The Bottomless Tombs, Area 2

You can find the introduction, map, and index of the Bottomless Tombs here!

Area 2: The First Passage

Thirty feet down the shaft is the first passage, off the south wall. When the heroes are free to pay attention to it (likely after killing the centipedes in Area 1, though who knows how PCs will react to a vertical battle?), and assuming they have a light or can see in the dark, read or paraphrase the following.

An opening in the southern wall reveals a small space, no more than five feet wide and six feet tall. A 1-foot ledge sticks out into the shaft forming a narrow balcony that is part of that space’s floor. The opening is no more than a large hole in the shaft’s wall, with a broken door sitting in a stone frame 5 feet in. The floor is littered with bits of broken pottery, wood, and dirt, and the walls are stained by dark splashes of color.

More than one adventuring party has left a guard here over the years, and just left their refuse behind. The stains can be identified with a DC 10 Knowledge (dungeonering), or (nature) check to be a mix of water stains from when rain gets into the holw and old ichor, maybe from large vermin.

If more than one Small or Medium creature tries to fit within the space, they must squeeze.

The door was once fine preserved wood and brass, but has long since been smashed in and the brass fittings and hinges removed. A careful examination allows a DC 15 Perception check to realize the door was not designed to ever be opened once it was closed, and it had a trap built into the wall, though it is also long since gone.

The doorway leads to a 10-foot-long, 5-foot wide corridor, which ends in a portcullis. Read or paraphrase the following:

A portcullis blocks passage any further south. Made of rusted iron, it runs the width of the corridor, and its spiked bards set into small holes in the floor. It is covered in worn runs, and shows obvious signs of having been battered and hammered on, and one bar is bent outward toward you, making a space roughly the size of a cat. Just past the portcullis is a cross-corridor, running east and west. A lever, also of rusted iron, sits in the wall of that corridor, currently in the ‘down’ position. A rotting bag of sand is attached to the leaver by a frayed rope.

If you lift the leaver, the portcullis goes up. The last group of adventurers here tied a sandbag to the lever so it would be pulled down after they left. There’s no easy way to use a rope or similar flexible device to pull up on the lever from the north side of the portcullis.

The portcullis can be lifted by a DC 24 Strength check (so an 18 Strength character can do it by taking 20, though this is loud and time consuming). A Small creature can get through the bent-out bars with a DC 18 Escape Artist check, though failure results in 1 hp of damage from jagged edges. The portcullis has 8 hardness and 30 hp per bar, so a group could just hammer on it and hope to break open a bigger hole.

A DC 15 Disable Device check allows a character to find a way to trigger the lever, and a DC 15 Engineering check can be used to rig a staff or similar device to flip the lever u by using the crossbars on the portcullis as a leverage point, though this also requires a successful DC 15 Strength check.

Developments: The louder the PCs are, the more likely it is they draw out something from Area 3.

Design Philosophy: It’s a dungeon, so it should reward people ready for traps and mechanisms… but also not prevent groups without such preparation from getting to the fun part if they work at it. So this has lots of solutions, and is mostly about the players deciding how they want to handle such things.
It also establishes that doors here may have traps, which will matter later, with being a gotcha moment for players.

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The Bottomless Tombs, Area 1

We introduced the Bottomless tombs, and their map on Monday, and discussed the staging area around them yesterday.

So, it’s time to head down the shaft!

Area 1: Entering the Shaft [CR 1]

If the players closely examine the shaft before heading down, read or paraphrase the following.

The sides of the shaft are worked stone, but show signs of considerable wear. In a few places, smooth, though cracked, finishing stone still lines the walls but most of that has long-since chipped away. Most of the shaft is cracked stones, and in many cases these have large cracks, through which thick roots and vines grow to choke the shaft, tangled around the wreckage of worn logs and rope rigging from one or more some kind apparatuses that has fallen into the shaft in recent years.

If the PCs have darkvision, or a directional lightsource (such as a bullseye lantern), or wait until the sun is directly overhead, add the following.

It’s impossible to see more than 35-40 feet down the shaft, but a dark shadow just short of the limit of that range suggests a side passage extends off the southern wall of the shaft.

The first side passage is 30 feet down on the southern wall of the shaft. The only way to get to it, is to climb (or fly, but mostly 1st level characters can’t do that).

