Category Archives: Microsetting

Campaign Ideas Hanging Around

The proposed (and definitely never happening) Analemma Tower would make an awesome set up for any number of campaigns using Anachronistic Adventures or Starfinder. Here are some campaign ideas for a mobile city-sized building hanging down from an asteroid.

All Along the Watchtower: The U.N of 2075 can’t operate out of any one nation or building anymore. Diplomacy, military intervention, and trade all work better from mobile city-towers hanging from asteroids.

Ark V: After the Quantum Genegineering Wars, the ground level of the world became uninhabitable. At the small scale, mutant Morlocks and hunter-killer drones are contant random threats. At the large scale, the doomsday weapon biotank Kaiju are drawn to any major stationary power source.
There are still survivors scrabbling to survive in a ruined world, and super-science and relics to be dug out of cities overrun by horrors. but the only way to get to them is to wait for a period of low threat, then jump down from the roaming bastion of science and civilization that is Ark V, our last, best hope for survival.

High Ground: The evil supergenius Tex Tanner could have engaged in countless battles to overthrow nations, establish shadow governments, and defeat heroes like Anthem Lass and the Gargoyle. Instead he created one overwhelming show of his scientific brilliance and endless resources, the mobile space-anchored archaeology known as High Ground. From there he runs TannerCorp, literally above the laws of other nations.
Is he done now that he’s made his point, or is High Ground just step one/ As as an archaeology under his exclusive control, why is he hiring street-level heroes to police his private fiefdom?

The Sword of D.A.M.O.C.L.E.S: Aliens have conquered Earth for Earth’s own good. Mostly humanity is left to its own devices, but certain activities and experiments are forbidden. The Department of Alien-Mandated Oversight, Committee of Law Enforcement Systems are mostly humans, though a few alien races also work within it, and makes sure forbidden actions are not attempted. DAMOCLES operates out of the Sword, a hanging alien watchtower that orbits the Earth in a variable pattern to allow maximum command support of hot spots.

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Genre: DieselDada

I’ve never been particularly happy with the term “DieselPunk,” because it often seems to be missing any “punk.” You perfectly well CAN add the punk philosophy to a superscience 1920s-1950s setting, but most people who make a run at it don’t seem to. Mostly, they are just doing flavors of pulp.

Now, I like pulp. A lot. I have mostly squared that circle by calling my own setting Diesel Pulp, which I feel helps convey more of what I am going for. But I have always wondered what a real effort to inject punk into a diesel-driven superscience setting would look like. And, personally, I think it would be more interesting to look to the movements of the era, and inject a big dose of Dada into a diesel-drvien superscience setting.

DiselDada

Imagine a world where calculating machines, broadcast power, personal flight, giant robots, teleportation, selective breeding, talking animals, and all sorts of other marvels and terrors of science and knowledge exist… because of a war. where the world has all the tools to build paradise, but they were just used to slaughter millions as retaliation for a single assassination. Where some individuals have spent years as super-powered solo operatives, given permission to do anything for victory, and are no being told to take 9-to-5 jobs to make toasters.
In response to that insane circumstance, many of them rebel not just against the establishment, but against the very ideas of logic, money, society as a whole, and even rationality. Some wish to help in their own way, others use their vast sea of options to create nonsense acts even if that hurts others.
That diesel-driven super-science post-war setting of individuals rejecting modern society’s ideals and rules because following them lead to the Great War, which they see as the Great Horror, is DieselDada.

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Pulp Hero Names

I love pulp heroes.

I love coming up with hero names and ideas.

You see where this is going.

It’s TOUGH to come up with a pulp or even golden age hero name that have the classic pulp feel, don’t suck, and comic fans don’t recognize as being from something else.

So no promises on these, and I may use them myself someday, but here are some pulp-era hero names I’ve not found in use in comics or pulp stories and that don’t seem to be trademarked… along with the concepts I personally used them with.

