D&D 5e has a new D&D concept called Bonds. Bonds are pieces of your background that tie you to the campaign world. These can either be connections to NPCs, or a homeland, or even a particular weapon or item in the world.

The group I'm currently DMing for, has had characters wandering from the 10 towns in Icewind dale, to Dragonspear castle, to some unnamed forest, all in search for gold and glory, and have now found themselves in the grassy plains near Greenest about to start the Hoard of the Dragon Queen for the Tyranny of Dragons story arc. The characters are level 3 and have been played for about 10 1 hour sessions so far. (One character is preaching the gospel of the divine turnip, one is an ex-slave blacksmith turned monk, and the other is an herbalist looking to heal the world, or "smoke it" trying.)

I'm very excited about the idea that each major module comes with some bonds for players to pick (or roll) to tie characters more closely to the module, making the adventure more personal. However, since we are not starting at level 1, I'm unsure how to add the provided bonds without some cliched 'it was all just a dream', 'hand wave', or 'repressed memory'. I'd like to get advice on what works best in adding background history to characters who are a bit more established than you would otherwise assume.

How can I best introduce these new bonds to the players?


2 Answers 2


My first response would be to question whether the players know every single thing about their characters, even after the number of sessions that you have played with them. I find it very difficult to believe that there are not gaps in their backgrounds that you can use this as an opportunity to flesh out.

Looking at the list you've provided, it seems clear that these are written to be used by new characters, so my approach would be to adapt/change/use these as inspiration for bonds that do make sense for the characters you have, so that there is something to tie them into the adventure.

Take 4. as an example - surely there is one of your PCs who could have a link to a similar NPC. Similarly for 1 and 5.

I would try to view these bonds not as a limiting straight jacket, but as a tool for increasing the richness of the character backgrounds. Also, if possible then get the players involved in coming up with these bonds. There is a similar mechanic in Dungeon World and Apocalypse World where the GM is specifically encouraged to ask questions to the players to establish these types of bonds.

As for why these things haven't come up so far in the PCs' adventures, there could be any number of reasons , which is exactly why I suggest discussing and coming up with something plausible with the player in question. Maybe the reason a mentor hasn't been in touch is because they've been ill. Maybe he's been resisting contacting the PC for some reason, maybe he doesn't trust the PC for some reason but his hand has been forced etc.

So ask, 'which of you has a link to Greenest? Why?' etc. You will be surprised how creative your players can be, and getting them involved will give them a real buy-in to the story. If you do right, you're also likely to end up with a bunch of character specific plot hooks for future adventures that you can use to make the campaign much more personal to the party.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The connections can also be less obvious. Rather than knowing one of the PC's directly, maybe Ontharr Frume has connections to the Temple of the Divine Turnip, and contacts the PC's through someone higher in the order. Alternately, sometimes you'll find a connection that almost feels like it was built specifically for a character. Leosin Erlanthar sounds like he could have been hand-crafted as a bond for the ex-slave-turned-monk. \$\endgroup\$
    – tzxAzrael
    Jul 12, 2016 at 22:26

Connections better than Redefinitions

Well, here's a thing. Should bonds always be life-defining bonds, or simply strong emotional ties? A lot of the bonds you list are basically character concept defining aspects ("Wait, I WAS a dragon? what?")

Personally, I can see most bonds being things like emotional ties, family, old friends, mentors, people who you've helped, folks who might have/know something you've been looking for. When you treat it like that, it's a lot easier to incorporate into the character.

"Well, I was a soldier campaigning during the Heartland Wars, it makes sense I would have probably made friends with foreigners."

"Oh, yeah! I can totally see myself having buddies who got me out of danger during my smuggling days."

"My clan is widespread, there's probably cousins and uncles and 3rd removed folks everywhere."

As a player, I'd be great with incorporating relationships and past connections, but I probably would not want character-defining ret-cons thrown at me after I've already created a character. (If we were playing Exalted where your past lives are an issue, that might be a different story, but you go into that game already knowing that's what to expect...)

Bonds shouldn't be your primary Hook

From the examples you've given... these feel a lot like really over-reaching story hooks. I'd rather just give players a mission to be in Greenest, or let them come up with a reason - "Ok, the setup is that you'll be going to Greenest on small business when you uncover something... much bigger, and worse. What's that small business?"

Bonds shouldn't be leashes, and when you have stuff redefining the characters' existence, their families, etc. it feels a lot like when the GM grabs you by the back of your head and railroads you.

If there's conflict in Greenest, then it becomes a lot more interesting when you've got different Bonds that are secondary, but still important. One player might be very determined to take time to talk to his long lost uncle who was the last one to see his parents before they went missing, but at the same time there is time critical stuff going on. Another player might be all too happy to see someone's house burn during a fight, just because they're an old rival.

These things become chances for the players to play their characters and show you their personalities because these get to be choices they make in how they deal with it - very different than getting a "You Are X and Must/Should Do Y" kind of Bond.


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