Monthly Archives: September 2016

Dragon Punch: MAD Monks and Nimble elves

The option to swap the function of one ability score modifier for another is one of the holy grails of some Pathfinder RPG character designs. However, the ability scores are balanced the way they are for a reason. If a character can depend on a single ability score for everything, the character can focus on options to boost that one score to much, much higher levels. A character that seems reasonable using only Charisma more everything at 3rd level can be a broken monster by 9th.

OTOH, some character concepts just don’t work well using the game as written. In some cases, that’s fine (neither Superman nor the Hulk can work in Pathfinder without either breaking Pathfinder, or significantly downgrading expectations on performance). In other cases it’s unfortunate that an option for one character build is often excluded because it could make other builds off-scale. This is one reason ability-modifier-altering abilities tend to be carefully controlled. Dexterity is powerful enough without every character being able to add 1.5x Dex their bonus to damage with an elven curveblade.

So every ability-swap power is treading into dangerous territory. Here’s a feat that’s an example of an effort to open up reasonable character options, without breaking the floodgates.

Dragon Punch

You can focus your inner power for a short time to deliver powerful strikes.

Prerequisites: Dex 13, Wis 13, Improved Unarmed Strike, Stunning Fist.

Benefit: Once per round as a free action you can expend one use of Stunning Fist to add your Wisdom bonus (in place of any other ability score bonus) to all your unarmed attack damage until the beginning of your next turn. You may do this at any time, including after you make a successful attack roll or damage roll.

You cannot use Dragon Punch and Stunning Fist on the same round.

Microsetting: Gestalt of the Earth

This microsetting is designed to boost the power of all PCs, and help put them on even footing regardless of playstyle or campaign. A Gestalt of the Earth fighter has the tools to easily hold her own in investigations, political dramas, and high-level planehopping adventures, without removing any of the power of clerics, wizards, and psychics.


Once, titans walked the world. And demigods, and storm speakers, and favored of dragonkind. They built empires, and waged wars that cracked reality, and created artifacts that drew the attention of archangels and fiendish dukes alike. This was the Age of Legends, and in this time nothing was impossible, and heroes and villains commanded power unheard of for mortals before or since.

The Age of Legends ended with the War of the Fivefold Throne, when the most powerful of artifacts, able to command dragons, undead, outsiders, elementals, and fey, was shattered in a battle at the base of the World Oak. Nearly ever Legendary Hero of every origin was present, and as they died, and their pacts and powers unwound, and lesser artifacts shattered, and wishes and miracles flee like swarms of bees, every great empire, might tower, and unending academy in the world shattered. Civilization unwound, the savage hoards rose up, and the Legends ended.

It is not the Age of Blights. City States have reformed, but few command much beyond the range of a bowshot from their highest wall. A few places of learning and houses of devotion have rekindled the guttering fires of knowledge and faith… but for most it is a time of toil and danger.

The Legends are gone… but their legacies are not entirely wiped from the world.

The Conceit

All PCs (and as many NPCs as the GM wants) are Legacies—those who inherited a fraction of the power of past legends. Some are true god-blooded heroes, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of demigods. Others are the last scions of lost imperial lines, keepers of a single symbol of the words of creation, the vestiges of 10th level greater wishes and major miracles made manifest and mortal, or the peasant offspring of porters who just happened to witness the slaying of the last ArchDragon by the Paladin-Mage of Vaelinor, who invoked a retributive strike from the Holy Avenging Staff of the Templar-Magi.

In short, the PCs can’t hold a candle to the Legends… but they have infusions of power that place their potential well above any other mortal.

The Rules

Each player character gains spells known and spells per day as a sorcerer of a level equal to the PC’s character level. The PC selects any 9-level spell list to draw these spells from (cleric, druid, psychic, shaman, sorcerer/wizard, or witch). The PC casts these spells with a caster level equal to the PC’s character level, and treats all these spells as if they were all cast as Still Spells, with no adjustment to spell level or casting time. The PC selects Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma. All calculations made in regards to these spells (bonus spells, save DCs, spells per day, and even things like attack bonus for a spiritual weapon) are calculated using the selected ability score’s modifier.
Additionally each PC gains the fervor warpriest class feature, useable a number of times per day equal to 2 +1/2 the PC’s character level.

