In the game of Dungeons & Dragons, a character’s background represents their upbringing and what they used to do with their life before becoming an adventurer. Every character is unique and spent their time differently before setting out to find fame and fortune slaying monsters and saving lives. This can make choosing a background difficult at times. If you are new to the game or would like to know more about how backgrounds function, you can check out my article What Is A Background & How To Use It.
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What is a Hermit?
A hermit is someone who has lived in seclusion for the majority of their life. This seclusion could have been entirely alone, or it could have been among a sheltered community far from the reach of society. Living this way gave you quiet, solitude, and abundant time to reflect on life’s questions. This reflection may have answered some of the questions you had, bringing you peace. Or perhaps, the answers weren’t what you expected and have left you with only more questions?
Hermits in D&D
The Hermit background is meant for players who come from a life of seclusion, far removed from societal norms to contemplate life and allow distraction-free study and prayer if that’s your thing. You could have been born into a reclusive, spiritual tribe or commune, having only known the hermit’s life, or you could have decided to shun the senseless goings on of society to seek peace and knowledge and to experience the world as it is, not as how people deem it should be. Most of the time this life away from others results in a discovery of some kind whether it be spiritual, emotional, or intellectual, your freedom allows you to find what you are truly looking for.
A druid in the forest that lives its life alongside animals, a wizard hiding away in a tower that prefers the companionship of tomes and scrolls, and a barbarian tribe that understands nothing but killing and surviving are all examples of hermits. Hermits can look like many different kinds of people but all have one thing in common, they don’t understand normal social cues or manners. They can be happened upon in their solitude, or they might come back to civilization to seek help with something troubling they discovered. No matter what their reasons for needing to return to society are, they will always prefer their solitude.
Life of Seclusion
Living a life of seclusion and contemplation is what makes up the base of the Hermit background. It’s possible you may not have known anything else, or you may have made a decision to live a sheltered life, but each hermit has its reasons for living this way. When creating a character with this background, this is represented by the Life of Seclusion table in the PHB.
The Life of Seclusion table allows you to roll or pick one option that gives your character a reason for living their life the way they did. This can be anything from searching for spiritual enlightenment, being exiled for a crime you may or may not have committed, needing a quiet place to work on art, literature, or music, or even just to commune with nature. Make sure to pick a reason that will be fun for you to roleplay. And if there isn’t anything on the list that sounds fun, or if you have a good idea for one that’s not on the list, talk to your dungeon master and work out something you both know you’ll enjoy playing.
Hermit Feature: Discovery
As mentioned earlier, the seclusion of your hermitage gave you access to a unique discovery. The exact nature of that discovery is up to you and can have something to do with your reason for seclusion. It could be some great truth about the cosmos, deities, beings from other planes, or even the forces of nature themselves. You could have discovered some site or location that no one has ever seen before or unearthed an ancient relic that’s mere existence threatens to rewrite history. Your discovery could be what has spurned your reluctant return to society, seeking someone to help you solve the riddle, or it could have had something to do with the reason you were exiled and now you’re back to clear your name.
This background feature presents you as a player with the opportunity to have a major impact on your campaign depending on what your discovery is. Speak with your DM about your discovery so they can help you figure out something that will work within the adventure they plan on running and gives them a chance to help you sculpt something fun that can be directly related to the world you will be playing in. This can make your character feel like it is an important part of the world and story. You can get as involved with it as you and your DM would like, the main thing is to have fun!
Customizing Your Hermit
If you decide that your character will be a hermit by choosing this background, you gain proficiency in two skills, Medicine and Religion. You also gain proficiency with the Herbalism Kit and one language of your choice. Though they may come in handy for some characters, not every hermit is going to be the religious type so plenty of players will want to switch out this proficiency, so don’t be afraid to do it. They may not all be the healing type either, so you could swap out your Medicine proficiency for something like Stealth if you want to be sneaky instead, or change your Herbalism Kit for a Poisoner’s Kit if you want to be someone that uses natural poisons. Talk with your DM to make sure you get the right tools and skills to make your hermit feel the way you want it to.
On top of your proficiencies, the Hermit background also offers you a small list of starting equipment. This list includes goods like a scroll case filled with notes from your studies or prayers, a winter blanket, a set of common clothes, an herbalism kit, and 5 GP. You can have some fun with the scroll case full of notes that are provided here. These notes could contain details from your Discovery background feature or could be your attempts at trying to solve its questions. The herbalism kit is also a great tool to have at your disposal. Though it is a lengthy process to complete, an herbalism kit can be used to craft potions of healing as long as you have the proper herbs for it. And who knows, if you have an adventurous DM they may let you concoct other things with it. Work with your DM to determine what you can do with your herbalism kit, or if you think your hermit would be better with a different Artisan’s Tool, to figure out what would work best.
Suggested Lives of Seclusion
There is a list of reasons for your life of seclusion provided in the PHB and most of them can work for any class. Below I provide a reason for a life of seclusion tailored to each of the available classes and can easily tie into the Discovery background feature.
I needed absolute peace to focus on my work, my invention will change the world as we know it.
Out in the wildlands, you must kill or be killed and in my time surviving I have battled beasts civilized folk doesn’t even know exist.
I lived among a secluded tribe of wood elves to study their art and music and discovered beauty I never knew existed.
At the behest of my deity I sought out an ancient ritual site, what awaited me there when I arrived was not what I expected.
People can be so cruel to nature so I chose to live among the animals of the land to protect them and their homes.
I killed a member of the town guard, but no one believed it was self-defense so I had to lay low until I could figure out how to clear my name.
I made a pilgrimage to a secluded monastery where I studied a rare, and nearly forgotten tradition of martial arts.
I was raised in a sheltered community centered around a temple to my deity where I learned the values of the tenets I honor.
I spent years living among different types of terrain to study how to traverse them and track through them.
I come from a tribe who were forced to become stealthier than their predators to survive.
Unsure where my arcane powers came from, I sequestered myself away to study them but also to protect myself and others.
Strange voices led me to a secluded hovel and had me search for something, but I don’t remember a lot of my time there.
After finding an ancient tome I dedicated all my time to uncovering its lost secrets.
- Hermits are characters that have lived a life of seclusion and contemplation far removed from the norms of a civilized society.
- Each hermit has its reasons for living a life of seclusion, get weird with it!
- The Discovery feature allows your hermit character access to a great discovery that can have a big impact on your adventure.
- Be sure to work with your dungeon master to swap out any of the proficiencies or tools provided by this background to make a hermit that you’ll enjoy playing.
If you would like the full details of this background for use in your games, you can find it in the Player’s Handbook.