Thursday, December 29, 2016

Thematic Pathfinder Race - Halfling

Time for Halflings


Halflings are Small-sized humanoids [halfling] with speed of 20 ft.

Starting languages: Halflings begin play speaking Common and Halfling. Halflings with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, and Goblin.

Racial Traits

Courageous: halflings always reduce Fear-conditions inflicted upon them by one step. This means that if a halfling would be Panicked, she’s instead Frightened (yeah, halflings ignore the Shaken condition, if derived from an Intimidate or Fear effect).

Unnoticed: once per day, a halfling can ask for a special Acrobatics, Climb or Stealth skill check while adjacent to bigger creatures, without suffering any attack of opportunity (they can use the creature’s bulk to their advantage… this racial talent was made to allow halflings to disappear after running below an ogre’s leg; or to climb on such an ogre’s back, etc.).

Lucky: once per day, you can treat a natural 1 on any d20 check/roll as a natural 20.

You must choose also either A Halfling’s Curiosity or Of A Humble Height talents at 1st level.

A Halfling’s Curiosity: your bravado and cheerfulness get the best of you. Once per day, during a combat encounter, you can choose to suffer an attack of opportunity or otherwise spent a full-round action trying to get close to the most dangerous foe or hazard in the scene (this usually means that your halfling closes in the source of fear – like that big dragon – or suffers an attack of opportunity from trying to see what the hill giant got in that big sack). If your GM approves, you regain a daily use of any of your other racial talents.

Of A Humble Height: sometimes size matters in the worse way. Once per day, you must spend an additional standard action and/or succeed at an additional check to accomplish something that bigger character would do with a single standard action.
For example: during the first round of combat, to attack a Large-sized foe, you can suggest to your GM that your halfling rogue must spend a standard action or succeed at a Climb skill check before dealing sneak attack damage.
Another example: the classical Strength check – even a halfling with Str 18 would take longer to lift a gate (spending a standard action) or would have to make 2 Strength checks.
If the GM accepts, you regain a daily use of any of your other racial talents.

Finally, also at 1st level, you can choose Catch me First, Nimbleness, Throwing Knack, or Urchin as a bonus Racial Talent.

Halfling Racial Talents

Racial Talents are exclusive abilities that can be acquired during advancement. You can substitute an Ability Score increase for one of the following Racial Talents.

A Small Opportunity: you can use the Dirty Trick, Reposition and Steal combat maneuvers as attacks of opportunity.   

Catch me First: once per day, you can take a 5-foot step as an immediate action.

Fearless: halflings are immune to Fear effects. The first time each day that a halfling is subjected to a Fear-induced condition (Shaken, Frightened, Panicked or Cowering), he can choose to suffer the mechanical effects of either heroism or haste for 5 rounds as an extraordinary ability. Requisite: Halfling character level 8th.

Halfling Feet: halflings are already very sneaky, but you’re invisible. Once per day, when alone, you can take 20 on a Stealth skill check. Requisite: Halfling character level 8th.

Luck Charm: if you’re adjacent to an ally, you can use your Lucky racial talent on him (this still counts as your daily use).

Nimbleness: once per day, you can reroll one Dexterity or DEX-based Skill Check.

Resolute: once per day, you can reroll one save roll.

Throwing Knack: you are naturally proficient with slings. If you are already proficiency due to a class feature, you gain a daily reroll to attack rolls, combat maneuver checks or damage rolls with slings.
You’re are also very good at throwing rocks or similar objects (halflings treat it as a thrown weapon that deals 1 point of damage, range 10 ft., critical x2). Instead of dealing damage, you can inflict the Shaken condition for 1 round against targets vulnerable to critical hits. You can use your daily reroll with slings for throwing rocks.
Finally, you automatically confirm any critical hit with slings or rocks.

