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295 posts. Alias of Douglas Muir 406.



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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.


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

Quote:
"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.

Quote:
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.


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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

Quote:


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...

Troubleshooting:

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


It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

Follow the dwarf! So simple. Dwarves, like halflings, are strangers in the lands of Men. So if the dwarf got a good reception, then the Men would be friendly. It made sense. When the dwarf plunged into the forest... well, obviously he must know where he was going. So, keep following him, more closely now.

Confidence turned to unease on the first night. The forest was unnerving by day, but by night it was terrifying. And unease became real fear on the the second day, when you realized the dwarf was going in circles.

On the third day, the spiders came.


Let's talk a moment about Radagast. The Brown Wizard is the most famous inhabitant of the Woodmen's realm. And he'll surely show up at some point. When he does, what should you expect?

1) Let's get one thing out of the way: he's not the ditzy Sylvester McCoy character from the Hobbit movies. Radagast is a Wizard, and that's serious business. Saruman held him in contempt and called him a fool, but by that point Saruman held *everyone* in contempt. And Radagast was deceived by Saruman, but so was everyone else -- including Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel.

Wizards are serious business. They're Maiar, for starters. But even putting that aside, they're hugely powerful. Saruman is an almost irresistible enchanter who creates a new and improved species of orc and ends up becoming Sauron Lite. Gandalf goes toe-to-toe with a Balrog. Even if Radagast is much weaker than either of them -- and there's no text evidence for that -- he should still be a formidable Power in his own right.

2) Tolkien's characterization of Radagast is sketchy. That should leave a DM lots of room for interpretation -- but also, Tolkien went back and forth on whether Radagast had failed in his mission as a wizard, and if so, just how. Also, some of Tolkien's statements don't seem consistent with the facts that we're given. For instance, he suggests at one point that Radagast had little to do with Men -- but Rhosgobel is clearly in or near the land of the Woodmen. At another point he suggests that Radagast was either too kind, or too absorbed in Middle-Earth, its plants and its beasts. But this doesn't seem consistent with a Wizard living almost in the shadow of Dol Guldur. Radagast was practically nose-to-nose with Sauron for centuries. Much is made of Galadriel's struggle with the Shadow in Mirkwood... but Radagast was even closer! A dotty, distracted herbalist isn't likely to have lasted very long against the Necromancer.

So, here are a couple of things to know about (my vision of) Radagast.

First, Radagast is based at Rhosgobel, but he moves around a lot. In this sense, he's intermediate between Saruman (based in Orthanc) and Gandalf (no fixed abode, wanders). The Brown Wizard disappears for anything from a day or two to several years. Sometimes he lets the neighbors know when he'll be back. More often, he doesn't. (There's actually a tiny bit of textevd for this: in _Fellowship_, while they're resting at Rivendell, Elrond sends out scouts. One group of scouts visits Rhosgobel and finds Radagast gone.) He's in Rhosgobel more often than not, but he can pop up anywhere in Wilderland.

Second, Radagast is the most reluctant of the Wizards to offer advice or direction. In this case, I see a continuum from Saruman (always lordly and quick to direct others) through Gandalf (a wise advisor and counselor, quick to point out folly, but lets others make their choices) to Radagast (may be helpful, but reluctant even to give advice.)

All this won't be relevant for a while, but may be useful if you're thinking about backstory. Also, when the campaign begins, Radagast is Not At Home.


This is a fast, open recruitment for a 5e Middle-Earth campaign based on Cubicle 7's 5e Middle-Earth books. You need a copy of the Cubicle 7 5e Middle-Earth Player's Guide to apply.

"Fast" means it'll all be over in a very few days. I already have 3 players, so I'm only looking for 1-2 more.

If you’re applying to this game, please post the following information into this thread using the spoilered format below. Please also look at the information in the spoilers before proceeding further!

CHARACTER NAME

Outline of Mechanics / Character choices:

Please list the following:

What Culture your character is from (if you want to play a Culture not in the player’s guide, please point me to which sourcebook it’s in and be aware that the answer might be ‘no’).

What Class you intend to play.

If you already know which Specialty/Path/Archetype you want to take (e.g. Agent/Burglar for the Treasure Hunter class), please list that as well.

If you know what Virtue you intend to start with (if applicable), please list that as well.

The Background you have selected. (Note that you DON’T need to write the background – although see the Description spoiler below – you just need to let me know which one you’re picking); plus the Distinctive Quality, Specialty, Hope and Despair that you are going for. You can either roll dice for these or choose them, I don’t mind.

Description:
This is where you sell me on your character. I don’t need much more than a couple of paragraphs, but you should at least weave together the background, distinctive quality, hope and despair in some coherent fashion.

Tell me why your hero has found themselves at or near Rhosgobel, in the southwest of Mirkwood, in the year 2946 of the Third Age. Tell me who they are, beyond their bare statistics: their quirks, habits, appearance, mannerisms; bring them to life.

We're going to be WRITING for each other's entertainment. So show me what you've got!

Tolkien level:
You do NOT have to be a Tolkien fan to apply. However, I'll be curious to know how much familiarity you have, whether it's "I heard there were movies...?" or "Let me tell you about the two missing Wizards."

Comments / Questions:
This is where you post anything you want me to know about you the player, or any questions you have for me.

And then...

FYI stuff!:
I have the following comments, so please read them carefully to avoid any unfortunate misunderstandings later down the line.

* Unfamiliarity breeds error. I have not used the 5e game system nearly as much as the PF1/3.5 game systems. Please be kind to me if/when I make any mistakes with the rules.

* This game won’t play itself. From what I have read it looks like – more than most PbP games – this game requires significant input from the player characters in order to keep going. The Fellowship phase is almost entirely player-driven, and the last thing I as DM want to be doing is chasing you to ask “what now? What now?” What really warms my heart is when I log in from my previous posting and see that the PCs have not been idle in my absence. Conversely, logging in to see that there are no new posts feels like the entire weight of the game is on me to move it forward. The more work you put in to create and play an interesting character, the more opportunity you have for interaction with the other characters. Which makes me happier and more excited about posting. Which creates more opportunities for you to post. It’s a virtuous cycle.

* Middle-Earth needs heroes. I enjoy fantasy noir, greyscale morality plays and antiheroes as much as the next person. But Tolkien’s work is based on moral absolutes and the struggle against the Shadow and I intend to be faithful to that spirit. To that end, I want characters with a nobility of purpose - yes, even (or perhaps especially?) those with the Reluctant Adventurer background. Committing misdeeds will bring you Shadow Points. Antiheroes, brigands, murderhobos and ne’er-do-wells: leave now and never come back.

* You cannot do this alone. Imagine if Beorn had turned the dwarves away and refused to help them. Or if Lórien had closed its borders to the Fellowship. Or if Merry and Pippin had alienated Treebeard, rather than befriending him. An investment in social skills (Tradition, Insight, Persuasion etc.) will reap dividends.

* Against the Shadow, there is no ultimate victory. Those who will accomplish the destruction of Sauron have – in most cases – not yet been born by the time our adventure starts. Your accomplishments will be minor by comparison, but you may yet change lives on an individual scale and bring a measure of peace for a brief time. Or not. The Enemy you face is dangerous indeed and your character may fail, and perish; and you need to be OK with that. I’m not one of those DMs who takes personal glee in killing off PCs – but I have limited scope to “fix” an unfortunately-timed critical or an unwise decision. In order to sweeten this slightly bitter pill, if your character dies and you’re a good sport about it and write them an end worthy of song, I’ll let your next character start with Inspiration.

* It's a writing game. Not gonna lie: spelling, grammar and presentation all matter. We may be locked in a small virtual room with each other for months. If you write that goblins killed your character's parents by "burning they're house down", well, I just know that over time that sort of thing is going to drive me slowly nuts. Sorry. (N.B., if you're not a native English speaker, say so -- that's different.)

Where / when in Middle-Earth are we?:
Among the Woodmen, who live along the southeastern edge of Mirkwood. To the east is the deepness of Mirkwood, full of mystery and danger. To the west are rolling plains that slope gently down to the Anduin. North and west are the lands of the Beornings.

Rhosgobel, home of Radagast the Grey, lies at the southern edge of the Woodmen's domain. South of Rhosgobel the wood quickly becomes very dangerous indeed. Just two days south is the accursed fortress of Dol Guldur, former home of the Necromancer. That horrible entity was driven out just a few years ago, and Dol Guldur now lies empty... or so they say.

The year is 2946: five years after the events of The Hobbit, when the dragon Smaug was killed and the Necromancer was driven out of Dol Guldur. Trade is picking up, people are traveling around. The Shadow seems to have withdrawn.
It's a hopeful time!

In game terms, any type of character could work, but Woodmen, Wood Elves, and Beornings are obvious (and strong) character options.

