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ShadowFinder Supporting Players

We’re coming up on a year I have been working on ShadowFinder, though not with the regularity I’d like. Because I have big way-behind projects after carving out a period of time to try to “finish” it (which, for various reasons didn’t do anything like get it finished), I’ve pretty much been restricted to jotting down notes when ideas come to me, and sneaking in some work on the project as blog posts (since I have blog subscribers who have already paid me for this content, so I’m obligated to keep doing this along with the other projects I am obligated to do, as opposed to ShadowFinder which is entirely optional).

But even slow and sporadic progress is progress. And today, I’m sharing some conceptual material I wrote early on in the process. I wanted to think about the types of characters I would want to be able to have as supporting players (and, perhaps, PCs). Things like this are among my guiding ideas when I work on a game setting or expansion — conceptually what do I want to be able to make with these rules and any advice that comes with them?

Earlton and Alyssal

Earlton Fust is an old, old zombie. He cannot see, smell, feel, or taste, and his hearing is weak. But for all that he is slow and clumsy, he possesses vast strength and resilience.

Alyssal Rein is a very recent ghost. Though she cannot be wounded, moments that would have harmed her living self still cause her to flee into the umbra. In fact, she can barely affect the physical world, her powers largely limited to her senses, speaking to the dead, and the ability to possess corpses.

Corpses like Earlton Fust.

She can literally become his eyes and ears, feeding him her senses, animating his flesh to be swift and nimble. In turn, his flesh can impact the mortal world in ways she cannot, his tongue speak words she wishes spoken. It is a strange arrangement, two dead souls operating in the world of the living, but they both appreciate its benefits.

Earlton was a private detective a century ago. Alyssal was murdered by an unknown foe a year ago.

They fight crime.

[I see Earlton as a specific build for a mechanic character with the exocortex option, except the “exocortex” is the ghost Alyssal. That leads to needing rules about mechanics that are magic-based rather than technology-based, which can then also be used for magical girls, ring wielders, and maybe lycanthropes. Which begins to sound like an alternate class, which is fine, I have technicians for most of what mechanics do with tech, and with a few tweaks the mechanic drone option can become a pet class that summons a spirit to fight for them, like an eidolon…]

The Sleepwalker

Michar Micharland, known in some circles as The Sleepwalker, knows the real world is one free of magic and monsters. So, despite his memories, he rejects the idea that he was hit by a bus, killed, and brought back to life with eldritch powers.

Well, he thinks the bus part probably happened.

Which means if he’s not dead (and this seems too  weird to be either heaven or hell) then he must be in a coma, and everything he is experiencing is just his brain firing off random neurons to keep itself amused until he wakes. If he wakes.

So, he has no fear. No concern. He believes to his core that everyone he meets is just part of his coma-induced dreams. None of it is real. Nothing can actually damage him, even if he feels pain. (Flashes of the pain from the bus impact leaking into his subconscious, maybe). He believes he’s walking through an imaginary world where none of his actions have consequences.

So, he helps as many people as he can. Because that’s his idea of a fulfilling dream. Doing anything else would make him feel like an ass.

[The Sleepwalker could be a mystic with a connection to dreams, or a warlock using my new warlock class. But he also needs something that lets him lean on his belief system, even if it’s wrong, to overcome things like pain and fear. That sounds a lot like a feat or archetype which could then be used for people with strong religious convictions, or the ability to fall back on scientific rigor, or who think they are the Chosen One.]

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“Imaginary Friend,” a Quirky Feat for ShadowFinder (a Starfinder Play Mode)

This feat is specifically designed for ShadowFinder, a play mode for Starfinder, but should work in any Starfinder game where it is thematically appropriate. It’s in a category called “Quirky Feats,” that a GM may exclude from a ShadowFinder game… or might give every character one as a bonus when the campaign starts, or after a major event. In this case, the feat represents a character with an apparently at least semi-real “imaginary friend.”

