Monthly Archives: August 2020

OGL Warlock for Pathfinder 1st edition (Part 4: Draconic Patrons)

Given how popular the Fiendish patron was for thePathfinder 1e Warlock class I worked on last week and wrote the spell access rules for, I thought we’d tackle another Patron before moving on to the Pact Boons and Invocations.

Draconic Patron
You have become tied to draconic power, and bound forever to one or more dragons or groups of dragons. This link may be a classic pact made with a dragon god or elder dragon, perhaps even similar to your being the familiar of a true dragon wizard. But it also might be a more primal tie, such as being born of a sorcerer with a draconic bloodline when the Constellation of Draconis was ascendant, or being marked by a ritual as an infant with the blood of a dragonne.
Regardless of where your bond comes from, it is as much a part of you as your mind, soul, and blood. There is draconic might coursing through your veins, demanding you meet its needs, even if you don’t have a pact with one specific dragon or council of wyrms.

Dragon Warlock
(Art by ratpack 223)

Patron Spells
The following spells are considered part of your warlock spell list, allowing you to select them as spells known and use spell completion items linked to them.

1st—snapdragon fireworks, 2nd—burning arc, 3rd—draconic reservoir, 4th—detect scrying, 5th—spell resistance.

Eldritch Blast (Su)
You gain the power to breath an energy attack that does. You can use this as an attack action, and do not need a hand free to do so. Beginning at 8th level, you can take a full attack action to make multiple eldritch blasts just as you would with a standard weapon. You are proficient with your eldritch blast, and can select it for feats and class features that apply to weapons (such as Weapon Focus).

Your eldritch blast can benefit from effects that augment natural attacks, such as an amulet of might fists or the magic fang spell. However, any augmentation to damage applies to only one target of your choice in the area.

Your draconic eldritch blast is a 15-foot cone that deals 1d4 damage of the the same energy type you gain resistance to from your draconic affinity feature. You make a ranged attack roll against each creature in the area (rolling once, and comparing the result to the AC of each creature). You add your Charisma bonus, rather than your Dexterity bonus, to your attack rolls, and also add half you your Charisma bonus to the damage of your eldritch blast.

Your eldritch blast has a critical threat range of 20. You make one attack roll to see if you confirm the critical hit, comparing the result to the AC of all targets. On a critical hit you do double damage, and may make a free Intimidate check to demoralize each creature damaged.

Draconic Affinity
Select one type of true dragon. Once this choice is made, it cannot be changes. You gain resistance to one energy type (selected from acid, cold, electricity, fire, sonic) that dragon deals as breath weapon damage. You may choose the type, and once made this choice cannot be changed. If the selected dragon does not do one of the possible energy types you automatically gain fire resistance. This is your affiliated energy type

Your resistance is equal to 5 + your warlock level. At 15th level, you gain immunity to the selected damage type.

Additionally, whenever you do energy damage that is not of your affiliated damage type (or grant other creatures the ability to do energy damage, or grant them resistance to an energy type) you may choose to make it your affiliated damage type instead.

Patron Gift: A warlock with the fiendish patron can choose from any of the following patron gifts.

Breath Weapon (Su): The primal power of dragonkind seethes within you. You gain a breath weapon. This breath weapon deals 1d6 points of damage of your affiliated energy type per warlock levels you have (Reflex half ). The shape of the breath weapon is either a 30-foot cone or a 60- foot line, selected when choosing this revelation. You can use this ability once per day at 1st level, plus one additional time at 5th level and one additional time per day for every 5 levels beyond 5th.

Draconic Presence (Ex): Whenever you successfully do damage of your affiliated damage type, as a swift or immediate action you can make an Intimidate check to demoralize one creature that can see you and the damaged target.

Draconic Resilience (Ex): When you suffer a fear effect other than being shaken, you are instead shaken for the same duration. You are immune to magic sleep and paralysis.

Draconic Resistances (Ex): Like the great dragons, you are not easily harmed by common means of attack. You gain resistance 5 against one chosen energy type and a +1 natural armor bonus. At 9th level, your energy resistance increases to 10 and your natural armor bonus increases to +2. At 15th level, your energy resistance increases to 20 and your natural armor bonus increases to +4.

Dragon Magic (Sp): Your draconic power grants you a limited form of access to arcane magic. Select one spell from the sorcerer/wizard spell list that is 2 levels lower than the highest-level spell you can cast, or two spells that are both at least 3 levels lower. You can cast each of the selected spells twice per day as a spell-like ability.
You must be at least 10th level to select this patron gift.

Dragon Senses (Ex): Your senses take on a keen draconic edge. You gain darkvision with a range of 60 feet, or low-light vision, or scent. At 9th level, you can select one of those options you do not already have or gain gain blindsense with a range of 30 feet. At 15th level, you one of the previous option you do not already have, or add 60 feet to your darkvision, or 30 feet to your blindsense, or gain a +4 bonus on Perception checks.

Form of the Dragon (Su): Your kinship with dragonkind allows you to take on the form of a dragon. As a standard action, you can assume the form of a Medium dragon, as per form of the dragon I. At 15th level, you can assume the form of a Large dragon, as per form of the dragon II. At 19th level, you can assume the form of a Huge dragon, as per form of the dragon III.
You can use this ability once per day, but the duration is 10 minutes per warlock level. If you are at least 15th level and choose to have this ability function as per form of the dragon I, the duration is instead 1 hour per warlock level.
Rather than form of the dragon spells, you can choose for this revelation to act as form of the alien dragon I, II, and III or form of the exotic dragon I, II, and III if your draconic affinity is for such a dragon. This choice must be made when you first gain this revelation, and cannot be changed.
You must be at least 10th level to select this revelation.

Kith of the Shell (Ex): Even as you are bound to dragonkind, there is a drake bound to you. You gain a drake companion, and it has one bonus drake power.

