Category Archives: Microsetting

Starfinder Species: Xorarcan

Xorarcan

The Xorarcan are legendary as a humanoid warrior-species with an ancient history, but the truth of their existence is far more complex.

They evolved on the dead world of Xorarca, a high-G planet which has little water, extreme temperature shifts, and numerous radioactive heavy metals. Strength and resilience were crucial survival traits for all live on Xorarca, but the one humanoid race that evolved there clawed its way to the top of the food chain by adding planning, tools, and a willingness to sacrifice for the good of a larger community. No Xorarcan wants to die, but even more no Xorarcan wants to die uselessly. The idea of seeking a death that serves a greater good isn’t just a cultural element of Xorarcan life, it’s a survival instinct that developed as the only way for the species as a whole to thrive.

Long before Xorarca technological levels reach the point of space travel, they were discovered by a more advanced society who saw their value only in terms of slave labor and shock troops. Different races have been suggested as this conqueror of Xorarca, though native histories refer to them only as the Overlords. For millennia, the Overlords raided Xorarca every generation, taking the strongest and most accomplished warriors and engineers, and leaving behind only enough population to ensure that, with effort and sacrifice, there would be more potential slaves in another generation.

Xorarcan history states that in time the Overlords empire collapsed, and their many enslave races were left adrift. Most fell into barbarism and developed into petty warlords fiefdoms, but the Xorarcan drive to live a life that meant something caused many of them to strive to build something more. Over centuries, ships of Xorarcan who had never set foot on their native soil returned home, in ships cobbled together from Overlord technology or earned from other races through mercenary service. All were welcomed back as lost kin, and accepted into the greater Xorarca community.

But Xorarca was still a harsh world, and it could not support such an enlarged population. It became clear that for the Xorarcans to survive, they must continue to travel among the stars. The species does not wish to a find a new homeworld, but it does want to protect the world and culture that birthed it. In each generation, more than 75% of the Xorarcans born on their homeworld find themselves driven to leave native soil, for the good of their brethren. To ensure no new empire of Overlords ever seeks to enslave them again, and to protect their homeworld, those Xorarcans who leave take on warrior roles and work to establish a presence throughout the galaxy as acknowledged masters of war and defense. While the species has its share of poets, engineers, philosophers, mages, priests, actors, and even criminals, those who leave their world see projecting strength as a species a crucial step to protecting their beloved homeworld.

Similarly, Xorarcans abroad seek to be known as honest and good to their word, to ensure that deals made by their homeworld are respected and valued. This is not to say all Xorarcans are good or kind—a Xorarcan criminal simply ensures that any threat made can and will be carried out, and Xorarcan cheats avoid making any statement regarding the falsehoods they depend on.

Xorarcans value community, and even a lone member of the species far from home looks to find allies they can trust and protect. Most Xorarcans are taught from birth that their first and greatest duty is to their homeworld and their species, but a Xorarcan may choose duty and loyalty to a community of choice over one of inheritance.

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RACIAL TRAITS

Ability Scores. Xorarcans have a wide range of body types and mental traits, and despite a reputation for being strong and narrow-minded are actually among the most varied of species. A Xorarcan gains a +2 bonus to two ability scores of their choice, and take a -2 penalty to one ability score of their choice.

Size, Type,Vital Statistics: Xorarcans are Medium humanoids with the Xorarcan subtype. A typical Xorarcan stands 5’10” to 7 feet tall, and weighs 190-280 pounds. They reach the age a maturity at 15 years, and have a maximum age of 100 + 2d29 years.

Move: Xorarcans have a 30 foot land speed. If any effect reduces their speed by a set amount, that reduction is decreased by 5 feet.

Darkvision: Xorarcans have darkvision with a range of 60 feet.

Plain Speech. Xorarcans are renowned for being straightforward and good as their world, and find getting what they want through deception awkward and uncomfortable. They receive a -4 penalty to Bluff checks to lie (though not for any other task of the skill), and a +2 bonus to Diplomacy and Intimidate checks.

Independent: Xorarcans have evolved to be difficult to control, and even-tempered. They receive a +2 bonus to all saving throws against mind-affecting to emotion effects, and the DC to bully them with Intimidate is 5 higher than normal.