Hazards: The Climb DC for this section of the shaft is 10 if a PC just tries to climb along the roots and wreckage. If a rope is added (perhaps anchored to the iron ring in the staging area), the Climb DC drops to 5. Characters can take 10 on this check as long as nothing is attacking them. (Yeah… wait for it)

If a character fails a check by 5 or more, they fall. Luckily, the shaft of the Bottomless Tomb is so checked with roots and detritus, they eventually land on something able to hold their weight. When a character falls, roll 2d6 – 1d6. This value is both the damage they take, and the number of 5-foot squares they fall before landing on something. Most of the damage is from bouncing off roots or falling through rotted wood or frayed ropes. A character can fall 55 feet and only take 11 points of damage because they never build up much momentum.

If the value of the roll is 0 or less, the character is caught within 1 foot by something, and takes no damage.

Foes: There are house centipedes living in the cracks in the walls of the top of the shaft. they pretty well ignore ropes, rocks, or other things being thrown in (unless someone things to dangle meat on a rope, in which case they come out and swarm up the rope to get at the PCs), but once a creature is 20 feet down, they crawl out to attack any potential meal.

If you want to make their attack dramatic, read or paraphrase the following:

A noise like sand trickling over tight leather slowly fills the shaft. Movement rustles roots and ropes, beginning at one of the walls. A long centipede crawls out, more that a foot from it’s clicking mandibles to the end of its 100-legged body, the length of a halfling’s arm! Two more follow it, their heads swinging back and forth as the crawl along the sides and bottoms of the detritus choking the shaft and scuttle toward you!

Three centipedes attack when the first character gets down 20 feet. They have climb speeds, so they easily reach any point in the shaft. They attack any adjacent creature, or if none is adjacent the last creature to attack them.

They have cover from anyone more than 10 feet away, due to how clogged the shaft is.

Remember that despite their massive strength penalties, they do at least 1 hp on a successful attack.

Developments: After 1d4+1 rounds, three more house centipedes attack having been drawn by the sounds of combat.

Design Philosophy: There’s a lot going on with this encounter.

First, if you manage at least a +0 Climb bonus you can safely move around until the centipedes attack, and if you thought to have a rope anyone with at least a +4 (likely including anyone with a rank and a class skill and light armor) still can’t fail. this rewards more mobile characters even at 1st level.

Second, it’s a high-tension fight over a bottomless pit… carefully set up so if you fall you get caught before you go too far.

Third, anyone with even one point of DR can largely ignore the centipedes.

Fourth, it’s a 6-foe fight, which rarely happens until much higher level.

Fifth, the cover means melee characters in the shaft have a real advantage over ranged characters. This may not be true for most of their adventuring career, but it’s nice to start things off rewarding the nimble rogue on a rope with a dagger in one hand.

Sixth… poison. Not too serious, but anyone with bonuses to saves against poison gets to benefit from that immediately.

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The Bottomless Tombs, Staging Area

We introduced the Bottomless tombs, and their map, yesterday.

Now, it’s time to get to some adventure!

The Top of the Tomb

The first issue is reaching the shaft, and examine the areas around it before the PCs even think of climbing down the the shaft into the tomb and reaching the first side-passage. As the PCs reach the top of the tomb shaft, read or paraphrase the following:

The top of the shaft is a square hole in the ground, roughly 15-feet to a side. Dirt, sod, and bits of refuse are piled up around the hole, and the shaft itself is choked with long tree roots, clumps of matted grass, and a tangle or what seem to be old and broken woodwork and rope rigging. It doesn’t look particularly stable, but it does offer numerous handholds. Light doesn’t penetrate more than 40-50 feet into the shaft, but there is certainly no sign of a bottom to it within that range.

An iron ring, showing just some signs of rust, is looped through a large wooden stake driven into the ground 5 feet to the north of the hole. Not far from that sits a well-defined fire pit, ringed in stones and filled with a dense layer of cold ash and charcoal. Bits of cloth, broken glass, chipped whetstones, and strips of rawhide are scattered about, more than half-buried in the grass. Old woven grass mats are laying on the ground in a semicircle around the firepit.

The firepit, mats, and refuse are the remains of numerous camps adventurers have made here over the past several decades, thought the gnomes who came through a few weeks ago didn’t use any of it.

