Monthly Archives: October 2016

A (Revised, Partial) List of Very Fantasy Words

These are “real,” not newly-minted words, which I almost never encounter outside a fantasy RPG or novel. Note that I intentionally don’t give definitions. If a word looks cool, go look it up! I love projects that expand people’s vocabulary.

Some of these are tied to a concept that just doesn’t come up much outside of fantasy. Others are just terms that sound cool and get bolted on to fantasy to give it a more mysterious feel, or that got used in pulps and similar stories enough that they have a cachet with fantasy fans.

Newest entries are bolded.


Deosil or deasil
Effable (though ineffable is much more common)

Souk (or souq)
Vavasour (though I prefer the spelling vavasor)

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’49 –  Léo Saint-Clair (Part One)

Léo strained his sight and hearing to the outer limits of their power. It was an act of will now, as instinctive as walking, to focus on the meditation that controlled his augmentations. Causing the right blood vessels to expand or contract had taken him months to master, and for a time he feared the core design was flawed. But just as an infant learned to walk, he had learned to master his new eyes, ears, lungs, and heart. The extra power did cause the augmentations to heat uncomfortably, but Léo knew he was in no danger as long as he didn’t maintain the effort too long.

The thick fog coming up off the Nançon River made the bridge spanning the river hazy, but even that could not hide the looming wall beyond, or the massive Saint-Sulspice Gate just on the bridge’s far side. Normal eyes would have picked out little more than the wall’s shape in the dim light the few lightposts provided, but Léo’s augmented eyes were far from normal. Ultraviolet and infrared light flooded the nighttime scene, allowing him to make out the Vichy and Nazi flags hung along the wall, the guards on both the wall and bridge, and even the glint of snipers in the towers of Castle Fougères further beyond the wall.


Léo glanced at the speaker, the largest of the three figures lurking in the church behind him. The only American in the group, the man had originally spent weeks trying to communicate in his broken French. But since Léo and his compatriots all spoke excellent English, and generally used it in preference to suffering through his French, the man had long since given up the effort. Léo kept his voice low.

“Lupin was right, as usual, Captain Challenger. There’s an actual Nazi contingent here, and Fougères’ defenses have been significantly strengthened. Something is definitely going on here. As to whether the Professor himself is here… it is too soon to say. He stopped flying his own pennant after Marianne nearly killed him in Bordeaux last year.”

Challenger shifted his stance uncomfortably and glanced over at Marianne. The petite French woman flashed him a smile that appeared genuine, but lasted only a fraction of a second. Léo knew to look at her right hand’s grip on her pike, and saw her clenched knuckles were white. Marianne had been fighting the Axis since before Léo’s modern memories began, and Professor Ragnarok has been her chief target for much of that time. It was a credit to her iron will that she was able to stand, apparently calm, and wait in the church with the rest of them when her most hated foe might be asleep less than two kilometers away.

Challenger glanced back at Léo. “So, do we hit them or not? We can still cross through the water, using the bridge for cover, then sneak over the gate… ”

Marianne shook her head curtly, and her voice held no sign of the growing desire to act she must be feeling.

Non, Captain. If Professor Ragnarok is within, he’ll have packs of kreighunds patrolling. We’d be discovered immediately. If he is NOT within, then we lack the reconnaissance to know where the high value target is, or even what it is. Lupin’s analysis can only tell us that something vital is being held here by the Boches. We cannot afford to stab blindly into a fortification this size. If Le Nyctalope,” she inclined her head toward Léo, “identifies a potential target with his observations we can consider a plan to breach. Otherwise, we wait for Fantômas to flush the target out, or contact us with a map leading to something we can strike at clandestinely. As planned.”

Challenger frowned. “We wait how long?”

Léo shrugged. “As long as it takes, or until Lupin informs us he has a better lead. I did warn you, Captain. Fighting with the Maquis de Masque isn’t like the fighting you have done with the army. We cannot engage the enemy in direct, open conflict. The unorthodox nature of our goals and agents often leads to unorthodox solutions, and those are difficult to time to the minute. Or even to the day. Schedules for our missions are approximations, at best. Fantômas has had only a day longer than we have. We should get comfortable, and rest in shifts. This may take days. Perhaps weeks.”

