War Criminal (5e Background)

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War Criminal[edit]

You did something to betray their kingdom or army, something that acted against their best interest in some way, or maybe you resorted to tactics considered unethical on the battlefield. Perhaps you gave sensitive information to a nation that yours is at war with for personal benefit of some kind. Perhaps you're a noble that allowed an entire village to be wiped out to preserve resources. In any case, you've done something in the past that your country considers to be unjust or illegal and you are on the run or have been on the run for some time as a result. Did you commit your crime because you were blackmailed? Do you feel a level of disdain for your country's political system? Did you have a personal grudge against a general and you decided to assassinate them? Consider whether your character acted out of self-interest, if they felt they had no choice, if they were blackmailed, if they think the other side of the conflict has the right of it, what have you. Consider where your character is now as a result. Perhaps they've started over in their hiding and took a new name. Perhaps they were arrested for their crime. Maybe they spent many years in slavery as a consequence, or perhaps you were to be put to death but were broken out of prison, maybe by a family member, or by a member of the faction you sold out your country to. Maybe you regret your crime and turned to the clergy for forgiveness and serve as a cleric to repent. The most important questions for the war criminal are why they committed treason and whether or not they regret it. Also consider what station your character was before they committed their war crime(s). Were they of nobility? Were they in the army? Not every other background will make sense for this one, it needs to be one of actual power or status, a position in which a genuine war crime can be committed. This preceding background is mostly for depth, there are few instances where it will actually overlap, but there are some that I have listed below. Work with your GM if you want to have a different background preceding your betrayal. Also make sure that your war crime fits in to the over-world that the DM has planned and where your betrayal could fit into the world lore.

Skill Proficiencies: Deception and History. If you were a soldier before your crime, you may choose Athletics instead of History. If you were a Noble, you may choose Perception instead of History.

Tool Proficiencies: Either a Poisoner's Kit (only if poisoning is relevant to your war crime) or a Disguise Kit, and one type of gaming set

Equipment: A set of dark common clothes incluuding a hood, a trophy/token from a noble or general that you killed in your betrayal, either a signet ring if you used to be a noble or a set of bone dice/deck of cards if you were a soldier, and 10 gp.

War Crime/Act of Treason[edit]

d10 Act of Treason
1 I gave sensitive information to the enemy
2 I staged a coup d'etat against the nobility
3 I coated my weapons in poison for combat
4 I let our prisoners escape
5 I killed our officer/general for self-interest
6 I deserted the fight in the most crucial hour
7 I staged a fake peace talk where the nobility of my kingdom was slaughtered.
8 I murdered the king of my country
9 I made a false declaration of war on behalf of my country
10 I told the enemy our marching schedule so that they could plan an ambush.

Feature: Bounty[edit]

You've committed treason against your country and you are on the run. Your country is not so willing to let you off the hook, and has placed a sizable bounty on your head. Work with your DM to decide how large your bounty should be in correlation to the gravity of your crime. Regardless, this bounty forces you to stay on guard and your character should hold a level of caution unless a component of their personality tells them otherwise. Likewise, you can ask more self aware questions than a D&D character should normally be able to because a War Criminal often carries a level of paranoia. If you are confident in your abilities or calm and collected in nature, this perhaps holds less true but you would instead likely be a better lier. Your character might have a second life, a persona that they use to stay in hiding. Unlike a Charlatan, however, the second life should be the only one you use typically, as you don't want your past to catch up with you. It should be the name on your character sheet, with your former name being listed as an additional feature or trait. If you want, you and your party can choose to turn you in, collect the bounty, and then break you out if they want to collect the reward for themselves. Depending on how that works out and how they roll in that time, they might accumulate bounties themselves or maybe the people who broke you out remain unknown.

Alternate Feature: Treacherous Debt[edit]

If your war crime involved conspiracy with another country, if you cooperated with them, maybe they owe you one. You could perhaps find refuge there if you ever need to hide from your past or whatever peril your party is currently faced with. You should have already discussed with your Dungeon Master where this country is. And how easy it is to get there. It could also be important to note what religion this country practices and how stubborn they are about it, as any cleric in the group may be unwelcome if this country is super stubborn about their religion. What are this country's policies? Does their hospitality extend to the rest of the group? It ordinarily should, but your Dungeon Master might have other plans that may complement the world and story a bit better

Suggested Characteristics[edit]

d8 Personality Trait
1 There is nothing I won't do for profit.
2 There isn't a day that goes by where I don't wonder if what I did was right.
3 I find pleasure in the suffering of others.
4 I want to help others in any way that I can for atonement.
5 I want to right those I have wronged no matter the cost.
6 I have very poor judgement and don't think too far ahead.
7 I act only out of self-interest and never out of compassion.
8 I value those closest to me over my loyalty to my homeland.
d6 Ideal
1 Duty. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. (Neutral)
2 Sides. Fighting for what's right is more important than fighting out of loyalty. (Good)
3 Karma. What I did was inexcusable and I'll get what's coming to me if I don't act for righteousness going forward. (Lawful)
4 Anarchy. The world is meaningless without conflict to stir it up. (Chaotic)
5 Spite. The governments of this world are foolish and will burn in due time. (Evil)
6 Change. Complacency with a faulty system is no way to live. (Any)
d6 Bond
1 I want to right those I have wronged.
2 I committed treachery in my past and I want to redeem myself.
3 Someone I loved died as a result of my actions. I will never let that happen again.
4 I will finish what I've started.
5 I will kill the person that blackmailed/threatened me into my treason.
6 I am now loyal to the country I betrayed my homeland to and will protect it with my life.
d6 Flaw
1 I will never see the error of my ways and will defend my actions to the grave.
2 It makes no difference to me that many innocent people died from my act of treason.
3 I am paranoid to the point that I won't trust my closest friends if they learn the truth about me.
4 I will never share a secret even if my life depends on it.
5 I will sell out my friends if it ensures my own safety.
6 I had poor judgement then and I have poor judgement now.

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