Everyone Has a Past

Friday, May 11, 2018

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

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

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

Illustration by Wayne Reynolds

Blacksmith (Background)

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

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

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

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

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

Street Urchin (Background)

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

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

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

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

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

Pathfinder Hopeful (Background)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Radney-MacFarland
Senior Designer

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
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, the only part that isn't generic is the name which has no mechanical effect so can easily be crossed out and...

There’s actually all 4 in PF1, and between the CRB and Unchained there’s example DCs listed for each.

In any case, you’re correct we need more information before we find out how restrictive the background really is. Hopefully you’re right and I’m wrong on the reading of this one.


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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.

Did you just never use traits before or something? How is that a change?

I keep hearing people say that it's going to make it harder to make characters, so let's put it to the test so we can see for the future. What's a character backstory that literally cannot fit in any of the playtest backgrounds?

As a reminder, they are: acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, farmhand (plus 2 more, but hard to discuss those)


Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber
Cyouni wrote:

I keep hearing people say that it's going to make it harder to make characters, so let's put it to the test so we can see for the future. What's a character backstory that literally cannot fit in any of the playtest backgrounds?

As a reminder, they are: acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, farmhand (plus 2 more, but hard to discuss those)

Hmm. I’ll take that challenge.

- Former lab test subject. There’s not a very good background for somebody who’s been stuck in a controlled environment, other than landing themselves in prison with a criminal background.
- Tailor. In general, the wide range of possible crafting skills seems poorly covered.
- Unstudied mage. A Sorcerer could make a living off of magic without being a scholar.

Liberty's Edge

Tailor is either merchant or laborer.


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QuidEst wrote:
Cyouni wrote:

I keep hearing people say that it's going to make it harder to make characters, so let's put it to the test so we can see for the future. What's a character backstory that literally cannot fit in any of the playtest backgrounds?

As a reminder, they are: acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, farmhand (plus 2 more, but hard to discuss those)

Hmm. I’ll take that challenge.

- Former lab test subject. There’s not a very good background for somebody who’s been stuck in a controlled environment, other than landing themselves in prison with a criminal background.
- Tailor. In general, the wide range of possible crafting skills seems poorly covered.
- Unstudied mage. A Sorcerer could make a living off of magic without being a scholar.

>Former Lab Test Subject: The details of the experimentation would be important here of course, but in some cases at least I could see Laborer, Street Urchin, or even Warrior working.

>Tailor: This one I'll easily give you, crafting is woefully under-represented currently.

>Unstudied Mage: I'd argue a mage making their living off magic could easily be represented as either Merchant (selling their magic as their wares) or Performer (for the street-mage basically busking for a living). Or even Laborer if they do more arcane "heavy lifting" than would fit Merchant.

Grand Lodge

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Ancestries/race should have mechanical values which makes sense, in that you can pick which ancestry you'd like to play. And since there are limited ancestries, that's not that big of a deal.

But Backgrounds should not be forced upon a player. What if I don't want my character to be a acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, or farmhand?

Are we GMs/Players forced to house rule certain background types into core types? For instance, say I want to be an attorney. Which backround would that go into? Scholar? Perhaps, but that doesn't exactly match up.

Starfinder suffers for this; to make this work, either get rid of backgrounds altogether or greatly expand the choices. I certainly do not want to be limited in background choices when the background choices are loaded with important modifiers to my character. SF certainly messed up with the "optional, non-choice background" not providing any sort of bonus (which is simply ridiculous).

Maybe I'm wrong in comprehending this with PF 2. I hope I am and hope someone could clarify if so. If the background system is as I currently understand it (which may be incorrect) I do not favor this at all, whatsoever, unless it's an easy fix with a houserule (of course, doing so may render other things in the game unbalanced, as many houserules tend to do). Is it a do or die killer for me to play PF 2 or not to? I'm not sure, but this one aspect (pigeon-holing my character into an arbitrary background wherein the background choices are limited with no flexible "choose-your-own") sure does play a huge role in my decision to move on to PF 2.

The argument that they are just PF 1 traits doesn't float with me, though, because we were never forced to choose a trait during character creation, they were optional bonuses and the game didn't hinge on the bonuses gained by traits. In Starfinder, the backgrounds are vital for their bonuses.


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emky wrote:
Background/character fluff like this should not have a bearing on the mechanics of a character.

Paizo staff have repeatedly asked people not to use the word 'fluff' to describe non-mechanical parts of the game.

Their reasoning seems to be that they believe stories need 'flavor' as well as 'mechanics' in order to be told well.

So, as I understand it, flavor is just as important to character creation as mechanics are.

You may not approve, but it's been a position they've held for years.


Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

I recall that Rogue can spend skill feats on increasing skill proficiency. That would make sense for a generic background- you’re better in whatever skill suits your character’s past, in addition to a more circumstantial lore.


nogoodscallywag wrote:

Ancestries/race should have mechanical values which makes sense, in that you can pick which ancestry you'd like to play. And since there are limited ancestries, that's not that big of a deal.

But Backgrounds should not be forced upon a player. What if I don't want my character to be a acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, or farmhand?

Are we GMs/Players forced to house rule certain background types into core types? For instance, say I want to be an attorney. Which backround would that go into? Scholar? Perhaps, but that doesn't exactly match up.

