Category Archives: Anachronistic Adventurers

American Fighter: An Analogy as Superhero History

American Fighter was born Roy Wood to an unwed mother in 1925. Of Irish/German descent, he showed no particular faults or aptitudes as a child, getting unremarkable grades and managing well enough for a child with first no father, then a largely absent step-father, who left the family by the time Roy was 15. He was remembered as a shy boy who worked in a car shop and sang in the school glee club.

He graduated from high school in 1943, and immediately enlisted in the United States Marines. Ordered to a Repair and Overhaul unit in the Pacific, he was exposed to a mix of experimental gasses from secret super-soldier programs being run at the same facility. His skin, uniform, and helmet became significant more resilient, able to bounce small arms fire and even survive antimaterial and anti-tank munitions. He was immediately given a nom de masque of American Fighter, and sent into much of the worst island fighting. Though American Fighter is often depicted in posters and art of the era standing with the heroes of Liberty Force who operated in Europe, he never served with them, and only rarely met any of Liberty Force’s members.

In 1946 he was discharged, and moved to Los Angeles to live with his mother. He tried to join the Liberty Guard, a national hero teams forming at the time, but was rejected for low academic standards. When he was spotted by a scout for the Universal utility corporation, which was interested in creating hero teams to protect their own interests and garner positive P.R., he was signed to a lengthy U.U. “taxi hero” contract. The taxi heroes were paid on a per-mission basis and assigned to regions and teams as determined by U.U’s Hero Relations department.

American Fighter was initially assigned to the Coastal Crimefighters, who largely opposed the Undertow Gang of underwater pirates. While he was always assigned back-up or support roles, he also received training from Universal Utility handlers in public speaking, judicial law, small unit tactics, horseback riding, and etiquette. As he was photogenic he also came to be featured heavily in hero-themed magazines, despite his relatively minor activity level. Through the late 1940s and into 1942, he also worked with the Freedom Hawks, Hero Cadets, and on loan as one of the Big Man’s “irregulars”

In 1952, American Fighter was assigned as the team leader of the Furious Five, with the more experienced heroine Talavera as the team secretary and unofficial second-in-command. Talavera had worked with American Fighter in the Freedom Hawks, and had a career that went back to before WWII. The Five quickly grew to be to popular to keep as a single unit, and each was moved to taxi hero roles in other groups for part of every year from 53-55, with American Fighter serving as second-in command for the Hero’s Horizon and then standing as the leader of the Law Breed when founder Golden Blade was injured in the line of duty.

In 1953, a new villain struck the we coast. Known only as the Obsession, this mastermind combined complex heists with random acts of mayhem and violence and terrorist attacks using clouds of psychotropic drugs that made coordinated responses by local authorities almost impossible. The Obsession began to co-opt and unify organized crime west of the Rockies, and Universal Utility suffered multiple significant thefts and kidnappings for ransom. U.U. turned all its Hero Relations resources to bringing the Obsession to justice. In a Los Angeles raid on August 4, 1954, American Fighter was part of a small team that breached the Obsession’s base of operations, and American Fighter delivery the knockout blow to the crazed villain—immediately elevating himself to major hero status.

By 1955 American Fighter was voted one of the ten most popular and effective heroes in American by Modern Hero Magazine. Universal Utility immediately made him the focus of multiple teams, including the newly-renamed Fighting Five, the Freedom Brigade, and the Giants of Justice.

However, his popularity waned within a decade. By 1965 the Fighting Five and Giants of Justice had been disbanded, and American Fighter had been moved to “emeritus” status in the Freedom Brigade, to make room for new heroes such as Repulsor, Fast Cat, Chiller, and Doctor Phoenix.

During this time it became well known in the hero community that American Fighter was gay. He was discrete about his privacy, and little attention was publicly paid to the question at the time. His handlers as U.U. worked strenuously to keep his private life out of the public eye.

American Fighter left the Fighting Five (which disbanded a few years later, though numerous revivals have been attempted) when his U.U contract ended, and tried live as an agent of S.T.E.E.L. (Special Taskforce on Espionage and Enforcement of Law), and then as one of the Strangefellow, and finally as the leader of the Second Chances (a time-travelling group that worked to fix minor disasters in such a way as to not affect history in any other major way). Though none of these efforts were considered noteworthy at the time, the Second Chances have in recent years come to be considered one of the few truly successful time-travelling hero teams.

Moving back to traditional hero teams, American Fighter joined The Undefeated, a team of U.S. heroes operating overseas in 1969. The team was fairly well-known as successful, but their operations had a high financial and political cost, and they were disbanded in 1971. From ’71 to ’77, American Fighter settled down in San Francisco, and operated with the Heroine Saint Angel as part-time, local heroes taking on minor regional issues. He and Saint Angel married, but quietly divorced in ’76, though still working as crimefighting partners for a year after that.

A lifetime of heavy drinking and smoking began to take its toll in the late ‘70s and early 80s. American Fighter participated in a number of one-time mass hero operations, but could not catch on as a permanent member of a hero team. He notably took part in the Avalanche Wars in 1978 and the Martian Campaigns in 1980. An effort was made to build a new team around him, the Devlin Dogs, in 1981, including adding Fighting Youth to the rooster, the son of American Fighter and Saint Angel from before their marriage as a teen sidekick. However, multiple bypass heart surgery sidelined American Fighter a few months after the team launched, and though he returned to it after recover, the team disbanded within a year after that.

