The dark planet of Tenebrian is located in the mysterious dimension known as the Black. It is divided between the outer surface, known as 'Summit Ascendant' and a mysterious inner world known as 'Nadir Descendant'.
Nadir Descendant consists of at least four major areas: first is the Dark Below, which consists of the subterranean portion of the planet's crust that lies between the surface world and the inner surface of the sphere; second is the Inner World of H'ssnai-T'hthrarr, which exists on the inside of surface of the planet's sphere; third, within the skies of H'ssnai-T'hthrarr hangs a second planet, about half the size of Tenebrian, and is known as Ct-hon and Cththon among other names; fourth, the mantle of Ct-hon rests upon a fiery core which connects to the Elemental Chaos at the center of the Inner Planes.
There are three primary continents on the Summit Ascendant dark planet of Tenebrian.
Continent of Golgoroth
Known as the Weeping Lands or the Land of Tears, Golgoroth is the primary locus of civilization in Tenebrian. This apparently sinister title is actually intended to imply that its natives are merciful, weeping for themselves and others.
The lands of Golgoroth are also known as the Weeping Lands because of their peculiar humidity, an inverse of the ecology in the Tablelands. Indeed, the very air is heavy with condensation, which can essentially supply the liquid needs of its inhabitants without them having to physically imbibe water.
The Porphyric Sea on the western margin of the Lands of the Well is a strange body of purple liquid of less weight, and greater buoyancy, than water or silt. It contains enormous 'aquatic' creatures that essentially fly through the easily permeable violet substance. The Porphyric Sea is dominated by the Million Isles of the Oracle Archipelago.
It contains the Lands of the Well, the location of the Seven City-States such as Sublime Eridug. It is bordered on the west by the Nail and Talon Mountains, as well as the Great Plateau of Ashtruaghin, on the south by the strange fetid jungle known as the Living Lands, on the east by the purple waters of the Porphyric Sea, and on the north by the desert territories of the Lawkeepers.
The wilderness reaches are exceptionally dangerous, for which reason most civilized inhabitants congregate in the major settlements. They unsettled wilds are inhabited by clans of predators known as skin walkers, rakes, wetiko, the 'whisperers', or Fleshrakers. These savage clans prey on travelers, and consist of deceptive shape-changers who lure sacrifices to their doom via mesmerizing voices, sometimes channeled through dense mist enbankments known as horror clouds. Settlements are protected from the Fleshraker Clans by an order known as the Silencers that can quiet the siren call of these creatures.
The city-states of the Lands of the Well include the following:
This is the city of the umbral kobolds. It is a teeming metropolis home to more than a million inhabitants. Resting within a fertile valley of the Scimitar Mountains, the ancient city of the diminutive reptilian creatures who refer to themselves as the ning̃išzidda, is a famed source of the art and civilization.
Its principle protection from the dangers wandering the wilderness of the Lands of the Well are the tenebrian seeds, whose powers establish an impenetrable magical barrier that surrounds the metropolis. The high walls of the Scimitar Mountains and the towers of Fort Eren provide ample defense against most conventional dangers.
The umbral kobolds are a largely lawful neutral society, and see themselves as a bulwark of civilization against the xxyth and other chaotic forces of Tenebrian. Even within the other city-states of the Lands of the Well, the Sublime City of Eridug is generally held to be one of the fixed points of relative safety within the dangerous climes of the Golgoroth Continent.
Their government is comprised of the Ensik and Enheduanna, the Lord and Lady of the Sublime City. Each rules over a separate court, the Lord that of the Emegir, and the Lady that of the Emesal.
The umbral kobolds are divided into a number of castes. The ruling caste, which consists of the priests and other high officials, are descendants of the servants of the Dragon Kings. These are known as the dragonborn. They maintain their power through hidden knowledge of the tenebrian seeds, mutagenic artifacts that both increase the power of the dragonborn, but also provide one of city's primary means of defense.
The lower castes consist of merchants, farmers, and those tasked with butchery, garbage disposal, and the burial of the dead.
The religion of the umbral kobolds holds that the Dragon Kings are currently waging an intense struggle against ancestral foes in a far off dimension. The prayers and offerings of their children strengthen them in their battles. Those sentenced to execution have their blood split on the altars of the great pyramid to feed the power of the Dragon Kings.
There are two heads of state -- the king and queen, or Ensik and Eneheduanna, who each run a parallel government. In other words, the queen has a chamberlain, a general, a high priest, a head of secret police, etc. and the king has the same institutions over which he is the head. Each of these parallel governments has its own language. The rulers are seen as the embodiment of the divine dragons Apsu and Tiamat, and their sacred marriage both joins together society and provides a philosophical and normative social model for the rest of the ning̃išzidda.
There is also a large number of noble houses keyed to different colors. The Arcana Evolved dragons were chromatic, gem, and metallic species when they ventured out into the cosmos, including to Athas. However, the chromatic species primarily were involved in Athas, and the kobolds came to interpret all dragon species through this lens -- so they thought of them all as a variety of dragon color -- thus amethyst dragons were 'purple', and so on and so forth. When the Dragon Kings left, and the kobolds then fled to the Black, this was further confused, and the colors also began to be associated with flowers, gems, signs of the zodiac, or other animals. The Purple House was not even originally associated with Amethyst dragons -- it was an alliance of blue and red dragons, but, again, this became confused in subsequent recollection.
