Earthling (5e Background)

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You are from Earth. This Earth. Somehow- through magic, time-space anomalies, advanced VR technology, a severe concussion or coma, really bad drugs, or some other circumstance, you are not on Earth any more. Maybe you don't even know how you got here. You are now in some other land- a world strongly reminiscent of fantasy fiction. Here, the world is permanently frozen in medieval technology, magic is real, and the wilderness teems with vicious monsters of supernatural origin. How did you get here, anyway? Was there a purpose, or was it an accident? What time period and place on Earth are you from? What did you do before you were sent to this other world? Do you have any relevant experiences which might help you here, or are you a totally unprepared suburbanite? Did you leave any family behind? Do you want to go back, or is this a new lease on life for you? How do you feel about the supernatural? Once you arrived, why did you pursue a lifestyle of adventuring?

A staple of classic and pulp fantasy fiction, the transition to another world is a technique of granting the work a vague sense of legitimacy by connecting it to reality, if even in the most tenuous of ways. In particular, the Barsoom (John Carter of Mars) and Amtor series were a direct source of inspiration for even the earliest versions of D&D, and the D&D cartoon series hinged on this trope as a premise! Other examples include TRON, Monster Rancher, Sword Art Online, Digimon, Vision of Escaflowne, Inuyasha, The Wizard of Oz, Jumanji, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Neverending Story, and Alice in Wonderland. Taken to its cheesiest extreme in Sword and Planet genre works, this trope is rich with interesting, character-driven potential, and is a perfect fit for the Dungeons & Dragons game. This particular background is intended to be as open-ended as possible, to try and encompass characters as disparate as John Carter and Dorothy Gale, and everything in between. It should be kept flexible enough to represent your average teenage gamer, in person as an Avatarism, at the very minimum.

What was your character in their previous life? Were they part of a police or military unit, or did they have a civilian profession? Do they have a family? Were they happy to be taken away to a fantasy world, or did they leave something behind?

How was your character transported into the campaign? Were they whisked away for the entertainment of a powerful being? Perhaps they're the victim of a wizard's spell gone wrong? Or maybe they've been chosen as a god's champion? Have they been here long, or are they a new arrival?

How does your character react to their situation? Do they enjoy their new life, or do they wish to go back? Have they left any friends or relatives behind? Are they open about their past, or do they keep it a secret? Does the revelation that gods exist change your character's faith?


This background is intended to function with any race. However, the background also assumes that you are human. As such, your race selection only counts mechanically. A half-orc might represent a human gangster, while a halfling might represent a guy who just gets really lucky all the time, or maybe just a short person.

Alternatively, you could play it straight and add the detail that being transferred to this world also actually changed your race, if you aren't playing a human!

Skill Proficiencies: Nature, Persuasion

Tool Proficiencies: One artisan's tools or musical instrument relevant to your past lifestyle

Equipment: Exotic fine clothes, a jacket, a trinket from your home world, 1 day's rations, (A packaged snack) and 10 exotic coins.

Method of Arrival[edit]

One of the best parts about this background is writing an interesting backstory for how you arrived in the fantasy world. You should probably write your own story, but here's a randomized list of archetypal transitions from various works of fantasy fiction to get your creative juices flowing!

d20 Transition
1 I was summoned by a rude, hideous, hairy, squat, stinking little creature named "Dungeon Master" in order to perform some sort of great heroic deed.
2 I went to bed and woke up here!
3 I found this cool old book in the library, and when I opened it, it swallowed me up!
4 I'm a test-player for the latest VR headset. Unfortunately, now that I'm here, I've discovered the designers forgot to implement a way to remove the headset from within the game!
5 The last thing I remember was the accident. I hit my head, and then...
6 Well darn. The transdimensional engine was supposed to come with me, not just warp me to some other reality!
7 Wow! I guess sometimes wishing on a star really works!
8 Hi there! I seem to have gotten lost, could you please direct me back to highway 62-B? (I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque!)
9 I most definitely should NOT have eaten that week-old egg salad sandwich...
10 I was playing hide-and-go-seek, and climbed into the wardrobe- it just seemed to go on forever...
11 I shouldn't have pissed off that phony fortune-teller! She really cursed me!
12 All I need to do is close my eyes and I am here in the other world. If I think it, it is real for me.
13 As I gazed upon the starry night sky, I began to feel the movement of the earth beneath me and the sky stood still as I moved through it with the motion of the planet. And as I rose, a new world graced my eyes.
14 I lay upon the steel gurney, complex machinery surrounding my head. The doctor spoke, "Now, the genetic memory reader operates by translating stimulated dream outputs. These dreams, thanks to the IV drugs you are receiving, may seem quite vivid and real. Do not be alarmed. Just go with the hallucinatory nonsense and everything will be just fine."
15 This spell book was different. It made sense. And it worked. I made the mistake of casting a spell to return to the book's creator. I arrived in front of his crumbling tomb stone.
16 The gate was the end for us, spewing monsters and magic into a world unprepared. I have gone through the gate to try and close it from the inside.
17 I am literally a person consciously playing themselves in a session of D&D.
18 It turns out that "earth" is not a real place. I have been in a vivid coma for many years and have recently reawoken to the real world.
19 I am the only planeswalker from my world. I have travelled across many Realms of existence, but now find myself trapped here; my powers have somehow been diminished, and I am now left as if a native.
20 As I breathed my final gasps, surrounded by family and friends, I saw the light at the end of a dark tunnel... And as I emerged, I was born... But this time I remembered everything from my past life and past world.

