Category Archives: Microsetting

Cthoul (for Starfinder)

The Cthoul are horrific creatures that exist as much in higher dimensions of realist as they do the Material Plane. Though their forms can shift and morph depending on the circumstance, their true nature being too foreign to mortal comprehension to ever be entirely perceived or grasped, they are most often encountered as think humanoid creatures, with bulbous heads, long tentacles emerging from their lower face, and spindly, clawed fingers.

The Cthoul are not native to our reality, and much of their power comes from their power to draw rules of operation from their twisted, alternate dimensional extensions to wrap and pervert the natural environment. Their home dimension–a palce so wrong by any reasoned thought it is known only as the Inversity–is not well understood, though it is known it has easier access to the lands of Leng and the FiendWebs than normal space. It is believed to be a reality that was entirely formed from the unconscious dreams of the Great Old One, Cthulhu, and that the Cthouls appearance is a trifle of the cosmic demands that reality made on life which evolved from it’s befouled origins. The Cthoul themselves do not speak of this theory, and while they alternatingly venerate and enslave horrific elder beings, they have no special affinity for, or understanding of, Cthulhu.

Ancient, often mind-shattering histories of long-lost alien civilizations claim that once the Cthoul ruled a vast Empire that spanned all of known existence. But that ur-reality was split, with different gods and other cosmic powers scrambling to carve out alterverses over which they would hold sway, and the Cthoul were cut off from much of the mortal mortal existence. Now they can reach realms conceivable by humanoid minds only rarely, though their banishment was neither complete nor absolute. Their twisted star vessels of indescribable color seem able to invade our reality only when those who crave their secrets summon them, or the conjunctions of planar energies form weaknesses in the weft of spacetime they can violate.

Cthoul’s very presence places pressure on the sanity of those who perceive or approach them and they seem sustained (or at least entertained) by this effect, causing them to also be known as lucidivores or “mind eaters.” They are physcially extremely strong and resilient, though each Cthoul appears to be harms by some substance or energy, but there is no commonality to what that is. They also have powerful psionic powers, and know fell magics that can pervert, twist, corrupt, and blast everything from common matter to the very souls of those who oppose them.

Cthoul plans always follow some horrific, aberrant logic, and often involve steps that occur on alternate planes of reality, making their purpose or goal literally incomprehensible to mortal minds. That said, their schemes and efforts always seem bent on creating horror, fear, pain, and despair, and some appear to take particular pleasure in torture specific species, personality types, or even accursed individuals. to be the object of a Cthouls attention for years, or even generations, in particularly dreadful, for they cannot be bargained with or trusted, and their minds can conceive of ordeals no sane being would contemplate, much less inflict on living beings. And even if driven off, slain, or utterly destroyed in normal space, most of a Cthoul exists in reality beyond the reach of even the most powerful outsiders, and once their multidimensional selves heal, they can return to execute more foul events.

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Awesome 80s: The Kontos (Legendary Bladed Thrown Weapons, for Starfinder)

Some weird, awesome stuff came out in the 1980s, that impacted my geek trajectory significantly. The Awesome 80s line of blog posts is about sharing some of the things I have been inspired to create by movies, shows, games, and literature of that decade. In this case, it’s the Kontos, a legendary line of throwing weapons that remain relevant even with the prevalence of far-future technology.

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The Kontos

The origins of the Kontos can be traced back to a small world of humanlike beings who possessed a feudal society with primarily analog technology. They had some rudimentary control of magic, but primarily used it for healing and magical metallurgy, with anyone attempting more advanced magic (such as shapeshifting) generally being at best half-trained and often seen as lacking the power to do harm. However, several lines of these people had innate psychic powers. Those lines often rose to positions of nobility and royalty. Inbreeding then caused their powers to weaken, requiring them to be channeled through devices such as the original Kontos, a bladed throwing weapon though could be controlled telekinetically by even the most latent of psychics. This weapon evolved from spears and lances and is still called by the same name, despite clearly not being a polearm.

This minor world likely would have gone almost entirely unnoticed if an invading aberration had not landed a teleporting magitech starship on the surface and, treating it as a nigh-impregnable keep, moved to conquer the world. This caused once-opposing factions to join, combining two royal lines in such a way that they could both maximize the effectiveness of the Kontos, and granting them (and their offspring) powerful pyrokinetic powers. This alliance defeated the alien invades, backwards-engineered its teleporting hybrid starship’s magitech, and within a generation became a powerful starfaring power, bringing duplicates and variants of the original Kontos with them to the stars.

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Rapid Returning Fusion

At its base, the Kontos is a typical thrown weapon with a special weapon fusion. This functions as the returning fusion, but the weapon returns immediately after each attack, allowing it to be used to make multiple attacks in the same turn. It also gains the penetrating special weapon quality. However, a character must meet the prerequisites for the Psychic Power feat to gain these additional benefits—for anyone else it functions purely as a returning thrown weapon.

