Monthly Archives: July 2017

Return of the Druidic Bard: The Anruth

Continuing my recent trend of looking at Old School Character Classes, I’m going to take a stab at an old favorite for a lot of folks. Back in the first edition of the game, there was a character class in the back of the main player’s book. Called a bard, it noted that the class had been modified since its original appearance (in materials prior to the codification of everything into a hardback book), and that GMs might not allow it. Taking the class also required a character to take levels in fighter, thief, and druid before they could take levels in bard.

Really, it was the precursor to later “prestige classes” that got codified in the third edition of the game.

This original bard is considered by many players to be very different from the Pathfinder version, at least in part because it gains druid spells rather than wizard-like bard spells. But also, the class could (at least early on) double in for fighters or rogues, continued to advance some of those skills, and focused as much on lore and leadership as it did music and charm. There’s at least one branch of players who miss the part of the bard that is more strongly associated with druids, Irish heroes, and the tradition of the fili who combined the functions of magician, lawgiver, judge, counsellor to the chief, and poet (before some of those functions were taken over by brehons becoming judges and druids being more aligned with supernatural roles).

Now obviously those Irish roots are only inspirations for either the original “druidic bard” or its modern replacement, or for that matter druids and various forms of fuchlucan. I am far from a scholar of Irish history, mythology, or culture, so any effort to capture the old “druidic bard” flavor is going to be similarly limited to inspiration and fantasy translations, with no claim of accuracy or even equivalency of any real-world terms.

Further, unlike things like the fighter/magic-user/thief I don’t want to just use the old name for this new take on the character concept. The bard in pathfinder is a popular and valid class, and not something I want to encourage people to replace. At the same time while the “druidic bard” had strong tied to the fighter, thief, and druid, I don’t want to build the new class as either a hybrid class or a prestige class. That leaves me wishing to create an alternate class for the bard, which means it needs a new name. Drawing from the same tradition as the fili, bard, druid, and fuchlucan, I’m naming this new alternate class the anruth.

Alignment: Anruth are trained to see all sides of a question, and to consider many different philosophies and moral systems. At least one element of an anruth’s alignment must be neutral.

Hit Die: d8

Starting Wealth: 4d6 × 10 gp (average 140 gp.)

Class Skills: The anruth’s class skills are Acrobatics (Dex), Appraise (Int), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disable Device (Dex), Disguise (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Fly (Dex), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (all skills, taken individually) (Int), Linguistics (Int), Perception (Wis), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Spellcraft (Int), Stealth (Dex), Survival (Wis), Swim (Str), and Use Magic Device (Cha).

Skill Ranks per Level: 8 + Int modifier.

Table: Anruth
Level  BAB                Fort     Ref      Will     Special
1st       +0                    +2        +0        +2        Bardic knowledge, fighting spirit, versatile performance
2nd      +1                    +3        +0        +3        Anruth performance (1st pick), trapfinding
3rd       +2                    +3        +1        +3        Lore master 1/day, oral tradition, wild empathy
4th       +3                    +4        +1        +4        Bonus feat, sneak attack +1d6
5th       +3                    +4        +1        +4        Spell kenning 1/day, versatile performance
6th       +4                    +5        +2        +5        Anruth performance (2nd pick), lore master 2/day
7th       +5                    +5        +2        +5        Jack of all trades

8th       +6/+1              +6        +2        +6        Sneak attack +2d6, woodland stride
9th       +6/+1              +6        +3        +6        Lore master 3/day, spell kenning 2/day, versatile performance
10th     +7/+2              +7        +3        +7        Anruth performance (3rd pick),
11th     +8/+3              +7        +3        +7        Bonus feat, trackless step
12th     +9/+4              +8        +4        +8        Lore master 4/day, sneak attack +3d6
13th     +9/+4              +8        +4        +8        Spell kenning 3/day, versatile performance
14th     +10/+5            +9        +4        +9        Anruth performance (4th pick),
15th     +11/+6/+1       +9        +5        +9        Lore master 5/day
16th     +12/+7/+2       +10      +5        +10      Sneak attack +4d6
17th     +12/+7/+2       +10      +5        +10      Spell kenning 4/day, versatile performance
18th     +13/+8/+3       +11      +6        +11      Anruth performance (5th pick), lore master 6/day
19th     +14/+9/+4       +11      +6        +11      Bonus feat, timeless body
20th     +15/+10/+5     +12      +6        +12      Sneak attack +5d6, spell lore

Proficiency: The anruth is proficient with all simple and martial weapons, and all light and medium armors.

Favored Class Bonus: If anruth is your favored class, you can take any favored class bonus that you would be allowed to take for the bard, druid, fighter, or rogue classes, as long as it does not modify a class feature the anruth does not have.

Spells: You are a spontaneous arcane spellcaster who gains the spells per day and spells known of a bard of the same level. Your class spell list includes all 0-6th level bard and druid spells, and all 1st-4th level ranger spells. You cannot learn a spell that modifiers a class feature the anruth does not possess (such as instant enemy, as you do not have the favored enemy class feature). Your Wisdom ability score determines the maximum level of spell you can cast, your bonus spells per day, and your spell DCs. Any spell you cast that uses Intelligence or Charisma as part of its calculations you may instead calculate using your Wisdom. You do not suffer arcane spell failure for your anruth spells while wearing light or medium armor. You suffer ASFP normally for shields or heavy armor.

Bardic Knowledge (Ex): At 1st level you gain bardic knowledge, as the bard class feature.

