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"They wouldn't last half a day in the Deathlands."

"They don't care." Zuben spreads his hands. "Half of them are dying of mutations anyway -- deformed, poisoned by Leviathan blood. Their life expectancy is measured in months or weeks anyway. Months or weeks of horror and pain. If your life were surely ending, would you not sacrifice it to some better cause?" This is a calculated risk -- asking a proud Severosi to put himself in the filth-spattered shoes of a Grinder revolutionary. But needs must, when the Negative Spirit drives. "Besides, they don't need to survive long in the Darklands. Just long enough."

Minimum interest threshold crossed; recruitment threat activated.

Doug M.

The Scorpio playbook *must* be a traitor. But anyone can be traitor if you want to! (Honestly, the Gemini playbook is hinting at it pretty broadly IMO.)

Anyway -- it looks like we might have a critical mass of 4+ players! Hold the thought...

Doug M.

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Lady Ladile wrote:
I suspect a lot of folks have migrated to playing on Discord, whether in closed groups or on a server where things like Pathfinder & Starfinder Society happen. I can think of at least a couple folks who used to be active in PbP here that have since migrated to Discord to play.

I believe that. OTOH there are people who dislike gaming on Discord, for one reason or another.

I'm one of them! I'd much rather game on a friendly forum -- especially one that provides a good set of tools for it.

Doug M.

Tareth wrote:

I enjoy the PbtA engine. I'd be interested in giving this a try, although I don't currently have the book. A link to the bundle would be great. Is it similar to Band of Blades only in space?

There are points of similarity. It's PbtA, not the Forged in the Dark system. They both use playbooks, and they both have "success / partial or complicated success / failure" rolls. They're both very narrativist, and they both alternate scenes of action with social / cooldown scenes. The Pressure mechanic is rather similar to FitD's Stress. And with particular regard to BoB, you are running away from a vastly more powerful foe in a universe where the bad guys have already mostly won. So that's familiar.

The PbtA system is mechanically simpler, though -- it's always 2d6, with modifiers that can't go below -3 or above +4. That's really simple! Characters have just 5 stats, which start at either 0, -1, or +1. Also pretty simple.

Doug M.

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Speaking for myself, one factor was the instability of this platform. I had my most recent campaign end because the system locked me out for several days. (No reason I could ever figure out, and eventually it just let me back in.) Intermittent outages are also a thing. IME they seem to come in waves -- things will be fine for weeks, and suddenly there'll be a flurry of incidents where the forum won't load, or it loads but messages post slowly or even disappear, or whatever.

The Paizo forums were amazing when they came into existence 15+ years ago, and they're still an important asset. But they haven't had a serious upgrade in... when? over a decade? more? At this point one has the impression that behind the scenes they're held together with string and chewing gum.

Here you go:

$9.95 to get it, along with one other complete game and short versions of three more games.

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Sorry, I was unclear. I was thinking of *this* forum particularly -- the PBP / Online Campaigns one.

Doug M.

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I've been on and off this forum since 2012 or so, and it feels like there's less traffic now than a few years back. Still plenty of activity; just, less than there was a few years back.

This is just an impression, but... does anyone else see it too? (And is anyone tracking or keeping statistics that could confirm or refute it?)

Doug M.

Why I ask: I like PBP, but if you try to run most modules on PBP, you get six people who've read and/or played the module already. That's not a game-stopper, but it makes me sigh a little. I'd like to run something that nobody knows anything about. So I'm looking for:

-- a module or scenario. Not an AP! This should be something a competent group could get through in no more than 3 sessions.

-- can be PF1, PF2, 3.x, or 5e.

-- ideally, should still be available to buy somewhere, at least as a pdf.

And that's it. Basically, I'm just looking for that cool fun interesting adventure that *you* know about, but that somehow the rest of the world either missed or has already forgotten. What've you got?

Doug M.

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Hi Kevin!

With some googling I was able to find this page, which converts about 2/3 of Call Forth Darkness. Can't find a complete CFD, though, nor any of the other modules.

-- You know, it's been ten ! years ! since this thing first came out, and it's still very solid.


Did anyone ever do a 5e conversion for this?

Doug M.

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Oh man, I would love to see Paizo products with a union label on them. Probably a crazy dream, but it would be pretty cool.

I'll also note that this is a chance for Paizo to be a cutting-edge leader in the industry. I'm pretty sure no TTRPG gaming company has ever unionized before; by doing so, Paizo would attract a great deal of positive attention.

Fingers crossed.

Doug M.

avr wrote:
I'd think a psychic with the psychedelia discipline is appropriate here, replacing either wizard or alchemist.

Oh my gosh, the psychedelic psychic is perfect. I think that replaces the illusionist. Thank you!

Even if you don't take it, it obviously points towards a cognatogen as being helpful for a Int-based spellcaster while also fitting the theme.

Yes yes.

Sticking with the wizard // alchemist, besides cognatogen there's intuitive understanding, collective understanding and the potion based discoveries which could work for you. Mindchemist would be an obvious archetype to take.

Intuitive understand and... collective memory? Both of those look great, and very much on point.

Mindchemist, heck yes. Doesn't stack with collective memory, but that's okay. I can take Breadth of Knowledge as my first level feat and be the party knowledge monkey.

Excellent suggestions. Assuming my first feat is Breadth of Knowledge, and my third level feat is Mahathallah's Obedience -- which is really 2.5 feats for the price of one -- any other thoughts on building in the early levels?

Character concept: a gnome who's a drug addict, exploring the extremes of sensation and reality. Probably NE alignment, though CE is on the table too.

It's a gestalt, so I'm toying with the idea of alchemist / wizard (illusion specialist) who's a devotee of Mahathallah, the LE Night Queen of mortality and illusions. Unfortunately I've never done a gestalt before, so I have no idea whether that works. I'm not a minimaxer, so I'm okay with suboptimal, but I would want the character to be competitive with the other gestalts in the party.

So: assuming I want to keep the wizard side of the gestalt fixed, what of the alchemist side? Can it be made to work? Obviously I'm intrigued by the drugs/poison aspect. Is there an alchemist type that synergizes well with an illusionist wizard and/or is thematically a good match here? Or is this combination so weak I should try something else entirely?

Looking for an evil deity for an evil character to worship. ("Deity" here includes archdevils, demon princes, velstrac demagogues, or whatever.) The character is a gestalt gish who is pursuing perfection in both combat and spellcasting, so the entity in question could be focused on combat, on spells, or on just the idea of perfection. So, for instance, Kalkyton the velstrac is all about improvement through Frankensteinian fleshcrafting; thematically, a bit of a stretch, but could work.

Bonus points if it's one of the ones with good Obediences and Benefits, though that's not strictly necessary.


Doug M.

Looking for an evil deity for an evil character to worship. ("Deity" here includes archdevils, demon princes, velstrac demagogues, or whatever.) The character is a gestalt gish who is pursuing perfection in both combat and spellcasting, so the entity in question could be focused on combat, on spells, or on just the idea of perfection. So, for instance, Kalkyton the velstrac is all about improvement through Frankensteinian fleshcrafting; thematically, a bit of a stretch, but could work.

Bonus points if it's one of the ones with good Obediences and Benefits, though that's not strictly necessary.


Doug M.

Okay, the following players please report to the Discussion thread --


-- and let's get started!

As noted, BoB doesn't have strict character monogamy. You may have favorite PCs, but you'll certainly play two, three, or even more characters over the course of a campaign. So the "design a PC beauty contest" wouldn't work here. I guess I just have to take a few minutes to scan over your activity?

So, closing recruitment later today. If you're still interested, jump in now.

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The base system is called "Forged in the Dark" and at this point there are a bunch of different games based on it.

Also, if you're OK with getting pdfs, the Bag of Holding is a pretty good deal -- you can get five complete games, all using the same system but with very different campaign rules and settings, for about $28. You can find it right here.

Doug M.

Bane88 wrote:

And to clarify, we would only need the BoB book right, it says on the site that it is stand-alone, not required to purchase BitD right?

Correct. All the BiTD spinoffs -- BoB, Scum and Villainy, and all the rest -- include everything you need to play.

Doug M.

CrystalSeas wrote:


Okay, done. Let's see what happens. ampaign


When humanity is in true peril and affairs of the supernatural plague the world, the gods create one or more Chosen. These powerful champions are imbued with aspects of the deity in question. They ride forth to vanquish mythic beasts, mend rifts in the world, and seal away curses. When the Cinder King rose in the West, an unheard-of nine Chosen arose.

When they faced the Cinder King, five were Broken and turned to fight at his side.

A desperate army was assembled by the remaining Chosen and led to fight a final decisive battle on the plains of Ettenmark. Humanity lost. They did not expect the horrors the Broken brought to bear.

Now in retreat, a famous band of mercenaries seeks to stem the tide of the Cinder King, hoping to buy time for the Eastern Kingdoms to mount some wild hope, some wild plan, to keep humanity alive.

* * *

In the aftermath of the catastrophic battle, the Legion has to retreat across hundreds of miles. The good news: you have one of the Chosen with you as an ally. The bad news: you are pursued by not one but two of the Broken, each commanding an army, and each with its own suite of ravening abominations and arcane powers.

Band of Blades is a dark military fantasy.

Dark fantasy contains strong horror elements, and this game has strong horror themes. The enemies the players face are horrific undead, with a casual disregard for the living. The enemies are stong, deadly, and want to kill the characters, who have no magic spell to save the day. It’s a game where mortality and the frailty of the human condition play big parts.

This is a fantasy world, but one without dragons, elves, or dwarves. There are no prophecies that predict the outcome of this war, no healing magic that will let you leap back into combat from the edge of death, no wizards to craft some mighty spell to defeat the Cinder King. This is a world where the only solutions are the blood, sweat, and tears of people fighting for their existence.

It is an old world, with forgotten ruins, creatures of legend, and a history that remains primarily shrouded in mystery. The world doesn’t care if our protagonists live or die—indeed, the odds are stacked against them. The enemy has arcane horrors, and you have cunning, courage, and strength of arms.

The technology level of the world is late European Renaissance. Black powder is available and most countries have muskets and simple muzzle-loaded pistols. But combustion engines don’t exist and steam engines are huge and very rare — animals still perform the bulk of society’s labor. Magic absolutely exists, but is often unpredictable and almost always dangerous.

So Band of Blades.

It's the grimdark military survival horror campaign, inspired by (among other things) Glen Cook's Black Company books. You play a group of elite mercenaries trying to survive after the battle against the Dark Lord has gone catastrophically wrong. It uses the Blades in the Dark system. If you don't know what that is, it's a narrative-intensive system that uses dice pools -- somewhat like PbTA or Alien: TRPG. I think it could run very well as a PBP campaign.

What am I looking for?

-- Must either already be familiar with BitD / BoB, or be willing to read the BoB rulebook and become familiar with it. (NOTE: the BOB rulebook is fairly massive.) I have a basic familiarity but am not fluent, so I'd like most of the players to know the system.

-- Strongly preferred that you own an honestly acquired copy of the rules, whether physical or pdf. (Note that you can pick it up as part of a Bag of Holding Bundle right now and for the next week or so -- $25 gets you five complete RPGs, three of them very good IMO, plus a bunch of accessories.)

-- If you're not familiar with it, be aware that BitD / BOB is very different from PF / D&D. Just to mention one difference: there's no character monogamy, i.e. you would be playing several different PCs.

-- This is an RPG that has a heavy resource management / bookkeeping aspect. In between missions, you play the Quartermaster, Commander, and Marshall, determining things like how the Legion is going to find food, allocating horses, finding recruits to replace casualties, and the like. This would be super tedious for some players, super interesting for others. Just, FYI.

-- I'm looking for fast posting and strong commitment. I'll commit to posting every day; I'd be looking for the same from the players.

So, trial balloon here. Would anyone be interested? If yes, then:

1) Have you played BitD or any similar games, like PbtA? If not, are you a quick study?

2) Do you have a copy? If not, are you willing to blow $20-$25 to pick one up? (Obviously I can't enforce this; I just think creators should be paid. If you're living on a tight budget, okay -- PM me.)

No commitment at this time; this is an interest check. Some notes on setting and tone follow.

Doug M.

That said, yes, you're right -- I probably should post over there.

Doug M.

True enough. People can get riled up there -- there's an implicit assumption that a post on Recruitment is, well, recruiting. So I thought I might put a toe in the water here.

Doug M.

Well, 3-4 players are needed to make this work. Let's give it a few days and see if anyone else shows interest.

Doug M.

I have the impression it was down a bit this year, from a peak c. 2014-18. But that's purely a subjective impression, and could certainly be wrong.

So -- is anyone tracking it?

The grimdark military survival horror campaign -- inspired by Glen Cook's Black Company -- that uses the Blades in the Dark system. How many people might be interested? Parameters:

-- Must either already be familiar with BitD / BoB, or be willing to read the BoB rulebook and become familiar with it. (NOTE: the BOB rulebook is fairly massive.) I have a basic familiarity but am not fluent, so I'll want players who know their stuff.

-- Strongly preferred that you own an honestly acquired copy of the rules, whether physical or pdf. (Note that you can pick it up as part of a Humble Bundle right now and for the next week or so.)

-- If you're not familiar with it, be aware that BitD is very different from PF / D&D, and BoB pushes that difference even further. Just to mention one difference: there's no character monogamy, i.e. you would be playing several different PCs.

-- This is an RPG that has a heavy resource management / bookkeeping aspect. In between missions, you play the Quartermaster, Commander, and Marshall, determining things like how the Legion is going to find food, allocating horses, finding recruits to replace casualties, and the like.

So, trial balloon here. Would anyone be interested?

Maybe someday!

Meanwhile, am thinking of running this as a Blades in the Dark scenario...

What it says. I threw a big local festival into my campaign. It was intended as wallpaper, but when I mentioned it had a costumed carnival on the final day, the players all got excited -- everyone made up a costume, everyone is attending. So, I'm looking for a resource that can give me events, plot hooks, what have you.

Not looking for monster attacks -- more NPC interactions and RP opportunities. So, can be level- and system-neutral.

Any suggestions?

Doug M.

No, more just curiosity. I was looking at the Lancer RPG recently -- it's much better than I thought it would be -- and that's what triggered this.

Doug M.

Skimming, it looks like a lot of PF and some D&D. Is anyone running anything else?

Doug M.

Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:

I can understand someone forming the view that a relaunch of PFTales is not going to happen. I find it odd to then try and persuade others of that view. I mean what’s the point? Why tell others to let it go just because you have?

A reasonable question. I suppose I'm very slightly annoyed by the ongoing chirpy hopefulness in the face of the obvious reality.

Let's check back in six months or so and see where we are then.

Six months or so, checking back.

I'll really let it go now. I'll miss PF Tales, but it's not worth obsessing over. Cheers, all.

Doug M.

...of course, in 2nd Edition, Planar Binding has been nerfed down into a slightly overcomplicated version of Planar Ally. I don't even know why they kept the name; there's no binding, just calling an extraplanar creature to negotiate payment and service.

I'm not a 2e hater. But I think they really chickened out on this one. Planar Binding in 1e is a flawed, kludgey mess, but it generates all kinds of cool and crazy game ideas and plot seeds.

Doug M.

Finraeth wrote:

Due to ongoing work (I had 2/3 of my team reassigned to other matters last week), I don't now have time to post regularly here. I'm going to keep running the games where I'm DM but I think I need to drop the games I'm playing in: it isn't fair to you guys (especially the DM) to have to keep waiting on me.

Oh, and I had something particularly interesting in mind for your character. Ah, well.

It's poor editing.

The Planar Binding spells are kind of a mess. Diego suggested it's a holdover from an older edition. It's also possible that someone had Planar Binding confused with summoning spells. There's indirect evidence that this was a problem for a while in the first year or two of PF1e. (See, for instance, the language about "before casting any summoning spell".)

Whatever the reason, the Planar Binding spells are just... badly written. Most of the 1e core books are VERY clear and consistent, so it's actually kind of shocking how badly they fall down here. This is a known problem; I have some discussion of it in my Guide to Planar Binding, which can be found here (along with a bunch of other stuff).

Anyway: the best way to work is to apply the Rule of Cool and just say, okay, you prep Magic Circle and Dimension Anchor, draw your circle, and cast those two plus Planar Binding and off you go. This makes perfect thematic sense and is not OP; you're spending time, spending resources, and you can't eliminate that 5% chance of failure. And it is pretty close to RAW -- and, as noted, RAW is a hot mess here.

But if you want to be a stickler and stay as close to RAW as possible, then (1) draw your circle, and (2) cast Dimension Anchor. And then (3) you immediately (within one round) start the 10-minute casting of Planar Binding. And also (4) in the same round as you do that, you cast the inward-facing circle as a Quickened spell so that you get it off in that same silly one-round window. That's kind of dumb and tedious, but it would seem to satisfy the badly-written spell description. If you get a real rules lawyer as DM he might argue that the RAW says "cast the spell [Planar Binding] within one round", not BEGIN to cast the (ten-minute casting time) spell within one round, but at that point we're really into eyeroll territory IMO.

Doug M.

