Wednesday 26 February 2020

5th edition backgrounds as stat rerolling life path

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Carlo Jacono, think I got this image here

So 5th edition d&d has this bit in character creation where you get to generate your dudes backstory.

There's some minor mechanic benefit and does help flesh out your character.

However it's still balls. It's more decision making and reading and is making the terrible assumption that a detailed backstory is a worthwhile pursuit.

  My firm belief is that if d&d is considered as a "story generator"* , then these stories are going to be a pulp genre.
And characters in pulp genre don't drop in the story with a page of personal history and an itemized curriculum vitae. Instead they have a name , a interesting brief description, and then forward with the plot. From there they can grow, reveal depths, be wracked with unresolved conflict, be haunted by the specters of vast ills dones, etc. 
It comes up when it needs to come up.

So should your d & d character. Don't waffle on about how they were adopted by elves before being blamed for a forest fire , unless said fire has left their face scarred ,  a curdled meat mug, a face now even too ugly  for sneering. 

Instead mention it when your character is in a forest or after the party meets elves ("I never lit that fire, you hear me? Got this here counter'nance trying to put the bugger out!")
And yeah, it's even better if you make it up then.
Let your characters surprise you.

ANYWAY going completely against that we have the rest of this blog post.
Okay some people want to grow their character in their head before play, have their history sketched out, and the background rolling is grand for them.

So why not make it do some other work?

*yes that is statement not without considerable baggage , but let's just put quotes around it and move on


Roll 3d6 in order.
Then choose or roll from/on the following tables , one entry from each section, do so in the order the sections are written. 
Nearly all the entries will have an attribute listed . This time of the characters life resulted on that attribute being relied on, challenged or lead to the character dedicating themselves to improving that aspect of themselves.
This means  you can roll again for that stat, choosing the new result if desired.

The formative years tables have 2 extra entries , they cannot raise an attribute above 18 or below 1.

 ( I have little intention of using this method, it was an idea I thought interesting enough to develop enough that its merits or dismerits could be seen. The title sentences and the following sentences in the tables could be tweaked to be less jarring and a lot of the attribute matching is a stretch, but this is a proof of concept post, so you gotta deal or take it and make it like how you want it instead.

My very loose guidelines were if there was if it mentions flexibility , new approaches , relying on reflexes it's Dexterity.
 If involves going without, enduring, stubbornness or making more trouble for oneself resulting in deprivation it is Constitution . 
If it involves making more trouble for oneself and relying on power to overcome it it is Strength. 
So is anything to do with self improvement and rigorous testing or not being conflict adverse.
Self Improvement to do with learning, cynicism, critical thinking, logic, trusting ones ability to have correctly understood the underlying rules ; Intelligence.
Intuition, Destiny, challenging convential thinking ; Wisdom
and lastly anything social, beauty, or charm related Charisma.

Hopefully the attributes generated are in a similar range to the newbie friendly 4d6 drop lowest  . 
Also I completed ignored the other benefits of backgrounds such as contacts etc. I can't think of any interesting way to include them back in , so that's on whoever likes this enough to use it.
(Further Speculation about the use of this mechanic to follow these tables)
Formative Years Were Spend :

>As an Acolyte ..
 1| I was the go-for for anyone of higher rank than me, discretely fetching tomes and relighting candles and jiggling the mouthpiece as required.*
2I can find common ground between the fiercest enemies, empathizing with them and always working toward peace. Charisma
3I see omens in every event and action. The gods try to speak to us, we just need to listen Wisdom
4|Nothing can shake my optimistic attitude  Strength
5I quote (or misquote) sacred texts and proverbs in almost every situation. Intelligence
6I am tolerant (or intolerant) of other faiths and respect (or condemn) the worship of other gods. Constitution
7I’ve enjoyed fine food, drink, and high society among my temple’s elite. Rough living grates on me. 
. Decrease highest stat by 1 , increase lowest stat by 2
 8I’ve spent so long in the temple that I have little practical experience dealing with people in the outside world.  Increase highest stat by 1 , decrease lowest stat by 2, maximum 18, minimum 1

>Scraping by on the streets, the way you survived was by..
1;Assiduity: I always have a plan for what to do when things go wrong. Wisdom
2: Stoticism :I am always calm, no matter what the situation. I never raise my voice or let my emotions control me. Decrease highest stat by 1 , increase lowest stat by 2
3 Opportunism The first thing I do in a new place is note the locations of everything valuable—or where such things could be hidden. Intelligence
4 Affability I would rather make a new friend than a new enemy Charisma
5 Cynicism I am incredibly slow to trust. Those who seem the fairest often have the most to hide
  Increase highest stat by 1 , decrease lowest stat by 2, maximum 18, minimum 1
6 Recklessness : I don’t pay attention to the risks in a situation. Never tell me the odds. Dexterity
7 Stubborn: The best way to get me to do something is to tell me I can’t do it Constitution
8 Fury: I blow up at the slightest insult. Strength

