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Harrow: Past, Present, and Future

Tuesday, May 27


Illustration by Cristian Chihaia

For years the Harrow has been the domain of home games, literature, and lore, but due to a combination of the soft time limits inherent in organized play, the range of ways in which someone might cheat with a deck-based mechanic, and a wealth of other considerations that predate my work at Paizo, most Harrow-based options were never allowed. When Mike and I heard that Pathfinder Player Companion: The Harrow Handbook was on the product schedule, we started pondering how we might share as much of this book as possible with the campaign. We bounced ideas off a lot of folks, and in the end we decided to make legal nearly everything in the book as well as several previously banned Harrow character options such as the harrower prestige class from Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Inner Sea World Guide and the oft-requested Deadly Dealer feat from Pathfinder Player Companion: Varisia, Birthplace of Legends. Expect an update to the Additional Resources page that includes these additions.

Excited? Me too!

Let's discuss some ground rules for Harrow use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. These are intended to keep Harrow use from bogging down gameplay while also providing GMs some assurance that everyone's playing fair and showing off the beautiful new version of the Deluxe Harrow Deck.

  1. Using a Harrow-based character option that involves drawing one or more cards at random requires a physical Harrow deck. Substituting another deck of cards or using the dice-rolling option (such as the one presented in the harrower prestige class) is not an option. If you aren't using a character option that does not change based on which card you draw (such as just throwing cards with the Deadly Dealer feat), you do not need to have a physical copy of the Harrow deck.
  2. When you are using a class ability that involves drawing one or more cards at random, the GM always has the option to cut the deck before you draw from the top. This is just a quick consideration to minimize cheating. The GM can also examine your deck at any time, particularly if she believes there's anything wrong with your deck.
  3. Be considerate when performing a Harrowing. Many Pathfinder Society games are run in 4—5 hour time slots, so taking 10 minutes to perform an in-character harrowing might not be an option. Be prepared to flip cards, record results, and move on if the group is operating on a time limit. So long as you're exercising common sense and courtesy, there shouldn't be anything more to discuss here.

Lots of great options are about to be available. Go make something fun!

Happy gaming,

John Compton
Developer

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Cristian Chihaia Harrow Pathfinder Cards Pathfinder Player Companion Pathfinder Society
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Lantern Lodge *****

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Gambit-style Warpriest, here I come!


Actually excited about this change!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Why is Rasputin using the harrow cards to defeat goblins?

Shadow Lodge *

Super excited, I can't wait to play the new Witch Archetype.

*** RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

3 people marked this as a favorite.

So now I'll get to hear people at GenCon PFS tables shouting "You've just activated my trap card!" Oh boy...

Shadow Lodge *

Interesting note, because of the points in the blog it would not be legal to use a Harrow-based character option that involves random cards online, as you cannot allow your GM to cut the deck if the game is not face to face.

Liberty's Edge *** Venture-Captain, Indiana—Indianapolis

Can we use the Harrow deck that came out a few years ago, or do we need to use the new deck that's coming out?

Shadow Lodge *

Mark Stratton wrote:
Can we use the Harrow deck that came out a few years ago, or do we need to use the new deck that's coming out?

What about a Custom Harrow deck, as long as all of the cards are present, and the quality is comparable so that cards are not marked. Such as if I had someone illustrate a deck of harrow cards and order it through this

Paizo Employee ***** Developer

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Dylos wrote:
Interesting note, because of the points in the blog it would not be legal to use a Harrow-based character option that involves random cards online, as you cannot allow your GM to cut the deck if the game is not face to face.

That's an interesting point. It may be worth maintaining the die-rolling option for online games, or perhaps there's another option that the online PFS community can brainstorm.

Dylos wrote:
Mark Stratton wrote:
Can we use the Harrow deck that came out a few years ago, or do we need to use the new deck that's coming out?
What about a Custom Harrow deck, as long as all of the cards are present, and the quality is comparable so that cards are not marked. Such as if I had someone illustrate a deck of harrow cards and order it through this

The first version of the Harrow deck is entirely reasonable.

