Thomas’s Mystical Cauldron: The Butler
The Butler did it! A trope that is as old as storytelling itself because who would suspect betrayal from the faithful servant? The support Alfred offers Bruce Wayne as Batman or the heroics of Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings as he aids in the destruction of the Ring. But then we have valets and butler characters that wander into a shadier area of behavior either from their behaviors or their very nature. Alfred Stokes is conniving, Riff-Raff has his own motives that don’t fully align with his master, and Sebastion Michaelis from Phantomhive is a full-on demon!
The loyal servant sees more and knows details about affairs beyond their station. Nobody suspects the butler because as a servant, they’re seen as unimportant, not threatening, and barely noticed as they stand in the corners of rooms waiting for their next orders. Little to do other than listen to what shouldn’t be listened to, and think about opportunities they would never pursue. Unless…
Butlers in campaigns
Playing the butler in a role-playing game can be a great opportunity for players to expand their roleplaying chops. Maybe within a group of players, one of the characters is the lord and technically has authority over another character. Does the dynamic survive the adventuring lifestyle, does it fray under the tensions and hardships, does animosity grow leading to betrayal? Or, perhaps the butler has been sent on a quest on behalf of their master, or are in search of their lord. Whatever the origins, the humble lifestyle that started as a servant or a butler can create a fun bedrock to build an interesting character from.
What Class Makes A Good Butler?
This can be a challenge. The Butler by definition is a character that stays in the background. One would think that would make a good choice for the Rogue. Maybe, you learned some thieving skills before settling down with a cushy servant’s job. Maybe you’re running a long con, getting in the lord’s good graces before a major heist. But any class can find a reason to be a butler, Clerics can be servants of their church, Paladins can learn humility through service, Fighters can be bodyguards, Wizards can be loyal advisers, or simply use magic to help with daily chores such as mending and cleaning. There is no class that can’t find purpose in service and creating this background for your characters can be some of the most fun parts of character creation. The possibilities are endless.
Creating a Background
The background to any character can be full of interesting tidbits and the butler is no different. Think about Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s closest confidant and family butler that practically raised him. Alfred was a trained actor, in some storylines a former member of the SAS with extensive combat training. On the other hand, Samwise Gamgee was a simple gardener before adventure and the heroic life was thrust upon him. The butler can be and can become anything, so when designing a background for your character, consider the life that led them to and from a life of service.
Butler as a Player Class
Would you enjoy playing a butler in an adventuring party? Not just a person who’s background stems from once being a butler, but a full on player class titled, “Butler”… Most of us would say no. I imagine most DMs would scoff at the idea as well. However, it’s not unheard of. I may be dating myself here, but I remember the Dandy, from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, Ravenloft setting. Basically a rich socialite, they could be anything the player set their mind to. The same goes with a Butler class, while it may suit more games as a story background for a character, there are definitely campaigns, or one shot adventures where players could take on these unconventional roles and have a very fulfilling gaming experience. Do you think you’ve got a good idea for making a Butler player class come to life?
The Trusted Sidekick
Thanks to Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, we have a resource for the Butler as a PC or NPC sidekick. The Expert is an enticing character option that the players and the DM can build upon to make a character with this particular aim more achievable. Flexibility is after all the role of the butler, they must be able to solve any issue that their master needs solved, or at least know who to task to get it done. The Expert can have some martial skill, some abilities with spells, whatever the player needs their trust sidekick to manage!
The player characters could use the Expert class as a multiclass option as well playing a Butler that is a helper at their core, but also has their own focus now that they’ve begun adventuring. What do you think of the sidekick rules from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything?
The Butler as Antagonist
The butler knows more than they let on. They can often hold influence over others with secrets and information of the inner workings of organizations. Grima Wormtongue, while more of an advisor is an excellent example of the type of enemy that the heroes may have to face. Likely their combat stats are not exceptional, but where they lack in physical prowess they make up for in their resourcefulness. Often a person in their role will speak on behalf of the liege lord, and command men at arms, guards, etc. to wield against the PCs.
These are only scratching the surface of the options available to you as a GM and a player when exploring the Butler as an archetype. Do you keep it simple and just use an NPC example already available to you, or do you dig in and homebrew your very own custom backgrounds, classes, and antagonists? Whatever you decide we’re sure it will be, “Very good, Sir.”.
More homebrew options
There are a number of interesting homebrew creations that address the Butler. We’re happy to add some more of our own creation for players and DMs to enjoy in your next games!
New Skill: Housekeeping (Intelligence)
You understand how the interworking of a household with servants is managed. This allows you to have insight into if something is untoward or out of place. You can add your proficiency bonus to any interaction with a servant. Household management, economics, etiquette, cooking, serving, anything related to a servant’s relationship to their master.
New Feat: Conversationalist
You’re really a good company for a conversation, no matter where are you, or who you talk to. When you pick this feat, you gain the following benefits:
- Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
- You have advantage on Intelligence (Investigation) and Wisdom (Insight) checks when you talk to someone in a language you both know.
New Homebrew Proficiency: Tailor’s Tools
You know how to manufacture, alter, and repair clothes. You are skilled with scissors, a needle, and thread and you can recognize clothing materials and the level of skill required to create them.
New Item: Tailor’s Tools
Contains scissors, needles, threads in different colors, clothes brush, and some material patches for repairing clothes.
New Magic Item: Butler’s Battle Bag
This light and versatile bag can magically store everything that a butler on the go needs. The Butler’s Battle Bag is an extradimensional space that behaves similarly to a Bag of Holding. However, the Butler’s Battle Bag isn’t able to hold anything other than these specific contents. If any of the mundane items are destroyed, depleted, or misplaced they return to the Butler’s Battle Bag at the dawn of the next day. The bag can hold 100 coins and will either create 5 GP/day or convert 5 of the coins placed in the bag to GP each day up to a maximum of 100 GP total. A vial that can hold two doses of a Potion of Healing comes with the Butler’s Battle Bag, and the vial will regenerate one dose each morning up to a maximum of two doses.
The bag includes:
- Fine cutlery, plates, glasses, and napkins for 6 people;
- a fancy woven picnic blanket;
- a small vase with a bouquet of flowers;
- tailor’s tools;
- herbalism kit;
- two doses of Potion of Healing;
- and 100 gold pieces.