RIP, 2014 PHB backgrounds

edosan

Explorer
I am really sorry that they appear to be getting away from the background features. They didn't come into play often, but their existence meant that backgrounds contributed something to your character you couldn't get through class or race.

I thought that was brilliant, and that it really worked to individuate a first-level character (a soldier cleric felt very different from a noble cleric or a criminal cleric); it was a wonderful access into roleplaying, I felt, which they appear to be losing.
This is what I’m going to miss out of backgrounds - the old background abilities were way more interesting and flavorful than UA’s “add two points to one ability score and one to another, then pick up a language and feat, like you do with every other background.” If you can customize every background it almost makes you wonder why bother having a background at all.
 

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Remathilis

Legend
Are we also going to do that with the tool, the two skills, and the ability score increases? At that point, why write the same thing 18 times instead of once at the beginning?
This is the problem with the precon backgrounds: no matter how you parse it, people will assume the precon = only way to do something and complain. Why are all gladiators strong? My gladiator is tough or agile. He favors acrobatics and intimidation. He uses a disguise kit instead of smith's tools. He speaks the true language of violence: Gnome. But some people will read that and say according to WotC, that's "not a gladiator". People get hung up on that title but more importantly, they get hung up on that stat block under it.

My suggestion then would be to remove the default ASI, skills and proficiencies and just keep the flavor text "as is". Gladiator doesn't define what options you pick, it gives you a little story and the player picks the abilities that realize it. You get 18 little origin stories, the player decides how that looks mechanically.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I am really sorry that they appear to be getting away from the background features. They didn't come into play often, but their existence meant that backgrounds contributed something to your character you couldn't get through class or race.

I thought that was brilliant, and that it really worked to individuate a first-level character (a soldier cleric felt very different from a noble cleric or a criminal cleric); it was a wonderful access into roleplaying, I felt, which they appear to be losing.
Agree completely.

I never saw a background after the PHB ones have the same vibe. They clearly represented a character's role in the world or society, be it a profession or "how you earn your living" in more general terms (including stealing, begging or hunting/harvesting).

Then despite the very clear original concept, people got confused with the idea of "cultural" background and started wondering why Barbarian is a class and not a background...
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
This is what I’m going to miss out of backgrounds - the old background abilities were way more interesting and flavorful than UA’s “add two points to one ability score and one to another, then pick up a language and feat, like you do with every other background.”

I don't really agree. For all their flowery language, all the 2014 background features boiled down to "Hey, DMs: Remember to have NPCs treat the PCs like they are the people who the background says they are". You could accomplish the same by just saying that in the DMG. (You know, assuming people read it).

If you can customize every background it almost makes you wonder why bother having a background at all.
You could customize every background before. That part isn't new.

This is the problem with the precon backgrounds: no matter how you parse it, people will assume the precon = only way to do something and complain.
Do we really have to make the rules worse because people who didn't read them will complain about things that they do or don't say? What a world we live in.
 

I've always hated how in D&D Beyond, they make you either pick a background, or create your own from scratch. They don't make it easy to pick a background and then just change a single element (like a language, tool, or even a skill).

This is basic functionality that I hope they remember to implement when they put in whatever final form 1D&D looks like.
There's a bunch of "easy" stuff they haven't done, presumably due to manpower issues. Now that WotC owns them, hopefully they will staff up more. I've been waiting for sidekick classes to be available in the main engine since Tasha's came out. (Building a sidekick from scratch and then manually adding it to an obscure field in the character sheet doesn't exactly make managing sidekicks easy and intuitive.)
 

Do we really have to make the rules worse because people who didn't read them will complain about things that they do or don't say? What a world we live in.
You live in a world where you'll get a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt, where ladder manufacturers have to put a sticker on the top rung of a ladder telling people to not stand there and where maintenance staff has to put out yellow signage warning that a wet floor is a bad place to be walking so people don't bust their heads.

The world has to be designed for regular people, not ideal ones.

