Blog Archives

Fantasy Idioms

One way to add a little flavor to a person, city, or culture is to add a few useful phrases that take the same kind of place as “Who benefits?” and “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Even just one phrase, introduced as part of a philosophy or something that’ll come up throughout a plotline, can help drive home a feel for a region,

There’s no need to overdo these, but I often find dropping in one or two can really boost player interest in a representative of a foreign or alien group. Here are some examples.

Gold sheds no tears.

The poison proves the plot.

Which god is thus glorified?

All accounts shall be balanced.

An arrow cannot recognize a king.

It need not be a dragon to burn you.

All who had the power to stop this are guilty of it.

All jackals scavenge, but even lions accept a free meal.

Those who pay the minstrel are the first to hear the song. (Yep, it’s a Patreon reference, snuck in as content. Mea culpa.)

Story Time: F. Wesley Schneider

Since Wes is leaving Paizo for new adventures, I have concluded it’s Wes story time!

Mooncalf

The very first “Ecology of” article I got to write for Dragon Magazine was “Ecology of the Mooncalf” in #340. It was also one of the very first article I wrote with Wes as my contact person (maybe the second one I’d done for him). Wes told me by email we “might” have room from a short narrative introduction at the beginning of the article.

So I wrote a super-short short story introduction. I sent in the article, which began with about 500 words of fiction.

Wes sent me a very polite email to let me know that the article was great, but the intro was, it turned out, too long to fit. Knowing what I know now about Wes, I can tell he was just trying to let me down gently.

But at the time? I just figured I needed to trim it.

So I sent him a 350 word version.

Ah, replied Wes, politely. No, the article and art has pretty much filled the page. We couldn’t even fit in a 100-word intro.

STILL not getting the hint, I sent a trimmed-down, 75 word version.

Realizing he was dealing with an idiot, Wes just flat told me there wasn’t room for anything more than 25-30 words.
I sent him a 28-word version and, rather than continue to try to drive home to me that the article would not open with fiction, Wes just put it as a caption over the article’s art.

It read:
“Tonight I witnessed a dread omen—something foul descending through the nighttime skies as through from the moon itself.

–Galiel the Astrologer, The Last Journal of Galiel

Which I have come to realize, is MUCH more cool than the 500 word version.

Patreon

Wes has a Patreon! Go support it. 🙂

 

The Setup (Supers): Big Housers

The Setup is a one- or two-sentence  “high concept” for an RPG campaign or similar background.

This one is for a Supers world.

Big Housers

At 11:59:59 EST, it happened. Not at every prison, but at most of them, worldwide. Perfect spheres of bizarre energy of unknown composition, unknown source, and unknown event. Each circle was between a few hundred and a few thousand feet in diameter. It became known as the Drama.

The Drama infused people, and in rarer cases animals and objects, with spectacular (and random) powers. There are more than 2 million adult inmates in the US alone, and less than 500,000 correctional officers. In the blink of an eye more than half the people in prisons had powers… and criminals outnumbered people trying to maintain order four to one.

The chaos was instant.

No one knows exactly how many people gained powers. It wasn’t every incarcerated prisoner, guard, and administrator, but it was many of them. And sine the Drama created spheres, some few folks who simply had reason to be near prisons were also impacted. Tens of thousands of children in detention centers. Scores of lawyers with need to be with a client late at night, as well as a few law enforcement officers, witnesses to at least one execution, and at least one bus full of student athletes coming back from a late-night basketball game decided in overtime were driving by a county jail and got caught in the Drama.

All told, estimates were that 2,000,000 people, give or take, suddenly gained extraordinary abilities, 60% of them hardened criminals.

Roughly half gained some knack at or close to peak human performance, regardless of their previous physical or mental condition. Geriatric prisoners became as swift, or as fast, as Olympic athletes. Correctional officers of causal intellect became geniuses. Hardened criminals became philosopher poets. Secretaries became world class martial artist. In most cases people were affected directly, but in a few cases the power was imbued into something else. The wild dogs who later formed the Pound Pack gained human intellect. Sgt. Damian Hammer’s riot shield became nearly indestructible. The Folsom state prison’s computer network became the world’s first strong AI. But these were rare exceptions.

