Monthly Archives: June 2020

Ranged attack tiered power for GammaFinder/FreedomFinder (Starfinder)

This week we’re looking at fun ways to utilize the Starfinder weapon damage benchmarks I posted Monday. that gave benchmark damage values for weapons of all types at all item levels in Starfinder, and mentioned there were lots of fun things we could do with a list like that. Here’s one of them.

It’s a new Tiered Mutation for GammaFinder and/or FreedomFinder. This specifically makes sure that if you take the power at tier 1 it’s of modest use throughout your career, while if you somehow manage to get it at tier 6 even at low levels that’s impressive, but doesn’t break the game.

RGGSA273 Blackmon Combat Robot Cover

(Mecha-Man, defender of Europa City, prepares to unleash his Voltaic Blast)

Ranged Attack (Ex)
Be it optic beams, laser fingers, ghost bullets, flame gouts, or somethign even more esoteric, you have an innate ranged attack.
Tier 1: You gain an innate ranged attack that does one type of damage you select (acid, bludgeoning, cold, electricity, fire, piercing, slashing, or sonic). Select a ranged weapon category with which you are proficient (small arms, longarms, or heavy weapons). Your attack does damage as a benchmark for that weapon two levels below your class level (using the EAC or KAC chart based on your damage type), and is treated as a weapon of that type with an item level equal to your character level. You can choose for your attack to be a line or blast (reducing the benchmark damage appropriately, to a minimum level of -3).
The attack has a range increment of 30 feet (or a total range of 60 feet if a line, and 30 feet if a blast).
You gain two customization. This may be one critical hit effect and one weapon. special property, to two weapon special properties You are limited to the following options:
You may have one of the following critical hit effects: arc, bleed, blind, burn, corrode, deafen, demoralize, fatigue, knockdown, leech, pulse, push (10 feet), sicken, staggered, or stifle. Any critical hit that does additional damage (arc, bleed, burn, corrode, pulse, ) does damage equal to 1d6, +1d6 per 5 character levels you possess. If you can additional critical hit effects later, you can still only apply a single critical hit effect on any given attack. You can add a critical hit effect you qualify for to a specific critical hit as a Power Stunt (rules coming soon for power stunts).
You may add one of the following weapon special properties;  breach, bright, echo, force, harrying, nonlethal, penetrating (rating equal to your character level), sniper (double range increment), stun, underwater, and variant boost (+1d6, +1d10 at 5th level, plus and additional +1d10 every 5 levels thereafter, uses/day equal to your tier). You can also increase your range/range increment by +50% in lieu of one weapons special property. You can select this customization a number of times equal to half your tier.
Tier 2: You gain an additional customization. You may change any previous customization, as well.
Tier 3: You now do benchmark damage (and have an effective item level) equal to your character level -1.
Tier 4: You gain an additional customization. You may change any previous customization, as well. You can now select the nauseate, second arc, stunned, or wound critical hit effect, or aurora weapon special quality as one of your customization.
Tier 5: You now do benchmark damage (and have an effective item level) equal to your character level.
Tier 6: You gain an additional customization. You may change any previous customization, as well. In lieu of a customization, you may choose to add a second damage type. Your attacks can do either damage type, or both, as you prefer.
Tier 7: You now do benchmark damage (and have an effective item level) equal to your character level +1.
Tier 8: You gain an additional customization. You may change any previous customization, as well.
Tier 9: You can now expend a Resolve Point to force a target you hit to make a Fortitude save or Reflex save (DC 10 +1/2 your effective item level + your key ability score) or suffer your critical hit effect. This is not otherwise considered a critical hit.
Tier 10: You now do benchmark damage (and have an effective item level) equal to your character level +2.

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Fun with Starfinder Damage Benchmarks

So, yesterday I posted a big entry with long lists of tables that gave benchmark damage values for weapons of all types at all item levels in Starfinder, and mentioned there were lots of fun things we could do with a list like that. Here’s one of them.

We can scale weapon damage without having pre-written weapons.

For example, here’s a new version of the hammer fist ability from the soldier’s armor storm fighting style.

Hammer Fist (Ex) – 1st Level
You treat any unarmed attack you make while wearing heavy or powered armor as being made with a battleglove with an item level equal to or lower than your soldier level. Calculate damage for these attacks using the 1-handed basic melee benchmark damage, and adding bonuses as if you had the melee striker gear boost. If you have the melee striker gear boost, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with your unarmed attacks when using this ability. These unarmed attacks don’t benefit from other abilities that apply specifically to unarmed attacks (such as the Improved Unarmed Strike feat).

Scifi hand

(art by photoslaz)

With the core rulebook version of hammer fist, you have long dead levels where your damage with this ability doesn’t keep up. Now it goes to 1d6 at 2nd level and so on, keeping up with relevant weapons you could gain at those levels.

We can now also create class features that allow you to exceed the limits of your weapon’s damage, built on the idea a character *can* get access to an item up to their level +2, without creating some stacking nightmare that could be combined with higher-level gear to break the game.

Let’s say we wanted a Melee Weapon Master archetype, and we wanted them to do more damage with their melee weapon than other folks. The archetype can require to you to focus on an advanced melee weapon type, and then give you advantages with it.