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A general note on sahkils: if you know what you're dealing with, they're easy to prep for. A lot of their powers involve fear effects. And the thing about fear effects is, they're easily shut down with low-level spells (Calm Emotions, Remove Fear) that can easily be put on cheap magic items (potions, wands, Soothing Stole, Padma Blossom...). For that matter, you can just summon a Paracletus Aeon and have it cast Calm Emotions (3x day, suppresses all fear effects).

Doug M.

I'm really chuffed that someone is picking this up and running with it. Thanks, Reduxist.

For people who like this sort of thing, here's my collection of guides, most of them having to do with Planar Binding.

Doug M.

Big caveat: this is the alignment of the characters *as depicted in the series*. It's entirely possible that Carole Baskin is really a good and upright person who's just trying to save some cats, and that the documentary did a hatchet job on her! It's possible that Joe is a basically decent guy who had a couple of bad mistakes of judgment! The events depicted are generally true, but the characters in the documentary are at least half fictionalized. So, this is about those characters, not the actual people. Okay? So:

Carole Baskin -- Lawful Evil

-- organized, ruthless, efficient
-- at top of a color-coded hierarchy
-- exploited servants are loyal because they share her ideology
-- if a murderer, then planned it well enough to get away with it
-- in the face of great provocation, shows impressive self-control
-- nevertheless, provocation will result in vindictive pursuit of enemy until enemy is destroyed
-- uses legal system to get rich
-- uses legal system to destroy enemies

Doc Antle -- Neutral Evil

-- smooth, snaky, sensual
-- wears black
-- makes entrances riding on a monster
-- exploited servants are loyal because of mind control
-- smirks a lot
-- soul patch
-- shrugs and sits out the whole LE vs. CE conflict
-- carefully avoids interaction with legal system

Joe Exotic

-- flamboyant, loud, erratic
-- extreme outfits and hair
-- blows stuff up
-- screams a lot
-- stuff tends to catch fire when he's around
-- exploited servants are loyal because of his personal charisma
-- no idea when to stop
-- zero self-control
-- is ultimately destroyed by legal system

All of them are high Cha builds who put max ranks into Handle Animal. But Joe dumped Wis hard to get that extra point of Cha, and that's ultimately what brings him down.

Damn, I should have titled this thread "Tiger King". D'oh.

Doug M.

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SheepishEidolon wrote:
Finally, if you put that much effort into a single NPC, I hope he will have serious impact on the campaign - and that at least some players will care about him.

This started as a throwaway idea, but sometimes these things just snowball. If he ends up being minor but interesting wallpaper in one campaign, I'm okay with it.

Doug M.

avr wrote:
Isn't this cat swarm pretty vulnerable to fireballs and similar? Not to mention color spray. That's about the two most common wizard attack spells.

I didn't specify Felv's level, because that's up to the individual DM. But your standard Worm That Walks is always a high-level caster. So he's probably at least 9th level, and more likely something like 13th. Color Spray isn't going to help.

Fireball would affect his humanoid form normally. But once he's discorporated? He's 10d6 cats that can spread across the entire city. You can Fireball one cat (probably doing way too much collateral damage in the process, because you're in a city). And... now there are 10d6-1 cats left. Literally all that's accomplished is to annoy him.

Also, if you really want to be a jerk DM, two can play at this game. PCs are strolling down the street and FWOOMPH they get hit by a Fireball from a cat 400 feet away. They'll need a decent Perception check to even see where that came from! Okay, so they spot the cat and retaliate with missile attacks. Individual Felv-cats have normal cat AC and hp so they probably kill it. And... FWOOMPH they get hit again next round, from a different cat 400 feet away in a different direction.

If he uses higher level slots, Felv can probably keep this up for 20 rounds or more. Basically he's a spam-casting sorceror with 10d6 throwaway disposable bodies to cast from. The +3 CR is there for a reason.

Doug M.

As we all know, H.P. Lovecraft invented the Worm That Walks.

"Cursed the ground where dead thoughts live new and oddly bodied, and evil the mind that is held by no head. Wisely did Ibn Schacabao say, that happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes. For it is of old rumour that the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from his charnel clay, but fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws; till out of corruption horrid life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swell monstrous to plague it. Great holes secretly are digged where earth's pores ought to suffice, and things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl."

Mm, good stuff. But it's been done many times now. What else did Lovecraft like? Ah yes: cats.

It is said that in Ulthar, which lies beyond the river Skai, no man may kill a cat; and this I can verily believe as I gaze upon him who sitteth purring before the fire. For the cat is cryptic, and close to strange things which men cannot see.

Can we combine these two ideas?

Sure we can.

* * * * *

There's a city where nobody will kill a cat. It goes further: nobody in this city will harm a cat, or even bother or annoy a cat. People will walk around a sleeping cat rather than disturb it. People will tell you that it's because cats are good luck. This is a lie. It's because harming, annoying or bothering cats is a very very bad idea.

That's because of Crato Felv.

Sometimes you get people who just really love cats. Your classic Crazy Cat Person, yes? Stereotypically a woman, but men can go that way too. And sometimes you get people who are really powerful sorcerors. Sorcery is pretty random! So, logically, once in a great while you'll get someone who is both. Like Crato Felv.

Here's an open question: did Felv intend for what happened to happen? Or did he just die suddenly, old and alone, only to have his dozens of cats do... well, do what cats do naturally when presented with a sudden windfall of fresh meat. It doesn't really matter whether it was intended or not, because the result was the same. A "normal" Worm That Walks is a swarm intelligence inhabiting tens of thousands of worms or insects. Crato Felv is a swarm intelligence inhabiting several dozen cats.

Build notes:
Build Felv like a standard Worm That Walks with the following differences:

-- Alignment is not necessarily evil. Felv is CN. He's cranky and obsessive and all gods help you if he decides you're a threat to his cats, or any cats. But not /evil/. Really, he's beyond your notions of morality. He understands that only one thing really matters: cats.

-- DR is 5/-, not 15/-.

-- New creature type is Animal, not Vermin.

