Category Archives: Game Design

Save to Negate Fun? (Starfinder)

(A prelude — I moved cross-country last week. I had expected to be up and running my blog by Monday… and was not. further while we have arranged for connectivity at the new house, there seem to be some issues. Long story short, this is a Week’s Worth of blog posts — a 750+ word article for Monday on the basic concept and design concerns, then 4 days worth of looking at specific spells in short snippets.

My hope is that by June 15th, i can go back to giving you these things daily. 🙂 )

You are a spellcaster in the Starfinder RPG — a master of esoteric energies that can rewrite the universe’s laws. Having read about the cool abilities of a spell you select it and, when the time is right, stars in your eyes, you unleash eldritch powers beyond mortal comprehension on a foe…

“It succeeds at its saving throw. The spell is negated.”

Well… THAT’s not fun. At least if you have tried a damaging spell, it would have had SOME effect on creatures that made their save against it. And… HOW many spells saving-throw-negates spells did you put on your spell list? You only get so many spells known, after all… Oh, and hey, you can’t swap those out all that often. Lower-level spells are much more likely to be successfully saved against. And even if you use them against lower-level foes… those often don’t last long enough for the penalties you assess against them to be worth a spell slot either.

It’s not just that you had an action not be effective. Attacks miss sometimes. But you have SO few resources, you had to select which spells to trust in, and if you have spell after spell get negated with a saving throw…

Sometimes, it’s the fun that gets negated.

So, what if we rewrote those spells? What if we added minor effects that apply, briefly, even against foes that negate the primary effect? It would have to be carefully balanced — spells that target multiple foes or an area are already pretty powerful because *all* targets are unlikely to negate it. Lower-level spells need to not be able to stack so many minor status effects you can overwhelm a high-level foe. That’s all tricky, but doable.

But, let’s be clear — this is a pure power-up of these spells. If you are finding the use of the spells listed below is already skewing things in the favor of the PCs on a regular basis, then these optional rules aren’t for your group. Also, this is designed only for Starfinder. The core math of similar d20-based systems is just too different for anything designed to rebalance the utility of Starfinder save-to-negate spells to apply well in other game systems.

While they’ll need some playtesting, I’ll likely use these rules as “core” in the Really Wild West setting. (With the lower tech level technomancers, at least, may need the help 🙂 )

RWW Technomancer

(art by Дмитрий)

Lingering Penalties: There’s only so much failed magic can do to hamper a creature that has successfully negated a spell. Many of the additional effects added below list “lingering” penalties. If a creature is suffering multiple lingering penalties to the same roll or value, only the highest of those penalties applies. Such penalties overlap–if you are taking a -3 lingering penalty to AC for 1 round and a -1 lingering penalty for 1 minute, you take the higher -3 penalty for the first round, then the remaining -1 penalty for the next 9 rounds.
This is also designed to prevent spellcasters from being able to cast low-level spells against the same foe over and over to stack up minor penalties until they are insurmountable. Much as casting a 1st-level damaging spell against a CR 9 foe may do a little damage and be of some use–but isn’t likely to be the major factor in a combat–casting a low-level save-negates spell against a high CR foe should, at best, have a modest effect on the combat.
The idea is for the player not to feel like their precious, limited resource was totally wasted, or that they might as well have fired their small arm (which might still miss, but ammunition is in much readier supply than spell slot–and that doesn’t feel very spellcaster-y).

Sample Lingering Effects
These are the spells from the Core Rulebook I consider most in need of modifications to increase their fun value without making spellcasters overpowered. If there’s demand for it, I might take a look at Armory and COM spells.

Baleful Polymorph: On a successful save the target suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attack rolls and damage for 1 minute. This increases to a -2 lingering penalty for spell level 4 and up.
Baleful Polymorph, mass: If only a single creature is targeted by the mass baleful polymorph, on a successful save the target suffers a -2 lingering penalty to attack rolls and damage for 1 minute.
Bestow Curse: On a successful save the creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to saving throws for 1d4 rounds as the curse energy continues to try to bring it misfortune.
Charm Person: On a successful save for 1 round/level the target suffers a -2 lingering penalty to attacks and damage against you, and the save DC of any effect it forces you to save against is reduced by 2, as it struggles with feelings for trust and friendship it knows to be false.
Command:
On a successful save the creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attacks and damage rolls for 1 round as it fights the foreign urge of the spell. 
Command Undead:
On a successful save the creature suffers a -2 lingering penalty to attack rolls against you for 1 minute as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Confusion: On a successful save a creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attacks and damage rolls for 1 round as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Confusion, lesser: On a successful save a creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attacks and damage rolls for 1 round as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Control Machines: On a successful save targets suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attack rolls against you for the spell’s duration, as they fight the foreign urges of the spell.
Control Undead: On a successful save targets suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attack rolls against you for the spell’s duration, as they fight the foreign urges of the spell.
Deep Slumber: On successful saves, targets take a -2 lingering penalty to Perception rolls and initiative checks for 1d4 rounds.
Detect Thoughts: If the target succeeds at its saving throw against this spell, you gain a +2 bonus to Perception and Sense Motive checks against it for the spell’s duration.
Directed Denial of Strength Attack: On a successful save, the creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to all Strength- and -Dexterity based skill checks, and to its AC against combat maneuvers, for 1d4 rounds.
Discern Lies: If a target succeeds at its saving throw against this spell, you gain a +2 bonus to Perception and Sense Motive checks against it for the spell’s duration.
Discharge: On a successful save the target suffers a -1 lingering penalty to any attacks or damage for 1d4 rounds.
Dismissal: On a successful save the creature suffers a lingering penalty to attacks and damage rolls for 1d4 rounds as it fights the effort to force it off this plane. The penalty is equal to 1 + any bonus to the caster level check of spell you gain with the use of special materials.
Dominate Person: If the target saves against this spell, it is at a -2 lingering penalty to attack rolls and damage against you, and you gain a +2 bonus to Perception and Sense Motive checks against it, for the duration of the spell.
Fatigue: On a successful save, the target is affected for 1 round.
Feeblemind: On a successful save, the target takes a -4 lingering penalty to all Int- and Cha- based skills for 1 minute. If Int- or Cha- are its key ability scores, it’s spell and class feature save DCs take a -1 lingering penalty for the same time period.
Flesh to Stone: On a successful save the target’s move rate is halved as a lingering penalty, and it takes a -1 lingering penalty to AC, for 1d4 rounds.
Hold Person: On a successful saving throw, the target takes a -1 lingering penalty to attack rolls, initiative checks, and Dexterity-based skill checks for 1 round.
Mind Probe: If the target succeeds at its saving throw against this spell, you gain a +3 bonus to Perception and Sense Motive checks against it for the spell’s duration.
Overload Systems: On a successful save, the target is staggered for 1d4 rounds.
Rewire Flesh: On a successful saving throw, the target still takes 1d6 slashing damage per round (Fortitude half, as normal).
Rewire Flesh, mass: On a successful saving throw, a target still takes 1d6 slashing damage per round (Fortitude half, as normal).
Slow
: If only a single creature is targeted by the slow, on a successful save it’s move rate is halved as a lingering penalty for 1d4 rounds.
Synaptic Pulse: On a successful save, a target is instead sickened for 1 round.
Suggestion: On a successful save the creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attack rolls and skill checks for 1d4 rounds as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Suggestion, mass: If only a single creature is targeted by the slow, on a successful save the creature suffers a -2 lingering penalty to attack rolls and skill checks for 1 minute as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Unwilling Guardian: On a successful saving throw, the target takes a -2 lingering penalty on attacks against you for 1d4 rounds.

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Interesting Creature Powers in Really Wild West (for Starfinder)

We did some specific “interesting” design things with whistlers yesterday. Today we’re just going over a short list of ideas for things you can do to spice up creature design in the Really Wild West. (Or GammaFinder, or any Starfinder setting, though you should consider the themes and tone of a specific setting when designing monsters for it.) Things like this should be obvious as soon as they come into play, and a good identify creature check should also reveal them.

This isn’t a comprehensive, or even very extensive list. Just a few ideas to get GMs thinking about interesting monster design.

Damage Type Reaction: Creatures that take more or less damage from specific damage types can be interesting, but they are common enough not to be special. However, if a creature has an unusual reaction to taking a specific kind of damage, that can make things more interesting.
Several of these are a mixed blessing, quite intentionally, but they are also complex enough you likely do want them to count against a creature’s total special abilities, just to keep fights from becoming too complicated. For the same reason, avoid fights with multiple creatures with different damage type reactions. Three Slag Beetles with acid reactions gives PCs a chance to learn how the ability works and plan around it. A fight with one Slag beetle, one Dire Bobcat with a fire reaction, and one Crystal Elemental with a sonic reaction is just a confused mess.
Acid: Target takes double damage from acid, but also partially dissolves into a toxic cloud. It gains a smoke cloud effect like a smoke grenade (which it is immune to) whenever it takes acid damage, and those that fail their save against the smoke also take secondary damage from it as a poison effect. good for creatures covered in hard armor of unusual composition (chitin, plastic, alchemically treated materials, and so on).
Bludgeoning: Creature takes half damage, but it knocked back 10 feet and knocked prone. Good for ephemeral, floating foes and those on narrow, tippy legs.
Cold: For one round target is slowed and becomes hard, but brittle. For that round it’s KAC increase by +2, but it takes extra damage from any kinetic attack that hits equal to its CR. Good for stone, crystal, and strange metal creatures.
Electricity: Target takes 1.5x damage, but is also hasted for 1 round. Great for machines, but also anything with unusual biology, including outsiders, undead, and aberrations.
Fire: Target takes normal damage, but catches on fire. Takes a burn of 1d6 per 5 CR, but also now does fire to melee attackers. Good for dry plant monsters, including fungus, and those covered in oily or greasy substances or thick fur.
Piercing: Target gains a bleed effect equal to half it’s CR in HP/round, but the blood is acidic and does secondary attack damage (Reflex for half) to all targets in reach.
Slashing: Sever part of the target. This acts as a wounding critical, but also turns the severed part into its own monster 4 CR lower than its parent. Great for undead, constructs, plants, and nearly any supernatural threat.
Sonic: Target takes 1.5x damage, but is now vibrating for 1d4 rounds causing attacks against it to suffer a 20% miss chance.

Intimidating Surprise: The creature has some kind of attack or transformation that is unexpected. Perhaps it looks like a typical snake, but can unhinge its jaw and make a sonic attack. Or it looks like a typical steam engine, but transforms into an iron golem. Or its melee attacks are accompanies by lightning and thunder strikes.
The first time this transformation or surprise attack takes place in a combat, the creature can make a free Intimidate check to demoralize the closest foe. Character who are warned about it but haven’t experienced it have the DC to be demoralized increased by +5. Those who have experienced it before have the DC increased by +10. After 2-3 such encounters, characters are likely immune.

RWW jawsnake
(art by Dina)

Melee Awkward: A melee awkward creature simple isn’t designed to deal with foes that are right up against it. Imagine a Martian tripod with no tentacles to defend it, or a floating gun platform, or even a tank or giant acid-spitting pillbug. Melee attacks against a melee awkward target gain a +2 bonus, and if it has melee attacks of its own (most don’t) they suffer a -2 penalty. Making a creature melee awkward normally goes along with giving it some benefit or special ability that doesn’t count against its normal maximum number of such abilities.

One-Weapon Reach: The creature has more reach with one weapon or natural attack than all its others. This can be especially fun if the weapon is weaker and less accurate than it’s primary attacks, but has MUCH more reach. Consider doing 20-30 feet of reach, but make the attack the secondary attack of a creature 3 CR lower. Works best with solo foes or those used in no more than 2 per encounter, otherwise there is simply no place for PCs to go to avoid reach, and rather than be an interesting tactical choice this just becomes a constant annoyance.

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Making Interesting Monsters in Really Wild West (For Starfinder)

You don’t want foes you write up for Really Wild West (or any Starfinder game) to just be sacks of Hit Points with attack rolls. You want to make them interesting. One option for an interesting monster is to give it unusual strengths and weaknesses. You shouldn’t do this for every monster, but it’s a good choice for major foes that are a linchpin of an adventure (even if the adventure is just a sub-section of a bigger quest).

With Starfinder, you can design a plan for a monster by picking it’s array, type, and a few mandatory and optional special abilities. Then, you can aply those to an array at any CR to get themonster you need.

Here’s an example: the whistler.

Whistlers are undead combatants.

Every whistler has mark of the moment, which we don’t count against their total number of special abilities because it’s a mixed blessing and has a low DC skill check to identify crucial info about it. Every whistler also has half past dead and full of holes, and has a EAC/KAC 1 lower than normal, so we count all that as as one special ability (20% miss to offset the lowered ACs).

Eerie whistling and gunslinger skills are optional powers. Some whistlers have them, some don’t. Add them if you do a high-enough CR whistler to have the abilities to spare, otherwise ignore them.

Eerie Whistling (Su): Anyone within 100 ft/CR of a whistler is affected by its eerie whistling sound, made by wind passing through it’s incomplete body, and must make a Will save or be shaken. Creatures remain shaken while within line of effect, but may make a new Will save at the beginning of each round. A success save ends the shaken effect, and the creature is immune to being shaken by that whistler for 24 hours. This is a sense-dependent, mind-affecting, fear effect.

Full of Holes (Su): A whistler’s body is incomplete. Any attack against it that target’s the whistler’s EAC or KAC has a 20% miss chance, as the attack goes through part of the whistler that is already missing. Force effects ignore this miss chance.

Gunslinger Skills (Ex): Many whistler’s were expert gunslingers. For some reason, the grit of a gunslinger makes them more likely to become whistlers. A whistler can have gunslinger abilities, using it’s CR as its gunslinger level.

Half Past Dead (Su): When a whistler has taken half or more of its HP it began a fight with, it fades away… for a time. It may be gone for 1d10 rounds (25%), 1d10 minutes (25%), 1d10 hours (25%) or 1d10days (25%). When it returns (anywhere within 1 mile of its last location) it has healed its CR in HP, or has fully healed if it was gone for a day or more.
A whistler being held at bay does not disappear, and if dropped to 0 HP is destroyed.
A whistler bound to a specific place rolls twice to see how long it is gone when at that place, and appears in the shorter timeframe.

Mark of the Moment (Su): Every whistler bears the marks of the moment of its death. Those that died by fire seem burned and partly made of ash, those that dies by piercing damage have holes punched cleanly through them.

Select one damage type that killed the whistler (acid, bludgeoning, cold, electricity, fire, piercing, slashing, or sonic). The whistler is immune to damage of this type, but also fears it. A successful attack that deals that damage doesn’t harm the whistler, but does cause it to target that foe next, and be shaken for 1 round as it reals from the memory of its death. An obvious source of that damage type can be used to hold the whistler at bay, as the Intimidate task.

Mark of the Moment is always the first piece of additional useful information gained by a successful identify creature check, and when exposed to its feared damage type a successful Sense Motive check (DC 10 + 1.5x whistler’s CR) reveals it is shaken by attacks and can be held at bay with obvious sources of such damage.

RWW Whistler

(art by breakermaximums)

Whistlers are among the most feared of the Passed, because they are unpredictable and hard to get rid of. Regions with a whistler are often seen as cursed, and their anger at the living causes them to attack nearly at random. They are named for the hollow whistling sound wind makes as it passed through their perforated bodies.

Here is a sample whistler.

Whistler          CR 3          [COMBATANT]
XP 800, each
NE Medium Undead
Init +4 Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +13
DEFENSE     HP 40
EAC 13; KAC 15
Fort +4; Ref +4; Will +3
Defensive Abilities gunslinger’s dodge, full of holes (20% miss), mark of the moment (fire), undead immunities, unliving
OFFENSE
Speed 40 ft.
Melee burning fist +8 (1d6+5 B and F)
Ranged pistol +11 (1d6+3)
Offensive Abilities eerie whistling (DC 12)
STATISTICS
Str +2; Dex +4; Con –; Int +0; Wis +1; Cha +0
Skills Acrobatics +8, Athletics +8, Intimidate +8
Languages none
SPECIAL ABILITIES
(See above for full descriptions)
Eerie Whistling, Full of Holes, Half Past Dead, Mark of the Moment

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Intimidating in the Really Wild West (for Starfinder)

When you expand a game’s rules to cover specific tropes, you want to make sure you don’t take options that should be available to everyone and make them character-specific or class-specific feats and features. It’s okay if the same trope can be produced using more than one set of game rules (as long as all the options make sense), but you don’t want to end up with only soldiers being able to do something as basic as twirl a pistol.

Or dishearten a frontier town beyond the reach of quick or reliable assistance (a favored tactic of everything from bandits to rakshasa)

And that brings us to Intimidate in the Really Wild West, where the skill has a few additional tasks available.

RWW Mounted Rakshasa

(Art by Дмитрий)

New Intimidate Tasks

Dishearten

Disheartening is showing such superiority that creatures are unwilling to be caught taking action against you, though they certainly won’t move to help you. Disheartening is similar to bullying (and has the same DC), but the effect only brings the target up to indifferent, and the effects last for 1 week, +1 week per 5 you exceed the DC. You can dishearten a target as a full action, normally as a show of force (shooting at someone’s feet to force them to dance, smashing your fist through a wall, lifting someone with one arm, and so on).

You can dishearten a group as an action that takes one minute, but only after disheartening a member of that group. This only functions if no member of the group has a CR that matches or exceeds your own, or the group as a whole has a CR below that of you and your obvious allies.

While disheartened targets are likely to be unfriendly or hostile, but will take no action they believe can be traced back to them, publicly acting indifferent.

At the end of a dishearten duration, the targets can act as their true attitude dictates. However, you can extend a dishearten (the duration of a new check replaces the old duration), or even re-dishearten an individual or group.

RWW Rakshasa head b and w

(art by Helen_F)

Hold at Bay

When dealing with creatures with an Intelligence of 3 or less (modifier of -4 or less) or with no Int score at all, you can’t make threats with words—but you can sometimes still make a threat. If you have something the creature instinctively avoids (fire, for most animals and vermin, for example) as a standard action you can use it to hold the creature at bay. The target must be within line of sight and line of effect, and the DC is 13 + 1.5x the target’s CR. This even works for creatures immune to mind-affecting effects and swarms (the classic scene where the mass of scarabs are kept back with a torch), as long as you have something they can perceive and instinctively avoid. You can use this against a group of similar creatures (that all instinctively avoid the same object), but the DC is increased by 2 per creature beyond the first.

On a successful check, the target creature will not come within 15 feet of you for 1 round. For every 5 by which you exceeded the DC, the range increased by 5 feet. This is a sense-dependent ability.

This task can also be performed against outsiders and undead, but normally requires a source of supernatural dread. This may include holy symbols, depending on the creature. Some special relics may have the power to hold creatures at bay that typical examples of such symbols cannot (such as using the Crystal Ankh of Saint Frasier to hold giants at bay, even though giants are not normally subject to this task).

A successful Recall Knowledge check regarding a creature will normally tell you if a specific object at hand will function to keep them at bay.

PATREON
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Designing Really Wild West/Starfinder Faction Rules

We discussed some organizations for Really Wild West yesterday, and I mentioned we might talk about some rules that cover how players interact with them during the week.  Lots of games have had faction/organization/reputation rules. I want SOMETHING like that for Really Wild West, but I want to keep it simple. So, here’s a first stab.

For these rules, factions and organizations are seen as interchangeable, though a GM might well split that hair more finely for a specific campaign. (For example a single organization might have multiple factions within it, and increasing your reputation with one faction might have no impact on others, or even lower your reputation).

Organizations have the same attitudes as NPCs – Helpful, Friendly, Indifferent, Unfriendly, and Hostile. An organization is normally Indifferent to you unless it has some reason to see you as a threat. This includes people known to strongly support or be members of opposing organizations or factions, though normally not casual supporters. For example, the Religion of Humanity in Porfiriate Mexico is explicitly rationalist, and dismisses all religion as anti-intellectual superstition. Thus a member of the Church of Humanity is likely to be unfriendly to actual priests, and certainly missionaries, from other faiths, though someone who is simply a member of that faith is unlikely to be seen in the same light unless they make a strong point of pushing their beliefs on others.

Those attitudes determine how much help and aid the organization as a whole will extend you (or how much it’ll try to harm you). This is separate from the attitude of specific NPCs, though the two can overlap. Professor Amelia Von Schtat might personally be very fond of you, and do what she can to aid you, but as a Preceptor of the Faustus Society she can’t help that her superiors want you dead.

RealWest-TrainAssault-color-01

Qualifying Events

You can attempt to alter an organization’s attitude toward you, but only with a Qualifying Event. Just talking to a faction, sending them gift baskets, and hanging around spending money in their stores is not enough to actually cause the organization as a whole to think better of you.

Here are some example qualifying events. Most only let you make a check to improve the organization’s attitude towards you once.

Formally joining a faction

Bring a senior member to helpful attitude

Bring a commanding member to helpful attitude.

Performing an impactful service

“Performing an impactful service” normally represents doing something for the faction that is important, more than the faction would expect from you, and something word of gets back to them about. In general to be considered “impactful” the service should be something that takes an investment one step higher than the level of attitude you are trying to bring the organization to. For example, if the Gesellschaft is Indifferent toward you, you’d have to do something noteworthy that only a Friendly character would normally be willing to do in order to make a check to improve the organization’s attitude toward you to Friendly.

Maintenance

It’s true – groups want to know what you have done for them lately. An organization is friendly or helpful to you (or just friendly or helpful if you are a formal member, however that organization determines such things), you must make a Maintenance Check from time to time to keep their attitude toward you at that level. If you fail a Maintenance Check, the organizations attitude toward you is decreased by one step,

Reaction Checks

A Reaction Check is like a Maintenance Check, but it is triggered only by some specific even the organization is aware of. Here are some sample Qualifying Events.

Lose formal membership for the faction.

Fail at an important duty you perform for the faction.

Publicly join an opposing faction.

Perform an impactful service for an opposing faction.

DCs to Come

This is just a sketch of the system I have in mind. I’ll nee to think about what the skill checks and DCs allowed are. I suspect I’ll always allow Diplomacy, but you may sometimes be able to make another skill check appropriate to the organization or your qualifying event. For example if you are trying to make the Faustus Society treat you better, and you have Profession (archaeology), and you undertake an archaeological expedition for them, it makes sense you could make that profession check to improve their attitude.

And if you kill one of their foes, you might even be able to make an attack roll or a raw class level check to improve their attitude.

It’s a work in progress. 😊

PATREON
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Lassos in Really Wild West (for Starfinder)

A lasso is definitely a thematic option for the Really Wild West, but it’s also something that can become unbalanced quickly or weird quickly. Lassos use in the real world to capture cattle is extremely common, but it’s use for anything else in a modern era is equally uncommon. While there were roman gladiatorial laquearius, but it is unclear if they were true gladiators or closer to clowns who fought mock battles. There are records of various groups in antiquity using lassos in combat, but they are neither clear nor common.

So, we need the lasso to be easily and commonly used to bring down big, strong cattle, and to be something you can use in combat but with a great deal more difficulty. We need it’s use to be common among cowboys, and rare among most other people.

I want to avoid using feats to cover this for a couple of reasons. First, it seems unlikely most cowboy builds will consider a feat a reasonable cost to be able to do a core, iconic thing from their concept. Secondly, if someone DOES expend a feat on lassoing, they’ll want to try to use the lasso all the time, rather than when it’s actually the right tool for a an encounter. So, we need to look to the item/weapon design itself to thread this needle of utility.

This is a first stab at such an item, which almost certainly will be adjusted given some playtesting. As a special weapon no one gains proficiency with it automatically from their class, but the “professional” weapon special property (defined in Armor) means anyone with 1 rank in Profession: Cowboy is considered proficient, which seems a reasonable compromise.

RWW lariat

(art by Elena)

2-Handed Special Weapon
Item       Level  Price       Dam    Crit           Range   Bulk   Special
Lasso         1         30            —      Entangle       15 ft.        1       Professional (Cowboy 1 rank)

Lasso
A lasso is a ranged, 2-handed special weapon. A character trained in Survival or Profession: Cowboy can use a lasso to control a creature within 30 feet that has an Intelligence modifier of -3 or less. The DC for this check is 10 + 1.5x the CR of the creature. On a successful check, you control the creature’s movement until the end of your next round. If your check exceed’s the DC by 5 or more, the creature is flat-footed and off-target. If you are adjacent to the creature, exceed the check by 5 or more, and the creature was already flat-footed or off-target, you can bind the creature with the lasso, leaving it helpless.

If proficient with a lasso, you can use it to make grapple checks at range. You gain a +5 bonus to your attack roll if the target has no hands or arms, and a +5 bonus if your target has an Intelligence modifier of -3 or less. Once grappled the target is entangled (with you as the tether) as the weapon special property. If you use a lasso to successfully grapple an adjacent creature that is pinned, you can bind two of their limbs as if using manacles.

A lasso takes half damage from bludgeoning, piercing, cold, and sonic attacks.

Higher-level lassos made of special materials (and thus having higher hardness and HP) may exist.

PATREON
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Sword Saint in Really Wild West (Solarian Alternate Class for Starfinder)

While the Really Wild West is specifically designed to be 100% compatible with the Starfinder RPG rules, that doesn’t mean every concept in Starfinder is a good fit for the reallY Wild West’s setting. Most classes in the core rulebook work fine (soldiers and envoys and operatives, in particular, but as long as they take a wild west/steampunk turn, mechanics, mystics, and technomancers are also good fits). the one really odd-idea-out is the solarian.

Certainly you CAN play a solarian in a RWW game, but the idea is so anchored in modern sci-fi concepts it feels a bit out of place. However, the basic framework of the solarian can be used to build a more in-genre class, such as the sword saint presented below.

SWORD SAINT
The sword saint is a supernaturally-fueled weapon expert alternate class for the solarian, designed specifically for the Really Wild West, but functional in any Starfinder-compatible campaign. Despite the name the sword saint can focus on any weapon, ranged or melee, and may view their supernatural abilities as arcane magic, theosophic metaphysics, or (especially in a GammaFinder campaign) mutant power or psionic ability.

RWW Sword Saint

(art by 9’63 Creation)

Key Ability Score
Str, Dex, Wis, or Cha (select one)

Proficiency
You are proficient with longarms.

Bonded Weapon
Select a basic or advanced melee weapon, small arm, or longarm with which you are proficient to be your bonded weapon. You can change your bonded weapon with 30 days of meditation, or whenever you gain a new sword saint level.

You add your key ability score to your AC against disarm and sunder combat maneuvers directed at your bonded weapon.

You can always spend credits to upgrade your bonded weapon. Pay the difference between your current bonded weapon and a higher-level weapon that becomes your bonded weapon. The new bonded weapon has a maximum item level of your class level +2 or your total character level whichever is higher). (If using this in a Really Wild West campaign, any cost for a 4th level or higher bonded weapon must be paid with renown.)

This replaces solar manifestation.

Battle Stance
At the beginning of each round, weather in or out of combat, you can select a stance – mobile stance or attack stance.

Mobile Stance When you enter a mobile stance, you are considered to be attuned for purposes of mobile stance revelations. While in a mobile stance, you gain a +1 insight bonus to Reflex saves. This bonus increases by 1 for every 9 sword saint levels you have.

Attack Stance When you enter an attack stance, you are considered to be attuned for purposes of attack stance revelations. While in a mobile stance, you gain a +1 insight bonus to damage rolls (including damage rolls for your stellar powers). This bonus increases by 1 for every 6 solarian levels you have.

This replaces stellar mode.

SWORD SAINT REVELATIONS
You learn your first sword saint revelations (crashing wave strike and death blossom) at 1st level, and learn an additional Revelation at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter. Sword saint revelations require you to have a minimum level, and are organized accordingly. Additionally, each is marked as either a mobile stance or an attack stance.

1ST LEVEL
Every sword saint gains the following stellar revelations at 1st level.

CRASHING WAVE STRIKE (SU) [MOBILE STANCE]
When you are in mobile stance, you can expend 1 Resolve Point as a standard action to move up to three times your land speed, and attack any 1 creature with your bonded weapon at any point along that movement. You ignore difficult terrain, and can fly and swim for any part of this movement, though if you are not standing in a space that can support you at the end of the movement, you fall or sink normally. At 9th level you can make two attacks at any two points along this path (though you must select different targets), and at 17th level this becomes three attacks. After you use this Revelation, you cannot expend Resolve Points to fuel revelations until after you expend a Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.

DEATH BLOSSOM (SU) [ATTACK STANCE]
When you are in attack stance, you can expend 1 Resolve Point as a standard action to deal 1d6 damage plus 1d6 additional damage per solarian level, to all creatures within 10 feet of you. A creature that succeeds at a Reflex save takes half damage. This damage is of the same type as your bonded weapon. At 9th level, you can increase the radius to 15 feet, and at 17th level, you can increase the radius to 20 feet. After you use this Revelation, you cannot expend Resolve Points to fuel revelations until after you expend a Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.

You have access to the following revelations as sword saint mobile stance revelations, with the same requirements (including level requirements) as a solarian: [2nd Level] blade in the night, dark matter, gravitic reinforcement, gravity anchor, gravity boost; [6th Level] blazing orbit*, defy gravity, reflection, roiling cloud****,  serpent’s coil, water flowing step****; [10th Level] soul furnace*, stealth warp; [14th Level] gravity shield; [16th Level] superlative nebula.

You have access to the following revelations as sword saint attack stance revelations, with the same requirements (including level requirements) as a solarian: [2nd Level] distracting glare, flare, plasma sheath, stellar rush, ultraviolet pulse’ [6th level] astrologic sense, corona, crush**, crushing force***, draining agony***, glow of life*, luminescent inquisition; [10th Level] gravity well***, solar inferno; [14th Level] sunbolt; [16th Level] superlative constellation.

*This is a mobile stance revelation, despite normally being a photon revelation.

** This is an attack stance revelation, despite normally being a graviton revelation. If your bonded weapon is a melee weapon, you can only use this on targets within reach.

*** This is an attack stance revelation, despite normally being a graviton revelation.

****New revelation, presented below.

Roiling Cloud [6th] You gain a +1 bonus to Reflex saves against area attacks. If you are in mobile stance, and you can get out of an area by moving no farther than your land speed, as a reaction if you succeed at a Reflex save against an area effect you can move to the nearest space that would place you outside the area.

Serpent’s Coil [6th] You gain a +1 bonus to your AC against grapples and attacks with the attach, grab, or swallow whole universal creature rule. If you are in mobile stance, this increases to +1 per 3 sword saint levels.

Water Flowing Step [6th] You do not provoke attacks of opportunity by leaving the first space you move from each round. If you are in mobile stance, none of your movement provokes attacks of opportunity.

Zenith Revelation
Rather than using zenith revelations when fully attuned, you can use a zenith revelation as long as you are in the correct stance. However, this requires the expenditure of a Resolve Point, and once you do so you cannot use another Zenith Revelation until after you have expended a Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest. Crashing Wave Strike and Death Blossom are Zenith Revelations for this purpose.

