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Heroes, Bundles, and Rogues Galleries

So, there’s a really big Bundle of Holding deal with over $100 in superhero game stuff for MUCH less, going on now (June 26-July 16, 2018). It includes two of Jacob Blackmon;s awesome RGG products, the Super Powered Bestiary and Super Powered Sourcebook.

And that got me thinking.

I’ve always been a fan of heroes who have good rogue’s galleries—villains who make up a regular set of threats for the hero. Lots of heroes have great rogue’s galleries—Daredevil, the Flash, Wolverine, and Superman all come to mind. But for me, without a doubt, the two best are Spider-Man and Batman.

And even better, they’re swappable!

You can take the idea of Batman villains and apply them to Spider-Man, and vice versa. You can also swap the bat- and spider-themes of those two characters.

And if you are running a supers game, this kind of thing can be a quick way to have somethign that feels familiar, but isn’t a direct copy of an existing character. Here are some quick swap-out characters a GM could use to build a world quickly, and still have some depth and surprises for PCs.

Chiropteen
Bitten by a radioactive bat, the “friendly neighborhood teen chiroptera” got his (fairly terrible) nick-name from the media when he first began trying to solve crimes in Jersey City, in a homemade hero costume.
Rogue Gallery
Punchline (Joker)
Punching Judy (Harley Quinn)
Vixen (Cat-woman)
Enigma (Riddler)
Fetch (Clayface)
Isimud (Two-Face)
Venus Flytrap (Poison Ivy)
Ugo Fate (Hugo Strange)
Cassowary (Penguin)
Doctor Winter (Mr. Freeze)
Nemesis (Bane)
Pumpkin Jack (Scarecrow)

Red Huntsman
When his billionaire Australian parents were murdered while on holiday with him to Empire City in the US, the child who grew to be one of the most feared villain knew he needed a symbol that would strike fear into the hearts of criminals. A symbol… like a blood-red huntsman spider.
Rogue Gallery
Green Gargoyle (Green Goblin)
Bombay (Black Cat)
Toxin (Venom)
Professor Kraken (Dr. Octopus)
Illusio (Mysterio)
Wasp the Spider-Killer (Kraven the Hunter)
Herr Geier (Vulture)
Komodo (The Lizard)
Landslide (Sandman)
Hammerhead (Rhino)
Body Doulbe (Chameleon)
Volt (Shocker. Or Electro. Doesn’t make a big difference)

Sometimes all you need to flesh out a world, are a few espy pastiche homages. 😀

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Starfinder Monster Design and Really Wild West Bestiary—Rattle-Cat

We already looked at some general guidelines for building monsters for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game with the Grizzly Boar, an entry for the eventual bestiary for the Really Wild West setting hack which uses the combatant array for monster creation. Now, we’re going to look at building a monster using the expert array.

The Rattle-Cat

RWW-Rattlecat-color-01

A Rattle-Cat is a predator and scavenger unique to North America, though it’s range on the continent is much broader than the snake it shares some characteristics with (likely due to it’s fur coat and warm-blooded nature). Rattle-Cats are ambush predators, depending on speed, stealth, and a mastery of terrain to get near their prey, before dashing out to bite and poison potential prey or threats. They also use their menacing rattle to intimidate any creature that poses a potential threat, a warning much of North American wildlife knows well enough to heed, and to drive away competition from potential scavenged kills, such as dead herd animals and carrion.

Rattle-Cats often travel alone as wandering creatures, but also sometimes form territorial packs (known as a “dirge of rattle-cats”) of up to 12-16 members, ruled over by the eldest female in the pack. They lay eggs which hatch big-pawed cubs with stubby tails, who can already move about and inject venom within an hour of hatching. A rattle-cat can be trained with some success if raised from hatching, making the eggs valuable in certain markets.

Building and Defining an Expert

The actual rules for building and defining a monster using the expert array are the same as those for any other creature, but the nature of the expert array means the emphasis needs to be different. An expert has a lower attack roll and does less damage per attack than a combatant, and has a slightly lower KAC and about 10% fewer hit points. In exchange, it gets a higher ability DC, base spell DC, and more master skills.

That means when deciding if a creature should use the combatant or expert array, the GM needs to ask “is the core conceit of this creature one that leans heavily on skills or abilities with save DCs?” (You use the spellcaster array if you creature is primarily a spellcaster—that’s pretty straightforward. Anything that is a straightforward fighting monster should be a combatant. But if some creature’s concept is built on special effects or opposed skill checks, it works better as an expert. It’s not able to deal or soak quite as much damage in a stand-up fight, but it is more likely to have the skills needed to be a noncombat threat to PCs, and it’s abilities are harder to resist.

