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The Bottomless Tombs, Area 2

You can find the introduction, map, and index of the Bottomless Tombs here!

Area 2: The First Passage

Thirty feet down the shaft is the first passage, off the south wall. When the heroes are free to pay attention to it (likely after killing the centipedes in Area 1, though who knows how PCs will react to a vertical battle?), and assuming they have a light or can see in the dark, read or paraphrase the following.

An opening in the southern wall reveals a small space, no more than five feet wide and six feet tall. A 1-foot ledge sticks out into the shaft forming a narrow balcony that is part of that space’s floor. The opening is no more than a large hole in the shaft’s wall, with a broken door sitting in a stone frame 5 feet in. The floor is littered with bits of broken pottery, wood, and dirt, and the walls are stained by dark splashes of color.

More than one adventuring party has left a guard here over the years, and just left their refuse behind. The stains can be identified with a DC 10 Knowledge (dungeonering), or (nature) check to be a mix of water stains from when rain gets into the holw and old ichor, maybe from large vermin.

If more than one Small or Medium creature tries to fit within the space, they must squeeze.

The door was once fine preserved wood and brass, but has long since been smashed in and the brass fittings and hinges removed. A careful examination allows a DC 15 Perception check to realize the door was not designed to ever be opened once it was closed, and it had a trap built into the wall, though it is also long since gone.

The doorway leads to a 10-foot-long, 5-foot wide corridor, which ends in a portcullis. Read or paraphrase the following:

A portcullis blocks passage any further south. Made of rusted iron, it runs the width of the corridor, and its spiked bards set into small holes in the floor. It is covered in worn runs, and shows obvious signs of having been battered and hammered on, and one bar is bent outward toward you, making a space roughly the size of a cat. Just past the portcullis is a cross-corridor, running east and west. A lever, also of rusted iron, sits in the wall of that corridor, currently in the ‘down’ position. A rotting bag of sand is attached to the leaver by a frayed rope.

If you lift the leaver, the portcullis goes up. The last group of adventurers here tied a sandbag to the lever so it would be pulled down after they left. There’s no easy way to use a rope or similar flexible device to pull up on the lever from the north side of the portcullis.

The portcullis can be lifted by a DC 24 Strength check (so an 18 Strength character can do it by taking 20, though this is loud and time consuming). A Small creature can get through the bent-out bars with a DC 18 Escape Artist check, though failure results in 1 hp of damage from jagged edges. The portcullis has 8 hardness and 30 hp per bar, so a group could just hammer on it and hope to break open a bigger hole.

A DC 15 Disable Device check allows a character to find a way to trigger the lever, and a DC 15 Engineering check can be used to rig a staff or similar device to flip the lever u by using the crossbars on the portcullis as a leverage point, though this also requires a successful DC 15 Strength check.

Developments: The louder the PCs are, the more likely it is they draw out something from Area 3.

Design Philosophy: It’s a dungeon, so it should reward people ready for traps and mechanisms… but also not prevent groups without such preparation from getting to the fun part if they work at it. So this has lots of solutions, and is mostly about the players deciding how they want to handle such things.
It also establishes that doors here may have traps, which will matter later, with being a gotcha moment for players.

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The Bottomless Tombs, Area 1

We introduced the Bottomless tombs, and their map on Monday, and discussed the staging area around them yesterday.

So, it’s time to head down the shaft!

Area 1: Entering the Shaft [CR 1]

If the players closely examine the shaft before heading down, read or paraphrase the following.

The sides of the shaft are worked stone, but show signs of considerable wear. In a few places, smooth, though cracked, finishing stone still lines the walls but most of that has long-since chipped away. Most of the shaft is cracked stones, and in many cases these have large cracks, through which thick roots and vines grow to choke the shaft, tangled around the wreckage of worn logs and rope rigging from one or more some kind apparatuses that has fallen into the shaft in recent years.

If the PCs have darkvision, or a directional lightsource (such as a bullseye lantern), or wait until the sun is directly overhead, add the following.

It’s impossible to see more than 35-40 feet down the shaft, but a dark shadow just short of the limit of that range suggests a side passage extends off the southern wall of the shaft.

The first side passage is 30 feet down on the southern wall of the shaft. The only way to get to it, is to climb (or fly, but mostly 1st level characters can’t do that).

Hazards: The Climb DC for this section of the shaft is 10 if a PC just tries to climb along the roots and wreckage. If a rope is added (perhaps anchored to the iron ring in the staging area), the Climb DC drops to 5. Characters can take 10 on this check as long as nothing is attacking them. (Yeah… wait for it)

If a character fails a check by 5 or more, they fall. Luckily, the shaft of the Bottomless Tomb is so checked with roots and detritus, they eventually land on something able to hold their weight. When a character falls, roll 2d6 – 1d6. This value is both the damage they take, and the number of 5-foot squares they fall before landing on something. Most of the damage is from bouncing off roots or falling through rotted wood or frayed ropes. A character can fall 55 feet and only take 11 points of damage because they never build up much momentum.

If the value of the roll is 0 or less, the character is caught within 1 foot by something, and takes no damage.

Foes: There are house centipedes living in the cracks in the walls of the top of the shaft. they pretty well ignore ropes, rocks, or other things being thrown in (unless someone things to dangle meat on a rope, in which case they come out and swarm up the rope to get at the PCs), but once a creature is 20 feet down, they crawl out to attack any potential meal.