The Chromatic Houses are governed by the Prismatic Council, an association of delegates from each of the great clans. This association is headed by the Peacock Throne, a rotating speakership of the Prismatic Council.
The moon mages of Eridug are known as the usakar (Ur Sin is one of the names given to the moon itself). The small coterie is descended from a group of curious scientists that built an observatory to study and channel the orb's light. They quickly uncovered its marvelous effects and began to experiment with utilizing its powers. The moon has different phases that last millennia. The usakar have discovered from investigating records in ancient ruins that the last active phase of the moon saw it descend low into the orbit of the planet and destroyed a vast city known as Assabasyia. The present day usakar are still centered on the observatory make regular pilgrimages to the ruins of Assabasyia and communicate with the moon cultists that inhabit the ruins of the city of the ancient Temple Isle.
The ruins of Assabasyia are located on the Oracle Isle in the midst of the Porphyric Sea, in the same location as Ur Draxa on Athas.
There is also a strong parallel society within Eridug that is dissatisfied with the current state of affairs. They question whether they were the beloved children or simply the slaves of the Dragon Kings. Likewise, they are skeptical of the ruling hierarchy of the dragonborn, as well as the umbral kobold's position within the Lands of the Well. Whereas the traditional allies of Eridug have been the inhabitants of the city state of Leviathan, dominated by the Screaming Choirs of the kytons, these doubters wonder whether alternative alliances would be more beneficial -- particularly, the merchants among this group contemplate a closer relationship with the awakened blink dogs who conduct much trade throughout the Lands of the Well.
A recent upset in the Sublime City was the Wetiko War, when an particularly savage cult of the Fleshrakers managed to infiltrate the city. The insane acolytes unleashed a horde of vicious spirits on the narrow thoroughfares of the Great Emporium, and caused a great deal of bloodshed before being brought to heel by the combined efforts of the powerful Monitors of the Umbral Magi, as well as melee support from the Anunnaki, Anunaki, Anunna, and Ananaki Legions of the Royal Guard.
This is the city of the Screaming Choirs of the kytons.
This is the fabled City of Seven Shadows, domain of the rakshasas.
Horned Thevruminesh -- city of the Minotaurs.
Continent of Shalibaad
The lands of Shalibaad lie eastward of the Lands of the Well, across the mysterious purple waters of the Porphyric Sea and the Million Isles of the Oracle Archipelago.
Those territories that abut the Porphyric Sea, facing the city-states of the Lands of the Well, are known as the Uther East. They include the vast structure known as the Prismatic Cupola, an immense dome-like structure hundreds of miles in diameter and height, composed of an enigmatic ally of vacillating rainbow colors, which covers a vast area on the western shore of the Uther East.
The blink dog merchant clans known throughout the Lands of the Well also originate from this territory.
Shalibaad is also home to the so-called 'faceless men', 'slender ones', or 'thinnies', a civilization of doppelgangers that are not enemies, but also not allies of the blink dog merchant clans.
Secret Blink Dog Lore:
The other factor will be that the higher-up in the clan will want you to investigate the fact that the murders appear to be linked to blink dog lore about the Unmentionables, which is their name for the xxyth who dwell on the other side of the planet.
The blink dogs, who refer to themselves as Companions, were the aides of a highly technological civilization that crash-landed on Tenebrian (the planet is basically in a version of hyperspace, and the vessel was essentially destroyed by warp demons/Event Horizon-esque badness). They managed to survived the crash and thrive in their new environment. The Prismatic Cupola is a remnant of this civilization. The Companions still worship the artifacts and cryogenically preserved bodies of their former human allies, known as the Makers.
While they have established a role for themselves within the strange ecosystem of Tenebrian, they are still intent on reviving the Makers and leaving the planet at some future juncture.
Continent of Usiris Kazvagon
This land lies north of Golgoroth and Shalibaad, and contains the Lightless Empire of the Xxyth, as well as other dark forces.
CHARACTER CREATION RULES:
THESE ARE PRELIMINARY ARE ARE STILL UNDER DISCUSSION. DO NOT START ROLLING UP CHARACTERS YET -- THESE RULES WILL CHANGE!!!
Here is a review that summarizes the major changes:
Endzeitgeist Review of Porphra RPG:
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This massive game clocks in at 606 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 7 pages of SRD, 8 pages of helpful index, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 585 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So before we dive into what this book is, and what it isn’t, let’s recap: Pathfinder Playtest very much defined that Pathfinder Second Edition would feel like a radically different game in many ways; as you have probably noticed, Pathfinder Playtest left me hopeful, but also filled with quite a lot of trepidation, and to say that I was ecstatic would be simply false. I am currently in the process of analyzing Pathfinder’s Second Edition, and I can say two things for sure: 1) It is a better game than Pathfinder Playtest in many regards. 2) It is a very different game from Pathfinder’s first edition.