Let's talk commitment:
I'm looking for a fast-paced game with forward momentum. So, I'm after at least one post per day, on average. If you don't think you can make that commitment, don't apply.

I'll commit to keeping this going for at least 60 days or the first two encounter sets, whichever comes first. When we reach that waypoint, we can pause and decide whether we want to continue.


So there's a Humble Bundle right now with Cubicle 7's 5e Middle-Earth books.

This is actually a pretty incredible Bundle. You can get the Players Guide plus a bunch of other stuff for just $1. Cubicle 7 did an *amazing* job of adapting the 5e engine to role-playing in Middle-Earth. The quality is consistently very high. This may be the best Middle-Earth RPG anyone has ever done, and the best that anyone will do for many years to come. Rumor has it that Cubicle 7 is losing the license. IDK if that's true, but it would explain why they're selling hundreds of dollars worth of stuff for $15 or less.

Anyway! This is making me wonder if there's interest in a 5eME campaign. There's one running on this forum right now. It's a high quality campaign that's been going for a couple of years -- but it's the only one. If we wanted to start another one, there'd be some prerequisites:

1) You'd have to pick up the Players Guide. Right now you can do that for just $1. (Honestly, that whole bundle is a steal.)

2) You'd have to be willing to commit to a fast-paced campaign. I'd be looking for a 90 day commitment, and then we'll see whether we want to continue.

3) It would be a role-playing intensive campaign. Knowledge of Tolkien is not required, but you'd have to be willing to lean into the Middle-Earth aspect -- playing heroes, not murder-hoboes, and like that.

So -- would people be interested in this?


1) Okay, this is actually a pretty incredible Bundle. You can get the Players Guide plus a bunch of stuff for $1. Raise it to $8 and they throw in the Loremaster's Guide (DM Guide) and a bunch MORE stuff -- including the excellent Mirkwood campaign. And for just $15 you get pretty much everything Cubicle 7 has ever published.

2) Cubicle 7 did an *amazing* job of adapting the 5e engine to role-playing in Middle-Earth. This may be the best Middle-Earth RPG anyone has ever done, and the best that anyone will do for many years to come.

3) Rumor has it that they're losing the license. IDK if that's true, but it would explain why they're selling hundreds of dollars worth of stuff for $15 or less.

4) Honestly, this is just great stuff. It's provoked an emotion I rarely feel: pleasure and admiration just from reading an RPG splatbook or scenario. The whole thing is an obvious labor of love. The quality is consistently high. Many of the scenarios could be adapted to other systems with just a bit of tweaking.

This may be the single most amazing TTRPG Humble Bundle I've seen (although the PFRPG "buy all the 1e campaign books", which is running right now is a close second). Strongly, strongly recommended.

(You can find it here.)

Doug M.


It looks like a bunch of campaigns started when this first came out (autumn 2017), but they all seem to have fizzled out pretty quickly.

The Levee is a really interesting AP. I'm honestly not sure how good / playable it is *as an AP* -- with all respect to Mr. Pett, it reads more like a super sandboxy collection of high concepts than an AP as such. If I ever ran it, I suspect I'd have to modify the hell out of it to make it coherent and playable. But it's very interesting -- there are a lot of cool ideas and no shortage of well developed NPCs and weird, intriguing situations. So I'm mildly surprised to see that no group ever stuck with it.

Is this just the usual "every time a new AP comes out, a bunch of new PBP campaigns begin and within 90 days six out of seven have fizzled"? Or is it that non-Paizo APs generate less interest and have less staying power? Or something else?

Doug M.


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Not that there's anything wrong with the SDS! I always thought it was a clever idea to hardwire them into Golarion with the Runelords and all. But they're not the only game in town.

Moral philosopher Jonathan Haidt has six "moral values", each of which has an opposite. If you google Haidt you'll find a lot more detail, but here's the short version: the more or less "positive" moral values are

Care
Fairness
Loyalty
Authority
Sanctity
Liberty

A couple of details: People sometimes balk at "authority" as a positive moral value, but the idea there is that almost everyone recognizes that there are some sorts of legitimate authority that should, under normal circumstances, be respected and/or obeyed. Also, "sanctity" includes a lot of religious values but goes further -- it includes things that we consider precious or important. If you're unhappy at the idea of chopping down a grove of redwoods, that's probably coming under "sanctity".

Okay so: each of these has an opposite.

Care --> Harm
Fairness --> Cheating
Loyalty --> Betrayal
Authority --> Subversion
Sanctity --> Degradation
Liberty --> Oppression

Most of us view the second column as negative moral values -- we don't want them to be directed at us, and we usually don't want to think that we're engaging in them, and if we do engage in them we usually try to lie to ourselves about them. 'Authority / Subversion' may seem odd here, but remember that Haidt is talking about morally legitimate authority; if you acknowledge the government as a legitimate authority, then you probably pay your taxes and resent people who don't.

Anyway: it seems like this could be an interesting / fun framework to build into a game. Actually, I half wonder if anyone out there has tried already...

Thoughts?

Doug M.


I ask because I just noticed there are still a few copies of Zogonia on sale in the store.

It's not that Zogonia disappeared after a single collection... that's not too unusual. (See. e.g., Downer and about half a dozen others.) But the author / artist, Tony Moreland? He seems to have disappeared without a trace; I can't find any sign of him online. That's... less usual.

Does anyone know anything?

Doug M.


PC is a 5th level wizard starting a Lovecraft / Mythos scenario. It's been established he has a Mythos-related backstory, but no details have yet been filled in -- at the moment, it's a "Noodle Incident" type of thing. I have some ideas, but I'd be interested to hear what the group mind comes up. Here's what I've got so far:

-- incident was Mythos-related
-- incident was horrific
-- one or more innocents were killed. The wizard PC did not *directly* cause the death of the innocents, but he absolutely feels complicit and guilty.
-- the wizard PC used to be your classic arrogant jerk wizard who is all about the pursuit of KNOWLEDGE
-- I think the wizard PC had one or more bosses or patrons (who were probably a lot more evil, and who may or may not have survived).

And at the end of the day the wizard PC staggers away, sanity barely intact, plagued by terrible guilt, recurring flashbacks, and the Spooked drawback. Which, as everyone who has ever played Call of Cthulhu knows, is about the best possible outcome for surviving a Mythos incident...

Anyway! Thoughts, suggestions?

Doug M.


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Holomog hasn't had a lot of attention. So far there's only been a single six-page article in Distant Shores, written by Crystal Frazier back in 2015 or so. But it's different and interesting and I really hope Paizo returns there.

1) Holomog is the mirror image of Nidal -- it's a human land that survived Earthfall by making a deal with the good-aligned Empyreal Lords. So Holomog is a capital-G Good-aligned land, but (as far as we can tell) not in a stupid way. And it's ancient -- like Nidal, it should have lore and records going back thousands of years.

2) Holomog is a matriarchal society with a very different social structure from anything else on Golarion. At the top, it's run by the omwa -- a handful of people with near-godlike powers who rule (as far as we can tell) wisely and well. (Those people are all women, mind... apparently there was one male who reached that level, and all we're told is that it didn't work out well.)

3) Holomog is plugged into the Geb-Nex rivalry; they border Geb and have warred with it (unsuccessfully), while Nex is as friendly as an evil undead kingdom can possibly be.

4) Holomog has an unusual ethnic mix (a society of humans but with significant minorities of aasimars, catfolk, grippli, and ganzi) on top of an unusual religious mix (almost everyone worships an Empyreal Lord, except for some Green Faithers). Oh, and there are some people who worship Asmodeus as a Lawful Neutral female deity... and some of them can be LG and still be clerics of Asmodeus... and somehow that seems to work. I suspect that last bit may get retconned out, because 2E seems to be more rigid about that sort of thing. But it's the sort of cool weird detail that is sprinkled across the whole writeup.

5) Finally, Crystal wrote a bunch of interesting mysteries into the setting. What caused the Paroxysys, the mysterious detonation that destroyed Old Anuli? Who was the one man who passed the Crucible, and why didn't it work out well? Why does a neutral good-aligned land produce so many ganzi? What's going on at the bottom of Crater Lake? These were well done, and left at least this reader eager to know more.

Did anyone else find this stuff interesting? Are there other Holomog fans out there?

Doug M.


I'm kitting out a 5th level wizard. The obvious big items (headband!) have taken up most of my cash, but I have a couple of thousand left.

So: what are some cheap magic items that are would be good last-minute pickups?

Doug M.


I'm contemplating running a low-level adventure with some gamers. But I have a couple of guys at the table who between them have read EVERYTHING that's come out in the last 10 years -- modules, PFS, you name it. So I can home brew... or I can reach back into the Dungeon archive and pull out something unexpected!