Armor Man
Nothing Can Hurt Him. Nothing Can Stop Him. Nothing But The Truth.
Armor Man is one of the great heroes of the later Pacific Theater campaign, using his fully covering custom Automatic Rotary Manual Operation Rig, and it’s amazing defensive properties of green steel construction, to save the lives of thousands of marines during the island-hopping fighting. Everyone knows that, and everyone knows (despite never having seen him, and only hearing his mechanically amplified voice) he’s a rich and famous industrialist, likely of New England decent, likely Hardwick Steele, who the press often call “Hard Steel.”
But Armor Man isn’t Hard Steel. Or of New England descent. Or a man.
Instead she is Tomoko “Tom” Hajiro, a genius and courageous warrior whose family was interned during WWII by the US government for their Japanese heritage. Though Hajiro managed to avoid the camps as a result of traveling when the orders came down, she was unable to interest the U.S government in any inventions by a woman or an Asian-American. Wishing to help defeat the evil of fascism, Hakiro turned to Hardwick Steel, the fairly deplorable man who bought her family’s property when they discovered that if it was stored with the government, the US would honor no claim for loss, and offer no insurance for damage. An opportunist, Hardwick took advantage of Hajiro’s genius to build a massive industrial company and helped her build the ARMOR suit and go off fighting toward the end of the war, in the hopes she’d get killed.
She didn’t. She became a national hero, in her role as Armor Man.
Now that the war if over, Armor Man remains a national hero, dealing with Super Science Villains and International Crime Leagues. As long as Hajiro keeps inventing for Hardwick, he’s happy to keep funding her heroic efforts. He can’t expose her without risk of being exposed as a fake and fraud himself (and losing his chief source of new inventions), and she has seen and heard what common American men say about both Japanese and women when they think none are present, and fears what the government would do if it discovered she has duped it, heroically while only doing good, for years.

Crime Basher
Justice Never Sleeps
The man who became Crime Basher was a veteran of WWI who took a piece of shrapnel from an experimental chemical bomb to his skull. It caused him to never sleep, and never need to sleep, and almost never grow tired.
Upon his discharge after the war, the veteran discovered corruption had taken over his big city home, and no one was doing anything about it. Already a combat expert, and now able to work during the day and still stay up to fight crime all night, he assumed the blue-color working-man’s hero identity of Crime Basher, and used his hard fists (and a pair of weighted-knuckle gloves) to punch crime in the face!

Donny Brook
He doesn’t start fights. He ends them.
Domhnall “Donny” Brooke doesn’t mean any harm. He just doesn’t like to see people get picked on. It makes him sore. And so he does something about it. Usually involving hitting things with whatever is handy.
But he happens to also be the reincarnation of the Thulian Age warrior-god Anextiomarus, also known as the Champion of Protection. So when he gets sore, bullies get even MORE sore. He can usually just beat people up, but he IS a reincarnated god. He is always a little strong, and a little tougher, and a little better fighter than the strongest, toughest, most dangerous person present.
But he can still be outnumbered, and he’s not that smart.

Katherine (Kate) “Blaze” Carson
She’s Out of the World!
Blaze Carson is an adventurer’s adventurer. She’s not a masked hero, but she is an ace pilot (with her own custom tricked-out Bell P-59B Airacomet and a massive Dornier Do X seaplane she uses as a mobile headquarters). She’s also a crack shot, drover, anthropologist, master of Bartitsu (which she learned directly from Edward William Barton-Wright), fencer, engineer, deep sea diver, and detective.
She’s also been to the Moon and mars, where she faced and defeated the Mondreich and Aresites, respective, but she doesn’t talk about that much.
Though she kept the ray gun.

