Rules Index | GM Screen


Chapter 2: Tools

Settlements

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 132
Adventures have to start somewhere, and everyone needs some semblance of a home. Settlements are where characters can rest, recharge, retrain, and dedicate themselves to other downtime activities, all in relative peace. But settlements can also hold their own intrigues and dangers, providing adventure opportunities of their own.

For some players, a settlement may be nothing more than a convenient place to purchase gear and sell loot. For others, a settlement might be a beloved home they’re willing to risk everything to protect. And sometimes, an entire campaign takes place entirely within the walls of a single city.

Settlements in a Game

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 132
Given the variety of roles a settlement can play in an adventure, a Game Master should have a firm understanding of how they work in the game and how to best use them. Virtually every settlement uses the rules for urban environments presented starting on page 514 of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. Those rules are primarily intended for encounter mode, however, and so the following guidance can help you best use a settlement in the broader narrative of your game.

Settlement Adventures

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 132
Designing adventures in a settlement generally follows the guidelines presented in Adventure Design on page 40. However, a settlement’s greater population density also allows for a number of adventure styles and elements that aren’t as common beyond the city walls.

Social encounters are one of the most common interactions within a settlement, starting with the guards at the city gates all the way to an audience with the queen. The influence and reputation subsystems (pages 151 and 164, respectively) can facilitate these interactions in a more structured way. Chase scenes, using the rules starting on page 156, are an iconic component of a settlement adventure, especially in a larger city, where dense buildings and a variety of structures make for an exciting series of obstacles. A settlement is also an ideal place for a party to conduct an infiltration (page 160). Since most libraries, archives, and similar repositories of information are located within settlements, you might make use of the research rules (page 154). Ambitious characters might want to build up their own organizations using the leadership subsystem (page 168).

Modes of Play

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 132
Just like in other adventure locations, all three modes of play can happen in settlements. Since a settlement presents far more opportunities for noncombat activities than most other environments, characters likely spend most of their time in exploration mode. Downtime almost exclusively takes place within a settlement.

Marketplaces

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 132
Where there are people, there is commerce. The Buying and Selling section on page 24 provides several sets of guidelines for handling commerce in your game, but it can also be helpful to have a sense of what items and economic power a given settlement has on its own merits.

In a given settlement, a character can usually purchase any common item (including formulas, alchemical items, and magic items) that is of the same or lower level than the settlement’s. Usually, fewer of the highest-level items are available—you can use Table 10–9: Party Treasure by Level on page 509 of the Core Rulebook as a guideline for how many of the highest-level items might be available, using the Permanent Items and Consumables entries for a level 1 lower than the settlement’s actual level. Inhabitants of a settlement can usually purchase items from PCs as long as those items are the same or lower level than the settlement, with limitations on higher-level items similar to those available for sale. If a settlement’s population is significantly smaller than its level would suggest, its ability to provide and purchase items may be more limited.

If a character’s level is higher than the settlement’s, that character can usually use their own influence and leverage to acquire higher-level items, as they convince shops to place specialty orders or artisans to craft custom goods, though it might take a bit of time for such orders to be fulfilled.

Spellcasting services are available in many settlements. Barring a powerful spellcasting NPC in the city with whom the party could negotiate for services, a character can find someone to cast common spells up to a level that could be cast by an NPC of the settlement’s level. For example, a character in a 9th-level city can typically find and pay someone to cast a 5th-level common spell—the highest spell available to a 9th-level spellcaster.

Some settlements have access to uncommon items, formulas, and spells. If a settlement could reasonably be considered to meet the Access entry for an item or spell, that item or spell is available just like any common item. For example, the dwarven settlement of Kraggodan has plenty of dwarf weapons available.

Power Structures

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 132
Outside of city limits, adventurers spend much of their time operating on their own terms, accountable only to their own moral code. But in a settlement, the heroes become part of a larger system with its own codified laws, procedures, and enforcement. The details of a settlement’s power structures shape the party’s interactions within that settlement.

Government

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 133
The government of a settlement often reflects the nature of that settlement. A lawful, militaristic city likely has a hierarchical government with a single figure at the top, a crossroads market town might be under the control of its wealthiest merchant families, and a farming community might simply look to the oldest residents for leadership as necessary.

That said, the lawful and publicly recognized ruler of a settlement isn’t always the one calling the shots. They may merely be a puppet to a secret entity that silently pulls the strings from the shadows. Some settlements are ruled by hidden cabals, from strange religious sects to thieves’ guilds. A settlement might be swayed by politically powerful residents, such an occult vizier or a political savvy high priest. In some cases, the legitimate authority may seem to govern but has actually been replaced by a faceless stalker, a devil in disguise, or another powerful shapechanger.

