Everyone Has a Past

Friday, May 11, 2018

While we all live moment-by-moment, we are also shaped by our past. This is especially true for adventurers. After all, very few elves at the ripe age of 14 think to themselves, "Hey, I think I'm going to become a barbarian." There is a path that leads the character to their class. It might synergize obviously with the class's discipline, or at first blush it might seem a non sequitur, but the path is there.

In the Pathfinder Playtest, your ancestry talks a bit about your past, but it also speaks to your present and the promise of the future, by virtue of the fact that you continue to gain ancestry feats through the course of your adventuring career. But to help you dig deeper into your past, you'll choose a background.

Generally, backgrounds allow you to select a bit of backstory that mechanically affects the current state of your character. The first thing it does is grants you a pair of ability boosts (with some limitations on one of those ability boosts), and then it grants a skill feat tied to the theme of your background and proficiency in a Lore skill that also ties into the background. For instance, here is an old chestnut:

Illustration by Wayne Reynolds

Blacksmith (Background)

You were a blacksmith or a blacksmith's apprentice, and during countless hours toiling at the forge, you learned how to smith armor and weapons. Perhaps you worked hard each day and dreamed of adventure each night, or perhaps the adventuring life was thrust upon you by a pivotal event.

Choose two ability boosts. One must be to Strength or Intelligence, and one is a free ability boost.

You gain the Specialty Crafting skill feat for blacksmithing, and you're trained in the Smithing Lore skill.

Sure, it's a bit cliche, but it's a fun cliche. Before becoming a fighter, you were a blacksmith's apprentice. Maybe you crafted your sword or suit of armor and decided to protect home and hearth from monsters. But take a closer look at the background. It's more flexible than that. It's also an excellent background for an alchemist or another character who wants to specialize in crafting. Since you can boost Intelligence via this background, and Intelligence is the key ability score for both Crafting skill and the alchemist class, you can refocus this background into that of an intelligent tinkerer who uses innovation rather than toil to create metal objects. And who knows? Maybe later on in your career, you can fuse your background with other skill feats to invent a new form of alchemical armor or some kind of metal construct.

Not all backgrounds have to do with gainful employment; others deal with the circumstances of your upbringing that you can parlay into useful skills. Here is another example of a classic fantasy trope:

Street Urchin (Background)

You eked out a living by picking pockets on the streets of a major city, never knowing where you'd find your next meal. While some folk adventure for the glory, you adventure as a means of survival.

Choose two ability boosts. One must be to Dexterity or Intelligence, and one is a free ability boost.

You gain the Pickpocket skill feat, and you're trained in the Underworld Lore skill.

While a classic rogue background, this background also has enough flexibility to serve as a perfectly fine background for a wizard or alchemist, and that's only if you dwell on the limited ability boost. Remember, one of the ability boosts if free, so you can play against type and still make a perfectly reasonable character. Imagine a paladin with this background, which isn't so hard if you know anything about a certain iconic paladin...

Not all backgrounds are so all-encompassing, though. After all, your background not only deals with activity but also your personal focus. You may have been an apprentice blacksmith, even for a long while, but retained none of its benefits because you were too busy dreaming about being a Pathfinder.

Pathfinder Hopeful (Background)

You've long wanted to join the adventurous Pathfinder Society, a world-spanning organization of relic hunters. This aspiration has led you to take up the dangerous life of an adventurer eager to make a name for yourself and gain the attention of the Pathfinder Society.

Choose two ability boosts. One must be to Strength or Intelligence, and one is a free ability boost.

You gain the Additional Lore feat, and you're trained in the Pathfinder Society Lore skill.

While the boosts are similar to that of the blacksmith background, the skill selection is, of course, different. I can easily picture this background as that of a young dreamer, toiling away when she must but finding whatever time she can to read various Pathfinder Chronicles (both real and forged) and honing her body and mind for the chance to join the Pathfinder Society.

Incidentally, this is not a background you will find in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook. While that weighty tome provides 19 backgrounds, you'll find six more backgrounds in the Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn. Those six are tailor-made for the adventure, granting the opportunity for small, sometimes incidental perks during play for those who take them and allowing you to tailor your character to the story. This is one of the chief benefits of the background system—it can be used to make very general backgrounds or to tailor specific backgrounds to an adventure or a campaign.

And so there you have it; that's the skinny on backgrounds. What kind of backgrounds can you imagine?

Stephen Radney-MacFarland
Senior Designer

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Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

I'm kinda 'meh on Backgrounds in general. I find them either too limiting for myself as a player. Or too setting specific for ease of use in other settings. So I hope if you'll forgive me for not being entirely sold on this idea.

The Exchange

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Pathfinder Modules Subscriber
Captain Morgan wrote:

But you gain more feats over time, even if you have less at level 1. (Frankly, I'm not sure we WILL have less at level 1. The "Level Up!" table showed us level 2 and 3, but level 1 was conspicuously absent.)

Also, this isn't a new problem. Quite often these flavorful decision in PF1 meant giving up direct mechanical...

You gain feats in exchange for losing a lot of things you already had.

Don't cut down my tree and then try to sell it back to me as fire wood!

Judging by the Ancestry feats we have already seen, they look to be about as impactful as the 5 race traits they replace. Now you just get them over course of 20 levels instead of all at once at first, and for what?

Greedy to get Proficiency in Appraise for a Dwarf vs Hardy is always going to be a really easy decision which means your Dwarf who grew up learning all about gems doesn't have that reflected until his second Ancestry feat, and even then only if he is willing to spend it on what is frankly a pretty underwhelming option.

It's the same problems. They've just distributed them differently and made it somewhat worse, not better.

Same thing here. The opportunity cost of passing on Magical Lineage is WAY lower than the opportunity cost of passing on Hardy as a Dwarf or your other various ancestry feat options, is it not?


