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Basic Skills
Disable Device
Escape Artist
Handle Animal
Sense Motive
Slight of Hand
Use Magic Device
Skill Bonus
Character Drawbacks

Skill Changes

Craft (Alchemy)
Knowledge (Astrology
Knowledge (Nature)
Knowledge (Ritual)
Profession (Herbalist)

Character Drawbacks

In literature and popular culture, characters are often just as, if not more, defined by their faults than their abilities. Othello was gullible, and this enabled Iago to manipulate him. Han Solo was notable for his mercenary attitude. Captain Hook is remembered for...well, his hook. These faults, or drawbacks, lend color to the characters that have them. This chapter is designed to add these drawbacks to player characters.

Some Game Masters may balk at the idea of drawbacks because of their perception as negative Feats. Such systems tend to grant the player an extra Feat in return for taking a drawback, making starting player characters a bit more powerful. This can seriously unbalance a campaign. Character Drawbacks resolves this problem by granting skill points for each drawback instead of an extra Feat.

It is a common complaint among players that they never have enough skill points to accurately reflect what their characters know. Since the skill level caps are still in place (you may have no more ranks in a skill than your total number of hit dice), player characters will not be seriously overpowered by taking Drawbacks. Indeed, Drawbacks are intended to add a little spice to a character concept and offer the player appropriate and significant compensation for taking them, not to create headaches for the Game Master.

Each drawback below is worth 4 skill ranks. Some drawbacks have prerequisites, including other drawbacks. Players may spend these points on their character sheet however they wish, but they must still abide by the usual skill rank limitations. Unlike feats, players may only select drawbacks at first level, although the Game Master may grant a new drawback to an existing character if he wishes. Any drawbacks gained during play will grant the appropriate amount of skill points to the character upon reaching next level (GMs may waive this and grant the skill points immediately if desired or if the PC has a particularly long wait until he reaches next level). There is no set amount of drawbacks that a PC can take, although GMs should probably limit the number of drawbacks to two or three.

GMs should feel free to create new drawbacks. A good drawback should give penalties equivalent to the bonuses offered to feats in order to maintain game balance. Good drawbacks also have concrete penalties rather than relying on the player to “roleplay” his drawback. Roleplaying a drawback is always a good thing, but penalties should be easily measured and applied.


You have a way of rubbing people the wrong way when you speak. This could be due to your natural belligerence, boastfulness, uncouthness, or other personality flaw.

Detriment: When using Diplomacy to change attitudes, you must add an extra 5 to the DC.


You lack pigmentation in your skin, giving you a distinctively pale appearance. Your skin is very sensitive to sunlight.

Detriment: You must make a Fortitude saving throw for every hour that your skin is exposed to direct sunlight. The DC is 15 +1 for every hour that you’ve been exposed. A failure causes 1d4 hit points of sunburn damage.


You aren’t very coordinated when it comes to fine manipulation.

Detriment: You take a –2 penalty on all Disable Device and Sleight of Hand checks.


Perhaps you have a bad smell. Maybe they can detect the way you truly feel about them. Maybe they just don’t like you. For whatever reason, you have trouble dealing with animals.

Detriment: You take a –2 penalty on all Handle Animal and Ride checks.


Maybe you have stiff joints. Maybe your arms are just a little too long. Whatever the reason, you have trouble making the elegant gestures necessary to cast arcane spells.

Prerequisite: You must be a bard, sorcerer or wizard to select this drawback.

Detriment: You have a natural 5% arcane spell failure chance. This stacks with armor penalties.


Whenever you need luck most, you can count on it not being there.

Detriment: Once per session, the GM can negate any success, even if it was a critical hit. This will usually be when you desperately need to succeed


You are unpracticed or inept at making ranged attacks.

Detriment: You take a –2 penalty on all ranged attacks.


Your body has trouble stabilizing. When dying, you continue to bleed until you are dead.

Detriment: You cannot stabilize while dying. Unless you are treated or healed, you will continue to lose one hit point every round until you are dead.


You are exceptionally uncoordinated and tend to slip at the most inopportune times.

Detriment: You take a –2 penalty on all Acrobatics checks.


Your body has a hard time adjusting to the rigors of very cold climates.

Detriment: You suffer a -2 circumstance penalty to all saving throws and skill checks in temperatures at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. You also suffer an inherent -1 penalty to saving throws made against cold-based spells, damage, and area effects. Cold-weather clothing alone will not remove this penalty.