Any suggestions?

Doug M.


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Low-level thieves, not rogues. It's a mixed party -- rogue, bard, monk, wizard -- they're just all *thieves*. And I want to come up with some short jobs for them. The idea is that they can do two or three jobs per session during breaks between the episodes of the larger plot. So each job should be short -- something that can be played out in an hour, with no more than 2-3 combat or social encounters. An ideal job will be short, will have an interesting twist or challenge, and can get all the PCs engaged. Here's an example:

1) Steal a head. Someone has hired your group to steal the head of an executed criminal. The heads are posted on stakes above the local jail. Someone has to climb up there and steal it.

Challenge: The heads are protected by a gargoyle and also a glyph or warding or similar magical trap.

Possible clever shortcut: if you wear the holy symbol of the obscure god of executioners, you won't trigger the trap and the gargoyle will hesitate before attacking. You can learn this by bribing or enchanting the executioner.

Twist: the purchaser says he wants the head for one thing (decent burial) but really wants it for something else (cast speak with dead to learn the location of a treasure).

Anyone?

Doug M.


What if we end it two books sooner?

Honestly, most of Books 5 and 6 are unnecessary. You have the PCs discovering the truth about their obols, a fun but otherwise mostly pointless side trip to Arcadia, and -- lets' face it -- a lot of grinding to level up. So, could we end it at the end of Book 4?

At that point the PCs are supposed to be 14th level. Let's say you give them a Mythic tier before that. Around the end of Book 1 would make sense, especially since Book 1 and Book 2 are both pretty challenging. Then give them a second Mythic tier late in Book 4, once they defeat the last of the graveknights. "Getting alive out of the Boneyard" and "Defeating the five legendary graveknights of Geb" both seem like reasonable things to award Mythic for, yes? So at the end of Book 4, they're 14 / Mythic 2.

Somewhere along the way you need to reveal the truth about the obols. There are lots of ways this could happen. Heck, Barzahk could tell the PCs at the end of Book 1. Arazni could confirm it. If you want to really nail this down, you could have the PCs each lose 1 point of Con at the end of Books 1, 2 and 3. Yes, being at -3 Con would be pretty painful, but it'll drive home the point that the PCs are slowly and inevitably dying. If that seems too extreme then give them some minor but alarming symptoms. By Book 4 they should be very clear on this point: they're inevitably going to die.

Then amend the end of Book Four. Arazni still sends the PCs to turn the Knights of Ozem away -- but Tar-Baphon heads straight for Absalom and the Starstone. Arazni and the PCs pursue.

Now just run the last part of Book 6. You may have to nerf a couple of the encounters, but 14 / Mythic 2 isn't that much weaker than the level 17-18 that they're supposed to be around this point. Furthermore, in this version Arazni is fighting beside them and can bail them out if they get in serious trouble. Let them level up one more time before confronting Tar-Baphon and, hell, give them a final Mythic Tier just moments before the final battle. I'd put the ultimate confrontation at the very gates of Absalom, with TB just moments away from the Starstone, but season to taste. The PCs will now be Level 15 / Mythic 3 which is pretty closely equivalent to the Level 18 / no Mythic tiers of the original version.

Arazni can reset their obols to "reflect" before the final battle. She tells the PCs that now they're suicide bombs, but hey, they're doomed anyway. All they have to do is provoke Tar-Baphon to use the Radiant Flame. The PCs (and Arazni) fight TB, he finally loses his temper and unleashes the Flame, and... boom, there we go.

Advantages to this cut:

-- Keeps to the canonical plot (PCs are eliminated, TB is weakened but survives, Arazni is burned by the Flame and her fate is unknown). There will surely be a future AP that connects to this; if there is, you won't have to retcon.

-- PCs still get the awesome experience of fighting Golarion's biggest baddest BBEG, and bragging rights thereto.

-- Preserves the PC's heroic sacrifice.

-- Gets to the same place in 4.2 books instead of 6.

Disadvantages:

-- You miss the side quest to Arcadia, which is pointless but fun. No luchador masks, alas.

-- Arazni is in the final battle beside the PCs, so she may overshadow them. I think the answer here is to have TB blast Arazni first until she's out of action. Perhaps he can hit her with spells that paralyze or disable rather than kill -- he may have a special anti-lich spell or item just for this, developed in case of a rival. I think you can turn this into a positive: if Arazni goes down like a chump in Round 2, paralyzed and unable to do anything but blink desperately at the PCs, it could be an "oh sh!t" moment that will make the final encounter that much more memorable.

Phew. Thoughts?

Doug M.


Looking for the following two deities:

1) A non-evil god/dess of thieves. Norgorber is evil, Besmara's really about pirates, Nimbi Rhombodazzle is close but she's a gnome and is really more about taking chances and living an interesting life. Is there one who would be a better fit as a deity for a dedicated, full-time career thief?

2) A good-aligned deity who is NOT actually a deity of thieves, but whose worshipper could be a full-time thief in order to accomplish some higher, better goal. Like, you join the local Thieves Guild and you actually steal stuff and whatnot for a while, because they're the only ones with the skills to find the evil artifact hidden beneath the city? I think this almost has to be a CG deity, yes? A worshipper of Desna could probably get away with it, but ehhh Desna's really obvious. Who else?

Suggestions welcome!

Doug M.


General question: how tactical is 2e, and to what extent does it need miniatures and a grid?

Doug M.


Had my PCs run into a Rhu-Chalik last session. This is the floating eyeball creature from Iron Gods that seeks to "record" PCs minds for some unknown but nefarious purpose, yes? It only ever appeared that one time and has not been seen since, but it's vaguely associated with the Dominion of the Black.

Okay, so -- the Rhu-Chalik got a bunch of Wis damage on one PC, but not enough to finish the job. Then it floated away into space. So I told the player that, as it departed, it said (telepathically, in Aklo) something like "Upload incomplete -- ticket filed with Special Assistance". The player was a bit freaked out and is wondering what that could mean. It's a reasonable question, since I just made that up and I have no idea either!

So: does anyone have any suggestions for Dominion of the Black or anyway space-themed monsters that could follow up on this? I'll wait a few sessions until the PCs have leveled up at least once, so ideally something in the range of CR 8-12 would be good, give or take. I mean if all else fails I can just have an advanced Rhu-Chalik show up, maybe with some mesmerist levels or something. But it would be nice to use something different.

Thoughts?

Doug M.


It's been three years. And the fact that this is now an archived forum pretty much tells you what you need to know.

Doug M.


Seems like we should have a thread for this: announcements, news, rumours, and sharing information. If anyone has anything to add to the information below, please jump in!

When: If I understand correctly, this will be available in "Spring 2020"? But no more precise date yet, right?

What: It'll be the Kingmaker AP from way back in 2010, but cleaned up a bit and then with a lot of new material added, including some from the computer RPG. Two versions will be available, for PF1 and for PF2. Correct?

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.


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The title says it all. I've been playing PF1 for a decade. PF2 looks intriguing but it's a significant investment, not only of money but of time. Presumably most posters on this port either have switched or are in the process of switching. So... please tell a fellow gamer, how has that worked out for you? Would you recommend it? And if so, why -- what's so good about the new system?

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.


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The module doesn't give any details about the community of inmates in area E. I'd like to throw in some details about individual inmates -- as wallpaper, if nothing else.

Some of these could be real-ish mental disorders -- a catatonic, an OCD case who can't stop washing hands, a (harmless) megalomaniac, what have you. But given that it's an insane asylum in a fantasy world inside the Dreamlands, we can probably get even more creative.

Ideas?

Doug M.


Mr. Happy is an NPC in my campaign, and I'm looking for some build advice. it doesn't have to be detailed -- he won't be facing the PCs in combat. The PCs are 3rd level, and he's ~10th. Right now he's more like an alarming character that they hear about and may interact with slightly. But I want to have some better idea of what he can do -- archetype, favorite spells, tricks he likes to play, that sort of thing.

Concept: he's a Bleached Gnome who's a 10th level bard. He came out of the Bleaching as a nihilist with an odd, detached, very creepy sense of humor. Not sure if he's CN or CE -- I actually see him as right on the border. Think the Joker, if instead of giggling constantly the Joker were a pale little guy with very flattened affect... calm, understated, only very occasionally cracking a thin pale smile. People are very, very afraid of him! However, it's not clear whether he's really that deadly or whether he's just creepy and disturbing and has a terrifying reputation without being actually that murderous / evil. I'm actually not sure if he's *that* bad (CE version) or is happy to disturb and frighten people without actually inflicting that much pain and horror(CN version). I'm open to either.

So, Mr. Happy: 10th level Bleached Gnome bard, nihilist, creepy sense of humor, alarming reputation, CN or CE. Suggestions?

