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Check out this excellent old ENWorld thread: The Curious Case of Sir Phineas Aldman (scrolld down or CTRL-F search for Phineas Aldman), presenting the tale of Sir Phineas leader of a mage slayer unit in great detail and with a few custom items (3.5).
Some of the conceits we explored during that period were as follows:
- Magic doesn’t necessarily break the laws and theories of science, but rather operates in a higher realm of understanding of such.
B and I came to the conclusion that the best ‘common’ materials to deal with a mage would be something to affect his concentration. Phineas began to look for possible materials to perform this task which would be usable by the masses, and not rely on the ability to hit and damage to trigger a Concentration check. The character was relentless; using his natural talents in Gather Information, Diplomacy, and Knowledge of the Art, along with a cohort who enjoyed using his talents in Alchemy and a stipend afforded him by the Grouse (and later, though finagling, the College Imperial) he (and we) finally found the answer.
Teargas. It seems extremely simple, but of course in-game it was revelation. For six months of in-game seeking during a lull in our campaign (the winter months are unkind to marching armies, and a plague swept the cities surrounding making for poor conditions for large traveling groups of militia) Phineas, his cohort, and the party Loremaster hit pay dirt. A combination of agents, including alchemical processes, and a small alchemical ‘charge’ (similar to a tindertwig or controlled powder burn) could cause the dispersal from a grenade of a noxious cloud, which would irritate the mucous membranes to a point of agony. Most effective against mages, it could easily affect other targets too. We could create a version which would cause a Concentration check to maintain casting potential, around the levels of a good hit from a weapon (DC: 15-20, 14 + 1d6 [the d6 for potency of the specific grenade at dispersal). The tear gas would not be overpowering but definitely a surprise (gusts of wind would become a battlefield necessity, for instance).
However, it would be prohibitively expensive due to the amount of alchemical items involved (we came out at a cost approaching 160-200 gp/unit, market price of 320-400 gp) to issue them to every soldier. Therefore, elite soldiers expecting contact with the enemy’s spellcasters would be outfitted, along with any nobleman. The devices were considered contraband for anyone who was not part of the Imperial Guard, with strict penalties for carriage of the weapons . . . of course, the group was allowed to purchase them at a slight markup from the master-of-arms until a point where they arose to a status in the Peerage.
Now, this doesn’t tip the scales against mages. In fact, there are plenty of easy solutions to the issue that a group of individuals boasting genius IQs should be able to puzzle through in a few hours (theoretically) and have finished in a few weeks. The first battle using the magebane prototypes was a rout when it came to the casters; several failed their saves outright, while others failed in intervening rounds. Thus was born the tradition of Gust of Wind being an important enough spell for land AND sea casters to keep in their spellbook for further use. Technology trumped magic, but magic advanced faster.
Later, there were additional inventions; a slow-burning narcotic haze which would reduce Intelligence, in essence ‘locking out’ mages from using spells in social situations while heightening the enjoyment of revels by the Empress’s courtiers. Then came the possibilities implied by acids and other irritating and damaging liquids to force Concentration checks. The cohort, Phineas, and his group of R&D minions advanced the cause of anti-mage warfare over the next 5 in-game years to a point where, with the proper equipment, mages could be counteracted on the battlefield handsomely. A new player, obsessed with constructs and grafting, began performing research into grafting armored plating to soldiers… culminating in the first appearances of ‘living construct’ analogues in the setting. Short-term spell-resistance in tattoo/etching forms, cribbed from the use of tattoos as use-activated magic items in a primitive culture outside of the Imperium’s holdings, became de rigueur amongst noblemen.
All of these ideas were filtered, altered, and became a sort of technological Renaissance for the game. Thousands of years of magical and anti-magical researches came to the fore. Spellcasters began researching long-range spells, curses, and other non-artillery spells to bring the fight to these Young Turks. Phineas took some real damage (suffering a fearsome Heartclutch at Crosstree Manor, and having his left arm torn off by the demon assistant of a mastermind demonbinder who had hired on to train the Lesser Crown’s sorcerers in the arts of Summoning at Lichenstone) but he’s still pounding it out in the setting.
I talked to B a few nights ago about how I should frame this article. He agreed that it would be easier to present the narrative, along with our asides, and explain some of the interesting things which pop up when you actively develop your further thoughts on magic. In twenty years, perhaps the Lesser Crown or the newly-crowned Empress Deliah IV will have new methods of construction and warfare built from these simple sciences. I do not advocate that all of the ideas present in this setting would work for all settings; however, this is an exploration through one DM’s eyes of items which could assist you. Below, I’ve placed some simple write-ups for some of the items listed above, or given current analogues in published materials (with citation). If anything, this will give your fighters something to lob at the local mages. However, maybe I’ve helped to open your eyes to some unique tools for fighting mages.
