Category Archives: Pathfinder Development

Fantasy Pollaxe for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

Once again, I was watching the show Forged in Fire, and found myself moved to write Pathfinder Roleplaying Game stats for the features weapon. In this case it was a pollaxe, which is similar in some regards to the halberd and lucerne hammer, but distinct enough (and was common enough) I think it deserves its own write-up.

Martial Two-Handed Weapon

Name    Cost       Dmg (S) Dmg (M)    Crit    Weight   Type      Special
Pollaxe  30gp      1d8           1d10           x2       7 lbs.        B/S/P     Brace, Trip

A pollaxe is a common weapon among knights and those who must face heavily armored foes on foot. It has a wooden haft between fix and six-and-a-half feet long, with languets running along the top third or half. A metal head is mounted to the top, which features an axe blade, hammerhead, and spike. It is often confused with the halberd (which has a larger axe blade and normally no hammer), and the lucerne hammer (which has a clawhead rather than an axe blade).

A proficient character can use a pollaxe one-handed. Whenever a pole-axe is used one-handed, it is a one-handed weapon, and it’s damage die is reduced by one step (to d8, for S/M weapons).

A proficient character using a pollaxe two-handed, and who has the Lunge feat, can use Lunge with the pollaxe while taking only a -1 penalty to AC (rather than the normal -2).

A proficient character using a pollaxe two-handed, and who has the Combat Patrol feat, can use Combat Patrol as a standard action (rather than the full round action).

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Ichthine–A Species for all -finder games!

As far as I can tell, the urge to do this species came straight from the art, by the amazing Jacob Blackmon. Certainly nothing else I can think of inspired this. The write up should work for both the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

ICHTHINE

The ichthine are an ancient, accomplished species who have had access to star travel for millions of years. Able to place themselves into a natural form of hibernation, their species travelled the stars in vast slower-than-light ships to explore and learn. However, lacking any way to communicate with each other or their homeworld, each ichthine ship became its own hub of knowledge and developed its own culture. Most eventually began to break down in systems lacking the technology to repair or replace their advanced systems, and the ichthine inhabitants within eventually choose a new world to colonize. Ichthine than thus be found on thousands of world, many of which have no native star-travel capacity, or have only developed such capacity in recent centuries. If the original ichthine homeworld is still populated, none of the current ichthine populations know where it is. It has even been suggested the ichthine originated in a different galaxy, though most scholars dismiss this as hyperbolic legend.

Ichthine culture has survived, however, in part because they have a remarkable racial memory that retains a great deal of core knowledge from generation to generation. Each ichthine is born knowing the Aquan language, already able to speak and understand basic phrases, with a general knowledge of the history of their line. Thus most ichthine populations are aware of their long history of star travel, even those living on worlds with no more than iron age levels of technology. While the ichthine diaspora happened so long ago that many isolated ichthine populations have evolved to look radically different than their distant cousins, most recognize their kinship to ichthine of all types, and can remember in general terms a time when they had a united appearance.

On many worlds ichthine are known as “grandparent fish,” and are considered skilled advisors and scholars, Icthine generally take a long view of things, from history to politics to religious tolerance. This partially comes from their long lifespans and partially from their racial memories, but also seems to be a natural tendency of the species. While young ichthine are significantly more excitable than their older relatives, even as “tads” ichthine generally contemplate major actions and their consequences before diving into them.

However, once an ichthine has decided a risk or consequence is worth the benefit that causes it, they are loathe to reconsider that opinion without significant new evidence. This sometimes leads to ichthine picking up damaging vices, or remaining friends with people who have changed from being short-sighted or brash to being genuinely destructive or evil. Ichthine also think strongly in terms of groups, and hate excluding anyone once they have been accepted into any social or cultural organization.

Grandparent Fish

(Art by Jacob Blackmon. Available as stock art here!)

Species Traits

Ichthine are Medium monstrous humanoids. Despite their fishlike appearance, they can easily manipulate items with their nimble fins as well as a human with two normal hands.

+2 Wis, +2 Cha, -2 Str. Ichthine are calm and caring, often contemplating how helping others may help them as well, but have frame ill-suited to the leverage needed for optimized application of strength.

Movement. Ichthine have a 20-foot move rate, and a 30-foot swim rate.

Deep Senses. Ichthine have low-light vision and darkvision. When in a liquid environment, they also have blindsight, 30 feet.

Amphibious. Ichthine can breath air and water with equal ease.

Depth acclimated. Icthine ignore penalties for high pressure, both in water and in normal atmosphere.

