Very early on in developing the Second Edition campaign for Pathfinder Society, the team agreed that transferring large portions of the First Edition PCs' accomplishments would be disruptive. We wanted to present a level playing field for everyone, beginners and veterans alike. Instead, we looked for ways to provide fun and meaningful ways to recognize your accomplishments from the past 11 years as you're creating characters for the new campaign. We're doing so in a big way through backgrounds.
If you checked out the playtest, you'd see that backgrounds in the new edition are quite familiar. Each helps define part of your character's upbringing or past, granting you two ability boosts, training in a specific skill, training in a bonus lore skill, and a skill feat. With few and minor exceptions, all backgrounds grant exactly these benefits, and each PC gains exactly one background, so no one background is necessarily stronger than another. Instead, the differences are in the combination of benefits and storytelling potential.
And what potential we have! In 11 years, the Society's accomplished so much, and there's a unique background for each season. All of the backgrounds reflect the Society's accomplishments that year, while also acknowledging the ways that those accomplishments might have inspired and trained new agents. So long as you have earned credit for 5 or more scenarios from a particular season (as a player or GM), you're free to use the associated background for any of your PCs. And if there's a season for which you haven't met that target, don't worry; you're welcome to play some more First Edition scenarios at any time to qualify later.
Let's look at a few of these to see what's in store. Keep in mind that there are broad, basic, and slightly ambiguous spoilers for events in Seasons 1, 3, 4, and 9 ahead.
Shadow War Survivor Background
Countless factions have fought for influence in Absalom for millennia, and for decades these groups worked through the Pathfinder Society to better control the City at the Center of the World. Perhaps you were ones of these agents who clashed with other operatives during the so-called Shadow War. Or you might have been an unintended victim of these clandestine clashes, inspiring you to join the Society and stop the conflict from within. Whatever the reason, navigating the Shadow War has left you politically savvy and informed.
Choose two ability boosts. One must be to Wisdom or Charisma, and one is a free ability boost.
You're trained in the Society skill and the Absalom Lore skill. You gain the Streetwise skill feat.
Special: You can select this background only if you have earned credit for at least 5 First Edition scenarios from Season 1 of the Pathfinder Society organized play campaign.
Ruby Phoenix Enthusiast Background
Named for the legendary sorcerer Hao Jin, the Ruby Phoenix Tournament occurs once every 10 years in Goka and attracts extraordinary talent from across the world. You might have begun training for the tournament but never participated, or perhaps you entered the tournament only to be defeated by (and inspired to join) the Pathfinder Society. Either way, your dedicated training prepares you for the rigors of the adventuring lifestyle.
Choose two ability boosts. One must be to Strength or Dexterity, and one is a free ability boost.
You're trained in the Athletics skill and the Gladiatorial Lore skill. You gain the Combat Climber skill feat. In addition, you gain access to one of the following uncommon monk weapons: kama, nunchaku, sai, shuriken, or temple sword.
Special: You can select this background only if you have earned credit for at least 5 First Edition scenarios from Season 3 of the Pathfinder Society organized play campaign.
Thassilonian Delver Background
As archaeologists uncovered and explored ever-larger numbers of Thassilonian ruins, you were among the eager explorers who sought out the Runelords' ancient secrets. You may have been the apprentice to another Pathfinder who perished on an expedition, leaving you their discoveries and notes. Or perhaps you explored several of these sites yourself, quickly learning to parse the arcane secrets before lest the eldritch magic extinguish your life.
Choose two ability boosts. One must be to Constitution or Intelligence, and one is a free ability boost.
You're trained in the Arcana skill and the Thassilonian History Lore skill. You gain the Arcane Sense skill feat. Add Thassilonian to the list of additional languages you can learn for having a high Intelligence modifier.
Special: You can select this background only if you have earned credit for at least 5 First Edition scenarios from Season 4 of the Pathfinder Society organized play campaign.
Faction Opportunist Background
As the Pathfinder Society's influence has grown, so too did many of its factions become wealthier and more powerful. These factions relied on a host of Pathfinders and independent operatives alike to establish trade networks, shape national politics, and more, and you were among the specialists who helped one of these factions realize its goal. These events provided you countless opportunities to develop your own contacts and negotiating skills.
Choose two ability boosts. One must be to Intelligence or Wisdom, and one is a free ability boost.
You're trained in the Diplomacy skill, plus either Guild Lore, Heraldry Lore, or Mercantile Lore. You gain the Hobnobber skill feat.
Special: You can select this background only if you have earned credit for at least 5 First Edition scenarios from Season 9 of the Pathfinder Society organized play campaign.
So as advertised, these are all granting ability boosts, a skill, a Lore, and a skill feat. There are also a few flavorful perks that don't noticeably increase the power level but do help a PC better reflect the background experiences. In this way, Ruby Phoenix Enthusiast gets to walk away with a kama souvenir, the Thassilonian can pick Thassilonion as one of their bonus languages, and the Faction Opportunist gets to choose one of three Lore skills to better reflect the full range of faction-related deeds from Season 9.
We hope to see these backgrounds in action, continuing the memorable First Edition stories into the exciting future of Second Edition gaming!
Organized Play Lead Developer