How I came to be: An adventurer's guide to Backgrounds

29 posts / 0 new
Last post
Backgrounds

Every character needs one, right?


Note: You can only gain the benefit of one background


This Handbook will use the following system for ratings:


Red - Garbage, or completely overshadowed by another option.
Purple - Situationally useful, but overall pretty meh.
Black - OK. You could do worse than pick this.
Blue - Good stuff. You probably want this.
Sky Blue - You want this. Period.
Gold - Why haven't you taken this yet? A defining choice for a build, or even the whole class.


Props to:


langeweile for his Battlemind Handbook that started this desire of mine. All of the original wording came from him.
LDB for being awesome.
Alcestis for commonly posting smart things in threads I browse.
General Backgrounds

Anything that does not fit into the other categories


Any Skill or Language related: This is the default background benefit, which gives you access to a non-class skill, bonus small bonus to any skill or sometimes even a reroll for a certain skill. You can also get an extra trained language you might need, but that you don't want to pay a feat for. It's always a solid choice, and if you look enough you can find a Background for any need, and sometimes even one that gives you a little extra benefit.
Monster Hunter:(Dr371) Bonus to monster knowledge checks. Not as good as Adventurer's Scion.
Former Gladiator(Dr366) Four death saves before you die. Not spectecular, but because you sometimes will go down, this can be the edge to save you.
Wandering Mercenary:(Dr366) Four death saves before you die. See above.
Wandering Mercenary:(Dr366) Four death saves before you die. Not spectecular, but because you sometimes will go down, this can be the edge to save you.
Restless Dead:(Dr371) Some extra damage against Undead definately helps if you expect many of them.


Sarifal:(Dr376) Ignore difficult terrain in Earth, Forest, Ice, or Swamp. If you expect your campagin to be mostly in one type of area, this is just great. It not only helps significantly with general mobility, but it in particular lets you shift (eg with BS) even in that type of Difficult Terrain!

Action Point


Chessenta:(FRPG) A minor bonus to all roles(Atk/Dmg/etc) when you Action Point.
Tarmalune:(Dr376) A solid boost to speed for two rounds when you Action Point - not much, but it can help. And you also get a nice bonus to Diplomacy.

Enchanting


Warsmith:(Dr366) Create weapons/armor. Also creation rituals. Get your leader/controller to do this.
Imbuer:(Dr366) Create implements/wonderous items. Also creation rituals. Get your leader/controller to do this.

Initiative


There are several minor Initiative bonuses throughout. Use Ctrl+F to find them.
Trained from Birth for a Specific Prophecy:(Dr366) Reroll Initiative 1/day, just when it's important and your roll was bad, can save your group quite some trouble.

Knowledge Checks


Monster Hunter Background:(Dr366) A minor bonus to all monster knowledge skill checks. Solid all around bonus for a very common usage of many skills - if you have the basics for it.

Weapon Proficiencies


Gritty Sergeant:(Dr366) Weapon proficiency w/ a simple or military weapon. Minor Initiative bonus.
Noble Bred for War:(Dr366) Weapon proficiency w/ a simple or military weapon. Minor Diplomacy bonus.
Defensive Backgrounds

Highest Ability to Initial HP, Resistances, Saving Throw Bonuses, etc


Highest Ability to Initial HP


All of these use the follow stat instead of Con to calculate Initial HP.
Auspicious Birth:(Dr366) Highest stat
Born Under a Bad Sign:(Dr366) Highest stat
Impiltur:(FRPG) Wis
Thay:(FRPG) Int


