Prosperum's page

28 posts. No reviews. No lists. No wishlists.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Blind creatures operating by blindsight are immune to visual illusions like veil. They might be fooled by the 7th-level version's ability to alter your voice and scent, but it doesn't affect the way (for example) a destrachan's echolocation bounces off you, giving away discrepancies in height and facial structure.

Now, blindsight obviously doesn't pierce polymorph effects, but veil is the only spell or magic item I can find that permits impersonation of specific individuals.

My main complaint, I guess, is that a disguise consists of two parts: craftsmanship and persona. When a disguise is pierced due to a failure of craftsmanship (makeup, prosthetics, etc.), it's anticlimactic and sometimes even slightly humorous (a fake mustache drooping, for example). When a disguise is pierced due to a failure of the persona (the impersonator doing something their target never would, or not knowing something their target could ever plausibly forget), it adds far more drama.

A high-level spell or item should be able to remove the possibility of failure due to bad craftsmanship, but a failure due to persona mismatch is always going to remain a possibility. After all, they are logically two different people (or it wouldn't be a disguise at all), so there must be some difference between the two that could theoretically be uncovered.

Ferreting out a shapeshifter is more narratively engaging as a logic puzzle than simply grabbing his face to check for cheek pads or testing his mustache to see if it comes off.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

My complaint isn't that "Oh no, the Deception skill is useful," or "Oh no, spell casters have to reach high levels to acquire their best abilities." Those are good things, and I'm okay with that.

My issue is that there doesn't seem to be any way to magically impersonate another individual in a way that fools touch and blindsight, even with extremely-late-game spells like shapechange.

The non-magical components of a magically augmented disguise aren't going to stand up to a physical search.

Arguably the Alter Ego archetype's Change of Face feat permits magical impersonation by providing a supernatural alternative to a disguise kit, but I can't seem to find anything else that isn't ancestry-locked, and two feats plus being trained in Stealth is quite an investment.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

What spells do you think are underpowered and why?

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Why is the Pathfinder 2e magic system so much stingier with this capability than 3e and 5e?

Illusory disguise (disguise self in 3e/5e), humanoid form (alter self in 3e/5e), veil (unless heightened all the way to 7th level), the potion of disguise from the APG, and even shapechange (because by RAW all it does is duplicate lower-level spells that all have this limitation) all seem to be limited to impersonating types of creatures rather than specific individuals.

As far as a spell or magic item that permits the impersonation of a specific individual and that fools touch and blindsight, I can't find one.

Was this an oversight by the devs? Why did they add these restrictions to the PF versions of these spells?

Martialmasters wrote:

I was very excited for 5e but got to it a year late.

3 sessions in I realized I hated the system.

Stuck with it for over a year. For my real life friends. But it was a struggle.

With wotc in the news and what they are doing with one DND? Not only do I dislike the system. I've grown to dislike the company and how they intentionally follow behind the smaller companies and get lauded as if they were leading the pack.

Wich really ties into certain noteworthy members of the community and their intentionally bad faith takes and near slander of a system I do enjoy?

If my friends were to use any supported wotc system I'd likely not participate until the game has concluded. Even if it meant I don't get to play any ttrpg

Everybody dumps on WotC, but it's really their parent company Hasbro that makes most of the terrible decisions (other than the creative choices that made 4e an inferior game).

1 person marked this as a favorite.

This is more about the question of how it affects 2e specifically, though. 2e is considerably more different from 3.0/3.5 than PF1e is, to the point that I'm not sure why they needed to include it in 2e.

PF1e would never have been successful if it hadn't been as close as possible to 3.5, but 2e was intended to be a major overhaul rather than minor tweaks.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Now, this news hasn't been confirmed yet, but it looks like WotC is seriously considering canceling the 3.0/3.5 OGL and replacing it with one that would take as much as a 25% cut of everything major 3rd-party publishers make on RPG products.

This includes Pathfinder 2e, because it includes the 1.0a OGL on page 638.

They seem to be trying to cancel and replace the 3.5e OGL with something very similar to the truly awful 4e license that nobody used (now updated with provisions that screw Foundry, Roll20, FantasyGrounds, and anybody trying to make virtual tabletops or other online tools).

Pushback might make them reconsider, but I'm worried that the final decision would rest with lawyers at Hasbro who couldn't give two damns about RPGs and basically consider Paizo, Kobold Press, and Green Ronin as pirates and parasites.

