Monday, January 28, 2013

Making Pacts in Pathfinder

From Heroes of the Feywild, Illustration by Eric Belisle
Recently, I've been reading the fourth book in Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files series, Summer Knight. Like the first three books, it is a great read and I highly recommend it.

While reading the book, I found myself really latching onto one of the elements of the story that was introduced in the previous book Grave Peril. In the series, Harry Dresden made a pact with a power faerie named Leanansidhe, giving his fealty to her in exchange for help escaping his evil mentor. Since Summer Knight's focus is on the fey of the Nevernever, the plot point resurfaces and had got me thinking about something that might be rather fun to see in a Pathfinder game: characters making pacts with otherworldly being for power, but having to pay a price for it.

I think it would be interesting for the characters to seek out a powerful fey creature or devil and make a pact with them, but end up owing them something as well. It could be their eternal soul or it could be a favor they can call upon at any time. So, after tossing around some ideas on how to implement this in game, I came up with some simple guidelines for these pacts.

All pacts with otherworldly beings fall under one of three ranks: minor, moderate, and major. A minor pact is usually for a small, temporary boost in power or a small permanent bonus. For example, a character could make a pact with a powerful fey creature to gain small bonus to any social skill (most likely a +1 or +2 bonus at most) so he can win the heart of the princess of the land. The price for a minor pact would be something simple, like a blood or monetary item. 

A character who makes a moderate pact with a otherworldly creature receives a bigger bonus (usually a +3 or +4 at most), a magical item, training in a new skill of their choosing (treating it as if it was a class skill), or something similar. However, the price is much more substantial this time around. The creature might ask for your loyalty for a time or require you to perform a favor for it at some time in the future. 

Finally, characters who decide to make a major pact with a creature receive can receive a bigger bonus (usually a +5 or +6 at most), a powerful magical item, a position of power in the campaign setting, raising one of their ability scores by 1 point, gaining a new feat, or something similar. Like with the moderate pact, the payment for these boons grow as well. Major pacts will usually result in a character having to exchange their loyalty to the creature for the rest of their life or even their soul if the creature is an evil one. A character should only perform a major pact if they are desperate. 

Only certain types of creatures can make mystical pacts with mortals. These creatures are particularly powerful (usually CR 10 or higher) and the majority of them are outsiders. The most common creatures to make pacts with mortals are Aberrations, Daemons, Devils, Dragons, and Fey. While it has happened before, good outsiders rarely make these kinds of pacts with mortals. 

Like most of the rules (or guidelines in this case) I put up on this blog, I like to give them some time at the table and see how they work in action. Hopefully I'll get a chance in one of my games to have a creature make a pact with a player and see how it effects the story in the game so I can come back and refine these guidelines and maybe turn them into an actual set of rules. I guess we'll see.