Category Archives: Pathfinder Development

Developing to Spec: Starfinder Missing Legacy Feats (Part 1)

This is Part One of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints. You can find Part Two here, or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

The job of a freelance game developer (or writer) isn’t always to do the thing you think is the best, or the most fun. Sometimes, it’s to do the best, most fun version of the thing you are being paid to create. You may think that core idea is a bad one, but if you agree to do the job, you are agreeing to fulfill its design goals. You can (and should) suggest the design goals might not be good ones (you are being paid for your opinions and talents, by all means be a strong advocate for your opinion), but in the end the people paying you deserve to get what they ask for if they aren’t convinced by you.

And there absolutely CAN be good business reasons to do a product that has a concept that isn’t the most fun, or more useful addition to a game. If you have moral or ethical objections to that concept, the right answer is to refuse to do it at all. If you just think it’s not a great idea, and you agree to do it, your task is to make the best version of that product you can.

Sometimes, the results can surprise you.

So, let’s look at some concrete examples of developing an idea that, at least at first blush, isn’t fun or smart.

Let’s do the Starfarer Missing Legacy Feats.

Here’s our remit: Create Starfinder-compatible versions of all the feats that are in the PF Core Rulebook, but not in the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

There are some obvious issues here. the two games are different, despite sharing a lot of the same DNA. And many feats are “missing” because they’ve been simplified or replaced. In fact, we run into this issue with the VERY first “missing” Legacy feat: Acrobatic.

Acrobatic is one of the PF feats that gives you +2 to two skills: Acrobatics and Fly. There’s no need for that feat in Starfinder, because Skill Synergy covers it and more. (And the skill DC math is different, the bonus structure is different, and there’s no Fly skill, and… lots of reasons, but Skill Synergy is the most obvious).

So, we are required to have an Acrobatic feat, and it’s a terrible idea for it to do the same thing. So, as a developer or writer where do we start? Well, I always like to go read the rules we’re dealing with, so it’s time to read Starfinder’s Acrobatics skill.

Here we see the skill has 4 tasks: balance, escape, fly and tumble. We don;t want to give numerical bonuses to any of those (because that would interefere with the balance of skill DCs in the game), and we want to give benefits that feel ‘acrobatic,’ and apply to both being acrobatic and flying.

Looking at fly first, we see you normally have to take a move action to hover, or if you have perfect maneuverability you can do it without making a check, or as a swift action if you make a check. But taking a swift action still prevents a full action in Starfinder. So, here’s a place we could have a benefit — allow you to hover as if you had perfect maneuverability even if you don’t, and allow you to hover without using any action without making a check if you do have perfect maneuverability.

So, that means we need some similar benefit for one or more of balance, escape, and tumble.

With balance, you need to make a check if you take damage, so we could allow someone with this feat to ignore that requirement.. but that’s pretty corner-case so more is needed. Escape is a standard action, or a minute for restraints, so we could make that faster. Tumble requires you to not be encumbered… but that makes sense. It also requires you to move at half speed as a move action, so there’s a place we can give some benefit for the feat.

And as a last step, we need to check all other feats and class abilities to make sure none of them already do the things we are now considering making feat benefits.

Then, we pull the whole thing together, as follows:

ACROBATIC
You are particularly talented at balancing, flying, and tumbling.
Benefit: When using the Acrobatics skill for the following tasks, you gain the listed advantages.
Balance: You do not have to make a skill check to maintain your balance if you take damage.
Escape: You can attempt to escape from a grapple or pin as a move action. You can attempt to escape from restraints in half the normal time.
Fly: If you do not have perfect maneuverability, you can attempt to hove as if you did have perfect maneuverability. If you do have perfect maneuverability, you can hover without making a check and without taking an action to do so.
Tumble: You can make an Acrobatics check to tumble as part of any action in which you move, and do not have to move at half speed to do so.

