A Case For Making Backgrounds Level 0 classes (And moving weapon/armor proficiency there too)

The thread about "what is the point of the fighter" got me thinking that currently, the point of the fighter seems to be all weapon and armor proficiencies.  While this is a valid fantasy archetype, it is a poor focus for a class. We see this with how similar the 5e monk and rogue are to the fighter.

What if we radically changed what a class was though? What if being a fighter simply translated into any class who uses expertise dice. Instead of creating a monk, you would create an unarmed fighter. Instead of creating a rogue, you make a high Dex fighter. Your class determines how you overcome challenges, not what weapons and armor you are proficient with. To determine the proficiencies you though you would turn to backgrounds.

Backgrounds would essentially become level 0 classes.  The background you choose gives you a starting HD, afew minor traits, some bonus trained skills, and your weapon/armor proficiencies. These extra abilities are in addition to the 3 skills and a trait your background would normally grant. Here are some examples of what these backgrounds might look like:

Warrior: HD d8, bonus trained skill: athletics, all weapon and armor proficiencies.

Swashbuckler: HD d6, bonus trained skills: acrobatics and athletics, light armor proficiency, simple finesse and martial weapon proficiency.

Martial Artist: HD d6, bonus trained skills: acrobatics and athletics, unarmored defense and unarmed attack, simple weapon finesse and martial weapon proficiency.

Priest: HD d6, bonus trained skill: religion, at-will orisons: 3, simple weapon and light armor proficiency.

Scholar: HD d6, bonus trained skills: choose any 4 Int based skills, simple weapon proficiency.

Classes would no longer include weapon and armor proficiencies but would modify HD size as well as granting a number of class features including weapon and magic attack bonuses. The level 1 fighter class might have increased HD size, expertise, and maneuvers for example. 

This would also allow for greater character customization and distinction between classes. If the fighter class becomes the "expertise class" for example, the warblade class could be a martial class that uses an entirely different mechanic. The wizard might use vancian slot based casting while the sorcerer uses encounter based mana points. The monk class could be fueled by mystical Ki energy but a player would still have the option of creating a completely mundane unarmed combatant with the Martial Artist background and the Fighter class.

This allows the designers to focus more on interesting mechanics for future classes. For example the ranger class might focus on a favored terrain/enemy mechanic. Alternatively a player could simply play a fighter with the woodsman or scout background. This method also removes the encouragement of the "1 level dip" as classes no longer grant proficiencies.

My 5e Homebrew Material

The Warblade: A Mythic Fighter

The Hero: A Modular Class

Almost got the class rundown for the first Final Fantasy there
My two copper.
IIIII like it
I'm not a fan.

Currently, I can make a Fighter with the Sage background without sacrificing any of my fighter features.  With your system, I would have no armor proficiency, only simple weapons, and d6 hit points.
This is silly.  It doesn't matter what you call them.
It doesn't matter what you call them.

D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
I'm not a fan.

Currently, I can make a Fighter with the Sage background without sacrificing any of my fighter features.  With your system, I would have no armor proficiency, only simple weapons, and d6 hit points.


Yeah, this. Plus, it'd make it a lot more difficult to create new Backgrounds, like if you're doing something like an all-ninja campaign (which is totally doable, in the current state of the rules).
Like the classless thread started by this OP I feel like the OP might be happier in another game system.  
I'm not a fan.

Currently, I can make a Fighter with the Sage background without sacrificing any of my fighter features.  With your system, I would have no armor proficiency, only simple weapons, and d6 hit points.



Well why should your character who spent most of his life at a university studying have full armor and weapon proficencies? He is making a trade off for these features in exchange for many more knowledge skills. If you want to make a book learned fighter you could always take the warrior background and use your extra trained skills on knowledge. 

Also in this system the Sage Fighter would have a d8 hit die as the Fighter class increases the HD. Such a character would do a great impression of Friar Tuck. 
I'm not a fan.

Currently, I can make a Fighter with the Sage background without sacrificing any of my fighter features.  With your system, I would have no armor proficiency, only simple weapons, and d6 hit points.



Well why should your character who spent most of his life at a university studying have full armor and weapon proficencies? He is making a trade off for these features in exchange for many more knowledge skills. If you want to make a book learned fighter you could always take the warrior background and use your extra trained skills on knowledge. 

