Backgrounds, Favored Feats, and Bonus feats explained

Ask your True20 rules questions here, or answer questions from other True20 fans. And don't be surprised if you get official answers as well!
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True20Chick
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Backgrounds, Favored Feats, and Bonus feats explained

Post by True20Chick » Thu Jan 25, 2007 4:07 pm

Here are the guidelines I follow to make Backgrounds, set down in straightforward language as based on the guidelines on pg. 16 of the core book.

Ability Bonuses
*Whatever seems most appropriate. Try to make the net ability bonuses equal 0, or at the very most not more than a -1 or +1.

Bonus Skills
*2 bonus skills, determined by the Narrator. They cannot be changed.
--OR--
*1 bonus skill of the player's choice
*If the background gets no bonus skills, it gets another bonus feat (see below)

Bonus Feats
Bonus feats can only be General feats or Favored Feats for the background
*2 bonus feats, determined by the Narrator. They cannot be changed.
--OR--
*1 bonus feat of the player's choice
--PLUS--
*1 more bonus feat IF the background gets no bonus skills

Favored Feats
Favored feats cannot be General feats. They must come from the Adept, Expert, or Warrior feats.
*2 favored feats, either determined by the Narrator or chosen by the player.
--OR--
*1 supernatural power

And that's it! If you follow these general guidelines, your background should be balanced with others and with those in the core book. There are always exceptions, of course, but overall this is how the core book describes background design.

My Thoughts: Basically, player-chosen bonus skill is a bit like having Skill Training as a bonus feat in that it essentially gives you 4 extra skill points. Swapping out a player-chosen bonus skill for an extra bonus feat makes sense in that context. The fact that a Narrator can determine 2 bonus skills whereas a player can only choose 1 indicates the "price of freedom." The same holds true for a Narrator able to give a background 2 bonus feats when designing a background, whereas a player can only choose 1.
Last edited by True20Chick on Sat Aug 15, 2009 11:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

Father of Dragons
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Post by Father of Dragons » Thu Jan 25, 2007 4:51 pm

Looks good!

What about traits and/or specials, like being a water breather or having an advantage balanced by a drawback, like the combination of darkvision and light sensitivity? We've seen a number of approaches, including structural feats and background feats that have to be taken at first level, to simply giving backgrounds traints or special abilites.

It seems to me that a good general approach is that each trait is one of:
  • Feat equivalent, which means it counts as one of yout background feats;
  • Balanced by a drawback (like darkvision + light sensitivity);
  • Minor (you can ignore it);
  • Counting toward level lag.
The last is tricky, since True20 level lag is severe -- I suspect it would take like three or four feat equivalent abilites to make one level of level lag.

Personally, I find these special abilities one of the hardest part of making backgrounds.

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Post by True20Chick » Thu Jan 25, 2007 5:03 pm

Father of Dragons wrote:What about traits and/or specials, like being a water breather or having an advantage balanced by a drawback, like the combination of darkvision and light sensitivity?
This is always a grey area. The background creation rules in True20 go a long way towards helping create balanced "races," but when you start to venture into special abilities and traits it open a big, sticky, ugly can of worms.

The general philosophy I follow is "if you give something, take something away." Therefore if you give a background a special ability that is a significant advantage, there should be a corresponding drawback (as you referenced). The difficulty comes in balancing the special traits with each other in a way that you avoid that dreaded level lag.

It's a tough call, and one I don't have a quick answer for. Things like this are best handled on a case-by-case basis. Special traits often require special consideration.

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Re: Streamlined view of True20 Background Design

Post by jaerdaph » Sun Mar 11, 2007 10:47 am

True20Chick wrote: Favored Feats
Favored feats cannot be General feats. They must come from the Adept, Expert, or Warrior feats.
*2 favored feats, either determined by the Narrator or chosen by the player.
--OR--
*1 supernatural power
Hello True20Chick!

I had some questions about the supernatural power option under favored feats for a background.

1. The supernatural power, just like favored feats, isn't granted automatically, but can be chosen at any time, regardless of role?
2. The "adept" level for this power is total character level (since it is favored for the background and available even without taking any adept levels)?

So is my understanding of that correct?

Thanks in advance. :)

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Re: Streamlined view of True20 Background Design

Post by Reef » Sun Mar 11, 2007 11:40 am

jaerdaph wrote:
True20Chick wrote: Favored Feats
Favored feats cannot be General feats. They must come from the Adept, Expert, or Warrior feats.
*2 favored feats, either determined by the Narrator or chosen by the player.
--OR--
*1 supernatural power
Hello True20Chick!

I had some questions about the supernatural power option under favored feats for a background.

1. The supernatural power, just like favored feats, isn't granted automatically, but can be chosen at any time, regardless of role?
2. The "adept" level for this power is total character level (since it is favored for the background and available even without taking any adept levels)?

So is my understanding of that correct?

Thanks in advance. :)
I'm not going to pretend to be True20Chick, but that's my understanding of it.

