Yesterday I discussed the optional rules I’m implementing for my upcoming “Gatekeepers” campaign for Pathfinder 2nd edition. On top of those, I’ve gone over the following houserules with my players, and we’ve agreed to use them. Since we are using character support software, I carefully crafted my houserules to be things that won’t alter the information a player needs on their character sheet. (So no bonus feat at 4th level for no reason, or adding +1d4 damage to attacks when attacking two-handed, these are all more universal action options and such.)
These are just flat breaks from how PF2 rules are written, and I’m good with that.
Hero Points: Boosted Rerolls & Extra Actions
I like Hero Points in PF2, but I actively want to make them even more powerful. On purpose. (And, yeah, this is another in a series of power-up for players, and they all know what that’ll mean in terms of the kinds of threats I throw at them.)
If you use a Hero Point to reroll a check, it is a Boosted Reroll. On a Boosted Reroll, if the actual result on the d20 is a 1-10, you add 10 to the total. Thus the d20 value on a Boosted Reroll is always going to be 11-20. (As an aside this means you could perfectly well have Boosted Rerolls be a d10+10, rather than 1d20-add-10-if-less-than-11 without changing the math, but psychologically that weirds me out.)
There is a third way to spend a Hero Point – you can use it to gain one extra action on your turn, known as a Heroic Action. Any action you take on your Heroic Action ignores multiple action penalties for things you do this turn (normally multiple attack penalties), and does not count toward multiple action penalties for things you in the same round after taking your Heroic Action. You cannot use a Heroic Action as part of an activity that takes multiple actions.
Move And Manipulate
When you take a manipulate action that is not an attack action, and that only involves objects on your person that you can hold, you can also move your speed. Not only does this encourage a more mobile battlefield, it matches my personal experience from my days in live-action foam-sword gaming with the International Fantasy Gaming Society.
d20 = 2d10; Fumble on 2-3; Crit on 18-20
Okay, we aren’t actually implementing this one yet. But I often enjoy games with probability clumping more toward the middle than the flat distribution of a d20 (or d% for that matter). So the idea here is that all d20 checks instead become 2d10 checks. My feeling is that with the tighter math in PF2 (especially with no level to proficiency), that should work great as long as we make allowances for wanting success to go up one step/down one step more often than the 1-in-100 you’d get with fumbles on a 2 and crits on a 20. However, this also lets me make fumbles less common than 1-in-20 (which overall I like), and crits more common than fumbles (which conceptually I also like).
But none of my players have much-if-any PF2 experience (though they are all veteran gamers overall), so we’re going to stick with the classic d20 for the first few sessions, then we’ll try the 2d10 variant for at least one game session and see how we all feel about it. And, of course, I’d have to decide how (if at all) this impacted the Boosted Reroll houserule.
TOMORROW: THEMES AND BASELINES
Of course there is much, much more to a ttRPG campaign than the rules of the game. I’ve been playing with this group of gamers for 35+ years, and we’ve grown to a place where we can have an open and frank discussion about what GM and players both do, or do not, want to see in a campaign. tomorrow, I’ll discuss the planned themes and baselines of the Gatekeepers campaign.
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This is an updated index of all the articles I’ve written about my “Gatekeepers” campaign for Pathfinder Second Edition.
GAME SESSION NOTES
How I Set Up My New PF2 Game, “Gatekeepers.” Part 1: Rules Options
The initial list of houserules and optional rules the campaign began with.
How I Set Up My New PF2 Game, “Gatekeepers.” Part 2: Houserules
The campaign begins with a few pure houserules in place to alter the feel and flow of the game system.
Gatekeepers Campaign, for PF2 – Optional Rule Houserules, 1.0
I got rules options, and I have houserules… and I have houserules FOR my rules options. These are those.
Gatekeepers Campaign for PF2 – Mystery Points
In Session 1 I presented the players with Mystery Points, which represented something their characters did not understand, but the players could still choose to have their characters interact with.
Gatekeeper’s GM Rulings: Animal Companions
Sometimes I make Rule 0 calls during a game, and I want to keep track of them. These are from Session 1, and are both about animal companions.
How I Set Up My New PF2 Game, “Gatekeepers.” Part 3: Themes and Baselines
Not a comprehensive review of the world or the goals of the campaign, but just enough info to let players start to consider what characters they want to play. Brief discussion of tone, society, languages, and gods.
How I Set Up My New PF2 Game, “Gatekeepers.” Part 4: Quickstart Kheyus Gazetteer
A quick look at the island the PCs start on, and an even quicker look at the larger world it is part of.
