Backgrounds & Their Limitations; customization


Ancestries & Backgrounds


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Excuse me if I post this in the wrong section, didn't see a forum space for backgrounds. Please move to proper section if need be.

So one thing I've noticed is that backgrounds are very limiting and restricted currently. The current list is workable on a small scale for general play, but in terms of differences of people's PC's sometimes they do not make sense.

So I suggest a feature similar to 5th Edition that allows the creation of custom backgrounds using specific rules. In 5e, it is legal in Adventure League to create your own following the rules they set:

Background:
• Choose 2 Skills to be Proficient in
• Choose a Mix of 2 languages or tools to be Proficient in
• Choose a Background Feature
• Up to X gp in misc. items (can't rmemeber this one properly)
• Choose a single Feature of a background to use

This is allowable in their official play and I highly suggest Pathfinder 2E allow the same, especially in Society Play so that characters can be different without going to far out of way of things and balanced against other players.

In Pathfinder 2E backgrounds are, in general, listed and described as the following.

Background:
• Choice between A or B Ability bonus
• Choice of any Ability Bonus
• Lore Skill
• Skill Feat

I suggest the following be added for custom backgrounds:

Background:
• Choose 1 Physical Ability Bonus -- STR, DEX, CON
• Choose 1 Mental Ability Score Bonus -- INT, WIS, CHA
• Choose a Lore Skill
• Choose a Skill Feat of which requires a level of no more than 1st level. -- feats requiring a trained skill can be chosen

For this, I believe Lore Skill needs to be expanded on vs something very vague it is currently so players can get some choices as an example.

In an example of a custom background:

Magical Survivor
You were once a prisoner of an arcane caster and used in magical experiments, you have escaped captivity but the scars of arcane power are still felt.
• Choose two ability boosts. One must be Dexterity or Intelligence, and one is a free ability boost.
• You gain Arcane Sense as a Skill feat and you are trained in the Arcane Lore skill.
-- As a custom Background, DEX and INT would be the two selected Physical and Mental Stats

In the example above it follows along the lines of official backgrounds and reading and acting in similar fashion.

Again I iterate that allowing custom backgrounds with a ground work of rules will help the game in the long run to allow players to FEEL like they are different from others and providing a small in game boost in the same way that traits did in 1st Edition of the game.

Thank you for reading.


It seems like there's intent for Backgrounds to be a broad design space -- Doomsday Dawn includes 6 "campaign backgrounds", which are much more specific than the general ones in the CRB -- much like the campaign traits in past APs.

The Backgrounds intro text on pg 38 could perhaps be edited a bit to include more of the specificity that you provide, and also make explicit that these are examples and tables can generate their own?


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Murph. wrote:

It seems like there's intent for Backgrounds to be a broad design space -- Doomsday Dawn includes 6 "campaign backgrounds", which are much more specific than the general ones in the CRB -- much like the campaign traits in past APs.

The Backgrounds intro text on pg 38 could perhaps be edited a bit to include more of the specificity that you provide, and also make explicit that these are examples and tables can generate their own?

I'm not too happy with the campaign backgrounds because they are mandatory if you play in it, but overall yes, the design of backgrounds seem to be meant to be simple and easy, and seems to be worded in a way where it could be an option, but isn't. Hopefully they will add the ability to add it in.


I did note the use of campaign backgrounds as required, rather than new options, as not to my taste -- but ultimately that's a super easy fix by GM Fiat Magic Wand if I'm in the minority for taste.


I'm fond of Backgrounds, so far, but would like to explore them in greater depth when it comes to creating them for a GM's specific campaign. For example, what if a referee crafting a setting wanted to include some potential Backgrounds that offer only a single Ability boost but extra Skill feats or Skill trainings?

For example, using the "Magical Survivor" example, above, I could envision a variation that boosts a single physical Ability score of the player's choice but grants a bonus to Perception. (Or something like that.)

Do you see what I'm trying to describe? I hope I'm making this clear.

Basically, I'd be interested in a ruleset for developing Backgrounds that are still play-balanced but not necessarily using the Ability bonus/Skill bonus/training format that they all share, at the moment.

Thoughts?


Sylvan Scott wrote:


For example, using the "Magical Survivor" example, above, I could envision a variation that boosts a single physical Ability score of the player's choice but grants a bonus to Perception. (Or something like that.)

Do you see what I'm trying to describe? I hope I'm making this clear.

