Monthly Archives: November, 2016

Off the Path: City Construction, Part 1: Basics

Deviating from plan (I’d said my next post would be about building a ‘local pantheon’ of small gods), I decided to write instead about alternate rules for developing a city or other settlement.

It expands somewhat on the Polyhedral Pantheons Adaptations I wrote about a while ago.

Settlement Basics

Before diving into process, I’m going to describe some of the mechanical underpinnings. They are in some ways pretty similar to how characters are created.

Settlement Scores

Each settlement has ability scores comparable to — and associated with — the normal character ability scores.

Settlement Score Ability Score Description
Military Strength How well the settlement can deal with military and other active threats.
Trade Dexterity How much commerce is done and how well-connected the settlement is to other entities.
Infrastructure Constitution How resilient and enduring the settlement is in physical terms; includes actual infrastructure such as roads and aqueducts, and availability of important resources such as food and healing.
Craft Intelligence How much artifice, creation, and innovation are available in the settlement.
Stability Wisdom How well-regulated the settlement is, especially in the face of disruption.
Social Charisma How active and sophisticated social elements of the settlement are.

Generate these through the normal means: point buy, random roll, whatever. I favor adapting ‘27-25-23‘, making it instead ’23-21-19’:

  • Roll 3d6, subtract from 23. These are two scores.
  • Roll 3d6, subtract from 21. These are two more scores.
  • Roll 3d6, subtract from 19. These are two more scores.
  • (reroll anything that would result in a score outside 3..18)
  • Assign to taste.

I like that all settlements start with some difficulties. These will be overcome as they get larger (see below) and generally aren’t crippling anyway.

Settlement Levels

Level Qualities Population GMG size Low Pop High Pop
1 1 18 thorp       15 21
2 1 25 thorp 21 30
3 1 35 hamlet 30 42
4 1 50 hamlet 42 59
5 2 71 village 59 84
6 2 100 village 84 119
7 2 141 village 119 168
8 2 200 village 168 238
9 3 283 small town 238 336
10 3 400 small town 336 476
11 3 566 small town 476 673
12 3 800 small town 673 951
13 4 1,131 small town 951 1,345
14 4 1,600 small town 1,345 1,903
15 4 2,263 large town 1,903 2,691
16 4 3,200 large town 2,691 3,805
17 5 4,525 large town 3,805 5,382
18 5 6,400 small city 5,382 7,611
19 5 9,051 small city 7,611 10,763
20 5 12,800 large city 10,763 15,222
21 6 18,102 large city 15,222 21,527
22 6 25,600 metropolis 21,527 30,444
23 6 36,204 metropolis 30,444 43,054
24 6 51,200 metropolis 43,054 60,887
25 7 72,408 metropolis 60,887 86,108

Like characters, settlements have levels. Small, minor settlements (thorps and hamlets and whatnot) are very low-level, major settlements such as large cities and metropolises are high-level. This affects how good a settlement is at something, and the population.

At levels 4, 8, and every fourth level after that, add 1 point to all six settlement scores.

I’m going to say that a level 2 settlement has a population of about 25 people, and that every two levels the population doubles. Increasing or decreasing by one level multiplies the nominal population by the square root of 2 (about 1.4).

The exact populations aren’t particularly important, so I’m looking at ‘nominal population’ to provide an estimate.

The ‘GMG Size’ column assigns settlement type, per the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: GameMastery Guide guidelines… approximately. This actually will have little direct impact on the process mechanically, but is useful for descriptive purposes.

When assigning the ‘GMG Size’ values I looked at the nominal population rather than the population range. For example, a level 8 settlement has a nominal population of 200. Per Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: GameMastery Guide a settlement with a population of 201 is a ‘small town’. It would seem that this would fit the level 8 settlement because 201 lands in the level 8 population range (168..238)… but I chose to not do that.

Population and Experience Points

Population of a settlement grows on an exponential scale. Every two levels the population nominally (it’s not likely to be exact) doubles.

