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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The Raven Black wrote:

I will miss the usually deep flavor of traits and the creative challenge of weaving them in your PC's backstory

I guess they were a part where balance and variety just cannot coexist

Yeah I'll miss that too. My usual creation walkthrough had picking traits last.

- Why yes I did do the Sacred Tattoo and Fate's Favored combo. However, that seemed like it would easily work with the Half Orc Shaman I had made, a tribal healer that has to be inscribed with a Shamanic Tattoo as part of their 'graduation' ceremony. And given the great task she had to do, her Spirits bent luck/fate a bit to make sure she could succeed.

- I had an Alchemist that had 4 Traits(Extra Traits Feat, well that's gone now). Even had a drawback. Umbral Unmaksing meant no Shadow. In Ustalav this meant BAD things for him. Carefully Hidden to hide easier, Hedge Magician as he was always on low supplies and did the whole traveling "Potion" salesman to get cash, Accelerated Drinker as he knew he'd have to be fast to down insert "Save my butt" potion before a mob got him, and Twitchy cause he was always watching his back and on edge.

Under the new background system?

Half Orc takes Tribal Healer. +2 Wis, Healer Feat of some kind, and Lore(Spirits/Medical Herbs)

Alchemist takes I have no idea. "Con Artist" isn't him, he's just trying to get enough supplies to live and move to next town before someone realizes he doesn't have a shadow. Whatever I'd call it, Alchemist gets +2 Int or Con, Potion/Stealth feat and Lore(Potions/Brewing).

Yeah the second set just seems blander to me.


Also, as I mentioned in the other thread, AoOs not being the norm helps every type of character I can imagine. Melee folks can no move and flank better. Ranged and Casters can now use their abilities at point blank range [when their opponent doesn't have AoO.] And characters who invest in AoO now get to use it more often-- enemies probably won't know you have that ability because it is an exception and be more likely to provoke.

The old system was a boon only to melee folks who didn't have to invest, but it also meant most foes with a lick of intelligence won't provoke in the first place. Even an animal understands not leaving itself vulnerable in a melee exchange or showing it's back to an opponent. And it wasn't usually an effective counter measure against ranged and casters because they could just five foot step and still unleash the same amount of devastation. At least now a five foot step will cost them an action.

I think it is fair for you to not like this change, but calling it a power down or saying people are forced to buy it back ignores how many benefits there are to this change.


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Captain Morgan wrote:
Melee folks can no move and flank better.

How'd they do that now? Also I suppose this is sorry news for anyone that wants to flank. Sorry Rogues.

Captain Morgan wrote:
Ranged and Casters can now use their abilities at point blank range [when their opponent doesn't have AoO.]

Depends. I'm assuming the most common class level to give enemies will be "Fighter" and depending on when they get AoO this whole idea is dead on arrival. Also yeah they can attack with their skill point blank.

That is if Ranged doesn't have penalties from shooting at melee. And both classes don't want to eat a counter swing from a Reaction or straight up attack if the target is still living.

Captain Morgan wrote:
And characters who invest in AoO now get to use it more often-- enemies probably won't know you have that ability because it is an exception and be more likely to provoke.

GM knows though. But GM should just ignore that and have every character play stupidly right? Can't have the enemies realize things that'll slow down the battle.

Even without that, are we actually putting Classes into the world lore now?

Boss: Hey Goons, that guy's a Fighter! Stay away from him or he'll swing at yah! Go for the Cleric in back he heals and can't swing you enter his threat area! Same with the Wizard too!

Captain Morgan wrote:
The old system was a boon only to melee folks who didn't have to invest, but it also meant most foes with a lick of intelligence won't provoke in the first place. Even an animal understands not leaving itself vulnerable in a melee exchange or showing it's back to an opponent. And it wasn't usually an effective counter measure against ranged and casters because they could just five foot step and still unleash the same amount of devastation. At least now a five foot step will cost them an action.

Usually you'd get 1 swing, monsters too or am I missing something. Have your AC guy bait the swing and get the squishier characters out of there. Besides, how do you tie up creatures now? If only 1 class gets AoO early enough, just walk around that character.

Captain Morgan wrote:
I think it is fair for you to not like this change, but calling it a power down or saying people are forced to buy it back ignores how many benefits there are to this change.

I think it's too early to decide on if this is a GOOD enough change until each player and GM gets their own hands on it. What's good for you might not be good for someone else based on their playstyle and how their GM runs things.


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MerlinCross wrote:
Snip

So you don't want the GMs to pretend like they don't know character capabilities but you also think its absurd that enemies will use tactics based on knowing those capabilities like targetting the healer?

EDIT: And yeah once again couching things in game terms makes it seem stupid. What isn't stupid is this conversation

Boss: Hey Goons, watch out for that guy I've seen his reflexes and getting past him will be hard. Try and take out their support in the back if you can, they are packing some serious magic.


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MMCJawa wrote:
I don't think we are going to get a hardcover "Ultimate Backgrounds" book. Rather, if relevant, I think we are just going to get a page or two here and there, with most of the new backgrounds coming out in CS and AP players guides.

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't want to see new backgrounds for the next 4 years in various Paizo products.

The backgrounds that we get should be generic enough that there is no need for many other backgrounds in the future.

For example, like someone else said, they should have a background of "Apprentice Crafter". But right now it's looking like we'll get "Blacksmith" in core and over time they'll add leatherworker, tinkerer, bowmaker, Fletcher, etc. You could go on forever. Sure, it fills word count, but it's not what I want to buy with my RPG money.