I think a lot of this will depend on how broad the background descriptions are. Blacksmith is pretty specific (perhaps overly specific, if there's not general option for Craftsmen) but Pathfinder Hopeful could literally be anyone in a world with the Pathfinder Society.

For your specific example, attorney could be a scholar, since all scholar really implies is you have expertise and are well read in a particular field-- in this case, the law. A little google research tells me that this type of specific scholar is often referred to as a jurist. Jurists and practicing attorneys can be one and the same, but are not always one and the same. It looks like the point of distinction is being interested in law as a field of study vs as a marketable service one provides to achieve specific ends.

So if your character is an attorney but specifically not a jurist, it probably means that being an attorney is entirely about being a business for them. In which case, the merchant background might be broad enough to encompass that. Or you could qualify as Noble by virtue of rubbing elbows with enough fancy clientele. It's all pretty hard to say without the full book in front of us.

If you aren't satisfied with any of these, and they don't eventually print a background later that fits your idea, it seems really simple to come up with your own. Let me take a stab at it:

Spoiler:
Attorney(Background)
You were a lawyer or a lawyer's aide, and during countless trials, you developed a keen understanding of the law. Perhaps you have spoken in court at length, or perhaps you helped to build cases behind the scenes. Whatever your experience level, something led you to leave the courtroom and begin your adventure....

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

You gain the Specialty Profession skill feat for legal practice, and you're trained in the Law Lore skill.

Skill feat may vary depending on what the skill system and feat look like. Society sounds like it might be relevant. The hardest part was the little flavor blurb, but that's also the most skippable step in the process.

Liberty's Edge

Cyouni 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. 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.

Did you just never use traits before or something? How is that a change?

I keep hearing people say that it's going to make it harder to make characters, so let's put it to the test so we can see for the future. What's a character backstory that literally cannot fit in any of the playtest backgrounds?

As a reminder, they are: acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, farmhand (plus 2 more, but hard to discuss those)

I am guessing at least one will be an arcane apprentice type. Is there a Golarion Hogwarts? It could also be a hedge wizard or similar.

I hope one is a diviner/fortune teller.


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Cyouni wrote:

Did you just never use traits before or something? How is that a change?

I keep hearing people say that it's going to make it harder to make characters, so let's put it to the test so we can see for the future. What's a character backstory that literally cannot fit in any of the playtest backgrounds?

As a reminder, they are: acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, farmhand (plus 2 more, but hard to discuss those)

My Alchemist ran and hid from people due to not having a shadow and thus being probably burnt at the stake or stoned or whatever. He survived on a combo of petty theft, snake oil salesman, and actual healing work before setting down with someone. Said someone vanished and he took up research to find out just why.

This was my character for Strange Aeons. He can easily fit into Urchin, Criminal, Merchant, Laborer and maybe Nomad. But each of these also feel wrong in the broad stokes of things. He's a mix of them yet also not truely belonging to any of them.

Likewise with my current Iron Gods character, a Local tinkerer that wants to dig up, repair and use machines from the past/sky to help her Religious family back at the edge of the World Wound. Merchant? Blacksmith? Scholar? Again all work but they feel like they boil down the character to a certain Archetype that doesn't fully sell what the character is.

Traits were little extras. Backgrounds feel like a box you place your character into.

Paizo Employee

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CrystalSeas wrote:
emky wrote:
Background/character fluff like this should not have a bearing on the mechanics of a character.

Paizo staff have repeatedly asked people not to use the word 'fluff' to describe non-mechanical parts of the game.

Their reasoning seems to be that they believe stories need 'flavor' as well as 'mechanics' in order to be told well.

So, as I understand it, flavor is just as important to character creation as mechanics are.

You may not approve, but it's been a position they've held for years.

There tend to be a lot of reasons why the flavor ingrained into an RPG system is more important than a lot of people realize. For one, a book with perfectly executed mechanics that doesn't contain any flavor at all isn't going to sell very well; it will be too dry and uninteresting for a significant portion of the target audience. Conversely, a really flavorful book with lots of solid story elements can succeed despite significant mechanical flaws. Both of these are things that I personally have seen many times across several different RPGs, and they help highlight the importance of bringing the flavor elements of your system into the spotlight and keeping them apparent and relevant for players. A system with strong flavor can hold appeal despite weak mechanics, so presumably a system with strong flavor intertwined with strong mechanics is going to create a really ideal play environment that is going to be a massive draw for a lot of players.

Giving mechanical weight to the background of your character also helps new players get engaged with the system by incentivizing the choices they make with benefits they'll experience at the table. Having trained as a blacksmith isn't just a hook you wrote on a piece of paper the GM may or may not have read, it's something that will influence your character over their entire career, which for many people makes the background more real and memorable.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Dragon78 wrote:
A "themeless" or "mystery" background would be useful.

THAT has the same 'weight' and 'power' as a 'normal' one.

Why should people who have creative ideas be punished for having them?


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Ssalarn wrote:
Having trained as a blacksmith isn't just a hook you wrote on a piece of paper the GM may or may not have read, it's something that will influence your character over their entire career, which for many people makes the background more real and memorable.

Debatable.

The Ability score increases probably won't be recalled too much. What might have a larger effect is the free Feat(Of some kind) and the Lore. But that's only if they are used often enough.

