D&D 5E Do you use/allow custom backgrounds?

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Rules Monkey
Right, exactly. Any decent DM is going to prevent egregious mismatch between the background narrative and the mechanical benefits of that background, which makes it absurd that this is the one place in the game where the rules give carte blanche to the player without even nodding toward the idea of DM oversight.

It sounds like you think that the DM has no ability to veto a player created background unless the rules specifically state that the DM can do so.

Do you really think the rules need to spell that out? This just seems like a trivial complaint.


Rules Monkey
I allow it, but in limited circumstances.

I don't allow complete "mix and match" backgrounds for purely mechanical reasons. In other words, I don't allow players to custom-create backgrounds in order to cherrypick tool proficiencies/skills/features purely because they give the character a mechanical advantage.

On the other hand, if someone comes up with a background idea that makes sense, I'll allow it.

Oddly enough, I allow it for exactly that reason. Using the rules to give your character a "mechanical advantage" is just part of the game. A part that most players seem to enjoy, so why make it less enjoyable for them?

I do still require the background to make narrative sense though. Because that is also part of the game.


Rules Monkey
Different tables, and all that.

My take on it is that if a person is looking for mechanical optimization, then they have to do it through the published backgrounds.

If they want to take advantage of a custom, DM-approved background, they need DM approval. And that means selling me on a reason other than, "Because I needed these skills and proficiencies."

Well, I also require it to make narrative sense, but really that is a trivial exercise in storytelling. If the player has trouble fleshing it out, I'll do it for them.

I recently made a background that was a cross between Urchin and Outlander. It had the Outlander benefits and starting gear, but the urchin skills and proficiencies.

Justification: he'd been orphaned as a young teen and supported himself until he was old enough to become an adventurer by scrounging and stealing from the the caravan campsites along the roads through the region where he'd been orphaned. Changed the name of the background to "Wildling" and it's good to go.

Point is, I really don't see it as a big deal. Just work with the player to fit it into the narrative instead of just saying "No. You are playing the game wrong."
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First Post
I'd much rather have players cherry picking proficiencies from backgrounds than have them shoe-horning backgrounds that don't make sense just so they can get the proficiencies they want.

I'm in a game like that right now, where one of the other players didn't know you could just pick the profs you want, and he has this really convoluted sailor background on a character that doesn't otherwise make sense to be a sailor. He's a war cleric 1/divination wizard 5, and it's fairly obvious he only picked sailor for the proficiencies. Nothing about his character or his written backstory have anything to do with being a sailor.

It would have been much better for him to just pick the background he actually wanted for his character and then just grab the proficiencies he wanted for his build. It would have been much less jarring.

Its the same thing on nearly every optimization guide out there that evaluates backgrounds based on the proficiencies they provide. It's so stupid; sailor is always the top choice and you see it pop up here and there in games that it really doesn't make sense for a sailor to be around. And in those games, they lose out on their feature as well - it'd be better for them to have a feature they could actually use.


Rules Monkey
I don't tell someone they are playing the game wrong.

You and I (and our tables) just have very different approaches.

There are a core set of backgrounds that players can chose from. There's no problem with any of them. You can chose them for whatever reason you want- a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all.

But if they want to create a custom background, then there has to a reason for that custom background at my table. Because otherwise, it would just be a default of, "Pick two skills, pick two proficiencies/languages, pick one feature." And that's not how we roll.

You can roll as you wish, preferably without insinuating that we are engaged in playershaming and #badwrongfunning people.

*sigh* Take whatever insinuation you wish. Because apparently "that's how you roll". :hmm:

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