The Harrow Character Generation: Attribute Generation Through Fortune-Telling


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

1 to 50 of 149 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | next > last >>

36 people marked this as a favorite.

The Harrow Character Generation: Attribute Generation Through Fortune-Telling

A pair of large recent threads in the last several weeks have focused a lot of attention on the point buy system. Discussion about the merits of point buy versus rolling and of the different point buy values has been lively, and sparked interesting observations and debate on both “sides”.

This got me thinking back to when our group made the switch from rolling to point buy; the impetus was a rolled character that ended up having near-perfect stats (four 18s and two other 17s - a statically unlikely outcome, but it happened.) The result was a very imbalanced party and a even little bit of unfounded resentment. I don't think anyone else in the group broke thirty point buy worth of stats.

Around the same time, Paizo released an article in Dragon magazine #346 about using Wizard’s recently-released Three Dragon Ante deck to perform a “reading” that would result in randomly-generated stats using the point buy system.

This turned out to be the method that got us to embrace point buy. It wasn't always perfect, but we ended up enjoying the ways that readings would encourage us to break out in different roles based on the results of the spread, and we found that we really enjoyed the more balanced nature of point buy.

This memory struck me as a eureka moment with regards to Pathfinder and the obvious potential use of The Harrow deck in place of Three Dragon Ante.

I pulled out the old Dragon article and began breaking down the results to see how the method ticked. I was shocked to discover a glaring number of issues with the system as it was originally presented. Due to the way the 3DA deck worked, it contained 60 generic dragon cards and 10 unique cards. The unique cards produced exciting effects depending on if they landed in certain parts of the spread. The problem was, since the other 60 cards were 10 suits of 6 dragons, there were only so many possible results, and many of them were heavily-weighted, appearing 6/70 times (or more!) whereas the unique effects only had a 1/70 chance of occurring, and that was assuming they landed in just the right spot.

I felt certain that The Harrow deck could handle this better. I spent the last several days breaking down the possible outcomes for each location in the spread, making sure that every one of the Harrow’s fifty-four cards had the opportunity for a strange interaction depending on whether it landed in a certain place, spreading those unique effects across the Harrow and balancing (as best I possibly could) the various effects. The above link is the result of those efforts, and in my opinion, it's very exciting.

Though I did a lot of re-balancing and reimagining, I by no means make any claim to this being an original work. The article was originally written by Craig Shackleton, and I lifted large portions of that article whole cloth in order to put the above together. Additionally, the Harrow suit and card descriptions were lifted directly from Pathfinderwiki.com.

For those interested, I'll add a lot of my design thought processes below in a spoiler.

In the meantime, I encourage you to check out the above-linked article and to test it out. Who knows? Maybe you'll find a new attribute generation method that you'll use for your next game - or even for many more to come.

-Gulthor

Spoiler:
Ooh, decided to look under the hood, eh? Alright, happy to share. If you haven't yet, I encourage you to check out the article first so that you'll understand a little better some of the concepts that I'll be going into. It's okay, I'll wait.

All set? Then here we go.

As I mentioned above, the first thing that I did was to start breaking down the 3DA rules to see how they ticked.

3DA had 70 cards; 10 suits of 6 dragons, and 10 unique cards. The dragon suits were the five metallic and five chromatic dragons each representing six age categories: wyrmling, young, adult, old, ancient, and great wyrm. The 10 unique cards were Bahamut, Tiamat, the Dracolich, and seven mortal cards: Dragonslayer, Thief, Druid, Fool, Archmage, Princess, and Priest. The unique cards also had interesting effects depending on whether they landed in certain locations. You were likely to get at least one unique card in each reading, but their effects were wild and loaded heavily onto these specific ten cards.

I started looking at the Spirit location first (this proved to be a better starting point than I could have imagined.) The spirit card grants tokens to three ability scores. If you take every possible combination of three ability scores out of the available six, you end up with 20 possible combinations. I was amazed to discover that the 3DA system only represented 18 of them. Additionally, since the dragons granted spirit based on their suit irrespective of age, it meant that 10 of those 18 were far more likely to show up than the other 8. And since not all 20 possible combinations were represented, 2 of those 10 were even *more* likely to appear.

This was the first disparity I decided to tackle. The Harrow couldn't perfectly balance it either, as 20 doesn't divide well into 54. However, I realized something interesting: 14 of the possible 20 could repeat three times, leaving 6 that could only show up twice. 6, of course, is the number of suits in the Harrow. I realized that since I would need to omit 6 sets, I could have a unique effect to represent that: thus, “The Traitors” were born, the first unique effect of my Harrow version. It was obvious that a card from any give suit would grant one of its tokens to the attribute aligned with that suit. The Traitors became a way to both account for the “missing” 6 arrays while also breaking the mold if they happened to land in the Spirit location. (This would become a recurring theme.)

Next, I took a step back and looked at the Nurture location. Nurture was easy enough: metallic dragons granted 6 tokens to mind and 3 to body, while chromatic granted 6 to body and 3 to mind. Six of the mortals, however, did something fascinating: they granted 3 to body, 3 to mind, and 3 directly to an aligned attribute. This is where “The Purists” were born. (The Dracolich granted 3 to body, 3 to mind, and 3 to spirit; this last effect was lost, but I recommend starting with 6 tokens in the Spirit location rather than the originally-envisioned 3 anyway.)

