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The best DnD backgrounds explained

Who is your Dungeons and Dragons character really? The right DnD background can help you decide, and they come with plenty of perks.

DnD backgrounds aren’t quite as impactful as your choice of class and race (at least, not yet), but they still add plenty of flavor and utility to your Dungeons and Dragons character. A Dungeons and Dragons background decides who you were before you set off for a life of adventuring. What you’re good at, who you know, and why you’re adventuring at all are all determined by this character creation decision. If you need help picking a 5e background, step into our office.

In this guide, we’ll help you iron out your origin story. This starts by explaining exactly what a D&D background is, followed by the very best backgrounds we’d recommend (depending on your DnD classes, DnD races, and character concept ideas). We’ll walk you through the world of custom backgrounds and upcoming rules changes. After all that, you’ll find a complete list of backgrounds from every official book.

Here’s everything you need to know about DnD backgrounds:

DnD backgrounds 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a Knight

What is a DnD background?

A DnD background summarizes who your character was before their life of adventuring began. In terms of roleplay, this can help you flesh out your origin story. Where did your character grow up? How did they develop their skills? A 5e background gives you a brief bit of flavor as a jumping-off point, but you can expand or adapt this story to fit your character.

DnD backgrounds do have a mechanical purpose, though. As well as some suggested personality traits, every background gives a character proficiency in a handful of skills and some starting equipment. Your background may also allow you to learn an extra language or become proficient with certain tools. 

DnD Backgrounds 5E a Dragonborn bard playing a lute

The best DnD backgrounds

The best DnD background is usually the one that makes sense with your character concept. And given the marginal effect that backgrounds have on a game, there aren’t many wrong backgrounds for a particular class or race. That being said, if you’re the kind of player who likes to optimize every aspect of your character build, some options are a bit stronger than others.

Below you’ll find a list of our favorite Dungeons and Dragons backgrounds. We’ve considered how useful their proficiencies are, as well as their value for gameplay and storytelling.

With that in mind, these are the best DnD backgrounds:

DnD backgrounds 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a priest in a temple

Acolyte 5e

Found in: Player’s Handbook

Proficiency rating 3/5
Mechanic rating 3/5
Roleplay rating 2/5
Recommended classes Cleric, Paladin

Clerics aren’t the only characters who can have a powerful connection to their chosen religion. The Acolyte 5e is defined by their service to the DnD gods – whether that be from a childhood spent in a temple, a career spreading the words of a god, or from leading a fiendish cult.

The Acolyte background gives you proficiency in Insight and Religion, and your equipment includes evidence of your holy (or unholy) doings – a holy symbol, a prayer book, sticks of incense, vestments, and so on. Acolytes also benefit from the Shelter of the Faithful feature. This gives them the respect of those who share their faith, access to free healing at temples, and the ability to perform religious ceremonies for their deity. 

DnD Backgrounds 5E a Warlock and Fighter peering into a book

Anthropologist 5e

Found in: Tomb of Annihilation

Proficiency rating 3/5
Mechanic rating 5/5
Roleplay rating 3/5
Recommended classes Bard, Wizard

A life of academic study is a strange choice for anyone to make – whether in the fantastical roleplaying world of D&D or the job market of real life – but don’t write off the power of the Anthropologist 5e. Obsessed with the customs, beliefs, and practices of other cultures, they’re sources of great knowledge who not only adapt to the world around them, but take every opportunity to study it.

The real draw of Anthropologists, however, is their utility. Adept Linguist lets you communicate with any humanoid creatures that don’t share your language, after observing them for 24 hours. That will make traversing through foreign lands a little easier and will help you avoid accidentally offending an entire group of people through a social faux pas.

Throw in proficiency with Insight and Religion, and you have the makings of a classic wizened DnD Wizard

DnD backgrounds 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a Spelljammer crew

Astral Drifter 5e

Found in: Spelljammer: Adventures in Space

Proficiency rating 3/5
Mechanic rating 4/5
Roleplay rating 4/5
Recommended classes Ranger, Druid

An Astral Drifter 5e has spent their life travelling in the Astral Sea (think space, but D&D). Those who spend their time here can do so for decades or even centuries. They never age, and they need no food or water to live. As you can imagine, this changes your view of the world a bit.

