Group Backgrounds

UPDATE: The partial backgrounds found in this article are a preview. They are fully available as a Pay What You Want product on the DMs Guild in a pretty PDF with art and 15 other ready to roll backgrounds.

I love it when a group ties together their own backgrounds without my prompting. Three years ago I started a fourth edition D&D Eberron game and the party decided they would all start as people working for the Church of the Silver Flame. This instantly gave me a focus for the campaign’s main arch (Bel Shalor attempting to recreate The Day of Mourning in Thrane in order to extinguish the Silver Flame and walk the world again) and tied together the party in a great way.

Now the only reason this group thought to come together under one banner at the start of the game was because they had played D&D for years and wanted to try something different. I know some other groups do this at the request of the DM, and the benefits for the folks running the game are clear. The characters begin with a familiarity with one another. I’ve already done one post on the benefits of tying backgrounds together, so I won’t repeat myself here. But what’s in it for the players?

Time to Tantalize

Experienced players, like the ones in my Eberron game above, know there are great story benefits from beginning with a background tied to another PC. To new players though, this might seem like an unnecessary complication – just one more thing to remember and keep track of. Since fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons is all about pleasing old players and bringing in the new, I thought I’d try my hand at creating group backgrounds for the game. These are meant to supplement individual backgrounds and inspire players new and old to tie their PCs together.

Take a look at this excerpt from the Exploration Age Campaign Guide. Let me know what other backgrounds and benefits you’d like to see in the comments! Also, let me know if you think this is a good idea.

Group Backgrounds

Group backgrounds are an optional feature which can apply to your entire party at your DM’s discretion. If your DM allows you to choose a group background, decide which background you want with the rest of the players at the table. Your group’s background should be a choice you all make together as it applies to all the characters within your adventuring party.

Group backgrounds give you a background feature which the DM can deem is either in addition to or in place of your current background feature.

Military Unit

Your party is made up of characters who were all part of the same government military unit or mercenary army. Your camaraderie was built during training and your trust in one another was forged on the battlefield. Think about the kind of military you were in, why your unit left, and the battles you fought together. Are you the last surviving members of your unit? Are there others who were in your unit out there? Did you go rogue? These decisions are up to you and your party.

Religious Order

Your party is made up of characters who are all part of the same religious order be it a monastery, cult, or temple. You share devout beliefs in the same gods, studied religion together, and are friends who share common morality. Together you walk the world, doing deeds in the name of your religion. Think about why your group has chosen to adventure and how you might differ in the interpretation of your gods’ wills.

Secret Society

Your party is made up of characters who work for an organization with inner-workings which remain a secret to the public. Your society might be spies for a government, a cabal of assassins, a band of hidden protectors of nature, a team of vigilantes, a group trying to divine the secrets of the world, an organization bent on world domination, or something else. Whatever the case, you have a secret mission to carry out. This secret bonds you and your party together in trust.

Family

Your party is made up of characters who are all part of the same family. Not everyone needs to be blood-related. Some might be related through marriage or adopted. Others might be servants or friends so close they might as well be family. Whatever the relation, you have spent a significant portion of your lives together and that time has created a familial bond. Remember that families have their own problems and rivalries and you shoul work those relationships out with your party.

More for Your Game

So these group backgrounds are going into the Free Game Resources section of this site, as well as the individual backgrounds I’ve created for Doctor, Tinkerer, Farmer, Harvester, and Demolitions Expert. All are available as free PDFs for your convenience! Keep on rocking.

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