Backgrounds for the Doomed – Dark Sci-Fi backgrounds for 5E

Across the wastelands and into the mega-cities, all sorts of people dwell in truly dark places.  Many fall to corruption, whether from inside of or outside of its “protective” walls.  Many adventurous folk are not merely content with a mediocre life as a drone or even the life of a delivery courier.  While the latter explores the world outside, they are still tethered to a track, lest they quickly find themselves in over their head.  The rest who make their way across the strange and bleak world?  Thrill seekers, mercenaries, civilians on a vital but deadly mission, absolute maniacs!  But, haven’t adventurers always been this way?

Author’s Note: Yes, I know my RPG Blog Carnival is done.  But, I’m still quite inspired!  With that, here’s a couple of new backgrounds and how to incorporate them into a more average fantasy setting… and not so average settings.  Dark Sun, Ravenloft and other darker worlds might make for good fits.



Scrapping Scavenger Post-Apocalyptic Scavenger by Nemodemos

Alone in the barren reaches beyond civilization, you survive off of the remnants of the past; fallen civilizations, destroyed caravans and the like.  Perhaps you’ve found a way to make a living, perhaps you’re just enamored by your collection of odd and old wares.

Skill Proficiencies: Perception, Survival

Tool Proficiency: Artisan’s Tools (Tinker’s Tools)

Languages: One of your Choice

Equipment: Worthless junk and scrap, a basic repair kit, Tinker’s Tools, ragged clothing and 5 GP.

Scrap Specialty

Your reasons for diving into old treasure troves, ruins and even graves are your own… whether noble, insidious or just plain selfish.  Some prefer to look for certain kinds of items when scavenging.  Below are a couple of examples.

D4 Scrap Specialty

  1. I like finding all sorts of ancient machinery and tools, it can help us build upon the present.
  2. Surviving and in tact art tends to be my fancy, especially priceless relics.
  3. Supplies to benefit survival are a must
  4. Incredible artifacts must be unearthed, to learn their power.

Feature: Tinker Trash

Your time in expansive stretches of wreckage and wastelands has earned you a slight reputation.  Stories might tell of a wanderer capable of fixing almost anything, a mad hermit who harvests what’s left of the past or perhaps even a desperate merchant looking to profit off of decrepit ruins.  Whether or not these stories are true, you’ve amassed a group of people that are more than familiar to you.  They’re likely to do trade with you, offer services or swap tales of discoveries and creations.  In fact, some could be convinced to lend aid to your wasteland delving expeditions.  Depending on your motivation and ability to prove yourself; tomb robbers, tinkerers, archaeologists, explorers, technologists and archivists are all potential allies.

Suggested Characteristics

Most Scrapping Scavengers are through and through survivalists.  Many aren’t too keen on joining a group, but once common ground is established, prove to be quite helpful in locating resources and venturing into dangerous turf.

Other Characteristics.

Personality Traits.

  1. Despite being mostly alone, I’m still quite sociable and have a knack for gabbing.
  2. Knowledge is my top priority.  I fancy myself more so a researcher than a glorified tomb robber.
  3. The stress of solitude in an unforgiving waste is taxing on the sanity.  I’m somehow with it… mostly.
  4. As far as I’m concerned, I’d prefer to keep most of my findings secret.  Someone’s always watching!
  5. I love sharing my theories about the places I’ve visited, even if they need a bit of fine tuning.
  6. I interact better with my collection of stuff than I do with actual people.
  7. I’ve survived from so many terrible accidents and encounters, not too much really gets to me anymore.
  8. If someone doesn’t understand what obscure thing I’m talking about, they’re in for a long history lecture.


