Question on traits for signature tricks


Extinction Curse


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Hi everyone, I like the look of the circus mechanics, but I have a few questions about how traits work, specifically regarding signature tricks developed by the PCs.

It appears that the PCs get to choose their own traits when they develop their trick (and as they level up), with the exception of the compulsory trick traits (such as injury or team) that are automatically added to the trick and do not take up a “trait slot.” My question is whether some traits should be required depending on the nature of the trick.

For example, if someone were to develop an animal trick that also involved dancing with the animals as well as the use of magic, should the signature trick be required to have the animal, dancing, and magical traits? If so, does that mean the trick can not be created until the PC gets to level 12 (and is allowed three traits), or should all of those traits automatically be assigned? Or should the trick be allowed but with only 1 trait until the PC gets to a higher level?

I’m a little concerned with the possibility of gaming the system here. What prevents a PC from adding the Aerial trait to a trick that involves escaping from a water tank just to get the bonus to the acrobatics check? Or to not add the animal trait to a trick that involves animals until the circus gets someone with the animal handler role just so they can avoid the Animals Break Loose event?

Also, the rules state that traits cannot be added to a signature trick until the circus hires an NPC performer whose trick includes that trait, meaning that at level 1 the only traits allowed are agile, animal, fire and water. Does this mean that no trick that uses alchemical items should be allowed, even if the PC is an alchemist?

I’m a little torn on how to handle this. Part of me wants to enforce adding traits that “match” the trick, but I also don’t want to, for example, prevent a wizard from creating a magical act just because she can’t add the magical trait at the beginning of the module.

Thanks for your input.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

I view the traits as the PCs learning how to best show off that aspect of a trick. A water trick without the aerial trait might still involve diving into a pool of water, but adding the aerial trait means that they are really playing it up by doing several flips as they fall.

With the dancing animal trick above, maybe it starts off with just the animal trait. You still have them dancing due to magic, but the dancing is pretty basic, and the magic isn't really all that apparent. You haven't practiced impressive moves, so they are really just shuffling around in time. Still cool, but it's level one cool. Go up a few levels, and maybe now the bears are really getting it. They are waltzing their way around the Big Top. But the magic is still just basic to help them with the timing. Few more levels, and now you've learned to do all that while really amping up the magic. It sounds like there is a full symphony playing. The bears are literally flying around the tent insuring everyone gets the best view. It's still the same fundamental trick that you started with, but it's definitely got some extra oomph as you go on.

Oh, and if anyone tried to pull the "doesn't have the animal trait, so they can't break out" line, then I'd point out it only says animal tricks, nothing about the animal trait. For example, bad weather specifically calls out tricks with the aerial or fire TRAIT.

The players don't have to find someone with the animal handler role before they can select it. One of them just has to decide to be an animal handler for any given show. The non-performer roles don't work like traits. Though, some are restricted based on upgrades.


Binzer wrote:

Hi everyone, I like the look of the circus mechanics, but I have a few questions about how traits work, specifically regarding signature tricks developed by the PCs.

Thanks for your input.

Yes, the rules are hazy. Why they invented new mechanisms instead of repurposing the CRB's resolution mechanics, I cannot say.

I can just say that they did it, and that the resulting rules are not even close to being as "watertight" as the CRB rules mostly are.

Quote:

I’m a little concerned with the possibility of gaming the system here. What prevents a PC from adding the Aerial trait to a trick that involves escaping from a water tank just to get the bonus to the acrobatics check? Or to not add the animal trait to a trick that involves animals until the circus gets someone with the animal handler role just so they can avoid the Animals Break Loose event?

The answer is simple: The GM.

Only the GM.

Only by trusting your GM will you have a good time with these rules.

Otherwise, my best (and only) suggestion is to look into the sidebar on page 67 of the adventure.

Yes, it's named "Simplified Circus Rules", but really another name for it is "using the core rules for your circus". Rules that cannot be gamed. Rules without gaps and missing bits.

