Posts Tagged ‘Kingmaker’

It’s the Magic Item Economy, Stupid!

May 1, 2011

Dedicated readers of Intelligence Check (there’s something like four, now) will notice that this blog devotes quite a bit of space to the kingdom building rules from Paizo’s Kingmaker Adventure Path. There are multiple reasons for this, both personal (I’ve run a Kingmaker game, which is currently on hiatus) and professional (I think that introduces concepts that can be used to really change the focus of the game).

Having said that, the kingdom building rules are, like any other rules set, subject to being bent and even broken. While I’ve little doubt that Paizo playtested them and edited the mechanics they wrote prior to releasing them, it doesn’t change the fact that sometimes, despite the best editing in the world, errors and unexpected loopholes make it into the final rules.

Luckily, there’s a wide community of gamers out there who, in the course of playing the game, will eventually stumble upon these problems and, in some cases, talk about them on the internet. In other words, they become de facto playtesters. And we can learn from their mistakes so that the headaches they had to endure don’t come up in our games. It’s with those gamers in mind that I move on to today’s topic.

The Politics of Failure Have Failed…

The central part of using the kingdom building rules is spending Build Points to construct new buildings in your cities. Some of these builds have magic item “slots” – that is, they generate a magic item(s) of a certain type (minor, medium, and/or major) every month, which then remain until they’re sold – whether to the PCs or someone else.

The secrets of the universe at discount prices.

By itself, this isn’t a big deal. It’s a way of measuring what’s available should the PCs (or some NPCs) go shopping for magic items; the PCs don’t determine what these magic items are, nor do they have access to them without paying for them first, just like in any other campaign. ’nuff said.

Except, however, for a clause mentioned elsewhere in the rules. Step 3 of the Income Phase, “Sell Valuable Items,” says the following (emphasis mine):

You can attempt to sell items that cost more than 4,000 gp through your city’s markets to bolster your kingdom’s Treasury; these can be items you recover during an adventure or they can be magic items currently held by any of your cities. To sell these items, make an Economy check (DC 20 for minor items, DC 35 for moderate items, and DC 50 for major items). A failed check indicates the item doesn’t sell. Success indicates that the item sells and you can increase your kingdom’s treasury by 2 BP (for minor items), 8 BP (for moderate items), or 15 BP (for major items). You can make one Economy check per city district during each Income phase.

From what I’ve heard on the Paizo messageboards, the emboldened part of this rule quickly became a problem in many Kingmaker games.

The nature of the problem is self-evident. Once the PCs spend BP to build these shops (the ones that generate a magic item every month), they can then make a check each month to have the shops sell the magic item and reap the BPs that are generated from doing so. And this happens every single month with the PCs not needing to spend any further BPs to keep earning these rewards.

Needless to say, this is a HUGE problem. Yes, there’s often a significant investment cost for the PCs to build shops that generate magic items in the first place (particularly for shops that make medium and major magic items), and yes, they still do need to make a check…but those aren’t really disincentives. Once the PCs have a high enough Economy score (something that’s not at all hard to achieve), and don’t roll a natural 1 on their check, they can pretty well count on free BPs each month. And this is a problem that only snowballs as the PCs build more and more magic item-generating shops…

Given that, let’s lay down some guidelines and alternate rules to keep this sort of thing from happening.

…We Need to Make Them Work Again

The rallying point for a Kingmaker capitalist revolution.

First, let’s establish why the existing rule doesn’t make sense. There’s a disconnect between the in-game nature of the government that the PCs run, and the metagame nature of the players building a country. While the metagame effects of the PCs spending BPs to decide what buildings get built makes it seem as though they (the government) is managing the economy, this isn’t the case in-game. In-game, the economy is a private sector that doesn’t answer to the government (though it likely works with it).

It’s this separation between the market and the government that stops the PCs from simply taking every magic item that shops generate for themselves for free – if the PCs were to decide that they wanted to keep a randomly-generated item, for example, instead of selling it, they’d still have to pay for it. So if that’s the case, why do they get to reap the benefits (in BPs) of selling those same magic items? When stores in the real world sell wares, the government doesn’t get to keep the profits – the private sector does (taxes are the exception, but the kingdom building rules already models taxes in a different way).

As such, Step 3 of the Income Phase, “Sell Valuable Items,” is deleted. Cross it out entirely and don’t use it in your game. If your PCs want to earn BPs for selling things, it must be for things that they personally own.