Could Paizo still produce content for 2e if they had to fork over 25% of everything they made off 2e? I haven't heard anything from the Paizo devs but this sounds terrible.

Leon Aquilla wrote:

These are just filled in d8 plot generator tables that a lot of RPG corebooks ship in the Gamemastering chapter these days

I guess I'm not just floored by these kindergarten-level plot madlibs of "The (blank) are (blanked) to (blank) the (blank) by the (blank) of (blank) and have to fight the (blank)"

If they weren't generic, but were actual IP-related factions, AND the conflict flowed logically (e.g. - the Iomedaens clash with the Hellknights) then I might be impressed.

It might be able to do that if it had been trained on Pathfinder adventure paths specifically, but I don't think AP pdfs made up a large segment of its training data.

As a fun aside, I asked it "How do I book plane tickets to Sokovia?" and got this response:

Tickets to Sokovia:
Sokovia is a fictional country that appears in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is not a real location. As a result, it is not possible to book plane tickets to Sokovia. If you are interested in traveling to a real location, you can look up flights to your desired destination and book tickets through a travel agency or online travel booking website. You will need to provide your personal and payment information to complete the booking process. It is a good idea to research your options and compare prices from different providers to find the best deal for your needs.

It seems pretty banal, but remember, when Age of Ultron hit theaters there was no computer anywhere in the world capable of detecting the concept of fictional locations and that you cannot travel to them.

1 person marked this as a favorite.
QuidEst wrote:

The problem with the AI is that it's scraping data from the internet, and you get a pretty bland average from the result. "An army of dragons attack everyone" is like... D&D movie bad. And not the new one.

If you're going to do this, I think you'll have better results if you include a bit of something specific and interesting in the prompt.

I know, if I was actually going to prep for a campaign I would do that. The above was literally just my first fifteen minutes with the thing.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

So ChatGPT has been all over the news lately and I'm wondering if anybody has any experience using it as a Gamemastering aid.

Obviously, it's nowhere near the point of replacing a GM altogether, but when I typed in "What are some original story ideas for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign?" (I wasn't sure if Pathfinder was prominent enough in the training data for it to know what that was). The machine then gave me these:

Campaign Ideas:
1. A group of adventurers must stop a group of cultists from summoning an ancient and powerful demon into the world.
2. The players are hired by a wealthy merchant to retrieve a rare and valuable artifact from a long-abandoned temple, only to discover that the temple is haunted by the spirits of those who died trying to claim the artifact.
3. A plague has swept across the land, and the players must find a cure before it consumes the entire kingdom.
4. The players are hired by a group of dwarves to help them reclaim their ancestral homeland, which has been taken over by a group of orcs.
5. A powerful sorceress has seized control of a kingdom, using her magic to keep the populace in line. The players must find a way to defeat her and restore freedom to the people.
6. The players are recruited by a group of rebels fighting against an oppressive government, and must use their skills and wits to bring down the corrupt rulers and bring about a new era of freedom.
7. A group of powerful dragons has declared war on the mortal races, and the players must find a way to stop them before it's too late.
8. A long-dormant volcano has suddenly erupted, unleashing a horde of monsters that threaten to overrun the surrounding lands. The players must brave the dangers of the volcano and put a stop to the threat.

They're all pretty standard, though number 2 seems more like an adventure than a campaign (though it could become a campaign with some improvisation and further development). I rolled a d8, got a 7, and typed in "In number 7, why did the group of powerful dragons declare war on the mortal races?" and got this response:

Reasons for War:
There could be a variety of reasons why a group of powerful dragons might declare war on the mortal races in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Here are a few possible reasons:

1. The dragons feel that the mortal races have become too powerful and pose a threat to their dominance. They may see war as the only way to protect their own interests.
2. The dragons may have grown tired of living in hiding and have decided to reclaim their rightful place as the dominant species on the planet.
3. The dragons may have been provoked by the actions of the mortal races, such as encroaching on their territory or stealing their treasure.
4. The dragons may be under the influence of a powerful force, such as a demon or an evil deity, that has convinced them to wage war on the mortal races.
5. The dragons may be seeking revenge for some perceived wrong that the mortal races have inflicted upon them in the past.

