Monthly Archives: October 2018

Let Me Tell You About My Character (Velor)

Seriously, this is nothing more than a character history for a Pathfinder game I’m playing tonight. I wrote it yesterday, and decided to post it. There’s nothing particularly special here, it’s just a quick look at what I consider a typical character history for a d20 game PC.

Velor Varrison

Velor was born to the warrior-hero Varri in a yurt belonging to the Wildtusk following of the realm of the Mammoth Lords during the depth of winter. She passed him to a shaman within minutes of birth, saying the infant would carry her name but in no other way be a child of hers. She left the following within a day, and though her name and deeds echoed back to Velor many times, he never again laid eyes on her.

Her words were repeated to him many times, “In no other way a child of mine.” Velor knew Varri had great deeds to perform, and did not begrudge her wishing to do it without the responsibility of raising a child. At the same time, the two married women shamans who did the work of raising him took the duty of his upbringing seriously, though they owed him no debt of blood or kinship. Velor came to believe that responsibility could not be forced upon you, but once you took on some duty it could not be put down until fulfilled or another is found to replace it. Raising a child was a sacred duty, but the childless are more free to take risks and struggle to end the evils of the world without needing to worry about their need to care for a younger being.

Velor sought to follow in his birth-mother’s footsteps, to be strong and able to defeat evil. But his two mothers also ensured he was well-educated, by Mammoth Lord standards, and taught him the basics of the spiritual world and the gods. In particular, he was struck by tales of ancient Thassilon, an empire that had long since ended but the evils of which insisted on lingering to the modern day. Obsessed with the idea that the rightful time of Thassilon and all its works had passed, Velor learned the ancient language and considered becoming a shaman so he could use spirts to seek out and remove the evils of Thassilon. Following in his adoptive mothers’ footsteps, he began spending nights deep in the dark snow, alone, meditating and seeking to make contact with a spirit of his own, a creature to guide and serve him. Weeks passed. Then months. Then years.

Then something answered.

As Velor knelt in darkness, so far from the Wildtusk camp that its fires were little more than points of light, a great black rose grew from the ice before him. It spoke to him, a quiet whisper in the wind he could barely hear, but which also filled his mind with every word. But this was not a spirit, and what it offered was not to serve Velor but to burden him with responsibility.

Some things, it said, must end. And if they continue on past their time, they must be destroyed. Velor could become an agent of those endings, to shoulder the holy duty of annihilating those things that should no longer exist. It would cost him everything. He would have no child to carry on his name, would have no place within his following. He would be forever struggling, with no home to call his own and no rest or reward in this life for constant toil. He would suffer, and fail, and watch friends fall, and someday die, in abject failure, with blood on his lips.

And in the next life, he would be reforged as an even greater tool of rightful ends. He would continue to struggle, and destroy, and act as an agent of the sunset of evil, eternally. His path would not be that of his birth-mother, or his life-mothers, but the path of a weapon of the gods. A bringer of destruction, for those evils that could only be ended through violence. There would be no paradise for Velor. Only an eternal existence of bloody service, for the greater good. But Velor felt the righteousness of the Black Rose’s cause, and knew it sought only to destroy those things that were blights on the world, wicked forces that, like boils, could only be cured with a sharp blade.

Velor did not hesitate. He swore his service to the Black Rose, to become the executioner of those things that must be stopped. He took up arms, naming his javelins the Black Thorns, and the specially-forged curved two-handed blade Woundgiver. He stayed with his following long enough to ensure he was capable, that he could survive on his own and be useful to the Black Rose, rather than immediately placing himself in situations where others would have to risk themselves to save him.

But before he was sure he was ready, word came from a fur trader, that Thassilon’s name was spoken more and more to the South and West, in the lands of Varisia.

Within a week Velor left his home, to fulfil the responsibility he had undertaken.

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OGL Declaration: This post is not released under the OGL. No part of it is open content.