Fighting Spirit (Su): You do not depend on the might or your arm or the speed of your body when you fight. You fight from the heart, and it is that inner power that grants your attacks accuracy and potency. At 1st level you may use your Wisdom bonus in place of your Strength and Dexterity modifiers to determine your attack bonus and damage bonus with weapons, unarmed, and natural attacks. This bonus cannot exceed your anruth class level. If your Strength of Dexterity modifier is better, you can continue to use it. If an ability score modifier is normally halved or doubled (such as the Strength bonus to damage with two-handed weapons), you halve or double your Wisdom bonus when you use it instead.

Versatile Performance (Ex): As the bard class feature, but gained at 1st level, with an additional choice every 4 levels thereafter.

Anruth Performance (Su): At 2nd level you gain the anruth performance ability, allowing you to use your knowledge of sagas, lore, epics, poems, and songs of last ages to inspire, fascinate, or change the flow of battle. This functions as the bardic performance class feature (and counts as that ability for purposes of prerequisites and abilities that modify bardic performance), but you only receive a number of round per day equal to your class level plus your Wisdom bonus, and your performances always start your performance as a move action and maintain it as a free action.

You select a single form of performance you can create with your anruth performance from the following choices, each duplicating the performance ability of the ability of the same name from the class or archetype listed in parenthesis after the ability: distraction (bard), inspire courage (bard), or inspired rage (skald). |You also automatically gain the performance ability fascinate (bard).

At 6th level, you may select an additional form of performance, this may be one of the lower-level options you have not yet taken, or one of the following options: devastating aria (diva), inspire competence (bard), song of marching (skald), or song of strength (skald). You also automatically gain the performance ability suggestion (bard)

At 10th level, you may select an additional form of performance, this may be one of the lower-level options you have not yet taken, or one of the following options: dirge of doom (bard), inspire greatness (bard), scathing tirade (diva).

At 14th level, you may select an additional form of performance, this may be one of the lower-level options you have not yet taken, or one of the following options: frightening tune (bard), song of the fallen (skald), or soothing performance (bard).

At 18th level, you may select an additional form of performance, this may be one of the lower-level options you have not yet taken, or one of the following options: inspire heroics (bard) or mass suggestion (bard).

Trapfinding (Ex): At 2nd level you gain trapfinding, as the rogue class feature.

Lore Master (Ex): As the bard class feature, but the ability to take 20 on a Knowledge skill is useable once per day at 3rd level, +1 additional times per day every 3 levels thereafter.

Oral Tradition (Ex): At 3rd level, you can memorize magic writing for use by yourself, or to reproduce later. When you encounter a scroll, you can attempt to create a poem, song, or allegory that imbeds the information and magic of the scroll in your mind. This takes one hour per spell on the scroll, and removed the spell from the scroll. You can use these spells as you would when they were scrolls (including needing to make caster level checks for spells that are too high level, or UMD check for spells not on your class list), though used in this way the spells have a minimum casting time of 1 round. Once you use a spell from your oral tradition, it is gone. You can have a maximum number of spells from scrolls stored in oral traditions equal to your class level plus your Wisdom bonus.

You can recreate these spell scrolls by writing out the spell from your oral tradition, a process that takes 1 hour per spell and materials equal to 10 gp per spell level. Doing so removes the spell from your oral tradition.

Alternatively, you can store the magic of a magic book, tome, or manual. This takes half the time it would take to use the book or manual, and it counts as two spells toward your maximum number of spells stored in your oral tradition. This destroys the magic book. You can use the book or manual yourself from memory, exactly as if you were reading the physical book, and this removes it from your memory, Or you can create it, which takes as long as it took to record it into your oral tradition and materials costing 10% of the book’s cost. This also removes it from your oral tradition.

While the ability to store the magic writings of scrolls and tomes in your head is extraordinary, the effects created by such magic writings remain magical.

Your oral traditional also allows you to use your Wisdom modifier in place of your Intelligence modifier for Knowledge skills.

Bonus Feat: At 4th level you gain one bonus feat. You must meet the feat’s prerequisites, but treat your class level as your bard, druid, fighter, and ranger class level for purposes of this feat. You gain additional bonus feats at 11th and 19th level. Alternatively at each of these levels you may select a rogue talent (but not advanced talent). You must meet this talent’s prerequisites, but use your anruth level as your rogue level.

Sneak Attack: At 4th level you gain sneak attack, as the rogue class feature. It increased by +1d6 every 4 levels.

Wild Empathy (Ex): At 4th level you gain wild empathy, as the druid class feature.

Spell Kenning (Su): As 5th level you gain spell kenning, as the skald class feature, but it is useable once per day at 5th, plus one additional time per day at 9th level, plus once more per day every 4 levels thereafter.

Jack of All Trades (Ex): At 7th level, you can use any skill, even if the skill normally requires you to be trained. At 13th level, you consider all skills to be class skills. At 16th level, you can take 10 on any skill check, even if it is not normally allowed.

Woodland Stride (Ex): At 8th level, you gain woodland stride, as the druid class feature.

Trackless Step (Ex): At 11th level you gain trackless step, as the druid class feature.

Timeless Body (Su): At 19th level you gain timeless body, as the druid class feature.

Spell Lore (Sp): At 20th level, your mastery of lore and mysteries expands your spell repertoire even further. Add one additional spell known at each spell level you can cast, drawn from the bard, cleric, druid, ranger, or sorcerer/wizard spell list. These spells are considered to be on your class spell list, as well. Also, select one 7th level spell from one of these spell lists. You can cast that spell once per day as a spell-like ability, using your Wisdom bonus to determine any of the spell’s calculations normally based on Intelligence or Charisma.


