Executioner (5e Background)

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You had been tasked with the duty of carrying out death sentences and corporal punishments. You may have worked closely with real sickos, like sadistic wardens and torturers under imperial mandate. People have cried for mercy at your feet at the edge of your blade. But you yourself are just the end of a long journey through a hell of supposed justice. You end those who have been condemned and convicted, whether by law or opinion. The methods may depend on your home area and its customs:­ whether ax, sword, noose, pyre, or guillotine. ­No matter where it is, it is usually a dirty job that doesn't make you popular.

How did you become an executioner? What did you do during your tenure as one? Were there any notable people that you offed on the chopping block? Did you ever feel guilt or remorse for being the hand that kills? Perhaps you are more inured to the whole thing, indifferent to the machine ways of the system called justice. It does not necessarily concern you. There are executioners, and then there are judges. Some see themselves as both, while others differentiate between them to lessen the weight of life dangling from their fingers. Which are you? What is justice to you? Or, does it even exist in your worldview?

Did the time spent spilling red eventually get old for you? Think about why your character now adventures after a life of sickening murder and retributive justice. Some people, after having seen the worst of humanity, change themselves to match that bottomless depravity, becoming cold to the world's suffering. These executioners are no better than hired murderers themselves sometimes. Of course, there are also the individuals who either retired or earned their freedom to live as they please after having slogged through the bloody halls of the gallows. Better yet, there are adventurers who are actually executioners. However, instead of public executing in one location only, they act almost as official assassins, sent on jobs to execute criminals across the land as bringers of justice.

While the cliché is that of the hulking headsman with the great axe (and a cliché with some truth to it), the dingy reputation and the easy access to objectionable items, like hands of murderers or mandragora, have led to the birth of more than one rogue, arcane trickster or warlock coming from this background.

Skill Proficiencies: Choose two from Athletics, Intimidation, or Investigation

Tool Proficiencies: Poisoner's Kit

Languages: Any one of your choice

Equipment: 50 feet of hempen rope already knotted to a noose, a sharpened 10' pole to display heads on, a sack (chopped­ off head optional), common clothes including a black hood and a butcher’s frock and knife, the farewell letter of an infamous criminal (or wrongly accused convict) and a belt pouch containing 8 gp

Specialization: Executioner Type

While the general public would see all executioners more or less as the same guys doing the same old thing involving killing, there are differentiations between executioners that can be important in determining their idiosyncrasies and even personality or execution signature.

d6 Execution Style
1 Asaemon. I make one swift stroke to kill. Only one.
2 Killing Machine. I let a contraption do the work, really, be it a guillotine or a hanging platform...
3 Hacker. I get myself nice and grisly with multiple whacks, not finishing it till the last.
4 Elements. I burn people at the stake, as well as drown them.
5 Firing Squad. I am part of a group and we shoot the criminal to death together.
6 Beast Tamer. I take care of wild and feral creatures that I unleash onto the condemned.

Feature: Scharfrichter's Stare

Both commoners and criminals are afraid of your reputation. Neither will report if you overstep the legal lines a bit (ex: not paying for your food; bruising a captive). Both commoners and criminals will be more likely to spill the beans just to get rid of you (or in the case of criminals, to keep you from scraping the beans out of them with a red hot hook). Those who have some standing in the community will not be so easily impressed by some dingy executioner, but maybe their servants will speak freely to you if you block their way in the right dark alley...

Suggested Characteristics

d6 Personality Trait
1 When the going gets weird and bloody, I remain calm and stoic.
2 I make bad puns and quips in the face of death.
3 I like to act tough and hardboiled when I feel that I've got the advantage, or that I need to secure it.
4 I'm not a person of many words.­ I get by with a nod, a head shake, or a single word as often as possible.
5 I am deferential to authority more than rulings.­ Those chosen through merit, tradition, or birth understand the intent of the law even if the letter must be bent a bit.
6 Once a bad seed, always a bad seed.­ I am highly judgmental of those who have erred even once.
d6 Ideal
1 Justice: Right or wrong, the law is what matters. (Lawful)
2 Redemption: No matter how wicked, anyone must be given a chance to repent before meeting their creator. (Good)
3 Community: My community cannot hold unless its people are kept safe from threats in their midst. (Any)
4 Pragmatism: When some petty law gets into the way of my job, it should wait out of sight in the antechamber while I take care of what needs to be done. (Chaotic).
5 Power: Life. Death. Dignity.­ I crave the moments when they step up the wooden stairs and all these things are at my fingertips. (Evil)
6 Truth: Before any justice can be meted out, it is important to draw out the truth no matter what it takes. (Neutral)
d6 Bond
1 I've been forced to put my one true love to the sword, and have been grieving for him/her ever since.
2 There is this one criminal who had jail broken before meeting his conviction. I will find him and give him what he's due.
3 No one is above the law. No one but this smug rascal who could get off scotfree with that letter of the Cardinal. I will find her and make sure there is no loophole this time.
4 I have put a man to the sword only to learn later that he was innocent. I will make it up to his family the best that I can.
5 I've led some very vile scum to the gallows, despite their powerful friends. Now I am on the run from them and their assassins.
6 While making my rounds in the dungeons, I have run into a man in an iron mask who doesn’t appear on any records. I will find out his secret, and bust him out if he is innocent.
d6 Flaw
1 I have taken a significant bribe, and a certain crime lord knows it and can prove it.
2 I obey any legitimate authority, even when they might be wrong.
3 The bottle is the only thing that keeps the specters of my former victims at bay.
4 I have sold hands of murderers and similar items of my handiwork to evil magic-users, or possibly even the darker powers behind them.
5 I display my gallows humor to the point where it makes others uncomfortable.
6 I take a memento of everyone I execute and display it proudly.

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