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Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

BryanChavez posted:

I remember Wick waging a one-man war on to prove that Diplomacy was the actual first RPG, because of how much he personally disliked Dungeons & Dragons. When I saw this section in Houses of the Blooded for the first time, I couldn't help but completely lose it.

Funny that he went on to write a "Wicked Fantasy" book for Pathfinder. Maybe a 3rd Edition variant doesn't count or something.


Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Halloween Jack posted:

Unless everyone prefers that Carcosa be buried for all eternity, I'm glad to have mine preserved.

Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Your teachings must be passed down to newer generations.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Alien Rope Burn posted:

I certainly wouldn't review those books. It's fine if other people do, but I have no idea how you people stand it.

Hell, I don't know RPGNow puts up with it. Callousness? Ignorance? Hosting and collecting a percentage on this stuff is pretty gross.

Money, baby. Shane O'Connor on Drive-Thru RPG helped advertise Sisters of Rapture (a D20 sex book) on the site several years ago. It's basically has a lot of gross sex stuff, but unlike Black Tokyo it's dressed up as sex-positive feminism and doesn't have tentacle rape.

Also, Chris Field's D20 Modern Abortion book is sold in PDF form on Paizo's online store.

So I think a lot of it is that nerds are non-confrontational and avoid criticism of each other.

Or they just don't care anymore.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 02:08 on Nov 10, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Alien Rope Burn posted:

It's funny because Chris Fields is a Pathfinder licensee; he just avoids putting the Pathfinder label on his (more) gross stuff as far as I've seen. Mind, not that the Pathfinder license is well-policed, because as far as I can tell, it isn't at all. I considered submitting my Pathfinder review for the license for shits when I was reading it, but opted not to because I didn't want to drag SA into what would basically be me just trolling Paizo.

With RPGNow / Drive-Thru, the issue is that there's a near-monopoly there, so it's not easy to just take my business elsewhere if I still want PDF-only releases :(

Yeah, Paizo did enforce quality control once with the The Bestiary of GOP: Grand Ol' Predators. It wasn't a bad book, but it was portraying right-wing Presidential candidates as evil monsters to be slain, so they were told to drop the Pathfinder Compatible logo from their product.

It wasn't what I'd call a bad product, mind you, but since it involved political commentary Paizo reacted.

Further conversation on this might be better to take to another thread, or PM when I eventually upgrade my account (which might not be in some time).

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 02:41 on Nov 10, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
Dragonlance: Key of Destiny Adventure Path


For my first FATAL & Friends review, so I've decided I'd pick an adventure I have lots of experience DMing, with plenty of fond (and not so fond) memories. Basically, in the early era of 3.5, Wizards of the Coast granted permission to Sovereign Press to make Dragonlance sourcebooks as 3rd Party Supplements. The main book proper (Dragonlance Campaign Setting) is a WotC property, but the rest are the work of Sovereign Press, Cam Banks, and other hardcore Dragonlance fans. A lot of the game mechanics were... questionably balanced, at best. But it was notable for updating the original Chronicles to 3rd Edition format, D20 stats for Kender :frogout:, creating an entirely new Adventure Path set in Dragonlance's 5th Age at a time before Pathfinder started cranking them out monthly, and Legends of the Twins, an excellent sourcebook discussing time travel and parallel realities for campaigns (kind of like those Alternate Earths in superhero comics).

Basically, the Key of Destiny Adventure Path is a series of 3 books (Key of Destiny, Spectre of Sorrows, Price of Courage) where the player characters (the heroes of the story) discover a priceless elven music box, the Key of Quinari. Created in the distant past of the Age of Dreams for the benefit of dragonkind, Quinari led the spirits of fallen dragons to their resting place with her song. After her death her lullaby was preserved in this music box, it's true purpose forgotten over time to become a childhood nursery rhyme among the Silvanesti nobility. After coming into possession of it, the heroes are led along by a series of vague prophecies, wise women and soothsayers, and the machinations of Ansalon's major evil factions to discover the Key's true purpose.

The adventure overall is good, but I don't think it's aged particularly well. It has a lot of interesting locations along the way, a retinue of cool villains opposing the PCs (including a lich leading an army, a genocidal Dragon Overlord, and a lovelorn ghost elf out for revenge), and memorable fleshed-out NPCs. But on the other hand, it makes assumptions that the PCs will go along with the plot on the flimsiest pretenses, and the myriad problems of high-level combat in 3rd Edition really start to show in the latter 2 books. Still, I feel that the positives of the books deserve to be shown, and I hope that you enjoy reading this as much as I did running it.

