NEW BACKGROUNDS – for Gnomes and others

Today we speak of New Backgrounds, to be used like the common ones (see PH pag. 125) and we often refer to them, with a few different rules.

Many are gnome-only backgrounds, sometimes only for a certain sub-race of Gnomes but some can be used by people with similar upbringing, bizarre creatures (like a Nagpa) or living in a highly cultured society (see our previous post about inventions in Mystara). Usually they are also preferred by certain classes, use your imagination. The backgrounds can give a bonus to certain Invention Classes: these specific bonuses are for our own system, not full D&D 5e compatible (but more Mystara-like), to create inventions, but if you like a simplified D&D 5e system, check this post and modify the bonuses of the Backgrounds according to the rules there.

INVENTION CLASSES (you can imagine many more): Elemental, Flying Machines (or machines bound to other elements), Mystic/Religious, purely Magical, purely Mechanical, War Machines, …


  • Elemental: an invention based upon an element or free to navigate in or over it. An alchemical flamethrower; a partly magical water breather; a machine burrowing in ice or sliding upon it.

  • Mystic/Religious: an incense burner for magical spices; a mystic astrolabe automatically following the stars (for diviners); a weather control machine powered by prayers to Garl Glittergold (expending clerical spell slots).

  • Purely Magical: tricky to define but the invention should be (almost) purely magical, alchemical or reproduce a spell effect, but requires inventor job before nonetheless: e.g. a magical oil requires a custom alchemical plant or the physical part to collect the magical energy for the effect. It may be a magical substance to be used upon inventions. A Gate-creating machine could use the magical energy released by breaking gems (a concept from magical item creation in GAZ3 – The Principalities of Glantri) to rip the fabric of reality. A paint to protect inventions from a corrosive/rusting touch or an oil to avoid or reduce mishaps of mechanical inventions.

  • War machines: all kind of personal weaponry and, for vehicles, only those of the preferred Gnome environment and used like weapons (an Earthshaker for a Fire Gnome; an armed Top Ballista plane for Skygnomes but not an Air Balloon; …)


alphatia air ship


There are two kinds of Air Pilots, for:

a) Flying Ships; or

b) Flying machines

Restrictions: a) no restrictions; b) usually gnome-only

You started an extensive training with the highest officers of flying ships or machines (captains, chief gunners, navigators) to become someday an officer yourself: the ones like you are few but vital on every flying ships. You have Advantage on general air tactics, command and every maneuver of the ship and its weaponry.

Air Sailors and Pilots know the Air Code, a simple sign language, transmitted with signal flags (they have two small ones in their equipment) or flashing lights. It is otherwise exactly like the SAILOR background but it is much more difficult to have a free passage upon a flying ship, since they are very few: the Air Sailors and Pilot can ask for the free passage, even from the ground, using the Air Code.



Restrictions: no restrictions

You passed your youth upon the deck of magical flying ships or strange flying machines. You had to face storms, flying monsters and even Air Pirates, but you managed to survive. You know the ship you are flying upon as the back of your hand and you love it as dearly as your own hand. You pass so much of your time in the air, that sometimes you think you’ll grow wings! Air Sailors are necessary to operate the rare big Air ships (Alphatia, Nithia in the Hollow World) or machines (Serraine); smaller aircrafts need only pilots and gunners (see Air Pilot). Air Sailors have Advantage on ALL personal operations upon an aircaft they know or similar (they have the bonus after they spend some time there e.g. a Long Rest), but for piloting: they are better at repair, fight with personal or ship weapons, sabotage and so on.

Air Sailors and Pilots know the Air Code, a simple sign language, transmitted with signal flags (they have two small ones in their equipment) or flashing lights. It is otherwise exactly like the SAILOR background but it is much more difficult to have a free passage upon a flying ship, since they are very few: the Air Sailors and Pilot can ask for the free passage, even from the ground, using the Air Code.

gnome clockwork acolyte


Restrictions: gnome-only

You have spent your life in the service of a Garl Glittergold temple (or Brandan Earthshaker for Fire Gnomes). You act as an intermediary between the realm of the holy and the mortal world, building inventions, performing sacred rites and offering sacrifices in honor of your god. You are devoted to science and inventions to learn more about your patron God and His wishes.

Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Religion

Languages: Two of your choice

Equipment: A holy symbol (a gift to you when you entered the priesthood), cogs and springs to be used in a holy invention, 5 vials of perfumed machine oil, vestments, a set of common clothes, and a belt pouch containing 15 gp.

FEATURE: SHELTER OF THE JOINED COGS, like SHELTER OF THE FAITHFUL of the Acolyte but followers of Garl Glittergold can expect some limited help even from temples of Kagyar since the two gods are very close. Help or an offer are expected in any case. You also have a +2 bonus to plan/build mystic/religious inventions and Advantage to interact with the Clan Relic (in a future post).

Specialty, Personality Trait, Ideal, Bond and Flaw: as per Acolyte.


Restrictions: gnome-only; every sub-race has its own (e.g. Ice Inventor is Ice Gnome-only).

You spent your entire youth trying to wrest from Nature the secrets of the environment where your community lives and you became a respected master in it. You lack the finesse of specialists of other fields but it was a worthy sacrifice: you now are able to create wonderful inventions, if a bit biased.