>a self styled "folk hero" , you
1I judge people by their actions, not their words Dexterity
.2If someone is in trouble, I’m always ready to lend help. Decrease highest stat by 1 , increase lowest stat by 2
3When I set my mind to something, I follow through no matter what gets in my way. Constitution
4I have a strong sense of fair play and always try to find the most equitable solution to arguments Charisma
.5I’m confident in my own abilities and do what I can to instill confidence in others. 
  Increase highest stat by 1 , decrease lowest stat by 2, maximum 18, minimum 1
6Thinking is for other people. I prefer action. Strength
7I misuse long words in an attempt to sound smarter. Intelligence
 8 I get bored easily. When am I going to get on with my destiny?Wisdom

>Born to privilege and wealth..
1My eloquent flattery makes everyone I talk to feel like the most wonderful and important person in the world. Charisma
2The common folk love me for my kindness and generosity.
. Decrease highest stat by 1 , increase lowest stat by 2
3No one could doubt by looking at my regal bearing that I am a cut above the unwashed masses Dexterity
4I take great pains to always look my best and follow the latest fashions
Increase highest stat by 1 , decrease lowest stat by 2, maximum 18, minimum 1
5I don’t like to get my hands dirty, and I won’t be caught dead in unsuitable accommodations.Intelligence
6Despite my noble birth, I do not place myself above other folk. We all have the same blood. Wisdom
7My favor, once lost, is lost forever. Constitution
8If you do me an injury, I will crush you, ruin your name, and salt your fields.  Strength

>A cloistered life as scribe resulting in..
1I use polysyllabic words that convey the impression of great erudition.  Dexterity
2I’ve read every book in the world’s greatest libraries—or I like to boast that I have. Intelligence
3I’m used to helping out those who aren’t as smart as I am, and I patiently explain anything and everything to others. Decrease highest stat by 1 , increase lowest stat by 2 , maximum 18, minimum 1
4There’s nothing I like more than a good mystery.  Wisdom
5I’m willing to listen to every side of an argument before I make my own judgment. Charisma
6I . . . speak . . . slowly . . . when talking . . . to idiots, . . . which . . . almost . . . everyone . . . is . . . compared . . . to me. Increase highest stat by 1 , decrease lowest stat by 2, maximum 18, minimum 1
7I am horribly, horribly awkward in social situations. Constitution
8I’m convinced that people are always trying to steal my secrets. Strength

>as conscript or volunteer, the militant life stamped its mark .. 
1 I’m always polite and respectful.  Intelligence
2I’m haunted by memories of war. I can’t get the images of violence out of my mind. Dexterity 
3I’ve lost too many friends, and I’m slow to make new ones.  Wisdom 
4I’m full of inspiring and cautionary tales from my military experience relevant to almost every combat situation.  Charisma
5I can stare down a hell hound without flinching. Constitution 
6I enjoy being strong and like breaking things. Strength
 7I have a crude sense of humor. Decrease highest stat by 1 , increase lowest stat by 2 , maximum 18, minimum 1
 8I face problems head-on. A simple, direct solution is the best path to success
Increase highest stat by 1 , decrease lowest stat by 2, maximum 18, minimum 1

Your Values were then shaped by: 

 >Religious service has shown you to hold this utmost..
1| Tradition The ancient traditions of worship and sacrifice must be preserved and upheld.Intelligence
2| Charity. I always try to help those in need, no matter what the personal cost.  Charisma
3| Change. We must help bring about the changes the gods are constantly working in the world.Dexterity
4| Power. I hope to one day rise to the top of my faith’s religious hierarchy. Strength
5| Faith. I trust that my deity will guide my actions. I have faith that if I work hard, things will go well. Wisdom
6| Aspiration. I seek to prove myself worthy of my god’s favor by matching my actions against his or her teachings. Constitution

>Crime. What you needed or wanted had no other way open to you. Where the law had no  value, what did still hold was :
1| Honor. I don’t steal from others in the trade. Constitution
2| Freedom. Chains are meant to be broken, as are those who would forge them.  Strength
3| Charity. I steal from the wealthy so that I can help people in need.   Wisdom
4| Greed. I will do whatever it takes to become wealthy. Intelligence
5| People. I’m loyal to my friends, not to any ideals, and everyone else can take a trip down the Styx for all I care. Dexterity
 6| Redemption. There’s a spark of good in everyone.  Charisma