The rapid returning fusion costs 125% of a normal fusion, and all Kontos have it added automatically (it is included in their base price). As a result, all Kontos are magic items.

The blades on a Kontos retract automatically when they approach their thrower, making it safe to catch and throw again quickly. All Kontos have light bulk.

 

Advanced Melee Weapons, 1-hand
WEAPON LVL Price Damage Crit Special
Kontos, guisarme 1 490 1d4 S Knockdown Thrown (20 ft.)
Kontos, fauchard 4 3,180 2d4 S Knockdown Thrown (30 ft.)
Kontos, volge 8 12,710 4d4 S Staggered Thrown (50 ft.)
Kontos, corseque 10 21,300 3d8 S Staggered Thrown (60 ft.)
Kontos, ranseur 12 49,000 4d8 S Staggered Thrown (70 ft)
Kontos, sovnya 14 95,100 6d8 S Staggered Thrown (80 ft)
Kontos, caber 16 215,000 8d8 S Staggered Thrown (90 ft)
Kontos, glaive 18 445,000 11d8 S Staggered Thrown (100 ft)

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LawStar Justicar (for Starfinder)

We’ve explained ThemeTypes—a kind of character option that uses both your theme and an archetype to make a bigger change to your character that either could by itself—and presented a number of specific ThemeTypes designed to be alternate multiclass rules for adding some envoy, mechanic (drone), mechanic (exocortex), mystic, operative, and technomancer class abilities to a character.

But ThemeTypes can do much more than replace multiclass rules. That can open up whole new realms of character concepts, allowing for roles and ideas that are more than just a background or a subset of any one character class, but don’t rise to the level of needing their own character class. These are things like champions of interstellar police forces, space-faring knights-errant, and entities who have had their whole bodies replaced with transforming cyborg frames. Within each of these concepts, a character could still be an envoy, soldier, mystic, and so on. Indeed, entire campaigns can be built around such role-based ThemeTypes, emulating popular comics and cartoon series that focus on one specific group of starfaring heroes, while still exploring the individuality of each character.

As an example of this kind of sweeping, character-defining ThemeType, we present the LawStar Justicar.

LawStar

The LawStar is an organization that promotes order, justice, and safety throughout the known galaxy. A central LawStar Executive exists that works to build systems and train agents to end war and crime, support peace and prosperity, and oppose evil and suffering in all forms. Seven LawWorlds form the core of this organization, each ruled by a branch of the Executive and operating under the LawStar Code, which promotes fairness, freedom, and equal treatment. It is believed that the LawStar Executives themselves answer to a High Executive, a being of pure beneficent order, which may be an angel, demigod, or ancient alien species that have long since become creatures of pure energy.

Typical LawStar agents and even LawStar fleets and ground forces operate mostly in lawless zones, applying the most widely-recognized, democratically selected laws against slavery, piracy, tyranny, and oppression. Any world can request LawStar enforce such laws on that world with a general referendum of the population, with a 2/3 majority being seen as the will of the people, regardless of the will of the government.

But even beyond the agents, judges, and executives, the most elite members of the LawStars are the Justicars.

The Code of the LawStar
It is the right of all Sapients,
To Live free of slavery, tyranny, torture, or oppression.
To Choose their own life path, to Gather and to Freely Express Themselves,
To be treated with Dignity, Fairness, and Compassion,
And to be able to seek Redress for wrongs against them.
This is the Code of the LawStar.
We Live by the Code, We Die by the Code.

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LawStar Justicars

Those individuals who show an extraordinary aptitude for investigation, law enforcement, compassion, and drive, are sometimes selected to become LawStar Justicars. While such candidates are often taken from the ranks of LawStar agents and officers, it is not unknown for a Justicar position to be offered to a sapient creature with no connection to, or even knowledge of, the LawStars.

Justicars are considered the LawStar elite, but they are also outside of the lawStar’s normal chain of command. Each LawStar Justicar is an authority onto itself, and neither takes orders from, nor has any power to give orders to, any other LawStar. If a LawStar Justicar turns from the Code of the LawStar, it is the duty of any Justicar who learns of this breach to make amends for their kin’s wrongdoing, and to insure that such wrongdoing stops. Of course the fact that the LawStar sigil cannot be made to function for those with evil intent generally makes this easier, but there are cases of LawStars who truly wish to do good to be so damaged or mistaken in their beleifs that they must be stopped by other Justicars.

The sign, and power source, of the Justicars are their LawStar Sigils, powerful hybrid items that defy all efforts to determine their origin, function, or power source. Each Justicar is offered a sigil when offered the role of starfarer agents of justice, and once accepted it becomes part of their spiritual essence. It appears as a ring, broach, piercing, or similar item appropriate for the Justicar’s species, but is in fact inherent to each Justicar—it cannot be removed, damaged, or destroyed, it fades when a Justicar dies, and it returns if they are raised from the dead.

