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Character Background




Character Background

If you define background as “everything that happened to a character before now,” then you can use this character background variant to actually generate a character. The system detailed below lets you build a high-level character as if that character had started at 1st level, undertaking adventures and earning experience points.

Before starting to use this system, you’ll need to generate a set of ability scores and decide on the character’s race; the tables in this section take care of the rest.

To finish generating the character, simply choose the type of adventuring activity he undertook at each level, stopping when you have the character level you want. For example, if you want a 9th-level character, use the tables in this section nine times. You can roll percentile dice or choose the result you like.

This variant is a quick way to bring a new character into an ongoing campaign. You’ll get a character who’s had some life experiences and built up a personal history. It’s also a useful variant if you want to create characters for a new campaign that starts with characters of higher than 1st level. This background variant works best in conjunction with the event-based reputation variant and the contacts variant; if you aren’t using reputation and contacts, then ignore those columns in the tables that follow.

As a general rule (if it matters, depending on how you use this variant), each of these background selections is considered to take up 1d6 months of game time. For example, if you create a dwarf character who begins adventuring at age 48 (see Table: Random Starting Ages) and you apply four background selections to the character, the dwarfs age as a 4th-level character is 48 years + 4d6 months.

If you let the dice fall where they may with this variant, you’ll get more multiclass characters than you would in a standard campaign where PCs start at 1st level or build their characters to a target level before the campaign begins. spellcasters in particular lose significant power if they have more than a handful of nonspellcasting levels, so you’ll want to monitor the dice results closely.

Background Descriptions

Each of the tables in this section contains eight pieces of information. Here’s what the information means.

Activity

A word or phrase that summarizes what the character focused his attention on, or learned the most about, during the time he spent advancing from one level to the next.

Class

The class in which the character’s most recent level was gained. Some of the entries in this column are prestige classes or classes with alignment restrictions. If you don’t qualify for the class indicated, select one of the other classes on the table instead.

Feats

The character chooses one of the given feats if he is at a level when he ordinarily would gain a new feat (such as 1st, 3rd, or 6th) or when he gains a bonus feat by virtue of his new class level (such as 5th level in wizard). If the feat selection requires a choice because more than one feat is mentioned, it’s okay to wait until you’re done determining the character’s entire background before making that choice. if the character doesn’t meet the prerequisite for a feat or already has the feat, take one of the listed alternatives (if applicable) or a feat that appears elsewhere on the table you’re using. If the character has a feat that has an improved or greater version (such as Weapon Focus, Spell Penetration, Cleave, or Weapon Specialization), he can take the improved or greater version of the feat whenever the basic version appears on the table. .

Skills

This column identifies three or more skills that the character must spend skill points on at his new level. Start at the beginning of the list in an entry, taking one rank in each skill listed, in the order the skills are presented, until you’re out of skill points. If you reach the end of the list with skill points remaining, spend the rest however you like.

Gear

This column provides guidance for equipping the character, and it only matters when you’ve finished creating the character’s background. In general, a character spends up to 30% of her wealth on the gear associated with her most recent activity, up to 20% of her wealth on the gear for her second most recent activity, and up to 10% on the gear for her third most recent activity. Background choices made earlier than “third most recent” don’t affect the character’s equipment. You can spend the character’s remaining wealth on anything you choose.

For example, you want to create a 5th-level wizard with a background entirely in academic magic by rolling d% five times on the table below to represent the five levels. At 3rd level, the d% result is 34, and the Gear column gives Wand/staff with abjuration spells.” At 4th level the result is 63 (Wand/staff with illusion spells), and at 5th level the result is 11 (Rod or staff).

A 5th-level character has wealth equal to 9,000 gp. The character can spend 30% of this amount, or 2,700 gp, on a rod or staff—a staff of fire with 7 charges, for instance. She can spend 20%, or 1,800 gp, on a wand or staff that holds an illusion spell, such as a wand of invisibility with 20 charges. She can spend up to 10%, or 900 gp, on a wand or staff that holds an abjuration spell, such as a fully charged wand of shield.

Contacts

This column applies only if you’re using the contacts variant and the character would earn a new contact at this level.

Reputation (Rep)

Similarly, this column applies only if you’re using the reputation rules. If a bonus appears in this column, add it to your Reputation score.

