Monthly Archives: November 2016

Random Game Idea: Order of the Desert Rose

The Order of the Desert Rose are poisoners and assassins second to none. As fair warning, each has an adenium flower tattoo no smaller than the palm of their hand somewhere on their body. Some of the order choose for this to be visible. Others place it in a more easily concealed location. The order has numerous contact poisons they are themselves immune to, or take the antidote daily. Thus any unwanted contact with a Desert Rose can result in death.

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New Creature Type: Parvenu

Parvenu

Powerful outsiders who, after being killed, were brought back to a form of negative-energy empowered animation in a process similar to becoming undead.
Parvenu are always self-willed, retain their outsider abilities, and can be material or insubstantial at will. They also have all the type features of undead. They count as both outsiders and undead, but and SR to any ability or spell that targets them as a result of being outsiders or undead. This SR is equal to their CR +15. (For non-spells this special SR still works, but attackers roll a special HD check, 1d20+HD).
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Seven Sinful Feats of Wrath, no. 2

I wrote three sets of seven “sinful” feats starting back in 2012, one each for gluttony, lust, pride, gluttony, and gluttony. I always meant to cover the other four Deadly Sins but… well I guess I did too much research on Sloth. But I thought if I write one a day for seven days, I’ll have a product! And I’ve been pissed off about a lot of stuff lately, so…

Brainstorm (Sinful)
Your red-hot anger can harm those who dare to mess with your mind.
Prerequisite: Wrathful, Cha 13
Benefit: When you are in a bloodrage, rage, or fury and make a successful Will saving throw against a foe’s magic effect, the foe is briefly exposed to the tumult of red-hot, angry emotions in your head. Your foe takes 1d4 points of damage per 2 HD you possess (minimum 1d4), and you gain a +2 bonus to Will saves against that foe for 24 hours. A foe can only be damaged by this effect once per 24 hours.

The Sinful Feat Type

While sinful feats are not restricted to evil characters (you don’t have to be entirely without sin in order to be a good person), and using them is not an inherently evil act (like many abilities, how you use such feats determines if the act is evil) they do draw on the power of sin itself. As a result characters who gain power in part from having a good alignment (such as paladins, who must remain lawful good) cannot gain or use sinful feats. If such a character loses his alignment and the power that comes with it as a result of an act tied to one of the seven deadly sins (avarice, envy, gluttony, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath) the GM may choose to allow the character to swap out any feats relating to the lost power for sinful feats linked to the appropriate sin.

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Seven Sinful Feats of Wrath, no. 1

I wrote three sets of seven “sinful” feats starting back in 2012, one each for gluttony, lust, pride, and gluttony. I always meant to cover the other four Deadly Sins but… well I guess I did too much research on Sloth. But I thought if I write one a day for seven days, I’ll have a product! And I’ve been pissed off about a lot of stuff lately, so…

Wrathful (Sinful)
That’s your secret. You are always angry.
Prerequisite: Cha 13
Benefit: You channel your anger. You gain power from it. While others seek to suppress or mitigate their rage, you know that allowing your anger to give might to your physical form and focus to your thoughts makes you more effective, and more potent, than those who deny their wrath.

If you roll a natural 1 on a skill check, saving throw, or attack roll, or a foe scores a critical hit against you, you may choose to fly into a fury as a free action. You can also entrya fury by focusing on the inequities and brutalities of life as a standard action. When you enter a fury, you decide how many rounds it lasts.

While in a fury, you cannot use any Charisma-, Dexterity-, or Intelligence-based skills (except Acrobatics, Fly, Intimidate, and Ride) or any ability that requires patience or concentration. However, if you have an ability to do one of those things while in a rage or bloodrage, you may also do it in a fury. You also receive a +2 bonus on saving throws against fear and a +1 morale bonus to one of the following (selected at the time you end your encounter): ability and skill checks  tied to Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution (your choice); caster level; or weapon damage. You can only have one bonus from Wrathful in effect at a time, and if you use the ability again before an old bonus fades, the original bonus immediately ends.

The Sinful Feat Type

While sinful feats are not restricted to evil characters (you don’t have to be entirely without sin in order to be a good person), and using them is not an inherently evil act (like many abilities, how you use such feats determines if the act is evil) they do draw on the power of sin itself. As a result characters who gain power in part from having a good alignment (such as paladins, who must remain lawful good) cannot gain or use sinful feats. If such a character loses his alignment and the power that comes with it as a result of an act tied to one of the seven deadly sins (avarice, envy, gluttony, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath) the GM may choose to allow the character to swap out any feats relating to the lost power for sinful feats linked to the appropriate sin.