Captain Challenger’s jaw chewed, though he didn’t seem to have anything to chew on. He moved back from the stained glass window, where Léo was keeping watch, and sat on a pew next to a young man who made up the fourth member of the team within the church, Wasp, who was casually laying along a pew while  wearing a chauffer’s uniform with a domino mask and a wasp embroidered on his shoulder.

Challenger seemed to get through whatever he’d be chewing on.

“I don’t like letting Fantômas operate on his own, either. I don’t trust him.”

Wasp, sitting up and moving next to him, clapped Challenger on the back and laughed.

“Of course you don’t trust him. Lupin doesn’t trust him. I would guess no one trusts him. He’s a murderer and a madman. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he has chosen to support the Vichy, given his ties to Germany. But he didn’t, and he’s nothing if not prideful. As long as he sees the occupation as the greater insult than working with us, he’ll hold up his end of things. At least that’s what Doctor Sun keeps telling me. And the Doctor has a great deal more experience with him than any of us.”

Challenger frowned, but leaned back and relaxed into the pew. Despite his size he blended into the shadows of the darkened church well, thanks to his dark green uniform, standard issue for an American Army Ranger save for the arming sword slung from his belt between a canteen and an ammo pouch.

“And were is Doctor Sun? Wasn’t the plan to rendezvous here?”

Léo winced at the entirely-American pronunciation of rendez-vous, but nodded.

“Yes Captain, that was the original plan. But after arriving and doing a brief recon, the Doctor felt it wiser to stay in reserve and I must say I agree. We may need to move swiftly through the streets, or flee into the swamps, and in either case the Doctor is better served ensuring our… transportation… remains in top shape. It… it does require regular maintenance, and if it’s spotted by sympathizers who get word to any member of the Zweckforschung, much less Ragnarok… ”

Captain Challenger gave a wry grin. “It… it is pretty distinctive, isn’t it?”

“Not always,” Wasp interjected. “As long as the Doctor isn’t threatened, and it can restrict itself to roads, it’s a fairly typical Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. Unusual, sure, but not unknown. Heck, Lenin had one, though his was a halftrack. It’s sound is distinctive, sure, but if it’s not running, it can blend in fairly well.”

Oui,” replied Marianne, with a slightly longer-lasting smile. “But a stationary car isn’t very good back-up, no?”

Wasp opened his mouth, but his retort was lost as the room’s shadows were replaced for a moment by glaring brightness. Light briefly flashed through the church’s stained glass, flooding the interior with a riot of colors. A split second later a thunderclap shook the rafters, and the shadows rushed back. Léo spun to look out the window, his optics picking up a billowing column of smoke, throbbing with infrared light, gushing up from somewhere within Castle Fougères, well beyond the Saint-Sulspice Gate. A second sun-bright light flashed within the interior of the castle grounds, his augmented eyes automatically tinting to prevent blindness as the glare of temporary daylight presaged another church-rattling explosion. One of Fougères’ far towers, barely visible even to Léo, was now missing its upper half and belching fire and soot. He spoke without turning away from the scene outside.

“That would be Fantômas. We should presume he’s flushing prey toward us.”

“Holy mackerel.” Challenger replied quietly.

Sirens began to wail, first just within the castle grounds but shortly thereafter throughout the surrounding town.

Marianne had flattened herself on the far side of the window Léo was looking out of, cracking it open so her unaugmented eyes could see better.

“I think he’s got them thinking it’s an air raid, targeting the castle itself. If they have anything crucial, they’ll certainly move it. But will they take this road?”

Léo nodded.

“Fantômas knows where our vantage was. If he’s flushing a target, he’ll have ensured they’ll come by here. I have no idea how he’ll have managed that, but his record speaks for itself. Wasp?”

The young man hopped to Léo’s side.

