Author Archives: okcstephens

Mythic Stars: Mythic Feats for Starfinder (2)

More Mythic Feats for Mythic Starfinder.

Mythic Alien Herbalism (Mythic)
You can easily create life-saving medicines.
Prerequisites: Alien Herbalism, Life Science 5 ranks, Survival 5 ranks.
Benefit: You can use Alien Herbalism to create short-lived medicinals during the same time you recuperate*, and there is no limit to how many times per day you can do so, though it still costs a Resole Point each time.

Mythic All Hands on Deck (Mythic)
Many hands make light work.
Prerequisites: All hands on Deck, four or more arms.
Benefit: When performing labor, perhaps requiring a Strength check or an Athletics check, such as digging a hole, moving cargo, or hauling in a rope, you can complete the task in half the usual time. Tasks requiring other checks aren’t included. Alternatively, you can simultaneously perform two skill-based tasks that can be performed with two hands, such as making Computers checks on two different computers. This has no impact on combat, or tasks that require more than using your hands.

Mythic Ambuscade (Combat, Mythic)
You are particularly skilled at attacking targets who have not had a chance to prepare for combat.
Benefit: You gain the benefits from Ambuscade against any target you attack in a surprise round (whether or not they have acted), and any target you attack before they have had a chance to act in the first round of combat (even if the first round isn’t a surprise round).

Mythic Ambush Awareness (Combat, Mythic)
You are particularly skilled at fighting when surprised.
Benefit: If you are unable to act in the surprise round because you failed a Perception check, you can still act on your initiative count in the surprise round, but cannot take an action that requires an attack roll or forces targets to make a saving throw.

Mythic Amplified Glitch (Combat, Mythic)
You can create sudden distractions with technological devices.
Prerequisites: Amplified Glitch, Computers 3 ranks, Intimidate 3 ranks.
Benefit: You can use Amplified Glitch on all targets in a 30-foot radius, as long as there is a technological device able to make sound at the center of that radius. Creatures targeted by your Amplified Glitch do not gain immunity to it for 24 hours, but do gain a +1 cumulative bonus to their save against it for each time they have been exposed in the past 24 hours.

Mythic Antagonize (Mythic)
You know how to make foes quickly and repeatedly angry with you.
Prerequisites: Antagonize, Diplomacy 5 ranks, Intimidate 5 ranks.
Benefit: You can use Antagonize as a Move action. Additionally, creatures targeted by your Antagonize do not gain immunity to it for 24 hours, but do gain a +1 cumulative bonus to their save against it for each time they have been exposed in the past 24 hours.

Mythic Apt Mentor (Mythic)
Your aid is always useful in academic pursuits.
Prerequisites: Apt Mentor, Life Science or Physical Science 5 ranks.
Benefit: You automatically succeed at an attempt to aid another on an Intelligence-, Wisdom-, or Charisma-based check. Additionally, once per day you can make a Diplomacy check to gather information without taking any extra time to do so, and without your inquiries being obvious to others.

Mythic Arm Extensions (Mythic)
You have unique devices installed into your arms that allow you to extend them great distances.
Prerequisites: Arm Extensions, constructed racial trait or construct type.
Benefit: Your arm extensions extend your natural reach to 15 feet, and impose no penalty to attack rolls with weapons wielded in your hands and to Dexterity- and Strength-based ability checks and skill checks. When you use this ability to grab an object or surface and pull yourself to that item or surface as a full action, or you can anchor yourself where you are to lower yourself to another surface, you move 20 feet as if using a fly speed with perfect maneuverability, ending your movement in a square adjacent to the chosen object or surface.

Mythic Barricade (Combat, Mythic)
You are adept at creating quick cover.
Prerequisites: Barricade, Engineering 1 rank.
Benefit: When determining the hardness and Hit Points of your temporary barricade created with the Barricade feat, treat it as a piece of equipment with an item level equal to your total ranks in Engineering. Additionally, the most recent barricade you built with that feat does not collapse at the beginning of your turn 1d4 rounds after it is hit by an attack.

Mythic Basic Melee Weapon Proficiency (Combat, Mythic )
You are a master of attacks with basic melee weapons.
Prerequisites: Proficiency with basic melee weapons.
Benefit: When attacking with a basic weapon, you do not apply the penalty from the dazzled, fatigued, off-kilter, off-target, prone, or shaken conditions to your attack rolls.

*Recuperate is my proposed game term to represent when a character spends 1 Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest. That would be defined in any product I used it in.

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Mythic Stars: Mythic Feats for Starfinder (1)

I took an initial stab at some mythic material for Starfinder in this post, from Feb 2020. And then I got… distracted.

It’s been a rough 17 months.