Masterwork Damage (Ex): When using a weapon of your focused type that has an item level no greater than your character level, you may do more damage with it. Find the benchmark damage* matching your advanced melee weapon (KAC or EAC, 1-handed or 2-handed). You deal damage one level above your weapon’s benchmark.
*If your weapon damage dice do not exactly match a listed benchmark, your benchmark damage is considered to be the highest damage dice that have an average result that does not exceed your weapon’s damage dice’s average result. For example, if using a 1-handed EAC advanced melee weapon that does 1d20 damage, your benchmark damage is considered to be 3d6 (average of 10.5), as that is the highest total that does not exceed your weapon’s average (also 10.5). You would thus do 3d8, one benchmark level higher, when using this ability.

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They Killed Me, Again, Today

They killed me again, today.

I suppose I should be used to it by now. I mean, anytime anyone comes to the old carnival grounds, or the camp and lake next door, it always ends up with me getting killed again.

I mean, yes, the first time was legitimately surprising. I put on the dead firefighter’s gas mask and coat to help get those campers out of the burning building, not hurt them. But I guess when you catch on fire, roll around in plastic tarps to put it out, and get covered in patchy molten tarp cloth, you look a little scary.

Especially when you have a 4-foot long flaming bill hook hedge cutter in your hand.

So, sure. I get that they thought I was a vengeful spirit come to drag them to hell. I don’t think they needed to wrap a chain around me, hook it to a pickup truck, drive to the lake and jump out just as it went off the dock, so I was pulled underwater and drowned in brackish muck, but at least I get it.

And I guess if you are dumb enough to run an illegal underground carnival and blare intentionally Satanic lyric over the loudspeakers, and that actually DOES raise a vengeful spirit in the form of one wet dude with a patchy coat, mask, and flaming bill hook, you might decide to “douse its hellfire” before discovering I was vengeful about poor OSHA compliance from the original carnival’s corporate owners. I still think dumping the illegally-stored tanks of liquid nitrogen on me was taking it a bit far, though.

So I confess, when one of the things stored in the liquid nitrogen turned out to be a human regeneration formula that brought me back as an infectious zombie… rotting flesh visible through the broken gas mask (but still with the same patchwork coat and flaming bill hook — Black and Decker, man, it’s a quality brand), I was pretty sure it was going to go badly for me. So, yes, I lurked a bit as the urban explorers took pictures of my stomping grounds. I didn’t want to get frozen or drowned again! But when I saw they had mobile phones, I did try to ask them to call for help!

Turns out, enunciation is tricky with a rotting, burned, flash-dried tongue.

No drowning, at least. Getting fed into a wood chipper, mixed with mulch, and spread over the baseball field was hellishly painful, especially since as a regenerating mutant undead spirit of vengeance I was still aware the whole time, but at least I was outside. Some nights it was quite nice.

I DO feel bad for terrorizing people when that freak storm dropped a phone line onto the field and I was sucked into cyberspace and tried to kill people using the internet. But what can I say, it was the 1990s, and netiquette for horror monsters wasn’t really codified yet.

And then there was the seance, being reverse-possessed by the brother of my first “victim,” the attempt to recreate the regeneration serum by cloning me, turning out not have been killed but just in hibernation for 7 years while digesting a guy’s liver, the SECOND clone of me, the group of multi-denominational priests who summoned me just so they could destroy me “once and for all,” the alien parasite…

I gotta be honest, even I am not sure I didn’t hallucinate that last one.

So when I reformed from a single drop of my original burning blood and found a mock-up of my original mask and coat in the roadside attraction based on my exploits (but with the SAME bill hook — *man* those people can make gardening tools!), I should have know that moving away from everyone and everything wasn’t going to be enough.

At least someone ought to be able to make a cool movie out of all that cell phone footage those kids got of me and themselves before the fungus that grows on my mutant undead body turned them all into homicidal killers and they did each other in.

And chained me to a bigger truck, and drove me into a bigger lake.

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Weapon Damage Benchmarks for Starfinder

The following tables are benchmarks for how much damage a typical weapons of a specific type should do at each item level. This is the result of a LOT of work, which I have been doing literally for a couple of years. These numbers are based on creating weapons that match the mathematical assumptions behind combat in Starfinder, so if you have a weapon within a few item levels of your character level, you are within the range of combat effectiveness the game assumes when determining enemy AC and HP.


Of course such a system is not perfect. You can tell just by looking at it that it doesn’t perfectly recreate weapons in Starfinder, especially weapons of item level 5 or less. This is because lower-level weapons are, in fact, too good for the “assumed math” of Starfinder. An optimized 1st-level character can often kill a CR 1 or less foe in a single slightly-luckier-than-average shot. This is never the case at higher levels, and that’s intentional. Essentially when designing this system, low-level fights being easier for low-level characters than mid- and -high level fights are for mid- and high-level characters was considered an acceptable consequence of not wanting to say a 2-handed doshko does 1d6 to 1d8 damage.

Those issues even out at higher item levels, and even so these numbers provide weapons within the rough range of “useful.” That’s going to be important with some interesting things we’re going to do with these values as the week progresses.

*There are assumptions built into these numbers:
*These values assume typical range increment, usage, critical hit effect, and cost.
*A line does damage equal to a weapon three levels lower.
*A blast does damage equal to a weapon four levels lower.
*An unwieldy weapon does damage equal to a weapon two levels higher.
*A typical weapon has a single moderate critical hit and 1-2 positive special qualities. A weapon with none of these can do increased damage, but not as much as a 1-level shift. A weapon with wound, severe wound, or stunned and 1-2 positive special qualities, or with 3 or more special qualities, does damage equal to a weapon one level lower. Being unusually cheap, having a better-than-average range, or having unusually low usage count as a special quality, while the inverse can negate the impact of a special quality.

