Backgrounds as presented in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition are a fairly important part of the character creation process. They tell you where your character came from as well as giving you additional mechanical benefits in the form of proficiencies and abilities that have the opportunity to become powerful storytelling tools. But so often I see people recommending the combinations that make the most sense – the Cleric who grew up as an acolyte or the Fighter that was a soldier before he took up the mercenary lifestyle. There are so many rich stories that can be told if you think a little outside the box in terms of your character’s background. I want to explore that idea this week with a character that came into my head – Astor, the half-elf Warlock who grew up as a soldier in his king’s army.
Half-Elf Warlock 1
Armor Class 13
Hit Points 10 (1d8+2)
Proficiency Bonus +2
Speed 30 ft
Alignment neutral good
Languages Common, Draconic, Elven
Strength 13 (+1)
Dexterity 14 (+2)
Constitution 14 (+2)
Intelligence 8 (-1)
Wisdom 10 (+0)
Charisma 16 (+3)
Melee Attack: Spear +3 1d6+1 piercing damage, range 20/60, 1d8+1 piercing damage when wielded two-handed
Melee or Ranged Attack: Dagger +4 1d4+1 piercing damage, range 20/60, finesse, light, thrown
Ranged Attack: Light crossbow +4 1d8 piercing damage, Ammunition, range 80/320, loading, two-handed
Skills Acrobatics +2, Animal Handling +0, Arcana +1, Athletics +3, Deception +5, History -1, Insight +0, Intimidation +5, Investigation -1, Medicine +0, Nature -1, Perception +0, Performance +3, Persuasion +5, Religion -1, Sleight of Hand +2 Stealth +4, Survival +0
Equipment light crossbow w/ 20 bolts, arcane focus, scholar’s pack, leather armor, spear, two daggers, insignia of rank, scrap of King Caledon’s banner, set of bone dice, set of common clothes, belt pouch w/ 10 gp
Darkvision: You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in the darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Fey Ancestry: You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed, and magic can’t put you to sleep.
Armor Proficiencies: light armor
Weapon Proficiencies: all simple weapons
Tool Proficiencies: dice, vehicles (land)
Saving Throws: Wisdom and Charisma
Skill Proficiencies: Arcana, Athletics Deception, Intimidation, Persuasion, Stealth
Otherworldly Patron: You have struck a bargain with the Great Old One for your powers. This gives you access to an expanded spell list and allows you to communicate telepathically with any creature you can see within 30 feet of you. You don’t need to share a language with the creature for it to understand your telepathic utterances, but it must be able to understand at least one language. You are as of yet unaware of the dark bargain you have struck.
Spellcasting: You know the following spells. You have 1 spell slot and cast them at 1st level. Cantrips: blade ward, eldritch blast Spells Known: charm person, hex
Your spell save DC is 13 and your spell attack modifier is +5
Background: Soldier Military Rank: You have a military rank from your career as a soldier. Soldiers loyal to your former military organization still recognize your authority and influence, and they defer to you if they are of a lower rank. You can invoke your rank to exert influence over other soldiers and requisition simple equipment or horses for temporary use. You can also usually gain access to friendly military encampments and fortresses where your rank is recognized.
Personality Traits: I’ve lost too many friends, and I’m slow to make new ones. Ideals: Independence. When people follow orders blindly, they embrace a kind of tyranny. Bonds: Someone saved my life on the battlefield. To this day, I will never leave a friend behind. Flaws: My hatred of my enemies is blind and unreasoning.
History: Astor was one of a pair of twins that had been adopted by a human family. He and his sister had been orphaned on the road when wandering monsters had claimed the lives of their parents. They both grew up to lead rather uneventful lives, or so it seemed. Astor joined the army like every young man. And while he wasn’t the biggest or strongest, his keen wit and sharp tongue kept him out of trouble in the barracks and earned him favor among the leadership, earning a small command for himself at a fairly young age, all things considered. And then it came time for Astor to go to war – King Caledon’s forces had pressed too far into their sovereign lands. The early skirmishes went well, and they pushed the enemy back. Emboldened by their success, Astor pushed the men further and further. But he soon realized his mistake, and Caledon sprung his trap. They had pushed too deep, allowing themselves to be encircled. Astor’s men were slaughtered. Astor was one of the few that was able to escape, fleeing back to his home town where he discovered more bloodshed. His parents had been savagely and ritualistically murdered and his sister, Davina was nowhere to be found. He buried his family and went about the process of packing his belongings when Davina showed up one night gravely wounded and clutching a bag to her breast. Astor asked what was going on and the only thing Davina was able to get out between mindless babbles is that she needed him to protect what was in the package from them. She made him promise that he would do everything in his power to protect it. He made the promise. And then his sister died. Not a moment later, the door was kicked in by robed figures bearing dangerous looking knives. Astor was unarmed, but the package in his arms grew warm and heavy. A voice in his head asked if he wished for the power to destroy his enemies and to avenge his families’ deaths. He knew then that these people were the ones responsible for killing his parents and taking his sister. They were after what Davina had given to him and sworn to his protection. And he hated them. He could be given the power to destroy these men in exchange for a price to be exacted later. He uttered a simple response – yes.
“The bargain is struck!”
Astor felt a power well up inside of him, magical energy that had never before existed and yearned to be unleashed. He raised his hands at the intruders and they were immolated by fiery rays that sprang from his fingertips. They writhed on the ground as they died, their howls of pain and suffering seeming to feed the power inside of him. He didn’t know what else to do – he ran. He ran as far as he could, only stopping when he could run no more. Only then did he open the satchel his sister had given him. Inside were several books. One tome was so weathered and worn that he could barely make out any of the words, and what few he could seemed to be complete nonsense. The other books were more helpful, including one that detailed Davina’s days after Astor left for the army. It seemed she had gotten mixed up with a mystery cult. It had seemed like harmless fun at first, but as she had learned more and more about it, she realized the danger these men and women posed to the world and had tried to flee. Their parents were simply caught in the crossfire, killed by the cult in order to force compliance from Davina. But she had stolen several of their writings and an amulet that had been worn by one of their priests and ran. It was during her escape that she was fatally wounded and had given the satchel to her brother.
Astor doesn’t know much about what is going on, but he does know the power that was awoken inside of him hasn’t yet gone back to sleep. He has a feeling it may be linked to the ancient being that the cult worshipped, but he doesn’t know for certain yet. But maybe, just maybe he can get revenge for his family using it.