Friday, June 3, 2022

Set Recommendations: Summer 2022

As always, I am suggesting new sets that are a good value for interesting minis and terrain pieces. In general, this means cheap sets for little kids, which are designed to be played with, rather than expensive sets for adult collectors, which are designed to look good sitting on a shelf. And I am focusing on getting a diversity of pieces, so you can have something appropriate to represent a variety of situations and environments.

In the last post, I missed a lot of things that came out in June 2021. They should still be available in normal stores, so I'll be including them here.

The top recommendation this year is the $40 Ninja Training Center:


The design of this is exactly what you want for your games: small terrain pieces that can be put on a grid in a variety of configurations, and used in any combination, to set a variety of scenes. The minis and elements are also useful in many situations (just leave the ninja hoods off and they will start to look like a generic adventurer). You may or may not use the spinning thing in a game, but that clear piece would make a good air elemental if you put it on a baseplate.

Other Ninjago sets are also a good choice. For the last 10 years or so, the Ninjago theme has been reliably delivering sets that are good to use in a game. There's usually something a little better, like Elves or Hidden Side, but if someone wants to get you a present, just tell them, "Get me a Ninjago set that isn't a car or airplane" and you will probably get something that works. This year, the standouts are the $10 mechs, the $20 blue dragon, and Final Flight of Destiny's Bounty. There is also a nice-looking line coming out in August, which I will discuss in a future post.

The $10 and $20 Eternals sets, Aerial Assault and Deviant Ambush, have a good mix of interesting characters and brick-built monsters:


Similarly, Attack on New Asgard gives you three minis, an always-useful zombie and two with armor that would fit well in a fantasy RPG world, as well as a plant monster that you will probably find yourself reusing a lot, with some modifications.

As usual, there is a good 3-in-1 rustic structure, the $30 Safari Wildlife Tree House:

It can be used as is, or rebuilt into something like a guard tower with different aesthetics. There are a lot of situations where you want a structure up in a tree, and never underestimate how much more fun the game is with 3-D playable terrain. The minis are useful as civilians or unarmored adventurers, and having good brick-built animals that can be used as a mount is always a bonus. Just take that slope piece off the giraffe's back, and sit an enemy with a ranged weapon on it for an interesting combat encounter.

Another good value is the Market Stall polybag:

For only $1 more than a collectible mini, you get two people, a shelf of potions, a crate of fruit, and some other good elements. Hermione's Study Desk is also a good mix of a mini, terrain pieces, and useful elements.

In general, I encourage people to get the $5 polybags rather than collectible minis, because they often have little terrain pieces that are easy to store and transport, and work well to set a scene. This year's Shang-Chi and The Great Protector polybag has a useful minifig-scaled creature instead of terrain. Many Lego creatures are much too large, and it is always nice to get something that would fit in four squares on a 1-inch grid.

Friends sets can be a good source for rustic or medieval-looking village terrain, and I find that their aesthetic is a good way to balance out the Ningajo and superhero sets to make a more balanced game world. Forest Horseback Riding Center could be turned from a single large structure into a medieval village set with a little re-engineering, and the Magical Caravan can round it out into a magical fairyland village. Similarly, The Madrigal House gives you a good village house with a terracotta roof style, which is very useful if you want something with a Roman or Mediterranean feel that has historically been very underrepresented in Lego builds.

I wouldn't pay full price for it, but the Punk Pirate Ship has some nice minis and elements with an interesting magical ship, and I'm guessing it will go on clearance pretty soon, so you might be able to get it cheaply.


Saturday, March 12, 2022

Letter of Marque

One of the best things that I did in my longest-running campaign was to have the party sign a Letter of Marque in the first session, the one where their patron was giving them their overarching mission. In real-world history, a Letter of Marque gave the captain of a sailing ship the legal right to raid enemy shipping and not be considered a pirate. For the D&D world, I modified the concept to give a land-based adventuring party the legal right to act like a D&D party (i.e. killing monsters and bad guys and taking their stuff) without being considered bandits.

I came with a printed copy, and had one of the players read it out loud. Then they discussed it, passed it around, and signed it in character. I thought that it would be a random fun thing to do to get in character, and it was, but in hindsight it also did several very useful things for the campaign:

1) It set the tone that I wanted. It said, very clearly, that this was not going to be a murderhobo campaign. Even before they started reading it, having the letter established that international law existed, that people cared about it, and that their behavior would be noticed and have consequences.

2) It established the party as a legal entity, and bound the characters to each other. By giving the characters special rights as long as they remained a unit, it game them a strong in-character reason to resolve conflicts and act as a group. This allowed me to run a sandbox-style game without any manufactured emergencies to keep people together, even though there were some strong and interesting in-character personality differences that might have otherwise pushed the party apart.

3) It did a lot of worldbuilding in a fun and efficient way. Without me reading 'boxed text' or otherwise doing a boring data dump, it established that the game world would have the feel and institutions of the Early Modern Era. It showed that their patron was sophisticated and bureaucratic. And the text of the letter allowed me to throw in a lot of fun details and plot hooks. 

Here is the full text of the letter, in approximately the font and format I used. (I had to convert from Word fonts, which have several options that look more old-fashioned and appropriate, to web fonts.) It took two printed pages, with room on the second page for the signatures. Feel free to copy, and adjust for your games.


Letter of Marque and Reprisal


I,   Alba Morus

, Duke of Westguard, Paladin of Erathis, Consort of Cerrador, Vice Admiral of the Imperial Elven Navy,

declare to all who shall see this Document that I have Commissioned the undersigned Adventurers to Pursue, Engage, and Dispatch any Enemy of the Holy Corellon Federation, and any entity declared by international law to be ‘Hostis Sapiens Generis’, including but not limited to Monsters, Extraplanar Invaders, Undead, Constructs, Pirates, Slavers, Dangerous Cultists, and Criminals declared Outlaw or assigned a bounty by Due Process of Law, and to Seize their Possessions for whatever purposes the Adventurers see fit;

with the Exception that any Artifacts, Relics, or other items of National Security or Religious Significance to the Holy Corellon Federation or any of its Treaty Allies be returned to Westguard for Just Compensation;

the Proviso that no Intelligent Creature, or organization of such creatures, shall be considered an Enemy of the Federation until after such creature or organization has clearly demonstrated by its actions or words that it is a Threat to Civilization and will, if unchecked, engage in Conquest, Slavery, or Slaughter;

the Instruction that in the case of any Dispute with an Intelligent Creature, or organization of such creatures, all Reasonable Attempts shall be made to Parley with said creature or organization with the goal of securing a Negotiated Peace;

the Strict Command that under no circumstances shall the Adventurers initiate any hostilities against, or take any property from, any Organization or Entity that has signed a peace treaty with Westguard or the Holy Corellon Federation, including but not limited to the Gray Ridge League of Armed Neutrality, all Dwarven Clans operating under The Stonemoot Accords, The Zhonghua Empire, all members of the Grümpf Belt Trading Alliance, Iradin University, the Free Clerics of Kord, the Mica Dome Guardians, Gleamruby's Surface Expedition, the metallic dragons Aurelius Constantine Augustus XIV, Cerrador, Farseeker, and Zqyzxmzk, the Children of the Seventh Star, the Antimony Order, Saverin the Sage, and Egghead the Troll;

the further Command that in the event of a Dispute with such parties, the discovery of a new Dispute between such parties that threatens the Peace of the Region, or the discovery of Intelligence that indicates such parties have taken actions hostile to the Holy Corellon Federation or other Civilized People, the Adventurers shall peacefully Exit the Situation and contact Westguard immediately;

the Proviso that any Crime committed by the members of an Organization, solely against other members of that same Organization, shall be considered an Internal Affair where the Adventurers have no Jurisdiction, except where their assistance is requested by the lawful representatives of the Organization;

and the Understanding that this Document confers no Military or Law Enforcement rights or rank within any territory occupied by any member of the Federation, and in those lands the Adventurers will be considered Ordinary Citizens subject to all rules and laws of the local State, with the exceptions that their income and possessions not be subject to tax and that they be allowed to possess and carry Military-Grade Armaments and ignore all Sumptuary Laws.

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Thursday, March 3, 2022

Money in D&D 5e

The Basics

A lot of people don't have a good feel for what money means in the game, so here's a simple rule of thumb: One copper piece is a dollar, one silver piece is $10, and one gold piece is $100. A (2-pound) bag of 100 gold pieces, the kind of reward the party expects for their very first Level-1 mission, is the equivalent of a strap of $100 bills, i.e. $10,000. (For non-Americans, just say that a copper piece is whatever round number in your currency is close to a dollar, for example €1.)

This exchange rate is based on lifestyle costs. It is hard to compare purchasing power across very different economies, but it is easier to compare social class. The lifestyle costs and definitions on PHB pg 157-158 are the best guide to what money means in the world (I am rounding a year to 350 days to make the math easier.):

A Comfortable lifestyle is explicitly middle-class. It is about 700 gp a year. In developed countries in the modern world, roughly $70k a year is considered comfortably middle-class.


A Modest lifestyle (350 gp a year) is the equivalent of lower middle class, or working class. This is about $35k a year.
A Poor lifestyle is about 70 gp a year. $7k is well below the poverty line in developed countries, and people with that income will have lives roughly as described in the book.

Why I Base the Exchange Rate on Lifestyle Costs
First, it is easy. The book tells us how much the annual expenses are for a middle-class lifestyle, and we can map that onto the modern middle class in a way that gives us nice round numbers. 700 gold pieces is a year's salary for a middle-class person in the D&D world, so its emotional meaning will be similar to $70,000 for most of the players. Their characters should react to a treasure chest with 5,000 gold pieces the same way they would react to a briefcase with half a million dollars in cash. They are seeing absurd wealth: a thing of wild tales, epic stories, and/or sketchy characters doing questionable things.

Any approach based on historical comparisons, relative prices of items, and/or relative values of coinage would be a mistake, for several reasons.

A Very Different World
Some people instinctively approach the game like a historian. This is a mistake. You should approach it like a science fiction fan. The world is not like some time in the past, it is like a wild alternate universe.

As I have said before, the game is not Medieval fantasy, and it cannot be. It is its own world. This is a world with magic and teleportation and airships and golems and spirits and other magical servants that can provide cheap manual labor. These things give civilizations that have mastered them economic and production capabilities that equal or exceed some of the things we have in modern society. 

Given this, it would be silly to complain when there is some important difference between the rulebooks and the situation of some historical society, and then try to change the rules of the game to match (your perception of) history. My approach to the game is to assume that the rules as written are an accurate description of the world the characters exist in, and then try to imagine what the world would be like to produce the situation described in the rulebook, and what kind of society would emerge from those rules.

For example, the 1:10:100:1000 exchange rate of platinum, gold, silver, and copper is completely unlike anything that has ever existed on our planet. Money never works like that; as soon as anyone finds any new mine (or ancient treasure hoard) the relative prices will change. It would take a massive intervention from an extremely competent and wealthy government to fix the exchange rate in the face of those fluctuations. So I solve the problem by changing the physics of the world (copied from my Spelljammer Physics appendix, although I use this in all games):

Elemental transmutation is easy and common. One of the most basic alchemical processes is the transmutation of the specie metals (copper, silver, gold, and platinum) into an amount of a different metal with the same gp value. The 10:1 exchange ratio between adjacent metals is a basic fact of physics. For example, during a short rest, anyone with alchemist's supplies can turn 100 pounds of copper (5000 copper pieces) into 10 pounds of silver and 90 pounds of sand by passing a DC 10 check. Refining it into one pound of gold is a DC 15 check, and going straight to 0.1 pounds of platinum is a DC 20 check. Similarly, if they need 100 pounds of copper for some kind of engineering project, they can make it with 50 gold pieces and 99 pounds of sand or rocks.

Very Different Prices
The relative costs of specific items are highly variable. A lot of things that are cheap in our world are expensive or unattainable in the D&D world, and a lot of things that are cheap in the D&D world are expensive or unattainable in our world. Trying to use item costs as the basis of the exchange rate could distort things a lot, based on what was chosen.

A good handaxe costs 5 gold in the D&D world and $50 in our world. A lot of other weapons and manufactured items have similar relative costs. So using that as a basis of comparison, you would say that 1 gold is $10. With trade goods like silk and cinnamon as the basis of exchange, 1 gold is more like $5.

However, if you are in a city or town, it costs 10-50 gold for a level one or two spell (PHB 159). Cure Wounds is explicitly mentioned as a common spell that is easy to hire. So as little as 10 gold buys you the equivalent of a trip to the ER for trauma surgery. Lesser Restoration and Cure Disease are level two spells, and I would rule that they are common ones. This means for at most 50 gold, you can be cured of blindness, deafness, paralysis, poison, or any disease. If you used this as the basis of the exchange rate, and compared those prices to modern medical bills, you might conclude that one gold was the equivalent of several thousand dollars.

