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d20 Spotlight Tokens

d20 Spotlight Tokens are an optional rule for most d20-rule based (or “T20”) games. The tokens are designed to give players a concrete way to grab some spotlight time (real-world time where they are getting the most done, being the most impressive, and having the most attention paid to them). These are absolutely a power-up in terms of what a group of PCs can handle, and that’s both intentional and, in my opinion, a good thing. It’s not an increase in what characters can do all the time, but it is a way for a player to decide to have remarkable success when the going gets tough… or when the player just wants that to be the way the story goes.

These are a mechanical solution to spotlight time. A player can’t help but be the focus of attention when one is spent, even if they are shy or not big talkers.

Once you have played with d20 Spotlight Tokens for a few game sessions, it should be obvious how to adjust for them as a GM. It may be the players simply choose to take on more encounters in a row, taking overnight rests or breaks to recharge abilities less often, in which case no adjustment may be needed. Or it may be appropriate to treat the characters as being one or two levels higher, so they face more dangerous opponents that require them to expend some tokens to succeed.

(Art by Grandfailure)

Spotlight Token Rules

You get one token per session, plus one per 5 full character levels. If no other player takes the same spotlight token as you, you gain 1 extra token per session.

Select one of the following tokens. This should be done, together, as a group. If two players choose the same token, they can decide if they want to overlap, or one or both of them change their choice. Once this choice is settled, it cannot be changed until you gain a level or another player selects the same Spotlight Token you already have (in which case, again, you discuss it and one, both, or neither of you can change your choice).

You can spend a Spotlight Token immediately any time the relevant game event occurs, even if the action has already been resolved. For example, if you select the Attack Token, you can spend it after an attack misses, or after it hits but does less damage than you want. When you spend a spotlight token, you also get one additional full round of actions you get to take immediately. This additional round of actions does not benefit from the powers of the Spotlight Token–for example if using the Assault token attacks you make as part of your bonus round of action do not also automatically hit.

Currently, here are the token choices. They are designed to lean into common character focuses, and to have more than one options for each broad focus.

ARMOR – You take no damage until the end of your next turn.

ATTACK – Your attack (anything requiring an attack roll) hits and does 150% its max damage.

ASSAULT — Your attack (anything requiring an attack roll), and all attacks you make before the beginning of your next round, hit.

CRITICAL — Your attack, effect, or spell (anything requiring an attack roll) is a critical hit, if it has rules for being so (for example of a spell does not require an attack roll and has no rules for being a critical hit, it does not benefit from this token).

DEFENSE – An attack misses you, as do all other attacks from the same source until the beginning of your next turn.

EFFECT – One foe fails a saving throw against a spell or effect of yours. If there are degrees of failing a saving throw (such as an additional penalty if the save is failed by 5 or more), it takes the worst effect.

MANA — You activate one spell or ability you can use at least once per day without it counting against your normal uses per day.

OVERCOME — You get to take a single action that can be performed in one round or less, that you would be able to take if your character was not suffering any damage, penalties or effects, and without applying any penalties for current damage, penalties, or effects. Yes, even if you are dead.

RESIST — You succeed at a saving throw, and at all other saving throws from the exact same effect (such as all saves against a poison, or against one ongoing spell).

SKILL — You may choose for one skill check (regardless of how much time it represents), or all skill checks you make in a single round, to be treated as if you had rolled a 20 and the d20 roll.

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Really Wild West “Doomstone” Campaign — After-Action Report (Game Session 5, Pt. 2)

Here’s part Two of the Session Five notes for my Really Wild West: Doomstone campaign, adapted from notes taken by my wife Lj (who is playing the fenrin operative bounty hunter named “Sawyer”).

You can find Session One here: Part OnePart Two.
Session Two here: Part OnePart Two.
Session Three here.
Session Four here.
Session Five here: Part One.

If you don’t recognize a reference, it may (or may not) be in a previous session, or at the updated campaign notes page.

(Art by Jacob Blackmon)

Session Five (Part Two)

Still Day 13

The characters see that the heaviest traffic out of the Big Cavern is through the left-hand tunnel, which was clearly made by the Embanking Machine. This also shows signs of the svirfneblin-drawn sled they saw bring green ore out of the mine when observing the camp outside. This is the route the take.

  • There is a breach in the tunnel that clips some underground complex that was already there. (The players later learn this is the Svirfneblin Vault)
  • The end of that tunnel opens up beyond the breach
  • The centaur paladin, in the lead (with her darkvision) is attacked by monsters disguised as rocks at the entrance. They’re grick!

FIGHT!!!

  • The grick don’t seem to take electrical damage, fire damage either
  • The human soldier criminal grabs the Warhammer the Chimera Kid was using and uses that on the grick – bounces off. The magic fusion that was on the warhammer has already been moved to the mechanic robotisit’s drone’s bite attack (her drone looks like a mechanical dog).
  • The grick don’t do a lot of damage, but anyone near them has to make a Reflex save or take some damage from their flailing tentacles, on top of their bites or acid spit. And the grick are reducing every attack that hits them by 10 points of damage, so seem nearly invulnerable.
  • There are two Sverfneblin here. They speak some kind of old German. It takes Culture checks for people who know German to understand them.
  • The centaur paladin and fenrin operative work to asks the Svirfneblin to call off the beasts – the svirfneblin explain they do not control the gricks
  • The human soldier criminal called out the name Drungeldan Smyreonot – the name of one of the ‘neblins we talked to after death
  • Bullets don’t work against the gricks either
  • The half-orc technomancer cartographer makes a Mysticism check, and says it takes magic damage to hurt the grick. He then casts overcharge weapon on the paladin centaur’s lance.
  • The lance kills one. The human soldier has an automatic pistol with a magic rune on it, and he easily kills the other one.

