Monthly Archives: February 2020
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Enjoy this look at one feat in four game systems? want to see more? You can back my Patreon to encourage me to do more of this kind of work, and you can subscribe to the 52-in-52 program to get entire game supplements, one a week for every week of 20020, that are done in four versions, one for each game system!
“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. 🙂
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.
(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.
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.
(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.
(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.
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 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.
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.
|1st||Vindex’s strike, path ability|
|10th||Legendary vindex, path ability|
As you increase in tier, you gain the following abilities.
Select one of the following abilities. Once chosen, it can’t be changed. You can use this ability no more than once per round.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can select these path abilities at any tier.
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.
You don’t automatically miss when you roll a 1 on an attack roll, and automatically reroll such attacks.
You don’t take any armor check penalties or have your speed reduced by armor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Enjoy this brief, incomplete look at the vindex path for Mythic Stars? The best way to send me feedback is at my Patreon!
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.
Pick 1-3 routines, or roll a d10 to pick them randomly.
- Stage actor
- Carnival barker
- Jazz instrumentalist
- Big Band instrumentalist
- Radio actor
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:
Today’s post only happened because I was able to turn down some small freelance projects, giving me spare time to consider these questions, and replace the income those would have brought in with money from my Patreon. Even just the price of a cup of coffee each month makes a big difference in how much content I can put out on my blog!