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Orrocs

Orroc

In the Basalt Mountains, mighty tribes of hill and stone giants rule almost without question, often enslaving orc clans and forcing them to do any work the giants consider beneath them. Interbreeding isn’t common enough for half-giants to overrun the mountains, but the giantish blood has clearly been infused into the orc bloodlines over generations, forming a breed of hulking orcs both larger and more cunning than their kin of unadulterated heritage. Known as orrocs, these massive and powerful humanoids spread the tyranny of their giant overlords for miles in every direction from the mountains, and orroc scouts and raiders often influence (or sometimes control) orc bands in wilderness areas weeks away from the mountains to harass and weaken nearby kingdoms.

Unlike both their orc and giant kin, orrocs cannot interbreed with humans. This may be one of the reasons orrocs generally feel an intense dislike for half-orcs, and often go out of their way to inflict cruelties on their most humanlike kith. Half-orcs have no instinctive dislike of orrocs, but generally the way orrocs treat them is enough for a trained enmity to develop.

A typical orroc is an orc barbarian 2 with the advanced template. One in four is a bloodrager or also has the giant template (and roughly 1 in 16 is both). In a group of orrocs, In any given group or orrocs, half are likely to be higher level. A group of 16 orrocs is generally includes 8 second level orrocs, 4 third level orrocs, 2 fourth level orrocs, one fifth, and one sixth. Most bloodrager orrocs have the elemental (water) bloodline, though a few possess the aberrant or blook blood bloodline instead.

Roughly 1 in 8 orrocs has a class other than barbarian or bloodrager. Among these brawlers are common, and hunters and slayers often serve as scouts and assassins. Orroc oracles and warpriests are less common, but those that exist often lead warbands. Orrocs are rarely clerics, fighters, rangers, or rogues though some such creatures exist. No orroc arcane spell casters other than bloodrager are common enough to be considered anything but rare, and only skalds and witches are common enough to be encountered more than once in a lifetime. Any other class is encountered only in unique individuals.

Orrocs are treated as orcs, ogres, and giants for all prerequisites and when determining what abilities affect them.

Orrocs often have the Rock Chucker feat.

ROCK CHUCKER
You have your own form of the giant trick of rock-throwing.
Prereq: Ogre, cannot have rock throwing.
Benefit: You can hurl sling stones designed for creatures one size larger than your size as if firing them from a sling. You can hurl such stones as often as you are able to make attacks (you are not required to “reload” the stones). As long as you are in a rocky or natural setting, you are assumed to be able to find an unlimited supply of such stones under normal circumstances.

The Magic of Little Details

Worldbuilding can often get bogged down in big-picture questions and large-scale issues. Yes, there’s use to knowing how rivers flow from mountains to sea level, what kinds of natural barriers are likely to become borders, and how socio-economic statuses can form political lines. But those questions still just outline nations and factions. At the scale that most players are interacting with your world, it doesn’t really matter in play if the border between Heroton and Badlandia is a river, a mountain range, or a big blue dotted line that runs through a flat plain. What DOES matter to players is how those places feel and act differently while you are within them.

And for that, it’s often useful to throw in just a few little details.

If the common drink for a culturally-interlinked area is a tea just known as Steeps, maybe the people in Heroton like it strong and bitter, while the peasants of Badlandia make it weak and sweetened with honeysuckle. Elves prefer red Steeps, while human throw away the red stems as tasteless. The dwarves of Ironbeard make Steeps with weak beer to ensure no diseases remain in the local water, while the gnomes of Rillridge ferment it until foam forms on the surface which is then skimmed off.

None of that *matters*, but those kinds of tiny details, when used in sparing moderation, can help bring regions and cultures alive. Players who don’t care can wave it off, but those who enjoy engaging in fictional cultures have the option of paying attention, and offering the Big Bad of Badlandia honeysuckle-sweetened Steeps at the peace conference. And maybe he smiles, and notes he actually always preferred it strong and bitter, like his parents made it… suddenly given a new context into his background, based on how he takes his tea.

Nearly anything can be made into this kind of cultural detail and, as long as you don’t load ever city with 27 things you expect players to keep track of. Adding just one or two tiny differences can help immerse players, and make regions distinctive.

Nearly anything can be made into this kind of detail, but it helps if it’s something publicly noticeable (how the Halfling war bakers of Gnabysko bless their battle muffins in secret ceremonies isn’t going to impact player perception much, unless someone is playing a Halfling war baker), minor (so players don’t feel they must remember the detail or get into cultural trouble, which can feel like homework), and relatable (details that tie into activities players understand are more easily understood and remembered—the fact there are 17 “proper” foot stances for fighting with an orroc gutting axe is interesting… but for players with no melee combat training experience it doesn’t connect to anything they’ve done).

