Plot agency: for the martial character


Homebrew and House Rules

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So, feel free to take this how you want, since I know it can be a rather unpopular option (for good reasons, covered in many places over many posts.)

But coming from a particular thread discussing caster/martial disparaty, one of the main complaints that I feel is being made, is that martial characters lack the ability to influence the over-arching plot in any meaningful way, since they have to specialize so heavily in smacking things in the face.

Given that, I was thinking of putting up using leadership as something of a way to make up for it.

In this way, the level 10 fighter can throw around the weight of his organization to get his party in to see the king, rather than standing around while the party sorcerer baps him/herself with a few +cha spells and sweet talks the guards into letting them in.

It gives the fighter (using fighter only as an example) an interesting way to interact with the world through attempting to build the relevance of his given organization (whatever that may be) and also gets him some levels of fame, and social clout.
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What do you guys think?


The problem with that is that casters can also take the Leadership feat. A Cleric could have the weight of his congregation behind him, or the Wizard an Arcane Society that he founded. And if those aren't helpful for the situation at hand, both Cleric and Wizard have skills and magic to fall back upon.


I think being connected to everyone important should be a Rogue thing. Even the Wizard's arcane society has arcane trickster moles working for the Rogue.


I've always found making decent use of the downtime/honor systems can really help more combat orientated characters outside of combat.
Need to bribe some guards? You have some old wine stock laying about from that time you cleared out rats.

Having trouble getting somewhere? Well, one of your old friends from the army days now owns a caravan train, it'd annoy him something savage, but you can ask him for a lift.

Need help breaking into a place? Thieves guild got your back, spend this much influence. Need to do some research? X magic and a rogue mage got your back. It helps build NPCs as well as helps give floating modifiers they can spend whenever.

Leadership can help as well, there's a certain point where a fighter becomes so good at stabbing things that other people should be lining up to learn his techniques, happens less with wizards and rogues since well, wizards tend to teach themselves or in universities and a good rogue is one that no one knows the name of (And of course, clerics have their own priesthood structure, ect, ect)

That and let them borrow, barter and banter for temporary items, no one is going to buy a +3 Construct-Bane Mace for a single fight, but you could certainly borrow one off a friendly dwarf who really, really isn't fond of awakened anvils.

Basically, give 'floating' bonuses that can be invoked in most situations if they're creative, let them bypass traps and so on without rolling if they come up with good ideas and of course, don't be afraid to give them tiny packages of magic to use on their whim, doesn't have to be useful magic all the time.
But players can get creative, when they're given oddball items and will find ways to impress.


Ventnor wrote:
The problem with that is that casters can also take the Leadership feat. A Cleric could have the weight of his congregation behind him, or the Wizard an Arcane Society that he founded. And if those aren't helpful for the situation at hand, both Cleric and Wizard have skills and magic to fall back upon.

Yes, but I'm not really trying to find ways for the martial class to out-do the wizard, but just have some tricks of their own so they don't feel terribly useless in social situations.


BLloyd607502 wrote:

I've always found making decent use of the downtime/honor systems can really help more combat orientated characters outside of combat.

...

Basically, give 'floating' bonuses that can be invoked in most situations if they're creative, let them bypass traps and so on without rolling if they come up with good ideas and of course, don't be afraid to give them tiny packages of magic to use on their whim, doesn't have to be useful magic all the time.
But players can get creative, when they're given oddball items and will find ways to impress.

(cut for more manageable length in reply)

It's an interesting thought. How do you usually balance assigning the points? is it a static currency you gain through doing others favors (or do they also get a small amount for just generally interacting in a friendly manner?)


Arachnofiend wrote:
I think being connected to everyone important should be a Rogue thing. Even the Wizard's arcane society has arcane trickster moles working for the Rogue.

It's true enough, but I'm just going for characters in general who don't have magic to fall back on. And a warrior could set up a knightly order, or a mercenary band or some such.


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So the problem with this solution is that the problem you're trying to address doesn't go away.

A fighter with a hundred other fighters can't do anything that a fighter couldn't already do. If the fighter picks up wizard and cleric followers they're back to relying on the wizard and cleric to cover for them. Reminds me of the old joke: "You're selling at a loss, how do you make any money? Volume!"


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Personally I'm a fan of martial characters getting fantastic as casters become fantastic.

The powerful archemage Zed, ruler with the dark eye, can spy on dissidents at his leisure! He knows that Goodman the bravesneaker is trying to start up trouble in his kingdom. Zed maintains watch on Goodman with his poweful divination magic, watching him go about his day, when suddenly he feels something in his chest pop and a feeling of spreading wetness on his back.

He looks back and sputters "Impossible!"

Goodman cleans off his stilleto and disappears into the shadows.

On the crystal ball another man takes off his Goodman mask and smirks as the sensor evaporates.


What if scrying detected magic, making it most potent against full casters but entirely worthless against a fighter or a rogue? If you need to find a slippery master thief the only reliable solution is to call the ranger.

Liberty's Edge

It's tricky to do this within the existing rules framework.

Personally, I just err on the side of letting skills do really neat stuff when possible, and House Ruling to give more martial classes skill bonuses of various sorts (lots come baked in but Fighter and Rogue need some help).


I wonder now ... when the fighters, paladins, and other martials start trying to be plot significant, what usually happens?


The easiest way to make them plot significant is backstory stuff and roleplaying rewards, and making sure that all the players are fine with the arrangement because mechanically your not gonna be able to increase fighter agency without unchaining the classes.


Qaianna wrote:
I wonder now ... when the fighters, paladins, and other martials start trying to be plot significant, what usually happens?

Paladin will have an easier time with this due to their ability setup. They got more "class stuff" than a Fighter.

Honestly modifying the classes seems the best band-aid right now.

More skill points, bonuses to skills, when appropriate access to orgs (especially Paladin), free UMD ranks+class skill, giving them special abilities (Rogue stealth so good that tremorsense/blidsight/ect still need to roll peception), and stuff like that.

Also playing a different class with more agency works. From paizo my suggestions are Paladin, Bloodrager, Hunter, and Ranger. If you're allowed 3PP I can make other suggestions.


werewolf435 wrote:
BLloyd607502 wrote:

I've always found making decent use of the downtime/honor systems can really help more combat orientated characters outside of combat.

...