Justicars often work with similarly gifted individuals who are outside the LawStar organization to seek out injustice and tyranny and oppose it, though small bands of Justicars also sometimes form to tackle more significant issues.

LawStar Justicar ThemeType

LawStar Knowledge (Ex, Theme, 1st Level): At first level, you gain Culture as a class skills. If you already have Culture as a class skill, you instead gain a +1 bonus to all Culture checks. Additionally, you gain limited telepathy. If you already have (or later gain) limited telepathy, you instead gain a number of bonus languages equal to your character level, which only count as languages for purposes of determining what creatures you can use your limited telepathy with.

LawStar Sigil (Su, Archetype, 2nd Level): You can absorb nonliving equipment into your LawStar Sigil. This takes ten minutes per item, and requires the equipment be unattended. If the equipment has proficiency requirements, passwords, activation phrases, security measures, or prerequisites for use, you must have full access to all of the item’s abilities before it can be absorbed. You can absorb items with an item level no greater than your character level +2, and can have a maximum number of items absorbed equal to your maximum number of Resolve Points. While absorbed in your ring the equipment is nonfunctional and safe form outside influences, though time passes for it normally. Items in your LawStar Sigil do not count towards your maximum bulk. You can have no more bulk worth of items absorbed into your LawStar Sigil that your two highest ability scores.

Your LawStar Sigil gives you the benefit of any one suit of armor (and its upgrades, as well as its drawbacks such as slower speed or Max Dex Bonus to AC) absorbed into it at a time, and you can swap what suit of armor that is as swift or move action. If you have a suit of powered armor in your LawStar Sigil, you can manifest it using the rules below separately from gaining the benefits of a suit of absorbed light armor. You can change what upgrades are in what absorbed armors during a ten-minute rest without a check of any kind, though upgrades must be placed in armors able to accommodate them.

You can manifest any other items absorbed into your LawStar Sigil as hardlight constructs from your sigil, and use them normally. If you use a consumable item, it is no longer absorbed into your LawStar Sigil, and equipment needs batteries, ammunition, fuel, and similar charges normally, and can be reloaded normally. Any item destroyed or disarmed or stolen from you is removed from the items absorbed in your LawStar Sigil.

You can’t use the appendage your LawStar Sigil is on for any other function while you have equipment manifested. However, your LawStar Sigil can support two hands/limbs worth of items without using any other hands from you. If you need to use more equipment than that, you can handle your manifested equipment normally. You cannot manifest more items than you can wield at once.

You can drop a manifested item, causing it to fully form (no longer as a hardlight construct) an no longer count towards items absorbed in your LawStar Sigil.

LawStar Sigil Flight (Su, Archetype, 4th Level): Your LawStar Sigil grants you 30 feet of flight when in a vacuum or zero-G environment.

Improved LawStar Sigil Absorption (Theme, 6th Level): Your LawStar Sigil causes all absorbed items to count as having an item level at least equal to your character level for purposes of determining hardness, Hit Points, and save DCs. This is true even while such items are manifested, but not if they are dropped. Additionally, all damaged equipment absorbed in your LawStar Sigil regains a number of Hit Points equal to your character level whenever you take an 8-hour rest and regain your daily abilities.

Greater LawStar Sigil Flight (Su, Archetype, 4th Level): Your LawStar Sigil grants you 30 feet of flight.

Improved LawStar Sigil Absorption (Su, Archetype, 9th Level): Your LawStar Sigil can now manifest (a LawStar Sigil nd allow you to wield) two additional arms worth of hardlight equipment.

Improved LawStar Sigil Environmental Protection (Su, Theme, 12th Level): Your LawStar Sigil can now grant you environmental protection for a number of weeks equal to your character level. You must forgo any environmental protection from your LawStar Sigil (including from any armor absorbed into it) for 24 hours to recharge this ability.

LawStar Sigil Space Travel (Su, Archetype, 12th Level): Your LawStar Sigil flight speed increases to 60 feet. Additionally, you can fly through space to travel from point-to-point on a planet, go into orbit or land, reach satellite, or travel in-system using the starship Standard Navigation and Astrogation rules. You cannot enter hyperspace using your LawStar Sigil, nor leave hyperspace if already there, though you can fly around within hyperspace normally.

LawStar Telekinesis (Sp, Theme, 18th Level): You can use the sustained force function of the telekinesis spell at will, and use the combat maneuver function 5 times per day. Additionally, you can carry willing, unconscious, or helpless creatures weighing no more than 2,000 lbs and extend your LawStar Sigil’s environmental protections to them, though each creature you carry reduces the number of limbs worth of equipment you can manifest as hardlight by one.