Ultimately, the reason for the dragons' declaration of war could be a key plot point in the campaign, and the players may need to uncover the reason in order to find a way to stop the conflict and bring about a peaceful resolution.

I decided that while some of these reasons were not mutually contradictory and could be woven together to make the story more engaging, I was most interested in trying to pin the AI down on #4 and see how good its world building skills were. So I asked "In number 4, how did the evil deity convince the dragons to wage war?"

Evil Deity Methods:
It's possible that an evil deity may have convinced the dragons to wage war on the mortal races through a variety of methods. Here are a few possibilities:

1. The evil deity may have promised the dragons great power and rewards in exchange for their loyalty and service.
2. The evil deity may have appealed to the dragons' pride and ego, convincing them that they were the rightful rulers of the world and that the mortal races were nothing but inferior beings.
3. The evil deity may have used trickery and deceit to manipulate the dragons into believing that the mortal races were a threat that needed to be eliminated.
4. The evil deity may have used its power to control the dragons' minds, forcing them to do its bidding.
5. The evil deity may have used a combination of these methods to convince the dragons to wage war on the mortal races.

Ultimately, the specific methods that the evil deity used to convince the dragons to wage war could be an interesting plot point for the campaign, and the players may need to uncover the truth and find a way to break the deity's hold over the dragons in order to bring about a peaceful resolution.

So number 5 is kind of a cop-out, but at least the machine is smart enough to realize that these methods are not mutually exclusive. Now, a story needs a cast of characters besides the villains and the PCs, so my next question was: "Other than the players, who resists the dragons most fiercely?"

The AI had a bit of a hiccup here, accidentally listing as item number 2 out of 5 a group that would ally with the dragons and why, so I downvoted that response and asked for another.

Anti-Dragon Forces:
There could be a variety of groups or individuals who might resist the dragons most fiercely in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Here are a few possibilities:

1. The mortal races: Depending on the setting and the nature of the conflict, it's possible that the mortal races (such as humans, dwarves, elves, etc.) may band together to resist the dragons' aggression. They may have their own armies and leaders, or they may rely on the players to help them fight back against the dragons.
2. Other powerful creatures: It's possible that other powerful creatures, such as dragons of different alignments, powerful wizards, or ancient beings, may decide to resist the dragons and join the fight against them. These creatures may have their own motivations for opposing the dragons, and they may provide valuable support to the players and the mortal races in their efforts to stop the war.
3. Religious or ideological groups: It's possible that certain religious or ideological groups may take up arms against the dragons, either out of a sense of duty or because they see the dragons' actions as a threat to their way of life. These groups may be willing to make great sacrifices to stop the dragons and protect their beliefs.
4. Rogue adventurers: It's possible that some adventurers may decide to resist the dragons on their own, either for personal gain or because they see the dragons' actions as evil and want to do something about it. These adventurers may be lone wolves or may work in small groups, and they could provide valuable support to the players in their efforts to stop the war.

My next question was, "How do the dragons initiate hostilities?"

Beginning of war:
There are many ways that dragons might initiate hostilities in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Here are a few possibilities:

1. The dragons may simply attack a settlement or village without warning, using their powerful abilities to wreak havoc and cause destruction.
2. The dragons may send an ultimatum or demand to the mortal races, stating that they must either submit to the dragons' rule or face the consequences.
3. The dragons may infiltrate the mortal races' organizations and try to sow discord and distrust, in an effort to weaken the mortal races' defenses before launching a full-scale attack.
4. The dragons may try to provoke the mortal races into attacking them first, perhaps by stealing valuable resources or committing other acts of aggression.
5. The dragons may work behind the scenes to destabilize the mortal races' society, perhaps by manipulating political leaders or creating economic chaos.

Ultimately, the specific way that the dragons initiate hostilities could depend on the dragons' motivations and goals, as well as the specific setting and circumstances of the campaign.

It was at this point that I realized it would take a considerable amount of chatting with the machine and teaching it the rudiments of a particular campaign world before it could go beyond generalities that would be obvious to any experienced GM, and I didn't have that kind of time. But maybe people on the boards do. Has anybody tried using it as a GM tool, perhaps to help with writer's block?

It won't write adventures for you, but it seems like it could handle intellectual grunt work, like spitballing ideas that the GM can then refine. I also tried to see if I could get it to write descriptive text for NPCs:

"If I were to describe the leader of the dragon armies in the style of a novel, how would I do it?"