Harsh Homeworld: Xorarcans take no penalties in thin, normal, or thick atmospheres. They treat hot environments as 30 degrees cooler, and cold ones as 30 degrees warmer, for purposes of environmental hazards. They treat high gravity as standard gravity and extreme gravity as high gravity (even for purposes of determining bulk).

THEME: XORACAN WARRIOR

Many of the traits considered “inherent” to Xorarcans are actually cultural norms ingrained in all Xorarcans born and raised on their homeworld of Xorarca. While theoretically a non- Xorarcan could be raised in the same manner, such as a human adopted by Xorarcan parents or a shirren born to diplomats on Xorarca who have adopted its culture and have numerous native friends, normally only Xorarcans can take this theme.

Theme Knowledge. Xorarcans know the universe is a cold, harsh place and train their young to be prepared to use even protection available to them. You begin play proficient with heavy armor. If the class you take at 1st level is already proficient with heavy armor, you begin play proficient with powered armor. If the class you take at 1st level is already proficient with powered armor, you reduce the armor check penalty of any armor you wear by 1 (minimum 0). Additionally, you can alter any armor you wear to match the appearance of traditional Xorarcan war-gear with 1 day of work, giving you a +2 bonus to Intimidate checks to demoralize while wearing it.

Armored Juggernaut [6th]. At 6th level, you ignore the bulk of any armor you wear. Additionally, when wearing heavy armor or powered armor, your unarmed attacks deal damage equal to the solar weapon of a solarian of a level equal to your character level.

Rugged [12th]: At 12th level you can, once per day, when wearing armor, grant yourself a number of temporary Hit Points equal to your level. These fade after 10 minutes or when used.

Unstoppable [18th] At 18th level, your ability to overcome adversity is so great you gain determination when things turn against you. The first two times each day when facing a significant enemy you take a critical hit or fail a saving throw, you gain one Resolve Point.

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American Fighter: An Analogy as Superhero History

American Fighter was born Roy Wood to an unwed mother in 1925. Of Irish/German descent, he showed no particular faults or aptitudes as a child, getting unremarkable grades and managing well enough for a child with first no father, then a largely absent step-father, who left the family by the time Roy was 15. He was remembered as a shy boy who worked in a car shop and sang in the school glee club.

He graduated from high school in 1943, and immediately enlisted in the United States Marines. Ordered to a Repair and Overhaul unit in the Pacific, he was exposed to a mix of experimental gasses from secret super-soldier programs being run at the same facility. His skin, uniform, and helmet became significant more resilient, able to bounce small arms fire and even survive antimaterial and anti-tank munitions. He was immediately given a nom de masque of American Fighter, and sent into much of the worst island fighting. Though American Fighter is often depicted in posters and art of the era standing with the heroes of Liberty Force who operated in Europe, he never served with them, and only rarely met any of Liberty Force’s members.

In 1946 he was discharged, and moved to Los Angeles to live with his mother. He tried to join the Liberty Guard, a national hero teams forming at the time, but was rejected for low academic standards. When he was spotted by a scout for the Universal utility corporation, which was interested in creating hero teams to protect their own interests and garner positive P.R., he was signed to a lengthy U.U. “taxi hero” contract. The taxi heroes were paid on a per-mission basis and assigned to regions and teams as determined by U.U’s Hero Relations department.

American Fighter was initially assigned to the Coastal Crimefighters, who largely opposed the Undertow Gang of underwater pirates. While he was always assigned back-up or support roles, he also received training from Universal Utility handlers in public speaking, judicial law, small unit tactics, horseback riding, and etiquette. As he was photogenic he also came to be featured heavily in hero-themed magazines, despite his relatively minor activity level. Through the late 1940s and into 1942, he also worked with the Freedom Hawks, Hero Cadets, and on loan as one of the Big Man’s “irregulars”

In 1952, American Fighter was assigned as the team leader of the Furious Five, with the more experienced heroine Talavera as the team secretary and unofficial second-in-command. Talavera had worked with American Fighter in the Freedom Hawks, and had a career that went back to before WWII. The Five quickly grew to be to popular to keep as a single unit, and each was moved to taxi hero roles in other groups for part of every year from 53-55, with American Fighter serving as second-in command for the Hero’s Horizon and then standing as the leader of the Law Breed when founder Golden Blade was injured in the line of duty.

