Dungeons and Dragons is a fantasy role-playing game that is known to many. DnD has a very reputable position in the gaming community and this game has an exponential number of growing audiences that are mesmerized by the concept of Logic, fantasy, imagination, tactics, and improvisation which are the elements that give life to the game. The thing that makes DnD unique and interesting to play is that in this game a player is not bound to traditional military formations rather this game allows players to create their own character by using their imagination and this is what makes this game worth playing.
And the character that is created by a player is posed with scenarios and problems in which the created character will face challenges, monsters and not only this but created characters will also be able to interact with other characters that are created by others players and the one who will give you scenarios and challenges in it is better known as Dungeon Master or DM in short.
So now the question is that what is the new thing that it is offering in its 5th edition? Unlike its previous editions, the 5th edition of DnD offers the backgrounds for the characters. By saying this we mean that DnD is not just forming a character but it is about that whatever your character is right now it must be the result of previous happenings that make him what he is today. We will discuss this in a few points.
So what actually the DnD 5e backgrounds mean?
So, before we dive any deeper into the DnD 5th Edition backgrounds, we first have to take a look at what a background actually is and what role does it play in our DnD game right? Well, backgrounds are actually one of the greatest inventions made till date and as any other DnD freak (like myself), you would definitely agree with me on this. But what is it actually you might ask? Well, It’s this handy feature that lets you define your character’s history to make it stand-out and have a greater influence combined with the overall theme of your game.
For instance, Let’s just assume that you’ve gone through all the steps and have setup your character, say you have named it Doctor Strange junior, why junior you may ask? Well, because he is dwarf but he posses some great skills such as that of a priest and you have gone ahead and sketched out all the skills and abilities for your priest character and called it a day but that doesn’t define who he used to be or what has he been through before actually becoming a priest now, does it?
So that’s where background comes into play, it gives your character an extra layer of personality like who they were before they actually decided to become a priest or whoever they are now and what exactly happened that made them into living this unique life of living into these mysterious dungeons. Was it their greed of finding the hidden treasures filled to the brim with rare and expensive gems and jewels? Or was it just an unfortunate incident that happened in the past that made them who they are? See, how easily it adds this sense of familiarity with the character after knowing that they have been through that makes it so much more interesting like we see in most of the movies, they use this method to make us more engaged and connect with the character.
Luckily, the fifth edition of DnD has this awesome background mechanic to help you turn your generic, imaginary-doll of a character into a multi-dimensional, fully functioning, a story backed live entity that actually has some sort of place in the DnD society that you have setup.
But how do we use these backgrounds?
Now that we know what a background is and what role does it play in our game, it’s time to figure out how exactly we can use this amazing mechanic to bring our dull and not so live character to life, shall we?
Well, there are many paths one might take to arrive at making a really cool character for your DM’s story charade but we are going to take a look at two of the most classic ways to go about making a background for your character.
- First: is probably the more off-the-book method, what you need to do is creating your character first and once you have figured out your character, you go through the Player’s Handbook to find which background fits best with the original character sketch that you have made up in your mind.
- Second: is likely a by-the-book method, what you need to do here is you can start with the good old Player’s Handbook and use the options that are already provided to help you fill out your character’s backstory and it give it a more fitting background based on that.
Both methods are extremely useful but the question is which one should you go with? The Handbook originally lists 13 possible options, there are also more to choose from if we look into extended DnD content from other awesome creators around the world, but other than that you and your Dungeon Master can also discuss a custom background for your character based on whatever you have sketched up in your adventurous mind, so yeah, it’s entirely up to you and of course, your DM.
Bring your character life with backgrounds!
Backgrounds do much more than just giving your character a cool backstory among other characteristics that we will discuss later in this guide. Backgrounds in the DnD 5th edition can also grant you these awesome little special perks that can prove to be extremely beneficial for your character in the game depending on your characters background you can:
- Learn additional languages (other than the defined ones)
- Gain new equipment (based on your character’s history)
- New role-playing abilities.
- Gain proficiency in two specified skills.
- And much more.
This can really come in handy, because it means that you can have a whole new proficiency if it was learned from another source, which is awesome right?
Now as I mentioned earlier, backstory really plays a huge role but that’s not all you need to create an awesome character like, let’s say that we have created our character and also defined its backstory, so it’s about time we refined our character’s personality and for that each background has some Suggested characteristics that we can apply to our character such as Ideals, Flaws, Bonds and Personality traits to further make the game more enjoyable and also giving DM the chance to come up with some interesting situations for the players to deal with.