But I’m playing in my friend Carl’s mythic Starfinder game now, and THOSE rules are looking promising, and much more complete than the ones I I started.

But, they still need Mythic Feats.

You’d gain Mythic Feats in Mythic Stars the same way you would in the Pathfinder 1st edition Mythic rules, but that’s not the focus here. The focus of this article is to show how I would have Mythic Feats work in Starfinder, in a way that works with the math of that game system (so nothing should be just a big boost to bonuses or totals), but are still a significant increase over the non-mythic versions of the feats. Getting a Mythic Feat should give you a distinct advantage, but not cause you to be able to simply ignore challenges designed for non-mythic characters of your level.

As a sampler, I’m just going to do the first ten official feats for the game, in alphabetical order.

Mythic Accelerated Recovery (Mythic)
Your body knits back together even when you just rest briefly.
Prerequisites: Con 13, Accelerated Recovery.
Benefit: When you recuperate*, you also regain your level in Hit Points.

Mythic Adaptive Casting (Mythic)
You often have a few extra eldritch tricks up your sleeve.
Prerequisites: Key ability score 19, Adaptive Casting, caster level 7.
Benefit: When you recuperate, you regain your daily uses of spell-like abilities gained from Adaptive Casting.

Mythic Adaptive Fighting (Combat, Mythic)
You can frequently adjust your fighting style to match specific conditions during combat.
Prerequisites: Adaptive Fighting, three or more other combat feats.
Benefit: When you recuperate, you regain your daily use of the Adaptive Fighting feat.

Mythic Adaptive Resistance (Mythic)
Your training enables you to adapt and evolve formidable defenses.
Prerequisites: Adaptive Resistance, Enhanced Resistance, base attack bonus +4, early stage adaptation racial trait.
Benefit: When you change the damage type your Enhanced Resistance applies to, the change lasts until you choose to change it again.

Mythic Adaptive Upgrade (Mythic)
You have adjusted one of your armor upgrades to give yourself a additional options.
Prerequisites: Int 19, Adaptive Upgrade, Engineering 10 ranks.
Benefit: When you adapt an upgrade to function as one of your three upgrades selected with Adaptive Upgrade, it can function as any of the three, rather than just one of them. When activated, it acts as both the actual upgrade the whichever of your selected upgrades you wish, and does so for 10 minutes. It otherwise follows the rules from Adaptive Upgrade.

Mythic Add Leverage (Combat, Mythic)
With the right grip, you can push and penalize your foes.
Prerequisites: Str 15, Add Leverage.
Benefit: When you successfully perform a bull rush, reposition, or trip combat maneuver while using 1 or more hands to wield your weapon beyond the minimum required to wield that weapon, you can also choose to make the target flat-footed or off-target for 1 round (+1 round for every 5 your attack exceeded the AC needed to perform the maneuver), or knock them prone (or off-kilter, if in 0-G).

Mythic Advance Warning (Combat, Mythic)
You easily shout warnings to your allies, focusing their attention on the threats around them.
Prerequisites: Cha 15.
Benefit: As part of any other action you take, you can shout a warning to your allies, ending the flat-footed condition for any ally within 60 feet (including yourself). Once you’ve used this ability, doing so again before you next recuperate requires you to expend 1 Resolve Point. This is a sense-dependent ability.

Mythic Advanced Melee Weapon Proficiency (Combat, Mythic )
You are a master of attacks with advanced melee weapons.
Prerequisites: Proficiency with advanced and basic melee weapons.
Benefit: When attacking with an advanced melee weapon, you do not apply the penalty from the dazzled, fatigued, off-kilter, off-target, prone, or shaken conditions to your attack rolls.

Mythic Agile Casting (Mythic)
You can move, cast a spell, and move again before foes react.
Prerequisites: Key ability score 15, Dex 15, Agile Casting, Mobility, caster level 4th.
Benefit: As a standard action, you can move up to your speed and cast a single spell with a casting time of one standard action or less at any point during your movement. If you have a supernatural ability that can be activated as a standard action or less, you can instead use that ability at any point during your movement.

Mythic Agile Swimmer
You can dart around underwater even more nimbly than a fish.
Prerequisites: Agile Swimmer, racial swim speed.
Benefit: You never have to make an Athletics check to successfully swim, even under hazardous conditions.

*Recuperate is my proposed game term to represent when a character spends 1 Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest. That would be defined in any product I used it in.

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ALTERNATE HERO POINTS FOR PF1

Hero points are a mechanic that allows players to “edit” the events of an encounter and the rules of the game to a limited degree. They give heroes the ability to do the amazing things heroes do in fantasy fiction, but with specific rules for doing so, and they encourage players to make the sort of choices fantasy heroes do in those stories, in order to get more Hero points.

