Blog Archives

On Game Industry Professionalism

I’m surprised how often this comes up, but there is often a sad lack of professionalism in the game industry. It’s not all one-way, and it’s not all intentional, and it’s not all unique to this industry… but some of it is, and that causes issues throughout the hobby. Especially as some big conventions are coming up, and those often mean new contacts and new work deals, I wanted to talk about it a bit.

I’m certainly not the gatekeeper of gaming professionalism, but there are some things that seem to be common among the industry folks I look up to who are better-known, smarter, and more graceful than I am, and I do my best to emulate the. This list isn’t comprehensive or absolute – there are important things I and missing and side cases that might be rare exceptions to these principals. But in general, this is a fair baseline for what I see as the start of game industry professionalism.

Oh, and I want it to be fun to read, so it’s broken into movie quote section.

Break a Deal, Face the Wheel

No, no one will actually put a fiberglass mask on your head and send you off to die in the desert… but if you get a reputation for not doing what you have contracted and agreed to, you may end up in an allegorical desert when all the available work dries up.

Look, the industry is often brutal. Pay is too low, deadlines too short, respect too uncommon (especially among some segments of fans). Some years not only would I have made more money spending the same amount of time doing minimum wage fast food jobs, but my main reward was to be called out and attacked by people with less experience and understanding of games than I have. It can suck.

But leaving people in a lurch makes it suck more.

If you agree to do a job, and the other side holds up their end, you need to do your best to hold up your end. I have had people I thought were promising freelancers, who I took a risk on, mentored, said nice things about and introduced to other publishers, take a contract, ask me to push back the deadline by months, then stop communicating at all, then tell me they can no longer do the project at all and give me some half-assed outline in way of recompense. All while continuing to do work for other companies.

If mental health issues has you down? Yes, that’s no different that backing out of a running job because you broke a leg. You need to be up-front and honest, and tell me as soon as possible, but I get it. But do it early, be frank, and don’t immediately prove it’s not about that by taking even more work from other people. If you need a break, take a break.

But if the job you are doing for me just got pushed back to the back of your queue so often because of better work coming along that you’ve decided it’s not fun anymore, or no longer a good use of your time? Tough. You agreed to do this project. We have a contract. Do it.

You’re not just making a publishers life more difficult when you just throw a project aside. You are boosting their missed opportunity cost, adding stress, and preventing them from paying everyone else who would be involved. It’s unprofessional, and it’s way too common among way too many freelancers.

The reverse of this is ALSO true. If you tell someone you’ll publish their work, and there’s no formal timeline, and five years alter you still haven’t? You are screwing with them. And, obviously, pay what you say you will pay, when you say you will or before. Giving feedback is optional, but smart to improve the whole industry. Bad-mouthing a freelancer to other publishers for some behavior you never told THEM was an issue/ Unprofessional. Cancelling a project and just never telling people working on turnovers? Unprofessional. Sitting on a manuscript for years? Unprofessional… and I’ve been guilty of that one.

Keep it Secret. Keep it Safe.

We rarely have information as crucial as the location of the One Ring, but there certainly are things you shouldn’t let the (various) Dark Lords know.

What information is exchanged between company and employee or freelancer as part of a work arrangement should be kept between those two, unless there’s a crime involved or an agreement that says otherwise or it’s become common knowledge. If you get to work on Ultimate Sentient Weapons, a major book that hasn’t been announced yet, you SHOULD NOT then use that information to write a book that does the same thing but better, and sell it before USW comes out. That’s screwing over your partner who got you that info, and it’s not cool. Similarly if a freelancer tells a publisher the freelancer is already working on something similar, the publisher should not take steps to trademark names involved, or change publishing dates, or badmouth them to damage their reputation, or change the project to cover the idea the freelance admitted to having.

Even without an NDA, don’t do this.

Once things are all out in the open, normal intellectual property rights can apply. And if the publisher is giving the info to lots of folks to do associated projects, there’s no reason not to ask if you can be included in that set of folks. But you can’t use info you were given to do a job for A Corp, then leverage it to sell a tie-in to B Corp before anyone even knows it has happened. Similarly, don’t leak files, even just to your friend Josh. Because you may trust Josh… but Josh may trust Wilhelm, and Wilhelm may trust Jerry, and Jerry may be an asshole. Don’t take the risk.

