Monthly Archives: September 2020
Worldbuilding Through Language, Part 1
The online Merriam-Webster dictionary has a “Time Traveler” function, which allows you to see what words first saw print in a given year.
Which means if you have a campaign set in a real-world year, you can create a list of words that were first used in print that year. This becomes a list of the cutting edge of new discussions in various fields. If ‘antibiotic’ is first used as a word in 1891, and that’s the year of your campaign, that tells you something about the state of medicine and awareness of it as a concept. It also means you may want to look at the history of the word and see how it was being used. (Antibiotics, for example, were being explored as a concept in 1891, not yet available).
As an example of what I mean, here is a list of words first used in English in print in 1891, the year of my Really Wild West campaign.
fair market value
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Really Wild West “Doomstone” Campaign — After-Action Report (Game Session 4)
Since people still seem to be enjoying after-action reports of my Really Wild West: Doomstone campaign, here’s a write-up adapted from notes taken by my wife Lj (who is playing the fenrin operative bounty hunter named “Sawyer”) as a quick report for Session Four!
You can find Session One here: Part One, Part Two.
Session Two here: Part One, Part Two.
Session Three here.
If you don’t recognize a reference, it may (or may not) be in a previous session, or at the updated campaign notes page.
- Heroes spy on the enemy encampments on Neblin’s Ridge. There is a camp at a mine entrance at the base of the mesa, and on top an outpost with a tower and a wind sock, and a couple of miles away a telegraph hut with a wire trailing off to the East. There are multiple species present among the gang running the camps, including seprent-folk.
- Using ask the wind their name, PCs determine the following:
- A Large serpentfolk (with a snake lower body) wearing onyx armor is Aakath-ka (naga form). He is a Monstrous humanoid, venomous, spell caster
- The human who seems to be a foreman is – Boston Bob (bowler hat)
- No special powers, has a price on his head ($200)
- Busted during the war for smuggling refugees out of cities on military trains for money
- The PCs form the following plan
- The human mechanic makes a timed cutter box to go off an hour before dawn, to be placed on the telegraph wires
- Human soldier watches the camp for the day
- Fenrin operative flies around to check the telegraph (using DaVinci wings), plants the cutter, looks for a way up, and checks the outpost
- Centaur paladin keeps our camp safe, secure, and secret
- When the cutter goes off, we immediately attack the outpost up on the mesa
- Then, we attack the camp at the mineshaft at the base of the mesa within the hour
- The fenrin operative finds a switchback good when it’s dry – will take 3 hours to get from there to the outpost
- Set the cutter on a particularly difficult place to repair on the wire
- Spot 3-4 criminals in the outpost watching the Western skies (the direction of the Circle Axe) – packing pistols
- There is a manticore nest next to the house and a platformed tower with a crane and a windsock. Think this may be Gaotma‘s base of operations, and his minions don’t know he’s dead yet–just late.
- The human soldier spends a day observing and notes
- Sverfeblin come out of the mine, escourted by some humans and a snakefolk, and pulling a sledge. One of the sverfneblin appears to be in charge of them – has questions for Boston Bob, isn;t happy with the answers
- Some kind of strange questioning going on – sverfneblin taken to a blackout tend and peered at from outside (are the gang member checking the deep gnomes for some radiation glow?)
- There is an underground storage, with a trap door in the camp, and boxes from the sled (which seem to be very heavy) are lowered into it.
- The rowdies who came out of the mine undergo some kind of procedure in a tent that takes 30 minutes
- They come out rubbing their faces and somewhat cleaner
- Different rowdies escort the sverfneblin back into the mine.
The attack on the Outpost on top of the mesa takes too long and is too noisy, because half the player’s skill and attack rolls were 1 or 2. Even so, manage to defeat all the rowdies, including one dressed in red who apparently could cast spells, but only when accessing his own blood.
LOOT: Sawed off shotgun; 3 bowie knives; cultist wavy dagger; emblem (of a twisted barbed wire, held by pliers, blood drops coming off the barbs, similar in style to the poison emblems fund earlier); $50; piece of paper from a writing desk
Soldier/mystic talks to the dead. One says: “Dark days are coming, mortals will not survive, ascension is the only option”
The letter was as folows:
I understand your doubts and concerns, but I assure you this venture is worth the risk. Allow me to address your concerns individually.
The Daemon Darklings are mortals best route to gain the powers needed to protect ourselves against the outer powers. Of the Six Dread Fates that have proven able to empower a Darkling, Venom seems most within my reach now that I have accessed the alchemical process of the Aresian War Clouds. That will not be enough, of course. I’ll need a Genus Foci, a Concept of Thought, to draw the lingering spirit of the Comte de Adalgiso back to the Material Plane.
