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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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Tribal Troubles: K’naghi Savanna

Great Pinnacle RockThe K’naghi Savanna
Located on the northern edges of the Alimpulosa, the savanna surrounds the region’s most notable landmark—the Pinnacle Stone. An unusual oasis of life in the midst of an otherwise harsh desert, the savanna covers barely a square mile in surface area and its borders are very nearly circular shaped with the great peak at the center. A sea of sand and dunes expands beyond the border of the K’naghi savanna, named for the tribe of humans who dwell within.

The Savanna is a magical place, sustained by the effects of the song of ancestors, which replenishes the flora and fauna within every morning. Various grasses and acacia trees—as well as a myriad of other plant-life, small animals and an abundance of locusts which feed on the dry grasses—provide ample resources for the K’naghi people.

 

The Pinnacle Stone
The tallest natural feature in the region, the Pinnacle Stone is a narrow-sided butte that rises an astonishing three hundred feet into the air. The sheer sides are next to impossible to climb; however, the K’naghi tribesmen maintain their village on the few outcroppings near its peak, using giant locust mounts to fly up to their homes. The Pinnacle Stone is widely used for navigation through the badlands, as its high enough to remain visible for many, many miles beyond the immediate region.

K'narghi Savanna

The Hanging Village
The village is home to the K’naghi tribe, located upon several stone outcroppings near the peak of the towering Pinnacle Stone. Dozens of huts using the mud and dry grasses from below are connected by a network of ladders that reach from one outcropping to the next. The peak is also bestowed with a series of narrow caves, tunnels, and caverns which the K’naghi people use to navigate from various sections of the village. It is typically high enough to remain safe from the region’s frequent sandstorms, however when a particularly forceful desert gale threatens their people, the K’naghi retreat to the safety of the caverns that pockmark the peak of the Pinnacle Stone—to the tribe’s leader and elder shaman, and a massive stone statue of Naghith, their tribal god.

The K’naghi Tribe
Indigenous to a region bordering theAlimpulosa, the K’naghi people are a tribe of humans renowned for their practice of flying on the backs of giant locusts. They inhabit the tiny savannah region that encircles the great Pinnacle Stone, making their home upon the peak of the towering landmark. The tribe subsists mainly off of the resources of the savannah below their village, gathering water from beneath the bark of the many acacia trees, crafting their homes, clothes, and wares from intricate weaving of the dry grasses. Their staple diet consists of locusts, barriers, and roots, of which the K’naghi Savanna provides in plenty. However, they are also known to trade from time to time with various tribes through the region—in particular the Ayaxan gypsies, who find the lightweight yet durable garments crafted by the K’naghi perfect for their desert travels.

The tribe speaks an unusual mix of broken Common and Giant, which can be loosely understood by anyone that speaks either of the languages. The mythology of the K’naghi teaches that eons ago, their people were the slaves of great desert-dwelling giants until the great hero Anapo organized a bloody revolt. Devoted to their god Naghith, the K’naghi believe he slumbers in a temple visible in the distance from the peak of the Pinnacle Stone.

 

Locust_Rider_SilNaghith, the Many-Winged Father
Naghith is the tribal god of the K’naghi people. He is depicted as a humanoid with three pairs of insect-
like wings, and rounded insectile eyes.

The mythology of the K’naghi people tells of an ancient time, when Naghith arose from the temple complex and freed their people from the enslavement of tyrannical giants. Legend tells that the god was awakened by the prayers made at the foot of the ancient temple by two human slaves—Anapo, a teenage boy, and the witch Banhi, his older sister.

A fierce and violent god, Naghith, surrounded by swarms of giant locusts, laid waste to the giant captors of the tribe. During the onslaught, Anapo bravely mounted one of the giant locusts and rode upon its back in an assault against the leader of his giant overlords, killing it with a spear strike through its throat.

Seeing the courage of their brother, the other slaves followed Anapo’s lead and mounted the giant locusts swarming about the encampment, attacking their brutal masters. When it was over, not a single one of the giants remained living; freed from their enslavement, the humans praised the great locust god whom had come to their aid.