Saving Throw Bonuses


Arcane Student who Saw too Much:(Dr366) A small bonus, but it's against some of the worst effects that can hit you.
Cormyr (General):(FRPG) Saving throw bnus vs Fear. Plus Insight as a class skill and a bonus to Insight. Moonshae is better (combines both Cormyr) unless you need the class skill.
Cormyr (Wheloon):(FRPG) Saving throw bonus vs Charm. Plus Thievery as a class skill and a bonus to thievery. Moonshae is better (combines both Cormyr) unless you need the class skill.
Crusading Zealot:(Dr366) Minor bonus to all saving throws, but only until you fail. A good bonus if you plan on stacking saving throw bonuses, but too fickle to be used alone.
Haunted Veteran:(Dr366) Reroll one failed fear 1/enc.
Moonshae Isles:(FRPG) Saving Throw bonus vs Charm AND Fear. Plus Elven language.
Myth Drannor:(FRPG) Reroll one failed charm 1/enc. Essentially equal to a +5 to one save. Charm effects include nasty things like Dominate, so this can save you in the time of need.
Necromancer's Chattel:(Dr371) Saving throw bnus vs Fear. Cormyr or Moonshae are better.
Recent Convert:(Dr366) Reroll one failed charm 1/enc. Charm effects include nasty things like Dominate, so this can save you in the time of need.
Scorned Noble:(Dr366) Solid saving throw bonus if no allies are within 5 squares. Probably a rare event though


Resistances


Akanûl:(FRPG) Fire/Cold/Thunder resistances that scale! Also stacks with other sources!
Calimshan:(FRPG) Scaling fire resistance. Double the fire resistance  of Akanul, but does not stakc with other sources. It is very good as fire is pretty common, and really good for a firey campaign, but overall akanul is better.
Skill Backgrounds

Someone has to look past all the other awesome backgrounds to fill in the group skills, why not you?


General Skill Ratings
Acrobatics: Walking on a tightrope, fighting on ice, balancing, and reducing falling damage (which can only be done trained). Can be utterly overpowered if heavily optimized also more details.
Arcana: Knowledge skill plus much more. Also useful for rituals. Can be really amazing in the right hands - Sage of Ages or substituting arcana for other checks.
Athletics: Jump/climb/swim.
Bluff: Overall useful Face skill.
Diplomacy: Overall useful Face skill.
Dungeoneering: Another knowledge skill. Forage can be worthless if you have Everlasting Provisions(level 4 Wondrous).
Endurance: For disease resistance and surviving nature. Diseases can be handled through rituals though. Opens a lot of really solid skill powers.
Heal: Heal is reasonably useful at low levels, but later, it seems to just disappear, except as a secondary skill in some skill challenges. Just train out of it, find something more useful.
History: Another knowledge skill.
Insight: A fantastic skill for any Wis-based class.
Intimidate: Overall useful Face skill. Can be amazing in combat(make bloodied surrender) if optimized for it. Also opens up Rattling
Nature: Another knowledge skill. Also useful for rituals. Forage can be worthless if you have Everlasting Provisions(level 4 Wondrous).
Perception: A fantastic skill for any Wis-based class. "The best skill in the game"
Religion: Another knowledge skill. Also useful for rituals.
Stealth: In general unless the whole party has it trained then it is useless. Some parties/situations could benefit from having a scout. Can be essential for rogues and stealthy builds.
Streetwise: Used for obtaining information. Why wasn't it rolled into Diplomacy?
Thievery: Disabling traps can be important for every group - depends on DM. Lack of Thievery never stopped a group from continuing an adventure. In the case of traps, they take some damage, and keep trucking, no biggie. Unless the DM deliberately makes Thievery important, it doesn't appear to be within the current design of 4e encounters. Strangely in some campaigns, at low levels there seem to be more traps, and at higher levels the traps either vanish or with action economy the way it is, people feel they are better off ignoring traps even when they are trained in Thievery. So it's another skill you could start with at low levels, but then train it out when you realize you're never using it.