The Scarlet Shadow
Crime Makes Her See Red!
The Scarlet Shadow is Lilibeth Jefferson, the oldest daughter of a large family with numerous men becoming police and soldiers in every generation. She learned everything her brothers learned, but when they went to academies and military programs, she was packed off to school. She became a determined chemist and aided in the creation of new munitions toward the end of the war, but couldn’t get any real science job after the war ended and men came home.
She took a position as a detective’s secretary, and discovered she was better at the job than he was. When he was investigating a case involving strange substances she tailed him and saved his life when an experimental chemical bomb went off. The mix of chemicals didn’t kill her, but gave her the power to create the Scarlet Mist, a thick red fog she can see through (even at night), but which block’s anyone else’s vision. Armed with this power, and a red trench coat and fedora and twin 1911a Colt .45s, she has become the greatest detective in America, the person you go to when everyone else is stumped.
The detective she saved, Mason Alder, has become her chauffer and assistant.

Sky King
The Highest of High Adventure!
I’ll be honest, Sky King is a Rocketeer pastiche, though he works with a group of Stratoknights and has a mountaintop base called “Avalon” and an airship named ” Llamrei.”

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And if you want to see more of these kinds of ideas, let me know!

 

Roller Dungeon

So here is the idea:

Dungeon speed runs as a team sport, on roller skates. “Roller Dungeon Team T-Shirts” optional, but the Absalom Abyssals Woman’s Speed Destruction Team is my favorite.

EVERYONE is on roller skates. Heroes, monsters, gelatinous cubes… everyone.

The Rules

Every PC must have half their levels in barbarian, brawler, cavalier, fighter, investigator, kineticist, monk, ninja, rogue, or slayer.

For these mandatory class levels, you get +4 skill points per level, and the Skating skill. Also, any class that has Ride replaces it with Skating.

Skating works like Ride, but your “mount” is a pair of skates that take your space. Anything you could do on a mount, you can instead do on skates. All skates have a 30 foot move rate and, like a mount, if you control your skates without taking an action, you get a full action.

Skates are never battle-trained mounts, unless you would get a mount as a class feature like cavaliers).

All dungeons should be 2 CR lower than the APL *your spellcaster assistance has been limited after all, and you are making speed runs).

You only get full XP and treasure for a combat or trap encounter if you finish it in 5 rounds or less. For every round more than that, you lose 25% of your XP and treasure. An encounter begins when you become aware of it, so scouting eats into your time. If you complete an encounter in less than 4 rounds, you get a 10% treasure bonus for each round less time you take.

It’s assumed you have an audience, so Performance combat is an option.

Combine with DungeonBall! or X-Crawl as desired.

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Simplified High-Level Pathfinder

Simplified High-Level Pathfinder

Rather than gain a new character level from 11th or higher, you simply gain the ability to potential overcome any one obstacle foe or challenge you are directly facing. Your chance is 45% +5% per level above 10th, , and each time per game session you do this your chance of it succeeding when used again that game session goes down by 10%.
Describe how you used your areas of specialty to succeed. You can use this ability no more than once per encounter. or twice per encounter if you are 15th level or higher.
Also, gain +10 hp and +.5 to all saving throws for each level above 10th.

Simplified Mythic Pathfinder

Rather than gain a new character abilities with each mythic tier, you simply gain the ability to potential overcome any one obstacle foe or challenge you are directly facing. Your chance is 50% +5% per tier, and each time per game session you do this your chance of it succeeding when used again that game session goes down by 10%. If you are only facing creatures with no mythic tiers,. or mythic tiers no greater than half your own, you gain a +25% bonus to this roll to succeed.
Describe how you used your mythic role to succeed.
You can use this ability no more often per encounter than half your mythic tier (minimum 1).
Also, gain +10 hp and +.5 to all saving throws for each mythic tier.

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Diesel Pulp: Fordlandia and the Argentinian Reich

Fordlandia and the Argentinian Reich

In my Diesel Pulp setting, Henry Ford is a full-on Nazi. Given his strongly antisemitic views, the damage he did spreading those views, and his company’s willingness to use slave labor in Germany, I don’t feel bad about this at all.

I also have Fordlandia being both hugely successful, and being in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in far-southern Brazil. With so much technological effort being put toward compression gears, Cavorite, and other Martian-inspired technology, synthetic rubber does not develop, and rubber trees remain crucial right through the end of the Global War. With the British controlling most European-owned rubber plantations, and Japan being too far away for its holdings to make a good supplier for Germany, Fordlandia in southern Brazil is a crucial supply for the Nazi.