Another example, you could have a background of laborer, which could encompass jobs that do manual labor such as farmer, carpenter, etc. Or... they could create a background for each one, which is the way it looks right now.

Or a woodman background that would encompass ranger, poacher, hunter, etc.

Pathfinder Hopeful could have just been "Adventurer". Street Urchin is OK but even it could be rolled into "Pickpocket" (which doesn't mean your childhood was a certain way, just your prior profession).

Bottom Line: It makes more sense to see generic backgrounds that could be used for many related jobs instead of specific jobs being backgrounds.


MerlinCross wrote:
Besides, how do you tie up creatures now?

Well we know Paladins get a marking ability that punishes those who try to attack their allies. I'm sure certain builds of fighter will get a similar ability (although not as good as the Paladin's of course because fighters are straddling the line between defenders and strikers whereas paladins appear to just be defenders).

Captain Morgan wrote:
characters who invest in AoO now get to use it more often-- enemies probably won't know you have that ability because it is an exception and be more likely to provoke.

They'll be more likely to provoke, once per combat. Is one AoO per combat worth a feat? Maybe?


If you really want to tie down an enemy, and don't have a specific reaction to do so, maybe invest a little in Athletics and hold them in place physically.


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Crayon wrote:
I'm beginning to suspect that your definition of 'options' is so far out of touch with mine (and presumably the designers') that further engagement on the matter is pointless.

As far as I can see I haven't used the word option. I've used the word choice. And the definition of choice I'm using is "you get to choose something" with "4 somethings" being less than "2 somethings".

So yes. If you are using the word option to mean something different from the above I'd say we are using two very different definitions.

Crayon wrote:
As far as I'm concerned, the number of options players have is increasing while the number of clumsy subsystems is going down so it's Win/Win!

I'd love to hear how getting to choose 2 things is somehow more choices than getting to choose 4 things. I suspect it would help me gain a far greater insight into your stance on the issue.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Tender Tendrils wrote:

It feels like a lot of the objections to this system seem to be based on literal interpretations of the backgrounds?

In most systems smithing is a broad enough skill to apply to leatherworking, tinkering, bowmaking, Fletching, etc. If your gm won't let you cross out the word "blacksmith" and write one of those other things, then I think any inflexibility is more in the gm than the system.

Additionally, I think any reasonable gm in a group where the expectation is that it's about story and roleplay will happily consider using the backgrounds as a guide to make ones specific to what a character needs - in 5e, the main utility of the backgrounds is to give examples for players who want to make their character quickly or need ideas, the players who want something more specific can just choose options that are appropriate instead of them dedicating 50 pages to fit every possible niche.

What is considered "reasonable" varies between groups.

I don't have any problems with tweaking a background* and you may not, either; however, there are those with the mindset of "if it's not explicitly stated, then it's not allowed."

From a system design standpoint, relying on GM interpretation for applicability of a "crafter" background other than blacksmith is less than ideal and just leads to unnecessary table variation. Especially since, as shown in my post, that you can increase the flexibility of some backgrounds without significantly increasing the word-count (which is another issue that can crop up).

Also, Paizo has stated that the 19 in the Core Rulebook will not be the only backgrounds. There will be 6 more backgrounds specifically for the play-test adventure; I would be surprised if they didn't also publish additional backgrounds for the Adventure Paths and some of the Campaign Setting or Players Companion products.

Tender Tendrils wrote:
Anyway, I hope that just choosing a lore, skill and state are spelled out as an option for those who feel like they need written permission to do it, though for my group that won't be necessary as I'll just tell them they can either way.

Hopefully there will be a generic "Themeless" background as one of the 19 in the Core Rulebook for those that don't want to be "forced" to choose a specific one. Possibly giving up the free skill feat to balance being able to boost any two ability scores of your choice.

*- Before the introduction of traits and archetypes, I would occasionally swap out one or two class skills for different ones to better match character backgrounds in 3.x and pre-APG Pathfinder.


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I've thought it over for a couple days, and... being trapped in a limited selection of hoary fantasy tropes is a dealbreaker for me. One of the fundamental things I love about RPGs is being able to get creative with my characters' backstories.

I recall something was said in a previous blog entry about having a random character creation option, so I'll hold out hope until the playtest release that that provides a way around the pre-defined backgrounds.


MerlinCross wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:
Melee folks can no move and flank better.

How'd they do that now? Also I suppose this is sorry news for anyone that wants to flank. Sorry Rogues.

Captain Morgan wrote:
Ranged and Casters can now use their abilities at point blank range [when their opponent doesn't have AoO.]

Depends. I'm assuming the most common class level to give enemies will be "Fighter" and depending on when they get AoO this whole idea is dead on arrival. Also yeah they can attack with their skill point blank.

That is if Ranged doesn't have penalties from shooting at melee. And both classes don't want to eat a counter swing from a Reaction or straight up attack if the target is still living.

Captain Morgan wrote:
And characters who invest in AoO now get to use it more often-- enemies probably won't know you have that ability because it is an exception and be more likely to provoke.

GM knows though. But GM should just ignore that and have every character play stupidly right? Can't have the enemies realize things that'll slow down the battle.

Even without that, are we actually putting Classes into the world lore now?

Boss: Hey Goons, that guy's a Fighter! Stay away from him or he'll swing at yah! Go for the Cleric in back he heals and can't swing you enter his threat area! Same with the Wizard too!