For a campaign where the PCs basically also don’t need magic treasure, you can also grant the PCs automatic bonus progressions, from Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Unchained.


PCs are much, MUCH tougher and more dangerous in a Gestalt of the Earth setting. Fighters can fly, teleport, and scry. Wizards can raise the dead and heal. Witches can cast fireball.

When preparing adventures for such PCs, the GM can either treat a party’s APL as 30% higher (round up), or give everything in an encounter with a CR based on the group’s actual APL the same spellpower abilities (though based on the creature’s CR for spells/day, spells known, and caster level).


Continuing playing with the idea of quirks that replace favored class bonuses.


Any character may take this quirk in place of a favored class bonus. You gain a formal, official, recognized title. Other creatures gain a +2 bonus to Knowledge checks to identify you. You gain a +2 bonus to Intimidate checks made against creatures that have successfully identified you. The GM (with your input) picks a location where you have additional legal rights or authority based on your title. In this location, your bonus also applies to Diplomacy checks made against creatures that have successfully identified you.

If the downtime rules are in use, you also gain a +2 bonus to any downtime check made in the location you have additional rights or authority.

This quirk may be taken more than once. Each time the bonus other creatures get to identify you increases by +2, and the GM gives you one more location where you have additional rights or authority. Your own bonuses do not increase.

If you take this at first level, you begin play with maximum starting wealth for your class.

100 Questions for Your RPG Group; 21-30

100 Questions for Your RPG Group

These questions are designed not to lead anyone to the “one true path to roleplaying,” nor even to find and excise undesirables. Instead, they are tools of conversation. Hopefully they’ll help members of an RPG group discuss some philosophy, some game theory, and some silly shit.

These are best handled in person, while feeling casual, likely with beer and pizza (or the age & culturally appropriate equivalent).

21-30 Players

What player’s find fun, unfun, reasonable, and totally out of line can be crucial components of a good rpg session.

  1. Do players have a responsibility to the GM or other players to help them have fun?
  2. If you knew an action your character was about to take would upset the GM or another player (not an NPC or PC, but the actual people at the table), and not taking that action would be out of character, would you still have your character act that way? Would you discuss the action with the people you thought it would upset, either before of after taking it.
  3. If you like the idea of a campaign of evil characters, discuss reasons players in general might not enjoy such a game. If you dislike the idea of a campaign of evil characters, discuss reasons players in general might find such a game fun.
  4. Paper or plastic? Now defend the answer as a heroic champion of all that is good and right. Now answer as a conniving scoundrel. Now answer as a master scholar. Now answer as a violent antisocial psychopath. Explain why you answered as you did in those personas.
  5. If a player consistently and definitely has worse luck than any other player or the GM, and that makes the game less fun for them, should the GM or other players make any special rules to compensate for that player’s unluck?
  6. If you knew another player was cheating, and it didn’t seem to impact the enjoyment anyone else was having, how would you handle that?
  7. If you knew the GM was altering die rolls or NPC statistics, how would you handle that?
  8. If you found the out-of-character actions of another player was making the game not enjoyable for you, how would you handle that? What if it was the GM? How would you like other players or the GM to handle the situation if you are the one making a game unfun for someone else?
  9. If you found a character concept or the actions of another player’s character was making the game not enjoyable for you, how would you handle that? What if it was the GM and an NPC? How would you like other players or the GM to handle the situation if your character is the one making a game unfun for someone else?
  10. Name one gaming-related pet peeve of yours that you admit is unreasonable.

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Master Class, Hybrid Classes (Pt. 2)

Master Class are posts where I talk a bit about design choices, how I make them, and what guides these decisions. They’ll likely be pretty rare.