In 1953, a new villain struck the we coast. Known only as the Obsession, this mastermind combined complex heists with random acts of mayhem and violence and terrorist attacks using clouds of psychotropic drugs that made coordinated responses by local authorities almost impossible. The Obsession began to co-opt and unify organized crime west of the Rockies, and Universal Utility suffered multiple significant thefts and kidnappings for ransom. U.U. turned all its Hero Relations resources to bringing the Obsession to justice. In a Los Angeles raid on August 4, 1954, American Fighter was part of a small team that breached the Obsession’s base of operations, and American Fighter delivery the knockout blow to the crazed villain—immediately elevating himself to major hero status.

By 1955 American Fighter was voted one of the ten most popular and effective heroes in American by Modern Hero Magazine. Universal Utility immediately made him the focus of multiple teams, including the newly-renamed Fighting Five, the Freedom Brigade, and the Giants of Justice.

However, his popularity waned within a decade. By 1965 the Fighting Five and Giants of Justice had been disbanded, and American Fighter had been moved to “emeritus” status in the Freedom Brigade, to make room for new heroes such as Repulsor, Fast Cat, Chiller, and Doctor Phoenix.

During this time it became well known in the hero community that American Fighter was gay. He was discrete about his privacy, and little attention was publicly paid to the question at the time. His handlers as U.U. worked strenuously to keep his private life out of the public eye.

American Fighter left the Fighting Five (which disbanded a few years later, though numerous revivals have been attempted) when his U.U contract ended, and tried live as an agent of S.T.E.E.L. (Special Taskforce on Espionage and Enforcement of Law), and then as one of the Strangefellow, and finally as the leader of the Second Chances (a time-travelling group that worked to fix minor disasters in such a way as to not affect history in any other major way). Though none of these efforts were considered noteworthy at the time, the Second Chances have in recent years come to be considered one of the few truly successful time-travelling hero teams.

Moving back to traditional hero teams, American Fighter joined The Undefeated, a team of U.S. heroes operating overseas in 1969. The team was fairly well-known as successful, but their operations had a high financial and political cost, and they were disbanded in 1971. From ’71 to ’77, American Fighter settled down in San Francisco, and operated with the Heroine Saint Angel as part-time, local heroes taking on minor regional issues. He and Saint Angel married, but quietly divorced in ’76, though still working as crimefighting partners for a year after that.

A lifetime of heavy drinking and smoking began to take its toll in the late ‘70s and early 80s. American Fighter participated in a number of one-time mass hero operations, but could not catch on as a permanent member of a hero team. He notably took part in the Avalanche Wars in 1978 and the Martian Campaigns in 1980. An effort was made to build a new team around him, the Devlin Dogs, in 1981, including adding Fighting Youth to the rooster, the son of American Fighter and Saint Angel from before their marriage as a teen sidekick. However, multiple bypass heart surgery sidelined American Fighter a few months after the team launched, and though he returned to it after recover, the team disbanded within a year after that.

He joined the Dynasty of Warriors in 1984, but was clearly past his prime and often contributed little to major conflicts.

Unknown to the public, American Fighter was diagnosed with HIV in 1984, just one year after the initial identification by scientists of the HIV virus. The hero kept the disease secret for many months while working with old colleagues to search for a cure. His health was visible declining. Rumors began to spread that he had liver cancer, but eventually his publicist announced that American Fighter had AIDS. As one of the first well-known American heroes to be publicly diagnosed with AIDS, this sparked a national debate about his sexuality and the disease.

American Fighter died in October, 1985, of infections related to the AIDS virus.

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The Chosen… ish

“You are the Chosen Seventeen.”

“Say what now?”

“Chosen. The Chosen Seventeen. I mean, one of them, obviously. You’re not all 17.”

“I… I mean. I thought there was a Chosen One?”

“Oh, there is! She’s great. Met her at a seminar a couple of years ago. But, yeah, no. You’re not THAT Chosen. I mean, only one person is the Chosen ONE, right?”

“O… Okay. So… after the Chosen One, we go to the Chosen Seventeen?”

