It’s been a little while now since I’ve done anything with my series on the fey, so today I’m returning for the fifth and sixth fey background: the Inspired and the Oathsworn. The Inspired are those who receive – or believe they will receive – creative inspiration from a fey patron, friend, or lover. The Oathbreaker is on the outs with a fey, some fey, or the fey, as a result of breaking an oath.
Fey Chivalry | Fey Huntsmen and Leashed Terrors | Faerie Tales: Naiads, Pixies, and Sprites for 5e | A Visit to the Shadowfell – Shadar-Kai & More | In a Goblin Market | Fey of the Elder Starlight | Fey Enchanters and Their Lairs | Treasures of a Fey Market | Archfey Patrons | Archfey Patrons, Part Two | Archfey Patrons, Part Three | The Schemes of the Archfey | The Schemes of the Archfey, Part Two | The Schemes of the Archfey, Part Three | Fey Weapons | Alternate Fey Courts | The Fey Highlord Patron | Fey-Touched Backgrounds, Part One | Fey-Touched Backgrounds, Part Two | Fey-Touched Backgrounds, Part Three
The fey act as your muse for art, poetry, or invention. Even the most twisted and monstrous Unseelie wants to be remembered in creative endeavors, especially stories. The Muse of Steel, of course, puts her whole energy into building and maintaining groups of Inspired mortals; she has almost no other aim. You don’t need to be in regular contact with your muse; it can suffice to think of them frequently, following a single memorable encounter. Perhaps you wish you could forget.
Many warlocks begin this way, but just as many Inspired do not seal a true pact, or find that an initial bond does not develop into a full pact until they complete the first great work that their muse inspired.
Skill Proficiencies: Perception, Performance
Tool Proficiencies: One set of artisan’s tools or one musical instrument
Equipment: A musical instrument or a set of artisan’s tools (one of your choice), a favor given to you by your muse, 10 pieces of paper, bottle of ink, ink pen, a belt pouch containing 10 gp
Feature: Art Reveals Truth
Your artistic works contain truths and hints of secrets beyond your own knowledge. If you have time for even a rushed creative effort (typically at least 30 minutes), you can learn about your muse, the fey in general, or anything the DM agrees is relevant, substituting a Charisma (artisan’s tools) or Charisma (Performance) check for any other information-gathering ability check. You usually experience this burst of creativity as a gap in your memory.
As one of the Inspired, you may feel helpless in the thrall of your art, or you may find that you must reach for it. The former relationship often brings wealth and fame that you can scarcely enjoy, while the latter grants you less of a reward but greater freedom.
1 I always have the scraps of past and future creations stuffed in my pockets.
2 I skip a lot of sleep to make more time for my art.
3 I dress in colors and patterns that reflect my muse, to draw their attention back to me.
4 I revel in the finer things in life that my art brings to me.
5 When I have a new idea, I miss meals and neglect friendships.
6 I cover any long-term living space in artwork, both mine and other artists’.
7 I love telling other people about my dreams.
8 I have a story, poem, or song appropriate to every occasion.
1 Generosity: I want others to be as inspired as I am. (Good)
2 Transformation: My muse and I will bring about a revolution in the world. (Chaotic)
3 Greed: If I’m being honest… I’m just in in for the fame. (Evil)
4 Honor: My muse offers their gifts in exchange for specific codes of behavior, which I honor to the letter. (Lawful)
5 Fellowship: Any artist, performer, or artisan is a kindred spirit. (Neutral)
6 Aspiration: As a mortal, my life is short, but I will make the world remember me and my muse. (Neutral)
1 I’ll drop everything for a chance to learn a new story about my muse.
2 I’m desperate to sate my muse, or weaken their hold over me.
3 My muse threatens to leave me and I must regain their favor.
4 A particular buyer or client pays for my lifestyle, and I am beholden to their wishes.
5 My muse has an enemy, and I am now committed to that fight as well.
6 My first great work for my muse was stolen, and I must recover it.
1 I am intensely jealous of my muse’s attention, and I’m enraged when anyone else mentions possessing their favor.
2 My muse is intensely jealous of my attention, and is enraged when anyone else receives much of my time or attention.
3 I had a different muse once, they left me, and I dwell on that bitterness.
4 I had a different muse once, I left them, and they hold a dire grudge.
5 The things my muse inspires me to create are horrific or dangerous to those around me.
6 My muse visits me in disturbing dreams, or requires me to come to them in the flesh.
You had a deal with the fey. Maybe it was a good deal, maybe it was a bad one, but it was a deal and you agreed to it. You didn’t keep your end of that bargain or oath, and that’s something the fey just can’t abide. A criminal in mortal society can find allies among other outlaws, but one oathbreaker seldom finds companionship with others. Instead, they try to hide their nature from their friends for as long as they can.