This stark difference between systems offers chances, but also means that the game focuses on something else in many ways. Enter Porphyra RPG. Purple Duck Games’ Porphyra RPG, in many ways, behaves to Pathfinder’s first edition in a way that Pathfinder’s first edition acted in comparison to D&D 3.X – in presents a conservative refinement of the content of the system we’ve learned and loved for years. Much like Pathfinder’s first edition, it presents a series of changes, but as a whole, you can use the material for Pathfinder’s first edition without any issues in the context of a Porphyra RPG game. Somewhat like you can use e.g. OSRIC-material in a B/X-game. Sure, there will be some minor differences and aesthetics at play here, but where Pathfinder Second Edition opted for a new start, this instead represents a kind of progression for the game. As such, Porphyra RPG begins in a surprisingly smart and concise way – it briefly explains what an RPG is, and then presents rules conventions – it explains the core building blocks of its system, the minimum vocabulary, if you will, on one page – which also highlights several changes of the system. This page both serves as a recap for veterans and a helpful introduction for newbies – I like this, as it, among other things, explicitly explains the difference between caster and character level, for example. Similarly, descriptors are properly defined.
Ability penalties can never reduce a score below one; got that; things become more tight in the instance where the game explains saving throw defaults, spellcasting modifiers, etc. Similarly, halving/rounding up is covered; the game explains how its bonuses stack, and does something different here: Untyped modifiers and modifiers with different names add together – they stack. If you have two modifiers of the same name, only the greater of the two is used. This is particularly important for e.g. dodge bonuses and how builds based on them for defense are used. A second and pretty important difference would be the caster check – this is a d20 + caster level + spellcasting ability modifier. These are used BOTH as spell attack rolls, AND to bypass SR – in short, they have streamlined this process. Much like CMB/CMD, this is an aspect that will have to grow, and it is one where backwards compatibility with PF1 might present some rough spots: Touch AC does not exist anymore per se, which means that a full casters behave like a full BAB class when attacking with spells, making such options, balanced for use with ¾ BAB or ½ BAB-classes, something that requires oversight. So yeah, we have a pretty significant component that has changed here.
After these basics, we are talked through the process of making a character – traits have now been hard-coded into the basic character creation framework, but do remain an optional step. Ability score modifiers, bonus spells per day by spell level, etc. – all listed. Each of the ability scores provides a summary of what the ability score influences and modifies. This, once more, makes “getting” the game pretty easy.
Now Porphyra has a pretty rich lore, and this book touch upon a few choice, relevant pieces of lore before the race section – this information is carefully curated, and once more, smart, as it provides a small baseline and context, without throwing an info-dump on the reader; neither does this lock you into Porphyra per se as a setting. (Though I do genuinely encourage you to take a look at the patchwork planet!) The races presented here would be the Anpur (jackal folk), the dragonblooded (think of mighty human-like beings with magical blood), dwarves, elves, orcs, half-humans (yes, you can be a half-gnome or half-dwarf), erkunae (Cult at this point!), eventual (those with inevitable bloodlines), orcam (orca-folk; purely aesthetic nitpick – their ability scores are listed as the abbreviations, like “+2 Str” instead of “+2 Strength”, like the others) and zendiqi (Porphyr’s xenophobic natives, sworn to the elemental lords). Balance-wise, I was positively surprised by this chapter, as its different races are not only chosen with an eye towards cool creatures, but also sport a great blending of the strange and familiar. The different races also check out regarding their respective power-levels, offering a nice, yet potent baseline.
The section also highlights a series of different changes of the game: Darkvision lets you see in darkness and low-light areas sans penalty – there is no more range. Low-light vision works as before. You can also see ability score abbreviations in brackets behind some abilities – if e.g. a racial ability nets you a spell-like ability, it might state “(Cha)” behind its name – this designates it as being based on Charisma. Not all abilities have such a tag – it shows up when a spellcasting ability modifier is relevant. This is an elegant solution, as far as I’m concerned. There is another pretty important component – with some few exceptions (probably oversights), spell-like abilities and spells in the rules text are no longer printed in italics. I get how this makes formatting easier for a small publisher like Purple Duck Games, but it’s the first choice I am genuinely not a huge fan of, as it renders the parsing of information slightly harder.
The game then proceeds to explain different classes – these are called “Heroic Classes”, and from Hit Dice to skills to tables, all the little bits are explained. Class ability saving throws are also defaulted – 10 +1/2 class level + the respective key ability modifier. The game presents two HUGE improvements, as far as I’m concerned. 1) Iterative attacks suck less. At BAB +6, you get a second attack at +1. At BAB +11, however, you get another attack at full BAB, and one at -5 (+11/+11/+6); at BAB +16, you get a second attack at -5. (+16/+16/+11/+11). This keeps the iterative attacks at high levels relevant. You do not gain iterative attacks if using a mixture of natural and manufactured weapons or unarmed strikes.