You are a coward. You usually choose the safest position in a marching order and rely on others to protect you.

Detriment: Cowards never initiate combat, even when it is to their advantage. You will always maintain a defensive position until attacked. If you defeat your foe, you will attempt to hide or flee rather than engage another foe.


You can’t hear at all.

Prerequisite: You must have the Hard of Hearing drawback to select this drawback.

Detriment: You cannot learn the Linguistics skill. In addition, you have a 20% chance of spell failure when casting a spell with a verbal component.


You have angered a particular god or goddess.

Detriment: You add 1 to the DC of any save you must make against any spells invoked in the name of a particular deity. Healing spells and other aid from that deity will not work on you. The GM should restrict this drawback to common deities in his campaign.

Special: At the GM’s option, you may drop this drawback by using a free feat slot. You must also perform some penance in the name of the affected deity.


You wear your heart on your sleeve. Others can almost read your thoughts.

Detriment: Your opponents get a +4 to their Sense Motive checks when using it against you.


You are so committed to one philosophy or religion that it blinds you to others.

Detriment: You take a –2 penalty to any Knowledge checks when researching histories, religions, or even arcane lore at odds with your own faith. In addition, you will refuse personal aid from any cleric or druid that is contrary to your faith.

Special: If you are a cleric or a paladin, you will refuse aid to anyone that doesn’t adhere to your faith.


You are weaker than normal, either due to illness or genetics.

Detriment: You have 3 less hit points than normal.

Special: This drawback may be taken multiple times. A character may only take this feat if doing so will still leave him with at least one hit point. For example, a character with 8 hit points may take this drawback twice, but a character with 6 hit points may only take it once.


You are easily persuaded and manipulated by others.

Detriment: You take a –2 penalty on Diplomacy and Sense Motive checks.


You have lost part of your hearing, making it difficult for you to be aware of all sounds surrounding you. You also have a problem being stealthy.

Detriment: You take a –2 penalty on soundbased Perception checks and Stealth checks.


Your body has a hard time adjusting to the rigors of very hot climates.

Detriment: You suffer a -2 circumstance penalty to all saving throws and skill checks in tropical or desert conditions (or in artificial conditions of extreme heat, such as steam baths). At the GM’s discretion, you may suffer these penalties in any area where the temperature is above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. He also suffers an inherent -1 penalty to saving throws made against heatbased spells, damage, and area effects.


You have trouble telling lies or concealing the truth.

Detriment: You take a –2 penalty on Bluff and Intimidate checks.


Your character is notoriously incapable of focusing his attention long and hard enough to accomplish tasks requiring great dedication.

Detriment: Your character may never ‘take 10’ or ‘take 20’ on any skill check, no matter how much time he has.


You lack one of your positive racial traits, either due to mixed lineage in your character’s past or a simple genetic anomaly. A gnome might not have keen senses, while an elf may be lacking lowlight vision (“unfortunately, you have your human grandfather’s eyes”).

Detriment: You do not receive the benefit of one of the positive racial traits for your character (including the extra feat for human characters).


You have a particular hatred for a certain class, race, or culture.

Detriment: You take a –4 penalty when making skill checks against a particular group. The GM should limit this feat to frequently encountered groups within his campaign (for example, if you take Intolerance against Psions, but your campaign rarely includes them, the GM can prohibit this. You may still hate Psions, but it’s not worth four skill ranks).

Special: You may take this drawback multiple times. You choose a new group each time.


You walk with a discernable limp.

Detriment: You only move two-thirds of what is normal for your race. A lightly armored human, for example, would move 20ft rather than 30ft.


You find magic difficult to master.

Detriment: You take a –2 penalty on all Spellcraft checks and Use Magic Device checks.

Special: You may never take the Magical Aptitude feat.


You have been convicted of a crime in the past (whether you were guilty or not) and bear a lasting mark from the punishment. This mark could be a distinctive scar, tattoo, or missing body part. People treat you as a criminal. This drawback may be coupled with another (missing hand, for example), in which case the other drawback is the mark.

Detriment: You take a –2 penalty to all Bluff and Diplomacy checks when dealing with people that would recognize the mark (which is most of the time). You also add an extra 5 to your DC when trying to change an NPC’s attitude.

