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Advanced Topics

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 228
Chapter 8

Customizing Your Game

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 230
Roleplaying games are, at their cores, simulations, with most rules focusing on how to perform epic feats and participate in the fantastic adventures of legendary heroes. Thus, games like the Pathfinder RPG highlight the most common elements of fantasy stories: battle, magic, monsters, and the like, detailing facets of the simulation that benefit from or require more detail than a GM might comfortably arbitrate on his own. The Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook gives GMs the tools they need to run countless adventures, and serves as a toolbox to help you create nearly any fantasy situation imaginable. Yet no rules set can anticipate every specific situation. Rather than just glossing over situations not discussed in the rules, in many cases, GMs employ specialized subsystems to add new layers of excitement and precision to their adventures. Thus, adjudicating a pursuit through a crowded city might become an exhilarating new game within the game while a fortune-telling session takes on new realism by drawing upon well-known tricks of the trade.

In an attempt to better equip GMs with more exciting options for their campaigns, this chapter presents a variety of new subsystems, as well as advice to make running common fantasy encounters easier. While some sections offer more detailed explanations and uses of existing rules, others present altogether new rules, while still others explain the methods behind creating common story elements. In any case, this chapter strives to aid GMs seeking to craft more exciting and evocative games, but does not claim to be inclusive of all the situations that might arise in an adventure. Rather, GMs should utilize these new rules and details in the same way they might use those in the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook, employing them as written when possible or altering them to serve as departure points customized to specific stories, or as the basis for wholly unique subsystems.


Source GameMastery Guide pg. 232
While chases are a signature action scene in countless stories, they present a singular challenge in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, thanks to static movement rates. Since every creature in the game has a set movement rate, it might seem like you’d either automatically (or never) catch up to a fleeing foe! Obviously, this isn’t the case, because there’s more to catching a foe or avoiding being caught than simple speed.


Source GameMastery Guide pg. 234
Natural disasters go far beyond any mere environmental hazard, leaving death and devastation in their wake. Supernatural disasters can be even more disruptive, with the potential to forever scar a world. A disaster is much more like an adventure than an encounter, and does not have a specific Challenge Rating. Rather, each portion of the disaster should be treated as a separate encounter designed with a CR appropriate to the PCs.

Presented below are rules for handling the effects of three different types of disasters, both natural and supernatural. Some disasters happen quickly, like earthquakes and tsunamis, while others progress through several stages, like forest fires, volcanoes, and undead uprisings. Adjust the pacing of the adventure to fit the disaster, allowing the events to unfold over mere minutes or over several days as your needs require.

Drugs and Addiction

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 236
Hard-drinking heroes, deities of wine and celebration, and the hazy halls of oracles and wise men stand alongside the most memorable tropes of myth and classic fantasy literature. Thus it’s no surprise that the adventures of fantasy roleplaying games are filled with similar characters and locales. After all, countless campaigns have been launched around a tavern table and all adventurers know the infamous potency of stout dwarven ale.

For better or worse, all things that one might find in the real world multiply and take on wondrous and lethal qualities in fantasy settings, and the vices of alcohol and chemical abuse are no different. While many games have no place for realistic bouts of drunkenness or the soul-scouring depths of addiction, such elements hold great potential for adventure. Whether one seeks to reenact a feat of fortitude like the drinking contest between Hercules and Dionysus, have an encounter with lotus-eater-like decadents, or recreate the entheogens of religious mysteries, these rules cover the highs and lows.


Source GameMastery Guide pg. 238
Fortune-telling conjures images of hazy tents, mysterious women shrouded in shawls, and portents wafting through the air like incense.

So how do you, in your modern game room that is probably noticeably lacking in crystal balls and mysterious tents, use the illusion of fortune-telling to give your players the same excited trepidation, as well as both hope and fear for their characters’ destinies?

No matter how the fortune-telling enters your campaign, you as the Game Master have options. You can choose to roll some dice behind a screen and simply tell your players the result—or you can choose to use the moment to create dramatic tension and the feeling that the players’ characters are integral to the fortune-telling. While the second option is likely a lot more fun for all involved, it does require some work on your part.

Gambling and Games of Chance

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 240
Gambling is a staple of fantasy roleplaying, from elaborate games of chance in a glittering high-end casino in the wealthy part of the city to a dangerous high-stakes card game in a tavern’s back room. RPG rules aside, the players and the Game Master can play a gambling game between themselves, without the interference of wildly disparate levels and skill modifiers—just get some dice or cards, and play.