Urchin: once per day, you can take 20 in a Disguise Skill Check to appear as a human or elf child (or from other similar races in your campaign). If you’re unarmored and not bearing any visible weapons (or out of place items), you can use this racial talent as a full-round action.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Thematic Pathfinder Race - Dwarf

OK, now Dwarves

...but first, another house rule that I’d implement if using these new racial traits: Ability Score improvements gained due to leveling should be either a +2 bonus to one stat or +1 bonus to 2 stats (I believe D&D 5E does that). I’m not sure how much this scrambles with Pathfinder’s RAW balance, but the option above should fit better with my racial talents.

The only part about this take on Dwarves is that I found nothing to do with was the “+2 to Wisdom” aspect of the original mechanics. I thought about a some racial talent that allowed dwarves to gain a kind of daily short rest (from D&D 5E) in order to recover perhaps a spell slot or daily class ability but found the idea too complicated/powerful. I also wasn’t satisfied with giving Dwarves any boost to divine spells in specific (they aren’t that pious in my mind).

Also, as mentioned in a previous post of this series, the idea is that Ability Score bonus are now something given by the character’s class taken at 1st level (like 13th Age). There’re no Ability Score racial adjustments, bonuses or penalties. Instead of the later, I tried to come up with a more flavorful mechanic (and ended with something closer to FATE… hope you don’t mind).

You can check here and here for the first posts.


Dwarves are Medium-sized humanoids [dwarf] with speed of 20 ft.

Starting languages: Dwarves begin play speaking Common and Dwarven. Dwarves with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Giant, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, Terran, and Undercommon.

Racial Traits

Slow and Steady: your speed is never modified by armor or encumbrance. Enemies trying to bull rush or trip you must roll twice and pick the worst result.

Hardy: once per day, you can reroll a Constitution check or Fortitude save roll. You ignore the first time each day that you’re fatigued, exhausted or poisoned.

Stonecunning: once per day, you can reroll one Ability or Skill check directed related to a rocky terrain or stonework, like a Perception check to note a secret stone door or a Survival check to find tracks in a cave  (the GM has the final word, the idea is that Dwarves are spiritually attuned to stone).
You can tell when you’re within 1 mile of the surface (either the “true Surface” or just a big underworld or vault) and which way is up or down (you can’t be fooled by artificial gravity and can always feel if you’re moving up or down).
You have darkvision up to 60 feet.

You must choose also either the Greed or Gruffness Racial talents at 1st level. These are special talents that reflect either the dwarves’ legendary gruffness or their often/sometimes mistaken greed

Greed: once per day, you can choose to suffer an attack of opportunity or otherwise spent a full-round action trying to get (or just staring hungrily at) any valuable object made of precious metal or gems. Outside of combat, you must get into to trouble in an attempt to fetch a valuable item of precious metal or with gems. If your GM accepts the trouble, you gain a new daily use of any of your racial traits.

Gruffness: once per day, at the start of any non-combat encounter, you can automatically worse an NPC (or group of NPCs) attitude toward you (and the party) by one step (from Indifferent to Unfriendly, or from Unfriendly to Hostile, for example). If the GM accepts, you gain a new daily use of any of your racial traits. Just seeing or hearing you bring up some unpleasant memories or prejudices about “dwarven honor and sincerity”.

Finally, also at 1st level, you can choose Dwarvencraft, Dwarven Fighting Style, Dwarven Grudge, Giantslayer or Wisdom of Rock and Root as a bonus Racial Talent.

Dwarven Racial Talents

Racial Talents are exclusive abilities that can be acquired during advancement. You can substitute an Ability Score increase for one of the following Racial Talents.

Dwarf-Friend Oath: you consider your party members to be Dwarf-Friends, a rare honor (and a yet rarer attitude among dwarves). Once per day, as an immediate action, you can switch places with an adjacent Dwarf-Friend as if you’re the original target of the attack.

