Category Archives: Game Design

Developing to Spec (Part 5): Corner Cases (with Starfinder Missing Legacy Feats)

This is Part Five of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints. The point of these is to offer practical examples of how I approach developing and writing supplemental rules for tabletop RPGs. Rather than just blather on about things as I think of them, I go over issues as I encounter them in a real-world example.

The goal of this project is to create the “Missing Starfinder Legacy Feats,” a Starfinder-compatible version of every feat in the PF core rulebook that doesn’t have an SF match. (We discussed the impact of having to do that, whether that’s a good idea or not, in Part One.)

You can find previous entries here — Part One , Part Two, Part Three, Part Four — or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

We’ve tackled a lot of PF feats that would be useless or annoying if translated directly into Starfinder, using methods ranging from exploring alternate design spaces within the same rule systems to creating brand-new benefits that are at most vaguely conceptually connected to their PF versions. Today we get one really easy feat — Arcane Strike — and one really difficult one — Armor Proficiency (Medium).

Let’s start with the easy one.

While Arcane Strike doesn’t exist in Starfinder the core concept–take an extra action, do extra damage, actually works just fine. Even the scaling of +1 damage, going up to +5 at 20th level, it okay. There are only really three issues. First, if we leave it a swift action, you could use Arcane Strike and the boost special weapon property in the same attack on the same weapon, and unlike PF, Starfinder has lots of multiple-target, area-affect weapons. Those two things together (use a swift and a move to add Arcane Strike and boost to an area effect weapon) are “corner cases” — they don’t apply to the most common types of attacks — but the result in those cases might be too good to just translate the feat directly.

However, if we switch the swift action of PF Arcane Strike to a move action for the Starfidner version, we prevent double-dipping, and essentially have a simple version of boost spellcasters can add to the area weapons they tend to be proficient with.

The third issue, which is a bit less of a corner case, is that operative melee weapons and small arms already have some significant enhancers within the game. So much so that they are limited to smaller damage dice and half the damage bonus from Weapon Specialization. Which suggests half the benefit of an extra action will cover that issue.

So:

ARCANE STRIKE (Combat)
You draw upon your mystic power to enhance your weapons with magical energy.
Prerequisite: Ability to cast spells as a class feature.
Benefit: As a move action, you can imbue your weapons with a fraction of your power. For 1 round, your weapons deal +1 damage and are treated as magic for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction and damaging incorporeal creatures. For every five caster levels you possess, this bonus increases by +1, to a maximum of +5 at 20th level. If the weapon is an operative melee weapon or small arm, it gains half the normal damage bonus (minimum +1).

And that brings us to Armor Proficiency (Medium). Which doesn’t exist in Starfinder… because Starfinder doesn’t have medium armor. If ever there was a case to go back to your theoretical boss and ask for an exception to the rule that every feat in the PF core rulebook has to be given a Starfinder equivalent, this is it!

So, let’s assume they said no. You HAVE to include this feat. What are our options.

Well, you could add medium armor to Starfinder. But if we compare the weight of those rules to the benefit for a single feat, it’s clearly not worth it.

That leaves us in a pickle. There’s no good design space, and there’s no justification to create a new design space just for this one feat. So, how do we fulfill our mandate that REQUIRES us to include this feat?

If you can’t make something that’s awesome, at least try to make something that isn’t harmful.

In this case, we clearly need something that’s better than just light armor proficiency, but not the same as heavy armor proficiency. We could do something that gives you some of the benefit of heavy armor proficiency, but not all of it. But then we need to add at least some minor additional benefit, because otherwise you could just grab Heavy Armor Proficiency. So we could let you use powered armor too, though not to its full benefit. And then we’d have to detail what happens if you DO become fully proficient with heavy armor…

Sigh. It’d be so much easier to just not do this, but a remit is a remit.

ARMOR PROFICIENCY (MEDIUM) (Combat)
You have some training with heavy and powered armor, but have not mastered them completely.
Prerequisite: Proficiency with light armor.
Benefit: You can use heavy and powered armor as if you were proficient with it, but take a -2 penalty to all attack rolls you make while doing so. You are not considered to be proficient in heavy or powered armor for purposes of any prerequisite.
Special: If you gain proficiency in heavy armor and have a base attack bonus of +5 or more, this instead becomes Powered Armor Proficiency.

That’s… not terrible. If you lack the Strength minimum needed for heavy armor but really wanted to wear it and didn’t care too much about attacks, it could be useful. Or, if you have a feat that you WANT to use to get Powered Armor Proficiency but can’t because you don’t have the needed base attack bonus yet, you could take this and then upgrade when you can. Those are also corner cases–most characters won’t fall into those categories–but since anyone else can just ignore this feat, that qualifies for not doing anything harmful to the game balance.

