UPDATE: The partial background found in this article is a preview. It is fully available as a Pay What You Want product on the DMs Guild in a pretty PDF with art and 14 other ready to roll backgrounds.

So it occurred to me that while there’s quite a few backgrounds out there, there are not many which focus on non-magical healing arts. I’m talking about physicians, medics, nurses, barbers, vets, and the like. It may have occurred to me because I have a grandfather, father, and sister who are doctors along with a brother in nursing school and several members of my extended family who also work in the field. Heck, back in the day my grandmother worked for the World Health Organization like the boss she was. So you can see why I noticed the lack of medical professionals in D&D, as I have never been without.

There is something else at play here too, beyond my personal family history. In a recently recorded, soon-to-be-aired Tome Show podcast review of the Player’s Handbook, Jeff Greiner mentioned that while he really liked the fifth edition rules and classes, he missed the warlord class from the fourth edition days. I’m in agreement with him. Now, I can already hear your brain telling Jeff and me that the warlord lives on in some builds of the tactically minded Battle Master fighter archetype. I agree with that as well, but if you look hard, that build is focused on movement and giving allies attacks, not healing. It would be great to have a martial healing option. I used to dream about that before fourth edition came out and was excited to see a nonmagical healer as an option.

I understand, though, that not everyone was thrilled with the fourth edition inspiring warlord. How could his inspiring word with no magic behind it close wounds the same way a cleric’s healing word might? It’s a fair question, and some (like myself) might say hit points aren’t just your your body’s ability to take a beating, but also your endurance, etc. Yet, when dealing with an ally that is unconscious and bleeding out with a loxo tusk through his or her belly, the warlord’s healing becomes a little harder to sell. You can see why Wizards did away with that idea for fifth edition, because mechanically it works the same as a cleric’s healing which is magic. I say we still need (or at least it would be nice to have) a true nonmagical healer.

I wanted to see someone who could really heal an ally once the battle was over and aid in recovery in down time. Heck, if you had the right rules you could create a gritty world and do away with healing magic all together. With short rests, the Healer feat, and Hit Dice working the way they do in fifth edition, I thought for sure we’d see a doctor background. Well, we didn’t, but that’s ok. I can make it myself. This bad boy is going in the Exploration Age Campaign Guide for sure.

New Background: Doctor

You were a surgeon, barber, country doctor, field medic, nurse, or other medical professional. Healing wounds, treating diseases, and creating medicines for others in need was how you spent your days. While illness and injury make many uncomfortable, they are areas in which you thrive. When others panic, you’re working on a cure or stopping the bleeding.

Skill Proficiencies: Investigation, Medicine

Tool Proficiencies: Herbalism Kit, Poisoner’s Kit

Equipment: A preserved medical anomaly (such as a deformed skull or appendix), an herbalism kit, a set of traveler’s clothes, and a belt pouch containing 15 gp.

So there it is! The doctor!

Let me know what you think and enjoy!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

  1. qpop says:

    I like it as long as I don’t have Dr. Scorpion working on me! (mildly related)

    On the serious side I am one of those people that don’t like warlords healing. Maybe if they hadn’t given rangers their spells back they could have gotten the herbalism proficiency and whatnot or maybe later they will release an alchemist class that will take care of nonmagical healing. There are some backgrounds that give herbalism but I do like the specific focus of Doctor in this case.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You have a knack for finding the best web comics, friend.

      There are some backgrounds that do herbalism (hermit), but I think nonmagical healing is about more than just that. Plus, I really like the doctor’s story, so I wanted to make that a part of D&D as well. I do want to see some cool alchemy rules in the DMG!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d like to see a flip side of this one… The insidious villaineous Doctor gone wrong… his overzealous curiosity of how the living organism works. Maybe taking a dark perspective on our own early early medicine days… we’ve done some disgusting horrible things to get where we are now im sure 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  3. joelastowski says:

    Great idea, and excellent implementation.

    Regarding Warlords, remember that 4E had a focus on the players being HEROES, above and beyond the common man (or woman), from the get-go. I always saw the Warlord’s healing of extreme wounds you described as a dramatic, movie-esque kind of healing. “DAMNIT, DON’T YOU DIE ON ME NOW, SOLDIER. I STILL NEED YOU TO FIGHT!” So that even though it wasn’t technically “magic” from one of the approved magical sources (Divine, Arcane, etc), it was still legendary & heroic. Then again, I’ve read a lot of Chinese hero stories from the 3 Kingdoms era (and played a lot of the Dynasty Warriors video game franchise), so I’m used to martial characters having legendary magic-like abilities that used the power source: Bad Ass.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. joelastowski says:

    Wouldn’t the flip-side background be “HMO Agent”, with the special feature “deny healing based on previous condition”? Oh, I see you’ve checked off that you suffer from dragon dismemberment. Yeah, that’s going to limit your coverage & up your premiums…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. john fizheir says:

    You were wrong James. I was going to say that the Warlord archetype is fulfilled through the College of Valor Bard. I guess you feel more than a little silly now!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Michael Robbins says:

    Did I read the new rules correctly that after a long rest you are healed to full? That would seem to negate the need for non-magical healing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Kristopher says:

    I like the direction you are going with this, but the issue you present is the lack of the 4e warlord. It almost seems like this would do better as a fighter subclass (battle field medic.) You could merge some aspects of this background with some abilities of the Battle master and just make new others up – in essence recreating the warlord class-
    abilities along the lines of
    Request for coverfire (like 4e’s warlord and their command)
    Use healing kit to restore HP (like the feat) -replacing Inspiring Word
    Use Poisoner’s kit to cure poison
    Maybe even add a dash of Bardic type inspiration … but +1 to the whole party for a turn/round

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the idea of an archetype that can have martial healing, but I think a lot of the abilities you’ve listed can be covered in backgrounds, feats, and the battle master archetype. I think the 4e warlord doesn’t fit perfectly into 5e, which is why I made the doctor background. A healer who can work off the battlefield, but during battle can’t do much in the 6 second turn. It’s a good thought though. There’s definitely something there!!!


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