Last Updated on January 22, 2023
A Wizard stands at the base of a tower. Clutching a jeweled wand in her hand, the Wizard chants an incantation. She feels the air vibrate around her, feels the magic course through her body.
When the final words of the spell leave her lips in a whisper, she vanishes, teleporting over 300 feet to the top of the tower. There she seeks answers to her mysterious past.
With their vast array of spells and iconic imagery, Wizards are one of the most enjoyable classes to play in D&D.
They’re also one of the most challenging. When it comes to creating a Wizard, choosing the right background for your character is essential.
Creating a backstory is where your character really comes to life. This is your chance to make a character that is unique, with a history and personality. Find a reason why your character chose to become a Wizard.
Perhaps you were nobel-born and studied magic at a famous school. Or maybe you were mentored by a mysterious mage who took you under her wing.
Characters in D&D are more than numbers on a page, they’re products of our imagination and an opportunity to express ourselves as we play the part.
And while this choice is mainly a tool for roleplaying and character creation, each of the possible backgrounds comes with benefits.
Each background contains suggestions for your character’s disposition. It will be up to you—or you and your DM—to come up with the specifics of your character’s past, ideals, goals, and current condition.
The Best Wizard Backgrounds
Not all Wizards wear pointy hats and starry robes. Some have known the lives of travelers and merchants. Others were soldiers or sailors before dedicating their lives to the arcane arts.
And while some Wizards learn spellcraft in childhood, most don’t pick up their first spellbook until adulthood.
Most of the following backgrounds can be found in the Player’s Handbook. You and your DM are free to invent new backgrounds of your own. More options are available in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and other extended rulebooks.
If you’re not sure which background to choose for your Wizard, pick the Sage background. As a Sage, you’ll be proficient in Arcana and History, relying on your training as a scholar to unravel the mysteries of time and space.
As a Sage, your Wizard will have excellent research skills. Trained scholars, Sages have a vast knowledge of lore and myth. If your Wizard fails to recall a fact about history, myth or magic, they’ll at least have some idea of where to find the information in the game world.
Sages have different motivations. Some seek power through magical knowledge. Others enjoy learning for its own sake. For scholarly wizards who take up the adventuring life, the allure may be the pursuit of wealth or the acquisition of forbidden or lost magic.
Some wizards will use the chance to test their abilities or use their magic for the greater good.
Wizards with the Haunted One background feel threatened by a past they can never escape. Some harrowing event in your life changed the way you looked at the world forever and now overcoming this terror is a daily struggle.
Available in the Curse of Strahd, the Haunted One background provides a monster hunter’s pack and a horror trinket. You’ll also learn another language choosing from options such as Celestial, Draconic or Abyssal.
Finally, haunted ones are proficient in two of the following skills: Aranca, Investigation, Survival or Religion.
As a Haunted One, your character will have the Heart of Darkness feature. Those who look into your eyes will know that you’ve seen horrible things. As long as you aren’t a threat, the common folk will feel compelled to aid you.
Perhaps your wizard was once a member of a powerful guild. By choosing the Guild Artisan background, your wizard will start the game knowledgeable of a craft of your choosing.
Are you a master alchemist, or a talented tinkerer? Were you a jeweler who turned to spellcraft for the chance to enhance her art?
As a member of a guild, you’ll be entitled to certain benefits, including free lodging and meals. You’ll also have access to powerful connections that can defend you in legal battles, provided you pay your monthly dues.
Acolytes are devoted followers of the gods, often spending years in service to a temple of their faith. While these characters often end up as clerics or priests, it’s not uncommon for an acolyte to turn to wizardry.
Choosing the acolyte background will mean you have ties to a specific temple or other place of worship. Your wizard will be able to find help among those who share his or her faith. The temple may also be willing to provide healing to its members.
With this background, your wizard will be proficient in Insight and Religion. You’ll learn two languages of your choice and start the game with a holy symbol and vestments.
Acolytes can worship more than one god. You’ll need to work with your DM to establish the details of your wizard’s religious experiences.
Maybe society isn’t really your thing. You’ve spent years in solitude, honing your talents and seeking answers for life’s greatest mysteries. As a Hermit, your wizard will have spent significant time in isolation.
Perhaps you were part of a devout religious order or were exiled for a crime you didn’t commit.
Hermits are proficient in Medicine and Religion. They are experts with Herbalism Kits. Also, your wizard will have made a secret discovery. It could be a lost temple, or an ancient relic, or a dark truth about the multiverse. You’ll need to work with your DM to decide the nature of your wizard’s discovery.
How To Choose a Background
The simplest way to choose a background for your Wizard is to imagine the character’s past. Let these ideas serve as a guide when making your choice.
Were you raised in a rural village, or did you grow up in a densely populated city? Did you spend time training at a temple devoted to one of the many gods?
Perhaps you were a hermit for over ten years and are now having a difficult time adjusting to social life.
Roleplaying Your Wizard
Roleplaying is always easier if you have some details to draw from. Each background offers a list of suggested traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws that you can use to shape your character’s personality. Use these as a guide for deciding how your Wizard will act in any given situation.
Players are free to pick characteristics that they want, or they can let the dice decide for them. For example, your Wizard may be awkward in social situations after years of solitude.
Or perhaps a lifetime of scholarly research has left you arrogant and prone to condescension.
Keeping the Magic Alive
Enigmatic and strange, wizards from all backgrounds are called to the adventuring life.
As you explore the world of D&D, your wizard will face many challenges. Will you flee in the face of danger, or will you trust magic to keep you alive?
Whatever you do, don’t lose your spellbook.
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I played the game a lot as a kid, back in first edition. Over the past few years since 5e was released, I’ve really started getting back into it. Currently, I run a campaign online for some friends and my brothers, and we also play a side-sesh just to mix things up.