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Old 01-21-2020, 10:50 AM
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Pathfinder gurus - please help me write up an NPC


Normally, I take an NPC from the Bestiary section and make modifications, but there wasn't anything really close to what I had in mind.

In a nutshell: the paladin in the campaign I'm running led an assault on a Vendren wedding (mostly evil people) killed the groom, and made off with the bride. The bride is the daughter of the leader of a trade conglomeration, like the UK's East India Company. They're a world power that has their own army. The marriage was part of a big long trading contract. It's like the way royal marriages were done: kings would marry their kids off to other kings to cement alliances and set up trade partnerships.

So, the father-in-law would be lawful neutral. He sees gold piece value in anything, even his children. He has a couple dozen wives and concubines and trains his children to essentially be show ponies. They're designed to make their prospective marriage partners look good and provide fertile ground for heirs. Since the contract marriage never took place, FIL would be obliged to return the money the Vendrens already paid him. Moreover, he's concerned his reputation as a major economic player would be ruined because the marriage contract fell apart. If the paladin were to send the bride back to her father, he'd consider her damaged goods, unworthy of resale, and would flay her skin off her body, wait for her to heal back, then sell her off as a slave. This would teach his other children not to break marriage contracts.

I mentioned this to the paladin in the game last night, and his response was "I only recognize the authority of [my god]. If FIL converts to my religion, I will gladly negotiate terms." FIL would certainly not be amused.

So, roughly FIL needs to be LN, level 16-20ish human, preferably a warrior type so he and the paladin can have an old-fashioned melee if things break down. He should have feats and skills that reflect his ability to run a large trade corporation, and warriors don't usually have much in the way of skill points. I was thinking maybe Order of Fortune Cavalier, but I can't picture FIL using mounted combat. If he had a mount, it would be a magical beast, purely for show. I could just make him a regular fighter with a few levels of Expert, but that's no fun. Also, the paladin's saves are ridiculous, so low importance on any type of melee effect that requires a save.

So, Pathfinder Dopers, any suggestions?
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Old 01-21-2020, 01:00 PM
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Hrm

A) This is why I don't run Pathfinder
B) Is there a logical ingame reason for the FIL to be level 16+ even though he's basically Scrooge McDuck? Couldn't he just have powerful henchmen or something if the paladin needs someone to punch in the face?
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Old 01-21-2020, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Knowed Out View Post
I mentioned this to the paladin in the game last night, and his response was "I only recognize the authority of [my god]. If FIL converts to my religion, I will gladly negotiate terms."
This doesn't sound "Lawful Good". Not for most sane definitions of "good."

Sounds more a "Church Militant" variety of Lawful Awful.

This is a PC? Your campaign has a serious problem.
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Old 01-21-2020, 01:25 PM
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Why did the paladin interfere in the wedding? Did he have a thing for the bride? Did he have a grudge against the groom? Just wanted to prevent the alliance? What does he need to negotiate with the FiL over?

Also, not to get into an alignment argument, but "flay her and sell her into slavery" is a pretty evil response for a LN character, particularly over something that she wasn't responsible for - she didn't break the contract, someone else stuck a knife in the other party before the contract could be fulfilled. Unless she was in cahoots with the Paladin all along?

As for stating out the NPC (which is to say, answering the question you actually asked ) I try not to get too hung up on building NPCs strictly by character creation rules. It's not like the players at your table are going to check your math. Take the cavalier NPC you linked to and swap out the mount powers for something you find more appropriate.
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Old 01-21-2020, 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Miller View Post
Why did the paladin interfere in the wedding? Did he have a thing for the bride? Did he have a grudge against the groom? Just wanted to prevent the alliance? What does he need to negotiate with the FiL over?

Also, not to get into an alignment argument, but "flay her and sell her into slavery" is a pretty evil response for a LN character, particularly over something that she wasn't responsible for - she didn't break the contract, someone else stuck a knife in the other party before the contract could be fulfilled. Unless she was in cahoots with the Paladin all along?

As for stating out the NPC (which is to say, answering the question you actually asked ) I try not to get too hung up on building NPCs strictly by character creation rules. It's not like the players at your table are going to check your math. Take the cavalier NPC you linked to and swap out the mount powers for something you find more appropriate.
A good RPG campaign is story-telling. So take inspiration from fiction.

When I think of a bad-ass merchant, I always think of Uncle Enzo from Snow Crash. He's a genuine Mafia Don, who also happens to openly run a very successful pizza chain. Who happens to be a combat veteran. And correspondingly skilled in armed and unarmed combat. He fights the heavy of the story to a standstill, with just a straight razor (and a borrowed glass-shattering sonic charge, to counter his opponent's tendency to use knapped-glass blade weaponry).