Given these differences, the best way to sort this out is to use the lifestyles as the base. Then think about how the characters face very different prices than we do. An axe costs the equivalent of $500: 10 times as much as it costs us. Medical care costs them a tenth as much, or even less. They pay the equivalent of a few thousand dollars for curing almost any traumatic injury, disease, or medical condition in less than a minute including the diagnosis.

Very Different Value of Specie
Many people have pointed out the value of coinage in the D&D rules is not accurate for any historical society. Gold is much cheaper in real terms (i.e. a pound of it buys much less) than in any society, past or present.

For example, in Roman times, a war horse cost an eighth of a pound of gold. In Medieval England, a knight's horse cost £5-10, and three nine-gram gold coins were worth 1£, so you would pay at most 30 gold pieces, or about half a pound of gold, for a warhorse. In the American West in the 1800s, gold cost about $19 an ounce and a good horse cost about $200, so it would take about 10 ounces (5/8ths of a pound) of gold to buy a good horse. But in the game books, it costs an entire pound of gold to buy a draft horse and 8 pounds of gold (400 gp) to buy a warhorse.

And it isn't that warhorses are unusually expensive in the rules. They have about the correct price, relative to things like armor and living expenses. It is just that a piece of gold in the game buys much less than in history. (Which means that a giant pile of dragon gold is a less absurd amount of wealth than it would be in our world.)


An interesting side note is that the earliest D&D books explained the low value of gold by saying the listed prices were the result of an inflation after the adventurers hauled a lot of loot out of a dungeon. I don't know if this was actually planned beforehand, or just a retcon in response to criticism, but it shows that people have been thinking about this for a long time.

The low value of gold lets the players find and carry around a lot of it, and it means that gold jewelry and decorations will be relatively cheap. This can be fun, but it means that gold isn't actually that useful as money, especially at higher levels. It just isn't a dense enough store of wealth. You would need to carry around hundreds of pounds of it for a serious transaction.

Suggested Worldbuilding: High Value Transactions
In my games, the standard currency for large transactions is either a 1 lb. platinum ingot or an uncommon magic item (each worth 500 gp). Either of these is called an Item, and this is the standard unit of bargaining and contracting among anyone with actual money. Beyond the lowest levels, if a government or other rich patron is paying the party to do something, they will pay in one or more Items. 

In centers of civilization, stamped platinum ingots from a trusted mint are often used, but on border and frontier lands, magic items are the norm. Unlike metal ingots, they cannot be shaved or counterfeited or debased. Unlike gems, they have a single known value, with no difficulty in appraisal. They are a known indivisible quantity, and anyone can verify that they are pure and functional. 

In other words, uncommon magic items are actually money: They are a unit of account, a store of value, and a medium of exchange. They fill these roles much better than any other kind of specie or trade good. They fact that you can wear them and they do useful things is a bonus.

Most governments have a formula for one or more uncommon magic items that can be produced using materials they have access to, and a set of staff and workshops devoted to producing these items. These items are often a primary source of government revenue, power, and influence. If the party takes a quest from a government, or from someone in its capitol city (the one with the magic item mint), they are probably going to get paid in the item it produces. Sometimes the item will be desirable, and sometimes not (The king thanks you profusely and gives you a padded adamantium briefcase with ten Eversmoking Bottles.), but either way it should lead to a fun story.

The reward item will almost always be known to the party before taking the quest. Roll on Table F (DMG pg 146), but replace anything that weighs more than a couple pounds or has a class requirement with a d20+80 roll on Table B (rerolling consumables or armor). When doing worldbuilding, it might be useful to roll ahead of time for what item or items the various governments mint, and think about how that would affect their societies.

The further away you get from the mints, the more varied the mixture of items will be. Roll separately for each item, using the heuristic above.

When doing this, the party will reliably end up with a lot of uncommon items, many of them useful. In order to maintain balance, hand out fewer treasure hoards. My games usually revolve around patrons hiring the party for specific jobs, rather than delving through dungeons for loot, so finding big lootable piles of treasure is quite rare, rather than something that happens several times a level.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Temptation and Willpower

Here is a simple way to add temptation and willpower to a 5e D&D game in a meaningful way:

Whenever a character's flaws might be relevant, or when they're presented with a temptation, have them roll an appropriate mental saving throw. If they fail, give them a choice: They can either give in to the temptation (possibly telling a story about how exactly that happens), or lose a hit die or 1d4 hit points to overcome the temptation through willpower. Stronger temptations can have a higher penalty to resist.

(Outside the dungeon, a kobold outfitter is selling supplies. What do you do?)


Like many of my innovations, this was the result of an in-game inspiration. Recently I ran a game with a 9-year-old player and her parents (who were old gaming buddies). Her parents helped her build a character, using my random generation system, but she knew nothing about the game. I wanted to prevent boredom by starting her playing the game immediately, introducing mechanics only as necessary. So we started with cooperative story time for a while, with me introducing the setting and the players introducing their characters. Then, after maybe 15 minutes of role-playing, an opportunity came up for me to introduce the concepts of saving throws and hit points. I think it worked quite well as her first D&D saving throw.

She had rolled up a character with the urchin background. The people giving the party their quest were in the calligraphers' guild, and it was a busy place with lots of potentially valuable things to filch. So I told her to roll a wisdom saving throw, and explained how to do that. She failed. Then I described the temptation and asked her if she wanted to give into it and steal some items, or spend a hit point to resist. I explained that hit points were a combination of physical health and mental stamina and energy and focus. She chose to resist, and lost one hit point.

Note that my system never actually takes agency away from the player. She still has a choice about what to do; I think it is very important that the GM never dictate a character's actions or thoughts. But a character's flaws should matter. It is not realistic to assume that players have infinite willpower to overcome their desires and impulses. Some players are good about making the flaws matter, but others just ignore them, especially in high-stakes situations.

I like the elegance of this rules tweak, and I plan on using it a lot more in the future. Many RPGs have special systems for handling temptation or willpower, but I do not like adding new mechanics. It adds unnecessary complexity. I do, however, like being flexible with the definitions of things. 

After thinking it over, I raised the hit point loss to 1d4, rolled after the choice is made, in order to make it riskier and more expensive to resist temptation. As characters gain levels, the temptations can become larger, and the cost of willpower gets larger.

Usually the saving throw will be a wisdom save, but you can make it intelligence if it could be resisted by understanding the complicated consequences of things, or a charisma save if giving into the temptation would be could be counteracted by some part of your self-image.

If a character falls to zero hit points as a result of resisting a temptation, they suffer some kind of mental breakdown that either makes them unable to function, or utterly unwilling to do anything to participate  usefully in the adventure. Encourage the player to tell a story about this. Then use exactly the same death saving throw rules that you would for a character falling to zero as a result of damage, except that they are insanity saving throws. Three failures turns the character into an NPC under the GM's control, although healing or restoration magic (with a similar difficulty and expense as raising someone from the dead) can being them back. Getting any kind of magical healing restores proper mental function. Three successes, or someone succeeding in a Medicine check, stabilizes them and makes them fall asleep, but they still have zero hit points until healed.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Frontier Fantasy

I've written that medieval fantasy RPGs are impossible: the existence of powerful magical adventuring heroes will change the world so that it no longer looks or feels medieval. It will not be a world of knights and serfs and castles and sieges and conquering armies. So what should a GM do with this information? Most playgroups don't like being subjected to complicated world building, they want to just jump into a game with a familiar genre. A good solution, especially for American gaming groups, is one that I have been using for over a decade: Frontier Fantasy. Model your game after the conditions and stories of the American frontier.

I usually set my games in a world of log cabins, homesteaders, and small villages and forts on the edge of a rugged howling wilderness, where government is limited and people have to be self-sufficient. The environmental and cultural details are loosely based on the Appalachian Mountains in the 1700s, because I live and grew up in the eastern USA, and most of my players did as well. If you're out west, or you are not American, then the Western will be more familiar to you, so your game would resemble a story in the Weird West genre.

The setting does not require any changes to the rules of the game. Everyone makes their characters just as normal. All of the normal features and tropes of the game, like kung-fu monasteries and dwarf fortresses, are still there (although you should keep the scale smaller: make the monastery like a frontier mission, with a few dozen people). The religion is the standard polytheistic mix from the rulebook. But the overall feel and tone is that of a Western, and the overall social and political climate is that of self-sufficient pioneers rather than lords and serfs.

The setting includes many things that would be anachronisms in a medieval world, but are part of pioneer adventure stories. There are banks, saloons, and trading posts. There will often be a one-room schoolhouse in the local village (although the teachers are likely to be religious volunteers rather than state employees). 

I still keep the weapons tech level medieval, like in the rulebook: normal people do not have access to firearms (although they may be found as treasures in the ruins of ancient civilizations, or expensively custom-made by artisans). But the homesteaders will have things like home canning, wood stoves, farmer's almanacks, etc. Most people are literate, and own a few books, including the scriptures of their religion(s).

There are several benefits to this approach:

1) You are kind of already doing it, so you might as well do it right. Most tabletop RPG worlds feature villages on the edge of a wilderness, in a way that simply did not happen in any other time or place than the American frontier. Most game modules make a lot more sense if you assume a frontier-like setting with limited state capacity. In recent rules editions, all PCs are literate. Most PCs are, in practice, much more like Daniel Boone than King Arthur. You might as well make the setting explicit, and make it clear what genre the game is in so everyone understands the situation.

2) The game's shared reality is more real and vivid. I find that it helps the game immersion a lot when the game world is based on real history, or things that people have personal experience with, rather than a genre trope they have only seen in fiction. Very few people have any real understanding of the society, culture, mindset, or politics of the Middle Ages. But most Americans grew up with stories of frontier life and its heroes. Many people have been to Colonial Williamsburg or a similar living history location.

3) It is much easier to get the details right and play the NPCs. The GM and players are writing a story, and it is much easier to write what you know. I have no idea how to role-play a Medieval Prussian peasant or lord, but I have some idea of how to play an frontier-era Appalachian homesteader or small-town mayor. In addition to the built environment and its people being something everyone is much more familiar with, the land itself is as well. I have no idea what kind of berries, if any, people would go out and pick in medieval France. But I, and my players, know exactly what a blackberry patch looks and feels like, what kinds of dangerous animals you might encounter while picking them, what foods you make with them after you gather them, and what these foods taste like.

4) Less state power means that individuals have more agency. On the frontier, the military engagements were much smaller, the opportunities for adventure and exploration were larger, and the actions of individuals from a humble background could matter more. Many of the real-life frontier stories remind me of things that could happen in a tabletop RPG. This is why the Western is such a popular and enduring genre. In a land not ruled by the machinery of cities and courts and empires, the character and choices of individuals matter.

5) The inner lives of the people were much more recognizable. The medieval mind is alien to most modern people. Their basic assumptions about the world, the things they valued, their bedrock beliefs about what people should do in a situation and why, were very different than ours. Most authors and GMs simply ignore this fact, by making people think and act in anachronistic and modern ways. But you can't just drop modern thinking into a historical socio-political system and have it make any sense. (I don't think it is a coincidence that the French Revolution happened soon after modern ideas and mindsets started to spread through the population.) By contrast, the actions and motivations of frontier people are a lot more familiar and modern. There were huge changes in culture between the 1400s and the 1700s.

6) It is much easier to explain a Frontier game setting to a new player or child. A lot of people you might want to introduce to the game, especially children, have never read the stories that inspired the medieval fantasy genre, and some of them never will. You don't want to limit participation in the game to people who have read Lord of the Rings. And you don't want to have to explain the Middle Ages, or any unfamiliar RPG setting, to a 9-year-old child. But if she's read Little House and American Girl books set in the frontier, you can quickly get her into the game by saying that the world is like those books, but with magic and non-human creatures. 

Why Is There Wilderness?

Historically, it's quite rare for any usable land to remain uninhabited or under-inhabited. People will find a way to use the land, to build settlements, and to fill it up. Wilderness areas attract settlers, and sparsely populated frontier-settler areas usually become established farming communities within a generation. You don't have to think about this for a one-shot, or a casual game, or if your playgroup doesn't care much about backstory and worldbuilding. But eventually it might come up, so it is useful to think about. Where did the wilderness come from? There are several options.

1) The gods made the world (or just this continent) very recently. Most games assume a very old world, but this is the simplest answer, and it can be a fun twist. There was never any time for things to reach equilibrium, because you are part of the first colonization wave.

2) The wilderness was once full of terrible monsters, but for some reason they got weaker. In the past, monsters were too numerous and powerful for the land to be settled, but now people can confront and defeat them, or find places to live where they do not tread. Perhaps there is some kind of grand cycle to the forces of darkness and chaos, which causes the power of dragons and other monsters to wax and wane over centuries. Or maybe someone cast a great spell to weaken their power and allow people to move in.

