D&D General Using Backgrounds instead of Classes

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I happen to like the flexibility that backgrounds give me. For example if I have a monk that doubles as the party rogue, I just have to take the correct background to get proficiency in the skills I want. In other cases it's just a role playing hook and idea generator. That wizard was a street urchin? Cool, but how did they learn magic? There's a lot of cool stories there that can be really fun as a jumping-off point.

I guess I just see them as different things.

That sounds a whole lot like Troika:


So with the Backgrounds elimination thread, I got to thinking about using the Backgrounds to create NPC followers and similar Townsfolk. Backgrounds would provide a set of Skills, Tools, Languages and at least one ‘Talent’, plus some come with spells too.
Then I thought about using them for a game of low powered PCs, I’d let them have 1d6 Hit Dice, maybe even a bonus Feat at first level.

So what are your thoughts, while theyre not suppose to match the heroics of PC classes could you have fun playing a low tier Acolyte, Soldier, Charlatan, Archaeologist or Street Urchin?

While it wasnt DnD I have run games where PCs were all Circus crew, another where they were hired for an archaeology dig, and another where they were a Crew of Sewer Workers (one of the players was a real engineer so ne became the Crew Boss)


It's a good idea if you want a bit more structure for your NPCs. I just assume mine have the appropriate abilities for their role in the story, rather than trying to fit them to a predetermined background.


A suffusion of yellow
I like it - sounds like it could give a Warhammer 1e feel in some ways. Would definitely be good for a game of more "survival horror" feel.

Need to add a Rat Catcher background for full Warhammer 1e effect though.
Found in the backstreets, alleys, basements and sewers of many a village, town and city ratcatchers make a living by disposing of the vermin that infest the dark corners of civilisation. Their unsanitary job often makes others feel uncomfortable, nonetheless ratcatchers often hear and see things others miss as they spend long hours in dark, confined spaces studying the habits of rats and other vermin, often gaining an uncanny understanding of their prey in a lonely, dirty job that helps keep the plague away.

Skill Proficiencies: Perception, Animal Handling

Tool Proficiencies: Thieves tools (Traps), Poisoners Kit, Flute (Wind instruments)

Equipment: A set of common clothes including a long leather coat and rain hat, rat traps & cages, sling* with 50 ammo, a silvered club, a skinning knife, a belt pouch containing 5 gp and a tiny vicious dog.

Feature: Tiny vicious dog: You are accompanied by a tiny stray dog that you found in the streets and trained to help you in the ratcatching trade. The tiny dog has advantage on Perception checks that rely on hearing or smell, and will growl viciously at anything it notices. The tiny dog never goes more than 30 feet from you unless you use a bonus action to order it to dash out to bite a target or to hunt through cramped conditions (60 ft range), after a succesful bite the dog will immediate pull back towards you. (Spd 30, HP 1d4 AC 13, +5 to hit, reach 5’, Damage 1d4)

Feature: Sewer Explorer
While navigating the less frequented back alleys, basements and sewers of an urban setting you can move quickly through confined and difficult terrain without being slowed down, you can’t become lost except by magical means and your dog will alert you to danger even when you are engaged in another activity while traveling (such as foraging, navigating, or tracking
While tracking vermin you can learn their exact number, their sizes, and how long ago they passed through the area.

Custom Sling: You gain advantage when using your sling against Small and Tiny beasts.
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one mod I took part in places great importance on the background, so much that it was a zero level character. Sort of a prequel before the characters became adventures.

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