__ as a Class skill


All of these add the following skill as a class skill to be chosen at character creation. Sorted by skill added - alphabetically.
Windrise Ports:(FRPG) Any skill. Plus a language!
Noble scion:(Dr366) Any knowledge skill. A bonus as well.
Nelanther Isles:(FRPG) Acrobatics and Athletics. A minor bonus as well.
Cult Escapee:(Dr366) Arcana and Bluff. A minor bonus to as well.
Apprentice of Sinister Cabal:(Dr366) Arcana and Dungeoneering. A minor bonus to as well.
Magic Scholar:(Dr366) Arcana and History. A minor bonus as well.
Netheril:(FRPG) Arcana and History. A minor bonus as well.
Great Dale:(FRPG) Arcana and Nature. A minor bonus as well.
Assassin:(Dr366) Arcana and Stealth. A minor bonus to as well.
Tymanther:(FRPG) Athletics. A bonus as well.
Elfharrow:(FRPG) Athletics and Nature. A minor bonus as well.
River Smuggler:(Dr366) Athletics and Streetwise. A minor bonus as well.
On the Run from the Devil:(Dr366) Bluff and Insight. A minor bonus as well.
Fugitive from a Vengeful Rival:(Dr366) Bluff and Stealth. A minor bonus as well.
On the Run from the Devil:(Dr366) Bluff and Perception. A minor bonus as well.
Con Artist:(Dr366) Bluff and Thievery. A minor bonus as well.
Eldritch Harlequin:(Dr366) Bluff and Thievery. A minor bonus as well.
Waterdeep:(FRPG) Diplomacy. A bonus as well. And a Language.
Redemption Seeker:(Dr366) Diplomacy and Insight. A minor bonus as well.
Political Rebel:(Dr366) Diplomacy and Streetwise. A minor bonus as well.
East Rift:(FRPG) Dungeoneering. A bonus as well. And Deep Speech.
Brother in Battle:(Dr366) Endurance. A big bonus as well.
Narfell:(FRPG) Endurance. A big bonus as well.
Last of the Breed:(Dr366) Endurance and Perception. A minor bonus as well.
Merchant Prince:(Dr366) Insight. A bonus as well. Language
Cormyr (General):(FRPG) Insight. A minor bonus as well. Plus saving throw bonus vs Fear.
Wandering Duelist:(Dr366) Intimidate. A big bonus as well.
Young Cutthroat:(Dr366) Intimidate and Thievery. A minor bonus as well.
Vet Who Can't Let Go:(Dr366) Intimidate and History. A minor bonus as well.
Street Urchin:(Dr366) Intimidate and Streetwise. A minor bonus as well.
Scion of an Ancient Bloodline:(Dr366) History. A big bonus as well.
Officer who Came out of Retirement:(Dr366) History. A minor bonus as well. Minor Initiative bonus.
Seeker for the Lost Clan:(Dr366) History and Dungeoneering. A minor bonus as well.
Explorer/Guide:(Dr366) Nature. A bonus as well. Language.
Gray Vale:(FRPG) Nature. A bonus as well. Language.
Former Barbarian:(Dr366) Nature. A minor bonus as well.
Forest Warden:(Dr366) Perception and Nature. A minor bonus to as well.
Detective:(Dr366) Perception and Insight. A minor bonus to as well.
Missing Master:(Dr366) Perception and Insight. A minor bonusas well.
Aglarond:(FRPG) Perception. A minor bonus as well. Elven language.
Cloistered Priest:(Dr366) Religion. A big bonus as well.
Traveling Missionary:(Dr366) Religion. A bonus as well. Language.
Luskan:(FRPG) Stealth and Thievery. A minor bonus as well.
Silent Hunter:(Dr366) Stealth and Perception. A minor bonus as well.
Baldur's Gate:(FRPG) Streetwise. A bonus as well. Mostly worthless skill.
Prison Version:(FRPG) Streetwise. A bonus as well. Mostly worthless skill.
Amn:(FRPG) Thievery and Streetwise. A minor bonus to as well.
Cormyr (Wheloon):(FRPG) Thievery. A minor bonus as well. Plus saving throw bonus vs Charm
Cat Burglar:(Dr366) Thievery and Athletics. A minor bonus as well.


