5E Customizing Backgrounds Core Rule - Public Service Announcement

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
You can not, rules-as-written, gain proficiency in the poisoner's kit from your background, custom or no.
Not quite correct. The rules also say, "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."

This option is not limited to "tools found in another background".

So, if you are a rogue and take the Criminal background, both of which give you proficiency with thieves' tools, you can then take the Poisoner's Kit for your background instead.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
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:
View attachment 118292
since they say Artemis would have "proficiency with the tools of thievery and poison."

Maybe Criminal original offered it and later removed it?
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.
man this seems like the sort of thing they'd try to errata or at least clarify, and by the sounds of it no one's ever really bothered to ask WotC about it.

is anyone willing to do that? does anyone even know how?
 

Bacon Bits

Adventurer
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.
I mean, I was fishing for a better explanation than what had been given, not snark.
 

ccs

40th lv DM
man this seems like the sort of thing they'd try to errata or at least clarify, and by the sounds of it no one's ever really bothered to ask WotC about it.

is anyone willing to do that? does anyone even know how?
It's not terribly hard to contact Wizards/Mearls/etc. So yeah, people know how.

But is it really worth it? Afterall, if it's an issue, your groups could just solve it for yourselves.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I mean, I was fishing for a better explanation than what had been given, not snark.
Two hints:

1) Don't "fish" for things - that's passive-aggressive.

2) Don't start with the premise, "To disagree with me, my opponents are likely ignorant." It is only a half-step off from, "My opponent must be crazy or stupid," and is effectively ad hominem - it is based on the person arguing, rather than the content of the argument. In addition, is assumes the correctness of your position, rather than establishes it through evidence or reason.
 

HarbingerX

Rob Of The North
Interesting. The sidebar would indicate otherwise:
View attachment 118292
since they say Artemis would have "proficiency with the tools of thievery and poison."

Maybe Criminal original offered it and later removed it?
I'd guess that's an error and it did originally have thievery and poisoner but then they swapped poison out for a gaming kit when they made assassin get poison as a class ability.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
It's not terribly hard to contact Wizards/Mearls/etc. So yeah, people know how.

But is it really worth it? Afterall, if it's an issue, your groups could just solve it for yourselves.
every issue is an issue a group can solve themselves, that's not the point
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I'd guess that's an error and it did originally have thievery and poisoner but then they swapped poison out for a gaming kit when they made assassin get poison as a class ability.
New theory.

It's a REALLY deep cut. That's right. It's the super-duper secret homage to 1e. You know, the edition where all the good stuff for the assassin was hidden away in the DMG in the poison rules, and you just ... had ... to know?

That's right. You heard it here first. MiraMels has uncovered the best allusion of them all.
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
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.
That's not what the rules are telling you. That's how you're interpreting them though, which is fine.

The rules say you can create a background with any two languages/tool proficiencies. I can think up a number of backgrounds that would align with training in poisons before becoming an adventurer.
 

Bacon Bits

Adventurer
Two hints:

1) Don't "fish" for things - that's passive-aggressive.

2) Don't start with the premise, "To disagree with me, my opponents are likely ignorant." It is only a half-step off from, "My opponent must be crazy or stupid," and is effectively ad hominem - it is based on the person arguing, rather than the content of the argument. In addition, is assumes the correctness of your position, rather than establishes it through evidence or reason.
Can you please not read my posts in the least favorable light possible? If you really don't like the questions I'm asking, why not just ignore my questions? Why bother calling me passive aggressive and accusing me of making personal attacks?

I know nothing about your games. I have no way to know if you knew about this rule. My point is that your response to OP's post here is alien to me:

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.
Let me rephrase: Your reading is so far off from my reading that I would like to understand how you arrived at that interpretation, and I was asking for why that's your interpretation of both OP's post and the custom background rule. In my mind, your second paragraph is not significantly different than OP's post. I just don't see it and I am confused.