The cost of such an operation will not be insignificant. But with the promise of unlocking the ability of Ascension, and the Theosophic formula to prove it possible? I believe I will be able to procure the needed patrons.
What I lack is the martial backing to ensure our patrons remain our allies rather than our masters. With backers from the Material world, I could perhaps just hire the needed defenders. But against the Scale of Aakath, I have no doubt more… experienced warriors will be needed to protect our interests. My belief is that your contacts, especially Gaotema and his band, will allow us to deal on equal footing.
And yes, old friend, there will be money in it well before we make our fel godlings. I have already received interest from numerous individuals of means, and am sure
This letter was handed to players as a prop, crumpled and stained. Also a few letters had a tiny drop of gold ink in them. The players noticed, and wrote out the gold-flecked letters to discover the spelled )-B-E-Y. With this information, they release the letter had a secret magic message OBEY that compelled the addressee.
Then, the PCs attacked the camp in front of the mine shaft at the base of the mesa.
And discover the Chimera Kid is there, even though they never noticed him in their recon.
- The human solider opens by tossing sticks of dynamite into the tent area, taking out number ruffians.
- Akatha-ka casts spells
- Another red-clad cultists that uses blood magic, but has a neat wire on his wrist he can pull to just shed 1 drop of blood for each spell.
- The Chimera Kid engages the Centaur Paladin, with ram’s head hammer, poison pistol, and fire pistol. He severely damages her, and she him, but then he flies away to engage other targets with his own DaVinci wings, and he drops.
- Akatha-ka targets the fenrin operative with a psychic thrust attack – hate
- The operative fenrin focuses on Akatha-ka with her awareness – she is able to see through his blur
- The human mechanic and her dron Pinion use two sticks of dynomite to take out ruffians in a rifle position, then hold a spot in the middle of the camp for the rest of the conflict. She is poisoned by the Chimera Kid’s pistol as he flies by, though the centaur paladin’s lay on hands later fixes that.
- The centaur paladin turns out Akatha-ka with her smite… and he is of the dragon type. He has significant DR, but the smite ignores it, and the centaur paladin takes him out, then takes out Boston Bob.
- The human solider, rifle in hand, manages to take out the flying Chimera Kid
- There is an irradiated mutant plant behind a bulwark
- It was growing out of Sverfeblin skull
- Dug it up from a grave
- PCs wonder why did the gang kept it? But decide to destroy it and the skull) with fire.
- The soldier/mystic uses Grave Words on many of the bodies. The Chimera Kid’s corpse says – “You can’t confuse other worlds with other planes or you’re gonna have a bad time”
- Within the storage under the trap door are twelve ammo boxes – all hooked together like it’s gonna be lifted all at once
- They are all locked – no keys on any of these bodies
- The human mechanic picks one open
- Inside are lumps of unrefined green iron ore – it glows. And gets on her skin through her gloves. She has to clean her hands thoroughly to stop having glowing specks.
LOOT: Six miner hats (butane lights on them)
The PCs choose to pause here, recuperate, then go into the mine itself.
Bringing the PCs to 14,400 (15,000 to 6th)
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Tales of the Intrepideurs’ Guild, Pt 1
It should come as no shock that, as Green Ronin’s developer for the Fantasy AGE RPG, I want to run a Fantasy AGE campaign. Running (and playing) the games I write and develop for is an important part of being connected to the material as-played for me when I can arrange it, and it helps me build and maintain system mastery.
I have been *meaning* to start a Fantasy Age game for months, but (waves hands at… everything).
However, since I’m only going to be able to run a single campaign at the moment, I want to set up its framework to maximize its benefits to me. That means organizing it so I can run no matter how many of my players can show up, maximizing the amount of time the campaign focuses on game mechanics, and having a framework lose enough I can experiment with and playtest new material without having to spend a lot of effort working it into the game.
My players are, of course, aware that these are goals of mine. I’m currently only able to play in-person with the very small group in my social bubble, all of whom are folks I’ve been playing RPGs with for 20 years or more, so that’s not an issue.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t want ANY framing device for the campaign. I just want one with a great deal of flexibility and a focus on small, variable groups going and doing dangerous or difficult things.
And for this game, that’s going to come in the form of the Intrepideurs’ Guild. Which immediately leads to the question, what the heck is an Intrepideur?