Reroll Skills


All of these allow you to reroll a certain skill check. Sorted by skill - alphabetically.
Adventurer's Scion:(Dr371) Reroll every monster knowledge check. Powerful if you make sure to pick up enough of those skills.
High Imaskar:(FRPG) Arcana. Deep Speech Language. Arcana can be particularly useful if you are making a lot of Arcana checks in place of other checks.
Vilhon Wilds:(FRPG) Dungeoneering. Minor bonus to Initiative. A perfect choice for any Underdark campaign and any other characters with a knack for musty caves.
Luruar:(FRPG) History. Add a Language.
Dragon Coast:(FRPG) Insight. Add a Language.
Dalelands:(FRPG) Nature. Minor bonus to Initiative.


Skill Bonuses


Airspur:(FRPG) Bonus to Acrobatics and Diplomacy.
Ikemmu:(FRPG) Bonus to Arcana and Dungeoneering.
Durpar:(FRPG) Bonus to Perception.
Racial Backgrounds


Shifter

___ As a Class Skill


Moonshae Isles (Shifter):(Dr394) Athletics. Plus a bonus to swim. Add Chondathan language.
Sembia(Shifter):(Dr394) Bluff and Diplomacy. Add Chondathan language. You resemble a human.
Luruar (Shifter):(Dr394) Intimidate. A minor bonus to Perception while shifting. Add Chondatha language.
Baulder's Gate (Shifter):(Dr394) History. A minor bonus to History. Elven language. You resemble an elf.
Rashemen (Shifter):(Dr394) Nature. A minor bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy, and Insight when dealing with fey. Add Damaran language.
Tethyr (Shifter):(Dr394) Stealth. Minor bonus to Stealth. Add Chondathan/Draconic language.
The Dalelands (Shifter):(Dr394) Stealth and Nature. Minor bonus to Intimidate while shifting.

Skill Rerolls


Durpar (Shifter):(Dr394) Reroll Dungeoneering. Goblin Language. A perfect choice for any Underdark campaign and any other characters with a knack for musty caves.
The Great Dale (Shifter):(Dr394) Reroll Nature. Add Elven Language.
Luskan (Shifter):(Dr394) Reroll Stealth. Add Shou language.
Dambrath (Shifter):(Dr394) Reroll Acrobatics, Athletics, Endurance, or Stealth check using your mount's skills. Ok. Depends on mount.
Reserved


Go ahead and post. Thanks for helping me with the mis-typed title before this thread got too big! :P
Anytime Kryx Glad I could help!
10/10 Would Flame Again: An Elite Paladin|Warlock The Elemental Man (or Woman): A Genasi Handbook The Warlord, Or How to Wield a Barbarian One-Handed The Bookish Barbarian Fardiz: RAI is fairly clear, but RAZ is different That's right. Rules According to Zelink!
If you're still looking for spelling corrections, this should be Calimshan (according to the CB). Thanks for making this thread, by the way, now i don't have to much through all of the backgrounds anymore. :D


Ya that's all Lang. I couldn't find Monshae Isles for the longest time. :P

Fixt. ya keep em coming. Suggestions as well. Trying to build it out right now.


Also if anyone has any suggestions on how to organise these I'm all ears. For instance I could organise it by Defensive backgrounds (highest abil to hp, saving throws, resists, etc), Class skills, Reroll skills, Other bonuses (like Init).
Tarmulane:(Dr376) A solid boost to speed for two rounds - not much, but it can help. And you also get a nice bonus to Diplomacy.



Tarmalune ;)

Will post more if i find any. I'm half surprised Auspicious Birth/Born Under a Bad Sign aren't goldish. 
Thanks for doing this.  This will be very helpful, especially for those of our friends who did not invest in DDI.  Request: please include Occupation background options.  One of my favorite occupations (for my Earthstrength Warden) is Bounty Hunter - a +2 to Perception.  Highly useful for a Con based class that gets Perception as a class skill.
I'm half surprised Auspicious Birth/Born Under a Bad Sign aren't goldish. 


