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Social Conflict Events and Advancement

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 172
When do social conflict events grant the PCs experience points and treasure? The short answer is whenever you choose. The typical experience point progression in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game has a baseline assumption that heroic experience increases player characters’ personal power and wealth. A combat-driven campaign is balanced with the assumption that the PCs have a set amount of combat resources, and achieving goals slowly whittles down these resources, making success less certain as time goes on. In this baseline mode of advancement, few if any social conflicts grant experience points or wealth; while this style of play can whittle down some of the PCs’ resources, it doesn’t do so with the regularity of combat encounters. Thus, the rewards for success in social conflict events are either ad hoc or based on the few combat encounters that might be peppered into the story arc. But if you’re running a campaign in which social conflict is the main focus, it’s prudent to discard this baseline mode, and instead grant the PCs experience points and treasure on a more regular basis.

Some of the treasure the PCs gain during social conflict events could be looted from enemies or found during exploration of the social landscape. Most, however, should be gifts from allied contenders, the rewards for shifts in economic stakes, or the culminations of capital gained through bribes, tributes, or even taxes.

The following are some suggestions on how to reward PCs based on the scope and pacing of the social conflict.

Discovery Events: For the most part, discovery events rarely grant the PCs experience points or treasure. More often than not, they instead give the PCs opportunities to gain information about the challenges they will face. Occasionally, though, a discovery event might feature a challenge, and in this case you can give the event a CR. If your social challenges are episodic, the event’s CR should be 2 to 4 lower than the average party level (APL) of the PCs, based on how crucial social challenges are to your campaign. If the APL is on the low range, shift the CR to an appropriate fractional value. Deal with treasure in a similar manner. Table 12–5: Treasure Values lists values based on APL rather than CR; therefore, if you want to award treasure for a low-CR discovery event, use the appropriate values on Table 4–2: Treasure Values for Low-CR Encounters.

Table 4-2: Treasure Values for Low-CR Encounters

Treasure per Encounter
1/821 gp33 gp50 gp
1/628 gp42 gp65 gp
1/443 gp65 gp100 gp
1/357 gp88 gp135 gp
1/285 gp130 gp200 gp

Challenge Events: Challenge events should nearly always grant experience points and treasure. This is especially true if you’re running a serialized social conflict campaign. If a social conflict is the main thrust of a campaign, most challenge events should have a CR close to the APL of the PCs. Just like with combat encounters, particularly taxing challenge events (especially those that might consume the PCs’ resources or include the chance for a significant change in the stakes) can be of a higher CR than the APL, but never more than 3 higher. Challenge events should use the normal experience and treasure values whenever the PCs are involved in a combat encounter.