Weapons of level 9 or less should not have wound, severe wound, or stunned. No weapon should have more than one critical hit effect.

00 Retro Raygun 02 - JEB

Single Target, Ranged KAC Weapons


Level     Heavy   Longarm   Small Arm

-3            1d2         1 pt.       1 pt.

-2            1d3         1d2         1 pt.

-1            1d4         1d3         1 pt.

0              1d6         1d4         1d2

1              1d8         1d6         1d3

2              2d4         1d8         1d4

3              1d10      2d4         1d4

4              1d12      1d10      1d6

5              2d6         1d12      1d8

6              2d8         2d6         1d8

7              3d6         2d8         1d12

8              3d8         3d6         2d6

9              3d10      2d12      2d8

10           5d6         3d8         2d10

11           5d8         4d6         3d6

12           7d6         4d8         3d8

13           7d8         4d10      4d6

14           8d8         5d10      4d8

15           9d8         6d10      6d6

16           10d8      7d10      5d8

17           10d10    8d10      6d8

18           11d10    9d10      7d8

19           12d10    10d10    8d8

20           13d10    11d10    9d8

21           14d10    12d10    10d8

22           15d10    13d10    11d8

Single Target, Ranged EAC Weapons


Level     Heavy   Longarm   Small Arm

-3            1 pt.       1 pt        1 pt.

-2            1d2         1 pt.       1 pt.

-1            1d3         1d2         1 pt.

0              1d4         1d3         1d2

1              1d6         1d4         1d3

2              1d8         1d6         1d3

3              2d4         1d6         1d4

4              1d10      1d8         1d4

5              1d12      1d8         1d6

6              2d6         1d10      1d8

7              2d8         2d6         2d4

8              3d6         2d8         1d10

9              4d6         4d4         2d6

10           5d6         3d6         3d4

11           4d8         3d8         2d8

12           6d6         3d10      3d6

13           5d8         5d6         2d10

14           6d8         4d10      2d12

15           7d8         5d8         3d8

16           6d10      7d6         3d10

17           7d10      8d6         4d8

18           8d10      6d10      4d10

19           9d10      7d10      5d8

20           10d10    8d10      5d10

21           11d10    9d10      6d10

22           12d10    10d10    7d10

KAC Melee

Single Target Melee KAC Weapons

Item        1-handed            2-handed                                          1-handed            2-handed

Level     Advanced            Advanced            Operative          Basic                    Basic

-3            1d2         1d4         1 pt.       1 pt.       1d2

-2            1d3         1d4         1 pt.       1 pt.       1d3

-1            1d3         1d4         1 pt.       1d3         1d3

0              1d4         1d6         1d3         1d4         1d4

1              1d4         1d6         1d3         1d4         1d6

2              1d6         1d6         1d4         1d6         1d6

3              1d6         1d8         1d4         1d6         1d6

4              1d8         1d8         1d4         1d6         1d8

5              1d8         1d10      1d6         1d8         1d8

6              2d4         2d6         1d6         1d8         1d10

7              2d6         2d8         1d8         1d10      1d12

8              2d8         3d6         2d4         1d10      2d8

9              3d6         4d6         2d6         2d8         3d6

10           4d6         5d6         3d4         2d8         3d8

11           5d6         4d8         2d8         2d10      4d6

12           4d8         6d6         3d6         3d8         5d6

13           6d6         7d6         3d8         3d10      4d8

14           6d8         9d6         4d6         4d8         5d8

15           9d6         10d6      5d6         5d8         8d6

16           10d6      11d6      6d6         6d8         9d6

17           12d6      13d6      7d6         7d8         10d6

18           14d6      15d6      8d6         8d8         12d6

19           16d6      17d6      9d6         9d8         13d6

20           18d6      20d6      10d6      11d8      15d6

21           20d6      22d6      11d6      12d8      17d6

22           22d6      25d6      12d6      13d8      19d6

EAC Melee

Single Target Melee EAC Weapons

Item        1-handed            2-handed                                          1-handed            2-handed

Level     Advanced            Advanced            Operative          Basic                    Basic

-3            1 pt.        1d2         1 pt.       1 pt.       1 pt.

-2            1d2         1d3         1 pt.       1 pt.       1 pt.

-1            1d2         1d3         1 pt.        1d2        1 pt.