3) The land was once the home to a thriving civilization, which was ruined by a terrible calamity. This is my preferred option, and it matches what actually happened in history. The previous inhabitants of the land were nearly wiped out by some kind of horrible tragedy. (Unlike our history, I have the fallen civilization be a higher tech level, and leave lots of treasure-filled ruins that can be discovered and explored.) Understanding the background of this tragedy and what caused it can be one of the themes or overarching plots of the campaign.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Set Recommendations: Summer 2021

Normally I encourage people to buy non-obvious sets, in order to add variety and versatility to their collection. If you have $100 to spend, you are usually better off getting four or five sets in the $15-$30 range, so you end up with a dozen minifigs and several useful terrain pieces or dungeon dressing.

This year (assuming you don't already have enough castles and don't have the capacity to build it with your own bricks by downloading the instructions), do the obvious thing and buy the 31120 Medieval Castle*


Lego will always make good things that you can throw in a magical fantasy world. Next year, and the year after that, there will be new Ninjago sets, and Creator 3-in-1 will have a well-designed creature builder set and a small rustic structure. There will usually be some kind of temporary theme like Hidden Side that gives us a couple sets that are weird and different but still appropriate. But this could be the last chance for years to get an actual medieval castle set without going to the secondary market. 

As reviews point out, this is a good set, with lots of little details and a great dollhouse-style playability that you want when using it as a game environment. Even if you don't need a traditional castle, you can easily take it apart to form a collection of dungeon rooms and/or medieval town features. Or use the 'wizard's tower' alternate build.



There are also other things that, in a normal year, would be recommended. I'll list them in case you have a large budget or already have lots of classic-castle type sets. 

The new Ninjago theme gives us Polynesian-type terrain and minis.

Keeper's Village:



If you have a major nautical component to your campaign, and want more variety of ships, consider Catamaran Sea Battle. And if your campaign is set in a fantastic high-magic world rather than anything resembling medieval Europe, Temple of the Endless Sea might be a better choice for you than the castle.

For minis and terrain and equipment, the 'epic battle sets' from this year's Ninjago Legacy sets are good value. A lot of people just use Lego minis and monsters on traditional printed grids or dungeon terrain. Adding little Lego builds to the map is a good way to transition from that to more Lego terrain features. Given that you'll pay about $5 per usable mini when buying collectible minis blindly or on the secondary market, the terrain is basically free when it comes with a $10 set with two good minis. Be sure to save the fancy translucent pieces for treasure and character upgrades rather than giving them in character creation.


For monsters, both Overlord Dragon and Titanium Mini Mech (for an iron or stone golem) are good choices. Also, Tournament of Elements gives you seven interesting minis and good terrain for only $30.


I loved the Elves sets and will gladly mix minifigs and minidolls in my games. If you agree, you'll want to grab one or two copies of Raya and the Ongi. As with most polybags, there is a lot of value there for $5, and you will likely find that you use the little builds more often than the big ones, because they are all you need to help set a scene and can be used in a lot of contexts: 

Overall, the Disney Princess sets give us some of what the Elves sets did, although they are not as appropriate and you have to pay the brand markup. But still, I would grab some of them if I saw them on post-holiday clearance. There are a lot of good elements, and it would only take a few alterations to make them look less like a Disney movie and more like a diverse realistic fantasy world.

Boun's Boat

Rapunzel's Tower

Moana's Island Home

Mulan's Training Grounds:


Aurora's Forest Cottage

*I will now send all hyperlinks to Bricklink to prevent link rot or implied endorsement of any particular store. If you are reading this in 2021, you probably want to buy the sets from a normal store instead.


Friday, March 12, 2021

Armor Options

There are several things I don't like about the armor options in 5e. There is very little choice, and it constrains you to a narrow set of archetypes. Characters who only have light armor proficiency will always wear studded leather as soon as they get any spare cash; the other options might as well not exist. And the heavy armor proficiency is worthless for dex-based fighters, or anyone who doesn't want to make the party fail all of its stealth checks. The only meaningful choice is in medium armor, where you can decide if you want more protection or more stealth.

I also don't like how the armor table balances things by cost. Anything that costs 100 gp or more should be part of the treasure tables, and treated the same way as magic items. It makes no sense from a socioeconomic perspective that high-end plate armor is assumed to be generally available for purchase but a Broom of Flying is not. The armor costs 1500 gp and is only useful for a few characters, but the broom costs 500 gp to create and is useful for anybody. There is a much larger market for the brooms, and they are much more militarily useful, which means more of them would be produced. Yes, it is difficult and expensive to produce magic items, possibly requiring a small civilization's worth of expertise and supply chains. And they may be considered a military asset that civilians are not allowed to own. But the same thing is true of advanced plate armor.

From a worldbuilding perspective, the game has historically assumed a Dark Ages environment where plate armor was rare and expensive, and the armor table reflects that. But in recent years, the game has shifted more to an Early Modern or Renaissance kind of baseline, especially in settings like Ravnica, Eberron, or the more developed parts of Forgotten Realms. By the 1400s, there was a cheap mass-produced form of plate armor called munition armor. I think it makes sense for this to be available to starting characters, especially because from a character design and flavor perspective, a lot of people want to imagine their character in plate armor from the beginning.

New Armor Table

This table repalces the armor table on page 145 of the PHB. The categories of Light, Medium, and Heavy armor are replaced with Simple, Martial, and Elite armor. Characters who would be proficient in Light armor are instead proficient in Simple armor, etc.

ArmorCostArmor Class (AC)StrengthStealthWeight
Simple Armor
Leather10 gp11 + Dex Modifier--10 lb.
Hide10 gp12 + Dex Modifier (max 2)Str 8-12 lb.
Reinforced hide20 gp13 + Dex Modifier (max 2)Str 9Disadvantage20 lb.
Thick hide20 gp13Str 10-30 lb.
Ring mail30 gp14Str 11Disadvantage40 lb.
Martial Armor
Studded leather30 gp12 + Dex ModifierStr 8-13 lb.
Chain shirt30 gp13 + Dex Modifier (max 2)Str 9-20 lb.
Scale mail40 gp14 + Dex Modifier (max 2)Str 10Disadvantage30 lb.
Thick mail40 gp14Str 11-40 lb.
Plated mail50 gp15Str 12Disadvantage45 lb.
Elite Armor
Light chain50 gp13 + Dex ModifierStr 9-20 lb.
Breastplate50 gp14 + Dex Modifier (max 2)Str 10-30 lb.
Half plate60 gp15 + Dex Modifier (max 2)Str 11Disadvantage40 lb.
Muffled plate60 gp15Str 12-45 lb.
Heavy plate70 gp16Str 13Disadvantage55 lb.
Shields
Buckler20 gp+1--2 lb.
Shield10 gp+2+2-6 lb.

I kept the existing armor wherever possible, changing only what was needed. Breastplate and half plate are now cheap enough for starting characters, but require an extra level of proficiency and also a minimum strength score. Studded leather now requires the second level of proficiency, while hide and ring mail are available to those with only the lowest proficiency. The thing that the book calls chain mail is heavy plate on my table. To prevent confusion, all new armor types have new names, and I don't use the names 'chain mail' or 'plate'.

Shields now increase the strength requirement of the armor by 2. (This prevents high-dex fighters from getting extremely high ACs unless they also have decent strength.)

If you are using the class's listed starting equipment, allow characters to replace their armor with anything from the same type. For example, anyone who starts with leather armor could start with any simple armor. Most character classes will have more options now. The only class that is definitely worse off is the Rogue. They lost studded leather and don't care about the low-dex options. My games are very skill-intensive, which helps rogues, so I'm okay with this, but in a dungeon crawl campaign you may want to make +1 leather armor relatively cheap and easy to purchase.

Treasure

+1 armor of any type is now an uncommon item, and +2 armor is a rare item. However, given the increasing returns to AC, +3 armor is still a legendary item. If the armor has a strength requirement, it increases as much as the AC. The strength-requirement increase of shields also increases by +1 for each +1 AC the shield has. (For example, a fighter with +2 light chain and a +2 shield will need a Strength score of 15 to avoid having their speed reduced by 10 feet. With a +2 buckler, they would need a Strength score of 13.)

The thing that the book calls splint is +1 heavy plate in this system, and the thing it calls plate is +2 heavy plate. (I'm pretty sure that the book's system was distorted by the existence of its AC 18 plate armor, and the expensive medium armors that are basically a +1 version of starting gear. They needed a way to prevent players who randomly got a magic version of those from being overpowered. But the implementation was clumsy, and feels like a last-minute edit. It is just dumb that a +1 version of low-end armor costs thousands while the mundane upgrade costs hundreds, and I think that the armor table has the appropriate upgrade cost.)

Any magic armor in the book that says 'medium or heavy, but not hide' is now 'martial or elite, but not studded leather'. Mithral armor of any type that does not normally cause a stealth penalty can be worn under normal clothes. Demon armor can be of any type, gives +2 AC, and will look like ordinary +2 armor upon inspection. Dwarven Plate can be any martial or elite armor. Plate armor of ethrealness can now be of any type and gives +2 AC.

If using the book's treasure tables, make the following adjustments:
Table F: A roll of 01-05 is +1 armor of a random type. A roll of 66-68 is adamantine armor of any appropriate type. (If you are concerned that this gives out fewer magic weapons, then you can introduce NPCs who will give them a random +1 weapon in exchange for items they don't want.)
Table G: All of the +1 armor results are replaced with +2 armor of a random type. All of the resistance armor results are replaced with resistance armor of a random type. All of the adamantine armor results are replaced with +1 adamantine armor of any appropriate type.
Table H: All of the +1 armor results are replaced with +2 mariner's armor of a random type. All of the +2 armor results are replaced with +2 mithril armor of any appropriate type.  All of the resistance armor results are replaced with +1 resistance armor of a random type. All of the adamantine armor results are replaced with +2 adamantine armor of any appropriate type.
Table I: All of the +1, +2, and +3 armor results are replaced with +3 armor of a random type. All of the resistance armor results are replaced with +2 resistance armor of any random type.

Random Armor

Treasure tables often call for a random armor type. Roll a d20 on this table.
To roll a random nonmetallic armor, roll d10.
To roll a random metallic armor (e.g. for Mithril and Adamantium), roll d10+10.

1-2: Leather
3-4: Hide
5-6: Reinforced hide
7-8: Thick hide
9-10: Studded leather
11: Ring mail
12: Chain shirt
13: Scale mail
14: Thick mail
15: Plated mail
16: Light chain
17: Breastplate
18: Half plate
19: Muffled plate
20: Heavy plate

Option: Improvised Armor

The following armor types can be created for free during a short rest by any player who has an appropriate tool proficiency, and access to basic materials scavenged from the environment. Usually it involves attaching various things to one's clothing to try to cover vulnerable areas. They each require Simple armor proficiency to wear:

ArmorCostArmor Class (AC)StrengthStealthWeight
Simple Armor
Padded-11 + Dex Modifier-Disadvantage8 lb.
Hide scraps-11 + Dex Modifier (max 2)--12 lb.
Reinforced padded-12 + Dex Modifier (max 2)Str 9Disadvantage20 lb.
Thick hide scraps-12Str 10-30 lb.
Plated padded-13Str 11Disadvantage40 lb.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Species-Upbringing 5e Character Creation

This is a method of quickly generating characters that you 'step into', and then figure out how that person would choose to train themselves. The existing 5e 'races' are split into Species and Upbringings that can be rolled together in any combination. A character's Species gives them only the traits that they were born with, and their Upbringing is the social environment they grew up in, which gives them culturally learned traits.

Most of this page is the information for the various selections. Clicking links will take you to the appropriate heading. Use your browser's Back button (the left arrow on the bottom row of mobile phones) to return you to where you were before.

DMs should read the DM Notes section for a discussion of how to use the system and what options they should consider for their table.

Player Instructions

Your DM will tell you which options are chosen for your group. It is helpful to read through all of the instructions for an overview of the process before you start to click on things or roll dice.

Step 1: Roll for Species, Upbringing, and Background

Roll a random species on this table. Your DM will tell you whether to use a d12 or a d20. Write the result on a note card. Click on the hyperlink to go to that species' description, roll an Upbringing from its list, write it on the card, click on its link, roll a Background, write it down, and then click your browser's Back button twice to return to these instructions.

1: Dragonborn
2-3: Dwarf
4-5: Elf
6: Gnome
7-8: Halfling
9: Tiefling
10-13: Human
14-15: Hybrid
16+: Uncommon (or Setting Specific):

Uncommon Species Table

Roll d10:
1: Bugbear
2: Centaur
3: Changeling
4: Goblin
5: Hobgoblin
6: Kobold
7: Lizardfolk
8: Orc
9: Warforged
10: Yuan-ti

Step 2: Roll for Stats and Stat Swaps

For each stat (Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha), in order, roll 3d6 and write down all three individual die results on the note card. There will be eighteen written numbers, three for each stat.

