Originally posted by Yunru:



What's Your Story: A Custom Background Guide




In this guide I will be using the standard CharOp colour scheme:
Gold is the best, you take this or you're hurting yourself.
Sky Blue is great, this is one of the best options available.
Blue is good, not as good as Sky Blue, but good.
Black is average. It'll do the job, but it's not great.
Purple is for niche cases. Outside of these cases, it's bad.
[b]/b] is a trap, something for you to avoid.

Green is too situational for me to rate.



Reference Material Used
Spoiler:
Player's HandbookThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy


Outside of the DM just saying "No." background customisation is not an optional thing. That is to say, if you're playing with backgrounds, you can assume that you can customise your background.

A custom background is made up of several parts that we'll be covering:

  • A Background Feature- Asides from the option to make one up with your DM, that's what I'll be going over in the first section.
  • Any two skills- That's right, any two skills. You don't have to jump the hoops of having class and background proficiencies match in order to take a skill outside both, simply customize your background.
  • A total of two languages or tools- There is a restriction here: The language or tool must be available through one of the existing backgrounds. Other than that, go mad.
  • The equipment package (or dice roll starting gold) from a pre-existing background.
  • Two Personality Traits, one ideal, one bond and one flaw- Note, these don't have to be from existing backgrounds, you can make them up to fit your character concept.






Originally posted by Yunru:


Background Features:
Your background's feature can either be made up with your DM or one of the already existing one. Due to a lack of divination talents, I won't be rating the ones you make up.

Shelter of the Faithful:
Shelter of the Faithful is decent enough:

  • Those who share your faith respect you, and you can preform the ceremonies of your diety. So... maybe some situational benefits to checks against those of the same faith?
  • "Free" healing and care at established presences of your faith. "Free" as in "you have to pay for any material components needed." Handy, but world dependent.
  • Those who share your religion will support you at a modest lifestyle. Well not having to pay for living expenses is nice.
  • Non-hazardous assistance at your temple of residence, provided you're still in good standing. It's a roleplay tool, and as varied and un-rateable as you'd expect.


​As such, it recieves a rating of Black. The free rent and board is nice, but everything else is situational at the least. False Identity:Did I mention I LOVE the potential for mayhem this has?
  • We start of with the sweet ability to be two people. Sure if you look the same you might not pass any deception checks against anyone after you, but you can always bluff them into thinking it's a case of mistaken identity.
  • Then we move onto the real fun. THE ABILITY TO FORGE OFFICAL DOCUMENTS AND PERSONAL NOTES. Do I need to explain how amazing that is? Sure there are some restrictions: You need to have seen the type of documentation, or the handwriting you're trying to copy, but those can be overcome with stealth or scrying or a variety of other means. And once you've met those conditions? Well imagine if you combine the two: Official documentation signed personally by the ruler of the land. Cue mayhem. Yes, I do think I'm in love with this feature.


Sky Blue. Just, Sky Blue. Unless your not into general mayhem. Then I guess it might drop to Blue.

Criminal Contact:
I'm going to be honest, I can't rate this one. It's too dependent on cooperation with your DM. Can you use your contact to hire assassins? Get goods off the black-market? It's only limited by your imagination and your DM. Thus it could range from to gold.

By Popular Demand:
Free Food and Board. Well, almost free, you have to perform each night to get it, but you get a higher standard of living for it. Also it makes people like you. Could be helpful when you're trying to extract info from people.

Rustic Hospitality:
Good news, as long as you don't show yourself to be dangerous, the common masses will help hide you, shield you, rest AND recuperate. As long as you don't mind staying among commoners. Although it's pretty situational that you'll need it.

Guild Membership:
Political power at your back (hopefully) and people who are willing to pay for food, lodgings and funeral costs if neccisary. Shame about the 5GP per month cost.

Discovery:
There's green, and then there's super green. I mean, this isn't even defined beyond "you found something".

Position of Privilege:
Want a high social standing? To be popular with the upper class and respected by the lower? 'Cause that's all this does.

Retainers:
You get three non-combat NPCs that effectively act as your servents. Better if you can get them to craft stuff or otherwise be productive.

Wanderer:
Oh hey look, free food (for six no less)! Well, scenery willing. Depends on how much your DM tracks things like that. Blue if food and water is a tracked resource in your game.