  1. Survival.  The places I dwell are harsh and unforgiving.  If one isn’t smart, they’ll quickly die. (Any)
  2. Freedom.  Society bends you to its will.  Plus, everything is created in quantity and supposedly flawless.  I make my own creations and my own decisions.  (Chaotic)
  3. Self-Control.  The world around me is out of control, I find no solace in it.  The leftovers of the world aren’t the problem, those who seek to cause those problems are.  I better myself through my findings and seek inner peace as I endure. (Lawful)
  4. Business.  Many people will pay a good price to obtain something from ancient ruins, without having to do all the work.  That’s where I come in. (Neutral)
  5. Restoration.  Information and innovation should never be lost to the sands of time.  I aim to make sure we can advance by learning from the past. (Good)
  6. Manipulation.  Those who control the past can control the future!  With a fine enough story or a powerful enough find, the will of the people is mine. (Evil)


  1. I like trying to create new contraptions, creations and constructs from what remains of old ones, kind of like recycling.
  2. I’ve made a somewhat steady living off of repairing and selling olden artifacts.
  3. My obsession with discovery leads me to all sorts of interesting places and things, even leading me to horde them.
  4. The past can and will be protected.  If no one else will do it, I shall do it.
  5. The old world is dead, I can help to build a new one!
  6. Ya know who understands me?  Other junkers, scrappers and rats of the wasteland!


  1. I’ve been living off the land for so long, I haven’t interacted with too many people.  I’m horribly awkward.
  2. I’ve gained a distaste for civilization, as it’s wasteful and decedent.  I’m quick to vocalize my disdain.
  3. I’ve stopped caring about my appearance.  I tend to look raggedy, grimy and generally displeasing to look at.  My smell is probably worse.
  4. Eons away from comfort and a healthy existence leaves me coming across as tired and often indifferent to the world around me.
  5. Unless someone makes the effort to make me care, I’ll value my finds over the well being of others.
  6. If I see it and I want it, I’ll go out of my way to get it!  Thievery, trickery, murder, who cares?



Mega City Mercenary Eliza Carter - Mercenary,Bounty Hunter by Buashei

You’re a hired hand from the dirty streets.  Your business?  Espionage, sabotage, even outright assassination.  And when you’re not doing that?  Megacorp Private Security pays well too.

Skill Proficiencies: Persuasion, Stealth

Tool Proficiency: Thieves’ Tools

Languages: One of your Choice

Equipment: Identification Papers, Tracking List, Writing Supplies, Extra Ammo Pouches/Quiver, Disguise Garb, 3 GP

Feature: Hired Hand

As your skills grow, your services might be sought out by a mixture of trusted and suspicious sources.  These jobs range from guarding a caravan to taking out a nefarious criminal.  In some cases, you might be tasked with truly nefarious tasks.  Should you get into trouble, a particularly pleased client might be willing to aid you.

Suggested Characteristics

Many tend to be shrewd negotiators, as well as crafty business folk.  On top of that, they’re unlikely to look into investigation or great expeditions without some monetary pay or compensation.

Other Characteristics.

Personality Traits.

  1. Despite the lone-wolf facade, I am always happy to work with good people.
  2. I always want to research whatever I can on my target or destination.  A clueless merc is a dead merc.
  3. I can’t stay in one place for too long, I yearn to go to places and just do things.  Without a job to keep me active I don’t know what I’d do.
  4. I’m protective of those around me, and this line of work helps to ensure that much needed safety.
  5. I seem really scary and gruff at first, but my personality is much more reserved and gentle than people give me credit for.
  6. I’ve learned to repress emotions at the right times, makes doing morally ambiguous decisions a little easier.
  7. I don’t turn down a fight, especially from an enemy of mine.
  8. When you’re not taking care of life expenses, money is there for a good time!  Use it and live, for you may very well die at any moment!


