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Otherianthropes: Fantasy Were-Creature Concepts

Were-creatures are a common part of many world mythologies and fictional fantasy worlds. Depending on the origins for your therianthropes they could potentially be as varied and diverse as all the animal species and humanoid host societies. Thinking about that, I decided to jot down some thoughts on less-common forms of werecreatures, what humanoid species they might be most common amongst (using fairly generic fantasy species ideas), and what special features they might have.

All of these are mammalian carnivores, in keeping with the common were-species of werewolves, werebears, and weretigers. That’s not to say wereboars, weresharks, and werecrocodiles aren’t also well-established and interesting options, but I feel carnivorous mammals are the most typical therianthropes, and since I’m already going a bit far afield when considering nonstandard types, sticking with the most common classifications seems a good limiter.

So, what would YOU make as a new form of werecritter?

N, Dwarf, halfling
Vulnerable to gold, territorial, can shapeshift to change both badger-form and humanoid-form appearance

Catfolk, elf, human
Vulnerable to bone, immune to poisons, can move with extreme speed

Goblin, gnome, halfling
Vulnerable to copper, can cause despair in those that see or hear it.

CG-CN, Aquatic elf, elf, human, merfolk
Vulnerable to volcanic glass, can grant the ability to swim and hold breathe as a dolphin to other creatures… and can also take such abilities away.

CG-NG, Gnomes, faeries, halflings
Vulnerable to cold iron, have prophetic powers

N-NE, Dwarf, human, gnoll, goblin, orc
Vulnerable to stone, can break spells and curses and curse others

N-CN, Human, orc.
Vulnerable to fire, immune to cold, in animal hybrid or humanoid form can take off it’s skin as a cloak and give it to another to allow them to use that form, which is unavailable to the wereleopardseal until it gets the cloak back.

LG-LN-LE, Giants, ogres, trolls
Vulnerable to lightning, weakened by storms, can swallow people and even boats or small ships and keep them safe for weeks or months inside a magic space separate from their gullet.

NG-N-NE, Halfling
Have charm powers

LN-NG, Goblin, gnome, halfling
Vulnerable to wood, immune to charm and fear

NG, Gnome, mouselings
Vulnerable to steel, can charm and command other animals

CG-CN-CE, Goblin, halfling
Vulnerable to anything polished to a high shine, gain natural thieving skills, can become invisible

CN-N, Goblin
Vulnerable to adamantine, has rage powers, regenerates.
(Hey, it’s good conceptual worldbuilding, even if the ideas are blatantly stolen.)

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A PF2 NPC Idea, an Arboreal: Old Witch Hazel

I’ve had the dreaded scheduling conflict eat the past couple of Saturday games, and the next few don’t look good either, so no new session posts for my Gatekeeper’s campaign for PF2 for a while. But I am still jotting down PF2 ideas when they come to me, especially those that feel like they might make for interesting encounters or adventureplots.

I don’t know that this one will ever make it into the campaign, but if so I’ll list this to my Gatekeeper’s campaign index.

Old Witch Hazel

Also known as Grantha Mountain-Ash and Quickbeam Lament, Old Witch Hazel is legendarily old and grumpy arboreal (sometimes called a “treant” by locals) that appears to be a moss-covered, partially burned rowan tree, possibly wrapped around a larger, even older tree, with foliage and berries in states representing all 4 seasons. Old Witch Hazel can supposedly be bribed to teach occult and primal magic secrets, but no one knows anyone who has ever successfully done so. The treant is also known to oppose hags, skelm, and evil fey. While a few folks say this is also just rumor and myth, there are dozens of people who will attest to having seen Old Witch Hazel drive such creatures away from small farm communities, roads, and peaceful groves.

Old Witch Hazel is also well-known for thrashing younger humanoids, apparently for no reason. Such attacks always take place outside of settlements, and many adults claim that clearly the treant is warning adolescents away from dangerous creatures or punishing them for bad behavior or violating some secret tree-pace, perhaps without knowing it. Those that have been beaten by Old Witch Hazel protect their innocence, claiming they had done nothing and gone nowhere to invite such treatment.