Basically, I'd be interested in a ruleset for developing Backgrounds that are still play-balanced but not necessarily using the Ability bonus/Skill bonus/training format that they all share, at the moment.

Thoughts?

I see what you mean, and for home games I think it's fine, since they are home games. Everything is up to the DM and this system allows great versatility in changing items/spells etc into Uncommon, Rare, or Unique to change how the world feels.

What I was trying to portray though is a detailed example of how you can customize backgrounds for Legal play to allow more options for players besides the default listing. 5th Edition D&D allows customized backgrounds for their Adventure League play and I believe that PF2E should welcome this addition to allow more versatility for players other than everyone being restricted.

Dark Archive

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Custom background would solve a lot of the problems of having a unquie backstory but having to fit it in to an existing background so I'm all for it.


I'm a fan of backgrounds, I just want for there to be more of them. I mean, there are backgrounds now for a barkeep and an entertainer, but not one for a chef or a baker- what gives? We have a background for a Smith, but not for someone who was a Woodworker or a Mason or a Weaver or any other sort of craft.

I think there just need to be like ten times as many of these.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:

I'm a fan of backgrounds, I just want for there to be more of them. I mean, there are backgrounds now for a barkeep and an entertainer, but not one for a chef or a baker- what gives? We have a background for a Smith, but not for someone who was a Woodworker or a Mason or a Weaver or any other sort of craft.

I think there just need to be like ten times as many of these.

They can't just make one for every small profession, there's literally hundreds. Even 5e doesn't have that many. Which is why the legal ability to make your own and the ability to customize is important, so YOU can play that background if you wanted to.


Why can't we make like a hundred of these? All they are is "one of two ability scores, one skill feat, one lore skill". I mean, how many traits did PF1 have?


I'd prefer backgrounds be broken into two sections (like childhood and training) instead of a single one. You might be born a noble, but have been trained as crafter. Basically what Mount and Blade uses but only two questions. Allows more granularity and customization.

@Possible Cabbage, xDialtone
They could stand to rename "smith" to "craftsman", "artisan" or "wright" to be more broad. The preview said it could be used for such, which really raises the question of why is has such a narrow name in the first place.


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We could also just discard Background as a mechanic altogether and let players choose whatever story they want for their characters...


PossibleCabbage wrote:
I mean, there are backgrounds now for a barkeep and an entertainer, but not one for a chef or a baker-

Just take the barkeep one and change "Alcohol Lore" to "Bakery Lore". Poof. A Baker background. Do you really need every possible profession listed. The flaw here is barkeep, should have been Shopkeeper or Craftsman. Alcohol Lore should have been "Lore related to your shop or craft"


"Arcane Lore" skill sounds suspiciously like the Arcana skill, xDialtone, so maybe that's a bad example for a custom background.


ChibiNyan wrote:
"Arcane Lore" skill sounds suspiciously like the Arcana skill, xDialtone, so maybe that's a bad example for a custom background.

Arcane Lore is explicitly called out in the lore skill section if I remember properly. Lore skill functions a bit different than the knowledge skill as well.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
Why can't we make like a hundred of these? All they are is "one of two ability scores, one skill feat, one lore skill". I mean, how many traits did PF1 have?

I think at least there should 1 per level 1 skill feat. One of the abilities would tie to that feat.

I'm also not happy at an adventure having such limiting backgrounds. Traits didn't restrict your feat choices.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

I don't know if fully customization backgrounds are the way to go, but it sounds like a much better implementation than the ones we have. My biggest concern is that the backgrounds are too limiting - perhaps another approach is to give each background a choice of 2 or 3 skill feats instead of just one.

For example, Criminal should cover all types of criminal backgrounds, but instead, it forced you to be an Expert Smuggler. I'd add Pickpocket and Subtle Theft as choices. Or you could rename the criminal background to Smuggler and make a thief one that gives a different choice.

Noble - why have the line in the description “you have traded your silks and pageantry for an adventurer’s life”? I can imagine many noble background characters who keep the silks and pageantry, and still adventure.

Sailor - the Underwater Marauder is very off flavor for a sailor. Most sailors couldn’t even swim historically, and even if they could, a typical naval battle wouldn’t take place underwater. I would think Steady Balance would be far more appropriate for the Sailor background.

Scholar - While Assurance for the various magical skills are fine choices, what if you were a scholar of something other than magic? I’d add choices of Cultural Familiarity and Multilingual as choices.