Recognition

With accomplishments come rewards, in the form of recognition by one’s peers or by others who may be impressed by a character’s status. To benefit from the reward (if any) identified in this column of a table entry, the character must make a recognition check, which is 1d20 + any modifiers that might apply, as indicated in a background description. Most often, this modifier is the number of ranks the character has in a relevant skill, which is a generally accurate measure of how much time the character has spent honing that skill, which in turn is closely tied to the character’s level. (The more you have learned about the skills that are most central to your success, the more likely it is that you will earn recognition.)

This reward has no specific game effect, but the game master is free to grant an ad hoc bonus of some sort when a famous or accomplished character interacts with those who are impressed by the recognition that character has earned.

Academic Magic Background

Many adventurers come from tall towers of magic academies and colleges. They find the adventurer’s life much different than the cloistered life they knew when they were learning the secrets of magic. But the lessons in power such characters learned in the classroom serve them well wherever their adventures take them.

Recognition in the academic world takes the form of academic degrees or membership in honorary societies.

A character’s ranks in Spellcraft provide a bonus on recognition checks related to degrees, and his ranks in Knowledge (arcana) provide a bonus on recognition checks related to societies.

Example Societies and Degrees

The names of societies and academic degrees given below are provided as a starting point. Depending on the players’ interest and the game master’s plans for the campaign, the societies could become full-fledged secret cabals, or they could remain honorary societies that rarely meet and don’t have agendas beyond their field of study.

Societies

Society of Arcanophysical Studies, The Gnarled Hand, Circle of the Three Mysteries, Ruby Robe Fraternity, Xau Hathra Vox, Society of Karsis, Arcane Aid Association, Guild of the Enigma.

Degrees

Hierarch of Eldritch Power (in a particular school of magic), Unsurpassed Master in Arcane Arts, Adept of Cast Spells.

Academic Magic Background Activities
d% Activity Class Feats Skills Gear Contacts Rep Recognition
Know = Knowledge; Sp Focus = Spell Focus.
01-07 Item creation Wizard Any item creation Spellcraft, Craft (any),
Concentration
Any magic item Skill +0 Society, DC 30
08-15 Metamagic Sorcerer
or wizard
Any metamagic Know (arcana),
Concentration, Spellcraft
Rod or staff Influence +0 Degree, DC 24
16-23 Spell research Wizard Spell Mastery Spellcraft, Know (arcana),
Concentration
Extra spells in spellbook Information Degree, DC 26
24-29 Training Wizard Leadership,
Persuasive
Spellcraft, Know (arcana),
Sense Motive
Wondrous item for
interaction/communication
Influence +1 Society, DC 26
30-35 Abjuration Wizard Sp Focus (Abj) Spellcraft, Concentration,
Know (the planes)
Wand/staff with
abjuration spells
Information +0 Degree, DC 28
36-41 Conjuration Wizard Sp Focus (Conj) Spellcraft, Concentration,
Know (the planes)
Wand/staff with
conjuration spells
Information +0 Degree, DC 28
42-47 Divination Wizard Sp Focus (Dlv) Spellcraft, Concentration,
Know (the planes)
Wand/staff with
divination spells
Information +0 Degree, DC 28
48-53 Enchantment Wizard Sp Focus (Ench) Spellcraft, Concentration,
Diplomacy
Wand/staff with
enchantment spells
Information +0 Degree, DC 28
54-59 Evocation Wizard Sp Focus (Evoc) Spellcraft, Concentration,
Know (arcana)
Wand/staff with
evocation spells
Information +0 Degree, DC 28
60-65 Illusion Wizard Sp Focus (Illus) Spellcraft, Concentration,
Perform (any)
Wand/staff with
illusion spells
Information +0 Degree, DC 28
66-71 Necromancy Cleric
or wizard
Sp Focus (Necro) Spellcraft, Concentration,
Know (religion)
Wand/staff with
necromancy spells
Information +0 Degree, DC 28
72-77 Transmutation Wizard Sp Focus (Trans) Spellcraft, Concentration,
Know (arcana)
Wand/staff with
transmutation spells
Information +0 Degree, DC 28
78-85 Creature studies Wizard Spell Penetration,
Improved Familiar
Know (nature), Know (arcana),
Know (the planes)
Wondrous item that
mimics monster ability
Influence Society, DC 26
86-94 Battle magic Sorcerer
or wizard
Combat Casting,
Any metamagic
Concentration, Spellcraft,
Know (arcana)
Bracers of armor or
cloak of resistance
Information Society, DC 28
95-100 Divine magic Cleric Sp Focus (any) Concentration,
Know (religion), Spellcraft
Prayer beads or
divine scrolls
Skill Society, DC 24

Aristocratic Background

The noble court formed an important center of medieval life, where knights, troubadours, and artisans experienced the scope of feudal life (minus the peasants). Aristocratic adventures center on intrigue and political maneuvering, but courts also feature ritualized combat such as duels and jousts.

