Monthly Archives: October 2020

PF1 Essentials, Spell Redesign Goals (and Hold Person)

Obviously if I am doing a redesign of elements of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (and this Index suggests I might be…), one of the things I need to tackle is spells. It’s extremely easy for spellcasters to dominate spotlight time in a campaign, because they have a powerful, flexible toolset that can be applied to nearly any problem. “Fixing” that is a narrow line to walk, since it’s one of the things that appeals to people who love spellcasters, and it’s easy to go too far in the opposite direction, or make spellcasters and other classes so similar they lose their distinctive play experience.

Some of the fix can be done by looking at broader options for other classes. But some spells just need to be reconsidered. They may be overpowered, or underpowered, but most importantly, they may lead to less fun in play. So let’s talk about the most frustrating and swingy spell in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game– hold person.

If your target makes their saving throw, you accomplish nothing that round. Nothing at all. Sure, when a fighter swings his sword and misses he may accomplish nothing, but the fighter doesn’t have a daily limit on how often they can swing a sword. Plus, it’s much easier for a fighter to get multiple attacks per round than for a spellcaster to get multiple spells per round. Ignoring balance, it’s just not FUN when you burn a resource for an iconic spell and nothing-at-all happens.

On the flip side, if your target fails their saving throw, odds are they’re out of the fight. Yes, they could save on their next turn–but while paralyzed they are subject to sneak attacks and coup de grace, and at minimum they lose a full round of action. I’ve been watching hold person get used for 20 years, and 75% of the time if the target fails their save, their dead before they ever get to act again. This is particularly worrying since so much of PF1 encounter design assumes a group of multiple heroes face off against one monster. The action economy already favors the PCs, and if they take a full round of actions from the foe, it’s generally game over. Which, to be honest, is often less fun for everyone else, especially if the spellcaster refuses to risk encounters if they don’t have this spell available.

Rather than these two extreme factors being balanced, they create two different but equally extreme unbalances.

So we need a spell that always has some effect, sometimes has lots of effect, but rarely has an encounter-ending effect.

While we are at it, I foresee breaking spells into three categories — arcane, divine, and psychic, to match the three kinds of spellcaster. Spells will also be broken into common, uncommon, and rare. Classes get spells of a given school(s) and rarity. So a wizard might get common, uncommon, and rare arcane spells, while a witch gets common and uncommon arcane spells, and common psychic spells. We can add a few class-specific spells in each category, like oracle’s burden is an oracle-only spell on the cleric spell list in standard PF1. (This system has oodles of advantages over each class having its own lit, which I’ll discuss in another post).

(Art by Lunstream) (I assume this guy got held in that stupid pose)

Hold Person
School enchantment (compulsion) [mind-affecting]; Level arcane 2 (common), divine 2 (common), psychic 2 (common)
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, F/DF
Range medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Target one humanoid creature
Duration 1 round/level (D); see text
Saving Throw Will partial; Spell Resistance yes

The subject is staggered. A target that makes its saving throw is staggered for just 1 round. A target that fails its saving throw by 5 or more is dazed for 1 round, then staggered for the spell’s duration. A target with a CR greater that double this spell’s spell level is never effected for more than 1 round. A target with a CR greater that double this spell’s spell level that makes its save by 5 or more is not affected at all.
A winged creature staggered by this spell must land, and must take 1 action to do so each round while flying.

Hold Person, Mass
School enchantment (compulsion) [mind-affecting]; Level arcane 7 (rare), psychic 7 (uncommon)
Targets one or more humanoid creatures all within a 20-foot-radius

This spell functions like hold person, except as noted above.

Patreon
I have a Patreon. It supports the time I take to do all my blog posts. If you’d like to see more Pathfinder 1st edition options (or more rules for other game systems, fiction, game industry essays, game design articles, worldbuilding tips, whatever!), try joining for just a few bucks and month and letting me know!

PF 1 Essentials, Fighter Class Preview

I’ve done a lot of work on my idea for a revised “PF1 Essentials” rewrite of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, going over a number of feats (which are now compiled here, along with my thoughts on them and a growing index of other articles). I thought it was time to show what i think a PF1 Essentials class might look like, so I did a rough preview of the FPF1 Essentials Fighter.

Obviously this is just a starting point, and I’ll need to integrate a lot of things into it (like how Fighters get to have multiple Stance feat stances going at once, which is likely an advanced combat training option). But as a preview of where I am taking this, i thought people might enjoy it.

(Art by Lunstream)

Essentials Fighter Class Preview

Hit Die: d10.

Starting Wealth: 250 gp. In addition, each character begins play with an outfit worth 10 gp or less.

Class Skill: The fighter’s class skills are Animal Handling (Dex or Cha), Appraise (Int), Athletics (Str), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (dungeoneering) (Int), Knowledge (engineering) (Int), Knowledge (nobility) (Int), Perception (Wis), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Stealth (Dex), and Survival (Wis).

(Animal handling now includes Handle Animal and Ride. Athletics now combines Climbing and Swim. Profession now includes Craft and Profession.)

Skill Ranks Per Level: 6 + Int modifier.