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Rowdies, for Starfinder (Really Wild West, GammaFinder, FreedomFinder)

The standard system for creation npc opponents in Starfinder is specifically designed to focus on making foes that can last through a fight and work well alone or in groups of 2 or so. It’s simple and easy–a typical encounter for a group of 5th level PCs is CR 5. If you want to combine lower-level challenges the rules cover that as well.

But what is doesn’t do well it let you throw 8-24 foes at the heroes, and have that be a typical encounter. Technical you can through 12 CR 1 creatures at an 8th level party, but truthfully they won’t actually pose any significant threat. And, of course, there are no CR -2 creatures to collect 12 of to challenge a group of 5th level heroes.

So, enter the Rowdy

RWW Rowdy

(art by Warpaintcobra)

Designed specifically for the Really Wild West (and named to be appropriate for that pulp-fantasy-western 1891 setting, though just as usable in standard Starfinder, GammaFinder, or  FreedomFinder campaign), Rowdies are creatures that are less dangerous, and much MUCH less durable, than the core creature they are based on. As a result while they have the game values to be an interesting challenge for PCs, you can use four times as many rowdies in an encounter as the core creature they are based on.

So if you need 4 members of a typical gang to attack the 4th PC’s train as a typical fight, you just add the Rowdy graft to a CR 4 foe and you are all set. If you want to let the 5th-level PCs fight their way past a hoard of 24 staggering undead, slap the Rowdy graft on a CR 0 monster (since 6 CR 0 monsters is a typical CR 5 encounter, 24 CR 0 Rowdies are also a typical encounter).

Rowdies are also useful for backup to a major foe, without overshadowing the foe. If you want a CR 6 encounter to challenge your 5th level heroes, a single CR 4 main foe, and 4 CR 4 rowdies neatly fits the bill.

The mechanical adjustments of the graft are fairly straightforward:

Rowdy Graft
*Reduce initiative bonus by -5, -10, -15, and -20 for the 4 rowdies. (It’s best if they don’t all act at once, but if you need to simplify initiative, you can have them all go with a -12 penalty to their initiative modifier).
*Reduce all attack bonuses by 1.
*Reduce all save DCs by 3.
*Reduce average damage by 50%. (Or close to it. If it’s normally 1d8+7, taking it to 1d4+3 is close enough. Or, just roll normal damage and halve it for each attack).
*Reduce all ACs and saving throw bonuses by 3
*Reduce HP by 75% (round up).
*If the base creature has special attacks or spells with limited uses/day, only one of the four rowdies should use them. If that rowdy is dropped, any remaining uses can apply to a second rowdy (you can track resources in a single place for simplicity).

It’s also important to give PCs an opportunity to recognize a rowdy, since they may well use different tactics and resources when facing them. After all sine the game doesn’t promise players that encounters will be balanced, if you tell players there is a pack of 16 wolves surrounding their camp they may well think this is an encounter they are meant to flee or avoid at any cost.

By the same token, you want to be able to scare players now and then. 🙂

So, anytime PCs successfully make a skill check to identify a creature, and beat the DC by 5 or more, they automatically identify the creature is a Rowdy, in addition to the standard second piece of useful information.

(Editorial Design Note: I first ran into the concept with “Mooks,” from Feng Shui, and later examined some of oddities it could create in a d20 game with the “Minion” rules from 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons. The concept is absolutely not original to me, though I feel I have done my own take on the concept with this Starfinder-compatible versions.
This editorial is not part of the OGL content of this blog.)

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Summoning for GammaFinder and FreedomFinder (Starfinder-compatible)

Yep, another tiered power, appropriate for use as a tiered mutation for GammaFinder, or Power Set for FreedomFinder (both Starfinder-compatible setting hacks).

This is summoning as a power, which for balance purposes is always treated as spell-like, but the player and GM can be flexible with the nature of the power. Perhaps your genetic sorcery extends to summoning daemons… even if you would rather not deal with such creatures. Perhaps you are a fire-manipulator, and the fire elementals you summon are just forms or pyrokenesis. maybe you have a form of technokinesis and technopathy, and can turn anything into servant robots.

We’ll be touching on some of those related powers later, but for now, let’s look as summoning as a tiered power.

PA Phoenix

(art by grandfailure)