Building the Bombardier (Hybrid Alchemist/Gunslinger), Part Two

So we already looked at the reason for building a bombardier, and selected the “above the fold” information we were borrowing to help define things like hit dice and skill points, back in Part One.

While we decided on our base attack bonus progression in Part One (since base attack and hit die are connected, even though that’s not always obvious), I want to revisit that decision just a bit. A character’s base attack bonus tells a player a lot about what a class is intended to be good at and it also absorbs a lot of potential power from a class. A full attack bonus (beginning at +1 and increasing by 1` at every level) is restricted to combat-focused characters, and is never combined with spellcasting better than weak (no spells at 1st level, and a maximum of 4th level spells, like paladins and rangers). A moderate attack bonus (beginning with +1 at 2nd level, and increasing by +3 every 4 levels) gives us the greatest flexibility, and can be combined with moderate spellcasting (up to 6 levels of spells over 20 character levels) or even strong spellcasting (up to 9th level spells) with a spell list that doesn’t focus on offensive magics. A weak attack bonus (beginning at +1 at 2nd level, and increasing by +1 every 2 levels) removes direct combat as a function of the character, and is almost always pared with strong spellcasting with a spell list with many offensive abilities.

When designing a hybrid class that combines two classes with different base attack bonus progressions, such as alchemist and gunslinger, this is a crucial decision. Hybrid classes that go for the lesser of the two attack progressions (such as the hunter, skald, and warpriest) leave more room for special abilities to make the class more interesting, and can easily draw on 6 levels worth of spells. Classes that go with the higher base attack bonus progression (such as the bloodrager, brawler, and slayer) have much more limited options about magical powers.

These are both legitimate design choices. So for our bombardier, we had to decide if we want to build a alchemy-and-guns combatant focused on kicking ass and taking names, or a martial-themed effects and magic class with a broader range of options but less direct combat ability and resilience. I’m sticking with the decision from part One and going with a moderate base attack bonus progression, but that will impact the next few decisions.

The next step is to do a rough listing of what features we are going to borrow from the parent classes, and what levels we plan to get them at. We can “pencil in” that information to form a rough skeleton of a class. His will show us what is already designed that we can use (or modify), give us a sense of what the class is lacking, and show us where we need to add something interesting to avoid “dead levels.”

An aside – For those not familiar with the term, a dead level is a character class level that doesn’t give the player something new and exciting. It sucks when you gain a new level, and discover all it does is give you more hit points and some attack or saving throw increase. A player works hard to earn new character levels, and we want to reward them. Sometimes a new level of spells can count (especially for good spell lists with lots of options), and other times we really want a new ability listed under “special” for the class.

So, looking at the gunslinger we can see we need the gunsmith feature, or something a lot like it. If the character class is going to feel like it can bombard things (and if it can’t, it shouldn’t be a bombardier), it needs some kind of bombard. We may play with what firearm you can get or exactly how it works later, but for our “pencil in” stage, we should mark the gunsmith ability for 1st level. Since the bombardier has less hit points and a lower base attack bonus than a gunslinger, we have room to collect at least a few gunslinger abilities without being overpowered. The other things the gunslinger gets are deeds, nimble bonuses, and grit. We going to want some of that, but it may not all happen at the same levels gunslingers get it. Let’s look at the alchemist.

The alchemist gets bombs at 1st level, and clearly a bombardier needs bombs. We’ll likely need to make some adjustment to the ability to have it work with the firearm somehow, but that’s a problem for later. Like our firearm, the bombs seem crucial to the core idea, so we need to get them at 1st level.

The alchemist also gets alchemy, brew potion, discoveries, mutagen, poison resistance, and poison use. We clearly can’t take all of that, or we end up with an alchemist who also gets a gun. So we need to decide what from that list doesn’t fit our vision.

Certainly bombardiers don’t need poison use, at least automatically. Poison bombs could easily be a thing, but we can make that an option a character chooses if desired. Similarly mutagens have nothing to do with bombs, and are a major ability for alchemists, so cutting them gives us some breathing room for the things being added from gunslinger. We want discoveries, to make neat bombs, and likely some kind of bonus that takes the place of poison resistance, which we may tie to nimble from gunslinger.

