Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Unusual Backgrounds: The Resurrectionist

Unusual Background: The Resurrectionist (sometimes derisively called the Igor/Igorina)

An archetypical "Igor"

Skill Proficiencies: Medicine, Stealth
Tool Proficiencies: Alchemist’s supplies (Artisan’s kit), Thief’s Tools
Equipment: A shovel, a crowbar, a small knife, a set of well-worn and dirty but sturdy common clothes specially made for your… “unique” physique, a large leather sack, 2 special preservative-filled jars for holding body parts (1 of which carries some sort of lumpy organ in it that you’ve forgotten the nature of), pouch with 5 gp

You are a highly needed but sadly unappreciated henchperson to a (mad, kooky, evil, or just misunderstood) scientist or wizard.  Your skills are highly specialized: the stealthy intrusion into graveyards, crypts, mortuaries, and even slaughterhouses.  Not only are you skilled in the stealthy art of swiping the body parts held therein, but you also somehow have a good enough knowledge of body parts that you can often glean the best ones.  Yet despite your skill (or maybe because of them), you are almost certainly marked by deformities (physical or moral), whether caused by your own freakish genetic makeup, corruption from your evil acts, or simply from on-the-job hazards. (Henchpeople of this sort have a very poor union.)

A player character with this background is likely to be a “freelancer” or otherwise have no current master. (This is unless another player character is a Mad Genius or the whole group has a Mad Genius as a patron.)   The Dungeon Master should work with the player to decide upon the character’s relationships with her past employers.

Feature: I Smell Dead People                  
No matter where you are, you seem to have a nose for finding graveyards and other sites for retrieving needed medical supplies.   You are so adept at it, that you don’t suffer any mundane sicknesses a normal person might contract in your occupation when doing routine, mundane tasks.  However, special or supernatural diseases, all poisons, and all creature abilities affect your normally.

Personality trait (d8)
1.       I love to take things apart and see what makes them “tick.” Take this heart for instance.
2.       I always draft a contract before working a new job, or do anything really.
3.       Other people think I’m hideous, but I’m really beautiful on the inside.
4.       I tell stories of abuse at the hands of my former masters.
5.       I love being a guinea pig!
6.       On the job, I don’t mind a mess.  Everywhere else, I’m a neat freak.
7.       I have high aspirations. Someday I’ll build a golem of my own.
8.       I always let the people I’m with know how much better my previous master was.  You see, if my master were here…

Ideal (d6)
1.       Curiosity              I always want to know what’s inside the next tomb, the next body. (Any)
2.       Diligence              I will do my job the right way, as my customer specifies and nothing less. (Lawful)
3.       Greed   The fools don’t realize how lucrative the meat market is. You know, why am I waiting’ for the stiffs to off themselves naturally when I could make them myself! (Evil)
4.       Mischief               I wonder what will happen if I switch that normal brain with this one that says “Abby Normal.” Who’s Abby Normal? Well, I guess we’ll figure that out later, won’t we? (Chaotic)
5.       Restitution          I always leave behind payment for the parts I take from my donors. (Good-ish)
6.       Rivalry   I’m the king of my trade! Nobody can beat me! (Neutral)

Burke and Hare, two of the most (in)famous resurrectionists and proof that not all corruption need be physical

Bond (d6)
1.       I miss my master.  I will find a surrogate someday.  Hey how about that group of total strangers over there!
2.       I come in, do my job, and then punch out.  Fulfilling the contract is all that matters.
3.       I can’t stand to see my graveyards become tainted by the undead.
4.       I watch out for my fellow outcast kindred spirits.
5.       My creations are the main thing I truly care about.
6.       I work only for my own benefit.

Flaw (d6)
1.       I never bathe, even for events of formality and polite company.
2.       Previous mistreatment has left me with a chip on my shoulder.
3.       I obey orders without questioning them as much as I should.
4.       I enjoy a creepy laugh a little bit too much.
5.       I have a secret: I’m hoarding body parts and keeping them for myself.
6.       Sometimes I take a little bit too much of a sadistic glee in cleaving apart

Some links for inspiration:
 Burke and Hare, two of the worst kind of resurrectionists
 Igors (Discworld)
Historical information on body snatching and resurrectionists: General Information
Some specific history in the U.K.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Everyone Else: 5e Backgrounds for the "Mundanes" of the Fantasy World

Everyone Else: 5e Backgrounds for the "Mundanes" of the Fantasy World
(Part 1)

The 5e Player's Handbook did a good job of laying down a few of the fundamental backgrounds of the fantasy backgrounds.  It even had some pretty basic mundane backgrounds for those folks who want to start from more humble origins. In this series of posts, I will try to build upon those with some similar (relatively) normal man sort backgrounds.

