How To Use Rewarded And Ruined Backgrounds In DND

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The Deck of Many Things has long been one of the most interesting items in Dungeons & Dragons for players and Dungeon Masters alike. For the uninitiated, the deck features 66 magical cards that, when drawn, trigger some kind of powerful effect.


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These effects range from as helpful as placing 50,000 gold pieces of jewelry into a character’s lap, to as harmful as summoning an avatar of death that you must defeat yourself or forever lose your character. In this article, we’re specifically examining the Fates card as well as two backgrounds introduced in the book of many things inspired by it.


The Fates Card

two men in space talk over deck of many things
Jared warns basil of the deck’s many dangers by Claudia Pozas

A player who draws the Fates card from the Deck of Many Things unlocks the power to undo something that has happened to them or will happen to them. You can use the card’s magic immediately upon drawing it or save the card’s magic to undo something that happens to you in the future.

The rewarded and ruined backgrounds are inspired by this card. It’s easier to understand these backgrounds if we understand where they come from. Each background revolves around a single event that occurred in your character’s past that has either gifted them greatly or left them in shambles.

This is a lifetime defining event, so when you’re coming up with your own, be sure to go big. Incidents like a magical comet falling from the stars and landing next to your character, accidentally starting up a vendetta with a local lord, or being scarred by the breath of a dragon are all great examples.

A character with one of these backgrounds might actually be interested in seeking out the Fates card to undo whatever happened to them.

Rewarded

woman wizard creates cards out of stars
Itus creates the first deck of many things by Hinchel Or

The rewarded background is the good side of the fates coin flip. A character who has had something momentously beneficial happen to them is the ideal candidate for the rewarded background. Examples include being gifted magical abilities by a genie, receiving a mysterious inheritance, or having your lifelong enemies suddenly swept away in a violent storm.

Whatever the case, fate has decided to make life easier for your character. It’s important that your character was having a bad go of things prior to this life-changing event, as that provides them with a perspective that makes for great roleplay at the table.

Ruined

Holy knights battle against flaming skeleton and other undead
The knights of the solar bastion battle the grim harrow whenever the two groups meet by Claudio Pozas

This background isn’t quite so nice. Ruined characters are the exact opposite of the rewarded background. They once enjoyed a lavish life of luxury, close friendships, or otherwise happy circumstances; however, something brought all of that to an abrupt end. Perhaps your character was caught in the crosshairs of a turf war, drew a bad card from the deck of many things, or suffered a terrible injury that ended a promising career.

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While the ruined background may seem all doom and gloom, it’s meant as a hopeful place for a character to start. Characters with the ruined background are encouraged to sport the attitude that despite their tragic twist of fate, they have weathered the storm and will rise above their past.

Despite being inspired by the deck of many things, the rewarded and ruined backgrounds can be used without including this controversial magic item in your campaign. All you need is for something incredibly lucky or terribly unfortunate to happen to one of the player characters.

Rewarded And Ruined In Play

knight discovers treasure hoard thanks to gem card deck of many things
The gem card leads Asteria to fabulous wealth by Julie Dillon

Unlike most other backgrounds, the rewarded and ruined backgrounds can be applied to a character during their adventures. In other words, you can tack one of these backgrounds onto a character in addition to their original background. This is the perfect way to inspire a player towards character development after something fantastic or catastrophic happens to their character.

Giving a character two backgrounds will provide them with extra proficiencies, languages, and an additional feat in the case of these backgrounds. Consequently, it may be best to have the rewarded or ruined background replace a character’s original background at tables where character balance is an important concern.

That being said, these backgrounds can also be used in the more traditional sense: during a player’s regular character creation. However you decide to use the backgrounds, the Heroes of Destiny table found in the Book of Many Things is important to include.

This table features fated destinies tied to cards from the deck of many things. It provides quality narrative ammunition for a player and DM to better flesh out the exact circumstances of a background and what it might mean for a character’s future.

In the case that a player wants to directly hitch their character’s background to the deck of many things, each card has its very own tie already drawn out. DMs like it when you make their life easier.

Speaking of making a DM’s life easier, the Fates chapter of the book also features a number of magic items and supernatural charms that make for perfect rewards for a character with one of these backgrounds. In the case of the charms, each one is even specifically inspired by a card found in the deck of many things. The magic items and charms found here have fate-like flavoring, so there’s no one better to wield them than a character who has been defined by the whims of fate itself.

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