This level of power was quickly dubbed “one inmate” worth of Drama power, and that got shortened to 1M within a day of memes and 24 hour news cycles. But while half the subjects of the Drama got 1M, some got more. Roughly half as many 1M recipients were 2M–gaining either two forms of peak human ability, or one thing with twice the potency of the greatest human. Gangbangers able to lift 2,000 pounds, con men able to speak more than 100 languages fluently, assistant wardens able to run at 50 mph. These people from the Big House, were eventually called Big Housers more than they are called anything else.

The distribution of power followed the same rough linear pattern, one additional “inmate” worth of power being given to a group as as big. Half as many recipients who got 2M were 3Ms, and half as many 3Ms were 4Ms who had quadruple the ability of the best humans. Though the numbers were approximate, that means the distribution continued until about 1,875 Big Housers in the US alone were 10Ms.

A 1M might gain a punch with 1,000 pounds of peak force. A 3M could hit as hard as a handgun bullet.  A 10M hit as hard as an antitank round. And at about the 10M level, powers stopped being limited to things explained by science.

Flight. Telepathy. Telekenesis. Teleportation. Eye beams. Fire breath. Sonic screams. A 15m Big Houser might be “limited” to running at 375 mph and making 1,200 punches in 60 seconds… or he might have the power to turn lead into gold, or perfectly predict the next 15 seconds, or be able to regenerate a lost limb. Estimates place between 2,000 and 3,000 Big Housers in the US at 10M and higher, with a believed upper limit of 20M, but it’s extremely difficult to categorize such people. Red Hand, the crazed killer who can create a virus that causes insanity and stigmata, might be a 10M with a single inexplicable power–or he might be a 15M given his cunning, durability, charisma, and rumored ability to switch bodies. Slammer is just strong and hard to hurt, but is he 14 times peak human performance, or 18 times?

 

It’s been two years. More than 20% of the original Drama recipients are dead. Only roughly 10% have successfully been captured and incarcerated. Another 10-15% work for various governmental agencies, or actively work to protect the world against the rest.

But about half the Big Housers are still out there, committing crimes.

If you Enjoyed This:

Why not back my Patreon?

Empress of the Geeks Day and WorldCon 1984

Mother’s Day Story

Every year for the past many years, I have for Mother’s Day told a story about my mother, Empress of the Geeks. Most stories I have told more than once. About how she was a GM for a group of young boys not because she was a fan of RPGs, but because we wanted to play and no one else would run a game for us. About how she used those opportunities to sneak in educational missions at the end of each game, making us look up a definition of democracy to negotiate with lizardman tribes, or have to know all the States and their capitals to represent researching into ancient kingdoms.

Or the story of her saving Christmas by figuring out what to give an entitles little brat (that’s me) who refused to tell her what he wanted for Christmas other than “adventure.”

But I don’t think I have ever told the story of my mother and my first WorldCon.

I was introduced to D&D in 1982, and by 1984 I was buying D&D, Gamma World, Tunnels and Trolls, Arduin Grimoire, Boot Hill, Star Frontiers, Dragon Magazine, miniatures, dice, and so on. I was hooked.

My mother took me to my first science fiction convention in 1983. It was a tiny affair in my home town of Norman, OK. I’d guess attendance was 500 or so. It was a one-shot con that never took off.

And then in 1984, she took me to WorldCon, in Anaheim, CA. My sister didn’t want to go. My father didn’t want to go. But I did, and my mother did, and she set a financial goal for me (to be met mostly mowing yards, mostly for my grandparents) early in that year. I met it, and she booked flight and hotel rooms… and gave me half the money back as spending cash.

She set down ground rules… but they were amazingly lax given my age. And then she… trusted me.

