What is it?
A charlatan is a swindler or conman. Using half-truths and often whole lies, the charalatan can manipulate and mislead people with ease. They aren't quite criminals, but they're less-than-honest individuals.
How can my class use it?
Mechanically, the charlatan seems to function really well for basic thief type things. There's a lot of overlap with Rogue features and skills here, so picking this as a Rogue would free you up to have some more choice for things (since redundant proficiencies are instead allowed to be moved elsewhere.) Someone like a Bard could also easily make use of the False Identity feature, and it does put a more manipulative bent on that class, which often works really well. Basically, this background predisposes the character towards being a face character. In terms of roleplay, I really like pairing this with a martial class, particularly Fighter or Monk. As the False identity feature mentions, charlatans conceal themselves behind masks. This seems to be intended metaphorically, but let's take it literally for a minute. Put literal masks on a martial class, and you end up with a good old fashioned superhero. The False Identity feature is basically setting you up to have your superhero identity and secret identity. The False Identity feature can also be used by Barbarians, Rangers, and Druids as a means of blending in with normal civilized society. Rather than learn to adapt themselves to it, they simply create a false front, largely to avoid detection and interaction with anyone on a real personal level. Warlocks, Sorcerers, and Wizards also have some neat opportunities with this background. Since the charlatan is designed around conning people out of their hard earned money, the occasional illusion or mind-altering spell could easily help grease the wheels of the charlatan's seedy endeavors. Magic tends to make this sort of thing easier.
Why should I use it?
Charlatans are great at concealing their identity. In the course of adventuring life, you can often make a lot of enemies, so being able to hide who you are is incredibly useful. Plus, the proficiencies with deception, forgery kit, and disguise kit make undercover missions a much easier task. If you need to investigate someone, this background provides some really useful tools for ingratiating yourself in the right places and wheeling and dealing with other face-type characters.
What if I play a system other than D&D?
Then focus on the idea of deceiving others. Use this as inspiration to build liars and cheats of all kinds. What sort of cons do you run? Do you sell snake oil? Do you play games with loaded dice or stacked decks? Do you pretend to run a charity and then skip town with the money? Or maybe all of the above. Think of all the interesting way you can get fools to part with their money. Or think of what other things you can do with your identity safe behind a literal or metaphorical mask.
I hope you enjoyed this and the rest of the content by Digital & Dice. If you would like to read further on smooth-talking characters, consider checking out my earlier post "Player Platform: Playing the Face of the Party" . Until next time…Game on Internets!
- Draconick, Digital and Dice Contributor
I, Nick “Draconick” Johnson, am a writer and roleplaying enthusiast with over ten years of experience in various tabletop roleplaying games both as a player and as a GM. I am also somewhat involved in other forms of tabletop gaming such as wargaming, board games, and card games. It is my hope that by creating and maintaining this website that I can share my unique take on all things within our hobby and to foster a community of like-minded individuals.