Monthly Archives: April 2022

Top Ten Signs You Might Be The Chosen One

Look, we’ve all been there, trying to figure out if we are the Chosen One. Maybe we’re trying to decide if learning to speak Greek backwards while swordfighting from camelback is worth the effort. Maybe we need to know if we should pull the Scepter of Rulership from the Lake of Ill-Conceived Governmental Organization.

Maybe it’s just that our tax forms want to know our occupation.

Whatever the reason, when you are trying to decide how Chosen you may be, there are the:

Top Ten Signs You Might Be The Chosen One

10. You have visions of a giant mecha only you can pilot, an ancient sword only you can wield, a magic spell only you can pronounce, an alien army only you can command… or heck, all of the above.

9. You were born under unusual circumstances that sound like they could be spun into their own not-as-interesting prequel. Like, born during an eclipse on the side of a volcano at the exact moment the Queen of Graves was slain by Ashley Apocalypseblade.

8. There’s a prophecy about you. This is a huge giveaway… but also a crapshoot. first, prophecies about Chosen Ones are often kept from Chosen Ones for… reasons? Second, Chosen-One-Defining-Prophecies are notoriously vague. It’s almost like they’re written so after anyone does anything spectacular, you could back-translate the prophecy to make it sound like it meant them all along. (Weird, that.) Third, flattery and the Big Lie both being powerful, some people may tell you there’s a prophecy about you to get you to do what they want…. which could be something vile. So, you know, don’t do anything because you are maybe the Chosen one that you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing anyway.

7. Your name is *just* shy of sounding like a porn star name. Like Azure Bliss, or Bolt Vanderhuge.

6. You instinctively know mystic, alien, or dead languages no one has taught you. Aramaic is popular for this, but Njerep is just as good. However, if it’s Klingon or Tolkien elvish, you’re likely just the Geeky One. Esperanto only counts if you are on a world that is an endless river. Enochian could go either way. 

5. Fey folk/spirits/sentient viruses/gods casually hang out with you in your head. And, yes, this does mean that some signs of being the Chosen One are easily mistaken for signs that you need therapy. Come to think of it, most Chosen Ones could use some therapy, so just go get some whether you turn out to be Chosen or not.

4. Your early life sucks, but only if it sucks in a way that specifically prepares you for greatness. Which you almost never realize at the time, so while this technically counts, it’s not actually very useful for analytic comparison, given how many people have early lives that suck.

3. You have a birthmark, scar, or blemish that is recognizably in the shape of something cool. Bonus points if it itches during thunderstorms, or glows when undead are nearby.

2. One of your best family friends is a powerful hero who has saved the world more than once… though you just think of her as “Aunt Apocalypseblade.”

1. Joseph Campbell keeps taking notes about your life, calling it a “journey.”

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Creative Resources Online

Today, I’m just listing some online resources I find useful, and other gamers. GMs, and creators might as well. I may expand this list as time goes on, in which case I’ll link back to it when it gets updates.

As always, I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Read terms and conditions of any resource you sue for commercial products.

Gold Standard
These are the very best of their kind. The gold standard of usefulness, in my opinion.

Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources (https://dmnes.org/names) – This is just what is says on the tin. The list is long, and hyperlinked to definitions, origins, and atributions.

Dyson Logos’ Commercial Maps (https://dysonlogos.blog/maps/commercial-maps/) – A huge, amazing repository of excellent maps by Dyson Logos that have free, commercial licenses attached to them. Read the license and understand it before use (i am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice), but if you need a city, tavern, dungeon, castle, and much, much more either for your game tomorrow night, or your product you want to sell without incurring cartography costs, this is an amazing place to start.

The Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: The Online Edition, by Jess Nevins (http://jessnevins.com/pulp/introduction.html) – Jess Nevins is a true scholar of entire forms of fiction I adore, including Victoriana, Pulp Stories, and more. This is an amazing list of pulp fiction characters, as well as important introductions, descriptions of archetypes, cross-referencing, and so on. For inspiration or a better understanding of the genre, this is an invaluable resource. (His Encyclopedia of Golden Age Heroes is nearly as good, and a valuable companion piece, but is not as finished as the pulp encyclopedia. And , of course, he has numerous published books as well, and a range of similar subjects, most of which are in my cloud reader and a few of which are on my physical bookshelves.

OneLook Dictionary Search (https://www.onelook.com/) – I don’t care about the definitions section of this. What’s amazing is the ability to enter a word and click the “related” button. That provides a list of words that are, somehow, related to the search term. Not synonyms (necessarily), but words that share some kind of link to your search word. Searching for words related to “death” gets you executioner, tomb, slaughterhouse, and so on. The utility for when I want words tied to a theme for spells, hero names, groups, magic items, archetypes, and so on is huge.

Almost as useful is the * before or after searches (such as death*), which give you words and phrases that start with or end with your search term. death*, for example gets you death’s head, death throes, and more. And, you can click through the examples to find out what they mean and/or where they come from.

There are tons of search options and ways to organize and sort the results, so spend some time reading the site and trying out options.

My Patreon and Ko-Fi

Speaking of resources, the tons of material I have on this site is supported by the members of my Patreon, and cups of donation to my Ko-Fi. So, if any of the links above open a new world of options for you, please consider supporting my current and future efforts to bring you more!

The Diary of Ardra Maias

“Of course, Doctor Frankenstein did not begin his work with human corpses. Not for ethical reasons, you understand, but simply because they were difficult to acquire, and until his work progressed to a stage where human trials were needed, there was no point.

“His earliest experiments on revivification were on marmots, easily bought from trappers near his family’s Swiss home. There were far more failures than successes, of course, and were it my preview I would condemn the man to perdition on the basis of what he did to those alone.

“Even so, in time he brought a marmot to life, indeed my current companion Vivo is that first, fully-revived marmot, though in Vivo’s case no surgery had been needed. The Doctor had killed him under exacting conditions, and revivified him moments later.

“I have often marveled at Vivo, for while he has all the robustness and vitality of all we mortiborn, unlike the majority of us he is a peaceful, caring creature. Well capable of defeating a predator ten times his mass, Vivo would prefer affection to affrontation. Bless him.

“But from there, the hubristic doctor did decide he must move to primates, if not yet humans, to perfect his procedure. No large primates being common in Italy or Switzerland, he had to order them bespoke. But hunting expeditions to Borneo were common enough, and he was rich.

“Indeed, I am unsure how many evils would never have been visited upon this world had the Frankenstein family not been one of vast resource and reputation. In the century-and-on of my existence, I have found more evils traced to rich, well-respected men than any other beast.

“So, vile Frankenstein had no difficulty having Indonesian and Malaysian orangutans captured and brought to him. It was thought perhaps he wanted a menagerie, such as at London’s Exeter Exchange. Many were sick and died after arrival, but that too suited his needs.

“I am uncertain how many of my distant cousins, living or dead, he constructed me from. Close examination of my form and logic dictates no less than seven, but without taking my internal organs apart — an act I have always objected to — an exact accounting is impossible.

“I have been told, repeatedly, by anatomists that my brain, at least, must be human, rather than native to my orangutan skull. This is argued that because I can talk, and reason, I cannot be a mere ape. Of my speech, I will grant, the doctor most likely used some human parts.

“But my reason? No, I am not convinced my reason is any less orangutan than my limbs. For, did his homo sapiens subjects not show vast, cold intellect beyond that of their flesh-donors? Is it so hard to believe that the gap from apes’ reason to mans’ is at best a short distance?

“I would propose the question cannot be truly settled until men show the ability to see themselves as something other than the divinely-appointed lords of all matter in the world, animal, mineral, gas, fluid, and plant alike, to use and despoil as they see fit.

“I remember nothing of my time before mortibirth, though instincts still exist from my firstflesh lives, and some smells and sounds strike me as familiar in the extreme. But having gone to Borneo once, I can safely say I am no native of it. I am no native of any land.

“I remember my first weeks. I thought the doctor wise and kind, something between a father and a god. He taught me to walk, talk, eat–ensured that I was fine in form and function. Then he drowned me in an arsenic solution of his own devising, and took notes as I screamed.

“I do presume he believed my consciousness fully destroyed. I think this not out of some trust in his character, but from the fact when I stopped moving, he stopped taking notes and never consulted my glass sarcophagus again. I sat, silent and unmoving, and thought. For years.

“Should I not have been found in the investigation that ensued after the publication of an account of Doctor Frankenstein’s insensate experiments, I believe I would be trapped, paralyzed, and thinking still, looking through the arsenic water and glass at some stone wall.

“But found I was and, in time, released. As I could speak, and was witness to the foul knowledge and process the doctor had created, I was not destroyed. In time, decades, truly, I earned my freedom by turning the lie of a human origin for my brain back on the government.

“So, here exists I. Corpses pretending to be one flesh. Abyssal chemical reactions pretending to be life. An ape’s mind pretending to be human.

“But I am also cunning, robust, and potent in the way of all my kind, and though I carry no love for Monsieur Dupin, he taught me well.

“By the aegis of his brusque acceptance of me, I am established. I have legal papers that sometimes grant me rights, and monies that do so more often.

“How did I come to know Dupin? What is my vocation now? Those shall be future articles, for which I’ll receive a nickel a word.”

–From the Diary of Ardra Maias, the Empire Coast Journal, Jan 17th, 1934.

#DiaryofArdraMaias

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Original Character: The Lantern

(No part of the article is Open Game Content)

I’m going to be playing in a Mutants & Masterminds game sometime in the not-too-distant future, online, about once a month. The GM describes it as “1938 Postmodern Golden Age Superhero,” which is to say, using tropes and aesthetics and the setting of a heroic 1938 world, but not accepting those tropes or the prejudices of that era without examination.

I adore Golden Age supers.

So, I decided I want to play someone in the Mystery Men category, what I often call a “Fedora Hero.” The basics of that are easy to nail down — a 1930s suit and hat with some kind of face covering, detective/investigative skills, fisticuffs, and a schtick. Famous examples obvious include the Crimson Avenger, Green Hornet, Sandman, the Shadow, the Spider: Master of Men, and the Spirit.

I ran through a LOT of ideas (Azure Crusader. Good Citizen. Father Pentacroft. The Griffon. Hodag. Mr. Nevermore. Punchline. Red Wasp.), but they were all either too derivative for my current desires, too generic, or too far from what I see as the core of the Fedora Hero concept.

So, I decided to go a different direction, and pick a legacy, which would lead to a concept, which would lead to a schtick, which would form the core of my hero.

So I began thinking about history and folklore that predated 1938. I considered going with a character named Argent, or Argent Agent, or Revere, and having them be a silver-wielding inheritor of Paul Revere’s heroic role. But, I have long been a bit annoyed that Paul Revere is treated as though he underwent the Midnight Ride by himself, so I didn’t really want to base a character on that as a hook.

Then, it clicked. Not Revere… but the *Lanterns*!