But how do they do that, now that we’ve eliminated the aforementioned rule? Well, let’s back up and look at Step 1 of the Income Phase, “Deposits:”

You can add funds to a kingdom’s treasury by donating coins, gems, jewelry, weapons, armor, magic items, and other valuables you find while adventuring. For every full 4,000 gp in value of the deposit, increase your kingdom’s BP by 1. Items that individually cost more than 4,000 gp must be sold as detailed under Step 3 below.

This is a good guideline, and we’re going to tweak it, largely be eliminating that arbitrary proviso that caps what this step can handle at 4,000 gp. Try using the revised version of this rule given below:

You can add funds to a kingdom’s treasury by donating coins, gems, jewelry, weapons, armor, magic items, and other valuables you find while adventuring. For every full 4,000 gp in value of the deposit, increase your kingdom’s BP by 1.

Items that individually cost less than 4,000 gp can be deposited without a check. Items that individually cost more than 4,000 gp must make a successful Economy check to be deposited. The DC of this check is 10 + the gp value of the item divided by 1,000. For example, selling a pair of goggles of night – which have a market price of 12,000 gp – would require a DC 22 Economy check [10 + (12,000/1,000) = 22]. Successfully selling the goggles of night would increase your kingdom’s BP by 3.

You can attempt to make one such check per item over 4,000 gp per turn.

This method not only limits the PCs to selling their own materials, rather than mandating shops to sell their wares and turn over the profits, but has several other benefits as well. The major one is that it keeps the rewards for selling magic items to reasonable levels – A PC selling a +5 vorpal longsword, which has a market value of 200,315 gp, will only earn 50 BP for its sale. That’s a lot, but not at all game-breaking.

Further, this system prevents the PCs from automatically being able to liquidate big-ticket items. The aforementioned magic sword, for example, would require a successful Economy check against a DC of 210! Notwithstanding rolling a natural 20, only the largest and most prosperous of kingdoms could make that check, which makes sense.

Finally, note that “depositing” items using this system doesn’t necessarily mean letting them sit in the kingdom’s treasury. In fact, it’s more likely that such “deposited” items are sold by the PCs’ government, gaining material wealth, favors owed, goodwill, and all of the other tangible and intangible rewards that are represented by Build Points.

Mage Labor and Capital

Of course, these rules are just suggestions; make sure to tweak them to fit your home game if you find that they’re not working as well as you’d hoped. For example, perhaps the BP gains for depositing items should be 1 BP earned per 1,000 gp spent (but make sure to adjust the ratio of making withdrawls to match – you should always be able to withdraw gold for BPs at a rate of half the gold you must deposit to earn BPs). Or perhaps it’s better to eliminate the “1 always fails, 20 always succeeds” rule for kingdom checks, so that PCs with a low Economy score can’t try and sell that uber-expensive magic item.

However you tweak these rules, hopefully they’ll save you from PCs attempting to become insanely rich on the backs of honest merchants making magic items. After all, the rules are for building a kingdom, not running a communist state.

…though a Communistmaker game does sound interesting, comrade.

Are you still Master of Your Domain?

April 17, 2011

First off, allow me to apologize for having disappeared from the web for so long. I know I have at least one dedicated reader out there (hi Mom!), and having this blog go almost four months without an update is something I won’t let happen again.

While I don’t like to go into personal details about why I wasn’t able to maintain the blogging schedule I wanted (simply because it sounds like making excuses), I’ll say that real life was kicking my butt all over the place, but I’ve finally managed to turn things around and start delivering some kicks of my own. Hopefully, it’ll stay that way for a while, and I’ll keep turning out the articles. Speaking of which, let’s turn our attention to today’s.

Spare the Rod, but keep the Rulership

It seems like lately there’s been a lot of buzz about what makes for good high-level and epic-level gaming in D&D/Pathfinder. Now, to be fair, much of this is buzz that’s been around quite a bit before and I’m just noticing it now, but there are some interesting points here. I’ll talk more about epic-level gaming another time, but in this case I wanted (since I’m a bit rusty) to aim a little lower and talk about a part of the game that typically only comes into play at the higher levels.

More specifically, I wanted to go over the idea of high-level gameplay as the vessel for introducing rulership and politics into the game.

Guess who is the rogue in this party.

