Here’s the final post for the week, playing with fun options for the weapon damage benchmarks per level for Starfinder I posted on Monday.
Since those benchmarks allow you to determine the damage of nearly any weapon at any item level (grenades and special weapons are special cases), they are half of what we need to allow you to upgrade Starfinder weapons. If you want to have your laser pistol be improved so it does more damage, just select an item level on the EAC small arms table with a benchmark that’s better than your current damage, and increase the pistol’s item level to match.
The big question left, of course, is “how much does that cost?”
Enter the Weapon Upgrade Pricing chart.
To determine the cost of such an upgraded weapon, find the first value on the chart that is more than it’s current cost. Then go three steps down the chart from there for each increase in item level. That entry is the new value of the weapon. Pay the difference between that new value and your original value, and your weapon is upgraded. (Upgrading a weapon requires the same time, resources, and skill at building a weapon of the new item level from scratch).
(art by 3droman)
For example: Carl has a 5th level wyrmling dragon rifle, a longarm which does 1d8 fire damage and costs 3,020 credits. But his character is 7th level, has money to spare, and he wants to upgrade the weapon. Looking at the benchmark table, he sees that if he upgrades his longarm to 7th level, it’ll do 2d6 damage. Much better!
His friend Ali the mechanic has the ranks and tools to do the upgrade. All Carl needs to know is the price.
Looking at the Upgrade Pricing Chart, he sees the first value higher than 3,020 is 3,250. Since he increased two item levels he needs to go six steps down the chart, which is 7,000 credits. Since his weapon currently has a value of 3,020, he needs to pay the difference — 3,980 credit (likely in UPBs) to get the weapon upgraded.
Weapon Upgrade Pricing Chart
You can also use the chart to estimate the cost of other kinds of equipment such as armor and even magic items… but that’s a different article!
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So, yesterday I posted a big entry with long lists of tables that gave benchmark damage values for weapons of all types at all item levels in Starfinder, and mentioned there were lots of fun things we could do with a list like that. Here’s one of them.
We can scale weapon damage without having pre-written weapons.
For example, here’s a new version of the hammer fist ability from the soldier’s armor storm fighting style.
Hammer Fist (Ex) – 1st Level
You treat any unarmed attack you make while wearing heavy or powered armor as being made with a battleglove with an item level equal to or lower than your soldier level. Calculate damage for these attacks using the 1-handed basic melee benchmark damage, and adding bonuses as if you had the melee striker gear boost. If you have the melee striker gear boost, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with your unarmed attacks when using this ability. These unarmed attacks don’t benefit from other abilities that apply specifically to unarmed attacks (such as the Improved Unarmed Strike feat).
(art by photoslaz)
With the core rulebook version of hammer fist, you have long dead levels where your damage with this ability doesn’t keep up. Now it goes to 1d6 at 2nd level and so on, keeping up with relevant weapons you could gain at those levels.
We can now also create class features that allow you to exceed the limits of your weapon’s damage, built on the idea a character *can* get access to an item up to their level +2, without creating some stacking nightmare that could be combined with higher-level gear to break the game.
Let’s say we wanted a Melee Weapon Master archetype, and we wanted them to do more damage with their melee weapon than other folks. The archetype can require to you to focus on an advanced melee weapon type, and then give you advantages with it.
Masterwork Damage (Ex): When using a weapon of your focused type that has an item level no greater than your character level, you may do more damage with it. Find the benchmark damage* matching your advanced melee weapon (KAC or EAC, 1-handed or 2-handed). You deal damage one level above your weapon’s benchmark.
*If your weapon damage dice do not exactly match a listed benchmark, your benchmark damage is considered to be the highest damage dice that have an average result that does not exceed your weapon’s damage dice’s average result. For example, if using a 1-handed EAC advanced melee weapon that does 1d20 damage, your benchmark damage is considered to be 3d6 (average of 10.5), as that is the highest total that does not exceed your weapon’s average (also 10.5). You would thus do 3d8, one benchmark level higher, when using this ability.
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The following tables are benchmarks for how much damage a typical weapons of a specific type should do at each item level. This is the result of a LOT of work, which I have been doing literally for a couple of years. These numbers are based on creating weapons that match the mathematical assumptions behind combat in Starfinder, so if you have a weapon within a few item levels of your character level, you are within the range of combat effectiveness the game assumes when determining enemy AC and HP.
Of course such a system is not perfect. You can tell just by looking at it that it doesn’t perfectly recreate weapons in Starfinder, especially weapons of item level 5 or less. This is because lower-level weapons are, in fact, too good for the “assumed math” of Starfinder. An optimized 1st-level character can often kill a CR 1 or less foe in a single slightly-luckier-than-average shot. This is never the case at higher levels, and that’s intentional. Essentially when designing this system, low-level fights being easier for low-level characters than mid- and -high level fights are for mid- and high-level characters was considered an acceptable consequence of not wanting to say a 2-handed doshko does 1d6 to 1d8 damage.