This was a 4-day convention. Cell phones were not an option. I was barely a teenager. And she trusted me to set my own schedule, get my own meals, handle my money, and not do anything stupid.

Well, not do anything TOO stupid.

I listened to panels with Gordon R. Dickson and Jerry Pournelle. I shared a bus-ride to Disneyland with C.J. Cherryh. I saw Robert Heinlein. And I gamed.

Oh lord, how I gamed.

Homebrews. Boardgames. Card games. Miniature games. As I recall, my first introduction to Car Wars, Warhammer 40k, and Champions. I had my first TPK. I had my first game that ran past midnight. I played a Gamma World game where the PCs ended up going back in time, coming to the convention center, finding the room we were playing in and, under a cloak field, debated whether nor not to kill us, the players and GM, to prevent us from thinking up their cursed world—WHILE we roleplayed that event. And I won’t lie… at that age, with that much Mountain Dew in my system, at 2am… the idea my own PC was arguing to kill me freaked me right now.

I ordered my first steak dinner by myself. I took my first taxi ride by myself. I went to the release party for the last issue of the first series of ElfQuest comics, got into a drum circle, met an older girl, and had a puppy love weekend con romance with her as she made appointments to hit specific games with me.

I saw my mother every day, at least once. She made sure. She asked how I was doing, checked that I had money for food, made me tell her my approximate plans. We had a legal pad in the hotel room, and we each wrote down where we were going… at least roughly.

The freedom had a major impact on my ability to trust myself, and it all came from the fact my mother trusted me. But her main accomplishment in this regard wasn’t that weekend.

It came in the weeks and years before, when she raised me to be a child she felt she could trust. I didn’t make that easy. And I know she must have had reservations. In retrospect, I can see some of the slack-giving moments that came before, and at, that con.

And while yes, I did some stupid things, I survived just fine.

And it was a major watershed in my life.

And she made it all possible. She knew when to hold my hand… and when to let go.

Thanks, Mom.

Patreon

My mother’s also pretty pragmatic. She absolutely won’t mind that I use a story about her to boost my patreon, where you can support me in writing these stories, and my other geekly productions.

Relic Masters: Magic for the Spell-Less (Pt. 2)

Okay, we now have a relic master archetype that every spell-less class can access, which boosts the options available to characters with Item Mastery Feats, and allows a character to focus on them. So, how we we expand the Item Mastery rules to expand the kinds of characters you can make with them?

More Feats!

Channel Spell (Combat, Item Mastery)

You can invoke a scroll or wand you possess through a different magic item.

Prerequisites: 1 or more Item Mastery feats, UMD 3 ranks, relic master level 3.

Benefit: When you have a wand or scroll on your person (somewhere you could retrieve it as no more than a move action), you can cast spells from it through any other magic item you are holding or wearing that has a spell from the same school as a prerequisite. Additionally if you have to make a Use Magic Device check to use the wand, you may take 10 on the UMD skill check when using this feat.

For example, if you have a wand of magic missile in your backpack, you could cast magic missiles from the wand (expending charges normally) — without getting the wand out — while you are holding a +1 flaming longsword (since the flaming ability has evocation spells as part of its prerequisites), and when doing so could take 10 on a UMD check to activate the wand.

Item Mastery Focus

You have learned additional ways to manipulate the magic of items.

Prerequisites: 2 or more Item Mastery feats, UMD 5 ranks, relic master level 5.

Prerequisites: For each item mastery feat you know that allows you to cast a spell a number of times per day from a magic item that has a spell from a specific school as a prerequisite, select an additional spell. This additional spell must be of the same school as the spell granted by the appropriate Item Mastery feat, must be of that spell’s spell level or less, and must be from the same class spell list. A number of times per day equal to your base Fortitude saving throw bonus, when you use an Item Mastery feat to cast a spell, you may instead cast one of these alternative spells. This counts as a daily use of the appropriate Item mastery feat.

Want More?

I have a Patreon. It’s how I justify taking the time to write a lot of this material on my blog. I’d love your support.