Hazards: The mats are long-since riddled with lice, and anyone who sleeps on one must make a DC 10 Fortitude save or be at -1 to all Dexterity ability and skill checks from itching until they are deloused with a DC 10 Craft (alchemy) or Heal check. A DC 10 Survival check reveals the mats are infested, and can use smoke from a fire in the firepit to cleanse them.

Treasure: One sunrod, three pitons, a cold iron dagger, and 2 cp can be found with careful examination of the old campsite and refuse around the shaft. Each can be found with it’s own DC 10 Perception check, and an additional item found in one attempt for ever 5 the check exceeds that base DC.

Developments: Animals and outlaws both check this area from time to time, looking for food or valuables. They don’t make any dedicated searches, so any effort to bury or conceal items is successful. however, if tents, or mules, or food stores are left unattended and unguarded at the old campsite, there is a 1-in-12 chance each day that either a wolf of a brigand comes along and raids obvious materials.

Design Philosophy: It’s not that common for 1st level characters to get much use out of Survival (especially in dungeon-focused games), or from searching areas that aren’t obviously dangerous but that detail-oriented adventurers should want to check out.

This also already gives characters a reason to be happy to have an animal companion or basic hireling. If anyone (or, within limits, anything) watches their stuff they can safely use the old campsite as a base of operations. Neither wolves nor brigands will risk fighting for trail rations or spare blankets, though a guard left behind can let PCs know that someone has been prowling around after a week or more of time watching.

Low-level characters also often don’t get much benefit out of resistance to disease, or the ability to make basic alchemy and Heal checks. Lice isn;t life-threatening, but that’s the point,. Characters can begin to learn ways in which the game world is dangerous without risking having am arm drop off or becoming a mummy.

Not yet, anyway…

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The Bottomless Tombs, Intro

The Bottomless Tombs is a 1st-level Pathfinder-compatible adventure that is designed to offer some experiences not common to 1st-level play, but still totally appropriate for beginning characters.

It uses this map, with Cartography by Dyson Logos. The map is available for use free through a license from Dyson Logos, thanks to his Patreon. This is a spectacular service to the hobby, and I heartily encourage any fan of RPG maps to go support him!

Bottomless Tombs

 

The arrow in the lower-left-hand corner indicates north. The Bottomless Tombs are an ancient Merothian barrow near the town of Redstone… or whatever ancient culture and town make sense for your campaign.

The barrow is built off a single central shaft, which is choked with weeds and roots, and the rotting wreckage of several cranes and other excavation equipment a band of adventurers tried to use to reach the bottom a decade ago… before some disaster sucked in most of their equipment and they left.

The people of Redstone don’t talk about the Bottomless Tombs much, and most adventurers have ignored it for years.

But now, people in Redstone are getting sick and no medicine or magic keeps them well for long. This happened once before, 100 years ago, as a half-elf who has run the town;s general goods store for more than a ten decades–Merinn Longear–will tell the PCs. When a root dislodged the lid of a stone casket somewhere within the first few hundred feet of the shaft, the ghost of “Chagral Chagrot” that grave cursed the town with boils and fevers. Adventurers went into the tomb, cleared away the roots from Chagral Chagrot’s casket, set the lid back on, and the curse was lifted.

And Chagral Chagrot’s ghost gave each adventurer one Secret of Power as a reward.

Letters have been sent to the major church in the nearest big city, Hoard, but it will take weeks for it to arrive and help to be dispatched. By then, several children and elderly within Redstone will have died.

Merinn Longear has a great-grandson who is sick. She asks the PCs to descend into the Bottomless Barrow, find the casket of Chagral Chagrot, and put it right. She will happily give them all the rope, pitons, and climbing kits they can carry to assist with this, and offers a reward of 50 gp each, her century-old emergency fund, if they succeed.

Preparation

Redstone is not a large town, but it does have a population of almost 2,000 people. It has an aging 5th-level mayor, who is not much of a climber, and a 4th-level hedge witch, and a 3rd-level weather cleric, both of whom are happy to help prepare the PCs, but are needed in town to keep victims as well and comfortable as they can.

The PCs can do some research and asking around in town. Successful DC 14 checks with the following skills produce the listed information.

Diplomacy (gather information) — [1st check, or Knowledge (local)] The hedge witch has a store of sunrods (she has 10) she is likely to be willing to part with for a good cause (she is).

[2nd check] Some gnomes came to town asking about the Bottomless Tombs a few weeks ago, but they stayed only a day and left with no suggestion they were going there.

