Character Flaws


Rules Discussion


Is there any support for character flaws / disadvantages / drawbacks in 2e? I'm slowly making my way through the rules, but I haven't stumbled upon the topic yet.

Comic for illustrative purposes.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

No. And that's a good thing, since drawbacks/flaws are ultimately bad mechanics. But perhaps GMG will introduce them as optional rules.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

The closest thing I know of is the ability to take two extra ability flaws when choosing your ancestry to gain one extra ability bonus.


Gorbacz wrote:
No. And that's a good thing, since drawbacks/flaws are ultimately bad mechanics. But perhaps GMG will introduce them as optional rules.

Is it impossible to implement flaws/drawbacks in a way that's good, or is it that the previous PF1 implementation was poor?

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Bluenose wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
No. And that's a good thing, since drawbacks/flaws are ultimately bad mechanics. But perhaps GMG will introduce them as optional rules.
Is it impossible to implement flaws/drawbacks in a way that's good, or is it that the previous PF1 implementation was poor?

The former. They inevitably lead to two kinds of situation:

a) people pick them for flavour while disregarding the crunch and end up having a literally crippled character in game which is ultimately a tactical wargame and you can't drag yourself down too far without affecting the fun of others;

b) people picking a bunch of small situational flaws in order to gain some massive advantage helping them twink out their builds. Cue a spellcaster who can't cast spells on Mondays, in running shallow water, after eating broccoli and within 24h of a romantic tryst, but gets +1 spell slot per level or some other munchkin CharOp hoodoo.

In games where optimization isn't a thing and the ruleset isn't as combat oriented? Sure, why not. In games like D&D/PF? It never ends well.

Liberty's Edge

The Drawbacks in PF1 weren't too bad, but that's because they were balanced against Traits and you could only take one. This still resulted in a lot of people taking a Drawback that never came up, but all they got out of it was a Trait, so it wasn't the end of the world.

I actually can't think of anything equivalently low power they could be balanced against in PF2.


Deadmanwalking wrote:

The Drawbacks in PF1 weren't too bad, but that's because they were balanced against Traits and you could only take one. This still resulted in a lot of people taking a Drawback that never came up, but all they got out of it was a Trait, so it wasn't the end of the world.

I actually can't think of anything equivalently low power they could be balanced against in PF2.

An extra trained skill at first? Or is that too low powered?


Agreed with Gorbacz second post.

Another issue is that sometimes those who take flaws may not realize how they can affect the character. Or say join an combat oriented campaign then take flaws that me it so they receive penalties while attacking. On top of dumpstatting their combat stats.

While then accusing others of being munchkins. My advice is take flaws if you must, be aware of what they can do to one character and assume one personal responsibility for taking the flaws.

I'm basing this off PF 1E for example one take a low primary stat for a caster. Expect the npcs to save more vs the characters spells more often than not. Taking a flaw that makes it easier to save is not the fault of the player next you who has say a Sorcerer and took a high Cha as a casting stat.


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I like the way that Mutants and Masterminds handles complications. They don't give any abilities in return for the flaw. You can take all you want. When the complication causes issues for the character in the game, you get the equivalent of a hero point. If your feeble Aunt June never gets kidnapped, you get nothing.

They explained that allowing people to front load complications with character advantages just gets them avoided or ignored. By having the complication arise during play to give an in game advantage means that if you want the resource, you have to play the complication. Great design move, IMO.


Gorbacz wrote:
Bluenose wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
No. And that's a good thing, since drawbacks/flaws are ultimately bad mechanics. But perhaps GMG will introduce them as optional rules.
Is it impossible to implement flaws/drawbacks in a way that's good, or is it that the previous PF1 implementation was poor?

The former. They inevitably lead to two kinds of situation:

a) people pick them for flavour while disregarding the crunch and end up having a literally crippled character in game which is ultimately a tactical wargame and you can't drag yourself down too far without affecting the fun of others;

b) people picking a bunch of small situational flaws in order to gain some massive advantage helping them twink out their builds. Cue a spellcaster who can't cast spells on Mondays, in running shallow water, after eating broccoli and within 24h of a romantic tryst, but gets +1 spell slot per level or some other munchkin CharOp hoodoo.

In games where optimization isn't a thing and the ruleset isn't as combat oriented? Sure, why not. In games like D&D/PF? It never ends well.

