Monday, March 31, 2014

Let's Make a Deal

My Heroes of Sandpoint Pathfinder campaign will be coming to a close in a few weeks and my mind has already moved onto what I'm going to do next. Likewise, my players are currently brainstorming what kind of characters they want to play and one of them has a concept for a Pathfinder character that might sound a little strange.

He has an idea for an elemental sorcerer who happened to be born blind. Wishing to give their child sight, they traveled to the land of Alkenstar and managed to have the engineers of the duchy extract his useless eyes and replace them clockwork ones. These new, technological eyes would grant him the darkvision ability that dwarves and half-orcs possess. 

Now, I like it when my players come up with interesting concepts and I always try my hardest to help them represent some of those concepts within the rules of the system that we happen to be using at the time. I also believe in making deals with players who want something for their characters because nothing comes for free. 

Using the above example, the players wants their character to have artificial body parts that grant them an ability that humans usually don't have within the d20 system. However, I don't want to give it too him for free. So, if he decides to use this character, I'd probably have him trade the bonus feat that humans usually receive and replace it with the darkvision ability. 

I really believe more Game Masters should be willing to make these deals with their players. All you have to remember is to make the player agree to a condition or make a payment in return for the ability.

For example, let's say your player wants to begin the game with a masterwork rapier that his father once forged for a customer with an extra finger on one of his hands. However, the father refused to give the blade to the customer and was killed by him for it. This blade is all the character has left of him and hopes to use it to kill the customer and gain vengeance for his father. A very original concept indeed.

Being the GM of this hypothetical player, I would most likely allow him to have this masterwork rapier with one, simple condition: they can never sell or get rid of it. Since this is the only thing the character has of his father's left and it symbolizes his current purpose in life, I think that's a pretty fair condition.

However, there should be a limit to this. You shouldn't make a deal if the only reason the character wants something for purely mechanical reasons. Also, you shouldn't make the deal if the thing the character wants would make them really overpowered or the equivalent payment would most likely make the character unplayable. For example, making a deal for a player who wants to be able to use finger of death as a spell like ability at will might be a little much.

Just remember to keep the deals in check and make sure the payments and conditions are equivalent to what the player wants. If you keep those in mind, making these kinds of deals shouldn't be problematic. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Rest In Peace, Dave Trampier

Photograph of Dave A. Trampier
On March 24, Dave Trampier passed away at the age of 59. Most people within the gaming community probably recognize Trampier as the artist behind numerous TSR illustrations, like the original cover of the 1st Edition Player's Handbook and Gamma World. While he had a falling out with the company and left the industry, his name and work are still remember and celebrated to this day. You will be missed Mr. Trampier.
Art by Dave Trampier

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Elemental Dwarves

Art by Beastysakura
While most of the community seems to favor the long-eared bastards more commonly known as elves, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for dwarves. I've always felt some strange connection with the bearded individuals and enjoy playing them. 

However, I find it incredibly annoying how dwarves seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes interesting reimaginings. Besides the occasional exception, almost every published campaign setting I've ever read has dwarves acting exactly like the ones found in Tolkein's works. 

So, I think its time to change that. 

I've been toying around with different ways to make dwarves a little more unique and different while keeping the core elements that make dwarves what they are. That's when it hit me. Why not make them pseudo-elementals? 

Long ago, when the world was young and life was still new, the deities that had created the mortal realm decided to create a handful of races that would act as guardians and caretakers of the world. The dragons were giving dominion over the skies, the fey were given the forests and fields, the mermaids would watch over the oceans, and the giants were given the mountains. 

While the giants were content at first to spend their days watching over their rocky domain for their divine masters, they eventually grew tired and wished to create servants of their own. Using powerful, primordial magics, the giants forged a species from stone and gave it life through divine fire. This race was the dwarves. Although the dwarves were excellent servants at first, they started to rebel agaisnt their giant overlords because the giant wizards had overlooked something when working their magic: they didn't realize the magic would continue to evolve and would eventually give their creations free will. 

Now, thousands of years later, the dwarves are no long under the control of the giants. While their kingdoms have risen and fallen during the ages, the race continues to remain strong and refuses to let their failures break them. After all, they were forged from stone itself and a literal fire rages inside of them. Dwarves are strong and solidly built, with skin colored stoney shades of black, brown, gray, or white. While all dwarves appear vaguely earthly, a few bear more pronounced signs of their elemental heritage skin that shines like polished onyx or rocky outcroppings protruding from their flesh. The most pronounced physical feature of dwarves are the flames that extend from their heads like hair. While a warmth radiates from these flames, they strangely do not burn those who touch them. Dwarves usually possess eyes that are as black as obsidian or a fiery red. 

