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Question

I'm seeking expertise regarding using iconically sexual creatures without leaning on that nature.

Specifically, one of the players in my group has a backstory that prominently features succubi as villains. I'd like to do something with that, but romance and sexuality are not a large part of the game. Per our Session Zero, these topics aren't off the table, but the PCs aren't generally motivated to sleep around, seek out romance, or do other things that would naturally bring them up. Two of the PCs are technically dating NPCs, but there is no major romantic roleplay; usually it is just the PCs checking on their associated NPCs during downtime.

Because sexuality isn't a big part of the game, I'm not sure how to use succubi in an authentic way. A succubus' iconic ability is draining life with a kiss, but any flirty NPCs that I put in are likely to come off as suspicious from a metagame perspective. I have considered making this a background detail (e.g. some NPC is seduced and leads the PCs into a trap) but I want to explore my options first.

What can I do to make a succubus a threat in a way that won't make the players immediately say "this NPC who's trying to kiss my PC must be a succubus or a vampire or something"? I would prefer to be able to use their kiss in some way, but I would like to know what has worked for others.

Details

Scenarios and tactics from other systems might be appropriate, but I am constrained somewhat by Pathfinder lore.

WARNING: Spoilers for the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path...

The PC is a follower of Nocticula's Cult of the Redeemer Queen. She was originally a demon lord of darkness, seduction, and lust, and her traditional worshippers are succubi and similar. However, her religion is undergoing a schism because Nocticula is rejecting her demonic nature. In Pathfinder 2e she's actually finished this process and is no longer a demon, but our campaign is set during the schism, when she grants magic to both sides. As such, Nocticula's traditional followers like succubi are hostile to the PC.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel like this question would be best without "I'm certainly open to other ideas". We're not a website to be used for idea generation, there are plenty of forums for that. We can (probably) provide on the Good Subjective, but I'm going to vote to close this as seeking opinions for the moment. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Aug 20 at 12:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you should frame this as a Good Subjective question from the get-go, and omit the "open to ideas part" (you will get them anyway) - please provide details on what would make the "best" answer, so we can vote to reopen after closing this question. I voted to close -from review. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Aug 20 at 13:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've actually run a Succubus (she was high-CR via Class levels, so I had some leeway) that wasn't overly sexual... unfortunately that was primarily a combat encounter because the PC's came in arms out. She did wile her way out of dying, so I may be able to provide insight... but I'm sure others have had even more applicable experience. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Aug 20 at 17:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OP I made a fairly significant edit but feel like I've kept all the detail you want. I sought to change the tone a bit, so I hope you don't mind. If you would like to make further edits you can, or you can roll back the Question with the history button near the voting buttons. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Aug 20 at 18:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm... Got any more info on how you want to set up your succubus? Are they in-town, in a dungeon, etc? ... 'Cause if they are in a town for a long time, I'd advise Profane Gifting everyone in the town. ... Lol at them being like a Harvest Moon Protag, just dropping gifts on everyone every day. \$\endgroup\$ – Malady Aug 20 at 22:34
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A succubus has abilities other than draining kiss

No need to be explicit when you play a succubus, you might expect them to use the kiss as a finishing move. When I play succubi I usually make them great deceivers, with a distinct goal for which the PCs will be on its road. Their skills, spells and SQ are awesome in this role. For me a good succubus is a succubus that does not fight :)

As an example, it might want to access an item the PCs have in their possession. For that it will:

  • Stay hidden to PCs thanks to the nonmagical SQ Change Shape
  • Use Detect Thoughts passively to determine how she can affect the PC or NPC with Suggestion
  • Use Suggestion to push NPCs against PCs because stealing a peasant is easier than an adventurer
  • Use Suggestion to let NPCs protect her when endangered. This brings out a different combat style if fighting is unavoidable.
  • Dominate Person is awesome on PCs if forced to fight or for attaining the objective.
  • Harass the players and be a recurring villain by tp-ing away when endangered, and insisting on her own goal. PCs don't even have to know there is a Succubus scheming against them for multiple sessions.

While the different spells usable by the succubus are usually simple to comprehend, Suggestion can be trickier as pointed out akixkisu. I personally try to consider the Suggestion as "a wise advice some random guy could tell me IRL". I'll try to give some examples.

At my table I already allowed it to influence NPCs if it goes in their usual course of action (convincing a pickpocket to pickpocket someone specific as long as he's not obviously too much of a threat, a priest to heal a random guy which is in fact a villain, a Paladin to convince their party to not hurt the poor young lady which is in fact a disguised Succubus, etc). For this spell, it is up to the DM to remember that is not a Dominate Person or Charm Person. But you're the DM, you'll take that into account ;)

PCs are harder to influence. I already allowed a PC which had some hostile background to convince another PC to swing at him once Suggested, because he didn't really have to be pushed to do it and in fact he wanted to do it by himself for a while. I allowed the succubus to Detect Thoughts on this animosity while wandering with the group unnoticed and use it in fight. I used a drink break during the session to talk him about it and design this action. It's not always evident to balance that all, but that often make its impression on the group as long as no one dies because of a lenient ruling.