Body and Mind also proved to be thankfully easy - and far more balanced than the 3DA version.

Body has 9 possible combinations of token distribution: SSS, DDD, CCC, SSD, SSC, DDS, DDC, CCS, CCD. The 3DA version didn't balanced these evenly, but the Harrow could do a much better job here. I realized that each of the physical suits should heavily favor the attribute aligned with its suit. The 3DA version’s mortal cards would grant all of their tokens to one stat, whereas around 60 of the cards did a 2:1 split, and only a couple did a 1:1:1 split.

I decided that each of the Body suits would have 4 cards that would grant all their tokens to the stat of their suit (I hadn't landed on the idea of “The Ideologues” just yet,) that 6 of the cards should grant tokens evenly (this almost immediately created the idea of “The Equalizers”), and that the other combinations would show up 6 times each. Since 4 cards in a suit would grant 3 to a stat, and 1 card in a suit would grant 1 to each stat, it was easy enough to decide that the remaining 4 cards in a suit would grant 2 tokens to their stat and 1 to another physical stat. Making those remaining 4 evenly split between the 2 possible outcomes (so SSD and SSC for Hammer, for instance) left 4 of each of the remaining available 2:1 splits to be handled by the Mind cards. Fortunately, this math worked out perfectly since I'd already decided that the NG cards would all give 1:1:1. Then, I just flipped the math for the Mind cards. Easy. I didn't actually figure out which Body stats the individual Mind cards would boost (and vice-versa) until much later, after I'd tackled the Spirit locations. This actually turned out to be an excellent guide, because I realized that body cards should boost the mind stats that their spirit location boosted (when applicable.)

Next on the vivisectionist’s table was Nurture. Hooray, Nurture! Okay, this one was easy. All the tokens go to one stat? Suits have aligned stats? Boom. The unique cards in 3DA all did weird stuff referring to different cards, but by now I had a pretty firm grasp of my unique effects being based on card alignments, so I picked LN and CN, decided LN physical cards would look at Body, CN physical cards would look at nature, LN mind cards would look at mind, CN mind cards would look at spirit, and it was a wrap. Well, mostly. I realized it was possible that by looking at another card, you could get stuck in a weird loop if it was *also* a LN or CN card, so I added the bit about choosing your fate, and it seemed fitting. With all the alignments decided except for LG, CG, LE, and CE, I had my alignments for which 4 cards would give all their tokens to their respective suit if they landed in the Body or Mind location, and “The Ideologues” were born (in retrospect, I realized it was fitting that the four most polarized alignments would have the most single-minded results, so that was a happy accident.)

Lastly was the Ability effects. 3DA actually had a pretty good handle on this. 10 dragon suits, 5 good, 5 evil, 3 young and 3 old dragons per suit. Each metallic color gave tokens to the card a certain number of spaces away; the 3 young gave 1, the 3 old gave 2 instead. Flip that for evil dragons and stealing tokens. The unique cards were all over the place, though. Bahamut and Tiamat were consistent: Bahamut gave 1 to all, Tiamat stole 1 from all, but beyond that, they ranged the gamut from giving 1 to all good dragons to stealing 1 from each dragon with a face value of 7 or less to giving 1 to each other mortal.

The first thing I looked at was giving and stealing tokens from a card a set number of spaces away. 5 spaces to work with, 1 or 2 tokens, and you had 10 unique results for giving and 10 for stealing. I realized/decided that these results should occur in even frequency in both the Body suits (Hammer, Key, and Shield) and the Mind suits (Tome, Star, and Crown.) That was 40/54 right there. That left room for 14 unique effects. I came up with:
* Giving 2 to the card with the most tokens
* Giving 2 to the card with the fewest tokens
* Stealing 2 from the card with the most tokens
* Stealing 2 from the card with the fewest tokens
* Giving 1 to all
* Stealing 1 from all
* A Hammer, Key, or Shield card that gave 1 to each other H, K, or S card.
* A H, K, or S card that gave 1 to each other Tome, Star, or Crown card.
* A T, S, or C card that gave 1 to each other H, K, or S card
* A T, S, or C card that gave 1 to each other T, S, or C card.
* The above 4, but flipped for stealing instead of giving.

I pulled a list of the 7 Body and 7 Mind cards I thought were best suited to have these unique effects and tried to make sure every suit got at least 2; ultimately, I went with the 14 “most interesting” cards, which left a couple suits with only 1.

The giving and stealing from a set number of spaces looks really arbitrary, but I did actually give it a fair bit of thought. I considered that if the card was in the location aligned with its suit, what stat would that card give to or steal from, and was it a more “powerful” effect or a more “minor” effect? So Paladin, for instance, is a Hammer card that if it was in the Strength location would give 2 tokens to Charisma. This...actually worked out shockingly well as a method for making some sense out of pretty arbitrary movements.

