Monday, August 25, 2008

20 Questions

Bonus Exp! 20 Questions

Back in the mid 90’s AEG (Alderac Entertainment Group) released two amazing roleplaying games; Legend of the Five Rings and 7th Sea. Before the combat system was introduced, before classes or clans, techniques or spells there was a smaller section called “20 Questions”. These 20 questions were aimed at fleshing out a character, making them more than a pile of numbers or a stereotypical sword swinger. King and country, honor and family- these were just as important to character creation as how many dice rolled or how high a stat was.

Compare that to Dungeons and Dragons. Many people create a set of powers first and a personality second when playing DnD, mostly because combat is such a major part of the game. There’s nothing wrong with this. The d20 system and the new 4th edition system both promote such thinking. But do me a favor, next time your make a character for Otep answer these 20 questions before you’re done. Maybe you’ll only answer 5, maybe you’ll make it the whole way through- but hopefully you’ll find something out about your character you didn’t know.

Not all of these questions have to be answered. Some of them might not even apply to you.

1) What is your name and what is its meaning?

a. Not every name has a meaning, but many do. Were you named after someone? Is your “name” really a nickname given to you in childhood? If you aren’t human does you name have a meaning in your native tongue?

2) Where are you from?

a. More than just “The underdark/the empire/the free nations.” Name a city, name a town (make one up if you feel like it), name a climate.

3) Who raised you?

a. Did you have loving parents? An abusive single parent? A grandfather or grandmother? An older sibling? Were you an orphan on the street raised by a guildmaster or adopted by a church? What was your relationship with the person/organization that made you who you are?

4) What is the most important thing you learned as a child?

a. Everyone learns vital lessons while they are young, moreso in a fantasy world. Did you learn that you really couldn’t trust strangers? Not to follow the lights in the woods? Did you learn that even the ugliest creature can just be misunderstood? Did you learn something hopeful that lifts you up or did this realization crush your spirits?

5) What was the moment that you grew up?

a. Everyone grows up sometime, and its not a matter of age. Was this your first heartbreak? The death of a loved one? A monster attack? Has it yet to happen and your character is still an innocent at heart?

6) Why are you an adventurer?

a. Why did you leave your home and enter the most dangerous profession in the world? What is your ultimate goal, and what does it mean to have accomplished that? Think hard on this one, it defines who you are becoming more than any other question.

7) How did you learn your class?

a. Did you learn archery from the man who raised your or spells from an old woman in the woods? Were you raised in a church looking forward to being ordained each day or did you practice stealing by sneaking into the chapel and taking donations for yourself? Saying “I went to wizard school” is lazy, picking a name for it is better- a favored teacher, a rival and a lost love is perfect.

8) Do you like what you do, or do you wish you had chosen a different path?

a. Do you ever wish you hadn’t sold off your first day of winter to that thing in the woods? Do you stand next to the Paladin and regret your life of mercenary work? How could anything be better than communing with your deity or throwing bolts of eldritch fire?

9) What is the best thing about your profession?

a. The rhythm of battle as soldiers follow your every order? The thrill of a perfect heist? The twang of a bow and the crunch of leaves? The anticipation as you walk the line between damnation and power?

10) What is the worst thing about your profession?

a. Failing to save a friend as they lie dying in your arms, the power of your faith not quite enough? An eldritch tome that has no answers, only more questions? Knowing that as good as you are, somewhere in the world a better swordsman is sharpening their skills? The looks of frustration when you walk bye as people think you’re judging them just because of the paladin’s crest upon your chest?

11) Who do you admire most in the world?

a. The woman who raised you? Your teacher at the academy? Your king? The father you never met? A long dead hero who you’ve based your life upon? A fallen friend you couldn’t save?

12) Who are you loyal to?

a. This doesn’t have to be a complete list of ideals, but instead the one faction/group/person you are most loyal to in the world.

13) Who do you hate most in this world and why do you feel that way?

a. With few exceptions everyone dislikes something or someone. Maybe the fey took your older sister away into the woods and now you carry a blade of cold iron. Perhaps a corrupt governor put your mentor in jail (or perhaps the governor threw your corrupt mentor in jail) and you still plot revenge. Maybe you hate an entire race, an entire faction, an entire city or an entire country- just make sure you know why.

14) What choices have you made that affected your alignment?

a. Sure your character sheet says you’re Lawful Good… but what have you ever done to back that up? What good things have you done in the past; remember it’s not enough to do nothing wrong and claim it as goodliness. If your character is evil explain why, just being a killer or an arrogant bastard isn’t nearly enough.