I admit, the "forged from stone" part isn't the most original origin for dwarves. However, I feel like you have to have that be apart of their origin if you want to make them pseudo-elementals. I basically took the physical descriptions of Oreads (earth elemental planetouched from Pathfinder) and azers and combined them for these dwarves. Mechanically, they are the same as your standard dwarf. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fantasy Fiction Tuesday: The Black Company (1984)

Last Month, I talked about one of my favorite fantasy sub-genres: dark fantasy. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a high fantasy tale just as much as the next person. I just like grim & gritty fantasy stories more. Well, as long as they're well-written and don't become "grimdark."

While there are numerous examples of great dark fantasy stories out there (with a certain series by George R. R. Martin being the most obvious one), I thought I might go with something a little older and more classic: Glen Cook's The Black Company

The first of a series of novels that share the same name, The Black Company follows an elite band of mercenaries called the Black Company. After breaking the contract with their previous employer, the Company travels north to fight a growing rebellion which hopes to overthrow an evil empress known simply as the Lady and her powerful servants, the wizards known as the Ten Who Were Taken. 

The Black Company is a perfect example of dark fantasy done right. Unlike other authors, Cook doesn't seem to revel in the gritty elements of his story. Instead, Cook has his narrator (the Company's annalist and surgeon Croaker) present the story of their time in north in a somewhat dispassionate way, treating these events as just that: events that happen during wartime, whether you like it or not. I feel like that was the right way to go with this kind of story, and choosing to tell this tale as someone recording it for future members of the Black Company to look back on really works as well. 

Cook also does a fantastic job in the character department and introduces some interesting concepts. One of the most important elements to any dark fantasy story is a cast of character that we can like and care about (despite their actions). Cook does this by showing the camaraderie between the members of the Company and using the first person perspective. I also love his minimalist approach to worldbuilding, just giving you enough so you'll get the idea but leaving just enough room to make you wonder and want to learn more about those same elements. Also, I'll go ahead and say the Ten Who Were Taken are some of the most interesting villains I've ever seen and I love how mysterious and weird they all were. 

However, The Black Company isn't a perfect book. Personally, I felt the novel's pacing grew a little sluggish in the middle and it made reading those chapters a little difficult at times. While you could blame this on the fact that its basically someone recording the group's history and no one in the novel ever says Croaker is a particularly good writer, but it did make parts of the book a little tedious.

Even though the pacing wasn't perfect,  I still really enjoyed The Black Company and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys dark fantasy, stories with interesting characters, or war tales with a fantastical twist. While you might have trouble with parts of the book, just keep reading. You won't regret it. I sure as hell don't. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Pathfinder Legends: A Big Finish Audio Adventure

Who doesn't like a product with a cool warrior and some goblins on it?
Big Finish is a British production company best known for their work on the Doctor Who audio dramas (which are fantastic by the way and if you're a Whovian, you should definitely give them a listen). Not too long ago, Paizo announced they were working with Big Finish to produce a series of audio dramas based on their Rise of the Runelords adventure path. The first part of that series, titled Burnt Offerings, has finally been released. 

Burnt Offerings takes place in the small town of Sandpoint, located along the coast of the region known as Varisia. Four adventures (the wizard Ezren, the ranger Harsk, the rogue Merisiel, and the fighter Valeros) arrive in Sandpoint during their annual Swallowtail Festival. Unfortunately, the festivities are cut short when a horde of goblins attack the town. 

After defeating the goblins and saving the town, these adventurers uncover the truth behind the goblin's attack and a plot to resurrect an ancient evil. Can these brave adventurers put an end to this devious scheme before its too late? 

While I've only listened to a small portion of the audio drama, I've liked what I've heard and Burnt Offerings possesses the same quality that I've come to expect from Big Finish. If you're interested in purchasing this audio drama, you can do so here.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Three Unique Magical Weapons

Last year, I talked about making magical items more unique and I stand by the statement that your basic +1 longsword is incredibly boring. I'm definitely not the first person to say this and I highly doubt I'll be the last. Recently, I've noticed a few different bloggers posting a number of unique magical swords that anyone could use. I decided to jump onto the bandwagon and post a small handful of magical weapons as well.

