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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Tags: Pathfinder Playtest Wayne Reynolds
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I like it.


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Finally, we get some basic information on Backgrounds. Background information, if you will.


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This is a really great way of combining story telling elements with game mechanics. The flexibility and mechanically simplicity means that it is very easy to customise them.

I also really like the way stats are "rolled" in the new system. Very much tied to who you are, and what you can do. Some elements are tied down, but there are a lot of floating points to assign.

I also really like that there is more distance between skill proficiency and class. I used traits to pick up skills on quite a few characters.

Thumbs up!


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

So traits combined with set ability boosts..does this confirm the removal of point buy? Either way, kind of interesting and maybe has possibilities.


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I wonder, since they fill the same "space" fluff wise and they are apparently tailored to adventures (paths). If the background fully replaces the old traits?

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


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Very cool system, how many backgrounds can we choose? Just to confirm this is replacing Traits right?


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I like this. Best bits of both traits and Starfinder backgrounds.

Sovereign Court

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Rob Godfrey wrote:
So traits combined with set ability boosts..does this confirm the removal of point buy? Either way, kind of interesting and maybe has possibilities.

That's been confirmed for ages. At least as the standard ability generation method. I think point buy is still an optional system, like rolling stats.


Just about what I expected of what "backgrounds" could do in PF2.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
edduardco wrote:
Very cool system, how many backgrounds can we choose? Just to confirm this is replacing Traits right?

You get one background, and this is looking to replace the way traits work, but this looks like a robust system that grants more value to the background than traits had, but it's also far easier to customize a new background from scratch.


Rob Godfrey wrote:
So traits combined with set ability boosts..does this confirm the removal of point buy? Either way, kind of interesting and maybe has possibilities.

Yup it looks like this is the logical expansion of how starfinder was working so basically as you make your character you do the points as you go so pretty fast and easy to get your stats and still have enough room for flexibility. I am just curious if the plus 1 point bumps are more useful than they wind up being in starfinder.

Silver Crusade

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Yes, Backgrounds replace PF1 Traits. Cross-posting for reference:

Joe M. wrote:

FWIW, Jason and Stephen discuss PF2 Backgrounds in this presentation, starting at 43:00. It's a good overview. Some highlights.

Jason wrote:
Building your characters is following your ABCs: Pick your Ancestry, your Background, and your Class ... You pick your Ancestry, that's where you came from, that's how you were born; you pick your Background, which is how you grew up; and then you pick your Class, which is what you've trained to be.

Stephen describes Backgrounds as a more-robust system that serves about the same function as PF1 traits. "We wanted something a little more robust and mostly, that Adventure Path people could play with." The Core Rulebook will present generic Backgrounds (e.g., old barkeep, ex-slave, "all sorts of stuff") but the goal is to allow AP writers to create Backgrounds that really fit into the world of the AP (much like the AP traits from PF1).

Stephen: The Background system "affects the skills that you're good at and it also your ability scores to a certain degree."

Jason adds that your Background gives you one Lore for free, which is a highly specific Knowledge skill. He gives as examples Lore (Alcohol) and Lore (Warfare) (which Valeros has).

Silver Crusade

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Ooooo, liking what I see so far.

Really hope there’s a Survivalist Background :3


I really am interested in ancestry and backgrounds. If done right, I think it'll be a blast.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Will there be any backgrounds that don't give two Ability Score increases? Seems to be set up in a way that could easily allow that. I'm curious if that will be explored?


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All backgrounds confirmed to boost intelligence! Charisma fans, time to riot!

I kid, I kid. At first glance I don't see anything I dislike about this system, though that may change when the time comes to build a character. I like the note about "refluffing" the blacksmith background to work for a tinkerer or alchemist. That'd be a great point to put in the rulebook itself if it isn't already.


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KingOfAnything wrote:
Rob Godfrey wrote:
So traits combined with set ability boosts..does this confirm the removal of point buy? Either way, kind of interesting and maybe has possibilities.
That's been confirmed for ages. At least as the standard ability generation method. I think point buy is still an optional system, like rolling stats.