How I Set Up My New PF2 Game, “Gatekeepers.” Part 5: Quickstart Tidegate Gazetteer
A quick look at the town the PCs start in.
Three Things I Plan To Use in Gatekeepers
Caliburn, Gollusks, and Firemud.
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So, with the Really Wild West campaign closed, and me still needing to make sure I am engaged in rules that’ll be relevant to working on completing the way-too-delayed 52-in-52 subscription, I have concluded it’s time for me to run my first Pathfinder 2nd Edition campaign.
For reasons that will hopefully become clear later, I’m naming this the Gatekeepers campaign.
But, being me, that’s going to come with houserules and optional rules. Pathfinder 2nd Edition has a lot of really cool optional rules designed to help game groups find exactly the kind of ttRPG they want, and I’ve been wanting to try many of them out since before the game was published. Since we had a Session 0 to go over some basics for the campaign, here are the optional rules I worked out with the players during Session 0.
As the week progresses, I’ll talk about houserules, themes, quickstart gazetteers, and so on. Those articles will also all be linked from the Gatekeepers Index, so they’ll be easy to find.
The PF2 GMG has lots of great rules for how to tweak the core system to produce a different feel or tone. I have gone with several of those options, and sketched out below along with why I picked them. It’s worth noting that these options are all supported by our electronic character software of choice, making them easy to keep track of.
You get a free archetype feat at 2nd level and every even level thereafter. This significantly broadens the PC options and makes some classic protagonist tropes easy to model, and I like that flexibility. I know several players are looking at multiclass feats, but there are other interesting archetype options as well.
This slightly-more-than doubles the number of ancestry feats you get over the course of 20 levels. Ancestry feats have a high percentage of exploration, social, and on-theme abilities, and I like adding more of that flavor to a campaign.
Allow Nonhuman Half-elves and Half-orcs
I’m fine with dwarf/elves and goblin/orcs, or whatever other ancestral combinations players want to play with. I mean, I wrote Bastards and Bloodlines. Of course I’m down for weird ancestry combos.
No Coin Weight
Yes, it’s unrealistic. So is heroes who never have to go to the restroom. In 40 years of gaming, I have seen tracking coin weight slow down games way, way more often than I have seen it make the game more fun. My games normally enforce encumbrance rules, and I am certainly doing so with the bulk rules in PF2… except for money.
Proficiency Without Level
In this campaign no one (PC or foe) adds their level to their proficiency bonus for anything. This increases the threat of minor foes and dangers, and it lowers the total value of numbers people have to add in-play. Higher-level characters will still have a significant advantage due to things such as more feats, higher ability scores, special abilities, bigger damage and HP values, and so on. I’m excited to play PF2 this way and explore the feel it creates.
It’s easy enough for players to just not add this into their calculations. When running foes and monsters, I have to remove it, though that’s not hard (and there are electronic game aids that will do that math for me).
Automatic Bonus Progression
This replaces the need for potency, striking, and resilience runes with an automatic scaling potency bonus. This both allows a character to carry the same longsword at 12th level they began the game with at 1st (so if you grabbed the longsword off the mantle place that your grandfather carried during the Bloodletter Wars as a 1st level champion, that same blade can be part of your whole career and legend), and makes it easier for everyone to match the character vision they have with the gear they end up with.
In addition to selecting some of the specific optional rules built-in to the Pathfinder 2e game engine, I’m also going to be implementing some not-in-the-book houserules, which I’ll go over tomorrow.
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I’ve wanted to do a full write-up for this adventure for years, but never had time. So, here’s a sketch of the general idea.
Players their PCs are all very junior angels–celestial outsiders who mostly sort through prayer requests to see what to pass up to higher ranks of the divine bureaucracy, but who also get an occasional flash of excitement by being summoned by the faithful to aid in a fight. The players should give their characters names and personalities, but not worry about game stats yet.
The PCs are spending time sorting through prayers, and notice that a specific priest keeps praying for guidance about the impending destruction of the Astral plane (the “Catastralphe”). There’s nothing in their sorting guidelines about that topic, so protocol is to take it to a one-rank-higher angel, who assures them there is not such thing, and to file the prayer requests under “mortal paranoia.”
Then, on their way back to their duties, the PCs are summoned… by that selfsame priest! She’s 1st level, so she can only keep them for a limited about of time.
If you are running this as a 5e game, the priest has used a scroll with a 1st-level variant of conjure animals, and gets the PCs as minor celestials instead, but can’t give them verbal orders and she can only concentrate on it for up to 1 minute. If this is a PF 2 game, the PCs are summoned with a summon lessor servitor spell and can be around for up to a minute if the priest is able to maintain concentration. If PF 1, it’s summon monster I to call up celestial animals for 1 round. If Starfinder, it’s summon creature at a 1st-level spell, again for 1 round.