Adventure Prologue: The Sylvan Key

Our introductory adventure is notable for being in the Campaign Setting book and not the Key of Destiny proper. It starts out in the frontier city of Pashin in the nation of Khur, where the Silvanesti Elves were forced northward by a minotaur invasion along with the Dark Knights (who were betrayed by the minotaurs). Under the control of the Dark Knights, Pashin is not a friendly area for the elven refugees, who are all forced... somewhere, and the riches and valuables of Silvanesti's cities are being sold and traded by opportunists. Even though the town is effectively under military occupation, there is a breakdown in the discipline and morale among the Knights' ranks. Pegrin, a dark knight deserter, managed to smuggle the Key of Quinari out from the elves' royal palace and is now camping a fair distance outside of Pashin. The PCs are given several hooks as to why they'd be in the area (former Dark Knight, refugee, etc), typical stuff.

The adventure's first encounter, Afflicted and Persecuted, involves a group of drunken louts accosting Kelwick and Mayleaf, a Kender father and his daughter, accusing them of theft. They're innocent of his accusation; in fact, they're Afflicted Kender, robbed of their childlike wonder and insatiable need to steal due to trauma, and the thugs really just want to shake them down (who'd believe a Kender?). If the PCs don't intervene, the men will attack, only to be broken up by the city watch. If the PCs help defend Mayleaf, Kelwick will offer to help them out in the future.

As a first encounter, its effectiveness will depend mostly on whether or not your players really hate Kender, but it's obvious that the PCs should give them a helping hand and I think it will work for most groups (it did for mine). It's not really connected to the rest of the adventure, more of a way to show off how desperate things are in Pashin. Unfortunately there are no stats for Kelwick and the city guards, meaning that the DM will need to improvise.

The next encounter, Enter the Herald, happens whenever the PCs are in a large public gathering or inn. Word spreads fast around town that the legendary bard, the Herald, is visiting. His tales are both legendary and eerily accurate, possessing knowledge of Ansalon's most notable battles and heroes. Normally I don't go much for boxed text, but I feel in this instance it's pretty great.


The Herald is a human male in his mid-sixties, with white hair and a trim beard. He speaks with an Abanasinian accent, gesturing delicately and hushing the gathered crowd.

"I am known as the Herald. The memories of Krynn are mine to know and share. In my dreams I have lived many other lives, I have led men into the battle on the sides of both good and evil, I have fought dragonback and wielded the mighty dragonlance. I have lived, love, and died a thousand times. This eve, I will share some of my tales with you.

The crowd begins to shout. "Tell of Human! Tell of Raistlin and the Dark Queen! Tell of Lord Ariakan's fall among the minions of Chaos!" A steely gaze from the Herald silences the crowd once more.

"I have another story for you this evening," the Herald intones. "I shall tell you this day of a young girl named Mina and of a great war, one fought not over control of Krynn but of the souls of its people.

Basically the Herald tells of the War of Souls. It was the last major event in the Dragonlance book series, where Takhisis (Tiamat in other campaign settings) stole the world away from the other Gods and became the sole major divine power. The cosmological shift ended up adjacent to an alien world full of titanic dragons (the smallest are bigger than the eldest wyrms of ours), and five Dragon Overlords came through and conquered much of the continent. Mina was a gifted priestess of Takhisis, who led battles against the Overlords (who were not very fond of Takhisis).

This is a good way, I think, of informing the PCs of the world's recent history, and delivering it via a noted storyteller makes it flow well into the game. Unfortunately, the Herald is biased against the Dark Knights (who served under Mina) and presents them in an unfavorable light. The crowd gets increasingly angry at the Herald, booing and slinging mud and eventually turning violent into an all-out bar brawl.:black101:

This encounter, like the Kender one, is also "beginner level," where the patrons attack with their fists (non-lethal) and there's very low chance of PC death. It (and the first encounter) also acts a way for DMs to see whether or not they're meddlesome heroes who can't keep their noses out of trouble. The adventure path is banking on this option, as it rewards PCs for acting altruistically both in terms of game mechanics (experience bonus) and "role-playing" (favors, grateful NPCs, etc).

If the PCs managed to subdue enough patrons (about 6) and/or protect the Herald from danger, the grateful bard is shocked once he sees the PCs' faces. Basically he came to town to deliver an important message he had in a dream, that a key meant for them has fallen into the wrong hands. He explains that it's a valuable elven artifact stolen by Pegrin, a former Dark Knight and disreputable man who will doubtlessly abuse it if it is not taken back.

