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Meta Thursday (Macabre Manses): Tabletop Terror

tabletop terror 4Horror can be a tricky thing—anybody can be gorey, but to really have an impact there are a number of factors to consider. Who are you trying to scare? Why are you trying to scare them, and most importantly, how?

Who You’re Scaring

  • What kind of group do you have before you?
  • Do they work well as a team?
  • Have they experienced a PC death before and if so, how recently?
  • Powergamers? Spotlighters? Meticulous planners?

This needs to be your initial concern because it colors everything that comes next. If you’re playing against power gamers, do not give them mechanical foreshadowing (see “How” below); conversely, if the group isn’t very team oriented (less the “X-Men” and more the “Defenders”), splitting them up won’t do you a huge amount of good. Carefully weigh out your options and do your best to anticipate what the PCs are likely to do when things get dark—no matter how you do it, surprise is going to be a part of the equation.

 

Why You’re Scaring

  • Building to a crescendo?
  • An essential element to a creature or particular encounter?
  • To increase the general suspense of the game?

tabletop terror 3If you’re running a game in Ravenloft, the word of the day is always going to be horror! The things to keep in mind in this case is that ultimately you do want the players to win, only that their struggle be a true test against an ever present darkness. I’ve found that warm reprieves can get the trick done, but there’s a lot to be said for a long, arduous trial with truly shining moments of glory.

Maybe this is just a brief foray into horror—in this case, definitely avoid pulling punches and keep extra material around in the event the PCs are on a lucky streak with the dice! On the whole, most games are encouraging the party’s victory (Paranoia being my favorite exception) so a good way to inflict terror is to really give them the feeling that the odds have definitely gone up. You don’t have to necessarily change the numbers to do it, either (more on that below under “How”).

Of course you might just want to increase the general level of suspense in the game because you’re starting to introduce some darker themes and elements in your world and story. This is where you’re looking for a sense of balance between what was and what is; don’t go and start throwing Cthulhu nightmare at the PCs right away, build up to it! An unsettling dream every other game session probably doesn’t register as too strange (stress, right?) but if you let it grow into a greater concern over time, the average player is going to concoct something far more terrifying than what you’re cooking up!

 

tabletop terror 1How You’re Scaring

  • Via the gaming atmosphere?
  • Using mechanics to get it done?
  • The old fashioned way: with a right proper scary story!

Making a gaming atmosphere that encourages fear is simple enough: get some soft lighting (but not too soft—everyone needs to be able to read!), be (more) secretive with your notes, throw in plenty of rolls that serve no real purpose other than to throw players off kilter, and play some music in the background. Not the epic stuff either, but something dark and foreboding (I recommend Midnight Syndicate; D&D music is their thing and there are lots of spooky tracks!)

As mentioned above, the second option is not for groups with power gamers unless you are a very experienced GM. If you can handle it (and aren’t afraid of a TPK), a surefire way to give your players the willies is to start giving them really good, very specific magic items. Nobody will be suspicious about the first one or two powerful weapons or protectives, but once they get the third or fourth, concerns begin to arise. This is a tough road to hoe though—you’re literally raising the stakes. By giving PCs specialized equipment of considerable potency, you’re able to throw something extremely dangerous at the party. If things go as you’ve planned, they should be of two minds when the final battle comes: oh-my-god-we’re-going-to-die and holy-crap-we-might-win.
If you can hack it, I’ve found this to be the most rewarding.

tabletop terror 2Finally, there’s just a well-told horror story. There’s a Kickstarter going on from Louis Porter Jr. Design for the Cross of Fire saga, and all the talent wrapped up in that is in good standing to deliver a terrifying tale, but I wouldn’t count out the logically consistent river of blood in The Mysterious Peaks of Baranthar. 😀

If this is your bag, tips for telling a scary story abound on the internet, but remember: people fear the unknown more than anything else, so make use of that suspense and stretch it out to good effect!

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The Iron Atlas Kickstarter – Revolutionizing Tabletop RPGs!

IRON ATLAS: A Digital Forge for Your Roleplaying Games

Lifeform Entertainment has launched a Kickstarter for new a mobile app called IRON ATLAS. It’s a “Digital Miniatures System” designed for the iPad to serve as an alternative to physical maps and miniatures for roleplaying games.

IRON ATLAS takes many of the elements seen in traditional, PC-based Virtual Tabletop systems (VTTs) and optimizes them for use on mobile devices. The app’s streamlined UI keeps it simple, elegant, and focused on the basics for combat, plus providing tons of content for you to pick and choose for YOUR game.

Cover Image4

PUBLISHERS YOU LOVE

IRON ATLAS lets you browse and download the maps and fantastic character and monster art, from the publishers you love, to use as virtual miniatures. The in-app store comes with content from tons of well-known publishers, cartographers, and illustrators within the RPG industry, letting you cherry-pick the monsters, maps, and other elements you want for your particular game.

Check out the publishers already signed up to be in IRON ATLAS: Green Ronin PublishingAdventure-A-WeekRogue Genius GamesKobold PressLegendary GamesMaps of MasteryThe Game Mechanics, and fantasy illustrators Raven MimuraPete Venters, and Mark Poole.Publishers

WORKS FOR ANY ROLEPLAYING GAME

IRON ATLAS is GAME AGNOSTIC. This means that it works for any RPG, and genre, that uses maps and miniatures. It focuses on traditional fantasy for starters, but will soon include maps and tokens for sci-fi, superhero, horror, modern, post-apocalyptic, and even historical.

 

FEATURES

IRON ATLAS is more than a mere app: it’s an entire “Digital Miniatures System.” It lets you create adventures and encounters, play them on the app’s Mobile Tabletop, and provide the content you want through the robust in-app store.

  • The Mobile Tabletop: is where the action takes place, combining an encounter map with tokens for combat. Move tokens around just like you would physical miniatures on a battle mat. Zoom in and out or pan around the map using intuitive touch gestures. Touch a token to bring up its info—name, class, and vital combat statistics—without having to leave the screen. Encounter Tokens let you group individual creatures and place them on the map. Easily populate a huge dungeon map with these Encounter Tokens to reduce clutter. Things going too easy for the players? Drag out duplicate monster tokens right from the Token Pane onto the map. The GM can hide or reveal tokens and easily switch between GM View (see everything, including menus) to Player View (only what the GM wants the players to see). We have additional features planned for the Mobile Tabletop, which will get unlocked as stretch goals!Tabletop
  • HDTV Output and Fog of War: You can easily output IRON ATLAS to an HDTV, meaning your TV becomes “the battle mat” for everyone to see! Fog of War and the GM/Player View switching allows the GM to show only what players need to see, while keeping unrevealed monsters, traps, and the UI Panes hidden from view. Connect with an HDMI cable or wirelessly via AppleTV, Chromecast, Reflector or other third-party app.Fog_of_War
  • Encounter Builder: Use simple, intuitive touch-based gestures to easily drag-and-drop monsters and characters into the Encounter Builder. Browse the Token Codex, find the characters or monsters you like, and drag them out to rapidly build individual encounters. Your system doesn’t use “Hit Points?” No problem! Edit individual tokens with stats and notes for your specific game or system, so you can turn that stat into something else. Pre-plan an entire adventure full of encounters and group multiple adventures into campaigns. IRON ATLASauto-saves as you build to prevent loss of work.Encounter_Builder
  • MAPS: Get maps for your encounters, adventures, and campaigns through the  IRON ATLAS in-app store, pulled directly from your favorite publishers’ adventures or source books. Created your own map? You can upload your maps into the app and use them when building encounters. This includes huge world maps, regional maps, or “tactical” level maps that mimic drawing out a battlemat for your adventurers to go beat the crap out of Orcus. The app comes with several pre-loaded maps for you to use, for FREE. Plus, the base app will include ALL the maps from a NEW adventure from the Ennie-Award Winning Freeport: City of Adventure setting (using the Pathfinder rules) by Green Ronin Publishing that is part of our Backer Levels!
  • TOKENS: A “token” is our term for a digital miniature, consisting of an amazing piece of artwork, name, description, and info that you’ll need when that creature is in combat, such as Initiative, Armor Class/Defense Score, and Hit Points. IRON ATLAS comes ready-to-go with tokens for typical d20 system primary character classes, creature type, and a variety of environmental effects, traps, and obstacles. Customize token info to suit your particular RPG system. Browse the in-app store and purchase IRON ATLAS-ready Token Packs pulled directly from publishers’ products and illustrators.Tokens
  • COMPANION MODULES: In addition to being able to purchase individual tokens and maps, the in-app store features publisher-specific, IRON ATLAS-ready ADVENTURE COMPANION MODULES. A Companion Module works in concert with a PDF or print version of an adventure, taking the maps, tokens, and encounters of a specific adventure and assembling them for instant use. Each encounter has its monsters and traps already in place on maps, with pre-built names and stats. Plus, all the maps and tokens get added to your Token Codex for you to use in creating your own encounters! Companion Modules are a great way to bulk up your collection, make running specific adventures super easy, and helps support your favorite publishers.

