Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Dwarven Raised Drow? Yours For The Asking, With The Adopted Trait!

In Pathfinder, every character gets two background traits. They give you little, mechanical bonuses, but they're also supposed to represent your character's unique history. If you have Viking Blood, for instance, then it traces your heritage directly to the Land of The Linnorm Kings. It also gives you a +1 bonus on Intimidate checks, and makes Intimidate a class skill for you. Reactionary represents someone who has lived a life on the edge of violence, and it gives you a +2 bonus on Initiative checks. One of the most unusual traits in the game, though, is called Adopted.

In short, Adopted says you were raised by a race not your own. The benefit is that you can immediately choose a race trait you normally wouldn't have access to because you are not a member of that race.

Belkar always knew there was something different about his big brother. He could never put his finger on it, though.
That benefit is fun, but there is another advantage to this trait; it gives you a probable explanation for unusual races being found outside of their typical haunts. Even better, though, it lets you explain why you have a member of a particular race that just doesn't seem to fit their usual mold.

A Halfling Village Raised WHAT!?

We know halflings as open-minded, kindly, neighborly folks. They like their food, their pipe weed, and a fairly simple life. While not all halflings we know fit that Tolkien stereotype, imagine an idyllic village that does. There are small-sized lanes, small-sized farms, and homes built right into the rolling landscape. But at the end of the village, there's a huge hill that's been hollowed out. More of an artificial cave, it's made of raw timbers, and huge stones that dwarf the rest of its neighbors.

And sitting on the porch, a thumb tucked behind his suspenders and his pipe in his mouth, is Boram Broadback. And while he might dress like his neighbors, talk like his neighbors, and act like his neighbors, it's pretty clear he isn't like them in a significant way. Boram is a bugbear.

Annalise! It's eating your last serving platter!
While Boram still has violent urges, and he was a rowdy child, the patience and caring of his adopted parents, along with the value the village placed on his sheer size and strength, turned him into a chaotic good character who values friendship and community as much as a barrel of ale, and a thick haunch of beef. As well as a chance to crack skulls, when necessary.

This sort of scenario is a great way to justify your unusual PC race, and to make something that isn't bound by the conventions of a given race's culture. For example, say you want to play a drow. Was this drow raised by surface elves, who cultivated her like a tree to make sure she didn't grow in certain directions? Or was the drow raised by dwarves, and thus took on their characteristic brusqueness while also learning their values and industrial talents? Perhaps you want to play an ogre. Were you taken in by a group of human soldiers who raised you as their unit mascot until you eventually grew into a capable fighter on your own? Or were you taken in by a traveling family? Perhaps raised by a witch who made you his surrogate son?

If you're interested in unique story, it's also important to remember that more common races can also be adopted into uncommon situations. For example, you might want to play a human raised by orcs, creating a kind of Tarzan situation where the wayward child has to compete with an adopted family who is bigger, faster, and stronger than he is. This might lead to him becoming superhuman by the standards of most average people. Or, say you were a gnome adopted as a kind of pet by a drow household. Your value as a trickster, and a spy, could completely alter that gnome's views and understanding of the world, in addition to granting them a unique racial trait.

Make Something That Fits Your Game

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when contemplating the possibilities of the Adopted trait, and the associated stories it could bolster, is that you need to make a character for the game you're playing. For example, the drow raised by dwarves would fit quite well into a game that will go to the Darklands. You might even be able to pull a reverse Old Testament and reveal that this drow is a long-lost child of a powerful noble house.

However, that's a situation where your peg can be tailored to fit into a round hole with the party. If you can't cut the corners off a square peg, though, then set the concept aside, and wait for a game where it would make more sense. At the same time, though, don't be afraid to shake up the traditional formula. Just because classes and races have certain archetypes associated with them, that doesn't mean you can't blaze your own trail.

That's all for this week's Fluff installment. If you want to make sure you don't miss out on any of my future updates, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter! Lastly, if you want me to keep producing great content just like this, consider becoming a patron of mine. Head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, and pledge at least $1 per month. This helps me keep the train rolling, and it will get you some sweet swag to boot!

1 comment:

  1. I've done this with Drow adopted by elves, and a Tiefling adopted by dwarves. It's rather fun.