How The Acolyte Background in 5e Benefits You Most

Backgrounds in Dungeons & Dragons are an essential part of character building. They inform the characters that we make and provide some extra proficiencies that we can use in-game.

Here’s your quick guide to the Acolyte background.

Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Religion

Languages: Two of your choice

Equipment: A Holy symbol, a prayer book or prayer wheel, five sticks of incense, holy vestments, everyday clothes, and a pouch containing 15 GP

Characteristics: Acolytes are deeply influenced by their time within their Temple. Their study of the tenets of their faith informs their ideals, bonds, and flaws. Players can make up their own ideals, bonds, and flaws, select from the table below, or roll a die to choose from the table.

Die ValuePersonality Traits
1I idolize a particular hero of my faith and constantly refer to that person’s deeds and example.
2I can find common ground between the fiercest enemies, empathizing with them and always working toward peace.
3I see omens in every event and action. The gods try to speak to us, we just need to listen
4Nothing can shake my optimistic attitude.
5I quote (or misquote) sacred texts and proverbs in almost every situation.
6I am tolerant (or intolerant) of other faiths and respect (or condemn) the Worship of other gods.
7I’ve enjoyed fine food, drink, and high Society among my temple’s elite. Rough living grates on me.
8I’ve spent so long in the Temple that I have little practical experience dealing with people in the outside world.
Die ValueIdeal
1Tradition. The ancient traditions of Worship and sacrifice must be preserved and upheld. (Lawful)
2Charity. I always try to help those in need, no matter what the personal cost. (Good)
3Change. We must help bring about the changes the gods are constantly working in the world. (Chaotic) 
4Power. I hope to one day rise to the top of my faith’s religious Hierarchy. (Lawful)
5Faith. I trust that my deity will guide my Actions. I have faith that if I work hard, things will go well. (Lawful)
6Aspiration. I seek to prove myself worthy of my god’s favor by matching my Actions against his or her teachings. (Any)
Die ValueBond
1I would die to recover an ancient relic of my faith that was lost long ago. 
2I will someday get revenge on the corrupt Temple Hierarchy who branded me a heretic.
3I owe my life to the Priest who took me in when my parents died.
4Everything I do is for the Common people.
5I will do anything to protect the Temple where I served.
6I seek to preserve a sacred text that my enemies consider heretical and seek to destroy.
Die ValueFlaw
1I judge others harshly, and myself even more severely. 
2I put too much trust in those who wield power within my temple’s Hierarchy.
3My piety sometimes leads me to blindly trust those that profess faith in my god.
4I am inflexible in my thinking.
5I am suspicious of strangers and expect the worst of them.
6Once I pick a goal, I become obsessed with it to the detriment of everything else in my life.

Feature: Shelter of the Faithful

Acolytes can command the respect of people who share their faith. They can expect free healing and services from people who share their faith and temples or shrines dedicated to their deity.

You can call upon priests of your temple to aid you so long as assisting you is not hazardous to them, and you remain in good standing with your temple

How to Play an Acolyte

Acolytes are helpful at a party because their connections to their churches can help provide for their party. Acolytes of a prominent religion will bring a lot of freebies to the table for their party.

From a roof and food to healing, an Acolyte’s church can provide it all based on their standing with the church.

However, these freebies come at a lifestyle cost to the Acolyte. Acolytes follow the tenets of their chosen religions very strictly. When deciding to play an Acolyte, you’ll need to consider how their faith will impact their everyday lives. 

Acolytes will need to maintain good standing with their church to keep the freebies that come along with their membership. Many will have to find a way to reconcile their beliefs with the tasks before them as an adventurer.

An Acolyte has many different character development paths; it’s not required to be a goody-two-shoes. An Acolyte of an evil God will be more inclined to do evil and bend the rules than an Acolyte of a good God.

Heresy is also an option for any Acolytes that are having trouble reconciling their beliefs with their actions. Heresy will result in the ex-communication of the heretic, but there is always room for an Acolyte to begin to doubt their religion of choice.

Doubt is unavoidable for Acolytes. The world will not align perfectly with their beliefs, and they may experience a distancing from their religion as they travel and see more beyond the walls of their temple.

Acolytes will have to contend with doubt regularly. Still, Acolytes of good-aligned Gods will have to reconcile the world’s evils with their religion more than Acolytes of evil or neutral gods.

If you want to do a path of doubt for your Acolyte, it will be essential to work with your Dungeon Master to introduce doubt to your character in-game. You’ll want to engineer situations that allow your character to realize that there is more to the world than their religion taught them.

Good situations that might cause your Acolyte to doubt their religion are cases where an act of God goes against the teachings of the religion. An Acolyte of a good-aligned God might experience doubt when they see how grim the world is, especially if they spent most of their life inside the temple.

Allow your character to lead the way with doubt as to the experience the world beyond their temple. If they feel indebted to their church, doubt may cause more distress than in other situations.

It’s also possible for doubt to reaffirm their beliefs. As they experience the world, they may return to their temple with a renewed passion for their religion, overcoming the doubt they experienced.

How to Use Shelter of the Faithful

Acolytes can use their Shelter of Faithful skill to provide for their party. Presences of your faith, such as temples, shrines, and churches, can offer you and your party food, shelter, and healing services when you come upon them.

To get the best use out of Shelter of the Faithful, you’ll need to remain in good standing with the highest orders of your faith. You’ll have to continue to be in the service of your religion.

However, performing rites and rituals for your church could allow you and your part to have particular sects of your church be indebted to you.

Additionally, others who share your faith will be more likely to help you. You may be able to swoon some shop owners into giving you discounts or freebies. You could also hire some mercenaries or hirelings for discounted rates by wielding.

Classes That Synergize with Acolyte

Cleric and Druid have the most immediate synergy with the Acolyte background. Both Cleric and Druid have a natural affinity for Wisdom checks that the extra proficiency can bolster Insight. 

In roleplay, Clerics, Druids, and Paladins make the best candidates for Acolyte backgrounds. They have innate ties to religious groups that make it easy to work Acolytic studies into their personalities and backstories. 

Acolyte (NPC)

Acolytes are also NPCs that you might encounter when you go to a local place of worship. The stats for them are as follows:

Medium Humanoid (Any Race), Any Alignment  

Armour Class: 10

Hit Points: 9

Speed: 30 ft

STRENGTHDEXTERITYCONSTITUTIONINTELLIGENCEWISDOMCHARISMA
101010101411

Skills: Medicine +4, Religion +2

Condition Immunities: None

Senses: Passive Perception 12

Languages: Any one language (usually Common)

Proficiency: +2

Challenge: ¼ (50 XP)

Spellcasting. The acolyte is a 1st-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 12, +4 to hit with spell attacks). The acolyte has following cleric spells prepared:

Cantrips (at will): light, sacred flame, thaumaturgy

1st level (3 slots): bless, cure wounds, sanctuary

Actions

Club. Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 2 (1d4) bludgeoning damage.

Final Thoughts

The Acolyte background is a strong choice both mechanically and in roleplay. Players looking to have a strong support network in place will consider the Acolyte background for their character.

It provides a solid base network for characters as they traverse the world of each campaign.