>A Fight Against Injustice! For what is life without.. 
1| Respect. People deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Charisma
2| Fairness. No one should get preferential treatment before the law, and no one is above the law. Intelligence
3| Freedom. Tyrants must not be allowed to oppress the people.Dexterity 
4| Might. If I become strong, I can take what I want—what I deserve.  Strength
5| Sincerity. There’s no good in pretending to be something I’m not.  Wisdom
6| Destiny. Nothing and no one can steer me away from my higher calling. Constitution

>The Comfort and Corrosion of Wealth. What else is there to value but..
1| Respect. Respect is due to me because of my position, but all people regardless of station deserve to be treated with dignity. Intelligence
2| Responsibility. It is my duty to respect the authority of those above me, just as those below me must respect mine.  Wisdom
3| Independence. I must prove that I can handle myself without the coddling of my family.   Constitution
4| Power. If I can attain more power, no one will tell me what to do.  Strength
5| Grace. When one can navigate the snares of the world with an effortless countenance, one is in step with deeper rhythm of the world  Dexterity *
6| Noble Obligation. It is my duty to protect and care for the people beneath me. Charisma

>Knowledge! The Seeking , deciphering and wielding of it! The secret wisdom you have gained means that you know follow a path of ..
1| Understanding. The path to power and self-improvement is through knowledge.Wisdom
2| Beauty. What is beautiful points us beyond itself toward what is true. Charisma
3| Logic. Emotions must not cloud our logical thinking.  Intelligence
4| No Limits. Nothing should fetter the infinite possibility inherent in all existence.  Dexterity
5| Power. Knowledge is the path to power and domination.  Strength
6| Self-Improvement. The goal of a life of study is the betterment of oneself. Constitution

>Strive! The dogs of war were loose and you swiftly learned..
1| Greater Good. Our lot is to lay down our lives in defense of others. Wisdom
2| Responsibility. I do what I must and obey just authority. Dexterity, rewrite 
3| Independence. When people follow orders blindly, they embrace a kind of tyranny. Intelligence
4| Might. In life as in war, the stronger force wins. Strength
5| Live and Let Live. Ideals aren’t worth killing over or going to war for.   Charisma
6| Nation. My city, nation, or people are all that matter. Constitution
Your Life Seemed Then To Collapse Around A Single Concern:

>A matter of concern to your faith..
1| I would die to recover an ancient relic of my faith that was lost long ago Wisdom
2I will someday get revenge on the corrupt temple hierarchy who branded me a heretic. Strength
3| I owe my life to the priest who took me in when my parents died Charisma
4| Everything I do is for the common people. Dexterity
5| I will do anything to protect the temple where I served  Constitution
6| I seek to preserve a sacred text that my enemies consider heretical and seek to destroy. Intelligence

>Clandestine dealings and underworld entanglements..
1| I’m trying to pay off an old debt I owe to a generous benefactor. Charisma
2| My ill-gotten gains go to support my family. Constitution
3| Something important was taken from me, and I aim to steal it back. Strength
4I will become the greatest thief that ever lived. Dexterity
5| I’m guilty of a terrible crime. I hope I can redeem myself for it. Wisdom
6| Someone I loved died because of I mistake I made. That will never happen again Intelligence

>Your simple past , it is your strength but what might be your weakness is..
1| I have a family, but I have no idea where they are. One day, I hope to see them again. Dexterity
2| I worked the land, I love the land, and I will protect the land. Constitution
3| A proud noble once gave me a horrible beating, and I will take my revenge on any bully I encounter. Strength
4| My tools are symbols of my past life, and I carry them so that I will never forget my roots.  Intelligence
5| I protect those who cannot protect themselves. Charisma
6| I wish my childhood sweetheart had come with me to pursue my destiny. Wisdom

>Your loftily status could prove to hinge on a liability ..
1| I will face any challenge to win the approval of my family. Strength
2| My house’s alliance with another noble family must be sustained at all costs. Intelligence
3| Nothing is more important than the other members of my family. Wisdom
4I am in love with the heir of a family that my family despises. Dexterity
5| My loyalty to my sovereign is unwavering Constitution
6|The common folk must see me as a hero of the people.  Charisma

>Proud of your knowledge but unaware of your own hubris ;
1| It is my duty to protect my students. Charisma
2| I have an ancient text that holds terrible secrets that must not fall into the wrong hands. Dexterity
3| I work to preserve a library, university, scriptorium, or monastery.  Wisdom
4| My life’s work is a series of tomes related to a specific field of lore. Intelligence
5| I’ve been searching my whole life for the answer to a certain question.  Constitution
6| I sold my soul for knowledge. I hope to do great deeds and win it back. Strength

 >A mind scoured by conflict;
1| I would still lay down my life for the people I served with. Wisdom
2| Someone saved my life on the battlefield. To this day, I will never leave a friend behind.Constitution
3| My honor is my life. Strength
4| I’ll never forget the crushing defeat my company suffered or the enemies who dealt it. Dexterity 
5| Those who fight beside me are those worth dying for. Charisma
6| I fight for those who cannot fight for themselves Intelligence

Now an adventure, the bridges back to your old life were torched as a result of..