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

What you do and say as a representative of yourself is your business. But if you wrote for a company’s new book, and you go to that company’s forum, and you take sole credit for things that were developed, edited, and worked on by 7 folks? Not cool. And if you badmouth it as crap the developers ruined? Not professional. And if you attack and insult customers who are annoyed? Way unprofessional.

If you can at all help it, don’t escalate conversations people who work with you are going to have to deal with. It’s like leaving a dead fish on the counter. If it’s your counter that’s gross, but you have to deal with it. If you leave it on my counter, you are making my life harder as the reward for me working with you.

Also, you will build a reputation. It will get around. Consider what you want it to be.

Be Kind. Rewind.

This industry is a meat grinder all too often. People with great talent and love of games leave both for more money, and for less stress and grief from fans.

So, try to be nice.

Yes, this is a vague hand-wave at professionalism, but give it some thought. If it takes only a tiny bit more effort to be nice to folks, why not do that? Yes, sometimes people are attacking you, or actively damaging your company or your reputation, and “nice” may not be a reasonable reply.

But if we were all nice whenever we could be? That would fix a lot of issues too.

Give more credit that you take.

Tell people when they make a positive impact on your life. Thank them.

Consider if you are being needlessly cruel in feedback. Saying you hate a game mechanic is very different from saying it’s idiotic and you don’t understand how anyone could ever think it was a good idea, and even THAT is different from saying a game’s writers are idiots who clearly only have their jobs because they are friends with the developer and the boss is so checked out he doesn’t care what gets published.

We HAVE lost people from the industry from such behavior. We’ll never stop it all, but if I can have one rock thrown at me each day or twelve, I’ll pick just one.

Self-Promotion Done Right

You can build up yourself without tearing anyone down. For example, I have a Patreon, and I’d love if you backed it.

Clinton Boomer has a Patreon. It’s awesome. You should back it too.

Liz Courts has a couple of Patreons. All worthwhile.

So does Jacob Blackmon!

I’d rather talk about how awesome these all are, and let you decide where to spend your money.

This entire post was sponsored by the Open Gaming Store. It’s awesome, too.

Fantasy Akrafena for Pathfinder

So, I am a huge fan of the show “Forged in Fire.” And, to my surprise, they sometimes forge weapons I am unfamiliar with. One of those is the Akrafena.

I can’t claim to be a scholar of the Akrafena, though I am fascinated by what little I have learned so far. So this is only a stab at a fantasy version of the weapon, no more accurate than the Pathfinder versions of the longsword or falchion.

Akrafena

The Akrafena is a sword with a curved blade roughly 2-1/4 feet long with heavy round elements in the handle, and cut-outs within the blade. It can be wielded as a 1-handed martial weapon, but if Exotic Weapon Proficiency is taken with it, it also can be used as a 2-handed weapon with different damage dice (noted below). Additionally, the markings on an Akrafena and how it is carried can convey information about its use and the intent and position of its user. Anyone with Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Akrafena) can make a single special Bluff check to convey a specific message about their intent and status when they strap on an Akrafena each day. Only people with 1 or more ranks in Knowledge )(nobility) and those who also have Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Akrafena) can receive this message. The character wishing to send this message can make a base attack bonus check, rather than a Bluff check, to make the desired message clear.

Cost 40 gp     Weight 8 lbs.

1-handed: Dmg (S) 2d3     DMG (M) 2d4     Crit 19-20, x2
2-handed with EWP: Dmg (S) 2d4     DMG (M) 1d4+1d6     Crit 18-20, x2

Patreon

I also have a Patreon, which helps me continue to offer this free content, and has some exclusive material as well. In this case, I made a quick rule set for another weapon from the show, the Ida.

Check it out!

 

New Pathfinder Race: Medusine

I was working in a design space on how to create a new PC race without having to create a huge number of race-specific options, such as favored class bonuses, traits, and so on. And in doing so, I accidentally wrote a whole race. So, here it is.