You can also build off a detail, creating slang and cultural notes that play off the detail. This can help the detail be memorable, but it also invites the players to dream up such phrases and ideas as well.

For example, let’s say you have decided that in the Free City of Campaign, street performers put out a boot for people to toss coins into, rather than a hat or other collection device. That’s easy to work into a campaign as an observed behavior, unlikely to make any player feel they have to memorize it, and replaces a common occurrence in a way players are likely to understand.

Once you’ve done that, it’s easy to see how some local slang might develop around the tradition. “Giving you the boot” could mean firing someone, so they now have to earn money on the street, while “Earning your boot” might indicate you are good enough at some performance to make a living as a busker. Having a “hole in your boot” could indicate someone is stealing from you, and “looking in the toe” could mean you’re scrounging for every last coin (like checking the cushions of your sofa).

If players show interest in a detail, and explore it, you can build on it. Maybe the boot tradition dates back to when soldier came back from a war, and without enough work used their hard military boots to gather coins as beggars, and the tradition grew from there. Maybe there was a tax on all labor performed ‘without boots” that was designed to exclude hard workers, but street performers used this to get around it. You don’t HAVE to do that kind of background work, but if players dig around it shows they have an interest in that element of your world.

Tiny details like this should be sparing, to ensure a world remains familiar enough for players to be comfortable with it. These are seasoning for the main course of your world, rather than the entrée itself. But used properly, that kind of seasoning can elevate the flavor of your creations, and make them much more memorable.

Putting My Boot Out

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The Ogre of Battle

Spurred on by a discussion where someone suggested monster tactics as a product line, I took a quick pass at looking at some tactics for iconic monsters, to see if I think they can be useful and generic enough to make a good product. I’m not convinced wither way yet, but sharing my first draft seemed a great way to test the waters. Thus, here I present my ideas for ogre tactics. As the first giants PCs are likely to run into, ogres make a good stand-in for all Large humanoids, though obviously things like spell-like abilities and rock-throwing may give true giants better options. (Or you could use this with ogres that have orc ferocity, and call them orrocs!)

First, many GMs intentionally give ogres terrible tactics because they have an Intelligence of 6. But remember that this is three times as smart as a wolf. Would the smartest wolf you can conceive of make the bad tactical choice you are considering? No? Then neither should an ogre. Further their typical Wisdom of 10 and the fact they have Perception as a skill suggests ogres can recognize and analyze a situation even if they may do a terrible job describing it with good grammar. Certainly an ogre can recognize a spellcaster, see the issue with allowing foes to heal, know when to press the attack o have one unconscious foe and one healthy foe as preferable to two injured foes who can both fight back, and so on.

Indeed, recognizing spellcasters will often drive ogre tactics. With reach (which you can augment with various options below) an ogre has a decent chance of being able to strike a spellcaster in melee, and an ogre should know that they let their guard down when they cast spells, so desire to keep spellcasters close enough that they must cast defensively to avoid provoking attacks of opportunity from the ogre.

If facing foes without reach, an ogre with no adjacent enemies can safely attempt combat maneuvers against foes 10 feet away without provoking attacks of opportunity, and their Large size and high Strength makes them reasonable likely to succeed. Tripping foes can help with battlefield control (especially as the foe is likely to provoke an attack of opportunity when it stands), and disarming an enemy at least reduces the chance of suffering a full-attack action.

Some tactics are more like customizations, in that they move the ogre away from the base stat block of the bestiary, while staying a legal monster build.

Even if using slow progression, an ogre should average 550 gp of treasure, There is no need for this to all be gold and gems it hoards away in a pocket to be looted off its body. An ogre can have some of its treasure as gear it might use. As simple a choice as allowing it to carry a Large longspear (10 gp) gives the ogre an impressive 20 foot melee range, and it can drop the weapon and draw its greatclub if needed. With that much reach melee foes might well feel the need to risk a charge, and that means the ogre can brace to receive charge. (If this seems likely, consider a boar spear, which costs the same and gives a bonus to AC in that situation).

Similarly a Large heavy crossbow (100 gp) may only fire once every two rounds, but it gives the ogre a much heavier, longer-range initial punch. Since an ogres hide armor proves it is proficient with medium armor, upgrading to a Large breastplate (400 g, though it can save by not also buying Large hide armor for 30 gp) gives it +2 AC. A cure light wounds potion, thunderstone, tanglefoot bag, or other alchemical weapons can also increase it’s flexibility in battle, and are useful to 3rd level PCs as treasure.

