Dear DovahQueen: Maybe you can give me some advice on a pathfinder game I’m hoping to start?

Dear DovahQueen: Maybe you can give me some advice on a pathfinder game I’m hoping to start? I DMed a year long game a few years ago in a fantasy setting but I’m not sure how go on with my new idea. Maybe you would also have suggested reading? I already own the core and gamemaster book.

I plan to create a mystery setting that revolves around an epidemic taking over an isolated small city. A setting like the one from this video game called Pathologic.
I also want to ban curing spells and disease curing spells too. Make the world only having healing through the Heal skill.

The city that the campaign will take place will be low to no magic. I plan to design the city to go into anarchy over time. So maybe I can increase the encounter chance over time? Maybe the city’s prices increase over time? I’m also trying to figure out how to balance all of this out so I do not over-burden my players but also giving the players an open world to solve the crisis. — Balanced Anarchy

Dear Balarchy: I’ve been working on very a similar setting for about a year now, and it’s been great fun. Kudos! It sounds like your largest concern is balance; I have two contradictory pieces of advice.

First, don’t worry about the balance whatsoever. You didn’t build this world to be mechanical piece of game system. You designed it to be a fun, unique, and engaging experience. To fully realize that goal, sometimes you have to throw balance out the window and allow your game to evolve as it will. Throughout history, this is how cultures adapt and grow. Wars are rarely fought with swords and shield anymore, because guns unbalanced the fight. Allow your world to grow the same way. Eventually, it’ll find its own unique balance that works for it, and when it does, grow and adapt your systems to fit that world and that balance.

Second, you gotta make it balanced enough that the players can have fun. Never neglect your concepts, because they’re the reason we play these games instead of other games, but make things that are cumbersome to your players, also be cumbersome to their opponents. Not only that, make it so that your players are well aware of how their adversary is hindered. To a player, rules only seem arbitrary and stupid when they can’t use they to their advantage. If things get more expensive for the players, show the enemy wielding rusty weapons that are barely held together. If they players can’t heal easily, show the villain being absent for a month at a time after escaping to recover from their wounds. If the players are dealing with more encounters, allow them to hear news of frequent attacks that the primary opposition is being slowed by as well.

Stay true to your concept, and don’t be afraid to try out new things when something doesn’t play quite the way you want it to. Games like this are how we move the community forward.

Loren Sieg

Loren has been writing and playing in tabletop RPGs for over 15 years. As both a GM and player, she pours heart and soul into producing new content and helping shape the way tabletops are experienced. She's worked with companies including Paizo Inc., Legendary Games, Swords for Hire, and Encounter Table Publishing to publish material for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Dear DovahQueen began early in 2016, and Loren has been helping GMs and players fully realize their stories and game concepts ever since. When she's not knee-deep in characters sheets and critical hits, she can likely be found studying Biology at Indiana University and/or doing research on different types of marine life.