Captain Morgan wrote:
The old system was a boon only to melee folks who didn't have to invest, but it also meant most foes with a lick of intelligence won't provoke in the first place. Even an animal understands not leaving itself vulnerable in a melee exchange or showing it's back to an opponent. And it wasn't usually an effective counter measure against ranged and casters because they could just five foot step and still unleash the same amount of devastation. At least now a five foot step will cost them an action.
Usually you'd get 1 swing, monsters too or am I missing something. Have your AC guy bait the swing and get the squishier characters...

Typo up there, no should be now.

I don't know why you are assuming Fighter will be the most common class. With the new NPC/monster rules, I'm not assuming the average NPC will have class levels at all. You can build all your NPCs as Fighters but I don't see why you'd want to. If I want to keep my combat quick and dirty and my cognitive load low or keep it from being hard on the players, I'm not going to be super interested in adding situational reactions that I can forget. If I'm feeling ambitious and want that, there will be a lot of interesting reactions to compete there and which can keep my players guessing. Even with just the class options we know, Retributive Strike seems easy to trigger for any team based encounter. Heck, even Nimble Dodge can basically be used every turn. And the bestiary reaction toolbox sounds a lot more varied than that.

GMs using meta knowledge will, I expect, be about as much of a problem as before. PF1 had things feats like Snap Shot and step up which broke the norms of five foot steps and ranged weapons not threatening. I've seen Step Up players complain that their GM started having every wizard they fight use acrobatics instead of 5 foot step. Bad GMs exist. My hope is that reactions becoming so much more varied that players and GMs alike will be given clear guidance on how to identify reactions ahead of time and what the standard assumptions in game are.

Otherwise, if AoO is an ability you have to specifically train for and not a standard rule of combat, enemies shouldn't assume you can do them. If a GM has enemies avoid provoking without having seen an AoO already riffed off already or something, they are indisputably doing it wrong. Once the enemy KNOWS you have the ability, sure.

I doubt classes are going to be a bigger part of the world's lore than they already were. But with the exception of the fighter and rogue and maaaaaybe barbarian, most of them already were. Anyone who uses magic has the particular way they use it. Wizardry uses spell books and often went to a wizardry school, and the title of cleric can actually carry connotations of hierarchy within a church. But if I'm just looking at a guy with a glaive and a holy symbol of Saranrae around their neck, I don't know if that person is a Paladin, a Cleric, or just a devout Fighter or Barbarian. There MIGHT be a way to use an action to identify reactions, but if so I assume that will be flavored as studying their martial stance rather than picking out their class.

John: you are right that smart enemies will only provoke an AoO once a combat, but that's one more AoO then I often got in the old system unless I built to generate AoOs, at bare minimum using a reach weapon. When I GM, any monster with a brain avoids provoking unless basically forced to out of desperation. Or. They get sufficient evidence that the AoO couldn't really hurt them.


John Lynch 106 wrote:
Crayon wrote:
I'm beginning to suspect that your definition of 'options' is so far out of touch with mine (and presumably the designers') that further engagement on the matter is pointless.

As far as I can see I haven't used the word option. I've used the word choice. And the definition of choice I'm using is "you get to choose something" with "4 somethings" being less than "2 somethings".

So yes. If you are using the word option to mean something different from the above I'd say we are using two very different definitions.

Crayon wrote:
As far as I'm concerned, the number of options players have is increasing while the number of clumsy subsystems is going down so it's Win/Win!
I'd love to hear how getting to choose 2 things is somehow more choices than getting to choose 4 things. I suspect it would help me gain a far greater insight into your stance on the issue.

It has to do with breadth of choice. Background will have something like 17 possible results starting out. Traits varied because you can't take two from the same category and many were especially the same anyway, but there were still a finite number of combinations.

By contrast, if you divorce character background from the rules, you have an unlimited number of choices for your character's backstory. Ergo, more options.


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Crayon wrote:
By contrast, if you divorce character background from the rules, you have an unlimited number of choices for your character's backstory. Ergo, more options.

Having a background doesn't prevent you from having a backstory. It just ensures that everyone at least has a minimal backstory.


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Malk_Content wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:
Snip

So you don't want the GMs to pretend like they don't know character capabilities but you also think its absurd that enemies will use tactics based on knowing those capabilities like targetting the healer?

EDIT: And yeah once again couching things in game terms makes it seem stupid. What isn't stupid is this conversation

Boss: Hey Goons, watch out for that guy I've seen his reflexes and getting past him will be hard. Try and take out their support in the back if you can, they are packing some serious magic.

I don't know what I want, but I know how you put it sounds silly doesn't it? And that seems to be what we're going to get now.

How would the boss have seen the Fighter in combat before? How would he know they have magic? Boss doesn't know, none of his guys have come back alive.

GM knows. GM has seen them fight. What does GM do?

What level of info does GM put into his enemies?

This is however completely off topic now so if people want to pick my post part go for it. I'll reply through PM though if I want to keep this going.

Probably my last post about in this topic anyway. I just can't think of anything more to talk about Backgrounds. They're just so Meh. But we can't have anything more because Min Maxers don't care about story.

Bleh. Yet another change that isn't worth it at my own tables. Fixes nothing and houseruled away. But this is probably a blog that's not worth arguing over because it's that easy to remove it or play around with changing it.