Street Urchin - since the Pickpocket feat I’m recommending for Criminal background as a choice, I’d suggest making Street Urchin either roll into Criminal and update the descriptive text to include that option, or give Street Urchins a choice of Charming Liar or Subtle Theft.


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Tentatively posting only because I have not seen any other opportunities to bring it up without a tirade of rancour : I despise Backgrounds, they are the no. 1 reason why I gave up on playtesting. Giving options to display/enhance my character concept is one thing, Ancestries/Classes still do this in PF2e (although in a seemingly diluted fashion). Excluding non-distruptive characters or forcing them to be changed to fit a narrow set of concepts is another. Paizo will certainly expand the choices but these will always be limited to what staff come up with, then culled down by space, time, relevance to current products, interest of the majority; etc. Please do not force character concepts to be limited in such a way. I would be much more on board with guidelines/rules for creating custom Backgrounds, with the ones Paizo creates acting as suggestions for newer Players who are trying to get through the process painlessly, then for others simply stifled by choice as the options expand. Staff still get to create "core" options and suggest their own flavour, without preventing Players from making characters that they actually want to play. Honestly, I would not play any of the current ones, even the ones somewhat similar to topics I would pick are far removed from choices I would enjoy.

Just to be clear, this is not about looking for the most awesome combination for mechanical benefit, nor it is about creating false justifications in-character for disruptive Player behaviour. Any characters I currently have would either not hit the suggested Backgrounds or if have the same topic, are vastly different (to the point of being the antithesis of the concept even under the same topic).

A more personal example:

Take my favourite character, Illya the Aasimar Witch. She was raised for most of her life in a community that basically venerated Aasimar's as Angels walking among them, with the church there being akin to a "Cult to the Aasimars" without going into actual cult mode, (more biased). Illya grew up despising Clerics, Celestials (with particular venom towards Angels), and Deities due to her seeing everyone as starting with equal inherent value, different opinions on behaviour, believing Aasimars to be self-deluded pawns, and so on. If looking at a basic Background keyword, she fits the Acolyte Background, yet her actual concept is the antithesis of what this stands for - the "knowledge" imparted on her was inaccurate, sometimes wildly so, to the point that adventuring provides her with an opportunity to unlearn such nonsense. It also requires that the Lore Skill relates to your chosen Deity - so I have to suddenly worship one. In fact, anyone who has this Background has to worship a specific Deity; no "borne of evil, raised by good, walking the middle line of not being drawn to either" orphan concepts, no jaded with the religious establishment and looking to find a new Deity to worship along your journey, no simply being thankful to the clergy of a pantheon for raising/teaching/protecting you ...

Also note that my True Neutral character has opinions but she also has standards. Illya may complain about tasks whilst doing them, yet she still does them to ensure that my concept is not hindering the Party/table. If something is in direct opposition to her interests, (such as convincing old worshippers to rejoin the fold of the "nice" N.P.C. Cleric the Party has come across), then Illya can state her disapproval, removing herself to do something else that benefits the game overall, or she can try to alter the situation with discussion amongst the Party. Playing a character should not be disruptive, however nor should it be reduced down to aligning only with mechanics for a step-by-step task-list playstyle - it might suit some, that is fine, but making the game this way excludes roleplay outside of a predetermined mindset. Just ... no.

T.L.D.R. : Please keep mechanics out of my character concept.

P.S.: Apologies for any mistakes that got through, health issues are prevalent at the moment. *sigh*

Scarab Sages

I never even doubted once that you are allowed to create background outside the ones provided. As long as it is 2 score increase, 1 skill feats and 1 lore.

They talk about how to not create "wrong lore skill" somewhere in the rules, something that would be useless if you were limitated by the written background.

I don't understand Why you are all so upset. I did customs background on the fly the first time a player went with a concept that wasn't here and it was easy. I didn't even though about it before seeing this topic.


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Shaheer-El-Khatib wrote:

I never even doubted once that you are allowed to create background outside the ones provided. As long as it is 2 score increase, 1 skill feats and 1 lore.

They talk about how to not create "wrong lore skill" somewhere in the rules, something that would be useless if you were limitated by the written background.

I don't understand Why you are all so upset. I did customs background on the fly the first time a player went with a concept that wasn't here and it was easy. I didn't even though about it before seeing this topic.

