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

mgshamster

First Post
I'll start:

Urchin
Position of Privilege
Athletics, Insight, playing cards, Piloting (watercraft)

...and I think I just created the fantasy version of Lone Starr. God damnit.
 

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Caliban

Rules Monkey
You said, some stuff.

Yeah, I've kind of stopped caring. Common sense shouldn't have to be spelled out in the rules for every aspect of the game. Sometimes it can just be left in the DM's hands. But if you want to be butt hurt about this, I obviously can't stop you. Carry on.
 

redrick

First Post
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.

Backgrounds exist to aid the player in role-playing their character. They provide additional information beyond the character class that can help the player determine how their character fits in the world. They also contain some nominal crunch (a fluffy feature, tool proficiencies that often don't come up, some starting cash, a few trinkets, and, the only thing that will likely get mechanical use more than a few times after 1st level, two skill proficiencies.) A DM asking a player to explain their character background isn't house-ruling — that's just the DM working with players about how their characters fit in the game.
 

If a player has a creative background idea in mind and it follows the general parameters laid out in the PHB, I say great. The more excited a player is about their character, the better.
 

And it would be great, if the rules actually said that. Instead, the rules say that you can take any background, swap out the proficiencies and feature however you feel like (keeping the description/flavor/fluff of the lore intact), and any DM is a jerk if they ask you to justify it.

What the background rules should have said: "Figure out your background. That is what you did before you were an adventurer. Other characters may react to you based on this. Choose two skill proficiencies and two languages or tool proficiencies that reflect your background. Here are some examples."

What the background rules actually say: "Here are some some codified backgrounds. Each background gives you two skill proficiencies, two languages and/or tool proficiencies, and a feature which determines how other characters react to you. Feel free to mix and match them arbitrarily."

I see what you're saying here, but we appear to agree that the only difference between those is the name of the resulting background. While lack of explicit permission to rename the background is an unfortunate oversight, I think the obvious intent is that you don't need your background to use a name in the book. And even if a DM does want to require the name of a background from the book, simply require them to pick the name that most closely matches the background they create. "Sure, you can do that, but you need to list your background as "Noble" rather than "Sailor."

I'm still not seeing a problem. This is one of the few things I would actually argue with a DM on principle during campaign prep (even if my character was going to use a non-customized one straight from the book), and I'm a strong proponent with going along with the DM's campaign decisions or going elsewhere.
 


I see what you're saying here, but we appear to agree that the only difference between those is the name of the resulting background.
No, because there's more to a background than just the name. There's also the whole in-game reality which is associated with that name, and which is described in a few paragraphs for each one. If you're basically just a sailor, and that's the whole backstory for the character, then it follows logically that you would also have the Feature associated with the sailor Background; especially since Features don't actually do anything, aside from advising the DM on how people in the world are likely to react to the fact that the character has this particular type of backstory.

By saying that you can take any backstory, and gain any other Feature from it, it destroys the link between who the character is and how they are treated in the world.
 

mgshamster

First Post
especially since Features don't actually do anything, aside from advising the DM on how people in the world are likely to react to the fact that the character has this particular type of backstory.

Now that is just blatantly false. You've completely misunderstood the point of background features.

A background feature isn't there for the DM, it's there to provide a PC with narrative power so they can accomplish certain tasks without having to ask permission or roll dice.
 

Now that is just blatantly false. You've completely misunderstood the point of background features.

A background feature isn't there for the DM, it's there to provide a PC with narrative power so they can accomplish certain tasks without having to ask permission or roll dice.
That can't possibly be right. If you have the Folk Hero background, or you at least (for the purposes of this discussion) have the Rustic Hospitality Feature from the Folk Hero Background, then it says you can find a place to hide/rest among commoners and that they won't turn you over to the authorities unless you are a danger to them.

That's an RP guideline for the DM. The players can't invoke the power and cause it to be so, because it involves the actions of other characters, and the DM is the only one who determines how NPCs act in any situation. That is part of what it means to be the DM, rather than a player. If your character walks up to some commoners and asks for shelter, the DM is entirely within their rights to have them deny your request, based on the nature of who they are and how they feel about you - or any reason at all, really.
 

mgshamster

First Post
That can't possibly be right. If you have the Folk Hero background, or you at least (for the purposes of this discussion) have the Rustic Hospitality Feature from the Folk Hero Background, then it says you can find a place to hide/rest among commoners and that they won't turn you over to the authorities unless you are a danger to them.

That's an RP guideline for the DM. The players can't invoke the power and cause it to be so, because it involves the actions of other characters, and the DM is the only one who determines how NPCs act in any situation. That is part of what it means to be the DM, rather than a player. If your character walks up to some commoners and asks for shelter, the DM is entirely within their rights to have them deny your request, based on the nature of who they are and how they feel about you - or any reason at all, really.

I am utterly flabbergasted that anyone would draw such a conclusion.

Background features provide narrative power for a PC so they can accomplish tasks, and often have certain limitations present to prevent them from abusing it. But make no mistake, a Feature is there for the Player, not the DM. That's the entire point of features. Even the book defines them as a "concrete benefit."

For the Folk Hero, it allows the player to gain shelter for their party, so long as they're not threatening the commoners or otherwise being a danger to them. That's a player's power. Without such a feature, a player may need to make a check to see if it happens, or have to go through some roleplay, but the feature just allows it to happen. No checks needed. No permission needed. Even if the other party members are being active dicks to the commoners, that PC could still gain shelter. That is what narrative power is.

What you're saying is basically:

"I cast a spell"
And the DM goes "nope"
"Oh antimagic?"
"No. I just don't want you to"
"but I made a Wizard"
"sucks"
 
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