I mean Resoance and Alchemist got me riled up, heck Goblin made me worry about some players/groups I know of. But the weapon blog was interesting to see, and I have mixed hopes for the Alchemic info. This? I might have posted a few times in the thread but really, I can't find the fire to be riled up or the hype to look forward to more info.

Liberty's Edge

Nekome wrote:
I've thought it over for a couple days, and... being trapped in a limited selection of hoary fantasy tropes is a dealbreaker for me. One of the fundamental things I love about RPGs is being able to get creative with my characters' backstories.

I'm not sure having relatively broad backgrounds like 'Entertainer' is as limiting as you seem to think. Those are broad enough to encompass a whole load of different and detailed background elements. I mean, I get really into my character's backstories and it doesn't seem particularly limiting to me.


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I think people are missing the point with backgrounds VS backstory.

Belgarion Backstory is that he is the nephew of Polgara, the sorceress, and grandson of Belgarath, the great master of sorcery. His lineage includes a king, and a chief of a tribe, unknown to him. He is destined by a prophecy to defeat a dark God. His fathers were killed, and he was raised by the murderer of them, in a effort to use him as a pawn when time is right.

His background is farmer.


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whew wrote:
Crayon wrote:
By contrast, if you divorce character background from the rules, you have an unlimited number of choices for your character's backstory. Ergo, more options.
Having a background doesn't prevent you from having a backstory. It just ensures that everyone at least has a minimal backstory.

I never claimed it did. I will say that as far as backstories go, 'Apprentice Blacksmith' is strictly a lateral move from 'I have a longsword' and that I don't think there should be associated game mechanics because said rules serve to restrict the choices available to the player for no real pay-off...


Crayon wrote:
whew wrote:
Crayon wrote:
By contrast, if you divorce character background from the rules, you have an unlimited number of choices for your character's backstory. Ergo, more options.
Having a background doesn't prevent you from having a backstory. It just ensures that everyone at least has a minimal backstory.
I never claimed it did. I will say that as far as backstories go, 'Apprentice Blacksmith' is strictly a lateral move from 'I have a longsword' and that I don't think there should be associated game mechanics because said rules serve to restrict the choices available to the player for no real pay-off...

The way I see it, backgrounds are seeds, the kernel of who you are - they aren't (necessarily) the entirety of who you are.

Nothing in backgrounds limits your backstory, you can reflect your backstory in other ways than just a background.
A background only has to reflect a part of your backstory.

Of course if you want to pick a background and call it done as far as backstories are concerned you are golden.


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gustavo iglesias wrote:

I think people are missing the point with backgrounds VS backstory.

Belgarion Backstory is that he is the nephew of Polgara, the sorceress, and grandson of Belgarath, the great master of sorcery. His lineage includes a king, and a chief of a tribe, unknown to him. He is destined by a prophecy to defeat a dark God. His fathers were killed, and he was raised by the murderer of them, in a effort to use him as a pawn when time is right.

His background is farmer.

Yeah see in my head you go from nice high fantasy concept that looks like it would be in the cover of a book as part of the summary...,

To just "I'm from down the street" or something. Not "Hidden away from some sort of political trap" or "This is the life we wanted for him".

Just Farmer brown. Who has +2 STR or CON and +2 elsewhere. Farmhand Feat and Lore(Farming tales).

Honestly this example, no offense, if the reverse of everyone just taking Power Traits for the buffs. It doesn't show any special skills and traits given from their birth, background, childhood it's just "This what everyone learns".

It feels very boiled down.

dragonhunterq wrote:
Crayon wrote:
whew wrote:
Crayon wrote:
By contrast, if you divorce character background from the rules, you have an unlimited number of choices for your character's backstory. Ergo, more options.
Having a background doesn't prevent you from having a backstory. It just ensures that everyone at least has a minimal backstory.
I never claimed it did. I will say that as far as backstories go, 'Apprentice Blacksmith' is strictly a lateral move from 'I have a longsword' and that I don't think there should be associated game mechanics because said rules serve to restrict the choices available to the player for no real pay-off...

The way I see it, backgrounds are seeds, the kernel of who you are - they aren't (necessarily) the entirety of who you are.

Nothing in backgrounds limits your backstory, you can reflect your backstory in other ways than just a background.
A background only has to reflect a part of your backstory.

Of course if you want to pick a background and call it done as far as backstories are concerned you are golden.

I saw Traits as the finishing touch or maybe a starting point to build from. Backgrounds feel so bog standard I really can't figure out how to make them work beyond "This was my day job".


Jason S wrote:
MMCJawa wrote:
I don't think we are going to get a hardcover "Ultimate Backgrounds" book. Rather, if relevant, I think we are just going to get a page or two here and there, with most of the new backgrounds coming out in CS and AP players guides.

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't want to see new backgrounds for the next 4 years in various Paizo products.

The backgrounds that we get should be generic enough that there is no need for many other backgrounds in the future.

For example, like someone else said, they should have a background of "Apprentice Crafter". But right now it's looking like we'll get "Blacksmith" in core and over time they'll add leatherworker, tinkerer, bowmaker, Fletcher, etc. You could go on forever. Sure, it fills word count, but it's not what I want to buy with my RPG money.

Another example, you could have a background of laborer, which could encompass jobs that do manual labor such as farmer, carpenter, etc. Or... they could create a background for each one, which is the way it looks right now.

Or a woodman background that would encompass ranger, poacher, hunter, etc.

