Sunday, September 30, 2012

Disciples of The Wise Oak

Okay, so earlier I did a post on a simple oracle-based cult for Pathfinder called the Keepers of the Divine Flame.  It was designed as a minor cult which worships the elemental force of Fire.  As I threatened in that posting, here is a similar cult focused on the elemental force of Wood.  Eventually I hope to add three more for the elements of Metal, Water, and Earth.

NEUTRAL WOOD CULT (Disciples of The Wise Oak)

The cult worships Wood, as an embodiment of the nature of the universe.  One must put down deep spiritual roots if one wishes to reach spiritual heights.  The cult has a shrine consisting of at least one tree but ideally a grove or clearing in a forest, usually tended by a cult member.  In addition, members always have a live tree at their homes, whether a full-sized tree outside or a bonsai-style miniature indoors.  Because the cult has no direct deity per se, the clerics are all oracles--except for the leader, the Oak Speaker.

The origin of the faith, according to the Oak Speaker, is when wise ancient treants of the forest taught the wisdom of Wood to the first druids.  It was those druids who were the first mortals to learn the sacred Treant language.  Lay followers can continue to worship the same deities as the rest of their community, unless local churches find cult incompatible with their beliefs for some reason.  But in most cases the cult appears to be a harmless veneration of a basic natural concept, thus attacting druids and other nature worshipers.

The ordinary lay members are called Disciples of The Wise Oak.  More devout believers can apply to the Oak Speaker to become acolytes and eventually Rooted Ones (divine adepts).  They begin to learn Treant, the language of Wood, in which the cult’s holy scriptures are written.  Special rites of initiation bring a select few into the mysteries of oracular power.  Cult oracles manifest one of three curses: tongues, haunted, or deaf.  The curse of tongues comes after long sessions of chanting poems in Treant during contemplation of a tree.  The curse of haunted is the result of gaining a subconscious bond with plants and wood such that around the oracle plants move and twitch and wood shifts and creaks in an eerie "haunted" fashion.  Oracles with deafness believe that they have traded their mundane hearing ability for the gift of the sensing ability of the trees.

Today the cult is led by the Oak Speaker, an older human male who has laid aside his original name to draw closer to the true faith.  He has a Sacred Grove of three senior apostolic oracles, one with each of the “three branches” (deaf, haunted, tongues).

NOTE: oracles of the cult are always of the Wood mystery.

NOTE: if the oracle selects “inflict” rather than “cure”, the inflicted damage is accompanied by illusionary thorns which appear to burst out of the victim’s body and cause the damage.

NOTE: the oracle may never select spells pertaining to metal or fire.

NOTE: adepts and oracles take a religious vow to never cut down a tree, no matter what the circumstance.  They may use an already manufactured wood object, but must offer a prayer of forgiveness upon acquiring it.

NOTE: oracles of the cult gain the orison of mending (wood and plant based items only) as an additional 0-level bonus spell starting at 1st level which may be used once per day

A Feeling of Dredd

Okay, so I went to see the new "Dredd" movie yesterday.  The overall theatre-going session started poorly because the sound on the previews was insanely loud.  We actually had to go out and tell the manager about it.  Also, a lot of the previews were for horror films.  I can't abide horror films.  The whole concept is extremely nasty and in humane.  I really don't want anyone shoving evil images into my head--even just in a preview.  My wife and I noticed a long time ago that there are people out there who lump science fiction in with horror.  I have no idea why they do that.  Clearly, there is no connection between Star Trek and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Why am I apparently swerving off into a rant about horror film here?  Because in Dredd there were quite a few horror-film type scenes, admittedly brief ones, polluting the science fiction.  Yes, okay, Megacity One is supposed to be filled with crime, violence, and depravity.  But that doesn't prescribe how it will be depicted on screen.  I came in expecting some tough gritty action-film type sci-fi.  There was plenty of that but it was polluted with chunks of horror nastiness.  Imagine going to a restaurant and ordering a nice pizza.  It comes to the table, you're hungry and all ready to dig in, but then you see pieces of turds on it.  Totally revolting.  The entire pizza is now disgusting.