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Cinematics: Strange Incantations

Strange Incantations

While magic can come from many sources (arcane, divine, and psychic being the best known), and many schools (from abjuration to transmutation), it can also be influenced by the inherent mystic nature of beings of a strongly eldritch nature. While power drawn from true gods is nearly always divine, and power inherited from the most powerful mortal beings (such as dragons) tends to be arcane, and power drawn from the planes is psychic, there is a category of mid-range beings that can influence all forms of magic, without changing that inherent nature. These creatures include archdevils, daemon harbingers, demon lords, and empyreal lords, collectively known as Primarchs in eldritch circles.

It is possible to call upon the power of a Primarch, without worshiping or venerating that being, using words and gestures known as “Strange Incantations.” As this is a form of calling on the inherent magical power of a being it is often seen as similar to sorcery (since sorcerers call on their own interior power), but as it calls upon near-divinities, it is sometimes referred to as “Supreme Sorcery.”

A spellcaster can gain access to Strange Incantations by expending a feat slot. This allows the successfully use of Strange Incantations three times per day (failed attempts do not count against this total), and allows the caster to select one Primarch that can be invoked with the incantations. Each additional feat slot expended adds +3 successful uses per day and one additional primarch that can be called on. A character can take one feat selection worth of Strange Incantations in place of a two arcanist exploits, a bloodline power, domain ability, hex, revelation, school ability, a type of bardic performance, or 2 uses/day of wild shape.

A Strange Incantation requires both verbal and somatic components, even if the spell normally doesn’t (even if you are using psychic magic). You cannot bypass this requirement with Still Spell or Silent Spell, and can’t use Strange Incantations when entangled, grappled, silent, or unable to speak in a clear and loud voice. While the words of the Strange Incantation may be spoken in any language the invoker understands, they must include the name of the Primarch and some aspect of that being related to the spell being modified or the way it is being adjusted by the invocation. For example, if drawing upon the Destruction aspect of a Primarch, a Strange Invoker might add “By the Bloody Bandages of Sanguinus!” to a spell’s verbal components, while adding motions of wrapping his hands around his forearms to the somatic components.

When using a Strange Incantation, you must make a Spellcraft check (to modify your spell on-the-fly) and a Knowledge (planes) check (to properly connect the mystic powers of your spell to the planar powers of the Primarch you invoke). The DC of these checks is 15 + (double spell level), and if you are forced to make a concentration checks as a result of taking damage, the Strange Incantation checks take a penalty equal to half the damage you took.

If either skill check fails, you lose the spell. If both succeed, you can add or alter an effect to the spell based on the domains granted by the Primarch you invoke with the incantation, as detailed below. If you change a spell’s damage type using Strange Incantations, the spell loses any descriptor tied to its old damage type, and gains the descriptor appropriate to its new damage type. If the spell had some effect tied to its damage type (such as cold damage also freezing a floor), as determined by the GM, that additional effect does not occur.

Air – Increase a movement speed granted by a spell by 5 feet; or change a spell’s damage to electricity.

Animal – When casting a harmless spell that grants a bonus to one or more creatures, select one creature to gain a +2 enhancement bonus to one ability score of your choice; or target an animla with a spell that normally only targets humanoids.

Artifice – Instead of the spell’s normal effect, grant one object (or one 5-foot-cube worth of a Large or bigger object) bonus hardness equal to the spell’s level and temporary hit points equal to 5 per spell level, all with a duration of 10 minutes per caster level; or if granting an object a bonus (such as with magic weapon), increase that bonus by +1.

Chaos – The save DC for the spell becomes 5 +1d10 + spell level + appropriate ability modifier, rather than its normal calculation; or spell can be used as a dispel magic against any lawful spell.

Charm – If the target fails a saving throw against the spell, it also takes a penalty equal to half the spell’s level (rounding up) to any one skill you select for 1 minute/caster level; or if the spell is a charm effect and a spell of 3rd level or higher if the target fails it save it is also subject to a modify memory spell but only to modify the past 2 rounds.

Community – If the spell is an instantaneous area spell you can exclude one creature or object in the area from the spell’s effect; or if the spell is a harmless spell that targets 3 or more creatures you may add one to the number of creatures it can target.

Darkness – If using a darkness spell, increase its spell level by 2 when determining how it interacts with light spells; alternatively lower the light level by 1 step in an radius equal to the spell’s level x 5 feet for 1 round.

