Koan (Backgrounds for 5th Edition D&D/Swords of Kos Fantasy Campaign Setting)

Michael O. Varhola
Following is a new Background for the 5th Edition role-playing game system, the Koan, a citizen of the city-state of Kos in Skirmisher Publishing's Swords of Kos Fantasy Campaign Setting
Background: Koan
You are a citizen of the island-state of Kos and a member of the Greek culture that predominates throughout the Aegean and which is related to that of Attica and its city state of Athens, and the Peloponnese and its city state of Sparta.
As a quintessential citizen of Kos, you probably live within its sprawling capital, Kos City, which is located on the harbor at the northeastern tip of the island. This metropolis is home to about 21,000 permanent residents and innumerable merchants, sailors, mercenaries, adventurers, and other transients and is committed to trade. It is dedicated to the god Hermes but is also more tolerant than many other Hellenic cities of the resurgent trend toward devotion to the pre-Olympian Titans, and temples to them and the gods of many other lands can be found there. You might, however, originally hail from and possibly still live in one of the 12 major villages that are located throughout the island — Antimachia, Asfendiou, Kardamena, Kefalos, Lagoudi, Mastihari, Marmari, Platani, Pyli, Tigaki, Zia, and Zipari — or even one of the many hamlets, agricultural villas, or other tiny communities nestled throughout the country.
Like many of your countrymen, you probably live to at least some extent in fear of the adjacent Tetrarchy of Anatolia, an oppressive, Goblinoid-ridden state ruled by a coalition of competing warlords. Your only visible lines of defense are Kos’s consummate diplomatic corps and the narrow Straits of Kos, which the Anatolians disastrously failed to cross many years before. Similarly, you likely subscribe to the fierce rivalry between Kos and the nearby Republic of Rhodes, which competes with your nation economically, culturally, and, to some extent, militarily. You are also quite possibly a devotee of chariot racing, a popular spectator sport that is performed in the Hippodrome of Kos City and in its rural villages, and might be a member of one of the Blue or Green fan clubs.
Because Kos is dependent on the sea and trade, you appreciate the importance of being able to move goods from one place to another, and are therefore either able to operate a waterborne vessel (e.g., a sailboat) or a land vehicle (e.g., a wagon, a chariot).
Skill Proficiencies: Appraise (see below).
Tool Proficiencies: Vehicles (land or water), one type of artisan’s tools or navigator’s tools.
Languages: One of your choice.
Equipment: A set of tools, a kit, a musical instrument, or a cart and mule (one of your choice); a set of traveler’s clothes; and a belt pouch containing 10 gp, or 20 gp worth of trade goods (e.g., 200 pounds of iron ingots, 10 pounds of pepper corns).
Appraise. As a Koan, you have a good eye for value and can add your proficiency bonus to Intelligence checks made to appraise the value of goods. You can attempt to assess the value of items by making an Intelligence (Appraise) check, with a DC appropriate to their rareness:
DC               Task Difficulty
DC 10          Common (e.g., simple weapons, light armor, adventuring gear worth 100 gp or less)
DC 15          Uncommon (e.g., martial weapons, medium armor, gear worth more than 100 gp)
DC 20          Rare (e.g., gems, common jewelry, heavy armor, simple mechanical devices, potions, scrolls)
DC 25          Very Rare (e.g., fine jewelry, complex mechanical devices, permanent magic items)
DC 30          Unique (e.g., artifacts, relics, “priceless” items)
Failure means that you estimate the value of an item at 50% to 200% of its actual value (3d6+2 times 10%) — or, at the storyteller’s option, simply have no idea what it is worth.
A magnifying glass provides a +2 bonus on checks involving any item that is small or highly-detailed, such as a gem. A merchant’s scale bestows a +2 bonus on checks involving any items that are valued by weight, including anything made of precious metals.
