Symbols…(Simple Immersion Exercise: I Saw the Sign!)


Whether it’s at an Organized Play Event or the precious four hours at a friend’s house, sometimes in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game we want to get into character fast. Rapid immersion helps get a game moving, improves verisimilitude, and helps characters (and their players) get to know one another… And it can be really easy to do with a quick exercise. Today we present – I Saw the Sign!….

Simple Immersion Exercise: I Saw the Sign!

Chances are in almost any party of characters in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game that someone in the group is wearing some sort of symbol. Quite likely more than one. Holy symbols, noble crests, arcane marks and more are likely to be visible. But how much do the other characters know about them? This immersion exercise begins then when one character chooses to approach another about their symbol:

  • Who is carrying the symbol and where is it displayed? Visualizing the character who bears the symbol and their behavior toward it. Are they cautiously examining their father’s signet soon to be their own? Are they lovingly shining their holy symbol whispering hushed prayers of thanks for the day’s miracles? Is the sign in hand or is it on their shield? An amulet?
  • What does the sign look like? While often times a holy symbol is described at the onset of a game, it is surprising how often players tend to lose track of the detail. Even more so for the crests of knightly orders and noble houses, or the arcane swirls and angles of a mage’s mark. Additionally, the sign might be made of unusual materials. Was it carved in long-aged wood, carved by the clumsy hand of an acolyte? Wrought in gold by the smiths of a local lord? Sculpted by the raw magic a master mage?
  • What interested the character in the symbol? Why would the observer character choose now to become interested in the symbol? What about it interested them? Does the rogue just see it as another shiny bauble to acquire? Why hasn’t the other character shared this information before? Does the cleric respect the religious convictions of the rest of the party enough not to proselytize? Is the mage protecting others from their Order’s scrutiny?
  • Who gave the symbol to the other party member or when did they get it? Where did the symbol come from? How does it play into the other PCs history? If it is a noble crest does that PC have the ability to grant the party privilege in their lands? Are they shirking their duties to their house to espouse a life of adventure?
  • What enemies might recognize the symbol? Sometimes an outsider’s opinion is required to convince a party member their symbol or sign is going to earn the group unwanted attention. Rival faiths and opposing armies might instantly become aggressive or outright attack a party with the wrong symbol openly displayed. Has the bearer been candid about the full implications of their symbol?
  • Does the character bearing a sign seek to call others to it?  If the symbol is a military standard, does the character bearing it have the capacity to recruit? Does the presence of such a symbol automatically conscript the party in the eyes of the symbol-bearer’s allies? Will others try to join the party? Does the bearer hope to convert or recruit the party themselves?

Delving into the meanings of the symbols around a character is a sure road to immersion even in them most benign of times while getting a leg up as to the complexities of a openly displayed symbol might just save their lives. Don’t hesitate to follow the signs to great role-playing and deep dives of other character’s histories.

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