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Flaws are like the flip side of feats. Whereas a feat enables a character to be better than normal at performing a task (or even to do something that normal characters can't), a flaw restricts a character's capabilities or imposes a penalty of some sort.
A player may select up to two flaws when creating a character. After 1st level, a character cannot take on additional flaws unless the Dungeon Master specifically allows it (for examples of times when doing this might be appropriate, see Character Traits). Each flaw a player selects entitles his character to a bonus feat. In other words, when you create a character, if you select two flaws, you can also take two bonus feats beyond those your character would be normally entitled to.
Unlike traits, flaws are entirely negative in their impact on a character's capabilities.
Metagame Analysis: Creating Flaws
You can create new flaws, but be careful: Flaws can unbalance your game. When creating flaws, keep a few issues in mind:
- A flaw must have a numeric effect on a character's specific capabilities. Flaws with primarily roleplaying or story effects have unpredictable effects on game balance.
- Flaws are generally bigger in magnitude than feats. That's because players always choose flaws that have the least impact on their characters, while taking feats that have the most. For example, while a feat affecting skills grants a +2 bonus on two skills, its counterpart flaw might impose a -4 penalty on two skills.
- A flaw must have a meaningful effect regardless of character class or role. That way, a player can't reduce the flaw's importance through multiclassing. For instance, a flaw that only affects spellcasters might seem reasonable - but for nonspellcaster characters, the flaw likely proves meaningless. Even if you restrict the selection of such feats to characters of specific classes, a player can easily select a spellcasting class at 1st level, choose two flaws that apply to spellcasters, gain the bonus feats, multiclass into a nonspellcasting class at 2nd level and thereafter proceed as a primarily nonspellcasting character. The player has sacrificed a level to gain two bonus feats, a tradeoff that appeals to some players.
- Similarly, a flaw that penalizes a character's Charisma based skill checks only has a significant impact on the party spokesperson - the quiet fighter or barbarian likely won't feel any impact from the penalties.
Each of the flaws described here has a specific game effect. Some flaws can only be taken by a character who meets a special requirement.