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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Silver Crusade

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I have to be honest, after experiences with other systems who tried to do something like this, I am mostly worried about this one.


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Picture the scene - the party are sitting around their campfire chatting after a hard day's trek.

"So Dwalin, why did you leave home and become an adventurer then?"

"Well lad, where I'm from, if you weren't born posh the only job open was to be a blacksmith. There were literally no other options other than turning to crime, so I hit the road and never looked back."

"What about jewellery making or mining - aren't your lot famous for them too?"

"Nah, the elders and guildleaders said too much choice was too confusing for young dwarves, so they shut those businesses down."


eddv wrote:


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.

I see this as a positive trait. I don't think each and every single dwarf in the world should be good at stonnecuting and knowing stuff of masonry. My dwarf might be a pirate from the Shackles who has never been close to a mine, for example.


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Captain Morgan wrote:
Traits were legit awful design. Too many of them

There were too many that did the exact same thing, JUST like backgrounds. If you consolidated EVERY "+2 and skill becomes a class skill" traits into one trait, you'd get rid of 80% of them.

Captain Morgan wrote:
too badly balanced

I can say the same thing with archetypes, classes, spells, ect. and we kept THEM...

Captain Morgan wrote:
too much function tied to flavor.

*Looks at backgrounds* Are you SERIOUS? There is SO MUCH MORE of mechanics tied to 'flavor' in backgrounds: 2 to +2 stats, a feat and a skill is less to you?

Captain Morgan wrote:
Arbitrary rules like not being able to take 2 from the same category.

Really? *looks at urchin* SO every urchin EVERYWHERE in the entire world is able to pickpocket and THAT isn't arbitrary? And NONE of them has both better con [from surviving on less than sanitary food/water] AND picked up street wisdom?

Needless to say, I disagree with every point you've made if you are trying to make a point about how backgrounds are better than traits.


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graystone wrote:
*Looks at backgrounds* Are you SERIOUS? There is SO MUCH MORE of mechanics tied to 'flavor' in backgrounds: 2 to +2 stats, a feat and a skill is less to you?

The thing is, those +2 to stats and a feat are easy to get from anywhere else, even other backgrounds, specially the +2 to ability boost as one of them is free form anyways.

With traits, there were a lot of them that were "required" for certain builds. For example any of the traits that give you -1 level to metamagic and many spellcasting builds such as shocking grasp magus. Other stuff like extra +1 luck bonus, doing non-lethal damage with a sword to make combo with other class abilities that trigger with non-lethal damage, etc were also present


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gustavo iglesias wrote:
graystone wrote:
*Looks at backgrounds* Are you SERIOUS? There is SO MUCH MORE of mechanics tied to 'flavor' in backgrounds: 2 to +2 stats, a feat and a skill is less to you?
The thing is, those +2 to stats and a feat are easy to get from anywhere else, even other backgrounds, specially the +2 to ability boost as one of them is free form anyways.

That is an entirely different issue from 'flavor being tied to mechanics'.

gustavo iglesias wrote:
With traits, there were a lot of them that were "required" for certain builds. For example any of the traits that give you -1 level to metamagic and many spellcasting builds such as shocking grasp magus. Other stuff like extra +1 luck bonus, doing non-lethal damage with a sword to make combo with other class abilities that trigger with non-lethal damage, etc were also present

I don't see that as bad or different from the new way. IMO, it's NOT going to be much different that is someone wants/needs a particular set of +2's and a skill feat for a particular build in the new rules. You didn't fix the problem, you just made it look different.

EDIT: If you had an issue with 'everyone has the same trait', condensing the options down to 19 isn't going to improve that IMO.


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graystone wrote:
here were too many that did the exact same thing, JUST like backgrounds. If you consolidated EVERY "+2 and skill becomes a class skill" traits into one trait, you'd get rid of 80% of them.

The issue there is that if you actually took the flavor seriously, you NEEDED multiple traits that did the same thing, because someone might really want Knowledge (Local) but didn't specifically grow up in a tavern or whatever.

Quote:
I can say the same thing with archetypes, classes, spells, ect. and we kept THEM...

There were way less classes and archetypes than traits though, which makes separating the wheat from the chaff easier. They are also more interesting choices than traits USUALLY were.

Now, we probably had too many spells and they definitely weren't balanced well. And we CERTAINLY had too many feats. I'm pretty glad we will have less feats in existence for a while.

