On 5e Backgrounds: Prisoner


Until recently, you were incarcerated for a crime of which you were or were not guilty of. The truth of the matter has long fled over your internment. Now, however you are free and do not ever plan on becoming imprisoned again.
Skill Proficiency: Deception and Intimidation
Tool Proficiency: Gaming and Musical Instrument.
Languages: Gain 1 additional language
Equipment: Common clothes, shiv (dagger), small leather pouch, blanket, candle, jagged spoon, twine, small steel mirror

Specialty: Crime

You were once convicted of a crime. Roll on or choose from the following table below to determine your crime

  1. Murder
  2. Treason
  3. Necromancy/Gravedigging
  4. Price/match fixing
  5. Defiling a holy temple
  6. Terrorist Activity (Poisoning wells, etc.)
  7. Trespassing
  8. Practicing medicine without a license. 

Feature: Cellmate & Prisoner

You have a bond with a certain person you've shared a cell with. Over the years they came to know all your secrets as you came to know all theirs. They too are no longer imprisoned and have made a new life for themselves. You may be contacted for information about this person, use the knowledge you know about them over them, or rely on their aid and succor. The nature of the relationship is up to you.

In addition, due to your maltreatment, you start with 2 fewer hit points than normal, but the DC for your stabilization checks when dying is 8 rather than 10. If prison didn't kill you, it'll take something worse to finally bring you down.

Suggested Characteristics

No one has had it as bad as you. Other people may complain, but you know what true suffering is like. This either makes you empathetic to the plight of others or cold and inured to suffering. You have strong opinions on the rule of law and the effect penalties have on the survivors. You cherish each moment and each day in a way others around you don't, but are occasionally beset by night terrors, where you wake, paralyzed, thinking you are back in prison.

d8 Personality

  1. I'm always aware of my surroundings and all nearby exits; I don't sit with my back to the door and never really trust that I'm safe.
  2. I don't feel alone when I talk, so I try to talk to everyone all the time. 
  3. I don't think anyone can ever know what I went through, so I'm hesitant to talk about myself or the past. 
  4. I like to play up the fact that I was a prisoner because I like the way people react to it.
  5. It's the small things that matter, taking the time to buy a trinket, or getting just the right hat are the type of freedoms that I value.
  6. I know what happened to me is wrong and I support the right of all citizens versus an oppressive government
  7. I don't have time for nonsense
  8. I only want the finest things after having the worst of things for so long.

d6 Ideal

  1. Freedom: My duty is to abolish enslavement and prisons. (Chaotic)
  2. Justice: I seek to balance the scales of the falsely accused. (Good)
  3. Vengeance: I will get revenge against those who wronged me. (Evil)
  4. Untethered: I will not allow anyone to restrict my freedom. (Unaligned)
  5. Respect: Who respects you is what's important in life. (Lawful)
  6. Resilience: Being independent is the greatest protection. (Any)
d6 Bond

  1. I have a special friend from prison that means more to me than my own life (select one tiny vermin).
  2. I seek to free all those who are in chains, as I feel their pain.
  3. I keep my manacles bound on my wrists so that I never forget my suffering.
  4. I have been tattooed or branded with the symbol of my crime and can never escape my past.
  5. I seek to abolish cruel and unusual punishment and abhor torture.
  6. My freedom is my life. I would rather die than be a prisoner.
d6 Flaw

  1. I moved the treasure my cellmate hid and he is after me to get it back.
  2. I had to hurt someone who attacked me in prison, and have the enmity of a criminal gang.
  3. I have a lingering wound from my time that affects my mobility.
  4. I was in prison for so long, I'm out of touch with any current or recent developments.
  5. Malnutrition in prison has caused my physique to wither and I have lost both teeth and hair.
  6. I become very aggressive with anyone who threatens my status as alpha.

Like these backgrounds I wrote? I collected them in a Pay What You Want .pdf, and affordable hard copy!

Hack & Slash Compendium I at RPGnow at Pay What You Want (Including 0$)!
Hack & Slash Compendium I at Lulu in affordable print! (4.99$)

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  1. Am I to understand these are your original creations? I don't have 5e to know what's BTB

    1. They aren't in basic. I haven't seen the phb, but i wrote it from scratch.

  2. One of the flaws should be about whether you escaped or not, and if the law is chasing you.

  3. These are brilliant! Keep 'em coming!

  4. Probably not relevant (since it's fantasy) but in the pre-modern period, incarceration was not really a sentence. It was either death or a fine, for the most part. Nobility might be "imprisoned" but that usually meant being kept in close confines in a castle. Just sayin'!

  5. Well I think it's great. I'm glad 5e has got your juices flowing.

  6. Nice. I've been working on Plague Survivor and wondering if Excommunicated is redundant to Heretic for a lower tech Warhammer-ish failed empire setting. Really like the mechanical tradeoff.

  7. All of these so far have kicked ass! I hope you keep the focus on the lower classes of society.
    the only suggestion I have is -1 to all hps per level in exchange for the lower death save would be a better option.

  8. I love your flavor in these backgrounds but backgrounds shouldn't give any mechanical benefits or detriments. I've also noticed that the extra starting gold is a bit high in a few of these compared to their counterparts in the Basic Rules and the few previews WoTC has shown of the others. Lastly, I think these were created prior to the custom background guidelines, a background can have a combination of up to two tools and languages. Some of yours give two tools AND a language.


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