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The Druid debate: is metal natural?


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

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Coidzor wrote:


The Sideromancer wrote:
Found while researching: Druids can conjure iron as an attack

Not just any iron, either, Cold Iron, specifically.

They just create this material that requires specialized mining and refining techniques, all in order to better murderbucket fey, or whatever else they come across that doesn't like being impaled.

It's also a spell that has a material component that would likely require interaction with civilization, although I suppose you could technically make a bloomery furnace out of clay as well as make sufficient quantities of charcoal and get some sort of iron ore even as a hermit living in deliberately primitive conditions in the wilds.

*rereads spell*

Iron Stake wrote:

School conjuration(creation)

duration instantaneous
conjuration (creation) wrote:
If the spell has an instantaneous duration, the created object or creature is merely assembled through magic. It lasts indefinitely and does not depend on magic for its existence.

This is going to be interesting...


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Coidzor wrote:
Bloodrealm wrote:
I feel like nobody here is familiar with the concept of magic based just as much around arbitrary concept and association as on physics and logic. You can't control a person with Control Water because a person is a person, not water. Metal is symbolic of artifice, whereas leather is symbolic of nature since it is what animals use to protect themselves.

It's not exactly common anymore, after all, so most people aren't as far as I am aware.

Though you'd expect that someone as well-versed in the lore of the natural world as a Druid is typically expected to be would know about native metal.

It's not about what the Druid thinks, it's about what nature decides is symbolic, I guess.


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quibblemuch wrote:
Does anyone remember the Sherri S. Tepper book where sometime in the distant past this woman had saved civilization and then, just before departing, said "Don't let anyone mess with your heads" and it had evolved into an elaborate (and bitterly contested) set of hair/head themed religious restrictions?

I remember the line as "Don't be sexist pigs," said by Marjorie Westriding-Yrarier while she journeyed through the interstellar gates. Her insights accidentally started a new religion. That religion became patriarchal and the sexist male priests interpreted the line as don't eat pork. The book was one of the sequels to Grass, probably Sideshow but possibly Raising the Stones.

Or maybe Sheri S. Tepper used the same theme twice, once with "Don't be sexist pigs," and once with "Don't let anyone mess with your heads." She wrote a lot of books. My favorites were the Marianne series.

Omnius wrote:
It is, but that's also literally the foundation of the Druid class. They're built on Captain Planet logic.

Or maybe Gary Gygax simply wanted the classes to dress differently to let players quickly identify enemies' classes. The fighter wears plate armor and swings a longsword, the barbarian wears hide armor and swings a greataxe, the cleric wears chainmail and swings a mace, the rogue wears leather armor and stabs with daggers, the wizard wears robes with no weapon, and the druid wears hide armor and swings a scimitar.


William Werminster wrote:

In older editions druids and clerics had a sacred Ethos tied to the class. No metal armor for druids and no certain weapons for clerics and druids. Talking from pure memory here, but I think barbarians also had a superstitious fear against arcane magic (The Art).

Nowadays is just a flavor rule, the class is strong enough to live with that rule. I've yet to see a day when one of our table complains about that rule in a "damn I could use a metal armor right now" manner.

Fun fact: In Ad D&D Merlin was a high level wizard-druid.

I remember my wizard wanted his staff pretty bad.

Silver Crusade

It likely comes from the fact that fey in myth are harmed by iron, and fey were seen to be part of the wild of the world. Metal was not. So it make sense for Druids, who also are part of that wild to not get along with metal.


I said that already^

Silver Crusade

Vidmaster7 wrote:
I said that already^

If it was common knowledge people wouldn't be whining about this every month.

Also reading through 3 pages of back and froth nerdplaining....


I mean like literally on the previous page.


Avoron wrote:
But none of that has any bearing on whether steel armor or radioactive waste or the Eiffel Tower are natural. The answer to that is obvious as well
Dictionary wrote:
Natural (adj): existing in or derived from nature; not made or caused by humankind. "Carrots contain a natural antiseptic."
Dictionary wrote:
Nature (noun): the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.

Those are the most common definitions. Going by these, the obvious answer is 'no'.

