Monthly Archives: February 2020

One Feat: Four Systems (Allied Spellcaster)

So, obviously, I’ve been working in a lot of different game systems recently. With the 52-in-52 program, I’m developing the same game content for Pathfinder 1st ed, Pathfinder 2nd ed, Starfinder, and 5e.

It’s been a fascinating view of how the different game systems look at game elements that have the same name, but different functions.

For example, feats.

In Pathfinder 1e and Starfinder, feats are cross-character goodies that are generally designed to be optional, and sometimes tie into class design (such as for the fighter and soldier), but not always.

For Pathfinder 2e, feats are the quintessential character ability, and different kinds of feats are crucial to your ancestry, class, and any archetype you take.

For 5e, feats are entirely optional, and if taken come in place of ability score advancements. Each feat is more potent in many ways, but you can make a character with a single feat, or no feats, and no class depends on feats for any part of its core functions.

As an example, we’re going to take a PF1 teamwork feat, and present it (as a non-teamwork feat) in different versions, one for each of the four game systems.

Here’s the original, a PF1 Teamwork feat

Allied Spellcaster (Teamwork)
With the aid of an ally, you are skilled at piercing the protections of other creatures with your spells.
Prerequisite: Caster level 1st.
Benefit: Whenever you are adjacent to an ally who also has this feat, you receive a +2 competence bonus on level checks made to overcome spell resistance. If your ally has the same spell prepared (or known with a slot available if they are spontaneous spellcasters), this bonus increases to +4 and you receive a +1 bonus to the caster level for all level-dependent variables, such as duration, range, and effect.

Here’s a new PF1 version, that isn’t a teamwork feat

ALLIED SPELLCASTER
You can aid an allied spellcaster, adding your magic power to their own.
Prerequisite: Caster level 1st.
Benefit: Whenever you are adjacent to an ally who can cast spells, as a standard action you can expend a spell slot or prepared spell of 1st level or higher to attempt to boost their spellcasting ability. This requires a Spellcraft check, DC 10 + double the level of the spell slot expended. On a successful check, you increase their caster level for the next spell they cast before the beginning of your next round by an amount equal to the level of the spell or spell slot expended.

You can also take eldritch power from a willing adjacent spellcaster to boost the power of your own spells. The allied spellcaster must ready to grant you a spell slot or prepared spell of 1st level of 1st level or higher on your turn. If they do so, you make the same Spellcraft check as a swift action and, if successful, for the next spell you cast this round your caster level is increased by an amount equal to the spell level your ally expended.

*So, that plays with both action economy and resource management, but it lets you play the spellcaster who can work in a group without anyone else having to also have the feat in question.

Here’s the same spell for Starfinder.

ALLIED SPELLCASTER
You can aid an allied spellcaster, adding your magic power to their own.
Prerequisite: Caster level 1st.
Benefit: Whenever you are adjacent to an ally who can cast spells, as a standard action you can expend a spell slot of 1st level or higher to attempt to boost their spellcasting ability. This requires a Mysticism check, DC 10 + triple the level of the spell slot expended. On a successful check, you increase their caster level for the next spell they cast before the beginning of your next round by an amount equal to the level of the spell or spell slot expended. If the spell does damage and does not have a duration, area, or damage calculation based on level, you can instead grant +3 damage per level of spell you expended.

You can also take eldritch power from a willing adjacent spellcaster to boost the power of your own spells. The allied spellcaster takes a standard action to imbue you with energy by expending  a spell slot of 1st level or higher on your turn. If they do so, on your turn you can make the same Mysticism check as part of the action to cast your next spell and, if successful, gain the benefits listed above. If you do not cast a spell within 1 round of being imbued, the additional spell energy is lost.

*That’s very similar, though it makes an adjustment for the fact that Starfinder doesn’t generally have damage affected by caster level and readied actions work differently caused us to make some adjustments.

Here’s a version for 5e.

ALLIED SPELLCASTER
Prerequisite: Caster level 1st or higher
You are skilled at magic manipulatipons. Increase your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma score by 1.
You can cast a spell to boost the effectiveness of an allied spellcaster within 60 feet, rather than its normal effect. If allied spellcaster casts a spell of their own that is no more than one spell level higher on their next turn, they have advantage on any attack roll the spell requires, or one target of their choice has disadvantage on any saving throw the spell requires.
An ally can cast a spell to boost your effectiveness rather than the spell’s normal effect, giving you the same benefit on your next turn.

