In continuation with our D&D 5e background series, today we have the criminal.
What is it?
Any form of lawbreaker is a criminal. Criminals are sometimes, but not always, participants in organized crime. Either way, you tend to associate yourself with unsavory elements and aren't typically forthright in your dealings with others.
How can my class use it?
Rogues are the obvious candidate for this background, as it plays right into their strengths. The Deception and Stealth skills could then easily be repurposed elsewhere, due to redundancy. Beyond this, the background contains a handy 1d8 chart of different specialties that helps to flesh out some ideas of how this might pair well with other classes. Though this list is not designed specifically for that purpose, I think it is great for ideas. Note that the different specializations don't have any mechanical impact, and are purely for flavor. A Bard makes a great blackmailer, getting close to people with honeyed words might convince them to say something more than they had meant to share, leaving the blackmailer Bard with lots of material. Likewise, Fighters and Barbarians make good enforcers, the sort of thugs who are kept around as muscle by criminal types to rough people up. Druids and Rangers make decent highway robbers, as they know the wilds fairly well and how to best utilize it to their advantage. Wizards, Sorcerers, and Clerics can make especially good fences, as they can identify magical items or sell their services as healers to the criminal organizations they cooperate with. Monks who turn to a life of crime might find good work as a hired killer, as being lethal even while unarmed is surely a beneficial trait for an assassin. Warlocks also fill this role fairly well, as their Eldritch Blast can be relied on to be useful, even in the absence of other spells.
Why should I use it?
Criminals are a diverse bunch. Whatever your reason for being a criminal, having access to criminal contacts is often useful, especially if you plan to do things that aren't always strictly legal. This works well for chaotic characters. The spy variant also offers some unique options for sort of a "lawful" criminal. Really, anyone wanting to associate with the underbelly of society or trafficking in secrets would do well with a criminal background.
What if I play a system other than D&D?
This is perfectly fine. Just think about how you're involved with crime? Do you smuggle goods? Deal in murder? Pick pockets at the market? You chosen role says a lot about your character. Someone who mugs people in an alley is likely more violent and confrontational than someone who forges documents. It also might display your role in an organized criminal organization. Those going out to commit burglary are likely lower on the totem pole than those who commit bank heists.
I hope you enjoyed this and the rest of the content by Digital & Dice. If you would like to read further on criminal characters, consider checking out my post "D&D Vice: the Criminal Campaign" over on my personal blog.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.