PATREON
Like all my blog posts, this is brought to you by the wonderful patrons of my Patreon! If you want to see more of these types of instructional how-I-do-the-work-of-a-professional-RPG-developer, or any other of my kinds of content, please join my Patreon to support their creation and let me know what you want to see!

Developing to Spec: Judging Rule Weight (with Starfinder Missing Legacy Feats) (Part 3)

This is Part Three of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints. You can find Part One here, Part Two here, hop ahead to Part Four, or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

So last week in the first two parts we discussed what to do if you have a developer/writer job to take on you don’t think is a great idea, and how to work to make it a great idea. To serve as our examples, we’re creating the “Missing” legacy feats for Starfinder, taking every PF Core Rulebook feat that doesn’t have a feat by the same name in SF, and writing a new version.

And now we are up to Alignment Channel. And that deserves a discussion on rules weight.

Rules weight is my own term for the impact a rule has on the ease, flow, and fun of a game. Rules weight isn’t necessarily bad — a good “heavy” rule that opens up lots of concepts and play space can be worth the time it takes players and GMs to learn, understand, and apply it. For example, the fact that kinetic attacks target Kinetic Armor Class and energy attacks target Energy Armor Class in Starfinder has a fair amount of rules weight behind it. Not only does that core concept need to be understood, but it impacts things such as changing the damage type of an attack not changing what it targets, needing to be careful to note if bonuses apply to all AC in general or just EAC, and so on. But it also opens up interesting design space, such as allowing energy weapons to in general do a bit less damage, but be more accurate. It’s design weight is worth the benefits.

OTOH, I was once developing a trap a freelancer had written that added complex rules on how much you failed a disarm attempt varying the amount of damage the trap did, and how much applied to the contents, and had a sidebar to explain the whole thing. It was balanced and made sense. It was also in an adventure, used only once, and unlikely to ever becomes a standard rule subset for that game system. When GMs ran into it, they’d have to learn a whole subsystem just to run a single element of one encounter. No matter how much it made sense, the rules weighed too much for their benefit to the game. I changed it to a flat amount of damage if you failed a disable check badly enough.

I mention all that, because Alignment Channel in Pathfinder is its own rulesubsystem, with its own weight, that lots of different things tie into and multiple classes can access. In Starfinder, we instead have only the healing channel class feature of the mystic, and it’s single augmenting feat, Harm Undead.

So we COULD introduce a whole, broad set of energy channeling rules and ways for various classes to access them and try to build the concept into something as robust as the Pathfinder version… or we can just borrow from Harm Undead and keep things working in a way Starfinder players who might interact with these should understand.

In this case, I think the latter choice is much smarter.

ALIGNMENT CHANNEL
You can use your healing channel to harm creatures with a specific alignment subtype.
Prerequisites: Healing channel connection power, mystic level 1st.
Benefit: Select one of the following alignment subtypes: chaos, evil, good, law. Your alignment cannot include any aspect of the selected subtype. When you use your healing channel, you can expend a mystic Spell slot of the highest level you can cast to also deal damage equal to the amount you heal to all foes in the area with the selected subtype. The foes can attempt a Will save for half damage, at your usual connection power DC.

And that brings us to Animal Affinity, which has similar issues as Acrobatic, which we discussed back in Part One of this series. We could just look for ways to expand the Survival skill when dealing with animals (since it covers both Handle Animal and Ride in Starfinder, the two things Animal Affinity gives bonuses to), or we could  investigate what design space might be available.

The third Starfinder Alien Archive has companion creature rules. These obviously have a good deal more rules weight to them than just adding some benefit to the use of a skill, but that weight opens up a whole range of new character concepts, and the rules are optional and open to any character. As long as we write rules that doesn’t add much more weight on top of the creature companion rules, and won’t be encountered outside of them, this may create a more interesting option for players.

ANIMAL AFFINITY
You can easily direct an animal you have taken as a companion.
Prerequisites: Creature companion of the animal type.
Benefit: As part of any standard or full action you take, you can also grant an action to your animal creature companion as if you had taken a standard action to do so. You cannot do this the same round you use any other action to grant your creature companion another action. Once you have used this ability, you cannot do so again until you have expended Resolve Points to regain Stamina Points after a 10-minute rest.

Which brings us to Arcane Armor Mastery… which has it’s OWN set of problems, and we’ll tackle them tomorrow!

PATREON
Like all my blog posts, this look inside my development process is brought to you by the wonderful patrons of my Patreon! Want more of this content? Want to suggest specific game systems, topics, of kinds of articles? Join my Patreon and let me know what you want to see!

