Feb 04

RPG Review: Ploys and Plots: A Skill and Feat Collection

plotsploysFor those familiar with Pathfinder (and its close cousin, D&D) you can find combat can feel a little dry. Sometimes it can just be “I swing, power attack, hit, damage”. That can get boring. Of course having a great play group who try to add some life to the situation helps, but sometimes you need that extra kick.

It can also be frustrating to have, say, a rogue with an amazing bluff skill, who only gets to use it once every few encounters. Wouldn’t be amazing if somehow you could also incorporate that into your fighting style as well?

I can also feel when playing a melee based character there is no reason or room for having any kind of social skill? Some might feel this is even the reason for having “dumb fighters” and ending up with your charisma being your dump stat.

Luckily Purple Duck games heard your plea and came up with a rather respectable answer for it in Ploys and Plots: Skill and Feat Collection. As it says in the introduction “The feats and new skill uses contained in this collection are designed to reward players for roleplaying, for intelligent tactics and cooperation, for making good use of social and deceptive skills and for playing characters with high mental ability scores even without casting spells”.

At seventeen pages of content, it may not sound like a lot, but there are plenty of great ideas plugged into this small tomb. The whole goal is to bring life to your game and to help encourage your players to say more than “I attack, I hit, I do damage” and instead start saying “After analysing my opponent for the last few seconds I realise they are critically weaker at protecting their left side than their right, as such I dive in for a kidney strike with my sword!” and get them really get into the game more!

With 49 feats for your players to look through and a host of new ways of using your social skills, it really has some fantastic ideas. There are three really good teamwork feats to look at to encourage your party to get working together, as well as some excellent ways of getting more character without the player feeling they are sacrificing the character’s ability in combat.

Such feats as Analytical Tactician really encourage your players to stand back briefly and take in the situation against their foes, rather than just charging in. I also think Inspiring Presence  can make your fighter go from just a thump stick into the actual leader in a fight, suddenly your fighter is roaring on your companions to victory and can make the difference between winning or losing a fight. But all these feats aren’t just for the fighter in your party. Tumbling Strike makes a Rogue instead of just skirting around the edges being careful of when they are in range or not of an enemy, and suddenly they are darting through the field of combat and delivering a rather powerful sneak attack due to your graceful movements.

Balance wise I really feel that these feats and new ways to use your skill checks are reasonably balanced. They do assume you have still built your character in a particular archetype and some of them, especially charisma based combat skills, favour certain classes more than others, I still think there is an excellent selection for any class you want to play. I haven’t spent a massive amount of time examining each and every feat and the possible combinations thereof, so I would still advise a GM check a player’s character sheet before just signing off on these feats. However the idea behind them really does encourage the use more of a roleplay slant rather than a min-max slant. After some examining I had plenty of great ideas of a group of players who are working together to lure an enemy into a trap – with the use for a few feats and character working together to then suddenly have the barbarian charge into the enemy without the poor sucker even realising! How much more fun would combat be with the party working together and using their tricks to get the upper hand in combat, rather than just depending on dice rolls?

There is plenty in this book to spice up combat and I would love to be able to use this book in a new Pathfinder game from the start. It does need your entire group to sign up to the idea, rather than just one person (especially if, as per the advice in the book, you reward players for good roleplaying) but if done well you can have rather amazing combats that really bring the game to life in front of you!

I am quite happy to give this book a 5/5 in my opinion and cannot wait to see it in use in the next Pathfinder game I get to run. I heartily recommend you have a look at picking it up too from RPGNow!


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