In the past, I’ve looked at creating variant backgrounds such as the Castaway and Explorer for the Sailor and the Fortune Teller for the Charlatan. This week on the Campaign Trail I thought I’d look at creating a full background for players who are creating a PC for an adventure from Tales from the Yawning Portal. A Dungeoneer spends most of their time in a dungeon and only travels back to town to rest and reprovision. These types of adventurers don’t worry about anything other than surviving long enough in a dungeon to pull out all of its loot and moving onto the next lair, temple or ruin. The Dungeoneer Background is well suited to a theatre of the mind campaign where you just want a create a PC who’s good at exploring dungeons and need a simple background to match.

Creating Backgrounds

To create a background you only need the following:

  • Description – basic paragraph introducing the background
  • Skill Proficiencies, Tool Proficiencies and Equipment (and sometimes Language)
  • Feature – generally a non-combat benefit only available to this background
  • Suggested Characteristics – generally an outline of characteristics of people with this background and lists of Traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws or a reference to borrow them from another background
  • Optional – some kind or origin table such as the Charlatan’s Favorite Schemes Scam (d6) table.

Dungeoneer Background

You have been exploring dungeons for almost as long as you can remember. You started as a hireling, following adventurers into the ruins that dot the wilderness or the catacombs beneath your city. You carried equipment, held lanterns, watched the horses and even drew maps. Somehow you survived long enough to become an adventurer yourself. Now it’s your turn to slay monsters, disarm traps and find loot. Your choice of profession is deadly, but you are ready.

Skill Proficiencies: Perception, Stealth
Tool Proficiencies: Cartographer’s tools
Languages: One of your choice (preferably a language you have encountered in a dungeon such as Goblin, Draconic or Primordial)
Equipment: A set of cartographer’s tools, a set of traveler’s clothes, a trinket scavenged from a dungeon (or you may roll for a random trinket on the Trinkets table in Chapter 5), and a pouch containing 15gp

FEATURE: DUNGEON CARTOGRAPHER

Years of exploring and mapping has made you skilled at finding your way around a dungeon. If you take five minutes to create a map or one minute to update the map, your map will be correct and can be verified by the Dungeon Master. In addition, you can always find your way back to somewhere in the dungeon you have previously mapped (if the location is still accessible and the dungeon has not moved around).

SUGGESTED CHARACTERISTICS

A successful dungeoneer finds a way to survive deadly dungeons that are designed to kill any and all visitors. Dungeoneers are most at home with a few companions battling monsters, avoiding traps and finding loot deep in a dungeon. This is dangerous work and only the best live to tell their tales in the tavern.

d8 Personality Trait
1 When I’m back in town, I’m quick-tempered and looking for trouble.
2 I’m calm and in control when facing danger. The more deadly, the better.
3 Adventure and treasure are great, but I’m here to protect my friends.
4 I’m impatient and rush into danger.
5 I’ve spent so much time adventuring that I’m more comfortable out campaigning than being in town.
6 Whenever I enter a room, I can’t help but scan it for hidden dangers.
7 I love telling stories of our latest adventure to anyone who will listen, especially for a free drink.
8 I hate being unprepared. I work hard to make sure I am always properly equipped for my next adventure.
d6 Ideal
1 Fairness. I don’t take more than my fair share, we all split the loot equally. (Lawful)
2 People. I take care of my friends, everyone else is on their own. (Neutral)
3 Freedom. Only when I’m exploring a dungeon do I feel truly free. (Chaotic)
4 Greater Good. Dungeons are full of dangers. Someone needs to clear them out to keep communities safe. (Good)
5 Greed. Finding the loot in a dungeon, no matter what the cost, is all that matters. (Evil)
6 Aspiration. Exploring dungeons is a dangerous business, but they are an excellent way to prove yourself. (Any)
d6 Bond
1 I used to have people in my life that cared about me, now I have my work to help me forget.
2 One day I’ll return to my hometown and show them all that I have become rich and powerful.
3 I cannot remember my past before I become an adventurer.
4 I owe my mentor for teaching me everything I know about dungeons.
5 My training and experience have given me the ability to support and protect my family.
6 My companions all died because I wasn’t powerful enough. That will never happen again.
d6 Flaw
1 When I see treasure, I will take great risks to attain it.
2 I’ll do whatever is needed to survive, everyone else can worry about their own survival.
3 Violence is the best response to any threat.
4 When I return from an adventure, I spend much of my gold on the vices found in town.
5 No one must ever know that I am the sole survivor of a lost adventuring party.
6 Years of exploring dungeons has made me paranoid and jumpy.

Variant Dungeoneer: Trapfinder

ADDED – I had a chance to think about an alternative to provide players in games that are use shared maps on the tabletop or virtual tabletop. It treads a bit on the Dungeon Delver feat, but here goes nothing…

Many years exploring and surviving dungeons has provided you with an uncanny ability to sense the presence of traps. While others members of your party stumble around the dungeon, you carefully scan rooms and corridors, usually finding trouble, before it finds you.

Tool Proficiencies: Thieves’ tools

Equipment: A set of thieves’ tools, a set of traveler’s clothes, a ten foot pole, a trinket scavenged from a dungeon (or you may roll for a random trinket on the Trinkets table in Chapter 5), and a pouch containing 15gp

VARIANT FEATURE: TRAP SENSE

Years of traveling through dungeons and surviving deadly traps taught you to notice these mechanical and magical dangers before they’re tripped by one of your companions. Finding traps take patience and practice. When you take the time to travel at a slow pace, you have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks made to notice traps.

We’ll that’s it from the Campaign Trail this week. Share your thoughts and favorite homebrew backgrounds in the comments below.

If you liked this article and other articles here on Tribality.com, please consider supporting us on Patreon.

 

Shares
  • When I was creating this background I was really tempted to make the PC good at stonecunning or disarming traps. Stonecunning is bad, as a background really shouldn’t use something provided by a racial trait. Giving any ability to work with thieves’ tools was treading on the Criminal background and the Rogue class.

    I settled on something that really helps out with exploration, especially for players who haven’t mapped before.

    • Sos Rope

      That is a nice way to base a game mechanic on player/DM interaction. Anything that makes us talk to each other is good 😉

  • I added a Trapfinder variant background, for tables that are using grid maps.

    • Sos Rope

      Perfect timing for the Yawning Portal release! I’ve just been re-reading Conan stories and it’s amazing how much time a hero supposedly described as a barbarian/pirate/king etc. just gets stuck in some bizarre old ruin from ancient times full of weird crap and deadly traps…

    • Sos Rope

      One more thought though: in an old-school frame of mind… waht about a free 10ft pole or a modern updated version of that terrible joke?

    • that is great. Nice add to equipment 🙂

Shares