Mystic Arcanum (Sp): You gain a spell you can cast once per day as a spell-like ability. You may select one spell from the following list. You may select this patron gift more than once. Each time, you select a different spell. You must meet the listed minimum level to select the listed spells.
Warlock Level 12th– ancestral memory, command, greater, siphon magic, true seeing, or any 5th level spell from your warlock spell list.
Warlock level 14th– age resistance, chain lightning, transformation 
Warlock level 16th– arcane sight, greater, firebrand, spell turning
Warlock level 18th– spell absorption, greater

Presence of Dragons (Su): Those who would oppose you must overcome their fear of dragons or be struck with terror at your draconic majesty. As a swift action, you can manifest an aura of draconic might around yourself. Enemies within 30 feet who can see you when you activate this ability must attempt a Will save (DC 10+1/2 warlock level + Cha bonus). Success means that the creature is immune to this ability for the following 24 hours. On a failed save, the opponent is shaken for 2d6 rounds. If the creature is already shaken its level of fear is not increased, but the duration of its shaken condition is extended by 2d6 rounds. This is a mind-affecting fear effect. You can use this ability once per day, plus one additional time per day at 10th level and for every 5 levels beyond 10th.

Scaled Toughness (Su): You can manifest the scaly toughness of dragonkind. Once per day as a swift action, you can harden your skin, giving it a scaly appearance and granting you DR 10/magic. During this time, you are also immune to paralysis and sleep effects. This effect lasts for a number of rounds equal to your warlock level. At 13th level, you can use this ability twice per day. You must be at least 8th level to select this revelation.

Tail Swipe (Ex): You express your wrath through sweeps of a wicked tail. You can grow a scaly tail. This tail can be used only to make attacks of opportunity, but it allows you to make one additional attack of opportunity each round. This tail attack deals an amount of bludgeoning damage equal to 1d8 (1d6 if you are Small) + your Charisma modifier. At 10th level, you can attempt a free trip combat maneuver check against any creature damaged by your tail attack. This does not provoke an attack of opportunity.

Talons of the Dragon (Su): You fight with the fearsome talons of dragonkind. You can grow claws as a free action. These claws are treated as natural weapons, allowing you to perform two claw attacks as a full attack action using your full base attack bonus. Each of these attacks deals an amount of slashing damage equal to 1d4 (1d3 if you are Small) + your Charisma modifier. These claws are considered magic weapons for the purpose of overcoming DR. At 8th level, the damage die increases by 1 step, to deal an amount of slashing damage equal to 1d6 (1d4 if you are Small). At 11th level, these claws deal an additional 1d6 points of damage of your affiliated energy type on a successful hit. You can use your claws for a number of rounds per day equal to 3 + your Charisma modifier. These rounds do not need to be consecutive.

Wings of the Dragon (Su): Like the great dragons, you can take to the skies and terrorize opponents from above. As a swift action, you can manifest leathery dragon wings that grant you a fly speed of 60 feet (clumsy maneuverability). At 10th level, your maneuverability increases to poor. You can use these wings for 1 minute per day for each warlock level you have. This duration does not need to be consecutive, but it must be spent in 1-minute increments. At 12h level you can use these wings for 10 minutes per day for each warlock level you have. At 15th level, you can use the wings indefinitely. You must be at least 8th level to select this gift.

Eldritch Master
At 20th level, you gain the ability to cast spells as a sorcerer of 9th level (gaining spells known and spells per day as a 9th level sorcerer, with a caster level of 9 for these spells).

Additionally, you can select any one patron gift from any patron that does not list a level requirement, or any patron gift from your own patron.

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OGL Warlock for Pathfinder 1st edition (Part 3: Patrons)

So Monday we took a first look at adapting the 5e Warlock class for Pathfinder 1st edition. (tackling proficiencies and the class table), and yesterday we outlined how we are going to handle spell access and spell slots.

It’s time to tackle a Patron.

Your patron is one of the crucial elements of the warlock. It represents the otherwordly force with which you have made a pact, and from which you gain your powers. The concept is extremely similar to witch patrons, but warlocks interact with their patrons using different rites and rituals, and have access to their own list of possible patrons.

At 1st level each patron gives you an eldritch blast, a granted power, an expanded list of spells you may select as warlock spells known at the appropriate level, and a series of patron gifts you can choose from.

While we’d likely to patrons for most of the same ones witches have access to in a full version of the class, for now let’s create the classic fiendish patron option.

Fiendish Patron
You have made a pact with a fiend from the lower planes of existence, a being whose aims are evil, even if you strive against those aims. Such beings desire the corruption or destruction of all things, ultimately including you. Fiends powerful enough to forge a pact include demon lords, archdevils, pit fiends and balors that are especially mighty, and ultroloths and other lords of the yugoloths.

Tiefling Warlock

(Art by Brian Brinlee)

Patron Spells
The following spells are considered part of your warlock spell list, allowing you to select them as spells known and use spell completion items linked to them.

1st—protection from good, 2nd—align weapon (evil only), 3rd—magic circle against good, 4th—unholy blight, 5th—dispel good.

Eldritch Blast (Su)
You gain the power to channel a form of fiendish fire as an attack against your foes. You can use this as an attack action, and must have a hand free, or holding a weapon with which you are proficient, to use this power. Beginning at 8th level, you can take a full attack action to make multiple eldritch blasts just as you would with a standard weapon. You are proficient with your eldritch blast, and can select with for feats and class features that apply to weapons (such as Weapon Focus).

Your eldritch blast can benefit from effects that augment natural attacks, such as an amulet of might fists or the magic fang spell.

Your fiendish eldritch blast is a ranged attack with a range increment of 30 feet, that deals 1d8 fire damage. You add your Charisma bonus, rather than your Dexterity bonus, to your attack rolls, and also add your Charisma bonus to the damage of your eldritch blast.

Your eldritch blast has a critical threat range of 19-20. On a critical hit you do double damage, and your target takes a -2 penalty to saving throws for 1d4 rounds.

Dark One’s Blessing
Starting at 1st level, when you reduce a hostile creature to 0 or fewer hit points, you gain temporary hit points equal to your Charisma modifier + your warlock level (minimum of 1). These hit points last until expended or you next regain your spell slots, but do not stack.

Patron Gift: This is be a flexible class feature similar to oracle revelations. In fact, I borroewed heavily from an oraclae mystery for the following  into patrons, just so I don’t have to create a whole slew of new class features.

A warlock with the fiendish patron can choose from any of the following patron gifts.

