Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Game of Skills?

For a while now, my thoughts have been drifting in the direction of a rather severe hack of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. A long while ago, I posted the outlines of a classless system while musing about Vancian magic. And last week I mused about converting weapon proficiencies into skills.

The more I think about both of these ideas, the more I like them. The former gets rid of classes, gives (a little) magic to the masses, and helps further eliminate the idea of dump-stats (without taking the 5e route of giving some classes Charisma-based attack rolls). The latter, in addition to making weapon choices more interesting, gets rid of the Base Attack Bonus...

This last bit personally interests me. BAB is a static value. It is a statistic that does not involve any level of choice -- or rather, it is rolled up in your choice of class(es). By getting rid of it and effectively making attack rolls into skill checks, we have one less random number from which we have to derive other values, AND one less remnant of the class-based system.

So, there is one other static value or class-based value that the game fundamentally dependent on that might be reasonable to convert into a trained skill...

Saving throws

Pathfinder (and D&D 3.x and the d20-system in general) uses three saving throw values: Fortitude, Reflex, and Willpower. These correspond to three of the six ability scores, and, arguably, give greater weight of importance to those three stats. They also, like BAB, advance only based on your choice of class(es).

The extant editions of D&D that have followed 3.x both tried to mitigate / get rid of the effects of these values in different ways. 5th edition made them ability checks, for all six ability scores, as a way to a spread out the value of the various stats (thus reducing the sense of "useless" ability scores). 4th edition made them truly static, much like a character's Armor Class, as a way of reducing the number of rolls made in combat. But nobody liked that. The saving throw roll is too intrinsic to D&D's sense of risk.

But what if we used the exact same approach to Saves that we do to Weapons? What if, instead of a saving throw that advanced statically by class, saves were a skill that you had to choose to improve, or not.

The big pluses with this are that: (a) You eliminate the class-bound static values, and (b) You add yet another element of variability between characters and choice for the players.

The obvious con is that you have to spend skill points on them. If they come from your main pool of skills, then the saving throws water down the potential skill levels of the character, by increasing the number of things he must spend points on. With weapons, we created a second pool, because there are so many. We could do that with saves, and have a pool of "Saving Throw Skill Points", but even with a 5th-edition approach of one save per stat we have only six skills to choose from -- which would quickly make the characters relatively uniform.

So what if we make Saving Throws into actual skill checks? Some might be obvious: Perception check to see through an illusion? Acrobatics check to leap out of the way of a fireball?

Of course, this would require either on-the-fly DM interpretation (or player arguments) of what skills are or are not appropriate for resisting a specific spell. Or highly complicated replacements of the "saving throw" field in every spell description to detail which skill check(s) to make. With the THOUSANDS of spells available for Pathfinder, either of these would be a nightmare.

So, we need a clear 1-to-1 relationship of Skill to Save category, but we don't want those skills to only cover the saves, since that overly waters down what a character can learn to do.

So, 3 skills...


The "Reflex save" is fairly easy to replicate with a skill. The aforementioned Acrobatics skill just makes sense here. It is already a fairly broad skill, having been expanded in Pathfinder to encompass in totality three different skills from D&D 3.x (BalancingJumping, and Tumbling), which together encompass roughly 99% of how players and DMs describe Reflex saves occurring. It just makes sense to replace Reflex saves with Acrobatics skill checks.

Of course, this puts A LOT of value on the Acrobatics skill, since it already encompasses so much that an adventurer might want to do.


"Willpower saves" are harder. There is no single, broadly encompassing skill that would cover all the ways you might fight through a mental attack -- Perception for Illusions, Sense Motive for Divination, any of a number of Knowledge skills, Spellcraft?

However, if you look just slightly outside the core Pathfinder skill set, there is one skill that fits the bill pretty well. The Autohypnosis skill (from Psionics Unleashed by Dreamscarred Press) is traditionally reserved for Psionic campaigns (and, indeed, existed in the D&D 3.x psionics rules as well), but covers such things as Resisting Fear, Memorizing long strings of text, and clinging to life while bleeding out. Using Autohyposis in place of Willpower saves makes sense, and attaches a number of useful (if slightly esoteric) functions to our "Willpower skill".

Perhaps not nearly as universally useful as Acrobatics, but sufficiently useful outside of avoiding spells to make it a worthwhile skill purchase.


This is the real toughie. For starters, "Fortitude saves" are traditionally based on Constitution and Pathfinder has no Constitution-based skills. Likewise, the only Strength-based skills are Climbing and Swimming, which are highly specific. Autohypnosis encompasses some Fortitude-like functions (resisting poison), but has already been claimed for Willpower....

So what do we do?!

Well, it turns out that there are a lot of things in Pathfinder that call for random Constitution checks -- running, forced marches, holding one's breath, resisting starvation or thirst, etc. Pathfinder's solution to allow some characters to get better at these kind of things is a feat: Endurance, which gives a bonus on checks of this kind.

Now, all of these checks have always bothered me as a DM -- mostly because its a lot of random things to remember. Fort save vs. exposure (but Endurance applies), Swim check to resist exhaustion (but Endurance applies), Con checks here and there (but not centrally documented, other than in the Endurance feat. They are a pain to remember and even the best DMs tend to forget to call for them.

Well, it turns out that all of this was solved in the edition-that-shall-not-be-named (4e D&D).
Look at that! An Endurance SKILL...

Poof! Not only do we have a skill that covers all that random shit from 3.x/Pathfinder, but we also have the perfect stand-in for a Fortitude save skill, with universally broad usefulness for adventuring types.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Weapon Proficiencies for Pathfinder

One of the things that has bugged me about D&D post 2nd-edition is how generalized weapon training is, or rather, how inconsistently generalized it is. Characters in 2nd-edition had a limited number of slots or points they could use to gain skill with weapons. These could be spent one-for-one to gain proficiency in individual weapons, or to improve the character's skill in a specific chosen weapon, or spent in twos and threes to gain skill in broad categories of closely related weapons (all one-handed swords, or all bows, or axes).

3rd edition, Pathfinder, and 5th edition all break weapons down into three categories: Simple, Martial, and Exotic. The various classes in Pathfinder each grant a flat list of weapons selected from wide swaths of these categories (i.e. All Simple weapons and All Martial weapons) or a very specific subset which may be drawn from one or more of these three categories. These are one-and-done, you are proficient or you are not. A character can expand the weapons they are proficient with by spending a feat, but doing so is inconsistent -- one feat gives you all Simple weapons, but one feat gives you only a single Martial weapon.

Further, these categories don't really represent similarity of use, but rather a vague notion of "game balance". Simply put, Martial weapons do more damage than Simple weapons, and Exotic weapons do more damage than Martial. Even if the weapons are nearly identical -- the martial "rapier" and the exotic "dueling sword" are identical weapons except for stats, and the simple "Long Spear" and martial "Pike" are likewise, the same weapon -- a character whose class has trained with weapon A has zero knowledge of weapon B.

Then, of course, a character with a given base-attack bonus has that same bonus with ALL weapons that he is proficient with. A fighter, even if he spent his entire 20-level career only using a favorite heirloom longsword, would have the same level of skill (as represented by his numerical attack bonus) with a flail that he would with the sword he'd spent his entire life swinging.  Granted, he could take feats to get a +1-3 point bonus on attacks with the sword, or other tricks, but how does he have such vast generalized skill with other weapons without ever using them?

And don't even get me started about Slings...

Of course, you can argue all day about "abstraction". Blah-blah-blah. But I'm not hear to listen to that, I'm here to propose an alternative...

Monday, August 14, 2017

Astekhu's Journal, Entry 1

To know means to record in one’s memory; but to understand means to blend with the thing and to assimilate it oneself.

169 Days since the Calamity

Awake, awake, awake in peace, Lady of Peace. Rise thou in peace, rise thou in beauty. Goddess of Life, beautiful in heaven. Heaven is in peace. Earth is in peace.