He joined the Dynasty of Warriors in 1984, but was clearly past his prime and often contributed little to major conflicts.

Unknown to the public, American Fighter was diagnosed with HIV in 1984, just one year after the initial identification by scientists of the HIV virus. The hero kept the disease secret for many months while working with old colleagues to search for a cure. His health was visible declining. Rumors began to spread that he had liver cancer, but eventually his publicist announced that American Fighter had AIDS. As one of the first well-known American heroes to be publicly diagnosed with AIDS, this sparked a national debate about his sexuality and the disease.

American Fighter died in October, 1985, of infections related to the AIDS virus.

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Mare’s Leg for Really Wild West (in Starfinder)

A Mare’s Leg is a lever-action rifle cut down so it can be carried in a (large) custom holster and held and fired with one hand.

For purpose of Really Wild West (a weird western setting hack for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game), any longarm can be cut down to be a Mare’s Leg, with an hour’s work and a successful Engineering check (DC 10 +1.5x the item level of the longarm). This causes it to become a small arm. You can also buy a Mare’s Leg version of a rifle anywhere you could buy a longarm 2 levels higher than the item level of the desired Mare’s Leg (though you may have to wait a day as one is custom built), at a cost of 120% of the longarm base price.

Base damage does not change, but Weapon Specialization applies as a small arm. A Mare’s Leg’ range increment is cut in half, attacks and any skill check to use trick attack with it suffer a -2 penalty, and any other penalty that applies to attack rolls with it also apply to trick attack skill checks. It has a Strength minimum equal to 10 + ½ its item level, and for every point of Strength you are below this minimum you take a -1 penalty to attack rolls (if you use a Mare’s Leg in two hands you increase your effective Strength by 5 for meeting this minimum).

Design Note: A Mare’s Leg is not an ideal weapon choice for many characters. It’s not a strict damage upgrade for characters most likely to be able to overcome the attack penalty and Strength minimum, and places penalties on the main use of character who can use it as a strict upgrade (operatives). It’d be very useful for some specific character builds, such as a high Strength envoy, drone mechanic, mystic, or technomancer… all of whom don’t have a lot of synergy from having a high Strength.

All of this is intentional. The Mare’s Leg is not a common item (it likely never existed in the real Old West), but it’s cool looking and iconic. It’s an interesting piece of gear to carry as a high-power back-up, or to add a tweak to otherwise quirky character designs, and that’s what it’s designed for.

Also, Really Wild West only goes through 10th level, so if you use these rules in a typical Starfinder game, it may have unexpected consequences when entering higher-level campaigns.

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High Noon Showdown Rules for Really Wild West

Two characters stand facing one another, guns holstered, eyes squinting, hands twitching.

In a moment, one will likely be dead.

A moment of drama common to any Western setting, so the Really Wild West setting hack should support it. But how, using the Starfinder Roleplaying Game rules, where one shot is rarely lethal?

HIGH NOON SHOWDOWN

The High Noon Showdown rules apply whenever two sides agree to a shootout, whether that’s standing in the street waiting for each other to flinch, or a formal timing quickdraw content. A Showdown may apply to just two characters, or to two opposing groups, Tombstone-style.

The Showdown has a number of Prequel Round, which represent the time squinting and staring each other down. In each Prequel round, a character involved in the Showdown can take one action. If any character takes an action not on this list, or a character outside the Showdown interacts with the characters in the Showdown in any way, the Prequel rounds end and the showdown goes straight to resolution.

Prequel Rounds

Prequel actions are taken once per prequel round, in any order. Each player and the GM notes what action each character plans to take, then those actions are all revealed and resolved.

The Prequel action options are as follows:

Demoralize: You can use the Intimidate skill to demoralize a foe involved in the Showdown using the normal skill rules, though no talking is required. Once a foe is demoralized, the shaken condition lasts for all Prequel Rounds. If the Intimidate check is good enough for the condition to normally last more than one round, any extra rounds are applied after the Showdown resolution.

Fake Out: You can make a Bluff check to feint a foe, or any skill check needed for a trick attack. If you succeed, the target will be flat-footed and/or subject to your trick attack for the attack that is made at the Showdown resolution, but not for targeting dice earned through targeting.

Stand Confident: If you have extraordinary abilities that apply bonuses to your allies or penalties to your foes that don’t require you to move or attack (most common with envoy characters), you can use one of these. Like demoralizing, one round of duration lasts through all the Prequel rounds, with any remaining duration kicking in after the Showdown resolution.

Targeting: You can target one foe involved in the Showdown. This is an attack roll, but you don’t roll it yet. You just note you have a targeting die on a foe. You can build up as many targeting dice as you wish on foes, but they don’t take effect until the Showdown resolution and, of course, your foes can be building targeting dice on you at the same time.

End Showdown: You can end the Showdown. Everyone gets to finish their Prequel actions for this Prequel Round, then you move to resolution.

Resolution

At the resolution of the showdown, everyone draws their weapon and shoots (or takes some other action that requires no more than 1 standard action, such as casting a spell). All involved characters make Initiative checks. Characters with Quick Draw gain a +10 bonus to this check. If a character is adjacent to a foe, or willing to take the modifiers for a charge, a melee attack can be made instead, but this places a -10 penalty on that character’s initiative check.

The character with the highest initiative goes first and then resolution actions are taken in descending initiative order as normal. However, anyone killed or incapacitated by a resolution action still gets to take their resolution action if their initiative is within 5 of the action that killed or incapacitated them. (The actions are so close to simultaneous the bullets cross mid-air).

