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When selecting the background for my Sorcerer, I chose Outlander (PHB, p. 136-137). This background gives a "staff" for starting equipment (among other things).

Does the staff act like a quarterstaff or an improvised weapon if used to attack?

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There are three things in the equipment list that are within the price range of background kit and could conceivably be described as "staff" - the Staff arcane focus, the Wooden Staff druidic focus, and the quarterstaff itself. For the focuses, it appears that there's a decent amount of support for the idea that one of them can be used as a quarterstaff.

Can the arcane/druidic focus staff double as quarterstaff?

Of course, if it's the quarterstaff, you're good to go.

As for which it is, it's unclear. The most obvious from a pure RAW standpoint is the one simply called "staff" (the arcane focus). The second most obvious is the druidic focus. Those raise odd questions, though, in the case of an Outlander who is neither a druid nor an arcane caster. Perhaps the simplest answer would be for the player to pick one of the three. The most expensive of the lot is 5gp - little enough that it shouldn't be a big issue one way or the other.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While the names are similar, I don't think there's any connection between an spellcasting focus staff and and the staff from the Outlander background. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Nov 27, 2018 at 21:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast RAW, I believe that it's the only thing described simply as "staff" in the PHB gear list, and 5gp isn't too much for a piece of background gear. If it's not the spellcasting focus (either the arcane "staff" or the druidic "wooden staff"), then what is it? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Nov 27, 2018 at 21:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why would a (e.g.) Fighter with the Outlander background start with a Druidic or Arcane spellcasting focus item? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 28, 2018 at 0:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the most logical answer (albeit one not described in the game) is that the "staff" is actually either meant to just be a walking stick of some sort, or it's a quarterstaff and they got the name wrong. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Nov 29, 2018 at 3:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast You're free to think that... but that's not worth anything more than a "This DM would rule that..." answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Nov 29, 2018 at 14:22
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This would definitely be a question for your DM, but I believe most people agree that it can be used as a quarterstaff.

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