In a recent discussion I had with another GM we expressed displeasure at a few common archetypes that characters tend towards. More specifically, we both expressed reservations about newly created characters not having any friends. We also expressed that Backgrounds did not solve this problem well enough. Backgrounds provide a framework for how your early life went but not the people you knew and still know. The Soldier knows they have an old military outfit but they don't know the people that are there. The sage has a letter from a colleague but it has no development why that colleague is important.

The core problem exists that in DnD 5e (and all DnD systems) characters are created and they feel like they just spawned into the world. Even adding in "Xanathar's Guide to Everything" the system doesn't give players nor DM's impetus toward having friends or contacts and therefore they always feel out of the world in the beginning stages (and oftentimes into mid-stages) of games.

Then on inspiration I said something like "what if we had characters roll Xd4 for contacts where X = Charisma Modifier?" which started the process. If we added in a small, simple, open contacts system could we ground characters in the narrative and create more opportunities for characters to roleplay in a manner that had benefits for the game? Other systems, like Shadowrun, utilize Contacts and create narratives based on these people created as associates for players at character creation. So we started defining the system.

On character creation (after picking Backgrounds) Players roll Xd4 for Contacts they have where X = their Charisma Modifier (minimum of 1d4). This determines how many Contacts they know. When calling a contact, state your request and whatever form of payment you wish to offer. They will respond in 1d6 days. Requests should be within reason of what they are able to do.

Contacts, more than friends, bring something to the table. You may be drinking buddies with the guards or friends with the barkeep but Contacts are people who can provide something you need. They will respond to simple favors depending on their expertise. Need a place to lay low, the priest of the local temple always has an attic room for you. Need to know the floor plans of the current lord's manor (for non-nefarious purposes surely), well you just happen to know the architect who designed it.

This is as far as the system has been designed. It is my hope that this system addresses the lack of grounding that characters seem to have and to add extra chances where roleplay can and will benefit forward progression. Now what would be the drawbacks, if any, to implementing a system like this? How could this homebrew be abused or underutilized? And how might that be remedied?

To note, these contacts are not allowed to become cheap tickets to magic items. A healing potion or scroll, sure. But a +1 sword is not in the cards.

As per comments, I decided xd4 on a whim but I rather prefer it to any sort of background based table system. DnD 5e afterall, is about streamlining so in my opinion an xd4 system is very streamlined.

  • While fair that it should be on the DM to provide interesting characters, it should be noted that as it stands Players always feel like they've just spawned into the world as a level x whatever. This mechanic is also designed to ground characters. No one ever is truly alone even in a fantasy setting. But while this question remains on hold, how would this question be better suited to ask for drawbacks or potential downsides of implementing a Contacts system like this into DnD? – GuidingOlive Dec 3 at 23:18
  • Do not answer in comments please. Help the question get reopened, then answer in answers. – mxyzplk Dec 4 at 0:13
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    Personally I think this question is worth reopening as is. However it may help to add specifically why you feel the background features that do this are inadequate. It may also be clearer if you formalize the rules and use a quote block to separate them out. Good luck – linksassin Dec 4 at 0:47
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    Try reading this it may help you to ask this question more clearly. – rpgstar Dec 4 at 4:55
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    So in accordance with the first answer you've given us the problem " characters not having any friends" and your solution 'the homebrew' though this could be more specific as to what they do and how you think they'll help players RP better. Also the thought process behind those aspects would be nice aka: Why d4's? Why charisma and not a table for all the backgrounds? those sort of things. Also the type of campaign this will be used in. this would add little to a dungeon crawl but may add extra power to the players for little work in a social intrigue campaign. – rpgstar Dec 4 at 5:08

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