Xanathar’s Guide to Everything has been selectively available since November 10th and is available everywhere on November 21st (previously covered with a preview and review). Over a third of the book focuses on character options, which includes 27 new subclasses that have been drawing the most attention. This section also is full of excellent optional tools to flesh out your any D&D character’s backstory in the form of random tables tied to your class and backstory. The chapter also closes out with racial feats for all of the non-races found in the PHB (oops! I keep forgetting humans get the Prodigy feat).

In this article, I’ll be briefly taking a look at each of these sections as I create a PC with all of the new expanded background content. My example will show just how extensive the new character background tools are.

For a more detailed look at what the book includes visit my Xanathar’s Guide to Everything preview and review.

Base Character Options

Let’s start with what I already can know about my character from the Player’s Handbook, which already contains good options to generate your height, weight and background. Here’s my tiefling bard character build. I’m starting at level 4, so that I can choose a bardic college and gain a racial feat for this example.

Ability Scores: STR: 8 | DEX: 14 | CON: 12 | INT: 14 (13+1) | WIS: 10 | CHA: 17 (15+2)

Race: Tiefling

  • Name: – (Let’s use Xanathar’s instead)
  • Ability Score: CHA +2, INT +1
  • Age: – (Let’s use Xanathar’s instead)
  • Sex: Female
  • Height (2d8): 4’9″ + 9 = 5’6″
  • Weight (2d4): 110 lb. + (9 x 2) = 128 lb
  • Alignment: CG (the PHB suggests Tieflings are chaotic and I like playing good characters)
  • Size: Medium
  • Speed: 30′
  • Darkvision, Hellish Resistance, Infernal Legacy
  • Language: Common, Infernal

Class: Bard

  • Hit Points: 27
  • Equipment: rapier, entertainer’s pack, flute, leather armor, dagger
  • Skills: Deception, Intimidation, Persuasion
  • Features: Spellcasting, Bardic Inspiration, Jack of All Trades, Song of Rest, Expertise

Subclass: College of Swords

  • Bonus Proficiencies: Medium armor and scimitar
  • Fighting Style: Dueling
  • Blade Flourish

Background: Entertainer

  • Skill & Tool Proficiencies: Acrobatics, Performance, Disguise kit, one type of musical instrument
  • Equipment: Lute, love letter, a costume, and a belt pouch containing 15 gp
  • Entertainer Routine (d10): 5 = Juggler
  • Feature: By Popular Demand
  • Personality Trait (d8): 3 = I’m a hopeless romantic, always searching for that “special someone.”
  • Ideal (d6): 3 = Creativity. The world is in need of new ideas and bold action. (Chaotic)
  • Bond (d6): 6 = I would do anything for the other members of my old troupe.
  • Flaw (d6):  2 = I’m a sucker for a pretty face.

image from the D&D 5e Player’s Handbook

Expanded Character Background Options

I took the time to generate all of the new optional backstory elements using the tools in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.

Class Aspects

For each class, we’re provided with new tools to add expanded details to our PCs background. Since I’ll be creating a bard, I can draw inspiration from the tools to create a defining work, find the ultimate instrument, remember an embarrassment and find a muse for my PC.

  • Defining work (d6): 4 = “The Pirates of Luskan”, my PCs firsthand account of being kidnapped by sea reavers as a child
  • Instrument (d6): 6 = A tinker’s harp of gnomish design
  • Embarrassment (d6): 2 = The matinee performance when a circus’ owlbear got loose and terrorized the crowd.
  • Muse (choose from nature, love and conflict): My PC is on a quest to identify the essence of true love, etc.

This is Your Life

I know my character is a bard with the entertainer background, but what else can I generate about his background?  There’s over 12 pages of ideas and random tables to expand your character’s origin, personal decisions, and life events.