Also in this system the Sage Fighter would have a d8 hit die as the Fighter class increases the HD. Such a character would do a great impression of Friar Tuck. 

Because he didn't spend ALL of his time at a university studying.  If he did, then he would either be an NPC sage or he would be a class like the Wizard whose abilities come from studying lore and tomes.  But my character is a fighter.  In addition to learning about history, heraldry, warfare, and religion (he is a god-fearing man), he trains every day with various weapons and armor.  In this way he learns the art of combat as well as the knowledge that might one day help him out.

If you want to make a Friar Tuck character (with 1d8 HP and less weapons than a fighter), you can make a cleric.

I just don't see any advantage so your system.

Because he didn't spend ALL of his time at a university studying.  If he did, then he would either be an NPC sage or he would be a class like the Wizard whose abilities come from studying lore and tomes.  But my character is a fighter.  In addition to learning about history, heraldry, warfare, and religion (he is a god-fearing man), he trains every day with various weapons and armor.  In this way he learns the art of combat as well as the knowledge that might one day help him out.

If you want to make a Friar Tuck character (with 1d8 HP and less weapons than a fighter), you can make a cleric.

I just don't see any advantage so your system.



The advantage of this system is that it still allows you to make a Fighter who has knowledge of history, warfare, and religion while having training in all weapons and armor, but also allows someone else at the table to create Friar Tuck, the non magical, quarterstaff wielding, robe wearing fighter who is basically just as good as you in a fight but traded in proficiency for weapons and armor for the aforemention skills plus a few additional skills.

It also means that we can give make the monk and rogue (and every other class they currently want to give ED to) unique.  Right now the monk and rogue play almost exactly like the fighter, only worse.  The only significant differences between those classes is weapon/armor proficiencies and HD. Having the "fighter" portion separate from HP and proficiencies allows one to almost perfectly make the current rogue and monk from a background and class combo.  This frees up design space to make a more interesting and unique monk and rogue down the line. 

gonna give this a massive thumbs down.


Backgrounds are cool 'cause they're a layer of customisation that doesn't influence what the class can do directly. This would force backgrounds into the min/max game, which would spoil the fun.


And I like my knight monk that is still basically a monk with a good reason to have earned the title and social standing. I don't want my knight monk to be a knight at all, I want him to have hte social standing of a knight.

The advantage of this system is that it still allows you to make a Fighter who has knowledge of history, warfare, and religion while having training in all weapons and armor, but also allows someone else at the table to create Friar Tuck, the non magical, quarterstaff wielding, robe wearing fighter who is basically just as good as you in a fight but traded in proficiency for weapons and armor for the aforemention skills plus a few additional skills.

So you want a character who is like a fighter, but instead of getting 1d10 hp and full armor/weapon proficiencies, you want lower HP, less armor/weapons, and more skills?  So make a rogue.  You get everything you want.

Weren't Backgrounds going to be optional?

In memory of wrecan and his Unearthed Wrecana.

The advantage of this system is that it still allows you to make a Fighter who has knowledge of history, warfare, and religion while having training in all weapons and armor, but also allows someone else at the table to create Friar Tuck, the non magical, quarterstaff wielding, robe wearing fighter who is basically just as good as you in a fight but traded in proficiency for weapons and armor for the aforemention skills plus a few additional skills.

So you want a character who is like a fighter, but instead of getting 1d10 hp and full armor/weapon proficiencies, you want lower HP, less armor/weapons, and more skills?  So make a rogue.  You get everything you want.



No, not at all. What I want is for the fighter and the rogue to be different enough to warrant them being separate classes.  Right now they aren't and I am afraid that this trend will continue with the ranger, barbarian, etc.  We see it happening already with the monk.

Weapon/armor proficiencies, skills, and HP are not enough to differentiate classes. A big complaint people had with 4e was that all classes played the same. While this was false, the classes seemed similar enough that it ruffled peoples feathers.  Now however we have monk, fighter, and rogue who all do play exactly the same.  That does not bode well for 5e.

I want classes to function differently and be distinct. I understand that people still have the desire to make an archer, swashbuckler, brawler, knight, etc all using the "fighter" though. I want to give people the option to play these archetypes using the fighter class without having the designers create 20 classes that are all slight variations of the base ED fighter.

Weren't Backgrounds going to be optional?


were and are, yes. All the more reason to keep them well clear of the core advancement mechanic... even if it were a good idea. Sorry but this really isn't.