Those issues even out at higher item levels, and even so these numbers provide weapons within the rough range of “useful.” That’s going to be important with some interesting things we’re going to do with these values as the week progresses.
*There are assumptions built into these numbers:
*These values assume typical range increment, usage, critical hit effect, and cost.
*A line does damage equal to a weapon three levels lower.
*A blast does damage equal to a weapon four levels lower.
*An unwieldy weapon does damage equal to a weapon two levels higher.
*A typical weapon has a single moderate critical hit and 1-2 positive special qualities. A weapon with none of these can do increased damage, but not as much as a 1-level shift. A weapon with wound, severe wound, or stunned and 1-2 positive special qualities, or with 3 or more special qualities, does damage equal to a weapon one level lower. Being unusually cheap, having a better-than-average range, or having unusually low usage count as a special quality, while the inverse can negate the impact of a special quality.
Weapons of level 9 or less should not have wound, severe wound, or stunned. No weapon should have more than one critical hit effect.
Single Target, Ranged KAC Weapons
Level Heavy Longarm Small Arm
-3 1d2 1 pt. 1 pt.
-2 1d3 1d2 1 pt.
-1 1d4 1d3 1 pt.
0 1d6 1d4 1d2
1 1d8 1d6 1d3
2 2d4 1d8 1d4
3 1d10 2d4 1d4
4 1d12 1d10 1d6
5 2d6 1d12 1d8
6 2d8 2d6 1d8
7 3d6 2d8 1d12
8 3d8 3d6 2d6
9 3d10 2d12 2d8
10 5d6 3d8 2d10
11 5d8 4d6 3d6
12 7d6 4d8 3d8
13 7d8 4d10 4d6
14 8d8 5d10 4d8
15 9d8 6d10 6d6
16 10d8 7d10 5d8
17 10d10 8d10 6d8
18 11d10 9d10 7d8
19 12d10 10d10 8d8
20 13d10 11d10 9d8
21 14d10 12d10 10d8
22 15d10 13d10 11d8
Single Target, Ranged EAC Weapons
Level Heavy Longarm Small Arm
-3 1 pt. 1 pt 1 pt.
-2 1d2 1 pt. 1 pt.
-1 1d3 1d2 1 pt.
0 1d4 1d3 1d2
1 1d6 1d4 1d3
2 1d8 1d6 1d3
3 2d4 1d6 1d4
4 1d10 1d8 1d4
5 1d12 1d8 1d6
6 2d6 1d10 1d8
7 2d8 2d6 2d4
8 3d6 2d8 1d10
9 4d6 4d4 2d6
10 5d6 3d6 3d4
11 4d8 3d8 2d8
12 6d6 3d10 3d6
13 5d8 5d6 2d10
14 6d8 4d10 2d12
15 7d8 5d8 3d8
16 6d10 7d6 3d10
17 7d10 8d6 4d8
18 8d10 6d10 4d10
19 9d10 7d10 5d8
20 10d10 8d10 5d10
21 11d10 9d10 6d10
22 12d10 10d10 7d10
Single Target Melee KAC Weapons
Item 1-handed 2-handed 1-handed 2-handed
Level Advanced Advanced Operative Basic Basic
-3 1d2 1d4 1 pt. 1 pt. 1d2
-2 1d3 1d4 1 pt. 1 pt. 1d3
-1 1d3 1d4 1 pt. 1d3 1d3
0 1d4 1d6 1d3 1d4 1d4
1 1d4 1d6 1d3 1d4 1d6
2 1d6 1d6 1d4 1d6 1d6
3 1d6 1d8 1d4 1d6 1d6
4 1d8 1d8 1d4 1d6 1d8
5 1d8 1d10 1d6 1d8 1d8
6 2d4 2d6 1d6 1d8 1d10
7 2d6 2d8 1d8 1d10 1d12
8 2d8 3d6 2d4 1d10 2d8
9 3d6 4d6 2d6 2d8 3d6
10 4d6 5d6 3d4 2d8 3d8
11 5d6 4d8 2d8 2d10 4d6
12 4d8 6d6 3d6 3d8 5d6
13 6d6 7d6 3d8 3d10 4d8
14 6d8 9d6 4d6 4d8 5d8
15 9d6 10d6 5d6 5d8 8d6
16 10d6 11d6 6d6 6d8 9d6
17 12d6 13d6 7d6 7d8 10d6
18 14d6 15d6 8d6 8d8 12d6
19 16d6 17d6 9d6 9d8 13d6
20 18d6 20d6 10d6 11d8 15d6
21 20d6 22d6 11d6 12d8 17d6
22 22d6 25d6 12d6 13d8 19d6
Single Target Melee EAC Weapons
Item 1-handed 2-handed 1-handed 2-handed
Level Advanced Advanced Operative Basic Basic
-3 1 pt. 1d2 1 pt. 1 pt. 1 pt.
-2 1d2 1d3 1 pt. 1 pt. 1 pt.
-1 1d2 1d3 1 pt. 1d2 1 pt.