Imaginary Friend (Quirky)
There’s a…. thing, that talks to you sometimes. It may look like an animated mouse in a trenchcoat with pistols. Or a stuffed animal from your childhood. Or a translucent ghost costume made out of a sheet. You’re not sure it’s real. But it seems to want to help, and it’s not like you haven’t seen weirder things…
Benefit: With very rare exceptions, only see your imaginary friend.

(Or maybe your imaginary friend is the logo off one of your favorite ttRPG books, come to life to save you. Art by ヴィダル.)

Most of the time, your imaginary friend comes and goes without doing a lot to help (often making snide remarks in the process). Your GM can use this as an opportunity to have an NPC around to crack jokes, though they should be sure they aren’t so annoying with this that you (the player) regret spending a precious feat slot to get an imaginary friend. It’s fine for your character to wish they didn’t have an imaginary friend, but overall you should be enjoying the experience.

You can choose to have your character’s imaginary friend take one of the following actions. This is not dependent on the character being free to act—the action occurs on the character’s initiative count, but can be taken even if the character is unconscious, paralyzed, nauseated, or unable to take any action. Once you have used this ability you cannot do so again until after you next recuperate*, and doing so requires you to expend a number of Resolve Points equal to the number of times you’ve already used the ability in the same day.

Demoralize: The imaginary friend briefly reveals itself to a creature, and makes a check to demoralize that creature, as the demoralize task of Intimidate. The check has a special bonus bonus equal to your level plus your Charisma modifier or key ability modifier, whichever is higher.

Gather Information: The imaginary friend zooms around and spies on conversations… but somewhat at random. Imaginary friend comes back with the information at the beginning of your next turn, and this functions as the gather information task of Diplomacy. The check has a special bonus bonus equal to your level plus your Charisma modifier or key ability modifier, whichever is higher.

Look Out!: Your imaginary friend warns you about an ethereal or incorporeal creature, which it can see even if you don’t. As a move action each round you can listen to it try to describe what and where the threat is. This allows you to make an appropriate recall knowledge check to identify the creature, prevents you from being flat-footed or off-target against it, and tells you what square it is in. This lasts for one round per character level, after which your imaginary friend falls unconscious in dizzy frustration.

Snap Out of It: The imaginary friend tries to snap you out of a mind-affecting effect. It may do this gentle… or it may blow an airhorn in your ear, set fire to your toes, or treat your nose as a punching bag, depending on its personality and attitude. You gain an immediate saving throw against one mind-affecting effect you are under, at the same DC as its original save. This is a boosted** roll. If the save succeeds, the effect ends.

*Recuperate is my proposed term for when a character takes 10 minutes and expends a Resolve Point to regain all their Stamina Points.
**Boosted is a term that refers to a d20 roll with a special benefit. If the d20 result is a 1-10 (the die shows a 1-10), you add +10 to the result (so, effectively, a boosted roll always results in a value from 11-20, though only an actual 20 on the die counts as a “natural” 20).

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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!

Weapons in ShadowFinder, a Starfinder Play Mode

In the upcoming ShadowFinder modern fantasy play mode for Starfinder, weapons don’t do a set damage based on their item level, and mundane, typical weapons aren’t bought with credits. Instead anything reasonably available to a typical person (bolt cutters, road flares, blue jeans, baseball bats, cars, firearms, bandages, and so on) use a wealth mechanic to see if you can find and afford what you want when you want it. Credits are used for more esoteric items, such as magic and hybrid equipment, fringe science, psychically imbued crystals, alien relics, and so on.

Similarly, rather than a set damage, weapons have their damage based on a damage tier, which is calculated using a set of rules that are being polished as we speak. If you are proficient with a weapon, it’s base damage tier is your character level. If you are not proficient, it’s base damage tier is your base attack bonus -2 (and you suffer the normal nonproficiency penalty to your attack roll). Weapons then have a damage tier modifier, often based on things like their critical hit effects and special properties.

Here’s a sample of what some melee weapons will look like, and how the damage tier chart works.

