Adventure is not limited to forbidding dungeons and grimy back alleys; sometimes the greatest risks and rewards are found in the gleaming halls of queens and emperors. Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes of the High Court presents everything you need to take your escapades into the royal courts and noble houses of Golarion. Learn how to dress and act in high society, gain access to the echelons of political power, and take advantage of the privileges afforded to those who have mastered the arts of courtly intrigue!
Inside this book, you'll find:
Archetypes for a variety of classes, such as the court fool bard to the butterfly blade slayer, who performs a noble's dirty work in the shadows.
Equipment and magical courtly regalia suitable for any ruler, including thrones that grant great power to whoever earns the right to sit upon them!
New traits, feats, and spells for characters who wish to mingle with nobility, as well as new tactics that let a participant of a verbal duel cut her opponent down to size.
This Pathfinder Player Companion is intended for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Pathfinder campaign setting, but can easily be incorporated into any fantasy world.
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This is not a well-titled book. When you think of a book with this title, you think of a middling to mediocre heavily flavor-focused book with at best some fluff archetypes that are kind of forgettable after a week or two. What you don’t expect is a whole host of really cool archetypes, flavorful items and abilities that hold up mechanically, and even new options for verbal duels of all things. Not everything’s a slam dunk of course, there’s a few less interesting or questionable archetypes scattered throughout the book (like the Paladin that trades out a bunch of stuff to basically become a Swashbuckler) but there’s also a bunch of really good archetypes included, like the Fighter archetype that gets Strength-based Combat Reflexes, and the Silksworn Occultist, a great archetype for the class that only gets better as it wears increasing amounts of bling.
Definitely worth a look, especially for someone who wants a character that's regal and wants to show it in style.
I decided to pick up Heroes of the High Court because a PC I'd been running for a while is a noblewoman and I thought I might find some good material for her in a book designed for PCs involved with royalty and noble intrigue. Alas, my character died this past weekend (aboleths!), but I'll still review this book anyway. As with all entries in the Pathfinder Player Companion line, this is a 32-page full colour book. The inside back cover is a reproduction of the cover, while the inside front cover is a depiction of six different signet rings and possible interpretations they could hold. It's a weird feature, but not necessarily a bad one (at least for people, like me, with zero in the way of artistic ability). The interior is literally divided into about fifteen different two-page long sections, which makes summary a bit of a chore. But if you stick with me, I'll try to move fast.
1. "Introduction/Rules Index": There's a couple of exceedingly-obvious paragraphs of introduction, followed by very short (one paragraph each) descriptions of some of the more prominent noble courts in the official campaign setting of Golarion: the Black Dome (Sothis), Castle Overwatch (Lastwall), the Imperial Palace of Egorian (Cheliax), the Imperial Palace of Oppara (Taldor), the Palace of Fallen Stars (Numeria), Queen Edasseril's Court (Kyonin), and the Umbral Court (Nidal). Each court receives a background trait; most are Social traits, but a couple are Magic or even Combat. Most don't actually have much to do with nobility in particular, and relate more to the culture of the region than anything.
2. "Playing a Noble": This section introduces five new feats (three of which are Story Feats), each of which is themed around being a different type of noble: Aspiring Noble, Enlightened Noble, Noble Impostor, Noble Stipend, and Self-Exiled Noble. Next, there's over a dozen new benefits that can be taken with the Noble Scion feat (from the Inner Sea World Guide book) relating to different regions of Golarion. Most of the benefits are fairly minor.
3. "Court Entertainers": Two new archetypes, one for Bards ("Court Fool") and one for Skalds ("Court Poet"), as well as three new Bardic masterpieces. I really like the Court Fool archetype and it seems like a natural role for a Bard, but the Skald archetype is a bit strange as it involves improving allies' "aesthetic sensibilities" (non-physical attributes).
4. "Royal Defenders": Three new archetypes, one for Fighters ("High Guardian"), one for Gunslingers of all things ("Thronewarden"), and one for Witches ("Witch-Watcher"). Witches also get two new hexes and a new patron choice, Protection. The Gunslinger archetype seems okay to me, the Witch archetype really needs much more flavour (it's very bland conceptually), and the Fighter archetype seems like a really bad choice, as the character loses several bonus combat feats in exchange for getting very specific feats with restrictions on them.
5. "Arcane Retainers": Four new spells, three new Alchemist discoveries, and a new Alchemist archetype ("Royal Alchemist"). The artwork accompanying this archetype is pretty cool, but the archetype itself seems like a very, very complicated way to essentially give allies some modest bonuses against disease and poison. I've noticed a trend in Pathfinder game design of giving various class features "pools" of points that do various different things depending on the number of points spent, and I'm not sure if it's a good one for gameplay.
6. "Orders of Chivalry": One new archetype for Cavaliers ("Gallant"), one for Paladins ("Virtuous Bravo"), and the introduction of a new category of magic items called Favors. The Gallant really doesn't do much, but the Virtuous Bravo basically adds Swashbuckler class abilities to a Paladin chassis and definitely provides a different feel for a character with them. Favors are one-use only minor magic items given to a character as a reward or token of admiration for services rendered; I like the concept, though most are pretty expensive considering their minor mechanical effects.