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Starfinder Species: Xorarcan

Xorarcan

The Xorarcan are legendary as a humanoid warrior-species with an ancient history, but the truth of their existence is far more complex.

They evolved on the dead world of Xorarca, a high-G planet which has little water, extreme temperature shifts, and numerous radioactive heavy metals. Strength and resilience were crucial survival traits for all live on Xorarca, but the one humanoid race that evolved there clawed its way to the top of the food chain by adding planning, tools, and a willingness to sacrifice for the good of a larger community. No Xorarcan wants to die, but even more no Xorarcan wants to die uselessly. The idea of seeking a death that serves a greater good isn’t just a cultural element of Xorarcan life, it’s a survival instinct that developed as the only way for the species as a whole to thrive.

Long before Xorarca technological levels reach the point of space travel, they were discovered by a more advanced society who saw their value only in terms of slave labor and shock troops. Different races have been suggested as this conqueror of Xorarca, though native histories refer to them only as the Overlords. For millennia, the Overlords raided Xorarca every generation, taking the strongest and most accomplished warriors and engineers, and leaving behind only enough population to ensure that, with effort and sacrifice, there would be more potential slaves in another generation.

Xorarcan history states that in time the Overlords empire collapsed, and their many enslave races were left adrift. Most fell into barbarism and developed into petty warlords fiefdoms, but the Xorarcan drive to live a life that meant something caused many of them to strive to build something more. Over centuries, ships of Xorarcan who had never set foot on their native soil returned home, in ships cobbled together from Overlord technology or earned from other races through mercenary service. All were welcomed back as lost kin, and accepted into the greater Xorarca community.

But Xorarca was still a harsh world, and it could not support such an enlarged population. It became clear that for the Xorarcans to survive, they must continue to travel among the stars. The species does not wish to a find a new homeworld, but it does want to protect the world and culture that birthed it. In each generation, more than 75% of the Xorarcans born on their homeworld find themselves driven to leave native soil, for the good of their brethren. To ensure no new empire of Overlords ever seeks to enslave them again, and to protect their homeworld, those Xorarcans who leave take on warrior roles and work to establish a presence throughout the galaxy as acknowledged masters of war and defense. While the species has its share of poets, engineers, philosophers, mages, priests, actors, and even criminals, those who leave their world see projecting strength as a species a crucial step to protecting their beloved homeworld.

Similarly, Xorarcans abroad seek to be known as honest and good to their word, to ensure that deals made by their homeworld are respected and valued. This is not to say all Xorarcans are good or kind—a Xorarcan criminal simply ensures that any threat made can and will be carried out, and Xorarcan cheats avoid making any statement regarding the falsehoods they depend on.

Xorarcans value community, and even a lone member of the species far from home looks to find allies they can trust and protect. Most Xorarcans are taught from birth that their first and greatest duty is to their homeworld and their species, but a Xorarcan may choose duty and loyalty to a community of choice over one of inheritance.

RGG-Acronaut-color-01

RACIAL TRAITS

Ability Scores. Xorarcans have a wide range of body types and mental traits, and despite a reputation for being strong and narrow-minded are actually among the most varied of species. A Xorarcan gains a +2 bonus to two ability scores of their choice, and take a -2 penalty to one ability score of their choice.

Size, Type,Vital Statistics: Xorarcans are Medium humanoids with the Xorarcan subtype. A typical Xorarcan stands 5’10” to 7 feet tall, and weighs 190-280 pounds. They reach the age a maturity at 15 years, and have a maximum age of 100 + 2d29 years.

Move: Xorarcans have a 30 foot land speed. If any effect reduces their speed by a set amount, that reduction is decreased by 5 feet.

Darkvision: Xorarcans have darkvision with a range of 60 feet.

Plain Speech. Xorarcans are renowned for being straightforward and good as their world, and find getting what they want through deception awkward and uncomfortable. They receive a -4 penalty to Bluff checks to lie (though not for any other task of the skill), and a +2 bonus to Diplomacy and Intimidate checks.