Weary from the battle, the Many-winged Father returned to his slumber within the temple, leaving the K’naghi (and their locust mounts) to their newfound freedom. As the battle-weakened god returned to the confines of his temple, some of the tribesmen wondered at the motives of their new patron; if their savior ever rose again, it could likely mean their own destruction.

The hero Anapo was quickly elected as the tribal leader, and he decided that his people, using their locusts as transportation, would take refuge upon the distant towering peak, where they would forever remain out of the reach of giants. Banhi was charged by her kinsmen with the duty of assuring that the slumber of Naghith remained undisturbed. Using her great magic, she summoned forth the life-force scattered and strewn about the badlands, and created the savanna that today surrounds the Pinnacle Stone, promising that this land would always provide for their tribe. In return, the spirits of the tribe would forever remain at the great stone, assuring their continued survival by softly singing to the slumbering god in the distant temple. The name “K’naghi” translates to Common from Giant to mean, “Watchers of Naghith.”

Eventually Anapo and Banhi joined the whispering spirits of the K’nahgi, but through their lineage was founded a tribal dynasty of shaman—warrior witches destined to watch over the K’naghi. Banthadar—the current elder shaman of the tribe—is the sixth descendant of Anapo and Banhi, and continues the traditions they founded more than three centuries ago.

 

Image_Portfolio_101_Fantasy Jason Walton 07Banhi’s Final Prophecy
Long after the death of the hero Anapo, the great witch-mother lay aged, grayed, and wrinkled upon her deathbed. It was as she neared her final breaths, before joining the hero’s spirit in the K’naghi savannah, that she had a powerful vision. What she experienced was powerful enough to cause her to arise from her incapacitated state and climb—alone—to the highest point of the Pinnacle Stone, to shout down to her people below:

I am Banhi, sister of the great hero Anapo, mother protector to the K’naghi, and curator of our people’s spirits. I go now to join my kin in his song, but I leave this final gift to my children and my children’s children—don’t forget it! When the day becomes night and the sky summons the locust star, the awakening of the Many-Winged Father shall be near forget—our songs cannot forever lull his slumber! When these things come to pass, new heroes shall arrive to your aid. Heroes who, like Anapo, courageously face a new enemy of our people. These outsiders will learn to command the sky and it will be they who send Naghith to his final slumber, freeing you, the watchers and whisperers, from our unending duty. Until that day, my children: live, love, watch, and sing.

This oral prophecy is memorized word-for-word in youth by every member of the K’naghi tribe as a reminder of their inherited duty and what their future may hold. Moments after speaking the words upon the height of the peak, it is said that Banhi dove over the sheer side of the cliff and plummeted to her death, thus adding her voice to the whispers of the song of the ancestors.

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Leahcim the Prankster and Mischievous Meadows

jester_foolLeahcim
Titles: The Clever Shadow
Symbol: Spinning 8-faceted gem
Alignment: CN
Portfolio: Chance, Guile, Illusion, Misfortune, Self-Determination, Thieves
Domains: Chaos, Entropy, Deception, Luck, Trickery
Favored Weapons: Scimitar, Shortbow
Favored Animals Any beast with camouflage or mimicry (such as a chameleon, stick bug, etc)

History

The Aventyr god known as Leahcim was once a forgotten deity, supplanted by the doings of the colloid aeons before it ever reached the Underworld. Once a treasured god of cunning and wisdom, he was left bereft in the void of the cosmos—when Leahcim stared into the void, something from the far beyond stared back. Now slightly deranged and without an identity, the god capered throughout the universe with a will and desire at the whim of his growing insanity.Image_Portfolio_107_Fantasy Jason Walton 61

Eventually the divine energies wrought on Aventyr during the Forging of the Dvergr caught Leahcim’s attentions, drawing him to the periphery of the world to witness the rise of the progenitors and their subsequent fall into the draaki. It was the elven deities, however, that most interested the god of chance—over hundreds of years, he subtly infiltrated their pantheon and species, attributing fanatical devotees in the very flesh before spreading them across both Upper- and Underworld. He appeared inexplicably among the elven pantheon, fully adopting the drow form and gathering followers both before and after their exodus from Edhellond.

