Hermit Background 5e: How to Build your Character As A Mysterious Recluse

© Wizards of the Coast by Svetlin Velinov

A seemingly harmless old man removes his hood, revealing the face of a warrior, and the eyes of someone who is done hiding from the world. The hermit archetype is pretty common, even if you haven’t realized it. 

In D&D 5e, the hermit background is an interesting option suggested for three of the 13 subclasses as the optimal choice.

In this article, we’ll discuss why that is and how you can play a hermit the next time you sit down to roll some dice.

Hermit Background

Skill Proficiencies: Medicine, Religion

Tool Proficiencies: Herbalism Kit

Languages: One of your choice

Equipment: A scroll case stuffed full of notes from your studies or prayers, a winter blanket, a set of common clothes, an herbalism kit, and 5 gp

Life of Seclusion:  There’s a reason why you travel the outlands. The PHB gives us eight options but you’re free to choose what best fits your character instead of rolling a d8 on the table below.

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: Discovery: In your time away from society you came across an incredible discovery. You can work with your DM to decide what this is and how it relates to your campaign.

What is a Hermit?

Hermits are a pretty straightforward background. They’re a person who has lived in some level of seclusion. This doesn’t always mean alone, it could be in some sort of sheltered monastery like Kamar Taj or a small secluded Shangri-La type village. Doctor Strange can feel very much like a hermit in the middle of his movie.

Then there are hermits who just live alone. My favorite example is Yoda, disguising himself as an eccentric loner to hide the fact that he was once a great warrior.

Then again, Star Wars is chock full of hermit characters like Ben Kenobi, (old) Luke Skywalker, Fegred Ewd, Darth Maul, and Taron Malicos, just to name a few.

When creating your hermit, a big question to ask is why you decided to live a life of seclusion. As opposed to the outlander, who’s origins focus more on their lifestyle during their time in the wilderness, hermits are focused on their motivations

d8Life of Seclusion
1Searching for spiritual enlightenment.
2I was partaking of communal living in accordance with the dictates of a religious order.
3I was exiled for a crime I didn’t commit.
4I retreated from society after a life-altering event.
5I needed a quiet place to work on my art, literature, music, or manifesto.
6I needed to commune with nature, far from civilization.
7I was the caretaker of an ancient ruin or relic.
8I was a pilgrim in search of a person, place, or relic of spiritual significance.

These are the options presented to you in the PHB, but you are more than free to think of your own reasons for leaving society behind. “I sat in waiting for the coming of the chosen one,” is one of the few common tropes that isn’t represented in those eight. 

A lot of these are really open ended, giving you so much room to discover your character’s backstory. Taking option 7 as an example lets ask a few questions. What was the relic or ruin you were the caretaker for? Who put you up to the task?

In The Fifth Element, the Mondoshawans retreated into the depths of space to protect the ultimate weapon which would bring an end to the great evil. Is your hermit something like this? Or are they perhaps protecting an ancient burial site from disturbal? 

Most of all, the big question to ask is: Why did you leave? Something must have happened to remove you from your hermetism. Likely some large event triggered a chain of events that required you to return to society with a mission. 

An easy answer to this question is through your discovery feature. Unlike most background features that secure food, money, or housing, this is something that can really tie into the story your DM is creating. It’s incredibly important that you talk to them about this and come up with something together. 

This feature gives you the chance to connect your character to the larger world around them in a way that most other characters don’t get the opportunity to. It’s ironic, the most secluded character may be the most worldly. 

Hermit Characteristics

If you have a 5e character sheet, you’ve probably noticed four sections along the right of the first page. Those spots designed for personality traits, ideals, flaws, and bonds are meant to give you a basis of how to play your character.

This is a huge part of the roleplaying experience that lets you really leave yourself behind and jump into the game of D&D.

For hermits, those characteristics are often related to their time in seclusion. Explore these options to start getting a feel for how your character may behave.

Are they so far gone from society that they have no manners or tact whatsoever? Perhaps they are calm and understanding, having developed a deep connection with nature and the world around them.

These decisions are for you to ponder.

Personality traits are things that make your character unique.

d8Personality Trait
1I’ve been isolated for so long that I rarely speak, preferring gestures and the occasional grunt.
2I am utterly serene, even in the face of disaster.
3The leader of my community had something wise to say on every topic, and I am eager to share that wisdom.
4I feel tremendous empathy for all who suffer.
5I’m oblivious to etiquette and social expectations.
6I connect everything that happens to me to a grand, cosmic plan.
7I often get lost in my own thoughts and contemplation, becoming oblivious to my surroundings.
8I am working on a grand philosophical theory and love sharing my ideas.

Ideals are the principles a character holds in the utmost importance.

d6Ideal
1Greater Good. My gifts are meant to be shared with all, not used for my own benefit. (Good)
2Logic. Emotions must not cloud our sense of what is right and true, or our logical thinking. (Lawful)
3Free Thinking. Inquiry and curiosity are the pillars of progress. (Chaotic)
4Power. Solitude and contemplation are paths toward mystical or magical power. (Evil)
5Live and Let Live. Meddling in the affairs of others only causes trouble. (Neutral)
6Self-Knowledge. If you know yourself, there’s nothing left to know. (Any)

These are the connections a character has that ties it to the world around them. For a lot of characters, this is the drive that keeps them going. These can be particularly interesting for a character that has spent so much time in seclusion.

d6Bond
1Nothing is more important than the other members of my hermitage, order, or association.
2I entered seclusion to hide from the ones who might still be hunting me. I must someday confront them.
3I’m still seeking the enlightenment I pursued in my seclusion, and it still eludes me.
4I entered seclusion because I loved someone I could not have.
5Should my discovery come to light, it could bring ruin to the world.
6My isolation gave me great insight into a great evil that only I can destroy.

Not every character can be perfect. What traits has your hermit gained that make them a bit off putting at times.

d6Flaw
1Now that I’ve returned to the world, I enjoy its delights a little too much.
2I harbor dark, bloodthirsty thoughts that my isolation and meditation failed to quell.
3I am dogmatic in my thoughts and philosophy.
4I let my need to win arguments overshadow friendships and harmony.
5I’d risk too much to uncover a lost bit of knowledge.
6I like keeping secrets and won’t share them with anyone.