Basically, give 'floating' bonuses that can be invoked in most situations if they're creative, let them bypass traps and so on without rolling if they come up with good ideas and of course, don't be afraid to give them tiny packages of magic to use on their whim, doesn't have to be useful magic all the time.
But players can get creative, when they're given oddball items and will find ways to impress.

(cut for more manageable length in reply)

It's an interesting thought. How do you usually balance assigning the points? is it a static currency you gain through doing others favors (or do they also get a small amount for just generally interacting in a friendly manner?)

Well, I usually don't, since they know whats up my players are a pretty spendthrift bunch and tend to only stockpile when they're working towards a specific goal ("Alright we need to hit a DC 45 Research check to discover the ancient secrets of the undercity, we better trade a huge lump of stocked up wine cellar to that wizard that really loves the '46 for his time") for the goods, influence and magic.

You can't really over give unless you go utterly insane. If they defeat a pretty powerful bandit and you give them 80 points of goods then that's 4 auto 20s, or +10 to 8 rolls.
You can have 8 rolls within a half hour, let alone a session. If they want to blow it all on a +80 to pull a Prince Ali and impress the local Lord? Fair enough, nothing wrong with that, it just leaves them without their back up until they rebuild their stock piles.

For other floating bonuses? Honor and so on gives static boosts with specific people or in specific situations, so those never really get out of hand, they just round things out and give you a stock of consistent NPCs they can call on and you get plot hooks in return.

And of course, if they're somewhere unknown and without friends? A handful of gold pieces can but some pretty big bonuses from random commoners.

Of course, the downtime rules can also be used to buy loyal goons, they might not be decent at combat but if you need someone to back you up with a siege engine, do some scouting, stake a place out or build a bridge, they'll do alright.

So, different types of bonus for different situations I suppose. The problem with mages is they have far more options than non-magic characters.
So, giving magicless characters more options is the easy solution and without magic on hand, man power gets things done.
Wizard can fly? You can build a rope bridge.
Wizard can divine? You can play the political game and get the information anyway.
Wizard gains a magnificent mansion and constructs? You own a castle, or a caravan train, or a mercenary caravan, or a bunch of liquored up tramps that you've rallied with tender words and wood alcohol.
Wizard can travel the planes, speak with the gods and crack the enigmas of reality to drink the gooey secrets within? You can hire a wizard, or a cabal.


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Part of the problem with just expanding he scope of purely mundane solutions is that there's nothing stopping the casters from pursuing mundane power on top of magical. Boosting up skills isn't a perfect solution when SAD Int-based casters will usually wind up with the most skill points of any character in the game. Bards and Investigators are two of the best skill-monkey classes in Pathfinder, plus they both get 6-level casting.

Unless you create artificial barriers, there's nothing stopping the casters from flying AND using minions to build a bridge. Or from using divination AND being able to play the political game.


Chengar Qordath wrote:

Part of the problem with just expanding he scope of purely mundane solutions is that there's nothing stopping the casters from pursuing mundane power on top of magical. Boosting up skills isn't a perfect solution when SAD Int-based casters will usually wind up with the most skill points of any character in the game. Bards and Investigators are two of the best skill-monkey classes in Pathfinder, plus they both get 6-level casting.

Unless you create artificial barriers, there's nothing stopping the casters from flying AND using minions to build a bridge. Or from using divination AND being able to play the political game.

Personally, I'm not really looking to gimp anyone, just looking for ways that characters who chose not to have magic won't feel like side-characters, y'know?

With regards to that, BL has some decent suggestions.

Edit

To clarify: I'm not trying to completely fix caster/martial disparity, just make the martials not feel like they're useless when they don't have something to punch in the face.


Chengar Qordath wrote:

Part of the problem with just expanding he scope of purely mundane solutions is that there's nothing stopping the casters from pursuing mundane power on top of magical. Boosting up skills isn't a perfect solution when SAD Int-based casters will usually wind up with the most skill points of any character in the game. Bards and Investigators are two of the best skill-monkey classes in Pathfinder, plus they both get 6-level casting.

Unless you create artificial barriers, there's nothing stopping the casters from flying AND using minions to build a bridge. Or from using divination AND being able to play the political game.

I find that often given the option, casters will focus more on researching their own spells and crafting items over gathering mundane power, building their own wizard tower and so on. A clever player will use both, but focusing on either takes away time from the other and since Martials don't need to maintain that balance they tend to end up with more on hand as it were.

Bards and Investigators though are a fair point, but on the other hand they're only 6th casters and are Jack of All Trades by nature, that's their thing.

Its not a perfect solution, but its a viable one.


Insain Dragoon wrote:

Personally I'm a fan of martial characters getting fantastic as casters become fantastic.

The powerful archemage Zed, ruler with the dark eye, can spy on dissidents at his leisure! He knows that Goodman the bravesneaker is trying to start up trouble in his kingdom. Zed maintains watch on Goodman with his poweful divination magic, watching him go about his day, when suddenly he feels something in his chest pop and a feeling of spreading wetness on his back.

He looks back and sputters "Impossible!"

Goodman cleans off his stilleto and disappears into the shadows.

On the crystal ball another man takes off his Goodman mask and smirks as the sensor evaporates.

I see Mr. Goodman took a dip into shadow dancer. Was it only one level, or did he go whole hog? =P

In all seriousness, Giving PC's ways to pull of this sort of business actually seems pretty cool. Unfortunately, my party doesn't even bother checking to see if the BBEG is spying on them to gather their secrets. (As a GM, this kind of sloppiness is a tad annoying, but I think that's just me being a pedantic t*** more than anything.)


Qaianna wrote:
I wonder now ... when the fighters, paladins, and other martials start trying to be plot significant, what usually happens?

I'm not actually sure... story time?


Bob Bob Bob wrote:

So the problem with this solution is that the problem you're trying to address doesn't go away.

A fighter with a hundred other fighters can't do anything that a fighter couldn't already do. If the fighter picks up wizard and cleric followers they're back to relying on the wizard and cleric to cover for them. Reminds me of the old joke: "You're selling at a loss, how do you make any money? Volume!"

That's not entirely true. If the fighter does recruit clerics/wizards/generic caster minion #31, he'll most likely never _actually_ interact with them on a personal level via leadership. (There's roughly 30 level ones, once the ball _starts_ rolling on leadership.)