Table 1: The Fighter

LevelBase Attack BonusFort SaveRef SaveWill SaveSpecial
1st+1+2+0+2Bonus feat, combat style
2nd+2+3+0+3Bonus feat, combat training
3rd+3+3+1+3Combat training
4th+4+4+1+4Bonus feat
5th+5+4+1+4Combat training
6th+6/+1+5+2+5Bonus feat
7th+7/+2+5+2+5Combat training
8th+8/+3+6+2+6Bonus feat
9th+9/+4+6+3+6Combat training, advanced combat training
10th+10/+5+7+3+7Bonus feat
11th+11/+6/+1+7+3+7Combat training
12th+12/+7/+2+8+4+8Bonus feat
13th+13/+8/+3+8+4+8Combat training
14th+14/+9/+4+9+4+9Bonus feat
15th+15/+10/+5+9+5+9Combat training
16th+16/+11/+6/+1+10+5+10Bonus feat
17th+17/+12/+7/+2+10+5+10Combat training
18th+18/+13/+8/+3+11+6+11Bonus feat
19th+19/+14/+9/+4+11+6+11Combat training
20th+20/+15/+10/+5+12+6+12Bonus feat, combat mastery

Weapon and Armor Proficiency
A fighter is proficient with all simple and martial weapons and with light armor.

Obviously the class has had major upgrades in Will saves and skill points. I’ve been working with the basic d20 fighter nonstop since 1999, and I believe these pure power boosts are warranted, and will help make the fighter the go-to class for players who want to be strong-jawed swordsmen and dashing heroes.

Bonus feats are largely unchanged.

At first level, you’ll gain a combat style. This will set one fighter apart from another at the very beginning, and some combat trainings will require a set style. A combat style might give you proficiency with medium and heavy armor, all shields (including tower shields), and give you a solid armor training/armor mastery path for your combat mastery. Or it might give you bonuses to AC when wearing no more than light armor and give you a panache option combat training path. Or give you an order, oath, light and heavy armor, and a mounted combat/cavalier order combat training path.

It might even give you some combat magic, for a bgeing-at-first-level version of the eldritch knight.

Nearly everything else fighters get has been rolled into “Combat training.” This will be a system much like rogue talents, but focused on different fighting options. Combat training will have all the armor training and weapon training options, and a lot of the things that built off those in Player Companions and archetypes.

At 9th level you’ll gain access to advanced combat training, which will have higher-level-appropriate options, and likely a way to pick up a “second fighting style” if desired.

This system can roll a ton of archetypes and even some base and hybrid classes into a single, flexible class that takes less room than all those options combined, but can actually create more different custom PC builds, all on the same game-balanced chassis.

Patreon
I have a Patreon. It supports the time I take to do all my blog posts. If you’d like to see more Pathfinder 1st edition options (or more rules for other game systems, fiction, game industry essays, game design articles, worldbuilding tips, whatever!), try joining for just a few bucks and month and letting me know!

PF1 Essential Feats, Part 3: General Feats

Last Friday I tackled some “1st Edition Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Essentials Feat,” a theoretical project to revise all the feats for PF1, cutting down the total number of feats by 80% or so, while maintaining as many character concepts as possible. I also hope to do some rebalancing so feats are all meaningful choices, and possible even tackle class balance issues

I’ve been focusing on Stance Feats, especially the Power Attack stance feats. Today, I decided to work on a many general feats I think can be condensed down to just a few options.

(Art by Lunstream)

DIFFICULTY FOCUS
You have improved how difficult it is for foes to resist one specific ability of yours.
Prerequisites: Spell, special attack, or class feature that has a save DC.
Benefit: Choose one of the creature’s special attacks, or class features, or one school of magic. Add +2 to the DC for all saving throws against the special attack, class feature, or spells and spell-like abilities from the school of magic on which the creature focuses.
Special: A creature can gain this feat multiple times. Its effects do not stack. Each time the creature takes the feat, it applies to a different school of magic, special attack, or class feature.

NIMBLE MOVES
You can move across a difficult terrain with ease.
Prerequisites: Dex 13.
Benefit: Whenever you move, you may move through a number of 5-foot squares of difficult terrain each round as if it were normal terrain. The number of squares you can move through each round is equal to your Dexterity bonus. This feat allows you to take a 5-foot step into difficult terrain.

SKILL FOCUS
Choose a skill. You are particularly adept at that skill.
Benefit: You get a +3 bonus on all checks involving the chosen skill. If you have 10 or more ranks in that skill, this bonus increases to +6.
Special: You can gain this feat multiple times. Its effects do not stack. Each time you take the feat, it applies to a new skill.

SKILL SYNERGY
You understand how two skills work well together.
Benefit: Choose two skills. These skills become class skills for you. If one or both were already class skills, you gain a +2 bonus to those skill checks instead. If you have 10 or more ranks in one or both of these skills, you gain an additional +2 bonus to skill checks with those skills.
Special: You can take this feat multiple times. Its effects don’t stack. Each time you take it, it applies to two different skills.

Patreon
I have a Patreon. It supports the time I take to do all my blog posts. If you’d like to see more Pathfinder 1st edition options (or more rules for other game systems, fiction, game industry essays, game design articles, worldbuilding tips, whatever!), try joining for just a few bucks and month and letting me know!

PF1 Essential Feats, at 2: Power Attack Stance Feats

Last Friday I tackled some “1st Edition Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Essentials Feat,” a theoretical project to revise all the feats for PF1, cutting down the total number of feats by 80% or so, while maintaining as many character concepts as possible. I also hope to do some rebalancing so feats are all meaningful choices, and possible even tackle class balance issues

One of the things I presented were Stance Feats, and I then rewrote Power Attack to be a prime example of such feats. Today, I am presenting what I see as the key Power Attack Stance feats, compiled, revised, and revisiting dozens of PF1 feats to compile into just 9 total feats. (You can follow the link above to Friday’s post to see how I set up Stance Feats and Power Attack.)

