Blog Archives

Under the Weather: Minor Ailments for 4 ttRPGs

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.

Cat Pics

I have a ko-fi, where you can see pictures of my housemate’s adorable cat, and (if you like), buy me a coffee (or, today, a mug of hot soup).

Owen Explains It All — Nanoknights for Starfinder

Before we get to any OGL content, an editorial aside:

First, this blog has very mild spoilers for The Eternals — the Marvel movie and comic book characters. So if you want to avoid those, don’t read this.

Second, you may be wondering why is this tagged as an “Owen Explains It All” post, when that’s very unlike my normal marketing tone? Well, because this links into a show from the BAMF podcast I’m on, titled “Owen Explains It All!“. We do an episode every two weeks, picking new things from the zeitgeek to use as inspiration for game material, specifically the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

We have a logo and everything!

When I saw Marvel’s “The Eternals,” I immediately thought the Eternals themselves could easily serve as the basis for android nanocytes (the new Starfinder class from tech Revolution). For those who don’t know, the Eternals are a created species of servants who work for Celestials (enormous space entities that work to manipulate and regulate the entire universe). Eternals have always had classic superpowers, and were the basis for numerous legends about heroes and gods in the Marvel universe.

Numerous members of he movie version of the Eternals specifically have the ability to create weapons, shields, guns, gauntlets, and similar objects out of lines of golden energy (though some can also fly, polymorph things, mind control crowds, and so on). We discussed how the Eternals could serve as a model for introducing new groups and power sources to a Starfinder game on the January 13th, 2022 episode of Owen Explains It All.

And all of that leads me to Nanoknights, as OGL content

Nanoknight

Nanoknights are a form of nanocyte with a much greater focus on weapons and other gear formed from their nanites, and no ability to create an external cloud of nanites to affect large areas. Nanoknights are often created by powerful extraplanar beings or ancient aliens able to manipulate reality on such a vast level they are referred to as “space gods.” Most space gods create a single order of nanoknights, often given a colorful name such as “Infinknights” or “The Interlocutors.” The visual look of nanite arrays of nanoknights or the same order are usually unified, often appearing as semisolid objects made of glowing lines with a single color or pattern in common.

Though order of nanoknights are often created with the expectation they will operate together and serve their creator’s cause, over millions of years of such ancient orders existing, conflict can arise, and the nanoknight gift can sometimes accidentally be granted to creatures not selected by an order’s creator.

Nanoknights have the following changes to their cloud and gear arrays.

Cloudless: You cannot create a cloud array. If a faculty or knack grants you an ability that impacts creatures touching or within a cloud array, you may instead add that affect to creatures adjacent to you, and to each creature you hit with an attack. No creature can be affected more than once per turn.

Greater Gear Array: Your gear array follows the normal gear array rules, except as noted below.

*Only you can use your major and minor forms.

*Your major forms can include a shield or suit or armor upgrade. A shield follows the same rules as a weapon in terms of being held. Armor upgrades slot into an appropriate empty armor upgrade slot in armor you are wearing

*Your major and minor forms can be items with an item level 1 higher than your class level.

*Weapons you create that have an item level below your class level gain a bonus to damage equal to the difference. Thus if a 5th level nanocyte forms a 3rd level weapon with their gear array, they gain a +2 bonus to all damage done with it.

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Guard Dog Feat for d20 Games

Look, guard dogs are a common element of fantasy and feudal adventures, but they can add a lot of hassle for bookkeeping and worrying about their well-being in a ttRPG. So, maybe we just let people take a feat so they can have a dog that barks when assassins creep up in the night, and otherwise don’t worry about it?

This can also be used as a group benefit a GM passes out as a reward for PCs buying a stronghold, or saving an animal, or having an official group name and working together.

This is written to work in a number of d20-baed ttRPGs, so the formatting and language may need to be tweaked to perfectly match the exact game you are playing.

If they don't keep dogs, maybe.
(I *love* The 13th Warrior)

Guard Dog

You have a guard dog. It doesn’t put itself at risk during combat, does not make attacks, and just serves as an early waring system when you are stationary. You cannot use it to send messages, threaten prisoners, carry equipment, or any other task.