“Dash across the street to the cobbler’s shop. Stay out of sight! Depending on what the Nazi’s are moving and how they’re transporting it, we may need to have you slip on board, rather than ambush them. Use your best judgement.”

Without a word, Wasp jogged to the church door. He barely seemed to open it, slipping through and disappearing quickly into night which was quickly adding smoke to its concealing cloak of fog.

Another explosion shook the church.

“Good lord almighty!” Challenger exclaimed. “What the blazes is he using to hit them as hard as an airship barrage?”

Marianne shrugged. “Perhaps an airship. Or warheads smuggled in on hay carts. Or he may have found their munition dump and spread around their own bombs. Fantômas is a maestro, and his preferred symphony is mass murder. He set fire to an entire city to cover a single art heist, killing thousands to modestly enrich himself. He’s the Devil, and I put nothing past him.”

She turned to Challenger and gave a toothy, decidedly predatory, smile.

“But for now, he’s our devil.”

Previous entries in ’49




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SSAI: A Fist Full of Quarters

Super-Short Adventure Ideas

Tell players to bring as many 1st level characters as they want for a special event. Create a short adventure of CR 5 to 6 encounters, but with no one monster above CR 3.

Tell the players you EXPECT them to die. even to have TPKs. But they are playing their characters as a cross between PCs in a MMORPG and an arcade game. The group has a number of total extra characters equal to twice as many encounters you’ve prepared. When someone dies, they bring in a new character (their own or someone else’s) and expend one extra life.

If you want, you can also ask them about the fictional normal people playing this fictional arcade MMORPG. Then, when they finally beat the adventure, tell them that the fictional players they discussed are now trapped in the bodies of their fictional MMORPG characters, and begin a WarQuest World campaign.

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Items: The No-Knock Lock

A no-knock lock is a (generally) non-magical lock designed to not be subject to the ubiquitous knock spell. It has four locks, set in two pairs. Unlocking one of each pair causes the other of the pair to automatically lock. The process occurs as the unlocking occurs, so at no point is the overall lock unlocked. Thus hitting a no-knock lock with a knock spell results in the two locked sections to unlock, simultaneously locking the other two sections, resulting in a still-locked final lock.

A key for a no-knock lock interrupts the connection between locking mechanisms, so if the proper key is inserted, the lock can be unlocked (by turning the key or casting knock). This interruption can also be artificially created with a Disable Device check, with a DC equal to the unlock DC of the lock.

A no-knock lock costs x10 as much as a typical lock with the same unlock DC. Some no-knock locks are magically enchanted to increase their hardness and hit points, or made of adamantine, or both.

(Of course an item like this both needs to be sauce-for-the-goose, if it works against PCs, it works against NPCs, and used sparingly. There’s nothing wrong with occasionally exploring the corners of the world defined by the Pathfinder rules, but a GM shouldn’t be a dick about it.)

Fun RAW Pathfinder fact: The knock spell does not unlock a independent lock that is not part of a door, box, or chest. (Looks at the target line. That gets expanded a bit in the text of the spell as exceptions, but anything not called out as an exception is not a legal target of the spell).

It won’t undo shackles either, unless the shackles are themselves being used to hold something shut. Locked gate or portcullis? Not subject to knock.

I suspect no one runs it this way, but it DOES explain why you still might want a rogue in the party.

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Master Class, Hybrid Classes (Part 3)

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 Three

So in the first two parts of the Hybrid Classes entries in Master Class, I went over picking classes to combine, deciding their base statistics (skill points, proficiencies, hit dice, base attack bonus, and base save bonuses), and assigning carryover abilities taken from the two parent classes. That gives us a sketch of a hybrid class, but it’s still just a sketch. In essence, our bombardier is currently just a collection of existing class features shuffled together. That can be a fun way to make a new class (and is the basis for the QuickBaseClasses I’ve written 11 or so far), but it falls short of the design of a hybrid class, which has to add some new ability neither parent class has.