When you attack a foe as your resolution action, you make a single attack roll. If that attack hits, you also roll all your targeting dice, using the same attack modifier. For each targeting die that scores a hit, you do an additional 1d10 damage of the same type (1d6 damage if using an area affect or multiple-target attack). Any targeting dice you have against other targets are lost.

Normal Combat

After the resolution of the Showdown, any surviving characters enter normal combat. The first round of the combat is a surprise round, with characters that make a Perception check equal to the highest initiative result of the resolution round able to take one action. The exception to this is any character that took the end showdown action in the final Prequel Round. These characters automatically get a full round of action in the first combat round after the Showdown.

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Starfinder Monster Design and Really Wild West Bestiary—Rattle-Cat

We already looked at some general guidelines for building monsters for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game with the Grizzly Boar, an entry for the eventual bestiary for the Really Wild West setting hack which uses the combatant array for monster creation. Now, we’re going to look at building a monster using the expert array.

The Rattle-Cat

RWW-Rattlecat-color-01

A Rattle-Cat is a predator and scavenger unique to North America, though it’s range on the continent is much broader than the snake it shares some characteristics with (likely due to it’s fur coat and warm-blooded nature). Rattle-Cats are ambush predators, depending on speed, stealth, and a mastery of terrain to get near their prey, before dashing out to bite and poison potential prey or threats. They also use their menacing rattle to intimidate any creature that poses a potential threat, a warning much of North American wildlife knows well enough to heed, and to drive away competition from potential scavenged kills, such as dead herd animals and carrion.

Rattle-Cats often travel alone as wandering creatures, but also sometimes form territorial packs (known as a “dirge of rattle-cats”) of up to 12-16 members, ruled over by the eldest female in the pack. They lay eggs which hatch big-pawed cubs with stubby tails, who can already move about and inject venom within an hour of hatching. A rattle-cat can be trained with some success if raised from hatching, making the eggs valuable in certain markets.

Building and Defining an Expert

The actual rules for building and defining a monster using the expert array are the same as those for any other creature, but the nature of the expert array means the emphasis needs to be different. An expert has a lower attack roll and does less damage per attack than a combatant, and has a slightly lower KAC and about 10% fewer hit points. In exchange, it gets a higher ability DC, base spell DC, and more master skills.

That means when deciding if a creature should use the combatant or expert array, the GM needs to ask “is the core conceit of this creature one that leans heavily on skills or abilities with save DCs?” (You use the spellcaster array if you creature is primarily a spellcaster—that’s pretty straightforward. Anything that is a straightforward fighting monster should be a combatant. But if some creature’s concept is built on special effects or opposed skill checks, it works better as an expert. It’s not able to deal or soak quite as much damage in a stand-up fight, but it is more likely to have the skills needed to be a noncombat threat to PCs, and it’s abilities are harder to resist.

So when building our template graft, we should have a fairly heavy focus on things that work well with complementary skills, and/or that have a save DC of some kind. Once we know the core abilities for the creature, it’s still possible to easily create a graft we can apply to the right array and type and/or subtype grafts to produce a version of the monster at any CR. Using the same format as we did for the Grizzly Boar template graft, here’s the graft for the Rattle-Cat.

Rattle-Cat TEMPLATE GRAFT
Required Array: Expert
Required Type: Animal
Alignment: Neutral
Size: Small (CR 1/3-CR 1/2), Medium (CR 2-CR 11), or Large (CR 12+)
Speed: 30 feet (Small), 50 feet (Large) or 60 feet (Huge)
Ability Score Modifiers: Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom
Special Abilities: 1-Poison bite (see Rattler Poison). 2-Rattle (see Rattle special ability). 3-Evasion. 4-Cloaking field (as the operative exploit). Bonus- Spring Attack (as the feat).
Skills: Master– Acrobatics, Intimidate, Stealth; Good-Athletics, Survival
Attacks: Melee (bite, with poison; critical: injection +2), no ranged.

Rattle (Ex): The tip of a rattle-cat’s tail makes a disturbing, rhythmic noise that most creatures other than rattle-cats and rattle-snakes find disconcerting. As part of a move action, a rattle-cat can rattle its tail to make an Intimidate check to demoralize all foes within 60 feet. Once a creature has been demoralized by this function of a Rattle-Cat’s rattle ability, it cannot be affected again for 24 hours. A Rattle-Cat can also make an Intimidate check to demoralize any creature that can hear it as a standard action.

Rattler Poison

Type poison (injury); Save Fortitude (DC set by array and CR)
Track Constitution; Frequency: 1/hour for 12 hours
Special: Multiple bites cannot move target down the Constitution track more than once per hour.
Cure: 2 consecutive saves

So, you can see that one major element of the rattle-cat is its poison, which it applies with every bite. Given how the poison rules in the Starfinder Roleplaying Game this could be extremely deadly very quickly, but the special restriction means that after the first bite you are just taking damage until the 2nd or subsequent hour. If untreated, the 12 hour duration makes you likely to die without treatment… which is exactly what we’re looking for in a poisoned Really Wild West creature, to help drive storylines. The poison is both a combat enhancer, and an after-combat driver of story and plot.

