Can You Have Two Backgrounds In DND? (SOLVED)

In Dungeons and Dragons (DND), backgrounds are (mechanically) an assortment of skill levels and other characteristics. Some rules govern choosing backgrounds and the number of backgrounds you can truly have.

Can you have two backgrounds in DND?

DND characters cannot have two backgrounds. In The Player’s Handbook, a character’s history is referred to as singular. However, you can combine pieces from two official backgrounds to create your unique custom background.

In this article, you’ll learn everything that you need to know about having two backgrounds in DND.

Can You Have Two Backgrounds in DND? (Official Answer)

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Although there is nothing officially and explicitly stated against having several backgrounds, the relevant portions of the Player’s Handbook (PHB) refer to a character’s background in the singular.

In the PHB pg. 125 it states that:

“Every story has a beginning. The history of your character shows who you are, how you got to be an explorer, and where you fit into the universe.”

Also on pg. 125 of the PHB states that:

“It will be unbalanced to give someone a second background in the mechanical sense.”

Based on these two references, we can infer a few things.

For one, the rules of DND only focus on certain aspects of your character’s backstory when it comes to ability scores, abilities, and other character mechanics.

If you want to combine multiple backstories, make sure that they all fit together logically.

Additionally, most characters only have one backstory.

Having more than one can actually make things more complicated.

Besides, it’s important to make sure that your Dungeon Master is ok with you combining multiple backstories before you do so, as it can make things more difficult for them to keep track of.

However, as long as you keep these things in mind, combining multiple backstories can be a great way to create a richer and more interesting character.

Does DND Require You to Pick a Background?

According to PHB, no requirement states that you need a pre-written background.

In Dungeons and Dragons, every character has a backstory. This is the history of your character, how they came to be who they are, and what their motivation is for adventuring.

In general, you can choose any two abilities, any two tools or language proficiencies, and any two features from the sample backgrounds.

You can even substitute one feature with any other feature when customizing a background.

Only those who want to develop a custom feature genuinely require active DM engagement.

Here is a useful video regarding DND backgrounds:

Youtube video by TheD&DLogsCan You Have Two Backgrounds In DND?

Can You Have Multiple Backgrounds in DND?

The Player’s Handbook refers to a character’s background as a single entity.

Backgrounds have various mechanical benefits, and they have counterbalanced easily: two skills, two languages or tool proficiency, and a feature.

The official rulebooks state that giving someone a second backdrop will be unfair mechanically.

As we mentioned earlier, if we’re just talking about stories from your character’s past, however, go for it.

How To Have Two Backgrounds in DND

Multiple backgrounds cannot be added to a character under standard D&D rules.

However, you can homebrew your custom background by adding traits from both backgrounds, or you can simply make a note of it on the character sheet and add any advantages to the new background given to you.

The key is to get agreement from your Dungeon Master before you add an extra background.

Can You Mix Backgrounds in DND?

You can mix backgrounds if you homebrew a rule with your Dungeon Master (DM).

We suggest fusing the two backgrounds within a custom background.

Make sure you add the same number of bonuses, which are normally two talents, one tool, and one additional benefit.

Your DM may allow you to combine them as long as the power level remains the same.

In other words, you will probably not be able to stack bonuses from both backgrounds.

The easiest way to mix background is to multi-class your character and speak with your DM.

For example, through multi-classing, you can build a character with multiple fighting styles.

Create a DND Character With Jasper ...
Create a DND Character With Jasper Art
How Many Backgrounds Does DND Have?

There are 13 official backgrounds and hundreds of unofficial ones.

Theoretically, there are an endless number of background options. I’ve listed the 13 from the Player’s Handbook below:

  1. Acolyte
  2. Charlatan
  3. Criminal
  4. Entertainer
  5. Folk Hero
  6. Guild Artisan
  7. Hermit
  8. Outlander
  9. Noble
  10. Sage
  11. Sailor
  12. Soldier
  13. Urchin

What Is the Best Background in DND?

The best background in DND is probably a customized one, the one that provides you with the desired skills.

Why? Since there is no absolute “best,” everything relies on the kind of role you wish to play.

With that said, here are my best background picks for each major character class:

DND Character ClassBest Background
FighterSoldier
WizardSage
RougeCriminal
BardEntertainer
PaladinNoble
ClericAcolyte
Best Background in DND?Can you have two backgrounds in DND?

DND Background FAQ

I get tons of questions about backgrounds in DND.

So, I thought it would be helpful to round them up and answer them here in this section.

Which DND Books Add Backgrounds?

