Monday, February 27, 2017

My Take on the Warlock

This is an adaptation of the Warlock class published for Pathfinder by Adamant Entertainment Group, itself an adaptation of the D&D v3.5 Warlock class which appeared in Complete Arcane. The intent is to revive some of the “otherworldly” feel of the original class and playing up the importance of the Warlock's extraplanar patrons, while keeping the elegance of the use of arcane school powers from the Adamant adaptation, and also exploiting mechanics that already exist in Pathfinder as much as possible.

Warlocks are seekers of the knowledge that lies hidden in the fabric of the multiverse, Through pacts made with mysterious beings of supernatural power, warlocks unlock magical effects both subtle and spectacular. Drawing on the ancient knowledge of angels, archons, devils, demons, and even stranger extraplanar beings, warlocks piece together arcane secrets to bolster their own power,

A warlock is defined by a pact with an otherworldly being, Sometimes the relationship between warlock and patron is like that of a cleric and a deity, though the beings that serve as patrons for warlocks are not gods, A warlock might lead a cult dedicated to a demon prince, an archdevil, or an utterly alien entity-beings not typically served by clerics. More often, though, the arrangement is similar to that between a master and an apprentice, The warlock learns and grows in power, at the cost of occasional services performed on the patron’s behalf.

Adventures: Warlocks are driven by an insatiable need for knowledge and power, which compels them into their pacts and shapes their lives, This thirst drives warlocks into their pacts and shapes their later careers as well. Stories of warlocks binding themselves to fiends are widely known, but many warlocks serve patrons that are not fiendish. Sometimes a traveler in the wilds comes to a strangely beautiful tower, meets its fey lord or lady, and stumbles into a pact without being fully aware of it. And sometimes, while poring over tomes of forbidden lore. a brilliant but crazed student’s mind is opened to realities beyond the material world and to the alien beings that dwell in the outer void.

Once a pact is made, a warlock’s thirst for knowledge and power can’t be slaked with mere study and research. No one makes a pact with such a mighty patron if he or she doesn’t intend to use the power thus gained. Rather, the vast majority of warlocks spend their days in active pursuit of their goals. which typically means some kind of adventuring. Furthermore, the demands of their patrons drive warlocks toward adventure.

Characteristics: Warlocks harbor great reserves of mystical energy. The touch of their patrons and the font of magic burning in their souls fundamentally alters them, not only cosmetically, but making them resistant to many forms of attack and arming them with dangerous power. Warlocks do not cast spells, instead learning a variety of spell-like and arcane powers from their patrons. What they lack in versatility, they make up for by being more resilient than wizards, sorcerers, or witches.

Alignment: Warlocks may be of any alignment. The powers they serve run the gambit from cruel and capricious, to sublime and benevolent, and everything in between. Most warlock patrons place limitations on whom they will form a pact with, but the full range of alignments are represented.

Other Classes: Warlocks have an interesting relationship with sorcerers, in that they are the source of many a sorcerer’s power. The changes to body and spirit brought on by a Warlock’s pacts practically ensures that any of a warlock’s offspring will be born with sorcerous blood. Thus sorcerers in particular (as well as bloodragers) are often viewed with contempt by Warlocks, like children playing with power they can’t possibly understand.

Because of their unusual relationships with their extraplanar patrons, Warlocks seldom get along with clerics, paladins, inquisitors, and similar servants of the divine. Likewise, while they are two sides of the same coin, Warlocks often view witches with the same disdain that they do sorcerers, because of the witch’s lack of direct knowledge of their patrons and need for the proxy that is a familiar.

Ability Scores: Charisma is the most important ability for a Warlock, as it controls how often they can use many of their abilities, as well as their save DCs. Intelligence is also important, as it determines how often a Warlock may use his eldritch talents. Dexterity affects the accuracy of a Warlock’s eldritch blast and also aids his AC due to his reliance on light armor.

Game Rule Information:
Warlocks have the following game statistics.
Alignment: Any.
Hit Die: d8.
Base Attack Bonus: Average.
Base Fortitude Saves: Poor.
Base Reflex Saves: Poor.
Base Will Saves: Good.
Starting Wealth: 3d6 x10gp
Starting Age: Moderate.

Table 1-n: The Warlock
Level Special
1 Patron, Patron Skills, Patron Spell, Eldritch Blast (1d6), Aura, Languages
2 Contact Patron (augury), Patronic Transformation
3 Eldritch Talent, Eldritch Blast (2d6)
4 Patronic Transformation, Eldritch Essence
5 Eldritch Talent
6 Patronic Transformation, Eldritch Blast (3d6)
7 Eldritch Talent
8 Patronic Transformation, Contact Patron (divination)
9 Eldritch Talent, Eldritch Blast (4d6)
10 Patronic Transformation, Patron Ability Bonus
11 Eldritch Talent, Advanced Eldritch Talents
12 Patronic Transformation, Eldritch Blast (5d6)
13 Eldritch Talent
14 Patronic Transformation, Contact Patron (commune)
15 Eldritch Talent, Eldritch Blast (6d6)
16 Patronic Transformation
17 Eldritch Talent
18 Patronic Transformation, Eldritch Blast (7d6)
19 Eldritch Talent
20 Patronic Transformation, Patron Ability Bonus

Class Skills:
A warlock’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are: Bluff (Cha), Craft (Int), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge [arcana] (Int), Knowledge [the planes] (Int), Profession (Wis), Spellcraft (Int), Stealth (Dex), and Use Magic Device (Cha).
Skill Points per Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Class Features:
The following are class features of the warlock.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Warlocks are proficient with all simple weapons and one exotic weapon of their choice (in emulation of the strange weapons favored by their patrons). They are proficient with light armor, but not with shields.

Aura: Regardless of the Warlock’s alignment, he always radiates an aura corresponding to the alignment of his Patron, as an outsider with Hit Dice equal to his Warlock level (see Detect Evil). Thus a Warlock with a Demon patron will always radiate an aura of Chaos and Evil, while a Warlock with an Aeon patron will never radiate an alignment aura.

Languages: A warlock’s bonus language options include Celestial, Abyssal, and Infernal (the languages of good, chaotic evil, and lawful evil outsiders, respectively). These choices are in addition to the bonus languages available to the character because of her race.

Warlock’s Patron: At 1st level, a Warlock must select a Patron. A Warlock’s patron is a always a unique, specific outsider, typically a powerful member of one of the major races of outsiders (angels, demons, garudas, rakshasa, or similar creatures). The DM should develop the Warlock’s patron as an NPC. While the Patron cannot command the Warlock or dictate the Warlock’s actions, the Patron does serve as the Warlock’s mentor, teaching the Warlock his powers and offering advice when called on to do so.

The Warlock must select his patron from the list below. The Warlock’s choice of patron grants a number of abilities. At 1st-level, the Patron grants the warlock a single spell-like ability, which the warlock can cast a number of times per day equal to his Charisma modifier (minimum 1/day). The Patron also trains the Warlock in a number of skills. The Warlock automatically gains 1 rank in the two indicated skills at each Warlock level. These do not count against the number of skill-points the Warlock gains otherwise. The two indicated skills become class skills, if they are not already. At 10th level, the Patron grants the warlock a +2 increase to a specific ability score. This increase in permanent and functions exactly like the ability score increases a character gains every 4 levels. At 20th level, the Patron grants a +2 increase to a second ability score.

The caster level for all of a Warlock’s spell-like abilities is equal to his Warlock class level. The DCs of any saving throws against a Warlock’s spell-like abilities are always equal to 10 + 1/2 the Warlock’s level + his Charisma modifier.

Because Patrons are outsiders, they are strongly aligned and only allow Warlocks of similar disposition. At 1st level, a Warlock must select a Patron who’s alignment matches his own. A Warlock who later changes his alignment to one not allowed by his patron does not lose any of the abilities he has acquired, but may not advance further in Warlock levels. At the DM’s option, a Warlock who has changed his alignment may go on a quest to acquire a new Patron, in which case all bonuses granted by his former Patron (including skills, spells, and ability increases) are replaced by those of his new Patron.

Patron Allowed Alignments Patron’s Spell Patron’s Skills 1st Ability Increase 2nd Ability Increase
Aeon LN, NG, TN, NE, CN Calm Emotions Knowledge (religion), Sense Motive Wisdom Dexterity
Agathion LG, NG, TN, CG Summon Nature’s Ally II Handle Animal, Survival Constitution Charisma
Angel LG, NG, CG Alter Self Heal, Knowledge (planes) Charisma Strength
Archon LG, LN, NG Continual Flame Intimidate, Sense Motive Wisdom Constitution
Asura LN, LE, NE Hideous Laughter Appraise, Knowledge (local) Wisdom Dexterity
Azata NG, CN, CG Glitterdust Diplomacy, Perform (any one) Charisma Dexterity
Daemons LE, NE, TN, CE Death Knell Disable Device, Sleight of Hand Dexterity Intelligence
Demodand NE, CN, CE Bear’s Endurance Intimidate, Knowledge (religion) Constitution Wisdom
Demon NE, CN, CE Shatter Disable Device, Perception Strength Charisma
Devil LN, LE, NE Pyrotechnics Diplomacy, Sense Motive Wisdom Constitution
Div LE, TN, NE, CE Misdirection Diplomacy, Linguistics Charisma Dexterity
Ei’risai CG, CN, CE Blindness/Deafness Acrobatics, Escape Artist Strength Constitution
Garuda NG, CN, CG See Invisibility Acrobatics, Fly Dexterity Wisdom
Inevitable LG, LN, LE Hold Person Diplomacy, Intimidate Charisma Constitution
Kami LG, LN, NG, TN, CG, CN Speak with Plants Knowledge (nature), Perception Dexterity Wisdom
Kyton LN, LE, NE Web Escape Artist, Intimidate Constitution Charisma
Oni LN, LE, TN, NE, CN, CE Alter Self Disguise, Intimidate Strength Wisdom
Peri LG, NG, TN, CG Pyrotechnics Knowledge (planes), Spellcraft Intelligence Charisma
Protean CG, CN, CE Shatter Bluff, Knowledge (arcana) Strength Wisdom
Psychomomp LN, NG, TN, NE, CN Speak with Dead Knowledge (religion), Spellcraft Wisdom Constitution
Qlippoth NE, CN, CE Blur Escape Artist, Survival Wisdom Strength
Rakshasa LN, LE, NE Detect Thoughts Disguise, Sense Motive Charisma Dexterity