Knowledge (arcana) — Tombs of this kind were at one time used to bury genies, the long shaft being a way to ensure the element of air still had access to the graves of the air djinns.

Knowledge (dungeoneering) — Even if the tomb was totally emptied decades ago, chances are vermin have moved in, and possible goblins, mites, or other minor subterranearn humanoids. Also, it’s going to be dark. Bring lights.

Knowledge (religion) — Ghosts are one of the few forms of undead that aren’t almost always evil… but the majority still are. Even if destroyed, they can reform under the right conditions.

Other reasonable preparations can be made, but The Bottomless Tomb awaits!

Staging Area

Area 1: Entering the Shaft

Area 2: The First Passage

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Real Mental Health Issues, My Traumas (3)

CW: Trauma, Violence

In conjunction with my therapist, I am writing about some of the traumas I have suffered. This is an exercise for me, which I make public as part of the process, rather than in an effort to garner responses of any kind.

I’ll go back to fake words and weird game ideas later. You can safely skip this one.

I don’t remember many details of the worst beating I ever took.

Since it was also one of the most public, I someone feel like I should remember it well, but I don’t.

I was at a friends’ apartment, in the short gap after I was driving and staying out all night (at least on weekends and in summers) out of High School, before I got married. I’d guess 1987 or 1988, making it more than 30 years ago.

One of the friends who stayed at that apartment and I heard a woman yelling for help. We looked out a window and out the front door, but couldn’t see anything.

In case she needed immediate assistance, we ran toward the sound, along the 2nd-floor exposed walkway that linked the apartments, and down a set of stairs to a parking lot.

When we got to the edge of the parking lot, we saw a woman was in a car, on the driver’s side. Her window was cracked open by a very small amount, and she was yelling for help out the window. A very large man was holding on to the side-view mirror, screaming at her, and pounding on the glass.

I can not tell you anything about the woman, or the car. I have no memory at all of their appearance, or even impressions they gave me. They existed, and that’s all I know.

The man was large, muscular, and angry. I can’t tell you what he wore, what his ethnicity was,m what he hair looked like–nothing.

The woman was clearly safe, at that moment, but also clearly could not drive away without dragging the man along with her, which she seemed unwilling to do.

My friend and I decided that he, being faster,m would run back to the apartment and dial 911. I would remain here, in case the situation devolved and direct intervention became necessary. We did not wish to escalate things unless it was the only way to prevent bodily harm–a theme in many of my traumatic events which I have begun to question.

My friend ran off. The man kept screaming. The woman kept yelling for help. I observed.

At some point, something changed. I have no idea if I looked away and missed the change, or if I had the information beaten out of me, or I have just forgotten because it has been so long.

The next memory of the event I have is that the woman was driving away, dragging the man with her for a bit until he was knocked lose of the car. She drove off.

The man got up, yelled at the car, then looked around.

He saw me, and screamed “You think that’s funny?”

To be clear, I did not. i was not laughing, or even grinning. I was trying to decide if I should go check on him for injuries.

He shouted, and charged at me,

I was standing at the edge of the parking lot, next to a concrete sidewalk and a sandbox. I have a bright, clear memory of thinking that when he tackled me, it would be better to be knocked down into sand, rather than onto concrete, and taking on big step sideways so that was the angle he’d hit me at.

I do not remember speaking to him at all. I do not remember the impact.

I do remember the taste of sand and blood in my mouth, and being aware I was successfully using my arms to protect my head from his kicks.

He kicked me for what seemed like a truly prolonged period of time, but I have no objective idea how long it was. I remember being surprised that, given his size, he wasn’t doing more damage to me. I remember wondering if it was because he was drink. I don’t remember in any moment before that concluding he was drunk.

At some point in the time he was kicking me, I began to wonder if I was going to have to fight back. I had made no effort to strike him yet. I was curled up, protecting my head with my arms and my sizable gut with my legs, and he was kicking me. I feel like he must have been yelling, but that’s an impression on my part, not a clear memory.

I know I considered my options, as I was being beaten. His right leg was right on front of my feet. I saw I could easily lash out and slam into the front of his knee with both feet.

I was really afraid I would break his leg if I did that. Maybe cripple him. It felt like a disproportionate response to having him kick me for however long he had been.

It felt unreasonable.

I don’t remember if he ran off when I heard sirens, or a little before I heard sirens.

