Background Skills

The skill system presented in the Core Rulebook has a lot of versatility. It allows characters to overcome various challenges related to their diverse talents, with simple rules for dealing with beneficial or adverse conditions. Though many players simply spend their skill ranks on the same skills at every level, it is also possible for a character to diversify his investment in order to gain access to more skills overall or to remedy a shortcoming.

However, not all skills provide the same benefit to characters. It’s difficult to argue that a high bonus in a Profession skill has the same value as a high bonus in a more general skill such as Perception. Yet Profession is an important skill for nonplayer characters, as well as for players who wish to show that adventuring isn’t the only thing their characters care about.

The background skills system recognizes that skills such as Craft, Knowledge, and Profession serve an important role in the game. Though these skills don’t directly affect the careers of typical adventurers the same way that Bluff, Perception, and Stealth do, they are useful means for characters to interact with and explore the world outside of combat. You shouldn’t have to choose between having the knowledge to understand the world and the ability to survive in it!

These skills are called background skills because they reflect the non-adventuring interests and passions of a player character, or the skills more important to NPCs. All other skills are called adventuring skills. In a campaign that uses the background skills system, each character gains an additional 2 skill ranks per level, which must be spent on background skills. These new rules make characters and their skills more versatile, but because they boost non-adventuring skills, they’re unlikely to unbalance a campaign.


Adventuring skills are those skills that are most relevant for characters while they’re actively adventuring. Adventuring skills are purchased with the standard skill ranks each character class receives, modified by a character’s Intelligence (and sometimes by race or other factors). No adjustments need to be made to these skills when using the background skills system.

Most adventuring skills are related to training and practice, and each has a clear and specific application to the everyday challenges that face a professional adventurer. Adventuring skills get used for the majority of skill checks, so most skill ranks should be devoted to those skills.


In addition to their normal allotment of regular skill ranks, all characters gain 2 background skill ranks each time they gain a level in a PC class. The character’s Intelligence modifier doesn’t adjust this value. Background skill ranks can be used to gain ranks only in background skills, not adventuring skills. Characters can expend their regular skill ranks on background skills if they desire. Even the most dedicated adventurers have other things they enjoy doing in their spare time. Some pursue business interests during their downtime between adventures, and though these can be modeled with the downtime rules in Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Campaign, players who aren’t interested in such a robust system still might wish to include elements of those interests on their character sheets.

Adventuring Skills

Disable Device
Escape Artist
Knowledge (arcana)
Knowledge (dungeoneering)
Knowledge (local)
Knowledge (nature)
Knowledge (planes)
Knowledge (religion)
Sense Motive
Use Magic Device

Background Skills

Handle Animal
Knowledge (engineering)
Knowledge (geography)
Knowledge (history)
Knowledge (nobility)
Sleight of Hand

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License