So the standard generation is 10 on all abilities plus the bonuses you get from Ancestry, Background, and Class? Because that would be very lackluster

Sovereign Court

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kaid wrote:
Rob Godfrey wrote:
So traits combined with set ability boosts..does this confirm the removal of point buy? Either way, kind of interesting and maybe has possibilities.
Yup it looks like this is the logical expansion of how starfinder was working so basically as you make your character you do the points as you go so pretty fast and easy to get your stats and still have enough room for flexibility. I am just curious if the plus 1 point bumps are more useful than they wind up being in starfinder.

I thought an ability boost was a +2 bonus to the ability.


Interesting. I want to see the rest of them, now!


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Please tell me there is a shepherd background!


Yaaaaas my guess was right! This looks great.


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Xethik wrote:
Will there be any backgrounds that don't give two Ability Score increases? Seems to be set up in a way that could easily allow that. I'm curious if that will be explored?

Why?

Silver Crusade

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So this helps fill in details on ability score generation. (As I recall the designers have stated that there will be alternative ability score generation models included in the Playtest.)

We have:

Ancestry: 3 ability boosts (2 set, 1 free), 1 ability flaw**
Background: 2 ability boosts (1 set, 1 free)
Class: 1 ability boost (set)

(** Although it seems likely from some hints that humans and maybe half-elves and half-orcs will get something like 2 free ability boosts with no ability flaw.)

And I believe some folks have been speculating about some number of ability boosts to complete the process—which would be needed to get to an 18, as has been observed on a playtest pregenerated character.

What we don't know is if the ability boosts are a flat +2 or if they work like Starfinder and provide a +1 when applied to higher scores. (My interpretation of the Leveling Up Blog is that they will work like Starfinder; other folks seem to believe otherwise. That blog commented: "You'll also amp up several of your ability scores every 5 levels. The process might be familiar to those of you who've been playing Starfinder for the last several months! There are, of course, a few tweaks, and we made all ability boosts work the same way instead of being different at 1st level. Learn it once, use it in perpetuity.")

Does anyone have info on this that I'm missing?


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A midwife background would also be cool!


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If any Devs can answer this, are Backgrounds suppose to replace Traits? I always felt in PF1 that traits acted as neat .5 feats to enhance your background. Or will Traits still exist as a thing in PF2? I feel like there are 2 schools of thought with traits. People who used them to spice up their character's backgrounds, and "min maxers" who only wanted the ability/buffs.

Speaking of backgrounds, Background skills were a non-core optional rule for PF1. Are they making a comeback also? Seeing that you already have the name Background claimed for PF2, it seems like my hopes are low. Background Skills were a neat way to fluff out your character who would normally have low skill points. Your Paladin loves to farm in his spare time? Now you can put points in Prof(Farming) to represent that.


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

It looks modular enough that we could write one easily.

+2 to Wisdom and one other score.
A skill feat that improves perception seems obvious, but perhaps one that improves grappling might be in order too (assuming one exists).
A relatively weak Domestic Animals lore might be in order to offset the stronger perception skill feat.

Silver Crusade

42nfl19 wrote:
If any Devs can answer this, are Backgrounds suppose to replace Traits? I always felt in PF1 that traits acted as neat .5 feats to enhance your background. Or will Traits still exist as a thing in PF2? I feel like there are 2 schools of thought with traits. People who used them to spice up their character's backgrounds, and "min maxers" who only wanted the ability/buffs.

See my post upthread. Stephen talked about Backgrounds in an interview as serving the same purpose as PF1 Traits. So yes, we can expect Backgrounds to replace Traits.


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edduardco wrote:
KingOfAnything wrote:
Rob Godfrey wrote:
So traits combined with set ability boosts..does this confirm the removal of point buy? Either way, kind of interesting and maybe has possibilities.
That's been confirmed for ages. At least as the standard ability generation method. I think point buy is still an optional system, like rolling stats.
So the standard generation is 10 on all abilities plus the bonuses you get from Ancestry, Background, and Class? Because that would be very lackluster

That sounds like only 16 as your highest stat, but I swear I heard 18s in some examples.