The Rattle ability is built off Intimidate skill rules, which works well with our Expert build. However, the Rattle-Cat is also well positioned to be a mobile ambush threat, with high Acrobatics and Stealth values as well. A combatant would have trouble being a major threat with Acrobatics and Intimidate and Stealth, all of which can call for checks with DCs based on the competence or skill of the foe. With evasion and the cloaking field, higher CR Rattle-Cats are even tougher to flush out, and the bonus Spring Attack feat (given for the same reason we gave the Grizzle-Boar a bonus ability) and high speed allows them to make hit-and-run attacks from cover in the wild.

A Rattle-Cat written up as a combatant would be more dangerous in a stand-up fight, but less able to use the tactics and abilities that make it interesting.

Here we bring the whole thing together for a CR 3 Rattle-Cat.

RATTLEE-CAT          CR 3          [EXPERT]
XP 800
N Medium Animal
Init +2 Senses low-light vision; Perception +8
DEFENSE     HP 35
EAC 14; KAC 15
Fort +4; Ref +4; Will +6
OFFENSE
Speed 50 ft.
Melee bite +9 (1d4+7 P plus rattler poison)
Offensive Abilities rattle
STATISTICS
Str +4; Dex +2; Con +0; Int -4; Wis +1; Cha +0
Skills Acrobatics +13, Athletics +8, Intimidate +13, Stealth +13, Survival +8
Languages none

Rattle (Ex): The tip of a rattle-cat’s tail makes a disturbing, rhythmic noise that most creatures other than rattle-cats and rattle-snakes find disconcerting. As part of a move action, a rattle-cat can rattle its tail to make an Intimidate check to demoralize all foes within 60 feet. Once a creature has been demoralized by this function of a Rattle-Cat’s rattle ability, it cannot be affected again for 24 hours. A Rattle-Cat can also make an Intimidate check to demoralize any creature that can hear it as a standard action.

Rattler Poison
Type poison (injury); Save Fortitude (DC 14)
Track Constitution; Frequency: 1/hour for 12 hours
Special: Multiple bites cannot move target down the Constitution track more than once per hour.
Cure: 2 consecutive saves

So that brings us through two of the three arrays, while helping to build a set of unique threats for the Really Wild West (though these monsters can be used in any Starfinder Roleplaying Game campaign). We still need to discuss the Spellcaster array, and maybe take a look at class grafts, in upcoming articles!

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Starfinder Theosophy and Psychic Powers for Really Wild West

While magic and full-blown spells are known to exist in the pulp-fantasy 1891 for the Really Wild West setting hack of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, and considerable study in codifying their scope and limitations has taken place over the past century, they are not the only supernatural powers available to delvers into the occult. With the growth of Theosophy, and the radically increased communication between various cultures and esoteric traditions in the Age of Steam, numerous wise folk, parapsychologists, charismatic preachers, shamans, and madmen have become practicing psychics, able to use the power of their minds to impact the world around them.
There powers are represented with a feat, Practicing Psychic, which gives access to a series of additional tasks that can be performed with the Mysticism skill, known as “Mysticism skill unlocks.”

PRACTICING PSYCHIC
You have opened your third eye, learned the ancient ways, mastered the fourth circle of the Secret Masters, attuned your chi, met your fylgja, gained your Doctorate of Theosophy, or otherwise become adept in manipulating the phrenic energies of the mind.
Benefit: Mysticism is a class skill for you. If it is a class skill from some other source than this feat, you instead gain a +1 bonus to Mysticism checks. You do not have to meet the Charisma requirement of the Minor Psychic Power feat, or any feat that has that as a prerequisite. Additionally, you can select one Mysticism Skill Unlock. Once made, this choice cannot be changed.
Special: You can take this feat more than once. Its effects do not stack. Instead, each time you take it after the first, you gain two additional Mysticism Skill Unlocks.

MYSTICISM SKILL UNLOCKS
The tasks you can perform using the Mysticism skill if you have gained access to them through Mysticism Skill Unlocks (such as from the Practicing Psychic feat)—automatic writing, cloud minds, dowsing, faith healing, hypnotism, psychometry, and thought transference—are detailed below. Several of these tasks have sub-tasks you can attempt if you have access to the main skill unlock.

AUTOMATIC WRITING
You can produce mysterious writing that pertains to the immediate future, either under the influence of enigmatic guiding spirits or by unleashing your subconscious intuition.
Once per week, you can spend 1 hour posing questions while your hand unconsciously scribbles messages of varying legibility and accuracy. At the end of this hour, you attempt a Mysticism check to decipher the meanings of these messages. If successful, you gain information as though you had used augury, except the time frame of the information gathered can be up to a week in advance (but the longer it is, the more likely the GM is to conclude the contemplated action will bring both good and bad consequences, since consequences become more difficult to predict further out).
If you have 10 or more ranks in Mysticism, you can attempt a higher DC check to instead gain information as though you had used divination. The chance of successfully producing coherent or meaningful writing from any of these effects equals 60% plus 5% for every 1 by which your check result exceeds the DC (to a maximum of 90%). You must choose which DC you’ll try to meet before attempting the check. The GM rolls the check and d% roll secretly, so that you can’t tell whether the messages are accurate.

Writing Results  Ranks Required DC
As augury spell  1             20
As divination spell            10           30

CLOUD MINDS
You can cloud the minds of thinking creatures so they don’t realize where you are. As a standard action you can make a Mysticism check and a Stealth check, using the lower of the two checks as a Stealth check to hide against any thinking creature (but not traps or mindless creatures) without needing cover or concealment. You can even speak without creatures being able to find you without a successful perception check. This ability lasts until the end of your next turn, but creatures get a +10 bonus to Perception checks to notice you on the next round. This is a mind-affecting, sense-dependent effect.

