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Battle of the Bands: Reskinning Chases as Musical Contests for Starfinder

One of the great things about the Starfinder Core Rulebook is that is has built-in vehicle chase rules. That framework is great for opposed efforts that just wouldn’t work well using normal battle-grid and movement rules. But once we HAVE that framework, we can adapt it to other conflicts that don’t depend on attack rolls and Stamina points as much as they do relative success.

Like a Battle of the Bands, Starfinder-style!

“Can no one defeat the Digital DeckGod? Wait… a new challenger appears. Please welcome to the stage… Cherry Cyborg Candy!”

(Art by Corona Borealis)

Okay, to run a Battle of the Bands, where two or more acts compete to win the hearts of a judge or audience (be that live in person, or while suspended on platforms above molten lava with a mad undead host calling the shots),we need to take the existing Vehicle Chase rules, and make some tweaks.

If you are setting up a battle of the bands where actual attacks are allowed, you may describe the set-up as having each band of a floating, mobile stage hovering over the crowd. then, engaging maneuvers allow members to make melee attacks, as normal.

This could be a one-time event PCs have to take part in to save a kidnapped famous singer, the only way to earn the trust of a powerful witchwarper drummer with a secret the PCs need, or even just a common part of the mystery-solving adventures of a space band.

Relative Positioning: Battles of the Bands uses the same Relative Positioning rules as vehicle chases, but rather than represent a physical distance apart, it represents relative popularity with the viewers or judges. Once you are 2 or more relative positions behind the leader, you are out of the battle. If there are just 2 bands competing this ends the battle, but in a free-for-all bands could be slowly dropping out until only 2 remain. If a single band is ahead of everyone else, they get the normal Being Ahead bonus to skill checks and attack rolls.

Musical Armor Class: Each band has a Musical Armor Class (MAC), equal to 10 plus (average ranks of appropriate Profession skill among band members). Each band member contributes only their highest ranks in appropriate Profession skills to this total. This does mean a bigger band with a few less-skilled members may have a lower MAC, but those extra members get actions each round so it may be worth it. Use this in place of vehicle KAC for actions.

Musical Item Level: Each band has a Musical Item Level (MIL), equal to 10 plus the highest number of ranks of an appropriate Profession possessed by any band members). You use this in place of vehicle item level for all Band Action DCs members of the band attempt. This does mean the better your best band member is, the harder it is for anyone to make Band Actions, but it turns out if you can’t keep up with your headliner, it sounds bad.

Phases of a Battle of the Bands: Use the normal phases of a vehicle chase for the battle of the bands, but with one crucial difference. Rather than Pilot actions, the first phase is Perform actions, representing musical actions or part of the band’s stage show.

There are the same choices of perform actions as pilot actions in a vehicle chase, but perform actions are taken with appropriate Profession skills (normally dancer, musician, orator, poet, video personality, electrician, vidgamer, and manager, though specific bands might have others) in place of Pilot.

Each member of a band can attempt their own perform action (go in order of initiative), but a band can only benefit from one successful action each phase (ie if a band member tries to break free and fails another member can try the same action, but once any band member succeeds, no further benefit can be gained from that action in that phase. All the pilot actions from vehicle combat are allowed, with the GM and players describing them in terms of band actions (“I’ll use the trick pilot maneuver to represent playing a riff that is disharmonic with all the other band’s music, making them sound worse, while reinforcing our disintegrator-rock sound.”)

If a band member attempts the same action another band member has already attempted, or uses the same Profession skill, they take a -2 penalty to their check. This applies to checks attempting in the same phase, or that were attempted in the previous round — it turns out audiences like some variety. Band members can also ready an action to aid another on an ally’s perform action skill check — harmony is a thing.

The chase progress phase and combat phase proceed normally. Even if a battle of the bands doesn’t allow actual combat, this is the phase when characters an use other class abilities, cast spells, try to demoralize foes, and so on, if they have actions left.

That’s It! You are now ready to run varied, nuanced Battle of the Band contests in Starfinder!

