I really should give examples of themes that work with the big four classes: fighter, cleric, wizard, rogue. These themes aren’t specific to or even intended explicitly for those classes, but I figure they’re the first place a player will go.
The soldier is an example of something that seemed too obvious to me to state explicitly before: sometimes multiple themes have the same abilities. Here, the solider has the same early to rise and light sleeper abilities as a farmer, because it makes sense that a character could get the same ability from more than one background.
Most abilities are unique to a single theme with just a little overlap. The only places I lean heavily on this is where the themes should strongly relate to each other. For example, the fiend theme is almost identical to the celestial theme. I reversed anything that leverages alignment and changed the quests, of course. I also adjusted the skills and feats and made a few changes to represent abilities fiends have that celestials don’t (like summoning rather than auras). If I do law and chaos themes they’ll probably be similar. Themes like draconic, however, will be fairly unique.
On a related note, I realized halfway through the month that most theme names are nouns. So technically I need a new word for heritage themes to differentiate them from the original creatures, like “celestialblood”. My spellcheck hates that, though.
Your formative years were spent in the military. You were part of a military household, or you were drafted or conscripted at a young age, or you ran away to become a soldier. Regardless of why you joined, your time in the service has taught you that attack can come from any direction but given you the skills you need to prepare for it.
Theme Skills: Climb, Perception, Ride, Sense Motive, Stealth, Swim
Theme Feats: Armor Proficiency (any), Athletic, Combat Reflexes, Defensive Combat Training, Martial Weapon Proficiency, Weapon Focus
Novice Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 3rd tier.
- A town is organizing a team to kill or drive away a band of kobolds who have been harassing them. The team is willing, but young and inexperienced. They need a leader who can lead them to victory, but also train them to be ready in case the kobolds retaliate.
- The soldier’s former commanding officer appears, demanding the soldier’s help for a covert mission. The officer is vague about the details, but makes it clear that the missions but be kept secret, even from the soldier’s allies, and that refusing it will have dire consequences.
Expert Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 6th tier.
- A small group of soldiers has come into town, causing mayhem and damaging property. They use their status and shows of force to discourage anybody from standing against them. Somebody must set them straight before they do real harm, and without the situation escalating to armed conflict against a legitimate army.
- The soldier’s allies have formed an adventuring party, one whose methods do not align with the soldier’s own. This party has accepted a job that conflicts with one taken by the soldier’s party, and they try to use their shared history and an appeal to loyalty as leverage to convince the soldier to sabotage his or her own team.
Advanced Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 9th tier.
- Entire squads of soldiers are disappearing from military outposts. Whenever a squad disappears, it happens in the middle of the night, and they seem to take their gear and provisions for a few days but leave no indication where they are going or why. The remaining soldiers cannot determine whether they are deserting en masse, or if there is something more sinister happening.
- The payment system for an army has failed. Either the money disappeared, is being withheld, or never existed in the first place, but it’s driving existing and former personnel into a frenzy. The best possible result is a heavily disgruntled force with low morale, and the worst is an insurrection led and staffed by the country’s best-trained, most well-equipped citizens.
Legendary Quest: A disastrous and ill-advised war has started, in which a normally peaceful country is trying to invade a vastly superior opponent. The army hopes to excuse its lack of trained personnel by using a draft to fill the ranks with untrained peasants, which is leading to high casualty rates. The reasons for the war are unknown, but if it continues it will devastate the country’s population and potentially lead to its collapse.
Armor Familiarity (Ex): You’re more comfortable in armor than most people. Your speed increases by 5 feet when you are wearing medium or heavy armor, to a maximum of your base speed. You may sleep in light or medium armor without becoming fatigued.
Combat-Ready (Ex): You know a fight can start at any time. You gain a +2 bonus to initiative checks, and you can draw a weapon as a free action during a surprise round or the first round of combat.
Early to Rise (Ex): You are used to waking at the crack of dawn. You only need to sleep for six hours to gain the benefits of a full night’s rest. You must still rest for eight hours to regain your spells and other abilities. In addition, you only take a -5 penalty to Perception checks while you are asleep.
Hardened Spirit (Ex): You are resistant to fear. You gain a +2 theme bonus to saving throws against fear effects.
Improved Armor Familiarity (Ex): You wear armor like a second skin. Your speed increases by an additional 5 feet when you are wearing medium or heavy armor, to a maximum of your base speed. You may sleep in any armor without becoming fatigued. You must be at least 4th tier and possess the armor familiarity theme ability before selecting this ability.
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.
Light Sleeper (Ex): You wake before the dawn. You only need to sleep for four hours to gain the benefits of a full night’s rest. You must still rest for eight hours to regain your spells and other abilities. In addition, you take no penalty to Perception checks while sleeping, and you gain a +2 theme bonus to saving throws against sleep effects. You must have the early to rise theme ability to select this theme ability.
No One Left Behind (Ex): The sight of a fallen friend spurs you to new heights. You gain a +2 theme bonus to attack rolls, weapon damage rolls, saving throws, and AC when you are within 30 feet of an unconscious ally. This bonus increases to +4 if you are within 30 feet of a dead ally.
Perfect Loyalty (Ex): Nothing colors your actions unless you allow it. You gain the slippery mind ability as the rogue talent. If you also have slippery mind, you can only reroll your saving throw once but gain a +2 bonus on your reroll. You must be at least 7th tier and possess the undying loyalty theme ability before selecting this ability.
Undying Loyalty (Ex): You would never turn on your allies. You gain a +2 theme bonus to saving throws against charm and compulsion effects.
Teamwork (Ex): You work better in concert with your team. At 4th tier, you gain a +1 theme bonus to AC and saving throws whenever you are adjacent to your allies. When you are flanking with an ally you gain a +3 bonus to attack rolls instead of a +2 bonus.
The Best Offense (Ex): You are well-trained in defensive combat. At 7th tier, you gain a +1 theme bonus to your Combat Maneuver Defense. In addition, when you take the total defense standard action you can still make attacks of opportunity.
Battle Veteran (Ex): Your cool head in battle is an inspiration to your allies. At 10th tier, once per day each ally of yours may reroll a saving throw. They may use your saving throw modifier instead of theirs for this reroll. In addition, allies who can see or hear you gain a +4 bonus to saving throws against fear effects.