0 1d3 1d4 1d3 1d3 1d3
1 1d3 1d4 1d3 1d3 1d3
2 1d4 1d4 1d3 1d3 1d4
3 1d4 1d6 1d3 1d3 1d4
4 1d4 1d6 1d3 1d3 1d4
5 1d6 1d8 1d4 1d4 1d6
6 1d8 1d10 1d4 1d6 1d8
7 1d10 2d6 1d6 1d8 1d10
8 1d12 2d8 1d8 2d4 1d12
9 2d8 3d6 2d4 1d10 2d6
10 3d6 3d8 1d10 1d12 2d8
11 3d8 4d6 1d12 2d6 3d6
12 4d6 4d8 2d6 2d8 2d10
13 5d6 6d6 2d8 3d6 3d8
14 5d8 7d6 3d6 3d8 4d6
15 6d6 6d8 3d8 4d6 5d6
16 6d8 7d8 4d6 4d8 5d8
17 7d8 8d8 5d6 6d6 6d8
18 8d8 9d8 4d8 7d6 7d8
19 9d8 10d8 6d6 9d6 8d8
20 10d8 15d6 7d6 10d6 9d8
21 11d8 17d6 8d6 12d6 10d8
22 12d8 19d6 9d6 13d6 11d8
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(A prelude — I moved cross-country last week. I had expected to be up and running my blog by Monday… and was not. further while we have arranged for connectivity at the new house, there seem to be some issues. Long story short, this is a Week’s Worth of blog posts — a 750+ word article for Monday on the basic concept and design concerns, then 4 days worth of looking at specific spells in short snippets.
My hope is that by June 15th, i can go back to giving you these things daily. 🙂 )
You are a spellcaster in the Starfinder RPG — a master of esoteric energies that can rewrite the universe’s laws. Having read about the cool abilities of a spell you select it and, when the time is right, stars in your eyes, you unleash eldritch powers beyond mortal comprehension on a foe…
“It succeeds at its saving throw. The spell is negated.”
Well… THAT’s not fun. At least if you have tried a damaging spell, it would have had SOME effect on creatures that made their save against it. And… HOW many spells saving-throw-negates spells did you put on your spell list? You only get so many spells known, after all… Oh, and hey, you can’t swap those out all that often. Lower-level spells are much more likely to be successfully saved against. And even if you use them against lower-level foes… those often don’t last long enough for the penalties you assess against them to be worth a spell slot either.
It’s not just that you had an action not be effective. Attacks miss sometimes. But you have SO few resources, you had to select which spells to trust in, and if you have spell after spell get negated with a saving throw…
Sometimes, it’s the fun that gets negated.
So, what if we rewrote those spells? What if we added minor effects that apply, briefly, even against foes that negate the primary effect? It would have to be carefully balanced — spells that target multiple foes or an area are already pretty powerful because *all* targets are unlikely to negate it. Lower-level spells need to not be able to stack so many minor status effects you can overwhelm a high-level foe. That’s all tricky, but doable.
But, let’s be clear — this is a pure power-up of these spells. If you are finding the use of the spells listed below is already skewing things in the favor of the PCs on a regular basis, then these optional rules aren’t for your group. Also, this is designed only for Starfinder. The core math of similar d20-based systems is just too different for anything designed to rebalance the utility of Starfinder save-to-negate spells to apply well in other game systems.
While they’ll need some playtesting, I’ll likely use these rules as “core” in the Really Wild West setting. (With the lower tech level technomancers, at least, may need the help 🙂 )
(art by Дмитрий)
Lingering Penalties: There’s only so much failed magic can do to hamper a creature that has successfully negated a spell. Many of the additional effects added below list “lingering” penalties. If a creature is suffering multiple lingering penalties to the same roll or value, only the highest of those penalties applies. Such penalties overlap–if you are taking a -3 lingering penalty to AC for 1 round and a -1 lingering penalty for 1 minute, you take the higher -3 penalty for the first round, then the remaining -1 penalty for the next 9 rounds.
This is also designed to prevent spellcasters from being able to cast low-level spells against the same foe over and over to stack up minor penalties until they are insurmountable. Much as casting a 1st-level damaging spell against a CR 9 foe may do a little damage and be of some use–but isn’t likely to be the major factor in a combat–casting a low-level save-negates spell against a high CR foe should, at best, have a modest effect on the combat.
The idea is for the player not to feel like their precious, limited resource was totally wasted, or that they might as well have fired their small arm (which might still miss, but ammunition is in much readier supply than spell slot–and that doesn’t feel very spellcaster-y).
Sample Lingering Effects
These are the spells from the Core Rulebook I consider most in need of modifications to increase their fun value without making spellcasters overpowered. If there’s demand for it, I might take a look at Armory and COM spells.
Baleful Polymorph: On a successful save the target suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attack rolls and damage for 1 minute. This increases to a -2 lingering penalty for spell level 4 and up.
Baleful Polymorph, mass: If only a single creature is targeted by the mass baleful polymorph, on a successful save the target suffers a -2 lingering penalty to attack rolls and damage for 1 minute.
