Unknown (5e Background)

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Your past is unknown.


Your background is unknown to you because you suffered some trauma that has inflicted you with amnesia. You woke one day, not knowing who you are or how you got here. Your origin and family are a mystery to you. You are not sure if you have allies or enemies from your past. If you have skills beyond what your class training details, you struggle to recall them.

Who looked after you while you recuperated? Were your class skills taught to you after your trauma, or are you slowly recalling them from your past? Do you have flashbacks or dreams hinting at your ordeal?

Proficiencies and Languages: Special. Whenever you attempt a skill, use a tool or try to comprehend a language you are not already proficient with, roll a d20. On a natural 20, you have recalled one of your pre-trauma talents and gain that proficiency; otherwise you must finish a long rest before you can make this check for the same proficiency again. Once you have recalled five proficiencies with this feature, you no longer make this check.

Equipment: Just the clothes on your back, 1 gp in your boot.


When you woke as an amnesiac, you discovered one thing about yourself that could provide a clue as to what happened to you. Roll a d6.

d6 Clue Example
1 A tattoo You have an unusual tattoo on your arm, depicting a strange building, part of a map or gnostic symbols.
2 A curious wound Running across your face and head is a long scar, only recently healed.
3 Something hidden on you There was a key sewn under the skin of your belly.
4 A personalized piece of jewelry Gripped in your hand was a locket, in which is a portrait of a young lady or man.
5 A punishment Your little finger was severed and is missing.
6 You were found somewhere unusual You woke shut in a sea trunk, washed up on the beach.

Feature: Gradual Recall

Each time you meet a new NPC or visit a new location, once per character level, you can decide that they feel familiar. This place or person is somehow related to your life leading up to the trauma that caused your amnesia. This will not divulge much information, but will provide some further clue. You should work with your DM to fit this new element into your background, aiming to give full disclosure by the middle of the third tier.

  • Level 1–4:
  • The NPC incidentally recognizes you but doesn't know you. They remember you performing some act, such as speaking to a mysterious figure (and overhearing a few words), buying an item from a store, or being involved in a fight.
  • Locations might be places you visited but once, or passed through on your way to somewhere else.
  • Level 5–8:
  • The NPC knows you only by a nom de guerre and a little about what happened to you, but is evasive in giving you information. If forced to speak, they give only one clue before circumstances end the interrogation (he simply escapes, or he's in a position of power, or a vicious storm rocks the boat...)
  • Locations might be taverns or dungeons that you frequented.
  • Level 9–12:
  • The NPC was directly involved with your trauma, and knows your real identity. Some conflict must be resolved before their relationship to you is fully understood: this could be a combat encounter or fulfilling a request made by them.
  • A location might be your family home, your place of work, your secret hideout, or some other place very personal to you that will reveal your identity through investigation.

This feature may drag you into involvement with secret societies, nobility, evil armies, hidden temples, and other intrigues. Once you have total recall about your life and your trauma, one of these story elements can be used to create a new background feature to replace Gradual Recall.

Suggested Characteristics

Whatever your personality, you are compelled to find out more about your past.

d8 Personality Trait
1 I sometimes adopt a persona of child-like innocence, which comes through stronger when I try to remember my past.
2 When I rest I write copious notes on the events of the day, and keep them safe.
3 I am plagued by confusing nightmares which leave me feeling anxious all day.
4 I am aloof and dislike being with riff raff: I'm sure I have noble blood.
5 I am completely obsessed with keeping my belongings with me at all times.
6 Whenever I can't remember recent events it makes me nervous and distant.
7 I find myself staring into mirrors for long periods of time, wondering who I am.
8 I am sometimes overcome with fluctuating bouts of depression and euphoria.
d6 Ideal
1 Truth. I want to know what's real – not just about my past, but the world and people around me. (Any)
2 Revenge. I can't touch the demons of my past, so I take my frustration out on those who make even the slightest infractions against me. (Evil)
3 Heart. Although I woke as a blank slate, my first act was to rescue a trapped animal. There must be inherent kindness in people, even if hidden deeply. (Good)
4 Pretense. Personal identity is an illusion. We can adopt personae as we see fit. (Chaotic)
5 Destiny. What happened to me happened for a reason. I accept it and have no regrets. (Lawful)
6 Enlightenment. I'm glad I can't remember my past. It gives me more time to focus on my future. (Any)
d6 Bond
1 I owe a debt to the family that found me, took me in, and nursed me back to health.
2 Somebody, somewhere, stole my life. I will find them and make them suffer.
3 I remember living in luxury – I must have a personal fortune or estate somewhere, and I'm going to find it!
4 The only thing I recall is that I was searching for someone I loved, someone who was in danger.
5 I remember a child and that the child was important, but I can't remember why or who they were.
6 I told someone of a great darkness before my trauma. I must find them and remember what I said.
d6 Flaw
1 I intermittently suffer short-term memory loss, and often forget why I went to a place or what I was talking about.
2 I'm overly suspicious of strangers – for all I know I might not a be a stranger to them, and why would they keep quiet about that?
3 I hate secrets and cannot be trusted with them. Everything should be out in the open.
4 Everything is always my fault!
5 I get overindulged in knowledge and will do questionable things to obtain it.
6 I believe everyone is talking about me behind my back.

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