Relic Masters: Magic for the Spell-less

Though it is far from universal, there are several common styles of Pathfinder RPG play that cause groups to decide classes that lack any spellcasting ability are at a disadvantage, and that the disadvantage grows as other classes gain increasingly powerful spells. This is especially frustrating for players who have a character concept for someone who shouldn’t have spells (spellcasting would invalidate the character concept), but seem to then be penalized with fewer options in many encounters due to their lack of access to magic.

Item Mastery Feats are a great way to add magic abilities to characters that don’t gain spells or spell-like options from their class features. In a nutshell, they allow characters to force magic items to do things the item isn’t normally able to do. Since the Use Magic Device skill proves that spells are necessary to use magic items, and numerous classes can pick up just a little spellcasting without being a spellcasting class (such as minor magic from rogues), the idea that there is a technique to manipulate magic in new ways to do new things without being a spellcaster is in keeping with the suggested metaphyscis of the Pathfinder rules.

Item Mastery Feats can patch one or two holes in a character’s options easily, but using them to alter how nonspell classes play in general requires some new options. Some of those should be limited to characters who really focus on these feats, which is nromally rep[resented with the relic master archetype. However, that archetype can only be taken by fighters, and there are a lot of classes that don’t gain spells.

So, step one is to give rules for the relic master archetype to be usable by every class with no automatic access to spells, extracts, or similar broad-utility magic options. That means we need replacement options for the relic master’s powers at the appropriate levels for the barbarian, brawler, cavalier, gunslinger, kineticist, monk, rogue, slayer, swashbuckler, and vigilante.

Below are the rules for a “More Universal” Relic Master, that also tweaks the archetype itself to fix weaknesses that have been found in play since the archetype was published.

“More Universal” Relic Master

Skills

The relic master receives Knowledge (arcana) and Use Magic Device as class skills, but doesn’t receive two class skills of the base class, as noted below: as class skills.

Barbarian: Handle Animal and Ride

Brawler: Handle Animal and Ride

Cavalier: Bluff and Swim

Fighter: Handle Animal and Ride

Gunslinger: Handle Animal and Ride

Kineticist: Intimidate (already receives Use Magic Device)

Monk: Intimidate and Knowledge (history)

Rogue: Intimidate (already receives Use Magic Device)

Slayer: Intimidate and Knowledge (geography)

Swashbuckler: Intimidate and Ride

Vigilante: Knowledge (engineering) (already receives Use Magic Device)

Improved Item Mastery (Su)

At 3rd level, once per day, a relic master can use an item mastery feat she knows with a magic item that doesn’t have an appropriate spell in its construction requirements. The magic item must meet all other requirements of the item mastery feat. Alternatively, if she is using a magic item with an appropriate spell in its construction requirements, she can use an item mastery feat without it counting against the feat’s total uses per day. She can use this ability one additional time per day at 7th, 11th, and 15th levels.

This ability replaces or modifies a class feature gained at or before 3rd level depending on the relic master’s base class, as detailed below:

Barbarian: Trap sense

Brawler: Maneuver training

Cavalier: Cavalier’s charge. (The cavalier still receives mighty charge and supreme charge at their normal levels)

Fighter: Armor training

Gunslinger: Any 2 of the following 3 deeds: gunslinging initiative, pistol-whip, utility shot. Anytime the gunslinger gains new deeds from any source in the future, she may choose to forgo the new deed in favor of gaining one of these deeds.

Kineticist: Infusion gained at 3rd level

Monk: Still mind

Rogue: Trap sense

Slayer: The slayer does not gain the slayer talent normally gained at 2nd level.

Swashbuckler: Any 2 of the following 3 deeds: kip-up, menacing swordplay, precise strike. Anytime the swashbuckler gains new deeds from any source in the future, she may choose to forgo the new deed in favor of gaining one of these deeds.

