliances and friendship between the civilized races of the world and goodly people in order to combat evil. The Knights of Myth Drannor once again ride the roads of the Dalelands, and they’ve begun to spread to the lands beyond. Their members, each accepted by Dove herself, are above all valiant and honest.
Knights of the Silver Chalice. The Knights of the Silver Chalice was formed by edict of the demigod Siamorphe in Waterdeep a century ago. Siamorphe’s ethos is the nobility’s right and responsibility to rule, and the demigod is incarnated as a different noble mortal in each generation. By the decree of the Siamorphe at that time, the Knights of the Silver Chalice took it upon themselves to put a proper heir on the throne of Tethyr and reestablish order in that kingdom. Since then they have grown to be the most popular knighthood in Tethyr, a nation that has hosted many knighthoods in fealty to the crown.
As a sell-sword who fought battles for coin, you’re well acquainted with risking life and limb for a chance at a share of treasure. Now, you look forward to fighting foes and reaping even greater rewards as an adventurer. Your experience makes you familiar with the ins and outs of mercenary life, and you likely have harrowing stories of events on the battlefield. You might have served with a large outfit such as the Zhentarim or the soldiers of Mintarn, or a smaller band of sell-swords, maybe even more than one. (See the “Mercenaries of the North” sidebar for a collection of possibilities.)
Now you’re looking for something else, perhaps greater reward for the risks you take, or the freedom to choose your own activities. For whatever reason, you’re leaving behind the life of a soldier for hire, but your skills are undeniably suited for battle, so now you fight on in a different way.
Tool Proficiencies: One type of gaming set, vehicles (land)
Equipment: A uniform of your company (traveler’s clothes in quality), an insignia of your rank, a gaming set of your choice, and a pouch containing the remainder of your last wages (10 gp)
Feature: Mercenary Life
You know the mercenary life as only someone who has experienced it can. You are able to identify mercenary companies by their emblems, and you know a little about any such company, including the names and reputations of its commanders and leaders, and who has hired them recently. You can find the taverns and festhalls where mercenaries abide in any area, as long as you speak the language. You can find mercenary work between adventures sufficient to maintain a comfortable lifestyle (see “Practicing a Profession” under “Downtime Activities” in chapter 8 of the Player’s Handbook).
Use the tables for the soldier background in the Player’s Handbook as the basis for your traits and motivations, modifying the entries when appropriate to suit your identity as a mercenary.
Your bond could be associated with the company you traveled with previously, or with some of the comrades you served with. The ideal you embrace largely depends on your worldview and your motivation for fighting.
MERCENARIES OF THE NORTH
Countless mercenary companies operate up and down the Sword Coast and throughout the North. Most are small-scale operations that employ a dozen to a hundred folk who offer security services, hunt monsters and brigands, or go to war in exchange for gold. Some organizations, such as the Zhentarim, Flaming Fist, and the nation of Mintarn have hundreds or thousands of members and can provide private armies to those with enough funds. A few organizations operating in the North are described below.
The Chill. The cold and mysterious Lurkwood serves as the home of numerous groups of goblinoids that have banded together into one tribe called the Chill. Unlike most of their kind, the Chill refrains from raiding the people of the North and maintains relatively good relations so that they can hire themselves out as warriors. Few city-states in the North are willing to field an army alongside the Chill, but several are happy to quietly pay the Chill to battle the Uthgardt, orcs, trolls of the Evermoors, and other threats to civilization.
Silent Rain. Consisting solely of elves, Silent Rain is a legendary mercenary company operating out of Evereska. Caring little for gold or fame, Silent Rain agrees only to jobs that either promote elven causes or involve destroying orcs, gnolls, and the like. Prospective employers must leave written word (in Elvish) near Evereska, and the Silent Rain sends a representative if interested.
The Bloodaxes. Founded in Sundabar nearly two centuries ago, the Bloodaxes were originally a group of dwarves outcast from their clans for crimes against the teachings of Moradin Soulforger. They began hiring out as mercenaries to whoever in the North would pay them. Since then the mercenary company has broadened its membership to other races, but every member is an exile, criminal, or misfit of some sort looking for a fresh start and a new family among the bold Bloodaxes.
Urban Bounty Hunter
Before you became an adventurer, your life was already full of conflict and excitement, because you made a living tracking down people for pay. Unlike some people who collect bounties, though, you aren’t a savage who follows quarry into or through the wilderness. You’re involved in a lucrative trade, in the place where you live, that routinely tests your skills and survival instincts. What’s more, you aren’t alone, as a bounty hunter in the wild would be: you routinely interact with both the criminal subculture and other bounty hunters, maintaining contacts in both areas to help you succeed.
You might be a cunning thief-catcher, prowling the rooftops to catch one of the myriad burglars of the city. Perhaps you are someone who has your ear to the street, aware of the doings of thieves’ guilds and street gangs. You might be a “velvet mask” bounty hunter, one who blends in with high society and noble circles in order to catch the criminals that prey on the rich, whether pickpockets or con artists. The community where you plied your trade might have been one of Faerûn’s great metropolises, such as Waterdeep or Baldur’s Gate, or a less populous location, perhaps Luskan or Yartar—any place that’s large enough to have a steady supply of potential quarries.
As a member of an adventuring party, you might find it more difficult to pursue a personal agenda that doesn’t fit with the group’s objectives—but on the other hand, you can take down much more formidable targets with the help of your companions.
Tool Proficiencies: Choose two from among one type of gaming set, one musical instrument, and thieves’ tools
Equipment: A set of clothes appropriate to your duties and a pouch containing 20 gp
Feature: Ear to the Ground
You are in frequent contact with people in the segment of society that your chosen quarries move through. These people might be associated with the criminal underworld, the rough-and-tumble folk of the streets, or members of high society. This connection comes in the form of a contact in any city you visit, a person who provides information about the people and places of the local area.
