Sometimes the most defining characteristic of a hero, or villain, isn’t their strengths, but their weaknesses. In Pathfinder, however, that’s not something easily modeled under the rules – while there are plenty of ways to showcase a character’s areas of expertise, mainly through feats and class powers, there are few methods for mechanically portraying a character’s poorer abilities.
4 Winds Fantasy Gaming fixes that by making your characters worse with Player’s Option: Flaws.
Flaws is a short book, having less than a dozen pages. Despite this, it has full bookmarks, and the copy-and-paste is enabled. The book’s visual presentation is minimalistic in tone, having no page borders and only two black and white interior illustrations.
Flaws opens with a brief discussion about giving your characters the flaws assigned here. While some of this seems boilerplate, with such caveats as characters normally only being allowed to take two flaws, and only at character creation, there are a few twists here from what you’re expecting. For example, while one flaw can grant a feat, the second one grants exactly three skill points. It’s interesting that this particular route was chosen, in what I can only assume was the idea that granting two feats was too much.
A bigger surprise is the idea that flaws can be bought off – and this doesn’t mean simply giving up a corresponding feat or skill points. Rather, each flaw has a certain, specific manner in which its penalty can be permanently negated, while you get to keep the corresponding feat or skill points. It’s an intriguing idea, and lends much more credence to why the system doesn’t let you get more than one feat, since you can effectively end up with something for nothing once the flaw is bought off. These buy-offs tend to have a minimum level that they can occur at, however, so you do have to spend at least some time dealing with the flaw itself.
Almost fifty flaws are given, each of which is formatted in a manner similar to a feat in terms of presentation style. I do wish that a summary table had been presented so that the flaws could have been looked over at a glance, however. The flaws run the gamut from physical problems with your character (e.g. Flatulent) to mental problems (e.g. Foul-Mouthed) to social issues (e.g. Excommunicated). While some of these present problems as mild as skill penalties, others can have profound role-playing consequences. Similarly, for most of them, lifting the flaw is fairly simple: If you want to stop being Miserly, for example, just spend more than 1,000 gp on a single purchase. Others are harder, however, and being a Wanted Fugitive will require you to find the right person and succeed on a tough skill check and cost you some money.
Overall, I found Player’s Option: Flaws to present a good range of possibilities for what it offers your characters. The selection of flaws is wide, and what you get for them is good without being overpowering. The method of buying the flaws off is also innovative, though I’m slightly wary of how it results in an overall net gain for characters. Between that and the need for a summary table, this is an altogether 4.5-star product, but I’m rounding it up to 5-stars overall. Some minor issues don’t detract from these Flaws.
[5 of 5 Stars!]