While I simply grabbed existing forms of performance for the various anruth performance options, and that works great, it occurred to me that there might be at least one option an anruth should have other performance-using classes don’t: shame.

So I wrote up a shaming performance for the anruth and put it up on my Patreon as (for the moment) patron-exclusive content.

Check it out!


Burnout, and the Rent

This industry eats people alive. That’s because it’s extremely demanding, draws in those who are passionate, but doesn’t pay well. I’ve been a full time game writer for most of the past 20 years, and more than a decade of that was freelance. A lot of people who began when I did have left, for computer games, novels, or in some cases security guard gigs or farming. They leave because the time demands, creativity demands, occasional unprofessional ruining either your projected income or something you love, and the pay is, compared to other things with similar demands, low. And often, they leave broken, vowing to never return.

To be clear, I don’t blame anyone for those facts. That’s the way the industry is. I work for, and with, a lot of great people who do their absolute best to take care of everyone they can. I’m not railing against some corporate greed, or claiming I could do better. heck, I’m a publisher as well as a writer and developer. I know what the economic realities are. I am very fortunate to have as many great employers as I do.  It’s just a rough business, and it’s somewhere between hard and impossible to do well by only putting in 40 hours a week.

So, I do more than that. But that’s not a universally good thing. I know I take on a lot, and I try to give everyone what is expected. And, I fail sometimes. Sometimes very publicly. I’m in my late 40s, I have two decades under my belt, and I still feel like this is all a learning experience.

And like a lot of game designers, I live locked in battle with two extremes—burnout, and the rent.

Burnout is real, and if you fully burn out you are done. There are lots of signs of burnout—never enjoying the work instead of only not liking some parts of it; not being able to force yourself to work on a specific project; depression; panic; confusion, as to why what used to work to get projects finished doesn’t anymore; apathy; slowing of new ideas; reduced quality; a willingness to cut corners in ways you know aren’t right (be that ethically, legally, or just not the kind of work you like to produce, depending on who you are and how badly you burned out).

But just because you can see potential burnout, doesn’t mean you can walk away. Everyone will tell you to… but they don’t know your budget, your needs, your situation overall. If you have people depending on your to provide for them, if you know you can’t survive a loss of income, if you’re going to be homeless if a project falls through, “taking a break” may not be a realistic option for you.

I have flirted with burnout more than once over the years. Sometimes I’d love to have walked away, but at that moment it wasn’t financially practical. Other times I knew if I could push through some specific project, I’d be fine. It isn’t always the big projects, either. Sometimes something small will suck up hundreds of hours of time, because you just can’t get it right.

On the other hand, you also can’t just ignore signs of burnout. If you see it coming, you need to do something. Stepping back from even one big responsibility can make a huge difference. So can powering through something to see the results of your hard work. So can assign for help, if you have people you can ask.

In my experience, those things don’t fix problems immediately. But if you don’t take steps like that, and burnout gets worse, you are traveling a dark path. One that has taken out better designers than I.

Big and important projects—new core rulebooks, connected series of adventures, new jobs that have extremely steep learning curves, ventures with partners counting on you—can be particularly brutal. And if you do more than one of those at a time, the effects multiple, rather than add.

But such projects also, eventually, smooth out. Either you finish them, or you learn the ropes.

It’s all too easy to end up in a position that is unsustainable, caught between burnout and the rent. But small changes do, eventually, make a different. Not everything must be sustained forever.

Also, know what helps. Or if you don’t know, look. I’ve been very public with a lot of my mental issues, and I have posted a lot of retrospectives, like this. These are both a release valve for me–a cheap and useful form of stress relief–and something I do because I would have loved to have this information in 1997, when I was writing freelance material but nothing had been published yet. It helps me, and I hope it helps someone else.

Each person must navigate their own path between these creative and financial Scylla and Charybdis. And sometimes you just have to strap yourself to the tiller, lay on sail, and hope you are still above water when you reach the far side.

But if you do that…keep those navigational charts, and try to avoid those waters in the future. Most people, myself included, bring burnout down on themselves. Try to learn from it.

You’ll keep making mistakes, of course. Just try not to make the same mistakes over and over.


I have a patreon. It’s one way I try to navigate between burnout and the rent, and it has some exclusive content.

If you ever find my posts to be entertaining or useful, consider offering a dollar or two a month of support.

Tiny Little Painful Fists

It’s tough to build a satisfying monk using a size Small race. While you get a 5% boost to accuracy and AC, your reduction for damage hovers closer to 10-20%. That unfortunate, because an illustration of a halfling monk (which was presented at a review of 3.0 at Gen Con in 2000) is one of the things that caused halflings to be reimagined for 3rd edition.

Of course as anyone with children (or cats) knows, having a tiny fist (or paw) be pressed into your flesh with force hurts. Finding a way to maximize that effect for combat should require some training, but in a game where lizards can breathe fire as a nonmagical effect, it ought to be possible.

And thus, the new feat presented below.

Tiny Little Painful Fists

You can drive your smaller fists, feet, elbows and so-on, deep into vulnerable points and weak areas on a foe with ease.

Prerequisites: Size small.

Benefits: You can ignore the Strength prerequisite of the Power Attack feat (and any feat that also has Power Attack as a prerequisite). Additionally, when using Power Attack with unarmed attacks or monk weapons, you reduce the penalty Power Attack applies to your attack rolls by 2 (to a maximum reduction of no penalty).

Patreon Exclusive

I did a follow-up feat, Low Blow, over on my Patreon as (for now) Patron-Exclusive content.

Check it out!

Return of the Thief-Acrobat!