Developing to Spec: Starfinder Missing Legacy Feats (Part 2)

This is Part Two of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints. You can find Part One here, or hop ahead to future posts (Part Three, Part Four), or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

So yesterday in Part One we discussed what to do if you have a developer/writer job to take on you don’t think is a great idea, and how to work to make it a great idea.

To serve as our example, we’re creating the “Missing” legacy feats for Starfinder, taking every PF core rulebook feat that doesn’t have a feat by the same name in SF, and writing a new version.

So far, we’ve done Acrobatic and Acrobatic Steps (see part One for a detailed discussion of that).

And now, we have to tackle Agile Maneuvers.

In PF, this feat allows you to use your Dexterity when calculating your CMB (combat maneuver bonus). Our problem? In Starfinder, we don’t USE CMB, and we don’t want to give bonuses to combat maneuvers based on Dexterity, because there are already ways for a character to do that.

So, again, we need a different benefit with the same name and a similar niche. So, we need to read the rules again.

Going over combat maneuvers in Starfinder, we see they are a standard action. That’s it, no way to make multiple combat maneuvers as part of a full attack. Well, okay then! Let’s run with that as a place to make our new feat. (This kind of “place where the rules leave room to do multiple different kinds of things that are balanced and interesting” is sometimes referred to by game professionals as a game’s or concept’s “design space.”)

So let’s see what that might look like.

AGILE MANEUVERS
You’ve learned to leverage your quickness when attempting complex maneuvers in combat.
Benefit: When you take a full attack action, you can make a melee combat maneuver in place of one or more of your attacks. The combat maneuver takes the same penalties to its attack roll from being part of a full attack as the attack it replaces would, as well as any normal bonuses or penalties related to being a combat maneuver.

So, this is designed to only work in melee (on purpose–ranged combat maneuvers are rare but already a big advantage over melee combat maneuvers, and giving characters who focus on melee in Starfinder new options generally has less impact on the play space, and encourages creative and mobile tactics). It also works with abilities that improve your accuracy when making multiple attacks in a round (which is good–combat maneuvers are hard enough unless you’re a specialized taclash-wielding skittermander), but doesn’t break any of the game’s underlying combat math.

That brings us to Alertness as a feat… which has the same problems as Acrobatics as an unneeded feat in Starfinder. So, again, we need to read the relevant section of the Starfinder rules to look for a new design space, and that runs us right into the states of awareness. Which seems ripe with design space, but…

Here’s one of the places where being aware of the issues found in a game as it is played is important. The states of awareness already confuse, confound, and annoy a lot of GMs and players. We CAN build on it if we need to — it’s a functional and official part of the rules — but it’d be better if we can find some design space more easily utilized by a bigger portion of the target audience.

(Full disclosure–I helped with those states of awareness rules. Mea culpa. A rewrite is something I keep thinking about… but not for this project.)

So, time to do a search for “Perception Checks” and “Sense Motive.”

There are rules on Perception while asleep. It’s not much, but it’s not nothing. Having an alertness ability mean you don;t take -10 to Perception checks certainly feels appropriate. Sense Motive has an option to sense mental effect, which normally takes a minute. Allowing that to be done in one round might not be bad–but it also might spoil adventures specifically designed to make sure you can’t interact with someone for a full minute. We can cut it down to half a minute maybe, but that’s not much of a benefit, even coupled with the sleep benefit. Similarly, adventures can be ruined if it’s too easy for a character to call out a lie.

But there ARE less adventure-ruining used for Sense Motive, to oppose Bluff uses such as diversion, feint. While we normally don’t want to play with the math in Starfinder, if it is tightly limited to specific events, it can work.

So, our new Alertness.

ALERTNESS
You often notice things that others might miss.
Benefit: When asleep, you take only a -2 penalty to perception checks, rather than the normal -10. Additionally, you gain a +5 bonus to Sense Motive checks to oppose Bluff checks to create a distraction, and your Sense Motive bonus is treated as 5 higher for Bluff checks made to feint.

And that brings us to Alignment Channel, which, woof.

But we’ll tackle it next week!

PATREON
Like all my blog posts, this is brought to you by the wonderful patrons of my Patreon! Want more of this content? Want to suggest specific game systems, topics, of kinds of articles? Join my Patreon and let me know what you want to see!

And every little bit helps. Even if you can’t support me with just dollar a month right now, you can share the link to my Patreon with your friends, and on social media. I promise, it makes a difference. https://patreon.com/OwenKCStephens

Developing to Spec: Starfinder Missing Legacy Feats (Part 1)

This is Part One of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints. You can find other entries (Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part NinePart Ten, Part Eleven), or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

The point of these is to offer practical examples of how I approach developing and writing supplemental rules for tabletop RPGs. “Developing to Spec,” as it were. Rather than just blather on about things as I think of them, I go over issues as I encounter them using a specific Starfinder-related project as a real-world example.

