The following is a list of backgrounds as well as the source book they were printed in. If the provided examples are not exactly what you want, making a custom background takes little effort.
You have spent your life in the service of a temple to a specific god or pantheon of gods. You act as an intermediary between the realm of the holy and the mortal world. performing sacred rites and offering sacrifices in order to conduct worshipers into the presence of the divine. You are not necessarily a cleric—performing sacred rites is not the same thing as channeling divine power.
You have always had a way with people. You know what makes them tick, you can tease out their hearts’ desires after a few minutes of conversation, and with a few leading questions you can read them like they were children’s books. It’s a useful talent, and one that you’re perfectly willing to use for your advantage.
City Watch (SCAG)
You have served the community where you grew up, standing as its first line of defense against crime. You aren't a soldier, directing your gaze outward at possible enemies. Instead, your service to your hometown was to help police its populace, protecting the citizenry from lawbreakers and malefactors of every stripe.
Clan Crafter (SCAG)
The Stout Folk are well known for their artisanship and the worth of their handiwork, and you have been trained in that ancient tradition. For years you labored under a dwarf master of the craft, enduring long hours. and dismissive, sour-tempered treatment in order to gain the fine skills you possess today.
Cloistered Scholar (SCAG)
As a child, you were inquisitive when your playmates were possessive or raucous. In your formative years, you found your way to one of Faerun's great institutes of learning, where you were apprenticed and taught that knowledge is a more valuable treasure than gold or gems. Now you are ready to leave your home- not to abandon it, but to quest for new lore to add to its storehouse of knowledge.
In your earlier days, you were a personage of some significance in a noble court or a bureaucratic organization. You might or might not come from an upper-class family; your talents, rather than the circumstances of your birth, could have secured you this position.
You are an experienced criminal with a history of breaking the law. You have spent a lot of time among other criminals and still have contacts Within the criminal underworld. You’re far closer than most people to the world of murder, theft, and violence that pervades the underbelly of Civilization, and you have survived up to this point by flouting the rules and regulations of society.
You thrive in front of an audience. You know how to entrance them, entertain them, and even inspire them. Your poetics can stir the hearts of those who hear you, awakening grief or joy, laughter or anger. Your music raises their spirits or captures their sorrow. Your dance steps captivate, your humor cuts to the quick. Whatever techniques you use, your art is your life.
Faction Agent (SCAG)
Many organizations active in the North and across the face of Faerun aren't bound by strictures of geography. These factions pursue their agendas without regard for political boundaries, and their members operate anywhere the organization deems necessary. These groups employ listeners, rumormongers, smugglers, sellswords, cache-holders (people who guard caches of wealth or magic for use by the faction's operatives), haven keepers, and message drop minders, to name a few. At the core of every faction are those who don't merely fulfill a small function for that organization, but who serve as its hands, head, and heart.
Far Traveler (SCAG)
You are from a distant place, one so remote that few of the common folk in the North realize that it exists, and chances are good that even if some people you meet have heard of your homeland, they know merely the name and perhaps a few outrageous stories. You have come to this part of Faerun for your own reasons, which you might or might not choose to share. Although you will undoubtedly find some of this land's ways to be strange and discomfiting, you can also be sure that some things its people take for granted will be to you new wonders that you've never laid eyes on before. By the same token, you're a person of interest, for good or ill, to those around you almost anywhere you go.
Folk Hero (PHB)
You come from a humble social rank, but you are destined for so much more. Already the people of your home Village regard you as their champion, and your destiny calls you to stand against the tyrants and monsters that threaten the common folk everywhere.
A gladiator is as much an entertainer as any minstrel or circus performer, trained to make the arts of combat into a spectacle the crowd can enjoy. This kind of flashy combat is your entertainer routine, though you might also have some skills as a tumbler or actor. Using your By Popular Demand feature, you can find a place to perform in any place that features combat for entertainment—perhaps a gladiatorial arena or secret pit fighting club. You can replace the musical instrument in your equipment package with an inexpensive but unusual weapon, such as a trident or net. (see Entertainer)
Guild Artisan (PHB)
You are a member of an artisan’s guild, skilled in a particular field and closely associated with other artisans. You are a well-established part of the mercantile world, freed by talent and wealth from the constraints of a feudal social order. You learned your skills as an apprentice to a master artisan, under the sponsorship of your guild, until you became a master in your own right.
Guild Merchant (PHB)
Instead of an artisans’ guild. you might belong to a guild of traders, caravan masters, or shopkeepers. You don’t craft items yourself but earn a living by buying and selling the works of others (or the raw materials artisans need to practice their craft). Your guild might be a large merchant consortium (or family) with interests across the region. Perhaps you transported goods from one place to another, by ship, wagon, or caravan, or bought them from traveling traders and sold them in your own little shop. In some ways, the traveling merchant’s life lends itself to adventure far more than the life of an artisan. (see Guild Artisan)
Haunted One (CoS)
You are haunted by something so terrible that you dare not speak of it. You’ve tried to bury it and flee from it to no avail. This thing that haunts you can’t be slain with a sword or banished with a spell. It might come to you as a shadow on the wall, a bloodcurdling nightmare, a memory that refuses to die, or a demonic whisper in the dark. The burden has taken its toll, isolating you from others and making you question your sanity. You must find a way to overcome it before it destroys you.
You lived in seclusion—either in a sheltered community such as a monastery, or entirely alone;for a formative part of your life. In your time apart from the clamor of society, you found quiet, solitude, and perhaps some of the answers you were looking for.