DOWSING
You channel mysterious forces in the nearby environment to locate hidden resources. Once per day, you can follow a dowsing rod’s movements to locate a particular type of location. Each attempt requires 10 minutes of intense concentration, after which you attempt the Mysticism check with the DC listed on the table below. The maximum range at which you can detect anything using dowsing is 400 feet + 40 feet per rank in Mysticism you possess. The rod’s directions persist for up to 10 minutes. You choose a particular target each time you dowse, and get the following information on a successful check.
Find Water: The dowsing rod points toward the largest source of fresh water within range, including aquifers, lakes, ponds, and springs.
Grave Dowsing: The dowsing rod points in the direction of the largest burial site, cairn, or tomb within range.
Locate Metal and Gems: You concentrate on a specific metal or mineral. On a successful check, the dowsing rod points to the largest quantity of the selected mineral within range.

Dowsing Target DC
Water    15
Grave    20
Mineral 25

FAITH HEALING
You apply esoteric principles to temporarily suspend or remove afflictions (curses, drugs, diseases, and poisons). You can use faith healing once per day. The DC and effect of the Heal check depend on the task you attempt. You can’t use faith healing on yourself.
Suspend Affliction: You treat one curse, disease, drug, or poison affecting a creature. You enter into a deep trance for 1 hour while you treat the subject, after which you attempt your Mysticism check (with a DC equal to the afflictions DC, or 25 for afflictions without save DCs). If the check is successful, you suspend the effects of the affliction by 1 hour, plus 1 hour for every 5 by which you exceed the DC. This time doesn’t count against the effect’s duration (if any). The affliction can still be cured by other means while it’s suspended.
Remove Affliction: You can attempt to permanently remove an affliction in an 8-hour ceremony, after which you attempt a Mysticism check, with a DC equal to the DC to suspend it +15. If your check succeeds the affects is suspended, and the sufferer can attempt another saving throw using the original DC to permanently cast off the effect.

HYPNOTISM
You use the power of suggestion and subtle psychic influence to alter a subject’s mind and dredge up repressed memories. You can use hypnotism once per day. Hypnotism requires one minute of calm, uninterrupted interaction—it is impossible in crowded rooms, loud areas, and anyplace where both you and the subject aren’t free to take 10 on most skill checks—though you cannot take 10 on skill checks to hypnotize a subject unless the subject is both aware and cooperating with the attempt.
The DC of a Mysticism check to hypnotize is 20 + the subject’s Will save modifier against mind-affecting enchantment (compulsion) effects. All uses of hypnotism are mind-affecting enchantment (compulsion), sense-dependent, language-dependent effects.
Implant Suggestion: You can implant a suggested course of reasonable action in the mind of a willing creature, along with a defined trigger. To implant a suggestion, you spend 1 minute inducing a trance-like state in the subject, after which you attempt a Mysticism check. You can attempt to subtly implant a suggestion in the mind of an unwilling creature with an attitude of indifferent or better after 1 minute of continuous, calm interaction with that creature rather than being obvious about it with a willing target, but the DC is 10 higher.
If the check is successful, you implant the course of action, as a suggestion spell with a duration of 10 minutes plus 10 additional minutes for every 1 by which your check result exceeds the DC. If the suggestion is one the subject would not perform for a creature it had a reaction of Indifferent toward, once it has an opportunity to act on the suggestion  it can attempt a Will save once each round to shake off the effects. The save DC is equal to 10 + 1/2 your character level + your Charisma modifier.
This is a mind-affecting, sense-dependent effect.
Recall Memory: You can draw out forgotten memories from a willing subject. You spend 1 minute inducing a calming, trance-like state in the subject, after which you attempt a Mysticism check. If you succeed at the check, the hypnotized creature can reroll any previously failed Intelligence or Knowledge check to recall the forgotten information with a +4 bonus. The information must be something the subject once knew or was exposed to.
This is a mind-affecting, sense-dependent effect.

PSYCHOMETRY
You can read the psychic impressions left on objects or in places by previous owners and events.
Once per day, you can concentrate for 1 minute while in physical contact with an item or location, during which you receive flashes of insight regarding the subject’s nature and ownership. After 1 minute, you attempt a DC 15 Mysticism check to decipher the visions. You gain one piece of information about the historical significance or the last previous owner—such as a glimpse of the last owner’s appearance or its emotional state when it last used the item—determined by the GM. You learn one more piece of information for every 10 by which your check result exceeds the DC, as long as you concentrate for 1 additional minute for each piece of information. If you fail the check by less than 5 or the item has no significant psychic imprint, you don’t learn any information. If you fail this check by 5 or more, the item appears to be psychically significant even if it’s not, and the information you gain is wildly inaccurate.
If you attempt to use psychometry on an item affected by a spell or effect that hides its true nature or history, you automatically learn all the false information imprinted by the spell or effect. You must also attempt a Will save (DC 15 +1/2 the level of the creature that created the spell or effect). If you succeed at this save, you realize the implanted information was false, and can determine the true information as well. On a failed save, you believe the implanted information is true.

THOUGHT TRANSFERENCE
Once per round without taking an action, you can make a Mysticism check to attempt to pass a secret message without speaking. If you exceed the DC by 5 or more, the recipient can send a secret message back to you in the same way. Only creatures with the thought transference skill unlock, limited telepathy, or telepathy can make opposed Sense Motive checks to attempt to learn the gist of the message. The DC for this increases by +10 if you attempt to use it on creatures you are not currently perceiving, and +20 if you attempt to us it on creatures a mile or more away.

