D&D Drawbacks

Last 3 Edits

Feb 26th, 2016. Changed name to Drawbacks.

  • Added Stealth to the Honor flaw too. It was not enough and and only 2 skills unlikely to be used anyway - at least everyone needs to make Stealth check at some stage ;)

Feb 10th, 2016. Removed references to the skills Quickness & Warfare, which are now gone.
Jan 28th, 2016. Did another proofreading edit. Very few actual changes, but some clarifications.

  • Actually added a new Flaw: Aversion/Hatred. (Yes, we now have 50 Flaws! :)).


Drawbacks are flaws or deficiencies that we use for our D&D game. They are largely adapted from our Bashed & Borrowed system, which was in turn adapted from Savage Worlds and the Song of Ice and Fire roleplaying games. They can be seen as 'anti-proficiencies' and 'anti-feats'. Note that penalties are typically double the benefits one would normally gain from a proficiency or feat. This is on purpose, as it is easy to reduce a PC in areas they already suck at (and probably won't use too often) to boost areas of specialty even further.

Yes, there are roleplaying drawbacks in the list below. We have not had a problem with this in our groups, but if you find that min-maxers are abusing this system, then remove them. This system works best when some drawbacks are assigned to characters (see Racial Drawbacks below); that way, even if a drawback that barely comes into play is chosen by a player, there are still other ones that will. It isn't all about how to bend the system for the benefits.

Most drawbacks have more than one name. Choose the one that suits your PC best. These might be inspired by your rolls on the Background Charts.

Benefits for Taking Drawbacks

You gain the following benefits for taking drawbacks:
Minor Drawback. 1 proficiency (These MUST be selected from the Bonus Proficiencies listed for your Class OR Race. See the Classes and Races pages).
1 MAJOR Drawback. 1 feat.

Racial Drawbacks

Races in our games have starting drawbacks assigned to them. You do not gain any benefits for these (our races also have extra benefits and more proficiency customization to help account for this).

Removing Assigned Racial Drawbacks. With the GM's permission, you may be able to 'buy off' an assigned minor racial drawback. To do this you must give up a proficiency. This should mainly be used for roleplaying based drawbacks (such as not wanting to be an Honorable dwarf), but there may be rare situations where a physical drawback could be removed. The player and GM should come up with a suitable backstory for this. Major drawbacks assigned as racial drawbacks should not be 'bought off', but for the cost of 2 proficiencies, a GM may allow a player to reduce the flaw to minor.

Upgrading' Drawbacks. If you have a minor drawback assigned as a Racial Drawback, then you still gain the benefits of a major drawback (a feat) if you 'upgrade' to the major. There are no real 'steps' for the drawbacks . This encourages players to take drawbacks that would be considered common for that particular race.


1. Addiction/Dependency

You just have to have the desire of you dependency. Your addiction is likely an addictive substance or drug (such as alcohol or chew leaf), but could be some other odd compulsion. (Special drugs that could be used in the game can be found in the 3E Book of Vile Darkness p41.)

  • Following every long rest, you must make a DC 8 Wisdom or Constitution saving throw (use your weakest save) if you did not partake in your addiction the previous day. If you fail your save, you suffer 1 level of exhaustion. (You should roleplay how the levels of exhaustion affect your behaviour). You can only attain 3 levels of exhaustion through your addiction. On a successful save, you stave off your dependency for a day. If you pass the check by 5 or more, you benefit from some short-term coping mechanism and actually reduce your exhaustion level due to your addiction by 1. (If you have previous levels of exhaustion from this flaw).
  • (Major only). Your addiction can lead you down to 5 levels of exhaustion and the DC to resist increases to 10.

2. A-hole/Belligerent/Mean/Threatening

You are not a nice person. You come across as abrasive.

  • Your first social interaction roll is a Charisma (Intimidation) roll, no matter what your intentions are.
  • You have disadvantage on Charisma (Persuasion) and Wisdom (Insight) checks.
  • (Major Only). Reduce your Wisdom score by 2.

3. Ailin'/Crook/Ill

You are suffering from a long term illness that leaves you susceptible to exhaustion. Your weakness may well kill you.

  • Decrease your Strength, Dexterity or Constitution score by 2. (This should be representative of the illness).
  • You take disadvantage on rolls to resist exhaustion.
  • Additionally, you must make a Constitution check (with disadvantage) to reduce your level of exhaustion even when you would normally be able to do so for free. (The typical DC is 10, but is determined by the DM).
  • Furthermore, you must make this check at the beginning of each game session. Exhaustion from this check is your illness taking effect. You can roll to remove this exhaustion at the end of each long rest.

