Heirs to Power – Primordial Shards

Happy Friday, everyone! Today, I’m introducing a new character background, the Primordial Shard, which is a living descendant of a Primordial or someone who has been profoundly affected by one.

One thing which makes the Primordial Shard character background unique is that, unlike most backgrounds, it grants additional combat ability to a character. When designing the Primordial Shard concept for my campaign setting, I flip-flopped for some time about whether to make it a Sorcerous Origin or a Feat. On the one hand, Sorcerous Origins offer the most diverse way to represent someone born with Primordial blood, but their level progression has to continue to add features as characters level up which didn’t feel to me like it mechanically represented the story details of being a Primordial Shard. Feats typically add a single feature based on a character attribute which scales by level progression already, which felt closer to the design goals of the Primordial Shard. However, taking a feat, especially at higher levels, seems thematically more to me like the result of specific training or behaviors. (Oh yeah, I was always a descendant of a world-destroying Elemental Immortal!)

These considerations were what eventually made me decide to make the Primordial Shard a character background. The fact that this background has utility in a combat sense may leave a Storyteller disinclined to allow you to use it, but I strongly feel that the story implications of being a descendant of a Primordial can outweigh these concerns.

Primordial Shard

You are a living nexus of raw energy. Though the true Primordials of old are long gone, sometimes mortals manage to manifest similar powers, either claiming a lineage to a Primordial or being born in an area influenced by one. Though the ancient beings whose power you’ve inherited were unquestionably a force of pure destruction, it is ultimately up to you to decide what you do with this power. Do you use it sparingly, fearing the link it may create between you and a Primordial, or do you use it liberally, using every advantage you can get in a dangerous world?

Work with your Storyteller to select a patron Primordial, using Appendix A, and consider the origins of your existence as a Shard – do you hail from the resting place of a small piece of the original Primordial, or is it your distant ancestor? When did you discover your powers, or did a parent tell you about them when you came of age?

Skill Proficiencies: Arcana, History

Language: Primordial

Equipment: A set of simple clothes, a trinket representing your patron Primordial in some way, and a small bag containing 5 GP.

Feature: Primordial Energy

You can cast a cantrip associated with your patron Primordial. When you reach 3rd level, you can cast the associated 1st-level spell once per day. When you reach 5th level, you can also cast the associated 2nd level spell once per day. Constitution is your spellcasting ability for these spells. If applicable, spell attacks made using these spells use a bonus equal to your Proficiency Bonus + your Constitution Modifier. Saves required by these spells have a DC equal to 8 + your Proficiency Bonus + your Constitution Modifier.

Feature: Astral Anathema

When you cast a spell as an Action in the Astral Plane, you cannot take Reactions until the end of your next turn. If you can cast spells, when you finish a Long Rest in the Elemental Chaos, gain an additional spell slot of the highest level you can cast. When you use this extra Spell Slot, you are Stunned until the end of your next turn.

Suggested Characteristics

Primordial Shards are an unchecked force in the world – few people know of their potential, but those who do may consider them an affront to the gods, and do anything to bring an end to their kind. The erratic nature of a Primordial may have rubbed off on a Shard as well – they may be quick to anger or their confidence may easily be shaken. Some Shards treat non-Shards with disdain, feeling that their powers set them above other members of their race.

D8 Personality Traits

1 I find myself trying to follow my patron Primordial’s example.
2 My ancestry does not define who I am, and I try to make that clear to everyone I meet.
3 My powers are resources I try to use sparingly.
4 I firmly believe that I have an extraordinary destiny because of my abilities.
5 I turn to religion to keep my chaotic nature in check.
6 I try to keep others from knowing of my Primordial powers if at all possible.
7 I am quick to make decisions with little regard for their long-term consequences.
8 I am slow to make decisions because I must first weigh their consequences.

D6 Ideal

1 Legacy. My powers come from a long line of ancestors, and I must honor them. (Lawful)
2 Atonement. My patron Primordial was a danger to the world, but I can help to protect it. (Good)
3 Freedom. Others shouldn’t control Those with power. (Chaotic)
4 Change. The world is a complicated place, so striving for consistency is irrational. (Chaotic)
5 Love. Those who care for you despite your origins are the people you should stand beside. (Good)
6 Creativity. It is important to make art which others can experience in some form. (Chaotic)

D6 Bond

1 I was visited by a mystic tutor who offered to teach me to harness my powers.
2 My family and I live a secluded life to avoid discovery.
3 I am revered as a local hero at my home.
4 A religious fanatic hunts me to try and rid the world of my bloodline.
5 My parents hid my Primordial connection from me until I came of age.
6 I accidentally destroyed my home when I first discovered my Primordial powers.

D6 Flaw

1 People who stand in the way of a Primordial Shard are to be cast aside.
2 Using my powers leaves me tired and short-tempered.
3 I fear that my patron’s power will eventually overtake me.
4 I don’t trust religious organizations because of their stance regarding my ancestry.
5 I have constant night terrors about my patron Primordial.
6 I often look for omens and signs where there are none.

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