Last weekend, I ran a D&D game for a big group: nine players plus myself. As it happened, an oddly large percentage of the players were in graduate school, so I took the only course open to me: I classed it up.
I haven’t seen a lot of Downton Abbey, but I’ve seen enough to know the basic premise. There’s an Earl. His closest heirs are drowned on the Titanic. Now they’re stuck with some distant, middle-class relative as the next in line to the estate! Hijinx ensue.
It seems like a pretty good setup for a D&D adventure. Except that D&D characters have some options not open to the characters in the show: they can GO DOWN TO THE TITANIC, fight the zombified remains of John Astor and the other upper-crust disaster victims, and, in one way or another, set things right.
Not only was this adventure a TV show homage, it was a Fifth Edition playtest. I made a few tweaks to match the 1912-England-plus-elves-and-magic setting. Maybe next week I’ll publish the adventure: today, here are the custom backgrounds I made available to the player characters. Note that they’re generally more powerful than the 5e playtest backgrounds: I like to go gonzo for one-shots.
You start the game with the following equipment:
1 set of noble clothing
You start the game with your choice of one of the following irons in the fire:
1) A rich suitor or admirer
2) a secret career as an artist, nurse, revolutionary, or other low trade
3) a disgraceful engagement with someone entirely unsuitable
4) knowledge of a secret which you could use for blackmail
You also start the game with 1 family heirloom. Roll on the following chart:
1-2: +1 weapon or magic staff of your choice.
3-4: +1 armor, shield, or ceremonial robes of your choice.
5: Your heirloom necklace is decorated with 1d4 resurrection stones.
6: Devoted valet or lady’s maid (AC 15, attack +5, damage 1d6+3, 20 HP) whose expertise gives you +1 on all charisma checks.
7: Roll again on this chart using a d6. The item you roll up comes with a curse.
8: Your choice of item.
You have the following skills:
Finally, come up with one friend, enemy, or other associate with whom you have an important relationship (it may or may not be another player):
You can cut each page into strips and let people grab whichever background suits them. Note: There are some duplicates here. For instance, there are several copies of “loyal servant” background, but only one “tycoon.” First come, first served.