Eldritch Blast (Sp): Starting at 1st level, the Warlock learns to unleash baleful magical energy to deal damage to his foes. An eldritch blast is a ranged touch attack that affects a single target, with a range of 100 feet, plus 10 feet per Warlock level. On a successful hit, the eldritch blast deals 1d6 points of force damage (no save). This increases to 2d6 at 3rd level, plus 1d6 for every three levels thereafter. Using eldritch blast is an attack action, and is usable at will. Any time the Warlock would be able to make a weapon attack, he may choose to use eldritch blast. A warlock able to make multiple attacks per round as part of a full-attack action may fire multiple eldritch blasts, up to the limit of his normal number of attacks.

Eldritch Blast counts as a spell of the Evocation school, with a level equal to the number of damage dice for all effects that are dependent on spell-level or the school of magic. An eldritch blast is subject to spell resistance, although Spell Penetration and other feats and abilities that improve caster level checks also apply to eldritch blast. An eldritch blast deals half damage to objects. Using eldritch blast provokes attacks of opportunity as normal for a ranged attack. Any ability that allows ranged attacks to be made without provocation applies to eldritch blasts as well.

Contact Patron (Sp): Starting at 2nd level, the Warlock gains the ability to directly contact with his Patron in its outer-planar home for insight and advice. This acts as an Augury spell, cast at the Warlock’s level. This is a spell-like ability and does not require any material components. The Warlock may use this ability a number of times per day equal to his Charisma modifier (minimum 1).

As the Warlock advances in level, he is able to better communicate with his patron, gaining more detailed and longer term information. At 8th level, this ability acts as a Divination spell. At 14th level, it acts as a Commune spell.

Patronic Transformation (Su): Starting at 2nd level, the Warlock’s patron begins teaching him eldritch secrets, at the cost of the Warlock’s humanity—granting him powers similar to creatures with an extraplanar bloodline while dramatically altering his form over time. The Warlock has no control over what secrets his Patron teaches him, nor what changes such knowledge may wreak upon his body.

At 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the Warlock must roll 1d100 to determine what abilities he gains. Warlocks with a good-aligned Patron roll on the Variant Aasimar Abilities table. Those with an evil-aligned Patron roll on the Variant Tiefling Abilities table. Those whose Patron is neutral-aligned with respect to good and evil may choose to roll on either table, but must use the alternate table every other roll (i.e. if he rolls on the Tiefling table at 2nd level, he must roll on the Aasimar table at 4th, and so on).

The Warlock gains the ability indicated by his roll, as well as the physical feature from the respective “Alternative Physical Features” table determined by the same d100 result. Any ability granted that has a limited numbed of uses per day is usable a number of times per day equal to the Warlock’s Charisma modifier, instead of the indicated number of uses (minimum 1/day). If the same ability is rolled more than once, the benefits stack (+2 to a skill becomes +4, Damage Reduction 2/magic becomes DR 4/magic, Spell Resistance 10 + 1/2 your level becomes 10 + your level, Energy Resistance 5 becomes Resistance 10, etc.). A spell-like ability rolled more than once grants an additional number of daily uses equal to the amount indicated normally.

Eldritch Talents: In addition to the powers granted by their Patron, Warlocks are students of the arcane arts. Their unrelenting pursuit of knowledge and power leads them to learn magical talents very similar to that wielded by specialist wizards, but with none of their limitations on schools. At 3rd level, and again at every odd level thereafter, the Warlock learns one Eldritch Talent from the list below. Any ability that triggers off of casting a spell or affects spells you cast applies to your spell-like abilities (including eldritch blast if appropriate), as well as spells you cast from other classes you may have.
Eldritch Essence (Sp): Beginning at 4th level, as a standard action, the Warlock may unleash his eldritch blast and add the effect of any single spell-like abilities he has access to to the blast. On a successful hit, the target of the eldritch blast also becomes the target of the spell-like ability used, and must make any appropriate saving throws against the spell-like ability included. If the spell-like ability used deals damage of a specific energy type (such as the Acid Dart conjuration school power). all damage dealt by the eldritch blast is changed to match that type. Regardless of whether or not the eldritch blast hits, a use of that spell-like ability is expended.

