Archetype vs. Background

The next iteration of the Dungeons & Dragons game.
The Book-House: Find 5th Edition products.

Moderators: Idabrius, Blacky the Blackball

Archetype vs. Background

Postby Havard » Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:13 pm

When trying to convert a concept from an older edition, what sort of things would determine if this needs to be converted to a new class archetype (Subclass) and what falls to the domain of backgrounds?

-Havard

The Comeback Inn - My Blackmoor Forum
The Blackmoor Blog
My Articles at the Vaults of Pandius
Moderator of the Mystara, Blackmoor and Thunder Rift forums.
My moderator voice is
GREEN.
User avatar
Havard
Dragon Turtle
 
Posts: 16600
Joined: Thu May 22, 2008 7:32 pm
Location: Norway

Re: Archetype vs. Background

Postby willpell » Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:25 pm

Havard wrote:When trying to convert a concept from an older edition, what sort of things would determine if this needs to be converted to a new class archetype (Subclass) and what falls to the domain of backgrounds?

-Havard


It's a background if it has virtually no mechanical game effect, apart from giving two skills; it's a subclass if it needs to get multiple unique class abilities.

(If you're creating new backgrounds, think twice before giving it different skills than are available from the existing selection. I ran through them all at one point and I don't recall my exact findings, but there are definite inequalities - I think Investigation is not granted by a single Background, for instance, so it's likely a bad idea to change that.)
User avatar
willpell
White Dragon
 
Posts: 2507
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2015 9:10 pm

Re: Archetype vs. Background

Postby zontoxira » Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:30 pm

I'll agree with willpell, you either make a background with no game effects, or a subclass. It all depends on how you want your conversion to affect the game mechanically. Also, whereas subclasses are restricted to a single class, backgrounds are not. Taking examples from 2e, the Mystic in Wizard's Handbook could serve as an arcane tradition, while the Herald in Bard's Handbook could fit a place as a background.
Have a look at my Dark Sun Reconstruction Project at Homebrewery
---
Peasant extraordinaire, at your service!
---
"There are no saints in the animal kingdom. Only breakfast, and dinner." - Lorne Malvo
zontoxira
Orc
 
Posts: 28
Joined: Sat May 13, 2017 8:46 pm
Location: Sigil, The Lady's Ward

Re: Archetype vs. Background

Postby enderxenocide0 » Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:38 pm

willpell wrote:(If you're creating new backgrounds, think twice before giving it different skills than are available from the existing selection. I ran through them all at one point and I don't recall my exact findings, but there are definite inequalities - I think Investigation is not granted by a single Background, for instance, so it's likely a bad idea to change that.)

Actually, Haunted One (Curse of Strahd) and Faction Agent (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide) both allow for Investigation as choices from a set of proficiencies.

For the most part, I don't think Background proficiencies throw off any semblance of balance, even if you were to choose any two. The PHB even says the following two things:

1. "If a character would gain the same proficiency from two different sources, he or she can choose a different proficiency of the same kind (skill or tool) instead."
2. "To customize a background, you can replace one feature with any other one, choose any two skills, and choose a total of two tool proficiencies or languages from the sample backgrounds."

It seems fair to say that the intention of Backgrounds is to be more about roleplaying, and the proficiencies are meant to reflect that. Backgrounds each have a Feature that is a narrative assertion. It typically allows for a PC to do something that might previously have required a set of rolls, but now is assumed successful (to a degree as determined by the DM). So willpell's rule of thumb is good: if the concept you have in mind can be covered by 90% roleplaying, it should be a background. If it has significant crunch for unique abilities, it should be an archetype or its own class, if it can't properly fit into a pre-existing class.
User avatar
enderxenocide0
Stone Giant
 
Posts: 644
Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2014 2:44 am

Re: Archetype vs. Background

Postby willpell » Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:28 pm

enderxenocide0 wrote:Actually, Haunted One (Curse of Strahd) and Faction Agent (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide) both allow for Investigation as choices from a set of proficiencies.


Hrm, so they broke their own rule the moment they got outside the corebook. Or they never thought of it as a rule at all, and simply coincidentally omitted Investigation from any Backgrounds in the PHB. But I prefer the former explanation, since it credits the writers with competence and intent, and I'd rather they had those things.

