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Meta Thursday (Uralicans Uncut): Insanity and Psionics

One the biggest misconceptions within many roleplaying games revolves around insanity; this isn’t to say that it should not have a place in RPGs, or implemented in one particular way, but that generally it is overzealous and harsh in the depiction of high mental states without showing the progression of the actual condition. One might argue that since these are within games, most conditions are mechanical and need to be triggered and resolved quickly. In those cases, kudos, but my concern is more of an aspect to a character’s thoughts, feelings, and general well-being after the mecImage_Portfolio_101_Fantasy Jason Walton 07hanical effects are gone.

The after effects of conditions can amount to very little, or accrue into a bigger issue; it is up to the player, but as a GM I always think it is great to see the PCs grow not only with powers and abilities, but weaknesses and desperations as well. These characters are heroes, adventures, and masterminds from all walks of life. Not every single condition should deeply affect them, but after awhile every great person begins to crack. With that in mind, it may not always be a bad thing that a person gets a chill every time they come across their fears—one hero may shrug it off and rush off into a deadly trap to die a fool’s death, while their compatriot’s learned caution leads them to live another day.

What happens when psionics are mixed with insanity? There are myriad ways a psychic suffering from a mental condition could represent that aspect of their character while using their powers—the biggest thing that may happen is how the character’s powers manifest when used under stress. When creating a weapon from the characters mind, it could have images of the wielder’s greatest fear represented on the blade,Image_Portfolio_104_Fantasy Jason Walton 44 or the hilt itself could embody their personal terrors. For example, a wielder with arachnophobia might have a blade that has eight moving fringes which seem to scuttle across it as the weapon cuts through the air. One of the important considerations when evaluating mental afflictions and psionics is how it changes a PCs powers regardless of whether it is a short, high, intense burst of the condition or an arduous, ongoing battle within themselves that lacks any mechanical effects that the group is likely to notice at first.

Bearing all that in mind, remember that insane characters are not stereotypes, caricatures, or cartoons; they are people with feelings, consciences, and real struggles. Playing those struggles out is far more rewarding than trivializing them, and makes for far more dynamic encounters with not only the GM, but other PCs as well.


[Submitted by Tim Snow!]

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Weird Wednesday (Uralicans Uncut): Avaricious Xyrx Crystal

Avaricious Xyrx Crystal
Aura strong metacreativity; ML 14th
Slot none; Weight

Avaricious xyrx crystals have been infused with the essence of a mad god. Unlike normal xyrx crystals these crystals have more energy to expend (exactly one and half more power points are available) but a depleted avaricious xyrx crystal dissolves into nothingness (until then it has 4 hit points per 10 lbs. of crystal). Avaricious xyrx crystals, unlike their regular counterparts, exert a measure of control over their users.

Twice per day the owner an avaricious xyrx crystal can manifest control body (ML 7th; DC 16 Will save) but rather than gain control over the target’s body, the avaricious xyrx crystal causes the user to target randomly; they may hinder foes, or simply make a few creatures wander off by themselves.avaricious xyrx crystal

Once per month when a creature touches an avaricious xyrx crystal it triggers the enthrall ability of the mindbender psion discipline (ML 14th; DC 22). Creatures that roll a natural 1 on their save to resist this effect develop a god complex, believing that the avaricious xyrx crystal is a deity for 2d4 months, trying to convert all other creatures they are able to communicate with. When the avaricious xyrx crystal is dominating a creature it encourages the creature to cause any type of chaos that it can, from revealing dark secrets that the creature knows about itself and others, to upsetting military orders, or even going on a rampage. After the effect ends the creature is confused for 1d4 hours or until cured.

If the crystal is used as part of a power supply for a machine (such as an airship) it gains a minor possession over the machine. At random times in the day the machine that the avaricious xyrx crystal powers does a random act such as flipping over, turning the wrong direction, or trying to overload the device itself. When the avaricious xyrx crystal is in possession of the ship and a creature succeeds against either its control body power or enthrall ability, the cursed item lashes out at that creature, making a improvised attack (+6 melee touch attack, 2d6+2 damage) for 3 rounds before quieting down again. If the avaricious xyrx crystal can’t reach the creature, it moves 5 feet towards its target with one of its three rounds of actions.

