Tea Master – a new Background for D&D

Tea, tisanes, rooibos, herbal concoctions and other similar hot drinks are staples in many cultures of the real world and fit so many Dungeons & Dragons cultures as well. The sub-culture around ceremony and expertise makes sense as a Background in 5th edition.

Why would a Tea Master go adventuring? They could be searching for a new supply; have run out of their own supply; know that there is a threat to the trade routes they depend upon; heard from the nobility of a need for the government; have a loyal customer that needs aid. A Tea Master like many service types develops a relationship with the people they serve. Those connections are easy to leverage into relationships that help power story — plus they have tea.

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Tea Master

You are a server of fine teas. Maybe you worked in a tea shop, or were a tea merchant, or were the tea master for a noble estate. You prepare teas and small bites of food for the thinking peoples in the area. This can be as simple as a cuppa or an elaborate ritual.

You may be an expert in particular types of tea (powders, fermented, naturals, or combination). These teas and tisanes may come from your local community or come from other lands far from your origin. Regardless, you start with 24 servings of your favorite tea or tisane (tisane=herbal tea). When creating your tea master consider the peoples you served tea to in the past, consider who taught you the ceremony(ies) you know. Use these flavor decisions to embrace your role as a Tea Master.

Skill Proficiencies: History and Insight. If you are using cultures rather than languages, then replace history as per those rules.
Tool Proficiencies: None
Languages: Two languages
Equipment: Alms box with 25 silver, bell or whistle or hand drum, tea set for 6 including tea for 4 ceremonies for 6 (10 pounds and 25 gp value), fine clothes, waterskin

Feature: Tea Ceremony

Performing a 1 hour ritualistic ceremony you serve tea often with small plates of food, but that is not required. The ceremony is patient and calming, shifting NPC attitude from hostile to indifferent or indifferent to friendly, if the NPC can be convinced to partake in the full ceremony. PCs partaking in a tea ceremony can use Hit Dice to heal as if the time was spent on a Short Rest.

Personality Traits that make sense for the Tea Master could be from the Acolyte, the Guild Artisan, the Hermit, or the Sage. Mix and match these as necessary.

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Design Goals

There are a few reasons I wanted to make the Tea Master. During my time in the Middle East I experienced a couple versions of tea ceremonies. These were done as a welcome to a home or to a camp. In my personal life I have also experienced the elaborate high tea that used to be part of the nobility of England. These seemed to fit the social portion of D&D, especially as they stretch back in time to the days which inspire our stories.

Within fiction there are two tea ceremonies that stand out in my mind — both from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Tumnus uses a tea ceremony to distract and then poison Lucy. The Witch uses a tea ceremony and foods to make Edmund think that she is not a threat. Both examples fit the literature that inspires our game.

There was also a desire to make the tea ‘rules’ different than coffee ‘rules.’ The two are similar in that they are water with vegetation that often provides stimulation as well as being from locales far from the founding cultures of the game. Both belong in D&D, because they were in Europe in the era that inspired the game AND because D&D is about much more than Europe.

Another goal was to remove specificity of culture from the tea ceremony. Tea ceremonies do not have the direct lineage that coffee does (coffee houses have a direct lineage to Ottoman cafes). Tea is a more widespread crop with various cultures celebrating the leaf. So make your tea ceremony your own. Celebrate a real culture, create a pastiche, or invent a new one — do it honoring real cultures that you are a member of or that you’ve studied.

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