Now, by itself, this sounds like an idea that’s worthy of groaning and eye-rolling. “It’s a game about killing things and taking their stuff,” gamers say, “why muddy that up with things the game wasn’t meant to handle?”

Well, I could mention that the game used to handle those pretty well, insofar as older editions had built-in assumptions about fighters getting keeps, clerics getting temples, wizards getting towers, and thieves getting guilds (see the article on Grognardia, linked to above, for more on this), but that’d be something of a bait-and-switch on my part – after all, this is a Pathfinder blog, not an OSR one.

So why introduce those things into your Pathfinder game? Well, largely the same reason you’d introduce anything else: because it’s fun, specifically by introducing new dimensions to your characters and the game world, and in doing so opening up new ways to interact with them. This won’t be for everyone, of course, and people who prefer to keep raiding dungeons and slaying monsters should have no problem doing so. But what should you do if you want to start branching out into a more political sort of gameplay?

Making a King

Canny fans of Pathfinder will, by now, be saying that this problem is one that already has a solution. After all, less than a year ago Paizo released the Kingmaker Adventure Path, which has your PCs founding and growing their own nation, dealing with everything from rabble-rousers in the public to international war. Isn’t that political enough?

Well, yes…and no.

The major aspects of the political dimension that Kingmaker introduces into Pathfinder are threefold: exploring and claiming land, growing the rural and urban elements of a kingdom, and leading armies. Now, by themselves these are very fun additions to the game. Having GMed the first half of a Kingmaker campaign (before we decided to put it on hiatus because one of my players was very eager to run his homebrew world), I saw firsthand how into it my players got when it came to nurturing and sustaining their fledgling kingdom.

However, people who are familiar with these rules will know that none of them replace the core elements of the game: the aforementioned killing things and taking their stuff. The political aspects form a compelling backdrop, and are interwoven into the adventure very nicely, but ultimately the PCs still set out in their own little band and go slay wicked monsters.

By itself, this isn’t a bad thing. The Kingmaker rules function as an adjunct that allows for the PCs to have goals beyond simply earning personal treasure and leveling up. In fact, I’ll go one further and say that if you’re looking for a Pathfinder game that has multiple aspects to it, then the Kingmaker rules are great, since they let you shift the focus from action/adventure to political resource management very well.

So what’s the problem then? Well, the problem is that, if you want to de-emphasize the combat portions of the game in favor of rulership and politics – whether because you don’t think that the king going off placing himself in mortal peril with his buddies is logical for a budding kingdom, or for some other reason – the Kingmaker rules don’t help very much. Your character still advances by earning experience points, and it’s hard to do that using just the Kingmaker rules.

How many hit points does the body politic have?

Now, to be fair, it is possible to earn XP using just Kingmaker. You get XP awards for hitting various size thresholds in your kingdom (both in land claimed and cities developed), it’s easy to assign story-award XP for meeting various goals, and of course you gain XP for when your army vanquishes another army. But these are still relatively small awards that more often than not are one-time affairs, so they’re not a reliable go-to (unless your kingdom is constantly going to war, which it may very well be…just look at the United States *rimshot*).

Worse than this, though, is that fact that leveling up (as well as most magical gear) is an individualized process, with a strong focus on tactical combat. You gain a level of fighter, and it by-and-large makes you better at killing things. You gain a new level of spells, and most of them are either for killing things or preventing things from being killed, etc. Yes, you get skill points, which are usually non-combative in nature, and some spells and feats are like that also, but for the most part a leveled-up character is simply a better killer.

I Have the (Political) Power!

So if the reward system in Pathfinder/D&D is based around increasing personal martial power, and the personal acquisition of treasure, what’s the solution if you want to run a more politically-focused game? By changing the nature of how the players earn their rewards. Try some of the following suggestions:

Alternate Experience Awards – Give the players a new rubric for earning experience points. Having a new source of XP – one that can be anticipated and quantified ahead of time by the players – will quickly point them in a new direction.

A good idea is to make each BP spent on improving their kingdom worth 100 XP per PC (that is, if you have four PCs, 1 BP is worth 400 XP, etc.). You may need to rework this value depending on how low- or high-level your game is, but it gives the PCs much more incentive to build up their kingdom. Since the in-game nature of experience points (the “experience” part of them) is highly abstract, it’s easy to rationalize this as being the experience gained from managing and growing a country of their own.