An avaricious xyrx crystal used to craft an item possesses it as above or has a 75% chance of being shattered while it is being crafted; when successfully implemented into an object, the item and its bearer become covered in quintessence, entering a state of stasis.

Psionic Items xyrx crystal


[Submitted by Tim Snow!]

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Magic Item Monday (Uralicans Uncut): Uralican Straight Jacket

Aura strong metacreativity; ML 11th
Slot chest; Price 65,000; Weight 2 lbs.

The straps of this restraining jacket fasten quickly as the thought of trying it on passes through you mind.

There are two ways of wearing this jacket—with the arms tied (restrained) or untied (unrestrained). Each time the jacket is worn, the wearer must make a DC 13 Will save or contract paranoia, and it can be worn with medium or light armors.

uralican straight jacketRestrained: The Uralican straight jacket grants a +2 deflection bonus to AC and a +3 insight bonus against mind-affecting effects, though the wearer is unable to use somatic spell components or any item that requires a hand to use. As a free action the wearer can sprout 4 psionic tentacles (1d8) with a reach of 15 feet, using their hit dice as base attack bonus for the tentacles (with one tentacle as a primary attack and the remainder as secondary attacks), and their highest mental attribute in place of Strength to determine attack bonus and damage. These tentacles can hold manipulate simple items (like a door handle) but are unable to work complex devices like a crossbow. The wearer gets a +3 will save agasint mind affecting effects.

Unrestrained: The Uralican straight jacket grants the wearer a +1 deflection bonus to AC and +2 insight bonus against mind-affecting effects, as well as two psionic tentacles, as above (one is a primary attack, the other is a secondary attack).

DC 15     The Uralican straight jacket was a valuable tool to restrain creatures from unexpect after effects of using psionic power.
DC 20     It’s said that some who’ve worn these restraining coats had horrible traumatic experiences, their symptoms worsening before eventually they escaped from the places that held them.
DC 25     The first Uralican straight jacket was made for a Uralican who felt like she was slipping away into the cosmos, uncertain of what was real and what was not and but positive that something unknown plagued her.
DC 30     The Uklonjen is a place that has been known to torment people who are susceptible to mind-affecting effects, and seeing the plight of her people, one Uralican began to work towards a solution. Her efforts resulted in the Uralican straight jacket, but she had not foreseen the manifestation of psionic tentacles by individuals bound in the coats too long.

Craft Wondrous Item, a bolt of cotton, leather, ectoplasmic grapnel; Cost 30,000


Contributed by Tim Snow!

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Trap Tuesday (Uralicans Uncut): HEL Spore

blood (hel spore)HEL SPORES    
CR 11

Type psionic; Search/Perception DC 27; Disable Device DC 27
Trigger location; Reset none
Effect power effects (dimension swap, DC 18 Will save or position is swapped with 1 random guard; Will DC 20 to negate suspend life upon arrival)

HEL spores are littered across the hallways of Varg the Candlekeeper’s asteroid [This Sidequest Saturday! -MM] and represent a serious danger to any creatures that fail to notice them. Often tucked away into the corners of the the stone hallways, the red-black anomalies resemble drops of liquid suspended in mid-air, though a HEL spore is always anchored—however tenuously—to a surface from above and the side.

A creature witnessing a HEL spore in action that makes a DC 30 Spellcraft check recognizes that more than one supernatural effect is at work when a creature targeted by the trap disappears, and a DC 30 Knowledge (psionics) check realizes that this second effect is suspend life. The arrival of a guard (in this case, a magaav) is obvious, however, and the recently teleported NPC receives a free surprise round before the party gets to act.

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Magic Item Monday (Uralicans Uncut): Crystal Compass

crystal compassCRYSTAL COMPASS
Aura moderate clairsentience; ML 7th
Slot none; Price 27,000 gp; Weight 1  lb.

This unusual assortment of crystals remains hovering in the air, twisting to point in a particular direction.