In addition to the jarring and unnecessary horror sequences there were also slightly annoying scenes which were obviously inserted for the 3D version of the film.  Personally, I find 3D films to be kind of lame.  The technology still isn't very good and so I'm not willing to pay more for it.  Unfortunately you still get stuck with the obviously-meant-for-the-3D-version scenes which look awkward in 2D.

I was pleased to see that they didn't add in any gratuitous sex scenes.  I'm not all prudish about sex and nudity.  But I find it annoying when they throw in sex and/or nudity which have nothing really to do with the story: the shower scenes in Starship Troopers, for instance.

Another, minor, complaint is that the locations and sets were a bit disappointing.  They seemed kind of cheap.  Most of the story takes place in the rooms and corridors of the massive Peach Trees megablock, which means that most of the rooms and corridors are very similar looking.  The interior sets come off looking rather low budget.  The exterior scenes are okay, but don't have a futuristic vibe to them.  Likewise the clothing worn by the inhabitants of the block are quite ordinary.  Again, the look is a bit low-budget.  The one area where they did put in a good effort was the Judges' uniforms and equipment.

The acting was excellent.  I felt for Karl Urban as Judge Dredd because he has his helmet on the entire time and thus you can only see his mouth.  It's tough to portray emotions with just mouth movements and body language.  I loved Olivia Thirlby as the young rookie Judge Cassandra Anderson.  Lena Headey was great as crime clan leader Ma-Ma.

Overall I was disappointed and probably wouldn't watch it again.  However I would really like to see an edited version of the film with the visual horror turds removed.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Keepers of The Divine Flame

Okay, so some months ago (or maybe even farther back than that) I tossed out a game product idea to a certain Pathfinder 3rd Party publisher.  I've still heard absolutely nothing back, so I think I'll just toss it out there for you all to enjoy.  Yes, it's my work so, no, you can't take it for commercial use.

I have really been a fan of the Oracle class in Pathfinder.  I plan to play one in my buddy Steve's next campaign, since he's switching from D&D 3.5 to Pathfinder (although I'm sure we'll still see plenty of monsters, etc. from his extensive collection of 2.5 material).  And so I jumped at the creative challenge of coming up with an Oracle-based cult.  I call it Keepers of the Divine Flame.  I'm thinking that I should do companion cults for the other four (Chinese) elemental mysteries of Waves, Wood, Stone, and Metal.

NEUTRAL FLAME CULT (Keepers of The Divine Flame)

The cult worships flame, as an embodiment of the dual nature of the universe.  Fire can warm or it can burn.  Fire can be tamed for cooking and crafting or it can run wild through forest and town. The cult always has a shrine where a flame is always kept burning, usually tended by a cult member.  In addition, members always have a live flame, whether hearth fire, candle, or lamp, somewhere in their homes.  Because the cult has no direct deity per se, the clerics are all oracles--except for the leader, the self-proclaimed Flame Sage.

The origin of the faith, according to the Flame Sage, is when wise ancient spirits of fire taught the duality of flame to the first druids.  It was those druids who were the first mortals to learn the sacred Ignan language.  Lay followers can continue to worship the same deities as the rest of their community, unless local churches find cult incompatible with their beliefs for some reason.  But in most cases the cult appears to be a harmless veneration of a basic natural concept, thus attracting druids and other nature worshipers.

The ordinary lay members are called Keepers of The Divine Flame.  More devout believers can apply to the Flame Sage to become acolytes and eventually Gazers Into the Flame (divine adepts).  They begin to learn Ignan, the language of fire, in which the cult’s holy scriptures are written.  Special rites of initiation bring a select few into the mysteries of oracular power.  Cult oracles manifest one of three curses: tongues, lameness, or clouded vision.  The curse of tongues comes after long sessions of chanting hymns in Ignan during spinning dances in a trance state around a fire seeded with herbs or incense inside a shrine.  The curse of lameness is usually the result of repeated long sessions of ritual dances or seated meditation on beds of hot coals.  Oracles with clouded vision lose their “mundane” vision from long hours spent sitting cross-legged in dark, smoke-filled shrine rooms starting into a living flame to see the wisdom revealed therein.