The word is a portmanteau of Intrepid and Entrepreneur that I am intentionally creating for its slightly cheesy flavor. It will, in-world, be used the way “adventurer” might be in a lot of fantasy game settings. Within the context of the fictional world I am creating, an Intrepideur is someone who makes a career out of being brave and bold, and facing things most people don’t want to.
So in our fictional world (which, for the moment, I am naming Fage), its considered normal to have your day-job be facing dangerous things to make money. In many cases, someone will pay you to do this, because the dangerous things make their lives difficult. In other cases, a group might decide to seek out and face a danger because they think there’s money to be made in doing so. Folks of Fage treat Intrepideurs the way our current world treats first responders, extreme sports athletes and mountain climbers, and entrepreneurs. It’s not for everyone and it’s a bit off the norm, but in general it’s seen as a reasonable choice for people drawn to such work.
Now some of this work is pretty intermittent stuff — if bandits have taken to preying on a road between countries, you can hire Intrepideurs to guard you as you travel it or even to clear off the bandits entirely. Need someone to hunt down and stop an arsonist? Protect your sheep from wolves? Hunt down giant crabs suddenly tearing up fishing nets? Gather the prophetic and altering spice Mordant from the Shifting Desert? Intripdeurs are your best bet.
But there are also some things that happen at least as often as severe weather, tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires, and that really do call for a society to maintain an entire class of people trained to deal with them. Here are some common sources of ongoing Intrepideur work.
Bone Stars — It’s well known that the night sky is the inside of the skull of the giant that was slain by the First Gods to make the world (though there is significant disagreement on which giant, and which gods). Sometimes, the long-dead giant forms a wicked thought in its skull, which flakes off a bit of the bone from the skull and plummets to Fage in a bolt of colored fire. Bone Stars can be seen for days before landing, and are often signs of misfortune or the death of a ruler.
But they also often have actual… things… on them. Screaming, mobile fungi that consume all they come across. Metal spiders that build webs of crystal that drink sunlight. Evil, psychic rats. And whatever it is? It does not belong on Fage. it does not seek balance with its environment. The things from Bone Stars was plagues on the land that, if not dealt with, can eventually scrub whole kingdoms clean of life.
And if one of those Bone Stars lands near your town? You want some Intrepideurs to show up and take care of it. Quick, while it’s small.
Catacairns — There have been waves of evil spirits, demigods, and demons that have attacked the World of Fage in the past, sometimes swarming over entire continents. When those things are defeated, it turns out they mostly can’t be “killed” in the mortal sense of the word. But they can be placed within massive underground tomb complexes, which are filled with puzzles and traps and hazards to keep the spirits from ever finding their way to their physical remains, or out into the world. these tomb-prison complexes are known as Catacairns. Some are centuries old, built by fallen empires or lone genius/hermit mages, marked by weird mehirs and monuments.
Mostly, they are pretty stable prisons. Mostly.
But sometimes some energy leaks out of an abandoned Catacairn into the nearby wilderness or town and… CHANGES things. That usually mean a seal or lock has cracked, and SOMEONE has to both deal with the twisted “cairnite” abominations it creates, and go fix the thing. And sometimes cultists or power-mad idiots crack into a catacairn intentionally, to siphon such power, or even release what is within in hopes of being rewarded with vast power. Sometimes the outer locks and traps fail after centuries of disuse, and minor spirits even escape outward, and have to be put down and trapped again.
And sometimes? Sometimes the worst things, at the lowest levels, wake up and start to tear down their whole prison, block by block.
Prismatic Mountains — There are multiple ranges of Prismatic Mountains throughout the World of Fage, and they… shift. Not all the time, but always during the winter. A pass found one year is likely useless by the next. Residents, animals, monsters, even weather shifts from year to year. And Prismatic Mountains are almost always right where you want to take caravans of trade goods through.
So, every year, there’s a huge demand for Intrepideurs to go into the nearest Prismatic Mountain range, and map what they can, learn what they can and, if possible, find a route through. With trade routes cut off nearly all winter, the first group who can prove they can get a caravan through can command steep prices of their route, and some small traders will risk heading into the mountains before a pass is established, with many escorts, hoping to be the first to reach the trade routes on the far side so they can charge premium prices for their wares.
Finding a new route can make Intrepideurs reputation. Finding the FIRT route through in a given year also makes them temporary celebrities.
So there’s the campaign basic set-up. Players will be members of an Intrepideurs’ Guild, starting as Tin-ranked members, hoping to work their way up to Copper, Silver, Gold, and Mithral ranks. They get jobs dealing with problems, each one designed to be a single night of gaming. If a player isn’t free a given night, their Intrepideur can’t make it for the mission that time. Weird things and dangers are built into the campaign setting, so I can test things out and, if they don’t work, discard them never to be mentioned again.
