Backgrounds and Prerequisites

For Backgrounds with Prerequisite, do the Prerequisites need to be met to be be eligible for the background? Or you don’t get the special abilities, but can have the narrative abilities if you don’t meet the prerequisite?

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Just asking, what kind of narrative abilities would you say you could have as a street necromancer without any actual spellcasting ability?

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That is a good point, maybe he worked for a street necromancer as a body snatcher. So that would be character history than a background

So what would the narrative ability be then? Knowing necromancy lore (even if you cannot actually perform necromancy), knowing necromancers, being good at sneaking about and hiding stuff?

Maybe you could pick some other suitable background that makes sense for the story, and maybe with the GM’s approval swap some benefits to reflect the back story?

Just to provide as clear and unambiguous an answer as possible, without being the author (presumably Matt Goetz in this case): yes. :slight_smile:

Without the intent to sound snarky: that is literally the definition of “prerequisite.” You have to have spellcasting from one of those sources in order to get this feature.


As the author of that one, I can say very much yes. Your first character level needs to be in class that has one of those features. A necromancer is a spell caster, and this adds a little necromantic ability to a low-level caster. If you work it out with your GM you may convince them to let you take it without meeting the pre-reqs but I advise against it.


I wanted to chine in again regarding this. It’s nit uncommon for campaigns to start with PCs being higher than first level. In a case like this, I’d consider a spellcasting class as part of the starting package as meeting the prerequisite. I know that some multiclass builds need to take their first level in a class or miss out on proficiencies - Fighter, for instance, doesn’t grant heavy armor when multiclassing. So long as the background prerequisite is met before that character sees play. But that is still stretching the rules, and not every DM would agree.

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That’s a good point, and one I hadn’t considered since all of my (very few) 5e games have started at level 1.

But consider what a “background” is: it’s something the character used to be or do before the campaign started, right? So if we have a fighter/wizard whose first class level was Fighter due to game reasons, but he has been alive and active for years before the game campaign starts, he could just as well have been dabbling in necromancy at some point during that career. The whole point of having Backgrounds written into game rules is emphasizing the idea that the character didn’t just blink into existence at the tavern table with three other adventurers a moment before the game begins.

So I think it’s fair to look at the starting character’s classes as a whole rather than just the first-level class for backgrounds if starting at higher than 1st level. But that’s just my opinion.