Instead, he relies on the clout of his organization as a whole.

But even ignoring that, relying on a cleric from his organization, whom he is guaranteed significant clout with, is far different from interacting with a cleric from the party who may just decide they don't want to be bothered by Bob the human fighter and his insignificant problems.

(Not that that's likely to happen, but... y'know. Just for the sake of argument.)

Liberty's Edge

Chengar Qordath wrote:

Part of the problem with just expanding he scope of purely mundane solutions is that there's nothing stopping the casters from pursuing mundane power on top of magical. Boosting up skills isn't a perfect solution when SAD Int-based casters will usually wind up with the most skill points of any character in the game. Bards and Investigators are two of the best skill-monkey classes in Pathfinder, plus they both get 6-level casting.

Unless you create artificial barriers, there's nothing stopping the casters from flying AND using minions to build a bridge. Or from using divination AND being able to play the political game.

This can be worked with, though. It's certainly true by default, but if you truly work to giving more power and options to skills, you can make it much less so.

First, Bards and Investigators don't get huge amounts of 'plot derailing' magic, the kind that gives narrative power. They have some, but a lot of both's magic is in buff spells, which tend to grant bonuses to categories of action they're already capable of rather than allowing new areas.

Bards also get mind control and the ability to do a bit of healing or dispel magic, but those all actually have limited plot utility. There's little mind control can grant that social skills can't, and mind control has long-term consequences for the relationship in question, while healing on the level Bards have it is of little use in terms of the plot (you could do the same with relatively small amounts of money in any non low-magic world...it's only useful as a way of being generous), and dispel magic can be duplicated by a few more martial classes.

Investigators, meanwhile, get healing as well (if they take Infusion) and almost nothing else on their spell list a Druid couldn't do with Wild Shape alone. And shapeshifting (or other means of getting additional movement types and terrain tolerances) is narratively useful, certainly, but not to the extent it devalues all other skill sets. And healing, as mentioned, is usually only useful as a way to be generous 'for free'.

I find that most 6-level casters have a similar lack of 'narrative options' spells. Inquisitors, for example, have spells almost exclusively for fighting, healing, and finding out information from people...they're very good at the third, but it's again a narrow (if highly useful) trick.

Full Casters who get lots of skills are almost all Int-based with little way to improve said skills other than spells (which are limited to improving only a couple). So they tend to be knowedgeable, and maybe have some physical skills, rather than being legitimately good at skills in any other area (since Wis and Cha are usually not especially high priorities on such characters). Non Int-based full casters are rarely good at more than a handful of skills. And almost no casters have bonuses to skills (the Druid has some small ones, as does the Enchantment School, and a couple of Domains grant some), or at least certainly not to a large number of them, so they may have 8 skills per level, but, say, the Slayer is usually better at his 6 than they are at any of them.

And finally, the simplest and most important part of this is also the easiest to implement: Avoiding Overlap. A martial character decides to specialize in social interaction, and to be very good indeed at it...maybe you shouldn't make a Bard. Or not focus on Cha too hard when you do, anyway. Oh, we have a Wizard? Lore Warden may not be the way to go this time. And so on and so forth. Much like party roles in combat should be considered when making characters so you don't step on each others toes, you can easily treat skills the same. Now, that doesn't mean only on person to a skill any more than it means only one melee combatant in a party, but it means you're careful that everyone has their own legitimately useful niche that nobody else is better at.

Now, the more useful skills are, and the more you help mundane characters be better at them, the easier that last bit is to make meaningful, but it's doable (at least in theory).

Scarab Sages

I think a couple of things could help:

1) Make something like the fighter's new Advanced Weapon Training available to more of the martial classes, and detach it from the weapon training chassis. All of a sudden, your character's martial prowess actually has roleplaying ramifications, giving a bit more narrative utility to those martial classes that need it, especially those with low skill points and little reason to increase their Intelligence to insane degrees.

2) Give martials something like martial "exploits", per day abilities possibly based on a point pool (like the Stamina system, or something like the Magus' Arcane Pool) that do cool things in a martial way. I've had the idea of making a character inspired by John Henry for a while now, and I'd love to be able to do something like ACTUALLY tunnel through a mountain (heck, any surface would do). Or play a Paladin who can make a literal "leap of faith", bounding a fixed distance up or over an obstacle. What if we had a ranger that was such a good tracker that he could perceive his quarry over miles, as if by scrying, before they even laid eyes on them?

There are lots of cool things that could be done (and from what I've heard about Kirthfinder, they took a pretty good stab at it) without ruining the idea of what a martial character "is."


werewolf435 wrote:
Bob Bob Bob wrote:

So the problem with this solution is that the problem you're trying to address doesn't go away.

A fighter with a hundred other fighters can't do anything that a fighter couldn't already do. If the fighter picks up wizard and cleric followers they're back to relying on the wizard and cleric to cover for them. Reminds me of the old joke: "You're selling at a loss, how do you make any money? Volume!"

That's not entirely true. If the fighter does recruit clerics/wizards/generic caster minion #31, he'll most likely never _actually_ interact with them on a personal level via leadership. (There's roughly 30 level ones, once the ball _starts_ rolling on leadership.)

Instead, he relies on the clout of his organization as a whole.

But even ignoring that, relying on a cleric from his organization, whom he is guaranteed significant clout with, is far different from interacting with a cleric from the party who may just decide they don't want to be bothered by Bob the human fighter and his insignificant problems.

(Not that that's likely to happen, but... y'know. Just for the sake of argument.)

So, I guess I didn't phrase this quite correctly (and am quite probably talking past you). It looks like your idea is for the fighter to essentially name-drop themself (as they're running their organization) to do things out of combat. Possibly some other larger organization, but it's relatively irrelevant which. I was talking about if the organization was ever actually called on to do something. Because if the organization never actually needs to do anything it's just pure Magical Tea Party. You're essentially giving the fighter a class feature that says "and out of combat you can just make some stuff up". That's... well, not a great way to do it. It will provide more narrative agency, but only because it literally just gives narrative agency with some fluff justification. And then you hit the issue of limits (which will almost certainly come up) that would have to be made up by the GM on the spot. Essentially, an elaborate game of GM May I. "Can I do this? No. How about this? Yes." Because I don't see any way to include those limits naturally with what you suggest.