0              1d3         1d4         1d3         1d3         1d3

1              1d3         1d4         1d3         1d3         1d3

2              1d4         1d4         1d3         1d3         1d4

3              1d4         1d6         1d3         1d3         1d4

4              1d4         1d6         1d3         1d3         1d4

5              1d6         1d8         1d4         1d4         1d6

6              1d8         1d10      1d4         1d6         1d8

7              1d10      2d6         1d6         1d8         1d10

8              1d12      2d8         1d8         2d4         1d12

9              2d8         3d6         2d4         1d10      2d6

10           3d6         3d8         1d10      1d12      2d8

11           3d8         4d6         1d12      2d6         3d6

12           4d6         4d8         2d6         2d8         2d10

13           5d6         6d6         2d8         3d6         3d8

14           5d8         7d6         3d6         3d8         4d6

15           6d6         6d8         3d8         4d6         5d6

16           6d8         7d8         4d6         4d8         5d8

17           7d8         8d8         5d6         6d6         6d8

18           8d8         9d8         4d8         7d6         7d8

19           9d8         10d8      6d6         9d6         8d8

20           10d8      15d6      7d6         10d6      9d8

21           11d8      17d6      8d6         12d6      10d8

22           12d8      19d6      9d6         13d6      11d8

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Save to Negate Fun? (Starfinder)

(A prelude — I moved cross-country last week. I had expected to be up and running my blog by Monday… and was not. further while we have arranged for connectivity at the new house, there seem to be some issues. Long story short, this is a Week’s Worth of blog posts — a 750+ word article for Monday on the basic concept and design concerns, then 4 days worth of looking at specific spells in short snippets.

My hope is that by June 15th, i can go back to giving you these things daily. 🙂 )

You are a spellcaster in the Starfinder RPG — a master of esoteric energies that can rewrite the universe’s laws. Having read about the cool abilities of a spell you select it and, when the time is right, stars in your eyes, you unleash eldritch powers beyond mortal comprehension on a foe…

“It succeeds at its saving throw. The spell is negated.”

Well… THAT’s not fun. At least if you have tried a damaging spell, it would have had SOME effect on creatures that made their save against it. And… HOW many spells saving-throw-negates spells did you put on your spell list? You only get so many spells known, after all… Oh, and hey, you can’t swap those out all that often. Lower-level spells are much more likely to be successfully saved against. And even if you use them against lower-level foes… those often don’t last long enough for the penalties you assess against them to be worth a spell slot either.

It’s not just that you had an action not be effective. Attacks miss sometimes. But you have SO few resources, you had to select which spells to trust in, and if you have spell after spell get negated with a saving throw…

Sometimes, it’s the fun that gets negated.

So, what if we rewrote those spells? What if we added minor effects that apply, briefly, even against foes that negate the primary effect? It would have to be carefully balanced — spells that target multiple foes or an area are already pretty powerful because *all* targets are unlikely to negate it. Lower-level spells need to not be able to stack so many minor status effects you can overwhelm a high-level foe. That’s all tricky, but doable.

But, let’s be clear — this is a pure power-up of these spells. If you are finding the use of the spells listed below is already skewing things in the favor of the PCs on a regular basis, then these optional rules aren’t for your group. Also, this is designed only for Starfinder. The core math of similar d20-based systems is just too different for anything designed to rebalance the utility of Starfinder save-to-negate spells to apply well in other game systems.

While they’ll need some playtesting, I’ll likely use these rules as “core” in the Really Wild West setting. (With the lower tech level technomancers, at least, may need the help 🙂 )

RWW Technomancer

(art by Дмитрий)

Lingering Penalties: There’s only so much failed magic can do to hamper a creature that has successfully negated a spell. Many of the additional effects added below list “lingering” penalties. If a creature is suffering multiple lingering penalties to the same roll or value, only the highest of those penalties applies. Such penalties overlap–if you are taking a -3 lingering penalty to AC for 1 round and a -1 lingering penalty for 1 minute, you take the higher -3 penalty for the first round, then the remaining -1 penalty for the next 9 rounds.
This is also designed to prevent spellcasters from being able to cast low-level spells against the same foe over and over to stack up minor penalties until they are insurmountable. Much as casting a 1st-level damaging spell against a CR 9 foe may do a little damage and be of some use–but isn’t likely to be the major factor in a combat–casting a low-level save-negates spell against a high CR foe should, at best, have a modest effect on the combat.
The idea is for the player not to feel like their precious, limited resource was totally wasted, or that they might as well have fired their small arm (which might still miss, but ammunition is in much readier supply than spell slot–and that doesn’t feel very spellcaster-y).

Sample Lingering Effects
These are the spells from the Core Rulebook I consider most in need of modifications to increase their fun value without making spellcasters overpowered. If there’s demand for it, I might take a look at Armory and COM spells.