So, my setting assumed a Nazi-backed military coup takes control of Argentina early in the Global War, likely 1939, and quickly pressures Chile and Paraguay to join the South American “Argentinian Reich.” German-backed forces then strike into Brazil to cut off Rio Grande do Sul, taking both Fordlandia and Porto Alegre (the state’s capital and a major port). I feel a little bad about having these nations become Nazi allies… but given how long Argentina stayed neutral and that I am creating a new government backed by Nazis, I don’t feel too bad. And, any real-world historical group or figure in Argentina at the time that doesn’t deserve to be tarred with the broad brush can be added to the South American Resistance that pops up to oppose the Nazi-supported government.

This results in Brazilian and Mexican forces (with the aid of the US, economically at first with Lend-Lease, and then military assistance after 1941) fighting in South America against Argentinian Reich through the Global War. All other South and Central American Nations support the Allies against the Axis, at the minimum sending aid and in many cases (especially Bolivia, Peru, and Uruguay) troops.

I suspect this means no Brazilian Expeditionary Force, but since those troops are literally defending, and ultimately taking back, their homeland I don’t think that’s selling short Brazil’s contribution to the war. Similarly the Mexican Aztec Eagles and Fuerza Aerea Mexicana operations are going to stay closer to the continent, but remain heroically involved. The Pan-American Highway remains a high priority for the US and the Allies, and also gets pushed much closer to completion, though the route changes to more greatly favor Brazil.

A lot of this is, of course, ridiculous. But I like my Global War having actual fighting on every continent (sorry Australia), and like the idea of turning Fordlandia into a corporate-fascist autocratic city-state, as a place and idea for stories and events. And in a setting that assumes the War of the Worlds inspired walkers to be the main Diesel Age military technology and masked “irregulars” becoming common as military assets, I don’t mind some ridiculous alterations.

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Worldbuilding Week: Merothian Cultural Touchstones

We’re continuing Worldbuilding week with a look at little cultural notes or “touchstones” that GMs and players alike can use to build on Merothian themes. We already did a brief history of Merothia here, and discussed Merothian traits characters could take here. While the history was pure prose (with no rules to speak of, and the traits were solidly in the realm of rules (though with flavor text, of course), these cultural touchstones include elements of both.

Merothian Cultural Touchstones

There are some common elements of Merothains society that cross the boundary of a single village or group. Some are tied to specific rules elements, but others are just ideas a GM can hang a story or encounter on, of a player can use to craft a particularly “Merothian” background.

Arming Sword

The legendary Free Knights of Merothia carried a distinctive blade known as an “arming sword.” Similar to a longsword, an arming sword has a shorter handle with a cruciform hilt and a large lozenge-shaped pommel. Classically, Merothian knights carried an arming sword for use with shields, and had a greatsword for use in situations where heavier blows were required. This set them apart from most other sword-using elite warriors of the era, who carried bastard swords and adjusted their grip as needed.

Arming swords act like longswords with the following exceptions:
*A Medium arming sword deals 2d4 damage (and arming swords were not normally crafted in any other size)

*Because it is designed to work best with one hand, attacks using two hands with an arming sword suffer a -1 penalty to confirm critical threats.
*Because it is so well balanced and offers a firm grip with one-handed attacks, critical hits with an arming sword deal 2 additional point of damage (after all other calculations).

Community Granna and Granther

Generally every Merothian community has an elder woman and elder man respectfully known as “Granna” and “Ganther” respectively. These are often, but not always a married couple, and some communities have more than one of each (generally resulting in using the gran honorific as a title, such as “Granna Maeth” and “Granna Hilde”). They often act as receptacles of oral lore, teachers and babysitters of the very young, and impartial, unofficial arbitrators of minor community arguments. Though not officially in positions of rulership, these are seen as town elders, and are generally included in any community planning meeting to their opinion is heard (though traditionally they don’t then weigh in on the right course of action, just give historical context and opinions based on their own experiences).

