Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pathfinder Musings: Background Skills

Something that's always annoyed me about Pathfinder (as well as its predecessor 3.5) is that certain classes tend to get the short end of the stick skill-wise. It sucks being a fighter and only have two or three skill ranks to spend each level, meaning you have to be more picky with your skill choices. You want to select a Craft or Profession skill for background reasons, but you'd be better served selecting something more useful like Perception or Intimidate.

There are a few ways to fix this problem, with the easiest being a 2 skill rank bump to class' that only receive 2 + INT mod. skill ranks each level. While this works, I have another idea in mind for my own games. The following house rule is a popular one and this is my version of it. My goal is to keep it simple and easy to use.

Skills are now divided into two broad categories: Adventuring Skills and Background Skills. Adventuring skills are skills that tend to see the most use while adventuring, like Climb or Perception. Background skills are skills that represent a character's previous life and what they did before becoming an adventurer. The background skills are Craft (Any), Knowledge (Any), Linguistics, Perform (Any), and Profession (Any).

At 1st level, and every level thereafter, each player receives two additional skill ranks they can assign to any two background skills of their choice. These background skills are considered class skills for the purpose of any ability that requires such distinction (meaning they also receive the +3 training bonus as well). If you're using the Advanced Player's Guide's option trait rules, any skills granted to you by traits are considered background skills for you as well and you can assign your background skill ranks to them as well.

The point of this house rule is to give players the ability to purchase those skills that represent their character's history and background, but still allows them to spend their main pool on skills that will probably see more use at the table. So, now your fighter who used to be a farmer can pick up Knowledge (Geography) and Profession (Farmer) without having to sacrifice skill points they could be dropping in Perception or Survival.

The addition of the trait rules was made because it just made sense. Traits are supposed to be mechanical representations of your background and past experiences, so it makes sense that the skills granted through these traits should be added to your personal list of background skills. I also thought about adding a few other elements, like humans receiving a bonus background skill rank to spend, but I felt like that might too much and take away from the simplicity of the rule. However, if you want to take this rule and add that element, go ahead.

What do you think? Is this a house rule that you'd use in your games? What house rules have you made to the skill system? I think I might make this into a sister series to 5e Musings. Its fun talking about house rules and the results of my rules tinkering.