*Things in 5e are simpler. Like, way simpler. Advantage or disadvantage is 75% of how the game handles things. And they are pretty big bonuses (work out to about a +4 bonus on a d20), so it’s okay that this only applies to spells of a level close to the level you expend.

That said, weaker feats in 5e also give you a +1 to one ability score (since you gave up a +2 to get the feat), which applies here given how circumstantial this is.

Here’s the same feat for PF2

ALLIED SPELLCASTER     FEAT 2
General Skill
Prerequisites: Expert in Arcana, Nature, Occultism or Religion
You can use the aid reaction to assist an adjacent ally when they cast a spell. This requires a successful Arcana, Nature, Occultism or Religion check (you must be expert in the selected skill) with a DC of 20 + double the level of spell the ally is casting. You must expend a spell slot of 1st level or higher, and you gain a bonus to your skill check equal to the level of the spell expended. You grant the ally a +2 circumstance bonus to their attack roll, or a +1 bonus to the save DC of their spell.
An adjacent allied spellcaster can attempt to use the aid reaction when you cast a spell. This works the same way, except you must make the Arcana, Nature, Occultism or Religion check.

*Pf2 uses a universal proficiency system for everything, so a +2 bonus matters as much at 15th level as it does at 5th level. There’s already an aid action which might be usable if a spell required an attack roll, but it’s not clear how it would apply and it certainly won’t boost save DCs. This cut through that, and is a skill feat spellcasters might really appreciate.

PATREON
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Teaser: Mythic Stars

“Man, I have too many projects I want to do.”

I literally did not write that, it’s from an IM with a colleague from today. But I COULD have written it and been 100% accurate and honest.

It’s a common problem for creatives of all types, but for the independent creative it can come with added pressure. I have more ideas than I have time. So I have to guess what the smart projects to undertake are, for my career development, visibility, and, of course, income.

Sometimes, those decisions happen well after a project has begun. You can be thousands of words into something, then higher-priority projects come along, and you put something down “just until you’re caught up.”

And then it stays put down forever.

So, that brings us to today’s post.

This is a teaser of “MYTHIC STARS,” a set of rules I am working on to create Mythic for Starfinder. This is incomplete, and is only a first draft, but it gives some hint of the direction I was taking this. I have a lot of design goals (no numeric bonuses, more compact presentation, hit different themes, and so on), and the project was begin something like two years ago. But it got put down, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to pick it up again.

But, of course, if it turns out the teaser gains a huge response, then maybe I’ll reprioritize. 🙂

Mythic

With abilities seemingly beyond the those of ordinary mortals, a mythic character or mythic creature becomes part of a story that plays out on a greater scale than ordinary people can understand. An attack, spell, or other effect is considered mythic if it originates from a mythic source, such as a character or creature with a mythic rank.

Mythic Path

(Often referred to just as a “path.”) The theme of a character’s mythic abilities is determined by her mythic path—eldritch exemplar, eternal, mastermind, phrenic exemplar, vindex. Each path has a number of special abilities associated with it that the character can select as she advances in rank.

Mythic Power

Each mythic character can call upon this base mythic ability to influence destiny and fuel other abilities. At its most basic, mythic power is needed to use the surge ability, but it can also be called upon to use a number of other mythic abilities.

Mythic Rank

(Often referred to just as a “rank.”) Mythic ranks are used to describe the approximate mythic power possessed by a PC or creature. All creatures with a mythic rank are considered mythic for the purposes of feats, spells, magic items, and other abilities. Mythic ranks range from 1 to 10.

Attaining a new mythic rank requires completing difficult trials within the campaign’s story rather than accumulating experience points. Characters who achieve 10th rank are at the height of mythic power, and are akin to minor deities.

Mythic Trial

(Often referred to just as a “trial.”) A trial is a difficult task that awaits mythic heroes. It usually represents the culmination of part of the heroes’ story, marking it as an important point in their legend. A mythic character has to complete one or more trials in order to reach a new mythic rank. Trials and mythic path advancement are separate from XP and character level advancement, and are based on grand achievements within the story rather than individual encounters.

