Loving the new backgrounds thing, it's a huge step up for the game


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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I'm testing out all sorts of stuff in the character creator via herolab and having a blast.

I made an elf barbarian who was a gladiator in an underground arena hundreds of years ago who went into hiding after a bunch of other adventurers burned the thing to the ground.

I made a charlatan diviner whose whole shtick is to whip up towns into a frenzy of intrigue just to see what happens.

I made a ranger of Gozreh who protects the wilderness from gentrification.

Also a former bounty hunter turned liberator, who's fighting to free the people she unjustly handed over to corrupt lawmen.

A lawful necromancer, follower of Nethys, who in her spare time consults as a private investigator, mainly because of her expertise at keeping her own privacy.

And the best part is each of them is so easy to start up because it's little more than picking a background and a class and just going hog wild.

I'm trying to figure out a way to make a detective barbarian. But I can't stop giggling at the idea of Conan looking around him and cursing at the black and white and shades of grey.


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NOM NOM NOM wrote:

I'm testing out all sorts of stuff in the character creator via herolab and having a blast.

I made an elf barbarian who was a gladiator in an underground arena hundreds of years ago who went into hiding after a bunch of other adventurers burned the thing to the ground.

I made a charlatan diviner whose whole shtick is to whip up towns into a frenzy of intrigue just to see what happens.

I made a ranger of Gozreh who protects the wilderness from gentrification.

Also a former bounty hunter turned liberator, who's fighting to free the people she unjustly handed over to corrupt lawmen.

A lawful necromancer, follower of Nethys, who in her spare time consults as a private investigator, mainly because of her expertise at keeping her own privacy.

And the best part is each of them is so easy to start up because it's little more than picking a background and a class and just going hog wild.

I'm trying to figure out a way to make a detective barbarian. But I can't stop giggling at the idea of Conan looking around him and cursing at the black and white and shades of grey.

Charisma is useful for deception, diplomacy, etc for detective work. It's also a very strong combat option for intimidation for a barbarian. Decent Int for skills shouldn't cut into your build too much, given that you use medium armor.


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Yes. The backgrounds (and Starfinder themes) are fantastic for injecting a bit of role-playing into even the most gamist of players. Even if the background was chosen only because of the mechanics benefits that it gives, it does a least provide adventure hooks for the GM to use. The character does still have that background.

And for creating cool and interesting characters, the part that I love the best about it is that all of those characters that you created are most likely playable. They may not be completely optimal mechanically, but not so much that it will cause major problems during the game.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

I'd much rather that page-count was replaced by "pick two boosts, one of which must fit your backstory's theme, plus one thematic skill to become trained in, and a skill feat for that skill."

Today, we're shackled by the specific backgrounds the writers have come up with. Five years from now there'll be a background for every variety. Why not skip the time delay?

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

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Anguish wrote:

I'd much rather that page-count was replaced by "pick two boosts, one of which must fit your backstory's theme, plus one thematic skill to become trained in, and a skill feat for that skill."

Today, we're shackled by the specific backgrounds the writers have come up with. Five years from now there'll be a background for every variety. Why not skip the time delay?

One reason is that having the background blocks means that we could, for example, create a background in an AP that diverges a bit more notably from a standard background than you'd see in a CRB.

You could also potentially use backgrounds as a tool for running "level 0" adventures, where you add a few extra blocks on there for basic proficiencies that get overwritten when you add a level.

There's a really marked modularity to how PF2 is set up that I find very interesting; for example the number of skills that you're trained in and whether you get more for having a high Intelligence isn't a general rule, it's a class-specific rule. Because it's set up that way, you could have a class that gets more skills via a different method, or which gets a fixed number of skills that isn't affected by Intelligence because you've got another dial elsewhere in the system that you want to toggle to affect how the class gains skills and proficiency levels.

There's a lot of things that could be done differently without it necessarily being true that they should be done differently. As someone who's a big fan of writing, designing, and playing with weird 3pp classes and subsystems, I really like the modularity and structure of PF2. It's malleable enough that I could even have a class that eats backgrounds entirely and replaces them with something similar but more specific (while looking at converting my battle lord class I actually seriously considered having their scout/medic/soldier paths start in the background space, though I ultimately scrapped that idea).