The most famous of these followers is Hivaka, the Saviour of the Masses. Leahcim took notice when she and her fellow slaves took flight from Xdot. He imparted the aspiring dark elf with some of his divine essence, forever transforming her into a demigoddess.

Leahcim continues to take an active (albeit underhanded) role in the continued existence of the drow. He travels through the Underworld, briefly touching the souls of dark elves and morphing their alignments towards chaos, neutrality or even goodness if it suits his mood. The lone raider D’thul, a cannibalistic sorcerer-barbarian in the Fungi Forest near Holoth, is one such drow. Those on the surface often see their lives subtly influenced by the trickster god, and Leahcim leads them to roles of dubious natures and unexpected rewards.

Special

Leahcim takes delight in angering the other drow gods at every opportunity; his followers may substitute Leahcim as the required deity for any item, class, feat or spell that has a drow deity requirement, and may select the Drow domain if they have access to domains. Moreover, he often creates his own agents of change—players that wish to play a drow of good alignment in a place that would otherwise prohibit that choice may choose Leahcim as their deity to avoid that.
Appearance

maybe leahcim 2The trickster god has numerous guises but he most commonly appears as an affably dressed male half-drow with an alluring grin and piercing blue eyes. Leahcim’s clothing is generally fashionable and appropriate for the environment, though it is always slightly tattered and seemingly in a state of disrepair. He casually saunters seemingly without a care in the world, a scimitar on his side and black-lacquered shortbow across his back.
Shrines to the Trickster

Leahcim doesn’t have proper churches—effigies and the like are hidden in plain sight or are places of secret pilgrimage. These shrines are often made to look like they belong to other deities, and only show their true forms when the correct prayers are uttered. Followers that fail a DC 28 Knowledge (religion) check find their god distempered with them after praying at one of these shrines, though they remain unsure as to why (regardless of any divination spells they cast).
Holy Text

Leahcim’s Lexicon is a treasured tome among thieves’ guilds, hidden drow enclaves and the trickster god’s followers. These books appear as unremarkable journals of unremarkable lives to followers of other deities (DC 26 Will save to negate) but in the hands of a devoted acolyte, provides a means to learn any rogue trick, illusion spell, or access to knowledge of prestige classes that require sneak attack as a prerequisite.

The prankster god may or may not play a direct part in Mischievous Meadows,but his followers (knowingly or not) are central to this month’s theme on the AaWBlog! Leahcim is known to sometimes take a hand in the affairs of mortals (normally from afar and rarely in person) and ensure that on occasion, even the most improbable plans bear fruit.

As the story progresses his blessings to aid his agents; once per encounter, any of the mischievous NPCs may reroll a natural 1 (they must take the result of the second roll). 

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Insidious Inclusion – 5 Duplicitous Tips to Lure Players

Eventually, players get wise to the mimics, the hidden assassins and the unassuming forest trail. Sometimes to move the plot ahead, however, you need to really walk your group into the lion’s den. Even the most experienced player can still fall prey to a number of different ploys to draw them into an ambush, trap or unfortunate surprise; I’ve detailed a few below.

 

Knight-riding1) Appeal to Alignment

This goes without saying for paladins and antipaladins, but characters of every stripe can be called upon to act out their nature. While a great tactic, it’s not to be used too often—it isn’t likely that all the PCs share the same world views and motivations, and arguments arising from these situations can be catastrophic.

 

2) Opposing Obstacles

A bomb is about to explode, but the mayor is halfway across the city and also primed for fatal catastrophe! Sure, it’s one of the older tricks in the book, but it is effective. Watch out for the same sort of trouble you see with the above option, and avoid saturating your game with this. Forcing PCs to one or two logical solutions to being caught between a rock and a hard place too much might take away too much drama from your game, or dishearten players into feeling that their actions lack impact.