Last example, I had a whole one-shot session with one of the player actually playing a disguised succubus. We were texting with phones and she was telling me what to tell in one PC head thanks to Tongues and Telepathy. The fact that this PC received personal mental messages made him take them into account, and I didn't even have to rule a Suggestion to let the magic happen: he himself was influenced IRL. I think it was my best succubus session!


Another idea following Cubic's already good answer:

If your PCs have relationships with NPCs, make their beloved NPC afflicted by the succubus.

If your Player 2 finds out that Lily left her home, he might want to search for her and find out that she left him for someone else or that she disappeared under strange circumstances. Or even changed her attitude toward him.

That may lead them to a nice scenario trying to reconquer the heart of their loved one, understand why, and finally find the succubus scheming behind the plot. Moreover, that may allow you to emphasize their relationship if they have to search for a cure after their beloved one has been kissed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPGSE. Nice first answer. .👍😎 The tour and help center provide some guidance on how to get the most out of the SE format. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 20 at 19:57
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The succubus doesn’t need to target the players

This of course depends on how your campaign is structured, but you could always have the actual target of the Succubus (or Succubi if there are multiple working together) be NPCs. Perhaps a VIP like a mayor or noble, perhaps some recurring NPC the players care about, something along those lines. If the party has a location they frequently return to this could be a subplot that goes on in the background for a while if the players don’t decide to intervene (or notice that anything is wrong).

If there’s no specific NPC to target you could also have them be a bit more on the aggressive side and have them kill some less important NPCs, which should hopefully provide enough intrigue for your players to look into it.

That way you can involve Succubi in your plot without having your players be susceptible to charms, or having to play-act seduction yourself if that’s not something you’re comfortable or confident in doing.

This is more suitable for an intrigue/murder mystery plot, which might not necessarily fit your playstyle, however.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer should be backed up as outlined by our metapost on subjective answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Aug 20 at 12:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ "This is more suitable for an intrigue/murder mystery plot" Or a PCs vs the government plot, if she's targeted the local king and the PCs aren't themselves nobility. \$\endgroup\$ – nick012000 Aug 21 at 6:06
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Another suggestion could be that she "seduces" them in other ways. A damsel in distress will often be something heroes want to help and save. This is also a form of seduction, but targeted towards their heroic desires rather than their sexual ones.

She could create a huge scenario that would set them up as heroes.

The kiss could be set up as a reward (If she was a princess in distress it could be half her fathers kingdom and a kiss from the princess).

It could also be done as the old fairy tales where if you kiss a frog they turn into a prince, with her being the frog. Again this would require a setup, but could be done much like the first suggestion.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer should be backed up as outlined by our metapost on subjective answers. We're not really supposed to be just throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks; we should be providing the expertise based on games run or played. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Aug 20 at 12:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso thank you for your input and I agree. The truth is this is too specific that I have any experience with this and I suspect that would be the case for pretty much anyone reading this question and as such I find it not very likely that anyone would be able to to answer according to the guidelines. I think the question is better suited for a forum than for here, but decided to do my best to help him despite it. \$\endgroup\$ – Sander Skovgaard Hansen Aug 20 at 12:40
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If your goal is to feature succubi as villains without actual sex coming into play, a method I once used was to deconstruct the succubus trope in play.

I once ran a campaign featuring an evil cult of succubi who were deliberately non-sexual for in-character reasons. Indoctrinated to the belief that they were controlled by their own fleshy desires, and thus less free, they sought to free themselves by worshipping a goddess of undeath, who promised to liberate them from the desires of the flesh by literally freeing them of flesh.

As my PCs adventured, they gradually began uncovering clues as to what was going on: A dead succubus who was assassinated for leaving the cult and resuming fleshy activities by allowing herself to be summoned by an evil wizard; hordes of undead commanded by mysterious figures wearing body-concealing robes, but who proved to be intelligent skeletons with skeletal wings; invasions of the prime material plane launched through portals from an outer plane that was home to both undead and succubi; evidence of backstabbing and unrest in an admittedly-cloak-and-dagger-friendly extraplanar succubus city-state... From the players perspective, it was a multi-pronged mystery. It was clear something was going on, but they weren't sure what, and would start making new theories whenever a new piece of evidence came to light.

