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Pathfinder 1E How "grimdark" is your Golarion?

Fauchard1520

Explorer
We’ve all heard about X-Cards and Session Zero tone setting, but I'm curious about how this mess works out in the wild.

In your own games, when it comes time to extract information from the hostages, how grimdark do you go? And even beyond the question of torture, how much of the bleak amoral awfulness are you prepared to allow into your own version of Golarion?

(Comic for illustrative purposes.)
 

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Green Onceler

Explorer
I'm currently running The Skinsaw Murders. It's pretty dark as written, and is good for our current group with little need for embellishment or sanitisation.

My last campaign was set in Irrisen, and that was very dark. But that's the only way to run Irrisen IMO.
 

ccs

41st lv DM
Answer #1: Generally the same as any other edition of D&D has ever been. If I were giving it a movie rating I'd say PG13/mild R (general violence) - about what you'd get in a typical action movie.
This is what you can expect if I'm running something at the shop.

Answer #2: You've read a PF AP? That degree. Sometimes edited if played at the shop. Otherwise as-is.

Answer #3: Non-shop games - Depends upon the players. You have complete freedom in my games. But be aware that the darker & more awful you are to the enemies/NPCs, I promise you that your PCs will suffer similarly. So if you wouldn't want whatever you're considering doing to that NPC done to your character, check yourselves. Because I will carry through on that promise.
This approach tends to work pretty well.
 

I ran the Reign of Winter AP. The Irresen parts had some pretty grim implications. The players realised early on that buying meat was... fraught. They asked the butcher what sort of meat it was and the butcher was offended they'd even ask "Is meat," was all he would say. It's canonically no secret that the bread in Irresen is leavened with bone meal that includes human (sic) bones. The running gag was that the whole time they were in Irresen they lived on borsht.

I also got very graphic in a scene where the party rogue is slitting the throats of sleeping guards, but that was me rather than something inherent to the AP.

The bit of the AP in the Tsarist gulag is also very grim. Probably the grimmest single part of the AP even if the atrocities are mostly presented in the past tense. But it's not technically Golarion...
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
I was under the (apparently mistaken) impression that Golarion was pretty gonzo overall; is it really super grimdark by default (even by implication)?
 

You're quite right - first and foremost the place is gonzo. Seriously, you can't park there, it's bat country.

But it does have its creepy/grim places. I mentioned Irresen. It's creepy, Slavic fairy tales. Complete with witches baking children into pies and putting their souls into soul bound dolls.

I haven't read any setting details for Ustalav, Golarion's gothic horror country, but I assume it's likewise creepy.

Don't forget these are the people who brought us things like the Skinsaw Murders and that part of Rise of the Runelords with the ogres who are straight out of The Hills Have Eyes.
 

Voadam

Legend
When I ran Carrion Crown with Ustalav as part of my mashup homebrew setting I was going for gothic horror with a bit of Lovecraftian and World of Darkness feel and elements thrown in. Still I made clear my ideal is Army of Darkness horror (and even a little tone) and not Saw. So PG 13.

Having the lighter tone and human level focus gave great contrast when things went dark and spooky or awful secrets were revealed.

When I ran the Reign of Winter Adventure path there was a whole paladin morally falling thing going on when the Ulfen paladin captured, instead of killing, the surrendering evil NPC Secrets cleric and turned him into a thrall. I was running a game with alignments as supernatural forces divorced from morality so it was a corruption of a good guy concept the player went with without screwing up character power and party balance.
 

meltdownpass

Explorer
Generally I think D&D/Pathfinder doesn't handle it all that well. It's awkward when there is too much emphasis on graphic violence. When my character walks into an area and has to fight a bunch of mooks, and then in the next room there's a pit of dead children, and then fight a demon in the next room over, how am I supposed to roleplay this? My character can't go from battle, to vomiting from horror, to battle.

When my group ran through Runelords I just didn't know how to react to this kind of thing, so it fell quite flat. Particularly because IMO Pathfinder APs tend to be a bit meat-grindery. If roleplaying my character as being shaken & fearful leads to my character dying (or a party member dying) then I'm not going to do that very much.
 

I tend to shoot for a PG/PG-13 rating in my games. Especially since I'm DMing for two children right now.

Most of the bleakness in the world comes from the fact that the general population is ground underfoot by the ruling class. Heavy taxes, leaders/rulers more interested in their own gain than helping others, and no or little chance for upwards mobility. So, I tend to tell my players that their characters should be young go getters that are willing to try and shake things up and make the world a better place. My games also tend to be set on "the frontier" where there are not a lot of powerful NPCs around.
 