It’s worth noting that, at least at the moment, I don’t plan to make the Improved Combat Maneuver feats Power Attack Stance feats, and may not even keep Power Attack as prerequisites for them. That may change once I get deeper into this project, but for now I’m not including them here.

I also suspect one of the things the fighter class is going to get is a way to have multiple stances active at once. But I’ll figure out how and at what levels to do that after I have more feat stance chains built.

(Art by Lunstream)

Power Attack Stance Feats

POWERFUL ASSAULT (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
You can focus on inflicting inflict bloody wounds that are slow to heal.
Prerequisites: Str 13, Power Attack, base attack bonus +6.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance and you damage a foe with a melee attack you inflict 1d4 points of bleed damage, in addition to the normal damage dealt by the weapon. A creature continues to take bleed damage every round at the start of its turn. Bleed damage can be stopped by a Heal check (DC 10 + your base attack bonus) or through any magical healing. Bleed damage from this feat does not stack with itself.
If your base attack bonus is +11 or higher, when you are in Power Attack stance, you may instead choose on melee attack you make each round to attempt to daze your target. This choice must be made before your attack roll. If the attack hits, in addition to the normal damage dealt by the attack that target must make a successful Fortitude save (DC of this save is 10 + your base attack bonus) or be dazed for 1 round. Subsequent attacks in the same round also have a chance to daze targets, but each subsequent melee attack you make in the same round reduces this DC by 5. If the DC drops to 10 or less, there is no change to daze targets.
You cannot use this feat to both cause bleed damage and have a chance to daze targets.

HARDER THEY FALL (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
You can work with an ally to move or knock over a foe that’s too large for either of you to overcome alone.
Prerequisites: Str 15, Power Attack.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance, if the first melee attack you make in your turn successfully hits and damages a foe, your allies gain a +2 bonus to combat maneuver bonus checks against that target until the beginning of your next turn. Additionally, until your next turn allies can attempt to bull rush, drag, overrun, reposition, or trip that target even if it is two size categories larger than them.
Normal: Those combat maneuvers can normally only be attempted against creatures no more than one size category larger than you.

INTIMIDATING SMASH (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
Your terrible attacks strike fear into your enemies.
Prerequisites: Str 13, Power Attack, Intimidate 1 rank, base attack b9nus +1.
Benefit: You may add your Strength modifier, rather than Charisma modifier, to Intimidate checks.
When you are in Power Attack stance, the first time in your turn you damage an opponent with a melee, you may make an immediate Intimidate check as a free action to attempt to demoralize your opponent.
Additionally when in Power Attack stance, the first time each combat you drop a foe to 0 or fewer Hit Points, you may make an immediate Intimidate check as a free action to attempt to demoralize all opponent within 60 feet.
Alternatively, if you attempt to demoralize a foe within your reach as a standard action and succeed, you may choose to immediately enter Power Attack stance (ending any other stance you are in) and make a single melee attack against them as a swift action. You cannot then attempt to use this feat to demoralize them again on that attack.

ONSLAUGHT (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
No one is prepared for how hard you strike until they see it firsthand.
Prerequisites: Str 13, Power Attack, sneak attack class feature.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance, you can add your sneak attack damage to the first melee attack you make in each combat, even if the target is not flanked or denied their Dex bonus to AC.

PILE ON (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
You can keep a foe shuddering in fear.
Prerequisites: Str 13, Intimidating Smash, Power Attack, Intimidate 6 ranks.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance, once per round when you damage a creature that is shaken, frightened, or panicked, you can choose to deal half your normal damage in order to extend the duration of its fear condition by 1 round.

PUSHING ASSAULT (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
You can use attacks with two-handed weapons to drive your foes before you.
Prerequisites: Str 15, Power Attack, base attack bonus +1.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance, once per round when you make a melee attack that damage sa creature that is no more than one size category larger than you, you can choose to push the target 5 feet directly away from you. Alternative, you can choose to do half damage to push the target 10 feet directly away from you. This movement does not provoke attacks of opportunities, and the target must end this move in a safe space it can stand in. You choose which effect to apply after the attack roll has been made, but before the damage is rolled.

SET WEAPON (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
You can set your weapons to deal extra damage against moving foes.
Prerequisites: Str 13, Power Attack.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance, all weapons you wield with the reach special weapon feature are also treated as if they had the brace weapon special feature. Additionally, if you are using a weapon that normally has the brace special weapon feature, if you successfully hit a target an an attack of opportunity the target provoked from movement, you deal double damage.

SHIELD OF SWINGS (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
A wild frenzy of attacks serves to bolster your defenses.
Prerequisites: Str 13, Power Attack, base attack bonus +1.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance and make a melee attack, you can choose for all your attacks to do half damage in order to gain a +4 shield bonus to AC and CMD until the beginning of your next turn. The reduction in damage applies until the beginning of your next turn.

SMASH (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
You overcome obstacles by breaking them.
Prerequisites: Power Attack.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance, your melee attacks ignore 5 points of hardness. This has no effect on DR. You also receive a +5 bonus on Strength checks made to knock down or break open doors.

Patreon
I have a Patreon. It supports the time I take to do all my blog posts. If you’d like to see more Pathfinder 1st edition options (or more rules for other game systems, fiction, game industry essays, game design articles, worldbuilding tips, whatever!), try joining for just a few bucks and month and letting me know!

PF1 Essentials, Feats and Index

I mentioned on Facebook the idea of doing “Pathfinder Roleplaying Game 1st edition Essential Feats,” which would cut down on the total number of feats by about 80%, while not significantly reducing the number of different builds you could create with such feat.