This is the first of several "it came to me in a dream" sequences from important NPCs. Unfortunately this one comes out of left field and does not really impart much in the way of useful information for the PCs. Are we really supposed to trust a guy's dream? If the PCs don't immediately head out, then one of Pegrin's men will steal something from the PCs, preferably while they're asleep or at the inn. Do you hear the sound of that? It sounds like a choo-choo train! All aboard the railroad!

Regardless, the Herald has learned his lesson and only spins good, positive tales of the Dark Knights from now on in Pashin. For a legendary bard, he sure isn't good at reading his audience.:smuggo:

Pegrin's camp can be found with the help of Kelwick, or gathering information around town. It's a sudden and unexpected increase in difficulty for 1st-level PCs.

I don't think those measurements are to scale...

See all those tents? The 3 Fs are Two-Men Tents, As are standard sentries, and B are night sentries, for a total of 6 bandits. They're all 1st level warriors with Toughness and maximum hit points, and can be quite a challenge. Add to that Pegrin being a 2nd-level Barbarian, a sorcerer for hired help (who's a teenager and has low morale), and a second in command with a Rogue level and you've got 9, count'em 9 potential enemies all at once. Obviously discretion is the better part of virtue, and if their leaders (Pegrin and the Rogue) aren't killed they'll doubtlessly come looking for the PCs if they steal the Key. Pegrin himself is a tough man who can hit hard when raging (+8 to-hit with longsword, 1d8+7 damage), and the sorcerer has a scroll of sleep. When I ran the session I either had to tone down the opposition or encourage hit-and-run stealth tactics. A mostly-warrior party short on sneaky types and spellcasters will fare far worse here.

If the heroes manage to subdue Pegrin's men and get the Key (along with some other treasure), they'll find it a delicately crafted music box which the Herald can confirm is what he dreamt of. When wound up it plays a song as the handcrafted woman performs a slow dance. Only Bardic Knowledge works on identifying it, revealing that it's supposed to guard something legendary. The music box itself is a receptacle, its true power known only when one can masterfully sing the melody themselves.

Thoughts so far: A rather short adventure which could be improved in parts, but given that it was added at the very end of the Campaign Setting book I figure they didn't have much to work with. It serves as a nice introduction to the setting and 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons. It takes some work in terms of adventure hooks and motivation, but nothing too major.

Next time, the Key of Destiny book proper

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 05:38 on Nov 10, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Key of Destiny Adventure Path, Book One, Chapter One: Finding the Key

The first book in the series is meant to take characters from 1st to about 7th level. By the time the PCs finish up the introductory Sylvan Key adventure, they should be at 2nd level. The introduction is also where we get the whole shebang on the Key's history.

Basically, in Dragonlance, the Elves are the race created by the good-aligned Gods of Light. Before they had a nation they consisted of fractured noble houses. The great leader Silvanos managed to unite all the houses and found a new elven nation in the great forests of southeastern Ansalon. Dragons already lived within the woods, and did not take kindly to this encroachment upon their homes. Thus began the First Dragon War. This battle lasted for 350 years before the 3 Gods of Magic (the moons Solinari, Lunitari, and Nuitari) intervened to help the elves by giving them the Dragon Orbs (known as Orbs of Dragonkind in other settings) to control the minds of the 5 species of chromatic dragons. The elves secured victory with these powerful artifacts, and founded the nation of Silvanesti.

During the War, Quinari, a priestess of Paladine (Bahamut), felt pity on the fallen dragons. She used her healing magic to tend to the wounds of those fallen, enhancing her powers with soothing melodies and earning the respect of the metallic dragons who allied with the elves as a result. After the war, she and Silvanos married, and the dragons bestowed upon her the unimaginative name of "Dragon-Singer." Gloranthia, leader of the gold dragons, entrusted her with the secret location of the Dragon's Graveyard, where the spirits of all draconic entities go to die. She used her magic over the centuries to sweep away the bodies of these mighty and powerful creatures so that those with evil hearts could not make use of them. Regretfully, such knowledge was too valuable for any non-dragon to have for long, and Gloranthia magically removed all memories of the place from Quinari before her death. The melody she sung to open the portal survived in vague recollections of her mind, eventually incorporated into the wider elven culture unaware of its true power.

The true adventure begins with the PCs returning to Pashin:


The sun is setting over the town of Pashin. Already the silver moon Solinari hangs high overhead, while the full red moon Lunitari begins its ascent in the eastern sky. The air begins to cool almost immediately as the sun sinks below the western horizon; the cold southern breeze causes the temperature to drop swiftly. You can see your breaths in misty bursts as you exhale, while every inhalation brings with it both the crisp, sharp scent of winter and the distinctive mixture of refuse, horses, and countless cook fires.

