By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Game review: Pathfinder RPG book: Ultimate Intrigue: the greatest adventures occur behind the scenes
In the right setting, a single scathing word can prove deadlier than a poisoned dagger. Behind the scenes of heroic battles and magical realms lies a seething underbelly of danger and deception. This world of intrigue holds endless possibilities for adventure, as heroes duel with words instead of steel, plot daring heists and engage in battles of wills against relentless nemeses. A high-stakes game of shadows and secrets is yours to master if you have the wits. - photo by Ryan Morgenegg
Many people enjoy the play-acting part of roleplaying games because they use wits and words more often than sword and shield. Ultimate Intrigue is a new RPG book for the Pathfinder roleplaying game that focuses on intrigue, social settings and influence.

Ultimate Intrigue contains a lot of content covering a variety of fundamental aspects to the game to bring about a feeling of intrigue. Chapter 1 focuses on character classes suited for social challenges. Chapter 2 deals with new feats focused on intrigue, and Chapter 3 gives gamemasters all the rules necessary for developing games in this genre. Chapter 4 gives complete rules for social combat, Chapter 5 contains helpful spells, and Chapter 6 has all the gear and magic items to get your characters into trouble.

A new character class, perfect for social settings, is the vigilante. Similar to a thief and bard, this interesting character specializes in stealth, deception and survival. One character feature is a dual identity to keep others guessing and to allow sneaking around social circles in secret. Vigilantes also have to deal with renown and how that affects their interactions with common people and nobility.

A host of covert archetypes are included in Chapter 1 for alchemists, bards, cavaliers, druids, inquisitors, investigators, mesmerists, rangers, rogues, skalds, spiritualists, swashbucklers and vigilantes including spellcasting vigilantes. The vigilante gunmaster can take a death shot talent that allows him or her to try and kill an opponent with a single shot when it is a critical hit. Bang, your dead.

Chapter 2 contains 20 pages of new feats for this intriguing version of the roleplaying game. There are a couple of pages of tables that describe the feat, its prerequisites and benefits for easy decision-making. Fool magic is a cool feat that allows a character to fool a magic item into activating even though the character is not the correct race. The studied spell feat is unique because it can allow a spellcaster to use a spell to full effect by bypassing a target's race-based damage reduction, saving throw bonuses or energy resistance. More than 100 new feats are described.

Game masters rejoice in Chapter 3 with detailed examples of building tension and setting up intrigue in adventures and campaigns. There are rules for discovery and influence checks as well as detailed rules for using personal influence. For example, by using intrigue, a player character can sway the outcome of a particular encounter by using their skills. Keep in mind that there are influence ranks that characters can gain as well as influence points with social organizations. This can allow the character to take actions within an organization to shape policy as they become more influential.

Additional tools in Chapter 3 include a table of 28 favors an organization might require to gain influence and full rules for running a heist. On page 126, a full example of how to develop a heist scenario for characters is given in great detail walking a game master through the process step by step. Additional rules deal with using monsters as allies, character leadership, pursuit and research.

Full rules are also given for developing a nemesis in a campaign and how to introduce him or her into the storyline and how to keep the tension and intrigue going. The chapter finishes with 10 full pages in using spells and magic to develop intrigue in a pathfinder campaign. Those that can scry will never die.

A fun chapter to read is No. 4 dealing with social combat. To pull it off, a game master will need good pacing and clear boundaries for the contenders and the stakes of the combat. The evolution of social combat centers around events such as discovery or challenge events along with skill checks to determine success. This then affects the current story and nonplayer character reactions. A fleshed out example on pages 173-175 details the kidnapping of local children by a group of quicklings. Dealing with an angry mob at the mayor's house sounds quite fun.

Another aspect to social combat is the art of verbal duels. The rules discuss using a pool of points called a "determination pool." The goal is to reduce the pool of an opponent down to zero. This is done by selecting tactics for dueling rounds and seeing how those tactics play out. An example duel is given on page 181 between Lem and his brother Meligstar.

Chapter 5 is chock-full of spells that allow characters to do battle in the world of shadows and deception. The spells in this chapter are used to outmaneuver an opponent rather than crisp him or her in a fiery inferno. For example, the spell "red hand of the killer" will stain the hand of a creature's killer red for easy recognition and interrogation.

Gear and magic item chapters are a personal favorite, and this final chapter rounds out the book. The wrist launcher is concealed under a sleeve and a dart can be fired with the twist of a wrist. A bargain for 200 gold pieces. Intuition serum can be quaffed in order to sense the motive of another creature. And the lockpick shield can be activated with a command word and placed against a lock for easy access.

The coat of the undercity looks like a beggar's jacket, but when given the correct command turns the wearer into a giant cockroach. The private palanquin is an enclosed private carriage that can deliver anyone discreetly to a meeting or party without giving away an identity. And the time bomb is a beautifully carved hourglass that when activated keeps time until the last piece of sand drops thereby activating a fireball spell that explodes in the room.

Ultimate Intrigue is loaded with beautiful art and fantasy characters. There is more than enough content in this book to keep players and game masters busy for years. This is a great addition to a pathfinder roleplaying group because of the special focus on intrigue roleplaying. If recent game sessions include the same old combat heavy encounters, Ultimate Intrigue will bring a welcomed change. Check it out here.
Sign up for our E-Newsletters