7. "Courtly Races": All of the Core Rulebook races get short (two to three paragraph) entries on what their royal courts are like, along with an alternate racial trait. My favourite of the bunch is "Conservative Diplomacy" for dwarves, which says that they treat any roll of 5 or less on a Diplomacy check as a 5, but any roll of 15 or better as a 15. The mechanical effect ties in really well with the flavour explanation and it makes perfect sense.
8. "Courts of the East": This section contains description of noble life in Jalmeray and Katheer (two areas of the campaign setting that don't receive as much coverage as others), which is more useful than the fairly generic description in the previous section. There's also two new feats, a new Oracle archetype ("Inerrant Voice"), and a new Psychic discipline ("Pageantry"). I have to confess to not knowing much about Psychics (apart from a terribly inept attempt to create one), but the Pageantry discipline looks pretty powerful; I will note, however, that the abilities it grants do not seem particularly well-tied to a "pageantry" theme. Function should follow form here, and it doesn't.
9. "Courts of the Dragon Empires": Brief overviews of four Tian royal courts are provided: Minkai, Po Li, Tianjing, and Xa Hoi. There's also four new feats and a new Occultist ritual. Again, I appreciate seeing some options themed around areas of Golarion outside the Inner Sea, even if the options aren't always as well-tied to the flavour as they should be.
10. "Ecclesiastical Courts": This section includes very brief (one paragraph each) introductions to the royal courts of Cheliax, Mendev, Druma, Razmiran, and Nidal, along with five new feats loosely themed to each. I really like the feats in this section: creative and useful. Two new clerical subdomains are also added, "Chivalry" and "Sovereignty."
11. "Invested with Divinity": This entire section is about a major new Monk archetype, the "Invested Regent." Again, the archetype grants a pool of points which which the character can do special things (and this pool is separate than the Monk's Ki pool). There's three new feats, each of which requires the archetype as a prerequisite. The powers granted to a character with the archetype just don't seem to have much to do with the flavour of the concept, and appeared to be a bit randomly chosen to me.
12. "Enemies of Rule": An archetype each for the Slayer ("Butterfly Blade") and Vigilante ("Dragonscale Loyalist") and three new spells for infiltrating and detecting impostors. The archetypes in this section were much better than in the previous section, and it's good to see Vigilantes getting some attention in a book that would seem to be a natural place for them to shine.
13. "Conduct and Decorum": This section introduces some new ways to use existing skills, such as using a Knowledge (nobility) check instead of Sense Motive to determine if someone is feigning noble blood. I like the concept overall, though some of the options seem more complicated than necessary in order to accomplish a relatively rare task. The verbal duel rules from Ultimate Intrigue receive support with four new tactics; I'm a big believer that new rules sub-systems should be supported beyond the book they're introduced in, so I was happy to see this.
14. "Courtly Regalia": Seven new mundane and magical articles of clothing or accessories to make every noble look (and act) their best. My favourite by far is "Phantom Entourage", which does exactly as the name implies--it creates illusory assorted sycophants and hangers-on to make it clear to everyone just how important the (actually unimportant) wearer is. There's also a new Occultist archetype called the "Silksworn." The concept has been quite popular in the Paizo forums, though again I'll cop to not knowing enough about the class to offer an opinion.
15. "Implements of Rule": Several new magic items, including crowns and scepters, as well as a new type of magic items, thrones. Thrones are interesting because they provide benefits to the monarch sitting on them as well as anyone who makes an obeisance (like kneeling or other gesture of allegiance) before it. I could imagine thrones as an excellent way to add some interesting effects to "boss fights" without risking PCs getting their hands on something so powerful that it will upend campaign balance.
So you can see from the summary above that the book is chock-full of new options. Contrary to what one might expect, there's no particular focus on the classes that seem more naturally aligned to courtly settings (like Bards, Paladins, Vigilantes in their social guises, etc.). Instead, this book has a "satisfy everyone with something for everyone" approach. My feelings after reading it are of mild disappointment. There's no heart or style to the book; the writing in each section is functional but pedestrian, and it's never inspiring or passionate about a rarely-touched area of Pathfinder gameplay that deserves better. I know most buyers of these books want as much "crunch" as can possibly be fitted between two covers, but the book suffers for it in terms of cohesiveness and enduring contribution to the game.
I ordered this right as I saw it available. My current character is a noble, so thought it would be useful for her for some different flavor. I wasn't wrong, but was also pleasantly surprised by the various archetypes, items, and spells available.
The archetypes, as with others in the same vein, don't completely replace a class'so abilities, but rather give them noble (or anti-noble) flare. Some even change classes a fair bit (dex paladin??), but that's par the course for archetypes.
Additional excitement came to be when I read into the info for verbal duels; so much can be done with that, adding a new dynamic to game play.
