Can NPCs use Recall Knowledge? Should they?


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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Can? Yes.

Should? Yes, ideally. Though I do acknowledge handwaving GMs are much more common, because it's easier to run that way.

----

Tis the answer from a kind of person who'd actually run every single off-screen NPC negotiations with proper (albeit secret) Diplomacy rolls...


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Captain Morgan wrote:
Forcing the player to roll a Deception check that the rules do not require them to roll is the opposite of agency. (Although this has also drifted away from the question of the thread, as recognizing someone as disguised is a deception vs perception thing, not an RK thing.)

But the rules do. Look at what was being suggested: "Now, if a player approached you (the GM) beforehand, and explained that they were planning to make a witch that went to great lengths to deceive others into believing her to be nothing more than a harmless old crone, would that impact the ruling you make when the enemy being harried by the party martials sees a hissing cat?"

"a witch that went to great lengths to deceive others into believing her to be nothing more than a harmless old crone"
"If you'd like specifics, let's assume I'm talking about a character that uses things like Subtle Spell, spells without obvious observable stimuli (such as inevitable disaster), a clandestine cloak, disguise magic, illusory disguise , and mundane disguise kits and tools to make herself appear to be little more than a harmless servant (such as a cook, porter, or armor cleaner) to the rest of the heroes with all their glowing high level gear."

I don't see how disguising yourself as "a harmless servant" isn't impersonation.

"What's more, she most often appears to cower and hide during combats while her cat appears to try and protect her with threatening hisses."
Again, that sure sounds like Perform [act] or Deception.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Captain Morgan wrote:


The DC to RK a PC ability would be set by the character's sheet: Using either the character level or the level of the ability in question. You'd roll Society for most humanoids. You could also use a magic skill of the corresponding tradition for casters, Arcana or Crafting for construct PCs, and Nature for the leshies and stuff. These are fixed aspects with rules dictating them.

The old lady and the cat in an encounter is already too easy a thing to guess as a caster with a familiar since this is Golarian which is magical and people know its magical. No one is going to be surprised the old lady is a witch. In certain situations it wont be so obvious like if the NPC sees the old lady performing all those duties of servitude at a camp or just stumbling into her in a peaceful town setting.

Now using Occult to identify any of this as a certainty, Does a cat familiar actually have some thing about them that is tell tale a RK check can provide? Is there anything about an old lady that singles her out as a witch if she hasn't cast a spell yet that RK somehow gives you? What question do you ask to know they are a witch and familiar or what abilities they have? How do you know that about a PC you never met? Its not like a monster type that all of its kind have innate powers.
Using the level of an ability for the DC requires they see an ability used and if the enemy saw her cast a spell or noticed the effect of a concealed spell that has an obvious effect they don't need to roll anything to guess she is a spell caster.
Using the level of the PC would be for an NPC to check if they know that individual PC based on their fame or perhaps their exploits so far in the adventure. This has some serious pitfalls if the characters have no reason to be known of at all so far and would see pushback from the player rightfully.

Captain Morgan wrote:


PCs are usually performing a function too. Literally any action they use has a function. Why not skip rolls for them?

I think we are talking passed each other on this one. I meant the NPC itself serves a function in telling the story. I don't mean the function of any particular action of the NPC.

I see players as having agency and deciding their PCs actions.
I see NPCs as tools for the GM to tell the story, I dont roll RK for them in general because I decide their actions and what they already know can be decided by a roll or just be picked to tell a compelling story in that moment. I choose the later in most cases. There is nothing wrong with rolling if you want to but it is not as random as it may seem since all the factors that go into it are picked out by the person rolling most important of these is the question of the RK which you are essentially asking yourself in your head as the GM and after rolling you still have to decide what that roll meant in terms of the answer you give...to yourself. I choose to go strait to the answer that tells the best story i can think of in that situation.

Also I am not saying it is universally a bad idea especially if the NPC has abilities that interact with RK checks, or if the point of the encounter is to emphasize how famous the PCs have become. Things where the RK is being rolled for the story telling makes sense to me. Otherwise it is an extra roll to get an outcome you already decided would happen.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Witches are Common (note the cap C) yes, but are they really so common (note the low case c) that people's very first thoughts are going to be "witch" over "servant," "squire," or what have you?

I suspect non adventuring occupations are far more common than adventuring ones.


Ravingdork wrote:

Witches are Common (note the cap C) yes, but are they really so common (note the low case c) that people's very first thoughts are going to be "witch" over "servant," "squire," or what have you?

I suspect non adventuring occupations are far more common than adventuring ones.

Not witch but caster: there are plenty of npc occupations with spell casting that could have a Pet/Familiar and, again, those have Common abilities that can be used in combat like Spellcasting and Spell Delivery. With spell casting and familiars Common, they don't HAVE to know specifics to conclude a small animal in combat might be a familiar and that it might be a threat ESPECIALLY if odd/weird magical effects are happening around it. It's moot if you are a witch or not.