Making our First Character using Backgrounds
Now that we know everything that we need to know about 5e Backgrounds. It’s finally time to make our own character and for that we will use the Handbook to quickly create our own Charlatan character and use the power of background to make him charming Robin hood of our game. So, we are going to take this process step-by-step, so that we can easily come back here and make as many characters as we want in the future following these simple steps, are you ready?
Create a Character using PHB
Firstly, let’s say we want to make a handsome charlatan character known as Willie Wonka, who from his early life loved making fool of other people and with time this little misdemeanor started to grew on him and he finally decided to use this for making a livelihood. So, using the handbook our character can have two skill proficiencies in deception and sleight of hand.
Now for the items/tools, you have two tools proficiency in disguise and forgery kits. And as a Charlatan, you get the equipment such as nice apparel, a disguise kit to deceive others, speaking of which you also get to choose some of deceptive props or cons of your own choice such as magnetic weights, magical cards, fake ring or weighted dice, it just totally depends on what you want to use in your game. Pretty cool right? But there’s more to it!
Acquire Exclusive Features
However, we can take it a step forward and give our character some exclusive features that only he can use, like because our character has this nature of deceiving others, we can say that our character has made a second hidden identity for himself with forged documents, disguise and a fake accent that he can use to hide himself when facing a dangerous situation and as our character has a forgery kit he can forge more documents if he needs to which can come in handy for impersonating someone.
Give it a Unique Personality
We’ve still got just a little more work to do like setting up our character’s personality trait and for that we can roll a d8 dice and say we get a 3, which says, our character uses the skill of flattery to get what he needs and it works pretty much all the time and now for the ideal, you rolled a d6 and say got a result of 3, defining our character as a good guy who gives some amount of what he earns or say steal to other poor and needy people to help them out and for the flaw you roll a d6, getting a result of 1, which makes you a flirt as you just can not let a pretty face go away which you think “would be a waste of beauty”.
Define its Backstory
For the bond now, you roll a d6 for a result of 6 which adds a bit of backstory to your character which says you had a pretty tough childhood as your family was poor and hardly managed to get by with what they earned so you’d end up hungry for days without eating which forced you to deceive others into lending you money with your sweet talks and as time went by it became a source of livelihood for you but your hidden guilt never left your side so to find salvage of some sort you decided to give half of it to help other poor people. Awesome isn’t? it just adds life to your character.
And that’s all, within minutes, you made up a handsome Charlatan who loves deceiving rich people but is good at heart so he steals from the rich and gives to the poor at least half of it, like a Robinhood and that’s just using the Handbook. Imagine what else you’ll bring to this character when you start playing around with these amazing backgrounds.
It is good to have these DnD 5e backgrounds because there will be a lot of stories adhered to characters and make characters more realistic by defining their position telling more about it and these stories will enhance our ability to imagine and plot different scenarios also.
DND 5e Backgrounds List Below
In the below provided d&d 5e backgrounds list which is officially mentioned in player’s handbook. There are thirteen backgrounds.
|Acolyte||Any two||119||None||Insight, Religion|
|Criminal||None||121||Gaming set, Thieves||Deception, Stealth|
|Charlatan||None||120||Disguise kit, Forgery kit||Deception, Sleight of Hand|
|Entertainer||None||122||Musical instrument, Disguise kit||Acrobatics, Performance|
|Folk Hero||None||123||Artisan's tool, vehicles (land)||Animal handling survival|
|Guild Artisan||Any One||124||Artisan's tool||Insight, persuasion|
|Hermit||Any One||126||Herbalism Kit||Religion, Medicine|
|Noble||Any One||127||Gaming set||History, Persuasion|
|Outlander||Any One||128||Musical Instrument||Athletics, Survival|
|Sage||Any Two||129||Navigator's tools, vehicles||Arcana, History|
|Sailor||None||131||Navigator's tools, vehicles (water)||Athletics, Perception|
|Soldier||None||132||Gaming set, vehicles (land)||Athletics, Intimidation|
|Urchin||None||133||Disguise kit, Thieves’ tools||Sleight of Hand, Stealth|
SCAG Backgrounds List
|City Watch||Any Two||145||None||Athletics, Insight|
|Clan Crafter||Any One||145||Artisan's Tools||History, Insight|
|Cloistered Scholar||Any Two||146||None||History, Choose 1: Arcana, Nature, Religion|
|Faction Agent||Any Two||147||None||Insight, Special (Choice)|
|Far Traveler||Any One||148||Musical Instrument x10, Gaming Set x1||Insight, Perception|
|Inheritor||None||150||Musical Instrument x1, Gaming Set x1||Survival, Choose 1: Arcana, History, Religion|
|Investigator||Any Two||145||None||Insight, Investigation|
|Knight of the order||Any One||151||Gaming set x1, Musical Instrument x1||Persuasion, Special (choice)|
|Mercenary Veteran||Any One||152||Gaming Set x1, Ground Vehicle||Athletics, Persuasion|
|Urban Bounty Hunter||None||153||Choose 1: Gaming Set x1, Musical Instrument x1, Thieves Tools||Choose 2: Deception, Insight, Persuasion, Stealth|
|Uthgardt Tribe||Any One||153||Choose 1: Artisan's Tools, Musical Instrument x1||Athletics, Survival|
|Waterdhavian Noble||Any One||154||Choose 1: Gaming Set x1, Musical Instrument x1||History, Persuasion|
What is the best background in DnD?