LawStar Starship Construct (Su, Archetype 18th): Your LawStar Sigil can now absorb one starship, with the same restrictions on access and passwords as absorbing equipment. You can access this starship as a hardlight construct, as long as you are in the same system, or gain its abilities when engaging in starship combat. The LawStar Sigil will fill any role you do not, and has a flat bonus equal to your character level for any checks in makes.

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Starfinder Roleplaying Game Monster Design Notes—Spellcasting Creatures, Western Rakshasa

We’re going to take a pause from the Multiclass ThemeType rules, to pick up a thread from a few weeks ago when I was discussing how to make creatures and NPCs using the Starfinder Roleplaying Game monster creation rules. I already did two entries in this series using Really Wild West creatures as examples—the grizzly boar for the combatant array, and the rattle-cat for the expert array.

Now, it’s time to talk about the spellcaster array, and for that, we need something special.

Western Rakshasa

Rakshasa are native outsiders—that is they are inhuman creatures of supernatural power, that are born in and native to the mortal world. They are among the more powerful and feared threats of Southern Asia, and plagued that section of the world of the Really Wild West for centuries before anyone in Europe or the Americas knew anything at all about them. Rakshasa are generally born to a rakshasa part and a humanoid parent and few rakshasas immigrated out of South Asian, keeping their population elsewhere low. But there is a second circumstance where a rakshasa can be born—when human parents are exposed to great evil and cruelty and kept away from holy places, practices, and people, sometimes an evil reincarnated spirit to drawn to their misery, and born as a rakshasa in a concealed guide as the same race as its parents.

Sadly, the fact that the United States Naturalization Law of March 26, 1790 denied citizenship to all immigrants not of white lineage, and most South Asians who were brought to North America served as low-paid farm workers, often lead to situations where the immigrants were forbidden to practice their own religions, suffered cruelty and evils committed upon them, and were even sometimes imprisoned and used for experimentation by Caucasians seeking to gain more power through the expanding arts of theosophy and mad science.

As a result, in the mid 1800s, the first natural born western rakshasa began to appear.

Such creatures are natural deceivers, planners, leaders, and generally power hungry. They learn how to manipulate social systems to their advantage while just children, and are not above arranging horrible fates for their communities in order to be found as “lone survivors,” and adopted by wealthier, more affluent families, While some settle in to urban areas to gain political and economic power in increasingly large cities, others prefer to head to the frontier, to carve their own empires out of the wilderness as cattle barons, marshals, regional governors, and even the unquestioned leaders of outlaw gangs.

While an infant rakshasa might be less powerful than the CR 5 given here as a minimum, such a creature would never risk exposing itself. Any rakshasa willing to operate in any open manner is at least a young adult, and no less than CR 5. Western rakshasa are no more powerful or organized than their South Asian brethren, but they have grown to be one of the greatest threats any Really Wild West adventurer might encounter.

In their natural form, rakshasa have the appearance of anthropomorphic animals, usually predators, and have some joint or joints backwards from a human. The use of  tiger-headed rakshasa with backwards-curling hands in the spectacularly popular 1897 Mark Twain novel “The Chronical of Young Rakshasa,” where Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer encounter and must drive away a powerful Satan-like figure (who claims to be the “youngest of 44 master rakshasa”), has caused the common view of rakshasa to be exclusively this version, to the point that some rakshasas take the form when wishing to impress, even if they actually have different animals-features and reversed joints.

Rakshasa Gunslinger - JEB

Building and Defining a Spellcaster

Spellcaster arrays are for creatures that should first and foremost be seen as users of supernatural powers. They gain either spell-like abilities or spellcasting automatically, allowing them to use such powers for offense and defense, while still having other special abilities to make them unique and interesting. Anytime you are making an NPC mystic or technomancer, you want to use the spellcaster array and the appropriate class graft, in addition to any creature graft.

But in this case, we’re going to write up creatures that have innate spellcasting abilities, as natural to them as their unholy blood.

As with the creatures we designed in the previous entries, we want to create a template graft, that a GM can use to create rakshasas of any appropriate CR. So, the final template graft looks like this:

WESTERN RAKSHASA TEMPLATE GRAFT (CR 5+)

Required Array: Spellcaster
Required Type: Outsider
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Size: Medium
Speed: 40 feet
Ability Score Modifiers: Dexterity, Charisma, Strength
Special Abilities: 0-Spellcasting (mystic and technomancer). 1- Change Shape (see below). Damage Reduction (equal to CR x 1.5, bypassed by good). 3- Detect thoughts (see below). 4-Spell Resistance (equal to CR +15).
Key Spells: 1st charm person, magic missile; 2nd caustic conversion, invisibility, 3rd arcing surge, holographic image
Skills: Master– Bluff; Good-Diplomacy, Sense Motive
Attacks: Multiattack melee (bite, two claws), melee weapon, ranged weapon.
Detect Thoughts (Su): A rakshasa can detect thoughts as per the spell of the same name. It can suppress or resume this ability automatically at the beginning of its turn. When a rakshasa uses this ability, it always functions as if it had spent three rounds concentrating and thus gains the maximum amount of information possible. A creature can resist this effect with a successful Will save.

