Campaign of the Month: June 2012
Backgrounds were designed to help players and Game Masters flesh out the backgrounds of 1st level fantasy characters, providing them with a skill set that will follow them throughout their entire adventuring career.
Backgrounds use occupations to reflect a player character’s former livelihood, taking “occupation” in its loosest sense: how did a player character occupy his time prior to adventuring? Each occupation offers class skills and starting money. Some occupations offer bonus feats as well. Each player character may have only one occupation, and this occupation is chosen at character creation.
A quick perusal through the occupations list will note that typical occupations for a particular character class don’t offer much benefit (e.g. the soldier occupation offers the same class skills and feats already available to a fighter). This was done on purpose, as it both reflects reality (the fighter class presumes combat experience) and encourages players to create more colorful backgrounds for their characters. A side benefit is game balance, as this system discourages “stacking” (e.g. coupling soldier with fighter will not increase the fighter’s combat prowess).
An occupation reflects the player character’s prior life, which normally occurs during adolescence. As such, the fantasy occupations presented here were constructed as adolescent occupations. A 1st level fighter might have been a squire, but he probably would not have been a knight. A 1st level initiate might have spent time in temple learning the basics and performing duties, but was probably not ordained, given the rite of initiation, as a priest or cleric until he gained 1st level.
Once a player character attains 1st level, he may or may not continue in his previous occupation. The class skills reflect his continuing proficiency in what he learned, regardless of whether he still follows his old calling. Should the character choose a new occupation, he will be limited to skills and feats that he acquires normally as he progresses in levels.
bq). Although occupations are learned prior to 1st level, a player character can take any bonus feats that have 1st level as a requirement. Some occupations are more broadly defined than others, due to the same skill set being more broadly applicable. A player character that takes the fisherman occupation was probably a fisherman, getting into a boat and casting nets on a daily basis. A player character with the apprentice occupation, by contrast, could be a butcher or a blacksmith. As a result, player characters that choose a broadly defined occupation should keep their narrow focus in mind when selecting class skills.