Backgrounds and LFR

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Can characters legally use backgrounds from the Scales of War campaign in Living Forgotten Realms?


The reason I ask is this. In my local RPGA group, every character uses either Born Under a Bad Sign or Auspicious birth to get a significant hit point boost. Character without this background buff are considered handicapped. These backgrounds seem to violate the spirit of the introduction to the SoW backgrounds in Dragon #366:


Each one comes with a small game benefit, usually a small skill modifier. But power-gamers beware! You’ll search in vain for significant advantage. The bonuses are intentionally small because we don’t want a character’s past to overshadow that character’s present. Think of these backgrounds as aids to roleplaying, not the means to eke out an incremental advantage to a skill check.


Also, in the Character Builder, under backgrounds it implies that you may only use Forgotten Realms backgrounds in a FR campaign, and the same with Eberron, SoW, etc.


On the other hand, the LFR character creation guide says that all completed Dragon issues are fair game.


Can someone please clarify? Is any legal character from Character Builder playable in LFR or is this an exploit that should be corrected?

The CCG 1.9 changed it sdo any legal backgrounds are usable.  So yes, SoW backgrounds are legal for use.  Although I wouldn't say a character without one of the ones you mentioned is handicapped.  I have no HP boosting backgrounds on my PCs and they aren't handicapped.

Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf

It may be a community issue. If you play with a group where not everyone uses these two backgrounds, then, sure your character is not handicapped. However, around here--seriously--every character uses these. So my druid striker has fewer hit points than every other character. We're talking a 10 point difference. Think about it. These backgrounds make all the others a waste of space, from a power gaming pov. I could just shrug it off, and I do, mostly, but I also use these backgrounds now for any character I make. Anything else is purposefully denying myself a big boost in hit points for any character that does not have Con as a prime stat, which is most of them.


It just seems like these backgrounds violate the spirit of the thing, as posted above.


It may be a community issue. If you play with a group where not everyone uses these two backgrounds, then, sure your character is not handicapped. However, around here--seriously--every character uses these. So my druid striker has fewer hit points than every other character. We're talking a 10 point difference. Think about it. These backgrounds make all the others a waste of space, from a power gaming pov. I could just shrug it off, and I do, mostly, but I also use these backgrounds now for any character I make. Anything else is purposefully denying myself a big boost in hit points for any character that does not have Con as a prime stat, which is most of them.


It just seems like these backgrounds violate the spirit of the thing, as posted above.




I felt that it was pretty stupid for them to allow them as well.  I am not quite sure where they are tying to take this campaign.

It just seems like these backgrounds violate the spirit of the thing, as posted above.

Those two backgrounds are potent, but just how broken they are is a matter of opinion (at least in comparison to the other SoW backgrounds).

Using WotC's standard array the best high stat a character can have is 18 and the lowest CON is 10 (a difference of 8 HP).  At end game levels, that same character would have 26 in their high stat and CON of 12 (a difference of 14 HP, averaging an HP bonus of 11 across all levels).  This is comparable to Toughness, which stats at +5 HP and tops out at +15 HP (averaging out to 10 HP across all levels).  Several SoW backgrounds give a +3 to a skill (a benefit roughly equal to skill focus) thus the overall balance seems comparable between most SoW backgrounds.


The two HP backgrounds only start to look broken when a character is built to maximize that benefit.  With a stating high stat of 20 (boosted to 30 at end game) and 8 CON (boosted to 10 at end game) the backgrounds provide a starting HP bonus of +12 and an end game bonus of +20 (average of a +15 2/3).  However, surges are still determined by CON which means that such a min/maxed character might have high HP in any given fight, but over the course of the day they have less personal healing capacity which may mean having to stop for an extended rest much sooner than if they had a higher CON in the first place (yet each point they place in CON to get more surges reduces the disparity between the HP backgrounds and Toughness).


It may be a community issue. If you play with a group where not everyone uses these two backgrounds, then, sure your character is not handicapped. However, around here--seriously--every character uses these. So my druid striker has fewer hit points than every other character. We're talking a 10 point difference. Think about it. These backgrounds make all the others a waste of space, from a power gaming pov. I could just shrug it off, and I do, mostly, but I also use these backgrounds now for any character I make. Anything else is purposefully denying myself a big boost in hit points for any character that does not have Con as a prime stat, which is most of them.


