Thursday, September 27, 2012


I like dice.  I have more sets than I need.  A lot more.  And I like aesthetically pleasing dice.  The conceit behind, say, Gamescience dice doesn't appeal to me.  The randomness is not sufficiently significant that I'm concerned about rounded corners from tumbling causing lack of randomness in my games.  If there is such a lack of randomness, it's imperceptable to me.  (Plus, one of the things Gamescience fans continually talk about is the fact that they stop rolling much more quickly--something that casinos strongly discourage.  Why?  Because it's not random if they don't roll all the way to the tend of the table and bounce off the back wall!)

Themed dice are kind of fun.  I was poking around the Paizo site, and saw this complete list of Adventure path themed dice; one for each of most of the adventure paths that they've done so far.  I like quite a bit of them, and for $12/set, I'll probably eventually get around to picking some of them up.  My particular favorites are the "gothic" Carrion Crown dice, the colorful Legacy of Fire dice, and the (also colorful) Serpent Skull dice.  I can't wait to see what comes out for Skull and Shackles, though.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Dark fantasy gaming

As I reminded myself in my last post, my tagline is "d20 rules, Call of Cthullhu paradigm."  The only reason I didn't use D&D rules is because I've focused my efforts on d20 Modern, but realistically, d20 Modern uses the D&D rules too, after all.  It's not a really significant change to the "engine" of the system.

It's been a while since I talked specifically about how to incorporate that "Call of Cthulhu" paradigm to the D&D rules.  I've blogged a bit here and there about how to limit power and magic, but that's only one part of the whole.  Coincidentally, I found myself thumbing through my copy of Darkness & Dread, a Legends & Lore series entry from Fantasy Flight Games written by Mike Mearls back in 2004.  I bought it when it was still fairly new, read through it, and then haven't looked at it much again.  Much of this is because what it offered I already have solutions for in other formats.  And the GMing advice, which was reasonably nice, paled next to the GMing advice by John Tynes in the d20 Call of Cthulhu game itself.  But, like I said, I was recently re-reading it, and because it's focus is specifically on modifying D&D to provide a dark fantasy or horror fantasy approach, I found that it was fun to refresh my memory on it.  In particular, I think its organization is well done, and making a "checklist" on how things work in a horror d20 game led me to believe that I might actually have left out a hole or two that needs patching.  So let me get to it: what things do you need to do to make D&D (or another d20 game, like d20 Modern in my case) work as a horror fantasy game?

Something needs to be done about characters; specifically the classes that they can pick.  D&D characters are designed to be heroic, competent, and basically to "win".  From a flavor perspective, some of them don't fit into a dark fantasy tone either, because they're basically superheroes.  My solution to this was to leave the D&D classes behind.  By using the d20 Modern/Past approach with the "Shadow Stalkers" campaign model, I have characters who are arguably fairly swash-bucklery and competent (for their level) but who are also designed specifically for a low-magic, grimmer and grittier approach that's best suited for a horror game.

Horror House Rules
Mearls gives several optional house rules at this point.  He calls them optional templates that can be added to the game much as templates are added to monsters to change their attributes.  Here's my approach and/or thoughts to each.  Again; I actually don't necessarily prefer the options in the this book, but having some kind of option, or some reason specifically to eschew the option, is a good idea if a horror tone is desired.

Health vs. hitpoints.  Escalating hit points is one of the main problems with D&D fitting into horror.  Many people (who don't actually know what they're talking about, but that's another problem altogether) assume a priori that the d20 Call of Cthulhu game can't work the same as the BRP version because of levels and escalating hitpoints.  That's a strawman, because it's not true that there's an inherent assumption that you'll have a high level investigator ever, but it is true that high level characters have a much harder time fitting into a horror tone.  Mearls' approach in Darkness & Dread is to create a health mechanic that is basically your Con score plus a size modifier, plus your hit dice.  They operate otherwise as hitpoints, but when you level up, you only get 1 to add to your total (because your hit dice changes) rather than a die roll plus your Con score.  I actually prefer using E6 to naturally limit the "height" of the levels that can be achieved.  The problems with high level in d20 are not just limited to the runaway hit point totals, after all--although that is one of the biggest ones.

Death spiral.  Mearls also introduces a death spiral mechanic; you know, one of those mechanics where when you take damage you actually become less effective in combat (which means you're more likely to take more damage, then become even less effective, and then take more damage... etc.  until you're dead or the other PCs manage to save your bacon.  Hence the name.)  While I agree that such a rule does indeed mimic some horror gaming tropes, and makes combat much more scary to get into, I find death spiral effects are more tedious than anything else.  I avoid them.  No thanks, Mike.

Fear checks.  My madness rules include a fear mechanic, but I actually quite like Mearls' Fear check, and his rules for determining the "fear check DC" for any creature in the game is quite handy.  The only problem I have with the Fear checks listed here are that they are based on Will saves.  This means that tough, burly warrior types are more likely to be afraid than bookish scholars, since warrior types tend to have poor Will save and nerdier types do not.  I'd prefer to borrow the modified level check from resisting an attempt to Intimidate (as per the skill) instead.  Not because I like the proliferation of a rule that's basically a Will save but not, but because the Will save doesn't quite render the "proper" results.  This works quite well in a situation in which you don't have Madness or Sanity rules of some kind, or in which your Madness/Sanity rules don't have any Fear effect.

Madness.  The Madness rules in Darkness & Dread are too complex.  They feel like the overly complex and clinical Sanity mechanics from Cthulhu.  I greatly prefer the simplified, yet similar in result, Madness rules that came out in the d20 Freeport book.  Freeport is, after all, pretty much a Lovecraftian dark fantasy setting in its own right, at least in the mind of its creator.

Research and Investigation
Mearls makes the sensible point that in a horror game, combat is often secondary to good research; if the characters can figure out some weakness or vulnerability of the horrible supernatural monstrosity, that's a much better strategy then confronting it in open combat anyway.  He makes a few suggestions on how to facilitate this with the d20 rules.

Knowledge skills collapse.  The various Knowledge skills end up becoming somewhat esoteric.  He recommends collapsing them all to a single Knowledge skill, and making types of knowledge have a DC based on category.  While this is a nice idea, for Knowledge skills that get little to no use in a typical D&D game, they do get more use in a d20 Modern game, plus it gives the Smart Hero something to spend all those crazy skill points on.  While this isn't at all a bad idea, and I'd use it for a D&D base, I don't need it for d20 Modern/Past.  He also suggest revising Knowledge to let it work more like the Research skill in d20 Modern--naturally, I don't need to do that if I'm already playing d20 Modern.