15) How do you feel about Magic?

a. Magic is a major part of the world… but it remains apart from the everyday. Do you view it as a tool, a weapon or both? Does it scare your or excite you? Do you love the art or have you hated it for taking up more of your mother’s time than you ever did.

16) Do the ends justify the means to you?

a. Can evil deeds be justified and is your character willing to take those actions? Everyone has to do things they don’t want to- that’s part of growing as a character. This is a question of How far will you go.

17) What would it take to buy your loyalty?

a. It’s said that every man has a price, what’s yours? You’re character may not know this but you as the player most certainly should. Is it the life of your family? Magical knowledge beyond your wildest dreams? Ascending in power and influence? Or is it simply the glitter of gold?

18) What is your shameful secret?

a. Maybe you don’t have one of these… but it’s a lot more fun if you do. This can be something fun like “My surly Dragonborn rogue loves to dance… but he’s terrible at it.” Something character building “I accidentally killed my pet with Dad’s wand and have sworn never to use magic again.” Or something tragic “My beloved teacher tried to sacrifice me to Orcus during his ascent to Lichdom.”

19) Why are you with these people (the party)?

a. You may not be able to answer this question yet, but think about it when you get the chance. Just because random fate has thrown you together on a quest isn’t usually enough to stick around for the longterm. Does the fey warlock remind you of your lost sister? Do these misguided souls need the influence of your deity to make sure they stay on the proper path? Has the fighter insulted your magic and now its time to show him how powerful you really are?

20) What is your favorite color?

a. Add a splash of color to your character description and background. Does your hardened warrior woman own a menagerie of pink dresses that she would never show anyone? Are you an elf that can’t stand getting yet another green cloak for his birthday? Are you a rogue that really loves wearing black even though it makes you even more conspicuous than you already are?

And now for a few bonus questions.

1) Are you open about your past?

a) Is he an open book, sharing uncomfortable details or stories that make no sense since the people involved are complete strangers to everyone else? Does she say as little as possible and divert the questions cleverly back, hording her secrets? Do you get angry when people ask those questions? Do you make it all up each time you’re asked (Want to know how I got these scars?).

2) Are you in a relationship?

a) Is your character married, widowed, engaged or dating someone back home (or in the party)? Do you chase after wenches and elf princesses despite having promised to be true or are you a proud man-eater leaving a trail of broken hearts and crushed hopes in your wake? Does chastity make up a party of your religion or do you engage in life to the fullest each night you make it back to the inn? Are you looking for the love of your life or have they already passed you by? Are women just a distraction from your true love (battle/magic/money) or are men just dimwitted pigs and you find better companionship among other women?

3) What is your gretest merit?

a) Are you courageous, loyal and true? Charitable and patient? Would you throw yourself into the mouth of Hell to save a friend? Nobodies asking you to be a saint, just a hero.

4) What is your greatest flaw?

a) Are you greedy or vain? Vengeful or murderous. Would you endanger your entire party to accomplish you’re goals or hold debts over their heads to get your way? You’re still a hero but all the best heroes have flaws that humanize them. (Its why nobody likes Superman, and everyone loves Batman)

5) Why do you keep going?

a) When things get rough, when your friends die all around you, when demons pour out of gates to the abyss and nameless horrors scream across the sky… what keeps you going? Is it love? Duty? Vengeance? When you take a sword to the gut what makes you stand up again despite the pain? When its you and 4 others against the world what really goes through your head?

That’s all for now folks. Other articles, a primer on setting changes, new fiction and game announcements for this year are all coming soon.

Also I want to give out huge props to Andrew on his excellent fiction.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cursed By the Corrigans: Part I

The following is some intro fiction for the Serpent War, in order to help people familiarize themselves with the setting (Otep looks very different in 190 GD than it did in 500 GD) and with some of the characters.

This particular story takes place around the year 160 GD. This is roughly two generations after the Battle of Red Tide, the first uprising spearheaded by the Cult of the Twin Serpent. As retaliation for Red Tide, Gwideon I killed the dark god Dagon--who possessed the soul of a man named Simon Fischer. As a result, the endlessly reborn creature called Drowning Simon is now under Demogorgon's thrall--against his own wishes.

Our story begins on a hot summer day in the south of Otep, in a place never known by winter.

Cursed By the Corrigans

I. The Witch and the Waves

Simon didn't care for the jungles. He was a man of the sea, a place of wind and sun and the smell of salt. The jungles were another matter; constant, oppressive heat and endless shade from towering trees. Simon found the whole place unpleasant and alien; of course, there were those who would say the same of Simon himself, but that was neither here nor there.

