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From the Ashes: Old Soul Background

From the Ashes: Old Soul Background

From the Ashes is a look at making reincarnation special and strange in your 5E D&D game. This installment features two new spells and a new background for a character who remembers a past life, the Old Soul.

Want to develop a backstory that goes all the way back? Tome of Heroes has hundreds of options to make characters of every sort. Even past lives!


These new spells involve past lives—your own or someone else’s.

Speak with the Past

3rd-Level Necromancy
Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: Self
Components: V, S, M (burning incense)
Duration: 10 minutes

You enter a meditative state, flirting with death to allow the spirit of an ancestor or past life to share your body and answer questions.

While the past spirit inhabits your body, you lose control of your limbs, are prone, and can only take the Dodge action until the spell ends. You or anyone else present can ask the past spirit up to five questions. The past spirit knows only what it knew in life, including the languages it knew, as well as anything you knew, regardless of whether you have forgotten. Answers are typically cryptic and brief. The past spirit is never hostile to you, though others questioners might need to convince the spirit to cooperate, even at the risk of your own bodily health.

Casting the spell always poses some bodily risk for the caster. After the spell ends, have disadvantage on death saving throws and concentration checks until after a long rest.

Seekrit’s Soul Regression

3rd-Level Transmutation
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, S, M (a handful of insect moltings)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

You wrap your fist in karmic energy that can knock creatures right into the shoes of their ancestors. Make a melee spell attack against a creature within your reach. On a hit, the target takes 3d6 psychic damage, and if they are a humanoid they must make a Charisma saving throw or be forced to change shape into another humanoid from the reincarnate table until the spell ends. Until the spell ends, you can make the attack again on each of your turns as an action.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th or higher, the damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 3rd.

New Background: Old Soul

You grew up at odds with your peers. You see things from a longer view, more like the old-timers you’ve known. Sometimes you feel vivid out-of-body experiences, or visions of yourself as someone else. These weird instances in your life isolate you from others but give you unusual insight.

Skill Proficiencies: History and Insight
Tool Proficiencies: One tool proficiency of your choice
Languages: One language of your choice
Equipment: A curious trinket that you have had with you as long as you can remember, a simple weapon or shield that belonged to a parent or ancestor, a set of common but outdated clothes, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp

Feature: Lives’ Little Nudges

The smallest moments have a way of sparking hidden memories. Whether a kind gesture from a stranger, a trifle from a bygone era, or the aroma of something comforting, the innocuous things in life have a habit of triggering memories that aren’t really yours. When you least expect it, or perhaps when you most need it, something triggers a past life’s memory or experience. Possibly, with practice (and at GM discretion) you can learn to harness these triggering experiences for your own gain.

Suggested Characteristics

Old souls are often in tune with the changes in life around them. Whether they go along with these changes or oppose them is anyone’s guess. While the behavior of old souls seems to exist on a wide spectrum, the common ground they sometimes share with their kin and even absolute strangers can be eerie. 

d8Personality Trait
1I often feel pangs of nostalgia for fads or experiences that I cannot honestly claim belonging to.
2I have a deep affection for old words and phrases.
3Sometimes I catch myself whistling or humming along to a tune that is now out of fashion.
4I compare every situation against my past experiences, often with a great deal of grumbling.
5The older someone is in relation to me, the more kinship I feel towards them.
6I amuse myself by wondering aloud what local places must have been like in their heyday.
7I find it easy to put myself in the shoes of others.
8Despite even adverse circumstances, I go with the flow.
1Truth. I am driven by the need to understand myself, the world, and my place in it. (Neutral)
2Metamorphosis. All things are subject to change. It is better to follow along than to resist. (Chaotic)
3Selfishness. No one’s experience matters more than my own. No one else is more worthy of life’s rewards. (Evil)
4Compassion. I feel compelled to help those in need, despite any differences. (Good)
5Perspective. People will tell you a great deal about themselves, their situations, and their desires, if you listen. (Any)
6Tradition. The practices and beliefs of those before us must be preserved. (Lawful)
1I’ve had the same recurring dream for as long as I can remember.
2I’ve been going to the same shop for ages. I need them as much as they need my business.
3Cats (or another type of domestic animal) seem to have an affinity for my company.
4I had a mentor who believed that I was his friend reborn. I owe them a lot for who I am now.
5I underwent hypnosis in an attempt to remember my past life, but now I have forgotten something vital.
6I seem to cross paths over and again with the same person (or people). It’s almost as if we are fated to meet each other.
1I am easily baffled by unfamiliar things.
2Not even I am very good at predicting how I will respond to the stress of a new experience.
3I often misconstrue the meaning of things, and overreact before I fully understand.
4Without routine meditation, I lose sense of myself.
5I prefer to avoid my problems rather than face them.
6I sometimes fall prey to delusions of grandeur.

Upcoming Articles

In future installments we’ll look at how to use the themes of rebirth and past lives to inform our campaign’s narrative and adventure design. Also on deck are more reincarnated NPCs.


about Sebastian Rombach

We can neither confirm nor deny that Sebastian is actually three raccoons in a trenchcoat. His freelance contributions can be found in Tome of Beasts 2, Tome of Heroes, and more. You can roll dice with him at https://startplaying.games/gm/dontbreakthedm or follow him on Twitter and Instagram @dontbreakthedm.

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