Backgrounds for Lotfp – Dark fantasy

Hello Dear Readers! Today I bring you some backgrounds for Lamentations of the Flame Princess character classes. I’ve previously said that classic OSR systems leave little room for player choice when building a character. As I am about to start a sandbox LotFP game with some people online (if you are interested to join, let me know!), I thought I develop some background options to give a little flavor to the game and offer the players a little something extra to their character class.

As I am utilizing my “default” dark fantasy setting, I thought the backgrounds will give a hint at how the setting operates without the dreaded lore dump. I think I will give my players the option of rolling for the background or selecting a background that fits their interests and/or character concept.

The design of the backgrounds was to allow for a bit of cross-class capabilities and, for the demi-humans, make them a bit more alien. Anyway, what follows will be part of my campaign handout. For your reference, I am including a Seamanship skill from the Eldritch Cock playtest materials; a Chirurgeon skill which is Mark Hess’ “Physik” skill he published in an unofficial LotFP fanzine called “Flame Princess Cult;” and I am including my spellcraft skill. I’m homebrewing some additional combat stances, some of which are here.

Fighter Backgrounds: You were not a farmer. You were not a shopkeeper. You were not any normal human being that decided to leave the comforts of his fief to explore dangerous ruins and foul-smelling caverns. You came from war and that is all you know. You are not trained to sow fields; you’ve been trained to kill men, lots of men. Your fields are soaked in blood and you have come to reap the harvest.

  • Criminal: Whether you were an orphan or seen as a worthless ne’er-do-well by your parents, you grew up on the streets of a major city. You got into fights—a lot of them. You may have even been hired muscle by the local thieves’ guild. Regardless of how it happened, your criminal background has made you more than just a brute. You gain a +1 to your sleight of hand skill.
  • Foot Soldier: You were the expendable meat bag used to fill holes in the defensive line. You learned war as most do—by killing others on behalf of your local lord. You are knowledgeable at building defenses and recognizing weaknesses in structures. You gain a +1 for your architecture skill.
  • Forward scout: You played the role of advanced scout to spy on enemy defenses. This often kept you from the main camp for long periods of time. Separated from the quartermaster’s wagon, you needed to fend for yourself. As part of your training, you learned to forage and hunt to survive the long days away from camp. You gain a +1 to your bushcraft roll.
  • Knightly Order: You are most likely noble-born. More importantly, you are not the first-born son—a position destined to inherit the family’s estate. No. You are a lowly child who has no other recourse but to earn your keep by the study of warcraft. As a member of a knightly order, you add +2 to the loyalty roll when determining a retainer’s starting loyalty/morale.
  • Combat Medic: You have seen much in the way of war. Your task has been to help the wounded recover from the grisly business of warcraft. Most die from their wounds—they are the lucky ones. The survivors suffer from amputated limbs, blinding scars, and haunting memories. You may add +1 to your chirurgeon skill.
  • Black Magic Warrior: Rather than a knightly order, you were trained to guard the secrets of those wielding the dark arts. Whether you served a cult or a wizard, you have been blooded by sorcery and know its secrets. You start play with a +1 in Spellcraft skill.
  • Marine/Navy: You trained on the ships of your country’s navy. You know the seas better than most. You are easily spotted as a marine: you move as if you are still on a ship that is gently rolling over the waves. You gain a +1 for the seamanship skill.
  • Barbarian: You did not come from a military order or army; rather, your origin is the wilds far to the north beyond civilization. War is a way of life as your clan’s survival depended upon more than just the efficient gathering of food—it depended upon the ferocity of its warriors to defeat competitors for that food. You gain a +1 to damage upon a successful attack with a melee weapon.

Cleric Backgrounds: You have been called by the Arn God to serve in a special capacity. You are more than the dedicated clergy who devote their lives to translating the sacred text of the Codex. You are a member of a unique order. Indeed, there is no other order like yours as there is no other god but the One True God of the Arn Faith. You are its defender; you are its champion; you are its light. Rejoice, young Cleric! For God has called you to do great things!