There's also a secondary definition (which I think is what you're using):

Dictionary wrote:
Nature (noun): The physical force regarded as causing and regulating the phenomena of the world. "it is impossible to change the laws of nature"

If that's what you're going by, then the answer is 'yes, the Eiffel Tower is natural, because it doesn't defy the laws of physics'.

But then it becomes a pretty useless word, since it can be applied to anything in existence. "Mount Rushmore is a natural phenomenon."

In the context of druids protecting nature, it's clearly "things that are not man-made" that they are protecting.


For obvious reasons, we cannot apply "created by a sentient" to just humans. The entire material plane and its laws were created by sentients, they just happened to be gods. In this sense, using these definitions applied equally, Groteus is the only champion of nature PF has.


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The Sideromancer wrote:

Because I thought I should stop derailing every time it gets mentioned elsewhere.

My most recent post on the subject

I do not think the Druid should be restricted from wearing metal armour.

Metal is very obviously natural, unless it's some extraplanar material. I agree completely that druids should be allowed to wear metal armor, and houserule accordingly.

Really, IMNSHO, the Druid's schtick should be like guardians against extradimensional forces/monsters/etc. By definition, anything that occurs in concordance with the natural laws of a dimension is natural. The universe is a closed system; when you try to introduce new stuff to a closed system, that's when things get problematic. Druids should have major mad-ons against outsiders more than anything else.


The Sideromancer wrote:
For obvious reasons, we cannot apply "created by a sentient" to just humans. The entire material plane and its laws were created by sentients, they just happened to be gods.

Campaign-setting dependent, of course.


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This was mentioned briefly earlier on, but I'd like to expand upon the point that "nature" is a fairly arbitrary concept.

When white settlers reached the northwestern united states, they assumed the region was totally natural, and untouched by civilization. In fact, Native Americans had been living there for some time, and regulated the land in interesting ways. But that didn't fit the understanding of nature and civilization at the time.

Who is more in touch with nature, a farmer who grows corn all day or a man who goes hiking regularly? The farmer spends most of their time carefully regulating an environment for the benefit of humans, so you might argue that they do not really interact with a naturally occurring environment. Or maybe, because they mostly interact with plants and animals, they are automatically in touch with nature. The hiker probably has a good appreciation of what a forest is like, and likely regularly interacts with an environment that doesn't show a lot of human influence. But then, the hiker also probably doesn't have any close connection between their livelihood and the natural world, and maybe he has a desk job. Neither the farmer nor the hiker are likely to be able to survive if they were suddenly transported back in time ten thousand years to a remote area of the world. But is that really the best way to assess who is the person more in touch with nature?

Let's make another comparison. A member of a tribe that has remained mostly out of contact with the rest of the world, deep in a tropical jungle. He spends a lot of his time worrying about how to hunt animals, and most of his possessions are things that he made for himself. The other person is a heart surgeon who spends most of her time worrying about heart surgery. She interacts with a huge range of humans from a wide variety of backgrounds, uses expensive, complex machines that are designed by humans, and eats food that typically travels more than a thousand miles to get to her. But she also spends most of her disposable income maintaining a stretch of forest which humans never interact with. One is clearly doing more for nature, while another interacts more with the natural world. Different people will make different judgments about their comparative level of connection with nature.

Some questions. Does being a hunter make you more in touch with nature? Can you appreciate nature in Central Park, New York? Are there any really untouched virgin forests which show no human influence? How is human influence on two forests categorized? Could you compare different tracts of two forests and state that one is less influenced by humans when both are extremely complicated environments with tons of factors you are incapable of adequately studying? Does being a vegetarian make you more or less in touch with nature? How does that compare to being a vegan?

If in the real world I decide not to ride in a car, not to eat meat, or not to wear metal objects, none of those things influence how in touch I am with nature, because being in touch with nature is something that we define in a subjective way.

