Monthly Archives: March, 2016

Assigning Graded Abilities

A-Z 2016 "A"Some abilities and special items are defined in terms like “up to nine levels of spells, no more than one higher than fourth level and none higher than sixth” (house rules I’ve seen for magic staves) or “six benefits; you can triple one benefit and double another benefit, or double two benefits” (Masterworks from Green Ronin’s Black Company setting).

I like the idea of a benefit — item improvement, magical effect, or spells in an item — that aggregates fast but has a power cap lower than the aggregate. For instance, a magic item that allows “up to six spell levels” but limits the effects to no more than one third-level spell (you can’t include a spell higher than third, and if you include a third-level spell you can’t include two). I also like items that have a ‘major function’ and some ancillary ones to go with it.

The masterworks benefits follow a pretty simple pattern that I’d like to explore for other items.

A special item in this model — masterwork or spell trigger item, for example — has a grade. This will affect the price, provide an upper limit to the benefits that can be applied, and may influence other things such as the daily charges available for a spell trigger item. The grade also guides the highest-grade benefit that can be added at each step.

Every time a new quality is added to an item, the highest grade that may be added is equal to one-half the unassigned grade, rounded up. The grade of the quality is then subtracted from the item’s grade and another quality may be added. That is, a grade 7 item can have one power of grade 4, reducing the unassigned grade to 3. Another quality can be added but this one must be no higher than grade 2, which would reduce the unassigned grade to 1 (which obviously can only take a grade 1 quality). Alternatively, a grade 4 and three grade 1 qualities could be assigned, or a grade 3 quality, a grade 2 quality, and two grade 1 qualities (or a grade 3 and four grade 1 qua… you get the idea).

It is not necessary to assign all slots, but the highest grade will still be limited by the grade of the item. That is, you could create a grade 7 item with only a single grade 4 quality. The reason for this will become apparent in a post coming soon.

Grade Qualities (grade*count)
  • 1*1
  • 1*2
  • 2*1+1*1
  • 1*3
  • 2*1 + 1*2
  • 1*4
  • 3*1 + 1*2
  • 2*2 + 1*1
  • 2*1 + 1*3
  • 1*5
  • 3*1 + 2*1 + 1*1
  • 2*2 + 1*1
  • 2*1 + 1*4
  • 1*6
  • 4*1 + 2*1 + 1*1
  • 4*1 + 1*3
  • 3*1 + 2*1 + 1*2
  • 3*1 + 1*4
  • 2*3 + 1*1
  • 2*2 + 1*3
  • 2*1 + 1*5
  • 4*1 + 2*1 + 1*2
  • 4*1 + 1*4
  • 3*2 + 1*2
  • 3*1 + 2*2 + 1*1
  • 3*1 + 2*1 + 1*4
  • 2*3 + 1*2
  • 2*2 + 1*4
  • 2*1 + 1*6

I’ve only shown up to grade 8, the number of permutations is making it silly to enumerate them. They could be abbreviated as “n*1 + f(grade-n)”, but that will take a bit of recursion to solve. That is, grade 8 with a grade 4 ability is “4*1 + f(4)”, which is either “2*1 + 1*2” or “1*4”. The key point is that it’s pretty flexible.

In the next post we’ll start to look at what can be done with this.

Draconic Bloodlines

When the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game was released it included many changes. One that I quite liked was changing the sorcerer class by adding ‘bloodlines’. Each bloodline gave knowledge of one spell per spell level, some bonus feats, and bloodline abilities gained at 1st, 3rd, 9th, 15th, and 20th level. The Pathfinder® Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook™ identified ten bloodlines, and more have been added since.

Draconic Bloodlines cover

Draconic Bloodlines cover

Of particular interest today is the ‘draconic’ sorcerer bloodline. It grants knowledge of nine spells, access to nine bonus feats, and some bloodline powers representing the influence of distant draconic ancestry. There are some slight differences, mostly in energy types and the shape of the breath weapon eventually gained. With the exception of those small differences, though, sorcerers with the draconic bloodline didn’t vary much in ability.

Anthony asked on Facebook if anyone had extended the ‘dragon colors’ table to include dragons released in later bestiaries. Pathfinder® Roleplaying Game Bestiary™ presented the chromatic and metallic dragons, which were included in the draconic bloodline, but the four bestiaries that followed added the primal (elemental), imperial (Asian), outer (space), and esoteric (occult) dragons. The draconic bloodline has not been updated to include them, but it seemed pretty simple to answer Tony’s question by adding the energy types and breath weapon shapes to table.

Then I realized that we can do much better than that. Why limit ourselves to the shape and energy type of the breath weapon, and energy type of some of the other bloodline powers?