Baseball Bat (1-h/2-h Basic Melee Weapon)
Wealth Check: 10
Damage Tier -1 (B)
Properties: Analog, archaic,
Critical Hit Effect: Knockdown

Stiletto (Operative Melee Weapon)
Wealth Check: 12
Damage Tier +0 (P)
Properties: Analog, conceal, feint
Critical Hit Effect: Bleed (1d6, +1d6/5 damage tiers)

Single Target Melee KAC Weapons

Damage   1-h          2-h                       1-h           2-h
Tier     Adv.        Adv.      Oprtv      Basic       Basic

-3            1d2         1d4          1 pt.        1 pt.        1d2

-2            1d3         1d4          1 pt.        1 pt.        1d3

-1            1d3         1d4          1 pt.        1d3         1d3

0              1d4         1d6         1d3         1d4         1d4

1              1d4         1d6         1d3         1d4         1d6

2              1d6         1d6         1d4         1d6         1d6

3              1d6         1d8         1d4         1d6         1d6

4              1d8         1d8         1d4         1d6         1d8

5              1d8         1d10      1d6         1d8          1d8

6              2d4         2d6         1d6         1d8         1d10

7              2d6         2d8         1d8         1d10      1d12

8              2d8         3d6         2d4         1d10      2d8

9              3d6         4d6         2d6         2d8         3d6

10           4d6         5d6         3d4         2d8         3d8

11           5d6         4d8         2d8         2d10      4d6

12           4d8         6d6         3d6         3d8         5d6

13           6d6         7d6         3d8         3d10      4d8

14           6d8         9d6         4d6         4d8         5d8

15           9d6         10d6      5d6         5d8         8d6

16           10d6      11d6      6d6         6d8         9d6

17           12d6      13d6      7d6         7d8         10d6

18           14d6      15d6      8d6         8d8         12d6

19           16d6      17d6      9d6         9d8         13d6

20           18d6      20d6      10d6      11d8      15d6

21           20d6      22d6      11d6      12d8      17d6

22           22d6      25d6      12d6      13d8      19d6

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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!

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!

ShadowFinder Bestiary Teaser: Soul Lamprey

As work on ShadowFinder continues, I will occasionally preview things that will be in its Bestiary section. Many of these will be creatures from the ShadowBlast, but others will fill in the “normal” niches a typical modern adventure/scifi/fantasy/surreal/horror game might need.

For each of these, I plan to show some art, talk a bit about why I’m putting it in the ShadowFinder Core Book, and enough info a GM could create a version of the monster at any CR, using the standard Starfinder creature creation rules. In the final entries for these in the Core Book there will be at least one full stat block, but I do also want to give enough info on special abilities and role in an adventure that a GM can reliably make versions at different CRs as they need them.

So, let’s start with the soul lamprey.

(Art by Kalifer)

Soul lampreys are creatures apparently native to the Shadowblast (though like anything in the Shadowblast, they might originally be from somewhere else and just trapped in that dim demiplane). They are driven by an insatiable hunger to consume the determination and drive of sapient beings, as well as the flesh of any sentient creature they can eat while it still lives.

The idea behind the soul lamprey is to get some of the player-dread that creatures that inflicted level drains and negative levels did in older ttRPGs… without the bookkeeping, refiguring, and literal inability to keep playing the character usefully in the same adventure that those rules often inflicted on players. Instead, soul lampreys eat Resolve Points.

To build a soul lamprey, you use a combatant stat array, a single bite melee attack that deals piercing damage, and give it these special abilities and adjustments:

Slow But Tough: A soul lamprey has EAC and KAC 2 lower than normal for the combatant array at its level, but also has 25% more Hit Points.

Devour Determination (Su): When a soul lamprey damages a target with tis bite, the target must make both a Fortitude and Will save. If it makes both saves, there is no additional affect. If the target fails 1 save, it loses 1 Resolve Point. If it fails both saves, is drained of 1d4 Resolve Points (+1d4 for every 4 full levels of the lamprey’s CR). Drained RP do not recover normally. Instead, each time the character regains their daily abilities, they reroll the Fort and Will saves, regaining 1 RP for each save they succeed at each day. If they make both saves, they regain an addition 1d4 RP (+1d4 for ever 4 character levels they have).