The Astral Drifter background gives you proficiencies in Insight and Religion. You can speak two DnD languages, and you start out with traveler’s clothes plus all you need to keep a diary of your adventures.

As an Astral Drifter, you are 20d6 years older than you look thanks to the anti-ageing atmosphere you spent your time in. You also gain the Magic Initiate (Cleric) feat after a brief encounter with a cosmic deity who was willing to share some secrets. While early feats will be a staple feature in One D&D (more on this later in the guide), there aren’t currently many backgrounds with such easy access to feats and spells. 

DnD backgrounds 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of an older couple holding a hamster

Celebrity Adventurer’s Scion 5e

Found in: Acquisitions Incorporated

Proficiency rating 4/5
Mechanic rating 3/5
Roleplay rating 5/5
Recommended classes Bard, Rogue, Paladin

The Celebrity Adventurer’s Scion 5e is one of our favorite backgrounds purely based on its flavor. Your character is the ultimate nepo baby, a child of an already-famous adventurer whose life was shaped by their parent’s fame. Now they’re grown up, they’ve got big shoes to fill – and might not be ready to do so until they’ve had a few DnD level ups.

The proficiencies of this background tell a distinct story. Your character is proficient in Perception, Performance, and using disguise kits. In fact, you’ll have a disguise kit (along with a set of fine clothes and 30gp) on your person. All this tells the tale of a privileged child who is used to performing for other’s expectations – and escaping the public eye.

You even have the ability to name-drop, allowing you to gain favors from major characters in your DnD campaign or use your family’s fame to gain freebies from the common folk. 

DnD backgrounds 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a thief stealing a jewel

Charlatan 5e

Found in: Player’s Handbook

Proficiency rating 4/5
Mechanic rating 3/5
Roleplay rating 4/5
Recommended classes Rogue, Bard, Warlock

Liars, cheats, and snake oil salesmen all come from a Charlatan 5e background. If your character gets their way with a bit of cunning and charm, this might be the origin story for you.

You’ll start out with a disguise kit and tools for running cons, plus proficiency in Deception and Sleight of Hand. The ‘False Identity’ feature lets you create a second fake identity for your character, complete with documents, disguises, and friends that’ll claim you are who you say you are. If you want to create a new persona, you’re able to forge official or personal papers (as long as you’ve seen a similar document or the handwriting you’re trying to mimic).

Life as a small-time crook can pay off big-time once you start adventuring. A fake identity may feel situational if you’re traveling with a party of goodie-goodies, but morally gray characters can get in (and out of) heaps of trouble with a false ID. 

DnD Backgrounds 5E two street urchins steal the money of an oblivious customer

Criminal 5e

Found in: Player’s Handbook

Proficiency rating 3/5
Mechanic rating 2/5
Roleplay rating 3/5
Recommended classes Rogue, Fighter

Not every adventurer is good. Sometimes it’s a joy to roleplay as a selfish evildoer or a rule-breaker that lives for transgression, and the Criminal 5e background is perfect for this.

Placing your character directly in the criminal underbelly of society is a simple way of injecting a dose of moral ambiguity into your adventure. Perhaps your character is a petty thief that was pushed into a life of crime through deprivation, or a reformed master criminal that has a hand in everyone’s pockets.

As a Criminal, you’ll gain proficiency in Deception and Stealth, a perfect mix for any Rogue. Add to that the background’s Criminal Contact feature, and you’ll have access to a seedy communications network that’s perfect for orchestrating daring raids and illicit odd jobs. If you’re besotted with illusions of grandeur, use the variant Spy background to make yourself into a master of espionage that knows all the tricks of the trade. 

DnD backgrounds 5e art of a halfling bard playing a lute and dancing on a table

Entertainer 5e

Found in: Player’s Handbook

Proficiency rating 2/5
Mechanic rating 4/5
Roleplay rating 4/5
Recommended classes Bard, Rogue, Ranger

Friendly, outgoing, and natural performers, adventurers with the Entertainer 5e background make the perfect Bard character. Always eager to impress passers-by or stir the hearts of a crowd, their tales of adventure and rollicking music are sure to inject some excitement into the party. If you’re after a less standard roleplaying touchstone, try playing a begrudging entertainer who wants nothing more than to leave the fetid glamour of showbiz behind.