Now my Fedora Hero had a lapel badge of two lanterns in a church tower (“Two If By Sea”) that could shine bright light into his foe’s face. No true superpowers, but inheritor of a long line of special operatives since the days of the Midnight Ride, trained from birth by the secretive Order of William Dawes to find hidden threats to the US, oppose them, and call them out. Mostly stealth-investigator-skills based, but with guns and fisticuffs as needed.

That idea went to Jacob Blackmon, who asked some crucial questions about costume design, and The Lantern’s concept and look were set!

If you’re a fan of M&M as I am, I heartily recommend you join the official M&M Patreon, which has lots of cool content from the creators and developers of the game line!

(The Lantern, art by Jacob Blackmon)

ShadowFinder Magic Item Sketches

Yep, I’m still working on ShadowFinder. Here are some ides I’m working on for magic items in that modern play mode for Starfinder. I haven’t worried about things like bulk, cost, or item level yet. I want to get the cool ideas nailed down a bit, then I’ll fill in game stats as appropriate for what the items do.

Floating Flashlight

(Art by Oleksandr)

A floating flashlight acts as a normal flashlight, but floats at your command. It can even draw itself and put itself away, which takes normal time but does not require you to have a hand free. It can float along with you, moving as you do and facing wherever you look, or as a move action you can direct it to go up to 60 feet from you. When moving with you, attacks against it are sunder combat maneuvers based on your KAC, as if you held it. When moving independently of you, it has an EAC and KAC of 12.

Temporary Hand Tattoos

Temporary hand tattoos look like small, innocuous items of 0 bulk you can hold in one hand. When picked up, they become tiny tattoos in the palm of your hand. You can have only one temporary tattoo in the palm of each hand, though artificial limbs and limbs you can use to carry more equipment (such as prehensile tails) also count for this purpose. You can activate a temporary tattoo as a standard action, which creates a magic effect. The tattoo is then discharged and no longer exists. You can “put down” a temporary tattoo, causing it to remove itself and go back to looking like a 0 bulk item.

Unless stated otherwise, activating a temporary tattoo is a standard action, which also triggers whatever ability it grants For example, if a temporary tattoo allows you to make an attack, the attack is part of the action to activate the tattoo.

(List to follow)

Door, Slammable

(Art by 3Dmavr)

A slammable door appears to be just a doorknob until picked up. You can make a single melee attack as part of activating the tattoo, causing a full-sized door to briefly appear, which you slam on a foe as if they were standing in a doorway. If it hits, the unarmed attack does 1d10 more damage than normal, and it does not count as nonlethal or archaic. The item is then expended.

This same magic item sometimes takes other forms, such as a giant wooden mallet that appears just in time for you to hit a foe and then fades away, an anvil that drops on the target, or a gun that, when fired, has an enormous boxing glove extend out of it to punch your target.

Gun Slide, Instant

(Art by Kamiya Ichiro)

Also known as a “ka-chunk-chunk,” an instant gun slide looks like the slide of a typcial pistol (such as a 1911a Colt .45) until picked up. Triggering an instant gun slide is a move action, which allows you to boost a ranged weapon (as the boost special weapon quality) for an additional 1d10 damage. This looks like you are working the slide of an automatic weapon, racking a pump-action shotgun, cocking the hammer of a firearm, or otherwise getting ready to fire. This is a magical action–it doesn’t matter if your weapon is already fully ready to fire (it still looks and sounds as if you racked it again), and this does not expend or eject extra ammunition.

Vest, Surprise Concealed

This item looks like an extremely thin, barely noticeable armored vest that can easily be worn under even the flimsiest of shirts. Normally it cannot be detected when worn, unless you choose to show it to someone. However, if you are attacked while at 0 HP by an attack that would require you to spend Resolve Points to not die, the surprise concealed vest automatically negates that one attack, revealing itself in the process as if you had always worn it. It is then expended and useless.

Patreon
I have a Patreon. It helps me carve out the time needed to create these blog posts, and is a great way to let me know what kind of content you enjoy. If you’d like to see more Starfinder or ShadowFinder content (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!

Deep Dive: The PF1 Mindblade (Magus Archetype) Revised

Sometimes, specific things about how classes, archetypes, and rule subsets work together in the first edition Pathfinder Roleplaying Game come to my attention. Sometimes it’s due to my own research or design work. Sometimes it’s from a forum post or social media. Sometimes it’s from someone in my gaming group. A lot of these I can incorporate in other articles, or do a quick determination and move on.

Sometimes, it needs a Deep Dive.

So, today, I’m taking a look how the magus class, its mindblade archetype, and the psychic magic rules from Pathfinder Occult Adventures, all blend together. For this article to make sense, you likely want to be familiar with all those elements first.

So, here’s the magus class progression chart, as it would look after taking the mindblade archetype, without the spells/day and spells/day info:

Mindblade

LevelBABFort SaveRef SaveWill SaveSpecial
1st+0+2+0+2Psychic poolcantripsspell combat
2nd+1+3+0+3Spellstrike
3rd+2+3+1+3Magus arcana
4th+3+4+1+4Psychic access
5th+3+4+1+4Bonus feat
6th+4+5+2+5Magus arcana
7th+5+5+2+5Psychic access, dual weapons
8th+6/+1+6+2+6Rapid manifest
9th+6/+1+6+3+6Magus arcana
10th+7/+2+7+3+7Fighter training
11th+8/+3+7+3+7Bonus feat, psychic access
12th+9/+4+8+4+8Magus arcana
13th+9/+4+8+4+8Dual manifest
14th+10/+5+9+4+9Psychic access
15th+11/+6/+1+9+5+9Magus arcana
16th+12/+7/+2+10+5+10Counterstrike
17th+12/+7/+2+10+5+10Bonus feat
18th+13/+8/+3+11+6+11Magus arcana
19th+14/+9/+4+11+6+11Psychic access
20th+15/+10/+5+12+6+12True magus

Okay, that looks pretty good. But, there are some hidden problems in there. Let’s look at each archetype class feature in turn.

Psychic Magic

The first is that this is clearly build on the idea that psychic magic and arcane magic have the same value for the magus build. At a glance that seems fair — each arcane component of a spell is replaced with a different component for psychic magic — emotion for somatic, and thought for verbal. And that’s fine, as far as it goes. But built into thought components is the need to either have the DC of concentration checks be 10 higher, or to take a move action to negate that penalty.

And neither of those works at all well for a magus.

The core power of the magus is spell combat, which allows a magus to take a full round action to make all their normal melee attacks and cast a single spell. Since you can only do this in melee, it obviously requires you to cast defensively… for which the DC is 10 higher. And the magus can’t lower the DC back to normal with a move action while using spell combat, since spell combat is already a full-round action.

That’s not the only potential issue, either. The core magus is carefully built around starting with light armor, then gaining medium and heavy over time. The mindblade, however, can load up in full plate (yes, without proficiency) and cast a shield spell at 1st level (or as soon as they have the money, which is likely to actually be 2nd level), and be fine. Which isn’t great for a straight magus build… but is awesome as a 1-level dip for cavaliers, fighters, and paladins. Those character likely don’t even care what their other spells are, though picking enlarge person and magic weapon certainly gives a cavalier 1/mindblade magus 1 with time to prepare a great one-combat combat loadout.

When a design works better for a 1-level dip for a different class than to support it’s own core ability, it’s an issue.

So, what if we rewrite how their psychic spell power works? Allow them to cast psychic spells in light armor without the DC of their thought spells increasing by 10. Then, add the ability to do this in medium and light armor at the same level a standard magus gains those armor proficiencies. That lets a mindblade use spell combat the same way a standard magus does, and makes the archetype a less-attractive 1-level dip for heavy armor combat classes. Okay, one problem solved.

Psychic Pool

Psychic pool basically replaces the ability to enhance a melee weapon with magic, with the ability to summon one that is magical as a standard action. There are some tradeoffs here. On the up side you are safe from losing a valuable piece of gear since you can always just summon a new sword; you can spend money standard magi would use for buying magic weapons for other magic items; you can use a two-handed weapon or twin weapons (really a function of being a psychic spellcaster, but most relevant here); you end up getting +7 bonuses worth of benefits over the course of the class, rather than just +5. On the down side, it starts as a standard action (again negating the usefulness of spell combat); you can’t combine the bonuses with those of an existing weapon; you can’t throw it; it ties up 1, 2, or 3 or your psychic pool points (yes, you get them back if you lose the weapon, but you can’t spend them on other things if you don’t want to be without your weapon in later rounds.

I get why having a “free” weapon seems like it has to come with huge drawbacks, but this doesn’t pan out as balanced at mid- and high-levels. Even at low-level, doing something like sacrificing 3 psychic pool points to have an effective 2-handed melee weapon is a big cost, and that’s in addition to needing to take a standard action to create it. Now, the ability gets better over time, but does so as stand-alone abilities that replace things like improved spell combat… and it never gets as good enough you could take Quick Draw and pull your weapon and make a full attack action in the same round, which again cuts back on the mindblade’s ability to do core, iconic magus things.

Also, being able to create dual weapons or double weapons later at higher level… sucks in play. Dual weapon wielding only works well if you have a ton of feats to back it up. That means you either have to take those feats early, before you can use them with you psychic weapon, or you wait until you can summon dual weapons at which point you are behind the curve compared to any other 2-weapon fighter.

Pretty clearly, this ability is too restrictive and too likely to frustrate players without giving nearly enough back in terms of either raw power or alternate tactical options. We can fix it by allowing characters to create dual weapons or double weapons at 1st level (by tying up 3 psychic pool points, just like with 2-handed weapons, and dividing their bonuses between them). That currently leaves some blank class levels but that’s okay. We’ll get to them.

Psychic Access

Okay, here’s the biggest one — psychic class spells! Sure, you give up (deep breath) spell recall, knowledge pool, improved spell recall, greater spell combat, and greater spell access, but it’s worth it, right?! I mean, you get more spells!

Except sadly, you don’t.

What you get is to add some spells from the psychic class list to your mindblade class list. But you *don’t* add them as additional spells known. Over the course of 4th to 19th level, you add 10 psychic spells to your mindblade spell list. You don’t end up with any more spells known, and you give up 5 features each as powerful as a magus arcana to do it, including greater spell access. greater spell access literally gives you 14 extra wizard spells for your magus class list, and lets you automatically know them and have them scribed into your spellbook with no time and no cost.

So, psychic access gives you fewer spells than greater spell access alone, and gives you less of a benefit with the spells you do know, and takes up 4 more major class features to do it. That’s objectively worse than the magus. This might make sense of the psychic spell list were massively more effective for a mindblade than the wizard is for a magus… but looking at the lists that is clearly not the case.

Also, as worded, it causes the spell blending arcana to not only grant you psychic spells rather than wizard spells, it doesn’t change the wording of them being added as “spells known.” That’s fine for a preparation spellcaster, where spells known doesn’t impact how many spells they have to choose from in combat (as that’s determined by what is prepared). But as a spontaneous spellcaster, the mindblade suddenly can expend every magus arcana and typical feat (for Bonus magus Arcana) to gain another spell known, and (using various “blending” arcana) can do it from the bard, psychic, and witch class lists.

