Monthly Archives: July 2017

Totally Random Pathfinder Feat

Inspired by a DC Comics hero, and apropos of nothing:

Detonatable

You can blow up.

Benefit: You can cast a fireball at your location as a spell-like ability. Its caster level is equal to half your HD. This causes you to explode, as well. Your body flies apart as part of the fireball, but this does not kill you. Instead, your body exists as dust in the area of the fireball, and you reform (with all your gear and in the same condition as when you exploded) at a random point within the area of the fireball 1d4 rounds later. While you are dust, you can take no actions, and are subject only to effects that can impact a creature made of dust. You gain the fatigued condition (or exhausted if already fatigued, or unconscious of already exhausted) for 1 hour after reforming, even if you are normally immune to these conditions.

Patreon Exclusive

There’s a similarly random feat involving removing your own eyes and still looking around with them, Eye can See, as a patron exclusive over at my Patreon.

Check it out!

Bad Nights and Coping Mechanisms

It’s late, and I’m tired. Today was a massive failure. As a result, I feel like a massive failure.

So, to coping mechanisms.

Though I do not believe it emotionally, or intellectually, I am going to keep telling myself everything is going to be all right, and that things will get better. There are risks to this, but it serves me better than despair, so that’s the mechanism. It has to be rote, or I won’t do it when I most need it. I have sometimes dug up my old checklist, from when I literally could not trust myself to make smart care decisions on nights like this. I’d stare at the times, and feel total apathy. But doing something seemed smart, so I’d do those things. And check them off, each as I did it, no matter how minor. Some lists even include not doing things, so I get to mark those off just by properly focusing my sloth.

The coping mechanism says I have to go forward assuming I can fix things tomorrow. I can’t keep the failure of today with me, count all my progress against the negative value of this and all the failed days that came before. That’s stacking the deck against myself. I need to have a realistic assessment of what is possible, but that’s about looking forward not weighing down measures of success with things I could have gotten done if I just hadn’t failed miserably on a range of occasions.

I do know, looking at my track record, that sometimes I pull it out, and sometimes I don’t. I also know I am a bad judge of my ratios of success to failure, and that smart people I trust often have a very different opinion of how I am doing. That all gets added to the coping mechanism calculations.

But there’s no point on hammering my brain any harder about this tonight. That hasn’t worked since I was 35. When I am done, I am done.

I need to go through my checklist of things to try to give tomorrow the best chance. What I eat, what I read or watch, how late I stay up, whether I take my prescriptions—these things feel utterly pointless right now, but I know they are not. However bad things are, there is no point in making them worse.

I am bad at self-care, but making every effort I am able to is part of the coping mechanism.

Also do the best you can to take care of yourself, and forgive yourself of your failures.

Concept Feat: Wings!

There are lots of different ways to pick a character concept to play in a roleplaying game. For class-and-level games like Pathfinder, I generally flip through the various core options and customizable choices, and those will spark a character concept. (If I’ve made characters in a specific game system many times, my process may be a little different). The advantage of this system is that my concept is inspired by mechanics, so I am unlikely to try to make a character the system doesn’t handle well.

But in my experience with players, it’s actually more common to be inspired by a character from fiction, or video games, or even other RPGS, and try to find a way to build that concept using whatever rules are available. That can cause issues, because not every RPG is designed to support every character concept. Extreme cases of this issue are fairly intuitive—no one seems surprised that Pathfinder is the wrong RPG to try to play Superman—but if the inspirational character is in a genre anywhere near the RPG’s genre, players get more annoyed. There’s no good way to play a rich princess with hundreds of servants and loyal knights as a 1st level character in Pathfinder except for the GM to decide the campaign being run will give you that position outside of anything on your character sheet.

Some people accept level limitations to character concepts (as soon as you can take Leadership that princess becomes easier, and most people understand in-his-prime Batman isn’t a 1st level character), but it chafes for people who just want to make something they think would be fun and run with it. And ideas that don’t integrate well with the rules at any level are even more disappointing.

In general, it’s up to a GM and players to ensure PC concepts are appropriate to a campaign, and no RPG handles every concept as attempted by any player, but some common difficult trops can be tackled in an effort to show how a GM CAN accommodate some character concepts with house rules, if the GM wants to.

One way to do that is “concept feats,” feats that do more than a typical feat but are taken only at character creation and only with GM approval to create a specific concept for a character. Such feats need to scale carefully, so they aren’t overpowering at low levels, and players just need to accept that the trappings of the idea may not come in at full power early on. Such feats aren’t designed for general use as available options for any character at any level, but as special options granted only at character creation when a GM and player want to stretch the rules a bit. To be most useful a GM needs to be able to create concept feats to match each PC concept the GM likes and wants to allow, but the rules don’t currently exist for. Most likely charatcers should be limited to one concept feat and they such have a notation to indicate their special nature, such as an explanation point in their title. Here’s an example concept feat, Wings!

Wings! (Concept)

Whether a result of a storied lineage or a strange mutation or special blessing, you have innate wings.

Prerequisites: Taken at character creation with GM permission to allow an otherwise-impossible character concept.

Benefit: You have wings. While they don’t weigh you down or cause problems with your gear, you can only use them when you are not suffering any penalties to your movement rate or mobility (such as from armor or encumbrance or slowing magic, or grappling), and only if you have enough room for a creature one size larger than you (though your actual space does not increase). If any effect disables one of your limbs, there is a 25% chance it instead disables a wing.

Fly is always a class skill for you, and you can make Fly checks in place of Acrobatics checks whenever you are able to use your wings, and for any Acrobatics-based prerequisites. At 1st level, your wings allow you to treat all jumps as running jumps, and to jump down a number of feet equal to double a Fly check result without taking damage or falling prone. At 3rd level you can fly downward with a fly speed equal to double your movement rate. At 5th level you double all Fly checks made as Acrobatics checks to jump. At 7th level you can fly with a fly speed equal to double your movement rate for a number of minutes per day equal to your level. At 9th level, you wings grant you a normal fly speed equal to double your movement rate.

Patreon Exclusive Content

I realized I never tackled the idea of the 1st level PC who is royalty, or something similar, so I created the Upper Class! concept feat, which is currently a patron-exclusive post over at my Patreon.

Check it out!

 

Depressions is, well, depressing

One of the realities of struggling with clinical depression is that even with therapy, even with prescriptions, even with support systems and coping strategies…

Some days you’re just so fucking depressed it’s hard to move. To think. To even open your eyes.

Nothing has to happen. The biggest problem, in fact, is that is can be causeless and sourceless. There’s nothing to fix, nothing “getting you down,” nothing “wrong.”

Except your joy is broken, and your entire existence boils down to justifying each breath.

Big Magic

For obvious reasons, published spells for the Pathfinder Roleplaying game tend to focus on things that are at least modestly likely to be desired results for spellcasters using them at primary or secondary spell slots. That does mean there’s an entire class of spells – effects that for both balance and cosmology reasons require spell slots so high to create brad but minor results that most spellcasters wouldn’t ever either learning or casting – that haven’t ever been explored. I think of these as “big magic,” things that are obviously powerful but that a typical adventuring spellcaster never needs.

What level spell does it take to do one point of damage to everyone within a mile? Ten miles/ 100 miles?

Yet one of the things I have learned is that there are many ways creative players will find to use spells that as a designer or GM, I wouldn’t have thought of. So, sometimes I play with potential big magic, mostly as a thought experiment.

Here are two examples of big magic, built off iconic low-level spells.

Magic Volley

School evocation (force); Level Wizard 6

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S

Range long (400 ft. + 40 ft./level)

Area/Targets every creature within a radius of 100 ft. +10 ft./level

Duration instantaneous

Saving Throw none; Spell Resistance yes

You fire one magic missile at every creature within the spell’s area.

 

Succor All Wounds

School conjuration (healing); Level Cleric 6

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S

Range long (400 ft. + 40 ft./level)

Area/Targets every living creature within a radius of 100 ft. +10 ft./level

Duration instantaneous

Saving Throw Will negates (harmless); Spell Resistance yes (harmless)

You heal every living creature in the area of 1d8+5 hit points.

Patreon Exclusive

I included one other example, a 6th level bardic spell conference, as exclusive content over at my blog. Check it out!

Optional Rule: Dolorous Wounds

This is an idea I have played with a lot, but never felt I had a good home for it or a final version of the rule.

New Optional Rule: Dolorous Wounds

Dolorous wounds are an option rule that both explains why the dead and undead are sometimes depicted with injuries sustained in life (if magic can make a skeleton get up and walk, why can’t it fix chipped ribs and cracked skulls?), and to give GMs another option to deal with questions of PC mortality and resurrection other than raise dead and similar spells.