I'd be quite willing to bet that a good amount of players will simply forget the background they picked but recall what free Feat they got.

Paizo Employee

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MerlinCross wrote:
Ssalarn wrote:
Having trained as a blacksmith isn't just a hook you wrote on a piece of paper the GM may or may not have read, it's something that will influence your character over their entire career, which for many people makes the background more real and memorable.

Debatable.

The Ability score increases probably won't be recalled too much. What might have a larger effect is the free Feat(Of some kind) and the Lore. But that's only if they are used often enough.

I'd be quite willing to bet that a good amount of players will simply forget the background they picked but recall what free Feat they got.

Obviously YMMV, but my personal experience is that when I was running events showcasing different RPGs or 3pp systems at several FLGSs, books that used some kind of background mechanic (5E, Starfinder, Spheres of Power, Spheres of Might, etc.) tended to convert players into customers much more frequently than those that didn't.

So if person A is going to forget what their background is regardless since they're just grabbing it for the mechanical benefits but person B is going to be more likely to buy a book because it does feature integrated backgrounds, the thing that makes the most sense is to include the integrated backgrounds, unless there is significant evidence to suggest that including integrated backgrounds is going to be a deal-breaker for a significant portion of the audience.


Getting a little flashbacks to Genesys again and slightly to 5e. Personally don't mind either, but am cautiously optimistic with this post.


Would yall who have the playtest explain how exactly this background thing works? I mean I get the general mechanical idea but not how the whole 'ancestry background class' thing works. Is this removing standard stat generation entirely or adding onto it?


Warriorking9001 wrote:
Would yall who have the playtest explain how exactly this background thing works? I mean I get the general mechanical idea but not how the whole 'ancestry background class' thing works. Is this removing standard stat generation entirely or adding onto it?

It is completely replacing the old stat generation, but we will probably get other options for stat generation after the playtest. This will be the standard though.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
MerlinCross wrote:
Cyouni wrote:

Did you just never use traits before or something? How is that a change?

I keep hearing people say that it's going to make it harder to make characters, so let's put it to the test so we can see for the future. What's a character backstory that literally cannot fit in any of the playtest backgrounds?

As a reminder, they are: acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, farmhand (plus 2 more, but hard to discuss those)

My Alchemist ran and hid from people due to not having a shadow and thus being probably burnt at the stake or stoned or whatever. He survived on a combo of petty theft, snake oil salesman, and actual healing work before setting down with someone. Said someone vanished and he took up research to find out just why.

This was my character for Strange Aeons. He can easily fit into Urchin, Criminal, Merchant, Laborer and maybe Nomad. But each of these also feel wrong in the broad stokes of things. He's a mix of them yet also not truely belonging to any of them.

Which you would pick depends on the skill feats associated with each background. If one of those speaks more strongly to the character concept, choosing that background represents the influence from that part of their story.

Liberty's Edge

Captain Morgan wrote:
Warriorking9001 wrote:
Would yall who have the playtest explain how exactly this background thing works? I mean I get the general mechanical idea but not how the whole 'ancestry background class' thing works. Is this removing standard stat generation entirely or adding onto it?
It is completely replacing the old stat generation, but we will probably get other options for stat generation after the playtest. This will be the standard though.

Someone said there would be a system for random stat generation, but that they would prefer that playtest characters be generated using the standard method. That implies that the at least one alternative method will be spelled out in the playtest copy.

However, it could have been a disconnect. (There will be a system of randomly generating stats [in the final product], but they prefer playtest characters to be generated using the standard system [as opposed to attempting to port over a PF1e system].) That seems unlikely.

It just occurred to me that under the new system you can't have a starting 19-20. Bummer.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Cyouni wrote:
BENSLAYER wrote:


Honestly I would be much happier with this suggestion; if Backgrounds stay as is, I will definitely not be playing Pathfinder v2.0. For all of the commentary that has been provided by others about previously revealed aspects of the game, for me nothing stands close to Character creation. A singly defined, enforced successful/skillful Character that has little reason to adventure, (unless that is the specific Background picked/they have a tragic, upending backstory TM), that can really only be useful following your own Character concept if the Ancestry/Background aligns with the Class is ... greatly off-putting. I will take a look at the Playtest because I would like to contribute to the game, however since this modular design is all-encompassing, (leaving it unlikely to change), that is where my participation will end.* *Sigh*

So that this post is not wholly negative, I will say that I do appreciate...

You know that every single piece that's been shown has a floating stat component, right? So if you invest everything in your chosen stat (Wisdom, for example), then at worst it looks like you're looking at a 16 - Ancestry: Goblin for -2 Wis, negated by the floating +2, Background for a floating +2, Cleric for the standard +2, and the last +2 from 1st level.

So even a Goblin can be a decently respectable Cleric. They're never going to be the best, but they can be decent at it.

16 vs 18 wisdom. +1 to spell DC and 2 more spell points. I don't think that that will be the difference that make your cleric the best.

Liberty's Edge

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Diego Rossi wrote:
16 vs 18 wisdom. +1 to spell DC and 2 more spell points. I don't think that that will be the difference that make your cleric the best.

Actually it's only 1 Spell Point.


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MerlinCross wrote:
Cyouni wrote:

Did you just never use traits before or something? How is that a change?