Rather than just sticking with the creatures those spells normally summon, allow each PC to select a creature of the same power level to represent their summoned form, AND let them pick anything vaguely appropriate for their appearance. If the rules would let them be an eagle, but they want to be a winged housecat, let their imagination loose. Note to the players that they are celestial spirits in a temporal mortal body regardless. Death has no consequence for them here.
The priest doesn’t speak any of the languages they do, so they have to guess what she wants them to do — but they are summoned while she and four other people (clearly adventures — a fighting type in heavy armor, an arcane type, a sneak, and some kind of sage) are fighting for their lives (all already badly damaged) against what appear to be negative wind elementals (just use air element stats and have them do cold or shadow damage) in an ancient stone chamber that clearly depicts the Astral Plane being rended to destruction, and all the planes of the multiverse being flung apart (no longer able to connect to each other).
With a bit of luck the summoned celestial PCs can save the heroes (if not, just replace any that get killed in future encounters), and regardless of how the fight goes the PCs see that the ancient temple clearly has some real eldritch power connected to it, and the impending Catastralphe.
When their time is up, whether the priest and her adventuring party are safe or not, the PCs return to the angelic plane. They can take up the issue of whether the Catastralphe is real or not, but the celestial bureaucracy considers it to be much more likely that a set of junior angels misinterpreted what they saw than for there to be a true multiplanar threat the Angelic Host never heard of.
Later, the PCs get summoned again… but it’s clear that months have passed on the mortal plane, and the priest is now 3rd level, so she can use more powerful spells to summon more powerful allies. The PCs can maintain their appearance (or evolve it, perhaps from winged housecat to winged bobcat), get to choose new higher-level creatures for their ability scores. This time they are helping defend the priest and her adventuring allies who are being attacked at night, in an inn, by humanoid assassins who have no face, just a lamprylike fanged maws taking up the whole of the front of their heads. (Pick any CR-appropriate monsters and just give them new descriptions).
The priest is clearly surprised to see the PCs, suggesting they are not what she thought she was summoning, but she is also happy for their help.
Upon their return to the Angelic Host, if the PCs bring it up the event, they are directed to the Conjuration Control Department, where they discover there’s at least one other angel that believes in the Catastralphe, a planar traffic controller who is directing them to answer the priest’s summoning when she is showing to be near an important moment in her life.
The adventure goes on like this, with PCs working their way up through the ranks of the Celestial Bureaucracy, most angels not really believing in the interplanar threat, but grudgingly suggest the Pcs should look for specific clues when summoned. The GM should come up with a list of things — specific sigils, or eldritch currents, or the scent of the abyssal influence, so PCs can have investigating they can do when summoned. Meanwhile the priest continues to gain levels and summon the PCs with higher-and-higher level spells, months or years passing between the times they see her, and her quest is also clearly taking a toll on her. Some of her companions die, and are replaced. She loses and eye, from then on having an eyepatch when the PCs are summoned. At some point, she manages to learn their language, so she can speak to them when they arrive… but they can only go to her when she summons allies in a crucial moment in her life, so communication is always rushed during a desperate fight.
As the PCs gain influence among Angels, they are allowed to explore Forbiddings –places within the Heavens once kept by angels that fell and became devils. These encounters are to seek out lost lore on the Catastralphe, as their recurring encounters with cultists and supernatural entities on the Mortal Plane trying to kill the priest and her adventuring party suggest it might be real after all. However the Forbiddings are in the same heavenly reality as the PCs. While they use the same game stats as when they were last summoned for adventures in the Forbiddings, death there is permanent even for up-and-coming angels.
Eventually the combination of clues gained when summoned and when exploring the Forbiddings expose that the Catastralphe is real, and it is the eons-long plot of a fallen angel who wishes to rip the planes apart so it can become effectively a god of whatever bit of the multiverse it has access to after the Astral plane is destroyed. Once this revelation is in place, there are two more major encounters. First, the Fallen Angel can only be stopped with a weapon found in the most dangerous of Forbiddings, and that weapon can only be wielded by those who procure it, so the PCs must go get it. Second, the Fallen Angel’s ultimate base of operations is impossible for any celestial to enter without being summoned from within. So the PCs must wait for the priest to call them for aid one last time, and hope she does so in time for them to use their newly acquired relic weapon to stop the impending Catastralphe.
