Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, we’re going to be talking about Ultimate Campaign’s relationship system.
It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote an article about the importance of romance in a successful campaign setting. Romance is a very powerful tool that can help motivate your players to attempt near impossible tasks. It can make easy challenges difficult by blinding either the player or the character and it can give players a reason to care about the well-being of the world that you are attempting to immerse them in.
But how exactly do you pull a good simulation romance? I mean, let’s face it: although it might be realistic to have NPCs fighting over the right to marry you, it is unlikely to be a satisfying romance if it is quite literally handed over to your PCs with no real work or effort.
Luckily, Paizo might have the answer for you. Today, we’re going to look at the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game’s relationship system.
The relationship system was originally created in Pathfinder AP #49: The Brinewall Legacy. This is the first AP volume of Jade Regent, the AP that is notable for taking the PCs out of the Inner Sea region and across the world to the Dragon Empires. In Jade Regent, the relationship system served as a way to codify the PCs’ relationships with the many characters that they met and travelled with as they trekked across the world to the nation of Minkal.
About a year after Jade Regent ended, the relationship system was reprinted alongside many others in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game’s Ultimate Campaign. Unlike other reprinted systems, which often got rather large rewrites or enhancements, the relationship system was left relatively unchanged. This means that if you’ve played Jade Regent, you know exactly what we’re getting into today.
How it Works
The relationship rules are relatively simple. First, you have what’s known as a starting relationship score. This is your overall first impression on other characters. For PCs, your starting Relationship Score is equal to your Charisma modifier, as people know every little of you aside from the first impression that you make.
Next, you choose whether your relationship will be friendly or competitive. This is mostly for flavor and interaction purposes; ultimately it has very little to do with the actual rules surrounding the relationship system. There are four general “tiers” of relationships, and their names change based upon whether your relationship is friendly or competitive. Each tier also has an XP reward for the first time you reach a particular relationship level with an NPC. This XP reward is shared among the party, and if that NPC is the first NPC to have that relationship level with any party member, the reward is doubled for that first time only.
- Association (5 or Lower): No reward.
- Friendship/Competition (6 to 11): 200 XP
- Fellowship/Rivalry (12 to30): 600
- Devotion/Enmity (31 or higher): 1,600 XP
The system also takes the time to note that if you have a connection with another NPC from a backstory or background, your relationship likely starts at Tier 2 – Friendship/Competition, but you receive no additional XP for having that level of relationship.
Although making friends isn’t particularly hard, it does take a bit of time. The major ways to improve your Relationship score with an NPC are described below:
- Level Up: Every time you gain a new character level, you may select one NPC that is active in the campaign and increase your relationship score with him or her by 1.
- Campaign Traits: This one is a bit more difficult for us home gamers, but if you’re using an official Paizo product, you get a +4 bonus to your Relationship score with an NPC if you possess a character trait related to that NPC. This happens most frequently in Jade Regent, but other campaign settings have traits that relate to specific characters too. If you play in a home game, you’re going to have to be creative with this one, though.
- Special Events: Your GM can alter your relationship score with an NPC based on how you interact with him or her. This is sort of the catch-all category for relationship.
- Gifts and Insults: The most common way to increase your relationship is by offering gifts or insults. After delivering a gift or an insult, you get to make a Diplomacy check (if you want to foster a friendship) or Intimidate check (if you want to deliver an insult). Your GM is encouraged to give you up to a +4 bonus on your check for a particularly good gift. If you succeed on the check (DC equals your relationship score with the NPC), you gain 1 relationship with the NPC, or 2 if you beat the check by 2 or more. Lucky for you, nothing bad happens on a failed check. Note that you can only try to do this once per level per NPC.
Finally, you can change your relationships from friendly to competitive or vice versa, though it is MUCH easier to make enemies than friends. In order to change a relationship from friendly to competitive, all you need to do is decide that you want the change to happen. No check, no nothing. Just roleplay it out and you’re good. The NPC’s new competitive relationship score with you is equal to half its previous relationship.
Making friends out of enemies, however, is significantly harder. You need to make a Diplomacy check to offer a gift to the NPC with a DC equal to your relationship score with the NPC + 10. If you succeed, your NPC’s relationship score is reduced by half, but it becomes a friendly relationship instead of a competitive one. If you fail by less than 10, the relationship remains competitive but your relationship score with the NPC is reduced by 1. Otherwise, failure doesn’t alter the NPC’s relationship score. And as always, significant events can also be used to alter your relationship score with an NPC.
Why Use the Relationship System?
Obviously, the relationship system isn’t going to work for every campaign. But if your campaign features many prominent NPCs and you want to reward your players for interacting with them, the Relationship System is an excellent way to do so. Although far from perfect, the Relationship System is the perfect tool for you (as a GM) to measure and record how specific individuals view your PCs.
That’s all I have to say on the Relationship System for now! What do you think? Have you ever used the Relationship System before? Would you use it now that I’ve described it? I’ve never played in Jade Regent before, so for you veterans out there, how did the system work in Jade Regent? Did you like using it? What did it add to your game? Leave your comments below and I look forward to seeing you back for another GM’s Guide next week!
Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex’s favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune boyfriend, and WAIT! NO! LADIES, HE’S LYING! HE HAS NO LEVELS IN ANY “BOYFRIEND” CLASS! ~Alex’s Mom