I haven't done a backgrounds post in a while, so I feel like it's probably about time I tackled another one of these. Today we face the Outlander.
What is it?
Outlanders are those who live out in the wilds beyond civilization. This could be alone in a manner similar to a hermit, existing on the fringes of society. More commonly, outlanders are found in tribal societies of their own. This is the typical background for those living in primitive societies that lack the comforts of more technologically advanced peoples.
How can my class use it?
The Outlander background works really well for Barbarians, Rangers, and Druids from a thematic standpoint. They typically exist outside the borders of established settled societies, so this is a natural fit for them, to the point where some of these classes even recommend it in their quick-build options. Personally, I also feel there's a strong argument for Sorcerers and Warlocks to make use of this background if they come from the appropriate lifestyle. As neither of these spellcasting classes rely on book learning, they're both probably more common than a Wizard here (since primitive societies tend to rely on oral tradition rather than written one.) That said, a Wizard might be able to make due with this in some cases. One way to do this might be to cast (haha) your wizard as some sort of exile, pushed out from society, which is one of the origin options provided for outlanders. Jumping back to that thought about oral traditions, Bards can also be a good fit here, especially if you do the always-fun Bard-Barbarian multiclass, otherwise known as a Bardbarian. Rogues and Fighters might be drawn to the background if they spend significant time in the wilds, and immediately this puts my mind towards banditry and highwaymen, which would suit both of those classes fairly well. Monks and Clerics can be Outlanders easily with the pilgrim origin. Perhaps they wander from place to place to experience the world or to preach, or they travel between holy sites for meditation and contemplation. Paladins might also fall into this role if they spend significant amounts of time traveling, or perhaps if they were trained by a single traveling master as opposed to an order. Maybe your character squired for a knight who was constantly on the move and you were expected to know your way around the wilderness.
Why should I use it?
On the surface, there isn't much special about the Outlander background from a mechanics standpoint. And honestly, I feel it is one of the weaker backgrounds. As far as proficiencies go, it grants a musical instrument and a language. While neither of these are exactly useless, the language proficiency is made less useful with the ease of magical translation, and the fact that there are other backgrounds that also confer language proficiencies that are more useful. And a musical instrument is a fairly common proficiency as well. The feature granted is also underwhelming, while it is helpful to have some guaranteed food and navigation, these same things can be accomplished with a roll against your survival skill. While rolling for it is less reliable, the fact that the background's special thing can be accomplished by anyone with a decent roll on a single skill does diminish the impact of it somewhat. This isn't to say that it's useless, but that it may not be the best choice mechanically. As always, pick what is appropriate for your character, since that's more important in a roleplaying game.
What if I play a system other than D&D?
As stated previously, outlanders are the sort of people who avoid mainstream society. This is usually because they favor their own primitive societies, but it could be one who simply withdraws to the fringes. An example of this in a modern setting might be a doomsday prepper who goes off the grid or survivalist camper. In a futuristic setting, this might be a member of a pre-spacefaring society.
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.