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
GM Aerondor wrote:


That will still leave open the option for some backgrounds that break out of the mold, and give unusual benefits, such as the earlier mention bonus to a grapple, or trait like things in terms if a bonus to init, or +1 damage with an acid spell etc

Giving Combat bonuses to Backgrounds would be a mistake, as long as they stick to lore training and a skill feat, they avoid creating obviously superior options and thus all options are technically viable.

If not only combat relevant backgrounds would be picked.

**Edited a word**


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eddv wrote:

You gain feats in exchange for losing a lot of things you already had.

Don't cut down my tree and then try to sell it back to me the fire wood!

Judging by the Ancestry feats we have already seen, they look to be about as impactful as the 5 race traits they replace. Now you just get them over course of 20 levels instead of all at once at first, and for what?

Greedy to get Proficiency in Appraise for a Dwarf vs Hardy is always going to be a really easy decision which means your Dwarf who grew up learning all about gems doesn't have that reflected until his second Ancestry feat, and even then only if he is willing to spend it on what is frankly a pretty underwhelming option.

It's the same problems. They've just distributed them differently and made it somewhat worse, not better.

Same thing here. The opportunity cost of passing on Magical Lineage is WAY lower than the opportunity cost of passing on Hardy as a Dwarf or your other various ancestry feat options, is it not?

I actually have this same concern about ancestry feats specifically. Really hoping it isn't the case.

Though in the long-run, we are going to wind up with more things. Potentially significantly more things, if the Rogue is a fair example. But there's definitely reason to be unhappy if our early levels feel barren, at least if high level play continues to be much rarer.

One potential solution is if Skill Feats wind up being really cool. I do doubt a Skill Feat and a Lore will be significantly worse than 2 of the AVERAGE traits, because the average trait was crap. It will just be less modular if they are packaged together.

On Magical Lineage specifically though: Aaaaw heeeeell no. That trait is INSANELY good on on the right builds. Hardy is nice to have, but Magical Lineage changes the way you play.

This seems to be drifting further and further from discussing backgrounds though...


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I find it odd people are finding these backgrounds too fluff constricting when they look pretty easy to make new backgrounds, and barely anyone complained about the fluff constrictions of "Because of how ancestry works now, you have to always remain as part of your original culture because otherwise it wont make sense to keep getting cultural powers from them as you level up."


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Milo v3 wrote:
I find it odd people are finding these backgrounds too fluff constricting when they look pretty easy to make new backgrounds

Some of us don't play in games where it's easy/possible to change mechanics at a whim.

Milo v3 wrote:
barely anyone complained about the fluff constrictions of "Because of how ancestry works now, you have to always remain as part of your original culture because otherwise it wont make sense to keep getting cultural powers from them as you level up."

I think you haven't seen this is because we don't KNOW what ancestry and culture is really going to look like and/or how it's all going to shake unlike the real template on how they work we have here.

The Exchange

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Pathfinder Modules Subscriber

I think back then the full weight of how much more structured and rigid things are hadn't fully set in yet honestly, Milo.

I have utterly no faith in Skill Feats being cool just because well if Paizo were capable of doing something cool with skills they'd have done it by now in first edition.

But even if they are, we're already getting a lot of them in our career and I just don't see how they could possibly make up for what's been lost.


The PDF copies of the books are also a good deal. They are cheaper than the physical books and a lot light as well.

On the background. It sounds alright. It lets me have a lot of control in building my character. As for being more simple, I do not see it, on the other hand I know the rules for PF1 good enough that I build characters without needing to look at my books so I thought PF1 was simple already.


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eddv wrote:

You gain feats in exchange for losing a lot of things you already had.

Don't cut down my tree and then try to sell it back to me the fire wood!

Judging by the Ancestry feats we have already seen, they look to be about as impactful as the 5 race traits they replace. Now you just get them over course of 20 levels instead of all at once at first, and for what?

Greedy to get Proficiency in Appraise for a Dwarf vs Hardy is always going to be a really easy decision which means your Dwarf who grew up learning all about gems doesn't have that reflected until his second Ancestry feat, and even then only if he is willing to spend it on what is frankly a pretty underwhelming option.

It's the same problems. They've just distributed them differently and made it somewhat worse, not better.

Same thing here. The opportunity cost of passing on Magical Lineage is WAY lower than the opportunity cost of passing on Hardy as a Dwarf or your other various ancestry feat options, is it not?

I'm glad you know so much about the ancestry feats barely anyone's seen yet. How about you tell us more?

Seriously, you're complaining about the balance of things we've barely seen, and what we have seen is level 1-3 stuff. How about actually looking at material before crying that it's unbalanced?

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Pathfinder Modules Subscriber

If they don't want me judging the system based on the content that they have released, I don't know what they are releasing content for at all.

Maybe some better stuff will be level locked. That is a thing that might in fact be true. But they haven't revealed any of it, which doesn't give your ironclad faith that its a good system much purchase.


graystone wrote:
I think you haven't seen this is because we don't KNOW what ancestry and culture is really going to look like and/or how it's all going to shake unlike the real template on how they work we have here.

Except we do already know that as you increase in level you do get Ancestry Feats which can only be spent on gaining non-biological traits from your ancestries (with the biological feats being only selectable at first level). Regardless of how you intend to fluff your character, the mechanics in PF2e are that you increase your ties to your ancestries culture as you level up, so you will to either ignore fluff or write your fluff that your ties to the ancestries cultures are on-going regardless of the plot of the campaign.

Silver Crusade

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graystone wrote:
Milo v3 wrote:
barely anyone complained about the fluff constrictions of "Because of how ancestry works now, you have to always remain as part of your original culture because otherwise it wont make sense to keep getting cultural powers from them as you level up."
I think you haven't seen this is because we don't KNOW what ancestry and culture is really going to look like and/or how it's all going to shake unlike the real template on how they work we have here.

This seems right to me. I expect there will be a lot of conversation around ancestries once we see the full rules. But so far we just don't have a good handle on how it plays as a full system.

