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Every Story Has a Beginning

Your character’s background reveals where you came from, how you became an adventurer, and your place in the world. Your fighter might have been a courageous knight or a grizzled soldier. Your wizard could have been a sage or an artisan. Your rogue might have gotten by as a guild thief or commanded audiences as a jester. Choosing a background provides you with important story cues about your character’s identity.

The most important question to ask about your background is what changed? Why did you stop doing whatever your background describes and start adventuring? Where did you get the money to purchase your starting gear, or, if you come from a wealthy background, why don't you have more money? How did you learn the skills of your class? What sets you apart from ordinary people who share your background? The sample backgrounds in this chapter provide both concrete benefits (features, proficiencies, and languages) and roleplaying suggestions.

Proficiencies

  • Each background gives a character proficiency in two skills.
  • Skills are described in chapter 7 of the PHB.
  • In addition, most backgrounds give a character proficiency with one or more tools.
  • Tools are detailed in chapter 5 of the PHB.
  • If a character would gain the same proficiency from two different sources, he or she can choose a different proficiency of the same kind (skill or tool) instead.

Languages

  • Some backgrounds also allow characters to learn additional languages beyond those given by race.

Equipment

  • Each background provides a package of starting equipment. If you use the optional rule from chapter 5 to spend coins on gear, you do not receive the starting equipment from your background.

Suggested Characteristics

  • A background contains suggested personal characteristics based on your background.
  • You can pick characteristics, roll dice to determine them randomly, or use the suggestions as inspiration for characteristics of your own creation.

Customizing a Background

You might want to tweak some of the features of a background so it better fits your character or the campaign setting. 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. You can either use the equipment package from your background or spend coins on gear as described in chapter 5. (If you spend coins, you can't also take the equipment package suggested for your class.) Finally, choose two personality traits, one ideal, one bond, and one flaw. If you can't find a feature that matches your desired background, work with your DM to create one.

List of Backgrounds

An "AL Extra" refers to content that was not released in the source listed. Rather, it was created and introduced by the Adventurers League. While they are still legal backgrounds, you may wish to check with your DM before using any of them.

Additionally, any source that starts with "PS" is part of the Plane Shift series and is not inherently allowed. As always, please check with your DM before using it.

