Playing with Fantasy XVI

Fantasy-game thoughts, icosahedral.
  • In a discussion of dissociated mechanics, someone said that barbarians only having a given number of rage-uses per day, is partly dissociated, because while they could be building stamina, it's weird that it only affects their rage. But only part of their rage duration or uses is their stamina: the part that comes from their Constitution modifier. The part that increases level by level? That's them getting better at controlling their rage, and thus being able to do it for longer without getting tired, even though everything else about their bodies' stamina is the same (at least until they start increasing their Constitution with magic items and every-fourth-level ability increases).
  • Decided, along with overhauling my calendar, that the humans are going back to using dates as their given names, too: specifically the date of their adulthood ceremony. Then the date of their own or parents' wedding as their surname, and the date of their accession to a noble title or full initiation to one of the beast-god societies, if applicable, as a middle name. Also decided the names will start with the day-signs instead of the month names, giving the humans thirty-one (or thirty, depending on the month) ways to start their names, rather than only twelve.

    Then it occurred to me they could use the subdomains' names as alternate day-signs, resulting in ninety-two possible beginnings for human names. (Ninety-two, rather than ninety three, because Good, Law, and Chaos don't have two subdomains. Since I don't, exactly, have things like inevitables or azatas, in my campaign, I just have "Celestial" as the subdomain for Good and "Elemental" as one for Law and Chaos, along with Celestial, since there are lawful and chaotic celestials as well as elementals—which in my campaign are based on divs.)

    Also decided that the witch-clerics of the modern humans' evil state will use Evil (subdomain Fiend) and Death (subdomains Murder and Undead) in their names, in place of Good and Repose—but only secretly (all the people initiated to their evil mysteries make sure to schedule their weddings and their children's adulthood ceremonies on days with the Good or Repose day-sign). I'm not sure how the Celestial, Elemental, and Fiend subdomains will work in terms of spells and domain powers; I'm leaning toward the Agathion subdomain for Celestial, Devil for Fiend, and then probably the Protean one (with a different name and changed flavor-text, since it's also going for Law) for Elemental?
  • For human names before their adulthood ceremony, decided to use the 1-point evolutions available to summoners' eidolons (eidola?), and the different appearances that spirit-animals (shaman familiars) have (as the sign of their special ability). Those being two things you can, by taking the Evolved Familiar or Spirit's Gift feats, give your familiar: human religion before the beast-gods having been run by adepts, who have familiars, which they can modify by those feats. This actually goes even for the evil Atlantean/seagoing Valyrians, whose pre-witchery religion was the same as other humans.
  • If you, like me, were wondering how to stat apprentice wizards who aren't quite first level, I think the "instructor" archetype, which has apprentices instead of a familiar, has the solution. You stat them as 1st-level characters with "NPC class" ability scores (presumably d6 hit dice) and the Magical Aptitude feat (+2 to Use Magic Device and Spellcraft). Maybe treat them as an archetype of commoner?

    Personally I'd also give them the ability to cast two 0th-level spells per day. A 1st-level wizard only gets one 1st-level spell, after all (minus bonus spells), and three 0th-level, so someone less wizard-y than them should get zero 1st-level and one less 0th-level, but still really ought to be able to cast some spells. (Plus the 0th-level spells have always had an implication of "these are things you use to practice magic".)

    When they finish their apprenticeship (in the instructor's case, when their master reaches 3rd level or any other level above that), they become 1st-level wizards, with "PC class" ability scores.
  • I love how people still pretend "linear warriors, quadratic wizards" is valid. It really never was, at least till very high levels (15+), if the DM was not an idiot who allowed the 15-minute adventuring day, but in Pathfinder? Pathfinder introduced the Vital Strike feat-line, which can let martial classes do multiple damage-dice once a round, without even needing a rogue's special sneak-attack circumstances (and once "flanked by allies" became a sneak-attack condition—which is entirely realistic—it stopped really being very hard for them to do that, either). Pretty sure I'm gonna swing my sword more than the six or seven times you can cast fireball or ice storm in a day, no matter what your level is. And martial classes get bigger hit dice and better armor for much cheaper (go look up stoneskin's material component—and mage armor is the equivalent of a chain shirt, albeit one that imposes no ACP).
  • These articles are really useful for city-design, for RPGs or regular fantasy-writing, or any other kind of worldbuilding. A city built before modern transport is typically a "market center" (which also has the majority of the residential buildings), inside a zone dedicated to horticulture—orchards and flower-gardens—and the raising of dairy animals and trough-fed livestock like pigs.

