Questions tagged [background]

For questions about a character's background (also called backstory or character history), the origin of a character before they are created and appear in play. Backgrounds are usually most relevant to player characters.

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64
votes
11answers
16k views

Is it OK for me to give my players' characters punitive backstories when they don't provide their own?

As a GM I have a rule where I write a players background for the player in a way that will affect them badly if they say the are amnesiacs in order to get out of writing a backstory. I tend to require ...
48
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3answers
67k views

What happens if I get the same skill from both my background and my class?

I made a trickster cleric with spy background. This caused an overlap of stealth and disguise. (Further compounded by me wanting to take hide in shadow ... which again granted me stealth.) What ...
44
votes
5answers
5k views

How can I develop my character's background when I know nothing of the game's lore and want to avoid spoilers?

This is a tricky one, and I may be painting myself into a corner in which case please feel free to tell me so in an answer but please also provide advice on how to get out whilst disturbing as little ...
42
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12answers
18k views

Players Develop Backstories Too Much

I keep running into an issue as a dungeon master where my players develop their characters a bit too much. By this, I mean that they'll write up things in their backstories or develop NPCs that aren't ...
40
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8answers
6k views

How do I get other players to ask about my backstory?

So here's the thing: I'm the only player in our group who writes long, detailed backgrounds, and it's pretty easy for me since I write stories quite often anyway. I've had 3 characters with our ...
34
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6answers
9k views

Is giving my character amnesia about its backstory a bad idea?

During my first campaign as a player, I had a issue with my DM regarding the background I gave to my character. It was my first time creating a background for my character, and I loved doing it so ...
29
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7answers
5k views

Who gets to write how character backgrounds tie into the game?

One of my player's character is searching for a long-lost brother whom he never knew. Who is ultimately responsible for how this NPC is written into the story? I realize that I am the DM, and ...
24
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5answers
2k views

How to handle diverging expectations on “background density”?

Sorry, this is lengthy, but I want to put this into context. After many years (try 15) of not GM'ing a group of my own, I recently made an attempt to return to the head of the table and shake off the ...
23
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10answers
4k views

How do I rein in a character's backstory without discouraging the player?

I'm planning to start a game of Rogue Trader with a number of new players that are new to RPGs. I've helped the players generate their characters and have given them a very very basic backstory to ...
22
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3answers
15k views

Can the urchin's pet mouse survive combat?

The background Urchin provides the player with "a pet mouse". Is there any reasonable way to make this mouse survive combat? I would think that the first area of effect spell (say fireball) would kill ...
21
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8answers
4k views

How can I involve a PC's backstory in a campaign that's set exclusively in a distant or foreign location?

I like my players to have a firm idea of their characters' backstories, and I like the idea of being able to draw on these (NPCs from the past showing up unexpectedly, etc.). However, in our next ...
20
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3answers
3k views

How can I add details to my character mid-campaign? [closed]

I'm very new to Dungeons and Dragons, but when creating my character, I made it part of his backstory that he had a magic amulet that he couldn't take off. It was originally a McGuffin that I used to ...
19
votes
2answers
530 views

What are the consequences of letting players be characters from a work of fiction?

What are the consequences of letting players be characters from a book, movie, or other pre-existing work of fiction? For example, how would I handle a campaign based on the X-Files where the PCs are ...
19
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2answers
2k views

How do I politely tell my players to shut up about their backstory? [closed]

Disclaimer: I know backstories are good and necessary but here's the issue - Two players have a joint backstory, and one of them is REALLY into it, and it's starting to disrupt game time because he ...
18
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5answers
2k views

How do I get player characters who have non-adventurer backstories to go on adventures?

I have had an annoying issue where all my players make characters that don't adventure and have jobs! This makes it really hard to incorporate them into the story and gives them very little backstory (...
18
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2answers
3k views

Creating a character, is Noble a class or a background?

I am getting back into D&D after about 15 years. Reading through the Players Handbook it refers to Noble as a class but it is found in the Background section. Super novice question and I ...
18
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3answers
3k views

What to do if the DM ignores all but one player character's backstory?