Independent: Xorarcans have evolved to be difficult to control, and even-tempered. They receive a +2 bonus to all saving throws against mind-affecting to emotion effects, and the DC to bully them with Intimidate is 5 higher than normal.

Harsh Homeworld: Xorarcans take no penalties in thin, normal, or thick atmospheres. They treat hot environments as 30 degrees cooler, and cold ones as 30 degrees warmer, for purposes of environmental hazards. They treat high gravity as standard gravity and extreme gravity as high gravity (even for purposes of determining bulk).

THEME: XORACAN WARRIOR

Many of the traits considered “inherent” to Xorarcans are actually cultural norms ingrained in all Xorarcans born and raised on their homeworld of Xorarca. While theoretically a non- Xorarcan could be raised in the same manner, such as a human adopted by Xorarcan parents or a shirren born to diplomats on Xorarca who have adopted its culture and have numerous native friends, normally only Xorarcans can take this theme.

Theme Knowledge. Xorarcans know the universe is a cold, harsh place and train their young to be prepared to use even protection available to them. You begin play proficient with heavy armor. If the class you take at 1st level is already proficient with heavy armor, you begin play proficient with powered armor. If the class you take at 1st level is already proficient with powered armor, you reduce the armor check penalty of any armor you wear by 1 (minimum 0). Additionally, you can alter any armor you wear to match the appearance of traditional Xorarcan war-gear with 1 day of work, giving you a +2 bonus to Intimidate checks to demoralize while wearing it.

Armored Juggernaut [6th]. At 6th level, you ignore the bulk of any armor you wear. Additionally, when wearing heavy armor or powered armor, your unarmed attacks deal damage equal to the solar weapon of a solarian of a level equal to your character level.

Rugged [12th]: At 12th level you can, once per day, when wearing armor, grant yourself a number of temporary Hit Points equal to your level. These fade after 10 minutes or when used.

Unstoppable [18th] At 18th level, your ability to overcome adversity is so great you gain determination when things turn against you. The first two times each day when facing a significant enemy you take a critical hit or fail a saving throw, you gain one Resolve Point.

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Ichthine–A Species for all -finder games!

As far as I can tell, the urge to do this species came straight from the art, by the amazing Jacob Blackmon. Certainly nothing else I can think of inspired this. The write up should work for both the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

ICHTHINE

The ichthine are an ancient, accomplished species who have had access to star travel for millions of years. Able to place themselves into a natural form of hibernation, their species travelled the stars in vast slower-than-light ships to explore and learn. However, lacking any way to communicate with each other or their homeworld, each ichthine ship became its own hub of knowledge and developed its own culture. Most eventually began to break down in systems lacking the technology to repair or replace their advanced systems, and the ichthine inhabitants within eventually choose a new world to colonize. Ichthine than thus be found on thousands of world, many of which have no native star-travel capacity, or have only developed such capacity in recent centuries. If the original ichthine homeworld is still populated, none of the current ichthine populations know where it is. It has even been suggested the ichthine originated in a different galaxy, though most scholars dismiss this as hyperbolic legend.

Ichthine culture has survived, however, in part because they have a remarkable racial memory that retains a great deal of core knowledge from generation to generation. Each ichthine is born knowing the Aquan language, already able to speak and understand basic phrases, with a general knowledge of the history of their line. Thus most ichthine populations are aware of their long history of star travel, even those living on worlds with no more than iron age levels of technology. While the ichthine diaspora happened so long ago that many isolated ichthine populations have evolved to look radically different than their distant cousins, most recognize their kinship to ichthine of all types, and can remember in general terms a time when they had a united appearance.

On many worlds ichthine are known as “grandparent fish,” and are considered skilled advisors and scholars, Icthine generally take a long view of things, from history to politics to religious tolerance. This partially comes from their long lifespans and partially from their racial memories, but also seems to be a natural tendency of the species. While young ichthine are significantly more excitable than their older relatives, even as “tads” ichthine generally contemplate major actions and their consequences before diving into them.

