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

Caliban

Rules Monkey
My objection is that Features are codified, and presented as interchangeable, when they shouldn't be. If your character backstory is that you're a noble, then it's already true within the game world that you are a noble, and you shouldn't need the "actually a noble" Feature from the Noble Background in order for that to be the case. If your backstory doesn't include that you're actually a noble, then it's not true within the game world that you are a noble, and nothing written on a character sheet should be able to override that.

If you want to be a noble who became a pirate, then that's who you are, and people will react to you accordingly. You shouldn't be forced into choosing between the Feature from the Noble and the Feature from the Sailor Variant: Pirate, when both choices are equally valid and neither is quite sufficient.

Well, you aren't forced to do that. You basically have three options (as I see it) - decide that based on your backstory the Pirate background is what best represents your character when the game starts and use the background feature from that (you are a former Noble, but no longer benefit from the social status), or decide that despite your recent experiences as a Pirate, you are best known for your Noble status. (So you don't have the pirate bad reputation, but you do have your noble stats). Or option 3 - decide that neither of those fit your character and work with your DM to create a new background feature that does.

The listed backgrounds are the starting point, not the end point. This should be a fun part of character creation, not something to argue over.
 

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Well, you aren't forced to do that. You basically have three options (as I see it) - decide that based on your backstory the Pirate background is what best represents your character when the game starts and use the background feature from that (you are a former Noble, but no longer benefit from the social status), or decide that despite your recent experiences as a Pirate, you are best known for your Noble status. (So you don't have the pirate bad reputation, but you do have your noble stats). Or option 3 - decide that neither of those fit your character and work with your DM to create a new background feature that does.
Sure, fine, and I have no problem with those options.

The one I take issue with is option 4 - deciding that, even though you're a noble who became a pirate, you can just take the benefit of Military Rank because you think that will be useful. Why is that even an option? Why don't they tell you to clear it with the DM first?
 

Caliban

Rules Monkey
Sure, fine, and I have no problem with those options.

The one I take issue with is option 4 - deciding that, even though you're a noble who became a pirate, you can just take the benefit of Military Rank because you think that will be useful. Why is that even an option? Why don't they tell you to clear it with the DM first?

Perhaps because they are leaving that up to the DM. Some DM's simply don't care. If the DM does care, they'll let the players know. I know I check over all the characters before we start playing when I run my home game. I'm pretty lenient on backgrounds, but if you use a custom background I at least want it to make narrative sense.

This just seems like a non-issue.

(Although the military rank feature could be explained by saying the character was a Privateer - officially commissioned by local ruler to commit acts of piracy against ships of other nations. A noble who joined the navy (gaining a military rank due to their family connections) and then became a Privateer. Something that could actually happen in our real world history.)
 
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Uchawi

First Post
I prefer it since it removes the repetitive nature of pre-made backgrounds, e.g. everyone is a criminal is a stealth based campaign.
 

redrick

First Post
Sure, fine, and I have no problem with those options.

The one I take issue with is option 4 - deciding that, even though you're a noble who became a pirate, you can just take the benefit of Military Rank because you think that will be useful. Why is that even an option? Why don't they tell you to clear it with the DM first?

The "use a feature from another background" part of the rule can be a little goofy, because, obviously, some features adapt better than others. That being said, I think the reason for this is that designing an appropriate feature is something that a player could easily botch, even with the best of intentions. On the other hand, as long as the player is sticking within the features provided, you know that nobody is giving themselves "Monster Hunter. Advantage on all attacks against monsters" as a background feature.

Background plundering can lead to some silly results, but even the most shameless combination of skills and features just isn't going to be that mechanically unbalancing. If a player wants to ignore the spirit of the Background system and just assemble points on a character sheet with no thought to how those might arise from an actual background and might impact how the character is role-played — that player is just shooting themselves in the foot, by giving themselves an inconsistent character that's hard to role-play.

I don't check character sheets in my home game unless I'm asked, because I know the people I'm playing with and I trust them to play in a way that fits our table. I generally look at character sheets when playing with strangers, and if a player showed me a sheet with a gibberish custom background, I would probably ask them some questions to try and tease out something a little more coherent.
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
Well, you aren't forced to do that. You basically have three options (as I see it) - decide that based on your backstory the Pirate background is what best represents your character when the game starts and use the background feature from that (you are a former Noble, but no longer benefit from the social status), or decide that despite your recent experiences as a Pirate, you are best known for your Noble status. (So you don't have the pirate bad reputation, but you do have your noble stats). Or option 3 - decide that neither of those fit your character and work with your DM to create a new background feature that does.

The listed backgrounds are the starting point, not the end point. This should be a fun part of character creation, not something to argue over.
This would actually fit Belit the pirate queen quite well making her a pirate with a little bit of noble.

The signature of champions.
 

Perhaps because they are leaving that up to the DM. Some DM's simply don't care. If the DM does care, they'll let the players know. I know I check over all the characters before we start playing when I run my home game. I'm pretty lenient on backgrounds, but if you use a custom background I at least want it to make narrative sense.
What you are saying here is that many DMs don't allow custom backgrounds, as the rule is presented in the book, because they want backgrounds that make some sort of sense within the world.
 

Caliban

Rules Monkey
What you are saying here is that many DMs don't allow custom backgrounds, as the rule is presented in the book, because they want backgrounds that make some sort of sense within the world.

Please don't put words in my mouth, because that's not at all what I said.
 

mgshamster

First Post
Ok, how about some fun?

Someone come up with the most ridiculous background combinations you can think of, and others will make it work with a character that feels real and natural.

Rules
Pick the following from any WotC 5e published book
Background Name
Background Feature
Two Skills
Two of [language or tools]

For this to work, the background name must be the primary aspect of the character (ex: sailor, urchin), and the feature must be the secondary aspect of the character (Position of Privilege, False Identify). The proficiencies can then be explained in any other way.
 

Please don't put words in my mouth, because that's not at all what I said.
You said, "Some DM's simply don't care. If the DM does care, they'll let the players know. I know I check over all the characters before we start playing when I run my home game. I'm pretty lenient on backgrounds, but if you use a custom background I at least want it to make narrative sense."

This is at odds with the rules for custom backgrounds, which simply say, "To customize a background, you can replace one feature with any other one, choose any two skills, and choose a total of two tool proficiencies or languages from the sample backgrounds."

There is no requirement within the rules that the feature, proficiencies, or languages make any sort of narrative sense. Most DMs, I gather from this thread, recognize that there should be an additional requirement that it has to make sense; so they house rule in DM oversight, to prevent abuse.
 

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