E.g., I'm probably going to have strong feelings about which feats are Heritage feats and how those are handled. But that's not something I can really dig into from the minimal previews we have. I mean, what even will a level 15 elf feat look like? Might be pretty wild.

Backgrounds, in contrast, I think we pretty much get the idea from what we have here.

The Exchange

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Pathfinder Modules Subscriber

I do think many people are hoping that Ancestry ends up encompassing things other than just race (otherwise why the name change).

I think largely that the idea that you become more Dwarven as you level, while in most cases living and adventuring in places that are anything but Dwarven is among the sillier things about the system though, yes.


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eddv wrote:
which doesn't give your ironclad faith that its a good system much purchase.

There is nothing for you to purchase, and won't be for over a year.

You don't need to have faith. All you need to do is test out the system.

If you want the system to be different next year, you need to give feedback.

But that's it. No faith needed.


MerlinCross wrote:
XBow Enthusiast wrote:

I think this is a brilliant system. If only because it helps address perhaps the most frustrating problem I had when I was a player and DM for a School Pathfinder Club, that problem being players would only min/max and take traits and classes purely for mechanical advantage and in doing so create no background or worse yet, poorly justified over dramatic tragedies that for some reason culminated in their characters being some sort of superpowered murder machine.

I think this helps players focus on a more grounded and plausible Character, one that had a past, has a present, and if they play right, will have a future.

Another note is that outside of adventure paths, most of these backgrounds are generic enough to be slotted into pretty much any setting. I've certainly never heard of a fantasy setting that didn't have Blacksmiths, Urchins and the like.

Hmm really? My min maxers didn't even TRY to give a reason.

The only issue here for players that don't min max and just want to make an actual character is "What to do if an Existing background doesn't fit my idea". I had that for 5e often with their backgrounds and was told 3 times "No you can't make your own" at their organized games.

And if some Backgrounds do a bit more, the min maxers will flock to those anyway. So at this rate we're stuck with pretty average picks. They don't feel like I'm picking a back ground. They just feel, meh.

Yeah I get that sentiment. I can't really speak for organized play, I was unfortunately turned off from it by some frankly horrible experiences at said school club, though admittedly we should have had PFS restrictions in place to begin with. But that's another point entirely.

I guess your best bet is use official means and request this be clarified. I can't say for sure though I could just be making an idiotic response, I have no idea how Paizo responds to that sort of feedback


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Interestingly enough, now that we know how backgrounds work, I noticed some named while going through previous blog posts.

Broken down by when they were noted:
Dwarf: acolyte, nomad, warrior, barkeep, blacksmith, farmhand, and merchant
Elf: hunter, noble, scholar, acrobat, entertainer, or scout
Halfling: entertainer, acrobat, street urchin, criminal or laborer
Gnome: entertainer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, or farmhand

There are a few duplicates here, but that looks to be 17 of them.

The list: acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, farmhand

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Pathfinder Modules Subscriber
CrystalSeas wrote:
eddv wrote:
which doesn't give your ironclad faith that its a good system much purchase.

There is nothing for you to purchase, and won't be for over a year.

You don't need to have faith. All you need to do is test out the system.

If you want the system to be different next year, you need to give feedback.

But that's it. No faith needed.

...purchase when used as a noun has a slightly different meaning.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
eddv wrote:
I think largely that the idea that you become more Dwarven as you level, while in most cases living and adventuring in places that are anything but Dwarven is among the sillier things about the system though, yes.

Oh, I don't know, that sounds about right to me.

"If I am going to spend the next thirty years surround by non-dwarfs, you will not IMAGINE how Dwarfish I will become in response. I might not have liked beer back in the mountains, but just TRY to take it form me now..."

Also, I think they mentioned that its also possible to pick up other culture's stuff with your ancestry feat. So that Dwarf that emigrated to Taldor might become the most stereotypical dwarf to ever dwarf, or he may learn to appreciate the wonders of, say, espresso and more or less pick all his ancestry feats as if he was a human native to Taldor.

At least, taht's how I read it. I suppose we'll see.


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Awesome! But wish they each had like some unique special ability(s) like 5e and SF. That way they are more than just "plug in your 2 boosts, + skill feat + lore" and actually have unique stuff that makes them special!

Otherwise the splatbooks are not gonna offer much in the way of backgrounds besides "some permutation you could have done yourself + some lore on it". The campaign traits in the past were really cool! Wanna see some of those exlcusive powers still in 2e.

Paizo Employee Designer

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ChibiNyan wrote:

Awesome! But wish they each had like some unique special ability(s) like 5e and SF. That way they are more than just "plug in your 2 boosts, + skill feat + lore" and actually have unique stuff that makes them special!

Otherwise the splatbooks are not gonna offer much in the way of backgrounds besides "some permutation you could have done yourself + some lore on it". The campaign traits in the past were really cool! Wanna see some of those exlcusive powers still in 2e.

The trouble with that idea is that we want backgrounds to be fun but flexible, allowing you to try out all sorts of combinations for your characters. But if they had a unique and desirable ability you can't get anywhere else, suddenly they become extremely inflexible: you have to take the background that gives you a particular unique ability or you will never be able to get that ability. Does that make sense?


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Also, if they had super unique abilities then it would be abit weird because you couldn't learn how to be a "real" blacksmith after 1st level.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
BENSLAYER wrote:
AnimatedPaper wrote:
BENSLAYER wrote:
For all of the commentary that has been provided by others about previously revealed aspects of the game, for me nothing stands close to Character creation. A singly defined, enforced successful/skillful Character that has little reason to adventure, (unless that is the specific Background picked/they have a tragic, upending backstory TM), that can really only be useful following your own Character concept if the Ancestry/Background aligns with the Class is ... greatly off-putting.

Would you care to expand on this? I'm not sure I understand your position, but I am sure that you're speaking for more than yourself.