If you want to make their attack dramatic, read or paraphrase the following:

A noise like sand trickling over tight leather slowly fills the shaft. Movement rustles roots and ropes, beginning at one of the walls. A long centipede crawls out, more that a foot from it’s clicking mandibles to the end of its 100-legged body, the length of a halfling’s arm! Two more follow it, their heads swinging back and forth as the crawl along the sides and bottoms of the detritus choking the shaft and scuttle toward you!

Three centipedes attack when the first character gets down 20 feet. They have climb speeds, so they easily reach any point in the shaft. They attack any adjacent creature, or if none is adjacent the last creature to attack them.

They have cover from anyone more than 10 feet away, due to how clogged the shaft is.

Remember that despite their massive strength penalties, they do at least 1 hp on a successful attack.

Developments: After 1d4+1 rounds, three more house centipedes attack having been drawn by the sounds of combat.

Design Philosophy: There’s a lot going on with this encounter.

First, if you manage at least a +0 Climb bonus you can safely move around until the centipedes attack, and if you thought to have a rope anyone with at least a +4 (likely including anyone with a rank and a class skill and light armor) still can’t fail. this rewards more mobile characters even at 1st level.

Second, it’s a high-tension fight over a bottomless pit… carefully set up so if you fall you get caught before you go too far.

Third, anyone with even one point of DR can largely ignore the centipedes.

Fourth, it’s a 6-foe fight, which rarely happens until much higher level.

Fifth, the cover means melee characters in the shaft have a real advantage over ranged characters. This may not be true for most of their adventuring career, but it’s nice to start things off rewarding the nimble rogue on a rope with a dagger in one hand.

Sixth… poison. Not too serious, but anyone with bonuses to saves against poison gets to benefit from that immediately.

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The Bottomless Tombs, Staging Area

We introduced the Bottomless tombs, and their map, yesterday.

Now, it’s time to get to some adventure!

The Top of the Tomb

The first issue is reaching the shaft, and examine the areas around it before the PCs even think of climbing down the the shaft into the tomb and reaching the first side-passage. As the PCs reach the top of the tomb shaft, read or paraphrase the following:

The top of the shaft is a square hole in the ground, roughly 15-feet to a side. Dirt, sod, and bits of refuse are piled up around the hole, and the shaft itself is choked with long tree roots, clumps of matted grass, and a tangle or what seem to be old and broken woodwork and rope rigging. It doesn’t look particularly stable, but it does offer numerous handholds. Light doesn’t penetrate more than 40-50 feet into the shaft, but there is certainly no sign of a bottom to it within that range.

An iron ring, showing just some signs of rust, is looped through a large wooden stake driven into the ground 5 feet to the north of the hole. Not far from that sits a well-defined fire pit, ringed in stones and filled with a dense layer of cold ash and charcoal. Bits of cloth, broken glass, chipped whetstones, and strips of rawhide are scattered about, more than half-buried in the grass. Old woven grass mats are laying on the ground in a semicircle around the firepit.

The firepit, mats, and refuse are the remains of numerous camps adventurers have made here over the past several decades, thought the gnomes who came through a few weeks ago didn’t use any of it.

Hazards: The mats are long-since riddled with lice, and anyone who sleeps on one must make a DC 10 Fortitude save or be at -1 to all Dexterity ability and skill checks from itching until they are deloused with a DC 10 Craft (alchemy) or Heal check. A DC 10 Survival check reveals the mats are infested, and can use smoke from a fire in the firepit to cleanse them.

Treasure: One sunrod, three pitons, a cold iron dagger, and 2 cp can be found with careful examination of the old campsite and refuse around the shaft. Each can be found with it’s own DC 10 Perception check, and an additional item found in one attempt for ever 5 the check exceeds that base DC.

Developments: Animals and outlaws both check this area from time to time, looking for food or valuables. They don’t make any dedicated searches, so any effort to bury or conceal items is successful. however, if tents, or mules, or food stores are left unattended and unguarded at the old campsite, there is a 1-in-12 chance each day that either a wolf of a brigand comes along and raids obvious materials.

Design Philosophy: It’s not that common for 1st level characters to get much use out of Survival (especially in dungeon-focused games), or from searching areas that aren’t obviously dangerous but that detail-oriented adventurers should want to check out.

This also already gives characters a reason to be happy to have an animal companion or basic hireling. If anyone (or, within limits, anything) watches their stuff they can safely use the old campsite as a base of operations. Neither wolves nor brigands will risk fighting for trail rations or spare blankets, though a guard left behind can let PCs know that someone has been prowling around after a week or more of time watching.

Low-level characters also often don’t get much benefit out of resistance to disease, or the ability to make basic alchemy and Heal checks. Lice isn;t life-threatening, but that’s the point,. Characters can begin to learn ways in which the game world is dangerous without risking having am arm drop off or becoming a mummy.

Not yet, anyway…

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The Power of Blackskull (for Pathfinder)

Blackskull (and its mistress) is a location you can use as the seed of one or more adventures. It can be a side-quest, the end of a small adventure, a goal for players to claim, or even act as a patron’s home base. Legend claims it is the remains of Akash, the Titan of All Knowledge and avatar of the Akashic Record. You can set it in a vast desert, at the center of a massive barrow ground, at the peak of a dangerous mountain, or just at the edge of a small town that has spring up to house and make money off people who come to speak to the oracle of Blackskull.