Today the cult is led by the Flame Sage, an older human male who has laid aside his original name to draw closer to the true faith.  He has an inner circle of three senior apostolic oracles, one with each of the “sacred marks” (lameness, tongues, and clouded vision).

NOTE: oracles of the cult are always of the Flame mystery.

NOTE: if the oracle selects “inflict” rather than “cure”, the inflicted damage appears as a nasty burn mark, even though the damage is not fire-based.

NOTE: the oracle may never select spells of water, cold, or ice.

NOTE: adepts and oracles take a religious vow to never extinguish a flame, no matter what the circumstance.

NOTE: oracles of the cult gain the orison of spark as an additional 0-level bonus spell starting at 1st level

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Secret Santicore: Your Mission Should You Choose to Accept It

Okay, so my eagerly-awaited secret mission for the Secret Santicore 2012 project has arrived.  No, I can't tell you about it--that ruin all the fun.  However, I will post some hints after I've submitted my completed bit.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lockout is a Burnout

Okay, so I rented the film "Lockout", directed by Luc Besson.  Alas, it was rather poor quality.  The basic premise of the film was fine for a sci-fi action flick: wisecracking hero goes into orbital prison full of psychotic prisoners alone to rescue hostages.  Unfortunately, the screenplay was full of obvious holes and crappy plot devices which made the rest of the film pretty cheesy.  Luckily I rented it at a Red Box so it only cost me $1.06 to watch.

So what if I was to grab this scenario for a one-shot game, say with my Wednesday group?  Well for starters I'd have to modify it for a group rather than a lone hero.  That means ramping up the convict/psycho opposition in numbers and ferocity. Then there's spreading the hostages out in more locations so it's not just about taking one room.  Each hostage holding location would be a unique tactical/environmental challenge, roughly the equivalent of a boss battle.  Then I would make sure that there were particular environmental challenges to overcome while transiting from each hostage location to the next.  Again, each environmental challenge would ensure a unique set of difficulties designed to really test the players as a team.  I would look to design more than one approach to each challenge so the players have options to consider and to ensure that the team is not dependent on having a single player class necessary for a particular challenge.

Another angle I would exploit, which was only briefly noted in the film, was the secret, illegal experimentation on the convicts.  I could use this to throw in some scary mutants.  I wouldn't want to over do it, maybe have one secure section with mutants roaming around--but which the party must traverse to get to something (hostages, escape from the prison, etc.)

As in the film there would also be deadlines to put the pressure on.  A couple ideas are:
  • The corporation owning the prison remotely activates a self-destruct device to eliminate evidence of the mutant experiments, planting false information suggesting the psycho inmates set up the explosion somehow.  The party will find out about the self-destruct countdown and have to decide whether to push on to the hostages more quickly or detour to disarm it, with extra victory points for getting a copy of the incriminating information.
  • Critical orbit-keeping drives are damaged/activated during the initial riot and the prison is now plunging towards the Earth--and of course the massive station will impact in a heavily-populated area below if something isn't done.  The party can try to repair the drives and get the station back on course--or attempt to get the hostages out before the military blows it into tiny bits small enough to burn up harmlessly on re-entry.
 One key design consideration is estimating the minimum time it should take to complete the mission--if you design in too little time from the start then it's an automatic fail.  Give them too much time and the deadline pressure aspect becomes mere story background.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Gaming in 3D

Okay, so I've been hugely interested in the concept of 3D printing ever since I first heard about it.  The possibilities of what you could make with a 3D printer are almost limitless, even if in some cases it wouldn't be the most efficient method.  It was like someone finally invented the Star Trek replicator machine.  I want one.