To make this monster, a GM just takes the spellcaster array for the desired CR of the end monster, adjusts the numbers as noted for the outsider type, and enters those values in a stat block as directed by the template graft.

There are a few things to look out for with rakshasa. First, since they sue the spellcaster array, they get spellcasting automatically, and you need to pick their spells known. The template graft offers some “key spells,” but that’s largely just to save you time and give you a feel for what a typical rakshasa of this type is likely to focus on. Feel free to deviate from this list if you wish. Also, the stat block doesn’t bother with 1st level spells, because the rakshasa is unlikely to run out of higher-level options during a typical fight. This is the same logic for giving it unlimited 2nd-level spells per day. If for some reason you need to know exactly how many lower-level spells an npc has, check out the rules in Starfinder Pact Worlds.

Secondly, as a tool user, the Raksha needs weapons. The easy options is to pick melee and ranged weapons that are about 10th item level. The same applies if you plan to give them armor, though rakshasa don’t really need it, and it doesn’t impact their AC anyway (you give a creature armor if it makes sense for the creature to have armor, or if you want to use it as PC loot, of if you want them to have an armor upgrade—which may also serve as loot). Since this is a Really Wild West rakshasa I gave it a damascus repeated shotgun and limited it’s pistols to 6 rounds each, but you could swap that out

Finally, I gave them multiattack. That allows them to forgo using a melee weapon to make a series of natural melee attacks. Read the multiattack rules on how to figure out their damage and attack rolls, but this only matters if they take a full attack routine. They can just use their melee weapon to make a normal attack.

Here’s what a CR 10 western Rakshasa (one of the most dangerous things in all of the Really Wild West) looks like, for example.

Rakshasa, Western                                 CR 10          [SPELLCASTER]
XP 9,600 each
LE Medium Outsider (evil, native, rakshasa, shapechanger)
Init +8 Senses darkvision (60 ft.); Perception +19
DEFENSE     HP 140
EAC 22; KAC 23
Fort +9; Ref +11; Will +13
Defensive Abilities DR 15/good
OFFENSE
Speed 40 ft.
Melee +17 microserrated longsword (2d10+13, critical bleed 2d6)
Multiattack bite +11 (1d10+13 P), 2 claws +10 (1d10+13 S)
Ranged +19 damascus repeater shotgun (3d8+10 P) or
+19 elite revolving pistol (3d6+10 P)
Technomancer Spells Known (CL 10th) DC 18
  4th (3/day)greater invisibility, mind thrust (DC 22)
3rd (6/day)
arcing surge (DC 21), charm monster (DC 21), holographic image (DC 21),
    lesser resistance armor
2nd (at will)
caustic conversion (ranged attack +18), invisibility
STATISTICS
Str +3; Dex +8; Con +3; Int +1; Wis +1; Cha +8
Skills Bluff +24, Diplomacy +19, Sense Motive +19
Languages Aklo, Common, Infernal
Other Abilities change shape
Gear Damascus repeater shotgun with 12 slugs and 12 shot, two elite revolving pistols with 36 rounds, microserrated longsword, 2 mk II serums of healing
SPECIAL ABILITIES
Change Shape (Su): As a standard action, a rakshasa can physically alter its form to look like any Medium humanoid or outsider, as long as it has seen a similar creature before. It can attempt to either mimic a specific creature or look like a general creature of any humanoid subtype it is familiar with. The rakshasa gains a +10 bonus to Disguise checks to appear as a creature of the type and subtype of the new form. The DC of the rakshasa’s Disguise check is not modified as a result of altering major features or for disguising themselves as a creature of a different type. The rakshasa can remain in an alternate form indefinitely (or until it takes another form).

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Microsetting: The City of Hoard

Microsetting: The City of Hoard

I’ve been on a bit of a Starfinder RPG and general essay kick recently, but I’m still a big fan of fantasy RPG settings in general, and Pathfinder in general. So as a palate cleanser, here is a microsetting, the City of Hoard!

The City of Hoard

It’s not formally called “Hoard” of course. It’s listed as Draconis Rekai Achael in the old Imperial Charter of Settlements, Drakkenhelt in the dwarven tunnel-maps, and Aerivermaeli in the elven Songs of Places. Among the academic writings and speech of most dragons and draconic-oriented scholars, it’s Brarguren’s Canton, an acknowledgement that the mighty Brargured has carved out land acknowledged by other nations as hers, and hers alone. But even those learned individuals generally call it “Brarguren’s Hoard” in casual conversation, and from that long title most common folk have taken to just calling the city “Hoard.”