The second major factor that changed is tied to magic – first of all, there is no difference between divine and arcane magic. The separation is gone. Spell lists are based on descriptors. These are both permissive and prescriptive – that is, they lists specify the descriptors that you HAVE access to, but also those that you NEVER have access to. If a spell on a list has a descriptor called out, and another not called out, you have the spell; however, if your class specifies that you NEVER have access to a descriptor, you also don’t have access to any spells featuring that descriptor, regardless of how many other descriptors you get the spell might have. Once more, this is imho a pretty elegant solution, and one that lets you use descriptors to make classes feature distinct identities without constantly requiring the reassessment of different spells, expansion of spell lists, etc. Spells also are grouped in three classes – simple spells are widely known; complex spells can’t even be mimicked by nonspellcasters, and exotic spells are often unique, nigh unknown, personal or signature spells – once more allowing for nuanced world/magic-building. IN a way, this takes two smart strategies of Pathfinder Second Edition and Arcana Evolved for a nice combination. In case you were wondering: Concentration is handled by caster checks as well, and the explanation of different spell baselines also includes a clearly presented hierarchy of items affected by spells targeting . I love this.
But back to the heroic classes – we have arcane archer and eldritch knight, as well as stalwart defender and wizard. Rogue, slayer, fighter etc. are provided. Among the classics, we have the fighter gaining a Stamina pool, combat tricks, etc.; rogues get additional sneak attack benefits; the classes have been changed to represent the design-aesthetics of unchained classes, with a variety of valid choices. This also is represented by other classes – like clerics, whose gods now actually (THANKFULLY!) have their ethos and require compliance with them. Deity and faith influence proficiency, domains, etc. Champions also show up – think of these as alignment-less paladins; if you know Arcana Evolved, you’ll get the idea of being a champion of a people, of a person, etc. – I liked this one as well. The rather impressive Assassin of Porphyra class has also been brought to the fold here, differentiated by the rogue getting e.g. skill unlocks. And yes, a stalwart defender is included. A big plus would be the inclusion of starting packages to choose from. This quickens introduction of new characters and helps newer players.
After choosing traits (massive selection provided, with bonus types properly codified), we move on to character advancement – and a quick glance shows us that the XPs required have been shrunk: The advancement speeds and advancement by milestone are provided, but the numbers required have been condensed to be much lower. We’ll see how this works out in the long run.
The skill chapter is another section wherein some streamlining has taken place – Swim and Climb are both now parts of one skill, namely Athletics. Similarly, Bluff and Disguise are now the Deception skill (which makes sense to me!); breaking objects and damaging them is now handled with the Sap skill, and e.g. Scrutiny is a new complement to the Perception skill – it lets you explicitly determine phenomena, interpret haunts, recognize patterns, etc. – it is basically akin to what Investigation does in 5e, save that it is a defined in a tighter manner. Autohypnosis is also a core skill now, and no longer just for psionic characters – it btw. lets you 1/day heal some hit points!
Feats have been similarly streamlined, now featuring a unified save DC formula, if applicable; they also have another aspect – many feats gain new benefits once the character reaches certain BAB or saving throw values, skill ranks, or caster levels. Some also require certain minimum class levels in a given class., or certain minimum class features – Elemental Channel, for example, gets its upgrade at channel energy 5d6. This paradigm of scaling feats keeps e.g. bleeding critical relevant. Blind Fight, for example, now lets you ignore any miss chance from concealment below total concealment once you’ve reached 10 ranks in Perception. This particularly makes styles more accessible – as e.g. there is no more style feat chain – instead, styles unlock the subsequent abilities once the character reaches certain requirements. Endurance now allows for sleeping in heavy armor and provides a bigger bonus if you reach 6 HD; Dodge upgrades to +4 dodge bonus at 3 HD for the purpose of moving through threatened areas – essentially rolling Mobility into the feat. Feats like Iron Will later unlock a 1/day reroll – in short, the chapter takes many classics and fixes some of the traditionally underwhelming options and decreases the feat-tax required for some of the more interesting combat options. As a whole, scaling feats are an excellent idea, and one I wholeheartedly welcome. Feat-chains still exist, but I noticed no more whole series of feats required to excel at one particular thing – Improved XYZ maneuver feats now scale, making their choice still required to excel, but not just an unlock. There are many design-decisions here that I genuinely liked seeing.
The book also contains a massive equipment section, once more explaining basics in a smart manner – critical multipliers and threat ranges, weapon damage by size, weapon categories and special features – you get the idea. There are some crucial differences – you can spend skill points to gain proficiency in ONE type of shield or armor – the heavier the armor, the more skill points. This also holds true for weapons – you can get weapon proficiencies with skill points – simple ones cost 2, exotic ones 6, to give you a framework. The equipment section also includes a metric ton of items, poisons, clothing, etc. From food to mounts to transport, the book covers a wide array of options. Vital statistics and encumbrance, movement tables (including handy overland walk distance covered etc.) is included. The card-based chase rules are also included, and since Sap changes pretty drastically how objects may be broken, this also includes a pretty extensive section.