For the most part, I don't think Background proficiencies throw off any semblance of balance, even if you were to choose any two.


Then why bother having restricted choices at all? If the limitations don't matter, they shouldn't exist. And if they do matter, they should be strictly enforced. At the very least, opportunity to break these rules should be reserved as a reward for those who do something exceptional.

The PHB even says the following two things:

1. "If a character would gain the same proficiency from two different sources, he or she can choose a different proficiency of the same kind (skill or tool) instead."


Hm, I don't think I noticed that rule, where is it?

(I did know about #2, but that's in the "how you the DM can do all the work yourself, since we publishers wanted to spend all our page count on speaking broadly to absolute noobs" section, so it's not "rules" per se.)

It seems fair to say that the intention of Backgrounds is to be more about roleplaying, and the proficiencies are meant to reflect that.


That's a nice idea in theory, but the book doesn't implement it all that well. I liked 5E rules at first, and still do for the most part, but as with any game that you start to get tired of because it's too simple, I'm becoming frustrated with all the ways it leaves me holding the bag, and find it hard not to blame this on the writers being lazy, chintzy, or pandering to the LCD.
User avatar
willpell
White Dragon
 
Posts: 2507
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2015 9:10 pm

Re: Archetype vs. Background

Postby enderxenocide0 » Wed Jul 19, 2017 2:05 am

Both those lines are in the description of Backgrounds. I don't have my book with me, so I looked up the text in the SRD. I think the simplest explanation for why Investigation isn't one of the Background skills in the PHB is simply that they weren't shooting for all the permutations of skills. Given they do comment on choosing any two skills when customizing a background, I would view the Backgrounds almost more as examples rather than a definitive list of all the designers see as possible with the system. In the same way that the class archetypes are constantly being expanded, new Backgrounds are designed.
User avatar
enderxenocide0
Stone Giant
 
Posts: 644
Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2014 2:44 am

Re: Archetype vs. Background

Postby Dread Delgath » Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:48 pm

Havard wrote:When trying to convert a concept from an older edition, what sort of things would determine if this needs to be converted to a new class archetype (Subclass) and what falls to the domain of backgrounds?

-Havard


Job description vs. game mechanic abilities.

"I'm a member of the City Watch, but a highly trained Abjurist." most likely means that the Wizard classed character has a background in the City Watch*.

(*City Watch is a background created by Tom Miskey - found on the internet somewhere, link forgotten/misplaced (further google-fu efforts are unsuccessful...).) :?

"I'm an enforcer for the Thieves' Guild." might mean that this fighter (could be Champion, Battlemaster or Eldritch Knight, but most likely a Champion for having the best rounded "brute" skills) works for the Thieves' Guild and has a Criminal background.

"You'll never see me coming, but if you do, it'll be too late, as the barbarian hordes that follow me will spell your doom!" is either a Monk: Way of the Shadow, or a Rogue-Assassin with the Outlander, Uthgardt Tribe Member*, or Highwayman* background.

(*Uthgardt Tribe Member is a background introduced in SCAG; Highwayman is a background created by Tom Miskey.)

"With the power of the Sun, I shall protect you from all harm." is the common oath that the clerics of Pelor (Light Domain*) in the service of their religious branches "Order of the Holy Protector" or, commonly called Bodyguards are known for.

(*The clerical domains are very restrictive, IMO. I miss the 2nd edition's combination of domains, although I thought it a little overboard when most clerics were allowed access to an innumerable amount of domains at the same time. I always tried to draw the line at 2 domains, 3 at absolute max. I bring this up by saying that I think a cleric of Pelor should at least have the domains of Light and Life; this particular example would have the domains of either Light or Life coupled with the new UA "Protection" domain.)
(*Bodygaurd - another mysterious Tom Miskey home-brewed creation.)

EDIT: I found that link to Tom Miskey's "5e Players Options 1.0" pdf on his Google Drive: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-n7dDd5NJqBYlVYbWhPYmMwNFE/edit :mrgreen:
Coming Soon(er or later)! A new Campaign Journal of our group's 5th edition D&D campaign set in my world of Dakan Mar. The Prophecies of the Roaming
User avatar
Dread Delgath
Frost Giant
 
Posts: 897
Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 10:09 pm
Location: Thankfully, NOT where the swirl starts when you flush the country.


Return to D&D 5th Edition

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests