Category Archives: Game Design

Now on Patreon: First Look at the Wyverns & Warrens Fantasy RPG (Concept and Core Mechanic)

(This article is not covered by the OGL)

As I mentioned with the announcement of having a first look at my Warbrand RPG over on my Patreon, I have lots of ideas and files for from-scratch ttRPGs. Warbrand has the most work done on it… but I’m actually closest to having a playable game with a different project, Wyverns & Warrens (or, WyvWar).

(Cover art by Eric Pommer. Cover graphics by Lj Stephens) 

This is specifically a *different* project than Warbrand, for a lot of reasons. Not the least of those is I hope to keep the core rules of WyvWar to 64 pages or less. But most importantly, WyvWar is my nostalgia-driven fantasy heartbreaker ttRPG design. Every choice I make for WyvWar is driven by the effort to recapture how it felt when I played Tunnels & Trolls solo adventures, or D&D games that use the original booklets, Basic, a Boxed set, Dragon articles, and stuff we graphed on from Boot Hill, Gamma World, Gangbusters, and anything else that seemed to use a d20 or percentile.

So, the goal here is not specifically to go for any given target audience, or to be amazingly innovative, or even necessary to create a commercially viable ttRPG (though I’m proceeding on the assumption I’ll make it a commercial product). Instead, I just want a game that suits exactly the mix of fast, easy, flexible, and able to surprise that I crave when I am in a nostalgic mood.

I have a short, quick preview of the concept of the game and my reasoning behind the core mechanic I have selected, over at my Patreon. It’s a very basic design document, a behind-the-scenes teaser of a thing I may or may not ever finish.

But I’d like to.

Right now that rules preview (and all Thursday blog posts) are Patreon-exclusive, because I need to grow my Patreon to keep spending time writing blog posts and other public content. However, once my Patreon funding level hits $1,000/month, I’ll go back to posting my Thursday posts free for all to see here, AND I’ll create and maintain an index page of all my PF2 articles for Patrons, so they can easily access all my online PF2 content!

Now on Patreon: Conceptualizing Quirky Magic Items, Part 1 – Unusual Forms

My Day 23 entry of my #Dungeon23 Project has a list of ideas for quirky magic items to put in a creature’s loot pile for PCs to pick up and enjoy. I like making objects for PCs to use that aren’t just the standard options, and in my experience players enjoy them as well, as long as “quirky” doesn’t become an excuse for less effective, embarrassing, or too strongly themed in a way that doesn’t match the characters.

Over on my Patreon I go into my favorite trick for conceptualizing quirky items, and I’ll expand that series of articles with more tips and tricks as time goes on. My Tuesday posts are currently Patreon-exclusive as an intentional carrot to get more people to join my Patreon. Once its income levelhas risen to $1,500/month, I’ll both go back to posting Tuesday posts for free here on my blog as well as on my Patreon, and I’ll make and maintain some article index for my Patreons (the carrot to encourage Patrons to see if their friends want to join).

Now on Patreon: First Look at The Warbrand RPG

(This article is not covered by the OGL)

I suspect it shocks no one to know I have been working on my own core RPG… for decades. Several of them, actually.

Many turned into supplements for other games. Some are currently at design dead ends. A lot are cold, dusty files at the very back of my hard drive that haven’t seen the light of day for years. But some I have kept tinkering on, and keep getting closer and closer to being something I could announce and publish.

One of the closest at the moment is Warbrand, which I am desperately trying to make exactly my preferred magical mix of fast, flexible, simple, elegant, and customizable. You know… a unicorn. With miniatures.

It’s still not ready for its big reveal. But, for reasons that may seem obvious, given it’s not a direct descendent of anyone RPG (or such an RPG’s system resource document, for example), I’ve been thinking about it a LOT, recently.

So, I have a short, quick preview of just a few of the rule elements I’m working on in the game up at my Patreon. It isn’t a design document, but instead a preview of some elements of a game I’m working on, a behind-the-scenes teaser of a thing I may or may not ever finish.

But I’d like to.

Right now that rules preview (and all Thursday blog posts) are Patreon-exclusive, because I need to grow my Patreon to keep spending time writing blog posts and other public content. However, once my Patreon funding level hits $1,000/month, I’ll go back to posting my Thursday posts free for all to see here, AND I’ll create and maintain an index page of all my PF2 articles for Patrons, so they can easily access all my online PF2 content!

(Working cover. Cover art by lobard)

Now On Patreon: Companion Feats for PF2

As I run my Gatekeepers campaign for PF2, the player running a ranger with a bear companion (“Brogue,” who is beloved by the team) and I are learning the Companion rules together.

Sometimes, we both think there ought to be an option to expand the existing options, such as with a feat.

Two of those feats are now up at my Patreon.

(Art by grandfailure)

Those feats (and all Tuesday and Thursday posts) is currently exclusive to my Patreon. When we raise my Patreon to $1,500/month, I’ll go back to making all my weekly posts double posts here and on my blog. (And at 1,000/month, I’ll go back to including Thursday posts here on the free blog.)

At the $1,500 goal, I’ll also create and maintain Starfinder and 5e article Index Pages for my Patrons, with links to all my 5e and Starfinder blog and Patreon content.

(However, my #Dungeon23 project, Into the Tomb Lands, is also at my Patreon and free to all! And as of this writing, we’re up to 3 encounters.)

Now On Patreon: Simple Carousing Rules

It’s common in adventure fiction for characters to need to take a break or blow off some steam. Whether that’s a night of drinking, time spent on a beach, or a monthlong retreat for meditation among flowers (depending on the setting and characters), such time away from the grind of adventuring and danger often leaves characters better-prepared for the next major hazard. In the real world, people also often need time to get away and recharge their mental and physical batteries, and if such a break goes well can come back from it more focused, efficient, and productive.

Tabletop roleplaying games often don’t do a good job of the boost that can be gained from relaxing and having a good time. And while some GMs and players may enjoy playing through heroes spending their money on parties and luxuries, making such activities their own reward, for other groups it’s a failing that anyone who doesn’t need to spend downtime crafting, learning, training, or plotting has nothing they can do that might have a game mechanical effect.

(Art by Helen Trupak)

So, over on my Patreon I wrote some simple system-agnostic rules to allow characters who have a good time to potentially benefit from doing so. I’m making all my Thursday blog posts Patreon-exclusive, because I need to boost my income to keep writing these posts. However, once my Patreon funding level hits $1,000/month, I’ll go back to posting my Thursday posts free for all to see here, AND I’ll create and maintain an index page of all my PF2 articles for Patrons, so they can easily access all my online PF2 content!

Now On Patreon: Gamifying Hangovers

Hey, it’s right between two holidays that often involve a lot of drinking, and that got me thinking.

It’s pretty common for ttRPG adventurers to overindulge, either as part of some greater scheme, or because they live work-hard/play-hard lives. This can naturally lead to having a hangover later. But few games have any rules for hangovers, and sometimes such rules can enrich the impact of the fictional poor choices, consequences of taking a risk, or narrative of player character’s lives.

So, how do you make game rules for a hangover? Well, let’s look at the main causes of a hangover. Here we are looking specifically at the impact of alcohol on humans, but if you run a world where fairies get drunk on buttermilk, or skesilik who invoke blood-frenzy for too long are hungover with “crusteye” the next day, you can extend these real-world concepts to fictional physiology.

So I wrote an article over on my Patreon looking at the real-world causes of hangovers, and how a GM might adapt the effect to a ttRPG rueset. This content (and all Tuesday and Thursday posts) is currently exclusive to my Patreon. When we raise my Patreon to $1,500/month, I’ll go back to making all my weekly posts double posts here and on my blog. (And at 1,000/month, I’ll go back to including Thursday posts here on the free blog.)

At the $1,500 goal, I’ll also create and maintain Starfinder and 5e article Index Pages for my Patrons, with links to all my 5e and Starfinder blog and Patreon content.

Simple Stance Feats for Pathfinder 2nd Edition

One of the things that evolved in PF1 was “Stances,” special kinds of combat options you could only use one of at a time. They were a neat idea, but were implemented haphazardly over years of expansions (in some cases under my watch, on books I was the developer for).

Similarly, there were weapon traits in PF1, but many of them were inherited from the previous version of the game, and others were added 9again, in some cases under my watch) in ways that may not have been as consistent as they should have been.

For PF2, the Pathfinder Design Team made stances and weapon traits a core part of the game, and gave them a much more uniform (and compiled) core set of rules in the core rulebook.

So, of course, I want to play with them… in this case by combining them. Stances have the limitation you can only use one at a time (unless you’re a 20th level monk who picks just the right feat), and weapon traits have the limitation that they are only on some weapons so it can be impossible to get some combinations of traits. But with this Simple Stance feat, you can get access to traits not on your weapon, at the cost of having to set yourself into a stance (taking an action) and not being able to benefit from another stance at the same time.

(Art by warmtail)

Simple Stances [Feat 1]
[Class varies, see below]

Select two of the simple stances below which list your class, you gain access to these stances. When you meet one of these stances’ requirements you can enter that stance with the Enter Stance action. While in that stance, you may choose to add the weapon trait the stance is named for to weapons noted in the stance’s requirements. For example, a rogue can select agile stance, and when wielding a single 1-handed melee weapon and having the other hand free, the rogue may choose to add the agile trait to that weapon. If you take this feat as a monk class feat, you may also add the trait to any unarmed attack you make, and may replace any requirement with being able to make an unarmed attack.

Enter Stance [1-action]
You enter a stance you know through the simple stance feat. You may also Step.

Agile Stance [Bard][Magus][Monk][Fighter][Investigator][Rogue][Swashbuckler]
Requirement You are wielding a single 1-handed melee weapon and your other hand is free.

Backstabber Stance [Monk][Fighter][Investigator][Rogue][Swashbuckler]
Requirement You are wielding an agile or finesse weapon.

Backswing Stance [Barbarian][Fighter]
Requirement You are wielding a a 1-handed weapon that has the two hands trait, and are using 2 hands.

Concussive Stance [Fighter][Rogue]
Requirement You are wielding a versatile weapon that deals bludgeoning or piercing damage.

Disarm Stance [Magus][Fighter][Investigator][Rogue][Swashbuckler]
Requirement You are in light armor or unarmored.

Fatal Stance [Barbarian][Champion][Fighter][Ranger][Swashbuckler]
Requirement You are wielding a deadly weapon. Your fatal die size is based on the original weapon’s deadly die size, and the weapons loses its deadly trait while you are in this stance. If the weapon’s damage die is already the same size or greater than the new fatal die size, do not change the weapon’s damage die size (though it still adds a die of damage as normal for the fatal trait).

Original Deadly Die Size/New Fatal Die Size
1d6 or less/1d8
1d8/1d10
1d10/1d12
1d12/2d8

Finesse Stance [Bard][Magus][Monk][Fighter][Investigator][Ranger][Rogue][Swashbuckler]
Requirement You are wielding a melee weapon of 1 or less bulk.

Forceful Stance [Barbarian][Monk][Fighter][Ranger]
Requirement You are wielding a melee weapon that does not have the deadly or fatal traits.

Grapple Stance [Bard][Fighter][Ranger][Rogue][Swashbuckler]
Requirement You are wielding a weapon from the flail group, or that has “whip” in its name.

Hampering Stance [Barbarian][Monk][Fighter]
Requirement You are wielding a two-handed melee weapon, or one with reach.

Parry Stance [Champion][Monk][Fighter][Ranger][Rogue][Swashbuckler]
Requirement You are wielding a shield or two weapons.

Shove Stance [Champion][Fighter]
Requirement You are wielding a shield.

Sweep Stance [Fighter][Ranger][Rogue][Swashbuckler]
Requirement You are wielding two melee weapons.

Trip Stance [Bard][Fighter][Investigator][Rogue][Swashbuckler]
Requirement You are wielding a reach weapon, a weapon from the flail group, or that has “whip” in its name.

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Now On Patreon: Fighter Critical Specialization Feats

One of the interesting additions of Pathfinder 2nd Ed is critical specialization effects. While there are lots of PC options built around accessing them, I haven’t noticed any built around modifying how they work. Which, of course, made me want to create some.

Being better with criticals definitely feels weapon master/fighter themed. I could see creating a Weapon master archetype, but for now I’ve just created them as fighter class feats for Pathfinder 2nd ed over on my Patreon. Since I need to raise the funding level of my Patreon, until I get more backers all Thursday posts are Patreon exclusive.

However, once my Patreon funding level hits $1,000/month, I’ll go back to posting my Thursday posts free for all to see here, AND I’ll create and maintain an index page of all my PF2 articles for Patrons, so they can easily access all my online PF2 content!