Lets be honest, with a normal combat with weapons swinging around and spells flying, a NORMAL cat would have run away from it: one in the fray isn't a normal cat which leads to the question then is the person it's protecting a normal 'servant'.

Liberty's Edge

I'm gonna have a lot of fun letting opponents focus fire on my illusory "familiar".


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The Raven Black wrote:
I'm gonna have a lot of fun letting opponents focus fire on my illusory "familiar".

Was this debate ever about focus fire on a familiar? It's about them being a viable target. There are plenty of npc/monster abilities that target areas/multiple targets and there is no reason to think that they would overlook a familiar as one of those targets or that if a familiar is the only target in range that it wouldn't make an attack on them.

Basically, an "illusory "familiar"" or an illusory "monster" would both be valid targets. Now, wouldn't it be a primary target? Most likely not unless it's in the mood for a bite sized snack.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
The Raven Black wrote:
I'm gonna have a lot of fun letting opponents focus fire on my illusory "familiar".

How many actions will that take?


An illusory familiar doesn't debuff anyone, so there's no good reason to attack it at all. This is only about familiars that actively contribute to combat...


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Bluemagetim: I could go through and point to how I'd adjucate setting a DC for a PC in that scenario, but it ultimately doesn't feel like a productive use of time when the crux of our disagreement is much simpler.

Quote:


I think we are talking passed each other on this one. I meant the NPC itself serves a function in telling the story. I don't mean the function of any particular action of the NPC.
I see players as having agency and deciding their PCs actions.
I see NPCs as tools for the GM to tell the story,

You see these two things as being opposed to each other somehow, and I do not. PCs are the tools that players to tell the story. And GMs have agency in deciding their NPC actions. Yes, PCs are the stars of the show and get more screen time and focus. But everyone at the table is telling the story and everyone has agency in deciding their characters' actions.

Dice and rules are necessary restrictions on that agency to make the story also a game. A player doesn't just get to decide they know how golems work. They have to roll dice for that. I don't especially see why GMs should just decide a dragon knows how witches work when there's a rule made for "does this creature know this thing" and no rules spelling out exemptions like PCs being immune to Diplomacy. If the GM had already decided the dragon's godmother was a witch, fine. But barring very compelling narrative reasons it feels sus.

GMs have an obligation to create a fun game, which usually means a fair one. GMs have to constantly figure out how much thumb to put on the scale to walk the line between an encounter which is challenging and thrilling but ultimately triumphant, and an encounter that is a TPK. Tactically relevant knowledge is an important part of that difficulty. Something as simple as having a creature come investigate a noise from another room can result in a TPK. I don't think targeting a familiar is likely to lead to a TPK, especially since they aren't as squishy as people think. But you should be very careful any time you ignore a rule to the detriment of the PCs.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Hmm I really have a different view point on all of this so lets get specific.

I dont think I would have a dragon RK about a PC to see if its a witch. It probably doesn't care.

But getting back to the OP topic.
If this is the first time the PCs encounter an NPC. No one has used any abilities yet, the witch character is the one Ravingdork described (the player in expedition mode says I'm doing a performance check to seem a servant), lets assume there is no reason the witch is famous enough to be known for who she is, and there is a cat with her. What question does this NPC ask with a RK that tells the NPC she is a witch?

My given here is that the NPC does not no she is a witch and at this point has no frame of reference to make assumptions about her casting ability. She hasn't acted yet in the round and as Ravingdork implied she looks afraid and is dressed as a servant. I am not having an NPC RK here it would be metagaming on my part and unfair to the player.
After the first round the witch uses conceal spell for a spell that has no visible effect but she has not run a away and the cat is still there hissing. In this round her behavior is odd because its in conflict with the situation. The NPC doesn't need to roll RK to be suspicious of her or that the cat is probably not a normal cat. if hexes have landed on the NPC they might just attack from that alone, they are not going to need to roll RK to figure out the PC is a witch before deciding that course of action, they know at least they are in danger. The positioning and values of the NPC will matter a lot here for me to decide the NPC attacks the cat. RK doesn't need to be involved in any of this.(if no bad spell effects have hit the NPC maybe there is no reason to see her as a threat yet, but they would be able to tell she is not as she seemed no roll needed. This is where the PC would probably want to use deception or performance to keep up the pretense at an increasing difficulty to see how long they can get away with it. This is what is fun for that player, I will let their rolls go into deciding if its successful not an RK roll by an NPC against a DC set by their level)

Having the NPC RK check on the PC as a pretense for attacking the familiar is just bad if that is the reason for doing it. I actually don't think RK can tell an NPC or PC that a PC is a witch prior to some sign of her abilities occurring or some tell tale feature being visible tied to witches. (like if a player asked you is that old human woman there with a cat a witch? using RK what would you tell them?) This is separate from assuming she is a caster and that the cat is a familiar which may be easy to spot if the player has not put so much effort into hiding it.