A wretch guarded the meeting room Simon had been directed toward. He bore a tattoo of a two-headed serpent on his forehead and a black halberd, probably forged from Cold Iron.

"State your business." demanded the wretch.

Simon's red eyes swept over the man's rust colored robes, shaved head, and sandals, then over his own attire; leather sea boots, seaman's jacket, and the bandanna tying down his pale hair under his captain's hat.

"Well, I ain't here to relieve ya, so's ya best step aside, matey."

At this, the wretch raised the halberd and sneered. "State your business, or I will strike you down in Lord Demogorgon's name!"

"Keep yer voice down, ya damn zealot. I been called here. They call me Drownin' Simon. Now, if ya still want to try strikin' me down, I'd love to see ya try."

The wretch stepped aside, his face blank once again. Simon's hand pulled back from the cutlass that hung from his waste. The temple's marble doors swung open and Simon sauntered in, seating himself on a bench and putting his feet upon on the table in front of him.

"You wear your insolence like a badge of honor, Fischer." came a scathing yet lyrical voice from across the chamber.

"Ay, well, we can't all be whores, Sapphire." said Simon, fishing around in his coat for his cigar case.

Across the room, an achingly beautiful woman sneered at Simon. She wore little more than a corset and tight bodice, with her dark hair falling down to her waste, cropped short above her dark eyes. Most men found her irresistible; Simon knew better.

A male voice spoke next, deep and velvety, the sort of voice that can make the most vulgar curses caress the ears like a sweet lullaby. "We are all in attendance, let us begin."

The voice emanated from a man in a deep red robe with the serpent tattoo on his forehead and again on the back of each hand. Like the wretch outside, his head was shaved. His eyes were completely black, a mark of his station--a prophet of Demogorgon. Simon didn't want to think about what sort of bargain the bastard must have struck for such a position--or what the price had been. The room's only other occupant was a hunchbacked scarecrow of a creature wearing a mask with a long, hooked nose. The creature called the Fletcher of Souls was utterly silent--not even the sound of breathing came from his direction.

"Shall we begin with a prayer of allegiance?" said the Prophet.

Simon lit his cigar in one of the room's torches and took a drag. "We're all here. If we weren't loyal, we wouldn't-a showed up. Let's get this show on the road."

Sapphire scoffed. "Simon, your petulance rivals treason. Men have been killed for less."

"And I'll bet the fear of death was a mark stronger in 'em, wasn't it? Now are we gonna sit around and yammer all day, or are we gonna accomplish somethin'?"

"We shall begin without the prayer." said the prophet. "You have been called here to continue preparations for the Lord's approaching plot. The Headless Witch has seen to it that the Underfolk populace is kept busy with the Grimstone Empire. The Fletcher has removed the chieftains of all the major Orc clans, pushing them into a leaderless frenzy in which they will not pose a significant threat. And Drowning Simon has put the Sea Bulls' flagship at the bottom of the ocean."

"Didn't get that damned bullfish, though." muttered Simon.

The prophet continued. "All commendable feats, and the Lord is pleased with your performance, but your tasks are not yet complete.

"Headless Witch," said the prophet, turning his gaze to Sapphire. "You must tread carefully. Gladin the Blasphemer is rumored to be training recruits in his particular brand of mounted combat--the Lord is sure you recall his brutal efficiency, and wishes for you to prevent such tutelage. Stop him by any means you can--poison the steeds, turn the students against one another, the details mean little. However, the Lord states that Gladin himself must not be harmed in any way--his death would put the Empire on edge, a scenario we cannot afford at the moment. You are also instructed to keep your identity from him for the same reasons. It would be best if outside influence went entirely undetected."

"The dwarf may have a strong arm, but he's always been slow. This shouldn't take long." said Sapphire, staring at her flawless fingernails.

"Indeed. Fletcher, your assignment is the type you are suited to. There is rumor of a cult of devil worshippers outside the city of Ember. Locate them and eliminate them. They have the chance to complicate the Lord's plans."

The hunchback leered forward, and the sound of claws rubbing against one another could be heard.

"As for you, Drowning Simon, your assignment is more complex. There is a chain of islands to the Southeast called the Draelic isles. They swear fealty to Gwideo Empire, but the Imperial presence there is minimal. The entire chain of islands is considered to be an insignificant backwater."