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.


My PCs are third level and are just about to enter section E (the Apostles and the ghouls). To my mild surprise, they've been leaning hard into the survival horror aspect of the story -- they really like the grosser monsters and the creepier and more atmospheric encounters.

Section E definitely raises the game in terms of difficulty, but otherwise it's not much more horrific than the other parts. So I'd like to add an encounter or two to make it more creepy and alarming. Note that it doesn't have to be a monster as such (though suggestions for creepy monsters are also welcome) -- seeing Pyramid Head standing motionless in the hotel corridor could work too, if you get me. The players seem to be responding to creepiness and atmosphere more than mechanics, if that helps.

Thoughts?

Doug M.


Running it this Sunday for a group of five. NONE of us have played 2e before. I, and one other, have read the core rulebook. We're all experienced gamers who are very familiar with 1e and with D&D 5th.

1) What should we know before starting to play? What surprises should we expect, what should we keep in mind, what's really different?

2) Is there a short-short scenario that's suitable for a single session that could serve as an introduction? (I've seen the PFS Scenario "The Mosquito Witch", and it looks good, but maybe not for a first time -- it's mostly talk and social stuff.)

-- Also, do I understand correctly that odd-numbered ability scores under 19 no longer exist? NBD, just wondering if I'm missing something.

Many thanks,

Doug M.


The Worm That Walks template can be added to "any evil spellcasting creature". Usually it's a high-level humanoid spellcaster, but there are all sorts of other options. Anyway: I'm considering a WTW as an end boss for my PCs, who are currently 3rd level but should be 4th when they hit this thing. The template is CR +2, so I'd want a CR 4 or 5 evil monster. I could just take a 5th level sorceror or whatever and slap on the template, but now that I think about it, "evil spellcasting creature" really opens up a lot of options, doesn't it.

Basically I'm looking for novel ideas here. What've you got?

Doug M.


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(I think this thread will have SPOILERS so don't keep reading beyond this post, which I'll keep spoiler free.)

Has anyone actually played this yet?

It's the single most insane thing Paizo has ever published, and I honestly have trouble seeing how the PCs can win. Four 20th level PCs, fully loaded, against the boss... and the other things... and also the special sauce? I'm sure someone will manage it, but if the DM plays it straight and unleashes the full potential of this setup, it's a crapton of damage coming at you really fast. Scry and die / rocket tag may not be enough in this case.

But I don't know. I've never played PF at this level. Would be really curious to hear an account from someone who actually reached Vol. 6. Failing that, if anyone with experience with super high level play wants to take a crack at theorycrafting how the combat might go, I'd be interested.

Doug M.


There don't seem to be a lot. I mean, yes, the Trickery domain. But evil gods whose portfolios connect to core bard stuff like music, performance, art and diplomacy? Seems like a pretty short list.

Assume a plain vanilla bard who's doing typical bard stuff but is, you know, evil. What deity might be a plausible fit?

Doug M.


Halfway through ISOS, and we're starting to get clues about backstory. One of the PCs is a gnome bard. Backstory (unknown to PC or player) is that in his previous life, he was Lowls court jester. I think he was a giggling little sadist, possibly insane, and either NE or CE.

So: what god might he have worshipped? I ask because I think I want him to find a tattoo or something. Default would be Groetus, who is creepy and a good fit thematically, but CN rather than CE. Great Old Ones are possible but might be too obvious (the players don't even realize this is a Lovecraft-themed campaign yet). Zon-Kuthon is a sadist but not in a fun way, and he's LE and not a great fit for the campaign thematically. I'm contemplating some weird minor deity like Ghlaunder or something... anyway, suggestions welcome.

Doug M.


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Magic Trick [Prestidigitation]. In terms of flavor, I think this is either the best or the second best one-shot feat I've seen. (The competition can be found over here.) Let's break this down. You take the feat, and you need to know Prestidigitation -- which, let's note, is a cantrip that almost any character can get with just a bit of effort (be a rogue and take Minor Magic, be a gnome, etc.) Then you gain various weird abilities if you take other skills or feats. So:

Quote:
Adjust Scent (Survival 6 ranks): You can adjust the smell of an object or willing creature to become more or less powerful, respectively doubling or reducing by half the distance needed to detect the target with the scent universal monster ability.

This is very minor; few casters take Survival, and it's not a great power anyhow. However, this:

Quote:
Chromatic Savant (Disguise 3 ranks or gnome): When you change the color of an item, the changes are permanent. You can also change the color of part or all of a living being, but the effect gradually fades away in about a month. You must succeed at an appropriate Craft check to create complex or specific designs.

THIS is just AMAZING. There's pretty much no limit to the fun you can have here. Use colored rocks to mark a trail. Change the color of your outfit whenever you feel like it. Show up at the Duke's dress ball with a bouquet of unique blue roses. Is the magus being emo and annoying? Turn his black sword a lovely shade of pink.

If you're playing remotely realistically, this ability should be worth some real money. Take ordinary bits of quartz and color them: bam, semiprecious gemstones. Take lead pieces and color them gold. Start a business on the side that makes well-cut clothing out of ordinary cloth, then add vibrant colors with a snap of your fingers. Also, you could argue with a straight face that the ability to turn everyone's clothing green in the forest, white in the snow, and black in the Underdark should give a Stealth bonus. But even if your DM puts his foot down, there's really no limit to the fun you can have here.

Oh and "you can also change the color of part or all of a living being", and it takes a MONTH to gradually fade away. An unwilling creature gets a save, but it's a cantrip -- you can spam it all day long. The 10' range is probably more of an issue. But hey, who says the target has to be unwilling? Turn all your party members green to increase their recognition factor. Turn your imp familiar blue, just because. Change your own skin and hair color as often as your clothes. I would argue /hard/ that a complete change of skin and hair color should give a bonus on Disguise checks, but again, even if your DM is being strict there's still a lot to work with here. And, hey, you can always just open up the city's most prestigious tanning salon.

As to unwilling targets: turn an elf into a drow, or vice versa, with a simple palette swap. Be a vigilante, sneak up on the corrupt Mayor or the brutal sheriff, and turn them bright purple for a month. Let's not even talk about dragons. Getting within 10' of an unwilling dragon is no small thing. But turning a red dragon into a white or copper one? That's the stuff of legends, my friend.

(Also, if your DM insists on no mechanical effects, argue for a while then say "okay but at least I can do polka dots, right?")

Quote:
Lasting Changes (Extend Spell): The effects of your prestidigitation spells persist for 1 hour per caster level; this does not change its spell level.

Probably not worth Extend Spell unless you were planning to take it anyway. If yes, note that this lets you create a bunch of minor items that don't require a Craft check, and they'll last for a while.

Quote:
Minor Levitation (Spellcraft 3 ranks): You can cause up to 1 pound of material to become weightless and direct it to move up to 5 feet each round as if under the effects of levitate.

This is actually pretty good, especially at low levels. No more messing around with grappling hooks! But really it's mostly for flavor: your hat slowly floats 10 feet into the air, changing color as it goes.

Quote:
Repulsive Flavor (Craft [cooking] 3 ranks): You can cause a willing creature to taste foul. Once a creature with a bite attack successfully attacks the target of your spell, the target gains a +2 circumstance bonus to AC and CMD against bite attacks and grapple checks made with a mouth, such as the grab ability or swallow whole, from that creature.

Wait, this is terrific. It's an actual mechanical effect, and it's a really good one! You have to throw three ranks at cooking, yes. But this game is full of bite attacks! It's slightly nerfed because it only works after the first bite. But still... bite attacks are probably the single most common melee attack out there. Bite attacks after a first bite attack are maybe... 20% of all attacks? Well, the Bestiaries are just big books full of things that want to bite you, but let's be conservative and say 10%. "Everyone in your party always gets +2 AC against 10% of all attacks" is darn near worth a feat by itself.

I say "always", because this lasts an hour, and you can just re-up it with a standard action at any time. So you absolutely should have it on all party members whenever you're anywhere near a dungeon or other danger spot. As DM I might argue that, when active, it leaves a nasty taste in the PC's mouth... but I don't think that's going to be much of a deterrent to this becoming an autobuff.

Quote:
Thaumaturgic Aesthetics (Bluff 3 ranks, Disguise 3 ranks, Deceptive): While you have a prestidigitation spell active, you can thematically change the effects of other spells you cast, such as changing the color of a fireball, granting your magic missile a specific shape, or adding a floral smell to your mage armor. This increases the DC of Spellcraft and Knowledge (arcana) checks to identify your magic by an amount equal to half of your ranks in Disguise (minimum 1).

Not many casters take Deceptive, so you're probably not going to fulfill the requirements for this one unless you're an arcane trickster or something.