Brarguren was an active dragon in her youth, traveling extensively as soon as she ceased to be a wyrmling, claiming temporary territories, exploring lands with no sapient creature settling them. There are numerous credible accounts of her worldwide, suggesting she did not limit herself to any one continent or trade route. Many of those tales speak of her establishing herself on the edges of major civilizations, speaking to their scholars and acting as patron for their great artists. Though she spent no more than a few decades in any one place in her first few centuries of life, she was intellectually active and curious during these visits, each year doing as much research and learning as any member of the shorter-lived races could manage, and thus compiling numerous lifetimes of knowledge in just a few hundred years.

She gained cunning and power in equal measure. Early descriptions of her make it clear her coloration was “bright” and “metallic,” but never matched her to a single hue. She can breath fire, but has also proven to have draconic and magic talents that allow her to breath acid, and ice, and even frozen acid. She can access the power of sorcerers, druids, and even witches, leading some to suggest she has studied as a shaman. She is also a mistress of illusion, or transmutation (or both), and certainly her appearance in the past few centuries has shifted and changes enough to suggest she is keeping her true nature secret, though she always has the same piercing, nearly glowing, amber eyes.

No one is sure when she became fascinated by architecture, urban planning, and landscaping. Perhaps it was when she carried out a vendetta against the Order of the Broken Claw as a young adult, joining and leading armies to sack the order’s cities on both sides of an ocean. Perhaps her visits to the continents of the Ivory Empire, Jade Kingdoms, or the lands of the Spice Road as an adult and mature adult piqued her interest in how different cultures build and grow settlements. Certainly her Guild of Masons was established at that time, and she forged alliances with dwarves and elves both to aid and learn from their greatest artificers, fort-builders, and urban engineers and planners.

What is known for certain is that as an old dragon, more than 4 centuries ago, Brarguren stopped her regular travels and claimed her Canton, a rich land with access to ocean, trade, field, and ore. The land surely would have been claimed by some nation before her, located between small kingdoms and in a route between major empires as it was, if not for the gorynych that laired there, and the twisted mutant cult that worshiped it. Brarguren was not the first dragon to seek to destroy the wicked creature known as “The Three Sinners,” but she was the first to succeed in destroying the gorynych and scattering the cult.

And to mark her success, she claimed the piles and piles of treasure the Three Sinners and its minions had collected…. And built a city.

People claim that early on no one lived in Hoard, but of course that’s not true. Expending money as a waterfall expends water, Brarguren hired hundreds of planners and thousands of workers. Even before Hoard had a finished building, it has inhabitants. Nor where buildings the first permanent structures to be raised. Brarguren had roads laid, and aqueducts, canals, wells, and cisterns built, long before any buildings. She gave broad guidance to her lord architects, and insisted their plans be revised many times, but did little of the direct planning herself. The first city was to be designed to house 10,000 citizens in wealth and comfort, and to have a network of towns to support it, but she also demanded plans be in place for it to grow. Even the names of its major sections, “First Ward, Second Century Ward, Third Century Ward,” showed what her plans were for its expansion.

Now, Hoard is 310 years old, a city of nearly 50,000, and one of the most powerful and wealthy trade cities in the world. Though Brarguren is the unquestioned owner and ruler of the city and the surrounding valley, including it’s roads, dozens of supporting towns and farms, minor auxiliary ports and shipyards in nearby islands, she rarely takes a direct hand in ruling or protecting it. The Canton Guard serve as both city guard in Hoard, and ranging military force throughout Brarguren’s lands, and the Dragonfire Wardens act as scouts, investigators, and game wardens further from the city. Both answer directly and separately to Brarguren, though their Lord Commanders (Guard Commander Alvric Krakarral—a human investigator—for the Guard, and Warden Commander Jealis Irontusk—a half-orc hunter—for the Wardens) are cagey about how how those reports are delivered. But 72 years ago when Brarguren devoured the then-Guard Commander Thurgen Thurgenis, the dragon made it clear she would react if her forces failed to report as she expected them to. Her lack of direct action since is taken as proof the Lord Commanders are doing as they are supposed to.

However, neither of those forces run the city (or any of the townships),and lack the power to makes laws or edicts. Laws are made only by Brarguren herself, and she hasn’t changed the short list of basic rules (outlawing slavery, insisting on equal basic rights for all sapient creatures, establishing the civil and paramilitary organizations in her lands) in almost a century. Edicts come from the Council of Stakeholders—made up of guild leaders, religious heads, neighborhood alders from Hoard and town magistrates from supporting settlements, representatives of the Guard and Wardens, hereditary members from important families, one judge from each court circuit, and ministers of various Hoard city offices—and are signed by the Marshal of the Exchequer (or become law without the Marshal’s signature if 2/3 of the Council of Stakeholders agree to do so after 90 days… which almost never happens).