Then I realized that a home 3D printer would be perfect for producing gaming miniatures.  You could buy 3D files of the miniatures (or create your own if you're talented) and print as many or as few as you wanted.  With 3D software you could easily modify figures by cutting and pasting optional equipment and clothing.  Or you could buy unclothed simple 3D figures in an array of poses and add "skins" with facial expressions, hair styles, and whatever.  Currently 3D printers are still a bit too expensive for general home use ($1500-2000), but just within the reach of a dedicated hobbyist/tinkerer.

Just today I came across the web site which has 3D files for printing.  And, yes, there are gaming figures available now.  Several good examples are available from "dutchmogul" ( and "garin" (  I was thrilled, but secretly a bit annoyed.  I have toyed with the idea the idea of a business involving setting up a small workshop full of 3D printers, commissioning unique 3D models from artists, then printing figures on demand for customers.  It wouldn't produce enough income to live on, but be a great way to have hobbyist fun with gaming and 3D printing technology while recouping the costs.  Also, as a "business model" it has some serious holes in it, but that's for another post some day.

The Best of Both Worlds

     Okay, so I think the "Vancian"spell-slot  magic system in D&D (and Pathfinder, alas) is the worst game mechanic ever.  I hate it.  Also, I hate it.  Oh, and before I forget let me mention that I hate it a lot.  So when D&D 4the Edition (4E) was first announced I was hopeful that they had finally removed the spell-slot monkey from D&D's back.  Initial reviews of the game were skimpy, but it did appear that they had at least attempted to drive a nice sharp design stake through the monster's heart.  I pre-ordered the core set through my FLGS (Games and Stuff, Glen Burnie MD in case anyone's interested) and eagerly rushed home to see what they'd done with the magic system.

     Well, as those of you who've read the 4E rules already know, the magic system was indeed quite different.  Hooray!  Umm, except that now spell caster types get a smaller set of spells and most of those seem to be combat-oriented.  The old "Swiss Army Knife" caster had gotten a makeover.  Also, they gave all classes a similar set of "powers" (which are spells in the case of spell casters) in an attempt to balance all the classes more closely.  Class balance had been a constant complaint in the earlier versions of D&D and they had now thoroughly overhauled all the classes in an effort to solve that.  Now, I'm fine with the design concept of creating these "powers" and having an identical progression framework for all classes.  In the earlier versions of D&D (and now Pathfinder) class creation seemed to be more art than science and properly playtesting them must have been difficult.

     The new powers system gave players a certain number of powers in a couple categories: those which could be used "at will" (actually once per 6-second round during an encounter), those usable once per encounter, those usable once per day.  For casters there was also a separate category of "rituals" which took longer to cast and were meant more to be cast outside of combat.  I wasn't sure how this would feel in play, but luckily one of the friends I game with (Hi Dan!) ran a great demo for us and I got to play a Tiefling warlock.

     First off, I was thrilled to have the at-will power, especially at first level.  Normally, a D&D style spellcaster at first level gets a only one or two first level spells PER DAY, after which it's time to take out the crossbow.  That's not how I imagine a magic using type.  With 4E I had a magical attack every round, even if it wasn't very strong.  Also, I could use my encounter power in a more relaxed fashion instead of fretting about whether this was the best time for my one spell for the day.  It was a refreshing change.

     With that positive experience of 4E behind me, I then stopped to consider.  At that time I had already started buying the Pathfinder rules, despite the crappy spell-slot system, because I liked many other things about it and because my gamer friends generally liked it as well.  So now I am trying to find a way to combine the two.  In other words, I want to use Pathfinder but somehow use 4E style spells.

I Didn't Build That

 Okay, so this is not a plunge into the political "You didn't build that" debate currently simmering, but rather my views on the idea of a character "build".  When roleplaying games first started there was no such thing as a build. For one thing, character generation was mostly randomized.  For my first rules set, Chivalry and Sorcery, you rolled 1d20 for each stat and that's what you got; for D&D it was 3d6, for Traveler 2d6, etc.  Traveler characters were created using random rolls on career tables.  Yes, you could pick which tables, but it was still very random.