As long as you have access to your normal equipment you are expected to have access to your guard dog, unless the GM specifically says otherwise. While the GM can have your guard dog involved in other matters if they wish, doing so is specifically under the purview of the GM’s discretion. This game mechanics of this feat provide for a guard animal’s senses to help protect you out of combat, and in return for expending the resource of the feat and limiting the animal to early warning, you are not required to track its exact location, hit points, food needs, and so on. If the guard dog needs special accommodations to survive in the area you are adventuring, and everyone else in the party has them, you are considered to have managed to cobble together what the guard dog needs.

When you are camping or otherwise staying in one place for a long period of time (such as hanging out in a tavern, sleeping, having a picnic, crafting objects in a shop, and so on), the guard dog can make a Perception check with a bonus equal to half your maximum possible Perception bonus without any spells or equipment augmenting it. The guard dog can see, smell, or hear threats. If the guard dog perceives a threat, it barks loudly, alerting everyone nearby who then may act as if they had successfully made a Perception check to notice the threat.

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“Toss a Credit to Your Jinxer,” Soldier Fighting Style for Starfinder

Obviously when working on ShadowFinder, one of the things I want to do is give new character options that will help produce the kinds of PCs I expect people to want for that modern-urban-fantasy Play Mode. While many of those are inspired by various urban fantasy media, there are also fantasy, horror, and scifi concepts that adapt well. The Jinxer is one such concept, adapted as a soldier fighting style.

Jinxer Fighting Style

You have been trained to oppose monsters and supernatural threats. In this pursuit you can create and utilize special serums to enhance your abilities, and over time change your physiology to gain access to greater eldritch powers.

(Art by Jacob Blackmon)

Personal Serums (Ex) – 1st Level

You have learned to take materials that would be useless at best for others (and poisonous at worst) to make a serum specifically designed to boost your metabolism. When you regain your daily abilities, you can create any one enhancement serum with an item level of 5 or less. This serum works only for you, and expires after 24 hours, as well as whenever you create a new personal serum. You can draw and consume this serum as a move action. You can recreate an expended personal serum whenever you recuperate*. While there is no cost to this serum, you must have access to your personal possessions to be able to create it.

Jinxer Power (Su) – 5th Level

When you consume a serum (including your personal serum), you can use it to unlock special powers. Each time you drink a serum, select one of the powers below. It lasts for 10 minutes per soldier level.
Darkvision: You gain darkvision with a range of 90 feet.
Extreme Speed: You gain a +10-foot enhancement bonus to your land speed.
Jinxer Blast: You access phrenic powers to gain a telekinetic strike, allowing you to make a special ranged unarmed strike that targets KAC, requires one hand, is not archaic, has a range increment of 30 feet, bludgeoning damage, is a force effect, and has the stunned critical hit effect. For the duration of this ability, you gain a special version of the Weapon Specialization feat that adds 1-1/2 times your level to the damage of this unarmed strike (rather than adding your level).

*Recuperate is my proposed term for when a character takes a 10-minute rest and expends a Resolve point to regain Stamina points.

Jinxer’s Vigor (Ex) – 9th level

When you consume a serum (including your personal serum), you also heal damage equal to your soldier level. If this healing exceeds your max HP, you gain the additional healing as temporary HP that alst for 10 minutes per soldier level. These otherwise work as jinxer powers.

Expanded Jinxer Power (Su) – 13th Level

When you drink a serum (including your personal serum) you add the following powers to those you can select with the jinxer power.

Black Blood: Your blood becomes toxic. Any creature that damages you with a bite attack must make a Fortitude save or be sickened for 1 minute/soldier level. Adjacent creatures that damage you also must make this save, but gain a +4 bonus to their saving throw.

Ear for Trouble: You gain blindsense, 30 feet.

Jinxer Resilience: You gain DR/– and energy resistance to acid, cold, electricity, fire, and sonic equal to 1/4 your soldier level.

Rapid Reactions: You gain a +4 bonus to Initiative checks.

Greater Jinxer Power (Su) – 17th Level

When you gain a jinxer power from drinking a serum (including your personal serum), you may select two abilities rather than just one.

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Holiday-Themed Constructs

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.