The seas are not in peace…

The weather has worsened; the crew has closed the hatches to prevent the seas that slosh across the upper deck from flooding our space below. It makes the dark space even darker. And smellier.

Most people sit on the bunks that line both walls — five to a bunk. The passengers, off-cast dregs of every nation, sit holding their heads, or retching into buckets. The exceptions are those that had been fishermen, who are used to this kind of motion. They’re trying to catch a barrel that’s come loose from the ropes that are supposed to lash it to the wall. The thing rolls back and forth across the floor, banging into bunks while people lead out of its way and the fishermen give chase.

To think that were it not for those wretched, ungrateful Israelites, I could be sitting on still ground, surrounded by riches, praising my divine Grandmother. Instead I write, and I retch. At least Iousaas and Samira are calm. The savage rocking of the boat must be as the waters of the womb to them.

Revolution the wretches had said. Freedom. I know neither of these things. All I know is that my divine cousin, Ra’mses was drowned. His son, who would be our new pharaoh, also killed. And all those who were his property taken away by his own brother. Lead into the wilderness to be sacrificed to his foreign god. What else can one expect of raising one not of the divine lineage up to such prestige. As I hurl up what remains of my lunch, I hurl all the curses of my mother Isis upon those who cast down my family.

There are screams from above. The sound of fighting. With a crash the hatch falls open and a sailor tumbles into the hold. All activity stops as the hold’s terrified inhabitants stare. The man lies still, blood pooling around him.

They stare too long, shocked by the sight of such violence, but I’ve seen my share. I will not allow my beloved daughters to die amid such filth. Better that primordial Nun should swallow them up than pestilence take them. I leap to my feet and rush upon the deck. I find the deck awash in blood. The crew massacred.

Sahuagin-5e.png Sons of Nun, beings that are neither man nor fish but both, swarm about the deck, armed with crude spears of driftwood and coral. A few more brave souls rush up from the hold to the heaving deck, weapons in hand.

A flash of lightning reveals another ship off our bow, of strange make and flying a black flag. Armed men swing on ropes like monkeys and alight on our deck to fight the fish-creatures. The first and captain of the ship, called Kallaban, unleashes a bolt of Horus’s divine light, outlining one of the fish-creatures. A cat-woman, called Misty Steppe, lands close behind stabbing the the now-glowing fish.

The fish do not stand idle. They rush upon the newcomers stabbing with their spears. An unaccompanied child from the hold, called Pipa, runs onto the deck and strait into their shark-like maws. Her eyes betray her as a daughter of the gods. I pray to the divine mother to protect my own daughters, and rush to the aid of this motherless one.

More warriors swing over from the other ship. A dark sorceress, called Codex, burns the fish-men with sigils of power. A daughter of Mulak, the divine owl, called Silt on the Wind, swoops down from the rigging, raking the fish with her talons.

I hear one of the fish-creatures chanting a prayer, though I know not to what strange god, nor what powers it might be calling upon. On instinct I call out to Isis, calling on her sacred flame to counter the foul magic. Across the way, an old man, called Witherton, another son of the gods, climbs from the hold and attempts his own counter-charm. Both our efforts are for naught, and only add fuel to the fish-creature’s magic, which swiftly heals the injured among them.

A last warrior, a child of Set called Sane, swings over from the strange ship. His heart is as ambivalent as his lord’s and his eyes are deep golden pools. The last two crewmen of our own ship fall into those pools and cast themselves into Nun’s depths. No more of the shark-men climb the gunwales, contented by this sacrifice.

With no new fish-men inbound, the defenders of the two ships strike out with new vigor. Misty Steppe and Pipa stab one, gutting it like the fish it is. Kalliban curses them with the bane of his god.

Codex burns her unholy sigil into the fish-priestess. Desperately, the fish-woman calls again on her god to heal her companions. This time both Sane and Witherton join me in a counter-chant and her magic is dispersed upon the wind.

Witherton follows his counter-curse with a spell of his own. An ice knife lashes out at the fish-priestess, impaling her, then bursts upon the other fish-men. Pipa is caught in the blast and falls. The angry fish hurl their spears and Sane and Misty fall as well. Kalliban and I rush to them, straddling their bodies and bandaging their wounds.

A small white cat-creature, called Easy, whom I had not noticed before, unleashes a barrage of magic missiles, felling one of the remaining fish men. Codex draws her dark sigils again, and they carve themselves into the chest of a second. Silt swoops and slashes. The two fish that still stand rush upon Witherton and Kalliban, who stand shielding Sane.

One stabs Witherton, whose body falls in a heap atop Sane’s. Easy ices it, literally. The second bites Kalliban, only to be back-handed with the thunderous wrath of Kalliban’s god. Misty staggers to her feat and ends it.

With the fish defeated, the pirates, for such are our rescuers, argue over the spoils. Namely the ship. Kalliban wishes to make his mate, Bobby, captain of the prize. Silt insists that the ship is hers. They compromise. No one gets the ship. A hundred refugees are moved to the pirate ship and our junk is sunk.

The ship hoists sail and strikes out for deep water. The storm abates. The pirate ship manages the deep water much better. I find a corner, unlace my mail, and hug Iousaas and Samira to my breasts.

Hail to You, Goddess of the Starry pathways/ Hail to You, Goddess of the Deep Black.
Hail to You, Goddess of the Shining Sun at Midnight. May I partake of Your glory forever.

170 Days since the Calamity

Awake, awake, awake in peace. O Goddess, Daughter of Nut, Daughter of Geb, Beloved of Osiris, Goddess rich in names! All praise to you!

I am woken from my fitful dozing by the sound of gulls. The ship sails around a small archipelago. Silt takes wing and returns with news of a suitable, deep-water coastal cave under an island with a tall, spire-like mountain. A pirate’s haven.

We drop anchor. The questing mouths of my daughters, still cradled on either side, tells me that only a few hours have passed. All are still tired from the night’s adventures. I laugh at this. No one no
tiredness like a new mother.

I shift my seat, propped against a cargo crate. I take too long. Soon my loves cries drown out those of the gulls.

As I give suck to the screaming meat-loafs, the Son of Set comes over. The golden pools of eyes search me. Sensing my fatigue, he offers to take the babes so that I can sleep. I look past his eyes to his serpentine jaws, and decline.

I feel strangely content in the company of these ruffians. I nod again.

I awake with a strange yearning. The cave that gives us shelter is deeper than the ship can traverse. I must know what lies within.

How unlike me.

From the land of morning I hail you Isis I thank You for Your guidance through the hours between night and noon. Welcome to the softer sky of afternoon. Look ahead to the respite of dusk and evening.

The others who fought last night are likewise compelled. Leaving the bulk of the pirates and refugees on the ship, we form up like a pack of wolves to explore the path that leads further into the cave.

Misty and Silt lead the way, creeping into the deepening gloom. Suddenly, Kalliban, who was right in front of me, is gone. I pray to the Goddess for light, but there is none. I sense nothing.

I look around and they are all gone. Vanished. Only Pipa, Sane, and I remain. I glance at the Son of Set and drown in his eyes. I take Pipa’s hand and, praying for peace, step forward.

Nehes em hotep, nehes em neferu. Nebet hotepet, Weben em hotep. Weben em nefuru, nutjert en ankh. Nefer em pet! Pet em hotep. Tu a atu. Tu a atu. Nebet Aset!


I step out into a colonnaded courtyard. A bustling city. People of all stripes and colours surround us. Immediately in front of us a man floats above the ground, horned and robed. The small cat, Easy waves a hand beneath his feet.

A man runs up, panting and speaking gibberish. He says he is a ‘Tout’, a guide. Etain the Third is his name. He makes claim to being the second-best tout in Sigil. To which the crowd decried “Not bloody likely!” His language is florid — riddled with nonsense.

Symbols dance above the floating man’s head and Etain tries to translate for us. We have been ‘recruited’ by ‘The Lady’ to ‘help Sigil’. Sigil is somehow both the name of the city we are in and of the Lady.

I ask if the Lady is a god, to have thus called us here. The tout insists that she is not, and may, in fact be offended by the term. He bids us not to mention it should we see her. There are temples, he says, to many gods in the city. But the Lady keeps the gods themselves out. She is vast in power. Should a god appear in the city, she takes them out behind the shed and leaves them for dead.

The Shed, it seems, is local slang for the Astral Sea.

Kalliban and I pray to our own gods for guidance. We are answered, but the answer comes as if through a fog, or a great distance. Such separation from my mother is chilling, but the mention of temples is comforting. I beg directions to the temple quarter, hoping that a place of worship so distant from my home may not yet be corrupted by the Israelite’s rebellion.

Etain goes on, at length, but my loves stir. I try to listen to his prattling as I unswaddle my daughters and hold them so that they might relieve themselves.

Sigil is a city of doors, he claims. Of gates. All controlled by the Lady. All bounded openings may lead to anywhere in the Cosmos, but none will lead back from whence we came except by her will.
The city, he says, is plagued by a growing darkness and creeping dread. The Lady, it seems, is indeed no god. Neither omniscient, nor omnipresent. She has called us to deal with those things in the city that are outside her notice. The unknown unknowns.

Sane probes the tout for further information. Who might know these unknowns? Where should we look?

The tout has many suggestions. There is a hall of records. And a mage called the Master of Bones, who knows much. Other touts, he says, will sell whatever they hear or see. A thing to keep in mind, as they may just as likely sell me to my enemies.

But, he is for sale. I ask what he costs. He insists that the Dabus, the floating man, has already purchased him. So I ask the Dabus.

Etain, blusters. He seems to have some strange notion that those who are not the gods’ may own themselves. They he is not the possession of the Dabus, but possesses himself. He prattles on about ‘free will’, as if anyone could be free who does not follow the will of the gods.

Sane cuts in again, restoring sanity. He demands directions to a reasonably safe, reasonably priced place where we might rest. The tout suggests that we go to a place called the “Alehouse Drake”, named, uninmaginatively, for the Drake that lives in said alehouse.

Sane fishes for suggestions of where to find work. The tout says there are many without work. A ‘gearsmith’ has created machines that can do the work of menials, depriving the slaves of their honest labor.

Sane presses him. Finally Etain must spend his own coin to buy the knowledge from a boy, called Martin. We are directed to an importer of goods and raw materials named…Philomenus I think? An hour must have passed, for Iousaas was again demanding to be nursed.

The Son of Set then asks where we might find inexpensive, medium-to-low skilled, extraordinarily slaves. Specifically a nursemaid. I can only assume he wants to part me from my beloveds. I must be very wary of that one. He has already subverted my mother’s will to force me here.

Etain explained that a group known as the Red Monks might have a slave for us. It seemed that, with the people deprived of honest labor, they turned to the monks for direction. In their charity, these monks might help us find some refugee woman in need of a master.

The conversation is interminable.

Sane asks for an “honest fence”, to whom we might sell the goods we brought with us from our diverse homes. This Etain declines to answer, unwilling to admit that he is aware of a criminal element, but says there are buyers for everything to be found in the Market Ward.

Sane asks whom we should get to know in the city — who are the people of worth and influence. Etain explains that the various wards of the city are run by a smattering of rival gangs. The red-armored gendarmerie, the Harmonium, kept the peace, but the Lady deliberately intervened to keep the city from becoming too lawful. The Market Ward, he says, is run by two gangs — Tommy’s Knockers and the Dungeon Rats.

Etain suddenly looks past us and his face goes bone-white. I feel the weight of eternity settle on me. Turning we behold a floating, feminine figure, robed and masked with bladed-ribbons trailing away in all directions. She hovers. We stare and she stares back.
The Lady.

There is a prickling, burning sensation on my left arm. I peel away my wrappings to find that I’ve been branded. There is a circular welt on my arm. If we are to be her slaves, the Lady’s methods are crude. At home we would pierce our slaves and adorn them with gold.

The Lady’s gaze lifts from us. She looks to the side, down a street towards the Clerk’s Ward, where Etain had told us the Hall of Records waits.

She vanishes.

I look in that direction and behold a street, like any other in the city. Choked with people. A fancy palanquin, born by whirring, clanking metal men, turns a corner into the street.

Suddenly, a man sitting on the palanquin, stands up, towering over the streets and points to a cross-alley. “Stop Thief!” he shouts. We see a dark cloak fluttering into the alley. The man yells, promising a thousand gold coins to anyone who catches the cutpurse.

My companions leap to action, heading for the alleyway. Codex telepathically demands that the crowd make way. Kalliban flanks her, shoving people aside with his shield. I pray to Isis for protection, hedging out the stranger folk in our path.

Silt leaps into the air, buffeting bystanders with her wings, and perches on a rooftop overlooking the alley. She spots an ambush, two men and a small quadruped.

She jumps down into the darkness…

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Poké-finder: Session Report 3

On their third day out since obtaining their handler’s licenses, S&P decided to go a bit farther afield. They went down to the docks, and, using the money they’d taken from the hooligan the previous day, hired a fishing boat to take them out to the island known as the “Dragon’s Punchbowl”. The inactive volcano was known to be a prime nesting ground for all manner of dragon-type pokemon.

The wind was calm that day, and the two mile ride out to the island took close to an hour. As they sailed slowly, Petra got out the fishing rod she had obtained the other day, tossed the line in the water behind them. She soon felt a tug on the line and reeled in a smallish Magikarp, which she easily snagged in one of the balls Brock had packed for them this day.

Her second cast brought in a poliwag, which put up more of a fight, deflecting her first ball. A full-force tackle from her eevee nearly broke the line, and sent the fluffy pokemon tumbling into the water. Luckily the boat was moving slowly enough that P was easily able to haul him back in after capturing the poliwag.

With a flash, the poliwag disappeared. S reminded her that all of the balls were tagged with her trainer license number, and would automatically be teleported to the nearest pokemon center if she exceeded the limit of 6 on-hand pokemon.

When they finally reached the island, P was quite dejected to realize that she had already used up all the balls she had on hand. S suggested that they should stop at a pokemart and buy some extras before heading out again. In the meantime, however, he still had some balls and wanted to explore.

There was nowhere to dock the boat, so their captain dropped anchor in the lagoon and said he’d fish there until they were ready to head back. S&P jumped out of the boat and swam the 10 yards to shore, emerging quite wet onto the beach. The beach sloped steeply up towards the island’s caldera — the so-called “punchbowl” — and was largely empty, save for a single big-eared bat pokemon resting and sunning itself on a rock. Not sure what it was, and not wanting to disturb it, S&P snuck by and headed up to the ridge.

As they climbed the slope, P spotted a blue snake-like creature winding its way down the slope. Silas pulled out his guidebook and started flipping through, trying to figure out what it was. As he did, the pokemon got closer and reared up, ready to attack. As the pokemon drew in a deep breath, S through down the book, cursed his dad for not getting him a proper pokedex, and tossed out Pineco.

“Pineco, Protect, NOW!” The dratini’s dragon rage bounced off the bagworm pokemon’s protective field. S tossed a ball at the dratini, but it deflected it with its tail. “Geodude, go. Use rollout!” The dratini was soon flatted, rolled up, and stuffed in a pokeball — which promptly teleported away.

After an hour of hiking, they finally made it to the lip of the caldera. Down below, they observed a lush circular valley, almost a half-mile across, literally crawling with nesting dragon-pokemon of all kinds.

P started down into the caldera, hoping to steal some eggs. A bagon spotted her. It charged. It looked fierce. She ran.

As she ran past him, Silas stepped in. “Tamao go! Use razorleaf!” This was, of course, not very effective against the dragon-type pokemon. Nor was it any more effective the second time, or the third, as the dragon leered at the leafeon.

