A Background is a special trait used in the Storyteller System used to represent elements of a character's history or backstory. They establish a character's social status, history, or special tools that don't fall under the sway of supernatural powers such as Disciplines, Gifts, Magic, Arcanoi, etc.
Like other traits, characters can purchase Backgrounds with experience points in the course of a chronicle, though some are restricted, either available only at character creation or through in-character actions. Many Backgrounds are disallowed altogether for certain character types (such as certain Tribes of Garou), while Storytellers are advised to allow other only at their discretion.
There are a few backgrounds common to almost all of the Classic World of Darkness game lines. These represent common resources a player could use in the course of a chronicle.
- Allies - Close companions who could be called on for most anything.
- Contacts - Those willing to help for a favor in return.
- Fame - How well-known the character is in society; its counterpart Notoriety generally carries negative connotation.
- Influence - A character's ability to affect mortal society. Elder Vampires can enjoy influence around the world.
- Mentor - An experienced guide through the supernatural or everyday world.
- Resources - How much a character has to live on.
- Status - Where a character ranks in a particular social structure.
Some of these merits are presented as merits for hunters or for supernatural beings, but could theoretically be available to anyone.
- Alternate Identity (just called Identity in the Trinity Players Guide)
- Animal Companion
- Destiny - How important the character's destiny is.
- Detective License
- Health Insurance
- Home Base
- Library (a.k.a. Occult Library or Personal Library) - A collection of books or other sources that contain accurate occult and magical knowledge.
- Military Force
- Past Lives - The connection a character has with their past lives. Called reincarnate in Orpheus.
- Patron - A powerful party who is (perhaps secretly) aiding the character for their own reasons.
- Personal Trainer
- Rank - Influence in a particular organization.
- Spies - People (or other creatures) that help gather information for the character.
World of Darkness
These are special backgrounds that have less-than-common origins, are special to that particular breed of supernatural, or otherwise require a bit more explanation.
Vampire: The Masquerade
- Age - A reflection of an Elder's accumulated experience. The more active years the more Freebie Points and loss of Humanity the vampire has at character creation. (DSBH, ELY)
- Armory - A collection of weaponry the vampire has access to.
- Black Hand Membership (PGS)
- Clan Prestige
- Communal Haven - A group haven for multiple vampires (mostly used by Anarchs)
- Luxury - How comfortable the haven is.
- Size - How big the haven is.
- Security - How secure the haven is
- Domain - An area the vampire controls for the purpose of feeding.
- Generation - How many generations a Kindred is removed from Caine. A variant version for elder characters is called Elder Generation, naturally.
- Elder Status - For Elder Vampires only (those vampires over 50 years of active unlife). This determines your particular social order when you have achieved the venerable Elder level. (ELY)
- Herd - A group of mortals from whom the vampire may regularly feed with relative ease.
- Insight - prophetic capabilities that only thin-blooded vampires possess.
- Pack Recognition (PGS)
- Position - How well a vampire is placed in vampiric society.
- Retainers - Mortal servants.
- Rituals - The ritae of the Sabbat
Kindred of the East
- Jade Talisman - Yin or Yang
- Magic Artifact
Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom
- Ancestor Spirit
Werewolf: The Apocalypse
- Ancestors (a.k.a. Past Life) - The spiritual link between a Garou and their ancestors.
- Fate - Prophecy of a Garou's destiny.
- Fetish - An object with a bound spirit inside.
- Kinfolk - Non-Garou allies with werewolf blood who may be immune to the Delirium.
- Numen or Familiar Spirit - a spirit guardian or companion.
- Pure Breed - How pure the blood and spirit of a Garou is.
- Rites - Special ceremonies used in the life of a Garou.
- Spirit Heritage - The strength of the connection between the Garou and the spirit world.
- Totem - A spirit that bestows power on a pack of Garou.
- Ananta - a pocket realm in the Umbra shared by a clutch of Nagah.
- Batsu - the hengeyokai term for Allies.
- Clan - hengeyokai term for Kinfolk.
- Colony - the size of a Ratkin caern.
- Den-Realm - a Bastet pocket realm in the Umbra.
- Freak Factor - a Ratkin's level of Wyld-tainted deviancy.
- Go-en - hengeyokai term for Contacts.
- Jamak - a Bastet's personal totem.
- Mnesis - access to the shared memory of the Mokolé.
- Nushi - a hengeyokai pack totem.
- Plague - a Ratkin's extended family.
- Remora - a spirit-messenger that follows a Rokea.
- Secrets (a.k.a. Other People's Secrets) - the accumulated knowledge of a Bastet or Corax.
- Sempai - hengeyokai term for a Mentor.
- Trinket - a Bastet's magical collection (fetishes or wonders).
- Umbral Glade - a Gurahl's pocket realm in the Umbra.
- Umbral Maps - a Corax's knowledge of Umbral navigation.
- Wallow - a Mokolé realm in the Umbra.
Fomori and the Possessed
- Device - WeaverTech available to Drones or other servants of the Weaver
- Fetish/Equipment (a.k.a. Equipment/Fetish)
Mage: The Ascension
- Arcane - A mystical ability to go unnoticed. The Technocracy call this Cloaking.
- Avatar - A more powerful than normal Avatar which likely speaks to the mage more often and provides a personal source of Quintessence. Among Technocrats, this Background is called Genius. In Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade, this is called Daemon.
- Blessing - Some greater being has blessed the mage with some kind of benefit.