The soul lampry gains these Resolve Points, and can use them normally and to fuel its special abilities. While a soul lamprey has RP, any creature missing RP from a soul lamprey drain is flat-footed and off-target to the soul lamprey.

Digest Determination (Su): When a wounded soul lamprey devours determination, it can choose to expend any number of the RP it absorbs to heal itself as part of the attack. For each RP expended, it regains 1d8 HP + 1/2 its CR. It may only do this when it absorbs new RP.

Target Sense (Su): As part of any action it takes, a soul lamprey can expend 1 RP to gain blindsight (telepathy) with a range of 5 feet per CR of the lamprey. This only detects creatures missing RP drained by a soul lamprey. The ability lasts for 10 minutes per CR of the soul lamprey.

Trap Blind (Ex): A soul lamprey is vulnerable to attacks from things that lack their own determination. This includes traps, mindless creatures, and mechanic’s drones. Such attacks gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls and save DCs, and deal double damage, against soul lampreys.

Shudder Step (Su): When a creature damages a soul lamprey with a ranged attack, the soul lamprey can follow the trace of psychic energy carried by the decision to attack it back to its point of origin, teleporting to be adjacent to the attacker (or as close as possible if there is no safe space adjacent to the attacker). This does not take an action, but does expend 1 Resolve Point.

Want to get news about ShadowFinder as it develops? Send an email to shadowfinderlist@gmail.com and ask to sign up, so we can send you notifications for this project and its tie-ins!

PATREON!
If you enjoy any of my various thoughts, ideas, and posts, please consider adding a drop of support 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).

ShadowFinder Gazetteer: Elseward

ShadowFinder continues to work towards release. Some of the material I am drawing on for parts of the worldbuilding in this play mode are heavily inspired by things that helped me through some dark times in my life. Elseward is one of those.

(Art by Grandfailure)

Elseward

Some of the areas in the demiplane known as the Shadowblast that are very close to the Material Plane. These regions, called Shallows, appear to be tightly bound to some mortal concepts or emotions and follow special rules compared to the rest of the Shadowblast. There exist natives of the Material Plane who are survivors of severe trauma and depression that can access a Shallows section of the Shadowblast known as Elseward – a violent, vicious realm that mixes dense noir city and surreal untamed jungle with no apparent rhyme or reason – usually without even knowing it. Projecting themselves partially into the Shallows, these Elsewarders exist in both their native Material Planes and the Elseward Shallow. They see and experience things other folk around them in the Material world do not, often mistaking Elseward events for daydreams. Some Elsewarders even develop special powers with the Shallows, creating a ethereal ShadowSelf that exists within Elseward even when the Elsewarders are not connected to it. Elsewarders then experience their ShadowSelf lives through dreams and reveries.

In a few cases, Elsewarders manage to heal and slowly disconnect from the Shallow, perhaps leaving their ShadowSelf behind, perhaps integrating it into themselves and departing from Elseward entirely. But more often, they eventually begin to draw bits of that Shallow region out into the Material Plane, beginning with minor Shadowblastoi creatures crossing over and growing in number, complexity, and power as time goes on. Such a traveller from Elseward into the Material Plane is known as a Drawesle, and its behavior is often dictated by the fears and nightmares of the Elsewarder that drew it through the Shallow.

(Art by Duy)

It’s common for Drawesles to destroy their related Elsewarder, ending their link to the Material world and sending them back to the Shadowblast. Elsewarders with extreme will or some eldritch power source sometimes instead begin to spread their vision of the Elseward into their own world, and in rare cases even forge links between the Elseward and Material world denizens to whom they have strong (not necessarily positive) emotional connections. These advanced situations can result in small groups or even tightly-linked communities existing in both their own realities and the Elseward at once, appearing to experience ongoing shared dreams and hallucinations.

