About Pakk Holstad
Feats: Extra Mental Focus, Throw Anything
Alchemy (Su): Alchemists are not only masters of creating mundane alchemical substances such as alchemist’s fire and smokesticks, but also of fashioning magical potion-like extracts in which they can store spell effects. In effect, an alchemist prepares his spells by mixing ingredients into a number of extracts, and then “casts” his spells by drinking the extract. When an alchemist creates an extract or bomb, he infuses the concoction with a tiny fraction of his own magical power—this enables the creation of powerful effects, but also binds the effects to the creator. See AoNPRD for more.
Bomb (Su): In addition to magical extracts, alchemists are adept at swiftly mixing various volatile chemicals and infusing them with their magical reserves to create powerful bombs that they can hurl at their enemies. An alchemist can use a number of bombs each day equal to his class level + his Intelligence modifier. Bombs are unstable, and if not used in the round they are created, they degrade and become inert—their method of creation prevents large volumes of explosive material from being created and stored. In order to create a bomb, the alchemist must use a small vial containing an ounce of liquid catalyst—the alchemist can create this liquid catalyst from small amounts of chemicals from an alchemy lab, and these supplies can be readily refilled in the same manner as a spellcaster’s component pouch. Most alchemists create a number of catalyst vials at the start of the day equal to the total number of bombs they can create in that day—once created, a catalyst vial remains usable by the alchemist for years.
Drawing the components of, creating, and throwing a bomb requires a standard action that provokes an attack of opportunity. Thrown bombs have a range of 20 feet and use the Throw Splash Weapon special attack. Bombs are considered weapons and can be selected using feats such as Point-Blank Shot and Weapon Focus. On a direct hit, an alchemist’s bomb inflicts 1d6 points of fire damage + additional damage equal to the alchemist’s Intelligence modifier. The damage of an alchemist’s bomb increases by 1d6 points at every odd-numbered alchemist level (this bonus damage is not multiplied on a critical hit or by using feats such as Vital Strike). Splash damage from an alchemist bomb is always equal to the bomb’s minimum damage (so if the bomb would deal 2d6+4 points of fire damage on a direct hit, its splash damage would be 6 points of fire damage). Those caught in the splash damage can attempt a Reflex save for half damage. The DC of this save is equal to 10 + 1/2 the alchemist’s level + the alchemist’s Intelligence modifier.
Ectoplasmic Extracts (Su): Instead of using alchemical reagents in order to create alchemical items (including his bombs, extracts, and mutagens), an ectoplasm master uses reagents such as corpse dust, crystallized ectoplasm, and similar reagents as alchemical catalysts. Just as with standard alchemists, the costs of these materials are insignificant and are comparable to the costs of the valueless material components of most spells. As a result of his eccentric techniques and use of odd alchemical components, an ectoplasm master has an expanded formula list. He adds all sorcerer/wizard spells of 6th level or lower from the necromancy school to his alchemist formula list (but must still learn each of these spells normally). If a spell appears on both the alchemist formula list and the sorcerer/wizard spell list, the ectoplasm master uses the lower of the two spell levels listed for the spell. This ability alters extracts and replaces Brew Potion.
Mutagen (Su): At 1st level, an alchemist discovers how to create a mutagen that he can imbibe in order to heighten his physical prowess at the cost of his personality. It takes 1 hour to brew a dose of mutagen, and once brewed, it remains potent until used. An alchemist can only maintain one dose of mutagen at a time—if he brews a second dose, any existing mutagen becomes inert. As with an extract or bomb, a mutagen that is not in an alchemist’s possession becomes inert until an alchemist picks it up again.
When an alchemist brews a mutagen, he selects one physical ability score—either Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution. It’s a standard action to drink a mutagen. Upon being imbibed, the mutagen causes the alchemist to grow bulkier and more bestial, granting him a +2 natural armor bonus and a +4 alchemical bonus to the selected ability score for 10 minutes per alchemist level. In addition, while the mutagen is in effect, the alchemist takes a –2 penalty to one of his mental ability scores. If the mutagen enhances his Strength, it applies a penalty to his Intelligence. If it enhances his Dexterity, it applies a penalty to his Wisdom. If it enhances his Constitution, it applies a penalty to his Charisma.
Throw Anything (Ex): All alchemists gain the Throw Anything feat as a bonus feat at 1st level. An alchemist adds his Intelligence modifier to damage done with splash weapons, including the splash damage if any. This bonus damage is already included in the bomb class feature.
Panoply Specialization: At 1st level, the panoply savant must choose (but doesn’t learn how to use) a single panoply. When learning new implement schools, he must choose either schools associated with his chosen panoply or the chosen panoply itself. Once he has learned to use the chosen panoply, he can learn any further implement schools freely.