The Marshal of the Exchequer acts as the chief executive of Hoard, oversees legal cases against any member of the Council of Stakeholders or judge within Hoard, and is in charge of the budget of the entire region. Since taxes are surprisingly low in Hoard, and city services are quite high, there’s a persistent rumor that the Marshal of the Exchequer pays for things directly out of some vast supply of wealth Brarguren has accumulated. While every Marshal of the Exchequer has always denied this is the case, and the city has had budget troubles many times over its three centuries of existence, the rumor remains common.

As for where such a vast pile of treasure might be kept… no one knows for certain. Brarguren dives into and flies out of the ocean harbor on most of the rare occasions she makes an appearance in the city itself, but no one has ever found any sign of an aquatic lair. The city center includes a massive, round, fortified building known as The Vault when used as a landmark, but it has no known entrance and its purpose is secret. The mountains that border the valley Hoard sits at one end of have numerous caves, but none have ever shown size of draconic habitation. Everyone agrees Brarguren must have at least one secret lair, but no one can agree on where it is, what it’s like, or how much treasure is piled up in it.

But it is known what treasure has gone into it, at least on some occasions. Brarguren does not directly defend Hoard or its lands, unless a threat arises so great only an old dragon could oppose it (such as the arrival of the Archtitan Oceator, more than two centuries ago), or when the Guard and Wardens have already suffered major losses and are clearly being overwhelmed (such as during the Wightblade Plague nearly a century ago). When she does become directly involved, however, she takes everything of value possessed by any foe she defeats—from Oceator’s Trident of the Wave-Gods to the ghost swords left over from the Plague. Hoard is safe from nearly any direct threat, but does not receive the spoils of war from foes it’s draconic owner finishes.

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“Far Alamo”: A Really Wild West-esque Video

This video is exactly the sort of thing I’d want to see in a Really Wild West campaign! My complements to the creator! (And to the people who created the thigns that inspired the video!)

And the amazing “Dinosaurs of the Wild West” are ALSO perfect for this setting hack!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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High Noon Showdown Rules for Really Wild West

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

In a moment, one will likely be dead.

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

HIGH NOON SHOWDOWN

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

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

Prequel Rounds

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

The Prequel action options are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

Resolution

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

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

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

Normal Combat

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

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

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

The Rattle-Cat

RWW-Rattlecat-color-01

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

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

Building and Defining an Expert

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

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

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

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

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

Rattler Poison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Starfinder Roleplaying Game Monster Design Notes–Really Wild West Bestiary: Grizzly Boar

One of the great things about the Starfinder Roleplaying Game is that designing new monsters and NPCs is fast an easy. Most of the math is taken care of for you, allowing GMs to focus on cool ideas to make threats interesting, instead of having to bend over backwards making sure their core game stats are appropriate for threats of a given level.

That also gives people creating new settings for the game, like my Really Wild West setting hack, opportunities to present creatures in a new way. Rather than just offer a monster, it’s possible to write template grafts in such a way that a GM can adapt a few simple monster rules to create a version of a monster for any CR. A GM need not try to shoehorn the perfect creature concept into an encounter of an inappropriate level. Instead the monster concept can be presented in such a way that the GM can quickly and easily use it at any CR.

I’m going to provide some examples on how to do that, while at the same time talking a bit abut what makes good monsters, walking GMs through the monster creation process, and presenting some brand-new monsters perfect for the Really Wild West (but usable to fill the wildernesses of any Starfinder Roleplaying Game world’s wilderness).

We’ll start with the Grizzly Boar

Grizzly Boar

GRIZZLY BOAR

A Grizzly Boar is a monstrous alpha predator roaming the deep woods and mountains of North America, with a range that is densest along the southeastern coast of the US, the eastern US/Mexico border, and on the whole west coast of North America. With a tusked, porcine head, massive furred body and huge claws, grizzly boars are territorial omnivores that do not fear humans and that will challenge wyverns, wolf packs, and even dragons of their size. When wounded, a grizzly boar will stalk whatever it perceives as a threat for hundreds of miles, until it becomes enraged enough to move in for a kill. Their coloration runs from dark brown in temperate zones to white in the far north, and similar, smaller species of tusk-bears can be found in northern and eastern Europe.

Building and Defining a Monster

Every Starfinder monster is built on one of three arrays presented in Starfinder Alien Archive—combatant, expert, or spellcaster. These arrays give the base values for a creature based on CR, ensuring they are an appropriate typical challenge for an average 4-person group of PCs of that level. In most cases the first decision a GM needs to make is what array to use for a given creature. Since the grizzly boar is described as a dangerous predator, but not listed as having any noteworthy magic abilities, it’s best represented with the combatant array. The template graft for the monster thus lists the combatant array as “required,” so a GM knows that grizzly boars are always build as combat-focused creatures.