So those are all situational, minor benefits–but there are four of them, they are all linked to the same skill, and none of them alter the balance of skill check math in the game. Overall, not a bad feat!

Next comes Acrobatic Steps… which is built on Nimble Moves. Starfinder has a feat called Nimble Moves, which is better than PF’s Acrobatic Steps, but our remit requires us to create Acrobatic Steps, so…

ACROBATIC STEPS
You can easily move over and through obstacles.
Prerequisites: Dex 15, Nimble Moves
Benefit: As long as you are not encumbered or overburdened, you ignore the effects of difficult terrain.

Which brings us to Agile Maneuvers, which has a similar, but potentially more complex set of issues. Which we’ll tackle tomorrow!

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Shield Traits for Pathfinder 2e

One of the unified systems in the second edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is a set of weapon traits that make specific fighting styles work differently from one another without having to depend on special class features or unique rules that apply to only a single weapon.

That same idea can easily be applied to shields, allowing all the common shield types and options to apply to some of the specific kinds of shields that evolved in the real word to meet specific fighting styles’ needs.

For example here are to Applied Kite Traits, designed to be applied to several different types of shields, allowing specific shields used by cavalry forces in the real word to function without special class features or skill uses.

A shield can only have one Applied Kite Trait, and that trait must be selected when the shield is crafted.

Bouche: A bouche shield has a series of ridges and notches along the top and one side that allow a mounted wielder to brace a lance on the shield. While wielding a bouche shield, you gain access to the set lance action.

A buckler, wooden or steel shield can have the bouche trait. This increases the cost by 1 gp, and reduces hardness by 1.

Set Lance [1 Action]: The next attack you make with a lance before the end of your turn does damage dice as if you were holding the lance 2-handed. You must be mounted and be wielding a lance in one hand to take this action.

Shield Bouche Bouch Shield

Kite: A kite shield has a wide, rounded top and tappers down to a point. It is a long shield, normally running 3/4 to 4/5 the height of the user.

When you take the Raise a Shield action with a kite shield while mounted, your mount also benefits from the increase to AC. If you have access to the Shield Block reaction, you can use it to defend your mount from a physical attack, rather than only when you would take damage from a physical attack.

A wooden, steel, or tower shield can have the kite trait. This increases the cost by 1 gp, and increases the bulk by 1.

Kite Shield Kite Shield

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Heightened Spellbook: New Spell Options for PF2

One of the interesting things Pathfinder second edition has done is have a uniform set of rules for casting spells at higher spell levels. Many spells end up taking niches similar to lesser- and greater- versions from the first edition by having a set of effects that get better as you access higher-level versions of the spell.

Of course not every Pathfinder Second Edition spell has heightened benefits… but they all COULD.

So, I’m beginning to look at ways to add heightened effects to PF2 spells that currently don’t have them. For the moment, I’m starting at the beginning of the alphabet and just seeing how far I get, doing just a few each day.

Later these may all get compiled into a pdf, and backers of my Patreon at every level will certainly have compiled access to them eventually, as well as having the similar rules for focus spells I am posting exclusively on my Patreon pages.

I don’t want to duplicate the fine work other people have done compiling the base rules online (such as the PF2 SRD and the Archives of Nethys), so I’ll just list the spell, and it’s new heightened rules.

So, let’s get started with the Heightened Spellbook!

ABYSSAL PLAGUE     Spell 5
Heightened (+2) Targets increases to +1 additional creature adjacent to the touched creature; disease level increases by +2.

AIR BUBBLE     Spell 1
Heightened (+1) Targets increases by +1; duration is doubled (x2 at 2nd level, x4 at 3rd level, etc.)

AIR WALK     Spell 4
Heightened (+2) Targets increases to +1 additional creature adjacent to the touched creature; duration is doubled (x2 at 6th level, x4 at 8th level, etc.)