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Re: Streamlined view of True20 Background Design

Post by ValhallaGH » Sun Mar 11, 2007 12:28 pm

jaerdaph wrote:I had some questions about the supernatural power option under favored feats for a background.

1. The supernatural power, just like favored feats, isn't granted automatically, but can be chosen at any time, regardless of role?
2. The "adept" level for this power is total character level (since it is favored for the background and available even without taking any adept levels)?

So is my understanding of that correct?
That's how I've read it.

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Post by Uchuujin » Sun Mar 11, 2007 12:30 pm

If you look at the Cyberized Human background in Cybernetics, they break their own rules there. Cyberized Humans receive two specific bonus cybernetic feats, one bonus cybernetic feat of their choice, and receive no favored feats.

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Post by ValhallaGH » Sun Mar 11, 2007 12:39 pm

Uchuujin wrote:If you look at the Cyberized Human background in Cybernetics, they break their own rules there. Cyberized Humans receive two specific bonus cybernetic feats, one bonus cybernetic feat of their choice, and receive no favored feats.
You'll note that all aspects of backgrounds, including granting a background at all, are optional.

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Supernatural Power Clarifications

Post by razorwise » Mon Mar 12, 2007 12:16 pm

jaerdaph wrote: I had some questions about the supernatural power option under favored feats for a background.

Thanks in advance. :)
Hello.

I'll offer you my insight from working with True20.

jaerdaph wrote: 1. The supernatural power, just like favored feats, isn't granted automatically, but can be chosen at any time, regardless of role?
1. Yes. The supernatural power is a favored feat and works like any other. Let's look at p. 16 of the core book.

"The character does not have to acquire the background’s favored feats; they’re just strongly associated with the background and common to it, therefore always available as an option."
jaerdaph wrote: 2. The "adept" level for this power is total character level (since it is favored for the background and available even without taking any adept levels)?
2. Yes. Absolutely. For confirmation on this, check out the Elf example background listed in the True20 core book p.17 where it reads as follows:

"Favored Feats: Choose one supernatural power (elves treat their total level as their adept level for this power)."

Hope this helps.

Regards,

Sean
Last edited by razorwise on Mon Mar 12, 2007 12:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by iwatt » Mon Mar 12, 2007 12:21 pm

Note that this benefit should extend to favored feats with level dependent benefits as well, IMHO*. For instance Inspire (expert levels) or Rage (warrior levels).

* I'm not sure this is spelled out anywere, but it does make sense.

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Post by razorwise » Mon Mar 12, 2007 12:33 pm

iwatt wrote:Note that this benefit should extend to favored feats with level dependent benefits as well, IMHO*. For instance Inspire (expert levels) or Rage (warrior levels).

* I'm not sure this is spelled out anywere, but it does make sense.
No. This is not explicitly written anywhere, but I'm certain that other level dependent feats ramp up as well. As you said, it just makes sense or as a fine fellow I once worked with would state "it's intuitively obvious". :)

Regards,

Sean

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Post by jaerdaph » Mon Mar 12, 2007 8:55 pm

Thanks for the input, everyone. :)

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Post by barsoomcore » Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:37 am

Question: given that a player can adjust ability scores up and down at will when creating their character, what point do ability score adjustments for background serve?

I mean, if you list a background as having +1 Strength/-1 Dexterity, can't I just decrease Strength by one, increase Dexterity by one, and still have my six points to put wherever I like?

Or have I misunderstood something?

Wouldn't be better to just have guidelines for this sort of thing: "Blue dwarves are typically high in Constitution but low in Intelligence. This is why they're so popular."

The score adjustments don't appear to have the same sort of effect they have in a d20 system -- adjusting the average scores of PCs.

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Post by Reef » Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:53 am

barsoomcore wrote:Question: given that a player can adjust ability scores up and down at will when creating their character, what point do ability score adjustments for background serve?

I mean, if you list a background as having +1 Strength/-1 Dexterity, can't I just decrease Strength by one, increase Dexterity by one, and still have my six points to put wherever I like?

Or have I misunderstood something?

Wouldn't be better to just have guidelines for this sort of thing: "Blue dwarves are typically high in Constitution but low in Intelligence. This is why they're so popular."

The score adjustments don't appear to have the same sort of effect they have in a d20 system -- adjusting the average scores of PCs.
I agree completely with you on their apparent worthelessness, Barsoomcore. The only use I have for them (and this is probably houserule fodder as opposed to an official rule) is that they raise the maximum for stats beyond +/- 5. So, a human can have a max Dex of 5, while a race with a +1 Dex background could go to 6.

Again, that's probably more houserule than official...I don't allow people to exceed racial maximums.

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Post by jaerdaph » Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:56 am

I believe the benefit is that it allows you to excede the +5 max on starting ability scores (like with non-human races in D&D). Conversely, there's a penalty. If you start at -1, you would need to spend one of your regular points if you want to be average in that ability.

On a related note, for those of you running True20 campaigns with human-only PCs, do you allow the use of the starting human background in your campaign when creating characters, or ignore the optional background rules entirely?

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