Beginning early on in the hobby, people began presenting characters in various fora.  Some were meant for use as NPCs, some as material for other people to consider, and some as "My character is really cool, he's got..."  But none of these were really considered to be "builds" as we know the concept today.  It seems to me that the modern concept comes more from computer RPGs, particularly MMOs.  MMOs have generated the idea of the build because they have player vs. player (PvP) and dungeon raid gameplay and because players have a huge array of options which they can choose from fairly freely.  The competitive PvP play puts a huge premium on optimizing the character for combat.  Raid play also calls for high optimization, but with somewhat more emphasis on functioning as a team member.

I found when I played World of Warcraft (WoW) that at some point you would not be allowed to join dungeon raids if your "build" was not optimized enough.  So either you had to throw your freedom and individuality as a player out the window and "build" your character the way "they" said to, or just abandon raid play.  I was never much interested in PvP, seeing it as a vehicle for a**holes who enjoy abusing other people, but I loved the huge raids--the bigger the better.  But as a relatively casual player who wasn't obsessed with optimization, my character gradually fell behind in capability and eventually wasn't allowed into raid groups anymore.  Finally, I just closed my WoW account.  If the game couldn't support my style of play and provide me with what I was looking for in an MMO experience then there was no point in spending money on it.

Unfortunately this character "build" optimization mindset has migrated over to traditional tabletop RPGs.  It's like seeing an old friend get diagnosed with cancer.   And it's causing much the same problem as with MMOs.  Instead of creating a character, rather like creating a work of art, you "build" a character like you would build a viciously efficient cyborg assassin, like in the Terminator series of films.  The problem is that RPG characters then come to the table with as much vicious efficiency as a Terminator, but with just as little personality.  When build-optimized characters are in straight-up combat they are extremely effective.  But when they are in actual role-play situations filled with nuance they struggle and flounder.

When I sit down to make up a character, I approach it much in the same way as I would creating an ice cream sundae, or getting a plate of food from a buffet.  You go down through the available ingredients and put together a really tasty recipe of favorite items which go together and which will provide you with a genuine taste treat.  You're not trying to design it for some competitive triumph.  You're just aiming to make your taste buds happy.  I don't "build" characters, I create them.  If the result makes my mental taste buds happy, then mission accomplished.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Nova Praxis - "So what's my motivation?"

Okay, so I just learned about the upcoming science fiction RPG Nova Praxis from a review over at Stargazer's World (, which I check almost every day.  One of the themes for the campaign universe for the game is that of "Utopian Prison vs. Dystopian Freedom".  The Nova Praxis web site puts it this way:

Because of the wealth of resources available, the Coalition can afford to provide its citizens with the option to “default”.

Citizens who default generally do not provide anything of value to society. They don’t work. They don’t provide many favors to others. They may or may not create objects of art or that hold some other sort of value, but if they do, they do so at their own pace. Their Rep may never climb very high, but so long as they avoid being a problem, they can live out the remainder of their lives never really doing anything they don’t want to do.

To many, this is paradise. But not to all…

While many would have you believe that the Coalition lifestyle is free, there are others who claim that registered citizens pay an unacceptably high price. And not every person accepts the rule of the Coalition.
Coalition cities, habitats and homes sport nearly ubiquitous surveillance technology. The ARIS strips that provide the interface between you, your mindset or PPC, and the local mesh also functions as the eyes and ears of an AI monitor that watches your every move.

Coalition citizens have grown accustomed to this, and most never give it much thought. There are some, however, to whom this invasion of privacy is simply intolerable.

Apostates, as non-citizens are often called, value their privacy and choose to live outside the Coalition system. They live on ships, secret space stations, or enclaves on planets the Coalition deemed unworthy of colonization. Without access to compilers, apostates must get food, clothing, and other necessities the old fashion way. It’s a harder life, but at least they are free from the ever watching eyes of the Coalition.