Vigilante: Unshakeable

Relic Channeler (Su)

At 5th level, a relic master can increase the potency of a magic item she wields by investing it with a bit of her vitality as a swift action. If the item is armor, a shield, or a weapon, its enhancement bonus increases by 1 to a maximum of +5. If the magic item creates a spell or has a save DC, its effective caster level increases by 1. The bonus gained increases by +1 at 10th level and every 5 levels thereafter, to a maximum of +4.

A relic master can use this ability for a number of minutes per day equal to 1 + her Constitution modifier (minimum 1 minute). This duration doesn’t need to be consecutive, but it must be used in 1-minute increments.

This ability replaces or modifies a class feature gained at or before 5th level depending on the relic master’s base class, as detailed below:

Barbarian: Rage powers gained at 4th and 12th level.

Brawler: Brawler’s strike or close weapon mastery (once this decision is made, it cannot be changed)

Cavalier: Banner

Fighter: Weapon training

Gunslinger: Gun training

Kineticist: Metakinesis.

Monk: Purity of body

Rogue: Sneak attack is 1d6 lower than normal for a rogue of the same level.

Slayer: Has 1 fewer studied targets than normal for a slayer of the same level

Swashbuckler: Swashbuckler weapon training

Vigilante: Startling appearance

Improvised Item Mastery (Su)

At 19th level as a full-round action, the relic master can select one item mastery feat whose prerequisites she meets but that she doesn’t already have. She gains access to this feat, though she can’t use it as a prerequisite for other feats or options. If she selects a different item mastery feat, she loses access to her previous use of improvised item mastery and any magic effect created with it ends immediately. Any daily uses of a selected improvised item mastery feat count against all improvised mastery feats selected in the same day.

This ability replaces or modifies a class feature gained at or before 19th level depending on the relic master’s base class, as detailed below:

Barbarian: Damage reduction does not increase to 5/–

Brawler: AC bonus does not increase to +4 at 18th level

Cavalier: Challenges does not increase to 7/day

Fighter: Armor mastery

Gunslinger: Any one deed gained at this level is not gained. Once this decision is made, it cannot be changed.

Kineticist: Metakinetic master

Monk: Empty body

Rogue: Rogue talented not gained at 8th level

Slayer: Improved quarry

Swashbuckler: Any one deed gained at this level is not gained. Once this decision is made, it cannot be changed.

Vigilante: Social talent

My Patreon

Hey folks, do you enjoy the content on this blog? I can only take the time to do bigger things like this, because I have patrons supporting me! Why not become a patron, and support the creation of more free material! Or you could even become a sponsor, and get me to link to YOUR content!

 

Game Fiction: Fairy Doctor

This began life as flavor text for a feat called “Fairy Doctor,” an idea from my longest-running fantasy d20 campaign.

It… got out of control.

And I STILL need to write the feat…

Fairy Doctor

Cyble ran one thick finger down her archlute’s top string, listening intensely to the soft brushing sound. She needed to ensure every string was taught and tuned, to ensure none failed in the confrontation with the sirenwraith shortly after dawn. On the other hand she also needed to be quiet since her companions were all sleeping, and she also didn’t want any of them failing in the morning.

It was, perhaps, then understandable that she didn’t notice the winged mote of light sneaking up from the far side of the campfire, despite the fact she was on watch. Her party members knew she could get distracted by her work even in the middle of the night, and thus rarely gave her watch duty. But this time she was the only spellcaster who hadn’t expended any spells, and she had assured them she was too focused to sleep.

Even so, they had left Stumper, Hawkin Green’s faithful hornhound companion, to keep watch with her. Stumper had, of course, seen the winged mote. Had even sniffed it once. Stumper had then laid his head back down.

So when the mote suddenly hissed “Psssssssst!” in Cyble’s ear, her reaction was reasonable. A bit rough on her archlute, but it had thin mithral reinforcement for just such rough uses.

The mote was slapped to the ground, where it stopped glowing and held up two tiny arms in a gesture of surrender.