Each species, upbringing, and background has three "stat swaps" to replace low written numbers. For example, Elves have: Str swap d6, Dex swap d8, and Con swap d4. Elf characters will roll a d6, and then replace the lowest written Strength number with the new die roll if the written number is lower. Then they roll a d8 and (probably) replace the lowest written Dex number. The d4 Con swap will probably not change things, but it might replace a low number.

Roll your nine stat swaps now and make replacements. (Use the browser's Forward button to quickly return to your Species and Upbringing entry.) However, do not make any choices or roll any stat swaps that would be the result of a choice.

Optional Step 3: Drafting

Your DM may have your table draft characters. If they do, follow the instructions here. If they do not, skip to the next step.

Put your note card in the middle of the table. Tell everyone the species, upbringing and background. Mention the two best stats and what they are, and if any stats are below 10.

In an order chosen by the DM, players take turns picking any one of the character note cards. The DM will usually give the newest player first pick, and then go down to those with the most experience.

Step 4: Make Choices and Create Character Sheet

New players: Add up the three numbers on each stat on your card to get the total value. Look at your highest stat, other than Constitution, and the list of classes on page 45 of the Player's Handbook. Choose one of the classes with a Primary Ability matching the high stat. Read that class's description, and then, with that in mind, make the choices that your upbringing (and possibly the species) calls for. Roll any stat swaps that are the result of these choices. If your group did not draft, then once all the swaps are rolled, if your Primary Ability is 15 or less, decrease some other stat by 1 and increase the primary ability by 1 until it is 16.

Then, go to the Basic Rules document. Read the Introduction to learn the basics of the game and some key terms. Then, go to Chapter 1. Skip '1. Choose a Race'. Instead, add the racial features listed on this page to your character sheet. Follow the instructions in '2. Choose a Class' for the class that you chose. If the class is not in the basic rules document, you can find its features on D&D Beyond. Skip everything in the '3. Determine Ability Scores' section, except the fifth paragraph that describes ability modifiers. Add your ability scores and modifiers to your character sheet. 

Then follow all of the instructions in the rest of the chapter, starting with '4. Describe Your Character'. After adding the proficiencies and features of your background, write down all of the proficiency and saving throw bonuses on your character sheet now. If you character has any damage-dealing cantrips, add them to the 'Attacks' section of your character sheet along with the weapon attacks.

Experienced players: Think about which class or classes the stats and upbringing would be good for. If you have options, consider party composition and what roles the other characters may not be able to fill. If you have the option of choosing between different stat swaps, choose and roll them now. Then, choose a class and make the other choices. You can make choices and apply abilities in any order. (Unlike new players, you do not get to increase your primary ability by lowering other stats.)

All Players: Once all choices are made, copy the final stat totals to a character sheet, and copy down all of the abilities in your species, upbringing, background (look in the PHB for details of backgrounds), and class. Most characters get a choice of language from their Upbringing, and will usually choose one that matches the traditional language of their species. Write down a reminder of the Cultural Immersion trait that matches your Upbringing. If you don't have one of the twelve standard Upbringings, instead write down a Cultural Immersion reminder for your Background. Your DM will tell you when it applies and what it does.

Do anything else your DM says. During this process, think about your character's story and life history. Usually the culturally learned Upbringing abilities were learned in your childhood and the Background describes your early adulthood, but sometimes the narrative will make more sense if the background happened to you before the abilities you gained from the upbringing, or at the same time.

Tables

Use these tables only if you rolled the 'Other' option on something:

Other Upbringing

Your DM will tell you whether to roll d12 or d20 on this table:
1: Bright Burrows
2: City Spire
3: Fae Forest
4: Feudal Farmland
5: Frontier Freehold
6: Galloping Nomad
7: Mining Holdfast
8: Mystic Cavern
9: Outcast
10: Red Ochre
11: Wandering Wagon
12: Wayside Warren
13-14: Multicultural
15: Animal
16: Child Soldier
17: Fell From Heaven
18: Magemarked
19: Vampire
20: Werewolf

Other Background

1: Acolyte - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
2: Charlatan - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
3: Criminal - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
4: Entertainer - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
5: Folk Hero - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
6: Gladiator - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
7: Guild Artisan - d4 swaps for Con, Wis, Cha
8: Guild Merchant - d4 swaps for Con, Wis, Cha
9: Hermit - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
10: Knight - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Cha
11: Noble - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Cha
12: Outlander - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
13: Pirate - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
14: Sage - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
15: Sailor - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
16: Soldier - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Cha
17: Spy - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
18: Urchin - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Wis
19-20: Roll twice on this table, rerolling duplicates. Do not take any stat swaps except for a single d4 Con swap, but take all other abilities of both backgrounds including all money and starting equipment.

DM Notes

First, read the Player Instructions for an overview and to see how the process works. Try rolling up a couple of characters.

The randomization sets a tone of realism and working with what you've got. It is meant for campaigns where the party is a group of random people making their way through the world as they see fit, not one where the party is a chosen set of archetypal heroes who will save the world. It will usually roll up familiar archetypes, but will sometimes make something more random. A party created by using this system should have two or three familiar characters, a couple oddballs, and maybe something really strange.

New players don't have to learn or choose from a list of options, or think about how to assign stats. They can quickly jump into the action with a random character that will, usually, be well-balanced. Players that always play standard archetypes or optimized 'net build' characters are pushed to play more individual and unique characters.

If you have a group of story-based gamers who have interesting character concepts that the current system does not support, and who can be trusted not to optimize for power, then everyone can just pick a species and upbringing and then roll up the stats. Go to the Flexible Choice section for more.

Rolling Options

For a core-rules-only game to introduce new players to the basics and keep things simple, have players roll d12 on the species and upbringing tables. To generate a party with hybrids, monster species, and multicultural or unusual characters, have them roll a d20. Several of the 13-20 upbringings move further from the base rules and are more likely to be unbalanced.

Drafting or Not

You can choose whether or not to draft after everyone has rolled up their characters. Ask everyone if they think they would enjoy playing the character they just rolled. If they all say yes, and if none of the characters are too weak or too powerful, don't draft. Drafting is mainly meant to prevent less experienced players from getting stuck with characters they don't like and don't know what to do with.

The problem with random stat rolls is that some characters can end up significantly weaker than others. Rolling for each stat in order, rather than allowing them to be assigned, mitigates this somewhat, because the high rolls might be in weird combinations, but does not eliminate the problem.

Running a game with players of mixed experience or skill can be difficult. The more skilled players will optimize their characters, leaving the newer players with less powerful characters that can feel unimportant.

Drafting random characters can mitigate these problems somewhat, by canceling them out. The players who are newer or less skilled at optimizing can get first pick of the randomly created characters, (usually) giving them a more powerful one.

With player input, decide who has the most experience playing the game, and/or who has the most ability and desire to optimize their character to be powerful. Rank the players from least to most optimizing. Encourage power gamers to see picking last as a point of pride. Starting with the newest and/or least powergamer player, players take turns picking any one of the characters.

Ideally everyone in the draft learns something and experiences something new. New players are introduced to the world and the game system through their character. If they care about playing a particular type of character, such as a fighter or wizard, the veterans can point them to whichever of the generated characters would be best for that. If they mainly want to learn about the game, or feel powerful or useful or important, they can just ask the DM which one is best and ask what class it should be. Players with some experience are pushed out of their comfort zone, and encouraged to learn more about the system by playing characters they otherwise would not. Veterans are presented with a (hopefully) fun optimization problem as they use their skills to figure out how to make a weak character as useful as the stronger ones.

When drafting, the DM can also make a character and add it to the mix. The DM then takes whatever character was not chosen, and uses it to build an NPC that hangs out with the party, one that, while (probably) weaker than all the rest, is a useful assistant and a voice of common sense. (The method of a weak NPC guide/assistant is a very helpful way of conveying information about the world in a fun and flavorful way that does not disrupt the narrative.)

The downside of drafting is that it adds complexity, and players often become attached to the characters that they are rolling up and might be disappointed if they are taken away. And it may not be necessary. I intended the stat swap mechanic to push the scores more towards an average, and it usually does this even more than I thought, such that it is rare for any characters to have junk stats. Often every stat of every character is in the 11-15 range and it isn't clear which if any character is most powerful.

Flexible Choice Option

If a player wants to play a particular species, or a traditional species-upbringing combo that matches one of the subraces in the PHB, you can let them. They simply choose the species or subrace instead of rolling at random, and then follow all of the other instructions as normal.

For anything else, proceed with caution. This is only meant for players who will not look for powerful combos, either players who don't know the game well enough to optimize, or people you trust to focus on narrative. If you are at all worried that someone will look over all the options and game the system, don't do it. The Species and Upbringings should be mostly balanced, but free choice is not munchkin-proof, and some combinations will be better than others. It would take a lot of work and playtesting to make them all equal and not allow powerful combos, and this would push them further away from their current form. If a player wants a Hybrid or Multicultural character, the two should be rolled at random. If they are playing a Human, they can choose the result on the Broad-Spectrum Ancestry table, but if they choose an Unusual Ancestor, the species should be rolled at random.

In this method, players first look over the list of upbringings. All of the 12 standard ones will be somewhat familiar to experienced players, because they are all a modification of existing races or subraces. The others are meant to match fantasy tropes that make fun characters. If you want a more normal game, you can disallow these. You can also tell them not to use any options that would be a bad fit for your world or the game you plan on running.

Everyone then replaces Step 1 by choosing a Species, Upbringing, Background, and Class that matches their character concept.

In Step 2, players do not roll the d4 swaps listed for the Backgrounds. Instead, they roll a d8 swap in the class's primary ability (listed on page 45 of the PHB, if two are listed they can choose). This cannot increase the score above 20, and if the score is 13 or less, decrease some other stat by 1 and reroll. (Repeat if necessary. If after three rolls, the stat is still 13 or less, set it to 14.)

Character Death

A potential problem with any system of random stat rolls is that players might have an incentive to get their character killed in hopes of rolling up a stronger one. This can be controlled by making the new character lower in level than the rest of the party. All replacement characters should be at least a level lower, and stronger characters get a larger penalty. As a quick rule of thumb, look at the average of the stats of the old and new character, and penalize the new character an additional level for each unit difference in average stats.

If the death was not the player's fault and they were playing it well, let them randomly generate two characters and choose one, without any level penalty for more powerful characters. If necessary, the DM can take the other one and assign it a role similar to what the dead character filled.

Languages

Even though all learned skills come from upbringings, languages are still named after species for historical reasons. In the past, linguistic-cultural patterns were more closely tied to species than they are now, and the names of languages have remained.

Sometimes people will learn to read and write a language they do not speak, because they only interact with it via written works. Others will speak languages while being illiterate in them. If a character is from such an upbringing and learns another language, they may choose to fully learn a language they partially know, and then become literate-only or conversational-only in a new language.

Cultural Immersion

This rule is optional, but highly encouraged. You can tell players in vague terms that they are better at interacting with people and things that are familiar to them, or you can give them the full rules:

*You have advantage on Charisma (Intimidation, Performance, and Persuasion) checks when interacting with people who share your upbringing, and on Wisdom (Insight) checks on someone like you who is not trying to deceive you. (Deception and Insight cancel out; they know how to lie better, but you know how to see though them.)
*You have advantage on all Wisdom and Intelligence checks on facts or products associated with your upbringing, including Animal Handling checks for animals like the ones you grew up with.
*You have advantage on all checks related to downtime activities performed in areas with many people who share your upbringing.
*When you are not in areas with many people who share your upbringing, you must make either an Intelligence (History), Wisdom (Insight), or Charisma (Persuasion) check to take advantage of your Background feature, instead of it happening automatically. The DC for this check is 10 to 15, based on the cultural distance as determined by the DM.

By default, Cultural Immersion benefits work wherever there are people who grew up with a similar upbringing, because it is based on thinking and acting a certain way, not because of a character's history in any particular place. It is assumed that the party is traveling around a lot, interacting briefly with many people. You will have to translate places in your world or the module into the equivalent culture, but it should be pretty obvious. A halfling village or a gnome’s workshop in a city would be Bright Burrows, dwarf mining operations are Mountain Holdfast, most farming villages are Feudal Farmland, etc.

In a game where the party is not moving around very much, make adjustments so players don’t feel left out. Match the upbringing to the social class or type of people. For example, if your entire campaign takes place in a big city, then a seedy tavern could be counted as Frontier Freehold or even Red Ochre, the kitchen in a palace or restaurant could be Feudal Farmland, and the shopkeepers or entertainers on the streets could be Wandering Wagon.

If your campaign is heavily focused on roleplaying and intrigue, you may want to limit it somewhat, for example to places and NPCs that with a character’s species-upbringing combination.

