Background Skills in Pathfinder

Alan was always good with words. When he was younger, his parents often found him in deep conversations with people from all walks of life. He loved learning about other cultures and customs, and he was always eager to find a way to resolve conflicts peacefully.

So it was no surprise that Alan decided to become a diplomat. He studied hard and eventually became one of the most respected emissaries in all of Golarion.

One day, Alan was called to a small kingdom on the brink of war. He worked tirelessly to resolve the conflict and eventually found a way to broker a peace treaty between the two sides.

If it weren’t for Alan’s background in diplomacy, the kingdom would have surely fallen into a needless and bloody war.

Background skills are an essential part of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. They offer a balance between downtime and adventuring skills and can be used to craft exciting and unique characters.

Background Skills in Pathfinder 2e

A character’s background skills represent both the life they’ve led and their innate talent. Unless you’re looking for a challenge, try to choose a background that makes sense for your personality and is easy for you to roleplay. 

Your character’s background will give you an idea of how to react during gameplay. A town guard will behave differently than someone who grew up on the streets having to steal food to survive.

There are a variety of backgrounds to choose from in Pathfinder.

Some popular backgrounds include:

  • Warrior (soldiers, mercenaries, and nomads)
  • Street Urchin (poor residents of large cities) 
  • Farmer (commoners living outside of cities in small towns or the countryside)
  • Scholars (academics, sages, and researchers)

Each background has its own benefits. For example, the warrior background gives you access to skills like warfare lore and intimidation, while the street urchin background teaches you skills like thievery. 

Pathfinder allows you to use your skills in creative ways. For example, if you are an expert in diplomacy skills, you can convince someone to see things your way or to haggle for a better price.

Once you’ve decided on a background, you move on to creating details about your character. 

Planning Your Characters

Every Pathfinder character needs a good backstory. When choosing a background for your character, it’s important to consider your interests and how you want to play the game.

Are you curious about magic? Do you prefer using weapons and martial skills? Or do you enjoy solving puzzles and exploring ancient ruins?

Pick a background that supports the type of character you want to play. If you’re going to be a wizard, a scholarly background is good. If you want to be a fighter, consider a warrior or gladiator background.

The following section covers the benefits of background skills and tips on choosing the right background for your character.

Most Skilled Backgrounds

Every background in Pathfinder comes with its own benefits. All walks of life have something to offer in the world of Golarion. However, some skills are more practical to an adventurer than others. 

It takes a variety of adventurers to have a successful campaign, and befriending a few talented individuals can prove extremely useful. 

Field Medic

Having a trained field medic in your Pathfinder party can be the difference between life and death. Field medics have experience patching up soldiers during combat. These characters know the battle medicine skill feat and can use healing tools to heal wounds during combat. 

As a field medic, you’ll be responsible for keeping your teammates alive. This background is an excellent choice for characters who want to focus on the healing arts.


Even the bravest warrior won’t last long in Golarion without proper gear. But good equipment isn’t cheap. Having an experienced merchant around can prove invaluable when it comes time to upgrade your weapons or stock up on potions.

Merchants begin with training in diplomacy. They also have the bargain hunter skill and can use their mercantile training to earn profits by buying and reselling items. In some cases, merchants may be able to track down and purchase an item at well below its market price.


Pathfinder’s sailors are some of the most skilled and experienced in the world. These characters know navigation and seafaring skills and can handle a ship in even the worst weather. They’re also experts at finding their way through treacherous waters and avoiding dangerous reefs and shoals. 

Having an experienced sailor for a companion will come in handy if you ever plan on getting your sea legs. Most players don’t have the skills to navigate a ship in the open ocean. Only a trained sailor will be able to keep your vessel on course and out of danger.

Street Urchin

Street urchins are a common sight in any large city. These kids have grown up on their own, scraping by on whatever they can find. They’ve learned how to get by on their own in a harsh world. 

Street urchins are survivors. They know how to steal, cheat, and lie to get what they want. As a street urchin, your character will be skilled in thievery and pickpocketing. 

You’ll also be an expert in local lore and can easily find your way through even the most dangerous areas of the city where you grew up.


Communication is a vital ingredient of any successful mission. Emissaries are skilled diplomats and messengers who travel all over Golarion as part of their work. They are experts in social situations and are fluent in multiple languages.

With an emissary on your team, you’ll be able to take advantage of most diplomatic events. No one is better at forming alliances or making deals than an accomplished emissary. 

Background Skill System in Pathfinder 1e

Pathfinder 2e focuses heavily on creative roleplaying. Pathfinder 1e players who want a similar gameplay experience, can use the optional background skill system. This system allows players to craft characters with various backgrounds and skills. 

Not all players are the same. Some want to focus on combat, while others prefer to avoid it. Some have no interest in role-playing and just want to hack and slash their way through the adventure. The goal of the background skill system is to create a more balanced character that can contribute in and out of combat.

Pathfinder Unchained

Pathfinder Unchained is an optional rules supplement for Pathfinder 1e that offers a variety of changes and additions to the game, such as new classes, feats, and ways to modify character abilities. It was designed by Jason Bulmahn and published in December 2015. 

One of the significant changes in Pathfinder Unchained is the addition of background skills, as mentioned above. These skills reflect the various things your character did before adventuring and can be used to fill in gaps in your skillset or give you an edge in certain situations. 

Using the Background Skills System

Background skills in Pathfinder 1e create a more balanced game as they provide players with the opportunity to focus on roleplaying and creativity instead of just combat.

The background skills system provides a much better option for those who want to focus on a more peaceful path.

Benefits of Using Background Skills

There are several perks to using the background skills system. 

  1. It provides a balance between background and adventuring skills. 
  2. It offers roleplaying depth and flavor to your character. 
  3. This system can be used to create new skills or alter existing ones.

Skills like Craft, Knowledge, and Profession are crucial to Pathfinder, but they don’t have the same impact on encounters and social interactions as some other skills. Using the alternate rules encourages 1st edition characters to invest ranks into skills that are often neglected.

If you’re looking for a way to increase the roleplaying opportunities in your Pathfinder game, try using background skills and rewarding downtime activities. 

Converting Characters

In order to convert your character to the background skills system, you will first need to identify which skills you want to focus on. 

Under the optional rules, you’ll be refunded skill ranks based on your character’s level. You can use these ranks to increase your background skills.

Two new background skills are available for 1st edition characters: Artistry and Lore. These skills allow you to develop your creative and professional talents. 

Tips for GMs

As a GM, it’s important to remember that not all players will be familiar with using background skills. Make sure to take the time to explain how they work and why they’re beneficial. You can also offer tips on converting existing characters or creating new ones from scratch.

It’s best to let players choose which skills they want. But if you’re looking for ideas, here are a few options to get you started:

  • A character with the Artistry skill can be an excellent painter, sculptor, or musician.
  • A character with the Lore skill can be knowledgeable about history, local legends, or the planes.
  • A character with the Profession skill can be a skilled blacksmith, tailor, or cook.

There are endless possibilities for creating intriguing characters using the background skills system. So use your imagination and have fun!

Live and Learn

For those playing Pathfinder 2e, choosing the right background can be integral to your player’s success. Picking the right background will give you the skills to overcome any challenge.

These skills reflect the various things your character did before adventuring and can be used to fill in gaps in your skillset.

The 1st edition of Pathfinder has a variety of changes and additions to the game that increase customization, such as new classes, feats, and ways to modify character abilities.

You can create a more balanced and engaging experience by using the optional rules.