The Entertainer background really shines for its By Popular Demand feature. Letting you acquire free lodgings and food at any inn, circus, noble court, or other place of rest that you pass, in return for regular nightly performances, it’s an easy means of ingratiating yourself with the higher echelons of society while securing safety for your vulnerable party.

Think of this as a must-have for any Bard, but don’t be afraid to stray a little further afield, too. A Rogue could use those Acrobatics and Performance proficiencies to their advantage, swindling the very people they entertain. Or perhaps you’re a Ranger who once used their impressive dexterity to earn some extra coin. 

D&D Backgrounds a Faceless warrior

Faceless 5e

Found in: Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus

Proficiency rating 3/5
Mechanic rating 2/5
Roleplay rating 3/5
Recommended classes Rogue, Ranger

The Faceless 5e are not who they seem. They’ve donned a disguise (either literally or figuratively) and created a new persona with which to explore the world. Something in your past might prevent you from revealing your true identity, forcing you to deceive those you meet, including your own party, into believing you are someone you are not.

Proficiency in Deception and Intimidation, alongside a disguise kit and costume, makes the Faceless background a perfect pick for a DnD Rogue or Ranger. But it’s the roleplaying and exploration potential that’s the real draw. Able to switch personas at the drop of a hat, you’re adept at changing appearances.

That’ll come in handy when sneaking around guards, or can offer a fantastic character base: you’ve something to hide, and daren’t let anybody, even your friends, find out what. 

DnD backgrounds 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of Jaheira the Druid

Faction Agent 5e

Found in: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

Proficiency rating 3/5
Mechanic rating 2/5
Roleplay rating 4/5
Recommended classes Any

If you’re playing a campaign set in the Forgotten Realms, the Faction Agent 5e background can make your character feel like an established part of that DnD setting. You are (or were) part of a major faction that operates in the Sword Coast, and you have a long history of working toward their goals before any adventuring began.

All Faction Agents are proficient in Insight, but you can choose what DnD skill you add a bonus to next. The skill must use your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma stat, and if you have a particular faction you want to join, they might come with a recommended skill proficiency. For example, Harpers are often proficient in Investigation, while the Zhentarim excel in Deception.

Whoever you align yourself with, you’ll get the ‘Safe Haven’ feature. This is a network of secret allies who grant you access to safe houses, free accommodation, or networks of information. It’s a feature many DnD backgrounds benefit from, and it’s not super useful if you’re far from home. However, for a campaign set in the Sword Coast, it can come in handy often. 

DnD backgrounds 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a busy market in Sigil

Far Traveler 5e

Found in: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

Proficiency rating 5/5
Mechanic rating 2/5
Roleplay rating 4/5
Recommended classes Any

The Far Traveler 5e background was designed for anyone not from the Sword Coast of the Forgotten Realms. However, you can adapt it to describe any character who is adventuring far from home. If you want to play a race your DM considers rare for their setting, this background could give you a reason why you’ve joined up with your party. Whoever you want to play, though, Far Traveler sets you up for some amusing ‘fish out of water’ roleplay.

Despite not being used to the customs of your campaign setting, your character is proficient in Insight and Perception, able to spot things and read others in ways your peers can’t. Plus, the ‘All Eyes on You’ feature turns your unusual origin into a talking point for the locals. People are curious about you, and they’re willing to exchange information and favors in exchange for your stories. 

DnD Backgrounds 5E a Bard and hooded man lead a unicorn while magical green energy surrounds them

Folk Hero 5e

Found in: Player’s Handbook

Proficiency rating 2/5
Mechanic rating 3/5
Roleplay rating 2/5
Recommended classes Any

The Folk Hero 5e is a big fish in a small pond. They may have begun life in a humble or simple setting, but it’s clear their destiny will take them to bigger and better things.

Perhaps you’re a Fighter who saved your village from a terrible tyrant or a natural disaster, or you’re a DnD Sorcerer who impressed their neighbors with incredible talent. Any class can make a name for themselves, gaining a drive for greatness and their people’s support. What better beginning could there be for an adventurer?

As a Folk Hero, your starting proficiencies are Animal Handling and Survival, as well as land vehicles and one type of artisan’s tools. The Rustic Hospitality feature makes it easy for you to hide and rest among commoners, and they’ll even help you out if you’re being pursued. 

