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Falx for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

The falx is a weapon so powerful, it forced the Romans to make the only change to their armor (reinforced helmets) that was recorded as occurring specifically because of an enemy weapon. Used by the Dacians and Thracians, the falx was a curved blade sharpened on the inside edge. Contemporaneous accounts suggest it was made in both one-handed and two-handed versions, but the one-handed may also have been used in both hands at least sometimes. It seems to have come in both swordlike and polearm-like designs, and while its most powerful swing appears to have been a devastating overhand chop, it may also have been used to thrust. It seems related to the rhomphaia (as featured on a recent episode of the television show Forged in Fire), and went through many design evolutions. During much of the time it was a popular weapon, creating a long, sharp, strong blade required particularly skilled smiths, so the longer-bladed falx may have been weapons of prestige as well.

In short, it is exactly the kind of weapon rpg players love to argue about by finding specific references or illustrations that support one concept of what it looked like and how it was used, while ignoring others. And there’s just no need for that in an rpg setting. There’s room for lots of falx ideas to all be lumped together in one game mechanical weapon, the same way the pathfinder Roleplaying game combines numerous distinct weapon designs into the broad categories of shortsword” or “longsword.”

(Martial) Two-Handed Melee Weapons Name    Cost       Dmg (S) (M)        Crit         Weight  Type      Special

Falx        75 gp     1d4        1d6        19-20*, x4             8 lbs.     P or S     Disarm, trip

*See description

Falx: A falx is a two-handed martial weapon, but if Exotic Weapon Proficiency is taken with it, it can be wielded as a one-handed weapon. It is part of the axes, heavy blades, and polearms weapon groups. A falx is considered to have a threat range of “20” for the purposes of all abilities that increase threat ranges, but after making all such calculations its threat range is increased by 1. For example, a keen falx doubles its normal threat range of 20 to 19-20, then increases that threat range by 1 (to 18-20).

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Buff Feat (for Pathfinder)

Since I did a Lithe feat, fair’s fair.

Let’s see how crazy this drives people.

Buff (1)
Your extremely tone and firm muscles protect you from the ravages suffered by some less well-defined individuals.
Prerequisite: Strength 13+
Benefit: For any calculation that normally uses your Constitution score or Constitution modifier, you may instead use your Strength score or Strength modifier.
Special: You may take the Intercept Blow feat without meeting its prerequisites, and may ignore any non-feat prerequisites for feats that have Intercept Blow as a prerequisite. You do not have a master, for purposes of this feat, but have a “key ally.” Whenever you first all for initiative in an encounter, you may declare any one creature to be your “key ally” for this feat.

Buff (2)
Your incredible stamina and unbreakable physique allows you to get more out of your frame.
Prerequisite: Constitution 13+
Benefit: For any calculation that normally uses your Strength score or Strength modifier, you may instead use your Constitution score or Constitution modifier.
Special: You may take the Intercept Blow feat without meeting its prerequisites, and may ignore any non-feat prerequisites for feats that have Intercept Blow as a prerequisite. You do not have a master, for purposes of this feat, but have a “key ally.” Whenever you first all for initiative in an encounter, you may declare any one creature to be your “key ally” for this feat.

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Lithe Feat (for Pathfinder)

Let’s see how crazy this drives people.

Lithe (1)
Your strong personal style and flexible frame make you much more nimble that one would think at first glance.
Prerequisite: Charisma 13+
Benefit: For any calculation that normally uses your Dexterity score or Dexterity modifier, you may instead use your Charisma score or Charisma modifier.
Special: You may take the Narrow Frame feats without meeting its prerequisites, and may ignore any non-feat prerequisites for feats that have Narrow frame as a prerequisite.

Lithe (2)
Your flexible frame and strong personal style allow you to define your social interactions through your body movements.
Prerequisite: Dexterity 13+
Benefit: For any calculation that normally uses your Charisma score or Charisma modifier, you may instead use your Dexterity score or Dexterity modifier.
Special: You may take the Narrow Frame feats without meeting its prerequisites, and may ignore any non-feat prerequisites for feats that have Narrow frame as a prerequisite.

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Advanced Item Mastery Training Feats (Pathfinder)

I am very fond of Item Mastery Feats for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. I think there are lots of interesting places those feats can take characters, especially fighters. I am also a big fan of the Advanced Weapon Training rules that allow fighters to make weapon training do more than just grant flat attack and damage bonuses. The two already combine somewhat (with the item mastery advanced weapon training option), but I think there are yet more interesting ways they can be mixed for fighters, and some other classes.