The way I interpreted it was that the fighter would have an actual organization of people that they could call on and use whenever they wanted to do something. So when they want to meet the king they go back to headquarters and ask for Charmy McSmiles, the person who maxed diplomacy. Research? Sage 1, 2, and 3, who all maxed different knowledge skills. The problem with that being that a pure mundane organization would basically just be an extra skill or weapon pool (i.e. things the fighter could already do, though maybe not that specific fighter) and a organization that uses magic help would be the same problem this is trying to fix, the fighter stepping aside and waiting for the magic user to do something. That it's their magic user doesn't really make it better.


So, I guess I didn't phrase this quite correctly (and am quite probably talking past you). It looks like your idea is for the fighter to essentially name-drop themself (as they're running their organization) to do things out of combat. Possibly some other larger organization, but it's relatively irrelevant which. I was talking about if the organization was ever actually called on to do something. Because if the organization never actually needs to do anything it's just pure Magical Tea Party. You're essentially giving the fighter a class feature that says "and out of combat you can just make some stuff up". That's... well, not a great way to do it. It will provide more narrative agency, but only because it literally just gives narrative agency with some fluff justification. And then you hit the issue of limits (which will almost certainly come up) that...

Ah, that makes your argument more clear.

Well, it's not an instant 'here's some plot relevance for a feat' button. The character actually has to build up the relevance of their organization, and will only really have an impact on people this organization is relevant to.

(For instance, joe blow off the street isn't going to care that you run a guild dedicated to the preservation of clown history. To give a _very_ extreme example.)

I'll admit, this solution does have its own problems but I did so from the get-go. Personally I'm just spit-balling ideas for how to make martial characters feel more relevant.


werewolf435 wrote:
So, I guess I didn't phrase this quite correctly (and am quite probably talking past you). It looks like your idea is for the fighter to essentially name-drop themself (as they're running their organization) to do things out of combat. Possibly some other larger organization, but it's relatively irrelevant which. I was talking about if the organization was ever actually called on to do something. Because if the organization never actually needs to do anything it's just pure Magical Tea Party. You're essentially giving the fighter a class feature that says "and out of combat you can just make some stuff up". That's... well, not a great way to do it. It will provide more narrative agency, but only because it literally just gives narrative agency with some fluff justification. And then you hit the issue of limits (which will almost certainly come up) that...

Ah, that makes your argument more clear.

Well, it's not an instant 'here's some plot relevance for a feat' button. The character actually has to build up the relevance of their organization, and will only really have an impact on people this organization is relevant to.

(For instance, joe blow off the street isn't going to care that you run a guild dedicated to the preservation of clown history. To give a _very_ extreme example.)

Also, they _do_ have people they can call on, but the vast majority of the guild is levels 1-3, so their usefulness individually would be rather limited by the time this feat got off the ground. (Roughly 9-ish)

I'll admit, this solution does have its own problems but I did so from the get-go. Personally I'm just spit-balling ideas for how to make martial characters feel more relevant.


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Qaianna wrote:
I wonder now ... when the fighters, paladins, and other martials start trying to be plot significant, what usually happens?

In my game, 'plot significant' means:

Deciding what quest to pursue.
Deciding whose side you're on; making friends and enemies.
Deciding which enemies to kill, spare or flee from.
Using Handle Animal to train a defeated Dire Wolf.
Making deals with powerful ambiguous magical entities who will offer you things like a wish in exchange for a year of your life, or your heart's desire in exchange for the color of your eyes.
Earning rank within the nobility.
Spending money building a castle, starting a business, raising an army, etc.

None of these things are off-limits to martials.


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Qaianna wrote:
I wonder now ... when the fighters, paladins, and other martials start trying to be plot significant, what usually happens?

Ok I misread this question last night.

I think what it looks like to be plot relevant is to do more than just suggest group actions.

EX: Fighter says "I wanna kill this Dragon and save the village"
What can he actually do other than suggest this? He can stab the Dragon yes, but nothing else.

He needs someone else to investigate Dragons and come up with and potentially implement countermeasures (Hmm Dragon is X color and their alternate breath weapon is a gas, I will cast life bubble on the party!)

He needs someone to find the Dragon through tracking, gathering information,ect

He needs help transporting himself to the Dragon in a timely manor so the village doesn't take more damage during the trek

He needs someone to make him effective VS the Dragon if it uses basic tactics like "I'mma just fly by attack with my breath weapon and incinerate them slowly" or "I'mma just full retreat if they hurt me enough"

Sadly all those other players who helped this fighter are also probably about as good at killing Dragons as the Fighter! So really what is this guy doing here?


werewolf435 wrote:

Ah, that makes your argument more clear.

Well, it's not an instant 'here's some plot relevance for a feat' button. The character actually has to build up the relevance of their organization, and will only really have an impact on people this organization is relevant to.

(For instance, joe blow off the street isn't going to care that you run a guild dedicated to the preservation of clown history. To give a _very_ extreme example.)

Also, they _do_ have people they can call on, but the vast majority of the guild is levels 1-3, so their usefulness individually would be rather limited by the time this feat got off the ground. (Roughly 9-ish)

I'll admit, this solution does have its own problems but I did so from the get-go. Personally I'm just spit-balling ideas for how to make martial characters feel more relevant.

So this probably hits players right in the system mastery. Someone who already knows how to give their fighters things to do out of combat would know how to build an organization that helps them best, someone who doesn't know might end up with an organization that doesn't help them at all (thus not being helped at all by the change). You could make the organizations for the players but at that point you're basically hand-holding them.

Probably a more effective way of doing it (without it coming across like you're making the player's decisions for them) is to provide a menu of options for their organization and make them take three (or whatever number it ends up being). So their organization: "has noble contacts", "knows spellcasters", and "helps the people" (or whatever) and each of those have distinct advantages they provide. That way you can provide concrete benefits and as long as you don't provide any trap options, guarantee a certain level of benefit. This also gives you the option of starting it at a lower level, allows you to grow it with the players, and gives you the option of making much better benefits by requiring a higher organization level. You're basically writing a whole new subsystem by that point though, so up to you whether that's worth it.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Qaianna wrote:
I wonder now ... when the fighters, paladins, and other martials start trying to be plot significant, what usually happens?