Baleful Polymorph: On a successful save the target suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attack rolls and damage for 1 minute. This increases to a -2 lingering penalty for spell level 4 and up.
Baleful Polymorph, mass: If only a single creature is targeted by the mass baleful polymorph, on a successful save the target suffers a -2 lingering penalty to attack rolls and damage for 1 minute.
Bestow Curse: On a successful save the creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to saving throws for 1d4 rounds as the curse energy continues to try to bring it misfortune.
Charm Person: On a successful save for 1 round/level the target suffers a -2 lingering penalty to attacks and damage against you, and the save DC of any effect it forces you to save against is reduced by 2, as it struggles with feelings for trust and friendship it knows to be false.
On a successful save the creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attacks and damage rolls for 1 round as it fights the foreign urge of the spell. 
Command Undead:
On a successful save the creature suffers a -2 lingering penalty to attack rolls against you for 1 minute as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Confusion: On a successful save a creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attacks and damage rolls for 1 round as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Confusion, lesser: On a successful save a creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attacks and damage rolls for 1 round as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Control Machines: On a successful save targets suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attack rolls against you for the spell’s duration, as they fight the foreign urges of the spell.
Control Undead: On a successful save targets suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attack rolls against you for the spell’s duration, as they fight the foreign urges of the spell.
Deep Slumber: On successful saves, targets take a -2 lingering penalty to Perception rolls and initiative checks for 1d4 rounds.
Detect Thoughts: If the target succeeds at its saving throw against this spell, you gain a +2 bonus to Perception and Sense Motive checks against it for the spell’s duration.
Directed Denial of Strength Attack: On a successful save, the creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to all Strength- and -Dexterity based skill checks, and to its AC against combat maneuvers, for 1d4 rounds.
Discern Lies: If a target succeeds at its saving throw against this spell, you gain a +2 bonus to Perception and Sense Motive checks against it for the spell’s duration.
Discharge: On a successful save the target suffers a -1 lingering penalty to any attacks or damage for 1d4 rounds.
Dismissal: On a successful save the creature suffers a lingering penalty to attacks and damage rolls for 1d4 rounds as it fights the effort to force it off this plane. The penalty is equal to 1 + any bonus to the caster level check of spell you gain with the use of special materials.
Dominate Person: If the target saves against this spell, it is at a -2 lingering penalty to attack rolls and damage against you, and you gain a +2 bonus to Perception and Sense Motive checks against it, for the duration of the spell.
Fatigue: On a successful save, the target is affected for 1 round.
Feeblemind: On a successful save, the target takes a -4 lingering penalty to all Int- and Cha- based skills for 1 minute. If Int- or Cha- are its key ability scores, it’s spell and class feature save DCs take a -1 lingering penalty for the same time period.
Flesh to Stone: On a successful save the target’s move rate is halved as a lingering penalty, and it takes a -1 lingering penalty to AC, for 1d4 rounds.
Hold Person: On a successful saving throw, the target takes a -1 lingering penalty to attack rolls, initiative checks, and Dexterity-based skill checks for 1 round.
Mind Probe: If the target succeeds at its saving throw against this spell, you gain a +3 bonus to Perception and Sense Motive checks against it for the spell’s duration.
Overload Systems: On a successful save, the target is staggered for 1d4 rounds.
Rewire Flesh: On a successful saving throw, the target still takes 1d6 slashing damage per round (Fortitude half, as normal).
Rewire Flesh, mass: On a successful saving throw, a target still takes 1d6 slashing damage per round (Fortitude half, as normal).
: If only a single creature is targeted by the slow, on a successful save it’s move rate is halved as a lingering penalty for 1d4 rounds.
Synaptic Pulse: On a successful save, a target is instead sickened for 1 round.
Suggestion: On a successful save the creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attack rolls and skill checks for 1d4 rounds as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Suggestion, mass: If only a single creature is targeted by the slow, on a successful save the creature suffers a -2 lingering penalty to attack rolls and skill checks for 1 minute as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Unwilling Guardian: On a successful saving throw, the target takes a -2 lingering penalty on attacks against you for 1d4 rounds.

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Hollow Worlds of the Really Wild West

Before we begin, a scheduling note. I am moving from Indiana, back to Oklahoma this week. As a result rather than do four small posts Tue-Fri, you are getting one big one now. And some bonus content. A week’s worth of blog material in one day. As a result it covers a few related topics, rather than being tightly focused. My expectation is that by next week I’ll have at least set up a laptop on a box and have an ice cooler for a chair, and can post as normal again.

Some Design Goals

One of the things I have realized about the Really Wild West is that I want it to feel like some of my favorite weird west, Victoriana, steampunk, and genre-blending stories (many of which are listed in the inspirations page, here). Stories that surprised and delighted me when Dracula and Sherlock Holmes fought, or the Nautilus rams Martian Tripods, or cowboys deal with dinosaurs, sorcerers, and aliens.

Things that… just aren’t that unusual anymore. Between the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Cowboys vs Aliens, and Penny Dreadful, late 1800s fiction and genre blending is not only fairly normal, a lot of things have become nearly passe. Having Doctor Jekyll run a monster-hunting secret society that conflicts with an ancient mummy just doesn’t do it for me anymore. All those elements are too common, explored, and available.

But I do want to do things LIKE that. Not have archaeologists race to find the Holy Grail in Hatay, or seek the treasure of the Knights Templar hidden by the Founding Fathers, but for the Club of Nobody’s Friends (the oldest dining club in England) to have to hide the the three parts of the Scepter of Dagobert (the oldest of the French Crown Jewels, which had been left with the religious pension fund known as Queen Anne’s Bounty) from the Serpentin Vert (“Green Serpent,” in French, a secret society of poison-themed mystics who wish to use it to take control of the Dragons of France), and thus have hidden the sections in old wine cellars in abandoned 1700s New France mansions overtaken by the swamps of Louisiana.

That gives me the blend of stuff I want.

While hopefully avoiding treating colonialism as a good thing, treating any culture or peoples as orcs to be slaughtered, or making caricatures of real-world groups.

So, I want to create NEW legends and myths, drawn from the era and feel of the things I have loved, without just retreading Dracula, the Grail, Frankenstein’s Monster, Martian Tripods, and Billy the Kid. Instead of focusing on werewolves, talk about coyotes who can take on human form for one lunar cycle if they eat a human’s heart, and are vulnerable to any weapon that has never taken a human life. Undead are gulchers and whistlers, rather than just ghouls and zombies.

Not for every encounter. It’s the Wild West, sometimes you just get jumped by outlaws.