    Out from the horticulture zone you have woodland that's used for, among other things, gathering firewood. Then is the agricultural zone (as the caption on one of the pictures says, that actually goes in concentric rings from intensive agriculture to various kinds of crop rotation), and then the pasturage, which likewise transitions (partly depending on the particular husbandry approaches of the cultures involved) from settled ranching to transhumance. The horticulture ring and the intensive agriculture ring are partly made possible by the fertilizer produced in the city, by people and domestic animals (yes the ranch and transhumance animals also produce fertilizer but it's a lot harder to collect).

    One thing about all this, is it suddenly makes it a lot less odd that people despise thieves, in fantasy settings: with orchards and woodland right there, you need a damn good excuse to be stealing to get by, rather than just taking day-labor in the orchards or cutting firewood (or wood to be turned into charcoal) to sell back in the city. The "sick relative who needs constant care and can't be left for a whole day while picking fruit or gathering firewood" is useful there, though you do then have to figure out what they're going to do if that thief then goes adventuring. Killing 'em off is the obvious solution, but by the same token tends to be seen as a bit lazy.
  • Possibly the coffee cultivar you would grow, though not in the highlands that coffee tends to favor, during an Ice Age, is Mozambique coffee, Coffea racemosa. It apparently has a much higher cold-tolerance than C. arabica or C. canephora ("robusta"). Unfortunately it has half the caffeine of C. arabica, but the hybrid of the two apparently has the same cold-tolerance as C. racemosaC. canephora has twice the caffeine of C. arabica, also, so you could probably get a hybrid with the caffeine levels you expect that's still cold-resistant.
  • In general I try to restrict my Pathfinder setting to the archetypes found in the main expansions, the ones under the "RPG" heading over at Archives of Nethys. There are a couple exceptions, notably eldritch archer maguses, which are from Heroes of the Streets, because an archer magus only makes sense, and primalist wizards from Inner Sea Magic. Wild mages were one of my favorite things in 2nd Edition, and 5e's making them a sorcerer archetype is a genuinely clownish misinterpretation—sorcerers don't have the theoretical grounding required to be wild mages, whose original fluff was full of references to quantum mechanics. (Just in general it's ludicrous that 5e gave the sorcerers most of the metamagic, when that was actually the wizards' wheelhouse.)

    Archetypes I particularly like often involve spellcasting from a different ability-score, like the feyspeaker druid that casts from Charisma (probably the form my setting's gnome druids take, minus the fey-based fluff), or the empyreal and sage sorcerers, who are "wildblooded" versions of, respectively, the celestial bloodline that casts from Wisdom (and are, thus, the most common dwarf sorcerers) and the arcane bloodline that casts from Intelligence (making them the main elf sorcerers). My elves also have living grimoire inquisitors who guard their wizard-towers; I can see a lot of NPC potential in the chronicler of worlds bard, even if it does leave a lot of "Astinus of Palanthas" taste in your mouth. I really wish there were a Charisma-based witch other than the seducer archetype, though.
  • I don't have the hybrid classes (slayer, shaman, etc.) from the Advanced Class Guide; I think they're too much trouble. But I think the deliverer ("divine assassin", "god's blade") archetype of slayers can be fairly easily adapted to be a ninja archetype, instead—its special abilities replace slayer talents, which are basically the same thing as ninja tricks, so the balancing shouldn't be too different. (I think it would balance out as about the same, ninjas using rogue attack-bonuses and hit dice instead of ranger ones, but having a faster sneak-attack progression than slayers.)