I have no idea how long this old-school-concepts-for-Pathfinder kick will continue, but it does seem to be popular (it’s even involved the French!). Having done the cavalier-paladin, cleric/assassin, and fighter/magic-use/thief (and even a patron-exclusive fighter/illusionist, on my Patreon), I thought I’d tackle the stories thief-acrobat.

The thief-acrobat is an alternate class of the rogue, and its class features with the same names as rogue class features work as those class features (though it’s sneak attack is weaker).

Alignment: Any

Hit Die: d8

Starting Wealth: 4d6 × 10 gp (average 140 gp.)

Class Skills: The thief-acrobat’s class skills are Acrobatics (Dex), Appraise (Int), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disable Device (Dex), Disguise (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (dungeoneering) (Int), Knowledge (local) (Int), Linguistics (Int), Perception (Wis), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Stealth (Dex), Swim (Str), and Use Magic Device (Cha).

Skill Ranks per Level: 6 + Int modifier.

Table: Thief-Acrobat
Level  BAB                Fort     Ref      Will     Special
1st       +0                    +0        +2        +0        Acrobatic movement, sneak attack +1d4
2nd      +1                    +0        +3        +0        Evasion, nimble defense, trapfinding
3rd       +2                    +1        +3        +1        Sneak attack +2d4, escapist +1
4th       +3                    +1        +4        +1        Acrobatic strike, uncanny dodge
5th       +3                    +1        +4        +1        Sneak attack +2d6
6th       +4                    +2        +5        +2        Rogue talent, escapist +2
7th       +5                    +2        +5        +2        Sneak attack +3d6
8th       +6/+1               +2        +6        +2        Improved uncanny dodge, rogue talent
9th       +6/+1               +3        +6        +3        Sneak attack +4d6, escapist +3
10th     +7/+2               +3        +7        +3        Advanced talents, rogue talent
11th     +8/+3               +3        +7        +3        Sneak attack +5d6
12th     +9/+4               +4        +8        +4        Rogue talent, escapist +4
13th     +9/+4               +4        +8        +4        Sneak attack +6d6
14th     +10/+5             +4        +9        +4        Rogue talent
15th     +11/+6/+1        +5        +9        +5        Sneak attack +7d6, escapist +5
16th     +12/+7/+2        +5        +10      +5        Rogue talent
17th     +12/+7/+2        +5        +10      +5        Sneak attack +8d6
18th     +13/+8/+3        +6        +11      +6        Rogue talent, escapist +6
19th     +14/+9/+4        +6        +11      +6        Sneak attack +9d6
20th     +15/+10/+5      +6        +12      +6        Master strike, rogue talent

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Thief-acrobats are proficient with all simple weapons, plus the rapier, sap, and short sword. A thief-acrobat can use a 10-foot pole as a club with the reach special weapon quality that requires 2-handed to use and can benefit from Weapon Finesse (and any similar ability that replaces Strength with Dexterity, if it would apply to the rapier). When wielding such a pole in 2-handed, they gain a +2 circumstance bonus to all Acrobatics checks. They are proficient with light armor, but not with shields.

Acrobatic Movement (Ex): You are a virtuoso at moving your body fluidly and twisting, flipping, hopping, and undulating however you must to get where you wish to be. You gain a bonus to Acrobatics checks equal to half your class level, and you may make Acrobatics checks in place of the following skills—Climb, Escape Artist, Fly, Stealth, and Swim. You are considered trained in all these skills if you are trained in Acrobatics.

Additionally you can move in ways and to locations others simple cannot reach without magic. At the beginning of your turn, you may make a single Acrobatics check as a free action. You gain a climb, fly, or swim movement rate (your choice) equal to your skill check. This movement rate lasts until the beginning of your next turn. If you end your movement in a spot you cannot remain at without this movement rate (such as in midair, or on a sheer wall that cannot be climbed without a climb speed), you fall at the beginning of your next turn.

Also, whenever you fall (whether on your turn or not) as long as you are conscious and able to move freely, you may make an Acrobatics check as a free action. If the check meets or exceeds the number of feet you are falling, you land on your feet and take no damage. Otherwise you subtract the skill check from the number of feet you fall when determining how much damage you take.

All acrobatic movement checks can only use a number of ranks in Acrobatics equal to your class level. Thus a multiclass fighter 7/thief-acrobatic 2 may have 9 ranks in Acrobatics, but can only use 2 of those ranks to calculate the bonus of skill checks for this class feature.

You must have no armor check penalty and be in light encumbrance to use this ability.

Nimble Defense (Ex): As long as you are not suffering an armor check penalty (either from wearing no armor, or by wearing armor with an armor check penalty of 0), you gains a +1 dodge bonus to AC. This dodge bonus increases to +2 at 4th level, and by an additional +1 every 4 additional levels thereafter.

Escapist: You are particularly difficult to slow or pin down. At 3rd level you gain a bonus to your CMD against bull rush and trip maneuvers, to Acrobatics checks made to escape from bindings or move through small spaces, and to your saving throws against any effect which would slow you, reduce your movement rate, or hold, entangle, or paralyze you (though not things that stagger or stun you, knock you out, or command you to decide not to take movement, such as command). You can also ignore a number of spaces of difficult terrain each round equal to your escapist bonus. This bonus begins at +1 at 3rd level, and increases by +1 every 3 levels thereafter. You must have no armor check penalty and be in light encumbrance to use this ability.

Acrobatic Strike: At 4th level you are so good at flipping and spinning that you can flip over, roll under, or cartwheel past a foe to position yourself to strike the foe in a vulnerable location. If you successfully make an Acrobatics check to move through a foe’s space, and you are able to make a melee attack against that foe in the same round directly after taking that movement, the first attack you make counts as flanking the foe. You gain all the normal bonuses of flanking the foe, which normally includes a +2 bonus to your attack roll and the ability to do sneak attack damage. You must have no armor check penalty and be in light encumbrance to use this ability.