Tomes.  This quintessentially Lovecraftian element is added, pretty much exactly the same way that it is in the Cthulhu book itself.  I've already got a few; I really should come up with some more.  But I can also borrow titles from Lovecraftiana anyway.

Libraries.  Again, this is the Research skill from d20 Modern.  Although new to D&D in 2004 when Mearls wrote this book, it is pretty  much exactly the same as an existing mechanic in the other d20 games already.

Black Magic
Mearls rightly points out that magic in a horror game is different than magic in a high fantasy game.  Here, he still has regular D&D magic (I don't) although it's reduced, and adds an element of "darkness" to some of the spells.  In DARK•HERITAGE you can plausibly claim that all magic is black magic.  This is an idea that I took from the Cthulhu game; I actually think that the d20 Cthulhu game handles magic better than the BRP game.  Plus, it's more compatible with other d20 games, so I can adopt it as is much easier.

Turns out I don't need to, because Incantations with their cost and backlash are pretty much equivalent to Cthulhu spells already.  So I just use them, although sample Incantations are pretty thin on the ground in the books that have them.  I need to probably manually make up some more to have in my hip pocket for later on when I need them.

Pacts and Corruption.  Mearls has infernal pacts with evil outsiders--Faustian bargains, quite literally.  This is a really nifty mechanic that I should borrow in my game.  I had kind of forgotten that it was in this book.  He also has Corruption as a mechanic tied to pacts.  I think his corruption is a little bit muddled, though.  Plus, I kind of like the Taint mechanic from Unearthed Arcana instead--which I believe was borrowed from Oriental Adventures where it originally appeared.  It somehow seems just a bit meatier.

Forbidden Magic.  Rather than classify some SRD spells as "forbidden" as opposed to others, by making almost all of my magic come via Incantations, it all takes on the aspect of being forbidden, dangerous, and somewhat insane to use.  I've got this one well covered.

Mearls believes that D&D monsters are too familiar to D&D players to serve in a horror game.  I'm actually going to reverse the order of the two sub-headings here, just because I think it's easier to talk about them this way.

Monster familiarity and customization.  I actually disagree with Mearls on this one.  I don't think he's wrong exactly, but I think that you have to be careful and deliberate in how you use monsters to make them work in a horror setting.  After all, actual horror games tend to use very familiar monsters--to the point of over-use.  Lovecraftian tentacled entities are almost like "comfort food" in horror gaming by now, and vampires still get plenty of traction.  It's not a question of using or not using familiar monsters, it's a question of how they're used.  But I've blogged about that before, so I won't get into it too much again in this particular post.  But his rules for customizing and "reskinning" monsters are nice.

Abominations and godlings.  Abominations are basically home-made monsters of frightening mien.  In this case, it felt like a brusque re-telling of the monster creation rules which we already have in pretty robust form in plenty of d20 games including D&D and d20 Modern both.  And godlings are monsters that don't even have stats--because basically you don't fight them in the traditional sense.  They're more like specialized hazards that need to be addressed first via research, to find their weaknesses, and then via other checks that banish them, or otherwise cause them to go impotent--if you're lucky, and naturally after a tense encounter.

I think that advice on both is fine.  The godling paradigm in particular is useful.  But I've got plenty of monsters.  I've probably got more monsters than I have any other rules element--mostly because I like monster books and I have quite a few of them.  Many of them are beyond the scope of being beat in fair combat in an E6 game, especially one with sharply reduced access to magic relative to D&D normal.  So rather than create my own, why not just pick one of the many, many monsters I've already got, reskin it flavor-wise if needed, but otherwise use as is?

The last two chapters of Darkness & Dread I'm not going to get into, because they are more about adventure construction, and a sample mini-setting, and this particular post is about mechanics.  But again, I found if nothing else that the organization of this book was very  helpful.  And skimming through it and reading some of its sections again, I was reminded that I may not really be covering all of the facets of making d20 play like it's got a Call of Cthulhu paradigm after all; I'll probably officially incorporate pacts and taint into my rules set.

Honing in on houserules

I've long bounced around between a few similar rulesets as the "default" rules for the DARK•HERITAGE setting.  My house-rules wiki specifies three variants specifically, while there is also a capstone houserule set that you can add (or not) to further modify the feel of the game.  While I'm not going to undo that flexibility, I am going to settle on what I think is specifically the houserules that I prefer.  I might even end up modifying the wiki to only show this.

The preferred ruleset to play DARK•HERITAGE is d20 Modern + d20 Past + Urban Arcana using the Shadow Stalkers campaign model and the E6 capstone.  d20 Past is not open content, so you actually have to have that book, or if you ignore it, just use the Shadow Chasers campaign model (which is the same thing) and ignore any feats, class abilities or skills that are obviously irrelevent to a technology level that's more or less equivalent to the Old West or the Golden Age of Piracy.

Other than d20 Past, the open content is available via the Modern SRD here, or via searchable html here.  The specific list of how to modify it is also here on the wiki.  E6 is listed here.  And add the Madness rules, and the DARK•HERITAGE races, and you're mostly good to go.

How does E6 work on d20 Modern?  Obviously the advanced classes will only show a few levels.  Class abilities for advanced classes (or core classes, for that matter) can be converted into feat strings.  Class features converted to feats must be taken in the order that they appear on the class list (although that doesn't mean that a character can't take other feats in between converted class ability feats); i.,e. in other words, the prerequisite for any given class ability converted to a feat are the other class abilities that precede it on the list of class abilities (the exception being bonus feats class abilities.)

Magic is obviously not going to be very D&D-like.  In fact, it's going to be mostly Incantations.  You can do a bit with the Occultist advanced class, too.  To do just a little bit more with magic, I'd also make three Rogue abilities from Pathfinder into feats.  Because I've got the OGL on the blog too, I'll reproduce them here.

This will reap the flavor benefits of the E6 system plus the flavor benefits of the Shadow Stalkers campaign model.  Since this will naturally not play much like D&D (and in fact, many D&D exclusive players will, in many ways, believe simply that it's impossible to play this way--which is patently false, but neither here nor there) you'll need to remember that this is is, as the tagline of the blog says, a game that reuqires a Call of Cthulhu paradigm.  Don't be fooled by the fact that it uses d20 rules into thinking that it's D&D, or that it plays like it either one.
Minor Magic: A character with this feat gains the ability to cast a 0-level spell from the mage spell list. This spell can be cast three times a day as a spell-like ability. The caster level for this ability is equal to the character's level. The save DC for this spell is 10 + the character's Intelligence modifier. The character must have an Intelligence of at least 10 to select this talent.