Dwarvencraft: when rolling an Appraise, Craft, Knowledge, Spellcraft or Use Magic Device check on a dwarven-made object or on an item forged with precious metals or gems, you can roll twice and pick the best result.
Instead of rolling twice, you can choose to roll a Spellcraft skill check (even if untrained) do determine if any one of the above items are magical (as if casting detect magic).
Finally, with your GM approval, this racial talent allows you to buy item creation feats using your character level instead of spellcaster level (if you’re not a spellcaster, you’ll probably have to buy the necessary scrolls or otherwise acquire a spellcaster’s help to fulfill other item’s requisites). Remember that you can only craft dwarven items or objects forged with precious metals and gems.

Dwarven Fighting Style: you are proficient with battleaxes, heavy picks, and warhammers, and treat any weapon with the word "dwarven" in its name as a martial weapon.
If you are already proficient with any of the weapons above due to a class feature, you gain a daily reroll to attack rolls, combat maneuver checks or damage rolls with those weapons.

Dwarven Grudge: once per day, you can reroll one attack roll, combat maneuver check or damage roll against humanoid creatures of the orc and goblinoid subtypes. Instead of a reroll you can choose to automatically confirm a critical hit (If you want to incite/provoke your dwarven players, add the elf subtype to the above list).

Giantslayer (Version I): creatures of the giant subtype must roll twice and pick the worst result with attack rolls and combat maneuver checks made against you (What if an ogre try to bull rush your dwarf with Giantslayer and Slow and Steady racial talents… I don’t know the math, but roll 3d20 and pick the worst).

Giantslayer (Version II): once per day you can choose to suffer half damage from any extraordinary, spell-like or supernatural attack used by a creature of Large size or bigger against you.

(I really can’t decide which version of Giantslayer to use… maybe I’ll keep both. In this case, you can buy either version – or both. I expanded the trigger range of Verson II because otherwise I think it wouldn’t be of much use)

Stoneblood: the good news is that you’re immune to poison. The bad news is that you’re literally so attuned to stone that once asleep you’re only awaken by damage or after some 16-32 hours (you still requires only 8 hour of sleep to recover hit points, class abilities and such).
Requisite: Dwarf character level 8th.

Wisdom of Rock and Root: once per day, you can reroll a Sense Motive skill check or Will save roll (dwarves are famous for being suspicious and stubborn).

Friday, December 23, 2016

Thematic Pathfinder Race - Elf

OK, Christmas is here and I spent the last week helping my wife with our 2 hobbits. So, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to convert all Pathfinder Core Rulebook races to my new proposal about how its mechanics work*. 

*However, a I was able to watch Rogue One, thank you! (AWESOME MOVIE!).

Well, let’s get at least one example about how I want a race to work in my “simple” Pathfinder. I hope to get more in the next weeks.

Let’s start with Elves.

I’m keeping Pathfinder flavor elements – things like the fact that “elves who dwell in a region for long find themselves physically adapting to match their surroundings, most noticeably taking on coloration reflecting the local environment” (Pathfinder Core Rulebook, page 22) and “elves that spend their lives among the short-lived races, on the other hand, often develop a skewed perception of mortality and become morose, the result of watching wave after wave of companions age and die before their eyes” (idem).


Elves are medium-sized humanoid [elf] with speed of 30 ft.

Starting languages: Elves begin speaking Common and Elven. Those elves with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Celestial, Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Sylvan.

Racial Traits

Keen Senses: once per day, you can reroll a Perception skill check. You have low-light vision.

Elven Soul: you’re immune to sleep and charm effects. If subjected to a compulsion effect that allows a Will save, you can choose to reroll it at any time of your convenience during the compulsion effect’s duration (no one is sure that the damn elf is really dominated).

Nimbleness: once per day, you can reroll a Dexterity or DEX-based Skill Check.

You must choose the Frail Form or Forlon racial talents at 1st level. These are special talents that reflect either an elf’s traditional frailness or an innate developed fortitude, based on his upbringing.

Frail Form: elves are tall, slender humanoids, greater in height but more slender in build than humans. They tend to be more frail, though their natural lifespan is measured in centuries.
Once per day, before rolling a Constitution or CON-based skill check, you can choose to fail in that check. If you do that and your GM agrees that it was a dramatic/significant failure, you gain an extra daily reroll with any other of your racial traits (yeah, this a little bit of FATE/Aspect rules on Pathfinder, please, forgive me).