AFTERMATH:

  • The centaur paladin casts a spell that allows her to speak to the Svirfneblin
  • They need to get to their Headman
    • He is being held hostage in the back
    • We will have to bypass the serpentfolk and some pact guardians
    • The Pact Guardians are varied – some mechanical, some monsters. They protect the svirfneblin, but also obey the pact, and thus don’t currently attack the serpent people who took over the pact by stealing blood of pact scion – Dwargus. Thus as long as Dwargus does not elave the area, the serpent people can come and go in the Svirfneblin Vault. (PCs realize this is why the manticore kept killing off Dwargus’s cattle–so he couln’t retire and leave).
    • Only the authority of the pact scion can get us to bypass the pact guardians
    • The PCs try the writ given to them by Dwargus allowing them to investigate the area on the door in this room, which is a Pact Guardian itself.
    • It works!
    • There are serpentfolk on the other side of the door!!

FIGHT!

  • There is a gorgeous small green snake, a serpentfolk with a gun and serrated jawbone of an ass sword, and a human carpetbagger with a staff and wearing a beautiful green operacloak
  • The two ‘neblin cast spells to aid the PCs
  • When the pretty cobra dies, it turns into a pool and evaporates
  • The soulstaff dissolves

LOOT: Sharpened jawbone of an ass that is bane vs humanoids (5,000- 10,000-year-old artifact); Who’s Who in Montana 1890; guardian greatcloak (Goes to the technomancer cartographer, and changes from venomous green to midnight blue with silver nautical symbols, route lines, and compass roses when he puts it on).)

Guardian Greatcloak (magic item, level 5): If you take an action that provokes an attack of opportunity, you may expend a Resolve Point without taking an action and not provoke the attack of opportunity

LOOT: One shotgun

PCs move through the rest of the Vault to get to the headman, using the Writ from Dwargus to bypass traps and guardians of the Pact. Final room. Locked and trapped door. The mechanic roboticist bypasses it, and recognizes the handiwork/design skills of Professor Barkane Adrameliche, whose handiwork was also found in the Martian Embanking machine.

  • The Svirfneblin Headman is inside
  • He asks if he can close the vault, using their authority with the Writ from Dwargus – PCs all say yes
  • The Headman explains Professor Barkane Adrameliche IS the Venom King (“Toxin Krieger”to the Sverneblin)
    • The Professor found the idea of a “Venom King” while studying Martian Black Gas, and began to hear whispers. As he experimented with and perfected ways to use the Black gas, the whispers grew louder and louder, and eventually the Professor became the Venom King as much as he is Barkane Adrameliche.
  • The Professor/Venom King is a Darkling — a human who has embraced the darkness so totally he is a native outsider, and on his way to becoming a demigod. He is one of six “Dread Fates,” six unspeakable ways to die.
  • The Professor had six Lts.
    • Dathaca (who was the Chimera Kid)
    • Gaotma – (the only one with a Doomstone)
    • Athath-ka
    • Venomancer (the spellcasters the PCs *just* killed)
    • Female serpentfolk in the other tunnel. Called “Her” in fearful tones by other serpent people.
    • One Unknown
  • The Professor and his six lts are the only ones who will ascend, becoming demigods
  • None of the other six Dread Fates currently has a physical body. The Professor is trying to bring about one of them, his closest ally, the Dread Fate of Torture (who has a drop of blood as his icon, like the blood cultists encountered earlier on Neblin Ridge).
  • The Professor is currently in Montana.
  • Sverfhaim is a Hollow World– a place that is as much a concept and planar pocket as it is a material place. So is the Serpent People home. Also, the serpentfolk seek another “Hollow World
  • Headman offers PC hospitality for the night
    • Sends his folk to watch the upper caverns
  • PCs need to get into the serpentfolk city, set up a mystical “door” (a device the Neblin headman can create), go through it, close the door
    • Then the serpent city will cease to have access to our world and we would be on Neblin Ridge

End of session. XPs: 2650

LEVEL UP to 6th!!

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Really Wild West “Doomstone” Campaign — After-Action Report (Game Session 5, Pt. 1)

It looks like there is enough interest in session notes from my Really Wild West: Doomstone campaign for those to become a regular feature. So here’s a write-up adapted from notes taken by my wife Lj (who is playing the fenrin operative bounty hunter named “Sawyer”) as a quick report for Session Five!

You can find Session One here: Part OnePart Two.
Session Two here: Part OnePart Two.
Session Three here.
Session Four here.

If you don’t recognize a reference, it may (or may not) be in a previous session, or at the updated campaign notes page.

Session Five

Day 13

The fenrin operative bounty hunter takes the mask of inconsequence once used by the Chimera Kid. This magic item allows you to make Stealth checks, opposed by observer’s Perception or Sense Motive (whichever is greater) to appear to be no different form the majority of people around you. It only works when you are not in combat, and does not work against anyone directly interacting with you or who is in combat.

(Art by Jacob Blackmon)

So equipped, she heads into the mine to do Stealth recon. She overhears a conversation between two guards – they know there was a ight outside, and if anyone comes up they don’t recognize the guards will will shoot first, ask questions later. They are awaiting the return of “the Professor,” who the guards obviously fear. The Professor specifically warned them not to use the “embanking machine,” which is taken by the group to be a Martian embanking machine from the War of the Worlds.

The players decide to make a blitz attack, since these guards and part of an operation that has used slave svirfneblin labor, and mercilessly killed and hid the bodies of a dozen or more of those.

  • The centaur paladin charges in to begin the fracas, impaling an enemy operative (one of two) with a critical hit on a lance change before he has a chance to do anything. (“Yep, that’s a crit. What IS the crit effect on your lance?” “He dies?”)
  • There is a spell-casting serpentfolk in here. It casts a defensive spell, then alternates between supercharge weapon and firing snakes as arrows from a 3-limbed bow.
  • The surviving operative sniper trick attacks the centaur, and gets his own critical hit on her before she rides him down.
  • The human soldier criminal PC exhcages fire with numerous gunslingers, and two axe-lords (people with magic rune brands in their hands allowing them to make special throw-and-return and multiple-target ace attacks, an old Nordic tradition). He gets shot with a snake arrow, but doesn’t go down
  • One crook, “Mr. Green Jacket” gets away out the front of the mine and since he agreed to flee “into the desert” and not come back, and the PCs took a lot of damage, they opt not to chase him down.

AFTERMATH

  • There is a Martian Embanking Machine here, which has been used to dig dozens of tunnels. It looks like a 20-ft. wide mechanical centipede, and has been converted to be steered by human controls. The human mechanic roboticist disables it by taking out aprt of thsoe adapted controls and in doing so finds a gear with a patent he reognizes–it was created by the infamous Professor Barkane Adrameliche, a citizen of the Ottoman Empire who helped create the first automatons. It is suspected he might have known Gaotma, the Manticore.
  • This room also has a series of Martian atomic batteries, which have been salvaged from other Embanking machines. These are not as powerful as a Tripod Generator (like the one serpentfolk tried to steal in Session One), but these three have been hooked to a capacitor designed to concentrate their power, though it takes several days to power up to a generator’s power level.
  • The capacitor is hooked to an array that clearly once had a spherical device hooked up inside it. This is right next to an empty storage area which the fenrin can tell 9with Scent) used to have Martian Black gas cannisters. Also, the iron box with the Doomstone taken from the manticore gets hot near the area.
  • The PCs conclude the Venom King is using the Martian Batteries to infuse Green Iron (taken from this mine) with the toxic properties of the Black Gas, the most virulent poison now known on Earth. This creates the “Doomstones,” such as the one they recovered, but can only make one every week or two. If the Venom King had a Tripod Generator, he could make a Doomstone every few hours.

LOOT from thsi fight: High-quality handaxes x4; Allin needle guns x2 (one for Liam); Ajax revolvers (x5); three-limbed serpent person bow (no arrows), bag with 8 snake eggs; golden bullet (magical) – put it in any projectile weapon and it has a one-shot built-in supercharge weapon (given to the fenrin operative bounty hunter); gallon of butane

Cast grave words on the bodies the Serpentfolk just hisses words at the PCs. The All of the rest of them talk about weird smells and weird dreams

There are two paths deeper into the mine. The PCs go left.

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Tales of the Intrepideurs’ Guild, Pt 3 (Game Session 0)

This weekend, we actually had “Session 0” of my Fantasy AGE game, where players made characters, including asking about the world, talking about relationships to one another, and so on.

Despite all the work I had done on the Intrepideur’s Guild itself, I had not yet spent any effort on the region the PCs will be starting in. As with the guild and the entire campaign concept I didn’t need much–just a frame upon which I could hang a paper-thin narrative for the adventures. But players generally have more fun when there at least a few concepts and place names for them to build their own stories and ideas off of.

So, I took 5 minutes to create the loosest of frameworks for a town. But I wanted the players to be more invested in it than if it was just a long list of imaginary words and sounds with dashs and hyphens thrown in for fantasy flavor. So, instead of naming everything myself, I creates a Mad-LIbs-stype series of options, and asked each player to fill in two of them.

Here’s the framework I used.

Welcome to the major trade town of [Adjective][Word Associated with Elves], located on the shores of the [Word associated with seas or oceans] and bordered by the [Word associated with rock or stone] Mountains with the [Terrain feature] Woods, and an important part of the [commodity] Route.

It is a [form of government], ruled over by the [Any fantasy species] King, [Impressive or noble adjective][word GM picks based on the king’s species].

Then after each player gave me a word I tweaked a tiny bit (I originally had swimmingly forest, which I disliked, so I jogged it slightly to Forrest Swim, which I think is a great town name and immediately makes me begin to wonder how it got that name.

Welcome to the major trade town of Forrest Swim, located on the shores of the Sextant Sea and bordered by the Igneous Mountains within the Outcropped Woods, and an important part of the Silk Route.

It is a Dictatorship, ruled over by the Unicorn King, Gloryhoof.

(Art by Kate Smith)

Then we got to making characters. Everyone choose to roll for ability socres, rather than use point-buy, just to get a feel for how Fantasy AGE feels when done that way. We restricted ourselves to the Basic Rulebook, and had characters done with plenty of time left for a quick adventure.

I used a single house rule, allowing characters to pick a specialization at 1st level.

The players all worked together, comparing ability scores and social status results, talking about what they’d like to see the party be able to do, and so on.

In the end, our heroes came out thusly–
Drahul (orc warrior, two-weapon fighter with battleaxe and longsword)
Folas (elf mage, arcana of healing and heroics)
Hannah (human rogue with assassin specialization, sister to)
James (human warrior, two-handed spear fighter)
Winter (elf mage, arcana of lightning and power)

The game notes, adapted from those taken by my wife Lj, are short but to-the-point.

Session 01:

We’re all tin-level Intrepideurs. We’ve all been on our initial quests with overseers and passed our evaluations. We’re ready for the bigtime.

Only Hannah and James know each other. The Guild recommends this group of 5 band together, at least initially, as an Intrepideur’s party.

We take our First quest: Escort quest (pays 50s per member of the group) – A request to the Guild from King Gloryhoof, himself

  • Five orphan children, arrived by ship. Need to be taken to a holy site of their order up in the Igneous Mountains. Their escorts were killed by Pirates, who were paid by a cult known as The Fists who want to kill the children. The pirates were driven off before they could harm the children.
  • Four days to the end destination, then four days back. Have a cart for the children, and the Guild provides food and basic supplies.

Day 01

Ambushed by 5 members of the Fists on the road. GM says this fight LOOKs too tough for us and it may be a TPK, but since part of this is playtesting and getting used to the game, we all agree to play it out.

  • Everyone knocked out at least once, and in the end everyone but Hannah and James are killed.
  • Except the GM retcons having a near TPK in the first session, as a blessing from King Gloryhoof for those carrying out his errands keeps the “killed” PCs from quite dying.
  • We get the kids to the mountain and back

Day 09

  • We get 50sp each + another 60sp from selling the gear we took off the Fists. Several characters take light chain recovered from the Fists. Including Winter, a spellcaster.

GM says to level up to 2nd level, and everyone gets one common temporary magic items to represent adventures between now and the next game.

So, that’s it. I ran the game… and nearly killed all the PCs with a fight WAY too tough for them. And that’s okay, we all got to use the death and dying rules, which often don’t get played with much, and learned I was right–that fight was WAY too tough!

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Worldbuilding Through Language, Part 1

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary has a “Time Traveler” function, which allows you to see what words first saw print in a given year.

Which means if you have a campaign set in a real-world year, you can create a list of words that were first used in print that year. This becomes a list of the cutting edge of new discussions in various fields. If ‘antibiotic’ is first used as a word in 1891, and that’s the year of your campaign, that tells you something about the state of medicine and awareness of it as a concept. It also means you may want to look at the history of the word and see how it was being used. (Antibiotics, for example, were being explored as a concept in 1891, not yet available).

As an example of what I mean, here is a list of words first used in English in print in 1891, the year of my Really Wild West campaign.

(Art by Digital Storm)

addictive

antibiotic

anti-gang

antimicrobial

appendectomy

atmospherics

AWOL

balloon tire

batting cage

bipartisan

bodywash

collective bargaining

compass rose

diving board

domestic violence

electromagnetic radiation

electron

exhibitionism

eyedropper

fair catch

fair market value

fellatio

fine print

fingerprinting

flea market

frenemy

handheld

house detective

leatherneck

legwork

motion picture

multimillion

mystique

nationwide

neuron

prosciutto

reinforced concrete

secondhand smoke

seismogram

skeletonizer

slot machine

stinking smut

supersecret

supraliminal

synesthesia

table tennis

tabloid

Tasmanian tiger

tattersall

time card

torpedo tube

trade in

transpacific

traveler’s check

tuberculous

ultrarich

vaccination

wasabi

water cannon

wiretapper

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The Issues of CRs and Multiple Creatures in Starfinder

So if you look in the Starfinder Core Rulebook, it’ll tell you that encounter difficulty is determined by comparing an encounter’s CR to your player’s Average Party Level (APL), as follows:

Encounter Difficulty

DifficultyCR Equivalency
EasyAPL – 1
AverageAPL
ChallengingAPL + 1
HardAPL + 2
EpicAPL + 3

It’ll also tell you that you can determine the CR equivalence of multiple creatures with the following table.

CR Equivalencies

Number of CreaturesCR Equivalency
1 creatureCR
2 creaturesCR + 2
3 creaturesCR + 3
4 creaturesCR + 4
6 creaturesCR + 5
8 creaturesCR + 6
12 creaturesCR + 7
16 creaturesCR + 8

Both these tables are useful… and both are wrong in ways the core rulebook doesn’t explain (we didn’t really realize it when we wrote the book — or at least I didn’t), and that isn’t intuitively obvious. But depending on how you combine these, your encounters may be way too easy, or way too hard.

Let’s start with when it may create an encounter much harder than expected.

Single Creatures of Higher CR

If you use a single higher-CR creature to make an encounter above your player’s APL, that encounter is going to be much harder than the core rulebook suggests. A single creature 1 CR higher than your PCs’ APL is on the tougher end of “Hard,” not merely “Challenging.” A single creature 2 CR’s above APL is Epic. And a single creature 3 CR above APL is likely to be more murderous than fun.