Myself, I'm gonna give the Circus rules a spin. I don't expect them to hold together for more than a couple of shows. But then again, I expect running a show getting old eventually, so hopefully by the time the rules are ready to be retired the players have run enough shows anyway.


Binzer wrote:
It appears that the PCs get to choose their own traits when they develop their trick (and as they level up), with the exception of the compulsory trick traits (such as injury or team) that are automatically added to the trick and do not take up a “trait slot.”

Page 64 confirms these are "compulsory traits", not counted for purposes of maximum traits.

Quote:
For example, if someone were to develop an animal trick that also involved dancing with the animals as well as the use of magic, should the signature trick be required to have the animal, dancing, and magical traits? If so, does that mean the trick can not be created until the PC gets to level 12 (and is allowed three traits), or should all of those traits automatically be assigned? Or should the trick be allowed but with only 1 trait until the PC gets to a higher level?

My instinct would be: "don't let the rules come in the way of good roleplaying".

So my answer would be the latter one: allowed but only 1 trait. Let the PC decide which aspect of his trick is dominant. As he levels up, the other aspects gain in significance. The small part here is "add the trait and gain the trait bonuses". The big part is "now you get to describe your trick much more extravagantly".

Quote:
I’m a little concerned with the possibility of gaming the system here.

Aldready discussed.

Quote:
Also, the rules state that traits cannot be added to a signature trick until the circus hires an NPC performer whose trick includes that trait, meaning that at level 1 the only traits allowed are agile, animal, fire and water. Does this mean that no trick that uses alchemical items should be allowed, even if the PC is an alchemist?

Page 64 states only agile, animal, fire and water.

Per my earlier answer I would still allow alchemy to be used in the description, even if the alchemy trait couldn't be selected.

Basically let the alchemist perform, but there's no +1 for using up alchemy items.

Sczarni

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber

This was actually discussed a few days after this post was made in the Circus Show analysis thread. Copying Rob Lundeen (the developer)'s answer below:

Ron Lundeen Developer wrote:

tarting in the second adventure, the heroes will meet potential circus performers with lots of traits, of types (and numbers) that the heroes can't yet take. Getting these people to join the circus (or teach you their trick) is how the characters can get tricks with those traits.

Here's an example. Let's say you're an alchemist, and your signature trick is juggling your bombs so they explode in the air. Neat! You can use Acrobatics, or a Reflex save, or whatever. You decide your trick has the Fire trait, or maybe the Agile trait. (It might also have to take the Injury trait, if you're using your Reflex save for it). You see there's an Alchemical trait, which is really appealing, but it's not part of your initial options.

In the second adventure, say, you meet an NPC who performs with fireworks, and that NPC trick has the Alchemical trait. You'll want to have that NPC join your circus--or at least teach your hero a few things--so you can get the Alchemical trait, too.

Because the NPCs are "trait teachers" in this way, they sometimes have more traits than the heroes do.

You'll note that the starting 6 circus acts have already "taught" the heroes everything they know, in that their traits (Agile, Animal, Fire, and Water) comprise the starting trait options for the heroes.

Paizo Employee Developer

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Cpt_kirstov wrote:

This was actually discussed a few days after this post was made in the Circus Show analysis thread. Copying Rob Lundeen (the developer)'s answer below:

Ron Lundeen. Robert's my brother.

Paizo Employee Developer

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Binzer wrote:

Hi everyone, I like the look of the circus mechanics, but I have a few questions about how traits work, specifically regarding signature tricks developed by the PCs.

It appears that the PCs get to choose their own traits when they develop their trick (and as they level up), with the exception of the compulsory trick traits (such as injury or team) that are automatically added to the trick and do not take up a “trait slot.” My question is whether some traits should be required depending on the nature of the trick.

For example, if someone were to develop an animal trick that also involved dancing with the animals as well as the use of magic, should the signature trick be required to have the animal, dancing, and magical traits? If so, does that mean the trick can not be created until the PC gets to level 12 (and is allowed three traits), or should all of those traits automatically be assigned? Or should the trick be allowed but with only 1 trait until the PC gets to a higher level?

