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My kobold PC is a sorceress, claiming that a sovereign dragon taught her tribe advanced mathematics and incubation techniques ages ago. She's got standard kobold stats, but she's yellow, getting the Gold dragon bloodline because of avoiding making her things sound-based. She's a great party face and is also the stealthiest, which is helped along by the loud barbarian with Con as his highest stat. She isn't going to make close combat attacks or carry things anyway, so the stat penalties aren't much of an issue.
Giving them swarming does sound like a good idea, especially if there are ratfolk around with friendly terms.
Reading the counter-arguments of, "They're supposed to be weak!" makes me want to envision a setting where kobolds have a better lot in life, the go-fers and diplomats of the subterranean races, thereby justifying a healthier, safer lifestyle and better stat modifiers.
Of course, depending on GM and back story, a PC can get a "kobold exemplar" with a suitably-explained bump from the ARG. I didn't take that route, but I might entertain it if a player asks about it. Part of their appeal is, after all, a self-assured species scrabbling to survive for a collective shot at the big time.
I bought Kobolds of Golarion with the intent of making up a kobold PC, and ended up in an all-kobold group! Unfortunately, the lack of high strength made things difficult, then everyone else died, but things are much more effective with just one in a mostly-medium group. I hope to get Leadership at level 7.
Though I do want kobolds to get a -2 +2 +2 stat modifier like most other playable races, they can work without it. That's why they tend to rely on traps and magic, though finesse rogues and urban barbarians could work well. Agile Maneuver Masters can help set things up for the others, but mostly, it comes down to being really careful or cowardly. Stealth, bluff and diplomacy would be more helpful than outright fighting, though kobold rangers, druids and cavaliers can direct animals who are more dangerous in a fight than they are.
Not to mention Summoners.
Varisian Wanderer wrote:
I never thought of that. There are also aberrations and similar that can implant parasitic larvae into people, for another way to do it. Or Alter Self beforehand.
I just got the mental image of a Lamashtu-oriented antipaladin look proudly upon her Fiendish Companion's latest act of carnage: "That's my girl!"
Also, heading into the realm of Mature Subject Matter...
Warning! Mentions of rape and bigotry:
Lamashtu may have some overlap with Nocticula, except instead of rape to exert force on another, it's to conceive offspring now, disregarding who's involved. As well, another GM suggested to me that Lamashtu could very well be the only divine entity with homophobic doctrine:
"What!? Women shtupping women? They can't give birth that way! You! Correct them!"
It's a good thing that Paizo hasn't included any of that, because not only would it be found hurtful by survivors of sexual assault and homophobia (which leaves deep mental wounds), but also that it might be seen to glamorize that stuff.
I've also heard her get called, "The Queen of the Demon Furries" once. If I ever have to homebrew an antagonistic foil for that particular player, I know to go right for a Lamashtu-worshipping gnoll vivisectionist.
It may or may not be, officially, but that could be so that GMs don't feel stuck to one interpretation.
The way I read it, I thought Sivanah saw Razmir as the world's greatest joke. He doesn't seem focused on achieving full-on mythicality, mainly due to the issues of consolidating and expanding his power base, whereas constructing the faith to not be about him personally, Xanderghul didn't have to worry or deal with all the issues that Razmir does. As the aforementioned added bonuses, his rivals get to tacitly allow his worship without catching on and teaming up against him. That's definitely a source of pride.
I have made tactical use of the Pit spells, mostly at higher levels in order to separate dangerous things that can't climb or fly well.
There was one that made the GM fume until he realized that it was as hilarious as the players found it:
he ruled that, despite being Huge size, the ooze could fall into the pit and fill it almost to the brim; it was able to climb out on its turn, but that took long enough for the cleric to Air Walk overtop of it and drop a handful of Fire Seeds on it.
The most annoying thing about the Pit spells that I've found is when they get cast in tight spaces, preventing hand-to-hand combat right after my character had invoked a special thing upon her weapon that would end if she dropped it or put it away.
Many indoor encounters happen in five-to-ten-foot-wide hallways, doorways and passages, so a pit under the enemy frontliner means we can't get to the enemy archer and spell-caster, but they can still aim at us without worrying about getting threatened.
Just so long as everyone's judicious in its use, it shouldn't be too bothersome. For extra confusing fun, however, cast it on the deck of a ship or the inside of a wagon!
He could want people to know it was him. He may or may not have left obscure hints that got lost over time, depending on how you GM it: he had declared himself its chief priest without any of his spell slots being devoted to the divine, and after all, what else would the seminal practitioner of Pride worship but himself?
I had previously accused the faith of Lisalla of being a constructed religion, because it struck me as a way for the Runelords to think of sin as a self-serving philosophy while enforcing it as doctrine. The way I GM it, Lisalla was a mythical lillend that Xin contacted for help in working out his virtues, then to be the focus of a faith for them. That way, you didn't have to be a philosopher to accept them.
Then his apprentices managed to trick or coerce her until she was the way they wanted her to be. After that, it was only a matter of time before Xanderghul thought, "I can do it all myself!"
As for those graveknights who claim to have been paladins of the Peacock Spirit, they don't or never had to avoid lying. Or they could have been duped in life.
I found out about Ihys when I wanted to make up a rabbi; he's an enlightened philosopher who venerates the memory of Ihys.
The way he tells it, a representative from every plane got to make manifest on the nexus between them to write a rule for it; Asmodeus invented time, making things happen after each other, while Ihys invented probability, so that the most likely thing wouldn't always have to happen ("You can see it every day, with every risky decision you Pathfinders make that works."); then Asmodeus invited Ihys to a remote bit of the Dark Tapestry to invent betrayal and show it to the being that called themselves brothers before they had to leave.
Where Ihys' corpse was left, parasites festered in it, as he says, resulting in the being known as Azathoth.
"To this day, why people would make deals with the thing that invented betrayal is beyond me."
With everything that claims to be first, either they weren't aware of each other, time didn't really happen until Asmodeus had it standardized, or there was historical revisionism from all sides.
Oh. I thought to myself, "if he worships himself all the time, what could be better than getting people to do it, other than getting people to do it without realizing the truth of it?"
But even with all the time and money, it'd be too much trouble to retrain from Illusionist 20 to Illusionist 7/Mystic Theurge 10/Cleric of Himself 3.
This may not be what anyone would have had in mind, but it might make sense.
I also don't know if this is better-suited to the RotRL or ShSt board, which is why I put it in General Discussion.
Xanderghul being mythical, if he took the mythical ability where people can pray to you and get divine spells out of it, and if the Peacock Spirit was merely a title, then Xanderghul could have set up a literal cult of personality.
As the one and only Runelord of Pride, it sounds like a thing he'd want to do. Not only did the faith vanish along with him, but the connection was also lost over time (unless he never made the connection explicit).
From what I've read and experienced, APs seem to favour group cohesion over build optimization as means of survival; if you plan things out, know when not to fight, have everyone's bases covered, and are careful, the biggest cause of sudden death would either be lucky crits, rolling a 1 on climbing or something, and jumping to wrong conclusions.
I have had characters make it through the entire AP (one never died at all, mainly due to being cautious and unobtrusive with the Toughness feat), with character deaths coming from one of them rushing ahead, spreading around when it would have been more sensible to focus one one opponent at a time, or just provoking something dangerous into aiming for them first.
If your people keep dying, I'd suggest all the players and the GM get together and figure out what's going wrong: is the GM trying to take down PCs, is the GM ratcheting up the numbers due to thinking the AP, as written, will be too easy and inadvertently making it too hard, or are the players all ignoring each other?
Spending however long you need to with the characters discussing strategy won't progress the plot, but it could help their overall survivability.
I once rolled a random encounter and ended up with an Inctilus or two. I basically described two people in a rowboat out at sea, both of whom had big mollusc shells on their heads. Nobody knew anything about them, so they decided to keep sailing and ask about them later on. I worked them in by telling them that there's a kind of symbiotic mollusc that just sits on people's heads and tries to be inconspicuous, but everyone notices them. A couple of people in the bar the were in had them, but nobody wanted any for themselves.
It involved changing them into not being dangerous at all, but that also meant they sailed right by two stranded people.
TPK, save one.
Names: Draniss Gravedrake; Kirrik Gravedrake; Alan Gravedrake the Honorary.
Races: Kobold; kobold; human.
Classes/Levels: Swashbuckler 1; Pharasmin Inquisitor 1; Fighter 1.
Adventure: Empty Graves.
The False Tomb
What Happened: A deadly lack of caution.
The Gory Details:
The self-appointed chief declared that room to be obviously dangerous, and decided to set off whatever trap was in there from a distance by Open/Closing the sarcophagus. One guy said, "That's a stupid idea," and strode into the room. The others followed and surrounded the sarcophagus while Alan knocked on the lid and bade whatever undead he presumed to be inside to hop out and fight them, with the sorceress standing outside, warning them not to do that.
She saw the sarcophagus itself hop up off of a pressure plate and slam its lid down on Alan's head, and was only able to cast a single spell before the doors shut her out and them in. She heard pleading, thumping, screaming, and flowing water, then a scraping sound, then silence.
When the doors opened again, everyone was dead. Kirrik and Alan had drowned, while Draniss had avoided that fate by bleeding out before he could have drowned.
Beside herself with despair, she was still able to take as much from them as she could carry, and barely made it out of the necropolis with her life. (She waited until daytime, and when the GM demanded to roll a random encounter, she was able to get enough Perception and Stealth to avoid it completely)
We want to move forward with Mummy's Mask, and hopefully it'll have more group cohesion, but everyone's new characters will also come with more evil. Yes, more evil than the all-kobold group.
In one AP (un-named so as to avoid spoilers), it does mention that, while you could scry on the invading enemy leader's boss and teleport to there, it goes on to mention that you would then be surrounded by the entire invasion force, with no diversion or backup.
But when you aren't targeting a prepared invading force, it looks as if nobody does it for fear of unanticipated countermeasures.
Maybe in your high fantasy setting that's been globalized, there's some sort of treaty that declares teleportation-assisted murder a war crime?
At the very least, whether with a spell or a Cape of the Mountebank, if heavily armed hostile a teleport to you, you could always teleport away. Maybe to a panic room, where your next action is to shut the lead-lined door or call for assistance?
... I once pondered the same idea, but since it was started by a goblin character idea, it'd work if one in the group knew of the secrets of writing.
Basically, a goblin wizard in the Norgorber Corps would be able to read the journals, but as far as I've seen, they can just go after the humans, the ogres, the giants, and such in order. Maybe they find out from captured minions, or infiltrate Magnimar to pull off the biggest raid ever undertaken by goblinkind?
The way I GM Razmirism when wear the GMing hat is that, one way or another, nobody likes it: Pathfinders say to each other, "If he passed the Test of the Starstone, where is his record in the Cathedral?"
The people of Tymon call him a fraud and dare him to convert them while they're pulling his mask off and hitting him; the Ustalavs are suspicious of this secretive faith and want nothing to do with it; residents of Lastwall find it offensive; Molthuni and Nirmalthans can join in if they like the sound of a sure path to Power and Glory (and not even know their congregation has each other in them); others could see it as helpful if being seen as a creepy masked cultist would be better than having their actual faces shown; and further away, in places like Garund or Casmaron, they haven't heard of it.
I've taken advantage of this with two other GMs, who've agreed that it's funny: once, when an oni had declared herself divine, my sorcerer kept calling her, "Tien Razmir" and ended up getting killed by her...
Now I have a Razmiran bard in Cheliax where, due to Clarity Pyres, the official policy is that Razmir and any worship of him does not exist, meaning nobody knows who he is or why he's doing what he does.
My contribution, which wasn't so much "talking my way out of a fight", but "directing it toward uselessness":
Rise of the Goblin Guild, level 2:
My inquisitor, who introduced herself as "mostly dwarven" offered to move in first and scare the goblins. While she could get one of them shaken at a time, they still all threw their bombs and alchemist's fire at her; being a tiefling who didn't like to have that fact advertised, she just waded through all the firey goop while her team-mates loosed arrows and sling bullets. She was glad to have diverted a potential problem.
Then we got to the leader of the titular guild; I offered to accept punishment in the form of burning alive, but the budding crime boss replied, "Actually, I'd much rather chop you to pieces."
Then battle was joined.
Name: Torphrex Gravedrake
Class/Level: Druid 1
Adventure: Empty Graves
Location: The Necropolis Gates
What Happened: Dying Alone
Why: The formerly tribeless jungle kobold and his lion never liked the group dynamic in his tribe. When everyone got attacked by vermin, he kept summoning monkeys, holding nothing back for healing. Ignoring their chief's demands to wait until morning and head back into Wati proper for more supplies, he got on his lion and rode off, forgetting to tell anyone that he was trying to get supplies right away.
Everyone assumed that he abandoned his tribe, and that he would die alone.
When he got to the closed gates, he summoned an eagle to pick him up and carry him over the gates before it vanished. Having forgotten the rule that nobody was to pass the gates during the night, he was shot by an arrow (critical!) and was dead before he hit the ground.
A Pharasmin apologetically told the tribe that they had accidentally shot one of their own (it was taken in stride), and offered the sole surviving member of another group to join up with them: a young human Iomedan who was happily proclaimed an honorary tribemate. Alan Gravedrake is now the only one with a Strength of more than 10!
In Mummy's Mask, half the players wanted an all-kobold group, and that's what we're doing. The idea is an inter-tribe coalition with a few representatives taking the opportunity to reverse-engineer human traps and prove their own as superior.
Kirrok, who is an inquisitor, has black scales with the odd white ones, and is a very sensible advance scout with high AC.
Draniss will be a swashbuckler/magus, has red scales, and lived under Oparra, then spent some time with the Sewer Dragons. Time that he never wants to recount. He'll be the official Egg Watcher, and can fit in the same 5' space with Kirrok.
Torphrex is a green Mwangi jungle kobold druid whose animal companion is the lion that chewed him up and spat him out; he took the campaign trait where he died and got raised somehow. He's the silliest one, and will be instrumental in summoning things that are bigger than us.
I made up Angka, the yellow-scaled wild blooded Dragon sorceress, who prays to Apsu, Dahak, and Shizuru all at once. Her bloodline comes from a sovereign dragon, but since there's nothing about that (and the issue of sound-based powers), I went with the Gold Dragon bloodline but picked for her starting spells Mighty Roar (Ear-piercing Scream) and Dragonflame (Snapdragon Fireworks). She came from the Darklands, brought the new tribe together, and declared herself chief because she's the best at being condescending to the Brightlanders.
I like kobolds too, and I'm excited to see our group in action. We're going to have to be very careful so as not to die, but it might be the most cohesive group I'll have seen in years.
Hopefully your players are all on board with this idea, and this won't get sprung on them as fast as the lightning javelin fusillade will on their characters...
Firstly, kobolds prefer to set up underground tunnels and chambers, so a tower would seem out of place for them (though that can hint at their non-kobold assistance). They won't have a retreating plan, save for ropes, slides, parachutes and Feather Falling off of the top of the tower. If their leader hasn't revealed his true form to them at any point, then he should offer them some escape route, whether real or made up. A cornered kobold is a dead kobold, unless that kobold happens to be a dragon in disguise.
Speaking of the dragon, if he's willing, you could have a few magical traps available. Mainly illusions, ("you hear a Click," "you pull the switch, and flooring appears over the hole"), perhaps a Shocking Grasp-related Joy Buzzer, and because you're the GM, you could even make a magic trap based on the blue dragon's Desert Thirst ability, evaporating the contents of their waterskins, barrels, and potion vials.
Though because it's a tower, and they're level 10, you can either put no doors at ground level, forcing them to enter from the top and go down into the basement (with underground tunnels, so the kobolds won't have to be cornered), or make entering through the front or cellar doors the aim. In that case, you could set traps to stop intruders from making progress upwards, or pushing them back down. Oily, slippery stairs, Raiders of the Lost Ark-style boulder corridors, weight limit-triggered collapsing floors, stuff like that.
Finally, if the kobolds are brave and you really want to pressure the PCs, use arrow slits and maintenance tunnels to harass them. They can't be careful all the way through if every Disable Device roll will be met with multiple darts, bolts and arrows.
Of course, since difficulty will mainly be based on PCs having to slog through disadvantageous terrain, under constant attack with limited means of fighting back, only to find their enemy more concerned about their deaths than however many of their own, the players might end up unhappy unless they figure out how to circumvent the whole thing. Say, by short-range teleportation, divinations, repeated summons, and good Perception/Disable Device/Reflex saves. They might enjoy theirselves popping in, seeing the dragon hurriedly assume his true form, having one big, hectic fight, then taking their time to work their way back down.
I, for one, would like to know how it turns out. I love those little guys!
My first and only PC death was in Round One of a boss fight, where my unhinged aberrant halfling sorcerer said exactly the wrong thing to a spiteful large-sized villain with a X4 crit weapon. One confirmed crit later, and he was dad from full HP with no hope of Life getting Breathed back into him.
We chose not to raise him, because I found it the most appropriate time & place for him to die, I was afraid of that character getting into the endgame, and the group wasn't cohesive at all. Two other people died in that AP (Jade Regent), and the new characters got along well.
In Kingmaker, we just got through Book One, and have had four deaths, three of which were from the same player who got bored with his character ideas (except for the first one, who left when nobody could stand him). Other players left, but their characters didn't die.
It could work, especially if he starts out swinging a staff or throwing darts.
I actually once made up a hammer-wielding Kensai magus whose parents sent him to the Arcanerium, but he dropped out and was too much of a slacker to return home in shame.
Though he might not be an Academae graduate, there can still be reasons why he's around Korvosa. Did you brainstorm with the GM?
Woah, first of all, that's five exclamation marks in the title. Isn't that a bit much?
As for your quandary, I'd suggest a kobold, partially for extra trap-setting and partially because I like kobolds. A snare setting rogue could help or compete with the archivist at building and setting traps, though a sorcerer could help with magic traps, take care of the blasting, stay out of hand-to-hand combat, and could use that high Charisma to be condescending to all the blundering scaleless people.
I haven't read much about Ebberon or psionics, and I don't know what artificers do other than build things, but I do like the idea of warforged. (For a non-combat-optimized one, you could be a peaceforged?)
An alchemist would have to get close in a fight sometimes (at least for bombs), but an archeologist bard would be good with a bow, especially if your group could make sleep arrows.
Your group seems pretty big as it is, so any summoner who isn't a synthesist might end up clogging tight hallways.
In one adventure I was in, a CG Chelish wizard's magic missiles took the form of spectral imps that popped up, stung their targets once each, and vanished. He was never able to change it.
Meanwhile, the player of the cleric of Shizuru told everyone ahead of time, "Since Destruction isn't an evil spell, he can cast it, but he'll call it Cleansing Flame."
Later on, in a fight with an oni, he thrusts his holy symbol at it and roars out, "Cleansing FLAAAAAMMMME!!" and otherwise shouting out the names of the spells he casts.
I once made up a halfling WoP sorcerer who had a different syllable for each Magic Word, hissing them for his wordspells.
Plus, the fun thing about alchemists is that their extracts don't have to always be drank.
I had a dwarven weapon smith & crossbow fighter inspired by Dwarf Fortress; every weapon he built had a usually compound noun name along with some engravings or goofy decorations, like spikes of cloth or images of cheese.
His first crossbow was named The Verdant Combatant, and when he had confirmed enough kills, he even gave himself a title, introducing himself as "Duthnur Libashdurad the Stalwart Purveyor of Quarrels".
It eventually got to the point where the others asked if they could name the weapons he built for them.
Plus, asking players to describe their magic missiles is the earliest way to see their style in action.
Unrelatedly, it's hard to convince someone who's being dismissive of other ideas.
Between natural weapons and flight, it could be possible to go whole levels without needing to make anything greasy, but it's unlikely.
As for the spell at hand, it's reliable and handy when you don't want to use up your higher-level spell slots yet. Though 1d4+1 at five different targets is generally a weak choice, if the other AoE spells only almost finished them off, a nudge can be more useful than overkill.
Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Nope. He can't juggle one thing by itself. He'll wave it at someone to Aid Another's attack or AC, just generally being distracting.
I once had the idea for a rogue who would Shot On The Run crossbows while walking from cover to cover. I'd have dipped him into either fighter or ranger, and it would still be very dependent upon the terrain.
(Think like the Bond film intro scene, only he keeps walking after he fires)
Another feat that could be handy would be Opening Volley (If you hit with a ranged attack, you get +4 to hit on your next melee attack before the end of your next turn), from Ultimate Combat.
It works with a heavy crossbow to be potentially more damaging, and if you don't plan on getting Rapid Reload, you'll usually only fire it once anyway; with a hand crossbow, you can conceal it easily and hang the sneak attack off it in the surprise round, then close in with your team.
Of course, it's a situational thing, and frustrating when that opening volley misses, but it's handy when you want to make a surprise attack without over-extending yourself.
For the nitpicky issue: I'm not annoyed at the use of precise HP numbers, but you can have in-character conversation and precise triage both ways.
Me: "Please do, I'm wounded. Seriously wounded, but it's nothing life-threatening... Yet, anyway."
You: How much are you down?
Me: Down 22 out of 50.
It works the same way as saying that the ogre forgot which way to duck when he failed the save against your spell, and your reply of it incinerating his eyebrows for 35 heat damage. You get the numbers and the words together, succinctly enough not to slow things down too much. It also helps hedge your bets with other people who prefer one over the other.
Back to your regularly scheduled thread:
It annoys me when people presumptuously scoop up your dice, pausing only to ask while they're already rolling your dice in their sticky/clammy hands.
One guy did this two sessions in a row, so I bought him a d20 to prevent that from happening again. Wouldn't you know it, the next week, he forgot to bring it.
If they ask first, don't have hands covered in spilled soda or junk food dust, and won't pocket them later, I'm fine with lending some out.
...hygiene? Though that should be a given in every case.
When I GM for PFS, I make time for character introductions and listen in; if I've met them or heard of their characters in other scenarios, then Drandle Dreng or Aram Zey will have already known them, or mentioning if a scenario will take someone close to their homeland.
It helps with the immersement, and if they end up running late, then I tend to have the Aspis Consortium interns just drop their weapons and ask to change sides instead of fighting to the death over matters of little personal investment.
Sometimes, people will happily tell me about their characters at the same time after the scenario ends; I hope to encourage people from, "I dunno, I'm just here to kill everyone," to something like, "I want to learn about other cultures and find out why I take out my own self-hatred on everyone else."
So I guess I don't try to impress players so much as help inspire them. That can work too.
"Here is your sword, just as I promised: it's been sharpened by axiomites to as fine an edge as nature can allow it to have. At no extra cost, when you say this mix of syllables I made up, it'll glow in the presence of humans, thus saving you money on torches."
"See, I believe that even objects can have spirits, so I prayed to Gorum to make the spirit of this axe really angry. Since it can now chop up fairies without having a cold iron blade, that proves how good it is! Wanna test it out for yourself?"
"With the blessings of Lisalla and some Qlipphoth, I'll infuse your weapon with extra wrath. It'll need a command word as well; what's your favourite blasphemy?"
If the player has an idea for how it works, so much the better!
My pet annoyance: planned PvP during character creation. It's happened to me twice. It also sounds like it might happen with Finlander too.
Also, in any RPG, the person who leans over and reads the other players' character sheets without asking. More so if they pick them up, and even more so when they give a dismissive, "Pft, why did you pick that?"
In the annals of Things Ending Well, that phrase is the player's equivalent of, "Everyone, give me a Will save."
I was really enthused when I found out about Paizo aiming to be really inclusive, and it inspired me to make up characters across the spectrum. Most of the time, it turned out that the sexuality and preferences of my characters never really became apparent, because they weren't able to settle down with anyone, what with all the imminent dangers.
I never worried whether or not straightness was the smallest minority among NPCs in Golarion, but since sexuality isn't a taboo subject there, the heterosexual NPCs wouldn't have to worry about entitled, privileged ones from complaining about how they won't stop pushing their straight agenda.
As to how I handle things when I'm in the GM's seat, PCs can pursue romances, it's possible for NPCs to become attracted to them unless they find it uncomfortable (Romance Switch: off), and most of the Chaotic religions would encourage people experimenting and figuring things out for themselves. Especially Shelynites, Caliens, Calistrians, and worshippers of certain outsiders.
I also portray Erastil's outlook as, "Protect The Babies!" Women, for example, can love women, as telling them that their love is wrong is not Lawful Good, but Erastilians who cannot or choose not to reproduce will be expected to help take care of children, should the need arise. Schoolteachers, librarians, instructors, or whatever's needed.
As a side note, I portray racism as a new philosophy espoused by certain privileged Chelish elite: "We're clearly the greatest nation in the world," they say, "so in comparison, everyone else is less so. We're doing you a favour by conquering you," thus rationalizing the evil they commit. Invented by humans, but devils will still happily take credit for it.
But yeah, make up any kind of PCs you want! NPCs, too!
Whether or not the players & GM should try to game the system against each other is certainly an "As Long As Everyone Agrees" sort of issue, though I'd rather agree not to do it.
If I'm the GM, I'd only institute the "Distracted" penalty if you're threatened by someone else, being grappled, or taking ongoing damage. Otherwise, you can focus your attention on the person casting the spell. As for "knowing they're casting an illusion vs. saving against the illusion itself," I'd check with the players on their thoughts about it. At the very least, I'd give the Spellcraft user a +4 on the save.
Going by illustrations of spell casting I've seen on, for example, the Character Folio, I've taken it that people can notice and read the sigils or glows arcane and divine spell casters trace or wave with their divine foci with Still Spell, you just don't need to trace them with your fingers or touch your divine focus, but they can still be read. That's also why you can't be sure you've ID'd the spell without line of sight.
For personal stories, I thanked the GM when he said, "Reward Creative Solutions": My wizard avoided an enemy sorcerer's readied counterspell by hiding behind a pillar to break line of sight.
So, no pretending to be Charmed or Dominated unless you're a Master Spy.
Also, if you cast a Silent Spell and have the Secret Signs feat, "Guys, I think someone tried to cast a spell on me!" but they can't tell that you were the one who tried it unless their perception beats your sleight of hand.
This also means that, even if the person has no ranks in spellcraft, if they make their save against your charm spell, they'll be fairly certain (depending on how much contact they've had with magic) that they resisted your spell, whatever it was.
Even if you lie about what the spell is, they can still make a save if the spell you cast isn't what you say it will be. It prevents bards and sorcerers from promising to cast Guidance, bluffing successfully, and getting people to forfeit their saves/SR against Charm Monster. They still won't know what the spell is, just that it "felt different" from what was promised.
I like James Jacobs' take on psionics; mind-affecting spell-likes seem like a sensible way to go about it, especially if they can do no lethal damage or instill status conditions.
Though if players want their characters to be psychic, I always thought a divining-enchanting sorcerer or monk with fancy ki-related stuff could work in a pinch.