But for setting pieces and major plots? Then we build on the new mythology to make the Really Wild West earn the “Really Wild” title. Then the outlaws are Junk Golems spontaneously created from steam train Iron Horse 4771, which blew up when its experimental Fire Elemental Engine was sabotaged to ensure the Arcane and Arkansas Railroad would lose out on a contract to Zeus Skyboats–resulting in the boom sky town of Oklahoma City (established recently in 1889) becoming wealthy–a fact the Junk Golems plan to fix by destroying it.

You know… Really Wild.

And this brings us to “The Hollow Worlds.”

In the world of the Really Wild West, it is accepted there is a Surface World — everything common and seen and (mostly) understood. There is the Esoteric World, or perhaps multiple Esoteric worlds, wherein the spirits move, ether flows, Astral Projection is possible, and Theosophy is mapping out the powers of spiritualism.

But with the discovery of Agartha, the concept of Hollow Worlds has become commonplace. These are definite, concrete places you can walk to under the right circumstances… that may or may not be part of the Surface World. Agartha is actually part of a Hollow Earth. But there are also places that seem to exist in some kind of “Hollow Space.” Buyan is only accessible by the Surface World some of the time. Frozen Lomar is from the dim and ancient past… but somehow seems to be a place people still encounter from time to time. The fact dinosaurs exist in Agartha, and the Americas, and nowhere else convince most scholars that there are Hollow Mountains that lead from those continents to Agartha, and that perhaps vast caverns also exist in which lost civilizations and alien societies may dwell.

Atlantis rose, and fell, and is gone. All the lands of the Surface World are inhabited by *someone*, save Antarctica (as far as anyone knows). It is to the various Hollow Worlds the great explorers and conquerors now loom to find a fresh frontier.

And Mars, of course. If anyone can figure out out to get there.

These are some of the most commonly accepted Hollow Worlds.

RWW Agartha

(art by Oscar)


Agartha is the Hollow Earth, and entire world within the center of the world. Long rumored to exist, it was considered by most to be little more real than Mu or Lemuria… until Professor Lidenbrock made an expedition to there and back through a volcano in Iceland, and returned with proof of his discoveries. The professor is largely retired now, but his daughter Gräuben Lidenbrock runs “Lindenbrock Excursions,” and has established three major routes to the Hollow Earth, all through Northern Europe. She is expending considerable resources to attempt to be the first to find the theorized link from the Americas to Agartha.

Agartha is filled with Asuras, Dinosaurs, Giants, Megafauna, Impossible Golden Palaces which can be seen in the distance, but never reached), and a few small enclaves of sapient species known on the surface world (descended from, at least, vikings and Chinese soldiers who found their way there in antiquity). It’s interior is also filled with particulate gravity-blocking cavorite, which can be sifted from the air at great expense to form lighter-than-air metal.

Buyan is an island or continent (reports are unclear) inhabited by angels, demons, fey, or the spirits of the departed (unclear), that can appear in any lake or ocean. It is the source of weather (which is guarded by two dragons known as the Talon and the Serpent–Gagana and Garafena), home of the legendary city of Ledenets (from where the warrior-priestesses the Zoryas endlessly forge the chain that keeps the Doomsday Hound  Simargl bound to the star Polaris so it cannot devout all the stars and destroy the world), and the place one must go to begin a quest for the Alatyr, the “burning white stone” which may or may not be the rock Jesus stood on when he preached to his Disciples.
Most information about Buyan comes from the Dove Book (Golubinaya Kniga), a book of mixed pagan and Christian lore banned by the Russian Orthodox Church. There are 20 core versions of the book, ranging from 20 to 300 pages long, and hundreds of local variants of those core 20 versions.
However, the advent of Theosophical methods of divination have determined Buyan, or something like it, is real, and it’s location and route to and from it are mutable. Many theosophicers believe Buran is Etheric, existing in an Ether through which spiritual energy and thought travel.

Frozen Lomar
The land referred to as Frozen Lomar is a pre-humanoid civilization that may date back to the Pliocene Epoch, and nearly all sign of it was lost due to later glaciers. Frozen Lomar is noted as being located “within the ice cap,” but there is no hint if that is to the north or south. It is know the Lomarah, the denizens of Frozen Lomar, accessed and studied the original Pnakotic Manuscripts, scrolls which described elder gods and horrific eldritch truths. The Lomarah added to the Manuscripts, perhaps creating several different versions. However no copy of the Pnakotic Manuscripts remain. They, and frozen Lomar, and known only because of quotes from an also-lost Greek translation (the Pnakotica) are referenced in a few other works of antiquity. While there are rumors of a Pnakotic Brotherhood that seeks and is ruled by the Manuscripts, sometimes linked to the Faustus Society, there is no verified proof they exist.
Frozen Lomar is believed to have created various outposts, also in the Pliocene, which are also lost to time. A few such have been reported by explorers to Agartha, vast caverns in Argentina and Missouri, and one mist-shrouded island in the Pacific. These all describe huge cyclopean structures, black runes that can only be read by indirect moonlight, strange aberrations, hex-shaped stone constructions, lore crystals, blind cultists, and hairless ratlike semihumanoid cannibals.  However, such encounters invariable end with the Lomarah Outpost sinking or being destroyed by lava, so reports are always second-hand.
A few expeditions claim to have stumbled from such outposts into a still-vibrant Frozen Lomar itself… though thsoe who claim so often seem too crazed to be taken as reliable.