Feature: Local Knowledge
You have in-depth knowledge about the island of Kos and its communities, history, inhabitants, lore, personages, laws, mores, and traditions. For each point of your proficiency bonus, you know one secret or obscure fact about a specific area of Kos equal in size to a district of the city, such as the Mercantile, Temple, or Slum Quarter; a village; or a locale like a forest, mountain, or salt marsh. Work with your storyteller to determine the information you know and how it might tie in with past, present, and future adventures. Examples might include the location of caves that can be used for storing goods or hiding, a particularly good spot for departing from or arriving on the coast unseen, the site of a freshwater spring, a secret entrance to a local fortification, or the site of an unexplored ruin.
When you make an ability check that would be affected by your knowledge of Kos, you may add your proficiency bonus to it (e.g., to determine the properties of a plant found in the hills, to know a pertinent fact about the history of a particular village).
Suggested Characteristics
Residents of Kos tend to be more cosmopolitan than those of lands visited by fewer foreigners and, as such, are often also more open minded and tolerant. Koans often adopt a pretense of gruffness that masks an underlying desire to be helpful. They tend to do well in dynamic environments and to enjoy things like barter, learning how the world works, and chatting with people from other places about faraway lands.
d8          Personality Trait
1            I enjoy the hustle-and-bustle of my capital city and laugh at people who think it is overcrowded or dirty.
2            Chariot racing rules! There is nothing I love like watching, betting on, and cheering during a chariot race.
3            Even though I know it isn’t true, part of me believes that every ruin, hidden passageway, or unseen place conceals a mystery or treasure worth revealing.
4            One of the best ways to get to know people, friend and foe alike, is by telling stories, drinking, and playing games with them.
5            I don’t know why I would buy anything without haggling over the best price, and love buying and selling things when the opportunity allows.
6            I enjoy telling people about Kos and impressing upon them what a great place it is.
7            I hate slavery, which undermines the concept of hard work and robs people of the primary commodity at their disposal, and despise those who support it.
8            There is no telling what tomorrow will bring and I am thus going to do everything I can to enjoy myself today.
d6          Ideal
1            Allegiance. To the extent a society can be perfect Kos is, and I am committed to upholding its laws and traditions. (Lawful)
2            Tolerance. The world is full of many kinds of people and there is no reason we can’t live together peacefully. (Neutral)
3            Greed. There is a lot of money to be made and I am going to get mine. (Evil)
4            Fairness. Everyone deserves the right to trade their goods and services for what they are worth. (Good)
5            Security. If Kos is strong that benefits me and those I care about. (Any)
6            Individualism. One of the things I like most about Kos is that people tend to mind their own business and I can live as I choose. (Chaotic)
d6          Bond
1            Kos is my home and, even though I may travel to other places, I will never settle anywhere else.
2            Whatever else I might do and wherever else I might go, I will not miss my month-long annual service with the militia (of Kos city or one of the 12 villages).
3            I am committed to protecting Kos from the continuous threat of the Tetrarchy of Anatolia.
4            The welfare my individual community on Kos (e.g., the capital or one of the 12 villages) is more important to me than anything else.
5            I will always render aid to a fellow Koan if possible.
6            I am devoted to my chariot racing club (Blue or Green) and will serve it any way I can.
d6          Flaw
1            I hate and fear the Tetrarchy of Anatolia more than anything, to the extent that I despise all Goblinoids and assume they must somehow be affiliated with it.
2            My suspicion of Rhodians is greater than that of many of my countrymen (possibly because its people worship supposedly “good” Titans).
3            Non-adventurers are “little people” and don’t deserve full consideration.
4            Nika! Nika! My chariot racing club (Blue or Green) is the best and anyone who says otherwise had better watch out.
5            I will bet on just about anything and have trouble resisting long shots, “sure bets,” and challenges to go double-or-nothing.
6            Kos was powerful and successful before the reappearance of all these so-called “humanoids” and “demi-humans” and would probably be better off without any of them.