Excerpts Archive | 2/20/2009
Article Header Image
Excerpts: Backgrounds
Player's Handbook 2

In today’s Player's Handbook 2 preview, we take a look at character options, including new racial background options for the deva.

Player’s Handbook provides questions to help you think about your character’s background. The suggestions in Player's Handbook 2 are resources you can use when you create a character, offering a wider variety of story hooks and adding a game benefit that reflects your character’s history.

Chapter 3 describes a number of background elements you can use as inspiration for fleshing out your character. You can choose any number of these background elements, but a good way to create a rich yet manageable background is to choose one element from each of three different categories. This book includes five categories: geography, society, birth, occupation, and racial backgrounds.

Regardless of how many background elements you use, when you create a character you can (with your DM’s consent) select one of the following background benefits:

  • Gain a +2 bonus to checks with a skill associated with your background.
  • Add a skill associated with your background to your class’s skills list before you choose your trained skills.
  • Choose one language connected to your background. You can speak, read, and write that language fluently.
  • If you are using a campaign setting that offers regional benefits (such as the Forgotten Realms setting), gain a regional benefit.

The background elements presented here are not the only ones possible. Use these ideas for inspiration in creating a background as unique as your character. Above all, remember that a background is more than a game benefit. It forms the foundation of your character, provides hints of what lies ahead in the campaign, and informs your character’s personality.

Background Examples

Following are two examples of how to use the material in this section to craft a cohesive background for a character.

Born and raised in the grimy streets of a large city, Neris developed a knack for getting others to follow her lead. Once she was old enough to help support her family, this talent enabled her to rise to the rank of sergeant in the city militia. With her parents and younger siblings taken care of and a little extra copper for herself, Nerys was more comfortable than she ever thought she would be. But when one of her childhood friends needed a favor, Nerys found herself on the wrong side of one of the city’s smuggling syndicates. On the run from a crime boss with a grudge, Nerys has fallen in with a band of adventurers and is putting her street smarts to good use.

Nerys’s player chose three background elements: urban (geography), poor (society), and military (occupation). Nerys added Streetwise to her class skills list.

Jahan is the only child of a noble house and was his parents’ treasure from the day he was born. Indeed, at the moment of his birth, a pair of cranes appeared and circled the roof of his tower room three times. Jahan became a respected scholar while still young, focusing his studies on the history of his land. As dawn broke on the day when he would enter adulthood and become next in line for his family’s title, the rising sun revealed a terrible scene: thousands of dead cranes lay strewn over the countryside. Weeks later, their crops mysteriously failing and their wells gone dry, commoners have begun to whisper that Jahan is the cause. The time has come for him to abandon his books and search for answers in the outside world.

Jahan’s player chose three background elements: noble (society), omen (birth), and scholar (occupation). Jahan gains a +2 bonus to History checks.

Racial Backgrounds

Something in your background sets you apart from others of your race.


Brink of Enlightenment: You were an incredibly advanced soul during your most recent past life, close to achieving the epic transcendence that your spirit has sought through a thousand lifetimes. What interrupted your spiritual journey and led to your rebirth as an adventurer?

Associated Skill: Arcana

Brink of Corruption: In your most recent past life, your spirit was corrupted. Your evil was so great that you were nearly reborn as a rakshasa. Although your rebirth washed most of the taint from your soul, you still experience flashes of violent anger or sadistic thoughts. What led to your corruption? Were you tempted by power, or were you seeking to avert a larger evil by your actions?

Associated Skills: Intimidate, Stealth

Forgotten Lifetime: Although your memory of your past lives is vague, there is one—your most recent—that you can’t remember at all. As far as you can tell, there is a gap of nearly a century during which you didn’t exist. Did something interfere with your reincarnation, or did something happen during that lifetime that prevents you from remembering it?

Associated Skills: Endurance, Thievery

Monday 02/23: A look at a new paragon path, the frenzied berzerker!

Follow Us
Find a place to get together with friends or gear up for adventure at a store near you
Please enter a city or zip code