On a related note, if you compare, say, the Skill+General Traits of a level 20 PF2e character you get 15. If you take 10 general feats and 2 traits from PF1 you only have 12 choices. If we are talking about mechanical customization, PF2 comes out ahead without even having traits. Which is part of why I said Backgrounds really aren't replacing traits; feats seem to be replacing traits.

Quote:
*Looks at backgrounds* Are you SERIOUS? There is SO MUCH MORE of mechanics tied to 'flavor' in backgrounds: 2 to +2 stats, a feat and a skill is less to you?

The difference is background mechanics are flexible enough to work well for just about anything. Like, literally the only way being a blacksmith won't work for your character/class if you absolutely MUST dump both strength and wisdom. Or I guess if you really need a secondary stat bumped to 16 over 14? But neither of those seems like it would be a huge deal, given they are seem to be making it harder to dump any given stat and you get so many flexible boosts along the way.

By comparison, Blade of Mercy let you to deal non-lethal slashing damage at no penalty, which could combine with the Enforcer feat for a free Demoralize on every hit. The metamagic reduction traits let you start quickening spells 4 levels earlier, and do other disgusting things to amp blaster damage. Even the only traits I think are worth salvaging can be nutty powerful. Animal Whisperer gives you huge tools for avoiding animal encounters in Ironfang Invasion. (Spoiler: There are a lot of animals in Ironfang.)

The best traits are REALLY good. The best backgrounds are... about as good as any other background.

Quote:
Really? *looks at urchin* SO every urchin EVERYWHERE in the entire world is able to pickpocket and THAT isn't arbitrary? And NONE of them has both better con [from surviving on less than sanitary food/water] AND picked up street wisdom?

OK, you are right on this point. XD


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Not saying that Traits were perfect, and not saying that they didn't have a bunch of problems that badly needed fixing(*), but the basic idea was conducive to a lot more flexibility than this Background system seems to offer, unless the developers do a HUGE amount of work cranking out backgrounds . . . simply due to the combinatorial nature of Traits.

(*)This includes a few things, such as Magical Knack, Magical Lineage, and Wayang Spellhunter, that probably should have been on Feats and/or Class Talents instead of Traits.


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graystone wrote:


EDIT: If you had an issue with 'everyone has the same trait', condensing the options down to 19 isn't going to improve that IMO.

No, the issue is that some traits were vastly superior to others. It's more like what Mark said before: if traits give things that are "unique" and those unique things are useful for certain builds, then the trait becomes mandatory for the build.

That's not the case with backgrounds. You can pick the same stuff from other parts, so you can blend stuff. For example, if you really want to be a street urchin who got adopted by a local dwarven blacksmith and learned the job, you can pick blacksmith as a background, then spend one of your feats in pickpocketing and one of the skills you have to pick to learn Underworld Lore. Or go the other way around and pick Urchin as background, then spend a feat to learn blacksmithing stuff.

If blacksmithing gave you something unique, like the ability to use wheatstones and sharpen your sword, while street urching gave you the ability to magically disguise into crowds, and there is no way to pick any of them from anywhere else, then the decision to pick one bars the other. And if it happens that, mechanically, the wheatstones bonus is really good, everybody will be a blacksmith because it's the only way to gain that bonus.


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graystone wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:
graystone wrote:
*Looks at backgrounds* Are you SERIOUS? There is SO MUCH MORE of mechanics tied to 'flavor' in backgrounds: 2 to +2 stats, a feat and a skill is less to you?
The thing is, those +2 to stats and a feat are easy to get from anywhere else, even other backgrounds, specially the +2 to ability boost as one of them is free form anyways.
That is an entirely different issue from 'flavor being tied to mechanics'.

Actually, they are very much linked. Flavor being tied to mechanics is only a problem if I wind up having to sacrifice one for the other. If I can merely change to a different background (the one I want for flavor) without losing anything mechanically, then flavor isn't tied strongly enough to mechanics for it to be an issue.

I don't see that as bad or different from the new way. IMO, it's NOT going to be much different that is someone wants/needs a particular set of +2's and a skill feat for a particular build in the new rules. You didn't fix the problem, you just made it look different.

Ah, but I get 10-20 more skill feats for my character. If I don't get it in my background, I can get it easily enough. (Assuming skill feats are good enough to NEED for a build at all. I kinda hope they are?) It's super easy to get that +2 from somewhere else in PF2.

With traits, the only way I could get more was by taking the additional traits feat... once. And even then, I couldn't pick from the same list. So I couldn't have Magical Lineage and Magical Knack or whatever. That makes the opportunity cost on traits VERY high.