ALTER REALITY     Spell 10
Heightened (+1) Level of spells you can duplicate in each category increases by +1.
(Note: You’ll need some rules for 11th level spells to use this one, but if you’re using spells from some rando’s blog, who knows what other optional spells you’ve adopted?)

ANIMAL MESSENGER     Spell 2
Heightened (2nd) Animal messenger will bring a message or light Bulk item back to you, as if the recipient has also cast this spell.
Heightened (+1)
 Range and duration is doubled for each time you add this heightened effect.

00 Dragon and Wizard - RetroPunk

Art (c) RetroPunk, used under license

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Shield Feats for PF 2E

Okay I’m at Gen Con, but I can’t help but want to play with some of the most interesting new rules of the  Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook. Shields!

Here are some new shield-focused feats. I am still trying to decide how I want to present some of the new information PF2 feats need in my blog format, so here’s a first try.

Angle Shield[General][Feat 1]

Prerequisites Shield Block
You can angle your shield to deflect part of the force of a powerful blow. When you use the Shield Block feat, your shield takes 5 points less damage than normal (minimum 0).

Duck Down[General][Feat 3]

[Reaction]
Trigger: When you have your shield raised and are forced to make a saving throw.
You can duck down behind your shield, making it more difficult for spells and special abilities to target and effect you. You gain a +1 bonus to the triggering saving throw. You are no longer considered to have your shield raised.

Knock Aside [General][Feat 1]

When you are wielding a shield, you gain a +2 bonus to the Disarm, Force Open, Shove, and Trip actions of Athletics.

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Making d20 Creatures Interesting: Phase Venom

In general, d20 games are more fun if the foes have abilities that require PCs to make interesting decisions.

Ideally these abilities can be easily figured out (perhaps after being experienced a time or two), follow an internal logic, and force the players to try new things without being frustrating or overpowered.

For example:

Phase venom. A creature with phase venom is out of phase with all standard planes of existence. It takes only 50% of the damage inflicted on it, and it only 50% likely to be effected by nondamaging effects.

All the creature’s attacks infect targets injured with phase venom, causing them to be more in-phase with it, and less with the normal universe. Such targets do full damage to the phase venom creature and have nondamaging effects affect it, normally, but receive 50% less healing from allies not at the same phase, and each round are 50% less likely in that round to be affected by non-damage based abilities (such as beneficial spells) cast by allies not at the same phase. They also take only 50% damage from creatures not out-of-phase, and are only 50% likely to be affected by such foe’s nondamaging effects.

A target of phase venom becomes fully in-phase with their normal reality after one minute.

Now, this makes a creature very resistant to PC attacks, but it also gives them a way to make it less resistant, at the cost of potentially being more cut off from ally support. OTOH, if the phase venom creature is used in a fight with creatures that don’t have that ability, a PC that becomes out-of-phase is actually harder for some foes to hurt… which may cause them to target in-phase foes.

None of this is overpowering, but it adds a new element to an encounter, forcing PCs to decide who is best to face off against each kind of foe.

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The Bottomless Tombs, Area 2

You can find the introduction, map, and index of the Bottomless Tombs here!

Area 2: The First Passage

Thirty feet down the shaft is the first passage, off the south wall. When the heroes are free to pay attention to it (likely after killing the centipedes in Area 1, though who knows how PCs will react to a vertical battle?), and assuming they have a light or can see in the dark, read or paraphrase the following.

An opening in the southern wall reveals a small space, no more than five feet wide and six feet tall. A 1-foot ledge sticks out into the shaft forming a narrow balcony that is part of that space’s floor. The opening is no more than a large hole in the shaft’s wall, with a broken door sitting in a stone frame 5 feet in. The floor is littered with bits of broken pottery, wood, and dirt, and the walls are stained by dark splashes of color.

More than one adventuring party has left a guard here over the years, and just left their refuse behind. The stains can be identified with a DC 10 Knowledge (dungeonering), or (nature) check to be a mix of water stains from when rain gets into the holw and old ichor, maybe from large vermin.