>Your Faith
1| I judge others harshly, and myself even more severely.  Intelligence
2| I put too much trust in those who wield power within my temple’s hierarchy. Charisma
3| My piety sometimes leads me to blindly trust those that profess faith in my god. Wisdom
4| I am inflexible in my thinking. Strength
5| I am suspicious of strangers and expect the worst of them. Dexterity
6| Once I pick a goal, I become obsessed with it to the detriment of everything else in my life Constitution

>Your Mind. It is That of A Thief:
1| When I see something valuable, I can’t think about anything but how to steal it.Constitution
2| When faced with a choice between money and my friends, I usually choose the money Strength
3| If there’s a plan, I’ll forget it. If I don’t forget it, I’ll ignore it. Dexterity
4| I have a “tell” that reveals when I’m lying Charisma
5| I turn tail and run when things look bad.  Wisdom
6| An innocent person is in prison for a crime that I committed. I’m okay with that. Intelligence

>The consequences of your heroism:

1| The tyrant who rules my land will stop at nothing to see me killed.  Constitution
2| I’m convinced of the significance of my destiny, and blind to my shortcomings and the risk of failure. Wisdom
3| The people who knew me when I was young know my shameful secret, so I can never go home again. Strength
4| I have a weakness for the vices of the city, especially hard drink. Charisma
5| Secretly, I believe that things would be better if I were a tyrant lording over the land Intelligence
6| I have trouble trusting in my allies.Dexterity

>The excesses available to wealth have had an additional price:
1| I secretly believe that everyone is beneath me. Intelligence
2| I hide a truly scandalous secret that could ruin my family forever. Dexterity
3| I too often hear veiled insults and threats in every word addressed to me, and I’m quick to anger. Strength
4| I have an insatiable desire for carnal pleasures. Constitution
5| A Winning Confidence , You act like the world revolves around you , with a dry wit that makes it endearing , despite actually believing it. Charisma*
6| I have seen that the gilded world is hollow, its comforts too fleeting. I have thrown them aside and now zealously decry them Wisdom*

>Too Curious By Half..
1| I am easily distracted by the promise of information.
2| Most people scream and run when they see a demon. I stop and take notes on its anatomy. 
3| Unlocking an ancient mystery is worth the price of a civilization. 
4| I overlook obvious solutions in favor of complicated ones. 
5| I speak without really thinking through my words, invariably insulting others. 
6| I can’t keep a secret to save my life, or anyone else’s.Charisma

>Of all the scars gained in battle, this the one that undid you:
1| The monstrous enemy we faced in battle still leaves me quivering with fear. Dexterity 
2| I have little respect for anyone who is not a proven warrior.Wisdom
3| I made a terrible mistake in battle that cost many lives—and I would do anything to keep that mistake secret.Intelligence
4| My hatred of my enemies is blind and unreasoning. Strength
5| I learned to see everything and everyone as disposable .Intelligence*
6| I’d rather eat my armor than admit when I’m wrong Constitution 

*The equivalent original entries were too much of a stretch to get them aligned with an attribute , so these ones have been replaced with new writing

picture because you've just had a lot of text and the break would be nice


Now these entries are rather vanilla fantasy, but
  I reckon for an unusual fantasy world ,where there's all kinds of weirdness that would be unremarkable to the characters but not to the players, that this system would be a fine way to get your players to actually read and digest the campaign notes you loving wrote up.

Rather reading a titled paragraph about Snail Decievers contributions to the food supplies of the marginalia wasters , the player instead can choose to have been a beater for them, before trying to gain glory in the underbridge , instead getting the  scarred eyes of those the underbridge discards.

This might require a bit of craft making it have enough information to not need a glossary but not require you the dm writing paragraphs and paragraphs.

Something like 

Then When That Showed Insufficient to Maintain Your Interest YOu..

..Joined the Moon Catchers, white steeded lunatics , seeking to spear and collect the fragments of the moon found in certain lakes reflections. What you gained most was
1.  The fearful moments bracing yourself as the harpoon sunk deep into a Blasting Eel. Strength.
2. Lie Sculpting, to conjure the might-of-beens in a weaker form. Charisma
3. etc etc

(Writing in that 2nd person term of address might be better to avoid, seems harder to keep the sentences short)

Anyway , hope someone can use this or is inspired to do something better with it. Let me know if you do