A GM decides where or not to use Hero points, and while it’s most common for that to be done on a per-campaign basis, it needn’t be. A GM could allow Hero points only when the PCs are involved in something they have strong feelings about, or only in climactic plotline-ending scenes. Alternatively, a GM might use Hero points when a player can’t make it to a game session, to give the remaining characters a power boost, or use it for day-in-the-life game sessions when combat and life-or-death situations are unlikely but the GM would like to encourage players to get involved in telling social stories.

Hero points are a pure power up for characters, but they are also a way for the GM and players to have a rules-based back-and-forth with what moments each consider important to the ongoing story. Some groups like having some ability to edit events to be closer to what they want, while others feel it takes focus away from the risk-and-reward feel of the game rules. The most important thing is to find what a GM and their game group are comfortable with, and do that.

These Hero points are based on those from the M&M game, and are intentionally more common and generally more powerful than those presented in the APG (though explicitly excluding the Cheat Death option, since having that tends to discourage Hero point spending for any other purpose). Even so, you can look to the APG rules on Hero points for more ideas on how and why you might use them. For example, these rules are not designed to be used with the Hero’s Fortune feat (APG), but you could combine them with such a feat if you wished.

(This is an Extended Post, with additional material including rewritten versions of the Hero Point Feats from the APG made available exclusively on my Patreon, for my supporting Patrons.)

HERO POINTS FOR PATHFINDER 1E

Players start each game session with 2 Hero points. During the adventure they get opportunities to earn more Hero points. Unspent Hero points don’t carry over to the next session; the heroes start out with 2 points again. Use them or lose them!

USING HERO POINTS

Unless otherwise noted, spending a Hero point is a reaction that takes no action (thus not restricting your other reactions). You can spend Hero points for any of the following:

EXTRA ACTION

You can spend a Hero point to gain an additional standard action on your turn (this is an exception to the rule that Hero points are normally a reaction), or to gain an additional Move action at any time. You cannot combine multiple extra actions into a full round action.

IMPROVE ROLL

One Hero point allows you to re-roll any die roll you make and take the better of the two rolls. On a result of 1 through 10 on the second roll, add 10 to the result, an 11 or higher remains as-is (so the re-roll is always a result of 11-20). You must spend the Hero point to improve a roll before the GM announces the outcome of your initial roll. You cannot spend Hero points on die rolls made by the GM or other players.

REUSE

You can spend a hero point to recall a spell you have already cast or to gain another use of a special ability that is otherwise limited. This should only be used on spells and abilities possessed by your character that recharge on a daily basis.

INSPIRATION

You can spend a Hero point to get sudden inspiration in the form of a hint, clue, or bit of help from the GM. It might be a way out of the villain’s fiendish deathtrap, a vital clue for solving a mystery, or an idea about the villain’s weakness. It’s up to the GM exactly how much help the players get from inspiration and how it manifests, but since Hero points are a very limited resource, the help should be in some way significant.

RECOVER

You can spend a Hero point to recover faster. A Hero point allows you to immediately remove a bleed, confused, dazed, dazzled, fascinated, fatigued, prone, shaken, sickened, or staggered condition, without taking an action.

Spending a Hero point to recover also lets you convert a cowering condition into frightened, panicked into frightened, frightened into shaken, exhausted condition into a fatigued condition; convert a stunned condition into a staggered condition, or convert a nauseated condition into a sickened condition.

You can also use a Hero point to overcome the limitations of the blinded, broken, deafened, energy drained, entangled, grappled, flat-footed, or paralyzed condition for 1 round. This does not end the condition, and you cannot move from a spot the condition roots you to, but you ignore all its other effects until the beginning of your next turn.

If at 0 or fewer Hit Points and dying, you can spend a Hero point to stabilize. If at 0 or fewer hit points and stable, you can spend a Hero point to become conscious and have positive hit points equal to half your level (equal to your level if you have Toughness or Endurance, equal to 1.5x your level if you have both).

MINOR SCENE EDITING

A player may offer the GM a Hero point to make a minor edit to a scene. For example, if the player’s character is set on fire in the middle of the street, the player might offer the GM a Hero point in order to add a trough of water to the street, so the PC can jump into it and extinguish themselves. Minor editing should always make sense, should never bypass an encounter entirely, and is entirely at the discretion of the GM. If the GM does not edit the scene as requested, the player retains the Hero point.

EARNING HERO POINTS

The GM can give any player a Hero point to edit events in a way that goes against the player’s character without allowing die rolls, and in contravention of the normal rules or action order. For example, if an adventure calls for a villain to escape, and a PC has the villain grabbed, the GM can grant the player a Hero point and declare the villain wriggles free and dashes out of sight. If a PC manages to kill a major foe in a single blow, the GM can give that PC’s player a Hero point and state the foe miraculously blocked the attack at the last second.

A GM can also offer a player a Hero point as an inducement to have the player’s PC make a poor choice. This is always voluntary—the player decided whether to accept the Hero point and make the bad decision. For example, if a sketchy old man offers the PC an apple out of nowhere, and the player obviously rejects the iffy fruit, the GM could offer the player a Hero point if the PC takes and eats the apple instead. This should only be done in furtherance of the adventure, and obviously not if it means permanent negative consequences for the PC.

These options should never be used to make a character look incompetent or stupid, unless the player encourages that as part of their characterization of their PC.

If a player does something especially heroic, awesome, funny, or helpful, the GM may grant them an extra Hero point in response.

PATREON

There is an extended version of this article on my Patreon, available only to patrons. You can join for as little as the cost of a cup of coffee a month, and it’s one of my primary forms of support to put out my essays, letters, background, context, and of course game content in an effort to make the ttRPG industry a better place.

Top Ten Modern Crystal Balls

I love stories that mix magic with a range of modern time periods and aesthetics. Inspired by some such stories, I’ve come up with some modern stand-ins to be used in place of crystal balls by urban, modern fortune-tellers.

Top Ten Things Modern Diviners Use as Crystal Balls

10. Magic 8-Ball
No one ever expects the Magic 8-Ball toy to be, you know, magic. But it’s a perfect place to hide your real scrying lenses, and already thematically aligned with divination energy.

9. Mirrors
They’re a classic, and remain a popular choice for modern spellcasters. however, the big wall-mounted mirror is no longer the standard for scrying mirrors, though some older models still exist. Instead scrying is more often done through bathroom mirrors (good for early morning divinations), car rear-view mirrors (especially for threats that are closer to you than they appear), and make-up compacts (which are particularly good for showing you your own faults).

8. Pocket Watches
While a few modern spellcasters have turned wristwatches and even step-trackers into crystal ball equivalents, its much more common to use pocket-watches for this. The practice dates back to the 1800s, when the devices were far more common, but the protective cover, larger viewing surface, and psychic link to conductors on railways (often built along ley lines) still make pocket watches better divination tools than more modern timepieces.

7. Mashed Potatoes
As homaged in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” it turns out Starchomancy remains a powerful tool for foresight. Visions sometimes form within the mash itself, and other times the scryer finds themselves sculpting the vision received. The loss of scrying power is somewhat offset by the ease of acquiring and concealing the tools of divination.
This works best if you make your own mashed potatoes, but if you don’t have the time, store-bought is fine.

6. Fireball Whiskey
Long thought to just be catnip for college kids, it turns out cinnamon-infused spirits are a powerful medium for seeing visions, dating back to the temple of Apollo at Miletus. The bottle itself is most commonly used as the scrying surface, with the whiskey inside becoming briefly cloudy as it fills with visions.
A single drink of the whiskey can aid in divination, but more than that is a terrible idea.

5. Giant Novelty Dice
Though divination through casting lots with dice (a form of cleromancy) is common, using dice as crystal ball stand-ins is increasingly popular, using giant translucent dice the size of your fist or bigger. There is a direct correlation between the number of faces of the ide used, and both the complexity of the divination and the level of detail. A d6 may not tell you much beyond broad strikes, but it easily scryed with. A d100 takes much, much more effort, but a successful scrying gives you many fine details.

4. Cats
Yes actual, living, fur-covered cats. There is an entire school of scrying dedicated to feeding a cat a favorite feast, brushing them, luring them into a pillow, in a box, in a beam of sunlight, and then staring deep into their fur to foresee the future. While this is much harder to do on-demand than inanimate scrying tools, there are numerous curses and supernatural threats that can be detected by ailouromancy that other soothseeing methods miss.

3. Smart Speakers
While newer technology often takes time to be properly aligned with divination rituals, interactive smart speakers apparently come almost ready-made to be turned into crystal balls–though most use a purely auditory interface, rather than the old visions viewed without crystal-covered mists.

2. Stock Ticker
From 1870 to 1970, stock prices were broadcast via telegraph/telephone lines to stock tickers, then printed on ticker tape. While no one uses stock tickers anymore, many were enchanted during the near-century of their use, and those enchanted stock tickers are still powerful divination tools… especially if you want to predict financial news.

1. Old Computer Monitors.
The better the color and resolution, the better the vision you can get on it! Know someone with a pile of old computer monitors? They’re probably a modern spellcaster!
Or a hoarder.
Or both. Both is likely.

