Welcome, everyone, to another installment of the Dev Pit!
This week, one of my readers asked me about backgrounds in PF2. Now, I LOVE to do requests like this for my readers, so I happily sat down and came up with an easy 3-step guide to designing your own PF2 backgrounds… WITH EXAMPLES! Specifically, I’m going to show you how to go about writing a background who’s from my home city of Philadelphia?
Are you ready to learn all the jawns you gotta know to build a background? Great! Let’s get to it.
Step 1 — Choose Skills
The first step to designing a new background for Pathfinder 2nd Edition is to pick the skills that you’re going to give to the person who takes your background. Typically, this takes the form of one “standard” skill and one “lore” skill. Some of the newer backgrounds in the Lost Omens World Guide give you a choice between two or more standard skills, but that isn’t required. When you’re picking your skills, you want to think back to your background. What’s the most IMPORTANT thing that really encapsulates what it means to have that background? What’s something that EVERYBODY learns?
Going for our Philadelphian background, I get told a lot that people think that people from Philadelphia are, like, super intense. I read articles all the time that are like, “Wow, look at these people from Philadelphia running around, causing a massive scene after every sportsball game they win OR lose! How crazy!” So with this in mind, I think that the “standard” skill that just about everyone from Philadelphia has to at least some extent is Intimidation. We’re a city that’s known for being over the top, so much so that people who’ve never been to Philadelphia are legit afraid to visit for fear of being in its “bad” areas. I think Intimidation works here. As for the second skill, it’s gotta be Philadelphia Lore. It’s a skill that would let you know some of the history of the region, know which neighborhoods are good and which ones aren’t, and know the proper usage for the word “jawn”.
Hint: Jawn is basically a pronoun for anything whose specifics are irrelevant. For example, if you want to tell someone that you drank something but the thing you drank was irrelevant, you could say, “I drank the heck outta that jawn,” instead of specifying that you drank lemonade or Dallas Cowboy tears or whatever.
Step 2 — Choose Ability Boosts
Once you’ve got your skills in place, it’s time to choose your ability boost. Typically one ability boost is a choice between two options, with one of them matching the standard skill that you get from the background. I often see the choice as being one physical, one mental but that isn’t necessary. The second boost is always a free boost.
As we continue with our Philadelphian background, one of the choices has to be Charisma. We’re known for being boisterous and loud, and it fits with the fact that our background’s standard skill is Intimidation. For the other option, I’m going to say Strength. One of the things that outsiders always talk about regarding Philadelphia is when we do crazy stuff like flip cars and climb traffic signs in the wake of our victories, so that implies to me that for at least some of us Strength is a priority. (James even talks about his youth running around climbing stuff all the time; he’s got this one great story where he got himself stuck at the top of a tree and needed to be rescued.)
Step 3 — Choose a Skill Feat
The final step to creating a background is choosing the skill feat that you get for taking the background. This is usually skill feat that requires a prerequisite of trained in a skill, and sometimes doesn’t require anything at all. The feat you choose should always have either no prerequisite or trained in the skill that you picked for the background; you can’t have a background that offers you a feat you don’t qualify for.
Now, the list of Intimidation feats are all about scaring the heck out of people, but I don’t think that’s necessarily right for a Philadelphia feat. Philadelphians, in my experience, are very blunt speakers who tell it like it is and don’t waste a lot of times on frivolities. When we travel, people are always taken aback by how we don’t sit around and small chat forever; conversation has a purpose, access to stuff we want or need, and many of us want to gain access and leave. And actually, I think that’s something you could do with the Intimidation skill.
Frankly Spoken Feat 1
| General | | Skill |
You can use Intimidation to get others to speak frankly to you by being direct and open with your phrasing. If you can engage in conversation with someone trying to Lie to you or Make an Impression on you, use your Intimidation DC if it is higher than your Perception DC or Will DC to determine whether they succeed. This doesn’t apply when someone attempts to use these skill actions as part of a long dialogue, such as during a speech.
Put It All Together!
With everything fleshed out, let’s take a minute to put our new background together!
Philadelphia Native Background
You spent much time in the City of Brotherly Love, and have integrated significant parts of Philadelphian culture and lifestyle into your behavior. You’re likely a very direct, passionate person who’s learned to roll with whatever jawn that life throws at you. Though others might treat you as something of a miscreant, you’re comforted in knowing you could probably take them in a fight if you had to.
Choose two ability boosts. One must be Charisma or Strength, and the other is a free ability boost.
You’re trained in the Intimidation and Philadelphia Lore skills. You gain the Frankly Spoken skill feat.
Making your own backgrounds was easy! With these step-by-step instructions, there’s not a single background you can’t make!
And that’s all I have to say on making backgrounds! Next week I’m either going to build my PFS liberator champion for y’all in Iconic Design, or I’m gonna do an article about how fans can support their friendly neighborhood 3PPs. Which one do you want to see me do next? Leave a comment below or let me know in the Know Direction Discord.
Have a great week, everyone!
Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex also cohosts Know Direction: Beyond with Perram and James Ballod. Follow Alex’s Twitter @AlJAug!