Fair enough. I admit most of my experience with "flaws" has been with games such as Fate or with the Modiphius 2d20 system, and I'd agree that optimisation is less of an issue. On the other hand flaws were an add-on in PF1, so I wondered whether PF2 could have included them from the start and made it work. It sounds like it's unlikely.


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Penthau wrote:

I like the way that Mutants and Masterminds handles complications. They don't give any abilities in return for the flaw. You can take all you want. When the complication causes issues for the character in the game, you get the equivalent of a hero point. If your feeble Aunt June never gets kidnapped, you get nothing.

They explained that allowing people to front load complications with character advantages just gets them avoided or ignored. By having the complication arise during play to give an in game advantage means that if you want the resource, you have to play the complication. Great design move, IMO.

This is so elegant!

You take arachnophobia, so that your character is frightened 2 whenever they are aware of a spider within 30ft of them.
But as long as they have this condition, they also get a boon: a free hero point to spend, or something else.
Cool, appropriate, hard to exploit.


Megistone wrote:
Penthau wrote:

I like the way that Mutants and Masterminds handles complications. They don't give any abilities in return for the flaw. You can take all you want. When the complication causes issues for the character in the game, you get the equivalent of a hero point. If your feeble Aunt June never gets kidnapped, you get nothing.

They explained that allowing people to front load complications with character advantages just gets them avoided or ignored. By having the complication arise during play to give an in game advantage means that if you want the resource, you have to play the complication. Great design move, IMO.

This is so elegant!

You take arachnophobia, so that your character is frightened 2 whenever they are aware of a spider within 30ft of them.
But as long as they have this condition, they also get a boon: a free hero point to spend, or something else.
Cool, appropriate, hard to exploit.

Deadlands has Hindrances which work similarly.

If you help make story progress, you get a fate chip.
If you have a Hindrance that hinders said progress, ditto. There are few other ways to get fate chips, and combat isn't one of them (though combat that progresses the story very much is.)
And you have to buy off Hindrances that don't hinder.

I like the Hero System/Champions system where Disadvantages helped you delineate your PC's personality & background as much as anything. You could milk the point-buy system except the rules explicitly tell the GM to thwart that. Couldn't see that working with organized play though.

And I'm reminded of an old April Fool's magazine article which had drawbacks for NPCs. One of them was "Dead" and it went on to say that yes, you're dead, but hey, you get a bonus feat!


My characters tend to have quirks, and they're character driven. I don't 'optimize' every single aspect of my chars. I play the -character-. That said my chars would have their quirks or 'flaws' regardless of mechanical benefit.

If I happen to get a mechanical benefit, ok. If not, that's ok too.

I do find fault with the "Well people take them and then don't play them"

That's not a system problem. That's a bad player problem. Just like mini/maxing and munchkins are player problems. If the GM allowes chars with flaws but they never come up and the player doesn't play them, that's on them. If you play with people that do that, point it out to them. "Dude don't take that flaw if you're not going to play it" or as GM make sure the guy that has 5 phobias is allowed to play out those phobias. Part of flaws is that the GM knows about it and makes sure they're able to be played.

That doesn't mean someone scared of spiders hits spider foes every 10 feet, but it does mean that at some point spiders will make an appearance. Where in the GM looks pointedly at the person with arachnophobia on their sheet and waits.

Remember RP is collaborative. If people are taking flaws and not playing them, then they are 'cheating' or doing the game a disservice. Doesn't mean the game is broken.


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Megistone wrote:
Penthau wrote:

I like the way that Mutants and Masterminds handles complications. They don't give any abilities in return for the flaw. You can take all you want. When the complication causes issues for the character in the game, you get the equivalent of a hero point. If your feeble Aunt June never gets kidnapped, you get nothing.

They explained that allowing people to front load complications with character advantages just gets them avoided or ignored. By having the complication arise during play to give an in game advantage means that if you want the resource, you have to play the complication. Great design move, IMO.

This is so elegant!

You take arachnophobia, so that your character is frightened 2 whenever they are aware of a spider within 30ft of them.
But as long as they have this condition, they also get a boon: a free hero point to spend, or something else.
Cool, appropriate, hard to exploit.

So... my spider in a box has total cover so I'm not 'aware' of them. I'll just open that box when I need the boon.

I'm joking, but I prefer no mechanical benefit whatsoever for 'flaws'. I also prefer flaws to be RP based and not mechanics based.