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The Biggest Secret of the ttRPG Industry

A lot of people are going to disagree with me, and that’s fine. But I firmly believe this is the most important secret within the ttRPG industry, as a whole. Obviously there are different secrets for any given company or game, but this is the one that you won’t hear about in reward ceremonies, podcasts, or social media acounts.

Ready?

You Never Hear About The Most Important People in the Industry.

But, you cry, I know all the streaming actors and GMs! I can quote 31 game writers’ names! I have memorized  Shannon Appelcline’s 4-volume “Designer’s & Dragons” history of the industry!

And that’s great. Seriously, thanks for paying attention.

But do you know who was the producer of your favorite show? Which editors were leading the team for that award-winning game line? Who tracked the budget of the company, making sure bills were paid and paychecks cleared? Heck who shipped those books from the warehouse? Who planned and built the Gen Con booth? Who made the arrangements with the printer, managed the schedule, figured out the cost/benefit factors of printing 2,000 vs 3,0000 copies? Who wrangled the new post-Brexit VAT laws, or YouTube children-appropriate content rules?

Who was taking customer service calls, handling people who might get pissed off about a game for reasons entirely unrelated to its content, fun, quality, or creator? Who wrote the community engagement rules, safety policy, and editorial standards?

When a game company goes under, the reason is rarely “The game wasn’t fun,” or “The Lead Designer Left.” No, companies collapse because they didn’t prepare for a change between the value of international currencies, or a book was massively overprinted, or they hired too many people-or not enough people-and the schedule and budget couldn’t be manipulated fast enough to deal with changing market conditions.

Or everyone burned out, and just walked away.

For the industry to be an industry, rather than a haphazard series of vanity hobby options, there are support professionals dealing with the things that all industries need. Sourcing. Shipping. Editing. Marketing. Warehousing. Customer service.

And even within the industry, most people can name 5 designers for every editor they know, and 5 editors for every print buyer, customer service manager, or warehouse director.

And yes, for a lot of companies, people have to wear many hat. But if you know the name of the writer who happens to also handle print runs, but you don’t know they are the person arranging for book printing, that’s still an unknown print buyer.

And most of these kinds of jobs can be done in other industries, for more money and less customer vitriol. So, if you have any opportunity to interact with these crucial people who make the ttRPG industry possible?

Be nice. Say thanks.

Without them, there is no industry.

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The Performative End of Being a Creator

You can think of this as an unusually long #RealGameIndustry entry.

If you are depending on the game industry for your full income, and you do not have a full-time job with benefits, necessity means at least part of what you are doing to performative.

Performing to build a community. Performing to gain name recognition. Performing to seem more fun and interesting, on the assumption that makes your products seem more fun and interesting.

Given how many of us came into gaming to escape what we saw as societal and clique-based requirements for shallow performative interactions, this is often a bitter irony. Indeed, while most of us are too smart to complain publicly, this can result in annoyance or anger as what we see as the “pretty popular people” being successful in their performance to a degree we cannot match (often directly measurable in how much money those people can raise compared to how much experience they have or how much content they have created.)

Especially as a mentally ill, socially-awkward, depressive introvert, it often strains my coping mechanisms and ability to put on a false face to their absolute limits. Social media is both a blessing and a curse in this regard. The ability to use text to put forth an idealized, entertaining self helps create a buffer between my depression and my need to be a performative creator. However, those very tools also demand constant attention to remain an effective part of my mandatory performance.

And at that, I have a much easier time as a cis white hetero male, because there are faults and failings I can have which are seen as quirky, or the stereotype of the grumpy writer. Creators in more marginalized groups often don’t get that slack. They both have much more cause to be scarred by social interaction, and must maintain a more perfect performance to reap the same benefits I do.

Even my ability to make discussions of my illnesses, failings, and annoyances part of my public persona is made easier by my role as an elder whitebeard. I have seen women, and minorities, and LGBT creators all with as much or more experience as I have been shouted down as clearly unstable for daring to say the same things I am allowed to state largely without consequence.

Nor do I foresee anything of this changing in a major way. The need to be performative to be successful as an independent appears to be baked into the industry (and full time jobs that pay something like the median income for their area are so rare as to be unicorns). That means the only part of this likely to change is the unfairness that performative need puts on marginalized creatives.

That fight is worth fighting. But it’s going to take hard work and time to make significant progress.
Meanwhile, the demands for performance keep changing and increasing, as technology drops the barriers between creator and consumer.

I work hard to remain relevant. And I see no time when I’ll be able to stop working at that without falling into an at-best-niche position. Which means my coping mechanisms for my trauma, depression, and other issues must include being able to maintain the performance–at least for regular, short bursts– even when I am fighting to not just curl up under the covers and give up on it all.