Yes it is an action that can be used by NPCs but its not practical for NPCs to use it unless as a GM its important to use RK to tell the story in some way. Maybe you are having an NPC there to fill out a skill the party doesn't have that is helping the players RK a foe. That makes sense as its still happening in the same way players are using it. Its the reason you put the NPC there in that case.


Bluemagetim wrote:
After the first round the witch uses conceal spell for a spell that has no visible effect but she has not run away and the cat is still there hissing. In this round her behavior is odd because its in conflict with the situation.

It's not particularly odd that a weak character would freeze up, hiding behind her protectors, rather than running off on her own into a dangerous wilderness.

To me the logic of the situation is, an NPC can feel that they're under magical attack, some kind of curse / debuff of unknown origin. They can reasonably be suspicious. We don't want these NPCs to always instantly guess the origin of the attack - that's not fair. We don't want these NPCs to never be able to guess the origin of the attack - unless they're all complete idiots. A Recall Knowledge attempt is reasonable in the context.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I just wanted to add that the witch might very well be the servant to the heroes. She may actually cook their meals, do their laundry, and care for their steeds.

The only acting or deceiving going on is for her to seem far less threatening than she actually is; to obfuscate the fact that she is one of the great heroes too.

Liberty's Edge

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Calliope5431 wrote:
An illusory familiar doesn't debuff anyone, so there's no good reason to attack it at all. This is only about familiars that actively contribute to combat...

How can you tell ?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

When running PFS, do you have NPCs attack the PCs' noncombat hirelings who are attempting to stay out of the way?

If not, why would you have your NPCs target what is seemingly a noncombat hireling trying to stay out of the way in a home game?

Having the player roll Deception is a fine ruling. I would readily support such a decision as I agree that it makes the player's chosen abilities feel worthwhile. However, some of the GMs posting here are really metagaming it up in a way that I believe would prove detrimental to the whole table.


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Ravingdork wrote:
I just wanted to add that the witch might very well be the servant to the heroes. She may actually cook their meals, do their laundry, and care for their steeds.

And what does any of that matter in a battle? She isn't cooking, doing laundry or caring for the steeds in the middle of a swordfight.

Ravingdork wrote:
The only acting or deceiving going on is for her to seem far less threatening than she actually is; to obfuscate the fact that she is one of the great heroes too.

Sure... Roll deception or Perform [act] to do so. Just look at the Innocuous feat: it's about seeming to be an "unobtrusive assistants of larger folk": know what it gives you... trained proficiency rank in Deception...

In fact you are 100% planning to engage in combat and pretending you aren't. Hence, you are trying to deceive those around you that you are something you aren't.

Impersonate
Source Core Rulebook pg. 245
"You create a disguise to pass yourself off as someone or something you are not.": You aren't a harmless servant...

"Success You trick the creature into thinking you’re the person you’re disguised as. You might have to attempt a new check if your behavior changes.
Failure The creature can tell you’re not who you claim to be.
Critical Failure The creature can tell you’re not who you claim to be, and it recognizes you if it would know you without a disguise."

And again, I could see Perform [act] working similarly too.


The Raven Black wrote:
Calliope5431 wrote:
An illusory familiar doesn't debuff anyone, so there's no good reason to attack it at all. This is only about familiars that actively contribute to combat...
How can you tell ?

Because it hisses or glows and my condition's duration gets extended.

This gets into the meta of the game. But I don't think it's fun for PCs and NPCs to not know what is causing effects on them. If on my turn I cast Command on you and you succeed, do you know you made a saving throw? Likewise, could NPCs just have a bunch of peasants standing in the background chanting and expect the PCs to attack them?


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Calliope5431 wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:
Calliope5431 wrote:
An illusory familiar doesn't debuff anyone, so there's no good reason to attack it at all. This is only about familiars that actively contribute to combat...
How can you tell ?

Because it hisses or glows and my condition's duration gets extended.

This gets into the meta of the game. But I don't think it's fun for PCs and NPCs to not know what is causing effects on them.

Have you tried it both ways? (With and without everyone knowing where effects come from.)


Fuzzy-Wuzzy wrote:
Calliope5431 wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:
Calliope5431 wrote:
An illusory familiar doesn't debuff anyone, so there's no good reason to attack it at all. This is only about familiars that actively contribute to combat...
How can you tell ?

Because it hisses or glows and my condition's duration gets extended.

This gets into the meta of the game. But I don't think it's fun for PCs and NPCs to not know what is causing effects on them.

Have you tried it both ways? (With and without everyone knowing where effects come from.)

My default is more transparency, yes.

With less transparency the PCs got pretty confused.

Not knowing the duration of effects is similarly frustrating, because "you're slowed indefinitely, I'll tell you when you aren't" just feels bad. It's hard to play tactically with that setup, too.


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Ravingdork wrote:

Now, if a player approached you (the GM) beforehand, and explained that they were planning to make a witch that went to great lengths to deceive others into believing her to be nothing more than a harmless old crone, would that impact the ruling you make when the enemy being harried by the party martials sees a hissing cat?