UnArcaneElection wrote:

Not saying that Traits were perfect, and not saying that they didn't have a bunch of problems that badly needed fixing(*), but the basic idea was conducive to a lot more flexibility than this Background system seems to offer, unless the developers do a HUGE amount of work cranking out backgrounds . . . simply due to the combinatorial nature of Traits.

(*)This includes a few things, such as Magical Knack, Magical Lineage, and Wayang Spellhunter, that probably should have been on Feats and/or Class Talents instead of Traits.

Yes, but that slack is being picked up by getting more feats.


Captain Morgan wrote:
The issue there is that if you actually took the flavor seriously, you NEEDED multiple traits that did the same thing, because someone might really want Knowledge (Local) but didn't specifically grow up in a tavern or whatever.

Acolyte of Razmir, Business Venturer, Black Sheep, Ancient Explorer, Affable, Civilized, Contemptuous, Conspiracy Hunter... I'll stop at C's. There are PLENTY of traits other than grow up in a tavern for Know Local: if you keep seeing JUST one, whoever is picking them didn't bother looking for more.

Captain Morgan wrote:
There were way less classes and archetypes than traits though, which makes separating the wheat from the chaff easier. They are also more interesting choices than traits USUALLY were.

It's SUPER easy to sort through traits: it took me MAYBE a second to get a list of traits that affected know local for instance. Add to that, they are 'bite sized' and are quickly looked over and it's much easier IMO to go through them than classes/archetypes as you have to carefully read them over and over need reference multiple books to get the whole picture.

Captain Morgan wrote:
Now, we probably had too many spells and they definitely weren't balanced well. And we CERTAINLY had too many feats. I'm pretty glad we will have less feats in existence for a while.

Well, with EVERYTHING under the sun a feat now, I don't think it'ss seem like we've cut that number down any.

Captain Morgan wrote:
On a related note, if you compare, say, the Skill+General Traits of a level 20 PF2e character you get 15. If you take 10 general feats and 2 traits from PF1 you only have 12 choices. If we are talking about mechanical customization, PF2 comes out ahead without even having traits. Which is part of why I said Backgrounds really aren't replacing traits; feats seem to be replacing traits.

It's not as clear cut as you have to buy back abilities you would have started out with in pathfinder classic: in essence, it's not a great boon for customisation if you first pare back the class basics and add allow you to buy back what you already had.

Captain Morgan wrote:
The difference is background mechanics are flexible enough to work well for just about anything.

Ah... So where traits... With your Know local example, I easily found as many options to gain it as a class skill as we have backgrounds in the new system.

Captain Morgan wrote:
Like, literally the only way being a blacksmith won't work for your character/class if you absolutely MUST dump both strength and wisdom.

Writing blacksmith down on your sheet and taking a rank in it is something LITERALLY any pathfinder classic character could do too even without feats. Not seeing the great win here.

Captain Morgan wrote:
By comparison, Blade of Mercy let you to deal non-lethal slashing...

You say that like I'm meant to see it as a bad thing. IMO, it's a good one. Just like I'd have rather not gotten a sea of +2 and class skill traits in classic, I'd rather not see the exact same phenomena happen with backgrounds: if they are SO interchangeable anyone can take a particular one and not feel cheated, why take up the space and just make one generic one?

Grand Lodge

I'm not sure I get the objections to backgrounds I've been seeing. They literally seem to be the same thing as traits in that they're mechanical benefits with flavor attached.


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Jurassic Pratt wrote:
I'm not sure I get the objections to backgrounds I've been seeing. They literally seem to be the same thing as traits in that they're mechanical benefits with flavor attached.

I understand the objection of them being fewer than traits. However, I think it's an objection that will self-correct when Paizo publishes more books. There were much less traits than there are now when traits started too.

I also think language can be clearer. For example, the blacksmith could have something explaing that you can pick the background for something else than blacksmithing if you want. Like, if you preffer to be a bowyer/fletcher, you don't need to build a different background, just pick blacksmith and use the propper feat.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

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I like the backgrounds as presented. My only concern is that the backgrounds in the core book might end up neglected...if we're going to have AP-specific backgrounds with ties and perks, players will tend to choose those over the more generic ones. It's like with traits, groups who play APs really only get one freely chosen trait plus a campaign trait; but in this case we don't even get the extra choice.

This is just a minor quibble; not everything has to be optimal in every campaign style. I'm sure the core backgrounds will be highly useful in PFS, for example.