These magical weapons were designed for the Pathfinder RPG, but it shouldn't be too hard to adapt them to other systems. I also tried to use more than just your typical swords. While they are iconic, there are more weapons out there and I wanted to give them some time in the spotlight.

Rukh-Shmekheh: Forged by a dwarven king centuries ago during a rather nasty war with an orc horde, this greataxe was made from a strange metal that was harvested from a meteor. The handle of the axe is wrapped in black leather with an orc skull with rubies resting in the eye sockets attached to the head. These rubies glow a bright red whenever an orc is within 100 feet and magically enhancing the wielder's fighting capabilities against said orcs. ((+1 orc-bane adamantine greataxe)).

Aga'Anguthi: This ornate chakram has several rubies embedded within the steel and the image of a drake eating its own tail engraved onto it. Aga'Anguthi once belonged to the leader of a cult dedicated to an exotic fire god, signifying his connection to said god. When the wielder says the word "aga", the chakram bursts into flames (which do not harm the owner of the weapon) and have the ability to return to the user once thrown. ((+2 flaming holy returning chakram)).

Eis: This longsword was belonged to a warrior who was once the bodyguard of a powerful cryomancer. After the wizard started to delve into forbidden magics and was driven mad, the warrior slayed his master with this very same sword. When he pulled the sword free of the cryomancer, the blade was covered in a layer of blue, sharp ice that refuses to melt and the sword always feels cold to the user. ((+2 frost longsword)).

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fantasy Art Thursday: "Shelyn VS Zon-Kuthon" by Yu Cheng Hong

((Click HERE to check out more of Yu Cheng Hong's Work))
Due to the amount of times I've talked about the subject on this blog, it should come as a surprise to no one that I have a strange obsession with fantasy deities and the religions that surround them. Whenever I purchase a setting book, one of the first things I read is the religion chapter and see how this setting handles it. When I create my own settings, one of the first things I work on is the deities and religions. With that in mind, it wouldn't be that big of a leap to think I enjoy seeing gods and goddesses depicted in artwork.

The above piece by Yu Cheng Hong depicts two deities from the Pathfinder Campaign Setting. For those of you who aren't familiar with Golarion, I'll elaborate. These two deities, named Shelyn and Zon-Kuthon, are actually siblings. Zon-Kuthon was once a good deity like his sister, but he traveled to the dark places between the planes of existence and was possess and tortured by an evil being. When he returned to Golarion, a violent fight broke out between him and Shelyn, who desperately tried to reach the brother she knew and loved that was buried deep inside this dark being. Eventually, Shelyn managed to wrestle away the golden glaive the two had shared as a symbol of their power.

I feel like Hong's piece captures that piece of Golarion histor perfectly. I love how he has depicted the differences between the two deities, both physically and with their surroundings. I also like how Shelyn has more of the glaive in her grasp, showing that she is currently winning the struggle for it and how Zon-Kuthon's scenery looks like its being pushed back by Shelyn's. Finally, it's just a really well done piece of art. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New Archetype - The Privateer

When working on my revised version of the Swashbuckler class, I knew I'd eventually have to create a pirate-themed archetype for it. It seems like 9 out of 10 people want to use the Swashbuckler to play a pirate character, usually of the Captain Blood variety.

Aiming to please those who might want to play a Swashbuckler with more of a pirate flavor, I quickly threw together this archetype, using the buccaneer archetype for the gunslinger as a basis. As usual, I have not playtested this archetype, so constructive feedback is always welcome.

Pirates whose activities are authorized by a government, the privateer is the swashbuckler of the high seas. They are driven by a sense of greed and adventure and are just as adapt with a firearm as they are with a blade. A privateer has the following class features.

Weapon Finesse (Ex): Like the swashbuckler, the privateer receives Weapon Finesse as a bonus feat at 1st level. However, unlike the swashbuckler, the privateer receives the benefits of this feat while wielding the cutlass. 

Deeds: The privateer swaps three of the normal swashbuckler deeds for the following deeds: 

Pirate's Jargon: At 3rd level, the privateer's baffling palaver of nautical jargon and piratical cant provides a +2 bonus on Bluff and Intimidate checks. Furthermore, he can spend a swift action and 1 panache point to cause a single living creature within 30 feet to make a Will saving throw (DC 10 1/2 his privateer level his Charisma modifier) or become confused for 1 round. This is a mind-affecting language-dependent effect. This replaces the Pommel Strike deed. 