The only thing left to do was sit down and look at all 54 cards and assign unique Spirit values to each. Oof. This was definitely the hardest part. I wrote a list of of all 20 possible combinations, and decided on 6 that wouldn't be repeated a third time. I tried to make it fair so that each stat was omitted the same number of times, but I didn't succeed. S, D, W, and Ch are each omitted 3 times, I is omitted 4, and C is omitted only once (everyone needs Con, though, at least.) I did my best to pick the 6 combinations I thought were weakest. I figured out which of those 6 sets were not allowed to appear in a given suit. Con/Shield was easy, since there was only one to choose from. The others weren't too terribly difficult.

Then I went down the list of cards, making sure not to use a given set more than three times and not to use my 6 marked sets more than twice. After I got the list finalized, I made a lot of swaps until I was happy with the results. Hopefully they're pretty agreeable.

Once spirit was done, the rest just fell into place. Spirit informed my decisions with the Mind and Body cards, which lends a really nice consistency there.

Then it was just mostly a matter of formatting, which took a while.

So that's it! Hope it was interesting to take a look behind the scenes. I genuinely hope you like the results.


Dotted and bookmarked for further reference.

Thanks for all the work.


I'll test it.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Companion, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

This looks like a fun way to generate characters. I really like the Harrow deck.

Thanks for sharing!


Fabius Maximus wrote:

Dotted and bookmarked for further reference.

Thanks for all the work.

Thanks much! This has been a real brainworm since I had the idea, so it's a real relief to have it out there, especially if other people enjoy it as much as I do.

Khudzlin wrote:
I'll test it.

Please do. This is definitely the strength of the system. It all looks really esoteric until you actually sit down and start playing with all the moving parts which starts to get really fun, particularly if you enjoy reading into the results. (I highly recommend reading into the results.)

We found with 3DA that certain cards sparked tons of thought and inspired creative decisions, like getting Bahamut in the Nature location, or the Archmage in the Mind location. I can only imagine how much more interesting it's going to be when every card is unique and can really be read into.

KingOfAnything wrote:

This looks like a fun way to generate characters. I really like the Harrow deck.

Thanks for sharing!

It's a lot of fun. We actually found a surprising amount of entertainment value doing readings as a group with everyone chiming in with ideas about how certain cards could be interpreted, and a Harrow version is just going to be so much better at handling that aspect. It really made characters feel strangely more organic. (I've been thinking this would be really cool for Strange Aeons character generation, particularly with the amnesia component of the AP. But it's also really fitting for anything with a real Destiny theme, right? Like Reign of Winter or Kingmaker.)

The other thing we really loved was that it pushed us out of our comfort zones (or occasionally fed us our favorite "comfort food" builds, which felt more...exciting when they showed up.) I honestly think it made us better players.

Shadow Lodge

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Wow. This looks fantastic. Thanks for sharing!


Dotting for the future.
Thankee sai.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Any set of equivalents for those of us who don't own a Harrow deck?


Neat!

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Companion, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Any set of equivalents for those of us who don't own a Harrow deck?

You can simulate a Harrow deck with a standard deck of playing cards (including Jokers), or you can roll a d6 and d10 for each card and reroll duplicates.


Has anybody assembled a proper equivalents table? Like the Deck of Many Things has for playing cards and tarot decks?

EDIT: Nevermind. Found one!

Shadow Lodge

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Any set of equivalents for those of us who don't own a Harrow deck?

I mean, people have given good suggestions...but you really should own a Harrow deck. Just because it's neato.


They're $23 right now. What am I, made of money?

Tap, tap.


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Kobold Cleaver wrote:

They're $23 right now. What am I, made of money?

Tap, tap.

You had previously mentioned having a lot of unused D&D books... simply put those in a sturdy burlap sack, head on down to your local gaming store, and when the clerk's attention is distracted, whack them over the head with the burlap sack filled with books. Take as many Harrow Decks as they have, and rifle through the register for good measure. Simplicity itself, really...

And that's why you don't develop life strategies based on years of RPGs.


5 people marked this as a favorite.

Uh, not to quibblemuch with that idea, but I can't lift all those books.

Shadow Lodge

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Kobold Cleaver wrote:

They're $23 right now. What am I, made of money?

Tap, tap.

Well, yeah. I mean, you *are* a kobold. Just pull off s few scales and...

Oh, *chromatic* dragons. Never mind.


Kobold Cleaver wrote:
KingOfAnything wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Any set of equivalents for those of us who don't own a Harrow deck?
You can simulate a Harrow deck with a standard deck of playing cards (including Jokers), or you can roll a d6 and d10 for each card and reroll duplicates.

Has anybody assembled a proper equivalents table? Like the Deck of Many Things has for playing cards and tarot decks?

EDIT: Nevermind. Found one!

Nice suggestions/good find, KC!

I actually don't own a Harrow deck yet, but after writing this, I plan on picking one up right away. Having done this with the 3DA deck, I can say that there's just something about using the physical prop that's extremely satisfying.

And wow! Thanks for all the kind words everyone! I'm glad that so many people are digging this.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Uh, not to quibblemuch with that idea, but I can't lift all those books.

Dual-wield two small sacks...

I am intrigued by this method.

I may dig out both my Harrow and my old Tarokka deck, see what I can get out of them...


Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Uh, not to quibblemuch with that idea, but I can't lift all those books.

This is why a standard party has four people in it...


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Kobold Cleaver wrote:

Has anybody assembled a proper equivalents table? Like the Deck of Many Things has for playing cards and tarot decks?

EDIT: Nevermind. Found one!

I found the logic behind the table. Suits correspond with alignments:

- LG and NG: Hearts
- CG and CN: Diamonds
- LE and LN: Clubs
- CE and NE: Spades
- N: any (see below)

And values correspond with abilities:
- STR: 7's and Kings
- DEX: 6's and Queens
- CON: 5's and Jacks
- INT: 4's and 10's
- WIS: 3's and 9's
- CHA: 2's and 8's

Neutral cards get Aces and Jokers:
- The Bear (N STR): Hearts
- The Peacock (N DEX): Diamonds
- The Teamster (N CON): Clubs
- The Foreign Trader (N INT): Spades
- The Owl (N WIS): Joker*
- The Twin (N CHA): Joker

The * is used to distinguish between the 2 jokers in the table, but without any more details. I assume the Owl gets the red joker and the Twin the black one, given the ordering used for suits (Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, Spades).


Kobold Cleaver wrote:

They're $23 right now. What am I, made of money?

Tap, tap.

and I don't know a shop in Paris, France, that has them...


Khudzlin wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:

Has anybody assembled a proper equivalents table? Like the Deck of Many Things has for playing cards and tarot decks?

EDIT: Nevermind. Found one!

I found the logic behind the table. Suits correspond with alignments:

- LG and NG: Hearts
- CG and CN: Diamonds
- LE and LN: Clubs
- CE and NE: Spades
- N: any (see below)

And values correspond with abilities:
- STR: 7's and Kings
- DEX: 6's and Queens
- CON: 5's and Jacks
- INT: 4's and 10's
- WIS: 3's and 9's
- CHA: 2's and 8's

Neutral cards get Aces and Jokers:
- The Bear (N STR): Hearts
- The Peacock (N DEX): Diamonds
- The Teamster (N CON): Clubs
- The Foreign Trader (N INT): Spades
- The Owl (N WIS): Joker*
- The Twin (N CHA): Joker

The * is used to distinguish between the 2 jokers in the table, but without any more details. I assume the Owl gets the red joker and the Twin the black one, given the ordering used for suits (Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, Spades).

Isn't it fun trying to break down the logic of playing cards? :P

This is pretty neat, though. Good to know there's a method to the madness.

And seriously, thank you to everyone that put in a little legwork on finding equivalence tables for those without a Harrow deck. I certainly should have thought of that.

I might lift the table from d20pfsrd and add it to the bottom of the article, just so that it can be handy and available right there without having to go to an external source for reference.


And to finish with the logic behind the correspondance: high value cards (8 to King) correspond to extreme alignments (LG, CG, LE, CE), while low value cards (2 to 7) correspond to neutral alignments (NG, CN, LN, NE).


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Klorox wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:

They're $23 right now. What am I, made of money?

Tap, tap.

and I don't know a shop in Paris, France, that has them...

Well, uh, not that I love sending international mail, but I've been known to help a fellow gamer out...


@Gulthor: There is usually some logic (often even a formula) behind any given table in D&D or PF, but the detailed explanation is rarely given. So, thanks for giving us your design process on top of your work.

My guess for the Harrow correspondance is that there are 4 suits of 13 values and 2 jokers in a standard deck, while there are 9 alignments and 6 abilities in a Harrow deck. So each suit could accomodate 2 alignments. That leaves 1 alignment on one side, and 1 value and the jokers on the other, so a custom correspondance for those is needed. They chose to associate each extreme alignment with the neutral one clockwise from it (so LG with NG, CG with CN, LE with LN and CE with NE), while associating the red suits with good alignments and the black suits with evil ones. The aces were chosen as the leftover value and Neutral as the leftover alignment (the others have either one or no neutral component).


Cole Deschain wrote:
Klorox wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:

They're $23 right now. What am I, made of money?

Tap, tap.

and I don't know a shop in Paris, France, that has them...
Well, uh, not that I love sending international mail, but I've been known to help a fellow gamer out...

Thanks, but I checked the availability purely out of curiosity, not out of need.


First try (standard) gave me STR 10 DEX 15 CON 12 INT 13 WIS 17 CHA 10. At one point, I had 2 tokens to share between 5 cards, so I chose which abilities got them.


Khudzlin wrote:
First try (standard) gave me STR 10 DEX 15 CON 12 INT 13 WIS 17 CHA 10. At one point, I had 2 tokens to share between 5 cards, so I chose which abilities got them.

Neat! Thanks for sharing your results; so, I think that demonstrates pretty nicely why I recommend using a slightly higher array. I mean, that's totally playable, but it's odd, right? It's not an optimized array that players would build for themselves, but it kinda' pulls you in some unusual directions. Maybe something like a Nature Fang druid?

What about the "reading" aspect? Did you find the cards themselves giving you any insight into the character's history or nature as you were going along? It's also interesting that you got a set that made it so you couldn't proceed (The Big Sky card, I'm guessing?) I agree that those are opportunities to allow the player to use those tokens as kind of wild cards and use them as they like. I'll have to consider writing that in.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

This thread wants me to hail Lord British.