Ideally, such a project would also address issues with needless complexity, and known roadblocks to popular character concepts. To be honest, this would also be one major step I would take on a Revised Pathfinder Roleplaying Game 1st Edition — something I’d want to be 90% or more compatible with existing 1st edition, just with some shuffling with how details work.

As I work on the “PF1 Essentials” idea, I am updating this post so it serves as a compilation of feats, and an index of other PF1 Essentials content.

INDEX

Classes: Here’s a preview of the PF1 Essentials Fighter
Feats: You’re already here!
Spells: We outline some design goals and tackle hold person here.

Stance Feats

My first step in doing all this would be with Stance feats, which make some popular feats easier to access, simpler to run, and slightly more powerful, but also prevents you from benefitting from them all at the same time. I have presented some key ones below.

(Art by Lunstream)

When you use a stance feat, you cannot use any other stance feat that is not the same type of stance feat. For example, if you are using a Power Attack Stance feat, you can use other Power Attack Stance feat, but not a Combat Expertise Stance feat.

CLEAVE (Combat, Cleave Stance)
You can strike two adjacent foes with a single swing.
Prerequisites: Str 13, base attack bonus +1.
Benefit: As a standard action, you can make a single melee attack at your full base attack bonus against a foe within reach. If you hit, you deal damage normally and can make an additional melee attack (using your full base attack bonus) against a foe that is adjacent to the first and also within reach. You can only make one additional attack per round with this feat. When you use this feat, you take a –2 penalty to your Armor Class until your next turn.

COMBAT EXPERTISE (Combat, Combat Expertise Stance)
You can increase your defense by focusing on parries and dodges.
Prerequisite: Dex 13 or Int 13.
Benefit: You can choose to enter the Combat Expertise stance to gain a +1 dodge bonus to your Armor Class. When your base attack bonus reaches +4, and every +4 thereafter, the dodge bonus increases by +1. You can only choose to use this feat when you declare that you are making an attack or a full-attack action with a melee weapon. The effects of this feat last until your next turn.

POWER ATTACK (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
You can make exceptionally deadly melee attacks by focusing on powerful swings.
Prerequisites: Str 13, base attack bonus +1.
Benefit: You can choose to enter the Power Attack stance, to gain a +2 bonus on all melee damage rolls. This bonus to damage is increased by half (+50%) if you are making an attack with a two-handed weapon, a one handed weapon using two hands, or a primary natural weapon that adds 1-1/2 times your Strength modifier on damage rolls. This bonus to damage is halved (–50%) if you are making an attack with an off-hand weapon or secondary natural weapon.
When your base attack bonus reaches +4, and every 4 points thereafter, the bonus to damage increases by +2.
You must choose to use this feat before making an attack roll, and its effects last until your next turn. The bonus damage does not apply to touch attacks or effects that do not deal hit point damage.

VITAL STRIKE (Combat, Vital Strike Stance)
You make a single attack that deals significantly more damage than normal.
Benefit: When you make only a single attack in a round, you can make one attack at your highest base attack bonus that deals additional damage. Roll the weapon’s damage dice for the attack twice and add the results together before adding bonuses from Strength, weapon abilities (such as flaming), precision-based damage, and other damage bonuses. These extra weapon damage dice are not multiplied on a critical hit, but are added to the total.
You must enter this stance before you make any attack rolls in your turn. Once you have done so, you cannot make any other attacks (including attacks of opportunity) until the beginning of your next turn.
If your base attack bonus is +11 or higher, you instead roll the damage dice for the attack three times. If you base attack bonus is +16, you instead roll the damage dice for the attack four times.

WEAPON FINESSE (Combat, Weapon Finesse Stance)
You are trained in using your agility in melee combat, as opposed to brute strength.
Benefit: With a light weapon or a weapon with the finesse trait (including the elven curve blade, rapier, whip, or spiked chain) made for a creature of your size category, you may use your Dexterity modifier instead of your Strength modifier on attack rolls and damage rolls. If you carry a shield, its armor check penalty applies to your attack rolls.
You do not add 1.5x your Dexterity modifier to damage with 2-handed finesse weapons. You only add half your Dexterity modifier to damage with off-hand weapons.
Special: Natural weapons are considered light weapons.

(Art by Lunstream)

Power Attack Stance Feats

The following are my current vision of the key Power Attack Stance feats, compiled, revised, and revisiting dozens of PF1 feats to compile into just 9 total feats.

It’s worth noting that, at least at the moment, I don’t plan to make the Improved Combat Maneuver feats Power Attack Stance feats, and may not even keep Power Attack as prerequisites for them. That may change once I get deeper into this project, but for now I’m not including them here.

I also suspect one of the things the fighter class is going to get is a way to have multiple stances active at once. But I’ll figure out how and at what levels to do that after I have more feat stance chains built.

POWERFUL ASSAULT (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
You can focus on inflicting inflict bloody wounds that are slow to heal.
Prerequisites: Str 13, Power Attack, base attack bonus +6.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance and you damage a foe with a melee attack you inflict 1d4 points of bleed damage, in addition to the normal damage dealt by the weapon. A creature continues to take bleed damage every round at the start of its turn. Bleed damage can be stopped by a Heal check (DC 10 + your base attack bonus) or through any magical healing. Bleed damage from this feat does not stack with itself.
If your base attack bonus is +11 or higher, when you are in Power Attack stance, you may instead choose on melee attack you make each round to attempt to daze your target. This choice must be made before your attack roll. If the attack hits, in addition to the normal damage dealt by the attack that target must make a successful Fortitude save (DC of this save is 10 + your base attack bonus) or be dazed for 1 round. Subsequent attacks in the same round also have a chance to daze targets, but each subsequent melee attack you make in the same round reduces this DC by 5. If the DC drops to 10 or less, there is no change to daze targets.
You cannot use this feat to both cause bleed damage and have a chance to daze targets.