Death – Cause a spell that targets one or more creatures to target an undead even if the spell does not normally target creatures of the undead type; or cause a spell that allows a saving throw to cause targets that fail their save against the spell to be fatigued for 1 round.

Destruction – Any creature or object reduced to 0 or fewer hit points by this spell is entirely disintegrated, leaving behind only a trace of fine dust; or if the spell deals hit point damage it deals additional damage equal to its spell level to all affected creatures.

Earth – Change a spell’s damage type to acid; or grant targets of a harmless spell fire DR/adamantine equal to half the spell’s level for 1 round per 2 spell levels.

Evil – Cause a spell to deal half damage but be untyped magic damage; or cause a spell that allows a saving throw to cause targets that fail their save against the spell to be shaken for 1 round.

Fire – Change a spell’s damage type to fire; or grant targets of a harmless spell fire resistance equal to double the spell’s level for 1 round per spell level.

Glory – Select one creature that failed its save against the spell and make a Spellcraft check to demoralize that target (as if making an Intimidate check); or for a harmless spell allow one target of the spell currently suffering a fear affect that allowed a saving throw to make a new save against the effect (ending the fear on a successful save).

Good – Select one target of a harmless spell, you may reduce one of your saving throw categories by an amount equal to the spell’s level, and grant half that amount to the target as a bonus on the same save (both penalty and bonus lasting for a number of rounds equal to the spell’s level); or gain information on targets of the spell harmed by it or that fail a saving throw against it as if you had observed them for 3 rounds with a detect evil spell.

Healing – For conjuration (healing) spells that do not restore hp damage, the spell now restored hp damage equal to its spell level; or for harmless spells the target or targets gain temporary hit points equal to half the spell’s spell level (these last for 1 minute, and do not stack with themselves).

Knowledge – Make a Spellcraft check to identify one creature harmed by the spell or that failed a saving throw against it (as if making the appropriate Knowledge skill check, and gaining new information if you have already made such a Knowledge check); or gain information on targets of the spell harmed by it or that fail a saving throw against it as if you had observed them for 3 rounds with a detect magic spell.

Law – Any random value generated by the spell (such as a fireball’s 1d6/caster level damage) can instead be automatically set to average result instead of rolling it; or spell can be used as a dispel magic against any chaotic spell.

Liberation – Select one target of a harmless spell to gain a bonus to Escape Art checks equal to the spell’s level for 1 round; or select one target wearing armor that fails a save or take damage from the spell – its armor is loosened and provides 2 less AC bonus (minimum AC bonus of 0) until rearranged as a full round action.

Luck – Once a day cast a spell as a swift or immediate action against a foe that rolls a 1 on a skill check or saving throw.

Madness – Cause a creature that is damaged by the spell or fails a save against it to be confused for 1 round per 3 levels of the spell; or allow a single target of a harmless spell that is already confused to roll twice and take their preferred result when rolling for confusion (for a duration of 1 round per level of the spell).

Magic – Counterspell as if you had improved counterspell (or if you do have it, you may counterspell with a spell of the same level and school); or cause the SR of a creature damaged by or failing a save against your spell to have its SR reduced by 1 for a number of rounds equal to the spell.

Nobility – As a standard action discharge a spell slot to reduce the time needed to use Diplomacy to influence a creature’s attitude by 1 round per level of the spell; or select one creature that fails a save against a charm spell and make a diplomacy check (DC 20 + target’s CR) for it to become friendly to you after the charm ends (though if it’s attitude toward you ever decreases due to your actions, it immediately goes to hostile).

Plant – Target a plant with a spell that does not normally target creatures of the plant type; or select a target of a harmless spell to gain DR/slashing equal to half the spell’s level, but also gain vulnerability to fire.

Protection – Select one target of a harmless spell, you may reduce one your AC by an amount equal to the spell’s level, and grant half that amount to the target as a dodge bonus to AC (both penalty and bonus lasting for a number of rounds equal to the spell’s level); or select a target of a harmless spell and split any one energy resistance you have with that target for a number of rounds equal to the spell’s level.

Repose – Select a creature killed or destroyed by your spell and creatures attempt to raise that target as an undead must overcome SR equal to the spell’s level plus half your caster level; or ignore one undead’s resistance or energy immunity from your spell’s damage.

Rune – Cast the spell as a rune (as the blast rune ability of the Rune domain, but instead of dealing damage the rune causes your spell to go off) – you can only have one rune spell active at a time; or cast one language-dependent spell without it being language-dependent (though the target must still have some language).