Ya take these with a grain of salt. Right now I'm just scouring other sources. I plan to revamp at a later point. I probably should have prepared it elsewhere first. :D
No worries, just giving my .02. The SoWAP Warsmith seems nice too, featless enchanting, but i don't know how many classes would actually be able to utilise it.
I would put Thay as the ones like it as Black/Blue-since for INT mains (for the Thay example), they have the same purpose as Auspicious with the possibility of greater RPing
10/10 Would Flame Again: An Elite Paladin|Warlock The Elemental Man (or Woman): A Genasi Handbook The Warlord, Or How to Wield a Barbarian One-Handed The Bookish Barbarian Fardiz: RAI is fairly clear, but RAZ is different That's right. Rules According to Zelink!
Things to check out:
Curious Archeologist - succeed 2 trap-disarm checks for the price of one!
Imbuer - Same as Warsmith, featless enchanting. 
Noble Bred for War - Gritty Sargeant but Diplomacy instead of Initiative.
Shifter - Baldur's Gate - Um. Stuff. Basically you look like an elf instead of a human when not disguised for a -5 to your Bluff check when someone actively checks against you. 
Shifter - Dambrath - Reroll Acrobatics, Endurance, Athletics and Stealth checks with your mount's bonus.
Shifter - Sembia - Same as Baldur's Gate, only you look like a really convincing human.

That's all i don't recall seeing and isn't a skill bonus/granter. 
Gritty sergeant is better than black I think. Warpriests, strength Clerics, Rogues, Thieves and Bards can all find something to do with this background. Picking up a rapier in this fashion seems to be a common enough trick to save a feat for the non-proficient lightblade user.

The Chessenta bonus is not only a bonus to attack, but also a bonus to damage, not to mention any secondary rolls triggered by that action, such as an Athletics check you might make during a charge, or saving throws you might make with a paladin's Comback Smite.

High Imaskar can be particularly useful if you are making a lot of Arcana checks in place of other checks. 
Added all the suggested ones. Warsmith and Imbuer are mediocre imo as your group should be big enough to have an enchanter. Maybe ok for a solo campaign? *shrug*

Keep the suggestions coming. I'm going to take a break for now, but I'm sure later I can comb through and find tons of stuff (especially skills). 
Gritty sergeant is better than black I think. Warpriests, strength Clerics, Rogues, Thieves and Bards can all find something to do with this background. 



Monks too, like with scimitar for a stone fist monk interested in scimitar dance.  Both cleric and monk like it for free long bow proficiency. 

Non dwarf Clerics who are going Hammer of Moradin also like it, since the path requires you are proficient with a throwing or war hammer, but are better off using a superior hammer or goliath with a maul.

I would think it is ok for a defiant runepriest too, but I don't know that class well.
Gritty sergeant is better than black I think.


I actually edited that right before I made the post right after yours. I know certain chars I've used before it was pretty essential. I stuck it at blue, do you think it deserves Skyblue?

The Chessenta bonus is not only a bonus to attack

Modified the description.

High Imaskar can be particularly useful if you are making a lot of Arcana checks in place of other checks. 

Yup. Was in my mental lists of ones to add. Currently on my wizzie I'm making.
I would think it is ok for a defiant runepriest too, but I don't know that class well.

Yes Defiant Runepriests like a +3 proficiency weapon, if they are not getting superior. Longswords are good because they like heavy blade expertise for the +2 AC against opportunity attacks, giving their defenders an extra attack by provoking, typically getting missed, and gaining a solid damage bonus. But with the secondary striker role, they would commonly want a bastard sword, which they may or may not be able to afford the feat for, depending on how heavily they are focusing on defenses and fighter multiclass.
History isn't just another knowledge skill. It's the basis for Strategist's Epiphany, which is a fantastic initiative booster, and Legend Lore, which allows History to be used for any other knowledge check (i.e. Dungeoneering, Religion, Nature or Arcana.)

As such I would also like to submit Scion of An Ancient Bloodline for consideration, which gives a walloping +3 bonus to History checks...better than most skill boosters.
History isn't just another knowledge skill. It's the basis for Strategist's Epiphany, which is a fantastic initiative booster, and Legend Lore, which allows History to be used for any other knowledge check (i.e. Dungeoneering, Religion, Nature or Arcana.)

