Randal Reads APG 2e: Ch 1 – Ancestries and Backgrounds (part 4)

Welcome back to the continuation of the Advanced Player’s Guide special review blog! If you missed the beginning, you can find it here! We covered the Versatile Heritages yesterday. Today we dive into the ancestry feats for the core ancestries as well as the new backgrounds!

Chapter 1 – Ancestries and Backgrounds (cont’d)

Dwarf The first couple dwarven feats didn’t really grab me, but I thought Defy the Darkness (5th) is great. Greater Darkvision in exchanged for never using darkness, ever. 9th level, though, seems to be the sweet spot as far as feats are concerned. Echoes in stone is great (short usage tremorsense), Returning Throw is such a fun option (although I think it should be a general or class feat), and Stone Bones has the chance to really save you by letting you use a reaction to roll a flat check to turn a critical hit against you into a regular success (assuming your dice love you). Another 13th level option is welcome, and finally seeing a 17th level feat (Stonegate) is great … and once per day passwall is pretty nice!

Elf I really like the trend of elven feats that let you change something out when you prepare (Ancestral Linguistics; 1st) or make it hard to critical fail due to practice/study (Know Your Own; 1st) to account for the centuries of living you have had … I still have a hard time seeing a 300 year old elf not knowing more than a 20 year old human! Martial Experience (5th) and Otherworldly Acumen (9th) continue the theme there by providing training with all weapons or the ability to swap out an arcane spell daily to account for hundreds of years experience with multiple skills. Magic Rider (17th; you don’t count against number of people in a teleport spell and your presence improves accuracy) sounds neat, but by that level I am curious if it will actually make a difference.

Gnome I am not really sure about these feats, to be honest. They all have flavor that makes them very gnomey, but none of them really grab me and launch me into a character concept like so many of the other feat options have done so far. It could be that I don’t often play gnomes, too. I built one, but I kept changing my mind on how to play him in the opening of the game and then the game fizzled, so maybe I am just down on gnomes currently? Instinctive Obfuscation (13th) is great, though it something I would have liked to see on any caster, especially arcane, as it is a once per day reaction that creates mirror images. Homeward Bound (17th) is not the first “capstone” ancestry feat to provide plane shift, but I think the idea is neat.

Goblin Unlike the gnome options, I can already see having fun with a number of these feats. I can’t think of a single goblin bard that won’t take Loud Singer (5th; 60 ft Goblin Song; additional enemy) … and at least one non-bard that will. Cling (9th; yeah, you hold on and move with an enemy) is a great visual that happens to also be a good feat. Vandal and Kneecap are two more feats I would have liked to see be generic, but Reckless Abandon (17th) is a pretty spot on visual for goblin PCs. The effect (turning fail/crit fail to success and only min damage from effects happening during your turn) can be huge when used correctly, but I am curious to see if that once per day limiter becomes annoying or truly keeps it from being broken.

Halfling They snuck in a new heritage for halfling, the Jinxed Halfling, that can never have Halfling Luck but can cause others to be clumsy.Folksy Patter (1st) is a great implementation of speaking in code, calling out the lower DCs for allies, halfling allies, and halfling allies with the feat, but … this is yet another feat I would love to have seen as a generic deception skill feat. The Step Lively (5th), Dance Underfoot (9th), and Toppling Dance (13th) feat tree is a nice example of translating old 1e training against larger enemies into ancestry feats that evoke visuals and also are functional. Shadow Stealth (17th) … once per hour invisible lasting a minute … I know a certain halfling rogue that will be taking it … probably a lot of them to be honest.

Human Not that humans need more, they likely already have the most (not going to count ’em), but they get shorted here because there are also two half-elf feats. Not gonna lie, their feats are handy. Sense Allies (5th) means you can better detect allies that are hiding but want to be seen by you. Group Aid (9th) lets you do one Aid check that applies to all allies that round (limitations apply). A couple 13th level feats that make you more resistant to being wounded (Bounce Back) or fatigue (Stubborn Persistence), and the 17th level Heroic Presence is pretty evocative of fantasy heroes (1/day zealous conviction).

Half-Elf While nifty, for some reason I feel like these feats were left over from elsewhere and dropped in. I have zero basis for that feeling, I just feel like they would have fit in better with other feats in another book. That said, having another 1st and 9th level half-elf feat is always welcome for variety … especially when that 9th level feat is a once per day self haste (Pinch Time).

Common Backgrounds

I don’t really want to dive into these backgrounds much, I am sure you can find a list of them all (17 by my count) elsewhere online (Archives of Nethys). They all follow the classic formula of one boost being from a choice of two abilities, the other free, a lore skill and a non-lore skill, and a skill feat. I did feel like each of these backgrounds was descriptive enough that I didn’t have to think hard to imagine playing that character. Many of them provided a lot of examples of both good and bad reasons that somebody of that profession might be an adventurer. Bookkeeper, for instance, mentions that you might be learning how your employers do their trade or you might be on the run for cooking books!

Rare Backgrounds

Rare backgrounds are one of those things that aren’t really going to apply to me, but are nice to see in print. They are essentially the same thing, a description of a possible background for your character … a jumping off point. They provide skill boosts, and usually skills, but they often swap out the feats for actions, reactions, or something else. These, however, simply remind me of cool and unique homebrew options … put into print to show players and GMs what sorts of things you can change to have even more fun while still playing within the same set of rules. I am glad to see them and I can see playing each of the options presented (8 in total), heck, almost all of them brought to mind a build with one of the new ancestry/heritage options … but … well, as I think through why I wouldn’t use them I really don’t have an answer. I was going to say I would just write a specific one, but if what I wanted was already written, I think I would totally use it in a home game.


Well, that’s all I have today … tune in tomorrow as I start on Chapter 2 – Classes!
And, as always, please join us at our Discord server https://discord.gg/Rt79BAj to let me know what you think or simply have a chat!

Randal Meyer

As a lover of crunch (rules and numbers), Randal is always tinkering with rules options. His love of magic users has led him to always fuss with the mechanics of magic and magic items. Years of GMing on the fly have given him vast amounts of ideas and content from which to draw on for adventures (ideas, plots, NPCs). When not working, playing with his kids, bowling, or running a PF campaign, Randal is likely writing some new mobile web app (http://halfmugtavern.blog) to enhance the experience of playing Pathfinder!