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Converting PF1 spells to Starfinder: Abjuring Step

Still converting Pathfinder 1st edition spells to Starfinder, and going back to alphabetical order (unless a member of my Patreon asks for something be done out-of-order, as happened with the shield spell; which is a great reason to join my Patreon!), with abjuring step. (You can find an index of the spells that have been converted to-date here).

The PF1 version of abjuring step is all about casting spells and not provoking attacks of opportunity. It’s primarily designed to boost the effectiveness of spellcasters who do a lot of touch-range buffs, since those need to get up lose to combat to be effective. It mitigates that power by ending if you make an attack or move too far. Spells like that are less common in Starfinder (fewer buffs in general, and some touch range spells specify they don’t provoke, though there are a few such as supercharge weapon). Attacks of opportunity are also less of a threat, both because fewer things provke (only THREE things can provoke an AoO in Starfinder), and because there’s no mechanism to allow foes to make multiple AoOs in a round.

So, if we want abjuring step to stay a useful option, we either need to increase it’s utility, or we need to reduce its spell level. While we could make it a 0-level spell, that comes with an additional set of complications (as 0-level spells can be cast an unlimited number of times). So, to keep things simple, let’s see if we can’t make abjuring step powerful enough to be appealing as a 1st-level option.

This version allows attacks, and even encourages popping out from cover, shooting, and moving back into cover. But rather than prevent AoOs, it makes the first one taken against you fail, then ends the spell. This gives it broader utility even in a game with many fewer attacks of opportunity, and makes it of use for a broader range of spellcaster builds, but also prevents it from becoming immunity to AoOs for a whole battle with one casting of the spell.

(Art by roman3d)

Abjuring Step
Classes mystic 1, technomancer 1, witchwarper 1
School abjuration
Casting Time 1 standard action
Range personal
Duration 1 round/level
Abjuring step allows you to take a full action to make up to two guarded steps, and either cast a spell with a casting time of one standard action or make a single attack. You can take both guarded steps before or after the attack or spellcasting, or take one guarded step before and one after. If a foe makes an attack of opportunity against you, the attack automatically fails, but the abjuring step spell is dismissed.

Casting abjuring step does not provoke an attack of opportunity.

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Converting PF1 spells to Starfinder: Abeyance

Still converting Pathfinder 1st edition spells to Starfinder, and going back to alphabetical order, with abeyance. (You can find an index of the spells that have been converted to-date here).

In Pathfinder 1st edition, abeyance allows you to temporarily suppress a spell you could remove with remove curse, but only once. It’s a pretty straightforward concept. There are a few tricks to getting this conversion right–you have to know that there’s no “remove curse” spell in Starfinder, it’s function being subsumed by the much broader remove affliction. (Interesting aside: ever wonder WHY we blended neutralize disease, remove curse, and remove disease into a single spell in Starfinder? It’s because since all spellcasters are spontaneous casters, rather than most being preparation-based as in PF1, and no class gets access to its entire spell list as spells known, as clerics and druids and many divine casters do in PF1, selecting a spell to remove affections that only show up in-game occasionally is a much bigger commitment. So making sure all afflictions can be handled by one spell makes it more likely it’ll be useful, and you never have to face selecting remove disease as a spell and then discovering you are in an adventure that only has curses and poisons).

So, we want to keep that design philosophy alive with abeyance, and we want to make sure our new spells is level-balanced and given to appropriate classes as a Starfinder option. You can detect afflictions as a 0-level spell, and being able to remove them is a 3rd level spell, so a once-only spell to suspend them temporarily (especially given the travel times involved in spaceships in Starfinder) is definitely a 1st-level spell, and likely one you only select once you are at least mid-level.

Abeyance
Classes mystic 1, witchwarper 1
School abjuration (healing)
Casting Time 1 minute
Range touch
Target creature touched
Duration 24 hours
Saving Throw Will negates (harmless); Spell Resistance yes (harmless)

Abeyance suppresses the effects of a single afflcition (a curse, disease, or poison) on a creature. It does not restore any damage or drain that might have been caused by the affliction. Abeyance cannot suppress afflictions that cannot be removed by remove affliction, but it can suppress afflictions such as lycanthropy that require remove affliction along with additional measures. Once an individual affliction has been suppressed only by abeyance, it cannot be suppressed by the spell again, even if its cast by a different caster. However, if an affliction is being actively suppressed by an abeyance, casting abeyance on that target against before the duration ends resets the duration for another 24 hours. It is possible to suspend an infliction indefinitely this way, as long as the duration is never allowed to run out.

