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Gravedigger: A Fifth Edition Background

Gravedigger: A Fifth Edition Background

Gravedigger 1871 - Viktor VasnetsovYours was the dark cart that creaked down the predawn lanes with hooves, wheels, and driver shrouded in black cloth. Criminal or courtesan, rich man or rat-catcher; they all veered aside, seeking doorways and side streets at your approach. You served as the gallows-man, the night-wagon, and, at times, the plague-wagon.

You may have been a shrouded nightly gatherer of the cities fallen, or a suspicious caretaker and historian of graveyard and mausoleum. Perhaps you were an embalmer, cremator, gravedigger, or grave robber; all share a powerful and lasting commonality, born of a sullen and sometimes repellent past. Whatever the case, you have years of up-close and personal hands-on experience with the dead.

Skill Proficiencies: Religion, Stealth

Languages: None

Tool Proficiencies: Vehicles (Land)

Equipment: Prized pick, rock-hammer or shovel (1d6 dmg), a set of common clothes, and a belt pouch containing 5 gp

Feature: “Trust me; I’ve smelled this smell before.”

All characters utilizing this background roll at advantage whenever making checks involving the detection, tracking (if applicable), and identification of the undead and their habits.

Suggested Characteristics

Whether through necessity of one’s station in life; a streak of morbidity and greed; or a scientific, genealogical, or historical curiosity, gravediggers are a motley assortment, ranging widely in class, culture, and mindset, such as reclusive mortician, eccentric amateur, archaeologist, or the common grave robber or body-thief.

d8 Personality Trait

  1. I never raise my voice, always speaking calmly, seemingly devoid of any emotion.
  2. I have the utmost respect and veneration for the legacies of those who have passed before us.
  3. The dead are dead; they don’t need their stuff. I need their stuff.
  4. I always carry multiple wards, charms, and holy symbols with me, for the undead are everywhere.
  5. I am secretive about myself and my past, and I make friends slowly, if at all.
  6. I am bright and optimistic, and I revel in the joy and vigor of life in spite of (or because of) my somewhat morbid past.
  7. I am constantly commenting, scrutinizing, and jotting down notes on anything regarding tombs, burial rites, and histories of the dead.
  8. I am used to being the smartest (only) person in the room; I therefore take great pains to explain the obvious to the obviously uninformed.

d6 Ideal

  1. Life is fleeting and death is ever looming; hypervigilance and self-preservation must always be kept to the fore. (Neutral)
  2. My studies of past lives and dynasties have taught me patience and the wisdom of both forethought and reflection. (Lawful)
  3. The mighty fall, most often to the same failings, as do the weak. Feast now at the table of life, taking any and all measures to forestall the meals’ ending. (Evil)
  4. The dead should at the very least be respected and their legacies remembered as lessons for both the greater good and self-betterment. (Good)
  5. The roll of a cosmic die, a bolt of azure lightning, a well-placed banana peel—it doesn’t really matter how or why life ends, now does it? Life can always end in an instant, so do what you must and let that be the whole of the law. (Chaotic)
  6. My future is destined to be one of success, if not greatness. Until then, I do what I must do. And if called upon, I dig the graves. (Any)

d6 Bond

  1. I pursue wealth and power to win the love and respect of a distant paramour.
  2. My secret loyalty to and belief in the power of my temple, sect, or faith is unshakeable; it alone shields me from (or gives me influence over) the powers of death and undeath.
  3. As society scorned me, so I scorn it. I am dedicated to myself and myself alone.
  4. I escaped a life of poverty by robbing a rich man’s grave. Shame and guilt still drive me to random acts of charity and atonement.
  5. My (newfound?) friends are my bond; I am sometimes loyal to a fault, as they say.
  6. My tools are symbolic of my unpleasant past; I carry them to always remind me that things can always get worse.

d6 Flaw

  1. I have an unhealthy obsession for items of buried antiquity.
  2. I secretly harbor dark thoughts and strange scientific or eldritch ambitions
  3. A life of isolation has led me to be brooding and uncommunicative, despite frequently thinking aloud and mumbling to myself.
  4. My fascination with the dead and the afterlife goes well beyond some peoples’ sense of what is considered healthy.
  5. I am obsessed with my quest for personal immortality.
  6. Years of social detachment and seclusion have made me over-analytical, eccentric, and suspicious.

Variant Gravedigger: Tomb Raider, Body Thief, Amateur Archaeologist

5 thoughts on “Gravedigger: A Fifth Edition Background”

  1. All of these 5e backgrounds have been amazing so far! I hope there are more to come. “I’ve smelled this smell before” is wonderfully creepy.

  2. > I am used to being the smartest (only) person in the room; I therefore take great pains to explain the obvious to the obviously uninformed.

    Why did I just imagine a gravedigger patiently explaining to a obviously undead individual they are dead and should therefore return to their assigned grave? You know, like getting pre-school child to go to sleep…

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