I'm not so open to the custom Harrow deck, neat as it would be to see what creative folks might create using such a card-printing service.

Shadow Lodge *

John Compton wrote:
Dylos wrote:
Interesting note, because of the points in the blog it would not be legal to use a Harrow-based character option that involves random cards online, as you cannot allow your GM to cut the deck if the game is not face to face.
That's an interesting point. It may be worth maintaining the die-rolling option for online games, or perhaps there's another option that the online PFS community can brainstorm.

I know that Roll20 does allow for decks to be created, so a GM could construct the harrow deck in Roll20, but that would mean that it would take longer for the GM to prep.

Shadow Lodge ****

By gumbo!

Liberty's Edge *** Venture-Captain, Indiana—Indianapolis

I happen to have the older Harrow deck, but it's been unused. I'll probably pick up the new one, but the fact that I can use the older one is quite awesome - thanks, John!

Silver Crusade ****

Hmm... A Harrower/Cleric of Cayden Cailean sounds rather doable..

Shadow Lodge *

John Compton wrote:
Dylos wrote:
Mark Stratton wrote:
Can we use the Harrow deck that came out a few years ago, or do we need to use the new deck that's coming out?
What about a Custom Harrow deck, as long as all of the cards are present, and the quality is comparable so that cards are not marked. Such as if I had someone illustrate a deck of harrow cards and order it through this

The first version of the Harrow deck is entirely reasonable.

I'm not so open to the custom Harrow deck, neat as it would be to see what creative folks might create using such a card-printing service.

Completely reasonable, I have the deluxe harrow deck, so if I do ever get around to making or getting someone to help me make images for a custom harrow deck I will make sure that I have the official Paizo deck with me.

Scarab Sages ***

Thanks John! Great news! I have a Kapenia Dancer Magus I was originally wanting to take into Harrower, until I realized it wasn't legal. Now it is. Even bought the Harrow Deck the first time around. For various reasons, I haven't played that character much, so she's still only 2nd level with plenty of time to plan for the prestige class.

Sczarni ** RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16

This is exciting! I built a Harrower for a one shot a few years ago, and I'm very excited to hear that this new material is available as a PFS option! I've loved cards in RPGs ever since Deadlands. Thanks!

*****

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Woot! I can finally use my Harrow Deck that Chris Mortika gave me back at Nuke Con in like 1482

**

Sorry to spoil the party, but from a GM point of view I hate that decision. It's already hard enough to have an overview of all the archetypes etc., but basically allowing a new mechanic is just too much for me personally.
Because I can either believe whatever a player using this is saying as trying to understand the rules will not work with the limited time or have to read up on how to play yu-gi-oh in pathfinder beforehand. Neither of which sounds like a great option and both seem to increase stress and preparation time while most likely bogging the game down...
But from the comments I gather I am rather alone with that point of view...

Silver Crusade *****

Dave_Vader wrote:

Sorry to spoil the party, but from a GM point of view I hate that decision. It's already hard enough to have an overview of all the archetypes etc., but basically allowing a new mechanic is just too much for me personally.

Because I can either believe whatever a player using this is saying as trying to understand the rules will not work with the limited time or have to read up on how to play yu-gi-oh in pathfinder beforehand. Neither of which sounds like a great option and both seem to increase stress and preparation time while most likely bogging the game down...
But from the comments I gather I am rather alone with that point of view...

As a player, I'm excited to see new options and more fleshing out of Golarion as a whole, and as a PFS member, I'm excited to see more things for players to use to make their characters stand out and be fun to play.

As a GM, I won't use the word "hate", but my first thought was "oy vey, more rules I need to learn."

Then I paused for a second, and remembered that the burden is on the players to provide the additional resource and to be able to explain how their powers work to the GM if the GM either doesn't know it or doesn't feel he/she understands it enough to just "run with it".

