I Get a Little Help From My Friends

Thursday, January 19, 2017

We've all been there, whether by seeing it in a movie, reading it in a book, or experiencing it in your favorite tabletop adventure: the protagonists stride into the throne room, where the regal monarch greets them and says, “Hail, noble adventurers. Long have I sought heroes to assist me with this plot hook, and you may be the saviors I need.” That treatment may work well in a European-fantasy setting awash with minor kingdoms and desperate NPCs, but in Qadira, everyone knows somebody; there's rarely any need for a regional governor to rely on some no-name group of 9th-level adventurers, much less have any motivation to entrust them with important tasks. Whether one's the soul of courtesy or a boor busting into a trade prince's parlor demanding news of the nearest dungeon, an unknown adventurer's almost certain to receive the same response: “Who the hell are you?”

While Jessica Price was writing Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Qadira, Jewel of the East, we began discussing the importance of one's status through citizenship, family, and social connections—everything from selling a goods without a license, to choosing a spouse, to arranging a meeting, to traveling the roads without paying tolls. That was all well and good for citizens, but we knew that for Qadira to be a fun adventuring location, it needed to be accessible to foreign PCs. If an adventurer isn't born into Qadiran society, how can he access its wonders? Patronage. With the right friend, doors both figurative and literal open for the PCs. After we had nerded out about Roman patronage for a while, Jessica exclaimed what we were both thinking (and I give you the direct quote): GAMIFY SOCIAL CLIMBING. The honor system in Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Campaign gave us a starting point, but the more we brainstormed how Qadira's social mobility worked, the more we realized we needed something tied less to the client and more to the patron herself. The patronage system was born.


Illustration by Anson Tan

Qadira, Jewel of the East dedicates four pages to the patronage system, which provides a mechanical framework for a client (either a PC or the entire party) to earn social credit (Clout) with a patron. Each patron has a certain amount of influence (Rank, ranging from 1 to 10), holds power in a certain sphere within the society (Category), feels a certain way toward the client (Disposition), and may know other equally powerful people in other social spheres (Affiliation). As a PC performs tasks in a patron's name, he earns Clout that he can spend on improving the patron's disposition or buying favors. The trick is that relative social status plays a significant role in who talks to whom, so a tourist stands almost no chance of arranging a meeting with the satrap; in game terms, one's starting Clout depends heavily on the patron's rank and the PC's ranks in the patron's favorite skills, and if that calculation results in 0 Clout or less, the prospective client had better supply a really nice gift or suffer being ignored.

Patrons are the key to success in Qadira. The right patron can not only provide the PCs with a critical lead on a lucrative adventure site, but she can also help outfit them from her personal stockpiles, secure them access to restricted areas, and then spread word of their deeds. Of course, this is a two-way street; if a PC intends to earn that Clout, he must perform favors for the patron, help her earn prestige by having sponsored a successful hero, and avoid embarrassing her. The patronage system includes a wealth of suggested ways one can earn and lose Clout, including methods unique to different patron categories (e.g. attending a major social event for a social patron or recovering a major relic for a religious patron). Perhaps my favorite little feature is the list of additional patron qualities that modify the patronage system in little ways to fit a patron's positive and negative qualities. If the PC intends to keep climbing the social ladder, though, his patrons can be of further service, granting him a reliable introduction to higher-ranked patrons that had previously ignored him. A sword-swinging warrior can find a home in any campaign, but in Qadira, a PC who plays the system right could secure unfettered access to the empire's wonders, the ear of any celebrity, and a marriage proposal to one of the satrap's cousins—all by knowing who's who and how to befriend them. I like to think that in a Qadiran campaign, playing a social climber could be just as important a party role as that of a healer or trapsmith.

What you'll find in this book is designed for Qadira but is easily adaptable for other regions and settings by renaming a few titles or adding a new category. Since I spend most of my time working on the Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild campaign, I thought it fitting to include an informal patron stat block for several of the Pathfinder Society's most reliable contacts in Qadira.

Trade Prince Aaqir al'Hakam (Season 8)
N male human
Rank 6 mercantile patron
Key Skills Appraise and Profession (merchant)
Affiliation none
Additional Qualities deep pockets

Venture-Captain Esmayl ibn Qaradi (Season 8)
NG male human
Rank 4 academic patron
Key Skills Knowledge (geography) and Knowledge (history)
Affiliations political, social
Additional Qualities well-connected

Eurdan Stonemantle (Season 6)
NG male oread
Rank 4 tribal patron
Key Skills Sense Motive and Survival
Affiliation none
Additional Qualities none

Pasha Muhlia Al-Jakri (As of Season 2)
NE female human
Rank 5 political patron
Key Skills Bluff and Knowledge (nobility)
Affiliations mercantile and military
Additional Qualities jaded

Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Qadira, Jewel of the East hits shelves in less than a week! Grab a copy, and turn your setting's political landscape into the PCs' playground.

John Compton
Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

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Tags: Anson Tan Pathfinder Campaign Setting Qadira

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This sounds like a really useful system and one which could well be transferable to other hierarchical societies - I am thinking drow cities for example. A really useful addition to the rule set for those who enjoy roleplaying and sociela intrigue. Thanks so much.

Scarab Sages

I agree with Timothy, it sounds a useful system to model other existing societies, not just in Qadira, or even Golarion.

While a GM can insist on roleplaying everything out, having a mechanical framework to hang the roleplay on can help as a tiebreaker in moments of indecision, to remove player suspicions of GM bias.

I just have to ask; is it expected that the players (or the PCs) be aware of the underlying numbers, or should they be kept close to the GM's chest?

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I hope Heroes of the High Court will have interaction with this system


2 people marked this as a favorite.
The Raven Black wrote:
I hope Heroes of the High Court will have interaction with this system

That would be nice and would make a lot of sense!

At any rate, it sounds fun and gives me another reason to pick up this book.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I swear each time I read a blog post about this book it gives me several reasons to get it :-)

Paizo Employee Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Snorter wrote:

I agree with Timothy, it sounds a useful system to model other existing societies, not just in Qadira, or even Golarion.

While a GM can insist on roleplaying everything out, having a mechanical framework to hang the roleplay on can help as a tiebreaker in moments of indecision, to remove player suspicions of GM bias.

I just have to ask; is it expected that the players (or the PCs) be aware of the underlying numbers, or should they be kept close to the GM's chest?

There's not an expectation one way or another about what the PCs know, and it could play either way with unique pros and cons.

Secret: The PCs know they've earned Clout with a patron, but they only have a relative sense of how much. The GM might inform them that they're sitting on enough points to "buy up" to the next disposition level, which also conveys that PCs are the point that they could just but a bunch of favors instead. Sense Motive might play a role in knowing exactly what the patron's disposition is as well as honing in on just how their Clout has changed since the last meeting. If you plan on using the patronage system for an intrigue game, this might be the better choice.

Open: The players can keep track of the numbers, giving them both a sense of agency and a role in sharing duties (sort of like letting the players manage the initiative or a kingdom-building tracker). It's also a good way to give a player a numerical pat on the back to convey that his or her actions have made a big difference, and players can develop a serious sense of ownership just by being able to predict and improve those relationships openly—much like when they plan out their next several character levels. This is probably the right choice for most games that are using patronage as a supplement to a bigger adventure, as it lets players who are as interested in kicking in doors and stabbing monsters visualize what they must do to earn a meeting with that key NPC.

Grand Lodge

I too am really looking forward to this one. Probably the only campaign setting (vs player companion) book I've been excited about.

I wonder if we might see this patronage system get used in PFS, specifically in the Qadiran, err, Exchange, faction cards for Season 9. It would make sense especially for those characters that still identify more with that branch of the faction.


I'm a little surprised that much space was devoted to it rather than just referencing the rules from Ultimate Intrigue.

Paizo Employee Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Nomadical wrote:

I too am really looking forward to this one. Probably the only campaign setting (vs player companion) book I've been excited about.

I wonder if we might see this patronage system get used in PFS, specifically in the Qadiran, err, Exchange, faction cards for Season 9. It would make sense especially for those characters that still identify more with that branch of the faction.

Although the patronage system is too extensive to translate cleanly to a half-page Faction Journal Card (especially while sharing space with all of the other fun goals and rewards), it could be very fun to have a goal, reward, or both invoke the concepts of patronage.

Contributor

John Compton wrote:
Nomadical wrote:

I too am really looking forward to this one. Probably the only campaign setting (vs player companion) book I've been excited about.

I wonder if we might see this patronage system get used in PFS, specifically in the Qadiran, err, Exchange, faction cards for Season 9. It would make sense especially for those characters that still identify more with that branch of the faction.

Although the patronage system is too extensive to translate cleanly to a half-page Faction Journal Card (especially while sharing space with all of the other fun goals and rewards), it could be very fun to have a goal, reward, or both invoke the concepts of patronage.

You could always make a second patronage card for players to gets hit by Compton's hand of smacking ow...ow...ow....

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