The job of a freelance game developer (or writer) isn’t always to do the thing you think is the best, or the most fun. Sometimes, it’s to do the best, most fun version of the thing you are being paid to create. You may think that core idea is a bad one, but if you agree to do the job, you are agreeing to fulfill its design goals. You can (and should) suggest the design goals might not be good ones (you are being paid for your opinions and talents, by all means be a strong advocate for your opinion), but in the end the people paying you deserve to get what they ask for if they aren’t convinced by you.

And there absolutely CAN be good business reasons to do a product that has a concept that isn’t the most fun, or more useful addition to a game. If you have moral or ethical objections to that concept, the right answer is to refuse to do it at all. If you just think it’s not a great idea, and you agree to do it, your task is to make the best version of that product you can.

Sometimes, the results can surprise you.

So, let’s look at some concrete examples of developing an idea that, at least at first blush, isn’t fun or smart.

Let’s do the Starfarer Missing Legacy Feats.

Here’s our remit: Create Starfinder-compatible versions of all the feats that are in the PF Core Rulebook, but not in the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

There are some obvious issues here. the two games are different, despite sharing a lot of the same DNA. And many feats are “missing” because they’ve been simplified or replaced. In fact, we run into this issue with the VERY first “missing” Legacy feat: Acrobatic.

Acrobatic is one of the PF feats that gives you +2 to two skills: Acrobatics and Fly. There’s no need for that feat in Starfinder, because Skill Synergy covers it and more. (And the skill DC math is different, the bonus structure is different, and there’s no Fly skill, and… lots of reasons, but Skill Synergy is the most obvious).

So, we are required to have an Acrobatic feat, and it’s a terrible idea for it to do the same thing. So, as a developer or writer where do we start? Well, I always like to go read the rules we’re dealing with, so it’s time to read Starfinder’s Acrobatics skill.

Here we see the skill has 4 tasks: balance, escape, fly and tumble. We don;t want to give numerical bonuses to any of those (because that would interefere with the balance of skill DCs in the game), and we want to give benefits that feel ‘acrobatic,’ and apply to both being acrobatic and flying.

Looking at fly first, we see you normally have to take a move action to hover, or if you have perfect maneuverability you can do it without making a check, or as a swift action if you make a check. But taking a swift action still prevents a full action in Starfinder. So, here’s a place we could have a benefit — allow you to hover as if you had perfect maneuverability even if you don’t, and allow you to hover without using any action without making a check if you do have perfect maneuverability.

So, that means we need some similar benefit for one or more of balance, escape, and tumble.

With balance, you need to make a check if you take damage, so we could allow someone with this feat to ignore that requirement.. but that’s pretty corner-case so more is needed. Escape is a standard action, or a minute for restraints, so we could make that faster. Tumble requires you to not be encumbered… but that makes sense. It also requires you to move at half speed as a move action, so there’s a place we can give some benefit for the feat.

And as a last step, we need to check all other feats and class abilities to make sure none of them already do the things we are now considering making feat benefits.

Then, we pull the whole thing together, as follows:

ACROBATIC
You are particularly talented at balancing, flying, and tumbling.
Benefit: When using the Acrobatics skill for the following tasks, you gain the listed advantages.
Balance: You do not have to make a skill check to maintain your balance if you take damage.
Escape: You can attempt to escape from a grapple or pin as a move action. You can attempt to escape from restraints in half the normal time.
Fly: If you do not have perfect maneuverability, you can attempt to hove as if you did have perfect maneuverability. If you do have perfect maneuverability, you can hover without making a check and without taking an action to do so.
Tumble: You can make an Acrobatics check to tumble as part of any action in which you move, and do not have to move at half speed to do so.

So those are all situational, minor benefits–but there are four of them, they are all linked to the same skill, and none of them alter the balance of skill check math in the game. Overall, not a bad feat!

Next comes Acrobatic Steps… which is built on Nimble Moves. Starfinder has a feat called Nimble Moves, which is better than PF’s Acrobatic Steps, but our remit requires us to create Acrobatic Steps, so…

ACROBATIC STEPS
You can easily move over and through obstacles.
Prerequisites: Dex 15, Nimble Moves
Benefit: As long as you are not encumbered or overburdened, you ignore the effects of difficult terrain.

Which brings us to Agile Maneuvers, which has a similar, but potentially more complex set of issues. Which we’ll tackle tomorrow!