Strength – One target that is damaged by your spell or fails a save against it provokes an attack of opportunity from the strongest foe adjacent to the target (and in then immune to this ability for 24 hours); or grant one target of a harmless spell a bonus on Strength checks and Strength-based skill checks equal to the level of the spell, for one round per spell level.

Sun – If using a light spell, increase its spell level by 2 when determining how it interacts with darkness spells; alternatively increase the light level by 1 step in an radius equal to the spell’s level x 5 feet for 1 round.

Travel – At the end of the spell teleport to be adjacent to a target that was damaged by the spell or failed a saving throw against it, as if you had used dimension door, with a maximum distance of ten feet per level of the spell; alternatively for one target of a harmless spell increase its base move by 10 feet for a number of rounds equal to the spell’s level.

Trickery – Force anyone observing the spell to make a Will save (DC 15 + half your caster level + the spell’s level) or any Spellcraft check made reveals a different spell you can cast (selected by you); or grant any one target of a harmless spell a bonus to Stealth checks equal to the spell’s level for one round.

War – Target one troop or swarm with a spell that normally only targets individual creatures; or grant one target of a harmless spell a bonus equal to the spell’s level to the next roll it makes to confirm a critical within 1 round per spell level.

Water – Change a movement speed granted by a spell to a swim speed; or change a spell’s damage to cold.

Weather – select one creature that is damaged by your 1st level or higher spell or fails a saving throw against it and make a special trip attack (d20+caster level+spell level) as winds attempt to knock the target down; or grant one target of a harmless spell cover for 1 round as it is wrapped in fog.

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Straight 18s

For many years, I secretly harbored the knowledge that I HAD rolled a character with straight 18s for a 1e D&D game. And that bothered me, because I know the odds against doing that were… huge. Beyond any reasonable chance of it happening. And yet, I remembered it happening.

But it hadn’t.

During one of my recent moves, I found the character in question — Buskirk, an elven rogue/fighter/magic-user (multiclassing and demi-humans were weird in 1e). And I made two startling discoveries.

First, he didn’t have all 18s. It was three 18s, and three 16s. Awesome, but not the same.

Second, those ability scores were rolled using a method from the 1e Unearthed Arcana, rolling 9d6 for your primary ability score *and keeping the best 3), then 8d6, then 7d6, and so on, down to 3d6. I know this because I wrote down the results of all the dice on the back of the character sheet when I first made the character. I haven’t done the math on this, but it obviously produces higher ability scores.

So, memory vs reality. I can see why I remembered it the way I did… but my instinct that there must be something wrong with such a spectacularly unlikely result (astronomical in scale) was accurate.

Memory has been shown to be spectacularly unreliable, and yet many of us cling to it as our most trusted information source.

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Death is Good, Life is Bad

A fantasy world where necromancers are the good guys is fairly easy to envision.
A fantasy world where clerics are the bad guys is fairly easy to envision.
But consider a world where magic healers, with no ties to a force outside themselves and no negative side-effects of their healing powers, are the buy guys.
My idea: TheApothecaries and Healers Guild (AHG) is entirely mercenary. They keep kings and merchant lords alive… forever… for a price. Of course the most tyrannical of rulers are those most likely to afford that price.
No one is allowed to heal without paying for AHG member… which you can really only afford with a rich patron. Healing is the ultimate resource, and AHG both has a monopoly, and is selling only to the highest bidder.
As a bonus, the only people who can afford to oppose them are the necromancers, who don’t need health care for their forces, and aren’t afraid of death…
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Vote for Victory

Metarule
Vote for Victory

Once anytime between now and Inauguration Day, a player may trade an “I voted” sticked for one reroll of a roll made by their character, or against their character. This may be done  after the effect of the roll is determined, but the decision must be made immediately. Use the result of the two rolls that is better for the player.

Any player that complains they are disadvantaged because they didn’t vote should be asked to think carefully about what they just said.

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Cinematics: Supreme Wings of Flying

Cinematics are little ideas that draw (often obvious) inspiration from geek-themed movies.

Supreme Wings of Flying

Slot shoulders; Aura strong transmutation; CL 20th; Weight 2 lbs.

DESCRIPTION

A more potent version of the wings of flying, the cloaks that become supreme wings of flying are considered minor artifacts. There is significant debate among sages on how such cloaks come into existence. Some theorize they are typical flying cloaks that have been worn by heroes so great, some part of the power of the magi and sorcerers who wear them is absorbed by the cloak. Others believe they are relics created by powerful spellcasters to serve as more than mere magic items.