The recovery from being on the ground is also lost in my memory. One moment I was seeing him run off, the next I was sitting… I have no idea on what, talking to a policewoman.

I declined to go to the hospital. This worried her, because blood was pouring out of my mouth. I discovered my right cheek was bleeding profusely into my mouth, where a kick had torn it against my own teeth. I explained this to the policewoman.

There were a lot of people milling about. My friend had returned, at least one other friend from the apartment had shown up, and there were bystanders.

And the manager of the apartment complex, who was pressuring me to file a report at the police station. Apparently the man was someone she had trouble with.

I asked the policewoman if I should do that. She asked me if I knew the man, or would recognize him, or could describe him. I told her all I could say was he was taller than me, and powerfully built,. She affirmed I could go file a report if I wanted to, but she didn’t see how that description could lead to anything.

I did not go file a report. I was told later the manager was very upset with me for that.

Eventually I ended up at home. My parents care was there, so I must have driven myself, but I have no memory of that.

My arms and legs hurt for weeks, and I had some really spectacular bruises. I was on my parent’s health insurance, and I didn’t want them deciding I could not visit that apartment complex anymore, so I didn’t have a doctor check me out.

In the weeks that followed, several of my friends asked if I had talked to the woman in the car. A few suggested I should ask her out on a date. That seemed… vile to me. In any case, I quite honestly told them, I had no idea who she was, and given she has driven off without me doing anything to help, I doubt she had any idea who I was, or that she would care if she knew.

And that’s all I recall of this event.

Pulp Powers: Prechometry

Exploring a concept of a psychic power I’ve never seen anyone use in  story or game before.

“Prechometry”

The ability to touch an object and gain impressions of noteworthy things that are going to happen to it in the future.

Especially useful variant is “image prechometry,” which allows you to touch a detailed picture of an object (such as a blueprint), and determine what major things would happen to it if actually existed.

In my “Diesel Pulp” just-for-fun setting, the Black Duchess of Crimea has a number of prechometrist stranniks, who allow her military to troubleshoot new designs without ever actually building or testing them. While this system is not perfect, it saves so much time and money as to give the Black Duchess a huge advantage.

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Real Mental Health Issues: My Traumas (2)

This addresses and describes trauma I have suffered, and if you don’t have interest in knowing about that, or if it’s not in your mental health best interests to read about cruelty, assault, or being immobilized, don’t read this.

It’s okay. I’ll get back to imaginary creatures and game spells later. At my therapist’s recommendation, and with their support, I am both making a list of the potentially traumatic events in my life, and trying to nail down details about them I have forgotten.

It is exhausting, frightening, shocking work.

having been diagnosed with civilian PTSD, I also think it is important work for my own well-being.

This is a frank discussion and description of some of that trauma. If you’d rather not be exposed to that, it’s perfectly all right to skip this. I’ll go back to pastiche supervillains ideas and my take on politics and gaming later.

This content is mostly about alcoholism.

My father was an alcoholic. He and my mother tried to control his alcoholism with rationality and intelligence, because they were rational, intelligent people.

It did not work.

My father was never violent. In fact, I have never witnessed any violence against any member of my family except myself, and I have never witnessed any member of my family be violent except myself.

I have assumed, for my entire life, that since my father was never violent, there was no trauma to me associated with his alcoholism.

When drunk, my father made promises that not only would he not keep, he would not remember.

All the alcohol in the house I grew up in was kept in a cabinet that, after he had consumed the two drinks a night my parents thought was reasonable, my mother would lock.

Then, when he felt he needed more alcohol, my father either had to try to force the doors of that cabinet open just enough to pry a bottle loose with a bent coathanger, or go out.

He never drove to get alcohol, and never drove after having even one drink.

He did, however, call a taxi… of just take a walk. We lived 3 houses down from a bar and restaurant (The Mont, in Norman, OK), and late a convenience store was even closer,

As early as 5 or 6, if I woke up late at night and my father was going out, he might take me to the Mont as 10 or 11pm, after everyone else was asleep. I could sit in the restaurant section, and he’d sit right next to me, on the other side of the railing that demarcated the bar.

I learned to play chess with him, and later the game go, at that bar.