Obviously, this can be as quick as a 3-4 session mini campaign, or as long as a 1st-20th game, depending on how many encounters the GM decides to fill into this vague sketch of plot points. But I love the idea of Pcs being summon creatures (originally the idea was celestial badgers, back in 3.5 rules days), who have no fear of dying in most of their fights, but have to get anything they want done in the mortal realm done quickly, when summoned, while another fight is already going on. I also like the idea of players not having to make characters in any traditional sense, though it would be easy enough to let them pick special abilities as they “gained levels,” like being to reroll one attack roll per fight, or one saving throw, or teleport once, to represent their angelic nature growing stronger even as they hop from stat block to stat block as more and more powerful spells call them to battle.
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Now funding on Kickstarter, the Skaldwood Blight Adventure Path is a complete campaign for Pathfinder Second Edition, taking characters from 1st level all the way to 20th level in a massive book over 250 pages long! A demon lord has invaded the far northern land of stalwart barbarians, righteous priests, and mysterious fey. Can the heroes uncover the demon lord’s many plots, vanquish his minions, and save the Northfells from corruption and destruction? Here is your chance to save the land!
The Adventure Path’s setting, the Northfells, can be easily dropped into any campaign world. There’s plenty of wilderness adventure, but the Skaldwood Blight’s heroes must delve dungeons, infiltrate insular cities, and negotiate with supernatural forces for vital aid. There’s something in the Skaldwood Blight Adventure Path for every player!
The Skaldwood Blight Adventure Path began when Paizo, Inc. developer (and veteran adventure author) Ron Lundeen set out to build a compact yet complete adventure path from the ground up on his blog at RunAmokGames.com. The pieces of the Adventure Path have now been compiled, expanded, and reconfigured into a massive book presenting an entire campaign, complete with art, maps, designer commentary, and more!
This 250+ page book contains everything you need to run the campaign, including:
- 20 chapters of adventure, one for each level of play, in a thrilling, danger-filled campaign!
- An overview of the Northfells, a hard region of ice and fury. Menace lurks in every proud city-state, along every trail, and in every frost-shrouded forest!
- Unique backgrounds suitable for any character!
- Copious art and maps by industry veterans!
Additional rewards to unlock throughout the campaign include:
- Additional backgrounds that tie directly into the campaign’s characters, locations, and plots!
- An expanded gazetteer of the Northfells, the campaign’s thrilling setting!
- A designer commentary about building the Adventure Path from the ground up!
By Ron Lundeen, Paizo’s Developing Manager for Pathfinder, veteran and fan-favorite adventure writer, owner of run Amok Games, and licensed lawyer and member of the Washington State Bar Association!
Stretch Goal 1: Northfells Gazetteer [LOCKED – $`15,000]
We’ll provide a four page, high-level gazetteer of the adventure path’s entire setting, including all the key towns the heroes will visit (and even some they won’t, giving GMs room to expand). The gazetteer also includes the dangerous forests, waterways, and mountain ranges of the Northfells, too, as much of the campaign occurs in the wilderness! A map of the entire Northfells is included.
This gazetteer is player-focused, providing tantalizing hints but no spoilers, so it’s suitable for GMs to give to their players.
More Stretch Goals To Be Announced As We Get Closer To Them
So, I have a bug. Not covid, according to the testing I have available, but something more like the “Con Crud” of days of yore. And, while I can still do stuff, I’m tired, achy, slow, and my mind is generally focused on being under the weather.
So, you guessed it, I’m writing game rules for it.
These are minor ailments, representing colds and mild flu, things bad enough they impact a hero and reduce peak performance, but not crippling. If caused by a disease, remove disease or similar effects end it. Otherwise, you get a saving throw at the disease’s DC each day to end the ailment.
Pathfinder 1e & Starfinder: Lesser Sickened. You’re achy and sniffly enough to make things unpleasant, but not enough you can’t generally function. You need of the 150% the sleep and rest to regain abilities or end the fatigued or exhausted condition, take a -2 penalty to Constitution checks and Con-based skill checks, Fortitude saves, and Perception and Stealth checks. These penalties do not stack with those of being sickened, which is largely just a worsened version of this condition.
Pathfinder 2: Lesser Sickened. You take a -1 status penalty on all your checks and DCs. You require an additional 1d4 hours of sleep each night to recover daily abilities or end the fatigued condition.
5e: The idea of adding another condition to 5e, especially one as crunchy as this suggestion is, goes against a lot of the design philosophy of 5e. OTOH, having a situational rule that comes up once as part of a plot (“Expedition to the Flu Season Peaks”) can be a fun change of pace.
