Apparently I spoke to soon. In a previous post I said that the soldier background was the last one. Fittingly, I overlooked the urchin, the downtrodden city dwellers that I'm going to talk about now.
What is it?
Urchins are guttersnipes and abandoned street rats. They are often orphans, with nowhere else to go. They tend to survive on a combination of theft and beggary. You are intimately familiar with poverty, and luxuries like medicine or comfortable sleeping arrangements seem more like dreams than reality.
How can my class use it?
Barbarians in the traditional sense are unlikely to be urchins. Since urchins come from cities, and barbarians from the wilds, they don't connect all that well. Still, since a barbarian is somewhat determined by their spontaneous martial nature, you could easily fluff it as being some sort of street brawler or thug. Druids likewise don't have a natural tendency towards this, but I could possibly see a druid coming from an urchin who maybe spent a lot of their time in the parks and gardens of a city, or somehow managed to tap into the ecosystem of bugs and rats and other things that exist in an urban area. Rangers are also fairly ill-fitting, but I could easily see the ranger's penchant for tracking and navigation reflected in finding their way around narrow and winding city streets and alleys. In older editions, urban rangers have been referenced and used, so there's a precedent for it. Bards are the personable beggars. The ones who actually make money. Who can convince people to pity or like them. Maybe they sing for their meals. Clerics might be one who either find worship as a means of enduring the hardships they face, or perhaps enter a voluntary poverty or asceticism. Monks of course also can pursue this voluntary ascetic route. Fighters are the ones who survived most by being tough and taking things by force or at least standing up for themselves when someone else tried to take from them. Paladins might be ones who rise from great lows to high heights. From the grime of poverty into the shining light of conviction. Rogues of course are an obvious choice here, as theft, deception, and trickery are great ways to survive on the street. Sorcerers are more common than wizards here, being that they don't have to study. But either way, having magic would be a great boon to surviving. Even basic cantrips can make you more comfortable living roughly. And Warlocks urchins make for a great story. Because by accepting the patron's deal, it shows you're willing to do anything to better yourself and rise above your low circumstances.
Why should I use it?
Honestly, the feature and equipment for this background are both soundly underwhelming. Gold is (expectedly) low, and the feature is (expectedly) situational to cities, and even then it isn't great. What is handy about this background is that it gives you proficiency with basically everything you need to be a mini-rogue. Sleight of hand, stealth, thieve's tools, and disguise kits. So if you want your character to do some part-time thieving, this is the go-to. On a side note, if you already have these proficiencies (likely because you're already a rogue,) this would mean you're freed up for equivalent proficiencies. Which makes it a very flexible pick for a rogue character.
What if I play a system other than D&D?
A poor character who was raised on the streets will do the trick. Poverty is key for the urchin character. You will probably know something of illegal things, but no matter what, you'll be intimately familiar with urban environments. Naturally, this is a good fit for modern or futuristic campaigns where your character might live in an inner city area or even a large metropolis. In games that focus on more wild and savage frontiers, this might be harder to represent, so the urchin might not be universally applicable in the same way that many other backgrounds are.
Thank you for coming back with me to *really* finish this series this time. Next time, we'll be starting with something fresh and new, so hopefully you'll be back for that too.
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.