Bestow Curse: On a successful save the creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to saving throws for 1d4 rounds as the curse energy continues to try to bring it misfortune.
Charm Person: On a successful save for 1 round/level the target suffers a -2 lingering penalty to attacks and damage against you, and the save DC of any effect it forces you to save against is reduced by 2, as it struggles with feelings for trust and friendship it knows to be false.
Command: On a successful save the creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attacks and damage rolls for 1 round as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Command Undead: On a successful save the creature suffers a -2 lingering penalty to attack rolls against you for 1 minute as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Confusion: On a successful save a creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attacks and damage rolls for 1 round as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Confusion, lesser: On a successful save a creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attacks and damage rolls for 1 round as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Control Machines: On a successful save targets suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attack rolls against you for the spell’s duration, as they fight the foreign urges of the spell.
Control Undead: On a successful save targets suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attack rolls against you for the spell’s duration, as they fight the foreign urges of the spell.
Deep Slumber: On successful saves, targets take a -2 lingering penalty to Perception rolls and initiative checks for 1d4 rounds.
Detect Thoughts: If the target succeeds at its saving throw against this spell, you gain a +2 bonus to Perception and Sense Motive checks against it for the spell’s duration.
Directed Denial of Strength Attack: On a successful save, the creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to all Strength- and -Dexterity based skill checks, and to its AC against combat maneuvers, for 1d4 rounds.
Discern Lies: If a target succeeds at its saving throw against this spell, you gain a +2 bonus to Perception and Sense Motive checks against it for the spell’s duration.
Discharge: On a successful save the target suffers a -1 lingering penalty to any attacks or damage for 1d4 rounds.
Dismissal: On a successful save the creature suffers a lingering penalty to attacks and damage rolls for 1d4 rounds as it fights the effort to force it off this plane. The penalty is equal to 1 + any bonus to the caster level check of spell you gain with the use of special materials.
Dominate Person: If the target saves against this spell, it is at a -2 lingering penalty to attack rolls and damage against you, and you gain a +2 bonus to Perception and Sense Motive checks against it, for the duration of the spell.
Fatigue: On a successful save, the target is affected for 1 round.
Feeblemind: On a successful save, the target takes a -4 lingering penalty to all Int- and Cha- based skills for 1 minute. If Int- or Cha- are its key ability scores, it’s spell and class feature save DCs take a -1 lingering penalty for the same time period.
Flesh to Stone: On a successful save the target’s move rate is halved as a lingering penalty, and it takes a -1 lingering penalty to AC, for 1d4 rounds.
Hold Person: On a successful saving throw, the target takes a -1 lingering penalty to attack rolls, initiative checks, and Dexterity-based skill checks for 1 round.
Mind Probe: If the target succeeds at its saving throw against this spell, you gain a +3 bonus to Perception and Sense Motive checks against it for the spell’s duration.
Overload Systems: On a successful save, the target is staggered for 1d4 rounds.
Rewire Flesh: On a successful saving throw, the target still takes 1d6 slashing damage per round (Fortitude half, as normal).
Rewire Flesh, mass: On a successful saving throw, a target still takes 1d6 slashing damage per round (Fortitude half, as normal).
Slow: If only a single creature is targeted by the slow, on a successful save it’s move rate is halved as a lingering penalty for 1d4 rounds.
Synaptic Pulse: On a successful save, a target is instead sickened for 1 round.
Suggestion: On a successful save the creature suffers a -1 lingering penalty to attack rolls and skill checks for 1d4 rounds as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Suggestion, mass: If only a single creature is targeted by the slow, on a successful save the creature suffers a -2 lingering penalty to attack rolls and skill checks for 1 minute as it fights the foreign urge of the spell.
Unwilling Guardian: On a successful saving throw, the target takes a -2 lingering penalty on attacks against you for 1d4 rounds.
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Before we begin, a scheduling note. I am moving from Indiana, back to Oklahoma this week. As a result rather than do four small posts Tue-Fri, you are getting one big one now. And some bonus content. A week’s worth of blog material in one day. As a result it covers a few related topics, rather than being tightly focused. My expectation is that by next week I’ll have at least set up a laptop on a box and have an ice cooler for a chair, and can post as normal again.
Some Design Goals
One of the things I have realized about the Really Wild West is that I want it to feel like some of my favorite weird west, Victoriana, steampunk, and genre-blending stories (many of which are listed in the inspirations page, here). Stories that surprised and delighted me when Dracula and Sherlock Holmes fought, or the Nautilus rams Martian Tripods, or cowboys deal with dinosaurs, sorcerers, and aliens.
Things that… just aren’t that unusual anymore. Between the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Cowboys vs Aliens, and Penny Dreadful, late 1800s fiction and genre blending is not only fairly normal, a lot of things have become nearly passe. Having Doctor Jekyll run a monster-hunting secret society that conflicts with an ancient mummy just doesn’t do it for me anymore. All those elements are too common, explored, and available.