Pathfinder Hopeful could have just been "Adventurer". Street Urchin is OK but even it could be rolled into "Pickpocket" (which doesn't mean your childhood was a certain way, just your prior profession).

Bottom Line: It makes more sense to see generic backgrounds that could be used for many related jobs instead of specific jobs being backgrounds.

That largely depends on what the craft skill from the blacksmith does - in pf1 there isn't craft(smithing) and craft (leather), it's craft (weapons) and craft (armour) - both of which incorporate metal and leatherworking and probably a few others. If the smithing skills rules says "use this to craft weapons and armour" (Which wouldn't be a surprise at all) then it covers all of those professions, the only part that isn't generic is the name which has no mechanical effect so can easily be crossed out and replaced with leatherworker or bowyer depending on how much they consolidate the skill.

I guess this is another of those things that we need more information on before we make judgements.


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One of my favorite aspects of P1e's trait system is that you could really customize your character in a variety of ways by virtue of taking multiple traits that aren't explicitly tied together with each other, IE the Voices of Solid Things regional trait from Legacy of the First world letting you use Charisma for Spellcraft, then you could play as a Sorcerer who spent enough time with the Witchmarket to learn a fey-like approach to magic, with a distinct mechanical benefit for such.

While the backgrounds seem more all-encompassing and fine for more generalized backstories, especially with the fact that their benefits include ability boosts, I'm worried that they might cause some of the more specific backstories to be harder to support.


Tender Tendrils wrote:
That largely depends on what the craft skill from the blacksmith does - in pf1 there isn't craft(smithing) and craft (leather), it's craft (weapons) and craft (armour) - both of which incorporate metal and leatherworking and probably a few others. If the smithing skills rules says "use this to craft weapons and armour" (Which wouldn't be a surprise at all) then it covers all of those professions...

I hope it ends up more like that, I personally disliked the craft categories (weapon/armor) being simultaneously over-broad in terms of technique/material and over-narrow in terms of application (i.e. weapon OR armor not both). I often houseruled custom Craft categories that crossed boundaries, i.e. 'Primitive' which focused on leather/hide armor, wood-haft weapons, etc.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Alexander Augunas wrote:
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."

Lore (which you can already read about in Chapter 2 of Pathfinder Unchained) is basically the Profession of Knowledge skills. Its only purpose is to allow you to recall information with unfathomable precision on a specific topic. So, for example, you can know all about Irrisen without also knowing all about cultures in general. In the specific case of Lore (Pathfinder Society), you can know all about the PFS without also knowing about every other organization on Golarion.

TL;DR Lore will be like Profession; a narrative skill that you can use for storytelling purposes. Code Switch's James Ballod took a new Lore skill at every level in our Reign of Winter game, and it suited his character well. (What the now-17th level dhampir rogue is going to do with Lore [Russian Fairytales] now that we're back on Golarion, I'll never know however.)

Write the book: Fairly tales of a distant land, or Fairly tales of the land of ice

Shadow Lodge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8

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MerlinCross wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:

I think people are missing the point with backgrounds VS backstory.

Belgarion Backstory is that he is the nephew of Polgara, the sorceress, and grandson of Belgarath, the great master of sorcery. His lineage includes a king, and a chief of a tribe, unknown to him. He is destined by a prophecy to defeat a dark God. His fathers were killed, and he was raised by the murderer of them, in a effort to use him as a pawn when time is right.

His background is farmer.

Yeah see in my head you go from nice high fantasy concept that looks like it would be in the cover of a book as part of the summary...,

To just "I'm from down the street" or something. Not "Hidden away from some sort of political trap" or "This is the life we wanted for him".

Just Farmer brown. Who has +2 STR or CON and +2 elsewhere. Farmhand Feat and Lore(Farming tales).

Honestly this example, no offense, if the reverse of everyone just taking Power Traits for the buffs. It doesn't show any special skills and traits given from their birth, background, childhood it's just "This what everyone learns".

It feels very boiled down.

That sounds like something from fantasy novel because that's literally a description of a character from a fantasy novel...LINK

The Farmhand bit is straight from the books. The character spends his first 14 years living on a farm, where he presumably learns a thing or two about farming.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Captain Morgan wrote:
Also, as I mentioned in the other thread, AoOs not being the norm helps every type of character I can imagine.

I'm not sure how we transitioned to attacks of opportunity, but the problem with them being restricted is that it reduces the abstraction.

I have never thought that an AoO represented a single swing. I have never thought that losing 10 of 100 HP represented 10% of your physical damage threshold. I have never thought that +11/+6/+1 represented three swings.

When you provoke an AoO, you drop your guard in an environment with swinging swords, macs, staves, punches, and llama spittle. You don't necessarily get hit by a swing directed at you. Maybe you got clocked by a staff that the wizard was swinging wildly. It is abstracted as an attack roll, but I don't think it can be considered to represent a discreet attack. As such, I don't think that it makes sense that it is something that you have to train in.


Smite Makes Right wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:
Also, as I mentioned in the other thread, AoOs not being the norm helps every type of character I can imagine.

I'm not sure how we transitioned to attacks of opportunity, but the problem with them being restricted is that it reduces the abstraction.

I have never thought that an AoO represented a single swing. I have never thought that losing 10 of 100 HP represented 10% of your physical damage threshold. I have never thought that +11/+6/+1 represented three swings.