Recognition for characters with aristocratic backgrounds varies widely, because noble courts have a highly stratified social structure. Actual nobles can attain progressively greater noble titles, but other characters who spend time in noble courts don’t have that chance.

A character’s familiarity with the ways of the noble court provides a bonus on recognition checks; each time the aristocratic background is selected for this character, the bonus increases by 1.

Example Aristocratic Titles

The noble titles below are examples drawn from medieval Europe (Britain in particular), so they’re suitable for most sword-and-sorcery settings. Other historical feudal and quasi-feudal cultures (such as Japan and India) can also inspire noble titles for your game.

Titles (Lowest to Highest)

Knight, Baronet, Baron or Baroness, Viscount or Viscountess, Count or Countess, Marquess or Marchioness, Duke or Duchess, Grand Duke or Grand Duchess, Prince or Princess, King or Queen, Emperor or Empress.

Sometimes counts are called earls, and marquesses are referred to as marquises or margraves. Germanic culture refers to dukes as grafs and baronets as ritters. Prince or princess can either be a noble title or it can describe a familial relationship: son or daughter of the king or queen.

Aristocratic Background Activities
d% Activity Class Feats Skills Gear Contacts Rep Recognition
Know = Knowledge; Sp Focus = Spell Focus.
  1. Indicates a prestige class. Only available if the class is allowed in the campaign.
01-07 Noble warlord Fighter
or paladin
Leadership,
Weapon Focus
Intimidate, Diplomacy,
Know (nobility and royalty)
Armor Influence +1 Title, DC 22
08-14 Landed gentry Bard Leadership,
Skill Focus (Diplomacy)
Diplomacy, Sense Motive,
Know (history),
Know (nobility and royalty),
Perform
Wondrous item that
aids interaction
Influence +1 Title, DC 22
15-21 Church potentate Cleric Leadership, Persuasive Diplomacy,
Know (nobility and royalty),
Spellcraft
Rod or staff Influence +1 Title, DC 24
22-28 Dragon-blooded Sorcerer Leadership,
Sp Focus (Ench)
Diplomacy,
Know (nobility and royalty),
Concentration
Rod or staff Influence +1 Title, DC 24
29-39 Troubadour Bard Skill Focus (Perform),
Sp Focus (Ench)
Perform (any), Diplomacy,
Sense Motive,
Know (nobility and royalty),
Know (local)
Wondrous item that
charms or compels
Influence
40-49 Court jester Rogue Acrobatic, Agile Perform (any), Tumble, Jump,
Know (nobility and royalty),
Balance
Wondrous item that
aids movement
Influence
50-59 Court arcanist Wizard or
loremaster1
Sp Focus (Ench),
Sp Focus (Illus)
Know (nobility and royalty),
Know (arcana), Know (local),
Spellcraft, Concentration
Extra spells
in spellbook
Influence
60-69 Religious advisor Cleric Negotiator,
Sp Focus (Dlv)
Know (religion),
Know (nobility and royalty),
Spellcraft
Item with
divination aura
Influence
70-80 Chivalric knight Paladin Mounted Combat,
Ride-By Attack
Ride, Intimidate, Diplomacy Armor Influence Title, DC 24
81-90 Seneschal Bard Negotiator,
Investigator
Sense Motive, Diplomacy,
Intimidate,
Know (nobility and royalty),
Know (local)
Item with
divination aura
Influence
91-100 Duelist Fighter or
duelist1
Combat Expertise,
Improved Feint
Bluff, Perform (any),
Tumble, Sense Motive,
Know (nobility and royalty)
Weapon Influence

Cross-Cultural Background

This disparate set of background activities differs from the other backgrounds because it represents time spent away from the character’s home culture. Unlike with the other backgrounds, there’s no character class attached to each activity-select whatever class you picked at the previous level, or choose a class if this is your first background selection. Your time with another culture affects your feat and skill choices, and any contacts you gain during cross-cultural background activities are probably members of that culture.

It’s almost impossible to define what form recognition takes in this background, because it depends heavily on the nature of the culture your character is visiting. The exact nature of the recognition earned is up to the game master-it could take the form of rank, title, society membership, or decoration.

Each activity in this background is associated with a specific Knowledge skill. A character’s ranks in that skill provide a bonus on recognition checks.