“Oh heck no! Wouldn’t that be weird? No, after the Chosen One, there are the Chosen Two. Who I have NOT met, but I am told are equally great. Well, I mean not EQUALLY great, obviously. They are only half as Chosen. But the two of them together are just as good as the Chosen One, and each on their own are still WAY better than an Un-See.”

“An Un-See?”

“Yeah, UnChosen. UnSee, for short.”

“So… after the Chosen Two, there are… ”

“Then the Chosen Three, the Chosen Five…”

“No Chosen Four?”

“What? No. Four isn’t a prime number.”

“Pri… but you said there were a Chosen Two?”

“Yeah. Two is prime. You… you weren’t paying attention in math class, were you?”

“Well I TRIED, but I kept having these weird daydreams about awful things happening to my friends.”

“Oh, yeah, the Fel Abstraction. That’s one of the powers of the Chosen Seventeen.”

“Oh. Ah, okay. What’s it good for?”

“I mean, not a lot. It’s an abstraction. Of fel things. Terrible things that could, theoretically happen, but probably won’t. Though I *am* told it’s good for coming up with lyrics to death metal songs.”

“I see. So I have vicious woolgathering?”

“Pretty much, yeah. Though that’s only ONE of your powers.”

“Uh-huh. And, tell me, am I one-seventeenth as useful and powerful as the Chosen One?”

Oh heck no. Not even close. You have one-seventeenth of her POTENTIAL, sure. But she’s 27 years old, we identified her when she was 9, she’s been trained by the greatest mystics and warriors most of her life, and she was granted the holy relic, the legendary blade Durandal.

“Where as I am 48, you JUST found me, and up til now I have been trained by a failing public school, two community colleges, and one Fast-Burger Shift Manager training Program.”

“Er… yeah. So you see how you are way, I mean WAY, less than one-seventeenth as potent as the Chosen One.”

“Do I even get a holy relic? Like, the Pope’s steak knife, or something?”

“You DO get a hold relic, if you complete your 90-day probationary period.”

“Great. Super. What holy relic?”

“Well, I mean, the weapons are mostly handed out to the Magnificent Eleven. You know, the Chosen One through the Chosen Five.”

“Sure. makes sense.”

“And the holy shields, gauntlets, and vambraces generally get divvied up among the Awesome Eighteen. Then…”

“Hey, one isn’t a prime number either!”

“Excuse me?”

You said there was no Chosen Four, because four isn’t prime. But neither is one. I do remember THAT form math class!”

“It’s not that all prime numbered groups of people are Chosen. It’s that there are ranks of Chosen, with the Chosen one at the top, and every tier UNDER that is eldritch potential divided among a prime number of people.”

“Why?

“Who the hell knows? Not my department. Anyway, you wanted to know about your relic?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“Well, as the last of the Seventeen, you’re part of the Terrible Thirty…”

“Terrible as in terrible to behold?”

“Ah, no. More like “terrible twos,” to be honest. I mean, these aren’t official group designations but… look. While there ARE a Chosen Nineteen, and a Chosen Twenty-Three, by the time the eldritch potential is divided that thinly, it’s not a lot different from just being an UnSee. We don’t even recruit them, normally.”

“Really? Because one-seventeenth of being Chosen doesn’t seem to be that different from one-nineteenth of being Chosen.”

“You’re right. It’s not.”

“So… ah.”

“Yeah. Historically, most of the Chosen Thirteen are constantly bitching about how each of them is very nearly as good as one of the Chosen Eleven, but gets no respect, and most of the Chosen Seventeen are complaining no one takes them seriously. So, their Compeers–that is the people who train, advise, and direct them, like I am with you right now–their compeers generally find the Terrible Thirty–the Thirteens and Seventeens–are a huge pain in the ass to deal with.”

“So why bother?”

“Because if we don’t, the Bockshexe, Goulekon, or Nelapsi will recruit you. Any of those groups are bad enough without any decent amount of Chosen-ness to give them an edge. And the Terrible Thirty may often be worse than useless, but they do less damage as crappy heroes than augmented villains.”

“So a Seventeen is just potent enough to make preventing them from going Dark Side smart, while a Nineteen simply isn’t worth the effort? Awesome. Tremendous. What a glorious destiny I foresee. And my relic?”