So let’s sketch in a progression with bombs gunsmith, some kind of specializations (that will function as a mix of deeds and discoveries), and some kind of nimble bonus. We can define exactly how these thigns work later, we just want an idea how often they come up for now, and a rough progression to make sure we are avoiding dead levels.


Level      BAB        Fort        Ref         Will        Special

1             +0           +2           +2           +0           Bombs 1d6, gunsmith

2             +1           +3           +3           +0           Bombardier specialization, nimble +1

3             +2           +3           +3           +1           Bombs 2d6

4             +3           +4           +4           +1           Bombardier specialization

5             +3           +4           +4           +1           Bombs 3d6

6             +4           +5           +5           +2           Bombardier specialization, nimble +2

7             +5           +5           +5           +2           Bombs 4d6

8             +6           +6           +6           +2           Bombardier specialization

9             +6           +6           +6           +3           Bombs 5d6

10           +7           +7           +7           +3           Bombardier specialization, nimble +3

11           +8           +7           +7           +3           Bombs 6d6

12           +9           +8           +8           +4           Bombardier specialization

13           +9           +8           +8           +4           Bombs 7d6

14           +10        +9           +9           +4           Bombardier specialization, nimble +4

15           +11        +9           +9           +5           Bombs 8d6

16           +12        +10        +10        +5           Bombardier specialization

17           +12        +10        +10        +5           Bombs 9d6

18           +13        +11        +11        +6           Bombardier specialization, nimble +5

19           +14        +11        +11        +6           Bombs 10d6

20           +15        +12        +12        +6           Bombardier specialization


So, if we want alchemy, that’ll add a major boost to every level when the bombardier gains a new level of extracts (levels 1, 4, 7, 10, 14, and 18). Brew potion and isn’t huge, but it makes sense and we likely want it. Throw Anything we can likely skip, since our bombardier will be using a bombard of some kind. There’s not a lot of room left for grit, so we likely either ignore it or also make it a form of specialization, or somehow tie it to alchemy (perhaps you can burn extracts as liquid courage to do grit-like things). Gunslingers and alchemists both get a fair number of abilities at 1st level, and alchemists also get a lot at 2nd, so let’s see if we can fit in the stuff we want.


Level      BAB        Fort        Ref         Will        Special

1             +0           +2           +2           +0           Alchemy, bombs 1d6, gunsmith

2             +1           +3           +3           +0           Bombardier specialization, brew potion, nimble +1

3             +2           +3           +3           +1           Bombs 2d6

4             +3           +4           +4           +1           Alchemy, bombardier specialization

5             +3           +4           +4           +1           Bombs 3d6

6             +4           +5           +5           +2           Bombardier specialization, nimble +2

7             +5           +5           +5           +2           Alchemy, bombs 4d6

8             +6           +6           +6           +2           Bombardier specialization

9             +6           +6           +6           +3           Bombs 5d6

10           +7           +7           +7           +3           Alchemy, bombardier specialization, nimble +3

11           +8           +7           +7           +3           Bombs 6d6

12           +9           +8           +8           +4           Bombardier specialization

13           +9           +8           +8           +4           Bombs 7d6

14           +10        +9           +9           +4           Alchemy, bombardier specialization, nimble +4

15           +11        +9           +9           +5           Bombs 8d6

16           +12        +10        +10        +5           Bombardier specialization

17           +12        +10        +10        +5           Bombs 9d6

18           +13        +11        +11        +6           Alchemy, bombardier specialization, nimble +5

19           +14        +11        +11        +6           Bombs 10d6

20           +15        +12        +12        +6           Bombardier specialization


That’s not as crowded as it looks, given that alchemists have a similar set of heavily loaded levels. But it also doesn’t leave room for a lot of NEW abilities, which is an important part of a hybrid class. We can certainly make many new abilities specializations, but we need a core ability that is the bombardier’s alone, and that’s likely going to push something out. Also, we may want to tack on something like evasion, to help make the martial-bomb-user theme work, and that’s going to take up space. Compared to the alchemist, this looks reasonable. Compared to the rogue, it looks a bit too flexible.