For Merothians being a Granna or a Granther is not explicitly about age, which is why they don’t automatically accord the same title to any centuries-old dwarf or elf they encounter. Instead, Granna and Granther are revered because they continue to survive despite having love the vitality of their prime, and must know act with the knowledge they are closer to death and less able to save themselves. This distinction is well understood by most dwarves, but is often lost on elves of Te Astra and Te Essar.

Donnersop

Whenever anyone hunts, farms, butchers, kills, weaves, tans, or otherwise crafts or gathers materials, scraps are given to Granna and Granther. If the scraps are edible, they are generally turned into a soup by one of the these two elders. If they are a fabric or covering, they are sewn or weaved into a quilt or shawl. If they are wood, they carved into something useful, or if metal adapted to a new purpose with a stick and rawhide.

Granna and Granther uses these items for their own upkeep, but also give them out as needed to families having trouble, or call for an even where a segment of the community comes and enjoys these patched- and stewed- together offerings.

Both the tradition of given scraps, and the materials made from them, are known as donnersop, a uniquely Merothain word. When offered up to a segment of the community for communal enjoyment, this also becomes a time when tales are told, history recited, old songs sung, and initial long-term plans discussed.

While character’s can’t normally “buy” donnersop, they can receive goods worth 1-5 gp or less as donnersop if they seem sufficiently destitute, and worth aiding. Meanwhile a character who donates as little as 1 sp a week of material to a communities donnersop stores gains a +2 circumstance bonus to Diplomacy checks to gather information in that Merothian community.

Weapon Inscriptions

Merothians often inscribe letters onto their weapons, a practive that dates back to the Free Knights of Old Merothia. These are usually letters in Celestial, though older traditions use letters in Fey, that list just the first letter of several words that are a phrase or motto important to the weapon user. Many famously use CMAS which refers to the ancient knight’s cry corie meroth aeter sang, Celestial for “The Heart of Merothia Bleeds Eternally,” a promise that the Free Knights would suffer any hardship to fight for freedom and justice. Current Merothains often don’t speak either Celestial or Fey, and may ask am Abthanian priest or a druid to translate a phrase meaningful to the individual into letters.

Those familiar that own an heirloom arming sword with such an inscruiption consider it an object that must be maintained, and given to a family member who has proven the willingness and ability to use it. Since Merothians communities often can’t afford to make new swords, the inscription tradition has been extended to the more common axes, spears, bows, and knives poorer Merothians depend on to protect themselves.

While most inscriptions are not magical, for 15% above the normal cost of a scroll, a magical inscription that functions precisely like a scroll can be etched onto a weapon as an inscription. This is normally only done by Merothian spellcasters with strong ties to Old Merothia, most often druids, Abthanian priests, and witches.

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Worldbuilding Week: Merothian Traits

We’re continuing Worldbuilding week (which started here) with a look at traits available to Merothian characters.

Merothian Ethnic Traits

These are all traits available to characters that are Merothian, and who were raised in Merothia or a neighboring region where it was known they were Merothian. These serve both as specific tweaks to character abilities that help players with Merothain PCs feel like their backgrounds matter, their very existance also help reinforce a culture and tone for Merothia in general.

Blessed are the Humble (Faith trait). Even the gods seem to know that Merothians have gotten a raw deal. If a divine spellcaster casts a spell with harmless in the saving throw or SR entry, treat that spellcaster’s level as being one higher when determining the spell’s effects 9including amount healed, duration, and so on).

Born to Serve (Race trait). Since the fall of the High barons, numerous groups (most often spellcasters from Te Essar) have made adjustments to Merothian bloodlines to make them better servants, often in an effort to prove Merothains are an inferior race of humanoids. Your family comes from such an altered bloodline. When you aid another in combat or with skills, your aid another bonus is +3 rather than +2. When you make an aid another check to help a creature with a humanoid subtype (other than human) you have never aided before, roll 1d20. If the result is a 20, this trait actually increases your aid another bonus to +4 for creatures of that subtype.