"I know, I been around that area before. Me pearl's a few weeks' sail from the isles." said Simon.

"That is why you have been chosen for this assignment. There is word of nine powerful witches, one on each of the Draelic isles. They are sisters, and most assuredly Fae. They are called--"

"The Corrigans." said Simon, blowing smoke out his nose. "I heard of 'em."

"Yes, the Corrigans. They are powerful witches who, should they choose to take action against our Lord, could prove a sizeable threat. Our information reveals that the eldest sister, Celeidh Corrigan, is their leader and easily the most powerful of the family; without her guidance, the other eight sisters are easily cowed. You must go to the isle called Leinster and deal with Celeidh Corrigan."

"Would that be dealing with words or irons?"

"Whichever. The Lord wants you to bring back either an oath of fealty, or her head. He does not care which, so long as she is dealt with."

"Killin' a witch." said Simon, eyeing Sapphire. "Shouldn't be too hard."

"It wouldn't be, but there is another matter to be dealt with on Leinster. A cult of the Old God Vecna, God of Secrets. They call themselves Secretkeepers. Though Vecna has not been openly worshipped for generations, the Lord thinks that you would understand that living, vibrant gods are not the only ones who can pose threats, yes?"

The image of his late Lord, Dagon, passed through Simon's mind. "And what shall I do with 'em?"

"The Lord is, again, flexible. They must either swear subservience to Lord Demogorgon or have enough of their number killed that they will not be a threat. There is no preference as to which, but by their clandestine nature, they may prove difficult to eliminate with force."

"Anything they do I should know about?"

"They venerate Vecna, and have power over secrets. You can imagine the implications."

"Aye." said Simon, snuffing his cigar out on the table in front of him. "Am I gettin' me new ship, then?"

The prophet smiled. "Yes. In light of your success against the Sea Bulls, the Lord has thought it fit to reward you with the flagship you requested."

"Haha, praise Dagon!"

The prophet's smile vanished. "Praise Demogorgon, indeed."

"Aye, as you like. Is there anythin' else we need to cover, or can we be about our errands?"

"There is nothing more upon which the Lord wishes me to elaborate." said the prophet. "We will close with a prayer and offering to Lord Demogorgon."

The prophet pulled a chain hanging from the ceiling. The great marble doors swung open and a pair of cultists pushed an iron cart through. A young man lay on the cart, chained down and screaming. The prophet withdrew a curved knife from his robe.

Simon noticed that the prayer couldn't be properly heard over the screams of the offering.


Simon stood on the dock with fifty odd men of a dozen odd shapes behind him, each of them with a trunk or bag in his possession.

"And what in the name Dagon is that supposed ta be?" Simon growled at boatswain, pointing at the black shape amongst his flagship's masts.

"That," said the boatswain, rubbing his hands, "is the Serpent's Talon! The Lord has recognized that the true strength of the Mobb is in infantry engagements, not prolonged sea battles! This great device must merely be unhooked from the crow's nest and will swing downward, impaling the enemy ship's decks, turning ship-to-ship combat into an infantry skirmish!"

Simon's hand strayed to his sidearm. "It's a two-ton shaft of iron, you witless landlubber! There's nothin' worse to have in your damn sails durin' a storm! Now get it out of my damn ship before I make you a figurehead for me bow!"

"But the tactical advantages it facilitates--"

"Ain't worth it if she's on the bottom of the deep!
You're damn cultists may not be able to handle 'emselves without the earth beneath they feet, but me boys and me sunk everything the Sea Bulls could make float--we don't need no lightnin' rod in order to make us unafeared to cross the ocean. Now get that damn thing down from there."

"I think not." said a voice behind Simon that was all too familiar.

Simon sneered over his shoulder at Sapphire's beautiful form as she waded through his men. She parted them like a prophet walking through a field of the faithful. Simon's blood boiled to see his men fawning over her--unconsciously, his pale skin shifted a shade towards orange, with spots becoming visible along his neck and ears.

"And how the hell does the Headless Bitch think she has the right to tell Captain Fischer what goes in his ship?" growled Simon.

Sapphire smiled triumphantly. "Because Captain Fishmonger agreed to take the ship as-is. Lord Demogorgon wants to see if the Talon is a viable weapon, and you and your crew are his test subjects. Speaking of which, I find it hard to believe that this paltry lot can crew a ship this size."

Simon would begrudgling admit he'd made the same observation. His old ship, Scourge of Shoggoth, had been barely half the size of the new flagship. His crew might be enough to sail her, but not to man her guns.