When Old Witch Hazel attacks youngsters, all its attacks are nonlethal(taking the normal -2 to its attacks for dealing nonlethal damage). It also often throws clusters of rotting berries, which act like moderate water bombs (except they smell worse). If any target attempts to protect someone Old Witch Hazel was attacking, the treant always switches to the defender, ignoring the old target as long as it doesn’t make new attacks. After everyone has been hit at least once, or anyone knocked unconscious, Old Witch Hazel lets them flee, and wanders off into the nearest woods.


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For Starfinder: Squimic the Mimic

So, I wrote Squimic for an adventure back in 2018. The idea was that in a grey experimental base, the PCs would find Squimic in a lab, the result of a project the grays did not yet considered a success. I wanted to introduce an NPC gun that would talk to characters and grow with whoever carried it. But, my idea was complex, untested, and would have required GMs running followup adventures to ad lib Squimic’s responses since the authors of those adventures were writing them at the same time I was, and had no idea Squimic existed and thus could not include any guidance on how it would react to the events they were writing about.

Ultimately the developers who did a great job polishing my raw text into a finished adventure simplified Squimic into a “Living Transmutation Matrix,” and I think they did the right thing. An idea can be fun and perfect for some groups without being the right fit for every adventure.

But, since that adventure came out years ago (and was released under the OGL), I feel comfortable presenting my original open content version of Squimic here, for anyone who thinks a little mimic gun buddy is a good match for their campaigns. I’ve included all the text that would have been in that adventure if they’d gone with my version, including background information on the project and how the PCs were to find and interact with Squimic, but not any of the plot points, proper nouns the publisher used, the adventure name, or any of the other material the publisher marked as Product Identity in their Open Game Content declaration.

Squimic was found in a lab where it had been consistently used by a robot to shoot troll polyps.

S.Q.U.I – Mimic

A search reveals a dirty and battered data-tag, marked SQUI-mic, with further information encoded in a small computer chip. A close examination shows it actually says “S. Q. U. I. – mimic,” though the periods and first “mi-“ were concealed by dirt. Anyone can use a comm unit in their armor, or any tier of computer, to read the full encoded information stored in the tag. This reveals it is for a Special Qualities Unified Initiative Mimic. It’s clear the project name is “Unified Initiative,” the branch of that project that created this project is the “Special Qualities” division, and the test subject is a mimic.

In fact, Squimic is the only even-partially successful prototype of a special project to create small, cybernetically-enhanced mimics that could switch between taking the form of tiny creatures (especially vermin, rodents, and pets), and useable technological devices. The grays hoped to be able to breed these creatures to serve as tools of their espionage agents, but were concerned about Squimic’s intellect and independent motivations. They hoped repeated exposure to threats that required assistance (in the form of the robot arm) would cause Squimic to “normalize” the concept of just doing what they are told.

(Some of Squimic’s many possible forms. Art by Hasibul)


Though Squimic is a living, sapient creature, they lack the ability to move or take most actions. Mostly they just take the form of various small arms, and shoots at things someone wielding them aims at and pulls their trigger (though Squimic can refuse to carry out such attacks if it wishes to). As a result, squimic is much closer to an item with some special rules than a creature, and is treated as such in its description.

Squimic can become any item level 1-3 small arm or basic or advanced melee weapon of light bulk or less that it is familiar with, and which uses batteries (of any capacity), darts, flares, petrol, rounds (of any kind) or scattergun shells as ammunition. It is currently familiar only with those the grays programmed into it (including all such presented in Chapter 7 of the Starfinder Core Rulebook, along with the tactical switchblade, wire garrote, personal cryospike, red star solar brand, subzero hail pistol, frost subduer, bruiser decoupler, bombard shellgun, vapor cavatation gun, bravado handcannon, and explorer handcoil from Starfinder Armory). Regardless of what kind of weapon Squimic is, they can accept any size battery, and use the battery for all ammunition usage of the weapon they are emulating (using the energy to generate darts, round, shells, and similar physical ammo as needed). Squimic can learn another weapon if it can examine one in detail over 10 minutes, and it meets all their other requirements.

Squimic can have one “ready” form they can assume as a full action (currently a vapor cavatation gun), and it can take any other form over the course of ten minutes. Squimic’s ready form can be changed with an 8-hour period of “downtime” that functions like sleep.

