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, August 10, 2016

Stacking the Deck

Using the Harrow in Your Game

So you want to add the harrow deck to your game. You’ve read the Harrow Handbook and the Harrow Deck Rulebook. You have some ideas but you haven’t quite sussed out what you want to do with it. Maybe you’re a player who wants to include harrow deck use into their character or maybe you’re a GM who wants to use it as part of their campaign, either way here are some ideas for you to use.

If you’re GMing a game and you want to make the harrow a central theme to your game one of the easiest ways to do this is by adding it as a mechanic. Some of you may remember a game called Deadlands, a wild west horror game. Although the mechanics were clunky, they were thematic, using poker chips and playing cards as parts of both character creation and game play. You can do the same with the harrow deck.

The easiest place to include the harrow is in character creation. The Harrow Handbook outlines one method for use in character creation in which you use the cross spread to come up with some basic ideas about where your character came from and where he is going. While this method is decent, leaving a lot of room for the player to make their character, it isn’t the method I might use. Opening up traits and giving specifics dulls the joy of the vagueness of a proper harrow reading.

In this week’s randomrolled character I used the same harrow spread, the cross, to add to our rolls and allow some mystery for the character. Instead of outright adding traits and saying you’re good at this or cursed by that I just left the interaction of the cards open to the player, or in this case the writer of the background. If I were doing this in an actual game sessions I wouldn’t just lay out the cards and say this is what you get I would set the mood, dim the lights, use a deck of cards (normal or Paizo’s Deluxe Harrow deck), lay out a tablecloth like a real harrow reader. I would tell players that this is the reading their parents got after they were conceived, what kind of character would they make?

Another way to use the harrow is within the game itself. Carrion Crown’s Player’s Guide has a system that combines the harrow deck with hero points. If you are using the harrow as a centerpiece for your game, whether you are running the AP or not, this is an amazing way to keep the cards relevant. Of course if you are looking to have fun you could also add a harrow deck of many things to your campaign and watch the sparks fly.

Some traits like the Harrow Born and Harrow Chosen human race traits can add quite a bit of flavor to a harrow character. What you really want to look at is the Harrowed feat. If you are going to be running a harrow-heavy game I would consider giving everyone the Harrowed feat. Every day the characters draw a card and that card gives them a +2 on any check made using that ability score. What’s more, and this works especially well for homebrewed adventures, is that as a GM you can now look at the meaning of each of those cards and use them as a guide for how the day’s adventure should go.

So your GM has said she wants to make harrow a significant part of the game and you’ve decided to make a character that takes that to heart. Being a Varisian or a worshiper of Desna are both easy, although obvious, ways to go. The Harrow Handbook has six archetypes that use the harrow deck as a cornerstone. As pointed out, humans have a few traits that help and there is one feat that really gives the harrow some oomph. There is also the Harrower PrC which completely revolves around the use of the harrow deck.

What makes the Harrower PrC is fun is that there are many ways to get into it. Of its requirements, anyone can take the Harrowed feat. You can take ranks in Knowledge (Religion) or Knowledge (Arcana), and Perform is easy enough to buy into even if it’s not a class skill. Unlike many casting PrCs, you can get into it as either an arcane or divine class. All you need is to cast third level spells, at least three of which must be divination. This is easily accomplished by all the full casting classes but even inquisitors, paladins, and rangers can meet the requirement by level seven.

Although only six classes get PrC’s directly linking them to the harrow that is no reason to limit yourself to those choices. I played an Oracle of Lore with the Seeker Archetype in one of the many failed Rise of the Runelords attempts I made. Sorcerers of the Harrow Bloodline would do well in a game based on harrow, as would straight up diviner Wizard. Clerics of Desna are an obvious choice but other divine beings of fate or chance are also appropriate.

Now you’ve made your harrowing character and you want to really get into playing her. We had a Cartomancer Witch in the latest (and most successful) Runelords game. The player linked each of the spells his character knew to a card in her harrow deck. When she wanted to cast a healing spell the player would describe the character as pulling out the midwife card which glowed with a soft white radiance. When she cast a light spell it would come when she drew the big sky card. Little things like this can help bring your harrowing character to life.

The harrow can be an awesome resource as both a player and GM. Next time you’re thinking about adding a little something extra to your campaign consider using the harrow. Whether you draw naturally and add a little randomness to your life, or you pick the cards you want to show to your players is up to you.

Have you used the harrow in your game? How did it go? Would you now consider using the harrow in a future game? Have you used any sort of fortune-telling mechanism in your games? What kind of character would you make in a game based around the harrow?

The harrow brings its readers a mystical connection to the universe. Hopefully you feel that connection to gaming and it gets stronger with reading the CRB. If so, please consider supporting your favorite (or one of your favorite) content providers by contributing to my Patreon. As year one came to a close, those who have been following have received PDFs of the year one content. If you’d like to join the other CRB communities you can find me on Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, and Twitter. Also if you’d like the CRB pushed directly to your Kindle check out Amazon’s Kindle Subscriptions.

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