But I do want to do things LIKE that. Not have archaeologists race to find the Holy Grail in Hatay, or seek the treasure of the Knights Templar hidden by the Founding Fathers, but for the Club of Nobody’s Friends (the oldest dining club in England) to have to hide the the three parts of the Scepter of Dagobert (the oldest of the French Crown Jewels, which had been left with the religious pension fund known as Queen Anne’s Bounty) from the Serpentin Vert (“Green Serpent,” in French, a secret society of poison-themed mystics who wish to use it to take control of the Dragons of France), and thus have hidden the sections in old wine cellars in abandoned 1700s New France mansions overtaken by the swamps of Louisiana.
That gives me the blend of stuff I want.
While hopefully avoiding treating colonialism as a good thing, treating any culture or peoples as orcs to be slaughtered, or making caricatures of real-world groups.
So, I want to create NEW legends and myths, drawn from the era and feel of the things I have loved, without just retreading Dracula, the Grail, Frankenstein’s Monster, Martian Tripods, and Billy the Kid. Instead of focusing on werewolves, talk about coyotes who can take on human form for one lunar cycle if they eat a human’s heart, and are vulnerable to any weapon that has never taken a human life. Undead are gulchers and whistlers, rather than just ghouls and zombies.
Not for every encounter. It’s the Wild West, sometimes you just get jumped by outlaws.
But for setting pieces and major plots? Then we build on the new mythology to make the Really Wild West earn the “Really Wild” title. Then the outlaws are Junk Golems spontaneously created from steam train Iron Horse 4771, which blew up when its experimental Fire Elemental Engine was sabotaged to ensure the Arcane and Arkansas Railroad would lose out on a contract to Zeus Skyboats–resulting in the boom sky town of Oklahoma City (established recently in 1889) becoming wealthy–a fact the Junk Golems plan to fix by destroying it.
You know… Really Wild.
And this brings us to “The Hollow Worlds.”
In the world of the Really Wild West, it is accepted there is a Surface World — everything common and seen and (mostly) understood. There is the Esoteric World, or perhaps multiple Esoteric worlds, wherein the spirits move, ether flows, Astral Projection is possible, and Theosophy is mapping out the powers of spiritualism.
But with the discovery of Agartha, the concept of Hollow Worlds has become commonplace. These are definite, concrete places you can walk to under the right circumstances… that may or may not be part of the Surface World. Agartha is actually part of a Hollow Earth. But there are also places that seem to exist in some kind of “Hollow Space.” Buyan is only accessible by the Surface World some of the time. Frozen Lomar is from the dim and ancient past… but somehow seems to be a place people still encounter from time to time. The fact dinosaurs exist in Agartha, and the Americas, and nowhere else convince most scholars that there are Hollow Mountains that lead from those continents to Agartha, and that perhaps vast caverns also exist in which lost civilizations and alien societies may dwell.
Atlantis rose, and fell, and is gone. All the lands of the Surface World are inhabited by *someone*, save Antarctica (as far as anyone knows). It is to the various Hollow Worlds the great explorers and conquerors now loom to find a fresh frontier.
And Mars, of course. If anyone can figure out out to get there.
These are some of the most commonly accepted Hollow Worlds.
(art by Oscar)
Agartha is the Hollow Earth, and entire world within the center of the world. Long rumored to exist, it was considered by most to be little more real than Mu or Lemuria… until Professor Lidenbrock made an expedition to there and back through a volcano in Iceland, and returned with proof of his discoveries. The professor is largely retired now, but his daughter Gräuben Lidenbrock runs “Lindenbrock Excursions,” and has established three major routes to the Hollow Earth, all through Northern Europe. She is expending considerable resources to attempt to be the first to find the theorized link from the Americas to Agartha.
Agartha is filled with Asuras, Dinosaurs, Giants, Megafauna, Impossible Golden Palaces which can be seen in the distance, but never reached), and a few small enclaves of sapient species known on the surface world (descended from, at least, vikings and Chinese soldiers who found their way there in antiquity). It’s interior is also filled with particulate gravity-blocking cavorite, which can be sifted from the air at great expense to form lighter-than-air metal.
Buyan is an island or continent (reports are unclear) inhabited by angels, demons, fey, or the spirits of the departed (unclear), that can appear in any lake or ocean. It is the source of weather (which is guarded by two dragons known as the Talon and the Serpent–Gagana and Garafena), home of the legendary city of Ledenets (from where the warrior-priestesses the Zoryas endlessly forge the chain that keeps the Doomsday Hound Simargl bound to the star Polaris so it cannot devout all the stars and destroy the world), and the place one must go to begin a quest for the Alatyr, the “burning white stone” which may or may not be the rock Jesus stood on when he preached to his Disciples.
Most information about Buyan comes from the Dove Book (Golubinaya Kniga), a book of mixed pagan and Christian lore banned by the Russian Orthodox Church. There are 20 core versions of the book, ranging from 20 to 300 pages long, and hundreds of local variants of those core 20 versions.