But okay. Two things happening here, one mechanical, one flavor. The mechanical one is weak sauce, because the Spellcraft bonuses to understand a spell scale up much faster than the DC of the check. By midlevels it's usually auto-success, and adding half your level to the DC won't much help. The flavor effect, however, is great! Magic missiles that look like flowers, teleporting in a puff of smoke and the stench of brimstone, a crown of flames appears around your head for a moment when you cast Burning Hands, you name it. The cool factor here is only limited by your imagination. Also, note that characters *without* Spellcraft should be fairly and legitimately confused. "He cast some kind of spell, and now you can see his skeleton through his transparent flesh -- " "What the HECK, man?"

TLDR: this feat requires some building, and the mechanical effects are modest. But it's just so much darn fun.

Thoughts?

Doug M.


Int > Dex > Cha > everything else

Traits: Magical knack, Charlatan

Illusion specialist, opposing schools necromancy and divination

1 Rogue 1 - Deceptive
2 Wizard 1
3 Wizard 2 - Magic trick (Prestidigitation)
4 Wizard 3
5 Wizard 4 - Skill Focus (Bluff)
6 Wizard 5
7 Wizard 6 - Breadth of Knowledge

So this is an NPC for PCs to interact with. He's CG and I think his schtick is that he's a Robin Hood-ish free-the-slaves / help-the-poor type. And his signature move is to use the Chromatic Savant power granted by his feat to change the color of items as a sign that he's been there. Bright blue oranges, leopard-print roses, the watch dog wakes up a rather lovely blue plaid, you get the idea.

(Pause a moment to check out the Magic Trick feats. They're balanced and they're flavorful as heck. Spending a feat on Magic Trick [Prestidigitation] gives only minor benefits, but it can be a lot of fun.)

He also likes using his Disguise skill -- he's got max ranks in Disguise and Bluff -- to fast-talk his way into places he shouldn't be, or really just for fun. And while it doesn't formally give a bonus to Disguise, he likes suddenly yelling "Palette swap!" and changing the colors of his own clothing. So the guy all dressed in green suddenly becomes a guy all dressed in spotless white except for a bright blue vest, or what have you.

Oh and: he can change the color of "part or all of a living being", and it takes a *month* to gradually fade away. This is an awesome power to use against dishonest merchant, a slaver, or what have you. It allows a save but it's a cantrip, meaning he can just spam it until it works. Of course, it's only 10' range, so he'd have to sneak up close invisibly or whatever. But I like the idea of a gnome Robin Hood who punishes the wicked sheriff or the corrupt priest by turning them bright purple for a month.

Breadth of Knowledge is there to make him useful to the PCs, and also to mix it up: he really knows a lot about a lot of different topics. Bu-ut, he's also chaotic and he likes to tell stories or just lie a lot. And his sky-high Bluff (around +18 or so) means it can be very hard to tell the difference between "he's telling us the true and useful history of the Dungeon of Doom" and "he's spinning a yarn just for funsies". Mind, I don't see him as an *annoying* character -- more like, he's going to be helpful or not, based on his assessment of their characters. And then, true or false, he'll yell "Palette swap", cover himself with zebra stripes or whatever, and wander off.

Thoughts?

Doug M.


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Quote:
Nyvuss (unique CE silvanshee): Once the curious andlovable feline familiar of the Kellid witch Marganala, Nyvuss watched as her mistress’s disguised green hag lover lured her deeper into corruption. When Taldan authorities finally lashed her to a pyre for her crimes, the witch swore her soul to Gyronna if only the hag goddess would allow her to take the grand prince’s head. The Angry Hag obligingly stitched the burned witch and her familiar into one horrible whole, and under the next new moon, Grand Prince Rodivarian III tripped over a black cat and broke his neck in the fall. Ever since, the mad Nyvuss has served as Gyronna’s messenger, spy, and courier of foul luck, always darting in shadows and moving by night so none can see the still-twitching human face stitched into her bloated stomach.

Now there's an evocative image. This is a horrible, cool idea for an evil NPC. If you wanted to introduce this into a campaign, how might you flesh it out?

First draft: a fiendish advanced silvanshee gives you a CR 4 creature... low end of CR4; it's an excellent spy but can't really do much otherwise. So in addition to the normal silvanshee powers, let's amend its Cats Luck ability. "A silvanshee adds its Charisma modifier as a luck bonus on all its saving throws. Once per day as a standard action, it can also grant this bonus to one ally within 30 feet for 10 minutes." Let's change that to the pugwampi's Unluck Aura: "Any creature in this area must roll two d20s whenever a situation calls for a d20 roll (such as an attack roll, a skill check, or a saving throw) and must use the lower of the two results generated. This is a mind-affecting effect." Giving this a 30' range and putting it on a flying creature with +21 Stealth makes it pretty nasty, and fills the "courier of foul luck" description given above.

Oh, and there's the Lay On Hands ability. I think the way to go here is to replace it with the Evil Eye hex once/day: boom, -2 on AC, attack rolls or all saves, no save, suck it. Yes, this stacks with the Unluck Aura. This thing is bad news.

Finally, there's that second face. There's a lot we could do with that, but I think the simplest way to deal with it is to treat it something like an ogre's Vestigial Head feat: any mind-affecting attack against the silvanshee has a 50% chance of affecting the face instead.

Overall I still think this is a CR 4 creature. It's annoying as heck to deal with, and a nightmare debuffer, but by itself it does almost no damage, and if a party of 3rd level adventurers manages to corner it, they've got a decent chance of killing it. But as long as it slinks around staying in the shadows, it can make life miserable for its targets for a long time... appropriate, for the messenger of the goddess of spite.

Thoughts?

Doug M.


Okay, two questions.

1) What's the dang feat that lets a wizard memorize three spells without a spellbook? I can't remember its name, and I can't find it.

2) So, a 7th level evil wizard. Super paranoid. Not a Mythos Cultist himself, but works for one as a henchman. (He's just in it for the research opportunities.) He has this feat. He has a lot of worries -- discovery and capture by the local paladins, the fact that his boss is a maniac who'll happily sacrifice him to Yog-Sothoth if he thought it would advance his cause, worry that Yog-Sothoth (or anyway one of his spawn) may suddenly come knocking. Oh, and he has a stomach ulcer.

What three spells do you think he'd take?

Doug M.


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How does a town prevent executed criminals from being raised? By cutting their heads off, of course. (Resurrection spells are still a concern, but there are not that many level 13+ clerics around.) The decapitated heads are displayed on stakes above the Tower of Justice for a minimum of 21 days, each with a placard briefly describing their crimes.

Plot seed: PCs are hired to steal a head. (I think this works best for PCs around 3rd-5th level.) You can tell the PCs why the heads are up there. They will probably assume that someone wants to cast Raise Dead. Depending on the scenario (see below) the head may have been a petty thief, someone who stabbed someone in a brawl, or a vicious serial killer.

Challenges: The heads are guarded, of course. The simplest scenario is, there are a couple of gargoyles sitting on either end of the row of heads. The town tolerates the gargoyles, allowing them to live off pigeons, rats, and the occasional stray dog, as long as they guard the heads. This makes a pretty straightforward combat. Clever PCs can try talking to the gargoyles. They're chaotic, so they can totally be bribed, with gold or with fresh meat.

Alternately, there's one gargoyle, and it's a creepy-looking vulture-headed thing. Whoops, it's not a gargoyle at all but a CR 7 vanth psychopomp! (Obviously there's a backstory. Bound by a wizard? Paying off a favor? You decide.) The vanth can be talked to, and it's not an evil creature, but at the end of the day it's not letting anyone get raised.

Alternately, there are X number of spikes up there... and each one is guarded with a Glyph of Warding... and each Glyph contains a Summon Monster III spell... and if one glyph triggers, they all do. So, depending on the alignment of the town, suddenly you're facing X number of Dire Bats, or Lantern Archons, or Dretches. There's a simple way to avoid triggering the Glyph (wear a necklace with three human fingerbones on it) which the local executioner uses but which the PCs are very unlikely to discover.

In all cases, to reach the heads you must be able to climb (fairly easy Climb check) or fly. The heads are clearly visible from the street below, so best do this at night. Bats hang out around the Tower of Justice (they have a nest in an empty room), so clever PCs who creep up invisibly will disturb them, alerting the gargoyles or the vanth that something's up (and possibly also triggering a bat swarm, because why not). Townspeople believe the heads are guarded by a curse, which is not true but should make PCs thoughtful.

Plot twist: The PCs' employer doesn't want to raise the head at all! They want the head for some other reason...