Hibernate (Ex). As a full action an ichthine can slow its metabolism to a crawl, radically reducing its need for air, water, and food. In this state it does not suffocate or starve, and is considered unconscious for most purposes. However, a hibernating ichthine can make Perception checks at -10 to notice changes to its environment while hibernating, and choose to end its hibernation as a full action. A DC 10 Medicine check is required to differentiate between a hibernating ichthine and a dead one. An icthine’s hibernation can last for tens of thousands of years with no harm.

Racial Memory (Ex). An ichthine can attempt a recall lore task with untrained skills, regardless of the check’s DC. An ichthine receives a +2 bonus to all recall lore checks. If the recall lore check is for questions relating to the ichthine’s own heritage, this bonus increases to +10.

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Webbing Wednesday! noose webs

It’s Webnesday! When we take a look at web-related monster abilities for some d20 games!

This week, we look at: Noose Webs!

For Pathfinder!

Noose Webs (Ex): Any creature taking penalties or suffering a condition from this creature’s webs is also subject to choking every round any effort is made to free it from the webbing (by damaging the webbing, making an Strength check, and so on). Make a grapple check using the CMB of the creature that created the web (even if it is not present) against the target’s CMD. If the check is successful, the target cannot speak or breath and is fatigued that round. If the check is successful for a second consecutive round, the target also begins to suffocate.

For Starfinder!

Noose Webs (Ex): Any creature taking penalties or suffering a condition from this creature’s webs is also subject to choking every round any effort is made to free it fro the webbing (by damaging the webbing, making an Strength check, and so on). Make a grapple maneuver the melee attack bonus of the creature that created the web (even if it is not present) against the target’s KAC +8. If the check is successful, the target cannot speak or breath, takes bludgeoning damage equal to 1d4, +2 per CR of the creature creating the web, and is fatigued that round. If the check is successful for a second consecutive round, the target also begins to suffocate.

Armor’s environmental protections can prevent the inability to breath or speak (though not the bludgeoning damage) as long as they were active before the creature was affected by the web. Otherwise the webbing is wrapped around the target’s throat already, and activating the armor’s environmental protection has no effect.

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Webbing Wednesday! acid webs

It’s Webnesday! When we take a look at web-related monster abilities for some d20 games!

This week, we look at: Acid Webs!

For Pathfinder!

Acid Webs (Ex): Any creature taking penalties or suffering a condition from this creature’s webs also takes acid damage every round. The damage is 1 point for creatures of CR 1 or less, 1d3 for creatures of CR 2-3, 1d4 per 2 CR for creatures of CR 4 or higher. Additionally, this creature’s webs are immune to acid damage.

(Want to make things even worse? Add a swarm to the encounter!)

For Starfinder!

Acid Webs (Ex): Any creature taking penalties or suffering a condition from this creature’s webs also takes acid damage every round. The damage is 1d4, +1 point per CR of the creature. Additionally, this creature’s webs are immune to acid damage.

(Maybe add this ability to a Star-Drider!)

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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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Fantasy Folding Navaja Sevillana Blade for Pathfinder

The navaja is one of the first folding blades to gain widespread acceptance as a combat item, starting in regions of Spain, and was used in various eras as an openly carried utility knife, a trusted offensive weapon, a concealed choice for self-defense, and a highwayman’s tool of intimidation. While many different styles of navaja have existed, among the largest is the navaja sevillana, which commonly had a blade at least eight inches long, a locking ratchet, and a long curved handle. The blade was generally razor sharp (and may have evolved from folding straight razors), and when opened the overall length could easily run 16 to 20 inches.

This is a fantasy version of the navaja sevillana, appropriate for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game campaigns that mix rapiers, firearms, and printing presses. It doesn’t attempt to be a historic representation, and more than the game’s versions of longswords or falchions are, and though inspired by a real-world weapon it is not intended to reflect on any of the social, ethnic, or national groups that have used navajas throughout history.

(Martial) Light Melee Weapons
Name    Cost       Dmg (S) (M)        Crit         Weight  Type      Special
Navaja    50 gp     1d3        1d5*        18-20, x2             1 lb.     S     Deadly, finesse

*Numerous companies, including Impact Miniatures, now make d5 dice, but it you don’t have one (or don’t like them) you can treat this as 1d4+1 (and thus if you have a +1 STR bonus to damage, you’d roll 1d4+2)

Deadly: When you use this weapon to deliver a coup de grace, it gains a +4 bonus to damage when calculating the DC of the Fortitude saving throw to see whether the target of the coup de grace dies from the attack. The bonus is not added to the actual damage of the coup de grace attack.
Finesse: You can use the Weapon Finesse feat (and ability that work with weapon you can use with that feat) with a navaja sevillana.

