Category Archives: Orroc

The Ogre of Battle

Spurred on by a discussion where someone suggested monster tactics as a product line, I took a quick pass at looking at some tactics for iconic monsters, to see if I think they can be useful and generic enough to make a good product. I’m not convinced wither way yet, but sharing my first draft seemed a great way to test the waters. Thus, here I present my ideas for ogre tactics. As the first giants PCs are likely to run into, ogres make a good stand-in for all Large humanoids, though obviously things like spell-like abilities and rock-throwing may give true giants better options. (Or you could use this with ogres that have orc ferocity, and call them orrocs!)

First, many GMs intentionally give ogres terrible tactics because they have an Intelligence of 6. But remember that this is three times as smart as a wolf. Would the smartest wolf you can conceive of make the bad tactical choice you are considering? No? Then neither should an ogre. Further their typical Wisdom of 10 and the fact they have Perception as a skill suggests ogres can recognize and analyze a situation even if they may do a terrible job describing it with good grammar. Certainly an ogre can recognize a spellcaster, see the issue with allowing foes to heal, know when to press the attack o have one unconscious foe and one healthy foe as preferable to two injured foes who can both fight back, and so on.

Indeed, recognizing spellcasters will often drive ogre tactics. With reach (which you can augment with various options below) an ogre has a decent chance of being able to strike a spellcaster in melee, and an ogre should know that they let their guard down when they cast spells, so desire to keep spellcasters close enough that they must cast defensively to avoid provoking attacks of opportunity from the ogre.

If facing foes without reach, an ogre with no adjacent enemies can safely attempt combat maneuvers against foes 10 feet away without provoking attacks of opportunity, and their Large size and high Strength makes them reasonable likely to succeed. Tripping foes can help with battlefield control (especially as the foe is likely to provoke an attack of opportunity when it stands), and disarming an enemy at least reduces the chance of suffering a full-attack action.

Some tactics are more like customizations, in that they move the ogre away from the base stat block of the bestiary, while staying a legal monster build.

Even if using slow progression, an ogre should average 550 gp of treasure, There is no need for this to all be gold and gems it hoards away in a pocket to be looted off its body. An ogre can have some of its treasure as gear it might use. As simple a choice as allowing it to carry a Large longspear (10 gp) gives the ogre an impressive 20 foot melee range, and it can drop the weapon and draw its greatclub if needed. With that much reach melee foes might well feel the need to risk a charge, and that means the ogre can brace to receive charge. (If this seems likely, consider a boar spear, which costs the same and gives a bonus to AC in that situation).

Similarly a Large heavy crossbow (100 gp) may only fire once every two rounds, but it gives the ogre a much heavier, longer-range initial punch. Since an ogres hide armor proves it is proficient with medium armor, upgrading to a Large breastplate (400 g, though it can save by not also buying Large hide armor for 30 gp) gives it +2 AC. A cure light wounds potion, thunderstone, tanglefoot bag, or other alchemical weapons can also increase it’s flexibility in battle, and are useful to 3rd level PCs as treasure.

If using multiple ogres, one throwing javelins and one with a boar spear can be an effective ranged-combat options until PCs manage to close in. If you have three or more ogres, you might consider giving one a kumade (which is a simple weapon with the grapple special weapon property) or a sickle (a simple weapon with the trip special weapon property) to keep foes worried about combat maneuvers.

If considering adjusting the ogre’s feats, Toughness can generally be swapped out for better choices. Improved Iron Will makes the ogre less likely to be defeated with a single bad Will save, or Power Attack gives it an excellent trade off of damage for a little reduced accuracy. If your campaign allows retraining, consider having two or more ogres with the Crowd Control teamwork feat to make it harder for foes to get inside their reach. If an ogre is going to be alone, the Desperate Battler feat may be useful.

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Worldbuilding Week: Merothian Emnities

We’re continuing Worldbuilding week with a look at who the Merothians as a group hate, and who hates them. They say you can judge people by their enemies, so this both helps form a background a player can draw from, and gives guidance for things like common bane weapons and favored enemies. It also helps a GM know what to use for “Merothian” combat encounters.

We already did a brief history of Merothia here, discussed Merothian traits characters could take here, and looked a Merothian culture here.

Merothian Enmities

Merothia was once a powerful coalition of proud baronies, feared by its foes and respected by its allies. Free Knights were well-known champions of freedom and liberty, and honored in every city that looked toward the light.