By strange coincidence — no, really, it wasn’t planned on my part — the experience point totals needed in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game to advance levels doubles every two levels. (Or rather, the series converges on that ratio, more or less, once you get past about 10th level… but it works for slow, medium, and fast rates.)

So it looks like population and experience points have similar enough curves that for this purpose they can basically be equated. This leads to all sorts of interesting ideas for city-building minigames that I’m not thinking about too hard right now. But I will remember for later.

Settlement Qualities

A settlement has ‘qualities’ that modify the nature of the settlement. In some cases a quality might provide a modifier to a settlement score (‘defensible’ indicates that the settlement is easier to defend from attack than most, providing a bonus to the Military score). In other cases a quality might indicate a specific resource or other benefit to the settlement.

These can be similar in concept to the Settlement Qualities described in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: GameMastery Guide guidelines, but as these rules use different scores they would have different effect.

My next post on city construction will cover qualities in greater detail.

Black Friday and White Star Dent Removal Sale

James Spahn (Barrel Rider Games, publisher of White Star and of Labyrinth Lord supplements) had an unfortunate interaction with a kamikaze bambi. He and his family are fine, nobody in the car was injured, but they’re looking at a big repair bill.

I was already planning to run a sale this weekend, but it’s changed a bit. From now through Cyber Monday, all Echelon Game Design products — Polyhedral PantheonsDraconic Bloodlines, and the entire Echelon Reference Series — are on sale at a 20% discount. Half my proceeds will go to James to get the bambi-shaped dents and other damage to his car fixed.

Off the Path: Small Gods

Many campaigns have world-spanning deities whose power reaches everywhere (more or less). They can provide the ‘full range of services’ (i.e. spells all the way up to ninth level, or seventh in some editions of D&D). Very useful from a game play perspective.

However, the idea of being able to meet and interact (and deal) with the actual spirit of the forest has always intrigued me. I like the idea of divine creatures who have notable power but are greatly limited in their reach.

It turns out this is pretty easy to do in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Making a Small God

The simplest mechanical implementation of small gods is to simply use (and bend slightly) the mythic rules.

  • A small god is a creature of at least CR 5, and typically at least Mythic Rank 3. The creature gains:
    • the mythic subtype;
    • a bonus to natural armor (base +0 if it doesn’t otherwise have natural armor) equal to its MR;
    • bonus hit points equal to its MR times 6, 8, or 10, depending on whether the base creature uses d6, d8, or (d10 or d12) as its racial Hit Die;
    • damage reduction (5/epic if it has 5 to 10 Hit Dice, 10/epic if it has 11 or more Hit Dice; existing DR if any is merged);
    • bonus to spell resistance equal to MR, if it has spell resistance;
    • the mythic power and mythic surge universal monster abilities;
    • at MR 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10, the creature gains a +2 bonus to one ability score (all can be added to one score or they can be split up);
    • at MR 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9, the creature gains a mythic feat it qualifies for;
    • additional mythic abilities equal to one more than its MR;
    • CR increased by half the MR, XP adjusted to match.
  • Among the mythic abilities, pick
    • Divine Source (Su): [3rd-Tier Universal Path Ability] The creature can grant divine spells to those who follow its cause. Choose two domains suitable to the small god’s portfolio/interests. The small god can only grant spells of a level up to its MR. The small god can cast one spell per spell level per day, chosen from the domain spells available. At MR 6 and MR 9 this mythic ability can be taken again, adding one domain and two subdomains. Deviation from RAW: the small god does not need to take ‘alignment domains first’, per the normal mythic ability. A subdomain may be chosen in place of a domain if it better suits the small god.
  • The small god might have other divine casting ability, such as (and probably no more than) one of:
    • the Simple Divine Spellcasting ability (universal monster rule), giving it knowledge of cleric or druid spells with a total number of levels equal to twice its Hit Dice (none higher than 1.5 times its Hit Dice) and the ability to cast each once per day;
    • the Cleric Creature template from Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Monster Codex;
    • cleric (or druid, etc.) levels.
  • The small god might also have the Mythic Magic ability (universal monster rule). Three times per day when it casts a spell (from Divine Source or Simple Divine Spellcasting or some other ability) it can spend mythic power to cast the spell as a mythic spell.

