Author Archives: okcstephens
Every year for PaizoCon (and any other major convention I go to), I do a silly, color commentary about my day rotated through the lens of high fantasy. This year’s begins now.
As always, the last hours before the Festival of Golems are hectic ones. This year’s preparations are more greatly complicated by the ascension of the Last Dragon Scribe, and the Golem Lords’ efforts to anoint wardens to keep those passages he once guarded. I have no doubt the newly dubbed Knight of the Lexicon and Dame of Heralds shall perform their duties well and truly… but there has been no time to test their trials, Further, my own Guild of Astrologicians must make ready for the arrival of the Great Guiding Star, and this leaves us more strained than ever. The Devil’s Advocate guides us well, but I suspect the Puzzler Prince ties of hearing the debates twixt myself and the Leath-Ri of Constellations.
The Altgrave of Paths made his arrival, and brought with him Vivid Voivode, from the Stormlands. We broke bread with them and the Halfling Tyrant, Wit of Wisdom, Citymaker, and Grove Guardian. Vivid Voivoid shall take shelter in our realms, and visit the Festival of Golems regularly. The Altgrave of Paths, of course, has other paths to walk.
I have made most of my wards, and readied those forces I can. There is another day of the neverending battle between runes and time, and then my festival duties begin in earnest.
Heya Folks! PaizoCon is upon us! Here’s my schedule!
I’ll be around the hotel beginning Thursday late afternoon-early evening, but I’m disappearing for secret meetings for the middle part of that time. Still, I should be around and free to talk to, hang out, buy me drinks, whatever. ☺
Early — I’ll be around registration somewhere from the opening moments of PaizCon to 8pm or so. Hopefully, I will be pre-caffeinated.
11am – I’ll be running the Pathfinder RPG Delve! It’s free, fast, and fun!
1pm – Seminar! “Enhanced Gaming: Using Props Effectively”
With Jason Keeley and Jessica Price, in Olympic 3
“Join Paizo creative staff for an entertaining discussion of how to bring more of your game out of your head and into players’ hands by using props and other game enhancements.”
5pm – I’ll be running More Pathfinder RPG Delve! More fast! More fun!
8am – Into the Emerald Star Spire, Part 7
Same game I run every year… but now with lasers!
2pm – Seminar! “Designing an Alien”
With Adam Daigle and Jason Keeley, in Olympic 2
“Get a sneak peak at the Starfinder monster creation rules! Together with Paizo’s elite monster-crafters, you’ll create the statistics for the alien brainstormed in the preceding Concepting Aliens seminar, plus explore the differences between creature creation systems in Starfinder and Pathfinder.”
7pm – PaizoCon Preview Banquet
I’ll be sitting at a table, feel free to come by, sit down if there’s a spare seat, or at least say hi!
10am – Seminar! – “All About Starfinder”
With Amanda Hamon Kunz, Jason Keeley, Robert G. McCreary, and James L. Sutter, in Olympic 2!
“Your one-stop seminar for all things Starfinder! Get previews of the mechanical differences between Pathfinder and Starfinder, learn about the setting and how it has evolved, hear about upcoming products beyond the Starfinder Core Rulebook, and ask a panel of the game’s creators all your burning questions!”
11am – Seminar! – “Pathfinder & Starfinder Compatible Publishers Workshop”
With Liz Courts and Ashley Kaprielian, in Olympic 2
“Get a detailed overview of the Pathfinder Compatibility License, and learn the ins and outs of producing Pathfinder and Starfinder material, and learn what pitfalls might await a beginning business owner.”
1pm – Into the Emerald Star Spire, Part 8
More of the same game I run every year… but now with more lasers!
12pm – Seminar! “Starfinder Versus Pathfinder”
With Jason Keeley and Robert G. McCreary, in Olympic 2
“Starfinder evolved from the Pathfinder RPG, but plenbty has changed along the way. Come find out about the game mechanics of the new game, and askl top Starfinder developers all your questions!”
2pm — Miniatures Trading Afterparty!
Hosted by Erik Mona, in the Hotel Bar
Bring things you think are cool but don’t need, and try to trade them for things that you need but don’t have!