My advice, Dave, is patience - the first time you have a Harrowing player/character (subtle pun intended) at your table, let them know in advance that you don't know the Harrow rules and so they should be prepared to give explanations in a timely fashion when they intend to use their powers. If they can't, well, the Guide covers that, methinks.

Shadow Lodge *

Just about any mechanical benefits that come into play from the harrow deck can be easily understood. A harrowing itself can be a bit harrowing, but it does not provide benefits unless one uses a spell or effect that says it has benefits and in such a case those benefits are easily explained.


I am so excited!!!! Thanks! I'm finally gonna be able to play my Harrower with my new Harrowdeck. :)

Lantern Lodge **

Yes Yes Yes... I can't wait to make use of my harrow decks.

Silver Crusade ***

I really enjoy the Harrow Handbook- I think this is great news!

I don't think most of the mechanics are going to be too much of an issue- most of them don't actual require a full Harrow reading. I am just a tiny bit concerned about the Harrowing/Greater Harrowing and similar powers- I'll see if I can figure out some way to speed that up.

Shadow Lodge *

Dave_Vader wrote:

Sorry to spoil the party, but from a GM point of view I hate that decision. It's already hard enough to have an overview of all the archetypes etc., but basically allowing a new mechanic is just too much for me personally.

Because I can either believe whatever a player using this is saying as trying to understand the rules will not work with the limited time or have to read up on how to play yu-gi-oh in pathfinder beforehand. Neither of which sounds like a great option and both seem to increase stress and preparation time while most likely bogging the game down...
But from the comments I gather I am rather alone with that point of view...

Let's take a look at one of the more complicated harrow based effects in the game, the Harrowing Spell.

Harrowing Spell analysis:
So when you cast this spell, you preform a standard harrowing with nine cards and note the cards, their position does not matter, nor does any interpretation that might be offered for the fortune telling aspect of the harrowing, what matters are the alignment and suit for each card. The cards are compared to the target's alignment, matches and opposites are noted, but only opposites matter right away. For each opposite match, you take a penalty to the associated rolls, for example, if I draw a card of the suit of crowns that is the opposite alignment from my character, I take a -1 on all d20 rolls for as long as the spell lasts. For each card that is not an opposite match, I have the ability to grant myself a luck bonus to a certain type of roll once per card, and once all the bonuses are used, the penalties disappear. All of the note keeping is the players responsibility.

Most harrow based abilities are not this complicated, in fact most of them consist of "Draw a card, if the card is X suit, do Y" that's it.

Carlos Ovalle wrote:

I really enjoy the Harrow Handbook- I think this is great news!

I don't think most of the mechanics are going to be too much of an issue- most of them don't actual require a full Harrow reading. I am just a tiny bit concerned about the Harrowing/Greater Harrowing and similar powers- I'll see if I can figure out some way to speed that up.

To speed up these spells, drop the fortune telling aspect of them, simply note the cards and move on, if the player wants to take the time to do the fortune telling aspect of the cards, they may do so while the rest of the group is moving along, as the fortune telling does not affect bonuses or penalties.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

Horray! It's just a shame we can't Deadly Dealer until 5th level.

Shadow Lodge *

Cyrad wrote:
Horray! It's just a shame we can't Deadly Dealer until 5th level.

Not true, some Archetypes get it much earlier.

Cartomancer (Witch) gets it at level 2.
Card Caster (Magus) gets it at level 1.
And there's Rogue Talent that gives it even if you don't meet the requirements.

Scarab Sages ***

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Dave_Vader wrote:

Sorry to spoil the party, but from a GM point of view I hate that decision. It's already hard enough to have an overview of all the archetypes etc., but basically allowing a new mechanic is just too much for me personally.

Because I can either believe whatever a player using this is saying as trying to understand the rules will not work with the limited time or have to read up on how to play yu-gi-oh in pathfinder beforehand. Neither of which sounds like a great option and both seem to increase stress and preparation time while most likely bogging the game down...
But from the comments I gather I am rather alone with that point of view...

