Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Blue Mage

An archetype for the Wizard class based on the Blue Mage class from the Final Fantasy series.

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Employing the legendary arts of Aht Urhgan, these formidable mages employ elegantly curved blades for close combat, while decimating their enemies from afar with fell magic mastered from their opponents. The art of Aht Urhgan originated in the Middle East and was primarily practiced by a group of elite assassins and military tacticians known as the Immortals. This highly experiential form of magic frees the mage from the traditional bonds of his chosen profession, breaking down the distinction between the arcane, divine, and occult powers to turn him into a living weapon to battle other magic users.

Blue Mages act as wizards for all purposes except where described below:

Hit Die: Because they often deliberately expose themselves to the harmful magic of their foes, Blue Mages tend to be hardier than others of their ilk. The Blue Mage uses a d8 to determine his hit points gained at each level, rather than the d6 used by most wizards.

Weapon and Armor Proficiencies:
The Blue Mage is proficient with the cutlass, dagger, dogslicer, falcata, khopesh, kukri, machete, scimitar, and sickle. These replace the standard weapon and armor proficiencies gained by the Wizard class.

Experiential Learning: A Blue Mage does not keep a spellbook, nor can he learn spells by copying them from another wizard’s spellbook or a scroll. Rather, he has an inherent memory, etched into his mind of any spell that he has personally experienced. In order to cast a spell, he must still choose and prepare his spells ahead of time, but he need not consult a spellbook when preparing these spells.

Any time the Blue Mage is targeted by a spell of a level that he can cast, or included in the area of effect of such a spell, the Blue Mage may attempt a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + spell level) to add that spell to his list of spells known. Spells learned in this way may come from any class spell list, and are learned at the level at which they appear on the original caster’s class spell list. For example, if the Blue Mage has haste cast on them by a Summoner, they would learn it as a 2nd-level spell, whereas if it were cast by a Sorcerer, they would learn it as a 3rd-level spell.

This experiential learning also applies to spell-like abilities cast by creatures the Blue Mage encounters. Because they typically lack visible components, the Spellcraft DC to learn a spell from a spell-like ability is increased by +5. Spell-like abilities are always treated as the lowest spell level that they would be available to any class.

Because they lack the structured tutelage of other wizards, the Blue Mage begins play knowing only the Detect Magic cantrip, plus one Wizard Cantrip and one 1st-level Wizard spell of his choice.

This alters the wizard’s spellcasting and replaces the Spellbook ability.

Magic Resistance: Because of their constant and often dangerous exposure to magic, the Blue Mage gains a limited ability to shrug off damage from magical attacks. Any time the Blue Mage suffers hit point damage as the result of a spell or spell-like ability, he reduces that damage by an amount equal to his wizard level. This does not apply to weapon damage, nor damage from extraordinary or supernatural abilities.

This replaces Arcane School.

Magical Aptitude: Because of their exposure to so many types of magic, the Blue Mage is particularly talented at understanding magic of all kinds. At 1st level, the Blue Mage gains Magical Aptitude as a bonus feat.

This ability replaces Scribe Scroll.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Legacy of the Golden Horseshoe: Session 4

Previous Session

August 5, 1720 -- Night

After loading up the five large deer carcasses, the group backtracked half a mile and pitched camp on the banks of the Rocky Branch. Vicious, the pony, informed them that the carcasses needed to be dressed out soon, and that they would need to hang for at least a day to let the rigor mortis subside before the meat would be edible. With this in mind, they dug in with the intent of staying put a few days.

The older women among the emancipated persons, who after some debate were elevated to simply being called "people", immediately went to work hanging and dressing the deer. Entrails were discarded, the skins were removed and stretched over a fire to be smoke-dried, and the leg tendons were carefully cut out and similarly dried to be used as bow-strings. Líadan, thinking ahead to their need for supplies, insisted that the antlers of the stag be carefully removed and cleaned to be used for trade.

August 6, 1720

The next morning, Rhodri pointed out that in the hot August weather, they would need a way to preserve the meat. He rode out early, and following Vicious's nose (and some licking of the dirt), found a patch of riverbank where the soil had a very high mineral content. One carefully manipulated stone shape spell later, he was able to return to camp in the evening with a good-sized block of, mostly dirt-free, salt.

The hides, by this time, had dried sufficiently and, after being washed in the river, were cut up to make bindings for the women and girl's breasts -- thus relieving them of some of the discomfort imposed on them by the auctioneers.