Even abilities that normally have a range of “touch” or “self” can be delivered in this fashion (thus the Warlock would be able to cast Alter Self on an enemy targeted by eldritch essence). If the spell has an area of effect, the effect is centered on the target of the eldritch blast. Eldritch Talents that are supernatural abilities cannot be combined with an eldritch essence. A Warlock able to make multiple attacks with his eldritch blast may still only make a single attack when using an eldritch essence.
Special: If the Force Missile eldritch talent is used with eldritch essence, the eldritch blast also hits automatically with no attack roll required.

Advanced Eldritch Talents: Starting at 11th level, any time the Warlock would learn an eldritch talent, he may choose one of the following advanced talents instead.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Alice -- Pathfinder Conversion

There are painfully few LotFP + Pathfinder hacks to be found on the internet, so I figured I would share one of mine, because taking classes built for a relatively rules-light retro-clone and hacking them to work with one of the most rules-heavy modern D&D clones is fun, right?

An archetype for the Rogue class based on the Alice class from the Lamentations of the Flame Princess A Red and Pleasant Land campaign setting. The core text of this is all courtesy of Zak S., the Pathfinder-specific mechanical changes are mine.
Artwork by Zak S.
Alices (when male: “Alistairs” or, of any gender: “Fools”) are unlike other adventurers in that they are actively sought by adventure. Alices forever find themselves falling into cursed rabbit holes, accidentally killing witches, having their half-brothers stolen by goblin kings, being willed magic rings, finding demons inserted in their chests, or having armored knights ride through their homes at bedtime. Obscure gods, however, sympathize with them (they are often born to powerful families), and an Alice is a boon to any adventuring party. Some Alices wear striped stockings, some Alistairs wear pointed shoes. Although they begin their adventures untrained and naive, Alices are fast learners, and high level Alices are known for their sagacity and cunning.

Alices act as rogues for all purposes except where described below:

Class Skills:
The Alice’s class skills are: Acrobatics (Dex), Appraise (Int), Bluff (Cha), Diplomacy (Cha), Disable Device (Dex), Disguise (Cha), Fly (Dex), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Knowledge [All] (Int), Linguistics (Int), Perception (Wis), Perform (Cha), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Stealth (Dex), and Use Magic Device (Cha). These replace the class skills normally gained by the Rogue class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiencies:
The Alice is proficient with all Simple Weapons and all Light Martial Weapons. She is proficient with Light Armor, but not with shields. These replace the standard weapon and armor proficiencies gained by the Rogue class.

Exasperation (Su):
Starting at 1st level, in times of unusual stress Alices may become Exasperated. This Exasperation causes fate to take notice of the Alice, and then to aid her. The Alice says or thinks something like “Oh I can’t conceive how I ever fell into this deplorable circumstance!” or “We are indeed doomed and now birds will gnaw our eyes.” This ability replaces all instances of the rogue’s Sneak Attack ability.

An Alice may express Exasperation once per day at 1st level, and one additional time per day at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter (to a maximum of 7/day at 18th level). When the Alice becomes exasperated, the DM rolls 1d4 on the Exasperations Table below. This increases to 1d6 at 5th level, a d8 at 9th level, a d10 at 13th level, and a d12 at 17th level. Becoming Exasperated is a standard action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

Exasperations are supernatural effects. These can’t be disrupted in combat and generally don’t provoke attacks of opportunity. They aren’t subject to spell resistance, counterspells, or dispel magic, and don’t function in antimagic areas. Any saving throws required by an Exasperation are made against a DC equal to 10 + 1/2 the Alice’s level + the Alice’s Charisma modifier.

1 A door is revealed where none had previously been detected. This may appear in a wall, the side of a tree, on a rock, the backside of a very large monster, or anywhere else that it might be appropriate for a door to appear. This functions as a Dimension Door spell, leading to any location the DM feels appropriate so long as the destination is either: (a) relatively safe, or (b) plot-advancing.
2 The Alice realizes she has something in her pack, her hair, or otherwise secreted about her person. The object can be any non-magical and generic item (a key, not the key) that exists in the setting and that is small enough that the Alice could reasonably have it hidden it in her current condition. The Alice may choose what this is.
3 An ordinary animal of size small or smaller appears. This does not grant the Alice any ability to directly control or communicate with it, but the animal will not under any circumstances hurt the Alice.
4 A fact about the situation at hand occurs to the Alice—something she learned once in a lesson or in a kitchen or on a Sunday—a piece of local or monster lore germane to the situation.
5 One creature within the Alice’s line of sight immediately falls prone (no save). If the target creature is adjacent to a cliff, pit, body of water, or other hazard, they must succeed at a Reflex save or fall into said hazard.
6 The weather in the immediate area changes in a way decided by the Alice, as per the Control Weather spell.
7 One nearby creature is charmed by the Alice, as per the Charm Monster spell, for 1 hour per Alice level. A successful Will save negates the effect.
8 One device or object within the Alice’s line of sight immediately breaks, gaining the broken condition. Magical objects are allowed a Fortitude save to negate this effect.
9 Something not ordinarily able to talk (GM’s choice) begins to speak to the Alice. This functions similar to a Speak with Animals, Speak with Plants, or Stone Tell spell, lasting 1 minute per Alice level. The thing will be generally sympathetic and friendly towards the Alice, answering questions to the best of its ability and offering what advice it may.
10 All creatures present completely forget that the Alice is there for 1 round. They will cease all attacks against the Alice and treat the Alice as if she were invisible to them. After this time, the Alice functions as if under the effects of a Sanctuary spell for 1 round per Alice level.
11 Someone shows up to fetch the Alice out of her current predicament. If there is an obvious candidate from among the local NPCs (giant eagles, a friendly knight, etc.), that’s who it is, otherwise the GM should make up an appropriate executor. The NPC appears as close as plausible, arriving by whatever means of locomotion is available to them, and will act by whatever means are at their disposal to remove the Alice from her current situation (forcefully if necessary).
12 One creature that the Alice can see begins to shrink. Each round, the target decreases in size by 1 size category (as per the Reduce Person spell). The target continues to decrease in size at the start of the Alice’s turn, at the rate of 1 size category per round, until it has been reduced to Fine size (roughly the size of a playing card). Each round, the target is allowed a Will save to halt the size reduction. Once the shrinking halts, the creature will remain at its new size for 10 minutes per level of the Alice.

