In darkness there is light — the Lamplighter is a new 5th edition D&D Background

Within our fantasy worlds are massive cites. There are lots of problems with the scale of some of these cities — they need farms, roads, and light because residents are up at all hours. Settings like Ravnica and Eberron deal with the largest cites via magic. Those worlds with less magic manage metropolises with some magic, some magically imbued races and hand-waving. One of those hands we can wave relates to light.

Magic is the simple way to add light to cities. Another way to have them with some level of light for safety and to encourage all races to reside within is via a public lantern system. For about 150 years this was the process in Western Europe and Northeast America. People would go through and light lanterns along the street. Those shops and establishments that wanted business in the evening or early morning would do the same.

These workers would live split lives as early risers and night owls.

Let’s crank all of this up to d20 and make them potential heroes. Meet the Lamplighter, for “in darkness there is light.”

Photo by Josh Hild on


You know your neighborhood. You don’t have a favorite bar, or food stand, or favorite bakery — they all are you favorite. They know your route, you know when every one gets up or goes to sleep. You know the street urchin, the acolyte, the haberdasher, the goblin family that makes the best trinkets (maybe you have one favorite). They all know you too.

Getting around the city you use a run-jump parkour along the crates and awnings, somehow never letting your lighting candle go out. You flow through the streets and alleys. You’re a great observer and with the other Lamplighters the group always knows the secrets and rumors of a land — a nobleman leaving the tavern too late, a merchant up too early with visitors on the stoop, a door left opened. And you know the guilds and gangs of the underground, because when your lights go out they are there, ready to do their work. They know you, and never act against you (unless you count putting out a light early), because you are a beloved symbol of the city. You are a Lamplighter.

Skill Proficiencies: Acrobatics, Insight
Tool Proficiencies: None
Languages: Thieves Cant, one other language (as always, use Cultures instead of Languages)
Equipment: Common Clothes, Ladder, 5 Flasks Oil, Flint & Steal, 5 Candles, Hourglass, Signal Whistle, Pouch with 2 GP and 7 SP

Feature: Songs of the Street

When visiting a new town or city you quickly pick up the rhythm of the streets. The Lamplighter is able to figure out what neighborhoods and buildings are most active at what times, when the urchins and gangs are out, when the guards are on patrol. The pace of a city and its people is second nature to the Lamplighter.

In your hometown your knowledge is more accurate and more complete, and you will always know someone who will help you in a time of need.

Lamplighter Design Goals

Frankly, this background started with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Jack in Mary Poppins Returns. The lamplighters featured throughout the movie, riding bikes, lighting the neighborhoods of London, and inspiring people to be their best through song, dance, and conversation. There are some bard themes, but nothing is magical besides a few people loving their town and making it better.

Beyond what Jack does in the movie, there’s also an opportunity for a Lamplighter in the massive cities of not-quite Eberron levels of magic. These workers are active at dawn and dusk. As Waterdeep, Skuld, Calimport and other transition between night and day the neighborhoods transition too. Lamplighters are not guards or police. They fill of space of advisor, guide, and concerned citizen.

They know that the world’s largest cities need the hope and safety that lanterns provide. Without that comforting light what is a city anyway?

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Custom Backgrounds for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons

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