I’m a little concerned with the possibility of gaming the system here. What prevents a PC from adding the Aerial trait to a trick that involves escaping from a water tank just to get the bonus to the acrobatics check? Or to not add the animal trait to a trick that involves animals until the circus gets someone with the animal handler role just so they can avoid the Animals Break Loose event?

Also, the rules state that traits cannot be added to a signature trick until the circus hires an NPC performer whose trick includes that trait, meaning that at level 1 the only traits allowed are agile, animal, fire and water. Does this mean that no trick that uses alchemical items should be allowed, even if the PC is an alchemist?

I’m a little torn on how to handle this. Part of me wants to enforce adding traits that “match” the trick, but I also don’t want to, for example, prevent a wizard from creating a magical act just because she can’t add the magical trait at the beginning of the module.

Thanks for your input.

There have been a lot of good answers here, but let me give the high-level response: the circus tricks are intentionally very flexible and narrative, so the heroes can describe whatever tricks they want. Their actual, numerical bonuses are tied to the traits, and the traits are more restricted than the narrative flavor of what they do.

The tricks suggest traits. They don't mandate them (with the exception of Injury and Team). You're magical dancing animal trait might have Animal, or Dance, or Magical, or Reflex Save or Musical or anything; it's all in how you describe it. (Assuming those have been unlocked, of course.)

We don't mind "gaming" the system here; it's fine if a player is using their character's very best skill and hunting for the trait that will give a bonus on that specific skill. That's why we put all the traits right there in the article: so players know what to look for. I can see a player saying, "oooh, I'm really rocking with Occultism, so I want a mind-reading type of act, and I get better with...Earth. So I'll incorporate crystals or crystal balls and so on, and I'll be super interested in any NPC we meet who can teach me the Earth trait." (The first performer that can teach Earth is, as you'll see, the type of performer where you'd think that's EXACTLY the sort of thing they'd teach.)

Paizo Employee Developer

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Zapp wrote:

Yes, the rules are hazy. Why they invented new mechanisms instead of repurposing the CRB's resolution mechanics, I cannot say.

I can just say that they did it, and that the resulting rules are not even close to being as "watertight" as the CRB rules mostly are.

You've brought this up several times, Zapp. The rules are hazy so they can be flexible and goofy as circus-loving characters want to make them. The design is intentionally a lot looser than existing mechanics, and that's on purpose. You keep asking why we did that, so let me tell you a few reasons: (1) To make a separate mini-game that feels like something distinct from the existing rules; circuses aren't in the core expectation of the game and should feel like an entirely separate venture. (2) To present a space where players who dig into these rules can see crossovers or synergies in unexpected ways and feel clever about it (like mitigating lots of Injury tricks by ensuring a Medic on hand, or deciding that upgraded seating is a really good investment, or leaning on Earth tricks and random event manipulation to aim for a bigger payout). (3) To provide a space for players to say, "I'm good at this thing" and have that thing be a wild or unusual or even silly option, letting GMs run with it however they'd like. You call them "gaps" and "missing bits," but that's where the freedom lies.

One item that we were VERY careful about is to not let the circus rules or results "bleed over" into the other game. You won't wreck your characters' treasure economy because circus revenue must stay in the circus. You don't get out-of-circus abilities (you can't Send in the Clowns during a combat, for example). The circus mini-game bleeds over in exactly two ways: XP for successful performances, and rare cases where a hero can Perform a Trick to impress an NPC in place of, for example, a Diplomacy check. And those "bleed over" places are very clearly identified in teh adventures (although a GM is certainly free to expand on those or use them more often!).

Zapp wrote:
Only by trusting your GM will you have a good time with these rules.

This is true for any rule in any RPG, of course.

Zapp wrote:
Yes, it's named "Simplified Circus Rules", but really another name for it is "using the core rules for your circus". Rules that cannot be gamed. Rules without gaps and missing bits.

This sidebar is here exactly for people who don't find the circus rules appealing, or find them too loose for their liking.

