Character defects are penalties and restrictions that the character cannot control or change over time. They are something the character must live with and adapt to with trial and error.
Severity: The severity of different defects and restrictions is usually worth at least the value of a trait (1 point) or feat (up to 3 points), but some more complicated or dangerous options can be worth as much as 3 feats (9 points). When choosing such options, remember that they can be game-affecting, not just restricted to the character. Depending on the story, the GM may decide that a particular defect or restriction doesn’t fit or could be overly detrimental to the group as a whole.
Class Defects or Restrictions: Several of the defects and restrictions here can also be applied to classes to give them more freedom in the attributes options they can gain over 20 levels. For point-based characters, some of the defects presented here are only available if they meet the requirements.
- 1 General Defects & Restrictions
- 1.1 Code of Conduct
- 1.2 Conditional Ownership
- 1.3 Famous
- 1.4 Indebted
- 1.5 Infamous
- 1.6 Marked
- 1.7 Nemesis
- 1.8 Permanent
- 1.9 Phobia
- 1.10 Recurring Nightmares
- 1.11 Red Tape
- 1.12 Significant Other
- 1.13 Skeleton in the Closet
- 1.14 Special Requirement
- 1.15 Unique Defect or Restriction
- 1.16 Untrained Class Feature
- 1.17 Wanted
- 2 Defense Defects & Restrictions
- 3 Feat and Skill Defects & Restrictions
- 4 Magical Defects & Restrictions
- 5 Mechanical Defects & Restrictions
- 6 Offense Defects & Restrictions
- 7 Senses Defects & Restrictions
General Defects & Restrictions
Code of Conduct
Gained: Up to 3 points per restriction.
A character with a code of conduct must adhere to that code. If they fail to do so, the character risks losing some or all of their attributes until they can properly atone. The GM must approve any codes of conduct. Example codes of conduct include the druid’s order and the paladin’s oath.
1 point: The character has a minor restriction, such as not wearing a specific type of armor or wearing a mask. Failure to uphold the code loses all spells and class attributes, but not weapon, armor, and shield proficiencies while the offending action is taken and for a short time after (usually 24 hours).
2 points: The character has a moderate restriction, such as maintaining their alignment, returning to a location periodically, or paying tithes to a church or guild. Failure to uphold the code can cause a stronger form of the punishment above (requiring genuine atonement or casting the spell of the same name), or can prohibit the character from gaining additional levels in the class.
3 points: The character has a major restriction, such as a strict ethical code against interacting with some creatures or performing certain acts. Failure to uphold the code removes all attributes as above and prohibits the character from gaining additional levels in the class.
Gained: 1, 3, or 6 points per item.
A character with conditional ownership chooses one or more important items in their possession. Those items are the property of some other entity, such as an organization or a deity. Alternatively they may be family heirlooms given with the understanding that they are not the character’s to keep.
1 point: The character has 1 item they must safeguard and return once their current adventure is complete. The character can easily ask for the item again during the next adventure, and taking the item without permission is only a moral issue.
3 points: When the character returns the item, there is a 50% chance it won’t be available for the next adventure. Taking the item without permission can draw the ire of its owner, who will seek out the character, either itself or through a proxy, to retrieve the item.
6 points: There is a 25% chance per request for the item that it isn’t available for the adventure. The character can face stiff penalties, including loss of funds or power for letting the item get lost or damaged. Taking the item without permission immediately turns its owner against the character, who is then hunted continuously by proxies or the owner itself until the item is retrieved or returned. Even after returning the item, there is a 50% chance the character still loses access to funds or power in some way if it was taken without permission.
Gained: Up to 3 points.
A famous character finds it difficult to operate discretely because they are always in the media’s eye. Hounded by fans, the character must navigate their downtime carefully if they’re going to find time to get anything of use done.
In the right circles, any character could be famous, although some classes such as hot rod are more likely than others. In areas where a race is rare, a character may obtain fame (or infamy) for no other reason than being who they are.
Gained: Up to 3 points.
An indebted character owes their life to another creature or organization in some way. This may represent voluntary servitude for a life saved, a controlling device that punishes the character for acting out of line, or a familial tie.
Giant robots, hot rods, and mech pilots are the most common characters to take this trait, but depending on the story, this could also affect a specific race or other members of a particular origin.
1 point: The character’s debt is monetary, and while they won’t pay it off any time soon, only comes into play once per month. As long as the character stays in good standing, they can otherwise act freely.
2 points: The character’s actions are indirectly controlled by their debt. They must first obtain clearance or permission to do anything not in accordance with their debt.
3 points: The character’s actions are directly controlled by their debt. If they act out of line, they are punished in some way, such as suffering ongoing damage, occasional malfunction, or being actively hunted by others who work for their debtor.