Medusine

Though normally all children of a medusa are themselves medusa, there are exceptions. Sometimes a parent who was petrified for a long time by a medusa before being saves has children who have snaky hair and intense eyes. Sometimes the original divine curse that created medusa sparks back to life in a minor way, creating lesser medusa-like creatures. Sometimes a medusa gains a desire to have a different form, and becomes a parent while polymorphed into another form, and the offspring is not entirely free of the original medusa bloodline.

These are the medusine.

Medusine appear to be tall, attractive, lean men or women with amazingly bright eyes (often green, but also sometimes red, yellow, silver, gold, or flat black), with snakes for hair. Some have exclusively snake hair, while others have a mix of serpents and normal follicles.

Medusine are Medium humanoids with the medusine subtype.

Ability Scores Medusine have -2 Str, +2 Wis, and +2 Cha.

Medium Medusine are Medium, and have a 30 ft. movement rate.

Elflike/Humanlike (Ex) Select elf or human. You gain that as a subtype, in addition to your medusine subtype. You count as a member of this race for prerequisites and can take the race’s favored class options. You can Disguise yourself as a member of that race out of combat with a DC 10 Disguise check by concealing your hair serpents. A close examination reveals this disguise, and if you make an attack or are hit by an attack, your serpent’s reactions makes your medusine nature obvious.

Serpents (Ex) Your hair serpents can bite your foes. You can choose for your unarmed attacks to deal lethal piercing damage, in which case they do not provoke attacks of opportunity. Additionally if you drink a dose of injury poison, and make a successful save against it, you do not suffer any effect from the poison. Instead it becomes a dose of poison you can inject into a target with a successful unarmed strike using your serpents. You can only have one such dose of poison ready at a time—drinking a new dose and making the save replaces any previous dose.

Stoneproof (Ex) You gain a +4 bonus to saving throws against petrification. Once you make a successful save against a specific source of petrification, you are immune to that source for 24 hours.

Stunning Gaze (Su) A number of times per day equal to your level, as a standard action, you can attempt a stunning gaze. This is a gaze attack, but it affects only a single creature within 60 feet you can see and that can see you. Stunning gaze forces a foe to make a Fortitude saving throw (DC 10 + 1/2 your character level + your Cha modifier). A defender who fails this saving throw is stunned for 1 round (until just before your next turn). A stunned character drops everything held, can’t take actions, loses any Dexterity bonus to AC, and takes a –2 penalty to AC. Constructs, oozes, plants, undead, incorporeal creatures, and creatures immune to critical hits cannot be stunned.

Patreon Exclusive Content

Of course, just because the medusine don’t NEED race-specific options, doesn’t mean they couldn’t use some. I sketched out two such options as exclusive content (meaning only that this is the one place it’s available for the moment) over at my Patreon.

Check it out!

Tailorthurgy

I don’t know if I have a lot of tailorthurgy spells in me, but one came to mind.

Bundle Up

School abjuration; Level bard 0, cleric 0, occultist 0, shaman 0, sorcerer/wizard 0, witch 0

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S

Range touch

Target one outfit

Duration 1 hour

Saving Throw Fortitude negates (harmless); Spell Resistance yes (harmless)

You cause one touched outfit to grant to its wearer the benefits of any one other outfit with a base cost of 10 gp or less. It retains any of its normal benefits. An outfit can only have a single bundle up spell on it at a time. If a new bundle up spell is cast on an unattended outfit, it replaces any older bundle up spell. If a new bundle up is cast on an outfit someone is wearing, the wearer knows what outfit benefit the spell grants the outfit, and can choose to allow the new spell to take effect, or not.

Only worn items referred to in their title as outfits benefit from this spell.

Patreon Exclusive Content

Okay, while writing that one MORE came to mind, the repattern spell, which I opted to offer as exclusive content to my patrons.

Check it out!

Castle “Vania” Whip Feat

No, I’m not going to explain that title. 🙂

Just a new whip feat, inspired by a game, and its anime.

Whip Wield

You can wield weapons. You can wield whips. You can wield weapons using whips.

Prerequisites: Improved Whip Mastery, Weapon Focus (whip), Whip Mastery, base attack bonus +2.