So when building our template graft, we should have a fairly heavy focus on things that work well with complementary skills, and/or that have a save DC of some kind. Once we know the core abilities for the creature, it’s still possible to easily create a graft we can apply to the right array and type and/or subtype grafts to produce a version of the monster at any CR. Using the same format as we did for the Grizzly Boar template graft, here’s the graft for the Rattle-Cat.

Rattle-Cat TEMPLATE GRAFT
Required Array: Expert
Required Type: Animal
Alignment: Neutral
Size: Small (CR 1/3-CR 1/2), Medium (CR 2-CR 11), or Large (CR 12+)
Speed: 30 feet (Small), 50 feet (Large) or 60 feet (Huge)
Ability Score Modifiers: Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom
Special Abilities: 1-Poison bite (see Rattler Poison). 2-Rattle (see Rattle special ability). 3-Evasion. 4-Cloaking field (as the operative exploit). Bonus- Spring Attack (as the feat).
Skills: Master– Acrobatics, Intimidate, Stealth; Good-Athletics, Survival
Attacks: Melee (bite, with poison; critical: injection +2), no ranged.

Rattle (Ex): The tip of a rattle-cat’s tail makes a disturbing, rhythmic noise that most creatures other than rattle-cats and rattle-snakes find disconcerting. As part of a move action, a rattle-cat can rattle its tail to make an Intimidate check to demoralize all foes within 60 feet. Once a creature has been demoralized by this function of a Rattle-Cat’s rattle ability, it cannot be affected again for 24 hours. A Rattle-Cat can also make an Intimidate check to demoralize any creature that can hear it as a standard action.

Rattler Poison

Type poison (injury); Save Fortitude (DC set by array and CR)
Track Constitution; Frequency: 1/hour for 12 hours
Special: Multiple bites cannot move target down the Constitution track more than once per hour.
Cure: 2 consecutive saves

So, you can see that one major element of the rattle-cat is its poison, which it applies with every bite. Given how the poison rules in the Starfinder Roleplaying Game this could be extremely deadly very quickly, but the special restriction means that after the first bite you are just taking damage until the 2nd or subsequent hour. If untreated, the 12 hour duration makes you likely to die without treatment… which is exactly what we’re looking for in a poisoned Really Wild West creature, to help drive storylines. The poison is both a combat enhancer, and an after-combat driver of story and plot.

The Rattle ability is built off Intimidate skill rules, which works well with our Expert build. However, the Rattle-Cat is also well positioned to be a mobile ambush threat, with high Acrobatics and Stealth values as well. A combatant would have trouble being a major threat with Acrobatics and Intimidate and Stealth, all of which can call for checks with DCs based on the competence or skill of the foe. With evasion and the cloaking field, higher CR Rattle-Cats are even tougher to flush out, and the bonus Spring Attack feat (given for the same reason we gave the Grizzle-Boar a bonus ability) and high speed allows them to make hit-and-run attacks from cover in the wild.

A Rattle-Cat written up as a combatant would be more dangerous in a stand-up fight, but less able to use the tactics and abilities that make it interesting.

Here we bring the whole thing together for a CR 3 Rattle-Cat.

RATTLEE-CAT          CR 3          [EXPERT]
XP 800
N Medium Animal
Init +2 Senses low-light vision; Perception +8
DEFENSE     HP 35
EAC 14; KAC 15
Fort +4; Ref +4; Will +6
OFFENSE
Speed 50 ft.
Melee bite +9 (1d4+7 P plus rattler poison)
Offensive Abilities rattle
STATISTICS
Str +4; Dex +2; Con +0; Int -4; Wis +1; Cha +0
Skills Acrobatics +13, Athletics +8, Intimidate +13, Stealth +13, Survival +8
Languages none

Rattle (Ex): The tip of a rattle-cat’s tail makes a disturbing, rhythmic noise that most creatures other than rattle-cats and rattle-snakes find disconcerting. As part of a move action, a rattle-cat can rattle its tail to make an Intimidate check to demoralize all foes within 60 feet. Once a creature has been demoralized by this function of a Rattle-Cat’s rattle ability, it cannot be affected again for 24 hours. A Rattle-Cat can also make an Intimidate check to demoralize any creature that can hear it as a standard action.

Rattler Poison
Type poison (injury); Save Fortitude (DC 14)
Track Constitution; Frequency: 1/hour for 12 hours
Special: Multiple bites cannot move target down the Constitution track more than once per hour.
Cure: 2 consecutive saves

So that brings us through two of the three arrays, while helping to build a set of unique threats for the Really Wild West (though these monsters can be used in any Starfinder Roleplaying Game campaign). We still need to discuss the Spellcaster array, and maybe take a look at class grafts, in upcoming articles!