I have gone through the first four bestiaries and created a specific draconic bloodline for each of the twenty-five dragon types described (I skipped esoteric dragons for now, their powers are different enough to not fit well). Each bloodline counts as the base draconic bloodline for prerequisite purposes, but they are much more specific than that generic bloodline.

For example, a sorcerer with the black draconic bloodline is well-suited to living in the swamp, and can make better use of her breath weapon in some circumstances.

Black Draconic Bloodline

Dragon Family Chromatic (water subtype)

Class Skill Stealth

Bonus Spells mage armor (3rd), darkness (5th), water breathing (7th), plant growth (9th), insect plague (11th), form of the dragon I (13th), form of the dragon II (15th), form of the dragon III (17th), wish (19th).

Bonus Feats Ability Focus (breath weapon), Alertness, Combat Expertise, Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative, Improved Vital Strike, Power Attack, Skill Focus (Stealth), Vital Strike, Weapon Focus (claws)

Bloodline Arcana Whenever you cast a spell with the [acid] descriptor, that spell deals +1 point of damage per die rolled.

Bloodline Powers

The power of the black dragon flows through you and manifests in a number of ways.

Claws (Su)

Starting at 1st level, you can grow claws as a free action. These claws are treated as natural weapons, allowing you to make two claw attacks as a full attack action using your full base attack bonus. Each of these attacks deals 1d4 points of damage plus your Strength modifier (1d3 if you are Small).

At 5th level, these claws are considered magic weapons for the purpose of overcoming DR.

At 7th level, the damage increases by one step to 1d6 points of damage (1d4 if you are Small).

At 11th level, these claws deal an additional 1d6 points of acid damage on a successful hit.

You can use your claws for a number of rounds per day equal to 3 + your Charisma modifier. These rounds do not need to be consecutive.

Swamp Dweller (Ex)

At 3rd level, you can move through bogs and quicksand without penalty at your normal speed.

At 9th level, you gain water breathing and can breathe underwater indefinitely.

At 15th level, you can freely use your breath weapon, spells, and other abilities while submerged.

Breath Weapon (Su)

Save DC 10 + 1/2 sorcerer level + Charisma modifier

At 9th level, you gain a breath weapon. This breath weapon is a 60-foot line and deals 1d6 points of acid damage per sorcerer level. Those caught in the area of the breath receive a Reflex save for half damage. At 9th level, you can use your breath weapon once per day.

At 17th level, you can use your breath weapon twice per day.

At 20th level, you can use your breath weapon three times per day. Once per day you can instead breathe acid to create an acid pool with a 50 foot radius. When the acid pool is created, any creature in its area takes 20d6 points of acid damage (Reflex half). Each round on your turn, the number of dice of damage is halved (until less than 1d6) and creatures in the acid pool take damage again (Reflex half). The acid pool floats on water and deals damage to anything on the surface.

Wings (Su)

At 15th level, leathery dragon wings grow from your back as a standard action, giving you a fly speed of 60 feet with average maneuverability. You can dismiss the wings as a free action.

Power of Wyrms (Su)

At 20th level, your draconic heritage becomes manifest. You gain immunity to paralysis, sleep, and acid damage. You also gain blindsense 60 feet.

The changes are highlighted below.

  • The bloodline skill is changed from Perception to Stealth.
  • Four of the bloodline spells are changed (resist energy to darknessfly to water breathingfear to plant growth, and spell resistance to insect plague).
  • The claws, wings, and power of wyrms bloodline powers are not changed, but the dragon resistances and breath weapon bloodline powers are replaced or changed.
    • Dragon resistances, increasing amounts of energy resistance and natural armor, are replaced by swamp dweller (ability to move through bogs and quicksand unhindered, water breathing, and ability to use your breath weapon, spells, and other abilities under water).
    • Breath weapon is expanded at 20th level to include the use of the black dragon’s acid pool ability once per day, a 50-foot radius pool of acid doing 20d6 points of acid damage in the first round, 10d6 damage in the second round, 5d6 in the third round, 2d6 in the fourth round, and 1d6 in the fifth round.

This is now distinctly different from other draconic bloodlines, all of which show similar deviation from the base draconic bloodline.

Closing Comments

I like to see qualitative differences between things. I like player decisions to mean something more than what numbers are applied or how a particular number is applied (such as resistance to fire vs. resistance to cold). The twenty-five draconic bloodlines in this book are designed around those preferences: while each of the draconic bloodlines shares a base design, each is distinctly different from that base design.

The book will be available in PDF next week.

13th Age-Style Icons in the Sandbox, Part 6: Inversion

I now have a set of 13 icons: the 12 major icons, and the 13th, the High One.

