<- Return to All Rules (Group by Source)
<- Return to Events

All Rules in Events

+ An entry marked with this has additional sections within it.

Challenge Events

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 169
Challenge events allow the PCs a chance to affect or even disrupt the balance of power in social conflicts. Unlike in discovery encounters, where the goal is often to reconnoiter the particulars of the social landscape, in challenge encounters, the PCs take a shot at changing that landscape.

When designing a challenge event, consider the stakes for all contenders, the nature of current competition for the parties involved, and the group with which the PCs are allied. By the end of a challenge event, the PCs should have the opportunity to alter or raise the conflict’s stakes. Generally, if the PCs succeed, their allied contenders keep control of the stakes or gain a significant share of them, whereas if the PCs fail, their enemies keep control of the stakes or gain ground toward attaining them.

In these types of events, the PCs confront a series of challenges, their successes or failures yield consequences that either lead to or modify future social conflict events. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game has a number of subsystems and tools designed to help you create noncombat or combat-light challenges to use in social-based encounters. Additionally, some guidelines for creating more freeform social challenges are presented later in this section.

For example, let’s continue with the struggle to gain voting rights for the halflings of the city. The halflings want an increased share of political power for elections, but they also want to keep their tax-exempt status. The other contenders— legislators who currently control the local politics— would like to keep the status quo since they fear what an influx of halfling voters would do to the political landscape. The PCs, allied with the halflings, come up with a plan to either convince or strong-arm local politicians to work with the halflings. With the Social Combat Deck, the individual influence system, a verbal duel, or the freeform events detailed later in this section, you can create a challenge event during which the PCs help the halflings by trying to sway the politicians into supporting the halflings’ bid to vote while allowing them to keep their tax exempt status (maybe in return for backing a particular candidate).

The PCs then make the rounds negotiating with the city’s various politicians. The consequences of the challenge are based on the accumulation of victories against the various politicians, and since each politician has a different personality, the key to success is different for each of them. One might cow quickly to physical threats and intimidation, while another politician might be corrupt and susceptible to bribes. One politician might be particularly steadfast in his stance, and can only be swayed if the PCs decide to get dirty and blackmail or threaten the politician’s loved ones. This particular example is the perfect opportunity to use the individual influence system, but each of these interactions could be a different challenge using the Social Combat Deck, or you could create a freeform event instead.

Keep in mind that social challenges should be more active and engaging than a jumble of skill checks and actions. Consider making a social challenge more interesting by punctuating it with a chase (using the chase rules or either Pathfinder Cards: Chase Cards or its sequel, Chase Cards 2: Hot Pursuit), a pursuit, or a heist. In higher-level games, challenge events may be even more complex, with the PCs using the kingdom-building rules, or even the mass combat system when diplomacy fails.

Lastly, while social conflict is an attempt to avoid physical conflict and strife, there are times when the PCs will have to engage in combat to resolve a social conflict. Maybe after failing to negotiate with the rebels, the PCs must attempt to subdue and stop them from committing acts of violence against the community. It could be that while attempting to gain favor with a band of hot-headed noble scions, the PCs don’t realize they’ve slighted them and inadvertently inflame the young aristocrats’ ire. In this latter case, a good nonlethal thrashing might regain the rash blowhards’ respect. As a general guideline, resorting to combat in order to gain successes in social conflict is a last resort that usually stems from a failure at some point earlier in the chain of events. Even in these cases, try to present opportunities to bring flair to the battlefield, perhaps by employing dramatic environments (like rooftop battles or dawn duels), enemies with colorful abilities (like a bard’s stinging oratory or a swashbuckler’s panache), or hazards that could change the course of combat (like a precariously hung chandelier or toppling pillars).