Benefit: As a move action you can use your whip to grab a light bludgeoning or slashing melee weapon appropriate for your size, that you are proficient with, that is in your possession or within your threatened range and unattended. (Alternatively you can also use this feat with an appropriate weapon you have disarmed from a foe.) You can make attacks with this weapon using the range of your whip and using any feat that applies to your ship, but deal damage with the weapon and all its relevant feats and abilities. If you have the same feat for both whip and wielded weapon (such as Weapon Focus), you can only apply one of the feats. You cannot use Improved Whip Mastery to hold any other item with your whip while it has a weapon grabbed. If you roll a 1 on an attack roll using Whip Wield, the light weapon it had grabbed falls in a randomly determined space adjacent to you.

Patreon Exclusive Content

Given how fast anime heroes tend to wade through low-level foes, and how easily spellcasters can deal with such foes with mid- and low-level spells, I also added a “Slay” feat over at my Patreon.

Check it out!

 

The Ogre of Battle

Spurred on by a discussion where someone suggested monster tactics as a product line, I took a quick pass at looking at some tactics for iconic monsters, to see if I think they can be useful and generic enough to make a good product. I’m not convinced wither way yet, but sharing my first draft seemed a great way to test the waters. Thus, here I present my ideas for ogre tactics. As the first giants PCs are likely to run into, ogres make a good stand-in for all Large humanoids, though obviously things like spell-like abilities and rock-throwing may give true giants better options. (Or you could use this with ogres that have orc ferocity, and call them orrocs!)

First, many GMs intentionally give ogres terrible tactics because they have an Intelligence of 6. But remember that this is three times as smart as a wolf. Would the smartest wolf you can conceive of make the bad tactical choice you are considering? No? Then neither should an ogre. Further their typical Wisdom of 10 and the fact they have Perception as a skill suggests ogres can recognize and analyze a situation even if they may do a terrible job describing it with good grammar. Certainly an ogre can recognize a spellcaster, see the issue with allowing foes to heal, know when to press the attack o have one unconscious foe and one healthy foe as preferable to two injured foes who can both fight back, and so on.

Indeed, recognizing spellcasters will often drive ogre tactics. With reach (which you can augment with various options below) an ogre has a decent chance of being able to strike a spellcaster in melee, and an ogre should know that they let their guard down when they cast spells, so desire to keep spellcasters close enough that they must cast defensively to avoid provoking attacks of opportunity from the ogre.

If facing foes without reach, an ogre with no adjacent enemies can safely attempt combat maneuvers against foes 10 feet away without provoking attacks of opportunity, and their Large size and high Strength makes them reasonable likely to succeed. Tripping foes can help with battlefield control (especially as the foe is likely to provoke an attack of opportunity when it stands), and disarming an enemy at least reduces the chance of suffering a full-attack action.

Some tactics are more like customizations, in that they move the ogre away from the base stat block of the bestiary, while staying a legal monster build.

Even if using slow progression, an ogre should average 550 gp of treasure, There is no need for this to all be gold and gems it hoards away in a pocket to be looted off its body. An ogre can have some of its treasure as gear it might use. As simple a choice as allowing it to carry a Large longspear (10 gp) gives the ogre an impressive 20 foot melee range, and it can drop the weapon and draw its greatclub if needed. With that much reach melee foes might well feel the need to risk a charge, and that means the ogre can brace to receive charge. (If this seems likely, consider a boar spear, which costs the same and gives a bonus to AC in that situation).

Similarly a Large heavy crossbow (100 gp) may only fire once every two rounds, but it gives the ogre a much heavier, longer-range initial punch. Since an ogres hide armor proves it is proficient with medium armor, upgrading to a Large breastplate (400 g, though it can save by not also buying Large hide armor for 30 gp) gives it +2 AC. A cure light wounds potion, thunderstone, tanglefoot bag, or other alchemical weapons can also increase it’s flexibility in battle, and are useful to 3rd level PCs as treasure.

If using multiple ogres, one throwing javelins and one with a boar spear can be an effective ranged-combat options until PCs manage to close in. If you have three or more ogres, you might consider giving one a kumade (which is a simple weapon with the grapple special weapon property) or a sickle (a simple weapon with the trip special weapon property) to keep foes worried about combat maneuvers.