The one true power of Blakcskull is the highest chamber within the skull, known as the Lore Room, which once per day allows anyone making a Knowledge check there to gain a +10 circumstance bonus to the check, as the ancient knowledge of Akash soaks into their mind.

blackskull

(Blackskull cartography from Dyson Logos, and available for use by license)

History

For years, Blackskull was a focal point for petty squabbles among various sects of gods of knowledge and wizards who wished to use its resources to design new forms of hybrid animals. After an unfortunate incident when two such forces combined and made a small chimera-like creature with the body and one head of a racoon, wings and head of a magpie, and additional head of an tiger keelback snake, which began stealing the holy books of all religious orders, the local baron set up a challenge that Blkacskull would be granted to the scholar who could answer the most difficult question the baron could pose.

And the winning sage was the Fel Sage, also known as the Blood of Knowledge, a minor bard lich who poses as a vampire.

The Mistress of Blackskull

The Fel Sage is legendary as a “reasonable” undead. She doesn’t have any ethical limitations on her choice of actions, and would happily burn orphanages to the ground if it further her own researches one iota. However, she is also an apt historian who has a clear view of what happens to evil overlords when they become a threat to the world at large—heroes come and destroy them. The Fel Sage doesn’t want to rule the world—that sounds like a lot of work—she just wants time to read all the books, scrolls, tablets, and folios she has gathered over more than  a lifetime (which is why she became an undead to begin with—to have more time to read).

So, she used the power of suggestion to convince the baron to pose a question she already knew the answer to, answered it in a public show of her vast knowledge, and laid claim to Blackskull. As a result she even has some legal protections—as long as she doesn’t break local law, it’s illegal to kill her just for being an undead. Further, she acts as a sage for numerous adventuring parties and heroes, to ensure she has more allies than enemies—part of her plot to survive forever.

Though she used trickery to win her roost, in truth, the Fel Sage is capable of answering questions well beyond the norm for creatures of her power level. If she chooses to use the akashic communion spell she can gain a +10 insight bonus to one Knowledge check, and combine that with Blackskull’s Lore Room for a +10 circumstance bonus and her archivist version of lore master that allows her to take 20 on one Knowledge skill check per day, getting most of her Knowledge skill totals to +49 to +51. Of course even when this is her plan to answer a question, she insists such knowledge comes from days or even weeks of research, and generally only promises to have an answer after a petitioner has gone and gathered some rare book she desires (or rubbings off new ruins that have been discovered, or a drop of blood from an unidentified body that might spark a border war in a conflict zone so she can cast blood biography, or anything else that might quench her thirst for knowledge).

The Fel Sage only willingly sees people under the guise of a disguise self spell, and normally thus restricts herself to one meeting a day so as not to drain her spell resources (though she has scrolls if she is forced to break that rule). She doesn’t use her disguise self magics to appear human—that’s beyond the power of the spell. Instead she uses it to appear to be a vampire, a different form of undead than her own lich status, and an undead with a very different set of limitations and weaknesses.

While she sees significant tactical benefits to being mistaken for a vampire, her main motivation is actually pride. She is an extremely weak lich, having only barely managed to transform herself and only because she found a document with the easiest, most carefully-explained lich ritual ever. She fears mockery if the world at large ever discovered she was, essentially, the weakest lich ever. But if she poses as a vampire, her immunity to daylight and ability to claim she holds off bloodlust through ancient elixirs and pure willpower make her seem extraordinary and special.

She also uses her disguise self to make her whip look like a dagger, and to make an impressive magic ring appear on her hand, which she pretends is the source of her paralyzing touch lich power.

If a group comes to her with some question that must be answered she insist on being paid in rare knowledge and books, and often has some specific quest she insists on sending adventurers on. If possible, she picks tasks that are more dangerous than they sound, hoping anyone bothering her will be killed off rather than return for an answer—but if they do return, she sees the benefit in having adventurers who will put themselves as risk for her benefit, and treats them fairly. If any seem taken with her comely vampire guise, she does her best to establish a sense of intimacy, often creating a first name she offers to allow them to call her (which she makes up n the spot, the Fel Sage has long since forgotten her “life name,” which she considers irrelevant to her new existence).

Of course she is a lich, and she is evil. Someday, even with the tenuous protection of local law, someone will decide she has to go.

Her hope is that when that day comes, more adventurers will want to keep her around than get rid of her.