But now, everyone (except dwarves) look at Merothia as a failed land and see Merothians primarily as peasants who proved they cannot manage (and do not deserve) self-rule.

Some Merothains are bitter about this. Others aren’t, but know that in lands outside their own they are likely to be seen as bumpkins, idiots, or worse small-minded villains who seek only to steal the silverware.

In the days of the High Barons of Morothia, the three great threats to peace were mountain giants (and their orroc minions), orc raiders, and the garm. The epic tails of clashes against these forces are still told around bowls of donnersop, and most of the few remaining relics of Old Merothia are weapons carried into battle with names like Wolfsplitter or Jotunslayer. Orcs and orrocs, in particular, often raided into once-peaceful Merothians settlements when the Baron Kings fell, and though that was generations ago the memory of the Merothians survivors runs deep.

Because of the constant wars with orc and orroc tribes, many Merothian communities dislike and mistrust orcs and half-orcs, especially those from the Raudak. Though the orcblooded people of the Raudak have no direct connection to the orcs who plundered Merothia at the end of the Age of Tyrants, the fact the Raudak hold many Merothian towns as protectorates and has entirely taken over the few major Merothian cities near it causes current-day Merothians to heap the hate and fear of ancient orc tribes onto the modern-day Raudaki.

Though the old Jotun mountain giants appear to be gone, their degenerate offspring the stone giants and hill giants (and even larger tribes of orrocs) now control much of the Basalt Mountains. Such giants can raid with impunity into some Merothians towns, and are a constant threat to others. The orc tribes that answer to them, and the orroc who share giant blood, are much more likely to be actually encountered than a true giant, but the distrust, fear and hate for all these groups runs deep.

As the Njor often raid down from the north and clear have some Jotun blood, some groups of Merothians are suspicious of any Njor. However, the fact that Njor Giantslayers often travel into the central Basalt Mountains seeking to kill off specific storied villains of giantkind cause many Merothians to appreciate the value of a friendly Njor. A single Njor, or a couple of Njor travelling with other races, are more likely to be viewed in friendly terms than a band of multiple Nor, at least until livestock begin to go missing.

Though true garm are extremely rare since the Age of Tyrants, their close cousins the worgs and winter wolves remain threats throughout Merothia. If anything these canine creatures hate Merothians even more than the Merothians hate them, and worg shamans often gather small warbands together during storm season to destroy as many Merothians villages as possible.

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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 so 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 lost the vitality of their prime, and must now 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 who often feel they should all be treated as even more revered than the eldest of humans.

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 event where a segment of the community comes and enjoys these patched- and stewed-together offerings.

Both the tradition of giving 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 community’s 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. The letters are generally 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 an 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, and as data points to help reinforce to players 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 (including 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, your aid another bonus is +3 rather than +2. For skills, your aid another bonus is equal to 1 + 1/10th your total aid another skill check.

When you make an aid another check to help a nonhuman creature with a humanoid subtype you have never aided before, roll 1d20. If the result is a 20, this trait actually increases your aid another bonuses by +1 for all creatures of that subtype.

Distant Kin (Family trait). You have an extensive family of Merothian relatives who are commoners, peasants, and serfs. 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 also 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 long 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 (plus once per day per 5 caster levels) 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 it deals damage it deals minimum damage, and if the spell is not instantaneous its maximum duration is 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 cut that penalty in half for one round. You can’t reduce the same penalty from the same circumstances multiple times.

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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 to building a world that was “fair,” and it was often said “Twelve Merothians will starve rather than eat 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 Silent Empire 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, local petty tyrants (ranging from hags and dragons to powerful priests or other spell casters) 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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Additional Snow Rules

While snow is covered in Chapter Thirteen: Environment of the pathfinder Roleplaying game Core Rulebook, there are some additional rules I’d personally use if snow is a major element for a specific adventure, but not a common part of a campaign overall.

Adaptation: Creatures with both the cold subtype and native to a cold environment, and those with the cold subtype and a natural climb speed, ignore all rules to perception, getting lost, and movement from snow.

Light snowfall: Very light snowfall produces less than an inch of snow per day. It does not impact visibility or flames. It actually gives a +4 bonus to Survival checks to track anyone who has passed by since the snowfall stopped, since their prints are outlined.

Snowfall: Normal snowfall reduced visibility enough that a character may get lost in the wilds when it is snowing this hard. See Getting Lost, in the Wilderness section of Chapter Thirteen: Environment. If there is an additional effect in addition to the snow that might cause characters to get lost, any Survival check to avoid getting lost takes a -4 penalty.