Alice Talents:
Starting at 2nd level, whenever the Alice would gain a new Rogue Talent, she must choose one of the following talents instead. This replaces the normal list of available Rogue Talents and Advanced Rogue Talents, but otherwise acts as that ability. If the Alice has a second archetype that adds additional options to the list of Rogue Talents, or requires a specific Rogue Talent to be taken, those talents are added to this list.
  • Alice was then reminded of something she’d noticed before…: The Alice gains a +1 Insight bonus on all saving throws.
  • Falling down wells really improves the hand-eye coordination.: The Alice gains double her normal Dexterity bonus on Dexterity-based skill checks.
  • She noticed the Red Knight always feinted to his left— she was a very perceptive girl.: The Alice can choose to observe a target as a standard action. For each round spent observing a single target, the Alice gains a +1d4 bonus on her next single attack roll or combat maneuver check made against the target (to a maximum of 1d4 per 2 Alice levels). If the Alice does not make an attack against the target, this bonus ends after 1 minute.
  • Alice liked pies, although sometimes people did not want her to have them.: The Alice gains a circumstance bonus equal to her Alice level on all skill checks made to locate or acquire foodstuffs of any kind (including Perception checks to locate food, Survival checks to forage, or even Sleight of Hand checks to steal food from a vendor’s cart). Note that potions and other consumables may count as “food” at the GM’s discretion.
  • She closed her eyes and said the words just as she’d been taught…: The Alice learns a single Sorcerer/Wizard spell of 1st level. This spell is usable once per day, and is cast at the Alice’s level. Any save DCs are Charisma-based. The Alice may take this Talent up to 8 times, each time learning a single spell of the next higher spell-level (to a maximum of 8th level).
  • Oh, I do so apologize…: The Alice gains the Improved Trip feat as a bonus feat. She does not need to meet the prerequisites for this feat.
  • Her sister had mentioned they were dreadful people…: The Alice gains a +2 bonus on all Knowledge (nobility) skill checks. In addition, the Alice can choose to be the cousin or niece or otherwise secondhand related to any single NPC encountered thereafter (this may not be an NPC that has been encountered previously). This Talent can be selected up to three times. This bonuses stack (to a maximum of +6) and each time the Alice can choose a new NPC to be distantly related to.
  • All that hiding in the dumbwaiter has finally paid off.: The Alice is exceptionally talented at learning secrets. Once per day, the Alice may attempt an Intelligence check (DC 10). If the check succeeds, the Alice can either identify a single magic item (as if she had succeeded at a spellcraft check) or learn a single embarrassing fact about an NPC (to be used however she decides). Player’s choice.
  • It seemed nearly everything was dangerous if handled improperly.: The Alice has become very skilled with improvised weapons. She gains Catch Off Guard as a bonus feat, and all improvised weapons she wields deal damage as if they were one size category larger.
  • It was very shiny and stuck out like a soup spoon…: The Alice gains Improved Steal as a bonus feat. She does not need to meet the prerequisites for this feat.
  • She was not such a mouse as she used to be.: The Alice gains a +1 increase to her Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution score. This operates just like the ability score increases gained every four levels. This talent may be taken up to three times, each time improving a different ability score.
  • Alice then did something quite astonishing…: The Alice is surprising. She adds her Charisma modifier to attack and damage rolls with all improvised weapons, and on all attacks made during a surprise round.
  • The blue one certainly did make the Alice taller, of that Alice was certain…: Craft (alchemy) becomes a class skill for the Alice. The Alice can use Craft (alchemy) to identify potions as if using detect magic, and gains a circumstance bonus equal to 1/2 her Alice level on such checks. She must hold the potion for 1 round to make such a check.
  • She could be very charming when she needed to be.: The Alice’s silver tongue gives her a +2 bonus on all Bluff and Diplomacy skill checks. This talent can be taken up to three times. The bonuses stack to a maximum of +6.
  • “It really was curious,” she thought— “How many times could this kind of thing happen?”: The Alice may escape a gruesome fate. Once per day, when the Alice would be reduced to 0 hit points or less by an attack, she can choose to be reduced to 1 hit point instead. The Alice immediately falls prone and is staggered for one round. The attacker must make a Sense Motive check (opposed by the Alice’s Bluff check) or assume that the Alice has been slain. This talent may selected more than once, each time granting an additional daily use of this ability.