  • The Player’s Handbook
  • Ghosts of Saltmarsh
  • Baldur’s Gate – Descent into Avernus
  • Guildmasters Guide to Ravnica
  • Curse of Strahd (Haunted One)
  • The Hoard of the Dragon Queen
  • Tomb of Annihilation. Features the Archaeologist and Anthropologist background
  • Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
  • Guide to Wildemount
  • Out of the Abyss
  • Rising from the Last War

What Kind of Background Fits a Cleric?

Clerics are renowned for their wisdom, charisma, and ability to employ divine magic bestowed to them by the gods.

Their primary characteristic is the capacity to Channel Divinity to produce magical effects through the energy of their deity. Their spells are commonly connected to both Radiant and Necrotic damage, as well as healing.

This power includes the well-known ability to Turn Undead.

Best Background: Acolyte

Acolytes typically devote the majority of their time to serving a deity’s temple.

They frequently serve as a bridge between the divine and the human world.

You can command the respect of individuals who practice the same religion as you do through Shelter of the Faithful. You can also receive free medical attention and healing at a place of worship, but you must provide any material needs.

You can ask for and get help from individuals who work there if your connections are strong enough.

You are proficient in two more languages of your choice in addition to Common, any languages that your race gives, Insight, and Religion.

Why the Acolyte is the Best Background for Clerics

Since clerics are known for possessing divine abilities, it stands to reason that they might have acquired these abilities while serving a temple or another comparable organization.

Free healing from a place of worship of one’s choice results in the preservation of one’s spell slots.

Other abilities may also be selected as cleric proficiencies (thanks to the Acolyte proficiencies in Insight and Religion).

What Kind of Background Suits a Barbarian?

Barbarians are brutal, animalistic assailants with strong Strength and Constitution.

Their Rage is what makes them unique.

They are frequently the party’s “tanks,” able to take more punishment and damage than other classes.

Since they cannot wear armor, they have a strong natural defense, as demonstrated by their Unarmored Defense of 10 + Dexterity modifier + Constitution modifier. Barbarians are one of only two classes that can only be used as physical combatants without the use of spells.

Best Background: Outlander

You are a survivalist, well-versed in the rules of nature, having lived most of your life outdoors.

You can always recall the general layout of the terrain since you have a superb memory for maps and geography.

If the terrain has such resources, you can easily find food and clean water for yourself and up to five additional people.

You have skills in athletics, survival, and one type of musical instrument.

You were raised in a harsh wilderness environment. In addition to Common and any other languages your race may offer, you are also fluent in one other language of your choice.

Why It Is the Most Suitable Background for Barbarians

Barbarians are frequently animalistic attackers.

And those with an Outlander ancestry are typically primal and in touch with more instinctual behaviors.

Given their lack of familiarity with civilized people, one of the recommended traits of an Outlander is that they are frequently vulgar, which is consistent with how a barbarian is occasionally viewed.

What Kind of Background Fits a Ranger?

Rangers have strong Strength and Dexterity and are well renowned for their proficiency with bows and arrows, though they are not limited to these kinds of weaponry.

Favorite Opponent is their greatest quality.

It offers them the benefit of Wisdom (Survival) and Intelligence checks while dealing with the adversary type they have selected.

Learning one of the preferred enemy’s spoken languages is also achievable and helpful in the game.

Rangers are also knowledgeable about and benefit from their Favorite Terrain, which offers certain advantages.

Taking all of this into consideration, the best background is…

Best Background: Outlander

You are a survivalist, well-versed in the rules of nature, having lived most of your life outdoors.

You can always recall the general layout of the terrain since you have a superb memory for maps and geography.

If the terrain has such resources, you can easily find food and clean water for yourself and up to five additional people.

You have skills in athletics, survival, and one type of musical instrument because you were raised in a harsh wilderness environment. In addition to Common and any other languages your race may offer, you are also fluent in one other language of your choice.

Why the Outlander Background Is Perfect for Rangers

Rangers are typically thought of as the party’s natural environment survivalists, which fits well with the Outlander’s memory and aptitude for wilderness navigation.

The ability to discover twice as much food as usual in this kind of setting is one characteristic of the ranger’s Favorite Terrain, which is assured by the Outlander background.

Other abilities may be chosen as ranger proficiencies in addition to the Outlander proficiencies in Survival and Athletics.

Final Thoughts: Can You Have Two Backgrounds in DND?

Ultimately, backgrounds are identities that define a character in DND. They can be customized to incorporate different traits but you can only have one background.

That doesn’t mean you can’t create a complex character (aka, a MAD character in DND).

You absolutely can.

We have a ton more tips on playing DND on this site. Before leaving, feel free to glance at a few.

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Sources

D&D Player’s Handbook
Wizards of the Coast