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36 Years of Thought on Alignment in 500 Words

So, here is my entirely personal and unofficial guideline to alignment, based not on any one game system within the D&D/D20 lineage, but my opinions evolving over 36 years of playing in games with systems using Lawful, Chaotic, Neutral, Good, and Evil to make 9 alignments.

Lawful characters believe orderly systems are most likely to achieve their goals and be most effective overall, and consider the faults of orderly systems to be more acceptable compared to the dangers of a system that is too lose and disorganized. They fear anarchy more than tyranny.

Chaotic characters believe loose, adaptable systems are most likely to achieve their goals and be most effective overall, and consider the faults of loose systems to be more acceptable compared to the dangers of a system that is too strict and rigid. They fear tyranny more than anarchy.

Characters who are neutral rather than Lawful or Chaotic see strengths and weaknesses to both ways of doing things, and tend to work with whatever seems best on a case by case.

Good characters are willing to suffer to save others from suffering, and generally think most people should feel the same way at least to some degree (and that those that don’t are amoral).

Evil characters are willing to make others suffer to avoid suffering themselves, and generally think most people should feel the same way (and that those who don’t are stupid).

Characters neutral rather than Good or Evil would rather no one suffer to save someone else from suffering, and think both extremes are based more on dogma or emotion than rationality or realism.

True Neutral characters either don’t have strong opinion on any of this, or actively strive towards a cosmic balance.

For characters without some supernatural element to their alignment, these are trends, not absolutes. A lawful good character can generally believe that orderly systems are the most effective and that everyone should be willing to suffer to prevent the suffering of others, but still have a prejudice against orcs and think laws protecting orcs are wrongheaded. They are, in those moments, neither lawful nor good, but as long as those moments are not common or major (or cause the character to act in a way majorly at odds with their alignment), that’s an aberration, rather than something that automatically changes their alignment.

Characters with supernatural alignment elements still feel the same way as those without, but as a result of their very essential nature rather than merely their experience and opinions.

And in the short form, that’s it. It’s a set of tendencies that express your characters attitudes and methodology in the broadest of terms. Except where constrained by class, a character that is 51% lawful and 49% chaotic can be described as of lawful alignment (as can a character that is 34% lawful, 33% on the fence, and 33% chaotic). Characters are not assumed to be paragons of one of nine possible ethos descriptions, just trending toward one of them.

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A Post Script

I have never understood wanting to use game rules to claim a fictional reality must conform to some very narrow view of how it’s cosmology or physics “work” because of how the game rules are written.,

Yes, those are the mechanism we use to have fictional characters interact with a fictional world. But the game rules are always a simplified expression of the complexity of a whole reality, even an imaginary one.

No one claims that in a d20 game, science will have determined that every creature in existence can only increase in lifting capacity by certain quanta of increased weight, even though by the game rules that’s true–when you go from a 17 Strength to an 18 your lifting capacity jumps by a set amount which is the same for everyone. But we all know that’s a granular simplification in order to have a playable game.

The same is true of absolutely every aspect of an RPG, from economy to ability scores to alignment to skills. Including alignment.

Updated List of Very Fantasy Words

The most recent update to the Revised, Partial List of Very Fantasy Words!
Here!

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Gizmos in Really Wild West (for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game)

Gizmos
Since no one is expected to wear armor in the Really Wild West setting hack for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, “armor upgrades” aren’t really part of the setting. However, everything that functions as an armor upgrade in the core rules is still available- it just exists in the form of an advanced speculative principles device that builds off stellar alloys, theosophic imbuement techniques, compression gears, heat-ray crystal capacitors, vril, or some other weird science from ancient ruins, Martian wrecks, lost civilizations, or mad scientists.

These are commonly know as “gizmos.”

Gizmos are most common among people who operate on the fringes of society, be they adventurers, bandits, mad scientists, or peacekeepers who have to deal with all those other categories. Gizmos often have a very steampunk aesthetic, with bronze a common material (thanks to its theosophic and anti-corrosion properties), leather straps, buckles, and some nice detail work.

Anyone can use a single gizmo, but it takes skill to use more than one gizmo at a time, or to even have more than one rigged properly to be used simultaneously. You can have ready (and in use at one time) one gizmo, plus one for every kind of armor you are proficient with (the main use of armor proficiency in Really Wild West), plus one additional gizmo per 3 character levels. Armor upgrades that take two armor upgrade slots count as two gizmos for this limit once translated into the RWW. Rigging up a gizmo for use, or putting one way, takes 6 rounds.