  • She knew to curtsey at times like this, and so she did.: Despite the low company the Alice keeps, she’s been working on her manners. Members of the upper classes instinctively recognize the Alice as one of their own (even if she isn’t), and treat her as such. The Alice gains a +2 bonus on all Charisma-based skill checks when dealing with the nobility. In addition, this may grant her access to exclusive events or venues, increased access to centers of political power, etc.
  • It was so lovely, and—according to the book—it was right there.: The dress made of manticore-flesh, the house full of lilacs, the magical fish-gutting knife—whatever the thing that the Alice always wanted is, it’s there. Tell the GM what you want. He will immediately place it somewhere 4 adventuring sessions away or less. The Alice must have a fair shot at it (i.e. it will not be guarded by a monster of a CR twice your level or more), but there’s no guarantee the Alice will get it. This Talent may only be taken once and works only once. Think big.
  • She had not known her mother’s cousin very well, and decided that it was a bad thing that she had died…: The Alice has been willed 5,000 shillings worth of random mundane (nonmagical) objects. The player must immediately spend this cash on whatever items he desires, then inform the GM of what she bought. The items in question will be waiting for the PC at the next town she visits. This Talent may be taken more than once, but each such windfall is a one-time thing. With the GM’s permission, the windfall may take the form of deeds and titles to lands, ships, or buildings in the place of equipment.
  • They kept talking as though Alice was a rhododendron in a pot.: The Alice gains Advantage (roll twice and take the better result) on all Stealth skill checks.
  • She knew from school what the word meant, but did not know if it was rude or not.: The Alice gains a +2 bonus on all Linguistics skill checks, and learns 1 new language of her choice. This talent may be taken up to three times. The bonus to Linguistics stacks, to a maximum of +6.
  • Alice quite liked drawing, and had an impressive box of crayons at home.: The Alice gains Advantage (roll twice and take the better result) on all Linguistics skill checks made to create (but not detect) forgeries. In addition, Craft (painting) becomes a class skill for the Alice, and she gains Advantage on all Craft (painting) skill checks made to create artistic forgeries.
  • She thought it might be a saltcellar, or at least that seemed like a good word.: The Alice gains a circumstance bonus on Appraise skill checks equal to 1/2 her Alice level. On a successful Appraise check, not only does she learn the objects apparent value, but she is also immediately aware if the item is somehow not what it seems (such as a forgery, disguised, hollow, booby-trapped, etc.), though this will not reveal specifics about what may be different about the item.
  • She did seem to offend people (and animals) wherever she went.: The Alice has become adept at dueling. She gains weapon proficiency with the Rapier, Sword Cane, and Dueling Sword and gains Weapon Finesse as a bonus feat.
  • They all listened attentively as Alice told her tale.: The Alice gains a +1 increase to her Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma score. This operates just like the ability score increases gained every four levels. This talent may be taken up to three times, each time improving a different ability score.
  • They began to throw stones, and Alice began to avoid them.: The Alice gains a +2 dodge bonus to AC against ranged attacks (including ranged touch attacks), and a +2 dodge bonus on Reflex saving throws.
  • She began to feel somewhat neglected.: If the Alice takes the total defense action in a round and an opponent misses her with an attack roll, the Alice may make an immediate Disarm, Dirty Trick, Trip, or Steal combat maneuver against that opponent as an immediate action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
  • She tried to remember what she knew about stoats.: The Alice gains a bonus on Handle Animal skill checks equal to 1/2 her Alice level. She gains a similar bonus on Diplomacy skill checks made against animals and magical beasts of Intelligence 3 or greater with whom she shares a language.
  • Alice had seen so many unusual things lately, it had become usual.: Nothing phases the Alice any more. Even mind-altering cosmic horrors from the far edge of the cosmos are like whatever. She gains immunity to confusion and insanity effects.
Alice’s Edge:
At 7th level, the Alice masters a single skill beyond that skill’s normal boundaries. She gains the skill unlock powers for one skill of her choice as appropriate for her number of ranks in that skill. At 11th level, 15th, and 19th levels, she chooses an additional skill and gains skill unlock powers for that skill as well.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Legacy of the Golden Horseshoe: Session 5