You are the heir to something of great value- not mere coin or wealth, but an object that has been entrusted to you and you alone. Your inheritance might have come directly to you from a member of your family, by right of birth, or it could have been left to you by a friend, a mentor, a teacher, or someone else important in your life. The revelation of your inheritance changed your life, and might have set you on the path to adventure, but it could also come with many dangers, including those who covet your gift and want to take it from you- by force, if need be.
Rarer than watch or patrol members are a community's investigators, who are responsible for solving crimes after the fact. Though such folk are seldom found in rural areas, nearly every settlement of decent size has at least one or two watch members who have the skill to investigate crime scenes and track down criminals. (see City Watch)
A knighthood is among the lowest noble titles in most societies, but it can be a path to higher status. If you wish to be a knight, choose the Retainers feature (see the sidebar) instead of the Position of Privilege feature. One of your commoner retainers is replaced by a noble who serves as your squire, aiding you in exchange for training on his or her own path to knighthood. Your two remaining retainers might include a groom to care for your horse and a servant who polishes your armor (and even helps you put it on). (see Noble)
Knight of the Order (SCAG)
You belong to an order of knights who have sworn oaths to achieve a certain goal. The nature of this goal depends on the order you serve, but in your eyes it is without question a vital and honorable endeavor. Faerun has a wide variety of knightly orders, all of which have a similar outlook concerning their actions and responsibilities.
Mercenary Veteran (SCAG)
As a sellsword who fought battles for coin, you're well acquainted with risking life and limb for a chance at a share of treasure. Now, you look forward to fighting foes and reaping even greater rewards as an adventurer. Your experience makes you familiar with the ins and outs of mercenary life, and you likely have harrowing stories of events on the battlefield.
You understand wealth, power, and privilege. You carry a noble title, and your family owns land, collects taxes, and wields significant political influence. You might be a pampered aristocrat unfamiliar with work or discomfort, a former merchant just elevated to the nobility, or a disinherited scoundrel with a disproportionate sense of entitlement. Or you could be an honest, hard—working landowner who cares deeply about the people who live and work on your land, keenly aware of your responsibility to them.
You grew up in the wilds, far from civilization and the comforts of town and technology. You’ve witnessed the migration of herds larger than forests, survived weather more extreme than any city—dweller could comprehend, and enjoyed the solitude of being the only thinking creature for miles in any direction. The wilds are in your blood, whether you were a nomad, an explorer, a recluse, a hunter-gatherer, or even a marauder. Even in places where you don’t know the specific features of the terrain, you know the ways of the Wild.
You spent your youth under the sway of a dread pirate, a ruthless cutthroat who taught you how to survive in a world of sharks and savages. You’ve indulged in larceny on the high seas and sent more than one deserving soul to a briny grave. Fear and bloodshed are no strangers to you, and you’ve garnered a somewhat unsavory reputation in many a port town. (see Sailor)
You spent years learning the lore of the multiverse. You scoured manuscripts, studied scrolls, and listened to the greatest experts on the subjects that interest you. Your efforts have made you a master in your fields of study.
You sailed on a seagoing vessel for years. In that time, you faced down mighty storms, monsters of the deep, and those who wanted to sink your craft to the bottomless depths. Your first love is the distant line of the horizon, but the time has come to try your hand at something new.
War has been your life for as long as you care to remember. You trained as a youth, studied the use of weapons and armor, learned basic survival techniques, including how to stay alive on the battlefield. You might have been part of a standing national army or a mercenary company, or perhaps a member of a local militia Who rose to prominence during a recent war. When you choose this background, work with your DM to determine which military organization you were a part of, how far through its ranks you progressed, and What kind of experiences you had during your military career. Was it a standing army, a town guard, or a village militia? Or it might have been a noble’s or merchant’s private army, or a mercenary company.
Although your capabilities are not much different from those of a burglar or smuggler, you learned and practiced them in a very different context: as an espionage agent. You might have been an officially sanctioned agent of the crown, or perhaps you sold I secrets you uncovered to the highest bidder. (see Criminal)
Urban Bounty Hunter (SCAG)
Before you became an adventurer, your life was already full of conflict and excitement, because you made a living tracking down people for pay. Unlike some people who collect bounties, though, you aren't a savage who follows quarry into or through the wilderness. You're involved in a lucrative trade, in the place where you live, that routinely tests your skills and survival instincts. What's more, you aren't alone, as a bounty hunter in the wild would be: you routinely interact with both the criminal subculture and other bounty hunters, maintaining contacts in both areas to help you succeed.
You grew up on the streets alone, orphaned, and poor. You had no one to watch over you or to provide for you, so you learned to provide for yourself. You fought fiercely over food and kept a constant watch out for othe desperate souls who might steal from you. You slept on rooftops and in alleyways, exposed to the elements, and endured sickness without the advantage of medicine or a place to recuperate. You’ve survived despite all odds, and did so through cunning, strength, speed, or some combination of each.
Uthgardt Tribe Member (SCAG)
Though you might have only recently arrived in civilized lands, you are no stranger to the values of cooperation and group effort when striving for supremacy. You learned these principles, and much more, as a member of an Uthgardt tribe.
Waterdhavian Noble (SCAG)
You are a scion of one of the great noble families of Waterdeep. Human families who jealously guard their privilege and place in the City of Splendors, Waterdhavian nobles have a reputation across Faerun for being eccentric, spoiled, venal, and, above all else, rich.