Major Magic: A character with this feat gains the ability to cast a 1st-level spell from the mage spell list two times a day as a spell-like ability. The caster level for this ability is equal to the character's level. The save DC for this spell is 11 + the character's Intelligence modifier. The character must have an Intelligence of at least 11 to select this talent. A character must have the minor magic feat before choosing this talent.

Familiar: A familiar is a normal animal that gains new powers and becomes a magical beast when summoned to service by a sorcerer, witch, wizard or whatever label you wish you use for magic-user.. It retains the appearance, Hit Dice, base attack bonus, base save bonuses, skills, and feats of the normal animal it once was, but it is treated as a magical beast instead of an animal for the purpose of any effect that depends on its type. Only a normal, unmodified animal may become a familiar. An animal companion cannot also function as a familiar.  You can use any Small or smaller animal with a CR of 1 or less as a familiar.  Unlike in D&D and other d20 games, gaining a familiar does not affect the stats or abilities of the master in any way; it's a good enough benefit to have one as it is.
Familiar Basics:  Use the basic statistics for a creature of the familiar’s kind, but make the following changes:
Hit Dice:  For the purpose of effects related to number of Hit Dice, use the master’s character level or the familiar’s normal HD total, whichever is higher.
Hit Points:  The familiar has one-half the master’s total hit points (not including temporary hit points), rounded down, regardless of its actual Hit Dice.

Attacks:  Use the master’s base attack bonus, as calculated from all his classes. Use the familiar’s Dexterity or Strength modifier, whichever is greater, to get the familiar’s melee attack bonus with natural weapons.

Damage equals that of a normal creature of the familiar’s kind.

Saving Throws:  For each saving throw, use either the familiar’s base save bonus (Fortitude +2, Reflex +2, Will +0) or the master’s (as calculated from all his classes), whichever is better. The familiar uses its own ability modifiers to saves, and it doesn’t share any of the other bonuses that the master might have on saves.

Skills:  For each skill in which either the master or the familiar has ranks, use either the normal skill ranks for an animal of that type or the master’s skill ranks, whichever are better. In either case, the familiar uses its own ability modifiers. Regardless of a familiar’s total skill modifiers, some skills may remain beyond the familiar’s ability to use.
Familiar Ability Descriptions

All familiars have special abilities (or impart abilities to their masters) depending on the master’s combined level in classes that grant familiars, as shown on the table below. The abilities given on the table are cumulative.

Natural Armor Adjustment:  The familiar gets a +1 natural armor bonus when the master is 1st or 2nd level, a +2 natural armor bonus when the master is 3rd or 4th level, and a +3 natural armor bonus when the master is 5th or 6th level. 
Intelligence:  The familiar's intelligence is 6 for a 1st or 2nd level master, 7 for a 3rd or 4th level master, and 8 for a 5th or 6th level master.  On rare occasions where the natural stats for the animal that is serving as a familiar is higher than that, use the higher number.

Alertness (Ex):  While a familiar is within arm’s reach, the master gains the Alertness feat.

Improved Evasion (Ex):  When subjected to an attack that normally allows a Reflex saving throw for half damage, a familiar takes no damage if it makes a successful saving throw and half damage even if the saving throw fails.

Share Spells:  At the master’s option, he may have any spell (but not any spell-like ability) he casts on himself also affect his familiar. The familiar must be within 5 feet at the time of casting to receive the benefit.

If the spell or effect has a duration other than instantaneous, it stops affecting the familiar if it moves farther than 5 feet away and will not affect the familiar again even if it returns to the master before the duration expires. Additionally, the master may cast a spell with a target of "You" on his familiar (as a touch range spell) instead of on himself.

A master and his familiar can share spells even if the spells normally do not affect creatures of the familiar’s type (magical beast).

Empathic Link (Su):  The master has an empathic link with his familiar out to a distance of up to 1 mile. The master cannot see through the familiar’s eyes, but they can communicate empathically. Because of the limited nature of the link, only general emotional content can be communicated.

Because of this empathic link, the master has the same connection to an item or place that his familiar does.

Deliver Touch Spells (Su):  If the master is 3rd level or higher, a familiar can deliver touch spells for him. If the master and the familiar are in contact at the time the master casts a touch spell, he can designate his familiar as the "toucher." The familiar can then deliver the touch spell just as the master could. As usual, if the master casts another spell before the touch is delivered, the touch spell dissipates.

Speak with Master (Ex):  If the master is 5th level or higher, a familiar and the master can communicate verbally as if they were using a common language. Other creatures do not understand the communication without magical help.
Improved Familiar:  If a character takes the Familiar feat, but does not select a familiar right away (or if he dismisses his familiar, or his familiar is killed) the character may take the Improved Familiar feat and get a more powerful familiar.  An improved familiar works exactly the same as a familiar, except that it does not need to be an animal; any small or smaller creature of CR 2 or less can serve as a familiar.  The "classics" are imp (or quasit), pseudodragon, and homunculus--but any creature of CR 2 or less (including templates, if any) can serve as an improved familiar.

Monday, September 24, 2012

D&D's Demon Lords and Dark•Heritage

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® should probably really have been called Dungeons & Demons.  The game certainly features plenty of dungeons, but demons seem to be a much more prevalent and common antagonist than dragons.  Some of the most iconic adventures of the game are also centered on the machinations of demon lords; Zuggtmoy in The Temple of Elemental Evil, Graz'zt, Fraz-Urb'Luu and Baphomet in The Lost Caverns of Tsjocanth, Orcus in the Dead Gods adventure, Demogorgon in the Savage Tide adventure path, and many, many more examples.  Demons are great antagonists, and demon lords in particular, as unique creatures, have a lot of personality that a typical (or even atypical) Type VI balor would not.  They made a significant dent in the pagecount of the original Monster Manuals as well.

Demon Lords are, of course, only one of the many varieties of archfiends, as demons are only one variety of fiend in the D&D game.  The Archdevils, the lords of the daemons, and more.  Of course, the variety and diversity of fiends in D&D is somewhat bizarre and hinges heavily on the philosophy of nine-point alignment being a driving force in the campaign settings that are built around the game.  Although sure, there are a few minor statblock differences to set them apart, including what energy immunities they have and what their alignment says, how does one really distinguish between a devil and a demon?  Or between either and a daemon?  Or demodand?  Or rakshasas or hags?  What about critters like the efreet and the slaad?  Not actually fiends, but conceptually (and in every other way) how do you tell the difference, really?

