5E Customizing Backgrounds Core Rule - Public Service Announcement

Saelorn

Hero
This. If this thread was "PSA: Humans are core" people would be like "Yeah, and...?"
I seem to recall that they clarified this at one point. None of the races, classes, or backgrounds, are core. The only core thing is that races, classes, and backgrounds exist; and they interact in a pre-defined way. You can't assume that a setting has humans, any more than you can assume it has gnomes or warlocks.

At least, that's what I seem to recall. It could have been one of their propaganda lines, from before the books were printed, just like the idea of supporting the 4E-playstyle.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I seem to recall that they clarified this at one point. None of the races, classes, or backgrounds, are core. The only core thing is that races, classes, and backgrounds exist; and they interact in a pre-defined way. You can't assume that a setting has humans, any more than you can assume it has gnomes or warlocks.
Again, you are correct. People just need to RTFDMG sometimes. So to speak. :)

The whole thing is about making the world your own. Chapter 9 (which includes the tips on making your own races) starts with the instruction, "AS THE DUNGEON MASTER, YOU AREN'T LIMITED by the rules in the Player's Handbook, the guidelines in this book, or the selection of monsters in the Monster Manual."
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker
I always customise my ideals, bonds and flaws.

For each of them I go with ".......".
I never use them as a DM, because I find Inspiration ... uninspiring (heh). On the other hand, I find writing them out to be a useful exercise when I'm writing up a character's background. Obviously, YMMV.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I never use them as a DM, because I find Inspiration ... uninspiring (heh).
A friend of mine recently started a game, and he doesn't fine Inspiration uninspiring as a mechanic. He just finds it terribly difficult to remember int he middle of everything else.

I think he's instead defaulting to giving a PC advantage for clever play on the spot, rather than giving it to store up for later use.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker
A friend of mine recently started a game, and he doesn't fine Inspiration uninspiring as a mechanic. He just finds it terribly difficult to remember int he middle of everything else.

I think he's instead defaulting to giving a PC advantage for clever play on the spot, rather than giving it to store up for later use.
That's a fair approach. I myself am unable to remember all the traits, bonds, flaws, and ideals well enough to use them fairly, and I find that advantage (or other boosts to a roll) are easy enough that the game doesn't suffer without them. And, I was unable to resist the (weak) joke.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
A friend of mine recently started a game, and he doesn't fine Inspiration uninspiring as a mechanic. He just finds it terribly difficult to remember int he middle of everything else.

I think he's instead defaulting to giving a PC advantage for clever play on the spot, rather than giving it to store up for later use.
Maybe it's time for another thread on inspiration.

It really is a great mechanic, but .... when it's rewarded on the DM side, it just gets forgotten too often. IME.

I tried doing the whole, "Players can reward other players," but that was THE WORST. No one would do it. It was like asking someone to write their own recommendation. :)

I'm thinking maybe just hand it out.
 

Arilyn

Hero
With inspiration, I've been giving it to players at end of a successful session. The traits, bonds, etc. are just used to help players craft their characters.
 

Rikka66

Explorer
I really enjoy that the traits, bonds, ect. have such a prominent place on the character sheet, and I like to give out inspiration, but I do find it hard to remember. A bigger problem with my group is that once I do give it out, they will all sit on it for ages. We reached the end of tier 1 with every player having unused inspiration, and from there on I declared that any unused inspiration is lost at the end of a story arc.
 

Bacon Bits

Adventurer
A friend of mine recently started a game, and he doesn't fine Inspiration uninspiring as a mechanic. He just finds it terribly difficult to remember int he middle of everything else.

I think he's instead defaulting to giving a PC advantage for clever play on the spot, rather than giving it to store up for later use.
Personally I'm a fan of using something other than Inspiration. I don't like Inspiration because it's both hard to earn and difficult to remember that you have it. I'd rather players get ~3 tokens or hero points per game session that they can spend to give advantage to any one attack, save, or check or to reroll an attack, save, or check they've already made. Each session, they get another 3 tokens. A lot of games do something like this and I think it works very well to let players do something extra when it's important.

I'd only use that if the Lucky feat were removed, though.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
Maybe it's time for another thread on inspiration.

It really is a great mechanic, but .... when it's rewarded on the DM side, it just gets forgotten too often. IME.

I tried doing the whole, "Players can reward other players," but that was THE WORST. No one would do it. It was like asking someone to write their own recommendation. :)

I'm thinking maybe just hand it out.
I really enjoy that the traits, bonds, ect. have such a prominent place on the character sheet, and I like to give out inspiration, but I do find it hard to remember. A bigger problem with my group is that once I do give it out, they will all sit on it for ages. We reached the end of tier 1 with every player having unused inspiration, and from there on I declared that any unused inspiration is lost at the end of a story arc.
With inspiration, I've been giving it to players at end of a successful session. The traits, bonds, etc. are just used to help players craft their characters.
my DM has the solution of just letting people have more than one inspiration. he started doing this 'cause he kept giving it out when people already had one. he also used to have a restriction on how many you got, but I think he gave up on that. ironically I don't think anyone in our current game has ever had more than one inspiration at a time.
Yep. The way I frame it to my players is that you get any 2 skills, and a total of 2 between any standard languages and tool proficiencies. The backgrounds listed are just examples of thematic combinations. For Background Features, pick one from any of the example backgrounds, and for starting equipment take the equipment from the background your feature comes from.
that sounds like a real Grand Slam :U

....I'll see myself out

(do they even sell the Grand Slam anymore?)
 