Are you saying that backgrounds, as they stand, miss the mark in actually explaining why you chose to adventure? Like I said, I don't think I understand you fully.
It is that they are too defining, too baked in with mechanics. My previous reply to @Cyouni hopefully clarifies things a bit. If not, in summary : I view these "pregen" Backgrounds as too limiting for Character concepts right from the get-go. I enjoy creating multi-faceted Characters, willingly taking "fluff" Traits that may or may not be particularly helpful. With the current setup I see my Character as having to pick only part of my concept, with a possibility of it even misrepresenting what part of the "fluff" I want. My take is this system is more geared towards picking a Primary (and possibly Secondary) Ability Score, with concepts sometimes losing out - it all depends on your concept.

Yes, your other post cleared it up pretty well, thanks.

I'm not quite as concerned as you, but I will concede that the backgrounds we've been given as example are even less flexible than the ones in 5E PHB. Mind, the 5E ones hit the sweet spot for me; I've used them to fit nearly every character concept I've had so far (I once had to pulled a refugee background from the internet, but that was it. Outlander came close but didn't quite fit).

Given the examples here, I'm less sanguine I'll be able to pull it off again.


AnimatedPaper wrote:


I'm not quite as concerned as you, but I will concede that the backgrounds we've been given as example are even less flexible than the ones in 5E PHB.

Huh????

PF ones we know of so far: acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, farmhand

5e ones: Acolyte, charlatan (could easily be a noble, entertainer, criminal, merchant or a nomad depend on the style of charlatan you are), Criminal, Entertainer, Folk Hero (Farm Hand matches what folk hero meant in 5e, but could also potentially be street urchin, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, or barkeep depending on the origin of your folk hero), Guild Artisan (could easily be blacksmith, laborer, or merchant), Hermit (can easily be acolyte, nomad, or scholar), Noble, Outlander (hunter, scout, nomad, or animal whisperer), Sage (Scholar), Sailor (laborer, nomad, merchant, warrior), Soldier (Warrior, or Scout), Urchin (Street Urchin).

Contributor

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Mark Seifter wrote:
ChibiNyan wrote:

Awesome! But wish they each had like some unique special ability(s) like 5e and SF. That way they are more than just "plug in your 2 boosts, + skill feat + lore" and actually have unique stuff that makes them special!

Otherwise the splatbooks are not gonna offer much in the way of backgrounds besides "some permutation you could have done yourself + some lore on it". The campaign traits in the past were really cool! Wanna see some of those exlcusive powers still in 2e.

The trouble with that idea is that we want backgrounds to be fun but flexible, allowing you to try out all sorts of combinations for your characters. But if they had a unique and desirable ability you can't get anywhere else, suddenly they become extremely inflexible: you have to take the background that gives you a particular unique ability or you will never be able to get that ability. Does that make sense?

I agree with this. One of the newer Starfinder themes has what is basically trap spotter as a theme ability, and it left me thinking, "Oh. I guess I won't be able to pick this up anywhere else then."

Not really a great feeling. I think what you've got here works fine, you just need to figure out the role that the Core Rulebook ones serve storytelling wise. (I.e. should they be niche or generalized. Right now the ones that have been shared are a mix of both in ways that don't always feel great. See Blacksmithing as a "generic crafter" that comes with the specific flavor of a blacksmith, as opposed to a simple Apprenticeship.)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Milo v3 wrote:
AnimatedPaper wrote:


I'm not quite as concerned as you, but I will concede that the backgrounds we've been given as example are even less flexible than the ones in 5E PHB.

Huh????

PF ones we know of so far: acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, farmhand

5e ones: Acolyte, charlatan (could easily be a noble, entertainer, criminal, merchant or a nomad depend on the style of charlatan you are), Criminal, Entertainer, Folk Hero (could easily be street urchin, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, or farmhand depending on the origin of your folk hero), Guild Artisan (could easily be blacksmith, laborer, or merchant), Hermit (can easily be acolyte, nomad, or scholar), Noble, Outlander (hunter, scout, nomad, or animal whisperer), Sage (Scholar), Sailor (laborer, nomad, merchant, warrior), Soldier (Warrior, or Scout), Urchin (Street Urchin).

And in PF2, all will have the same skill feat and lore skill, which is definitely pointing you towards a certain path. Like the blacksmith example; this could have been equivalent to Guild Artisan, and allowed you to pick any Crafting skill, as opposed to specifically blacksmithing. For 5E characters I've thrown together, I've used Guild Artisan to represent a leather worker, a jewelcrafter, a blacksmith, a glass worker, and a merchant. That's simply not possible with the blacksmith, although it possibly might between blacksmith, laborer, and merchant.

I don't want to derail this thread, which should be about the background for this game instead of the other, but as a point of comparison, I can see where others are concerned.
Edit: I might have misread the feat Blacksmiths get, but I honestly can't tell if I did or not. It might be a Specialty Crafting (blacksmithing), or your blacksmithing past gives you the Specialty Crafting feat.


Mark Seifter wrote:
ChibiNyan wrote:

Awesome! But wish they each had like some unique special ability(s) like 5e and SF. That way they are more than just "plug in your 2 boosts, + skill feat + lore" and actually have unique stuff that makes them special!

Otherwise the splatbooks are not gonna offer much in the way of backgrounds besides "some permutation you could have done yourself + some lore on it". The campaign traits in the past were really cool! Wanna see some of those exlcusive powers still in 2e.

The trouble with that idea is that we want backgrounds to be fun but flexible, allowing you to try out all sorts of combinations for your characters. But if they had a unique and desirable ability you can't get anywhere else, suddenly they become extremely inflexible: you have to take the background that gives you a particular unique ability or you will never be able to get that ability. Does that make sense?

Yup. This also makes it easier to build these ourselves, which is nice. :D

Although, if you wanted to add more powerful background abilities, I suppose you could make them campaign specific? Make a small group which is even more flexible but only has to be balanced against each other.

Honestly, I feel like the 5e background unique abilities should have been campaign specific, since it felt like a crap shoot if that ability would ever come up.