Looking at fantasy settings that are not based on D&D exactly, but are clearly very, very similar to it (such as the Warhammer world) we get Daemons of Chaos--which, again, are conceptually very difficult to tell apart from fiends in D&D.  We even get the Bloodthirster, who is almost identical to the balor (who in turn is almost identical to the balrog of Tolkien; the obvious immediate point of inspiration for both.)  In Cthulhu Mythos terms, we get the entities of the mythos frequently described as demons, and behaving in many ways exactly as such--yet in D&D, they are from the Far Realm and--again--are therefore, not fiends.  And if you go in for the Pathfinder setting, you've got to add divs, asuras, qlippoth, oni, kytons, and more.

More and more, I see fiends in D&D becoming insular, Byzantine and esoteric.  What is the purpose of all these divisions?  And if we have all of this, why is it that the demons seem to get the most use?

Personally, I don't think that there is a valid purpose anymore to the esoterical divisions.  I think a lot of that is legacy stuff that has lingered due to tradition and inertia, frankly.  And I think demons have the most popularity because they are, in some ways, the most straight-forward to use.  Their more open heirarchy, with rival lords ruling over a balkanized Abyss, also makes it easy to slip in all kinds of things without feeling like there is a potential domino effect on established canon--something that's harder to do with the more heirarchical devils, for instance.

I'm a huge fan of these monstrous, Machiavellian outsider lords.  Between D&D and Warhammer, I've long found the notion of named, powerful, fiend lords to be a compelling and intriguing concept.  Not only that, much of the "lore" we have for these fiends comes from not just pagan mythology, but esoteric Judeo-Christian traditions.  Many of the archdevils and demon lords are not unique to D&D (or Warhammer) but are in fact demons and devils from Biblical or extra-Biblical sources, or from the pagans that surrounded the Bronze and early Iron Age Israelites, and thus were temptations for them to avoid.  Archfiends such as Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Demogorgon, Pazuzu, and others fit this bill. This rich legacy, coming as it does from our own cultural roots, makes them even more iconic as villains and antagonists to be feared in the game.  Given the problems I noted above, though, when migrating the notion of fiends and their lords into DARK•HERITAGE, needless to say, I did away with some of the esoteric and arbitrary divisions between the groups, and adopted a more balkanized, "open" format for their various courts and kingdoms that more resembles the Abyss from D&D than it does any other lower plane.  Fiends can freely mix and mingle in any given court, driven more by what makes sense given the proclivities of the court's lord and the environment of his particular realm than by any division or label created by the game.

The other major change I've made is based on an almost throwaway comment in Erik Mona's Armies of the Abyss, a Green Ronin sourcebook for 3e that was later updated and omnibused as part of the Book of Fiends for 3.5.  Frankly, much of the material there was brought over with little change into Paizo's campaign setting as well.  This throwaway comment was after detailing various demon lords and pointing out that with the exception of Law and Good, all of the core domains were represented, meaning that an entire pantheon of demon lords could create a nice dark fantasy feel to a campaign setting, where there are only dark patrons, and not good or kindly deities to worship.  Dark fantasy?  Cha-ching, went the wheels in my mind.  So, some of the demon lords and archdevils were immediately reskinned into being the pantheon for an early iteration of DARK•HERITAGE.  This has since evolved somewhat, but the notion of a pantheon that is propitiated in fear and awe rather than worshipped in love and reverence remains, and gods that are based on Biblical, mythological and Lovecraftian prototypes remains an important part of the identity of DARK•HERITAGE even today.

Sadly, some of the ideas spawned by D&D are too intimately associated with D&D to really make an appearance outside of it.  Graz'zt I can adapt, since the Black Man of earlier witchcraft folklore, combined with the Lovecraftian entity Nyarlathotep already gets me most of the way to Graz'zt already.  For an "original" D&D demon lord, his resemblance to folkloric "Old Scratch" is remarkable.  Orcus is an obscure Roman god, associated with Pluto, the god of the underworld.  Curiously, the word orc, coined by Tolkien, is based on obscure Anglo-Saxon words which derive from this god's name.  His iteration in D&D is very specific, however, and unlike his appearances elsewhere.  Too bad; it's a great concept.  Demogorgon, another of the "Big Three" in D&D demonology is also derived from early Christian writers, and his name makes an appearance in Paradise Lost, The Faerie Queen, Prometheus Unbound, Moby Dick, Faustus and even Orlando Furioso, by which point the name was already old.  The two-headed baboon with tentacles and scales is, however, a D&D original, and so closely tied with the identity of the demon that it's hard to remove it in my own mind.  One of D&D's greatest creations, in my opinion, is unfortunately too closely tied to D&D specifically itself to be used outside of that context.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

H is for the Heresiarchy of the Twelve

Bartolommeo, the Many-angled
Magic in DARK•HERITAGE, as I've said many times before, is quite unlike magic in D&D.  It is very dangerous, for one thing, and it is much more rare.  Those who practice it are not kindly or wise wizards and scholars; they are heretics, insane, power-mad, psychotic, and if they survive long, they become inhuman.  Because they are also extremely jealous of their power and knowledge, they are also brutal, cunning, untrustworthy, and paranoid.  In fact, being psychotic and paranoid, as well as a genius of sorts, seems to be a prerequisite to becoming one of the real movers and shakers among the magi.  When you're that powerful (and that psychotic) it's pretty much a given that everyone who thinks that they can manage it will be gunning for you; either to remove you as a potential threat, or to take your power for themselves.  Or both.  Forget about Gandalf and Merlin, and think more of the Ten Who Were Taken.

Luckily for everyone else, that same sense of paranoia means that the most powerful students of the magic arts tend to keep a low profile.  That hasn't always been true, and in the past, powerful magi ruled great empires, and pitted them against each other to the ruination of all concerned.  Powerful evidence that the "Cold War" status that exists between major power brokers is the smartest approach after all.

Despite this mutual antipathy, the sorcerers of the world do know each other, or at least know of each other, and occasionally interact in a nominally non-hostile fashion with each other.  They even informally belong to a group, called the Heresiarchy of the Twelve, a somewhat pretentious name, probably not of their own fashioning.  This group is merely a convenience, given to indicate informal membership in a very exclusive club; those who have enough magical power to fear few if any mundane threats.  And because one of the first thing a sorcerer of sufficient power to be considered a member of the Heresiarchy does is prolong his or her life, and find ways to cling to it unnaturally following massive injury, turnover of the members of the group is not frequent.  The current detente and status quo has been in place in the Land of the Three Empires for over fifty years without any appreciable change.  Membership in this group hardly means that they are issued a card, have a clubhouse, and get together for board meetings, though--it's more an aknowledgement that they are operating on a different plane in terms of power and amorality than everyone else.