  1. Vigilante Justice.  Cops?  Private Security?  They only help line the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats and greedy fat cats.  I’m in this to take matters into my own hands. (Chaotic)
  2. Vengeance.  Now well armed and full of contacts, I’ll get back at those who tormented in me in the past.  (Evil)
  3. Terror.  There’s plenty of folks I’m eager to push around, torture… just plain bring hell to. (Evil)
  4. Order.  Sometimes, law enforcement needs an extra hand.  That’s where I come in. (Lawful)
  5. Stuck.  I’ve gotten sucked into this awful career choice and at this point, it’s hard to get out.  I’m a slave to merc work, I want out. (Any)
  6. Duping the Fools.  Factions are full of crap, but full of cash.  For as long as I can, I want to play powerful groups for saps, pitting them against each other…  Less time for them to push around us normal folk. (Chaotic)
  7. Heroism.  I only wish to use my talents to help others.  I don’t care about politics or highest bidders.  While I could always use something to keep me going on my travels, I don’t need a handful of cash. (Good)
  8. Business.  Everyone has a problem to solve and will pay a decent price!  Whatever they want, I’m more than able to lend a hand.  Of course, only an idiot works for free.  (Neutral)


  1. I’ve suffered a great loss from one of my targets.  Alive, dead, their actions haunt me regardless.  I’m here to make sure that others don’t suffer like that.
  2. It keeps me from a life of poverty, and after a harsh life, I ain’t going back.
  3. I was in the right place at the right time; at least I’ve made a fair share of friends, as unsavory at they might seem.
  4. If it means my friends and family back at home get the resources they’ll need, I’ll take dirty or bloody money.
  5. I thwarted a mercenary who tried to kill me.  Their last wish was that I take their place.
  6. One day I got sick of all of the filth and decay throughout the sprawling metropolis.  It’s time to change that.


  1. More money?  Less scruples!
  2. Before I go to sleep, I usually find myself haunted by the lives I’ve ruined.
  3. I take too much pride in looking intimidating.  Many average people tend to back away or distrust me as a result.
  4. If someone’s willing to pay higher, my old contract and my loyalties mysteriously become null and void.
  5. I’ve foiled my own jobs before by letting my emotions or morals get the best of me.
  6. I have a nasty habit of mocking my targets and/or enemies, usually making them want to kill me more.



Wasteland Raider (Variant Criminal) tedbunny: “ “The Man From Mars: Forest Ray Colston” - The bandit was dubbed the “Man From Mars” because of the bizarre attire he wore while terrorizing supermarkets in the western San Gabriel (CA) Valley in 1951 ”

The world around you is rubble and ruin.  To survive, you must act as the pirates of old.  Some of those like you trade, while others skip capital for outright pillaging. You’re no mere pirate!  You are wandering plague, a war brigade, a wave of death.

Skills Proficiencies: Intimidate, Survival

Tool Proficiencies: Choose One: Artisan Tools, Smith’s Tools, Leatherworker’s Tools

Languages: Any one common language

Equipment: Macabre trophy, loot sack, intimidating gear accessories/emblems, a crowbar, 10 GP in a pouch

Feature: Horde of Crazies

As a rule of thumb, raiders aren’t your ordinary criminals.  These bandits live off the thrill of the kill, marauding the wastes in search of settlements and cities to pillage. As long as you have contact with your raider allies, you can use them to cause chaos in an area near you.  This can mean helping to get everyone out of a situation, providing aid in pillaging and laying waste to all in their way and generally using violence to get what they want… or what you want, should you prove yourself.  Take heed, denying these allies carnage can turn them against you!  Barring that, you know a thing or two about spreading terror to get what you want!

Suggested Traits

You’re a grain smarter than the rest.  That said, you enjoy simple pleasures…  few carnal, mostly brutal.  You’ve found ways to channel your aggression into ways that can benefit others.