If more than one Small or Medium creature tries to fit within the space, they must squeeze.

The door was once fine preserved wood and brass, but has long since been smashed in and the brass fittings and hinges removed. A careful examination allows a DC 15 Perception check to realize the door was not designed to ever be opened once it was closed, and it had a trap built into the wall, though it is also long since gone.

The doorway leads to a 10-foot-long, 5-foot wide corridor, which ends in a portcullis. Read or paraphrase the following:

A portcullis blocks passage any further south. Made of rusted iron, it runs the width of the corridor, and its spiked bards set into small holes in the floor. It is covered in worn runs, and shows obvious signs of having been battered and hammered on, and one bar is bent outward toward you, making a space roughly the size of a cat. Just past the portcullis is a cross-corridor, running east and west. A lever, also of rusted iron, sits in the wall of that corridor, currently in the ‘down’ position. A rotting bag of sand is attached to the leaver by a frayed rope.

If you lift the leaver, the portcullis goes up. The last group of adventurers here tied a sandbag to the lever so it would be pulled down after they left. There’s no easy way to use a rope or similar flexible device to pull up on the lever from the north side of the portcullis.

The portcullis can be lifted by a DC 24 Strength check (so an 18 Strength character can do it by taking 20, though this is loud and time consuming). A Small creature can get through the bent-out bars with a DC 18 Escape Artist check, though failure results in 1 hp of damage from jagged edges. The portcullis has 8 hardness and 30 hp per bar, so a group could just hammer on it and hope to break open a bigger hole.

A DC 15 Disable Device check allows a character to find a way to trigger the lever, and a DC 15 Engineering check can be used to rig a staff or similar device to flip the lever u by using the crossbars on the portcullis as a leverage point, though this also requires a successful DC 15 Strength check.

Developments: The louder the PCs are, the more likely it is they draw out something from Area 3.

Design Philosophy: It’s a dungeon, so it should reward people ready for traps and mechanisms… but also not prevent groups without such preparation from getting to the fun part if they work at it. So this has lots of solutions, and is mostly about the players deciding how they want to handle such things.
It also establishes that doors here may have traps, which will matter later, with being a gotcha moment for players.

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The Bottomless Tombs, Area 1

We introduced the Bottomless tombs, and their map on Monday, and discussed the staging area around them yesterday.

So, it’s time to head down the shaft!

Area 1: Entering the Shaft [CR 1]

If the players closely examine the shaft before heading down, read or paraphrase the following.

The sides of the shaft are worked stone, but show signs of considerable wear. In a few places, smooth, though cracked, finishing stone still lines the walls but most of that has long-since chipped away. Most of the shaft is cracked stones, and in many cases these have large cracks, through which thick roots and vines grow to choke the shaft, tangled around the wreckage of worn logs and rope rigging from one or more some kind apparatuses that has fallen into the shaft in recent years.

If the PCs have darkvision, or a directional lightsource (such as a bullseye lantern), or wait until the sun is directly overhead, add the following.

It’s impossible to see more than 35-40 feet down the shaft, but a dark shadow just short of the limit of that range suggests a side passage extends off the southern wall of the shaft.

The first side passage is 30 feet down on the southern wall of the shaft. The only way to get to it, is to climb (or fly, but mostly 1st level characters can’t do that).

Hazards: The Climb DC for this section of the shaft is 10 if a PC just tries to climb along the roots and wreckage. If a rope is added (perhaps anchored to the iron ring in the staging area), the Climb DC drops to 5. Characters can take 10 on this check as long as nothing is attacking them. (Yeah… wait for it)

If a character fails a check by 5 or more, they fall. Luckily, the shaft of the Bottomless Tomb is so checked with roots and detritus, they eventually land on something able to hold their weight. When a character falls, roll 2d6 – 1d6. This value is both the damage they take, and the number of 5-foot squares they fall before landing on something. Most of the damage is from bouncing off roots or falling through rotted wood or frayed ropes. A character can fall 55 feet and only take 11 points of damage because they never build up much momentum.