Did a high power reading, ended up with STR 9 DEX 14 CON 10 INT 17 WIS 14 CHA 15.

Some of the specific cards in the spots were really evocative in terms of creating an impression of a character, e.g. Peacock in INT (she's a showoff in terms of how smart she is), the Betrayal in WIS (she's grown cautious and somewhat selfish as a result of getting hurt), the Queen Mother in Nature (knowledgeable, bossy yet kind), the Marriage in Nurture (came from an at least somewhat stable family), the Beating in Body (has been through a lot), the Demon's Lantern in Spirit (has an intricate, complex, and dangerous inner life), the Eclipse in CHA (doubts her own personal skills), the Winged Serpent (is limited physically, knows that), and the Idiot in Mind (hubris!).

I wasn't sure what to make sure of pulling The Big Sky in Strength.

Would probably play this as a Psychic, likely a Dwarf, probably with the Tranquility psychic discipline (attaining a peaceful inner state is what she needs to become truly powerful, not what actually comes naturally to her.)


I like the idea and it seems like a fun way to generate scores.

First Try:

I drew the


  • Queen Mother
  • Rabbit Prince
  • Sickness
  • Peacock
  • Unicorn
  • Joke
  • Empty Throne
  • Uprising
  • Locksmith
  • Beating
  • Foreign Trader

on my first attempt. Not bad I think, ignoring the problem mentioned below.

One thing I noticed though is that the Rabbit Prince doesn't have a body entry. Am I reading the instructions wrong, or is this correct? From the other cards, I would assume it would be

Quote:
Body: Give 2/3 of the tokens on this card to the Dexterity card. Give the rest to the Strength card.

I ended up replacing the Rabbit Prince with the Teamster in my draw, but I imagine it significantly changed the final results.


wasn't there an article in Wayfinder magazine that did something similar?

I'll still check this out


Gulthor wrote:
Khudzlin wrote:
First try (standard) gave me STR 10 DEX 15 CON 12 INT 13 WIS 17 CHA 10. At one point, I had 2 tokens to share between 5 cards, so I chose which abilities got them.

Neat! Thanks for sharing your results; so, I think that demonstrates pretty nicely why I recommend using a slightly higher array. I mean, that's totally playable, but it's odd, right? It's not an optimized array that players would build for themselves, but it kinda' pulls you in some unusual directions. Maybe something like a Nature Fang druid?

What about the "reading" aspect? Did you find the cards themselves giving you any insight into the character's history or nature as you were going along? It's also interesting that you got a set that made it so you couldn't proceed (The Big Sky card, I'm guessing?) I agree that those are opportunities to allow the player to use those tokens as kind of wild cards and use them as they like. I'll have to consider writing that in.

It certainly wasn't something I would have made myself (especially not on 25 points). I was thinking of a wisdom-based caster, but I didn't go much further. I didn't really think of the reading itself, but I don't have a Harrow deck, so I had to translate (immersion would be much easier with a Harrow deck).

The card that had me make a choice was The Queen Mother, because all other ability cards were Hammer, Key or Shield. So I guess you have to watch all abilities that give tokens to multiple cards (The Big Sky, The Forge, The Cricket, The Queen Mother and The Unicorn). When giving to a single card or stealing, I just gave or stole whatever there was if it wasn't enough for the effect.


flugen wrote:

I like the idea and it seems like a fun way to generate scores.

One thing I noticed though is that the Rabbit Prince doesn't have a body entry. Am I reading the instructions wrong, or is this correct? From the other cards, I would assume it would be

Quote:
Body: Give 2/3 of the tokens on this card to the Dexterity card. Give the rest to the Strength card.
I ended up replacing the Rabbit Prince with the Teamster in my draw, but I imagine it significantly changed the final results.

Whoops! Fixed! Thanks for that, don't know how I missed writing it up (it's in my handwritten notes.) But yes, you extrapolated it correctly, the Rabbit Prince is supposed to be 2/3 Dex and 1/3 Strength.

@ Possible Cabbage, that's pretty terrific; I'm psyched that you were able to find so much to read into by the results - that ended up becoming our favorite part. And again, those are rock solid stats, but not what a player would *choose* to do with a 30 point buy (10 Con? No 18's?) but certainly very playable.

@ Bard of Ages; I'm not sure if something like this was ever featured in Wayfinder, that would be interesting to look into and compare, but it is still something that Paizo wrote back when they were still writing for WotC, just updated. Thanks for checking it out, and I hope you like it!

@ Khudzlin; Ah, yeah, I could see how that would make it much harder to try to read into the results when you're cross-referencing so much. I'm now remembering myself the frequency with which you would need to give more tokens away than a card had (I think starting ability scores at 8 and adding the two extra tokens per ability card will be one step that would really work to fix this, just by adding a lot more tokens onto the field without increasing the point buy.)