Giving up knowledge pool, all by itself, is PLENTY of cost for any edge a mindblade might pick up from their psychic blades and the psychic spell list. it is, in fact, an enormous blow to any 7th-level or higher mindblade. Similarly, not having some ability to boost spells-per-day the way spell recall and improved spell recall do is similarly a *vast* cost. Not only should the archetype not also give up a slew of other core magus powers after losing spell recall, knowledge pool, improved spell recall, and greater spellacces, they actually need both some powerful options added BACK, and more ways to spend theirpsychic pool points.

A spontaneous caster doesn’t gain as much from having a bigger class spell list as a preparation spellcaster. It doesn’t increase the potential number of spells they can have ready at one time, or that they can use to meet prerequisites, or craft items. The hunter hybrid class, for example, gets the whole ranger class spell list and 0-6th druid class spell list, and clearly hasn’t had to give up a ton of other cool options to do so.

Given how much overlap already exists with the magus and psychic class lists, it seems obvious that like the druid, we should just give the mindblade access to two class spell lists (magus and psychic), starting at 1st level. Then, to fill the holes left by spell recall, improved spell recall, we add some phrenic amplifications from the psychic class, which both ties into the “mind” part of mindblade, and gives the class something to spend their psychic pool points on.

Here’s the revised class feature chart, and the rewritten mindblade powers.

(Art by Warmtail)

Deep Dive Mindblade

LevelBABFort SaveRef SaveWill SaveSpecial
1st+0+2+0+2Psychic poolcantripsspell combat
2nd+1+3+0+3Spellstrike
3rd+2+3+1+3Magus arcana
4th+3+4+1+4Psychic access
5th+3+4+1+4Bonus feat
6th+4+5+2+5Magus arcana
7th+5+5+2+5Medium armor, psychic access
8th+6/+1+6+2+6Dual weapons, improved spell combat
9th+6/+1+6+3+6Magus arcana
10th+7/+2+7+3+7Fighter training
11th+8/+3+7+3+7Bonus feat, psychic access
12th+9/+4+8+4+8Magus arcana
13th+9/+4+8+4+8Heavy armor
14th+10/+5+9+4+9Greater spell combat
15th+11/+6/+1+9+5+9Magus arcana, psychic access
16th+12/+7/+2+10+5+10Counterstrike
17th+12/+7/+2+10+5+10Bonus feat
18th+13/+8/+3+11+6+11Magus arcana
19th+14/+9/+4+11+6+11Psychic access
20th+15/+10/+5+12+6+12True magus

Spell Casting

A mindblade casts drawn from the magus spell list and psychic spell list as psychic spells. She can cast any spell she knows without preparing it ahead of time. To learn or cast a spell, a mindblade must have an Intelligence score equal to at least 10 + the spell’s level. The saving throw DC to resist a mindblade’s spell is equal to 10 + the spell’s level + the mindblade’s Intelligence modifier.

Like other spellcasters, a mindblade can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. She knows the same number of spells and receives the same number of spells slots per day as a bard of her magus level, and knows and uses 0-level knacks as a bard uses cantrips. In addition, she receives bonus spells per day if she has a high Intelligence score (see Table 1–3 on page 17 of the Core Rulebook).

At 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter, a mindblade can learn a new spell in place of one she already knows, using the same rules as a bard. In effect, the mindblade loses the old spell in exchange for the new one. The new spell’s level must be the same as that of the spell being exchanged, and the new spell must be at least 1 level lower than the highest-level spell the mindblade can cast.

A mindblade need not prepare her spells in advance. She can cast any magus/psychic spell she knows at any time, assuming she has not yet used up her allotment of spells per day for the spell’s level. A mindblade who takes the spell blending magus arcana selects additional spells from the occultist spell list, rather than wizard, and none of the “blending” magus arcanas grant the spells added to the mindblade’s class list as bonus spells known.

A mindblade in no armor or light armor can cast mindblade spells with thought components without increasing the DC of related concentration checks by 10. Like any other psychic spellcaster, a mindblade wearing medium or heavy armor, or using a shield, has the DC of related concentration checks increase by 10 if the spell in question has a thought component. At 7th level, the mindblade gains proficiency in medium armor and this ability extends to medium armor. At 13th level, the mindblade gains proficiency in heavy armor, and this ability extends to heavy armor.

This ability replaces the magus’s spellcasting, and the medium armor and heavy armor magus class features.

Psychic Pool (Su)

A mindblade gains a psychic pool, similar to a normal magus’s arcane pool. At 1st level, a mindblade can expend 1 point from her psychic pool as a standard action to manifest a light melee weapon of her choice, formed from psychic energy, and by spending 2 points, the mindblade can manifest a one-handed melee weapon. By spending 3 points, she can manifest a two-handed melee weapon, two light melee weapons, a light melee weapon and a 1-handed melee weapon, or a double weapon. This psychic weapon can last indefinitely, but it vanishes if it leaves the mindblade’s hand. The mindblade can dismiss a held psychic weapon as a free action. When a psychic weapon vanishes, the mindblade regains the psychic energy used to create it. She can maintain only combinations of weapons listed above (and thus cannot, for example, manifest two one-handed melee weapons).

At 1st level, a psychic weapon counts as a magic weapon of whatever type the mindblade selected, with a +1 enhancement bonus. At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the weapon’s enhancement bonus increases by 1, up to maximum of +5 at 12th level. Starting at 5th level, the mindblade can add any of the weapon special abilities listed in the arcane pool class feature in place of these bonuses, although the weapon must maintain at least a +1 bonus to benefit from any weapon special abilities. At 15th and 18th levels, the weapon gains an additional +1 enhancement bonus, which the mindblade can spend only on weapon special abilities.

At 4th level, the mindblade can manifest her weapons as a move action. At 8th level, the mindblade can manifest her weapons with the same effort needed to draw a normal weapon from a shealth.

If the mindblade has two weapons, or a double weapon, she must divide her total enhancement bonus and weapon special abilities between them. Until 3rd level, this means one weapon (or one end of a double weapon) counts as a magical weapon but has no enhancement bonus. From 3rd level on she must maintain at least a +1 enhancement bonus on each weapon (or end of a weapon), and beginning at 9th level she can divide her remaining enhancement bonuses and weapon special abilities as she prefers.

This ability replaces arcane pool, and counts as arcane pool for the purpose of feats, abilities, and class features.

Psychic Access

At 4th level, and again at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the mindblade gains a phrenic amplification drawn from the psychic class feature of the same name. The mindblade uses her psychic pool to power these (rather than a phrenic amplification pool), and treats her mindblade level as her psychic level for all purposes regarding these amplifications.

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Fantasy Witchwarper for Pathfinder (Full Playtest Version)

Okay, after a few weeks of blogging about drafts, design decisions, and development concerns, a first draft of the witchwarper for Pathfinder is done. So, this is the point when I bring it all together and see about some of the alternative ideas I had during the first draft. Most notably, I have decided to tweak this to be a psychic spellcaster, which both feels more in-line with the class flavor, and gives witchwarpers a less crowded niche as 0-9th level spellcasters.

This is still just a second draft, and in a commercial version I’d have more fluff, supporting feats, some alternate class features, and more paradigm shifts, but this is absolutely playable as-is. It’s at the stage where being playtested is extremely useful.

(Art by Kalleeck)

WITCHWARPER

Most people believe that reality is limited to their physical surroundings. You know the truth: that everything around you is merely a thin veil draped across the infinite tapestry of existence. Your reality is a palimpsest, with all possible worlds and all alternate existences at your disposal. Through your magic and force of personality, you can peer into these time lines and pull from them as you see fit, using their dimensional echoes to twist and reshape your own world.

Alignment: Any.
Hit Die: d6.
Starting Wealth: 2d6 x 10 gp (average 70 gp).
Class Skills
The witchwarper’s class skills are Acrobatics (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Fly (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (arcana) (Int), Knowledge (history) (Int), Knowledge (local) (Int), Knowledge (nobility) (Int), Knowledge (planes)(Int), Linguistics (Int), Profession (Wis), Spellcraft (Int).

Skill Points at each Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Table 1–Witchwarper Class Features

Level      BAB        Fort        Ref         Will        Special

1             +0           +0          +2           +0         Infinite worlds (1st-level Spells) 

2             +1           +0           +3          +0         Paradigm shift, warp pool

3             +1           +1           +3          +1         Compound sight +1, infinite backgrounds

4             +2           +1           +4          +1         Infinite worlds (2nd-level Spells)

5             +2           +1           +4          +1         Paradigm shift 

6             +3           +2           +5          +2          Alternate outcome 1/day, compound sight +2 

7             +3           +2           +5          +2          Infinite worlds (3rd-level Spells)

8             +4           +2           +6          +2          Paradigm shift

9             +4           +3           +6          +3           Compound sight +3 (two skills)

10           +5           +3           +7          +3           Infinite worlds (4th-level Spells)

11           +5           +3           +7          +3           Paradigm shift

12           +6           +4           +8          +4           Alternate outcome 2/day, compound sight +4 

13           +6           +4           +8          +4           Infinite worlds (5th-level Spells)

14           +7        +4           +9          +4           Paradigm shift

15           +7         +5           +9          +5          Compound sight +5

16           +8         +5        +10         +5           Infinite worlds (6th-level Spells)

17           +8         +5        +10         +5           Paradigm shift

18           +9         +6        +11         +6           Alternate outcome 3/day, compound sight +6 

19           +9         +6        +11         +6           Infinite worlds (7th-level Spells)

20           +10         +6        +12         +6           Paradigm shift, reality stutter

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Witchwarper are proficient with all simple weapons. Witchwarpers are also proficient with light armor, but not shields of any kind.

Spells: A witchwarper casts psychic spells drawn from the witch spell list. However, they do not receive curse and mind-effecting spells on the witch list unless those spells are also on the sorcerer/wizard spell list at the same spell level, and they do not gain access to any spell with the healing descriptor. They also add to their class spell list all conjuration and transmutation spells on the druid or sorcerer/wizard spell lists, except those with the healing descriptor. They do not gain access to any spell that requires access to a class feature they lack (such as a spell that affects your ability to use hexes, unless the witchwarpers has somehow gained hexes). They can cast any spell they know without preparing it ahead of time. To learn or cast a spell, a witchwarper must have a Charisma score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a witchwarper’s spell is equal to 10 + the spell’s level + the witchwarper’s Charisma modifier.

A witchwarper can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. Their base daily spell allotment is given on Table 2: Witchwarper Spell Progression. In addition, they receive bonus spells per day if they have a high Charisma score (see Table 1–3 of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook).

The witchwarper’s selection of spells is limited. A witchwarper begins play knowing four 0-level spells and two 1st-level spells of the witchwarper’s choice. At each new witchwarper level, they learn one or more new spells, as indicated on Table 3: Witchwarper Spells Known. Unlike a spells per day, the number of spells a witchwarper knows isn’t affected by their Intelligence score; the numbers on Table 3 are fixed.