Simon heard many of his crew murmuring agreement, enthralled by Sapphire's glamers. His hand twitched on the sidearm, while his right hand began to move instinctlively towards the cutlass.

"Luckily for you, Simon, I care enough for the Lord's plans to have accounted for this problem. I have thirty men and women, hand picked and ready to serve."

"And I'm sure every last one of them is ready to sink a dagger into me back as soon as it's to 'em. Get yer damn demon-worshippers out of me hair, Sapphire. I'll pick up some boys along the way. And besides."

Simon spat on her boots. "It's bad luck to have a woman on a ship."

Sapphire sneered and beckoned to one of Simon's men--Blackbeard Ironfist--and the dwarf undid his bandana and began wiping her shoe off. "We both know that killing you doesn't do any good. Let's just say it's in my best interests that your mission succeeds. Besides, if one of us doesn't do the other a good turn sooner or later, we're going to wind up turning our irons on each other instead of those filthy Imperials."

"I don't trust you as far as I can spit, Sapphire. You ain't nothin' but a lyin' whore in me book, and ya know it. But I ain't got time to pick 'em over meself. You send yer boys along, and we'll see if that's worth changin', ya hear?"

"Couldn't agree more." said Sapphire, a smug grin resting on her perfect features. She strode off through the crowd, which parted before her once again.

Simon beckoned to his first mate, a half-breed of mixed human and elven stock who called himself Asrael hands. The aging sailor came over.

"Get the men settled, I'll get the new lot aboard. Start takin' a look at that Talon, see if there's a way we can drop the cursed thing without tippin' the ship over."

"Aye, cap'n." said Asrael. "But ya best get Eddy Brushes out on the side. This ship ain't got a name, and you know an unnamed ship's bad luck."

"Aye, so it is."

"Any idea what you'll call her?" asked Asrael.

"I think I got an idea." said Simon, looking at the Talon among the masts.


The Cursor pulled up her anchor and set sail the next morning, as the sun rose. Simon stood at the front of the flagship, the twin serpent design flying beneath a larger flag bearing Dagon's symbol, a pair of black eyes beneath a finlike crest.

Around one in the afternoon, Simon called the Chaplain Sapphire had installed into his cabin, where they had a serious discussion that lasted more than an hour. In it, the Chaplain, a man named Hayt, contradicted Simon and challenged his leadership no less than eleven times. At sunset, Simon forced Hayt down a plank of wooden built into the side of the Cursor for just such a purpose, informing the crew that questioning his authority would not be tolerated.

The rest of the journey to Leinster was uneventful.

Snake Eyes: Favored Class Equivalencies

Most races in the game use one of the 11 core classes for their favored class. This works fine in theory, but many non-core classes mesh together very well, prohibiting non-humans from making good use of certain builds. The following are equivalencies for non-core classes based on your race's favored class. In order to make this more open-ended, rather than less, if your favored class is any of the following, it's of its equivalent classes as well. I went from thematics over mechanics in assigning these, because I found that route more interesting. If your race already has a non-core class, just find what it equates to.

(Self-taught characters and untrained brawlers)
-Wilder (Expanded Psionics Handbook)
Soulknife (Expanded Psionics Handbook)

(Performers, motivators, and talkers)
-Hexblade (Complete Warrior)
Beguiler (Player's Handbook II)
Marshal (Miniatures Handbook)

(Servants of a higher power)
-Ardent (Complete Psionic)
-Binder (Tome of Magic)
Dragonfire Adept (Dragon Magic)
Favored Soul (Complete Divine, Miniatures Handbook)
-Warlock (Complete Arcane)

(Servants, but not of deities)
-Dragon Shaman (Player's Handbook II)
Healer (Miniatures Handbook)
Spirit Shaman (Complete Divine)
Shugenja (Complete Divine)

(Career warriors and the highly trained)
-Samurai (Complete Warrior)
Warblade (Tome of Battle: The Book on Nine Swords)
Psychic Warrior (Expanded Psionics Handbook)
Duskblade (Player's Handbook II)

(Wise warriors)
-Ninja (Complete Adventurer)
Swordsage (Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords)

(Champions of a cause and protectors of the weak)
-Crusader (Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords)
Divine Mind (Complete Psionic)
Knight (Players' Handbook II)

(Warriors comfortable in the woodlands)
-Scout (Complete Adventurer)

(Sneaks, scoundrels, and thieves)
-Factotum (Dungeonscape)
Lurk (Complete Psionic)
Spellthief (Complete Adventurer)

(Specialized magicians with limited training)
-Warmage (Complete Arcane, Miniatures Handbook)
Dread Necromancer (Heroes of Horror)

(Bookworms with power)
-Archivist (Heroes of Horror)
Artificer (Eberron Campaign Setting)
Psion (Expanded Psionics Handbook)
Truenamer (Tome of Magic)
Wu Jen (Complete Arcane)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Snake Eyes: The Serpent War Campaign

Hey, all! Hope everyone enjoyed their summer, but as the summer burns itself out, many of us head back to school, and that means Otep gets runnin' again. One of these games will be mine, set in the year 190 GD, chronicling the Serpent War.