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Really Wild West Bestiary: Gulchers

Of course you can use any creatures from the Starfinder Alien Archive as threats in a Really Wild West campaign, but in most cases you’ll want to reflavor them to something more appropriate for it’s 1891 aesthetic and technology level.

It’s useful to dream up brand-new threats as well of course, to get foes hat are unique to the dangerous world of pulp theosophy and super-science that is Really Wild West. Here is a very RWW-themed undead, which may be encountered alone or in mass numbers as dictated by the plot. If you want to make different of higher-CR gulchers, just take any undead and replace one of its offensive powers with bad off, add false life, lower its EAC by 2 and raise its KAC by 1.

GULCHER (CR 1)
XP
400
NE Medium undead
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +5
DEFENSE
HP
24
EAC 9; KAC 14
Fort +3; Ref +3; Will +3; DR 3/magic; Immunities undead immunities
OFFENSE
Speed
30 ft.
Melee pitchfork (or other tool) +8 (1d6+5 P; critical: bad off) or
Ranged revolver +6 (1d6+1 P)
Special Attacks bad off (DC 11)
STATISTICS
Str
+4; Dex +2; Con —; Int +0; Wis +1; Cha +0
Skills Athletics +10
Other Abilities unliving
SPECIAL ABILITIES
Bad Off (Su)
A gulcher is imbued with the bad times that lead to its sorry state, and can sometimes inflict its bad luck and sad-sack existence on those it hurts. Any attack from a glucher that scores a critical hit causes the target to feel down and out, gaining the sickened condition for 24 hours, or until the target receives a morale bonus (to anything) or is the recipient of a Diplomacy check to improve their attitude.
A gulcher can also attempt to inflict its bad off ability on a creature as a standard action, creaming in contagious misery. Used this way the ability is sense-dependent and the target can negate it with a successful DC 11 Will save.
A DC 11 Mysticism check can identity the nature of a creature being bad off, and reveal the circumstances that negate this effect. Bad off is a curse effect.

False Life (Ex)
A gulcher that doesn’t realize its own true nature is not affected by spells or abilities that only target undead.
ECOLOGY
Environment
any
Organization solitary, pair, posse (3–12), or settlement (13+)

Gulchers are undead that appear to be gaunt, dirty, badly-tended humans, often dressed in patched and worn prairie clothing, though they can also have the appearance of drovers, gunfolk, miners, merchants, gunfolk, and native people can also become gulchers. Most have sallow skin, yellowed, crooked teeth, stringy hair, and sullen or bloodshot eyes. A few appear jaundiced.

Gulchers are most often normal people who went through a time of despair, tribulation, hunger, and pestilence, and died. But they didn’t notice. Things had been so bad, for so long, that dying would be a relief, and gulchers just don’t expect anything to get better.

As long as a gulcher is unaware it has become an undead, it goes about the dreary and colorless motions of living a life. It eats, if food is available, lies in bed and doesn’t realize it never sleeps, sucks down duststorms and doesn’t realize it should choke. In this state, the gulcher isn’t affected by powers that only effect undead, but it also isn’t immune to fear and emotion effects, and takes the penalties for being shaken at all times (though this is more a dreary lack of verve than true fear).

All this changes if the gulcher is made aware of its state. The easiest way to do this is to deal piercing or slashing damage to it – gulchers have thick, black blood and realize the horrible truth of their state if they see their own tarlike vitae. Evidence of their lifeless existence, lack of food, lack of sleep, and so on, can also be used to convince a gulcher it is no longer living with a DC 15 Diplomacy check. Once it knows that even the peace of the grave is denied it, a gulcher is slowly consumed with a desire to make everyone and everything as pained and hopeless as its own existence.

It’s not unknown for entire towns to become gulchers, often during thunderdusts, droughts, and locust plagues. Sometimes one or two take the gray journey, and their desire to cause misery slowly kill off everyone else in town. Othertimes a real bad situation takes out near everyone most all at once. And sometimes, a drakul, ghul, black spirit, or other bigtime black hat decided to take over a town as a base of operation, and intentionally nurses the despair that causes god-fearin’ folk to become the things other folk fear.

In very rare cases, gulchers perform a useful service, such as toiling at a mostly-played out mine that would be pointless for living creatures to port the food and water needed to operate, operating rickety barges on distant rivers with little traffic, or slowly clearing stones from areas that might, in a few decades, be worthwhile farmlands. Of course, these gulchers are also likely to be angered by the sight of anyone doing better than they, and may drown passengers, or dump scorpions into their sleeping blankets.

Starfaring Species in Really Wild West (part 3 and finale)

This is the third and final part of a series of articles looking at how to contextualize the starfaring species of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game into the world of the Really Wild West, a setting hack that uses the science-fantasy rpg for a campaign with magic, monsters, and weird science in an alternate Earth in 1891.

When looking at the Starfinder Roleplaying Game species for things I can use to tie them to a fantasy-science-fiction-pulp version of the real world, sometimes I have gone with cultural or game ability elements… and sometimes I have leaned on fantasy versions of biology, as is the case with shirren, vesk, and ysoki.