Abeyance does not allow a creature to divest itself of cursed objects, though it can suppress a curse contracted from an object.

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Converting PF1 spells to Starfinder: The Shield Spell

So, back to converting Pf1 spells to Starfinder. (You can find an index of the spells that have been converted to-date here). A member of my Patreon asked I tackle the shield spell next, rather than wait until I got to it in alphabetical order, so here we go!

Shield is a fascinating example of a spell that is trickier to move from Pathfinder 1st edition to Starfinder that might first appear. Obviously the effects of the PF1 version can be translated directly–at least if you are using the Character Operations Manual, Starfinder has rules for shield bonuses to AC. But looking at the tighter math in Starfinder, and the fact that all spellcasters in that game have access to at least light armor, it becomes pretty clear a +4 bonus to AC as a 1st-level spell would be game-breakingly good.

So, some analysis is called for. Can we make a version of shield that is both true to the concept of the Pathfinder version (if not the exact numbers), and yet a viable option to add to Starfinder games without ruining anything? Well, let’s look at what shield does in Pathfinder, in a comparative context.

In Pathfinder 1st ed, the shield spell gives an advantage almost as great as a 1st-level character can get with the best shield (tower shield), but without any of the drawbacks (penalties to attack, weight, and so on) or as many options (no setting it down to gain total cover from weapon attacks). It also neutralizes magic missile, which is a minor point, but one worth remembering since we have magic missile in Starfinder.

So, seen in that light, it becomes clearer that a Starfinder-compatible version of shield needs to mimic what a a level 1 piece of equipment can do. Looking at 1st-level shields, that gives us a better idea of an appropriate power level for the spell. Of course, Starfinder also has tiered spells, so we can also make higher-spell-level versions of shield, if we are so inclined…

And I am.

(Art by Max_776)

Shield
Classes technomancer 1-6, witchwarper 1-6
School abjuration (force)
Casting Time 1 standard action
Range personal
Duration 1 min./level (D)
Shield creates an invisible shield of force that hovers in front of you. It grants you a shield bonus to AC, which may be higher if you align your shield against the foe as a move action (see aligning shields in Chapter 4 of the Character Operations Manual). Additionally, if you align a shield against an incorporeal or ethereal target the force effect of the shield grants you an additional +2 AC against that creature’s attacks.

Level 1: Shield bonus +0/+1. Additionally, you are immune to damage from magic missile while the shield spell is active.
Level 2: Shield bonus +1/+1. Additionally, you are immune to damage from all 1st level spells with the force descriptor.
Level 3: Shield bonus +1/+2. Additionally, you are immune to damage from all 2nd-level and lower spells with the force descriptor.
Level 4: Shield bonus +1/+3. Additionally, you are immune to damage from all 3rd-level and lower spells with the force descriptor.
Level 5: Shield bonus +1/+4. Additionally, you are immune to damage from all 4th-level and lower spells with the force descriptor.
Level 6: Shield bonus +2/+4. Additionally, you are immune to damage from all 5th-level and lower spells with the force descriptor.

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Converting PF1 spells to Starfinder

I’ve done it with feats. So, let’s look at converting Pathfinder 1st edition spells to Starfinder,

We’ll start with the first PF1 spell, if you put them all in alphabetical order, Ab@d@r’s Truthtelling (but, you know, without mentioning the name of the Product Identity-protected god). We’re only making on real change in this from the Pathfinder version… we’re restricting it to willing targets. The reason is that the spell specifically confirms those affect by it are under its effects, which makes it overly powerful for a 1st level spell (a caster can just keep spamming the spell on a captured target, for example), so dialing it back a bit seems appropriate.

Truthtelling [Mystic 1]

Schools Enchantment (compulsion, mind-affecting)
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, DF
Range touch
Target willing creature touched
Duration 1 min./level
Saving Throw Will negates; Spell Resistance yes

Description

This spell functions identically to the spell zone of truth, except as noted above. Not only does this spell only affect willing targets, creatures are aware of what the spell is a split second before it affects them, and may withdraw consent at that time if they wish (such as if they were told it is a healing spell, rather than truthtelling). An affected target momentarily takes on the semblance of a being of perfect order, like an archon or inevitable, so that all who can see the target know it is affected by the spell. This divine guise flickers over the target for only an instant and does not allow it to pass as a member of a different race.