“Mighty doctor, stay they wrath! I am but a simple fey, come to beg they aid! For I have ails, and…”

“Oh for FU..” Cyble choked off her own voice just as she began to shout. She glanced around the campsite, but the other adventurers really were too tired to be woken by her near-outburst. Grim Gelda stirred, but settled back into her patchwork skin sleeping roll.

Cyble fixed her gaze on the “simple fey,” a sprig-sprite no more than three inches tall, with the dewdrop leaf attire of a minor noble.

“Listen you little shi… shifty annoyance! This is not the time for that “fairy doctor” stuff. I have real issues to deal with!” She managed to put some of her lung’s impressive power into the rebuke, despite keeping it quiet and focused on the intruder.

The sprig seemed unphased. “But you ARE the fairy doctor! You save Reseld Queen from the morosity that claimed her! Not for seven generations..”

Cyble cut him off with a sharp wave of her hand. “Reseld was just depressed, and I sang a song to cheer her up. That’s it! If I’d know she wasn’t actually a bunny…”

“The Bunny Queen!” the sprig interjected proudly.

“Shut up! My point is I am not some mystic doctor of fairy ills. I just cheered up one fairy, one, and she couldn’t keep her yap shut about it!”

The spring nodded enthusiastically. “Indeed, one song and our beloved Majesty of the Cotton-Tail was back to her cavorting self! And then you saved the Lady of Dawn’s Gold…”

“She was broke, it all,” Cyble interrupted.” I gave her one gold coin.”

“And the Prince of Berries…”

“He was choking. I hit him. It’s not my fault he spit out that seed and survived.”

“…AND the entire Dewdrop Brigade!”

Cyble paused. “Okay, they had devil chills. But it was Grimmy who cured them.”

The sprig’s smile literally glowed. “You found them, assessed their ills, and found the cure in another mortal! You are a fairy doctor!”

Cyble sighed.

“If I diagnose your problem, will you leave me alone?”

The sprig nodded so hard his antennae slapped back and forth from his face to the back of his head. The noise was so ridiculous, Cyble could not help but smile.:

“Fine, but make it quick. And quiet! What’s wrong?”

His expression fell.

“I am small.”

Cyble gave the expression her acting maestro had called “deadpan.” The sprig got the message.

“Of course to you I must always seem small. But my heart, it is smaller. It struggles to meet the inside of my chest with each beat. Food has lost its taste. Flowers are no longer sweet to smell. I cannot match my shadow’s gait. In ways I was once enormous, I have shrunk into a shell.”

Cyble’s expression softened. She scooped the spring up, and set it on the apron covering her ample lap.

“Have you lost anyone close to you recently?”

The sprig shook its head, though large dewdrop tears formed at the corners of its now-huge eyes.

Cyble thought. “Pining after a girl?”

Another head-shake. This was going to be some weird fairy-problem, Cyble realized.

“When did this first begin?”

The sprig’s voice quavered. “Ten nights ago, as the first star sparkled. I looked at it, and wonder who else saw it. A hawk cried out. A child began to cry. And my heart sank, and I have been small ever since.”

“A child?” Cyble latched onto the one element that seemed un-fairy. “What child?”

The sprig shrugged. “I was near a town. Rocks-over-water, or some such.”

“Bridgeford?”

The sprig nodded. “Near an old farm. There was a child within, one old enough to care for itself, but seasons and seasons away from playing adult. It cried.”

“And how did that make you feel?”

Again, a shrug. “It’s mortal. It’ll play at being adult, be adult, learn to make cakes, gain a sliver of wisdom, and die.”

Cyble was trained to read as much into tone of voice as much as the words they spoke. And the sprig’s voice held a slight quaver, which deepened as it spoke.

She knew fairies had extreme emotions, and often it was a bad idea to let them interact with other races. The slightest insult could begin a lifelong grudge, and saving one could result in having them hunt you down for help for years afterwards. But if handled carefully, a fairy could be a real boon to a crying child.