Squimic is currently treated as an item level 5 weapon for purposes of hardness, HP, saves, and so on. They act as though they had a tier-2 computer with an artificial personality for purpose of what skills they have and at what bonus. They count as both a weapon and an aberration for purposes of what spells and effects can function on them, and if an effect can work on both the caster may choose how to treat Squimic.

Squimic can grow in power if someone provides enough UPBs for it to eat and makes a successful Diplomacy check (DC 15 + 1.5x Squimic’s current item level). Squimic can never be of higher level than the number of ranks in Diplomacy of the character attempting to convince them to grow, and the highest item level small arm or melee weapon of light bulk they can become is always their current item level -2. Squimic’s effective computer tier is always equal to half its current item level.

Squimic can only consume raw UPBs, or functioning and fully-repaired weapons, armor, and armor upgrades. Items must have an item level no greater than Squimic’s item level +2, and if they have an item level lower than Squimic’s -2. Squimic gains only 10% of the UPB value of the item. The total UPBs Squimic consumes determines their maximum item level.

Item Level Total UPBs Consumed

6 4,000

7 6,500

8 9,000

9 12,500

10 19,000

11 24,000

12 32,000

13 48,000

14 65,000

15 110,000

16 150,000

17 235,000

18 350,000

19 550,000

20 900,000

Characters may well have questions for Squimic, which they answer to the best of their ability. Some typical questions and answers are detailed below.

Q: Who are you? (or What are you? Where did you come from? What’s your name?)

A: “I don’t know! I woke up next to a broken tube, and everything was shaking. There was a tag on the tube marked “SQIU-mic,” so I guess my name is Squimic.”

Q: How can you become a functioning weapon?

A: “Oh, I can become all sorts of things! They just… appear. In my head. And if I think real hard, I turn into them! I… I don’t know how. Or why.”

Q: Who created you? What are your plans now? What can you tell us about this facility?

A: “I don’t know about anything outside this room. There was some sirens and explosions earlier, but I didn’t go look what made them. I have no idea where I come from, or why I was brought here, or what I am going to do next!”

Q: Why were you a plasma pistol?

A: “I kept being put in that broken case with those squirmy things, and they’d try to hit me! And there was this robot arm that would squeeze me, so I became different guns with the robot hand pulling my trigger, to see what would keep the squirmy things from hurting me, and this worked the best.”

Squimic has no hostile intent toward the PCs, though they defend themselves if attacked. They are afraid to explore beyond this room by themselves, and are unwilling to be sent anywhere on their own, but are willing to accompany the PCs, and even act as a weapon for a character as long as the PCs promise not to use them as an expendable scout or abandon them.

Squimic is happy to help, as long as the PCs treat them reasonably well (not sticking them in a bag, not using them to look around dangerous corners, and so on). Each time Squimic feels abused its attitude toward the PCs goes down one step (beginning with neutral), and it takes a Diplomacy check to improve. Squimic functions as a standard weapon for anyone they feel neutral or better towards, but refuses to function for anyone they feel unfriendly or hostile towards.

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Gatekeepers Campaign for PF2 – Mystery Points

I’ve now run the first session of my Gatekeepers campaign for PF2. There was the usual awkwardness to be expected when a group tackles a brand-new game system (I’m the only person in that group to have played in a PF2 game, and I’ve never been the GM for one before), but everyone agreed they had a good time.

I also dropped something new on the players, to represent strange forces at play within the reality of the game — Mystery Points.

Mystery Points

Every player began the game with one Hero Point, which was represented by a black poker chip. I clarified that spending a Hero Point was a player-based decision that did not necessarily represent any special effort on the part of their character.

However, each player also got four Mystery Points which were represented by a set of 4 poker chips, 1 each of blue, green, red, and white for each player. Players were told that a Mystery Point worked like a Hero Point, but it DID represent an in-character choice on the part of the character. Specifically, sensing a deep reserve within themselves that they could access with extra effort, without truly understanding what it was. And that using these was entirely option, no one had to do it, and while there might well be consequences they were designed as a fun part of the campaign, not a way to screw players over. (This is a group I’ve played with for 35+ years, so trust is well-established.)

One a character played a Mystery Point, they lost all their other mystery points, Further, every other player would lose access to the Mystery Point of that color. There were four players so everyone had a shot at a Mystery Point, but the choice of colors (which I affirmed when asked did meant *something*, but I didn’t say what) would dwindle as other players used them.