AI's Description:
If you wanted to describe the leader of the dragon armies in the style of a novel, you might include details such as the dragon's physical appearance, personality, and background to create a rich and immersive portrayal of the character. Here are a few suggestions for how you might describe the leader of the dragon armies:

"The leader of the dragon armies was a massive black dragon with piercing red eyes and wings so vast they seemed to blot out the sun. His scales were as hard as steel and his breath could melt steel. His name was feared across the land, and tales of his brutal conquests and ruthless tactics had spread far and wide. He was a being of pure power and ambition, driven by a burning desire to conquer and dominate all who opposed him. But beneath his fearsome exterior, there lay a deep intelligence and cunning that had helped him rise to the top of the dragon hierarchy. His enemies trembled at the thought of facing him in battle, but to his allies, he was a fearsome ally who would stop at nothing to achieve his goals."

Now, that description was a little middle-schoolish, and the AI didn't realize that black dragons breathe acid, not fire, so I went over it again making a few changes by hand to make it less clunky:

Refined description:

"The leader of the dragon armies was a massive red drake with piercing topaz eyes and wings so vast they seemed to blot out the sun. His scales were as hard as iron and his breath could melt steel. His name was feared across the land, and tales of his brutal conquests and ruthless tactics had spread far and wide. He was a being of all-consuming ambition, driven by a burning desire to conquer and dominate all who opposed him. But beneath his ferocious exterior lay a subtle intelligence: a cunning that had helped him rise to the top of the dragon hierarchy. His enemies trembled at the thought of facing him in battle, but to his allies, he was a fearsome comrade who would stop at nothing to achieve his goals."

Neither of them is winning any Nebula Awards, but when you're trying to juggle DM'ing with job/school/family, you're not trying to. You just want to prep your descriptive italicized text paragraphs with minimal fuss.

Anybody else tried using AI for something like this?

Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:

There is a fascinating lore question in there that I don't know we will ever get a clean-cut answer on, which is fundamental to the existence of undead in the setting. If there is a way to create an ethically sourced facsimile soul out of positive energy in order to power a golem without resorting to elemental slavery, there must be something which prevents doing the same for a corpse.

A corpse is rather famously designed for the purpose of bearing a soul fuelled by positive energy, one would think the easiest way to get one moving again would be to fill it with more of the same energy it used to have in life. As necromancers no doubt discovered long ago, however, this clearly doesn't work that way. It is somehow easier to use the exact opposite kind of energy and twist it against its nature in order to cause a body to move.

Mind you, I'm not saying that this makes no sense and there is no reason--there's clearly supposed to be some reason we simply don't know yet, and which it's possible the setting's lore writers don't have nailed down yet. Even so, it is funny and interesting that you can sew a bunch of corpses together and turn them into a object that is animated by lightning and piloted by a pseudo-soul when you can't put that same pseudo-soul into a regular corpse.

Umm, just cast animate objects on the corpse.

Y'know what, this bugs me enough that I'm going to start my own thread.

2 people marked this as a favorite.

So what I'm hearing a lot of in this thread is that the ease of finding players and DMs is one of the main selling points for 5e?

There are some things I like about 5e:

*saving throws versus all 6 abilities is conceptually neat. Why 3e had Grapple checks instead of Strength saves I'll never know.
*bounded accuracy means that swarms of low-level monsters remain a threat to high-level characters.
*replacing almost every little circumstantial or temporary +x/-x with advantage/disadvantage means less time adding and erasing things on your character sheet.

But 2e has massively better character customization options due to class feats and general feats, and the skill system is more developed. The action economy is also more elegant, once you get used to it.

Is there a place where the devs talk out the reasoning behind all the changes they did and didn't make for 2e? I was checked out of the TTRPG world for several years and missed the playtest.

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Pathfinder 2e and D&D 5e are similar games, but key differences (action economy, saving throws, the skill system, and bounded accuracy in general) separate them enough that mental effort is required to translate between them.

How many people on these boards also play 5e? And how do you split your time and attention between them if you do both?

Other than books and movies specifically written as tie-ins for Pathfinder, D&D, & games spun off from them, what are some good series to draw inspiration from that more or less match the tone, themes, and assumptions inherent to the 2e/5e rule sets?