Cross-Cultural Background Activities
d% Activity Class Feats Skills Gear Contacts Rep Recognition
Know = Knowledge; Sp Focus = Spell Focus; Gather Info = Gather Information.
01-20 Primitive tribe Any Track, Self-Sufficient Know (nature), Survival,
Diplomacy, Spot, Listen
Armor Skill +0 DC 28
21-50 Far-off culture Any Exotic Weapon Proficiency Know (geography),
Speak Language, Diplomacy,
Sense Motive, Know (history)
Weapon Information DC 26
51-60 Extraplanar Any Sp Focus (Abj),
Spell Penetration
Know (the planes),
Speak Language, Diplomacy,
Decipher Script, Spellcraft
Wondrous item that
provides protection
Influence DC 28
61-85 Racial minority Any Weapon Focus
(any racially favored weapon),
Improved Critical
(any racially favored weapon)
Know (local),
Speak Language, Diplomacy,
Sense Motive, Gather Info
Weapon Influence DC 26
86-100 Refugee Any Endurance, Diehard Know (geography),
Bluff, Gather Info,
Hide, Move Silently
Armor Information +0 DC 30

Government Background

This set of background activities includes jobs performed for chose who work for a city, provincial, or national government other than those in the army or navy, who are covered under the military and maritime backgrounds described below.

Most of the recognition associated with a government background comes in the form of increases in rank (whether military or civilian in nature).

Each activity in this background is associated with a particular skill-the one mentioned first in the entry’s Skills column. A character’s ranks in that skill provide a bonus on recognition checks.

Government Background Activities
d% Activity Class Feats Skills Gear Contacts Rep Recognition
Know = Knowledge; Gather Info = Gather Information.
01-12 Administrator Bard or
rogue
Leadership,
Investigator
Know (local), Diplomacy, Intimidate,
Sense Motive, Know (history)
Item that
provides protection
Influence Rank, DC 26
13-25 Spy Rogue Stealthy,
Deceitful
Disguise, Gather Info, Hide,
Move Silently, Forgery
Item with
illusion aura
Information +0
26-37 Diplomat Bard Negotiator,
Persuasive
Diplomacy, Sense Motive,
Bluff, Intimidate, Know (local)
Item that
aids interaction
Influence Rank, DC 28
38-50 City watch Fighter Alertness,
Power Attack
Know (local),
Sense Motive, Jump
Weapon Influence Rank, DC 28
51-63 Arcane advisor Wizard or
sorcerer
Any item creation Know (arcana),
Spellcraft, Know (local)
Scrolls and spells
in spellbook
Information +0 Society, DC 26
64-75 Honor guard Fighter or
paladin
Combat Expertise,
Weapon Focus
Know (history),
Intimidate, Ride
Armor Skill +1 Rank, DC 26
76-88 Sheriff Ranger Alertness,
Weapon Focus
Know (local), Ride, Sense Motive,
Survival, Intimidate
Weapon Influence Rank, DC 30
89-100 Theocrat Cleric Persuasive,
Investigator
Know (local), Spellcraft,
Know (religion)
Wand or staff Influence Rank, DC 28

Maritime Background

Characters with maritime backgrounds indulge in the same passions as everyone else-war, trade, and larceny-but they do it with a ship’s deck beneath their feet (unless they’ve been shipwrecked, which is one possible activity in this background).

A character’s time spent on the high seas provides a bonus on recognition checks; each time the maritime background is selected for this character, the bonus increases by 1.

Example Maritime Ranks

Every navy has its own system of ranks, and few ships are at exactly their full complement of crew. The following system of ranks is a good starting point for most campaigns.

Maritime Ranks (Lowest to Highest)

Ordinary hand, able hand, leading hand, petty officer, chief petty officer, sublieutenant, lieutenant, lieutenant commander, commander, captain, commodore, admiral, grand admiral.

