Old Quarter Commoner 5e Background

Following this weekend’s Twitter poll, here’s another 5e background: the Old Quarter Commoner. You can also check out the Gladiator and Bureaucrat.

I still need to do the Arcane Apprentice, Axe-Bearing Guard and Platinum Knight-Errant. Most of the other Character Backgrounds in Parsantium: City at the Crossroads have good equivalents in the Player’s Handbook (or in Kobold Press’ excellent Midgard Heroes).


You come from a poor family struggling to make ends meet in the Dock Ward or Poor Ward of the Old Quarter. You might be a Sampuran belonging to the shudra caste, a half-orc or an Aqhrani. Either way, you toil away as a labourer of some sort, although if you’re a half-orc you might do an “unclean” job such as tanning leather, slaughtering animals or working as an undertaker. Alternatively, you could be a street orphan, running errands for local merchants and acting as a tout or unofficial guide. Whatever you do, it’s an honest living, and you are part of a community of folk in the same situation, all of whom look out for each other. Life is hard, though, and you earn a pittance. If someone offered you a way to climb up the social ladder, you’d probably grab it with both hands.

Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Persuasion

Tool Proficiencies: One type of artisan’s tools or vehicle (land or water)

Languages: One of your choice

Equipment: a pair of bone dice, a letter of recommendation from a past employer, a set of common clothes and a belt pouch containing 10 gp


Roll or choose from the entries on the following table to determine the type of (generally unskilled) work you did before taking up the life of an adventurer. Skilled artisans and craftsmen are more likely to take the Journeyman background.

d12 Type of Work
1 Fisherman
2 Dockworker
3 Builder or general labourer
4 Slaughterhouse or tannery worker
5 Baker
6 Wagon driver
7 Tout or errand runner
8 Lamplighter
9 Sewer worker or dung sweeper
10 Undertaker
11 Prostitute
12 Bartender or waiter


You are at home among the tightly-knit communities of the Old Quarter, and can count on friends, neighbours and relatives for solidarity and support. Other hard-working poor folk will try and help you out if they are able to do so, providing you with information and sharing what little food they have with you if you are in need of a meal. If you are in trouble with the City Watch or one of the criminal gangs, you can find someone to hide you for a night or two, no questions asked.

Half-Orc Warrior

Art by Matt Morrow


Old Quarter commoners have led lives of poverty and hardship, surviving by dint of honest work, sheer bloodymindedness, and resilience. Some dream of riches and making it big, so they can turn their backs on the ward they grew up in for good. Others still feel a close bond to their family and their local communities, and want to make things better for everyone, not just themselves.

d8 Personality Trait
1 I take pride in my work. If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
2 My religion is a great source of comfort to me.
3 I support the Greens, through thick and thin. Blues supporters had best give me a wide berth.
4 There’s nothing better than a trip to the bathhouse at the end of a long, hard week.
5 My frankness and honesty often cause offence, but I find it hard to bite my tongue.
6 I try and sneak off early when the boss isn’t looking.
7 It’s not easy being a half-orc in this city. People sometimes cross the street to avoid me.
8 I’ll complain to anyone who’ll listen about how hard my day at work has been.
d6 Ideals
1 Aspiration. I’m determined to make a better life for myself. (Neutral)
2 Change. It’s not right that we in the Old Quarter have so little, and those in the Imperial Quarter have so much. (Chaotic)
3 Community. We need to look out for each other and keep each other safe. (Lawful)
4 Might. I’ve knuckled down and worked hard and where has it got me? It’s time to start grabbing the things I want! (Evil)
5 Family. I’ll do whatever it takes to provide for my family. (Neutral)
6 Respect. Just because we are poor doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to be treated with respect. (Good)
d6 Bond
1 I was born in the Dock Ward slums and they will always be my home.
2 My true love died three years ago and I still cry on her birthday.
3 I’m obsessed with the chariot races. Tarkhan Kadir’s autograph is my most prized possession.
4 The Friendly Society are my family too – I can count on them to stand up for our people.
5 My childhood friend has got mixed up with one of the gangs and it’s down to me to get him out of their clutches.
6 I’m going to prove to my mother that I can make something of myself.
d6  Flaw
1 I make a little extra on the side by doing some muscle work for the Golden Scimitars.
2 I find it easier to get through the day if I start drinking early.
3 I only take dash when I’m in need of a pick-me-up. I can stop any time I want.
4 I keep trying to win big at the Floating Palace but I just end up blowing everything I’ve earned.
5 My brother’s success makes my blood boil. One day someone is going to take him down a peg or two.
6 I know I shouldn’t have gone to the Winking Vixen. I love my wife and hope one day she will forgive me.