So an interesting backstory can easily justify your NPC merchant being a high-level skilled character.
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Old 01-21-2020, 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Airk View Post
Hrm

A) This is why I don't run Pathfinder
B) Is there a logical ingame reason for the FIL to be level 16+ even though he's basically Scrooge McDuck? Couldn't he just have powerful henchmen or something if the paladin needs someone to punch in the face?
Scrooge McDuck was a world-traveling adventurer thank you very much. He could thrash you silly with that cane of his.
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Old 01-21-2020, 05:52 PM
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OK, looks like I have to provide some context. There's a lot of back story to this, so I'll try not to make this into War & Peace.

The campaign is based on Throne of Bones by Brian McNaughton. Picture HP Lovecraft-style stories, but instead of taking place in New England, it's Rome at the time of Caligula. Instead of the narrators being stuffy professors, they're narcissistic nobles. Crotalorn is an ancient city that has been ruled by two rival clans, the Vendrens and the Fands, who have fought each other for centuries. Neither side is the "good guys." Crotalorn has fallen into near ruin because neither side will clean up their messes. The Vendrens are mostly lawful evil, insidious spellcasters (favoring towards necromancers) and continually plot and scheme, not only against the Fands, but each other as well. The Fands are mostly chaotic neutral, who tend to shoot first and ask questions later, but often neglect to ask the questions. They don't bother with due process too much. They imprison people who cross them and let them rot without doing any follow through, and every few years execute all the prisoners who haven't been claimed or released, mainly because of laziness. There's also a necropolis populated by ghouls. If a ghoul kills somebody and eats their brain, it thinks it is now its victim and doesn't recall the killing. That's a whole 'nother story.

When I told my gaming group I had a Pathfinder campaign, Jim wanted to play a paladin named Pharcos. I told him the back story and came up with a way to work him into the campaign. The Vendrens have been losing power and influence throughout the years, and they came up with a plan to legitimize all their bastards, ensuring each one a seat in Parliament, thus swelling their numbers. Pharcos was one of those bastards, and the other PCs had origins tying into his. Pharcos has aspirations to be the new emperor of the Crotalorn Empire. The other PCs are effectively his Band of Merry Men, so they accompany him on his adventures.

Pharcos worships Polliel, the Sun God. McNaughton doesn't go into much detail about the gods, so I more or less based them on their Golarian equivalents. Polliel = Iomedae, the Golarian Sun God. Gluttriel = Orcus, the God of Death, and so on. In the stories, the Vendrens worship Sleithreethra, goddess of evil, and they aren't too subtle about it. I came up another incentive for Pharcos to journey to Crotalorn. Throughout the centuries, his family pulled a Borgia-type coup and supplanted the Sun God's clerics with false priests. Thus, the Sun God's power has waned considerably, and Pharcos would be the one to set things right. So, Pharcos has every reason to hate his family and kill them on sight.

Now, this can open a bigass can of worms about whether Pharcos is being LG despite killing his family. The most basic of D&D morality is that you're good if you kill evil things. So, Pharcos is good because he kills evil people. However, some would consider killing your family an evil act. It's certainly illegal in today's system of law. That's where alignment quibbling can take up vast amounts of game time, which can lead some players to become bored and eventually drop out. Thus, I'm morally flexible. Instead of having a LG god punish the paladin, I do it more like EQ factions. Whatever you do will be looked upon favorably by some people, but not by others. The Pope could be regarded as the most lawful good person in existence because of his perceived holiness, but there's plenty of people who think otherwise. Our most famous heroes and icons have done some pretty scummy things. Jacob, for example, is considered one of God's Chosen, but he was a liar, cheat and thief. He swindled his brother out of his birthright, and stole healthy livestock from neighboring farms and replaced them with his own sick animals. Yet God appointed him to father the Twelve Tribes of Israel. If Pharcos can undo the evil of his family's machinations, Polliel isn't going to mind some shenanigans. Other factions however will mind and will cause trouble for Pharcos later.