The items are interesting without being overpowered or too situational- not everything needs to be a Legendary Sword of Legend. In particular, I love the item that gives a character it's own illusory hangers-on... could donly both useful and hilarious things with that!
All in all I like it, and am looking forward to using some of these items and rules in game soon.
Do you want a lot of rules and options to help run a campaign set in royal courts and other elite social environments? Buy Ultimate Intrigue!
But this book is ok, too. You'll find many archetypes and feats that are of the usual quality (forgettable but not offensively bad) and a few well polished diamonds.
1. A bardic masterpiece that replicates the Commune spell
2. The Protective Luck hex makes enemies roll twice and take the worst when attacking an ally
3. A paladin archetype that gives lots of swashbuckler abilities at reasonable cost
4. A strong level 4 occult ritual that can serve as a daily party buff
5. A monk archetype that lets you swap feats for SLAs or advanced feats (w/o preqs) fueled by a new (Cha based) pool of energy separate from your ki, it's also well supported by feats, a case can be made for treating this as a standard archetype you need to justify not taking
6. The Perceive Betrayal spell, which is great for bodyguard or intrigue situations
7. New skill options for existing social skills, much better than the UI "here's a feat to do something you were obviously capable of by default before we published this" approach
8. The Silksworn Occultist. Easily the best 6th level caster when it comes to actual spell casting and SLAs, 9th level casters would be jealous if they weren't, you know, 9th level casters. But for breath and effectiveness in using the abilities and spell levels it does have it's really, really good.
9. The Chastising Baton, a magical rod. Adds +1 DC to all compulsion spells, and sickens the target for 1 round if they make their save. Only 5,000 gp and a new must have for serious Mesmerists, Psychics, and Enchanters.
My biggest disappointment is the Pageantry Discipline for Psychics. It has promise, but makes a big, easily avoided mistake in the spell list that overlooks a well known OA errata, and the first discipline ability by possible intent is basically useless, but as actually written is too powerful. Better editing would have made this a good addition, but I don't see how it can be saved without a comprehensive FAQ that a Player's Companion won't get. Maybe PFS clarifications can at least fix the bonus spell list error.
Ah, this work was in Andoran, Birthplace of Freedom. Very fine book, that! Kind of ironic you should use this art as a place holder for a High Court book when Andoran doesn't truly have a High Court as it is a democracy.
I approve of this Player Companion. I shall continue my subscription...you guys keep doing that to me! Stop being so innovative (not really!).
Is it weird that reading the title made think that we were getting an Attorney class?
Daredevil Vigilante by night, Attorney social identity by day. ;-)
I need a character concept that will let me use the name Clarence Derro for the social identity. This must be a thing. ;)
On a more serious note, this book does look like it might be useful. I like the Vigilante, but I don't feel like I can really get use out of the social identity at the moment. Hopefully this will help.
It would be pretty cool if the opposite was also written. Like heroes of the common folk or something.
As it has already been said, "Heroes of the Streets". Rather under-rated book, that. I really liked it. My fave archetype for the Investigator is in it: The Lamplighter. The cool spell Coin Shot is in there, too.
This looks like it will be a neat book. One of the things I liked in the 3.5 Dragonlance setting was the use of the noble class. Is there something similar in Pathfinder?
Thank you. The noble was a player class.
Green Ronin has had a few takes on the Noble class, and it's been updated to Pathfinder as of the Pirate's Guide to Freeport.
Some stuff from their website on the class;
Shortly after the 3.5 edition hit the shelves, Green Ronin released the Noble’s Handbook, a Master Class sourcebook that provided a comprehensive rules set for running games set among the elite society of your fantasy world. A solid class with lots of support, it was a great book that took our favorite game in a new direction. Several years later, I felt it was time to revisit this class. I wanted to remain true to Rodney Thompson’s design, but give the noble a bit of a power boost for games that don’t necessarily involve noble houses.
The noble’s primary role is to lead and to lead the noble needed a bunch of abilities that would give him minions, give him tools to boost his allies, and also represent the noble’s connections. Since the original noble class gave the character the Leadership feat, I decided to ground the noble’s abilities there. Unlike other classes, the noble picks up and can use the Leadership at 1st level. The normal limitations on the feat prevent the noble from gaining a cohort until 3rd level. As well, a noble still can’t pick up followers until his score is at least 10, so there are some barriers to power. The noble uses his Leadership score for his inspire abilities. Like the bard, inspire allows the noble to boost his allies and weaken his foes. To do so, the noble makes a Leadership check (1d20 + his leadership) score and the effects last for a number of rounds equal to one-half the noble’s class level. The noble begins with one inspire ability, but as he advances, he gains more. Options include awe, competence, courage, complacency, fear, and several others, offering ways to distinguish nobles from each other.
Digging it. Hopefully between this and books like Ultimate Intrigue, we might be moving in a direction towards alternative means of advancing in class and level beyond just the traditional "killin' stuff."