The character is known for their misdeeds, and may draw the ire of the public instead. This makes them feared, rather than adored, but they must still maintain that persona or risk falling into obscurity and losing access to the attributed gained as a result of their infamy.
1 point: The character is easily recognized within their immediate area, up to the size of a large city, or with 1 specific group, such as an organization. They must spend at least 1 week per month of downtime in the public eye to avoid gaining a poor reputation. They can broadcast their efforts to satisfy up to 3 days of this.
2 points: The character is recognized nationally, and must spend at least 2 weeks per month to maintain their good reputation. They can broadcast their efforts to satisfy up to 1 week of this.
3 points: the character is recognized internationally, and gains only 1 week of downtime for every 2 weeks spent in public, maintaining their reputation, either via broadcast or good will efforts.
Gained: Up to 3 points per mark.
A marked character has a distinguishing characteristic that is difficult to hide, making it easier for others to recognize the character at a glance. Something is considered a mark if it is non-standard for the race, such as a green human or a thin, hairless dwarf.
A mark can also be a personality quirk or distinct means of interaction, such as a character’s unique accent, vocal cadence, or walk.
1 point: The mark can be hidden behind clothing or with minor alterations such as contacts. The character suffers a –2 penalty on checks to conceal their identity.
2 points: The mark is more difficult to hide, such as an extra or missing finger. The penalty to conceal the character’s identity becomes –4.
3 points: The mark is almost impossible to hide, such as a unique skin tone, lack of eyes, or extreme body shape.
Gained: 1, 3, or 6 points per nemesis.
A character with nemesis has an ongoing enemy or rival that they must deal with in some way on a regular basis. This nemesis can be on the same side as the character, seeking only to one up them, or they could be a villain who drops in unexpectedly to cause the character distress, then leaves quickly enough to avoid repercussion.
1 point: The nemesis shares goals with the character, and strives in vain to show them up. Alternatively, the nemesis may have opposing goals, and always seems to be one step behind the character.
3 points: The nemesis is a peer, equally capable of succeeding against the character as often as they fail. They see the character as a necessary part of their rivalry, and may even go to lengths to keep the character alive just to torment them further in the future.
6 points: The nemesis knows something about the character, and uses it to toy with them frequently. They may be the pervasive mastermind behind long-term schemes, or actively attack the character’s friends and loved ones if given the opportunity.
Gained: 1 point per permanent attribute or feature.
A character with permanent chooses an attribute or feature that can hinder them at least occasionally. The character has no means of deactivating, ignoring, or removing that option.
Gained: Up to 4 points per phobia.
A character with phobia has a triggering event or interaction that causes them progressively stronger discomfort. Phobias are as wide-ranging as characters, although they should be present enough in a story to warrant the use of such a character defect.
1 point: The phobia is a minor concern that the character can overcome with a Will save (DC 10 + the phobia’s perceived Challenge Rating, as determined by the GM). Failure indicates that the character will skirt the phobia by going someplace else or taking a different path to their destination.
2 points: The phobia can prevent the character from acting in some way, such as leaving their space or refusing to approach the source of their phobia if made aware of it. Mention of the phobia forces the character to save or take precautions against encountering it. If confronted directly, the character takes a –2 penalty on their save.
4 points: The phobia can disable the character, causing them to flee in fear or fall prone as a means of defending themselves. Mention of the phobia forces the character to save or prevent them from acting. If confronted directly, the character takes a –5 penalty on their save.
Gained: 1, 3, or 6 points.
A character with recurring nightmares has suffered some past trauma or curse that causes them to sleep poorly. They might have participated in an event that continues to haunt them, or they could be a seer whose gift is terrifying visions channeled through their dreams.
1 point: The nightmares come infrequently, such as during a full moon or after some event like a festival full of loud noises and bright colors. The character is often shaken for a few minutes upon waking.
3 points: The nightmares occur no less than once per week, and the character loses up to 8 hours of rest when they do occur, requiring additional time to regain uses of attributes or spells.
6 points: The nightmares are frequent, almost every night. The character must attempt a Will save (DC 10 + the perceived Challenge Rating of the nightmares, as determined by the GM) when trying to rest or fail to gain any benefit for up to 8 hours. The character gains a +2 bonus on this save if they are fatigued from lack of rest, or +5 if exhausted.
Gained: By attribute.
A character with red tape gains free access to up to 3 ranks of an attribute, but only after spending at least 1 day of downtime per week or month acquiring or renewing their use of it. More expensive attributes require additional time, as does additional ranks.
Some attributes, such as class levels, cannot be chosen with red tape because of their long-term effects, but most are fair game. Even things such as alternate form or Hit Dice can be controlled by an organization or a character’s continued prayers to their god.
