House Rule for Easier PACG

Homebrew and House Rules

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Our household enjoys the PACG, but we find it at times a bit too tough for our liking. This has been exasperated as we've started Wrath of the Righteous. Our group doesn't mind having an easier time, since we view the Card Game as being a surrogate for the RPG experience, where we get to see how cards interact, have fun playing characters, etc. In most RPGs I've been part of, the assumption is that the players are going to win . . . or, at least, will have a really good shot at emerging triumphant. (This is similar to movies in our mind; you know the Hero is gonna win . . . the fun comes in seeing how he's going to end.)

The trouble has been how to house-rule the PACG to maintain a level of tension, while not making it either too easy or keeping it too hard for us.

For the past couple of games, we've had a house rule that has been working well for us to maintain this feel we're looking for, so I thought I'd share.

  • House Rule: All characters get a bonus — to all checks — equal to the number of open locations, minus 1.

We've been playing with a three-player game, so this has traditionally meant five locations, which means a +4 bonus at the beginning, which becomes +3, +2, and +1 as locations are closed . . . ending at no bonus at all when there's just one location left.

This has had the effect that the opening rounds of the game are a bit of a romp, with the heroes getting stuff easier, having an easier time with traps and monsters, and having an easier time closing locations. It's also reduced the number of wasted turns; so often in previous games a large percentage of players' turns are essentially pointless: "Oh, the difficulty to get this boon is 7, I have a d6. Even if someone uses a blessing, I still only have 50/50 odds. I guess this turn is moot." Conversely, with a +4 (at the beginning), that same d6 check now has a 4-in-6 chance of getting it . . . and if it's something someone really wants, then spending a blessing becomes a much more logical proposition.

However, as locations close, the bonus decreases . . . until the last location, when you're basically playing without training wheels (not counting whatever goodies you've acquired in the rest of the game, of course).

Oh, and "closed = closed" . . . even temporarily closed. So the only way to win (in most scenarios) is to face the final villain with no fiat bonus.

I haven't played this with a larger group; it might need to be toned down, perhaps capped at +4. Or maybe not; in theory, in a larger group, a few locations are going to get closed pretty quickly. But we've only playtested this with three players, so YMMV.

Anyway, we haven't playtested this to the ends of the earth yet, but — so far — it seems to be making a more-relaxing experience for us. If anyone's done anything similar, or can think of any immediate pitfalls or problems, feel free to share.

Hey, thanks for sharing your house rule.

I think a potential problem is that certain locations with recurring checks can be trivialized if you abuse this mechanic; for example, there is a location in WotR (can't recall the name right now) were you are supposed to fight against a Corrupted Soldier at the beginning of your turn - if each character stays in that location until its closed, its an easy +4 to each combat check, most certainly trivializing the encounters.

That being said, its your game, and as long as you are having fun and don't mind, everything goes.

A related house rule would be to tie the bonus to the number of cards in the blessings discard pile - start with +x and decrease the bonus every y number of cards in the blessing discard pile until it vanishes.
That's probably better balanced since it's independent of party size, you can't influence it (no abusng by keeping locations open on purpose) and it's invariant against special scenarios where the number of locations is not #players+2.
You could just call it 'exhaustion', which slowly worsens character performance.

If you are interested in constructing new house rules, you might want to build some around die bumps. Those are used in organized play - each character has a certain amount of die bumps which they can earn for completing adventures, and after you rolled for a check, any character can spend a number of his/her die bumps to add or subtract 1 from the result for each die bump spend this way.
They are rare in organized play, but you may want to build a house-rule about starting each scenario with a certain amount of them, or awarding them during gameplay for various tasks (e.g. exceeding checks by a lot, defeating henchmen, closing locations, etc).

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Thanks for the reply!

Relating it to the blessings pile is a really interesting idea, but it leads to an incentive to burn through cards to explore earlier, which means that there's a real possibility you'll have some kind of bonus for that final villain . . . which I fear might make the conclusion a bit too easy. (I'm also not sure how easy it'd be to keep track of the blessings discard pile, since that deck tends to be a royal mess when we play.) Still, for others who might stumble onto this thread, here's how one possible breakdown might look with a +4 max bonus:

  • 1-6: +4
  • 7-12: +3
  • 13-18: +2
  • 19-24: +1
  • 25-30: +0

. . . and here's how it might look with a +3 max bonus:

  • 1-7: +3
  • 8-15: +2
  • 16-22: +1
  • 23-30: +0

Regarding the die bumps . . . that's also a neat idea, but the problem is that it adds another layer of decision to a game that (for our table) is already at the limit of decision paralysis. "Do I use the die bump now to get the moderately cool magic item we kinda-sorta want, or let it go and save it for when we really need it?" (We already go through way too many rounds of, "Do you want a blessing for this attack? You're at about an 75% chance, which is pretty good, but . . . Well, maybe you can discard the weapon? That adds another 1d6, but then you don't have a weapon . . . but you'l'l be drawing two cards, so you might get another . . . Wait. Don't you have an ally who can add 1 to any combat? Should you use that now? But if you roll 6 over, that was a waste of a free exploration . . ." Seasons pass. Pages of the calendar fall away.)

We tried a similar system before that allowed for a certain number of rerolls per player per adventure, and folks were still being frustrated by large chunks of the game, muddling to the end without much loot or sense of accomplishment . . . until that final boss (if we survived until then), when all the resources we'd saved until then were enough to annihilate the final villain.

One thing I like about a flat fiat bonus is that it takes the decision out of the players' hands and just makes things easier . . . until the game becomes gradually harder.

(If it matters, our gaming table is myself, my wife, and our 10-year-old son . . . we're no gaming slouches, but it's not like we're die-hard grognards or anything.)

As an aside, when we ran into a similar problem with the boardgame Castle Panic, the simple solution there was just to add a card to each of our hands (so six cards per hand instead of five); more options meant an easier time keeping the board clear. But that's not a real option for PACG; a larger hand limit almost adds as many problems as it solves!

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Here are some of the house rules my home group implemented since we initially misunderstood the rules, then kept them as anti-frustration features. You may want to try them as an alternative to or in addition to your current rule:

1. When an enemy is encountered every character can take an action before the fight starts. This allows you to not feel punished for waiting to burn that cure spell in your hand.
2. Players can play cards that enhance a check up until the last die is rolled. This is mostly an anti-frustration feature to avoid those moments of needing only one above average roll and seeing nothing but 2's and 1's on your dice. It's easily abusable if you aren't careful, but if you're just playing for fun, it helps avoid the most anger inducing moments.

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