I suppose even this minor thing could be corrected by tying a couple core traits into the AP as well and listing them as such in the Player's guide.


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KingOfAnything wrote:
I like the choice between two Abilities. Are there any backgrounds that don't make you smarter? :P

Scullery maid/man. +2 con or Wis. you get +2 thanks to hour years spent around the produce of others :)


Captain Morgan wrote:
If I can merely change to a different background (the one I want for flavor) without losing anything mechanically, then flavor isn't tied strongly enough to mechanics for it to be an issue.

IMO, if flavor is that strongly tied, then that is the issue. That's the issue with backgrounds IMO: you can LITERALLY pick any and not affect your character in any meaningful way. To me, that's saying the flavor doesn't really matter as no matter what you do, you'll end up with the same mechanics.

Captain Morgan wrote:
Ah, but I get 10-20 more skill feats for my character. If I don't get it in my background, I can get it easily enough. (Assuming skill feats are good enough to NEED for a build at all. I kinda hope they are?) It's super easy to get that +2 from somewhere else in PF2.

Not at start you don't. See I don't get to play high level most of the time so that mythical 10-20 is more like 5-10 IF I'm lucky and that might JUST about get me back to where a classic character started. :P

Captain Morgan wrote:
With traits, the only way I could get more was by taking the additional traits feat... once. And even then, I couldn't pick from the same list. So I couldn't have Magical Lineage and Magical Knack or whatever. That makes the opportunity cost on traits VERY high.

The difference is that they were pure bonuses and not something to get you back to normal. It's like the new pathfinder starts you out in debt and then gives you more buck during the game: It's hard to get excited about extra's when I'm starting out behind.

Jurassic Pratt wrote:
I'm not sure I get the objections to backgrounds I've been seeing. They literally seem to be the same thing as traits in that they're mechanical benefits with flavor attached.

1 background vs 2 traits = less ability to customize.

Backgrounds do not offer ANYTHING mechanically different from each other: each is +2 2 stats, a feat and a skill.

To me it make the flavor kind of flat as ANY flavor could be added and it changes nothing.


graystone wrote:


Acolyte of Razmir, Business Venturer, Black Sheep, Ancient Explorer, Affable, Civilized, Contemptuous, Conspiracy Hunter... I'll stop at C's. There are PLENTY of traits other than grow up in a tavern for Know Local: if you keep seeing JUST one, whoever is picking them didn't bother looking for more.

I never said these other traits don't exist. I said they NEED to exist for trait flavor to not hurt mechanics.

Quote:
It's SUPER easy to sort through traits: it took me MAYBE a second to get a list of traits that affected know local for instance. Add to that, they are 'bite sized' and are quickly looked over and it's much easier IMO to go through them than classes/archetypes as you have to carefully read them over and over need reference multiple books to get the whole picture

At first I was wondering what your secret was for sorting through traits; I always wind up using hero lab which isn't an affordable solution for all players. But then I googled and found a really good trait filter on the d20pfsrd. Neat! The more you know.

Quote:
Well, with EVERYTHING under the sun a feat now, I don't think it's seem like we've cut that number down any.

Yeah, but the feats will be easier to parse now. The feat categories in PF1 are way too broad, IMO.

Quote:
Writing blacksmith down on your sheet and taking a rank in it is something LITERALLY any pathfinder classic character could do too even without feats. Not seeing the great win here.

For me, the win isn't that I now get to be a Blacksmith. (Although, it will be a little easier than it would be for a PF1 Non-human Fighter on a low point buy that wants to be good at anything else.) The win is largely that it simplifies ability score generation. I could take or leave the background itself, but I don't think it hurts.

Quote:
It's not as clear cut as you have to buy back abilities you would have started out with in pathfinder classic: in essence, it's not a great boon for customisation if you first pare back the class basics and add allow you to buy back what you already had.

Well, setting aside that we don't really know the extent of a character's capacity yet, it is technically still more customizable even if you have to buy stuff you got for free. Buying that stuff back is still a choice, it just isn't an upgrade in your character.

Now, I have concerns over the "buy back" factor as well, I just see it as a separate issue from what we are discussing here.

Quote:
You say that like I'm meant to see it as a bad thing. IMO, it's a good one. Just like I'd have rather not gotten a sea of +2 and class skill traits in classic, I'd rather not see the exact same phenomena happen with backgrounds: if they are SO interchangeable anyone can take a particular one and not feel cheated, why take up the space and just make one generic one?