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Gorbacz wrote:
b) people picking a bunch of small situational flaws in order to gain some massive advantage helping them twink out their builds. Cue a spellcaster who can't cast spells on Mondays, in running shallow water, after eating broccoli and within 24h of a romantic tryst, but gets +1 spell slot per level or some other munchkin CharOp hoodoo.

Hey! That broccoli allergy was integral to my character concept!


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Gisher wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
b) people picking a bunch of small situational flaws in order to gain some massive advantage helping them twink out their builds. Cue a spellcaster who can't cast spells on Mondays, in running shallow water, after eating broccoli and within 24h of a romantic tryst, but gets +1 spell slot per level or some other munchkin CharOp hoodoo.
Hey! That broccoli allergy was integral to my character concept!

Did you say b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-broccoli?!

*Becomes frightened 4 and is showered in hero points for their crippling broccoli phobia*

Seriously though, I also really love how M&M handles flaws/complications. I would encourage my characters to try a couple in PF2, myself, particularly since the hero points do more or less the same thing in PF that they do in M&M, all be it with far, far fewer options, that of helping the story progress and making the characters feel awesome and heroic when they want to be.
I wouldn't attach any mechanics to it, however. I wouldn't place frightened on a PC or the like, because then the argument becomes, "When I get the frightened condition from spiders I get a hero point," rather than, "My character is afraid of spiders, so using less optimal tactics/overcoming this fear I have been roleplaying out should get me a hero point."

I would rather make it clear from the start that carrying a spider in a box, as our example, wouldn't net the PC a point because it's not really them dealing with their complication in a way that helps the story grow and be richer.


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Gisher wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
b) people picking a bunch of small situational flaws in order to gain some massive advantage helping them twink out their builds. Cue a spellcaster who can't cast spells on Mondays, in running shallow water, after eating broccoli and within 24h of a romantic tryst, but gets +1 spell slot per level or some other munchkin CharOp hoodoo.
Hey! That broccoli allergy was integral to my character concept!

LOL Who says it isn't a flaw? He's got to roll all the time vs my broccoli leshy! ;)


Uchuujin wrote:
The closest thing I know of is the ability to take two extra ability flaws when choosing your ancestry to gain one extra ability bonus.

I used this to make an enchanter wizard elf with a +18 in int and cha and seemed really fun. They're nowhere near melee, though.


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MadMars wrote:
Uchuujin wrote:
The closest thing I know of is the ability to take two extra ability flaws when choosing your ancestry to gain one extra ability bonus.
I used this to make an enchanter wizard elf with a +18 in int and cha and seemed really fun. They're nowhere near melee, though.

I think you did something wrong here, since it's not possible to get 2 18s at level 1, since the optional flaws system does not allow you to add two free boosts to the same stat unless you are getting an ancestry flaw to that stat.

Best you can do is 18 in your class attribute and 16 in the second most important thing, which you can usually do without an optional flaw.


There is guidance discussing the possibility of deaf/mute characters.
Mechanically representing those disabilities is pretty obvious (Deafened condition / can't vocalize).
They mention GM may consider allowing 1 of Read Lips/Sign Language Feat for free for such characters.
There is also part of Read Lips Feats which I believe is intended to say it works automatically for native language.
(it doesn't actually say it works automatically, but Society check is normally required in encounter mode, that seems likely intent)


PossibleCabbage wrote:
MadMars wrote:
Uchuujin wrote:
The closest thing I know of is the ability to take two extra ability flaws when choosing your ancestry to gain one extra ability bonus.
I used this to make an enchanter wizard elf with a +18 in int and cha and seemed really fun. They're nowhere near melee, though.

I think you did something wrong here, since it's not possible to get 2 18s at level 1, since the optional flaws system does not allow you to add two free boosts to the same stat unless you are getting an ancestry flaw to that stat.

Best you can do is 18 in your class attribute and 16 in the second most important thing, which you can usually do without an optional flaw.

Good to know, thank you.


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Where the optional flaw thing shines is if you want a character to have an 18 in the class stat for which the ancestry gives a penalty (e.g. Goblin Druids), or if you want to have a 16 in a secondary stat where you'd otherwise have a penalty (e.g. a Dwarf Cleric with 18 Wis and 16 Cha). For humans it mostly just lets you be a "+2/+2/+2/-2/-2 arrange these how you like."


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I mean, I definitely will still find uses for that, so fair game. The Dwarven example is particularly welcome, as it always felt odd that Dwarves didn't excel at being something like paladins. Now you have an option that let's them be competitive. Very fun.