Arcane Fighter (Combat)
You know magic is a potent weapon, and you study how to fight with magic items.
Prerequisite: Fighter level 1.
Benefit: You are considered trained with Use Magic Device, and can make special UMD checks with a bonus equal to your fighter level + your Constitution bonus +3, rather than your normal skill bonus.

Draught Mastery
When you drink a magic potion, you gain additional benefits.
Prerequisites: One of the following class features: armor training, brew potion, weapon training.
Benefit: Select three item mastery feats for which you meet the prerequisites. Each time you gain a new level, you can change this selection.
Once per day when you drink a potion, you may use the benefit of one of those item mastery feats if the potion would qualify to grant you if it were a permanent magic item. You may use this feat a second time per day when your base attack bonus, caster level, or alchemist level reaches +5 or 5th, and every +5 or 5 levels thereafter.

Extra Weapon Training (Combat)
You are a master of many weapons and weapon fighting techniques.
Prerequisites: Weapon training class feature.
Benefit: You can select another weapon group your weapon training class feature applies its benefits to. Alternatively, you may select another advanced weapon training option for which you meet the prerequisites.

Patreon Exclusive!
The point of the Advanced Item Mastery Training Feats article was to create new ways to use existing Item Mastery Feats and find synergy with advanced weapon training, rather than to present new Item Mastery Feats. However while writing it I thought of one new Item Mastery Feat which fills a gap in what those feats can allow a character to do: Buff Mastery. It is presented at my Patreon, exclusively (for now) for my Patrons!

The Value of Spellcasting

I have often wondered how valuable players and GMs find spellcasting. For example if you place limitations and degradations on spellcasting and boost the cost of acquiring it, at what point does it become not worth the effort? How close is that to the point when most GMs are comfortable allowing spellcasting easily-acquired outside of a class into a campaign?

This leads to a though experiment of a feat.

Spellcasting (Thought Experiment)

You can cast spells. Just not very well.

Benefit: Select one class’s spellcasting list. If that class has alignment, code, equipment requirements that must to be able to cast spells (such as a paladin’s code, or a druid’s need to be partially neutral and avoid metal armor), you must meet those requirements or suffer the same consequences with regards to spells gained through this feat) as the class you selected.

You gain spells known and spells per day as spell-like abilities from that spell list, using the spells known and spells per day of a 1st level sorcerer and your character level as your caster level. To determine your save DCs and max spell known, instead of Charisma or the ability score used by the class you picked for the spell list, you use your lowest ability score. You can change one spell known at every character level, using the rules for sorcerers to swap spells known, but they must all come from the selected spell list.

Special: You can take this feat more than once, but not more times than 1+1/2 your character level. Each time, you increase your effective sorcerer level for determining your spells known and spells per day from the selected spell list by +2, and increase the number of spells you can swap out at each new level by +1.

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Simple Dwarven Name Generator

The very first professional RPG writing of mine that was published was the elven name generator in Dragon 251. I’d done (and even been paid for) freelance work prior to that, but none of it was published before that issue hit the stands. It was the beginning of one of my early series, RPG name and language articles, which included the seven By Any Other Name, Cry Havoc, and Dragontongue articles in Dragon Magazine, What’s In A Name in Pyramid magazine, Call Signs in Star Wars gamer magazine, and some work on the online D&D name generator for 4th edition.

One of the things I am proudest of about the majority of those articles is that in addition to allowing random creation of appropriate-sounding names, the articles have just enough definition to allow the meaning of the names to be determined. It’s rough of course—this is designed to allow some fun details for RPG characters and stories, not create full constructed languages like Klingon or Dothraki. But I’ve found being able to tell someone their magic sword is named the dwarven name for “Dragon’s Bite,” and for the player to then use the article to name a back-up weapon “Dragon’s Fire”, adds a lot even with the fairly lose rules.

But while the elven By Any Other Name in Dragon 251 was the first of all of those to get published, I actually pitched (and wrote) a dwarven name generator first. It eventually got accepted and published in Dragon 261. I never felt “done” with that name generator, but honestly I felt like it was the best of all the ones I did (though the kuo-toa name generator is a lot of fun, too).