Distant Kin (Family trait). You have an extensive family of Merothian commoners. When in a settlement that has a population of at least 500 Merothians, in Merothia or a neighboring region, if you make a successful Diplomacy check to gather information you can find a distant cousin who may help you. Calculate how many followers you would have if you had the Leadership feat. This is the maximum number of cousins you can find over your career (though as your leadership score goes up, so do the potential number of cousins you are put in contact with). These cousins are randomly assigned npc class levels by the GM based on what follower slots you have remaining, are within one step of your alignment, and begin with an attitude of friendly.

Hard to Kill (Combat). Most Merothian families have more than one ancestor who survived outrageous wounds and odds to live long enough to have children. The trait for survival is often passed on. Add your character level to the negative number of hit points you must reach before dying.

Old Magic (Magic). There aren’t many Merothian spellcaster left, but tales of the Witch-Knights, Green Mages, and Holy Kirks make it clear there were once many eldritch traditions in Merothia. Some of that old lore has been passed down to you, allowing you to occasionally surprise a foe with a different way of doing things. Once per day when you cast a spell that is not the highest-level spell you can cast, and the foe succeeds at a saving throw, you can force the foe to reroll the saving throw. If the foe fails this second save the spell takes effect, though if the spell is not instantaneous its maximum duration is 1 round per 5 caster levels (minimum 1 round).

Used to It (Social trait). Things often suck for Merothians, and to survive they have had to simply learn to manage under harsh conditions. When you have a penalty of -2 or more that applies to d20 checks (such as attack rolls, skill checks, saving throws, and so on), as a move action you can improve that penalty by one for 1 round.

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Worldbuilding Week: Merothia

So, this week I am planning on putting up a set of four linked posts that are an example of how I like to combine game rules, broad mythology, and a selection of small details to build an element for an RPG campaign setting.

This week I’ll be going over Merothia, a region appropriate for PC origins and adventuring in a fairly typical fantasy-style Pathfinder RPG game. I’ll also be mentioning a lot of things that tie into Merothia but don’t get full write-ups just yet, which is also often how I expand a world — toss out details to players, and see which ones they find interesting enough to justify my spending more time on them.

Merothia

Once, Merothia was a series of 27 semi-independent baronies rules by he High Barons, who had significant autonomy in all local matters (and could even wage war on one another to a limited extent), but who all swore to obey a single Baron King in all dealings with foreigners. Merothians were fiercely independent and had strong dedication ot building a world that was “fair,” and it was often said “Twelve Merothians will starve rather than divide unevenly sliced bread.”

In the Age of Quests, this fierce independence generated numerous heroes and small bands that kept Merothia safe. During the Age of Tyrants, it lead to most of Merothia being conquered by the elven nation of Te Essar. Since the end of the Age of Tyrants, Te Essar’s near collapse and the rise of Te Astra and the Golemarium have left Merothia largely ununified.

Most regions of Merothia are now officially protectorates of some foreign power, but generally only those in the far west that answer to the Raudak and those in the south-east that are oppressed by Te Astra actually see any benefit for the taxes they periodically send to their distant foreign rulers. The notable exceptions to this are villages in north-central Merothia that have managed to become official Craft Homes to the dwarven Clan League, which enjoy significant advantages for their formal membership (though it is much more common for a Merothian town to have strong alliances with the league rather than be able to claim Craft Home status).

Merothian settlements that aren’t formal protectorates fall into a few broad categories. Some towns have powerful enough local rulers (usually a retired crusader, Njor raider, mid-level Tarsian merchant-prince, minor aething half-blood Te Astra or even Te Essar noble with casual support from their homelands, or someone who also happens to run a nearby Abthanian church or monastery) to maintain independence, though generally under restrictive rule that favors a small non-Merothian upper classes. Other towns and villages have agreements with varying levels of officialness with bandit bands, raiders, or monster packs.