My current DM in their homebrew campaign has centered the campaign almost entirely around the barbarian in the party. The campaign has been going for about 6 months of play roughly once a week (about ...
16
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2answers
7k views

Why does the Folk Hero get a shovel?

Equipment: A set of artisan’s tools (one of your choice), a shovel, an iron pot, a set of common clothes, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp I get pretty much everything else, but the shovel ...
16
votes
1answer
7k views

Does/Should the Gladiator background grant proficiency in the weapon it gives?

The Gladiator background (an Entertainer variant, from PHB p. 130-131) gives a strange weapon (like a trident or net) as starting equipment, but doesn't explicitly specify that it gives proficiency ...
15
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7answers
3k views

Food Scraps, what are they and do they go bad?

My Ranger character has the Urchin personality trait of "I hide scraps of food and trinkets away in my pockets", which I have been RPing, without thought for much benefit. I have been just ...
15
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3answers
8k views

What are some canon noble houses in 5e?

I like making characters for future campaigns and have come up with a Harpy bard PC of noble birth(background). The idea I wanted to go with is that she is born in an offshoot branch of a canon noble ...
15
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5answers
647 views

As a GM, how do I encourage PCs to share and play out their backstories?

My players have trouble creating deep backstories for the characters. I have decided to go with that but provide opportunities in-game for filling out the gaps. I'm considering introducing some ...
15
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2answers
5k views

Is a staff from background starting equipment counted as a quarterstaff or an improvised weapon?

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 ...
15
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3answers
2k views

Fleshing out a background and roleplaying it

I am a big fan of fleshed out, rich, interesting backgrounds, that give the feeling that the character is real. For that reason, I really like to give characters traits that everyday people have, ...
14
votes
2answers
6k views

Can I apply Expertise to a skill proficiency granted by background or racial?

Specifically related to 5E, can I use the Expertise ability granted by Rogue class ability to increase my proficiency in a skill that is granted by racial or background? Specifically, I am making a ...
14
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3answers
2k views

Overlapping Proficiencies From Leveling?

In my game I'm a Rogue with the Entertainer background. Leveled up enough to pick a subclass and decided on Mastermind for the teamwork possibilities. The subclass gives Disguise Kit proficiency, ...
14
votes
4answers
2k views

How do background features work in terms of mechanics?

I feel like background features are a little more "final" than normal feats. Take for example the Outlander features Wanderer. You have an excellent memory for maps and geography, and you can ...
14
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3answers
3k views

What can a soldier requisition and for how long?

In the military rank feature it says the soldier can "requisition simple equipment or a horse for temporary use". What qualifies as simple equipment, any simple weapon or something less complex than a ...
14
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6answers
3k views

How do I represent a warlock with a background in thievery?

I'm developing a Dwarven Warlock (Hrafnhildur "Fin" Arnarsdottir) for the next 4E campaign I get the chance to join. She left home to join a gang in a city, and after reading a book they were going to ...
14
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3answers
1k views

Can you buy the unusual items provided by backgrounds?

The PHB (p.125) states that you can either take the equipment package provided by your background or you can use coin to purchase your starting equipment. If you choose to purchase your starting ...
13
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3answers
3k views

What are the 'civilian' jobs of shamans?

In the Shadowrun setting, I find it hard to envision what a shaman does all day. What do shamans do for a living if they are not shadowrunners or security personnel of one sort or another (be it for a ...
13
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3answers
11k views

Must my background be chosen from the given options in the Player's Handbook?

I'm new to D&D and I'm trying to create my first character. One thing I don't understand is the character's background. There are some background described in the player's handbook. Do I have to ...
12
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3answers
9k views

Does Charlatan give access to other backgrounds' features?

I am creating a Rogue and I decided to take the Charlatan background. After reading that I get a duke's signet ring, I decided to make my false identity a duke. But then I wondered, doesn't that mean ...
12
votes
7answers
2k views

Best way to get players to think about their backgrounds within the game?