The reasons for this are baled into how Starfinder is different from pathfinder. First, the math is tighter. In Pathfinder you often have 1 or 2 players who are well ahead of the average PC curve in one area or another. Thus when you challenge them with a higher-CR foe, the one PC who is above the curve in whatever aspect of the game is effective against that foe can affect it, and the other PCs can support them. In Starfinder, the upper level of effectiveness is much more tightly controlled (and monster state blocks are much more consistent), so as the CR of a single monster goes up, the % chance of any attack of ability affecting them drops in ways the PCs cannot easily deal with.

Similarly, the raw bonuses and DCs a monster has increase in ways the PC’s defenses aren’t designed to handle, and a single higher-CR creature is likely to focus its attacks more than two lower-CR ones, just as a practical matter of space, reach, and line of sight.

Relatedly, the prevalence of save-or-lose effects is much lower in Starfinder than Pathfinder. In Pf, if you are just facing one foe players can spam hold or similar spells until the enemy fails a saving throw. Which such effects exist in Starfinder they are much less common, and generally more limited in scope.

Additionally Starfinder generally increases combat effectiveness not with multiple attacks, as Pathfinder does, but with each single attack anyone makes doing more and more damage. This both means the PCs can;t spam 3-6 attacks a round at a foe hoping to roll well on at least a few (and thus get a little damage in each round), and that a GM can’t have a foe divide their attacks among multiple PCs to make sure one is not killed in a lucky shot.

These factors combine to mean than one CR 8 foe is much more dangerous to a group of PCs than three CR 5 foes. It is much harder for the PCs to connect with it, given it’s higher ACs and better saves, and rather than have the threat be reduced as they drop one enemy and can focus on the other two, it remains at full effectiveness until dropped. And many legitimate class builds that focus on area attacks which help deal with three CR 5 creatures are actually less common against one CR 8.

So the table that tells you an APL +3 encounter is Epic (but reasonable) is only true if you are using multiple creatures of roughly your parties APL.

But, of course, there’s another possible weird result, when things are much easier than expected…

Art by likozor

Multiple Creatures of Lower CR

The other thing the core rulebook tells you is that 16 creatures make up an encounter with a CR equal to their indiviual CRs +8. That ought to mean that if you have an APL of 9th level, you can challenge them with 16 1st level foes.

But you can’t. I mean you can do it, but it won’t be a challenge.

In this case, the tighter math and reduced attacks per round work in the PCs’ favor. The AC of a typical CR 1 combatant is 11 lower than a CR 9 combatant, and it has 20 HP, compared to the CR 9’s 145. One or two area attacks can wipe out all the CR 1 foes, and their attacks are insignificant even if they manage to connect with PCs.

Now being able to be in multiple places can given useful otpions, and of course a clever Gm CAN build an encounter where eight CR 1 foes are at least interesting (putting them in defensive positions, for example, or spread them out and set the encounter so the PCs want to capture them all without letting any escape, rather than just defeat or bypass them). But failing that, for a satisfying encounter you generally don’t want to use foes with a CR more than 3 below your PCs’ APL.

The Takeaway

When using the CR system in Starfinder, try to stick to creatures with a CR no more than 3 below, or 1 above, your party’s APL.

(Unless you are prepared to get clever, as I experimented with when building a CR “6 +1” Manticore.)

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The “Damn” Manticore of Really Wild West (in Starfinder)

In yesterday’s session notes for my third Really Wild West Game, I mentioned the main villain was a modified manticore. I took the base stats from Legendary game’s excellent Alien Bestiary (name mentioned here with special permission from LG), and made some changes.

Some of those changes are stylistic. I wanted a scorpion-tailed manticore, rather than a spike-flinging tail. But some of the changes (higher will saves, flexible tail, flyby attack, advanced weaponry) are specifically designed to make it a more dangerous foe.

Essentially, I wanted a CR 7 threat to be an epic encounter for the five 5th level heroes, but I didn’t want to use a CR 7 monster. In Starfinder, the math is so tight, fighting something that is 2 CRs above you can be extremely frustraintg, ebcause it never misses, and you rarely hit. Using two CR 5 monsters as a CR 7 encounter works great, but here I experimented with boosting the combat effectiveness of a foe without boosting their HP, AC, attack values, and so on. I list this as CR 6 +1; it’s CR 7 for all purposes except it’s array.

Then at the end I list my GM notes on two of the bits of treasure Gaotema had. They helped tell this specific monster’s story — an Ottoman Turk manticore who has been around since the 1700s, and fought for the Confederates in the US Civil War, then turned mercenary and gang leader after the South lost.