Tactical combat is explained in an easy to grasp manner, and how actions are used, the whole tactical combat thing – everything explained in a pretty concise and clever manner. There is a massive list of arcane traditions, as well as domains – as noted before deity disapproval is a thing, and this genuinely changes how clerics etc. feel – and I love it. It makes the faithful more rewarding to play AND it makes them feel like, you know, agents of a higher power. And yep, it takes some time to lose your abilities – it’s not just an annoying, discussion-causing instant loss, it requires some time and serious wrongdoings. Spell interaction is also explained in streamlined in simple ways – if two spells operate in the same area, the higher-level spell operates, the lower spell doesn’t – INCLUDING the targets affected. Small explanations and rules-interactions like this add more to the game than I genuinely expected them to. Similarly, descriptors are tightly-defined.
A huge chapter of spells can be found here, and the book also covers rules for spellblights. Crafting gets an overhaul as well – you get Craft Points every level, and may use them to craft and assist. I do not yet have sufficient experience with the system to make a final verdict on this aspect, but it does look promising. Wealth by level, stats for walls and doors, rules for getting lost, a nice array of both creative and classic hazards are included. Suffice to say, we also get rules for storms, weather, winds, cold dangers…and traps.
The trap-making engine deserves special mention: It is an elegant and concise table, with damage, poison levels, spell levels, atk, etc. all defined – the engine is elegant and mighty and allows for quick and painless trap creation for simple traps – for the traps that are basically invisible lines of damage, this engine is super helpful. While it doesn’t allow for the generation of complex traps, it does what PFRPG’s first edition understands as the standard trap exceedingly well. Kudos!
Magic items are defined, and note their DCs to identify them in the header – super helpful! The game provides a massive magic item chapter; this also includes magic item creation, obviously. The book also features rules and abbreviated stats for sample NPCs, and curses, diseases and poisons – all covered. The latter use btw. the unchained-like rules, with progression tracks. It should, however, be noted that there now is a poison damage type as well, coexisting with the track-system – which makes sense to me, and yep, one glance at the Dc lets you know the default poison damage caused. The massive tome ends with summaries of terms, negative energy, SR, etc. – all helpful and easy to parse.
The game comes with a character sheet, and a SUPER-BRIEF errata that currently contains one entry regarding a single capstone.
Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Considering the vast density of the rules material herein, the book is exceedingly precise in its presentation of the subject matter. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column standard with purple highlights, and the book features a lot of rather nice full-color artwork. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, making navigation pretty simple.
Mark Gedak’s background in the higher education teaching sector shows rather well in this book – in a way, the Porphyra RPG’s presentation always makes sense in an almost uncanny manner: The book feels, much more than other d20-based books, like it guides you through the process of playing, like the sequence of information presentation simply makes sense. This is a huge deal for a core book like this.
The changes made to Pathfinder 1st edition’s chassis also proved to be, for the most part, absolutely welcome – the streamlining of the magic system, its spell classes and descriptor focus – they make sense and I adore what this offers – it makes spells feel more magical, allows for the creation of casting traditions and the like, for limitations, if desired. Similarly, the changes to clerics are excellent and welcome. The scaling feats also are great and truly welcome – as is the notion of using skills to pay for proficiencies. There is a ton to love about the system. There are a couple of instances, where the game needs more context and time to allow me to properly judge facets – how crafting points pan out, how the whole caster check to attack pans out, etc. – particularly the latter is something that does not instill me with confidence. On a personal note, I really dislike spells and SPs not being in italics anymore – and surprisingly, those remain my most pronounced gripes with this tome.
In a way, Porphyra RPG is a bit like one of the OSR-systems that don’t just seek to replicate a given edition; it feels like a labor of love, like a love-letter to Pathfinder’s first edition, and I really adore this book for it. While there are things I love about Pathfinder’s Second Edition, there also are components that I already can say that just, by virtue of different systems, will behave in different ways and appeal to me in completely different ways.
The best explanation, perhaps, would be as follows: I really like old-school games. I also love games like D&D 5e,Starfinder, etc. I wouldn’t derive the same sort of enjoyment from these; I’d use them to tell different stories. This very notion, to me, seems to hold true for Pathfinder 1st edition and its 2nd edition – the systems feel as different to me as e.g. AD&D and 3.X did.
And this is where Porphyra RPG comes in – it takes the heritage of Pathfinder 1st edition and adds a whole array of improvements and changes to the game, much like how Pathfinder 1st edition did for 3.5 – only to an imho more efficient degree. Pathfinder’s first edition, to me, only grew a proper identity with the release of the APG. Same goes for e.g. how 13th Age only came into itself with 13 True Ways. Porphyra RPG, on the other hand already feels like a very distinct streamlined take of PFRPG’s 1st edition, one with a distinct identity.