Non-Mythic

Any attack, spell, or effect originating from a character or creature without any mythic abilities is non-mythic. This term can also refer to a character or creature without a mythic rank.

Surge

Surge is a basic ability that each mythic character receives. It allows her to reroll any die roll she made (including d20 rolls, damage rolls, and random % rolls made regarding the character or her actions), influencing the outcome after the results are revealed. A mythic character gains one surge per day, plus one for every 2 mythic tiers.

VINDEX

The vindex (plural: vindexin) is the pinnacle of skill in combat. No ordinary soldier could hope to match a vindex’s skill with a laser rifle, grenade, or plasma sword, no typcial vanguard can survive blows a vindex brushes off with ease. The vindex turns aside blows and shatters shields with every movement, all while racing gracefully across the chaotic battlefield. When the screams of fallen foes die down, the vindex stands strong and defiant in blood-spattered armor, hefting a weapon and grimly moving toward the next challenge.

Role: As a vindex, your role is to put down your foes, and withstand their mightiest assaults. Using devastating melee powers, you can crush your enemies before they even have a chance to harm you and your allies. With spectacular ranged attacks you can drop foes from the sky or disrupt their every effort. Few can match your effectiveness in combat or ability to return to the fray again and again.

The vindex abilities allow you to control your foes, move easily around the battlefield, and challenge a large number of foes all at once. The rest of the party can count on you to dominate any pure combat you charge into.

Classes: While members of any class could be vindexen, those who focus on combat— especially solarians, soldiers, and vangaurds, but also more martially-inclined mechanics and operatives—will find the abilities in this path most attractive and useful. However, even biohackers, envoys, and spellcasters could find that the path of the vindex is an excellent way to augment their abilities.

Bonus Hit Points: Whenever you gain a vindex tier, you gain 5 bonus Hit Points.

Table: Vindex 
Tier Path Features
1st Vindex’s strike, path ability
2nd Path ability
3rd Path ability
4th Path ability
5th Path ability
6th Path ability
7th Path ability
8th Path ability
9th Path ability
10th Legendary vindex, path ability

Vindex Features

As you increase in tier, you gain the following abilities.

Vindex’s Strike

Select one of the following abilities. Once chosen, it can’t be changed. You can use this ability no more than once per round.

Distant Barrage (Ex)

At the beginning or end of any other action you take on your turn, you can expend one Myth Point to make a ranged attack at your full attack bonus. This is in addition to any other attacks you make this round. When making this attack, ignore the target’s cover and concealment other than total cover.

Fleet Charge (Ex)

At the beginning or end of any other action you take on your turn, you can expend one Myth Point to move up to your speed. At any point during this movement, you can make a single melee or ranged attack at your highest attack bonus, adding your tier to the attack roll. This is in addition to any other attacks or movement you make this round.

Massive Damage (Ex)

When you damage a foe, you can expend one Myth Point to do maximum damage and bypass all damage reduction, energy resistance, and immunity. If the damaging effect harms more than one target, you must select just one to be affected by the massive damage. All other creatures are damaged normally.

Sudden Attack (Ex)

At the beginning or end of any other action you take on your turn, you can expend one Myth Point to make a melee attack at your highest attack bonus. This is in addition to any other attacks you make this round. When making a sudden attack, ignore the target’s cover and concealment other than total cover. Damage from this attack bypasses all damage reduction and energy resistance, and ignored immunity.

Path Ability

At 1st tier and every tier thereafter, select one new path ability from the vindex path abilities lists or from the universal path abilities lists. Once you select an ability, it can’t be changed. Unless otherwise noted, each ability can be selected only once. Some abilities have requirements, such as a class ability or minimum mythic tier, that you must meet before you select them.

Legendary Vindex (Ex)

At 10th tier, whenever you make an attack roll against a non-mythic foe, you roll the attack twice and take the better of the two results. Once per round when you roll a natural 20 on an attack roll, you regain one Myth Point.

1st-Tier Vindex Path Abilities

You can select these path abilities at any tier.

Aerial Assault (Su)

You can charge at creatures in the air, or leap across obstacles as part of a charge. When making a charge attack, you can expend one Myth Point to take no penalties to your attack roll or AC, and to charge to any foe that qualifies for a charge within your land speed (even if that target is flying or underwater). At the end of this charge you suffer the normal consequences of your new location (though if you fall a distance no greater than your land speed as a result, you take no falling damage and do not fall prone).