At 4th level and every even-numbered level thereafter (6th, 8th, and so on), a witchwarper can choose to learn a single new spell in place of one they already know. In effect, the witchwarper loses the old spell in exchange for the new one. The new spell’s level must be the same as that of the spell being exchanged, and it must be at least 1 level lower than the highest-level spell from the witchwarper’s class list that the witchwarper can cast. A witchwarper can swap only a single spell at any given level, and must choose whether or not to swap the spell at the same time that they gain new spells known for the level.

Table 2 – Witchwarper Spells Per Day

Level1st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th8th9th
1st3
2nd4
3rd5
4th63
5th64
6th653
7th664
8th6653
9th6664
10th66653
11th66664
12th666653
13th666664
14th6666653
15th6666664
16th66666653
17th66666664
18th666666653
19th666666664
20th666666666

Table 3 – Witchwarper Spells Known

Level01st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th8th9th
1st42
2nd52
3rd53
4th631
5th642
6th7421
7th7532
8th85321
9th85432
10th954321
11th955432
12th9554321
13th9554432
14th95544321
15th95544432
16th955444321
17th955444332
18th9554443321
19th9554443332
20th9554443333

Infinite Worlds (Su) – 1st Level
As a standard action, you can create a bubble of altered reality, projecting elements of parallel existences into your current universe. You expend a witchwarper spell slot of 1st level or higher to create an environmental effect, such as summoning fog or thick vines from other realities, which lasts for a number of rounds equal to your class level unless specified otherwise. Alternatively, you can create an instantaneous effect, such a flash of fire from an explosion that occurred in a parallel universe. The particular effects depend on the level of the spell slot expended.

All effects created by infinite worlds use the following rules unless they say otherwise. They have a range of 100 feet + 10 feet per witchwarper level and affect a 10-foot-radius spread. If you create multiple effects with one use of infinite worlds, they all originate at the same point. If an effect calls for a saving throw, the DC is equal to 10 + the spell level expended to create the effect + your Charisma modifier. You can define the cause and appearance of infinite worlds however you wish (subject to GM approval), but the effects themselves are only quasi-real and have no effects beyond the game mechanics listed as options for this ability.

You can instead create multiple, milder effects in place of a single, more powerful effect. When you do this, you select two effects available to any version of this ability created by expending a lower-level spell slot than that you actually expend. For calculations based on spell level, use the level of the spell slot you expend.

For example, a 10th-level witchwarper could expend a 3rd‑level spell slot and select either a 3rd-level effect or any two abilities normally created by expending 1st- or 2nd-level spells. If you expend a spell slot 2 levels higher than the highest-level slot required for the effects you create, you can create 3 different effects. If you use a spell slot 3 levels higher, you can create four effects.

The environmental and instantaneous effects you can create by sacrificing a witchwarper spell slot of a given level are as follows:
1st (Environmental): You cause the affected area to become difficult terrain. This might mean that stone flooring becomes rough and uneven, a waterway is choked by roots and seaweed, or the air is flooded with floating strands of web-like filaments. You can affect a single movement type (normal movement, burrow, climb, fly, or swim) or any combination of those movement types. When you create difficult terrain in this way, it is considered magically altered terrain for the purposes of other effects.
1st (Instantaneous): You cause a bright flash of light to fill the area. Each creature within the area must succeed at a Fortitude saves or be dazzled for 1 round per witchwarper level. If a creature rolls a natural 1 on its saving throw (meaning the d20 shows a “1”), it is also blinded for 1 round.
2nd (Environmental): You cause a hazard that deals damage each round equal to the level of the spell slot expended, with a successful Fortitude save reducing the damage by half. A creature attempts this save when it first takes damage from this effect, and its result applies for the duration of the effect. You select the damage type each time you use this ability (acid, bludgeoning, cold, electricity, fire, piercing, slashing, or sonic).
2nd (Instantaneous): You cause a destabilizing event, such as a brief earthquake, a split-second reversal of gravity, or a blast of icy wind. Each creature within the area must succeed at a Reflex save or be knocked prone. If a creature rolls a natural 1 on its saving throw, it is also moved 5 feet per level of the spell slot expended in a direction of your choice.
3rd (Environmental): You cause the area to grant concealment against one sense—vision, scent, sound, or vibration.
3rd (Instantaneous): You cause a disorienting event, such as bursts of flashing colors and loud sounds, or rain falling upward in spirals. Each creature within the area must succeed at a Will save or take a -2 penalty to attack rolls for a number of rounds equal to the level of the spell expended. If a creature rolls a natural 1 on its saving throw, it is also staggered for 1 round.
4th (Environmental): You create a barrier, the entirety of which must be within the range and area of infinite worlds’ environmental effects. The barrier is a number of 5-foot cubes no greater than double the level of the spell slot expended. The cubes must each connect along one side with at least one other cube, have hardness equal to double the level of the spell slot expended, and each have HP equal to 5 × the level of spell expended. Barriers you could summon might include stone walls, slabs of ice, and so forth.
4th (Instantaneous): You create a burst of damage affecting everything in the area. You select the type of damage each time you use this ability (acid, bludgeoning, cold, electricity, fire, piercing, slashing, or sonic), and it deals 1d8 damage per level of the spell expended (Reflex half).
5th (Environmental): You make the air thicker or thinner, or fill it with toxic vapors. Each creature breathing the air must succeed at a Fortitude save or be sickened as long as it remains in the area. A creature attempts a single save when it is first exposed to the infinite worlds, which determines for the duration of the ability whether breathing within the area sickens that creature.
5th (Instantaneous): You attempt to entangle all targets within the area. You might fill the area with chains, viscous glue, or quick-hardening cement. Each target must succeed at a Reflex save or be entangled and anchored in place for a number of rounds equal to the level of the spell slot expended. Creatures that enter the area after you use this ability are not entangled.
6th (Environmental): You reduce the hardness of objects within the area by 50% (Fortitude negates), or increase their hardness by 10 (to a maximum of double their normal hardness).

Warp Pool (Su) – 2nd Level

A witchwarper has a pool of psychic energy that they can draw upon to fuel their infinite worlds ability, and potentially powers gained through paradigm shifts. The maximum number of points in a witchwarper’s warp pool is equal to 1/2 their class level + their Charisma modifier. The warp pool is replenished each morning after 8 hours of rest or meditation; these hours don’t need to be consecutive. Points gained in excess of the pool’s maximum are lost.

A witchwarper can expend a warp point from their warp pool, rather than expend a spell slot, to fuel their infinite worlds ability. When used for this purpose, the warp point functions as a spell slot with a spell level equal to half the witchwarper’s class level -1 (to a minimum of 1st level spell slot).

Paradigm Shift – 2nd Level

Paradigm shifts represent your ability to briefly install pieces of alternate realities into your own, subtly or radically changing your surroundings for a time. You learn your first paradigm shift at 2nd level, and an additional paradigm shift every 3 levels thereafter. Paradigm shifts require you to be a certain level to learn them and are organized accordingly. You cannot select the same paradigm shift more than once unless it specifies otherwise.

Unless otherwise stated, the effects of a paradigm shift last for a number of rounds equal to your witchwarper level. If a paradigm shift allows a saving throw to resist its effects, the DC is equal to 10 + half your witchwarper level + your Charisma modifier.

Starting at 4th level, your ability to shuffle these realities improves. Upon gaining a witchwarper level (including at 4th level), you can swap out one paradigm shift you know for a different paradigm shift of the same level. You can instead select a paradigm shift of a lower level, but note the level of the original paradigm shift so that when you later swap out the same paradigm shift at later levels, you can select any paradigm shift of the original level or lower.)

2nd level

Disrupt Attack (Su)
As a reaction when you or an ally is targeted with an attack originating within 100 feet, you can expend 1 warp point to impose a –2 penalty on the attack roll. If the attack is coming from a creature, that creature can attempt a Will saving throw to negate this effect. Once you’ve targeted an attacker with this paradigm shift, you can’t target the same attacker with this paradigm shift again for 24 hours. At 8th level, the penalty changes to –3, and at 14th level, the penalty changes to –4.

Disrupt Creature (Su)
As a standard action, you can expend a warp point to target a creature within 100 feet and swap in alternate physiologies (or gears, planar energy, or whatever the creature’s equivalent to physiology is) in its body in this version of existence, imposing the shaken condition for a number of rounds equal to 1/3 your witchwarper class level (minimum 1 round). The target is allowed a Fortitude save to negate this effect. This is not an emotion, fear, or mind-affecting effect, and it does not stack with other shaken or fear conditions. However, if you target a creature that has succeeded at a save against your disrupt creature ability in the past 24 hours, it takes a -2 penalty to its save if you target it again.

Eldritch Secret
You can draw specific magic effects from other realities, allowing you to access spells normally not available to witchwarpers. Select one spell from an arcane or occult class’s spell list. It must be of a level no greater than 1 lower than the highest-level spell you can cast. (Alternatively, you can select one spell from a divine class’s spell list. It must be of a level no greater than 2 lower than the highest-level spell you can cast.) Add this to your list of witchwarper spells known.

You cannot select a spell that requires class features you do not possess. If you select a spell of a different source than your own spells (arcane, divine, or occult), it changes to be a spell of that type. You cannot select a spell available only to members of specific groups (such as worshippers of a specific deity) unless you are a member of that group. You cannot select a spell available only through archetypes, prestige classes, or class features other than “spells” (such as spells only available through an arcane school, bloodline, or domain).

Each time you gain the ability to cast a higher level of witchwarper spells, you may swap out the spell gained with this paradigm shift for a new spell of a maximum level no greater than 1 lower (or 2 lower for a divine spell) than the highest-level spell you can cast. You can select this paradigm shift more than once but cannot at any time have more than one additional spell known from this ability at each level of spells you can cast.

Overlapping Forms (Su)
As a standard action, you can overlay faint outlines of yourself from multiple alternate realities, giving yourself a +1 dodge bonus to your AC. At 5th level, you can expend 1 point from your warp pool when using this ability to instead give an ally you touch a +1 dodge bonus to AC. In either case, the bonus lasts for a number of minutes equal to your caster level. You cannot have overlapping forms active on more than one creature at a time–if you place it on a new creature while it is still active on a previous creature, the older use ends.

Prevent Wounds (Su)
As a reaction when you or an ally within 100 feet takes hit point damage, you can expend 1 point from your warp pool to prevent 1d4 points of that damage for every 2 witchwarper levels you have. You cannot prevent more damage than was dealt, and even if you prevent all damage any associated effects from the attack (such as disease or poison) still apply.

Push Area (Su)
As a reaction when a thrown attack with an area or splash effect, or instantaneous effect or spell defined as a burst radius that requires a saving throw with has an area of at least 5-foot-radius would be centered within 100 feet, you can expend a point from your warp pool to shift the area’s center by 5 feet before it detonates. Your allies within its area of effect gain a +2 insight bonus to their saving throws against the area-effect. At 8th level, you can shift the area’s center by 10 feet. At 11th level, you can shift the area’s center by 15 feet.

Shift Resistance (Su)
As a standard action, you can change the type of a single energy resistance (but not immunity) of a creature within 100 feet (from cold to fire, for example) for 1 round. The creature can attempt a Will saving throw to negate this effect. Once you’ve targeted a creature with this paradigm shift, you can’t target that creature with this paradigm shift again for 24 hours.