 

marbles3) Incentive

The road to hell is paved in gold and good intentions. Even the most cowardly rogue will give in to their greed and make for a dangerous situation if the gold glitters brightly enough. If you’re feeling particularly vicious, go ahead and throw one or two permanent silent image illusions their way. Eventually clever PCs might start throwing rocks at chests to see if their figments before engaging them and we’re back to traps!

 

4) Cover, Concealment, Reach and Grab

In Pathfinder awakened animals don’t go up in CR. So, for instance, an awakened giant lake octopus gains high-level tactics and 2 HD without raising its challenge rating. There’s already been talk about using terrain effectively, but imagine how an intelligent animal (especially big ones) might modify their hunting grounds. Make use of creatures with reach and grab, concealing them and enticing PCs to wander just close enough that they think they are safe (there is the Lunge feat, after all).

 

knights-armor-205) Sweet Poison Pie

Seed your real plots into innocuous happenings. These could be as simple as running into a pickpocket while at the tavern, or a little more complicated. This month the AaWBlog is taking on a bloody theme to match February’s holiday: Cultus Sanguineus. Within this mini-adventure, the PCs are invited to a grand ball. To seed this, the GM might make it clear that one of the more important members of society’s elite is only accessible to the party at high level functions; while there’s no shortage of events like this, infiltrating one is as hard as earning an invitation. When the adventurers finally find a way in, they’ll think they scored the jackpot—nobles to sleight of hand, influential contacts to make and juicy rumors to learn—only to find out differently much too late…

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

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Tactical Intelligence

When I was younger I thought my dog Coppernicus (“Copper”) was about as dumb a canine as could be.
He was way too excited to be inside regularly and would get tangled in the posts of the back porch all the time (note: we made him a carpeted, insulated, heated dog house).
Turns out I was wrong.
Apparently my dad once took some lunchmeat and left it out of Copper’s tangled reach, then went inside. Copper barked for a while, then my dad shut off the kitchen light and moved back to the hallway. My dog barked a few more times then looked around to make sure nobody was watching before untangling himself to retrieve said treat.
Mike Myler
I was stunned. Copper was [he passed away some time ago; I am positive he’s humping his heart out in doggy heaven -MM] a stupid dog that humped everything and ate linoleum; that clever little pooch tricked me!

What on earth does this have to do with tabletop gaming?
My dog was using tactics.
All by himself. With no impetus other than to get attention, so not even with the kind of fervor or drive you’d expect from say, a wounded dire bear or starving wolverine.
More importantly, he showed a genuine understanding of his surroundings; Copper didn’t just trick me, he did it using terrain.

Don’t forget about using the land around creatures; whether you declare that the wolf knows it is on higher ground or not, take advantage of terrain features when using combat because as I’ve learned, even less intelligent animals can do so effectively. 
For sake of ease, here are some examples of how a creature with relatively little intelligence (1 or 2) might reasonably make use of their surroundings in combat:

  • WolfA pack of wolves has learned that some high-hanging brush proves bothersome to taller creature, and attempt to draw their opponents into it.
    • Treat the brush as difficult terrain for other Medium sized creatures that grants 50% concealment to all wolves and characters of Small size
  • Lumbering through the woods, a particularly gluttonous dire bear has found several meals after accidentally knocking down larger trees onto unsuspecting (and otherwise unnoticed) prey.
    • Starting from 60 feet away, give PCs Spot/Perception checks to notice the bear before asking for Reflex saves (DC 15 for half damage; 4d6 bludgeoning) as it knocks a tree down onto them to begin combat.
  • A feral deinonychus lairs within a deep cave; more than one unsuspecting explorer has wandered into its home and after several such encounters, the reptile has learned that taking away a light source ensures its victory.
    • After briefly assaulting an opponent and then fleeing within the cave, the dinosaur will perform the same to anyone that follows it, attacking whomever carries the light before running once more into the darkness, hoping to corner someone who does not benefit from low-light vision.
  • In the mountainous regions a wolverine has unknowingly mastered an extremely brutal version of the game King of the Hill with other, lesser predators.
    • Attacking the PCs in a rocky gorge, this wolverine makes use of a sloped pathway covered by boulders. The creature always moves to keep the higher ground, gaining a +1 to AC and attack rolls with the advantage in height.
  • Image_Portfolio_101_Fantasy Jason Walton 01After being attacked by countless adventurers using ranged weapons, a fierce dire tiger has realized that its jaws can easily snap a bowstring or pry the weapon away. More experienced combatants came to the fore and have fallen to the jungle predator as well, though now it can recognize the scent of spell components and knows exactly how dangerous they are.
    •      Rather than make an attack on a creature using a ranged weapon, the great cat attempts to sunder bowstrings or disarm archers before closing in for the kill. Should anyone cast a spell using material components, however, they will quickly find themselves targeted by the dire tiger until they’ve divested themselves of said items.

Remember: it’s your game and it’s up to you to decide just how intelligently creatures fight. As I described above, even the most innocuous, dumbest (albeit happiest-looking) canine can be surprisingly canny. 
Don’t be afraid to really challenge your players by taking advantage of flanking, creatively using terrain and performing more complex combat maneuvering than, “the beast charges forward and attacks you!”

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

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5 Tips when Introducing New Players

thiefWhen a new player sits at your table, or when you’re bringing an entire group their first roleplay experience, take a second to be objective about how you’re going to go about it. I’ve succumbed to the same impulse I see plenty of other GMs fall prey to—you want to bring the whole gravitas of what’s going on to your friends.

This is a great motive, but think about that; how intensive can you expect their first game to be? Are they prepared to read a great deal of rules before the first session? Will they want to? What about comprehension; will players really grasp the rules without a visual example demonstrated in front of them?

So put away the 5th level pre-generated PCs you’ve made for the epic journey soon to be taken by the newbies—save them for later, after you’ve doled out a taste of what’s waiting for them down the road.

1. Character Creationdwarf2
This is a topic we’ve visited before, but I’d like to address another issue. If you’re playing Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 or another system with generally slow character advancement (in terms of varied mechanical abilities; more feats, spells, powers, etc.) then 2nd level is not unreasonable. If you’re doing Pathfinder or a game where characters accrue new abilities (read: rules) every level, consider capping things at 1st. You can level them up after the first game if it seems that things went alright, but honestly, if you can remember your first game, the opening of a truly dynamic game world is probably enough to keep them busy anyway.

2. Permanence
Create a real sense of place. Make a map of the town the game starts in and quiz your players on what it is they do on a regular day after you’ve described the setting. Even a high-action game has to start somewhere, and creating a realistic environment for people new to the experience is key in starting immersion—when they start investing time with reading through the rules, the hook is in and you’re free to reel in the line.

priestess3. ROLEplay
Allow folks some time (maybe an hour in-game, maybe a day) to familiarize their characters with one another—banter, establish nicknames and what have you. At the end of the session, you want your players to walk away with a solid connection to their characters. Letting them shape their characters into people all their own is an essential part of that process.

4. Combat—Intriguing but Inuitive
Let them win the first one and don’t overshadow them. I personally like start with a combat against a single one-level higher physically-based NPC, talking up his part substantially beforehand and putting an emphasis into one trait (Strength, Dexterity or Constitution). Statistically, they are bound to go down eventually but not before making the PCs feel like swaggering afterward; it’s going to take a fair number of rolls to beat the average-unlikely statistics behind that NPCs build, so (while inevitable) success appears to be in question.

middle-ages-clothing-25. FUN!
I hate it when people use this word as a title, but honestly, this is the point of gaming. You are supposed to be having fun; even if there’s supposed to be a TPK, don’t let the entire group perish in their first game and intercede if necessary. Provide them with a guide if they’re really at a loss for how to proceed with the game itself and then ditch that NPC as soon as they start to ride the roleplaying bike.

