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Pathfinder 2E Variant for PF2: Removing (or supplementing) Lore by Expanding Backgrounds


Here's an alternative to the lore skill that I'm planning to use in my next campaign.

Lore is the catch-all skill that's supposed to represent knowledge that isn't reflected by any of the other skills. This sounds good, but the practice falls far short. Giving a Ranger Tea Lore (an example given in the book) defines the character a bit, but doesn't flesh out a character's story- when did the character learn to brew tea? Do they know how to brew other beverages? How would you ever apply that in the game itself, besides the odd Earn Income roll?

So let's change it a bit, with some design goals in mind:

  • We want it to better define characters.
  • We want lore skills to be occasionally useful in-game. We certainly don't want them to replace the other skills, but gaining an occasional advantage wouldn't hurt.
  • We don't want to create a whole different complicated subsystem.

With that in mind, let's fit in a system that's very similar to 13th age backgrounds. PF lore skills (and the skill system in general) are based on the principle that if you don't know have a specific skill then you have very little chance to know anything not specifically included in one of those skills. The result is that your character is more defined by what you DON'T know rather than what you DO know.

* All backgrounds now remove the lore skill that they give as part of the background.

* The background that a character chooses should now be a phrase using the listed background as its base with adjectives that flesh out exactly what you did. The adjectives should describe what you specialized in, where you lived or worked or who you worked for. If you use two of the same type, like locations, one should be more specific than the other. Each background has a proficiency rating and can be treated as a skill to be improved.

Here's some examples:
  • Pumpkin farmer from the town of Enduin in Varisia
  • Street Urchin from the Puddles in Absalom
  • Scout for the Army of Cheliax serving throughout Old Cheliax
  • Vampire Hunter for the church of Pharasma in Ustalov

Each adjective can be very specific, specific or general
  • for locations, countries (or huge cities like Absalom) are general, cities (or Absalom districts) are specific, small towns are very specific.
  • for Monsters, the tags that you count tell you how specific you are:
Fiend is General, Demon is specific, Succubus is Very specific
  • All individuals/organizations are specific (Pharasma, hellknights, pathfinder society), unless you choose a specific sect of that organization (order of the nail), which classifies that as very specific.
  • All other objects or subjects can be judged by the DM as one of these three.

When confronted with a recall knowledge check directly related to an adjective:
  • the Lore skill for a general subject can substitute for another knowledge skill using the same DC as the knowledge skill.
  • the Lore skill for a specific subject can substitute for another knowledge skill using a DC one class better than required for the associated skill.
  • the Lore skill for a very specific subject can substitute for another knowledge skill using a DC one class better. Treat a success as a critical success, treat a critical failure as a fail.

So for example:
- The pumpkin farmer from Varisia can use his background as the society skill when it comes to knowing anything about Varisia. And he knows Enduin like the back of his hand (One DC easier, treat successes like crits, crit fails like fails).

- The Vampire hunter treats knowledge checks for vampires (a specific monster) as one DC easier and uses his background proficiency rating. He knows nothing about Ghosts, and can't substitute his background at all.

Additionally the background can substitute for any skill when it comes to recalling knowledge about the background itself- a farmer should be able to wax poetic about farming, including the timing of the seasons, the typical weather around where he lived, etc. A bounty hunter should very easily be able to pinpoint where in a city they can go to find available contracts. Such and so forth.

13th age actively encourages the player to justify the use of their background- "my street urchin knows the puddles like the back of her hand. I'll duck into that market and use the patrons as cover, like I used to do when I was trying to give the local militia the slip." Maybe in that one instance, that fighter with no stealth whatsoever can use his background skill as Stealth. In PF2's case, such substitutions should be rare- maybe you can allow them a handful of times over the course of a campaign. Keeping them rare maintains the value of the base skill, but give value (and meaning!) to lore skills, and- at least in 13A's case, goes a LONG way towards fleshing out characters.

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Absolutely. Just about any implementation of "lore" or "background" would be more atmospheric and inspiring than the rather dry and boring RAW PF2 one.

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