-- Demon eye. The dead man had a demonic graft: a glowing red demon eye (+8 perception). He mostly kept it hidden under an eyepatch, which his rotting head still wears. The eye still works just fine. With a high enough Heal check, it can still be removed and transferred to a new host. The PCs' employer may simply be a former colleague of the dead man who wants the eye for herself, or a wizard who wants it for research, or a cultist. Or they may be the person who sold the eye to the dead man in the first place...

-- Head fake. The employer is a necromancer who has come up with a cool new spell for creating an intelligent, evil undead from a severed head. However, he needs the fresh head of someone really evil; just killing a random person and taking their head won't work. In this scenario, if the PCs do any research or inquiry, mention that the head they're after is the head of a notorious serial killer or mass murderer. (Probably best with nongood PCs.) If they don't make inquiries, have "ATROCIOUS MURDERRER OF MANY" on the placard that hangs beneath the head. If the PCs hand over the head, soon the most disturbing rumors will be circulating, about the blood-sucking life-draining floating head thing that's terrorizing the poorer part of town...

-- Lore needle. This one is relatively benign: the dead man had a lore needle stuck in his head. This turns a person with one high Knowledge skill into someone with ALL the Knowledges, so it's definitely something a wizard, a bard, or just an academic researcher might want. In this scenario the PCs' employer is not necessarily evil, and may become a recurring NPC or a patron.

-- Brain infection. The dead man's brain was infected by something. (Possibly this is why he was committing crimes in the first place.) Options include brainworms or thoughtcrawlers (bad), brain moss (worse), or a slugspawn (very bad indeed). The PCs' employer may be an alchemist, is probably evil, and is quite possibly the person who infected the dead man in the first place. A drow or a derro, working in disguise, would work very well here, or your standard insane Lovecraftian cultists if you're going with the slugspawn. (Normally slugspawn form a spawning canker if their host dies early. This one didn't, and the cultists really want to recover it and find out why.)

Phew. Thoughts?

Doug M.


If you're not already following Kill Six Billion Demons, consider starting. But anyway: Gog-Agog is a demiurge, one of seven evil demigods who run the K6BD multiverse. She's basically a Pathfinder Worm That Walks -- a wriggling mass of worms animated by a single powerful colonial intelligence -- and she runs the multiverse's entertainment industry.

Here are some fun things about Gog-Agog that could be adopted to Pathfinder:

1) She seems to have the power to infect people with her worms. The host is then under her complete control; she can see/sense whatever it sees or senses. Worse yet, at will she can move her consciousness into the host. The unfortunate host is immediately devoured by an frantically growing mass of worms, with Gog-Agog bursting explosively out of the host's body in a single round. Think the Alien chestburster, only full-body. Needless to say, this kills the host very dead. The details of this horrific power are unclear; there doesn't seem to be any range limitation or anything. Presumably the host has to be willing or helpless to be infected. (Yeah, "willing" seems unlikely, but OTOH it's the entertainment industry, so who knows.)

2) Gog-Agog can appear completely human (or as any other small, medium or large-sized humanoid) to casual examination Close examination will show that she's really a mass of differently colored worms holding humanoid form, but you have to get within 10' and be paying attention. Gog-Agog regularly tinkers with new forms, usually young and attractive. A complication: none of these forms are stable. After a few minutes they begin, first to leak, then to melt, and finally to disintegrate. So, Gog-Agog is regularly distracted by putting her face back on.

3) Despite being an eldritch abomination that is also chaotic evil -- /very/ chaotic, and /very/ evil -- Gog-Agog can appear to be perfectly friendly. In fact, she can be downright chipper -- cheerful, perky, and filled with childlike enthusiasm and fun. This is an eldritch abomination that introduces itself as "Your pal, Gog-Agog!" Inside, she's a profoundly alien intelligence and also a festering mass of millenia-old resentments. She's known as the Devourer of Worlds, and there's probably a good reason for that. But she is also super easily distracted. She likes things that are cool! Basically she's a horrifically powerful pseudo-Lovecraftian nightmare thing with bad ADHD.

Apropos of nothing except that I'd really like to adapt her into a campaign someday.

Thoughts?

Doug M.


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The Lord of Life is a religious leader. In appearance he's a slender, attractive young man with a shaven head. He wears white robes and sandals and is surrounded by beautiful people. He's not affiliated with any known god. His doctrine is sparse and vague, and he has few rituals and no holy symbols. But what he does have is the ability to raise the dead. And not just the recent, intact dead! No, the Lord of Life can raise those who've been dead for decades. He can bring back the departed from an incomplete corpse, a skull, a fingerbone, or a mere handful of dust.

Furthermore: the Lord of Life seems to have unparalleled mastery over both arcane and divine magic. He regularly casts very powerful arcane spells, but he also conducts rituals that give the same results as high-level clerical and even druid spells. In fact, the Lord of Light seems to have a spell ready for pretty much any situation.

The Lord of Life leads a group called the Servants of Life. The Servants are cult-like, but they haven't broken any laws and don't seem to be committing any obvious evil. However, the Lord of Light's ability to bring back the dead has brought them a lot of attention, very quickly. He'll do this for much, much less money than the fees usually charged by the churches. In fact, he's been known to bring back the dead for just a few hundred gp, or even for no money at all. He'll also do occasional cures and Lesser Restorations, but the recovery of the dead is his main event. He does this exactly once per day, at sunrise.

If you want to talk to the Lord of Light, you must go through one of his two assistants: a breathtakingly gorgeous woman named Lucia, and an older man with a limp and a baleful glare named Skotos. Anyone who throws a detection spell will find that Lucia detects as moderate good, while Skotos detects as moderate evil. If this is pointed out, Luce will say that Skotos has suffered terribly, and that Life embraces all.

Visitors are encouraged to join the Servants of Life. This involves shaving your head, putting on white robes, and learning some fairly simple rituals. Strict obedience to the Lord and his immediate subordinates is required. There's a feast every night and the food is actually excellent. There's a lot of group hugging. The group -- cult? -- has purchased a large property (they don't seem to be short of money) and members spent a certain amount of time cleaning, decorating, gardening and the like. The locals consider the Servants eccentric and somewhat suspect, but must admit they pay their bills and cause no problems. PCs might encounter the Servants as wallpaper, harmless eccentrics who talk a lot about Universal Love and the benefits of an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet.

What's actually going on:

Inspired by [url]this post over at All Sorts of Critters[/url].

So the Demon Lord Haagenti has some good boons, especially on his Evangelist track. The peak boon there includes the ability to create very cheap potions of True Resurrection. Yes, really. At 16th level you can crank those out once/day for a mere 350 gp. Oh, and you also get immortality in an eternally ageless youthful form -- which means you still get age bonuses to mental stats, but don't suffer any penalties to your physical stats. Pretty sweet!

The Lord of Life is a 16th level Evangelist of Haagenti. His base class is wizard -- the Spell Sage archetype, to be precise. That means he can cast cleric, druid and bard spells up to 3X/day, subject to certain limitations: it takes two wizard spell slots, and the casting time is greatly increased. Still, it's spontaneous casting of ANY spell from those three spell lists. Also pretty sweet.

So True Resurrection normally costs 25,000 gp. This guy can cast it for a mere 350 gp. That means he can subsidize his little commune, charge far less than the rival churches for casting clerical spells, and still have money to burn. That said, money isn't really what he's after. He'll take modest cash payments from ordinary supplicants, but he's really interested in people who are powerful -- class levels, political clout, you name it. Those get their resurrections cheap or free, and then basically get brainwashed in return. The Lord of Life casts like a 15th level wizard but with access to all bard, cleric and druid spells below 9th level; he also has a succubus and a mesmerist on call. Dominate, Suggestion, Geas, Alter Memory, the succubus' Profane Gift, you name it. Unless someone has an *amazingly* high Will save, they'll be turned inside out for useful information and then reprogrammed.

Oh yes, the assistants. Lucia is a succubus / bard 4, and Skotos is a Mesmerist 8/ Demoniac 2. Demoniac isn't actually a great choice for a Mesmerist, but Haagenti has granted him the Hideous Urges corruption and also a Demon Talon in place of his left leg. Skotos believes he'll eventually be transformed into a demon. Meanwhile, Lucia is the beautiful, kindly face of the Service of Light. She casts Misdirection every day, which is why she pings as good.

Most of the cultists are neutral or good aligned commoners who have no idea what's really going on. Many of them had family members raised or diseases cured by the Lord of Light, so they're devoted to him, but not to the point of fighting or dying. There's one very sweet little old lady who's an Adept 6 or so, and Neutral Good; she's the target of the succubus' Misdirection.

There are two thug / mooks who do have some idea what's up. They're Ftr 5 / Rog 3 and they accompany their master almost everywhere. He cast Imbue With Spell Ability on them, so if trouble breaks out, they'll throw buffs on him and then get out in front.