But it’s a good START, which is all we were looking for. With the as a baseline we can design new unique class features, and shuffle things around, in Part Three!

Geek Movie Review: Magnificent Seven (2016)

Just got back from seeing The Magnificent Seven (2016). I enjoyed it a lot, and it’s my favorite western of recent years. That said, I don’t think it’ll be considered a timeless masterpiece.

But I don’t NEED a western to be a timeless masterpiece. That’s too high a bar for me to set for success, and on its own terms I thought this was a solid movie. This general plot is one of my favorite stories, and I am happy to see any competent new take on it, even if it doesn’t surpass the originals.

In my rankings of heptaheroic tales, I place this firmly behind Seven Samurai and Magnificent Seven (1960), but above Battle Beyond the Stars, Samurai 7 (the cyberpunk anime), The Magnificent Seven (1998 tv show), any of the sequels to the 1960 movie, and The Seven Magnificent Gladiators.

Nearly any heptaheroic makes me want to play an RPG, and I suspect that’s because it’s a story of disparate heroes gathering against overwhelming odds to protect the innocent and downtrodden. By killing people. It maps very well to classic RPG tropes and can often be easily supported by a wide range of rpg systems.

It also makes me want to do more stuff with Guns of Tarnation, for the same reason.

In a binary digit-based rating system, I give it a thumbs up.

’49 – Kol

It was cold in the Box. Kol knew it was always cold, and he sniffed to see if something was making it seem colder. His stomach growled, and if he had smelled food he could not reach that would have been colder. There was the faint scent of smoke and burn, which made his spine cold, but that wasn’t new. The Workers had been smelling smoke for more than the day. Gray light filtered in through the cracks of the Box. The light did make Kol cold. It was a bad light. A pain light.

Pain was very cold.

He pressed closer to his workmates for warmth. Kol was on the outside of the nestle, so he was colder than those further in. Kol knew he was among the biggest of the Workers. He could force his way closer to the center of the nestle if he wanted to. Maybe not the very middle – the Workers would complain, and while no one Worker was stronger than him, Workers together could do more than a Worker alone. The Bright Lady had taught all the Workers this truth, and Kol had seen the truth himself.

Thinking of the Bright Lady made Kol warmer for a moment, but when he realized she wasn’t in the Box, he became the coldest he could recall being. Of course the Bright Lady didn’t sit in Boxes. But knowing she was not nearby drew away his heat. His head sunk down, and a soft moan escaped his lips.

Gris, the Worker to Kol’s knife-side, placed a hand on Kol’s shoulder, then brushed the back of his hand past Kol’s cheek. Kol took the hand, and pressed it to his face. It was cool, but warmer than Kol’s face. That Gris would offer the comfort was warmer, still.

Together, Workers were stronger than apart.

The Box had a pattern. A sway to one side. Two kathunks, one louder than the other. A sway back. It was all the Box offered. Sway. KATHUNK, ka-thunk. Sway. The Workers swayed with the Box, and sometimes nodded with its kathunks. It wasn’t warm, but it was something to do. They knew the Box. They understood it. It was when it changed the Workers were unsure what to do. Sometimes change was warm.

But not often.

Thunder echoed in the distance, and may of the smaller Workers near the middle of the nestle whimpered and one, Kol thought it might have been little Ys, cried. Kol wanted to cry, too, but he felt the chill growing over all the Workers. If he cried, he who was among the strongest Workers with the biggest hands, then all the Workers would feel the chill that fire could not drive away. He knew he had to ignore the cold, and ignore the thunder. He snorted, derisively, then gave a soft grunt. Several Workers near him chuckled at his grunt, and the whimpering grew softer. Gris grinned at Kol, baring both slashing-teeth, and thumped Kol’s side with the back of a hand. Kol grinned back.