Wizards of the Coast art of a Gambler, one of the DnD backgrounds 5e

Gambler 5e

Found in: Acquisitions Incorporated

Proficiency rating 3/5
Mechanic rating 1/5
Roleplay rating 4/5
Recommended classes Rogue, Bard

For the Gambler 5e, taking bets is more than just a pastime – it’s a way of life. Your history is defined by the risks you took and the games you played. Maybe you’re so blessed with good luck that you think nothing can touch you. Or maybe you’re recovering from a catastrophic loss.

You’ve probably played a lot of Three-Dragon Ante, so you know a lot about putting on a poker face. It makes sense, then, that Gamblers are proficient in Deception and Insight – oh, and with a gaming set. You’ll get one of these to keep, as well as a lucky charm, some fine clothes, and 15 gp to wager as you see fit.

The Gambler also has the ‘Never Tell Me the Odds’ feature. During downtime, you’ve got a natural advantage in games of chance that require you to judge the odds. You’ve not quite tapped into the Divination school of magic 5e, but you’ve got a good sense when placing your bets. We’d recommend this background purely for the roleplaying potential a gambler’s lifestyle presents. 

DnD backgrounds 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a human talking to a Giant

Giant Foundling 5e

Found in: Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants

Proficiency rating 5/5
Mechanic rating 5/5
Roleplay rating 2/5
Recommended classes Barbarian, Fighter

Giant Foundling 5e comes from a 2023 5e book, so it’s designed to be compatible with future DnD rules. We’ll talk more about what One DnD means for feats later, but the short version is this: Giant Foundling gives you a feat instead of a background feature.

That feat is Strike of the Giants, and it adds extra damage when you hit a target with a melee weapon attack or a thrown weapon attack. This can be done once per turn, and you can perform the feat a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus before you need a DnD long rest. You’ll also get to choose from six DnD damage types and bonus conditions when you trigger the feat – neat!

Your character is proficient in Intimidation, Survival, the Giant language, and another language. This all makes sense, given that you grew up among Giants. We can only see so much roleplay potential in playing a non-Giant raised in a Giant community, but that’s okay. We expect this feat to appeal to players who prefer optimizing their damage output anyway. 

DnD Backgrounds 5E - Wizards of the Coast art of members of Xanathar's Guild

Guild Artisan 5e

Found in: Player’s Handbook

Proficiency rating 3/5
Mechanic rating 3/5
Roleplay rating 3/5
Recommended classes Any

The Guild Artisan 5e background does what it says on the tin. Your character is a member of an artisan’s guild who specializes in a particular trade. Naturally, you’re proficient in a type of artisan’s tools, and you’ll have these on your person as you go adventuring. You also get proficiencies in Insight and Persuasion, as you’re used to navigating the complex social world of business.

Your background grants you Guild Membership, so your fellow members will offer you lodging, food, and support where needed. You pay five gold pieces a month for these privileges, but given your membership can get you in with powerful political figures or out of trouble with the law, it’s a price worth paying. 

A woman in a ruffled shirt, dressy waistcoat, and matching headband wields a torch as supernatural monsters move behind her in the shadows

Haunted One 5e

Found in: Curse of Strahd

As a Haunted One 5e, you’ll get some nifty proficiencies in Arcana, Religion, Investigation, or Survival, plus a monster hunter’s pack. You also get something a little less helpful: your life before adventuring was defined by a single Harrowing Event.

Perhaps you were born under a dark star, or you were once possessed by a fiend. Whatever your story, others can see horror behind your eyes – and in the unnatural trinket you carry around with you.

This backstory is ripe for your DM to exploit. However, the Haunted One does have one last trick up their traumatized sleeve. The Heart of Darkness feature ensures, if you’re ever caught alone in a fight, commoners will rush to your aid. A well-organised party shouldn’t need to go into combat solo, but it’s nice to have a backup plan should the worst happen.