Here are the Really Wild West gizmo names and descriptions for Starfinder Roleplaying Game armor upgrades. Each gizmo functions the same way as the armor upgrade it is modeled after (listed in parenthesis), except as noted in each description below.

RealWildWest-Equipment001-color-01

Aetheric Shields (Force Fields)
Aetheric shields are tiny aetheric generators retooled to work in reverse—rather than taking aetheric currents from the ethereal plane and turning them into electricity, they take electricity and turn them into an aetheric flow that surrounds and (modestly) protects the wearer. The power crystal of an aetheric shield turns the color of the force field it emulates.

Amazing Martian Fighting Shield (titan shield)
This is just one example of the names people use when they take a plate of stellar alloy from a Martian fighting machine, and add straps, and turn it into a shield. It’s big and heavy, so if you use it, you can’t do anything else with that arm.

Babbage Scope (targeting computer)
A Babbage scope takes readings through numerous small lenses, tracks information through a small built-in brass Babbage analytical engine, and predicts where partially concealed targets most likely are.

Crystal Goggles (Infrared Sensors)
The same crystal technology that makes Martian heat rays possible can be turned into red-lenses goggles, that allow you to see heat. Among the most common of gizmos, since you can make several from a smashed Trip’s heat rays.

DaVinci Wings (Jetpacks)
It turns out with energized cavorite (an antigravity metal that can have its gravity- neutralizing properties boosted with an electrical current) and compression gears, some of DaVinci’s designs for powered flight can function.

Dragonhide Duster (thermal capacitor)
While killing true dragons is rarely both practical and moral, drakes and other draconic creatures can be a serious threat in the frontier, and once slain their hides easily take to theosophic infusion to become clothing that stays warm, but never gets hot.

Doctor Cavor’s Resplendent Repellent Field (deflective reinforcement)
Dr. Cavor, the woman who created Cavorite and who has had the most success with Martial technology involving stellar alloys, has built just a few of these prototype devices, that normally take the form of a large metal gauntlet with several crystals and dials. It can push anything away, rather than just alter gravity as most Cavorite devices do.

Float Pack (force pack)
Though it is extremely rare for one of the few Martian flying machines to have one of it’s floater units removed while still functional, when that task is accomplished, a spectacular backpack-style device that allows amazing flight can be crafted from it.

Gas Mask (filtered rebreather)
The threat of Martian Black Smoke forced every nation of the Earth to seek better ways to protect against airborne poisons. Since Really Wild West doesn’t use armor like the core rules do, this gas mask can be considered to work for 5 weeks (though you can break that down into 35 periods of 24 1-hour increments), and then need significant cleaning and refurbishment (costing 10 credits per hour restored). It only applies to inhaled diseases and poisons, though the same cost could be applied to a Diving Helmet and Suit.

Gun Carriage (Automated Loader)
Of use only to wearers of Iron Soldier suits or Tripods (powered armor), a gun carriage is a system of complex clockwork systems that can eject casings and ammo belts, and reload new ones.

Huckster’s Sheath (quick-release sheath)
A spring-loaded sheath designed to be kept up the sleeve, and often considered a sign of low moral character.

Hush Coat (sonic dampener)
This short, leather jacket has gear-shaped metal studs arranged unevenly along its surface, and a dial control at the wrist. It uses a small aetheric generator and retuned Martian heat-ray crystals to creates sounds that perfectly muffle sounds made by the wearer.

Iron Hercules (load lifter)
The Iron Hercules ™ is a compressed air pistol-driven exoframe powered by an aetheric generator to increase your carrying capacity. Also called a “pocket mule” when built and sold by dastards who don’t have the right to the patent.

Jack’s Spring-Heels (jump jets)
Compressed pneumatic pistols running along the calf (and anchored to protective knee braces) drive down, sending you up (or forward). One of the most popular gizmos first designed by Professor “Gentleman Jack” Jersey.

Leyden Gears (backup generator)
These reverse-engineered compression gears are strapped to the arms or legs (or both), and turn your movement into electricity to recharge a battery. It can be connected to a battery belt.

Radium Belt (radiation buffer)
Designed from devices created by Mdm Curie, radium belts protect you from the “poison metals” called radioactive by learned types.

Storm Grommets (electrostatic field)
Storm grommets are small metal rings that can be attached on outwear, with each grommet connected by a high-conductivity wire to a capacitor battery, allowing you to both absorb electrical damage and create an electrical field that shocks anyone that touches you.

Temporal Adjustor (haste circuit)
Only pocket-watches created by famed punctualist Phileas Fogg are capable to being imbued theosophically with the concept of “saving time” that is so powerful, it actually allows the user to temporarily slow all the rest of the universe.