Lwaxy

Cute but dangerous
It can get pretty dark with some of the official adventures, however, unless I have a crowd in for horror, which is not often the case, we stick to general descriptions. Currently running Wrath of the Righteous, and up to know that's the darkest it has ever gone.
 

Lwaxy

Cute but dangerous
It can get pretty dark with some of the official adventures, however, unless I have a crowd in for horror, which is not often the case, we stick to general descriptions. Currently running Wrath of the Righteous, and up to know that's the darkest it has ever gone.
 

Arcanra

First Post
We go for PG13/R Rating, we played the Hell's Vengeance AP and that was pretty Over the Top. I am starting to run us through Carrion Crown in 2 weeks, and it will likely be a pretty dark, with Gothic Horror and Lovecraftian influences.
 

teitan

Legend
I’m a pretty dark DM. I don’t portray things like sexual assault but I don’t flinch with darker stuff. Have a hag NPC who is 8 feet tall and wears a necklace made with baby skulls and bones, it drives home bags eat children and all without the explicit portrayal of such a thing. I pull all the stops out for the creepy grim factor but try to be tasteful. We added a fifth player but we talked about expectations and levels of grimdark and as long as these discussions happen I don’t think an X card is necessary because most of the things that would call for an X card really boil down to don’t be a dill hole and really… why would you want to portray that stuff anyway!
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Why is this thread tagged 1st edition? Is it some kind of silent protest against Paizo's recent cleanup of the game? (The tag sends out the message my experiences aren't welcome, since the adventures are run through the 2E rules) At least I can't find anything above that is specific to 1E or even rules-related at all.
 

Green Onceler

Explorer
Why is this thread tagged 1st edition?
I've seen a number of comments online that suggest the setting has a markedly different tone between the two editions. Personally, I haven't read any P2 setting material, so do not know if this is an accurate claim. However, it could explain the P1 tag. The OP is interested in the original setting material and adventures.
 

Justice and Rule

Adventurer
I've seen a number of comments online that suggest the setting has a markedly different tone between the two editions. Personally, I haven't read any P2 setting material, so do not know if this is an accurate claim. However, it could explain the P1 tag. The OP is interested in the original setting material and adventures.

I've only read some of it, but a big part of the "cleanup" is largely having the classic adventure paths be successes (save those evil ones). The big ones are that the Worldwound was closed, Irrisen has a kinder, gentler white witch in charge, Cheliax is having problems (like losing a city as well as its colony in the Mwangi), and Taldor has a sane Empress. There are other changes around the edge (Like, Absalom no longer allowing slavery), but otherwise I'm not sure what's really all that different. <shrug>
 


Irrisen has a kinder, gentler white witch in charge

This gave me a serious WTF moment. I spent 2-3 years running the Reign of Winter AP and it feels weird to hear that this is a thing.

I mean, yeah, that's (one of ) the goals for the AP. And in any given tables game achieving it is a good thing. But I worry that making this and the other mentioned changes to the published setting are limiting the opportunities for dramatic conflict.
 

Justice and Rule

Adventurer
This gave me a serious WTF moment. I spent 2-3 years running the Reign of Winter AP and it feels weird to hear that this is a thing.

I mean, yeah, that's (one of ) the goals for the AP. And in any given tables game achieving it is a good thing. But I worry that making this and the other mentioned changes to the published setting are limiting the opportunities for dramatic conflict.

This is understandable, but political change (especially of the drastic, sweeping sort) often leads to a great deal of resistance. For example, Anastasia might be queen, but if she's actually a kinder, gentler ruler I would suspect that there are plenty within the power structure who not only would resent her rule, but might well actively resist it. Same with Taldor, which is already steeped in intrigue. Conservative reactionaries (i.e. those who want to return to the older ways) would definitely still be powerful. Not only that, but there are huge challenges that would need to be reckoned with regardless: the Linnorm Kings do have a rightful claim on Irrisen and how the hell does a "good" queen deal with that?

So I'd say there's a huge bunch of dramatic conflict available, it's just not as obvious or direct as it once was. Instead we're in the messy business of transition and improvement, and all the obstacles and resistance that comes with.
 

I briefly considered continuing the Reign of Winter AP beyond it's official end. I didn't because high level PF (and DND etc.) is unplayable.

I thought about the the PCs acting as agents for Anastasia and her kinder, gentler regime fighting against the entrenched power structures of the old regime. In another game system it has potential but when the PCs are basically walking gods...

That's one reason I dropped the idea. General burnout on the AP was also a factor.
 

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