Finally S changed it up. “Use Yawn!” The bagon yawned. The dragon launched a devastating headbutt at the leafeon, knocking it out cold, then promptly fell asleep. S tossed his last pokeball, but it bounced harmlessly off the sleeping dragon’s rock-hard head.

S&P ran back to the boat, swam out, and headed back to the mainland.

Once back in Sandpoint Town, they stopped at the pokemon center to heal their pokemon and check out their new catches. S swapped his Pineco for his new Dratini. P swapped Magikarp for her Poliwag.

Then they went home.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Poké-finder: Session Report 2

The next morning Silas and Petra again rose early to find their backpacks packed for them, loaded with lunch and three new pokeballs each. They ate breakfast quickly, said goodbye to Brock and Jenny and headed out to go pokemon hunting. This time they set their sights on nearby Murkrow Mountain, a popular hiking and camping spot known to be home to many rock-type pokemon.

On their way out of town, they were stopped by a leather-clad Hooligan who demanded that they hand over their unused pokeballs. Rather than give in to such coercion, S&P sent out Leafeon and Eevee and ended up in a double battle against the roughneck’s male and female nidorans.

It was a long slog of a fight, with Eevee steadily reducing the nidorans’ combat prowess with repeated application of Growl, while Leafeon slowly whittled away their strength with razor leaf — which was not very effective against the poison types. Finally after several minutes of razor-leaf bombardment, the two nidorans passed out. The angry hooligan threw down his wallet and stormed off.

The two kids excitedly divided up the man’s cash and then skipped out of town towards Murkrow Mountain.

As they made their way up the twisting trail to the overlook, they heard a low growl from behind them. Spinning around, Silas spotted a Rockruff. One critical hit from Tamao’s razor leaf later and the poor puppy was dead as a door-nail.

Disheartened by his failure to catch the rockruff, they continued up the mountain until Petra pointed out a small tree that appeared to be moving.

“It’s a SUDOWOODO!” Silas shouted, and Petra started dancing around saying “Sudo-woodo, sudo-woodo, sudo-woodo”.

The tree started dancing around and singing in exactly the same manner.

“IT IS SUDOWOODO!” Petra exclaimed.

“IT IS SUDOWOODO!” the tree responded.

Both kids sent out their Pinecos (because bugs are good against plants, right?) and launched simultaneous tackle attacks on the tree, for basically no effect. The “tree” responded with its own, much harder tackle attack.

“Oh, it’s a Rock type…” Silas suggested.

The Pinecos were swapped for Shellder and Krabby and a barrage of bubbles and water guns were met by a countering barrage of the same. Finally Petra through a ball at the tree, which was deflected. Silas followed up with a ball of his own and caught the…

“Oh," Silas remarked, "it’s just a bonsly and it knows Copycat.”

They continued on up the mountain, heading for the overlook. They had gone no more than a dozen paces further when Petra spotted another pokemon, the mountain’s namesake.

She threw a pokeball. It was deflected.

Angrily she sent out Shellder. He was promptly knocked out by the murkrow’s peck attack. Silas came to her aid with Krabby, who was beaten soundly and had to be recalled. Petra’s eevee did not fair much better.

Petra threw another pokeball. The damn bird dodged it.

Finally Silas sent out Leafon who used Yawn to put the murkrow to sleep. After which P finally caught the thing in a ball.

When the reached the overlook, they found a small copse of young trees which had been uprooted and knocked over. Checking the nearest one, they found a sparkling powder lying near the roots which had clearly been gnawed on. Petra scooped up the glittering powder, while Silas tore off the bigger of the roots.

Then they heard a digging noise behind them. They spun around to see a gray and yellow geodude uprooting yet another plant. They walked closer to see what it was doing and it glared at them menacingly. Silas tossed it the piece of root he had taken, which it promptly gobbled up. More flecks of the Bright Powder fell away from its teeth as it used them to grind up the roots.

Silas chucked his second-to-last pokeball at the thing, hitting it square in the forehead. Enraged, the geodude ran at them. S&P ran away following the path down the far side of the mountain, with the geodude in hot pursuit.

As they rounded a switch-back and reached a steeper part of the trail, the geodude threw itself forward and began rolling after them, picking up speed as it careened down the mountain. Afraid of being overrun, Silas sent out his bonsly.

“Bonsly, Copycat it’s rollout!”

The two rock types collided in mid-roll, and went spinning off the trail. Bonsly, at least, was badly injured. Silas recalled his small, rocky tree and threw his last pokeball, this time catching the geodude.

With most of their pokemon thoroughly beaten up, S&P made their way down the far side of the trail and homeward. As they neared the bottom, Silas said “Hey, I think that rock is watching us…”

The rock said, “Hey, I think that rock is watching us…”

Petra tossed her last pokeball at the bonsly and critically caught it on one throw.

Then, tired and out of pokeballs, they went home.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Poké-finder: Session Report 1

So, a while ago I talked about running a Pokemon Pathfinder game for my kids, but never got around to following up. Short answer: that game lasted about 4 sessions before they died horribly while trying to catch a Spiritomb. So, over the July 4th extended weekend, we rebooted the game, with a slightly more light-hearted tone and mechanics tweaked to more closely map to the underlying math of the core gameboy games. 

I'll dive into the new math in a later post (because it's vaguely interesting from a game-dev standpoint), but start with the stories, since that is where I fell off last time.

Note: The first couple paragraphs of fan-fic backstory are entirely a creation of the kids...

Redux Session 1:

Nearly twenty years after his adventures with Ash Ketchem, Brock, Pokemon Doctor, Pokemon Breeder, and former Gym leader has settled down in Sandpoint Town, having finally convinced one of the many Jennys to become his wife. Now 35 years old, Brock has a thriving Pokemon Nursery, where he is aided by his twins Silas and Petra, while his wife is out fighting crime.

This is not Brock’s story however. Rather, it is the story of his offspring.

It was the day of the twins, Silas and Petra’s tenth birthday. A large party had been thrown for them by Brock and Jenny, culminating in the gift of their very first pokemon. Being the offspring of a famed Pokemon Breeder has its advantages — in this case the gift of a pair of highly unique Eevees housed in ornate black-and-gold luxury balls. Silas received Tamao, a shiny eevee who had learned some powerful psychic attacks from its Munna father, while Petra received Sally, an adorable and sassy eevee who had learned healing powers from her Komala father. Ecstatic at the gift, the kids played with their new eevees long into the night before passing out.

The next morning, they were awakened by Jenny who presented them with the other half of their birthday gifts, their official Pokemon Handler’s Licenses, which would allow them to legally purchase pokeballs, challenge Pokemon Gyms, and to participate in Pokemon League sanctioned events. Jenny had to quickly scarf down her breakfast and run off to work, leaving Brock to pack Silas’ and Petra’s backpacks — a packed lunch box, a change of clothes, five pokeballs, and a potion for each of them.

With pokemon and licenses in hand, the kids ran out to start their very first pokemon adventure. The two debated for some time on where to go hunting first — Silas wanted to check out the Joltick Wood, or possibly head strait to challenge the gym in the nearby town of Cougar Creek, while Petra said they should go down to the beach to look for water pokemon.

Petra’s arguments won out, so they headed north out of town down to the public beach. This early on an autumn morning, the gym was not very crowded. A couple of tubers played down by the water, while one fisherman stood a ways off with a line in the water.

Petra made a bee-line for the fisherman to ask if she could try her hand. As she approached, the man gave a mighty pull on the line and reeled in a very large magikarp. With a gleam in his eye, he turned to Petra and shouted “Magikarp Go!” Of course, the ridiculous fish only knew Splash, so Petra’s first trainer battle was over quite quickly. Laughing, the man released the fish back into the water and handed Petra his rod.

Silas, meanwhile, had wandered down to the water, rolled up his pants-legs, and was wading and splashing with Tamao. Suddenly, he cried out in pain and kicked his foot in the air, launching the krabby that had pinched him out onto the sand. With an angry clacking of pincers, it scuttled towards him, blowing bubbles.

