An Exploration of Fantasy Backgrounds

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written any reviews at this site or any other for that matter, but recently my friend Chris Kentlea of Ennead Games granted me an early look at the new Backgrounds & Details Kit 2 – Fantasy Version so I knew I had to do one…

As a big fan of random tables, I had to try it out and see what I could create using his methods. Chris has created many cool products at Ennead, so I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. And I wasn’t!

The BDK2:FE weighs in at 50 pages with about a bazillion tables to go through in three broad sections, so let’s walk through a bit of what this product can do for your fantasy campaigns…

Quick Details

backgrounds-cover-imageFirst there are the “Quick Details.” These are for those moments when you have to create some NPC on the fly and want to give it a bit of flair without much detail. Maybe a bar patron, a shopper in the market, or a bit of cannon fodder. With just a few tables and die rolls I get:

  • Age: Adult
  • Gender: Male
  • Species : Halfling
  • Personality: Tiresome

Using the Fantasy Name Generator I found the name “Linwrick” and can come up with this quick description for the game table…

“As you approach the bar to wait for your contact, you find a disheveled halfling drunkenly chatting with the barkeep. ‘And she deserved it, the trollop! I can do better! So what if she ran off with my best friend to a better life in the Vale… what do I care?’ Over the next three hours, you discover that he is known as Linwrick the Lady Killer, is full of untapped potential, and can’t hold his liquor. When he gets thrown out of the tavern for not being able to settle his bar tab, a cheer rises through the crowd that the annoying little bugger was finally gone.”

I think his incessant whining would definitely become tiresome quickly, but might be fun to roleplay for a little bit.

Detailed Background Options

If you want more details – a TON more details – you can go to the “Detailed Background Options.” And when Chris says “detailed,” he’s not kidding. In nearly 30 pages you can cover everything from a description of the NPC’s family to how much they earn, specific physical details, quirks, tattoos, and much much more.

Halfling Monk from the Chronicle Character Codex (

Halfling Monk from the Chronicle Character Codex

Let’s say that our little annoying guy Linwrick the Lady Killer turns out to be more important to the plot than you originally thought. Perhaps he left the bar and got involved in something particularly unsavory and ends up coming back to the PCs to ask for help. It might be useful to learn a few more details about our halfling.

  • Family Status: Upper class, minor noble
  • Income: Gambling
  • Looks: Slightly younger than his real age
  • Eyebrow Condition: Abundant

I could use many more of the tables, but that gives us an interesting (if not a bit bizarre) cross-section to work with. There really are too many tables to choose from and you could thin the herd to pick from just those you think make the most sense to you. But this lends itself to a bit more detail:

“Linwrick comes from money but has always been a bit of a black sheep. His family tries to ignore his gambling problem but knows it will eventually lead to his ruin. After the failure of his most recent relationship he fell back into a cycle of drinking and playing cards, often getting into trouble that his parents or elder siblings had to bail him out of. Somehow his youthful features enable him to fleece more than a few suckers here and there, lightening their purses in the process. Every time they try to cut him off he just gives them that look with his bushy eyebrows and they are unable to resist…”

You could spend hours rolling through all the tables available and you would end up with an insane amount of information. If you have a particular NPC that you know the PCs are going to get to know intimately you might actually pull it all together into a dossier you could mine as needed. Perhaps Linwrick has a particular tattoo that you can use to identify the body when his enemies finally catch up with him or has a secret he doesn’t want to share with anybody.

Life Events

Chris might have stopped there, but he didn’t. The last section of the book is about “Life Events.”

ennead-games-logoAs if Linwrick’s life isn’t hard enough as a disgraced noble, I’m going to give his family a bloodline trait.

  • Mom is “Infernal touched”
  • and Linwrick has a hidden trait “Child adopted”

That will be quite interesting. As a GM I could play with the family history and use this product to detail the halfling’s mom and dad and figure out all sorts of devious plans. Perhaps Mommy Dearest actually sold Linwrick’s soul to an infernal patron so she could keep her youthful looks past their expiration date. And I’m guessing Linwrick suspects but can’t prove that he’s really not a member of the family.

What would the PCs do if they discovered that this whole thing wasn’t Linwrick’s fault at all and he was just an unwilling pawn in some deeper plot…

I guess what I’m saying is that enterprising GMs *NEED* this product in their arsenal. Backgrounds & Details Kit 2 Fantasy Version is a must have. Great work Chris!!

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