What is the Serpent War?
The Serpent War
broke out in 190 GD and was Demogorgon's biggest attempt to dominate the entire continent of Otep. His generals launched attacks on multiple Imperial strongholds while Drowning Simon ravaged the seas and Serpent cult assassins killed every member of the royal family (with one minor exception). Gerkos the poet lay dead at a crossroads, leaving the Empire to fend for itself against the rising tide of madness and depravity flowing steadily out of the south.

What are the game mechanics?
Well, I initially announced Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. I know there's bound to be some folks out there demanding 4th Edition, and they're out of luck in this case; I personally believe that 4th Edition is very good at representing iconic fantasy concepts like the sneaky halfling rogue, the eccentric elven wizard, and the crusading human paladin, but rather lackluster for anything else.

However, this will not be a straight 3.5 game. Over the summer, myself and some others were introduced to Pathfinder, a third-party suppliment for 3.5 dubbed "D&D 3.75." Essentially, it's a retrospective rewrite of the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide in which the core classes are worth taking from 1 to 20, rather than grabbing the 1 to 6 level dip before prestige classes. The Pathfinder book can be downloaded from after creating a free account, or you can drop me an email and I'll send it along as a .pdf. ARGO will also be buying a physical copy of the book soon. Please note that nothing has been removed (well, maybe a few Druid class features, but it was unbalanced anyway), so all your favorite classes should still do what they used to and more. Also, it's completely compatible with all the other books.

There will most assuredly be some people who either can't get the Pathfinder .pdf or simply don't want to use it. That's fine, you don't have to. Feel free to use the regular old PG if you prefer, you can still play.

To represent Otep's steady descent down the power curve to Epic Level 6, this game will be Epic Level 10. You can find the capstones below. You don't gain a feat immediately upon reaching level 10, but most games will be with level 10 characters anyway. Theoretically, I should have people start at level 5 or so and build their way up, but Otep has never been a setting about tasteful restraint, so the hell with it.

Creating Characters
Character creation will be via the standard method. That is, roll 4d6, reroll a 1 if you rolled any, then keep the highest three. Do this six times, decide you don't have enough 16s, and reroll the whole set two more times. Speaking seriously, I won't be too strict on stats; I don't expect anyone to come in with all stats below a 16 or to have more than one negative modifier, but don't get flustered if I take issue when you show up with a character that has a minimum +2 modifier for everything, including 3 18s.

First level hitpoints will be the maximum for your class plus your CON mod, as normal (Pathfinder suggests other methods, but I find this one to be the most flexible). Roll all other hit dice normally. If your rolls are in the 40th percentile or lower you can reroll, but please don't keep rolling until all your d10s are at least an 8; be reasonable.

Build your character to level ten, then roll 1d3 (or a d4, and reroll on a 4). You get that many bonus feats to start. If you roll a one and reroll it, I will find you and punish you for your lies. You'll gain one bonus feat for every session you complete, up to ten. Although if everyone who shows up just happened to roll a 3 for their initial feats, you might not. I can do that, I'm the GM.

You can use any 3.5 book you want, including Expanded Psionics Handbook and Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords. You can even use stuff from settings, like Eberron Campaign Setting and Underdark, but keep in mind that you'll always have 0 action points and aren't from any region of Faerun.
Just some quick rules reminders on the more powerful stuff:
-Any one character cannot have more than 2 Devotion feats, and that character must actively promote the objects of his devotion somehow. You can't take alignment based devotions unless you're of that alignment, and I want to know why you can suddenly sprout ape-like muscles and get a better response than "I needed a way to boost my strength as a swift action."
-Each character is limited to 2 character flaws. Contact me if you want to have a different flaw than the ones printed.
-Each character can have only one Trait (from Unearthed Arcana)

Also, if you want to use a race that's not in Pathfinder, let me know; we can bring it up to speed. I'm warning everyone right now, though, I will not touch Spellscales or Whisper Gnomes, I think they're pretty good as is. Also, there are still no Thri-Kreen on Otep.