If using multiple ogres, one throwing javelins and one with a boar spear can be an effective ranged-combat options until PCs manage to close in. If you have three or more ogres, you might consider giving one a kumade (which is a simple weapon with the grapple special weapon property) or a sickle (a simple weapon with the trip special weapon property) to keep foes worried about combat maneuvers.

If considering adjusting the ogre’s feats, Toughness can generally be swapped out for better choices. Improved Iron Will makes the ogre less likely to be defeated with a single bad Will save, or Power Attack gives it an excellent trade off of damage for a little reduced accuracy. If your campaign allows retraining, consider having two or more ogres with the Crowd Control teamwork feat to make it harder for foes to get inside their reach. If an ogre is going to be alone, the Desperate Battler feat may be useful.

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Make Iceball Interesting

Rules and supplements that present alternate spells for GMs and players normally don’t take any space for iceball, the cold-damage dealing version of fireball. That’s because it’s extremely obvious, and doesn’t really add much to a game. For a variant spell to be worth any space, you need to change how it works more than just swapping out the damage type.

But it IS often useful to be able to alter existing spells when trying to build thematic characters. Having iceblade instead of flameblade makes for a great iconic spell for a Druid of Winter. Giving a Siege Sorcerer forcebolt makes for great cinematics when he uses it against the city gate.

So for GMs looking to have quick and easy rules to alter every acid, cold, electricity, fire, force, and sonic spell out there, here is a simple system for making iceball interesting.

Swap dice down by one die size. So the d6s of fireball become d4s, and so on. For the most part, it is assumed the iconic damage types of classic spells are most common because they are most efficient, so people pick fireball over acidball because it does more damage. But you then also add a new effect based on the damage type you switch the spell to deal.

Acid: On failed saves damaged targets get fumes in their eyes and suffer painful corrosion, taking a penalty to all Perception checks, concentration checks, and ranged attack rolls equal to the spell’s level for 1 round.

Cold: On failed saves damaged targets have their movement rates halved for a number of rounds equal to the spell’s level.

Electricity: On failed saves damaged targets jerk and move unevenly, taking a penalty to all Acrobatics, Climb, and Swim checks and melee attack rolls equal to the spell’s level for 1 round.

Fire: On failed saves damaged targets catches on fire and burns for hp equal to the spell’s level each round until extinguished.

Force: On failed saves damaged targets are impacted by a bull rush combat maneuver with a CMB equal to quadruple the spell’s level.

Sonic: On failed saves damaged targets are deafened for a number of rounds equal to the spell’s level.

Of course you can also use this for metamagic feats, magic item special powers, new domains, bloodlines, mysteries and so on, wild magic zones, and so on. Perhaps the Arena of Flames is altered to ALL spells become fire spells, orroc rage-shamans mostly use scream-magic and deal sonic damage, or the cloak of the winter queen makes three spells of the wearer’s choice per day cold spells.

You can apply these effects to things other than spells, of course. Maybe the fire drake is exactly the CR you need, but the encounter takes place in the Storm Tombs? Just swap fire breath for electricity breath and apply the effects above. In such cases, instead of basing effects on spell level, base it on half the level or CR of the source.

Have fun with it. 🙂

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Worldbuilding Week: Merothian Emnities

We’re continuing Worldbuilding week with a look at who the Merothians as a group hate, and who hates them. They say you can judge people by their enemies, so this both helps form a background a player can draw from, and gives guidance for things like common bane weapons and favored enemies. It also helps a GM know what to use for “Merothian” combat encounters.

We already did a brief history of Merothia here, discussed Merothian traits characters could take here, and looked a Merothian culture here.

Merothian Enmities

Merothia was once a powerful coalition of proud baronies, feared by its foes and respected by its allies. Free Knights were well-known champions of freedom and liberty, and honored in every city that looked toward the light.

But now, everyone (except dwarves) look at Merothia as a failed land and see Merothians primarily as peasants who proved they cannot manage (and do not deserve) self-rule.

Some Merothains are bitter about this. Others aren’t, but know that in lands outside their own they are likely to be seen as bumpkins, idiots, or worse small-minded villains who seek only to steal the silverware.

In the days of the High Barons of Morothia, the three great threats to peace were mountain giants (and their orroc minions), orc raiders, and the garm. The epic tails of clashes against these forces are still told around bowls of donnersop, and most of the few remaining relics of Old Merothia are weapons carried into battle with names like Wolfsplitter or Jotunslayer. Orcs and orrocs, in particular, often raided into once-peaceful Merothians settlements when the Baron Kings fell, and though that was generations ago the memory of the Merothians survivors runs deep.