When you provoke an AoO, you drop your guard in an environment with swinging swords, macs, staves, punches, and llama spittle. You don't necessarily get hit by a swing directed at you. Maybe you got clocked by a staff that the wizard was swinging wildly. It is abstracted as an attack roll, but I don't think it can be considered to represent a discreet attack. As such, I don't think that it makes sense that it is something that you have to train in.

I agree with the abstraction, but not that every creature is doing damage as an AoO due to flailing wildly or what-have-you. In real life, not every creature takes a swing at you when you disengage or do something aside from smacking them. It would seem every organism in 3rd Ed/PF1 is an opportunistic combat specialist.

Silver Crusade

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Slightly Offtopic:

Joe M. wrote:

...

Ancestry: 3 ability boosts (2 set, 1 free); 1 ability flaw

Background: 2 ability boosts (1 set, 1 free)

Class: 1 set ability boost

Level: 4 free ability boosts

What if they called that last step Development? (Or any other, more appropriate word starting with D. English isn't my native language.)


Franz Lunzer wrote:

Slightly Offtopic:

Joe M. wrote:

...

Ancestry: 3 ability boosts (2 set, 1 free); 1 ability flaw

Background: 2 ability boosts (1 set, 1 free)

Class: 1 set ability boost

Level: 4 free ability boosts

What if they called that last step Development? (Or any other, more appropriate word starting with D. English isn't my native language.)

I can see the concern, so far some things do seem overwhelming, all these different sources of ability scores increases, everything and its mother being called a feat, I think once we see things in a more concrete way, it will fall into place. Just feels very busy, right now.


Weather Report wrote:
Smite Makes Right wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:
{. . .}
{. . .} When you provoke an AoO, you drop your guard in an environment with swinging swords, macs, staves, punches, and llama spittle. You don't necessarily get hit by a swing directed at you. Maybe you got clocked by a staff that the wizard was swinging wildly. It is abstracted as an attack roll, but I don't think it can be considered to represent a discreet attack. As such, I don't think that it makes sense that it is something that you have to train in.
I agree with the abstraction, but not that every creature is doing damage as an AoO due to flailing wildly or what-have-you. In real life, not every creature takes a swing at you when you disengage or do something aside from smacking them. It would seem every organism in 3rd Ed/PF1 is an opportunistic combat specialist.

Considering what they are doing for much of their lives, an awful lot of them should be at least okay at this (not necessarily all the way to Combat Reflexes, but 1 Attack of Opportunity per round seems about right).


UnArcaneElection wrote:
Weather Report wrote:
Smite Makes Right wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:
{. . .}
{. . .} When you provoke an AoO, you drop your guard in an environment with swinging swords, macs, staves, punches, and llama spittle. You don't necessarily get hit by a swing directed at you. Maybe you got clocked by a staff that the wizard was swinging wildly. It is abstracted as an attack roll, but I don't think it can be considered to represent a discreet attack. As such, I don't think that it makes sense that it is something that you have to train in.
I agree with the abstraction, but not that every creature is doing damage as an AoO due to flailing wildly or what-have-you. In real life, not every creature takes a swing at you when you disengage or do something aside from smacking them. It would seem every organism in 3rd Ed/PF1 is an opportunistic combat specialist.

Considering what they are doing for much of their lives, an awful lot of them should be at least okay at this (not necessarily all the way to Combat Reflexes, but 1 Attack of Opportunity per round seems about right).

Maybe for characters of a certain level, but I just don't see how it makes sense for every creature having battle-hardened reflexes as to know when to strike an enemy that is somehow moving away or distracted. An array of hedgehogs, they'll get ya!!

Liberty's Edge

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Weather Report wrote:
Maybe for characters of a certain level, but I just don't see how it makes sense for every creature having battle-hardened reflexes as to know when to strike an enemy that is somehow moving away or distracted. An array of hedgehogs, they'll get ya!!

My point was that they aren't doing anything to do it necessarily. It's not a reflex.

You dropped your guard and walked into the hedgehog volley that was happening anyway.

When you provoke, it might be you walked up to someone who takes a swing or three as you run by or you may run careless into a field of swinging.

In the abstraction, there isn't a distinction between the two. In the abstraction, you take turns swinging, but they are actually happening simultaneously and you swinging at the enemy does not actually start on your turn. Mechanically it typically does, but if they provoke, they got wallopped by a swing that was already happening.

It doesn't require special training; it's just part of the abstraction.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Weather Report wrote:
Franz Lunzer wrote:

Slightly Offtopic:

Joe M. wrote:

...

Ancestry: 3 ability boosts (2 set, 1 free); 1 ability flaw

Background: 2 ability boosts (1 set, 1 free)

Class: 1 set ability boost

Level: 4 free ability boosts

What if they called that last step Development? (Or any other, more appropriate word starting with D. English isn't my native language.)
I can see the concern, so far some things do seem overwhelming, all these different sources of ability scores increases, everything and its mother being called a feat, I think once we see things in a more concrete way, it will fall into place. Just feels very busy, right now.

I think his point was to get the steps to neatly become "ABCD."


Smite Makes Right wrote:
Weather Report wrote:
Franz Lunzer wrote:

Slightly Offtopic:

Joe M. wrote:

...