Skills: Persuasion, Performance
Choose two from the following list: Calligrapher’s supplies, glassblower’s tools, jeweler’s tools, painter’s supplies, potter’s tools, woodcarver’s tools
Equipment: One toolset from the above list, very large and decorative hat, a small knife, one outfit of avant-garde clothing nonetheless worth the same as commoner’s clothing, pouch with 10 gp

For your entire life, art, FINE art, has been your passion.  To craft wonders of beauty, to build true expressions of creative marvel, these drive you.  You have learned to make works of art that evoke wonder, to evoke awe, to evoke feeling! To you, form can be just as important as function, because form affects the quality of life just as much as function affects how it’s lived.

Feature: Gather a Crowd
Wherever you go, somebody in the neighborhood can recognize you. You know how and where to bring people together.  Given enough time and the proper public space, you can gather a crowd of a few dozen people under the pretense of showing off a gallery or staging a theatrical performance.  At least one of these will be a potential patron for your future works.

Personality Traits (1d8)
11.       As I speak, I can’t help but vary my inflections dramatically and gesture wildly.
22.       I am quick to point the beauty in anything and everything.
33.       I quietly observe and note the features of everything I survey, offering opinion only when asked.
44.       My blustery exterior is merely a mask; my real self is much more reserved.
55.       I’m not one to talk about politics; I’d rather focus on producing my art.
66.       I actually don’t like attention; I create simply for myself.
77.       I enjoy evoking the full emotional spectrum from people.
88.       I’m always suspicious of others stealing my ideas.

Ideals (1d6)
11.       Beauty (Any) To make what is wondrous to the senses brightens up the world.
22.       Truth (Good or Lawful) I find that true beauty comes in genuineness.
33.       Propaganda (Evil or Lawful) What is beautiful is what follows my agenda and sensibilities.
44.       Whimsy (Chaotic)  Beauty can’t be pinned down- it has to be free to go wherever, whenever it pleases!
55.       Joy (Good or Chaotic) We exist to bring happiness into the world by making it a more wonder-inspiring place.
66.       Competition (Neutral) I’ll show everyone my artistic vision is better than all my rivals’.

Bond (1d6)
11.       To create the wondrous, one must observe the wondrous.
22.       They called me frivolous. They said I was out of touch with the real world. I shall show them my creative vision can paint this dull, drab world into more colorful place!
33.       A former associate stole my work and claimed it as his own.   With my last breath, I swear I shall make them regret rue the day they crossed me.  RUE it, I say! Their black blood will spill and decorate the canvas of my next creation.
44.       Long ago, a special person picked me up from the gutter and touched my heart.   A person so with an inner light so luminous, an aura so divine, I scarcely remember what the experience was like.  Yet the memory still haunts me.
55.       Anything of beauty I somehow create comes not from me but from the people.  Inspired by the people and made to benefit the people. I am merely the hands used to form that beauty.
66.       I stand on the shoulders of giants, and yet I always have more to learn.  Rumors tell of a great master artist who dwells in the wilds far from the huddled masses.  I will find him and learn from his wisdom.

Flaws (1d6)
11.       I’m an avid collector of all things marvelous, sometimes to the point it devours a massive chunk out my coffers.
22.       I must prove the superiority of my artistic genius, even if it means engaging in a little ugly behavior once in a while.
33.       The beauty of the world astounds me.  Yes, I admit I am but a hopeless daydreamer, but still the sheer wonder enraptures me.
44.       I speak with a faked, outrageous, stereotypical accent mostly as a gimmick.  Sometimes it can get a little annoying.
55.       I have offended some former patrons in high places, so I’m always on the run.
66.       I shy away from subjects that are less than pleasant.  When possible, I can’t help but dress conversation in its most pleasing language.

Not all ascetics have to be human.

Skill Proficiencies:  Survival; choice of one of the following: Animal Handling, Religion or Survival
Tool Proficiencies: Herbalism Kit
Equipment: Mess kit, a set of Spartan common clothing, a small knife, 50 ft. of rope (hemp), and a pouch with 5 gold pieces in it

You have lived a harsh and Spartan lifestyle.  Eschewing the finer frivolities others take for granted, you know what it’s like to live life in its most basic and rugged forms.  Through simple living and rigorous self-denial, you have learned to push your body and mind beyond what most would consider possible.

Feature: Extreme Endurance
You are skilled at focusing your inner strength for longer than most can. You can force yourself to hold your breath, go without eating, stay awake, and endure inhospitable climatic conditions for twice as long without suffering ill effects as you normally could.

Personality Traits (1d8)
11.       Although I am an ascetic, there are just one or two things I can’t live without.
22.       I try to evaluate everything without letting passions cloud my judgment.
33.       I feel very excited about my lifestyle; if only everybody could know the joys of a life lived so rigorously.
44.       I chant mantras in times of stress to help me focus.
55.       I say little.
66.       I see the world as ever-changing.  Who is an enemy today may be an ally tomorrow, and vice versa.
77.       I’m conflicted. Although I prefer a solitary existence,  I enjoy connecting with others as well.
88.       I’m a part-time ascetic.  5 days of the week, my body is a temple.  The other two, an amusement park.