The Fel Sage

CR 8

XP 4,800
Female lich (human) bard (archivist) 7
NE Medium undead
Init +2; Senses darkvision (60 ft.), Perception +19; Aura fear (60-ft. radius, DC 19)
DEFENSE
AC 18, touch 12, flat-footed 16 (+1 armor, +5 natural armor, +2 Dex)
hp 73 (7d8+35)
Fort +3, Ref +8, Will +7; +4 vs. bardic performance, language-dependent, and sonic
Defensive Abilities channel resistance +4; rejuvenation; DR 15/bludgeoning and magic; Immune cold, electricity, undead traits
OFFENSE
Speed 30 ft.
Melee whip +7 (1d3–1), touch +2 (1d8+3 plus paralyzing touch)
Ranged light crossbow +7 (1d8/19–20)
Special Attacks bardic performance 22 rounds/day (countersong, distraction, fascinate, inspire competence +3, lamentable belaborment*, naturalist +2*), paralyzing touch (DC 19)
*Represents an ability gained from the archivist archetype
Bard Spells Known (CL 7th; concentration +12)
3rd (2)akashic communion, charm monster (DC 19)
2nd (4) alegro, blood biography, invisibility, mirror image, suggestion (DC 18)
1st (6)—beguiling gift (DC 17), charm person (DC 17), disguise self, expeditious retreat, hideous laughter (DC 17), memory lapse (DC 17), saving finale, touch of gracelessness (DC 17)
0 (at will)—detect magic, ghost sound (DC 16), light, message, prestidigitation, sift
STATISTICS
Str 8, Dex 14, Con -, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 22
Base Atk +5; CMB +4; CMD 16
Feats Arcane Strike, Greater Serpent Lash, Lingering Performance, Serpent Lash, Weapon Finesse
Skills Acrobatics +12, Appraise +11, Disguise +16, Knowledge (arcana) +9, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +11, Knowledge (engineering) +9, Knowledge (geography) +9, Knowledge (history) +9, Knowledge (local) +11, Knowledge (planes) +11, Knowledge (nobility) +11, Linguistics +7, Perception +19, Perform (oratory) +16, Sense Motive +14, Spellcraft +6, Stealth +19, Use Magic Device +16
Languages Common, Giant, Polyglot, Necril
SQ bardic knowledge +3, jack of all trades*, lore master (take 20*) 1/day, magic lore*
*Represents an ability gained from the archivist archetype
Combat Gear scroll of comprehend languagesscrolls of disguise self (2)scroll of restful sleep, wand of cause light wounds (50 charges), wand of grease (50 charges)Other Gear quilted cloth armor, light crossbow with 10 bolts, whip, cloak of resistance +1headband of alluring charisma +2, backpack, spell component pouch, 25 gp

Blackskull in Your Campaign

You can use Blackskull and the Fel Sage as traditional villains and adventure locations if you wish–just have the Fel Sage send thugs to gather lorebooks by any means necessary, the thugs steal something from friends of the PCs, and the adventure is on! Or she can become a colorful patron, always willing to answer the PCs’ questions… in return for their taking on some dangeorus mission (which gives you, the GM, an easy work-around any time your PCs are stumped–they can get the answer to any question, as long as they do an extra adventure for the Fel Sage to make up for it).

Of a PC could become the “legal” owner of Blackskull somehow, and have to kick the Fel Sage out of it.

Or the PCs could discover some foe of their is always one step ahead of them because that foe buys information from the Fel Sage, and force the PCs to decide if they want to kill her, or buy her off to gain information of her own.

It’s easy to add some encounters to Blackskull to make it a mini-dungeon. Since the Fel Sage is CR 8, throwing together some CR 4-9 monsters is easy enough. here are some examples.
*An androsphinx waits outside, having paid the Fel Sage to find him a new riddle, and he attacks anyone who tries to go in before he has his answer from her.
*An annis hag has become the Fel Sage’s apprentice, usually taking the form of a sky maid named “Lilly.” Lilly tries to get visitors to violate any of the Fel Sage’s rules, so she can kill and consume them. Also, she makes soup.
*One of the upper elvels is protected with a flame strike trap.
*A hill giant, Onks, serves as the Fel Sage’s guard. She has convinced him he is descended from the titan Akash, and that if he serves her long enough he’ll become smart. This is a lie.
*The lowest level has been blocked off and flooded, and there’s a globster in it. because the Fel Sage read about one, got one imported to study, and now doesn’t know what to do with it. She doesn’t feed it much, so it’s hungry.
The Fel Sage has stuck a lurker above in the room off the right eye socket, to protect access to the Lore room. It knows she’s rotted meat, and has no interest in eating her.
*Two bookcases are actually Wood Golems.

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Hill Person — Cinematically Inspired Class for Pathfinder

Hill Person

The hill people are as much a culture as an occupation. They have traditions and customs different from civilization, but those off-the-norm backgrounds come with powers that are just as different from the standards of society. Hill people often suffer from significant wonderlust, and it is not unusual for them to spend many years adventuring. However, they dislike committing violence, and generally look for places they can safely travel, or companions they can safely travel with. However on the rare occasion they are pushed to defend those they love, their powers to do so are significant.

Despite not fitting any of the classic roles of heroes, most groups who have a hill person as an ally are delighted to have their knowledge, good cheer, and not a small bit of luck along even in the darkest of times. And hill people are rugged and sturdy enough (though they mostly don’t look it) to survive even the most dangerous of adventures without being a significant drain on their allies.

Hill people are, obviously, inspired by one of my favorite fantasy movies. (And they aren’t the first thing the movie inspired.)

Alignment: Any

Hit Die: d12

Starting Wealth: 2d6 × 10 gp (average 70 gp.) In addition, each character begins play with an outfit worth 10 gp or less, and one pie.

Class Skills

The hill person’s class skills are Acrobatics (Dex), Appraise (Int), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disable Device (Dex), Disguise (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (all, each skill taken individually) (Int), Linguistics (Int), Perception (Wis), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Spellcraft (Int), Stealth (Dex), Swim (Str), and Use Magic Device (Cha).