In my game, 'plot significant' means:

Deciding what quest to pursue.
Deciding whose side you're on; making friends and enemies.
Deciding which enemies to kill, spare or flee from.
Using Handle Animal to train a defeated Dire Wolf.
Making deals with powerful ambiguous magical entities who will offer you things like a wish in exchange for a year of your life, or your heart's desire in exchange for the color of your eyes.
Earning rank within the nobility.
Spending money building a castle, starting a business, raising an army, etc.

None of these things are off-limits to martials.

In my campaign martials are allowed to engage the narrative by:

Convincing their mother to attend the festival she's been skipping for 13 years since her husband died by telling her the bonfire reminds them of their dad.

Use a battering ram to blast the doors in on a goblin stronghold (without killing the hostage human-shields on the other side)

Win maple syrup chugging and wood-chopping contests.

Leap their mounts over obstacles on the battlefield.

Solve riddles in the dark.

Get the rogue into a cottage to case the joint by using their Profession:Chef to distract the owner during supper.

Leap aboard a spooked horse and buggy to save a damsel in distress.

Exchange stories about their scars with the Captain of the town guard earning his trust and eventual favors.

Help the owner rebuild his tavern after it was razed during a raid.

Grapple and detain someone for questioning when the caster didn't have the right spell available.

If I'm in a really good mood, I'll let the caster do those things too... ;-)


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Insain Dragoon wrote:
Qaianna wrote:
I wonder now ... when the fighters, paladins, and other martials start trying to be plot significant, what usually happens?

Ok I misread this question last night.

I think what it looks like to be plot relevant is to do more than just suggest group actions.

EX: Fighter says "I wanna kill this Dragon and save the village"
What can he actually do other than suggest this? He can stab the Dragon yes, but nothing else.

He needs someone else to investigate Dragons and come up with and potentially implement countermeasures (Hmm Dragon is X color and their alternate breath weapon is a gas, I will cast life bubble on the party!)

He needs someone to find the Dragon through tracking, gathering information,ect

He needs help transporting himself to the Dragon in a timely manor so the village doesn't take more damage during the trek

He needs someone to make him effective VS the Dragon if it uses basic tactics like "I'mma just fly by attack with my breath weapon and incinerate them slowly" or "I'mma just full retreat if they hurt me enough"

Sadly all those other players who helped this fighter are also probably about as good at killing Dragons as the Fighter! So really what is this guy doing here?

The fighters in my campaign would be very upset with me and wonder why I'm not letting them:

Role play with the NPCs to gather info, or roll diplomacy checks

Use the Survival skill or perception to track

Ride horses to cover 40miles a day or more if force marched. (Timely manner will end up being what ever I decided was reasonable)

Make a knowledge nature check to know if the dragon has a line or cone breath, then deploy in the most effective defensive arrangement to counter that breath weapon (including using terrain cover like rubble, trees, and buildings)

Drink their potion of resist or protection from fire/cold/acid/electricity (because only a fool would seek out a dragon w/o prepping for that)

Use ready action with their longbows until the dragon is in range during its breath-weapon straffing runs (which they're going to have standoff in base-range for all cones, and all but huge or larger line BWs)

I am with you that he's worthless when the dragon goes "full retreat". I won't let the martial follow something with a 200+' fly speed unless they've got a similar move speed/flying mount. If the caster can do it solo with a spell, the fighter couldn't even stop him. But the fighter would be allowed to gather gold for raise dead if they ever found the casters body.

I'd like to say these are completely tongue in cheek examples, but they're all things the two fighters in my group would do or rightly complain about if disallowed.


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1. Yeah I would allow him to try, but he would not have anywhere as high a chance of success as other party members. (Gather info, survival, ect)

2. Horseback is great, but every wasted day is a potential for the Dragon to kill more. I'm sorry Mr. Fighter, but if we wanna save lives you need to hop on the teleport bus.

3. Knowledge Nature isn't a class skill, even if it was it has the same problems as the skills above. Also Knowledge Arcana is for Dragons, not nature.

4. Yeah, money sure is great. Shame the Potion would only give +10 resistance.

5. The "ready action with Longbows strategy" actually gives the Dragon the damage race advantage in most cases. So please do so.

6. This Fighter seems to have a lot of investment in stuff not combat related. I don't imagine his usefulness in the upcoming confrontation will be as great as Ranger Rick's, who got almost all his utility from class features and sacrificed none of his combat capacity.

The fighter doesn't have any of the built in tools to make him useful in this encounter outside of "I guess I shoot/stab it." In order to make him useful you need to baby him and play favorites, which may fly with your group. In my group nobody would allow another player to get favoritism thrown around like that.


GM 1990 wrote:
Insain Dragoon wrote:
Qaianna wrote:
I wonder now ... when the fighters, paladins, and other martials start trying to be plot significant, what usually happens?

Ok I misread this question last night.

I think what it looks like to be plot relevant is to do more than just suggest group actions.

EX: Fighter says "I wanna kill this Dragon and save the village"
What can he actually do other than suggest this? He can stab the Dragon yes, but nothing else.

He needs someone else to investigate Dragons and come up with and potentially implement countermeasures (Hmm Dragon is X color and their alternate breath weapon is a gas, I will cast life bubble on the party!)

He needs someone to find the Dragon through tracking, gathering information,ect

He needs help transporting himself to the Dragon in a timely manor so the village doesn't take more damage during the trek

He needs someone to make him effective VS the Dragon if it uses basic tactics like "I'mma just fly by attack with my breath weapon and incinerate them slowly" or "I'mma just full retreat if they hurt me enough"

Sadly all those other players who helped this fighter are also probably about as good at killing Dragons as the Fighter! So really what is this guy doing here?

The fighters in my campaign would be very upset with me and wonder why I'm not letting them:

Role play with the NPCs to gather info, or roll diplomacy checks

Use the Survival skill or perception to track

Ride horses to cover 40miles a day or more if force marched. (Timely manner will end up being what ever I decided was reasonable)

Make a knowledge nature check to know if the dragon has a line or cone breath, then deploy in the most effective defensive arrangement to counter that breath weapon (including using terrain cover like rubble, trees, and buildings)

Drink their potion of resist or protection from fire/cold/acid/electricity (because only a fool would seek out a dragon w/o prepping for that)

Use ready action with their...