Market testing, I assume? I don't personally care about the background thing too much and would be fine if we just got a generic step here. But I'm good at coming up with my own background. Presumably, other people are not, and Paizo has reason to believe those people will like having Backgrounds.

Liberty's Edge

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I like the note about adventure-specific backgrounds. That's one of the things that most worried me about the removal of traits - that the long Pathfinder tradition of campaign bonus feats/campaign traits would come to an end. I think backgrounds will adequately make up for the void left by traits, and I am excited to see which "campaign backgrounds" will be in coming adventures.


Captain Morgan wrote:
I googled and found a really good trait filter on the d20pfsrd. Neat! The more you know.

I use Nethys myself: I like the search engine better. ;)

Captain Morgan wrote:
Yeah, but the feats will be easier to parse now. The feat categories in PF1 are way too broad, IMO.

Well that assumes facts not in evidence. We have no idea how easy/hard parsing them will be.

Captain Morgan wrote:
The win is largely that it simplifies ability score generation.

For me, It's not a win. Let me explain.

#1 I liked point buy.
#2 even going with the new system, you could easily divorce stats from the backgrounds themselves and add them in the background step: IE, when you do backgrounds, you could add +2 to 2 different stats and then pick a particular background. Easier IMO and make it a more direct comparison to traits vs backgrounds.

Captain Morgan wrote:
Now, I have concerns over the "buy back" factor as well, I just see it as a separate issue from what we are discussing here.

I see them as intertwined: We get more options to balance out what was removed. I don't think one happens without the other.

Captain Morgan wrote:
But I'm good at coming up with my own background. Presumably, other people are not, and Paizo has reason to believe those people will like having Backgrounds.

I generally have no issue either. I'd push for the generic route because it's allow more backgrounds to be printed to help those that do have issues. If you don't have to reprint the mechanics every time, you could have several times the amount of backgrounds in the same space.


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I'd like to suggest implementing a minor background into the game.
That could be done quite simple by reusing the backgrounds as defined here, but without the bonuses and feats except the lore gained.

That way you could build a character who was born a farmer's child (minor farmhand background) but was sent to the city when he or she was 8 years old to become a priest (or wizard or whatever), never got there and had to do what was necessary to survive (full criminal background)

Of course you can imagine your background however you wanted, but this way, it would reflect a bit better that you know what was going on there.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Hmmm, not bad. So, will Backgrounds be replacing Traits then?


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As far as numbers go, there are definitely more backgrounds in the PF2 CRB than there were traits in the PF1 CRB :)

I'd be very surprised if a "none of the above" option wasn't included given that there's only 19 in the playtest - how well putting your own together balances with the published ones is fairly important.

And as a thought that hasn't been listed clearly:
a blacksmith has +2 to STR or INT and a free choice, so that's quite a few options there:
STR/DEX
STR/CON
STR/INT
STR/WIS
STR/CHA
INT/STR
INT/DEX
INT/CON
INT/WIS
INT/CHA
So that's 10 different blacksmiths, so that's theoretically 190 backgrounds in the playtest

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

“You can get it painted any color you want, as long as it’s black.” :3

Liberty's Edge

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Andy Brown wrote:

As far as numbers go, there are definitely more backgrounds in the PF2 CRB than there were traits in the PF1 CRB :)

I'd be very surprised if a "none of the above" option wasn't included given that there's only 19 in the playtest - how well putting your own together balances with the published ones is fairly important.

** spoiler omitted **

Technically, 9 not 10. Str/Int and Int/Str are the same thing in this context.

Incidentlly, as there are only 15 combinations of 2 ability scores, some will be duplicated in 19 backgrounds. So which do we think is going to be more popular? I’m betting Dex/Int or Dex/Cha being frequent combos


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Cyouni wrote:

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

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

Thank you very much for collecting this! I had forgotten about those. So, here we go: picking the backgrounds for most of my characters.

Kyoni: Noble
Yelis: Criminal, Street Urchin, Animal Whisperer, or Nomad
Cal: Scholar or Blacksmith
Loro: Scholar or Merchant.
Avaula: Nomad or Scholar
Muji: Barkeep
Umji: Barkeep
Com and Traj: Entertainer or Acrobat
Lauren: Scholar
Peter: Scholar
Bruce: Farmhand? Acolyte?