Summoning (Sp)
When you first gain the summoning tiered mutation, you must decide what type of creature you summon, from the following list: aeon, agathian, angel, archon, azata, daemon, demon, devil, elemental (select one subtype), fey plane beast, inevitable, protean, robot, or shadow creature. you are not restricted by the normal summoner requirements (you can summon demons even if you are lawful good… you poor soul).
These re summoned as the appropriate summon creature spell, obey you (regardless of alignment difference, though evil creatures will tend toward evil methods unless given orders restricting their options, even of summoned by good-aligned characters), and understand any orders you give.
Summoning grants you upgrades, which are special powers you have with your summoned creatures that acts differently than the summon creature spell. You can select from the upgrades below. Once made, these choices cannot be changed. You cannot select an upgrade more than once unless it says otherwise.
Upgrades:
Broad Summoning: You can select an additional type of creature to summon, and mix and match your summoning to include any of your allowed types.
Communication: You and your summoned creatures have limited telepathy, which only works with each other (but functions regardless of language).
Environmental: Select one environmental graft. You can apply it to any creatures you summon. The creatures gain all the abilities always granted by the graft, and any one of those sometimes granted. A given summoned creature can only have one environmental graft applied to it. You can select this upgrade multiple times. each time, you select a different environmental graft.
Language: Creatures you summon know a single language you know, fo course chocie, and can communicate in this langauge.
Lasting: You can have a single summoned creature be persistent when it is not in combat. However, if it makes an attack or is attacked, forced to make a saving throw, or takes damage, it reverts to having a duration of 1 round/level.
Variable Sizes: You can summon creatures up to one size larger, or two sizes smaller than those normally summoned by the appropriate summon creature spell. This does not impact their stat block or reach, only their actual size.
Tier 1: You can summon creatures (as summon creature I) as a full action once per day.
Tier 2: You gain one upgrade.
Tier 3: Your summoning can now act as creature summoning II. You regain the ability to use this power after you expend Resolve Points to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.
Tier 4: You gain a second upgrade.
Tier 5: Your summoning can now act as creature summoning III. You can now use this ability at any time by expending a Resolve Point. If you use this ability while any previously summoned creatures are still extant, they immediately dissappear.
Tier 6: You gain a third upgrade.
Tier 7: Your summoning can now act as creature summoning IV.
Tier 8: You gain a fourth upgrade. You can now use this spell-like ability as a standard action.
Tier 9: Your summoning can now act as creature summoning V. You gain a fifth upgrade.
Tier 10: Your summoning can now act as creature summoning VI. You gain a sixth upgrade.

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Tiered Incorporeality and Invisibility for GammaFinder and FreedomFinder (Starfinder-compatible)

It’s a double-sized weekday post with TWO tiered powers, appropriate for use as tiered mutations for GammaFinder, or Power Sets for FreedomFinder) both Starfinder-compatible setting hacks).

Incorporeality (Sp)
Tier 1: You can expend 1 Resolve Point to become incorporeal (as the Universal Creature Rule) as a full action once per day. You can be incorporeal for a maximum of 5 rounds, and must take a move action to dismiss it prior to this. This acts as  a spell with a spell level equal to 1/3 your character level.
Tier 2: You can now become incorporeal as a standard action, and end it as part of any other action.
Tier 3: You regain the ability to use this power after you expend Resolve Points to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.
Tier 4: Your ability to become incorporeal is now a supernatural ability (as a result, using it no longer provokes attacks of opportunity).
Tier 5: When you are incorporeal you can now move a single unattended object of up to light bulk with you.
Tier 6: When incorporeal, you can now attack and affect corporeal objects, thought your attacks do only half damage. You can only make one attack each round.
Tier 7: You can now make a normal number of attacks while incorporeal, but still only do half damage. You can now become incorporeal by expending 1 Resolve Point an unlimited number of times.
Tier 8: When you become incorporeal, you can now also make incorporeal an adjacent willing ally (or grabbed helpless creature, or held unattended object, or grappled active foe) and cause them to be incorporeal as well. This takes one free hand. You cannot move to a location where a creature or object you have made incorporeal would be damaged if it became incorporeal while it is with you, and if you stop touching it for any reason the creature or object ceases to be incorporeal.
Tier 9: You now gain the ability to use your land speed to move in any direction while incorporeal, even if there’s no ground there to move on.
Tier 10: You can now become incorporeal without expending a Resolve Point. Once you have done so, you cannot use this power without expending a RP again until after you expend Resolve Points to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.

00 Catfolk - a nice fade - JEB (1)

Invisibility (Sp)
Tier 1: You can become invisible as a full action once per day, as the invisibility spell, with a maximum duration of 5 rounds.
Tier 2: You regain the ability to use this power after you expend Resolve Points to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.
Tier 3: You can now become invisible as a standard action, with a maximum duration equal to 1 round/level.
Tier 4: You can now make a Stealth check as a move action, even when you have no concealment or cover. This Stealth check lasts 1 round, take a -5 penalty, and if you make an attack roll when you have neither concealment nor cover the Stealth immediately ends.
Tier 5: Your invisibility is now treated as a supernatural ability (as a result, using it no longer provokes attacks of opportunity).
Tier 6: You can now also become invisible by expending a Resolve Point to do so.
Tier 7: If you make an attack while invisible, you can now expend a Resolve Point for it to not end your invisibility.
Tier 8: When you are invisible, you can now touch an adjacent willing ally (or grab a helpless creature or unattended object, or grapple an active foe) and cause them to be invisible as well. This takes one free hand. If you make an attack roll as part of this, you must expend a Resolve Point for it to not end your invisibility.
Tier 9: Your invisibility now lasts 1 minute/level. You can now extend your invisibility (as with Tier 8) to one creature per hand you use.
Tier 10: Your invisibility now lasts 10 minutes/level. Making an attack without expending a Resolve Point does not end the invisibility, but instead reduces its duration by 10 minutes. If this would reduce the duration to less than 0, it instead lasts 1 more round.

WANT MORE GAMMAFINDER?! OR FREEDOMFINDER?
I now depend on my Patreon for more of my income and support than I ever expected to. If you find any value in my blog posts or videos, I could use help with the Patreon. If you can spare a few bucks a month, it’s a huge help. If not, even just sharing and linking to my blogs, videos, and the Patreon itself is a huge help that just takes a moment of your time.

Thanks, everyone.