  • The Knights Hospitaller: Your order is dedicated to protecting missionaries and pilgrims to holy sites across the land. You are trained in more than just warcraft and religion, but also to care for the sick and the infirm. You gain a +1 to the chirurgeon skill.
  • The Knights Flagellant: Your order is the vanguard of any military action the Sanhedrin takes against the enemies of the Faith. You are a zealot who engages in ritual scaring and flagellation to purify your soul. You fight with wanton abandon knowing that your faith is your shield and death is but a brief moment before you become one with God. You gain a +1 to attack.
  • Knight Errant: Also known as questing knights, you have been charged by the Church to travel across the known world and beyond to bring the light of the One True Faith to the people of the land. Your primary duty is that of missionary and vanquisher of evil. You are a shining example of the Arn Faith, the Arn Church, and the Arn people. You gain a +1 to the languages skill.
  • The Knights of the Inquisition: While the work of the other knightly orders is important, those Orders are focused on defending the Arn faith against foreign threats. You know that the depth of man’s weakness is infinite. You now that true threats come from within. You guard against heresy and apostacy. You have studied the vile works of sorcerers and warlocks. You understand their magics. You gain a +1 to the spellcraft skill.
  • The Knights Chaplain: When any kingdom that houses the Church goes to war without the sanction of the Sanhedrin, the Church sends you. Your task is to accompany the soldiers ordered to the field of battle. A soldier’s lot is to do little but to soothe the egos of the nobility, and resolve their petty squabbles, with their lives. You bring succor to these forgotten soldiers. You are a chaplain ordered to fight –and die—alongside the soldiers in your care. You are a reminder that God is there to guide them to the afterlife. When you hire a retainer, you may add a +2 to the loyalty roll when determining the retainer’s starting morale.
  • The Left Hand of the Sanhedrin: There comes a time when a nation must make a choice to compromise its beliefs in order to promote the greater good-a choice that will damn a soul for eternity. You are the instrument of God’s will. You are the weapon. You are the sacrifice. You gain a +1 to the backstab skill.

Magic-User Backgrounds: Whether overtly or clandestinely, you have decided to reject the natural order—and by extension the teachings of the Codex and the Arn Faith—and tap into the very nature of reality itself. Some of your kind use their knowledge to advise kings, other to create cults to ancient powers as a path to power and influence. Others still are simply enamored with what the Weave can offer a diligent practitioner. Regardless, you wield a mighty weapon and that weapon is Reality itself.

  • The Court Mage: Not every kingdom that has yet to accept the faith of the Arns are savages—as the Arns strongly suggest. No, you come from a court where you, or your master, advised the king on matters of state and warcraft. You are learned in the ways of courtly intrigue and the subtle art of negotiation. You gain a +1 to any reaction roll when speaking with NPCs.
  • Hedge Wizard: You have not learned magic through academic study, the use of a mentor, or through dark pacts with otherworldly beings. Somehow, you’ve stumbled upon it and have been experimenting with magic ever since. You have traveled far and wide in search of additional magic. You gain a +1 to the bushcraft skill.
  • Cultist: You have joined the cult of an esoteric and dark power that has granted you and your fellow cultists the ability to wield magic. You gain a +2 to the loyalty roll when determining a retainer’s starting morale.
  • Fae Blood: You have fey blood coursing through your veins. The study of magic comes naturally to you. With this natural aptitude comes the gift of extrasensory perception. You get a +1 to the search skill.
  • Necromancer: Your study is the study of life and death. You have exhumed bodies to understand the workings of the human body. You may even have experimented on live subjects… You gain +1 to the chirurgeon skill.
  • Blooded Sorcerer: You have come from the barbarian tribes to the north. Your mastery of magic is not the only thing used to keep you alive—you’ve had extensive training in warcraft. You gain a +1 to attack with melee weapons.

Specialists: You don’t fight as well as the warriors, you don’t wield magic like a magician, and, depending on your occupation, you probably haven’t seen the inside of an Arn Church in a while, if ever. So, what do you do? Why are you even diving into dark dungeons and forbidden caverns? For treasure, that’s why; and the wizards and warriors of the realm need you more than they care to admit.

  • Bard: Not only are you an artist of some type, but you are flat broke. Without a patron, you might as well join some random group of psychopaths looking for treasure in dark places, amirght? Why you can’t find a patron is anyone’s guess. You may be a talentless hack; you may have had one too many secret romances; or you just may be a jerk like David Lee Roth. Regardless, you may add +1 to any reaction roll when speaking with NPCs.
  • Street Fighter: Okay, you are more than just a criminal, you got into a lot of fights. So many, in fact, that you’ve had to learn a thing or two about staying alive. You have learned to fight with improvised weapons (considered minor weapons) and you have learned the fighter stance two-weapon fighting.
  • Ranger: You are not necessarily military but rather came from one of the barbarian tribes from the north that place great value on martial prowess. You led your clan brothers and sisters on hunts and raids. You are a marksman. You gain +1 to attack with bow weapons.
  • Merchant/Conman/Fence: You’ve been in business before and, well, it didn’t work out as well as you had hoped. It tanked, actually. Regardless, you know how to wheel and deal. You gain a +2 to the loyalty roll when hiring henchman. Additionally, on a successful charisma check you can negotiate any agreed upon price down an additional 10%.

Elf Backgrounds: It’s foolish, isn’t it? This thing the mortals call “life?” These mortals do not see the grandeur of Creation. They do not see the Places Behind the Wind, or know what lies Between Drops of Rain. You do. You are from a place beyond the natural world, a place where the magical Weave is all that there is. Why did you decide to take corporeal form and join a band of mortals for adventure? Does it matter? Do you need a reason?