If considering adjusting the ogre’s feats, Toughness can generally be swapped out for better choices. Improved Iron Will makes the ogre less likely to be defeated with a single bad Will save, or Power Attack gives it an excellent trade off of damage for a little reduced accuracy. If your campaign allows retraining, consider having two or more ogres with the Crowd Control teamwork feat to make it harder for foes to get inside their reach. If an ogre is going to be alone, the Desperate Battler feat may be useful.

And Now, A Tactical Mention of my Patreon

I have a patreon, I helps me justify the time spent writing all this free content. Sometimes it even has bots of exclusive bonus content. Go check it out!

The Martial Summoner

The summoner (in either its standard or unchained form) is a neat idea that allows a broad range of spellcasters with odd allies. Taught magic by a demon? Half-sister-sorcerer to a celestial badger? Gnome magician who can call forth creatures from the fey realm? The summoner has you covered.

But, weirdly, characters in fiction with a strong bond to a strange creature often AREN’T spellcasters. The child that bonds to an enormous monster. The orphan with a monster from under his bed. The knight with a monstrous steed. Those would all work well as summoners, if it weren’t for the total lack of any other sign of spellcasting power.

Enter, the martial summoner.

The martial summoner is a simple alternate class (or, arguable, a really invasive archetype) that keeps the eidolon and many related powers, but gives up 6 levels of spellcasting ability in favor of more sturdiness and combat-related abilities.

Eidlon

The martial summoner (which can be based on standard or unchained summoner) retains the eidolon, life link, bond senses, shield ally, maker’s call, transposition, greater shield ally, and merge forms ability and gains them as the same class levels. The eidolon may take the Mount and Large evolutions at 1st level, even though these require 5 evolution points and it only has 3. This does not reduce the cost of those evolutions, just allows 1st-3rd level martial summoner eidolons to gains these abilities using all their evolution points. The martial summoner’s eidolon recovers a number of hit point equal to double its HD the first time each day it is summoned.

The martial summoner does not gain any other summoner class features.

Base Statistics and Proficiencies

The martial summoner’s Fortitude save upgrades to be good, she gains proficiency with all simple and martial weapons, light, medium, and heavy armor, and all shields except tower shields. It gains 6 skill points/level, and may select any eight skills as class skills.

Martial Power

At 3rd level, the martial summoner gains one of the following benefits of the character’s choice:
*The arcane pool class feature as a magus 2 levels lower than her martial summoner level.

*The favored enemy (and later favored terrain) class features as a ranger 2 levels lower than her martial summoner level.

*The judgement class feature as an inquisitor 2 levels lower than her martial summoner level.

*The rage class feature (though no rage powers) as a barbarian 2 levels lower than her martial summoner level.

Soothing Presence

At 5th level, the martial summoner can grant her eidolon fast healing 1 for a number of rounds equal to double her class level once per day. She can use this ability twice per day at 10th level, and one additional time per day every 5 levels thereafter. The fast healing increases to fast healing 2 at 7th level, and by one more at 11th level and every 4 levels thereafter.

Unbreakable Team

At 7th level the martial summoner gains any one teamwork feat she meets the prerequisites for as a bonus feat. Her eidolon also gains this bonus feat. She gains an additional bonus teamwork feat at 9th level, and every two levels thereafter.

Second Martial Power

At 10th level the martial summoner can select a second martial power option, but this one functions with an effective class level equal to her martial summoner level -9.

Swift Call

At 16th level, once per day the martial summoner can perform the ritual to summon her eidolon as a full-round action.

True Martial Power

At 20th level, the martial summoner’s 3rd level martial power now functions using her full class level, and her 10th level martial power functions using her class level -5.

Patron Exclusive!

Over at my Patreon page, I had a thought for a single one-point evolution for a martial summoner’s ediolon which is currently available only to Patreon backers.

Check it out!