I also affirmed that Mystery Points were not guaranteed to be used in every game session, or to work the same way if they did show up again.

To embrace the fun, all four players did end up using a Mystery Point during the first game session, and their characters discovered this gave them a brief burst of elemental power (blue = water, green = earth, red = fire, and white = air; while later discovering a NPC had also experienced something similar with either “shadow” or “spirit”). How and when the characters decided to share that revelation with each other and NPCs on the Town Council became an important roleplaying aspect of the night which influenced play far more than the one extra Hero Point of options had. I was extremely pleased how the use of game mechanics and props managed to create an actual air of mystery for the players, where they could choose on their own when to potentially become embroiled with unknown powers, and then explore what their characters though was going on.

If there’s interest, I’ll talk briefly about what actually happened in that first game session in a future post.


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Three Things I Plan To Use in My PF2 Campaign, “Gatekeepers”

While I try hard not to plan out 20 levels of adventuring in advance when I start a homebrew campaign such as my upcoming Gatekeepers PF2 game, I do like to think about what kinds of things I want to put into a world and use to set up specific kinds of stories and themes.

So, here are three ideas I plan to use in Gatekeepers… at some point.

Caliburn: Masterfully crafted objects from the World Before, about which almost nothing is known. Caliburn are usually durable items made of stone or metal, as they have survived for thousands of years (and perhaps even since before time itself), though very rare examples of Caliburn made of cloth, leather, and even glass are known. Caliburn are always some kind of personal item, such as a comb, broach, ring, or dagger. They are not magical in the classic sense (and do not detect as, or follow the rules of, magic items), but their very age and perfect crafting make them things that bend destiny slightly in favor of the possessor. Every Caliburn gives its possessor one additional Hero Point per day, and more potent ones have similar effects that aid those who carry them in ways that are hard to define.

However, the more potent a Caliburn, the more it inspires envy in others that see it, and the more it places dangerous paths in front of its bearer. Such paths can be resisted, but doing so creates a mental pressure that mortals often handle by turning to their worse natures, engaging more in avarice, gluttony, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath. Caliburn are the stuff of legends, but are also accepted as being very real.

(You can carry more than one Caliburn, but there are… risks… Art by warmtail.)

Gollusks: There are dark forces in the world that are constantly whispering to mortals, but do so in a whisper of concepts so depraved, most living things are truly incapable of hearing them, or comprehending them if they do catch a whisper. But when someone craves something strongly enough, and is willing to do anything to get it, sometimes they hear the fel whispers. If they do, they are given immoral, dreadful advice on how to fulfill their desires through actions that cause harm and misery to others. There is no compulsion, just an opportunity. And if a mortal seizes that opportunity, the whispers become a bit more clear… and the mortal has set foot on a terrible path. Such paths are often not great evils, but petty things — opportunities to hurt those you dislike, or finally win a festival prize, or to sleep in a bigger home than your neighbors. If a mortal embraces these prosaic crimes for their own benefit they transform slowly into Gollusks, still their original ancestry but with various external signs of the evils they have decided to undertake, and benefits of strength and resilience from the dark powers they now serve, but also are driven to claim more and break the cycle of foul returns they blame others for. A Gollusk looks different than they did before their fall, but the change can be anything. Some take on flabby, fat long arms and legs, but have lean, emaciated torsos and necks. Others gain a cold beauty, some long fingers, others a third eye some random place on their body.

Gollusks often seek out other Gollusks as the only entities they don’t feel hidden shame to be near. A Gollusk can reverse the process of their transformation and fate, but doing so requires true repentance and working to undo that harm they have caused.

Fire Mud: A thick, viscous slurry of clay, earth, and liquid heat, fire mud is a red-orange, gives off considerable light and heat, and can be found in regions with links to the elemental planes of earth, fire, and water. This paraelemental substance has useful alchemical properties, and can be used as near-permanent sources of light and warmth. It looks a lot like less-intense lava.


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Gatekeepers Campaign, for PF2 – Optional Rule Houserules, 1.0

I’ve already gone over the rule options and houserules I’m starting with in my upcoming Gatekeepers campaign for PF2. However, being a game designer, I obviously also need houserules specifically for my rule options. 🙂 So, these are those.