Navaja Sevillana: If it is folded, you can conceal and draw a concealed navaja sevillana (using Sleight of Hand) in the same amount of time it takes to draw or sheath a normal weapon, and you gain a +4 bonus to Sleight of Hand checks to conceal it. If you are proficient with a navaja sevillana, you can open it and shut it as part of the same action used to draw or sheath it (even from concealment). If a navaja sevillana has the broken condition, its locking ratchet does not work, and it cannot be used to make attacks.

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The Shape of Gelatinous Evolution

Idea: Gelatinous Oozes change shape from cubes as they age, and gain special powers, based on their shape.

Gelatinous Torus: Gets increased speed and Spring Attack
Gelatinous Pyramid: Gets Spell Resistance equal to 15 + CR
Gelatinous Reuleaux Triangle: Gains the power of two other oozes, selected as random.
Gelatinous Apollonian Gasket: Can cast enlarge and reduce person, even on oozes, at will
Gelatinous Hyperboloid: Can cast haste and slow at will, and time stop once per day
Gelatinous Lemniscate: Gains the ghost’s rejuvenation ability.

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Microsetting: The City of Hoard

Microsetting: The City of Hoard

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

The City of Hoard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Index of Old School Ideas for Pathfinder

I admit it–I lost track of what Old School gaming ideas I did Pathfinder versions of.

So, time for an index!

Multiclass Hybrid Classes

These are ways to have the feel of 1st and 2nd edition multiclass characters, by creating a new class for Pathfinder. These work a lot like hybrid classes (and there aren’t combinations for things already covered by hybrid classes–who needs a cleric/fighter when you have the warpriest?), and don;t duplicate things that already work fine with pathfinder’s multiclassing rules (a fighter/thief already works well, and if not just take levels of slayer). These new multiclass combo rules give a balanced way to have the same kind of character feel the old multiclass combinations offered.

Cavalier/Paladin

Cleric/Assassin

Cleric/Fighter/Magic-User

Cleric/Fighter/Thief

Cleric/Ranger

Druid/Fighter

Druid/Magic-User

Fighter/Magic-User/Thief

Illusionist/Thief

And over at my Patreon, my patrons can enjoy the Illusionist/Fighter!

Other Concepts

There are some Old School ideas worth porting over beyond multiclass character combinations. here are three!

“Druidic” Bard (the Anruth)

Thief-Acrobat

Randomly Acquired Psionics

Falx for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

The falx is a weapon so powerful, it forced the Romans to make the only change to their armor (reinforced helmets) that was recorded as occurring specifically because of an enemy weapon. Used by the Dacians and Thracians, the falx was a curved blade sharpened on the inside edge. Contemporaneous accounts suggest it was made in both one-handed and two-handed versions, but the one-handed may also have been used in both hands at least sometimes. It seems to have come in both swordlike and polearm-like designs, and while its most powerful swing appears to have been a devastating overhand chop, it may also have been used to thrust. It seems related to the rhomphaia (as featured on a recent episode of the television show Forged in Fire), and went through many design evolutions. During much of the time it was a popular weapon, creating a long, sharp, strong blade required particularly skilled smiths, so the longer-bladed falx may have been weapons of prestige as well.

In short, it is exactly the kind of weapon rpg players love to argue about by finding specific references or illustrations that support one concept of what it looked like and how it was used, while ignoring others. And there’s just no need for that in an rpg setting. There’s room for lots of falx ideas to all be lumped together in one game mechanical weapon, the same way the pathfinder Roleplaying game combines numerous distinct weapon designs into the broad categories of shortsword” or “longsword.”

(Martial) Two-Handed Melee Weapons Name    Cost       Dmg (S) (M)        Crit         Weight  Type      Special

Falx        75 gp     1d4        1d6        19-20*, x4             8 lbs.     P or S     Disarm, trip

*See description

Falx: A falx is a two-handed martial weapon, but if Exotic Weapon Proficiency is taken with it, it can be wielded as a one-handed weapon. It is part of the axes, heavy blades, and polearms weapon groups. A falx is considered to have a threat range of “20” for the purposes of all abilities that increase threat ranges, but after making all such calculations its threat range is increased by 1. For example, a keen falx doubles its normal threat range of 20 to 19-20, then increases that threat range by 1 (to 18-20).

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