CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

I Spy With My Inner Eye

Detect Evil is one of the core paladin abilities which almost boils down to the words “Yes that’s evil.” Sure just saying that something is or isn’t an alignment may be easy, but is it fun and does it add to player immersion. Detect Alignment, Detect Thoughts, Detect Magic, and even Detect Secret Doors in my opinion should all just be more than “Yes, this is that thing”. I’m apparently not the only one who thinks so, as in Dave Gross’ Pathfinder Tales novel King of Chaos the group of paladins in the Worldwound all sense evil in different ways.

But let’s step back and look at some rules for a second because many of us, myself included, have made some small mistakes when using detect alignment spells. The first thing is that not everything that is evil detects as evil. This is incredibly important at early levels for paladins and other defenders of good. Anything with less than five hit dice—with three notable exceptions —doesn’t detect as evil even if it is. The three exceptions are any person of a class that gives the aura ability, evil outsiders, and evil undead. So as the GM, when your paladin is using their detect evil like a flashlight, make sure you keep that in mind.

Now that we understand who can detect as an alignment, because those rules hold true for all alignment spells, we need to figure out what form this detection takes. I’ve seen in some cases that sensing an evil being takes the form of one’s stomach being tied in knots. In other cases headaches from the pure sense of malign energy in an area. In my mind it doesn’t have to just be a “gut” feeling as it were, but it can be sights, sounds, or smells.

Imagine if you will that you’re a paladin and you enter a place of pure evil. You open yourself to the feel of the environment and you begin to hear a buzzing like flies. As you cast your head about in all directions concentrating, the sound seems to come stronger from behind a set of giant doors. You focus you sense on the doors and the sound begins to overwhelm you—so much so you must cease listening for fear of going deaf. You turn to your party and proclaim a great evil Is behind that door.

If you’re attempt is to evoke a sense of dread from your players this kind of description helps more than just a simple pronouncement of a powerful aura of evil. Other ideas for what a player might sense could be the smell of brimstone, or the taste of rotting meat or soured milk. And this doesn’t just work for evil. What does chaos sound like? How does good taste? What is the smell of law? Sitting down with your players to discuss how their individual players detect powers manifest can be all the difference between a good game and a memorable one.

What of the more specific detect abilities? I have this image of a dwarven stone sorcerer with the detect secret doors spell. When he casts it and makes his way about a room, his nose itches when a hidden portal is found. Maybe to an elf with the spell active it more enhances his sense of hearing and his ears pick up the absolute minutest amount of air travelling through the crack in a doors seam. However you describe it giving them more than just the phrase, “There’s a door over there,” can really enhance a scene for all those involved.

Lastly we’ll talk about detect thoughts. As far as spells go, this one doesn’t see a lot of play, at least not in my games. But we currently have a witch who specializes in dream magic and detect thoughts is high on her list of spells used. It’s made me have think about how thoughts may come across. The first stage is just detecting thinking beings, for this character it takes the form of a gentle hum in her own mind. Then you can count the number, I give a little extra here a chaotic being may have jumbled thoughts, so she may hear gibberish if there is a demon present, or something like the ringing of a horn for good beings. And finally you can read surface thoughts. If the target fails her will save, I like to not just give thoughts but feeling telling her she suddenly feels depressed or manic or any other emotion that goes along with the target’s thoughts.

How do you use detect spells in your game?  Do you players just know an evil exists or does it evoke certain physical or emotional reactions? How do detect spells affect the game for you? Does it aid or ruin surprises?

Hopefully your use of detect thoughts has given you another tool in your arsenal as a Roleplayer,  whether GM or Player. Blogs like the CRB are basically a second job and bloggers survive on donations and patronage so please take a look at my Patreon and consider becoming a patron. The CRB is blasting out into social media so check me out on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. If you can’t wait for the CRB and what an instant fix check out kindle subscriptions and get the CRB sent straight to your device when it publishes.

No comments:

Post a Comment