Notable and well-known exceptions to this trend are the Free Harbor of Auvant, which uses the combination of its access to natural harbors and river routes and distance from any similar ports or major political entities to make enough money to buy mercenaries that keep its ruling council at least nominally in charge, and Whurrak, the mountain holdfast that carefully enforces equality for itself and the Merothian towns and villages that support it economically.

True Merothians rulership in the style of old may only still exist in far-off Presthor, if the storied last Merothian Free Barony (supposedly locked in an endless crusade that keeps its knights and nobles from returning to Merothia proper) even exists.

Merothians

Ethnically, Merothians are humans descended from the High Barons of Merothia, before that suzerain’s fall. They are generally typical in human appearance, with a trend toward light tan skin tones, darker hair and eye color, and thick shoulders, hips, wrists, and ankles. Those with more Njor blood tend to be taller, those closer to Te Astra and Te Essar tend to be thinner and paler (though not as fair as aething half-bloods), and those close to a port or harbor are often darker skinned, and may even be mistaken for Tarsians or Akkesh.

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Encounter Environment: The Gravity Chamber

This week I saved all my creative energies for one big post, and TGIF!

(Seriously, I’ve sold pdfs shorter than this… )

The Gravity Chamber

The Gravity Chamber is an encounter environment idea. It’s a room in which gravity swaps one a round, every round, randomly and often with little warning. Down becomes up, and then the next round becomes down again. PCs must deal with being constantly slammed up and down, hopefully while you also add another encounter (like driders with boxes of caltrops and a cyclops alchemist) to keep thigns fresh and terrifying.

The Set Up

Have this be a big room, with a ceiling that’s 20 feet high, plus 10 feet per 5 full levels of the PCs. Also, describe the weird bloodstains, scattered gear, and broken crockery everywhere…

Once the PCs are all inside, something triggers the room. Maybe it’s an ancient eldritch trap that goesn;t go off until everyone is inside. Maybe it’s a malfunctioning antigrav drive with an AI that waits for all passengers to be aboard. Maybe it’s just bad timing. Maybe a super-powerful psychic child is sitting in the middle of the room waiting for her powers to kill her, and she throws a tantrum. Maybe there’s a big shiny button, and the fun starts when someone presses it. Your game, your call. This is just a tool in your toolbox.

Once it’s going, the Big Swap rolls initiative every round. Keep this secret. When it’s number comes up, down and up switch places.

If there’s an off switch, the PCs can try to reach it. If not, the effect likely lasts 10 rounds.

The Difficulty of Reverse Gravity

The difficulty of anything you attempt in the Gravity Chamber is modified by how much warning there is before gravity takes hold, and how suddenly it happens once the switch occurs. Those aren’t things that exist in real-world terms, so there can be as much or as little warning as you, the GM, want.
To keep things interesting, I recommend you make the Difficulty Value 1.5x the Average party Level of your group. When a calculation of a DC calls for a value of X + DV, this should keep things interesting for characters of any level. For example, if a wizard who is part of a 5th level group is flying in the gravity chamber, his Fly check have a DC of 22 (15 + a DV of 7.5, rounded down to 7).

You could of course decide that the gravity chamber is the most dangerous, most sudden, most unpredictable version possible, and make all the DV’s 30. But that’s not going to be much fun for 8th level characters.

If you want to use the gravity chamber more than once, you can actually vary the DV and give the players careful explanations. If they run into a gravity chamber at 5th level with a DV of 7, explain that there is some warning, a sense of tilting or a brief moment of weightlessness, before each gravity switch. If they run into another one at 8th level, rather than a DV of 12 (as the formula would suggest), perhaps it has a DV of only 5. Explain that there is a groan and a series of clicks before the gravity switch, and that gravity fades in and out, quickly but not with no warning. It’s actually easier than the first one they encountered (which also allows you to put a more dangerous complementary encounter in the chamber).

This, of course, sets them up for the extremely violent, no-warning gravity chamber they encounter at 10th level, with a DV of 20. One hopes by then the players have made some preparations for these types of encounters.

The Details

What happens when gravity reverses itself depends on what you were doing at the time.

