Monthly Archives: November 2017

Grandma’s Hard Candy Flavors

I decided to get a jar of old-fashioned hard candies, like grandmas everywhere kept in candy dishes in the old days, to enjoy for the holidays. There were a huge variety of shapes and colors among the candies, which were really fun to look at. The packaging didn’t include any information on what flavor any of them were, but I think I’ve worked most of them out.

The Bad Spot on the Apple
Fireball Whisky
Liver
Overripe Banana
The Tears of Children
Light Beer
Toothpaste
Screw Pine
Plaque Control Toothpaste
Castor Oil
Leftover pancakes soaked in too much syrup
Nyquil
Existential Dread
Lemon

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Weird and Street-Level Heroes

These are entirely random ideas, at least in part driven by cold medicine, on quirky heroes at the street level, where gangs and men with brass knuckles are still significant threats.

Look, if the Defenstrator and Wild Dog can be heroes…

For no particular reason other than to have some fun.

Babe. An aging, portly male vigilante with a baseball bat, catcher’s helmet, chest protector and leg guards… and a significant close-combat skills, if not a ton of endurance. Gives kids in his neighborhood oranges if they’re good.

Beulah. Inspired by Edison/Tesla contemporary Beulah Henry, Beulah is a one-woman engineering firm, with the motto “Have Wrench, Will Travel.” Often works to solve local neighborhood problems large companies and municipal groups refuse to get around too, but also sometimes solves murders or stops crimes.

Flying Rat. Low-rent Batman-type, with a Pigeon motif. Not a billionaire, just someone with a trust fund big enough to order custom paint jobs on cars and catalog-shuriken, semi-concealable body armor, kendo and Krav Maga classes, bribe a network of pizza delivery drivers and homeless kids to spy for him, maintain prepaid legal services, and not need a 40-hour-a-week job. Operates from the Pigeon Coupe, his fixed-roof sedan with custom hood ornament and some police gear.

Isiah Mordecai Mortal. Private detective who, if killed, shows up at the edge of the nearest township to his corpse at the next sundown. Has business cards with “I.M.Mortal” on them.

Jean Hatchet. A firewoman who refuses to back down from villains, local thugs, or corrupt officials, and carries her fire axe with her almost always. When not in her fire fighter’s uniform, wears sneakers, slacks, a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and a thin tie.

Paintball. A young, athletic woman with a paintball mask and paintball gun. She is an expert paintball sniper and shootist, and mixes custom paintball colors (with UV inks) she delivers to local police in advance so if she is seen shooting a robber to mark them on camera, the police can prove a suspect is the one she shot.

Pellet. Paintball’s young male sidekick (a fact she accepts only grudgingly), who also uses paintballs but delivers them with a slingshot.

Gestalt Prestige Class for Pathfinder

Gestalt Prestige Class

Multiclassing doesn’t always work well in d20 games. Many class combinations work fine, but others end up giving the character that takes the wrong selection of classes too many weak abilities and not enough class features appropriate for their total character level.

There are two popular fixes to this issue. The first is prestige classes that are designed to allow two specific types of class to work together, such as eldritch knight and mystic theurge. These have shown to work reasonable well with narrow combinations of classes, but don’t work well for a broad range of otherwise-reasonable class combinations. The second option is to allow gestalt classes, where at every level the characters gets the best numeric option of the two classes (the best saving throw bonus, the best hit die, and so on), and all the spellcasting and special features of both classes. This obviously works well with any combination of classes, but is significantly overpowered compare to any non-gestalt character.

There should, of course, be a way to blend these two concepts, to create a prestige class that allows any two classes to be combined into an effective character, without being massively overpowered. This is an attempt at such a prestige class (with 14 levels, so your character can progress through a full 20-level campaign).

Gestalt Prestige Class

You have learned to blend two sets of training into one.

Prerequisites: You must have at least 3 levels in two different character classes.

Skill Ranks per Level: See the “custom skill progression” class feature.

Table: Gestalt

Level  BAB  Fort     Ref       Will     Special
1st       +0          +2        +0        +2        Customized attack bonus, favored class bonuses
hit dice, saving throws, skills; focus character classes
2nd      +1         +3        +0        +3        +1 focus character class level
3rd       +2        +3        +1        +3        +1 focus character class level
4th       +3         +4        +1        +4        +1 focus character class level
5th       +3         +4        +1        +4        +1 focus character class level
6th       +4         +5        +2        +5        +1 focus character class level
7th       +5         +5        +2        +5        +1 focus character class level
8th       +6/+1    +6        +2        +6        +1 focus character class level
9th       +6/+1    +6        +3        +6        +1 focus character class level
10th     +7/+2    +7        +3        +7        +1 focus character class level
11th     +8/+3    +7        +3        +7        +1 focus character class level
12th     +9/+4    +8        +4        +8        +1 focus character class level
13th     +9/+4    +8        +4        +8        +1 focus character class level
14th     +10/+5  +9        +4        +9        +1 focus character class level

Class Features

The following are the class features of the gestalt prestige class.