I keep hearing people say that it's going to make it harder to make characters, so let's put it to the test so we can see for the future. What's a character backstory that literally cannot fit in any of the playtest backgrounds?

As a reminder, they are: acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, farmhand (plus 2 more, but hard to discuss those)

My Alchemist ran and hid from people due to not having a shadow and thus being probably burnt at the stake or stoned or whatever. He survived on a combo of petty theft, snake oil salesman, and actual healing work before setting down with someone. Said someone vanished and he took up research to find out just why.

This was my character for Strange Aeons. He can easily fit into Urchin, Criminal, Merchant, Laborer and maybe Nomad. But each of these also feel wrong in the broad stokes of things. He's a mix of them yet also not truely belonging to any of them.

Likewise with my current Iron Gods character, a Local tinkerer that wants to dig up, repair and use machines from the past/sky to help her Religious family back at the edge of the World Wound. Merchant? Blacksmith? Scholar? Again all work but they feel like they boil down the character to a certain Archetype that doesn't fully sell what the character is.

Traits were little extras. Backgrounds feel like a box you place your character into.

Well, what does the blog say about them?

Blog wrote:

Generally, backgrounds allow you to select a bit of backstory that mechanically affects the current state of your character.

...
After all, your background not only deals with activity but also your personal focus.

So as noted, they work in exactly the same way traits do - a bit of backstory that has a mechanical impact. It can be what you did, or what you focused on. They put you in the same box as traits did.


Would "+2 to any 2 attributes, choose any skill feat acquirable at first level, and any lore skill" be at all unreasonable if one's players want to have diverse, complex, and creative backgrounds?


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KingOfAnything wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:
Cyouni wrote:

Did you just never use traits before or something? How is that a change?

I keep hearing people say that it's going to make it harder to make characters, so let's put it to the test so we can see for the future. What's a character backstory that literally cannot fit in any of the playtest backgrounds?

As a reminder, they are: acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, farmhand (plus 2 more, but hard to discuss those)

My Alchemist ran and hid from people due to not having a shadow and thus being probably burnt at the stake or stoned or whatever. He survived on a combo of petty theft, snake oil salesman, and actual healing work before setting down with someone. Said someone vanished and he took up research to find out just why.

This was my character for Strange Aeons. He can easily fit into Urchin, Criminal, Merchant, Laborer and maybe Nomad. But each of these also feel wrong in the broad stokes of things. He's a mix of them yet also not truely belonging to any of them.

Which you would pick depends on the skill feats associated with each background. If one of those speaks more strongly to the character concept, choosing that background represents the influence from that part of their story.

And if none of them fit the background I have in my head? Or maybe I don't want to be assigned into a little box and feel I need to play that.

Again I don't have any problems mechanically with this, heck it's probably one of the few ways to go to reel back min maxing(It's fine elsewhere it seems), but it feels... well I don't want to use limiting. Stifling might work better.

Its the same problem I had with 5e when I looked into trying that. I'm not picking out something that might be based off their mannerisms, upbringing, or possible tragedy. I'm picking their day job.


Cyouni wrote:


Blog wrote:

Generally, backgrounds allow you to select a bit of backstory that mechanically affects the current state of your character.

...
After all, your background not only deals with activity but also your personal focus.
So as noted, they work in exactly the same way traits do - a bit of backstory that has a mechanical impact. It can be what you did, or what you focused on. They put you in the same box as traits did.

The backgrounds are an overall framing device as opposed to traits that could make up several different parts of a character.


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MerlinCross wrote:
Cyouni wrote:


Blog wrote:

Generally, backgrounds allow you to select a bit of backstory that mechanically affects the current state of your character.

...
After all, your background not only deals with activity but also your personal focus.
So as noted, they work in exactly the same way traits do - a bit of backstory that has a mechanical impact. It can be what you did, or what you focused on. They put you in the same box as traits did.

The backgrounds are an overall framing device as opposed to traits that could make up several different parts of a character.

I know, not the best development.


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Planpanther wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:
Cyouni wrote:


Blog wrote:

Generally, backgrounds allow you to select a bit of backstory that mechanically affects the current state of your character.

...
After all, your background not only deals with activity but also your personal focus.
So as noted, they work in exactly the same way traits do - a bit of backstory that has a mechanical impact. It can be what you did, or what you focused on. They put you in the same box as traits did.

The backgrounds are an overall framing device as opposed to traits that could make up several different parts of a character.

I know, not the best development.

I actually think it's the best idea they can come up with to prevent the same power gaming traits from showing up again and again for no reason.

But the flip side is at least to me, we've lost the personality and story defining traits. We've also fully axed Drawbacks which I'm not sure how used they were but I felt added a decent weakness to a character or extra role play/story moments.

So as much as I've actually ranted on in the thread, this is at worst a mixed development for me. Getting something good, but also losing out on something too.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
Would "+2 to any 2 attributes, choose any skill feat acquirable at first level, and any lore skill" be at all unreasonable if one's players want to have diverse, complex, and creative backgrounds?

Wouldn't that be automatically better than any other kind of background? I mean, what's the point to pick Blacksmmith if I can pick "whatever" and cherrypick what I like about blacksmith mechanically but add anything else if I want?