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Homebrew Relic: The Eye of Chanokh

I ran into this note recently from 2013. It’s a relic I wrote for a Pathfinder First Edition game (using the Relics of the Godlings rules), for my wife’s “Daybreak” campaign.

I thought people might enjoy seeing stuff my friends and I homebrewed with.

Eye of Chanokh – The Sixth Lock

The Eye of Chanokh is a gleaming ring of layered gold wire that is bent and twisted into sigils of summoning and control, forming an almost lacelike pattern. Set in the wire is a bright emerald which shines with an internal light each time the wearer casts a conjuration (summoning) spell.

Legend claims that the gem is truly a fraction of a star that forms part of the 8-star elven constellation of Chanokh the Warcalled, a mote of the star forged into the form of an arcane gem when this relic was created. Elvish myth presents Chanokh as a warrior-wizard who summoned arcane armies he commanded as their general, and who eventually learned to summon creatures from the stars themselves. He was a great defender of elven lands, and a proponent of the effectiveness of knowledge and cunning over brute strength. When he died, the star-warriors he had called took him with them into the night sky, creating the constellation that bears his name.

Supposedly the Eye of Chanokh is one of eight great rings of conjuration, which were created to lock away a vast and evil summoning gate (which was created by demons to allow them to invade the world of men). Each of the eight rings is a lock that drains power from this evil gate, allowing the wearers of the rings to augment their conjuration spells with the leached power. As long as the rings are used, the gate is constantly weakened and can never become a threat.

Abilities By Character Level

Level 1: Once per day when you conjure creatures with a summoning spell, they gain a +1 enhancement bonus to their existing natural armor bonus to AC.

Level 2: Each creature you conjure with summoning spells gains a +1 enhancement bonus to its existing natural armor bonus to AC.

Level 3: Each creature you conjure with any summon spell gains +1 resistance bonus to saving throws.

Level 4: Once per day you may cast a conjuration (summoning) spell with a casting time of 1 round as a standard action. The summoned creature arrives immediately, and may take an action immediately.

Level 5: Once per day when you cast a conjuration (summoning) spell that summons a random number of creatures, you may roll twice to see how many creatures are summoned and take the better of the two results.
Additionally, you are able to speak to and understand all the creatures you summon with conjuration (summoning) spells.

Level 6: Each creature you conjure with any summoning spells gains a +2 enhancement bonus to its existing natural armor bonus to AC.

Level 7: Each creature you conjure with any summon spell gains +2 resistance bonus to saving throws.

Level 8: You may now cast a conjuration (summoning) spell with a casting time of 1 round as a standard action twice per day.

Level 9: You may now roll twice to see how many creatures are summoned by a conjuration (summoning) spell twice per day.

Level 10: When you conjure creatures with a summoning spell, they gain elemental resistance 10 for one element of your choice.

Level 11: Each creature you conjure with summoning spells gains a +3 enhancement bonus to its existing natural armor bonus to AC.

Level 12: Each creature you conjure with any summon spell gains +3 resistance bonus to saving throws.

Level 13: You may now cast a conjuration (summoning) spell with a casting time of 1 round as a standard action an unlimited number of times per day.

Level 14: The elemental resistance against an element of your choice gained by creatures you summon with a conjuration spell increases to 20.

Level 15: You may now roll twice to see how many creatures are summoned by a conjuration (summoning) spell three times per day.

Level 16: Each creature you conjure with summoning spells gains a +3 enhancement bonus to its existing natural armor bonus to AC.

Level 17: Each creature you conjure with any summon spell gains +3 resistance bonus to saving throws.

Level 18: The elemental resistance against an element of your choice gained by creatures you summon with a conjuration spell increases to 30.

Level 19: Three times per day you may cast a conjuration (summoning) spell of 1st-3rd level as a swift action.

Level 20: Three times per day when you cast a conjuration (summoning) spell that summons a random number of creatures, you may choose to receive the maximum number. You may make this decision after seeing how many creature the spell would have randomly produced.

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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.

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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.

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