Alternatively, you may replace your melee attack from this charge with a grapple attack. If you successfully grapple a creature that was airborne and you are not flying, you bring it to the ground with you at the end of your jump, and it takes an appropriate amount of falling damage for the height it was at when you grappled it.

Always a Chance (Ex)

You don’t automatically miss when you roll a 1 on an attack roll, and automatically reroll such attacks.

Armor Master (Ex)

You don’t take any armor check penalties or have your speed reduced by armor.

Backlash (Ex)

You strike back at those who penetrate your defenses. Whenever an adjacent enemy scores a critical hit or succeeds at a combat maneuver against you, that enemy also provokes an attack of opportunity from you. If you have used all of your reactions for the round, you may expend one Myth Point to make this attack of opportunity anyway.

Blowback (Ex)

When you deal bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage to a foe, without taking an action you can expend one Myth Point to knock the foe directly away from you a distance equal to 10 feet per tier, in addition to the attack’s normal effects. If the foe strikes a solid object before reaching this distance, it takes 1d6 points of bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet it couldn’t travel. If it strikes another creature, both it and the creature it strikes take half this damage.

Burst Through (Ex)

When you charge, you can move through allies and opponents almost as if they were not there to obstruct your path. You can move through squares containing allies freely, but you must succeed at a melee attack roll against the KAC of each opponent that obstructs your path to the target of your charge. If the attack roll succeeds, you may move through the opponent’s square and continue toward the target without provoking an attack of opportunity from that opponent (though you do not add the effect of any actual attack). If you fail any of these attack rolls, your movement ends in the square before that opponent, but you may resolve the charge attack against the foe that stopped you.

Clean Blade (Ex)

Whenever you score a critical hit, without taking another action you can make a ranged attack with a +8 bonus against the KAC of another opponent within 30 feet to fling the blood and gore at it. If the attack hits, the foe is off-target for a number of rounds equal to your tier. If the attack is a critical hit, the foe is also blinded for the same duration. A blinded foe can spend a full action to remove the gore and end the blindness.

Climbing Master (Ex)

You gain a climb speed equal to your base land speed. If you already have a climb speed, when climbing you treat the surface you are on as “down” unless you choose not to, and stay in place unless forcefully moved. for example, even if you are knocked prone, bull rushed, or fall unconscious, you don’t fall off the surface you are climbing unless pushed beyond it’s edge.

PATREON

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Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 12: Everybody Else)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending some time looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

We’ve added at least a couple of class features to ever official class in the game, but that doesn’t handle all the third-party Starfinder-compatible material out there. And, reasonably speaking, anyone adding the 130+ feat we’ve written up to their game may well also want to add aeoncarnates, godlings, gunslingers, zoomers, or other classes. And while it’s not our job to support every 3pp Starfinder-compatible class, we should consider that customers who buy our product may like it more (and thus buy more things we design) if it has support for a wider range of products.

ARCHETYPES

Luckily, Starfinder has an option that can be applied to any class–archetypes. (Or at least any class that is properly designed to include the abilities that are swapped out when an archetype is taken). We can build a bonus-feat friendly archetype that can be added to any class, give it a theme and justification for that flexibility, add a few extra tweaks so it doesn’t just feel like the words “bonus feat” five times, and we’ve added an extremely flexible character design tool without breaking the game.

Preceptor

While you have the same general training as others in your field, you have always taken it upon yourself to forge your own path, and seek out the education you thought most useful to your specific needs and goals. You have become an expert in your own learning style and conditioning, and can even compartmentalize previous training to make room for new techniques and knacks.

Custom Training (Ex): At 2nd, 4th, 6th, 9th, and 12th level, you may choose to take you classes’ normal class feature, or to gain the customer training preceptor alternate feature. Each time you take this feature, you gain a bonus feat of your choice (for which you must meet all its prerequisites), or an additional 5 skill points (though you still cannot have more ranks in a skill than your total character level).

Additionally, whenever you take custom training, you can also choose to replace one of the feats you have already learned with a different feat. The feat you replace can’t be one that was used as a prerequisite for another feat or other ability. You can change only one feat each time you gain custom training, and you must choose whether or not to swap the feat at the time you gain this alternate feature.