 

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

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Draft of Distilled Magic

jar

Draft of Distilled Magic
Aura strong abjuration; CL 13th

Slot none; Price 3,400 gp; Weight 1 lb.

DESCRIPTION
This stout clay jar is filled with a heavy, thick liquid. In the sunlight its contents appear to be pinkish syrup, and in the reflection of the moon or torchlight it looks to be a frothy cyan beverage.

A creature that drinks a draft of distilled magic is able absorb a number of spell levels equal to their hit die. After drinking a draft of distilled magic, when the creature is next targeted by a spell, spell like-ability or supernatural effect, they automatically absorb it so long as they have at least as many hit die as the spell or spell-like ability’s level. The creature is then able to discharge the magical energies as a standard action at one target within 30 feet at any time within the next 24 hours. With a successful ranged touch attack, the discharged magic deals 1d6+1d6 per spell level force damage.
Only the first applicable spell targeting a creature that has imbibed a draft of distilled magic is absorbed (any additional un-absorbed levels are lost). For example, a 10th level fighter targeted by a ray of exhaustion absorbs 3 spell levels and can discharge a 4d6 ray of force damage; any subsequent spells targeting him are resolved normally.

HISTORY     A PC that makes a Knowledge (arcana) or Knowledge (history) check to learn more about the draft of distilled magic identifies the following fragments of lore:
DC 15     Tribal warriors save drafts of distilled magic over generations, using them to fight off the incursion of planar interlopers that have plagued their civilization for centuries.
DC 20     The Maxia tribe was once a great peoples that ruled a tract of hotly contested land against countless other forces. Their high mages developed these potions shortly before incurring disaster in the realm by garnering the attentions of entities far more powerful than themselves.
DC 25     Vysagodrix “the Ventilator” was the last great leader of the Maxia, and brought destruction upon his peoples. Before his death at the hands of the planar invaders, he performed a great ritual that insured his spirit would remain to impart knowledge upon the following generations.
DC 30     Every century a grand mage, tutored by the spirit of Vysagodrix, rises to power in the tribe and leads them in a deadly (and high casualty) combat to beat back the interlopers first summoned by the ghostly wizard.

CONSTRUCTION
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, spell turning; Cost 1,700 gp 68 xp

 

 

Do you have an idea for an enchanted sword, arcane-empowered armor or unique magic item? Take a look at the submission rules and send a brief summary of your proposed enchanted item titled ‘Armory of Adventures submission’ to submit(at)adventureaweek.com with the following:

 

  • the nature of the item (weapon, armor or wondrous)
  • one or two sentences about its appearance
  • what the item in question does
  • the components and spell(s) used in its construction
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The Divine and the Recreant – Prayer Effects & Divine Synergies

She's not really the bargaining kind...

Some GMs create elaborate pantheons of deities for their campaign settings, while others choose to utilize preexisting gods. Whether divine influence in your game comes from the fantastical or historical, why should only devout characters reap the benefits of prayer? While gods and demigods may choose to bestow special favor upon those who show devotion and dedicate their lives to their cause, it only makes sense that they would also hear the laments of those less faithful.

One way of doing this is to integrate prayer effects into your game world—here’s one example of how such a system could be designed:

Most deities have one or more aspects to their persona. For instance, a “god of war” would focus on aspects of combat tactics and strength, while a “goddess of magic” would instead lean towards the arcane and esoteric. Providing small (but relevant) temporary bonuses in return for prayer not only provides the sense that the divine truly interact within the game world, but also gives motivation for non-devout characters to seek the aide and guidance of many different gods and goddesses.Image_Portfolio_1.27_Fantasy Romans-Robots 03

Perhaps a god dedicated to learning could provide a temporary luck bonus to Knowledge skill checks, or a goddess dedicated to the hunt could provide a temporary morale bonus to attack rolls. The possibilities are endless, and can be easily defined to reflect the personality of virtually any deity.