However, the advent of Theosophical methods of divination have determined Buyan, or something like it, is real, and it’s location and route to and from it are mutable. Many theosophicers believe Buran is Etheric, existing in an Ether through which spiritual energy and thought travel.
The land referred to as Frozen Lomar is a pre-humanoid civilization that may date back to the Pliocene Epoch, and nearly all sign of it was lost due to later glaciers. Frozen Lomar is noted as being located “within the ice cap,” but there is no hint if that is to the north or south. It is know the Lomarah, the denizens of Frozen Lomar, accessed and studied the original Pnakotic Manuscripts, scrolls which described elder gods and horrific eldritch truths. The Lomarah added to the Manuscripts, perhaps creating several different versions. However no copy of the Pnakotic Manuscripts remain. They, and frozen Lomar, and known only because of quotes from an also-lost Greek translation (the Pnakotica) are referenced in a few other works of antiquity. While there are rumors of a Pnakotic Brotherhood that seeks and is ruled by the Manuscripts, sometimes linked to the Faustus Society, there is no verified proof they exist.
Frozen Lomar is believed to have created various outposts, also in the Pliocene, which are also lost to time. A few such have been reported by explorers to Agartha, vast caverns in Argentina and Missouri, and one mist-shrouded island in the Pacific. These all describe huge cyclopean structures, black runes that can only be read by indirect moonlight, strange aberrations, hex-shaped stone constructions, lore crystals, blind cultists, and hairless ratlike semihumanoid cannibals. However, such encounters invariable end with the Lomarah Outpost sinking or being destroyed by lava, so reports are always second-hand.
A few expeditions claim to have stumbled from such outposts into a still-vibrant Frozen Lomar itself… though thsoe who claim so often seem too crazed to be taken as reliable.
Many esoteric book on magic and the supernatural written in the ancient period reference a city of great wisdom called Hsan. These reference suggest the city is so ubiquitously well-known that no description of its location or nature is necessary. By the Fall of Rome, no one seems to know anything about it. It is suggested to lie East of Persia and West of Qi.
The symbol of Hsan is noted to be a winged and horned lion with two tails of differing lengths. This symbol has been spotted by telescope on at least one Impossible Golden Palace in Agartha, leading some to think Hsan is in a Hollow World adjacent to Agartha, but somehow separate from it.
During the reign of Roman Emperor Philip, who ruled from AD 244 to 249, armoes and emissaries from the “Northern Roman Empire, Silbannacia” arrived in Rome and offered an alliance. They had coin, apparently magic weapons and armor, and claimed to serve “IMP MAR SILBANNACVS AVG,” under the grace of the God Mercury.
They also carried banners of the lost Roman Ninth Legion, which had dissappeared centuries earlier.
Then Emperor Philip was deposed, and the emissaries vanished.
Silbannacia shows up a few more times through history. Apparently late-Roman soldiers, in chain but with strange weapons that “fire plumbes of vapour green,” and swords and spears that produce the same green gas, they arrive in strange corners of the world. Sometimes they are peaceful allies to small groups of the lost. Other times they sack, kill, raid, and make off with some object or person. There are numerous accounts of them in the records of natives in North and South America, dating back thousands of years.
And recently, a few sightings have been reported near wildernesses in the Far West.
Very little is known of Ungol. It is mentioned almost exclusive in its absence–the banned text Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten notes the “Dust of the Letterless City is Death,” and then lists five sections of the German alphabet. Each section is in common order, but the sections themselves are shuffled and one letter is missing from each section. If you note down each missing letter in order, you get u, n, g, o, and l. Some archived copies of the Maladicta, an unholy book used by hags, dare to mention “Ungl/Ngol.” The Code of Hammurabi proscribes the same punishment for “naming or marking the Name of the Forbidden City that is not Gol” as it does casting a spell upon a man unjustly (trial by holy river).
Some undead cry out “Ungol! Ungol!” just prior to destruction.
Okay, that’s a rundown of some Hollow Worlds.
Let’s move on a bit to something we touched on in the article on fenrin… the the Paderborn Edicts, which evolved from the First Council of Paderborn.
The Paderborn Edicts
In the hsitory of the world of the Really Wild West, the Paderborn Edicts were an important set of laws established by the Council of Padernborn in 785 under Charlemagne, and were designed to codify interactions between different “Uberklug,” a term used to indicate all creatures capable of emotion, thought, speech, and self-awareness (often translated as “sapient”). In addition to dwarves, elves, humans, kasatha and ysoki (all common in the Holy Roman Empire), it included noted representatives and scholars of centaur, gnomish, nuar, and shirren groups. Leaders of 4 major religions were present, as were representatives of 12 more. At least one dragon, one inevitable, and one sphinx were present as advisors.
The Paderborn Edicts established that communication with or gaining power from “achaierai, azatas, daemons, demodands, demons, devils, efreeti, lengites, sahkil, slaad, tindalosi, yeth, and the spirits of the dead” is always wrong and can (and should) be banned, while other forms of divination and magics are not inherently evil. Further it makes a distinction between magi and wonder-workers, and “hexen,” or those who spread, use, or wish to command evil powers.