So, clearly with the bombardier we need some way to make bombs and guns work together. To do that, we need a good feel for how they both work. Guns are actually pretty easy, since they’re at their core just ranged weapons with some misfire rules and ranged touch attack rules. Bombs are slightly more complicated, as a class feature only alchemists use. But at their core they are specialized thrown splash weapons. That’s interesting, because that means in your first range increment, both your bombs and firearms act as ranged touch attacks. That immediately lends itself to a way to combine these in a meaningful ability for bombardiers.


Bombard (Ex): As a standard action you can infuse the power of a bomb into the ammunition of your firearm, making a combined bomb-and-firearm attack with a ranged attack from a firearm you are proficient with. This is treated as a ranged touch attack, using the firearm’s range increment. A hit acts as a direct hit with you bomb, dealing splash damage normally. A miss scatters using the same rules as for a thrown splash weapon. If the target is within your firearm’s first range increment, the target also takes damage from your firearm. You both load your firearm and infuse it with bomb damage as part of the standard action to make this attack. This counts as one daily use of your bombs class feature. You can apply bomb specializations to your bombard attack as if it was a normal bomb attack.

If you have the Fast Bombs specialization, you can infuse ranged attacks from firearms with bombs as quickly as you can load and fire the firearms. In this case the bombard attack does not automatically load the firearms, but every firearm attack you make can include a bomb infusion.


Assuming we keep the ability to make extracts (which is currently included in our class sketch, but might prove too much as full power for our firearm-wielding character) it’s easy to see how we could also use firearms to deliver extract effects. That would require something like the arcane archer PrC’s imbue arrow ability. Since we want to maintain balance, we should place that at a level comparable to when a character taking arcane archer could get it, and use similar language to make it clear it works in a similar way. However, imbue arrow is about area spells, and alchemy is about individually targeted magic, so we’d need to adjust.


Imbue Firearm (Su): At 7th level, a bombardier gains the ability to place an extract that had one or more defined targets into a firearm attack. When the firearm is fired, the spell targets the creature hit by the firearm attack, even if this is normally outside the extracts normal range. Extracts with a personal range cannot be imbued in this way. This ability allows the bombardier to use the firearm’s range rather than the extract’s range. An extract used in this way uses its standard casting time and the bombardier can load and fire the firearm as part of the casting. The firearm must be fired during the round that the casting is completed or the extract is wasted. If the firearm misses, the extract is wasted.


Looks solid, right? But… look at the alchemist’s list of extracts. Most of them that qualify are either healing or buffing spells. As written, this becomes the ranged-healing-and-augmenting ability… with firearm damage attached. That’s a potentially cool idea… but does it really fit with our bombardier?

This is one of those moments that raises its head occasionally during any class design. We have a cool idea, but it may or may not fit with the theme we are building on. We need to decide; do we keep imbue firearm (and tweak it and our class theme to fit)? Or do we set that idea aside, perhaps saving it for an archetype, and move on with things that have a more bombard feel to them?

What do you folks think?

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Haunted House Review: The Harvest

Lj, Jessie, and I went to “The Harvest” at the Seattle Interactive Theater. It’s a haunted house performance, in our case with champagne service.

There was no photography, which was both awesome (everyone focused on being in the moment, rather than taking selfies) and kind of a shame (the set dressing was the best part of the experience). There were also multiple full front nudity scenes (of both genders) you could stumble upon or be invited into, which I suspect impacted the decision to not allow pictures.

The set up is you have been invited to a party by The Doctor, and you spend time in his lounge at first. Then you gain access to the rest of the facility, and can wander at your own pace through different set-ups. This was less about jump scares (though there was at least one), and more about finding the story in the runes, mad scawlings, set-pieces, actors (who I thought of as NPCs) and out-of-view sound effects.

The production values were similar to what I have experienced at high-end LARP events, with the theater space divided into corridors of biohazard plastic and rooms and nooks at odd angles. As is often the case with such things I wish it was longer (I was just getting into it when the climax hit), but better too short and having it drag on.

There was some seating, which was nice, but not much since you barely have time to view everything at any reasonable pace in the performance time allotted.

I don’t think I’ll get in the habit of doing this every year, but it does do a nice job of immersing you in a foreign space, physically and mentally, and that’s a nice change of pace from a movie or book.