I don't know if nature is subjective on Golarion. On Golarion, gods definitively exist. It seems fair to compare the subjective aspects of morality with the subjective aspects of nature (although I'm not a philosopher), and we know that on Golarion evil is a thing that can be defined. I've always wondered about the implications of druid's metal armor, because it seems to suggest that there is some objective definition of what nature is and what being in touch with nature means on Golarion. Unfortunately, as others have pointed out, this is a key part of the core rules. If I want to make a homebrew world where interaction with nature and an exploration of what "nature" means to the players, I have to change the core rules, because I detest their implication that nature is somehow an objective thing that all druids are naturally more in touch with.

If I ever ran a campaign, I'd want to do away with the alignment system. I'd probably have to ban paladins. If I ever ran a campaign focused around civilization and the way humans interact with nature, exploring themes about what is and is not subjectively "natural", I'd want to do away with the implications of some of the druid rules text. I wouldn't have to ban druids, because the bit about metal armor is much less central to the class than alignment related rules are to paladins, but I'd change the rules. I'd change the rules to do away with their implications in game.

If I ever played in PFS, those rules and their implications would exist. When I play in other people's games, they exist. In games I'm a part of, nature is a thing, and wearing metal armor seems to me to be a thing that makes one less in touch with nature. I don't like that.

A little further reading.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Those are the most common definitions. Going by these, the obvious answer is 'no'.

Yes, and I assert that those are bad definitions.

Words matter, and using a specific word to refer to an arbitrary set of objects can alter the way we view the objects themselves. Take that second definition, for instance. "The phenomena of the physical world collectively... as opposed to humans or human creations"? What?? You can't just slap the phrase "as opposed to" between any two overlapping sets and instantly turn them into opposites. If I told you a word was defined as "all wet things, as opposed to water," you might rightly regard me with some confusion. And if I started using a word defined as "all non-cannibals, as opposed to people named Greg," the Gregs of the world might rightly be pretty upset. Because words matter. Defining a word isn't some innocent process of pinning a referent onto a random sequence of letters, it almost always carries some sort of implicit truth value within the definition itself.

Matthew Downie wrote:
But then it becomes a pretty useless word, since it can be applied to anything in existence. "Mount Rushmore is a natural phenomenon."

Yes, I agree that attempting to meaningfully distinguish between "natural" and "unnatural" things is a pretty useless - if not actively harmful - endeavor. A consistent notion of "nature" should encompass anything in existence, and any alternative conception just can't support its own weight. If you go with "things that are not man-made," you immediately run into questions about things that are elf-made or dwarf-made. If you expand it into "things that are not made by sentient creatures" you run into a dozen more problems, not just with worlds created by gods, but also the fact that sentience is a sliding scale, or the fact that refraining from altering something is "making" it just as much as altering it is - after all, the stone in Mount Rushmore was there long before humans drilled out the stone around it. But all of these technicalities aren't the issue. The issue is that this sort of philosophical contortion is only necessitated in the first place by an attempt to establish a distinction that just isn't there in reality.


"Not created or shaped by any sentient mortal" is a reasonable thing to have a word for, and "natural" is as good a word as any for it. If there's a desert, I'd like to be able to know if it's a desert because of soil erosion created by human activity, or if it would have been like that anyway.

"Natural" as opposed to "supernatural" is the more useless distinction, at least in our world, since if magic existed it would surely exist through laws of nature that we don't know about.


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graystone wrote:

{. . .}

You're basically arguing with the gods that their rules don't follow a logical, reason based, scientific cause and effect. That's a fight you aren't going to win.

I'm surprised that nobody mentioned that the highly delocalized and mobile conduction band electrons in metals simply cause Druids to short out and/or experience excessive inductively coupled losses (with the same result of throwing their circuit breakers(*)) when they are mutually exposed along a sufficiently large area, such as that of armor or a shield. Presumably, graphene or carbon nanotube armor and shields would cause the same problem -- it's just that Druids normally never come across these things, so the opportunity to test them against each other hasn't come up yet. In principle, somebody running a Druid in an instance of Iron Gods might get a chance to test this, but in practice, the epoxy binder used in completed advanced technological armor usually interrupts the conductivity sufficiently to make this not a sure test.

(*)Apparently Gorum has developed fast-reset circuit breakers with advanced ground fault detection for his Druids.

More test subjects and materials are needed . . . .