-- Not immune to sleep effects. (Come on, he's made of cats.)

-- When Felv uses the Discorporate ability, he doesn't turn into a swarm. Instead he breaks up into 10d6 cats, who scatter in all directions. In terms of physical stats, hp, move and AC these are ordinary cats. Felv himself no longer has a fixed location. He can see and hear through every one of these cats and can control them as part of himself, and -- oh dear -- he can cast through all of them. The Felv-cats cannot speak but they do have the Natural Spell feat. Having multiple bodies doesn't allow Felv to cast multiple times per round, but he can cast from any of his cat bodies wherever they may be.

The only silver lining here is that in this form, Felv's intelligence grows dim and animalistic: he's Int 6 until he pulls himself together again. Oh, and he can speak freely with cats and with creatures that are essentially feline.

-- The only ways to permanently kill Felv are (1) reduce him to negative HP while he's in solid form, or (2) kill every single one of his swarm-cats. Good luck with that.

-- CR +3 instead of +2.

Feline Intervention:
Felv spends most of his time discorporated, living as a sentient swarm of feral cats scattered across the city. If the PCs encounter a random cat, there's a 5% chance it's one of him. Remember that Felv can speak with all cats, so he'll soon become aware of any interaction the PCs have with a cat, or any notable or unusual behavior they might undertake otherwise.

He pulls himself together into his sort-of human form only for special occasions. He's much more intelligent then, and he can talk. But he's also more vulnerable and he knows it. Also, he likes being a cloud of cats. So you'd better have a good reason for calling him together.

An audience with Felv is, frankly, messed up. He's a vaguely humanoid pile of cats. It's hard to get a pile of cats to stand up straight (although he can manage it if he has to), so most of the time he'll be stretched out on a couch or something. He'll gesture languidly with a hand whose writhing fingers are furry tails. He'll frown at you with a face that's made of a dozen whiskery little faces His eyebrows and mouth are cat limbs. His voice is an absolutely indescribable mash of growls, purrs, and hisses. He smells like, well, like a big pile of cats.

He's not very patient and his attention span isn't great. Talk fast.

Cat House:

Felv's former residence is a run-down townhouse in a formerly pleasant neighborhood now gone considerably downhill. The PCs may hear about the old "wizard" who loves cats so much -- a decent Gather Information check will do this. (Note that people aren't sure if Felv is dead or not. He hasn't been seen in person in a while, but he was always misanthropic and solitary.) And once they arrive at his place, it'll be clear that something's up: it looks abandoned, and there are cats *everywhere*.

It's pretty easy to break in. It really stinks of cat inside. There's a half-hearted trap or two. There are a couple of minor magic items. And there's Felv's skeleton, in the shreds of his robes, picked very clean by the sharp teeth of hundreds of hungry cats. (Clever PCs may think that the skeleton will serve as Felv's phylactery or something, or can be used against him somehow. Nope. Messing with his skeleton will only annoy him. And it won't even annoy him that much, because it doesn't directly involve, you know, cats.)

The one thing you get from the townhouse: it attracts Felv's attention and causes him to coalesce into humanoid form. If his skeleton has been left undisturbed, his cats will wrap themselves around it, but that's not strictly necessary -- it's just force of habit.

This is the PCs' one guaranteed chance for an interview. Start at Unfriendly, give +2 to a druid, +2 to a caster with a feline familiar. Then give anywhere from -4 to insta-kill if the PCs have annoyed, mistreated, or (shudder) killed a cat. Then just remember that Felv is a cranky misanthropic obsessive who is capital-D Difficult, and who really only cares about one thing. Good luck!

What if... Cats are our friends?:

Maybe the PCs ace the interview! That's fine. Felv doesn't have to be an antagonist. He makes a useful friend and a fantastic ally. You want to know what the evil queen is really up to, or who's blackmailing the Mayor? Felv is a disembodied intelligence who can bounce around dozens of stealthy little bodies. He can discover pretty much anything worth knowing.

The big problem here is getting Felv to help. He starts out as neutral towards PCs /at best/. More likely he's Unfriendly: why are you bothering him? When he was human he was a cranky, solitary obsessive. Now that he's... whatever he is... he's five times worse. Is the evil queen spreading plague through the city? Do people writhe under the unjust tyranny of the Chelaxian occupation? Felv deeply, profoundly, does not care. He only has interest about these things insofar as they affect cats.

Play Felv as just plain difficult. Getting his attention (without pissing him off) is difficult. An audience with him is difficult. Getting him to help? This should not be impossible, but it should be a nontrivial challenge. He'll want something like "ten tons of fresh fish, to be dumped in 100 lots of 200 lbs. each at the following locations around the city". Bonus points if the city is located in a desert. Will fulfilling his demands be embarrassing or expensive? That gets a writhing furry shrug.

That said, if you can get him on side, he's pretty powerful! So he should only be helpful for a single task or a fixed period. And then the next time, he'll want something else: the fish were great, but now he wants ten thousand small, wingless birds. Or fifty cat-grooming stations set up around the city, each with two designated combers, plus ten roving veterinarians on call. Or passage of a law banishing all dogs above 5 pounds weight.

There is one shortcut to getting Felv's help: once the PCs are aware of his existence, clever players may try to kneecap their enemies by having them harm or attack cats. If you can get the evil queen's Gray Maidens to kill a cat or two, suddenly their lives will become much more difficult. This won't make Felv friendly to the PCs, but it does add an interesting wrinkle. Getting a rival adventuring party to kick a cat? If your PCs can pull it off, let them take the win.

What if... Cats are NOT our friends?:

It's not hard to get Felv mad at you. Just annoy, harm, or (shudder) kill a cat. Did I mention that there are cats everywhere in this town? Because there are. Lots of them. -- To keep this fair-ish, make sure the PCs are aware of the city's odd tradition of exaggerated deference towards cats. Then have cats be everywhere, and be kind of obnoxious. (I like cats perfectly well myself, but it's not hard to make them obnoxious.)