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MerlinCross wrote:
Ssalarn wrote:
Having trained as a blacksmith isn't just a hook you wrote on a piece of paper the GM may or may not have read, it's something that will influence your character over their entire career, which for many people makes the background more real and memorable.

Debatable.

The Ability score increases probably won't be recalled too much. What might have a larger effect is the free Feat(Of some kind) and the Lore. But that's only if they are used often enough.

I'd be quite willing to bet that a good amount of players will simply forget the background they picked but recall what free Feat they got.

No, what make it a larger effect, is that your character is a blacksmith. Which gives him certain depth.

Gendry, from Game of Thrones, haven't "rolled" his blacksmithing skill a single time in Gamoe of Thrones. Yet still his character personality is informed by his background.


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gustavo iglesias wrote:

No, what make it a larger effect, is that your character is a blacksmith. Which gives him certain depth.

Gendry, from Game of Thrones, haven't "rolled" his blacksmithing skill a single time in Gamoe of Thrones. Yet still his character personality is informed by his background.

From the TV show or the books? Haven't watched the TV show and read the books ages ago.

But if he didn't do anything blacksmith related or bring up some hint that he was, or it was just shown to the audience; his personality is informed how? You could replace "Blacksmith" with any possible background that would still fit his personality.

If he's pragmatic about being a commoner in a world where the nobility has so much sway, why not a farmer? How much does Gendry change as a character of Farmer was put down.

I'll admit I have no real knowledge of the character.


My current primary character is a dwarf wizard from the Five Kings Mountains. She grew up in a mining family; she was never good at the physically demanding parts of the job (low STR and CON), but she was good at sorting and finishing gemstones (high DEX and INT). She was apprenticed to a jeweler and spent a long time in the trade (day job: Craft (Jewelry)), dabbling in the arcane as a hobby.

Blog post wrote:


After all, your background not only deals with activity but also your personal focus.

So, what fits that? Miner could be considered a type of laborer, but that probably comes with a STR boost that's completely the opposite of what she has now. Scholar? Sounds like someone whose primary activity was research, which hers wasn't. Merchant? Probably going to focus on the mechanics of money and doing deals, not craft (and her CHA is terrible).

2 boosts, a feat, and a lore of my choice, though? Easy: INT, DEX, Specialty Crafting, and Knowledge (Arcana) or Knowledge (Planes) (she has a particular interest in the Plane of Earth).

Liberty's Edge

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Nekome wrote:
So, what fits that? Miner could be considered a type of laborer, but that probably comes with a STR boost that's completely the opposite of what she has now. Scholar? Sounds like someone whose primary activity was research, which hers wasn't. Merchant? Probably going to focus on the mechanics of money and doing deals, not craft (and her CHA is terrible).

All this assumes facts not in evidence, and indeed assumes active contradictions with what facts we have in some ways. For example, so far every Background gives a choice of either a mental or physical stat. So Laborer might easily be Str or Wis, and you could pick Wis. Likewise, it seems likely that Merchant adds to either Cha or one physical stat (which might be Dex and thus appropriate for this character).


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Cyouni wrote:


I keep hearing people say that it's going to make it harder to make characters, so let's put it to the test so we can see for the future. What's a character backstory that literally cannot fit in any of the playtest backgrounds?

As a reminder, they are: acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, farmhand (plus 2 more, but hard to discuss those)

They should change "Blacksmith" to just "Smith" to cover other fields of smithery. Then on top of those 17, they should then have the following for a total of 39 (40 with "Themeless"):

Adept (mage apprentice version of Acolyte), Artisan, Barrister (/Jurist), Brewer (/Vintner), Chef, Diplomat, Displaced ("lost in time and space"), Fool, Fortune-teller, Functionary (/Bureaucrat), Gambler, Guard, Hermit, Medic, Medium (the class should be folded into Spiritualist), Refugee, Sailor, Slave, Spy, Stylist, Teacher (a very different skill set than a scholar), Wildling ("raised by wolves")

Themeless should mostly only need to cover amnesiacs, newly created artificial people, awakened animals, and other such nonsense. It shouldn't have to pull heavy duty covering half of human existence just because Paizo restricted the book to a small number of narrow backgrounds.


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Fuzzypaws wrote:
Cyouni wrote:


I keep hearing people say that it's going to make it harder to make characters, so let's put it to the test so we can see for the future. What's a character backstory that literally cannot fit in any of the playtest backgrounds?

As a reminder, they are: acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, farmhand (plus 2 more, but hard to discuss those)

They should change "Blacksmith" to just "Smith" to cover other fields of smithery. Then on top of those 17, they should then have the following for a total of 39 (40 with "Themeless"):

Adept (mage apprentice version of Acolyte), Artisan, Barrister (/Jurist), Brewer (/Vintner), Chef, Diplomat, Displaced ("lost in time and space"), Fool, Fortune-teller, Functionary (/Bureaucrat), Gambler, Guard, Hermit, Medic, Medium (the class should be folded into Spiritualist), Refugee, Sailor, Slave, Spy, Stylist, Teacher (a very different skill set than a scholar), Wildling ("raised by wolves")

Themeless should mostly only need to cover amnesiacs, newly created artificial people, awakened animals, and other such nonsense. It shouldn't have to pull heavy duty covering half of human existence just because Paizo restricted the book to a small number of narrow backgrounds.