 

ABOUT LIFEFORM ENTERTAINMENT

Lifeform Entertainment has an amazing team of programmers, designers, and artists, with an incredible amount of hand-on experience and attention to detail. All of us are veteran game developers (some for over 20 years), with heavy-hitting backgrounds at companies like BioWare, EA, Activision, and Wizards of the Coast. The team’s ultra-high creative standards, design expertise, and “on-time, on-budget” approach to development have gained us the respect of clients and colleagues alike. Lifeform Entertainment was founded in 2009 and located in sunny Seattle, WA.lifeform logo

 

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4 Ways to Merge Players and Play Styles

Image_Portfolio_104_Fantasy Jason Walton 57As a game designer most of my time is spent editing, reading, and writing; what little remains is for playtesting. One of the things that comes up often with gaming sessions that see so many different players is a matter of expectations—some players are prepared for a world to be opened up in front of them, and others are scions of modules, or entirely new to the concept of tabletop gaming.

Roleplaying is an amazing experience, but some folks have a rockier entry into it than others—be that to the whole concept of assuming the role of a fictional persona, adjusting to a new gaming system or a joining a new group of players.

There are a few tricks to make this easier on the beleaguered GM (not all of which are here; you are the GM, you can bring down the iron hand and send down royal decrees and what have you), but the best thing to do is just be smart, respectful and logical about it: talk directly (separately) to the frustrated player and get an idea of where they are at.

1) Notes
If you’re keen to the divide in player styles before the session starts, this is an easier plan to implement. Even on the fly, it’s not hard to do and if you’re up for a bit of spy games, go for it. Either way, use the plot or NPCs to inform the party member in question about whatever it is they’re looking for, be it the adventure route they expect or the means to break into the world with some freedom to roam.

fashion-middle-ages-72) Extra Checks
Struggling in the sea of freedom can be a real challenge sometimes, especially for folks new to the game—juggling different player styles isn’t easy if you’ve got a mixed group. If a seasoned veteran is having trouble giving enough of the spotlight to the newbie, give the latter a chance to wander around and sprinkle them with checks (preferably skills, but perhaps attributes if you need to) to get them to somewhere the rest of the group can enjoy as well.

3) Maps
This is the primary means I go about handling this in my games; I let the PCs know the lay of the land and subtly push them into this or that direction via geography that fits into the plot. The closer they move towards a locale, the more I reveal about it and the environs. Getting down into the valley, for instance, the party sees the ruins of an old fortress down by the beach—something previously unknown about and definitely drawing attention.

4) The “Subconscious” GM Slip
If you can’t keep a straight face or always lose at poker, skip this one entirely—you have to be able to bluff in real life for this to work out.

Academic Town-Color-FLet it seem like you accidentally let slip a secret about the game as you go through a routine description. Last week (and my Thursday group won’t be looking at this before game tonight, so I’m not overly concerned of them knowing) when investigating a damaged farmhouse, I mistakenly”said that it might have been a dinosaur that did the damage, after dropping several mentions of a dragon being complicit (as far as the villagers knew). 