Given the popularity of the Really Wild West session recaps, I may recap my Tales of the Intrepideurs’ Guild game sessions as well. And if there’s interest, I can go into more details on how the Guild is set up to speed play along.
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OGL Warlock for Starfinder Part 4: Fiendish Patron Gifts
We’re off to a good start with our OGL warlock for Starfinder, with the class table and proficiencies, spell access and spell slots, and the Fiendish patron. Now, let’s look at some patron gifts to go with our fienidsh warlocks.
Patron Gift: Unless otherwise specified, the save DC of your patron gifts is 10 +1/2 your warlock level +your key ability modifier.
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 or skill check, you can use this feature to add a +d6 insight bonus 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 recuperate*.
Demonhide (Su): You alter your flesh to be as tough as a demon’s hide, granting you energy resistance to acid, cold, electricity, and fire equal to 1/2 your warlock level.
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 the toughness feat as a bonus feat.
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 recuperate*, you can choose one kinetic damage type. You gain DR/cold iron equal to 1/2 your warlock level against that damage type.
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 part of the same action you may also fill that area with a thick haze that acts a smoke grenade (with a save DC calculated as your patron gifts), except it originates at the center of your spell effect and cannot expand beyond the spell’s area. 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 recuperate*.
Wings of Terror (Su): You can manifest a pair of enormous, batlike demon wings that grant you a fly speed of 30 feet with average maneuverability. At 10th level, your speed increases to 60 feet and your maneuverability increases to good.
*Recuperate is my proposed game term to represent when a character spends 1 Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.
So, we have a patron and its gifts. What about incantations?!
Check in tomorrow to find out!
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OGL Warlock for Starfinder Part 3: Fiendish Patron
So Monday we took a first look at adapting the 5e Warlock class for Starfinder (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 vaguely similar to mystic connections, 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 special way to boost the save DC of spells you cast, and access to a series of patron gifts you can choose from at higher levels.
While we’d likely to patrons for at least a half-dozen options in a full version of the class, for now let’s create the classic fiendish patron option.
You are somehow bound to a fiend from the lower planes of existence, and in a different way it is bound to you. You might have sought out this pact using nearly-post ancient traditions of soul-beinding and true names, or it may have occurred without any desire for it on your part.
You might have stumbled across some unhold alien atifact and trigger it to make a pact with no understanding of what you were doing. You might have been born during a complex galactic conjunction that marked you forever before you could even talk. Your parents might have been experimented upon by unethical fiendomancers seeking a way to imbue future generations with infernal power.
However your patron came to fuel a pact with you, this is 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.
Eldritch Blast (Su)
You gain the power to channel a form of fiendish fire as an attack against your foes. Select a weapon you are proficient with from the flame category, which uses batteries or petrol and has a usage of 4 or less. It must have an item level no greater than your warlock level. Once this decision is made it cannot be changed until you gain another warlock level.
If you have at least one hand free, you can make eldritch blast attacks that act as if you were attacking with this weapon. It is treated as an integral weapons except as noted. You use your key ability modifier, rather than Strength or Dexterity, to add to your attack rolls with your eldritch blast. You may choose to make half your eldritch blast damage untyped planar hellfire. If you run out of petrol or battery charges, you can “reload” your eldritch blast as a standard action.
Your eldritch blast can benefit from effects that could augment the weapon it is emulating. You can place fusion seals on yourself to affect your eldritch blast as if you were the weapon it is emulating.
Dark One’s Power
Starting at 1st level, when you reduce a hostile creature to 0 or fewer hit points, you gain a Dark Point. When you cast a spell, you can expend a Dark Point to cause its save DC to be 10 +1/2 your warlock level +your key ability modifier. This is adjusted by any abilities or feats that adjust your spell’s save DCs. You lose all unused Dark Points when you recuperate.*
Fiendish Eldritch Master
At 20th level, you gain the ability to open rifts between planes. This allows you to use plane shift or summon monster VI as a spell-like ability once per day.
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.
*Recuperate is my proposed game term to represent when a character spends 1 Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.
So, what patron gifts will the Fiendish patron allow a star warlock to choose from? Check in tomorrow to find out!
Want me to create more adaptations from other games to pathfinder 1e? Want to see the warlock for other game systems? Want something else? Really Wild West content? Would you rather see more material for 5e, or industry insider articles? Join my Patreon for a few bucks a month, and let me know!