Rope Trick: At 7th level, as long as the privateer has at least 1 panache point, he gains a bonus on Acrobatics and Climb checks equal to his privateer level when climbing or swinging on a rope. If he spends 1 panache point, his move while climbing or swinging on a rope does not provoke an attack of opportunity. This replaces the Acrobatic Charge deed. 

Captain's Curse: At 11th level, a privateer can spend 2 panache points to use old salt's curse as a spell-like ability. At 15th level, he may use black mark instead. The caster level for these spell-like abilities is equal to the privateer's class level, and the DC is equal to 10 his privateer level + his Charisma modifier. This replaces the Bleeding Wound deed. 

Seadog (Ex): Starting at 2nd level, a privateer gains a +1 bonus to Acrobatics, Climb, and Swim checks. This bonus increases by +1 for every four levels beyond 2nd. This ability replaces Agile. 

Bonus Feat: In addition to combat and panache feats, a privateer can select from the following feats as his bonus feats: Expert Driver (water vehicles only), Master Siege Engineer, Siege Engineer, Siege Gunner, and Skilled Driver (water vehicles only). 

Sword and Pistol (Ex): At 5th level, a privateer gains Sword and Pistol as a bonus feat even if he does not meet the prerequisites. This ability replaces Finesse Training 1. 

Finesse Training (Ex): A privateer gains this ability only at 9th, 13th, and 17th level. The privateer may also choose the pistol for this ability instead of a finesse weapon. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fantasy Fiction Tuesday: Storm Front (2000)

Like every other genre of fiction, Fantasy possesses a number of smaller subgenres that focus on more specific ideas and have their own unique tropes. One of the more popular subgenres is Urban Fantasy. As the name implies, Urban Fantasy stories take place in a more contemporary setting with urban environments being a very common choice. While some "traditionalists" turn up their noises at this subgenre, I'm actually rather fond of it. I love the idea of seeing how the magical/supernatural world might interact with a seemingly mundane reality.

When choosing which novel to showcase here to represent the best of what Urban Fantasy has to offer, I have to go with one of my personal favorites: Storm Front. 

The first novel of Jim Butcher's incredibly popular The Dresden Files, Storm Front introduces us to the wizard/private investigator Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, who is currently down on his luck in the business department. However, that changes when the Chicago PD bring him in to consult on a gruesome double murder committed with black magic. Can Dresden solve this mystery before more people turn up dead, or will he end up being the next victim?

Storm Front, like the rest of the novels in The Dresden Files, blends magic with hard-boiled detective fiction beautifully. While I'm usually not a big fan of first-person narratives, Butcher utilizes it very well here, giving the reader the feeling they're reading a novelized version of a film noir that just so happened to have magic and monsters in it. Being a fan of detective stories and film noir, this is a major plus in my book.

The book also benefits from a cast of interesting characters. There's Harry Dresden, a wizard with a tragic past who has a good heart and a weak spot for pretty women, Bob, a wise-cracking air elemental who resides in a human skull, and Karrin Murphy, a police officer working for the Special Investigation division who knows how to kick ass and take names. Each character has their own unique quirks and you just want to learn more about them and see what happens to them.

Finally, Storm Front does a fantastic job at introducing us to this magical world that lurks within the shadows of our modern society. We learn about the White Council which governs the wizards of the world, how magic works, and the Nevernever, a magical realm separate from the normal world that contains almost everything from the different mythologies of the world in one form or another. Butcher has done an excellent job at crafting a world that's interesting to read about and you just want to uncover more of its secrets.

If I had to fault Storm Front on something, it would probably be the actual mystery the plot is built around. While its solid, its also incredibly easy to figure out who the bad guy is and what's actually going on within the first few chapters. However, I still enjoyed reading the book and I feel like Butcher does a better job in this department with the other books in the series.

If you want to check out Urban Fantasy and want to see what its all about, I highly recommend giving Storm Front and the rest of The Dresden Files a read. They're well-written, have interesting characters, and a pretty cool setting.