Unfortunately, the campaign ended up stalling before the players managed to uncover the full conspiracy, but the undead succubus cultist subplot seemed to be going well up to that point.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "Indoctrinated to the belief that they were controlled by their own fleshy desires, and thus less free, they sought to free themselves by worshipping a goddess of undeath, who promised to liberate them from the desires of the flesh by literally freeing them of flesh." ... So cool! I was totally all about having my Succubi be "can't be fooled like that", but no, giving them more human psychology instead of some weird demon one! Nice! \$\endgroup\$ – Malady Aug 21 at 22:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Malady There's degrees of human-ness; my succubi were still possessed of an alien mindset formed by taking "chaotic evil" to an inhuman extreme, because I like my outsiders that way. I just increased the emphasis on the "freedom" aspect of "chaotic," and let the rest flow naturally from that. In any case, if you're interested in more examples of monsters-who-have-all-too-human motivations-while-still-being-monstrous, I recommend checking out the 2nd edition Planescape setting. It's full of awesome stuff like that. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Aug 22 at 22:00
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You can use words like "desire", and "seduction", and "attraction" without explicitly mentioning sex or having scenes with a lot of sexual content in it.

Take a look at novels written in the 19th and early 20th century. The style of writing was much more prude compared to current fashions, but they still had plots centering on love affairs. They just didn't describe any pornographic content directly, they didn't mention genitalia etc.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The issue is more about the metagame and player agency than graphic content (I've added a tag for this). In one case, the players have had non-sexual reasons to visit a temple of Calistria (that is, also a brothel), where I kept things vague much like you suggest. But since my players are naturally suspicious and don't typically seek out this stuff for their characters, they're more likely to react to flirting or romance directed at them specifically with "what does she want?" rather than "Is she hot?" \$\endgroup\$ – Ben S. Aug 22 at 21:25
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Mean Girls have multiple ways to express 'An Act Of Passion'

For the Succubus, the entry for Energy Drain says:

A succubus drains energy from a mortal she lures into an act of passion, such as a kiss. (emphasis added)

There are many ways to express passion:

  • You could be passionate about your model train hobby.
  • You and I could argue passionately about what is better (or worse): Star Trek or Star Wars
  • My car intermittently refusing to start for the third time in as many months despite visits to the mechanic could evoke a passionate complaint from me.

None of those examples above suggest sexuality (not to me, at least).

My point is: I ran a campaign where one of the PCs played a Halfling Paladin. At one point he chose to rescue three sisters: Monica, Harmonica, and Mnemonica. Turns out (surprise!) all three were disguised succubi, and once he was close enough... they ganged up and each gave him a wedgie.

What can I do to make a succubus a threat in a way that won't make the players immediately say "this NPC who's trying to kiss my PC must be a succubus or a vampire or something"? I would prefer to be able to use their kiss in some way, but I would like to know what has worked for others.

While I suppose one could give a wedgie in a cold, emotionless manner, I (as DM) asserted that the giving of a wedgie was an act of passion. The same grapple mechanic works to determine if the wedgie (ahem) sticks. And since the wedgie was given the equivalence of a kiss, it "also has the effect of a suggestion spell, asking the victim to accept another act of passion from the succubus."

Who among us has not wanted to hear a paladin say: "Thank you for the wedgie, miss! May I please have another?"


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Depending on your environment, this might not apply, but since Succubi are pretty social creatures, they're best when surrounded by other human(oids)... A.k.a in a town.

They're also pretty, smart, and pretty smart, so they wouldn't be caught dead in a dungeon unless it was of some use.

If the succubus is in a town, instead of a dungeon, then they have a wide variety of targets for manipulation... And if they've been in town for a long time, I'd advise having a backstory that she's Profane Gifted everyone in town, including the children, just to have them under her telepathic suggestion, but also because it makes them slightly stronger in an area of her choosing for just being that little bit more useful.

Profane Gift has no cap on the number that can be controlled, so there's nothing technically impossible for a succubus to have Profane Gifted everyone in the world.

But that's highly infeasible even for an immortal such as her.

For such a Pretty and Smart character, they'd likely know everything that's going on, after being embedded in a location for long enough, so things such as "Stealing an adventurer's girlfriend" is unlikely to occur because it's really risky for no obvious reward. Unless there is some subtle reward that the adventurers might not even know about.

And finding out she's even a succubus would be likely planned against, with such cover stories as "I was cursed, that's why I register as evil", or "My parents were cultists, but I rejected that life", or some such. Possibly even a technically impossible possibility is given, but one that the succubus knows that no one can figure out.

It's not like your characters know the mysteries of the universe, right? How are they to know if the cover story's plausible?

Why would she even meet them? Work through proxies, guided by Profane Gift Telepathy!

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You're the dm, you decide

If the roleplay suffers from players not engaging much in social situations, say flirting, or it is really uncomfortable for you and the players to flirt f.e., you could just reskin the monster and it's abilitys.

The succubus could just be a witch, and instead of a kiss, she wants you to eat an apple. Or think about oroshimaru from naruto, a charming villan that bites (transformed into a snake lol) sasuke and places a curse mark on him.

Well, we technically have rules for that with geas, but i think this would be perfectly fine.

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