HARDER THEY FALL (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
You can work with an ally to move or knock over a foe that’s too large for either of you to overcome alone.
Prerequisites: Str 15, Power Attack.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance, if the first melee attack you make in your turn successfully hits and damages a foe, your allies gain a +2 bonus to combat maneuver bonus checks against that target until the beginning of your next turn. Additionally, until your next turn allies can attempt to bull rush, drag, overrun, reposition, or trip that target even if it is two size categories larger than them.
Normal: Those combat maneuvers can normally only be attempted against creatures no more than one size category larger than you.

INTIMIDATING SMASH (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
Your terrible attacks strike fear into your enemies.
Prerequisites: Str 13, Power Attack, Intimidate 1 rank, base attack b9nus +1.
Benefit: You may add your Strength modifier, rather than Charisma modifier, to Intimidate checks.
When you are in Power Attack stance, the first time in your turn you damage an opponent with a melee, you may make an immediate Intimidate check as a free action to attempt to demoralize your opponent.
Additionally when in Power Attack stance, the first time each combat you drop a foe to 0 or fewer Hit Points, you may make an immediate Intimidate check as a free action to attempt to demoralize all opponent within 60 feet.
Alternatively, if you attempt to demoralize a foe within your reach as a standard action and succeed, you may choose to immediately enter Power Attack stance (ending any other stance you are in) and make a single melee attack against them as a swift action. You cannot then attempt to use this feat to demoralize them again on that attack.

ONSLAUGHT (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
No one is prepared for how hard you strike until they see it firsthand.
Prerequisites: Str 13, Power Attack, sneak attack class feature.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance, you can add your sneak attack damage to the first melee attack you make in each combat, even if the target is not flanked or denied their Dex bonus to AC.

PILE ON (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
You can keep a foe shuddering in fear.
Prerequisites: Str 13, Intimidating Smash, Power Attack, Intimidate 6 ranks.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance, once per round when you damage a creature that is shaken, frightened, or panicked, you can choose to deal half your normal damage in order to extend the duration of its fear condition by 1 round.

PUSHING ASSAULT (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
You can use attacks with two-handed weapons to drive your foes before you.
Prerequisites: Str 15, Power Attack, base attack bonus +1.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance, once per round when you make a melee attack that damage sa creature that is no more than one size category larger than you, you can choose to push the target 5 feet directly away from you. Alternative, you can choose to do half damage to push the target 10 feet directly away from you. This movement does not provoke attacks of opportunities, and the target must end this move in a safe space it can stand in. You choose which effect to apply after the attack roll has been made, but before the damage is rolled.

SET WEAPON (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
You can set your weapons to deal extra damage against moving foes.
Prerequisites: Str 13, Power Attack.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance, all weapons you wield with the reach special weapon feature are also treated as if they had the brace weapon special feature. Additionally, if you are using a weapon that normally has the brace special weapon feature, if you successfully hit a target an an attack of opportunity the target provoked from movement, you deal double damage.

SHIELD OF SWINGS (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
A wild frenzy of attacks serves to bolster your defenses.
Prerequisites: Str 13, Power Attack, base attack bonus +1.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance and make a melee attack, you can choose for all your attacks to do half damage in order to gain a +4 shield bonus to AC and CMD until the beginning of your next turn. The reduction in damage applies until the beginning of your next turn.

SMASH (Combat, Power Attack Stance)
You overcome obstacles by breaking them.
Prerequisites: Power Attack.
Benefit: When you are in Power Attack stance, your melee attacks ignore 5 points of hardness. This has no effect on DR. You also receive a +5 bonus on Strength checks made to knock down or break open doors.

General Feats

A big part of doing an “Essentials” line for PF1 is cutting down on the number of similar-but-just-different-enough options s the total number of things a player has to go through is greatly reduced. here are some examples of how I would do that with core general feats.

DIFFICULTY FOCUS
You have improved how difficult it is for foes to resist one specific ability of yours.
Prerequisites: Spell, special attack, or class feature that has a save DC.
Benefit: Choose one of the creature’s special attacks, or class features, or one school of magic. Add +2 to the DC for all saving throws against the special attack, class feature, or spells and spell-like abilities from the school of magic on which the creature focuses.
Special: A creature can gain this feat multiple times. Its effects do not stack. Each time the creature takes the feat, it applies to a different school of magic, special attack, or class feature.

NIMBLE MOVES
You can move across a difficult terrain with ease.
Prerequisites: Dex 13.
Benefit: Whenever you move, you may move through a number of 5-foot squares of difficult terrain each round as if it were normal terrain. The number of squares you can move through each round is equal to your Dexterity bonus. This feat allows you to take a 5-foot step into difficult terrain.

SKILL FOCUS
Choose a skill. You are particularly adept at that skill.
Benefit: You get a +3 bonus on all checks involving the chosen skill. If you have 10 or more ranks in that skill, this bonus increases to +6.
Special: You can gain this feat multiple times. Its effects do not stack. Each time you take the feat, it applies to a new skill.

SKILL SYNERGY
You understand how two skills work well together.
Benefit: Choose two skills. These skills become class skills for you. If one or both were already class skills, you gain a +2 bonus to those skill checks instead. If you have 10 or more ranks in one or both of these skills, you gain an additional +2 bonus to skill checks with those skills.
Special: You can take this feat multiple times. Its effects don’t stack. Each time you take it, it applies to two different skills.