If you'd like specifics, let's assume I'm talking about a character that uses things like Subtle Spell, spells without obvious observable stimuli (such as inevitable disaster), a clandestine cloak, disguise magic, illusory disguise , and mundane disguise kits and tools to make herself appear to be little more than a harmless servant (such as a cook, porter, or armor cleaner) to the rest of the heroes with all their glowing high level gear. What's more, she most often appears to cower and hide during combats while her cat appears to try and protect her with threatening hisses.

Would you then automagically go to "witch and familiar" still, thus invalidating any chance the player could ever have had to enjoy such a character? Or would you take all the variables into consideration, rule based on the current context, and maybe let the player have some fun from time to time?

Ravingdork's witch character reminds me of an elderly innkeeper of the same name from Avatar: The Last Airbender. I suspect that Ravingdork based his character on the Avatar character.

I pulled the same plotline of innkeeper who was secretly an evil witch in Prisoners of the Blight. Kusana (CR 13 female blood hag witch 9) was supposed to encounter the party outdoors near a landmark on the edge of the Blighted Area, but when I ported her to PF2 as a 13th-level blood hag fervor witch with patron Gyronna, I gave her an inn next to the landmark. Blood hags have a Borrowed Skin ability that lets them wear another person's skin to assume their form. Kusana occassionally preyed on a customer, killing them during the night to steal their skin, to maintain her beauty.

She had recognizably evil customers in her inn, so the party did not mistake her for innocent, but I did manage to hide that she was a major threat for a little while (details at Collin Playtest Kineticist comment #7). She had some scars from an encounter mentioned in her backstory, so she was interested in stealing the unmarked skin of the elf in the party. She tried to lure him alone with a seductive offering of sharing some excellent wine in her room. That did not work, so she tried drugging the party, and they noticed the drugs.

As for an elderly crone trying to look harmless while traveling with an adventuring party, well, everyone in an adventuring party in a dangerous location is assumed to be powerful enough to face the dangers. The hireling who watches the horses for the party while they are in a dungeon never enters the dungeon himself. The disguised witch would need to disguise her comrades as non-adventurers, too, or the opponents will just assume that she is another adventurer of a class that does not need armor or weapons, such as a sorcerer or witch.

For example, in my Iron Gods campaign the party was trying to avoid the attention of the powerful Technic League. When they left their hometown Torch for the 2nd module, Lords of Rust, they adopted false identities. Between modules, they returned home for downtime for crafting, reverting to their true identities but pretending to still be 1st level or 2nd level. Finally, in the 5th module, Palace of Fallen Stars, they had to enter the captial city Starfall, the location of the headquarters of the Technic League. By then the Technic League had heard of their adventures and wanted to capture them. They slipped under the notice of the Technic League by entering Starfall under their harmless Torch identities (except for very distinctive strix Kirii), leaving their high-level gear behind, and trying very hard to not act like an adventuring party (Inconspicuous PCs Unmotivated in Palace of Fallen Stars).

The characters Kirii and Boffin had non-human leadership cohorts and the characters Juran and Val had familiars. Boffin and Juran left their companions behind. Human bloodrager Val Baine disguised her clockwork familiar as a turtle familiar and pretended to be a 1st-level wizard with a familiar. Strix skald Kirii disguised herself as a 3rd-level winged aasimar cleric of Desna named Dove and claimed that her lyrakien cohort Tay was a divine guide from Desna.

The Technic League never did figure out the identity of the party members, but they did arrest Boffin for illegal possession of alien technology. Her Wirejack Tendons were surgically installed, so she could not leave them behind. Unanticipated circumstances revealed the cybernetic tendons at a good place in the plot to end the deception.

Maintaining a false identity can be lots of fun roleplaying, so we GMs should not make it impossible.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

That all sounds above board to me, Graystone.

Thanks for the anecdotes, Mathmuse. They can serve as similar examples and scenarios for this discussion.

I don't expect getting the whole party to use Impersonate would work out too well.

For one thing, not everyone will have training or a high modifier, meaning the whole ruse is only as viable as the weakest link. A ring of lies does little good for my witch when the 8 Charisma character without training botches their roll.

For another thing, I've found telling other players what to do to be rather taboo. It is highly unlikely everyone in the party will want to attempt such a ruse, even if they had the skills and abilities to back it up.

No, I think it needs to work with the witch alone, or else the GM make it clear well in advance that it's not likely going to work out at all.

Addendum: People keep bringing up encountering the servant in a dangerous locale as being a tip off. I agree that would be the case, when true. If organized crime ambushes the party in a city normally considered safe for most, or if brigands attack the heroes' caravan on the open road, then there's nothing indicating a servant as being out of place. However, if she were to accompany the party to hell, or if the party infiltrated the king's treasure vault,, then it would not only be a dead give away, the fiends or royal guards aren't likely to care who she was anyways. To them, she's just another meat soul, or an intruder, respectively.


Ravingdork wrote:
For one thing, not everyone will have training or a high modifier, meaning the whole ruse is only as viable as the weakest link. A ring of lies does little good for my witch when the 8 Charisma character without training botches their roll.