If 1D&D was a fantasy heartbreaker someone was publishing on DriveThruRPG, sure, they could design it the way you suggest, but Hasbro wants D&D to be unbelievably mainstream and is hoping to have every household in America own a PHB. You bet they're going to try and make it as user-friendly as possible.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
You live in a world where you'll get a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt, where ladder manufacturers have to put a sticker on the top rung of a ladder telling people to not stand there and where maintenance staff has to put out yellow signage warning that a wet floor is a bad place to be walking so people don't bust their heads.

The world has to be designed for regular people, not ideal ones.

If 1D&D was a fantasy heartbreaker someone was publishing on DriveThruRPG, sure, they could design it the way you suggest, but Hasbro wants D&D to be unbelievably mainstream and is hoping to have every household in America own a PHB. You bet they're going to try and make it as user-friendly as possible.
I'm not against user friendly - I'm absolutely for it! I think there are many, many ways that user-friendliness could be improved for D&D.

"You can customize any part of this background you like"

"No we can't, because you gave us examples!"

Is not that. It's stubborn, willful ignorance.

Don't get me wrong. The part about customization will obviously need to be highlighted with arrows pointing at it or something, based on the comments here. But we don't need to do away with examples (or hide them, or make them worthless as quick-picks by making them all say "choose any" under each heading).
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I don't really agree. For all their flowery language, all the 2014 background features boiled down to "Hey, DMs: Remember to have NPCs treat the PCs like they are the people who the background says they are". You could accomplish the same by just saying that in the DMG. (You know, assuming people read it).


You could customize every background before. That part isn't new.


Do we really have to make the rules worse because people who didn't read them will complain about things that they do or don't say? What a world we live in.
Yes, the roleplay bits are easy to keep up with...roleplaying.
 

Remathilis

Legend
I'm not against user friendly - I'm absolutely for it! I think there are many, many ways that user-friendliness could be improved for D&D.

"You can customize any part of this background you like"

"No we can't, because you gave us examples!"

Is not that. It's stubborn, willful ignorance.

Don't get me wrong. The part about customization will obviously need to be highlighted with arrows pointing at it or something, based on the comments here. But we don't need to do away with examples (or hide them, or make them worthless as quick-picks by making them all say "choose any" under each heading).
As a wise boss once said to me: "think about how smart the average person is. Then think about how 50% of them are dumber than that."

Even as far as the 2014 style backgrounds are, people assumed they were set in stone and would say things like don't t take criminal as a rogue because it gave thieves tools and you already get them as a rogue. The idea that backgrounds were customizable was lost, so much so many of them gave choices (pick two skills from list) rather than defined suggestions.

I just think any attempt to make them prescriptive is probably going to blow up in their face based on the initial response from the playtest packet. Better to remove the headache now.
 

I haven't seen any discussion on the 2014 PHB backgrounds that aren't in the Character Origins UA:
  • Folk Hero
  • Outlander
All the others seem to be represented, although Guild Artisan has been renamed to be Artisan. (Putting them in a guild was probably too restrictive and too much world building -- is the one blacksmith in a town a guild of one?)

The two left out of this UA might still show up, and they're wildly different, IMO.

Folk Hero, first off, doesn't seem like a background, but something to grow into. Your first level character is already a folk hero? And the benefits of the background seem to be things that a DM would be granting to higher level heroic PCs by default. In practice, I never saw anyone with this background ever do much with it. At my tables, it's been very much a "eh, I guess I have to have a background" background. This very much feels like a background developed early in the game's development and one that doesn't stand up well years later.

Outlander is also treated the same way -- "well, I guess I need a background" -- but it's so generic and, frankly, so good, that I saw it used for nearly every wilderness character as a way to pick up some free-floating proficiencies. I'm surprised we don't have anything exactly like it -- a Guide or a Hermit isn't the same thing and is much more specific.

