Backgrounds - The Addict
Before we get started, I feel the need to point out that this background is a little more depressing and serious than my others. This series of articles usually have some elements of humor to it and this one is a bit different. I take the issue of addiction very seriously since the subject matter is one that hits very close to home for me. I have never put on any sort of public forum (ie. Facebook, Instagram, etc) that I am an addict, but after 5 years in recovery, working with a number of other addicts throughout that time, and finding my way back to D&D, I feel comfortable enough to write and share this.
People can play the addict however they see fit, but as the author, I strongly recommend against romanticizing this background. There are a couple of ways to play the character with this background that I would recommend. One is a tragic hero. Just because you have an addiction problem doesn’t inherently mean you are a bad person, but unless you deal with your issues, you will eventually succumb to the disease. Another is the redemption figure. You struggle to overcome your addiction and try to do so throughout the campaign, possibly kicking your habit in the process. Finally, there is the path of insanity. You may not die from the disease, but the farther down the rabbit hole you go, the more you lose your grip with reality.
The addict background is unique in that it lets you play two backgrounds at once. You can come from a long line of nobility (noble), be a career safecracker (criminal), or a renown thespian (actor) traveling the lands. You can be anyone you want, but your actual background is that of an addict. You do what you do partly because you are good at it and partly to make sure you always have the coin to score your next fix. Your talents and career are what you do - an addict is who you are.
Being an addict does not mean you spend your time in a flophouse, drugged out of your mind, stealing from the poor. You are a functioning part of society, and your illness many times goes unnoticed by people. Whether you weave baskets or fight wyverns, you do what you do because you have the skill and talent to do it. You must be good at whatever it is because you need the money you earn to always have your next fix available to you. When you’re chasing the dragon (not a literal dragon), you need to score quick, and that takes coin.
For those who want to skip to the actual description:
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Feature: Ability to Survive
Drugs take money, but that doesn’t automatically mean you are a petty criminal. As a functioning member of society, you can hold down a job. Some work in one place for your entire career to this point, while others bounce around from job to job. You have gained a certain amount of skill in a profession of choice, and gain the benefits of that profession, just as you might if it was your actual background. As always, these are just a couple of examples to work from. Discuss with your DM any profession you think would be interesting.
Negative Feature: Addiction
As everyone knows, there are some pretty serious consequences to being addicted to any substance. For many, maintenance is the key, and going without your substance of choice for an extended period of time will have negative effects on your health. Upon each long rest, roll for an addiction saving throw, Constitution vs DC 12 if you do not have any of your drug of choice in your inventory. Success removes 1 DC from the next addiction save, failure results in +1 exhaustion.
My life is one of constant pain - Many people use to escape mental or physical pain.
I can be quite charming when I want to be - Feeling good and sharing the love.
I am a ‘black and white' person. Every situation is all-or-nothing - It’s part of the OCD that is an aspect of an addict’s personality.
You can pay me in coin or product - Either works since the coin will go towards the product.
It's when I am hurting that my emotions get the best of me - Laugh, cry, anger…it’s your choice of how to play it out.
I'm not the one with the problem, you are - Denial.
If I was a better person, I wouldn't be this way - Shame.
I refuse to conform to societies and pride themselves on being different than others - Getting high every day is taking this belief to an extreme.
Narcissist - Me Me Me.
Hopeful - You’d be surprised how many people with addiction have a positive outlook.
Live and Let Live - Don’t bother me, and I won’t bother you.
Repentant - Guilt can lead to good works
Hedonistic - The “fuck off” ideal.
Callousness - Sometimes you become numb to the world around you.
My only relationship is with my drug of choice - It’s nearly impossible to form real friendships with people when you’re in the throes of addiction.
I work only with good people so I can learn how to be a better person - If you don’t know what the right thing to do is, sometimes it helps to look to others for guidance.
I forget the person I used to be. I want to find that person again - Everyone loses themselves sometimes. It takes work to find your way back.
My dealer is who matters to me - Just remember your dealer isn’t your friend.
I failed someone I cared for, and need to make it right - Once again, guilt.
My family has shunned me. I am trying to earn my way back into their good graces - Families struggle just as much as the addict. Work on yourself first and give them time.
Ok, so it’s pretty obvious that being an addict is a flaw in and of itself. This drills down a little deeper and tries to get to the root cause.
I am the most selfish person in the world - This is the core flaw of an addict. You have to learn to love yourself before anything else.
I will lie, cheat, and steal to support my habit - When the dragon calls, you will do anything to stop the pain.
I enjoy my freedom which makes me unreliable - The problem is you equate freedom with doing drugs.
I have an old injury which is why I need my 'medicine' - It starts this way for many, and then the addiction creeps up on you
Loss of sibling haunts me to this day - Guilt. See a theme here?
I will manipulate any person or situation to get what I want - Addicts are master manipulators. They avoid people that can see right through them.
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