Skill Ranks per Level: 6 + Int modifier.

Table: Hill Person

Level     BaB                       Fort        Ref         Will        Special

1st          +0                          +2           +2           +2           Hill shape, knack, lack the power to do harm, organize notes

2nd        +1                          +3           +3           +3           Luck of the hill folks 1/day

3rd         +2                          +3           +3           +3           Knack

4th         +3                          +4           +4           +4           Luck of the hill folks 2/day

5th         +3                          +4           +4           +4           Knack

6th         +4                          +5           +5           +5           +1 hill shape luck of the hill folks, 3/day

7th         +5                          +5           +5           +5           Knack

8th         +6/+1                   +6           +6           +6           Luck of the hill folks 4/day

9th         +6/+1                   +6           +6           +6           Knack

10th       +7/+2                   +7           +7           +7           Luck of the hill folks 5/day

11th       +8/+3                   +7           +7           +7           Knack

12th       +9/+4                   +8           +8           +8           +1 hill shape, luck of the hill folks 6/day

13th       +9/+4                   +8           +8           +8           Knack

14th       +10/+5                 +9           +9           +9           Luck of the hill folks 7/day

15th       +11/+6/+1           +9           +9           +9           Knack

16th       +12/+7/+2           +10        +10        +10        Luck of the hill folks 8/day

17th       +12/+7/+2           +10        +10        +10        Knack

18th       +13/+8/+3           +11        +11        +11        +1 hill shape, luck of the hill folks 9/day

19th       +14/+9/+4           +11        +11        +11        Knack

20th       +15/+10/+5         +12        +12        +12        Hill lord, luck of the hill folks 10/day

Class Features

The following are class features of the hill person.

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Weapon and Armor Proficiency

Hill people are proficient with all simple weapons and light armor, but not with shields.

Hill Shape (Su): At 1st level, a hill person gains the ability to turn himself into any Tiny or Small animal of no more than 1 HD (and back again) three times per day. This ability functions like the beast shape III spell, except as noted here. The effect lasts for 1 hour per hill person level, or until he changes back. Changing form (to animal or back) is a standard action and doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity. The form chosen must be that of an animal the hill person is familiar with. The hill person retains the ability to speak in this form, though he can also make sounds appropriate to the form, and speak to creatures of the same general grouping (canine, feline, avian, etc.) as determined by the GM as though using speak with animals.

You can also attempt to use this power on another target, in which case it functions as baleful polymorph. However, you must roll a natural 20 on a d20 for this to work. Otherwise you transform yourself into the desired creature, as if you had used the reflexive form knack. (Though you can use luck of the hill folk to try this roll multiple times).

A hill person can use this ability an additional time per day at 6th level and every six levels thereafter, for a total of six times at 18th level.

As a hill person gains in levels, this ability allows him to take on the form of larger and smaller animals and elementals as an extreme measure. Each form expends one daily usage of this ability, regardless of the form taken. Any time the hill person uses this ability to become anything except a Tiny or Small animal of 1 HD or less, it counts as making an attack for purpose of his Lack the Ability to Do Harm class feature.

At 6th level, a hill person can use hill shape to change into a Medium or Large animal or a Small elemental. When taking the form of an elemental, the hill person’s hill shape functions as elemental body I.

At 8th level, a hill person can use hill shape to change into a Huge or Diminutive animal, or a Medium elemental. When taking the form of an elemental, the hill person’s hill shape now functions as elemental body II.

At 10th level, a hill person can use hill shape to change into a Large elemental. When taking the form of an elemental, the hill person’s hill shape now functions as elemental body III. At 12th level, a hill person can use hill shape to change into a Huge elemental. When taking the form of an elemental, the hill person’s hill shape now functions as elemental body IV.

Lack the Power to Do Harm (Su): The hill people dislike violence, and are blessed by powerful good fortune when they avoid it while maintaining strong hill people traditions. A hill person gains a luck bonus to AC and saving throws equal to his Charisma bonus. However, if the hill person makes an attack (as defined by the invisibility spell), they lose this power for 24 hours. Additionally, if a hill person multiclasses to the point they don’t have more “hill person” levels than all other combined class levels, they also lose access to this power.

Organize Notes (Ex): All hill people have a pile of notes, generally in the form of a loose shuffle of papers and mementos, but they can take nearly any easily-recognizable form, which contain their thoughts on mystic incantations, cooking, and anything else they find important.

These are never organized.

Each day you try to organize your notes. You can only do this once per day, and only after getting 8 hours of rest. This takes one hour, and resets your daily class abilities. Also, if you have not attempted to organize your notes for more than 24 hours, you lose access to one randomly determined hill person knack, plus one additional knack for every additional 12 hours. These return once you properly attempt to organize your notes.

Hill Person Knacks: You gain one hill person knack at 1st level, and an additional knack at 2nd level and every level thereafter. You cannot take a knack more than once unless it says otherwise.

Actions Give You Weight (Su): Hill people often place themselves at risk to aid others. As a standard action you can give an ally within 30 feet the benefits of your Lack the Power to Do Harm class feature until the beginning of your next turn. If the ally makes an attack (as defined by the invisibility spell) during this time, they lose this benefit and cannot regain it for 24 hours.