Gained: up to 6 points.
A character with a significant other has somebody close to them who either depends on their frequent attention, or who can be placed in danger because of their relationship. A significant other should have some importance to the story besides being just a reason for the character to adventure; otherwise, they’re just a plot device. Work with the GM to determine what the significant other can offer, and use that to determine the points gained for having to keep them safe or dropping a current adventure to save them in the event they are put into danger.
Example: John’s sister is blind. He has to protect and travel with her because she was prophesied to lead a rebellion when she can see again. Because his enemies know this and try to snatch her away when given the chance, John gains 6 points. If he was adventuring just to earn money and get her vision back, John would only gain 1 or 2 points instead.
Skeleton in the Closet
Gained: 1, 3, or 6 points.
A character with a skeleton in the closet has some past event or tragedy that they must keep secret and which may prevent them from acting in some way.
1 point: The event was something personal that would embarrass the character if discovered, but which wouldn’t affect their ability to adventure in the long run.
3 points: The event involved others who may out the character if not convinced to remain quiet, or was significant enough that it could disturb others with whom they adventure.
6 points: The event was tragic to all those involved and the character is trying to hide their role in it. Anybody who recognizes them may react without the character immediately stopping them in some way. If revealed, the character may be fired, lose face with their friends, or significantly impact those with whom they adventure.
Gained: Up to 3 points per requirement.
A character with special requirement chooses one or more attributes that must meet the requirement before they can be used. Common requirements include having an object through which to focus, being able to speak a special language, or performing some rite or ritual.
1 point: The requirement is easily obtained or accomplished, such as wielding a focus object or knowing a special activation word.
2 points: The requirement is prohibitive, such as only being usable when not in combat or only while attuned specifically to exactly one object.
3 points: The requirement is complex or difficult to achieve, such as only during a full moon, after a sacrifice is made, or after performing a ritual over several days’ time.
Unique Defect or Restriction
A character with a unique defect or restriction can create their own defect or restriction, allowing them to regain an equivalent number of points. Work with the GM to determine the value and traits of the new defect, using those described here as guidelines. A unique defect or restriction rarely grants more than 3 points.
Untrained Class Feature
Gained: By feature.
Requirement(s): At least 1 class level.
A character with an untrained class feature does not gain that class attribute at their current class level. The character may purchase the class attribute back later for the reduced cost. This defect grants a character points equal to half the cost of the untrained class attribute for that level. Class attributes worth an odd number of points round down, but make note of the trailing .5 in case another attribute goes untrained at a later level.
Example: A character with 2 levels in magical hero is afraid of heights and chooses to only gain jump (rank 1), leaving her with half of a point. At 5th level, the character’s fear of heights is still unresolved, so she also does not gain flight at that level. This grants her 1.5 points, plus the .5 she had from giving up a rank of jump, for a total of 2 points.
Gained: 3, 6, or 9 points.
A wanted character is being chased by another creature or organization, usually for a specific reason that the character may or may not share with others.
3 points: The character is wanted for questioning regarding an event they may have been part of, and if directly encountered by agents of the creature or organization will be attacked or otherwise drawn attention to.
6 points: The reason the character is wanted is public knowledge, and other creatures that see or interact with the character may be inclined to make their presence known to agents of the creature or organization that wants them.
9 points: The character can find little respite outside of their immediate circle of friends or influence, and must be careful wherever they go not to draw attention to themselves, lest they be outed to those in search of them by even common folk looking for a reward.
Defense Defects & Restrictions
Gained: Up to 3 points per allergen.
A character with allergen chooses a non-damaging substance, material, or object, such as water, silver, or a crucifix, respectively. When the character comes in contact with their allergen, they take 1d6 points of damage per point gained, up to a maximum of 3d6 points of damage.
Example: Vampires treat garlic, crucifixes, silver, and running water as allergens. The first three each damage them in varying ways, while the last immobilizes them, granting vampires a total of 8 points that can be used to purchase or strengthen different attributes.
Gained: 1 point + 1 point per lost attribute.
Gained: 2 or 3 points.
Gained: 2 points per vulnerability.
A character with vulnerability chooses a type of damage and gains vulnerability to it. Types of damage include elemental damage (acid, cold, electricity, or fire); force or sonic damage; or bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage.
Gained: Up to 3 points.
A character with weakness suffers 2d6 additional damage from critical hits and called shots per point gained. This damage cannot be avoided or redirected, but it can be healed normally after the fact (if no other defect or restriction prevents it.
Feat and Skill Defects & Restrictions
Gained: 1 point.
A logical character doesn’t process emotions like other characters and takes a –4 on Sense Motive checks.