PATREON
Like all my blog posts, this is brought to you by the wonderful patrons of my Patreon! Want more of this content? Want to suggest specific game systems, topics, of kinds of articles? Join my Patreon and let me know what you want to see!

 

Shield Traits for Pathfinder 2e

One of the unified systems in the second edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is a set of weapon traits that make specific fighting styles work differently from one another without having to depend on special class features or unique rules that apply to only a single weapon.

That same idea can easily be applied to shields, allowing all the common shield types and options to apply to some of the specific kinds of shields that evolved in the real word to meet specific fighting styles’ needs.

For example here are to Applied Kite Traits, designed to be applied to several different types of shields, allowing specific shields used by cavalry forces in the real word to function without special class features or skill uses.

A shield can only have one Applied Kite Trait, and that trait must be selected when the shield is crafted.

Bouche: A bouche shield has a series of ridges and notches along the top and one side that allow a mounted wielder to brace a lance on the shield. While wielding a bouche shield, you gain access to the set lance action.

A buckler, wooden or steel shield can have the bouche trait. This increases the cost by 1 gp, and reduces hardness by 1.

Set Lance [1 Action]: The next attack you make with a lance before the end of your turn does damage dice as if you were holding the lance 2-handed. You must be mounted and be wielding a lance in one hand to take this action.

Shield Bouche Bouch Shield

Kite: A kite shield has a wide, rounded top and tappers down to a point. It is a long shield, normally running 3/4 to 4/5 the height of the user.

When you take the Raise a Shield action with a kite shield while mounted, your mount also benefits from the increase to AC. If you have access to the Shield Block reaction, you can use it to defend your mount from a physical attack, rather than only when you would take damage from a physical attack.

A wooden, steel, or tower shield can have the kite trait. This increases the cost by 1 gp, and increases the bulk by 1.

Kite Shield Kite Shield

PATREON
Like all my blog posts, this is brought to you by the wonderful patrons of my Patreon! Want more of this content? Want to suggest specific game systems, topics, of kinds of articles? Join my Patreon and let me know what you want to see!

Heightened Spellbook: New Spell Options for PF2

One of the interesting things Pathfinder second edition has done is have a uniform set of rules for casting spells at higher spell levels. Many spells end up taking niches similar to lesser- and greater- versions from the first edition by having a set of effects that get better as you access higher-level versions of the spell.

Of course not every Pathfinder Second Edition spell has heightened benefits… but they all COULD.

So, I’m beginning to look at ways to add heightened effects to PF2 spells that currently don’t have them. For the moment, I’m starting at the beginning of the alphabet and just seeing how far I get, doing just a few each day.

Later these may all get compiled into a pdf, and backers of my Patreon at every level will certainly have compiled access to them eventually, as well as having the similar rules for focus spells I am posting exclusively on my Patreon pages.

I don’t want to duplicate the fine work other people have done compiling the base rules online (such as the PF2 SRD and the Archives of Nethys), so I’ll just list the spell, and it’s new heightened rules.

So, let’s get started with the Heightened Spellbook!

ABYSSAL PLAGUE     Spell 5
Heightened (+2) Targets increases to +1 additional creature adjacent to the touched creature; disease level increases by +2.

AIR BUBBLE     Spell 1
Heightened (+1) Targets increases by +1; duration is doubled (x2 at 2nd level, x4 at 3rd level, etc.)

AIR WALK     Spell 4
Heightened (+2) Targets increases to +1 additional creature adjacent to the touched creature; duration is doubled (x2 at 6th level, x4 at 8th level, etc.)

ALTER REALITY     Spell 10
Heightened (+1) Level of spells you can duplicate in each category increases by +1.
(Note: You’ll need some rules for 11th level spells to use this one, but if you’re using spells from some rando’s blog, who knows what other optional spells you’ve adopted?)

ANIMAL MESSENGER     Spell 2
Heightened (2nd) Animal messenger will bring a message or light Bulk item back to you, as if the recipient has also cast this spell.
Heightened (+1)
 Range and duration is doubled for each time you add this heightened effect.

00 Dragon and Wizard - RetroPunk

Art (c) RetroPunk, used under license

Like with all my blog posts, this is brought to you by the wonderful patrons of my Patreon!

This is specifically supported by the Open Gaming Store, which currently has a HUGE mega-bundle sale going on if you want lots of material for only a few gp!

Writing Basics: The First Draft

Your first draft doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

Yes, there’s a time and place where you need to be able to share your ideas with editors, developers, playtesters, and so on.

And, yes, it’s worth reading up on how other people draft and outline and process their work, to see if those techniques are useful to you.