The original article was silent on what to do there as well, but it deserves to actually be addressed in the process itself. Perhaps - in the spirit of the rest of the ability card movements - it should be to go in clockwise order, or perhaps it should be the way you did it (and we used to do it) where it's player's choice which ability card(s) to move each token to if there aren't enough tokens to give away. Out of the two, I think I'm leaning more towards it being player's choice.

EDIT: Added a quick: "Follow the instructions listed in the abilities section of each card’s description. If you are unable to follow the card’s instructions exactly (for instance, if you need to give away more tokens than a card has,) follow them as best you can, with the player deciding ties." to the end of the Abilities section.


Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
This thread wants me to hail Lord British.

For the folks who didn't get my reference. When Richard Gariott took full control of the Ultima property, he discovered that there was a lot of feedback of the original 3 Ultimas that was never given to him, in particular parents who were concerned about the rob everything strategy used to win the first three games.

He wanted to make decisions more meaningful, and part of that was his change in character generation. In Ultima IV, Quest of the Avatar, While the potential Avatar is ultimately required to excel in all Virtues, an interview with a gypsy decides what virtue is most predominant at the start of your career... and that determines your class.

Shadow Lodge

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Bard of Ages wrote:

wasn't there an article in Wayfinder magazine that did something similar?

I'll still check this out

If it wasn't, this is something Gulthor should writeup for Wayfinder. Seriously.


Almost by itself, this post makes me want a harrow deck.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Stone Dog wrote:
Almost by itself, this post makes me want a harrow deck.

Do eet! Seriously, though, the harrow decks are beautifully made, and it's one of my favorite props.


We'll have to see what happens. We are on the last book of Reign of Winter, but when we get closer to the end I bet I'll break down and pick one up. If we do Strange Aeons next I will even want a player to go for a Harrower, but if we do a few short games and then Starfinder it won't be as in theme.


pH unbalanced wrote:
Bard of Ages wrote:

wasn't there an article in Wayfinder magazine that did something similar?

I'll still check this out

If it wasn't, this is something Gulthor should writeup for Wayfinder. Seriously.

Wow, thank you. While I appreciate the sentiment - and not to downplay the fairly significant amount of work I *did* put into it - it would be pretty unethical for me to present this as my sole work. As I mentioned in the first post, I lifted vast quantities of text directly from the original article by Craig Shackleton and copy/pasted the Harrow descriptions directly from Pathfinderwiki.

However, as Paizo did write the original article, they are more than welcome to use my update if they like; I would want or expect zero compensation for it.

@ Stone Dog; it's pretty funny, actually, our group was fairly settled on characters and concepts for Strange Aeons, and now we've decided to scrap them in favor of using this method instead. Seeing as one of the themes of the Adventure Path is loss of some player agency and loss of the characters' memory, it seems to be the perfect fit. It's the kind of thing where the GM can point at a card and be like, "Yeah, that right there? I'm not telling you what happened there. It's part of your amnesia."

And I also just ordered a Harrow deck for our group after writing this :P

I'm looking forward to giving it a couple of test runs.


Do I need to refer to additional instructions about Harrow readings to use this document?


No, all you need is a Harrow deck and the document (at least as far as generating stats goes). Though knowing about traditional Harrow readings would probably help with interpreting what the cards mean for the character.


UnArcaneElection wrote:

Do I need to refer to additional instructions about Harrow readings to use this document?

Nope, this method has nothing to do with "the Tapestry", the traditional Harrow reading method, and I've made sure to include descriptions of each card that are more than sufficient to read into your results a bit.

As Khudzlin said, I'm sure there's a little more that can be interpreted if you're a big Harrow buff, but writing this was actually my very first introduction to the Harrow beyond just knowing it was a thing that existed.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

A quick update for those interested; a friend of mine and I are working on writing up an excel sheet that will randomly generate 11 non-repeating numbers from 1-54, cross-reference the generated numbers against a list of the cards, and then populate those results into cells arranged to look like the Harrow reading spread. Might take us a few days.


So I think I just accidentally Jedi Mind Tricked my friend into getting me the deck for Christmas? I guess I know how I'll be generating my Tiefling Summoner (with all the new Hand feats) when the time comes.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I was interested in giving this a try, as I've always been a fan of the Harrow. But, rather than just as a means to generate stats, I was more interested in the character building aspect and the ways reading into the cards could help define a character.

For this purpose, I tried building a kitsune vigilante, a character I'm going to be playing in an upcoming Hell's Rebels game. I've already built this character using 20 point-buy, but wanted to compare the results as well as use the exercise to develop the character's backstory.

Stats Generated Using Point-Buy (before kitsune racial modifiers):

STR 14 DEX 13 CON 12 INT 12 WIS 14 CHA 13

Stats Generated by the Harrow Method (again before racial modifiers):

STR 15 DEX 13 CON 13 INT 12 WIS 13 CHA 15

... nearly identical. I realize this is just luck, but I thought it was very interesting nonetheless. I used the 25 point-buy equivalent for the Harrow Generation upon the recommendation of the document.

More importantly, though, was reading into the cards, which helped me define areas of the character's backstory which I was having trouble with previously.