But I am always thinking about other ways to do similar things (even though, in the age of the Internet, I don’t know if there is any need for yet more simple name generators). I have wondered, for example, what the shortest possible useful name generator is.

I have made a dwarf name generator, with hints for definitions, with ten elements.

I suspect that is too short.

But it’s worth floating and see how people react to it.

To use the generator roll 1d10 twice, to determine the prefix and suffix of the name. for example, a y and then a 3 gives you Mhordun, which could mean Fire Rune, Scholar of Dragons, Treasured Scroll, Destined to Rage, or any other combination of similar words you like.

If you roll the same number twice, ignore the second result and instead do three word elements. For example if you rolls 10 and then 10 again, ignore the second ten and roll twice more (still ignoring 10s). If you got a 1 and a 8, your name is Wularnhar.

With these rules and just 10 intermixable name segments, you end up with hundreds of possible names, with definitions, to use for anything dwarven. If you want male and female names to be different, you can add some feminine suffixes (-a, dot, -gurd, -hild, -ir) to either use in place of some name segments below, or to add to the end of a name generated using the standard rules.

  1. ar – warrior, axeman, weapon, sword, spear, pick, retribution
    2. bal – armor, shield, guardian, ward, abjuration, iron
    3. dun – dragon, rage, fire, treasure, gold
    4. fel – thief, spy, shadow, darkness, assassin, death
    5. grym – ring, sorcerer, warlock, magic, eldritch
    6. kar – servant, slave, secret, traitor, lock, binding
    7. mhor – scholar, wisdom, scroll, rune, destiny
    8. nhar – battle cry, thunder, bard, horn
    9. thyr – ice, frost, calm, silver, cleric
    10. wul – craftsman, craft, skill, beer, mead, art, artisan, beauty

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Degrees of Fatigue

The fatigued and exhausted conditions are designed to be simple. First, you take a –2 penalty to Strength and Dexterity, and can’t run or charge. Then if you suffer another level of fatigue, your penalties jump to -6, and you move at half speed on top of other limits.

One hour rest takes you from exhausted to fatigued. Eight hours of rest takes you from fatigued to fine.

That’s more granular that my (too frequent) experience with exhaustion, but that’s fine. Simplicity is worth some increased granularity. Part of the question for me is… how simple is that? Neither the jump from -2 to -6, nor the differences in how long it takes to recover from the conditions, feels intuitive to me. Also, it strikes me odd that once you are exhausted, maintaining things that should fatigue you have no effect.

So, that brings us to the ideas of degrees of fatigue.

Instead of going from fatigued to exhausted, you keep taking degrees of fatigue. Each degree has a -2 penalty to Strength and Dexterity, which stack. Once your Strength and Dexterity both drop below 10 as a result of these penalties, all your movement rates are cut in half. If  your Strength or Dexterity is reduced to 0, you pass out until the penalties reduce to allow you a positive ability score.

Two hours of dedicated rest removes one degree of fatigue. (Anything that would end fatigue removes one level, anything that would end exhaustion removes up to 4 levels.)

I don’t know if this is actually easier, but it’s something I’d love to playtest and see how it works out.

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Dirty Delvers Treasure Division

Two things are on my mind at the moment. “Dirty Santa” style gift –exchange games, and treasure division in dungeon-delving style fantasy RPGs. These two things have nothing to do with each other, and yet…

Let me interrupt my own train of thought to point out that I’m not claiming this is a good idea. I strongly suspect it’s a bad idea. But, it IS an idea, and sometimes those demand our attention.

So, let’s combine Dirty Santa and Treasure Division.

Decide how many items there are to be divided. We’ll call this the number of “picks.” If there’s money or other bulk valuables you can divide the total value by the number of people in the party who get treasure (we’ll call them folks), and treat each amount of that value as one pick. (So if there is 2400 gp of coins and gems, and five folks dividing the treasure, that’s five picks worth 480 gp each.)

Divide the total number of picks by the number of folks, and round up.

Double that number, and each of the folks get that many takes. A take represents selecting an item of loot to keep. They should track their takes.

To decide who gets to spend a take first, players all secretly bid how many takes they will spend for that privilege. Then reveal the bids. Whoever bid the most goes first, and the order after id determined by who bid the 2nd most, and so on. In case of ties, roll off to see who goes earlier.

The person who goes first expends 1 pick to select an item. At least for the moment, it is theirs.