4. All-Thumbs/Shaky/Unsteady

You have not developed your fine motor skills and have difficulty manipulating fine objects. Alternatively, you may have 'the shakes' due to an illness, alcoholism or exposure to something 'man was not meant to see'.

  • You have disadvantage on all Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) checks and other Dexterity checks that involve fine motor skills (such as picking locks or forging documents).
  • Additionally, the DM will require you to roll a Dexterity check for many mundane tasks requiring the manipulation of tiny items, such as drinking a potion or writing a letter.
  • (Major only). You also have disadvantage on all attacks made with ranged and finesse weapons, as well as spells cast using material components or using a components pouch.

5. Allergy

You are highly allergic to something. If it is something that you would be exposed to frequently (such as fur, pollen, people, daylight) it is a major drawback. If you would only come into contact with the allergy infrequently (such as horses, insects, diary products, fish) then it is minor. Check with your GM, as if you are not likely to come into contact with your allergy, then you gain no benefits at all.

  • When exposed to allergy (within 5 feet, though some allergies may require direct contact) make a Constitution DC 10 save (DC 15 for direct contact) or act as poisoned (and incapacitated if you fail by 5 or more). You may attempt a save at the end of each of your turns to remove these conditions if you move more than 30 feet away from the allergy source.

6. Anti-Social/Annoying/Bad Habits/Shy/Socially Inept/Stubborn/Timid

There could be many reasons for this, but you simply don't get along with people. You might be a recluse; fear social interactions; have strange or off-putting quirks or habits; or just simply, hate people.

  • Reduce your Charisma score by 2.
  • (Major only). Reduce your Charisma score by 4 (in total).

7. Arrogant/Haughty

You think you are above the common rabble. Only people of your station/status/power deserve respect. You might humiliate foes or find common foes beneath your concerns and issue challenges to leader-types.

  • You have disadvantage on Charisma (Persuasion) and Wisdom (Insight) checks. (This does not apply to people of your status, such as if you are a Noble (the background) interacting with other nobles. Likewise, if you are from the lower class dealing with other peasants).

8. Aversion/Hatred

You do not get along with a particular group of creatures. Some races have this drawback and it is made clear who you do not get along with. A GM might allow a player to choose a focused group for their character if it suits their background. Ideas include a particular race, arcane casters, members of a particular organistion or religion (if it plays a prominent part in the game), beasts (or beasts of a particular grouping and their anthropomorhic-related races, if any), or other creature types.

  • You have disadvantage on any Wisdom (Animal Handling) rolls made with beasts or other non-intelligent creatures in your chosen group.
  • You have disadvantage on all Charisma checks when interacting with intelligent members of your chosen group.
  • Creatures belonging to your chosen group typically reciprocate the negative feelings you have for them, and will likely target you over other targets.

9. Big Mouth/Blabber Mouth

If the saying 'loose lips sinks ships' is true, then you are a veritable storm. You don't know when to keep your trap shut and often blab information to the wrong people.

  • You have disadvantage on all Charisma (Deception) checks.
  • If asked a direct question, you are likely to answer even if that means revealing information you do not wish to. (In dire circumstances you can make a Wisdom DC 10 save to resist revealing information).

10. Bleeder

Paper cuts can be a hazard for you. Blades are extra deadly.

  • You are vulnerable to slashing damage.

11. Blind/One-Eyed/Short-Sighted

You have blurred vision or one-eye and have trouble with depth perception. For a major drawback you are completely blind.

  • You make all Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely upon sight with disadvantage.
  • You reduce the normal range of any ranged weapon you use to 30 feet if it is further than this.
  • (Major only). You have the Blinded condition permanently. You automatically fail any ability check that requires sight. Attacks against you have advantage and your attacks have disadvantage. Special: This counts as 2 Major flaws.

12. Brain-Dead/Dullard/Stupid

You lack the mental faculties and capabilities of other people. You have trouble grasping concepts and ideas. Beating an ogre in a spelling bee might be a challenge for you if you have the major drawback.

  • Reduce your Intelligence score by 2.
  • (Major only). Reduce your Intelligence score by 4 (in total).