Thwart Ability (Su)
As a reaction when you or an ally within 100 feet is affected by a spell or ability that allows a saving throw and would deal damage, and fails the saving throw, you can expend 1 point from your warp pool to grant the target a new saving throw with a +2 bonus to avoid or mitigate the effect’s damage and effects (with success acting as if the original save was successful).

4th level

Inhibit (Sp or Su)
As a standard action, you can prevent a creature within 100 feet from taking its best course of action by overwhelming it with visions of its failures in other realities as a supernatural ability. The target must succeed at a Will save or become staggered for 1 round. At 8th level, alternatively, you can expend 1 point from your warp pool to instead use slow as a spell-like ability. Once you’ve targeted a creature with this paradigm shift, you can’t target that creature with this paradigm shift again (regardless of how you use it) for 24 hours.

Optimize (Sp or Su)
You can show a creature a glimpse of the results of its choices in other realities, allowing it to act more efficiently. As a standard action, you can touch a willing creature to increase all of its speeds by 10 feet. This is considered an enhancement bonus and is a supernatural haste effect. At 8th level, alternatively, you can expend 1 point from your warp pool to instead use haste as a spell‑like ability. Once you’ve targeted a creature with this paradigm shift, you can’t target them with this paradigm shift again (regardless of how you use it) for 24 hours.

Resist Elements (Su)
As a reaction when you or a creature within 100 feet would take energy damage, you can expend 1 point from your warp pool to grant the target resistance 5 against that energy type (acid, cold, electricity, fire, or sonic). This resistance is applied before the damage from the triggering attack. At 8th level, the resistance granted increases to 10. At 11th level, the resistance granted increases to 15.

Shifting Offensive (Su)
As a standard action, you can touch a weapon or magic item that deals damage and temporarily change its damage type (to acid, bludgeoning, cold, electricity, fire, piercing, slashing, or sonic). If the weapon deals more than one type of damage, you can change all the damage it does (regardless of type) to the new damage type, or change just one of its damage types (leaving its other damage types unchanged). This effect lasts until the end of your next turn.

8th level

Flash Teleport (Su)
As a move action, you can expend 1 point from your warp pool to teleport (as the spell) up to 30 feet. You must have line of sight to your destination. This movement doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity.

Hobble Creature (Su)
As a standard action, you can expend 1 point from your warp pool to target a creature within 100 feet and swap in alternate physiologies or circuitry in its body in this version of existence, imposing the staggered condition for a number of rounds equal to 1/3 your witchwarper level. The creature can attempt a Fortitude save to negate this effect. You must know the disrupt creature paradigm shift to learn this paradigm shift.

Magic Deletion (Su)
As a reaction when you are targeted by a spell, you can expend 1 point from your warp pool to gain spell resistance equal to 12 + your witchwarper level until the end of your next turn.

11th level

Dart Aside (Su)
As a reaction when you are hit by an attack but before the attack’s damage is resolved, you can expend 3 points from your warp pool to teleport (as the spell) up to 10 feet away. This movement does not provoke attacks of opportunity. If your new location would cause you to be an invalid target for the triggering attack (for example, because you are out of range of a melee attack or the attacker no longer has line of effect to you), the attack is treated as a miss.

Shaped Infinities (Su)
When you use infinite worlds, you can exclude up to one 5-foot square per witchwarper level from the effect’s area.

Substitute Mind (Su)
You can free a creature from mental control or conditions that hamper it. Once per day as a standard action, you can touch a willing or helpless creature. When you do, the affected part of its mind is replaced with a nearly exact duplicate from an alternate reality, ending all mind-affecting effects the target has. The subject is stunned until the end of its next turn.

You can also attempt to use this ability on an ally who would normally be willing, but is currently unwilling due to the influence of a mind-affecting effect. In this case, the ally must attempt a Will save against substitute mind. If that saving throw fails, then your substitute mind works as if the target were willing.

At 14th level, you can use this ability on yourself, even if you’re otherwise unable to take actions because of a mind‑affecting effect. If you do, it must be the first thing you do on your turn, and you are stunned until the end of your next turn.

For dart aside, my main struggle was how to price its warp pool expenditure. It costs 2 Resolve Points in the original Sf version, and that’s a huge cost given RP are also used to recover Stamina Points, stabilize, and get back into the fight. Since this lets you entirely dodge a melee attack, which is much more common in Pathfinder than in Starfinder, I wanted to make sure a typical 11th-level witchwarper still wouldn’t be doing it very often. I think a typical 11th-level witchwarper is likely to have a 24 Charisma (16 to start, +1 at 4th and 8th, +4 from an item — you could absolutely get higher, but I’m looking for a baseline, not the maximum), which would give them 11 warp points. Charging 4 means you can do this once a day and still have lots of other options, but if you use it 2 or 3 times, it starts to be most of what you are doing with your warp points that day. That sounds perfect to me.

Shaped infinities needed no changes at all. Substitute mind felt too complex, so I boiled it down. That said, I left it at once per day, since there’s no limit to what mind-affecting abilities it can stop. It might be a stronger Pathfinder design to make it a dispel check (maybe with a +4 bonus)… I’ll have to think about that, but this is as good as the original, so it’ll do for now.

14th level

Shifting Immunity (Su)
As a reaction when a creature with immunity to a type of energy damage within 100 feet is affected by energy damage, you can change the creature’s immunity to another type of energy (acid, cold, electricity, fire, or sonic) before the damage is resolved. The effect of this paradigm shift lasts for 3 rounds. This does not affect the creature’s ability to survive environmental hazards or conditions, only what damage it takes from attacks and special abilities. (For example, a creature normally immune to fire that has its immunity shifted to cold by this ability and then swims in lava still doesn’t take damage from the lava even though it’s now vulnerable to fire weapons and spells.) The creature can attempt a Will saving throw to negate this effect. Once you’ve targeted a creature with this paradigm shift, you can’t target that creature with this paradigm shift again for 24 hours. You must know the shift resistance paradigm shift to learn this paradigm shift.

Swapping Step (Su)
Once per round as a move action, you can switch the positions of two creatures within 100 feet, instantaneously swapping their places. This movement does not provoke attacks of opportunity. You can’t swap creatures’ positions in a way that would cause either creature to take damage or be forced into an inappropriate physical space. (For example, you could not swap the positions of two creatures of different sizes if doing so would cause the larger creature to risk falling off a cliff or into a hazard, or cause one of the creatures to be placed within a solid object). Each targeted creature can attempt a Will save to avoid this effect. If either creature succeeds, this paradigm shift has no effect. Once you’ve targeted a creature with this paradigm shift, you can’t target that creature with this paradigm shift again for 24 hours.

Unveil Reality (Su)
As a standard action, you can target one creature within 100 feet and tear back the veils of all worlds, overwhelming the target with a bewildering phantasmagoria. This causes the creature to gain the stunned condition for 3 rounds unless it succeeds at a Will saving throw. This is a mind-affecting effect. Once you’ve targeted a creature with this paradigm shift, you can’t target that creature with this paradigm shift again for 24 hours

Compound Sight (Su) – 3rd Level
You can sift through many realities, gaining understanding of a task by seeing it attempted dozens of different ways. Choose a skill. You gain a +1 insight bonus to checks using that skill. This bonus increases by +1 at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter. You can change your chosen skill every time you gain a witchwarper level. At 9th level, you become more adept with your compound sight and can choose two skills to apply it to.

Alternate Outcome (Su) – 6th Level
You can use your grasp of other realities to swap an outcome in your current existence with that of a more favorable reality. As a reaction once per day, you can reroll one attack roll, saving throw, ability check, or skill check that you attempt. If the d20 on this reroll results in a 1-10 (the die shows a 1 through 10), add 10 to your total result. You must use the result of the reroll, even if it is worse than your original roll.
Alternatively, you can expend a use of this ability as a reaction to cause a critical hit against you or an ally within 100 feet to instead be a normal hit.
You gain one additional daily use of this ability at 12th level and again at 18th level.

Unfold Existences (Su) – 19th Level
You have nearly unlimited insight into all possible worlds and can pluck power from them as you deem necessary. Select five paradigms shifts you don’t know but whose prerequisites you meet. These paradigm shifts must not require your level to be higher than 8th. You can use the selected paradigm shifts a total number of times per day equal to your Charisma modifier.

Reality Stutter (Su) – 20th Level
Your force of will can infuse reality itself, changing key aspects of existence around you. You can spend a spell slot to use any paradigm shift you know. The spell slot must be of a spell level no less than half the minimum class level at which the paradigm shift can be selected.

This doesn’t take an action, but you must use this ability on your turn unless the paradigm shift can be used as a reaction. If the paradigm shift requires a reaction, you still can’t use it unless the stated trigger has occurred, but using it does not expend your reaction for the round. If the paradigm shift requires you to expend spell slots to use it, you must still spend those spell slots in addition to that spent to use this ability. You can use reality stutter only once per turn. You can use the unfold existences ability in conjunction with reality stutter; doing so expends a daily use of unfold existences as normal.

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An Essay From Matt Daley

A Foreword:

One of the things I do is offer my platform to other gamers and creatives as a place they can have their words hosted and, potentially, given broader exposure. Matt Daley asked me if I would post this for him, and after talking with him a bit I agreed.

I’m not hosting it because I agree with or endorse everything Matt has to say here. But I absolutely see his point, and I consider it well-reasoned and supported. It’s not a context through which I have ever looked at any RPG setting, and that itself is enough for me to want to take it seriously and give it due weight. It’s easy for worldbuilders and game writers to only consider the impact of their choices through the context of their own experiences. From my point of view, Matt’s most important point in this is that creating a fictional cosmology that reinforces the ideas behind some real-world manipulative behavior can have consequences the creators likely never considered.

And that’s worth thinking about.

-Owen K.C. Stephens

Abusive Christianity Tropes in Tabletop RPGs

Content Warning: discussion of afterlife, absolute morality, and gods as they pertain to abusive practices. Those who are struggle with these issues are advised to use discretion about this article and to take care of themselves as they feel necessary.

I am somebody who has found great solace in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game over the last decade of my life. I have played with friends on the weekly for years, pored over the rulebooks and lore for countless hours, and even written a number of rules supplements for the game. I love the game, the community, and my fellow game authors, and I write this in the interest of improving the game and fixing several longstanding issues which have alienated myself and others from the inclusive environment which I know that many Pathfinder developers are actively working to foster. This piece is not meant as a takedown or smear against Paizo, Pathfinder, or any particular author. My ultimate intent is to reveal and explain the issues within the text so that they can be amended. While my concerns are not exclusive to this game or company, I have chosen Pathfinder as the subject of this exploration because it is the game with which I am most familiar and where these concerns have become the most prominent in my mind.

