Mighty crusaders blessed by their gods to spread their religion through combat and honor, paladins act as the frontline of most parties, taking many hits and outputting significant damage with their many smites.
Most paladins follow similar backgrounds since being a paladin most often requires the character to have a religious experience or strong beliefs.
However, even with the solid religious themes of the class, a player can still utilize non-religious backgrounds for character creation. These are some great background options listed from good-best:
In many religions, a believer or acolyte could set out to live in a desert or a forest away from civilization. This is not a rare practice amongst paladins, who can set out to experience tranquillity and improve their skills through hermitian.
After years of being a hermit, a paladin can return to society with newfound peace and possibly new skills. The background grants paladin proficiency in medicine which works well with the paladin’s wisdom and healing capabilities.
It also gives proficiency with religion, but with the generally low intelligence score of paladins, it can be wasted. With the time being a hermit, the paladin also gains an additional language and proficiency with the herbalism kit. The herbalism kit can be used to craft healing potions, an excellent tool for most parties.
Along with the proficiencies and languages gained, the background offers a winter blanket, a set of ordinary clothes, a herbalism kit, a scroll case, and 5 gold coins. Hermit can work with paladin well, but it requires a specific type of paladin and restricts the backstory.
7. Folk Hero
Even if you originate from a lowly village with few impressive skills, the people consider you their champion, and you are destined for glory and justice. With D&D’s stories often including the players being the chosen ones or at least heroes of an era, this background fits smoothly with all classes. Both of the proficiencies gained from this background are wisdom-based, animal handling, and survival.
Animal handling is functional but in more specific situations, while survival is more often used. You also gain proficiency with a chosen type of artisan’s tools and a vehicle. These proficiencies are excellent for many scenarios, both adventuring and roleplaying. The equipment acquired includes a set of artisan tools, a shovel, an iron pot, a collection of common clothes, and 10 gold coins.
The feature granted by the background makes it so commoners will go out of their way to help you, be it hiding or just needing a place to stay, as long as you treat them right. This background is generally better suited for paladins who travel and adventure a lot, not staying in one place too long and fighting for justice.
6. Noble (Knight)
The Knight background can work smoothly with a paladin. The money and influence that come with the environment can explain how the character became a paladin and could afford to give up everyday life in the name of a religion or a god. Paladins often gear themselves with shining heavy armor and heavy weapons, which a commoner cannot acquire under normal means.
This background can account for that gear having a rich background that sponsors the character. The background has a knight variant, so it is a good option for paladins. The background grants the player proficiency in persuasion, which is excellent with a paladin’s high charisma. In addition to proficiency in effectiveness, it also gives proficiency in history skills. History is not in the paladin’s skill list, but it uses intelligence which many paladins lack.
Along with history and persuasion, it also gives proficiency with a chosen gaming set and an additional language. The equipment gained by this background includes a ring, a set of fine clothes, and 25 gp. In addition, players who choose the knight variant of this background gain a variant feature. This feature is three retainers, people in servitude of the paladin’s family or community who obey every command that doesn’t put them in danger. This background can work with most backstories, but the proficiencies are not the best.
Acolyte is a natural choice for paladin, both thematically and mechanically. Paladins spent their lives devoted to a god or pantheon while performing sacred rituals, which is also the primary identity of the acolyte. A paladin is already an acolyte, even without choosing this background.
Besides their religious basis, the skill proficiencies granted by the environment are excellent for the paladin. Insight can prove helpful with the paladin’s wisdom. Religion is good to have, even if intelligence is not a particularly strong ability score for most paladins. Both skills are already on the paladin’s list, though, which is restricting compared to other backgrounds.
Additionally, the environment offers two different languages of choice. Overall, the knowledge is excellent for the paladin and does not require specific backstories to make sense. The skills are also great for most paladins.
Whether you were born in the wilds or migrated there, you have lived far from civilization and the safety of the law. The weather and living conditions in the outlands would break most people, but the paladin grew stronger.
This background grants proficiency with athletics and survival, both valuable skills that work well with the paladin’s typical ability scores. It also grants proficiency with a musical instrument which is not greatly helpful but can add to the character and roleplay of the essence. The paladin also learns an additional language and gains the wanderer feature, which allows the player to always recall the general layout of the terrain and have an easier time foraging food. This feature is terrific for parties that spend a great deal of time exploring and traveling. The background equipment is focused on survival and includes a hunting trap, a staff, traveler’s clothes, and 10 gold.
Having experienced the horrors of war could have led someone to turn to religion and the divine. Maybe a holy war or conflict occurred, and a character became a paladin through combat. Whichever the backstory for a paladin, the soldier is a perfect background for them. The proficiencies granted by the background work perfectly with the paladin’s ability scores. Athletics, combined with the often high strength and intimidation with high charisma, prove greatly useful in many roleplaying and adventure scenarios.
Additionally, proficiency with a gaming set to pass the time and a vehicle is gained by the background. Proficiency with a chosen vehicle can cut the costs of the party down by having the paladin drive them around instead of paying someone to do so. Unfortunately, the equipment gained from this background is not that beneficial.
Still, it can deepen the character with a trophy from a fallen enemy and an insignia of a military rank being included, amongst other items. Overall, the soldier can work great for a paladin in strengthening the character and deepening the backstory.
2. City Watch
City watch is similar to a soldier in many ways, but they differ in where they serve. While a soldier is on the front lines, the city watch stays back, defending the cities and communities against crime. They act more as police rather than soldiers. Many paladins aim to keep peace and uphold justice, which is also the goal of a city watch.
The background grants proficiency in athletics and insight. Both are excellent skills for a paladin, especially one aiming for justice and chasing down criminals. Combined with the strength and wisdom of paladins’. The background also grants two chosen languages that can be used to interrogate and investigate better and more creatures.
The background comes with the Watcher’s Eye feature, which allows you to easily discover criminal dens and city watch outposts, even if you aren’t welcome. The equipment of this background is the general equipment of a city watch, a uniform, a set of manacles, a horn for summoning help, and 10 gold coins.
As a whole, this background is impressive for most paladins, the skills granted work well with the paladin’s ability scores, and the theme and goals align with those of a paladin.
1. Faction Agent
Much like the acolyte background, paladins are already technically in this background, their faction being the church. The faction agent background offers proficiency in insight and a chosen proficiency in one of the mental skills. Insight is excellent on paladins, and the chosen skill can be a charisma skill from which the paladin can benefit significantly, such as intimidation.
The faction agent grants two additional languages along with excellent skill proficiencies. The rest of the benefits of the background are not that beneficial to the paladin. They are already part of the paladin class, such as the equipment, including a badge or emblem of the faction, in this case, a holy symbol, and the feature gained is lackluster.
This background can be chosen without much thought on the character’s backstory, and the benefits are the best of the backgrounds.