It just seems like these backgrounds violate the spirit of the thing, as posted above.




I don't see it as a cimmunity issue.  if the player next to me has a few more HP from their background, or if all 5 players at the table have the same I am not handicapped because I didn't blow a feat on extra hp.  I have played front line PCs that didn't have CON as a prime stat or a racial stat and they hold up just fine.

It really boils down to player preference.  It isn't a must have and certainly isn't broken.

Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf

 



"Several SoW backgrounds give a +3 to a skill (a benefit roughly equal to skill focus) thus the overall balance seems comparable between most SoW backgrounds.

The two HP backgrounds only start to look broken when a character is built to maximize that benefit.  With a stating high stat of 20 (boosted to 30 at end game) and 8 CON (boosted to 10 at end game) the backgrounds provide a starting HP bonus of +12 and an end game bonus of +20 (average of a +15 2/3).  However, surges are still determined by CON which means that such a min/maxed character might have high HP in any given fight, but over the course of the day they have less personal healing capacity which may mean having to stop for an extended rest much sooner than if they had a higher CON in the first place (yet each point they place in CON to get more surges reduces the disparity between the HP backgrounds and Toughness)."


How about an example of another background that is as broken as these?


As for Toughness, that is a FEAT. Feats are supposed to give you significant advantages. My understanding of Backgrounds, from the Dragon magazine quote above, is that they are meant to give minor advantages based on character history. At the table in an LFR game, there is no time to burden a character because of their auspicious birth or bad birth moon. They just get the advantage of 10-12 extra hit points. At low levels this is better than any feat. 


"I don't see it as a cimmunity issue.  if the player next to me has a few more HP from their background, or if all 5 players at the table have the same I am not handicapped because I didn't blow a feat on extra hp.  I have played front line PCs that didn't have CON as a prime stat or a racial stat and they hold up just fine.

It really boils down to player preference.  It isn't a must have and certainly isn't broken."


Seriously... I'm not talking about a Feat here. This is a background. See above. I understand your experience is different. Obviously you aren't playing in a community where everyone takes advantage of this overpowered background. You seriously wouldn't mind if you sat down to play with your Fighter, for example, and the Wizard of your level sitting next to you had as many hit points than you. You don't think that's a problem? Point taken.


Further, if this is all working as intended by the devs. That is fine. Then it is a matter of the community I play in because, seriously, every character uses one of these two backgrounds. Every character. And you are treated as a noob if you did not know to use them. I feel that these backgrounds make all the others into fluff, and undermine the purpose of Constitution as an ability score.


 At this point I get the "nothing to see here" argument. That's exactly what the people in my LFR group say. I'm just wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience, as Mithreinmaethor has.



i will say there's one good thing i see coming from these backgrounds: i no longer assume that 90% of the clerics (and avengers, etc) i play with come from Impiltur or that 90% of the wizards (and swordmages, etc) come from Thay.

Honestly, none of the HP boosting background are all that great. HP is just HP and a bit of a boost in HP isn't amazing compared to the more useful ones. There are so many backgrounds that outclass those HP ones. From a hardcore CharOp point of view, I can tell you I've never taken any of those HP backgrounds. It's just so much better to take something that fits your character - A rogue and especially controllers would get way more mileage out of Trained From Birth for a Specific Prophecy. A human Paladin with the right feats will absolutely love Crusading Zealot. Moonshae Isles from the original list of available backgrounds is still a potent choice even after the inclusion of the Scales of War backgrounds. Windrise Ports opens up a lot of tricky combo-build oportunities. Tymanther is still fantastic for most Paladins who aren't going to multiclass into that Athletics skill that they need but isn't in their list. And with the way skill challenges work in LFR, even picking a background that opens up a skill that synergizes with your attack stat but isn't in your class list is a smart choice. Yeah, I'd have to say that the backgrounds are actually pretty well balanced, there is no one "uber" background - it all depends on your character's build.

Most FR and SoW backgrounds are near to as valuable as a feat. That SoW background is no different.


It does enable some odd things, like defenders who ignore Con... mind you, I think most defenders can do that in LFR _anyways_. We just don't do enough combats to go through our surges.

Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director

How about an example of another background that is as broken as these?

As for Toughness, that is a FEAT. Feats are supposed to give you significant advantages. My understanding of Backgrounds, from the Dragon magazine quote above, is that they are meant to give minor advantages based on character history. At the table in an LFR game, there is no time to burden a character because of their auspicious birth or bad birth moon. They just get the advantage of 10-12 extra hit points. At low levels this is better than any feat. 


Yes toughness is a feat, and so is skill focus (a feat which I gave as an example where other backgrounds provide a similar benefit).  While the intent of backgrounds might have been to provide minor benefits, the fact is that in SoW and the FRPG backgrounds are instead about as valuable as a feat.  They are functionally a free bonus feat that every character gets.  Does that make characters with those background more powerful?  Yes, but only in comparison to characters that do not.

LFR was presumably balanced with backgrounds as presented in the FRPG in mind, and SoW are about as potent, as such nothing is broken.  If this were Living Eberron there might be a problem, as background benefits were noticeably scaled back in PH2, which the EPG was based on.


To reiterate, as far as LFR goes, the HP backgrounds are not broken.  Any character with any FRPG or SoW background will be about as potent.  Only players that chose a PH2 background would be particularly impaired.

Honestly, none of the HP boosting background are all that great. HP is just HP and a bit of a boost in HP isn't amazing compared to the more useful ones. There are so many backgrounds that outclass those HP ones. From a hardcore CharOp point of view, I can tell you I've never taken any of those HP backgrounds. It's just so much better to take something that fits your character - A rogue and especially controllers would get way more mileage out of Trained From Birth for a Specific Prophecy. A human Paladin with the right feats will absolutely love Crusading Zealot. Moonshae Isles from the original list of available backgrounds is still a potent choice even after the inclusion of the Scales of War backgrounds. Windrise Ports opens up a lot of tricky combo-build oportunities. Tymanther is still fantastic for most Paladins who aren't going to multiclass into that Athletics skill that they need but isn't in their list. And with the way skill challenges work in LFR, even picking a background that opens up a skill that synergizes with your attack stat but isn't in your class list is a smart choice. Yeah, I'd have to say that the backgrounds are actually pretty well balanced, there is no one "uber" background - it all depends on your character's build.



Thank you for a response filled with facts, suggestions and ideas. I will check out these combinations and give it some more thought. I should probably just focus on enjoying my character, whether the people I play with think he's gimped or not. One person also went on and on about how gimped druids are, and my control spells ended up playing a very significant role in the final battle of the mod.

I play a druid with the Cormyr background. I honestly thought Insight would be more useful, but I had never played in LFR before. So far it has been useless. /sour grapes

I've gotten a fair amount of mileage out of the Cormyr background on one of my characters... let him take Insight when it's not normally on his list, have a very respectable score... I roll it every single social challenge, and I've been surprised on some others (navigating a maze? Uhh, sure...) And the fear saves have come up a few times.


Given that character (my fighter) has never run out of surges or been reduced to ~5 hp or less, I'd have to earnestly say that a hp feat or background would have been useless for him (a defender!). I'd not be surprised if many other characters would find otherwise though - I do have one character with a +8 hp feat who was reduced to 2 hp once

Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director

In all fairness, the hit point backgrounds are nice, but, also IMO, not the be-all and end-all of the character backgrounds.


My War Wizard, Int & Dex build, took Cormyr (Wheloon) as his background so that he can help out with disarming traps. I also took the Wizard's Fury daily, so he could disarm traps and still contribute to combat, if needed. ;)


For a Con/Wis fighter, say a Dwarf, I would tend to recommend taking the Detective background from SoW as his mechanical choice, as that gives him Insight & Perception as class skills, along with a +1 to both. Very easy to get a fighter with a passive in both of 20 that way.


And there are other backgrounds, even PH2 ones, that are useful for the right character build.


I am still looking for one that gives Acrobatics and Thievery, I think it was, for a high Dex build that wasn't a rogue. Wound up with Wheloon and Bardic Dilettante for that combo for my pregen Halfling Storm Sorceror, IIRC.