If the PCs don't bite, that's fine. Keep Felv in your back pocket. Later you can have the PCs see someone kick a cat, and then die screaming an hour later. (Probably a Phantasmal Killer, but season to taste.)

If the PCs do cross him... Felv should be an elusive and terrifying antagonist. Spell-casting cats, for goodness' sake. And did I mention this city is full of cats? Any of which could suddenly launch an attack with spells of up to 6th level, or higher if you're really feeling vicious. Is that cat watching you? Wait, there's another one over there! Lashing out randomly is not going to accomplish much, and will definitely not improve the PCs standing in the city. (Really, once people realize that "the cats are angry", the PCs will become complete pariahs -- people refusing to do business, crossing the street to avoid them, you name it.)

Felv's low Int means that he can't easily switch up tactics in mid-combat. However, between fights he's perfectly capable of assembling himself in some quiet sewer somewhere to think things over in his human-ish form (which is Int 12 or so). So, he is absolutely capable of ambushes, planting evidence to frame the PCs, and other sorts of strategic surprise.

Oh, and he'll start off wanting to play with them and torment them rather than kill them outright. Because, you know.

Killing Felv is hard. If he's reduced to 3/4 hp while in humanoid form, or if he just feels threatened, he immediately discorporates. This can be stopped with a Forcecage, circular Wall of Fire, or similar effect, but otherwise you're now dealing with several dozen cats that are fleeing in all directions at top speed. In theory you could track them down and kill them one by one -- scrying could help, or a high level ranger. Clever players may think of other options.

Felv does have a weak spot, and that's spells that target Will. If you hit one Felv-cat with a Will spell, you hit the whole organism -- and Felv's Will save, while decent, is not amazing. (This also applies to a bard's song, a mesmerist's stare, and the like.) So he can be fascinated, slept, charmed, dominated, you name it. That said, note that Felv's type is now Animal. So Charm Person and other spells that affect humanoids will do nothing -- you need spells that will affect creatures of the Animal type.

Phew. -- Oh yes: this is inspired by an idea from Arnold, of the Goblin Punch blog. Everyone should go read Goblin Punch, it's amazing.

So. Thoughts?

Doug M.

This is one of those NPCs that's designed for the DM to have fun. Don't make him so annoying that the PCs kill him, nor so obnoxious that he stinks the place up or stops the fun train.

But within those limits, vamp it up. Ever been infuriated by someone online being just unbelievably stupid, and unbelievably smug in their stupidity? Turn that around, and mix it with a dash of Dr. Dinosaur from Atomic Robo ("I am a genius. By definition all of my plans are brilliant!"), and have fun with it.

Doug M.

There are two versions of the Diabolist: the Classic Diabolist from 2012's Princes of Darkness (which could be LE, LN or NE) and the New Diabolist from 2017's Book of the Damned (which is LE only). You want the Classic Diabolist -- the new one is generally inferior).

Anyway: You want to click on this link here. It will give you the Guide to the Diabolist, which is like 30 pages long and includes a lot of discussion of feats, spells, and magic items for making your character really shine. There is also a bunch of other stuff that you might find useful, including a guide to Planar Binding and discussions of which creatures to summon and bind.

Congratulations on playing a Diabolist! Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

Doug M.

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Gwidog-Sha! is a sorceror. He was born plain old Gwidog, and then after he developed sorcerous powers he added the -Sha! It doesn't actually mean anything. He just thinks it sounds cool.

Gwidog's father is very minor nobility. He's worried about his son. The boy has been acting strange, and now he's run off! He asks the PCs to help. This works best for if the PCs are midlevel, say levels 5-8.

The trip to find Gwidog turns into the hook for a *completely different adventure*. Like, in order to find Gwidog they have to travel through a village, and the village turns out to be run by demon cultists, or is paying tribute to a dragon. Or they go through a forest, and they're attacked by an owlbear that's been enraged by a poison wound, because poachers. Or they walk into the middle of a war between loggers and treants. You get the idea. There should be roughly a module's worth of stuff between them and Gwidog.

But! From time to time, someone will /mention/ Gwidog-Sha! And, oh yeah, he can throw fire. And he can turn people into his followers. Have ordinary people, peasants and such, seem vaguely impressed and fearful of him. This works best if the adventure is taking place in a backwards region where folks are not very sophisticated. Anyway: having battled their way through two or three sessions of craziness, and possibly having leveled up, the PCs finally will encounter Gwidog-Sha! He is a sorceror and he's used his powers to take over a village...

...and he's CR-3. Like, if the PCs are 6th level, he's 4rd level. Gwidog-Sha! is a weedy young man with a scraggly beard. He wears garish robes of pink and orange (he designed them himself and they clash rather horribly). He can indeed throw fire -- Burning Hands -- and can dominate minds -- Charm Person. He yells a lot about how it's his natural right to dominate lesser minds and bring a new order to the world, where the innately superior (like himself) are seen as the natural rulers they are. Well, he yells a lot about everything. When he gets really excited his voice cracks and he sprays a bit of spittle.

Gwidog-Sha! isn't evil -- he's CN -- but he's arrogant, thin-skinned, and stupid. He has low Int, extremely low Wis, and a crippling case of Dunning-Kruger Syndrome. He truly believes that he's one of the greatest sorcerors of the age. Obvious rejoinders will bounce off his near-invincible self-assurance. Sure, he doesn't throw more than a few spells right now, but that's just because he's /perfecting/ them. With just a bit of study and practice, soon he'll be summoning demons and blasting giants with fireballs. He just hasn't gotten around to it yet, is all. No, you're confused.

