Archives of Nethys

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Chapter 3: Subsystems


Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 154
When the PCs are trying to discover important information while challenged by a time limit or other interesting twist, the research subsystem is just the right thing to lend their efforts more urgency and weight.

In the research subsystem, PCs accumulate Research Points and learn new information or gain other benefits upon reaching specific thresholds. Use this subsystem if the PCs face a time constraint, rival research group, or other form of external pressure or condition that could end the PCs’ efforts early. Otherwise, you can simply use the rules in the Core Rulebook, since the PCs are free to keep rolling until they uncover everything there is to find.

In this subsystem, time passes in rounds spanning several hours to a day of research. Each round, the characters use the Research exploration activity to gain Research Points (RP). As time passes and the party earns more RP, they gain knowledge and rewards, but also might face consequences or events. Some of these events might interrupt the round with a different kind of encounter (disrupting the Research activity), such as a social encounter with an intelligent book or a combat encounter with a guardian.


Concentration Exploration Linguistic
You comb through information to learn more about the topic at hand. Choose your research topic, section of the library, or other division depending on the form of research, and attempt a skill check. The skills to use and the DC for the check depend on the choice you made.
Critical Success You gain 2 RP.
Success You gain 1 RP.
Critical Failure You make a false discovery and lose 1 RP.

Building a Library

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 154
“Library” is the general term the research subsystem uses to designate the setting of the PCs’ research. Despite the name, the library doesn’t necessarily consist of a quiet hall full of books. It could be an Astral memory palace, a collection of iconographic artwork, or even a group the party is questioning. In most cases, to engage the whole party and add a little decision-making to the research, you’ll want to give your research topic or library at least one variable or subdivision that the PCs need to decide how to handle. For instance, you might give the PCs three different research topics to study, each using different skills and providing different rewards. The library might have several rooms or sections with different challenges to research, allowing you to reward PCs with skills that aren’t typically associated with research; perhaps the books on aeromancy are all flying above the top shelves of towering bookcases, requiring a round of Athletics checks to represent climbing up and down ladders to retrieve them and reach the first threshold. A variety of skills and decisions, along with vivid descriptions, are the key to an engaging and memorable research session, rather than just a string of die rolls by the wizard.

Choosing Thresholds

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 154
Once you’ve decided what your library looks like and how the library and research options are structured, it’s time to set the research thresholds for each topic. Thresholds are your opportunity to reveal intriguing new information and introduce different types of challenges. Each threshold should provide interesting information; if it doesn’t, you should probably have fewer thresholds. Thresholds can change the state of the library (perhaps the first threshold is simply cleaning and organizing the library so the PCs can find the tomes they need), reveal information, give the PCs a reward (like access to an ancient uncommon or rare feat or spell they discover in library’s depths), trigger an encounter, alter the skills or DCs for further research, or anything else you can imagine, but they should always do something.

If your library covers multiple topics, each has its own set of thresholds. You’ll typically want to require fewer Research Points to reach each one and use fewer thresholds per topic.

Think about the constraints preventing the PCs from researching as long as they want, and use those constraints to determine how many Research Points they must earn to reach each threshold. You don’t need to evenly space thresholds—you could require very few Research Points to learn crucial clues you want to ensure the PCs receive and a much larger number to reach the final threshold that grants a special reward.

Library Stat Block

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 155
When you build a library, you can use a stat block to organize the information. In a published adventure, you’ll find libraries presented in the format below. There’s no need to include entries that aren’t applicable for your library.

Library's Name Library (Level)

Division Name and Description Whether it’s a section of a physical library, one of several research topics the PCs are studying, or something more creative, this is the name of one of the library’s divisions. If the divisions are separate topics, they’ll each have their own thresholds, but if the divisions are separate areas all related to the same topic or topics, they might have RP maximums instead, after which the PCs have exhausted the information in that area. Repeat these sections for the library’s other divisions; if using RP maximums, make sure the divisions provide enough Research Points to reach the final threshold.

Research Checks The skills or other checks the PCs can attempt to Research the division are listed here with their DCs, in order from the lowest DC (the skill that works best) to the highest DC. If a skill isn’t listed but a player provides a strong narrative explanation for using it, you can add it at an appropriate DC (usually the highest listed DC). Academia Lore and Library Lore will often be listed in these entries.

Research Thresholds Each threshold lists the number of RP required to reach it, followed by the effects for meeting that threshold. Thresholds are listed in order from first (requiring the fewest RP) to last (the highest threshold).

Beneath the stat block, you can list any events that occur based on timing rather than the PCs’ RP total (such as a threatening message arriving on the third day), as well as any other important details.

Running Research

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 155
When running the research subsystem, think about the two factors that set the pace of the research and allow you to break it up: the length of each round of research, and the thresholds in the research. Use both of these in tandem to breathe life into the session and draw the players into the game. Ideally the PCs are aware of whatever pressure requires them to finish the research, so as rounds pass, the tension increases. As long as the PCs are able to get the information they came for, it’s fine if they don’t learn everything the library has to offer; in fact, you might intentionally create a situation allowing the PCs time to glean only some of a list of special rewards, forcing them to prioritize their favorites.