Forlorn: you were raised by short-lived non-elven races (usually humans, half-elves or other races from the Pathfinder Core Rulebook). Because of that, you lack the elves’ natural cheerfulness and otherworldly nature.
Once per day, before rolling a Charisma or CHAR-based skill check against any Pathfinder Core Rulebook race, you can choose to roll a natural 1 (i.e. a critical failure in a social encounter). If you do that and your GM agrees that it was a dramatic/significant failure, you gain an extra daily reroll with any other of your racial traits (another FATE rule for Pathfinder, sorry)

Finally, also at 1st level, you can choose either Elven Magic or Elven Fighting Style as a bonus Racial Talent.

Elven Racial Talents

Racial Talents are exclusive abilities that can be acquired during advancement. You can substitute an Ability Score increase for one of the following Racial Talents.

Elven Magic: once per day, you can reroll a Caster Level check or a Spellcraft skill check. Or you can force the target of a spell cast by you to reroll his save.

Elven Fighting Style: you are proficient with longbows (including composite longbows), longswords, rapiers, and shortbows (including composite shortbows), and treat any weapon with the word "elven" in its name as a martial weapon.
If you are already proficient with any of the weapons above due to a class feature, you gain a daily reroll to attack rolls, combat maneuver checks or damage rolls with those weapons.

Elven Dreams: you never really sleep, but while your body rest your mind wanders through mental exercises and lucid dreams. You recover hit points and other abilities normally, but also remain aware of everything happening around you, as if you’re awake (no Perception skill check penalties for you).
Finally, while resting, you can cast, once per game session (or once every week), a dream spell (caster level equal to your character level). Although you don’t sleep, you can be contacted by dream spells normally.

Bond with the Land: after spending one day in any type of natural terrain (in other words, any wilderness free from taints, such as demonic corruption or technological pollution) you create a bond to it. You gain the benefits of the endure elements spell as an extraordinary ability and a daily reroll that be used to one Survival skill check, Wild Empathy class feature or save against a terrain hazard (just one reroll per day!).
If you like (and your GM approves), your Elf PC can start to show physical alterations due to her attunement to a new terrain type.

Golarion Elven Racial Talents

The Elves of Golarion (Pathfinder’s official campaign setting) are actually alien humanoids from “Pulp Venus” (or Castrovel, the Green Planet, as it’s called in Golarion). If you like this approach and want to reinforce it with mechanical elements, I offer you the following talents. Please, bear in mind that Castrovel is known by its powerful psionic denizens. The Golarion Elves call their homeland Sovyrian.

Sovyrian Mind Training: You’re immune to compulsion effects. Once per day, when targeted by a compulsion effect, you can force the target to roll a Will save (DC = 10 + half character level + Int modifier) or suffer 1d6 of nonlethal damage for every 2 character levels (maximum 10d6). Requisite: Elven character level 8th.

Castrovel Born: you have telepathy with a range of 30 ft. Requisite: Elven character level 12th.

Castrovel is AWESOME! So are alien elves!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A review for Broodmother Skyfortess, a LotFP adventure by Jeff Rients

Broodmother Skyfortess is a Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure module crowdfunded around 2012, together with a score of other modules (in a very bizarre way of crowdfunding stuff in Indiegogo). Given the time I had already forgotten about it and was pleasantly surprised when my PDF link arrived. Then I opened my file and became completely and utterly thunderstruck. Jeff Rients and Ian MacLean outdid themselves here. Totally! Jeff, through his blog, sells Broodmother Skyfortess as the “the most awesome adventure ever” in what I take to be an obvious sarcastic tone, but I’m afraid he’s fucking right. This is awesome! Broodmother Skyfortess is a gonzo take on the famous flying castle with giants trope. By gonzo I mean nonsensical although in a very consistent fashion (if this make sense at all). Broodmother Skyfortess not only delivers on its absurd premise but pumps it over 9000! And it does that supported in two fronts: really GM-friendly content and art/layout.