But your FIRST draft doesn’t have to be anything more than a starting point. I, at least, never worry too much about what the final product is going to be when starting my first draft. I throw ideas at the page, and see what sticks. Often I have half-finished sentences I abandon because my brain finds something better.

Maybe you work that way. Maybe you don’t.

Just don’t let concern about your first draft being *right* sideline you from WRITING.

You can fix, change, revise anything you want in a second draft.

But only if the first draft happens.

#101Mimics, the First Fifty!

Last month I spent some time on social media thinking up 101 unusual options and encounters for mimics, under hashtag  #101MIMICS.  Was it a good idea to take time to write up 101 ideas for unusual encounters with mimics? Well, you’re reading this, aren’t you?!

So if you want to hunt down all 101 mimics, they are still available on my Facebook and Twitter. But here are the first 50 of them, to give you a good chunk of mimic all in one place.

My Patreon backers get even more! All my mega-patrons will get a PDF in a few days that has all my free content from September, including the 101 Mimics, but I also wanted to compile these in one post for anyone interested in them. So all my patrons have access to a Patreon post with 101 Mimics, plus I added ONE more mimic encounter idea as a bonus, at the end of that post!

So if you want more mimics (and similar material as time goes on), go join my Patreon!

#101MIMICS

  1. Mimic as the keystone in an arch (build by mimic minions). When it attacks and jumps free not only it there a bitey mimic, the room’s ceiling collapses on you.
  2. Mimic treasure map. The mimic pretends to be a treasure map that leads you to am ambush of the mimic’s allies. The mimic changes this location as needed to keep the news from getting out.
  3. Mimic bandage. It just quietly drinks your blood when you wrap it around your wound.
  4. Mimic haute couture. The mimic rents itself out to be brand-new, impossible-without-living-cloth high-end outfits and shoes that fit perfectly, match your coloration, hair, and jewelry, and you don’t have to put in a closet after wearing once. Hourly or daily rates available.
  5. Mimic rope. It waits until you are using it in a life-or-death situation, then extorts you with greater payment or it withdraws its (literal) support.
  6. Mimic golem: Easiest to pretend to be a wood golem or clay golem. You think it’s a construct, but it’s actually an aberration, giving it a distinct tactical advantage.
  7. Mimic rock at edge of common rest-stop campsite. Look, people are SUSPICIOUS of treasure chests these days, but no one looks twice at a rock that happens to be near where their head is going to be when they sleep.
  8. Mimic false bottom of a chest. Go ahead, check the chest for signs it’s a mimic all you want. then, once you are inside and your guard is done, and you get excited you’ve spotted a false bottom…
  9. Mimic hanging tapestry. May rent itself out to high-end castles as a magic every-changing tapestry that also shouts an alarm when people find the concealed door behind it, or may drop down on unsuspecting adventurers looking behind it for a concealed door. Or both.
  10. Mimic trash-can private investigator. You can learn a LOT about someone by sorting through their trash, and if they give it to you there’s no expectation of privacy.
  11. Mimic Spike at the Bottom of a Pit. If you fall into the pit and still look fine, it ignores you as too tough to handle. If you fall into the pit and seem badly injured or incapacitated…
  12. Mimic bookcase wizard. People have been placing powerful and dangerous books on it in the forbidden section of the library for decades.
  13. Mimic altar. Honestly, a faithful devotee of a god that has decided to serve as an altar. Of course, if you come to DESECRATE that temple…
  14. Mimic Kitchen Table. Mostly just eats scraps when no one is looking. But may be in trouble since it is now so fat, it doesn’t really fit in the same space anymore…
  15. Mimic Mirror in a Vampire’s Employ. Look, some vampires care how they look!
  16. Mimic Siege Tower. Always the right size and shape to reach the top of a wall, able to become a bridge to get over a moat, and able to be healed or buffed against fire with “1 target” spells.
  17. Mimic Wagon. Mostly lets your draft animals pull it along (while it dozes off), but for an extra fee and turn into a boat to cross rivers, walk itself out of mud, and so on.
  18. Mimic Wine Barrel. Takes a nip now and then, but mostly stays sober so it can eat the occasional vagrant that wonders by late at night, who no one will miss.
  19. Mimic Wishing Well. I mean, people just THROW money into it! Why risk combat when you can get paid to sleep, then go buy any food you want later?
  20. Mimic Coffin. Sneak into undertaker’s (or cut deal with them). Get corpse placed indie me. Eat it. Dig my way out of grave, making people panic about ghouls. Sneak back to undertaker’s.
  21. Mimic Iron Maiden. Torturers put people in me, I drink their blood, and they are kept alive to go back into me again and again.

Mimic smuggler. Can look like any crate, fake any needed seals or markings, hide among other crates and shuffle from warehouse to warehouse and hold to hold as needed.