If transported to such a universe, personally I would very much prefer the "Utopian Prison" over the "Dystopian Freedom".  Wouldn't most people--or have I accidentally wound up on crack?

Now, I'm assuming that stories in a Nova Praxis game will most likely take place in the "Dystopian" part, where there will always be some vicious, heavily armed a-hole looking to take your stuff and kill you--just because they can.  Or maybe they assume that you, the player, will be the vicious, heavily armed a-hole looking to take people's stuff and kill them--just because you can  But from the perspective of an RPG gamer making a character for a Nova Praxis game I would find it hard to come up with a character on that basis.  I just can't relate to the idea of calling this sort of lifestyle "freedom".  It's like those stories you hear about homeless people who claim to prefer being homeless because of the "freedom" it gives them.  Bunch of idiots, I say (or lying to avoid feeling embarrassed about being homeless).

I think the closest I could come would be a character living out there in exile, perhaps running from a painful failed relationship.  The character isn't there because they like it there but because they are running or hiding from something back in Utopia.  That would provide some interesting character motivations--but I would still have trouble believing that anyone would stay away from Utopia for long if they had the option to go back.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Your Grandpa's Pyjamas

Okay, so I love art.  The first thing I do when I get a new RPG book is check out all the art.  Then I'll go back and decipher all the lines of little squiggly black things which I'm told are called "words".  Anyway, I've found that in most RPGs the people of a particular culture don't necessarily have a recognizable clothing fashion.

In the ancient/medieval world (and the bits of today's world which still haven't moved ahead) each culture had very distinctive and limited clothing styles.  Take a look at costuming books and you'll find that most cultures only had one or two basic styles, and in some cases only in a very limited set of colors.  I really think that if one is putting together an RPG campaign world then the clothing styles of the major cultures (with visual references) should be part of the design schedule.

Secret Santicore -- I'm in!

Okay, so over at the Giblet Blizzard blog ("Giblet Blizzard"?  Yes, I'm not making stuff up this time) they are doing the second (?) iteration of a project called Secret Santicore (see details at  The previous version is available free at the blog site.  It's full of all kinds of way cool RPG material, my favorite being the puzzles you can print out and try to solve.  I signed up to contribute, but am a little worried.  The format is that you toss in a topic you'd like to see something on, then each person gets someone else's topic to work on (which is where the "secret santa" tie-in comes from).  I should be able to handle most design challenges on the level of the previous Secret Santicore.  Check it out!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Nobody Plays Gnomes (Really)

Okay, so I was just thinking back to when Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition came out and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the fact that gnomes had been removed from the pantheon of playable races and relegated to the status of "monster".  And to add insult to injury, they added tieflings and dragonborn.  (There's an amusing video on YouTube about this:  Oh, the humiliation!  All the gnome fanboys and fangirls were devastated.  And Outraged.  Devastated and outraged, I say.  I, on the other hand, was like "Meh, nobody plays gnomes anyway".  I was actually quite pleased to see the inclusion of tieflings and dragonborn as player races right up front.  I mean, this is a fantasy game, isn't it?  Yes, there are elves, dwarves, and halflings, but those are really so humanoid that they really might as well be humans anyway.  If it's a fantasy campaign world I expect there to be really cool definitely-not-human races to play.

But back to the stupid gnomes.  So as I was saying, nobody plays gnomes.  (Okay, I did make one for a Pathfinder Society game, but that was sort of as a joke.)  In all the games I've played in, lo these many long years, I have never (that's never, as in, um, never) seen anyone play a gnome.  Nobody plays dwarves either--I've seen exactly one dwarf PC in 30+ years of gaming.  Halflings have been quite rare and only played by people using them as a min-max rogue choice to get the racial bonuses--that's where the idea of Kender came from.

For the campaign world I'm building I've decided that the core ("Elder") races are human, dwarf, and elf.  The other three "core" races from D&D appear only as the result of matings between the Elder races:
Human + Elf = Half-Elf
Human + Dwarf = Halfling
Dwarf +Elf = Gnome

Other core races for the world will include tieflings and aasimar, dragonborn, and the demi-elementals (ifrit, oread, sylph, undine).  The demi-elemental types will have to designate one of the three core races as the non-elemental component of their parentage.