The crystal compass can be used a sextant, but its functions for navigation go far beyond simple mechanical aid, projecting a star chart in a hemisphere around whatever space it is inside or out to 20 feet (whichever comes first). This star chart is always anchored around the Ancestral Gateway that leads to the kingdom of Rybalka in Aventyr and shows where the crystal compass is in relation to it. The crystal compass can always provide this map, regardless of where it is in relation to the Ancestral Gateway. A DC 15 Knowledge (planes) check allows a creature to discern where exactly the ship is in this star chart.

Once per day, the spirit of the crystal compass’ creator can be summoned to ask one question about navigation. The spirit answers as truthfully as it can; if it cannot provide a direct route to wherever the questioner wishes to go, it does its best to get them pointed in the right direction.

Success on a Knowledge (psionics) check to learn more about the crystal compass reveals some facts about the unique item’s lore:
DC 15     These strange devices are highly prized by sages of Aventyr; they claim the unique sextants are artifacts of a powerful, forgotten civilization that traveled across the very stars.
DC 20     The creators of the crystal compass were known as Uralicans, strange warrior-raiders with potent powers of the mind.
DC 25     Uralicans traveled in vessels that floated above the ground with no aid of alchemy or magic, but another unknown force tied to otherworldly energies.
DC 30     These airships were powered by xyrx crystals, and the crystal compass is made from the same material.

Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, Craft (gems) 7 ranks, xyrx crystal, anchored navigation; Cost 23,500 gp

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A Design Exercise in 4 Steps from Concept to Mechanics

hobgoblin_leader__storn_cookThe character in your head (PC or NPC) fits the vast majority of thematic requirements for the game or campaign you’re about to join, but none of the abilities available fit what you want. Homebrew is hardly unheard of, but nobody wants to waste time arguing over some house rules—you need a strong set of mechanics that the GM and other players can fully approve of.

#1) Idea
Where do we start? How do we take an idea from our brain and onto the table in an intelligent, responsible fashion? First, obviously, we need an idea.
For today’s purposes, we’re going to be using “Speedball” from Marvel Comics as our example (I was a big fan of his up until the whole Penance business—I’ve even got most of the first run of the terrible solo issues). making up a very basic framework for an equivalent in Pathfinder. For those not in the know, Speedball could basically make himself into a big bouncy ball, redirecting kinetic energy.

#2) Search
The first thing to do is see if the tools are there already or not. While the PRD is fantasticwhen it comes to designing something for Pathfinder, you should be using John Reyst and his slew of minions are constantly adding 3rd Party Publisher material (so you know your design is unique), have a more accessible search engine (use those quotation marks, folks) and you can break up results by category (this saves an enormous amount of work vis-a-vis magic items, classes and spells).

133-Chained-library-at-Wimborne-Minster-1709x1021Let’s look up some keywords for Speedball’s abilities: “bounce”, “bouncing”, “kinetic” and “redirect”. Whenever possible, we want to mirror or incorporate the established mechanics set up within the RPG in question, so don’t be lazy about looking at what comes up. Most of the page counts shrink as well for some reason, so sally forth!

Bouncing Spell—We’re not really doing anything with this. If I was writing an entire base class, this would absolutely become a part of it somehow, but we’ll stick to levels 1-5 if we go that route, and feats or a simple archetype if not.
Greater Ring of Bounce—A cursed item that gives a +10 bonus to Acrobatics check for jumping, but a -10 for any other use, CL 7th. This sounds like something we can use, so we’ll put a star by it to remember, and maybe a note. [***attack ability?]
Bounding Hammer—From Pathfinder Companion: Dwarves; on a successful hit with a thrown hammer, the feat makes it land in your square. [*** feat to catch thrown weapon]
Roll With It—This goblin feat looks like we’ve struck gold. Take a melee hit, make an Acrobatics check (DC 5 + damage) as an immediate action, success means that you take no damage but move in a straight line (in a direction of your choosing) 1 foot for each point of damage you would have taken, halting after half your speed in movement. Run into something and you take 1d4 damage and go prone, and all that movement provokes AoOs. Worse yet, you are staggered for a round after attempting the feat. [***fundamental]
Tumbling Descent—This roof runner rogue archetype ability from Ultimate Combat fills another great gap: so long as there are two surfaces no farther than 10 feet apart to bounce against, they can fall indefinitely with an Acrobatics check (DC 10 + 5 for every 10 ft. increment descended beyond the initial 10 ft. drop) [***fundamental]
Shield of King RytanRicochet Shield—This is an interesting combat trick; a -2 attack roll penalty to bounce a thrown shield around an 
obstacle, with a note about range increments for total distance traveled rather than from wielder to target. [***attack ability?]
Bouncy—Another goblin feat from the Pathfinder Player Companions; the first 1d6 lethal points of falling damage are automatically converted to nonlethal damage, and you get a +2 Reflex save to avoid unexpected falls. [***the cushion effect]
Kinetic Reverberation—This 2nd-level wizard spell lasts rounds per level, allows for SR and a Fortitude save. On a failed save, the weapon striking the target enchanted by this spell takes the same amount of damage it dealt to the target. Doesn’t effect natural attacks. [***fundamental]
Impact—For the equivalent of a +2 weapon enhancement bonus, increase a weapon’s damage die; CL 9th. Good stuff to know. [***fundamental]
Redirect Attack—This advanced rogue talent allows a once per day redirect of a melee hit to strike an adjacent creature as a free action, requiring the attacker to roll a second time. Definitely high part of our core concept. [***fundamental]
Flowing Monk—This guy has quite a bit of what we’re looking for: redirection, unbalancing counter, flowing dodge and elusive target (as well as the Elusive Redirection feat) fit the bill for our core concept. [***fundamental]

