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All Rules in Pathfinder Unchained

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Background Skills

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 46
The skill system presented in the Core Rulebook has a lot of versatility. It allows characters to overcome various challenges related to their diverse talents, with simple rules for dealing with beneficial or adverse conditions. Though many players simply spend their skill ranks on the same skills at every level, it is also possible for a character to diversify his investment in order to gain access to more skills overall or to remedy a shortcoming.

However, not all skills provide the same benefit to characters. It’s difficult to argue that a high bonus in a Profession skill has the same value as a high bonus in a more general skill such as Perception. Yet Profession is an important skill for nonplayer characters, as well as for players who wish to show that adventuring isn’t the only thing their characters care about.

The background skills system recognizes that skills such as Craft, Knowledge, and Profession serve an important role in the game. Though these skills don’t directly affect the careers of typical adventurers the same way that Bluff, Perception, and Stealth do, they are useful means for characters to interact with and explore the world outside of combat. You shouldn’t have to choose between having the knowledge to understand the world and the ability to survive in it!

These skills are called background skills because they ref lect the non-adventuring interests and passions of a player character, or the skills more important to NPCs. All other skills are called adventuring skills. In a campaign that uses the background skills system, each character gains an additional 2 skill ranks per level, which must be spent on background skills. More details appear in the Gaining Background Skills section. These new rules make characters and their skills more versatile, but because they boost non-adventuring skills, they’re unlikely to unbalance a campaign.

Converting Characters

Implementing background skills in an established campaign is easy. To convert a character’s skill ranks into this system, first determine the total number of background skill ranks she has—this is equal to 2 × the PC’s character level. Next, find out how many ranks she has already spent on skills that are background skills under this system. The character gains that number of regular skill ranks to spend on any skills—essentially refunding the regular skill ranks spent on background skills. Finally, subtract this number from the character’s total number of background skill ranks to determine how many background skill ranks she still has to spend. For example, a 5th-level rogue would have 10 background skill ranks. If she had already put 5 ranks into skills that are now background skills, she would spend 5 of her background skill ranks on those skills, freeing up the original 5 ranks to spend on any skills, and she would still have 5 background skill ranks left to spend on background skills.

The GM might want to allow some amount of retraining to factor in the new background skills. A character who took Profession (poet) might prefer to put those ranks in Artistry (poetry) instead, or a character who took Knowledge (geography) to represent the time she spent traveling a specific river might take Lore in that river instead.

Skill Changes

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 46
Appraise, Craft, Handle Animal, Linguistics, Perform, Profession, and some Knowledge specialties are all background skills. While all of these skills can be useful, or even necessary, in certain types of campaigns (such as Profession [sailor] in a nautical-themed campaign) or for certain types of characters (such as Handle Animal for a druid or ranger), they are often of less immediate value than sneaking up on a foe using Stealth or journeying through the wilderness using Survival.

This system also adds two new background skills: Artistry and Lore. A counterpart to Craft and Perform, Artistry is about developing a creative work that isn’t necessarily an object or a discrete performance. This skill can be used to write plays, musical compositions, poems, and all sorts of other works. Lore, on the other hand, functions like an especially specific Knowledge skill. A character might know Lore (elven history) without being trained more generally in Knowledge (history), or could be well versed in Lore (artistic masterpieces) without having ranks in Appraise, Artistry, or Craft.

New skill descriptions can be found on the following pages. These include entries on the new skills and expanded entries on existing skills that are now background skills. The table below lists the new and redefined skills, separated into adventuring and background skills

Table :

Adventuring Skills
Disable Device
Escape Artist
Knowledge (arcana)
Knowledge (dungeoneering)
Knowledge (local)
Knowledge (nature)
Knowledge (planes)
Knowledge (religion)
Sense Motive
Use Magic Device
Background Skills
Handle Animal
Knowledge (engineering)
Knowledge (geography)
Knowledge (history)
Knowledge (nobility)
Sleight of Hand

Gaining Adventuring Skills

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 47
Adventuring skills are those skills that are most relevant for characters while they’re actively adventuring. Adventuring skills are purchased with the standard skill ranks each character class receives, modified by a character’s Intelligence (and sometimes by race or other factors). No adjustments need to be made to these skills when using the background skills system.

Most adventuring skills are related to training and practice, and each has a clear and specific application to the everyday challenges that face a professional adventurer. Adventuring skills get used for the majority of skill checks, so most skill ranks should be devoted to those skills.

Gaining Background Skills

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 47
In addition to their normal allotment of regular skill ranks, all characters gain 2 background skill ranks each time they gain a level in a PC class. The character’s Intelligence modifier doesn’t adjust this value. Background skill ranks can be used to gain ranks only in background skills, not adventuring skills. Characters can expend their regular skill ranks on background skills if they desire.

Even the most dedicated adventurers have other things they enjoy doing in their spare time. Some pursue business interests during their downtime between adventures, and though these can be modeled with the downtime rules in Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Campaign, players who aren’t interested in such a robust system still might wish to include elements of those interests on their character sheets.

Monsters and NPCs

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 48
Typically, monsters don’t gain access to the background skills system from their racial Hit Dice. The Game Master might decide that certain types of monsters might have extensive lives as workers and crafters (such as storm giants, for example) and therefore gain background skills, but this is optional.

NPCs gain background skills in the same fashion PCs do, but only for PC classes they possess. This also applies to monsters with levels in PC classes. NPCs don’t have to spend their background skill ranks, and these skills rarely affect combat. Characters with only NPC classes—especially aristocrats, commoners, and experts—often spend their adventuring skill ranks on background skills.

New Skills

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 48
The section presents full entries for two new skills: Artistry and Lore. Even if you’re not using the background skills system, you can still incorporate these skills into your game as normal skills.

Expanded Skill Uses

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 51
Skills such as Craft, Perform, and Profession already include basic uses, such as crafting objects and making money. However, they can also be useful for other tasks related to practicing those skills. Further uses are expanded upon here, with sample DCs for common tasks. These expansions are meant to include additional uses to help these skills work into the framework of a regular game, and can be used separately from the background skills system if desired. These uses, particularly those that allow you to aid another at a lower DC, are at the GM’s discretion. For more in-depth subsystems to replicate crafting and running a business, see Alternate Crafting and Profession Rules.