Backgrounds in Dead Man’s Land


Backgrounds tell us where your character comes from, or how they were trained. This should represent some basic traits that most folks from your upbringing have. A character can choose an origin based background or technical background. 

Origin Backgrounds

These backgrounds are focused on where you were born and how you were raised. 

Avallonian: Avallonian culture emphasizes animal husbandry, whether through horseback riding, falconry contests, or just farming in general. All Avalloniain’s are familiar with the basics of animal care, and any adventurer worth their salt will have a companion of some sort. 

  • Animal Husbandry: +2 to handle animal and ride checks. You can use diplomacy with animals as though you shared a language.
  • Animal Companion: You gain the services of an animal companion per a level 1 druid. Most Avallonians choose a horse or hawk, but others have some fun with it. This feature does not advance with hit die. 
  • Armor Training: Reduce the armor check penalties of any armor you wear by 2, and the weight category by one. 
Photo by Masha Demyanko on

Cardonian Refugee: After the fall, some Cardonians escaped into the deserts where they lived for some time. The magical residue innate to the wastes has made its way into their bloodstream, helping them survive the manastorms, and other magical hazards. 

  • Pass without Trace: A Cardonian Refugee has the training to use pass without trace (self only, as a free action) as the spell with a CL = HD.
  • Low Profile: Cardonian Refugees have the training to use disguise self as the spell with a CL = HD.
  • Magic Resistant: As someone who lived in the wastes as long as you have, you are minorly resistant to magical effects. You gain SR 10+HD.

Frontier Folk: Folks from all across Pimera have decided for whatever reason to leave the relative safety of the big cities, and forge their own destinies in Dead Man’s Land. These tough folk have learned to survive in a highly hostile environment, and pitch in wherever needed. 

  • Low Light Vision: you’ve become accustomed to life on the frontier, and can get along just fine out in the wild. 
  • Woodland Stride (Ex): You may move through any sort of undergrowth (such as natural thorns, briars, overgrown areas, and similar terrain) at normal speed and without taking damage or suffering any other impairment. 
  • Swift Tracker: You gain the track feat. In addition, you can move at normal speed while following tracks without taking the normal -5 penalty. You take only a -10 penalty (instead of the normal -20) when moving at up to twice normal speed while tracking.
  • Camouflage: You can use the Hide skill in any sort of natural terrain, even if the terrain doesn’t grant cover or concealment.
  • Jack of All Trades: Living on the frontier requires you to be handy all around. All skills are a class skill for you, and you can use trained only uses without ranks. Lastly, 1/day you can gain a +10 bonus to a single skill check. 

Kei Citizen: All Kei grow up in a strict militaristic, hierarchical society. They know their place, and they know where they fit in. All Kei go through some form of military training, emphasizing personal excellence, and squad based combat. Every member of a team has a role, and if each individual is the best, the squad is as well. 

  • Martial Training: Gain proficiency in all weapons, armors, and shields. Including exotic and tower. 
  • Tactical Advantage: Gain 1d6 sneak attack
  • Team fighting: Gain a +4 bonus when flanking or benefiting from aid another instead of the normal +2. When flanking with or helping another Kei, you both gain a +6 bonus. 

Lost Soul: Slain, left for dead, and back for more. A Lost Soul was killed in some violent manner, but it didn’t take. You have unfinished business, more often than not revenge, and won’t rest until it’s complete. Most folks find your rotting appearance offputting, but you don’t let it deter you from your work. Lost Souls look as they did in life, and have stopped decomposing once they reanimated. Unfortunately for many, the reanimation process is not always instantaneous. The lucky Lost Souls died of something like poison, and reanimated seconds later, while the unlocky who died from an explosion and reanimated months later have some work ahead of them.