Build notes and tactics:

The succubus, the mesmerist and the mooks have various duties, but protecting their boss is Job One. Note that a succubus with PC stats has a crazy high save DC, and if the mesmerist is in play that all just gets even worse. PCs who don't have access to mind-protecting magic are likely to get turned around fast. Kindly DMs may give advance warning -- "this NPC who went to investigate has shaved his head and is talking about how the divine energy of Life permeates the multiverse", or the like.

The LOL's base stats are something like Str 8 Con 10 Dex 10 Int 21 Wis 16 Cha 18. (Remember, he gets boosts to his mental stats for being Elderly, but takes no damage to his physical stats.) He also has a Profane Gift bump to Cha from the succubus. While it was tempting to put it on Int, he's not going to run the risk of a sulky demon ripping away half his brain on a whim. A 2d6+2 hit of Cha drain would hurt, but he can fix that in a day. His Will save is at least +13, so he's not too worried about her spamming Suggestions (though maybe he should be). Pretty sure he'll have an Int boosting item, so likely a working Int around 25 for casting purposes.

He walks around all day with Mage Armor and Magic Vestment on, so with his Protective Grace and a +1 armor item his default AC is 21 -- not much, but in just a couple of rounds he can boost that fast.

If it comes to combat, his preferred tactic is to stay behind meat shields (his AC and hp are not great) and throw save-or-sucks. He'll fight intelligently but will bug out the moment he thinks he's seriously threatened.

Plot seeds may follow, if anyone finds this interesting.

Doug M.


PCs may attend an auction where a servant of Mammon is auctioning off interesting items. They'll be after one item in particular... but I want to build out the catalog. Parameters:

1) Value between 5,000 and 50,000 gp.

2) Does not weigh more than 50 lbs. (Items are delivered by teleporting devils.) Note that information can be an item.

3) No ordinary magic items. I mean, a +2 sword has a fixed value, yeah? So it's not really a suitable item for an auction.

4) Stuff that is creepy or disturbing, or anyway odd and unusual, is good. It's an auction run by Team Evil, and the bidders will probably be a pretty louche crowd.

Thoughts?

Doug M.


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Yeah, Monstress really is pretty good. It's a monthly comic from Image that tells an above-average fantasy story with lush, incredibly detailed art. It's won a pile of awards and it's easy to see why. It has a spell-casting cat called a "nekomancer". If you like this sort of thing, you will like it a lot.

But anyway: the Blood Fox. In the comic, he's an Ancient. That's roughly equivalent to the Elders in Golarion's First World: not a god, but immortal and very powerful. The Ancients used to be CR 20+ near-gods, but their powers somehow got diluted when they bred with humans. So they're a lot weaker than they used to be, but still very formidable. The Blood Fox has been exiled by the other Ancients for extreme wickedness. (He didn't like that having part-human descendants reduced their power, and decided that genocide was the logical solution.) Now he lives alone on a magical island, surrounded by illusions. He passes the centuries getting high on a drug he brews from the bones of a dead god.

In appearance he's humanoid but with the head of a fox. (Here he is saying a friendly hello, and here he is going full-blast with a psychic offensive.) He's decadent and degenerate, and it's implied that he's stoned out of his mind much of the time. But he's still intelligent, manipulative, hateful, and very, very dangerous.

So the Blood Fox actually maps pretty well to a rakshasa -- either a maharajah rakshasa, or a mythic rakshasa, or just a standard rakshasa with a bunch of PC class levels. He's stuck on the island by some very powerful curse. He's thousands of years old and has basically Knowledge (Everything) +a lot, so you could visit him to ask him a question. He's pretty bored so he's ready to swap information.

Complication: he's not the only thing imprisoned on the island. Just getting to the island should be a challenge. (In the comic, it's literally surrounded by a belt of damned souls, which is impossible to cross without paying the undead Ferryman.) And once you're there, you need to be alert against the other inmates.

Challenge: the Blood Fox is basically Hannibal Lecter. He's willing to trade information, and can be urbane and pleasant, and he's ready to be distracted or entertained. But he's capital-E Evil and extremely dangerous to deal with. Like the good Dr. Lecter, he wants to (1) get inside your head and mess with you, and (2) escape. He may ask the PCs to do something seemingly innocent, even benign, that is actually a part of an elaborate escape plan stretching over centuries. Letting the Blood Fox escape is of course a terrible, terrible idea that will, at a minimum, seriously tick off whatever Powers locked him up in the first place. But even short of that, the Blood Fox's idea of fun would be to give you absolutely true and honest advice that will lead to some horrific outcome.

TLDR: the Blood Fox is a cool high-level NPC who could easily be adapted to many different campaigns. I'd do it myself, except then I wouldn't be able to recommend Monstress to my players.

Doug M.


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So this is inspired by a blog post Arnold wrote over at Goblin Punch a couple of years back. Arnold's stuff is awesome and everyone should go read Goblin Punch, it's great.

Seed: the PCs meet an NPC who has the formal title of "Wind-Wife". This NPC is married to the North Wind. I imagine the NPC as female, but season to taste; the North Wind doesn't really see gender (though it is sexual; see below). Let's call them Kim. I see Kim as a ranger or fighter who is around the PCs' level. S/he is, ohhh, a guide across a wilderness area and starts as friendly if not allied. The PCs should be told that Kim is a "Wind-Wife"; beyond that, you can provide as much or as little information as you deem appropriate.

The North Wind is sentient and practices serial monogamy, taking Wives for anything from a few months to a few years. There's a courtship. Its tastes vary over time. In the last few decades, all the Wives have been either melee fighter types, or lawyers. There may or may not be a religious aspect to this -- flavor to taste. Anyway, being a Wind-Wife brings Kim a number of benefits.

Companion Wind. Kim has a companion wind that hangs around. It's basically an animal companion type thing, except it's a wind. In a pinch it can fight like an air elemental, but that's not its main purpose. It reconnoiter; can carry messages any distance (and it's darn fast, and tireless); and gives Kim the ability to cast Alter Winds, Whispering Wind, Entropic Shield (winds provide 20% miss chance against missiles) or Gust of Wind, all at will. It's smarter than an air elemental but it does wander off sometimes. It hates enclosed spaces (buildings, caves) and simply won't enter them. It's good for minor, Prestidigitation-type stuff like fanning fires or drying clothes. If killed in combat, it reforms in d6+1 minutes.

Wind Power. If you don't have detailed weather patterns worked out, just roll a d4 three times / day, at morning, noon and sunset. On a 1, the wind is from the north, and will be until the next die roll. When a north wind is blowing, Kim can call on their spouse for help. This isn't exactly the full North Wind, mind. It's more like asking for help from your spouse's little finger or something. Still, that's pretty powerful right there. Kim can ask d3 favors /day from the North Wind, which include Control Winds, River of Wind, Sirocco, and Control Weather. Kim can also ask the wind for a Wind Walk once/day -- basically being blown along by the wind. The PCs can be carried along too, but it's a rough ride if you're not used to it; Reflex saves or be sickened.

Wind Wife. Whenever the wind is from the north, roll a d20. On a 20, the North Wind shows up in person. (If you do the math, the North Wind visits about once a month or so.) Kim can also call on the North Wind. This has a 50% chance of success when the wind is from the north, otherwise 10%. (The North Wind is not particularly protective of its spouse, and Kim is pretty independent, so they won't attempt to call on it except in a dire emergency.) The arrival of the North Wind is extremely dramatic; gale force winds, a sudden drop in temperature, and a roaring loud enough to make normal speech impossible. Whether the North Wind takes a physical form, and what that might look like, is up to you. Meanwhile, roll a d6:

1: Venting. The North Wind is angry or upset about something and has sought out Kim to complain and look for comfort. Kim needs to go off and calm their spouse. This will take d20 x 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the side-effects of the North Wind's unhappiness will make normal activity quite difficult. The North Wind will ignore the PCs unless they force themselves on its attention (probably not a good idea).

2-3: Just stopping by. The North Wind just wants to visit with its spouse for a bit. It is in a fine mood and will adopt whatever attitude Kim has towards the PCs. So, if the PCs have made Kim Friendly or Helpful, the North Wind will feel the same way towards its spouse's new friends.

4-6: Conjugal visit. Kim is literally whisked away. They return d6 hours later, yawning, stretching, and with extremely wild hair. Any reasonable request made to the North Wind through Kim is 80% likely to be granted, but not until after Kim has returned. These visits are always followed by d3 days of unusually calm, mild weather.

Should Kim be killed somehow, flip a coin: 50% chance the North Wind simply mourns (awful weather for d6 days, but otherwise no effect), 50% chance it rages and seeks revenge. In the latter case, the PCs better be able to show they weren't responsible, and point to whoever was.