“Oh, sorry! So the Thirteen get the  flops and pings..”

“The what?”

“My bad, that’s Compeer talk. They get the majority of the cloth and metal relics that aren’t arms or armor–cloaks, boots, rings, amulets, that kind of thing.”

“Uh-huh. And what, dare I ask, does that leave for a Seventeener?”

“You have the advantage of picking from a fairly large category of relics. We have more than seventeen of these, so even as the Last Seventeen, you’ll have a choice within the category.”

“Okay, swell. but what’s the category?”

“Holy Miscellany.”

“… Seriously?”

“Look, we don’t make holy relics. Not for centuries. So we have to make do with what we’ve found over the centuries. And some things just defy easy categorization. But like I said, we have a LOT of those, so…”

“Gimme an example.”

“What?”

“Miscellany doesn’t tell me much. So give me an example of some holy relics in that category.”

Well, okay. There are the Tablets of Destiny, stolen by Anzû the Demon Bird from Enlil and hidden on a mountainside. They offer dominion over all the things written within their divine law.”

“Er… wow. That’s amazing!”

“Yep! Of course they’re made of clay and are thousands of years old, so there are parts missing…”

“How much is missing?”

“More than 99% The remaining clay bits pretty much fit in a wallet now, and just give dominion over onions, cucumbers, adzes, bronze daggers, and clay tablets. Itself included.”

“Ah… well, okay. I an still see lots of uses for that.”

“Absolutely. It’s the most powerful of the Miscellany, so it’s always the first thing selected by a new generation of Seventeens.”

“Oh. I see. And I am the LAST Seventeen? So that’s been taken?”

“Oh, heck yeah. No, the Tablets are absolutely spoken for. But you wanted an example, so…”

“How about an example of things I could actually pick from?”

“Oh. Well, sure. I mean, they won’t be Tablets of Destiny…”

“My point exactly.”

“Well, okay. There is the Holy Door of Alexander the VI.”

“A door?”

“Yeah, I mean it’s not something you’re going to carry around with you, but you could have it installed in an RV or something. And when you walk through it, for 24 hours you gain the Borgia Sight”

“Great. Fantastic. And what does that do?”

“The next significantly bad thing that happens to you?”

“Yes?”

“You see how you could have avoided it.”

“But only after it happens?”

“Yeah, but that’s still some potent hindsight?”

“Okay, true. Not terrible. What else?”

“There’s the Iron Jiaozi. It’s a 900-year old paper bank note, which was used to pay a swordsman to kill a demon. Whoever last licked it has the power to always know how much a killer would require to kill someone for pay.”

“Only killers?”

“Yeah. Not just assassins, but anyone who has killed another person.”

“Righty. Grim, and weirdly specific. And I don’t think i want to lick thousand-year-old money. But I could see it being a huge help in the right situation. Gimme one more example.”

“There’s the Whitehall Chair. it was designed by Inigo Jones. Sitting in it allows you to sleep, no matter your condition, restfully and for exactly how long you wish.”

“No drawbacks?”

“Well… it’s a 85-pound chain. That just lets you sleep…”

“But it’s not sleep cursed with nightmares, or you snore loudly enough to wake the dead, or you end up with a weird crick in your neck?”

“Oh no. The sleep is always restful and fulfilling.”

“Great. Sign me up. I feel super Chosen.”

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A Beginning Is A Very Delicate Time

“We are locked in existential battle with the forces of Khernobog. Every living, thinking thing on the other side of the rivers and mountains wants us dead. Or worse.

“The Wards Majoris keep out most threats. More powerful creatures can burst through the wards, of course, but doing so takes time and sets off alarms. As long as our Princips aren’t busy elsewhere, they can respond to any such effort and prevent a breach.

“But more minor creatures are simply below the threat level the wards respond to. Sometimes those lesser forces of Khernobog gather in numbers large enough to be a significant danger. Generally they must take such armies through the fords or passes. Which is why there are keeps and castles there, manned with veterans who couldn’t stop a creature powerful enough to breach the wards, but can act in units to guard against incursions of massed minor threats.