An Elemental Inventor has a +2 to plan/build inventions completely centered upon a certain element or moving through or over it. A fire-powered steam invention should not be considered elemental, but a lava and volcano powered one, like Earthshakers, for sure is (or a boat floating upon the magma and powered by it). A submarine for sure is, but not a boat if it is wind-powered. Every invention taking energy or granting access/contact with the Elemental Planes is elemental in nature.

Skill Proficiencies: Arcana, History

Spring Artisan


Restrictions: gnome-only

You are a member of a technical or scientific guild, skilled in a particular field and closely associated with other gnome artisans: where other races would only use their hands, you also use your wits and machines to help you carry out your tasks. You are a well-established part of the mercantile world, whose talents and wealth are well known in the gnomish community. You learned your skills as an apprentice to a master artisan, under the sponsorship of your guild, until you became a master in your own right.

Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Persuasion

Tool Proficiencies: One type of artisan’s tools

Languages: One of your choice

Equipment: as per the ARTISAN background.

GUILD BUISINESS: roll 1d20 and follow the ARTISAN options but with different 3, 15, 18. With a 3 on the d20, your character was a gemcutter or jeweller. If in Serraine: gemcutters “are much in demand for cutting, polishing and setting exceptional gems and gems for magical work. Their fees are on the high side, but there are no better in all the lands of the Known World” (from PC2 – Top Ballista). With a 15: mechanical maintenance of the community. You help to create/maintain the inventions for the city: in Serraine you worked on cloud clippers, sky chairs and so on. With a 18: royal family or Clan master locksmith. In Serraine it may be for the Top Ballista Academy too.

FEATURE: as per ARTISAN, but your membership is recognized only among the Gnomes. In addition you have a +2 to plan/build purely mechanical inventions.

Specialty, Personality Trait, Ideal, Bond and Flaw: : as per the ARTISAN background.

Tinker Sage


Restrictions: gnome-only

You spent years learning the lore of Gnomes about the multiverse. You scoured manuscripts, studied scrolls, dismantled old inventions and listened to the greatest experts on the subjects that interest you. Your efforts have made you a master in your fields of study, able to add inventions and fame to your people and your patron God. Many Tinker Sages are among the planners of the biggest inventions of the Gnomes and their Clan Relics.

Skill Proficiencies: Arcana, History

Languages: Two of your choice

Equipment: A bottle of black ink, a quill, a small knife, a letter from a dead colleague (like the SAGE) OR old and unknown schematics for an invention, a set of clothes with many pockets, and a belt pouch containing: 10 gp, old cogs/springs and wooden pieces to make a model of inventions

FEATURE: TINKER RESEARCHER. Like RESEARCHER of the SAGE background but limited to knowledge, even slightly, related to the Gnomish Race. In addition it gives a +2 bonus to Fantasy Physics for the planning of ALL inventions, but not for Machine Building. If in possession of the right schematics, they receive double the bonus granted for planning, not cumulative with the normal +2!

Specialty, Personality Trait, Ideal, Bond and Flaw: as per Sage.

Warring Scientist


Restrictions: Fire Gnome-only. Note: in truth other sub-races could have this background but only very strange and not good gnomes could have it, the equivalent of mad scientists or criminal masterminds. This is a nice background for a dangerous and very evil archenemy, a Nagpa mastermind would be perfect, to spice up your Mystara campaigns, especially revolving around Serraine, of which we will speak in a while!

Since your childhood you dreamed of conquering lands using your own inventions, growing up you became even more determined in your aim. Whether you support your empire (e.g. the Snartan Empire) or try to create a new one, nothing is beyond your possibilities: you will use every weapons at your disposal, simple swords, fortresses, machines and gnomish armies to reach your goal! Everything and everybody is expendable, but for you.

Warring Scientists have Advantage on Tactics and +2 to plan/build War Machines: all kind of personal weaponry or the preferred “big” weapons of their sub-race. A Fire Gnome Warring Scientist is very good at building Earthshakers or personal guns (not only flamethrowers like Fire Inventors). A mad Earth Gnome would have the bonus on an armed burrower or an Earthquake Doom Machine, but equally to all kind of guns too.

Skill Proficiencies: Athletics, Intimidation. (It may change for different sub-races or creatures e.g. Intimidation in not a good choice for Skygnomes, nor Athletics for Nagpas).

Tools Proficiencies: Smith’s tool, Vehicle (preferred environment)

It is quite similar, for the rest, to the SOLDIER background with a few differences: only “active” duties are conceivable (1-4 on 1d8), or be creative: a Healer could be a Torturer instead. Obviously it depends on the race/sub-race too: a Nagpa would be more in intelligence gathering tasks (their illusory powers are excellent for spies) or weapon research and much less on the front-line. The Rank of the Warring Scientists also influences their behavior: a low Rank may mean that they have a fanatical devotion to their leader or will try to grow and dethrone them; a high Rank may mean that they will try to create their own Empire or not, as you like it most.


Quite similar to the TINKER SAGE background but all the Watchmaker Mages are spellcasters and they focus on purely magical inventions. The only difference is their FEATURE: TINKER MAGE: it gives a +2 bonus to plan/build purely magical inventions and the same bonus from schematics as per the TINKER SAGE but only if the invention is, at least in part, magical.

We hope you enjoyed our madness for creating these backgrounds and tell us if you use them! Stay tuned for future posts about the Relics of the Demihumans and the Flying City of Serraine, both for D&D 5e. See you!





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