(Art by grandfailure)

Spell Slot Expansion Class Feats for Pathfinder 2nd ed

So in Pathfinder 2e gaining some additional spellcasting options is pretty straightforward — pick up the Multiclass Dedication feat for any full spellcasting class other than your base class, and then start grabbing Spellcasting feats as they become available. Of course that gets you spells from another class, rather than your own, and it requires you pick up a Dedication feat first. But when it comes to gaining more spell slots for your own class, your only real option is Cantrip Expansion. But cantrip Expansion is very similar to the Spellcasting dedication feats, in that it gives you access to two extra cantrips.

So, let’s compare the Cantrip Expansion feat to the Wizard Dedication feat:

—–

CANTRIP EXPANSION
Feat 2
Bard Cleric Magus Oracle Psychic Sorcerer Witch Wizard

A greater understanding of your magic broadens your range of simple spells.
Prepared Caster (Cleric, Wizard, etc.): You can prepare two additional cantrips each day.
Spontaneous Caster (Bard, Sorcerer, etc.): Add two additional cantrips from your spell list to your repertoire.

WIZARD DEDICATION
Feat 2

Archetype Dedication Multiclass
Archetype
Wizard
Prerequisites Intelligence 14
You cast spells like a wizard, gaining a spellbook with four common arcane cantrips of your choice. You gain the Cast a Spell activity. You can prepare two cantrips each day from your spellbook. You’re trained in arcane spell attack rolls and spell DCs. Your key spellcasting ability for wizard archetype spells is Int, and they are arcane wizard spells. You become trained in Arcana; if you were already trained in Arcana, you instead become trained in a skill of your choice. Select one arcane school of magic; you don’t gain any abilities from your choice of school.
Special You can’t select another dedication feat until you have gained two other feats from the wizard archetype.

—-

So we can see from this that the Wizard Dedication feat gives you much more than the cantrip Expansion feat — but both add 2 cantrips per day to your total spell output. Now, there are potentially good and valid reasons for the Dedication feat to give you more, the biggest one being that as a dedication feat once you take it, you are temporarily locked out of other dedication feats, while Cantrip Expansion leaves you free to still pick up an archetype if you wish to.

So, using this as the power level baseline, we can create other Expansion feats as class feats by comparing them to Sorcerer/Wizard archetype feats of the same level. That gives us a clear blueprint for Spell Slot Expansion class feats, which like Cantrip Expansion) become class feats for all the spellcasting classes.

(Art by warmtail)

Basic Spell Slot Expansion Feat 4
Bard Cleric Magus Oracle Psychic Sorcerer Witch Wizard

A greater understanding of your magic broadens your range of more complex spells.
You gain an additional 1st-level spell slot. You gain an additional 2nd-level spell slot when your class level reaches 6th, and an additional 3rd-level spell slot when your class level reaches 8th.

Spell Breadth Feat 8
Bard Cleric Magus Oracle Psychic Sorcerer Witch Wizard

Prerequisites Basic Spell Slot Expansion
A greater understanding of your magic broadens your range of more complex spells.
You can cast more spells each day. Increase the spell slots you gain from your class by 1 for each spell level other than your two highest class spell slots.

Expert Spell Slot Expansion Feat 12
Bard Cleric Magus Oracle Psychic Sorcerer Witch Wizard

Prerequisites Basic Spell Slot Expansion
A greater understanding of your magic broadens your range of even more complex spells.
You gain an additional 4th-level spell slot. You gain an additional 5th-level spell slot when your class level reaches 14th, and an additional 6th-level spell slot when your class level reaches 16th.

Master Spell Slot Expansion Feat 18
Bard Cleric Magus Oracle Psychic Sorcerer Witch Wizard

Prerequisites Basic Spell Slot Expansion, Expert Spell Slot Expansion
A greater understanding of your magic broadens your range of extremely complex spells.
You gain an additional 7th-level spell slot. You gain an additional 8th-level spell slot when your class level reaches 20th.

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The more support I get, the more time I can spend on writing things like this. 

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Now On Patreon: Shield Feats for PF2

I’m currently running a PF2 campaign (Gatekeepers, you can find the index here), and preparing to be on a PF2 actual play podcast (more info on that closer to time, likely early next year). This has me thinking about PF2 feats, how they are constructed, and what they are supposed to do.

As a result, I’ve released a set of shield-themed feats for F2 over on my Patreon. Since I need to raise the funding level of my Patreon, until I get more backers all Tuesday posts are Patreon exclusive.

But, there IS another set of shield feats I’ve already done for PF2, which you can access for free here.

(Sometimes you really want to get your shield up! Art by Nyothep,)