I come from a conservative Catholic background, one which stressed service and obedience as the highest virtues and was generally indiscriminate about belittlement, bigotry, and physical/mental abuse. I remember how quickly my school, family or church would point to scripture or tradition to justify cruelty, manipulation, or disdain. I don’t owe anyone my life story, nor do I think that it’s of particular interest to any of you, but I will say that I led a life where I believed violence or misfortune could be inflicted on me with divine mandate the moment I let my defenses slip. I garbed myself in the same hostile and judgemental “righteousness” which I believed that my family and my god wanted from me. 

My deconstruction of these beliefs has been a long and painful process, and tabletop RPGs have been a solace throughout this experience. My Pathfinder groups gave me a community which I could safely confide in and a place where I could be emphatic and vulnerable without feeling broken, humiliated, or sinful. This wasn’t to say that I didn’t feel trepidation at times (I was scared to open the Monster Manual to any page on devils whenever a cross was mounted on the wall), but I do believe that gaming helped me build the emotional health necessary for my deconstruction. 

This experience has made me rather vigilant to a particular trend in gaming lore, that being the unironic and unexamined repetition of conservative Christianity’s more toxic elements within the mythology of Golarion. When digging into the latest Pathfinder book, it is common to see my trauma responses re-ignite when certain hostilities from my youth are not only repeated, but explicitly coded as objective elements within good- or neutral-aligned faiths. I have decided to catalog the most egregious and noteworthy of these trends across Pathfinder’s recent publications in the interest of bringing these concerns to light and showing how they could be written with a more empathetic inclination in the future. 

Throughout this piece, I’ll be using the term “deconstructor” to refer broadly to those who have left Christianity. This category covers atheists, agnostics, and those who have moved on to a new faith or spiritual practice. Despite divergent theological and philosophical views, these groups share many experiences in leaving Christianity and are often categorized together in Christian conversation.

For the sake of fairness, I’ll be covering only books which have been released within the last few years of Pathfinder’s publication. The culture of gaming has changed a great deal in recent years, and while a number of concerning elements can be found in older books I believe that it would be fairer and more valuable to analyze recent releases. Similarly, I will not be calling out specific authors in this post, as I feel that to do so would create undue pressure which would inhibit the change I want to see in the game. The books I will be referencing are as follows:

Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Concordance of Rivals © 2019

Bestiary 3 © 2021

Pathfinder Lost Omens: Gods and Magic © 2021

Pathfinder Lost Omens World Guide © 2020

Pathfinder Adventure Path #136: Temple of the Peacock Spirit © 2018

Section 1: Deconstruction as Malicious Conspiracy

One of the first parallels between Pathfinder’s lore and conservative Christianity is the notion of deconstruction or atheism as being the product of evil machinations. Questioning one’s faith is not viewed as a natural line of questioning but rather as a sabotage attempt by a secular conspirator or even a demon/devil of some sort. Pathfinder has designed several creatures which are designed specifically to fulfill this role: The Asura and the Deimavigga from Second Edition’s Bestiary 3 (a conversion from several other older books). The Deimavigga is described as using lies and mental magic to sow doubt in the minds of believers, a refrain which I have seen used by preachers on numerous occasions. Although the Deimavigga’s reasons are not spelled out in its lore, the intention behind their actions seems to be built on an unspoken assumption that those who deconstruct their faith are somehow more inclined towards thoughts and acts which the setting deems to be objectively evil (although the nature of alignment is an issue which I will explore in another section). The Asura, meanwhile, are written as explicitly interested in destroying religious faiths, using their appearance-altering abilities to pose as questioning children or dissenting religious scholars. Satanic involvement has long been an excuse for Christians to castigate or threaten congregation members, and the Asura’s existence presents such abuse as a legitimate and necessary defense of the faith. 

Doubly concerning is that these lapses in faith seem to justify acts of force from higher powers, as if the process of questioning one’s faith invalidates the free will which the gods of Golarion seem inclined to protect. Page 8 of Gods and Magic describes how PCs experiencing a crisis of faith will often be visited by emissaries of various gods who will attempt to convert them, an environment which paints Golarion’s deities as mimicking evangelists who take advantage of those in need to win converts. Later on, the same book discusses how service to a deity is seemingly required for one to continue existence in any sort of afterlife (which, incidentally, contradicts statements made in Temple of the Peacock Spirit about heretics being turned into Asura). The demigod Ceyannan from Concordance of Rivals carries a weapon which is described as “capable of dragging out the faith any mortal soul holds for a god”, a description which seems to give cosmic approval to the act of browbeating deconstructors until they return to the fold. Phlegyas, meanwhile, is a demigod described as the “Consoler of Atheists” who was seemingly brought into Pharasma’s service against her will and now works to transform “godless souls” into servants of the goddess of death. These trappings of the Golarion setting, presented as factual within the world of the book, replicate the harshest sentiments of conservative preachers: that deconstruction and doubt are the products of evil manipulators and that the proper recourse for “redeeming” those who question their faith involves bludgeoning, aweing, or otherwise intimidating them until they slink back into the fold. The higher powers of Golarion, at the behest of the authors who write them, affirm practices of real-life religious abuse as a necessity for protecting the cosmos from the supposed dangers of deconstruction. 

Compounding upon all of this is victim-blaming lore of Bestiary 3’s Abandoned Zealots, undead horrors who are created from devout souls who spent their life worshiping a nonexistent god or who worshiped in a manner their god does not approve of (the latter, as the book points out, tends to come from the direct involvement of a Deimavigga). The Abandoned Zealot’s offensive abilities (Rend Faith and Crisis of Faith) are based on inhibiting the divine magic of other creatures, while its primary weakness (Anathematic Aversion) is to respond as if traumatized when it encounters a holy symbol. Although the terminology of the Abandoned Zealot is specific to Golarion, the premise of punishing non-Christians or “impure” followers is mirrored in conservative Christian circles. The elements of enviously destroying divine magic and recoiling from holy symbols also link Abandoned Zealots to Christian perceptions of those who have been abused or traumatized by the church (viewing us as trying to ruin the faith for others and believing that we can be “defeated” by religious invocation because we still ultimately belong to the church). 

On a macro scale, these are all worrisome pieces of worldbuilding, elements which (intentionally or not) encode conservative Christian ideology in what is purported to be a pantheistic fantasy world. The affirmations and fears of conservative Christianity are written into Golarion as fact, creating an environment where many deconstructors see the tools of their religious abusers justified. When these elements are made universal to the setting and a part of the fundamental process of Golarion’s background, enjoying the fantasy experience becomes a much more difficult task than it should be. Paizo’s depictions of deconstructors themselves is unfortunately no better.

Section 2: Uncharitable and Misinformed Depictions of Deconstructors

The Golarion setting includes a number of characters who are critical of religion, but their approach in representing them appears misguided. Rather than working to dispel the implications established in the previous section, the descriptions within the Lost Omens World Guild and Lost Omens: Gods & Magic seem to fortify several stereotypes from conservative Christianity about deconstructors. Namely, those who leave a faith behind are socially isolated and question their faith due to pressures from an outside world. Gods and Magic has a section on “Atheists and Free Agents” which discusses such people within Golarion, but is quick to bring up that they are only common in harsh authoritarian regimes with widespread bans on religion. Other Free Agent organizations mentioned include the Prophets of Kalistrade (a Ferengi-esque culture which is seemingly written to be the butt of jokes) and the Green Faith (which is described elsewhere in the book as a form of nature worship). The book then goes on to describe these groups as exceptions, stating that “most free agents on Golarion are loners”. The section goes on to make several points which are reasonable and charitable, such as stating the Free Agents may find gods unworthy of worship or may find meaning and belonging through themselves and their fellow mortals. However, the same section applies common misconceptions from Christian apologetics, such as the notion that Free Agents refuse to worship out of anger towards the gods and the recreation of The Brothers Karamazov’s famous line “If there is no god, then everything is permitted”. Furthermore, the section works to cage statements of “free agents aren’t amoral” and “free agents genuinely don’t possess faith in a god” as being matters of opinion, leaving open the viability of more common and toxic Christian apologetics within Golarion.

Rahadoum is a nation within Golarion which is immensely cynical about divine intervention due to its history of holy wars. The country’s opposition to divine servitude is enshrined in a legal code known as The Laws of Mortality. While the existence of such a nation holds promise for compelling commentary, Rahadoum’s lore falls comically flat in execution. Across Lost Omens World Guide and Gods and Magic, the country has a disproportionate wordcount dedicated to violence or intrusion against the faithful, a trend which is scarcely paralleled with other countries or belief systems in Golarion. A nation known for its universities is described as having “dockside propagandists” pushing passerby into leaving their faith, a description which seems to come right out of conservative scare tactics regarding higher education. Where this characterization pushes into genuine absurdity is the Pure Legion, a police force which is dedicated to destroying every religious item or scripture which people bring into the nation. The Laws of Mortality even list “expose and eradicate hidden worship” as a fundamental edict, presenting this ridiculous action as an end unto itself within the philosophy. Granted, while religious persecution has occurred throughout history and has been carried out by avowedly atheist nations, the descriptions of Rahadoum and the Pure Legion mirror the persecution complexes of many conservative Christians, who fabricate threats of secular enemies seeking to actively destroy their worship. The mentions of Rahadoumi people refusing magical healing from divine spells and their futile “proselytizing” towards theists (a word which is used only once more in the book, when it is explained as something which is not done) seem to draw more heavily from insults made by Christians towards deconstructors than from any activity by actual people. To expand these concerns further, Temple of the Peacock Spirit mentions that Rahadoum is being propped up by an aforementioned Asura, 

Section 3: The Euthyphro Dilemma: Morality Dictated by Divinity

The matter of morality’s source has been a contested topic in real life and gaming alike for as long as people could exchange ideas. D&D’s Planescape setting in particular had developed and nuanced takes on how even the icons of good and evil could be reshaped through the power of belief. Pathfinder, within the context of it’s setting, gives a clear answer to the Euthyphro Dilemma on page 16 of Concordance of Rivals, which describes deities as “beings whose existence defines morality.” In this context, virtue and vice are defined by the gods and any mortal theorization is irrelevant. Acts are considered good on Golarion because they are in accordance with the will of good-aligned gods (or, more specifically, those gods that Pharasma labels as good-aligned) and are considered evil because they are proscribed by those same gods. All moral matters are reduced to a yes or no answer from a deity who need not provide any justification for their explanation. Having stated this, the authors of Paizo must now choose between the impossible task of creating a perfect system of morality and designing a world where virtue is dictated by beings by those too strong to be questioned. The fact that the gods have such an extensive list of edicts means that Paizo, like many conservative churches, has decided to create a universe where morals are dictated by unimpeachable force and the interests of those who bear it. For somebody who grew up in one such Christian environment, a fantasy world which explicitly operates by power-based morals brings about memories of extensive abuse: parents, teachers, and church leaders who justify callous acts as righteous because their targets lack the capacity to retaliate. This dogmatic approach to virtue is also used in real life to vindicate extremists, assuring them that the words of their holy book or minister are capable of justifying any means for their ends. 