Bureaucrat 5e Background

It’s been a while since I’ve posted new content here – since Whispers of the Dark Daeva was published I’ve been busy working on the new Midgard Campaign Setting for Kobold Press.  Now that my Midgard chapters are done, I should have more time to write new Parsantium material and get the long-overdue Pathfinder version of Whispers finished!

Parsantium has always been a “city for all editions”. Here’s a new 5e Bureaucrat background, expanding on the character background in Chapter One of Parsantium: City at the Crossroads.


You have served in Parsantium’s vast and complex bureaucracy as one of the “beardless”, a junior civil servant. If male, you may be a eunuch, born to a poor family who handed you over to the authorities for schooling in return for a well-paid government job for life. Alternatively, you could be the second or third child of a wealthy Bathuran family, or a dwarf in the service of the Royal Exchequer. You may have done a superb job, or you may have spent most of your time daydreaming about dragons and dungeons rather than pushing paper around, but you’ve been overlooked for promotion several times now and your career is going nowhere. You have a good understanding of the workings of the corridors of power in Parsantium, including who wields influence over what, and which fancy hats and obscure job titles have the most prestige. You feel it’s now time to do something a bit more interesting with your life.

Skill Proficiencies: History, Persuasion

Languages: Two of your choice

Equipment: an impressive hat, robes of office, an ink pen, a bottle of ink, 10 sheets of parchment, and a purse containing 10 gp.


You are familiar with the labyrinthine structure of Parsantium’s government and can navigate through the many departments of its bloated and corrupt bureaucracy with ease. You know how to track down useful information in the city’s bewildering Hall of Imperial Records, and the right officials to approach to get your request for access properly notarized . You also know which forms you need to fill out (in triplicate!) to obtain most permits and licences, allowing you to complete your business smoothly and quickly, and without having to pay bribes to expedite the process.


Art by Marc Radle


Bureaucrats have spent a long time in the halls of the Curia, learning how to deal with mountains of paperwork, and mastering the etiquette needed to influence high-ranking officials.  This has shaped how they view the world: some are glad to be free from the regimentation they laboured under; others feel most comfortable when things are structured and there are rules to follow.

d8 Personality Trait
1 I write important notes to myself on the back of my hand.
2 I get distressed when other people don’t put things away in their proper home.
3 Lies trip off my tongue, even when it would be easier to tell the truth.
4 I’ve have had enough of petty rules and regulations.
5 I love being outside and feeling the sun on my face.
6 I stay calm under pressure, and can usually find an effective solution to whatever problem I’m faced with.
7 I have a friendly way with people that puts them at their ease.
8 My handwriting might look like an illegible scrawl to you, but I can read every word.
d6 Ideals
1 Order. Everything must be properly recorded to ensure the smooth running of the government. (Lawful)
2 Generosity. I do my best to help those in need. (Good)
3 Greed. I can make that happen but only if you make it worth my while. (Evil)
4 Freedom. Rules are meant to be broken. (Chaotic)
5 Aspiration. I work hard to make something of myself (Any)
6 People. I care more about my friends and family than filing. (Neutral)
d6 Bond
1 I am profoundly grateful to my mentor who helped me progress through the ranks, despite my lowly background.
2 I uncovered evidence of the Pavone family’s corruption but dare not tell anyone what I found.
3 I’m very proud of my hat – it was presented to me when I was promoted to Principal Secretary at the Department of Mercantile Affairs.
4 Every copper sestertius I earn goes to my family in the Poor Ward.
5 House Ziper bribed me to “lose” the deeds to valuable property owned by House Laro in the Hall of Imperial Records. I hope no one finds out what I did.
6  One day I will get my revenge on the petty tyrant who blocked my transfer out of the Department of Night Soil Management.
d6  Flaw
1 I find it hard to trust anyone.
2 I get very angry when people don’t fill out forms correctly.
3 It’s hard for others to hold my full attention for long.
4 My job was so dull I started taking cloud nine to get me through the day.
5 Some people say I’m tactless. I prefer to think of it as honest.
6 I’ll do anything for a quiet life.

Any comments or feedback welcome.  If you enjoyed this post, why not check out the gladiator, the gnoll, the vanara and trinkets?