Balefire (Su): You call upon the searing fires of the lower planes to burn your foes. As a standard action, one target within 30 feet is wreathed in screaming flames and takes 1d6 points of fire damage per level. A successful Reflex save halves this damage. At 10th level, the fire’s howls cause any creatures damaged by it to be staggered for 1 round. At 15th level, creatures who fail their saves against the balefire are staggered for 1d4 rounds and stunned for 1 round. You can use this ability once per day plus one additional time per day at 10th level.

Dark One’s Own Luck (Su): You can call on your patron to alter fate in your favor. When you make an ability check, skill check, or saving throw, you can use this feature to add a d6 to your roll. You can do so after seeing the initial roll but before any of the roll’s effects occur. This increases to 1d8 at 8th level, and 1d10 at 16th level. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you regain your spell slots.

Demonhide (Su): You alter your flesh to be as tough as a demon’s hide, granting you a +4 armor bonus. At 7th level, and every four levels thereafter, this bonus increases by +2. At 13th level, this armor also grants you DR 5/cold iron. You can use this revelation for 1 hour per day per warlock level. The duration does not need to be consecutive, but it must be spent in 1-hour increments.

Dread Resilience (Ex): You have been hardened by exposure to the otherworldly energies of the lower planes, and you just keep getting tougher. You gain a +1 inherent bonus to Constitution upon taking this revelation and another for every four warlock levels gained thereafter. You must be at least 10th level to select this revelation.

Fiendish Magic (Su): Your spells gain a +4 bonus on caster level checks made to overcome the spell resistance of chaotic, good, or lawful outsiders.

Fiendish Resilience (Su): Each time you regain your spell slots, you can choose one damage type. You gain protection against that damage type until you choose a different one with this feature. If you select bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing you gain DR/gld iron equal to 1/4 your warlock level. If you select acid, cold, electricity, fire, or sonic, you gain energy resistance equal to your warlock level.

Fiendish Weapon (Su): Your understanding of the powers that move through the lower planes allows you to imbue weapons with the ability to penetrate the defenses of creatures native to other planes. Once per day as a standard action, you can touch one weapon (or a group of up to 20 similar pieces of ammunition) and give it the ability to penetrate DR/cold iron for 1 minute per caster level. At 9th level, you can also grant the additional ability to bypass DR/chaotic, DR/evil, or and DR/law. You can use this ability an additional time per day for every 5 warlock levels you possess.

Hurl Through Hell (Sp): Once per day when you hit a creature with your eldritch blast, you can use this feature to instantly transport the target through a temporary demiplane you create that emulates the lower planes. This is treated as plane shift with a spell level equal to 1/2 your class level, though the effect is as follows — the creature disappears and hurtles through a nightmare landscape. At the end of your next turn, the target returns to the space it previously occupied, or the nearest unoccupied space. If the target is not a fiend, it takes 10d10 damage as it reels from its horrific experience.

Mystic Arcanum (Sp): You gain a spell you can cast once per day as a spell-like ability. You may select one spell from the following list. You may select this patron gift more than once. each time, you select a different spell. You must meet the listed minimum level to select the listed spells.
Warlock Level 12th– caustic blood, commune, flame strike, unholy ice, or any 5th level spell from your warlock spell list.
Warlock level 14th– curse of the outcast, dust form, invoke deity (chaos, evil, fire, law only)
Warlock level 16th– blasphemy, dictum, word of chaos
Warlock level 18th– divine vessel (anarchic, axiomatic, or fiendish only)

Planar Haze (Su): You can fill an area with the smoky miasma of the lower planes. Once per day when you cast a spell that has an area, as a swift action you may also fill that area with a thick haze that acts as obscuring mist, except it originates at the center of your spell effect and cannot expand beyond the spell’s area. At 10th level, the haze functions as fog cloud. You may use this ability one additional time per day at 7th level, and one additional time per day at 14th level.

Planar Infusion (Su): As a standard action once per day, you can cause a 20-foot-spread to gain the mildly chaotic-aligned, mildly evil-aligned, or mildly-lawfully aligned planar trait for a number of rounds equal to your warlock level. Lawful creatures in a chaotic-aligned area take a –2 circumstance penalty on all Charisma-based checks, as do good creatures in an evil-aligned area and chaotic creatures in a lawful-aligned area. At 11th level, the infusion makes the area strongly aligned, which causes the –2 circumstance penalty to apply on all Intelligence-, Wisdom-, and Charisma-based checks made by any creature that lacks the matching alignment component (these penalties stack with those from the lower-level effect).

Telepathy (Su): You can mentally communicate with any other creature within 100 feet that has a language, as per the telepathy power of demons. You must be at least 10th level before selecting this gift.

Unearthly Terrain (Su): You can twist the material world into the harsh, jagged edges and uneven angles of the outer planes. As a standard action, you can turn one 20-foot square into difficult terrain for 1 round per level. Once you use this ability, you cannot do so again until you next regain your spell slots.

Wings of Terror (Su): You can manifest a pair of enormous, batlike demon wings that grant you a fly speed of 60 feet with average maneuverability and a +4 bonus on Intimidate checks. At 10th level, your speed increases to 90 feet, your maneuverability increases to good, and the bonus increases to +8 on Intimidate checks. You can use these wings for 1 minute per day per warlock level. This duration does not need to be consecutive, but it must be spent in 1-minute increments.

Eldritch Master
At 20th level, you gain the ability to open rifts between planes. This allows you to use gate as a spell-like ability once per day. If you use this ability to call creatures, you still need to provide 10,000 gp in offerings to secure the creature’s aid.

Additionally, you can select any one patron gift from any patron that does not list a level requirement, or any patron gift from your own patron.

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OGL Warlock for Pathfinder 1st edition (Part 2)

So yesterday we took a first look at adapting the 5e Warlock class for Pathfinder 1st edition. We tackled proficiencies and the class table. Now we need to outline how we are going to define the abilities we’re giving the class. We may adjust exactly how these things work as they come together in development, but it’s good to have a road map for where we think we’re headed.

Let’s look at spells first.

Warlock 2

(art by info@nextmars.com)

The Warlock Spell List

Obviously if the warlock is going to cast spells, it needs to have a spell list to draw from. One option would be to just give the class access to the sorcerer/wizard spell list, which has both blasty/combat spells and good utility magic, but that both lacks the kind of flavor warlocks traditionally have, and it less interesting. A second possibility would be to craft a custom spell list unique to the warlock. There are two main problems with this — first, there are thousands of spells in Pathfinder 1st ed already, so this would take a long time and require a lot of space. Secondly, anyone allowing the warlock in their game is likely to allow other third-party content as well, and there’s no practical way to get every spell from every publisher, especially since some publishers are still creating new content.