That night, while keeping watch from half-way up a nearby tree, Tess heard the howling of wolves in the near-distance. She alerted the others and, when the pack neared the camp, obviously drawn by the smell of the five freshly slain deer, Líadan used her illusions to create the sound of a pair of feasting mountain lions. Unwilling to tangle with a cat for what they thought would be an easy meal, the wolves slinked off.

August 7, 1720

The next morning, however, Rhodri spotted another wolf slinking towards the hanging deer. The wolf was gaunt and emaciated, clearly starved, and, with no sign of others around, Rhodri assumed it had been chased out of its pack. As the wolf crept towards their food stores, Rhodri stepped out from his hiding place, shouting and throwing rocks at the wolf, and interposed himself between the wold and the deer, hoping to scare it off.

He had no such luck. The starving wolf snarled in rage and lunged for Rhodri, tearing into him with its jaws and bearing him to the ground. Tess sprung up from her bed roll, snatched her knife-on-a-stick (one could hardly call it a proper spear), and skewered the beast before dancing back out of its reach.

Or, at least, she tried to dance out of reach. The wolf lunged after her and tore open her shoulder with one quick snap of its jaws, causing her to faint from the sudden shock. More hungry than murderous, and clearly preferring fresher meat, the wolf grabbed Tess and began dragging her limp form out of the camp -- leaving an ever-growing trail of blood behind it. Líadan lashed out at the wolf with blasts of shadow and pain, while Rhodri stumbled to his feat and mounted Vicious to take up pursuit.

Vicious slammed into the wolf, knocking Tess free of his grip, but not without stomping the already badly-wounded girl in the process. A retaliatory bite from the wolf nearly felled the pony. Rhodri leaned down and tried to pull Tess's body up behind him, but his tiny arms simply could not lift her. A second bite left the small faerie hanging limply from Vicious' saddle, feebly trying to hold his guts in.

"Get the guns!" Líadan finally yelled (though it sounded more like "Buk buk buckaw!"), as the wolf resumed trying to drag off Tess to be eaten.

There was a flurry of activity and soon a pile of young boys were running up with the muskets loaded. With a deafening bang, the three guns reported, and two bullets struck home, deep into the wolf's side. Finally, with an angry whinny, Vicious reared and caved in the wolf's head with a blow of her hooves.

Líadan ordered the wolf to be skinned and its pelt added to their trade goods. She and Sara then went to work tending their two critically injured friends.

August 8, 1720

After almost twenty-four hours, and the liberal application of Sara's healing magic, Tess and Rhodri woke up. Given the apparent prevalence of wolves in the area, Rhodri insisted that they load up the meat and "grab the cart and run". Everyone else readily agreed.

Climbing a nearby hill, Líadan pointed out how the Rapidan River's course dipped very far to the south, while the main gap through the mountains was almost due west. Leading them over nature's paths, they backtracked north and crossed the Rapidan at Raccoon Ford, then struck out as due-west as they could, following the Cabin Branch river. They made good time, and as dusk was falling, skirted south around the small mountain known as Locust Hill and camped on the banks of White Oak Run in the western lee of the hill.

August 9, 1720

Early the next morning, as Tess was keeping watch, a small cardinal fluttered down and landed on a branch just above her head, staying for a surprisingly long time. Líadan stuck up a conversation with the bird, hoping to learn about any possible pursuers. Sadly, she learned, cardinals are very territorial, typically spending their entire lives in an area not larger than ten acres.

The bird did, however, tell her about a horrible pony-sized lizard that lived on the mountain and which had been attacking its nest and stealing his mate's eggs. Líadan tried to convince the others that they should hunt down this creature, but Tess countered that "fighting for the ethical treatment of animals by other animals" wasn't even a thing, and that they had more pressing concerns.

Getting under way again, they crossed the White Oak and Crooked Run rivers and then struck out to the northwest, following a narrow canyon carved out by the Robinson River, one of the Rapidan's larger tributaries. The tributary was mostly dry after the hot summer and they were able to cover nearly twelve miles that day by following the rocky banks.

As they traveled, Vicious informed them that she had caught the scent of another herd of deer. While nervous about tangling with another stag, the supplies from the last hunt were already running low with so many mouths to feed. While the others kept on up the river, Rhodri, Líadan, and Tess climbed up out of the canyon in pursuit of the deer, taking several of women and boys, and the guns, with them.

