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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 background presented here provides both concrete benefits (features, proficiencies, and languages) and roleplaying suggestions.


Each background gives a character proficiency in two skills (described in “Using Ability Scores”). In addition, most backgrounds give a character proficiency with one or more tools (detailed in “[[SRD5:Equipment}Equipment]]”). 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.


Some backgrounds also allow characters to learn additional languages beyond those given by race. See “Languages.”


Each background provides a package of starting equipment. If you use the optional rule to spend coin 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 coin on gear as described in the equipment section. (If you spend coin, 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 GM to create one.

List of Backgrounds

This section exceeds the text of the SRD

(30 official and unofficial backgrounds).

Acolyte (background)Person of the clothShelter of the FaithfulInsight, ReligionTwo of your choiceSRD5
Urban Bounty Hunter (pointer)Bounty Hunter of cities and townsEar to the GroundChoose two from among Deception, Insight, Persuasion, and StealthChoose two from among one type of gaming set, musical instrument, and thieves' toolsSword Coast Adventurer's Guide
Charlatan (pointer)Con man, someone who pretends to be someone else.False IdentityDeception, Sleight of HandDisguise Kit, Forgery KitFavorite SchemesPlayer's Handbook (5e)
City Watch (pointer)Duly ordaned keeper of the peaceWatcher's EyeAthletics, InsightTwo of your choiceSword Coast Adventurer's Guide
Clan Crafter (pointer)Apprentice of a Dwarven Master ArtisanRespect of the Stout FolkHistory, InsightOne type of Artisan's ToolsDwarvish or one of your choice if you already know it.Guild BusinessSword Coast Adventurer's Guide
Cloistered Scholar (pointer)LibrarianLibrary AccessHistory, plus your choice of one from among Arcana, Nature, and ReligionTwo of your choiceSword Coast Adventurer's Guide
Courtier (pointer)Court of Nobles BureaucratCourt FunctionaryInsight, PersuasionTwo of your choiceSword Coast Adventurer's Guide
Criminal (pointer)Thief, thug, hired killer, con-manCriminal ContactDeception, StealthOne type of Gaming Set, Thieves' ToolsCriminal SpecialtyPlayer's Handbook (5e)
Entertainer (pointer)Actor, dancer, musician, poetBy Popular DemandAcrobatics, PerformanceDisguise Kit, one type of musical instrumentEntertainer RoutinesPlayer's Handbook (5e)
Faction Agent (pointer)You belong to an ideological organization and sought to advance its goalsSave HavenInsight and one Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma skill of your choice, as appropriate to your faction.Two of your choiceFactions of the Sword CoastSword Coast Adventurer's Guide
Far Traveler (pointer)You hail from a place far, far awayAll Eyes on YouInsight, PerceptionMusical InstrumentOne of your choiceWhy you are HereSword Coast Adventurer's Guide
Folk Hero (pointer)Local HeroRustic HospitalityAnimal Handling, SurvivalOne type of Artisan's Tools, Vehicles (Land)Defining EventPlayer's Handbook (5e)
Gladiator (pointer)You fight for an audienceBy Popular DemandAcrobatics, PerformanceDisguise Kit, one type of musical instrumentEntertainer RoutinesPlayer's Handbook (5e)
Guild Artisan (pointer)Member of an artisan guildGuild MembershipInsight, PersuasionOne type of Artisan's ToolsOne of your ChoiceGuild BusinessPlayer's Handbook (5e)
Guild Merchant (pointer)Seller of an artisan guild's goodsGuild MembershipInsight, PersuasionOne set of Navigator's ToolsOne of your ChoiceGuild BusinessPlayer's Handbook (5e)
Haunted One (pointer)Encountered the supernatural at a young age and survivedHeart of DarknessChoose one of Arcana, Investigation, Religion, or SurvivalChoose one exotic language (Abyssal, Celestial, Deep Speech, Draconic, Infernal, Primordial, Sylvan, or Undercommon)Harrowing EventCurse of Strahd
Hermit (pointer)You have separated yourself from othersDiscoveryMedicine, ReligionHerbalism KitOne of your choiceLife of SeclusionPlayer's Handbook (5e)
Inheritor (pointer)An item of legacy was entrusted to youInheritanceSurvival, plus one from among Arcana, History, and ReligionYour choice of Gaming Set or a Musical InstrumentAny one of your choiceSword Coast Adventurer's Guide
Knight (pointer)Background: Knight, lowest of nobilityRetainersHistory, PersuasionOne type of Gaming SetOne of your ChoicePlayer's Handbook (5e)
Knight of the Order (pointer)Background: Knight of the OrderKnightly RegardPersuasion, plus one from among Arcana, History, Nature, and Religion, as appropriate for your order.One type of gaming set or musical instrument.One of your ChoiceSword Coast Adventurer's Guide
Mercenary Veteran (pointer)Soldier of FortuneMercenary LifeAthletics, PersuasionOne type of gaming set, vehicles (land).Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide
Noble (pointer)Background: Member of nobilityPosition of PrivilegeHistory, PersuasionOne type of Gaming SetOne of your ChoicePlayer's Handbook (5e)
Waterdhavian Noble (pointer)You are the offspring of a noble of WaterdeepKept in StyleHistory, PersuasionOne type of Gaming Set or Musical InstrumentOne of your choiceSword Coast Adventurer's Guide
Outlander (pointer)You have lived outside civilizationWandererAthletics, SurvivalOne type of musical instrument.One of your choiceOriginPlayer's Handbook (5e)
Pirate (pointer)You have served aboard a pirate shipBad ReputationAthletics, PerceptionNavigator’s Tools, Vehicles (water)Player's Handbook (5e)
Sage (pointer)You have studied lore.ReseacherArcana, HistoryTwo of your choiceSpecialtyPlayer's Handbook (5e)
Sailor (pointer)You have earned a living onboard a shipShip's PassageAthletics, PerceptionNavigator’s Tools, Vehicles (water)Player's Handbook (5e)
Soldier (pointer)Enlisted SoldierMilitary LifeAthletics, IntimidationOne type of gaming set, vehicles (land).SpecialtyPlayer's Handbook (5e)
Urchin (pointer)You grew up on the streetsCity SecretsSleight of Hand, StealthDisguise Kit, thieves' toolsPlayer's Handbook (5e)
Uthgardt Tribe MemberYou grew up in a tribe of UthgardtUthgardt HeritageAthletics, SurvivalOne type of Musical Instrument or Artisan ToolsOne of your choiceSword Coast Adventurer's Guide


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