Some Elsewarders continue to hop back-and-forth for decades, with more and more links to the Shadowblast connecting to them as time passes. When the Elsewarder is secure, supported, and dealing with their trauma well, incidents are mostly just deep dreams and odd noises in dark corners, and easily dismissed by them and others as a wandering mind’s intrusive thoughts. When exposed to new trauma or under high stress, these well-worn links can actually anchor parts of Elseward to the Material world, generally in abandoned, remote, or chaotic, badly monitored locations. This leads to Drawesles building a Material Plane power base, seeking to torment the Elsewarder and those close to them to further strengthen the link.

In these cases, outside intervention is often needed to save the Elsewarder and those near them from their literal personal demons. This may be done by seeking out and ending the Drawesles’ base of operations on the Material world, or it may require a trip into Elseward to cut off the intrusion from the source. Of course, destroying a trauma-induced monstrosity preying on an Elsewarder doesn’t end the Elsewarder’s underlying issues. But it can help give them space to do the work needed to heal themselves, and give reassurance that their trials are very, very real.

(Art by evilinside)

DEEP ELSEWARDER [QUIRKY]
At one time, you were tightly linked to the Elseward, or some other section of the Shallows in the Shadowblast, and you have developed special powers that only function there.
Benefit: For each character level, you can select one tier of enigma power, one bonus feat for which you meet the prerequisites, or one level of spellcasting from a specific spellcaster class list (gaining spells known, spells per day, and a caster level equal to your levels of spellcasting selected with this feat). These are separate from your normal feats and (if you have them) enigma powers and spells. Abilities gained through this feat only function in Beachheads and Shallows of the Shadowblast.

Want to get news about ShadowFinder as it develops? Send an email to shadowfinderlist@gmail.com and ask to sign up, so we can send you notifications for this project and its tie-ins!

PATREON!
If you enjoy any of my various thoughts, ideas, and posts, please consider adding a drop of support 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).

ShadowFinder Organizations: The Black

Again, some legal stuff.

Nothing on this page is OGL. This is a post of Community Use content of Paizo materials.

Obviously there’s going to be a “ShadowFinder Society” as an in-world group in the upcoming Starfinder Infinite product, the ShadowFinder Core Book. But that’s far from the only group dealing with the issues created by the Shadowblast. One of the more potent is the elite collective known as the Black.

The Black

The Black is among the most powerful coalitions of spellcasters and scientists on either Rasputin’s Legacy Earth or Golarion, and they work ceaselessly to build ways for their members and others to comfortably exist in other planes, and to find ways to cross in and out of the Shadowblast (and to a lesser extent, other planes of existence). They do insist that any who make use of the transportation they can sometimes provide be respectful and considerate of the new plane traveled to, but also believe that locking creatures behind planar barriers inevitably lead to inequality and tribalism. When the Black finds a subjugated group trapped in an alternate plane, they often focus their efforts one stablisg routes for those under the yoke toescape, moving them to new planes of reality if necessary.

While most people aware of it consider the battle against the Shadowblast to be a war of light against darkness, the Black philosophically take the other approach. They see it as a battle of true dark against the dim, hazy, often tricky gloom of shadow. To members of the Black, the problem with quantifying everything as light and dark is that light often causes shadows, and within those shadows illusion and misperception can run rampant. They further see than many groups have a illumination-at-any-cost rule, claiming the ends justify the means, and this often leads to tyranny and abuse as warriors of the light cross ethical lines to destroy any darkness-themed creature they encounter. The methodology of the Black is different, seeking to understand the nature of things and then seek a solution built from that understanding.

The fact that numerous creatures of the Shadowblast hate their existence within it is, to the Black, those Shadowblastoi’s primary motivation for violent and dangerous assaults into the Material Plane. If the creatures of the Shadowblast could be freed of the pain regions of their own home plane cause them, or given a way to travel to other realities without needing sacrifices, and rituals, and riots, the Black believe harmonious co-existence could be achieved. Further, given some planar slivers are nearly infinite in their scape, surely if any creature could move to any realm of reality that would end the need to fight over territory, resources, and borders.