Campaign Structure
This won't be a formal campaign. Instead, it will be a series of one-shots conducted once a month, maybe twice if I'm bored and there's nothing to do at home. Anyone can play, regardless of if they've played in previous sessions. Players can contact me the night before a session if they want to reserve a slot, otherwise it will be the first 8 to arrive. If 3 or fewer people show up to a session, I'll scuttle it and write a fiction to replace it in the storyline.

The Big Prize
This wasn't part of my initial draft, but I think this is the most amusing way to execute it. The Serpent War has been organized by a single individual. What and who he/she is, as well what side he/she represents, will be kept secret until this individual, who I'm calling The Mastermind, arrives. I will not plan what session the Mastermind appears in; rather, his/her appearance will be determined by a die roll. I'll roll a d20, and if the result is above a certain threshold, the Mastermind will appear that session and challenge the party; however, each previous session adds a cumulative +1 bonus to the roll, so the Mastermind is 5% more likely to appear each session. The Mastermind will be an incredibly difficult, perhaps impossible fight, but defeating him/her will entitle everyone in the party to 10 bonus feats that do not count against the normal limit. In addition, you'll gain his/her inventory, some of which is artifact quality.

Level Adjustment/Racial Hit Die Feats
Races with level adjustments and racial hit dice really get the short end of the stick. I liked Sam's feat tree in the first round of Otep games, but Epic Level 10 has a higher power curve, so I'm adjusting the details a bit.

Superior Training
Requires: ECL 10, 1 or more racial hit dice
While other members of your race usually experience a plateau in learning ability at your stage of life, you press on with extreme effort.
You permanently lose 1 racial hit die and gain a class level in its place. Reroll your hit points for that level and recalculate saves, base attack, and skill points.

Unusual Skill
Requires: ECL 10, Level Adjustment +1 or higher
You've hit the wall all members of your experience, but you won't let it stop you.
Choose a class level for which you qualify (base or Prestige). You gain skill points as if you'd taken a level of that class, and can spend them as if you had one additional hit die. Use that class' skill list to determind what skills are in-class and cross-class.

Unusual Toughness
Requires: ECL 10, Level Adjustment +1 or higher, Unusual Skill
You're already smarter than most of your race. That's just the beginning.
You gain one hit die. Roll the die used by the class you selected for Unusual Skill to determine how many hit points you gain; your CON modifier applies as normal. Your base attack bonus, skill points, and saves do not improve.

Break the Plateau
Requires: ECL 10, Level Adjustment +1 or higher, Unusual Skill, Unusual Toughness
You can throw down with the best of them.
You Level Adjustment decreases by 1. You gain the class features of the class level you selected with Unusual Skill, and your base attack bonus and saves increase as provided by the class level.
Special: Each time you select this feat, you may take Unusual Skill, Unusual Toughness, and Break the Plateau one additional time, if you still meet the prerequisites. You must take them in order.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Snake Eyes: Behind the Curtain - The Drowned One Template

One of the villains in the Serpent War will be using the following template, see if you can tell who (it's not difficult). If you want to build a character using it, talk to me about it, it might be doable, but the requirements are pretty tough.

"Drowned One"

The Drowned One template can be applied to any living, corporeal creature with an Intelligence of at least 3 that meets the following criteria:
Alignment: Any evil
Deity: Must worship an Evil deity with access to the Water or Ocean Domains.
Spellcasting: Able to cast 1st-level spells.
Special: Must have sworn his or her soul to the Deity in question in return for receiving this template. Cannot have sworn allegiance or sold his or her soul to any other power.
Additional Requirements: A Drowned One must meet any two of the following prerequisites in addition to the above:
-Caster level 10
-Base Attack Bonus +10
-Intimidate 13 ranks
-Bluff 13 ranks
-Swim 13 ranks
-Owns a sailing ship crewed by at least 40 people