Pffft, you only need 4 backgrounds. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.


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Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber
Fuzzypaws wrote:
Cyouni wrote:


I keep hearing people say that it's going to make it harder to make characters, so let's put it to the test so we can see for the future. What's a character backstory that literally cannot fit in any of the playtest backgrounds?

As a reminder, they are: acolyte, warrior, blacksmith, hunter, noble, scholar, entertainer, scout, acrobat, street urchin, criminal, laborer, merchant, nomad, animal whisperer, barkeep, farmhand (plus 2 more, but hard to discuss those)

They should change "Blacksmith" to just "Smith" to cover other fields of smithery. Then on top of those 17, they should then have the following for a total of 39 (40 with "Themeless"):

Adept (mage apprentice version of Acolyte), Artisan, Barrister (/Jurist), Brewer (/Vintner), Chef, Diplomat, Displaced ("lost in time and space"), Fool, Fortune-teller, Functionary (/Bureaucrat), Gambler, Guard, Hermit, Medic, Medium (the class should be folded into Spiritualist), Refugee, Sailor, Slave, Spy, Stylist, Teacher (a very different skill set than a scholar), Wildling ("raised by wolves")

Themeless should mostly only need to cover amnesiacs, newly created artificial people, awakened animals, and other such nonsense. It shouldn't have to pull heavy duty covering half of human existence just because Paizo restricted the book to a small number of narrow backgrounds.

Great suggestions! (Although it’s a little early to worry about consolidating occult classes.) I’m glad we’ve got the playtest to try out how backgrounds fit, and suggest improvements.


MerlinCross wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:

No, what make it a larger effect, is that your character is a blacksmith. Which gives him certain depth.

Gendry, from Game of Thrones, haven't "rolled" his blacksmithing skill a single time in Gamoe of Thrones. Yet still his character personality is informed by his background.

From the TV show or the books? Haven't watched the TV show and read the books ages ago.

But if he didn't do anything blacksmith related or bring up some hint that he was, or it was just shown to the audience; his personality is informed how? You could replace "Blacksmith" with any possible background that would still fit his personality.

If he's pragmatic about being a commoner in a world where the nobility has so much sway, why not a farmer? How much does Gendry change as a character of Farmer was put down.

I'll admit I have no real knowledge of the character.

Among other things, it influences his weapon of choice (a hammer), it marks him as a strong character (that being, say, a shepard would not convey in the same way), and it gives the character a feel. It's not the same when Ned go and find him, at the forge, melting iron, than if he finds him peeling fish.

Similarly, Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight, has a totally different feel as a knight that has a smuggler background, than if he were a knight with, say, a whale hunter background or an architect background or a pole dancer background. Even if he doesn't roll a single time in the whole story "pole dancing" or "smuggler lore", the fact that he was a smuggler plays a role in the story, while being a pole dancer would play a totally different role.


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gustavo iglesias wrote:


Among other things, it influences his weapon of choice (a hammer), it marks him as a strong character (that being, say, a shepard would not convey in the same way), and it gives the character a feel. It's not the same when Ned go and find him, at the forge, melting iron, than if he finds him peeling fish.

Similarly, Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight, has a totally different feel as a knight that has a smuggler background, than if he were a knight with, say, a whale hunter background or an architect background or a pole dancer background. Even if he doesn't roll a single time in the whole story "pole dancing" or "smuggler lore", the fact that he was a smuggler plays a role in the story, while being a pole dancer would play a totally different role.

Okay the hammer I'll buy a bit(Though I could also say someone with background "Construction" could use that), I don't see how blacksmith holds solo claim to strong character(I mentioned Farmer myself, I would assume having to work the land before machines would build up good physical abilities. At least CON from not getting tired.) And I don't know. What's the difference between finding him working at a forge and him doing ... any other job? Especially physical.

Again I don't know Davos. But replace Smuggler with something else say Captain. Thief. Criminal. Pirate.

The difference is... what? They are still "Person that knows how to sail and or move goods possibly illegally." Heck depending on how he does it, I'd say he's Merchant.


MerlinCross wrote:


Again I don't know Davos. But replace Smuggler with something else say Captain. Thief. Criminal. Pirate.

It's hard to explain if you don't know Davos. But no, changing Smuggler for something like Pirate or Criminal would make him a totally different character. Certainly not the Onion Knight.

Quote:
The difference is... what? They are still "Person that knows how to sail and or move goods possibly illegally." Heck depending on how he does it, I'd say he's Merchant.

So if I tell you my character is, say.... a slave trader, does not make any difference than if I say he is a Navy Captain? If I say he is a fisherman, it's the same if I say he is a corsair? Really? Just because they all get "sailing" as a skill and DEX and WIS (or whatever) as ability bonus, does not mean that the roleplay of a merchant is the same than the roleplay of a bucaneeer.


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gustavo iglesias wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:

Again I don't know Davos. But replace Smuggler with something else say Captain. Thief. Criminal. Pirate.

It's hard to explain if you don't know Davos. But no, changing Smuggler for something like Pirate or Criminal would make him a totally different character. Certainly not the Onion Knight.