Bacon Bits

Adventurer
Pretty much this. The positioning of the OP gave me that "no one can stop you" vibe, which I just have a problem with in the context of cooperative play.

If it had been presented as, "Hey, can't get quite what you are looking for? Remember that, within the rules, you might be able to modify a background to get what you need! Talk to your GM about it!" and the whole discussion becomes different.

Framing matters.
See, and I wonder if you have this reaction because you weren't familiar with the rule, if none of your players has exercised it (to your knowledge), or if you're just not used to expecting players to be able to do it. Because when I read the first post, I don't see this as the framing at all. I think it's very clearly framed as, "I can't believe my new players consistently don't know that custom backgrounds are presented as the normal rule and not an option or variant."

You're not surprised when a player wants to play a wood elf or a mountain dwarf or maybe even a drow elf. You're not surprised if they play a Dex fighter or a Str fighter. If they take Find Familiar and choose a spider or an owl. If they play a light cleric or a life cleric. Players are free to choose all these things, and while, yes, a DM can ban or restrict them, I don't think it's normal to do so.

Why is background customization really any different? Is my difference in reaction that I already knew about the rule and we have played that way since 2015 or so when we discovered it?

Yes, yes, sure, you might run a campaign with no warlocks, or where drow are kill on sight, or where spider familiars are seen as evil, or where there are no light deities, and the same might be true for an arbitrary background. But I don't think that's the reaction you're describing here. I think you're saying that you expect your players to treat custom backgrounds as a variant or optional rule. That your players have no reason to assume that a custom background is allowed, while, I assume, the standard backgrounds are conversely allowed without question. I guess I just don't see why.
 

dnd4vr

Keeper of the Seven Keys
Why is background customization really any different? Is my difference in reaction that I already knew about the rule and we have played that way since 2015 or so when we discovered it?
I think part of the issue might be with the way the background section was laid out in the PHB.

If the text earlier had said creating a background instead of choosing a background, and led with the idea of you get two skills, two languages and/or tools (or vehicles), etc. and then offered the sample backgrounds (emphasizing the are just samples), that might have helped with the idea of building your own is the default and the rest are just samples.

As it stands, the customizing section at the end of the text seems more an afterthought for people who aren't happy with the backgrounds offered.
 

MiraMels

Explorer
Also worth noting, the rules for customizing backgrounds read
choose a total of two tool proficiencies or languages from the sample backgrounds.
which is not the same as "any tool proficiency". There is exactly one tool listed in Chapter 5 that appears nowhere in the sample backgrounds, and that is the poisoner's kit.

You can not, rules-as-written, gain proficiency in the poisoner's kit from your background, custom or no.
 

dnd4vr

Keeper of the Seven Keys
Also worth noting, the rules for customizing backgrounds read which is not the same as "any tool proficiency". There is exactly one tool listed in Chapter 5 that appears nowhere in the sample backgrounds, and that is the poisoner's kit.

You can not, rules-as-written, gain proficiency in the poisoner's kit from your background, custom or no.
Interesting. The sidebar would indicate otherwise:
1581445975224.png

since they say Artemis would have "proficiency with the tools of thievery and poison."

Maybe Criminal original offered it and later removed it?
 

MiraMels

Explorer
Or maybe Miramels is pulling some blackbelt level lawyer-fu that most people would just ignore because it doesn't ultimately matter.
Ah yes, the black-belt level legal technique of "reading the rules and then doing what they say".

Of course it doesn't matter, its an incredibly easy detail to over look, and your DM can easily rule otherwise if you wanted that particular proficiency. I pointed it out because it seemed in the spirit of the thread. It's a rules-wrinkle that took me years to notice. I run with it, personally, because I like the story the rules are telling—that only Assassins and characters who go out of their way to gain that proficiency via downtime or feats are the ones who know how to handle and craft poisons.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
See, and I wonder if you have this reaction because you weren't familiar with the rule
I've been playing an Artificer with a customized Spy background for a couple of months, and I helped my wife put together a background for her character for the same game.

So, I'm pretty sure I'm familiar with the rule, thanks.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Ah yes, the black-belt level legal technique of "reading the rules and then doing what they say".

Of course it doesn't matter, its an incredibly easy detail to over look, and your DM can easily rule otherwise if you wanted that particular proficiency. I pointed it out because it seemed in the spirit of the thread. It's a rules-wrinkle that took me years to notice. I run with it, personally, because I like the story the rules are telling—that only Assassins and characters who go out of their way to gain that proficiency via downtime or feats are the ones who know how to handle and craft poisons.
I have to say, I loved your find!

Whether or not you choose to use that detail, that's some next-level attention to detail.


Pretty, pretty, pretty cool.*


*I've been re-watching all the Curb episodes ... I can't help it.
 

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