Same Old Love (Reprise in the Pathfinder RPG)


Verisimilitude, defined as “the appearance of being true and real,” draws on a lot of elements to enhance tabletop Roleplaying experience. From the simulated accents of NPCs to elaborately rendered maps, GMs go to great lengths to increase the reality of, and even familiarity with, their imagined settings. And what says a homecoming is for real more than an old familiar face…

Elements of Reprise

Reprise in a gaming campaign, like its musical origins, is the repetition of a piece, element or specific performance. Skillfully used reprise can both build anticipation and provide a stable baseline from which new surprises and variations can have more impact. In roleplaying games there are a lot of variations on reprise and  nearly all of them help enhance the reality of the game world:

  • Returning Monster Types: A specific long term threat is likely to have returning minions of similar nature. Consider the difference of  “More Akrian soulless spotted west of town!” versus “More zombies are about to attack!” in terms of meaning. Application of reprise makes repeat encounters with nearly identical creatures still retain momentum against a larger foe or force.
  • Returning Villains: While slightly more tricky than managing the return of a type of creature, the return of a specific villain tends to lend immense gravity in the scene or encounter. A specific persona allows for a party to really develop emotions and truly coming to loathe a villain.
  • Returning Locations: Areas of significance and power of often ancient and ritual in nature. A reprisal of a location at a later date combine elements of nostalgia and even mystical significance to seemingly mundane places.
  • Returning Support Characters: Informants, weaponsmiths, and other affiliated elements help build stability in even the least structured campaigns. Organized play in particular uses the reprise of support elements to add verisimilitude to highly interrupted and shifting game experiences.
  • Returning Loved Ones: Friendly NPCs, family, and other loved ones all can be used to heighten the feelings of returning home. A surprise appearance  out of their normal context can also shock the party or character in question. Often these characters are more vulnerable than their PC relations and as an added bonus the party often gets to feel like powerful protectors.

Tools for Building Reprise

Setting up the sense of a strong reprise just takes a little effort to do. Some common techniques can be used with any of the above elements to enhance their specific moment of recurrence. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Recurring Trappings: Similar gear can link even groups of difference species into cohesive and recognizable organizations. Additionally, these items provide story options giving the party the means to track common suppliers or disguise themselves and infiltrate. Holy symbols, cultists robes, and the like.
  • Recurring Sensory Information:  A signature smell or other slightly abnormal element can really set up a solid reprise. If characters hear clicking noises right before every aberration attack it won’t be long before they start actively looking for it and rolling initiative the moment the signature sound is intoned.
  • Returning from Defeat: A skillful revival of a key villain can add a ton of impetus to your developing plot. Resurrections, ghosts, corporeal animations are just the starting point for a sinister reprisal. Be cautions during implementation as that overuse of this technique will often time frustrate and anger players who feel prior victories are meaningless.
  • Foreshadowing: Any of the above elements or techniques can also be witnessed secondhand by others or hinted at in more arcane means. The sword used to kill the antipaladin suddenly blossoms rust or the field where the necromancers ashes were spread starts to grow strange black vines. The farmer warns of whispers in the night. The sense of mystery intensifies amazingly.

However it is done, the echoing of the past into the future enhances the continuity and reality of your games for surprisingly little effort. It also allows re-uses of prior planning, encounter elements, and saves overall prep time…

For more shadowed mystery, you can get the Book of Beyond WIP subscription now or wait for the stand alone Book of Beyond: Liminal Power! Available at:, drivethruRPG, Paizo and RPGNow.

This entry was posted in Game Mastering, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, ultimate intrigue and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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