“Of course, for them to respond quickly, they can’t stray too far from those routes, and they can only patrol so much territory beyond that. Smaller groups of minor creatures that can pass through the wards can sneak past the patrols, or move through rough terrain a whole army couldn’t negotiate.

“Such individuals and small bands are no danger to our lands as a whole. But that is no comfort to a father mourning a stolen child, or a wisewoman who loses her chickens.

“Those threats are minor, but no less threats, and someone must face them. Someday, perhaps, you will have the experience and power needed to guard the castles. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll even be a Prencip, and defend us from reality-altering powers of the enemy.

“But until then, we need you to form into small groups, and seek out those threats you can handle. Ensure that the patrols don’t have to abandon their posts, and the Princips are neither distracted nor out of position.

“It may seem minor, but this, too, is a great service to our lands.”

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Aberration Collective Nouns, A-Z

A list of 26 collective nouns for various aberrations. For those of you who find such things useful.

Not specifically designed for the Aberrant Empire… but clearly related to similar ideas.

An Ambush of Chuul
A Bushwack of Mimics
A Cacoethes of Intellect Devourers
A Drape of Cloakers
An Exlex of Gugs
A Flatus of Flumphs
A Grasp of Gricks
A Hybridization of Driders
An Iatrarchy of Mi-Go
A Jargon of Gibbering Mouthers
A Kakidrosis of Catoblepae
A League of Decampi
A Macropterous of Lurkers Above
A Noisome of Byakhees
An Origin of Aboleths
A Padrone of Incutilises
A Qanat of Delvers
A Rille of Moon-Beasts
A Strangle of Choakers
A Toadtality of Froghemoths.
An Umbraculum of Darkmantles
A Vafrous of Naga
A Web of Ettercaps_
A Xenagogue of Elder Things
A Yawp of Destrachans
A Zazzle of Carbuncles

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The Aberrant Empire

Aberrations are usually presented as lone monstrosities to be slain for their loot, or fallen kingdoms of single aberration species well past their glory days.
But if dwarves and elves and humans can have multi-species nations, why can’t there be a vast, thriving, dangerous Aberrant Empire, where all things alien and unwholesome serve a single Aberrex ruler.

Aatheriexa taskmasters cruelly drive monstrous humanoid laborers and magical beasts of burden to build twisted basalt monoliths, work fields that grow fleshy fungus, and forge weapons designed to tip tentacles and adorn eyestalks using greenish metal poisonous to non-aberrant races.

Akaname commandos sabotage the wells, waterways, and sewers of major cities or strongholds too near the Empire’s borders, ensuring disease and infestation keep potential enemies weak.

Blightspawn priests rule over congregations of non-aberrant “hostkin,” who literally give their bodies for the worship of twisted gods and the incubation of elite Imperial species.

Brume inquisitors ensure the loyalty of all with the Empire and draw knowledge out of the memories of its captured enemies, while cerebral stalkers turn what’s left of any subject into a useful servant of the Aberrex.

Choker assassins end the lives of those who threaten the Empire in silent attacks, or slaughter those foe’s loved ones and allies if unable to crush the enemy’s windpipe directly.

Destrachan heralds sound the calls to mobilize Aberrant armies, and learn the sounds of insanity from their Aberrant nobles to let loose mind-shattering calls that blast psyche as well as flesh.

Ailing aberrations that have served the empire well join in final, dread rituals to combine into egregores, or yah-thelgaad, ensuring their experience and fell knowledge can continue to fulfill imperial needs for centuries more.

Ethereal filchers both guard the border planes around the Empire, and act as intelligence agents, stealing opposing forces plans from their very pockets.

Froghemoth juggernauts, directed by armored ghorazagh commissars, anchor mighty armies and naval forces, acting as living siege engines, and often ridden by khardajeen artillery.

Incutilis and their lords man flotillas and watery caravans, ensuring that the appetites of the Empire are met, and that those who oppose them are subdued and forced to serve the Empire’s needs.

Hyakume magecrats rule Imperial territories, each defined by a strange border that respects no boundary non-aberrant eyes can perceive.

At the center of the Empire, sits 13 tychilarius, jointly the Aberrex, an aberrant amalgam of all the Empire’s best, most loathsome agents and lords. Do they serve a greater master? If so, can mortal minds even comprehend it?

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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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