Backgrounds and Skills.... player reactions.

In the few 5e games I've DM'ed we focused mainly on the game mechanics and were using the pre-gens included in the playtest packet. Last week we finished up pretty quick and had some time to try character creation.

The players were interested in the Backgrounds and Skills process but not really happy. I'm sure the developers are aware the the section needs some work but here's what we thought based on initial attempts at using the rules as they stand.

1. Backgrounds are interesting and useful enough to be included as part of the 'core' rules - not just as a module.

2. The Backgrounds as currently presented are a hodge-podge of professions/occupations (Bounty Hunter, Knight) and social classes (Commoner, Artisan?, Noble). 

3. It would probably be good if the Background also took into account 'where' the character came from... Mountains, Desert, Seaside, Rural, Urban?

When you consider a PC's background it might be best to determine their social standing... Commoner/lower class, Artisan/middle class, Lesser Noble,petty official/upper class,  Greater Nobility,Mayor,Governor,ultra-rich merchant/Elite class. You could let the player choose, or present them with a simple table to determine what their starting social class would be. I'd think that most of the PC's would come from either the Middle or Upper classes. Commoners wouldn't typically get much opportunity to develop the skills/incentive to go adventuring (a notable exception would be 'true barbarians' who would have alot of opportunity to 'get into' adventuring and would probably be mostly seen as 'lower class' regardless of their standing in their own clan or tribe.
Similarly the Elite class would not have the incentive or the freedom of action to go Adventuring. An exception here might be the child of a deposed Noble or a Merchant who had lost his fortune due to ill luck or being cheated. 

Once you know the PC's social class then you might try to determine the geographical homeland from which the Character hails. 
Certainly a player who's a middle class person from the mountains is not likely to be a sailor or even fisherman... People from the desert or high plains are not going to be mountaineers... people from the seaside are not likely to have been camel drivers on caravans. Again - let the player decide or provide a simple table. 

Knowing where the player comes from - both on the map and in society - will suggest a list of professions or occupations that the character - or the character's parents if the character is still young - engaged in.... that will suggest a list of possible skills for the character.

A note on Skills in general... There are skills and then there are Skills. Not everything that a player can do would necessarily be consider a skill in the sense that we'd associate with role player. One thing that a lot of people seem to find amusing is the 'Break Things' skill. How does that work exactly? If I have one level in 'Break Things' I can break a plate by dropping it on a stone floor... but with 6 Levels I can break the same plate by dropping it on a feather pillow? Not really a skill. Harnessing a team of horses and hitching it to a wagon is skill that most farmers would posess but I don't see that as being a SKILL that you would level up in... 

So you might have to differentiate between Skills in the sense of 'things your player can do' and Skills in the sense of 'trained abilities' that your character posesses.


Trained Abilities... maybe things like....

Climbing/mountaineering
Mounted Combat/trick riding
Acrobatics/Tumbling
Performing (music,acting)
Non-magical first aid and medecin
Tracking.
Survival(living off the land)
Stealth
Knowledge/recall Lore
Maniplulation(intimidate,persuade,cajole)


Just a jumping off point.