Gladiator 5e Background

Parsantium has always been a “city for all editions”. With the publication of Whispers of the Dark Daeva for 5th Edition, here’s a new 5e Gladiator background, expanding on the character background in Chapter One of Parsantium: City at the Crossroads.


You have fought many times on the sands of the Hippodrome to entertain the crowds, killing and maiming wild beasts and your fellow gladiators for money and glory. You were either raised from an early age to fight in the stadium, were sent there by the courts after committing a murder, or you volunteered and won a place through auditions. You were part of a gladiatorial team with a flashy name such as Mountain Avalanche or Lightning Strike and probably have a stage name of your own. You may have won a medal or two, and although your body bears many scars, you did well to survive this long without losing more than a finger or two. While you still love the roar of the crowd when you step out on to the sands, you started to question the senseless slaughter, your own life expectancy, or both, and this prompted your retirement from gladiatorial life.

Skill Proficiencies: Animal Handling, Performance

Languages: Two of your choice

Equipment: a trident or net, a plumed helmet or other trophy, a token from an admirer, and a belt pouch containing 15 gp


Your prowess in the arena has meant your fame has spread beyond the Hippodrome, and you receive a warm welcome whenever you visit one of Parsantium’s taverns or inns. You rarely need to pay for your own drinks and food, and everyone is eager to hear your tales of blood and glory, making it easy to make useful contacts in all three quarters of the city.

Gladiator's helmet by William McAusland

Artwork by William McAusland, used with permission


The best gladiators capture the imagination of the crowds at the Hippodrome and often have bold, confident and theatrical personalities, sometimes bordering on the arrogant. Others are the kind of scary and intimidating bruiser you definitely wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.

d8 Personality Trait
1 You don’t win a bout by fighting fair.
2 I still feel a shiver of excitement at the start of every battle.
3 Only the weak grant mercy.
4 I like to look my best at all times. I get my hair trimmed by the finest barbers and keep my body well-oiled.
5 I want them to carve “they lived life to the full” on my tombstone.
6 I rise early and greet the new day with a brisk morning run whenever I can.
7 I’m at my best when there’s an audience watching.
8 I’m always ready with a well-honed quip or insult to rile my opponent.


d6 Ideals
1 Honour. If I say I’ll do it, I will (Lawful)
2 Creativity. Any thug can stab someone. I like to do with style and panache. (Chaotic)
3 People. I always put my friends first, before any “noble causes”.(Neutral)
4 Greed. I’m only doing this to get rich as fast as possible (Evil)
5 Respect. All people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. (Good)
6 Glory. I live for the roar of the crowd in my ears. (Any)


d6 Bond
1 I’m going to track down the person who framed me for murder and kill them.
2 My weapon is my most treasured possession – it has saved my life dozens of times.
3 I haven’t seen my family since I became a gladiator and need to make things right with them.
4 I would do anything for the gladiators in my team. They are my brothers and sisters.
5 I’m in love with my greatest rival.
6 I owe the Editor of the Games a small fortune and have three months to pay him back.


d6 Flaw
1 I will not run away from a fight.
2 I always strike first, ask questions later.
3 I find it hard to resist the amorous advances of my fans.
4 I like to check my reflection whenever I pass a mirror.
5 I’ve become numb to killing.
6 I’m always broke – I blow any money I earn gambling.



Chariot racing in Parsantium is not so much a sport as an obsession. You belonged to one of the four main teams of charioteers, known as factions – the Blues, the Greens, the Reds and the Whites – with the Blues and the Greens by far and away the more successful and popular. The city is divided along faction lines: residents of the Imperial Quarter tend to support the Blues and the Whites, while those living in the Old Quarter support the Greens and the Reds. Several times in the past few years fights have broken out between supporters of the rival factions before or after a race, and once or twice these scuffles have turned into full-blown rioting.

As a charioteer you took part in numerous races, driving a four-horse chariot around the track at the Hippodrome at high speeds. The most successful charioteers are household names in Parsantium, hero-worshipped by both men and women, who shower them with gifts and pester them for autographs and kisses.

You can adapt the suggested characteristics above to fit this background, and replace one of your language choices with a tool proficiency with land vehicles. Note that any ex-charioteer is unlikely to be welcome in a pub frequented by an opposing faction.


Any comments or feedback welcome.  If you enjoyed this post, why not check out the gnoll, the vanara and trinkets?