Because of all the back stories and plots and schemes, the campaign has become more political, which can interest some but completely bore others. Ever since the onset of rpgs, players have largely become conditioned to the idea of creating characters that are effective at killing shit. A little back story is fine, but when all's said and done, they want to kill shit and get treasure. Thus, I have to find a way for them to get into a kill-and-loot situation that makes sense within the setting of the campaign. When we get together out of the game, I ask them what they're interested in doing behind the scenes. I get ideas for scenarios based on these discussions. I decided to write up a way Pharcos and his cohorts could kill Vendrens without having to delve into too much Dan Brown-level detail. Thus, I introduced the "poor princess forced to marry the evil old bastard" scenario. Prior to the wedding, the rogue served as messenger between the princess and Pharcos, so he had to do some solo stealthing and skullduggery. They were able to learn the date, time and location of the wedding so they could rescue yon fair maiden like Errol Flynn. I regarded this as a Mafia wedding. At some time the musicians open up their cases and spray the bride's family with machine gun fire. The Vendrens actually consider it a mark of status to have casualties at their weddings, and they're prepared for such an eventuality. Typical of Pathfinder combat, the wedding fight took 4-5 gaming sessions, each lasting a round or two but taking hours to complete.

So now, Pharcos has to deal with the repercussions of his actions, thus my wanting to introduce the FiL. I don't want the character to be evil mainly because I don't want Pharcos to get his vs. evil bonuses, but I did want to provide Pharcos with ample reason to butt heads. I'll probably delete the flaying of his daughter part. It was more to underscore his regard of people = property with lawful neutral justification. A quality merchant doesn't want to have the reputation that he deals with tainted goods, and a daughter bred for noble clientele but rejected would look bad. The possibility certainly exists that the two can negotiate terms, but Pathfinder players accustomed to kill & loot tactics don't usually go down that path. Plus, Pharcos tends to be absolute and inflexible, so a fight is certain to break out.
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Old 01-21-2020, 05:57 PM
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Hrm

A) This is why I don't run Pathfinder
B) Is there a logical ingame reason for the FIL to be level 16+ even though he's basically Scrooge McDuck? Couldn't he just have powerful henchmen or something if the paladin needs someone to punch in the face?
The party's level 14, so this would be a CR of 16 or so. I could use the powerful henchman angle. Cersei Lannister certainly had Gregor the Mountain. However, I wanted FiL to be more of a hands-on type.
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Old 01-21-2020, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by gnoitall View Post
This doesn't sound "Lawful Good". Not for most sane definitions of "good."

Sounds more a "Church Militant" variety of Lawful Awful.

This is a PC? Your campaign has a serious problem.
Hopefully, the back story explains the situation better.
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Old 01-21-2020, 06:13 PM
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Why did the paladin interfere in the wedding? Did he have a thing for the bride? Did he have a grudge against the groom? Just wanted to prevent the alliance? What does he need to negotiate with the FiL over?
I wanted an antagonist that wasn't the stock evil baby eater mainly. Hopefully the backstory answers your questions.
Quote:
Also, not to get into an alignment argument, but "flay her and sell her into slavery" is a pretty evil response for a LN character, particularly over something that she wasn't responsible for - she didn't break the contract, someone else stuck a knife in the other party before the contract could be fulfilled. Unless she was in cahoots with the Paladin all along?
She did want Pharcos to rescue her, mainly because she didn't want to get stuck with an evil 80-year old scumbag, and also because of her daddy issues. I think I'll make the flaying part a falsehood she came up with to keep Pharcos from sending her back.
Quote:
As for stating out the NPC (which is to say, answering the question you actually asked ) I try not to get too hung up on building NPCs strictly by character creation rules. It's not like the players at your table are going to check your math. Take the cavalier NPC you linked to and swap out the mount powers for something you find more appropriate.
I understand your point, but I've long ago went down this path and can't really undo it. My approach to writing scenarios is to come up with an idea, then do some reverse engineering by searching the Pathfinder SRD. I could easily come up with a generic NPC on the fly if this were 1st edition D&D, but Pathfinder is too oriented towards data crunching. I have to come up with a way to keep the NPC from getting slaughtered outright, and "because I said so" won't fly. The players will want a more detailed explanation because Pathfinder.
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Old 01-22-2020, 12:18 PM
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I really like your setting!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Knowed Out View Post
I wanted an antagonist that wasn't the stock evil baby eater mainly. Hopefully the backstory answers your questions.

She did want Pharcos to rescue her, mainly because she didn't want to get stuck with an evil 80-year old scumbag, and also because of her daddy issues. I think I'll make the flaying part a falsehood she came up with to keep Pharcos from sending her back.
Yeah, that made things clearer. I like the idea that the princess is lying to the paladin about how terrible her dad is - even better is if she's every bit as much of a POS as her dad, just without the power behind it?

