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This week on the Campaign Trail I look at variant backgrounds again, this time with the Charlatan variant Fortune Teller background for D&D 5e. The Fortune Teller background could fit anywhere, but is especially suited to gothic horror and Victorian settings.

Creating a variant background or tweaking existing backgrounds can save you the time you would need to create an entire new background. Most of the new backgrounds found in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide save design time (and page count) by borrowing Traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws from the original backgrounds in the PHB. For example, the City Watch background refers to the Soldier background for suggested characteristics.

Charlatan Variant: Fortune Teller | Sailor Variants: Castaway & Explorer

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.

To create a variant background you only need a description of the variant and what makes it different from the original background.

Creating Homebrew Variant Backgrounds

The charlatan background found in the PHB doesn’t have a variant, like the sailor’s pirate or the criminal’s spy variant backgrounds. This homebrew Fortune Teller below provides another option for players who would like to take the Charlatan background. This variant background provides more content than the content light variants found in the PHB. This Fortune Teller background has Skill Proficiencies, Tool Proficiencies and Equipment, but does not include traits, ideals, bonds and flaws, just like the lighter backgrounds found in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. You could easily expand this out to to be a full background or even pull back a bit and just provide the variant feature like the PHB.


Variant Charlatan: Fortune Teller

Fortune telling involves predicting information about a person’s life and appears similar to divination magic to casual observers. You can quickly read people and know their deepest desires and fears. You tell people their fortune using your insight and they pay you for sharing your mystical powers. You learned your art from a family member, old friend or even another fortune teller you met on the road. Your fortune telling is not based in magic, but by making vague statements that people willingly add in the details for you, while they concentrate on your effective use of your prop. You always need to be careful not to reveal the secret of your “gift”, especially around experienced magic users.

Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Deception
Tool Proficiencies: One type of fortune teller’s tools
Languages: One of your choice
Equipment: a set of fortune teller’s tools (one of your choice, best if it matches your specialty), a set of traveler’s clothes, a costume, and a pouch containing 15 gp.

SPECIALTY

To determine the nature of your “gift”, roll a d10 or choose from the options below.

d10Specialty
1Astrologist
2Card Reading (Cartomancy)
3Clairvoyant
4Crystallomancy (reading of a crystal sphere)
5Face Reading
6Numerologist
7Palmistry (reading of the palms)
8Pendulum Reading
9Spirit Board Reading
10Tasseography (reading tea leaves in a cup)

 

FEATURE: FORTUNE TELLING

Although the way you operate is similar to a charlatan, as a fortune teller you have specialized in appearing to be a mystic versus always looking for an angle for your next scheme. You can always find a place to tell fortunes for money, such as an inn or tavern, market, carnival, or even a noble’s court. In addition, anyone who is a willing participant that has their fortune told by you, will want to believe anything plausible that your reveal to them, until future events prove otherwise.

DM NOTE: You could decide if the participant believes the fortune using an opposed Insight or Deception check with advantage for the player.


Tools

The following is a list of new tools that a fortune teller can select to be proficient with. Proficiency with any of these fortune teller’s tools lets you add your proficiency bonus to any ability checks made using the tools of your craft. Each type of fortune teller’s tools requires a separate proficiency that matches your specialty. Each of these kits provide the tools needed to tell the fortunes of your marks.

ItemCostWeight
Fortune Teller’s Tools
Crystal ball20 gp3 lb.
Fortune-telling cards10 gp
Pendulum20 gp1 lb.
Astrology charts20 gp1 lb.
Bone set10 gp
Rune stones10 gp
Bowl of intoxicating vapors10 gp
Spirit board10 gp1 lb.
Tea set and tea leaves10 gp

Fortune Teller’s Tools. These are the items used by fortune tellers to ply their arts. Your tool may appear however you wish (though it might be best if it works with your specialty), as they all serve nearly the same function, to be a prop to distract your .


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

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