Monthly Archives: June 2018

Laser Dress (for Starfinder)

The always-amazing Crystal Frasier called over the cubical wall “Owen! I want a laser dress for Starfinder!” just as I was going on break.

I mean, who am I to refuse to create a laser dress?

Laser Dress (for Starfinder Roleplaying Game)

A laser dress is a truly outrageous, glittering high-fasion dress that is always considered to be in style regardless of the occasion. It is spectacularly bright, glittery, and fabulous.

A laser dress comes with a battery, but can use up to ultra-capaicty batteries if they are bought separately, and consumes 1 charge per 10 minutes of use.

A laser dress grants you a bonus to Profession (dancer) checks equal to the square root of its item level (+1 at 1st, +2 at 4th, +3 at 9th, +4 at 16th).

A laser dress allows you to make a Profession (dancer) in palce of Acrobatics to for the tumble task. It also allows you to use Profession (dancer) in place of Diplomacy checks for the Change Attitude task, though doing so requires the target be present for at least 30 minutes of your dancing.

A laser dress can also be used to make ranged attacks in a radius, with a range equal to it’s item level x5 feet. This is a full round action, but you can move up to your speed as part of this action if you succeed at a DC 15 Profession (dancer) check. You make a single ranged attack roll against all foes in range, doing 1d6 fire damage, plus double the dress’s item level (critical effect: target makes Reflex save or is blinded for 1d4 rounds). For this purpose, the laser dress is treaded as a small arm in the laser category, and each attack has a usage of 1.

A laser dress has negligible bulk, and costs 50 credits, +its item level squared x100 credits, + and additional 10,000 credits per item level above 10th.

Sometimes It’s a Hobby. It’s Always a Job.

I have spoken to many creatives about how they interact with the media they create for, and gotten a lot of different responses. Many novelists have told me they can’t help but dissect the story elements of all fiction they absorb, and the word structure of everything they read. They can’t help themselves, and it makes the process of enjoying fiction different. Not necessarily worse, but different. On the other hand, some have a specific type of fiction or writing they carefully keep separate from their professional analysis, such as romance novels, or pulp adventure, or biographies, so they have something they can enjoy without feeling like it’s work.

But even then, they confess, it’s always a little bit work.

I’ve had the privilege to talk to more than one movie and television screenwriter. Most of them seem to have a different process—they try to be in the moment the first time they watch anything, with just a running checklist of the moments that get a big reaction from them. It’s later that they break things down for analysis. The second viewing. The fourth. The twentieth.

I found myself thinking about that a lot when I was going frame-by-frame through Star Wars space battle scenes, looking to see if there was any starship that had never received game stats before, in any video game, board game, RPG, card game, or miniatures game. I was not, at that moment, enjoying Star Wars. I was far from my hobby, while staring elements of it in the face.

Some game designers I know can’t play the games they work on. It’s always work for them, even if they are surrounded by friends and laughing and bouncing dice. The rules and layout and themes have come to be associated with their career and employment to a degree they can’t let go, relax, and enjoy themselves. Other game designers (myself included) have a hard time imagining working on a game they don’t play. I certainly have written for games I didn’t particularly enjoy, but even then having a real-world feel for how the elements all came together was crucial to my understanding of how to expand, adjust, or develop the game.

Ideally, I DO like the games I’m working on. And thankfully, that’s usually the case. And yes, I have a constant background awareness that the things I am learning have a relevance beyond me having a good time. They are a form of professional development, and that changes how I respond to them, and sometimes even how I interact with the players around me. Especially just after a game, I sometimes want to know why people did what they did, because I want to understand how THEY are interacting with the game.

But for me, it’s when I am playing a game I’m NOT working on I find myself the most in my job-headspace rather than my hobby-headspace. That lessens significantly once I am familiar with a game, but whenever it has a new twist or interaction, I’m right back to analyzing it for it’s engine, rather than enjoying the ride.

That fine, honestly. I was analyzing game mechanics long before it was my job. Indeed, it largely became my job because it was such an all-consuming hobby for me. While my friends and class mates were learning life skills, I was learning when a die pool could accidentally make massive failure more likely for highly skilled characters that got more dice.

In the end they had saleable talents and experiences, and I had Dragon magazine articles.

I DO think it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t make your whole life your job. And over twenty years of having a professional game design career, I have tried to distinguish between leisure writing and creative writing. On the other hand since I support myself and my family with the work of creating games, I am well aware it’s never just a game when it’s your career.

Since I am generally creating entire fictional universes for people to play in, my job touches on all the geek media I can get my hands on. Popular tropes, characters and ideas people may want to model, and things I might accidentally duplicate in parallel development are all things I need to be aware of, and that touches on everything I consume in all aspects of my leisure time.

Sometimes it’s a hobby. But it’s always a job.

And Patreon is part of My Job

Or at least, an important part of my career. If you find any of my posts useful, be they game industry essays, game material, or just assorting musings, please consider supporting their creation by becoming a patron.

Wilderness Feats For Really Wild West (in Starfinder)

The Really Wild West setting hack for the Starfinder Roleplaying game is likely to have characters spending a lot of time in the wilderness. The following feats are designed to allow characters to be better prepared to explore and adventure far from civilization. Of course, these feats can also be used in a typical Starfinder Rolepalying Game campaign, though players should consider if such a game is going to spend most of its time in spaceships and urban settings.

Adaptive Training
You can adjust your movements, attitude, and awareness to match specific conditions while adventuring.
Prerequisites: Three or more general feats.
Benefit: Select three general feats that you do not have but whose prerequisites you meet. Once per day after a 10-minute rest, you can gain the benefit of one of these feats until you next spend 1 Resolve Point during a 10-minute rest to regain your Stamina Points. Each time you gain a level, you can replace one of these three selected feats with a different feat that you don’t have but meet the prerequisites for.

Ambush Awareness
You are always on your toes and are rarely caught off-guard for long, even when an enemy gets the jump on you.
Benefit: If you are unable to act in the surprise round because you failed a Perception check, you can still act on your initiative count in the surprise round, but only to take the total defense action. Additionally, when rolling initiative you can choose to gain a +4 bonus to your roll, but you must then  take the total defense action on your first turn in that combat.

Animal Call
Your mimicry of animal noises is extraordinary.
Prerequisite: Bluff 1 rank, Survival 1 rank.
Benefit: You may use Survival in place of Bluff to mimic animal calls. When you use Bluff or Survival to mimic animal sounds, creatures with no ranks in Survival cannot attempt Sense Motive checks to identify the sounds as fake. You can use your animal calls for the Diversion and Pass Secret Message tasks of the Bluff skill. Creatures that do not recognize your animal calls as fake cannot attempt to make Sense Motive checks to understand secret messages you send in this manner.

Arctic Adaptation
You are comfortable in the driving snow and glaring ice of frigid climes, and you can survive much longer in such harsh environments than those who are unaccustomed to the cold.
Prerequisite: Beast Hunter (cold), Survival 1 rank.
Benefit: You treat cold environments as though they were one step less severe than they normally are. Additionally, you gain a +2 bonus on Perception checks against creatures that gain a racial bonus on Stealth checks in snowy conditions, and you gain a +4 bonus on saving throws and checks to avoid becoming blinded or dazzled.

Beast Hunter (Combat)
Thanks to your experience hunting in the wilds, you are capable of tracking animals in your most often traveled terrains, and you can easily take down animals larger than yourself.
Prerequisite: Survival 1 rank.
Benefit: Select one of the following terrains: Cold, Desert, Forest, Jungle, Mountains, Plains, Swamp, Urban. You gain a +2 bonus on Survival checks to track animals, humanoids, magical beasts, and monstrous humanoids native to that terrain. Additionally, against animals native to that terrain, you gain a +1 dodge bonus to your AC and a +1 bonus on damage rolls.
Special: You can take this feat multiple times. Each time you select this feat, you can choose an additional favored terrain to gain the listed benefits in.

Desert Dweller
The endless sands and waterless wastes are your home, and neither the heat nor dehydration presents as lethal of a threat to you as it does to other travelers.
Prerequisite: Beast Hunter (desert), Survival 1 rank.
Benefit: You treat hot environments as though they were one step less severe. You need to consume only half the normal amount of water for a creature of your size, and you gain a +4 bonus on Constitution checks to resist the effects of thirst. You also gain a +4 bonus on saving throws and checks to avoid being deceived by illusions (including desert mirages).

You are comfortable in the wide and endless prairie, savanna, or steppe.
Prerequisite: Beast Hunter (plains), Survival 1 rank.
Benefit: You, your mount, and an a number of allies (and their mounts) equal to your ranks in Survival add +2 hours to how long you can walk or be otherwise active before needing to attempt Constitution checks for a forced march, and you can hustle for 1 extra hour per day during overland travel instead. Youu reduce the penalty for following tracks using Survival while moving at double speed by 5. In plains terrain, you gain a +4 bonus to Survival checks to avoid getting lost, to find food and water, to protect yourself from severe weather, and to predict the weather.

Expert Salvager
You can find useful materials and mystic components off corpses others think of as worthless.
Prerequisite: 1 rank Mysticism or Engineering.
Benefit: If you have 1 or more ranks of Mysticism, when you defeat an aberration, dragon, fey, magical beast, outsider, or undead, and the creature has a treasure entry of “none” and that actually has no treasure, you can attempt to salvage useful components off its corpse. Make a Mysticism check (DC 15 +1.5x the CR of the defeated foe)—you may not take 10 or take 20 on this check and may only attempt it once per creature. If you succeed you recover components with a value equal to 25% of the normal treasure value of the monster which may only be used toward paying the cost of crafting a magical or hybrid item.
If you have 1 or more ranks of Engineering, when you defeat a construct that has a treasure entry of “none” actually has no treasure, or disarm a trap, you can attempt to salvage useful components off its remains. Make an Engineering check (DC 15 +1.5x the CR of the defeated construct or trap)—you may not take 10 or take 20 on this check and may only attempt it once per creature. If you succeed you recover components with a value equal to 25% of the normal treasure value of the threat’s CR which may only be used toward paying the cost of crafting a technological or hybrid item.

You are a master of woodcraft and forest lore and can move through even the densest of trees with ease and grace.
Prerequisite: Beast hunter (forest), Survival 1 rank.
Benefit: You ignore difficult terrain created by light or heavy undergrowth, and you ignore increased DCs for Acrobatics and Stealth checks in light or heavy undergrowth. In addition, you can use trees to shield yourself from attacks, gaining a +1 cover bonus to your AC whenever you are adjacent to a tree (including while climbing). If you are adjacent to two or more trees simultaneously, you gain a +2 cover bonus to your AC and a +1 bonus on Reflex saving throws.

Improved Beast Hunter (Combat)
You are well trained in stalking and hunting the animals of the wild.
Prerequisites: Beast Hunter, Survival 3 ranks.
Benefit: Your bonus to tracking creatures native to the terrain you have chosen with Beast Hunter increases to +4. Additionally, you gain a +4 bonus on combat maneuver checks against such creatures, and gain a +4 bonus to AC against their attempts to use combat maneuvers against you. Further, you gain a +2 bonus on saving against extraordinary and supernatural abilities native animals, humanoids, magical beasts, and monstrous humanoids.
Special: If you have selected Beast Hunter multiple times, you gain this benefit for all of the terrains you have chosen for those feats.

Jungle Survivalist
Normally pestilential rain forests are a safe haven and home to you.
Prerequisite: Beast Hunter, Survival 1 rank.
Benefit: You gain a +2 bonus on saving throws against diseases, poisons, and the distraction ability of creatures with the swarm subtype. You also gain a +2 bonus on Acrobatics and Athletics checks when climbing trees and a +2 bonus on Perception checks against creatures that gain a racial bonus on Stealth checks in vegetation.

Thrill of the Hunt (Combat)
The pursuit of prey invigorates you. You revel in tracking down and slaying your quarry.
Prerequisite: Survival 1 rank.
Benefit: Once per day, when you succeed at a Survival check to find or follow a creature’s tracks, you can designate that creature to be your prize for a number of hours equal to 4 + your ranks in Survival. You gain a +2 morale bonus on Survival checks to follow your prize’s tracks and on weapon damage rolls against your prize.
If you find and subsequently render your prize dead or helpless, you regain the ability to use Thrill of the Hunt on the same day.

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Working Sick

Generally speaking as a writer, if you get a cold, or get the flu, you write as best you are able while sick, and to still hit your deadlines you depend on being able to catch up in a crunch when you’re better.

If you’re going to be sick for longer than a few days or a week, things change.

I have a medical issue causing severe fatigue. We know at least part of what is going on, but don’t know yet if we have identified the root cause, or just found a symptom of something more serious. And, it may be months before the testing finds a conclusive answer to that question.

And that means, I have to consider how I am going to manage if my energy levels crashed for weeks, or months to come.

I have, for the past month or so, been more exhausted every day than the day before. Since the issue causing my fatigue is at least potentially progressive, I began to despair that I was on a downward arc that might actually incapacitate me sometime before it gets addressed up to 3-4 months from now.

Of course I *also* had two conventions nearly back-to-back in the past month, and am under pressure from a number of major deadlines. That can be exhausting under the best of circumstances.

So I have maintain the best self-care I could, and attempted to employ new coping techniques suggested by some research.

Today, for the first time in 4 or 5 weeks, I’m not immediately more fatigued than I was yesterday. Indeed, I haven’t been this functional for a week or more.

Any medical condition is likely to have ups and downs so I don’t plan to read too much into this, but it’s nice that I might not exclusively be looking at a downward spiral for personal energy.

That said, as I finish short- and mid-term projects, I’m not replacing them with anything. Hopefully that’ll leave me with time and energy to tackle my long-term things (especially those that are months behind schedule) even if my energy level doesn’t recover any more than this in the foreseeable future.

That’s the only way I can see to keep my career on-track, and not let down anyone who is depending on me.

And I’ll monitor my progress, both medical and wordcount-wise, and see if the steps I’m taking are good enough. If not, I may begin to consider backing out of some long-term commitments, as much as I hate doing that.

We’ll see.

Bar Fights and Beatdowns in Really Wild West (for Starfinder)

Sometimes in the Really Wild West, you need to express your displeasure through violence, but you’re not wanting anyone to get killed over the issue. Maybe someone spilled your drink. Maybe someone hasn’t gotten the message to get out of town. Maybe they didn’t smile when they called out something vile. You don’t want blood on your hands, but you’re ready to bust a lip and blacken an eye.

You’re ready for a Brawl.

Though specifically designed for the Really Wild West setting hack, these rules can be used in any Starfinder Roleplaying Game campaign.

A Brawl is specifically a fight where no one is trying to kill anyone else. Common examples of this are bar fights, campside tussles, and pugilist exhibitions. A brawl stops being a brawl as soon as anyone involved switches to lethal intent, generally by drawing a true weapon (as opposed to an improvised weapon). Even if you draw a weapon with the intent of using it in a nonlethal fashion, such as pulling a pistol to use in pistol-whipping foes, the very fact it is being brandished changes the tenor of the conflict, and it goes from a brawl to a normal fight.

Brawl Rules

In a Brawl, no one has escalated he fight to lethal levels. As a result, the fight goes a little differently. First, everyone is more focused on hitting than avoiding hits, so everyone gets +2 to attacks, and takes a -2 penalty to KAC. Second, unarmed damage increases to 1d6 + Strength bonus + a special Weapon Specialization bonus equal to level. (A character with Improved Unarmed Strike may skip these bonuses and penalties and add their normal dice of damage on top of this, and a character with special unarmed Weapon Specialization, such as a vesk, may use it instead).

A character can attempt to use an improvised weapon, such as a bottle to crack over someone’s head, or a chair to smash over their back. An improvised weapon takes a move action to ready, it adds +1d6 brawl damage, you lose the +2 bonus to brawl attack rolls, and if you ever miss a foe’s KAC by 5 or more, or do maximum damage, the improvised weapon breaks.

As long as the Brawl is still in effect, no attack can do more than 1 Hit Point of damage, even if a target is out of Stamina Points. Instead, whenever a character takes even a single Hit Point, the character must make a Fortitude save (DC 15 + total damage of the attack that deal Hit Point damage) or be stunned. If the target misses this save by 5 or more, they are instead Knocked Out for 1d4 rounds.

You can use 0-level spells as part of a Brawl, but anything higher level counts as drawing a weapon. And once someone draws a weapon, the Brawl switches immediately to normal fight rules.

A character trained in Bluff or Diplomacy can try to Hold Off a Brawl for a round, preventing anyone from attacking them. This is a standard action and requires a check with one of those two skills to be made against each potential attacker, with a EDC equal to 15 + target’s CR. With a successful check, the attacker must either escalate to a lethal attack, or pick a new target.

Getting into a Brawl is generally overlooked by local authorities in frontier regions. The difference between punching and kicking and hair-pulling vs shooting with guns and stabbing with knives is well understood. It’s a public annoyance, rather than a potential murder. However, anyone who escalates a Brawl to a lethal conflict is seen as a thug at best, and a criminal guilty of attempted murder at worst.

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