Many groups consider the Black hopelessly naïve, insisting that evil is real and absolute, and that seeking ways to comfort the enemy is treasonous to the Material Plane itself. In general, agents of the Black acknowledge evil is real and most be opposed – they simply decry any effort to categorize all of any one species, region, or even plane of existence as inherently evil. After all, if even angels and fall and devils can be redeemed, is that not proof that each individual must be judged on their own merits, rather than as broad categorizations? And, if so, doesn’t that mean any system that encourages valuation based on group factors itself inherently unable to create true equity and justice?

Most other large-scale groups aware of the Shadowblast see the Black as a branch of the enemy at worst, or dangerous fools at best. As a result, the  Black keep their membership tightly controlled, with only senior members of their collective allowed to engage in recruitment, and only the most competent of veteran planar travelers considered for membership. Until someone has a number of significant deeds to their name, the Black feels it’s premature to try to judge them by those deeds. However, individual agents of the Black often act as patrons and allies to less-connected or inexperienced hunters, healers, and researchers, both to build independent networks of useful allies, and to keep tabs on those who might someday be considered for inclusion in the Black.

The official positions of the Bannerfolk, Lighthouse, and ShadowFinder Society is to treat the Black as too dangerous to get involved with, but that position is not universal among the actual members of those organizations. There are individuals among those groups who hear a ring of truth in the philosophy of the Black, and are at least willing to hear out the proposals made by its agents.

(Yep, more art of Jacob Blackmon’s you don’t get to see the full version of until the book is done!)

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ShadowFinder: The Shadowblast

So, first some legal stuff.

Nothing on this page is OGL. This is a post of Community Use content of Paizo materials.

One element of the upcoming Starfinder Infinite product, the ShadowFinder Core Book, is the demiplane known as the “Shadowblast.” Obviously that demiplane gets a fairly lengthy writeup in the Core Book, but I haven’t talked much about what it’s actually like in these previews, So, here’s an excerpt about one of the Shadowblast’s regions. (And yeah, “Shadowblastoi” get an entry as well, but the short version is that they are creatures stuck in the Shadowblast, who want to get out.)

Shadowblast Regions

The Shadowblast is often described in terms of an ocean, with Beachheads, Shallows, Reefs, the Faraway, and the Deeps.

Beachheads

“Beachheads” are areas literally overlapping with another plane (so a creature not bound to the Shadowblast can simply walk from the Shadowblast into the overlapped plane, and a ShadowWalker could walk from that plane into the Shadowblast). A creature that is not a ShadowWalker could walk right past the overlap with nothing more than a sense of something weird going on. But a ShadowWalker on the Material Plane might take a wrong turn and go from their own world to the Beachhead, without having any idea why the city around them suddenly looks like a mostly-abandoned ruin. A ShadowWalker can also walk from the Beachhead back to their own Plane… if they know what route will take them back, and if the Beachhead doesn’t fade away first.

(A Shadowblast Beachhead that overlaps a major Material Plane city. Art by David Edwards)

A Beachhead overlapping the Ethereal or Astral plane generally looks like a fog or mist.Those connected to elemental planes are often a mix of that element and ruined vehicles or land. Those overlapping slivers of infernal planes often seem to be endless buildings with offices dedicated to sin and torture, and fiendish residents sometimes don’t notice the difference until the Beachhead fades.

Beachheads are temporary, and generally caused by massive amount of undirected energy (ranging from mass death to nuclear power meltdowns and interrupted rituals) or planar or astrological conjunctions. They may last as little as a few minutes, or as long as a few months. The area near the overlap on the connected plane is usually lightly-populated and/or hard to reach. Things from the Shadowblast yearn to escape it, and seek Beachheads—often causing trouble for the denizens of the connected plane. However, many powerful Shadowblastoi cannot pass through unless a Beachhead is reinforced, which requires energy—emotional, magical, or technological—to be released chaotically on the other plane. Some beachheads need specific kinds of energy, while others grow stronger with anything from a rock concert to a political riot to a wildfire.