The next person may expend 1 pick to select an item left in the pool, or may expend TWO picks to take the item already selected by the person who went first. If that happens, the person who went first gets one pick back.

Proceed in order. On each turn, a folk can do one of these things:
A: Expend one pick to select an item no one has selected yet.
B: Select an item someone else has. This requires you to spend a number of picks equal to 1 + the number of people who have already picked it. So if two people have already picked it, you have to spend three picks. No matter how many picks you spend, one pick goes back to the person you take it from.
C: Select an item someone else has that you were the very first person to pick. This costs only one pick, no matter how many people have picked it since.

Repeat this process until you run out of items, or everyone runs out of picks. If you run out of items, the process is over. If everyone runs out of picks when there are still items left, everyone gets back all the picks they began with, and keep going.

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Advanced Animal Archetype Feat (for Pathfinder)

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ultimate Wilderness has animal companion archetypes, which allow you to change how an animal companion works by giving it new abilities in place of some of the things the animal companion rules normally grant. Of course you can’t swap out the same ability multiple times, which means an animal companion generally can’t have more than one archetype. Also, some classes that get animal companions (such as cavaliers) don’t have all the features needed to swap out for some fun archetypes, which reduced the utility of many of those choices.

But if the animal companions are allowed to just boost up the archetypes they can select, they’ll become too powerful. Even having an animal companion spend a feat to get more archetype powers isn’t balanced, given the relatively low number of feats animal companions can actually benefit from compared to the powers granted by some of the animal companion archetypes.

However, if the character gaining the animal companion spends a feat, that’s an entirely different story. Characters have a huge number of powerful feats available to them, so the cost to overall power level is much higher, which makes up for the potential boost of an animal with an archetype it doesn’t qualify for.

And so, we present the Advanced Animal Archetype feat.

Advanced Animal Archetype

Your animal companions are particularly special.
Prerequisite: Class ability that allows you to have an animal companion.|
Benefit: Select one animal archetype. If an animal companion you have does not already have that archetype, you may grant it the first benefit of that archetype the companion would have (given it’s HD) if it were able to take the archetype and gain all of its benefits. This does not allow an animal companion to gain benefits at a lower HD total than it would normally receive. The companion does not lose or modify the ability it normally would have lost or modified when gaining this archetype benefit.
Special: You may take this feat more than once. Each time, it grants the next archetype benefit of the selected animal companion archetype your companion would have received (given its HD) if it had and could benefit from that archetype.

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Dragon Knight (Kitbashing a cavalier archetype for Pathfinder)

Dragon Knight (Kitbashing a cavalier archetype for Pathfinder)

So with the release of Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ultimate Wilderness, it becomes very, very close to possible to have a cavalier riding a dragon… or something close enough as to make it difficult to tell the difference.

First, you slap the saurian champion on the cavalier. This is designed to make you a dinosaur-riding savage, but we all know players can reskin the flavor of things. Pick pteranodon as your dinosaur mount. It flies, is lizardlike, the saurian champion specifically lets you ride a dino your size (though you need to keep your weigh low enough that its 8 Str +8 additional for carrying capacity). Obviously you’ll get a more powerful (but ground-bound) “dinosaur” if you go with a spinosuarus (but then it can swim, and begins with an 18 strength +8 for carry capacity, and a claw/claw/bite attack routine).

That’s a great start, but to REALLY feel like you have a dragon you need to add the draconic animal companion archetype, also from Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ultimate Wilderness… and you can’t. that archetype replaces ‘share spells” with low-light and darkvisions and you can’t because cavalier mounts don’t get share spells. You’re that close to a 100% official giant fire-breathing lizard, and you can’t do it because of darkvision and low-light.

I haven’t found anything that adds share spells back in to a mount and still leaves it draconic archetype legal. If you wanted to convince your GM that it could be done with the Improved Spell Sharing feat you could do it… but that feat obviously doesn’t *really* give spell sharing to an animal companion that doesn’t have it.
So, the best we can do is 95% official. All that is needed is to delay the gaining of low-light and darkvision for the draconic saurian mount until the cavalier can give up a class feature the saurian champion archetype doesn’t take from it. At 4th level, the cavalier gets expert training, which doesn’t really make sense with a character with a loyal draconic dinosaur mount anyway. So if we trade gaining low-light and darkvision (at 4th level) with expert trainer, the draconic saurian champion class works, with 95% official rules to do it.

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