Because in most fantasy fiction, magic is so rare that the story’s protagonists and antagonists pretty much encounter most of the world’s magic items and users in the course of the story. Meanwhile, Pathfinder and D&D treat mid-to-high-level items and spells like Gulfstream V private jets: rare, impressive, and only privately owned by extremely exceptional people, but not so rare that each one is a household name inscribed in folklore.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I’ve always wondered where this spell draws the line between what’s translatable and what’s not. If a document is written in a dead language but is otherwise unremarkable, the effect is straightforward. If it contains a secret code written in the same language but hidden, it would translate the code if you noticed it, but if you fail the check to notice it, the spell doesn’t help.

At first, I thought the spell was simply there to eliminate unintentional obstacles to understanding caused by language barriers, but then I thought some more and things got complicated.

I’d like to ask how other tables handle things like context, metaphors, and figures of speech. Does this spell translate “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” or are you spending the whole session learning to communicate, Picard-style?

How did this smurf thing start, anyway?

Perhaps the zombies staff the farms that sell domestically, while the landowners with export licenses use skeletons?

Or maybe I’m just overthinking things again…

5 people marked this as a favorite.

Geb is an interesting place for sure, but I always questioned why they use zombies as farmhands. If I were growing food for human consumption and possible export, wouldn’t skeletons be the obvious choice? They’re not any more expensive to make than zombies, faster, and much more hygienic.

An addendum to the previous post: by discrediting an influential person (revealing they’re corrupt or dishonest), you can keep anybody from earning points for getting their endorsement.

If this happens, reassign their followers to other blocs (possibly including the independent thinker pseudo-bloc I mentioned earlier) and adjust their relative point values accordingly.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Like in any election, the key is to identify the “thought leaders” in the settlement and win their endorsement.

A newcomer giving speeches in the marketplace is never going to build enough credibility in two weeks to win by Election Day unless influential and trendsetting people endorse them.

Contests of ideas are for courtrooms, not politics.

Break the settlement up into blocs (the flock of the village priest, the members of the thieves’ guild, that one huge family that makes half the town into cousins, workers on a rich guy’s estate, regulars at a particular establishment, etc) and assign the blocs values according to their size.

It’s the players’ task to identify the blocs, who each bloc’s leader is (guild master, family patriarch, tavern keeper, etc), and acquire more Influence Points (GMG 151) with the leader than any other candidate. Each bloc you do this with by Election Day earns you points based on the bloc’s size, and whoever gets the most points wins.

If you want to include the “win by giving speeches in the marketplace” route, you can leave a few floating points to represent the independent thinkers, and whoever gives the best speeches wins those points. If you do a really good job you can impress leaders and win some Influence Points with them by swaying their followers. “Gee, my people like this guy. He must be alright!”

You can complicate matters by including a runoff vote between the top two candidates in a multi-person race, in which case one or more of the leaders in the second round are the candidates who didn’t make the top two!

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Your Standard Fantasy Setting (warning: TV Tropes link!) can get a little stale after a few years. What are some of your favorite examples of Paizo subverting expectations regarding a generic fantasy setting element or story progression?

A good (if obvious) example would be the death of Aroden. It would have been like having to call off the Second Coming because Jesus choked on a bagel.

(If it’s in an adventure module or path, be sure to put it in a spoiler tag unless it’s on the back of the book or happens before the first session begins).

1 person marked this as a favorite.

New item: pants of thunder

Once per hour, let it rip for 2d4 sonic damage to adjacent targets with a basic Fortitude save. On a critical failure, they are sickened for 1 minute.

If you haven’t eaten any carbs in the last 8 hours, improve the target’s saving throw by 1 step.

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Totally Not Gorbacz wrote:
Because they're game worlds, not political science models, and they develop as their authors want to in order to tell stories they want to tell.

Well, yes, but political science models can help authors tell their stories, because ultimately political science models are just another kind of story designed to help clarify the forces involved.

A story can help answer questions like “how are the civilizations on this planet tens of thousands of years old yet nobody has technology much beyond rudimentary steam power?”

One answer, or part of an answer, is that, when it comes to destroying prosperity and blocking progress, the hereditary absolute monarchies that dominate fantasy RPG settings seem almost tailor-made for the job.

After all, authoritarian systems cannot handle the creative destruction that comes with innovation, because the lack of nonviolent means of changing rulers leaves them too brittle. Large numbers of unemployed people can lead to a dead ruler, so labor-saving ideas are often banned by the ruling elite.