Monday, March 17, 2014

New Race - Half-Dwarf

Although I generally prefer playing human characters when playing fantasy games, I have a soft spot in my heart for halfbreeds. I love playing characters who exist between two worlds and have to deal with that struggle. While I enjoy playing half-elves and half-orcs, I thought dwarves should get some love in this department. So, here is the half-dwarf for the Pathfinder RPG. 

While not as common as half-elves or half-orcs due to dwarven views on breeding with other races, a small number of half-dwarves inhabit the world. The combine the flexibility and tenacity of a humankind as well as the strength and resilience of dwarves. Although they might be a rare sight, very few people forget a half-dwarf after meeting one.

As expected, half-dwarves possess physical traits shared by both humans and dwarves. Most are only slightly smaller than humans, but possess the broader builds of their dwarven parents. Their hair and eye color is just as varied as humans, but usually favors darker shades. Most half dwarves favor long hair and males tend to grow equally long beards, but not all do.
Half-dwarves possess the following racial traits: 

+2 to One Ability Score: Due to their human ancestry, half-dwarves receive a +2 bonus to one ability score of their choice.

Medium: Half-dwarves are Medium creatures and receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.

Slow and Steady: Half-dwarves have a base speed of 20 feet, but their speed is never modified by armor or encumbrance.

Darkvision: Half-dwarves can see up to 60 feet in the dark.

Adaptability: Half-dwarves receive Skill Focus as a bonus feat at 1st level.

Dwarf Blood: Half-dwarves count as both dwarves and humans for any effect related to race.

Hardy: Half-dwarves gain a +2 racial bonus on saving throws against poison, spells, and spell-like abilities.

Stability: Half-dwarves gain a +4 racial bonus to their Combat Maneuver Defense when resisting a bull rush or trip attempt while standing on the ground.

Languages: Half-dwarves begin play speaking Common and Dwarven. Half-dwarves with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Giant, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, Terran, and Undercommon.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Spring Break

Next week happens to be Spring Break in my neck of the woods. Because of that, I'm going to take a small break from Dungeons Deep & Caverns Old. This is mostly to refresh my creative batteries and to prevent burnout. Don't worry though, I'll return to my regular schedule on the 17th.

Heroes of Sandpoint: The Derro of The Devil's Platter

Art by Michael Jaecks
Our Cast of Characters
  • Alfgeir Stannisson, an Ulfen Warpriest of Gorum who has traveled from the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, hoping to become a great hero like his ancestors. 
  • Fiona of Sandpoint, a Varisian Rogue who has spent most of her life on the streets of the coastal town, doing whatever she can to survive. 
  • Jon Silverbow, an Elf Ranger who hails from the Mierani Forest of northern Varisia who has a deep hatred for goblinoids. 
  • Theoian Daleborn, a Half-Elf Investigator who joined the group on the behest of Belor Hemlock, Sandpoint's current sheriff. 
A month has passed since our brave heroes managed to defeat the tiefling witch Mahga and thwart her plans to turn the entire town of Sandpoint into horrible monstrosities bound to the will of Lamashtu, the Mother of Monsters. During this time of rest and relaxation, strange things have been happening near the limestone escarpment known by the locals as the "Devil's Platter." A number of unlucky travelers have disappeared near an abandoned mine. 

Wanting to find out the cause of these disappearances, Sheriff Hemlock decided this job would be perfect for his new honorary deputies. Unfortunately, Ongar the Half-Orc Paladin of Sarenrare had taken another assignment and Tywin the Half-Elf Sorcerer was busy tracking down leads to the location of his mentor's murderer, so they could not accompany their companions on this mission. Thankfully, Sheriff Hemlock came prepared and ordered one of his best detectives, a Half-Elf named Theoian Daleborn, to investigate this mystery with them. 

Once they had gathered their equipment and supplies, the adventurers made the rather uneventful hour-long trek to the abandoned mine at the base of the Devil's Platter. While investigating the entrance, one of the heroes noticed a strange, reptilian footprint in the mud. Fearing this mine might not be so abandoned after all, they proceeded with caution. After some investigation within the initial chambers of the mine, the heroes found the source of the footprint: a small group of troglodytes. Thankfully, they managed to catch the foul-smelling creatures off-guard and quickly dispatched of them. 

While it seemed like they discovered what was kidnapping the travelers (due to the items found within the troglodytes' den), the heroes decided to investigate the other chambers just in case the creatures weren't the only inhabitants of this mine. After finding a chamber dominated by large, blue mushrooms (and killing a rather vicious basidirond), the adventurers traveled further underground and discovered what was truly behind the disappearances and what was the fate of those travelers. 