Passing through the gates of the town, you see the people already beginning to close up their shops, workers heading either for home or into one of the many taverns for food and protection from the sharp bite of the winter night. You feel a strange chill, neck hairs prickling, as if someone is watching you.

Fun facts: Dragonlance's main continent, Ansalon, is in the southern hemisphere, and its three moons are the Gods of Magic, one for each of the moral alignments. Their phases effect the power of Wizards aligned with them, enhancing or draining them. There's even a calendar in the setting to keep track of this, and the Adventure Path tells of dates. Nuitari is invisible to all but the Black-Robed Wizards.

I particularly enjoy the boxed texts of this adventure; the writers are descriptive enough in the right parts but not so wordy as to essentially dictate PC actions. I won't be copying them fully all the time, in some cases just the important bits. The first one above is presented in all its glory.

The PCs are indeed being watched, but attempts to follow the one spying upon them leads the group on a wild goose chase through town, ending at the Five Dragons Inn. In reality the person is Naelathan Shadowdark, one of the elven refugees acting under orders of their leader. He too heard rumors of the Key returning, but he can't confirm anything as of now.

Chapter One is a rather open-ended section of the adventure, both to its benefit and detriment. The game makes no more mention of the Herald from the introductory adventure, so the most likely revenue of information for players is gone. Basically our heroes are meant to wander about town, gathering information on the Key itself. This is accomplished either by visiting the most notable town locations below, or through random encounters.

City Map:

As you can tell, Pashin has a MASSIVE Dark Knight presence. They now occupy the city and serve as its law enforcement in the eastern section. Basically, they're the Evil knightly order of Dragonlance; the Solamnic Knights being the Good guys and the Steel Legionnaires the more "modern" cloak and dagger counterpart to the older two. When Takhisis (goddess of chromatic dragons and tyranny) was alive and kicking, the Dark Knights were known as the Knights of Takhisis and spiritual successors to the Dragonarmies. Now they're the Knights of Neraka, majorly situated in said nation and dominated by secular mystics instead of clerics. What resistance exists against them in Pashin consists of the town's rough and tumble sorts (it was a rather lawless town beforehand), Khur tribes (loosely based off of real-world Arabs) resentful of Nerakan tyranny, elven refugees, and the remnants of the Steel Legionnaires.

The adventure encourages the use of random encounters to move the PCs along plot-wise if they aimlessly wander about town. Most of the encounters are definitely tied into the larger goings-on in Pashin, but since that they're essentially random and have a low chance per hour of occurring (10%-50% depending upon circumstance), it's not an effective method. Not to mention a few of them aren't tied into any greater plots. Personally, when I ran I just handed out what encounters I felt would motivate the PCs best. I'll list a few of the more interesting encounters and locations together, as it would be disjointed if I did them separately:

The Bazaar: That large square field to the south of town (left side of the map) is home to an impressive assortment of merchant's tents, selling all manner of legal and not-so-legal goods. Everything here is over-priced, about 125%, but bartering with a successful Diplomacy reduces goods to as low as 85%. If the PCs try to get the Key of Quinari appraised or sold, they'll be pointed to Halthorne the Wise's tent, and elderly gnome struck blind when he gazed upon the form of Chaos (primordial god of entropy and destruction) during the Chaos War. This is special enough to deserve it's own obligatory boxed text!


A small, almost non-descript tent stands near the heart of the bazaar. The khaki tent is stained by exposure to the elements. The front flap is pushed open, revealing a small, wizened figure. A gnome by appearance, although an odd one at that. Completely bald, his skin is almost the same color as the tent which frames him. His eyes seem to stare straight through you; visible cataracts have turned them a strange shade of gray. The tiny figure smiles, revealing perfectly white teeth, as he wheezes softly. "Welcome, I have been expecting you. You are seeking answers, I see. Unfortunately, the answers you seek will only lead you to hunt for yet more answers. Your path is a long one and only you can find the final answer." The old gnome's smile widens slightly. "Seek out the elves, they will provide the first answers and your next questions." The gnome turns quietly, disappearing into the tent with a soft whooosh.

:tali:Vague Prophecy Count: 2. Expect this to be a regular feature folks, cause this adventure path loves them! I'd recommend altering these elements if you run KoD, perhaps making them more specific. Otherwise your players might get tired of it quickly.

Courtesan: At night-time the prostitutes of Pashin come out to make money. Most serve as information brokers for Blackbird, the half-ogre crime lord who knows most of what's going on in town. One of the courtesans, a half-elf named Dove, propositions one of the PCs as Blackbird's goons show up to collect their earnings. Too bad she doesn't have their money.