Many esoteric book on magic and the supernatural written in the ancient period reference a city of great wisdom called Hsan. These reference suggest the city is so ubiquitously well-known that no description of its location or nature is necessary. By the Fall of Rome, no one seems to know anything about it. It is suggested to lie East of Persia and West of Qi.
The symbol of Hsan is noted to be a winged and horned lion with two tails of differing lengths. This symbol has been spotted by telescope on at least one Impossible Golden Palace in Agartha, leading some to think Hsan is in a Hollow World adjacent to Agartha, but somehow separate from it.

During the reign of Roman Emperor Philip, who ruled from AD 244 to 249, armoes and emissaries from the “Northern Roman Empire, Silbannacia” arrived in Rome and offered an alliance. They had coin, apparently magic weapons and armor, and claimed to serve “IMP MAR SILBANNACVS AVG,” under the grace of the God Mercury.
They also carried banners of the lost Roman Ninth Legion, which had dissappeared centuries earlier.
Then Emperor Philip was deposed, and the emissaries vanished.
Silbannacia shows up a few more times through history. Apparently late-Roman soldiers, in chain but with strange weapons that “fire plumbes of vapour green,” and swords and spears that produce the same green gas, they arrive in strange corners of the world. Sometimes they are peaceful allies to small groups of the lost. Other times they sack, kill, raid, and make off with some object or person. There are numerous accounts of them in the records of natives in North and South America, dating back thousands of years.
And recently, a few sightings have been reported near wildernesses in the Far West.

Very little is known of Ungol. It is mentioned almost exclusive in its absence–the banned text Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten notes the “Dust of the Letterless City is Death,” and then lists five sections of the German alphabet. Each section is in common order, but the sections themselves are shuffled and one letter is missing from each section. If you note down each missing letter in order, you get u, n, g, o, and l. Some archived copies of the Maladicta, an unholy book used by hags, dare to mention “Ungl/Ngol.” The Code of Hammurabi proscribes the same punishment for “naming or marking the Name of the Forbidden City that is not Gol” as it does casting a spell upon a man unjustly (trial by holy river).
Some undead cry out “Ungol! Ungol!” just prior to destruction.

Okay, that’s a rundown of some Hollow Worlds.

Let’s move on a bit to something we touched on in the article on fenrin… the the Paderborn Edicts, which evolved from the First Council of Paderborn.

The Paderborn Edicts
In the hsitory of the world of the Really Wild West, the Paderborn Edicts were an important set of laws established by the Council of Padernborn in 785 under Charlemagne, and were designed to codify interactions between different “Uberklug,” a term used to indicate all creatures capable of emotion, thought, speech, and self-awareness (often translated as “sapient”). In addition to dwarves, elves, humans, kasatha and ysoki (all common in the Holy Roman Empire), it included noted representatives and scholars of centaur, gnomish, nuar, and shirren groups. Leaders of 4 major religions were present, as were representatives of 12 more. At least one dragon, one inevitable, and one sphinx were present as advisors.
The Paderborn Edicts established that communication with or gaining power from “achaierai, azatas, daemons, demodands, demons, devils, efreeti, lengites, sahkil, slaad, tindalosi, yeth, and the spirits of the dead” is always wrong and can (and should) be banned, while other forms of divination and magics are not inherently evil. Further it makes a distinction between magi and wonder-workers, and “hexen,” or those who spread, use, or wish to command evil powers.
While the original Edicts were far from complete, new councils were held every 101 years to update them. Rules on being a Hex Hunter were established (for hunting down only evil and murderous spellcasters, as opposed to the much more mercenary and often wicked “witch hunters” who often scourged areas), various religions “vetted” as no better or worse than any other, more creatures added to those not to be trusted (from qlippoth in 886 to, most recently, manasaputra and oni in 1795), and so on.
Most European nations have built their laws on magic on the Paderborn Edicts. While for centuries magic has been seen as uncontrollable and unpredictable by sapients (“Magic and monsters are real — as are lighting and typhoons — but there’s no point in mortals studying or trying to control it”), where laws were seen as needful (while a man was unlikely to be able to cast a spell, a deal could be cut with a faerie, after all) they were built off the Edicts.
While many of the laws and rules were seen as metaphors in Europe and the Americas (“of course giants and dragons exist, and I suppose angels must, but none of that is common or normal, and wizards are mostly fakers or fey playing tricks”) in the past century much more of it has been taken to be literal. With the rise of Theosophy defining some natural laws behind magic (and laying out ways it can be taught like any other skill), it is expected the 1896 council will potentially rewrite the Edicts from scratch.

See You Next Week!
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Good Doggo PCs in Really Wild West (for Starfinder)

I am sometimes asked what makes the Really Wild West justify it’s claim to being “Really Wild.” My original through was just that it was a step up from merely “Wild” West. That the addition of Martian invaders, advanced science, magic, devil-run cities, psychic powers, dozens of species, alternate history, energy weapons, and legendary weapons made the setting wild enough, compared to just a Western, to justify the title.

But, maybe I was wrong. More than once, fans have indicated that as long as a certain theme and aesthetic is maintained, they want things in Really Wild West that just don’t show up in most settings.

Lots of folks have also noted that what they want is more Starfinder stuff that works in core Starfinder. That it’s fine if it’s flavored for Really Wild West,  or GammaFinder, as long as it can be used in typical science-fantasy games as well.