If the value of the roll is 0 or less, the character is caught within 1 foot by something, and takes no damage.

Foes: There are house centipedes living in the cracks in the walls of the top of the shaft. they pretty well ignore ropes, rocks, or other things being thrown in (unless someone things to dangle meat on a rope, in which case they come out and swarm up the rope to get at the PCs), but once a creature is 20 feet down, they crawl out to attack any potential meal.

If you want to make their attack dramatic, read or paraphrase the following:

A noise like sand trickling over tight leather slowly fills the shaft. Movement rustles roots and ropes, beginning at one of the walls. A long centipede crawls out, more that a foot from it’s clicking mandibles to the end of its 100-legged body, the length of a halfling’s arm! Two more follow it, their heads swinging back and forth as the crawl along the sides and bottoms of the detritus choking the shaft and scuttle toward you!

Three centipedes attack when the first character gets down 20 feet. They have climb speeds, so they easily reach any point in the shaft. They attack any adjacent creature, or if none is adjacent the last creature to attack them.

They have cover from anyone more than 10 feet away, due to how clogged the shaft is.

Remember that despite their massive strength penalties, they do at least 1 hp on a successful attack.

Developments: After 1d4+1 rounds, three more house centipedes attack having been drawn by the sounds of combat.

Design Philosophy: There’s a lot going on with this encounter.

First, if you manage at least a +0 Climb bonus you can safely move around until the centipedes attack, and if you thought to have a rope anyone with at least a +4 (likely including anyone with a rank and a class skill and light armor) still can’t fail. this rewards more mobile characters even at 1st level.

Second, it’s a high-tension fight over a bottomless pit… carefully set up so if you fall you get caught before you go too far.

Third, anyone with even one point of DR can largely ignore the centipedes.

Fourth, it’s a 6-foe fight, which rarely happens until much higher level.

Fifth, the cover means melee characters in the shaft have a real advantage over ranged characters. This may not be true for most of their adventuring career, but it’s nice to start things off rewarding the nimble rogue on a rope with a dagger in one hand.

Sixth… poison. Not too serious, but anyone with bonuses to saves against poison gets to benefit from that immediately.

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Ungol

Ungol is the Accursed City, the Land of Maddened Death, and the location of the Skulmance.

It is a kingdom, a ruin, a demiplane, a demigod, and an artifact.

Ghouls live in Ungol, as do wererats, rakshasa, jackalweres, and hags.

It can be reached only through rituals, though some rituals once performed open a path on a regular, though often infrequent, basis. It opposed, and is opposed by, Valorgard.

Only pain and wickedness comes from Ungol, and to even know of it can give it power. Even its dust has power. So we do not speak of it.

But anything written of Ungol morphs and changes, until the writing spreads dangerous lies that benefit only Ungol. Only writing inked with the blood of an unwilling sapient creature, and scribed on pages made from another unwilling sapients skin, can hold unchanging words of Ungol.

So we also do not write of it.

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The Icosantheon. No. 19 – Garuuhl

The Icosantheon is a host of twenty deities bound not by a common origin, but by a united conservatorship of the immaterium that forms the sides and edges of the material plane.

19. Garuuhl

Garuuhl is also known as the First Lich, the Bringer of Bottled Sorrow, and (especially where his veneration is allowed in major cities) the Preserver and the Fermented One. He is always depicted as a roughly 4-foot tall, lean, humanoid desiccated corpse, with a long, curved nose, bright white points of light for eyes, and durable clothing of resin-impregnated leather. His gauntlets are light gray leather and fingerless, with twisted mithral and adamantine thread at every seam and cuff. Though his throat, chest, and abdomen are normally covered with a leather work-coat, when opened it is revealed that fungus and mushrooms grow in his flesh at these places.