As such I would also like to submit Scion of An Ancient Bloodline for consideration, which gives a walloping +3 bonus to History checks...better than most skill boosters.


By all means throw as many as you want at me - I've been lazy with this post and will probably continue to be lazy. I'll add that one.

For skills: I am just using a general skill rating for all players. Specified uses like that, while really good for int chars, are not enough to make it a solid pick for all players.

Feel free to join the discussion about skills - I purposefully split the disputed on this thread. :P
General Skill Ratings
Yeah, I wouldn't go over blue for it. It's not a must pick, but it can be very useful for characters relying on Strategist's Epiphany or Legend Lore.

caveat - I think Legend Lore is my own personal love fest. That said, Strategist's Epiphany is universally regarded as blue for characters good at history.

Absolutely awesome thread. As a side note: Background + Theme = Win.

RIP George! 4-21-11 RIP Abie! 1-2-13
Funny Forum Quotes
[quote author=82733368 post=532127449]
58115148 wrote:
"You notice a large piece of mold clinging to your toothbrush. What do you do?" "I cast Fireball." "I run like hell!
63797881 wrote:
The standard d4 is somewhat (SOMEWHAT) rounded on the top, the older models are even flat. The Lego is shaped in such a way that in an emergency, you can use one as a makeshift surgical knife.
147742801 wrote:
57457938 wrote:
My wife asked me if her pants made her look fat. What do you think I said?
Wife: Do these pants make me look fat? RedSiegfried: I just killed a bunch of orc women and children.
63797881 wrote:
82733368 wrote:
28.) Making a "Drunken Master" style character (Monk or otherwise) does not require my character to be completely shitfaced, no matter what the name (and fun interpretation) implies.
29.) Making a "Drunken Master" style character does not require ME to be completely tanked, no matter how "in-character" I want to be..



Resistances


Akanûl:(FRPG) Fire/Cold/Thunder resistances that scale!
Calimshan:(FRPG) Scaling fire resistance. Also adds Endurance.




It should be noted that Akanûl: not only scales but stacks!
In my opinion this puts it above
Calimshan:
also:
 Calimshan only adds endurance to thirst, In the right campaign this might be sky blue, I feel in most campaigns it is black.
I don't think you have the backgrounds listed that are prereqs for paragon paths. Tymanther, Akanûl, East Rift
It should be noted that Akanûl: not only scales but stacks!
In my opinion this puts it above
Calimshan:
also:
 Calimshan only adds endurance to thirst, In the right campaign this might be sky blue, I feel in most campaigns it is black.


Akanul adds 2/3/5 of 3 types.
Calimshan applies 4/7/10. Definitely a big boost over Akanul, but akanul gives you 3 types and stack with others so it is very valuable. Blue rating for calimshan - It is very good as fire is pretty common, and really good for a firey campaign, but overall akanul is better.
Added the details about akanul - shoulda been there b4, but I was lazy.



I don't think you have the backgrounds listed that are prereqs for paragon paths. Tymanther, Akanûl, East Rift



Ya, I have nothing about Paragon Path requirements. I personally would find that information in reverse - find a good pargon path that requires a background, not find a background that leads into a PP. But if people really think that is important I can add that information.
Updated. This is complete unless anyone notices any missing items.

FR and Scales of war are done. Nothing else to pickup unless I'm missing some that are listed as having associated skills(IE: Standard background).

Also knocked some history skills lower with the nerf to Strategist's Epiphany.
For a build focused on exploiting a high history to work Legend Lore with Use Vulnerability from the Scholar Theme, would you go with Scion of An Ancient Bloodline [+3 to History Checks] or Luruar [Reroll any History Check, Keep the Second even if it is worse]?

I'm not sure Scion of An Ancient Bloodline is LFR legal, so in those situations, is Luruar better than the stock +2 bonus?

.. keeping in mind that there are a number of ways to gain History Rerolls - Muse Sprite and Philosopher's Crown later in heroic.
Can I just say, I love this thread! It simplifies the dizzying amount of choices we have when making a character.
Sign In to post comments