13. Brittle Bones/Bruise Easily

You flunked out of the school of hard knocks. Blunt weapons are your bane.

  • You are vulnerable to bludgeoning damage.

14. Cautious

You do not rush in. You like to assess all options before acting.

  • Your action on the first round of any encounter is spent assessing the situation. You may make an appropriate Intelligence or Wisdom check to learn something about your environment or enemies, but you may take no other action.

15. City-Slicker/Pampered

You are used to your homely comforts and being able to get what you want with little effort.

  • You have disadvantage on all Wisdom (Survival) rolls.
  • You have disadvantage on checks and saving throws made to resist exhaustion.

16. Civilian/Non-Combatant

You have never learnt to fight up close and personal.

  • You have disadvantage on all melee attacks, including spell melee attack rolls.

17. Clueless/Forgetful/Uneducated

You are not stupid, but you lack a basic education and your knowledge base is very narrow. Or perhaps you just have a memory like a sieve.

  • You have disadvantage on all Intelligence checks to recall lore (typically, all Arcana, History, Nature and Religion checks).

18. Clumsy/Klutz/Lumbering

You lack co-ordination and often trip over your own toes, or perhaps your bulk simply limits your movement. Chewing and walking at the same time may be a challenge if you have the major drawback.

  • Reduce your Dexterity score by 2.
  • (Major only). Reduce your Dexterity score by 4 (in total).

19. Cocky/Overconfident

When it comes to using your skills, there is nothing you can't handle. When you fail, you do not take it well.

  • If you fail at a task you are proficient in, you suffer disadvantage on all checks and attacks until you take a long rest. (For combats, this does not mean failing a single attack, but failing to defeat the enemy if you used attacks with weapons, spells etc with which you are proficient. Likewise for tasks requiring several checks - the penalty only applies if you fail the task, not an individual check).
  • You tend to tackle the toughest (or smartest) enemy - whichever is considered a 'suitable target' for one of your skills.

20. Coward/Craven/Milquetoast

Although you might want to be brave, acts of bravery are very hard for you to do. You are easily frightened and go to water during confrontations.

  • You have disadvantage on saves to resist the frightened condition.
  • You have disadvantage on Charisma (Intimidate) checks.
  • (Major only). You start every confrontational situation (social intrigue, combat, unexpected encounter) with disadvantage on all ability checks and attacks. You may spend an action to overcome your fear by making a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw (at disadvantage and as if resisting the frightened condition). On a success, you are no longer at disadvantage on all checks and attacks for the encounter. Failure indicates that disadvantage remains, though you may continue to make checks for every action you spend. A natural roll of 1 on one of these checks, results in you becoming frightened as well. If you get a raise (5+ above the required DC) on the save, you conquer your fear and gain Inspiration.

21. Curious

Yep, curiosity killed the cat, and it may well get you (and your allies) killed too. You are likely to take on missions, valuing the solving of the mystery as much (or more) than monetary reward. It should not take much to get you dragged into bad situations. You are likely to create a few of your own too, such as checking behind that unopened door whilst others are trying to rest, or wandering off whilst on watch to 'see what that noise is'.

  • When confronted by a situation where you don't know all the answers, you act to find those answers. There may be times where a GM might impose a Wisdom save if you wish to resist acting upon this compulsion.
  • You suffer disadvantage on Wisdom saves to resist effects that draw you into curious situations, such as following a will-o-wisp.

22. Deaf/Hard of Hearing/Hey?

Through age, an unfortunate accident, or being born this way, you have a hearing deficiency. Fortunately for you, shriekers don't pose much of a problem - get some to annoy the neighbours.

  • You have disadvantage on any check requiring hearing. This is typically Wisdom (Perception), but should also apply to social interaction rolls like Wisdom (Insight) and Charisma (Persuasion) when conversation is important.
  • (Major only). You have the Deafened condition permanently. You cannot hear and fail all ability checks requiring hearing.

23. Easy Target/Gold Brick/Magnet

You often zig when you should have zagged and tend to get in the way. You literally aren't going anywhere and get hit a lot.

  • When someone rolls a critical fumble that targets a nearby ally or a random target in a combat (from a ranged attack), you become that target.
  • (Major only). You take a -1 penalty to your AC.
  • (Major only). The AC penalty becomes -2 if you wear medium or heavy armor.

24. Elderly/Old/Venerable

You are getting long in the tooth. Physical exertion is more taxing than it used to be.