General Knack: You gain one general feat (a feat that is not also any other kind of feat) for which you meet the prerequisites, as a bonus feat. You may take this knack more than once. Each time, you must select a different general feat.

Great Chooser of Roads (Ex): You and your allies increase your overland travel speed by 10%, and do not have it reduced for terrain.

Minstrel (Ex): You have learned some of the storytelling and singing art of the hill people. You know spells and have spells per day as a bard of 1/3 your class level. Your caster level is equal to your class level. You must be at least 3rd level to select this knack.

Narrow of Purpose (Ex): Hill people are capable to being very focused, directing all their attention to a single goal. You gain Skill Focus as a bonus feat. Each day when you try to organize your notes, you may select what skill this bonus feat applies to. This must be a skill you have ranks in.

Pack Mule (Ex): Hill people can be surprisingly hearty when carrying large piles of gear. Your carrying capacity is tripled.

Reflexive Form (Su): If the result of an attack is a critical hit, or causes you to be unconscious or dead, as an immediate action you can expend one daily use of your hill shape ability to turn yourself into a tiny 1 HD animal. This causes the attack to miss entirely, but you are stuck in that shape for 1d4 rounds.

Rushed Flight (Su): Once per day you can expend one daily use of your hill shape ability to turn into a fireball that flies through the air at a speed of 1,000 miles per hour. You can do nothing but fly during this time, and if you touch down, hit an object, or are stopped or slowed down at any point the effect ends. Navigation in this form is difficult, and requires a Survival check with a DC equal to 10 +1 per 100 miles travelled.

Short in Stature (Ex): You are particularly slight of build, even for one of the hill people. While your weapon and equipment use, space, reach, and movement are determined by your true size category, for all other purposes you calculate your modifiers as if you were one size smaller.

Sweet tooth (Ex): Many hill people are strongly drawn to sweets, from gooseberry pies to nut bars. However, they do not carry such things themselves, and do not wish to pay for them. You are one such hill person. If you acquire a dessert through a skill check (Bluff, Diplomacy, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth are most common), once during the next 24 hours you can use that skill check result in place of any failed skill check for a skill you have at least as many ranks in. If you acquire a new dessert with a new skill check before you use the old one, you can keep the new check in reserve if it is better, but you may only have one in reserve at a time. Once you use this ability to replace a skill check, you can’t use it again until you organize your notes.

Wide of Vision (Ex): Hill people are often very alert to their surroundings. You gain a bonus to Perception checks equal to half your class level (minimum +3). Additionally, if you succeed at a Perception check to act on a surprise round, you may choose to limit yourself to a move action while warning your allies within 60 feet of the danger you spotted, allowing them to also act on the surprise round.

Wishful Banter (Ex): Hill people are excellent at cheering people up and imagining better circumstances. Over the course of one minute, you can daydream about better circumstances for yourself, and a number of willing allies equal to your Charisma bonus (who must be willing to discuss things they would prefer with you). You and those allies each gain a +1 morale bonus to one d20 check made in the next 24 hours. The decision to use this bonus must be made prior to the check. The bonus increases to +2 at 5th level, and by an additional +1 for every 5 levels thereafter.

Luck of the Hill Folk (Su): Things just tend to go well for hill people, and their allies, and tend to go badly for those who wish them harm. Beginning at 2nd level, once per day as a swift or immediate action after a d20 roll of a creature within 60 feet has been determined to be a success or failure, you may immediately force the die to be rerolled. The new roll is used to determine if the original roll was successful or note. This second roll gains a bonus or penalty (your choice), equal to 1, +a value equal to 1/5 your level.

You gain an additional use of this ability at 4th level, and every 2 levels thereafter.

Hill Lord (Su): At 20th level if the hill person would lose the lack the power to do harm class feature due to making an attack or taking a hill form that isn’t a 1 HD or less animal, he can decide not to lose the benefits of the ability by expending a daily use of luck of the hill folk. This leaves the hill person clear to attack and take any desired form for 1 minute.

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Pathfinder Template: Boss Monster

A template for 1st ed Pathfinder, to turn a foe into a Boss Monster.

CR: +2
Initiative: If a boss’s total initiative is less than 15, it changes to 15. If that would cause it to go last in the first full round of combat, it’s initiative improves until it goes next-to-last.
HP: Double total HP
Boss Action: At the end of each round, the Boss gains an additional full-round action. It cannot use this to run, charge, or double-move if it has already done any of those things this turn.
Boss Bash: As a full-round action, a Boss can move itself up to its move and damage all creatures adjacent to it at any point as if it had hit them with a melee attack. If the boss had some kind of limitations on its movement they do not affect this action, but are still in place after it takes this action. This movement does not provoke an attack of opportunity. Alternatively, it can expend a spell or spell-like ability to damage these creatures equal to  1d6 per spell level +1d6 per 2 caster levels.
This ability looks and is described differently based on what the boss is, and does damage of a type the boss can normally do.
Boss Options: Anything other than boss bash that the boss can do a limited number of times per day, or per minute, or per round, it can do twice as often.
Boss Resilience: If a failed saving throw would normally cause a boss to be helpless, unconscious, dead, or paralyzed, and the boss still has the boss action ability, the failed saving throw instead just strips the boss of its boss action for 1d4+6 rounds.
Treasure: Give double treasure.