However, no one coming to your house for an RPG session is going to be satisfied if you just play croupier all night long. You need to make your players’ trip to the Gold Goblin Gaming House rich in fantasy if you’re going to have a successful gaming experience, in both senses of the word “gaming.”


Source GameMastery Guide pg. 242
The distinction between a trap and an undead creature blurs when you introduce a haunt—a hazardous region created by unquiet spirits that react violently to the presence of the living. The exact conditions that cause a haunt to manifest vary from case to case—but haunts always arise from a source of terrific mental or physical anguish endured by living, tormented creatures. A single, source of suffering can create multiple haunts, or multiple sources could consolidate into a single haunt. The relative power of the source has little bearing on the strength of the resulting haunt—it’s the magnitude of the suffering or despair that created the haunt that decides its power. Often, undead inhabit regions infested with haunts—it’s even possible for a person who dies to rise as a ghost (or other undead) and trigger the creation of numerous haunts. A haunt infuses a specific area, and often multiple haunted areas exist within a single structure. The classic haunted house isn’t a single haunt, but usually a dozen or more haunted areas spread throughout the structure.


Source GameMastery Guide pg. 244
The adventuring world is filled with dangers beyond dragons and ravening fiends. Hazards are location-based threats that have much in common with traps, but are usually intrinsic to their area rather than constructed.

Hazards fall into three main categories: environmental, living, and magical. Environmental hazards include subterranean threats like cave-ins and wilderness dangers like forest fires. Living hazards are creatures that are generally too passive to be considered monsters, but are still a threat to unwary adventurers, such as dangerous molds, slimes, and fungi. Magical hazards are the most unpredictable, and can be the legacy of arcane experimentation, strange underground radiations, or ancient enchantments gone awry.

Hazards have challenge ratings like traps or monsters. A typical hazard triggers if a creature ventures near or into it, causing hit point damage, ability damage or drain, or some other harmful effect. Most can be detected by wary and knowledgeable PCs. Every hazard should have a means of escape or a way to eliminate the hazard, if not both.

Mysteries and Investigations

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 246
A favorite weapon inexplicably stained in blood, a treasure purloined despite the best defenses, a locked room with a mangled corpse within—such elements might seem more at home in tales of crime and suspense than in the sword-swinging quests of most roleplaying games, but just as the literary genres of fantasy and mystery have a long and overlapping tradition, so too do aspects of crime and detective work hold the potential for memorable adventures. In fantasy, mysteries often take on puzzling new angles, as magic, the abilities of monsters, and other wondrous elements vastly enlarge the spectrum of possibilities. Yet fantasy opens up not just new avenues of crime, but also those of detection, and many classic capers might be solved in an instant merely by speaking a simple spell. Thus, the arena of crime, mystery, and investigation changes completely with the introduction of magic, forcing GMs interested in creating enigmatic adventures to think beyond the tropes of classic detective stories and consider the logic of impossible realms in their schemes.

When planning an adventure based around a mystery, a GM needs to consider the plot from two angles, conceiving both the mystery’s elements and the investigative techniques of the detectives (typically the PCs).

Puzzles and Riddles

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 248
While ancient ciphers and cunning sphinxes fill the pages of great fantasy tales, crafting a workable and believable puzzle that adds an air of mystery can be a challenge. What makes a great puzzle in a newspaper is rarely right for a puzzle in a dungeon. Puzzles in such publications are usually solved by one person, with no time limit, and modern-day knowledge. None of those things are true in most Pathfinder adventures. In such roleplaying situations you have a team of solvers, often pressed for time, and with only their characters’ knowledge. Just as you customize encounters to your PCs’ skills, you should customize a puzzle to both your players’ skills and their PCs’ characteristics. When putting together a puzzle, riddle, or similar knowledge-based challenge for your campaign, consider the four parts of a well-orchestrated puzzle: the setup, the mechanism, the clues, and the answer.

Sanity and Madness

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 250
Insanity is an affliction inflicted upon those who suffer from extraordinary physical, mental, or spiritual anguishes and trials. Insanity can also be caused by exposure to particularly potent sources of unhinging horror, madness, or alien natures, such that the mind simply cannot withstand them. Insanity is a mind-affecting effect.