I give it four out of five severed heads.

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WarQuest World: Healer Role

WarQuest Campaign Setting Rules

WarQuest World is a microsetting where where players of a MMORPG get sucked into the online game-world, and must learn to survive and thrive there. You can find various articles describing it by clicking on the #WarQuestWorld tag at the end of each related article (or clicking here)

WarQuest World has some new rules elements for the Pathfinder RPG, including Character Roles. A character role is selected at 1st level, and once this choice is made it cannot be changed. Every PC must select a role, and a GM may given NPCs roles as long as all their HD don’t come from npc classes. Other roles include DPS, tactician, and tank.

The Healer Role

A healer is good at healing injuries of others. A healer that does not have channel energy as a class feature equal to at least half their character level gains channel energy dice equal to the difference between their own channel energy (even if it is 0) and that of a cleric of a level equal to the healer’s HD. A healer that does have channel energy as a class feature always channels for maximum hp of healing when using those dice. (A healer with some dice from a class and some from this role just maximizes those dice gained as class features.) In either case, the healer may always exclude any foe it wishes to when channeling to heal.

A healer also gains access to restorative spells, based on his HD. Three times per day (+1 per 5 full HD) the healer may either cast this spell as a bonus spell-like ability (using its normal casting time), or reduce the casting time of the spell (if cast through other means, such as being a cleric and having prepared it) to a swift action.

Level 1-remove fear; 2-remove sickness; 3-lesser restoration; 4-remove paralysis;  5- remove blindness/deafness; 6-remove disease; 7-remove curse; 8-restoration; 9-breath of life; 11-heal; 13-greater restoration; 15-regenerate; 17-greater spell immunity; 19-raise dead.

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A Sadness

Death entered quietly, as she preferred. All too often her arrival was heralded by screams and explosions. But this was a quiet night, which allowed her to perform a quiet deed. Life was precious. It should be honored. Especially at its end.

Her client was laying on his side, his breathing labored. His eyes opened as she approached. One of his legs twitched, an instinctive reaction to the knowledge of her approach, but he didn’t otherwise stir. He had known she was due, soon. And in any case if he could still run, she wouldn’t have been there.

Death lay a gentle hand on his head. “It’s nearly time.”

Though she had not used words, he understood her. That was a relief. He often had trouble communicating with his loved ones. It was frustrating when they misunderstood him, or he didn’t understand why they did something. The ease of perfect expression was a gift, and he felt it make his fear fade.

“Do I have to go?” He knew the answer, but had to ask.

Death nodded. “You do. We all do, eventually.”

“Even you?”

Death smiled, and nodded. “Oh yes. Sometime, I too will pass on. When there is nothing left to die, I shall cease to exist. But that is a long, long time from now.”

He sighed. “I… I had things I wanted to do, yet.”

Death shook her head. “Of course you do, but I don’t wait. And you’ve had a longer life than most, filled with more love than hate, more pleasure than pain, and more happiness than grief.”

“Grief.” The idea was not one he had ever considered much. “Oh… my family! They’ll be sad. I don’t want to leave them.”

Death nodded. “They will be. But that is just a tribute to how much you brought into their lives. Grief is part of life. And you gave them more than enough joy to see them through their grief. In time they will heal, and they’ll find new family to love.”

He felt his energy fading. “The boy. The boy won’t know what to do without me.”

“No,” Death agreed. “He won’t, at first. But he’ll learn. He’ll grow. You prepared him well. And you’ve earned your peace.”

He exhaled, for the last time. The pain, he admitted, had grown to be more than he wished to bear. “Thank you for letting me know.”

Death nodded, kindly. And removed her hand.

The cat lay still, his time done.

