(Update, 2024-06-08 17:56: minor clean-up of some text.)

(Update, 2024-06-07 00:26: I "tl;dr"ed the Research subsystem for people that aren't already intimately familar with PF2E's advanced rules. XD)

From 2021-04 to 2023-09 I GM'ed a very solid group from levels 1 through 20 in Paizo's Pathfinder2E Adventure Path Agents of Edgewatch.

(Briefly: a tale of local constables in the biggest city (Absalom) in Pathfinder's default setting of Golarion, combating an conspiracy of evil threatening Abasalom during the centenary "Radiant Festival")

Along the way, I made (most of) a "GM's Guide for Agents of Edgewatch", and you may want to check it out.

(This post expands my reddit post on the same topic.)

While that guide is essentially spoilers, and the reddit comment contains some, this post will endeavour not contain any, and instead focus on the mechanics, removed from the details of the AP (though there are some collapsed spoilers at the end).

As part of that game, I reworked Book 3, Chapter 1, which provides a couple of (I thought) fairly disjointed ways for the players to gather information:

  • they can ask around the area,
  • they can learn a ton from an important NPC in a position of power,
  • as they further have encounters, they'll get context-specific details.

As I wanted to play that NPC a certain way hostile to the characters, I decided to combine the first two. The third, of course, is sort of essential to the pacing and "game" of the game, but it would be interesting to try to incorporate it into the following.

Instead, I looked to the Research subsystem, and modeled the district and its inhabitants as the "library", where Society or Diplomacy checks would accrue Research Points.

(tl;dr: The Research subsystem is a specialization of the abstract Victory Points subsystem in PF2E, where:

You'll often find that your games could use a way to track progress toward a goal so that you don't have to just keep everything in your head. This section explains how to build your own subsystems for tracking success via Victory Points. Many other subsystems throughout the chapter use these as well, though often by a different name.

In particular, the Research rules define a "Library" where the PCs do various skill checks to increment Research Points, with various thresholds where they learn more information. This can be a literal library, or an abstract one, such as a district in Absalom…)

Because at this point in the story the PCs are trying to hide their affiliation, I went a bit further, and had the players roll Stealth or Deception checks (based on how they were trying to approach the problem), and kept track of a second Detection Points track, which wouldn't impact the information gained, but might impact the number and severity of encounters later on, due to asking around too much / loudly, and attracting attention.

I then restructured the information presented between the "ask around town" and "important NPC" sections in the AP into increasing specificity, organizing them by achieved "Research Points" values rather than specific DCs.

I did some back-of-the-envelope math and rolls to see how they might fare, to set the scale for the research point spread from "easily obtainable" to "you folks got lucky".

Characters who went out individually got a bonus against Detection (easy DC mod -2), but were limited to only their individual roll in terms of Research. Characters who grouped up were able to use their combined Research rolls (I think I took a very seat-of-my-pants "average"), but were more noticeable (hard DC mod +2) w.r.t. Detection. I /believe/ I set the base DCs at (the party's) level 9 based DC of 26 for Research and a 21 for Detection, then further modified as aforementioned. My party also RPed a couple of specific approaches they wanted to take on the investigation here, which gave further ad hoc circumstance modifiers; a bit of disguise further reduced the "Detection Points" DCs a bit.

I divided the day into 3 segments (morning, mid-day, night). As it happened they had 1 day to work with, but only availed themselves of 2 of the segments, in total accruing 9 Research Points and 1 Detection Point.

The following, behind a spoilery disclosure, is the specific progression I used for this section of the Adventure Path:

Click here only if you want Agents of Edgewatch spoilers…
- "0 RP" / directly from Helweather
  - Diobel Sweepers
    - recruit from flunkies and dropouts of Absalom's alchemy guilds
    - *do not* craft: posion, drugs
    - but *do craft*: charm serums, steroidal decoctions, explosives

  - Washboard Dogs
    - namesake decorated washboard shields
      - protection racket, money laundering

- 1 RP
  - Dogs and Sweepers shouldn't be rivals
    - non-overlapping turf
    - different operations
      - Dogs: protection racket, money laundering
      - Sweepers: alchemical goods

- 2 RP
  - Diobel Sweepers
    - control a large number of safehouses and hideouts
    - difficult to pinpoint where their leader is
    - some hideouts have burned down due to lab fires
    - rumors about the current hideout candidates
      - abandoned schoolhouse: is rumored to be haunted
      - abandoned warehouse: is rumored to be cursed
      - abandoned hotel: is rumored to be ???

  - Washboard Dogs
    - constantly on the move
    - no known centralized base of operations

- 3 RP
  - [not from Helweather]
    - You know there are some business that are pretty upset by the Dog's racket, and want to fight back
      - In particular, Rhei Chernaz who owns _The Duck's Back_ has been making some noise

- 4 RP
  - fight in the Lucky Nimbus a few weeks ago over cards
    - escalated into a gang war

  - The Sweepers might be into unsavory things, but they are actually pretty helpful to the community

  - Sweepers are generally quicker, and rely primarily on ranged weapons and alchemical items

- 5 RP
  - The Sweeper's "abandoned hotel" location burned out last week; it's gone.

  - headed by a (human) woman named Maurissa Jonne
    - been in charge for a couple of months
    - has a younger brother, not quite as bright as her

  - Dogs are generally tougher, and have their trademark washboards as a shield (ie. block and bash)

- 6 RP
  - headed by a tall (half-orc) man named "Bloody Berleth"

  - dresses nice, upper-class-like, carries a coal shovel around as a sort of gimmick
    - sort of chimney sweep vibes, from that play "Mary Poppins"
    - "he's a whole /mood/"

  - the Washboard Dogs are the real assholes around here
    - pretty ruthless in their protection racket

- 7 RP
  - the Sweeper's warehouse location is a honeypot, stay away

  - all of the gang toughs around here excel at frightening their opponents on
    critical hits, and are better at doing damage against frightened enemies

- 8 RP
  - inter-gang animosity is a bit more involved
    - Berleth and Jonne were close friends many years ago
    - their first hideout was raided
      - she ratted out Berleth in exchange for reduced sentence
      - he never forgave her

- 10 RP
  - Jonne hasn't setup a permanent base for fear of Berleth attacking
  - this flare up might be a permanent, fatal end to the rivalry
Their results got them 90% of the information available, and lead to a great session where they could split the party, buddy up (or not), have unique (non-combat/rp) encounters, and still get what they needed to know – with some element of risk – without just rolling Diplomacy checks against a single NPC. I would recommend and use this approach in the future, though probably with some tweaks.

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