People with an unusual upbringing are less likely to interact with people who share their upbringing, but they often form close bonds to those of their background, so a Werewolf Soldier would benefit from Cultural Immersion when interacting with any veteran or military encampment or equipment. The background feature of such characters almost always works.

For story-based groups, you might allow and encourage players tell a story about what kinds of things they did and who they became close to in the character’s past, and make adjustments to their Cultural Immersion based on that.

Game Balance and Continuity Notes

There is a chance that characters created with this system are unusually powerful, but most of them will be weaker than an optimized build with point buy. To compensate for this, and to give players a bit of choice in character creation, the upbringings are a little more powerful and flexible than the subraces they replace.

Even though it may not be possible to exactly replicate some subraces, I tried to keep things as familiar as possible, and when an ability is lost, it is balanced by gaining something else.

Edge Cases

If you are a Hybrid and one of the parent species is Human, roll Broad-Spectrum Ancestry as normal and use that as the parent species. A character could, for example, be a dwarf/half-orc or an elf/half-elf.

If Dwarf is rolled as a hybrid parent or an unusual ancestor, you must use the abilities of a normal dwarf and not a fae dwarf.

If you roll Dragonborn as a Human's Unusual Ancestor, you must choose Draconic Ancestry as one of the three abilities before choosing any of the other Dragonborn abilities.

If you are a Kobold and have one of the unusual upbringings that gives the features of an extra class level, then if you choose Shenanigans you must pick a third class. If you were a Child Soldier, you must meet the prerequisites for multiclassing in all three classes.

Math Appendix

The standard method of generating stats is 4d6 drop lowest, which is the same as a swap d6 in my system. Each of these swaps adds 1.7 to the stat on average, compared to simply rolling 3d6.

1) Swap 2d4 is 0.3 worse on average than a swap d6, but lowers the probability of very low scores.
2) Adding an extra d4 after a d6 swap increases the average by 0.5
3) Given 1 and 2, Three d6 swaps is the same as 2d4, 2d4 and d6+d4
4) Given 3, handing out swaps of: d6 d6 d6 2d4 2d4 d6+d4 is the same stat boost as the default system.
5) If d6 and 2d4 is replaced with d6+d4 and d4, then it is a +0.5 and a -0.5, which balances.
6) I can get the same average power level by giving each species and upbringing two d6 swaps and a d4 swap, and making all the background swaps a d4.

Every species has a swap for all three physical stats, every upbringing has a swap for all three mental stats, and every background has a d4 swap for Con and each stat associated with the skills it provides. My method is somewhat weaker in that the scores are random rather than chosen, but stronger in that there is a lower probability of very bad scores.

After going through the process, you will have accumulated enough swaps to match the average power of a '4d6, drop lowest' roll, although they will be assigned in a way that ties them to abilities and flavor.

All species and upbringing modifiers to stats are handled via these stat swaps. Replacing a d6 stat swap with a d8, or adding an additional d6 swap, gives a +1 to the average roll. Adding an additional d8 swap gives a +2 to the average.

Species List

Use the PHB for the full description of abilities. Often I only list a title. I am trying to keep all species about the same power, by shuffling abilities between the species and upbringing as necessary, but there will be some unavoidable variation.

Dragonborn

Str swap d6
Dex swap d4
Con swap d6

Roll d6 for Upbringing:
1: Frontier Freehold
2: Mining Holdfast
3-4: Outcast
5: Red Ochre
6: Other

Size. Dragonborn are taller and heavier than humans, standing well over 6 feet tall and averaging almost 250 pounds. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

*Draconic Ancestry
*Breath Weapon

Dwarf

Old tales speak of dwarves being born from stone, and living in communal enclaves of seven 'men'. If you would like to be such a character, you may choose to be a Fae Dwarf instead of a regular dwarf.

Str swap d8
Dex swap d4
Con swap d8

Roll d6 for Upbringing:
1-2: Frontier Freehold (hill dwarf)
3-4: Mining Holdfast (mountain dwarf)
5: Mystic Cavern (duergar)
6: Other

Size. Dwarves stand between 4 and 5 feet tall and average about 120 pounds. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet.

*Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
*Dwarven Constitution: Choose Con swap d6, or your Con score increases by 1
*Stoutness: Your speed is not reduced by wearing armor

Fae Dwarf

Str swap d6
Dex swap d4
Con swap d8

Roll d4 for Upbringing:
1: Bright Burrows
2: Frontier Freehold
3: Wandering Wagon
4: Other

Size: Fae dwarves stand between 4 and 5 feet tall and average about 120 pounds. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 ft

*Resilience. You have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage.

*Seven Genders: Fae dwarves are one of seven genders, listed below. The appropriate pronoun for a dwarf of indeterminate gender is 'thon', and the proper pronoun for a known dwarf is their gender name, but they usually present as male they are rarely offended by the use of male pronouns.

Fae Dwarves reproduce with a ritual in which a dwarf of each of the seven genders works together to create a statue of a dwarf from rock, gems, and/or metal while singing and playing sacred hymns. The ritual takes all seven dwarves working for eight hours a day, for at least a year and a day, although usually it takes several years, as the ritual is combined with mining and crafting and maintaining the household. When the ritual is complete, the dwarf god Moradin takes a dwarf soul from a jeweled vault in heaven, combines it with knowledge and memories from all seven parents, and places it in the statue. The new dwarf comes alive fully adult, and soon thereafter leaves the house to make thons way in the world. No matter what their life experiences, a family with all seven genders will have all the skills needed to run a household and reproduce.

Single fae dwarves, like those of most species, are usually working to acquire the resources and connections to form a household. They seek a suitable homestead with access to appropriate minerals, and when they claim it, they invite suitable partners to join them. Sometimes a large mine or fortress will support multiple households working together, but usually families must seek new homesteads. As with other species, there is a strong 'incest' taboo, because reproducing with someone whose lineage is too similar risks causing mental problems.

Almost all fae dwarves are biologically male, and can reproduce in the biological way, although this is considered dishonorable and a mark of failure. Such offspring are either halflings or 'standard' dwarves, depending on the mother's species. Fae dwarves claim that the dwarves familiar to most people are the descendants of dwarves born in this way. Fae dwarves sometimes try to recruit partners from 'standard' dwarves, although this is difficult because such dwarves do not have any ancestral memories of the reproduction ritual and must be taught it by a fae dwarf of the gender they are to perform.

The ancestral memories of fae dwarves are somewhere between personal memories and family stories. Fae dwarves that do not wish to draw attention to how different they are will often discuss these memories as though they were things they learned from their elders, as in "I remember my tink's doc telling me about this." The fae dwarven mind, like all others, has a limited capacity, which means that with each generation, many memories lose details or are forgotten entirely. Every time a dwarf has life experiences of thons own, some ancestral memories fade away. Memories from the most recent generations are prioritized, with older memories slipping into something that resembles a hazy myth. Relatively few dwarves still have memories of creation or of the earliest generations, and those often disagree with each other.

Roll d8 for gender (see the Dwarf entry for descriptions of Stoutness and Darkvision):
1: Chop - Str swap d6, proficiency with battleaxe, handaxe, carpenter's tools, woodcarver's tools, and horn. Stoutness.
2: Tink - Dex swap d6, proficiency with dagger, rapier, hand crossbow, tinker's tools, jeweler's tools, and flute. Darkvision 60 ft.
3: Forge - Con swap d6, proficiency with light hammer, warhammer, smith's tools, and drum. Stoutness.
4: Delve - Con swap d6, proficiency with war pick, mason's tools, potter's tools, and bagpipes. Stoutness and Darkvision 60 ft.
5: Calc - Int swap d6, proficiency with light crossbow, heavy crossbow, alchemist's supplies, cartographer's tools, glassblower's tools, navigator's tools, and dulcimer. Darkvision 60 ft.
6: Doc - Wis swap d6, proficiency with dart, blowgun, brewer's supplies, cook's utensils, herbalism kit, poisoner's kit, and lute. Stoutness.
7: Glam - Cha swap d6, proficiency with warhammer, handaxe, cobbler's tools, leatherworker's tools, weaver's tools, and lyre. Darkvision 60 ft.
8: Multigendered - Roll twice on this table. For each gender you roll that you haven't already rolled, take all of its abilities and your Dexterity score decreases by 1, to a minimum of 3. When forming a family, you can choose to fill any gender role you've rolled.

You can decide if the upbringing, background, and class of your Fae Dwarf character comes from the skills inherited from thons parents, or if they come from the experiences thon had in the world after leaving home.

Elf

Str swap d6
Dex swap d8
Con swap d4

Roll d6 for Upbringing:
1-2: City Spire (high elf)
3-4: Fae Forest (wood elf)
5: Mystic Cavern (drow)
6: Other

Size. Elves range from under 5 to over 6 feet tall and have slender builds. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

*Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
*Elven Dexterity. Choose Dex swap d6, or your Dex score increases by 1.
*Fey Ancestry. You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed, and magic can't put you to sleep.
*Trance.

Gnome

Str swap d4
Dex swap d6
Con swap d8

Roll d6 for Upbringing:
1-2: Bright Burrows (rock gnome)
3: City Spire
4-5: Fae Forest (forest or deep gnome)
6: Other

Size. Gnomes are between 3 and 4 feet tall and weigh around 40 pounds. Your size is Small.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet.

*Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
*Gnome Cunning. You have advantage on all Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saves against magic.

Halfling

Str swap d4
Dex swap d8
Con swap d6

Roll d6 for Upbringing:
1-2: Bright Burrows (lightfoot)
3-4: Frontier Freehold (stout)
5: Feudal Farmland
6: Other

Size. Halflings average about 3 feet tall and weigh about 40 pounds. Your size is Small.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet.

*Halfling Dexterity. Choose Dex swap d6, or your Dex score increases by 1.
*Lucky. When you roll a 1 on an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw, you can reroll the die. You must use the new result, even if it is a 1.

Human

Stat swaps are based on Ancestry, see below.

Roll for Broad-Spectrum Ancestry below, and then roll d6 for Upbringing:
1-2: Feudal Farmland (base human)
3-4: If you rolled Half-Orc, Red Ochre. If not, Wandering Wagon (variant human or half-elf)
5: Roll d12 on the Other Upbringing table.
6: (With DM permission) Roll d20 on the Other Upbringing table.

Size. Humans vary widely in height and build, from barely 5 feet to well over 6 feet tall. Regardless of your position in that range, your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Broad-Spectrum Ancestry: Roll d12, and take the swaps and abilities indicated. Abilities are anything with a name listed in the Species description.
1-3: Half-Elf: Str swap d4, Dex swap d6, Con swap d4. Choose four abilities total from the Elf and Human ability lists.
4-6: Half-Orc: Str swap d6, Dex swap d4, Con swap d6. Choose three abilities total from the Orc and Human ability lists.
7: Unusual Ancestor: Roll a random species (rerolling Human and Hybrid). Roll a d4 stat swap for the ability matching its d4 stat swap, and d6 for the other two. Choose three abilities total from its ability list and the Human ability list.
8-12: Mostly Human: Str swap d6, Dex swap d6, Con swap d6. Take the two human abilities.

*Top Ability Increase. Your highest ability score increases by 1. Choose if tied.
*Second Ability Increase. Your second highest ability score increases by 1. Choose if tied.

Tiefling

Str swap d6
Dex swap d6
Con swap d4

Roll d6 for Upbringing:
1: Mystic Cavern
2-3: Outcast
4: Wandering Wagon
5: Wayside Warren
6: Other

Size. Tieflings are about the same size and build as humans. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

*Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
*Infernal Legacy. You know the Thaumaturgy cantrip. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Hellish Rebuke spell once per long rest as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reach 5th level, you can also cast the Darkness spell once per long rest. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.
(If you have Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, you can randomize the legacy.)

Hybrid

Roll two different species (rerolling duplicates).

Reduce the stat swaps in each species by one die: d8 becomes d6, d6 becomes d4, d4 is not rolled. Then roll these (usually 4) swaps.

Roll d6 for Upbringing:
1: Roll on the Upbringing table of the first species.
2: Roll on the Upbringing table of the second species.
3-5: Outcast
6: Roll on the Upbringing tables of both species. If you get the same result, take it. Otherwise, Multicultural with those two upbringings.

Size. You are the lowest size category of the two parent species.
Speed. Your speed is the lowest of the two parent species.

Take all named abilities from both parent species.

Uncommon Species

Bugbear

Str swap d8
Dex swap d6
Con swap d4

Roll d6 for Upbringing:
1: Fae Forest
2: Mining Holdfast
3-4: Red Ochre
5: Wayside Warren
6: Other

Size. Bugbears are between 6 and 8 feet tall and weigh between 250 and 350 pounds. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

*Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
*Long-Limbed. When you make a melee attack on your turn, your reach for it is 5 feet greater than normal.
*Powerful Build. You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.

