Monthly Archives: October 2017

Minotaur Mafia Mash-Up

This grew from the causal thought “What two ideas have I not seen jammed together before?” with the answer being “Minotaur mafia.”
So:

The Bulls of Mingul

When the enslaved people of Mingul prayed for salvation from the scorpionfolk masters, or at least escape from the vast labyrinthine cave complexes the scorpionfolk build as their temple cities, at first no gods answered. The envenomed deity of the scorpionfolk was too dangerous to other gods, her poison able to slay even deities.

But in time the field mother and the sly trickster decided to risk their existence to help the enslaved peoples. They took cattle, who were under the aegis of the field mother, and turned them into something else using the tricksters bag of secrets. Tall now, and powerful, and unable to be confused to lost by the most complex maze, the “Bulls of Mingul” waged war on the scorpionfolk. The minotaurs, as they came to be known, worked with the enslaved people to free Mingul, drive the scorpionfolk into hiding, and build new cities above the vast cavern-cities the scorpionfolk one ruled.

But when the war ended, and the enslaved people were freed, the minotaurs had no further purpose. They had no history of agriculture as a people, no legends of their own, no traditions to call upon. They knew only pathfinding and war. And so they demanded the people give them food and goods, in return for protections. The people were willing to pay an army, but not to trade one set of masters for another. The minotaurs fragmented into great herds of criminals, one controlling each of the mazes beneath the cities of Mingul.

All crime in Mingul is controlled, one way or another, by a Herd Lord. Law and Order have grown in power, but none but a minotaur can move safely through the ancient scorpionfolk tunnels beneath ever city. Thus the minotaur criminals have a secure stronghold, and ways to move unseen through every city. Some become guards of course, and can lead peacekeepers through the dark depths, but their number are few, and those who track down their own kind too often are often found slain, their bull head severed and replaced with that of a pig. Meanwhile criminals of other races often take the “sign of the bull,” a horn-shaped brand, declaring their loyalty to one or another Herd Lord.
The Herd Lords still protect Mingul from outside threats, and see the good and money they demand as their just due. Most Mingul cities and citizens see it as easier to allow the Herds to control and monitor crime, and accept the occasional theft or beating as the cost of freedom and having a vast force securing the underground zones of their land from attacks by drow or other subterranean threats.

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Video Week: More WotC Stories

I’ve been putting up a series of videos this week, focusing on my work at Wizards of the Coast, back in 2000-2001.

Today’s video focuses on a moment of realization I had about what my job actually was.

Here’s the video!

If you enjoyed this, check out the other videos I’ve posted on my page of Youtube videos.

Enjoyed this video (or any of my other videos or blog posts?) Consider supporting their production by backing my Patreon!

Video Week: My First Day at WotC (Part 2)

I hope to put up a series of videos this week, beginning some some that recount the many tales of my very first day of work at Wizards of the Coast, back in 2000.

Here’s the video!

If you enjoyed this, check out the other videos I’ve posted on my page of Youtube videos.

Enjoyed this video (or any of my other videos or blog posts?) Consider supporting their production by backing my Patreon!

Video Week: My First Day at WotC (Part 1)

I hope to put up a series of videos this week, beginning some some that recount the many tales of my very first day of work at Wizards of the Coast, back in 2000.

Here’s the video!

If you enjoyed this, check out the other videos I’ve posted on my page of Youtube videos.

Enjoyed this video (or any of my other videos or blog posts?) Consider supporting their production by backing my Patreon!

Wacky Idea Wednesday 01

A Joker/Riddle-esque villain named “Hitting Yourself.”

Obviously he commits crimes that force his victim to commit self-harm.

But mostly, he’s just waiting for a local authority to gravely intone to the prime vigilante (a member of Knightwatch, whatever):

“You *must* stop Hitting Yourself.”

Iffy Fantasy RPG Dinners

Sometimes, you need something out of the ordinary for a fantasy RPG dinner scene.
Sometimes, you just need a laugh.

So here are the:

Top Ten Iffy RPG Dinners

10. Minos Island Oysters
“No, it’s not seafood. But it is peeled, coated in flour, pepper and salt, and deep-fried!”
9. Froghemoth Legs, or cuisses de vargouille
Served with a dipping poison, one leg serves a party of 107.
8. Akhlut Surf and Turf
“It’s a one-ingredent fusion food! Also popular with chimera crisps, griffon au grautin, and manticore fries.
7. Wolf-In-Sheep’s-Clothing- Hasenpfeffer
“It provides both the hare meat and the veggies, all in one butchering.”
8. Owlbear Mole Poblano
“No not owl-bear-mole. Mole poblano. The sauce. It really brings out the, ah… the gamy flavor of the wild mammal-and-fowl meat.”
5. Mimic Meat.
“We convinced it to be a cake before we killed it. Carb free, but tastes like chocolate icing.”
4. Blink Corn Dogs.
“Watching people try to eat them really brings a laugh to the State Fair.”
3. Gelatinous Cube Steak.
“It’s self-tenderizing. And 100% umami. And acid.”
2. Flumph Carbonara
“What? It’s clearly a Flying Spaghetti Monster!”
1. Flailscargot
“We save a lot of prep time by using a single 12-foot, 5-headed snail weighing 3,000 pounds. It DOES take a lot of butter, though.”

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Serious Talk about My Abuse

This is about the sexual abuse I suffered as a child. It’s the most I have ever said about it, and I say it simply in the hopes that others who have suffered will find some strength in knowing they are not alone, and it’s not their fault. If you don’t want to read about that, I certainly understand.

I’m not sure how old I was. Older than 7, younger than 12, but I can’t tell you where in that range. The abuser was someone I and my entire family trusted, but not a family member. They were my friend. The abuse occurred once, that I can recall.

I never told anyone. I didn’t know how, and the transgressive nature of what happened to me was so great I was afraid. Afraid I’d get in trouble. Afraid I’d be  blamed. I felt too much shame to tell my family, and had too many bad experiences with trust violations or lack of belief with other authority figures.

I was also afraid I’d be a social outcast. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I mean, 3 or fewer. Often only 1. Losing someone I could hang out with, that my tiny number of friends hung out with, someone important to my social existence outside the home, was more than I could handle. The idea I had to spend time with my abuser or be alone was horrible, but ultimately I decided to be with my abuser. I know that doesn’t make sense, but it happens. One reason I have said RPGs saved my life is that they gave me a way to make more friends. Once I had a few more friends, sometime in the 6th grade, I stopped ever speaking to my abuser. I think that hurt their feelings. I don’t care. As I was making that transition to new friends, suicide had begun to be a practical solution for me.

For years, I couldn’t tell anyone. I was in a youth support group for most of my teens. These were people I trusted, literally with my life in a few cases. But I couldn’t even hint that I had been abused. It has been so long, people would wonder why I hadn’t said anything.

I told one of them, a young woman slightly older than me, on a weekend retreat to a rent house. She burst into tears, and told me how many times she’d been raped. We talked about her, not me, and I think that was the right call. She swore me to secrecy. I’ve never said anything about it, and only mention it now because it’s impossible even for people who know me to identify her, for various reasons. She never brought it up in group. In fact, she really never talked to me again, and I understand. I hope she got help.

I had been married for years before I told my wife. I had been in therapy with the same therapist for years before I could talk about it in therapy, and it’s still something that makes me freeze if I try to talk about it in person. Writing is safer. And writing about it, when I can, is the main way I try, still, more than 35 years later, to someone grapple with it.

Envoy for Pathfinder

Fantasy Envoy

It’s possible to take the space-faring envoy class, and revise it to work for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Mostly you can ignore the rules tied to the science-fantasy ruleset (Stamina points, 10-minute rests, resolve Points, and so on), and run the character using straight Pathfinder rules. Some universal adjustments are needed (anything that requires a 10-minute break in which you spent 1 Resolve Point to regain Stamina instead can be done by taking 10 minutes and spending 1 point from your Envoy Intensity pool, a reaction can be done as a swift or immediate action, ignore rules that refer to spells, equipment, feats, or weapons that do not exist in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, if an envoy effect creates a condition that does not exist in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, apply the same penalties and rules the condition would have applied in the star-faring version of the rules).

For a few features, alternatives must be presented. Each of the items below replaces the envoy feature of the same name. those that do not share names with envoy features note when they are gained and what (if anything) they replace. The following also presents hp, skill, and proficiency rules for the envoy for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game rules.

Othwerwise, you can use the normal tables and class features of the envoy.

