5e D&D Variant Backgrounds
One of the things I like about the 5e backgrounds system is that they're easy to switch around a little bit to get what you like. Here are a few variant backgrounds to show off just changing a few things here and there can give you whole new flavors.
Dracolyte (Variant Acolyte)
Skill Proficiencies: Arcana, Religion
Tool Proficiencies: Alchemist’s Supplies
Equipment: As acolyte
You are part of a rather secretive and eccentric cult that venerates dragonkind and their gods. To you, the dragon is utmost state of perfection, power, wisdom, and grace. You seek to emulate their mighty and majestic ways through the mastery of esoteric knowledge and alchemy, perhaps even changing your body to ultimately become one of them. You may worship a particular draconic god (Bahamut or Tiamat, for example) or you may venerate dragonkind itself.
Note: With the right swapping out of Knowledge skills and languages, this background can be used for any sort of monster cultist.
Explorer (Variant Outlander)
Skill Proficiencies: Athletics, Survival
Languages: 1 of choice
Tool Proficiencies: Cartographer’s kit
Equipment: Cartographer’s kit, a set of traveler’s clothes, a small knife, a compass, several maps of your past explorations, and a pouch with 10 gold pieces.
You are a trailblazer, an explorer of the great frontier. You know not only how to find your way in the wild, but you also know how to record where you’ve gone for future reference. Although you may have a staunchly rugged and individualistic bent, future generations may come to depend on the discoveries you make now.
False Prophet (Variant Charlatan)
Skill Proficiencies: Deception, Religion
Tool Proficiencies: Disguise Kit, Forger’s kit
Equipment: As acolyte, but any holy items you have has been altered to serve your own purposes
You have carefully cultivated a religious personification of yourself as a divinely gifted figure. In reality, you merely are merely a very specialized form of grifter and conman. Whereas belief in the false creeds you s spout has not become widespread across the world, there are a few vulnerable believers you can fleece in every town. If you are skillful and lucky enough, you may be able to someday build a more organized following. Actual religious leaders will tend to skeptical of you, having no prior knowledge of your existence. They probably won’t act against you immediately, but they will be watching you warily. However, if you successfully fool the majority of the faith, you may someday take your first few steps to true divinity.
Feature: False Identity
As the Charlatan feature, but it must be a religious figure (typically a prophet or divine avatar of some sort.)
Stage Magician (Variant Entertainer)
Skill Proficiencies: Perform, Sleight of Hand
Tool Proficiencies: Two of choice
Equipment: A set of clothing with hidden pockets, a fancy hat, and a set of memorabilia you use for your stunts, and a pouch with 15 gold pieces
You have brought wonder and delight to many with your act of “magic.” Unlike real magic, your stagecraft is products of sleight of hand and legerdemain. However, you are skilled enough that the unformed laymen will not be able to tell the two apart. In the past, you’ve used your skills primarily for entertainment purposes, though there are certainly less legitimate uses of your skills as well.
Legerdemain Specialty Act (1d10)
Choose one to three for specialties of your act. (This replaces Entertainer Routines)
1. Producing something from another thing or even nothing (rabbit from a hat, a coin from an ear, puffs of smoke from the stage, etc.)
2. Vanishing act, making things disappear
3. Transformation- making an object seemingly transform into another object (changing the color of cloth, etc.)
4. Breaking an object and then putting it back together (torn papers, shattered pottery, the whole saw-in-half routine)
5. Teleportation (moving from one place to another)
6. Escape Act
9. Parlor Tricks
Thug (Variant Criminal)
Skill Proficiencies: Intimidate, Stealth
Tool Proficiencies: As Criminal
Equipment: As Criminal
Whereas many criminals rely on finesse and guile to acquire their ill-gotten goods, you have come to rely upon brute force and outright coercion. After all, fear is one of the most basic instincts to man, and in a dark and lonely alleyway, who is scarier than you? You know of various strong-arming techniques to get people what you want, whether it is the little old lady you mug on the street or the bookie who has been skimming off the top.
Wastrel (Variant Criminal)
Skill Proficiencies: Deception, Sleight of Hand
Tool Proficiencies: Two gaming sets of your choice
Equipment: A set of well-worn and stained commoner’s clothing, an empty beer mug, a knife, a set of cards or dice, and a sack held aloft by a pole, and a pouch with 5 gold pieces
You have lived on the fringes of society, living out a meager existence day by day. Your passion for vice and seeming aversion to responsibility have caused the public to label you as one of the dregs of society, the scum of the earth. Unlike the Charlatan, Criminal, or the Gambler, you never honed your skills enough to truly become known as a “professional” in the criminal world. And unlike with the Beggar, your pride prevents you from relying upon the kindness of others (unless you REALLY have to.) Thus you’ve been forced to rely upon various means of minor grifting, petty larceny, and scavenging to make ends meet.
Feature: City SecretsAs the Urchin ability of the same name