  1. Mimic roulette wheel. Doesn’t detect as magic or illusion, but can still make sure the house gets more than its cut (or, if smuggled in as a ringer, it’s partner can take a huge bite out of the house).
  2. Mimic Spymaster Confessional. Look, if there’s a place people are going to just whisper their secrets anyway…

(Lots of other Mimic Spy possibilities, too.)

  1. Mimic sleeping bag guard hireling. Hires itself out to protect travelers. It can sleep during the day, eat all your leftovers, and quietly watch over you while you sleep at night, while being the perfect size and warmness for you.
  2. Mimic is a single wheel in a rented wagon. It can thus “fall off” at any time to make the wagon vulnerable to ambush, and attack from inside the defensive perimeter once the ambush begins.
  3. Mimic weapon rack. With luck, you disarm yourself and give it your weapons before the fight starts, and it’s certainly armed.
  4. Mimic as obviously trapped secret door. Everyone moves away from the rogue in case the trap goes off, leaving the rogue alone with the mimic.
  5. Mimic table in room convicts meet with lawyers. Might be spy for illicit law enforcement, or might be enforcer for the thieves’ guild ensuring people keep their yap shut.
  6. Mimic cloak. Rules a gang of cloakers who think it is a highly evolved version of themselves.
  7. Tiny mimic sheath for dueling rapier. One of two. Everything seems fine when your foe selects one of them, but once the fight starts, the mimics don’t let your foe even draw his weapon.
  8. Mimic fishing pole. Mostly works as advertised, but when hungry just eats a fish which you think is “one that got away.”
  9. Mimic emulating a corpse. When it starts moving and eating things, everyone thinks it’s an undead. But it’s not.
  10. Mimic big overstuffed chair. Is a consulting detective, but keeps hiring someone to sit in the chair and play the public role of detective, so no one suspects their cases are being solved by a mimic listening in.
  11. Mimic crystal ball. Works with fake psychic to show clients what they want to see, but can’t actually tell the future.
  12. Mimic workbench. Friend and ally to renowned craftsman, acts as his guard and assistant, moving tools to be in reach as needed.
  13. Mimic guillotine psychopath. Just wants to kill people, so as long as the revolution feeds its bloodshed, acts like a guillotine. If anyone tries to reign in the mob rule, sneaks out to kill that person.
  14. Mimic crossbow. Works with its hunter. Loads itself, can even fire itself as needed.
  15. Mimic printing press. Always well informed, and can tweak things it prints to move its own narrative or plots forward.
  16. Mimic sail. Self-trimming, self-furling, heals if damaged, and can help defend the ship if attacked.
  17. Mimic lump of clay. Works with fake sculptor to allow the sculptor to appear to be a great artist, then sneaks off with sculptor once a commission is paid.
  18. Mimic high-end furniture from antique store. Gets bought and placed in rich house. Waits to see where their valuables are. Steals them blind while antique dealer has alibi. Sneaks back to look like different high-end furniture at shop.
  19. Mimic banker’s or merchant’s scale. Check for false weights and magic all you want, it can still claim your valuable are 1-2% lighter than they really are, getting its merchant partner an extra profit margin.
  20. Mimic rock full of veins of gold and silver. Sits in a mine its partner wants to sell. Makes sure the potential buyer “happens” to see it, still wedged into the wall. Great for cycling through multiple played out mines.
  21. Mimic pile of hay. Only good for some seasons, but great way to hide in plain sight, and local children often sneak off to play near you, making them easy targets.
  22. Mimic outhouse. Perfect for catching prey with their paints down.
  23. Mimic dressmaker’s dummy. Can be the exact size and shape (and even weight) the dressmaker needs, often happy to work for scraps of cloth (leather, cotton, and other biomass). Plus, gets to feel like a pretty, pretty mimic.
  24. Mimic periscope. Fits in any shape, crack, or around any corner, can show you what it sees, and even report on what it hears.
  25. Mimic game table. Can play chess with you, or help you subtly cheat against others.
  26. Mimic elevator. Crawls up and down (and even sideways) though the large castle, giving easy access quickly in return for a fair daily wage.

My Patreon: The Silver Lining

Well, you crazy folks did it. You pushed my Patreon over the $714 mark, my first monthly GOAL, which I have had since 2016, and never gotten closer than halfway before now.

So, I can now (starting today), “budget a guaranteed amount of time into my freelance schedule, allowing me to post at least one 750-word or longer piece of setting or fiction material every Monday, and 2 microrules (Microfeats, Spell Tweets, or similar very-short RPG rule ideas) every Tuesday-Friday.”