Zapp wrote:
Myself, I'm gonna give the Circus rules a spin. I don't expect them to hold together for more than a couple of shows. But then again, I expect running a show getting old eventually, so hopefully by the time the rules are ready to be retired the players have run enough shows anyway.

Thank you for giving them a whirl. I'm interested to hear what people think, and particularly people like you who don't expect them to hold together in the long run. I'm particularly curious about what "not holding together" looks like for you when you're there.

Of note, I'm expecting that people find putting on a successful show really easy once they focus their characters on those rules a bit. The journey from "we're not so great at this," to "we're crazy efficient at this" is intended to be a quick one. That reflects the heroes becoming superstars in the circus very early on, and that's by design. (It's also why things to increase Anticipation, like merchandise and the Carnival Barker, exist.) People can "min-max" or "break" the circus rules, sure. Go ahead! What's the reward for all this success? More stuff you can put in your circus, making it seem bigger and more fun and even more crazy successes in the future!


Thanks Ron,

Yes, a quick analysis says that about the only really hard show will be the first one (barring bad luck of course), and that the main reason for that is: the players don't get to set Anticipation themselves (the Circus really only starts capable of generating ~10 Excitement reliably).

Sending in the Clowns during combat would be hilarious (especially if they have to teleport in from nowhere!) and you should feel bad for not allowing it! ;-) :-)


One thing I would appreciate advice on is this: "upgrading" existing NPCs.

I'm only asking from the angle where if each new book in the AP brings new performers, the circus will quickly be populated by "strangers" and the original performers can just as well "go home". If you roleplay social bonds with your NPCs you will want to keep the community as the circus levels up, and it would be great to hear your thoughts on this (unless you've already anticipated this in part 2 of course!)

Basically, would it hurt the story if you allowed players to select their favorite NPC performers, and have *them* develop whatever new traits each AP book brings, instead of these new traits always coming from the outside?

Paizo Employee Developer

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Zapp wrote:


Basically, would it hurt the story if you allowed players to select their favorite NPC performers, and have *them* develop whatever new traits each AP book brings, instead of these new traits always coming from the outside?

Not at all, other than opening up the inevitable player question of, "if they can do it, why can't I?"

It's also fairly straightforward to ignore the "NPC tricks don't advance in level" rule if, for example, your heroes wanted to keep including Mordaine the Mystic in their act. Just let her trick level along with the characters' level.


Ron Lundeen wrote:
Not at all, other than opening up the inevitable player question of, "if they can do it, why can't I?"

Lol.

"Because you're not a NPC, that's why." :-)

Quote:
It's also fairly straightforward to ignore the "NPC tricks don't advance in level" rule if, for example, your heroes wanted to keep including Mordaine the Mystic in their act. Just let her trick level along with the characters' level.

Excellent. Thanks.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Zapp wrote:

Thanks Ron,

Yes, a quick analysis says that about the only really hard show will be the first one (barring bad luck of course), and that the main reason for that is: the players don't get to set Anticipation themselves (the Circus really only starts capable of generating ~10 Excitement reliably).

I posted this in the GM reference thread:

Quote:

I believe one of the "optimal" solutions for generating 15 Excitement with the first show includes the following:

1) Three PCs taking the Animal Handler (+2 on all trick checks with the animal trait, such as Axel and Eliza; note that this is in addition to the bonus for Costar), Backup Clown (can Send in the Clowns twice per act), and Pyrotechnic (tricks with the fire trait, such as the Flamboni Sisters, generate double Excitement) non-performer roles.

2) At least one of the PC tricks having the fire trait to also benefit from the Pyrotechnic non-performer role.

3) The Dwarven Throwers should probably be the big number, as they have the highest trick check (Athletics +10).

4) Convincing Axel to perform.

5) Persuading the Kanbali family to perform without a net. You may also want to allow a PC that can cast feather fall substitute the spell for an injury check (automatic success) on a failure (this may be in place of the Costar reaction).

6) Convincing Mordaine to perform other than as the big number (or letting her perform as the big number).

7) Dealing with the Troublesome Gamblers and Drunken Brawlers challenges without resorting to lethal damage.

