Category Archives: Pathfinder Development

House Rules; Initiative By Spelllessness

Initiative By Spelllessness

“Exactly!  It’s real and I can touch it.”
Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China:

A simple house rule designed to alter the inherent power level of various classes and sets up a cosmology where knowing magic always and automatically means you aren’t as alert to the events of the entirely material world around you. Also, this is nothing more than a minor tweak on the same basic idea from yesterday, but with a different variable as the lynchpin.

Each combat round is broken into 10 phases, though in most combats you can skip many of them. Within each phase, all characters acting in that phase act in order of their initiative modifier (calculated normally).

In phase one, only characters and monsters with no spellcasting or spell-like abilities, and those with only o-level spells or spell-like abilities act.

In phase two, all characters and monsters with spellcasting limited to 1st and lower level spells and 1st or lower level spell-like abilities act.

In phase three, those with up to 3rd level spells and 3rd level spell-like abilities, in phase 4 up to 4th level, and so on.

No other rules need change, and all three phases are still part of a single round. You can hold or ready an action to go in later phases, just as you could hold or ready and act at a lower initiative.

As compared to yesterday, which focused on your level of dedication to combat ability as the thing that lets you go first, in this system the more magic you know the later you go. This means you no longer have rogues going after fighters, or clerics going before wizards. It also mans the bigger an eldritch badass you are, the more you pay for it by other people going before you in the potential games of rocket-tag.

Being a wizard just got tougher.

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House Rules: Initiative by BAB

Initiative By Base Attack Bonus

A simple house rule designed to alter the inherent power level of various classes.

Each combat round is broken into three phases.

In phase one, all characters and monsters with a bab equal to their HD go, in initiative order.

In phase two, all characters and monsters with a bab equal to more than half their HD (but less that their full HD) go, in initiative order.

In phase three, all characters and monsters with a bab equal to or less than half their HD go, in initiative order.

No other rules need change, and all three phases are still part of a single round. You can hold or ready an action to go in later phases, just as you could hold or ready and act at a lower initiative. As long as you aren’t using any 3pp rules that use initiative values to determine anything other than the order characters go in a round, you can just treat this as everyone going on phase one having a +100 bonus to their Initiative check, and every going on phase two having a +50 bonus.

Being a wizard just got tougher.

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Thematic Cheese Feat: High Priest

Sometimes what the GM and players both want is not some carefully balanced, playtested, and theorycrafted expansion of the rules usable by a broad range of characters.

Sometimes you just want some cheese of the right flavor.

High Priest

Regardless of your level or base of operations, you are an acknowledged leader within your religion, able to command vast resources and use pure presence to bring others to your cause.

Prerequisites: Cha 13, member of a church.

Benefit: You gain the benefits of the Leadership feat, except your followers and cohort don’t arrive (and aren’t replaced) automatically, Instead, when you drop a foe to 0 or fewer hit points, if you have a cohort or follower slot open that foe could fill (it is the appropriate level or level-equivalent) you can force the foe to make a Will save (DC 10 +1/2 your level + your Wisdom or Charisma modifier — whichever is higher). If it fails the save, rather that die or fall unconscious, it’s alignment changes to match your deity’s and it becomes a loyal cohort or follower (depending on what slot it took). The foe gains a +4 bonus to this saving throw for each of the things that is true; the foe is a priest or divine agent of another deity or philosophy; the foe has an alignment subtype that does not mach the alignment of your deity; the foe is already a follower or cohort.

Additionally, when in a settlement with a church to your deity, you can command any service that does not have a significant cost to your church. This normally includes feeding and housing a modest number of people and having local priests cast any spell with no costly material components or inherent risks. However, any service with a cost as high as a single gold piece costs the full amount, and you can never use this ability to turn a profit.

Additionally, you can cast atonement, as the spell, once per character level as a spell-like ability.

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Thematic Cheese Feats: Elven Curvedance

Okay, let’s get back to some game ideas!

Sometimes what the GM and players both want is not some carefully balanced, playtested, and theorycrafted expansion of the rules usable by a broad range of characters.

Sometimes you just want some cheese of the right flavor.

Elven Curvedance

You know the ancient, and nearly-lost, art of the wardance of the elven curveblade, which strongly encourages (though it does not require) mobility in combat.

Prerequisites: Str 13, Dex 13, proficiency with the elven curveblade.

Benefit: You can use your Dexterity modifier in place of your Strength modifier when making attack rolls with the elven curveblade, as if you had the Weapon Finesse feat for just that weapon. When you choose to do this, and you make only a single melee attack on your turn, you may also use your Dexterity modifier in place of your Strength modifier when calculating your damage bonus with the elven curveblade (including adding 1.5x your strength modifier when using the weapon two-handed).

If you have an option that you can normally add to a melee attack only when making a standard action or attack action for a single attack, you made add that to melee attacks with your elven curveblade anytime you only make a single melee attack on your turn. for example, if you have Vital Strike, you could use it with your elven curveblade on a charge (a single attack), even though Vital Strike does not normally allow that.

Special: This feat counts as Weapon Finesse for any feat or ability that has Weapon Finesse as a prerequisite or modifies how Weapon Finesse works, but you can only use such feats and abilities with an elven curveblade unless you actually have the weapons Finesse feat.

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#Microfeat: Power Cast

Why are weapon users the only ones who can boost power at the cost of precision? Of course, with spells things are a little different…

Power Cast

You can make exceptionally deadly spell attacks by sacrificing accuracy and penetrating capacity for raw power.

Prerequisites: Ability score that determines your bonus spells 13, caster level 1st.

Benefit: When you cast a spell that requires an attack roll or allows a saving throw for half or to negate, you can choose to take a –2 penalty on all attack rolls and a –1 penalty to all concentration checks, caster level checks to penetrate SR, and saving throw DCs for effects you create this round to gain a +1 bonus on the spell’s effective caster level for everything except caster level checks to penetrate SR and concentration checks.