  • Medium Size: 30ft
  • Variable Appearance: You physically resemble the Ancestry you had in life. Anyone can come back as a Lost Soul, with the apparent exception of Warborgs. 
  • Undead Type: The Lost Soul has the Undead type, with the Soulbound subtype. 
    • Soulbound Subtype: You still have a soul. 
      • Have a Constitution score.
      • Is not immune to all mind-affecting effects. 
      • You do heal damage on your own through rest. You are still harmed by positive energy and healed by negative energy.
      • Not immune to effects requiring fort saves
      • You are able to be affected by raise dead, or similar effects. You return to your living form. 
      • Does not use charisma for fortitude saves
  • State of Decay:  Lost Souls gain one of the following ability sets chosen at character creation. Most Lost Souls are a combination of all three appearances, but one of the three types is dominant. For example, a Lost Soul Boltcaster may have a flesh and blood torso, spectral eyes, a skeletal jaw, ghostly arm, skeletal arm, and skeletal legs, with an exposed abdomen which he keeps tightly wrapped together. The player and DM may decide the character is Ghastly, to reflect their mostly together nature. 
    • Ghastly: You returned to life quickly after your death, and have relatively little decomposition. As a side effect, you have flesh, blood, and organs. At least most of them.
      • You can magically heal from consuming the flesh of the living, and can do so with great speed. Each round spent consuming flesh (1lb per round) restores 1d4 HP. 
      • You have a natural bite attack that deals 1d6+str mod X4 damage. 
    • Skeletal: Most of your flesh has either been destroyed in your death, or long rotted away. All, or a majority of what remains is skeletal. 
      • You are immune to cold damage, and gain DR 5/bludgeoning. 
    • Spectral: Little to nothing remains of you, and you are simply a wandering spirit. Most of the type, you take a physical, ectoplasmic shape, but you can discorporate if needed. 
      • Discorporation: Once each day, you can go incorporeal, but your objects, except the clothes you died in, fall to your feet. 
      • Because of your semi-solid state, objects can pass through you, if you allow it. This grants you DR 1/magic
  • Average Lifespan: Until your business is complete. 
Photo by Asafath on

Magi-Techno Union Member: Almost all MTU citizens are members of some guild, union, or society, and all societies emphasize the full master of their trade. Guildmates consider one another siblings in a loose sense, and even if they are not personally familiar with one another will do what they can for “The Family”. 

  • Trade School: Gain +2 to any combination of 5 craft skills. Gain skill focus in one of them.
  • Union Membership: As a member of a guild, you are given a stipend. At level 1, you gain an extra 250gp to spend as you wish. Any union official for your union is considered a Helpful Ally, per diplomacy rules. 
  • Skill Mastery: You become so certain in the use of a certain skill that you can use it reliably even under adverse conditions. Select a skill you are proficient in. When making a skill check with that skill, you may take 10 even if stress and distractions would normally prevent you from doing so. 
  • Tinker: You can repair most objects with the appropriate craft check. With a DC 15 craft check, you can restore 1d6 hit points with an hour of work. (DC 30 for 2d6, and increase the DC by 10 for each additional d6.) You can make multiple checks if you have more downtime, or a single check with a higher DC as indicated. 

Tower Born: A Tower upbringing is unlike any other on Pimera. Generally raised in a small commune, ruled by an elder wizard, all Tower Born are taught the basics of arcane magic from a young age. Usually by their 13th birthday, they are politically transferred to a neighboring tower for the final phase of education, and by 19 they are assigned a spouse from their new tower, and told to select which tower they will live in for the remainder of their lives. Tower Born who object to the arranged marriage, or relative solitude, often find adventuring a much more amenable lifestyle.  

  • Magical Upbringing: +2 to Knowledge Arcana, Spellcraft, Use Magic Device, and choice of 3 other knowledge skills. Gain Skill focus in arcana, spellcraft or use magic device. 
  • Basic Studies: At will – Prestidigitation, mage hand, and one of shock, acid splash, or ray of frost. 
  • Familiar: You gain a familiar as per a level 1 wizard with one exception. It does not advance in levels.

Technical Backgrounds

These backgrounds are based on any formal education you may have received. 

Artificer: With the huge magic and technological advances of the past few decades, artificers have prospered immensely. Especially in regards to the unearthed relics from Cardonia.