Achy: You’re gnerally not at your best, but the situation isn’t bad enough to give you disadvantage to all rolls. When you roll a 10 or 11 on a d20 roll, you must roll a 2nd d20. If the second roll is a lower result, you take the lower result. If it is a higher result, you use your original roll. This is a lesser form of disadvantage, and if you have disadvantage on a roll, use the normal rules for that roll in place of these.
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Look, maybe you want to run a fantasy ttRPG with giant animated fruitcake warriors… and maybe you’ll just get a giggle out of my actually taking this topic seriously. But if you want to reskin some class iron, clay, and stone constructs (or any construct-type creature) into holiday-themed materials, here are some options for powers to add based on the holiday material used.
Figgy Pudding/Fruitcake: Take half damage from bludgeoning attacks. Are sticky, so they gain a climb speed.
Gingerbread: As almost 2-d, flexible creatures, they can get through spaces a creature 2 size classes smaller could, without taking any penalties. Any fire damage sets them on fire, both damaging them and causing their attacks to do fire damage.
Holly: Anyone hit by the construct, or adjacent to it for a full round, must make a mental save or move towards the person present they would be most interested in kissing (though once they take that move, all compulsion stops).
Hot Cocoa: Gains all the powers of both a fire elemental and a water elemental of the same threat level. takes double damage from bite attacks.
Peppermint: These constructs are “curiously strong.” Tracking them by scent is easy, but they cover all other scents, and after being in an enclosed space for a minute, scent can no longer pinpoint their exact location with that space.
I keep wanting to try to participate in National Novel Writing Month, and it almost never works out. That’s sad to me, because there is an energy, expectation, and support system in place for NaNoWriMo’s goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days that makes it ever-so-slightly easier to get a lord of wordcount produced in November than times where you’re doing it largely alone. The groundswell of support, suggestions, public accountability, and even people talking about hard times they are having can help buoy a writer past obstacles that might stop them on other months.
But, yet again, I can’t do NaNoWriMo this year, because if I have any spare capacity beyond my regular monthly writing contracts and obligations to people depending on me for projects to move forward so they can make money on the labor they’ve already put into them, it has to go into 52-in-52.
You remember 52-in-52, right? It was my big swing at doing something new, announced in November 2019. The idea was to produce one new product every week in 2020, with each product being released in four different versions–on each for Pathfinder 1e, Pathfinder 2e, Starfinder, and D&D 5e. It was a big, ambitious subscription model and something I knew would take all my focus.
Obviously since I am still talking about needing to work on it nearly two years later, it did not go as planned.
The Covid pandemic is part of the reason why, along with moving twice in 2020, being hospitalized, having friends die, losing a beloved pet–seriously, it’s been among the roughest 24 months of my life. I tried to allow for complications and interruptions on the schedule I had for creating 108 game products in a year, but I never could have guessed at even half the things that were going to hit during that production time.
And this was not a Kickstarter, or some other crowdfunding campaign, where the entire budget is covered in advance. The idea was a classic pre-order, with enough money from early orders to get started, followed by ongoing sales to keep funding the project as it went along. I had carefully noted that my plan was to personally write or develop each product in the line. That meant if I fell behind on writing things, I could hire writers I knew to take on one or more parts of the project. I had a decade of sales information to extrapolate from, so I was confident that I could get things done that way if I had to. I was covered… as long as a major economic disaster didn’t have a huge impact on how much money people spent on tabletop rog products on a scale even ten years of sales data couldn’t predict.
Cue sad trombone.
So, that’s why now, ten months past the original deadline, the project is still only about half-finished. Under any other circumstances, I’d consider doing more than 100 game products cover 4 different gam systems over two years to be a triumph of productivity. But I promised customers a series of products, and while I can’t change history so those things arrive on-time, I can make sure everyone who pre-ordered gets everything I promised them.
So, what does all that have to do with NaNoWriMo? Well, I’m going to produce 50,000 words of 52-in-52 this month.
No, that won’t be all the rest of what is missing. Nor is it really what NaNoWriMo is about. But it’ll be closer to doing NaNoWriMo than I have been able to try in recent years, and 50k words produced towards overdue subscriptions will go a long way towards providing material I am dedicated t putting in people’s hands.
So, I’ll be tracking my Na52WriMo at the beginning of each day. It’ll be in the form of Words Prepared for layout/Words Turned Over to Layout (Words Sent to Subscribers)/50,000. So if I have 1,000 words prepared but none turned over yet, that’d be 1,000/0/0/50k. I’ll update each weekday, with the stats from the previous day.
It won’t fix things being late, but it will move a lot of materials forward on this much-overdue subscription model.