(None of the players know anything about the Underhill Grotto yet… but they will. Art by JuanJos.)

Free Archetypes And Normal Archetypes
Normally, once you take an archetype dedication feat you can’t take another dedication feat for a different archetype until you’ve taken a minimum number of feats (often 2) from your first archetype. However, I’m going to allow characters to have one archetype using their free archetype feats, and a second archetype if they choose to spend their normal class feats to gain it. So, for example, assuming they met all the appropriate prerequisites, a 2nd level fighter could take the Barbarian dedication feat as their free archetype feat, and also expend their 2nd level Fighter class feat to take the Bastion Dedication feat. However, they’d be at their limit until they acquired 2 more feats in at least one of those archetypes (and could, if they wished, at 4th level could spend both their free archetype feat and their 4th level Fighter class feat to grab 2 barbarian archetype feats).

Proficiency Without Level and Static DCs
Using the Proficiency Without Level rule has no impact on opposed checks against targets of your level — in other words when talking about attack roles against defense or save DCs against saving throws, your chances of success against a foe of your own level are the same whether or not you are both adding your level to the proficiency total. The same, however, is not true for static DCs, such as many skills include. Within the Proficiency Without Level Rules themselves this is noted as acceptable on the assumption that the campaign is designed to be lower-powered (and thus less likely to see Legendary successes for example). However, that is NOT my goal in selecting this houserule, so I want to tweak even the suggested static DCs the game suggests (and alter how some non-static, non-opposed DCs are set as well).

In fact, overall I’d rather PCs be more likely to hit static DCs. There is no universal “take 10” or “take 20” rule in PF2, and rolling a 1 downgrades your level of success/failure even if you hit the DC, so even very low numbers run some risk and drama when the die is rolled. And if someone untrained should have a good chance of succeeding at a task, and they don’t add their level to the roll (and remembering I’m using the -2 to untrained checks version of proficiency without level), even a DC of 5 means a typical person fails 35% of the time.

And, of course, some tasks require a given level of proficiency to even attempt. A task DC might be 20, meaning even someone with +0 bonus has a chance at rolling well enough to hit the DC, but if it requires you to be a master in the appropriate skill and you aren’t, it’s actually a 0% chance of success.

So in the Gatekeepers campaign the baseline static DCs (which are also used for any task that lists DCs from in the same categories, such as Medicine) are as follows:

Proficiency Rank DC

Untrained 5
Trained 10
Expert 15
Master 20
Legendary 25

For other non-opposed DCs (including any targeting a DC set by a creature’s own ability scores and proficiencies) there is, sadly, a formula. It’s not too complicated and won’t come up often, and I’ll likely make myself a custom GM screen so I can find it quickly.

If the DC is 10 or less, use the listed DC. For DCs over 10, halve the value above 10. Thus the Athletics check to make a high jump goes from 30 to [(30 = 10+20) half of 20 is ten, (10+10=)] 20.

Using the same formula, the Athletics DC for a horizontal leap ends up being the distance in feet if 10 feet or less, for 11 or more feet it’s 10 +1/2 feet further than 10 you want to go.

I’m also making one small change to Assurance, based on the fact I am using both Automatic Bonus Progression and Proficiency Without Level. Characters add their skill potency bonus from the Automatic Bonus Progression to their Assurance total. That often means getting Assurance with a skill you have selected for your potency bonus is by far your best bet, and I’m okay with that.

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How I Set Up My New PF2 Game, “Gatekeepers.” Part 2: Houserules

Yesterday I discussed the optional rules I’m implementing for my upcoming “Gatekeepers” campaign for Pathfinder 2nd edition. On top of those, I’ve gone over the following houserules with my players, and we’ve agreed to use them. Since we are using character support software, I carefully crafted my houserules to be things that won’t alter the information a player needs on their character sheet. (So no bonus feat at 4th level for no reason, or adding +1d4 damage to attacks when attacking two-handed, these are all more universal action options and such.)

(The best houserules are shaped in the coal of past experience, hammered by a GM’s wisdom, tempered by the warm glow of good gaming, and yes I watch a lot of Forged In Fire, why do you ask? Art by Николай Акатов.)