  • Lore: You gain skill focus in the appraise skill. In addition, you can cast the Identify at will, and the Legend Lore spell on objects 1/day. 
  • Dismantle: You gain the improved sunder feat, and your attacks ignore a portion of an objects hardness equal to your HD. (If you have 5 HD and attack a hardness 8 object, it has 3 hardness). 
  • Modify: You gain a pool of potential modifications you can make to your armaments. You get a +1 bonus per 4 HD you have, that can be applied to any weapon, armor, or shield as a full round action. If the item is already magic, you can swap in other properties with +1 equivalent properties. You can divide this among multiple objects, if you have multiple points, or to give multiple properties to the same object. 

Excavator: Formally, excavation within the Unified Unoccupied Zone is strictly forbidden. Informally, Dead Man’s Land is rich with plunder and buried treasure. As such, excavators have flocked to the region in the hopes of striking it rich. 

  • Stonecunning: +2 racial bonus on Search checks to notice unusual stonework, such as sliding walls, stonework traps, new construction (even when built to match the old), unsafe stone surfaces, shaky stone ceilings, and the like. Something that isn’t stone but that is disguised as stone also counts as unusual stonework. An excavator who merely comes within 10 feet of unusual stonework can make a Search check as if he were actively searching, and can use the Search skill to find stonework traps. An excavator can also intuit depth, sensing his approximate depth underground as naturally as they can sense which way is up.
  • Trapsense: An excavator gains an intuitive sense that alerts them to danger from traps, giving a +1 bonus per 5 levels on Reflex saves made to avoid traps and a +1 dodge bonus to AC against attacks made by traps.  
  • Darkvision 60ft: Your eyes are accustomed to moving without light. If you already have darkvision, add 30ft to your range. 
  • Gold Scent: You can sense the presence of gold, gems, or other precious metals.You can sense the cardinal direction they are in, but do not have a sense of the specific locations. You can sense at a distance of 1ft per GP value of the object (assume GP value for unworked materials, you cannot sense craftsmanship or artistic merit). 

Healer: You have spent quite some time, and potentially even completed an apprenticeship in the healing arts. Travel with an adventuring party gives the perfect opportunity to test your skills. 

  • Medical Training: Gain +2 to heal checks and skill focus. In addition, with a DC 15 heal check, you can restore 1d6 hit points as a standard action. (DC 30 for 2d6, and increase the DC by 10 for each additional d6.)
  • Tinctures: You can identify potions, poisons, salves, and oils with 5 minutes of observation and examination. 
  • Medical Treatment: You can provide long term care, as per the heal skill, while resting for the night. Your patients are healed as though they had a full 24 hours of care. 
  • Diagnosis: As a standard action, you can give a creature an additional saving throw against an ongoing disease or poison. This can be done once per disease or poison per creature. 

Professional: Much of Pimera is a settled and civilized place, and many trade people abound. 

  • Professional Training: Gain a +2 bonus to appraise, bluff, diplomacy, sense motive, and a profession of your choice. You gain Skill Focus for that profession.
  • I Hear Things:  You can make a special knowledge check with a bonus equal to your HD + Int Mod to see whether you know some relevant information about local notable people, legendary items, or noteworthy places.  
    • DC Type of Knowledge
    • 10 Common, known by at least a substantial minority of the local population.
    • 20 Uncommon but available, known by only a few people legends.
    • 25 Obscure, known by few, hard to come by.
    • 30 Extremely obscure, known by very few, possibly forgotten by most who once knew it, possibly known only by those who don’t understand the significance of the knowledge.
  • Expert Haggler: You buy goods with a 10% discount, and sell goods with a 10% markup. 
  • Warry Investigation: When you interact with an illusion, you get a +5 competence bonus to the saving throw to see through it.

Soldier: The world’s second oldest profession, every culture has a seemingly endless need for men and women trained in martial combat. 

  • Swift: You gain +5 movement speed, and the run feat.
  • Brawler: You can make unarmed strikes dealing damage as per a monk of your HD. Weapons (including improvised) deal damage equal to your unarmed damage die increased by one step, or their normal value. Whichever is greater. 
  • Smite: You know when to pull out all the stops and can add your HD to hit and damage. This ability requires you to center yourself, by doing nothing but light activity for 5 minutes, before it can be used again.

To follow along with this project as it goes on, entries have been tagged with the Dead Man’s Land Tag.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: