Helping and checks in the players' turn

Say the players want to get back to Barkstone and the GM says that it is a Pathfinder test. Do they each spend a check to go back to Barkstone, or does one player spend a check, take the test, and everyone else gets to go along for free?

Checks in the Players’ Turn have the same scope as hazards in the GM’s Turn–if appropriate, a single test can get the entire patrol from one place to another. Players don’t need to spend checks to help, but don’t forget that helpers are bound to the same failure results as the character who tests. Also, help can be unfeasible sometimes. If a mouse was testing Pathfinder to journey somewhere alone, I wouldn’t let the other member of the patrol help when they’re staying behind.

I’ve only GMed 2 times now, but I’m starting to get bored of pathfinder tests. Can I just move them to the nearest town, or their intended destination after the last hazard? It seems like a dull way to spend a check just to finish travelling somewhere if there is no intended obstacle along the way.

If my players want to get from A to B in the players turn i make them roll a pathfinder test. It’s the check cost of getting there.

You can indeed move them to their destination. Think of it as an extrapolation of the Fun Once rule.

I approve. I do that in most sessions. I use that method at the beginning of a session to get the patrol where I want them. I do it during the PT if the journey has no conflict, but their intended action has conflict. (I don’t do it all the time; I’ve still got Pathfinder tests from time to time)

Here is my key: the player is using a check to “buy” a scene of their choosing. If they can outline the task and/or intent of that scene, I’ll use that for determining the skill or ability which needs to be tested. (If a player is saying, "I simply need another pass/fail for this skill, that’s what we’ll use.)

This means that a player saying, “I want to go to …” with no other intent than to arrive, will probably end up paying for the Pathfinder Ob with their check. On the other hand, a player saying, “I’ve got to talk with …” or, “I want to do …” where that simply needs to go on at another location, will probably go to the location without a check, but their check will pay for the intent desired.

I’ll use a more detailed description. Deliver the Mail provides two follow-on possibilities: recover Martin’s rocking chair and/or escort Loretta of Gilpledge to Darkwater.

If a player or three get interested/roped in for Loretta’s safety, is the only thing stopping them really just a Pathfinder Ob? I say no. Escorting Loretta between Gilpledge and Darkwater is a long journey; however, it could be the weather, wilderness, animals, or other mice are really the challenge you want to place against that attempt. What you choose to oppose them may determine a different test.

In fact, the player might bring their own doom; ask them what is the most dangerous thing which could happen if Loretta goes alone? Consider what test you might select for each of the following responses:

  • she could be lost without a guide
  • a forest fire could hold her stranded in an underground burrow
  • a surprising rainstorm may drown her optimism and motivation
  • she might be captured and held for ransom
  • her thoughtless planning might mean she has no food on the journey
  • while passing through Mapleharbor, another mouse proposes she stay and marry
  • while passing through Copperwood, merchants are unwilling to accept anything but the town’s copper coins; she has none

Any of the above could be the event that opposes Loretta on her journey; each of the above could oppose her (but that would be a lengthy run of tests). So a player asking to escort her could be facing any of those crises. The check pays for the attempt to escort; the event(s) along the way determines the best choice of skill or ability (or wise) to test.

Now let’s also pretend that a player got roped in/promised to help Martin recover the chair. Are we really certain what prevents Martin from going on his own? I say no. Helping Martin is full of unknown factors that could provide a challenge to BIGs.

In this case, consider what unknown factors are involved:

  • his old home has been taken over by a large spider who recently laid eggs
  • weasels now use the town plaza as a trading post
  • a storm felled a tree across the last known trail to Walnutpeck
  • a group of outlaw mice have taken over the ruins
  • Martin’s real intention was revenge against the cloaks who failed to protect his town
  • Gilpledge has no room for refugees, but Martin’s chair is a symbol of community they will rally around
  • the raven uses the town to collect his findings–including the shiny buckle he acquired from the patrol
  • the chair is made of iron and he expects the patrol to shoulder the load amongst each other

Any of the above unknowns could crop up to generate a situation for the patrol. So a player asking to help Martin could be in for far more than just finding a good path to carry the chair.

In summary, find the real task and/or intent and look for the real conflict to determine the test of skill or ability. You can even use the check of one player to attempt engaging a BIG from another player (who maybe hasn’t brought their BIG into play yet). That can really get the team working together.