My BESM d20 version of the Final Fantasy Dancer class

 Okay, so in an earlier post I threatened to post some of the character classes I built for my BESM d20 game.  Here is the Dancer, a Final Fantasy class which doesn't have a direct counterpart in D&D/Pathfinder.  Note that my classes not only have a Hit Die but also a Mana Die to determine how many mana points you get per level; for the Dancer the Mana Die gets a bonus at each level equal to the dancer's Charisma bonus.

Dancer (BESM/FF)

    The Dancer is an unusual type of mage who creates magical effects with her (only females may become Dancers) special dancing forms.  The complex, fascinating dance movements generate magical power which the performer can use to affect her audience.  With their deftness, grace, charm, and balance, Dancers also make great spies.

Abilities: Dexterity and Charisma are important for the Dancer.
Alignment: any
Hit Die: d6
Mana Die: d8
Skill Points: (8 + Int bonus) x 4
Skill Points at new level: 8 + Int bonus
Class Skills: Balance, Diplomacy, Disguise, Dive, Escape Artist, Gather Info, Jump, Knowledge (Cultural Arts), Listen, Move Silently, Perform, Pick Pocket, Seduction, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Speak Languages, Tumble; Special Ranged Attack, Ranged Defense, Melee Defense, Thrown Weapons, Unarmed Attack, Unarmed Defense
                               Fort     Ref    Will
Level    BAB          Save    Save    Save    Special                                                              
1    +0                        +2    +2    +0          Flunkies 1; Art of Distraction 1
2    +1                        +3    +3    +0          Heart magic level (MKL) 1*
13    +1                      +3    +3    +1          Divine Relationship 1; +1 Character Point (CP)
4    +2                       +4    +4    +1          Special Attack 1**
5    +2                        +4    +4    +1          Special Movement (Cat-like)
6    +3                       +5    +5    +2          Heart MKL 2
7    +3                       +5    +5    +2          Art of Distraction 2; Aura of Command 1; +1 CP
8    +4                       +6    +6    +2          Rejuvenation 1; Jumping 1
9    +4                       +6    +6    +3          Art of Distraction 3; +1 CP
10    +5                      +7    +7    +3         Special Attack 2
11    +5                      +7    +7    +3         Special Movement (Light-footed)
12    +6/+1                +8    +8    +4          Heart MKL 3
13    +6/+1                +8    +8    +4         Art of Distraction 4, +1 CP
14    +7/+2                +9    +9    +4         Special Attack 3
15    +7/+2                +9    +9    +5         Mana Bonus +10; +1 CP
16    +8/+3              +10    +10    +5        Special Movement (Wall-bouncing); +1 CP
17    +8/+3              +10    +10    +5        Art of Distraction 5; +1 CP
18    +9/+4              +11    +11    +6        Mind Control (6 pts.) 1, Aura of Command 2
19    +9/+4              +11    +11    +6        Special Attack 4; +1 CP
20    +10/+5            +12    +12    +6         Speed 1; +1 CP

* Here, Heart is a class of magic spells I built with BESM which affect mental/emotional states.  For D&D/Pathfinder you could replace this with a spell-casting level but of only Enchantment spells or (better yet) even make up a custom Dancer spell list.
**consult with DM about developing your character's customized Special Attack.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sisters of the Light

Okay, so I read this post over at Gaming as Women (GaW, where the writer was complaining that in the new Warhammer 40,000 (WH40K) RPG there were no female Space Marines.  She noted that there were the Sisters of Battle, but she seemed to see that as a sort of female ghetto set up because women somehow could not be bad-ass enough to be a "real" Space Marine.  I was going to respond on that blog but they have (still) not responded to my attempt to register.