Focus/Resonant Powers (Su)
Mind Barrier (Sp): As a swift action, you can expend 1 point of mental focus to create a shield of mental energy around you that protects you from harm. The shield prevents a total of 2 points of damage per occultist level you possess. It lasts until the start of your next turn or until exhausted. For example, if you are 5th level, the mind barrier protects you from 10 points of damage; if you are hit by an attack that would deal 12 points of damage, the mind barrier is exhausted and you take 2 points of damage. You can activate this ability as an immediate action, but doing so costs 2 points of mental focus instead of 1.
Physical Enhancement (Su): The implement enhances its bearer’s body. When you invest mental focus in the implement, select a physical ability score. The implement grants a +2 temporary enhancement bonus to that physical ability score for every 3 points of mental focus invested in the implement (to a maximum of +2 at 1st level, plus an additional 2 for every 6 occultist levels you possess). Ability: Strength.
Sudden Speed (Sp): As a swift action, you can expend 1 point of mental focus to grant yourself a burst of speed. This increases your land speed by 30 feet for 1 minute. This ability does not stack with itself.
Warding Talisman (Su): The implement wards against adverse effects. Whoever wears (or holds, for bells) the implement gains a +1 resistance bonus on saving throws for every 2 points of mental focus invested in the implement, to a maximum bonus of 1 + 1 for every 4 occultist levels you possess.
Pragmatic Activator (magic): While some figure out how to use magical devices with stubborn resolve, your approach is more pragmatic. You may use your Intelligence modifier when making Use Magic Device checks instead of your Charisma modifier.
Self-Doubting (drawback): Your ever-present fear of failure causes a downward spiral. The first time each day that you fail a Will saving throw or skill check, you take a –2 penalty on the next Will saving throw or skill check of that kind.
Student of Philosophy (social): You were trained in a nowdefunct philosophical tradition—such as that of the nowdestroyed Galtan universities or Lirgeni astrologers—and learned to use logic and reason to persuade others. You can use your Intelligence modifier in place of your Charisma modifier on Diplomacy checks to persuade others and on Bluff checks to convince others that a lie is true. (This trait does not affect Diplomacy checks to gather information or Bluff checks to feint in combat.)
Half-Orc Racial Traits
Pakk Holstad was a refugee in Ustalav, the child of a human father (Farlis) and a half-orc mother (Uzru). After being chased with torches and pitchforks across Ustalav and avoiding Kellid warlords in Numeria, Pakk’s parents settled in Kenabres in faraway Mendev. Whereas people in Ustalav had the audacity to call Pakk and his mother monsters, Kenabres was regularly the sight of all sorts of people returning from or going off to fight actual monsters in the Worldwound. Here, what you looked like mattered far less than what you did. But Pakk’s parents were no warriors: just simple servants, those who kept Kenabres running. So no one much paid them—or Pakk—much mind.
As a young student in Kenabres’ public school system, Pakk was exceedingly bored. His teachers had assumed that he was too dumb to understand their material, and so he was stuck with children who were all at least two years younger than him. Even when he demonstrated to one teacher that he really knew what he was doing, he was still only placed in an age-appropriate classroom, not necessarily the one for which he was ready. Pakk often got in trouble for not paying attention, but he would answer every question more or less accurately. It got him into lots of fights on the playground.
But he wasn’t the only one who felt stifled. Pakk found a group of likeminded students who were bored of their education and wanted more. They figured out how to order scrolls and books from libraries much bigger than the relatively small ones in Kenabres. They could learn about the things that they wanted to learn about. Within a few years, this young group of rogue scholars had amassed their own personal library and were beginning to conduct experiments of their own. Magic. Alchemistry. Rituals. It was dangerous and exciting! Their high-level study group would sit for hours to discuss cutting-edge manuscripts written by the leaders in their fields from all over Golarion. And they didn’t just stick with the ivory tower, either. Any knowledge was good.
Pakk found an old scroll written by a particularly smart orc shaman that discussed the using specific needles and inks to create magical tattoos. Pakk had not gotten any tattoos yet, though it was quite common for half-orcs to do so by his age. But what to get? There were so many arcane runes, and plenty that might be useful magical tattoos. Besides, the Varisians had comparative studies—perhaps they could be combined! One of Pakk’s friends, Bran, retrieved an ancient-looking tome that none of them had been able to read, and opened to a page with a symbol that Pakk had never seem before. Bran said that he had been learning the language, and that the symbol was part of the formula for the philosopher’s stone. Maybe that would be a good tattoo.
Pakk was thrilled with this discovery. He, Bran, and the others compared notes across multiple papers before deciding on cold iron needles and ink infused with gold. He asked Bran to take the reins in tattooing the symbol on his left shoulder. It hurt far more than Pakk expected it to. As the tattooing session continued, Pakk felt woozy and discoordinated. He heard Bran and the others chanting, and looked around to see that they had joined hands around him and were speaking in an unfamiliar language. But their eyes were blank, like they were no longer in control of themselves. Pakk’s shoulder started to burn where Bran had been tattooing him, and his vision went completely blank.