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Mark Seifter wrote:
ChibiNyan wrote:

Awesome! But wish they each had like some unique special ability(s) like 5e and SF. That way they are more than just "plug in your 2 boosts, + skill feat + lore" and actually have unique stuff that makes them special!

Otherwise the splatbooks are not gonna offer much in the way of backgrounds besides "some permutation you could have done yourself + some lore on it". The campaign traits in the past were really cool! Wanna see some of those exlcusive powers still in 2e.

The trouble with that idea is that we want backgrounds to be fun but flexible, allowing you to try out all sorts of combinations for your characters. But if they had a unique and desirable ability you can't get anywhere else, suddenly they become extremely inflexible: you have to take the background that gives you a particular unique ability or you will never be able to get that ability. Does that make sense?

I guess the abilities don't have to be in the background... But maybe somewhere else then? Worried it'll take up the same design space so it won't happen.

Just don't see anywhere else to plug something like the "Hates Hobgoblins" one of Ironfang Invasion or "Is cool with Hellknights" from HV. Or even non-campaign ones like "You are an expert at navigating the roofs of old Korvosa"

They could be feats now, I suppose, but feats have never seemed to have that "lore-heavy, story-specific" feel that those abilities do. Or maybe there will be some to cover that kinda thing?

EDIT: It does make you compare Backgrounds to other things you have to pick like race, class, archetype and feats... Which do have those opportunity costs (And impact beyond level 1, which I thought was the design philosophy of this edition). That's kinda the point of choosing, isn't it? Not all options are just interchangeable with just different coat of paint.


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Mark Seifter wrote:
ChibiNyan wrote:

Awesome! But wish they each had like some unique special ability(s) like 5e and SF. That way they are more than just "plug in your 2 boosts, + skill feat + lore" and actually have unique stuff that makes them special!

Otherwise the splatbooks are not gonna offer much in the way of backgrounds besides "some permutation you could have done yourself + some lore on it". The campaign traits in the past were really cool! Wanna see some of those exlcusive powers still in 2e.

The trouble with that idea is that we want backgrounds to be fun but flexible, allowing you to try out all sorts of combinations for your characters. But if they had a unique and desirable ability you can't get anywhere else, suddenly they become extremely inflexible: you have to take the background that gives you a particular unique ability or you will never be able to get that ability. Does that make sense?

As opposed to every thing else? I don't see why background get a free pass.


I like how simple and easy character creation is turning out to be, while still giving plenty to do for more mechanically inclined folks as well. :)

On backgrounds: I've made characters I normally wouldn't have, thanks to odd background/race/class combinations. I like having them, especially as they're helpful for less creative types; but on the flipside of the same coin I also hope for a "build your own background" sidebar nonetheless, for those of us who want to personalize a character and make them "ours".


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MerlinCross wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
ChibiNyan wrote:

Awesome! But wish they each had like some unique special ability(s) like 5e and SF. That way they are more than just "plug in your 2 boosts, + skill feat + lore" and actually have unique stuff that makes them special!

Otherwise the splatbooks are not gonna offer much in the way of backgrounds besides "some permutation you could have done yourself + some lore on it". The campaign traits in the past were really cool! Wanna see some of those exlcusive powers still in 2e.

The trouble with that idea is that we want backgrounds to be fun but flexible, allowing you to try out all sorts of combinations for your characters. But if they had a unique and desirable ability you can't get anywhere else, suddenly they become extremely inflexible: you have to take the background that gives you a particular unique ability or you will never be able to get that ability. Does that make sense?
As opposed to every thing else? I don't see why background get a free pass.

Because backgrounds should be selected pretty much entirely for story reasons. Class feats, not so much.


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Captain Morgan wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
ChibiNyan wrote:

Awesome! But wish they each had like some unique special ability(s) like 5e and SF. That way they are more than just "plug in your 2 boosts, + skill feat + lore" and actually have unique stuff that makes them special!

Otherwise the splatbooks are not gonna offer much in the way of backgrounds besides "some permutation you could have done yourself + some lore on it". The campaign traits in the past were really cool! Wanna see some of those exlcusive powers still in 2e.

The trouble with that idea is that we want backgrounds to be fun but flexible, allowing you to try out all sorts of combinations for your characters. But if they had a unique and desirable ability you can't get anywhere else, suddenly they become extremely inflexible: you have to take the background that gives you a particular unique ability or you will never be able to get that ability. Does that make sense?
As opposed to every thing else? I don't see why background get a free pass.
Because backgrounds should be selected pretty much entirely for story reasons. Class feats, not so much.

I suppose no one picks Class for story reasons. Or any race.

The Exchange

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Pathfinder Modules Subscriber
Mark Seifter wrote:
ChibiNyan wrote:

Awesome! But wish they each had like some unique special ability(s) like 5e and SF. That way they are more than just "plug in your 2 boosts, + skill feat + lore" and actually have unique stuff that makes them special!

Otherwise the splatbooks are not gonna offer much in the way of backgrounds besides "some permutation you could have done yourself + some lore on it". The campaign traits in the past were really cool! Wanna see some of those exlcusive powers still in 2e.

The trouble with that idea is that we want backgrounds to be fun but flexible, allowing you to try out all sorts of combinations for your characters. But if they had a unique and desirable ability you can't get anywhere else, suddenly they become extremely inflexible: you have to take the background that gives you a particular unique ability or you will never be able to get that ability. Does that make sense?

While this is absolutely right, I am just not certain I see the virtue in having this background system as anything but a crutch for new players if its going to expressed using a formula like this

The Exchange

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Pathfinder Modules Subscriber
Captain Morgan wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
ChibiNyan wrote:

Awesome! But wish they each had like some unique special ability(s) like 5e and SF. That way they are more than just "plug in your 2 boosts, + skill feat + lore" and actually have unique stuff that makes them special!

Otherwise the splatbooks are not gonna offer much in the way of backgrounds besides "some permutation you could have done yourself + some lore on it". The campaign traits in the past were really cool! Wanna see some of those exlcusive powers still in 2e.