August 10, 1720

The party awoke the next morning to the rich smell of roasting bear meat — or was it turkey? Despite having slain and skinned an owlbear the night before, it took an unusually long time for their minds to equate the horrible monstrosity they’d fought so recently with the smell of breakfast. After they had eaten and packed, Líadan suggested that they should attempt to find the Owlbear’s lair, siting the rather high market value of owlbear young, eggs, and pelts. Despite some dithering, and against pretty much everyone’s better instincts, the party agreed.

Lacking any real tracking skill, Líadan asked the local fauna for directions. Starting in the obvious place — where the owlbear had been caught in their trap — they followed the creature’s massive claw-prints backwards. Despite the thing’s bulk, they found no signs of its passage other than the prints — not a single broken twig or misplaced leaf. Whenever they started to lose the trail, a helpful fat, fluffy chickadee would flutter down and tweet shrilly beside the next nearest paw-print.

For over an hour they tracked the thing thusly. The trail lead them up into the nearby hills, through many a briary thicket or thorny hedgerow which seemed somehow completely undisturbed by the owlbear’s passage, and yet proved quite the barrier for the party. Finally after nearly two miles of pushing their way through the tangled undergrowth, they came to a steep ravine which cut towards the foot of Gaar Mountain. A half-mile up the ravine, they found a large cave-entrance in the hillside, with a small spring-fed pond in front of it.

With the enclosed walls of the ravine, the rank wet-fur/wet-feather smell of owlbear coming from the cave was nearly overwhelming. With much cajoling, Rhodri convinced Vicious that she should go down to the pond to get a drink and to get a look inside the cave. Grumbling as she went, Vicious reported that she saw something moving in the darkness of the cave, something big she thought. Líadan then asked the nearby birds for verification, a chickadee reported that there were “many, far too many” owlbears living in the cave and that they were “terrifically huge”.

Deciding that they were quite under-prepared for dealing with multiple adult owlbears, Tess, Líadan, and Zibbler decided to head back to camp and return with the musket squad and the bear traps, leaving Rhodri and Vicious to keep watch on the cave. The small, wrinkled faerie hid himself as best he could in the undergrowth and dug in to wait. And wait he did. Sitting there trying to keep still for solid three hours, he, unsurprisingly, dozed a bit.

After rounding up the boys with their muskets and the mothers with some sleep spells prepared, the crew made their way back towards the owlbear cave. As they neared the ravine, Tess caught a whiff of owlbear stench, not coming from the ravine, but from behind them. Going on the alert, everyone circled up and peered out into the dense tickets around them, but saw nothing.

They waited.

The silence was punctuated by the squawk of a small bird and the sound of crunching bones. Then silence again.

After several minutes with no visual sign of an owlbear, they resumed their trek, but this time heard the distinct sounds of something rustling in the underbrush, keeping pace with them. Stop. Sound stops. Go. They kept it up for some time, but still saw no sign of whatever creature was stalking them. Only the smell of owlbear and the sounds of rustling leaves gave any indication that their stalker was still there.

Finally after a tense hour of this stop and go walking chase through the woods, they came to the cave. Rhodri took the bear traps and snuck up to the cave mouth to lay them out, while the others fanned out around the pool to keep watch. Tess, near the back, caught sight of rapid movement out of the corner of her eye, she spun just in time to see a flash of fur disappearing back into a ticket of raspberry bushes, accompanied by a panicked flight of small birds bursting out of those same bushes.

“There!” she cried.

Zibbler responded quickly unleashing a gout of magical fire at the bushes. The dried underbrush went up in a roaring column of flames, and something furry went rushing out of the bush and back towards the entrance of the ravine. Sadly, with the nearby flora quickly catching fire, they were unable to pursue, but instead went to work trying to contain the blaze.

Rhodri, meanwhile, so close to the cave, peered in and saw nothing. He moved closer. Nothing. Finally screwing up his courage, he marched into the cave and found it empty. Five small alcoves branched off from the entrance. There was a pile of broken and gnawed bones and bits of fur, and some bloody stains on the floor, but no sign of owlbears other than the lingering stench. He took the time to sift through the bones, but found nothing of any value.

Once the fire was under control, the party fanned out to look around, but found no signs of owlbears in the area. Disheartened by their failure, but somewhat relieved to not have to fight another owlbear, they packed up and headed back to camp.

As they left the ravine and descended the hill back towards their camp, Tess found several fresh owlbear tracks, heading the same way. Afraid that the owlbears might be heading for their camp, they sped up and ran the last mile. They arrived, breathless, to find nothing at all amiss.

With the sun now high in the sky, they ate a quick lunch and broke camp, determined to make some progress at least. Turning south by south-west, they followed the Whiteoak Run upstream. The mostly dry riverbed of the Whiteoak run served as a fine road, and they made good time. Near nightfall, they cut through the gap between Tippet’s Mountain and Carter Ridge, then pressed on, downhill, another two miles to the confluence of Whetstone Run and the Rapidan River, and camped on the shore.