Centaur

Str swap d8
Dex swap d4
Con swap d6

Roll d6 for Upbringing: 1
3: Fae Forest
2-3: Galloping Nomad
4: Red Ochre
5: Wandering Wagon
6: Other

Size. Centaurs stand between 6 and 7 feet tall, with their equine bodies reaching about 4 feet at the withers. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 40 feet.

*Fey. Your creature type is fey, rather than humanoid.
*Equine Build. You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push or drag. In addition, any climb that requires hands and feet is especially difficult for you because of your equine legs. When you make such a climb, each foot of movement costs you 4 extra feet, instead of the normal 1 extra foot.

Changeling

Str swap d6
Dex swap d6
Con swap d4

Roll d6 for Upbringing:
1: City Spire
2: Feudal Farmland
3-4: Wandering Wagon
5: Roll d12 on the Other Upbringing table.
6: (With DM permission) Roll d20 on the Other Upbringing table.

Size. In their natural forms, changelings average between 5 to 6 feet in height, with a slender build. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

*Malleable. Choose an ability. Either roll a d6 stat swap in that ability or increase its score by 1.

*Change Appearance. As an action, you can change your appearance and your voice. You determine the specifics of the changes, including your coloration, hair length, and sex. You can also adjust your height and weight, but not so much that your size changes. You can make yourself appear as a member of another species, though none of your game statistics change.
You can't duplicate the appearance of a creature you've never seen, and you must adopt a form that has the same basic arrangement of limbs that you have. Your clothing and equipment aren't changed by this trait.
You stay in the new form until you use an action to revert to your true form or until you die.

Goblin

Str swap d4
Dex swap d8
Con swap d8

Roll d6 for Upbringing:
1: Fae Forest
2: Red Ochre
3-4: Wayside Warren
5: Galloping Nomad
6: Other

Size. Goblins are between 3 and 4 feet tall and weigh between 40 and 80 pounds. Your size is Small.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

*Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
*Goblin Dexterity. Choose Dex swap d6, or your Dex score increases by 1.

Hobgoblin

Str swap d6
Dex swap d4
Con swap d8

Roll d6 for Upbringing:
1: Feudal Farmland
2: Galloping Nomad
3-4: Mining Holdfast
5: Outcast
6: Other

Size. Hobgoblins are between 5 and 6 feet tall and weigh between 150 and 200 pounds. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet

*Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
*Hobgoblin Constitution. Choose Con swap d6, or your Con score increases by 1.

Kobold

Str swap d4
Dex swap d6
Con swap d6

Roll d6 for Upbringing:
1: Bright Burrows (Civilized Bahamut-worshiping tribe)
2: Mystic Cavern
3: Red Ochre
4-5: Wayside Warren
6: Other

Size. Kobolds are between 2 and 3 feet tall and weigh between 25 and 35 pounds. Your size is Small.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

*Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

*You may choose to either gain a Dex swap d8 or Shenanigans:
Shenanigans: Gain all of the following abilities:
*Dragon Obedience: You have disadvantage on Wisdom (Insight) checks when interacting with a dragon, and on all saving throws against effects generated by dragons.
*Puny Stature: Your Strength score is reduced by 4, to a minimum of 3.
*Sunlight Sensitivity. You have disadvantage on attack rolls and Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of the attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.
*Wild Mind: After making all choices for your character and gaining your class level, gain all of the features of the first level in a different class, except hit points, as though you were multiclassing into that class. (You must still meet the multiclassing prerequisites, and thereafter you can advance in either class.) You are still a level 1 character for the purposes of experience and encounter calculations and proficiency bonus.

Lizardfolk

Str swap d6
Dex swap d4
Con swap d8

Roll d6 for Upbringing:
1: Mining Holdfast
2: Outcast
3: Red Ochre
4-5: Wayside Warren
6: Other

Size. Lizardfolk are a little bulkier and taller than humans, and their colorful frills make them appear even larger. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet, and you have a swimming speed of 30 feet.

*Hold Breath. You can hold your breath for up to 15 minutes at a time.
*Natural Armor. You have tough, scaly skin. When you aren't wearing armor, your AC is 13 + your Dexterity modifier. You can use your natural armor to determine your AC if the armor you wear would leave you with a lower AC. A shield's benefits apply as normal while you use your natural armor.

Orc

Str swap d8
Dex swap d4
Con swap d6

Roll d4 for Upbringing:
1: Frontier Freehold
2-3: Red Ochre
4: Other

Size. Orcs are usually over 6 feet tall and weigh between 230 and 280 pounds. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

*Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
*Orcish Strength. Choose Str swap d6, or your Str score increases by 1.
*Powerful Build. You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.

Warforged

Str swap d6
Dex swap d4
Con swap d6

Roll d6 for Upbringing:
1: Bright Burrows. You may choose to be Small and gain a Dex swap d6.
2: City Spire
3: Mining Holdfast
4-5: Outcast
6: Other

Size. Warforged are constructed in many sizes, matching the variety of human builds. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

*Constructed Resilience. You were created to have remarkable fortitude, represented by the following benefits:
You have advantage on saving throws against being poisoned, and you have resistance to poison damage.
You don't need to eat, drink, or breathe.
You are immune to disease.
You don't need to sleep, and magic can't put you to sleep.

*Sentry's Rest. When you take a long rest, you must spend at least six hours in an inactive, motionless state, rather than sleeping. In this state, you appear inert, but it doesn't render you unconscious, and you can see and hear as normal.

*Integrated Protection. Your body has built-in defensive layers, which can be enhanced with armor.
You gain a +1 bonus to Armor Class.
You can don only armor with which you have proficiency. To don armor, you must incorporate it into your body over the course of 1 hour, during which you must remain in contact with the armor. To doff armor, you must spend 1 hour removing it. You can rest while donning or doffing armor in this way.
While you live, your armor can't be removed from your body against your will.

Yuan-Ti

Str swap d4
Dex swap d6
Con swap d6

Roll d6 for Upbringing:
1: City Spire
2: Mining Holdfast
3-4: Mystic Cavern
5: Feudal Farmland
6: Other

Size. Yuan-ti match humans in average size and weight. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

*Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
*Magic Resistance. You have advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
*Poison Immunity. You are immune to poison damage and the poisoned condition.

Upbringing List

Bright Burrows

Int swap d6
Wis swap d4
Cha swap d6

Roll d8 for Background:
1: Acolyte - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
2: Entertainer - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
3: Folk Hero - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
4: Guild Artisan - d4 swaps for Con, Wis, Cha
5: Sage - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
6: Spy - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
7-8: Other

You grew up in a well-ordered community that was more prosperous and/or advanced than the world around it. Individuals were protected by law and custom, but allowed and encouraged to follow their passions. Traditionally this upbringing was associated with lightfoot halflings and rock gnomes.

Speak, read, and write Common and one other language that uses either the Common or Dwarvish script. Read and write Dwarvish.

Alignment. Tends toward lawful good, although individuals can be of any alignment.

Attic Rummaging. Roll d8. You begin the game with the additional equipment indicated (Packs are described on PHB pg 151 and the Trinket table is on PHB pg 160). This equipment is light and well-made, and possibly imbued with some minor magic, so that you can carry it in addition to your normal starting equipment without any encumbrance:
1: Burglar's Pack and a random trinket
2: Diplomat's Pack
3: Dungeoneer's Pack and a random trinket
4: Entertainer's Pack
5: Explorer's Pack and a random trinket
6: Priest's Pack
7: Scholar's Pack
8: A random uncommon item (Table F, DMG pg 146). You begin the game attuned to it, even if it does not normally require attunement. It has three random minor detrimental properties (DMG pg 220), each of which can be removed by spending 150 gp or completing a small quest. You may not end attunement while any detrimental properties remain.

Cleverness. Choose Int swap d8, or Cha swap d6 and you have advantage on saving throws against being frightened.

Hobbies

Repeat two times: Choose from 1-6, or roll d8 (rerolling any abilities you already have):

1: Artificer's Lore. Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to magical, alchemical, or technological items, you can add twice your proficiency bonus instead of any other proficiency bonus that may apply.
2: Climbing. You start the game with a Climber's Kit (PHB pg 151). When using a climber's kit, you have a climbing speed of 10 ft. Additionally, if you are Small and unencumbered, you may use Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks to climb.
3: Dancing. You can move through the space of any creature by making a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check, DC 5 if it is friendly and opposed by its Wisdom (Insight) check if it is hostile. Additionally, you can make a DC 15 Charisma (Performance) check to attempt to hide even when you are only obscured by a creature with at least your height and weight. You get advantage on these checks if the creature is of a size larger than yours.
4: Personal Obsession. With the DM's permission, choose an area of study similar in scope to Artificer's Lore above. Whenever you make an Intelligence check related to facts about your personal obsession, you can add twice your proficiency bonus instead of any other proficiency bonus that may apply.
5: Rock throwing. You are proficient with darts, and you may treat rocks as though they were darts, except they do bludgeoning rather than piercing damage. Additionally, you may have up to three special rocks. You start the game with one special rock, and once per long rest, you can find another one. When throwing a special rock, you gain the benefits of the sharpshooter feat (PHB pg 170) for that rock, and it counts as a magic weapon for the purposes of overcoming damage reduction. Special rocks do not lose their power after they are used, although you may have to roll an Intelligence (Investigation) check to find it.
6: Tinkering. You have proficiency with tinker's tools, and own a set of them. Using those tools, you can spend 1 hour and 10 gp worth of materials to construct a Tiny clockwork device (AC 5, 1 hp). You can have up to three such devices active at a time. When you create a device, choose one effect of the Prestidigitation cantrip for it to replicate, or create a similar effect with DM approval. Using any device is an action.
7: Roll d8 twice on the Fae Forest Ways of Nature table.
8: Roll d6 twice on this table.

City Spire

Int swap d8
Wis swap d4
Cha swap d6

Roll d12 for Background:
1: Charlatan - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
2: Criminal - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
3: Entertainer - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
4: Guild Artisan - d4 swaps for Con, Wis, Cha
5: Noble - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Cha
6: Sage - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
7: Sailor - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
8: Spy - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
9: Urchin - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Wis
10-12: Other

You grew up in an advanced or wealthy metropolis, with palaces, universities, and often a bustling port: a place of art and learning and intrigue, bound to the flows of politics and commerce, rather than the cycles of nature. You received a formal liberal arts education in a structured environment, often one that taught the basics of magic. Traditionally only high elves had this upbringing.

Alignment. Tends toward neutral, although individuals can be of any alignment.

Speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice. Read and write Elvish or an exotic language.

Well Educated. You gain proficiency in a skill of your choice. Then repeat five times: You gain proficiency with a weapon or tool of your choice, or speak, read, and write another language of your choice.

Choose one:
*Cantrip. You know one cantrip of your choice from the Wizard spell list. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for it.
*Cosmopolitan. Choose another upbringing. Gain the Cultural Immersion benefits for it.
*Hobby. Choose from 1-6 on the Bright Burrows Hobbies table.

Fae Forest

Int swap d6
Wis swap d6
Cha swap d4

Roll d10 for Background:
1: Acolyte - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
2: Entertainer - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
3: Folk Hero - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
4: Hermit - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
5: Outlander - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
6: Sage - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
7: Spy - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
8-10: Other

You grew up in a magical environment that had been shaped to serve you, usually a forest but not always. Your people were friends of the plants and animals, and know how to use the earth and stones and weather to their advantage. Visible infrastructure was rare, for the land itself provides what they need. Traditionally this upbringing was associated with wood elves, forest gnomes, and deep gnomes.

Alignment. Tends toward neutral good, although individuals can be of any alignment.

Speak, read, and write Elvish and Sylvan. Speak Common and one other language of your choice.

Natural Observer. Choose Int swap d8, or Wis swap d6 and proficiency in the Perception skill

Ways of Nature

Repeat three times: Choose from 1-8, or roll d10 (rerolling any abilities you already have):

1. Fleet of Foot. Your base walking speed increases by 5 feet.
2. Forest Weapon Training. You have proficiency with the shortsword, and shortbow or longbow.
3. Mask of the Wild. You can attempt to hide even when you are only lightly obscured by foliage, heavy rain, falling snow, mist, and other natural phenomena.
4. Natural Illusionist. You know the Minor Illusion cantrip. Choose Int or Wis to be your spellcasting modifier for it.
5. Speak with Small Beasts. Through sound and gestures, you may communicate simple ideas with Small or smaller beasts.
6. Stone Camouflage. You have advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks to hide in rocky terrain.
7. Superior Darkvision: If you already have darkvision, it now has a range of 120 feet. If you don't, you gain 60 ft darkvision.
8. Timberwalk. Ability checks made to track you are at disadvantage and you can move through difficult terrain made of non-magical plants and overgrowth without expending extra movement.
9. Child of the Woods. You know the Druidcraft Cantrip. At 3rd level, you can cast the Entangle spell once per long rest. At 5th level, you can cast Spike Growth spell once per long rest. These spells don't require the material components normally required. Choose Int or Wis to be your spellcasting modifier for these spells.
10. Roll d8 twice on this table.