Gaotema, sans hat, art by Jacob Blackmon

GAOTEMA, The “Damn” MANTICORE
Manticore           CR 6+1
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +13
DEFENSE              HP 95    
EAC
18; KAC 20
Fort +10, Ref +10, Will +10
OFFENSE
Speed
40 ft., fly 60 ft. (Ex, average)
Melee
claw +16 (1d8+11 S) or stinger +16 (1d8+11 P, Fort DC 17)
Ranged
grenade launcher +14 (“Puckle Gin,” See below)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft. (10 ft. with stinger)
Offensive Abilities Flexible Tail (Threaten foes in reach even if they have cover)
STATISTICS
Str
+5, Dex +2, Con +3, Int –1, Wis +0, Cha +0
Skills Survival +18 (+22 when tracking)
Feats Flyby Attack (as PF1), Mobility, Spring Attack
Languages Common, Ottoman Turkish
SPECIAL ABILITIES
Doomstone-Enhanced Poison – Uses track of target’s highest ability score. End State is Venom-Wight. DC 17 (7 points of damage)

Each state takes twice as long as the one before it
Immediate/1 round – Save or Weakened             
2 rounds – Save or Impaired                                       
4 rounds – Save or Staggered                                    
8 Rounds – Save or Immobile                                     
16 rounds – Save or Venom-Wight                        

Puckle Gun
2280 cr.               60 ft.     8 grenades         5 bulk    Analog, Expiramental
Grenades
Grey Smoke – Fortitude saving throw each round (DC = 13 + 1 per previous check) or spend that round choking and coughing; he can do nothing else. A character who chokes for 2 consecutive rounds takes 1d6 nonlethal damage. Concealment.
Silver Smoke – DC 14, or forget details of what you saw without confirmation afterward.
Black Smoke – As smoke + tail venom, above
Red Shell – 5d6 fire, half damage to targets within 20 feet (Ref negates)
Experimental — If damaged, roll d20 on the mishap chart, below.
1-5: Backfire, user takes 1d6 fire damage each time it fires.
6-10: Takes a full round action to attack.
11-15: Can’t load a new round without a DC 17 Engineering check
16-20: Inaccurate. Roll scatter for every attack.

Artilleryman’s Hat – Constant – Reduce effect of miss change from smoke/fog/vapor-base concealment by half, and it is never total concealment.
Standard Action – Grant 1 hour of immunity to inhaled smoke/fog/vapor effects. 1/day.
“A battered hat with many cuts and scrapes, there is a Confederate artillery pin stuck on top of a faded Union artillery patch.”

Compression Gear Harness
Standard to activate, 1/day, for 1 hour +4 to bulk carrying capacity, +2 damage with melee attacks
2 bulk, 5k credits, item level 5, must be custom fit with Engineering check

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Second Really Wild West Session — After-Action Report (Part Two)

After the first Really Wild West: Doomstone game session After-Action Report, and its Part Two follow-up, numerous people indicated they were excited to keep learning about the campaign as I run it. So, it’s two weeks later, I’ve run another session, and adapted notes taken by my wife Lj (who is playing the fenrin operative bounty hunter named “Sawyer”) as a quick report.

We did Part One yesterday. Here’s Part two. If you don’t recognize a reference, it may (or may not) be in a previous session, or at the updated campaign notes page.

RWW Jerico Pistol

Still Day 4

After recuperating from the fight with monstrous Jerusalem Bugs, the PCs come to a fork in the road. One path leads to the Circle Axe Ranch, the other to the Vicious Hippogriff. There are five people on horses hanging out there, in the middle of the road.

  • When they get close enough, the PCs can see they are cowpokes, the one covered weapons and collar that covers his face, stopping the PCs. They won’t let the PCs pass. Nor will they tell us who they work for (just insisting it’s “the Ranch” without saying which one.)
  • The PCs move away to talk about our options. They glean some information about the cowpoke’s leader. -James “Burning Jack” Byrne,  a gun-for-hire. Wears fire-retardant gear and then covers himself in flammable material. Also, carries dynamite.
  • Burning Jack is clearly crazy.
  • PCs decide to go around, trusting their map and Brone Mallory the half-orc cartographmancer to get them through the badlands. T’ll come back later.

The map indicates that along the route to get to the Circle Axe while avoiding the trail there is–in the middle of nowhere, with no trail or nearby town or even apparent water sources–an inn the PCs can stay at called Tombspider Inn. Skill checks tell the PCs that a Tombspider is spider-based flesh golem construct with built in melee weapons for legs.

  • On the way there they find a ridge that has collapsed about  2 miles shorter than it should be accordign to the otherwise VERY recent and accurate map. Earthquake?

Tombspider Inn

The Inn is veru large and well-maintained… but tumbleweeds blow by right in front of it.

  • Kobold greets us at the door. Seems confused as to why we are here. Says he’s never actually had a customer. His name is Mr. Scrapgnaw.
  • Apparently, this inn was built so that people can fight “the Tombspider” when it returns. It’s been 110 years since the last appearance. Ulysses S. Abernathy was the last, and only, other name in the log book. This is the name of an engineer whose name is a brand of thingamabobs (UPBs) and who created the “phantom pocketwatch” spell. He also built this Inn, and corresponds by mail once every quarter or so.
  • Rooms are free since the PCs are on a quest. Tinned food. Room-temp drinks. Will take awhile to heat up the water for baths.
  • We all partake in the dark gray liquid from a keg marked with a dead dog. Tastes like rum and coke. Not bad!
  • Mr. Scrapgnaw says there’s not been an earthquake per se. Instead, he’s had wonky feelings over several nights recently. He thought it was just tommy-knockers.
  • Scrapgnaw shows the PCs where the Tombspider will supposedly appear in 1936. It’s down below the Inn in a cavern.
  • A rock covered in blood shows the symbol of the spider, but with guns for legs instead of blades.
  • Each Inn room is set up for many people, weapons, wash tubs, curtains, radiators, and gas lamps.
  • We forget to set watches and just enjoy the sleep and the fluffy beds.