“Tamao, use Yawn!”

Well, that didn’t take long. The krabby was soon sleeping peacefully in a pokeball.

Petra, running over to watch, stubbed her toe on something just beneath the sand and tripped. Scrambling to her feet, she spun around to see a wild shellder (these pokemon are hazardous). Sally was soon dripping from multiple water-gun attacks, but the shellder was caught.

Excited by their new pokemon, S & P moved further up the beach to eat their lunches, then decided to head to the Joltik Woods to see what they could catch there. As they turned to leave, they were confronted by a young boy wearing an innertube. The boy, Jude, lived near them and was clearly too young to be a licensed pokemon handler, but, had an oddly determined look on his face.

“You’ve got pokeballs! That means you can’t refuse a challenge,” he told Silas. “Tentacool go!”
While it was not absolutely true that a licensed handler could not refuse a challenge, Silas was eager to try out a trainer battle, even if only against a kid with a family pet cum secondary flotation device. A single critical hit with Tamao’s covet attack dropped the poor jellyfish in one blow. Jude did not seem at all bothered by his quick defeat however.

“Thanks!” he said excitedly, then tossing a small silver bell to Silas, “here, I found this down by the water this morning.”

Petra gave Silas a spare ribbon from Sally and he tied the soothing bell around Tamao’s neck. The two then waved goodbye to the boy and ran through town, eager to check out the woods.

A couple hours later, they were wandering through the Joltick Woods in the shadow of Murkrow Roost Mountain, their eevees out and walking beside them, when a massive murmuration of starly swooped and danced across the sky before alighting on every possible tree-branch.

Sally shuddered in anticipation at the massive flock, but Petra’s eyes lit up. “Let’s catch some! Sally, Growl attack!” Silas was clearly on the same wavelength as he almost simultaneously shouted “Tamao, use Synchronoise!”

The pair of eevees set off a near-deafening cacophony, which definitely caught the bird pokemons’ attention. Ten starlies broke off from the group and dive-bombed them.

Sally was badly injured and Tamao was nearly overwhelmed. The two children recalled their eevees into their pokeballs and ran, hard. Covering their heads with the arms and dodging between trees to avoid the vicious pecking of the birds.

They ran, and ran, and ran, without thought of distance or direction. Anything to get away from the enraged flock. Finally they burst into a clearing and fell down on the grass, gasping for air. The birds having left off the pursuit some time ago.

After catching their breath, S & P stood up and looked around. It was getting late already, and they realized that they had no idea where they were. “Maybe we should just stay here,” Petra suggested.
In the middle of the clearing was a large moss-covered stone. Petra released Sally from her ball and the eevee immediately began sniffing around the rock excitedly, then climbed up on top and lay down to rest on the soft moss. Silas followed suit, and soon they released all four pokemon to rest and play around the rock. The children ate what was left of their lunches and looked up at the evening sky, trying to get their bearings from the angle of the setting sun.

As they rested and recovered, Silas thought he spotted a pokeball lying in the grass. Moving to pick it up, he found, instead a strange mushroom-like pokemon. “Eevee go!” he called, pulling out a pokeball to catch this new creature. The tired eevee let out a Yawn, which was plenty to catch the foongus.

Then Tamao started glowing a strange green color. The mossy rock began glowing as well. Everyone scattered, afraid of what might be happening. Then, before their very eyes, Tamao evolved into a Leafeon!

“That rocks an evolution stone!” Petra said. Then, quickly recalled Sally into her pokeball in case she might start to change as well.

Moments later, the metamorphosis was complete. Silas was thoroughly excited at this sudden turn of events with his Tamao. “Come on,” he said pointing at the setting sun, “we should try to get home before its completely dark. We just have to head towards the sun.” They jogged through the woods until it was quite dark before finally exiting on the western end. With the old lighthouse now in sight, they were easily able to make it to the road and follow it back to Sandpoint.

As they walked, they passed a large pine tree, unusually laden with pinecones for the season. “Not pine cones,” Silas said, “those are Pineco!” And indeed they were. S & P both managed to catch one before heading home to sleep.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cinderella meets Don Corleone

Because I was bored...a prestige class for the Pathfinder Role-playing game. Intended for use with my take on the warlock class, but usable by any character that wants prefers spell-like abilities over spells.

A note on the "race" requirement. Within my Beyond the Shore setting, anything that is not a Human qualifies as a "Faerie". If you are playing in a more traditional high-fantasy setting but want to keep the Faerie-flavor, you may want to change this to requiring the Fey creature type or the Elf subtype, or whatever sub-set or superset of creatures you consider to be "Faeries".

The Faerie Godparent

No personal advantages will suffice without proper connections. — Charles Perrault

Faerie Godparents are enigmatic fae beings who choose to act as mentor, protector, and benefactor to one or more mortals, in the role that an actual godparent is expected to play in many societies. Faerie Godparents act in a manner atypical of their kind; they are preoccupied with the character and fortunes of their mortal protegees, often going so far as to oppose other members of their court to do so. Fairy Godparents give their mortal protegees advice, manipulate fate in their favor, and shower them with gifts (though being made by fae magic, these are often fleeting), and in exchange they demand the respect and love of their “children”. A Faerie Godparent knows that having the right connections can sometimes solve things that magic cannot, and is thus always working to grease both palms and wheels of politics.

Hit Die: d8


Race: May not have the Human subtype.
Skills: Diplomacy 8 ranks, Knowledge (nobility) 8 ranks, Perform (any one) 5 ranks
Feats: Leadership, Any 2 Teamwork Feats
Special: Must be able to use spell-like abilities, one of which must duplicate a spell of 3rd-level or higher.

Class Skills
The Fairy Godparent’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Acrobatics (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disguise (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Fly (Dex), Knowledge (local) (Int), Knowledge (nature) (Int), Knowledge (nobility) (Int), Perception (Wis), Perform (Cha), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Stealth (Dex), Swim (Str), and Use Magic Device (Cha).
  • Skill Ranks per Level: 6 + Int modifier.
Level BAB Fort Ref Will Special
1 +0 +0 +1 +1 Welcome to the Family, An Offer You Can’t Refuse, Faerie Gifts
2 +1 +1 +1 +1 Watch Over Your Children, Bonus Feat
3 +2 +1 +2 +2 Faerie Don, Coordination 1/day
4 +3 +1 +2 +2 Faerie Glamour
5 +3 +2 +3 +3 Coordination 2/day
6 +4 +2 +3 +3 Bonus Feat
7 +5 +2 +4 +4 Coordination 3/day
8 +6 +3 +4 +4 Improved Faerie Glamour
9 +6 +3 +5 +5 Coordination 4/day
10 +7 +3 +5 +5 As You Wish, Bonus Feat

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The Faerie Godparent gains no additional proficiency with weapons or armor.

Spell-like Abilities (Sp): The caster level for all of a Faerie Godparent’s spell-like abilities is equal to his Faerie Godparent class level, plus his Warlock class levels (if any). The DCs of any saving throws against a Faerie Godparent’s spell-like abilities are always equal to 10 + 1/2 his combined Faerie Godparent and Warlock levels + his Charisma modifier. Each spell-like ability may be used a number of times per day equal to his Charisma modifier (minimum 1/day).

Welcome to the Family (Ex): At 1st level a Faerie Godparent may designate a number of mortal protegees equal to his Faerie Godparent level plus his Charisma modifier. Faerie Godparents are remarkably less fickle than their peers, and once a mortal has thus been designated as a godchild, they remain so until death. When using the Aid Another action to assist one of his godchildren, the Faerie Godparent may do so as a move action, rather than a standard action and increases the bonus granted to his godchild by an amount equal to his Charisma modifier. Any cohorts granted by the Leadership feat automatically counts as a godchild and does not count against the limit of godchildren the Faerie Godparent may have.