3 people marked this as a favorite.

I would say that the Mwangi Expanse has “failed” from an economic perspective, not a cultural one, because there is no such thing as a “superior culture.”

The Mwangi Expanse obviously has no centralized government capable of enforcing contracts or exercising a monopoly on legitimate violence, and therefore urbanization on a large scale and the economic growth made possible by labor specialization will not occur until those facts change.

Now is it Eurocentric to say that urbanization and growth are inherently worthy goals and that a region without them is a failure? Perhaps yes. But urbanization and growth are measurable, which nerds like me love.

As far as treating the “barbarian” tribes as a threat to civilization, I perhaps wasn’t sufficiently clear: if there is one tribe with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, they are the government even if they wear nothing but leather loincloths. A written constitution and capital city full of marble statues are unnecessary. On the other hand, if land or resources can be seized by any actor in the region with an affinity for violence, and preventing or avenging such violence is the sole responsibility of the victims, there is no “civilization,” even if everyone is dressed in silk.

And finally, I understand that this exercise has a bit of a “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” quality to it, and that Golarion is in no way an accurate example of political formalism, what with the robots and zombies and wizards and whatnot. I just think that exploring WHY Golarion (and other fantasy RPG worlds like Eberron and Faerun) don’t follow political science models can help spark creativity and can potentially make for a better game, provided one keeps in mind the limitations of the exercise.

After all, most of the entities described in the bestiaries follow some sort of logic, even if strange, and their behavior can thus be subject to qualitative analysis.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Note that dictatorships wherein the dictator receives guidance from supernatural entities may escape some or all of the traps described above, depending on the nature of the entity.

Note further that these traps are merely very strong trends rather than physical laws, and many dictatorships do not follow them all. However, a dictatorship that doesn’t follow any is likely to be overthrown relatively quickly.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

So I was reading “Why Nations Fail” (Daron Acemoglu & James Robinson), and as a thought experiment sought to apply what I could of its conclusions to the fantasy RPG context with the goal of creating more detailed worlds and more fulfilling games.

(TL;DR: Andoran will probably be ruling Golarion within the next 50-100 years because democracy is such a superior form of government.)

If I say something stupid, please point it out! If something doesn’t make sense, tell me! It’s how we all learn. If a prediction or statement doesn’t ring true, point it out!

Assuming I’ve read the book correctly (an iffy prospect, since I dropped Poli Sci halfway through my first semester of college 10 years ago and never went back to the subject), nations fail in two main ways:

1. When no actor is able to establish a monopoly on violence within a given territory, leaving it devoid of law and order and prey to banditry.

2. When the state centralizes all power in the hands of a tiny elite that ignores the rule of law whenever doing so is convenient and governs overwhelmingly in its own narrow interests.

An example of Failure Mode 1 would be the Mwangi Expanse on Golarion (or Somalia in the real world). Failure Mode 2 is the default position of any feudal kingdom or imperial despotate, and includes nearly all nations in recorded history as well as most fictional nations, including Cheliax et. al. on Golarion.

The detriments of Failure Mode 1 (anarchy) are obvious: it is impossible to establish a prosperous society when barbarian tribes, bandits, monsters, and similar dangers wander the countryside attacking any would-be settlers.

But the detriments of Failure Mode 2 (authoritarianism) are less obvious, to the point that many GMs don’t fully consider their consequences when worldbuilding. The Mode 2 society, wherein the power of the state is in the hands of a relatively small, closed oligarchy (often but not always hereditary), is very brittle. The elite, with no legal checks on their power, eliminate any nonviolent methods of displacing them (assuming they ever existed in the first place), politicize the justice system until the law effectively means whatever they want it to mean and applies only to those they don’t like, and engage in massive corruption, cronyism, nepotism, and all manner of selfish practices that undermine the very government they purport to lead. In extreme cases, their misrule can precipitate the collapse of the state via peasant revolt, military coup, or similar events.

In a Failure Mode 2 society, power centers independent of the ruling clique are a threat to its power and thus to social stability, especially independently wealthy entrepreneurs, merchants, adventurers, or businessmen. The ruling clique will seek to co-opt any such power centers, buying them off if such can be done at a reasonable price (keeping in mind that “reasonable” for a dictator can be quite a sum, since none of it is actually his money). Independent power centers that refuse to be co-opted or corrupted are harassed out of existence by crooked tax collectors, or simply destroyed by violence in the less subtle dictatorships.