Maritime Background Activities
d% Activity Class Feats Skills Gear Contacts Rep Recognition
Prof = Profession; Sp Focus = Spell Focus; Know = Knowledge.
01-12 Pirate Rogue Dodge, Mobility Balance, Jump, Tumble,
Bluff, Swim
Weapon Information Rank, DC 22
13-24 Military navy Fighter Leadership,
Weapon Focus
Prof (sailor), Swim, Use Rope Weapon Influence Rank, DC 24
25-34 Sea trader Rogue or bard Negotiator,
Deft Hands
Appraise, Sense Motive,
Diplomacy, Swim, Prof (sailor)
Wondrous item that
aids interaction
Skill +0 Rank, DC 26
35-44 Ship’s marine Fighter Power Attack,
Improved Sunder
Swim, Climb, Jump Light armor Skill +0 Rank, DC 26
45-52 Stowaway Rogue Stealthy,
Deceitful
Swim, Hide, Move Silently,
Disguise, Bluff
Item that
aids stealth
Influence +0
53-62 Shipwrecked Barbarian Track,
Self-Sufficient
Swim, Survival, Craft (any),
Spot, Listen
Simple weapon or
hand-crafted item
Skill +0
63-72 Deckhand Rogue or fighter Dodge,
Weapon Focus
Swim, Use Rope, Prof (sailor),
Climb, Jump
Weapon Information +0 Rank, DC 26
73-82 Navigator Bard or wizard Scribe Scroll,
Sp Focus (Trans)
Prof (sailor), Decipher Script,
Know (geography),
Spellcraft, Swim
Scrolls Skill +0 Rank, DC 24
83-90 Wind-bringer Druid or sorcerer Sp Focus (Trans),
Sp Focus (Conj)
Spellcraft, Concentration,
Know (geography),
Swim, Prof (sailor)
Item that affects
weather or wind
Information +0 Rank, DC 24
91-100 Chaplain Cleric Any metamagic Heal, Swim, Prof (sailor) Item that
heals or cures
Information +0 Rank, DC 24

Mercantile Background

Characters with a mercantile background work in the organized business of making money, buying low and selling high. While this characterization describes most jobs in the modern world, in feudal and semifeudal societies the average person has much less connection to commerce. The typical peasant turns over his crops to the local feudal lord, keeping enough to feed his family, and other family members make most of the finished goods (clothes, furniture, and other necessities) they require themselves. Accordingly, characters with the mercantile background are much more common in cities and in societies where money is the most common medium of exchange (rather than communal hunter-gatherer living or a feudal relationship).

The only recognition available in this background category is among caravan guards and guild officials, both of whom can earn promotions to higher ranks (as described for the military background, below). A caravan guard applies his base attack bonus as a modifier on recognition checks, while a guild official applies his ranks in Diplomacy.

Example Guild Ranks

The guilds in medieval European society usually had a simple set of ranks: apprentice, journeyman, and master. Attaining higher rank meant spending years on the job and passing some sort of examination, or in the case of the master, creating a “master piece” that peers judged worthy. In a system with only three ranks, the recognition check DC for advancing from apprentice to journeyman is 26, and DC for advancing from journeyman to master is 30.

If you want more frequent recognition (and thus more guild ranks), set the recognition check DC at a constant value of 24 and split each rank into three smaller ranks. Characters begin as apprentices in the third degree, then ascend to second-degree apprentices and first-degree apprentices. Then they become journeymen in the third degree.

Because the game is set in a fantasy world, you may wish to develop more fanciful titles for the guilds you create, especially those that are part of nonhuman or otherwise exotic cultures.

Mercantile Background Activities
d% Activity Class Feats Skills Gear Contacts Rep Recognition
Gather Info = Gather Information; Know = Knowledge.
01-14 Caravan
guard
Fighter Alertness,
Point Blank Shot
Ride, Spot, Listen Armor Information +0 Rank, DC 24
15-27 Broker Rogue
or bard
Investigator, Persuasive Gather Info, Sense Motive,
Diplomacy, Know (local)
Wondrous item that
helps carry loads
Information
28-40 Negotiator Rogue
or bard
Negotiator,
Skill Focus (Diplomacy)
Diplomacy, Sense Motive,
Bluff, Intimidate, Know (local)
Wondrous item that
aids interaction
Influence
41-53 Buyer Rogue
or bard
Diligent,
Skill Focus (Appraise)
Appraise, Bluff, Sense Motive,
Craft (any), Diplomacy
Wondrous item with
divination aura
Influence +0
54-69 Traveling
merchant
Rogue or
sorcerer
Dodge, Mobility Diplomacy, Sense Motive,
Appraise, Bluff, Sleight of Hand
Wondrous item with
illusion aura
Information
70-83 Magic-shop
owner
Wizard Brew Potion,
Craft Magic Arms and Armor
Spellcraft, Know (arcana),
Craft (any)
Staff or wand Skill
84-100 Guild
official
Rogue
or cleric
Leadership, Persuasive Craft (any, Diplomacy,
Sense Motive, Bluff,
Know (local)
Item that gives
morale effect
Influence +1 Rank;
see text

Military Background

The activities associated with this background include broadly defined military missions. The raid activity, for example, covers everything from young Vikings on their first pillage to elite commandos striking behind enemy lines. Except for all-out war, none of the activities implies continuous assignment. Most soldiers spend much of their time training, guarding, and hanging out in the barracks.

