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I'm new to tabletop RPGs (although I have been interested for a long time, just had difficulty finding like-minded companions, and the funds required to get some of the stuff).

When I was finally able to get started (we play Pathfinder), I decided upon using an Adventure Path published by Paizo called "Council of Thieves". We have quite enjoyed ourselves thus far (we are currently in the 3rd book of 6), however, I have noticed throughout the books that I'm utterly bombarded with a plethora of details about things.

For example, there are backstories provided to dungeons and organisations, a backstory was provided to Sian (a character who attempts to assassinate the PCs), as well as to other strange creatures and dungeon settings, and even some haunts.

However, for all I can tell, the likelihood of the PCs being able to ever glean much of this information is nonexistent. For example, in a dungeon in the second book, there is an imprisoned bearded devil, who has gone insane and tries to kill the PCs if they open his cell. It has a backstory for how he got there. However, he is insane, and tries to kill the PCs - the book explicitly states this! My players wanted to know how he'd gotten there (after the session was complete I told them as much of his backstory as wouldn't spoil the rest of the Adventure Path).

Are there ways that opportunities to gain this kind of knowledge should be given to the PCs that I don't know about? It's likely my inexperience talking (and it's definitely a factor, since we're still routinely looking up rules for certain aspects of combat while playing), but those details seem like unnecessary fluff?

Any insight into this would be brilliant, thanks in advance!

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3 Answers 3

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The fluff is there to help you as the DM build a coherent fictional world.

First, without any explanation even to the GM, "there's a bearded devil with an intelligent glaive in a cell" seems to not make a lot of sense. "But why didn't they disarm him?" "These guys are devils, why is a devil in a cell?" etc. PCs tend to investigate things and want to know "why," so many times when they do I go to the fluff and let them uncover some of it, it builds the sense in them that the world is a logical one and it's not, as in 1e sometimes, "a huge dragon in a room with only 5' corridors going out of it." Frankly, even if they don't ask, by comforting you the GM that there is a reason (instead of just having a list of rooms with a monster listed in each) it makes you more confident in the game's fiction as well.

Second, they try to do this when there is a chance the PCs will interact with a NPC. In this case, they are in a cell, and can be spoken with without opening the cell door (in fact I am not sure why someone would open the door...). In cases like that, it's nice to have something to hang your hat on. (Not to harp on this specific encounter because you're asking in general, but it just says he's "mad" and "full of rage," it does NOT say he attacks the PCs on sight, which means he could potentially be enlisted as an ally against the villain - a crazy, evil ally, but hey). And don't forget they then get his intelligent glaive, which was a witness to those events. "Hey glaive what was the deal with that guy? "Uhhh...." Or maybe they capture someone else, a guard or whatnot, or they free someone else, and ask them "what was the deal with that devil down there..." There are many, many mouths information like this can issue from.

Third, even a detailed AP is meant to only be the starting off point for your own game. You are expected to expand on it, change it up, mash it up with other stuff, alter it to incorporate your own plots and characters, etc. By adding a little more info to the characters (in the case of the Howling Fiend, the fluff is exactly two sentences long) it provides a plethora of additional expansion hooks that a GM can use during adventure planning. When another devil shows up later, maybe he's not just a random encounter, maybe he's looking for his buddy Szasmir who went MIA a long time ago and now the PCs have a glaive that reeks of him.

Anyway, the actual killing of monsters and NPCs forms a reasonably small part of the overall action in a game of Pathfinder, the investigation and roleplay and all that form a huge part as well, and the fluff is there to fuel it.

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That's really helpful (particularly using Szasmir as a specific example), thanks a lot! I did reuse Sian in the next session (since she escaped the PCs - they actually convinced Szasmir to take the runecurse scroll - poor devil, but that left them without their greatest weapon against the assassin. I guess our sorceress panicked when she learnt of the curse!) –  Andrew Natoli Feb 21 '11 at 22:36

While the other answers are good, always remeber that these books are made so that the adventure looks awesome to you, the Dungeon Master and probably the one who's gonna buy the books.

A lot of things in these books will never happen or be useful, but if they manage to make you go all oooooooh over them, they've done their work.

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All that information is to help you take a generic monster/location and make it something your players will remember. It helps you to give the people/creatures that they are interacting with personality and depth so that if the person was to reappear later on, just from the way they spoke or acted the players would go "hey, isn't that the guy we met last week".

I haven't played Pathfinder but in D&D 3.5 some ways I can think of for the players to access the extra "flavour" information would be:
1. A Successful Knowledge skill roll in an applicable area
2. The spell Speak with the Dead gets used often in our current campaign. The flavour text here gives you the answers to questions you might not be expecting.
3. If it works for you, you could have one of the characters "remember" some of the details from their history pre the beginning of the Adventure Path. Try and make it fit with their character backgrounds.
4. A successful Gather Information skill check may lead to some Old timers in a local drinking establishment that may offer some details about a local dungeon or other organisation.

If you and the players are having fun without the extra "fluff" feel free to ignore it. It is there to help you get everyone experiencing a consistent and logical world, but don't let details take away from your game.

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