This I'll agree to only on the idea of I have no idea about the character. I could go and read up said character on a wiki but I feel that misses some nuanced points of seeing the character in action.

gustavo iglesias wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:
The difference is... what? They are still "Person that knows how to sail and or move goods possibly illegally." Heck depending on how he does it, I'd say he's Merchant.
So if I tell you my character is, say.... a slave trader, does not make any difference than if I say he is a Navy Captain? If I say he is a fisherman, it's the same if I say he is a corsair? Really? Just because they all get "sailing" as a skill and DEX and WIS (or whatever) as ability bonus, does not mean that the roleplay of a merchant is the same than the roleplay of a bucaneeer.

Regarding the first example, no it doesn't. What dose matter is what job you put down first. You are A or you are B. And here's your buffs for it. I could argue that your first "Job" can work just as well on land as sea but weird, I'd be getting a Sea buff. Well better roleplay as if I'm from the sea.

Your second example; okay fine. I can see the difference between fisherman and corsair. Difference between Corsair and Pirate? Difference between Smuggler? Difference between Corsair and "Sailor that breaks the laws"?

And as of right now we don't have those backgrounds. If you want a background that deals with "Getting lots of money by moving goods" here's your Merchant background.


MerlinCross wrote:
Regarding the first example, no it doesn't. What dose matter is what job you put down first. You are A or you are B. And here's your buffs for it. I could argue that your first "Job" can work just as well on land as sea but weird, I'd be getting a Sea buff. Well better roleplay as if I'm from the sea.

I'm going to go with the "assume the best" route and claim this is just dissonance between the way we play.

A big major difference between being a slave trader and a navy captain, among other things, is taht if you were a slave trader, you were a piece of scumbag and a s$@*ty human being. That would mean either that your character is still an awful person, probably Evil as alignment, or has the charge of guilt, trying to undo his past behaviour. The vibe your personality gives out if you are a Navy Captain is totally different.

I don't think if you met two new characters in a book, and one of them is presented as a drug dealer, while the other is a taxi driver, your thought would be "cool, both are good at streetwise", without forming any opinion about their respective personalities by the fact that one of them deal with drugs while the other carrry people in a car.

Quote:
Difference between Corsair and Pirate?

One of them would probably be more lawful, have higher regard to his duty, and works for the king, while the other steal things for himself. Yes, that's two different personalities hinted by the background itself.


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MerlinCross wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:

Again I don't know Davos. But replace Smuggler with something else say Captain. Thief. Criminal. Pirate.

It's hard to explain if you don't know Davos. But no, changing Smuggler for something like Pirate or Criminal would make him a totally different character. Certainly not the Onion Knight.

This I'll agree to only on the idea of I have no idea about the character. I could go and read up said character on a wiki but I feel that misses some nuanced points of seeing the character in action.

gustavo iglesias wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:
The difference is... what? They are still "Person that knows how to sail and or move goods possibly illegally." Heck depending on how he does it, I'd say he's Merchant.
So if I tell you my character is, say.... a slave trader, does not make any difference than if I say he is a Navy Captain? If I say he is a fisherman, it's the same if I say he is a corsair? Really? Just because they all get "sailing" as a skill and DEX and WIS (or whatever) as ability bonus, does not mean that the roleplay of a merchant is the same than the roleplay of a bucaneeer.

Regarding the first example, no it doesn't. What dose matter is what job you put down first. You are A or you are B. And here's your buffs for it. I could argue that your first "Job" can work just as well on land as sea but weird, I'd be getting a Sea buff. Well better roleplay as if I'm from the sea.

Your second example; okay fine. I can see the difference between fisherman and corsair. Difference between Corsair and Pirate? Difference between Smuggler? Difference between Corsair and "Sailor that breaks the laws"?

And as of right now we don't have those backgrounds. If you want a background that deals with "Getting lots of money by moving goods" here's your Merchant background.

This person is referring to the RP difference between two interpretation of the Sailor background. Both character may work with the same mechanical benefits to portray completely different personalities and ways to play.


gustavo iglesias wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:
Regarding the first example, no it doesn't. What dose matter is what job you put down first. You are A or you are B. And here's your buffs for it. I could argue that your first "Job" can work just as well on land as sea but weird, I'd be getting a Sea buff. Well better roleplay as if I'm from the sea.

I'm going to go with the "assume the best" route and claim this is just dissonance between the way we play.

A big major difference between being a slave trader and a navy captain, among other things, is taht if you were a slave trader, you were a piece of scumbag and a s~@&ty human being. That would mean either that your character is still an awful person, probably Evil as alignment, or has the charge of guilt, trying to undo his past behaviour. The vibe your personality gives out if you are a Navy Captain is totally different.

I don't think if you met two new characters in a book, and one of them is presented as a drug dealer, while the other is a taxi driver, your thought would be "cool, both are good at streetwise", without forming any opinion about their respective personalities by the fact that one of them deal with drugs while the other carrry people in a car.f.

Actually it was more "I really feel uncomfortable using that word/term for debates as people have gotten into trouble about it over in the Paladin thread" more than anything else.

But didn't you write down;

Quote:
So if I tell you my character is, say.... a slave trader, does not make any difference than if I say he is a Navy Captain?

