We're back with our series on D&D 5e backgrounds, and as expected, it's on to the Hermit background.
What is it?
The Hermit can be anyone who withdraws from broader society for the sake of introspection. The most common sort is a holy man, but a political exile, someone raised by wolves, or the doddering Druid in the woods all might be Hermits. The Player's Handbook makes a point of painting this background as distinct from the Acolyte (which are religious devotees of all types, including those who withdraw somewhat into monasteries, abbeys, or other religious communities) and from Outlanders (those who live in the wilderness, typically in small tribal communities or on the fringes of a larger community.) As a good rule of thumb I find, is that you should be choosing a Hermit if your character withdraws completely, as opposed to Acolytes or Outlanders, who withdraw in a more partial manner by keeping religious, institutional, tribal, or communal ties even in a loose sense.
How can my class use it?
Barbarians and Rangers are more typically portrayed as Outlanders, but if you wished to run them as a Hermit, I can think of several good reasons to do so. Perhaps your Barbarian has spent a significant portion of his or her time on a vision quest. The contemplative nature of this might lend itself more towards a Hermit, and the Discovery feature would easily be encapsulated by the journey of your self-examination. Rangers also fit well into this via the Discovery feature. It specifically mentions the idea of guarding a site where your discovery was made. This works fairly well with Rangers, who are often the guardian of natural spaces, working beyond society to keep both it and nature safe. Druids are quite similar to Rangers in this sense, but their knowledgeable nature predisposes them towards the Hermit role more easily, and indeed many Druids are Hermits. Bards strike me as being less likely to be Hermits, but those who spend much time far away from society researching long-forgotten knowledge (songs, histories, poetry, etc.) might fall into the role, as could the Bard who needs to go off to "clear his head" to come up with his next creative idea and ends up spending years under a creative block. Clerics, Monks, and Paladins could easily be Hermits, again, playing largely off of their role as holy men who seek god by abandoning the material world of society. Pilgrims, anchorites, and contemplatives of all sorts make good Hermits. Fighters could make for interesting Hermits. The common trope of "going off to train and perfect your technique and skills" could be applied to this, lending towards a Fighter who strongly pursues martial perfection. Sorcerers strike me as being people who might initially fear their magic out of a lack of understanding, since it happens naturally to them, and it may not always be a welcome experience. A sorcerer who withdraws from the world to "find themselves" and control their magic makes for an interesting character in my eyes. Warlocks who spend a good deal of formative time physically near their Patron would likely be Hermits. A Patron might demand considerable contact with and oversight of newer Warlocks, and only send them out when they have a task for them, and only when the Warlock is ready. Also, some Warlock Patrons might lead more naturally to a Hermit's life. Fiends and Great Old Ones are likely to be shunned by society, so withdrawing would probably be a safe move for a follower of those paths. Likewise, an Archfey Warlock would probably want to spend time in nature, away from people, because their patron does. Hexblades and Celestial pact Warlocks seem like they would be less inclined to this background, but again, there are always exceptions. Wizards who entirely divorce themselves from society to study magic in a tower by themselves are almost certainly Hermits.
Why should I use it?
Hermits get proficiency with an herbalism kit, and start the game with it. This is useful, considering that an herbalism kit allows you to create antitoxins and Potions of Healing, both of which can make adventuring a lot easier (especially those Potions of Healing.) As herbalism kit proficiency isn't altogether common, this might be a good pick for you. Additionally, Medicine is a skill that Hermits get, which also is among the less common skills that classes and backgrounds grant access too. The low gold and material benefit (besides that herbalism kit) do somewhat lessen the initial usefulness of it though. Lastly, the Discovery feature is a toss up. It relies entirely on you working with your DM, so if you have a good DM who makes it useful and utilizes it in game, then you're in good shape. However, a DM who doesn't take an active interest in it could easily forget about it or simply not use it in any appreciable way, which would make it significantly less useful than many of the other background features that exist.
What if I play a system other than D&D?
What matters most is that you play someone who is a recluse from society for the sake of their own introspection. They have something that is the object of their thoughts so much that they must tune out the outside world. For more modern settings, consider people like those who do "off the grid living" as examples of people who might withdraw in a hermit-like fashion. For sci-fi, perhaps someone who is marooned on an alien planet, or is the sole explorer of a distant world or moon. There can be any number of reasons for being a hermit, but so long as you are totally alone with your thoughts, you meet the criteria.
I hope you enjoyed this and the rest of the content by Digital & Dice. 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.