[D&D, Tome] Character Backgrounds

A few years back, a couple of the more prominent posters on the gaming forum I post on wrote up a rather extensive series of fixes for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, collectively called The Tomes, aimed at bringing non-casters up to the power level of spellcasters (because the reverse is even more work). Lately there’s been a bit of a resurgence of focus on working on the Tomes, collating things into a single pdf, adding more material in a less sporadic method, and so on.

One thing they introduced in the Tomes to beef characters up a bit, and encourage those characters to be organic and more fleshed out was Backgrounds, which were sort of like mini-feats you got for doing the bare minimum work in writing a backstory for your character. They also helped you figure out what your character’s backstory was by giving you a prompt when you knew you wanted a specific one. A thread came up about creating some more, because there’s only 10 or so backgrounds in the original Tome material, and I’ve written up a few, so I figured I’d move those over here for more exposure.

Living Weapon Snkt
You, for some reason, whether hyper specific psionic meditation, experimental meddling with your aura or genetics when you were a child, possession by a violent spirit, or some other thing, can create weapons attached to your body at will.
Effect: As a move action, you may produce a weapon from your body which mimics the stats of any one Simple or Martial weapon (or a pair of light weapons), which may be composed of bone, chitin, horn, psionic/spiritual/arcane energy or whatever material–however, whatever material it is made of, it behaves exactly like a standard version of the weapon it mimics. Form and material are chosen at character creation and cannot later be changed except through magic. However, people who don’t have metal claws hidden up their arm find your augmentation horrifying. While this does give you Intimidate as a Class Skill, it also makes NPC initial attitudes start one step worse. Also whatever gave you these weapons was probably pretty traumatic, and you may occasionally run into parts of your past which want to kill you, fill you with rage, or are complete mysteries to you.

Artificial “I am fully functional, and anatomically correct.”
You were made by another person. But, like, not through the usual means- through special magical artifice means. You’re a robot person, is what I’m saying.
Effect: You have the Construct type (See below). The DC to repair you is 10+one half your HD+your highest stat. You are confused by living creatures and their emotions and habits, and probably spend a lot of time trying to understand them. Charisma based skills meant to affect you suffer a -2 penalty, but charisma based skills you use to affect others do as well, as you and the living things around you aren’t speaking quite the same language. The exception to this Intimidate–being an emotionally distant, pain-resistant arcane construct with glowing eyes just makes you better at that, and as such, Intimidate is always a class skill for you and you gain a +2 bonus to it.

  • Low Light Vision
  • Dark Vision 60′
  • Poor Healing: Daily healing rate is 0, can be healed through magical means
  • Mindless: Immune to [Mind Affecting] effects, cannot be detected with detect thoughts.
  • Never Alive: Cannot be raised or resurrected, immune to energy drain.
  • Repairable: Becomes inert, not staggered, at 0 and below hit points, does not die at -10. Can be repaired with a Craft check taking 1 hour of work per point it was below 1 hp.
  • Nonbiological: Does not eat or breath, does not age. A construct is not affected by any effect that allows a Fort save unless that effect affects objects or is a (Harmless) effect. For example, a clockwork horror is not going to catch red fever or become nauseated by a stinking cloud. But it is not outside the realm of possibility for an eidolon to be afflicted with a totally magical disease that functions off of Willpower saves.

Gladiator “I’M CRUSHICUS!”
Before adventuring, you were the star of a gladiatorial arena. You may have started a mere slave, but through crushing the skulls of other mere slaves and winning the hearts of the crowd, you gradually earned your freedom, a reputation, and experience in crushing skulls. Or maybe you just escaped.
Effect: You may tell stories of your time in the gladiatorial arena to wow new people and make them like you, or to make your existing fans willing to help you out. People who have heard of your time in the arena have their initial attitude improved by one step, people who haven’t heard about you can be subjected to stories for ten minutes over drinks and likewise have their attitude improved by one step. As showmanship is important in the arena, Perform is always a class skill for you, but your first style must be something usable in the arena (this is somewhat broad, singing is fine, pipe organ not so much). Finally, you should probably fight in the arenas at least once a month to keep your reputation up. If you are an escaped slave, your former owner probably has men looking for you.

Magical Girl “In the name of Lolth, I will punish you!”
In the name of some vaguely defined concept or personified object, you punish evil doers. Or kill good doers. Or spank the naughty. Whatever. You are a magical warrior who makes speeches and shit, and that comes with some very specific implied powers. Or, you may or may not actually be a prepubescent and/or female. Whatever.
Effect: You have some manner of magical patron who will offer advice and might be the source of particularly plot important magical items that get used once and then forgotten. You also have the magical girl power of transformation–pick one outfit which may be armour and one weapon (or pair of light weapons) these start as masterwork items, and can be hidden in a dimensional pocket which will not hold anything else. You also have a small token of some sort, possibly disguised as a makeup compact or other mundane item, which allows you to summon these items once per encounter as a Full Round action where in you twirl and pose and are enshrouded in light. During this round, no one can attack you, and at the end the outfit is equipped and you may be holding your weapon readied, if you wish. If your outfit or weapon are damaged they will be fully repaired the next time you call them. Your special outfit and weapon have the Linked quality and can be further enchanted by sacrificing items to them as if you had the Ancestral Weapon feat from BoED. You’re probably ambushed by things with tentacles a lot when you’re not wearing your armour and trying to have a normal life, and you feel this weird compulsion to never tell anyone who isn’t part of your adventuring group about being a magical warrior, regardless of how much simpler it would be, and your propensity for making friendship speeches in battle makes Perform (oratory) always a class skill for you which you can use like Diplomacy for attitude improvement.