Researcher:
Yet another DM dependent feature. Whoo.

Ship's Passage:
Does your DM run a campaign where there's ship travel? Does your DM expect you to pay for said travel? If so, this is probably... Black. And that's if you need to travel semi-regularly.

Bad Reputation:
Arr, now ye be talkin'. Free pass on minor crimes, and the wenches!

Military Rank:
Obviously this is [b]/b] if your DM doesn't work it into the campaign, but that shouldn't be hard to do so I'm going to go ahead and not give it a green rating.

City Secrets:
I don't want to rate this one red because in time-dependent scenarioes, it could be extremely helpful, but outside those situations it really is kinda worthless.




Originally posted by Yunru:


Skills, Tools and Languages:

Skills:
Since so much about what skills will be useful depends on your stats, I'll be rating them as if they are based upon your main/secondary stat.

Strength:
Athletics: Athletics is unlikely to be a check your DM asks you to make often, used mainly for trying to push, pull or break something, including yourself. So why've I rated it blue? Grapplers need this. Both Shoving a Creature and Grab require that you make an opposed Athletics check. Needless to say, proficiency really helps.

Dexterity:
Acrobatics: Acrobatics is a useful skill. Anything from escaping a grab to trying to stay on a narrow, slippery bridge, in high winds, can be an Acrobatics check.
Sleight of Hand: I'll admit it now, I'm more of a "shoot them" guy than a framer/thief. But if you're going to plant something on, or lift something off of, someone, you'll want Sleight of Hand. Outside of those situations, not worth taking.
Stealth: Stealth is important. No seriously, even if you personally don't plan on being all sneaky, you do anyone in your party who does a huge favour. Party cooperation aside, Stealth helps you go undetected, which can result in surprised opponents and/or advantage on attack rolls. Remember: Being Hiden means you can't being targetted, and the higher your Stealth, the better chance of becoming Hiden.

Intelligence:
Arcana: Knowledge checks, so hard to rate. For example: Does your DM make knowlege checks, or just convey information to you? If (s)he does, then this becomes Black. If you know this specific sort of knowledge check will come up, Blue.
History: See Arcana
Investigation: Oh Investigation, how scattered are thee. I've seen it used in a variety of ways, from a perception alternative, to the same except only if there's time with no passive version, to completely ignored. It's just not different enough from Perception really. Especially now you can have Intelligence (Perception) Checks now. But I digress.
Nature: See Arcana
Religion: See Arcana

Wisdom:
Animal Handling: If you have a mount, then this is potentially worth it, DM dependent. Otherwise this is very campaign dependent.
Insight: Do a lot of talking? Even if you don't personally, being able to tell if someone's lying is a very good skill to have, don't want to accidently be working for the bad guy after all. You get free dental if you intentionally join.
Medicine: Good if Poisons come up, although the stabalizing bit can be made redundant by having a Healer's Kit.
Perception: Just as Stealth is vital to not getting spotted, Perception is vital to spotting things. The subtle groves of an arrow trap? Perception. The slight effects an invisible creature is having on the surrounding area? Perception. That goblin trying to hide from you? Perception. Perception, Perception, Inception. Even if Wisdom's a dump stat, take this if you've left over skills.
Survival: Following tracks, hunting wildlife and guiding people. That is what Survival covers. Situationaly useful. Free living expenses during downtime? Blue. Obviously if you don't have downtime it loses some appeal.

Charisma:
Deception:
[UNKNOWN=del]: Bluff
Deception is a good skill to have. You can convince the enemies you're one of them, the town guard that "He started it" or just act like you belong and walk right into that bad guy's base. Especially nice when paired with the ability to forge documents and stuff *cough*False Identity*cough*.
Intimidation: It's Persuasion (or Deception, there's a bit of overlap between those two), only with a higher chance of someone calling the town watch on you.
Performance: Not even By Popular Demand requires you to be proficient in Performance, only that you perform. Outside of campaign specific events, it could be used to cause a distraction.
Persuasion: There's some overlap here with Deception: If you're decieving someone with words, is that not also Persuasion? The differences are where they apply. Deception covers written notes, forged documents, maybe even conversations when you're trying to lie/mislead. Persuasion on the other hand can cover any circumstance when you personally want to, well, persuade someone.