As I grew older, he was more likely to walk to the store, buy a bottle, and come back and we’d play games at home. My earliest game experiences–chess, go, checkers, pitch, and a civil war wargame/boardgame I don’t know the name of, were with my father, but only when he was drunk. We almost never got to finish those games, because he’d become too drunk to keep playing. Usually he’d fall asleep, or begin to cry about international politics he’d slurringly try to explain to me.

This was all I knew. To me, this was normal.

I did that less once I had friends, and could play games with them. No because I was avoiding my father, but because the window during which he could play got shorter and shorter, as he drank more, faster.

After my sister went to college, it began to be normal to come into the living room in the morning to discover my father had passed out after unlocking the door to come into the house, and we had, for an unknown period of time, been asleep with our front door held open by his body being slumped across our doorway.

My mother told my father to stop getting drunk at home, so he would take a taxi to a motel, and get drunk there, often paying people to spend time with him because he disliked drinking alone.

In my mid-to-late teens, I met some of the people he paid to spend time with him. They suggested I could pay them to spend time with me. They also suggested I could get the money to do so from my father and he wouldn’t even notice.

I am sure I could have.

My father was a sweet man who loved me, and was doing the best he could.

He and my mother were going to take my wife and I out to dinner on our first wedding anniversary–but he got too drunk and couldn’t do it. My mother had to call me, and confess he had moved out a few weeks before, and they hadn’t told me because they didn’t want to ruin my anniversary dinner.

My mother took us out without him.

About a year before he died, in an effort to get him to go back into rehab, I told him he was drinking himself to death.

He told me he knew, and that was what he wanted. He wanted to drink himself to death.

He did.

Real Mental Health Issues: My Traumas

This addresses and describes trauma I have suffered, and if you don’t have interest in knowing about that, or if it’s not in your mental health best interests to read about cruelty, assault, or being immobilized, don’t read this.

It’s okay. I’ll get back to imaginary creatures and game spells later.

While I have been to therapy for years, I had never before had a therapist ask me to catalog all the major traumas in my life.

It’s… troubling.

There are things I mention when asked probing question I have never thought of as major trauma… but I see why my therapist is dubious.

I know that, at a major national camping event, when I was in my early-to-mid teens, a young woman asked me to follow her from the campground into the woods, whereupon she brought me to a group of mostly older kids who jumped me, hit me, and forced me into a large hole they had dug in the dirt. At least one of them jumped down on me and kept me pinned there.

I remember being confused as to why she wanted me to come with her. I knew who she was (the only woman I recall in a camp full of boys and men), but I did not know her at all. I had a sense that I was headed into a situation where I did not understand the socially acceptable behavior or appropriate expectations.

Anytime I feel that now, I get very upset. I can have a panic attack walking into a new restaurant if I don’t know if I am supposed to sit, wait for a server, or walk up to the counter. That’s not my most common response, but it has happened.

I very clearly remember being very upset that no matter how hard I tried, I could not get up, or get my face out of the dirt.

I remember everyone was laughing, in what sounded like true amusement.

I don’t remember how I got out of the hole. I don’t remember what anyone said, afterwards. I do remember being entirely sure I could not tell the people running the camp. That doing so would make things worse.

I don’t remember why, though the young woman was the daughter of one of those people, which may have impacted my thinking. I remember I liked her. I don’t remember her name. Or even her face, at this point.

I don’t remember any of their faces.

I know that for months after that I thought about it, but noted to myself that I hadn’t been *injured*. No broken bones. No blood.

“Not a big deal.”

I never told my family.

Eventually, I dropped out of that camping group, though not for at least a year after this.

“Not a big deal.”

Maybe I was wrong, about that.

Thankfully, my therapist knows this is impacting me. I have coping mechanisms. I have support. And if this IS something I needed to accept had a lasting impact on me, at least I can work on it now.

But it’s weird to have to face this thing again, which I so successfully buried, so long ago.

It’s upsetting, and I don’t like them still having the power to upset me.

Which, or course, is part of the point of delving into it.

 

How The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota Saved the World

Carson pulled the twine tight, again. She walked around the enormous almost-sphere of the material, again. She pulled a new skein of twine from her coat pocket, and tied it to the end of the twine coming off the twine-ball. Again.

this won’t work, mortal

The voice was much weaker than he had been when she’d started. Good. A few more hours, and even she wouldn’t hear it anymore.

She smiled, and she began tugging, wrapping, and walking around the twine. Again.

