Last Updated on January 22, 2023
There are a crazy amount of backgrounds to choose from in D&D 5e. You can be a knight or a hermit, a soldier or a sailor. There are all sorts of ways to build up the most dramatic character you can think of.
Then again, there’s also the guild artisan. Be they a master alchemist or a skilled swordsmith, making your character a skilled artisan of the guild allows them to be a real person.
Forget all that drama and hubbub the other backgrounds are rife with. Choose your profession, get ready to work with your hands, and make a character that is just as at home in the busy streets of Waterdeep as they are in the deep bowels of the Underdark.
Guild Artisan Background
Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Persuasion
Tool Proficiencies: One type of artisan’s tools
Languages: One of your choice
Equipment: A set of artisan’s tools (one of your choice), a letter of introduction from your guild, a set of traveler’s clothes, and a belt pouch containing 15 gp
Feature: Guild Business: There are many different types of artisans out there. Which trade is yours?
Characteristics: The PHB presents us with a variety of options for personality traits, ideals, flaws, and bonds that we can use to roleplay our character. Choose some of the options presented or roll on the tables below.
Feature: Guild Membership: Being a part of a guild means lodging, food, connections, and even some legal support, should that be necessary. Just pay your dues to stay in the guild’s graces and you’re in for a good time.
What is a Guild Artisan?
Guild artisans are masters of their trade belonging to a group of fellow craftsmen who support each other. Any joe schmo with a hammer can be a smith, but a smith with the knowledge and influence of an entire guild on their side will know power not unlike that of a noble.
As an apprentice, you trained under a master of your craft until you yourself became a master with full access to the resources and knowledge of the guild. I’ll be saying guild a lot, so why don’t we clear up what that means.
What is a Guild in 5e?
A guild is a group of artisans that band together to support each other. Typically, these are found in cities large enough to support multiple artisans, but a guild can also be spread across a wide series of villages.
Guilds can represent a single craft, such as the cobbler’s guild or glassblower’s guild. They can also have representatives from all of the many trades, allowing different professions to work together and create new possibilities.
Your DM may have guilds already prepared for your world, or it may be something you need to discuss together to understand just how they work.
Perhaps one of the most important parts of being a guild artisan is the art you’ve honed. There are many professions to choose from, which you can see in the table below. Feel free to choose your own or roll and allow the fates to decide.
|1||Alchemists and apothecaries||The mixing of chemicals or herbs to make potions, poisons, tinctures, and teas.|
|2||Armorers, locksmiths, and finesmiths||Working with metals to create armor, weapons, locks, and jewelry, among other things.|
|3||Brewers, distillers, and vintners||Beer, liquor, and wine makers. Mead all around!|
|4||Calligraphers, scribes, and scriveners||Artisans of the written word.|
|5||Carpenters, roofers, and plasterers||The building arts. Houses, churches, you name it, we build it.|
|6||Cartographers, surveyors, and chart-makers||Maps, maps, and maps.|
|7||Cobblers and shoemakers||Technically, shoemakers and shoe repairmen. But “shoemakers” does the trick.|
|8||Cooks and bakers||Ahh, food.|
|9||Glassblowers and glaziers||Glass and clay are the mediums of these craftsmen. If you need anything from a teacup to a window you go to them.|
|10||Jewelers and gemcutters||A whole category of finesmiths.|
|11||Leatherworkers, skinners, and tanners||Clothing and more.|
|12||Masons and stonecutters||Rather than carpenters who build from wood, masons and stonecutters build edifices of stone.|
|13||Painters, limners, and sign-makers||Painters of all shapes and sizes.|
|14||Potters and tile-makers||Pots and tiles. This feels too obvious.|
|15||Shipwrights and sailmakers||Ship builders. Note: This is not smart for a landlocked village with no bodies of water nearby.|
|16||Smiths and metal-forgers||Metal workers, particularly those who create weapons, but a smith would likely be trained in the makings of many metal objects.|
|17||Tinkers, pewterers, and casters||Whitesmiths, or smiths who work with the casting of tin to make more delicate metal structures.|
|18||Wagon-makers and wheelwrights||Wagons and wheels. Nailed it.|
|19||Weavers and dyers||Clothes for commoners and nobility alike all come from these nimble hands.|
|20||Woodcarvers, coopers, and bowyers||Coopers and bowyers are just types of woodcarvers that specifically deal with barrels and bows, respectively.|
That is an extensive list offered up by the PHB, so if you manage to think of an important old-timey profession not listed here in some way, shape, or form, congratulations. Feel free to use it and make your own guild.
