Dungeons and Dragons 5e offers a variety of player backgrounds. One of the most common choices players may make is the \u201curchin\u201d background, someone who grew up alone and poor. A character\u2019s background choice can say a lot about the character they will play.\n\n\n\nWhat is the urchin background? The urchin background means the character grew up alone and poor, learning street skills and developing knowledge of cities. This character survived despite the odds to become the person they are today.\n\n\n\nWith the basic definition, it is important to break into some specifics with your players about how their background fits them specifically and the events that shaped them the most.\n\n\n\nWhat is an Urchin?\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nAn urchin, specifically in Dungeons and Dragons, is someone who was abandoned early in life and forced to fend and provide for themself. Another key aspect of urchins is their place in a city, as fifth edition rewards players who choose this background with a feature allowing faster travel in cities.\n\n\n\nOften, urchins have led a rough and tumble life, toeing and occasionally brazenly crossing the line into criminal activity. In addition, urchins often need to stay out of the way and in the shadows, resulting in skill increases to sleight of hand and stealth.\n\n\n\nDue to growing up with few friends and even fewer things to share with them, urchins may often distrust people or stow away food and trinkets for themselves.\n\n\n\nWhat Led To Being An Urchin?\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nA character can become an urchin at any point in their life, although often it happens in early childhood. Consult with your players about what led them to become an urchin in the first place. Some questions to consider with your player may be:\n\n\n\nDid their parents abandon them, or were they tragically taken away? Does the character have any memory of their parents? How old were they when they were left on the streets?How does the character view others who did not grow up poor?\n\n\n\nThere are many other questions that can and should come up as more of a player\u2019s backstory is established. The recommended personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws in the Player\u2019s Handbook are a great tool to use to understand more about what an urchin is.\n\n\n\nWhy are They Poor? \n\n\n\nAn important question for all urchins to answer is what led them to poverty. Often, this could be a simple, unavoidable tragedy like their parent\u2019s being killed at a young age. One of the few absolute tenants of the urchin background is experiencing desperate poverty. Answering that question will establish quite a bit about a player\u2019s character.\n\n\n\nIn addition, establishing a character\u2019s views on growing up poor will help ground their goals and beliefs around any people that may in a similar situation in the game. \n\n\n\nThe Path To Poverty\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nAs quickly stated, a variety of events can lead to a character growing up poor and abandoned. Especially with the city background, there is a good chance the character has met or dealt with many others who were in better situations than them. \n\n\n\nCreating quick answers to questions such as why the character was not previously helped, what led to being an urchin in the first place, and how they have plotted their escape from poverty will do wonders for establishing your player\u2019s background.\n\n\n\nSome common paths to poverty for an urchin are:\n\n\n\nThey were tricked at a young age and taken from their parentsTheir parents died, leaving no one to care for themThey ran away from home and struggled for some timeThey were born into an orphanage that was abandoned, having no knowledge of their parents\n\n\n\nOf course, there are many more. Encourage your players to think about the path even before the backstory to create a more well-rounded character.\n\n\n\nHow Did Poverty Shape Them?\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nDue to the extreme conditions of growing up in a city that rarely if ever showed love, most characters with the urchin background are going to have strong feelings on poverty and wealth dichotomy. \n\n\n\nWorking with players to establish their character\u2019s views on wealth can be a great way to set goals and find driving forces for them to act in-game. Questions to consider when choosing the urchin background include:\n\n\n\nDoes the character want to help those around them or only themself?Does the character believe all people are equal, or that the rich need to be taken down?How willing is the character to share what little they may have?\n\n\n\nQuestions like this will help take the quickly establishing backstory and bring it mechanically into the game, making players feel like their choices and character story matter.\n\n\n\nWhat Can an Urchin Do? \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nDue to fending for themselves, urchins in Dungeons and Dragons are given a skillset that revolves heavily around getting things for themselves.\n\n\n\nMechanically, what an urchin can do is very plainly explained in the Player\u2019s Handbook. They gain proficiencies in sleight of hand, stealth, a disguise kit, and thieves\u2019 tools. They also have some equipment that is reminiscent of growing up on city streets, including a small knife, a memento, a small amount of money, and a few other things.\n\n\n\nUrchins also have significant knowledge of cities, being able to travel faster than others in any city. This makes them a great choice in games where large cities are expected to be visited often, or where subterfuge and stealth are going to be common approaches.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nThe urchin backgrounds additions to sleight of hand and thieves\u2019 tools may not be appreciated in a campaign meant to revolve around good characters, however. Stealing, especially from other players, can occasionally grate against other player\u2019s idea of a fun time, so it is important to discuss how acceptable it will be in the game.\n\n\n\nPlayers are encouraged to personalize the equipment and traits of an urchin even more so that they connect with the character. All of the gained proficiencies suggest that urchins stay to the shadows and out of people\u2019s way, often pretending to be what they are not if they get caught. Of course, playing your urchin this was is not a requirement, but could be a great jumping point for establishing a character\u2019s personality.\n\n\n\nUrchins are given a great set of tools to encourage play that suggests the character lived on the streets alone, while not forcing stereotypes or closing off other options. Mechanically, they fit very well with the rogue class but that is not a requirement.\n\n\n\nIdeas to Help Your Players Develop An Urchin Backstory\n\n\n\nThroughout this piece, there have been small tips and tricks for dungeon masters to use to help players develop an urchin backstory. Here are a few more, as well as a small consolidation of tips:\n\n\n\nHelp players develop why their character is an urchinEstablish how the character feels about growing up in povertyWhat goals does the character have, given their urchin backstory?What are some events that happened while they were an urchin that gave them the skills they have now?\n\n\n\nThere are many more questions that can be asked of players to help create a great backstory for urchins. However, be sure to leave room in the backstory for things to change in the future. Backstories exist so that the character being played can be tied to the world and have goals for current play. Spending too much time on the details can detract from that and make a player feel like their character will not have any development.\n\n\n\nAs the DM, you should use these questions to better understand the character and how you can present challenges that play to both that character's strengths and weaknesses. \n\n\n\nBackgrounds are important! They are what have forged your PCs personalities. Make sure you know what your players' backgrounds are and use them as much as possible in your game.\n\n\n\nUntil next time,\n\n\n\nMay your game have advantage, my friends!\n\n\n\nHalfling Hannah\n\n\n\nWant to Support Halfling Hobbies? Check out our Trinket Shop!\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nIf you liked this post, you might like these too!