In any case, you were absolutely right, I misread the text for voluntary flaws and this is why drinking as much as your characters do is dangerous, kids.


Gorbacz wrote:
b) people picking a bunch of small situational flaws in order to gain some massive advantage helping them twink out their builds. Cue a spellcaster who can't cast spells on Mondays, in running shallow water, after eating broccoli and within 24h of a romantic tryst, but gets +1 spell slot per level or some other munchkin CharOp hoodoo.

Such a shame designers have to create such drastic flaws and benefits and couldn’t possibly use something more tame.

Penthau wrote:

I like the way that Mutants and Masterminds handles complications. They don't give any abilities in return for the flaw. You can take all you want. When the complication causes issues for the character in the game, you get the equivalent of a hero point. If your feeble Aunt June never gets kidnapped, you get nothing.

They explained that allowing people to front load complications with character advantages just gets them avoided or ignored. By having the complication arise during play to give an in game advantage means that if you want the resource, you have to play the complication. Great design move, IMO.

That sounds like fun. Shame it can’t possibly exist :(


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I think the most elegant thing about the voluntary flaws mechanic is that it lets any character start with an 8 in anything (want to be a sickly dwarf or an inane elf, go for it!) and you can also start with an 18 (or a 16 if not your mainstat) in anything, regardless of your ancestry.

This lets us do "well, normally elves are smart and dextrous" thing without really restricting stat diversity while making valid otherwise poor choices.

Like in PF1 we had to wait until 2018 to get a "Dwarves are good at being Bards" archetype (which replaced cha with wis for the class), but in PF2 we have the right out of the gate.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

There are still loads of options to have drawbacks and flaws, it's called role-playing! What is no longer supported is getting mechanical bonuses as a "reward". I for one am absolutely im favor of this; in my experience it was only ever abused to min-max while trying to avoid actually having to live with meaningful consequences of the flaw. Those who were actually interested in role-playing the flaw did not usually need a "compensating" bonus.

My groups after a while usually decided against using the optional drawback-rules and never missed it. If it had come up, the GM might have hand-waved an extra sign-language ability for a deaf char during character creation but certainly not as a "right".


Flaws are great but in no way does it have to have some sort of payoff. Personally i feel this is better off in rough advice sections rather than variant rules.

Sort of like how the crb currently handles it (as mentioned above with the rough advice).


Garretmander wrote:
Megistone wrote:
Penthau wrote:

I like the way that Mutants and Masterminds handles complications. They don't give any abilities in return for the flaw. You can take all you want. When the complication causes issues for the character in the game, you get the equivalent of a hero point. If your feeble Aunt June never gets kidnapped, you get nothing.

They explained that allowing people to front load complications with character advantages just gets them avoided or ignored. By having the complication arise during play to give an in game advantage means that if you want the resource, you have to play the complication. Great design move, IMO.

This is so elegant!

You take arachnophobia, so that your character is frightened 2 whenever they are aware of a spider within 30ft of them.
But as long as they have this condition, they also get a boon: a free hero point to spend, or something else.
Cool, appropriate, hard to exploit.

So... my spider in a box has total cover so I'm not 'aware' of them. I'll just open that box when I need the boon.

I'm joking, but I prefer no mechanical benefit whatsoever for 'flaws'. I also prefer flaws to be RP based and not mechanics based.

That could be a way to abuse the mechanic, but remember that you are still frightened 2 while you the boon is in effect.

A system like this, at least, prevents people to reap boons while mostly avoiding the consequences of their flaws.


graystone wrote:
Gisher wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
b) people picking a bunch of small situational flaws in order to gain some massive advantage helping them twink out their builds. Cue a spellcaster who can't cast spells on Mondays, in running shallow water, after eating broccoli and within 24h of a romantic tryst, but gets +1 spell slot per level or some other munchkin CharOp hoodoo.
Hey! That broccoli allergy was integral to my character concept!
LOL Who says it isn't a flaw? He's got to roll all the time vs my broccoli leshy! ;)

You joke, but I think that flaw-based systems benefit hugely from a group willing to work them into the game.

When I ran a dragons game back in 1e, I used the stuff from Rite Publishing, and I made sure the "draconic essence" stuff came into play frequently:

https://www.d20pfsrd.com/classes/3rd-party-classes/rite-publishing/draconic -exemplar/?/#Draconic_Essence

If there's a phobia on a character sheet somewhere, I think it's down to a GM to jot that mess down and work it into the game.

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