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Undertaker

Most people don’t like to think about mortality, but to the undertaker, such matters literally make up their livelihood.

All things that live must die eventually, and when that happens to people, someone has to take care of what happens next. Those unpleasant, yet necessary, duties often fall to an undertaker. These men and women fulfill a variety of functions, including the digging of graves, preparing bodies for traditional and/or practical funerals, building coffins, or preparing other methods of dispositioning corpses such as constructing funeral pyres or tombs. In this way, most undertakers are skilled in the tools of the trade, which includes the means to build coffins and similar, as well as the tools needed to cosmetically prepare a body to be viewed by loved ones prior to burial.

Skill Proficiencies: Medicine, Religion

Tool Proficiencies: Carpenter’s Tools, Disguise Kit

Equipment: A shovel, heavy duty needle and thread, a disguise kit, a set of common or traveler’s clothes, and a pouch containing 5 gp.

Feature: No Shortage of Work

People die. That’s no surprise. As such, it’s equally unsurprising that most places an undertaker goes may very well have need of his services at any given time. While few people are ever truly glad to see the undertaker at their doorstep, most towns and settlements rely on the services of such individuals to manage the logistics of dealing with the deceased. For this reason, the ruling bodies of such locales usually consider them a welcome sight and are typically willing to pay to have such services rendered when an undertaker sets up shop or passes through the region. You should have little trouble finding work as an undertaker at the villages, towns, and cities you encounter.

Fleshing Things Out

Some questions to consider when determining how this background applies to your character: How did you become an undertaker? Did you grow up into it as the family business? Or did you come upon it by other means? Are you the traveling/nomadic sort or undertaker, plying your trade where you can, or have you set up shop more permanently somewhere? How do you feel about the work you do? How does that affect your opinions toward the living and the dead?

Do you take pride in your work? Do you resent the stigma attached to it?

You should also consider what caused you to take up the role of an adventurer. Did you become an undertaker as a result of something that happened during your adventures, or did your profession lead you into an adventure, perhaps unexpectedly? Perhaps a mysterious death pulled you into a foul plot which you’re working to help solve, or perhaps your work helping a war-ravaged town deal with their dead relatives instilled in you a sense of duty and pride for this kind of work? Are you on a quest that came to you through the trade of undertaking? Or perhaps you have become an undertaker to deal with the bodies that are left in your wake as a result of your adventuring career.

d8 Personality Trait
1 Nothing matters: we all end up dead in the end.
2 Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
3 Whatever I count, I count it twice, just to be sure.
4 There’s no excuse for being sloppy.
5 If you don’t get it right the first time, throw it away and start over.
6 I never forget a face, living or dead.
7 I prefer to let my actions speak for me rather than my words.
8 Look on the bright side: we’re still alive.
d6 Ideal
1 Legacy. I hope to be remembered for my good deeds when I’m gone. (Good)
2 Ambivalence. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it. (Neutral)
3 Manipulation. It’s amazing how easily you can exploit the living by simply reminding them of their own mortality. (Evil)
4 Dogma. Everyone has their own beliefs, and one must honor those beliefs when preparing someone for their eternal rest. (Lawful)
5 Irreverence. I get the job done. It shouldn’t matter how I do it. (Chaotic)
6 Quality. Doing the job well is its own reward. (Any)
d6 Bond
1 The worth of my life will be judged by what people say about me when I’m gone.
2 I will never forget the first person I buried.
3 Undertaking is a family tradition that I’m expected to uphold.
4 A seer foretold the time and place of my death.
5 I want to be somebody, but right now I’m just a lowly undertaker.
6 I lost someone I loved to an untimely death, and I’ll do anything to speak to them again.
d6 Flaw
1 My sense of humor is as dead as the bodies I deal with.
2 Because I deal with death every day, I often forget about the value of life.
3 Being confronted by my own mortality constantly causes me to cope through reckless hedonism.
4 I loathe being alone with the dead. I avoid it if at all possible.
5 I loot things from the bodies I prepare; they aren’t going to use it anymore.
6 I am always afraid the ghosts of those I bury will come back to haunt me.

Variant Undertaker: Coroner

Some undertakers cleave closer to investigators than gravediggers and call themselves coroners. If you choose the Coroner variant of the Undertaker background, this background gives you proficiency in the Investigation skill instead of Religion.

Section 15: Copyright Notice

The Big Book of Backgrounds Copyright 2019, P.B. Publishing, Phil Beckwith, and Cody Faulk.