Magical Defects & Restrictions
Arcane Spell Failure
Requirement(s): Dynamic sorcery or fantasy spellcasting.
Gained: Up to 3 points.
A character with arcane spell failure suffers a chance to lose the spell they cast when wearing certain armor or using a shield.
1 point: The character cannot wear medium or heavy armor.
2 points: The character cannot wear medium or heavy armor or use a shield.
3 points: The character cannot wear any armor or use a shield.
Gained: 1 point.
Reduced Spells per Day
Requirement: Fantasy spellcasting.
Gained: 2 points.
A character with reduced spells per day gains 1 fewer spell of each level (minimum 0). A character that gets 0 spells per day of a given spell level gains only the bonus spells they would be entitled to based on spellcasting attribute score for that spell level.
Gained: up to 3 points.
1 point: The character’s base movement speed is reduced by 10 ft. If the character is Medium, they gain steady for free.
2 points: The character’s base movement speed is reduced by half.
3 points: The character reduces their speed in all movement types by half (to a minimum of 10-ft. movement).
Requirement(s): Dynamic sorcery or fantasy spellcasting.
Gained: 1, 2, or 3 points.
A character with spells known has a limited number of spells they gain with each rank or Hit Die.
A character with spells known can typically exchange at least 1 spell when they reach a certain level or total number of Hit Dice. A character that can never change their spells known gains 2 additional points.
Gained: 1 point per paired attribute.
Dependent can be a magical or mechanical defect.
A character with dependent chooses at least two attributes. Those attributes must both be activated at the same time, or one right after the other, to operate properly.
Example: A character may have to activate a forcefield in order to have flight, or they might only gain a forcefield after casting a spell.
Restriction(s): Items of power are already dependent by default and cannot be chosen for this defect. Paired attributes should make sense in some context.
Gained: 1, 2 or 4 points.
Detectable can be a magical or mechanical defect.
1 point: The attribute creates a visual or audible cue that others who are paying attention will notice with a bonus on their Perception checks equal to the attribute’s rank.
2 points: Creatures within range of the attribute (minimum 25 feet + 5 feet per 2 ranks of the attribute) are immediately aware of its use, and those out to 1 mile per 2 ranks of the attribute gain a Perception check to notice if they are paying attention.
4 points: Creatures within long range (400 feet + 40 feet per rank of the attribute) are immediately aware of the attribute’s use, whether or not they can see it. Creatures out to 1 mile per rank of the attribute can make a Perception check to recognize that something is happening.
A character with detectable chooses an attribute. Other creatures are immediately made aware of the character when that attribute is used.
Mechanical Defects & Restrictions
Gained: 1 point per 2 rounds, up to 5 points. Activation time can be a magical or mechanical defect.
A character with activation time chooses one magical or mechanical attribute. When activating that attribute, the character must wait a minimum of 2 rounds before it becomes fully active and usable. Activating such an attribute may also require concentration (see below).
Gained: 3 points.
Concentration can be a magical or mechanical restriction. A character with concentration chooses one magical or mechanical attribute. When using that attribute, the character is flat-footed. The character can only move or take actions when they relate directly to the attribute and must otherwise do nothing else until it is deactivated or no longer available to use.
Offense Defects & Restrictions
Gained: Up to 3 points.
A character with frenzy enters a barbarian rage as a barbarian of their highest rank in any attribute as a free action under some conditions. The character cannot leave the rage voluntarily without help, and may even attack their allies. The rage lasts only as long as the triggering event occurs.
1 point: The character frenzies only in dire situations, but would never harm their allies.
2 points: The character frenzies in specific circumstances, such as when exposed to the light of a full moon or when brought below half of their total hit points. The character can attempt a Will save (DC 25 –1 for each round already spent raging) to avoid attacking allies if there are no enemies within reach.
3 points: The character frenzies frequently, such as when a critical hit is confirmed against them, or upon seeing a specific color or triggering event. The character will attack their allies if they are the source of the trigger or there are no enemies around while the rage lasts.
Senses Defects & Restrictions
Gained: 1 or 2 points per vulnerability.
Vulnerable to Sunlight: 2 points. The character takes 1 point of Constitution damage after every hour they are exposed to sunlight.
Gained: 3 points.
A character with hyper focus unknowingly puts extreme focus on one task to the exclusion of others. When using Craft, Perform, or Profession, or otherwise performing a repetitive task, the character must make a Will save once per hour against the task’s DC. Failure indicates the character is flat-footed and takes no actions other than to continue the task. Creatures can attempt to return the character’s focus as if waking it from a sleep spell (a standard action).
Short Attention Span
Gained: 1, 3, or 6 points.
A character with a short attention span gets distracted easily.