After determining the array, a GM needs to know a creature’s type, since this impacts adjustments to the stats of the array and determined what keyword abilities affect the creature. A grizzly boar could be a magical beast, but again given that it seems to basically be a hybrid of boars and big bears, just making it an animal seems more appropriate. Again this is noted in the template graft. That means that when building a grizzly boar, the GM knows it gets all the things listed with the animal creature type graft presented in in Starfinder Alien Archive—low-light vision, Int modifier of -4 or -5, and a +2 increase to Fort and Ref saving throws.

While the combatant array will tell the GM what the grizzly boars top 3 ability score modifiers are for any given CR, those could be put anywhere. Since grizzly boars are strong, tough, and cunning, those modifiers should be put into Strength, Constitution, and Wisdom (in order from highest to lowest). That information also goes into the template graft. A GM can generally leave all the other ability score modifiers at +0, though if at higher CRs a +1 or +2 is desired for one of the remaining ability scores, that’s fine too.

All combatants gain between one and four special abilities, depending on their CR. These are the things that set a monster apart from other creatures of the same CR and type, and are the abilities that PCs are most likely to remember after facing a given monster. To make the grizzly boar template graft work for a grizzly boar of any CR, four special abilities are listed in order of priority, 1-4. If making a CR 1/3, ½, or 1 grizzly boar, it gains only the first listed ability (brute), while a CR 2-CR 11 grizzle boar also gains the second listed ability (gore). Additionally, since all of those options are passive and the grizzly boar is supposed to be among the tougher threats a group might face at its CR, and it has no ranged attacks, a single bonus special ability is listed (ferocity, a universal creature rules from Starfinder Alien Archive), which all grizzle boars receive regardless of CR.

Finally, all monsters built on the combatant array gain one master skill and two good skills, which are listed in the array. Creatures are assumed to gain Perception as a good skill, so it isn’t listed. For consistency sake, a few other notes are given, including the size of a grizzly boar based on it’s CR. These don’t have much impact on its stat block (though it does impact space and reach), but it helps a GM know that lower-CR grizzly boars are young cubs, runts, or from smaller species.

So, the final template graft looks like this:

GRIZZLY BOAR TEMPLATE GRAFT
Required Array: Combatant
Required Type: Animal
Alignment: Neutral
Size: Small (CR 1/3-CR 1), Medium (CR 2-CR 4), Large (CR 5-CR 11), or Huge (CR 12+)
Speed: 30 feet (Small and Medium), 40 feet (Large and Huge)
Ability Score Modifiers: Strength, Constitution, Wisdom
Special Abilities: 1-Brute (adjustment special ability, see Starfinder Alien Archive). 2-Gore (as the nuar racial trait). 3-Grab (claw). 4-Extra hit points (adjustment special ability, see Starfinder Alien Archive). Bonus-Ferocity.
Skills: Master– Athletics; Good-Intimidate, Survival
Attacks: Melee (tusk or claw), no ranged.

To make this monster, a GM just takes the combatant array for the desired CR of the end monster, adjusts the numbers as noted for the animal type, and enters those values in a stat block as directed by the template graft. If an ability just changes numbers (such as brute and extra hit points), the GM makes those changes, but doesn’t need to list those abilities in the state block (since, once the changes are made, the GM doesn’t need to be reminded of those abilities during combat, unlike something like gore, which impacts choices the GM makes). Here’s what a CR 6 Grizzly Boar looks like, for example.

GRIZZLY BOAR          CR 6          [COMBATANT]
XP 2,400 each
N Large Animal
Init +0 Senses low-light vision; Perception +13
DEFENSE     HP 90
EAC 18; KAC 20
Fort +10; Ref +10; Will +5
Defensive Abilities ferocity
OFFENSE
Speed 40 ft.
Melee tusk or claw +13 (3d4+13 P or S)
Space 10 feet; Reach 10 feet
Offensive Abilities gore
STATISTICS
Str +5; Dex +0; Con +3; Int -4; Wis +2; Cha +0
Skills Athletics +18, Intimidate +13, Survival +13
Languages none
SPECIAL ABILITIES
Ferocity (Ex) When a grizzly boar is brought to 0 Hit Points, it can fight on for 1 more round. It can act normally until the end of its next turn; if it has 0 HP at that point, it dies. If it would lose further Hit Points before this, it ceases to be able to act and dies.
Gore (Ex) A grizzly boar can charge without taking the normal charge penalties to the attack roll or its AC.

If the GM needs a group of 4 smaller, lower-level grizzly boars, it’s the work of 2-3 minutes to write up a new stat block to represent a pack of cubs or a herd of wild tusk-bears. If the GM wants to truly challenge a group of 6th level PCs with a massive grizzly boar threat, writing up a CR 9 version is just as fast and easy. Rather than just a single monster at a single CR, the grizzly boar template graft makes this creature a threat usable at any level.

In the coming weeks, we’ll present at least a couple more examples for creatures using the Expert and Spellcaster arrays, while filling out the Really Wild West Bestiary entries.

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