Legal Codes

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 133
Most civilizations agree that laws are necessary to ensure a functioning society. The specific laws range from one settlement to another, and they might be as simple as a prohibition against murder and theft to exceptionally convoluted regulatory schemes dictating everything from clothing details to available confections. How well known these laws are can further flavor a party’s interactions with that settlement, as it’s likely easier to navigate a well-documented system than one in which the rules are learned only through experience and word of mouth.

Much like a government, the legal codes reflect the settlement’s alignment and overall nature. Generally speaking, a more lawful settlement is likely to have more complex laws, and a more lax locale to have fewer and simpler laws.

Law Enforcement

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 133
Most settlements have systems in place to enforce their laws. In a small village, the residents might just police themselves, holding one another accountable to their shared values. Towns and larger settlements usually have some system of guards, whether that’s a post filled by a rotation of volunteers or a city guard of professionals paid by the city’s government to maintain order. Most settlements have some way of dealing with criminals, from fines to public stocks to prison cells, as well as individuals responsible for meting out those sentences.

Organizations, Churches, and Factions

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 133
The government isn’t the only influential factor in a settlement. Prestigious organizations, prominent churches, and specialized factions all wield power as well, often in conflict with the official government or one another. Religious congregations usually wield significant power in communities where faith is strong. A wizard, sorcerer, or bard of even moderate magical talent would be a rare and influential member of society in a small settlement. An organization can wield overt influence over the community where they’re based, or subtle control, as the Pathfinder Society does in Absalom. Other notable factions may include noble houses, wealthy merchants, innkeepers, and retired soldiers and adventurers.

Corruption

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 134
In any settlement, it’s possible for officials to put their own interests before those of the people they serve. Corruption might be as simple as a clerk willing to accept a bribe to expedite some paperwork, or it might be as sinister as selling civilians into slavery.

Settlement Stat Block

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 134
A settlement’s stat block consolidates the basic information about a settlement into a centralized format.

Settlement Name Settlement (Level)

Alignment Type Other Traits
The first elements of a settlement stat block are its name and level. A settlement’s level represents its relative size and economic capacity, as well as roughly corresponding to the maximum level of NPC that can be found there, not counting significant NPCs listed below. In general, any common items with a level no higher than the settlement’s level are available for purchase (though a character of a higher level can usually ferret out or custom order higher-level items). In addition, the settlement’s level is used to help determine the maximum possible task level that could become available there to Earn Income (Core Rulebook 504). Both these are simply guidelines, however, and a GM should make exceptions at their discretion.

Following the settlement’s heading are its traits. The first of these is the trait representing the settlement’s alignment. This trait represents the alignment of the settlement’s government and overall society, and while it may indicate a trend, it doesn’t dictate the alignment of every individual citizen. After the alignment trait is the trait for the type of settlement: village, town, city, or metropolis. This trait generally reflects the size of the settlement, but it also tends to correlate to a settlement’s level. A village is usually level 0–1, a town level 2–4, a city level 5–7, and a metropolis 8 or above, though the presence of many higher-level or wealthy residents could easily skew the level of a village, town, or city upwards.

A settlement might have other traits in addition to its alignment and type traits. For example, the dwarven sky citadel of Kraggodan has the dwarf trait, since it was built and is predominantly occupied by dwarves. The city of Lepidstadt in Ustalav has the academic trait, due to its focus around the prestigious University of Lepidstadt.

Following the settlement’s traits is a simple sentence that provides a short description of the settlement and its role in the story or region.

Government This entry describes the settlement’s governing entity, such as a mayor, the town elder, an elected council, and so on.

Population The settlement’s total population is listed here, followed by a breakdown of the population by ancestry in parentheses.

Languages The languages commonly spoken in the settlement are listed here, ordered alphabetically.

Religions This entry lists the religions and philosophies commonly practiced in the settlement. If the settlement has an official religion, that is indicated in parenthesis. If the settlement has prohibited any religions or philosophies, those are listed in a Prohibited entry following the Religions entry.

Threats This entry lists the major threats facing the settlement, such as ongoing drought or famine, political uprisings, criminal activity, and the like.

Other Characteristics A settlement might have distinctive features that affect its residents or visitors entering the city, such as a particular trade that makes certain items more available.

Significant NPCs The final section of the settlement stat block presents the most significant NPCs of that settlement. This usually includes the settlement’s official leader, if it’s a single person. It also includes other movers and shakers, local celebrities, and persons of particular interest to adventurers.