And he dreamed.
In his dreams, he remembered a beautiful woman with a butterfly necklace bending down to pick him up. He was in the usual study room. And there was pain. And screaming. So much screaming, and so much blood. But the woman picked him up and drew a bow that she aimed in the direction of the screaming.
Apparently, Pakk’s dreams were a weeks-long coma from which his parents thought he would never wake up. A tiefling named Dr. Othirubo tended to him during this time and saw to his total recovery. When he awoke, Pakk began speaking with Dr. Othirubo about what had happened. Apparently, he and his friends had inadverently contacted Haagenti: the demon lord of alchemy. The demon lord whose symbol had been tattooed on Pakk’s shoulder. The demon lord who had responded to their summons and slain everyone except for Pakk.
Pakk was mortified. He had no idea that he and his friends had been dabbling in demonic rituals! That wasn’t what he wanted to do at all! He was terrified that Dr. Othirubo was going to turn him in to the Eagle Watch, who would surely have him executed for treason. But Dr. Othirubo insisted that he would do no such thing. Instead, he would help Pakk channel his academic interests towards safer paths. Despite his fiendish heritage, Dr. Othirubo had gained the begrudging acceptance of both Kenabres and the wider academic community by discovering a cure for a particularly virulent form of demonplague. It was this cure, he said, that he believed had helped Pakk to recuperate from his injuries.
In the aftermath of the Haagenti incident, Pakk tried to remove his tattoo, but it has remained persistent regardless of the removal method used. But Dr. Othirubo commented that the symbol almost looked like a butterfly wing. Perhaps, rather than removing it, if it bothered him so much, then Pakk could augment the design. Considering the Desnan motifs of his mysterious benefactor, Pakk now has something across his back that resembles an abstract butterfly—not too unlike the holy symbol of Desna.
Under Dr. Othirubo’s tutelage, Pakk became fascinated with the alchemical sciences, specifically those peer-reviewed and rigorously tested for safety. He devoted himself to his studies, fascinated with the way that ordinary items could be combined in extraordinary ways. As Pakk’s knowledge (and hunger for) it grew, Dr. Othirubo encouraged him to apply for further training at the University of Lepidstadt, where he could learn from many people. That was, of course, back in the country that had persecuted him and his parents when he was a child. But with a stunning letter of recommendation, Pakk was accepted into the University—with a scholarship!
Pakk earned his academic credentials with the leading alchemists of Ustalav. He participated in research in several laboratories dealing with all kinds of alchemy, none of whom were trying to appeal to demons to help them in their research. And yet Pakk remained curious: was there a way to channel certain kinds of construed of as inherently negative—in a positive way? He had already stumbled on some ways to use crystallized ectoplasm to augment his research, and he was sure that given enough time he could discover more about the structural resonance of different extraplanar materials.
For his dissertation, Pakk chose to return home to Kenabres to study the effects of the planar energies of the Worldwound on different alchemical phenomena. His research is going swimmingly, and he is excited to publish his findings. Dr. Othirubo has been excited to welcome Pakk back, and has shown great interest in his work, defending it against more skeptical old guard academics. He's a bit too humble to see himself as anyone's mentor, but definitely considers Pakk a respected colleague and friend despite having at least twenty more years of experience. The two have similar ideas about the connection between alchemy and planar energy, and have often discussed them over drinks. Once when drunk, Dr, Othirubo admitted feelings for a beautiful woman named Jeslyn. They're apparently old friends, but Pakk has never met her.
Appearance and Personality:
Pakk doesn't look like a stereotypical scholar. He is thin but firmly built with a coiffed, cropped reddish-brown mohawk and several piercings on either pointed ear. His tusks are small, jutting just above his lip in a smile that some might call almost cute. When he's not in the lab and wearing all of his safety equipment, he dresses in an understated but casually fashionable style.
He is quick-witted and talkative once he gets on a topic that interests him, and more insightful than what is usually expected for a half-orc. He is curious and ambitious to the point that it has gotten him in trouble (a lot)—more in his youth than in adulthood, but still some trouble. However, he is a bit shy and unsure of himself: he has a big case of impostor syndrome and an inferiority complex and is prone to second-guess himself if anyone else questions him.
Pakk is not a crusader, but an academic. He is willing to engage with whatever tools are necessary to seek the truth and advance it. He's nervous about the demon hordes more because of the destruction that they represent, which is not good for long-term research. Ultimately he hasn't seen enough of the depravities of the Worldwound, so the realities of demons seem more abstract.