I'm a new DM playing with a group of 5 new players. (We're playing D&D 4e but more general answers are acceptable.) So far we have done 3 sessions, where we've mainly focussed on learning the ...
12
votes
1answer
28k views

Do proficiency bonus increases due to levelling apply to skills gained from background?

I'm playing my first D&D 5e character, a Wood Elf Fighter with the Soldier background. I have proficiency in the skills Acrobatics and Survival from the Fighter class, and Athletics and ...
12
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the SURGE event in Shadowrun?

The Shadowrun 4E background material mentions an event called SURGE, which seems to be similar to UGE or Goblinization. SURGE is mentioned twice in SR4A, and at least once in the Sixth World Atlas. ...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

Can a customized background provide two exotic languages in AL?

When customizing a background, you can choose a combination of 2 languages or tool proficiencies. Is it AL-legal to pick 2 exotic languages as your background languages? I'm asking this since I don't ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

How to deal with a DM changing my backstory and dismissing my ideas?

The buildup I am playing a campaign with a few friends and we are all kinda new including the DM, though he does have a little more experience than the players. The other day the DM asked everyone for ...
11
votes
7answers
2k views

What systems use interesting questions to inspire character backgrounds? [closed]

In another question, it was suggested that the game "Dread" has a number of questions to make players really consider their character's backstory and personality. However, I'm planning to run a non-...
11
votes
1answer
6k views

Is there some sort of official assassin background?

One of my players wants to play a high elf with the background of a professional assassin. I went through the player's handbook and looked around the internet but couldn't find any "official" ...
11
votes
5answers
2k views

Ex-wizard that pretends he still is a wizard

I am pondering creating an epic-level wizard character, who through excessive use of Mordenkainen's Disjunction on artifacts has permanently lost all casting ability as well as all his class levels ...
11
votes
1answer
22k views

Tiefling - Explanation on the “Virtue” name “Carrion” as suggested in the 5e PHB

As you may (or may not) know, a Tiefling has often a "Virtue" name that embodies the Tiefling willingness to find a place in the world. Among those "Virtue" names the following are suggested in the ...
11
votes
3answers
16k views

Do characters start with the tools their background says they are proficient in?

I find it odd that some backgrounds give the character proficiency with tools but then do not list those tools under equipment. For example, the Urchin: Tool Proficiencies: Disguise kit, thieves' ...
11
votes
1answer
5k views

What is the difference between themes and backgrounds?

Wizards has fairly recently released character themes for D&D 4th Edition. What is the difference between themes and backgrounds? Can you pick one of each or do you have to choose between the ...
10
votes
6answers
5k views

How is being hunted by a tyrant a flaw?

So I'm a new DM and my friends just made their characters. One of them chose a flaw from the rulebook that confuses me. It's part of the "Folk Hero" background and reads like this: The tyrant who ...
10
votes
4answers
3k views

I am a new player in a group. Another player's character has spent their childhood in a brothel and it is bothering me. What can I do?

I am a new player in a group. Another player's character supposedly spent their childhood in a brothel before being sold to pirates; they served on the ship's crew before eventually deciding to retire ...
10
votes
5answers
1k views

The PCs are boring; how do I involve them in the story?

I just started running my first D&D campaign, and I've run into this problem. I want the story to go to places that involve the PCs personally, and help the players feel more invested. One player'...
10
votes
2answers
884 views

How to showcase NPC's rich backstory?

In an upcoming game I have an NPC whom I've picked from a previous game. The NPC in question has already had an interesting background, and was evolved from the endgame state to suit the new campaign ...
10
votes
1answer
838 views

If you use “Monstrous Adventurers” from “Volo's Guide to Monsters” for a PC, do you use a background?

I was looking at Volo's Guide to Monsters, the section on "Monstrous Adventurers", and wondered whether you include a background when you use that to create a character of one of the species listed ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

Can you have a companion from your backstory?

My character's backstory is that he had to flee his city because he used a spell to save his best friend in the city watch. He is from a made-up city where spells and powerful magic were privileges ...