Prayer effects should be limited to minor (though still beneficial) bonuses, and only for a limited period of time between prayers. One hour of dedicated prayer would result in a character being granted 24 hours of favor from the deity prayed to; 48 hours if the prayer occurred in a temple or shrine dedicated to that god or goddess.

Divine synergies are another potential design for such a system. If the character praying is of the same alignment as the deity being entreated (or perhaps has the same favored class or race of the god or goddess) the bonus granted might double or see its duration extended. To be fair to those characters who have dedicated themselves to a deity, the prayer effects associated to any one god or goddess could become permanent as long as that character remains devout.

GladiatorThere are endless fun ways this could be integrated into a game world to provide a true sense of worth in faith and value in characters knowing (and understanding) their chosen pantheon.

 

 [Submitted by Justin Andrew Mason]

 

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

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3 Ways to Play the Long Game

Image_Portfolio_1.14_Fantasy Butch Mapa 03Meaningful antagonists are often one of the lasting, remembering aspects of a story. While not always a simple thing to implement successfully, creating enemies that make an appearance in every arc of a campaign eventually becomes part and parcel to a GM’s toolbox.

If you’re starting from 1st level, try to keep things organic; have a grand plot in mind and provide strings that lead to it. Eventually the means to start these threads—a merchant, mercenary, noble, peasant or other NPC encountered by the party—will provide you with a rogue’s gallery that your players will remember and look out for. Keeping these characters alive is another matter entirely (and is sometimes downright impossible) but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring them back. As a matter of fact….

Undead Lord Spectre#1) Back and Better 
The hour you spent painstakingly crafting a critical NPC bit the dust when natural 1s and natural 20s defied probability.
These things happen—don’t panic.

Simply resurrecting an antagonist is always an option, but don’t count out reincarnation or other, less savory transformations. Not everyone needs to become a death knight, mind you, and you should take this opportunity to flex your creativity a bit. If there isn’t a template or other advancement option for that character’s next scheduled appearance, make one that fits your plot! The return of a nemesis will grab your players and with new, unexpected abilities, they’ll be a captive audience.

 

#2) Familiars 
There’s something like 70+ classes legal for 3.5 play that can grant a familiar, and plenty others in Pathfinder (there’s even an Advanced Rogue Talent for it). If none of those are  good for your villain (although they need not be villainous—see point #3). take a look at feats and the like.
The intelligent application of a familiar can allow the antagonist to act unseen and doesn’t have terrible repercussions if the creature is caught or destroyed. This also allows for scaling to occur at a rate equal to the party’s advancement, and unless you’ve played your hand too quickly, the PCs won’t be suspecting every single animal they see to be a potential spy (and if they get that paranoid, it’s probably time to lay off them a bit).

 

#3) Villainous Relativity 
What IS a villain? Is it always going to be Sauron, Morgan le Fay or Jafar from Aladdin?
This, of course, need not be the case.

Keep a list of extra names handy if you don’t have a talent for titling characters on the fly, and whenever an opportunity presents itself, have an NPC introduce themselves. Whenever plausible, have them make another appearance in the game.

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Did the PCs really impress some maturing folks in the village  when they completed their last quest? Have one or two follow them about, emulating them—maybe the party likes them, or grows to compete with them. When things go awry, the NPC turns to resent the group and begins to act in concert against them with your chief antagonist.

What about the inadvertently maligned? The crooked merchant that profited from the thieves’ guild? The vengeful relatives of dead enemies? The offspring of murdered creatures?

Not every encounter needs to be a deeply meaningful and memory inspiring experience—that would defeat the purpose by diluting the overall effect—but if you can manage it, reoccurring NPCs will provide your game with a greater level of immersion.

Next time the PCs order a flagon, have Trevor Gralden, an inquisitive and polite new arrival to the town, bring it out to them; a year later, he might do the same in the armor of an antipaladin, but with chalices full of blood rather than ale.

 

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