Pathfinder Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Nice! Straightforward, easy to make/customize, and probably less likely to get unbalanced options like traits were. I'll miss getting charisma to saves vs. charm and compulsion for "free", though. I like the dual-options on the "fixed" ability score.

Thanks for the blog!


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Well, on the overall part is find this great, anything that binds the PC more and more into world in a positive to me. So i hope other feats and so on will even further set a PC that not only tells a story, but that has the story build up what he is.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
edduardco wrote:
KingOfAnything wrote:
Rob Godfrey wrote:
So traits combined with set ability boosts..does this confirm the removal of point buy? Either way, kind of interesting and maybe has possibilities.
That's been confirmed for ages. At least as the standard ability generation method. I think point buy is still an optional system, like rolling stats.
So the standard generation is 10 on all abilities plus the bonuses you get from Ancestry, Background, and Class? Because that would be very lackluster

It's been confirmed that you could build a cleric with 10 wisdom if you tried hard enough(though I can't see how in the core rulebook).

The best way to look at it is
Race: +2,+2, -2 or +2, and +2 floating from pb that doesn't stack
Background: +2 to one of 2 stats, +2 floating
Class:+2 to your classes main stat
And having seen some pregenerated character stats, there's clearly a stage where you "buy" additional stats at the end.


Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Close to what I expected it to be; which is awesome!


Everything I was hoping for with Backgrounds seems to be true here. They are significant, but flexible enough to to make most concepts workable. And 2 Ability Scores + 1 Skill Feat + One lore seems like a really easy system to create new backgrounds for.

The 5e backgrounds aren't especially flexible with the skills they grant (which means loads of adventurers were Sailor to get Perception), and their little bonus abilities are super up for interpretation. That means that you and your GM have a lot of wiggle room for disagreement, and coming up with a balanced new background is hard.

Rolling up level 1 characters looks so easy to explain now, while still offering meaningful choices. I love it.

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Cyouni wrote:
edduardco wrote:
KingOfAnything wrote:
Rob Godfrey wrote:
So traits combined with set ability boosts..does this confirm the removal of point buy? Either way, kind of interesting and maybe has possibilities.
That's been confirmed for ages. At least as the standard ability generation method. I think point buy is still an optional system, like rolling stats.
So the standard generation is 10 on all abilities plus the bonuses you get from Ancestry, Background, and Class? Because that would be very lackluster
That sounds like only 16 as your highest stat, but I swear I heard 18s in some examples.

You get your first ability boost, as well. Just like the 5th/10th/15th level boosts.


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MusicAddict wrote:
edduardco wrote:
KingOfAnything wrote:
Rob Godfrey wrote:
So traits combined with set ability boosts..does this confirm the removal of point buy? Either way, kind of interesting and maybe has possibilities.
That's been confirmed for ages. At least as the standard ability generation method. I think point buy is still an optional system, like rolling stats.
So the standard generation is 10 on all abilities plus the bonuses you get from Ancestry, Background, and Class? Because that would be very lackluster

It's been confirmed that you could build a cleric with 10 wisdom if you tried hard enough(though I can't see how in the core rulebook).

The best way to look at it is
Race: +2,+2, -2 or +2, and +2 floating from pb that doesn't stack
Background: +2 to one of 2 stats, +2 floating
Class:+2 to your classes main stat
And having seen some pregenerated character stats, there's clearly a stage where you "buy" additional stats at the end.

Goblin wisdom penalty would be how you get 10, I think.


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Wonder if all Background bonus ability choice is a combination of mental and physical. seem likely


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I just hope there are enough backgrounds in the final version for me to write whatever backstory I want for my character and still be able to find a background that fits it. One of my favorite things about character creation is thinking out and writing my characters backstory, so I hope the backgrounds don't limit what I can create as a backstory.


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So are these set and forget? I was kind of hoping the background would be more evolved than PF1 traits and a stat booster. These seem cool in 5E but they hardly have any of them. Im sure thats not a worry with Paizo.

Silver Crusade

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KingOfAnything wrote:
You get your first ability boost, as well. Just like the 5th/10th/15th level boosts.

