posted Monday, October 29th 2007 by
My last post described the tricky aspect of introducing new players to D&D. The simple method, like the origins of D&D, is to introduce D&D first as a kind of game played with dice where one player controls a dungeon full of monsters and the rest control adventurers who work together to beat the dungeon. With a good Dungeon Master, players soon learn that clever, out-of-the-box thinking can lead to innovative solutions and reveal the remarkable freedom of action that characterizes tabletop roleplaying games.
From here, we can move into more characterization and character development. This should come naturally as players build and develop their characters, and players in my game frequently start out with only the most basic of backstory which is filled in and even radically changed as the character progresses. Some players, however, might be short of that initial background idea that can begin to define a character as more then a set of numbers. For the “roll-players” that need an extra push, you can reward them with a minor bonus character ability that relates to the backstory they’ve chosen.
Behind the cut is a chart which you can use to generate backstories. Roll randomly or allow players to pick, DM’s choice.
- Acolyte: You are a minor clergymember of a religious order (but not a cleric). Bonus: +2 to Knowledge (religion); knows a single 0th level cleric spell which can be cast twice per day.
- Alchemist: Your professional is to unravel the secrets of reality and keep them for yourself. Bonus: +2 to Craft (alchemy) and Knowledge Arcana checks.
- Apprentice: You were a wizard’s apprentice, but never completed your training. Bonus: Know two 0th level arcane spells which can each be cast once per day.
- Avenger: You are consumed by need for revenge against some villain who wronged you terribly in the past. Bonus: +1 to Will saves; +1 morale bonus to hit creatures of the race or organization of your archnemesis.
- Barbarian: You hail from a so-called “uncivilized” tribe, and tougher than civilized folk. Bonus: +1 to Fortitude saves and Strength checks.
- Blacksmith: You forged weapons and armour for a living. Bonus: +2 to Craft checks involving metalworking, gain fire resistance 1.
- Explorer: Your purpose in life has always been to travel and discover the world. Bonus: +2 to Knowledge (dungeoneering) and saves vs traps.
- Hero’s son: You’ve inherited the reputation of a legendary figure, and have big boots to fill. Bonus: Start with a masterwork weapon.
- Merchant: You’ve made your living through a talent for salesmanship. Bonus: +2 to Bluff, 25% bonus starting gold.
- Noble: You are of aristocratic lineage, but abandoned high society for your own reasons. Bonus: +2 to Diplomacy checks, 25% extra starting gold.
- Nomad: You come from a distant land of travelling people. Bonus: Know any two extra languages; treat Speak Language as a class skill.
- Peasant: You come from a poor lineage, but are unusually brave. Bonus: +3 to saves vs fear.
- Performer: You’ve made your living as an actor, musician, or other hopeful celebrity. Bonus: +2 to Diplomacy and Perform checks
- Pirate: You’ve made your living on the high seas as a privateer. Bonus: +2 to Balance, Intimidate and Profession (sailor) checks.
- Scholar: You have dedicated yourself to the accumulation of Knowledge. Bonus: +1 to all Knowledge skills; all Knowledge skills are class skills for you.
- Soldier: You served as a warrior in an army. Bonus: +2 to Ride checks, free masterwork light or medium armour.
- Spy: You once served as the eyes and ears of an army or powerful individual. Bonus: +2 to Bluff, +1 to saves vs fear.
- Survivalist: You have spent many years living as a hermit in the wilderness. Bonus: +2 to Survival checks, and +1 on saves vs poison.
- Thief: You were a bandit or pickpocket before you decided to take up adventuring. Bonus: +2 to Sleight of Hand checks and 25% extra starting gold.
- Town guard or detective: You’ve made a solid career out of keeping your community free from crime. Bonus: +2 to Spot, Listen and Sense Motive checks.
Not all of these abilities are especially powerful, since they’re free bonuses. You can always beef them up to be more powerful if you’re happy with that. Thanks to my online buddies Cronocke, Ymdar and IIsi50MHz for their help in compiling this list!