Sure as the tide, I'm here with another backgrounds post. Next up is of course the sailor background, your source for all things nautical.
What is it?
Sailors spent time at sea on a waterborne vessel. Whether you served on board a merchant trader, a humble fishing boat, or as part of the crew of a terrifying pirate, you are a sailor. You know how to operate seacraft, and are used to traveling long distances over water.
How can my class use it?
Theoretically, any class could have a role on a ship, and therefore could be a sailor. Bards and Rogues make great fits for merchant crewmen, using their silver tongues to sell the ship's cargo or perhaps working as smugglers. Rangers and Fighters would likely work as marine guards, or perhaps members of a naval force. Paladins are often traveling great distances while on crusade, and it wouldn't be unexpected for some of them to take to the sailing life like a fish to water. Likewise, Monks are ever the pilgrims of the world, so traveling by sea would probably be fairly common for them as well. Wizards and Sorcerers have many uses for their spells at sea, such as using their magics to navigate or patch a hole at sea. Warlocks may be drawn to the life of a sailor for personal reasons, particularly if their patron is a great old one that lies slumbering beneath the waves. Clerics and Druids might revere a sea god or even the sea itself and thus being at sea might be a form of worship, not to mention that their healing capabilities would be very handy at sea where there would otherwise be no medical attention around for great distances. Barbarian raiders akin to vikings might take to the sea as sailors, and more peaceful tribes will almost certainly engage in fishing if they are coastal or near another large body of water.
Why should I use it?
Most immediately, this is the only background that grants you proficiency with water vehicles, meaning that if you want to sail, you'll need a sailor in the group. Common sense, but it bears mentioning. Navigators tools are also given here, so that can be pretty handy for wayfinding on land or sea. The items and gold aren't anything to write home about, but the skill choices for this background includes perception, which is kind of a big deal, since that's a very useful skill, and you only get your proficiency bonus to passive perception if you're proficient in it. The features for this background are decent, bordering on very good. Ship's passage allows you and your party to essentially get free travel on a ship. Which is a bit situational, but quite handy if it does come up. The variant option here is Bad Reputation, which is designed for a pirate. It basically allows you to get away with petty crimes. Which is amazing with a DM who is willing to work with you on that, but much less useful if your DM likes to be restrictive or punitive (though arguably, you shouldn't be playing with that sort of DM anyway.)
What if I play a system other than D&D?
Any game that puts you on the water can call for a sailor of sorts. Be it a different fantasy ruleset, something more modern, or historical. In science fiction games, you have can sort of expand the interpretation here to include space navies as well as wet navies. In this instance, a sailor PC would be geared towards spacefaring instead of seafaring. Which is incredibly handy in those sorts of settings, since space travel is often the norm for getting around.
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.