Standing: If you are standing when gravity reverses itself, you are going to fall. The only question is, can you reduce the damage by “jumping” toward the new ground, flip midair, and land on your feet? That’s a DC 10 + DV check, rather than a flat DC 15. Also, since otherwise people are standing from prone every round, you may wish to give people a choice of reducing the damage by 10 feet 9and falling prone if they take any damage), or landing in a heroic 3-point stance, which means they take full damage but *aren’t* considered prone.

Deadpool would approve.

Flying: Flying characters don’t get a pass just because they aren’t touching the ground. Flying means you are pushing against “down” with some force to counteract gravity. Since you don’t know when gravity will reverse itself, there’s a definite risk that the force used to push against “down” will slam you into the new down when gravity flips. After all if it’s just 40 feet from one side to the other, at 1g it only takes about 1.5 seconds to fall that distance (ignoring things like wind drag), and if you are flying at the midpoint it’s less than 1 second.

When gravity reverses, anyone flying must make a Fly check with a DC of 15 + DV. The exception to this is flight with perfect maneuverability, which only needs to make a DC of 0 + DV. On a failed check you move a number of feet toward the new “down” equal to double the amount you missed the check by. If you move so far you hit the current “down,” you take following damage and are prone.

Climbing: Climbing the walls or trying to use the Climb skill to stick to the floor when it becomes the ceiling is tricky… but not impossible. Usually an “overhand with handholds and footholds only” is DC 30, which is pretty epic. But you could, of course, add actual rungs, loops, gnarly roots, or even netting strung across every surface. To make a Climb effort a viable option you may want to go with a DC of 20+ DV, and be liberal with bonuses for doing things like hammering in pitons or getting clever with an immovable rod.

If a character has a climb speed and can stick to a surface gecko-like, it’s MUCH easier to stay stuck to a surface when gravity reverses itself… but like flight it’s not automatic. DC 5 + DV.
If you fail a check by 1-4, you may choose to be staggered and immobile, but stay in your space (representing a death-grip to stay put), If you fail by 5 or more, or aren’t willing to be staggered, you fall and hit the new floor.

Landing: Things like wind drag, randomly pushing off other objects by accident, and gravity eddies mean you don’t land exactly above or below your starting point. If you succeed at an Acrobatics check as described above, pick a square either directly under you or adjacent to the one directly under you, and you land there. For any other result, roll 1d8 and 1d20. The 1d8 determines your direction of scatter, if any. If it and the d20 result in the same number, you land directly under your starting space. If the d8 result is smaller than the d20 result, you drift 5 feet in the direction indicated by the d8. If the d8 result is bigger than the d20 result, you drift ten feet in the direction indicated by the d8.

If two or more creatures end up in the same space, they all make grapple checks. The creature with the highest result is standing (and may shift one space if necessary). All others are prone. No one is actually grappling, that just represents the mad scrabble to end up on top as they are flung together.

Hazards

Remember I mentioned the driders you could add might have boxes of caltrops? This thing is a giant washing machine, and everything is being banged about. Each round, everyone must make a Reflex save with a DC of 5 + DV. On a success, you dodged all the debris. On a failure, you take damage equal to falling half the distance to the ground, as pebbles, old gear, and even small rodents slam into you.

You can also have small fields of caltrops, alchemists bombs, and angry hornet’s nests bouncing around, with people trying to avoid landing on them. Move these the same way you move creatures, but if they end up sharing a space, the creatures automatically slam into them.

Ouch.

Rewards

If you follow the guidelines given here, the Gravity Chamber is an encounter roughly the same CR as the party’s average level. If you add another encounter to it, boost that encounter’s CR by +2.

Of course being a higher CR encounter means more treasure… but what if everyone gains some special ability as a result to exposure to the strange gravatoinic radiation of the chamber? Perhaps everyone can feather fall once per day as a spell-like ability? And if they encounter a second chamber, maybe double exposure means they can each levitate once per day… and so on…

Or maybe they just get to gather up adamantine caltrops!

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