Index

Here’s an index of the spells that have been converted so far with this project.

Abeyance
Abjuring Step
Shield
Truthtelling

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Owen Explains It All — Predictive Math for Starfinder

Before we get to any OGL content, an editorial aside:

First, this blog has spoilers for Foundation — the book series and miniseries. So if you want to avoid those, don’t read this.

Second, you may be wondering why is this tagged as an “Owen Explains It All” post, when that’s very unlike my normal marketing tone? Well, because this links into a show from the BAMF podcast I’m on, titled “Owen Explains It All!“. We do an episode every two weeks, picking new things from the zeitgeek to use as inspiration for game material, specifically the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

We have a logo and everything!

If you haven’t already gone and watched the November 8th, 2021 episode, we talk about various versions of Issac Asimov’s Foundation. Specifically, how it is build on psycho-history, a fictional “soft science” that allows perfect mathematical predictions of the far future using predictive models of trillions of humans (and doesn’t work for smaller numbers of people, much as you can accurately model the spreading of a gas cloud, but cannot predict where a specific molecule of that cloud will go).

And all of that leads me to M-PSI, as OGL content

Mathematical Predictive Statistic Indices

Also known as M-PSI, Mathematical Predictive Statistic Indices is the science of using vast quantities of data about past events to predict the outcome of future events. M-PSI is not perfect—it models probabilities, not absolutely, and it requires trillions of points of reference in past similar events before it can make useful predictions about future outcomes. Thus it is a science that can only be developed by Elder Societies, those cultures that have actively existed and keep records for millions of years, allowing them to build up indices of enough situations to have comparable examples for nearly any occurrence.

While most ancient cultures that developed M-PSI collapsed millions of years ago, some left the indic3s themselves, allowing specialists in certain kinds of mathematics to use them in a predictive manner. Learning M-PSI is extremely difficult, and is modeled by requiring characters to take feats to have a useful grasp of the techniques.

M-PSI 101
You can use pure the math of Mathematical Predictive Statistic Indices to determine how to interact with and define the real world.
Prerequisite: 1 rank Profession (Mathmetician)
Benefit: Select two of the following skills; Computers, Engineering, Life Science, Physical Science. You can make a Profession (Mathematician) check in place of any check for the selected skills.
Special: You can select this feat more than once. Each time, you must choose 2 different skills from the list.

P-PSI 201
You can use pure the math of Mathematical Predictive Statistic Indices to predict the future.
Prerequisite: M-PSI 101, 4 ranks Profession (mathmatician)
Benefit: As long as you have access to a tier 0 or higher computer (such as a datapad), you can use M-PSI to actually predict future events. Doing so takes 1 minute, requires the expenditure of 1 Resolve Point, and is an extraordinary ability. The stress of M-PSI on any sapient brain is considerable, limiting how often the technique can be used. Once you complete use this feat, you cannot do so again until after you next recuperate*.

If you have 4 or more ranks of Profession (mathematician) your M-PSI formula can duplicate the effects of a 1st-level Akashic tutor spell.

If you have 7 or more ranks of Profession (mathematician) your M-PSI formula can duplicate the effects of a predict foe spell, except once you take a minute to perform the M-PSI formula, the benefit lasts until expended or you again use this feat for a M-PSI ability.

If you have 10 or more ranks of Profession (mathematician) ) your M-PSI formula can duplicate the effects of a probability prediction spell, except once you take a minute to perform the M-PSI formula, the benefit lasts until expended or you again use this feat for a M-PSI ability.

If you have 13 or more ranks of Profession (mathematician) your M-PSI formula can duplicate the effects of a divination spell. This takes 1 hour, and can only be done 1ce per day.

Expanded Post

This is an Expanded Post, with the rules for nanite IDs (an item inspired by the Foundation miniseries, rather than the books) available to my Patrons, who provide me with the support that makes these posts possible. If you aren’t already a member of my Patreon, sign up and all the Expanded Posts to date become available!