In many ways, I consider this to be a great game to own, and one I wish to see prosper – not only because of the money I have invested in Pathfinder’s first edition, but because I do believe that, regardless of how much I might like other systems, I will always enjoy Pathfinder’s first edition – and if I can have it with a lot of tweaks, heck, that’s a good thing. The sheer complexity of combat and build options available can make for seriously outstanding combat “puzzles”, if you will – in ways that a system with a more tightly-wound math can’t account for. Porphyra RPG revises without invalidating – and its changes and their extent, mirror in many ways how Pathfinder and D&D 3.5 used to operate. The changes in Porphyra RPG’s rules tend to affect the rules in an overall positive manner, while still allowing for the use of older components with a bit of quick hacking. In a way, this almost feels like a love-letter hack of d20-based games – the continuation for people who didn’t want a hard break.
If you’re fed up with the old Pathfinder, then this won’t blow your mind; if, however, you had hoped for a PF 1.75 at one point, for something akin to what Pathfinder’s first edition was for D&D 3.5, then this delivers, in spades. And considering that this was the work of such a small team, it is a genuinely impressive achievement. Speaking of team: Beyond Mark Gedak, Derek Blakely, Carl Cramér, Keith J. Davies, Perry Fehr, Kent Little and Patrick Kossmann have provided designs to this book, with the Purple Duck Games-patreon supporters credited also for their help; as such, I’ll mention these valiant souls as well: Derek Blakely, Raphael Bressel, Carl Cramér, Nicolas Desjardins, John Gardner, Brett Glass, Von Krieger, Gregory Lusak, Cecil Maye, Andre Roy, Justin P. Sluder, Mike Welham. Oh, and guess what? All herein is open game content. That’s impressive generosity, and while not new for Purple Duck Games, it still impresses me for a book of this size. Oh, and there is an evolving rules-wiki!
How to rate this? Well, if the above appealed to you, then consider this to be an explicit recommendation. My direct comparisons for this book would be PFRPG 1st edition’s core rules and 13th Age, as both are +.75-versions of previous games. Both of these books, divorced from the expansions that would help them come into their own, are 4-star books for me. And in a way, Porphyra RPG fares better in many regards. Yes, there are a precious few instances like caster checks to attack, which frankly worry me, as I can’t see their math working out, but I can’t yet fully judge how this will develop in the future. That being said, the vast majority of the changes are pretty significant and straight improvements, as far as I’m concerned. And yes, I freely admit to loving this game, not in spite of its inheritance, but because of it. So yeah. If you can manage to take a neutral look at Pathfinder’s first edition, you should probably consider this to be a 4-star game as well; however, if you enjoy the game, but want some evolution of what you already love, then this delivers in spades. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, and I’ll round up. Finally, this also gets my seal of approval – because I genuinely adore many of the decisions made herein. Here’s to the future for both this game and Pathfinder Second Edition – two distinct playstyles I both enjoy for different reasons.
Note: these rules also apply to 'buddies' for 'buddy classes' and cohorts. Use the base form of the creature from the Bestiary and construct it exactly like a PC.
System: A mix of Pathfinder and DnD 3.5, and the Porphyra RPG.
Allowed Content: You can use races, classes, feats, equipment, and spells, from any other 3,0 3.5, Pathfinder, or Porphyra RPG sources.
Ability Scores: Begun with straight 18s and apply 204pts. on a 1-1 basis. No min or max.
Races: You can use races, classes, feats from any other 3,0 3.5, or Pathfinder sources (e.g., material like from WotC's Sandstorm). Non-Athasian races will probably have to be upgraded somehow to fit in with the setting.
Most characters should be umbral kobolds. I have souped them up to be a RP 22 race for this campaign.
Ningishzidda (Umbral Kobold) Racial Stats:
–2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence: Umbral kobolds are fast and a quick study but physically weak.
Small: Umbral kobolds are Small creatures and gain a +1 size bonus to their AC, a +1 size bonus on attack rolls, a –1 penalty to their CMB and CMD, and a +4 size bonus on Stealth checks.
Normal Speed: Umbral kobolds have a base speed of 30 feet.
Darkvision: Umbral kobolds can see in the dark up to 60 feet.
Natural Armor: Umbral kobolds gain a +1 natural armor bonus to AC.
Crafty: Umbral kobolds gain a +2 racial bonus on Craft (trapmaking), Perception, and Profession (miner) checks. Craft (trapmaking) and Stealth are always class skills for an umbral kobold.
Light Sensitivity: Umbral kobolds are blinded for 1 round if exposed to bright light, such as sunlight or the daylight spell. Umbral kobolds are also dazzled for as long as they remain in areas of bright light.
Languages: Umbral kobolds begin play speaking Common and Draconic. Umbral kobolds with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Aklo, Dwarven, Gnome, Shadowspeak, and Undercommon.
Benefit: Attacks made against members of this race while they are within areas of dim light have a 50% miss chance instead of the normal 20% miss chance. This trait does not grant total concealment; it just increases the miss chance. This is a supernatural ability.
Shadow Resistance (2 RP)
Benefit: Members of this race gain cold resistance 5 and electricity resistance 5.
Dissolution’s Child (5 RP)
Prerequisites: Outsider (native) with ties to the Shadow Plane, fey type, undead type, or half-undead subtype.