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Anguish wrote:

I'd much rather that page-count was replaced by "pick two boosts, one of which must fit your backstory's theme, plus one thematic skill to become trained in, and a skill feat for that skill."

Today, we're shackled by the specific backgrounds the writers have come up with. Five years from now there'll be a background for every variety. Why not skip the time delay?

It is printed for people who need a kick-start on their creativity. It fixes the 'blank page' problem and gets things going - even if ultimately the player and GM come up with their own unique background to use for the character.

And since the backgrounds follow the same general pattern, it is easy to come up with unique ones that still fit with the game and don't feel underpowered or overpowered.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Michael Sayre wrote:

One reason is that having the background blocks means that we could, for example, create a background in an AP that diverges a bit more notably from a standard background than you'd see in a CRB.

You could also potentially use backgrounds as a tool for running "level 0" adventures, where you add a few extra blocks on there for basic proficiencies that get overwritten when you add a level.

<<And more useful stuff>

I hear you, and those are good arguments. My issue - as it stands - really is that it's currently a straightjacket. I get it that we can ask for DM deviation, but that hasn't been a thing in 15 years. If the book doesn't have our backstory, then... we're stuck filing off the serial numbers.

But - again - your arguments are good. I just would've used the wordcount differently, personally.


Michael Sayre wrote:
Anguish wrote:

I'd much rather that page-count was replaced by "pick two boosts, one of which must fit your backstory's theme, plus one thematic skill to become trained in, and a skill feat for that skill."

Today, we're shackled by the specific backgrounds the writers have come up with. Five years from now there'll be a background for every variety. Why not skip the time delay?

One reason is that having the background blocks means that we could, for example, create a background in an AP that diverges a bit more notably from a standard background than you'd see in a CRB.

I'm not seeing a reason that you couldn't do both: what would stop an AP background from replacing the generic "pick two boosts, one of which must fit your backstory's theme, plus one thematic skill to become trained in, and a skill feat for that skill."? Just add 'Instead of this, some AP's may offer other options that may be used instead of this standard option.' that way standard offers versatility while the AP way offers 'divergent' options.

For me, getting a background that fits the stat I want, a skill I can use and a feat I'd want is quite hard and this is without me taking the actual background 'theme' into account. It mostly works against me if I pick a theme first then as often there is nothing there to work with past the single free boost...


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

As someone currently getting ready to run Age of Ashes, I have to say the AP-specific Backgrounds have been wonderful for getting my players' characters invested in the campaign.

I don't have a strong opinion about the core Backgrounds, but the AP-specific ones are one of my favorite new AP features.


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AP specifics background are an awesome idea, they really are much better than the AP specific trait (they were weird and kind of confusing).

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

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graystone wrote:
Michael Sayre wrote:
Anguish wrote:

I'd much rather that page-count was replaced by "pick two boosts, one of which must fit your backstory's theme, plus one thematic skill to become trained in, and a skill feat for that skill."

Today, we're shackled by the specific backgrounds the writers have come up with. Five years from now there'll be a background for every variety. Why not skip the time delay?

One reason is that having the background blocks means that we could, for example, create a background in an AP that diverges a bit more notably from a standard background than you'd see in a CRB.

I'm not seeing a reason that you couldn't do both: what would stop an AP background from replacing the generic "pick two boosts, one of which must fit your backstory's theme, plus one thematic skill to become trained in, and a skill feat for that skill."? Just add 'Instead of this, some AP's may offer other options that may be used instead of this standard option.' that way standard offers versatility while the AP way offers 'divergent' options.

Future word count and accessibility. It's easier to replace or alter "background" than it is to call out a specific list of general rules, and it's easier for most people to grasp quickly and intuitively.

A "block" of mechanics that all fall under a single header are a lot easier to manipulate and drop in or out of a game, but when those mechanics lose their identity and bleed into each other as just a bunch of general rules, it becomes much more cumbersome and word intensive to manipulate them after the fact. And the bigger the string of related but unconnected things one tries to manipulate becomes, the less accessible and intuitive they become for newer or more casual players.