Illusory Disguise gives "a +4 status bonus to Deception checks to prevent others from seeing through your disguise" and that ring of lies gives "a +2 item bonus to Deception checks". Seems like with that it overcomes some bad Charisma. Ventriloquist's Ring grants "a +1 item bonus to Deception checks" for a 3rd level item or +2 for the greater at 9th level. Clandestine Cloak gives "a +1 item bonus to Stealth checks and to Deception checks to Impersonate a forgettable background character, such as a servant" at 6th and the 10th level one bumps it to +2.


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Calliope5431 wrote:
Fuzzy-Wuzzy wrote:
Calliope5431 wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:
Calliope5431 wrote:
An illusory familiar doesn't debuff anyone, so there's no good reason to attack it at all. This is only about familiars that actively contribute to combat...
How can you tell ?

Because it hisses or glows and my condition's duration gets extended.

This gets into the meta of the game. But I don't think it's fun for PCs and NPCs to not know what is causing effects on them.

Have you tried it both ways? (With and without everyone knowing where effects come from.)

My default is more transparency, yes.

With less transparency the PCs got pretty confused.

But you know that some people run it otherwise? Do you consider that legit? By which I mean "are you willing to discuss the question of NPC RK without having your way of running transparency taken for granted?"

Calliope5431 wrote:
Not knowing the duration of effects is similarly frustrating, because "you're slowed indefinitely, I'll tell you when you aren't" just feels bad. It's hard to play tactically with that setup, too.

Well, if an NPC (witch or familiar) is extending the slow round by round, even the GM doesn't know how long it'll last---when will the NPC get taken down?

Admittedly that is a rare case, and even in my group everyone knows how long something has been slapped on someone for, because we tried it the other way and it didn't add enough to be worth it.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

One of the things I don't buy into is the notion that in-game characters besides the originating caster know how long a duration will last.

It's not like they have numbers floating over their heads.


Why would the caster know if no one else did though? Like there isn't really a way for them to know someone passed or failed a save against slow. The only reason they would know is because the player saw the save being rolled. Letting the PC know the length also lets them manage when it falls off the character rather than needing the GM to track that.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
MEATSHED wrote:
Why would the caster know if no one else did though? Like there isn't really a way for them to know someone passed or failed a save against slow. The only reason they would know is because the player saw the save being rolled. Letting the PC know the length also lets them manage when it falls off the character rather than needing the GM to track that.

They would know because they could experiment with their spells during their downtime and observe the effects.

A caster not knowing their spell durations would be akin to a weight lifter not knowing how much they can bench press.


Ravingdork wrote:

One of the things I don't buy into is the notion that in-game characters besides the originating caster know how long a duration will last.

It's not like they have numbers floating over their heads.

I described this discussion to my wife, the primary tactical mastermind of our group. She is the one who thought of just walking into Starfall dressed as ordinary townspeople, because ordinary townspeople walk into Starfall every day.

She said that with a strong investment in Deception, a witch could reliably pretend to be a non-combatant. However, the opponents will notice the spell effects that occur with no apparent spellcaster. For example, let's say the party has a druid visibly casting primal spells. A successful Recall Knowledge with Nature would reveal that some spell effects are not primal. A successful Recall Knowledge with Occultism would reveal that those spell effects are occult. Then the enemies would look for a concealed occult caster, and the witch and her familiar are the obvious choice.

Clearly, my wife is in the camp that NPCs should use Recall Knowledge. She said, "NPCs know things." Actually, NPCs are short on skills, so they know less than she assumes.

She also pointed out the need for collaboration between GM and players. The witch's player would need a GM who supports creativity rather than quashes creativity. Before she and the other players enacted to plan to simply walk into Starfall, she asked me, the GM, if there were any showstoppers. Though the plan derailed the interactions set up in the module, it seemed reasonable to me. If it violated any rules, then the rules were inadequate and needed to be enhanced.

graystone wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:
The only acting or deceiving going on is for her to seem far less threatening than she actually is; to obfuscate the fact that she is one of the great heroes too.

Sure... Roll deception or Perform [act] to do so. Just look at the Innocuous feat: it's about seeming to be an "unobtrusive assistants of larger folk": know what it gives you... trained proficiency rank in Deception...

In fact you are 100% planning to engage in combat and pretending you aren't. Hence, you are trying to deceive those around you that you are something you aren't.

Impersonate
Source Core Rulebook pg. 245
"You create a disguise to pass yourself off as someone or something you are not.": You aren't a harmless servant...

"Success You trick the creature into thinking you’re the person you’re disguised as. You might have to attempt a new check if your behavior changes.
Failure The creature can tell you’re not who you claim to be.
Critical Failure The creature can tell you’re not who you claim to be, and it recognizes you if it would know you without a disguise."

And again, I could see Perform [act] working similarly too.

This is an example where the rules are inadequate. But they are closer to adequate if I quote more of the Impersonate activity.

