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Nerdarchy > Dungeons & Dragons  > Character Stories  > Expanding 5E D&D Background Characteristics — Charlatan
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Expanding 5E D&D Background Characteristics — Charlatan

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Salutations, nerds! Alphabetical order dictates that today I’m writing about the charlatan background for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. When you look at the background options in the 5E D&D Player’s Handbook there are a number of background characteristics suggested for you to help define a character and spark your imagination for roleplaying and in this series I’m creating suggest some additional personality traits, ideals, bonds and flaws for you to play with on the off chance you’ve burned through all of those and are interested in some new ones.

New videos every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel here

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. Everyone—absolutely everyone—is a potential mark and I only consider them something else after I’ve eyed their pockets up.
  2. I have an incredible sweet tooth. I’ll eat dessert first and have more after for dessert.
  3. I’ll take any form of escapism I can get. Plays, books, people…
  4. I can’t resist a good pun.
  5. I wouldn’t be caught dead in commoner’s clothes.
  6. My best defense is to look as innocuous as possible, so I make it a point to appear timid.
  7. I’m always listening for the best way to leverage a person out of their coin—whether I intend to use it or not.
  8. I sing to myself while I’m working on things, just quiet little nonsense songs.

d6 — Ideals

  1. Improvement. The game is only fun if it’s as over the top as possible. The more working parts the better. (Chaotic) 
  2. Craftsmanship. We’re going to do this right or we’re not going to do it at all. You never half-bake a swindle. (Any)
  3. Wealth. I’m going to be the richest person I know, no matter the cost. (Evil)
  4. Equality. It isn’t just because it pays more. I steal from the wealthiest people I can find to even the playing field for the rest of us. (Any)
  5. Loyalty. Don’t con other con artists and don’t go to the guards. We’re in this together. (Lawful)
  6. Theatricality. They’re not paying me for what I’m selling them, they’re paying me for my performance. I can hardly be blamed if some of them don’t realize what it is. (Chaotic)

d6 — Bonds

  1. I learned how to run a good con with a group of several other unfortunates. My team is still out there somewhere and if they call I’ll always answer.
  2. I had a lover in my past that I miss terribly. Sometimes I don’t notice I’m being flirted with because of this.
  3. I’ve been entirely too candid with my hair dresser. They could ruin me if they wanted to. So I make it a point to continue to give them good business and recommend them to everyone I know.
  4. A friend of mine and I were caught spinning mischief as children. That friend was carted off to prison. I intend to get them out.
  5. There’s a noble that paid me fair and square, but they don’t see it that way. Every so often their goons catch up and I have to skip town fast.
  6. There’s someone famous I want to run a con on. I can’t stop thinking about it. Someday, I’ll make it a reality.

d6 — Flaws

  1. I put on so many masks that I’ve forgotten what my face looks like. I’m always convinced I’m doing a bit and being real makes me very uncomfortable.
  2. I have a horrific temper that’s difficult to reign in once it’s been set off.
  3. I like to talk about myself a lot and I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t be interested in hearing about my adventures.
  4. If you try to wake me up before noon I am probably going to kick you in the face.
  5. I tend to slip into my ‘smooth talker’ voice even when I’m being completely honest.
  6. I overreact if I think I’m being insulted.

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 — Captain Xendros may not be a charlatan in mechanical terms but the tiefling priest of Iuz can certainly tease out the hearts’ desires of adventurers in Saltmarsh seeking magical treasures. [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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