Feudal Farmland

Int swap d6
Wis swap d6
Cha swap d4

Roll d10 for Background:
1: Acolyte - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
2: Folk Hero - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
3: Knight - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Cha
4: Noble - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Cha
5: Sailor - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
6: Soldier - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Cha
7-10: Other

You grew up surrounded by fields of grain, guarded by castles of stone. Your upbringing focused on work or duty, and fixing your weaknesses, rather than learning idle hobbies or fancy tricks. Traditionally this upbringing was associated with humans.

Alignment. Any. This upbringing has many variations, and its attitude to the world is heavily influenced by the doctrines of its god(s) and the character of its leader.

Speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice.

Well-rounded. Stat swap d6 in each of your four lowest abilities.

Frontier Freehold

Int swap d4
Wis swap d8
Cha swap d6

Roll d8 for Background:
1: Criminal - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
2: Folk Hero - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
3: Hermit - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
4: Outlander - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
5: Pirate - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
6: Soldier - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Cha
7-8: Other

You grew up among independent homesteads on the fringe of civilization, often pioneers in an area recently devastated by war, plague, or monster attacks. You are accustomed to scratching a living for you and your family from land that is often hostile and unforgiving. People from this upbringing tend to be clannish and fiercely independent, resisting any kind of outside authority. Traditionally this upbringing was associated with hill dwarves and stout halflings.

Alignment. Tends toward chaotic neutral, although individuals can be of any alignment.

Speak Common and one other language of your choice.

Frontier Toughness. Choose one: Your hit point maximum increases by 1 per level, or Con swap d6 and you have advantage on saving throws against being frightened.

Hardscrabble

Repeat two times: Choose from 1-9, or roll d10 (rerolling any abilities you already have).

1-3: Dirt Farmer. You have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage. You gain proficiency with either sickle, flail, and trident; or cook's utensils and weaver's tools.
4: Hunter. You gain proficiency with the light or heavy crossbow. Roll d6 on the Red Ochre Primal table.
5: Lumberjack. You gain proficiency with battleaxe, handaxe, carpenter's tools, and woodcarver's tools.
6: Moonshiner. You gain proficiency with brewer's supplies. Either take Dancing from the Bright Burrows Hobbies table, or roll d6 on the Wayside Warren Survival Strategy table.
7: Prospector. You gain proficiency with light hammer, warhammer, war pick, and mason's or smith's tools.
8: Teamster. You gain proficiency with whip, land vehicles, and the Animal Handling skill.
9: Trapper. When you use a Hunting Trap (PHB pg 152), the DCs of the Dexterity saving throw and Strength checks to escape, as well as any Wisdom (Perception) checks to notice a hidden trap, are increased by your proficiency bonus. Roll d8 on the Fae Forest Ways of Nature table.
10: Interesting Past. Roll an extra background on the Frontier Freehold Background Table. Do not roll any of the stat swaps, but take all other benefits of the background. You get all of its starting equipment except the money.

Galloping Nomad

Int swap d4
Wis swap d8
Cha swap d6

Roll d10 for Background:
1: Acolyte - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
2: Criminal - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
3: Entertainer - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
4: Hermit - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
5: Knight - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Cha
6: Noble - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Cha
7: Outlander - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
9: Soldier - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Cha
10: Other

You grew up as a nomadic hunter, herder, or raider. Your people ranged over a vast terrain, usually a steppe, roaming wild and moving like the wind. Settled civilization is alien to you, a threat to be avoided or a resource to be plundered. Either you are a centaur, or you spent so much time in the saddle that you know how to act as one with your mount.

Alignment. Tends toward neutral, although individuals can be of any alignment.

Speak Common and two other languages of your choice.

Choose Caracole or Charge:

*Caracole. While you are wielding a ranged weapon or spellcasting focus, you or your mount may use a bonus action to take the Disengage or Dodge action.

*Charge. If you move at least 30 feet straight toward a target and then hit it with a melee weapon attack on the same turn, you can immediately follow that attack with a bonus action, making one attack against the target with your hooves, or one of your mount's attacks.

Survivor. You have proficiency in one of the following skills: Medicine, Nature, or Survival.

*If you have the Equine Build ability: Choose Str swap d6, or your Str score increases by 1. You are proficient with the lance and can wield it with one hand. You have learned to use your hooves as natural melee weapons, which you can use to make unarmed strikes. If you hit with them, you deal bludgeoning damage equal to 1d4 + your Strength modifier, instead of the bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike.
*If you do not: You are proficient in the Animal Handling skill. You start the game with a beast one size larger than you of CR 1/8 or 1/4 that doesn't have a flying speed, typically a Riding Horse, Pony, Mastiff, or Wolf. It is accustomed to being ridden in combat, and you own a saddle and all appropriate gear for it. At 5th level, you can cast the Find Steed spell once per seven long rests. If you have had the same mount since character creation, or are otherwise closely bonded to it as determined by the DM, its stats upgrade to that of a Warhorse or similar CR 1/2 beast, it becomes your choice of celestial, fae, or fiend, its Intelligence score increases to 6 if it is lower, and you can cast Find Steed once per long rest to summon it.

Mining Holdfast

Int swap d6
Wis swap d6
Cha swap d4

Roll d8 for Background:
1: Acolyte - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
2: Gladiator - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
3: Guild Artisan - d4 swaps for Con, Wis, Cha
4: Noble - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Cha
5: Soldier - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Cha
6: Spy - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
7-8: Other

You grew up in a society organized around the mine and the forge and the chisel, working iron and stone to their will. You are accustomed to organized hierarchies, rules, standards, tradition, honor, and regimentation. Traditionally this upbringing was associated with mountain dwarves and hobgoblins.

Alignment. Tends toward lawful neutral, although individuals can be of any alignment.

Speak, read, and write Common, Dwarvish, and one other language that uses the Dwarvish script.

Armor Training. You have proficiency with light and medium armor.

Choose Military or Worker:

*Military:
Martial Training. You are proficient with two martial weapons of your choice.
Saving Face. You are careful not to show weakness in front of your allies, for fear of losing status. If you miss with an attack roll or fail an ability check or a saving throw, you can gain a bonus to the roll equal to the number of allies you can see within 30 feet of you (maximum bonus of +5). Once you use this trait, you can't use it again until you finish a short or long rest.
Tactical Training. Choose Int swap d6, or your Int score increases by 1. Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to military tactics or heraldry, you are considered proficient in the History skill and add double your proficiency bonus to the check, instead of your normal proficiency bonus.

*Worker:
Artisan Knowledge. You have proficiency with the artisan's tools of your choice. Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to the origin or properties of something created with those tools, you are considered proficient in the History skill and add double your proficiency bonus to the check, instead of your normal proficiency bonus. For example, if you gained proficiency with mason's tools, this applies to stonework, and if you gained proficiency with jeweler's tools, it applies to jewelry.
Resilience. You have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage.
Strength of the Worker. Choose Str swap d6, or your Str score increases by 1
Worker Weapon Proficiency. You have proficiency with the light hammer, sickle, war pick, and warhammer.

Mystic Cavern
Int swap d6
Wis swap d4
Cha swap d6

Roll d10 for Background:
1: Acolyte - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
2: Criminal - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
3: Hermit - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
4: Knight - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Cha
5: Outlander - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
6: Sage - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
7: Urchin - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Wis
8-10: Other

You grew up in a society that learned to draw power from places and things that others shun. It is often based on an ecosystem where the primary producers draw energy not from light, but from emanations of elemental magic. You have absorbed some of this power, though diet and training and exposure. Many of your people are proud and grim, considering themselves superior to those without their special power. Traditionally this upbringing was associated with drow, yuan-ti, and duergar.

Alignment. Tends toward lawful evil, although individuals can be of any alignment.

Speak, read, and write Common, Undercommon, and one other language of your choice.

Cavern Weapons Training: Proficiency with rapiers, shortswords, and hand crossbows.

Superior Darkvision: If you have darkvision, it now has a range of 120 feet. If you don't, you gain 60 ft darkvision.

Sunlight Sensitivity. You have disadvantage on attack rolls and Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of the attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.

Innate Magic. Choose Int or Cha. Gain a d6 swap in the chosen stat or increase it by 1. It is your spellcasting ability for these spells. Then choose one of:
*Lightbender. You know the Dancing Lights cantrip. At 3rd level, you can cast the Faerie Fire spell once per long rest. At 5th level, you can cast the Darkness spell once per long rest.
*Fleshbender. You have advantage on saving throws against illusions and against being charmed or paralyzed. At 3rd level, you can cast the Enlarge/Reduce spell on yourself once per long rest, using only the spell's Enlarge option. At 5th level, you can cast the Invisibility spell on yourself once per long rest.
*Venombender. You know the Poison Spray cantrip. You can cast Animal Friendship an unlimited number of times, but you can target only snakes with it. At 3rd level, you can also cast Suggestion once per long rest.

Outcast

Int swap d6
Wis swap d4
Cha swap d6

Roll d10 for Background:
1: Charlatan - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
2: Criminal - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
3: Entertainer - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
4: Gladiator - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
5: Hermit - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
6: Pirate - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
7: Soldier - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Cha
9: Urchin - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Wis
10: Other

You grew up on the fringes of society, either alone, or in an isolated clan or family, or as a sequestered servitor. People in normal society feared and shunned you because of your appearance or heritage, and you learned to make the most of your innate gifts. Traditionally this situation was associated with dragonborn, tieflings, and warforged.

Alignment. Any. Resting the inclination to evil and/or chaos is often hard for those who are alone, and those in a tight-knit clan often develop extreme views in some direction.

Speak, read and write Common and one exotic language.

Greater Innate Ability. Choose an ability (typically Str for dragonborn, Cha for tieflings, and Con for warforged). Either roll a d8 stat swap in that ability or increase its score by 2.

Lesser Innate Ability. Choose a different ability (typically Cha for dragonborn and Int for tieflings). Either roll a d6 stat swap in that ability or increase its score by 1.

Choose Damage Resistance or Specialized:
*Damage Resistance. You have resistance to one type of damage. If you are a dragonborn, this is based on your Draconic Ancestry. If you are a tiefling, it is fire damage. Otherwise, choose a damage type.
*Specialized. You gain one skill proficiency and one tool proficiency of your choice.

Red Ochre

Int swap d4
Wis swap d6
Cha swap d6

Roll d8 for Background:
1: Gladiator - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
2-3: Outlander - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
4: Pirate - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
5-6: Soldier - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Cha
7-8: Other

You grew up in a band of foragers hunting and gathering in an untamed environment. Your people are primeval hunters and savage warriors, tied to the wild spirits of the land. They learned that they must place the survival of themselves and their tribe first, and often have little consideration for outsiders, especially those who threaten to push them off their land. Traditionally this upbringing was associated with orcs, half-orcs, and bugbears.

Alignment. Tends toward chaotic evil, although individuals can be of any alignment.

Speak Common and two other languages of your choice.

Hunter's Body. Choose Dex swap d6 or Con swap d6

Primal

Repeat three times: Choose from 1-6, or roll d10 (rerolling any abilities you already have):

1. Aggressive. As a bonus action, you can move up to your speed toward an enemy of your choice that you can see or hear. You must end this move closer to the enemy than you started.
2. Menacing. You gain proficiency in the Intimidation skill.
3. Primal Intuition. You gain proficiency in one of the following skills of your choice: Animal Handling, Insight, Medicine, Nature, Perception, and Survival.
4. Relentless Endurance. When you are reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, you can drop to 1 hit point instead. You can't use this feature again until you finish a long rest.
5. Savage Attacks. When you score a critical hit with a melee weapon attack, you can roll one of the weapon's damage dice one additional time and add it to the extra damage of the critical hit.
6. Sneaky. You gain proficiency in the Stealth skill.
7. Surprise Attack. If you surprise a creature and hit it with an attack on your first turn in combat, the attack deals an extra 2d6 damage to it. You can use this trait only once per combat.
8. Roll d10 on the Frontier Freehold Hardscrabble table.
9. Roll d6 on the Wayside Warren Survival Strategy table.
10. Roll d6 on this table, and roll d8 on the Fae Forest Ways of Nature table.

Wandering Wagon

Int swap d4
Wis swap d6
Cha swap d6

Roll d10 for Background:
1: Charlatan - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
2: Criminal - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
3: Entertainer - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
4-6: Guild Merchant - d4 swaps for Con, Wis, Cha
7: Folk Hero - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
8: Sailor - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
9: Spy - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
10: Other

You grew up among people who constantly traveled from one settlement to the next, such as merchants, itinerant laborers, or performers. Your life was freedom, fresh air, and the open road or sea or sky, knowing no law or master but one's own virtue. You and your people are often viewed with suspicion by settled provincial folk, so you developed unusual skills or became good at making friends. Traditionally this upbringing was associated with humans and half-elves.