Yes, yes, the UA backgrounds are meant as examples, but as is, they will be used at many tables as the list of backgrounds to choose from and it's likely D&D Beyond will present them that way. I'd like to see a generic wilderness person background included in that list.
If creating a custom background is allowed, then you can still use these if you want. I personally wonder about having all backgrounds include a feat or a language. I don't think this is really needed especially with feats being an optional rule. I'd like to see background x includes a feat, or +1 ASI and a skill or language.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
This is the problem with the precon backgrounds: no matter how you parse it, people will assume the precon = only way to do something and complain.
I don’t think that’s actually true. I have experienced a lot of people who have this concern, and no people who actually assume that the defaults are the only option. I’m sure some people may make that assumption, but for those people it will be a simple enough matter to point out to them that this isn’t the case.
Why are all gladiators strong? My gladiator is tough or agile. He favors acrobatics and intimidation. He uses a disguise kit instead of smith's tools. He speaks the true language of violence: Gnome.
And that’s 100% valid according to these rules.
But some people will read that and say according to WotC, that's "not a gladiator". People get hung up on that title but more importantly, they get hung up on that stat block under it.
Those people are factually incorrect, and it is a trivial matter to point out the text that says so.
My suggestion then would be to remove the default ASI, skills and proficiencies and just keep the flavor text "as is". Gladiator doesn't define what options you pick, it gives you a little story and the player picks the abilities that realize it. You get 18 little origin stories, the player decides how that looks mechanically.
But this leaves people having to make ten choices instead of being able to make between one and ten choices. The purpose of having the default options is so that people have the ability to take a pre-made package if they don’t want to make all those individual choices. It’s exactly the same concept as taking a starting equipment package instead of spending starting gold - another thing no one mistakes for being mandatory.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
If creating a custom background is allowed, then you can still use these if you want. I personally wonder about having all backgrounds include a feat or a language. I don't think this is really needed especially with feats being an optional rule. I'd like to see background x includes a feat, or +1 ASI and a skill or language.
I don’t think feats are going to be optional any more.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
You live in a world where you'll get a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt, where ladder manufacturers have to put a sticker on the top rung of a ladder telling people to not stand there and where maintenance staff has to put out yellow signage warning that a wet floor is a bad place to be walking so people don't bust their heads.

The world has to be designed for regular people, not ideal ones.

If 1D&D was a fantasy heartbreaker someone was publishing on DriveThruRPG, sure, they could design it the way you suggest, but Hasbro wants D&D to be unbelievably mainstream and is hoping to have every household in America own a PHB. You bet they're going to try and make it as user-friendly as possible.
Actually, I'm pretty sure all the things you mentioned are to avoid lawsuits, not safety.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
I don’t think that’s actually true. I have experienced a lot of people who have this concern, and no people who actually assume that the defaults are the only option. I’m sure some people may make that assumption, but for those people it will be a simple enough matter to point out to them that this isn’t the case.

And that’s 100% valid according to these rules.

Those people are factually incorrect, and it is a trivial matter to point out the text that says so.

But this leaves people having to make ten choices instead of being able to make between one and ten choices. The purpose of having the default options is so that people have the ability to take a pre-made package if they don’t want to make all those individual choices. It’s exactly the same concept as taking a starting equipment package instead of spending starting gold - another thing no one mistakes for being mandatory.
If it's so easy to point out where someone is incorrect, then why are we still having this issue?
 

TwiceBorn2

Adventurer
I think that the background section should also instruct players to talk to the DM before creating a background to ensure it fits the setting.
Same should go for language options, especially since many campaigns (whether homebrewed or published) include languages not mentioned in the PHB. Both standard and rare language options in the PHB should include a bullet along the lines of "other language appropriate to the campaign (consult with your DM)", or something along those lines.

EDIT: I also hate that all PCs are considered literate in every language they speak, but I'm not going to die on that hill.
 
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Micah Sweet

Legend
I don’t think that’s actually true. I have experienced a lot of people who have this concern, and no people who actually assume that the defaults are the only option. I’m sure some people may make that assumption, but for those people it will be a simple enough matter to point out to them that this isn’t the case.

And that’s 100% valid according to these rules.

Those people are factually incorrect, and it is a trivial matter to point out the text that says so.

But this leaves people having to make ten choices instead of being able to make between one and ten choices. The purpose of having the default options is so that people have the ability to take a pre-made package if they don’t want to make all those individual choices. It’s exactly the same concept as taking a starting equipment package instead of spending starting gold - another thing no one mistakes for being mandatory.
Well, there is an equipment list (and chapter) in the PH. There's nothing marked as "background element list, please choose five".
 



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