But the majority of Shadowblastoi that pass through a Beachhead are sucked back into the Shadowblast when the Beachhead closes. The amount of energy to keep a Beachhead open slowly increases with time, so a permanent Beachhead seems impossible. Even so, the Shadowblastoi desperate to escape their demiplane keep trying to find new forms of energy or magic to make a Beachhead last, or be able to create one at-will. Since the planar barriers are thinnest between the Shadowblast and the Material Plane around Lost Golarion and Rasputin’s Legacy Earth, those are the places Shadowblastoi most often seek to invade (though certainly efforts to wedge open Beachheads to other planes are also undertaken).

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ShadowFinder Mundane Gear Rules Preview

Yesterday, I previewed a new type of feat coming in the Starfinder Infinite ShadowFinder book. (And the awesome cover!) Today, I’m teasing some general rules designed to cover the use of everyday mundane equipment.

[H2]Mundane Equipment Rules

Not everything listed as mundane equipment has detailed descriptions or specific rules associated with it. Mostly, this is because I assume we all know what a smart phone, alarm clock, and ball-point pen are. I certainly could go into excruciating detail on how long  a line, in linear feet, you can draw with the ink in one ball-point pen, and the differences between disposable ones, refillable, and collectable. But I decided not to do that.

Because I don’t want to.

Seriously, modern gear mostly doesn’t need a ton of rules behind it. You have a pdf ruleset you had to be online to buy, so you have access to the Internet. If you need to know how many ounces of ink are in a typical ball-point pen, or the burn rate of scented candles, or if polypropylene rope floats (hint: it does), you can take 15 seconds online to look it up.

But while many games may end up needing to know one of those things, once, in a specific weird circumstance, the overwhelming majority won’t need to know any of the rest of the trivia I could fill a modern equipment section with. So, I don’t want to take the time, or space, or make people read through it all, just to cover the rare corner case with well-defined facts and rules.

Instead, I’d prefer to give some general rules on how to determine if a character’s effort to use a piece of equipment in a specific way works. That puts the GM and players on roughly the same page about the chances of success when you try something off-the-wall, and can be used regardless of what mundane equipment is involved. ShadowFinder is about facing weird threats in mysterious circumstances at strange locations, not careful tracking of modern mundania.

[H3]Professional Use

So, what rules DO I think make sense for modern gear we’re either all familiar with, or able to easily look up with the marvel of online search engines? Simply put, rules that determine if a character can successfully do what they want with a piece of equipment. To keep that short and simple, I’m going to use Skill checks as the baseline for gear success, breaking into XX easy steps for the GM to go through.

[H4]1. Is There Already A Rule For This?

Often, players will just want to use their equipment as a way to do typical adventuring things. If the attempted use is already covered by a Starfinder rule, just use that rule and assign a penalty or circumstance bonus as seems appropriate. Given how tight the success math is for most tasks, if you can attempt something with a piece of gear, it likely shouldn’t take more than a -2 penalty for being an off label use. Similarly, circumstance bonuses can be a little as +1 or +2, and should very rarely go above +5.

For example, E.Z.Wren is in a Parasol Consolidated Industries office waiting to talk to a compliance officer about evidence E.Z. has uncovered about PCI violating various consumer safety laws. Suddenly, instead of middle management, four chemghouls burst into the room. E.Z. makes a made dash for the conference room off the office, and gets inside and locks the door. But the chemghouls begin hammering the door, which won’t hold them long, and the only other way out of the conference room is the windows.

On the 23rd story.

E.Z. wants to smash a window open with a chair. That sounds like an improvised weapon, so the GM just treats the chair as an awkward club with a -4 penalty to attack rolls as with the standard improvised weapon rules. It takes a few swings, but E.Z. breaks one of the big window panes, and now has access to the outside of the building.