However, once an ichthine has decided a risk or consequence is worth the benefit that causes it, they are loathe to reconsider that opinion without significant new evidence. This sometimes leads to ichthine picking up damaging vices, or remaining friends with people who have changed from being short-sighted or brash to being genuinely destructive or evil. Ichthine also think strongly in terms of groups, and hate excluding anyone once they have been accepted into any social or cultural organization.

Grandparent Fish

(Art by Jacob Blackmon. Available as stock art here!)

Species Traits

Ichthine are Medium monstrous humanoids. Despite their fishlike appearance, they can easily manipulate items with their nimble fins as well as a human with two normal hands.

+2 Wis, +2 Cha, -2 Str. Ichthine are calm and caring, often contemplating how helping others may help them as well, but have frame ill-suited to the leverage needed for optimized application of strength.

Movement. Ichthine have a 20-foot move rate, and a 30-foot swim rate.

Deep Senses. Ichthine have low-light vision and darkvision. When in a liquid environment, they also have blindsight, 30 feet.

Amphibious. Ichthine can breath air and water with equal ease.

Depth acclimated. Icthine ignore penalties for high pressure, both in water and in normal atmosphere.

Hibernate (Ex). As a full action an ichthine can slow its metabolism to a crawl, radically reducing its need for air, water, and food. In this state it does not suffocate or starve, and is considered unconscious for most purposes. However, a hibernating ichthine can make Perception checks at -10 to notice changes to its environment while hibernating, and choose to end its hibernation as a full action. A DC 10 Medicine check is required to differentiate between a hibernating ichthine and a dead one. An icthine’s hibernation can last for tens of thousands of years with no harm.

Racial Memory (Ex). An ichthine can attempt a recall lore task with untrained skills, regardless of the check’s DC. An ichthine receives a +2 bonus to all recall lore checks. If the recall lore check is for questions relating to the ichthine’s own heritage, this bonus increases to +10.

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American Fighter: An Analogy as Superhero History

American Fighter was born Roy Wood to an unwed mother in 1925. Of Irish/German descent, he showed no particular faults or aptitudes as a child, getting unremarkable grades and managing well enough for a child with first no father, then a largely absent step-father, who left the family by the time Roy was 15. He was remembered as a shy boy who worked in a car shop and sang in the school glee club.

He graduated from high school in 1943, and immediately enlisted in the United States Marines. Ordered to a Repair and Overhaul unit in the Pacific, he was exposed to a mix of experimental gasses from secret super-soldier programs being run at the same facility. His skin, uniform, and helmet became significant more resilient, able to bounce small arms fire and even survive antimaterial and anti-tank munitions. He was immediately given a nom de masque of American Fighter, and sent into much of the worst island fighting. Though American Fighter is often depicted in posters and art of the era standing with the heroes of Liberty Force who operated in Europe, he never served with them, and only rarely met any of Liberty Force’s members.

In 1946 he was discharged, and moved to Los Angeles to live with his mother. He tried to join the Liberty Guard, a national hero teams forming at the time, but was rejected for low academic standards. When he was spotted by a scout for the Universal utility corporation, which was interested in creating hero teams to protect their own interests and garner positive P.R., he was signed to a lengthy U.U. “taxi hero” contract. The taxi heroes were paid on a per-mission basis and assigned to regions and teams as determined by U.U’s Hero Relations department.

American Fighter was initially assigned to the Coastal Crimefighters, who largely opposed the Undertow Gang of underwater pirates. While he was always assigned back-up or support roles, he also received training from Universal Utility handlers in public speaking, judicial law, small unit tactics, horseback riding, and etiquette. As he was photogenic he also came to be featured heavily in hero-themed magazines, despite his relatively minor activity level. Through the late 1940s and into 1942, he also worked with the Freedom Hawks, Hero Cadets, and on loan as one of the Big Man’s “irregulars”

In 1952, American Fighter was assigned as the team leader of the Furious Five, with the more experienced heroine Talavera as the team secretary and unofficial second-in-command. Talavera had worked with American Fighter in the Freedom Hawks, and had a career that went back to before WWII. The Five quickly grew to be to popular to keep as a single unit, and each was moved to taxi hero roles in other groups for part of every year from 53-55, with American Fighter serving as second-in command for the Hero’s Horizon and then standing as the leader of the Law Breed when founder Golden Blade was injured in the line of duty.

