Welcome to the pilot episode of Inspire Confidence blog. Unlike other blogs in the Know Direction family, I’m going focus on the flavor and philosophy of gaming rather than explanations of rules or number crunching. That’s not to say I won’t touch on that kind of stuff, though. I will talk about how players and GMs can capture the spirit of the game, as well as cater to the novice GMs and players with the occasional Ask the Bard blogs. With that in mind, if you have any questions, please send them to KnowDirection@hotmail.com so I have some questions to answer. Otherwise, I’ll make up my own questions to answer and no one really wants that blog, I can talk to myself all day long without using a keyboard.
I’ll start though by briefly talking about myself – I am Monica Marlowe, Paizo’s RPG Superstar 2015. Prior to winning Paizo’s game design contest, I had no game design experience and no real desire to design RPG material. I never ran any Pathfinder games and no long running games of any kind. I never read an entire adventure. I have yet to read the Pathfinder Core Rulebook in its entirety, or even a solid 50% of it (although I’m guessing some of you have not either). I am a gamer who likes to play Pathfinder and I deeply enjoy the companionship that I get from sitting at a table with other gamers to share a story. As the blog title says, I hope to inspire others to venture outside their comfort zones of playing to running games or even designing. The sky’s the limit here, ask some questions, no question is dumb, especially when you’re trying something new. Trust me, I’ve asked a lot of questions and I still do. If I can do this, anyone can.
This month* Know Direction is focusing on Ultimate Intrigue and how to play superheroes in the Pathfinder system. Ultimate Intrigue is packed with new great classes, feats, spells, magic items, and a whole chapter on the element of intrigue. However, you’re already playing in a game with your current PC and changing characters midstream isn’t going to work since your party’s in a dungeon and your new vigilante’s just not going to be able to show up and join the crawl. Or you’re a GM in the middle of an established game and you’re excited about what you’ve read, but not sure how to get new stuff into an established game or on to an NPC already in play.
IDEAS FOR PLAYERS
Let’s discuss player options first.
Ask yourself (and answer honestly) “Is this the right character concept to engage in a game of intrigue? Is this the right game to incorporate these rules?” If the answer is “not really”, then craft yourself a new PC for your next game and scratch that itch. Getting to look at the rules can spark some ideas too, so whenever you feel like you’d really like to try something, try it so you can work out the process and get it out of your brain and on to paper. Talk with your GM about possibilities of next games, look for an additional game to play in, or get really excited and offer to run an UI game next. If you current play an Armored Hulk barbarian in a home brewed Tomb of Horrors, part 6, this might not be the supplement for you.
However, if your PC is an Armored Hulk barbarian, but you’re in a courtly setting, this might be just what you need to bring your character fully into play. Maybe your PC’s a fish out of water with all the chit chat, just waiting to punch some courtier for looking at you the wrong way? Ostentatious Rager is the feat you’ve been waiting for – while built as a way to make money, it is also a distraction feat and can leave your opponents demoralized. Check out Sabotaging Sunder to take care of that pesky armor your opponent is…I mean, was wearing. Just plan ahead to spend some skill points in Disable Device for prerequisite costs, it requires some setting up for a fighter who gets 2 skill points a level unless you made Int your dump stat, in which case you’re going to get creative with feats.
Maybe there is some space in your character’s concept – perhaps you’re already are playing a PC that would really bloom with the addition of UI rules or something has happened in game that would support cross classing or cherry picking some feats or spells. For example, an Inquisitor who likes to hug the shadows, spies on everyone, and has maxed out deceptive skills, start making some plans to bring on feats like Fool Magic (which allows you to trick magic items into letting you use them) or Intoxicating Flattery (snarking at the bad guys for fun and profit), add They Know (convincing someone you know their deepest secret) to your spell list, and read up on the Mastering Intrigue chapter. Be certain to talk with your GM before you make your changes, though, without supporting storylines and behind the screen knowledge, your new superhero might fall flat.
Also, include your table mates as appropriate. While the character is ultimately yours to play as you like, if your PC changes abruptly, it can disrupt the flow of the game and upset the table’s chemistry. Most changes “happen” when characters level, but those changes should be reflected in the portrayal of the character in game. Adding archetype concepts to appropriate classes is less jarring than dropping “Batman” into the mix. By its very nature intrigue is subtle, this doesn’t mean your PC has to let the PC party know you have a secret identity, but big PC changes should be done with respect to those you game with regularly, at least on the out of game side.
DESIGN IDEAS FOR GMS
Now for the GM side of things.
Adding intrigue can be a great way to increase the RP at your table. It can increase character interactions by adding a social level to more encounters. There’s probably at least one player at your table who would like the opportunity to talk their way through an encounter. It’s not a role-playing style for everyone and it may not be as satisfactory to some of your players who like to throw some dice and crush some heads, but as the GM, you’re the guiding force of the game that everyone comes to for some fun. Ultimate Intrigue supports the subtle game play and will help your craftier players have a moment to shine.
Just as I cautioned the players above, talk with your table before you start rolling out the ideas in this supplement. If you’re in the middle of an AP, this might not be the right time, some APs are more flexible than others to ramp up the underhanded dealings this book supplies. However, if you’re in a home brew or some of the more recently released adventures, which had the benefit of being developed with this in mind, you can start dropping things in fairly quickly. A villainous spellcaster with Conceal Spell (sneaky public casting) makes the start of combat tricky to spot, just as a ranged attack with Circuitous Shoot (finally, projectiles can bank corners). Even just swapping out new magic items for standard treasure hauls, what shadowy rogue doesn’t wish they had a subversive vest (vest of many pockets) or a costume bureau (magically made clothing when you need them), even if the latter is a little heavy?
Don’t forget about the neutral or friendly NPCs. PCs looking for local knowledge can hang out at the old standby tavern hoping for a tidbit or you can put a Secret Broker on their radar and you can build an entire campaign around the occultist’s spy network intel. If you go on to create an organization and utilize the influence system and favors, you can link together short story ideas to buy yourself time for planning the next leg of a long-running campaign.
Shameless plug, Down the Blighted Path and Ultimate Intrigue were in the pipeline at the same time and there’s some built in space for incorporating UI if you’re looking for a single adventure option to whet your players’ appetite for brains over brawn playing. And your players still get to kill all the things if that’s what they like to do.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM HERE
I tried to get a lot in a teeny, tiny space today so you can see the kinds of things I’ll be focusing on – getting things from our brains to our tables, kind of like cooking, but not really, don’t put brains on the table, unless it’s a brain ooze and we’re rolling for initiative.
*I know that you’re an astute reader because here you are at the bottom of the blog looking for the footnote. As I mentioned in the introduction, this blog was written for the theme of April and the release of Ultimate Intrigue, but you’re not reading it until May because we decided that we would do a big announcement and release the new blogs in May. However, the blog was ready to roll in April and you never ever throw away a good idea, you just relabel it and use it at a later date.