Medic “No one wanted to be relegated to healing duty and the cleric has better shit to do.”
Look, I get it, no one wants to spend major character resources on restoring hp for people. But people need to be healed if you’re going to get that infant-sized ruby at the bottom of the dungeon, so you scribbled down a bit in your background about being an army medic.
Effect: First, Kn. Nature, Heal and Survival are always class skills for you, and you have a +2 bonus to Heal. Second, you can perform a twenty minute ritual which restores X hp to each member of your part (three people plus one per point of Wisdom mod) where X is half their max hp. This ritual may be performed at will, but each time it is used without at least an hour passing since it’s last use, it takes twice as long as the last time it was used (1st time: 20 min, 2nd time: 40 min, 3rd time: 1hr 20 min, etc). This ritual requires special herbs which cost 1/4th the amount you would heal your party, or can be scrounged from most wilderness areas with twenty minutes and a successful Kn. Nature or Survival check. You can gather these ahead of time if you wish, but they lose potency 3 days after being picked. You probably also keep a pile of bandages which can be applied to injured people and allow them to heal 1hp per five minutes for a number of hours equal to your Wisdom mod.

Cook “And in the morning, I’m making waffles!”
Look, not everyone has special noble birth or great destinies or sob stories about growing up in the gutter. You grew up in a surviving merchant or inn owning family, and you learned to cook in between mucking out stables, cleaning shit and putting up with idiot customers. And you found you really enjoyed it.
Effect: What does being a cook get you? Well, people forget that cooking is actually pretty physical work. Your familiarity with knives and cleavers translates over into daggers, handaxes and throwing axes pretty well, and in fact you are proficient in them. In addition, lugging around bags of potatoes and flour has conditioned you for carrying shit and your carrying capacity is calculated as if your strength were two points higher. You have a repertoire of recipes and cooking techniques which you can put into use to keep your party’s morale up–anytime you take an hour to cook a meal while your party camps, everyone who eats can activate an Guidance, Resistance or Virtue effect with your character level as the caster level once in the ensuing 24 hours. If you have leftovers, people can eat them to gain another use after using their first (use Survival to determine how many servings you can make, or figure each serving costs 10 gp). Finally, you effectively have max ranks in Craft (Cooking) as if it were a class skill for you, if that ever actually matters.

Animal Magnetism “He followed me home, can I keep him!?”
Animals just inherently like you for some reason. While other people get mauled by wolves when they wander into the woods, you get a bunch of wolves sniffing at your backpack and begging for handouts while you’re trying to eat lunch.
…maybe they like you because you always share and word got around.
Effect: Creatures of the Animal type always have an attitude at least one point more in favour of you, and no worse than indifferent unless you attack them. If you’re in danger, there is a 10% chance that an animal appropriate to the environment will show up to help you. This chance is increased by 5% for every 5% your hp is below maximum, and decreased 10% for every time an animal has come to your rescue in the last 24 hours. The animal’s CR cannot exceed yours, nor be lower than yours minus 3. If you want a specific animal, roll charisma vs DC 20. Finally, you have a +4 bonus on Handle Animal and Ride checks when made to affect Animals. On the other hand, animals will wander up to you in the wilderness and want attention and handouts, and Mister Cavern is encouraged to have this happen when you’re trying to sneak, especially if you rolled poorly.

Crocodile Charmer “Look at this beauty. If she bites you, the cleric won’t even have time to cast a healing spell. …I’m gonna touch her!”
You have a way with reptiles and similar creatures. Maybe you got dumped in a pit of them when you were a kid, maybe you grew up in a crazy religious sect that uses snakes to test it’s piety. Maybe you just like them.
Effect: You begin play with three doses of antitoxin and a pet tiny viper that has 2 int and already knows a full array of tricks. You also gain +4 to handle animal and diplomacy checks made against Scaled Ones. Scaled Ones Animals and Magical Beasts have an initial attitude one point in your favour (no worse than Indifferent), and will not attack you unless you attack them first.

Sea Monkey “Warblgarbl.”
You come from the sea. You have fins and gills and probably a bluer skin tone than normal, and people think you want their land-women. They’re not necessarily wrong.
Effect: You’re an otherwise normal specimen of your race, you just happen to be an obscure sub type which lives in water. You can swim at your land speed and either have the Hold Breath ability or can breath underwater, if you select the latter, you cannot breath air, but you do have a bulky collar-like piece of equipment that allows you to adventure on land for up to 16 hours at a time before you need to rest in water and let it recharge. This collar is a very simple magic item and just needs to be immersed in water for eight hours, which you can do while you sleep since you’re usually going to be sleeping in water too.