Yes, one way I could imagine having this reaction would be to have no knowledge that the rule exists and suddenly stumbling across this post telling people that it's ridiculous that people don't know that this is how the rules read. I do not think that about you or your game, but I do think that a DM who wasn't aware of the rule might react this way to being told that it's RAW. That's why I specifically asked why the way I did:

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?
No, I'm not trying to say that you must be reacting that way because you're stupid and I know everything. I'm saying that I don't understand the resistance to this rule and I don't understand this reading of the first post.

From my view, I've asked you for an explanation and you've responded, in so many words, "Stop attacking me."

If I've offended you, then I apologize. I am not attacking you. It feels to me like you're twisting my words. Do you think I'm sea lioning? That I'm trying to say you must be stupid? I am doing neither. I genuinely do not understand.
 
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.
I have fancy metal dice that I hand out for inspiration. They are easy to see and remember. If they haven't been used by the end of the session, we jot that down in our notes and they get passed back out next session.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
While this is completely accurate of course (not disputing that), I would also caution new players and established veterans alike, that as usual, even doing this is at the discretion of the DM and should be covered during session zero. :)
OTOH, unless the DM says they are houseruling this, it’s allowed. Which is the opposite of what many players seem to think is the case.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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.
But that’s not the framing of the rules as written. RAW, the player needn’t consult the DM, any more than they’d consult the DM when deciding they want to play a human fighter, or choosing their skills or fighting style from their class, etc.

Unless the DM is using a house rule, customizing a background isn’t something the player needs permission for.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
In case you failed to notice, none of the mechanical abilities are representative of what the background is actually supposed to be. A brewer should be good at brewing, because that's what those words mean. This "brewer" has, not only a complete inability to brew anything, but influence within high society as a result of their noble birth. (Which they don't actually have, because they weren't actually born noble. But people are still inclined to think well of them, because of their noble birth, as a brewer.)

It's a direct violation of the central premise behind any role-playing system: that the rules of the game reflect the reality of the game world. None of these abilities reflect anything about what it means to be a brewer.
Absurd examples that no one would ever actually do aren’t especially informative or convincing. The player would just change the name of the background to something appropriate, or not name the background at all bc they don’t actually need names. They have the noble prestige feature so clearly they are a noble or are seen as one, or as a person of similar station to a noble (like a bard in some settings, or some other position of prestige outside the normal hierarchy).
 
Until I saw this thread, I didn't know that custom backgrounds were something people didn't know about. I've always supported the rule and rather enjoyed that you didn't need to house rule a character having a skill or item proficiency you wanted them to have.
 

Wulffolk

Explorer
Not sure if this has been mentioned already, but in the end the DM always has the final judgement on anything in the game that he runs. He should be willing to hear out any reasonable player request, but should choose whatever works best in his opinion for the game that he is running.

Most groups can easily survive the departure of one unhappy player that is unwilling to accept the decisions of a DM, but few can survive when an unhappy DM decides to quit rather than constantly fight with a troublesome player.

Wise players understand that keeping the game enjoyable for the DM is more important than "winning" an argument over a minor disagreement.

Any player that tried to force something on me by citing RAW, against my own judgement after I have already heard their case, would be demonstrating a level of disrespect that would lead me to exclude that person from future sessions.
 

Bolares

Adventurer
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.
My aproach to them is that they are great for the player to use as a compass for their decisions, mainly when the character is new and the player does not grasp it entirelly. As a DM I read them when we start, discuss them with the players and let them play the PCs as they want. I never use inspiration because it's a half cooked idea that I often forget about. To me the traits are a better version of alignment, to be used by the players as much as they want
 

Bolares

Adventurer
This is how I see the "issue" of custom backgrounds. It's RAW... in my games RAW is always allowed. But the custom background gives you options to choose, and as a GM I like togo over the players choices just to garantee they didn't screw up something. it's the same with point buy ability scores, buying equipment and known/prepared spells. To me it's not about permission or anything like that, it's just making sure the rules were followed.

But that is just how I do it. In general, the book allows them, but every table shoud decide how anything works for them.
 

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