Benefit: Members of this race gain the following supernatural ability: Once per day, a member of this race can change its appearance to look as if it were little more than a 4-foot-tall area of shadow. Its physical form still exists and it is not incorporeal—only its appearance changes. This racial trait works like invisibility, except the effect only lasts 1 round per level (maximum 5 rounds).
Shadow Caster (2 RP)
Benefit: Members of this race add +1 to the saving throw DCs for their spells and spell-like abilities of the illusion (shadow) subschool.
Shadow Magic (2 RP)
Benefit: Members of this race add +1 to the DC of any saving throws against spells of the shadow subschool that they cast. Members of this race with a Charisma score of 11 or higher also gain the following spell-like abilities (the caster level is equal to the user’s character level):
1/day—ghost sound, pass without trace, ventriloquism
Shadow Travel (5 RP)
Prerequisites: Outsider (native) with ties to the Shadow Plane.
Benefit: When a member of this race reaches 9th level in any combination of classes, she gains the following spell-like ability (the caster level is equal to the user’s character level):
1/day—shadow walk (self only)
When a member of this race reaches 13th level in any combination of classes, she gains the following spell-like ability (the caster level is equal to the user’s character level):
1/day—plane shift (self only to the Shadow Plane or the Material Plane only)
Swift as Shadows (3 RP)
Prerequisites: The race has at least a +2 racial bonus to Dexterity.
Benefit: Members of this race reduce the penalty for using Stealth while moving at full speed by 5, and reduce the Stealth check penalty for sniping by 10.
Type Outsider (native) 3 RP
Size Medium 0 RP
Base Speed Normal 0 RP
Ability Score Modifiers Standard (+2 Dex, –2 Wis, +2 Cha) 0 RP
Languages Standard 0 RP
Defense Racial Traits
Shadow blending 1 RP
Shadowy resistance 2 RP
Feat and Skill Racial Traits
Skill bonus (Knowledge [planes]) 2 RP
Skill bonus (Stealth) 2 RP
Magical Racial Traits
Spell-like ability, lesser 1 RP
Shadow travel 5 RP
Senses Racial Traits
Darkvision 60 ft. — RP
Low-light vision 1 RP
Total 17 RP
Venom: Through some quirk of evolution, or possibly the outside influence of other natives of Shadowsfall, some umbral kobolds possess specialized glands giving them the ability to spit mild venom once per day. This deep, inky black spittle can be spit up to 15 feet away and counts as a ranged touch attack. Those hit by the venom may save to avoid the effect (Fortitude DC 10 + the umbral kobold’s Constitution bonus); otherwise, they are blinded for 1d3 rounds. Additionally, these umbral kobolds gain a +2 bonus on Craft (poison) checks.
Slink: Befitting their racial stereotype for fleeing at the first sign of danger, these umbral kobolds are swifter, slinkier, and more dexterous. These umbral kobolds gain a +1 bonus to their Dexterity and a +2 racial bonus to Stealth checks.
Alternative Racial Traits
Albino: Similar to animals that evolve in a lightless environment, a rare strain of umbral kobolds lacks the melanistic darkness of their kindred and instead possesses a pale, milky white coat of scales, and red eyes. As a result, their scales are easily noticeable in the gloom of Shadowsfall, resulting in a –4 penatly to Stealth checks. This trait replaces light sensitivity.
Shadowblooded: Some umbral kobolds are blessed (or cursed) with a deeper, more profound connection to the substance of their adopted homeland. As a result, they cast any spell with the shadow or darkness type at +1 caster level, but are impacted more harshly by strong sources of light. When exposed to sunlight or a daylight spell, they are blinded for an additional one round, and in areas of bright light they are nauseated as well as dazzled. This trait replaces the light sensitivity racial trait.
Classes: You can use classes from any other 3,0 3.5, or Pathfinder sources (e.g., material like from WotC's Sandstorm).
Here are two netbooks of Dark Sun prestige class options:
Experience: You have 16 gestalt levels to spend for your starting character. You also have 8 mythic gestalt tiers. Finally, you can have 16 CR worth of templates.
*Leveling up is by story/I don't calculate XP.
*I may also award non-leveling bonuses as a story incentive -- e.g., you get better at what you 'do'. So, if you have a spectacular combat, I might award a BAB bonus or an additional point to Strength or Dexterity. If you do something amazing with spells, I might award a bonus spell. If you accomplish a great task with a skill, I might award some skill ranks.
Wealth: Just pick stuff that makes sense for the character.
Action Economy: For the Action Economy, you can use either the standard or the Unchained Action Economy for your actions.
I find the latter less of a headache than the normal system, but I'm leaving it as a parallel option so that builds that rely on swift actions aren't compromised. You can switch back and forth, you just have to declare each round which is operative.
Initiative: I do block initiative, as in the monsters go together, and the players go before and after the 'block' of the of the opponents. I find that makes things easier.
I use battle maps in google slides, and love making maps and handouts, etc. I will do a lot of that for this game.
Hitpoints/Health: We'll be using an alternative health system that I synthesized from both 3.5 and PF rules for, respectively, 'Wounds and Vitality' and 'Wounds and Vigor'. It is included in my houserules document: Sebeclock's Dark Sun Houserules
*Take max for all rolls.