Few of these names are known to the common people, or even sages.  Fewer still of them are actually the names of these individuals, rather than nom de plumes chosen for convenience.  Some of them take modern names in various languages (including Terrasan) to appear less conspicuous, while others take names in the language of daemons, or even names made up wholly without any basis in any known language.  Only the most vile of scholars are familiar with the blasphemous works and studies that these incredibly powerful sorcerers have wrought, or otherwise are familiar with them in any fashion.  But some of them do in fact rule secretly, or at least are major movers and shakers in both magical as well as political fields.  The interests and desires of the Twelve are esoteric, varied, and inscrutable at the best of times.

Siggeir Sherihum the Sangremancer
The following are considered to be members of the Heresiarchy.  By tradition, they are often better known by their self-styled titles than by their names.  I've given their names, their self-styled titles, the prestige class or concept around which I based the idea of the character, the book in which I read that prestige class or concept, and a brief description of the character.  What?  Prestige class? you may ask.  Yes, indeed.  There are a lot of great concepts in D&D for powerful magic-users after all, many of them evil and unnatural to the core.  Of course, there really aren't any prestige classes in an E6 game, especially one that even further reduces magic by almost completely eliminating spell-casting classes except under the most generous of circumstances.  Simulationists may balk at the notion that my NPCs don't follow the same rules as the PCs have to (although I see no reason why they should need to myself.)  However, these characters can be created under the rules (whichever set you use) if you try hard enough. 

For an E6 game where spellcasting comes mostly through the use magic device skill plus incantations, I imagine that all of these powerful sorcerers do, in fact, know and use a bunch of incantations.  They have also used many to permanently alter themselves into something transhuman.  Consider them 6th level E6 classes that have had access to dozens, maybe even hundreds of additional feats added over the years.  Consider them having used the equivalent of permanency to give themselves fast healing, regeneration, every one of the ability augmentations, mage armor, natural armor, stone skin, etc.  Consider them having created phylacteries or horcruxes or something similar.  Some of these incantations don't yet exist in the sourcebooks (which are notoriously light on published incantations, actually) but the rules for creating them already exist, so knock yourself out if you really wish to stat these guys up.  Personally... I don't care to.  It's enough for me to have given a little bit of thought to how they became as they are, and that's it.

  • Bartolommeo the Many-angled -- Alienist (Tome and Blood, and Complete Arcane).  Bartolommeo is a disturbingly post-human creature, made up as much of hissing, whirring metallic parts as flesh and blood.  He appears vaguely as a Gigeresque grafting of an ancient, withered man bolted to a golem-like frame.  Bartolommeo is completely insane, but luckily spends most of his time in a torpor-like slumber.
  • Esmeraude, She Who Ushers In the Apocalypse -- Elemental Savant (fire) (Tome and Blood).  Esmeraude, despite her Terrasan name, appears to be from al-Qazmir.  She claims, even, to frequently visit the mythical City of Brass, from which the jann claim their inhuman heritage comes.  Whether this is true or not, she clearly is obsessed with fire, and has an unnatural control over it.  There is still a city, located in the Golden Triangle, that is nothing more than blackened ruins and molten stone, supposedly the target of her ire many years ago.  Esmeraude is a girlish, exotic beauty in appearance, but fickle and short-tempered.
  • Sébastien, He of the Beast Aspect -- Acolyte of the Skin (Tome and Blood, and Complete Arcane.)  A oily-skinned, slippery post-human demon, Sébastien is a predator, who loves eating his victims, and in doing so, retains his immortality. 
  • Kefte Taraan, Mistress of Forgotten Secrets -- Pale Master (Tome and Blood and Liber Mortis). A beautiful young woman, at least to appearances, this vile necromancer has an unnatural affinity for--and some say, perverse attraction to--the dead.  Her association with the long dead and restless spirits has, however, granted her access to a wealth of knowledge that her collegues can only dream about.
  • Kadashman, He Who Peers Into the Void -- Alienist (Tome and Blood and Complete Arcane).  Much more contemplative and outward looking than Bartolommeo, Kadashman rarely acts in this world.  His efforts and energy are spent peering into the Spaces Between, and he claims to frequently travel the Realms Beyond.  Accompanied by a variety of mind-blasting servitors, Kadashman is the most disquieting and bizarre of the major sorcerers.
  • Djemaa Mennefer, the Gnomic -- Fate Spinner (Tome and Blood, Complete Arcane.) A cautious sorceress who spends her time plotting massive webs of conspiracy that stretch for centuries.  Her apparent lack of overt action has caused many to underestimate her power.  She is the most driven by fear; fear of death, fear of loss of control.
  • Jairan Neferirkare, the Soulless
  • Amrruk the Ancient -- Oozemaster (Masters of the Wild).  His actual race and culture are unknown.  Amrruk may be the oldest of all sorcerers, a primal magician who existed before any of the modern nations even had their roots planted.  Some even believe him to predate the existance of humanity altogether; either as a Neanderthal or even some older, more primal being.  His involvement in affairs is rare, but his strange and bizarre tastes and appearance make him, along with Kadashman, the most disturbing to behold.
  • Jairan Neferirkare, the Soulless -- Infernalist (No Quarter #14).  An alabaster woman of unearthly, unbelievable beauty, Jairan is most known for her long and fertile association with daemons of various kinds.  Fickle and vain, Jairan can also be among the most charismatic and charming of the Heresiarchy, when she so pleases.  In the past, she ruled a kingdom on Cannibal Isle, and the inhabitants thereof still bear the curse that she left upon that island.
  • Arzana, Clad in Black -- Blighter (Masters of the Wild).  Arzana appears as a girl, little more than 12 or 13 years old, running naked and filthy through the wild places of the world, or clad in shadow and a black cloak, and her long, matted black hair.  She rarely speaks in words that anyone else can understand.  Nobody knows the source of her fury and paranoia relative to the forest, but she seems especially keen to destroy it whenever possible.  She makes no home, that anyone knows about anyway, but is most frequently spotted in the desert, or high in the mountains above the treeline.
  • Siggeir Sherihum the Sangremancer -- Blood Magus (Tome and Blood, Complete Arcane).  This barbaric sorcerer hides his ruinous disfigurements behind armor, robes and clothing.  Siggeir is rumored to have battled another major sorcerer while still young in his career, a powerful figure equivalent to a member of today's Heresiarchy.  Although he remains broken and maimed by the encounter, his power and reputation are undimmed.
    Shimut the Flesheater
  • Shimut the Flesheater -- Flesheater (Dragon Magazine #300).  This savage beast was once consort to Jairan Neferirkare.  When he was freed of her domination, he hid until he was able to amass sufficient power to challenge her.  Their battle ruined and cursed the Cannibal Isle to this day, but Jairan was overthrown from her throne.  Despite this, the two remain somewhat fond of each other.  They don't trust each other, certainly, but they remain uneasy allies in many things.  Shimut also seems to suffer from the curse of ghoulism, but rather than wilt under the appalling things he is made to do by the curse, he embraces them as the source of much of his power.  Shimut's flesh is cracked and bronzed, and his hair and eyes are solid white.
  • The Master of Vermin -- Vermin Lord (Book of Vile Darkness). Surrounded by filth, insects, spiders, and rats, the nameless Master of Vermin is another disquieting and disgusting member of the Heresiarchy, who rarely appears in his natural form.  What exactly his concerns are, or what his intentions, plots and conspiracies may be geared towards, are anyone's guess.  Like Amrruk the Ancient, he seems almost beyond (or beneath) concerning himself with the world of mortals, and lives a more primal existance.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