Card Interpretation Breakdown for Those Interested:
The cards I ended up pulling were:

Nature - Desert
Spirit - Uprising
Body - Crows
Mind - Forge
Nurture - Big Sky
Str - Survivor
Dex - Vision
Con - Tyrant
Int - Paladin
Wis - Avalanche
Cha - Twin

So starting off, the character grew up in an environment that was difficult to survive without help (The Desert). I interpreted that as being part of a trading caravan, living life on the road. Then they were caught up in something they couldn't control (The Uprising) which upended their life - agents of Thrune, posing as tax collectors, who sought to keep undesirables out of the city. There was a big fight, which resulted in the character's family being killed (The Crows)and leaving the child an orphan. The ordeal left the character devastated, yet the event hardened her rather than broke her, and left her with great resolve (The Forge). She was taken in off the streets by a local merchant, but it wasn't until years later that she was given the opportunity to stand up to House Thrune - when she discovered the church of Milani (The Big Sky).

As she worked to improve herself through the church, she kept her resolve by focusing on the terrible ordeal she had survived (The Survivor), and convinced herself that she had lived through that day to pursue an important purpose. She practiced her natural shapeshifting abilities in order to befuddle foes used to more human methods (The Vision). Her experiences living under Thrune rule keep her from giving up - she won't let herself fail until others are safe from their evil (The Tyrant). She refuses to back down, as she feels that anyone with firsthand knowledge of Thrune's secret atrocities has a duty to act on that knowledge (The Paladin). Yet at the same time, she feels that secrecy is best, as she knows what can happen when innocents are caught up in violent emotions and wants to make sure that no one else has to experience disaster (The Avalanche). Finally, living her dual life is liberating, as she can express aspects of herself that she must keep hidden, both from the Thrune government and from human society as a whole (The Twin.)

Reading the cards like this was very helpful, as it gave me an idea of why a character might want to become a vigilante class in the first place. I like the idea of a character who outwardly wants to be a hidden agent to keep the masses safe, but inwardly just wants to be their true self in a world they feel won't accept them just yet.

I also really appreciated the Avalanche's placement in the spread, as it could be read with two very different meanings - that the character is wise enough to avoid disaster, or that they are willing to forego patience if it gets the results they want. I considered both options for the character, and think it could be an interesting conflict point as the stakes are raised.

TLDR; I think this method is worth it just for the character exercise, even if you don't use it for the stats. I know I will be using it going forward. Thank you for making this.


Hoo boy. Trying to use playing cards, but I'm having trouble puzzling out the step-by-step. I'll bet this is easier for those who own a Harrow deck and have those instructions.


Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Hoo boy. Trying to use playing cards, but I'm having trouble puzzling out the step-by-step. I'll bet this is easier for those who own a Harrow deck and have those instructions.

From doing this a few times, I would suggest drawing out what the standard array is (with labels) on a piece of paper, then dealing out the cards and writing down what they are on your piece of paper (translating to harrow cards if need be), then referring to the instructions. That way you don't need to keep looking back to check which spot corresponds to what.

I imagine with practice you'd just know which spot is spirit and which is mind, but for me this helps a lot especially if you have to translate between decks. A few of the instructions refer to the suits, which correspond to the six attributes (STR: hammes, DEX: keys, CON: shields, INT: Tomes, WIS: Stars, CHA: Crowns) one of which is associated with each card (e.g. the Liar is the CE card of Charisma, so it's a crown).


2 people marked this as a favorite.

It was extremely hard to do with playing cards, since I had to scroll between three pages—here, to write the results down, the PFSRD page, to get the equivalent cards, and the Google Doc to work out what stuff meant. A key would be really nice. It would also be handy for speedily determining what suit a card belongs to, since the PFSRD doesn't list suits.

Stats Generated (Low-Powered, since I didn't have many tokens handy): Str 10, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 11, Cha 13 (15 PB exactly)

Not half bad. Looks like a pretty good potential wizard, bard or cleric. I'm a bit bummed out that there's no way to get low scores, however. That's the biggest hole in this system. One of my favorite aspects of randomizing is the opportunity for especially weak points, and I'm not sure I'd enjoy using this system as much with no opportunity for that.

Spoiler:
Nature - Tyrant (LE; a harmful ruler)
Spirit - The Bear (N; untamed strength)
Body - The Lost (CE; insanity, emptiness)
Mind - The Tangled Briar (LE; "represents a historical thing or creature that will have some influence on the question")
Nurture - The Unicorn (CG; "one who generously offers up that which is sought")
Charisma - The Locksmith (LN; stole from Int; "represents the keys the subject needs to unlock his fate. The card grants the tools needed to unlock some new place, puzzle, or hoard")
Constitution - The Waxworks (CE; stole from Str, Dex and Wis; "represents a place of torture, imprisonment, helplessness, and paralysis")
Dexterity - The Foreign Trader (N; gave to Con [omg Con leave Dex alone already]; "represents spies, merchants, and those who trade in information")
Strength - The Publican (CG; gave to Cha; "represents fellowship and refuge. The cyclops is a seemingly inconsequential figure who nonetheless has relevant insight")
Intelligence - The Crows (NE; stole from everyone; "represents murder, theft, and the violent loss of that which is loved" [what an a$!#&&!])
Wisdom - The Idiot (NE; stole from Cha; "represents folly, greed, blackmail, bribery, or hubris")

