Monday, August 14, 2023

The Great Hill Cantons 5e Experiment Begins: Marlinko Backgrounds

I still love the old ways, you can pry the increasingly deviant BX/OSE/LL subvariant of HC house system from my cold dead hands. But dammit has playing Baldurs Gate (purple-skinned Roy Kent being my own PC) got me at least wanting to experiment with a slimmed down, house ruled to death 5e as my next mini-campaign reboot of things Hill Cantons-y. 

So on that note, here is part 1 of Hill Cantons 5e Backgrounds starting with dear, dear Marlinko. A host of Marlinko Cantons backgrounds are next and they will be the usual mix of the weird and/or stupid. 

Marlinko Cantons Backgrounds

First and foremost a Marlinkan takes their identity from their contrada (even villagers in the Canton have their “team” in the city). All native Player Character Marlinkans thus must roll (or choose if one must) a contrada background before taking another background. The contrada background is in addition to a character’s standard background, but may also preclude some standard background choices.

From FDM: The four contradas do not reflect merely geographic or class divisions, but have deeply embedded cultural and psycho-geographical lives of their own. Each contrada organizes its own festivals, keeps its own histories, and pays fearful homage to the abstract-featured idol of its own unique “town god.” 

Each contrada also maintains its own contrada hall, a large, well-maintained, ceremonial gathering place where it keeps a collection of its own unique banners, ceremonial regalia, historical tapestries, mummies, and most importantly, the various trophies it has won in the single most important city-wide bi-annual event: the great chariot race that headlines the Ebon Horse Fair. Throughout the year, contrada trainers keep their chosen condemned convict-jockey revved up and ready for the Black Race. It is well that they do, for the losers are hanged while the winner earns a contrada trophy and freedom!

Roll d6

1-2 Svině (Golden Swine) Contrada

3 Soudce (Yare Domesman) Contrada

4-5 Obchodník (Mendacious Mercator) Contrada 

6 Včelar (Sullen Apiarian) Contrada

Svině (Golden Swine) Contrada

The northeastern ward, with its tusked, dolorous, golden boar's head banner on a field of teal, is by most accounts a benighted slum. It has two saving graces: 1. that most guilds and high offices maintain their halls in its precinct–if not their homes– (including the Rada's large council hall) and 2. that it holds the most trophies for Black Race wins. 

Skill Proficiencies: Deception or Sleight of Hand

Tool Proficiencies: Manual Labor

Languages: Svinish (contrada dialect/slang)

Equipment: Teal and gold contrada surcoat, simple, Jaunty Cap, Tiny amount of hruz paste. 


Forbidden Backgrounds: Noble

Soudce (Yare Domesman) Contrada

The southeastern quarter is (despite its rather dramatic banner displaying grotesquely fat red demonettes piloting finned sleds) a sleepy and mundane section of the city. The houses of quietly prosperous craftsmen and the shops of the middle ranks dominate the ward. 

Skill Proficiencies: Insight

Tool Proficiencies: One type of artisans tools

Languages: Soudci  (contrada dialect/slang)

Equipment: Grey and dull red contrada surcoat, burghers hat, set of workman’s tools

Forbidden Backgrounds: Anything vaguely criminal

Obchodník (
Mendacious Mercator) Contrada 

The southwestern contrada of the city, with its great golden seal depicting a grasping human hand styled in mauve and silver, oversees most daily business in the city. The sprawling, bustling South Market with its countless booths and scams is the commercial heart of the center.

Skill Proficiencies: Deception or Persuasion 

Tool Proficiencies: Calligrapher's supplies, Cartographer's tools, or Navigator's Tools.

Languages: Obchod (contrada dialect/slang)

Equipment: Mauve and silver contrada surcoat, stack of blank contracts in vellum.

Forbidden Backgrounds: Charlatan, Mountebank, Huckster

Včelar (Sullen Apiarian) Contrada

The Northwestern Quarter, with its great yellow-and-black beehive and mopey deodand emblazoned banner, contains the greatest concentration of affluence and easy living in the city. The great painted-plastered town-manses of the wealthy dominate the coveted plaza and avenue fronts in this part of town. 

Despite its wealthy cast, the contrada has a deeply-ingrained inferiority complex--due in large part to its century-long losing streak in the Black Race. The loss has become a self-fulfilling prophesy in recent years, as convict-jockeys regularly commit suicide rather than serve out what they consider to be a foregone death sentence. Roving gangs of youths from respected families are quick to draw rapiers against any slight, as if to compensate for the wound to their civic honor. 

Skill Proficiencies: Persuasion or Intimidation

Tool Proficiencies: Gaming set

Languages: Vče (contrada dialect/slang)

Equipment: Black and gold contrada surcoat, codpiece, rapier, IOU from a commoner worth 1d4x10 gold suns.

Forbidden Backgrounds: Anything vaguely criminal or commercial. 

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff! My 5e campaign is approaching its 10th anniversary.