Work with your DM to determine the nature of your bargain or oath, and who cares most about punishing your violation.
Skill Proficiencies: Deception, Insight
Tool Proficiencies: Disguise kit, forgery kit
Equipment: A set of common clothes, a disguise kit, a token you received as part of your bargain or symbol of your oath, an iron dagger, a belt pouch containing 10 gp
Feature: Oathbreaker’s Mark
Your soul is marked for your transgressions, and fey can always recognize an oathbreaker mark. Encounters with the fey are not necessarily hostile, but they are never trusting. When a creature breaks an oath or bargain with you, you can mark it as an oathbreaker if it is on the same plane of existence as you are. You can end a mark that you placed at any time, and you can sense oathbreaker marks on others if you can see them and they are within 30 feet.
An oathbreaker has been forever altered by a single decision in their lives, perhaps as little as a single action. It shapes them as strongly as any other background – it isn’t all they can be, but it made them who they are. Think about what their oath or bargain must have been – even the most vindictive fey would not impose an oathbreaker’s mark over something meaningless.
1 I’ve already been through terrible strain, so I’m calm even in great danger.
2 I am almost never the first to speak, and I spend as few words as possible.
3 The more rigid a person’s moral code, the less I trust them, because they remind me of fey rules.
4 I am desperate to replace the friendships that I lost when I broke my oath.
5 I angrily deny any implication that I was wrong to break my bargain.
6 I spend money like water, because my life could fall apart all over again.
7 I wax philosophical about dangers and reversals of fortune.
8 I always have a cold iron weapon within reach, kept deadly sharp.
1 Courage: I broke my oath for the sake of personal honor, and I’d do it again. (Good)
2 Oaths: I know what it costs to break an oath, and now I enforce them zealously. (Lawful)
3 Power: The fey had no right to do this to me, and I will grow strong enough to avenge this wrong. (Evil)
4 Freedom: I want break the power of fey oaths and bargains over mortals. (Chaotic)
5 Destiny: My oath and oathbreaking are all a small piece of a greater destiny that I must find. (Any)
6 Redemption: I can still make something good from the ruins of my life. (Good)
1 I’m looking for the next deal that will make things right with my last one.
2 I can’t say no to anything the fey want of me, just in case they finally decide to forgive me.
3 I’m being blackmailed for my oathbreaking, and I’ve got to find a way out of it.
4 I’m tracking down someone who broke their oath to me, because my oathbreaker’s mark isn’t punishment enough.
5 If I’m going to be punished, I should at least steal back the thing I had bargained for.
6 When I broke my bargain, there was human collateral – and collateral damage that I need to make right.
1 If I could walk away from games of chance, I wouldn’t have gotten in with the fey in the first place.
2 A fey Highlord has it out for me and anyone close to me.
3 Since the fey are after me, I assume anyone I meet for the first time could be their pawn.
4 When I negotiate anything, I get cagey, and it often sours a good deal.
5 When relationships grow close and people start to learn my secrets, I run for it.
6 Poor impulse control? Who, me? Well, maybe.
The Inspired are not to be confused with Eberron’s Inspired, of course. What I’ve written here is mostly about toxic or codependent relationships, but also about trying to make various kinds of artistry a tiny bit more adventuring-useful. Sure, it’s a narrow range of topics, but I stretched it as far as I felt the logic would go. What can I say, writing background features so that they’re useful but not very useful is tricky.
The Oathbreakers are strongly inspired by Shattered Isles and Wildlands South. In Shattered Isles, elves were deeply invested in oaths, and if they broke oaths, they would be forever marked (visibly) and cast out of elven society. Wildlands South was very much about oaths, and the one night a year that no oaths hold true: Oathbreakers’ Night (the setting’s sort-of Halloween). The tough thing about them, as a background, is exactly what I mentioned in Suggested Characteristics: being an oathbreaker isn’t your life or upbringing, but I’m trying to make it one of the three Big Choices of character creation. You can let me know if you think I hit that mark. I think the personality features describe a sufficient variety of personalities and situations, at least.
Both of these are, of course, for campaigns where the fey matter and encounters with them are reasonably common. If being fey-touched doesn’t matter in your setting, fey-touched backgrounds aren’t going to be all that great. Use accordingly.