Character Traits

Monday, June 23, 2008

In the first Pathfinder Companion, the Player's Guide to the Second Darkness Adventure Path, we introduce a new mechanic for tying your character's background and history into the gaming world as a whole. These are Character Traits, a concept we first introduced in the Curse of the Crimson Throne Player's Guide, where the trait you pick gives you not only a small bonus to your character, but ties him or her into the Adventure Path's storyline from the start. Starting with the Pathfinder Companions, we're solidifying this system into something you can use not only for Adventure Paths, but for any campaign.

At its core, a Character Trait is approximately equal in power to half a feat—in fact, at one point, we considered calling them "Half Feats" but abandoned that idea when we realized it implied a point-based system that didn't really exist (there's no such thing, for example, as a "Double Feat"). At the start of a new campaign, you can pick two traits for your character—in effect, gaining a bonus feat that you tailor from two different categories of options. Yet a Character Trait isn't just another kind of power you can add on to your character—it's a way to quantify (and encourage) building a character background that fits into the world of Golarion. Think of Character Traits as "story seeds" for your background; after you pick your two traits, you'll have a point of inspiration from which to build your character's personality and history. Alternatively, if you've already got a background in your head or written down for your character, you can view picking his traits as a way to quantify that background, just as picking race and class and ability scores quantifies his strengths and weaknesses.

At the start, there'll be 40 different basic traits to choose from (ten each, split over the categories of Combat Traits, Faith Traits, Magic Traits, and Social Traits), along with six Second Darkness specific traits (these'll be more like the traits we introduced at the start of Curse of the Crimson Throne), but that certainly won't be the end of the matter. The goal is to continue presenting additional traits in the Pathfinder Companions to come—traits based on your character's race, homeland, and religion. Eventually, the pool of traits you'll be able to choose from should cover just about any type of character background you'd ever want!

One more thing: Character Traits are for PCs. If a GM wants an NPC to have traits, that NPC will need to "buy" them with the Additional Traits feat. Player characters are special; they're the stars of the game, after all, and if they have an advantage over the NPCs of the world in this way, that kind of makes sense. The pregenerated characters presented in Pathfinder and the modules will not have bonus traits selected for them—we're leaving those choices to you if you wish to use one of them as a PC.

James Jacobs
Pathfinder Editor-in-Chief

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Tags: Character Traits Pathfinder Player Companion Second Darkness
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