Instead, we’re going to give the warlock access to two other classes spell lists. the warlock gets a very limited number of spells known so this isn’t going to result in one character being able to do everything, but it does give a vast range of possibilities for a player to build a character concept around.

So, to ensure the class has both some good combat options and some neat, weirder stuff, we’re going to give our warlock access to both the magus and psychic spell lists, though only up to 5th level since that’s how the warlock spell access works.

Speaking of spell access…

Spells Known/Max Spell Level: This is your total spells known. When you gain a level and get more spells known, you can select them off the warlock spell list to a maximum of your max spell level. Thus at 5th level you would know five 1st-level spells, and one 2nd-level spell you just gained.

Spell Slots: Whenever you cast a 1st-level or higher spells, no matter what spell level it is, you expend one of your spell slots. However, you can regain ALL your spell slots by meditating for ten minutes. Thus you have fewer spells and lower-level spells than most spellcasters, but can generally use them all in every encounter.

This helps give our warlock a very different feel from any other spellcaster. They can’t pull off the huge-but-not-often magics of clerics and wizards, but absolutely can depend on having some resources available in most encounters.

Cantrips: The warlock will get a fair number of cantrips, which really are pretty minor in Pathfinder 1e. It may end up needing an entry on the class table, or we might just say you start with 4 cantrips,and gone one at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter.

So what direction are we taking patrons, gifts, and invocations? Does the warlock get access to hexes? (Hint yes, some).

Tune in tomorrow to find out!

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An OGL Warlock for Pathfinder 1e?

So, 4e had a really interesting class, the warlock. I played a few, and enjoyed them. I kinda wanted to make a pathfinder st ed version, but since nothing in 4e was covered by the Open Game License, I couldn’t.

Now 5e also has a warlock, and it IS covered by the OGL. That means I could legally take the OGL ideas fo the 5e warlock, and adapt them for any other OGL game. I might well do this for Pathfinder 2e or Starfinder at some point, but I am going to start by looking at a Pf1 version.

Let’s look at what the class table and proficiencies and such might look like.

Warlockess

(Art by Ratpack223)

Alignment: Though they are often seen as dire and untrustworthy, a warlock may be of any alignment.

Hit Die: d8

Starting Wealth: 4d6 × 10 gp (average 140 gp.) In addition, each character begins play with an outfit worth 10 gp or less.

Class Skills

The warlock’s class skills are Bluff (Cha), Diplomacy (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (arcana) (Int), Knowledge (history) (Int), Knowledge (nobility) (Int), Knowledge (planes) (Int), Knowledge (religion) (Int), Linguistics (Int), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Spellcraft (Int), and Use Magic Device (Cha)

Skill Ranks Per Level: 6 + Int modifier.

Table: The Warlock
                                             Base Atk                                   Spells       Spell     Max Spell    
Level  Class Features       Bonus  Fort    Ref  Will      Known     Slots     Level
1st       Cantrips, Patron      +0         +2       +0       +2         2                  1           1st
2nd     Invocation                +1         +3        +0      +3         3                  2          1st
3rd     Invocation                 +2         +3        +1      +3         4                  2           1st
4th     Pact Boon                   +3         +4        +1      +4         5                  2          1st
5th     Invocation                  +3        +4        +1      +4          6                 2          2nd
6th     Patron gift                  +4        +5        +2       +5         7                 2          2nd
7th     Invocation                  +5        +5        +2       +5         8                 2          2nd
8th     Patron gift                  +6        +6        +2       +6         9                  2         2nd
9th     Invocation                  +6        +6        +3       +6         10               2          3rd
10th   Patron gift                  +7        +7        +3       +7         10                2          3rd
11th   Invocation                  +8        +7        +3       +7         11               3          3rd
12th   Patron Gift                 +9        +8         +4       +8         11               3          3rd
13th   Invocation                  +9        +8        +4       +8          12              3          4th
14th   Patron Gift                  +10      +9        +4       +9         12               3          4th
15th   Invocation                  +11      +9         +5       +9         13               3          4th
16th   Patron Gift                  +12      +10      +5       +10       13               3          4th
17th   Invocation                  +12      +10      +5       +10        14               4          5th
18th   Patron Gift                  +13      +11      +6       +11       14               4          5th
19th   Invocation                   +14      +11      +6      +11        15               4          5th
20th   Eldritch Master          +15      +12      +6      +12        15               4          5th

Weapon and Armor Proficiency
A warlock is proficient with all simple weapons and light armor. She can cast warlock spells while wearing light armor without incurring the normal arcane spell failure chance. Like any other arcane spellcaster, a warlock wearing medium armor, heavy armor, or a shield incurs a chance of arcane spell failure if the spell in question has a somatic component. A multiclass warlock still incurs the normal arcane spell failure chance for arcane spells received from other classes.

So, what do all those class features mean? And why is spell slots a single entry, rather than a whole table like most spellcasters?

Tune in tomorrow to find out!

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Alternatives to “All or Nothing” Options For Hampering Magic

In many rpgs, spellcasting is an extremely powerful option that is difficult to curtail without shutting it down entirely (or at least creating a risk of shutting it down entirely). While it’s often fairly straightforward to make life more difficult for weapon-users without making them entirely ineffective, that can be harder for spellcasters. Especially when spells are a very limited resource (such as using spell slots or prepared spells), even things that can be used to put a weapon-wielder at a  disadvantage (such as a penalty to attack rolls)

The following options are specifically designed for Pathfinder 1st ed, Pathfinder 2nd Ed, Starfinder, and 5e, but could certainly be expanded to a wider range of games by an experienced GM.

Ogre Caster
(Art by DM7)

Blackout Zones

You CAN use antimagic shells as minor hindrances if you make them very small, and spread them out. And don’t allow the main villain to just sit in one and be immune to all magic. A few small areas where magic works but spells cannot be cast (perhaps strange metoric iron disrupts the act of conjuring the power for a spell, but doesn’t negate magic in general) can become a form of battlefield terrain spellcasters just need to work around.

