When D&D and games like it, first arrived, the rules were straightforward, especially when compared with the tomes of texts, tables, and piles of add-ons and scenarios available to today’s player.
Mainly, the rules concentrated on core game mechanics, combat, spellcasting, movement, weapons, etc., and left the background of a character as something to be discussed and developed between the player and the Dungeon Master running the campaign.
As the rules have evolved, many additional rules and systems have been added to help players add fascinating aspects to their characters. Bonds are just one of these extra layers of texture that help flesh out your character.
What is a Bond in 5e?
Bonds are a series of character trait categories brought in by the 5th edition of the rules to expand your character personality. Even having decided on your character’s race, class, and background, you may still find that you are similar to one or more of the other characters to be seen in your party or campaign.
The Bonds system adds another layer of unique qualities and world views to help bring your character to life. After all, one 1st level Human Fighter fresh off the farm might be like another. But one that will do anything to seek their father’s approval, or is searching for the nobleman who killed their wife or who has a terrible secret which, if made public, could destroy them, is already a far more exciting proposition.
You could regard such a system as optional, mainly if you are a seasoned player. Bonds are valuable ideas with which new players want to hang on to their characters to help get them into roleplaying if it is a new experience.
More experienced players might prefer to add their backstories in discussions with the DM but might still use them as prompts if they are searching for new ideas or want to challenge themselves.
Imagine you have just rolled up a spellcaster, an Elven Wizard perhaps. Elves and Wizards are alien to us here in the real world (or are they?); it might be hard to develop the character more than “My homeland is a wooded place, and I like magic.”
A few rolls or choices on the Bonds table and you might add that you turned to the seclusion and discipline of magical training because of a love affair that ended with you being spurned and heartbroken or that you once suffered a beating at the hands of the spoilt son of a noble family.
Now you see the rich and elite as the real enemy. Now you have a rich and well-rounded character, and opportunities for roleplay will be easy to find.
Bonds are essential characteristics for you, the player, but can be doubly as crucial for your DM. These traits, world viewpoints, experiences, and events make for great starting points for adventures. When they do so, the character will automatically be more invested in the events as they unfold.
Your bonds define your character’s convictions, and they tell you (and the DM) who or what you care about.
- Who would you be willing to risk your life for?
- What is it that drives you?
- What is it that keeps you in a city or a nation?
- Is there a goal or ambition that motivates your waking hours?
It defines not only who you are but who you want to be.
As a DM, this is extremely useful as it enables you to push the character’s buttons and make them dive head-first into the next adventure.
Rather than build a dungeon and have your players explore it, tell one player that they have heard a rumor that your sister, who you have been searching for since she was kidnapped five years ago, might be enslaved to the Orcish overlord who uses it as his base.
Examples of Bonds in 5e
There is no need to list all of the Bonds available to the players. Firstly, they are available in the Player’s Handbook, but also because you may want to create your own.
Here are a few examples of information you might want to add to the character’s personality and makeup.
- I would die to recover an ancient artifact of my faith that was lost long ago.
- I will someday get revenge on the corrupt temple hierarchy who branded me a heretic.
- I owe my life to the priest who took me in when my parents died.
- Everything I do is for ordinary people.
- I will do anything to protect the temple where I served.
- I seek to preserve a sacred text that my enemies consider heretical and seek to destroy.
- I fleeced the wrong person and must work to ensure that this individual never crosses paths with me or those I care about.
Choosing the right Bonds
There is no such thing as choosing the right bonds. Just do what feels right for you. If you are a new group, you could have the DM assign you a bond or turn the Bonds into a random table and trust to the fall of the dice.
Or, if you are more experienced, you could choose one or two that seem to fit the style of play you are going for and work those into part of your pre-adventuring back story.
Finally, you could use the list as a vague reference point, a list of ideas you could add to and expand on, with you and the DM working out something that makes your character unique and which he can use to create a compelling adventure plot line.
How to get the most out of Bonds in 5e
Some game rules are essential to the balance and mechanics of play. Others are more rough guides and ideas to help add flavor. Bonds are definitely in the latter category. Use them or not. Add to them or don’t. Perhaps, develop your system for generating quirks and personalities.
The gaming experience is better for having these additional layers and textures but how you get there is up to you.
Kendra has always been a hardcore fantasy nerd. Growing up in the worlds of Tolkien, Sanderson, Jordan, and Abercrombie, DnD & board games just came naturally. She and her husband, Bryan, started GameCows.com in 2018 as a fun passion project that just took over their lives. An avid board gamer since childhood and chronic DnD chronicler for more than two decades, she loves to play, write, travel, and learn dead languages.