I understand the reluctance to have to learn a new mechanic, and I believe that was a lot of the original justification for Harrow Deck related items being banned. But, as Mike B. pointed out, the onus is really on the players, like it is with any archetype or prestige class or really any obscure rule that they are using. I have no idea what abilities a Bloatmage has, but the player running the Bloatmage should. If something doesn't sound right, I'll ask them to explain it.

Also, in terms of having new class mechanics to learn about, there's a whole book of them coming out in August, so Harrowing or no Harrowing, there's going to be something new to read up on.


4 people marked this as a favorite.
John Compton wrote:
Dylos wrote:
Interesting note, because of the points in the blog it would not be legal to use a Harrow-based character option that involves random cards online, as you cannot allow your GM to cut the deck if the game is not face to face.
That's an interesting point. It may be worth maintaining the die-rolling option for online games, or perhaps there's another option that the online PFS community can brainstorm.

Couldn't you beg/plead Gary and the tech folks at Paizo to add some custom BBCode on the site which would draw a random card from the deck? Or even ask it for X random cards from the deck?

[deck=harrow]3[/deck] Three cards are pulled from the Harrow Deck: The Mountain Man (CN Shield), The Wanderer (NG Book), The Peacock (N Key).

or

[deck]3[/deck] Three cards are pulled from the deck: Ace of Clubs, Three of Diamonds, and Ten of Hearts.
[

The Exchange *****

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thank you, John.

Dark Archive ****

I'd rather this doesn't come into PFS. All this does is continue to allow power creep, and rules lawyering. LFR did this and it was a pain in the ass as a judge.
I'd say no, but whatever. It's product and it will sell so you guys should make as much money as possible.
Now give out a DM deck... /evil

Shadow Lodge **

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

Way cool. I got the Harrow Deck for the flavor and because I play so many Varisians, but I'm excited to get the chance to use it in game.

Shadow Lodge *

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Sin of Asmodeus wrote:

I'd rather this doesn't come into PFS. All this does is continue to allow power creep, and rules lawyering. LFR did this and it was a pain in the ass as a judge.

I'd say no, but whatever. It's product and it will sell so you guys should make as much money as possible.
Now give out a DM deck... /evil

I fail to see how harrowing results in more power creep especially compared to say The Advanced Class Guide that is coming in August.

I do foresee the possibility of Rules Lawyering however, as some of the harrow related class abilities that rely on random cards do not state that they require a full deck, while others do. For example, the Card Caster Magus does not require a full deck for his ability that increases the critical profile of thrown cards, they could therefore conserve the cards that match their alignment, and save those cards for when they need a 19-20/x3 dart.

Sovereign Court *****

HOOOOOOORAY!

This is super exciting. I now am going to make plans to actually PLAY some. Can't wait to Harrow, can't wait to Harrow.

Squeeee!

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Virginia—Richmond East

John Compton wrote:
Dylos wrote:
Interesting note, because of the points in the blog it would not be legal to use a Harrow-based character option that involves random cards online, as you cannot allow your GM to cut the deck if the game is not face to face.

That's an interesting point. It may be worth maintaining the die-rolling option for online games, or perhaps there's another option that the online PFS community can brainstorm.

Roll20 does support card decks. I'm sure one of our more apt folks can come up with a way to work the Harrow Deck into it. By default it has a standard deck in it.

Shadow Lodge *

Michael Meunier wrote:
John Compton wrote:
Dylos wrote:
Interesting note, because of the points in the blog it would not be legal to use a Harrow-based character option that involves random cards online, as you cannot allow your GM to cut the deck if the game is not face to face.

That's an interesting point. It may be worth maintaining the die-rolling option for online games, or perhaps there's another option that the online PFS community can brainstorm.