Extra Actions

Rather than make it impossible to cast spells or highly likely that efforts to do so will result in failure, you can make spellcasting take additional effort. In Pathfinder and Starfinder, casting times of 1 standard action become full rounds. In 5e, you cannot move or take a bonus action or reaction in a round you cast a spell with a casting time of 1 action. In Pathfinder 2e, add one action to any spell with a casting time listed in actions.

This option forces a spellcaster to make more tactical decisions, but doesn’t make it any more likely their precious resources are wasted if they take the needed extra time.

Feedback

Rather than make spellcasting more difficult, you can just slap some consequence on it that hinders or damages the caster for using spells. This can be as minor as one point of damage per level of spell cast, or a minor penalty to saving throws and attack rolls for 1-4 rounds after casting a spell (perhaps that stacks if you rapid-fire spells every round), to more major neative erffects depending on how harsh you want your penalties to be. You could also simply add a risk of penalties, such as forcing the caster to make a Constitution or Fortitude save every time they cast a spell or gain a level of fatigue.

Increased Spell Cost

A much more impactful options it to increase the cost of spellcasting. Perhaps casting a spell requires additional eldritch power, which must come from somewhere. A character could be required to use multiple spell slots, or sacrifice an additional prepared spell.

You could also require the expenditure of some additional resource beyond additional spells. For example in Starfinder you could require a Resolve Point be spend, or in 5e a Hit Die. Pathfinder 2nd edition could require a focus point (though not all characters have focus points). These are pretty steep costs, so it might be smart to have the additional cost only be needed once every 2d4 rounds or so, or even just once per ten minutes, as the spellcaster “attunes” themselves to some specific circumstance.

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Freelancer Life: Time Sinks That Aren’t Writing or Playing

I once had a manager in the game industry tell me there were three things that always made him accept that a designer, developer, or editor was going to be less productive for weeks or maybe months and that there was just nothing the manager could do about it.

One was getting married.

One was moving.

I’ve moved six times in the past six years, and I’m not quite done with the most recent one.

Sometimes, things come along that suck up a lot of your time and energy, and there’s not much you can do other than get through them as quickly and professionally as possible. Sometimes you can plan breaks or lower-workloads to coincide with these time sinks.

Sometimes you can’t.

And sometimes, you just have no idea how much of you time and energy a life event is going to take up. you can plan, and hope, and make contingencies… but in the end you’ll just have to deal with the cards you get dealt.

So, Lj and I are now in our for-the-foreseeable-future digs. We’re not OUT of the other place yet, but most of what is left is cleaning and putting things in storage. The worst part of the actual act of moving is over.

So now, we get to deal with the pets.

We have a cat, Maeb.

Maeb 02

Our roommate has a cat, Alphonse Lord Tubbington of Sausage-On-Chonk.

Alphonse 01

They are both indoor-only cats (though Lord Alphonse used to be a street cat, years and years ago). they are both used to being the only pet in the house (though Maeb used to live with her sister, and spend many months in a group PetSmart adaption center).

If this process goes well, it won’t impact my (still-wecked and horribly behind) writing schedule at all.

If it doesn’t, I may have a lot of low-sleep nights ahead.

We’ve done a lot of research, and we have a plan built up.

We’ve been introducing Maeb and Alphonse Lord Tubbington of Sausage-On-Chonk to each other’s scents for weeks. We spent the night letting Alphonse get used to us being in the house, and he adjusted to THAT just fine.

We just brought Maeb over. She is quarantined in the Underground Bunker with us, which is a 400-foot area we use as bedroom and offices, while Alphonse is currently banned from it (he gets the rest of the house).

They can hear each other, and are pretty vocal about it, but neither is doing more than meowing. … It’s a LOT of meowing, but that’s it.

Over the next few days we’ll block small sections of the house from Alphone at a time, and let Maeb explore them, then bring her back to the Bunker to feel safe with her stuff.In a few days to a week, when they don’t meow as much, we’ll bring them to areas connected by glass doors so they can see each other, but that’s it. Once THAT seems okay, we’ll try held introductions.

Hopefully in a few weeks, we’ll all be one vaguely tolerant family.

If not, you may start to get some WEIRD blog posts from me…

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Bell Curves, Criticals, and the Odds of Doubles on 3 Expanse Dice.

The various AGE (Adventure Game Engine) games from Green Ronin all have the same core mechanic — to see if you succeed at something, roll 3d6, one of which is a “Stunt Die.” Add the 3d6 and any bonus you have, and compare to a target number.

If any two of your dice are doubles (they have the same value), you earn “stunt points,” equal to the value of the stunt die.

In this article, I want to talk a bit about bell curves, critical success systems in RPGs, and  what the odds are you’ll get doubles when your roll 3d6. And I’m using pictures of the Expanse RPG Dice Sets, since they are cool-looking and currently being crowdfunded on Kickstarter.

Expanse Dice

So, lemme start with three important notes.

I am NOT the developer for the Expanse RPG. That role is very ably handled by the extremely talented Ian Lemke.

Second, I AM biased in favor of Green Ronin, since they employ me to be the Fantasy AGE developer and I thus benefit (at least indirectly) if their projects make lots of money. So, yes, this post is happening at this time in part so I can highlight this Kickstarter. (But it’s also good game design analysis. 😀 )

Third, this is my own analysis, not an official AGE post which has been developed and edited. So any mistakes in the math or logic are entirely mine.

Okay, with those disclosures all disclosed, let’s look at bell curves. (We’ll get back to doubles, I promise.)

Many games use a single die to determine success, such as a d20. With this kind of resolution mechanic, you get a flat probability–that is, the chance you’ll roll a 4 on a d20 is the same as the change you’ll roll a 19, 5%. That means if you need to roll a 17 or better to succeed, you have a 20% chance of succeeding (5% for each number that could turn up that is a 17 or higher). This means that the best possible result (and the worst possible result) have the same probability of happening as an average result.

That also means that, barring some kind of automatic success system (such as saying rolling a 20 on the d20 always succeeds), any bonuses have a flat amount they add to your chance of success. When rolling 1d20, a +1 bonus is an additional 5% chance to succeed whether you need to roll a 3 or higher, or a 13 or higher.

