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5e Backgrounds: War Criminal

Today I’m posting a background that is inspired by the Barbarian archetype, Path of the Living Weapon, but is likely something that just about any player could find useful for their own character’s narrative. Check out my other class archetypes and backgrounds for Dungeons and Dragons 5e.

War Criminal

In pursuit of victory, you lead troops to or did yourself horrible crimes in the course of a war or battle you ultimately lost. Now you are on the run, searching for a way to turn back the tide. Whether it was dangerous alchemical reactions you unleashed upon soldiers, unnatural torture, sacrificial contracts with otherworldly entities, horrifying war constructs, or more mundane evils, you put your skills to work making war into a hellscape.

Skill Proficiencies: One of Arcana, Medicine, Religion, or Sleight of Hand plus Intimidate

Tool Proficiencies: Alchemist’s Tools, Healer’s Kit, Painter’s Supplies, or Thieves Tools (respectively)  and one martial weapon.

Equipment: A military keepsake, badge, or tag plus a bedroll, mess kit, the above tool kit, and a pouch containing five gold pieces.

Revanchist: While your side lost, you still hold on to your disparate contacts, hidden caches, loyal suppliers, and friendly smugglers such that when you are in your home polity, you can always find a merchant able to sell you weapons, mercenaries, armor, or military supplies. The costs, quality, legality, or timeliness may not be great depending on the circumstances.

Suggested Characteristics

War criminals are often strong personalities, passionate for either their original cause or for their new cause of overcoming their past. Many are haunted, constrained, or defined by their crimes.

d8 Personality Trait:

  1. I will do whatever it takes to win, except for one line I won’t cross.
  2. It is my duty to carry on so that the past can be restored.
  3. I pursue doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
  4. My past mistakes are a debt I must pay back with my deeds today.
  5. Wars and battles do not matter, they are all just swinging pendulums of fate.
  6. I will destroy the monsters of the this world, even if I must become one myself.
  7. My only failing was defeat and my only virtue will be victory.
  8. I am on the run from my past and have lost faith in the cause I once supported.

d6 Ideal

  1. I must bring victory to my former side. (Truimph)
  2. I must make amends to the victims of my crime. (Redemption)
  3. By becoming stronger, I will never suffer another defeat. (Power)
  4. I must hold to the last scraps of morality I still have. (Willpower)
  5. Evils like me must be cleansed from the world, even at great cost. (Eradication)
  6. I will rise again, stronger and more powerful than before. (Rebuild)

d6 Bond

  1. One of my closest friends was in my unit with me, but they were captured or imprisoned.
  2. I distanced myself from my well-connected family to spare them from retribution.
  3. Surviving members of my military unit still look to me as a leader.
  4. I alone discovered a great and terrible secret of military importance.
  5. I still have a supporter in the military that approves of my methods.
  6. A new friend of my doesn’t know that I was the one who committed the war crimes against them or their family member.

d6 Flaw

  1. A rival of mine knows about my past and will use it as leverage against me.
  2. An enemy that escaped my crimes is hunting me to get revenge.
  3. I find it hard to stop myself from doing evil if I can rationalize an excuse.
  4. I do not put my all into fighting, scared about becoming a monster again if I do.
  5. I am addicted to fighting, battle, and war.
  6. Now I am hesitant to take initiative anymore. Following orders is safer for my soul.

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