Day 05

  • Breakfast: strong coffee, strong tea, cookies.
  • A few Pcs mention they now plan to retire here.

The PCs arrive at the Circle Axe Ranch

  • Sprawling fenced compound.
  • PCs stop at the gate where there is a tall, lanky elf woman. Waterlily.
  • She gets “Bo-hoss” a large ogre to take her post. He sports a rock bandoleer. (A broad leather strap with pockets for 8-10-inch smooth rocks perfect for him to throw)
  • Waterlily takes us to Forman Dwargus Hardfist
    • Hardfist carries a hand cannon (1-shot, 8-gauge shotgun pistol)
    • Has a complex timepiece with multiple functions
  • His family helped establish the ranch, and it was Hardfist’s mother who found the circle-axe the ranch is named for. She claimed it was an old Nordic relic, perhaps tied to the Hardfist family members who helped Leif Erikson explore North America.
  • As a stakeholder, he gets a cut of each Roundup. For the past three years, each time his cattle are separated out they, and not anyone else’s, keep getting eaten by a manticore. No one else ever sees it. If Hardfist can get one more good sale of his share of a roundup, he plans to retire.
  • It’s not the ranch owner’s family doing it.
  • Doesn’t seem to be a curse.
  • This all seems to have started when Felspark, the East Hudson Fur Trading Company representative, arrived as a guest at the Vicious Hippogriff ranch, which is also when relations between the two ranches went bad.
  • Not an illusion.
  • The fighter/mystic, who can both speak to animals and cast grave words, speaks with the skull 0.o
    • PCs hear scared moos from the skull
    • The fighter/mystic hears “Ow! Danger! Danger to the herd! I die.”
  • The skull shows signs of poison. The fenrin;s scent ability allows her to determine the poison is the same as that used by the serpentfolk on the train.

What PCs want to know

  • When is the next cattle round up? (Anytime — it’s been delayed until hardfist could get some help)
  • Where could the serpentfolk and a manticore be hiding?
  • What’re the forces that link the serpentfolk, manticore, and East Hudson Fur Trading Company together after? Water rights aren’t enough for this much trouble.
    • Other ranch may want the water, so they let the manticore folk use the land.
    • Venom King … what’s he after?
    • What have the tripods awoken? Did the black gas seep down and wake something up?
    • What if they’re headed to the hollow world?
    • And the Trading Co would have a monopoly on the passage to the hollow world from the USA.
  • Hardfist is convinced none of his people are leaking information.
  • There were supposedly invisible rattlesnakes in these parts. “Smoke snakes.”
  • The are given the seasonal bunk house to work out of.

XPs: 400 each (PCs now at  11,050, need 15,000 to reach 6th)

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Second Really Wild West Session — After-Action Report (Part One)

After the first Really Wild West: Doomstone game session After-Action Report, and its Part Two follow-up, numerous people indicated they were excited to keep learning about the campaign as I run it. So, it’s two weeks later, I’ve run another session, and adapted notes taken by my wife Lj (who is playing the fenrin operative bounty hunter named “Sawyer”) as a quick report.

If you don’t recognize a reference, it may (or may not) be in a previous session, or at the updated campaign notes page.

Chimera Kid

(Sketch of the Chimera Kid by Jacob Blackmon. The Kid is a figure in RWW: Doomstone the PCs have heard about, but not yet me. Jacob is awesome at capturing character designs in sketches like this, and you can hire him to do it for your characters!)

Session 02

The player running the human mechanic roboticist can’t make it to the game session, but wants us to proceed. That character is determined to have to stay behind in Cheyenne to repair her drone, and will be escorted to the ranch the PCs are heading to in a few days, when the Fonts & Bismark patrol comes back into town so they have spare people to do it. Since everyone wants to play, no one picks at the logic of this too much.

Most PCs stay at Mr. Satin’s Satin’s House of Refined Delights. Discover there is a bastet Norwegian Forest Cat named Caesar who is a professional cuddler. Fantastic purrer and snuggler. From a line of French pillow warmers (on his mother’s side) and a Bostonian chimney-sweet (literally crawls into a chimney and cleans it by moving through it, using token Spell to clean himself off when he’s done).

Day 3

PCs gather at the Fonts & Bismark station-house in Cheyenne to pick up the gear they are being given. Station Chief Adler introduces them to a new potential companion — Brone Mallory, a half-orc cartographer technomancer with a Doctorate in Theosophy from Oxbridge University, who is a mail-order theosopher who was hired to help survey the border between the Circle Axe and Vicious Hippogriff ranches. But the survey company went bankrupt while Mallory was in transit, so now he is between jobs. PCs agree to bring him along.

PC skill checks suggest he may have connections to the “Brone,” Normandy orc warcasters from the 900s AD, and possible the Mallory family of humanblooded spells-for-hire that operate around the Appalachians.

PCs decide to head to Circle Axe first. On their way north out of town, they are accosted by a human man with 4 mechanical arms run by a steam abckpack (in addition to his own 2 arms) grooming utensils. He declares he is “Beardcutter Ben, the Shaver’s Friend,” and makes his sales-pitch

  • He claims to be able to solve any problem we have.
  • Centaur Paladin buys a ring of oral hygene
  • Human Fighter/Mystic buys ten water pills (each pill turns into 1 gallon of water)
  • PCs get Beardcutter Ben’s calling card – a small gear-clockwork that when plugged into the Babbage-Bell grid tells you his last known location (he’s a wandering peddler)
  • He offers us a free sample of “Walking Meat” (gum). Says he can;t get anyone to buy it, but it makes long foot travel more pleasant. The human fighter/mystic accepts a piece. It tastes like unseasoned pot roast.