*Double Vitality at 1st level.
You can calculate health from Constitution OR from Charisma.
Alignment: None, but you have to play well with others :).
Feats: This campaign offers its players considerably more feats than in a normal Pathfinder campaign
Sebecloki's Feats Homebrew Rules:
For feat progression, everyone gets the Pathfinder fighter progression of feats as if they were a fighter with 1 feat per level on each 'side' of the gestalt. So, you get 2 feats per level, plus 1 additional feat on each side of the gestalt for every level you would get a bonus feat as a Pathfinder fighter.
This means you get between 2 or 4 feats each level.
I really don't like the Xmas tree style of equipage, or the 'significant six' economy of items.
I'm more planning on dolling out specialty feats and something like automatic bonus points to account for the same bonus system as is usually obtained with magical items. Dark Sun fluff doesn't really work with everyone having two rings, a cloak, etc.
I'm more open to psionic items than magical items, because that makes more sense for the Athas fluff. Part of what makes Athas different from other worlds is that mages are very rare, but its awash with psionics to the extent everyone has a wild talent. But I still don't want a lot of +1/+5 doodads. If you're going to have psionic items, I want you to make them named items with fluff after this system from Ghostwalk:
The dimension of the Black is basically like the equivalent of warpspace for the spacefaring sci-fi civilizations of the Alternity Stardrive setting, which also exists in the wider cosmology of this prime material plane. At one point, there was apparently at least one colonization of the planet by a highly technological civilization, and the detritus of this attempt is littered over the Lands of the Well. However, none of the present civilizations really understand any of the material, so they're like the tech priests from 40k -- the priests have laser rifles they pray over they found in a crashed space ship, and so forth. All that is to say that Technology Guide materials are applicable and available.
NAMED MAGIC WEAPONS
An unusual aspect of the Ghostwalk campaign is that all magic weapons, no matter how minor, have a name. The process to craft magic weapons that was discovered millennia ago in this part of the world required the weapon to have a unique name to cement its powers into place. A weapon is often named for the person who is to bear it, or for some memorable event tied to its creation or the person who created it. For example, a +1 longsword made for a Tereppekian fighter named Bakara might be named Bakara’s Blade by its creator, and a +2 ghost bane heavy mace made by the church of Orcus might be known as Spirit Breaker. Magic weapons that have abilities added to them over time sometimes have their names expanded, but always keep some element of the original name. If Bakara’s Blade later had the flaming special ability added to it, it might be renamed Bakara’s Brightblade. If Spirit Breaker was later crafted with the torturous special ability, its name might be changed to Spiritwrack. A weapon’s name often reveals some of its history or features, even if its name has changed over time due to the addition of new properties. Spells such as analyze dweomer, identify, and legend lore automatically give a weapon’s current and previous names (in addition to all other effects of the spells), and a bard who knows the name of a magic weapon gains a +5 bonus on bardic knowledge checks made to reveal more information about that weapon.
*You can have 5.
*You can use PF or 3.5 traits/drawbacks.
Finally, each character has to have a kryptonite -- a serious mechanical drawback that can be exploited by foes -- they cower in terror in the presence of the color yellow, for example. I will work with everyone individually to develop the appropriate ideas.
River of Stick's 'Cheat Sheet' of rules clarifications:
Basic Package Bonuses at Level 16:
+5 Competence to attack rolls, damage rolls, armor class, saving throws, and initiative (Chopping the Tree)
6 bonus feats (Chopping the Tree)
4 bonus Gift/Knack feats (Chopping the Tree)
+3 to all Attributes (Chopping the Tree)
8x +2 to one attribute; cannot be the same one in a row (Chopping the Tree)
50% chance to bypass hardness, DR, and incorporeal or ethereal miss chance (Chopping the Tree)
4x +2 to one attribute (Mythic, standard)
8x Path abilities from two paths each (Dual Path Mythic)
50 regular feats (Sebecloki's Feat Houserules, 16 levels of (1/level + fighter progression) on each side))
26 Mythic Feats (Sebecloki's Feat Houserules 8 tiers of (1/level + fighter progression) on each side) )
Elephant in the Room Feat Tax Rules (Sebecloki's Feat Houserules)
Signature Skill and Combat Stamina (Sebecloki's Feat Houserules)
No more than 8 Mythic Horrifically Overpowered Feats
No more than 16 Horrifically Overpowered Feats; Gestalt and Prestigious can be taken multiple times.
16 CR worth of templates; can trade out for PrC or Base Class levels at a 1:1 basis. Up to 8 levels of PrC progression, Gestalt, or Prestigious adds to BAB, HD, Saves, Skills, etc as well as class features (Discussion in recruitment thread)
Deflection AC +5, Ability scores +6/+4/+2 or +4 all, Natural Armor Enhancement bonus +5, Weapon Attunement +4/+3 or +5, Armor Attunement +4/+3 or +5, Resistance to Saves +5 (ABP+2)
Wealth is an open question... Per both Chopping the Tree and ABP, we should have ~ 1/2 * 1/5 = ~30,000 gp.