The trouble with that idea is that we want backgrounds to be fun but flexible, allowing you to try out all sorts of combinations for your characters. But if they had a unique and desirable ability you can't get anywhere else, suddenly they become extremely inflexible: you have to take the background that gives you a particular unique ability or you will never be able to get that ability. Does that make sense?
As opposed to every thing else? I don't see why background get a free pass.
Because backgrounds should be selected pretty much entirely for story reasons. Class feats, not so much.

Well those are the questions we need to be asking. Do you actually NEED your character's backstory expressed mechanically and if so, does this really help you do that?

Paizo has already weighed in on the negative here somewhat with what they did to ancestry, gutting them of so much of the flavor detail in favor of ancestry feats. Its to the point where mechanically the difference between gnome and halfling is practically non-existent. So to some extent they're all roleplay decisions. Otherwise we would all play goblins and elves because they're mechanically superior to the other revealed options.

So I suppose it is almost to be expected that Background too would ultimately mostly be expressed in the form of a single skill feat and a lore skill proficiency.

But does having them divided into pre-done sets provide any boon over not? Does being able to write "Blacksmith" or "Acolyte" on your character sheet on a line that says background actually contribute more than just taking the skill feat involved and roleplaying as a blacksmith or a low level priest?


MerlinCross wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
ChibiNyan wrote:

Awesome! But wish they each had like some unique special ability(s) like 5e and SF. That way they are more than just "plug in your 2 boosts, + skill feat + lore" and actually have unique stuff that makes them special!

Otherwise the splatbooks are not gonna offer much in the way of backgrounds besides "some permutation you could have done yourself + some lore on it". The campaign traits in the past were really cool! Wanna see some of those exlcusive powers still in 2e.

The trouble with that idea is that we want backgrounds to be fun but flexible, allowing you to try out all sorts of combinations for your characters. But if they had a unique and desirable ability you can't get anywhere else, suddenly they become extremely inflexible: you have to take the background that gives you a particular unique ability or you will never be able to get that ability. Does that make sense?
As opposed to every thing else? I don't see why background get a free pass.
Because backgrounds should be selected pretty much entirely for story reasons. Class feats, not so much.
I suppose no one picks Class for story reasons. Or any race.

I'm sure most people do, but everyone remembers those people who only pick things for pure mechanical advantage.

Dark Archive

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Biztak wrote:
GM Aerondor wrote:


That will still leave open the option for some backgrounds that break out of the mold, and give unusual benefits, such as the earlier mention bonus to a grapple, or trait like things in terms if a bonus to init, or +1 damage with an acid spell etc

Giving Combat bonuses to Backgrounds would be a mistake, as long as they stick to lore training and a skill feat, they avoid creating obviously superior options and thus all options are technically viable.

If not only combat relevant backgrounds would be picked.

**Edited a word**

Whole-heartedly agree with this; IME players will most often go for traits that grant bonuses to init, damage or confirmation rolls. I'd prefer traits being completely divorced from those types of boosts.


It looks interesting to me. With stat boosts associated with backgrounds will there be a stat cap of 20 like in 5th ed?


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Somebody mentioned this above, but I want to put it in a separate message: One potential problem with these Backgrounds replacing Traits is that mathematically you are guaranteed to get less flexibility, because you are actually replacing **2** Traits with 1 Background, or potentially even replacing more Traits if somebody uses a Drawback or Additional Traits to get more. If you have 20 Backgrounds, you get 20 Backgrounds. If you have 20 Traits (and Pathfinder 1st Edition went WAY past this back when dinosaurs didn't just live in museums), you get 400 possible combinations. Now, it's actually less, because you aren't allowed to pick 2 Traits from the same list, but it's still a lot.

The existing Traits system certainly had flaws in its implementation (including some Traits being just objectively a lot better or a lot worse than others), and limitations created by the relatively small part of your character that was allowed to come from them, but even so, the combinatorial aspect was a great idea that the Backgrounds system simply won't have room for (apart from the mild multiplier created by the floating ability score boost).


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One upside of this, though, is not going to the new player all like "Got any idea of what you're picking for your 2 traits? Here's the list of one thousand + of them!". It was always rough to have newbies pick their traits... As a GM, I don't wanna make ALL their lv1 choices. Even if backgrounds expand to 50+, it should become very easy to find the one that fits.


eddv wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
ChibiNyan wrote:

Awesome! But wish they each had like some unique special ability(s) like 5e and SF. That way they are more than just "plug in your 2 boosts, + skill feat + lore" and actually have unique stuff that makes them special!

Otherwise the splatbooks are not gonna offer much in the way of backgrounds besides "some permutation you could have done yourself + some lore on it". The campaign traits in the past were really cool! Wanna see some of those exlcusive powers still in 2e.

The trouble with that idea is that we want backgrounds to be fun but flexible, allowing you to try out all sorts of combinations for your characters. But if they had a unique and desirable ability you can't get anywhere else, suddenly they become extremely inflexible: you have to take the background that gives you a particular unique ability or you will never be able to get that ability. Does that make sense?
As opposed to every thing else? I don't see why background get a free pass.
Because backgrounds should be selected pretty much entirely for story reasons. Class feats, not so much.

Well those are the questions we need to be asking. Do you actually NEED your character's backstory expressed mechanically and if so, does this really help you do that?

Paizo has already weighed in on the negative here somewhat with what they did to ancestry, gutting them of so much of the flavor detail in favor of ancestry feats. Its to the point where mechanically the difference between gnome and halfling is practically non-existent. So to some extent they're all roleplay decisions. Otherwise we would all play goblins and elves because they're mechanically superior to the other revealed options.

So I suppose it is almost to be expected that Background too would ultimately mostly be expressed in the form of a single skill feat and a lore skill proficiency.

But does having them divided into pre-done sets provide...