An Offer Your Can’t Refuse (Sp): Once a Faerie Godparent chooses to take a mortal under his wing, he does not take no for an answer. Beginning at 1st level, the Faerie Godparent gains the following spell-like abilities at the listed levels: 1st level— Beguiling Gift; 2nd level— Unnatural Lust; 3rd level— Oathbind; 4th level— Indisputable Fact; 5th level— Discern Lies; 6th level— Dream; 7th level— Gaes/Quest; 8th level— Mass Demanding Message; 9th level— Sympathy; and 10th level— Overwhelming Presence. The Faerie Godparent’s Godchildren suffer a -2 penalty on saving throws against these effects.

Faerie Gifts (Sp): The Faerie Godparent learns a number of magical abilities by which he can bestow lavish, yet fleeting gifts upon his mortal protegees. Beginning at 1st level, the Faerie Godparent gains the following spell-like abilities at the listed levels: 1st level— Fool’s Gold; 2nd level— Polypurpose Panacea; 3rd level— Make Whole; 4th level — Conjure Carriage; 5th level— Minor Creation; 6th level— Major Creation; 7th level— Heroes’ Feast; 8th level— Shadow Terrain; 9th level— Polymorph Any Object; and 10th level— Resplendent Mansion.

Bonus Feats (Ex): At 2nd level, and again at 6th level and 10th level, the Faerie Godparent gains a bonus feat from the following list: Bodyguard, Center of Power, Enlarge Spell-like Ability, Extend Spell-like Ability, Extra Cohort, Guild Emissary, In Harm’s Way, Insightful Advice, Major Spell Expertise, Minor Spell Expertise, Practiced Leader, Quicken Spell-like Ability, Underworld Connections, or any Teamwork Feat.
The Faerie Godparent must meet all the normal prerequisites of the bonus feats selected.

Watch Over Your Children (Su): Beginning at 2nd level, the Faerie Godparent constantly monitors the safety and well-being of his mortal protegees. The Faerie Godparent is able to continually monitor his Godchildren as if they were affected by a continuous Status (as the spell). Should the Status effect be somehow dispelled, the connection is automatically re-established the next time the Faerie Godparent comes into contact with the Godchild.

Faerie Don (Ex): Starting at 3rd level, the Faerie Godparent’s extensive network of connections allow him to bring some of the true might of the Faerie Courts to bear. Whenever the Faerie Godparent would attract new followers from the Leadership feat, he may choose to attract Fey creatures with a Challenge Rating equal to the level of follower he would attract, in place of a normal follower.

Coordination (Ex): Starting at 3rd level, as a standard action, the Faerie Godparent can grant any Teamwork feat he knows to all of his Godchildren within 60 feet who can see and hear him as a bonus feat. Godchildren retain the use of this bonus feat for a number of rounds equal to the Faerie Godparent’s class level. The Godchildren do not need to meet the prerequisites of these bonus feats. The Faerie Godparent can use this ability once per day at 3rd level, plus one additional time per day every two levels thereafter.

Faerie Glamour (Su): Beginning at 4th level, the Faerie Godparent learns to alter his form in order to fulfill the expectations of his protegees. At 4th level, the Faerie Godparent is under the effects of a constant Glamour (as the spell). If this effect is somehow dispelled, the Faerie Godparent can re-establish the Glamour as a swift action, at will.

Beginning at 8th level, the Faerie Godparent also benefits from a continuous Adjustable Polymorph, allowing him to alter his form to that of any humanoid creature (as per the Alter Self spell) as a swift action. This is in addition to the benefits of the Glamour.

As You Wish (Sp): At 10th level, the Faerie Godparent gains the ability to grant wishes to his mortal protegees. The Faerie Godparent can cast Limited Wish as a spell-like ability. He may only use this ability when within 30 feet of one of his Godchildren, and at their express request.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Gourmand Archetypes: The Confectioner

Recently I've been experimenting with expanding the Gourmand class I created for Pathfinder with a number of Archtypes. Here is the fifth, there shall be more to follow... 

This one borrows heavily from one of the very few cannibalism-specific archetypes published by Paizo the Gingerbread Witch from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Horror Adventures supplement. It also plays a bit on the idea of Mellification (or Honey-Mummies) which I have mentioned on this blog before.

An Archetype of the Gourmand class.
These lovers of sweets are also tempters, seducing or tricking others into joining them in their sugar-laced cannibalism, either as fellow partakers or perhaps as the main course.

Consume: In order to use his Consume ability, the confectioner must render the components of the creature’s body (grinding the bones to mix with flour, rendering the fat for shortening, etc) and bake them into a sweet treat of some kind. This is much more labor intensive than a typical Gourmand, taking 2d4 hours (instead of the usual 1 hour), and requires access to a ready supply of sugar, honey, or other sweeteners. A Confectioner does not gain creature loresight from consuming a foe.
This modifies the Consume ability.

Cauldron Cook (Ex): At 2nd-level, a confectioner gains the Cauldron and Child-Scent witch hexes. These function as a witch of the gourmand’s level. For the purpose of brewing potions, the Confectioner is treated as if he knew all 1st-level spells from the Witch spell list. At 8th-level this expands to include all 2nd-level spells from the Witch spell list, and at 14th-level this expands to include all 3rd-level witch spells. When brewing potions with his cauldron, he can create small candies, pastries, or similar edible items identical in effect and application to normal potions. At 11th level, he gains the Cook People hex.

Tricky Treats (Sp): At 5th level, a confectioner learns a unique ability that lets him create a piece of candy or a similar sweet as a full-round action. If eaten by the confectioner or a single creature she designates when she creates it, the sweet functions as either a single Goodberry or a Polypurpose Panacea (as determined at creation).

Anyone else that eats the sweet becomes nauseated (Fort DC 10 + 1/2 the gourmand’s level + the gourmand’s Charisma modifier negates); a creature nauseated by the sweet can attempt a new saving throw each round at the end of its turn to end this effect.

A confectioner can create a number of sweets each day equal to his Charisma modifier + his level. These sweets retain their potency for 24 hours and then turn to crumbs.

Horrible Hunger (Sp): At 17th level, a confectioner can affect a target as if she had cast Feast of Ashes on it (Fort DC 10 + 1/2 the gourmand’s level + the gourmand’s Charisma modifier negates). This hunger is so intense that any creature can offer the target food as a standard action and the target is compelled to eat it, as if the creature offering it had cast Beguiling Gift (DC as above). The Confectioner can use this ability a number of times per day equal to his Charisma modifier (minimum 1/day).

Cauldron Cook, Tricky Treats, and Horrible Hunger replace all instances of the Acquire Skill ability.

Mellify Corpse (Sp): Starting at 6th level, a confectioner can transform a corpse into an undead creature as per the spell Animate Dead by bathing the corpse in raw honey. This ability can be used at-will, with a casting time of 1 hour, and requires 250 gp (10 gallons) of honey per hit die of the undead to be created as a material component. Starting at 12th level, this ability functions as per the spell Create Undead.

At any time, the Confectioner may choose to feed on one of his Mellified Corpses. Each successful bite attack the Confectioner makes against a Mellified Corpse benefits him as per the Cook People hex. The first time the Confectioner feeds on one of his Mellified Corpses, he relinquishes control of that undead creature and it immediately becomes hostile (after the first successful bite attack against it).

This replaces the Acquire Feat abilities gained at 6th and 12th levels.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Some Thoughts on Slings

File under: Random rant about D&D things that bug me...

Disclaimer: I don't personally know how to use a sling, because they are hard, and that is the point...

Of all the weapons that appear in the D&D game, the humble sling may be the most mis-represented. This all probably started with G.G. making slings the only ranged weapon available to Thieves in AD&D, with an eye towards his own vision of Thieves as an 'urban' class -- despite the fact that slings are a very pre-urban weapon and traditionally associated with rural shepherds.