The dolorous wounds rule assumes that some wounds are so deep, so horrific and life-threatening, that they damage the life force (or “soul) of their targets. Dolorous wounds never fully heal of their own accord, and because the wounded creature’s life force is also wounded, healing magic cannot restore them to full health. As long as the wounded creature’s soul has a piercing near its heart, for example, the creature’s heart will never be at full strength.

When using dolorous wounds, when a character would normally be killed, the player may instead choose for the character to suffer a “dolorous wound.” The dolorous wound produces some physical ailment, agreed upon by player and the GM (normally a -1 penalty to one category of skill checks, most often Str, Dex, Con, or Cha-based skills, though a penalty to range modifier for losing an eye or a reduction of movement rate for a limp are also appropriate). In general, the penalty should be to skills of an ability score that is one the character’s 3 highest, and that have related skills the character has put at least a few skill points in – a 7 Charisma fighter who never uses any Cha-based skills shouldn’t think he’s immortal because he’s willing to take penalties to social efforts and UMD.

A dolorous wound is so severe the damage is duplicated on the character’s soul, making it impossible to heal with normal magic. A special ritual may be able to fix a dolorous wound, but it has at least the cost and difficulty of a true resurrection spell. You cannot use the dolorous wound rule to escape death as a result of a coup de grace.

The dolorous wound rule should only be used for player characters and major NPCs. (In some campaigns it’s appropriate to restrict dolorous wounds to creatures with heroic class levels). These rules allow a game to make magic that raises the dead very rare, without having players constantly have to replace a favored PC (or GMs come up with a new master villain) when someone actually dies. The penalties for a dolorous wound are severe enough to encourage players to avoid dying, but not so great at to make characters unplayable. A campaign that allows dolorous wounds makes death a much rarer occurrence among players, and thus prevents it from losing all meaning and impact. A campaign using this rule can even eliminate such spells as raise dead, presenting a world where death is permanent (or much more so than in a typical campaign), without making it impossible for players to keep their PCs after a major defeat.

Alternatively, dolorous wounds can be a background rule, something the GM makes players aware of but largely as something that explains why the king has an old war wound while surrounded by 13th level spellcasters, and why some undead come back missing heads, arms, or other body parts. Dolorous wounds as a concept—injuries that inflict damage on the target’s soul and thus defy standard healing, can be useful purely for story purposes.

Patreon Exclusive Content

Over at my Patreon, I added an undead template, the gan ceann, which turns any corporeal undead into a headless monstrosity due to a dolorous wound preventing them from being whole, even in death. It’s a minor patron exclusive idea, check it out!

Esoteric Paladin Mercies

Unlike rogues or even rangers and fighters, paladins don’t have a lot of abilities where they get to select one of a list of class features. That can make it tricky to create new paladin options without going as far as building a whole archetype. But if you get creative with mercies, there are some interesting, balanced options you can use.

Esoteric Mercies

Esoteric mercies are special abilities paladins may select in place of a new mercy of the appropriate level, but which give them different mercies than the standard benefits to their lay on hands abilities.

3rd Level Esoteric Mercies

Final Mercy (Ex): The harsh reality of battle is, sometimes there is nothing a paladin can offer but a swift death. A paladin with this mercy can perform a coup de grace as a move action using a use of his mercy ability, and deals additional damage equal to his lay on hands dice. These additional dice are not multiplied by the weapon’s critical damage multiplier. If slain, the target is affected by sanctify corpse, but it gains no other lay on hands ability.

Swift Succor: The paladin has focused on granting her healing abilities to allies quickly. She can lay on hands to heal others as a move action.

6th Level Esoteric Mercies

Boon of Light (Sp): As a move action the paladin can create light, as the spell, at will. If the paladin is holding a magic weapon that produces magic light, this light illuminates to a radius of 40 feet, and counters darkness spells of a spell level equal to 1/3 the paladin’s class level. If the paladin has a holy magic weapon that creates light, this ability acts as the daylight spell, and can counter darkness spells with a spell level equal to half the paladin’s class level.

Ranged Succor: The paladin need not touch allies to grant the benefit of her lay on hands. She can use lay on hands on a target within 60 feet as a full round action (or a standard action, if she has the swift succor mercy).

 

9th Level Esoteric Mercies

Holy Avenger: When wielding a weapon with the holy or bane (vs. evil outsiders) magic special ability, the paladin gains SR equal to 10 + her paladin level + her Charisma modifier. This SR only applies against spells with the evil descriptor, and those from creatures with the evil subtype. Each time the SR successfully prevents a spell from affecting the paladin, the paladin expends one use of her lay on hands ability for the day. If she has no lay on hands uses left, she does not gain DR.

One More Patreon Exclusive Option

I have also played with options to allow paladins to expand their spell lists to be more deity-specific, and one of those ideas is essentially also an esoteric mercy. So I am including it over at my Patreon page as exclusive content (which just means it’s not available anywhere else right now — it may still show up elsewhere or in a product someday). Go check it out!

The War with Facebook Algorithms

I have been experimenting with what Facebook posts of mine get seen, get likes, get shares, and so on.

Having controls is the tricky part. Did that post get no interactions because no one saw it because it was posted straight from WordPress and Facebook didn’t how it to anyone, or because no one cares about the idea of an independence sub-domain?

But having a range of topics, times, and sources, and comparing Facebook responses to how responses from other potential referrers, I am getting some sense of what does and doesn’t work.

Of course very few of you on Facebook will see this, because it’s posted directly from WordPress, AND I’m not hitting like on it myself…

Independence Sub-Domain

Clearly, the Liberation Domain for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is about making others free, and that is a strong concept for a divine mandate. Those gods who oppose tyranny, slavery, rigid social castes, and systematic oppression of any kind are likely candidates to grant the Liberation Domain.

Liberation has three subdomains – Freedom, Revolution, and Self-Realization. Think between each of these and Liberation is fairly obvious – the object of liberation is freedom, the objective of liberation often requires revolution, and self-realization is a form of liberation from (often self-imposed) confusion and deception. Like all sub-domains, these three swap out either a granted ability or a domain spell slot to better represent their specific forms of liberation-related divine concern.

However, all of those concepts either focus around the act of overcoming existing restraints (be they social, physical, or delusional restraints), or ensuring a lack of restrain specifically for others—defending the restrained, or encouraging them to throw off their restraints.

They dance around, but don’t ever quite cover, the concept of being able to achieve and maintain liberty through self-sufficiency—Independence. It’s easy to see how gods of pioneers, explorers, hermits, and even racial or cultural supremacy or selfishness might encourage not the power to free others or overcome existing limitations, but being able to avoid ever suffering significant entanglements by having the capacity to take care of yourself.

Independence isn’t the same as Liberation, though one might be the object of the other, but is surely close enough to have significant overlap in related divine powers. And, given the season, an Independence subdomain seemed an obvious call.

Replacement Power: The following granted power replaces the freedom’s call power of the Liberation domain.

Undeterred (Su) At 8th level, at the beginning of any turn in which you are confused, grappled, frightened, held, panicked, paralyzed, pinned, or shaken you may, as a free action, choose to ignore that condition until the beginning of your next turn. You may do this even if you are normally unable to take actions (such as if you are confused). This ability only suppresses these effects, and they return once this ability end, if applicable. You may maintain your immunity for a total of one round per level. These rounds do not need to be consecutive.

Replacement Domain Spells: 1st—sanctuary, 7th—transformation, 9th—wish.

Patreon Exclusive–Alternate Power

Over at my Patreon I did an exclusive additional alternate power, at 1st level, for patrons only.

More Ways I Have Failed

I have, far too often and far too seriously, failed to use my position of privilege, protection, and visibility to improve the hobby I love so much. These are completely true examples where the fault is entirely mine. The list began here, but it’s not like I magically stopped failing people in this industry when I listed just the examples that leaped readily to mind.

It’s 2015. I am asked to suggest some freelancers who have done good work for me. Instead of going through actual notes or records, to create a list from complete and factual information, I rattle it off from my impressions, allowing all my biases and failings to color that list, instead of being diligent about at minimum making sure it’s robustly considered.

It’s 2016. A woman asks if she can get my opinion on the behavior of her superior in another company. I happily agree. She is being emotionally abused. I point this out, and act as a shoulder to cry on as she realized how terrible her situation is. I knock ideas around on how she can maybe eventually escape or at least mitigate her situation, since financially she can’t immediately leave it.

I do nothing to warn the next woman he might hire. I do not follow up with her. The abuse–which I entirely accept as real and serious–is out of my sight, and falls out of my mind.

It’s 2017. An industry professional at a casual gathering dismisses a broad category of claims of unsafe, biased geek behavior. I am too tired to argue, or even mention I disagree. I leave, with no suggestion I took issue with the statement.

There remains terrible, focused, often premeditated prejudice, bias, and actual abuse in my hobby. Not seeing it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Not creating it yourself does not protect those who are vulnerable.