Dealing with Gwidog-Sha! is left as an exercise in roleplaying. Arguing with him is almost impossible. On the plus side, manipulating him, especially through flattery, is absolutely an option -- he literally has a negative Sense Motive modifier. Or the PCs can just knock him out, tie him up, and drag him home. Cruel DMs may have him squirm loose from his bonds at an interesting moment -- say, when the PCs are in a delicate negotiation with a powerful monster for passage through its territory. "Why are you bargaining with this brute? Behold, I shall burn it to ash!"

Obviously this is the sort of thing that will work better with some groups than others; season to taste.

Doug M.

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This is a plot seed for low to midlevel PCs. It is unashamedly stolen from The Librarians, because it's a cool idea. Hat tip to John Rogers.

* * * * *

The PCs are travelling through a forest or similar wilderness area. It's raining. Suddenly they hear the sound of distant shouts or screams! Investigating, they quickly encounter a young woman staggering through the underbrush. She is disheveled, covered in blood, and almost incoherent with terror.

"That... that thing! It has my friends! Oh, gods, they're still in there!" [breaks down sobbing]

Upon examination: she is well but not expensively dressed, and shows signs of elven blood. (She is, in fact, a half-elf.) Although her clothes have been slashed by what look like claws, her injuries are minor -- there's a lot of blood, but most of it is not hers. A simple Diplomacy check will calm her down enough to get her story.

She and her friends were a group of young people who dreamed of becoming bold adventurers. One day, they encountered an empty house in the woods and decided to explore it. Adventurers in training, right? And this seemed harmless enough... Alas, they had hardly entered the house when horrible, terrifying things began to happen. They tried to leave, but doors locked, windows suddenly looked out on vast terrifying otherplanar landscapes... and then the Bad Man came. One by one, they were taken. Except for the Last Girl: she remembered that she carried a magical scroll, a spell that opened doors. She's had just a little magical training (she wants to go to the Academae someday), so never dared try it before, but... it worked! She escaped!

But her friends are still in there.

(Additional wrinkle: she may mention in passing that they're from [city] in [country]. However, the PCs are traveling through [other country], and [city] is hundreds of miles away from here! If this is pointed out, the Last Girl will become a bit hysterical for a while. "We -- we can't be in Varisia! That's a /foreign country/!")

Okay, so the PCs investigate the house. Right off, this place looks creepy as hell; it's an ancient house, with a design from a couple of centuries ago, but the walls are cracked and stained, the yard is choked with weeds, strange fungi grow out of the woodwork, and so forth. Possibly some oversized moths are flapping slowly around... season to taste. Rain (you remember it was raining?) streams off the roof as thunder rumbles ominously overhead.

Above the door are wooden letters spelling out the words "R E F U G E". Give the PCs a moderately difficult Knowledge (history or local) check. If someone succeeds, they get


The Legend of the House of Refuge

Centuries ago, a kindly wizard built a house to be a refuge for those in need. The poor, the hungry, the desperate, those fleeing from war or persecution... they would find the house magically appearing across their path. Once they stepped inside, all their needs would be attended to; it was warm and safe and food, drink and clothing would magically appear. The House of Refuge could move somehow from place to place, arriving wherever it was needed.

But then one day, the House went bad. Nobody knows why, but it changed. Now it wanders the world, luring victims inside, and then slowly and horribly killing them.

So now what? Well, greed and curiosity should nudge the PCs inside. If not, Last Girl will begin weeping: "My friends are still in there! Oh, can't you please help them? You're adventurers... isn't that what you do?" If the PCs still hesitate, she'll rummage through her pack and pull out a scroll -- "This is all I have. Take it! Just, please, help them!" The scroll should be a random first or second level spell. The goal here is not so much to bribe the PCs as to emphasize Last Girl's pathetic desperation.

Into the House:

Once the PCs go inside, stuff starts to happen. Things fly through the air and just miss them. Doors open or close when they're not looking. There are horrible disturbing visions. Words like GET OUT and DEATH appear in blood on the walls. Animated objects attack them, then fall to the ground. And they can hear something moving around upstairs...

Last Girl clearly does not want to go back in the house, but she doesn't want to be alone either. So she'll go in with PCs. At some point a muffled shriek will be heard from another room; Last Girl will yell, "That's my friend! John, are you all right?" and will run through a door. If the PCs follow, there will of course be something dangerous and horrible on the other side. In fact, Last Girl will show a positive talent for wandering off stupidly by herself. If not followed, she'll disappear, leaving only a pool of blood and a torn item of clothing.

Efforts to escape the house will be fruitless; opening the door reveals a formless grey void, or worse. In fact the House is its own demiplane, and can move from place to place or world to world. And it doesn't want the PCs to leave...

What's actually going on here:

The House of Refuge never changed; it's still a good place. Unfortunately, it's been taken over by a very bad person. Some years back, a very wicked young woman made a pact with the Abyss. She gained the services of a powerful demon... but in return, she had to murder an innocent at least once per month. This worked great for a while, but finally justice caught up with her. She fled, with the forces of good right behind her... and encountered the House of Refuge.

The poor House foolishly let her in, and since then everything has gone to Hell. The House is something like a construct; it's programmed to respond to need. And she *needs* to kill people -- if she doesn't, she dies and the demon takes her soul to the Abyss. That's a very powerful need! So the hapless House, thanks to a glitch in its programming, has been turned into a mobile base of operations for a Chaotic Evil serial killer and her demonic sidekick. The panicked, hapless Last Girl is, in fact, the BBEG.

Last Girl:

I see Last Girl as a sorceress with a level of rogue, but season to taste -- if you think something else will work better, go for it. I'd put her three levels ahead of the APL, plus the rogue level. So if you have a party of 3rd level PCs, she's a Rog 1 / Sor 6. If your party is bigger than the standard four, or the players are very experienced, add another level of sorceror or two levels of rogue. Her Bluff should be sky-high -- rakshasa bloodline is good here -- and she should have lots of illusion and misdirection spells, along with something to conceal her alignment. She'll probably have Still Spell and Silent Spell too. She's cocky and overconfident -- this is all a fun game for her. But part of the game is to stay concealed until the last possible moment, so she will make every effort to do that. If she fails a Bluff check, or the PCs become suspicious otherwise, her first trick will be to burst into hysterical tears and then faint.