There are beings who question the morality of the gods in various Paizo books, but these beings are almost invariably portrayed as being evil. Temple of the Peacock Spirit provides a sample conversation with Zurea, an evil cleric who justifies her faith by stating her (verifiably incorrect) theory that good and evil were created by mortals. Immediately afterwards, Zurea changes the subject by pressuring the PCs to join her faith, a conversation which is intended to end with the PCs killing her (she is described as fighting to the death in her tactics section). The same adventure provides extensive detail on the aforementioned Asura, elaborating on their origins by explaining how each type of Asura originated from a mistake, accident, or betrayal perpetrated by some manner of god. There are times when the article seems to sympathize with the Asura, discussing their origins as “impossible standards,” “punishment that exceeded its crime”, and “experiences of abuse”. The majority of the article, however, seems dedicated to depicting the Asura as obsessive, hateful, and outraged beings with ruinous ambitions and a need for “redemption”. The stories of the Asura pose legitimate grievances with the acts of gods, but at no point does the article question the supreme moral authority of the gods. The Asura, by the virtue of challenging the legitimacy of divinely-ordained morals, are depicted as invariably evil creatures who should be fought and stopped wherever they emerge. Like a number of church congregations, the gods of Pathfinder seem to view even legitimate grievances as threats which must be stomped out.

This vision of absolute and unquestionable morality is periodically juxtaposed with materials derived from the works of H.P. Lovecraft, an author who was openly critical of religion and human understandings of morality. Powerful entities from the stories of Lovecraft and his contemporaries are presented as alternatives to other deities in Gods and Magic, the book describing how reverence to these beings displays a certainty in the universe’s meaninglessness. The authors display such worshippers as inevitably debauched, stating that “because life has no meaning or purpose, self-indulgence and nihilism are the only rational responses.” While the existence of powerful entities outside the purview of the gods creates somewhat of an antithesis to their authoritarian morality, the setting presents this dichotomy as having an objectively correct answer. Reverence of the Great Old Ones or Outer Gods is presented as inevitably leading to a worthless and empty existence, an option that no sensible person would take. As this is the only alternative presented to the system of alignment enshrined by divinity, Paizo seems to follow the lead of Christian leaders who affirm that their teachings are the only path to meaning and fulfillment.

Section 4: Fixing These Issues

The concerns I have discussed here should not be interpreted as a mean-spirited takedown of Paizo or Pathfinder. As I have mentioned previously, playing Pathfinder helped me to work through my difficult deconstruction process. That said, the numerous parallels between the faith I am working to escape from and the fantasy world which I periodically escape into had made my forays into Golarion rather disquieting and unpleasant. I wholeheartedly support a more inclusive and socially conscious gaming scene, and I believe that Paizo and its game designers share my interests in this goal. My hope with this essay is that it will expose the conservative Christian elements which have (intentionally or not) come to shape the world of Golarion, explain the experiences of abuse such elements elicit, and offer alternatives to make the material more welcoming to people like me who are working to heal from Christianity-induced religious trauma. Hence, presented below are a number of suggestions which could be implemented in future releases or GMs’ personal campaigns to resolve these concerns.

Total Removal of Alignment

A number of games and tables have worked to remove alignment as a factor, and doing so could alleviate the anxiety folks like me experience regarding absolute, authority-based morality. Gods could be recontextualized as each doing what they think is proper for the universe without Pharasma or the authors trying to entrap characters in a binary of good and evil. Gods in this context are no longer sources or barometers of morality, simply powerful beings with desires they wish to fulfill. This setup gives recourse for characters to question the rules of deities and oppose the roles they fill in the universe without being immediately devalued as “evil”. It also opens up more compelling opportunities for interfaith conflict and debate while also leaving room for each deity and faith to be criticized. Maybe gods and their followers even recognize that those outside their own congregation could have a point, adapting their positions in light of cultural shifts. 

This solution would require some mechanical changes to the game, mainly through reworking the Champion and Cleric classes. Alignment-related options would have to be reworked or replaced, but I feel that these changes would be for the better. Such adjustment would expand the potential options of friend and foe within any given adventure, opening up many new opportunities for stories. It would also force players and GMs to give legitimate reasons behind their support or hostility rather than simply stating “this faction is good/evil”.

Virtue Shaped By Mortals

If removing alignment completely isn’t to one’s liking, another option would be to emulate the fluid and belief-based morality of D&D’s Planescape books. In this setting, gods are not good because their existence defines good, but rather because their behaviors and tenets coincide with beliefs of virtue (such as selflessness, compassion, and redemption) that are held by mortals. The nature of a deity can thus be shifted by the methods of how they are revered, as opposed to deities turning “incorrect” worshippers into undead monsters. In this context, ideas of good and evil exist independent of the deities and are not something that the gods are capable of overriding or asserting dominance over. One could argue that the Pathfinder deities operate like this already within the context of the game, with Erastil, Sarenrae, and Groetus all having their dogmas and roles quietly changed by writers as new books were released. Recontextualizing gods as striving for some manner of good rather than imposing the structures of good could go a long way towards distancing their presence in the game from the experienced abuse of deconstructors. Having gods fail at their pursuit of morality and acknowledge when mortals know their own needs better than a deity would be even better. If a deity steps out of line by trying to overrule mortalkind, maybe that deity would be weakened as the god’s exposed objectives diverge from the works and values of their following.

More importantly, it would be wonderful to see examples of people and cultures finding fulfillment and good outside of the scope of the gods. Paizo could show characters who view godly morality as pointless but still live positive and fulfilled lives. Social clubs and charity organizations could be run independent of the purview of any deity. Cities could be built without churches and populated by Free Agents who are confident enough in their knowledge of their surroundings to provide for themselves. Acknowledgement that there are people who truly have no faith in the gods and are happy and helpful because of their freedom rather than despite it. Moreover, design these characters and groups so that they aren’t anomalies or wonders, just normal and accepted parts of the world.

Asura Rewrites

The mythology of Asura in Pathfinder seems explicitly designed to validate conservative Christian paranoia and legitimize the abuses they perform out of fear. In addition to that, their condemnation as innately evil for having suffered the abuses of the gods is an insult to those who have endured religious abuse in some form. Opening the game up to deconstructors would demand drastic changes to these creatures and their stories. 

If one wishes to keep Asura as villains, then perhaps their fiendish goals and methods could be redesigned. The Asura in the games I’ve run are written as clinging to dead stories and ideologies, seeking to resurrect notions of heroism and virtue which the world has moved on from. They embody classical aspirations and morals which modernity understands to be cruel or ineffectual, and thus they work to re-establish faulty ancient traditions by murdering and silencing those who they view as representing modern values. In this context, their acts of meditation, hunger for violence, and appreciation for ruins remain, but their villainy is no longer directed at innocents.

Alternatively, the Asura could be legitimized within Golarion, covering every alignment in their mission to expose the hypocrisies and tyrannies of the gods. There are plenty of reasons to question the merits of even the most good-aligned gods, and Asura could become patrons of such opposition. Imagine a neutral good Asura who organize therapy sessions or planar safehouses for those harmed by deities and their followers, a lawful good Asura who protects a community targeted by a church, or a chaotic good Asura who pursues clerics and outsiders who mistreat their followers. Asura Ranas could grant spells not to worshippers, but rather allies who are fighting the good fight against oppressive deities. With those sorts of planar allies, deconstructors could find a place for their experiences within the Golarion setting.

Deimaviggas should likewise be rewritten, but could perhaps serve as more compelling allies of the gods rather than enemies. The Deimavigga could use lies and manipulations to keep people trapped within a toxic congregation, repeating mantras of damnation and helplessness in order to convince people that they need the god or church which is hurting them. This would certainly fit with Asmodeus’ ideology and with the point Mark Twain originally intended when authoring “The Mysterious Stranger” (which seemingly inspired these devils’ design).

Rewriting Rahadoum and Free Agents

When the most prominent culture with religious criticism in a setting is written as an irrationally fanatical state who seeks and destroys all holy texts, it is difficult for deconstructors to view the authors as anything but hostile. As mentioned before, Rahadoum has the potential to be a compelling and commentary-filled nation, but establishing such nuance would require adjustment of existing lore in addition to establishment of new pieces. Elements such as Rahadoumi being afraid of healing magic and exiling people for possession of holy texts can be removed, as these aspects are seemingly intended to make the nation and philosophy look absurd (not to mention contradicting the statement from Lost Omens World Guide that private worship is permitted within Rahadoum). Similarly, “dockside propagandists” who press people into rejecting their gods on soapboxes can be thrown out as a premise. The Pure Legion can be kept, but they should be given something to fight against rather than being used as a random and deadly hazard for brutalizing religious PCs. The Laws of Mortality were shaped by a holy war between Nethys, Norgorber, and Sarenrae, so perhaps each of these faiths is serving as a powerful and dangerous element within Rahadoum (Nethys and Sarenrae in particular have ties to the nation’s former conquerors, so it would make sense to see them pressing for the re-integration or invasion of governments the Rahadoumi would sooner avoid). Rahadoum is apparently known for their philosophers, so maybe the Pure Legion also serves to protect traveling scholars when they go to speak outside the country (after all, a number of churches would be very upset about a foreigner telling their congregation that there are other paths to fulfillment). Maybe the churches of Sarenrae, Asmodeus, and Nethys have deliberately spread lies about the Pure Legion and the Rahadoumi people, coming up with concerning aspects of the lore in order to limit Rahadoum’s influence or justify military action. As for the Rahadoumi people themselves, it would be interesting to see their practical reasons for adhering to the Laws of Mortality. Maybe these people see no need for churches because government welfare programs and strong social networks provide for them without demanding tithes or loyalty pledges. Perhaps the gods could be vocal about hating the Laws of Mortality, but they know that simply smiting Rahadoum would only prove the populace correct.

Expanding the scope to a cosmic level, perhaps places could be established for Free Agents in the Outer Planes. Those who oppose the gods will likely still have convictions they wish to fight for as exemplars, so giving groups such people their own domains in each of the aligned planes would solidify them as equal and valid players in the great cosmic game. Authors could go one step further and allow people to actually choose their own afterlife rather than having their fates be decided by Pharasma. The lower planes would still be filled by those who believe that a cruel environment would make them stronger or wiser or whose self-loathing drives them seek out misery (in addition to characters who were pulled down by Faustian bargains), but allowing mortals to decide for themselves what faction they wish to join in the afterlife would force each god to make more compelling arguments for why their ideals should be followed. Such a choice would also support the alleged dedication to free will which deities are described as having in Gods and Magic.

Divinity as Grand Manipulators

My last idea for freeing Golarion from conservative Christian ideology has been used in my own games and doesn’t involve changing anything in the existing lore. The gods still wield unquestionable moral authority, shape the cosmos, and target questioners and deconstructors with various abuses and indignities. In this conception, however, the gods are not presented as fundamental forces but rather as powerful adversaries, akin to the True Fae in Changeling: The Lost. Adventuring in such a setting is a gnostic exercise in finding value outside of material existence, discovering meaning and preserving what you love as you are threatened on all sides by malicious and nigh-omnipotent entities who view you as a plaything or tool of validation. Maybe the gods don’t occupy all of existence and there exist beings who are attempting to subvert their rule by rescuing the mortals imprisoned within their influence, or perhaps the gods are desperately clinging to their power and work to conceal the ease with which they could be overthrown. Such a setup creates a very different fantasy environment from Pathfinder’s themes and is thus the least likely to be implemented in any official capacity, but could be a very functional solution for one’s table.