Bear in mind that this doesn’t invalidate any of the existing methods for gaining experience points (mentioned above). They should still gain XP for having their kingdom reaching certain sizes, for completing certain story points, and of course for killing things. But since spending BP occurs in monthly increments of time, this method helps to reinforce the fact that PCs can train, learn, and grow during “downtime.”

Don’t forget, also, that PCs that donate 4,000 gp to their kingdom’s treasury gain another BP to spend, which grants them all XP. Another idea, one that I’ve blogged about previously, is that PCs can spend personal wealth to gain XP directly, so long as they’re spending it on things with no usefulness in regards to the game’s mechanics.

Public Treasure – The Kingmaker rules lay down a great method whereby characters can acquire a large degree of the treasure they want without having to adventure. It’s possible to withdraw BPs for gold pieces at a ratio of 1:2,000, though using the above system of XP for BPs will most likely discourage these sorts of withdrawals.

If you’re worried about the “Christmas Tree” effect, the above idea isn’t a bad thing, as it forces characters to choose between gaining treasure or XP per BP spent. On the other hand, if you want them to have an additional source of material wealth, consider revisiting the Profession skill. After all, government workers perform a service and so should earn a salary, right?

Ordinarily, the Profession skill earns a character half the check result in gold pieces for a week of work, which under the Kingmaker rules (wherein units of time take place across one month increments) allows for four checks per unit of time, or make a single check and have them earn double the check result in gold pieces – representing a month’s worth of time – if you want to cut down on rolls. Consider allowing characters to add a bonus to their check equal to their kingdom’s Economy value (since, as government officials, their fortunes are directly tied to the health of their government). Alternately, simply have them draw a stipend equal to some value multiplied by their kingdom’s Economy score (e.g. 10 gp x Economy bonus) per month. Be careful not to set this too high though, as the PCs may be tempted to save up for something big and then spend it all at once.

Similarly, don’t worry about magic items that the PCs may want. The Kingmaker rules already allow for certain types of buildings in a city to put various magic items on the market, so the PCs will have ample opportunities to spend their money. They may take it upon themselves to try and directly commission locals to build specific items for them. That’s fine, but you may want to have special orders cost more (anywhere from costing 1.2 to twice the market price, with half paid up front to cover creation costs) – this discourages the players from simply going magic item shopping, and the in-game rationale is that special orders simply cost more since they’re putting all other business on hold.

None of these will make the PCs rich, of course, but they’re not supposed to. They’re just supposed to make sure the PCs aren’t destitute, and have some method for gaining wealth without killing monsters for treasure.

Make Politics the Adventure – This is should be self-evident if you’re running a campaign with political concerns front and center, but it bears repeating. The above suggestions will help bring the rules inline with the type of game you want to run, but rules alone do not make a campaign. Good planning and smart design do that.

Pathfinder has political power over 9,000!

In order to make sure that a political campaign is fun, develop a large cast of NPCs, both in the PC’s nation and in surrounding nations. Come up with intriguing plot lines that allow for a developing story, one which reacts and grows with the PCs decisions. What do your PCs do when people from a neighboring country flee into theirs and ask for asylum even as officials demand them back (possibly with threats if the PCs don’t comply)? How will they handle having several powerful noble families vying for political influence and clout, all of whom are strongly influential among the kingdom’s people? What happens when the head of a major church puts pressure on the PCs to declare their church the state religion and push other religions out?

And of course, as mentioned above, don’t be afraid to let things come to fisticuffs every so often. Even with alternate ways of leveling up – and even though smart players will have found ways to turn even the most martial classes towards non-martial developments (ideally through skill and feat selection, traits, spells learned/known, alternate class abilities, etc.) – it can be fun to change pace from time to time, just to keep things feeling fresh and exciting.

A Game of Thrones

A political Pathfinder game has a different focus than most Pathfinder games, simply because it’s not where the system is designed to go. But changing that around isn’t nearly as hard as most people think it is. Even without diving into the plethora of third-party sourcebooks out there for alternate materials, it’s simply a matter of changing the rewards and tweaking character builds; manage those, and you can quickly make Pathfinder into any kind of game you want.