Origins

  • Parents (d100): 66 = You know who your parents were
  • Tiefling Parents (d8): 3 = Both parents human, their infernal heritage dormant until you came along
  • Birthplace (d100): 8 = Home
  • Siblings (d10): 4  = I rolled 2 (1d3) siblings
    • Sibling A: 2 (2d6) = My twin
      • Occupation (d100): 16 = Artisan of guild member
      • Alignment (3d6): 8 = Neutral Evil
      • Status (3d6): 5 = Missing or unknown (hook!!!)
      • Relationship (3d4): 6 = Friendly
      • Race (d100): 79, 15 = Human (I rerolled until I get human or tiefling)
      • Other details (you determine): female, I could also set her name, personality and place in the world
    • Sibling B: 5 (2d6) = Older
      • Occupation (d100): 77 = Merchant
      • Alignment (3d6): 16 = Lawful Neutral
      • Status (3d6): 10 = Alive and well
      • Relationship (3d4): 5 = Friendly
      • Race (d100): 8 = Human
      • Other details (you determine): male, I could also set his name, personality and place in the world

Family and Friends

  • Family (d100): 86 = Mother and father
  • Family Lifestyle (3d6): 8 = Poor (-10)
  • Childhood Home (d100 + Family Lifestyle): 33 – 10 = 23 = no permanent residence, moved around a lot
  • Childhood Memories (3d6 + CHA mod): 12 = I had a few close friends and lived an ordinary childhood

Personal Decisions:

  • Background – Entertainer (d6): 6 = a traveling entertainer took me in and taught me the trade
  • Class Training – Bard (d6): 3 = I joined a loose society of scholars and orators to learn new techniques of performance and magic

Life Events

  • Age (d100): 4 = 20 years or younger = I’ll go with 20
  • Life Event (roll 1 d100 for 20 or under): 56 = You spent time working in a job (performer in a troupe) related to your background, start the game with 2 (2d6) more gold

image from The Adversary by Erin M. Evans

Racial Feats

There are 15 new racial feats. Each of the non-human races from the Player’s Handbook can select from two to four racial feats (some shared). The feats really enhance what makes a race unique, with halflings becoming luckier, dwarves getting tougher, dragonborn being even more draconic, tieflings more infernal, and so on. My bard is an tiefling, so I have a couple of feats that I could choose to select when my PC levels up. The feats are Flames of Phlegethos and Infernal Combustion.

For my PCs level 4 ability score improvement, I am going to select a racial feat using the optional feat rules. I think I’ll go with Flames of Phlegethos, since it bumps up his Charisma by 1 and lets him “call on hellfire”.

Random Names

In Appendix B, you’ll find 17 pages of random names for PCs, most of which are for humans from civilizations in our world. In my review I wasn’t super impressed by this section, but it will work to provide a random first name for my tiefling.

After all these rolls, we finally have a name for my character.

  • Tiefling, Female (d100): 17 = Bune
  • Tiefling, Virtue (d100): 93 = Vice

 

That’s it folks. I now have a fully fleshed out Tiefling Bard ready to play named Bune, but she prefers to be called Vice. Using the supplemental tables I could have even randomly rolled my character’s alignment, race, and class. It wouldn’t take much work to write up a detailed backstory about my Tiefling with everything I generated.

Let me know in the comments below if you are excited about all of the character background options. If you have the book and tried this out yourself, let us know how it went.

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  • Dave(s) 4 Goombella

    I had a character who was mostly fleshed-out, but I still used the tables to add a few more details. I knew she was an elderly, Chaotic Good woman who ran an orphanage until it was destroyed by the soldiers of an evil King. This event prompted her to become an adventurer, and overthrow evil tyrants everywhere. I named her “Aunt Yfa” because I can’t resist a good pun. I wanted a Charisma-based healer (our party was lacking both a healer and a “Face”) so I chose Celestial Warlock. And (since our group doesn’t limit itself to PHB+1) I chose Yuan-Ti Pureblood as my race. For my background, I chose Guild Artisan (brewmaster) in order to get Persuasion. (So I guess she ran an orphanage / brewpub.)