Patreon Exclusive

Since the thief-acrobat is an alternate version of the rogue it can mostly just use rogue options for things like talents. But I did think of two talents a thief-acrobat might find useful a rogue wouldn’t have access to, and I wrote them up for backers of my Patreon.

Check it out!


Return of the Cleric/Assassin

Continuing my design trip to the ancient past of the game system (specifically the fighter/magic-user/thief, and continuing the previous trend of the earlier cavalier-paladin), I realized there are several old ideas that can be designed as alternate character classes. For example, the inquisitor is already a class that combines fighting, divine spells, and some stealth, all focused on judgment and punishment. But with a tilt of focus, the same basic frame can be used to recreate the old cleric/assassin multiclass character of early editions of the game.

A great deal of the class’s features are swapped out, but it still counts as an inquisitor for other purposes. However, it cannot select any option (spell, feat, magic items, or other option) that modifies a class feature the inquisitor has but that the cleric/assassin does not.

For extra old-school, the GM can restrict the cleric/assassin to half-orcs. 🙂

Favored Class Bonus: In addition to being able to select racial favored class bonuses for the inquisitor, the cleric/assassin can select racial favored class bonuses for the cleric or the rogue. The cleric/assassin cannot select a racial favored class bonus that modifies a class feature the cleric/assassin does not have.

Alignment: Either the cleric/assassin, or the cleric assassin’s god, must be evil. The cleric/assassin’s alignment must be within one step of her deity’s alignment.

Proficiency: Cleric/assassins are proficient with light armor, simple and martial weapons, and the favored weapon of their deity.

Spells: The cleric assassin casts spells drawn from the inquisitor spell list or antipaladin spell list, but cannot cast any spell that has an alignment element that is directly opposed to their own alignment or their deity’s, or that modifies a class feature the cleric/assassin does not have.

Sneak Attack: Cleric/assassins do not gain judgement. Instead, they gain +1d6 at sneak attack, and gain another 1d6 of sneak attack at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter.

Poison Use: The cleric/assassin does not gain the detect alignment class feature at 2nd level, instead gaining poison use as the assassin class feature.

Talents: The cleric/assassin does not gain solo tactics or teamwork feats. Instead, she gains a rogue or ninja trick of her choice (using her cleric/assassin level as her rogue/ninja level) at 3rd level, plus one additional talent every 3 levels thereafter.

Death Attack: The cleric/assassin does not gain the bane or discern lies class features at 5th level, instead gaining the death attack assassin class feature. The cleric/assassin also does not gain greater bane at 12h level.

Evasion: The cleric/assassin does not gain the stalwart class feature at 11th level, instead gaining evasion as the rogue class feature. The cleric/assassin also does not gain the slayer class feature at 17th level, instead gaining improved evasion.

Patreon Exclusive

There are LOTS of old-school character ideas that can’t be easily and effectively recreated in Pathfinder, and I had an idea for a simple magus archetype that should be able to recreate the old school fighter/illusions character concept. I wrote it up as (for the time being) patron-exclusive content.

Check it out!

Return of the Fighter/Magic-User/Thief

Older editions of the game handled multiclassing much differently, and as a result triple-class characters were not only viable, in many cases they were significantly stronger than single-class characters. There’s good reason to move away from the way that rules edition handled the concept, but it does mean the fighter/magic-user/thief (a staple, especially for elves and half-elves) ceases to be an effective, easy class to build, and that’s kind of a shame.

However, with the advent of hybrid classes (from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Class Guide), there’s no reason a balanced, fun and effective f/m-u/t can’t be re-introduced into the game. It just needs some creative application of the design rules, some way to avoid the pitfalls such multi-focus characters often suffer, and some careful balancing. Such an effort is presented below. (And I did something similar with the cavalier-paladin, some time ago, if you want to look at that.)

For extra flavor, a GM might consider limiting the class to half-elves. 😀


A hybrid class.

Hit Die: d8

Parent Classes: Fighter, Rogue, Wizard

Starting Wealth: 5d6 × 10 gp (average 175 gp.) In addition, each character begins play with an outfit worth 10 gp or less.

Class Skills: The fighter/magic-user/thief’s class skills are Acrobatics (Dex), Appraise (Int), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Disable Device (Dex), Disguise (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (all, each taken individually) (Int), Profession (Wis), Perception (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Spellcraft (Int), Stealth (Dex), and Swim (Str).

Skill Ranks per Level: 6 + Int modifier.

Table: Fighter/Magic-User/Thief

Level   BaB     Fort     Ref      Will     0th        1st        2nd       3rd        Special

1          +0        +1        +1        +1        2          –           –           –           Broad training

2          +1        +1        +1        +1        2          –           –           –           Sneak attack +1 point, trapfinding

3          +2        +2        +2        +2        2          –           –           –           Knack

4          +3        +2        +2        +2        2          0          –           –           School (1st)

5          +3        +3        +3        +3        3          1          –           –           Sneak attack +1d4

6          +4        +3        +3        +3        3          1          –           –           Knack

7          +5        +3        +3        +3        3          1          0          –           Evasion

8          +6*      +4        +4        +4        3          1          1          –           Sneak attack +2d4

9          +6*      +4        +4        +4        4          2          1          –           Knack

10        +7*      +5        +5        +5        4          2          1          0          Uncanny dodge

11        +8*      +5        +5        +5        4          2          1          1          Sneak attack +3d4

12        +9*      +5        +5        +5        4          2          2          1          Knack

13        +9*      +6        +6        +6        4          3          2          1          Bravery +2

14        +10*    +6        +6        +6        4          3          2          1          Sneak attack +4d4

15        +11*    +7        +7        +7        4          3          2          2          Knack

16        +12*    +7        +7        +7        4          3          3          2          School (6th/8th)

17        +12*    +7        +7        +7        4          4          3          2          Sneak attack +5d4

18        +13*    +8        +8        +8        4          4          3          2          Knack

19        +14*    +8        +8        +8        4          4          3          3          Improved uncanny dodge

20        +15*    +9        +9        +9        4          4          4          3          Sneak attack +6d4

*The fighter/magic-user/thief receives iterative attacks as normal, the chart does not show them to simply presentation

Proficiency: You are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, and light and medium armor. Because all your fighter/magic-user/thief spells are considered to have the Still Spell feat (see “Spells,” below), you can ignore arcane spell failure.

Spells: You casts spells drawn from the wizard spells list, and keep a spellbook, learn and prepare spells like a wizard, and gains 2 new spells known of a level you can cast at each new class level . Your caster level is equal to your class level. All your spells automatically gain the benefit of the Still Spell feat, allowing you to cast spells in armor without dealing with arcane spell failure and while wielding 2-handed weapons.

Because of your training in methods of combat and the ways of stealth and subterfuge, your spells are powered less by how smart you are than by how nimble you are. You use Dexterity to determine what level spell you can cast, your spells’ save DCs and bonus spells, and any calculation that uses Intelligence in a spell (or your school, see below) is instead calculated using your Dexterity.

Broad Training: You are considered to have a base attack bonus of +1, the ability to cast 1st level spells, and 1d6 of sneak attack, for purposes of meeting prerequisites and drawing a weapon as part of a move action when moving. You treat your class level as your fighter level, rogue level, and wizard level when meeting prerequisites including feat prerequisites). If this is your favored class, you can take a racial favored class bonus for fighter, rogue, or wizard at each level. Although you do not have the armor training or weapon training class features, for purposes of prerequisites you are treated as having them if a fighter with a level equal to your class level had them (and of having them with the same bonus as a fighter of your class level when calculations use that information). For weapon training, you also select weapon groups it would have applied to, if you had it, for use with the Advanced Weapon Training feat, even though you do not actually gain the normal bonuses from weapon training with those groups.

Sneak Attack: As the rogue class feature, except when you first gain this ability it deals only +1 point of damage (though it qualifies for any sneak attack talent you select with your knack). This increases to +1d4 at 5th level, and by an additional 1d4 every 3 levels thereafter.

Trapfinding: As the rogue class feature.

Knack: At 3rd level, and every 3 level thereafter, you gain a bonus combat feat, a bonus metamagic feat, a bonus item creation feat, or a rogue talent. You must meet the selection’s prerequisites, and have any relevant class feature it modifies. Each time you gain a new knack, you may choose to learn a new knack in place of a knack you have already learned. In effect, you lose the knack in exchange for the new one. The knack cannot be one that was used as a prerequisite for another feat, prestige class, or other ability. You can only change one knack at any given level and must choose whether or not to swap the knack at the time you gain a new knack for the level.

School: At 4th level, you select one wizard school. You are not considered specialized in the associated school, and you to not pick opposition schools—this has no effect on how many spells per day you can prepare or your chance to learn spells of various schools. You do, however, gain the abilities from this school that a wizard gains at 1st level. Your class level acts as your wizard level for any calculations of these abilities.

At 16th level, you also gain any abilities from the school that a wizard would have by 8th level (regardless of what level the wizard would have gained them, if it is before 8th level).

Evasion: At 7th level you gain evasion, as the rogue class feature. It functions if you are in no armor, light armor, or medium armor.

Uncanny Dodge: At 10th level you gain uncanny dodge, as the rogue class feature. At 19th level this upgrades to improved uncanny dodge. Both functions if you are in no armor, light armor, or medium armor.

Bravery: At 13th level your gain bravery, as the fighter class feature, with a flat +2 bonus.

Speaking of Old school Ideas

I can only take the time to write whole new classes because I have patrons, who support me. want more of this stuff? Check out my Patreon!

Fantasy Khanda for Pathfinder

Welcome to more things inspired by Forged in Fire. I already did a full fantasy Pathfinder version of the fascinating Akrafena (and a quick conversion for the Ida on my Patreon), both swords I was introduced to by the television show Forged in Fire. Given how cool many of the weapons they feature on that show are, I decided to do another one. And while doing so, I thought I would explore the design space created by using odd-sided dice (d5s, d7s, and so on) such as those available from Impact Miniatures.

This is an effort at a fantasy pathfinder version of the Khanda, a weapon from India with deep ties to various religions and philosophies. I am certainly not an expert on India, its history, or its religions. This is a game option inspired by the real-world history of the weapon, and is designed to be no more accurate than the Pathfinder versions of the longsword or falchion.

The Khanda is a one-handed martial weapon that is a double-edged straight sword, with a blade that widens near the tip (which is blunt). A Khanda’s grip guard is sufficiently encompassing to allow the weapon to deal damage as a gauntlet (though it still counts as a one-handed, rather than light, weapon). The blade has a reinforcement partway along the back, which is both stronger and dull (allowing the weapon to be grabbed at this point to reinforce the user’s grip for parrying powerful blows). A Khanda often has ornate religious iconography on its guard and blade, and a masterwork Khanda can act as a holy symbol for one specific deity.

Cost 20 gp     Weight 4 lbs.

1-handed: Dmg (S) 1d5     DMG (M) 1d7     Crit 19-20, x2  blocking, reinforced, trip

Reinforced: Reinforced weapons have their hardness increased by +1, and their hp increased by +25%.

Patreon Exclusive

While I was playing with odd-dice design spaces, I invented a new weapon, the “light bastard sword,” inspired by nothing but mathematical possibilities. It’s currently a patron-exclusive bit of content over at my Patreon.

Check it out!


It’s interesting what people will latch onto.

I didn’t name “Owen’s Law.” I think that was Keith J Davies of Echelon Game Design, though someone might have done it before him I didn’t notice. And I certainly didn’t turn it into a hashtag. That was definitely Lucus Palosaari, project manager over at Fat Goblin Games. So I’m using their terms, because not doing so seems disrespectful, but I’d be just as happy to see the idea spread without having my name attached to it.

So whatever you call it, the rule is this. “If you mention a product you sell or make money from, link directly to where people can buy it.” The broader application of the rule can be stated as “Make it easy for people to give you money.” Though that one also a lot of other corollaries as well.

Now I am not the appointed keeper of Internet etiquette, and I know some folks don’t like to “hijack” threads or commercialize non-commercial discussions. I’ve been very clear that no one should worry about either of those in any online space I control. My Facebook page is there for gaming and gamers, and if a discussing makes you think, “WOW, that sounds like people involved in this idea might like to buy my Advanced Guide to Halfing War Baking!” then by all means, mention it AND post a link.

Really, once you are calling attention to a product, why make people actually interested in it do a Google search for it? I don’t see posting a link as any more intrusive than telling people talking about where their favorite burgers are not just that you like In and Out, but that there’s one down on Main Street. It’s additional, relevant information. And, in this case, it cuts barriers between people who want to give you money, and the actual act of you getting paid.

This is especially true of independent creatives. Your best advertising is word of mouth, but that has to start with you. Telling folks about your awesome stuff is good, but if they don’t take the steps to buy your stuff and then discover they love it, they can’t tell OTHER people how much they love it. And in my experience, people are much more likely to follow one click and then make a buy decisions, than they are to copy the name of your product (which I hope you got right), paste it into a search engine, choose and click on a link (that I hope is a sales site and not a review with no cart options), and THEN decide if they want to buy it. It doesn’t sound like much work… but what is the advantage to you of making them do that work?

Also, if you have fans, posting the link makes it easy for them to SHARE that link. Now you aren’t dependent on them getting the products name right, and your name right, AND for interested buyers to do the Google Search tango to get to a buy screen. If you paste the right links in when you talk about your products, your fans can easily share the exact link you want buyers to see and use.

Of course, don’t be obnoxious about cramming a mention of your products in everywhere you can. People will tune you out. I prefer 3-4 social media posts about things other than my products for every 1 that has a buy link. But if you restrict yourself to announcements that actually seem like news and are posted in appropriate venues, and mentions of your material when and where it’s actually relevant to the topic at hand, you can boost your visibility, save members of the community some time, and “Make it easy for people to give you money.”

And as a final #OwensLaw note, this need not apply only to your stuff. It can just be a cheap, easy way to support other groups in your community. Obviously I didn’t have to post links to Echelon Game Design or Fat Goblin Games above… but it cost me nothing to do so, and if any reader finds even the company names interesting those links saves them the time and effort of looking the companies up. That increases the changes of more people having more fun, which I always see as a good thing. And, it may earn me or my blog goodwill, which is great.

Speaking of My Stuff

I couldn’t do an #OwensLaw post without some shameless self-promotion. I have a Patreon, and the money from it helps support this blog and it’s free content. And, today, I added a minor coda to how I use #OwensLaw to boost visibility and sales as Patreon-exclusive content.

Check it out!

Upcoming Starfinder-Compatible Products from RGG

Next month, Rogue Genius Games is going to be leaping into the Starfinder-compatible market, with what we hope are the first of a long line of exciting quality products. More details will be available as we get closer to release, but I did want to show off what we are planning, and how they are looking.

The Starfarer’s Companion has tons of material for players and GMs, including computers, starships, feats, races (Aasimar, Catfolk, Deoxyians, Dhampirs, Grippli, Ifrit, Kitsune, Kobolds, Mechanoi, Nagaji, Oreads, Samsarans, Suli, Sylphs, Tengu, Tieflings, Undine, Vanaras, Vishkanya, and Wayangs) and classes (Bard, Cleric, Magus, Paladin, Ranger, and Wizard).

Starfarer's Companion Cover 72dpi

We’re also releasing a 1st-level introductory adventure for 4-6 players, Blood Space & Moon Dust!

GA Blood Space and Moon Dust Cover 72dpi

And of course it seems likely that once the game is out, some Starfinder material will find it’s way onto this blog, and into my Patreon. 😀

It’s exciting times!

On Game Industry Professionalism

I’m surprised how often this comes up, but there is often a sad lack of professionalism in the game industry. It’s not all one-way, and it’s not all intentional, and it’s not all unique to this industry… but some of it is, and that causes issues throughout the hobby. Especially as some big conventions are coming up, and those often mean new contacts and new work deals, I wanted to talk about it a bit.

I’m certainly not the gatekeeper of gaming professionalism, but there are some things that seem to be common among the industry folks I look up to who are better-known, smarter, and more graceful than I am, and I do my best to emulate the. This list isn’t comprehensive or absolute – there are important things I and missing and side cases that might be rare exceptions to these principals. But in general, this is a fair baseline for what I see as the start of game industry professionalism.