So, let’s look at the fenrin, a species with aesthetics and backgrounds designed specifically for Really Wild West, but definitely work in any Starfinder setting.


Fenrin are talking, telekinetic dogs.

Where humans or ysoki are found, fenrin are also there. In most ancient cultures, it was simply accepted that there were dogs, and there were talking dogs, and little thought was given as to why this was. During the First Paderborn Council held in the Holy Roman Empire n 785 AD, the question of whether all dogs were “uberklug” (or “sapients,” a distinction as to what counted as “people”), or just some, determined there was a different between “Fenrin” and other canines. This resulted in considerable scholarship of the question of fenrin, and how they did (or didn’t) relate to common dogs, dire wolves, winter wolves, and hellhounds. As a result, most accepted terminology about fenrin has come to be derived from Germanic roots.

Fenrin are an accepted and understood part of the Really Wild West world. Fenrin have been soldiers, priests, scholars, teachers, merchants, farmers, politicians, and every other role sapient creatures fill. Most have a very strong sense of community, which may focus on their own family, or may include a tight-knit social group that includes friends, colleagues, and often even neighbors the fenrin personally dislike but accept as part of their community unit.

Vital Statistics
Average Height
Graberin: 9-18 inches, 5-20 lbs.
Jager: 19-29 inches, 21-99 lbs.
Arbiter: 30-60 inches, 100-180 lbs
Age of Maturity: 2 years Maximum Age: 50 +1d100 years

RWW Good Doggo

Names: Fenrin have three classic forms of naming. Many take names common from their culture, no different from human or ysoki names. Because of the strong influence of the Paderborn Council, many take Germanic names, or add a Germanic name as a middle name.  Finally, some take names common among domestic canines, while others only do so as nicknames, and others find such names insulting. Fenrin are not a single culture, and both groups and individuals have differing opinions on this point.

Hit Points: 2 (graberin), 4 (jager), or 6 (arbeiter)
Breeds: Like the dogs they so closely resemble, fenrin come in hundreds of different breeds that are all part of the same species. In general fenrin break into three broad categories with some similar traits: graberin (Tiny, fierce, swift), jagers (Small, sturdy, steadfast), and arbeiters (Medium, strong, patient).
Ability Adjustments: Fenrin gain a +2 racial bonus to Charisma, and a -2 penalty to Wisdom. Graberin have a +2 bonus to Dexterity. jagers have a +2 bonus to Constitution. Arbeiters have a +2 bonus to Strength.
Size and Type: Fenrin are monstrous humanoids. Graberin are Tiny, jagers are Small, and arbeiters are Medium.
Doglike (Ex): A fenrin gains a +10 bonus to Disguise checks to appear to be a specific breed of dog of the same size category, and takes no penalties for being of a different creature type.
Additionally, a fenrin can make a special Charisma check (1d20 + level + Charisma) to use Diplomacy on any canine, though not all fenrin can actually speak with other canines.
Fenrin Trait: Different breeds of fenrin often have radically different physiological features that go beyond size, from double coats to particularly strong claws or teeth to spectacularly loud barks. You gain one fenrin trait, from those listed below. You can take a second fenrin trait as your 1st level character feat.
*Best Friend: Sometimes a fenrin IS your best friend. Whenever an ally takes an action that requires one or more Resolve Points, and does not have enough to pay the RP cost,, if you are within 60 feet you may donate your RP to cover the difference.
*Bite: You are always considered armed. You can deal 1d3 lethal piercing damage with unarmed strikes and the attack doesn’t count as archaic. You gain a unique weapon specialization with your natural weapons at 3rd level, allowing you to add 1.5 × your character level to your damage rolls for your natural weapons (instead of just adding your character level, as usual).
*Fierce: Your bark is actually pretty dang impressive. You can make an Intimidate check to demoralize a foe without sharing a language. You can also make Cover Fire and Harrying Fire attacks unarmed, by barking.
*Speak With Canines: You can speak to any canine in a language they instinctively understand, and you can understand communication from any canine of the animal type.
*Sprinter: You can take an additional move your speed action before or after any other action on your turn. Once you have done this, you cannot do so again until after you have expended 1 Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.
Keen Senses: Fenrin have a +2 racial bonus to Perception checks. Each fenrin also gains two of the following senses, selected at character creation:
*Low-light vision
*Darkvision (30 feet)
*Blindsense (scent) 30 feet and tracking (scent)
*Blindsense (vibration)(30 feet)
*Blindsight (scent) 5 feet
*Sense Through (scent)
Psychic Hands (Su): Fenrin do not have hands the way humans do. They can shove things about with their paws, or grasp items with their mouths, but treat their Strength as 2 lower when they do so. However, their innate telekinetic powers allow them to use and carry and manipulate objects as easily as a Medium creature with 2 limbs. They can use Medium equipment, and “hang” objects off their telekinetic field the same way a Medium creature would hang them on their body. They must have line of effect to any object they manipulate this way, and are limited to what could be reached by a Medium creature in their location. As a result of their psychic hands and the telekinetic field that goes with them, they can choose to have a space and reach of 5 feet (as a Medium creature), or to have the space and reach of a creature their actual size if not Medium (it’s a swift or move action to change between the two states). Functionally, they can do exactly what a Medium, 2-armed creature of the same Strength score can do (even if the fenrin is Small or Tiny).

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