Okay this may be construed as a weird POV, but:

I think I like the current system.  Which is, as I understand it, you can pick multiple backgrounds but only get the mechanical benefit of one.  (i.e. a character could be from the Dragon Coast area, but also takes the Cloistered Priest background and uses that background's mechanical benefits.  The campaign still requires you to be from somewhere, but not take that region's mechanical benefit.)



I like this because I think it'll encourage people to spread out more.  Many LFR players are going to take what they perceive as the best mechanically (and it's really debatable about the HP regions IMO, it's really huge at low level and in my experience matters less and less as you go up).  I like the idea that new wizard pcs out there will probably no longer be from Thay, but from some place they wanted their character to be from for story reasons, and then they can still do their mechanical silliness.


 

I play a druid with the Cormyr background. I honestly thought Insight would be more useful, but I had never played in LFR before. So far it has been useless. /sour grapes


That's odd. If my characters cared about Insight as a social skill then I would be able to use it every session where there is a social interaction, at least once.


Certianly the idea that Hit Points are more valuable than Skill Access often combined with a Skill Bonus is very misleading. There are entire builds that depend on getting a particular skill, and not having to use a Feat to get it is always a bonus, especially if you get a +1 or 2 to the skill thrown in.

Insight should be of value in most social situations.  While it might not give a success towards a skill challenge in many cases, it usually will help tell you whether a soft or hard approach is better, give bonuses, and give you a feel for if someone is being honest.  It definitely helps you be more successful in dealing with people and understanding a tense situation.  Granted, might not be so important to the PCs who just prefer to kill everyone they meet.


 


 

Keith Hoffman LFR Writing Director for Waterdeep

Hey no need to bring my Cleric of Tempus up....

Note that the two "problematic" backgrounds—Born Under A Bad Sign and Auspicious Lineage—have FR analogues. Sure, you'll see a lot of wizards from Thay and clerics from Impiltur, but they're far from a must-have.


Also, note that a few-point swing in HP has a pretty big opportunity cost. Backgrounds can give you initiative bonuses, resistances, terrainwalk, allow you to take multiple multiclass feats and allow characters otherwise useless in a Skill Challenge to pick up a skill that lets them contribute.


IMHO, the worst part about the HP backgrounds is that they're boring.


I play a druid with the Cormyr background. I honestly thought Insight would be more useful, but I had never played in LFR before. So far it has been useless. /sour grapes




I don't know what mods you've played in but my Paladin from Cormyr uses Insight a lot. Not all mods need it, true, but Insight can help a lot of social encounters.

The extra hp backgrounds are useful defaults for characters without a high con. (From a power-gaming perspective, of course).


 


But they're not the only game in town--not even from a character optimization perspective.


 


Other useful default backgrounds include:


Chessenta. +1 to hit and damage with your action point attack is a nice bonus


Akanul. Resist 2 to a bunch of energies really takes the edge off of a number of encounters. (Chillborn zombies, for instance, aren't nearly as scary with (effectively) a stacking 3 cold damage aura as they are with the normal stacking 5 cold damage aura).


Dalelands. An initiative bonus and the ability to re-roll nature checks (including monster knowledge nature checks) is pretty handy.


Aglarond. Now perception is a class skill for you. Everyone can benefit from this unless wisdom is a dump stat.


 


There are also a number of highly advantageous but situational backgrounds.


Darpur. A stacking +2 perception is good for perception monkey characters who want to have higher passive perceptions than other characters would get on an active perception with a natural 20. (20 wis elf laser cleric or avenger with perception trained (possibly by multiclass ranger) from Darpur gives a passive perception of 24 at level 1; by level 2, that can be 28 if you blow a feat for skill focus).


Windrise ports. The ability to have 2 multiclass feats can be highly advantageous. A feycharging barbarian, for instance, really benefits from being able to multiclass rogue or warlord (or swordmage) as well as fighter. Without windrise ports, you can't make the combo work nearly as effectively.

Given that the Thay and Impiltur backgrounds in the FRPG do much the same thing, is it really that broken?


As others have said, most of the backgrounds are equivalent to a feat, and there are plenty of good ones. Most of my characters have skill backgrounds - I find it common to want to train a skill or two that aren't in a class' skill list, and having the ability to add it to the skill list, and often get +1/+2 and a bonus language or similar into the bargain is a pretty good deal, IMO.