Tools:
Not a lot here, since you can only pick up tools that were already available.
Artisian's Tool:Disguise Kit:
Forgery Kit: Working inversely from the background feature you probably can't forge offical documents or personal notes with this (Better if you've said feature), but you can still do a lot with unoffical documents etc.
Gaming Set:Herbalism Kit: Potions of Healing might be magical, and thus normally uncraftable. Good news! Specific vs General, and this specifically calls out that you can make them.Musical Instrument:Navigator's Tools:Thieve's Tools:
Vehicles (Land):
Vehicles (Water):


Languages:
Just got one thing to say: The Backgrounds with "Any Language" makes this very easy to list:
Any Language






Originally posted by Yunru:


Post 4




Originally posted by Yunru:


Post 5




Originally posted by Yunru:


And one more because I'm really planning ahead.




Originally posted by Yunru:


And done, open to comments and criticisms.




Originally posted by Yunru:


Am thinking about expanding fully into a custom backgrounds guide, rather than just the unchangable features. Thoughts?


Originally posted by mellored:


Yunru wrote:Am thinking about expanding fully into a custom backgrounds guide, rather than just the unchangable features. Thoughts?
Sure.
Including a general ranking of skills.




Originally posted by Timborama:


And tool proficiencies!

Musical instruments? Meh. Artisan Tools? Situationl.

But Thieve's tools, disguise kit, and forgery kits? Heck yeah! Herbalism kit, too, for Health Potion funsies.




Originally posted by Yunru:


Added skills, and started on tools. I thought finding all the various languages you can pick would be hard. Man was I wrong.




Originally posted by Timborama:


Also, Persuasion and Deception (and often Intimidate!) are their own entities. When someone says something at the table I ask for a "social roll." Depending on what they say, or how they say it, it's either Persuasion (the truth), Deception (a lie, or withholding important info) or Intimidate (going back to the "how you say it" idea).

Just my 2 cents on those two skills, because I don't like people trying to persuade (Diplomacy) when it's clearly Deception (a Bluff)!




Originally posted by Koga305:


Not sure I agree with your assessments of some skills.

You cite Athletics as being used for pushing, pulling, and breaking things, but the PHB describes it as used for climbing, swimming, and jumping specifically. Breaking or pushing is likely to be a straight Strength check. So while it's good for grappling, Athletics is a skill that can come up a lot in exploration, whether you're trying to stay afloat in a raging rapid or climb a cliff to pursue a foe.

Persuasion, Intimidation, and Deception aren't really the same skill - they overlap a little bit, but Perception is much more likely to be applicable when you want to defeat an opponent in a political debate or convince soldiers to die for the cause. By contrast, Deception is best when you need to get into top-secret vaults and you don't have the authorization, or when you're discovered while trying to sneak your way into an enemy camp. And when you're interrogating a prisoner or trying to rout the enemy in a pitched battle, Intimidation is the way to go.

Although Medicine is good for dealing with poison, simply owning a healers' kit means you don't have to make a check when stabilizing an ally. It's really not a very useful skill, especially with magical healing in the party.

Finally, note that Investigation is good as a Perception alternative but also for research. Don't know something in the campaign off the top of your head? Visit the local library and put that Investigation to good use.




Originally posted by Yunru:


Fixed a typo so Investigation will show it's colours properly. Changed Medicine's rating. Not bad from a mobile.


Originally posted by Yunru:


Fixed a typo so Investigation will show it's colours properly. Changed Medicine's rating. Not bad from a mobile.


Originally posted by Yunru:


Colours for Tools done. Not changing Persuasion/Deception/Intimidate because they're rated based on how useful they are, regardless of how much overlap I feel there may be.




Originally posted by Timborama:


Yunru wrote:Colours for Tools done. Not changing Persuasion/Deception/Intimidate because they're rated based on how useful they are, regardless of how much overlap I feel there may be.

With how into Forgery you were with the background, you seem to rate an actual Forgery Kit very low...