This is like climbing a wall, endlessly. If you ever fully give up you don’t just fail to make progress. You may be able to rest in a cradle for a time, or depend on your ropes. But those things can only hold you for a brief time. Eventually you’ll fall, and then you don’t just drop a little. You lose a huge percentage of your progress, and can damage yourself and your career, even kill it, as you smash things on the way down.

Keeping yourself in a place where people will see you and your work so they even might buy it is a grind, on top of the grind of creating enough work to survive even if people see enough of it.

You don’t have to have answers for all of this as you start. But to rise above a certain level, you must begin to work it out eventually.

When people sometimes suggest I take on too much, I want to yell at them that if I only do 75% as much work, I won’t get 75% of the result. I’ll get 50%, or less. If you try to microwave popcorn and you put it in for 60 seconds, you don’t get half the popcorn you’d get if you microwaved it for 2 minutes. Your work is all at least partially wasted if you can’t back it up with enough PR, backstock, and previews to maintain brainshare in an audience with tons of other, better-funded, better-advertised options.

I don’t have solutions for many of the problems these issues bring up. But it’s better for newer creators to be aware of the potential minefield and prepare for it, than have it come as a surprise for them. If you just want to create on your own terms and enjoy whatever success happens to come your way, and not try to pay the rent, cover medical insurance, and put food on the table purely through ttRPG efforts, you can largely ignore this. And if you find a way around it, I heartily congratulate you. And there are different levels of this performative need, with some folks managing much more success than I with much less performance put in.

But be aware of the potential drain on your time and energy.

Speaking of Performing

Part of the performative need is to drive people to platforms you can monetize, like my patreon. There is an extended version of this article on my Patreon, available only to patrons. You can join for as little as the cost of a cup of coffee a month, and it’s one of my primary forms of support to put out my essays, letters, background, context, and of course game content in an effort to make the ttRPG industry a better place.

Loot 4 Less for Pathfinder 2nd Edition?

I’ve been considering what a Loot 4 Less line of books for the 2nd edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game would look like. Of course the price point would be insanely different– 2,000 gp is a LOT more money is 2nd ed than 1st ed. But if I decided to limit myself to 200 gp, is that too high and easy, or about right?

Anyway, here are a couple of items that evolved just from the thought experiment.

Able Armor Seal Item 6
Abjuration Invested Magical
Price 200 gp
Usage affixed to armor
Activate Single Action; Bulk L
This cast iron seal has a depiction of two hands clasped in friendship. Armor with this affixed can be donned in half the normal time. With a successfully use of the Armor Assist feat, it takes only 1/3 the normal time.

Silver Serpent Item 5
Divination Invested Magical
Price 175 gp
Usage worn earing; Bulk L

This small silver serpent is a piece of jewelry that sits wrapped around your ear, molding itself to match the size and shape of your ear and holding itself firmly in place until intentionally removed. Each silver serpent is attuned to a single Lore skill, and whisper information about that Lore in your ear as it become relevant. You treat your proficiency rank in the related Lore skill as one degree better while wearing the silver serpent. If you are already Legendary in that Lore, you instead gain Assurance with that Lore.

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Guest Blog: Life As a TTRPG Freelance Artist

Recently I have invited several colleagues to submit guest blogs for me to highlight. This one is by Gaming veteran, artist, and writer Jacob Blackmon!

If you are involved, or getting involved, in tabletop games and are interested in having me feature a guest blog of yours, let me know! You can drop me a line at owen.stephens@gmail.com.

I Started Drawing Because I Can’t Spell Worth Shit…

OR…

My Life As a TTRPG Freelance Artist

By Jacob E Blackmon

Let’s just start by saying, I love my life. I love being an artist in the tabletop game community. This job has allowed me a freedom of living that I never imagined possible. I seriously cannot think of any job I would rather be doing right now.

As the same time, it has also been the occasional financial burden, when the art commissions slow down and money gets tight. That is something one has to learn as a freelancer in any market. There are highs and lows (or “feast and famine” as some say), and one never knows when they will come… so be sure to have a good savings account.

My name is Jacob Blackmon, and I have been a freelance artist in the tabletop rpg community since 2009. I’ve only been doing the gig as a full time thing since 2013. Given that I was born in 1977, this has been a very small – but significant – portion of my life. I’ve been gaming since 1989, and I never even considered using my art skills as a ttrpg artist.

For the longest time, I wanted to be a comic book artist, hence my distinctive style. This style has served me well… and also been a curse, as there are some companies that refuse to work with me, because I don’t have that traditional “painted fantasy” look. And that kind of rejection is certainly going to apply to the big-name companies (Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, etc.), who only use that “painted” style of art, so I know I will never get jobs with them. Which is too bad, because I would love to see my name in one of their books.