Military recognition takes two forms: decorations (medals, fancy uniforms, tattoos, and the like) and rank (encompassing traditional military ranks and sometimes noble or honorific titles). In each case, the recognition check DC is modified by the character’s base attack bonus. Rolling a natural 20 on a recognition check gives the character a double promotion or a more prestigious decoration.

Example Ranks and Decorations

The following military ranks are typical of a national army in a fantasy kingdom. Designing your own command structure and unique decorations is a good way to make your game world seem more real.

Ranks (Lowest to Highest)

Armsman, Sergeant, Sergeant Major, Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Colonel, General.

Decorations

Three-Star Cluster (for valor), Ivy-Oak Medallion (for service to the realm), Ribbon of Scarla (for bravery under fire), iron Gauntlet (for unsurpassed heroism).

Military Background Activities
d% Activity Class Feats Skills Gear Contacts Rep Recognition
Weapon Spec = Weapon Specialization; Prof = Profession; Know = Knowledge.
  1. Indicates a prestige class. Only available if the class is allowed in the campaign.
01-11 Raid Barbarian or fighter Weapon Focus,
Weapon Spec
Climb, Jump, Intimidate,
Search, Swim
Melee weapon Information +0 Decoration,
DC 20
12-19 Trainer Fighter Combat Expertise,
Improved Disarm
Intimidate, Diplomacy,
Know (local)
Wondrous item for
morale/interaction
Influence +1 Rank, DC 22
20-27 Cavalry scout Ranger Mounted Combat,
Mounted Archery
Ride, Spot, Listen, Survival,
Search, Move Silently, Hide
Ranged weapon Information +0 Rank, DC 24
28-35 Heavy cavalry Fighter or paladin Mounted Combat,
Spirited Charge
Ride, Intimidate, Jump Barding Information Decoration or
rank, DC 24
36-44 Defense Fighter or
dwarven defender1
Dodge, Mobility Prof (siege engineer),
Climb, Jump
Armor or shield Skill Rank, DC 22
45-52 Scout Ranger or
arcane archer1
Alertness, Stealthy Spot, Listen, Move Silently,
Hide, Survival
Wondrous item for
stealth, perception,
or communication
Information +0 Rank, DC 24
53-63 Shock trooper Fighter Power Attack,
Improved Bull Rush
Climb, Intimidate, Jump Armor or shield Information Decoration,
DC 24
64-74 Siege Fighter Power Attack,
Improved Sunder
Climb, Jump,
Prof (siege engineer)
Melee weapon Information Decoration,
DC 22
75-80 War Fighter Any fighter bonus feat Climb, Intimidate, Jump Melee weapon Influence +1 Rank, DC 20
81-86 Diplomacy Fighter or paladin Leadership,
Persuasive
Diplomacy, Sense Motive,
Know (nobility and royalty)
Wondrous item for
morale/interaction
Influence +1 Rank, DC 24
87-94 Border patrol Ranger Point Blank Shot,
Far Shot
Survival, Spot, Listen,
Hide, Move Silently
Ranged weapon Information +0 Rank, DC 26
95-100 Herald Bard or fighter Negotiator,
Weapon Focus
Know (nobility and royalty),
Diplomacy, Know (local),
Sense Motive, Spot, Listen,
Know (history)
Armor or shield Influence +1 Rank, DC 24

Religious Background

Obviously, clerics dominate this background category. In a larger sense, it represents all activities that have a strong religious element, and in the generally pious societies that dominate most campaigns, that’s a pretty wide spread.

Recognition is by ascension in rank, with a character’s ranks in Knowledge (religion) providing a bonus on his recognition check.

Example Religious Ranks

The following ranks are loosely drawn from the Christian church as it existed in the Middle Ages. Accordingly, they won’t be appropriate for all the fantasy religions in your game.

Religious Ranks (Highest to Lowest): acolyte, abbot, deacon, priest, high priest, bishop, prelate, archbishop, patriarch, cardinal.