Quote:
I understand your point, but I've long ago went down this path and can't really undo it. My approach to writing scenarios is to come up with an idea, then do some reverse engineering by searching the Pathfinder SRD. I could easily come up with a generic NPC on the fly if this were 1st edition D&D, but Pathfinder is too oriented towards data crunching. I have to come up with a way to keep the NPC from getting slaughtered outright, and "because I said so" won't fly. The players will want a more detailed explanation because Pathfinder.
I didn't mean "on the fly" so much as, "The book says this character only gets four feats at this level, but I'm giving him six, because it makes a more interesting challenge." If your players are actually tracking how many feats an NPC demonstrates, that might not work. (Also, it would explain why it takes four or five sessions to get through a fight! Yow!) So, you could decide that maybe the FiL rose to power by assassinating rivals, and use this efreet-bound elf assassin stat block, except don't call it an elf, and skip any powers that are obviously-derived from elf/genie stuff (like low-light vision), but don't bother re-calculating ability bonuses or skill points.
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Old 01-22-2020, 07:58 PM
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I really like your setting!



Yeah, that made things clearer. I like the idea that the princess is lying to the paladin about how terrible her dad is - even better is if she's every bit as much of a POS as her dad, just without the power behind it?
I told him she was turning out to be pretty high maintenance. She ran up thousands of gold in debt furnishing their mansion, filling out her wardrobe, employing handmaidens, etc. She was trained to be The Lady of the House, and that meant her husband would provide the gold. She also demanded that he send his friends home. So yes, she's an entitled POS. He determined she would no longer be allowed to go outside. Another player suggested salesmen bring their wares to her so she wouldn't get bored and resentful. I commended him for that. Usually the other players would start casting spells and abuse the bothersome NPC.

Quote:
I didn't mean "on the fly" so much as, "The book says this character only gets four feats at this level, but I'm giving him six, because it makes a more interesting challenge." If your players are actually tracking how many feats an NPC demonstrates, that might not work. (Also, it would explain why it takes four or five sessions to get through a fight! Yow!) So, you could decide that maybe the FiL rose to power by assassinating rivals, and use this efreet-bound elf assassin stat block, except don't call it an elf, and skip any powers that are obviously-derived from elf/genie stuff (like low-light vision), but don't bother re-calculating ability bonuses or skill points.
I do like the idea of having a master and genie, kind of like Alladin. I'm not too good at running assassins however. Even if I get off the sneak attack with the high DC poison, the others player slaughter him instantaneously.

And no, the players don't track the feats of my NPCs, hee hee! No, the reason the combats took so long is because Pathfinder has a lot of moving parts and it was 7 PCs vs 20 NPCs. The groom had dimension door'ed away to bring back a broken soul sun giant. That just scratches the surface.

See, it's more like a complex game of chess between me and the players. I like playing the sneaky and guileful Lex Luthor supervillain with complex traps and fighting tactics. That's why things take so long. I'm trying to figure out how to exploit the rules more than they do. This is what happens when you have plenty of spare time and you Wikishuffle your way through the Pathfinder SRD to GM a bunch of data crunchers. I've got several hundred page documents in my Google Drive and a jungle of hyperlinks. It's a roadmap of my OCD.
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Old 01-22-2020, 08:40 PM
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I do like the idea of having a master and genie, kind of like Alladin. I'm not too good at running assassins however. Even if I get off the sneak attack with the high DC poison, the others player slaughter him instantaneously.
How about this guy? Pure fighter levels, so he should last a few rounds, but the light armor build justifies him being fully equipped in casual settings, befitting the merchant lord background. The scimitar of life stealing is thematically nice, too.
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Old 01-23-2020, 09:02 AM
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Looks interesting. I'd have to make a few modifications, as I don't want him to be evil, so the "life stealing" part would have to be something else. I admit I haven't tried the disarm effects before. It could open a new can of worms, knowing my playing group's love for exploiting whatever they can lay their grubby hands on.

I'm still considering the Order of Fortune Cavalier. Maybe I can finagle the animal companion options to make his mount something unique. He could always joust with Pharcos to settle their differences. But keep the suggestions coming.
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Old 01-23-2020, 11:58 AM
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Per RAW, you don't have to be evil to use a sword of life stealing - although you can, of course, change this if you don't think it fits in your campaign. But if you look at enervation (the only spell necessary to craft a sword of life stealing) or vampiric touch (thematically closer to what the sword does), neither has the "evil" tag.
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Old 01-24-2020, 08:14 AM
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Technically, the effect isn't evil, but Pharcos will perceive it as such with extreme prejudice. It could make a good role-playing moment.

"Your scimitar is evil!"
"It's not intelligent. It can't be evil."
"It uses necromancy! Necromancy is evil!"
"Puh-tay-toe, Puhtah-toe."
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