Pakk's alchemical research revolves around the oddities of abyssal planar energies and their influence on different reactions. His lab is filled with grisly trophies that he has bought from warriors returning from the Worldwound, mostly pickling in formaldehyde. Dr. Pavlenco—his primary advisor back at the University of Lepidstadt—was keen on researching something called Blackfire, but Pakk has gotten the distinct impression that he shouldn't ask around about that too much in Kenabres.
Plans for the Campaign:
People underestimate Pakk. Throughout his life, people have either assumed that he was stupid, brutish, or boorish. Even though he is ambitious, he has internalized the stereotypes often levied against him. With a massive case of impostor syndrome and a healthy dose of inferiority complex from being an academic doing silly research in a city focused on saving the world, he second guesses himself constantly. But Pakk believes in himself. He knows that his research could make a difference. He feels like he is ready to make a breakthrough that could change life as we all know it.
I want to take Pakk through an awakening of confidence as he overcomes his self-doubt and realizes his potential. But I also look forward to allowing this self-doubt to claw at him for a long time. Pakk is used to people calling him a monster, and as an alchemist he is capable of proving them right with his mutagens. He will grapple with his discoveries and abilities, on one hand marveling at what he can do while fearing that he is giving in to some darker, baser nature.
Paak was inadvertently drawn into a cult of Haagenti that nearly killed him and did kill his friends. That’s not something that you forgot, or easily move past. I would like Pakk to struggle with some kind of temptation, whether related to Haagenti or something else. I think that if Pakk confronts the reality of what is happening in the Worldwound firsthand and recognizes the destructive power of the abyss, it could lead him to seek knowledge and power, not for its own sake, but to ensure some measure of balance.
Mechanically, I would like to see Pakk prestige into the Moral Usher class as an agent who will tip the balance of the scales in the Worldwound back from its abyssal death spiral towards one of life reclaimed.
As a true neutral person, Pakk is neither wishy-washy nor perfectly well-balanced. He is a susceptible soul. Many half-orcs are chaotic neutral by nature, essentially trusting no one and desiring to help themselves first and foremost. But while lots of humans have mistreated Pakk throughout his life, he has met enough that support him. So he recognizes that the world isn’t inherently rotten. He enjoys helping people but has no inherent compunction against studying and using the tools of cosmically “evil forces” like Blackfire to learn how to help people more effectively. Depending on events of our tale, his true neutral alignment could be tipped in any direction. I look forward to how his philosophy could develop.
If “Good preferred” makes this a hard sell, then he can lean neutral good. But I’d rather he get there on his own naturally.
A Good Day for Pakk:
Pakk wakes a little after sunrise and goes to the café in the northern Gate District where his younger sister Jadaia works as a baker. She has usually just finished working around the oven and stops to have some coffee with him. They catch up until she has to get back to work, and then Pakk pulls out an article (either one he’s reading or one he’s writing) and marks away with a pen until he finishes his (usually) third cup of coffee.
Then he heads off to his lab a few blocks away (also in the northern Gate District). He usually arrives a little before his lead research assistant, Pemberton, and the other two (unnamed) people working in his lab. He has some items purchased from warriors returning from the Worldwound (with the absolute signed permission of the city government), from severed demonic talons to broken swords seeping with (weak) abyssal energy. He uses these, along with a bevy of chemicals and more esoteric materials, to research the way that the abyssal planar energies change different chemical reactions. On an especially great day, he probably makes a breakthrough like reversing an otherwise irreversible reaction by infusing his setup with a concentrated abyssal miasma, demonstrating, at least theoretically, that the energies could be put to productive use instead of constantly purged.
After a productive day of research, he returns to his apartment (rented through the funding of his primary advisor at the University, Dr. Nicolas Pavlenco). There he checks on a few kettles stills where he practices some amateur distilling and brewing, and settles in to read through more books and journals. If he has an order to fill, he takes a crate down to whichever establishment has made their requests and sticks around for a drink or two if it’s a friendly-enough bar (like the Defender’s Heart usually is). Three or four if someone can muster up a good sing-along, though Pakk’s singing voice usually sounds like a rusty fork dragging across a chalkboard.
Pakk has tried (probably unsuccessfully) to start up a lecture series and discussion group on planar phenomena for the small number of potentially like-minded academics (not his students) in the city. On a great day, he’ll have attracted a few people to whichever space his has convinced to host him. They might even have interesting ideas instead of conspiracy theories and can have a fruitful discussion on ley lines, planar substrates, and other metaphysical topics like the areas where the shadow plane “leaks” onto the material plane.
He also has dinner with his parents once a week: his mother Uzru (a shaman/medic) and father Farlis (a carpenter). They’re both getting on in years but have their own modest home in New Kenabres. On an odd day, he might even run into an old childhood friend, but those are fewer in number all the time as they go off to fight in the Worldwound and don’t return.