Ancestry: 3 ability boosts (2 set, 1 free); 1 ability flaw

Background: 2 ability boosts (1 set, 1 free)

Class: 1 set ability boost

Level: 4 free ability boosts

What if they called that last step Development? (Or any other, more appropriate word starting with D. English isn't my native language.)
I can see the concern, so far some things do seem overwhelming, all these different sources of ability scores increases, everything and its mother being called a feat, I think once we see things in a more concrete way, it will fall into place. Just feels very busy, right now.
I think his point was to get the steps to neatly become "ABCD."

Well, now it sounds lame.


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Smite Makes Right wrote:
Weather Report wrote:
Maybe for characters of a certain level, but I just don't see how it makes sense for every creature having battle-hardened reflexes as to know when to strike an enemy that is somehow moving away or distracted. An array of hedgehogs, they'll get ya!!

My point was that they aren't doing anything to do it necessarily. It's not a reflex.

You dropped your guard and walked into the hedgehog volley that was happening anyway.

When you provoke, it might be you walked up to someone who takes a swing or three as you run by or you may run careless into a field of swinging.

In the abstraction, there isn't a distinction between the two. In the abstraction, you take turns swinging, but they are actually happening simultaneously and you swinging at the enemy does not actually start on your turn. Mechanically it typically does, but if they provoke, they got wallopped by a swing that was already happening.

It doesn't require special training; it's just part of the abstraction.

If you have abstracted out to this level, then is it actually hard to change what the thing represents in your head? It already seems to be pretty fluid. In this case, AoE is less generated from you messing up or the sheer chaos, and your skill and training allowing you to pick an opening to exploit that others wouldn't notice.

That may be a a change from how you thought of it before, but it's an intuitive one. Though, honestly, this is all getting very subjective.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Franz Lunzer wrote:

Slightly Offtopic:

Joe M. wrote:

...

Ancestry: 3 ability boosts (2 set, 1 free); 1 ability flaw

Background: 2 ability boosts (1 set, 1 free)

Class: 1 set ability boost

Level: 4 free ability boosts

What if they called that last step Development? (Or any other, more appropriate word starting with D. English isn't my native language.)

Ha! Yes. That’s perfect.


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MerlinCross wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:

I think people are missing the point with backgrounds VS backstory.

Belgarion Backstory is that he is the nephew of Polgara, the sorceress, and grandson of Belgarath, the great master of sorcery. His lineage includes a king, and a chief of a tribe, unknown to him. He is destined by a prophecy to defeat a dark God. His fathers were killed, and he was raised by the murderer of them, in a effort to use him as a pawn when time is right.

His background is farmer.

Yeah see in my head you go from nice high fantasy concept that looks like it would be in the cover of a book as part of the summary...,

To just "I'm from down the street" or something. Not "Hidden away from some sort of political trap" or "This is the life we wanted for him".

Just Farmer brown. Who has +2 STR or CON and +2 elsewhere. Farmhand Feat and Lore(Farming tales).

Because Belgarion didn't learn anything from being the secret heir of the king and a sorcerous bloodline. He did about farming though.

Nothing bans you to write that backstory from your character, other than lacking the imagination of David Eddings. The background is just the mechanical bonus.

Jon Snow probably has "guard" as a background, to reflect his training in Winterfell as a bastard. His backstory is much richer than that. You can write the same backstory than before

Shadow Lodge

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thflame wrote:

Yeah.... AoOs being a Level 1 Fighter ability is NOT a good thing. Everyone should have AoOs by default.

I get that Paizo thinks that AoOs slow down the game (they do sometimes, to be fair) but the introduction of new Reactions is going to do the same thing and AoOs exist for a good reason.

Fighter - "Aha foul Necromancer! You are gravely wounded and we have you surrounded. Surrender!"

Necromancer - "Nah, I'm just going to run between the Wizard and the Cleric, then chug this X-Potion, bringing me back to full health."

Fighter - "STOP HIM!!!"

Cleric - "I...can't! For some reason, I can't move my arm to hit him with my mace!"

Wizard - "My staff! It's too heavy to move! What foul magic is this?!"

Necromancer - "Metagame-knowledge-mancy!"

Or...

Fighter - "Aha foul Necromancer! You are gravely wounded and we have you surrounded. Surrender!"

Necromancer - "Nah, I'm just going to run between the Wizard and the Cleric, then chug this X-Potion, bringing me back to full health."

Fighter - "STOP HIM!!!"

Cleric - Untrained in the fighting arts to the same degree as the fighter the cleric spins and raises his mace to stop the evil necromancer but alas his foe has already gone past in the 2s it takes for the action. If only he TRAINED more in combat than all that pesky healing.

Wizard - the wizards fares even worse. Without any martial training he understands magic well but is simply unprepared to react with the precision timing of his fighter friend. Hed been waiting to counter his enemies spells and this sudden about change of tactics from the necromancer has left him somewhat flatfooted. Unable to read his foes body language He turns to stop the necro but alas hes long past.

The necro, having been successful before finds himself once again in need of healing, since it worked last time and he has no meta gaming skill he darts past the fighter, only to find this highly trained individual reacts much quicker than his pals, he takes note of the subtle chanfe in the necromancers stance and lashes out with his sword intercepting the necromancer as he tried to run past, carving a deep wound into the necromancer, much to his surprise. Lesson learned, he never expected this foe to react so quickly in combat, he certainly couldnt! If he survives perhaps next time hell be a little more cautious around armoured foes welding weapons(?).