And, as a final note, there are several third-party supplements that are perfect for this sort of thing. In particular, I recommend checking out Dynasties & Demagogues, and its sister supplement Crime and Punishment, for some great mechanics specific to political d20 games. Likewise, if you’re a fan of Kingmaker, check out the Book of the River Nations series of products from Jon Brazer Enterprises – Exploration and Kingdom Building, Mass Combat, and Feats, Spells and Secret Societies, all of which will soon be compiled and have new material added in the forthcoming Book of the River Nations: Complete – which reprint and add new material to the original Kingmaker rules from Paizo Publishing.

Until next time, dear readers, may you enjoy running a game for your political party of PCs!

The Antisocial Network

December 21, 2010

I’ve mentioned before that I’m currently GMing a Kingmaker game for my players. A while ago, one of my players (occupying the position of the kingdom’s Spymaster) indicated that he wanted to set up an intelligence network in their nascent kingdom; in his words “the CIA/FBI of the game world.”

It's just like this, but with a crossbow.

I’ve neglected that up until now, largely because all of the sourcebooks I’ve consulted on the issue weren’t very helpful with trying to build an organization from the top down. Almost all of them were concerned with joining a pre-existing group and working your way up the ranks. The few that weren’t were too tightly-focused (e.g. a thieves’ guild in a city) to be applied to an entire kingdom.

They say that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Hence, I’ve generated my own set of rules for setting up networks to gather intelligence both foreign and domestic.

Domestic Spying

A kingdom may come up with an intelligence-gathering service to keep tabs and monitor activities occurring within its borders. This organization has no power to police the citizenry or fight battles – the people who make up such an organization are ordinary citizens, working ordinary jobs, who’ve agreed to keep their eyes and ears open for relevant information and pass it on.

An Intelligence network is purchased per hex of farmland, or per city district within cities. Each such purchase increases the kingdom’s consumption by 1. Within this hex/district, the kingdom gains a number of loyal informants equal to the Spymaster’s Charisma modifier (minimum 1). Each informant has a total number of character levels equal to 1/3rd the Spymaster’s level, and uses the basic ability array for their attributes (13, 12, 11, 10, 9, and 8). The GM determines the specifics of the NPC’s statistics.

For example, a Spymaster that was a 7th-level rogue with a Charisma of 15 would have two informants in a city district. The GM determines that one is Borrus the Begger (N male human commoner 2/Str 10, Dex 12, Con 9, Int 11, Wis 13, Cha 8/Diplomacy +2, Perception +6, Stealth +3) and Irvus Stratheim, the third son of local noble Baron Stratheim (LN male human aristrocrat 2/Str 8, Dex 11, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 13/Bluff +6, Diplomacy +6, Knowledge (local) +5, Knowledge (nobility) +5, Linguistics +5, Sense Motive +4).

Informants always have a starting attitude of Friendly towards characters who occupy a leadership position within the kingdom. If a kingdom leader makes a Diplomacy check to gather information while in a district/hex with informants, the amount of time to needed to perform the check is halved. When using informants in this manner, they cannot aid another on the Diplomacy check (in a sense, they’re already providing aid by cutting down on the time necessary to make the check).

For example, the kingdom’s Warden has entered a city district to make a Diplomacy check to gather information about a recent crime spree in the area. Putting the word out to the local informants, his Diplomacy check takes 1d4 hours, rolling a 3. Since this is halved thanks to his informants, he gets the results of his Diplomacy check in an hour and a half.

Alternately, a kingdom leader may remotely make a Diplomacy check to gather information regarding a district/hex that has informants; that is, they may make such a check without actually being there. The character makes a Diplomacy check like normal, but the time to complete the check takes 1d4 hours +1 hour per district between the leader’s location in the same city and the district being checked, or +6 hours per hex between the leader and the hex being checked. A Diplomacy check made in this way cannot have any aid another actions used to improve it, and takes a -2 circumstance penalty due to having proxies investigate on the character’s behalf.

A Diplomacy check to gather information cannot be made remotely if the leader making the check is not currently within the kingdom.

For example, the kingdom’s General wants to make a Diplomacy check to gather information regarding an outlying farm in their kingdom (6 hexes away from her current location in the capital city) that was recently raided. However, she doesn’t want to travel all the way out to investigate personally. Luckily, that farmland hex has informants there. She makes a remote Diplomacy check, which takes 1d4+36 hours and suffers a -2 circumstance penalty.

Informants will also make skill checks and provide other services if requested by the kingdom’s leaders so long as doing so does not require them to spend money or enter combat (if the PCs supply the money, the character will perform the relevant service). They’ll always provide the “aid another” action for free (though they won’t enter combat to do so).