Ideals (1d6)
11.       Devotion (Any) My asceticism is an act of devotion to commune with something greater than I am alone.
22.       Purity (Good or Lawful) I will abstain from pursuing impure things.
33.       Escape (Chaotic) I’ll do anything to escape the demons that haunt me.
44.       Domination (Evil) Just as I can master myself, so I shall master others.
55.       Strength (Neutral) I exist to become stronger in mind, body, and soul.
66.       Patience (Good or Lawful) Everything will come in its due time.  I need not demand it all now.

Bond (1d6)
11.       Through how I live, I hope to honor those who have come before me.
22.       I live to spread the teachings of my philosophy.
33.       I left behind a messy past when I became an ascetic.  Sooner or later, it will come back to haunt me.
44.       I have received a vision in my meditation.  I must follow it.
55.       Compassion to all living things is central to my code of honor.
66.       It has been too long since I have visited my loved ones.  I must go reconnect with them.

Flaws (1d6)
11.I long for the pleasures of the flesh so many others get to enjoy.
22.       I am desperate to achieve spiritual liberation.  No sacrifice is too great.
33.       I feel disdain towards the impure who cannot or will not achieve my level of self-mastery.
44.       I find relating to the materialistic world difficult.
55.       My past haunts me.  I was not always the good person I am today.
66.       I use philosophical mumbo-jumbo and rhetorical tricks to appear wiser than I actually am.

Skill Proficiencies: History, Persuasion
Tool Proficiencies: One gaming set of your choice, one musical instrument of your choice
Equipment: cheap beat-up musical instrument (functional but no resale value), a set of well-worn and ragged commoner’s clothing, a small dull knife, begging bowl with 5 copper pieces, an accessory that shows the mark of whatever affliction has befallen you (some crutches, an eyepatch, a cane, a prosthetic limb, etc)

Sometime in your past, you depended on the kindness of strangers to sustain yourself.  Begging is an inelegant and humiliating lifestyle sometimes subject to persecution and legislation, but for some people begging only choice.  These tend to be victims of misfortune, mental or physical illness or injury or even severe economic woe.  A few beggars pursue this life only out of a desire to avoid work. This type of beggar is prone to overinflating any hardship inflicted upon them and may find Charlatan background may be more appropriate.

Feature: City Secrets
As the Urchin ability.

Suggested Characteristics
Beggars need to be able to gain sympathy from others.  As such, beggars tend to have afflictions that compellingly inhibit or prevent them from leading independent lives.  Skill in persuasion is also important, as having an affliction does not by itself convince others of its direness.  Beggars often pick up stories of the places they go and can sometimes observe things not meant to be seen simply by being discounted.  Therefore, they can sometimes make for handy sources of information despite their lowly social positions.

Personality Trait
11.       I always share a story with someone who is generous to me, whether they want it or not.
22.       I am polite to everyone I meet regardless of circumstances.
33.       I view my situation as a curse put upon me.
44.       I spread word of the miserly and always point them out.
55.       I see what I do as a valuable service to society. It enables people to practice charity.
66.       I would rather beg than lie, cheat, or steal.
77.       Although I may not have gotten here by choice, I consider it to be my way of life now.
88.       I can’t stay in one place for too long.

Ideal (1d6)
11.       Nonconformity I can’t abide by society’s base restrictions. (Chaotic)
22.       Community        Although I’m on its outskirts, I’m part of the community and owe it what I contribute (however little that may be.) (Lawful or Good)
33.       Perseverance    Anything that doesn’t kill me makes me stronger (Any)
44.       Gratitude            So much has been given to me; it’s my turn to give back. (Good)
55.       Deception           I am not as benevolent and harmless as I seem. (Evil)
66.       Hope                     My situation is only temporary. Someday I’ll stand on my own two feet. (Any)

Bond (1d6)
11.       I want to find another way to live.
22.       I hope to someday bring enough plenty back home to take care of those I love.
33.       The open road calls to me.
44.       We who have been abandoned by society must stick together; we’re all we really have.
55.       Someday I’ll recover what was taken from me.
66.       I owe my life to somebody who lifted me up from the languishing of despair.

11.       I hold a grudge against those who don’t give me what I’m due.
22.       I can’t help but spread gossip about what I see and observe.
33.       Guilt and shame overwhelms me for having to depend upon the kindness of others.
44.       Settling down in one place would drive me insane; I must always be on the go.
55.       I feel contempt for others in my life situation. After all, my poverty is (or was) only temporary, but they’ll remain like this for their entire lives.
66.       Despite how hard I try, I can’t meet what is expected of me by society.

Variant: Mendicant
You do not beg because of unfortunate circumstances.  Instead, you have sworn an oath of poverty for religious or philosophical reasons.  Although you depend on others for survival, you have a recognized role in allowing the laity to practice charity and religious piety by assisting you.  Replace the normal beggar’s starting gear with paraphernalia appropriate to your religion and order and replace the Urchin’s Feature with the Rustic Hospitality feature of the Folk Hero.