Religious Background Activities
d% Activity Class Feats Skills Gear Contacts Rep Recognition
Sp Focus = Spell Focus; Know = Knowledge; Gather Info = Gather Information.
  1. Indicates a prestige class. Only available if the class is allowed in the campaign.
01-12 Temple
leader
Cleric Leadership,
Sp Focus (Ench)
Diplomacy, Sense Motive,
Know (religion)
Item that employs
divine magic
Influence Rank, DC 26
13-24 Evangelist Cleric Negotiator,
Sp Focus (Conj)
Diplomacy, Know (religion),
Spellcraft
Item that
aids interaction
Influence +1 Rank, DC 28
25-33 Sacred
librarian
Bard or cleric Diligent,
Investigator
Gather Info, Know (religion),
Know (history), Spellcraft, Search
Item with
divination aura
Information +0 Rank, DC 30
34-42 Keeper of
the dead
Cleric Extra Turning,
Sp Focus (Necro)
Know (religion), Spellcraft,
Concentration
Item with
necromancy aura
Skill +0 Rank, DC 30
43-51 Cultist Cleric Sp Focus (Conj),
Sp Focus (Necro)
Disguise, Concentration,
Spellcraft
Item that aids
disguise or secrecy
Information +0 Rank, DC 26
52-64 Inquisitor Cleric Sp Focus (Dlv),
Investigator
Sense Motive, Intimidate,
Spellcraft
Item with
divination aura
Information Rank, DC 28
65-77 Exorcist Cleric Sp Focus (Abj),
Spell Penetration
Spellcraft, Concentration,
Know (the planes)
Item that affects
extraplanar creatures
Influence Rank, DC 30
78-88 Temple
guardian
Paladin, fighter,
or blackguard1
Power Attack,
Cleave
Know (religion),
Spot, Climb
Armor Skill +0 Rank, DC 28
89-100 Cloistered Monk Dodge, Mobility Tumble, Jump, Balance,
Hide, Move Silently
Item that
provides protection
Skill +0 Rank, DC 28

Skilled Background

This background is similar to the academic magic background, except that it represents learning and instruction in subjects not related to magic. Nevertheless, a spellcaster may well select this background if he is interested in studying other topics.

Recognition for skilled background activities is similar to recognition in an academic magic background: degrees and memberships in honorary societies. (Athletes get trophies, functionally similar to military decorations, instead.)

Each activity in this background is associated with a particular skill-the one mentioned first in the entry’s Skills column. A character’s ranks in that skill provide a bonus on recognition checks.

Skilled Background Activities
d% Activity Class Feats Skills Gear Contacts Rep Recognition
Know = Knowledge; Prof = Profession.
01-16 Religious
scholar
Cleric Scribe Scroll,
Diligent
Decipher Script,
Know (religion), Spellcraft
Robe or cloak Information +0 Degree or
society, DC 26
17-32 Music
theorist
Bard Scribe Scroll,
Skill Focus (Perform)
Perform (any), Diplomacy, Sense Motive,
Decipher Script, Speak Language
Instrument Information Degree or
society, DC 28
33-44 Barrister Rogue Persuasive,
Negotiator
Intimidate, Diplomacy, Sense Motive,
Bluff, Know (nobility and royalty)
Wondrous item that
protects against spells
Information +0 Degree or
society, DC 26
45-60 Scribe Wizard Any metamagic Decipher Script,
Speak Language, Know (arcana)
Extra spells
in spellbook
Information +0 Degree or
society, DC 28
61-74 Naturalist Druid Track, Natural Spell Know (nature), Prof (herbalist),
Handle Animal, Spellcraft, Concentration
Scrolls, wand, or staff Information +0 Degree or
society, DC 28
75-90 Scientist Wizard Any item creation Know (architecture and engineering),
Craft (any), Spellcraft
Wondrous item that
moves by itself
Information +0 Degree or
society, DC 26
91-100 Athlete Monk or
ranger
Athletic, Dodge Balance, Climb, Jump Tumble, Swim Item that boosts
physical stats
Information +1 Degree or
society, DC 26

Underworld Background

The teeming cities of the game world provide opportunities for countless adventures. The activities associated with this background represent moneymaking efforts on the wrong side of the law. A character may operate solo, as part of a small gang, or as part of a large thieves’ guild or organized crime family Some characters with underworld backgrounds use a false name to attain the benefits of their reputation while avoiding entanglements with law enforcement.

The underworld offers few chances for formal recognition (reflected by the relatively high recognition check DCs in this background), although some criminal syndicates have ranks and titles. The notion of underworld recognition may not be appropriate for every setting.

Each activity in this background is associated with a particular skill-the one mentioned first in the entry’s Skills column. A character’s ranks in that skill provide a bonus on recognition checks.