And many of those things, done within the capability of a Fighter, would be insufficient for an on-CR Dragon, or better done by other classes.

Diplomacy to gather info, Survival/Perception to track, Knowledges to identify monsters (Know Arcana in this case. A caster speciality.) and long distance travel are all either done better by casters are are just plain replaced by spells.

The potions have to be made by casters, or bought with money that Casters also have.

Readying an action to fire a single arrow every round is not going to kill a Dragon. Especially if you're a Fighter who has the skill points and stat spread to gather info, track and identify a Dragon. Because that almost guarantees your actual combat stats are awful.

It's not they can't try these things if they want. It means trying is either pointless because they can never succeed without gimping their ability to fight, or pointless because their caster friends are collectively better at it. The bright side is that the Fighter doesn't actually mess anything up when he fails these skill checks. The casters just take over once he realizes he can't do it.


Unless the DM decides to lower the DCs so the fighter can play too!


GM 1990 wrote:

In my campaign martials are allowed to engage the narrative by:

Convincing their mother to attend the festival she's been skipping for 13 years since her husband died by telling her the bonfire reminds them of their dad.

Use a battering ram to blast the doors in on a goblin stronghold (without killing the hostage human-shields on the other side)

Win maple syrup chugging and wood-chopping contests.

Leap their mounts over obstacles on the battlefield.

Solve riddles in the dark.

Get the rogue into a cottage to case the joint by using their Profession:Chef to distract the owner during supper.

Leap aboard a spooked horse and buggy to save a damsel in distress.

Exchange stories about their scars with the Captain of the town guard earning his trust and eventual favors.

Help the owner rebuild his tavern after it was razed during a raid.

Grapple and detain someone for questioning when the caster didn't have the right spell available.

If I'm in a really good mood, I'll let the caster do those things too... ;-)

Casters actually *can* do all of that. And have more skill points to do it all with. And spells that can do all that stuff better on top of it. So... that list kind of shows how *little* agency martials have.


Insain Dragoon wrote:
1. Yeah I would allow him to try, but he would not have anywhere as high a chance of success as other party members. (Gather info, survival, ect)

Roleplaying isn't a game mechanic though. I tossed skill check in as an option because its still something anyone could do including fighters; but you said they'd "need someone to do".

Insain Dragoon wrote:
2. ...you need to hop on the teleport bus.

So letting the fighters use their skills, abilities, role-playing, and magic items they've invested in is "throwing around favoritism and babying the player." Could we as easily argue that designing it so "only" teleportation which "only" the caster can do is railroading the party or favoring that player?

Insain Dragoon wrote:
3. Also Knowledge Arcana is for Dragons, not nature.

Acknowledged on knowledge check. But not being a class skill, and "needing someone else to do it" are not the same. One gets a d20 + modifier and the player of the character can play the game, the other implies its not something on the players sheet so they can't and must let others at the table do.

I realize they would have had to spend 1 skill rank to get it trained.
Hey...but since casters can already do things like climb, swim, or ride better with magic....why not burn a slot in something useful like knowledge arcana? ok..a little sarcasm on that one.

All that aside - I do give all classes 4 skill slots/lvl, even clerics so I can use more skill challenges at lower levels before spells and devices make them non-factors.

Insain Dragoon wrote:
someone to make him effective VS the Dragon

If the caster casts it on the fighter, its "needed to make him effective", but when the fighter looks out for himself, its "only DR 10" implying its a waste of his $, or maybe not if they already have a device protecting from that damage type? I don't understand that, it seems like a double standard. Consumables are a part of the game, yes they only exist due to magic, but I didn't get the impression that was the point.

Insain Dragoon wrote:
5. The "ready action with Longbows strategy" actually gives the Dragon the damage race advantage in most cases. So please do so.

The way you described things, I had to assume the group wasn't flying - since the "basic tactic" was going to be BW straffs. So if the group spreads out to minimize the AOE, and everyone uses their most damage producing range attack are we saying everyone who isn't using doing more than 1d8 (plus point blank, Strength, and Precise Shot for one of my groups fighters) is plot insignificant (just for the combat)? They're not going to bunch up in a nice line or wedge (pick the best option for the dragon) are they - only goblins do that. There's only so much AOE that dragon can try to engage, and unless we're talking a group high enough to have access to flight (not just the caster either - he's not going to fly off and solo it is he?) then we're talking lower CR dragons that would also likely be in point-blank range during the BW fly-by, or they were just going to fly 40'high and cover a 1 or 2 square AOE with the far end of their BW. now with DR 10 (everyone else is going to use that too right..not just the d10HP fighter?) and saves, and only attacking 1 or 2PC per pass its the group effort that eventually drives it off. Its not going keep flying by to die in my game.

I guess I'd also have to know why the dragon is even attacking the fighter the way its laid out. He's assumed to be the weakest link during this particular challenge, so after the group spreads out why is the dragon even going after him if he's only doing 1d8? We're assuming the party's attitude towards him is, "What is that guy even doing here?" I'm not sure why the fighter even take damage until after the dragon had killed all the real threats who are dealing out massive damage (presumable by spells or by flying up to it which the fighter isn't doing)?

If I was playing a caster, I don't think I'd look at this situation as one that I'd want to become the dragon's primary threat. It seems like -investing- some buffs in the fighter is actually useful to me living through the encounter.

With the context you gave, it implied a party with only ground capability and the dragon was going to just straf-run them with BW. But if you had something else in mind, and provide more context I'd think about how my group would do at that level and equipped for WBL. How have you seen it play out in games different if everyone was stuck to ground or if only 1 or 2 could fly (it seems dangerous to split the groups damage output - and HP aggregate).

insain dragoon wrote:
6. This Fighter seems to have a lot of investment in stuff not combat related.

You laid out a string of things he "needs others to do", and the way it was laid out concluded with a question of why the fighter was even there. In my game that would also imply why is the player even there, since its their PC and they can't do any of the things you mentioned.

I pointed out that he really doesn't need someone to do all of those things mechanically or that the player couldn't participate in those portions of the plot. The only non-allowed participation he "needs someone else to do" is Knowledge Arcana since the DC15 can't be tried unless trained, so 1 skill slot. Then only if the player wasn't allowed to participate in the RPing of talking to NPCs about the monster in question, or didn't already know Red dragons have fire-breath...and it lives in yonder volcano.