But my success is not measured in what books I have not been in. It is measured in the books where I HAVE contributed my art. And those are MANY! The third-party ttrpg industry is a massive community of wonderful and passionate people. These are the folks I consider my peers… and quite, often… my friends. Despite this familiarity to which I speak of them, it is important to maintain a professional attitude when working with such people. They expect every bit as much professionalism from their freelancers – artists and writers includes – as any of the big name companies.

Deadlines are a serious thing, and can make or break a company, especially in the post-COVID days. During the CV19 days of 2020, the gaming community seriously suffered. If you were not Wizards of the Coast, you saw your finances drop significantly. This is why deadlines are so important to keep in mind as a freelancer. We need to make sure we get our work done in time, so the company can get their product out.

I have seriously lost count of many projects have come my way because another artist decided they didn’t want to work on a project and did not communicate this fact until after the deadline posted by the company. This is a serious breach of trust and of professionalism. If a freelancer can’t make their deadlines, the company will stop going to that person in favor of those that will. So, meet your deadlines. This is, seriously, THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE IS CAN GIVE ANYONE! Meet your deadlines!

I can count, on one hand, how many times I have failed to make a deadline. And, when it has happened I always let the company whom I am working for know that I will miss the deadline before it happens. That is the second key: communication. Just like in life, love, family, and relationships, one needs to maintain communication with the people they are working for. Let them know the progress of the art assignment. Have you started on it? Yes? Let them know that.

During the art process, I usually have several stages of communication with a client.

  1. Beginning – When first starting on the art.
  2. Early stages – When my first rough draft concept is ready, I send them a copy via email (sometimes through another PM service, if they prefer, but emails is always the true professional way to do it!). When a rough draft is approved, I move on to…
  3.  Line work – This stage shows the clean version of what had been the rough draft, giving the client an idea of what the final piece will look like. It is also the last time a client will really have to make any serious changes to the pieces. I mention this, because once we start to add color, shading, and highlighting to an illustration, it becomes MUCH harder to make alterations.
  4. Coloring – For me, this is both the base coloring stage, plus shading and highlights. This is often the final stage, as alterations after this stage are incredibly difficult.

Each of these stages has me sending the client an email of what is going on with the piece. Once the final piece is approved, that’s the best time to send an invoice and get paid! The best clients pay immediately (“I do the job, I get paid.” – Mal Reynolds, Firefly), but some clients may have to hold those payments until they themselves get paid through another venue. This is why it helps to make sure to have a steady stream of clients at the same time. That way, not only can an artist transition from one piece to another, while waiting for one client to respond to the latest email; but also so that the artist has a nice steady flow of income. One client may not be able to pay their bill immediately, but the other should be able to. And that keeps a bank account happy, bills paid, and food on the table.

There are a couple of suggestions I have to maintaining a steady supply of clients, as well as netting new clients in the future. These were things I had to learn along the way in my own freelance art career, and some were told to me by others. So I am teaching them to you, as well…

Get an online profile! Make sure you have a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. Make sure you have an online gallery where potential clients can see your art.

Have a rate sheet! Make sure you know how much to charge for your work, and make sure it is equal to how valuable your time is that you put towards your work. Don’t short-sell yourself, just to make clients happy. Save the price discounts for “friends and family.” Make sure to always charge your friends and family. Don’t give them free art, unless YOU choose to do so. This is your JOB!

THIS IS YOUR JOB! Be a professional. Meet your deadlines. But, at the same, time treat it like a job. Take time off, including regular breaks during the day (don’t sit in the chair and look at social media; stand up and move around… make yourself a light snack.. socialize with your roommates), break for lunch, and when you have put in your 8 hours…. STOP WORKING!

The last bit of advice I can give to a potential artist who wants to work in the ttrpg community is to also be a ttrpg gamer! You cannot imagine how much time it save a client to have an artist already be familiar with the various games and art associated with said games. No one has ever had to describe to me what a “peryton” is, as I already know what they are supposed to look like. This saves both you and the client a ton of time and descriptive text.

Go! Draw! Have fun and make money doing it!

Speaking of which, please support me on Patreon: patreon.com/jacobblackmon

Jacob Blackmon

Gallery: deviantart.com/prodigyduck

FB: facebook.com/jacob.blackmon.56

And as always, you can support this blog at Owen K.C. Stephens’ Patreon!

Letting Dead PCs Die

I have had my fair share of dead PCs get returned to life in ttRPGs. Often they are dead so briefly, and with such little consequence, it doesn’t really feel like they died at all. Brought back by spells within 6 seconds of joining the choir invisible (not even enough time to see if they are an alto or soprano among the spirits), given reprieve by a GM retcon, or just having their life restored off-screen as part of treasure division, some characters’ deaths have no more impact on their narrative than tossing out the laser pistol they carried during the nightmare invasion of Ragesh III for a more expensive model that does 1d8 instead of 1d4.

