I’ve divided themes into three categories: occupational, where a character continues in their pre-adventuring job, heritage, where a character’s bloodline gives them power, and “other”. The third category is a catch-all for lifestyles, philosophies, places of origin, and mostly anything that doesn’t fit in the above two. One such example is as follows.
The epicurean is kind of a combination of the modern definition, which is a sort of haughty hedonism, and the philosophical Epicureanism, which is more about tranquility and knowledge. They both focus on happiness as the most direct form of good, and I tried to make the theme varied enough to let characters look for it however they want.
The greatest goal in life is pleasure. Your background is one of sensory experiences, whether a hedonistic life of debauched physical joys, a meditative focus on mental and emotional expansion, or something in between. You always look for the next great adventure, seeking things you’ve never seen or done before and pushing yourself into ever more exotic situations.
Theme Skills: Appraise, Fly, Linguistics, Perception, Use Magic Device
Theme Feats: Diehard, Exotic Weapon Proficiency, Improved Initiative, Iron Will
Novice Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 3rd tier.
- A traveling sideshow sells a tonic that promises to open the minds of those who imbibe it. While it does grant mental benefits and is safe on first use, it is a powerful, addictive narcotic, and the symptoms of withdrawal include violent hysteria. The sideshow must be stopped, or withdrawal symptoms eliminated, before anybody else dies.
- A caravan has gone missing, along with the valuable art it was transporting from a noble’s collection to a public gallery. If the caravan has disappeared, never to be seen again, it would be a great loss to the art world. But the gallery cannot afford to hire adventurers to return it, and the noble is suspiciously unconcerned about her missing property.
Expert Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 6th tier.
- The epicurean finds a recipe for a food or drink thought lost to history. Making and consuming it would be a unique experience, but it calls for strange ingredients from dangerous places and requires a skilled cook to bring it all together.
- A cult is starting to gain momentum with its doctrine of enlightenment through pain. Laborers and royalty alike are looking into it if not already privately participating. The influence it has over its followers is alarming, and there is talk, albeit quiet, of making it the state religion.
Advanced Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 9th tier.
- A severe-looking man is peddling a service to the rich and powerful. For a great fee he offers to take them away for a week and let them experience things they never have before and never will again. A few nobles have tried it; they all agree it was a perfect, life-changing week, and each of them suddenly gained experience in strange things they had no way of knowing before, like exotic fighting styles or stories from unknown cultures. But none can articulate exactly what happened, divinations around them all fail, and their personalities all start to change in subtle ways.
- An aged explorer asks for the epicurean’s help. Before she dies she wants to see a specific place, one she could never find during her lifetime. This place is difficult to find and is guarded by creatures and effects dangerous enough that she has never been able to convinced a group to help her look for it. But the place, if is exists, has been untouched by outsides for centuries, and visiting it would be one of the rarest experiences possible.
Legendary Quest: One day, pain stopped existing. Physical aches no longer hurt, emotional traumas disappear, and even fear is a thing of the past. Everybody has attained the sort of happiness of which an epicurean could only dream. But almost immediately, the consequences of an entire world living without pain begin to appear, as injuries go undetected and people act free of their mental limiters. Whether this is an evil plot or the accidental effects of a benevolent but short-sighted entity, it has to stop before every living thing drives itself to ruin.
Adamantine Stomach (Ex): Even when something in your system does affect you, your body can handle it. Whenever you take a penalty due to poison, disease, or an effect transmitted via smell or taste, you reduce to penalty by 1, to a minimum of 0. You must be at least 7th tier and possess the mithral stomach theme ability before selecting this ability.
Eidetic Scholar (Ex): Your thirst for information gives you a wide range of knowledge. You gain a +2 theme bonus to Intelligence and Knowledge checks made to remember information.
Emotion Enhancement (Ex): You feel more strongly than others do. Whenever you gain a morale bonus, that bonus increases by 1.
Hardened Spirit (Ex): You are resistant to fear. You gain a +2 theme bonus to saving throws against fear effects.
Iron Stomach (Ex): Your body is resistant to harmful foods. You gain a +2 theme bonus to saving throws against poison.
Iron Spirit (Ex): Things that would terrify a normal person barely effect you. Fear effects on you are reduced by one step: if you would be panicked you are instead frightened, and if you would be frightened you are instead shaken. You take no penalties from being shaken. You must be at least 7th tier and possess the hardened spirit theme ability before selecting this ability.
Let Me Try (Ex): Whatever your allies can do, you can at least attempt. You can study an ally as a move action. If the ally makes a Strength- or Dexterity-based skill check in the following round, you can make a skill check with the same skill on your next turn, using your ally’s bonus to the check instead of your own.
Liver of Life (Ex): You cling to closely to life to fear death. You gain a +4 theme bonus on savings throws against effects with the death descriptor. You must be at least 7th tier and possess the emotion enhancement theme ability before selecting this ability.
Mithral Stomach (Ex): You’ve smelled and taste enough strange things to have built up a resistance. Your bonus to saving throws against poison increases to +4. In addition, you gain a +2 theme bonus to saving throws against any effect transmitted via smell or taste, such as a troglodyte’s stench. You must be at least 4th tier and possess the iron stomach theme ability before selecting this ability.
Seen It Before (Ex): Your short-term memory is alarmingly good. You gain a +2 bonus to saving throws against any spell or effect for which you have already made a saving throw in the same encounter, regardless of the course of the effect. You must be at least 4th tier before selecting this ability.
Ignore Pain (Ex): The most obvious pleasure is absence of pain. At 4th tier, you gain DR 1/— against nonlethal damage and a +2 theme bonus to saving throws against spells and effects with the pain descriptor.
Ataraxia (Su): Divine influences affect you less. At 7th tier, you gain spell resistance equal to 5 plus your character level against divine spells and effects. In additional your DR against nonlethal damage increases to 3/—.
The Last Great Adventure (Sp): Even death holds few mysteries for you. At 10th tier, you can make a special elixir that costs 25,000 gp to create. When you drink this elixir, you die. While dead you can speak with spirits as with commune, except there you can communicate with any deceased creature, no matter how long ago they died or where they are, and you can receive answers as long as a short sentence. You cannot communicate with a creatures whose soul no longer exists. The caster level for this effect is your character level. When the duration of the spell ends, you come back to life with no negative levels.