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Maneuver Defense Feats for Pathfinder 1e

Some players just hate being disarmed. Or grappled. Or tripped. Or having their weapon sundered. Sure, it’s a reasonable and normal tactical option for GMs, but that doesn’t mean players don’t want ways to improve their defenses against such maneuvers.

(Art by Javier)

The classic answer is to take the appropriate Improved combat maneuver feat, which increase your CMD… but they also does a lot of other things. In fact, their primary abilities are offensive in nature, rather than defensive. Which means an all-defensive version is reasonable… but it needs to not stack, or defensive numbers can grow beyond what the game system is designed to allow.

CMD is also a place where spells and magic items don’t really make up the growing gap in value for characters not focusing on Strength and Dexterity. A wizard can use mage armor to boost their AC, and get ever-more-effective bracers of armor as they gain levels. But if they want to keep their Intelligence competitive, they can’t afford to boost their Strength and Dexterity as they go up in levels. Other classes have the same (or worse) problems, especially those dependent on multiple attributes.

There should be SOME way to make sure their CMD can stay in good defensive ranges if they expend character build resources on it, without also allowing high-Strength, high-Dexterity characters to become effectively immune.

Those are pretty narrow design spaces, but they’re certainly ones we can work with.

Combat Maneuver Defensive Focus (Combat)
You have trained yourself to avoid one specific combat maneuver.
Benefit: Select one combat maneuver. You gain a +4 bonus to your CMD against this combat maneuver. This bonus does not stack with the bonus to CMB from the matching Improved (Combat Maneuver) feat. When you gain a level, you may replace this feat with the matching Improved (Combat maneuver) feat if that feat is a legal choice for your character.
Special: You may select this feat more than once. Its effects do not stack. Each time you select it, you must apply it to a different combat maneuver.

Combat Maneuver Specialized Training (Combat)
You have learned to maximize the benefits of your natural talents to avoid being overwhelmed by combat maneuvers.
Benefit: When calculating your CMD, you may replace either your Strength bonus or Dexterity bonus with the ability bonus of one other ability score of your choice. Once these decisions are made, they cannot be changed.

Patreon
I have a Patreon. It supports the time I take to do all my blog posts. If you’d like to see more Pathfinder 1st edition options (or more rules for other game systems, fiction, game industry essays, game design articles, worldbuilding tips, whatever!), try joining for just a few bucks and month and letting me know!

d20 Spotlight Tokens

d20 Spotlight Tokens are an optional rule for most d20-rule based (or “T20”) games. The tokens are designed to give players a concrete way to grab some spotlight time (real-world time where they are getting the most done, being the most impressive, and having the most attention paid to them). These are absolutely a power-up in terms of what a group of PCs can handle, and that’s both intentional and, in my opinion, a good thing. It’s not an increase in what characters can do all the time, but it is a way for a player to decide to have remarkable success when the going gets tough… or when the player just wants that to be the way the story goes.

These are a mechanical solution to spotlight time. A player can’t help but be the focus of attention when one is spent, even if they are shy or not big talkers.

Once you have played with d20 Spotlight Tokens for a few game sessions, it should be obvious how to adjust for them as a GM. It may be the players simply choose to take on more encounters in a row, taking overnight rests or breaks to recharge abilities less often, in which case no adjustment may be needed. Or it may be appropriate to treat the characters as being one or two levels higher, so they face more dangerous opponents that require them to expend some tokens to succeed.

(Art by Grandfailure)

Spotlight Token Rules

You get one token per session, plus one per 5 full character levels. If no other player takes the same spotlight token as you, you gain 1 extra token per session.

Select one of the following tokens. This should be done, together, as a group. If two players choose the same token, they can decide if they want to overlap, or one or both of them change their choice. Once this choice is settled, it cannot be changed until you gain a level or another player selects the same Spotlight Token you already have (in which case, again, you discuss it and one, both, or neither of you can change your choice).

You can spend a Spotlight Token immediately any time the relevant game event occurs, even if the action has already been resolved. For example, if you select the Attack Token, you can spend it after an attack misses, or after it hits but does less damage than you want. When you spend a spotlight token, you also get one additional full round of actions you get to take immediately. This additional round of actions does not benefit from the powers of the Spotlight Token–for example if using the Assault token attacks you make as part of your bonus round of action do not also automatically hit.

Currently, here are the token choices. They are designed to lean into common character focuses, and to have more than one options for each broad focus.

ARMOR – You take no damage until the end of your next turn.

ATTACK – Your attack (anything requiring an attack roll) hits and does 150% its max damage.

ASSAULT — Your attack (anything requiring an attack roll), and all attacks you make before the beginning of your next round, hit.

CRITICAL — Your attack, effect, or spell (anything requiring an attack roll) is a critical hit, if it has rules for being so (for example of a spell does not require an attack roll and has no rules for being a critical hit, it does not benefit from this token).

DEFENSE – An attack misses you, as do all other attacks from the same source until the beginning of your next turn.

EFFECT – One foe fails a saving throw against a spell or effect of yours. If there are degrees of failing a saving throw (such as an additional penalty if the save is failed by 5 or more), it takes the worst effect.

MANA — You activate one spell or ability you can use at least once per day without it counting against your normal uses per day.

OVERCOME — You get to take a single action that can be performed in one round or less, that you would be able to take if your character was not suffering any damage, penalties or effects, and without applying any penalties for current damage, penalties, or effects. Yes, even if you are dead.