    Here’s where I moved on to the tables. My mother was executed for a crime she didn’t commit, and my father had disappeared to an unknown fate. I was raised in an Asylum. So, right away, I had a great bit of depth that already fit my backstory. I decided my mother was wrongly convicted due to racism; they feared her serpentine heritage. Because of my similar monstrous heritage, I was raised in a cruel and brutal asylum, instead of a reasonably safe orphanage. This gives my character the motivation to start her own home for ostracized and monstrous orphans. And if my character’s orphanage was full of abandoned half-orcs, half-elves, etc., that would give the evil racist human King a reason to want it destroyed.

    My most notable life event was a trip to the “Feywild or Shadowfell”, and I became a Warlock after discovering a magic tome which summoned my patron. The extra-planar trip didn’t seem to add much, so it became a minor part of my character’s backstory; it was the reason she survived the King’s attack on the orphanage. One of the children had extraordinary hidden magical talents, including clairvoyance, and teleported away his beloved Aunty to spare her from the flames. When Yfa returned to the material plane the next day, she found the orphanage in ashes, except for a single book (that which summoned her patron).

    So even when I had my character’s backstory largely pre-set, I was still able to get something out of those tables.And I could make as much or as little out of the results as I pleased.

    • Thanks for sharing!

      These optional tables are good for new PCs or adding something to PCs you have already been playing.

  • Matthew Wilson

    The character flavor tables are my favorite part of the whole book and well worth the price. There’s some other cool stuff too, I guess, but these are tables I’ll be coming back to time and time again. They easily catch my mind on fire with the essence of D&D

    • Pathfinder has a book called Ultimate Campaign which has some content which is very similar to Xanathar . Like Xanathar, it has tons character background content and tools which I believe are more extensive than Xanathar.

      As 3.x rules like to, nearly everything has a statistical reason for existing. Many of the background options come in the form or traits or drawbacks, which provide a +2 bonus here, a -2 penalty there.

      Xanathar (with the exception of the racial feats) has provided all this just to help create more fleshed out characters. I think keeping the crunch/numbers out of the optional background content was a good idea. We still have the core race, class and background to get crunch from.

      There is an interesting idea for homebrew feats in Ultimate Campaign, Story Feats – which puts some of the RP mechanics back on the DM side of the table. You could give out feats to characters as they progress across milestones like treasure. Kill a bitter, long time enemy, gain the Foeslayer Feat which could give out whatever benefits you like.

    • Matthew Wilson

      I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the tip!
      I know 3.x had a book with very similar tables to what Xantahar’s has. I think it was the Hero’s hand book or something? I have it at home somewhere. It seemed like they had a decent idea, but their character creation was more messy and so they weren’t able to easily hook into backgrounds and the like.
      I should dig it up and do a comparison…

    • Dave(s) 4 Goombella

      There are a handful of Life Events in Xanathar’s which give you some extra gold or a common magic item, but that’s about it.

      The 5e DMG already gave us something very similar to story feats: Boons. Many of these boons are best suited as rewards for characters who are already at level 20, but some of the suggestions would work for characters of any level.

    • Good catch on Boons. I’m going to check those out again. I remember looking at using them for my first 5e campaign.

  • Sporelord0179

    I’ve yet to buy the book sadly, I can’t find any nearby FLGSs, but I’m really impressed at how in depth the character tables get. If I run a group next time I’ll suggest they try and make a character almost entirely from these tables.

    • Manos Ti

      As far as the first part of your comment, the book has become a best seller almost immediately. I’ve read about stories of people getting more than one copies of the limited edition cover and it is no wonder that such copies have appeared in eBay with crazy pricing. Also, I’ve seen many people getting both types. So, it’s logical not to find it right now. I’d say be patient for a month or so, the hype will go down and stores will restock.

    • Dave(s) 4 Goombella

      The tables are great, but I’d have also loved to have more random tables for personality/bond/flaw which are tied to class (or even anticipated subclass) and race/subrace instead of just background.

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