Sir Phineas Aldman (Rough 3.5 Compatible Build) Old Human Fighter 3 (Thug Variant)/Rogue 4/Occult Slayer 5 with Able Learner and Mage Slayer Feats. Phineas has the Heart of Steel (Faiths of Eberron p. 157) and Mighty Arm (Faiths of Eberron p. 158). Phineas has taken the Slow Flaw (due to the weightiness of his arm and the strain on the body of his mechanical heart, Unearthed Arcana p. 91 ) to grant himself an additional feat. This flaw has been subsumed by his later acquisition of a magic item to boost his base speed. His normal armor is a mithral (or similar material) breastplate which has Spell Resistance properties. He also carries a blade known as the Coldiron Cleaver (a uniquely-crafted +2 greater spell-storing longsword with a Greater Dispel placed into it upon request and payment of ½ the normal cost) and the Magister’s Mallet (a +1 Disrupting Warhammer). His wealth is unusually high due to his connections in the Imperial Court.
His cohort (Bryce Stallingsworth) is a courtier (Bard 6/Rogue 2) with an extensive knowledge of magic and alchemical processes.
Magebane Grenades (current) are as listed in the article. The current schematic is derived from the Teargas Grenade description (d20 Modern P. 105) with adjustments as noted in the article.
Qishi, a extract incense derived from a plant found in the province of Qishin, has properties of a mildly (low) addictive drug (for addiction stats/fort saves see Unearthed Arcana p. 203-204). When burned and inhaled, Qishi causes mild euphoria and a tingling, pleasant sensation which makes focusing on spellcasting difficult; a spellcaster must make a Concentration check (DC: 15 + spell level + 2*(hrs. of exposure)) to successfully perform a spell while under the effects of Qishi. This effect dissipates after an hour without exposure to the drug. The overdose for Qishi is 5 hours of exposure in a 48 hr. period. Standard Fortitude Save rules apply, and upon failure the exposed individual suffers 1d8 temporary ability damage to a random mental score. Common Qishi costs 25 gp/dose if available.
Royal Qishi, a more refined form of the drug, can be burned; this drug causes a greater level of euphoria, along with a mild hallucinatory side effect. The effects of Qishi last longer in the system (6 hrs. from exposure), and its effect is stronger (DC: 20 spell level + 3*(hrs. of exposure). Royal Qishi is a highly addictive drug. The exposure overdose is the same as Common Qishi, however, the ability damage is 1d8 to two mental stats. Royal Qishi is prohibitively expensive, at 250 gp/dose if available.
Aside from Dynasties and Demagogues, Atlas Games also published Love and War, a book about knightly campaigns, and Crime and Punishment by Keith Baker.
Similar books with interesting subsystems:
Ultimate Relationships by Legendary Games expanding the Relationship rules from one of the APs. Also Ultimate War, and Ultimate Rulership.
Psychological Combat by Everyman Gaming which adds a social/psychological aspect to actual combat..
How about a social combat mechanic ? Check out Skill Focus Talking for $2.95, or Debatable Actions for PFRPG by LPJ Design which apparently adapts social combat from Atlas Games excellent d20 Dynasties & Demagogues. Also check out this thread.
Also read the Alexandrian's Diplomacy fix, which reduces the impact of one diplomacy roll to a better defined and smaller scale result: getting someone to a accept a specific deal/bargain.
The Alexandrian Blog as a whole contains many very interesting posts about Random Encounters (Don't fetishize Balance), Jaquaying the Dungeon, Node Based adventure design, Open Game Table, Hex Crawl mechanics etc.
TPK Games Critical Hits book: Laying Waste.
101 Skill Uses by Rite Publishing.
Tome of Adventure Design by FGG.
Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding.
Random Encounters Remastered
Ultimate Toolbox PDF or track down the old d20 toolbox on eBay, or bookfinder. The old one has d20 statblocks which the new Ultimate Toolbox has not being system-less.
Also check out Raging Swan Press. Esp. their Dressings line and their "So what's the xxx like anyway?" line. But also 100% crunch, tribes, Villains and other products. RSP is very toolboxy.
Purple Duck Games has a random encounters series if products as does Rite Publishing iirc. Some of those are mentioned here Rite Publishing has a few more tool boxy products I believe.
Frog god games still sell Necromancer Games Products. They have a few very toolboxy books: Demons and Devils, vampires and ..?, a Tavern book too iirc.