Unfortunately, it’s an all-glass sides modern high-rise and E.Z. doesn’t have any climbing equipment with him. Obviously, the building’s exterior isn’t perfectly smooth, but it seems likely to be a “relatively smooth surface with occasional handholds,” as defined by the Athletics skill (which covers climbing), so the GM rules it’s a DC 25 Athletics check, and given the height (240 feet, the GM decides), E.Z. would have to make a lot of checks to successfully make it to the ground.

[H4]2. Can The Equipment Be Used This Way?

(There are more steps obviously, but this is a TEASRER PREVIEW, not an entire rules section!)

(Yes, there really are commercial sledgehammers available off-the-rack that are that big.)

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ShadowFinder Previews: Quirky Feats and the Cover WIP

Today, I am going to look at a new type of feat coming in the Starfinder Infinite ShadowFinder book.

Also, a peak at the W.I.P. cover for the Core Book.

Quirky Feats

Quirky feats are a special category of feats that represent something abnormal and strange, even when grading on the curve of exceptional heroes with extraordinary and magic powers. While combat and general feats can cover everything from having a bit of spellcasting ability (or enigma power), specialized training, or even a gaining a squox companion, Quirky feats are both more specialized and just plain stranger than that. Quirky feats like Branded By An Actual Artifact, Demon For A Hand, Doomed To A Horrific Fate, Literal Third Eye, and Skunk Stripe of Significance indicate some importance well beyond just the rule interactions they grant. A GM may well build cosmological details on Quirky Feats, such as having a door that can only be opened by a character who has the Demon for a Hand feat, or a creature that doesn’t get to use it’s DR and energy resistances against anyone with the Skunk Stripe of Significance.

Not all ShadowFinder games will have any Quirky feats. The GM and players should discuss if they want the kind of offbeat heroes these feats tend to create, and certainly don’t push the issue if a few players hate the idea. Try to make decisions that will help everyone enjoy the game. (In fact, always do that.)

Because Quirky feats are more attention-grabbing than normal feats, they follow some special rules.

First, a GM should feel free to give a character that doesn’t have a Quirky feat access to one as a bonus when it’s narratively appropriate. For example, if a PC tries to grapple the Shadowblastoi that is making off with the Amulet of Ra the entire campaign is built around, and fails, the GM might well tell the player their character can gain Branded By An Actual Artifact as a bonus feat, if the player wants. The GM should never force a Quirky feat on a PC without the player’s buy-in. They’re just too, well, quirky.

Second, a character that has a Quirky feat can’t select one using any of their normal feat choices. Once you are Doomed to a Horrific Fate, you already have plenty of weird, special things about your character. You don’t need to add a Frequent Heroic Breeze or Weird Eye That Means Something to such a character—leave some Quirky stuff for other people! Also, you can’t take a quirky feat another character in the same party has without GM approval, and the GM should get the other player’s approval. If everyone descended from the Witch Heather Spellgoode has a literal third eye, it makes sense for two characters that are siblings to both take it. But if one character ends up with a Demon For A Hand, it’s going to be weird if another character goes to Demon-For-A-Hand-R-Us and gets one for themselves.

In rare cases, a GM may have a plot point take away a Quirky feat that has previously been given as a bonus feat. If this is done, it’s polite to either replace it with another Quirky feat the player approves of (maybe being healed of the scar from being Branded By An Actual Artifact exposed you to energies that caused you to gain a Skunk Stripe of Significance), or grant a bonus feat slot the player can use to take anything their character qualifies for.

In even rarer cases, a GM might grant a character that already has a Quirky feat the opportunity to acquire another one, either as a bonus feat or as a feat they can select next time they gain a feat. This should only be done when it serves to drive the narrative forward, but GMs must use their best judgement on that.

(We’re still tweaking things, like I want my name on it, but the final version will look a LOT like this!)

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Want to ask questions about ShadowFinder? Would you enjoy access to a huge backlog of game stuff and articles? Simply want to support me creating more of these things? Check out my Patreon! This post has an Expanded Version on my Patreon as well, which talks a little about the design philosophy behind secret signs.