PERSONAL UPGRADES

Another option available to all characters are personal upgrades. Those in the core rulebook only grant ability score increases, but it’s easy enough to link into that system to allow people to buy bonus feats. It means we are requiring players to decide between boosted ability scores and boosted feat lists, and that’s an interesting choice for a lot of character builds. Most characters are better off having at least their key ability score upgraded with the highest-level personal upgrade they can manage, but its less obvious that everyone needs three ability scores boosted at higher levels.

Feat Upgrades

Feat upgrades are a variant form of personal upgrades. Like ability-focused personal upgrades, feat upgrades come in three models (Mk I, II, and II). they require the same interface as personal upgrades, so a character is limited to one personal or feat upgrade of each model–if you have a Mk I feat upgrade, you cannot also have a Mk I personal upgrade *but could have a Mk II personal upgrade).

Feat upgrades are always custom-designed for the recipient, and thus can grant any one bonus feat the recipient meets the prerequisites for. A feat upgrade that grants a feat the recipient uses as a prerequisite is so intertwined with their system, it can no longer be removed by anything short of a miracle, wish, or mnemonic chamber.

PATREON
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Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 11: The Vanguard)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending some time looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

Our last class to look at is the vanguard.

The vanguard bucks normal Starfinder class and rule design, in that is has a pool of “point” separate from Resolve Points. That’s not a problem (sometimes you want an outlier, like how witch hexes work differently from nearly anything else in 1st edition Pathfinder, or how the warlock engages in spells differently than other 5e classes), but it’s a good sign that entropy points are a crucial part of vanguard design.

So, if we want a vanguard to access some of the feats we created, or at least the new abilities those feats represent, it makes sense to look at entropy points as a way to do that.

Obviously if you have to have to spend or have entropy points to gain a feat, that’s less powerful than having the feat all the time. There are two primary way to boost conditional feat class features. The first is to give more than one feat (even if it’s only one feat at a time, flexibility increases overall effectiveness). The other is to give access to feats the character otherwise does not qualify for. You can mix these, of course.

Vanguard Disciplines

You must be 2nd level or higher to choose these vanguard disciplines.

Combat Momentum (Ex): You can expend 1 entropy point as part of any other action to gain one of the following feats as a bonus feat for the rest of the combat: Improved Bull Rush, Improved Disarm, Improved Overrun, Improved Sunder, Improved Trip. You do not need to meet the feat’s prerequisites. If you use this ability to gain a feat, any previous feat you gained with it ends.

Entropic Armor (Su): You gain Arcane Armor Training as a bonus feat, without meeting its prerequisites. Instead of powering the feat with a Resolve Point, you can choose to power it as a move action with an entropy point. If you take this option, the arcane talisman you create fades at the end of combat if not used.

6TH

You must be 6th level or higher to choose these vanguard disciplines.

Combat Impulse (Ex): You can expend 1 entropy point as part of any other action to gain one of the following feats as a bonus feat for the rest of the combat: Greater Bull Rush, Greater Disarm, Greater overrun, Greater Sunder, Greater Trip. You do not need to meet the feat’s prerequisites. If you use this ability to gain a feat, any previous feat you gained with it ends.

8TH

You must be 8th level or higher to choose these vanguard disciplines.

Entropic Armor Mastery (Su): You gain Arcane Armor Mastery as a bonus feat, without meeting its prerequisites.

PATREON
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Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 10: The Solarian)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending some time looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

And now it’s the solarian’s turn.

The solarian has a few really key class features that not only define the class, but define each solarian’s personal style and fighting techniques. Solar manifestation is absolutely one of those, but so are the stellar revelations each solarian selects to define how they operate in their two primary modes–graviton attuned and photon attuned.

However, solar manifestations and stellar revelations only rarely directly interact with each other. Having a huge batch of new combat abilities in the form of feats seems like a fine time to change that.

STELLAR REVELATIONS

You must be 2nd level or higher to choose these stellar revelations.

Fundamental Barrier (Ex): Your solar shield is energized by your attunement.

When you are graviton attuned or fully attuned, you gain Improved Shield Bash and Improved Unarmed Strike as bonus feats. You do not need to meet their prerequisites.

When you are photon attuned of fully attuned you gain Shield Focus and Greater Shield Focus as bonus feats. You do not need to meet their prerequisites.