Unicorn Companions

It’s pretty common to want a unicorn companion in Pathfinder. It’s a neat idea, a common fiction trope, and a strong theme for mounted characters. The problem is, unicorns have lots of special abilities that make them too useful at low, and even mid levels, if they are just added to a character or are replacing a traditional animal companion. On the other hand, by higher level, unicorns are sure to be killed by high-level monsters.

In short there’s a very narrow level band where unicorns make sense (and even then they are a significant power boost), and that’s just not very satisfying for players who want a unicorn companion as a major part of their character concept.

With a little work, however, there’s another way to do the same idea. Rewrite unicorns using the animal companion rules, and require characters accessing them pay a price for the extra (balanced, scaling) power in the form of a feat.

Unicorn Companion

You have attracted the attention, and loyal service of a unicorn.

Prerequisites: Animal companion class feature (or ability that works as the animal companion class feature), alignment within 1 step of chaotic good.

Benefit: You can select a unicorn as your animal companion, using the special rules and Unicorn Companion Starting Statistics listed below. It otherwise follows the normal animal companion rules.

Special: If the campaign allows for unicorns of alignments other than chaotic good (ranging from black or red unicorns to simply a world with varying unicorn morality), this feat can be taken by a character of any alignment, and the unicorn companion gained is within 1 step of that alignment.

Unicorn Companion Starting Statistics

Size Large, Speed 40 ft.; AC +3 natural armor; Attack gore (1d6), 2 hooves (1d3)*; Ability Scores Str 16, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 11, Wis 15, Cha 17; Special Qualities darkvision (60 ft.), low-light vision, scent.

7th-Level Advancement

Speed 50 ft.; AC +1 natural armor; Attack gore (1d8), 2 hooves (1d3)*; Ability Scores Str +2, Dex +2, Con +2, Wis +4, Cha +4; Special Qualities +1 Unicorn progression.

* This is a secondary natural attack, see Combat for more information on how secondary attacks work.

Unicorn Progression

While the base unicorn companion is essentially a smart horse with a hron, it has access to a “unicorn progression” of special abilities. Each time the companion (not the player character it is a companion to) gains a feat, it may spend that feat to advance one more step along the unicorn progression, gaining more abilities. The abilities must be taken in order. One free progression occurs when the unicorn gains its 7th level advancement. The abilities are listed below, in order.

  1. Agent of Light: You can cast detect evil and light at will as spell-like abilities. You also gain a +1 bonus to saves against charm, compulsion, and poison, and on a single successful save negate such effects.
  2. Cure Light Wounds: You can cure light wounds as a spell-like ability a number of times per day equal to 1 + ¼ your HD. Your bonus to saves against charms, compulsions, and poisons increases to +2.
  3. Powerful Charge: You may end a charge attack with a single gore attack, that does double damage (as if using Spirited Charge). If you have a rider, the rider may also make a single melee attack at the end of your charge. If your rider has charge-related feats (such as Ride-By Attack) you may benefit from them when charging, though your charge damage multiple does not stack with any other effect that multiples your damage done on a charge. Also your gore attack is treated as magic and good for purposes of bypassing DR. Your bonus to saves against charms, compulsions, and poisons increases to +3.
  1. Mystic Creature: You can cast cure moderate wounds and neutralize poison, each ones per day, as spell-like abilities. Your movement speed increases by +10 feet. Your bonus to saves against charms, compulsions, and poisons increases to +4.
  1. Magic Circle Against Evil: You have this in effect constantly, as a spell-like ability, as an aura. Your bonus to saves against charms, compulsions, and poisons increases to +6.
  1. Alicorn Maxima: You can cast greater teleport (as the spell) as a spell-like ability once per day. You are immune to charms, compulsions, and poisons.

Patreon Exclusive Content

Of course once you are giving unicorns special abilities on a progression chart, you can use that same idea to add optional powers, like flight and magic horn abilities. I explore that idea over at my Patreon.

Check it out!

Totally Random Pathfinder Feat

Inspired by a DC Comics hero, and apropos of nothing:

Detonatable

You can blow up.

