New Background – Parent
UPDATE: The partial background found in this article is a preview. It is fully available as a Pay What You Want product on the DMs Guild in a pretty PDF with art and 14 other ready to roll backgrounds.
When I started this blog almost two years ago, I only knew a handful of people my age who were parents, and those folks were fairly new. Now I have many peers proud to call themselves Mom or Dad (or in the case of my brother, who carries on the family tradition, Papa). These friends, some old, some new, are amazing people and heroes in their own right. The life-changing and work-intense experience of parenting is now part of who they are as much or more than any career or heritage. It is through watching these people I realized parent could serve as a fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons background.
I’d like to make a disclaimer that the descriptions, traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws below are not representative of any single parent or set of parents. You’re all wonderful.
Without further adieu checkout the background below.
You have spent years as a primary caretaker of a child or children. You might be their biological parent, adoptive parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, family friend, older sibling, or cousin. Somehow you ended up with the responsibility and you have been raising and mentoring them in the ways of the world. The frustrations, celebrations, long hours, and happiness of raising a child are all things you know well.
The age of your children and who looks after them while you adventure is up to you. You might have a score of little ones you adopted and a spouse or partner who looks after them. All your children might be grown and can look after themselves while you adventure. Your temple, a neighbor, or the local thieves’ guild could watch over your children while you adventure. Maybe the unthinkable has happened and you lost your children or they were kidnapped or taken from you in some way. The unique relationships with your children are all yours to determine.
Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Persuasion
Tool Proficiencies: One type of gaming set
Languages: One of your choice
Equipment: A drawing, objects, or craft project your children made for you, an iron pot, a set of bone dice or a deck of cards, a set of common clothes, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp.
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September 17, 2015 @ 8:57 am
This is a great idea, as it’s the kind of setting investment and RP ties that DMs always want their players to make, instead of loner orphans. One thing, though: the background feature being the ability to schmooze with people of similar background is… just okay. Honestly, it’s a little samey, as plenty of other backgrounds let a character pick up gossip. My suggestion is to say that parent PCs are “Good With Kids”: NPC kids are more likely to warm to a character who’s been around them and knows how to talk to them. I’m thinking of Ripley/Newt in Aliens. She wouldn’t talk to the soldiers, but Ripley’s mom skills got her talking.
September 17, 2015 @ 9:27 am
Thanks for the feedback. I thought about that exact feature, but it feels too limited compared to others. How often do you meet NPC kids? If not, does that mean your PC is seeking out kids everywhere to get the benefit of the feature? I thought by adding the second part of the feature, where-in people owe you favors for babysitting, I provided a lot of flexibility and variation for player and DM to determine just how far the benefit can go.
September 26, 2015 @ 9:53 am
Children see a lot of things adults don’t and many mythical creatures are easily seen by children but not by adults. More mundanely many adults don’t bother to hide their deeds from children.
If you are able to decipher their limited emotional skills and vocabulary then a child can be a far better source of information than an adult.
September 17, 2015 @ 9:31 am
I like the “good with kids” feature over the parents cop-talk too. I feel like that’s an area that isn’t often taken advantage of in RPGs – talking to the street urchin that saw the robbery from the shadows or the kid that buses trays at the tavern where the murder took place.
Totally unrelated thought, though – this is a HEAVY background that can have a huge effect on lots of gameplay elements. I can say for certain that if I knew there was a child or children depending on me at home somewhere, I would take very, very few risks in combat and be ready to escape if the battle looked to be turning against us. And if I was playing a Good character with a Parent in my party, I would be totally willing to jump in front of the arrow for that person or sacrifice myself so they could escape.
Cool background and props to anyone who wants to run it, but Too Real for my tastes.
September 17, 2015 @ 9:44 am
Definitely can get too real with this background, though it’s all about how you play it. For the record I think all the scenarios you outlined make for an interesting story. But there are ways to keep it less real.
What if the person’s children are grown and the PC is older or a longer-lived race like elf or dwarf? The kids don’t need them anymore, but they have enough vigor to adventure. Not all parents are going to play it 100% safe just because they have kids. Some will seek danger and defend the innocent for their children. Think of the service folk out there who put themselves on the line and have kids at home. They’re out there because they’re doing what they think is right.
I understand that not every background is for everyone, but there’s definitely ways to make this work that are less scary if you wanted to do it. I should have outlined that better in the post. Thanks for the heads up, Rudy!!!
September 17, 2015 @ 10:51 am
Excellent background. Definitely makes me think of Lone Wolf and Cub, among a few other stories. This definitely fits the precepts of a good background, and could even make for good NPC material. I may even use this for one of my characters soon.
Being a parent, I definitely see where a lot of the details within this background are definitely plausible. Great job!
September 17, 2015 @ 6:10 pm
Thanks for that. I’m glad a parent approves. Makes me feel like I hit the mark!
September 19, 2015 @ 11:22 am
This is really cool. As a parent that also plays D&D I appreciate this. Going to share it with some of my fellow gaming parents.
September 20, 2015 @ 11:57 am
Yes!!! Thanks so much. Let me know what they think.