Feature: Appearance of Nobility[edit]

Your implacable accent, your colorful and fanciful clothes, your literacy, your numeracy, your general knowledge of all things mundane, it all combines to give you a regal appearance. People easily believe, and readily assume, that you are some important foreign dignitary. It is simple to initially convince most folks that you are from a far off land, and that you have just about any kind of title, and anyone interested in hearing stories from afar will eagerly listen to whatever tales you choose to spin about your origins. Your (comparatively) healthy complexion alone captures the wandering gaze of any unoccupied bystanders in your general area, and you stand out against the unwashed masses.

Suggested Characteristics[edit]

d6 Personality Trait
1 ew, Ew, EW, EW, EW, EW! Everything is dirty, everything stinks, and everyone is sick!
2 I use all kinds of modern slang and idioms when I speak to people.
3 I have an irrational lack of fear of monsters.
4 I genuinely believe that this is all some sort of dream or hallucination.
5 I feel the need to speak slowly and use simple words, as I talk down to these sheep-sacrificing primitives.
6 I am constantly excited and eager to see new people, places, and things.
d6 Ideal
1 Postmodernism. Theoretical social and legal equality for all persons of apparently equal potential! (Lawful)
2 Industrialization. Why not make magic machines which can make magic items on a large scale production basis, then undercut the competition and corner the market? (Neutral)
3 Anarchism. Monarchy is merely tyranny's excuse. Rule by the people would ensure justice for the people. (Chaotic)
4 Anachronism. What do you mean you've never heard of AC/DC?! (Neutral)
5 Subjugation. A world teeming with ignorant, uneducated primitives? I could become like a god... (Evil)
6 Pragmatism. The elimination and prevention of suffering will always lead to the greatest good. (Good)
d6 Bond
1 The things I have with me are everything I have and everything I am.
2 I must get back to Earth at whatever cost.
3 I must figure out where I am now and embrace this new world.
4 I look like a otherworldly wizard to the people here and I must uphold that assumption.
5 I must act like I belong here.
6 I just want to be me and maybe be free.
d6 Flaw
1 I often fail to realize that social and cultural norms from Earth were very recent and unusual customs, even in my own time, and I have difficulty imagining a world without them.
2 I am very easily tricked by con-artists using types of scams I've never encountered before.
3 I have great difficulty recognizing and respecting the social hierarchy.
4 My ideas of morality and ethics do not match their very literal manifestations in this world.
5 I am woefully underprepared for the reality of the supernatural, (Magic, monsters, corporeal undead, deities manifest, etc.) and exposure to it is akin to a mild form of trauma for me.
6 I lived in a prosperous and enlightened time, and am not equipped to handle regular exposure to violence, death, famine, plague, pestilence, or abject injustice.

Home World Trinket[edit]

As an alternative to the standard trinket table, you may have a holdover from your previous world. Roll on the following table to determine your trinket:

d100 Trinket
1 A phone with a dead battery
2 A wallet with your I.D., some credit cards, and useless paper currency
3 A picture of a loved one you have left behind
4 A badge or emblem from a police or military organization
5 A book of fiction from your world
6 A guitar pick or pair of drumsticks
7 A cheap pair of sunglasses
8 Two double-A batteries, non-rechargeable but with some juice left
9 A holy symbol or text from your world
10 A pocket radio (no stations to listen to)
11 A ballpoint pen or modern pencil
12 A thread-bound hard-cover note pad
13 A baseball cap
14 Some small hard candies
15 A dull folding pen knife
16 Nail clippers
17 Reading glasses
18 A cats-eye toy marble
19 A carabiner
20 Polyhedral dice set
21 A recipe for pizza dough
22 A bottle of antacids
23 A machine-forged spoon
24 A toy harmonica
25 Insoles
26 A flash drive
27 An uninflated balloon
28 A set of keys, including the keys to your home and car
29 The newspaper from the day you were transported here
30 A dead pen-light
31 Plastic chop-sticks
32 Several paper clips
33 A security ID card from work
34 A bullet casing
35 Several spare buttons
36 A key fob
37 Tangled ear buds
38 A safety pin
39 A tie clip
40 A multi-tool that only has use as a wrench and screwdriver
41 A twist-tie
42 A rubber band
43 A handful of mismatched nuts and bolts
44 A plastic baggie
45 A Bobby pin
46 A binder ring
47 A small spring
48 Tweezers
49 A used disposable razor
50 A tooth brush
51 Lip balm
52 A portable packet of tissues
53 A tiny bottle of hand sanitizer
54 A medical bracelet with your blood type engraved into it
55 A small stuffed toy
56 Cufflinks
57 A hair band
58 Nose hair scissors
59 A reusable aluminum and rubber wine bottle stopper
60 A hair clip
61 A letter opener
62 A roll of scotch tape
63 A tape cassette
64 A ping-pong ball
65 A folded sheet of machine-pressed bleached white paper
66 A roll of toilet paper
67 A face cloth
68 A nail file
69 A cigar tube
70 A business card Holder
71 A bow tie
72 Shoe polish
73 A glue stick
74 A church-key bottle opener
75 A small bottle of glitter
76 A baby soother
77 An empty lighter
78 A stress ball
79 A nasal rinse squirt bottle
80 A fly swatter
81 A packet of cat-nip
82 Knuckle gloves
83 A tiny fish net
84 A yard of medical tube
85 A flat fridge magnet
86 A salt shaker
87 A pencil sharpener
88 A gum eraser
89 Plastic craft beads
90 A staple puller
91 An eye dropper
92 A date stamp
93 A kitschy pin/button
94 A steel mesh tea ball
95 A mechanical crank egg beater
96 A drill bit
97 A collapsible shot glass
98 A fake flower
99 A whoopee cushion
100 Military dog tags

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