Core Rulebook, Skills chapter, Impersonate, page 245 wrote:

Impersonate

Concentrate, Exploration, Manipulate, Secret
You create a disguise to pass yourself off as someone or something you are not. Assembling a convincing disguise takes 10 minutes and requires a disguise kit, but a simpler, quicker disguise might do the job if you’re not trying to imitate a specific individual, at the GM’s discretion.

In most cases, creatures have a chance to detect your deception only if they use the Seek action to attempt Perception checks against your Deception DC. If you attempt to directly interact with someone while disguised, the GM rolls a secret Deception check for you against that creature’s Perception DC instead. If you’re disguised as a specific individual, the GM might give creatures you interact with a circumstance bonus based on how well they know the person you’re imitating, or the GM might roll a secret Deception check even if you aren’t directly interacting with others.

Success You trick the creature into thinking you’re the person you’re disguised as. You might have to attempt a new check if your behavior changes.
Failure The creature can tell you’re not who you claim to be.
Critical Failure The creature can tell you’re not who you claim to be, and it recognizes you if it would know you without a disguise.

A key element to a long-term impersonation is avoiding arousing the suspicion that would induce an NPC to make that Seek action. We can assume that a guard at the city gates would routinely make that Seek action, but a local city gang planning to shake down the party would be too busy with their Stealth or Deception to find time for Seek.

In addition, the Impersonate activity mentions a circumstance bonus against the Deception DC based on how well the NPC knows the Impersonated person. In the case of a witch trying to look like a servant, the witch is willing to look like herself. That should give a circumstance penalty if the GM thinks about how simple the disguise is. She is not disguising herself; instead, she is only disguising the signs that she is a powerful witch and adding some signs that suggest servant. Her clothes are not spotlessly clean due to Prestidigitation. Her expensive magic amulets are tucked out of sight. Her magic books look like a peasant's boots. Make-up on her hands fakes calluses from handing heavy pots and firewood and pots. She habitually bows down to other party members. Her cat is not acting intelligent.


Mathmuse wrote:
A key element to a long-term impersonation is avoiding arousing the suspicion that would induce an NPC to make that Seek action. We can assume that a guard at the city gates would routinely make that Seek action, but a local city gang planning to shake down the party would be too busy with their Stealth or Deception to find time for Seek.

IMO, we're not talking about long term impersonations: we're talking about in the moment, combat length of times. For me, that's "If you attempt to directly interact with someone while disguised, the GM rolls a secret Deception check for you against that creature’s Perception DC instead."

Mathmuse wrote:
In addition, the Impersonate activity mentions a circumstance bonus against the Deception DC based on how well the NPC knows the Impersonated person.

Sure, for out of combat. In combat, it's not that anymore but an attempt to look harmless. In a world with magic users and shapeshifters around, not having visible and flashy items doesn't equal harmless.

So I would disagree on a circumstance penalty in combat. Out of combat... Yeah, a circumstance penalty/bonus could be had.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I wonder how many civilians are routinely murdered in your campaigns because some of these example NPCs live "In a world with magic users and shapeshifters around", graystone. :P

Sure people will be more wary of such things, and given enough context clues, may deduce that an unarmored person with a pet is a spellcaster, but I imagine non-adventuring NPCs are far, far more common than those types of threats are in the vast majority of Pathfinder campaigns.

In short, seeing an armorless person with a pet is not enough to confirm anything on its own. You need all the other context clues (dangerous setting, heroic companions, not outright fleeing during combat, etc.) in place for it not to come off as hostile GM fiat.

Mathmuse: Thank you for sharing your wife's thoughts on the matter.

If specific spells without obvious observable effects are used in conjunction with Subtle Spell, how might adversaries possibly succeed at RK checks? What observable signs are they basing their conclusions on? A fireball would be pretty obvious, but a spell that makes a branch fall off a tree and hit someone in the head, or causes someone to twist their leg in a gopher hole, might not be. I of curse am referring to spells like inevitable disaster, whose effects don't even match up with the timing of their casting, which can make pinpointing the source even more difficult.

In the case of my example witch, I don't see it as a "start acting in the moment" when the party is suddenly and unexpectedly attacked, but rather a personna she puts on most of the time, even when there aren't obvious onlookers nearby. When you could be burned at the stake, you don't ever let your guard down. :P


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"How did you know I was more than a simple servant?"
"Your cat rolled its eyes when you acted servile."
"Damn you, Mittens!"
"It's demeaning."

---
Honestly, I don't think it's that creative having seen similar attempts at seeming innocuousness decades ago. Of course I'd allow it with a Deception check (especially since the PC's invested in feats). That wouldn't save the cat from getting swatted offhandedly, and its survival of a token swat leading to the conclusion it's an at-level "cat".

Note if I were a fellow player I'd think it cheesy to try to avoid repercussions which the rest of the party has to bear.
"Hey, why aren't you attacking her?!" cries the just-as-vulnerable Wizard.
"Oh, she's a threat too?"
"Ummm..."