This background could fit any class. However, we recommend picking a character build that already has a dark tinge and going full edgelord. A Grave Cleric, a DnD Warlock who made a dark pact, or even the homebrew Blood Hunter 5e

DnD Backgrounds 5E a house with legs stands alone in the forest

Hermit 5e

Found in: Player’s Handbook

Proficiency rating 3/5
Mechanic rating 1/5
Roleplay rating 4/5
Recommended classes Monk, Cleric, Ranger, Druid

Living in the tranquil solitude afforded by total seclusion, the Hermit 5e lends itself to secrecy and mystique.

Often played as profound individuals who commit their lives to the pursuit of a great truth far from the distractions of typical society, the DnD Monk class aligns well with their diligent, devoted personalities. It need not be all roses, however. Perhaps you were forced into a life of solitude as penance, before setting out on a quest for vengeance.

The Hermit’s proficiency in Medicine and Religion also goes hand-in-hand with the pious healing powers of the Cleric 5e, and their Discovery ability follows suit.

As a Hermit, you’ll have made a unique, powerful discovery about the world – its history, its nature, or the hidden forces that work within it. Not a mechanical feature, it works best when integrated into the campaign, so check with your DM about using it effectively. 

DnD Backgrounds 5E a noble person standing next to a Beholder


Noble 5e

Found in: Player’s Handbook

Proficiency rating 4/5
Mechanic rating 5/5
Roleplay rating 3/5
Recommended classes Any

If you have an overbearing sense of entitlement, or covet nothing but privilege and power, the Noble 5e background might be for you. Spanning anything from a wealthy aristocrat whose misplaced sense of adventure has landed them in a hot mess, to an upstart scoundrel who fancies themselves a better life, there’s reams of roleplaying material to dig into here.

Their proficiency in Persuasion suits any Charismatic character, and the ‘Position of Privilege’ feature opens a lot of potential doors. Everyone assumes you have the right to be in a location, whatever that may be. Those of a lower social rank will do their best to please and accommodate you, and you can easily secure audiences with local nobility.

Even better is the variant feature you get if you take the Knight 5e version of this background. ‘Retainers’ gives you three servants who will follow you wherever you go. They can’t fight for you, and they won’t follow you into clearly dangerous situations, but they can perform all manner of tasks to help you on your adventures.

Make sure to work with your DM to decide how your noble family fits in with the wider world of your campaigns, though. Consider how its notoriety determines how NPC will treat you, or what plot avenues might spring up as you explore. 

DnD Backgrounds 5E a scared Elf hiding in a forest

Outlander 5e

Found in: Player’s Handbook

Proficiency rating 4/5
Mechanic rating 5/5
Roleplay rating 2/5
Recommended classes Druid, Ranger, Fighter

Living in the wilds of nature, away from the prying eyes of civilization, Outlander 5e make natural nomads and travelling marauders. They’re used to the brutal demands of the outdoors and know all too well the dangers that lurk in its undergrowth. If you’re roleplaying a mysterious stranger or a DnD Druid that’s kept their distance from society, this is a good place to start.

Outlanders really shine for their Wanderer feature, which lets you automatically find food and water for yourself and up to five others each day – provided you’re surrounded by vegetation. It effectively lets you feed the entire party for no cost, taking that administrative role out of your hands. Add to that proficiency in Athletics and Survival, as well as a hunting trap to keep handy, and you’ve got the makings of a formidable Ranger 5e

DnD backgrounds 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a pirate

Pirate 5e

Found in: Player’s Handbook

Proficiency rating 2/5
Mechanic rating 4/5
Roleplay rating 3/5
Recommended classes Rogue, Fighter

A Pirate 5e is a literal criminal of the seas. Their proficiencies may fool you into thinking that they’re upstanding sea-faring citizens, but Athletics and Perception don’t make an honest person. Instead, your character is a swashbuckler with a Bad Reputation.

The ‘Bad Reputation’ feature allows you to get away with minor criminal offenses while you’re visiting a settlement. Villagers will be too scared to hold you accountable for petty thefts or minor harassment (though your DM may have something to say if you push your luck too far).

Being proficient in Athletics and Navigator’s Tools can be pretty situational, particularly if your campaign doesn’t take place at sea. But in the right scenarios, a Pirate is the perfect person for the job. 