Yep, that would round it out. From the Leveling Up Blog:

Leveling Up Blog wrote:
You'll also amp up several of your ability scores every 5 levels. The process might be familiar to those of you who've been playing Starfinder for the last several months! There are, of course, a few tweaks, and we made all ability boosts work the same way instead of being different at 1st level. Learn it once, use it in perpetuity.

So if it's like Starfinder that's what, 4 free ability boosts?


KingOfAnything wrote:
Cyouni wrote:
edduardco wrote:
KingOfAnything wrote:
Rob Godfrey wrote:
So traits combined with set ability boosts..does this confirm the removal of point buy? Either way, kind of interesting and maybe has possibilities.
That's been confirmed for ages. At least as the standard ability generation method. I think point buy is still an optional system, like rolling stats.
So the standard generation is 10 on all abilities plus the bonuses you get from Ancestry, Background, and Class? Because that would be very lackluster
That sounds like only 16 as your highest stat, but I swear I heard 18s in some examples.
You get your first ability boost, as well. Just like the 5th/10th/15th level boosts.

You get an ability boost at first level? Is that what you mean? Didn't know that


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I'm glad the legacy of my gobbo cleric with a wisdom of 10 lives on! Watch out, he's coming!

As for backgrounds, sorta what I expected, and generally speaking, sounds good. I like that they all give Skill Feats, though I would have liked to know a bit more about those in general (like, do all the Skill Feats granted by background supercede proficiency requirements for those skills?).

The only other thing I will say is that Street Urchin getting Intelligence rather than Charisma (begging, seeming innocent) doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me...


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Really digging this approach to character creation. I am especially excited about the possibilities for campaign integration.

Silver Crusade

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They only thing I don’t really care for is the outright stating of taking a Background for the ability boosts and ignoring the flavor.

There’s a big difference between blacksmith and tinkerer.

If I play a Wizard or Alchemist I’m not going to pick the Pickpocket Background for the Intelligence boost, I’m gonna pick it cause they were a pickpocket. If they weren’t, I’m not gonna pick it.


Joe M. wrote:
KingOfAnything wrote:
You get your first ability boost, as well. Just like the 5th/10th/15th level boosts.

Yep, that would round it out. From the Leveling Up Blog:

Leveling Up Blog wrote:
You'll also amp up several of your ability scores every 5 levels. The process might be familiar to those of you who've been playing Starfinder for the last several months! There are, of course, a few tweaks, and we made all ability boosts work the same way instead of being different at 1st level. Learn it once, use it in perpetuity.
So if it's like Starfinder that's what, 4 free ability boosts?

You don't get ability boost at level 20? Why?


The Unfortunate Pumpkin wrote:
I just hope there are enough backgrounds in the final version for me to write whatever backstory I want for my character and still be able to find a background that fits it. One of my favorite things about character creation is thinking out and writing my characters backstory, so I hope the backgrounds don't limit what I can create as a backstory.

In starfinder they had a themeless theme so I am imagining they will have something like that as the my background does not fit any of the listed ones well so here is a generic one that I can use for whatever.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Interesting.


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Rysky wrote:

They only thing I don’t really care for is the outright stating of taking a Background for the ability boosts and ignoring the flavor.

There’s a big difference between blacksmith and tinkerer.

If I play a Wizard or Alchemist I’m not going to pick the Pickpocket Background for the Intelligence boost, I’m gonna pick it cause they were a pickpocket. If they weren’t, I’m not gonna pick it.

Well, I think the only reason a tinkerer would take the Blacksmith background would be if there isn't a separate Tinkerer Background. But the good news is your DM can make one suuuuuper easy!

Contributor

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So I like the nuts and bolts of the system and I appreciate that it can be hyper specialized or general while also taking up very little page space. But I find the blacksmithing one odd—its name implies a very specific background (I was a smithy's apprentice!) but now the design direction embodied is super generic? Why not just change it into an Apprenticeship background, change the ability boost to Int + one free (since Crafting is an Intelligence skill), and have the free Lore training be "a lore appropriate to your Apprenticeship?"

The alternative is to have an endless parade of profession-based backgrounds that all do exactly the same thing, sans one small ability boost and Lore skill swap. Seems like a waste to me.

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