Underworld Background Activities
d% Activity Class Feats Skills Gear Contacts Rep Recognition
Gather Info = Gather Information; Know = Knowledge.
  1. Indicates a prestige class. Only available if the class is allowed in the campaign.
01-12 Street crime Rogue Deft Hands,
Dodge
Escape Artist, Tumble,
Sleight of Hand, Move Silently,
Hide
Wondrous item
that aids movement
Information +0 Rank, DC 32
13-23 Protection racket Rogue Combat Expertise,
Improved Feint
Intimidate, Sense Motive,
Bluff, Diplomacy, Search
Weapon Influence Rank, DC 30
24-32 Gambling Rogue Negotiator,
Persuasive
Bluff, Sense Motive, Intimidate,
Gather Info, Forgery
Magic item based on
gem or jewelry
Influence +1 Rank, DC 30
33-44 Assassination Rogue or
assassin1
Improved Critical,
Stealthy
Hide, Move Silently,
Tumble, Climb, jump
Weapon Skill +1 Rank, DC 30
45-57 Burglary Rogue or
assassin1
Nimble Fingers,
Acrobatic
Climb, Open Lock, Hide,
Move Silently, Search, Balance
Wondrous item
that aids stealth
Skill +0 Rank, DC 30
58-70 Robbery Rogue Weapon Finesse,
Quick Draw
Intimidate, Disguise,
Bluff, Use Rope, Hide
Weapon Information Rank, DC 28
71-81 Con games Rogue
or bard
Deceitful,
Persuasive
Bluff, Sense Motive,
Diplomacy, Forgery, Disguise
Wondrous item
that creates illusion
Influence +1f2 Rank, DC 28
82-90 Fence Rogue Diligent,
Negotiator
Appraise, Sense Motive, Bluff,
Know (local), Gather Info
Any Influence +1 Rank, DC 30
91-100 Street fighting Fighter
or rogue
Quick Draw,
Combat Reflexes
Intimidate, Sleight of Hand,
Bluff, Tumble, Spot
Armor Skill +0 Rank, DC 32

Wilderness Background

This background is a feature of characters who spend most of their time in the forbidding wilds, far from the comforts of civilization. Because such a character often leads a solitary existences, there’s almost no opportunity for recognition. Only a character who undertakes the hunter-gatherer activity has a chance to attain a higher rank (that of chieftain, and it’s only attainable once), with ranks in Survival providing a bonus on the recognition check.

Wilderness Background Activities
d% Activity Class Feats Skills Gear Contacts Rep Recognition
Sp Focus = Spell Focus; Know = Knowledge.
  1. Indicates a prestige class. Only available if the class is allowed in the campaign.
01-12 Hunter-gatherer Barbarian Track,
Self-Sufficient
Survival, Spot, Listen,
Climb, Swim
Weapon Skill +0 Chieftain,
DC 28
13-25 Nature guardian Druid Natural Spell,
Combat Casting
Concentration, Spot,
Survival, Spellcraft,
Know (nature)
Armor Information
26-36 Game hunter Ranger Weapon Focus,
Improved Critical
Survival, Spot, Listen,
Hide, Move Silently
Weapon Skill +0
37-47 Explorer Ranger or
horizon walker1
Alertness,
Endurance
Survival, Know (nature),
Spot, Listen,
Know (geography)
Wondrous item
that aids movement
Information +1
48-56 Hermit Druid or
sorcerer
Sp Focus (Illus),
Sp Focus (Ench)
Survival, Concentration,
Spellcraft
Staff or wand Skill +0
56-66 Wandering minstrel Bard Alertness,
Endurance
Perform, Survival,
Know (geography),
Know (nature), Spot
Weapon Influence
67-79 Nature worshiper Druid Sp Focus (Trans),
Sp Focus (Conj)
Know (nature),
Know (religion), Survival,
Spellcraft, Concentration
Staff or wand Information +0
80-90 Highwayman Rogue Combat Expertise,
Improved Disarm
Survival, Intimidate,
Hide, Move Silently, Bluff
Armor Information
91-100 “I walk the earth.” Barbarian
or monk
Endurance,
Combat Reflexes
Survival, Climb, Hide,
Move Silently, Swim
Wondrous item
that protects
+0

Customizing Backgrounds

Background selections are like prestige classes: They function best when the game master integrates them tightly into the campaign world. You have a lot of room to modify the background activities described in this section to suit the needs of your campaign and inject the rules with the flavor of your game world. For example, perhaps the city-state of Harleph has elite flail-wielding commandos called the Crimson Guard. The shock trooper activity in the military background could offer a decoration called the Red Braid in the Recognition column, a dire flail in the Gear column, and a +1 in the Reputation column (they are elite, after all).