When your caster level reaches 4th, and every 4 levels thereafter, the penalty increases by –2 for attack rolls and –1 for checks and save DCs, and the bonus to caster level increases by +1.

You must choose to use this feat before casting any spell, and its penalties last until your next turn.

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The One Universal Spell-Like Metamagic

The feats Empower Spell-Like Ability and Quicken Spell-Like ability follow the same set of rules on when you can gain spell-like metamagic, how often you can use it, and what spells you can apply it to. By boiling those rules down to a universal set of guidelines it’s possible to have a single balanced monster feat that allows any metamagic feat to potentially be applied to any spell-like ability. This allows a GM to give monsters all the options player spellcasters have, without having to create scores of new feats.

Universal Spell-Like Metamagic

Select one metamagic feat, subject to this feat’s requirements.

Prerequisite: Spell-like ability you can cast with a caster level equal to at least 2 + double the spell slot adjustment of selected metamagic feat.

Benefit: Select one spell-like ability that meets this feat’s prerequisites. If the spell-like ability’s spell level is higher than 1st level, your caster level must be at least double the metamagic feat’s spell slot adjustment plus double the spell-like ability’s spell level. Three times per day when you use this spell, you may gain all the benefits of the selected meamagic feat. This does not allow you to use a spell-like ability more times per day than you are normally able to.

Special: This feat can be taken more than once. Its effects do not stack. Each time you select it you must select a combination of metamagic feat and spell-like ability you have not already selected with this feat.

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Microfeat: Big Attitude

Big Attitude

You may be small, but people shouldn’t underestimate you.

Prerequisite: Size small.

Benefits: You can use high-energy actions coupled with strong presence to overcome the drawbacks of your slight size. For a number of rounds per day equal to your HD + your Charisma bonus, you negate penalties you take as a result of being Small. This means you do not take penalties to using Medium weapons, do not take the normal size penalties to CMB and CMD, and so on. Additionally if you normally have a 20 foot base move it increases to a 30 foot base move while using this feat. Activating this feat is a free action you can do once per round, and you can end it as a free action at the beginning of any turn.

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Spelltweet: Small Adjustment

Small Adjustment (bard 1, bloodrager 1, cleric 1, inquisitor 1, magus 1, occultist 1, paladin 1, psychic 1, ranger 1, shaman 1, sorcerer/wizard 1, witch 1)
As masterwork transformation, except there is no material component and you convert a Medium item into a Small version that is otherwise identical.

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Microfeat: Needle to Death

Needle to Death

You can make the most of your weapon;s smaller size, finding chinks in your foe’s armor and slipping it nimbly into weak spots.

Prerequisites: Size Small.

Benefits: While Small, and using a light weapon, one-handed weapons, or ranged weapon, and the weapon is sized appropriately for you, you roll damage dice for that weapon as if it was Medium. You can only use this ability with attacks that apply your Dexterity modifier to your attack bonus (normally all ranged attacks, though it also applies to any melee attacks you use your Dexterity modifier for, most often as a result of having Weapon Finesse).

#Microfeats are quick sketches of rules I am considering for possible use in a 3pp Pathfinder-compatible product, which may be altered, adjusted, or never make it into a final product.

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Make Iceball Interesting

Rules and supplements that present alternate spells for GMs and players normally don’t take any space for iceball, the cold-damage dealing version of fireball. That’s because it’s extremely obvious, and doesn’t really add much to a game. For a variant spell to be worth any space, you need to change how it works more than just swapping out the damage type.

But it IS often useful to be able to alter existing spells when trying to build thematic characters. Having iceblade instead of flameblade makes for a great iconic spell for a Druid of Winter. Giving a Siege Sorcerer forcebolt makes for great cinematics when he uses it against the city gate.

So for GMs looking to have quick and easy rules to alter every acid, cold, electricity, fire, force, and sonic spell out there, here is a simple system for making iceball interesting.

Swap dice down by one die size. So the d6s of fireball become d4s, and so on. For the most part, it is assumed the iconic damage types of classic spells are most common because they are most efficient, so people pick fireball over acidball because it does more damage. But you then also add a new effect based on the damage type you switch the spell to deal.

Acid: On failed saves damaged targets get fumes in their eyes and suffer painful corrosion, taking a penalty to all Perception checks, concentration checks, and ranged attack rolls equal to the spell’s level for 1 round.

Cold: On failed saves damaged targets have their movement rates halved for a number of rounds equal to the spell’s level.

Electricity: On failed saves damaged targets jerk and move unevenly, taking a penalty to all Acrobatics, Climb, and Swim checks and melee attack rolls equal to the spell’s level for 1 round.

Fire: On failed saves damaged targets catches on fire and burns for hp equal to the spell’s level each round until extinguished.

Force: On failed saves damaged targets are impacted by a bull rush combat maneuver with a CMB equal to quadruple the spell’s level.

Sonic: On failed saves damaged targets are deafened for a number of rounds equal to the spell’s level.

Of course you can also use this for metamagic feats, magic item special powers, new domains, bloodlines, mysteries and so on, wild magic zones, and so on. Perhaps the Arena of Flames is altered to ALL spells become fire spells, orroc rage-shamans mostly use scream-magic and deal sonic damage, or the cloak of the winter queen makes three spells of the wearer’s choice per day cold spells.

You can apply these effects to things other than spells, of course. Maybe the fire drake is exactly the CR you need, but the encounter takes place in the Storm Tombs? Just swap fire breath for electricity breath and apply the effects above. In such cases, instead of basing effects on spell level, base it on half the level or CR of the source.

Have fun with it. 🙂

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