There are loads of NPC collections out there aside from the paizo one.
Here's some threads where Toolbox products got mentioned. Browse them for similar recommendations.
Derailing a sandbox, huh? Interesting choice of words. Though it sounds more like their dodging than derailing. Ask them what they want from the game.
For sandboxy play player investment is crucial. Detailed and interwoven backstories help. They need to connect with the world. Giving an anchor from the start helps here, like having them running an inn together
Also have stuff happen to them that can't be completely dodged. NPC friend dies, zombie attacks, war in the land. Or think about the effects that their dodging could have, and later present them the results. Neighboring town wiped out. PCs sister kidnapped or sick.
So not exactly scions of a great house huh?
What classes do you enjoy? What alignments? What alignments are allowed? What do the others play?
What is the starting level? What sources allowed?
Cavalier might be a good fit for the son of a knight. Or be the sickly outsider third son who studied wizardry. Or the halforc bastard son?
Ultimate Relationships by Legendary Games might also be a great addition as well as Psychological Combat and/or Complete Leadership by Everyman Gaming.
As for classes:
For Cavalier I think either gendarme or honor guard get rid of the horse. Maybe also Daring Champion? Swashbuckler would also be a great fit IMHO.
Though I must note that Damara is a rather dark land not the classical nobles and intrigue setting but a lot more frontier/mercenary, cold and dark.
What do you know about the land it's history and the house you will be part of?
Damara is the former Bloodstone Lands and part of the Cold Lands near the Great Glacier. When think of it I think of a Lich King, Castle Perilous, Orcus, Tiamat(?), the paladin King Gareth Dragonbane, a semi-secret assassin brotherhood, dragons, monks, evil Druids, witches and mercenaries and adventurers who want to earn the bounty on orcs, goblins, giants and bugbears left over from the Lich Kings reign.
You need not go all romantic noble court here. Might be a mighty knight in shining armor on a horse is better suited than a courtier, as would a stealthy killer, mighty wizard or cleric of a dark god. Or a halforc gutter rat turned paladin struggling against prejudice and evil.
I suggest you ask the DM where you can read up the history (this site is pretty spoiler free IMHO) and which city and noble house you'll be part of. And then build a character.
Interestingly the feat Equipment Trick (Heavy Blade Scabbard) allows capturing an enemy's weapon in the sheath during a disarm as a free action. Even when the sheath is not held in a hand.
Which is rather implausible but a samurai/anime trope.
So if a feat allows this and more with an enemies disarmed weapon as a free action how hard should sheathing your own weapon be?
Bound by Iron features an ex military veteran paladin investigor teaming up with a chaotic bard/journalist in Edward Bolmes' excellent Eberron novel from the Inquisitives series.
It's not PF but it's a great paladin who is definitely not lawful stupid.
Of course you need to research mundane equipment, potions and scrolls
If alchemical items fall under mundane you need to research those too.
Neither Filcher nor smuggler fit the concept for me. I'd rather go archaeologist or archivist or if you're set on rogue maybe underground chemist or go for the investigator hybrid class.
Creation sub school gives you at level 1:
Create Gear (Su):
At 1st level, you can create any object that weighs no more than 1 pound per wizard level you possess. Creating an object in this way is a standard action. The Item remains for 1 minute before fading away, although it disappears after one round if it leaves your possession. Creating an Item to an exact specification might require a Craft skill check, subject to GM discretion. The object must be made of simple materials, such as wood, stone, glass, or metal, and cannot contain any moving parts. You could use this ability to create a dagger, but not a vial of alchemist’s fire. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Intelligence modifier.
The cleric subdomain Flotsam gives at level 6:
At 6th level, once per day you can reach into water as a standard action and pull out an object with a maximum gp value of up to 50 gp × your cleric level.
This object always has the broken condition upon being withdrawn from the water. The water you reach into must be at least deep enough to fully immerse yourself in it. At 12th level, objects you retrieve are not broken. At 20th level, you can retrieve objects worth up to 5,000 gp. If retrieving an object that would not normally float, assume it rests on top of or is entwined with debris that does float. Objects retrieved in this manner disappear after 24 hours, if not already used up or otherwise destroyed before then.
Hey all. Want to get your creative juices flowing in prep for RPG superstar. There used to be a program on the web, that you could enter a number and it would spit out that many tavern encounters. Short little description of people that are in a tavern.
Excellent post ElterAgo.
This problem is solved nicely by applying the Alexandrian's Diplomacy fix, I.e. reducing the impact of one diplomacy roll to a better defined and smaller scale result: getting someone to a accept a specific deal/bargain.