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I'm going to be DMing fairly soon for the first time, and the players in my group wants to make their own backgrounds. How do I go about letting them choose skill proficiencies and equipment and stuff you'd normally get from your background?

I have looked through the Player's Handbook, but I just want some more clarification.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why are they creating their own backgrounds instead of picking an existing one? The standard ones cover a very wide area. And have you taken a look at the DMG? It has guidelines for making a lot of player options. \$\endgroup\$ – xanderh May 31 '15 at 21:49
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How to make new backgrounds is in the Dungeon Master's Guide in the “Creating New Character Options” section that starts on page 285. How to make new backgrounds is on page 289.

If the players will be creating the new backgrounds' concepts, you should work with your players on the mechanical details, not let them choose them on their own. Creating new backgrounds is potentially quite powerful in the hands of a self-interested player, and they shouldn't be let loose like kids in a candy shop. Let them do Steps 1 and 2 in consultation with you to determine theme and flavour, and then you do Steps 3 through 5 yourself to determine mechanical benefits, and then consult with them to see if the result suits the theme.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the PHB itself also mentions something on custom backgrounds. At least to the tune of swapping out skills, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o May 31 '15 at 22:02
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Page 36 of the Player's Basic Rules includes a section on customizing backgrounds. I won't include the whole thing here, but the essential points are as follows:

  • Choose any 2 skills.
  • Choose a total of 2 tool proficiencies or languages.
  • Choose 2 traits, one bond, one ideal, and one flaw.
  • Choose an equipment package from one of the existing backgrounds or take starting gold.
  • Choose one feature from one of the existing backgrounds or work with the DM to create one.

So you can essentially let them choose anything, as long as one of the existing backgrounds offers it. If they want to create something, they can do that too, but they have to run it by you.

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