  • Fey of the Summer Court (Seelie): The Summer Court is vitality and youthful zeal incarnate. Your presence inspires awe and joy. You fill those present with a sense of peace and a longing for an idle summer day. You may add a +1 bonus to any reaction roll when engaging with NPCs.
  • Fey of the Winter Court (Unseelie): The Winter Court is sinister and takes on the aspects of winter: cold, uncaring, brutal, and deadly. Your presence is terrifying in its beautiful cruelty. All will love you in despair. Opponents suffer a -1 to any morale check.
  • The Gloaming Court (Shadow and Secrets): The Gloaming Court exists for the briefest of moments—the moment when the sun dips just under the horizon, but night has yet to set in. You gain a +1 to the stealth skill. Further, you may use it even in plain sight, provided there is shadow or darkness for you to stand, sit, or crouch in.
  • Half-elf (Half-Breed; Mortal): Humans think you are cursed and the Fey do not consider you one of them. You have knowledge and experience from both worlds. You may add a +1 to any skill of your choice.

Dwarf: You come from Stone. Your people are Stone. Even those that joined the Great Sundering—who abandoned the earth to live beneath the limitless ceiling called “Sky”—are all one with Stone.  You are immovable, intractable, and uncompromising.

  1. Brewmeister: You are a master craftsman. You have tasted all kinds of beer, ales, pilsners, stouts, porters, and anything else that could possibly be brewed and quaffed with reckless abandon. You have spent countless hours touching, smelling, and tasting the various ingredients used in beer craft and honed your technique over countless years. You know beer. Period. At the start of every day when you have a pint (or several), roll a d6: (1-2) Damage reduction: When taking damage, you may reduce the damage by 1, to a minimum of 1 for the next 24 hours. (3-4) Affable: You may add a +1 to any reaction roll when engaging with NPCs. (5-6) Rage: You may add +1 damage to any successful melee attack.
  2. Mushroom Mongrel: It is a pejorative label but one you have accepted. Having no longer heard the call of Stone, you embraced the call of the Mushroom—the fungus that feeds your people. You did not sleep under hallowed halls; rather your kind tend the mushroom groves, learning to hear the alien song of the spore. You have become quite alien to your brethren as well.  You may speak to mushrooms and they will speak to you. You also gain a +1 bonus to save versus poisons and disease.
  3. Clan Dwarf: You are a dwarf’s dwarf. You are one with the Stone and it speaks to you. The Stone tells you things—important things—such as the location of precious gems and minerals. You can sense the presence of precious treasure within 100 feet of you. You must spend a turn concentrating to talk to the Stone and locate the treasure.
  4. Chronicler: Your people have long memories and their history is vast. You are a chronicler of those histories—translating the oral recitation to intricately carved runes. These Stone runes bear the essence of your people. You carry with you a rune of power that contains magical energy. Roll a 1d6 to determine your rune’s power: Detect Magic; (2) Enlarge; (3) Floating disc; (4) Hold Portal; (5) Light; (6) Mending. You may invoke its power once per day.
  5. Arn Dwarf: You are an anathema to your people. You have rejected the Stone and embraced the Arn God as the way and the light. While living underneath an endless ceiling is somewhat disconcerting, you have grown used to the anxiety because you know the Arn God protects you. Once per day you may prepare and use any first level cleric spell. You always cast as a first-level cleric.

Halfling: Your fellow halflings don’t care much about what goes on outside their villages. Even those halflings who have been subjugated by the Arn and their God don’t’ seem to mind much—they don’t pay the Arn Inquisitors any mind and the surly Arns tend to leave in a huff after a time. You, however, are a bit different. You’ve heard the call to adventure. You’ve asked yourself what harm could befall an inquisitive halfling should he leave the village? The only way to find out is to leave!

  • Herbalist: There is no denying that halflings are expert gardeners and their tobaccos are known throughout the lands as being the highest quality. You are one of these herbalists. Once per day, you may spend an hour smoking your tobacco to ponder a mystery.Upon completion, you may ask the referee any question to get a hint about a riddle, obstacle, trap, or NPC. The Referee must answer truthfully.
  • Cook: You are more than just a connoisseur of fine pastries and jams, pickled root vegetables and salted meats, you are a halfling cook. As the quartermaster of any outing, the aroma of your cooking fire is tantalizing and your food is a welcome sight after a long day of travel. Any hirelings in your group gain a +1 to their morale score to a maximum of 10.
  • Delta Halfling: You and your kin aren’t the average halfling. You come from the southern lands, living in the swamps and marshes that make up the delta regions. It’s a dangerous place and you’ve learned to be just as dangerous. In addition to knowing how to navigate the waterways of the vast region, you know how to make and disarm traps. You add a +1 to both seamanship and tinkering.
  • Scholar: Maybe you have inherited an extensive personal library from a distant relative; maybe you worked for a court magic user; or, maybe, you’re a bit strange for a halfling and have a fetish for accumulating books. Regardless as to how, you are well read and maybe have written a memoir or two. You know a little bit about the dark arts. You gain a +1 to both the languages skill and the spellcraft skill.

I have a couple of other character classes I am going to work on to include in the campaign as well. The character classes will become available when the players “unlock them.” When I do, I will update this list with some backgrounds for them as well.

Anyway, thanks for reading! Until next time…

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