Of course there was jeering but I saw the change in body language as soon as the table settled—the players sat down as a united group, ready to delve into the game full bore regardless of their preference in approaching it.

Remember, the goal of the game is always to have fun! If a player keeps having a truly tough time with getting dropped into a sandbox or stuck on a railroad, be adaptive, fair, and accommodating (to a point, anyway). The tips above are a good way to go about dealing with the problems that arise from conflicting player styles, but being direct and understanding is the best thing to do!

 

 

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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Six Tips for running a Scene in Social Scenarios

 00-machines-of-war-castle-glossary-994x525

1) Small Sandbox

Most social encounters in a game happen within a very small area, which is also the case with this week’s upcoming Sidequest Saturday. The Veresovich Manor is easily laid out in your head—ballroom, several antechambers, kitchen, a dozen bedrooms, library, and so on.
First of all, decide which of these areas are off-limits for guests; the bedrooms (in which it is considered odd to see guests prowling around), the kitchen and library (where work is to be done and delicate objects stored), and so forth.
This is fine because the sandbox here doesn’t come from the area but from the multitude of NPCs within it to interact with. Do a quick outline of the rooms and layout and familiarize yourself with the statted NPCs, but most importantly, the secrets and the information that needs to be conveyed for the plot to advance. Then you are set to invite the players inside of the magnificent location of the social encounter.  

2) List of Traits for NPCs

One of my little secrets (one many people use, so not really my secret) is lists. Make a list with ten, maybe fifteen different traits that make an NPC stand out—not for characters with full statistics, but for the un-statted NPCs that the PCs are bound to interact with.

We all know the situation: “I will try to engage the servant with the tray in conversation and avoid the monocle wearing man in the tails and top hat twirling his moustache”.
Who hasn’t been caught flat-footed by a player doing the opposite of what was intended? With a list in hand, your answer will be, “the servant with the slight limp, or the servant who has been sending flirtatious smiles all night?”
It is a simple, quick, easy way to make it seem as if you have spent hours preparing for impromptu moments. Until the first question to the servant is, “what’s your name?”—oh no, they caught us flatfooted!
Or did they? Read on…

Old_book_bindings3) Lists and More Lists

My biggest problem was always names. In one game I played in, we visited the Hansons on a farm and their neighbors the Jonas brothers lived on the next property. The GM did not do it on purpose, but Hanson and Jonas were the names that popped up!
Make a list of first names and surnames, and mark them off as you use them. This can be used throughout the whole campaign! In the next sidequest a list of titles will come in handy, just remember there can be more barons at the same location, but most likely only one captain of the guard in any given city.

4) Flexibility

This is an important one—when the PCs avoid the dastardly looking moustache-twirling man, don’t worry; remember the first tip! Familiarize yourself with the information needed to advance the plot. It doesn’t always matter who conveys the information so long as the adventurers get it—use your own NPC created from the lists you’ve compiled and the players will be none the wiser.

00-Knight-and-Hermit-q25-1600x12005) Roleplay

Go overboard! These social encounters will be more memorable if the party met Baron von Shnozzult, who ends every sentence with a nasal laugh, or Mrs Plushkin who goes teary-eyed every time she mentions her deceased small dog Dougy (which happens often). The adventurers may like the moustache twirling man, but he has been done so many times—imagine a villain driven by a desire to raise her only companion, Dougy; weird and freaky.

Don’t be afraid to roleplay some of the mannerisms of the NPCs—it will also help yourself to distinguish between the cast of characters as the adventurers interact with the wide circle of people available to them. The social encounter is the GM’s chance to seed and implement a plethora of different roleplaying situations, so enjoy it!

6) Sounds and smells

Finally the devil is in the details—remember the sounds and smells at any gathering of folks; music, food, and alcoholic beverages among them, to name a few. These can all be used to lure a PC away from their fellow adventurers should the need arise, but between the retinue of encapsulating sensations and the small sandbox only a very paranoid party will not take the bait and fall to the temptation to go on a little exploring of their own (especially rogues and mischievous characters).