G is for the Garriga Mountains

The Garriga Mountains extend north to south, from their southern shores on the Mezzovian Sea (where Iclezza sits at their eastern feet) to the Shutrak Savana far to the north.  Geologically, they are quite obviously a continuation of the Romeu Mountains to the south of the Mezzovian Sea, and the Tolosa Isles with make an irregular dotted line through the waters to connect them.  The Garriga Mountains are ancient granite and limestone mountains, worn somewhat smooth by millenia after millenia of erosion, yet still dififcult to cross, and widely considered impassible by wagon or caravan until fairly recently.  The mountains are almost completely covered in dense oak and hickory forest, with pines and hemlocks at higher elevations.  There are, however, many mountains are are either grassy or heath "balds"--they are not above the treeline, and yet trees refuse to grow on their summits.  The balds tend to be good locations for hunting large herbivores; it is believed that their continued eating of saplings is what keeps the summits in their "bald" state.

The slopes, many creeks, streams, and rivers, extremely rock-strewn terrain, and thick forest have made the Garriga Mountains extremely difficult to penetrate by any other than small groups of outdoorsmen, survivalists, or trailblazers.  For many years, villages and farms in the foothills to the east had to travel southward to Iclezza, board a ship for a short journey westward, and then undertake yet another long journey northwards again to reach a counterpart village or farm in the foothills to the west.  For those who find the prospect of a long overland journey daunting, the mighty Tec and Volo rivers run through the foothills on either side of the mountains (and very roughly parallel to them) and are navigable.  Nevertheless, the prospect of an extremely long journey to cover a relatively short distance between two points was prohibitive.

Finally, an explorer name Cade d'Oceil found the route known today as Cade's Gap, a pass through the mountain that, with a bit of work, yielded a serviceable road that can accomodate wagon and caravan traffic.  The road is quite winding, and is occasionally washed out after the frequent rains that blow through the Garriga Mountains, but when properly maintained, has greatly expanded the ability of the rural folks who live in the foothills to trade with each other, to pass through the mountains more frequently, and even to take advantage of the land within the mountains itself.  Although the mountain slopes remain thinly inhabitated, a number of coves, or sheltered and enclosed valleys, dot the range, and many of them feature somewhat thickly settled farms, cleared valley floors, and villages.  Many of them style themselves after the iconic imagery of Cade d'Oceil: dressed in buckskins and wearing a cap made of the fur of a coon or fox, tail still attached and hanging down the back.

Nominally the entire mountain range is claimed by the Terrasan Empire, and is part of the High Lordship of Iclezza.  However, as one travels further north along the foothills, and further into the heart of the range itself, the less one encounters folks who acknowledge Terrasan lordship, who follow Terrasan customs, who speak or name their children with the Terrasan tongue, or who resemble the typical Terrasan ethnicity.  This land has traditionally remained a redoubt of the balshatoi ethnicity, or Dunners, as they call themselves, after a word in their own tongue.  Many such dunners are in fact "hybrid" both in custom and in blood with Terrasans, but as the separatist "Matter of the North" grows as a political force in the lands near Iclezza, even the bronzest and darkest of folks, who speak only "hillbilly Terrasan" are turning their hearts towards their assumed Northerner heritage, and looking less towards Terrasa for leadership.  Many of the inhabitants of the Garriga Mountains are indeed quite notably not Terrasan at all, and remain relatively "pure" Northerner; one of the few such places left in the Terrasan sphere of influence.

The mountains themselves are not terribly difficult or dangerous to traverse on foot for those who know somewhat of wilderness survival and travel.  What is more concerning is, perhaps, the tendency of local powerful matriarchs and patriarchs to enter into feuds with other groups.  The so-called hillbillies of the Garrigas are often suspicious of strangers, and at times a state of cold warfare exists between small groups of the dunners and others.

Friday, September 14, 2012

New Campaign wiki

Another quick thing: I created a new wiki for the "all rogues" campaign that I'm preparing.  It's an abbreviated DARK•HERITAGE setting wiki, to some extent, although it has a few details around Porto Liure already that are not on the main wiki (crime syndicates, for one.)  And, of course, it's a campaign wiki, not a setting wiki, so it focuses on the PCs and their options a bit too.

And here's a picture that's evocative of the game we'll be playing.  By Ben Wootten, for some WotC book or other.  Available on his gallery webpage.

More ramblings about using Pathfinder for Dark•Heritage

That right there is a reorganization of the material for the Rogue class in Pathfinder, with all the material, additional talents and archetypes that Pathfinder has put up on their "PRD" on a single page.  This, of course, was sparked by my "all rogue" game concept, discussed in the last post or two, and which is getting geared up to run online very shortly.  I'd like to do something similar for at least some of the other classes--fighter, ranger, barbarian, etc.  Classes that would feel more or less at home in DARK•HERITAGE anyway.

The archetypes concept is a great one.  I like it a ton, because it allows a great deal of flexibility, customization, and variability in class builds, without having to write completely new classes.  I'm reminded of Corey Reid's old Barsoom Tales game.  The conceit of that game, when it started at least, was that there was no magic on Barsoom.  Players had access to three classes; the fighter class, the rogue class, and the expert class.  Later, it turned out that both magic and psionics existed after all, but the players had to discover them before they could use them.  While this may sound extremely limiting to many D&D players, I've always thought the concept was really kinda brilliant.  And since I don't really like playing spellcasters, and don't like the way magic works in D&D very much anyway, that hasn't bothered me.

Anyway, the combination of those two thoughts has caused me to give a little bit more serious thought to how I'd adapt Pathfinder to work with the DARK•HERITAGE setting; a concept that I have only given minimal thought to before.  My earlier thought was to more or less replicate my 3.5 adjustments as much as possible; I'm now, honestly, thinking that that does not take account to the differences between Pathfinder and 3.5, which are really more thorough than I first thought.  So, let's get to it, shall we?