Benefit: You can cast a fireball at your location as a spell-like ability. Its caster level is equal to half your HD. This causes you to explode, as well. Your body flies apart as part of the fireball, but this does not kill you. Instead, your body exists as dust in the area of the fireball, and you reform (with all your gear and in the same condition as when you exploded) at a random point within the area of the fireball 1d4 rounds later. While you are dust, you can take no actions, and are subject only to effects that can impact a creature made of dust. You gain the fatigued condition (or exhausted if already fatigued, or unconscious of already exhausted) for 1 hour after reforming, even if you are normally immune to these conditions.

Patreon Exclusive

There’s a similarly random feat involving removing your own eyes and still looking around with them, Eye can See, as a patron exclusive over at my Patreon.

Check it out!

Concept Feat: Wings!

There are lots of different ways to pick a character concept to play in a roleplaying game. For class-and-level games like Pathfinder, I generally flip through the various core options and customizable choices, and those will spark a character concept. (If I’ve made characters in a specific game system many times, my process may be a little different). The advantage of this system is that my concept is inspired by mechanics, so I am unlikely to try to make a character the system doesn’t handle well.

But in my experience with players, it’s actually more common to be inspired by a character from fiction, or video games, or even other RPGS, and try to find a way to build that concept using whatever rules are available. That can cause issues, because not every RPG is designed to support every character concept. Extreme cases of this issue are fairly intuitive—no one seems surprised that Pathfinder is the wrong RPG to try to play Superman—but if the inspirational character is in a genre anywhere near the RPG’s genre, players get more annoyed. There’s no good way to play a rich princess with hundreds of servants and loyal knights as a 1st level character in Pathfinder except for the GM to decide the campaign being run will give you that position outside of anything on your character sheet.

Some people accept level limitations to character concepts (as soon as you can take Leadership that princess becomes easier, and most people understand in-his-prime Batman isn’t a 1st level character), but it chafes for people who just want to make something they think would be fun and run with it. And ideas that don’t integrate well with the rules at any level are even more disappointing.

In general, it’s up to a GM and players to ensure PC concepts are appropriate to a campaign, and no RPG handles every concept as attempted by any player, but some common difficult trops can be tackled in an effort to show how a GM CAN accommodate some character concepts with house rules, if the GM wants to.

One way to do that is “concept feats,” feats that do more than a typical feat but are taken only at character creation and only with GM approval to create a specific concept for a character. Such feats need to scale carefully, so they aren’t overpowering at low levels, and players just need to accept that the trappings of the idea may not come in at full power early on. Such feats aren’t designed for general use as available options for any character at any level, but as special options granted only at character creation when a GM and player want to stretch the rules a bit. To be most useful a GM needs to be able to create concept feats to match each PC concept the GM likes and wants to allow, but the rules don’t currently exist for. Most likely charatcers should be limited to one concept feat and they such have a notation to indicate their special nature, such as an explanation point in their title. Here’s an example concept feat, Wings!

Wings! (Concept)

Whether a result of a storied lineage or a strange mutation or special blessing, you have innate wings.

Prerequisites: Taken at character creation with GM permission to allow an otherwise-impossible character concept.

Benefit: You have wings. While they don’t weigh you down or cause problems with your gear, you can only use them when you are not suffering any penalties to your movement rate or mobility (such as from armor or encumbrance or slowing magic, or grappling), and only if you have enough room for a creature one size larger than you (though your actual space does not increase). If any effect disables one of your limbs, there is a 25% chance it instead disables a wing.

Fly is always a class skill for you, and you can make Fly checks in place of Acrobatics checks whenever you are able to use your wings, and for any Acrobatics-based prerequisites. At 1st level, your wings allow you to treat all jumps as running jumps, and to jump down a number of feet equal to double a Fly check result without taking damage or falling prone. At 3rd level you can fly downward with a fly speed equal to double your movement rate. At 5th level you double all Fly checks made as Acrobatics checks to jump. At 7th level you can fly with a fly speed equal to double your movement rate for a number of minutes per day equal to your level. At 9th level, you wings grant you a normal fly speed equal to double your movement rate.

Patreon Exclusive Content

I realized I never tackled the idea of the 1st level PC who is royalty, or something similar, so I created the Upper Class! concept feat, which is currently a patron-exclusive post over at my Patreon.

Check it out!