So that means this is the same character? If they aren't then YES I would expect them do be different. If they are the same character, well which one did you put down as background first. While I assume said character to be evil and s~@&ty I would also assume "Trader" to be easily placed into any location while "Navy Captain" to be closer to ports. Why? Because of the Mechanical benefits. Why would someone that puts down "Navy Captain" want to really adventure in the middle of a desert? That's 2 feats/abilities/options that aren't going to come into play at all. I'm fine with not building optimal but I for one would at least like to use everything on my sheet at least once.

And well the min maxers still see they aren't getting everything they can so Navy Captain wouldn't get picked anyway.

Also about the drug dealer and taxi driver..., depends? What abilities do they get? Drug Dealer is clearly Criminal. Taxi Driver is..., laborer?

Oh wait, no the book goes on to say how the Taxi Driver grew up on the streets an orphan and had to live the hard knock life to get where he is. Maybe even run with a gang to survive. Is that Urchin or Criminal now?


Well, I don't think we are talking about the same topic at all. So instead of keeping talking past each other, I'd bow out of the conversation and simply reinstate that FOR ME, the most important difference betweeen a Blacksmith and, say, a farmer, is the fact that with one of those backgrounds your character is a blacksmith, while with the other, he is a farmer. The lore skill you are never going to roll does not matter, and the attributes are flexible enough to don't matter (or maybe even be the same between farmer and blacksmith).

YMMV.


gustavo iglesias wrote:

Well, I don't think we are talking about the same topic at all. So instead of keeping talking past each other, I'd bow out of the conversation and simply reinstate that FOR ME, the most important difference betweeen a Blacksmith and, say, a farmer, is the fact that with one of those backgrounds your character is a blacksmith, while with the other, he is a farmer. The lore skill you are never going to roll does not matter, and the attributes are flexible enough to don't matter (or maybe even be the same between farmer and blacksmith).

YMMV.

We probably are. I think we got mixed up somewhere. If you want to we can take this to PM.

Myself, I find boiling a character down to a core background, never mind that they could take several, feels rather limiting. More so if the backgrounds are so bog standard that you could easily slot multiplies into the same character. That's not part of a character, that's a box you're checking off.


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I do like the idea of having a mechanical benefit from my character having a history / background. I just don't want to be put in a position of having to decide which of several pre-designed boxes best fit my character concept. I want to pick the abilities (traits, racial traits, feats or whatever) that fit my mental picture of him/her. I have a half-elf with the mismatched racial trait and gave him the third eye trait purely as a cool combination. How could I fit that into one of Paizo's backgrounds? I feel that we will lose a lot of cool characters with this approach to backgrounds.

Shadow Lodge

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I'll chime in a little more for wanting separation between something as material as ability scores from backgrounds.

Say there's a group of friends wanting to make all the major characters from the Gentleman Bastards/Locke Lamora series...

Either we all feel kind of lame as each of us has the Street Urchin background and are shoehorned into all having the Pickpocket skill feat, the Underworld Lore skill and all of us boosted Dex or Int. (Clearly Golarion has no space for dumb muscle to survive/thrive on the streets.)

Or we have a bunch of "hacked backgrounds" we just squint at and we pretend aren't really there so we can build out the mechanics that better represent our respective roles as a band of Street Urchins - the con man, the book-keeper, the muscle, the beauty, etc.

I'm all for backgrounds, I just want them to feel more worthy of belonging to a TTRPG than seeming like a screen you quickly click through in a low-to-mid budget CRPG while trying to pick the one that 'makes sense' mechanically for the class you want to play.

That's what feels totally lost in translation to me from PF1e to PF2e: the variety we could obtain in a gang of 5 human rogues seems way reduced between editions. That's a backwards step vs forwards step.

Liberty's Edge

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Criminal is already a separate background from Street Urchin, so you've got at least two there. And frankly, much as he's a professional criminal, Jean's background in that series actually screams 'Warrior' pretty loudly (a case could also be made for Scholar, but not as good of one). So that's an easy three Backgrounds at least. Oh, and Locke was raised as an actual priest of the Thief God in that series wasn't he, and considers himself as such? So Acolyte could work too (though I'd probably give him Criminal). Now we're up to 4. Acrobat and Entertainer, depending on description, may well also work for certain varieties of criminal (which would make 6). I'm sure I could come up with more if I reread those books...

Also, and unrelatedly, how is +Str, +Dex not appropriate for 'dumb muscle'?

And, for variety within a single Background, +2 Str, +2 Int and +2 Dex, +2 Cha are pretty different, and say very different things about the two characters. Heck, there are actually 9 different Ability Variants for any individual Background.

Really, I think you have plenty of options.


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I would be in favour of really generic backgrounds that have examples of ways they can be flavoured to be specific. So "Sailor" - you have spent a lot of time on ships, boost one of Dex/Wis, Skill focus climb and lore (ships) could cover corsair, pirate, naval officer or galley slave.

It's why I query 'blacksmith' as a sample background - it's too narrow. "Craftsman" or "Artisan" covers the same thing and a multitude of other professions.

Although if Paizo want to build a blacksmith background that's about being able to do magic because that's what some folklore says, I'll take that.


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I just realized something: With Goblin being a Core Ancestry/Heritage now, and with the near certainty that one of the available backgrounds will be something like High Society, we can now have . . .

* * * * * * * * HOBNOBLINS * * * * * * * *

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