As for the demon companion, at APL 1 or 2 it's a quasit. At higher levels it can be a babau, a shadow demon (recommended!) or a vrock. Add PC levels and/or templates to adjust, but you want a CR that's APL +3 or so. The demon is the sub-boss; the PCs should not confront the demon and the Last Girl at the same time.

Inside the House:

The PCs should be encouraged to think "haunted house, inhabited by a monster / magical serial killer". In fact there are three things going on here. First, the House of Refuge is trying to warn the PCs. Unfortunately it's not designed for talking, so it's limited to cryptic messages in blood and the like. It locks the PCs in and plane-shifts because it senses that they are powerful adventurers, and is hoping they will prove Last Girl's undoing. It will try to warn them if it can, but its programming won't allow it to attack Last Girl directly.

Second, there are restless spirits of Last Girl's previous victims. These can be anything from minor haunts up to seriously dangerous undead. The House reluctantly protects Last Girl from them, but they can be very threatening to the PCs.

Third, of course, there's Last Girl and her demon pal. Last Girl will try to lure or maneuver PCs into danger, softening them up; the demon will strike from the shadows and then retreat, using hit and run tactics. The demon's nature should not be immediately obvious; it should wear a dark hooded robe, cloak itself in shadow, make use of illusions, or otherwise take care to disguise what it really is.

For most of the session, Last Girl and the demon will be toying with the PCs. Only once the demon is revealed and defeated will Last Girl realize that there's a serious problem here, pull the gloves off and start striking to kill.

Environmental issues:

All light in the house is reduced a step -- normal darkness acts like no-darkvision magical darkness, low light requires darkvision to see, and so forth.

Oddly, the House does not radiate evil. (Clue!) Attempts to smash walls or doors will work, but the House will "heal" the damage within a minute as soon as the PCs backs are turned.

And, a big one: healing spells don't work here. (It's a side effect of the House's extraplanar nature.) At your discretion, a paladin's Lay on Hands and healing potions might still function -- but normal healing, nope, you got nothin'. If these seems too much, you could allow healing to be impeded instead -- but keep in mind that this is an excellent way to crank up the tension. PCs suddenly get a *lot* more cautious when they can't just be healed...

Wrapping it up:

If the PCs manage to kill Last Girl, they win! A search will now reveal a cupboard full of treasure, taken from Last Girl's previous victims. The House quickly recovers, becoming a normal looking small house surrounded by a lovely garden. It rewards the PCs with hot baths and a Hero's Feast and then drops them off wherever is most convenient for them. The House is now an ally of the PCs, and may show up again some day when they are in particularly desperate need.

If you really want to get wacky, you can basically turn the PC party into Doctor Who: the House lets them stay as long as they like, and it can take them anywhere in the multiverse! However, it does have a strong attraction to places where people are in danger, in trouble, or in need...


PCs can be super paranoid. They may quite reasonably be suspicious of Last Girl! And there's tremendous variation among parties. Some will charge right in, others will *never* go in there. Some will throw the Girl in a sack -- hell, some will torture and kill her -- but others will close ranks to protect her. It really depends.

You need to know what button to push to get them to enter the house. Saving innocent people? Getting treasure? Fighting something new? Maybe have the Girl announce, with trembling lip, that if they won't go in... *she* will save her friends. She saw someone cast the Protecting from Evil spell, once, so she's pretty sure she can do it.

And of course, consider hinting at treasure. Don't be obvious about it! Hint. Like, "It was a mess inside, and smelled bad, but there didn't seem to be anything dangerous... until we got to the room with the books. I told Bob, I told him not to touch anything, but..." Nothing gets PCs interested like creepy powerful magic books.

Some specific potential problems:

-- "The PCs aggressively interrogate the Girl!" -- she breaks down crying. (Remember, her Bluff should be high high high.) If they see through her Bluff, or attack her, she flees. Consider having her pre-buff a bit -- Expeditious Retreat is good -- if you think your PCs might go this route.

-- "The PCs attack the Girl!" -- if your PCs are murderhobos, maybe don't even bother with this scenario. It works best with good-aligned characters, obviously, though neutral characters may also be vulnerable to sympathy or greed.

-- "The PCs set fire to the House!" -- guys it's raining really hard. But if they're determined to damage the House from the outside, then the Girl darts inside and the House just teleports away: skip to "They Won't Bite", below.

-- "The PCs throw the Girl in a sack!" -- if your PCs are really that level of crazy paranoid, then skip this scenario entirely. You might, however, consider a scenario where they encounter a hysterical injured girl who actually is running from a monster... and who is also the child of a powerful, influential and extremely thin-skinned local nobleman. "You threw my daughter in a *what*?" Season to taste.

Nope, they just won't bite:

If the PCs ABSOLUTELY refuse to take the bait... then, okay, they don't. Any paladin in the party should be very ashamed, but a party of standard PC murderhobos can probably shrug and move on.

Don't punish them for this! In fact, quite the opposite. A few sessions later, the PCs encounter an adventurer who tells a horrible story: he's the last survivor of a party who met a desperate young woman in the woods. The rest of them followed her inside the house, but he stayed outside to keep watch. He heard them screaming... and then he heard the Girl's voice. Laughing. Laughing.

And then a few sessions after *that*, have the PCs travelling along, when suddenly Last Girl runs out into the path in front of them, screaming, "Help! My friends!" And then she looks at the PCs, says, "Oh, crap." And turns around and runs back to the House and in the door.

You won't have the advantage of surprise with that one, but you can still have a rousing adventure through the House, culminating in a fun boss fight with the Girl and her demon pal. Never waste a hook, amirite?

Phew. Thoughts?

Doug M

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