RealWildWest-Races-color-01

Shirren

Shirren are big bugs, which means they should have evolved someplace that supports larger arthropods. The largest land-dwelling arthropod currently in existence on Earth is the coconut crab, which is found on islands in the Indian and Pacific Ocean. Assuming they originated in the same regions in the timeline of the Really Wild West, shirren would have built their own island cultures (perhaps in conjunction with other species, perhaps not), and spread in Ancient times as trade blossomed throughout the Indian Ocean. This takes our ancient shirren to China, Egypt, India, Java, Somalia, and southeastern Europe. While they would have spread worldwide from there, I assume those regions along old trade routes going through the Indian Ocean still have the largest, most integrated populations of shirren. That gives me guidance on what cultures they might be drawn from, and what traditions they could have, without claiming something small-minded like “Arabs are shirren” (which erases real Arabs and eliminates numerous cultural advancements, historical figures, and real-world ethnicities from being part of RWW, and is also pretty structurally racist).

Vesk

Australia leads the world in reptile biodiversity, so that’s where I am having my vesk evolve. That has vesk populations being tightly concentrated in Australia, New Zealand, and surrounding islands. I’m guessing I’ll need to add a frontier wars or “Lizardman War” (as the colonial powers call it) between the British Empire and various vesk groups at some point, and chances are the vesk lost. But by now, they’re at least partially integrated, and some will have travelled throughout the British Empire, despite suffering a fair amount of racism. While vesk likely have a lot of native culture that impacts their fashion, those that travel abroad are likely to adopt Western clothing sensibilities when in western nations, including the Really Wild West.

Note that this is a change from my original thoughts on vesk, which was to make them the product of Doctor Moreau’s anthropomorphization of animals. I can hold on to that idea for more minor species (as I add them), but it ended up feeling too limited for a “core” species, and had some connotations I wasn’t comfortable with.

Ysoki

In the real world, rodents are populous on every continent except Antarctica. They date to the Paleocene on the supercontinent of Laurasia, spread across landmasses, crossed oceans, and pretty well got everywhere (even Australia) on their own, without human intervention.

So as much as I am tying most starfaring species to specific region of the Really Wild West? Ysoki are everywhere.

And they got there first.

With cheek pouches as built-in bags (allowing them to carry goods—even water—long distances before the invention of sacks or gourd-bottles), bonuses to Stealth and Survival, and darkvision? Ysoki were the main competition with humanity for global domination. Much as there were Neanderthals and other cousins to homo sapiens sapiens who didn’t make it, there were multiple lines of ysoki through the ages, though none of this is well understood in the RWW year of 1891.

In general, every culture has a ysoki element to it. There are sure to be exceptions—Egyptian cat-worshipers may not have taken to ysoki citizens, some ysoki clans likely existed in regions without significant human presence.

But the core assumption in Really Wild West is that ysoki are everywhere from the most remote, paleolithic cultures, to the suit-wearing bankers of New York.

Speaking of context!

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Starfinder Species in Really Wild West (Part 2)

We went over why it’s worthwhile to consider where the species from the Starfinder Roleplaying Game have major population centers in the world of Really Wild West (and why we won’t be using them as stand-ins to replace the humans of any real-world culture) in the first post in this series, where we also looked at the RWW take on androids. We continue our look at this idea with the kasatha and lashunta. It’s worth repeating that these touchstones are designed as one set of options, not absolute rules. Just as humans from differing ethnic and cultural backgrounds can be found on every continent, so too can our new sentient, sapient species be found in every culture of the Really Wild West.

RealWildWest-Races-lines-02.png

Kasatha

Since one of the big defining traits of kasatha is that they have 4 arms, there’s an obvious temptation to have kasatha be linked to Hinduism, because of the prevalence of multiarmed deities in Hindu. However, Hinduism is a massive, modern religion with tens of millions of worshipers, in which things like what a deity carries in each arm can be important, and about which I am not an expert.

Looking to tie the multiarmed aspect to something less crucial than gods, Greek mythology has numerous multiarmed humanoids such as the Gegenees, and Hecatonchires. Though these are presented as giants, that just also gives me a place for Shobads. And there’s lots of ancient and closer-to-18901 history involving Greeks that is fascinating and interesting, which can help serve as context for kasatha players.

So if the Greek empires were all mix of human and kasatha, by the modern era of Really Wild West that can be expected to have large populations throughout Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia. Greek ships were visiting the Americas by the early 1600s, and a significant Greek community developed in New Orleans during the 1850s. By the 1890 there were tens of thousands of Greeks in North America alone, many of them from the Ottoman Empire.

Lashunta

One of the defining traits of lashunta is their telepathy, which makes placing them in the world a bit tricky, because what westerns think of as telepathy doesn’t really have any notable real-world equivalents, even in theory or fiction, prior to the 1800s, which is too late to form a culture from that is well established by 1891. However, the Japanese idea of ishin-denshin (literally “”what the mind thinks, the heart transmits”) certainly seems similar to telepathy. That idea seems to have developed in China where it has links to traditions of Zen Buddhism.

So, having lashunta have developed in Asia, with strong populations in places where Zen Buddhism is prevalent (China, Japan, Korean, Vietnam) gives cultural texture to how the actual power of telepathy in Really Wild West might have been viewed in varying real-world cultures. It’s important to note that lashunta don’t replace any of those real-world cultures or the religious and philosophical advancements they created. But it does give context for how to view a fictional species in a historic framework. And all those nations have rich histories that include massive exploration, trade, and diplomacy as well as immigration which can place an Asian-origin lashunta anywhere in the world a player wants to be from (even before allowing for lashunta families who may have migrated from those nations centuries ago).