Insain Dragoon wrote:
The fighter doesn't have any of the built in tools to make him useful in this encounter outside of "I guess I shoot/stab it." In order to make him useful you need to baby him and play favorites, which may fly with your group. In my group nobody would allow another player to get favoritism thrown around like that.

When you say encounter - are you talking just the BW straffing or the whole game session implied by what you laid out after the fighter quote "I want to kill this dragon"?

I assume you're including a -lot- of things, a few hours of gaming perhaps based on everything you said would be going on that the fighter would need others to do for him.

Such as the RPing portions of learning of the danger to the village, learning where the dragon lives, what color it is, what kind of breath attack it already used (no knowledge check needed when the peasants tell you it belched fire right?) planning the tactics, checking out the local apothecary for anything useful when fighting a fire-breathing, flying dragon. So, the fighter (and everyone else in the group who can't cast it) has to get on the teleport train. Its a valid point if that's the scenario, but applies to more than the fighter right?

Built in and "useful" are two different things.

Built in is objectively game mechanics (and I'll include RPing as objectively built in to the PF system, including the fighter class) although not a mechanic). Other than the mentioned Arcana check the player of the fighter has access to and reason to expect to be allowed to participate in all those plot points whether mechanically with d20 attempts or through RPing. I think even a level 1 fighter actually has -built in- mechanics to participate in the encounter for every facet except knowledge arcana. Would you disagree?

Useful is subjective and I don't know how it could possibly be measured and then applied to being able to participate in the plot.

Otherwise how do we decide who's "useful" to the encounter? Do we keep score of who had the most successful skill checks and did the most damage during the combat and only those who scored high enough metrics were "useful"? If so, at best only 1/2 of the party is "useful" since the other half was below average right? Or is it the top 2/3s? or some other ratio? What does it say for the encounter if it turns out the fighter was useful and caster was useless?

Or do we keep track of which player got the most RPing time on the clock with the GM and gathered the most objectively useful info about the encounter? Again..won't 1/2 of the group be below average and not useful?

Even if you decide to ignore above or below average and just set a metric of say succeed in 50% of your skill checks, and deal at least avg damage for your stats. Since the player of the fighter got the opportunity to at least toss D20s and make the DC (minus Arcana lets say), why do we assume they'd be in the below avg group? If they make the DC rolling a d20 isn't it just as "useful" as someone else making the DC by "taking 10"? Due to the random nature of dice, this method also is going to send every member of the group into the "useless" category 1/2 of the time, not just the fighter.

I don't see where there is favoritism in anything I laid out rebuting your 6 points. And although I ran this down lengthly (or something..its getting late :-) ), I'm not doing it to be an internet troll and fire you up either. I've appreciated some of the posts you've put in my threads about spells, etc.

I just don't agree with the premises you laid out and think objectively the fighter has just as much play (and just as much fun) in the scenario you described as anyone else.


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1. If you suck at it then you aren't likely to succeed. That simple. Unless you intend to handwave skill challenges in order to let the Fighter look like he's helping.

2. I actually just used a scenario from an anime that I'm watching. Taking a long amount of time to kill the Dragon was actually a huge risk to both a village of elves and the mental state of another character. There is no favoritism, it's either "do it fast and save more lives or do it slow because Fighter wants to horse"

3. So he rolls the skill challenge and likely fails, gotcha.

4. Actually when a caster does the Resist energy it's resist 20 at level 7 and resist 30 at level 11, something potions can't copy. It's like saying that preparing by bringing kevlar is as effective as bringing military combat dress.

5. That's the thing, all of this fight prep is done onto the fighter. All he has to do is stand somewhere and do DPR when he gets the chance. He doesn't protect anyone, he doesn't force the enemy to act a certain way, he barely even participated in finding the beast. The fighter has no influence.

6. I think we have a disconnect here. When I think "participate" I think "has some effect on the outcome." In this entire scenario the only time the fighter participates is when he hurts the dragon. That's it.

In response to the rest of your stuff: None of that has to do with the class: Fighter. A Paladin could have role played just as hard and would have had more influence on the scenario, particularly in any information gathering and in the combat itself.


Anzyr wrote:
Casters actually *can* do all of that. And have more skill points to do it all with. And spells that can do all that stuff better on top of it. So... that list kind of shows how *little* agency martials have.

I don't understand that logic, and I don't know what you mean by "little agency".

It sounds like agency to you means, only skill checks assisted by innate casting ability and only role-playing time by someone with casting ability.

Does the PF system have a book definition of "agency" or "engaging the narrative" or any of the terms used in these discussions?

If not, can you provide one of your own and then apply it to the questions below for context to your comment?

By your definition - what things on that list -do- provide a martial character "agency"?

Is there a "finite amount of agency" in a game session?

If so, doesn't it mean that only 1/2 the group could ever have "above average" agency or narrative engagement in any given playing session and that 1 player must always have the least agency even in a group of all casters?

How do you objectively measure agency, by your definition during a game session?

How do you determine a player's progress or measure them against the standard of "Little" agency?


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Pretty simple

Agency: The ability to effect the plot using rules unique to your class.

Role playing, since every class has access to those rules, is not a sign of agency.

Examples of agency: The track ability+favored terrain for the Ranger make him the only person in the group capable of succeeding the survival check to find "Mysterious badguy X" who fled into the forest last week

A Druid with the scent ability uses it to recognize someone dangerous in a disguise.

A Wizard with sending prepared is capable of alerting a village of a surprise attack before it happens even though he's miles away.

A Inquisitor with his Stern Gaze feature is the only one who has a chance of beating the bluff check of the evil lying man.

In other words, agency is something that your character can do because of the stuff on your character sheet, not because of the cleverness of your roleplay.

Examples that aren't agency
-Coming up with a plan of action
-Having the GM let you auto-pass a diplomacy check because the NPC thinks you "Look like his dead nephew"


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This whole discussion of martial vs. caster agency seems to me an ironic reminder of the fact that the whole decades long controversy of the rewrite of "City on the Edge of Forever" was started when William Shatner discovered that Leonard Nimoy had one more speaking line on the script than he did.


Insain Dragoon wrote:

5. That's the thing, all of this fight prep is done onto the fighter. All he has to do is stand somewhere and do DPR when he gets the chance. He doesn't protect anyone, he doesn't force the enemy to act a certain way, he barely even participated in finding the beast. The fighter has no influence.