A derro alchemist dedicated to an alien deity known as Shubb-Niggurath had enslaved the troglodytes and ordered them to capture the occasional traveler so that he could perform profane experiments on them, mutating them into horrific abominations. The heroes managed to find him just as he was completing a ritual to turn him into a aberrant creature. Luckily, Theoian managed to interrupt the process with a well-placed thunderstone, causing the derro to be sucked into another dimension. Sadly, they could not save the travelers, who were now just mindless monsters. While they failed to save the travelers and had to put them out of their misery, the heroes managed to escape the mine with their lives and return to civilization. 

((If you'd like to read the recaps of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd sessions, click here, here, and here.)) 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Fantasy Art Thursday: "Ancient Gods" by Daren Bader

Click HERE to go to Daren Bader's Blog
I've mentioned before that I love a good, atmospheric piece of art. The above picture by artist Daren Bader is a perfect example of what I like to see in a piece like this. I love the rumble scattered across the flour and the sole source of light, which appears to be coming from a hole in the ceiling of this ancient temple. I like the skeletons in the alcoves in the wall and the large, armored skeleton sitting atop that stone throne, making you wonder who this temple belonged to. Also, the tentacles slowly emerging from behind the giant skeleton are a nice touch, giving you a hint at just how 'ancient' these gods are. This piece really makes me want to create a lost temple for my players to explore,  a temple that might contain its own ancient, slightly alien forces.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Musings on Varient Fighters

Art by Wayne Reynolds
One of my favorite Pathfinder classes to play is the fighter. I love playing warrior characters and I enjoy the armor and weapon-based mechanics the class possesses. However, I'll be the first to admit that it's kind of lacking when compared to the other classes.

Because of its mechanical lacking, I've been contemplating a few different variants for the class that might make it a stronger class and more interesting mechanically. Currently, these variants are still just ideas and I haven't actually tested them at the gaming table. I just want to see what other people thought of them.

 1. Challenging Fighter: This fighter variant gives the class the cavalier's Challenge ability. For those of you who aren't familiar with the cavalier, I'll elaborate. Fighters with this ability would be able to issue a challenge to a single opponent. When attacking that opponent, the fighter would deal extra damage equal to the fighter's level. However, the fighter receives a -2 penalty to Armor Class against any opponent that isn't the subject of their challenge due to the amount of concentration needed to keep up the challenge. Fighters with this ability can use it once per day at 1st level, and an additional time per day every three levels beyond that. The fighter would also receive the demanding challenge ability at 12th level, and probably a few other abilities that could add additional affects to his challenge in the place of bonus feats. This would probably be the fighter variant with the least amount of changes, except loosing the occasional bonus feat and gaining the challenge ability.

2. Gritty Fighter: This fighter variant possesses a point-based mechanic similar to the gunslinger's grit mechanic. The fighter would gain a number of points equal to their Wisdom modifier (minimum 1) which they spend to perform a number of interesting abilities called "deeds." These deeds would obviously be more melee combat focused than the gunslinger's deeds. Honestly, this is the variant I'm most interested in and I might actually take this beyond the idea stage. However, I might change the name of the point pool. I think "Mettle" might be a nice fit.

3. Talented Fighter: This fighter variant would replace all of its bonus feats with the ability to select a number of talents that mirror a ninja's tricks or a rogue's talents, but more combat focused. However, unlike the rogue, they'd be able to select certain ones multiple times (like the Combat Talent). Next to the Challenging Fighter, this would probably be the easiest to build.

4. Fighter With Style: This fighter variant would require the player to choose a "fighter style" at 1st level. This fighter style would be similar to a sorcerer's bloodline, granting them special abilities, feats, and skills that match their chosen approach to combat. Mechanically, this would bake certain fighter archetypes right into the class, giving you that archetype's abilities at certain levels.

While each could be interesting in their own way, I'm particularly smitten with the Gritty Fighter. I think it would be incredibly fun to play and I can already imagine some cool deeds to give it. Which variant do you guys and gals like? Do you have an idea of your own to make fighters more mechanically interesting? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Fantasy Fiction Tuesday: Rat Queens (2013 - 2014)

Click HERE for a free preview of Rat Queens
I have a soft spot in my heart for stories that feature a ragtag group of adventurers who manage to get themselves into a lot of trouble and have to figure out a way to save their own asses. When done right, these stories can be incredibly fun and make me want to run a few sessions where everything goes terribly wrong for the party and see how they respond.

Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch takes this setup and knocks it out of the park.

This ongoing series from Image Comics stars a pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire called the "Rat Queens". There's Hannah the Rockabilly Elf Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarf Warrior, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric, and Betty the Hippy Halfling Rogue.

After causing too much trouble in the city of Palisade, the Rat Queens and a handful of other adventuring parties (with names like the Four Daves and the Brother Ponies) are forced into taking assignments from the city guard so they won't be banished. However, these quests might not be what they seem and someone in Palisade might be gunning for adventurer heads.

In my opinion, Rat Queen's greatest strengths are its sense of humor and its characters. The comic favors a darker, more raunchy sense of humor and it does it well. The humor feels like something I'd hear at the gaming table, which fits the feel of the comic perfectly. Rat Queens also pokes fun at some gaming stereotypes, like the affect that adventurers would have on a settlement and how dungeons seem magically refill themselves on such a short basis. However, it isn't mean-spirited about it and is just having fun with these weird elements.

The Rat Queens themselves are also fantastic. Each member of the party feels like a character I would see at the table. We have a cleric who once belonged to a blood drinking, squid worshiping sect of some strange god, but no longer believes in that deity, an unusually happy halfling rogue who decides its better to pack candy and drugs instead of actual food, a dwarf fighter who tries her hardest to say cool catchphrases, and a foulmouthed elf mage who how has issues with her parents. Each character is unique in their own way and I love reading about them.

While I wasn't a big fan of Upchurch's art at first, it slowly started to grow on me. At times, it can be a little too sketchy and uneven, but I feel like his style captures the feel of the comic. There is a lot of energy in his work and it really shines in the action scenes. However, it might not be for everyone and it definitely took some time for me to get used to.

Rat Queens is a fun, humorous fantasy series that hits all the right notes for me. Out of all the stories I've featured so far, this comic makes me want to grab some dice and have some fun at the gaming table. If you're looking for an enjoyable fantasy series with some interesting characters and a good, dark sense of humor, I suggest giving Rat Queens a read. I highly recommend it.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition Beta Playtest - Download it for Free!

Cover Art by Paul Bonner
Modiphius Entertainment, the same company behind Achtung! Cthulhu, has released the playtest document for the highly-anticipated 3rd Edition of Mutant Chronicles on RPGNow for the incredibly low price of free!

Three versions of the PDF exist: A high resolution version, a lower resolution version, and a "printer-friendly" version. I've taken a look at the high resolution copy, and it looks fantastic. The system doesn't look too shabby either, but I've only taken a rather quick glance and plan to delve further in the upcoming days. 

The Revised Swashbuckler

Art by Wayne Reynolds

The swashbuckler is one of my favorite fantasy archetypes. I love the concept of a lightly armored warrior who relies more on charisma and finesse over brute force. When Paizo announced they were working on a swashbuckler "hybrid class" for their upcoming Advanced Class Guide, I was ecstatic.

After reading the Advanced Class Guide playtest document, my first impressions of their swashbuckler were positive. However, as I read over it again and saw it in action, my opinion of the class started to sour somewhat. Instead of just complaining about the class, I thought my time would be better spent revising the swashbuckler into something I'd be more happy with.

Like the original version, this swashbuckler is based on the gunslinger from Ultimate Combat and the fighter. However, I've changed how certain mechanics work (like certain deeds, it's weapon training, etc.) and changed the class' capstone ability to mirror the gunslinger's instead of the fighter's.

I haven't actually playtested this revised version of the swashbuckler yet, so I have no idea how it actually works at the table. So, I'd love to see some feedback from those who give it a try. I'd also love ideas on how to make this class the best possible swashbuckler it can be.

So, without further ado, here's my revision of the swashbuckler class:


Attack Bonus
Deeds, Panache, Weapon Finesse
Derring-Do 1/day
Deeds, Nimble +1
Bonus Feat
Finesse Training 1
Derring-Do 2/day
Deeds, Nimble +2
Bonus Feat
Finesse Training 2
Derring-Do 3/day
Deeds, Nimble +3
Bonus Feat
Finesse Training 3
Derring-Do 4/day
Deeds, Nimble +4
Bonus Feat
Finesse Training 4
Derring-Do 5/day
Deeds, Nimble +5
Bonus Feat, True Panache

Alignment: Any.