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The Solarian for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

Fantasy Solarian

The solarian is the class in the space-themes game built off the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game that is the furthest from any of the official fantasy rpg classes. The solarian specifically takes themes, tropes, and ideas from science-fiction settings and uses them to build a class very different from most fantasy heroes. But if the idea of a warrior-philosopher able to call upon the fundamental forces of the universe is what you want in your fantasy campaigns, it’s certain possible to take the space-faring solarian class, and revise it to work for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Mostly you can ignore the rules tied to the science-fantasy ruleset (Stamina points, 10-minute rests, Resolve Points, and so on), and run the character using straight Pathfinder rules. Some universal adjustments are needed as follows: a reaction can be done as a swift or immediate action; ignore rules that refer to spells, equipment, feats, or weapons that do not exist in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game; if a solarian effect creates a condition that does not exist in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, apply the same penalties and rules the condition would have applied in the star-faring version of the rules; bonuses to EC or KAC or both apply to AC; bonuses to AC against a combat maneuver are bonuses to CMD against the same maneuver.

For a few features, alternatives must be presented. Each of the items below replaces or alters the solarian feature of the same name. No abilities of this fantasy-themed solarian class use Resolve Points. The following also presents hp, skill, and proficiency rules for the envoy for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game rules. Otherwise, you can use the normal tables and class features of the solarian.

(You may also want to check out our Fantasy Envoy, and give us feedback on if you want to see more Fantasy-versions of starring classes!)

Fantasy Solarian

FANTASY SOLARIAN

Alignment: Any

Hit Die: d10

Class Skills: The solarian’s class skills are Acrobatics (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (all) (Int), Perception (Wis), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Stealth (Dex), Survival (Wis), Swim (Str), and Use Magic Device (Cha).

Skill Ranks per Level: 4 + Intelligence modifier

Proficiencies: The solarian is proficient with light and medium armor (but no shields), and all simple and martial weapons.

Solar Manifestation

Solar Armor: The bonus granted is a shield bonus to AC, and it works with light, medium, or heavy armor. It increases to +2 at 5th level and by an additional +1 every 4 levels to a maximum of +5 at 17th level. The solarian can enhance armor any of the following armor special abilities: energy resistance (normal, improved, and greater), fortification (heavy, light, or moderate), glamered, and spell resistance (13, 15, 17, and 19). Adding any of these special abilities replaces an amount of shield bonus equal to the special ability’s base cost. For this purpose, glamered counts as a +1 bonus, energy resistance counts as +2, improved energy resistance counts as +4, and greater energy resistance counts as +5. Duplicate abilities do not stack. The armor must have at least a +1 enhancement bonus before any other special abilities can be added.

The enhancement bonus and armor special abilities are determined the first time the ability is used each day and cannot be changed until the next day. These bonuses apply only while the solarian is wearing the armor, and end immediately if the armor is removed or leaves the solarian’s possession. This ability cannot be applied to a shield.

Solar Weapon: Change the damage of the solar weapon to match the damage of a monk’s unarmed strike, but with a minimum of 1d8. A solarian weapon can be used with weapon finesse, and any special ability that works with rapiers or scimitars.

Additionally, when the solarian is attuned he can grant his solar weapon a +1 enhancement bonus. For every three levels beyond 1st, the weapon gains another +1 enhancement bonus, to a maximum of +7 at 19th level. However, no more than a total of +5 of this bonus can be applied to attack and damage rolls. Beginning at 5th level, these bonuses can be used to add any of the following weapon properties depending on whether the solarian is graviton-attuned or photon-attuned: graviton-attuned—agile, anchoring, dancing, frost, icy burst, keen, speed, vorpal; photon-attuned—beaming, brilliant energy, dazzling radiance (DC 10 +1/2 solarian level + Cha bonus), disrupting, flaming, flaming burst, shock, shocking burst.

Adding these properties consumes an amount of bonus equal to the property’s base price modifier. At least a +1 enhancement bonus must be added before any other properties can be added. These bonuses and properties are decided when the solarian becomes graviton-attuned or photon-attuned, and cannot be changed until the next time the solarian gains attunement. These magic weapon properties can be added to a solarian weapon even if it would not normally qualify (such as placing disrupting on a solarian weapon that doesn’t do bludgeoning damage). If a magic weapon property has an ability that can only be used a limited number of times per day (such as beaming), once the solarian leaves attunement his total enhancement bonus he can grant his weapon is reduced by a value equal to the property’s base price modifier until the solarian next rests and regains daily abilities.

Solarian weapon crystals can be bought or crafted with the Craft Magic Arms and Armor feat. A solarian weapon crystal has a cost equal to a weapon enhancement bonus equal to half the solarian weapon crystal’s item level (such that a 7th level solarian weapon crystal has the same cost as a +3 weapon enhancement).

