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Emily Thompson

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So, I Removed Death from Pathfinder...

I am still getting some weird reactions when I tell people that the PCs in my current Pathfinder campaign can't die. I get it. I had a skeptic at my own table who I had to convince that it was okay.

Here is the story. The campaign began with each of the PCs being murdered. And then they woke up, naked, screaming, and fine (after some strange "dreams") next to a magical artifact along with a few other preserved corpses (including some extra copies of them). Figure that out.

And that's the point. Well, one of the points. The magical rebirth thing is part of the campaign. It is actually one of the central mysteries. "How and why is it happening?" It is a mystery they won't be able to solve for a long time. And some of them are afraid of the answer. Sometimes, they come back as different people, with scrambled memories (in case someone wants to change characters) of lives that didn't happen. What is that about, right?

But you might be wondering - how can you have a game like this without any risk. And to that I say: if death is the only risk you can come up with, you're not creative enough to sit at my table. There are all sorts of dangers. First and foremost is that the campaign takes place in this highly magical city state that seems to be politically and socially on the verge of collapse. Which is a problem because someone needs to fix the magical protections that are preventing a series of natural disasters from wiping it out and the few people who might be able to figure out how are all locked in this growing political cold war. And the PCs are kind of stuck there because they can't move their "spawn point."

But that is big picture stuff. That is the second big part of the campaign: you're trapped in this magical collapsing utopia that is about to blow up or descend into anarchy or something. Better get right on that.

The smaller picture stuff is that death is still tremendously inconvient and kind of scary. There seem to be rules in place that will help them figure out the nature of their condition, but they don't know that this will keep working forever. Or what the limitations are. They are worried about the extra corpses of themselves that never age or rot because they don't know what they mean, but they are pretty sure they mean something bad. Everytime they die, they have to abandon what they are doing, stay dead for three days, work through the temporary penalty for rebirth, recover any valuable equipment they want from wherever they died (if possible) and find out what happened in the three days they were out of the world. If they were in the middle of something big, important, and time-sensitive, it failed.

And because the campaign remains localized to one very large city (and the massive catacombs beneath it), the players are already getting attached to the setting and the people in it. Like superheroes, they have to worry what their enemies might do to the people they care about. To the places they rely on.

And then there is the issue that this is a magical city state and everyone is convinced the archmage that once ruled the city hid a powerful magical artifact down in the underground. So they all want it. So, now, imagine what happens if someone finds out the PCs keep popping out of a strange magical thingy in the underground. The PCs are desperately guarding that secret for fear of what will happen when someone finds the thing. There are a lot of ways that can go badly for them.  

Which means, if they die and then reappear three days later, they have some explaining to do. Eventually, someone might tumble on to the idea that they can't die. And might strive to capture and interrogate, rather than kill them, and see what can be learned. That would be bad.

At the same time, knowing they don't stay dead gives them an interesting tool. Trapped or imprisoned? Off yourselves to reappear elsewhere. Need information about an enemy, get into a fight with them, die, and come back. Now you have intelligence information. Trapped at the top of a tower and the wizard is coming back? Fling yourself out the window. Of course, be careful who finds out you died. Maybe come back as someone else.

So, am I worried about the game becoming boring? No. Have I gone soft? Hardly. Am I worried I have removed all the risk from my game or made my challenges trivial? Not at all. I did it right. I removed death, but not risk. And the act of coming back to life carries some temporary setbacks, but nothing permanent EXCEPT the consequences of what the PCs were doing. It creates hard choices and tough situations.

For example, the PCs just died. A former spy for a group of wizards knows that they died and his underground lair is very close to their artifact. He isn't a particularly nice guy, but he was allied with the party until they had a small falling out. All of that means...

Well, they are going to come back to life. And the spy is going to know they somehow came back to life. And he is well-informed and has former connections to potential enemies of the PCs. What are they going to do now? Just let that knowledge float around out there? Hunt down the spy and murder him in cold blood?

And then there is the voice. Something has been telepathically communicating with one member of the party, offering advice and guidance, but staying carefully guarded. What is that voice? Does it know who they are? What they can do? Can they do anything about it?

They now have two information leaks and they are going to want to plug those leaks. Everything they were doing needs to be put on hold so they can deal with those problems. And those problems have ugly, UGLY answers.

You know what? If I were a player, at this point, I'd probably just wish I could end it all and roll up a new character.
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Your Fate game has a Great skill cap. Anyone can also have a Superb skill -- only one per player -- and that costs nothing (i.e., you buy a Great skill, only you make it Superb).

Here's the thing.

Nobody else in the setting gets to have a Superb in that skill. It's yours. It also means there's a target painted on you -- any competitively-minded gal or guy with a Great in that skill is gonna come gunning for you. (As such, you kinda have to have an aspect that ties to your Superb skill, because possessing it means you'll face some compellage.)

When you're in competition with a contender over that skill, you're both considered to be on an even footing (Great-point-five, so to speak) -- mechanically, it means that a contender in direct competition with you using that skill gets a +1. You're on an even footing (modulo aspects)...

... until the competition -- however it's defined -- reaches its conclusion, with a clear winner. The duel is over and someone's a winner. The race to solve the mystery has concluded, and someone figured it out first. That sort of thing.

At that point, the winner gets upgraded to a Superb if they weren't there already. The loser gets downgraded to a Great if they were previously Superb. The loser may no longer attempt to claim the Superb for that skill unless something else occurs in the sequence of events that takes the Superb winner off the field for good. (Retirement. Death. Severe injury. Sudden and long term disappearance.)
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Because Julie D'aubigbny always gets a reshare.  Let me just pull out that first paragraph:

Julie D’Aubigny was a 17th-century bisexual French opera singer and fencing master who killed or wounded at least ten men in life-or-death duels, performed nightly shows on the biggest and most highly-respected opera stage in the world, and once took the Holy Orders just so that she could sneak into a convent and bang a nun. If nothing in that sentence at least marginally interests you, I have no idea why you’re visiting this website.

So there's that/
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I remember now why I don't actually use Google Reader. It feels out of date and awkward. I'll have to stick to visiting blogs via bookmark instead.
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So far, looks like I'm keeping the Facebook and the Twitter until more of my friends and people I follow convert. Hoping to really see the differences between these sites as I work with this...
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