And if you DO have an automatic-success or automatic-failure mechanic, the odds of that are also easy to calculate. if every time you roll a d20 on the d20 you succeed, or have a critical success, there’s a 5% chance of that happening with each roll.

Some people love the simplicity of a flat probability. Other people hate that “average” results are no more likely than high and low extremes.

So, enter the bell curve.

Rather than a single die with flat probability, AGE uses 3d6. While the average result on 3d6 is the same as on 1d20 (10.5), on 3d6 you are much more likely to roll something close to that average than either the high or low extreme. Despite having a small total range of numbers (3-18, rater than 1-20), the chances of getting that highest result on 3d6 is only 1 in 216, or a little less than one-half of one percent. On the other hand since there are 27 possible combination that can add to 11, the odds of rolling an 11 are 12.5%. The odds of rolling a 10 are also 12.5%. So, 1 out of every 4 rolls with 3d6 is a 10 or 11.

(This means that if you get a +1 bonus to your roll in AGE, rather than giving you a flat +5% to your chance of success, the value of the bonus depends on what your target number is. If you need a 17 or higher to succeed, your bonus only matters if you roll a 16. Your odds of rolling a 16 are 2.778%, and your odds of rolling a 17 or 18 are 1.852%, So the +1 bonus has increased your total chance of success from 1.852% to 4.63%. )

One of the drawbacks of a bell curve is that since it skews strongly towards the average, using it for task resolution can get boring. Even gamers who dislike a natural 20 being just as likely as rolling a 13 on a d20 tend to enjoy the chance of something *interesting* happening when you roll a 20.

The AGE system overcomes this with the stunt rules.

While success or failure of a task in AGE is determined by rolling 3d6, each roll also has a chance of producing stunt points. You can then use those stunts to perform special maneuvers  and neat tricks. This adds some variety to task resolution, while still maintaining a bell curve so average-difficult tasks can be accomplished dependably.

In AGE, if any 2 dice in your 3d6 roll are doubles, you get a number of stunt points equal to the value shown on your stunt die. Which naturally leads to the question– what are the odds that when I roll 3d6, at least two of them are doubles?

So, to calculate this we need to know the chance the first two dice will match (which is 6 in 36). We then add the chance that if the first two don’t match (5/6 of the time), with the first and third or second and third match (2 in 6), or 10 in 36. That means we get at least one set of doubles in 16 our of 36 possible combination, or  about 44% of the time (44.4 repeating, to be precise).

Of course if we DO get doubles, it’s the stunt die that determines how many stunt points we get. That’s a flat 1-in-6 chance of each possibility, so while we get SOME stunt points 44% of the time it’s about a 7.5% chance for each possible value of stunt points 1-6.

That’s important, because in AGE more powerful stunts cost more stunt points. This lets us have*something* interesting happen in nearly half of all important 3d6 rolls, but it isn’t always the maximum 6-point stunt result. We get the benefit of the bell curve leaning towards average results, while adding a good chance of some stunt points being generated, but only a relatively small chance of getting the best possible 6-stunt-point result.

To be clear, you DON’T have to understand these probabilities to play the game. It’s a useful analysis for game designers and GMs who want to know how likely stint points are, but the system is clean and simple enough you can just roll your dice, check for doubles, and enjoy the dice giving you fun things to do.

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Expanse Dice Packs

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Don’t Hire Me

While it is true I am looking for a good full-time work position, and failing that making sure I have enough freelance to pay the bills, if you have such work you should not hire me.

That’s right. I am literally telling you, don’t hire me. There are better choices for you. Better game designer options you should take. People who are from minority or marginalized groups, or who are actively oppressed, and who you should hire in place of me, largely regardless of what your project is.

I have danced around this post for months, but it’s time to just say it. I will happily take what work comes my way–this is my career, and I need it. But if you value my opinion on who you should hire, please strongly consider hiring women, BIPOC folk, and LGBTQ people as designers, developers, and consultants instead.

And I am going to explain why, point by point.