Originally posted by Squad:


Yunru wrote:Tools:
Not a lot here, since you can only pick up tools that were already available.
Artisian's Tool:Disguise Kit:
Forgery Kit:
Gaming Set:Herbalism Kit: Potions of Healing might be magical, and thus normally uncraftable. Good news! Specific vs General, and this specifically calls out that you can make them.Musical Instrument:Navigator's Tools:Thieve's Tools:
Vehicles (Land):
Vehicles (Water):

Besides Thieves' Tools being based on Dexterity checks, do we know what skill checks are likely to be used with these tools?




Originally posted by Timborama:


Artisan Tools are listed as Strength, I think, unless the work is delicate, in which case it's Dexterity (according to the PHB)

Charisma (Disguise) seems to work, one might make a case for Intelligence if you're just faking a costume instead of a person (knowing what sigil goes where, etc)

Intelligence (Forgery) seems a good fit (using memory and personal knowledge of the author's writing style)

Depending on the game, it could be Dexterity (dice rolling, ball-in-a-cup game), or Intelligence. Maybe even Wisdom if it's one of those "I Spy" games

Also pretty sure Wisdom (Herbalism Kit) would be a thing (Maybe they wanna treat poison or an illness and not use Medicine!)

Dexterity (Musical Instrument) is listed in the rules.

As for Vehicles, Dexterity or Strength might be the easiest, most obvious choices

(and all of these are subject to change, based on the sitaution. Someone might use Intelligence (Instrument) to impress some bards who have already "heard everything" before. Or Constitution for a game that involves getting kicked by a goat)




Originally posted by Yunru:


Timborama wrote:With how into Forgery you were with the background, you seem to rate an actual Forgery Kit very low...

Black is average. I rated it such because Forging stuff is generally useful, although it is better with Forgery for sure. In fact, I'll make mention of that.


Originally posted by Timborama:


I don't agree with your forgery statement about reverse ruling. In fact, the kit even states "This small box contains a variety of papers and parchments, pens and inks, seals and sealing wax, gold and silver leaf, and other supplies necessary to create convincing forgeries of physical documents. Proficiency with this kit lets you add your proficiency bonus to any ability checks you make to create a physical forgery of a document."

Seems pretty legit to me. No mention of needing the background to actually need to do this, either.

I will admit this seems redundant with the Background feature, but it potentially means you won't need to make an Intelligence check to remember certain info (you just have to SEE the document, or the handwriting). Or the feature IS just a reiteration that you can forge documents. Or implies you don't actually need a kit to forge documents (some kits are REQUIRED to make certain checks, so this lets you bypass the Intelligence check to know how to do the Duke's handwriting)

So is this reliant on a lenient DM? Well, not so much lenient, as a DM who says "Oh, yeah, that thing you took actually does something worth while. That's fine"




Originally posted by Squad:


Yunru wrote:Colours for Tools done. Not changing Persuasion/Deception/Intimidate because they're rated based on how useful they are, regardless of how much overlap I feel there may be.

I think one thing you can use Intimidate for (but not the others) is convincing a hostile group to stand down. I'm not sure if that's enough to warrant a change in rating, but I think it's worth mentioning.




Originally posted by Jamwes:





Yunru wrote:Stealth: Stealth is important. No seriously, even if you personally don't plan on being all sneaky, you do anyone in your party who does a huge favour. Party cooperation aside, Stealth helps you go undetected, which can result in surprised opponents and/or advantage on attack rolls. Remember: Being Hiden means you can't being targetted, and the higher your Stealth, the better chance of becoming Hiden.

I'll agree that Stealth is the best choice out of the dex skill options, especially if Dex is a primary/secondary stat. However, I feel that you overrate the general usefulness of the skill.

In my experiences, either everyone needs Stealth or no one needs stealth. Only one person having stealth means that they'll be set up for having a bad time. Either something happens to the lone character and without support from the rest of the party are easily dispatched. Or, The one person goes on a wild cool adventure scouting out ahead while the rest of the players are just sitting around the table twiddling their thumbs. Stealth is good in concept, but hard to implement while keeping the game fun and engaging for everyone.

Using group checks would make Stealth better for a party. That way, if a couple people in the group are good at Stealth then the whole party has a chance to pass the check. A couple average to good Stealth characters would make up for the heavy armor wearing fighter.