“So, clearly the child saw, and wished on the same star.” She spoke slowly, making it up as she went along, but the sprig nodded again, and wiped a tear from its face.

“And,” she continued, “the child must have made a wish. Children do that. But the wish didn’t come true, and that made it cry. Children’s wishes” she added hurriedly “can’t always be granted. Sometimes it’s impossible, and sometimes it’s just a bad idea. But a sad child wishing on a star… you must have gotten star-worry.”

“Star-worry?” The sprig seemed confused. “I’ve never heard of it.”

I imagine not, Cyble thought. I just made it up.

“Star-worry happens when a star wants to help someone, but it can’t. Someone else looking at the star. Someone like, say, a brave and wise fairy, gets infected with the worry. That’s why you got small. The worries of a star are pressing you down.”

The sprig shook. “I am doomed!”

Cyble smiled. “Not necessarily. The star is worried about the child who wished on it. All you need to do is make sure the child is all right, not starving, not being beaten, and the star will stop worrying about it. Then you can stop being small. BUT!”

The sprig leaned in, its ears actually getting slightly bigger.

“You MUST be careful. Mortal children aren’t fey. You can’t just bathe her in gold or grant her a wish. Like a caterpillar struggling to escape a cocoon to be a butterfly, if you remove all the obstacles in her life, she won’t grow strong enough to survive. But if you add to her woes, she may never escape her childhood at all.”

“But… but… “ The sprig nearly wailed. “Then what can I DO!?”

“Your kind garden, yes?”
The sprig drew itself up to its full, miniscule, height. “We grow the sweetest berries, the brightest flowers, and the hardest stumps!”

Cyble nodded. “Good. That takes care, patience, and time. That’s what the child needs. You don’t know yet if the child is a berry or a stump. You can’t know how much rain or sun it needs. But if threatened by fire or blight, that you can assist with. When the child is no longer at too great a risk.\the star’s worry will lift, and then so will yours. Can you do that? With subtly, and care?”

The spring, to its credit, tilted its head and clearly thought hard. Ten long seconds passed. Then it nodded, once.

“You have found my ail, and given me the course for cure. I’ll go to Rocks-Over-Water, find the sad child, and gentle shepherd it through any grave threat. I am saved!”

The sprig began to glow again, and its wings hummed as it flew up to Cyble’s right pinky finger, which it took in both hands and shook vigorously.

“Thank you, THANK you, good fairy doctor. I shall spread word of your wisdom far an… ummmph!”

Cyble was sure not to squeeze to hard, but she kept her grip on the fey firm.

“Tell. NO. One. Clear?”

Slightly blue in the face, the sprig nodded.

Become a Patron!

Hey folks, do you enjoy the content on this blog? I can only take the time to do bigger things like this, because I have patrons supporting me! Why not become a patron, and support the creation of more free material! Or you could even become a sponsor, and get me to link to YOUR content!

House Rules; Initiative By Spelllessness

Initiative By Spelllessness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being a wizard just got tougher.

Like House Rules?

Check out my Houserule Handbook and Houserule Footnote PDFs!

Enjoy This Article?

I could really use your support on my Patreon! Thousands of words of free gaming content and game industry articles, with support levels as low as $3/month.

House Rules: Initiative by BAB

Initiative By Base Attack Bonus

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

Each combat round is broken into three phases.

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

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

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

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

Being a wizard just got tougher.

Like House Rules?

Check out my Houserule Handbook and Houserule Footnote PDFs!

Enjoy This Article?

I could really use your support on my Patreon! Thousands of words of free gaming content and game industry articles, with support levels as low as $3/month.

Thematic Cheese Feat: High Priest

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

Sometimes you just want some cheese of the right flavor.

High Priest

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

Prerequisites: Cha 13, member of a church.

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

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

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

Become a Patron!

Hey folks, do you enjoy the content on this blog? I can only take the time to do niche things like this, because I have patrons supporting me! Why not become a patron, and support the creation of more free material! Or you could even become a sponsor, and get me to link to YOUR content!