Special: You get a +2 bonus to Intimidate if the victim recognizes your mark.


You belong to a smaller culture within a primary culture that has certain rules and taboos that easily distinguish it from the primary culture. You unintentionally but easily offend members of the primary culture.

Detriment: You take a –2 penalty to all Diplomacy checks against members of the primary culture. In addition, you add 5 to your DC when attempting to influence the attitudes of members of the primary culture.

Special: GMs should be careful when allowing this drawback. A “primary culture” is the dominant group within a particular campaign. If the campaign takes the characters throughout the world, then this drawback should only be available if the particular minority group is a minority culture throughout that world. “Culture” should be loosely defined. If most of the campaign takes place within the walls of a noble’s castle, then a PC peasant farmer could be considered a “minority culture.” Similarly, a “minority culture” is not necessarily the disadvantaged one. If the PCs are mostly pirates, then a PC noble forced into joining them could be considered from a “minority culture.”


You have lost a hand in combat.

Detriment: You may not use a two-handed weapon. You may still use a shield. You also take a –2 penalty on all Climb, Disable Device and Sleight of Hand checks.


You cannot speak.

Detriment: You take a –4 penalty on any skill checks that would normally require you to speak. While you may continue to learn new languages, you may only understand them, not speak them.


Your mind wanders so much that you fail to take note of what’s going on around you.

Detriment: You take a –2 penalty on all Perception checks.


You have lost the use of an eye. This hinders your depth perception as well as hinders your ability to engage foes on your blind side.

Detriment: You take an extra –1 penalty per range increment when using a ranged weapon.


You are unable to hold the charge of touch spells.

Prerequisite: This drawback is only available to spellcasting classes.

Detriment: Any touch spell cast must immediately manifest or you lose it.


You have trouble remaining calm while preparing spells. You habitually interrupt your own rest.

Prerequisite: This drawback is only available to spellcasting classes.

Detriment: You automatically add 2 hours to your spell preparation time.


Your natural magical abilities have one glaring limitation.

Prerequisite: This drawback is only available to spellcasting classes.

Deficiency: You must select one of the eight schools of magic (the universal school may not be selected). You never learn or cast spells from that school.

Special: If you are a specialist, you must select a school of magic that is not already prohibited to you. You may take this drawback multiple times, with the GM’s permission. Each time it is taken it applies to a different school of magic.


You are unusually small for your race.

Detriment: Humans, elves, and half-elves are treated as Halflings for purposes of tactical speed and reach. Short half-orcs are treated as dwarves. Short dwarves have a tactical speed of 15 ft. and a natural reach of 0. Short gnomes and halflings have a tactical speed of 15 ft. (or 10 ft. when wearing medium or heavy armor) and a natural reach of 0.


It takes you longer than normal to heal.

Detriment: With a full night’s rest, you only recover 1 hit point for every two character levels. Magical healing effects are also halved.


You are unusually slow when dealing with certain formal rituals of magic, including preparing your daily spells from your spellbooks.

Detriment: You must spend 2 hours (rather than 1) studying your spellbooks in order to prepare spells for any given day. You must spend at least 30 minutes when studying a smaller portion of your daily spell allotment.


You have slower than normal reflexes.

Detriment: You take a –2 penalty on all Reflex saving throws.

Special: You may not take the Lightning Reflexes feat.


You are slow to respond to attacks.

Detriment: You take a –4 penalty to initiative checks.


You have a weaker will than normal.

Detriment: You take a –2 penalty on all Will saving throws.

Special: You may not take the Iron Will feat.


Due to cultural, personal, or religious restrictions, you have not been trained to use some weapons or armor normally available to your class.

Detriment: You do not receive one of the starting weapon or armor proficiencies normally available for your class.

Special: You may negate this drawback at any time (including character creation) by selecting the taboo proficiency as one of your available feats.


You are particularly unattractive to most people. Note that you may not be physically unattractive, but you may belong to a group that is disliked by most people in the setting.

Detriment: You take a –2 circumstance penalty on any Bluff or Diplomacy checks when dealing with someone of the other gender.


You are weaker than normal.

Detriment: You take a –2 penalty on all Fortitude saving throws.

Special: You may not take the Great Fortitude feat.

Courtesy of Tome of Secrets, Copyright 2009, Adamant Entertainment, Inc. Open Gaming Content

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