Yunru wrote:Perception: Just as Stealth is vital to not getting spotted, Perception is vital to spotting things. The subtle groves of an arrow trap? Perception. The slight effects an invisible creature is having on the surrounding area? Perception. That goblin trying to hide from you? Perception. Perception, Perception, Inception. Even if Wisdom's a dump stat, take this if you've left over skills.

I know I'm in the minority here, but I don't think that Perception is the end all be all that it used to be. There are now other things that you can do to make up for a low Perception, such as Investigation. If the GM uses Investigation as a Perception replacement (even if some time is needed), then Perception is knocked down a peg.

They now specifically say that if your doing other things while traveling, you aren't being perceptive to your surroundings. If you're doing things like foriging for food or drawing a map you don't even get a Perception check against being ambushed. If Wisdom is a dump stat, a player might as well have their character doing something useful instead of waiting around to make a terrible Perception roll.

Just like with Stealth, group checks would be a great way to do Perception checks. Half the party rolls high enough? Everyone sees the thing (ambush, trap, ect) or are warned about it before the bad thing happens. Ranger has a chance to shout a warning before the Wizard who is drawing a map walks into a trap.

That being said, just like with Stealth, I'll agree that Perception is the best Wis skill. If a player doesn't have a character concept that values other skills higher, Perception would be a good skill to take if given a chance. Especially if Wis is a primary/secondary stat.





Originally posted by BRJN:


Weaver's Tools + monk starting package + Deception = throwing knitting needles (darts) at people, cutting them with a disassembled pair of scissors (shortsword).
"But officer I do NOT have any weapons on my person - see ?! Just my father's old broken tools that need repaired."




Originally posted by EtepZenitram:


I'm working on the background for my Dragonborn paliden of Bahamut. This sounded simple until my research showed that Forgotten Realm Dragonborn primarly did not worship any Gods in 4th edition. Also they did not like dragons because they were once slaves to they dragons. Now in 5th edition most Dragonborn worship the Gods of the dragons and I can not find any info for this dramtic change.




Originally posted by BRJN:


I didn't see Cartographers' Tools listed. Probably have to rate it Green - only useful if the DM wants to implement "without map, get lost" rules.

But some character concepts - the caravan's on-land equivalent of a Navigator - can make use of it for fluff purposes.




Originally posted by 7he_professor:


Do you think it would be useful to list which features and proficiencies are related to which backgrounds?




Originally posted by Yunru:


Consider that any background can be customized with any feature and proficiencies, do you?


Originally posted by Clutchbone:


BRJN wrote:Weaver's Tools + monk starting package + Deception = throwing knitting needles (darts) at people, cutting them with a disassembled pair of scissors (shortsword).
"But officer I do NOT have any weapons on my person - see ?! Just my father's old broken tools that need repaired."

Those are some big scissors. Were you thinking daggers? Otherwise a gardener's shears might be more size-appropriate.

In general, the background features and most tools are all quite weak. Maybe this was by intention, but the more I look at backgrounds the less I care about anything except the two skills, (and maybe thieves tools or forgery kit, depending on party or DM respectively).

This isn't to say I'm against roleplaying; in fact I really get into it. I'd just rather "find out" what kind of character I'm playing through my play sessions rather than decide beforehand what he (or she) would or wouldn't do, and if I do start with a written origin I almost always retcon it later. To paraphrase an old quote, "No character backstory survives contact with the campaign."




Originally posted by Yunru:


Forging offical documents though... Of course you need a character that would go along with it, but it can be massively powerful.


Originally posted by cowleymen:


I dont see any reason why a forger kit cant do offial documentation as well




Originally posted by Leugren:


Great idea for a guide! For each of the skills, tool proficiencies, and language proficiencies, it would be handy to see a list of which backgrounds grant that particular skill/tool/language proficiency. Sort of a reverse lookup.




Originally posted by Yunru:


cowleymen wrote:I dont see any reason why a forger kit cant do offial documentation as well
A forger kit might be able to, False Identity can. The difference is in the reliability and lack of DM fiat.


Originally posted by Avross:


Not sure if you're still updating this, but I thought I'd point out that it would be safe to rate Acolyte as at least blue for people playing in the Adventurer's League. Not only is it built into the campaign, each module actually reminds the DM that this is a useful background.