A lot of beginners when creating their character wonder which background is best but let me tell me you one thing, there is nothing like “best” background in DnD but there are backgrounds that best fit your character class which can, in terms prove to be very useful in the game.
Let’s say you have selected Bard class for your character which is known to be a real people charmer so it’d make sense if you chose charlatan or entertainer as a background for you character which can let you have more proficiency as both allow you to have skills that help you charm people to get what you want and the same goes for all the other backgrounds and classes.
How do I choose a DnD background?
Now choosing a DnD background is not easy as it requires much more than just random ideas put together to make a character. It depends upon the type of theme your DM is going for, the map or game setting, your character class and lastly how you want your character to fit in all that.
Let’s say you are in the middle of a forest which is surrounded by militia from other tribal warriors looking for you and you decided to have a barbarian as your character class to better match the game settings so now what background should you go for? Entertainer? Heck NO! there’s no chance you’d just charm your way through these warriors, but what if you choose outlander who knows his way around the wilderness? Now that makes more sense as it’d play out in your advantage, combined with your barbarian class it could earn you extra proficiencies in skills.
What does Bonds mean in DnD?
Bonds can mean a lot of things but putting it simply, it just shows a connection you have with a place, or a person, or any object that has in some way affected your personality and/or continues to do so.
Like, for an acolyte you have spent all your life worshipping some god or any other spirit but before that, say you were an orphan left alone on the streets and a priest came along and took you in and gave you shelter which created this bond between you and the priest who took you in when no one else did. So yeah, it could be anything or anyone who affects your personality and molds your character.
What are Ideals in DnD?
Ideals are one of the most fundamental characteristics that defines your characters belief or way of life. You could say it is something that your character lives for.
Let’s say you are an acolyte who firmly believes in the divinity of holy spirits and spends his life preaching about it and you can even sacrifice your own life if you have to without any second thoughts, so that’s your ideal but different backgrounds have different ideals that mostly relate to their past.
What does flaw mean in DnD?
Now everything else that we talked about like bonds, ideals and personality traits, they are there to work for your character’s advantage (mostly) but flaws on the other hand represent something bad about your character, it could be a bad habit that other players can take advantage of.
Like, if you pick a charlatan who is really good with people and can easily deceive them but you have a bad habit of over spending, so you always end up in debt no matter how much you have and that’s something that other players can exploit and take advantage of during the game but that’s the beauty of flaws as they make the game more interesting, other wise everyone would just be perfect right?
What are Proficiencies in D&D?
Proficiencies are the points that you acquire for a particular skill or a tool determined by your character class, background or race. These proficiencies start from 2 and increase as you move up the level.
- Acrobatics – Dexterity
- Animal Handling – Wisdom
- Arcana – Intelligence
- Athletics – Strength
- Deception – Charisma
- History – Intelligence
- Insight – Wisdom
- Intimidation – Charisma
- Investigation – Intelligence
- Medicine – Wisdom
- Nature – Intelligence
- Perception – Wisdom
- Performance – Charisma
- Persuasion – Charisma
- Religion – Intelligence
- Sleight of Hand – Dexterity
- Stealth – Dexterity
- Survival – Wisdom