Tornados not included!
But first let me give you my adventures parameters. LotFP is famous for been infamous with its approach to adventures and GM advice. Many of my all-time favorite LotFP modules are master pieces of crazy ideas and fair (but completely pitiless) challenges – stuff like Death Frost Doom, Thulian Echoes, Qelong and The God That Crawls. All are amazing products, but also quite intimidating. Not the kind of thing you can readily drop in a campaign. In many aspects, the best LotFP material is similar to the best Call of Cthulhu scenarios – you have to study them and adapt them carefully. They require real work on the part of the Referee to be used to their full potential and will probably change your campaign forever. At the other end of mine adventure spectrum you have the DCC RPG modules. They’re masterpieces of gaming (dungeon crawling) material, with an amazing amount of original stuff in just a few pages. However, most of the DCC RPG modules can be played after a quick read (and they’re damn good for that). Until today I have never seen a middle ground… that is, until Broodmother Skyfortess.

Broodmother Skyfortess has the LotFP Weird Fantasy feeling (you’re facing fucking half-shark, half-elephant centauroid giants!). However, Broodmother Skyfortess also have the DCC RPG “GM-friendly” use. It’s hard to read this module and not start running it immediately. And to give Jeff Rients a bonus, the book is filled with spot on GM advices. In fact, Jeff doesn’t lose time and gives you only what you really need to run Broodmother Skyfortess, while also providing lots of ideas and advices on how to twist it, change it and make the best of its material (all in a direct, humorous and engaging tone). C’mon, we have a random table for weird visions with a “Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion” entry and a grimoire with references to Tlön and Borges. I’m in love with this stuff! A little warning: don’t let this mislead you, this is still a LotFP module – except lots of nudity/genitalia, gore and devilish monsters.

No Sanity stats in LotFP so they have to let the reader crazy.

The first part of Broodmother Skyfortess opens with the giant flying fortess, its bizarre and alien (Sharkanado-style) denizens. There are only seven giants described, but they’re more archetypes than full characters – all easy to adapt and you don’t have to worry with checking backgrounds in order to adapt them to your campaign. And that’s the genius of it! Jeff doesn’t lose time with maps, lots of rooms and stuff – he gives you only the important bits and key locations, presented with lots of flavor. He also gives you variant options to “reskin” this adventure – going from fallen angels and mutants to Kirby-like Space Gods! And that last part is one of things that really makes Broodmother Skyfortess unique – the module open each chapter with brilliant colored art in homage to classic comics (many times satirizing other games and literary sources). It’s outstanding!


Broodmother Skyfortess uses a special (and very light) rule approach that makes giants scary but more genuinely faithful to most sources. After all, this is a LotFP adventure and not a Pathfinder “Supers” game, where PCs can wrestle with storm giants like they were just high level orcs. Jeff also gives you traditional stats if that’s what you want (there are even D&D/Pathfinder stats).

The PDF has 173 pages and almost half of it is the Appendix. Here we get a selection of articles from Jeff’s blog (maybe as an apology for the adventure taking so long to come to light). This is solid material, with excellent advice on running OSR adventures, dealing with random encounters, carousing, creating campaigns etc. It almost a second book inserted in Broodmother Skyfortess.

The module closes with simple but very evocative maps of the flying fortess.

I can’t stress how fun and entertaining has been reading this thing. I’m really digging for a chance to use it in at my table and I believe that’s the best proof of a product’s quality. If you have a chance, grab this!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Making Pathfinder Races more thematic and simple

I’m a little obsessed with “simplifying” Pathfinder, as you can see here and here. The thing is: I really love Pathfinder, with its many classes, archetypes, feats and variants (which is also a selling point for D&D 3rd in general for me). My “perfect” game would be something that gave players that many options and complexity, but require from the GM as much work as OD&D/Swords & Wizardry (although, to be fair, new games like DCC RPG and 13th Age really improved things in this regard).