It's also worth noting that the difference is biggest at level 1, and becomes increasingly irrelevant as you go up levels. If your average level 1 PC has about 25 HP, then by getting an extra 5-6 from the background, you've got 20% more HP than you would otherwise have had. By the time you're level 5 and the average PC has 50 HP, that advantage is numerically the same, but proportionally only 10%, and given how monster damage has gone up, it becomes less relevant. By level 15 or so, when a typical PC will have about 100HP, you've only got 5% more than normal and those extra 5 are unlikely to make a huge difference (which is why toughness scales with tier. +2 to your perception on the other hand gives you an extra 10% chance of success on perception checks throughout your entire career.


The extra HP backgrounds can indeed be very useful, especially on low Con melee strikers (rogues especially) who get smacked about a lot and don't need so much of a boost in the skill department. But there are lots of other perfectly good backgrounds out there, depending on what you're trying to do with your character.

Just wanted to echo the opinions that HP bonus is indeed extremely good at low level, since it can be equivalent to taking TWO toughness feats, but it levels off to the other backgrounds as the levels go up.



Extra HP should also NOT be a no-brainer for back-row characters like wizards and invokers.  I’ve seen several Thayan Wizards and Implitur Invokers, but they never take enough damage to warrant their bonus HP.  On the other hand, if the invoker had instead been from Durpur, we wouldn’t have missed a few traps that caused a bit of trouble. :P



For SoW, I also agree that it’s awesome not all swordmages are from Thay or all avengers are from Implitur anymore. :P


 

What exists now is anyone can have the Hps for low levels and with the 1 time Region Retrain you have in LFR can then change their region later in the characters level progression.

What is this 1 time region retrain you speak of?  First I've heard of it.

Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf


What is this 1 time region retrain you speak of?  First I've heard of it.




Then apparently you havent paid much attention. Laughing It was given to us about 9 months or so ago.  Dont remember why that was.  But I remember as several people in this area took advantage of it.

I believe it was intended only for characters created prior to that CCG's release.

Are any backgrounds legal now? CCG 1.9 shows backgrounds from the FRPG as illegal. Says all but spellscarred and backgrounds under content allowed.

Oh, good gosh you are correct. That HAS to be a typo cloned from the eberron player book. One might say that it is prohibiting "spellscarred backgrounds" except there aren't any.

In the general RPGA play, backgrounds from the FRPG and EPG are not legal.  However, the LFR appendix trumps this by telling you that you have to select one region for your character and you can take additional backgrounds from other legal sources.  From page 7 of the CCg in the LFR appendix:


Select a character background. You must choose a region within the FORGOTTEN REALMS for your character.  Most of the regions for your character are found in the Backgrounds chapter of the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide; it’s the place where they hail from, might define their personality or looks, and gives them a small game benefit. You may choose additional backgrounds from other legal sources (such as race, occupation, etc. from Player’s Handbook 2), but you only gain a game benefit from one background of your choice.


So, for example, the backgrounds in the EPG are not a legal choice.  Backgrounds in Dragon or the PHB2 are (all content allowed).  Backgrounds in the FRPG are allowed because this section of the LFR character creation rules tells you to take a region/background.

Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf

Personally, Only one of my characters uses born under a bad sign. My gnoll bard uses water deep, and my gnoll reverant shadri-ka uses Akarul (the 2 resist to various things.)


Generally when i use a rogue, i use ones that give me a +1 to inititive. Or if i want a particular skill and cannot get it through class, I pick ones with the skill.


If they where a bit smart about these.. They would have required the new regional feats to require you to have the benifit. (Instead of just being in the area.)

I'd get along more with people if they didn't jump onto a hyberbole every single time you say something they don't understand.


Personally, Only one of my characters uses born under a bad sign. My gnoll bard uses water deep, and my gnoll reverant shadri-ka uses Akarul (the 2 resist to various things.)


Generally when i use a rogue, i use ones that give me a +1 to inititive. Or if i want a particular skill and cannot get it through class, I pick ones with the skill.


If they where a bit smart about these.. They would have required the new regional feats to require you to have the benifit. (Instead of just being in the area.)




gnoll reverant shadri-ka 


a three race character?  

How can your revenant be both gnoll and shadar kai?