Actually, this conversation made me reflect on what has been revealed for ancestries, and I think there's gotta be more that you get at level 1. Otherwise, while a Gnome and halfling may not differ much, a dwarf is just straight up better than both of them, and a goblin seems pretty close to it as well. Seems unlikely they would have screwed the ancestry balance up this early on.


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UnArcaneElection wrote:

Somebody mentioned this above, but I want to put it in a separate message: One potential problem with these Backgrounds replacing Traits is that mathematically you are guaranteed to get less flexibility, because you are actually replacing **2** Traits with 1 Background, or potentially even replacing more Traits if somebody uses a Drawback or Additional Traits to get more. If you have 20 Backgrounds, you get 20 Backgrounds. If you have 20 Traits (and Pathfinder 1st Edition went WAY past this back when dinosaurs didn't just live in museums), you get 400 possible combinations. Now, it's actually less, because you aren't allowed to pick 2 Traits from the same list, but it's still a lot.

The existing Traits system certainly had flaws in its implementation (including some Traits being just objectively a lot better or a lot worse than others), and limitations created by the relatively small part of your character that was allowed to come from them, but even so, the combinatorial aspect was a great idea that the Backgrounds system simply won't have room for (apart from the mild multiplier created by the floating ability score boost).

It looks like there is still a use for something like traits to still exist. Maybe just have traits as they exist now and have one background and one trait to customize it. Or maybe a second trait if you pick one for a given AP.

Or maybe have some kind of sub-background. Where you'd get a main background and then a secondary background that doesn't give the stats and such but modifies the first one in some way. So you can have an Entertainer background with Farmhand as a sub-background for a farm kid who ran away with the circus. How this would work mechanically, I have no clue, I'm just brainstorming. The sub-backgrounds can be a different list that deals with a different aspect of your back story. Like Orphan to represent losing parents (a really common one), which shouldn't necessarily be the main background but can color it. So Blacksmith/Orphan could be someone who apprenticed with a blacksmith after losing their parents, while Blacksmith/Spoiled could be the favored child of the blacksmith given special treatment. This would both allow for more complicated backstories, and give something more mechanically varied.

Alternately you can use feats for this role. But feats are already carrying a lot of weight, and even with the increased number you get, seem like they might be running a bit thin. Especially at character creation where you're already going to be short on them.


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Doktor Weasel wrote:
UnArcaneElection wrote:

Somebody mentioned this above, but I want to put it in a separate message: One potential problem with these Backgrounds replacing Traits is that mathematically you are guaranteed to get less flexibility, because you are actually replacing **2** Traits with 1 Background, or potentially even replacing more Traits if somebody uses a Drawback or Additional Traits to get more. If you have 20 Backgrounds, you get 20 Backgrounds. If you have 20 Traits (and Pathfinder 1st Edition went WAY past this back when dinosaurs didn't just live in museums), you get 400 possible combinations. Now, it's actually less, because you aren't allowed to pick 2 Traits from the same list, but it's still a lot.

The existing Traits system certainly had flaws in its implementation (including some Traits being just objectively a lot better or a lot worse than others), and limitations created by the relatively small part of your character that was allowed to come from them, but even so, the combinatorial aspect was a great idea that the Backgrounds system simply won't have room for (apart from the mild multiplier created by the floating ability score boost).

It looks like there is still a use for something like traits to still exist. Maybe just have traits as they exist now and have one background and one trait to customize it. Or maybe a second trait if you pick one for a given AP.

Or maybe have some kind of sub-background. Where you'd get a main background and then a secondary background that doesn't give the stats and such but modifies the first one in some way. So you can have an Entertainer background with Farmhand as a sub-background for a farm kid who ran away with the circus. How this would work mechanically, I have no clue, I'm just brainstorming. The sub-backgrounds can be a different list that deals with a different aspect of your back story. Like Orphan to represent losing parents (a really common one), which shouldn't necessarily be the main background but can color it. So...

A campaign specific trait in addition to a background seems like a solid idea. Campaign traits are pretty much the only traits I think are salvageable. Keep them limited to a specific campaign and those dozen or so only need to be balanced against each other, and your players have a much smaller list to choose from.

That could also be how we get those unique 5e background boons some folks wanted.

Liberty's Edge

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Joe M. wrote:
Crayon wrote:
Can't say I'm a fan of bundling mechanics with background - it always seems to result in clumsy mechanics and cookie-cutter backgrounds. This is, probably one of the better implementations I've seen, but I do have a question - since all the Backgrounds shown thus far share a similar template, what's the intent behind having the individual Backgrounds?

Not speculating about the designers' specific thoughts here but one major advantage of this system is that it's intuitive for new players to pick up and build their character, both in terms of helping them craft a quick story and in terms of mechanics.

Imagine the alternative completely free system and I can see that as too much of a burden of choice-anxiety on new players.

Considering that the worst result I have seen of rolling dices was a total buy point value of -7 and the best was 81, it is too dicey. (BTW, I allowed unlimited rerolls for people under 10 buy points and the guy that rolled a -3 still ended with a buy point value of 14 in a game where the highest buy point value was something like 37. In the first edition of AD&D that didn't mattered much, from third edition onward where all values make a difference, it matter.)

Liberty's Edge

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1of1 wrote:
Ectar wrote:
Am I the only one bothered that Pathfinder Society Lore is a skill?

It's a bit weird, and it kind of makes me worried that lore skills are just kind of made up as you go along and rely on GM interpretation to do anything.

"I don't know, let me check."

No (unless we have very few skill points). I have been always bothered by how "large" is the field of application of some skill.

Knowledge (local). I are teleported to a location 2 light hors away and I know everything about it because iI have a high Knowledge (local) bother me.
I have knowledge (history) at +27 so I recall the name of every king of every dynasty of the world, even if 10 second before I had no idea that kingdom existed.
Lore, like it appears in the Unchained book, seem more appropriate for that kind of stuff. It will encompass more than simply knowing the kingdom history (it will include some geography, a lesser knowledge of the adjacent nations, local religions and so on) but it will not give inormation on another kingdom on the other side of the world unless they interacted in some way.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Ectar wrote:
AnimatedPaper wrote:
Ectar wrote:
Am I the only one bothered that Pathfinder Society Lore is a skill?