Alignment: Any

Hit Die: d8

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

Skill Ranks per Level: 8 + Intelligence modifier

Proficiencies: The envoy is proficient with light and medium armor, all shields (except tower shields), all simple weapons, and light martial weapons.

Envoy Intensity Pool: The fantasy envoy does not need or use Resolve Points, as they are not a part of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Instead at 1st level the envoy gains a Envoy Intensity Pool, with a number of points equal to half the envoy’s class level plus her Charisma bonus. Whenever a class feature calls for the envoy to spend a Resolve Point, she instead spends a point from her Envoy Intensity Pool. This pool is refreshed once a day after 8 hours of rest. At 16th level, she can restore up to two points per day when she succeeds at a Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate check against a creature that is not friendly to her and has a CR no less than 3 lower than her character level.

Expertise (Ex): You are an expert at dealing with challenges that test your skills, be the challenges social or otherwise. At 1st level, when attempting a Bluff or Sense Motive check, you can roll 1d6 (your expertise die) and add the result of the roll to your check as an insight bonus. You can use this and other expertise abilities as long as you have at least 1 point in your Envoy Intensity Pool. At 5th level, anytime you roll your expertise die, you gain a +1 bonus to the result. At 9th, 17th, and 20th levels, this bonus increases by 1. At 13th level, you roll 1d8 as your expertise die instead of 1d6.

Beginning at 9th level, you have even greater expertise with skills to which you can add your expertise die that you have also selected with the Skill Focus feat. For each such skill, once per day when rolling your expertise die to add to that skill, you may roll the expertise die twice and take the better of the two results.

Additionally whenever you successfully feint a foe (such as with the Bluff skill), you add your expertise die to the damage of your attack. This is considered precision damage, and creatures immune to critical hits or sneak attack are immune to this additional damage.

Skill Expertise (Ex): At 1st level and every 4 levels thereafter, you can use expertise with one additional class skill. You must have at least 1 rank in a skill to select it, and it must come from the following list: Appraise (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disable Device (Dex), Disguise (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (any one) (Int), Linguistics (Int), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Stealth (Dex), and Use Magic Device (Cha).

Weapon Focus (Ex): At 3rd level, you gain Weapon Focus as a bonus feat for any one weapon with which you are proficient. This replaces the Weapon Specialization class feature.

Improvisations

The following improvisations are changed.

1st level

Get ’Em (Ex) [language-dependent, mind-affecting, sense-dependent]

As a move action, you can choose one enemy within 60 feet. Until the start of your next turn, you and your allies gain a +1 morale bonus to attack rolls made against that enemy. The bonus persists even if the enemy moves beyond 60 feet or out of line of sight or hearing.

At 6th level, you can spend 1 Resolve Point to grant this bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls against all enemies who are within 60 feet.

This bonus increases to +2 at 5th level, and by an additional +1 at every 5 envoy levels thereafter.

Inspiring Boost (Ex) [language-dependent, mind-affecting, sense-dependent]

As a standard action, you can signal an ally within 30 feet and grant them a number of temporary hit points equal to twice your envoy level + your Charisma modifier; at 15th level, this increases to three times your envoy level + your Charisma modifier. These last 1 minute per envoy level, or until depleted. Once an ally has benefited from your inspiring boost, that ally can’t gain the benefits of your inspiring boost again for 24 hours, unless you spend 1 point from your envoy Intensity Pool.

At 6th level, you can spend 1 point from your envoy Intensity Pool to add your envoy level to the number of temporary hit points granted.

Look Alive (Ex) [mind-affecting]

All allies within 60 feet of you gain a +2 morale bonus to Perception and initiative checks as long as you are conscious and able to act.

4th Level

Focus (Ex) [mind-affecting, sense-dependent]

This ability can cause an ally to no longer be flat-footed, asleep, confused, or dazed.

Watch Out (Ex) [language-dependent, mind-affecting, sense-dependent]

The ally gains +4 AC and +4 to Reflex saves against the attack,

6th level

Draw Fire (Ex) [sense-dependent]

The foe’s ranged attacks and effects that do not include you suffer -4 to attack rolls and the save DCs are reduced by 2.

Improved Get ’Em (Ex)

Rather than being a +2 bonus, this increases your bonus from get ‘em by 1.

8th Level

Sustained Determination (Ex) [language-dependent, mind-affecting, sense-dependent]

This ability allows the ally to use any ability it would normally need to spend points to use (ki points, grit, panache, magus arcane pool, and so on—nearly any point-based mechanic other than a mythic ability), or use an ability they can use a limited number of times per day (as long as they can use it more than once per day).

Expertise Talents

Cultural Savant (Ex)

You can take 20 on Diplomacy checks to gather information, and Knowledge checks to learn about a creature that has an Int of 3 or greater, in only double the normal time

Engineering Adept (Ex)

You can forgo your expertise die on Craft or Disable Device to half the time of the check. You must be able to apply your expertise die to the skill to use this ability.

Fast Hack (Ex)
This just isn’t available.

Inspired Medic (Ex)

This ability works with Heal checks.

Skilled Linguist (Ex)

You gain an extra language for each rank of Linguistics you have.

Student of Technology (Ex)

You can take 20 on Appraise and Knowledge (engineering) checks in only double the normal time.

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Catharsis

There are emotions I simply don’t handle well. Anger. Embarrassment. Doubt. Pride. They mess me up, sometimes quite badly. So, when I was young, I suppressed them.

This did not turn out to be a viable long-term plan.

It took therapy to realize that.

I can be slow.

Now I have many coping mechanisms to try to make sure these emotions don’t kill or incapacitate me. Mostly that involves dealing with them at the time they happen so I have less need to suppress them.

But like I said, I can be slow. Even now, that isn’t always what happens.

So, sometimes I need catharsis.

Specifically, I need to watch or read something that will get through a chink in my emotional armor, poke a floodgate, and make it all come pouring out. It’s not perfect, but it can genuinely give me relief from stress that builds when anxiety, fear, or rage have gone too long unaddressed and unexpressed.

There are things from my childhood that work well, and things that call back to my childhood. I can watch the first time the Yamato fires the Wave Motion Gun (in either series or the live action movie), and be blubbering so hard I can’t see half the events. But I don’t need to. Because that’s ingrained in my psyche from the time I was 8.

Now to be clear, the tears, or hysterical laughter, or fist-pump of vengeance delivered, is not limited to those times when I need the emotional shock paddles. I am a sap, and some stuff gets me no matter what. If Luke is looking longingly at two suns, or you even play five notes of that music, I tear up. I am a sap.
But as long as that’s true anyway, it’s useful for me to take advantage of it from time to time.

Fantasy Tabar-Shishpar for Pathfinder

Welcome to more things inspired by Forged in Fire, where I do fantasy Pathfinder version of weapons 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 go back to this idea do another one. And while doing so, I thought I would continue to explore the design space created by using odd-sided dice (d5s, d7s, and so on) such as those available from Impact Miniatures (who are running a Kickstarter right now for more of these dice—I have nothing to do with the campaign, but I own a lot of their dice and are very happy with them).

This is an effort at a fantasy pathfinder version of the Tabar-Shishpar, a weapon from the Deccan region of India that appears to have existed in the 17th and 18th centuries, though it was always rare. “Tabar” means axe (the tabar was a horseman’s axe) and shishpar means mace and refers to a flnged mace introduced by the Delhi Sultanate. The Tabar-Shishpar is thus an axe-mace, with a single-bladed axe at one end and a mace at the other end of a roughly 3-foot-long metal haft.  The same stats can also be used for the Tabar-Zaghnal (“axe-hammer”).

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.

Although the Tabar-Shishpar has a weapon head at each end of the haft (like a gnomish hook-hammer), it is not a double weapon—only one end is designed to be used at a time, with the haft being flipped by the user when switching which head to attack with. As a result magic weapon properties (and abilities that emulate them) affect the entire Tabar-Shishpar, rather than only one end of it.

When the mace head is used, the axe is held facing outward to prevent self-injury.

Tabar-Shishpar (Two-Handed Martial Weapon)

Cost 20 gp     Weight 1.5 lbs.

Light: Dmg (S) 1d9 (B, S)     DMG (M) 1d11 (B, S)     Crit 20, x3     Switch-hit

Switch-Hit: The Tabar-Shishpar does either bludgeoning or slashing damage, depending on how you hold it. Changing between the two damage types is a swift or move action. If you are not proficient with the Tabar-Shishpar and you roll a natural 1 on an attack roll (a “1” shows on the d20), you must either drop the weapon or do half base weapon damage (ignoring all modifiers) to yourself.

Speaking of Going Back to Cool Things

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