UnArcaneElection wrote:
graystone wrote:

{. . .}

You're basically arguing with the gods that their rules don't follow a logical, reason based, scientific cause and effect. That's a fight you aren't going to win.

I'm surprised that nobody mentioned that the highly delocalized and mobile conduction band electrons in metals simply cause Druids to short out and/or experience excessive inductively coupled losses (with the same result of throwing their circuit breakers(*)) when they are mutually exposed along a sufficiently large area, such as that of armor or a shield. Presumably, graphene or carbon nanotube armor and shields would cause the same problem -- it's just that Druids normally never come across these things, so the opportunity to test them against each other hasn't come up yet. In principle, somebody running a Druid in an instance of Iron Gods might get a chance to test this, but in practice, the epoxy binder used in completed advanced technological armor usually interrupts the conductivity sufficiently to make this not a sure test.

(*)Apparently Gorum has developed fast-reset circuit breakers with advanced ground fault detection for his Druids.

More test subjects and materials are needed . . . .

...... best.... reason....yet.....


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And why does a chain shirt (mithral or otherwise) cause Arcane Spell Failure?


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All those little metal rings clanking together...very distracting....

Also they pinch.


The Sideromancer wrote:
"Ataraxias wrote:
Keyword is if. Druids function just fine without any deities, such as those of the Green Faith. It's not the deities that dictate the will of nature. The druid could be a total heretic against their deity and still have the regular druid spell list.
Okay, so what about metal (including metal bound to life)is so unnatural when other minerals (stoneplate) and extradimensional materials (angelskin) are accepted.

You are trying to bring a modern viewpoint to a non modern game. Part of your problem. Game isn’t ‘test tubes and timers’


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^Actually, it is, a little bit. That's what Alchemist and Investigator are for.


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There's one point no one's brought up. Druids already tend to smell like wet dog. Adding in sweaty iron pants stink is an olfactory bridge too far. It's just plain courtesy.


Matthew Downie wrote:
"Not created or shaped by any sentient mortal" is a reasonable thing to have a word for, and "natural" is as good a word as any for it. If there's a desert, I'd like to be able to know if it's a desert because of soil erosion created by human activity, or if it would have been like that anyway.

If you want to know whether it was caused by soil erosion created by human activity, then that's the question you should be asking. If you're asking whether it's natural, even with the definition you're giving it, you trample right over several other important questions, like "what if humans could have altered this desert but didn't, just like they could have chipped away more rock from the face of Mount Rushmore?" Or maybe "what about those definitely-sentient elephants over there eroding the soil?"

Because in reality, people don't use the word "natural" to mean "not within the sphere of objects subject to the influence of mortal creatures capable of perceiving and feeling." They use it to mean "stuff that isn't our stuff, because our stuff is special." And that's a pretty awful thing to have a word for.

Matthew Downie wrote:
"Natural" as opposed to "supernatural" is the more useless distinction, at least in our world, since if magic existed it would surely exist through laws of nature that we don't know about.

Oh, I agree that the natural/supernatural distinction is pretty useless as well. Again, it hinges on a fundamental division that simply isn't present in the real world.


Matthew Downie wrote:
And why does a chain shirt (mithral or otherwise) cause Arcane Spell Failure?

I've asked this one before... Breastplate too, as they seem to hinder arm movement as much as covering your arms in metal scale covered leather... :P

Shadow Lodge

Zhayne wrote:
Really, IMNSHO, the Druid's schtick should be like guardians against extradimensional forces/monsters/etc. By definition, anything that occurs in concordance with the natural laws of a dimension is natural. The universe is a closed system; when you try to introduce new stuff to a closed system, that's when things get problematic. Druids should have major mad-ons against outsiders more than anything else.

I could go for this take. Don't think there's much mechanical support for it, unfortunately. The Green Scourge has an Anti-aberration bent, and the Defender of the True World is anti-fey, but there doesn't seem to be a general Anti-Outsider option for druids.


Real armor made for war causes very little restriction of movement. Especially breastplates.

Soft leather armor was very rarely used, if at all.