Workers were stronger than cold.

Workers had to Work, but that was okay. The Bright Lady gave them Work, and told them they were all equal. She was a Planner, one of those whose Work was more than others, and who made sure Work was not wasted. The Bright Lady was the first smell Kol remembered, from his time in the First Place. Like all his workmates, Kol had been taught to talk, and to use voice sounds to emulate talking. She had given him his uniform, and his knife. She had taught him how to hate the Bourj, and how to use his knife to free the Bourj’s slaves. That Work always made Kol sad. A Bourj slave looked a lot like a Worker once you freed them, except for the blood.

Not all Workers could do the Work. But Kol, and his workmates in the Box, had been praised and rewarded by the Bright lady many times. They had, she said, earned the right to have Rifles, as gifts from the Father.

Kol looked forward to meeting the Father. But apparently the Father lived far way. They had been in the Box a long time, waiting to get to the Father.

From outside the Box, the metal screams warned of a sudden jerk. No Worker liked the metal screams, but Kol had learned they sometimes meant change. And the Box was cold, so change might be good. When food came, it was after a jerk. And the quiet time was always after a jerk.

The metal scream weakened, and the sway and kathunks became uneven. Many Workers chittered their unease. None liked the Box, but steady was better than uneven. Kol did not chitter. He disliked uneven, but this always happened after a long metal scream. It was a kind of even, just one few Workers knew.

No kathunk. No sway.

The thunder continued, sometimes louder, sometimes not. There were pops as well, and slams, and sizzles. The smoke smell was stronger, and had many different smokes. Wood smoke, Kol knew that one well. Oil smoke, too. And hair. And flesh.

Kol did not think this change from the Box would be warm.

The silence in the Box was colder than the swaying kathunks. Kol could hear Planners make voice noises outside, and Tall Workers. They were not calm. When Planners were not calm, it meant a plan had gone wrong. Planners could not fix bad plans. All they could do was tell Workers and Tall Workers how to fix it. Tall Workers didn’t work as well as Workers, and many thought they were Planners, too. But they didn’t have the Brights the Planners did, and their plans were often bad for Workers.

Real plans were bad for Workers too, sometimes, but that couldn’t be helped. It was important for other Workers that each Worker try to finish a plan.

The side of the Box growled, and slid away. The gray light flooded in, and the nestle broke apart as other Workers moved away from the colder air. Kol was near the open side, and did not move away. He turned, to look out of the box.

Four Tall Workers, one with a rifle, stood in the open side of the Box. They were voice noising, loudly. Kol knew he knew the words, but he didn’t care yet. Beyond the Box were many Tall Workers, and they chattered. Some had a Bright marking them as little Planners, and these yelled at the Tall Workers without Brights. Kol realized there were many Boxes, rows and rows of them, sitting on the metal lines that carried them. They stretched out as far as he could see. Boxes. Tall Workers. Little Planners. Yelling, shoving rifles into Tall Workers hands. If there was a plan here, it had already gone bad. Kol felt his lips peeling back from his slashing-teeth. Bad plans were very, very cold.

“I said move!”

One of the Tall Workers standing in the side of the box grabbed Ys, and began hauling her out of the Box. Ys’s closest brother Yan, grabbed at her. No Worker would try to separate Ys and Yan, but the Tall Worker didn’t know better. Gris moved forward, using his hands to quickly flash a few words of explanation. Kol began to use his voice sounds to make words, to remind Gris most Tall Workers couldn’t communicate properly.

Then the Tall Worker hit Gris with the butt of his rifle. Gris was surprised, and fell, raising one long arm to protect himself.

“Get away from me, you freaks! And move out now!”

Kol felt his face furrow. Tall Workers and Workers didn’t hit each other, unless the ones being hit were breaking the Law. The Bright Lady had taught them that over and over. She had spoken of making sure Workers never hit Tall Workers, but obviously the rule went both ways. They were all Workers. They were all equal. They’d been told this.