As camp was being set, Rhodri rode out on Vicious, making a circuit of the camp, looking for “signs of bandits or wolves or bears or whatnot”. While he found none of such, he did stumble upon a large field of wild radishes. Making mental note of the location, he gathered up what he could and rode back to camp. Soon several parties of the emancipated people were coming and going, laden with large armfulls of the roots and greens to add their mostly carnivorous diet of the last few days.

That night, everyone was plagued by nightmares. Everyone except Rhodri that is. While standing first watch, he found a small wooden doll on the edge of the camp, looking like a vaguely feminine fox, painted in bright reds and yellows. He pocketed it with the intent of giving it to one of the young girls in their train.

August 11, 1720

The next morning, everyone woke bleary-eyed and grumpy, having suffered a night of much fitful turnings and cold sweats. As they packed up camp, Líadan pointed out that they had regained the Rapidan, having cut out nearly fourty miles of its southern dip from when they’d left it back at Raccoon Ford, and were now on track to follow it strait north to the gap at its headwaters if they chose, but also pointed out that the next ridge to the west marked the edge of their maps. Vicious countered that he smelled owlbear from the north, and that they should instead follow the Rapidan south by south-east and look for another path west, since the way due west looked “much too rocky”.
Exasperated, Tess pointed to the west, “There’s a pass right there!”

As they argued about which route to take, Zibbler spotted a tiny fox lurking on the edge of their camp. The little creature trotted into the camp like it owned the place, and began telling them, in plain English, what idiots they were and how it was a miracle that they’d survived this long. A moment later, a horse followed the fox out of the woods, bearing a native woman with an elaborate feathered headdress.


She explained that she had been watching them since the owlbear cave, and that the owlbears they seemed so afraid of were still on their trail. She pressed them as to whether they had thanked the spirits for their good luck so far, and for the food which had so fortuitously come to them, then lead them in a brief ceremony before urging them to move.

With the native woman’s aid, they took the western route, back up into the hills, then down into the Conway River valley, then around the northern edge of Teel Mountain and Lydia Mountain. By late afternoon, they reached the Swift Run and started finally making their way through the gap and up into the Blue Ridge Mountains.

As they started up the steep trail, climbing thousands of feet, the wind changed and they caught the now familiar scent of owlbears. They scrambled, trying to move the ox-cart and the long train of women and children up the mountain as fast as possible before the predators could catch them.

owlbears-tiny.pngAs they moved up another switchback, Zibbler, walking at the trailing end of the group, once again heard the sound of a small bird being eaten whole. He spun around to see a rounded, furry haunch disappearing behind a large boulder. At his signal, Rhodri turned and kicked Vicious into a full gallop up the hillside. They rounded the boulder to come face to face with three razor-sharp beaks. Albeit much smaller than he expected…

The babies, it seemed had been following the scent of their mother all the way from the den. Líadan stepped up and tried to coax them out from behind the rock with a series of gentle “hoot hoot hoot” noises (presumably something in owl-language). Within moments the three wee beasties disappeared around the other side of the rock, then rushed Líadan, scrambling up her back and clinging to her protectively. They made a small ruckus of grunts, and growls, and whistles, and hoots, but Líadan wasn’t able to understand a word of the owlbear speech.

As night was falling, and it was already quite dark on the eastern face of the ridge, Rhodri suggested that they camp where they were. The native woman, who had by now introduced herself as Siclare, pointed out that there were numerous human tracks along the path they were taking, and Tess argued that the Trading Post was supposed to be right at the top of the ridge. So they pressed on.

It was full night, and an overcast one at that, when they crested the mountain. There, nestled in the gap, was a small fort, surrounded by a tall wooden palisade with a pair of square watchtowers at the corners. Worried that the force at the trading post was likely to give them away to the colonials, the escaped slaves hid in the woods while Rhodri rode up to inquire at the trading post about food and supplies.
Circling the palisade, he saw no sign of guards or soldiers — no lights, no men dozing in the watchtowers, nothing. He approached the gate and banged loudly to be let in. Several minutes later, a lonely eye peered out through a chink in the huge wooden gate. “Go avay! Eetz ze middle of ze fucking night!” said a voice, accompanied by the sound of the hammer being cocked on a rifle.

Rhodri argued with the very rude gatekeeper for several minutes, asking to be let in. Tess, Líadan, and Siclare slipped up to help with the extended negotiations. Finally the promise of money, and two shillings tossed over the wall, led the man to open the gates. They were lead inside, where Rhodri explained that he was “twenty or thirty people worth of hungry”, and Líadan offered the man the owlbear pelt in exchange for a place to sleep for the night and “a very large meal”.

The gatekeeper, nodded. “I veel ask my vife to cook somezing for you”, he said, as he casually shoved the twenty-foot high, solid wood gates closed with one hand and lifted a log that was easily twelve-feet long and bigger-around than a man to bar the gates behind them.

To be continued…

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Blue Mage

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


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...