D&D Backgrounds the demon Rakdos holding out his arms in a show of strength

Rakdos Cultist 5e

Found in: Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica

Proficiency rating 2/5
Mechanic rating 4/5
Roleplay rating 2/5
Recommended classes Bard, Cleric, Warlock

If you’re playing a campaign set in the Magic: The Gathering Multiverse, or think you can convince your DM to bend the rules just a little, you’re best off selling your soul to the ancient demon Rakdos to become his cultist. You won’t be just any old cultist, though, but a professional entertainer who wants nothing more in life than to serenade the Lord of Riots while he bathes in his lava pit of choice.

The Rakdos Cultist 5e provides access to a brilliant spell list that’s perfect for offensive casters. You’ll get the Fire Bolt and Vicious Mockery DnD cantrips, plus Hellish Rebuke, Wall of Fire, and Dominate Person, which all pair beautifully with a DnD Bard‘s support-focused spell list. You also get to pick what type of performer you are – ranging from spikewheel acrobat, to pain artist, to nightmare clown – leaning even further into the thespian theme. 

DnD backgrounds 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a Giant woman

Rune Carver 5e

Found in: Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants

Proficiency rating 2/5
Mechanic rating 4/5
Roleplay rating 2/5
Recommended classes Paladin, Artificer

Another recent background that gives you a feat, Rune Carver 5e can be used to expand your spell list. As well as proficiency in History, Perception, the Giant language, and one set of artisan’s tools, you’ll gain ‘Rune Shaper’ as your free feat. This lets you cast Comprehend Languages 5e without using a spell slot, and you can carve runes into your weapons, armor, clothing, and other objects during a long rest.

These runes are handy to have around. You know a number equal to your proficiency bonus, and each lets you cast a different spell for free when you’ve got the inscribed item on your person. Wizards of the Coast may not have put much effort into the backstory here, but playing ‘person who learned runecraft’ is a fair trade-off given the background’s utility. 

DnD backgrounds 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a thoughtful gnome

Sage 5e

Found in: Player’s Handbook

Proficiency rating 2/5
Mechanic rating 4/5
Roleplay rating 3/5
Recommended classes Wizard, Artificer

The Sage 5e background is a natural choice for any character with a high Intelligence stat. You spent much of your life among books, expanding your mind and learning the secrets of the world. You’re a master academic in a particular field of study (which can be rolled on a d8, if you don’t already have one in mind).

Proficiency in Arcana and History are fairly standard, but they’re nice to have for any class. More impressive than this is the background’s main feature, ‘Researcher’. If at any point you don’t know a piece of information, you automatically know where you can find out.

The details of this are usually up to your DM. If it’s a simple detail, you might be able to head to the nearest library. If it’s a campaign-changing bit of lore, you might be sent on a mighty quest to a forgotten archive or a key NPC. This ability makes you a useful friend to have around, as well as a character who can play a huge part in the direction of your game. 

DnD Backgrounds 5E a knight holding up a sword

Soldier 5e

Found in: Player’s Handbook

Proficiency rating 2/5
Mechanic rating 3/5
Roleplay rating 2/5
Recommended classes Fighter, Paladin, Cleric

Fighting, scrapping, and battling; the Soldier 5e is one of the easier D&D backgrounds to integrate into a character. Handing you a ready-made justification for your superior martial skills, it suits the Fighter 5e of the party who boasts superior combat aptitude than their travelling companions.

But there’s still scope for refinement. Think carefully about where you learned your skills, how you trained, and your relationship with those who taught you.

While the Player’s Handbook suggests you build your character as a high-ranking military officer, who can lord their rank over common soldiers and guards, it’s not much of a stretch to switch the military with a fighting guild, or secret martial society. Skill proficiencies in Athletics and Intimidation will naturally suit the beefy DnD Barbarian, making Soldier a firm choice for characters focused solely on combat. 

DnD Backgrounds 5E a Kenku waiting outside a sword while drawing a sword

Urban Bounty Hunter 5e

Found in: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

Proficiency rating 4/5
Mechanic rating 5/5
Roleplay rating 4/5
Recommended classes Rogue, Warlock

The Urban Bounty Hunter 5e from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide is the most opportunistic of all the character backgrounds. Where regular folk see conflict, bounty hunters see profit.

If there’s enough strife in society that people have taken to physical blows, you can be sure that there’ll be a highfalutin aristocrat or slimy criminal willing to pay you to do their dirty work. Maybe you see yourself as a vigilante protecting the streets? Or perhaps you’re chasing the flash of gold above all else?