First, 3.5 was already way too fiddly for me.  Granted, my solution to that was to ignore a lot of the rules during play, and focus on a more "rulings" centered, GM has responsibility to adjudicate the game paradigm.  I like the detail provided for character definition, but during play, things like skill check DCs (or Saving Throw DCs in many cases) would be handwaved, things like encumbrance were completely ignored, combat was done without minis where possible, using narrative combat techniques (which somewhat crocks a few of the feats and class abilities that are heavily centered around tactical combat), CRs and XPs were fairly ad hoc, and roleplaying type activities were encouraged to be roleplayed rather than rolled as dice checks--to some extent.  In other words, I used the 3.5 rules, but largely played the game as if it was still B/X in most respects.  I don't have much use for all the rules of 3.5.

Of course, Pathfinder one-ups 3.5 in terms of rules.  By a fair margin.  A few things are certainly better.  I like character definition even more (see archetype discussion above).  I think the CMB/CMD simplifies all kinds of stuff that was difficult to remember and difficult to pull off correctly in 3.5 (although I sometimes handwaved that in 3.5 anyway.)  Everything is more rigid, and codified.  Granted, I can mostly run Pathfinder the way I ran 3.5... which is heavily based on the way I used to run B/X back in the day.  But to some extent, the rules bloat dampens my enthusiasm for doing so.  Not enough that I won't do it... but almost.  Frankly, the direction Trailblazer went as an improvement on 3.5 is much more my style than the direction Pathfinder went.

And I don't think the fact that Trailblazer and Pathfinder are essentially synonyms is an accident either.

I've complained before about how Pathfinder seems to increase the magic content of the game when my tendency would be to reduce it.  Most of the new classes (prior to the release of Ultimate Combat, at least) were magical classes.  But following Corey's lead, I can just exclude classes that don't work for my setting.  Since all of the Pathfinder classes, especially the original core classes, have all these archetype variations to choose from, making such restrictions isn't really very restrictive, in my opinion.  And heck; with the Use Magic Device skill and the Minor Magic, Major Magic, and even a Familiar rogue abilities to choose from, you can turn a rogue into the equivalent of an Occultist (from d20 Modern) which means that a Rogue really can do it all in a campaign.  But I don't need to be quite so restrictive, unless--like the game I've been talking about here--that's the whole conceit of the game.

Here's the class list that I can see as being appropriate for DARK•HERITAGE.  I prefer now to use magic as per the Occultist, i.e., characters with Use Magic Device are your spellcasters.  With the Magical Aptitude feat, and the Rogue abilities (if playing a rogue), you can make a pretty decent spellcaster for a low magic game that hits all of the high points on what you expect a sorcerous character to be like and be able to do.  With Incantations and scrolls or other magic devices granting access to potentially any spell in the game, you've got a lot of flexibility without having to do much customization and rules work to adapt spells, too.  So... no spellcasting classes really made the cut at all.  And some other classes failed for other reasons, namely that they're either flavorful in all the wrong ways (like the paladin or samurai) or full of supernatural abilities that really aren't what I'm interested in seeing replicated except in very odd cases (monk, ninja.)
  • Rogue - all archetypes are acceptable.
  • Fighter - all archetypes are acceptable.
  • Ranger - ranger's must take the skirmisher archetype, which replaces their spellcasting ability with pickable abilities instead.  They can also take other archetypes, although I would discourage shapeshifter except in very unusual circumstances.  I might have missed an archetype that built on the spellcasting (although I don't think so), and if so, that one can't be used either.
  • Barbarian - all archetypes are acceptable, but the titan mauler is a poor flavor fit.
  • Cavalier - all archetypes are acceptable, although frankly I was on the fence about allowing this class at all, since the "knightly orders" concept isn't really a very DARK•HERITAGE like concept.  If you pick the Beast Rider archetype, you better check with me before picking any mount.  You certainly are not going to be riding around on a tyrannosaur.  As cool as that is, there are not dinosaurs in DARK•HERITAGE.
  • Gunslinger - all archetypes are acceptable.
A couple of other notes.  The Survival skill should include the ability to make a track check, I think.  The Track feat is completely superfluous.  If you have access to it as a class feature, replace it with another feat choice, or with a choice from the Ranger skirmisher archetype's list of Hunter's Tricks.

There are also some other feats that I think are superfluous and you should be able to do them without having a feat.  I can't think of any others off the top of my head, but if you do end up picking such a feat, you can switch it out for something else.  Let's talk.

We'll use the slow progression method.  There will be an "informal" E6 or so--I won't actually literally incorporate the E6 tophat, but I don't really like lengthy campaigns, so the chances that you'll get above 6th level are miniscule anyway.  I'll also have NPCs be at that same order of magnitude of "power"--when I bother to stat them at all, of course.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Crime syndicates of Porto Liure

Although it was my plan to do G is for the Garriga Mountains today, I find myself in need of some detail about the criminal organizations of Porto Liure for the "all rogues" game I'm going to be running online, which I mentioned briefly in my last post.  So, let me whip something up there, real quick.

Porto Liure has a reputation as a lawless, anarchic place.  That's not entirely true.  One of the conceits for its very existance; a necessary caveat for Terrasa accepting its bid as an independent city-state in the first place, is the establishment and enforcement of a rule of law in Porto Liure, and agreeing to do so was old Jacobo Bernat's key compromise in his bid to establish himself as the newly minted Lord of Porto Liure at the end of the Pirate Wars 150 years ago.  How seriously that endeavor has been taken over the years has, of course, waxed and waned.  At its most stringent, the streets were nearly as clean as in any Terrasan city, and at its most lax, the Lord of Porto Liure was little more than among the most prominent gangster warlords in the city, with the City Watch as his personal enforcers.  Naturally, most of the time, it's somewhere in between.

But even at its most strident, the streets of Porto Liure have never really been clean.  It's just not in the nature of Liurans to roll over and accept too much authority, and the result of that is that organized crime is one of the most enduring and notable features of the city.

