5E Supplement Review: Backgrounds, volume 1

Backgrounds, volume 1 is a short pdf of 10 pages that presents four new backgrounds for the D&D game: Animal Trainer, Flying Cavalry, Innkeeper and Teamster.

One of the attractions of designing new backgrounds is that they’re light on rules material; they’re not as intensive to design as (say) spells or monsters. However, the focus becomes much more on your writing skills. Thankfully, the supplement is mostly well-written. There are moments of pure clunkiness where the prose doesn’t flow as well as I’d wish, but overall it reads well.

The suggested traits, ideals, flaws and bonds are well-considered, although there’s one personality trait that isn’t: “People are generally rude and selfish”; that one doesn’t tell me anything about how the character acts. Compare it to “I saw many happy people and many sad people come through the doors. I want to make sure I end up as one of the happy ones”; that’s a really good trait that allows a wide range of interpretation.

The Flying Cavalry background assumes the character is still a member of the cavalry, but a variant is also provided for those who are ex-members. I was very glad to see this included: it shows some thought about the role of the background in the campaign.

One interesting omission: the ideals do not list suggested alignments.

A fun point: three of the four backgrounds provide proficiency in the Animal Handling skill.

Overall, this is a nice product, focused mostly on the more mundane occupations of the fantasy world – with one notable exception.

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