Len was raised within the great Thickets of Sahlik, vast densely-planted orchards of plums owned by a fierce hill giant. Len and her fellow halflings were kept as serfs by the giant, who made them manage the thicket and harvest his plums. The halflings resented their master, and shared tales and songs in secret mocking him, keeping up a defiant spirit. (The Tyrant/The Bear)

One morning, Len's parents went missing. They had been part of an excursion to cull a mysteriously diseased segment of the thicket, and Len, fearing for her family, insisted on journeying off to find them. She found a mass of black brambles creeping into the thicket. She had seen these brambles before—every year they would sprout up in the fall, inching a little bit closer with every passing of the seasons. Now, they had grown to dominate nearly an acre. Her parents, and the other missing halflings, were nowhere to be seen. The stench of death hung in the air, mixed with something sickeningly sweet.

Panicking, Len attempted to run into the thicket. The thorny vines came to life and lunged at her, spearing her through the arm. She would have perished there, if not for the intervention of the giant himself, who used druidic magic to blaze the attacking vines away from his slave. He carried the injured halfling back to her village, and ordered the halflings to produce twenty able-bodied warriors to go and burn the briars from that part of the forest. None of the halflings returned, but the next time villagers went to that part of the thicket, the brambles had been burned back to the edge of the orchard again. (The Lost/The Tangled Briar)

Len's arm never healed, and she never climbed trees again. She remained at home, an invalid, tormented by her helplessness. Len was all-but a prisoner in her bedroom, a captive to her compassionate neighbors' attempts at keeping her safe. Bitterness festered in her heart, even as a darkness festered in her arm. A seed from the brambles had embedded itself in there, and she felt it begin to sprout. She said nothing. It promised her freedom; it promised her revenge. And one day, she found herself able to sense magic. (The Waxworks/The Locksmith)

With the hard, dense sprigs sprouting from her ruined hand, she picked the lock on her window and left the village behind. The seed wanted magic, it said. The giant would have magic. The giant was the cause of her suffering, of her parents' deaths, it said. So she went to kill the giant. (The Idiot)

She lost. Badly, and obviously, in hindsight. But as the giant readied to burn her to a cinder, she realized her folly and begged for mercy. She told the giant of the corrupting seed in her arm. She tried to conceal her hatred as she spoke of her remorse, as she claimed the seed had forced her hand. She realized she would say just about anything there if only to survive. And that wicked giant saw something of himself in her—something of his small, cowardly, coal-black heart that had found its way to one of his servants. So he spared Len, instead selling her to a traveling slaver, a one-eyed giant who needed someone to cook her meals. (The Crows/The Unicorn)

Len found servitude under the cyclops unpleasant, but bearable. She took to reading through the cyclops's notes and records while she slept, studying written tongues she had never even heard of before. The seed in her arm had by now begun to dominate the appendage, and though her newfound weakness of control over the arm frightened her, it continued to whisper, continued to tell her secrets. Ancient empires. Buried treasure. And magic. Magic! Her arm became clumsy and weak, but it was tough, tough enough to wrench out of her manacles without breaking, tough enough to brave the fire to grab a burning log, tough enough that she didn't even feel afraid as she pierced her sleeping owner's eye and fled into the night.(The Foreign Trader)

She ran for a while. Eventually, Len encountered a human thief who was also on the run—though she fled the law, not slavers. Len talked to the human, and befriended her, and learned much from her. When lawmen came to arrest her, Len lied while the thief hid in nearby bushes. Len found a strange kinship with the woman, a fellow cold-hearted survivor who seemed to understand Len better than most. The thief advised Len to seek out an old sage she'd heard of, who might understand the source of those dark brambles. And the next night, Len stole the thief's trail rations and gold, left a lengthy note explaining why, and took off into darkness. (The Publican)

Modified Stats: Str 8, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 11, Cha 15


Wow! Great feedback everyone! We're still working on that spreadsheet, KC, but I'm sorry it wasn't ready for your first run :/

Aishama, the fact that you came back with a nearly identical array is downright spooky :D I like your suggestion of just using a reading as a character background development tool, too.

KC, I agree with you completely about the low scores: the original article had no way to go below 10, which is why I changed the "default" suggested method to start each ability score at 8 rather than 10 and then put an extra 2 tokens on each card at the start (so each stat still starts at 10, but it can lose tokens and drop to an 8 or 9.)

You can adapt any of the various point buys to be able to generate 8's (or even 7's) by just starting ability scores at those lower values and then putting enough tokens on them to buy them up to 10 at the start - it does require a lot more tokens, though (and remembering to increase point buy costs to account for having to buy up to a 10 first.) So a 15 point buy would use 27 tokens if you were starting each stat at 8 (or 39! if you were starting each stat at 7!) and so on.

In the meantime until the excel sheet is ready, I'd recommend PossibleCabbage's method of drawing out the spread on a sheet of paper and then just writing in your results in your hand-drawn rectangles.

1 to 50 of 149 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | next > last >>
Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / General Discussion / The Harrow Character Generation: Attribute Generation Through Fortune-Telling All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.