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Provoking a Nemesis

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 136
The tale of a character and her nemesis is a back-and-forth exchange in which both always try to gain the upper hand. This leads to the nemesis plotting stratagems of escalating severity until one individual decisively defeats the other—often by killing or otherwise ruining the foe. Likewise, nemeses actively strive to foil, sabotage, and otherwise hinder the PCs by employing stratagems—a representation of the plans they implement and resources they possess.

Each stratagem is an event, an encounter, or an adventure in which the nemesis takes action against the PCs. If there is a social aspect to the situation, consider making the struggle between the PCs and their nemesis a social conflict. After each stratagem plays out, the PCs might exploit an opportunity, allowing them to strike back against their foe. This exchange might occur numerous times over the course of a long-term campaign.

To reflect the intensity of his rivalry with the PCs, every nemesis has a Nemesis Score. This score measures the number of setbacks that the PCs have inflicted upon their nemesis (such as by exploiting an opportunity successfully; see the Opportunities section), and it determines the severity of the nemesis’s stratagems against the PCs. Even if the PCs don’t realize why they’ve earned a nemesis’s initial enmity, a particular nemesis’s score always starts at 1 or higher; if the nemesis has no reason to be upset with the PCs’ actions, he wouldn’t waste resources on stratagems against the PCs. Particularly spectacular setbacks might increase the Nemesis Score by 2. The PCs can have multiple nemeses, but the ongoing back-and-forth struggle between the PCs and each individual nemesis has its own separate score.

As a rivalry matures, the Nemesis Level of the PCs’ foe increases. The nemesis’s opposition of the PCs progresses through three levels, as described below.

Simmering: The PCs have come to the attention of the nemesis, who considers them a threat that’s minor but nonetheless needs to be resolved. The nemesis begins to collect information on the PCs and utilize stratagems, but he isn’t yet deeply invested in the rivalry.

Engaged: The PCs have clashed with the nemesis often enough that he considers them a significant problem. The nemesis knows the PCs’ abilities and goes out of his way to tailor stratagems specifically to hinder them when his plans oppose theirs.

Intense: The PCs and their rival have foiled each other so often that the nemesis knows the PCs’ capabilities in intimate detail. He is now willing to use whatever means necessary to end their meddling, once and for all. This means the PCs’ defeat has become one of the nemesis’s main goals, potentially secondary only to the main goal that the PCs keep foiling.

Nemesis ScoreNemesis Level
4 or lowerSimmering
5-8Engaged
9 or higherIntense