6. I think we have a disconnect here. When I think "participate" I think "has some effect on the outcome." In this entire scenario the only time the fighter participates is when he hurts the dragon. That's it.

I don't understand how you're objectively measuring influence and participation? Especially if the fighter had no influence in the session.

Have you thought about what your definition of influence and participation would be so you could apply it objectively to that scenario?
(say Paladin, Ranger, Fighter, Wizard since they were kind of mentioned throughout)

How do you measure what gets the player credit for influence and participation - how is it scored in your mind (is it attempts, passes, passes on take-10, role-playing time, DPR, or something else or a combo? And how much do you have to do before you to "have some effect on the outcome?"


I already defined agency. Look up 2 posts. Also your reactions are moving away from rational discussion and more toward baiting, please calm yourself and reassess this situation.


Insain Dragoon wrote:

Pretty simple

Agency: The ability to effect the plot using rules unique to your class.

Role playing, since every class has access to those rules, is not a sign of agency.

Examples of agency: The track ability+favored terrain for the Ranger make him the only person in the group capable of succeeding the survival check to find "Mysterious badguy X" who fled into the forest last week

A Druid with the scent ability uses it to recognize someone dangerous in a disguise.

A Wizard with sending prepared is capable of alerting a village of a surprise attack before it happens even though he's miles away.

A Inquisitor with his Stern Gaze feature is the only one who has a chance of beating the bluff check of the evil lying man.

In other words, agency is something that your character can do because of the stuff on your character sheet, not because of the cleverness of your roleplay.

Examples that aren't agency
-Coming up with a plan of action
-Having the GM let you auto-pass a diplomacy check because the NPC thinks you "Look like his dead nephew"

So if you use either one of those (unique to your class) - or the broader (on your character sheet) can you apply it to the other questions I posed to Anzyr?

I think its easier to persuade someone objectively what you mean when you say no influence if you can quantify what those players who did influence or participate got credit for and why the other didn't.

Its not an attempt to bait any one (I guess like for them to lose their temper?) Debate used to be a respected art, now a days disagreement can be taken as disrespect or dislike vs an opportunity to think through your own position on a subject and analyze it.

I laid out various objective ways the fighter had influence, participation, affecting the outcome. You've argued those don't apply and that the fighter gets had no influence, but they are many of the same things others did, so I would assume those things don't count as influence for the other members of the group in your analysis. So this is only trying to let you lay out the things objectively that only others in the group did, and that had influence or counted as participation in the outcome.

It was also an acceptable debate position to concede that the other person had an interesting point (not necessarily correct, merely something you may not have considered in your initial argument) and that you'd adjourn on the matter to consider it further.


Insain Dragoon wrote:
I already defined agency. Look up 2 posts. Also your reactions are moving away from rational discussion and more toward baiting, please calm yourself and reassess this situation.

I did chuckle upon reading this. Reminded me of a saying we have in the army, "take a knee, change your socks, and drink water."

lights out here - for real this time.


Insain Dragoon wrote:
Agency: The ability to effect the plot using rules unique to your class.

I prefer my definition:

Agency: The ability to effect the plot.


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Matthew Downie wrote:
Insain Dragoon wrote:
Agency: The ability to effect the plot using rules unique to your class.

I prefer my definition:

Agency: The ability to effect the plot.

By that definition we'd be arguing over the amount of agency a class has compared to another class and then we'd run into feeling based arguments like "My Fighter used his familial connections with the royalty in town to do X, so fighters have plenty of agency!"

That's why I don't use that definition. A definition based on class features excludes clever role playing as an argument for class balance. Clever role playing is a player strength, not a class strength.


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Matthew Downie wrote:
Insain Dragoon wrote:
Agency: The ability to effect the plot using rules unique to your class.

I prefer my definition:

Agency: The ability to effect the plot.

Affect*

In the context of RPGs, I'd define "Agency" as "ability to make meaningful choices".

When discussing classes, this agency should be provided by the class itself, not by factors that are wholly independent from class choice (e.g.: roleplay and GM fiat), otherwise the discussion is pointless.

Some classes give you a greater variety of effective actions, which increases your agency. This is important because not all GMs are equally competent, generous, rules-savvy or forgiving.


Insain Dragoon wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
Insain Dragoon wrote:
Agency: The ability to effect the plot using rules unique to your class.

I prefer my definition:

Agency: The ability to effect the plot.

By that definition we'd be arguing over the amount of agency a class has compared to another class and then we'd run into feeling based arguments like "My Fighter used his familial connections with the royalty in town to do X, so fighters have plenty of agency!"

That's why I don't use that definition.

While I have to agree with your point about using class unique skills, rather than clever role-playing in this particular definition. I did start this thread to have a place for people to suggest ways for martial characters to _gain_ plot relevance _without_ having the GM need to cater to them specifically.

Not to discuss whether Martial/ Caster disparity is, in fact, a real thing.

With that in mind, do any of you have suggestions towards that end?


Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
This whole discussion of martial vs. caster agency seems to me an ironic reminder of the fact that the whole decades long controversy of the rewrite of "City on the Edge of Forever" was started when William Shatner discovered that Leonard Nimoy had one more speaking line on the script than he did.

Seems incredibly petty.

Honestly though, I'm of the personal opinion that this argument isn't anything like that, since (at least from my own personal point of view) it's people noticing a disparity in the abilities of classes, and pointing it out.

That's something important when you are trying to get groups of anywhere from 4-10 people together, and make sure _all_ of them are having fun and feeling like they're contributing in some useful manner.


Insain Dragoon wrote:

Personally I'm a fan of martial characters getting fantastic as casters become fantastic.

The powerful archemage Zed, ruler with the dark eye, can spy on dissidents at his leisure! He knows that Goodman the bravesneaker is trying to start up trouble in his kingdom. Zed maintains watch on Goodman with his poweful divination magic, watching him go about his day, when suddenly he feels something in his chest pop and a feeling of spreading wetness on his back.

He looks back and sputters "Impossible!"

Goodman cleans off his stilleto and disappears into the shadows.

On the crystal ball another man takes off his Goodman mask and smirks as the sensor evaporates.

Well there is my post from earlier.

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