A Modest Alternate Hybrid Class: The War-Locke

A Modest Alternate Hybrid Class: The War-Locke

So, what if we decided to use the bloodrager as the basis for an extensive archetype (*one that rose to the level of alternate class) to trade out sorcerer- and barbarian-like abilities in return for fighter-like abilities and retaining basic spellcasting? As a thought experiment, we’ll call this the war-locke. As with any archetype, we need to look at each swap-out individually, to make sure we don’t create a more powerful class. So we’ll look at what fighter class features we want to add, and what bloodrager features we need to lose to gain them. Let’s see if we can tack on all fighter abilities when they are gained for the fighter, as a starting point.

Skills. Bloodragers get 11 class skills. Fighters get 10. I think you can swap those lists with no increase in power, and obviously keep the 4 skill points/level.

Armor and weapon proficiencies. Bloodragers get light, medium, and shields other than tower shields, and can cast in light and medium. I think we’ll just leave that alone for our fighter-like archetype. If you want heavy armor, take the proficiency and deal with the ASF.

Fighters get bonus feats beginning at 1st, and have a total of 11 over 20 levels. Bloodragers get 5 bonus bloodline feats. We can also trade in fast movement, uncanny dodge, improved uncanny dodge, indomitable will, and tireless bloodrage to make the trade 11 feats for 10 feats & abilities at least some of which are provably better than equivalent feats. That looks like a fair trade.

Bravery is much maligned, but it’s not terrible. We don’t want to give up anything gained at the same level you first get bravery, but we can give up the 1st level bloodline power, which is at least as good, on average. As bravery increases, we can also give up the bloodline power gained at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 20th. That clearly covers the benefits of bravery.

Armor training comes in for the fighter the same time blood sanctuary does for the barbarian. That’s 1 better armor check penalty and max Dex to AC, AND movement at full speed in medium armor, compared to a untyped +2 bonus against saves cast by the PC or allies. +2 is nothing to sniff at though it’s only going to come up when allies peg you in an area… but then increased max Dex to AC isn’t always helpful. Still, that seems like armor training 1 is slightly better.

When armor training 2 comes in, the bloodrager gets a bloodline spell (we’ll handle DR separately, in a minute). A bonus 1st level spell is nice, but it’s not as good as full speed in heavy armor plus a reduced armor check and increased max Dex.

Armor training 3 stacks against greater bloodrage. Greater bloodrage is the clear winner here. So much so we can use that to cover armor training 4, as well.

That still leaves an imbalance at 4th and 7th. But if we decide we trade in the bloodline powers gained at 4th, and all bonus spells, that clearly makes up for any power gap.

Weapon mastery is offensive and so is rage, so let’s compare those two. The berserker ability for the viking fighter archetype tells us that weapon mastery 1, 2, 3, and 4 are as good as the ability to rage as a barbarian 3 levels lower. Since the bloodrager class has a bloodrage ability that is as good as barbarian rage, we can call that an even swap. So get rid of rage, and add weapon mastery.

Armor mastery vs barbarian DR is tricky, since so few archetypes remove it from the barbarian, or add it to the fighter. The savage barbarian replaces DR for an AC bonus when not wearing armor… but that archetype also has naked courage (which is clearly better than trap sense), which suggests that’s NOT an even swap. There isn’t a magic armor ability that gives you DR/–, though invulnerability does DR 5/magic (which is pretty good against monsters, but not humanoids) for a +3 cost, and adamantine full plate gives you DR 3/– for 15,000 gp (roughly the same cost as a +3 bonus laired onto existing +1 magic armor, though the stacking issue makes this murky). Still we can likely safely call that a wash and just sap them out.

Weapon mastery looks like a fair swap for mighty bloodrage.

We give up any ability to take bloodrage- or bloodline-related feats or abilities or prerequisites in trade for counting as a fighter for fighter-only feats and prerequisites.

So what does that leave us?

The war-locke, a class with all a fighter’s special abilities, almost as much armor, more skills, and 4 levels of casting. And Eschew Components. Perfectly balanced for Pathfinder. I’d even allow war-lockes to take fighter archetypes, as long as the archetype didn’t give up heavy armor or tower shield proficiency.

Feel free to swap the bloodrager spell list for magus (spell levels 1-4 only, obviously).

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The Wednesday Bad Idea

Ooze-based humanoids.


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