The cleric thorougly impresssed by the speed and reactions of the fighter turns to his pal,
“Most impressive my friend. Any chance you can teach me that?” Cleric learns the AoO reaction at the next possible opportunity


Smite Makes Right wrote:
Weather Report wrote:
Maybe for characters of a certain level, but I just don't see how it makes sense for every creature having battle-hardened reflexes as to know when to strike an enemy that is somehow moving away or distracted. An array of hedgehogs, they'll get ya!!

My point was that they aren't doing anything to do it necessarily. It's not a reflex.

That's not really how AoO come across to me, they seem very reactionary. Many creatures on this planet will not take a swipe at you when you leave them alone, they're just happy you left. Though, again, beware the vengeful, knife-wielding hedgehog array!

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Captain Morgan wrote:

If you have abstracted out to this level, then is it actually hard to change what the thing represents in your head? It already seems to be pretty fluid. In this case, AoE is less generated from you messing up or the sheer chaos, and your skill and training allowing you to pick an opening to exploit that others wouldn't notice.

That may be a a change from how you thought of it before, but it's an intuitive one. Though, honestly, this is all getting very subjective.

Yes and no. It is certainly not difficult to change the explanation of a mechanic in terms of what it is abstracting.

However, I feel that it is diminishing the abstraction. I don't think 1 action/reaction should equate to one swing. In addition, your wording lends more to an extra attack than a response to activity that provokes. It is explicitly counter to the current (and likely future) definition of provoking an AoO.

In any case, is there someplace with an active discussion on attacks of opportunity? I don't want to continue to derail a thread on backgrounds.

I don't think I've said this yet, but I like them. It's hard to get really excited about them, but I do see them coming out with adventure paths and splat books (to capitalize on new feats).

Shadow Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Yeah i like the backgrounds presented here. They could be more general as others gave stated but overall i think they are much better balanced, more appropriate to character generation and offer enough to allow you to customise them.

If i had to add i would like to see less homogeneity in them, say variable choices for stat plus the floates. So apprentice could offer Str, Dex or Int covering all the apprentice bases, the floating stat, craft skill and apporpriate craft based lore.

Urchin could offer the Int or Dex (surviving by smarts or speed) plus floating, then a choice of skills say pickpocket or diplomacy (begging) or perform and a choice of underworld or local (if there is such a thing) lore.

The homogeneity in backgrounds in unnecessary given the structure and role.


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This seals the deal for me: PF2 is not for me, for much the same reason I don't like 5e. Background/character fluff like this should not have a bearing on the mechanics of a character. To restrict background to specific lists, and to make it so your character's backstory has to be a certain set to make a complete character is not proper for a roleplaying game to me.

I'm out if this is to remain.


emky wrote:
This seals the deal for me: PF2 is not for me, for much the same reason I don't like 5e. Background/character fluff like this should not have a bearing on the mechanics of a character.

In 5th Ed they are pretty easy to ignore, just choose 2 skills that make sense for your character, and off you go. The fluff benefit can be worked out like any other fluff benefit.

Shadow Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

How will it restrict you character? What character is restricted this way? You can create almost anything with this sytem and a little imagination, in fact i suspect with only 19 backgounds youll find quite a few character concepts supported with just a little imagination.

Better yet play the free playtest and if you find after creating a few characters the blacksmith apprentice, for example is too niche the feed back to paiO and ask for it to be more general as many have said. Remembr this is a play test, to test the rules and hopefuly shape them into a more appealing(?) form.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Is 19 the official number of backgrounds that will be in the core book?

Shadow Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

In the platest, plus 6 in the adventure. More in the final core rulebook after the playtest


emky wrote:

This seals the deal for me: PF2 is not for me, for much the same reason I don't like 5e. Background/character fluff like this should not have a bearing on the mechanics of a character. To restrict background to specific lists, and to make it so your character's backstory has to be a certain set to make a complete character is not proper for a roleplaying game to me.

I'm out if this is to remain.

That's just the default character generation system. They are going to provide alternates.

If anyone is roleplaying their traits in PFS, it's too subtle for me to notice - it's just not a big deal.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Dragon78 wrote:
Is 19 the official number of backgrounds that will be in the core book?

No, it’s the number that will be in the playtest. They aren’t making promises like that about the final version, because it would greatly limit acting on feedback.


Weather Report wrote:
emky wrote:
This seals the deal for me: PF2 is not for me, for much the same reason I don't like 5e. Background/character fluff like this should not have a bearing on the mechanics of a character.
In 5th Ed they are pretty easy to ignore, just choose 2 skills that make sense for your character, and off you go. The fluff benefit can be worked out like any other fluff benefit.

As with starfinder I am assuming there will be a themeless option so if none of the backgrounds appeal to you there is some generic pick that is not tied to any specific background or can be applied to some background of your own.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

A "themeless" or "mystery" background would be useful.


I like what we are getting so far with backgrounds, simple and general.
making it easy enough to create your own as long as you can justify it to the DM.

On the AoO, It's odd that only the fighter gets it, but that's mostly since that is a main reaction for them. And we don't know many of the class related reactions of other classes, like the paladins support reaction.
Like imagine that instead of AoO a monk can counterattack as a reaction from the get go, or the brittle wizard can have a movement of oppertunity when a creature charges at him he is allowed to move a bit forcing it to waste another action to get to them. or similar to the rogue to as a reaction walk out of a area of effect of a spell. or for a ranger an overwatch reaction for a free attack on a creature that leaves cover.
Point is that it feels crappy to lose an ability like AoO but I think that's just since we don't know what kind of class related reactions might take its place

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