Roll20 does support card decks. I'm sure one of our more apt folks can come up with a way to work the Harrow Deck into it. By default it has a standard deck in it.

I actually already have a harrow deck on roll20, however you must add each card one at a time, and there does not appear to be any way to copy one deck from one campaign to another.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Modules Subscriber

Will this include Harrowed Summoning?

Shadow Lodge *

GeraintElberion wrote:
Will this include Harrowed Summoning?

Hopefully the additional resources will be updated shortly and we will find out.

Sovereign Court *****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber
Sin of Asmodeus wrote:

I'd rather this doesn't come into PFS. All this does is continue to allow power creep, and rules lawyering. LFR did this and it was a pain in the ass as a judge.

I'd say no, but whatever. It's product and it will sell so you guys should make as much money as possible.
Now give out a DM deck... /evil

Harrow Deck != Fortune Cards. Fortune cards were extra benefits for no character cost. Harrow deck is another method of randomization, like a die roll.

****

I am pleased. Very pleased. Now I need to get me a Harrow Deck.

Shadow Lodge **

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

WOOO MY GF'S HARROWER IDEA IS FINALLY LEGAL!

Also I can rock a Cartomancer witch

Shadow Lodge *

doc the grey wrote:

WOOO MY GF'S HARROWER IDEA IS FINALLY LEGAL!

Also I can rock a Cartomancer witch

Glad I'm not the only one looking forward to playing a cartomancer witch. It's going to be fun to throw cards at people to heal them with, as I'm thinking a Hedge Cartomancer Witch.

The Exchange ****

doc the grey wrote:

WOOO MY GF'S HARROWER IDEA IS FINALLY LEGAL!

Also I can rock a Cartomancer witch

and my wife's Harrower too!

Grand Lodge *****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Class Deck, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

I don't quite know what I will do yet, but I've been itching to do something with Harrow for a long time now... this will be so much FUN!

*****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber Subscriber

Sounds great looking forward to this thanks John

Liberty's Edge ***** Venture-Agent, United Kingdom—England—Chester aka Paz

John Compton wrote:
Mark Stratton wrote:
Can we use the Harrow deck that came out a few years ago, or do we need to use the new deck that's coming out?
The first version of the Harrow deck is entirely reasonable.

That's great to know. I'm sad to say that my cards have been gathering dust since I finished running CotCT, and it'll be good to have a reason to bring them to the table again.

* Venture-Agent, France—Paris aka 勝20100

It’s great to see more option available for characters in PFS.

Dylos wrote:
Interesting note, because of the points in the blog it would not be legal to use a Harrow-based character option that involves random cards online, as you cannot allow your GM to cut the deck if the game is not face to face.

While the GM cannot physically cut the deck, he can always ask you how many cards he wants to cut for.

At the same time, without a webcam, verifying the result of a card draw is not possible.

In maptools, adding a new deck of cards should be easy and reusable. At the same time, I would miss not manipulating a deck of card when playing.

Silver Crusade **

Awesome thanks!!

*Anxiously awaiting on Additional Resources Update*

Shadow Lodge ***** Venture-Lieutenant, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East aka thistledown

I hear there's some problems with the deck in that the player must know the alignment of their opponents at all times. So from a storytelling perspective it puts a bit of a limit when the GM has to introduce each character with their alignment.

Sure, the player can try to keep it divided from character knowledge, but...

Shadow Lodge *

thistledown wrote:

I hear there's some problems with the deck in that the player must know the alignment of their opponents at all times. So from a storytelling perspective it puts a bit of a limit when the GM has to introduce each character with their alignment.

Sure, the player can try to keep it divided from character knowledge, but...

I don't recall seeing any abilities that depend on your opponents alignment, just your own or your allies.

Grand Lodge ***** Global Organized Play Coordinator

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Tamec wrote:

Awesome thanks!!

*Anxiously awaiting on Additional Resources Update*

I will get the additional resources updated with the decisions John and I have made for all things harrow related when I get back to the office next week.

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