As for PFS servants, that's a bit of a conceit for the Society; fun perks + some opportunities to fill skill gaps/add breadth in randomized parties. It never struck me as indicative of typical play, nor as plausible even.
That said, Gygax & company often had enormous parties full of hirelings & henchmen...much like one might expect from wealthy travelers. Think guides, bearers, etc. All perpetually at risk, so left behind at first indication of danger by any scouts.


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Ravingdork wrote:
I wonder how many civilians are routinely murdered in your campaigns because some of these example NPCs live "In a world with magic users and shapeshifters around", graystone. :P

You mean all those civilians that are PRETENDING to be helpless? None that I know of.

Ravingdork wrote:
Sure people will be more wary of such things, and given enough context clues, may deduce that an unarmored person with a pet is a spellcaster, but I imagine non-adventuring NPCs are far, far more common than those types of threats are in the vast majority of Pathfinder campaigns.

Non-adventuring NPCs are far, far more common in combat situations? In dungeons? Breaking into a bandit camp? My imagination comes up with different numbers that you I guess. We aren't talking about walking through the market in exploration mode...

Ravingdork wrote:
In short, seeing an armorless person with a pet is not enough to confirm anything on its own. You need all the other context clues (dangerous setting, heroic companions, not outright fleeing during combat, etc.) in place for it not to come off as hostile GM fiat.

Yeah, that's what I've been saying. No matter how helpless you try to make yourself, it's a hard sell when you're 5 floors into a dungeon.


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This whole old lady idea just feels to me like what would be something similar to a kind of rules lawyering to try and make it so the DM can never target you "fairly" without needing to ever roll for it


This whole disguised character problem is something I'd solve by giving them a sanctuary effect at the start of combat that breaks when they or their familiar take a hostile action. From then on, they're going to need to spend an action each round maintaining their disguise if they want to avoid notice. Even this could be contentious for the other PCs unless everybody was in on the plan.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I dont see trying to seem harmless as a way to avoid being targeted.
Many enemies will first go after what they see as easy prey.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Castilliano wrote:

"How did you know I was more than a simple servant?"

"Your cat rolled its eyes when you acted servile."
"Damn you, Mittens!"
"It's demeaning."

LOL!

Castilliano wrote:
Honestly, I don't think it's that creative having seen similar attempts at seeming innocuousness decades ago.

Well, it struck me as novel when I first started doing it (with this specific character) 20 years ago. You know, before Subtle came around and everyone started doing it; before it became the "cool" thing to do. :P

Castilliano wrote:

Note if I were a fellow player I'd think it cheesy to try to avoid repercussions which the rest of the party has to bear.

"Hey, why aren't you attacking her?!" cries the just-as-vulnerable Wizard.
"Oh, she's a threat too?"
"Ummm..."

I think you're looking at it the wrong way. Nearly everything in the example character has been built towards that focus. Calling it cheesy is akin to calling the fighter cheesy for investing in feats that allow them to better capitalize on their hammers trip capabilities or the rogue for putting most of their resources into enabling and improving sneak attack. People complaining about it is as nonsensical as complaining about the monk being mobile.

In any case, I never claimed it should work all the time in every situation. No build or strategy should work all the time. But I also think that a player's desires and mechanical investments should be taken into consideration, at least so far as it doesn't impede the fun of others in the group. Hopefully such expectations will be set in Session 0, so that no one feels they are being treated unfairly or that someone else isn't pulling their weight.

graystone wrote:
Non-adventuring NPCs are far, far more common in combat situations? In dungeons? Breaking into a bandit camp? My imagination comes up with different numbers that you I guess. We aren't talking about walking through the market in exploration mode...

I was speaking more generally than you seem to think.

graystone wrote:
Yeah, that's what I've been saying. No matter how helpless you try to make yourself, it's a hard sell when you're 5 floors into a dungeon.

Sounds to me like we're largely in agreement on that point.

Karneios wrote:
This whole old lady idea just feels to me like what would be something similar to a kind of rules lawyering to try and make it so the DM can never target you "fairly" without needing to ever roll for it

That potential certainly does exist, which is why I think talking it all out early on and setting appropriate expectations for all involved is important.

3-Body Problem wrote:
This whole disguised character problem is something I'd solve by giving them a sanctuary effect at the start of combat that breaks when they or their familiar take a hostile action. From then on, they're going to need to spend an action each round maintaining their disguise if they want to avoid notice. Even this could be contentious for the other PCs unless everybody was in on the plan.

I'm not really a fan of that as a solution. Seems way too meta to me. Also makes for loads of checks and rolls which will slow the game down and take table time away from the other players.

Bluemagetim wrote:

I dont see trying to seem harmless as a way to avoid being targeted.

Many enemies will first go after what they see as easy prey.

Context us definitely important! Someone accustomed to the witch's tricks, a hungry predator looking for an easy meal, or a bandit thinking she might make for a good hostage all might target the vulnerable, slow, unarmed lady on the sidelines of the camp first.