Fill in the rest of the abilities and you should be about done.

Note that you could use the Divine mythic simple template instead, but I think the more detailed rebuild works better.

Sample Small God: Sheshsia, the Well Spirit

The farmers and other villagers of the valley perform small rituals to thank Sheshsia, the Well Spirit, for keeping their water clean and sweet.

Mechanically — I’ll expand on her story elements in another post — Sheshsia is a mythic huge water elemental (CR 10/MR 4) with the Divine Source (Water and Community domains) mythic ability and the cleric creature template (normally +2, but I discounted to +1 for weak spell choices and because the stats aren’t CR 11).

Huge Water Elemental
CR 10/MR 4 (base CR 7, template is +2, MR is +2, but much closer to in-line with CR 10 because many of the added abilities are weak)
XP 12,800
N Huge outsider (elemental, extraplanar, mythic, water)
Init +8; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +17

DEFENSE
AC 25, touch 13, flat-footed 20 (+4 Dex, +1 dodge, +12 natural, –2 size)
hp 135 (10d10+40+40)
Fort +11, Ref +11, Will +7
DR 5/—; Immune elemental traits

OFFENSE
Speed 20 ft., swim 90 ft.
Melee 2 slams +15 (2d6+7)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks channel energy (3/day, level 8), drench, mythic power (4/day, surge +1d8), vortex (DC 22), water mastery
Cleric Domain Spells (CL 10th; DC 14+level)
4th (1/day)—imbue with spell abilitysleet storm
3rd (1/day)—call lightningprayer
2nd (1/day)—fog cloudshield other
1st (1/day)—blessobscuring mist
Cleric Spells (CL 10th; DC 14+level)
4th—control water
3rd—remove diseasewater breathing (might have remove curse instead of water breathing)
2nd—cure moderate woundslesser restoration
1st—(any two)
0—(any two, often create water or purify food and drink)
Mythic Abilities amazing initiative (+4), divine source (Community, Water), empathic healing, hard to kill, pure body, recuperation, water of life

STATISTICS
Str 24, Dex 18, Con 19, Int 6, Wis 19, Cha 11
Base Atk +10; CMB +19; CMD 34
Feats Cleave, DodgeM, Great Cleave, Improved Bull Rush, Power AttackM
Skills Acrobatics +11, Escape Artist +15, Knowledge (planes) +7, Perception +17, Stealth +3, Swim +26

In practice I would be inclined to change the domain spells, such as by creating a new subdomain or hybrid domain. The water domain as written doesn’t quite align with what I want here. I added the ‘cleric creature’ simple template to provide additional spell access that better fit what I wanted. Because the spells typically don’t have combat utility and the statistics align more closely to a CR 9 creature than to a CR 11 creature, I’m treating this as a CR 10 creature — the additional spells and channel energy clearly add something, but it’s not as much as might be suggested by the template.

Closing Comments

Creating the statistics for Sheshsia, the Well Spirit, was mostly straightforward. There was some slight complication when I found the domain spells didn’t do quite what I wanted, but it wasn’t that hard to work around. In practice I’d do more, probably create a ‘Sheshsia domain’ that replaced some of the water spells with something that better fit my vision.

Those who entreat Sheshia for divine power gain access to cleric spells, but only of up to fourth level. She is neutral, but I would consider her to have good tendencies and thus require that her clerics channel positive energy. Those who can plead their case to her directly might benefit from her abilities… but they’re pretty limited.

My next post will focus somewhat on how to build a ‘local pantheon’ of small gods.