Sidereal Influence: The list of skills this applies to is adjusted as follows:

Graviton Skills: Bluff (Cha), Disguise (Cha), Knowledge (religion)(Int), Sense Motive (Wis), Spellcraft (Int), Stealth (Dex)

Photon Skills: Diplomacy (Cha), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (nobility)(Int), Survival (Wis), Use Magic Device (Cha)

Weapon Specialization: At 4th level the solarian gains Weapon Specialization as a bonus feat in any one weapon with which he is proficient. This can be his solar weapon, if he has taken that option. He does not need to meet this feat’s prerequisites.

Flashing Strikes: At 7th level the solarian can make two melee attacks with a weapon able to be used with Weapon Finesse as a standard action. Both attacks take a –2 penalty to their attack roll.

Solarian’s Onslaught: At 13th level as a full-around action the solarian can move up to double his movement, and at the end of his movement make one melee attack at his full bonus, or two melee attacks both at –2.

Stellar Paragon: At 20th level when the solarian enters a stellar mode, he gains 2 attunement points of the corresponding type immediately and is considered attuned, and when he keeps your current stellar mode at the start of his turn, he can gain 2 attunement points instead of 1, allowing him. to become fully attuned after 2 rounds.

Additionally once per day he can become fully attuned as a free action once per day, regardless of his previous attunement. He may do this even when not in combat, in which case his attunement lasts for 1 minute or until a combat begins (at which point it follows normal attunement rules).

Stellar Revelations: Most stellar revelations do not require any rules changes. A few exceptions are detailed below.

Gravity Boost: The skill bonus applies to all Acrobatics, Climb, and Swim checks.

Gravity Hold: This revelation functions as mage hand, with the exceptions as noted in the ability.

Astrologic Sense: You may use this ability once per day, plus one additional time at 11th and 16th level.

Crush: Once per day when you are attuned or fully attuned, you may choose to force the target to save or be stunned for 1 round, rather than staggered.

Glow of Life: You may use this ability once per day, plus one additional time for every 3 levels you have beyond 9th. However, you cannot use this ability within 10 minutes of having used it previously.

Reflection: This ability only works when fighting defensively if you are attuned or fully attuned.

Soul Furnace: You can use this ability once per day, plus one additional time per day for every 3 elvels you possess above 10th.

Gravity Shield: The bonus granted by this revelation is +2.

Zenith Revelations: In place of a normal zenith revelation, a solarian can choose to gain access to a solar weapon (if he originally selected armor as his solar manifestation) or solar armor (if he originally selected a solar weapon). This allows the solarian to use both abilities at once.

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Mega-Patrons and Monthly PDFs

Heya folks!
So, it’s no secret that a lot of Patreon campaigns lost a lot of pledges when Patreon announced they would be charging patrons more than their pledge levels. I added some emergency pricing tiers to prevent people from having to pay more to get the same rewards, but even so many people just left the platform entirely. So even though Patreon has decided not to change how they bill (for now, anyway), the damage is done.
While removing the no-longer needed emergency pricing levels, I decided I wanted my mega-patron level, where you get a monthly pdf of all the free content I release in a month, to be more affordable. So I’ve brought that down from $20 to $10.
And so you-all have some idea what those monthly pdfs of free content are like, I’m posting the August pdf on my Patreon sight, but leaving the post available for all my fans to enjoy! The amount of content I produce each month varies, but this gives you an idea what kinds of material to expect. This one has some old-school inspired material for Pathfinder (randomly acquired psionics, archetypes and hybrid classes for old 2nd ed muticlass character concepts such as the cleric/fighter/magic-user, cleric/fighter/thief, cleric/ranger, illusionist/thief, and more ), some Starfinder material (the pistol of tricks, belt of veskkind, folding torpedo minisub, trenchcoat of the bat, and more), and some of the extras each pdf includes (random supers ideas, essays on the game industry and my life intersecting with it, and random things like song lyrics, game night quotes, and every funny thing I posted over 31 days).
So check out the pdf and, if you want more like it, become a mega-patron today!
Cover

Space Politics

One of the things more industrialized settings sometimes do for an rpg campaign is open up new avenues of adventure. While there is nothing at all wrong with tuning an abandoned mall into a dungeon, or a wrecked spaceship into a haunted house, or treating an alien progenator as a dragon in its layer, sometimes it’s fun to play with new possibilities as well.

And if you have a setting with multiple homeworlds drawing together in a confederation with representative officials from different worlds, each with its own method of selecting said officials, that means politics.