What I was missing:
- Blacksmith vs. artificer flavor was a little off for Cal, but mechanically a good fit. That said, this could influence his backstory a little bit. I would suggest alternate names be included, but that's poor future-proofing. If a better skill feat comes along for an artificer background to be made, I'll be glad the name wasn't taken!
- Avaula wanted an explorer option in place of nomad. These are mostly professional, and we could use some hobby backgrounds at some point
- Loro really wanted an apprentice alchemist background. Of course, Witch isn't out yet, so he's probably getting built as an Alchemist anyway.
- Lauren would have liked a scribe background instead of the more generic scholar.
- Bruce wanted an adopted trait, but he's ultimately okay because he had a campaign-tied backstory. Thus, he would be using a campaign background or have a reworked backstory.


Cyouni wrote:

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

Hm. I can't find it now, but I do believe I saw an 'escaped slave' background as well.

Maybe it's a campaign background?


Can we get some tags on this blog post? At least the playtest tag?


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Another thing to consider is that the skill feat gained from these backgrounds might not be a level 1 feat. (Say, level 3 might be appropriate.) So you gain special early access to something in your background, but it's restricted to a certain set.

That would also explain why multiple backgrounds are necessary, while also requiring no exclusive bonuses.


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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Spiral_Ninja wrote:

Hm. I can't find it now, but I do believe I saw an 'escaped slave' background as well.

Maybe it's a campaign background?

You're thinking of some player comments on the Halfling preview blog. Based on Halfling's write-up, that would be covered by the laborer background.


Spiral_Ninja wrote:
Cyouni wrote:

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

Hm. I can't find it now, but I do believe I saw an 'escaped slave' background as well.

Maybe it's a campaign background?

Could also be a regular background - I only found 17 of the 19 in the playtest.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
eddv 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?

The more I think about this the more I wonder too.

This feels like it could very easily be made into an optional ruleset.

You either get to do things free form with 2 stat bonuses, a single skill feat, and a single skill proficiency from X list OR select one of these 19 pre-done background sets. That appeals to both roleplayers who want some structure AND to people who want freedom to tinker with more custom sets for both roleplay and optimization purposes.

And then a good percentage of the players will choose the best combo os skills and stat to complement their class, without any thought about creating a background.

I don't see that as a better option than the current.


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Captain Morgan wrote:
Traits were legit awful design. Too many of them, too badly balanced, too much function tied to flavor. Arbitrary rules

Classes were legit awful design. Too many of them, too badly balanced, too much function tied to flavour. Arbitrary rules.

Races were legit awful design. Too many of them, too badly balanced, too much function tied to flavour. Arbitrary rules.

Spells were legit awful design. Too many of them, too badly balanced, too much function tied to flavour. Arbitrary rules.

Feats were legit awful design. Too many of them, too badly balanced, too much function tied to flavour. Arbitrary rules.

Magic Items were legit awful design. Too many of them, too badly balanced, too much function tied to flavour. Arbitrary rules.

You're right. Let's throw the entire ruleset out the window and start from scratch!

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

I very much expect we won't. At 1st level in PF1e you got:

* Race to choose from which came with 3-8 traits (excluding vision, speed, ability score modifiers and languages). In addition you got alternate racial traits that you could use to swap out any of your base traits from a selection. In PF2e you get 1 ancestral feat at level 1 that will encapsulate one, maybe two traits at best.
* Background traits gave you between 2-3 traits (depending if you took a downside) that could be chosen from a wide selection. In PF2e you get 1 set skill feat and 1 set skill to be trained in.
* Everything we've seen about classes tells us that they're going to be stripped down compared to PF1e classes at level 1. Because removing things is the only way to balance the game.

Mechanically speaking Ancestry+Background does encapsulate the power level of a PF1e race. But it does so by removing so much choice. I hacked together my own version of races being paired down with Backgrounds picking up the slack. And my poorly hacked together concept results in very little loss of choice and modularity, it encapsulates one of the most common requests I see (having a dwarf raised by elves) and works to rebalance the PF1e choices.

In Paizo PF2e's system you might find a level 20 character has as many options as a PF1e character, or maybe even more options. But the problem is that it will take you 20 levels to get there. Because apparently the only way to truly be a dwarf is to spend 10 levels in human lands.


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XBow Enthusiast wrote:
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.

You mean how min maxers do that with everything?


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MerlinCross wrote:
XBow Enthusiast wrote:
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.
You mean how min maxers do that with everything?

You mean all those Magi DIDN'T take Wayang Spell Hunter because they loved the flavor of hunting deer with shocking grasp? I'm not sure I can handle this revelation.