The PCs head north. It’s two day’s travel to the Circle Axe.

Brone writes down the lyrics to a song Sawyer sings on the trail, and does a couple of sketch portraits of her.

At camp the first night, shortly after sundown, the PCs see a figure approach them, with points of light for its eyes, and his mount’s eyes.

  • Skeletal male, humanoid, casually walking toward us. Rifle on shoulder. Pauses at 100ft.
  • He comes from the North, and is headed into town.
  • Wears a deputy’s badge with a skull on it — not a symbol anyone recognizes
  • Smells of turned earth, ashes, and heather
  • PCs can’t identify what he IS, but conclude he’s not an undead
  • He says he is “Deputy B. Hill,” works for “The Marshall.” Someone has “grave jumped,” and he thought it might be one of them — but now that he is here, he sees they are all on “the right side of the dirt.” His prey keeps covering its tracks, “Like a snake shedding its skin fer feathers.”
  • PCs suggest he (might*be hunting the same foe they are looking for. Offer to maybe help. Deputy Hill says he’ll mention the PCs to The Marshall. If Deputy Hill can’t track down the grave-jumper himself, the Marshal may send a less discerning senior deputy, Or a full posse, which can cause “collateral damage.”
  • Deputy Hill rides off, calmly. Later, his horse’s footprints disappear with soft, eerie sounds.

Day 04

A green meteor crosses the sky in the morning. East to West. In the Northern sky. No one is sure what it is, though it could be sky metal.

  • The human fighter/mystic seems to be permeated with a carrion smell, though only the fenrin operative bounty hunter can smell it (has scent).Fighter/mystic’s mouth is dry and foul.
  • Token Spell doesn’t help.
  • The cavalier’s ring of oral hygiene doesn’t help either.
  • Players determine this is an affect-effect of the Walking Meat gum, Determine to Have Words with Beardcutter Ben when they get back to town.

About half a day from the ranches, monstrous Jerusalem Bug (size Small) burst from the ground and attack, focusing on the fighter/mystic at first. PCs ID that these bugs burrow and eat carrion.

  • PCs look at real-world pictures of Jerusalem Bugs, and declare them “A Big ol Bucket of Nope”
  • The PCs identify these eight creatures are Rowdies (first time I have used those rules in a game).
  • They bite and spit entangling resin. Also, rub their legs together making static electric jolts and dust clouds.
  • Fighter/mystic moves to not be surrounded, suffers a knockdown crit. Draws a long knife to fight rather than pistol (has Cleave and there are many AoO possible with so many melee foes)
  • PCs roll BADLY, and the Jerusalem Bugs get multiple knockdown crits.
  • Brone Mallory, the half-orc technomancer, mostly just maintains microbot assault through the whole fight, but the margin makes a difference several times.
  • Tough fight. The fenrin operative bounty hunter loses all Stamina Points, though the player identified she kept taking unnecessary risks.
  • PCs win. Fighter-Mystic heals fenrin operative bounty hunter’s Wound damage, and then most characters take 10 minutes and expend Resolve to regain Stamina Points.

End Part One!

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Fire-Breathing Robodino for Starfinder

Okay, so we did a quick robodino kitbash, and compiled the rules for it in one place. But folks still want more robodinos! What’s a game design blogger to do?

Give ’em what they want!

The “Tyrannocyber Wrecks” is a slightly more complex animal-to-robot conversion. We followed the steps outlined yesterday, but we have gone a bit further. We added an integral ranged weapon appropriate for a CR 9 combatant array, and removed swallow whole and replaced it with a fire breath weapon using the guidelines for the universal creature rule. (I’m not sure who decided tyrannosaurus robots breath fire, but it’s a well-known science-fantasy trope. 🙂 ) Since we gave it ranged weapons, we updated the skills and the ability scores to be standard for a CR 9 combatant and adjusted the initiative and melee damage to match.

This is the work of maybe 10 minutes instead of 5, but it gives us a more complex example of a kitbashed foe!

Mecharex

(Art by vexworldwide)

ROBODINOSAUR, Tyrannocyber Wrecks

Tyrannocyber Wrecks             CR 9

XP 6,400
N Gargantuan construct (technological)
Init +4; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +17

DEFENSE             HP 145

EAC 22; KAC 24
Fort +10; Ref +7; Will +7
Immunities construct immunities; unliving

OFFENSE

Speed 40 ft.
Melee bite +22 (2d10+15 S; crit. bleed 2d6)
Ranged integrated salamander-class burner +19 2d10+9 F, line, crit burn 2d6)
Space 20 ft.; Reach 20 ft.
Offensive Abilities breath weapon (60-ft. cone, 10d6 F, Reflex DC 16 half, usable every 1d4 rounds)

STATISTICS

Str +6; Dex +4; Con —; Int +0; Wis +0; Cha +3
Skills Athletics +17, Intimidate +22
Languages Common, Draconic

ECOLOGY

Environment any
Organization solitary, pair, or pack (3–6)

Patreon
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