8) Dealing with the Snakes in the Stands challenge swiftly.

9) Each performance (except for one of the three in the finale) takes two checks and Send in the Clowns on a second check failure (or for both failures in the opener and big number). The Backup Clown is probably the most important non-performer role!

Maximum possible Excitement (assuming the Flamboni Sisters and the PC trick with the fire trait fail the second check and need to Send in The Clowns for 1 Excitement instead of 2, plus gaining the +3 from the Kanbali and snake challenges) = 18. Tough, but doable.

It is definitely possible to generate 15+ Excitement reliably with the starting performances (the more tricks with the Fire trait, the easier it is). Probably the biggest issue is making sure no more than one NPC act with the Injury trait is unable to perform at a time (assuming a "standard" party of four PCs), given the importance of Backup Clown and Pyrotechnic.

Now, generating Anticipation for the follow-up shows may prove difficult without spending a lot of money, having 3 PCs with high Society checks, or having a PC in the Barker non-performer role...


What is important about the "Big Number" act?

I didn't see any differences between the 4 acts beside the number of tricks.

From a math point of view, you want your lowest chance of success tricks to be in the opener or the big number since you can send the clown only once per act.

Also, why is it important to convince Morgaine to perform in a different act?


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lud wrote:

What is important about the "Big Number" act?

I didn't see any differences between the 4 acts beside the number of tricks.

Nothing.

If that's not good enough for you, you're in luck - it wasn't good enough for us either! So have a look here:

https://paizo.com/threads/rzs42x9c?Circus-Show-analysis#4

Quote:


Also, why is it important to convince Morgaine to perform in a different act?

For role-playing reasons, I guess.

Again, if you want her to have some basis for her diva antics, look in the above thread for a suggestion on rewarding dual-check tricks.

And make Morgaine level 2. I did :)

(The party still ditched her act)


Dragonchess Player wrote:
I believe one of the "optimal" solutions for generating 15 Excitement with the first show i

Yes, but remember that earlier discussion didn't take the ad-hoc (scripted) bonuses into account.

Yes you can get +3 and avoid -3 (I believe). But not all groups will know they can do that, and not all groups will succeed.

Then - yes, letting as many NPC performers as possible do their act is optimal.

But also kinda boring - lots of groups will want their own player characters to perform, maybe never even realizing how much more difficult this makes things.

(The fact no NPC can take a non-performing role will condemn the characters of minmaxing players to non-performing roles... There really is only only solution. To... not minmax!)

This will make much more sense from the second show onwards, when the players are in control over how much pre-show Anticipation to drum up.


Note, you can't have more than one PC per role. You can't have 3 PCs doing "animal handler" for a +6 bonus.

Page 66 wrote:

Only one PC can perform a

particular non-performer role per show (for example,
two PCs can’t both choose the role of animal handler).
Some roles can be chosen only after purchasing certain
circus upgrades.


lud wrote:
Note, you can't have more than one PC per role. You can't have 3 PCs doing "animal handler" for a +6 bonus.

I see you got tripped up by Dragonchess use of formatting.

You read his sentence as

"Three PCs taking the Animal Handler (+2 on all trick checks..."

But once you strip way his paranthesis, his sentence actually reads

"Three PCs taking the Animal Handler (), Backup Clown (), and Pyrotechnic () non-performer roles" [respectively, my clarification]

So he isn't actually mistaken. Cheers


Oh!

Sorry Dragonchess, and thanks for correcting me.

About giving the +2 with animal handler.

I would need to run the full math, but raising the chance of success could create problems here.

Critical rolls at level 1 are BAD things. You don't get any net increase (+1 Excitement and +1 anticipation ( 1 /2 rounded up = 1)

The Dwarven throwers first +10 athletics roll can be wasted with a roll of 15 - 20, so 30% of the time. (DC 15, crits at 25, 15 to 20 + 10 >= 25). The +7 rolls have 15% of producing a critical (18-20).

With 7 events at 15% you have a probability of 67.9% to get at least one critical on the first roll of the 7 tricks.

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