You must have the solar shield manifestation to select this revelation.

Fundamental Defense (Ex): Your solar armor is energized by your attunement.

When you are graviton attuned or fully attuned, you gain Defensive Combat Training and Lightning Stance as bonus feats. You do not need to meet their prerequisites.

When you are photon attuned of fully attuned you gain the Dodge and Wind Stance as bonus feats. You do not need to meet their prerequisites.

You must have the solar armor manifestation to select this revelation.

Fundamental Flare (Ex): Your solar flare is energized by your attunement.

When you are graviton attuned or fully attuned, you gain Point-Blank Shot and Precise Shot as bonus feats you can only use with your solar flare. You do not need to meet their prerequisites.

When you are photon attuned of fully attuned you gain Pinpoint Targeting and Weapons Focus as bonus feats you can only use with your solar flare. You do not need to meet their prerequisites.

You must have the solar flare manifestation to select this revelation.

Fundamental Weapon (Ex): Your solar weapon is energized by your attunement.

When you are graviton attuned or fully attuned, you gain Agile Maneuvers and Combat Expertise as bonus feats you can only use with your solar weapon. You do not need to meet their prerequisites.

When you are photon attuned of fully attuned you gain Arcane Strike and Penetrating Strike as bonus feats you can only use with your solar weapon. You treat your solarian level as your caster level for Arcane Strike. You do not need to meet these feat’s prerequisites.

You must have the solar weapon manifestation to select this revelation.

PATREON
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Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 9: The Operative)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending some time looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

And now it’s the operative’s turn.

OPERATIVE SPECIALIZATION

Factotum

Even more than a typical operative, you attempt to be a master of every skill.

Associated Skill: Select any two skills as your associated skill. If one of those skills is a Dexterity or Charisma based skill, you can use that skill to make trick attacks if you normally could not.

Specialization Exploit: Procedural Memory.

Surety (Ex): You are supremely confident in your skills. At 11th level when you take 10 on a skill check, you receive a +2 circumstance bonus to the result.

OPERATIVE EXPLOIT

You must be 10th level to select this operative exploit.

Procedural Memory (Ex): You are capable of intentionally creating specific muscle memories and instinctive actions to assist in various tasks. This may be a specialized form of cybernetics, a meditative form of mind-over-matter, or the result of being the product of a superspy program.

You can take ten minutes to reset your procedural memory, gaining one of the following feats as a bonus feat: Acrobatics, Alertness, Ambush Awareness, Climbing Master, Deceitful, Deft Hands, Diversion, Improved Initiative, Persuasive, Self-Sufficient, Stealthy, Swimming Master. Once you have done this in a day, doing so again requires to to expend 1 Resolve Point for each previous time in the same day you have used this ability. Each time you use this ability, you lose any previous bonus feat you gained from procedural memory.

PATREON
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Backgrounds for Sorcerers & Speakeasies

Okay… so maybe I now AM working on a Sorcerers and Speakeasies 5e supplement. Mostly, I’m having someone else work on it right now, while I just offer outlines and notes. But since it’s on my mind, and I need content for my blog anyway, here are some more thoughts.

Given that 5e is a robust, flexible, well-supported game system we need to ask ourselves: what do characters really need to fit in to our 1920s setting? Equipment, obviously. Since we are sticking with the normal species there’s no need for change there. We’ll make adjustments to the classes, but only as needed. Maybe a few spells to augment the feel of the setting (Tannison’s Terrible Tommygun, anyone?) But there’s actually not a ton of hard rules changes needed.

That brings us to backgrounds.

Many of the backgrounds in 5e conceptually work fine for our 1920s “Djinn and Tonic” campaign. We’d need to update available equipment, including for each background, but we can do that easily (once we have an equipment list… so this is something I have an excellent freelancer working on right now). Similarly we’d want a conversation about languages (do we have all the 5e languages and all the real-world languages? Do we decide German is elven, so Netherlandic is drow, West Scandinavian is old fae, and so on?), but once that’s settled languages are easy. The personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws generally work fine (I think we can trust players to update any anachronistic terms to 1920s-appropriate equivalents).