Oh, and I want it to be fun to read, so it’s broken into movie quote section.

Break a Deal, Face the Wheel

No, no one will actually put a fiberglass mask on your head and send you off to die in the desert… but if you get a reputation for not doing what you have contracted and agreed to, you may end up in an allegorical desert when all the available work dries up.

Look, the industry is often brutal. Pay is too low, deadlines too short, respect too uncommon (especially among some segments of fans). Some years not only would I have made more money spending the same amount of time doing minimum wage fast food jobs, but my main reward was to be called out and attacked by people with less experience and understanding of games than I have. It can suck.

But leaving people in a lurch makes it suck more.

If you agree to do a job, and the other side holds up their end, you need to do your best to hold up your end. I have had people I thought were promising freelancers, who I took a risk on, mentored, said nice things about and introduced to other publishers, take a contract, ask me to push back the deadline by months, then stop communicating at all, then tell me they can no longer do the project at all and give me some half-assed outline in way of recompense. All while continuing to do work for other companies.

If mental health issues has you down? Yes, that’s no different that backing out of a running job because you broke a leg. You need to be up-front and honest, and tell me as soon as possible, but I get it. But do it early, be frank, and don’t immediately prove it’s not about that by taking even more work from other people. If you need a break, take a break.

But if the job you are doing for me just got pushed back to the back of your queue so often because of better work coming along that you’ve decided it’s not fun anymore, or no longer a good use of your time? Tough. You agreed to do this project. We have a contract. Do it.

You’re not just making a publishers life more difficult when you just throw a project aside. You are boosting their missed opportunity cost, adding stress, and preventing them from paying everyone else who would be involved. It’s unprofessional, and it’s way too common among way too many freelancers.

The reverse of this is ALSO true. If you tell someone you’ll publish their work, and there’s no formal timeline, and five years alter you still haven’t? You are screwing with them. And, obviously, pay what you say you will pay, when you say you will or before. Giving feedback is optional, but smart to improve the whole industry. Bad-mouthing a freelancer to other publishers for some behavior you never told THEM was an issue/ Unprofessional. Cancelling a project and just never telling people working on turnovers? Unprofessional. Sitting on a manuscript for years? Unprofessional… and I’ve been guilty of that one.

Keep it Secret. Keep it Safe.

We rarely have information as crucial as the location of the One Ring, but there certainly are things you shouldn’t let the (various) Dark Lords know.

What information is exchanged between company and employee or freelancer as part of a work arrangement should be kept between those two, unless there’s a crime involved or an agreement that says otherwise or it’s become common knowledge. If you get to work on Ultimate Sentient Weapons, a major book that hasn’t been announced yet, you SHOULD NOT then use that information to write a book that does the same thing but better, and sell it before USW comes out. That’s screwing over your partner who got you that info, and it’s not cool. Similarly if a freelancer tells a publisher the freelancer is already working on something similar, the publisher should not take steps to trademark names involved, or change publishing dates, or badmouth them to damage their reputation, or change the project to cover the idea the freelance admitted to having.

Even without an NDA, don’t do this.

Once things are all out in the open, normal intellectual property rights can apply. And if the publisher is giving the info to lots of folks to do associated projects, there’s no reason not to ask if you can be included in that set of folks. But you can’t use info you were given to do a job for A Corp, then leverage it to sell a tie-in to B Corp before anyone even knows it has happened. Similarly, don’t leak files, even just to your friend Josh. Because you may trust Josh… but Josh may trust Wilhelm, and Wilhelm may trust Jerry, and Jerry may be an asshole. Don’t take the risk.

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

What you do and say as a representative of yourself is your business. But if you wrote for a company’s new book, and you go to that company’s forum, and you take sole credit for things that were developed, edited, and worked on by 7 folks? Not cool. And if you badmouth it as crap the developers ruined? Not professional. And if you attack and insult customers who are annoyed? Way unprofessional.

If you can at all help it, don’t escalate conversations people who work with you are going to have to deal with. It’s like leaving a dead fish on the counter. If it’s your counter that’s gross, but you have to deal with it. If you leave it on my counter, you are making my life harder as the reward for me working with you.

Also, you will build a reputation. It will get around. Consider what you want it to be.

Be Kind. Rewind.

This industry is a meat grinder all too often. People with great talent and love of games leave both for more money, and for less stress and grief from fans.

So, try to be nice.

Yes, this is a vague hand-wave at professionalism, but give it some thought. If it takes only a tiny bit more effort to be nice to folks, why not do that? Yes, sometimes people are attacking you, or actively damaging your company or your reputation, and “nice” may not be a reasonable reply.

But if we were all nice whenever we could be? That would fix a lot of issues too.

Give more credit that you take.

Tell people when they make a positive impact on your life. Thank them.

Consider if you are being needlessly cruel in feedback. Saying you hate a game mechanic is very different from saying it’s idiotic and you don’t understand how anyone could ever think it was a good idea, and even THAT is different from saying a game’s writers are idiots who clearly only have their jobs because they are friends with the developer and the boss is so checked out he doesn’t care what gets published.

We HAVE lost people from the industry from such behavior. We’ll never stop it all, but if I can have one rock thrown at me each day or twelve, I’ll pick just one.

Self-Promotion Done Right

You can build up yourself without tearing anyone down. For example, I have a Patreon, and I’d love if you backed it.

Clinton Boomer has a Patreon. It’s awesome. You should back it too.

Liz Courts has a couple of Patreons. All worthwhile.

So does Jacob Blackmon!

I’d rather talk about how awesome these all are, and let you decide where to spend your money.

This entire post was sponsored by the Open Gaming Store. It’s awesome, too.