While in some games PCs might actually be candidates, and some system of determining who wins an election might be useful as a subsystem, the idea of political action adventures can be introduced without going nearly that far. Much as you don’t need a subsystem on fighting epidemics in order to rush antidotes to a plague-ridden city and don’t need rules on the impact of an alpha predator on an ecology not designed for it to hunt down the bullette destroying a forest, you can do a lot with politics as a motivator without ever getting into voting, caucuses, poll taxes, or even issues.

As with many RPG-related adventure ideas, you can borrow heavily from fiction for inspiration. While these are by no means an exhaustive list of movies with politics-driven action plots, and it’s certainly not a commentary on the quality of any of these movies, they are things that a good GM should be able to easily borrow from to throw some political adventure into a modern or science-fiction campaign. All of these have at least some elements where it’s easy to envision PCs of any level getting involved, either accidentally, as catspaws, or as a politically appropriate measured response. While it might be important in some cases to downgrade the action from centering around a chief executive to simply a minor representative who’ll cast a decisive vote on something, the core ideas are still easily lifted.

And obviously, I leaned towards those movies with cool ideas and set-pieces over those with believable politics.

Air Force One
Argo
Bridge of Spies
Dreamscape
Enemy of the State
Escape from New York
Fatherland
Godzilla: Resurgence
The Hunger Games tilogy
In the Line of Fire
The Kingdom
The Manchurian Candidate
Munich
Olympus Has Fallen
The Pelican Brief
The Purge: Election Year

Speaking of Politics

Well only sort of. But politicians need supporters… and so do I! I have a Patreon, where I have set up pledge levels to explain how much you’ll actually be charged (within a few cents) even under Patreon’s weird new pricing scheme. Check it out!

More Massively Revised Feats

I’ve been toying with what it would take to create a different kind of d20 game. One where just a  few key choices, that don’t take a ton of planning or prerequisites and that don’t require *exactly* the right tactics to use, can make a major impact on who a character is and what neat, exciting things they can do.

I posted about it some yesterday.

So, of course, now it’s stuck in my head. There’s TONS of stuff I’d have to do to make this overall vision work (like rewrite all classes so they all have three lines of abilities, two tied to one ability score each and a third not tied to any ability score)…
But for now I’m still just exploring interesting revisions to feats many people tell me are either terrifyingly dull, or actively frustrating.

Agile Maneuvers (Combat, Revised)
You’ve learned to use your quickness in addition to brute force with performing combat maneuvers.
Benefit: You add your Dexterity bonus to your base attack bonus and Strength bonus when determining your Combat Maneuver Bonus and Combat Maneuver Bonus. When a creature attempts a combat maneuver against you and fails, it provokes an attack of opportunity from you (separate from any AoO provoked when it attempted the combat maneuver, and even if it the attacker doesn’t provoke AoO when attempting a combat maneuver). However, you can only use this attack of opportunity to attempt your own combat maneuver (which does not itself provoke an AoO). You can only perform one AoO per round using this feat, even if you have multiple attacks of opportunity each round.

Alignment Channel (Revised)
Choose chaos, evil, good, or law. You can channel divine energy to affect creatures with this alignment.
Prerequisites: Ability to channel energy.
Benefit: Instead of its normal effect, you can choose to have your ability to channel energy heal or harm creatures of the chosen alignment element. You must make this choice each time you channel energy. If you choose to heal or harm creatures of the chosen alignment element, your channel energy has no effect on other creatures.
Special: You can gain this feat multiple times. Its effects do not stack. Each time you take this feat, it applies to a new alignment element. Whenever you channel energy, you must choose which alignment element to effect, or a combination of elements. For example if you have selected chaos and good, you can choose to affect all chaotic creatures, all good creatures, or just all chaotic good creatures.

Arcane Armor Training (Combat, Revised)
You have learned how to cast spells while wearing armor.
Prerequisites: Light Armor Proficiency, ability to cast 1st level arcane spells.
Benefit: You do not suffer arcane spell failure from light armor. When you cast an arcane spell that gives you an armor bonus while wearing light armor, you may choose to increase the armor bonus of either you light armor or the spell by 1 for the duration of the spell. If you can cast cantrips, you can also use magic to put on or remove your light armor as a move action.

Augment Summoning (Combat, Revised)
Your summoned creatures are more powerful and robust.
Prerequisite: Ability to cast a conjuration (summoning) spell that conjures a creation.
Benefit: Each creature you conjure with any summon spell gains a +2 enhancement bonus to melee attacks and damage and +2 hp per Hit Die. Additionally, if the spell has a duration of 1 round/level, it increases to 1 hour/level when outside of combat. But if the creature is in a combat (even if it neither attacks nor is attacked) each round of combat reduces the spell’s duration by 1 hour.