If Kim becomes a recurring NPC, then at some point the North Wind will move on. If the relationship ended well, Kim will have some permanent token of the North Wind's affection -- a magic item, a wind-related SLA, what have you. In theory a PC could become a Wind-Wife; the minimum requirements are a positive Cha modifier, a positive Con modifier, and either at least three levels in a melee class or at least 3 ranks in Profession [lawyer]. Details beyond that, including courtship and wedding ceremonies, would be up to the DM.

Thoughts?

Doug M.


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Plot seed: a cleric of Mammon has some compromising material on a highly placed politician. Details TBD, but let's say they're letters showing her guilty of treason or some similar crime. The cleric has somehow obtained them. Being a cleric of Mammon, he's arranged an auction to sell this material to the highest bidder. However, the various bidders will include evil characters who may want to simply take the kompramat by force, torture its location out of him, or whatever.

So, help requested: how can our evil cleric best secure his auction? He's 10th level, so will have access to 5th level cleric spells, and can buy or blackmail access to arcane spells too. Assume he has a fair amount of money to burn.

My first thought: use Lesser Planar Ally to summon a devil, have the devil take the material to Hell, returning only for a pre-arranged rendezvous and handing the material to whoever has the code phrase. The winner of the auction gets the rendezvous date, time, and code phrase. This doesn't solve the "kidnap the cleric and torture it out of him" problem, though.

Note that I'm not looking for an absolute and final solution -- just one that would be difficult for PCs or NPCs below let's say 10th level to overcome.

Thoughts?

Doug M.


I'm looking for enchantment spells that can wait for a very long time -- months or years -- before taking effect. Does anything like that exist?

Put another way, imagine a situation where a high level caster can do a favor for you. In return, they want a guarantee of you doing one act for them in the future. As part of the deal, you agree to fail a saving throw against one spell. Is there a spell that will do the job here? Most of the obvious ones -- Dominate, Geas, and the like -- have durations that are measured in days. so that doesn't work.

Anyone?

Doug M.


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Character concept: a Lawful Good Mystic Theurge who's pretty much a pure crusader type. In Golarion, he might be a devotee of Ragathiel, yeah? He's a blaster who is all about DPR. Can work as part of a team, but given a few rounds to prepare he can also buff himself up, summon some meat shields, and then get the job done flying solo.

Middle-aged human, 9th level, Wiz 3/Cler 3/MysTh 3 so he's casting like a Wiz 7 / Cler 7. Very probably an Evoker with Versatile Evocation. He has burned one feat on Improved Familiar to get the Lantern Archon. Yeah, that's suboptimal, but this build is about flavor. Besides, the 50 lb. teleport means he can keep his spellbook and all unused magic items back home, calling hem only when needed.

Otherwise, how would you build this? I'm looking for blasty-ness and also thematic notes (Law, Good, Light, Fire, making evil things explode).

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.


Has anyone used the psychic duel rules from Occult Adventures? I have to say, they seem clunky and uninspiring. But maybe I'm missing something?

If you have used them, how did it work out, and what do you suggest?

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.


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Mr Jingles is a bard. I think he's a gnome, though he could be a halfling, or human -- whatever fits your campaign. He's an NPC who is 6-8 levels higher than your PCs. So, if you have a group of 3rd level PCs, Mr. Jingles will be 10th level, give or take. He's missing one leg at the knee, which reduces his movement by 5'.

Mr. Jingles will show up one day, introduce himself, and ask for help with a minor bit of adventuring. There's a monster nearby, and it's guarding a big pile of treasure. Mr. Jingles can't take it alone, but with the help of the PCs... The monster will be APL +4 or so: a creature that the party would have great difficulty with normally. But with Mr. Jingles' help, it'll be MUCH easier. Mr. Jingles is optimized for support! He has lots of buffs and cures, and of course his Inspire Courage alone is going to give the party a massive power boost. Jingles offers to split the treasure 50-50...

What happens next:
...and he does; it's all on the up-and-up. With Jingles' help, the monster is defeated easily. (Remember, we're talking about a Nth level party taking on a CR N+4 monster with the help of a N+7h level bard. So, if they're third level, it's a CR 7 monster, but with the help of 10th level Jingles it's pretty straightforward.) Jingles doesn't fight, and he hangs well back from danger -- hey, he's a one-legged gnome -- but he buffs like crazy and he's also a very savvy and experienced adventurer who gives lots of good advice. So the PCs get a nice score, Jingles claims his half. High-fives all around.

And now Mr. Jingles has an offer for the PCs. He's relentless about searching for rumours about monsters and treasure. But he's not much of a fighter himself. So he offers to set the PCs up at a base of operations: the mansion he inherited from his former partners, adventurers who left him behind to go travelling in distant lands. It's an isolated place in the woods, but it has lots of rooms and a large, lockable treasure vault in the basement.

If the PCs accept, they'll find that Jingles is indeed very good at finding monsters to fight and treasures to be looted. In campaign terms, this may mean a couple of sessions where the PCs just cut down a bunch of high-level monsters with relative ease, allowing them to gain piles of treasure well above normal WBL and also level up faster than normal.

Of course there's a catch.

What's actually going on:
Jingles' adventuring party got wiped out by a powerful monster -- I'm going to say a dragon, but you can season to taste, pick whatever fits your campaign. Let's call him Vincent. Vincent left Jingles alive for lulz, but first told him that he had to bring a pile of victims and treasure in return for his life. Possibly the dragon enforced this with magic, a Geas or something. Or maybe he just bit Mr. Jingles' leg off and ate it, very slowly. In any event, Jingles is a tool of the dragon, and he is trying to assemble a hoard of victims and treasure.

Jingles isn't actually evil! He's Chaotic Neutral and a huge coward, but he's not evil, and -- depending on how the PCs treat him -- he'll be somewhere between shifty-guilty and wracked with guilt and shame. If the PCs have really been friendly, he'll feel just terrible. But whether out of fear or magical compulsion, he's going forward with the plan.

Fun while it lasts: Life with Mr. Jingles:
Jingles seems to be optimized for buffs and cures. He's actually optimized for buffs, cures, divination, and lying like crazy -- lots of spells that bump his Bluff score (which is sky-high to begin with; he's a skill monkey bard who has specialized in Bluff, Diplomacy, and Knowledges). And he'll be sincerely helpful, especially when it comes to accumulating treasure. There will be suspicious bits:

-- He disappears sometimes for days at a time. (He's visiting Vincent.)
-- His own share of the treasure disappears fast. He says he's investing it for his retirement. (Vincent again.)
-- It's obvious that other adventurers lived in the mansion; there's a chapel to a god, a sparring room, a wizard's study with a shelf of (non-magical) research books, whatever. Vincent sighs that they left him behind, then changes the subject.
-- Vincent encourages the PCs to keep treasure and valuables in the vault. If the PCs are suspicious, he'll agree to any reasonable precaution. (Of course, it's all being piled up for Vincent.)

Jingles' behavior will grow more erratic as The Day approaches. Again, this will depend on how friendly the PCs have been to him and how well they've treated him. If they've really been good to him, he'll have a breakdown and spill everything just before Vincent shows up. Otherwise, it'll be a fun surprise.

Enter Vincent:

I think Vincent is CE -- probably a black dragon? -- and I think he overplays his hand: instead of taking the PCs and all the treasure, he laughs and tells Jingles this isn't enough, and he'll have to do it all over again. This pushes Jingles over the edge, and he desperately offers to help the PCs against the monster.

The dragon should thoroughly outclass the PCs -- APL + 6 or so -- but it's overconfident, and it's attacking the PCs on their home ground (the mansion), and Jingles knows exactly how it thinks. With his help, they should have a chance at pulling off a crazy upset. You'll want to plot this one out in advance. But the endgame should be, they have a decent shot at winning.

Jingles may or may not survive -- season to taste.

Thoughts?


So you can get pretty much all the Numenara stuff ever published for $15 via the latest Humble Bundle.

Is it worth it? I've heard good things, but... how good are we talking, here? And how much could be scavenged or ported for a more standard PF campaign? Who here has played Numenara, and has thoughts about it?

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.


Sorceror, 7th level human (could be some other race, but default human) who'll face a lower level PC party at range. The PC party has two healbots AND a Wand of CLW, so just putting damage on them is kind of pointless. However, it may take them several rounds to close with her -- like, she'll be on a boat, they'll be an a slightly faster boat chasing her. So, I'm looking for a build that can zap at range with debuffs and obnoxious battlefield control spells. My first pass is "lots of Web and Glitterdust; use Reach Spell to burn 3rd level slots to zap the PCs at longer range; maybe spam some flying summoned monsters". But I'm pretty sure you guys can come up with something much more obnoxious.

Thoughts?

Doug M.

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