Proficiency in two skills among Deception, Insight, Persuasion, and Stealth offers a solid framework, but it’s the Bounty Hunter’s ‘Ear to the Ground’ feature that stands out.

You’ll gain a trustworthy contact in every city you visit who can supply essential information about the people and places of the surrounding area. That kind of insight will kickstart your adventuring whenever you enter a new area. 

DnD backgrounds 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a Tiefling child playing with two humans

Urchin 5e

Found in: Player’s Handbook

Proficiency rating 4/5
Mechanic rating 3/5
Roleplay rating 4/5
Recommended classes Rogue, Ranger

The Urchin 5e background can go one of two ways – either it’s the ultimate sob story, or it leads to a heap of off-the-wall, Artful-Dodger-style antics. Whatever your class or trade as an adventurer, you grew up on the streets with little more than the clothes on your back.

This means you’re skilled in some of the more unconventional methods of problem-solving. Think Stealth, Sleight of Hand, Thieves’ Tools, and Disguise Kits. You also get the ‘City Secrets’ feature, which allows you to move through a city twice as fast as your speed would normally allow. This only applies outside of combat, though. Perfect for tailing a key NPC, but not so much for escaping an ambush. 

DnD Dragonlance - artwork showing a convoy of knights walking alongside a castle.

Custom DnD backgrounds

Since backgrounds have a clear structure, it’s possible to design your own custom DnD backgrounds if the official suggestions don’t feel like a good fit. Simply choose any two skill proficiencies and two tool or language proficiencies. Then, choose an existing background equipment package or take the recommended starting gold for your class and buy your own.

The Player’s Handbook recommends re-using one of the unique features from an existing background as part of your custom one. However, you could always pitch a new idea to your Dungeon Master and see if they’d be happy for you to use that instead. 

DnD backgrounds 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of adventurers planning a heist

What are One DnD backgrounds?

From late 2024 onwards, DnD backgrounds are going to look significantly different. This is thanks to the release of the One DnD Player’s Handbook, a new set of base rules that slightly tweak the ten-year-old fifth edition.

Early playtests showed us that DnD stats would now be tied to backgrounds rather than races. Plus, along with the familiar language, skill, and tool proficiencies, backgrounds will offer players a first-level feat. These open up a potential pathway of higher-level feats that you can access as you level up.

The next version of the Player’s Handbook features a whopping 144 feats, so this aspect of character creation will be more expansive than ever. We’re keen to see how the new ‘edition-ish’ of Dungeons and Dragons will change our favorite backgrounds and feats. 

D&D Strixhaven Initiate backgrounds two college students at a slow dance

All Dungeons and Dragons backgrounds

The DnD release schedule pumps out books with new backgrounds all the time, so the complete 5e backgrounds list is always expanding. If you’d like to see all your potential character options, here’s an up-to-date list:

Background name Skill proficiencies Feature Found in
Acolyte Insight, Religion Shelter of the Faithful Player’s Handbook
Anthropologist Insight, Religion Adept Linguist Tomb of Annihilation
Archaeologist History, Survival Historical Knowledge Tomb of Annihilation
Astral Drifter Insight, Religion Divine Contact Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
Athlete Athletics, Acrobatics Echoes of Victory Mythic Odysseys of Theros
Azorius Functionary Insight, Intimidation Legal Authority Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica
Boros Legionnaire Athletics, Intimidation Legion Station Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica
Celebrity Adventurer’s Scion Perception, Performance Name Dropping Acquisitions Incorporated
Charlatan Deception, Sleight of Hand False Identity Player’s Handbook
City Watch / Investigator Athletics, Investigation, Insight Watcher’s Eye Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
Clan Crafter History, Insight Respect of the Stout Folk Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
Cloistered Scholar History, plus one of Arcana, Nature, or Religion Library Access Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
Courtier Insight, Persuasion Court Functionary Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
Criminal Deception, Stealth Criminal Contact Player’s Handbook
Dimir Operative Deception, Stealth False Identity Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica
Entertainer Acrobatics, Performance By Popular Demand Player’s Handbook
Faceless Deception, Intimidation Dual Personalities Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus
Faction Agent Insight and 1 Wis, Int, or Cha skill of your choice Safe Haven Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
Failed Merchant Investigation, Persuasion Supply Chain Acquisitions Incorporated
Far Traveler Insight, Perception All Eyes on You Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
Feylost Deception, Survival Feywild Connection The Wild Beyond the Witchlight
Fisher History, Survival Harvest the Water Ghosts of Saltmarsh
Folk Hero Animal Handling, Survival Rustic Hospitality Player’s Handbook
Gambler Deception, Insight Never Tell Me The Odds Acquisitions Incorporated
Gate Warden Persuasion, Survival Planar Infusion Planescape: Adventures in the Multiverse
Giant Foundling Intimidation, Survival Strike of the Giants Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants
Gladiator Acrobatics, Performance By Popular Demand Player’s Handbook
Golgari Agent Nature, Survival Undercity Paths Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica
Gruul Anarch Animal Handling, Athletics Rubblebelt Refuge Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica
Grinner Deception, Performance Ballad of the Grinning Fool Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
Guild Artisan Insight, Persuasion Guild Membership Player’s Handbook
Haunted One Choose two from: Arcana, Investigation, Religion, or Survival Heart of Darkness Curse of Strahd
Hermit Medicine, Religion Discovery Player’s Handbook
House Agent Investigation, Persuasion House Connections Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron
Inheritor Survival, plus one of: Arcana, History, or Religion Inheritance Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
Investigator Choose two from: Insight, Investigation, or Perception Official Inquiry Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft
Izzet Engineer Arcana, Investigation Urban Infrastructure Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica
Knight History, Persuasion Retainers Player’s Handbook
Knight of Solamnia Athletics, Survival Squire of Solamnia Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
Knight of the Order Persuasion, plus Arcana, History, Nature, or Religion Knightly Regard Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
Lorehold Student History, Religion Lorehold Initiate Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
Mage of High Sorcery Arcana, History Initiate of High Sorcery Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
Marine Athletics, Survival Steady Ghosts of Saltmarsh
Mercenary Veteran Athletics, Persuasion Mercenary Life Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
Noble History, Persuasion Position of Privilege Player’s Handbook
Orzhov Representative Intimidation, Religion Leverage Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica
Outlander Athletics, Survival Wanderer Player’s Handbook
Pirate Athletics, Perception Bad Reputation Player’s Handbook
Plaintiff Medicine, Persuasion Legalese Acquisitions Incorporated
Planar Philosopher Arcana plus one other Conviction Planescape: Adventures in the Multiverse
Prismari Student Acrobatics, Performance Prismari Initiate Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
Quandrix Student Arcana, Nature Quandrix Initiate Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
Rakdos Cultist Acrobatics, Performance Fearsome Reputation Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica
Rewarded Insight, Persuasion Fortune’s Favor The Book of Many Things
Rival Intern History, Investigation Inside Informant Acquisitions Incorporated
Ruined Stealth, Survival Still Standing The Book of Many Things
Rune Carver History, Perception Rune Shaper Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants
Sage Arcana, History Researcher Player’s Handbook
Sailor Athletics, Perception Ship’s Passage Player’s Handbook
Selesnya Initiate Nature, Persuasion Conclave’s Shelter Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica
Shipwright History, Perception I’ll Patch It! Ghosts of Saltmarsh
Silverquill Student Intimidation, Persuasion Silverquill Initiate Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
Simic Scientist Arcana, Medicine Researcher Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica
Smuggler Athletics, Deception Down Low Ghosts of Saltmarsh
Soldier Athletics, Intimidation Military Rank Player’s Handbook
Urban Bounty Hunter Choose two from: Deception, Insight, Persuasion, or Stealth Ear To The Ground Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
Urchin Sleight of Hand, Stealth City Secrets Player’s Handbook
Uthgardt Tribe Member Atheltics, Survival Uthgardt Heritage Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
Waterdhavian Noble History, Persuasion Kept in Style Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
Wildspacer Athletics, Survival Wildspace Adaptation Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
Witchlight Hand Performance, Sleight of Hand Carnival Fixture The Wild Beyond the Witchlight
Witherbloom Student Nature, Survival Witherbloom Initiate Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos


Need help finishing off your DnD character build? Here’s a step-by-step DnD character creator tutorial, as well as a guide to filling out your DnD character sheet.