The Workers behind Kol shuddered. Other Tall Workers grabbed Ys and dragged her away from the Box, throwing her down on the ground by the metal line. Blood leaked from her cheek, matting the soft hair covering her face. The red color and iron smell immediately warmed Kol. When a Worker bled, other Workers made it stop.

The Tall Workers grabbed Gris’s foot, and began to drag him out too. Kol didn’t know if these were actually Bourj, or if the rule against Workers hitting Workers was gone, but it didn’t matter. He knew how to stop Tall ones from hurting his Workmates. His hand dropped to his long knife, and he bared his slashing-teeth. Behind him, he heard the sound of three dozen palms slapping on knife-handles.

“Idiots! Stop this right NOW!”

The Bright Lady leaped over Ys, and into the Box. Her long coat was not as clean, and its many Brights were not as shiny, but Kol knew her scent and sound immediately. As she used her voice sounds on the Tall Workers, her hands spoke to Kol and his workmates. Wait, beloved Workers. She flashed with one firm hand.

If she’s said to stop, Kol wasn’t sure if he would have. Not even for the beloved Bright Lady. Not once blood was in the air. But she’d saved them many times by having them wait. Wait until night, when the Tall ones don’t see as well. Wait until the Bourj slaves walk past, then drop on their backs. Wait until the spoiled Planner is gone, then go back to doing things the right way.

Wait was a warm word. Kol waited, hand on his knife, and focused on her Voice.

“ …closer to death than you’ll ever know. Get back, and leave this to me.”

“Ye… yes commissar. We didn’t think… ”

“Obviously!” The Bright Lady’s voice was full of scorn. Kol knew the shame that Voice could bring, and the Tall Workers hung their heads with cold disgrace. They were, Kol thought, not that different from his workmates.

As the Tall Workers moved away from the Box, the Bright Lady’s knife-hand told Gris to pick up Ys, and bring her close. Her other hand flashed words to the Workers in the Box.

“Our Great Father is threatened, and this is why we are here. The Bourj and their slaves attack and burn his home. You can smell it now! He wanted you to have homes here, but the Bourj have burned your homes!”

Kol felt warm anger slowly fill him. The Great Father loved them so much! And if it weren’t for the Bourj, the workers could have lived here, with the Tall Workers. And then the Tall Workers would learn to work with them, as they worked with each other.

Gris brought Ys to the Bright Lady, who crouched down and cradled the small worker to her. Other Tall Ones often turned their heads, and avoided touching the hair on a Worker’s face or arms, but the Bright Lady stroked Ys, and cooed at her while keeping her hand talking.

“Good Workers, it is time to fight. We do not want to fight, but we know we must, for all Workers everywhere. You were promised rifles for this fight, but the Bourj took them. We no longer have enough rifles for all. And the Tall Workers, they are weak, and afraid. This is why they lashed out at you, in confusion and fear. You all know their weaknesses. They cannot climb as you do, or do red Work with their knives. We will let them have the few rifles here, for they are too fragile without them. We will forgive them for their weakness.”

Kol had only fired a rifle a few times, in training, but he had looked forward to having his own. When the Bright Lady took them to do red Work and the Bourj had rifles, the rifles caused terrible hurt for Workers. Killed them.  But the Bright Lady was right. Tall Workers were not as good with knives as Kol, or any of his Workmates. And if they were afraid… Kol felt badly for the Tall Workers.

The Bright Lady kept her hand talking.

“Bourj slaves are attacking our Father’s city right now. The Tall Workers can hear the fight, but we can smell it. The city may… “ she paused. “The Father’s place is threatened. The Bourj want to make all of this a Bad Place.”

Kol found himself exposing his slashing-teeth again. Only a Bourj would make a bad place.

“But we will stop them! You, and I, my dear, dear workmates. The Bourj slaves have rifles, rifles meant for you. We will scent them out. We will find them, and do the red Work. And then, their rifles will be ours! And the Father will be pleased, and we will be honored!”

Kol slapped his knife, as did every workmate. Even little Ys, laying in the Bright lady’s lap, slapped the handle of her knife.