  1. I’ll be Fine.
    In my original rough draft of this essay, this was my last point, a cap on the list to reassure anyone who was sincerely worried I was harming my career by recommending other people. But, I realized, that misses a big chunk of the point. This is, in many ways, the crux of why you should hire other people.
    The whole reason I’ll be fine is that the playing field isn’t tilted against me. As a white, cis, hetero, male, bearded grognard, I am assumed to be competent in my field without having to prove it. When I was an Industry Insider Guest of Honor at Gen Con in the mid 00s, there were tons of people who had never heard of me. I know, because I’d talk to them after my panels, and they’d cheerfully tell me they’d never heard of me.
    What there *wasn’t* was a backlash by people claiming that I didn’t belong. Not at Gen Con, and not at any other convention I have attended as a guest, going back to the 1990s. I mention that, because I have seen such backlashes against numerous women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ quests at Gen Con and other venues. People ask from the audience why they should listen to those guests, or actively rant on messageboards about “lowering standards” to score political points with “Social Justice Warriors” or engage in “Virtue Signaling.”
    Convention guest spots are a great boost to a creators career. No one guest spot may make a big difference, but going to multiple conventions over years makes you more visible. Lets to travel and talk to fans, and creators, and even potential employers, in other regions at the convention’s dime (at least when the con is doing it right).
    The same is true of invitations to be on podcasts or write introductions for books, or participate in special streaming programs. Each of these gives a small but real boost to your career, and I have had tons of such opportunities.
    Does that mean I didn’t deserve the opportunities I was given? Not necessarily. But I have seen marginalized creators I work with closely have to work harder to get the same recognition than I do. Harder than I ever had to. I have seen the chilling effect a lack of boosting and recognition has on their careers.
    So yeah, chances are that while I can defend every guest spot, job, opportunity, consultation fee, and ongoing series I have ever been given, at least some of those were things that would have been offered to someone else — someone with more artificial social roadbocks — if the world, or the industry, were a level playing field.
    So I can actually write a post literally entitled “Don’t Hire Me,” and it’s not going to end my opportunities.
  2. It’s Time to be Anti-Bigoted
    I know a lot of people in the industry who are very comfortable saying they are not racist, are not misogynist, and are not bigoted against LGBTQ+ professionals. The problem with that stance is, even if true, it’s not enough. The industry is skewed by its composition to channel people who benefit from its design into its key roles. Even if no one has ill intent or biases of any kind, the system itself is biased now.
    You can’t just be not bigoted. You have to be anti-bigoted.
    Not being racist is not the same as being anti-racist.
    Not being misogynistic is not the same as being anti-misogynistic.
    Not being biased against LGBTQ+ folks is not the same as being intentionally and mindfully opposed to such bigotry, and actively working against it.
    There are lots of reasons someone might talk themselves into hiring me for a game-related professional position. But many of those reasons are taking the path of least resistance, which is also taking the path of least active fight for change and improvement.
    Put in the extra effort. Making hiring decisions that change the very nature of the industry, so that the industry can improve. If we keep doing what we have done, we’ll keep getting what we have gotten… and in too many cases, that’s just not good enough.
  3. On Average, Marginalized Creators You’ve Heard of Will Be Better than Me
    This is not just the conclusion game theory teaches me (though it IS also that — logically given the bias and harassment and lack of opportunity i have actively seen marginalized creators face, any of them that overcome those hurdles have already proven that can produce at a higher level than I, who did not have to overcome the same difficulties), but it’s also something I have personal experience with. Many of the smartest, most talented, most multitalented professionals I have learned from are gay, trans, POC, and nonbinary.
    And in MANY cases, a good part of what makes them so much better than me is an awareness grown from their different life experiences.
    It’s extremely common for both companies and fans to note they’d like to see more stuff that aren’t just rehashes of Tolkien, Lucas, Howard, Azimov, Disney, King, and so on. The further you get from the life experiences of those men, and the people they inspired for generations, the easier it is to have new, creative, cohesive, original content that draws from different wells for inspiration.
  4. Diversity is Gold
    Look, if you don’t HAVE a white, cis, hetero, male professional on your game team, it might make sense to add one, and I could be a great choice. But my guess is, you already do.
    In fact, my guess is this one demographic is already the best-represented group on your team, outnumbering any other group (and maybe outnumbering everyone else put together). So why add one more?
    There is SO much more that a hire can bring tot he table than the ability to produce words that fall in line with the most common existing material. Diversity in games brings innovation, the potential to access new customer markets, and a fresh outlook that increases the chances of making the Next New Thing no one saw coming.
    I believe the cold, hard, cash-driven business case for having as diverse a set of voices as possible in your creative team is extremely strong. This isn’t an argument about social justice. It’s one about maximizing the chances you’ll do something innovative and profitable.

Now I will be the first to admit I am far from a scholarly expert on questions of women’s experiences, or BIPOC and LGBTQ+ creators. I am very much trying to listen more than I talk, and I learn something amazing and new every week by doing so.

But this is not a modest proposal. I’m serious.

You are better off hiring someone with a different background than mine.

You may want to check out:

GaymerX

https://ineeddiversegames.org/

 

 

Some Fictional RPGs

Look, sometimes you need to reference a tabletop RPG (or similar game, like a MMORPG or video game) in your real ttRPGs. So here’s a list to use for that.

Or maybe I just wanted to talk briefly about all the games I WANT to make, but don’t have time to work on right now. Either way, at least I have these names written down in public now. 🙂

Adventures of the Ladies’ Spelunking League
No Man can Survive these Perils!
Set in three time periods (Late 1800s, early 1900s, and Nowish), this math-free, dice-based, story-oriented ttRPG sets the members of the Ladies’ Spelunking League against horrors found beneath the Earth’s crust… and in the inherent biases of the patriarchy we all live in.

Blades Against Cthulhu!
A Barbaric Horror Fantasy rpg.
It’s swords and sorcery against unspeakable things, with two themes. One, all humans have much more in common with each other than they do with eldritch horrors. Two, there are lines even mecriless killers won’t cross.
And a lot of severed tendrils of indescribable ichor.

Blades Against Cthulhu

Checked Out
You can’t win, but you can choose to keep playing.
A zombie apocalypse game where the most important attribute is your Humanity. Survival requires accomplishing difficult tasks. Difficult tasks are made easier if you choose to do things that reduce your Humanity. Your Humanity is also what lets you form alliances, earn trust, and keep going. If it gets too low, you Check Out.

Eye of Argon, the RPG
No horror can match it
Bad pastiche fantasy, with the resolution mechanic being based on how many pages of Eye of Argon you can read without laughing, groaning, or rolling your eyes.

Persuade. Ponder. Prepare. Punch.
You Only Do One Thing Well
The game has exactly four attributes — Persuade (all social interactions), Ponder (for all investigation, knowledge, and thinking), Prepare (for all crafting, planning, leading, and equipping), and Punch (for all fighting).
You can Master one of those categories (automatically succeeding at all related tasks), and be bad at all the others, or you can be Great at two and Okay at two, or you can be Good at all four.
But no two characters can have the same selections.

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Starting With Ideas: Really Wild West “Oddities” (for Starfinder)

Fairly often, I get asked how I START a big project. Like, if I know I want a chapter of magic items for the Really Wild West, where would I begin organizing my thoughts and planning that out?

Assuming the pagination and wordcounts was already done by someone else, I’d start with ideas.

Especially for a series of elements using the same basic rules subsystem (such as the features of one character class, a series of magic items for one campaign, feats, spells, new superpowers, whatever), I like to start the conceptual work by spitballing ideas to myself. This isn’t an effort to create completed rules elements yet, just to begin filling out what kinds of ideas I want those rules elements to cover.

There are numerous advantages to this for me. First, I can begin to hash out a tone and flavor for the section. Second, I find it easier to figure out how to use rules to model concepts if I have several of those concepts already in a hopper. Third, often coming up with interesting ideas is the important part of a project for me.  I can’t do it all in one sitting. By making a list early on, I give myself time to iterate, modify, and even reconsider if I need to.

After I have a fair percentage of the ideas I think I need, I’ll go back and begin turning the ones I like best into full rules elements. this lets me see how much wordcount those take up, which lets me know how many ideas I’ll need to fit the space.*

*(Unless the project is based on a specific number of items– like a list of 100 NPC catchphrases or 2 things to do in a dungeon when you’re dead, in which case I still like this process but the thing I learn at this stage is if I need to modify how much info I am putting in each entry to the pre-determined number of items will fill up the pre-determined wordcount. IN this case the feedback loop may be more likely to tell me if my concepts need to change to be more of less detailed.)