While the original Edicts were far from complete, new councils were held every 101 years to update them. Rules on being a Hex Hunter were established (for hunting down only evil and murderous spellcasters, as opposed to the much more mercenary and often wicked “witch hunters” who often scourged areas), various religions “vetted” as no better or worse than any other, more creatures added to those not to be trusted (from qlippoth in 886 to, most recently, manasaputra and oni in 1795), and so on.
Most European nations have built their laws on magic on the Paderborn Edicts. While for centuries magic has been seen as uncontrollable and unpredictable by sapients (“Magic and monsters are real — as are lighting and typhoons — but there’s no point in mortals studying or trying to control it”), where laws were seen as needful (while a man was unlikely to be able to cast a spell, a deal could be cut with a faerie, after all) they were built off the Edicts.
While many of the laws and rules were seen as metaphors in Europe and the Americas (“of course giants and dragons exist, and I suppose angels must, but none of that is common or normal, and wizards are mostly fakers or fey playing tricks”) in the past century much more of it has been taken to be literal. With the rise of Theosophy defining some natural laws behind magic (and laying out ways it can be taught like any other skill), it is expected the 1896 council will potentially rewrite the Edicts from scratch.
See You Next Week!
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We did some specific “interesting” design things with whistlers yesterday. Today we’re just going over a short list of ideas for things you can do to spice up creature design in the Really Wild West. (Or GammaFinder, or any Starfinder setting, though you should consider the themes and tone of a specific setting when designing monsters for it.) Things like this should be obvious as soon as they come into play, and a good identify creature check should also reveal them.
This isn’t a comprehensive, or even very extensive list. Just a few ideas to get GMs thinking about interesting monster design.
Damage Type Reaction: Creatures that take more or less damage from specific damage types can be interesting, but they are common enough not to be special. However, if a creature has an unusual reaction to taking a specific kind of damage, that can make things more interesting.
Several of these are a mixed blessing, quite intentionally, but they are also complex enough you likely do want them to count against a creature’s total special abilities, just to keep fights from becoming too complicated. For the same reason, avoid fights with multiple creatures with different damage type reactions. Three Slag Beetles with acid reactions gives PCs a chance to learn how the ability works and plan around it. A fight with one Slag beetle, one Dire Bobcat with a fire reaction, and one Crystal Elemental with a sonic reaction is just a confused mess.
Acid: Target takes double damage from acid, but also partially dissolves into a toxic cloud. It gains a smoke cloud effect like a smoke grenade (which it is immune to) whenever it takes acid damage, and those that fail their save against the smoke also take secondary damage from it as a poison effect. good for creatures covered in hard armor of unusual composition (chitin, plastic, alchemically treated materials, and so on).
Bludgeoning: Creature takes half damage, but it knocked back 10 feet and knocked prone. Good for ephemeral, floating foes and those on narrow, tippy legs.
Cold: For one round target is slowed and becomes hard, but brittle. For that round it’s KAC increase by +2, but it takes extra damage from any kinetic attack that hits equal to its CR. Good for stone, crystal, and strange metal creatures.
Electricity: Target takes 1.5x damage, but is also hasted for 1 round. Great for machines, but also anything with unusual biology, including outsiders, undead, and aberrations.
Fire: Target takes normal damage, but catches on fire. Takes a burn of 1d6 per 5 CR, but also now does fire to melee attackers. Good for dry plant monsters, including fungus, and those covered in oily or greasy substances or thick fur.
Piercing: Target gains a bleed effect equal to half it’s CR in HP/round, but the blood is acidic and does secondary attack damage (Reflex for half) to all targets in reach.
Slashing: Sever part of the target. This acts as a wounding critical, but also turns the severed part into its own monster 4 CR lower than its parent. Great for undead, constructs, plants, and nearly any supernatural threat.
Sonic: Target takes 1.5x damage, but is now vibrating for 1d4 rounds causing attacks against it to suffer a 20% miss chance.
Intimidating Surprise: The creature has some kind of attack or transformation that is unexpected. Perhaps it looks like a typical snake, but can unhinge its jaw and make a sonic attack. Or it looks like a typical steam engine, but transforms into an iron golem. Or its melee attacks are accompanies by lightning and thunder strikes.
The first time this transformation or surprise attack takes place in a combat, the creature can make a free Intimidate check to demoralize the closest foe. Character who are warned about it but haven’t experienced it have the DC to be demoralized increased by +5. Those who have experienced it before have the DC increased by +10. After 2-3 such encounters, characters are likely immune.
(art by Dina)
Melee Awkward: A melee awkward creature simple isn’t designed to deal with foes that are right up against it. Imagine a Martian tripod with no tentacles to defend it, or a floating gun platform, or even a tank or giant acid-spitting pillbug. Melee attacks against a melee awkward target gain a +2 bonus, and if it has melee attacks of its own (most don’t) they suffer a -2 penalty. Making a creature melee awkward normally goes along with giving it some benefit or special ability that doesn’t count against its normal maximum number of such abilities.