This carried over through many versions of D&D, and, mostly from the view of keeping the original Thiefly weapon selections the sling was classified as a "Simple" weapon in modern (3.x and later) D&D and given very low accurate range and low damage output. All of these things are just...wrong. The weapon described in the D&D game is clearly not a sling, it is a "slingshot" -- which is extremely anachronistic to most D&D settings since the slingshot did not (and could not) exist prior to the invention of vulcanized rubber (1839).

First, let's address the modern classification as "Simple" weapon. Excluding weapons which are simply thrown, ranged weapons in D&D basically fall into three categories: crossbows, bows, and the sling. The crossbow is fired by pointing it at a target, siting along the stock, and pulling a trigger -- the simplest possible method of attack. This is a simple weapon. The bow is similarly intuitive, knock, draw, release -- though it requires more practice to do accurately. This is a martial weapon.

Accurate use of a sling requires the user to stand 60-degrees off from their target (rather than pointing strait at them), nest the bullet, rotate multiple times to generate speed, then release at exactly the right moment in the arc to send the bullet towards the target. Because of the rotation of the sling, any minor variation (early or late) in the release timing will result in missing the target entirely. This is not intuitive, and requires much more training and practice than accurately using a bow. While the sling may have been "common" in ancient warfare, it is by no means "simple". In sufficiently early settings where they were in major use the sling might be considered a "Martial" weapon, but, by virtue of difficulty of use, should probably be classified as "Exotic".

Secondly, there is the issue of range. Pathfinder lists the sling's range as a 50-ft. range increment (compared to 100 ft. for a longbow or even 60-ft. for a shortbow). Procopius's "Wars of Justinian", the writer implies that the Roman slings had greater range than the bows used by the Huns, and other ancient writers repeatedly stress the slings advantage of range over bows. Modern tests have shown that, with a high trajectory, a sling can have an effective range of more than 1200 feet (a range only matched in testing by high draw-weight, high trajectory composite bows). Weapons in Pathfinder can be fired a maximum 10 range increments, which, if we go by the 1200-ft. number, puts the range increment for a Sling at 120-ft. (rather than a mere 50-ft.) which fits with accounts of it out-ranging a bow.

Then there is the matter of damage-output. 3e D&D and Pathfinder list the sling's damage as a meager 1d4 (less than a thrown club -- which is less dense, fast, or aerodynamic than a lead sling bullet). Everyone is familiar with the story of David and Goliath (a boy taking out an armored giant with a single well-placed sling bullet) -- but that can be easily written off as a critical hit / divine smite / etc. However, the late Roman writer Vegetius gives an argument that slings, in general are more devastating than bows (in addition to the better range), writing in his "De Re Militari":
"Soldiers, notwithstanding their defensive armour, are often more annoyed by the round stones from the sling than by all the arrows of the enemy. Stones kill without mangling the body, and the contusion is mortal without loss of blood."
Numerous accounts of both men and beasts (lions, bears, etc.) being slain by a single (long range) shot from a sling exist. Implying that the weapon is at least as deadly as a bow or crossbow. Both bows and crossbows deal 1d8 damage in D&D, so it stands to reason that a sling bullet should deal at least that much.

Further, Vegetius writes:
"There is the greater reason for instructing all troops, without exception, in this exercise, as the sling cannot be reckoned any encumbrance, and often is of the greatest service, especially when they are obliged to engage in stony places, to defend a mountain or an eminence, or to repulse an enemy at the attack of a castle or city."
So, you've got a weapon that weighs practically nothing, fits in your pocket, has near infinite readily available ammunition just lying on the ground (though cast lead bullets are better), can be rapidly manufactured from simple materials, has range better than a bow, and is just as deadly (if not moreso) than other available ranged weapons. Why would anyone use anything else?

Because (and this gets back to the first classification point), it is hard to learn to use. Slings are an Exotic weapon, that takes extra training (read Feat or Proficiency slots) to learn to use effectively. Any random yokel (Thief, Wizard, etc.) can't just pick this thing up and use it with any level of success.

So, for you Pathfinder playing people, here is the corrected entry for the weapons table:

Ranged Weapons
CostDmg (S)Dmg (M)CriticalRangeWeight1Type2SpecialSource
Sling--1d61d8x3120 ft.--BPRG:CRB

If you need mechanical justification for why it's "Exotic" despite having damage output set at the same as a bow. (1) The range is longer. (2) It costs nothing and weighs nothing (which is a huge advantage in resource-strapped campaigns).

Gourmand Archetypes: The Monster Chef

Recently I've been experimenting with expanding the Gourmand class I created for Pathfinder with a number of Archtypes. Here is the fourth, there shall be more to follow... 

Themes of cannibalism and eating intelligent monsters to gain their powers show up here and there throughout Pathfinder products. While Dreamscarred Press's Path of War: Expanded does not have any rules specifically oriented towards eating-as-power, it does introduce (in some detail) a martial order dedicated to cooking exotic monsters -- which closely mirrors some of the ideas presented in the Gourmand class. This Archetype modifies the Gourmand to fit the Ordre des Repas Exotiques and uses rules from Path of War and Path of War: Expanded.

An Archetype of the Gourmand class.
“I swear to be a true and faithful artist—to never compromise my vision because of petty traditions or banalities, and to accept and learn from the mistakes I place on the plate. I will not waste the beasts I hunt, nor tarnish the names of my fellow Chefs without just cause, and may my faithless tongue choke my unworthy throat if I am false.”

Monster Chefs are the founders and masters of the Ordre des Repas Exotiques. The warrior-chefs of the Ordre des Repas Exotiques consider themselves artists without peer. Ambition drives them to seek out legendary monsters and otherworldly horrors as tests of their might, and to prepare such beasts as culinary delights not known in this world or any other. Each challenges her peers to outdo their latest accomplishment, and together they spread through the world looking to immortalize their name on a plate.

The Chefs of the Ordre des Repas Exotiques work with a fervor that borders on insanity. Each looks to push the limits of cooking into new and exciting places, and to push their own personal limits against tougher challenges, mightier foes, and deadlier hunts.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Monster Chefs are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, and with light armor, but not with shields. This replaces the standard gourmand weapon and armor proficiencies.

Maître de l’Ordre: Starting at 1st level, a Monster Chef of the Ordre des Repas Exotiques gains an insight bonus on all Knowledge checks made to identify creatures equal to 1/2 his Gourmand level (minimum +1), and can make such checks untrained. In addition, the Chef is immune to the effects of ingested poisons, and cannot contract diseases by eating or drinking tainted faire (she may still contract diseases in other ways).
This replaces Gourmand’s Gluttony.

Consume: Because of their emphasis on seeking out only the most exotic of faire, a Monster Chef’s consume ability does not work on any creature with the Humanoid or Animal type.
This modifies the Consume ability.

Maneuvers: A Monster Chef begins his career with knowledge of three martial maneuvers. These maneuvers must be selected from the Steel Serpent discipline and any one other secondary discipline of his choice. If the associated skill of his selected secondary discipline is not on his class skill list, he gains it as a class skill.

Once the Monster Chef knows a maneuver, he must ready it before he can use it (see Maneuvers Readied, below). A maneuver usable by Monster Chef is considered an extraordinary ability unless otherwise noted in it or its discipline’s description. A Monster Chef’s maneuvers are not affected by spell resistance, and he does not provoke attacks of opportunity when he initiates one.

The Monster Chef learns additional maneuvers at higher levels, as indicated on Table: Archetype Maneuver Progression. The maximum level of maneuvers gained through Monster Chef levels is based on his full Gourmand level, according to the standard rules for martial adepts, rather than the limits indicated on the table. A Monster Chef must meet a maneuver’s prerequisite to learn it. See the Systems and Use chapter in Path of War for more details on how maneuvers are used.