Kol felt very warm. There was WORK to be done.

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100 Questions for Your RPG Group; 11-20

100 Questions for Your RPG Group

These questions are designed not to lead anyone to the “one true path to roleplaying,” nor even to find and excise undesirables. Instead, they are tools of conversation. Hopefully they’ll help members of an RPG group discuss some philosophy, some game theory, and some silly shit.

These are best handled in person, while feeling casual, likely with beer and pizza (or the age & culturally appropriate equivalent).

11-20 Hidden Genre Preferences

It’s easy to talk about our favorite movies and television programs, but there’s some useful information in other things we like as well.

  1. What is your favorite Saturday Morning Cartoon? What is your favorite animation you don’t consider a Saturday Morning Cartoon?
  2. What is your favorite commercial?
  3. What is your favorite book cover (fiction or nonfiction)?
  4. What is your favorite toy?
  5. What is your favorite television show or movie that you think is objectively bad?
  6. What is your favorite book series with 6 or more books in it?
  7. What is your favorite story (book, TV, movie, or otherwise) that you hate the ending to? What ending would you have preferred?
  8. What story (book, TV, movie, or otherwise) did you love when you were younger, but have since come to dislike? Why do you think your opinion changed?
  9. What RPG that you hate the rules for do you most love the setting of?
  10. What RPG that you hate the setting of do you most love the rules for?

More questions next week!

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Continuing playing with the idea of quirks that replace favored class bonuses. So, in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day


Any character can take this quirk in place of one favored class bonus. Select a weapon. You can treat that as any one specific other weapon of the same type (melee, thrown, ranged, or firearm), the handedness or less (2h >1-h > light), and the same complexity or less (exotic > martial > simple), that does not possess any special rules the true weapon does not possess. You can only treat a weapons as one weapon at a time – if you choose to treat a longsword as a rapier you can use Weapon Finesse with it, but Weapons Focus (longsword) no longer applies. The only thing retained by a weapon when used as another weapon is appearance, qualifying as a god’s favored weapon and/or holy symbol, and the damage type.

You may take this quirk more than once. Each time it applies to one weapon (which may be the same or different) which you may use as another weapon.

100 Questions for Your RPG Group; 1-10

100 Questions for Your RPG Group

These questions are designed not to lead anyone to the “one true path to roleplaying,” nor even to find and excise undesirables. Instead, they are tools of conversation. Hopefully they’ll help members of an RPG group discuss some philosophy, some game theory, and some silly shit.

These are best handled in person, while feeling casual, likely with beer and pizza (or the age & culturally appropriate equivalent).

1-10; GMing

#1. Would you prefer a GM be entirely beholden to the game rules and die rolls, or secretly make changes if it leads to a more interesting, or more dramatic, or more fulfilling game session?

#2. Give one concrete example of when a GM fudging die rolls or rules might lead to a more interesting, or more dramatic, or more fulfilling game session?

#3. Does it make a difference to your preference if the GM is entirely open about making changes? What if the GM can hide any change so you never even suspect it?

#4. Do you consider altering NPC attitudes or personalities from their originally planned starting points, or changing the plot of a future game session based on interesting ideas that come up in play, to be GM fudging, or just normal GM activities, or both?

#5. Should a GM be able to veto the color of a PC’s eyes? Or is that none of the GM’s business?

#6. Is the GM a player in an RPG session?

#7. Should the GM roll dice in secret, roll dice in public view, or roll dice with varying secrecy as appropriate to the nature of the roll?

#8. Is being the GM a chore, or a privilege?

#9. How much of the success of an RPG session is determined by the quality and actions of the GM? Would you prefer an awesome RPG ruleset with an awesome adventure and awesome other players run by a mediocre GM; or a mediocre RPG ruleset with a mediocre adventure and mediocre other players under an awesome GM?

#10. What is your pet peeve about GMs, expressed in a way that makes it generic and impossible to connect to any one specific GM?

More questions soon!

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