Depends, what bothers you about it?

Assuming it works like background skills in Unchained, the actual skill is "Lore" which you can select more than once. Your focus within the skill is "Pathfinder Society." Equally valid choice

Think of it like a very specialized knowledge skill. It's not something everyone is going to have, or even have the option to select.

I'm not the biggest fan of marrying the mechanics and the lore of Golarion, but whatever.

Pathfinder Society Lore just seems really narrow in scope compared to Underworld lore. Maybe on par with Smithing lore, but at least smithing is easy for a GM to implement. You know stuff about turning hunks of metal into shapes of metal.
Pathfinder Society lore requires their to be a Pathfinder Society in a given game (which may or may not be easy to the GM to throw together an analogous organization for a homebrew setting). Second, it requires the GM to know things about the organization for the player's choice to be meaningful.
Plus, with smithinhg you can frequently attempt to learn things about your foes and stuff. Even if the Pathfinder Society exists in a given game, if the adventure at hand doesn't involve the Society then the skill is worthless.

Plus, most of the times as a PFS player I had to interact with an NPC, the NPC assumed we were murdering graverobbers that were little if at at all better than the Aspis.
Who aspires to join an organization with THAT reputation?

TL;DR- Pathfinder Society Lore seems too narrow compared to the other lore skills and I don't particularly like it's inclusion in the beginning.

The background with Pathfinder Lore is for a specific adventure of the playtest, not the general book. So it is for a specific story. Same as the adventure traits in the current AP. I don't see problems with that.

The opinion about Pathfinders? Not common in Golarion lore. Maybe there were reasons for that in the specific adventure or the GM had problems with the organization and treated it as something "bad".

Liberty's Edge

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A little worried about how granular Pathfinder Society Lore sounds for a skill...


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Mark Seifter wrote:
ChibiNyan wrote:

Awesome! But wish they each had like some unique special ability(s) like 5e and SF. That way they are more than just "plug in your 2 boosts, + skill feat + lore" and actually have unique stuff that makes them special!

Otherwise the splatbooks are not gonna offer much in the way of backgrounds besides "some permutation you could have done yourself + some lore on it". The campaign traits in the past were really cool! Wanna see some of those exlcusive powers still in 2e.

The trouble with that idea is that we want backgrounds to be fun but flexible, allowing you to try out all sorts of combinations for your characters. But if they had a unique and desirable ability you can't get anywhere else, suddenly they become extremely inflexible: you have to take the background that gives you a particular unique ability or you will never be able to get that ability. Does that make sense?

For me, they seem the opposite of what you state. With backgrounds, they seems inflexible: there is only ever one cog that you can have... pick your feat, skill and 2 stat bumps...

Traits allowed great flexibility, allowing skills, bonuses, senses, abilities, items, gp, ect... While some where unique, there where a multitude of unique options to pick from: there wasn't a universal 'best trait'.

So for me, the entire background section could be a chart [background name, set stat, feat, skill] and 'In addition, take a +2 to a stat other than the one on the chart'. Heck, it could be a sidebar as small as it would be. For me, that's not as "fun" as the old trait system.

PS: as an additional note, I don't think people will treat background any different than they did traits: if they ignored the trait fluff in traits, they most likely will continue to do so in backgrounds.


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Traits were legit awful design. Too many of them, too badly balanced, too much function tied to flavor. Arbitrary rules like not being able to take 2 from the same category. If I was raised in a church, why can't I have 2 faith traits?

They also didn't really fit the same role as backgrounds. Backgrounds have a lot more in common with some of the optional skill rules from Unchained. They let you get some minor flavor benefits without having a huge opportunity cost. Unless there are some crazy broken skill feats only associated with a couple of backgrounds, it seems unlikely that people will have any incentive to ignore flavor. There just doesn't seem like there would be enough mechanical differences to justify it. Where as trait differences were often significant, and some could completely change how you play.

I'm cool with losing some choices and flexibility on traits specifically if I can gain it back in other areas.


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graystone wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:


The trouble with that idea is that we want backgrounds to be fun but flexible, allowing you to try out all sorts of combinations for your characters. But if they had a unique and desirable ability you can't get anywhere else, suddenly they become extremely inflexible: you have to take the background that gives you a particular unique ability or you will never be able to get that ability. Does that make sense?

For me, they seem the opposite of what you state. With backgrounds, they seems inflexible: there is only ever one cog that you can have... pick your feat, skill and 2 stat bumps...

Traits allowed great flexibility, allowing skills, bonuses, senses, abilities, items, gp, ect... While some where unique, there where a multitude of unique options to pick from: there wasn't a universal 'best trait'.

Very much agree with Graystone here.

The 1E trait system is one of the places that brings wonderful variety to the game.

Of the previous blog posts many have had me excited to try the new area in 2E. Some have left me thinking I need to see how that works out in practice. This is the first one that's left me thinking "this is much blander and less exciting than what we have now"

Dark Archive

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Hmm wrote:
Backgrounds Blog wrote:
After all, very few elves at the ripe age of 14 think to themselves, "Hey, I think I'm going to become a barbarian."

Am I the only one who thought... Well, that’s because they’d still be in diapers then?

Hmm

I actually thought this was the opposite - stealth confirmation that they’ve made the long lived ancestry’s starting ages more sensible


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I would much prefer it if the blacksmith background was called "Apprentice Artisan" and stated 'select one craft skill from this list, you gain the relevant crafting feat and lore.

It is perfectly do-able in a home game, but having it written into the rules makes it available for situations where the referral isn't so comfortable going off piste.

Then by extrapolation there is the background "Apprentice Tradesman" covering merchants, clerks, bar keepers and the like.

Mechanically speciality crafting:blacksmith is probably going to be better than speciality crafting:patisserie, but having both as an option is more fun.

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