One of the coolest parts of being an artisan is that your character can actually make the things that they have years of experience making.
So long as they have access to materials and a workstation, along with the time to work, they can make whatever items fit their guild and either sell them or utilize them themselves.
Some professions are less obviously useful, but even if you’re not forging swords and armor for your party, there’s still use for maps and jewelry in the right situations.
As a guild artisan, you have the ability to really contribute to not only your party, but the growing world around you. You also have two features that are genuinely useful.
This isn’t just a far traveler who’s most interesting characteristic is a foreign accent. You add substance to the campaign.
Guild Artisan Characteristics
Being part of a guild, and training in your craft from a young age, is bound to shape who you are as a person. You might be an agile negotiator or a soothsayer, you might be a gruff smith or a delicate craftsman. There is no “right way” to play an artisan, but there are certainly some suggestions.
Below you’ll find tables with personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws. Respectively, these are the qualities that make your character unique, their guiding principles in life, their attachment to the world around them, and the thing that keeps them from being perfect.
You can feel free to use any of these options, mix them up, or create your own qualities that fit the character you want to play.
Either way, these will shape how you roleplay your character.
|1||I believe that anything worth doing is worth doing right. I can’t help it – I’m a perfectionist.|
|2||I’m a snob who looks down on those who can’t appreciate fine art.|
|3||I always want to know how things work and what makes people tick.|
|4||I’m full of witty aphorisms and have a proverb for every occasion.|
|5||I’m rude to people who lack my commitment to hard work and fair play.|
|6||I like to talk at length about my profession.|
|7||I don’t part with my money easily and will haggle tirelessly to get the best deal possible.|
|8||I’m well known for my work, and I want to make sure everyone appreciates it. I’m always taken aback when people haven’t heard of me.|
|1||Community. It is the duty of all civilized people to strengthen the bonds of community and the security of civilization. (Lawful)|
|2||Generosity. My talents were given to me so that I could use them to benefit the world. (Good)|
|3||Freedom. Everyone should be free to pursue his or her own livelihood. (Chaotic)|
|4||Greed. I’m only in it for the money. (Evil)|
|5||People. I’m committed to the people I care about, not to ideals. (Neutral)|
|6||Aspiration. I work hard to be the best there is at my craft.|
|1||The workshop where I learned my trade is the most important place in the world to me.|
|2||I created a great work for someone, and then found them unworthy to receive it. I’m still looking for someone worthy.|
|3||I owe my guild a great debt for forging me into the person I am today.|
|4||I pursue wealth to secure someone’s love.|
|5||One day I will return to my guild and prove that I am the greatest artisan of them all.|
|6||I will get revenge on the evil forces that destroyed my place of business and ruined my livelihood.|
|1||I’ll do anything to get my hands on something rare or priceless.|
|2||I’m quick to assume that someone is trying to cheat me.|
|3||No one must ever learn that I once stole money from guild coffers.|
|4||I’m never satisfied with what I have – I always want more.|
|5||I would kill to acquire a noble title.|
|6||I’m horribly jealous of anyone who can outshine my handiwork. Everywhere I go, I’m surrounded by rivals.|
Variant Guild Artisan: Guild Merchant
A guild merchant is very similar to an artisan, except they belong to a merchant’s guild. This could be anything from shopkeeps to traders who look out for each other in the same way a group of artisans do. You could be a traveling merchant or someone that ships merchandise across the seas.
There’s a lot of wiggle room with this variant background. Essentially, if you can sell it, that can be your “merchant trade.” If you can picture goods being transported or sold in a certain way, guess what, that’s how you sell / transport them. It’s as simple and complex as that.
The only real mechanical difference is that merchants might have proficiency in navigator’s tools or an additional language. Also, they likely start out with a cart and mule instead of a type of artisan’s tools.
Nice DMs might even let you start off with a boat, or at very least with heavy ties to a boat.
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As a kid, I was often told to get my head out of the clouds and to stop living in a fantasy world. That never really jived with me, so I decided to make a living out of games, stories, and all sorts of fantastical works. Now, as an adult, I aspire to remind people that sometimes a little bit of fantasy is all you need when life gets to be too much.