These are just flat breaks from how PF2 rules are written, and I’m good with that.

Hero Points: Boosted Rerolls & Extra Actions
I like Hero Points in PF2, but I actively want to make them even more powerful. On purpose. (And, yeah, this is another in a series of power-up for players, and they all know what that’ll mean in terms of the kinds of threats I throw at them.)

If you use a Hero Point to reroll a check, it is a Boosted Reroll. On a Boosted Reroll, if the actual result on the d20 is a 1-10, you add 10 to the total. Thus the d20 value on a Boosted Reroll is always going to be 11-20. (As an aside this means you could perfectly well have Boosted Rerolls be a d10+10, rather than 1d20-add-10-if-less-than-11 without changing the math, but psychologically that weirds me out.)

There is a third way to spend a Hero Point – you can use it to gain one extra action on your turn, known as a Heroic Action. Any action you take on your Heroic Action ignores multiple action penalties for things you do this turn (normally multiple attack penalties), and does not count toward multiple action penalties for things you in the same round after taking your Heroic Action. You cannot use a Heroic Action as part of an activity that takes multiple actions.

Move And Manipulate
When you take a manipulate action that is not an attack action, and that only involves objects on your person that you can hold, you can also move your speed. Not only does this encourage a more mobile battlefield, it matches my personal experience from my days in live-action foam-sword gaming with the International Fantasy Gaming Society.

d20 = 2d10; Fumble on 2-3; Crit on 18-20
Okay, we aren’t actually implementing this one yet. But I often enjoy games with probability clumping more toward the middle than the flat distribution of a d20 (or d% for that matter). So the idea here is that all d20 checks instead become 2d10 checks. My feeling is that with the tighter math in PF2 (especially with no level to proficiency), that should work great as long as we make allowances for wanting success to go up one step/down one step more often than the 1-in-100 you’d get with fumbles on a 2 and crits on a 20. However, this also lets me make fumbles less common than 1-in-20 (which overall I like), and crits more common than fumbles (which conceptually I also like).

But none of my players have much-if-any PF2 experience (though they are all veteran gamers overall), so we’re going to stick with the classic d20 for the first few sessions, then we’ll try the 2d10 variant for at least one game session and see how we all feel about it. And, of course, I’d have to decide how (if at all) this impacted the Boosted Reroll houserule.

Of course there is much, much more to a ttRPG campaign than the rules of the game. I’ve been playing with this group of gamers for 35+ years, and we’ve grown to a place where we can have an open and frank discussion about what GM and players both do, or do not, want to see in a campaign. tomorrow, I’ll discuss the planned themes and baselines of the Gatekeepers campaign.

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Gatekeepers PF2 Campaign Index

This is an updated index of all the articles I’ve written about my “Gatekeepers” campaign for Pathfinder Second Edition.

(The “Smoke Pine Taven,” in Tidegate. … Yes, “Taven.” Art by Asaneee.)


List of Player Characters

Session 1 Part 1; Part 2


How I Set Up My New PF2 Game, “Gatekeepers.” Part 1: Rules Options
The initial list of houserules and optional rules the campaign began with.

How I Set Up My New PF2 Game, “Gatekeepers.” Part 2: Houserules
The campaign begins with a few pure houserules in place to alter the feel and flow of the game system.

Gatekeepers Campaign, for PF2 – Optional Rule Houserules, 1.0
I got rules options, and I have houserules… and I have houserules FOR my rules options. These are those.

Gatekeepers Campaign for PF2 – Mystery Points
In Session 1 I presented the players with Mystery Points, which represented something their characters did not understand, but the players could still choose to have their characters interact with.

Gatekeeper’s GM Rulings: Animal Companions
Sometimes I make Rule 0 calls during a game, and I want to keep track of them. These are from Session 1, and are both about animal companions.


How I Set Up My New PF2 Game, “Gatekeepers.” Part 3: Themes and Baselines
Not a comprehensive review of the world or the goals of the campaign, but just enough info to let players start to consider what characters they want to play. Brief discussion of tone, society, languages, and gods.

How I Set Up My New PF2 Game, “Gatekeepers.” Part 4: Quickstart Kheyus Gazetteer
A quick look at the island the PCs start on, and an even quicker look at the larger world it is part of.

