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Nerdarchy > Dungeons & Dragons  > Character Stories  > Expanding 5E D&D Background Characteristics — Acolyte
5E D&D acolyte background

Expanding 5E D&D Background Characteristics — Acolyte

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Salutations, nerds! We’re about to go on a journey of new background characteristics for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. The backgrounds in the 5E D&D Player’s Handbook and other sources include suggested characteristics to help define a character and spark your imagination for roleplaying. In this series I’m going to create additional personality traits, ideals, bonds and flaws for you to choose from during 5E D&D character creation. Maybe you’ve burned through all of the ones in the PHB and really want something new to chew on.

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Fluff like 5E D&D background characteristics is the game too

From the 5E D&D Basic Rules: Fleshing out your character’s personality — the array of traits, mannerisms, habits, beliefs, and flaws that give a person a unique identity — will help you bring him or her to life as you play the game. Four categories of characteristics are presented here: personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws. Beyond those categories, think about your character’s favorite words or phrases, tics and habitual gestures, vices and pet peeves, and whatever else you can imagine.

Technically inspiration in 5E D&D is presented as a rule Dungeon Masters can use as a reward for players who remain true to their characteristics. Even though these characteristics don’t include mechanical benefits along the same lines as most class features these components of characters are still a part of the game with implications during play.

“If you’ve got a copy of Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden you’ll find a whole bunch of character hooks and secrets in the introduction to inspire your characters’ motivation. Likewise resources like the Heroic Chronical in Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount and This Is Your Life sections in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything can really help develop fun and intriguing ideas for motivation of your adventurers.

5 Sources of Motivation for 5E D&D Adventurers

d8 — Personality Traits

  1. I am a person of faith and this does not always mean my own. I can feel the sway of places of power regardless of the deity the temple to which I am consecrated.
  2. I insist on praying before every meal, even in public, and am not afraid to show I have a rough opinion of those who don’t.
  3. My sense of humor tends toward religious puns. I suspect if my traveling companions hear one more quip about my holy shoes they might throttle me. So of course I’m going to do it anyway.
  4. I at least make an attempt to embrace everyone I meet warmly.
  5. There is no job too small if it needs doing and I can often be found helping to scrub floors and wash dishes as a display of humility.
  6. I have a tendency to lapse into parables when situations get difficult.
  7. The temple where I studied was very clean and I am not pleased with getting dirt on me in any situation.
  8. I have a tendency to take certain bits of scripture quite literally.

d6 — Ideals

  1. Humility. Pride goeth before the fall and I have no intention of getting into this situation to begin with. I am one of the people, and no more than this. (Good)
  2. Tenacity. Look at what we as a faith have already weathered and know we have everything we need to see ourselves through even the worst of storms. (Any)
  3. Accountability. All things can be forgiven but when a wrong is done it must be atoned for. (Lawful)
  4. Kindness. It is easy to be cruel to one’s enemies but difficult and rewarding to be kind instead. (Good)
  5. Community. I put my church and its people ahead of all others and safeguard their well being. If we do not foster community we can’t expect anyone else to. (Any)
  6. Honesty. To spread falsehood is to dishonor the gods. Truth, always, even when a clever lie would be wiser. (Lawful)

d6 — Bonds

  1. I seek a prophet of my faith’s old legends who old priests sometimes speak of though only in whispers.
  2. I have cool feelings toward the family that gave me up to the church in my early childhood.
  3. I had a truly religious experience on the temple grounds once and I wonder if I will ever feel anything like that again.
  4. I have a friend who grew up in the same temple I did and I would run back for leagues on foot to help them if they need.
  5. My master in the clergy was harsh but fair. I respect them a great deal though things are not warm between us.
  6. An illuminated holy text was stolen on my watch and I mean to recover it.

d6 — Flaws

  1. I have a nasty habit my deity would frown upon and I go to great lengths to hide it.
  2. Although I have a tendency to preach a lot I don’t actually believe in anything I’m saying.
  3. There will always be a part of any long conversation where I attempt to solicit a donation from the person to whom I am talking.
  4. I tend to offer a lot of unsolicited advice even when people clearly weren’t talking to me.
  5. I expect my position within the church will protect me even in situations where others have no reason to honor it.
  6. I follow the letter of the scripture rather than the spirit and will not hear of it when people suggest the translation my temple uses might have been imperfect.

For me at least the suggested characteristics in the 5E D&D PHB are always incredibly inspiring so hopefully you found something in all of this to inspired your characters as well. Feel free to comment or tweet me @Pyrosynthesis and of course, stay nerdy!

*Featured image — Acolyte is one of the background options for characters found in the 5E D&D Player’s Handbook. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]

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Robin Miller

Speculative fiction writer and part-time Dungeon Master Robin Miller lives in southern Ohio where they keep mostly nocturnal hours and enjoys life’s quiet moments. They have a deep love for occult things, antiques, herbalism, big floppy hats and the wonders of the small world (such as insects and arachnids), and they are happy to be owned by the beloved ghost of a black cat. Their fiction, such as The Chronicles of Drasule and the Nimbus Mysteries, can be found on Amazon.

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