In order to found an intelligence network the kingdom must have the Spymaster position occupied. If the Spymaster position becomes vacant, for every month of vacancy another hex or city district’s worth of informants abandon this service, lowering the kingdom’s consumption by 1 but increasing Unrest by 1.

Bring new levels of subterfuge to your game!

Of course, this only applies to domestic intelligence-gathering. The above allows the PC leaders to keep their eyes and ears open for things going on inside their own kingdom. This covers internal intrigue…but what about external? The following rules deal with how to send spies into other kingdoms.

Foreign Spying

Spying on other nations is a delicate, and difficult, process. It requires skilled agents (whether foreign nationals who can be turned, or domestic agents sent abroad) who must be exceptionally well-compensated for their actions, as they face severe punishments if they’re discovered. Worse, a captured spy can be turned against their nation, providing disinformation or even casus belli – cause for war.

Having a spy in another nation increases a kingdom’s consumption by 4. A kingdom may have any number of spies in any number of nations, but each such spy increases a kingdom’s consumption by 4. A spy has a number of character levels equal to the 1/2 the Spymaster’s level, and uses the heroic ability array for their attributes (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8). The GM determines the specifics of the NPC’s statistics.

Whenever a spy performs espionage, the kingdom they’re spying on behalf of makes a Loyalty check against its Control DC. The GM should perform this check in secret rather than letting the players roll it. On a success, the clandestine activity is successfully performed without discovery, finding relevant information. For every 5 by which this check beats the Control DC, another piece of relevant information is found. If the check fails by less than 5, no relevant information is discovered, but the spy is not caught. On a failure of 5 or more – or on a natural 1 – the spy is caught. Whether they’re executed, used to send disinformation, or something else is up to the GM.

Spies tend to perform espionage of their own accord, sending information they think is relevant (e.g. at the GM’s discretion). However, a kingdom’s Spymaster can order a spy to look for specific information. This allows the Spymaster to direct the spy to seek out information on a single topic; what information they find is up to the GM (note that some information may not be discovered even on a successful check). Receiving information typically takes 1d4 weeks, but for distant countries may require up to 1d6 months. Only one such directive can be issued per spy per month.

Spies and Mass Combat: A spy may attempt to locate plans regarding an enemy army. Military plans are closely guarded, however, and the Loyalty check for this takes a -8 penalty. On a success, however, the spy is able to relay one piece of information about an enemy army, such as the tactic it will use in the next battle, one resource that it’s outfitted with, or a special ability that it has. For every 5 by which this check exceeds the Control DC, another piece of information is learned (e.g. one resource that the army has and what tactic it will use in the next battle, or the tactics that two armies controlled by that nation will use in their next battle, etc.). Because all spies understand the timeliness of military espionage, such information typically takes 1d6+1 days to arrive (though for distant kingdoms, this may be increased to 1d6+1 weeks).

Locating Spies: While most spies are caught in the act, a kingdom may deliberately set up counter-intelligence operations. Each such attempt costs 2 BP to undertake and increases Unrest by 2. Only one attempt may be made per month.

Counter-intelligence is made as a Stability check versus your kingdom’s Control DC. On a success, you locate a number of individuals who may or may not be spies equal to the amount by which your Stability check beat the Control DC +1 (on a natural 20, treat the check result as normal, or as if you got a score 20 above the Control DC, whichever is higher). On a failure, you do not locate any possible spies. This check may be made by the players.

The people caught as a result of this check are possible foreign agents. Whether or not they are actually spies must be determined individually, person by person (as a rule of thumb for the GM, there’s usually one actual spy for every five people rounded up in this manner). This can be role-played, or handled as opposed skill checks, with the players making Sense Motive checks against an NPC’s Bluff (for spies) or Diplomacy (for innocents) checks. Presume that NPCs have skill bonuses of +10 (for low-level character; e.g. 1-5), +15 (for mid-level characters; e.g. 6-12) or +20 (for high-level characters; e.g. 13+).

Spies can only be commissioned, directed, or searched for if the kingdom has a Spymaster. If the Spymaster position becomes vacant, the kingdom loses 1 foreign spy per month (this happens concurrently with losing domestic informants) lowering the kingdom’s consumption by 4 but increasing Unrest by 2.

"New rules are all well and good, but where's the cone of silence wondrous item?"