In Mode 2 societies, trade (especially long-distance trade) is almost always a government monopoly, either carried out directly by the Crown or else by a monopoly trust that acquired exclusive rights to a particular trade via corrupt connections to the ruling clique.

Education (other than apprenticeships in simple trades) is discouraged in Mode 2 societies save for the children of the ruling clique, and perhaps the clergy if the nation is a theocracy based on the contents of a sacred text (or at least what the ruling clique says are its contents). Literacy in particular is a threat, promoting the concepts of the rule of law and accurate knowledge of history and current events that could be damaging to the ruling elite’s hold on power.

Taxes in Mode 2 societies are very high, as without any nonviolent legal means of opposing the rulers they are free to set the tax burden at whatever level they can competently administer without sparking famine and state collapse, rather than the level most conducive to widespread prosperity. This tax revenue is then mostly wasted on luxury goods, payoffs required to co-opt rival elites, various white elephant projects, and pointless wars.

The highly unequal wealth distribution in Failure Mode 2 societies makes control of state revenue a prize of immense value, to the point that a series of civil wars sparked by greed can ultimately destroy a civilization and cause a society in Failure Mode 2 (authoritarianism & dictatorship) to revert to Failure Mode 1 (anarchy & barbarism).

Access to supernatural powers is extremely limited in Failure Mode 2 societies. Wizardry and alchemy are only taught and practiced by members of state-sanctioned guilds with arbitrary and capricious membership rules written to keep the magical arts under the thumb of the state. Attempts to practice either art outside guild strictures are harshly punished by the authorities. Sorcerers, psychics and other mystical practitioners not affiliated with the ruling clique are usually deemed enemies of the state, as are members of schismatic religious orders, foreign cults, Druidic circles, witches’ covens, and any other alternative mystical or spiritual practice not beholden to the ruling elite.

But the most pernicious trait of Failure Mode 2 societies is their tendency to squash innovation and growth purely out of the leaders’ paranoia. Any technological or magical breakthrough that might increase productivity and save labor is usually outright banned by the ruling elite, out of concern that anyone rendered unemployed or underemployed by the advance would begin contemplating rebellion.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the preceding paragraph. For nearly all of human history, economic growth and technological advancement were essentially nil because the negative consequences of authoritarian government were so serious. The absence of the rule of law, confiscatory tax rates, frequent civil wars, and an elite that actively undermined their own citizens in the name of stability ensured that for most of human history, stagnation was the rule. But when the Glorious Revolution of 1688 reined in the near-absolute power of the English Crown and put parliamentary democracy on a firm footing, England and its colonies rapidly industrialized and within two centuries effectively ran the world.

The tropes of fantasy literature and gaming can sometimes obscure this (especially the tropes of the Good or Wise King), but absolute monarchies (hereditary or not) are authoritarian systems by definition and are prone to all of their flaws, including the ones mentioned above. The absence of authoritarian rule is such a strong predictor of prosperity that, barring democratic backsliding, total military conquest, or supernatural calamity, democracies such as Andoran which practice Common Rule are almost guaranteed a level of prosperity that will grant them global economic hegemony within a century or less.

Long-lived races such as the elves are better capable of the self-restraint required for an authoritarian state to function reasonably well for an extended period, but when an elf or dwarf of bad character gains the throne, centuries of misrule can create truly hellish dystopias that more than squander the fruits of their predecessors’ reigns.

As far as the game impact of all this goes, in a Failure Mode 2 society, the player characters are on a collision course with the state from level 4-5 on: either they will join forces with the state, or ultimately destroy it. The paranoia of authoritarian government is too strong for any other outcome to be likely over the long term, barring extenuating circumstances.

Distributing political power more widely (particularly among a merchant class whose wealth is based on business savvy rather than corruption or inheritance and who have both the motivation and the means to check the power of the Crown) produces less abusive government, and sometimes results in the creation of rule-of-law constraints on the Crown’s power that ultimately lead to parliamentary democracy, but the discovery of overseas colonies loaded with natural resources and natives easily exploited for slave or near-slave labor lock in a country’s authoritarian bent by freeing the Crown from reliance on its own population for state revenue.