 

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.

003-the-boy-himself-q75-855x1373

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.

 

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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4 things NOT to do when writing for an IP

Rise of the Drow hardbackI’ve had the pleasure of working with several different publishers, making material for use within a number of established campaign settings (Fantasy Flight Games, Frog God Games, AdventureAWeek.com, LPJ Design, Amora games, and more). If you’re breaking into writing and want to work in this field, I’ve garnered a few things from my (still comparatively few!) experiences creating content within the confines of broad, cherished worlds.

 

1. SKIP YOUR RESEARCH
If they haven’t sent you material for research or it isn’t freely available, ask for it. Even if it gets rolled into your pay a little bit, having this on hand will save everybody time in the end, establish that you are professional, and will see that your material resonates with fans of the existing product. Make notes for yourself (I made an entire visual Neo Exodus timeline) and refer to them often. Check d20pfsrd.com to see if any key creatures exist in their setting if you aren’t already intimately familiar with it
—you’ll be glad you did.

Immersion is the name of the game with this one. Don’t get your feet wet, jump in.

 

WORLD_MAP2. WRITE YOURSELF INTO A CORNER
That timeline should come in handy for this, but a good general rule is to avoid absolutes. Making something that prohibits the existence of another element (undead is the popular one here, but serpentfolk get slapped around like this too) inside of a world is generally something that the original creators have already made a decision about. That’s not to say you can’t break precedent (see below), just that as a general rule of thumb, you want to supplement an existing IP, not complement it.

Write to enhance the setting, not evolve it.

 

3. LEAP BEFORE YOU LOOK
Submit an outline first and avoid surprising the person receiving your material. While the extra content you designed might be fun, there are myriad reasons for why it might not be a good fit (a similar piece might already be in the works, it may be prohibitive because of something you didn’t know about, etc.) and that’s why this part of the process should never be overlooked. If you do end up adding more content or material than originally requested, make certain that it’s inside of the themes and aesthetic already present in your work and the larger library of material.

Clear your big ideas with the people upstairs first.

 

Image_Portfolio_1.14_Fantasy Butch Mapa 014. BE INFLEXIBLE
You’re playing in someone else’s toybox; if they want the red car, give them the red car and find a new toy. Be prepared for some of your ideas to get shot down or become morphed into things you never anticipated or intended. Try to improve the process by cooperating—collaboration can cause some truly beautiful confluences and is not to be underestimated. There’s a lot of sayings for that, but we’ll hold off on the metaphors here. Just be open to compromise—you’ll be pleased with the results.

Be agreeable and things will be agreeable.

003-Bedtime-Candle-q75-544x595

[EDIT] Ryan Macklin has a great blog post that went up earlier this week about pitching your game. It is fantastic and you should definitely read through it for your own sake as a writer. I will point out that when he ‘pitched’ Mythender at me, he did so while dramatically spinning and yelling in my face (which I don’t personally recommend, though it was definitely effective).

 

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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Ashen Kisses

feyglade slumber pomumsAshen Kisses CR 4
XP 1200
CE haunt (20 ft. radius)
Caster Level 4th
Notice Perception DC 19 (to smell a flowery perfume)
Hp 4; Trigger proximity; Reset 1 day
Effect: On the round entering the haunt’s glade, anyone within its radius must make a DC 16 Will save or be paralyzed for the round. On a failure, a beautiful maiden manifests and delivers a light kiss on the lips of the unfortunate character, then disappears with a smile on her lips, leaving the paralyzed character(s) free to go.
The maiden manifests in front of each creature that fails their saving throw in the same round. After being subjected to Ashen Kisses, everything the creature puts in his mouth turns to ash, making it impossible for them to eat or drink for one week. This effect can be removed with a remove curse spell.

Destruction: A generous offering of blessed food (10 pounds and well prepared or 20 pounds otherwise) and drink (a barrel of water or several bottles of fine wine) must be placed in the glade where the haunt manifests.