About my Patreon

I have a Patreon, and normally I’d link directly to it from here. It seems small, but it’s an important part of my income. My patrons allow me to do less formal freelance writing, which gives me time to do more, longer, better-considered articles and essays here.
But there have been changes to how Patreon charges my patrons.
As a result I wrote a blog post discussing some changes I have made, and while I would love for you to choose to support me, at the moment I’d ask you go check out my thoughts on how to handle changes to Patreon before you go pledge. 🙂

Character-Defining Feats

I’ve literally been playing and writing for d20 system games since before D&D 3.0 came out. That long experience has led me to not really fear overpowered characters. If characters are overpowered it’s actually very easy to upgrade encounters in a consistent manner until they’re challenge, and the vast majority of things that cause groups to decide a specific build or ability is overpowered are tied as much to play style as objective balancing of rules.

What I AM afraid of is characters that are boring or frustrating. Players will put up with a lot if they find their character interesting, including a GM modifying pre-written encounters in a possible slightly haphazard way, if they enjoy and are engaged with their characters. All too often, however, feats become a source of both frustration \(as long lists of prerequisites, carefully worded language that excludes numerous combinations, and situational bonuses that may never come up in play cause a player to interact with feats negative far more often than positively. While having a predictable power curve is good for designing adventures and trying to get all players to have equal spotlight time, if brakes built into a game to provide that predictability slaps down players more often than it enables them to do something exciting it reduces fun instead of facilitating it.

Ideally, I’d like to see a d20 game where characters are defined by their feats as much as by their class and race, but only because a few feats are enough to give a character a wide range of new capabilities or augment them enough that their performance itself provides a new play experience. Such a system might well have to affect other subsystems such as bonus acquisition, action economy, and featlike powers from other sources (such as traits, favored class bonuses, alternate race traits, and even archetypes), but it also has to redefine feats to a player envisions a character being notable different in play with even a single feat.

While I clearly can’t tackle ever feat in the core rules in the space of a single blog post, I though a selection of revised feats, all based on d20 feats that are regularly derided for being useless or boring, might provide a good example of the kind of design space I am envisioning. These are just a starting point, and a game build around them would have to make some other hard choices to keep frustration levels down and ease of character design and advancement up.

Alertness (Revised)
Your ability to notice things is almost preternatural.
Benefit: You gain a +2 bonus to Perception had Sense Motive, and both of these are treated as class skills for you. (You gain an additional +1 bonus to each skill if it is a class skill for you as a result of some other option.)  You automatically gain one rank per level in each of these skills, though this cannot give you more total ranks than your character level (if you had already point skill ranks into these skill prior to gaining this feat, you can spend those skill points on other skills). You gain each skill’s unlocks (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Unchained) appropriate for the number of ranks you have +4 (so you gain the 5 rank skill unlock at 1st level, and the 10 rank skill unlock at 6th level).

Combat Expertise (Combat, Revised)
You are a master of increasing your defense at the expense of your accuracy.
Benefit: When you fight defensively (see Chapter 8, Combat) you take only a -1 penalty to your attack rolls. When your base attack bonus reaches +4, and every +4 thereafter, the dodge bonus you gain from fighting defensively increases by +1. Your dodge bonus from this feat is limited to +2 or your armor’s Max Dex Bonus, whichever is greater.

Skill Focus
When push comes to shove, you can depend on your ability to succeed at a given skill.
Benefit: Select one skill. You gain a +3 bonus to that skill. Once per day when you fail a skill check with this skill, as a free action you may immediately instead change your die result to a 20. This feat must be selected for each Knowledge skill separately, but if taken for Craft, Perform, or Profession it applies to all of those skills.

Weapon Focus (Combat, Revised)
You are highly skills with a class of weapons.
Prerequisites: Proficiency with one weapon in the category, base attack bonus +1.
Benefit: Select one fighter weapon group. You gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls with every weapon in this group with which you are proficient. At 3rd level, you also gain a +2 bonus to damage with such weapons. When you base attack bonus reaches +8, your bonus to attacks increases to +2. When you base attack bonus reaches +12, your bonus to damage increases to +4.
Special: You can take this feat more than once. Its effects do not stack. Each time you take it, you must select a different fighter weapon group.
Special: If you have at least two levels of fighter (not just a class that acts as a fighter for feats), and you have more levels of fighter than any other class, you gain an additional +1 bonus to attack rolls with the selected weapons. If you have at least three levels of fighter (not just a class that acts as a fighter for feats), and you have more levels of fighter than any other class, you gain an additional +2 bonus to damage rolls with the selected weapons.

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