So, what do you think? Do these add a new level of intrigue and international drama to your Kingmaker game? Or are they clunky and impractical in what they bring to the table? I’m going to playtest these with my group soon enough, but if you’re putting these rules to use also, please let me know! Until next time, put your best cloak and dagger forward!

Hail to the king, baby.

April 24, 2010

Yesterday, I received my copy of Pathfinder #32: Rivers Run Red, the second part of the new Kingmaker Adventure Path. Unlike previous Adventure Paths, this one is much more open-ended, in terms of allowing the PCs to explore various locations – and meet various combat encounters – in almost any order, and largely determine the pace of the adventures themselves.

This issue is significant, however, in that it has the rules for building, sustaining, and expanding a kingdom. About a dozen pages long, the rules are very intuitive, measuring a kingdom’s stability, loyalty, and economy over time, while also keeping track of unrest. PCs (or NPCs) can occupy one of eleven various official roles (from ruler to general to royal assassin, and others), which have effects on the four aforementioned scores (Stability, Loyalty, Economy, and Unrest).

But that’s not all. Various activities can be undertaken, but most cost Build Points (the abstraction of your kingdom’s wealth). So by spending BPs, you can make various edicts (promoting your rule, throwing festivals, or raising/lowering taxes) and engage in new acts of expansion and/or construction. Hence, you can build a new library in your city, and it will raise your kingdom’s Economy and Loyalty by +1, but it will cost you 6 BP to construct.

Of course, none of this happens in a vacuum. Every month the ruler must make various checks to determine the state of the kingdom, pay the Consumption Cost (where a certain amount of BPs must be paid as the simple monthly cost of keeping your kingdom up and running), and check for unexpected events happening, among other things. So yeah, these rules do a pretty good job of letting you run your own kingdom in the Pathfinder RPG.

Recently, though, I came across something rather amusing. On a thread on the Paizo messageboards, one person noticed that among the various official roles, the “ruler” one allowed for up to two characters to occupy it at the same time, e.g. a king and queen ruling together. This is different from all the other roles, which can only be held by a single person at a time.

What was so amusing though was that this poster joked about the nation’s ruler having a harem instead of a co-ruler. This generated some gentle ribbing from the other posters, and even from Paizo’s own James Jacobs himself, but of course there wasn’t any sort of rules-based answer. That’s not the sort of thing that the mechanics for running a kingdom – which necessarily includes some level of abstraction – are designed to deal with.

I got a good laugh from the idea of having rules for a harem among the kingdom-building mechanics, though, and so just for fun I thought I’d make some up. So here they are, the rules for making your kingdom include a royal harem:

Harem: A harem is a collection of individuals dedicated to serving the realm’s ruler in a personal capacity, usually as confidants, entertainers, and concubines. Establishing a harem is a type of promotion edict. It does not grant a Stability bonus; instead, having a harem grants the ruler a +1 circumstance bonus to his Charisma score when adding his Charisma bonus to the nation’s statistics (see the ruler entry under Leadership Roles). Establishing a harem increases a kingdom’s Consumption by 2 BP.

A ruler may increase the size of his harem. This edict may be made multiple times, and the Charisma bonus and the Consumption costs stack. If a realm has two rulers, only one gains this Charisma bonus, though the second ruler may start a separate harem to gain a bonus for themselves.

Sexy, ain’t it?

The above rules serve as an adequate representation of the costs and benefits of having a harem. Namely, that it’s an extravagance that has little practical value to the kingdom as a whole. After all, paying for a lavish lifestyle for several people who don’t do anything but be available when the ruler wants to be entertained can be quite expensive, but doesn’t really do much for the nation, besides serving to make the ruler seem more virile.

I’ve deliberately ignored the specifics regarding how many individuals are in the harem, what their levels are, etc. Those details are simply too minute to make a difference in the kingdom rules Paizo has written. For those who want such particulars however, I recommend the following: a harem has 1d4+2 individuals (each of whom has a Charisma score of 12+1d6), with 1d3 NPC levels each (usually expert, but if you have it I recommend using 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming’s courtesan NPC class, from Paths of Power). This increases by another 1d4+2 individuals each time the harem edict is used.

And there you have it – rules for one of the perks that comes with wearing the crown. Is it expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? Well, that’s up to you to decide, because making the big decisions is what you do now: you’re the king.