Adventure Hook: The sheriff of Gladeston, a small village in the Auld Forest, wants to know why travelers are showing up with their mouths and throats filled with ashes. Hopefully the party can find out what is happening before rumors of the Ashen Kisses take a toll on trade with nearby villages. Local tales of a famine some centuries ago might reach the PCs’ ears in the local tavern, and several of the farmers in the region have heard of the terrible periods of scarcity. If properly enticed (perhaps convinced by the argument that low trade means low prices), they might be convinced to contribute to ending the plight of Ashen Kisses.

 

[Submitted by Brian Wiborg Monster]

Do you have a chilling idea for a haunt or cursed item? Send it along to us at submit (at) adventureaweek.com, but please, bear the following in mind before you submit anything for review:

1. Anyone can submit an entry.

2. One entry per person at any one time. An entry must be your own work, not being published previously or considered by any other publisher, and it must original and not infringe upon copyrighted material.

3. All entries become property of Adventureaweek.com, LLP.

4. By submitting an entry you authorize the use of your name and likeness without additional compensation for promotion and advertising purposes in all media.

5. Adventureaweek.com, LLP reserves the right to withdraw or terminate this endeavor at any time without prior notice.

6. All decisions of Adventureaweek.com, LLP and their arbiters are final.

7. There is no compensation provided – any entries are given freely by their creators for use by Adventureaweek.com, LLP in perpetuity.

8. Your statblock must be properly formatted (compare to similar content on the AaWBlog for correct formatting).

 

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Rhythmic Nunchaku

Image_Portfolio_1.13_Fantasy Rudolf Montemayor 04Rhythmic Nunchaku
Aura moderate enchantment; CL 7th
Slot none; Price 25,152 gp; Weight 2 lbs.

DESCRIPTION
This nunchaku is made from two ornate, beautifully wrought metal bars connected by a simple steel chain.

Three times per day as a free action, a monk making a flurry of blows with this 
+2 nunchaku gains a bonus to hit an opponent based on the number of times it has already successfully hit that opponent. Each time the wielder successfully strikes an opponent with a melee attack during a flurry of blows, they gain a cumulative +1 morale bonus on attack rolls (maximum +4 bonus) and gains 3 temporary hit points (to a maximum of 20 temporary hit points). If an attack misses, the attack bonus resets to +0, but any accumulated temporary hit points remain. The temporary hit points and morale bonuses on attack rolls disappear 7 rounds after the first flurry of blows is resolved.

HISTORY A character that makes a Knowledge (history) check to learn about rhythmic nunchaku identifies the following fragments of lore:

DC 15     The first wielder of rhythmic nunchaku was said to travel the lands far and wide many centuries ago. His prowess in combat was legendary, and it is said that he has seen him in unfair battles. fighting on the side of justice. None have ever captured him or claim to have spoken to the mysterious warrior, but tales of the Rhythmic Pugilist persist.
DC 20     Each generation has its own Rhythmic Pugilist; the sacred order raises all of their kin to assume the position, and every three years tournaments are held to determine whom will hold the mantle. The finest warriors to rise during this training period receive rhythmic nunchaku, ever ready to take the place of their peer should they fall.
DC 25     The Rhythmic Pugilist has never been a man. A warrior cult of female monks carry the tradition maternally, avoiding revealing their gender whenever possible. Their nobility is matched only by their staunch secrecy, and some loremasters know that those who learn of the Rhythmic Pugilist’s true origins often meet with untimely, quiet ends.
DC 30     A princess of the realm first wielded the rhythmic nunchaku, taking up the whirling weapon in the name of the oppressed peoples ruled over by her father. She oversaw the fall of his tyranny, and instilled the order of the Rhythmic Pugilist. It has become an honored, clandestine royal organization, its secret known to only a handful of the nobility.

CONSTRUCTION
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, heroism (3.5) / righteous vigor (PF); Cost 12,752 gp 511 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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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 d20pfsrd.com. 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 d20pfsrd.com, 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? 😉

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