Template Benefits

Size and Type: The creature’s size does not change. The creature’s type changes to Aberration; reroll Racial Hit dice as necessary, recalculate base attack and saves derived from racial hit dice, do not recalculate skills.
Armor Class: A Drowned One’s natural armor bonus increases by +1d6. This bonus is rerolled whenever he reconstitutes, discarding the old value.
Special Abilities: Each Drowned One has 1d4 of the following abilities, chosen at random whenever he reconstitutes (see below).
Tentacles (Ex): The Drowned One gains a 1d6 tentacles that deals 1d4 bludgeoning damage each. If he has 2 or fewer tentacles, these tentacles (but not his other limbs) have an extra 5 feet of reach. He may use these tentacles as natural secondary attacks (with all of the usual drawbacks) or may full attack with them as primary weapons. The tentacles are too slimy to hold onto weapons, but can be used to deliver an Electrical Discharge touch attack if he has the Electrical Discharge special ability (see below).
Shark Teeth (Ex): The Drowned One gains a bite attack that does 1d8 piercing damage and has Improved Grab. In addition, any creature the Drowned One grapples with his bite attack takes 1d8 acid damage each round the grapple is maintained.
Gas Bladder (Ex): The Drowned One gains a gas bladder on his back. The gas bladder requires a swift action to inflate, and becomes available for use the following turn. The gas bladder gives the Drowned One a Fly speed equal to his base land speed (good maneuverability). A Drowned One can fly while wearing Medium or Heavy armor, but not while carrying a medium or heavy load. If a Drowned One is rendered unconscious, the gas bladder deflates and he falls, but spells that simply immobilize (such as Hold Person) will not deflate the gas bladder.
Fins (Ex): The Drowned One gains a Swim speed equal to twice his base land speed. This incurs a +8 racial bonus on Swim checks and the ability to take 10 on Swim checks regardless of distractions.
Ink Jet (Ex): The Drowned One can spray ink at foes. In water, this ability creates total concealment in a ten radius around the Drowned One. Above water, the ink blinds a single target until that target takes a full-round action to clear the ink from its eyes. The Drowned One cannot see through his own ink (but see Sonar, below).
Electrical Discharge (Su): The Drowned One’s skin holds an electrical charge that can be discharged into foes, much like an electric eel. The Drowned One gains a touch attack that deals 4d6 lightning damage. This touch attack can be used at will, but no more than once per round. If the Drowned One is wielding a metal weapon, he can add 2d6 lightning damage to one attack with that weapon instead of using his touch attack that round.
Stinger (Ex): The Drowned One gains a tail attack similar to that of a Jellyfish’s stinger. The tail attack deals 1d6 piercing damage and can be used as primary or natural secondary weapon (with all the normal drawbacks). Furthermore, the Drowned One can inject a foe he hits with his tail attack with poison (Primary damage paralysis for 1 minute per Drowned One hit die, secondary damage 1d6 CON, Fortitude DC=10+1/2 the Drowned One’s Hit Dice+Drowned One’s CON modifier). The Drowned One’s body produces enough poison to be used a number of times per day equal to the Drowned One’s Constitution modifier plus one (minimum once per day).

Special Qualities:
Damage Reduction: Whenever a Drowned One reconstitutes (see below), roll a d4. The Drowned One receives 5 times the die roll in Damage Reduction/Magic until it next reconstitutes.
Immunities: Denizens of the sea, Drowned Ones are immune to Cold and to crushing pressure caused by ocean depth. Drowned Ones have no other specific immunities, although their Aberration type makes them immune to spells restricted to Humanoids.
Sonar: A Drowned One has blindsight out to 30 feet as long as he is underwater and is able to both make sound and hear (for example, a deafened Drowned One loses this ability, as does one within the effect of Silence). This blindsight does not extend above the water’s surface.
Memories of Mortality: A Drowned One may choose to count himself as an Aberration or a member of his original race whenever an effect would reference his type.
Amphibious: Drowned Ones can breathe air and water (fresh or salt) with equal ease.
Strength of the Sea: While at least 50% of a Drowned One is immersed in salt water, the Drowned One gains Fast Healing 2. In fresh water, the Drowned One instead gains Fast Healing 1.
Reconstitution: A Drowned One keeps his soul at the bottom of a body of water in a physical object, usually a pearl or piece of coral. When the Drowning One’s physical body is destroyed, he will reconstitute at the position of his soulbound item in 1d10 days. Any items that have been in his possession since the last Solstice will teleport to his position, including (but not limited to) clothing and weaponry. When a Drowned One reconstitutes, he takes in sea life around him, resulting in a variable amount of damage reduction, natural armor, and special attacks. If the soulbound item is above water, the Drowned One cannot reconstitute until it is submerged.
Drowned Shape: If a slain Drowned One is returned to life by any means other than Reconstitution, keep all variable aspects of this template from the last time he reconstituted.

STR +2, CON +2, CHA +4
CR: +1 to +4, depending on abilities rolled.
Level Adjustment: +2 to +5, depending on abilities rolled.