I also need to figure out my next goals. Sure, bringing in $1500/month to support my random writings seems impossible–but then $714 always felt like a stretch as well. More news on that soon.

Obviously I am extremely grateful to my backers, new and pre-existing, and everyone who has boosted, linked, promoted, and generally made a big deal of the fact I write things and people can help fund that directly. Since the job that my wife Lj and I moved to Indiana for has dried up many friends and fans have told me they wished they could do more. But it is clear that the efforts people have made on our behalf is what’s lead to this point, where my Patreon is a noteworthy part of my freelance income.

So what is the money going towards? Right now the time I am carving out for Patreon-supported writing is paid for by this income, which is going to go directly to finding a stable health insurance solution for my family.

And now, of course, what you are all paying me for– Game Content! Keeping with the theme of today I have written up a Silver Lining feat. Or, rather, since Silver Linings come in lots of different forms, I have written three different versions of it, for three of my favorite different RPGs.

Silver Lining (Pathfinder 1st Ed)
When things look bad, something else always works out for you.
Benefits: When you roll a natural 1 on an attack roll or a saving throw in circumstances where a typical character could not take 10 on a skill check, you gain 1 resolve point. As a reaction when you next fail an attack roll or saving throw you may spent this resolve point for an immediate reroll without taking an action. If the d20 die result of the reroll is 1-10, add 10 to your total result. You can only have 1 resolve point at a time, and if not used it goes away when you next qualify to regain uses of daily abilities (even if you do not actually have daily abilities to regain).\

Silver Lining (Pathfinder 2nd Ed)
When things look bad, something else always works out for you.
Benefits: When you suffer a critical failure on an attack roll or saving throw, as a reaction you may choose to either heal a number of HP equal to your level, or regain one Focus Point.

Silver Lining (Starfinder)
When things look bad, something else always works out for you.
Benefits: When you roll a natural 1 on an attack roll against a significant foe, or on a saving throws against a significant foe, as a reaction you may spent 1 Resolve Point to regain a number of Hit Points and a number of Stamina Points equal to your level. You cannot regain more of either than you are currently missing.

Silver Lining for Fantasy AGE

I am also now the Fantasy AGE developer for Green Ronin, so I’m posting this *very* rough, *very* unofficial version of Silver Lining as a Talent for that game system.

SILVER LINING
Classes: Mage, Rogue, and Warrior
Requirement: None
When things go badly for you, it’s usually a sign that something good is also about to happen.
Novice: When a foe using a stunt with a SP cost of 3 or more against you, the next time you gain SP, you gain 1 more than usual. You never gain more than 1 extra SP from Silver Lining.
Journeyman: Silver Lining now functions when a foe using a stunt with a SP cost of 2 or more against you.
Master: Silver Lining now functions whenever a foe uses a stunt against you.

Want to help with my Silver Lining?
I’m back to being a full-time freelancer, which means arranging for stability, health insurance, retirement options, and so on, is extremely difficult.

So if you found any of this useful or entertaining and you’d like to join the growing community of folks supporting the creation of more such content, check out my Patreon!

Just a couple of dollars a month from each of you will make a huge difference.

Writing Basic: DO NOT USE TABLE FORMATTING

This is SUPER basic, and SUPER ignored, but I promise you, it’s true. (And as with most of my writing basics, here I am talking about tabletop game writing for someone else to publish.)

Unless your editor/producer/publisher specifically tells you to?

DO NOT USE TABLE FORMATTING IN YOUR FINAL DRAFT.

It is of NO use to the developer, editor, or layout artist. It is, in fact, a huge pain in the butt.

Yes, MAYBE you need to get things in neat columns to make sure your table says what you want where you want it.

But when you turn it over?

Note what is a table title, what is a column head, and what is table text, and then put ONE TAB between EACH COLUMN ENTRY. (As always, check to see if your publisher has specific or different requirements.) Do NOT use your word processing programs table function.

Like this, but with [tab] replaced by an actual tab.

[Table Title]An Example Table

[Table Column Heads]Writing Level[tab]No. Of Wrong Tables[tab]Editor Cursewords

101[tab]14[tab]14

102[tab]6[tab]12*

201[tab]0[tab]0

*Because a 102 level writer should know better.

Yes, it’s a minor thing.

But getting minor things wrong makes you take more time and more effort, and thus more money and frustration, for publishers to want to hire you.

Patreon
Heya folks–I am back to being a full-time freelancer. Which means, ever word I write has to justify itself in time taken vs. benefit to my freelance career and/or money made.
So if you found this useful or entertaining, and you’d like to support the creation of more such content, check out my Patreon!
Just a couple of dollars a month from each of you will make a huge different.