Because of the constant wars with orc and orroc tribes, many Merothian communities dislike and mistrust orcs and half-orcs, especially those from the Raudak. Though the orcblooded people of the Raudak have no direct connection to the orcs who plundered Merothia at the end of the Age of Tyrants, the fact the Raudak hold many Merothian towns as protectorates and has entirely taken over the few major Merothian cities near it causes current-day Merothians to heap the hate and fear of ancient orc tribes onto the modern-day Raudaki.

Though the old Jotun mountain giants appear to be gone, their degenerate offspring the stone giants and hill giants (and even larger tribes of orrocs) now control much of the Basalt Mountains. Such giants can raid with impunity into some Merothians towns, and are a constant threat to others. The orc tribes that answer to them, and the orroc who share giant blood, are much more likely to be actually encountered than a true giant, but the distrust, fear and hate for all these groups runs deep.

As the Njor often raid down from the north and clear have some Jotun blood, some groups of Merothians are suspicious of any Njor. However, the fact that Njor Giantslayers often travel into the central Basalt Mountains seeking to kill off specific storied villains of giantkind cause many Merothians to appreciate the value of a friendly Njor. A single Njor, or a couple of Njor travelling with other races, are more likely to be viewed in friendly terms than a band of multiple Nor, at least until livestock begin to go missing.

Though true garm are extremely rare since the Age of Tyrants, their close cousins the worgs and winter wolves remain threats throughout Merothia. If anything these canine creatures hate Merothians even more than the Merothians hate them, and worg shamans often gather small warbands together during storm season to destroy as many Merothians villages as possible.

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Additional Snow Rules

While snow is covered in Chapter Thirteen: Environment of the pathfinder Roleplaying game Core Rulebook, there are some additional rules I’d personally use if snow is a major element for a specific adventure, but not a common part of a campaign overall.

Adaptation: Creatures with both the cold subtype and native to a cold environment, and those with the cold subtype and a natural climb speed, ignore all rules to perception, getting lost, and movement from snow.

Light snowfall: Very light snowfall produces less than an inch of snow per day. It does not impact visibility or flames. It actually gives a +4 bonus to Survival checks to track anyone who has passed by since the snowfall stopped, since their prints are outlined.

Snowfall: Normal snowfall reduced visibility enough that a character may get lost in the wilds when it is snowing this hard. See Getting Lost, in the Wilderness section of Chapter Thirteen: Environment. If there is an additional effect in addition to the snow that might cause characters to get lost, any Survival check to avoid getting lost takes a -4 penalty.

Heavy Snowfall: When it is snowing this hard, a character can get lost outside even within an urban environment, but may make a Knowledge (local) check rather than a Survival check to avoid this. Also, a character in a wilds environment takes a -4 penalty to a Survival check to avoid getting lost. If there is an additional effect in addition to the snow that might cause characters to get lost, any Survival check to avoid getting lost takes a -4 penalty. See Getting Lost, in the Wilderness section of Chapter Thirteen: Environment.

Heavy snowstorms and blizzards also reduce the effectiveness of fire attacks. Creatures vulnerable to fire do not take additional fire damage if they are in a heavy snowstorm or blizzard.

Whiteout: The most powerful of blizzards cause whiteout conditions. This grants everything more than 5 feet away total concealment (even from sound-based blindsight and blindsense), and anything close standard concealment. Check to avoid getting lost take a -20 penalty, and must be made every 10 minutes. Whiteout conditions last from a few minutes to a few hours, and can drop 1d4 feet of snow per hour.

If a character is in snow deeper than they are tall, this is similar to being stuck in an avalanche. Buried characters take 1d6 points of nonlethal cold damage per hour, in addition to any cold hazard. If a buried character falls unconscious, he must make a DC 15 Constitution check or take 1d6 points of lethal damage every ten minutes thereafter until freed or dead. See Cave-Ins and Collapses for rules on digging out buried creatures.

Snow Creatures

You can turn any creature into a snow creature by giving it the cold subtype, moving it to a cold terrain, and giving it a climb speed equal to 1/2 its movement rate. While the CR of a cold creature it not increased in general, an encounter with one or more cold creatures in a snowstorm or blizzard has an ad hoc +1 CR adjustment.

For example, the Blue Orrocs of the northern Basalt Mountains are famed for their dark blue-to-purple coloration and their raids made into the lowlands during blizzards and winter storms.

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