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RPG Superstar 6 Season Star Voter. Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber. FullStarFullStarFullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 198 posts (1,172 including aliases). 9 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 3 Pathfinder Society characters. 1 alias.

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A New Take on 4E Skill Challenges for Pathfinder RPG

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The new Social Combat Card Deck appears to be a rather straight-forward and at first blush, a satisfying mechanic for some variations in your game sessions when just role-playing it out or making a single "Diplomacy" roll seems WAY too easy. While the Social Combat Deck is no substitute for actual role-playing at the table, it can provide a narrative structure to guide players if you want to use it in that manner - more on that later.

For use in my Mummy's Mask AP campaign, the Social Combat Deck seems particularly well-suited for use in Vol 3 of the AP, Richard Pett's Shifting Sands - which involves a number of diplomacy and other social encounters to succeed in the first part of the adventure. For several encounters in Shifting Sands, the social combat deck may be just thing a GM is looking for.

Reduced to its bare bones, the Social Combat deck is the implementation of a 4E Skill Challenge for Pathfinder RPG. (Stay with me here, Skill Challenges in 4E were an extremely innovative, though as implemented, perhaps an ultimately flawed idea). The Social Combat deck consists of fours "suits" of 13 cards each, corresponding to four basic social skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate and Sense Motive and each card in each of the corresponding suits lists a challenge with a corresponding DC check for the primary skill in that suit.

In addition to one of these four primary skill DCs, the skill checks required by each card have another option in addition/alternative to these four basic skills, e.g., Profession skills, Knowledge skills, Spellcraft and so forth. There is a reasonably wide variation here in the secondary challenge options -- and that's the **critically important element** of the deck's design as it ensures that a PC who is not a Charisma skill oriented character still has the hope of making a real contribution to the skill challenge (or at least, not failing). Fighter types can help in many challenges too; indeed, in some cases where intimidation is a real option, they may be the best suited PC for the task. As in many things: "it depends".

The GM decides how hard the challenge is (higher difficulty is a larger grid) and which suit(s) might apply to the encounter (Bluff/Diplomacy/Intimidate/Sense Motive). The GM then shuffles the cards and then lays out a 3x3, 4x4 or 5x5 grid, **face down**. The GM turns over the card in the upper left of the grid. The goal of the challenge is to get from the upper left card to the lower right card of the grid and then beat BOTH the challenges on that lower right card. When a challenge on a card is passed, the horizontal/vertically adjacent cards to that card are turned over, -- though NOT the diagonally adjacent cards. To reveal a card diagonally on the grid as well, both challenges must be passed by the same PC attempting the card. A failure on either challenge mean no cards are turned over in any direction, a FAILURE is noted - and play moves on to the next PC.

You can roll "social initiative" (D20 +CHA stat) to determine the order of play or just let the PCs choose who goes first and who goes next. The play moves in order through **every player at the table** until it comes back to the "top" of the initiative order. This means that the skill challenge may often fail do to the team's "weakest link"; this is a "deficiency by design". On the plus side, the silky smooth social Bard in the party has an advantage as that PC can attempt two challenges on the card to turn over a diagonal card.

So now you know how you "win" a card and move on through the grid, turning over cards. So how do you lose? Simple: If the players fail as many times as the grid is wide, they lose. A 3x3 grid allows only two failures and so forth. The player who is "up" chooses which skill is available on the board to try though. This does not mean that the PC must choose a "new" challenge. A player can still try a roll which will not result in turning over a new card. The overall strategy is not so much for every player to succeed in turning over a new card on that roll; rather, the aim is not to lose the social combat by failing a roll. When a PC fails by more than five, all DCs on ALL card increase by 2 so things can get ugly, fast, due to the weakest link. So the correct "strategy", if the GM allows choice instead of just a "social initiative" roll is to leave the weakest link to the last of the initiative order to maximize available opportunities so as to avoid a failure.

To what degree the GM wants to use the grid and challenges as inspiration for in play narrative is up to that GM. Some players are better at this aspect of a RPG than others. You don't need to abstract a roleplaying encounter to mere die rolls. It's up to the particular players. Like always -- you decide how you are going to play your game.

Similarly, a particularly adept NPC can add to the DCs of particular suits or individual skill rolls attempted. It's up to the GM to tweak as required by the circumstances.

OVERALL: I think the Social Combat Deck is a real improvement on the 4E skill challenge mechanic for Pathfinder RPG and I am looking forward to trying it out in my game.

- Steel_Wind

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My ENWorld review on Pathfinder Battles: Rise of the Runelords is now available HERE.

Short strokes: With Pathfinder Battles: Rise of the Runelords, Wizkids has provided a large set of miniatures that offers excellent quality with some truly unique and dramatic figures. All of this is great and well appreciated. The problem with the set -- the only problem -- is the price tag which attaches to all of this.

I also made a Youtube unboxing video and review, which when it has finished uploading should be available HERE. (Warning, the video is lengthy at about 45 mins or so in duration.)

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The ENWorld review of Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition is now up and can be found HERE. Short strokes: "This book stands at the pinnacle of the hobby games market. In terms of the hundreds of hours of epic entertainment it provides, value for the money, value-in-use at the table, available cross-product support, and sheer physical attractiveness, Rise of the Runelords Anniv. Ed. is the gold-medalist in every category possible by any reasonably objective criteria you choose to apply."

Full Review: HERE

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I've posted my ENWorld review on Blood of Fiends HERE.

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The ENWorld Official Review of The Slumbering Tsar Saga may be found HERE.

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