There you go! All the boss’s numbers and abilities are in the range PCs can deal with, but it’s twice as tough and dangerous, and harder to pin down or isolate!

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Fantasy Pollaxe for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

Once again, I was watching the show Forged in Fire, and found myself moved to write Pathfinder Roleplaying Game stats for the features weapon. In this case it was a pollaxe, which is similar in some regards to the halberd and lucerne hammer, but distinct enough (and was common enough) I think it deserves its own write-up.

Martial Two-Handed Weapon

Name    Cost       Dmg (S) Dmg (M)    Crit    Weight   Type      Special
Pollaxe  30gp      1d8           1d10           x2       7 lbs.        B/S/P     Brace, Trip

A pollaxe is a common weapon among knights and those who must face heavily armored foes on foot. It has a wooden haft between fix and six-and-a-half feet long, with languets running along the top third or half. A metal head is mounted to the top, which features an axe blade, hammerhead, and spike. It is often confused with the halberd (which has a larger axe blade and normally no hammer), and the lucerne hammer (which has a clawhead rather than an axe blade).

A proficient character can use a pollaxe one-handed. Whenever a pole-axe is used one-handed, it is a one-handed weapon, and it’s damage die is reduced by one step (to d8, for S/M weapons).

A proficient character using a pollaxe two-handed, and who has the Lunge feat, can use Lunge with the pollaxe while taking only a -1 penalty to AC (rather than the normal -2).

A proficient character using a pollaxe two-handed, and who has the Combat Patrol feat, can use Combat Patrol as a standard action (rather than the full round action).

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Let Me Tell You About My Character (Velor)

Seriously, this is nothing more than a character history for a Pathfinder game I’m playing tonight. I wrote it yesterday, and decided to post it. There’s nothing particularly special here, it’s just a quick look at what I consider a typical character history for a d20 game PC.

Velor Varrison

Velor was born to the warrior-hero Varri in a yurt belonging to the Wildtusk following of the realm of the Mammoth Lords during the depth of winter. She passed him to a shaman within minutes of birth, saying the infant would carry her name but in no other way be a child of hers. She left the following within a day, and though her name and deeds echoed back to Velor many times, he never again laid eyes on her.

Her words were repeated to him many times, “In no other way a child of mine.” Velor knew Varri had great deeds to perform, and did not begrudge her wishing to do it without the responsibility of raising a child. At the same time, the two married women shamans who did the work of raising him took the duty of his upbringing seriously, though they owed him no debt of blood or kinship. Velor came to believe that responsibility could not be forced upon you, but once you took on some duty it could not be put down until fulfilled or another is found to replace it. Raising a child was a sacred duty, but the childless are more free to take risks and struggle to end the evils of the world without needing to worry about their need to care for a younger being.

Velor sought to follow in his birth-mother’s footsteps, to be strong and able to defeat evil. But his two mothers also ensured he was well-educated, by Mammoth Lord standards, and taught him the basics of the spiritual world and the gods. In particular, he was struck by tales of ancient Thassilon, an empire that had long since ended but the evils of which insisted on lingering to the modern day. Obsessed with the idea that the rightful time of Thassilon and all its works had passed, Velor learned the ancient language and considered becoming a shaman so he could use spirts to seek out and remove the evils of Thassilon. Following in his adoptive mothers’ footsteps, he began spending nights deep in the dark snow, alone, meditating and seeking to make contact with a spirit of his own, a creature to guide and serve him. Weeks passed. Then months. Then years.

Then something answered.

As Velor knelt in darkness, so far from the Wildtusk camp that its fires were little more than points of light, a great black rose grew from the ice before him. It spoke to him, a quiet whisper in the wind he could barely hear, but which also filled his mind with every word. But this was not a spirit, and what it offered was not to serve Velor but to burden him with responsibility.

Some things, it said, must end. And if they continue on past their time, they must be destroyed. Velor could become an agent of those endings, to shoulder the holy duty of annihilating those things that should no longer exist. It would cost him everything. He would have no child to carry on his name, would have no place within his following. He would be forever struggling, with no home to call his own and no rest or reward in this life for constant toil. He would suffer, and fail, and watch friends fall, and someday die, in abject failure, with blood on his lips.

And in the next life, he would be reforged as an even greater tool of rightful ends. He would continue to struggle, and destroy, and act as an agent of the sunset of evil, eternally. His path would not be that of his birth-mother, or his life-mothers, but the path of a weapon of the gods. A bringer of destruction, for those evils that could only be ended through violence. There would be no paradise for Velor. Only an eternal existence of bloody service, for the greater good. But Velor felt the righteousness of the Black Rose’s cause, and knew it sought only to destroy those things that were blights on the world, wicked forces that, like boils, could only be cured with a sharp blade.

Velor did not hesitate. He swore his service to the Black Rose, to become the executioner of those things that must be stopped. He took up arms, naming his javelins the Black Thorns, and the specially-forged curved two-handed blade Woundgiver. He stayed with his following long enough to ensure he was capable, that he could survive on his own and be useful to the Black Rose, rather than immediately placing himself in situations where others would have to risk themselves to save him.

But before he was sure he was ready, word came from a fur trader, that Thassilon’s name was spoken more and more to the South and West, in the lands of Varisia.

Within a week Velor left his home, to fulfil the responsibility he had undertaken.