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Diego Rossi wrote:

And then a good percentage of the players will choose the best combo os skills and stat to complement their class, without any thought about creating a background.

I don't see that as a better option than the current.

How is that any different than backgrounds? Pick the best set stat, feat and/or skill for your class without a thought to the actual background. At least the freeform one would take up MUCH less space, doesn't have an artificial limit and gets you the same mechanics, so IMO that's clearly better.

Tarik Blackhands wrote:
You mean all those Magi DIDN'T take Wayang Spell Hunter because they loved the flavor of hunting deer with shocking grasp? I'm not sure I can handle this revelation.

Next you'll tell me they didn't learn dervish dance for the 'flavor' either! The madness! :P


Tarik Blackhands wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:
XBow Enthusiast wrote:
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.
You mean how min maxers do that with everything?
You mean all those Magi DIDN'T take Wayang Spell Hunter because they loved the flavor of hunting deer with shocking grasp? I'm not sure I can handle this revelation.

Lemme try to be a little more clear here.

What's the problem with traits? Oh min maxers just take anything and everything that don't make any sense. Okay, I can get behind that. It's something I've argued elsewhere.

So this means min maxers are even more of a problem to the point they want to remove mechanics from role pay. Okay I can get behind that.

Why stop at backgrounds if it is such an issue? I mean how many Tattood Half orcs are running around now? If there's something like that for Racial Feats well everyone is taking it.


Can you double up on boosts? So, with blacksmith, you give the required boost to STR and then use the free one on STR as well?


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Buri Reborn wrote:
Can you double up on boosts? So, with blacksmith, you give the required boost to STR and then use the free one on STR as well?

My magic 8 ball says no.


MerlinCross wrote:

Lemme try to be a little more clear here.

What's the problem with traits? Oh min maxers just take anything and everything that don't make any sense. Okay, I can get behind that. It's something I've argued elsewhere.

So this means min maxers are even more of a problem to the point they want to remove mechanics from role pay. Okay I can get behind that.

Why stop at backgrounds if it is such an issue? I mean how many Tattood Half orcs are running around now? If there's something like that for Racial Feats well everyone is taking it.

Oh I get you fine. I was just having a good laugh at the Magi pilgrimage route from the Orison to that Wayang island to wherever the campaign start is, replace with stuff like Fey Foundling or near everyone getting beaten up in their childhood.

Either way, I figure there's going to be an attempt to kill off all the various gimmie racial traits too. But hey, at least traits going the way of the dodo (or rather being repackaged and properly codified into Background) means Fate's Favored and all the wombo combos that go with it are gone while we're talking about the legion of half orcs with awesome sleeves.


Buri Reborn wrote:
Can you double up on boosts? So, with blacksmith, you give the required boost to STR and then use the free one on STR as well?

This is actually a very good question and one I'm surprised wasn't asked sooner.

Was it asked before? Have to double check but wow that could be a nice spike for say 2 handed builds early.

Maybe, have to see the numbers. Still a good question


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Wild Spirit wrote:
Please tell me there is a shepherd background!

Yes please, a Shepard background would be excellent.


John Lynch 106 wrote:


Mechanically speaking Ancestry+Background does encapsulate the power level of a PF1e race. But it does so by removing so much choice. I hacked together my own version of...

I suspect that it's also so that it's possible to make a level 1 character without either restricting to core or having to search through 43 alternate racial traits (actually the number of elf ones). The way you have it set up does pare it down a bit, but it's probably going to eventually result in the same problem 1e has - elves only had 7 alternate racials when they first came out, after all.

Shadow Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I'll be honest. Disappointed.

I typically made characters that weren't the stereotype "blacksmith" or "scholar" in an effort to make them more interesting.

Like my "Pathfinder hopeful" characters I played in PFS needed neither an Int or Str boost, so I can see lots of table discussions where "oh when I was young I wanted to be a Pathfinder too" and a lot of "oh, but I'm not that Pathfinder hopeful, you see I was picked on a lot and needed to run away so I'm a Dex character, so I picked Street Urchin, although I never actually picked a pocket..."

I've had my share of street urchin sorcerers who didn't pick pocket either but simply collected scraps from wastebins or talked their way out of trouble, so the +Dex or +Int isn't really what they'd need as a sorcerer.

These systems have been pining for the unchained flexibility of PF1e where I had the freedom to allocate skill points as would befit my background, tweak my race as needed, and pick traits and feats without any restriction to build a character. At 1st level, just using skill point purchasing, you could end up with an interesting, varied background.