The Exchange

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*runs over and hugs the adorable looking Realism Police*


Weirdo wrote:
Zhayne wrote:
Really, IMNSHO, the Druid's schtick should be like guardians against extradimensional forces/monsters/etc. By definition, anything that occurs in concordance with the natural laws of a dimension is natural. The universe is a closed system; when you try to introduce new stuff to a closed system, that's when things get problematic. Druids should have major mad-ons against outsiders more than anything else.
I could go for this take. Don't think there's much mechanical support for it, unfortunately. The Green Scourge has an Anti-aberration bent, and the Defender of the True World is anti-fey, but there doesn't seem to be a general Anti-Outsider option for druids.

Menhir Savant isn't exactly anti-Outsider, but has abilities (actually 3 of 4 replacements) that are useful for an anti-Outsider Druid.


The Realism Police wrote:

Real armor made for war causes very little restriction of movement. Especially breastplates.

Soft leather armor was very rarely used, if at all.

'Ere now! Wot's all this then?


Weirdo wrote:
Zhayne wrote:
Really, IMNSHO, the Druid's schtick should be like guardians against extradimensional forces/monsters/etc. By definition, anything that occurs in concordance with the natural laws of a dimension is natural. The universe is a closed system; when you try to introduce new stuff to a closed system, that's when things get problematic. Druids should have major mad-ons against outsiders more than anything else.
I could go for this take. Don't think there's much mechanical support for it, unfortunately. The Green Scourge has an Anti-aberration bent, and the Defender of the True World is anti-fey, but there doesn't seem to be a general Anti-Outsider option for druids.

Eberron had a couple of druid sects like that, though mostly Aberrations were on the chopping block.

Maybe when I'm done completely rebuilding the Cleric, I'll do the Druid next.


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The Fun Constable wrote:
The Realism Police wrote:

Real armor made for war causes very little restriction of movement. Especially breastplates.

Soft leather armor was very rarely used, if at all.

'Ere now! Wot's all this then?

That post was fun.


The Realism Police wrote:

Real armor made for war causes very little restriction of movement. Especially breastplates.

Soft leather armor was very rarely used, if at all.

I want good old paper armor! 10-15 layers of mulberry paper could stop arrows and flintlock pistols and out performed steel armor for speed, endurance, and agility. [mythbuster tested]


graystone wrote:
The Realism Police wrote:

Real armor made for war causes very little restriction of movement. Especially breastplates.

Soft leather armor was very rarely used, if at all.

I want good old paper armor! 10-15 layers of mulberry paper could stop arrows and flintlock pistols and out performed steel armor for speed, endurance, and agility. [mythbuster tested]

[mother approved]

That was bad you welcome to Kix me out of here.


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UnArcaneElection wrote:

^Actually, it is, a little bit. That's what Alchemist and Investigator are for.

Alchemists and Investigators use, at best, Jules Verne type science that has little to do with realism.

Shadow Lodge

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Saldiven wrote:
UnArcaneElection wrote:

^Actually, it is, a little bit. That's what Alchemist and Investigator are for.

Alchemists and Investigators use, at best, Jules Verne type science that has little to do with realism.

Like most of the game.

Remember, adventurers, if you need to kill a red dragon, use boiling water! It deals scalding damage, not fire!


Dragonborn3 wrote:
Saldiven wrote:
UnArcaneElection wrote:

^Actually, it is, a little bit. That's what Alchemist and Investigator are for.

Alchemists and Investigators use, at best, Jules Verne type science that has little to do with realism.

Like most of the game.

Remember, adventurers, if you need to kill a red dragon, use boiling water! It deals scalding damage, not fire!

Well, Scald is still Water-type.


How much water does it take to boil a red dragon? What's the DC on that Profession (cook) check? And if a druid wears metal armor, can they still boil a dragon?


The Sideromancer wrote:
Dragonborn3 wrote:
Saldiven wrote:
UnArcaneElection wrote:

^Actually, it is, a little bit. That's what Alchemist and Investigator are for.

Alchemists and Investigators use, at best, Jules Verne type science that has little to do with realism.

Like most of the game.

Remember, adventurers, if you need to kill a red dragon, use boiling water! It deals scalding damage, not fire!