Even among characters who needed more effort put in by friends and allies to return to the mortal coil, being temporarily dead is rarely an interesting enough part of their story than any of us sit around and recount when we are telling imaginary war stories. Being temporarily dead is mostly a hiccup, a plastered-over accident we erase because we’d all rather keep telling our parts of that character’s story.

It doesn’t have to be that way. When my wife’s cleric in IFGS (live-action foam-sword fantasy D&D-style larping) died, an entire game was written and produced for her closest friends to bring her back. Her soul wasn’t responding to normal resurrection magics, and we had to travel through her most vivid memories to find it and convince it to return. This meant playing through the biggest, most memorable encounters of her previous IFGS adventures, many of which some of us had gone through with her, and recreate he greatest victories (and, in the case of getting burned by one glyph she mis-named, we thought we needed to recreate her failure as well). All that lead to finally finding her in a kind of lesser heaven, happily keeping house, and somehow convincing her she was needed to keep fighting the forces of evil away from a world where the fire was always warm and the baked bread always fresh.

THAT return to life some of us still talk about.

But for my own characters, it’s much more often the ones who stay dead who get their stories told by other players. When the rarely heroic Pallinor flew across the chasm moat to take on 5 apprentice warlocks, keeping them from casting spells at any of his allies so they could fight their way across the bridge, his success ensuring their victory but at the cost of his own magic being snuffed out and plummeting to his death. When the Monitor overloaded the reactor in his powered armor to self-destruct and blow up himself and 7 Sentry war-bots, ensuring the young mutant girl Olivia could escape, and become the leader and heroine Emerald a generation later. Those deaths were never undone, and it made the character’s sacrifices mean more to me, and be notable enough that other people who were there sometimes tell their tales.

Because the ending for most of my characters is that the one-shot game was a one-shot, or the adventure path ended when someone moved rather than when we finished it, or the campaign’s GM lost interest, or schedules changed, or personal quarrels made a group not want to get together for that game anymore.

My fictional characters who lived are rarely as memorable as those who died… and stayed dead.

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Combat Effects on Missed Attacks for Starfinder

As discussed in the articles Greater Combat Maneuvers for Starfinder, and Greater Partial Effects for Starfinder “Save Negates” Spells, there’s very little as frustrating for a player than to take their whole turn and have absolutely no impact on a conflict. We’ve talked about how to possibly mitigate that frustration for combat maneuvers and spells, but what about characters focusing on just making attacks? Certainly, constantly missing a target is no less frustrating that failed maneuvers and resisted spells, even if it is theoretically easier to accomplish and doesn’t have as high a resource cost. So, should we create minor secondary effects on failed attacks for the combatant characters?

I personally think the answer is “yes…. but.”

On the one hand, it makes sense that exactly the same factors that make failed attempts unfun for maneuvers and spells makes it unfun for attacks. On the other hand, the very fact that attacks are more likely to succeed and easy to keep trying means they need to not have all the advantages of other combat options. While we made combat maneuvers and spells more appealing by giving them minor conditions that could apply even when they failed, we can’t use the same solution for standard attacks. First, it doesn’t make sense for a failed standard attack to impose a condition when a successful one doesn’t. Secondly, if failed attacks impose conditions, even minor ones, they’ll overshadow the hard-won advances in failed combat maneuver and spells feeling impactful.

We can, however, have missed attacks still have SOME impact in combat. But it shouldn’t be a condition, and it shouldn’t be damage (not because that couldn’t be balanced with some small amount of damage, but because a large segment of d20 game players rebel at the idea of doing damage on a miss, and because the tiny amount of damage we’d have to make it be for balance would likely not feel satisfying).

So, instead, we can play with accuracy. As with all these “effects on a failure” rules this could be made a general rule, or even a general rule for characters with base attack bonuses equal to their character level, but I think it makes the most sense to present it as a feat.

Zero In

As your foes evade your attacks, you manage to zero in on their defenses, increasing your accuracy for your next attack.
Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +1.
Benefit: When you make an attack against a target’s EAC or KAC (or a starship’s AC, but not TL), and your attack misses, and the attack has no effect on any target, you gain a +1 insight bonus to your next attack against that target using the same weapon. If you attack a target with this insight bonus and miss again, the insight bonuses increases by 1, to a maximum equal to your Strength modifier (for most melee attacks) or Dexterity modifier (for ranged attacks and melee attacks with operative weapons if you used your Dexterity bonus as part of your attack bonus). If you attack another target, damage the target you used Zero In to gain an insight bonus for, or the encounter ends, your insight bonus resets to +0.

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