Now, overall I'm not sure what the author's problem is with non-mixed Space Marine units.  Personally I find the Sisters of Battle in WH40K to be very cool.  I don't play the tabletop WH40K wargame, but I bought some of the Sisters figures (among others) just because they're cool.  I sort of like that they have their own units--and the game world background provides a believable reason for the Sisters to exist as they do and for the Space Marines to exist as they do.  Besides, since this is an RPG, a GM can simply make up or adapt rules to make mixed units or even proper all-female Space Marine units if desired.

But then I thought about it a bit more and decided that I'd like to do a different take on the Sisters of Battle--a more anime flavored take.  The WH40Kuniverse is a pretty cool setting, but not for the types of games I'd like to run.  The in-game human society is far too rigid, sexist, racist, xenophobic, religiously fanatic, etc. to run anything in it other that fairly canon games.  So I'd rather re-do the campaign universe to make it a bit more "modern" and make the Sisters of Battle into a new incarnation: the Sisters of the Light.  Actually, I didn't really make that name up all by myself (*gasp*), Xandria has a very cool song by that name (

I started with the basics:
  • all-girl
  • deadly in combat
  • state of the art equipment
  • spiritual ethos

Then I added:
  • mecha
  • spiritual powers (a la The Force, or qi, or whatever)
  • gunships and fast starships

Then sprinkled on some "girly" bits:
  • every sister is a Princess of the Order
  • every sister has a cool pet (if she wants)
  • every sister has a "pony" (horse, chocobo, etc.)
  • there are robots to take care of most mundane chores

So, the sisters recruit a bit like the Jedi in Star Wars.  Some girls (and only girls, of course) are born with the "Light".  This "Light" is a bit like the force, but not so combat/telekinesis oriented.  Teams are send out to search for candidates.  A team always includes a White Witch, one of those strongest in the Light.  Candidates and a few close adult female relatives are taken to the main palace-fortress (Schloss Schwestern, maybe) of the Sisters on their secret base planet (planet name pending).  There they are shown the life they will live, both as a princess of the order at the palace and in the brutality of combat.  Those candidates who accept the invitation and have the support of their accompanying relatives are then tested further for their physical, mental, emotional, creative, and spiritual qualities.  If they pass they are taken on as "little sisters", more formally "Maiden Sisters".  Years of education and training follow, until finally they graduate and are accepted into one of the Circles within the order as a full Sister Princess.

Currently, I envision the order as having several military branches:
Valkyries (pilots of flying/transforming mecha, per Robotech)
Scouts (combat biker chicks, with big bikes as in Final Fantasy VII:  Advent Children)
Troopers (regular battle infantry, like the Sisters of Battle)
Heavy Troopers (heavy battle support teams; called the "Big Sisters")
Ghosts (stealthy sniper-ninjas)
Pilots (crew for the order's gunships and strike cruisers)
Angels (medical)
White Witches

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mother of all Statues

Okay, so one of the things that crops up in fantasy more and more these days is incredibly huge structures.  In the ancient world large structures were so costly to build that few got to be very big.  And some of those led to serious problems for the builders.  Modern fantasy, particularly in video games, has a tendency to constantly push boundaries in order to wow the viewer.  This includes massive structures which even the modern world would struggle to construct.

Even so, for the new campaign world which I'm working on (albeit at a somewhat glacial pace) I do want to have some really huge structures and statutes here and there.  Most will be left over from ancient times.  I roughly want to have an age when dragons ruled, an age where giants/cyclops/titans ruled, and an age where huge demons and angels ruled.  All of those ruling races would have to build big due to their larger-than-human size and all would have magic to make construction easier.

Then, a while back, I came across a page on the Wikipedia which is a List of statues by height (  Now, I think this is a very cool page in its own right, but it's a great resource for a DM's imagination.  Check them out.  One thing which jumped out at me is that the great majority of the largest ones (40+ meters in height) are Buddhist, in either China or Japan.  BTW, most of the Chinese ones are modern, post-Communist constructions.  These spectacular works of art are perfect inspiration for a GM to include monumental statuary in a game.