Going back to this post’s topic: the choice of race in D&D 3rd/Pathfinder is something that rarely matters much after 3rd or 5th level (in rules terms).

The various racial ability scores bonuses and penalties, for example, have a greater impact at the beginning of the PCs’ career, but it’s mostly ignored after 5th level – and players only care about ability score bonuses/penalties as a min-maxing tool (nothing wrong with that, I just find it boring). In fact, in the last years, as my free time/patience are running exponentially short, I just don’t want too much math and minutiae in my RPGs, unless they (considerably) increases fun and flavor.

But, as I said, I love Pathfinder. At the beginning, I thought of just getting rid of racial ability score bonuses/penalties and using ability scores maximums/minimums (like in AD&D) for races, but that’s just more bookkeeping (and I prefer to keep that in AD&D). After thinking more, I also thought about limiting the rule to classes, with each class give one ability score bonus (+2) to its main stat (like Fighters gaining +2 to Str, which I think makes more sense). In fact, I used that idea in my D&D 3rd Tormenta* House Rules and I see that 13th Age uses a similar approach.

*A famous brazilian fantasy setting, whose current edition is based on a mix of D&D/Pathfinder with Star Wars Sage Edition.

Instead of racial ability scores bonus I prefer direct modifiers (like +2 to Str-based damage for a brute race or +1 dodge bonus to AC for a quick race). This way you avoid ability score inflation (and modifiers inflation in general, as a general bonus to one ability score can change lots of other things in a PC). Understand, there’s nothing wrong with using racial ability score modifiers, I just want to reduce it. You can see a few examples here and here where I used direct modifiers, but I want to try some different now.

Besides less math I’m more inclined these days to iconic/thematic racial traits. I already said somewhere that I loved the D&D Next Playtest races (and the Intoxication rule in particular, which was awesome*).

*The Intoxicated condition in D&D Next Playtest docs gave you disadvantage in attacks and checks, but granted you a 1d6 damage reduction. One player love it enough to create a drunk dwarf warrior concept.

Basically, elves in the D&D Next Playtest were immune to charm (including domination and other mind-controlling stuff), dwarves were immune to poison and – I can’t remember – but I think halflings were immune to fear.

All the racial traits above are simple to remember, simple to use, very thematic and allow you to extrapolate a lot about each race. For example, dwarves food is probably something analogous with toxic/death for most races (to be invited to a “dwarven dinner” could be a slang for either a duel or an ambush). Elves could be really dominating assholes who won’t accept a ‘no’ unless convinced by the blade. They also have one damn excuse to finally think less of others (after all, charm magic works on “lesser races”). Maybe even good elves wouldn’t have moral issues about casting charm in their non-elven friends when talking didn’t work (or when the good elf is without patience and with his non-elven friend’s “best interests” on mind).

Recently I got to read a preview for a new setting called Thordezilhas, for the brazilian OSR Old Dragon (a review here if you’re curious). Thordezilhas’ approach to races is exactly what I’m searching these days. Among the new races, we have the Ébanos, a race immune to “normal fire”; and the Sereianos, a beautiful human-like race that gains a mermaid tail under water. A well-known example of flavorful racial trait is DCC RPG’s take on Dwarves (which I expanded here). Digging among other D&D/d20 sources I also remember the twin-bodied Dvati (from Dragon #271 and Paizo’s Dragon Compendium) or even Birthright’s dwarves (with cold and rock-hard skin) and elves (which were, to my memory, the first AD&D elves that really didn’t need to sleep and which were indeed immortals). You can also check excellent OSR ideas for races (which are in general very thematic and rules light), like this great take on hengeyokai from Playing D&D With Porn Stars.

OK, I hope to give a more concrete example with a next post, where I convert Pathfinder Core races to my “new” approach (less numbers, more thematic traits and the option of acquiring more racial traits as you level up).

Edit: talking about flavor, I forgot to mention the wonderful Red Box Hack, which you can find here or here. In particular, check the Snake, the Bear and the Fox classes.