Top Ten Signs Your New Player Doesn’t “Get” Your Superhero RPG Game
10. Whenever the PCs catch crooks who have committed a crime, the new player rifles through the criminals’ possessions and begins “treasure division” of the stolen goods among the other players.
9. All his proposed Secret IDs are characters from Star Wars. Mostly Boba Fett..
8. He tries to reboot an old Bunnies and Burrows character, as Captain Furry. Who has a “mind yiffing” psychic attack. Which he describes in over-graphic detail.
7. His first ten suggested Hero names are Stab Lad, The Stalker, Bruisertron, Gandalf, Stuff Man, Enabler, Orange Avenger, Defibrillator Dan, Restraining Order, and Boba Fett. All ten proposed names are for the same character.
6. When he finally settles on naming his hero Captain Crimson Confessor, he insists his secret cave-based church complex be called “The Apse-Hole.”
5. The term “Rao Fundamentalist” creeps into your gaming lexicon. It is not a complement.
4. When asked if he’s playing a Golden Age or Silver Age character concept, he asks how many extra gp a Golden Age character gets.
3. The new hero pawns his Congressional Medal of Honor, and uses the money gained to pay for beer and a trip to Disneyland.
2. His first character concept is a “half-hero, half-Vulcan, with Mommy issues.”
1. The character retires, to study the socio-economic factor that lead to citizens putting on costumes and committing illegal acts under assumed nom de maux.
Amused? Back my patreon and ask for more Top Ten lists!
One way to add a little flavor to a person, city, or culture is to add a few useful phrases that take the same kind of place as “Who benefits?” and “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Even just one phrase, introduced as part of a philosophy or something that’ll come up throughout a plotline, can help drive home a feel for a region,
There’s no need to overdo these, but I often find dropping in one or two can really boost player interest in a representative of a foreign or alien group. Here are some examples.
Gold sheds no tears.
The poison proves the plot.
Which god is thus glorified?
All accounts shall be balanced.
An arrow cannot recognize a king.
It need not be a dragon to burn you.
All who had the power to stop this are guilty of it.
All jackals scavenge, but even lions accept a free meal.
Those who pay the minstrel are the first to hear the song. (Yep, it’s a Patreon reference, snuck in as content. Mea culpa.)
Since Wes is leaving Paizo for new adventures, I have concluded it’s Wes story time!
The very first “Ecology of” article I got to write for Dragon Magazine was “Ecology of the Mooncalf” in #340. It was also one of the very first article I wrote with Wes as my contact person (maybe the second one I’d done for him). Wes told me by email we “might” have room from a short narrative introduction at the beginning of the article.
So I wrote a super-short short story introduction. I sent in the article, which began with about 500 words of fiction.
Wes sent me a very polite email to let me know that the article was great, but the intro was, it turned out, too long to fit. Knowing what I know now about Wes, I can tell he was just trying to let me down gently.
But at the time? I just figured I needed to trim it.
So I sent him a 350 word version.
Ah, replied Wes, politely. No, the article and art has pretty much filled the page. We couldn’t even fit in a 100-word intro.
STILL not getting the hint, I sent a trimmed-down, 75 word version.
Realizing he was dealing with an idiot, Wes just flat told me there wasn’t room for anything more than 25-30 words.
I sent him a 28-word version and, rather than continue to try to drive home to me that the article would not open with fiction, Wes just put it as a caption over the article’s art.
“Tonight I witnessed a dread omen—something foul descending through the nighttime skies as through from the moon itself.
–Galiel the Astrologer, The Last Journal of Galiel”
Which I have come to realize, is MUCH more cool than the 500 word version.
Wes has a Patreon! Go support it. 🙂
The Setup is a one- or two-sentence “high concept” for an RPG campaign or similar background.
This one is for a Supers world.
At 11:59:59 EST, it happened. Not at every prison, but at most of them, worldwide. Perfect spheres of bizarre energy of unknown composition, unknown source, and unknown event. Each circle was between a few hundred and a few thousand feet in diameter. It became known as the Drama.
The Drama infused people, and in rarer cases animals and objects, with spectacular (and random) powers. There are more than 2 million adult inmates in the US alone, and less than 500,000 correctional officers. In the blink of an eye more than half the people in prisons had powers… and criminals outnumbered people trying to maintain order four to one.
The chaos was instant.