At least he's not weaing skin-tight red leather...

#3) Assess
Our design ends right here. We could break some of this down and rebuild the pieces, creating a more specific monk archetype (the bouncing goblin, perhaps?) but as it is, a goblin flowing monk with the right feats, a few errant class levels or new magic items and a bright attitude should do it.
A lot of our work is done for this guy—let’s assume we make a goblin flowing monk 5/rogue (roof runner) 2. They can flow around attacks via flowing monk abilities (and, of course, the Crane Stance feats), with the Roll With It feat they can redirect movement from a solid hit, they can bound downwards with tumbling descent and slow fall, and on top of all that, jump extremely far thanks to high jump. None of the flowing monk’s abilities prohibit shields, so next level we grab up fighter and a feat for tossing things, keeping a few hammers around for the purpose; if we can manage it, with the impact quality. For good effect, I’d throw in the Mobility feat somewhere to avoid those AoOs.

I’m not at all bummed, by the way. We didn’t even it make it to the repeat of step 2: searching for 3PP material to see what else can be (or has already been) done (hint: Trick Shot from Psionics, along with other Marksman things). That’s one of the reasons Pathfinder is so excellent—there’s rampant versatility even within the core rules. We’ll take another shot at something totally original next time..

#4) Design
What didn’t we pick up along the way here? We’re going to miss out on Redirect Attack, but that’s hardly the end of the world. Kinetic reverberation is something we can work with however.
Let’s head back to, do a search and click on magic items—nothing shows up, so we’re clear for liftoff.
Of course, firsthand knowledge never hurts (ideally I’d be hip-deep in Paizo books for “research”) and I have an example from a Magic Item Monday back in September. While I obviously liked it, we want our goblin flowing monk/rogue to use some kind of impact weapon anyway. We could get the quarterstaff enchanted, but then the shield aspect is gone.
Instead of enchanting the weapon, what about making an enchantment that activates a kinetic reverberation?
gauntlet-12We want something like a cape of the mountebank—activated on command with limited uses per day. This is a math problem now [(CL 3rd) x (spell level 2nd) x 1,800 gp] divided by (5 divided by 3 charges per day) = 6,480 gold. It’ll be costly to buy at 12,960 gold pieces (assuming we don’t have a buddy with Craft Wondrous Item), but our goblin flowing monk will now have bracers of rebounding strike that can be activated 3 times a day, granting 3 rounds of weapon damaging, kinetic action
 (Fort DC 13) with each use.

Maybe next time we’ll get lucky and hit the fields, but today we’re staying in the stables. Now, however, I am genuinely interested in putting together an elusive little goblin monk and am surprised I haven’t already…perhaps that will be something to be see in the upcoming Sidequest Saturdays? 😉

Do you have a contribution or idea for Meta Thursdays?  Send us your ideas (after reading the submission guidelines) to submit(at) with “Meta Thursday” in the subject line!