Hit Die: d10.

Starting Wealth: 4d6 x 10gp (140gp average).

The swashbuckler's class skills are Acrobatics (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (Local) (Int), Knowledge (Nobility) (Int), Perception (Wis), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), and Swim (Str).
Skill Ranks per Level: Int modifier. 

The following are class features of the swashbuckler. 

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Swashbucklers are proficient with simple and martial weapons. They are proficient with light armor, but not shields. 

Panache (Ex): Unlike other warriors, the swashbuckler doesn't rely on brute force. Instead, she fight with panache: a fluctuating measure of her ability to perform amazing actions in combat. At the start of each day, a swashbuckler gains a number of panache points equal to her Charisma modifier (minimum 1). Her panache goes up or down throughout the day, but usually cannot go higher than her Charisma modifier (minimum 1), though feats and magic items can affect this maximum. A swashbuckler spends panache points to accomplish deeds (see below), and regains panache in the following ways: 

Critical Hit With a Finesse Weapon: Each time the swashbuckler confirms a critical hit with a finesse weapon(1) while in combat, she regains 1 panache point. Confirming a critical hit on a helpless or unaware creature or on a creature that has fewer Hit Dice than half the swashbuckler's character level does't restore panache. 

Killing Blow With a Finesse Weapon: When the swashbuckler reduces a creature to 0 or fewer hit points with a finesse weapon attack while in combat, she regains 1 panache point. Destroyig an unattended object, reducing a helpless or unaware creature to 0 or fewer hit points, or reducing a creature that has fewer Hit Dice than half the swashbuckler's character level to 0 or fewer hit points doesn't restore any panache. 

Daring Act (Optional): Each time a swashbuckler performs a daring act, she regains 1 panache point. The GM is the final arbiter of what is considered a daring act. 

Deeds: Swashbucklers spend panache points to accomplish deeds. Most deeds grant the swashbuckler a monetary bonus or effect, but some provide longer-lasting effects. Some deeds remain in effect as long as the swashbuckler has at least 1 panache point. A swashbuckler can any deeds of her level or lower. Unless otherwise noted, a deed can be performed multiple successive times, as long as the swashbuckler has or spends the required number of panache points to perform the deed. Click HERE for a list of the deeds a swashbuckler can use. 

Weapon Finesse (Ex): At 1st level, the swashbuckler gains Weapon Finesse as a bonus feat. 

Derring-Do (Ex): Starting at 2nd level, the swashbuckler may press their luck when performing certain acrobatic acts. When making an Acrobatics, Climb, Escape Artist, or Fly check, the swashbuckler may roll two dice instead of one and take the better result. She must choose to do this before making one of the above skill checks. At 6th level, and every four levels thereafter, the swashbuckler may use this ability an additional time per day.

Nimble (Ex): Upon reaching 3rd level, a swashbuckler gains a +1 dodge bonus to AC while wearing light or no armor. Anything that causes the swashbuckler to lose her Dexterity bonus to AC also causes the swashbuckler to lose this dodge bonus. This bonus increases by +1 for ever four levels beyond 2nd level. 

Bonus Feats: At 4th level, and every four levels thereafter, a swashbuckler gains a bonus feat in addition to those gained by normal advancement. These bonus feats must be combat or "panache" feats (2). 

Finesse Training (Ex): Starting at 5th level, a swashbuckler can select one specific finesse weapon. She gains a bonus equal to her Dexterity modifier on damage rolls when attacking with that weapon. 

Every four levels thereafter (9th, 13th, and 17th), the swashbuckler picks up another finesse weapon, gaining these bonuses for those types as well. 

True Panache (Ex): At 20th level, a swashbuckler picks two deeds that she has access to and that she must spend panache to perform. She can perform these deeds for 1 panache point fewer (minimum 0) than usual. If the number of panache points to perform a deed is reduced to 0, the swashbuckler can perform this deed as long as she has at least 1 panache point. If a deed could already be performed as long as she had at least 1 panache point, she can now perform that deed even when she has no panache points. 

(1): A "Finesse Weapon" is any weapon that benefits from the Weapon Finesse feat. 

(2): "Panache" Feats are the Grit Feats from Ultimate Combat.