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Starfinder Species in Really Wild West

When running a Really Wild West game, which takes Starfinder Roleplaying Game concepts and sets them in a weird west version of the real world in 1891, one of the questions that can come up is where the nonhuman species come from. Given how much cultures and nations and lone people can interact, overlap, and move around, any individual character can obviously be from anywhere—in real-world history it’s easy to find Japanese expatriates in Manila and Mexico in the early 1600s, so ethnicity, nationality, and geography aren’t always as linked as typical examples of each might suggest.

But a question remains of where the most common cultures and ethnicities of various nonhuman species are found. It’s a bad idea to replace entire real-world ethnic groups with nonhumans, since that erases the possibilities of real-world options and may tell a player that their actual ancestry isn’t important enough to keep, but if we are presenting a world where dozens (or even hundreds) of species are sharing the planet, it makes sense to consider where our fictional species fit reasonable well with real-world culture, and key those as major cultural and population centers for kasatha and lashutna and others.

This is especially important for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game species. It’s easy to place dwarves, elves, gnomes, haflings, half-elves, and half-orcs in the European areas that inspired them and that lots of fantasy and modern games have drawn from to build fictional cultures for them. You can assume they all overlap with humanity 100%, or make the major population centers line up with the countries you think make interesting matches—perhaps dwarves are German and elves are French. Or perhaps dwarves are French, elves are Germanic, and gnomes Russian or Scandinavian, and orcs Spanish. There’s enough fiction and game material with those races to make it easy to build or match cultures to serve as backgrounds for them.

But there’s not nearly as much material to draw on for androids (especially as Really Wild West envisions them), vesk, or ysoki, and even less for kasatha and lashunta. Since the Really Wild West is set in an alternate version of the real world, if I want to place these new species somewhere I need to either think of places where I can add them to the existing populations, or add new places. I could slap a few new small continents—Atlantis. Lemuria, and Mu come to mind—in the middle of oceans to give me new space for new cultures if I wanted to, but that’d take a lot more effort than I am looking to do just to create some cultural touchstones.

It seems perfectly reasonable in a campaign setting that adds multiple new sapient, sentient species to a fantasy version of the real world to have those species be tied primarily to specific regions or cultures, so that is the approach I took here. That leaves the question of where to place each of these species primary population centers, and for that I looked at each in turn to determine what core feature or concept helps define each and how those can be integrated into existing real-world regions.

I used real-world art references for the art order representing clothing and styles for these new species. That’s not to suggest that all of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game species come from only these regions or look like the characters below, but it’s a baseline to give GM and players something to draw from.

Over the next few posts I’ll give some details where each of these new species is being centered in the world of Really Wild West, and why, beginning with the androids.

RealWildWest-Races-color-01

Android

Androids in the Really Wild West (far left) are visually and culturally notably different from androids in standard Starfinder Roelplaying Game campaigns. Given the 1890s aesthetic of the RWW, androids are presented as old-school robots, closer to Metropolis than Blade Runner. They could never pass for human. They function with the same rules, but the definition of android in this campaign is closer to “humanlike in form” than “machine that passed for human.”

Complex machines claiming to be automatons and clockworks did exist in the era, perhaps the most famous of which is the chess-playing automaton created in 1770 by Wolfgang von Kempelen of the Hapsburg Empire, who usefully for our purposes also created a speaking machine. While von Kempelen’s chess-playing machine was not a true automaton (it hid a chess player in its integral cabinet), that looks a fine origin for our manlike machines. If the first automatons were created in 1770 in the Hapsburg empire, they can easily have spread to be much farther and wider by 1891. The Austro-Hungarian Empire that formed out of the Austrian Empire that followed the Hapsburg Empire is a European melting pot, and numerous immigrants from that region moved to  New York City, Pittsburgh, and Chicago early in the 1800s, and then were part of the century.

We can assume that older androids are from the Austria and Hungary regions, and newer ones likely constructed in the big cities of New York City, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. At some point some form of Turing Test has developed, and androids have won recognition as “people” in the United States, Mexico, and most industrialized nations of the world. But they lack strong family roots, and are often looking for opportunities to make a life for themselves.

We’ll address the kasatha, lashunta, shirren, vesk, and ysoki soon!

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More Gunslinger Abilities (for Starfinder)

To add on to yesterday’s gunslinger abilities, here are some drawn from a gunslinger archetype (one of which requires you take the Gunslinger Feat to access… at least for now). These work for normal Starfinder Roleplaying Game campaigns, or the Really Wild West setting hack.

While I’ll release full rules for these as an actual product, for now note that whether you use the archetype or feat to access these, you can only select abilities with two different possessive title forms. In other words if you take a “Gunslinger’s X” and “Ace Shooter’s X” abilities, you can’t also take an ability titled “Blatherskite’s X” (as there will be many more possessively titled abilities in the final product).

New Gunslinger Abilities:

Ace Shooter’s Resolve (Ex): [3rd level] As long as you have at least 1 Resolve Point, you can make a ranged attack as a standard action and ignore the effects of concealment (though not total concealment) and cover (other than total cover) against that shot.

Ace Shooter’s Vigilance (Ex): [7th Level] As long as you have at least 1 Resolve Point, your ranged attacks to not provoke attacks of opportunity.

Ace Shooter’s Pinning Shot (Ex): [15th level] When firing a small arm, longarm, or heavy weapon that uses darts or arrows (such as a crossbolter) you can make 1 attack as a full action to give the weapon the entangling special weapon property.

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