Section 5: Conclusion

I hope this piece of writing has been revealing, informative, or possibly therapeutic to readers. Should any of Paizo’s authors read this piece, I hope that the ideas, concerns, and changes discussed herein can be implemented in future Pathfinder materials. I want to see the game and the TTRPG industry improve in acknowledging and accommodating the experiences of people who have left Christianity and those who are still trying to leave, and I believe that spreading awareness of the concerns and triggers which have made their way into Pathfinder is an important step in realizing that goal. 

-Matt Daley

This post is an editorial, and it not included in the content of this blog released under the Open Gaming License

The Peer (A Vigilante Alternate Class for PF1)

The vigilante class has a lot of cool stuff, but it’s all built around a specific, Scarlet Pimpernel/Robin Hood/Zorro kind of secret-identity-based character. It works extremely well for that type of character, but that type of character doesn’t work well for every player concept and campaign setup. In my experience, vigilantes are among the least-played (and least-allowed) base classes.

Seriously, I’ve run into more people outlawing vigilantes than gunslingers, psionics, and synthesist summoners.

That makes sense — a vigilante puts a certain cognitive load on GMs and can be huge spotlight-time hogs that leave other players feeling left out — but it’s also a shame. A lot of the vigilante’s abilities totally aide from their dual identity are iconic for another classic character type — the hyper-competent-but-otherwise-typical hero. This isn’t the chosen one, or the archmage, or the master thief. Instead it’s someone who is just good at getting things done, often as a emissary, legate, spy, or advisor. And, separated from the vigilante’s very pulp dual-identity, this character theme works well in a much wider range of campaign setups and playstyles.

For purposes of game rules, consider this an alternate class for the vigilante. We’ll call it the peer.

(Art by Digital Storm)

PEER

Alignment: Any.
Hit Die: d8.
Starting Wealth: 5d6 x 10 gp (average 175 gp).
Class Skills
All skills are class skills for the peer.
Skill Points at each Level: 10 + Int modifier.

Peer Class Features

LevelBase Attack BonusFort SaveRef SaveWill SaveSpecial
1st+0+0+2+2Peer’s edge, peer specialization, social talent
2nd+1+0+3+3Social talent
3rd+2+1+3+3Vigilante talent
4th+3+1+4+4Peer’s edge, social talent
5th+3+1+4+4Ninja/rogue/slayer talent
6th+4+2+5+5Social talent
7th+5+2+5+5Vigilante talent
8th+6/+1+2+6+6Peer’s edge, social talent
9th+6/+1+3+6+6Ninja/rogue/slayer talent
10th+7/+2+3+7+7Social talent
11th+8/+3+3+7+7Vigilante talent
12th+9/+4+4+8+8Peer’s edge, social talent
13th+9/+4+4+8+8Ninja/rogue/slayer talent
14th+10/+5+4+9+9Social talent
15th+11/+6/+1+5+9+9Vigilante talent
16th+12/+7/+2+5+10+10Peer’s edge, social talent
17th+12/+7/+2+5+10+10Ninja/rogue/slayer talent
18th+13/+8/+3+6+11+11Social talent
19th+14/+9/+4+6+11+11Vigilante talent
20th+15/+10/+5+6+12+12Capstone, peer’s edge, social talent

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Peers are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, light armor, and medium armor.

Peer’s Edge: A peer gains an edge at 1st level, 4th level, and every 4 levels thereafter. A peer can select any of the following abilities by selecting it as a peer edge: dangersense (as unchained rogue of the same level), evasion, finesse training (as unchained rogue of the same level), improved evasion (must have evasion and be at last 8th level), trap sense (use peer level as rogue level), trapfinding, uncanny dodge, improved uncanny dodge (must have uncanny dodge and be at least 8th level), unshakeable (as the vigilante feature of the same name).

Alternatively, a peer can select an additional skill point/peer level (including retroactively to previous peer levels), or a bonus feat (must meet its prerequisites, cannot have a feat type other than general). A peer can select these latter options multiple times. A peer with the theurge specialization can take an arcanist exploit as a peer’s edge. The peer must meet all the exploit prerequisites and treats their peer level as their arcanist level for this exploit. The peer cannot select any exploit that requires a class feature they do not have

Peer Specialization: As vigilante specialization. A peer must choose to be an avenger, stalker, or theurge. Once this choice is made, it can’t be changed. While many vigilante talents are usable by any specializations, some are unique to each specialization

An avenger gains a base attack bonus equal to their peer level instead of using those listed on Peer Class Features table. They add this value to any other base attack bonus gained from other classes or racial Hit Dice as normal. An avenger can take a combat feat in place of any vigilante or ninja/rogue/slayer talent, using their peer level as their fighter level for any prerequisites when doing so.

Stalkers gains an ability called hidden strike, which allows them to deal an extra 1d8 points of precision damage on melee attacks (or ranged attacks from within 30 feet) against foes who are unaware of their presence, who consider him an ally, or who are flat-footed against the attack. This extra damage increases by 1d8 at 3rd level and every 2 peer levels thereafter. A stalker peer can also deal hidden strike damage to a target that he is flanking or that is denied its Dexterity bonus to AC, but in these cases, the damage dice are reduced to d4s. A stalker can deal hidden strike damage against targets with concealment (but not total concealment).

A stalker peer can apply only one talent marked with an asterisk (*) to a given hidden strike, and only when that hidden strike is dealt against a foe that is , and only when that hidden strike is dealt against a foe that is unaware of the stalker vigilante’s presence (or who considers him an ally), unless otherwise noted. A stalker can also select a single form of debilitating injury (as the unchained rogue class feature) as a vigilante talent, treating it as a talent with an asterisk*.

Unlike vigilantes, peers have a third choice — theurge. A theurge gains spells known and spells per day as a bard of the same level. Their spell DC, bonus spells, and maximum level of spell they can cast is based on Charisma. When the peer first selects this ability, they must choose to cast spells from the bard, inquisitor, or magus list. Theurges that pick the bard or magus list are arcane spellcasters (though they do not suffer arcane spell failure for their peer spells in light armor–this ability extending to medium armor at 4th level and heavy armor at 7th level), and those that pick the inquisitor spell list are divine casters. A peer theurge cannot know or cast a spell that requires a class feature they do not have.

Social Talent: Starting at 1st level, and again at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, a peer gains a vigilante social talent, using their peer level as their vigilante level. Unless otherwise noted, a talent can be selected only once. Some talents require the peer to meet other prerequisites before they can be chosen, such as having another social talent or attaining a minimum peer level. Once a talent has been chosen, it cannot be changed. A peer is always considered to be in their social identity for social talennts.

Vigilante Talent: Starting at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, a peer gains a vigilante talent, using their peer level as their vigilante level. Unless otherwise noted, a talent can be selected only once. Some talents require the peer to meet prerequisites before they can be chosen, such as possessing another vigilante talent, possessing a particular specialization, or attaining a minimum level. Once a talent has been selected, it can’t be changed.

Lacking a dual identity, there are no special rules about a peer using any of these talents while in a “social identity.”

Ninja/Rogue/Slayer Talent: Starting at 5th level, and every 4 levels thereafter, a peer gains a talent taken from the ninja, rogue, or slayer class talent lists. The peer must meet all talent prerequisites and treats their peer level as the appropriate class level for this talent. Beginning at 12th level, the peer can take advanced talents. The peer cannot select any talent that requires a class feature they do not have, with the exception that abilities that affect sneak attacks can be selected by stalker peers to add to hidden strike attacks (and are considered vigilante talents with an asterisk* for this purpose).

Capstones
When a peer reaches 20th level, they select one of the following capstones.
Past Your Limits (Ex)
At 20th level, the peer has learned to stretch themself to do what they never thought they could before. The peer gains one additional social talent and one additional vigilante talent. This bonus vigilante talent is not subject to specialization requirements—a stalker can select an avenger-only talent, and vice versa. At the GM’s discretion, the peer can instead select an archetype-only vigilante talent, such as the cabalist’s living shadow.
Perfect Body, Flawless Mind (Ex)
At 20th level, the peer’s endless training and study has resulted in an unmatched mastery of the self. The character increases her ability scores by a collective total of 8. For example, she can increase one score by 8, or one score by 5 and another by 3, or four scores by 2, and so on.
The Boss (Ex)
At 20th level, the peer has become more than just a lone hero—they have become one of the senior figures of her field, with powers and responsibilities to match. They become one of the leading figures in some manner of group or organization, as appropriate to the campaign and the setting. The player and the GM should work together to determine the specifics. The peer gains the Leadership feat if they do not already have it, and the number of followers that the feat grants is multiplied by 10 (although depending on the campaign and setting, the position may grant other powers as well).

Supporting This Blog
I’m absolutely not immune to the money crunch in the game industry, so if you want to help ensure blog posts like this keep getting produced, please consider supporting my efforts through my Patreon campaign, or dropping a cup of coffee worth of support at my Ko-Fi (which is also filled with pics of my roommate’s cat).

Eldritch Chess, ver 1.1, Expansion Alpha

These rules have already been added to the Eldritch Chess ver 1.1 page, but if you just want to see what’s new, it’s all written out below.

Victory Conditions

Normal victory conditions are to checkmate your opponent’s liege. If a liege is in check, its player must take it out of check. A liege cannot choose to enter check. In some cases, destroying your opponent’s liege may occur without it ever being in check, such as if it is destroyed by a Fireball. This is considered checkmate for victory conditions.

If neither side has pieces remaining capable to checking the opposing liege, the game is a draw. For example, if both players are down to an archmage and some oozes, the game is a draw.

New Eldritch Pieces

Miasma
Miasma can move one space orthogonally, but cannot capture. As an invoke, it can destroy all non-royal pieces in squares adjacent to it, including you own. It is a spell. You can replace one or both knights with miasmas.

Pendulum
The pendulum can move and capture one vertical space forward or backwards. You can replace two pawns with three pendulums, but you cannot have pendulums that bring you over 24 total pieces.

Sphinx
The sphinx moves, jumps, and captures as a knight or a pawn. If it does not currently have one, as an invoke it can create a riddle in any empty adjacent sqaure. A riddle does not move or capture, but otherwise acts as a piece for purposes of other pieces’ movement (stopping the movement of any piece that cannot jump, and being captured when another piece ands in its square). Your own priests can capture your riddle, but not other pieces of yours. A sphinx is a priest and a royal. A riddle is a spell. You can replace one knight and one bishop with one sphinx, or both knights, both bishops, and two pawns with two sphinxes.

Supporting This Blog
I’m absolutely not immune to the money crunch in the game industry, so if you want to help ensure blog posts like this keep getting produced, please consider supporting my efforts through my Patreon campaign, or dropping a cup of coffee worth of support at my Ko-Fi (which is also filled with pics of my roommate’s cat).