10 of the Least Useful Backgrounds in D&D

Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) beckons players to weave tales with characters of diverse backgrounds, each contributing to the game’s narrative richness. However, not all backgrounds seamlessly integrate into every campaign. Characters with specific experiences may struggle to find relevance, and their limitations may cause them to fall short in the unfolding narrative of a campaign.

1 Guild Artisan

The Guild Artisan background focuses on craftsmanship and trade and grants proficiency in Insight and Persuasion. While characters may find utility in economic or trade-centric campaigns, the Guild Membership feature might offer fewer opportunities for relevance in campaigns where such elements are not as prominent.

2 Sailor

Characters with a Sailor background gain proficiency in Athletics and Perception and excel in maritime settings. However, the relevance of nautical skills may diminish in landlocked or predominantly urban campaigns. The Ship’s Passage feature, tailored for oceanic adventures, might see little use if the campaign rarely ventures onto the high seas.

3 Entertainer

Entertainers dazzle with performances and gain proficiency in Acrobatics and Performance. However, lacking diverse skills might limit their usefulness in non-social or non-performance scenarios. Features like By Popular Demand might not shine in campaigns where combat or exploration precedes social interactions.

4 Outlander

Characters with the Outlander background, skilled in Athletics and Survival, thrive in the wilderness. However, in campaigns that predominantly occur in urban or indoor settings, their expertise may see limited use. The Wanderer feature, tailored for survival in the wild, might not be as advantageous in city-centric adventures.

5 Haunted One

The Haunted One background grants characters a traumatic past, with proficiencies in Arcana, Investigation, Religion, or Survival. However, while intriguing for role-playing, the Haunted Past feature may struggle to find relevance in campaigns where horror or supernatural elements are not central to the plot.

6 Knight

The Knight background emphasizes service and loyalty while offering proficiency in History and Persuasion. However, the Retainers feature, which provides the character with the assistance of three loyal servants, may have limited use in campaigns that don’t focus on maintaining a strict code of chivalry or involve extensive downtime.

7 Far Traveler

Characters from distant lands interested in proficiencies in Insight and Perception might find the Far Traveler background less impactful in campaigns where cultural diversity and unfamiliar territories play a minor role. The Customary Survival feature may see limited use in environments where local customs and traditions are well‑known.

8 Pirate

With proficiencies in Athletics and Perception, the Pirate background excels in nautical settings. However, characters may find their piracy skills less helpful in campaigns not heavily involving high seas adventures. The Bad Reputation feature might see limited relevance in landlocked or politically focused storylines.

9 Smuggler

The Smuggler background is shrouded in secrecy, providing characters with proficiencies in Athletics and Deception. While invaluable in campaigns that involve intrigue, smuggling, or illegal dealings, the Smuggler background may struggle to find relevance in straightforward, law-abiding adventures. The Down Low feature, which allows access to a network of illicit contacts and safe houses, may see limited use in campaigns that lack a focus on the shadowy underworld.

10 Fisher

Characters with the Fisher background are adept at navigating the shallows, gaining proficiency in History and Survival. However, the Harvest the Water feature, geared towards successful fishing, may have limited utility in campaigns set in arid landscapes or those without significant bodies of water. While their skills may shine in coastal or river-heavy settings, characters with the Fisher background might find themselves out of their element in predominantly dry or landlocked adventures.

Dungeons & Dragons unfolds as an expansive narrative, and the utility of backgrounds often hinges on the campaign’s themes and emphasis. While potentially less versatile in specific scenarios, many backgrounds offer unique role-playing opportunities and can contribute to a campaign’s narrative depth. Players should carefully consider the campaign setting and themes when selecting backgrounds, ensuring a harmonious blend of mechanics and storytelling for an immersive and enjoyable experience.

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