Beyond that, looking at the PHB, Acolyte, Charlatan, Criminal, Entertainer, Sage, Sailor, and Urchin all work pretty well as-is. Some context might be worth adding, but each of those backgrounds can easily be adapted to Sorcerers & Speakeasies with a small entry that gives an update to equipment and maybe proficiencies, and a short description of any conceptual tweaks that need to be mentioned.

We might want to do just a bit more work for Folk Hero, Guild Artisan, Hermit, Noble, and Outlander. The core of those work fine, but the details might need a tad more adjustment. Luckily, the concept of Variant backgrounds can handle that just fine. Local Favorite is an easy variant for Folk Hero, Union Member for Guild Artisan, Dedicated Academic for Hermit, Upper Class Scion for Noble, and possibly WWI Veteran for Outlander.

It could be worth doing a few more variant for the backgrounds that already work well too, just for specific flavor. Gambler is an easy variant for Charlatan, Gangster for Criminal, Scientist for Sage, and so on.

Now that doesn’t mean we may not want to add some new backgrounds as well. Journalist comes to mind as a common 1920s trope worth supporting on its own, and maybe Masked Vigilante if we want specific support for it. Copper, Detective, Driver, Engineer, Pilot, Smuggler, Rum-Runner… there’s tons of fun stuff we can do if we want to. In each case we should ask if it needs it’s own background (if we do Smuggler, Rum-Runner is a pretty obvious variant–same with Copper and Detective or Diver and Pilot). Dilettante could be a variant of Noble, but maybe Dandy/Flapper deserves its own? We can touch on things like Made a Deal at the Crossroads (if we don’t borrow the idea for the Warlock), or Blasted By Lovecraftian Horror if we want to support more mystic backgrounds in keeping with our magic-and-machines.

We don’t want to get TOO specific. I suspect we want Archaeologists as a form of Sage or Hermit, and Banker/Grocer/Typewriter Repair Man are likely just suggestions for some kind of Crafter or the Guild Artisan. We should think hard about whether Spy, Photographer, Athlete/Sports Star, Student, and the dozen more than come to mind are really worth having their own entries at all, but certainly some will.

A LOT of character flavor can come from backgrounds, so we’d want to think about if we want to make any variants just for that reason.

For example, look at the Entertainer background. It has 10 Entertainer Routines listed. There’s nothing wrong with being an actor, dancer, or juggler, but “jester” doesn’t speak to the 1920s. Let’s look at what a revised table might look like.

Entertainer Routines

Pick 1-3 routines, or roll a d10 to pick them randomly.

  1. Stage actor
  2. Dancer
  3. Carnival barker
  4. Clown
  5. Juggler
  6. Jazz instrumentalist
  7. Big Band instrumentalist
  8. Singer
  9. Radio actor
  10. Ventriloquist

That doesn’t change the game rules at all, but it does feel very much more grounded in the culture of the Roaring 20s.

This also means a Backgrounds chapter of a Sorcerers and Speakeasies game could contain a lot of flavor without loading down players or the GM with a lot of specialized rules. If we want to sneak in references to Adventurer’s Inc., Hexers, Grendels, and Taxi Heroes, we can put all that into Backgrounds just to help flesh out the world.

Speaking of helping:

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Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 8)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending this week looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

Adding new options to a witchwarper is almost too easy — nearly anything can be justified as access to alternate realities. To keep things interesting, here we picked one way to gain bonus feats (and have access to a wider range of options that you can use at one time), and one way to use feats to define a different power that does things the feats normally don’t.

Paradigm Shifts

[2nd Level]

Alternity (Ex): Select three feats you meet the prerequisites for. These are abilities alternate versions of you, in alternate realities, have gained. Each day as a swift action you can select one of these feats to have for the remainder of the day. If you are 6th level or higher, you can expend a Resolve Point as a swift action to change which of these feats you have access to after you have made this choice.

At each new witchwarper level, you can change what three feats you have selected for this ability.

That’ll Leave A Mark (Su): Select a Critical feat (a feat that adds a critical hit option to an attack of yours), plus one additional Critical feat for every 5 witchwarper levels you have. You do not need to meet these feat’s normal prerequisites, but you must have a caster level equal to any base attack bonus they require. You do not benefit from the Critical feat, but as a reaction when an ally within 60 feet hits a foe with an attack, you can expend one use of your alternate outcome ability to add one of your critical hit feats to that attack (in addition to its normal critical hit effects, if the attack was a critical hit).

