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Equipment: A set of artisan’s tools (one of your choice), a shovel, an iron pot, a set of common clothes, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp

I get pretty much everything else, but the shovel seems like a purely random addition. The other backgrounds don't have totally irrelevant equipment (though they may have surprisingly specific items).

My first thought was that the shovel is part of the character's past, but that's what the tools are for. Am I missing something?

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Shovels are useful. You can dig a trench. You can clear ground for a sleeping bag. You can cook on it. –  lisardggY Jul 16 at 15:29
    
@lisardggY I am not disparaging the shovel, it is a wonderful tool, I'm curious why a Folk Hero gets one as part of their standard gear. –  DampeS8N Jul 16 at 15:30
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From my background as a student of mythology, I can think of at least one folktale off the top of my head that involves the hero digging a hole and trapping someone in it :) –  Tack Jul 16 at 16:16
    
@lisardggY You can smack a monster in the head with it. It's nearly as effective as a good pot/pan for that! –  Doc Jul 16 at 19:32
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From my background as a Christian: "and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement." - Deuteronomy 23:13. Maybe the Folk Hero is just pious :) –  MrLemon Jul 17 at 9:10

1 Answer 1

I think it has to do with this bit of background:

You previously pursued a simple profession among the peasantry, perhaps as a farmer, miner, servant, shepherd, woodcutter, or gravedigger.

Several of the defining events indicate that he may have expertise with said shovel as a weapon or as a tool of his trade (farming/mining/grave digging).

Ultimately though, several of the 5 backgrounds have at least something that's a potential roleplay item. The Soldier has a trophy and the Sage has a mysterious letter. These look like solid story hook type ideas that can enhance roleplaying. While the shovel may be more useful, it looks like it exists largely to inform a bit of the story of the PC this background is given to.

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"...indicate that he may have expertise with said shovel as a weapon..." I wonder if I can convince my DM to let me be able to apply my Proficiency Bonus to attacks using the shovel. –  DampeS8N Jul 16 at 15:28
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This said, if your character is not apt towards using a shovel specifically, you can probably get it replaced for a similar item that is more practical for your specific concept for your background if you talk to the DM for it. I could easily see the Proficiency Bonus applying to shovel use in that scenario. –  Aviose Jul 16 at 21:18

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