How I Set Up My New PF2 Game, “Gatekeepers.” Part 5: Quickstart Tidegate Gazetteer
A quick look at the town the PCs start in.

Three Things I Plan To Use in Gatekeepers
Caliburn, Gollusks, and Firemud.

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#MotiePitch: Spread

Or rather than a movie pitch, you could use this as the plot to an adventure, a backstory, or a campaign kickoff.


A new viral breaks out. It has a very slow incubation period, very few external symptoms, and requires personal contact to spread, so by the time it is detected it exists worldwide, and no one is sure how many people have it.

People who get it are largely immune to bacteria, fungus, parasites, and other viruses. Also, they can recognize each other by touch, and have a primal urge to care for and protect each other. They aren’t telepathic and don’t always agree on anything else (including the best way to protect and care for each other), but they do all feel “curing” them, or slowing the spread of the virus, is bad. And some “Spreaders” feel their best bet is to infect as many people as possible, so the number of them that want to protect each other goes up, even though that requires lots of close personal contact.

Meanwhile, governments of the world begin to realize Spreaders could mean the end of the existing global power structure. First they try to deny Spreaders have any benefits, then briefly hammer on the truth unknowns — will Spread mutate? What are the long-term effects? But quickly, it becomes a combination of clanism and competing narratives. Stories claim some Spreaders have begun attacking anyone not infected in zombie-like biting sprees, but no one knows if it’s true and, even if it is, how common it is or what provocations might be present. More believable reports claim in in 1 million people die slow, agonizing deaths if they catch the Spread, but even that can’t be proven to the masses one way or another.

Spread becomes a new global faction, growing through a dedicated outreach program of its members without any core leader, debatable ideology, or unified message. Spreaders claim universal infection would mean utopia. Ethical objectors say much too much is unknown about how Spread will impact humanity over generations, philosophers object to the biological compunction of it overriding free will, and uninfected people in power simply have no interest in losing their positions to a virus.

Can a compromise be found, or will humanity destroy itself because of an infection that makes it want to selflessly help itself?

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Drafting Alternate Grenade Rules (With An Example For Starfinder)

Grenades, and explosives in general, are tricky to write rules for in most d20-based ttRPGs. If a grenade isn’t effective enough, it feels more like a firecracker than a deadly weapon of war. If it’s too effective, it can end encounters so quickly it’s no fun for the players, or accidentally wipe out PCs in undramatic ways.

When grenades show up in action/adventure fiction, they tend to act less as damaging devices than plot devices that force people to seek cover. The threat of them is generally represented not by them killing main characters, but by forcing characters to take them seriously and possible shake off effects of shock and awe.

(Grenade art from the public domain)

Example: Starfinder Revised Grenades

So, let’s try to model that behavior, specifically for Starfinder. Within that game, grenades are pretty expensive consumables anyway, so a power-up shouldn’t break the game even if it makes grenades more affective and appealing. That said, if these seem too powerful, you can limit these rules to actual purchased consumables, rather than spells and class features that allow characters to create or emulate grenades without a credit or OPB cost.


Grenades are dangerous, deadly military explosives that everyone must take seriously as a threat, no matter how tough or resilient they are. While savvy and active combatants know to duck for cover and shake themselves free of the shock of battlefield explosions, doing so comes at a cost.

When you fail a saving throw against a grenade that has an item level no lower than your character level/CR -2 that deals damage (as opposed to, for example, smoke grenades), you must either expend a Resolve Point or be staggered on your next turn. This represents the need to duck, take cover, and shake yourself back to focus after narrowly avoiding more serious injury.

Helpless characters that fail a save against such a grenade treat the attack as a coup de grace against them. As a full round action a character can make an Engineering check (DC 15 + 1.5x grenade item level) to wedge a grenade into an adjacent stationary structure or unattended object, causing it to do max damage and have only half its normal explode radius. On a failed check, the grenade explodes in the character’s hands, and they take max damage.

I have a Patreon. It helps me carve out the time needed to create these blog posts, and is a great way to let me know what kind of content you enjoy. If you’d like to see more Starfinder content (or more rules for other game systems, fiction, game industry essays, game design articles, worldbuilding tips, whatever!), try joining for just a few bucks and month and letting me know!