One-Weapon Reach: The creature has more reach with one weapon or natural attack than all its others. This can be especially fun if the weapon is weaker and less accurate than it’s primary attacks, but has MUCH more reach. Consider doing 20-30 feet of reach, but make the attack the secondary attack of a creature 3 CR lower. Works best with solo foes or those used in no more than 2 per encounter, otherwise there is simply no place for PCs to go to avoid reach, and rather than be an interesting tactical choice this just becomes a constant annoyance.
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You don’t want foes you write up for Really Wild West (or any Starfinder game) to just be sacks of Hit Points with attack rolls. You want to make them interesting. One option for an interesting monster is to give it unusual strengths and weaknesses. You shouldn’t do this for every monster, but it’s a good choice for major foes that are a linchpin of an adventure (even if the adventure is just a sub-section of a bigger quest).
With Starfinder, you can design a plan for a monster by picking it’s array, type, and a few mandatory and optional special abilities. Then, you can aply those to an array at any CR to get themonster you need.
Here’s an example: the whistler.
Whistlers are undead combatants.
Every whistler has mark of the moment, which we don’t count against their total number of special abilities because it’s a mixed blessing and has a low DC skill check to identify crucial info about it. Every whistler also has half past dead and full of holes, and has a EAC/KAC 1 lower than normal, so we count all that as as one special ability (20% miss to offset the lowered ACs).
Eerie whistling and gunslinger skills are optional powers. Some whistlers have them, some don’t. Add them if you do a high-enough CR whistler to have the abilities to spare, otherwise ignore them.
Eerie Whistling (Su): Anyone within 100 ft/CR of a whistler is affected by its eerie whistling sound, made by wind passing through it’s incomplete body, and must make a Will save or be shaken. Creatures remain shaken while within line of effect, but may make a new Will save at the beginning of each round. A success save ends the shaken effect, and the creature is immune to being shaken by that whistler for 24 hours. This is a sense-dependent, mind-affecting, fear effect.
Full of Holes (Su): A whistler’s body is incomplete. Any attack against it that target’s the whistler’s EAC or KAC has a 20% miss chance, as the attack goes through part of the whistler that is already missing. Force effects ignore this miss chance.
Gunslinger Skills (Ex): Many whistler’s were expert gunslingers. For some reason, the grit of a gunslinger makes them more likely to become whistlers. A whistler can have gunslinger abilities, using it’s CR as its gunslinger level.
Half Past Dead (Su): When a whistler has taken half or more of its HP it began a fight with, it fades away… for a time. It may be gone for 1d10 rounds (25%), 1d10 minutes (25%), 1d10 hours (25%) or 1d10days (25%). When it returns (anywhere within 1 mile of its last location) it has healed its CR in HP, or has fully healed if it was gone for a day or more.
A whistler being held at bay does not disappear, and if dropped to 0 HP is destroyed.
A whistler bound to a specific place rolls twice to see how long it is gone when at that place, and appears in the shorter timeframe.
Mark of the Moment (Su): Every whistler bears the marks of the moment of its death. Those that died by fire seem burned and partly made of ash, those that dies by piercing damage have holes punched cleanly through them.
Select one damage type that killed the whistler (acid, bludgeoning, cold, electricity, fire, piercing, slashing, or sonic). The whistler is immune to damage of this type, but also fears it. A successful attack that deals that damage doesn’t harm the whistler, but does cause it to target that foe next, and be shaken for 1 round as it reals from the memory of its death. An obvious source of that damage type can be used to hold the whistler at bay, as the Intimidate task.
Mark of the Moment is always the first piece of additional useful information gained by a successful identify creature check, and when exposed to its feared damage type a successful Sense Motive check (DC 10 + 1.5x whistler’s CR) reveals it is shaken by attacks and can be held at bay with obvious sources of such damage.
(art by breakermaximums)
Whistlers are among the most feared of the Passed, because they are unpredictable and hard to get rid of. Regions with a whistler are often seen as cursed, and their anger at the living causes them to attack nearly at random. They are named for the hollow whistling sound wind makes as it passed through their perforated bodies.
Here is a sample whistler.
Whistler CR 3 [COMBATANT]
XP 800, each
NE Medium Undead
Init +4 Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +13
DEFENSE HP 40
EAC 13; KAC 15
Fort +4; Ref +4; Will +3
Defensive Abilities gunslinger’s dodge, full of holes (20% miss), mark of the moment (fire), undead immunities, unliving
Speed 40 ft.
Melee burning fist +8 (1d6+5 B and F)
Ranged pistol +11 (1d6+3)
Offensive Abilities eerie whistling (DC 12)
Str +2; Dex +4; Con –; Int +0; Wis +1; Cha +0
Skills Acrobatics +8, Athletics +8, Intimidate +8
(See above for full descriptions)
Eerie Whistling, Full of Holes, Half Past Dead, Mark of the Moment
Like longer articles, with thing like art and rules for crafting monsters? Posts like this take support! This page was made possible by my patrons, and can support me too by joining my Patreon!