I often do ideas in three big waves–when I first start a project, when I run out of those ideas I started with, and when I have a good idea how many ideas I’ll need to finish it. Sometimes one or more of those waves isn’t needed–occasionally I find my first brainstorm gave me everything that will fit, for example. I also jot down ideas as they come to me when I am working on other parts of the work, or even other projects.

So, what do I mean by spitballing ideas?

I just want some sense of what the item is going to be. Maybe a name, maybe a description. If I have some idea of how the rules for the idea should work, I jot that down.

Here’s an example of those spitball ideas (cleaned up to a standard format for presentation on its own, rather than as notes only I will see). These are concepts for “Oddities,” magic items that occur as a result of weird events and energies, rather than being created intentionally, for my Really Wild West setting. Each of these gives enough info to see how it might work in game, but doesn’t yet worry about things like item level, cost, and any special rules Oddities may have as opposed to typical magic items.

RWW Glass Eye

(Art by i-pciture. Of the Eye by the Witch Hazel Pentafaust)

01. Weathered copy of a leather-bound book titled “Diplomacy Through Other Means.” It has hardness 20, 20 hp, and can be used as a light simple melee weapon dealing 1d4 damage (+1d4 per 4 ranks of Culture you have). You can’t add Strength (or any other any ability score modifiers) to damage dealt, but do add you ranks in Culture.

02. Pearl-Handled corkscrew. When screwed into people (normally a full round action that requires they be restrained and which deals 1-2 hp) it forces them to reveal their name, even if they don’t know it themselves.

03. Small hourglass filled with dark blue sand. If flipped and allowed to run normally without being moved, when it goes off it casts a random summon creature (or a random spell level) which no one has any control over. It lasts 1 hour if not otherwise damaged or dispelled.

04. Single old scarf about a yard long, with a smoke stain near top. Does not conduct heat (but can burn), thus can be used as perfect oven mitt or grant fire resist 20 for a thing you touch with it.

05. Zippo lighter with the kanji for “stork” on the side. If used to illuminate a written word medium (scroll, book, so on), the text within it slowly scrolls by in the shadow created by the flame.

06. Wire-frame glasses. If kept tucked in a pocket, halves falling damage for possessor.

07. Stained paper map of Fort Harrison, Indiana, from 1823. If mis-folded and then opened, it creates a fog cloud (as the spell). The map itself is always torn free by a gust of wind that brings in the fog, and normally takes (4d4 – 1d4) x 10 minutes to find.

08. An 1888 John J. Loud ball point pen with green ink. Rapidly (and loudly) clicking the pen gives a +5 bonus to Perception checks, but only against people using Stealth.

09. Small box of “Court Orlock” brand safety matches. If thrown at someone within 15 feet they must make a Will save (DC equal to the touch attack roll to hit them) or spend 1 round picking up the matches. Has 1d4 uses per day.

10. Wicker Picnic Basket, with its own plates, cutlery, and stacking cups as service for 6. If loaded with food and taken out of any settlement and then used for an hourlong or longer picnic, the ort remaining can be interpreted as a diving device. It may act as augurydivination, or commune, as randomly determined by the GM. One of the picnic participants will then have an encounter within 1 week of a high enough CR that average treasure for that encounter would pay for a spell gem of the divination spell gained. The basket don’t work again until the creature using them has had this encounter, which doesn’t have any actual treasure associated with it.

11. Tortoiseshell make-up compact. Anyone who has the powder from the compact (requiring an successful EAC attack against an adjacent creature) blown on them is slowed (as the spell) for 1 minute, and the person who used it is slowed for 10 minutes. Only a creature not slowed can use it.

12. Dried pea. If placed up your nose, it grants a +4 bonus to saving throws against poison, and a successful save always ends the poison. Someone who knows you have it up there can get you to shoot it out with a successful dirty trick maneuver (replacing the normal options for dirty trick).

13. Cork table coaster. Anything placed on it doesn’t experience any passage of time as long nothing else is touching it but air. This DOES keep drinks cold (or hot) much longer, but it also prevents fruit from spoiling, dynamite from exploding, radioactive isotopes from decaying, and so on.

14. Wooden, obviously-toy pistol. When pointed at an animal and the trigger pulled, causes the animal to talk randomly in French for 1 round. There is a 10% chance the first time it  is used each day the animal says something useful and relevant to the user holder.

15. Worn leather coin purse. As long as nothing but coins are stuffed into it there does not seem to be a limit how many fit in, but they can only be added or removed at a rate of 4 credits per round.

16. Tablecloth-sized parchment with complex diagram for an unidentified steam engine. If placed on a stationary, prone creature the piping diagram changes to represent the organs (and injuries) or that creature, granting a +5 bonus to Medicine checks with that creature.

17. Old-style iron key. Fits in any lock. Can’t unlock a lock, but can lock it. If it was already locked, the next person to touch it takes 1 point of electricity damage.

18. Small pot of glossy black lipstick. Never runs out. The first time each day someone wearing the lipstick is damaged by an attacker the wearer has not ever damaged, the wearer may kiss a weapon. That weapon delivers critical hit effects (but not critical hit damage) against that attacker the first time it successfully hits and damages the attacker.

19. A granite die with 20 sides, numbered 7-26. Anyone with this on their person is lucky (gain one reroll each day, rerolling after you see the result of a roll and taking the better of the two results) except in games of chance (always roll twice and take the worst result for all games of chance).

20. Carved whalebone whistle. If blown directly in someone’s ear is heals them for 1d8+1 damage, and they are deafened for 1 hour per hp healed. If the deafness is removed early, the healing is also removed. It cannot heal someone temporarily deaf from this effect. The healing appears to be the revelation the wound wasn’t that bad to begin with — there’s never any actual sign of improved health. A person cannot benefit from this again until after they next expend 1 RP to regain SP after a 10-minute rest.

21. The Sinister Glass Eye of the Witch Hazel Pentafaust. This cracked, yellow glass eye spins and looks about of its own accord. When held in a closed fist, it causes you to be shaken (despite any immunities you might have) and automatically be able to identify any spell you see being cast.

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