In the Backgrounds section:

Each background gives a character proficiency in two skills. Skills are described in chapter 7. In addition, most backgrounds give a character proficiency with one or more tools. Tools and tool proficiencies are detailed in chapter 5. If a character would gain the same proficiency from two different sources, he or she can choose a different proficiency of the same kind (skill or tool) instead.

Could a Barbarian character being created, for instance, pick Athletics and Survival as his class skills, and then when selecting a background, pick Outlander (which grants proficiency in these two skills), and then using this rule, instead pick two skills from the whole skill list?

Or is your background chosen before class skill-proficiencies?


2 Answers 2


Your class and all starting class features, such as skill proficiencies, are chosen before backgrounds — see PHB pages 11–15 for the order of operations. So yes, you can select overlapping skills for your barbarian before taking the Outlander background, then get to choose any two skills instead.

A minor reason you might not want to do this is because the trick locks you into choosing Outlander / not choosing any other background.


You've asked two questions in your post: one on the order of the steps of character creation, and one on which skill proficiencies you can gain from your background.

For the order of application: Character creation is broken into steps for ease of creation, not out of necessity. Whether you start with the background, race, or class is irrelevant since the process is a whole not a stepping program.

The only exception to this was the one I left out, which is ability score rolls. I assume standard array when dealing with questions unless OP states otherwise; however, I'll address that in the event your group is playing with a more hardcore mindset and has you roll ability scores after the character has been built, you may end up with a rather weak Barbarian, an incredibly irritating Bard (so a Bard), or a stupid Wizard. Of course, you could end up with an extremely dexterous warlock or a very durable sorcerer!

The point here is that if your group has different rules in play than the PHB does, it will significantly alter the answer. As per RAW, the order is entirely irrelevant.

For the skill proficiencies: You can do whatever you want for each proficiency of your background.

Your answer is under the rules for customizing a background (PHB, pg. 126; emphasis mine):

You might want to tweak some of the features of a background so it better fits your character or the campaign setting. To customize a background, you can replace one feature with any other one, choose any two skills, and choose a total of two tool proficiencies or languages from the sample backgrounds. You can either use the equipment package from your background or spend coin on gear as described in chapter 5. (If you spend coin, you can’t also take the equipment package suggested for your class.) Finally, choose two personality traits, one ideal, one bond, and one flaw. If you can’t find a feature that matches your desired background, work with your DM to create one.

  • \$\begingroup\$ -1: The paragraph starting with "The only exception" doesn't seems to be super relevant, and sounds kind of like a rant. The next paragraph says that "[by] RAW, the order is ... irrelevant", but you don't back that up with any rules citations. Also, your point about custom backgrounds only works with DM approval, and seems to ignore the case the querent asked about, where they are using standard backgrounds. \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Oct 22, 2015 at 21:37
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Theres no rule to cite because character creation has no definitive structure in the phb that says you MUST do something in any particular order. Reread customized backgrounds as the only thing requiring dm approval is anything not covered by the standard ones that youre mixing and matching. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 22, 2015 at 22:40

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