Alignment. Tends toward chaotic good, although individuals can be of any alignment.

Speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice.

Choose Diplomat, Esoteric Knowledge, or Well Traveled:
*Diplomat. Choose Cha swap d8, or your Cha score increases by 2. Gain proficiency with two of the following skills of your choice: Deception, Insight, Intimidation, and Persuasion. Speak, read, and write one additional language of your choice.
*Esoteric Knowledge. Gain a feat of your choice. Gain proficiency in a skill of your choice.
*Well Traveled. Roll d6 on the Bright Burrows Hobbies table, d8 on the Fae Forest Ways of Nature table, d10 on the Frontier Freehold Hardscrabble table, and d6 on the Red Ochre Primal table.

Wayside Warren

Int swap d4
Wis swap d6
Cha swap d6

Roll d12 for Background:
1: Charlatan - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
2: Criminal - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
3: Folk Hero - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
4: Gladiator - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha
5: Hermit - d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis
6-7: Outlander - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
8: Pirate - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
9-10: Urchin - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Wis
11-12: Other

You grew up among people who were downtrodden and dispossessed, forced to scratch a living at the edges of the world. You have learned to collect what you can from a harsh environment or from the scraps of another civilization. Often your people form a pack or gang that supports them against the uncaring world, but individuals are always alert to opportunities to gain personal power within the gang. Traditionally this upbringing was associated with goblins, kobolds, and lizardfolk.

Alignment. Tends toward neutral evil, although individuals can be of any alignment.

Speak, read, and write one language of your choice. Speak Common.

Packrat Poverty. After collecting the equipment from your background and class, replace the money with 3 copper pieces. Roll a random trinket (PHB pg 160) for each 3 gp you lost in this way.

Scavenger. As part of a short rest, you can harvest bone and hide from a slain beast, construct, dragon, monstrosity, or plant creature of size Small or larger, or other similar materials from your environment. You use these materials to create one of the following items, or more in the case of harvesting from larger creatures or richer environments: a shield, any simple melee weapon, sling, net, or blowgun, 1d20 darts or pieces of ammunition, a holy symbol or spellcasting focus, or, with DM permission, an appropriate item of adventuring gear costing 1 gp or less, such as a bag of caltrops, a sack, a waterskin, or a torch. To use this trait, you need appropriate artisan's tools, such as leatherworker's tools.

Self sufficient. You gain proficiency with cook's utensils, leatherworker's tools, and cobbler's tools, and own all three of them.

Survival Strategy

Choose one from 1-3 and one from 4-6, or roll d6 twice (rerolling any abilities you already have):

1. Designated Distraction. As an action on your turn, you can distract nearby foes. Until the end of your next turn, your allies gain advantage on attack rolls against enemies within 10 feet of you that can see you. Once you use this trait, you can't use it again until you finish a short or long rest.
2. Nimble Escape. You can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of your turns.
3. Survivor's Lore. You gain proficiency with two of the following skills of your choice: Animal Handling, Nature, Perception, Stealth, and Survival.
4. Bite. You have learned to use your teeth as a natural weapon, which you can use to make unarmed strikes. If you hit with your bite, you deal piercing damage equal to 1d6 + your Strength modifier if you are Medium, or 1d4 + your Dexterity modifier if you are Small. Also, in battle, you can throw yourself into a vicious feeding frenzy. As a bonus action, you can make a special attack with your bite. If the attack hits, it deals its normal damage, and you gain temporary hit points (minimum of 1) equal to your Constitution modifier, and you can't use this trait again until you finish a short or long rest.
5. Fury of the Small. When you damage a creature with an attack or a spell and the creature's size is larger than yours, you can cause the attack or spell to deal extra damage to the creature. The extra damage equals your level. Once you use this trait, you can't use it again until you finish a short or long rest.
6. Pack Tactics. You have advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of your allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally isn't incapacitated.

Multicultural

You grew up in two different cultures, and know both of their folkways and are at home in both of them, although learning how to do this has been mentally taxing. Roll d12 on the Upbringing table twice, rerolling duplicates.

Stat swaps: for both upbringings, replace any d8 swaps with d4 swaps and roll them. Do not roll any others.

Roll a random Background.

Alignment. Any. Decide how being exposed to different philosophies of life has shaped you.

Starting with the languages, follow the instructions under both upbringings, taking or choosing abilities as directed. You also get the Cultural Immersion benefit for both upbringings.

As normal, if you would gain the same proficiency from two different sources, you can choose a different proficiency of the same kind (skill, martial weapon, simple weapon, tool) instead. However, if given a choice, you cannot deliberately choose a proficiency you already have in order to trigger this.

Unusual Upbringings

Animal

You were an animal for most of your life. You decide if you were turned into one when you were a baby, or if you were born an animal before something gave you sapience and the ability to transform into a member of your species. In some ways you still are an animal, and integrating into the society around you can be somewhat difficult.

Int swap d4
Wis swap d6
Cha swap d6

Roll a random Background.

Alignment. Any, although usually non-lawful.

Speak Common and one language of your choice.

Transformation. Choose a beast of challenge rating 0. You can, once per short rest, transform into that animal as though using the druid's Wild Shape ability (PHB pg 66). You can stay in the animal form as long as you want.

Choose Pet or Wild:
*Pet. You were once a pampered pet and now you are a uncannily attractive member of your species. Choose Cha swap d8, or your Cha score increases by 2. Gain proficiency in the Persuasion skill.
*Wild. You were once a wild animal. Choose Wis swap d6, or your Wis score increases by 1. Gain proficiency in the Nature, Perception, and Survival skills.

Child Soldier

You grew up knowing nothing but training for battle or special operations, in an isolated barracks or camp. You decide if you escaped or were discharged at some point to make your own way in the world, or if you are currently still loyal to the organization and on a mission for it.

Int swap d4
Wis swap d4
Cha swap d4

If you left, roll a random Background. If not, roll d4:
1: Outlander - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis
2-3: Soldier - d4 swaps for Str, Con, Cha
4: Spy - d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha

Alignment. Any. Decide about who trained you, why, what the training was like, and how that shaped you.

Speak Common and one language of your choice.

Early Training. Your first level will be in the Fighter class. After making all choices for your character and the first level of Fighter, choose a different class and gain all of the features of its first level, except hit points, as though you were multiclassing into that class. You must meet the normal multi-classing prerequisites, and if you don't, reduce some stat by one and increase either your Strength or Dexterity score by one, repeating until it is 13. You are still a level 1 character for the purposes of experience and encounter calculations and proficiency bonus.

Fell From Heaven

You were found in a crater surrounded by shards of strange magical material. You have the body of a young adult, but no memories of your life before except brief flashes and strange dreams. Since then you've made your way through the world as best you could, and have recently begin to manifest innate magical powers.

Int swap d4
Wis swap d4
Cha swap d6

Roll a random Background.

Alignment. Tends toward lawful good, although individuals can be of any alignment.

Speak, read and write Celestial. Speak Common and one language of your choice.

Heavenly Power. After making all choices for your character and gaining your class level, gain all of the features of the first level of bard, paladin, sorcerer, or warlock, except hit points, as though you were multiclassing into that class. This does not require you to meet any ability score prerequisites, and does not count as your current class, but if you do meet the multiclassing prerequisites, you can later advance in the chosen class as a normal multiclassed character. You are still a level 1 character for the purposes of experience and encounter calculations and proficiency bonus.

Magemarked

You have a magical marking on your body that gives you powers. Either you were born with it, or it manifested at some point in your childhood or adolescence. This set you apart from society, and you focused your efforts on mastering your powers and figuring out what they mean for your place in the world.

Int swap d6
Wis swap d6
Cha swap d6

Roll a random Background.

Alignment. Any. Decide how society reacted to your appearance and powers, and how that shaped you.

Speak, read and write Common and one language of your choice.

Mark. Roll d12 for your mark. Each of the marks lists an ability, two or three spells, and two or three skills and/or tools. Gain a d6 swap in the listed ability or increase it by 1. It is your spellcasting ability for all of the listed spells. You can cast them without using material components. If the listed spell is a cantrip, you know it and can cast it at will. If it is a 1st-level spell, you can cast it once per long rest. If it is a 2nd-level spell, then starting at 3rd level, you can cast it once per long rest. Also, whenever you make an ability check using the listed tools or skills, you can roll a d4 and add the number rolled to the total ability check.

1. Detection: Int; Detect Magic, Detect Poison and Disease, See Invisibility; Investigation, Insight
2. Finding: Wis; Hunter's Mark, Locate Object; Perception, Survival
3. Handling: Wis; Animal Friendship, Speak With Animals, Calm Emotions; Animal Handling, Nature
4. Healing: Wis; Cure Wounds, Lesser Restoration; Medicine, Herbalism Kit
5. Hospitality: Cha; Prestidigitation, Purify Food and Drink, Unseen Servant; Persuasion, Brewer's Tools, Cook's Utensils
6. Making: Int; Mending, Magic Weapon (does not require concentration); Arcana, Artisan's Tools you are proficient with
7. Passage: Dex; Expeditious Retreat, Jump, Misty Step; Acrobatics, Land vehicles
8. Scribing: Int; Message, Comprehend Languages, Magic Mouth; History, Calligrapher's Tools
9. Sentinel: Wis; Shield, Shield of Faith; Insight, Perception
10. Shadow: Cha; Minor Illusion, Invisibility; Stealth, Performance
11. Storm: Cha; Feather Fall, Fog Cloud, Gust of Wind; Acrobatics, Navigator's Tools
12. Warding: Int; Alarm, Mage Armor, Arcane Lock; Investigation, Thieves' Tools

Vampire

At an early age, you were bitten by a vampire, or possibly transformed by some form of dark magic, and have lived on the fringes of society since then. You are weaker than most vampires, but still alive and (mostly) in control of your urges.

Int swap d6
Wis swap d4
Cha swap d4

Roll a random Background.

Alignment. Tends toward lawful evil, although individuals can be of any alignment.

Speak, read, and write Common and one language of your choice.

Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light and in darkness as if it were dim light. If you already have darkvision, its range increases by 60 feet.

Sunlight Sensitivity. You have disadvantage on attack rolls and Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of the attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.

Vampiric Bite. Your fanged bite is a natural weapon, which counts as a simple melee weapon with which you are proficient. You add your Constitution modifier to the attack and damage rolls when you attack with your bite. Your bite deals 1d4 piercing damage on a hit. While you are missing half or more of your hit points, you have advantage on attack rolls you make with this bite. When you use your bite and hit a creature that isn’t a Construct or an Undead, you can empower yourself in one of the following ways of your choice:
*Regain hit points equal to the damage dealt by the bite
*Gain a bonus to the next ability check or attack roll you make; the bonus equals the damage dealt by the bite
You can empower yourself with your bite a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Vampiric Power. Choose one:
*Mobility. Your speed increases by 5 feet, and you have a climbing speed equal to your walking speed. In addition, at 3rd level, you can move up, down, and across vertical surfaces and upside down along ceilings, while leaving your hands free.
*Compulsion. Choose Cha swap d6, or your Cha score increases by 1. You know the Friends cantrip. At 3rd level, you can cast the Charm Person spell once per long rest. At 5th level, you can cast the Suggestion spell once per long rest. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Werewolf

At an early age, you were bitten by a werewolf (or some other kind of lycanthrope), and have lived on the fringes of society since then. You have (perhaps very recently) learned to control your shifting, and do not shift involuntarily, although this has come at a cost: you are not as powerful as many others of your kind.

Int swap d4
Wis swap d6
Cha swap d6

Roll a random Background.

Alignment. Tends toward chaotic neutral, although individuals can be of any alignment.

Speak Common and one language of your choice.

Choose two proficiencies from among: Perception, Athletics, Intimidation, Acrobatics, and Survival.

Shifting. As a bonus action, you can assume a more bestial appearance. This transformation lasts for 1 minute, until you die, or until you revert to your normal appearance as a bonus action. When you shift, you gain temporary hit points equal to your level + your Constitution modifier (minimum of 1 temporary hit point). You also gain benefits that depend on your aspect, described below. Once you shift, you can’t do so again until you finish a short or long rest.

Aspect. Choose one:
*Beasthide: Whenever you shift, you gain 1d6 additional temporary hit points, and while shifted, you have a +1 bonus to your AC.
*Longtooth: While shifted, you can use your elongated fangs to make an unarmed strike as a bonus action. If you hit with your fangs, you can deal piercing damage equal to 1d6 + your Strength modifier, instead of the bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike.
*Swiftstride: While shifted, your walking speed increases by 10 feet. Additionally, you can move up to 10 feet as a reaction when an enemy ends its turn within 5 feet of you. This movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks.