Pathfinder Society 2: Factions and Fame

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

This is our fourth installment discussing our original sticky forum threads regarding the transition of the Pathfinder Society between version 1 and 2 of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. In past blogs, we discussed Tiers, Level Gain, and the Roleplaying Guild Guide; Boons and Chronicle Sheets; and GM stars, Replay, and Boon Conversion. We also put up a blog about Pregenerated Characters. We're seeking your feedback on each of these topics. If you're interested in sharing your thoughts and haven't done so already, please follow the links above.

Today, I'll be talking about the final thread, Factions and Fame. Who are your allies, and how can you leverage your reputation into meaningful benefits for your character? I'll talk about fame first, since it's a bit more straightforward.

Fame

There wasn't much discussion in the sticky thread about fame, so our work on this topic is mostly based off of the lessons we've learned from Starfinder Society. By a large margin, we've heard that people prefer just about every aspect of the way Reputation and Fame work in Starfinder Society to the way Fame and Prestige work in Pathfinder Society. I'll say more on the inconsistent definition of Fame across campaigns in a moment. But for now, I'd like to break down which changes we're looking to make for Pathfinder Society as we transition to the future..

Item Access: In the current version of Pathfinder Society, character's Fame determines their access to magic items. In theory, this system could be used as a way to reward PCs who excel at their missions with better item access. In practice, the chart is irrelevant to the vast majority of PCs, who are limited only by the amount of money they have. This system requires us to print magic items on Chronicle sheets that nearly all PCs would have access to anyway. We've heard a fair amount of negative feedback about this chart, and we're not planning to use it going forward. Instead, we are looking to tie magic item access to character level. This would not necessarily use the same rules as Starfinder Society. Once the new rules are finished, we'll explore the details of this method further. Factors like the rarity system and expected item access by level need to be finalized before we can realistically make progress on this topic.

What is my Prestige good for?: Other than removing the Fame chart for item access, the other common request we've received about the fame/prestige system is to make sure there are plenty of options for spending Prestige Points, with a focus on options that are broadly available to characters without being gated behind purchasing certain books or playing certain scenarios. For this, we're looking toward a model similar to Starfinder Society, including plenty of faction-specific boons as well as some general use boons. This would also come with a loosening of the faction system so PCs could earn benefits for multiple factions, but I'll get back to that in just a minute.

Infamy: Starfinder Society has an Infamy system, in which characters who choose particularly shady solutions to the challenges in the adventure or otherwise act in less-than-upstanding ways become known for their misdeeds. In Starfinder Society, infamous characters have a harder time finding people to sell them items. If they become infamous enough and don't take steps to fix their reputation, they could even lose their position in the Starfinder Society. The Infamy system has been particularly well-received, so we are planning to implement an Infamy system. We may tie Infamy to item access in the next iteration of the Pathfinder Society as well, but like I said above, decisions on that will need to wait until all of the changes from the Playtest are in place.

Fame and Prestige, or Reputation and Fame?: One point of confusion that arises between the Pathfinder Society campaign and the Starfinder Society campaign is the meaning of Fame. In Pathfinder Society, Fame is a number that represents your character's overall standing and influence, while Prestige Points are a spendable resource. In Starfinder Society, on the other hand, Reputation represents your character's standing and influence, while Fame is a spendable resource. We've received a fair amount of feedback that this is confusing. To make it easier for players to engage with both campaigns, we're inclined to use the terms Reputation and Fame in Pathfinder Society version two, in a matter consistent with the way they are used in Starfinder Society.

Factions

Factions have gone through quite a bit of transformation since the Season 0 of the Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, when five rival factions based around the interests of specific nations vied for influence within the Society. In Season 3, the number of factions doubled, adding five more factions based more on ideology than national origin. In Season 4, in an attempt to bring the number of factions to a more manageable level, the two factions with the lowest reported popularity, the Lantern Lodge and the Shadow Lodge, were retired from play. In Season 6, the national factions themselves transformed into ideological ones. While these new ideological factions were better suited to storytelling and appealed to a broader range of characters, we received feedback that the mid-campaign switch was jarring. Faction transformations can be tough, and retirements more so, particularly if you've built a character around being part of a group and suddenly find yourself needing to switch to a different cause. With that in mind, we're working to build a system from the get-go that includes enough factions to give choice without being overwhelming, and to create factions that appeal to a broad range of characters without being generic.

One Faction or Many?: As members of the Pathfinder Society chapter one, PCs choose a single faction to represent. They can change to another faction, but doing so often requires paying a significant cost. In Starfinder Society, PCs can support the interests of a single faction, or they can branch out and champion several factions. They can choose each scenario which faction they want to champion, and there is no penalty for switching. The feedback we've received strongly suggests that the Starfinder system is a big improvement, so we're planning to use it in Pathfinder Society as well. This doesn't mean we're going to create Pathfinder analogues of the existing Starfinder factions, but rather that we want to open up more options for ways to play your character.

Scrolls, Spells, and Swords: We saw a few suggestions to include the schools within the Pathfinder Society—the Scrolls, Spells, and Swords—into factions. We aren't planning to make them factions; instead, we'd like them to represent another meaningful decision you can make at character creation. For context, most agents begin their careers by training at the Grand Lodge, receiving instruction from the three deans, adopting their respective virtues, and often favoring one of the three schools by the point of Confirmation. The Scrolls value knowledge, diplomacy, and the pursuit of truth. Meanwhile, the Spells value determination, independence, and magical talent. They focus on magical studies, both those that uncover the lost secrets of the past and those that create new items, spells, and traditions. Finally, the Swords value personal fitness, martial training, and sound judgment under pressure. In the future, we're planning to make this affiliation matter. We've begun to consider several models for giving the PCs access to resources and support based on their school (or what it might mean to be a field-commissioned agent), but this is another factor that will need to wait for the final game rules to consider further.

Factions: If the Scrolls, Spells, and Swords represent how your character joined the society and grew to become a capable agent, factions represent your character's goals, motivations, and allies. The shift from a rigid system of factions that demand exclusive allegiance to a system with many choices also gives us a chance to re-examine what the factions are.

What we aren't looking to do is simply port over factions into Pathfinder Society chapter two. Some factions have largely completed their goals. Others may experience changes over the course of Season 10 or during the campaign's Interactive Finale. Rather than being bound to the list of factions we have now, we'd like to start from the perspective of creating a list of factions that are interesting to many different PCs. To that end, we brainstormed a list of character motivations that lend themselves to group action. Some of these ideas have clear parallels to existing Pathfinder Society factions, while others explore new territory. Once we've chosen which seeds to use, we can build more nuanced factions around them. Let us know what you think in this week's survey, linked at the bottom of this blog.

So this raises a natural question—what about our faction leaders? Will they end up leading some of the new factions, taking supporting roles, fading into the background, or leaving the Society entirely? There's a Season 10 scenario that addresses exactly this question for one faction leader. Beyond that, we'd like to hear what you'd like to see us do with the current leaders. When rating NPCs, be sure to rate them based on your feelings as a player, not your character's feelings. So if there's an NPC that one of your characters has a grudge with, but that you as a player would like to see stick around, rate them accordingly.

We look forward to hearing your feedback in the Pathfinder Society Factions Survey!

Linda Zayas-Palmer

Developer

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Tags: Organized Play Pathfinder Playtest Pathfinder Society
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Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

Huzzah!

Venture-Agent, Online—PbP aka Elinnea

Sounds like a lot of positive change to me!

*scurries off to the survey to give feedback*

Grand Lodge ***** ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Online—PbP aka Hmm

I am very pleased that you are allowing multiple factions here!

Hmm

*****

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Can we please have a faction that is focused on interplanetary issues, and things on the Material Plane that exist outside of the planet Golarion? Things like the interplanetary elf gates to Castrovel, Androffan culture and technology, Earthfall, spaceships powered by demons, etc.

Grand Lodge ****

Opening up factions is a great idea. Getting rid of the useless magic items per chronicle sheet is also a good idea. There's no point to putting items on the sheet when the characters can't buy them. I think early access to items and or putting items on the sheet with variations to them and also rarer items would be a good idea.

I would like to see items come with some flavor to them instead of the usual generic +1 this or that. Make a huge list of flavor things and have items that also have a randomly generated flavor factor on them. The flavor factor may be next to useless for most scenarios, but in certain situations be very useful. It would make for unique items.

Liberty's Edge ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Indiana—Martinsville aka thaX

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The confusing buy in for the Starfinder Factions is still something I do not have a full grasp on, and may never get right. How one can vie for multiple factions is something that isn't a positive experience for me.

As we get into the weeds with this and how the factions are changed or eliminated, I would hope that each one still has some ties with Pathfinder Society, something I think about half of the factions in Starfinder lack.

Hopefully, we at least keep the Faction Card set up for PF2 instead of wasting space for "boons" to buy for factions in the guild guide.

Liberty's Edge **** Venture-Agent, Washington—Bothell

Before I fill out the survey, can someone tell me if it contains spoilers for any of the faction capstone missions? Specifically, I'm worried about spoilers for Sanctum of the Sages and What Prestige is Worth.

* RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Good stuff, but we really need a faction that advocates for nature.

I'm honestly shocked that we finally got the Concordance to (sorta) fit that need only for it to get axed in 2nd Edition barely a year after its creation.

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

Brendan Fallin wrote:
Before I fill out the survey, can someone tell me if it contains spoilers for any of the faction capstone missions? Specifically, I'm worried about spoilers for Sanctum of the Sages and What Prestige is Worth.

There are no spoilers that I noticed.

Scarab Sages ***** Venture-Captain, Netherlands aka Woran

Steven Schopmeyer wrote:
Brendan Fallin wrote:
Before I fill out the survey, can someone tell me if it contains spoilers for any of the faction capstone missions? Specifically, I'm worried about spoilers for Sanctum of the Sages and What Prestige is Worth.
There are no spoilers that I noticed.

Nope, no spoilers.

Scarab Sages *

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This sounds like a lot of things to track. Having to track things is bad. Less things to track please!

Thats one of my biggest pet peeves with the way starfinder handles factions. Its too much tracking for me to bother with.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Is it too much to ask for an explanation of what you expect Factions to be used for when designing Pathfinder Society II?

I feel that in PFS, they seem to have become more vestigial.

And in SFS they appear to be largely insignificant.

As I see it, for a faction to be meaningful, it needs to come up frequently: I'm talking once a scenario. The whole "cherry pick a character of the correct faction one in eight scenarios" doesn't encourage investment.

**

Interesting.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

It sounds like a lot of thought has gone into this. Thank you.

I personally like the multi-faction idea. I enjoy it in SFS and have been somewhat frustrated by the pigeonholing in the current PFS setup.

Similarly, if the schools are to be implemented, I would hope that some flexibility is allowed there too. For instance, I have a couple of current characters who would be evenly split between two schools with the third being suboptimal. (scrolls & spells; spells & swords)

Again, thank you all for your hard work and for involving this community.

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

Hillis Mallory III wrote:
The confusing buy in for the Starfinder Factions is still something I do not have a full grasp on, and may never get right. How one can vie for multiple factions is something that isn't a positive experience for me.

The “buy-in” is confusing. I keep running into players who don’t understand the boon system at all. I’ve taken to handing out sign-in sheets that have spaces for all 6 slots, and set aside some time to explain that “yes, you do have at least one faction boon if nothing else.”

I like being able to champion multiple factions. I do know people IRL who are PFS Venture-Officers, M:tG Judges, and occasionally DM Adventurer’s League games. All “gaming hobby-related” but they’re focused on different things at different times.

Grand Lodge ***** ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Online—PbP aka Hmm

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Richard Crawford wrote:

Is it too much to ask for an explanation of what you expect Factions to be used for when designing Pathfinder Society II?

And in SFS they appear to be largely insignificant.

It's always interesting to see how other players view things. If anything, I feel that SFS factions are more significant. We have close relationships with a number of the faction heads, and the faction stories have been progressing strongly from scenario to scenario. The fact that a character can interact with more than one faction story makes it even more interesting in SFS.

Hmm

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

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Something I pitched in my survey, but I'll post again here for discussion. They asked for faction ideas...

"Tenders." Look out for other Pathfinders. Root out corruption in the Society. Go to lodges in trouble and shore them up. Oppose / track down those causing trouble for the society (Aspis...). Great faction for inquisitors.

Yes, this might look familiar. But I think it's a really good blend of the original goals of the Shadow Lodge with what the Grand Lodge has evolved into, but with a more proactive and interesting take than the 'bland lodge' currently has.

Liberty's Edge **

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:
Richard Crawford wrote:

Is it too much to ask for an explanation of what you expect Factions to be used for when designing Pathfinder Society II?

And in SFS they appear to be largely insignificant.

It's always interesting to see how other players view things. If anything, I feel that SFS factions are more significant. We have close relationships with a number of the faction heads, and the faction stories have been progressing strongly from scenario to scenario. The fact that a character can interact with more than one faction story makes it even more interesting in SFS.

Hmm

This has been my experience as well. My SFS main is mostly an Exo-Guardian, but he's also a very good hacker, so building a relationship with the Dataphiles made sense for him as well. I like the fact that I can reflect that secondary facet of the character via his Reputation with the two factions.

Sovereign Court **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Kevin Willis wrote:
Hillis Mallory III wrote:
The confusing buy in for the Starfinder Factions is still something I do not have a full grasp on, and may never get right. How one can vie for multiple factions is something that isn't a positive experience for me.

The “buy-in” is confusing. I keep running into players who don’t understand the boon system at all. I’ve taken to handing out sign-in sheets that have spaces for all 6 slots, and set aside some time to explain that “yes, you do have at least one faction boon if nothing else.”

I like being able to champion multiple factions. I do know people IRL who are PFS Venture-Officers, M:tG Judges, and occasionally DM Adventurer’s League games. All “gaming hobby-related” but they’re focused on different things at different times.

I feel like we could have dispensed with the "have to buy your second" faction boons to make things simpler: everyone just checks a box for one faction at the beginning of the scenario. You can shoot for the same faction every time or trek around; but you don't need to buy another boon for it.

**

Lau Bannenberg wrote:
Kevin Willis wrote:
Hillis Mallory III wrote:
The confusing buy in for the Starfinder Factions is still something I do not have a full grasp on, and may never get right. How one can vie for multiple factions is something that isn't a positive experience for me.

The “buy-in” is confusing. I keep running into players who don’t understand the boon system at all. I’ve taken to handing out sign-in sheets that have spaces for all 6 slots, and set aside some time to explain that “yes, you do have at least one faction boon if nothing else.”

I like being able to champion multiple factions. I do know people IRL who are PFS Venture-Officers, M:tG Judges, and occasionally DM Adventurer’s League games. All “gaming hobby-related” but they’re focused on different things at different times.

I feel like we could have dispensed with the "have to buy your second" faction boons to make things simpler: everyone just checks a box for one faction at the beginning of the scenario. You can shoot for the same faction every time or trek around; but you don't need to buy another boon for it.

I like that idea,


Some of those questions needed an option for "who is this NPC and why should I care?"

Local PFS1 play has been dying out, as far as I can tell, and I've played very little of season 10 (and maybe half of season 9.) As such, I'm only vaguely aware of the new Liberty's Edge guy. The Concordance leader seems too bland to rate accurately, so I've got no real opinions there, either.

Grand Lodge ***** ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Online—PbP aka Hmm

Use the comments for that.

I agree there were a couple of people I did not want to see continuing, because they did not make as much of an impact, story-wise.

Hmm

Shadow Lodge ***** ⦵⦵

The nice thing about infamy is the DM doesn't have to assume the elusive mantel of absolute moral authority and say "that was evil" they just have to say its not playing well with the public...

Scarab Sages ****

Are things that trigger infamy written into scenarios? Or is it on the GM to hand it out?


And does a PC incur Infamy if no witnesses survive? Say, if they do various Evil things in a wilderness outpost before burning everything to ashes?

Shadow Lodge ***** ⦵⦵

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Ferious Thune wrote:
Are things that trigger infamy written into scenarios? Or is it on the GM to hand it out?

Both. The DM might decide that players crossed a line, but the scenario also calls out a number of things the players might do to get dinged. Some of the latter make me wonder what kind of parties the scenario authors have been adventuring with...

Paizo Employee ***** Organized Play Lead Developer

7 people marked this as a favorite.

In practice, I've found that roughly 50–65% of the Starfinder Society scenarios have some situation that cites how one or more PCs could earn Infamy. Gaining Infamy has largely been independent of witnesses, and destroying witnesses is generally counterproductive to spirit of whatever moral high ground your PC claims later.

And yes, we've gamed at some pretty dark-yet-resourceful tables. We also find that by providing examples in adventures as to what could earn Infamy, it helps to convey to GMs what likely crosses the line (and would earn Infamy) and what might be acceptable as part of standard adventuring (which, to be clear, is pretty brutal sometimes).

Scarab Sages ****

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I’m not sure how I feel about the table variation that seems inherent to that setup. A condition in a scenario that is triggered by specified actions is one thing. Every GM having the freedom to decide what earns a point seems like it would invite conflict between players and GMs. Much like the whole “complete chronicle sheet” issue, say a player plays in an area where GMs never hand out infamy, then they go to a convention and end up at a table with a GM who does. Not even a difficult GM who hands out an excessive amount. Just one who does at all. That’s going to be a shock to those players, and that’s going to lead to a disagreement at least, and potentially feelings of being treated unfairly. Now say the GM is “strict” in their enforcement, and it should be obvious how it might go very wrong, very fast.

What is the process to appeal it? Contact a VO?

If the system has been working in Starfinder without these kinds of issues, that’s a vote of confidence. I just see a lot of potential problems with GMs assigning negative boons (essentially) with no specific text to point to to justify it.

Are there examples of what would warrant infamy vs what won’t? Threatening a life of a captured enemy, for example? Infamy or no infamy? That’s a fairly common (somewhat simplistic) roleplay tactic when trying to intimidate, not usually out of malice or desire to be evil, but because it’s a trope and easy to grasp onto in the moment. (Actually killing them might be a more obvious violation, but there are many 1,000 post long threads that show that’s not a universal opinion either).

***

Ferious Thune wrote:
A condition in a scenario that is triggered by specified actions is one thing. Every GM having the freedom to decide what earns a point seems like it would invite conflict between players and GMs.

Infamy is strictly better than the PFS1 version of an alignment infraction. In both cases, the GM must inform the player that their actions could be considered Evil and the player has a chance to reconsider.

Infamy is better because GMs have better examples and guidelines that reduce table variation from the PFS1 implementation.

Sovereign Court **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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@Ferious Thune: obviously, anything that happens at the discretion of the GM involves table variation. But you need some of that discretion because you cannot put every possible case into the Guide.

However, a player should never be surprised that he gained Infamy, because:

Guild Guide p. 13-14 wrote:
When a character expresses the intent to perform a wantonly evil or callously criminal action and you inform them that their action would be considered an evil action, if the character still persists in performing the action, you can apply a point of Infamy to the character.

In other words, the GM should warn the player "if you do that, you will gain Infamy". We don't play "gotcha!" with it.

Shadow Lodge ***** ⦵⦵

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Like an alignment infraction, the DM HAS to inform the player "this act will incur infamy, do you with to proceed" yes/no

If you disagree with the dm you can just not do the action. If its something you insist on doing anyway, its something cheap (3 fame?) to get rid of it. There's also some actual BENEFITS to infamy floating around. You can also craft your own stuff to evade the sales restrictions.

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Like an alignment infraction, the DM HAS to inform the player "this act will incur infamy, do you with to proceed" yes/no

I've had to warn players three times in SFS. Each time I've phrased it about the same: "I am required to warn you that this qualifies as a wanton or callously criminal act. In other words, you'll get a point of Infamy if you do it."

1. "Hmmm... eh... I guess I won't do it then. Haven't really decided how 'good' this character is yet."
2. "What's Infamy? Oh, that doesn't sound good, I won't do it."
3. "Absolutely! Bring on the Infamy. (character) doesn't care how people view him."

Quote:
If you disagree with the dm you can just not do the action. If its something you insist on doing anyway, its something cheap (3 fame?) to get rid of it. There's also some actual BENEFITS to infamy floating around. You can also craft your own stuff to evade the sales restrictions.

I do like that there are some possible benefits to Infamy, but unfortunately the practical limit of two Infamy (before your character is removed from the campaign) means it isn't really explored that much. I'd love to see a change to something like 3 Fame to remove a point of Infamy -or- you must spend one point of Fame per scenario to play a character that has more than two Infamy.

Liberty's Edge ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Indiana—Martinsville aka thaX

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My disappointment is that the co-leader of the Liberty's Edge faction was not mentioned in the survey, which is the leader I really want to continue instead of the grumpy Halfling. (I don't remember her name, sorry.)

I would hope that Osprey, Drendle Dreng, and Pentrolengo (SP?) are still around and doing things as Venture Captains.

Scarab Sages ****

Ok, it sounds like infamy is really just the don’t commit evil acts rule, but with two or three strikes instead of one. That’s very different than what I took it for from the blog, which was more like negative fame.

To use vague references to a recent season scenario, you can complete it either by talking your way through it, befriending a creature, and building up the societies reputation. Or, you can complete it by killing everyone you encounter. Both technically complete the mission, but one earns a negative boon. From the way the blog describes it, I was assuming infamy replaces the negative boon. So you succeed at the scenario, but not without damaging your reputation. I actually like the idea of something along those lines, as long as the events that result in it are as defined as, say, secondary success conditions are now. With that understanding of the rule, arbitrary infamy being handed out by a GM didn’t make any more sense to me than arbitrary prestige/fame would.

But as a more clearly defined two or three strikes and you’re out of the campaign? (The character, anyway) Sure, that’s probably fine.

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

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Ferious Thune wrote:

Ok, it sounds like infamy is really just the don’t commit evil acts rule, but with two or three strikes instead of one. That’s very different than what I took it for from the blog, which was more like negative fame.

To use vague references to a recent season scenario, you can complete it either by talking your way through it, befriending a creature, and building up the societies reputation. Or, you can complete it by killing everyone you encounter. Both technically complete the mission, but one earns a negative boon. From the way the blog describes it, I was assuming infamy replaces the negative boon. So you succeed at the scenario, but not without damaging your reputation. I actually like the idea of something along those lines, as long as the events that result in it are as defined as, say, secondary success conditions are now. With that understanding of the rule, arbitrary infamy being handed out by a GM didn’t make any more sense to me than arbitrary prestige/fame would.

But as a more clearly defined two or three strikes and you’re out of the campaign? (The character, anyway) Sure, that’s probably fine.

Infamy is (at least in SFS) a lot more than just a "three strikes and you're out" policy. It represents having a known reputation as an outlaw. That can have both good and bad effects as people are more hesitant to trust you but also may be more willing to give in to your demands out of fear. There may even be a bit of a "pirate" or "Robin Hood effect" where you are somewhat romanticized to the masses but everyone really hopes you don't walk into their store waving weapons.

-Each point of Infamy lowers the maximum Item Level you can buy. Linda says they probably won't directly port this to PFS, but will do something in the same vein (the "negative fame" aspect).
-Various Boons may give you bonuses based on your amount of Infamy. For example you might get a +1 to Intimidate for every point of Infamy. Or you may get a discount when buying black market goods (they know you aren't a cop).
-A scenario involving outlaw or rebel groups could incorporate Infamy as well. They could normally start as hostile, but be unfriendly if anyone has 1 Infamy point or neutral if anyone has 2 points.

Scarab Sages ****

Can someone give a pathfinder specific example of something that might happen in a game that would prompt a GM to assign infamy that isn’t specifically called out in the scenario? I’m beginning to feel like the only way I’m going to understand how it works in reality is to start playing SFS, and I don’t want to learn an entire system just to understand how a mechanic is going to work in a completely different system.

What is an action a character might take that you as a GM would give them a point of infamy?

Silver Crusade ***** Venture-Captain, Germany—Aschaffenburg-Würzburg

Ferious Thune wrote:

Can someone give a pathfinder specific example of something that might happen in a game that would prompt a GM to assign infamy that isn’t specifically called out in the scenario? I’m beginning to feel like the only way I’m going to understand how it works in reality is to start playing SFS, and I don’t want to learn an entire system just to understand how a mechanic is going to work in a completely different system.

What is an action a character might take that you as a GM would give them a point of infamy?

I think "burning down the orphanage" might be a good example.

Scarab Sages ****

But that shouldn’t be seen as a positive in any way. I’m trying to understand if we’re only talking about actions that would previously have gotten the character marked dead, in which case this is a relaxation of the no evil acts rule. Or, are there lesser offenses that previously wouldn’t have affected anything, but would now earn you infamy?

Scarab Sages Venture-Agent aka CptJames

Ferious Thune wrote:
But that shouldn’t be seen as a positive in any way. I’m trying to understand if we’re only talking about actions that would previously have gotten the character marked dead, in which case this is a relaxation of the no evil acts rule. Or, are there lesser offenses that previously wouldn’t have affected anything, but would now earn you infamy?

One that comes to mind relates to getting information from an enemy...usually a little beating the npc up to get information is kinda frowned upon but generally accepted in my experience...I've come across a scenario where it specifically says if you beat this npc up you get infamy.

Scarab Sages ****

I’ll try to pose more detailed questions when I’m not on my phone. For now... I’m also trying to ask questions without taking this thread in the direction of any of the hot button topics that lead to the kinds of conflict I’m hoping the system doesn’t encourage. This example is borderline with one of those topics.

Instead, I’ll just ask... since that scenario called out beating someone up for information, would you rule other situations where PCs beat up an NPC for information earn them infamy? Does the whole party earn infamy in that situation? What about a character who chooses not to participate? Is there something specific to this particular NPC that makes beating them up more of an infraction than beating up a different NPC?

I’m not opposed to a more nuanced system that allows for some grey area actions that might provide a benefit, but which also carry a consequence. For example, if the PCs are under a time crunch, and there are two ways to get information from the NPC, they might take the slower, less morally grey path of trying to convince the NPC to tell them what they need to know. Or, to save time, they might resort to beating the NPC up, which gets them the information quicker, but adds to their infamy. Because they chose the quicker route, though, they get to the next encounter sooner and have a better chance of saving the innocent that was taken. There’s a moral dilemma and a system to represent that.

If it’s instead, using X ability at my table is fine, but using it at another GM’s table earns you infamy, that’s a problem.

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

Example

While adventuring you find a village. There is a dam threatening to break and flood the village. After investigation, you find a mechanism that will fix the floodgates. However, it’s made of Adamantine and would be quite valuable. You could just take the mechanism and sell it, but that will earn you a point of Infamy for letting the village flood.

Scarab Sages ****

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And that would be written into the scenario? Or not written into the scenario? If not written into the scenario, then is a GM imposing infamy changing the players' rewards in a way that is not consistent across all tables?

Keeping in mind that currently you can't earn extra gold by taking the mechanism in PFS. So this would be the GM saying to the players that they are going to reduce the gold earned if the players don't accept a point of infamy.

If it's written into the scenario as a choice that will affect rewards (balanced by a positive boon or something), that's fine. I like that system. If it's empowering GMs to arbitrarily alter the PCs' rewards for a scenario, I am not on board with that.

The examples so far have either been things that would clearly be an evil act under the current system, and would result in removal of the character, or they've been things that would need to be written into the scenario in order to avoid wide table variation. I'm really trying to understand if there are any items in between those two.

Sovereign Court **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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Well, burning down the orphanage without a good reason might be considered more than your average infraction;

SFS RPG Guild Guide 1.1 p.13-14 (Infamy) wrote:

INFAMY AND ALIGNMENT INFRACTIONS

Players are responsible for their characters’ actions. “That’s just what my character would do” is not a defense for behaving like a jerk.

Alignment infractions are a touchy subject. Killing an innocent, wanton destruction, and other acts that can be construed as evil might be considered alignment infractions. Ultimately, you are the final authority at the table, but you must warn any player whose character is deviating from his chosen alignment. This warning must be clear, and you must make sure that the player understands the warning and the actions that initiated the warning. The PC should be given the opportunity to correct the behavior, justify it, or face the consequences. You can issue a warning to the player through a “feeling” he receives from his deity, a vision he is given, his conscience talking to him, or some other similar roleplaying event.

Infamy: As Starfinder has no rules for magical atonement, alignment infractions are tracked by the application of Infamy. When a character expresses the intent to perform a wantonly evil or callously criminal action and you inform them that their action would be considered an evil action, if the character still persists in performing the action, you can apply a point of Infamy to the character. Because Starfinder Society characters cannot be evil, gaining Infamy does not mandate a change in the character’s alignment, but rather, represents a step towards becoming evil.

Beyond GM intervention, some scenarios and written products may present evil solutions to situations. These actions will be called out within the adventure text as being appropriate to give a character partaking in them a point of Infamy. Still, the GM is the final arbiter on what constitutes an alignment infraction and when Infamy is gained by a character at the table.

Every point of Infamy represents the PC’s reputation for performing evil actions. A character can have a maximum of 3 Infamy before that character must be retired; it is assumed characters with 3 points of Infamy become irrevocably evil and are no longer welcome to join standard Starfinder Society operations.

Effects of Infamy: A character can have an Infamy score between 0 and 3. Gained Infamy can be “bought off” by spending Fame (see the Basic Purchasing Plan boon on page 29). The following summarizes the effects of Infamy based on the number of points accrued:

0: No effect. The character is considered in excellent moral standing with the Starfinder Society.

1: The character has earned a reputation for performing unseemly deeds. The character reduces the maximum item level of equipment he can purchase by 1. This typically means that the PC can purchase equipment from outside the Starfinder Core Rulebook with an item level equal to his level – 1, he can purchase only equipment from the Starfinder Core Rulebook equal to his level, and can purchase equipment listed on a Chronicle sheet only if its level is at most 1 higher than his level.

2: The character is renowned for her evil exploits in the name of the Starfinder Society. The character reduces the maximum item level of equipment he can purchase by 2. This typically means the PCs can purchase equipment from outside the Starfinder Core Rulebook with an item level equal to her level – 2, or purchase equipment listed in the Starfinder Core Rulebook equal to her level – 1. A PC with this level of Infamy can purchase equipment listed on her Chronicle sheets only if its level is equal to or less than her level.

3: The character has earned such a reputation that he is barred from participating in the Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, unless he spends Fame to reduce his Infamy score at the end of the session. If the character lacks sufficient Fame to reduce his Infamy score by the end of the scenario, the character is permanently retired from play.

Major Infractions: Characters who become wantonly evil by performing vile actions deliberately and without motive or provocation are retired from the campaign when they reach 3 Infamy and cannot reduce the value by spending Fame. This measure is a last resort; players should endeavor to play their characters in ways that are within the constraints of acceptable alignments, even if their characters have gained some Infamy.

If a character is retired as defined above, you should escalate the report to the event coordinator, or the local Venture-Captain or Regional Venture-Coordinator. If that Venture-Officer agrees with you, then the character is deemed wantonly evil and considered removed from the campaign. Again, these measures should be taken as a very last resort.

In the event of a wantonly evil character, record the character as “dead,” and the person who enters the tracking sheet should check that box as well. If the event coordinator, Venture-Captain, or Regional Venture-Coordinator decides the character fits the criteria for being wantonly evil, she will then e-mail the Organized Play Manager to advise her of the situation, including the player’s name, organized play number, and e-mail address. A player must be advised of these actions and be provided with a chance to contact their RVC to present their side of the case.

Notice the last section which discusses major infractions. Normally if you reach Infamy 3 you can still step back from the brink, but if you were being really vile then you can't, and it becomes A Thing that needs to be kicked upstairs.

You asked for examples of things that might incur infamy without being written into a scenario; of course that's a bit subjective. But I'd certainly consider the following:

* Executing enemies who have surrendered and are no longer a threat.
* Taking extra effort to utterly destroy a defeated spaceship and its occupants when just leaving it adrift would also be sufficient for the mission.
* Being reckless with area attacks resulting in civilian casualties.

Sovereign Court **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

Ferious Thune wrote:
The examples so far have either been things that would clearly be an evil act under the current system, and would result in removal of the character, or they've been things that would need to be written into the scenario in order to avoid wide table variation. I'm really trying to understand if there are any items in between those two.

Well, PFS also doesn't eject you for just one evil act. The language in the PFS and SFS guild guides isn't that far apart. It mentions that repeated evil actions can move you towards an evil alignment, but that you're only retired if you actually make it all the way to an evil alignment. Doing enough evil acts to move from Good to Neutral isn't that different from incurring 1-2 Infamy and stopping there.

I guess Infamy makes it a bit more granular and quantifiable, and thus perhaps more useable. In PFS, you might skirt the boundaries of earning an alignment change every session, but never quite go there because it's just not enough. In SFS that could result in earning a single point of Infamy.

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

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Ferious Thune wrote:
The examples so far have either been things that would clearly be an evil act under the current system, and would result in removal of the character, or they've been things that would need to be written into the scenario in order to avoid wide table variation. I'm really trying to understand if there are any items in between those two.

The in-between area - at least for me - is mainly in the category of "callously criminal." Things that aren't necessarily evil but would certainly lower your standing with most members of society.

I've had plenty of PFS tables where someone is playing the "chaotic neutral, habitual thief" kind of character. Let's say the PCs turn in the McGuffin to the chief and save the village. And then one of the players says out-of-character "you know what, their temple had some pretty nice candlesticks and stuff. I'm going to steal it all on the way out." (Note that this isn't an attempt to get more treasure than the scenario allows, just a "roleplaying" thing.) As this isn't truly an evil act, I just go along with it, it doesn't really make any difference.

Well, with an Infamy system I can say to the player "that's a very callous move to steal from these poor villagers. You're pretty sure your name will be mud around here. In other words, you would gain an Infamy." So the player can decide not to do it. Or, the player can decide that they want to be at least a bit infamous and go ahead and do it anyway. So they now have that Infamy on their character.

Scarab Sages ****

Ok. I’m finally somewhere I can read through the whole of the quoted material. That reads to me like infamy is only employed in situations which would fall under the alignment infraction/evil act that currently exists, unless otherwise stated in a scenario. There might be additional uses for that information, but essentially it’s just replacing that policy. That’s what I meant by two or three strikes.

There are several things in the blog and thread that seemed to indicate otherwise.

“BigNorseWolf” wrote:
The nice thing about infamy is the DM doesn't have to assume the elusive mantel of absolute moral authority and say "that was evil" they just have to say its not playing well with the public...

Well, no. Not according to the rules on infamy quoted above. It needs to be an actual evil act, not just something that might get a negative reaction. This statement made it sound otherwise.

“blog” wrote:
Starfinder Society has an Infamy system, in which characters who choose particularly shady solutions to the challenges in the adventure or otherwise act in less-than-upstanding ways become known for their misdeeds. In Starfinder Society, infamous characters have a harder time finding people to sell them items. If they become infamous enough and don't take steps to fix their reputation, they could even lose their position in the Starfinder Society. The Infamy system has been particularly well-received, so we are planning to implement an Infamy system. We may tie Infamy to item access in the next iteration of the Pathfinder Society as well, but like I said above, decisions on that will need to wait until all of the changes from the Playtest are in place.

This language from the blog is much less severe than the language quoted from the SFS guide. Bribery is “shady,” intimidation is “shady,” theft, casting a spell with the evil descriptor, etc. None of those things approach being an alignment infraction currently, and none of those things look like they should trigger infamy according to the SFS rules.

“John Compton” wrote:
In practice, I've found that roughly 50–65% of the Starfinder Society scenarios have some situation that cites how one or more PCs could earn Infamy. Gaining Infamy has largely been independent of witnesses, and destroying witnesses is generally counterproductive to spirit of whatever moral high ground your PC claims later.

If 65% of SFS need to point out that evil actions are evil, something is wrong with SFS. So I assumed that the things those scenarios are pointing out aren’t evil in the same way that an alignment infraction is evil. But if that’s the case, then using them as examples for the GM to identify what is worthy of infamy means the GM is handing out infamy for things below the level of an alignment infraction.

There are more, but hopefully you understand my confusion. I ask what kind of actions lead to infamy that aren’t specified in scenarios. I get responses that are all alignment infractions, and to use the guidelines from what’s in the scenarios. I ask what kinds of things are in scenarios, and I get things that aren’t alignment infractions.

So which is it? Can a GM decide that intimidating an orphan child for information on Auntie Baltwin warrants infamy? Or do you have to actually burn the orphanage down?

Scarab Sages ****

Kevin Willis wrote:
Ferious Thune wrote:
The examples so far have either been things that would clearly be an evil act under the current system, and would result in removal of the character, or they've been things that would need to be written into the scenario in order to avoid wide table variation. I'm really trying to understand if there are any items in between those two.

The in-between area - at least for me - is mainly in the category of "callously criminal." Things that aren't necessarily evil but would certainly lower your standing with most members of society.

I've had plenty of PFS tables where someone is playing the "chaotic neutral, habitual thief" kind of character. Let's say the PCs turn in the McGuffin to the chief and save the village. And then one of the players says out-of-character "you know what, their temple had some pretty nice candlesticks and stuff. I'm going to steal it all on the way out." (Note that this isn't an attempt to get more treasure than the scenario allows, just a "roleplaying" thing.) As this isn't truly an evil act, I just go along with it, it doesn't really make any difference.

Well, with an Infamy system I can say to the player "that's a very callous move to steal from these poor villagers. You're pretty sure your name will be mud around here. In other words, you would gain an Infamy." So the player can decide not to do it. Or, the player can decide that they want to be at least a bit infamous and go ahead and do it anyway. So they now have that Infamy on their character.

But this is the exact kind of table variation I’m talking about. You are punishing someone for roleplaying an unsavory character exactly as much as if they were performing evil acts worthy of an alignment infraction. This is what I mean when I say it sounds like it will increase conflict. If a GM has a problem with a particular spell - say infernal healing or a more severe example - how would them imposing infamy for using that around villagers be any different than what you’re suggesting? Which leads to table by table ban on spells/items/uses of skills/etc., because it’s accept infamy or don’t do the thing. Why would we want to put GMs or players in a position that increases the conflict over issues like that?

Shadow Lodge ***** ⦵⦵

Ferious Thune wrote:


Well, no. Not according to the rules on infamy quoted above. It needs to be an actual evil act, not just something that might get a negative reaction. This statement made it sound otherwise.

When a character expresses the intent to perform a wantonly evil or callously criminal action and you inform them that their action would be considered an evil action

So it doesn't have to be actually evil in the sense of an ultimate moral authority the way it does in pathfinder it just needs to be the sort of thing that most societies are going to find reprehensible. Either one is treated the same way.

Scarab Sages ****

Callously criminal is a somewhat more severe term than “not playing well with the public.” Again, this is exactly the kind of table variation that I’m afraid of. Two words from a rule that is clearly referencing alignment infractions are being used to justify broadening the interpretation to less severe actions. The section in infamy even begins, “ As Starfinder has no rules for magical atonement, alignment infractions are tracked by the application of Infamy.” if a callously criminal act is bad enough to warrant an alignment infraction, then it should earn infamy. Asking a GM to make a finer judgement call is, again, inviting table variation and conflict between the GM and players.

To go back to the PFS scenario I was referencing earlier, here’s an example. In it, you need an item that is in a house which you assume is run down. Once inside, you realize someone is living there. They return home while you are inside. When you come out with the item, which has some value, the scenario allows for you to talk to them and compensate them for the item, or to kill them. They’re armed. They can fight back. They have class levels. Is that callously criminal? You’re stealing from them and then killing them so you can keep what you took. But unless that is called out in the scenario as something that could earn infamy, there would be table variation about whether it does or not. Some groups would be stopped by the GM and given the choice to change their actions. Others would be allowed to kill them without question. If the first group can diplomacy their way out of it, and end up having to kill them anyway, they’ve now earned infamy that the second group didn’t. And the players might not be happy about that.

Is a group that kills them crossing a line? The scenario presents that as a solution so that a party without diplomacy can still succeed.

Anyway, if Starfinder isn’t seeing issues because of this, it will probably be fine. Starfinder doesn’t have as many heavily debated issues as Pathfinder (I don’t think). I do see this potentially reopening settled issues of whether certain character options qualify as evil or not, unless there are very specific guidelines to the contrary. And I don’t see myself ever attempting to impose this on a group or character unless they’ve clearly crossed a line or the scenario spells out the criteria for it.

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

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Ferious Thune wrote:
If a GM has a problem with a particular spell - say infernal healing or a more severe example - how would them imposing infamy for using that around villagers be any different than what you’re suggesting? Which leads to table by table ban on spells/items/uses of skills/etc., because it’s accept infamy or don’t do the thing. Why would we want to put GMs or players in a position that increases the conflict over issues like that?

Despite the hypotheticals that get thrown around on the messageboards all the time, the incidence of real-world table conflicts over alignment infractions is vanishingly rare.

I've probably given at least a dozen "evil act" warnings in Pathfinder. Usually the player will either say "oh, yeah," or say something like "I don't think that's evil" but roll with it anyway. I've only ever had a player seriously argue with me once*. So what did we do? Discussed it like reasonable, mature adults. She still believed I should not have assessed the penalty, but accepted that at the table it was my call.

I talked about the three SFS warnings I've given above. No conflicts at all. As implemented it's a way to increase role-playing engagement, not to grief your players.

*:
It wasn't actually an "evil act." The PC was a paladin who was taking an action that probably was necessary. The only creature it would harm wanted her to take the action and communicated that to her. However, it required doing something that I firmly believe violated her deity's code. Her argument was that it was a just, fair, and honorable action. I agreed with all that, but the action still required doing something her deity absolutely says "do not do this." She went ahead and did it, lost her paladin abilities, and atoned for it afterwards.

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