  • You have disadvantage on checks and saves to resist exhaustion.
  • You reduce your Strength, Dexterity and Constitution scores by 1 each.
  • (Major only). You reduce your Strength, Dexterity and Constitution scores by 2 each (in total) and they cannot be raised from this point on.

25. Feeble

You might have trouble fighting your way out of a wet paper bag.

  • You have disadvantage on all Strength and Constitution saving throws.
  • You have disadvantage on all Strength checks.

26. Flammable/Tinderbox

You don't take to well to fire, but it takes well to you.

  • You are vulnerable to fire damage.

27. Fragile

Force and thunder damage leave you rattled.

  • You are vulnerable to thunder damage and to effects that deal force damage.

28. Frail/Unfit/Unhealthy

You do not look after yourself. You could be rangy and unhealthy or large and unfit.

  • Reduce your Constitution score by 2.
  • (Major only) Reduce your Constitution score by 4 (in total).

29. Glass Jaw

You might look tough, but you go down easily when hit in the right spot.

  • Anytime you take damage totaling half your current hit points or more, you must make a Constitution saving throw or become incapacitated. The DC is 10 or half the damage you take, whichever is higher.
  • If incapacitated from a failed save due to this flaw, you can make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw at the end of each of your turns to remove the condition.

30. Gullible/Naive

You have no reason to question what your ears hear and what your eyes see.

  • You have disadvantage on all Wisdom (Insight) checks.
  • You have disadvantage to see through illusions. Typically an Intelligence (Investigation) check.
  • You have disadvantage on Wisdom saves to resist the charmed condition.

31. Heavy Sleeper/Sleepyhead

You like your sleep and when you get it, you are not easy to awaken.

  • You have disadvantage on all Wisdom (Perception) checks when asleep, no matter how loud the noise.
  • You have disadvantage on all attacks and checks for 1 minute following a long rest or when roused from your sleep, until you spend an action to 'shake off' your tiredness. To do so, you must spend your bonus action to make a DC 10 Constitution or Wisdom save. A successful save removes the penalties until the next long rest.
  • During a long rest, your hours must be consecutive. If awakened during the required 6 hours rest, you do not get the benefits of a long rest and must start over.

32. Honest/Honorable/Honor-Bound

You believe in a behavioural code, such as chivalry, where your word is your honor. You act in a respectful and non-deceitful manner towards all typical races. Your code may even require you to treat enemies (especially captives) in a decent manner.

  • You have disadvantage on all Dexterity (Sleight of Hand and Stealth) and Charisma (Deception) checks.

33. Illiterate

You are all about talking. There is no need to commit your words to paper. You were likely raised in a community where reading was unexpected or even unknown. (For some settings it is quite possible for the GM to assign this drawback with no benefits, if being illiterate is the norm).

  • You cannot read or write.

34. Inattentive/Insensitive/Self-Centered/Unaware/Unwise/Vague

You live in your own world and sometimes have difficulty feeling a part of the real world.

  • Reduce your Wisdom score by 2.
  • (Major only). Reduce your Wisdom score by 4 (in total).

35. Lame/One-Legged/Slow/Slowpoke

Whether through birth, an accident or injury, you are not as fast on your feet as others. When the others get going, you get left behind.

  • Reduce your speed by 5 feet.
  • (Major only). Speed reduction increases to 10 feet.
  • (Major only). You also have disadvantage on Strength (Athletics) and Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks.

36. Landlubber

You have no sea legs at all. You are uncomfortable on the deck of a moving ship and suffer from motion sickness. (Obviously, you cannot benefit from this drawback if boat travel is not going to feature in the campaign).

  • You have disadvantage on all Strength, Constitution and Dexterity checks and saves whilst in or on a waterborne vehicle.
  • At the start of each day (or new journey) aboard a water vessel you must make a Constitution roll to avoid sickness. The DC is 10 and failure results in a level of exhaustion. This can be removed with a similar check following a short rest (or automatically following a long rest) off the vessel (and not at sea of course).

37. Loyal

You do not leave a mate behind.

  • If you are not the last of your group to leave a dangerous situation, then you suffer overwhelming guilt. (This includes running or disengaging from an enemy that still threatens other allies). You have disadvantage on all ability checks until you take a long rest.

(If several members of a group have this flaw, then the penalty only applies if there are allies without this drawback left behind).