- Certification - Permits that allow the mage to do certain activities or get access to certain equipment that cannot be used by normal people.
- Chantry - An gathering point of mages. The Technocracy equivalent is called a Construct. In Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade, this is called Covenant.
- Cult - A group of Sleepers who believe in the mage and his magic and help him carry out rituals.
- Demesne - A Dream Realm created by the mage to help with meditation, study, reflection and memory.
- Dream - The mage is able to connect with the universal unconscious to acquire information. The Technocracy refer to this Background as Hypercram.
- Enhancements - Cybernetics, biomods or genetic modifications that enhances the mages traits and/or allows him to do things he could not done before. Mostly applies to Technocrats, but some others have lower quality versions of these enhancements.
- Familiar - A companion that travels with the mage and can give advice and nullify some of the mages Paradox. The Technocracy call them Companions.
- Legend - Humanity's collective imagination focuses on the mage, believing that the mage evokes a legendary figure on some level.
- Node - A natural upwelling of Quintessence to which the character has access. Called a Cray in Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade and Dark Ages: Mage.
- Sanctum - a place where the mage can study and research with safety greater efficacy. The Technocracy equivalent is Laboratory.
- Totem - A shaman's or medical worker's connection to a spirit.
- Wonder - An item imbued with magical power. The Technocracy see all such things in terms of their Enlightened Science, and call them Devices.
- Backup - Sleepers who can aid the Technocrat.
- Requistions - Allows the Technocrat to request equipment and devices to aid them in their missions.
- Secret Weapons - Give the Technocrat access to the latest equipment and experimental technology.
- Cholé - a channeler's or medium's ability to be ridden by a spirit
- Familiar (Lesser)
- Totem - a personal totem spirit.
Wraith: The Oblivion
- Artifact - An valuable object imbued with power and fueled with Pathos.
- Eidolon - The ability of a wraith to resist their Shadow.
- Haunt - A spiritual refuge from the dangers of the Shadowlands.
- Legacy - The works of a wraith in life that continue on after their death as a tribute to their memory. Visiting these works can be used to heal damage to their Corpus.
- Memoriam - The memories that people hold of the deceased. Can be tapped into as a source of Pathos... though memories fade.
- Relic - An object that passed through the Shroud with a wraith due to emotional resonance.
- Wealth - wraithly Resources.
Changeling: The Dreaming
- Chimera - A chimerical object owned, or chimerical creature befriended, by the Changeling.
- Dreamers - Mortal artists who serve as a source of Glamour.
- Holdings - A Freehold to which the character has access or owns.
- Remembrance - The Changeling's memories of her previous life in the Dreaming. Called "Gremayre" in Changeling: The Dreaming First Edition.
- Retinue - Mortal allies who have been Enchanted and are thus able to interact with the world of the fae.
- Title - The Changeling has a noble title.
- Treasures - An item imbued with Glamour that has magical properties. Called "Auspicious Treasure" by hsien.
- Trod - Access to a path or highway of the Dreaming.
- Chimera Companion - A chimerical object owned, or chimerical creature befriended, by the Kinain.
- Dross - Access to Dross.
- Faerie Blood - A Kinain's closeness to her fae side determines how close to the Dreaming and Glamour she is.
- Faerie Mentor - Taken under the wing of a changeling mentor.
- Feth Fiada - The Mists cloak your presence.
- Kenning - Ability to detect Glamour.
- Spirit Companion
- Totem - a personal spirit totem.
- Vision (analogous to Remembrance/Gremayre)
Hunter: The Reckoning
- Arsenal: Determines what weapons your character has access to, possibly even military utilities.
Unusual Hunter Backgrounds
- Cenaculum - Society of Leopold
- Continued Exposure
- Everyman (mechanically identical to Arcane)
- Grace Under Pressure
- Iron Willed
- Mob - Society of Leopold
- Relic - Society of Leopold
- Steel Nerves
Mummy: The Resurrection
- Artifact (in World of Darkness: Mummy Second Edition)
- Ayllu (roughly, the Teomallki version of Neteru)
- Contemplation (the Wu T'ian version of Ba)
- Illi (the Teomallki version of Ka)
- Joss (the Wu T'ian version of Ka)
- Samapa (the Teomallki version of Ba)
Demon: The Fallen
- Eminence - A Fallen's rank among other Fallen.
- Followers - Those who make Pacts with and freely follow a Fallen.
- Legacy - A Fallen's memories of Paradise and the War of Wrath.
- Paragon - The ability of some Fallen to use their central Lore more reliably.
- Attentive Master
- Anchor - An object that can be used to bolster Vitality. Similar to a Fetter from Wraith.
- Artifact - An item a character could call on in spirit form. Similar to Wraith's Background of the same name.
- Haunt - A refuge a character can hide from Spectres in. Similar to Wraith's background of the same name.
- Animal Hybrid
- Celestial Manse - the Sidereal version of a Manse
- Heavenly Favor
- Heart's Blood
- Solar Bond
- Tattoo Artifact
- Abyssal Command - similar to Command, save that it affects the dead
- Underworld Cult
- Underworld Manse
- Charms - extra Charms held on retainer in the vats
- Class - social status in Autochthonia
- Demonic Inheritance
- Demonic Patron
- Familiar (Demonic)
- Past Life
- Unwoven Coadjutor
- Ancestor Cult - living descendants who make burnt offerings to the ghost regularly
- Grave Goods - the clothing and panoply the character entered the Underworld with
- Esoteric Knowledge