Of course, while I've had plenty of characters with odd Craft/Profession skills like 'Craft (jams and jellies) or Profession (boxer), I'm quite familiar with the Reactionary wizards with Magical Lineage that were far too common in OP so I see the intent here to resolve that.


Paul Watson wrote:
Andy Brown wrote:
combinations of abilities

Technically, 9 not 10. Str/Int and Int/Str are the same thing in this context.

Oops - thinko. You're quite right; 171 different background combinations then


Cyouni wrote:
John Lynch 106 wrote:


Mechanically speaking Ancestry+Background does encapsulate the power level of a PF1e race. But it does so by removing so much choice. I hacked together my own version of...
I suspect that it's also so that it's possible to make a level 1 character without either restricting to core or having to search through 43 alternate racial traits (actually the number of elf ones). The way you have it set up does pare it down a bit, but it's probably going to eventually result in the same problem 1e has - elves only had 7 alternate racials when they first came out, after all.

Tobe honest my group never got crazy into alternate racial feats. The Advanced Race Guide were enough for us. Which demonstrates groups can moderate for themselves how much content they permit in their games.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
JulianW wrote:

Picture the scene - the party are sitting around their campfire chatting after a hard day's trek.

"So Dwalin, why did you leave home and become an adventurer then?"

"Well lad, where I'm from, if you weren't born posh the only job open was to be a blacksmith. There were literally no other options other than turning to crime, so I hit the road and never looked back."

"What about jewellery making or mining - aren't your lot famous for them too?"

"Nah, the elders and guildleaders said too much choice was too confusing for young dwarves, so they shut those businesses down."

“Look, you’re Dwarven, you’ll have to scale it down a bit...”

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

It did bug me in PFS how many people took Wayang Spell Hunter without a background that had anything to do with Minata (a set of tian islands known for smuggling and piracy), wayangs, tien language, or even hunting.

Whenever I took a trait, it would become an important part of my character’s backstory and how they presented themselves. So my very first Sorcerer, Zahra Senay, started out with “Affable” for Diplomacy and Knowledge Local, and the Katapeshi regional trait “Savannah Child” for Handle Animal.

So the very first adventure that she did, I (in Zahra mode) began shaking the hands of all the other players and introducing myself in character. “I am Zahra, and this (Bret’s character) is my husband Omar, and our kitty, Pumpkin. Ve are from Kat-a-Pesh! Ve are very friendly!”

This line became a tagline of sorts that really nailed the character’s gregarious personality and her love of the region from which she hailed. Being Katapeshi actually made a difference in multiple PFS scenarios, where I met other Keleshites and understood where they came from.

Similarly, when I took ‘adopted’ on Baronness Bobbi and selected a gnome trait, Bret decided that his character — Bobbi’s tutor — was a gnome. That way I could tell fellow players, “I was adopted by a gnome... and THERE he is!”

I think that way too many people in PFS were bullied as children (reactionary), lucky (fate’s favored) or spent time hunting with Wayangs. Someone mentioned how every paladin in PFS came from a fairy hill, and I’ll admit that I could not bypass it either. Lyric was going to be an Oradin, and I needed the extra healing. Still, when I decided to take the ‘Fey Foundling’ feat on Lyric, I made her fey background an essential part of character. Lyric has an innocence about her, and a love of song. She has no idea how old she really is, or where she was born. Her first memories were of the fairy hill, and so I made sure that she spoke sylvan. Her background has her adopted father (a Shelynite paladin) rescuing her from the fey in a singing contest. She regards fey as family, and sees music as the key to bridging cultural gaps.

I like that backgrounds so far seem balanced, but I am disappointed with how bland they all seem to be so far. They aren’t inspiring for me the same sort of specific character decisions that my PFS traits always seemed to create for me, story wise. I was hoping for something a bit more like the Starfinder themes, where the theme grows and changes and progresses over time. But perhaps there will be feats to represent this sort of character growth?

I do recognize that keeping backgrounds generic will allow them to fit with a variety of story concepts, but I find myself missing the flavor offered by both the theme and trait systems.

Hmm


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

So is the skill from a background given free "ranks" or just made into a class skill?

I would love backgrounds like scholar, doctor/nurse, firefighter, guard, jester, acrobat, juggler, cursed, raised by wolves, town drunk, artist, exotic dancer, fey foundling, treasure hunter, stone mason, etc.

Also a unemployed/slacker background would be great.

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