Use the tables for the criminal background in the Player’s Handbook as the basis for your bounty hunter’s traits and motivations, modifying the entries when appropriate to suit your identity as a bounty hunter.
For instance, your bond might involve other bounty hunters or the organizations or individuals that employ you. Your ideal could be associated with your determination always to catch your quarry or your desire to maintain your reputation for being dependable.
Uthgardt Tribe Member
Though you might have only recently arrived in civilized lands, you are no stranger to the values of cooperation and group effort when striving for supremacy. You learned these principles, and much more, as a member of an Uthgardt tribe.
Your people have always tried to hold to the old ways. Tradition and taboo have kept the Uthgardt strong while the kingdoms of others have collapsed into chaos and ruin. But for the last few generations, some bands among the tribes were tempted to settle, make peace, trade, and even to build towns. Perhaps this is why Uthgar chose to raise up the totems among the people as living embodiments of his power. Perhaps they needed a reminder of who they were and from whence they came. The Chosen of Uthgar led bands back to the old ways, and most of your people abandoned the soft ways of civilization.
You might have grown up in one of the tribes that had decided to settle down, and now that they have abandoned that path, you find yourself adrift. Or you might come from a segment of the Uthgardt that adheres to tradition, but you seek to bring glory to your tribe by achieving great things as a formidable adventurer.
See the “Uthgardt Lands” section of chapter 2 for details on each tribe’s territory and its activities that will help you choose your affiliation.
Tool Proficiencies: One type of musical instrument or artisan’s tools
Languages: One of your choice
Equipment: A hunting trap, a totemic token or set of tattoos marking your loyalty to Uthgar and your tribal totem, a set of traveler’s clothes, and a pouch containing 10 gp
Feature: Uthgardt Heritage
You have an excellent knowledge of not only your tribe’s territory, but also the terrain and natural resources of the rest of the North. You are familiar enough with any wilderness area that you find twice as much food and water as you normally would when you forage there.
Additionally, you can call upon the hospitality of your people, and those folk allied with your tribe, often including members of druid circles, tribes of nomadic elves, the Harpers, and the priesthoods devoted to the gods of the First Circle.
Use the tables for the outlander background in the Player’s Handbook as the basis for your traits and motivations, modifying the entries when appropriate to suit your identity as a member of an Uthgardt tribe.
Even if you have left your tribe behind (at least for now), you hold to the traditions of your people. You will never cut down a still-living tree, and you may not countenance such an act being done in your presence. The Uthgardt ancestral mounds—great hills where the totem spirits were defeated by Uthgar and where the heroes of the tribes are interred—are sacred to you.
Your bond is undoubtedly associated with your tribe or some aspect of Uthgardt philosophy or culture (perhaps even Uthgar himself). Your ideal is a personal choice that probably hews closely to the ethos of your people and certainly doesn’t contradict or compromise what being an Uthgardt stands for.
BARBARIAN TRIBES OF FAERÛN
Though this section details the Uthgardt specifically, either it or the outlander background from the Player’s Handbook can be used for a character whose origin lies with one of the other barbarian tribes in Faerûn. You might be a fair-haired barbarian of the Reghed, dwelling in the shadow of the Reghed Glacier in the far North near Icewind Dale.
You might also be of the nomadic Rashemi, noted for their savage berserkers and their masked witches. Perhaps you hail from one of the wood elf tribes in the Chondalwood, or the magic-hating human tribes of the sweltering jungles of Chult.
You are a scion of one of the great noble families of Waterdeep. Human families who jealously guard their privilege and place in the City of Splendors, Waterdhavian nobles have a reputation across Faerûn for being eccentric, spoiled, venal, and, above all else, rich.
Whether you are a shining example of the reason for this reputation or one who proves the rule by being an exception, people expect things of you when they know your surname and what it means. Your reasons for taking up adventuring likely involve your family in some way: Are you the family rebel, who prefers delving in filthy dungeons to sipping zzar at a ball? Or have you taken up sword or spell on your family’s behalf, ensuring that they have someone of renown to see to their legacy?
Work with your DM to come up with the family you are part of —there are around seventy-five lineages in Waterdeep, each with its own financial interests, specialties, and schemes. You might be part of the main line of your family, possibly in line to become its leader one day. Or you might be one of any number of cousins, with less prestige but also less responsibility.
Tool Proficiencies: One type of gaming set or one musical instrument
Languages: One of your choice
Equipment: A set of fine clothes, a signet ring or brooch, a scroll of pedigree, a skin of fine zzar or wine, and a purse containing 20 gp
Feature: Kept in Style
While you are in Waterdeep or elsewhere in the North, your house sees to your everyday needs. Your name and signet are sufficient to cover most of your expenses; the inns, taverns, and festhalls you frequent are glad to record your debt and send an accounting to your family’s estate in Waterdeep to settle what you owe.
This advantage enables you to live a comfortable lifestyle without having to pay 2 gp a day for it, or reduces the cost of a wealthy or aristocratic lifestyle by that amount. You may not maintain a less affluent lifestyle and use the difference as income—the benefit is a line of credit, not an actual monetary reward.
Use the tables for the noble background in the Player’s Handbook as the basis for your traits and motivations, modifying the entries when appropriate to suit your identity as a member of a Waterdhavian family.
Like other nobles, you were born and raised in a different world from the one that most folk know—one that grants you privilege but also calls you to fulfill a duty befitting your station. Your bond might be associated with your family alone, or it could be concerned with another noble house that sides with or opposes your own. Your ideal depends to some extent on how you view your role in the family, and how you intend to conduct yourself in the world at large as a representative of your house.