Background stories are optional, but player characters are always foreigners to Chult. They may come from any other part of Faêrun but can't be native. New characters often start at Port Nyanzaru, but may be anywhere else in the sub-continent that the GM needs to position to keep the flow of an ongoing adventure!
If you'd like to develop a background, here's a few ideas for motivations:
Most often, they come aboard mercantile ships sailing from Baldur's Gate, Waterdeep or Neverwinter. These commercial convoys are funded by nobles and merchants eager to load their ships with gorgeous pelts, exotic pets and aromatic fruits that cannot be found anywhere else in the planet. It is common for ships to constantly need extra security against the pirates that lurk in the Shining Sea.
- Official: Courtier, Gladiator, Knight, Soldier
Another type of adventurer is the one coming to Chult for the many ancient ruins of forgotten civilizations. There are many stories of explorers that became fabulously rich after an expedition into the peninsula. There are those that swear cities of emeralds and temples of gold hide in the forest, abandoned for centuries. How many return? Well, the stories are never clear about that part.
- Official: Charlatan, Cloistered Scholar, Entertainer, Noble, Urchin
- Anthropologist: https://www.dndbeyond.com/backgrounds/292957-anthropologist
- Archeologist: https://www.dndbeyond.com/backgrounds/292958-archaeologist
- Treasure Hunter: https://www.dndbeyond.com/backgrounds/21169-treasure-hunter
Procurement / Smuggling
Some missions are funded by wizards that need rare ingredients, collectors searching for historical artifacts or beast-tamers looking for exotic animals. These adventurers are often better prepared to handle the jungle and the wild life as they have a better idea where to go and how to get out, but can still be caught by the many surprises Chult throw at those that venture in its jungles.
- Official: Clan Crafter, Guild Artisan / Merchant, Pirate, Sailor, Waterdhavian Noble
There are families, friends or business partners willing to pay generously for anyone able to find dear ones that never come back from Chult. More than one foolish knight have traveled to slay beasts and prove their resolve. More than one religious missionary have entered its jungles to convert native peoples.
- Official: City Watch, Criminal / Spy, Faction Agent, Mercenary Veteran, Urban Bounty Hunter
- Bounty Hunter: https://www.dndbeyond.com/backgrounds/1290-bounty-hunter
A small number of adventures are composed by those searching for a higher truth, a spiritual awakening or some sort of revelation. It is said the veil between worlds is thinner on Chult, and it may habours natural gateways to other planes and demi-planes. Druids, clerics and rangers can all be looking into ways to get closer to their divines, while sorcerers, wizards and warlocks may be after arcane secrets.
- Official: Acolyte, Hermit, Outlander, Sage
End the Death Curse
In the official material, ToA starts upon the unleashing of the Death Curse, which can create all sorts of plots for characters trying to save friends and family.
- Official: Far Traveler, Folk Hero, Inheritor, Knight of the Order, Uthgardt Tribe Member
- Homebrew: any of the above.
Knowledge of Chult
How much knowledge of Chult should a character have? Depends on the details of the backstory of course, but in a general sense you could adopt one of 4 levels of depth:
Very superficial facts from what people gossip about or ghost stories for children: Chult is a far away land of dangerous forests and evil spirits, but some adventures come back rich. It is also inhabited by dinosaurs.
You read or learned more than the average folk:
Chult is mostly a wild, untamed peninsula with maybe a couple of big cities resembling Sword Coast civilizations. It is said the forests are plagued by the undead, but still home of many tribes, made of multiple races and flying people. There are rumours of portals and passages to other worlds as well. You also heard about fabulous wealth hidden in ancient ruins. And dinosaur races.
You spent some time learning about the place. Requires procifiency in History.
The only relatively safe point of entry is the city of Port Nyanzaru. All commerce with the rest of Faêrun is done from this city - all other shores are either too hard to anchor safely, are hideouts for pirates or the lair of dangerous sea creatures. You also know the story of how the god Ubtao - the last survivor of the Primodials - used to protect the land but abandoned his duties centuries ago. Even so, Ubtao seeded the land with so much primordial essence that Dire animals and unique monsters are still common in the wilds. You also know the veil separating the Material Plane and both the Feywild and the Shadowfell is thinner within the jungles of Chult. Finally, you heard how every living being in the main city and metropolis, Mezro, simply disappeared during the Spellplague a century ago.
Although you never visited the place by yourself, you spent years studying whatever parchment or book on Chult history you could find. Requires the Archeologist or Anthropologist backgrounds, plus proficiency in History.
You can ask anything to the DM about the past of Chult - but even so, most knowledge available today pertains coastal places. The interior of the peninsula is only documented by scattered stories backed by little evidence, as very few people can survive it.