No one knows exactly how many people gained powers. It wasn’t every incarcerated prisoner, guard, and administrator, but it was many of them. And sine the Drama created spheres, some few folks who simply had reason to be near prisons were also impacted. Tens of thousands of children in detention centers. Scores of lawyers with need to be with a client late at night, as well as a few law enforcement officers, witnesses to at least one execution, and at least one bus full of student athletes coming back from a late-night basketball game decided in overtime were driving by a county jail and got caught in the Drama.
All told, estimates were that 2,000,000 people, give or take, suddenly gained extraordinary abilities, 60% of them hardened criminals.
Roughly half gained some knack at or close to peak human performance, regardless of their previous physical or mental condition. Geriatric prisoners became as swift, or as fast, as Olympic athletes. Correctional officers of causal intellect became geniuses. Hardened criminals became philosopher poets. Secretaries became world class martial artist. In most cases people were affected directly, but in a few cases the power was imbued into something else. The wild dogs who later formed the Pound Pack gained human intellect. Sgt. Damian Hammer’s riot shield became nearly indestructible. The Folsom state prison’s computer network became the world’s first strong AI. But these were rare exceptions.
This level of power was quickly dubbed “one inmate” worth of Drama power, and that got shortened to 1M within a day of memes and 24 hour news cycles. But while half the subjects of the Drama got 1M, some got more. Roughly half as many 1M recipients were 2M–gaining either two forms of peak human ability, or one thing with twice the potency of the greatest human. Gangbangers able to lift 2,000 pounds, con men able to speak more than 100 languages fluently, assistant wardens able to run at 50 mph. These people from the Big House, were eventually called Big Housers more than they are called anything else.
The distribution of power followed the same rough linear pattern, one additional “inmate” worth of power being given to a group as as big. Half as many recipients who got 2M were 3Ms, and half as many 3Ms were 4Ms who had quadruple the ability of the best humans. Though the numbers were approximate, that means the distribution continued until about 1,875 Big Housers in the US alone were 10Ms.
A 1M might gain a punch with 1,000 pounds of peak force. A 3M could hit as hard as a handgun bullet. A 10M hit as hard as an antitank round. And at about the 10M level, powers stopped being limited to things explained by science.
Flight. Telepathy. Telekenesis. Teleportation. Eye beams. Fire breath. Sonic screams. A 15m Big Houser might be “limited” to running at 375 mph and making 1,200 punches in 60 seconds… or he might have the power to turn lead into gold, or perfectly predict the next 15 seconds, or be able to regenerate a lost limb. Estimates place between 2,000 and 3,000 Big Housers in the US at 10M and higher, with a believed upper limit of 20M, but it’s extremely difficult to categorize such people. Red Hand, the crazed killer who can create a virus that causes insanity and stigmata, might be a 10M with a single inexplicable power–or he might be a 15M given his cunning, durability, charisma, and rumored ability to switch bodies. Slammer is just strong and hard to hurt, but is he 14 times peak human performance, or 18 times?
It’s been two years. More than 20% of the original Drama recipients are dead. Only roughly 10% have successfully been captured and incarcerated. Another 10-15% work for various governmental agencies, or actively work to protect the world against the rest.
But about half the Big Housers are still out there, committing crimes.
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Monday Bad Idea
Monday Bad Ideas are periodic, and not fully fleshed out. because, you know, they’re bad ideas.
A gelatinous ghoul is a rare from of ooze undead that generally occurs when some object an undead is connected to and which allows it to reform after destruction (sometimes the phylactery of a weak rich, or an object tied to a ghost’s reason for existence) is consumed by a gelatinous cube, but not destroyed, When the undead’s essence reforms around the object, the necromantic energies infuse the square ooze, creating a hybrid mix of gel and corpse.
Gelatinous ghouls generally look like a skull or severed head floating in a cube of transparent snot, though sometimes only a single hand or a glowing green tibia is sign of the deathly influence. Gelatinous ghouls have all the powers and immunities of both the ooze and the undead, and any ability that affects only one or the other has only a 50% chance of affecting it.
On the other hand they lack appendages, and are generally pretty ticked off (though a few ex-lich gelatinous ghouls are telekinetic, and describe the new state as “surprisingly comfy”).