RESIST — You succeed at a saving throw, and at all other saving throws from the exact same effect (such as all saves against a poison, or against one ongoing spell).

SKILL — You may choose for one skill check (regardless of how much time it represents), or all skill checks you make in a single round, to be treated as if you had rolled a 20 and the d20 roll.

Patreon
I have a Patreon. It supports the time I take to do all my blog posts, but especially longer and more experimental ones like this. If you’d like to see more game-bending rule options (or more fiction, game industry essays, game design articles, worldbuilding tips, whatever!), try joining for just a few bucks and month and letting me know!

Short Fiction: “ALPHA FOXTROT UNIFORM”

I don’t post much short fiction, but it’s an area I’d like to be spending more time and effort on, if I could catch up on other projects. When I originally began my writing career in the 1990s, I wanted to split my time between game writing and fiction writing, but I kept getting offered guaranteed money for game writing, and all fiction was on spec, so…

This is inspired by the quick vigilante/heroes concepts I’ve dabbled with for months on social media with the #StreetLevelHeroes hashtag/

ALPHA FOXTROT UNIFORM

Mike-Mike tossed two smoke cannisters around the corner then dove away from the cover of the alley wall, using a powerful kick against its brick to send him flying swiftly and suddenly across the refuse-covered back street and toward a storm drain. Bursts of automatic gunfire sprayed out around him, but didn’t immediately get a bead on his movement. The smoke wasn’t thick enough for good visual cover yet, but he’d mostly thrown the cannisters to create a distraction. He ended his leap in a slide, staying as low to the ground as possible, and reaching out for the storm drain grill. He felt twin sharp pains in his left leg, but didn’t have time to check if he’d taken shrapnel, or if bullets had impacted on his ballistic cloth costume, or if he was seriously hit.

His fingers just barely grabbed the grill and he quickly pulled himself past the gap between grill and the street, down into the drain. It was a tight fit, but one he’d checked he could make months ago when he’d first begun operating in the old Satan’s Hollow district. He also knew that it was, on average, a three-meter drop from a storm drain entrance to the floor of the crumbling brick waterways. He tucked, trying to roll blindly onto the curved wall he couldn’t see.

He hit, hard, and more flopped than rolled. His right shoulder flared in pain, but he didn’t think it was broken. Cracked, maybe. It would demand attention soon.

If he was still alive.

The muffled sounds of gunfire up in the alley stopped almost immediately, which was bad. It meant his assailants had a good idea where he was, which wasn’t a shock but it would have been nice to catch a break on their acuity.

This hadn’t been a “catch a break” kind of day.

He popped his last smoke cannister, hoping it would cut visibility enough to  make the gunmen cautious about following him into the drain system, then forced himself to his feet. The pain in his left leg returned with a vengeance, but the limb didn’t collapse under him. The drain was nearly empty—it hadn’t rained in this part of the state in more than a week – so at least he could move with fair speed down the tunnel. He hesitated for only a second before flicking on the light attached to his cap—right now it was more important that he move quickly and not bean himself on a cross-pipe than to maintain stealth.

He vacated the spot under the drain grill just as a burst of automatic fire sprayed down from the alleyway. The gunshots were deafening, but at least he didn’t catch a ricochet as he jogged away. His light revealed a cross-drain not more than five meters ahead of him, and he moved toward it as quickly as he could. Just as he reached it there was a clatter behind him, beneath the drain grill.

He threw himself sideways into the cross-drain, as a flash-bang filled the previous tunnel with blinding light and thunderous sound. The shockwave buffeted him, but didn’t make him senseless. He forced himself to his feet again, and ran down the cross-tunnel as fast as he could. He couldn’t be sure the assailants above were following any specific protocol, but most training made flash-bangs a step taken just before a breach.

They were coming to get him, and soon.

Thankfully, the layout of storm drains beneath the Satan’s Hollow district was as convoluted and irregular as the streets of the neighborhood above. He soon found a second intersection, then a third, each time dashing in a random direction to force his pursuers to spread themselves thinner and thinner to chase him down.

Unfortunately, it had looked like they had the numbers to DO that, even if it took some time. Their gear had included some upscale communications and screen devices as well, so he would guess they had nine backup giving them schematics, traffic camera views, and local internet chatter. No maps of the drain system were 100% accurate, but with their numbers, resources, and apparent competence, he couldn’t trust he’d be able to safely disengage without being followed.

Or mowed down.

He didn’t even know what he’d done to warrant the sudden attack, and honestly if he hadn’t been who he was, able to do what he could do he’d be dead already. But he’d already played the one good trick he kept up his sleeve, and it hadn’t been enough. The attackers had kept coming, in numbers, out in the open, with no apparent concern about retaliation from law enforcement. He was out of his depth.

He needed his own back-up.

He slipped an old-fashioned flip-phone out of a pouch, and popped it open. It had no dialpad, and showed clear signs of modification. It automatially came on and dialed a long, complex tone, which was followed by a series of soft clicks. He rarely used it, and just hoped he wasn’t catching its creator at a bad time…

“Ops.”

The woman’s voice was cool, calm, and firm. It was the sweetest sound Mike-Mike had ever heard.

“Mike-Mike, danger word ‘Bananagram.’ I stepped in it Ops. I’m in trouble.”

“Location?” Her voice remained just as calm.

“Storm drains, under Satan’s Hollow. I went in somewhere between Milton Street and the Piles. I’ve been moving roughly south.”

“Condition?”