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OGL Declaration: This post is not released under the OGL. No part of it is open content.

Ichthine–A Species for all -finder games!

As far as I can tell, the urge to do this species came straight from the art, by the amazing Jacob Blackmon. Certainly nothing else I can think of inspired this. The write up should work for both the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

ICHTHINE

The ichthine are an ancient, accomplished species who have had access to star travel for millions of years. Able to place themselves into a natural form of hibernation, their species travelled the stars in vast slower-than-light ships to explore and learn. However, lacking any way to communicate with each other or their homeworld, each ichthine ship became its own hub of knowledge and developed its own culture. Most eventually began to break down in systems lacking the technology to repair or replace their advanced systems, and the ichthine inhabitants within eventually choose a new world to colonize. Ichthine than thus be found on thousands of world, many of which have no native star-travel capacity, or have only developed such capacity in recent centuries. If the original ichthine homeworld is still populated, none of the current ichthine populations know where it is. It has even been suggested the ichthine originated in a different galaxy, though most scholars dismiss this as hyperbolic legend.

Ichthine culture has survived, however, in part because they have a remarkable racial memory that retains a great deal of core knowledge from generation to generation. Each ichthine is born knowing the Aquan language, already able to speak and understand basic phrases, with a general knowledge of the history of their line. Thus most ichthine populations are aware of their long history of star travel, even those living on worlds with no more than iron age levels of technology. While the ichthine diaspora happened so long ago that many isolated ichthine populations have evolved to look radically different than their distant cousins, most recognize their kinship to ichthine of all types, and can remember in general terms a time when they had a united appearance.

On many worlds ichthine are known as “grandparent fish,” and are considered skilled advisors and scholars, Icthine generally take a long view of things, from history to politics to religious tolerance. This partially comes from their long lifespans and partially from their racial memories, but also seems to be a natural tendency of the species. While young ichthine are significantly more excitable than their older relatives, even as “tads” ichthine generally contemplate major actions and their consequences before diving into them.

However, once an ichthine has decided a risk or consequence is worth the benefit that causes it, they are loathe to reconsider that opinion without significant new evidence. This sometimes leads to ichthine picking up damaging vices, or remaining friends with people who have changed from being short-sighted or brash to being genuinely destructive or evil. Ichthine also think strongly in terms of groups, and hate excluding anyone once they have been accepted into any social or cultural organization.

Grandparent Fish

(Art by Jacob Blackmon. Available as stock art here!)

Species Traits

Ichthine are Medium monstrous humanoids. Despite their fishlike appearance, they can easily manipulate items with their nimble fins as well as a human with two normal hands.

+2 Wis, +2 Cha, -2 Str. Ichthine are calm and caring, often contemplating how helping others may help them as well, but have frame ill-suited to the leverage needed for optimized application of strength.

Movement. Ichthine have a 20-foot move rate, and a 30-foot swim rate.

Deep Senses. Ichthine have low-light vision and darkvision. When in a liquid environment, they also have blindsight, 30 feet.

Amphibious. Ichthine can breath air and water with equal ease.

Depth acclimated. Icthine ignore penalties for high pressure, both in water and in normal atmosphere.

Hibernate (Ex). As a full action an ichthine can slow its metabolism to a crawl, radically reducing its need for air, water, and food. In this state it does not suffocate or starve, and is considered unconscious for most purposes. However, a hibernating ichthine can make Perception checks at -10 to notice changes to its environment while hibernating, and choose to end its hibernation as a full action. A DC 10 Medicine check is required to differentiate between a hibernating ichthine and a dead one. An icthine’s hibernation can last for tens of thousands of years with no harm.

Racial Memory (Ex). An ichthine can attempt a recall lore task with untrained skills, regardless of the check’s DC. An ichthine receives a +2 bonus to all recall lore checks. If the recall lore check is for questions relating to the ichthine’s own heritage, this bonus increases to +10.

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Webbing Wednesday! noose webs

It’s Webnesday! When we take a look at web-related monster abilities for some d20 games!

This week, we look at: Noose Webs!

For Pathfinder!

Noose Webs (Ex): Any creature taking penalties or suffering a condition from this creature’s webs is also subject to choking every round any effort is made to free it from the webbing (by damaging the webbing, making an Strength check, and so on). Make a grapple check using the CMB of the creature that created the web (even if it is not present) against the target’s CMD. If the check is successful, the target cannot speak or breath and is fatigued that round. If the check is successful for a second consecutive round, the target also begins to suffocate.

For Starfinder!

Noose Webs (Ex): Any creature taking penalties or suffering a condition from this creature’s webs is also subject to choking every round any effort is made to free it fro the webbing (by damaging the webbing, making an Strength check, and so on). Make a grapple maneuver the melee attack bonus of the creature that created the web (even if it is not present) against the target’s KAC +8. If the check is successful, the target cannot speak or breath, takes bludgeoning damage equal to 1d4, +2 per CR of the creature creating the web, and is fatigued that round. If the check is successful for a second consecutive round, the target also begins to suffocate.

Armor’s environmental protections can prevent the inability to breath or speak (though not the bludgeoning damage) as long as they were active before the creature was affected by the web. Otherwise the webbing is wrapped around the target’s throat already, and activating the armor’s environmental protection has no effect.

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