In 1953, a new villain struck the we coast. Known only as the Obsession, this mastermind combined complex heists with random acts of mayhem and violence and terrorist attacks using clouds of psychotropic drugs that made coordinated responses by local authorities almost impossible. The Obsession began to co-opt and unify organized crime west of the Rockies, and Universal Utility suffered multiple significant thefts and kidnappings for ransom. U.U. turned all its Hero Relations resources to bringing the Obsession to justice. In a Los Angeles raid on August 4, 1954, American Fighter was part of a small team that breached the Obsession’s base of operations, and American Fighter delivery the knockout blow to the crazed villain—immediately elevating himself to major hero status.

By 1955 American Fighter was voted one of the ten most popular and effective heroes in American by Modern Hero Magazine. Universal Utility immediately made him the focus of multiple teams, including the newly-renamed Fighting Five, the Freedom Brigade, and the Giants of Justice.

However, his popularity waned within a decade. By 1965 the Fighting Five and Giants of Justice had been disbanded, and American Fighter had been moved to “emeritus” status in the Freedom Brigade, to make room for new heroes such as Repulsor, Fast Cat, Chiller, and Doctor Phoenix.

During this time it became well known in the hero community that American Fighter was gay. He was discrete about his privacy, and little attention was publicly paid to the question at the time. His handlers as U.U. worked strenuously to keep his private life out of the public eye.

American Fighter left the Fighting Five (which disbanded a few years later, though numerous revivals have been attempted) when his U.U contract ended, and tried live as an agent of S.T.E.E.L. (Special Taskforce on Espionage and Enforcement of Law), and then as one of the Strangefellow, and finally as the leader of the Second Chances (a time-travelling group that worked to fix minor disasters in such a way as to not affect history in any other major way). Though none of these efforts were considered noteworthy at the time, the Second Chances have in recent years come to be considered one of the few truly successful time-travelling hero teams.

Moving back to traditional hero teams, American Fighter joined The Undefeated, a team of U.S. heroes operating overseas in 1969. The team was fairly well-known as successful, but their operations had a high financial and political cost, and they were disbanded in 1971. From ’71 to ’77, American Fighter settled down in San Francisco, and operated with the Heroine Saint Angel as part-time, local heroes taking on minor regional issues. He and Saint Angel married, but quietly divorced in ’76, though still working as crimefighting partners for a year after that.

A lifetime of heavy drinking and smoking began to take its toll in the late ‘70s and early 80s. American Fighter participated in a number of one-time mass hero operations, but could not catch on as a permanent member of a hero team. He notably took part in the Avalanche Wars in 1978 and the Martian Campaigns in 1980. An effort was made to build a new team around him, the Devlin Dogs, in 1981, including adding Fighting Youth to the rooster, the son of American Fighter and Saint Angel from before their marriage as a teen sidekick. However, multiple bypass heart surgery sidelined American Fighter a few months after the team launched, and though he returned to it after recover, the team disbanded within a year after that.

He joined the Dynasty of Warriors in 1984, but was clearly past his prime and often contributed little to major conflicts.

Unknown to the public, American Fighter was diagnosed with HIV in 1984, just one year after the initial identification by scientists of the HIV virus. The hero kept the disease secret for many months while working with old colleagues to search for a cure. His health was visible declining. Rumors began to spread that he had liver cancer, but eventually his publicist announced that American Fighter had AIDS. As one of the first well-known American heroes to be publicly diagnosed with AIDS, this sparked a national debate about his sexuality and the disease.

American Fighter died in October, 1985, of infections related to the AIDS virus.

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