In addition to functioning as typical wings of flying, supreme wings of flying are also capable of some independent action. For a number of minutes per day equal to the owner’s HD, supreme wings of flying can act one of two ways. It can grant the owner an armor bonus (equal to half the wearer’s HD) when the owner is not using it to fly (even if the owner is not wearing it, though it does have to be adjacent).

Alternatively, it can act as a creature summoned from a summon monster spell with a spell level equal to half the owner’s HD (minimum 1st level spell, maximum 9th level). The cloak gains only a single bludgeoning attack rather than the mimicked creature’s normal attacks (using the damage and attack bonus of the mimicked creature’s best melee attack), does not gain any movement rate other than ground speed and flight, and does not gain any special attacks, special defenses, spell-like abilities, spellcasting, or supernatural abilities of the mimicked creature.Rather than the mimicked creature’s type, treat the minor artifact as a construct. If the minor artifact takes enough damaged to knock unconscious or kill the creature it is mimicking it looses the ability to act in any way magical for 24 hours, but it otherwise unharmed.

The cloak need not use the full duration of these abilities at once, but it does have to use them in 1-minute increments. It can choose to use these abilities on its own, if its owner is in line of sight and is grappled, stunned, dazed, staggered, entangled, or unconscious. If it mimics a creature strong enough to carry its owner, it may do so and fly while doing so.

Supreme wings of flying cannot be bought or sold — they choose who owns them, and once made that choice does not change until that owner dies, is destroyed, or leaves the supreme wings of flying behind for more than a year and a day. In general if a character of 5 HD or more rolls a 20 on a d20 check in the presence of supreme wings of flying with no owner, that creature can make a DC 20 Charisma check. On a successful check, the creature impresses the cloak enough to be selected as its new owner.

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Happy EMD!

Look, I don’t *really* care when anyone starts to celebrate anything. If your own, personal desire is to begin celebrating Christmas on July 5th (because nothing really gets you moving after Independence Day until Yule), that’s fine. Just as I am never upset if someone wishes me a Happy Holiday, Quiet Kwanzaa, or Delightful Dōngzhì Festival , that’s all fine with me. Thanks for wishing me well, and a Merry Malkh to you, too!

So if you hear me grousing about Christmas decorations in early November, or the extension of the “shopping season,” I don’t really mean I am annoyed with the idea of a different expression of “my” holiday than I prefer. What annoys me is the sense that holy and or/communal days of celebration, rest, introspection, and joy are being used as keywords in a social search engine aimed at the password to my wallet. If a group seems to be draping themselves in the corpse of a holiday to camouflage their agenda, be that greed or something else, THAT’S when I feel they’re doing something wrong.

Not by celebrating differently than I, but by laying emotional traps in the hopes that my desire to take part of a false festival they concoct with no true care for it will cause me to further their goals.

As a result, I *try* not to complain about how people decorate their house, or when they break out holiday greetings or snowman cookies, or even when a company switches to snowflake cups. Small groups and small decisions may well have innocent intent. It’s only if collective, be that a social media group or corporate juggernaut begins to wield holy days and the myths around them like bludgeons that I assume the act is cloaked in greed rather than goodwill toward men. Similarly if someone shares with me an explicit desire to bilk the faithful for profit, I am both annoyed and think less of the bilker.

I’m too capitalist to want to ban any such activities, and too suspicious of group motives to take part in boycotts designed to attempt corrective pressure on the holiday social expressions of business ventures.

On the flip side, I am also annoyed by people who complain about something as insane as a War on Christmas because someone says Happy Holidays or notes that maybe a scale model of one religion’s Messiah being born is too Church-related to be hosted on State lands. There’s nothing wrong with a community coming together to celebrate a specific religious event, but as soon as it’s the community’s government doing it, that becomes problematic in concept, and banned by my reading of our highest laws.

The government shouldn’t spend money on Santa that it wouldn’t spend on Satan.

I care about the holiday season, a lot. My wife and I bring baked goods to friends and coworkers during this time, for example. But we don’t write “For Good Christians Only” on our gifts, nor anything we think might sound similar to someone who isn’t a member of our preferred religious cult. We want to make extra efforts to help bring peace and joy to others during this time, because those efforts are meaningful to us. We never want our desire to celebrate our holidays in ways we find meaningful to make anyone else’s time on this earth less comfortable or secure.

So, if I say Happy Hoolidays, please know I am trying to be inclusive, not trying to erase your specific mainstream cultural observations. And if I say Merry Christmas, please know I am trying to share my joy at a time that is meaningful to me, not force you to observe that time yourself.

So with all that said… happy Ensisheim Meteorite Day!