Mike-Mike took the time to actually look at his leg, crouching to shine his light directly on it. There was no blood, which was good. However when he gingerly touched it, pain shot through him like a hot poker. Which was bad. His shoulder was nearly as painful, and he could feel more bruises and stiffening muscles as the adrenaline leaked out of his system.

“Pretty badly battered. Nothing critical, but I am not in fighting trim.”

“You loaded?”

Mike-Mike looked at the timer on the inside of his right wrist. It automatically went off when he used his “Boom Blast,” counting down until his AB-human power could be used again. He’d expended it when he had first been jumped, and it was the only reason he’d survived the first moments of the attack.

“I got about forty-five minutes before I can pop off. I’m out of smoke. I still have my G19 and two spare clips, but I’d rather not get into a firefight.”

There was a brief pause. “I’ve got you situation. CyberChat in the area is all over it. Reports of four or more armored trucks, two dozen troops. I have video of two of them. No sign of police. Traffic cams are down. No sign of insignia or nametags. Just ranks, which match what Red Stone Consulting use, though they aren’t in standard Red Stone gear. Looks like they’re spreading out, likely trying to cut off your possible evac routes.”

Mike-Mike closed his eyes, and took three deep breaths. That was all about as bad as it could be.

“Options?” He tried to keep his own voice calm.

“I’m boosting the social media awareness now. Shutting down false stories where I can. Making sure footage gets out. Eventually either state enforcement is going to have to pay attention, or mainstream media will which might force federal intervention or a major hero group to drop whatever else they’re doing and head this way. But that’s going to take time I don’t think you have.”

Mike-Mike’s leg flared in pain again, and his visual briefly blurred. That was extra-bad.

“Agreed,” he said simply.

“I can ping potential allies. Get them to the most public spot you can reach, make sure it’s well-seen, and see if these fuckos are willing to go hot against some well-known masks with the eyes of the world on them.”

“I’ll take it.” Mike-Mike didn’t see any better options. “Who’s on deck?”

“Dvork and Chooper are already en route on their own initiative, Broken Heart is nearby and I expect to have her moving your way shortly. I’m pinging Clunker, but don’t know his location. And Boilerplate just reached out to me. She’s apparently also involved in this, and willing to help with an extraction.”

A wave of relief rolled through Mike-Mike. He’d take any help he could get, but Boilerplate brought both near-invulnerability and legal expertise into the mix. And she was well-liked and respected, making it less likely anyone would try to gaslight the public about her involvement.

“What’s my exit?”

“Can you make it to the Yamatown Market?”

Mike-Mike tried to focus on a mental map of Satan’s Hollow, and what he knew about the storm drains. They would all move roughly south or east, to dump into the river. Yamatown was right on the edge of southeastern Satan’s Hollow, divided from it by the 102nd street viaduct, which had connections to the drains. As long as he kept moving in approximately the same direction…

“Yes. It’ll take me maybe 20 minutes.”

“Go.”

Mike-Mike forced himself back to his feet, gritting his teeth at the pain. He had no idea which of the things he’d been looking into had brought this sudden hellstorm down on him.

But he was now a good deal more convinced he was going to live long enough to find out.

Patreon
I have a Patreon. It supports the time I take to do all my blog posts, but especially longer and more experimental ones like this. If you’d like to see more fiction (or more game industry essays, game design articles, worldbuilding tips, whatever!), try joining for just a few bucks and month and letting me know!

Fantasy Maxims

Sometimes as a GM, you just need a new maxim to put on a tomb wall, or inscribe into a book, or have a wise old turtle say while puffing on a pipe.

So, here are some options.

“It takes more than a hoard of gold to make you a dragon.”

“Counting a man’s tears doesn’t teach you the depth of his grief.”

“A man who freezes do death does not care how soon Spring is.”

“A tunnel is just a hole that kept going.”

“Butterflies don’t help caterpillars.”

“Don’t make deals with talking skulls.”

“The differences between heroes and corpses is more skill than luck.”

“Don’t light a candle if you don’t want to see what’s in the dark.”

“No one buries something without good cause to take on the labor.”

“Blame the parent for a child’s behavior, but blame the adult for their own actions.”

“An axe that chops wood is a tool. An axe that chops flesh is a weapon. The axe doesn’t care.”

(Art by Svitlana)

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Role Relics, Pt. 2

Role relics are magic items designed to encourage specific roles or playstyles (perhaps given to children who enter a fantasy world on a roller coaster and each are given a single relic to help them out). I did two already in Part One.

Since these are designed to be character-defining relics that stand outside normal rules, I’ve written only sketches of how they work, so they are compatible with most d20-evolved RPGs. A GM who wants to fill out details like item level and school of magic are free to do so, but the core idea here is to offer legendary items that make it easier for a character to fulfill one classic heroic role.

Cloak of Stealth
Once activated (which can be done as part of any other action taken on the wearer’s turn), as long as the character wearing the cloak takes no actions other than movement, they can make a Stealth check against all senses and detection abilities of any creature. For these Stealth checks, the wearer rolls twice and takes the best result. Each activation lasts no more than one minute, and the cloak then cannot be used again for ten minutes.

(Art by Grandfailure)

Energy Bow
The energy bow automatically creates magic arrows when used for attacks, and does not require any ammunition. These arrows are Force effects, and do untyped pure magic damage. They ignore false images of a target, and any magic or technological effect that creates a flat chance of missing even if a an attack roll is successful.

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Want more RPG item ideas? Game stats? Would you rather see more material for Starfinder, or industry insider articles? Walkthroughs of my developer or game designer processes? Join my Patreon for a few bucks a month, and let me know!