Lack of accessibility becomes particularly relevant when you look at something like an adventure path, where the writers and developer(s) might want to apply multiple tools to customize the story. Imagine for a minute that Paizo decided to do a "Test of the Starstone" AP where the backgrounds were big, mythic, destined for greatness blocks of mechanics whose benefits advanced as you grew into your destiny. Under the current paradigm, that's super easy to just say "take one of these unique backgrounds that offers these expanded benefits." Under the model where backgrounds are a bunch of separate steps in the general character-building rules, we'd have to write essentially a whole new subsystem that calls out everything it modifies and everything it adds in a way that requires significantly more explanation and eats up significantly more word count.

Accessibility also plays in at a more fundamental level; we need to be able to call the step where you apply all those things something so that people know when to do it and what they should be doing. If we don't have a specific delineation for it, then people are going to be more likely to be confused about how it interacts with other steps. We also build boxes and walls for ourselves, because then instead of giving backgrounds we have to give rules for backgrounds, and that hamstrings us down the road. There is no rule that says "a background is two ability bumps, a Lore skill, another skill, and a skill feat" (just a callout that that's how they typically function); just because that's the model we used in the CRB doesn't mean it's the model we'll always use for every background, but if we replaced the background "block" with a bunch of general steps that said that's what backgrounds are, then we'd have to create a bunch of rules later to explain how and why we're deviating from those rules instead of just making a different kind of background that does whatever it says it does and slots in to the same place in character creation that all backgrounds do.


Michael Sayre wrote:
Future word count and accessibility.

I have to say, this leaves me scratching my head: the generic background can be set up in the same "block"* way as a set background. The "Test of the Starstone" AP seems like you'd be adding new steps either way. We're clearly seeing different things here and at this point, it's kind of moot as we already have the book out. I guess the best I can hope for is an optional rule in the gamemastery guide.

Thanks for the reply though. It always interesting to get a 'behind the scenes' look at the thought processes that goes into the game. ;)

*Background block: [looks just the existing blocks]
Background Name [write name here]
Background Description: [write a line or two describing your background]

Choose two free ability boost. One should be the ability score for your free trained skill below.

You're trained a skill and the Lore skill. You gain skill feat. [pick skills and a feat that match your background]


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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I read through the backgrounds and thought "Oh, that's nice for a new player." Then I immediately made custom backgrounds for every single character from then on.

I don't mind them being an "I don't know enough to make my own decisions" tool, and certainly campaign specific backgrounds are interesting, but by and large they are not necessary for anyone with a character already in mind and a decent grasp of the rules.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
WatersLethe wrote:

I read through the backgrounds and thought "Oh, that's nice for a new player." Then I immediately made custom backgrounds for every single character from then on.

I don't mind them being an "I don't know enough to make my own decisions" tool, and certainly campaign specific backgrounds are interesting, but by and large they are not necessary for anyone with a character already in mind and a decent grasp of the rules.

I think this might actually be another reason Paizo did them this way.

A lot of PF2e seems to be designed with ease of house rules in mind, and from that point of view starting with specific backgrounds makes sense.

In other words, with the version we have now it's very little work to house rule in Graystone's version. However, if we started with Graystone's version, it would be a lot more work to house rule in specific backgrounds.


Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Also, HeroLab has custom backgrounds as a built in option, which is nice.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
MaxAstro wrote:
WatersLethe wrote:

I read through the backgrounds and thought "Oh, that's nice for a new player." Then I immediately made custom backgrounds for every single character from then on.

I don't mind them being an "I don't know enough to make my own decisions" tool, and certainly campaign specific backgrounds are interesting, but by and large they are not necessary for anyone with a character already in mind and a decent grasp of the rules.

I think this might actually be another reason Paizo did them this way.

A lot of PF2e seems to be designed with ease of house rules in mind, and from that point of view starting with specific backgrounds makes sense.

In other words, with the version we have now it's very little work to house rule in Graystone's version. However, if we started with Graystone's version, it would be a lot more work to house rule in specific backgrounds.

I believe they've outright stated as such was one of the reasons for backgrounds, easy to homebrew.

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