Giant Frog “Ribbit.”
The primal chaos of limbo flows in your veins. And sometimes outside you veins. And sometimes through other parts of you. Look, it’s all very complicated hipster math, alright?
Effect: In times of great need, you can call upon the power of giant frog to giant frog your giant frog giant frogs. When you are at or below 1/4 your total hit points, the power of chaos activates within you, and you roll on the following chart-

d20 Effect 1d8 Spell School
1-8 Cantrip 1 Abjuration
9-17 Level 1 spell 2 Conjuration
18-19 Level 2 spell 3 Divination
20 Level 3 spell 4 Enchantment
Roll d12 Caster Level 5 Evocation
1 Character Level-2 6 Illusion
2-3 Character Level-1 7 Necromancy
4-9 Character Level 8 Transmutation
10-11 Character Level+1
12 Character Level+2
Cantrips wrote:
  • Abjuration– Resistance
  • Conjuration– Acid Splash*
  • Divination– Prestidigitation (yes, I know it’s Uni.)
  • Enchantment– Daze*
  • Evocation– Ray of Frost*
  • Illusion– Ghost Sounds
  • Necromancy– Touch of Fatigue*
  • Transmutation– Mage Hand
1st Level wrote:
  • Abjuration– Roll 1d6; 1: Prot.Good, 2: Prot.Evil, 3: Prot.Chaos, 4: Prot.Law, 5-6: Shield
  • Conjuration– Summon Chaos Bullfrog (Anarchic Dire Rat)
  • Divination– True Strike
  • Enchantment– Sleep**
  • Evocation– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Burning Hands, 3-4: Magic Missile*, 5-6: Shocking Grasp
  • Illusion– Roll 1d4; 1-3: Colour Spray, 4: Minor Image
  • Necromancy– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Cause Fear, 3-4: Chill Touch, 5-6: Ray of Enfeeblement
  • Transmutation– Roll 1d6: 1: Animate Rope, 2: Enlarge Person, 3: Expeditious Retreat, 4: Jump, 5: Magic Weapon, 6: Reduce Person*
2nd Level wrote:
  • Abjuration– Roll 1d4; 1-2: Protection from Arrows, 3-4: Resist Energy
  • Conjuration– Summon Toad Swarm (Rat swarm)
  • Divination– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Detect Thoughts, 3-4: Locate Object, 5-6: See Invisibility
  • Enchantment– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Daze Monster*, 3-4: Hideous Laughter*, 5-6: Touch of Idiocy
  • Evocation– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Darkness (centered on you), 3: Flaming Sphere (moves a random direction each round, d10, stays put on a 1 or 10), 4: Gust of Wind, 5: Scorching Ray*, 6: Shatter* (weapon or armour)
  • Illusion– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Blur, 3-4: Invisibility, 5-6: Mirror Image
  • Necromancy– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Blindness/Deafness, 3-4: False Life, 5-6: Scare
  • Transmutation– Roll 1d8; 1: Bear’s Endurance, 2: Bull’s Strength, 3: Cat’s Grace, 4: Eagle’s Splendor, 5: Fox’s Cunning, 6: Levitate, 7: Owl’s Wisdom, 8: Spider Climb
3rd Level wrote:
  • Abjuration– Roll 1d6; 1: Dispel Magic*, 2: Magic Circle v. Chaos, 3: Magic Circle v. Evil, 4: MCvGood, 5: MCvLaw, 6: Protection from Energy
  • Conjuration– Summon Dire Toad (as SMIII, Dire Toad is MM2)
  • Divination– Cure Serious Wounds (yes, I know it’s Conj.)
  • Enchantment– Roll 1d4; 1: Deep Slumber**, 2: Heroism***, 3: Hold Person*, 4: Rage
  • Evocation– Roll 1d4; 1-2: Fireball, 3-4: Lightning Bolt
  • Illusion– Roll 1d4; 1-2: Displacement, 3-4: Major Image
  • Necromancy– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Animate Dead (random corpse in range, destroyed at end of encounter), 3-4: Bestow Curse*, 5-6: Vampiric Touch
  • Transmutation– Roll 1d6; 1: Blink, 2: Fly, 3: Gaseous Form, 4: Haste, 5: Keen Edge, 6:Slow*

*affects a random enemy in range
**Randomly determine center of effect
***affects a random ally
If not otherwise noted, you are the target of non-touch spells. Touch spells can be held until you can touch a target.

Note- Giant Frog and Mister Cavern are Denisms. Giant Frog refers to the fact that in D&D, chaos shows the least diversity of form with the Slaad all being giant rugose things. Mister Cavern refers to an 80s Russian D&D clone where Dungeon Master was translated as Mister Cavern.

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