With Vicious' aid, they approached the deer downwind and soon saw that, rather than a large stag-guarded herd, it was merely four does. A surprise attack from Rhodri, a barrage of gunfire, and a pair of sleep spells from the mothers made short work of the deer. They gutted and bled the animals on the spot to reduce weight and then hauled them back down into the canyon to catch up with the others.

As night was falling, the wagons climbed up the steep rise out of the canyon and they pitched camp at the top, nestled among a grove of tall oak trees. They hung up the deer to cool and relax. After the incident with the wolf trying to steal their food-stores, Líadan suggested that they set their bear traps out around the meat.

Late in the night, while Rhodri's was on watch, a horrible sound rang through the camp -- like the squawking of a wounded bird, but as loud as a roaring lion. Rushing to check on the deer, Rhodri found a massive half-owl, half-bear monstrosity with a foreleg caught in one of their traps. The beast roared, and hooted, and strained, but could not free its leg from the iron jaws of the bear trap. Líadan tried to calm the beast down, hooting in her strange bird-language, but could not get through to it. Reluctantly, Líadan allowed the others to put the beast out of its misery, and soon its skin was in cart next to the wolf's and its meat was hanging up next to the venison it had been trying to steal.

Having exhausted the initial supply of bullets that came with the muskets, Tess insisted on borrowing the iron cooking pot that Rhodri and Vicious had brought with them and using it to melt down the lead ingot. Keeping a fire stoked and working in shifts with the one mold, they churned out about a hundred bullets by morning, with a substantial amount of lead left over, cooled and hardened in the pot.

To be continued...

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Legacy of the Golden Horseshoe: Session 3

Previous Session

August 5, 1720

While the forests west of Spotsylvania were not particularly dense, with numerous game trails running through the underbrush, navigating at night, with a new team of oxen and the long train of escaped slaves, over hills crossed by numerous creeks was not an easy task. Before long the deepening gloam threatened to make them stop, for fear of the oxen breaking a leg on the unseen terrain. Moaning in exasperation, Tess rummaged through her pack and found a small lantern and reflector that she had forgotten about. Líadan's magic further aided them, picking out unseen paths that made the going much easier than it should have been.

They followed the Rapidan River as closely as the terrain would allow, and made good time. As dawn was breaking, Zibbler spotted a high rocky promontory to the north, which he suggested would give them a good view of any possible pursuers. At his advice, they followed the bed of the stream known as Potato Run to the foot of the low mountain and pitched camp in it's western shade.

Líadan's magic again proved its usefulness for the road, turning water from the stream into a dark-brown, meaty broth, while the ex-slaves dug up and added the copious wild tubers which gave the small stream it's name. As the camp, such as it was, was being set -- the girls gathering fallen limbs and twigs to cook the stew -- Zibbler's keen eyes spotted a flash of bright red from the top of the promontory. There, nearly five hundred feet above them, man and horse could be seen silhouetted against the rising sun.

Figuring it impossible that someone on the cliff had failed to spot their large party coming, Tess shouted greetings up at the man. He vanished from sight, then soon re-appeared, circling down around the north side of the mountain. What came into view was not a man at all, but a small, hairless, gray, misshapen thing, mounted atop a small pony, which was itself oddly mis-proportioned with an large head, over-sized eyes, and oddly upturned snout, and was also a bright cherry red in colour. Líadan immediately recognized them as creatures of the faerie courts, and invited them to share the stew. The small man introduced himself as Rhodri the Third and his steed as "Vicious".

The exchange of pleasantries was interrupted when some of the boys, who were unloading the cart to feed the oxen, suddenly started shouting excitedly. Tess wandered over and saw that they had found a hidden compartment beneath the seat of the wagon, and were lifting a large, fur-wrapped bundle out of it. Unrolling the large bundle, they found three muskets, with powder and shot, tools for making additional ammunition, a pair of axes, bear traps, a bottle of booze, and a waxed-leather scroll case with, among other things, a very detailed map of the eastern coast of the colony.

Having committed themselves to a largely nocturnal existence over the past two days, they bedded down and rested until sundown. The ex-slaves (or emancipated persons as Tess now insisted on calling them) and their emancipators worked in shifts keeping watch from atop Stone Point, but no one saw any signs of pursuit.