Currently, the following are among the most prominent elements of organized crime in the city.
  • The Cherskii Mafia.  Headquartered "overseas", this mafia was formed and remains run to this day by bosses amongst the hamazin.  Originally meant as a method to raise money and resources for a resurgent "glorious revolution" and revitalization of Baal Hamazi itself, as the years have passed, the patriotic zeal has proven fleeting.  Most likely, the organized crime business is simply more profitable.  Although nominally run by hamazin hellkin, in reality, they tend to be distant and rarely seen authority figures.  Much of the actual muscle of these gangs are made up of shaggy urban changelings and local humans.  They deal in the usual vices--prostitution (not strictly illegal in Porto Liure, although discouraged in some locales), smuggling, drugs, protection rackets, bribery of officials, and the occasional contract killing.
  • The Union of the Snake. A small group in Porto Liure, this is actually a Sarabascan outfit that specializes in assassination and poisonings.  Because their reputation is so good, the business is incredibly lucrative, and they can charge so much, the Union has surprising clout given their small numbers.  They are much more specialized than most, however.
  • The Castiada Crime Family.  A local Terrasan family business, which has grown over the years to be a major player in the city.  Ruled by the "Old Gray Lady", it's not entirely clear who this person is.  It's not entirely clear that it is in fact a single person, or even a person at all.  Commonly, it's believed that the Old Gray Lady is a leader in disguise, and the actual running of the family is confined to a small group or triumvirate who take turns donning the Old Gray Lady's robes when the occasion demands.  Some have made wilder claims; that the Old Gray Lady is the ghost of an ancient Castiada matron who still rules the family from beyond the grave being one popular tavern story, but if anyone knows the truth, they're not saying.  In addition to playing in the usual vices, the Castiadas have made a concerted effort in the past to corral all the cat-burglars and pick-pockets in the city under their umbrella.  They haven't been completely successful, but they've managed to take a cut from a fair amount of them, and freelance operatives better learn to take very small, discrete steps around town or risk their brutal wrath.
  • The Fuzeta da Ponte family.  Another local gang, but one with tendrils extending throughout the western Mezzovian region.  Old Man Heitor, the capo emeritus of the family, spent many of his younger years at sea as a pirate, and only retired to take over the organized crime business from his father when the sea lanes got too hot for him.  He's now stepped aside for his own son, Leonardo, who plied the seas with a little more legitimacy, sailing with a letter of marque issued by the Lord of Porto Liure himself.  Fantastically connected, both locally with the nobility, abroad with various important VIPs throughout the region, and with a number of old pirates and smugglers on the waters as well, the Fuzeta da Ponte family might be the most potent player in the city, although their strength is difficult to estimate.  Although they dabble in everything, their specialty is smuggling and piracy, and many pirates on the clear blue waters of the Mezzovian are sailing with debts owed to the Fuzeta da Ponte family, which they ensure they use as leverage to take a cut.
  • Kaz's Crew.  Kazimir Lagebøter's ancestors were from the north, as a casual glance at his name suggests.  However, his family has lived in Porto Liure for generations.  Seen by many as a newcomer, and therefore with some disdain, Kazimir's success derives from his reputation for potent, dangerous, and cursed witchery, which he learned from an old vampire hag he took as a lover while traveling in Tarush Noptii.  At least, so say the rumors.  Regardless, his rise has been meteoric, and his crew have an almost unnatural, offputting mien to them.  Few can say to have directly witnessed any action of witchcraft, but everyone whispers about it nonetheless.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The All Rogue game

Someone asked recently about "what to do with an imbalanced party" and one specific example he gave is a group of all rogues.  I thought this was a curious question, given that running a game for a party of all rogues is actually an ambition of mine.

First off, to answer the question, I gave my opinion that it is the GM's job to provide a game for the player characters he gets, not passive aggressively penalize the players for not picking an "optimized" party balanced to some kind of mechanical ideal.  Control of the player's character, and definition thereof, is one of the few things that the players should have absolute control over (within parameters set by the GM, of course.  I absolutely believe in the GM's ability to veto broken or "bad" mechanics.)  It's not any more difficult or less fun for GM's to provide a game that works for the players rather than for an idealized theoretical party structure.  In fact, except in very unusual cases, it's going to make the game much more fun for the GM to provide a game that's also fun for the players.

So, I reiterate; to sacrifice a fun game for one that's idealogically "pure" is not only bad GMing and a poor consolation prize, but it's also passive aggressive.  I see no point in it.

But, that out of the way, I've actually, like I said, had the ambition of running an all rogue game for some time.  The idea appealed to me when someone I knew through work mentioned years ago that they had done so with a pirate theme, but it didn't really congeal in my mind until the Paizo folks came up with the notion of the archetype--subtle variations to the character classes suite of abilities that optimize them for a more specific role or archetype within a campaign.  Using the Pathfinder variant on the Rogue, including the archetypes introduced, has a number of benefits relative to the 3.5 SRD.
  • d8 hit dice (as opposed to d6) removed some of the fragility associated with the rogue--which helps tremendously in an all rogue party.
  • Pathfinder skill consolidation helps the skill points go even a little bit further.  With 8 skill points per level, Pathfinder rogues can be built to be experts in pretty much anything, and a party of all rogues can contain an awful lot of varied expertise in a game that utilized a lot of skill checks.  Which it should, especially given this party.
  • 3.5 rogue is locked into a number of class abilities that may or may not be applicable to the concept of the character.  This is why the archetypes are so nice; the Trapfinding abilities in particular get frequently sacrificed to make way for something else (since Trapfinding is a very specific ability that doesn't apply to a lot of Roguish archetypes.)
  • The pickable abilities are greatly expanded, making room for additional flexibility and variability in rogue builds.
So, just for the heckuvit, here's the list of archetypes that can be used to modify the rogue class.  They are all available in the Pathfinder book collection, or on Paizo's website with their "PRD"--a Pathfinder specific version of an online SRD. 

From the Advanced Player's Guide section of the PRD:
  • Acrobat
  • Burglar
  • Cutpurse
  • Investigator
  • Poisoner
  • Rake
  • Scout
  • Sniper
  • Spy
  • Swashbuckler
  • Thug
  • Trapsmith
From the Ultimate Combat section of the PRD (it's unfortunate that the PRD isn't better organized to keep all Rogue elements in the same place, but eh):
  • Bandit
  • Chameleon
  • Charlatan
  • Driver
  • Knifemaster
  • Pirate
  • Roof Runner
  • Sactified Rogue
  • Survivalist
What you'll also find somewhat curious is the slight overlap with some of the other classes; the Scout and Survivalist in particular edging somewhat into Ranger territory.

Friday, September 07, 2012

F is for Forbidden Lands

Here's a scan of my WIP map.  A portion of it, anyway.  I actually think I'm going to redraw this entire thing in a new format--a digital format--and add text digitally and whatnot.  But for now, here's most of the Forbidden Lands.  As is immediately apparent, a lot of Lovecraftian names make appearances.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that this is a secondary world fantasy setting, a lot of the names come from the Dreamlands stories.