It is believed that this depiction of Garuuhl is so clear and consistent because, unlike most deities, he still visits his temples and shrines from time to time. All these places remain working distilleries, dairies, apothecaries, canneries, and herbalist shops, and the Preserver has been known to come to have some new discovery or process explained to him, or to loan out his gauntlets to a worthy student, or to set a cask or vat to ferment in a cave beneath a dread monastery for a few centuries, or to pluck a fungus from his flesh, and set it to grow in a corpse laying in the yard, and command it be left to grow. None of these events are frequent, but every few decades Garuuhl appears at some place that reveres him.

The First Lich is just that, the first mortal to achieve lichhood. What his species was prior to this is unknown, and it has been suggested he is anything from a shrunken human or elf to the frame or a thin dwarf, to a gnome, goblin or, or halfling. When asked, the god himself just notes he is a lich, and it’s hard to argue with that. While seeking a way to preserve his body forever, Garuuhl invented beer, ale, yogurt, wine, spirits, jam, and cheese.

It has been suggested that in his mad dash to exist forever, Garuuhl invented the things needed for civilization. He has shown uses for the caves beneath the earth, the things that grow in it, fire for cooking and tanning and fermenting, cold for freezing and drying. He is a god of dread and terrible knowledge, but also the wonders it can create.

There is no question that Garuuhl is evil. He cares only for his own researches and discoveries-and safety-and happily sacrifices anyone and anything that slows his desires. But there is also no question that his temples and monasteries are sources of great teaching, knowledge, and, and medicine. While most other gods oppose him (though Karrackar continues to simply try to convince the Fermented One to stop being a deific ass, and Tazoteot doesn’t much care what Garuuhl does as long as he keeps them and their worshipers well-supplied with narcotics as desired), they also accept that his contributions are more beneficial than harmful. But he also demands he be credited as the primary source of any discovery made by him or his followers, and rains horrors down on those who don’t acknowledge him.

From great evil can come knowledge that can be used for good. This neither changes that it was created through evil, nor that it’s main uses may be benevolent.

Even in lands where it is illegal to openly worship Garuuhl, as he is an evil deity, it is sometimes allowed to venerate him. His monasteries and temples sometimes operate openly, staffed not by “priests” but by “cantors” and “curates.” And, in truth, as long as they do his bidding, Garuuhl does not care if those he empowers and protects worship him, or not, though mostly to gain his divine power one must be willing to sacrifice all other entities at his command, which requires at least a non-good alignment.

*Garuuhl is Neutral Evil. He accepts the worship of entities of any alignment, but only non-good creatures can truly worship him. Some alchemists and wizards do venerate him as the source of much knowledge, while at the same time opposign his followers excessive experiments.
*Garuuhl’s colors are red, black, and white.
*His favorite weapon is alchemist’s fire.
*His favored animal is the bee.
*His servitors are alchemical inevitables and fiendish undead.
*His holy symbol is a knot of red fire, black ice, and white hide.
*His areas of concern are preservation, invention, discover, experimentation, and self-important.
*His domains are Death (undead), Earth (caves), Fire (smoke), Magic (alchemy), Plant (decay), and Water (ice)
.

His priests can take the bombs sect ion of the alchemy feature of alchemists in place of channel energy, and gain appropriate discoveries as feats. Spellcasters and alchemists who venerate, but do not worship him, can learn formulas to duplicate any spell from his granted domains as spells or extracts, but must never destroy or suppress knowledge of his church’s work, regardless of whether they try to stop it.

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Icosantheon Index

The Icosantheon is a host of twenty deities bound not by a common origin, but by a united conservatorship of the immaterium that forms the sides and edges of the material plane.

This page is updated as new members of this divine collection are added.

2. Karrackar, Loremaster, Shade Dragon, and Kobold King. NG.

7. Ovinnec, the Wild Visitor. CG.

13. Tazoteot, the Demon God/Devil Goddess. N

19. Garuuhl, the First Lich, the Fermented One. NE

 

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