Sample Settlement Abilities

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 134
Here are some common settlement abilities you can use to customize a settlement of your own creation.

Artists’ Haven: Residents of this city have a deep appreciation for fine art. It’s easier to find higher-level tasks involving Performance or art, as well as buyers willing to pay more for art objects.

City of Artisans: Items of up to 4 levels higher are available from a particular category the settlement is famous for, such as armor and weapons.

Magical Academy: The settlement prides itself on teaching magic, and its residents are skilled at teaching others. Choose a magical tradition or traditions suitable to your settlement. When a PC pays an NPC to teach them a new spell of that tradition in the settlement, the NPC assists the process and provides an additional +2 circumstance bonus to the check to Learn the Spell.

Religious Bias: This settlement has a strong affiliation with a particular religion. Anyone who is visibly a worshipper of that deity gains a +1 circumstance bonus to Diplomacy checks to Make an Impression, Request, and Gather Information. Characters who visibly worship one of that deity’s foes take a –1 circumstance penalty to the same actions.

Scholarly: An abundance of public libraries or other accessible places of learning within this settlement means that with 1d4 hours, a character can access a scholarly journal on a relevant common subject (Core Rulebook 291) before attempting to Recall Knowledge.

Changing a Settlement

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 135
Sometimes the characters spend a long period of time in a single settlement. Perhaps it’s their home base, where they spend their downtime between adventures, or perhaps the entire adventure takes place there. In these cases, you might find you need to update your settlement stat block as it changes over time.

Several elements of the settlement stat block are simple to update; you change the population as it grows or shrinks, and you change the leaders on your stat block as different people move between those positions. But you also might make changes that reflect the results of the PCs’ adventures. If the heroes eliminated a major threat facing the settlement, you should remove that threat from the stat block—but if they drew the wrath of a new foe in doing so, you might add that new threat! You can also update the stat block’s abilities, should the PCs’ actions have that large an influence on the city. For example, if the party (using the leadership subsystem on page 168) built up a wizard school focused on crafting magical items, you might add an ability to the settlement stat block that increased the availability of magic items in the settlement’s markets.

Settlements of Lost Omens

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 135

Port Peril Settlement 11

CN Metropolis
Pirate city and black-market capital of the Shackles.
Government Hurricane Queen (overlord)
Population 43,270 (65% humans, 10% half-elves, 8% half-orcs, 5% gnomes, 5% halflings, 7% other)
Languages Common, Kelish, Osiriani

Religions Besmara, Cayden Cailean, Gozreh
Threats anti-pirate policing from the Inner Sea region, opposing pirate forces, supernatural storms from the Eye of Abendego
Pirate Town Port Peril thrives on black-market and stolen goods. Items that might be difficult to acquire or dispose of in other settlements due to legality can be purchased and sold more easily in Port Peril. NPCs begin with an attitude one step worse than usual toward characters openly displaying insignia of law-enforcement agencies, religious iconography of lawful deities, or affiliation with a lawful nation.

Pherias Jakar (CN female elf troubadour) merchant master and joint overseer of Port Peril
Sabas Odabio (LN male human administrator) accountant and joint overseer of Port Peril
Tessa Fairwind (CN female half-elf pirate lord) Hurricane Queen of the Shackles
Tsojmin Kreidoros (LE male dwarf wizard) harbormaster and joint overseer of Port Peril

Otari Settlement 4

N Town
Diverse lumber town and trade port with a storied past and a fair share of sinister secrets.
Government Mayor (elected leader)
Population 1,240 (60% humans, 8% halflings, 7% half-elves, 6% elves, 5% dwarves, 5% gnomes, 3% half-orcs, 2% goblins, 4% other)
Languages Common, Dwarven, Elven, Gnomish, Halfling

Religions Cayden Cailean, Erastil, Gozreh, Nethys, Sarenrae
Threats aberrant horrors, eerie hauntings, kobolds, smugglers
Trinket Trade Otari has a long tradition of catering to adventurers, and consumable items of up to level 10 can be purchased in its markets and shops.

Lardus Longsaddle (CN male human soldier) foul-mouthed and short-tempered captain of the town guard
Oseph Menhemes (N male human mayor) current mayor of Otari, patriarch of one of three local lumber companies
Vandy Banderdash (NG female halfling cleric) chatty priestess of Sarenrae and unusually knowledgeable town historian
Wrin Sivinxi (CG female tiefling merchant) eccentric occult items dealer, artisan, and collector of stories and rumors