38. Mad/Unstable

You suffer from an indefinite madness. This is primarily a roleplaying drawback and should only be taken if the player is comfortable taking on such as restriction.

  • You roll a random flaw from the Indefinite Madness table in the Wizards of the Coast's Dungeon Master's Guide page 260.
  • If you try to resist the urge of your affliction, the GM may require a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. Your madness will also result in situations where you suffer disadvantage too. Many of these situations may be interaction based and will be determined by the GM.

39. Mute/Limited Vocabulary

You may have never learnt (or ever been able) to speak clearly, or perhaps you lost the ability to speak after a horrific encounter or a magical curse. Or perhaps your tongue got you into trouble once too often and someone had to remove it for you. In any case you cannot speak, though you may be able to make noises (ala Ilyn Payne) or repeat one word or phrase (like "Hodor" or "I am Groot").

  • You have disadvantage on all Charisma checks.
  • You cannot communicate complicated concepts through speech.

40. Nervous/Lying Eyes

You have trouble hiding your thoughts and controlling your nerves when put under pressure. Attempting to make others feel uneasy is just as hard for you.

  • You have disadvantage on all Charisma (Deception and Intimidation) checks.

41. Outsider

You are away from your own people and your ways are strange to those where you are now.

  • You have disadvantage on all Charisma (Persuasion and Streetwise) checks. (You do not have disadvantage when interacting with people from your homeland or of the same subrace/culture).

42. Phobia

You have an irrational fear of something (like cats, drinking from containers, tall people), or your fear of something that others fear (undead, aberrations, etc) is extreme. Your fear must be something that will have an effect on your abilities, so a creature type is a good choice for this drawback.

  • Upon seeing or being within 30 feet of your phobia, you must make a Wisdom save DC 10 or suffer the frightened condition. This save must be repeated at the start of each of your turns if you remain within 30 feet of your phobia (even if you previously passed the saving throw).
  • Once frightened, you can take a bonus action to make another Wisdom DC 10 save to remove the condition. However, if you roll a natural 1, the fear cannot be overcome this encounter and you do not get to make any more saves. If you roll a natural 20, your 'fight' reflex takes over and you instead gain advantage on your next attack versus the object/creature of your phobia and you do not need to make any more saves to avoid being frightened by your phobia this encounter.

43. Poor Reflexes/Slow to Act

People always get the jump on you.

  • You have disadvantage on initiative and Dexterity saves.

44. Primitive

Your people do not make use of metal. Equipment and items are made from unrefined materials such as stone, wood, and bone. Some rare materials, such as obsidian, may make up components too, such as a knife in a healer's bag. This drawback really only hinders the character at initial levels, but can be a good roleplaying angle too.

  • All starting weapons that would normally include a metal component gain the Fragile property. (See the EN5ider article As Good As His Blade for the Fragile property).
  • Starting armor is restricted to non-metal armors. (With a GM's permission, you may have substitutes for some metal armors, such as wood armor, but all AC values should be reduced by 1).
  • Starting equipment is limited to non-metal items. Most can be substituted with other materials, but this will prohibit some items. For example, you might carry a simple oil-burning lamp as opposed to a lantern.
  • You do not start with any coins. After purchasing all equipment, any funds leftover are lost, or if it suits your background could be converted to other commodities available to your people, such as livestock, produce, spices, etc.

45. Soft-Skin/Thin-Skinned

Not even your skin offers you much protection. You are a walking pin-cushion.

  • You are vulnerable to piercing damage.

46. Storm-Scarred/Super-Conductor

Something in your past has led you to being vulnerable to attacks from the heavens - more than likely you have upset the gods, or just one of them.

  • You are vulnerable to lightning and thunder damage.

47. Sunlight Sensitivity/Delver/Ranga


  • You have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.
  • You have disadvantage on Constitution (Endurance) rolls to resist the effects of heat.
  • (Major only). You have disadvantage on attack rolls when you or your target are in direct sunlight.

48. Thin Blooded

Liquids travel faster through your bloodstream and your skin offers little resistance to such fluids.

  • You are vulnerable to acid and poison damage.

49. Weak/Weakling

You simply lack the bulk and power of other people.

  • Reduce your Strength score by 2.
  • (Major only). Reduce your Strength score by 4 (in total).

50. Weak Mind/Weak-Willed

Your mind is easy to penetrate and you are easily influenced by magic.

  • You have disadvantage on all Wisdom, Intelligence and Charisma saves.
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