Backgrounds are limited to the ones stated in the Playtest, (Paizo's set Playtest adventures reiterate to select these, or use the extra 6 stated as options in Doomsday Dawn). There is no mention that you can create custom Backgrounds in the Playtest, (there is a general pattern mentioned though), and you are instructed that the Backgrounds available to Players are on pp.38-39 :

Pathfinder (2e) Playtest, p.14 wrote:

3 | CHOOSE A BACKGROUND

Your character’s background might represent a special aptitude she’s been honing since her youth, detail her upbringing, or illuminate some other aspect of her life before she became an adventurer. The available character backgrounds are described beginning on page 38. Backgrounds typically provide benefits to your character in the form of two ability boosts (one that can be applied to either of two specific ability scores, and one that is free), training in a Lore skill, and a specific skill feat.

Again, there is no mention of custom Backgrounds on those pages; we are simply raising this so it stays as a Playtest limited situation, not one that carries over into the Core Rulebook. It is also worth mentioning something that is marring Player's enjoyment of the Playtest, limiting their motivation to play and therefore reducing their feedback.

The guidelines on creating Lore subcategories relates to gaining additional ones via the General/Skill Feat Additional Lore :

Pathfinder (2e) Playtest, p.162 wrote:

ADDITIONAL LORE | FEAT 1

Prerequisites trained in Lore
The breadth of your knowledge has increased to encompass a new field. Choose an additional Lore skill subcategory. You become trained in it and it counts as a signature skill. At 3rd, 5th, and 13th levels, you gain an additional skill increase you can apply only to Lore. When you select this feat, you gain the skill increases immediately for all listed levels at or below your current level.
Special You can select this feat more than once, choosing a new subcategory of Lore each time and gaining the listed skill increases to that Lore.

There are probably other methods that I am missing too.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'll reiterate my suggestions for backgrounds here:

1) Replace lore with an actual skill. Most backgrounds would offer only one skill, but some backgrounds (like scholar) might offer a choice. This is your background skill. You are trained in your background skill, and always treat it as a signature skill. You gain the ability to make profession checks to earn a living with your background skill. You automatically know the answer to any easy questions regarding your background, and can make a check using your background skill to answer more difficult questions relating to your background's subject matter.

This neatly folds lore into the existing skills. It also means your 'lore' proficiency automatically improves whenever you improve your proficiency with your background skills, giving a bit more compaction in that respect. This is also a subtle incentive to continue investing in your background skill, without making it so good as to be mandatory to do so.

2) Each background should allow for the selection of any skill feat whose associated skill matches the background skill. So acrobat would allow you to pick any skill feat associated with acrobatics. You would still need to meet the prerequisites of the skill feat in question.

This addresses the problem of using backgrounds to bypass prerequisites, future-proofs backgrounds, allows greater customization, while still narrowing choices to thematic ones associated with that background. Each background could suggest a default choice, creating a mid-ground between speed of character creation and customization.

3) Campaign backgrounds are chosen in addition to your regular background, essentially giving you a second background. They do not increase your ability scores, and do not grant you a profession. They only grant a trained skill and a skill feat. If your campaign is not using campaign backgrounds, you can select a free skill feat instead.


JoelF847 wrote:

I don't know if fully customization backgrounds are the way to go, but it sounds like a much better implementation than the ones we have. My biggest concern is that the backgrounds are too limiting - perhaps another approach is to give each background a choice of 2 or 3 skill feats instead of just one.

For example, Criminal should cover all types of criminal backgrounds, but instead, it forced you to be an Expert Smuggler. I'd add Pickpocket and Subtle Theft as choices. Or you could rename the criminal background to Smuggler and make a thief one that gives a different choice.

Noble - why have the line in the description “you have traded your silks and pageantry for an adventurer’s life”? I can imagine many noble background characters who keep the silks and pageantry, and still adventure.

Sailor - the Underwater Marauder is very off flavor for a sailor. Most sailors couldn’t even swim historically, and even if they could, a typical naval battle wouldn’t take place underwater. I would think Steady Balance would be far more appropriate for the Sailor background.

Scholar - While Assurance for the various magical skills are fine choices, what if you were a scholar of something other than magic? I’d add choices of Cultural Familiarity and Multilingual as choices.

Street Urchin - since the Pickpocket feat I’m recommending for Criminal background as a choice, I’d suggest making Street Urchin either roll into Criminal and update the descriptive text to include that option, or give Street Urchins a choice of Charming Liar or Subtle Theft.

Gladiator is another, it gives a Performance feat (the same feat as the Entertainer background), despite gladiatorial combat not being covered by Performance. Intimidating Glare would have been more suitable, methinks.

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