Under normal circumstances where I have no particular plan, I might roll a few dice to see which icons are involved, or at least interested, in the current event. I might use a mix of d12s and d20s: d12 because it will always match to one of the icons on the table below but not the High One (there are special rules there), d20 because it does include all the icons and a reasonable chance (per die) of no icon at all.

Roll Icon Interests
1 Giant’s Daughter Giant, Death/Spirit, Prophecy, Nature, Forest
2 Mountain King Giant, Curse, Prophecy, Mountain, King
3 Nature’s Heart Giant, Church, Animal, Mountain, Forest
4 Queen Underhill Prophecy, Art/Music, Fey, King, Nature
5 Storm Crone Death/Spirit, Raid, Church, Ocean, Forest
6 First Bard Death/Spirit, Storm, Art/Music, Ocean, Nature
7 Hound Civilization, Curse, Animal, Mountain, Quest
8 Unthroned King Craft/Artifice, Curse, Fey, King, Quest
9 Exemplar Civilization, Raid, Church, Animal, Glory
10 Windmistress Craft/Artifice, Storm, Art/Music, Fey, Sun/Moon
11 Lord Seacrest Raid, Storm, Glory, Ocean, Sun/Moon
12 Radiant Lady Craft/Artifice, Civilization, Glory, Quest, Sun/Moon
13 High One ?
14+ no icon N/A

For the High One, that icon is involved any time a 13 is rolled. The High One is also involved any time doubles are rolled (doubles could mean “that icon is very interested, possibly personally”, but I think I’ll reserve that for triples).

Under that model, any pairing of icons is possible, and the more dice are rolled, the greater the chance the High One is interested.

There is another way to do this, though, in a single roll. I used the polyhedral process to assign the initial themes, which means each pairing of themes is present in two icons… and I’d used the d12 as the polyhedron. The d20 is the dual of the d12, and I wondered what would happen if I inverted the structure to get a d20 table of ‘interested parties’.

Well, let’s see…

Roll Icons Interest
1 Giant’s Daughter, Mountain King, Nature’s Heart Giant
2 Unthroned King, Windmistress, Radiant Lady Craft/Artifice
3 Giant’s Daughter, Storm Crone, First Bard Death/Spirit
4 Hound, Exemplar, Radiant Lady Civilization
5 Mountain King, Hound, Unthroned King Curse
6 Storm Crone, Exemplar, Lord Seacrest Raid
7 Giant’s Daughter, Mountain King, Queen Underhill Prophecy
8 First Bard, Windmistress, Lord Seacrest Storm
9 Nature’s Heart, Storm Crone, Exemplar Church
10 Queen Underhill, First Bard, Windmistress Art/Music
11 Nature’s Heart, Hound, Exemplar Animal
12 Queen Underhill, Unthroned King, Windmistress Fey
13 Mountain King, Nature’s Heart, Hound Mountain
14 Exemplar, Lord Seacrest, Radiant Lady Glory
15 Mountain King, Queen Underhill, Unthroned King King
16 Storm Crone, First Bard, Lord Seacrest Ocean
17 Giant’s Daughter, Queen Underhill, First Bard Nature
18 Hound, Unthroned King, Radiant Lady Quest
19 Giant’s Daughter, Nature’s Heart, Storm Crone Forest
20 Windmistress, Lord Seacrest, Radiant Lady Sun/Moon

This has possibility. Any situation involving Queen Underhill, the Unthroned King, and the Windmistress is likely to heavily involve the fey (12 on d20), while some combination of the Hound, the Unthroned King, and the Radiant Lady might mean a quest is in the offing.

Just as each of the pairs of themes are present in two icons, in each trio of icons each pair of icons shares two themes. Queen Underhill and the Unthroned King share ‘fey’ and ‘king’ themes, Queen Underhill and the Windmistress share ‘fey’ and ‘art/music’, and the Windmistress and the Unthroned King share ‘fey’ and ‘craft/artifice’. I can easily see rolling d20 to pick a trio, the selecting a pair as being primarily interested, with the third being involved because the other two are (that is, less interested in their actual purpose, and more interested in meddling with them).

Closing Comments

This was really just a brief exercise to see what happens if I turn things around. The icons themselves are interesting, but inverting the table gives me a single roll to choose icons inclined to share interests, and identifies what that shared interest is.

While all three icons share a single interest, each pair of them has a different pair of shared interests. This gives me a bit more texture, the ability to decide better how they approach their primary shared interest. That is, while Queen Underhill, the Unthroned King, and the Windmistress are all associated with the fey, the interactions (shared interests) between each pair can guide me in how they will likely approach a situation. This is later expanded on by their unassociated interests — while the three share a single interest, and each pair shares two themes, each also has two themes not shared with either of their closest colleagues.

Yes… I think this will suit me.