Well, Scald is still Water-type.

Well played.


Paper armor works, but the much more common form of textile based armor in Europe was gambeson, made of tightly woven linen. Gambeson was one of the more common armor types to encounter for a long period of history.


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Once upon a time long ago, a druid wild shaped into a deer while wearing metal armor, and turned into canned venison. The End.


I've contemplated this question myself. It did feel somewhat arbitrary to restrict druids from metal armour but not metal weapons. Fortunately, there were some good theories in here of why that is, such as strange, arbitrary rules akin to various religious norms that may seem weird, but just are. Leastwise that makes enough sense for me.

I do feel like even these arbitrary rules should have some meaning behind them, which I suppose is what Sideromancer is looking for. But that's not something I should heap on other people. Or demand from the game designers.

Sovereign Court

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Druid metal restrictions had nothing at all to do with fae. The restrictions on druids were based around worked metal representing -technology- and civilization.

They were, however, allowed a weapon -as an exception- to that rule, to defend themselves with. A curved blade, in honor of the sickles they used for harvesting plants.

Also, you had to murder your elders to level up after a certain point. But that is a different issue.

As the game went through changes, some rules changed. Others did not. They do not always reiterate where those rules come from in later editions, however, so sometimes things do not make sense.

Many gamers nowadays assume rules have to do with balance, and, nowadays, they often do. Many of the early rules, though, were simply based around “how do we want this to work” ... with very little care about balance.

Roll (yes, randomly, 3d6 in the listed order, no you don’t pick which stat gets what roll) and choose your class afterwards. Get super lucky, compared to the others? Then here, have access to these EVEN more powerful classes, so not only are your stats better, but you get a more powerful class as well! Or get to dual-class for even more power! Oh, and have +10% bonus XP... so you will also level up faster then that other poor fighter who only had a 15 in Str.

... Anyways... it really is that simple. They were anti-civilization, represented by being anti-tech, represented by not allowing metal, with an exception made for defending themselves.


Never mind that civilization isn't unnatural, because damn near every animal on the face of the planet forms communities for mutual benefit.

Shadow Lodge

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The Sideromancer wrote:
I do not think the Druid should be restricted from wearing metal armour.

Well, the game designers disagree.


my druid uses a metal club.

it is a piece of wood with a big rock attached to the end.

the rock is a piece of Iron Ore.

its metal, a druid can usei t as a mace and not lose anything for it,

difference between rocktop and a mace.

the mace is worked rocktop is not

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I'd agree with others that in its inception (ADnD) it was a based around an idea (naturalism) and useful metal being forged represented civilization and was thus considered anathema. Silver sickle for ritual purposes was allowed for defence/attacks AND it had basic weapon damage. Shillelagh spell was created FOR druids and (a club) expected to be the primary weapon. Barkskin was created to help offset the armor disadvantage. So it is a design decision to keep the class in theme and reduce their armor, weapon, and tool options(so many useful metal tools!). As they were naturalistic they lost the undead abilities of the Cleric class.
That being the case Druids CAN use metal tools they just suffer a magical penalty and don't require an atonement to get their powers back.
As time went on Paizo used the 3.0 OGL to bring Druids into their version of DnD3.5.

It's okay to promote your opinion but don't expect the core game to change. That's why you have home games and GMs.

If you want to make this a reality, become a publisher and use the OGL to create your own version 8^) or use the OGL and Paizo OGL to become a third party publisher.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
The Realism Police wrote:
Paper armor works, but the much more common form of textile based armor in Europe was gambeson, made of tightly woven linen. Gambeson was one of the more common armor types to encounter for a long period of history.

yes, the game has gambeson as cloth and padded armor.

Lacquering/varnishing the paper and layering it creates hard (shaped) plates and is more 'eastern' armor in the game.


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Zhayne wrote:
Never mind that civilization isn't unnatural, because damn near every animal on the face of the planet forms communities for mutual benefit.

Heck, sometimes they build things to alter the landscape while they're at it. A beaver pond is a transport route and a fortification, and sometimes they take forty years to build and involve longer barriers than the Hoover dam

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