I would suspect that in Golarion most people are used to caster types having weirdly smart pets around, which are useful, but in general mostly harmless.

That is, unless you are facing a witch. Any witch, really! All of their familiars can potentially launch their spirit at you, manifest their patron's presence or even let the patron claim someone's spirit, and if the witch is high enough level and given enough time, it will do all of those in the same encounter and more.

So, all in all, witch familiars are definitely not harmless little critters you should ignore, and knowledgeable NPC's should have the opportunity to realize that through RK.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Angwa wrote:
I would suspect that in Golarion most people are used to caster types having weirdly smart pets around, which are useful, but in general mostly harmless.

This strikes me as kinda funny as I've encountered numerous people on these very forums that would argue until they're blue in the face that most standard familiars are no more intelligent than common animals.

Angwa wrote:
That is, unless you are facing a witch. Any witch, really! All of their familiars can potentially launch their spirit at you, manifest their patron's presence or even let the patron claim someone's spirit, and if the witch is high enough level and given enough time, it will do all of those in the same encounter and more.

The trick is in knowing if you're fighting a witch at all. Some witches are more obvious than others.

Angwa wrote:
So, all in all, witch familiars are definitely not harmless little critters you should ignore, and knowledgeable NPC's should have the opportunity to realize that through RK.

Personally, I don't think it should be automatic. A check should be made when something tips someone off or doesn't otherwise jive with the context of the situation.


I don't think most witches are going to take the time to dress as commoners with a cat. So it's mostly irrelevant.

We're talking about people dressed as witches (like say the iconic witch) with familiars. We have art of the iconics. That fox looks like a witch pet. And will get blown up.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Calliope5431 wrote:

I don't think most witches are going to take the time to dress as commoners with a cat. So it's mostly irrelevant.

We're talking about people dressed as witches (like say the iconic witch) with familiars. We have art of the iconics. That fox looks like a witch pet. And will get blown up.

Some are certainly more obvious than others.

I'm curious to know what about Freiya's appearance screamed "witch" to you. She doesn't look that different from the sorcerer, Seoni, to me.


Ravingdork wrote:
Calliope5431 wrote:

I don't think most witches are going to take the time to dress as commoners with a cat. So it's mostly irrelevant.

We're talking about people dressed as witches (like say the iconic witch) with familiars. We have art of the iconics. That fox looks like a witch pet. And will get blown up.

Some are certainly more obvious than others.

I'm curious to know what about Freiya's appearance screamed "witch" to you. She doesn't look that different from the sorcerer, Seoni, to me.

Yeah Seoni is similarly witchy. White hair on a young woman, weird eyes, no familiar though.

In contrast, Ezren isn't witchy at all. He looks pretty wizardly. No familiar, normal eyes. Ditto Yoon.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Calliope5431 wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:
Calliope5431 wrote:

I don't think most witches are going to take the time to dress as commoners with a cat. So it's mostly irrelevant.

We're talking about people dressed as witches (like say the iconic witch) with familiars. We have art of the iconics. That fox looks like a witch pet. And will get blown up.

Some are certainly more obvious than others.

I'm curious to know what about Freiya's appearance screamed "witch" to you. She doesn't look that different from the sorcerer, Seoni, to me.

Yeah Seoni is similarly witchy. White hair on a young woman, weird eyes, no familiar though.

In contrast, Ezren isn't witchy at all. He looks pretty wizardly. No familiar, normal eyes. Ditto Yoon.

Seltyiel strikes me as rather witchy-lookin' despite being a martial magus.


Ravingdork wrote:
I'm not really a fan of that as a solution. Seems way too meta to me. Also makes for loads of checks and rolls which will slow the game down and take table time away from the other players.

In my current 5e game I have a ranger that hides every turn and he just rolls at the end of each turn if he's in a spot her can reasonably hide. It doesn't take all that long on his end. For the monsters/enemies, I only roll for them if they aren't otherwise engaged and have the means to impact the ranger who's often 100+ feet behind the front line, it rarely slows things down because so few things meet those requirements. THis is very much a YMMV-type thing though.


Ravingdork wrote:
Calliope5431 wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:
Calliope5431 wrote:

I don't think most witches are going to take the time to dress as commoners with a cat. So it's mostly irrelevant.

We're talking about people dressed as witches (like say the iconic witch) with familiars. We have art of the iconics. That fox looks like a witch pet. And will get blown up.

Some are certainly more obvious than others.

I'm curious to know what about Freiya's appearance screamed "witch" to you. She doesn't look that different from the sorcerer, Seoni, to me.

Yeah Seoni is similarly witchy. White hair on a young woman, weird eyes, no familiar though.

In contrast, Ezren isn't witchy at all. He looks pretty wizardly. No familiar, normal eyes. Ditto Yoon.

Seltyiel strikes me as rather witchy-lookin' despite being a martial magus.

The heavy metal armor might cause me to disagree, but yep. Very edgy. If he had a pet, I might just go for it.

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