While preparing for the new season of Encounters, I was reviewing the three new backgrounds presented in the module for players to choose. The backgrounds represent three orgins the players might come from – with only minor spoilage: Crystalbrooker, Sildaine, Sybaran. Each background has its associated skills.
As I was reading these, I felt the work that went into coming up was these backgrounds was largely redundant. Certainly a character can decide if they’re from a fey infested forest to gain a +2 to Nature – but there are over 120 backgrounds to choose from that can also give you a bonus to Nature. Why make more backgrounds at this point? Why not present backgrounds that have already existed and present identical bonuses? Why not suggest some of the well adaptable generic backgrounds like Geography – Forest? It is really needed to create more glut to the already massive list of not-so-different backgrounds?
According to the Compendium, there are currently 785 backgrounds. Now approximately 162 backgrounds have different kinds of benefits – which is really cool. Unfortunately I’ve never even read most of them before today. It occurred to me that backgrounds really have no purpose in D&D anymore except as a cheesy way to gain a +2 to a skill or to make a skill a class skill for your character. Sure, I can pick which of the 683 backgrounds be fit the background I have in mind for my mul fighter, but if I just want Diplomacy as a class skill for my fighter, I only have to search Diplomacy in the Character Builder and pick one that pops up.