Other Characteristics


  1. There’s a certain thrill to daring and devilish acts such as mine.  I’m not just a bandit, but an artist!
  2. My priority is finding valuables over causing damage.  Besides, I can use illicit trade to sell them back!
  3. I embrace my terrifying persona, perhaps to downright hammy levels.
  4. Solving conflicts with words is for the weak, I solve with brute force.
  5. I let the big boss do the big talking and give out the directions.  I’m just hear to help take supplies and kill who needs to be killed.
  6. I’m not crazy, my perspective is too intense for you to understand.
  7. My eternal spirit will never be crushed.  See me and know my name!
  8. While I’m a living engine of destruction, I show my friends absolute loyalty and compassion.


  1. Riches.  I took up this lifestyle to accumulate wealth like no one can imagine.  If they can’t protect their wares, they don’t deserve them! (Chaotic, Evil)
  2. Bloodshed.  I will kill anyone, anywhere. Children, animals, old people, doesn’t matter. I just love killing. (VERY Evil)
  3. Conquest.  My people shall take the lands and sculpt it in our image.  If you stand in our way, it’s makes it easier to tear you down. (Evil, Lawful)
  4. Family.  Despite their flaws, I have a familial bond that cannot be broken.  I work with and protect them at all costs. (Neutral)
  5. Freedom.  Riding through wide open space, across the endless steppes, opposing all who oppose you.  This is a life worth living! (Chaotic)
  6. Opposition.  While we maraud, it is in the name of hampering uncaring forces of law and order.  Tear them down to free those shackled in servitude! (Chaotic, Good)


  1. For us, war is sacred.  The other war bands take part in lengthy and risky crusades.
  2. We have little and live off of scraps.  We are outcasts, this is our means of survival.
  3. Psychotic ex-prisoners sometimes band together to form a force of sheer terror.
  4. We want to prove that intelligent life can endure in barren and wretched places, if not outright thrive.  It’s a work in progress.
  5. If it pleases our mad warlord, it pleases us!
  6. We are small now, but one day, we will rule not just the wastes… but all of civilization.  It will be glorious, a kingdom above all others!


  1. I rarely bathe, the smell of a coat of blood is too relaxing… especially if it’s fresh.
  2. My mind is so addled by abusive substances, it’s surprising there’s much of anything that works!  Also, I think I need more…
  3. I’m a blatantly obvious ignorant, hot-headed savage.  Please don’t expect too much from me.



Secret Police (based off of The Marshal)

Image result for "secret police" night vale

In order to maintain law in a world turned upside down, one must operate in the shadows and report anything.  Forces are assembled in secret and shadow tactics are used to suppress dissenters and take down criminals.  And sometimes, it’s up to you to bring the culprit into the dark depths!

Skill Proficiencies: Deception, Investigation

Tools: Use Soldier as basis

Equipment: Swap out poster references for manacles and key

Feature: Law from the Shadows

You can easily get in contact with subordinates while undercover.  In fact, they’re likely hiding close by!  When you get a chance to break away, you can easily locate an ally to relay any important information you need over.  On top of that, you can easily maintain the facade that you’re not part of any task force or authority… just like all of your other allies.

Suggested Traits

You are the extended arm of the law.  Of course, the average person sees you as some kind of all seeing boogeyman.  Of course, they never was a problem for you.  As long as you’re marching around, you’re on duty.  Your service belongs to your superior first and others second… or third.

Other Traits.

As the Marshal, but mix in elements of secrecy and conspiracy.


IMAGE CREDIT: Blade Runner City Shot – Warner; Post-Apocalyptic Scavenger – Nemodemos; The Man from Mars – San Gabriel Police Department Archives; Night Vale Sheriff’s Secret Police – Fly-Dog

Author: Doctor Necrotic

Hobbyist, amateur writer/screenwriter, wannabe-philosopher, music fan, history lover, cinemaphile, gamer, reviewer, and more. I'm a 30 year old hodgepodge of jobs and interests. My current projects on WordPress creating a wide variety of content for various tabletop roleplaying games, even showcasing published content here as well. When I have the time, I also create editorials and reviews spanning various bits of popular culture. I hope you take a moment to check my content out and maybe tell me what you think.

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