Heavy Snowfall: When it is snowing this hard, a character can get lost outside even within an urban environment, but may make a Knowledge (local) check rather than a Survival check to avoid this. Also, a character in a wilds environment takes a -4 penalty to a Survival check to avoid getting lost. If there is an additional effect in addition to the snow that might cause characters to get lost, any Survival check to avoid getting lost takes a -4 penalty. See Getting Lost, in the Wilderness section of Chapter Thirteen: Environment.

Heavy snowstorms and blizzards also reduce the effectiveness of fire attacks. Creatures vulnerable to fire do not take additional fire damage if they are in a heavy snowstorm or blizzard.

Whiteout: The most powerful of blizzards cause whiteout conditions. This grants everything more than 5 feet away total concealment (even from sound-based blindsight and blindsense), and anything close standard concealment. Check to avoid getting lost take a -20 penalty, and must be made every 10 minutes. Whiteout conditions last from a few minutes to a few hours, and can drop 1d4 feet of snow per hour.

If a character is in snow deeper than they are tall, this is similar to being stuck in an avalanche. Buried characters take 1d6 points of nonlethal cold damage per hour, in addition to any cold hazard. If a buried character falls unconscious, he must make a DC 15 Constitution check or take 1d6 points of lethal damage every ten minutes thereafter until freed or dead. See Cave-Ins and Collapses for rules on digging out buried creatures.

Snow Creatures

You can turn any creature into a snow creature by giving it the cold subtype, moving it to a cold terrain, and giving it a climb speed equal to 1/2 its movement rate. While the CR of a cold creature it not increased in general, an encounter with one or more cold creatures in a snowstorm or blizzard has an ad hoc +1 CR adjustment.

For example, the Blue Orrocs of the northern Basalt Mountains are famed for their dark blue-to-purple coloration and their raids made into the lowlands during blizzards and winter storms.

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Orrocs

Orroc

In the Basalt Mountains, mighty tribes of hill and stone giants rule almost without question, often enslaving orc clans and forcing them to do any work the giants consider beneath them. Interbreeding isn’t common enough for half-giants to overrun the mountains, but the giantish blood has clearly been infused into the orc bloodlines over generations, forming a breed of hulking orcs both larger and more cunning than their kin of unadulterated heritage. Known as orrocs, these massive and powerful humanoids spread the tyranny of their giant overlords for miles in every direction from the mountains, and orroc scouts and raiders often influence (or sometimes control) orc bands in wilderness areas weeks away from the mountains to harass and weaken nearby kingdoms.

Unlike both their orc and giant kin, orrocs cannot interbreed with humans. This may be one of the reasons orrocs generally feel an intense dislike for half-orcs, and often go out of their way to inflict cruelties on their most humanlike kith. Half-orcs have no instinctive dislike of orrocs, but generally the way orrocs treat them is enough for a trained enmity to develop.

A typical orroc is an orc barbarian 2 with the advanced template. One in four is a bloodrager or also has the giant template (and roughly 1 in 16 is both). In a group of orrocs, In any given group or orrocs, half are likely to be higher level. A group of 16 orrocs is generally includes 8 second level orrocs, 4 third level orrocs, 2 fourth level orrocs, one fifth, and one sixth. Most bloodrager orrocs have the elemental (water) bloodline, though a few possess the aberrant or blook blood bloodline instead.

Roughly 1 in 8 orrocs has a class other than barbarian or bloodrager. Among these brawlers are common, and hunters and slayers often serve as scouts and assassins. Orroc oracles and warpriests are less common, but those that exist often lead warbands. Orrocs are rarely clerics, fighters, rangers, or rogues though some such creatures exist. No orroc arcane spell casters other than bloodrager are common enough to be considered anything but rare, and only skalds and witches are common enough to be encountered more than once in a lifetime. Any other class is encountered only in unique individuals.

Orrocs are treated as orcs, ogres, and giants for all prerequisites and when determining what abilities affect them.

Orrocs often have the Rock Chucker feat.

ROCK CHUCKER
You have your own form of the giant trick of rock-throwing.
Prereq: Ogre, cannot have rock throwing.
Benefit: You can hurl sling stones designed for creatures one size larger than your size as if firing them from a sling. You can hurl such stones as often as you are able to make attacks (you are not required to “reload” the stones). As long as you are in a rocky or natural setting, you are assumed to be able to find an unlimited supply of such stones under normal circumstances.