Name Source Skills Languages Tools
Acolyte PHB Insight (WIS), religion (INT) Any x2 None
Anthropologist ToA Insight (WIS), religion (INT) Any x2 None
Archaeologist ToA History (INT), survival (WIS) Any x1 Choose 1: cartographer's tools, navigator's tools
Black Fist Double Agent CoS (AL Extra) Deception (CHA), insight (WIS) None Disguise kit, and choose 1: artisan's tools x1, gaming set x1
Caravan Specialist EE (AL Extra) Animal handling (WIS), survival (WIS) Any x1 Vehicles (land)
Charlatan PHB Deception (CHA), sleight of hand (DEX) None Disguise kit, forgery kit
City Watch SCAG Athletics (STR), insight (WIS) Any x2 None
Clan Crafter SCAG History (INT), insight (WIS) Any x1 Artisan's tools x1
Cloistered Scholar SCAG History (INT), and choose 1: arcana (INT), nature (INT), religion (INT) Any x2 None
Cormanthor Refugee RoD (AL Extra) Nature (INT), survival (WIS) Elvish Artisan's tools x1
Courtier SCAG Insight (WIS), persuasion (CHA) Any x2 None
Criminal/Spy PHB Deception (CHA), stealth (DEX) None Gaming set x1, thieves' tools
Dissenter PS:A Special (See page) Special (See page) Special (See page)
Dragon Casualty CoS (AL Extra) Intimidation (CHA), survival (WIS) Draconic Special (See page)
Earthspur Miner EE (AL Extra) Athletics (STR), survival (WIS) Dwarvish, Undercommon None
Entertainer PHB Acrobatics (DEX), performance (CHA) None Disguise kit, musical instrument x1
Faction Agent SCAG Insight (WIS), and choose 1: special (See page) Any x2 None
Far Traveler SCAG Insight (WIS), perception (WIS) Any x1 Choose 1: musical instrument x1, gaming set x1
Folk Hero PHB Animal handling (WIS), survival (WIS) None Artisan's tools x1, vehicles (land)
Gate Urchin RoD (AL Extra) Deception (CHA), sleight of hand (DEX) None Musical instrument x1, thieves' tools
Gladiator (Entertainer) PHB Acrobatics (DEX), performance (CHA) None Disguise kit, unusual weapon x1
Guild Artisan PHB Insight (WIS), persuasion (CHA) Any x1 Artisan's tools x1
Guild Merchant PHB Insight (WIS), persuasion (CHA) Any x1 Navigator's tools
Harborfolk EE (AL Extra) Athletics (STR), sleight of hand (DEX) None Gaming set x1, vehicles (water)
Haunted One CoS Choose 2: Arcana (INT), investigation (INT), religion (INT), survival (WIS) Exotic x1 None
Hermit PHB Medicine (WIS), religion (INT) Any x1 Herbalism kit
Hillsfar Merchant RoD (AL Extra) Insight (WIS), persuasion (CHA) None Vehicles (land), vehicles (water)
Hillsfar Smuggler RoD (AL Extra) Perception (WIS), stealth (DEX) Any x1 Forgery kit
Inheritor SCAG Survival (WIS), and choose 1: arcana (INT), history (INT), religion (INT) None Gaming set x1, musical instrument x1
Initiate PS:A Athletics (STR), intimidation (CHA) None Gaming set x1, vehicles (land)
Inquisitor PS:In Investigation (INT), religion (INT) None Artisan's tools x1, thieves' tools
Investigator SCAG Insight (WIS), investigation (INT) Any x1 None
Iron Route Bandit CoS (AL Extra) Animal handling (WIS), stealth (DEX) None Gaming set x1, vehicles (land)
Knight (Noble) PHB History (INT), persuasion (CHA) Any x1 Gaming set x1
Knight of the Order SCAG Persuasion (CHA), and choose 1: special (See page) Any x1 Choose 1: gaming set x1, musical instrument x1
Mercenary Veteran SCAG Athletics (STR), persuasion (CHA) None Gaming set x1, vehicles (land)
Mulmaster Aristocrat EE (AL Extra) Deception (CHA) performance (CHA) None Artisan's tools x1, musical instrument x1
Noble PHB History (INT), persuasion (CHA) Any x1 Gaming set x1
Outlander PHB Athletics (STR), survival (WIS) Any x1 Musical instrument x1
Phlan Insurgent CoS (AL Extra) Stealth (DEX), survival (WIS) None Artisan's tools x1, vehicles (land)
Phlan Refugee EE (AL Extra) Athletics (STR), insight (WIS) Any x1 Artisan's tools x1
Sage PHB Arcana (INT), history (INT) Any x2 None
Sailor/Pirate PHB Athletics (STR), perception (WIS) None Navigator's tools, vehicles (water)
Secret Identity RoD (AL Extra) Deception (CHA), stealth (DEX) None Disguise kit, forgery kit
Shade Fanatic RoD (AL Extra) Deception (CHA), intimidation (CHA) Netherese Forgery kit
Soldier PHB Athletics (STR), intimidation (CHA) None Gaming set x1, vehicles (land)
Stojanow Prisoner CoS (AL Extra) Deception (CHA), perception (WIS) None Gaming set x1, thieves' tools
Ticklebelly Nomad CoS (AL Extra) Animal handling (WIS), nature (INT) Giant Herbalism kit
Trade Sheriff RoD (AL Extra) Investigation (INT), persuasion (CHA) Elvish Thieves' tools
Urban Bounty Hunter SCAG Choose 2: deception (CHA), insight (WIS), persuasion (CHA), stealth (DEX) None Choose 2: gaming set x1, musical instrument x1, thieves' tools
Urchin PHB Sleight of hand (DEX), stealth (DEX) None Disguise kit, thieves' tools
Uthgardt Tribe Member SCAG Athletics (STR), survival (WIS) Any x1 Choose 1: artisan's tools x1, musical instrument x1
Vizier PS:A History (INT), religion (INT) None Artisan's tools x1, musical instrument x1
Waterdhavian Noble SCAG History (INT), persuasion (CHA) Any x1 Choose 1: gaming set x1, musical instrument x1