“It will, Svarmag, thank goodness. While you deigoth can only be bound by unique memorials, they don’t have to be hanging gardens, or colossi.” She patted the oversized string ball affectionately. “Just, you know, noteworthy.”

they built the sphinx itself to bind me

Carson smiled. “And then Napoleon’s troops screwed up and let you out, I know. Though let’s be honest, if you were stored in the nose, you probably aren’t why they built the sphinx. I’d bet there were dozens of you stored in there. You were just the lucky booger who escaped.

this is not fitting. it is not permanent. it is no…

Carson felt a grin tug at her face. Oh, it would take some planning. A foundation, dedicated to the cultural impact of the ball. A little money. Some websites.

But yes. Svarmag would be bound in twine, Forever.

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Five Years at Paizo

I have now been a full-time employee of Paizo for five years.

It both seems like it’s been much, much longer than that, and like it can’t possible have been that long.

I was hired to be a developer for the Pathfinder Modules line, and that lasted for all of a single module (Plunder & Peril), which was outlined and ordered before I showed up, written by awesome authors, and which both Paizo Editor-in-Chief at the time Wes Schneider and the entire Paizo editorial staff had to do a lot of hand-holding to get me through it. Then I moved over to help with the Player Companion line, which I eventually took over. The first book I was able to propose, outline, assign, develop, and shepherd through the whole process was Dirty Tactics Toolbox, and it remains something I am proud of. I developed or helped develop 24 titles in that line, covering a little more than two years. Again, it both feels like it was longer than that, and like I couldn’t possible have been doing that for two years.

During that time I was also the host for Paizo’s RPG Superstar contest, was the Freeport Developer for Green Ronin (and yes, that got complicated, and I appreciate more than I can ever express the trust both companies placed in me), a blogger, the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, a developer and then producer for Rite publishing, a freelance writers developer and consultant, the person who handled most of the development blogs for the Emerald Spire (leading to my “Into the Emerald Spire ongoing multi-year Con game, which will be played at the 6th PaizoCon in  row come next month), a seminar attendee, and as much as possible an advocate for the causes and people I thought needed allies.

(And as a ridiculously long parenthetical aside, I wish I had written something like this for my five-year anniversary with Green Ronin, who have been a loving and supportive family in ways I never would have predicted, and for Rogue Genius Games, which is still my baby. But those milestones hit at times when I didn’t have the words. I don’t want to take away from my main point, but nothing in the past five years has been simple, and I need some folks to know I love and appreciate them at a special level. Thanks Ronins. Thanks Stan! I would not have survived the past 60 months without you all.)

For five years, Paizo has been the focus of my social, professional, and financial life. I met new people. I made, and in a few cases lost to tragedy, close friends. I even had a “five year plan.” I thought I was on a specific path, and thought I knew where that would take me.

Then, Starfinder.

Which I never saw coming.

First the pre-game work, then the core rulebook, and now the work as Starfinder Design Lead. I’ve followed, collaborated, tried to lead, grown, and I hope helped others to grow. I am grateful for how amazing and talented all the people who work on Starfinder in all capacities are, and I am truly proud of a universe I have helped to begin. I look forward to seeing it evolve, especially watching the amazing things other people are doing to make it so much better than I imagined.

On the journey to be here, this arbitrary benchmark which has me writing passionately at 3:30am (and not at all for the first time), one moment sticks out in my mind.

In early 2014, on a phone call with Erik Mona about whether I would seriously give up the life of being a full-time freelancer in the extremely cheap and well-known environments of Oklahoma to take a full-time job for Paizo, he asked me why I wanted the job.

“I want to grow. I want to be around people who do work I admire. I want to meet new people, learn new skills, and do new things. I love Pathfinder, and I love Paizo. I want to help both of those things be better, and I can’t imagine a better place for me to be around successful people who can help me be better.”

It was, Erik said at the time, a great answer.

And, it has proven to be a great success in terms of making me a better person.

The past five years has certainly not been without its challenges, frustrations, pains, fights, and failures. But especially on the my year anniversary, I want to take special care to thank EVERYONE I have ever worked with since I joined Paizo, from managers and publishers and the warehouse crew and art department, editors, designers, developers, and owners, to freelancers and the community and Superstar contestants, for being so helpful, and welcoming, and awesome.

I look forward to the next five years, and all the challenges and opportunities they will bring.

Owen K.C. Stephens,

Starfinder Design Lead, Paizo, Inc.