Upon reaching 4th level, and at every even numbered initiator level thereafter (6th, 8th, 10th, and so on), the Monster Chef can choose to learn a new maneuver in place of one he already knows. In effect, he loses the old maneuver in exchange for the new one. He can choose a new maneuver of any level he likes, as long as he observes the restriction on the highest-level maneuvers he knows; the Monster Chef need not replace the old maneuver with a maneuver of the same level. He can swap only a single maneuver at any given level. A Monster Chef’s initiation modifier is Charisma, and each Monster Chef level is counted as a full initiator level.

Maneuvers Readied: A Monster Chef can ready all three of his maneuvers known at 1st level, and as he advances in level and learns more maneuvers, he is able to ready more, but must still choose which maneuvers to ready. A Monster Chef must always ready his maximum number of maneuvers readied. He readies his maneuvers by practicing and meditating on his cooking skills for ten minutes. The maneuvers he chooses remain readied until he decides to practice again and change them. The Monster Chef does not need to sleep or rest for any long period of time in order to ready his maneuvers; any time he spends ten minutes practicing, he can change his readied maneuvers.

A Monster Chef begins an encounter with all his readied maneuvers unexpended, regardless of how many times he might have already used them since he chose them. When he initiates a maneuver, he expends it for the current encounter, so each of his readied maneuvers can be used once per encounter (unless he recovers them, as described below).

Monster Chef’s are driven and inspired by the taste of exotic meats. A Monster Chef recovers a single expended maneuver any time he succeeds on a Bite attack against a creature other than an Animal or Humanoid. If the Monster Chef successfully uses his Swallow Whole attack on a creature with a type other than Animal or Humanoid, he regains a number of expended maneuvers equal to his Charisma modifier (minimum 1).

Stances Known: A Monster Chef begins his career with knowledge of one stance from either of his disciplines. At 4th, 7th, 11th, and 13th levels, he can select an additional stance to learn. Unlike maneuvers, stances are not expended and the Monster Chef does not have to ready them. All the stances he knows are available to his at all times, and he can change the stance he is currently maintaining as a swift action. A stance is an extraordinary ability unless otherwise stated in the stance or discipline description.

Unlike with maneuvers, a Monster Chef cannot learn a new stance at higher levels in place of one he already knows.

A Monster Chef’s martial Maneuvers and Stances replace all instances of the gourmand’s Acquire Class Feature ability.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Gourmand Archetypes: The Sacred Cannibal

Recently I've been experimenting with expanding the Gourmand class I created for Pathfinder with a number of Archtypes. Here is the third, there shall be more to follow... 

An Archetype of the Gourmand class.
Sacred Cannibals eat the dead not out of any inherent viciousness, nor epicurean curiosity, but rather out a deep respect for the departed. To the Sacred Cannibal, consuming their kills is a holy act, sharing in the vital energies of the departed, defending against the scourge of undeath, and unlocking great occult potentiality.

Class Skills: A Sacred Cannibal adds Knowledge (religion) and Knowledge (the planes) to his list of class skills.

Sacred Consumption (Su): Sacred Cannibals feed on the bodies of friend and foe alike as a show of respect and devotion. They must be present to witness the death of a creature in order to consume it, but need not have actively participated in the death (i.e. they do not have to have damaged the creature themselves). The act of consuming for a Sacred Cannibal is a highly ritualized and time consuming act — involving carefully extracting organs, cutting them into very small pieces, and selectively roasting and eating those pieces or burning them in sacrifice according to pattern known only to them, while leaving the rest of the body intact for burial or cremation. Using the consume ability takes 2d4 hours for the Sacred Cannibal (instead of the usual 1 hour). Sacred Consumption can only be used on creatures that are of the same type as the Sacred Cannibal (i.e. a human Sacred Cannibal may only use consume on humanoids).

In addition to the normal effects of using Consume, any corpse consumed by a Sacred Cannibal is treated as if it was permanently under the effects of a Sanctify Corpse spell. This effect is subject to dispel magic (against a caster level equal to the Sacred Cannibal’s gourmand level), but is otherwise permanent.

This modifies the Consume ability.

Ritual Consumption: The Sacred Cannibal treats all acts of killing and eating as holy rituals by which he can unlock great occult power. At 1st level, the Sacred Cannibal gains Haruspicy as a bonus feat, even if he does not meet the normal prerequisites. In addition, at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the Sacred Cannibal automatically learns one Occult Ritual of his choice. At 4th level, this must be a 4th-level ritual. At 7th level, he learns a 5th-level ritual; at 10th level, he learns a 6th-level ritual; at 13th level, he learns a 7th-level ritual; at 16th level, he learns an 8th-level ritual; and at 19th level, he learns a 9th-level ritual.

All rituals learned in this manner have double the normal casting time, and require a fresh corpse of the same creature type as the Sacred Cannibal to be partially eaten as an additional material component. Rituals learned by other means do not have this limitation.

This replaces Epicurean, and all instances of the Acquire Special Quality ability.

Bane of the Eaters: Starting at 9th level, the Sacred Cannibal becomes immune to all afflictions (such as curses, diseases, and poisons) delivered via a bite attack. The Sacred Cannibal is also immune to the Blood Drain universal monster ability, and the Create Spawn ability of various undead creatures. This replaces Swallow Whole.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Gourmand Archetypes: The Taste-Tester

Recently I've been experimenting with expanding the Gourmand class I created for Pathfinder with a number of Archtypes. Here is the second, there shall be more to follow... 

An Archetype of the Gourmand class.

BlindtastingSmall.jpgTaste-Testers are the best of the best when it comes to having a refined palate, easily able to distinguish even the most minor and subtle of differences in ingredients or circumstance between foods. Whereas other gourmands wolf down entire beasts whole to satisfy their arcane appetites, the Taste-Tester is often content with a single lick or sniff. But woe be to those who run afoul of their expert tongues.

Lashing Tongue (Su): Where other Gourmand’s focus their training in supernaturally strengthening their jaws, the taste-tester concentrates on the power of his tongue. At 1st level, the Taste-Tester gains Agile Tongue as a bonus feat. At 8th level, he gains Tongue Lash as a bonus feat, and can perform grapple combat maneuvers with his tongue. At 16th level, the reach of his tongue increases to 15 feet and he gains Powerful Tongue as a bonus feat. He need not meet any of the prerequisites for these feats.

This ability replaces the Bite class feature.

Taste the Rainbow (Sp): A Taste-Tester does not need to fully consume a foe to learn about its nature, a simple taste will suffice. Starting at 2nd level, the Taste-Tester can attempt a melee touch attack with his tongue as a standard action. If the attack hits, the target must make a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 the gourmand’s level + the gourmand’s Charisma modifier) or be affected by a Creature Loresight spell.

This replaces the Acquire Skill ability gained at 2nd level, and modifies the Consume ability.

Extraordinary Salivation (Su): At 4th level, the Taste-Tester’s learns to change the chemical makeup of his own saliva. As a standard action, he can cause his tongue to become coated in a potent concoction which duplicates the effects of either an Adhesive Spittle spell or a Caustic Spittle spell. Each time the gourmand activates this ability, he must choose which effect to use. The spittle remains active for 1 round per gourmand level, or until the next time the Taste-Tester makes a successful melee attack or melee touch-attack with his tongue. The first target his by a tongue attack within the duration is affected by his spittle. Any save DCs for extraordinary salivation are equal to 10 + 1/2 the gourmand’s class level + the gourmand’s Constitution modifier. This ability can be used a number of times per day equal to 3 + the gourmand’s Constitution modifier (in any combination).

This replaces the Acquire Class Feature ability gained at 4th level.

The King’s Taster (Su): At 10th level, the Taste-Tester becomes immune to ingested poisons or diseases, but not poisons or diseases transmitted by other vectors. In addition, the Taste-Tester can, with a single bite, instantly identify whether a given dish or beverage is safe for consumption, and know with perfect accuracy the nature of any poison, disease, curse, or spell-effect infusing the food.

This replaces the Acquire Special Quality ability gained at 10th level.