Customized Attack Bonus: If both your focus character classes (see below) have the same base attack bonus progressions as one another, and it is different from the base attack bonus progression of the gestalt prestige class, this prestige class’s base attack bonus progression changes to match that of your focus character classes.

Customized Favored Class Bonuses: If either of your focus character classes (see below) is your favored class, the gestalt prestige class counts as a favored class for you. In this case whenever you gain a level in the gestalt prestige class and get a favored class bonus, you may take a favored class bonus from either of your focus character classes.

Customized Hit Dice: Add the maximum result of the hit die from each of your focus character classes, and divide by 2. This is the hit die size of your gestalt prestige class. (Note that odd-sized dice, such as d7s, can be found, such as from Impact! Miniatures).

Customized Saving Throws: Although the gestalt prestige class shows you have good Fortitude and Will saves and poor Reflex saves, at 1st level you may choose to instead have good reflex saves and make wither your Fortitude or Will saves poor. If you make this choice, switch the bonus to your Reflex and one other saving throw category that you gain from this prestige class. Once this choice is made, it cannot be changed.

Customized Skill Progression: Add the skill points per level you gain from your focus character classes (see below), not including your Intelligence modifier, and divide by 2. You get that many skill points per level of gestalt prestige class, plus your Intelligence modifier, at each level. You do not gain any additional class skills.

Focus Character Class (Ex): Select two classes you have levels in which you can use to meet the prestige class’s prerequisites. These are now your focus character classes. Once this choice is made, it cannot be changed.

Using a proficiency, spellcasting option, or class feature from one of your focus character classes normally doesn’t invalidate or remove the ability to use a proficiency, spellcasting option, or class feature from your other focus character class. You can cast arcane spells from a focus character class in any armor you gain as a proficiency from another focus character class without worrying about arcane spell failure. You can follow a code or edict from one focus character class without being penalized for violating a code or edict from your other focus character class. You can use metal weapons and armor from proficiencies in one focus character class without losing the abilities of a class that forbids the use of metal weapons or armor.

Focus Character Class level (Ex): At second level you add +1 to your effective class for each focus character class when determining your spell level, spells known, spells per day, and class features (anything mentioned under the “Special” column of your focus class’s class table). You add another +1 at 3rd level, and every gestalt prestige class level thereafter.

Speaking of Gestalt

I’m a full-time on-staff developer, and a contract developer, and a freelance developer, and a small company publisher, and in my spare time I try to post cool stuff on my blog.
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The Magic of Little Details

Worldbuilding can often get bogged down in big-picture questions and large-scale issues. Yes, there’s use to knowing how rivers flow from mountains to sea level, what kinds of natural barriers are likely to become borders, and how socio-economic statuses can form political lines. But those questions still just outline nations and factions. At the scale that most players are interacting with your world, it doesn’t really matter in play if the border between Heroton and Badlandia is a river, a mountain range, or a big blue dotted line that runs through a flat plain. What DOES matter to players is how those places feel and act differently while you are within them.

And for that, it’s often useful to throw in just a few little details.

If the common drink for a culturally-interlinked area is a tea just known as Steeps, maybe the people in Heroton like it strong and bitter, while the peasants of Badlandia make it weak and sweetened with honeysuckle. Elves prefer red Steeps, while human throw away the red stems as tasteless. The dwarves of Ironbeard make Steeps with weak beer to ensure no diseases remain in the local water, while the gnomes of Rillridge ferment it until foam forms on the surface which is then skimmed off.

None of that *matters*, but those kinds of tiny details, when used in sparing moderation, can help bring regions and cultures alive. Players who don’t care can wave it off, but those who enjoy engaging in fictional cultures have the option of paying attention, and offering the Big Bad of Badlandia honeysuckle-sweetened Steeps at the peace conference. And maybe he smiles, and notes he actually always preferred it strong and bitter, like his parents made it… suddenly given a new context into his background, based on how he takes his tea.

Nearly anything can be made into this kind of cultural detail and, as long as you don’t load ever city with 27 things you expect players to keep track of. Adding just one or two tiny differences can help immerse players, and make regions distinctive.

Nearly anything can be made into this kind of detail, but it helps if it’s something publicly noticeable (how the Halfling war bakers of Gnabysko bless their battle muffins in secret ceremonies isn’t going to impact player perception much, unless someone is playing a Halfling war baker), minor (so players don’t feel they must remember the detail or get into cultural trouble, which can feel like homework), and relatable (details that tie into activities players understand are more easily understood and remembered—the fact there are 17 “proper” foot stances for fighting with an orroc gutting axe is interesting… but for players with no melee combat training experience it doesn’t connect to anything they’ve done).

You can also build off a detail, creating slang and cultural notes that play off the detail. This can help the detail be memorable, but it also invites the players to dream up such phrases and ideas as well.

For example, let’s say you have decided that in the Free City of Campaign, street performers put out a boot for people to toss coins into, rather than a hat or other collection device. That’s easy to work into a campaign as an observed behavior, unlikely to make any player feel they have to memorize it, and replaces a common occurrence in a way players are likely to understand.

Once you’ve done that, it’s easy to see how some local slang might develop around the tradition. “Giving you the boot” could mean firing someone, so they now have to earn money on the street, while “Earning your boot” might indicate you are good enough at some performance to make a living as a busker. Having a “hole in your boot” could indicate someone is stealing from you, and “looking in the toe” could mean you’re scrounging for every last coin (like checking the cushions of your sofa).

If players show interest in a detail, and explore it, you can build on it. Maybe the boot tradition dates back to when soldier came back from a war, and without enough work used their hard military boots to gather coins as beggars, and the tradition grew from there. Maybe there was a tax on all labor performed ‘without boots” that was designed to exclude hard workers, but street performers used this to get around it. You don’t HAVE to do that kind of background work, but if players dig around it shows they have an interest in that element of your world.

Tiny details like this should be sparing, to ensure a world remains familiar enough for players to be comfortable with it. These are seasoning for the main course of your world, rather than the entrée itself. But used properly, that kind of seasoning can elevate the flavor of your creations, and make them much more memorable.

Putting My Boot Out

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Microfeat: “20”

A microfeat usable in nearly any d20-based game.

Some people will love this feat. Some will hate it. There will be disagreements if it is overpowered, or underpowered, or a feat tax, or shows a quantitative misunderstanding of how any particular d20 game works.

Which is funny, given that a feat in a blog that doesn’t even tie itself to a specific game system is about as unofficial as you can get.

20
Sometimes, things just go your way.
Benefit: Once per game session when you make a d20 roll, after seeing the result, you may immediately decide to instead have the d20 result be treated as a natural 20 (as if the die roll had shown a 20).

Patreon

I have a patreon. 

Some people will love this Patreon. Some will hate it. There will be disagreements if it is a great value, or a terrible value, or shows a quantitative misunderstanding of how crowdfunding works.

 

 

It’s Not “Just a Game” When It’s Your Career

It should, perhaps, be no great surprise that when I publicly discuss my various mental health issues, professional failings, and depression-driven concerns of failing others, one common refrain is “Relax. Don’t worry about it. It’s just a game.”

I know that, at least in most cases, these declarations are coming from a palce of caring and a desire to be helpful. But, in fact, they are spectacularly unhelpful for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is: it’s not “just a game” until it exists and you and your friends are deciding whether or not to play it.

When it’s still being written? It’s a project in a business, no different than making the donuts for a coffee shop or writing music for a professional band. It is work that not only pays my bills, but that is used to generate money to pay the bills for my colleagues, coworkers, and friends.

Now in the case of things I am writing for myself, to be published as a pdf or at most POD for Rogue Genius Games? Then if I fail, I most likely impact only myself. I need the money, but anyone else I involve isn’t brought in until the project is done—though in the case of projects I need to develop for freelancers working with me, THEY are certainly in financial limbo if I can’t find the time to get the project out.

But for some of the other companies I work for? The ones who do print runs of hardback books numbering in the thousands, with developers, editors, layout artists, art directors, customer service agents, warehouse/shipping crew and so on? Those companies live and die by the ability to schedule and plan to get these books out on time, with all the steps needed to do that tied to my ability to produce the words. If I fail, there are anywhere from a handful to dozens of people whose livelihoods I am threatening. For them it’s not “just a game,” it’s the product that pays for their health insurance, apartments, mortgages, retirement funds, and so on.

No, I don’t stay up at night worrying about if some player somewhere has to wait an extra 30 days to get their hands on an adventure, or a new character option. But I do feel the full, hefty weight of being one of the early cogs in a financial machine that feeds people.

The game industry is brutal. Even big, established companies are no more than a handful of flops from going under, or at least having to make hard choices that can lead to cutting back, laying off, or changing plans. I work for some very smart people, but I have also seen companies that were common names in the games industry go bankrupt even without a project being late.

This industry is brutally hard under the best of circumstances. Unprofessionalism, tardiness, poor quality, or a dozen other things I could get wrong can have real impacts on the quality of life for other people.

THAT is what I worry about. And, to some extent, I hope every freelancer thinks about it at least occasionally.

Once it exists and is sitting on your table, it’s “just a game.” When it covers payroll, it’s a business. A profession. A career. And, as a freelancer, a duty.

Speaking of My Career

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