By nightfall they were back underway. After much discussion of what paths they might take west, it was agreed that they should continue following the Rapidan, despite it's wildly meandering path, and cross the mountains at its headwaters. As they traveled, the issue of food also came up -- while the wild tubers and Líadan's magical broth had helped, along with the emancipated mothers' talents for preserving food -- one day of camping had largely depleted their meager stores.

Rhodri and Vicious agreed to scout for game. About three hours after they had broken camp, Rhodri returned with word of a large herd of deer that he had seen crossing to the south side of the river. They marched for another mile before they found a ford. Rhodri, Tess, Sara, and Líadan, along with a half-dozen of the boys crossed the river to go hunting, leaving Zibbler, Amos, and Thond to guard the wagon.

They back-tracked to where Rhodri had seen the deer cross, then hiked for nearly an hour, before coming upon the herd. A half-dozen does and nearly as many fawns stood grazing in a small clearing, watched over by a pair of young bucks and one truly massive stag, nearly five feet at the shoulder and easily three or four hundred pounds, with a broad rack of least twelve sharp tines.

They circled around to the east to get downwind, and Rhodri told everyone to spread out around the glade and close slowly. Once within range, Tess lit up the clearing with dancing, flickering faerie fire. Rhodri charged in on VIcious, firing at one young buck, while Sara rushed the other, tangling it in her impossibly long tresses. and Líadan unleashed an eldritch blast at the great stag.

The does and fawns, panicked by the sudden attack, bolted bounding away to the west. The ex-slave boys, working in tandem to load and fire the muskets they'd found, brought down two of the does before the others escaped. The stag and the two bucks, meanwhile, turned to defend the herd. The great stag, enraged, lowered its head and charged at Líadan, who promptly took cover behind a tree, as Rhodri wheeled Vicious and unleashed a volley at it, drawing its attention. The buck held in Sara's hair bucked and thrashed, breaking itself free and goring her with its small antlers, while the other buck charged at Tess.

Wheeling around, the great stag bore down on Rhodri and hit him with a full-force charge with its horns, knocking him off of his pony, then trampling with its sharp hooves. Thinking similar thoughts, Tess and Líadan both moved to blind their prey -- Tess by dropping a globe of inky darkness over the buck charging her, and Líadan by unleashing a blast of glitterdust at the stag.

Tess rushed into the darkness and circled around the sightless deer, trying to get close enough to cut its throat with her knife. Slashing away in the dark, Tess managed only to anger the deer, which reared and lashed out blindly, striking her with a hoof. She circled around, putting the buck between herself and a large fallen log. Then roaring as loud as she could, and doing her best impression of a bear, she grabbed a branch from the ground and swung it at the deer. The buck, startled, turned and bolted, easily leaping the fallen log without even having to see it, and dashing out of the darkness.

Líadan's worked perhaps too well, as it blinded Rhodri as well. Vicious charged back in and bull-rushed the stag, knocking it away from her master, who promptly stood up, groped about, and pulled himself onto the back of the nearest four-footed beast. Which he quickly realized was the wrong one when the stag started to snort and buck, running blindly around the glen trying to shake him off. Clinging for dear life, Rhodri rode the stag around as his vision slowly cleared of the blinding motes.

Líadan then dropped a globe of darkness similar to Tess's over the stag. Luckily, Rhodri could see in the dark just fine. Clinging with his legs, he pulled his bow and fired a shot strait into the back of the stag's neck. The pain of the arrow caused the stag to lower its head, skid to a near stop, and buck, sending Rhodri flying over its head to land in a heap.

The boys with their guns, having taken down the does they were firing at and reloaded, turned their aim on the two bucks and quickly brought them both down. Tess, winded from the hoof-shot, sat down on the ground and began lashing her knife to the end of her branch to make a make-shift pike. Sara rushed over to Tess and promptly patched her up.

Badly injured and still blinded by Líadan's clinging darkness, the stag bolted. Right at Tess and Sara. As the stag neared, Sara rolled out of the way, unusually spry for her age, and caught it's hind legs in her hair, causing it to pitch forward right onto Tess's waiting spear. The stick splintered as the stag's weight bore the knife-tip into its neck all the way up to the hilt, finally killing the massive beast.

Unable to move the large, dead animals, Rhodri rode back to the ford and escorted the wagon and the rest of their band back to the clearing to collect their game.

To be continued...