One of the unique ways of mechanically fleshing out a character in Pathfinder is background traits. These mini feats, as they've sometimes been called, allow you to gain small bonuses based on your character's history. You can pick two, and they represent your experience in combat, society, religion, faith, and half a dozen other areas. While there are a lot of common traits you find on characters time and time again (like Reactionary, which gives you a +2 trait bonus on Initiative checks, or Magical Knack, which increases your caster level by 2 up to your character level), there are some traits you rarely see.
Sometimes it's because those traits don't offer a big enough bonus compared to others. Sometimes it's because they're in books your table doesn't use. And, rarely, it's because a trait is considered the wrong genre, and is banned for being too sci-fi. If you've been looking for some fun traits to make your new character a little different, here are 5 you should check out.
Trait #1: Blood Steed
I discovered this trait while writing my character conversion for Khal Drogo from A Song of Ice and Fire. A character with Blood Steed comes from a nomadic culture, and begins play with a combat-trained light warhorse. You can ride this horse bareback as if it had a saddle, and this horse can fend for itself in all but the harshest conditions. Even cooler, when you step out of a settlement and whistle, your horse arrives in 1d6 minutes.
Perhaps the coolest feature of this trait, though, if your horse dies you can return to your people, and hold a rite for the horse's spirit. This costs 100 gold in herbs and materials, and when it is over you receive a new horse.
This is a great trait if you're a character who depends on their mount, and you want some extra insurance that your DM won’t just drop a rock on your pony.
Trait #2: Awakened From Stasis
This one gets the side-eye from DMs on two levels; it's sci-fi and offers a ridiculous benefit.
This trait states that you recently awoke in a cavern with no memory of how you got there. There were dozens of other creatures, all asleep in glass eggs. Huge, construct crabs attended to you, and all the others. As a result of your time in stasis, you receive the benefits of 8 hours of rest after sleeping for only 2 hours.
Most people need a magic item, or at least a class feature, to mimic that. If your DM lets you take traits from People of The Stars, this is a solid choice.
Trait #3: Possessed
Put simply, you were, or are, possessed by something. Sometimes, if you're lucky, you can peek into the information it normally keeps to itself.
This trait lets you make a single Knowledge check once per day, even if you are untrained in that particular skill. If you could normally make an untrained check in this skill, you get a +2 trait bonus on the check.
This is a story-rich trait for any class, but given the sheer number of characters who have some truck with outsiders it has even more potential. A summoner, medium, or spiritualist would be the obvious choices for this trait, but conjurers, witches, and oracles may also find it helps boost their story. This trait would also be a natural lead-in for characters who acquire the possessed corruption, or for characters who will acquire the Possessed Hand feat tree.
Trait #4: Student of Philosophy
Bruising Intellect is a fairly common trait among Intelligence-based characters because it lets you use your Intelligence modifier in place of your Charisma modifier when making Intimidate checks. Student of Philosophy is similar, in that it allows you to apply your Intelligence modifier to Diplomacy checks to persuade people, and Bluff checks to convince someone that a lie is true.
Since we're all here for escapism, there are surely players out there whose fantasy is to be able to persuade other people through logic and reasoning... right?
Trait #5: Mutant Eye
As unsettling as it is useful, you have a third eye growing out of your forehead. If it is uncovered and open, you gain a better sense of the world, and emotions, of the people around you. This grants you a +2 bonus on Sense Motive checks, and that bonus becomes +4 on checks to determine whether or not someone is currently under a mind-affecting effect. It is off-putting looking at someone with a third eye, though, and as long as it's exposed and open, you take a -1 penalty on Bluff and Diplomacy checks against humanoids who can see it.
A good thing to have if you are the party's lie detector... even if it is a little blood curdling.
For more great gaming insights, check out Neal F. Litherland's blog Improved Initiative!
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.