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Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 7)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending this week looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

In addition to just giving a class access to bonus feats, and using the abilities of new feats to create new class options (as we did with the mystic support material), its possible to use new feats to define the powers of brand-new abilities. In 1st edition Pf, the cavalier and inquisitor classes are great examples of this, as both have powers that use teamwork feats in ways the feats alone don’t provide.

So with that in mind, let’s look at some new theorems for the biohacker!

Theorem

The following theorems follow the normal rules for biohacker theorems.

[2nd Level]

Heal Thyself: You gain the Self-Sufficient feat. Additionally when you use a skill, feat, or class feature to restore Hit Points or Stamina Points to yourself, you may take the points restored and divide them between your missing Hit Points and Stamina Points, even if the ability normally only restores one of those.

Multispectrum Booster: Select two feats from the following list: Acrobatic, Agile Maneuvers, Athletic, Deceitful, Deft Hands, Dodge, Endurance, Nimble Steps, Persuasive,  Stealthy. When you inject a creature with a basic booster, it gains both the normal booster benefit and your choice of the two feats you selected for the booster’s normal duration.

Alternatively you can expend a use of your booster ability to grant an injected creature both feats for a number of minutes equal to your key ability score bonus (minimum 1 minute).

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I was only able to pry away enough spare time to write up a whole mystic connection because of the support of my wonderful patrons! If you’d like to see more work like this, please consider supporting my Patreon for as little as the cost of a cup of coffee each month.

 

Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 6)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending this week looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

With the mystic, we added a new channel energy alternate connection power, which allows any mystic to access the long list of channel feats we created. But we can go even farther, creating a whole channeler connection that has a slew pf powers that, rather than just hand out those feats, gives access to the concepts and powers we created for those feats (and works with those feats if the player wants to delve even deeper into channeling), and works on its own to introduce those concepts into a character concept without needing feats to do so.

Channeler Connection

You are linked to a mystic energy that flows through the planes. This energy is the medium through which holy and unholy effects flow, the divine and fiendish waveforms that can impact creatures of different kinds based on the frequency it is attuned to. You can access an increasing width of those frequencies, learning to manipulate the energy in more ways.

Associated Deities: Gods of energy, healing, light, science, and suns.
Associated Skills: Medicine and Physical Science.
Spells: 1st wisp ally, 2nd force blast, 3rd divine aspect, 4th enervation, 5th call cosmos, 6th control gravity.

Channeler Connection Special Powers

Channel Energy [1st Level] At 1st level you gain the channel energy alternate connection power.

Expanded Energy [3rd Level] At 3rd level you can select a 2nd choice of channel from the channel energy power. You can cause either effect when you channel energy, or can expend a mystic Spell slot of the highest level you can cast to create both effects at the same time.

Reserve Energy [6th level] At 6th level you can channel energy once without spending a Resolve Point to do so. Once you have used this ability, you cannot do so again until after you recover Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.

Focus Energy (Su) [9th] Before you roll an attack roll, as part of the same action you can choose to expend your channel energy to add its effect to the attack as bonus damage that only applies to one type of foe you can harm with your channel energy. The damage applies to any appropriate foe hit by the attack. This does not apply to any attack that does not require an attack roll (though it does apply to area attacks that also require attack rolls, such as most grenades). Affected foes can attempt a Will save to reduce this bonus damage by half, at your usual connection power DC.

Greater Expanded Energy (Su) [12th Level] At 12th level you can select a 3rd choice of channel from the channel energy power. You can cause any of these three effects when you channel energy, or can expend a mystic Spell slot of the highest level you can cast to create all three effects at the same time.

Turning Energy (Su) [15th Level] When you use your channel energy to harm a type of creature, those creatures that fail their saving throw are also flat-footed, off-target, and staggered for a number of rounds equal to 1/3 your mystic level.

Ultimate Channel (Su) [18th Level] Each day when you regain your spells you may select once creature type or subtype. when you channel energy, you may choose to harm creatures of this type or subtype in addition to any other effect of your channel.

Enjoy this? Support It!
I was only able to pry away enough spare time to write up a whole mystic connection because of the support of my wonderful patrons! If you’d like to see more work like this, please consider supporting my Patreon for as little as the cost of a cup of coffee each month.