For some reason Dove is the most restated NPC of this adventure. During 2005 when True20 was the next big thing, a lot of Dragonlance fans fell in love with it and started making unofficial fan conversions. Dove, a mere 1st-level NPC, was one of the first characters converted. Not Tasslehoff, not Tanis Half-Elven, no famous dudes. Eh, to each their own.

Now if the PCs scare off the thugs, pay Dove's debt or diplomacize their way out, they get experience for the encounter. But if they intimidate or fight them off, the rest of the random encounters in town starting 1-2 days from now will be Blackbird's goons, as the man never forgets a grudge. Dove can also tell them more about the town, including that the elven refugees have gone underground and disguised themselves as lepers to avoid notice (nobody sticks around lepers), and that the store Old Omar's Oddities is a Steel Legionnaire front.

Blackbird himself operates out of the Wounded Crow. If the PCs are filled with righteous fury and want to take this guy on, well it's not going to be pretty. He's a tough motherfucker on home base. Unless the PCs shoot off a lucky spell taking advantage of his low saves, you're probably going to end up with a TPK unless your players are hardcore min-maxers.

However, if they came to engage in some information gathering, Blackbird's willing to listen if they've got the money. His place is a classic hive of scum and villainy, home to grisly taxidermied trophies scattered about the place and mercenary bands (little more than killers for hire). In the spirit of 3rd Edition's worse aspects, there's a needlessly complex social interaction table determining the price of his information based upon the asker's race, class, and Diplomacy check, but all you need to know is that 40 to 60 steel pieces (gold piece equivalent in Dragonlance) should be enough to get all his secrets out. He knows that the Steel Legionnaire wants the Dark Knights out of Pashin, that the mayor's discretely sending help but is otherwise holed up in his mansion and letting the Knights take control, and that the elves are hiding out in the sewers (he doesn't know the specifics).

Judging by these encounters, it's obvious that we're supposed to seek out the elven refugee colony! Speaking of elves...

Lepers: This encounter takes place in one of Pashin's many alleyways. Basically the PCs stumble across a murder, a gray-cloaked figure with a curved knife crouched over a bloodied body. The picture doesn't necessarily match what's going on, don't it?

This is Aranol Nightblade, a Silvanesti elf banished from his community for a terrible crime, and he just took revenge upon the one responsible for his exile. He will try escaping once discovered; as a 4th-level rogue with tanglefoot bags and caltrops, he can easily get away. Once he neutralizes the most visible threat, he will drink a Potion of Jump and spring to the rooftops to escape. Shortly afterwards a group of elves will come upon the scene; depending upon whether Aranol is present (and thus neutralized) determines their reaction to the PCs, although they only attack to kill if they're convinced of the PC's guilt in the affair.

Despite his level, it's rather manageable as an encounter. Aranol does not want to take the PCs head on, and removing and even if he goes high in initiative he won't have enough time to drink his potion in the same round. And he's a lone Rogue, meaning that he won't have many opportunities to flank and sneak attack. Sometimes when I ran it Aranol escaped, other times he did not.

If the PCs help the elves out, future encounters with them will go easier. They'll need to leave soon as a Dark Knight Patrol is passing by. If the PCs offer to help distract them, they gain experience points equal to the Encounter Level +1, for a total effectiveness of a CR 5 creature. They don't get any experience for killing the (innocent) elves. Taking the noble path is very much encouraged in this adventure over the :black101: route.

The last major encounter of note is Legionnaire Rebel, and just one big misunderstanding. It begins with a "peasant" named Jacob hurriedly jumping out of a building which shortly explodes afterwards. This is not what it looks like: one of the Legion's safehouses was compromised by the Dark Knights, but he doesn't want to look incompetent and tells the PCs that he's a freedom fighter who destroyed a Dark Knight munitions storage. He'll beg the PCs to help him get away, offering 200 steel to take him to the Five Dragons Inn. As is to be expected, Jacob isn't the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, so his wife sent her two sons to keep an eye on him and are now trailing the PCs. If spotted, they'll explain everything and ask Jacob to return home with them, who reluctantly agrees. The party's efforts are rewarded with a Starmetal medallion, which they're supposed to give to Klaudia the shopkeep at Old Omar's Oddities. This will show that they're friends to the Legion and earn them some good equipment as payment for services. If asked, she'll say that Jacob is now "taking a less active role in the Legion, working behind the scenes." In reality, he's going to spend more quality time with his family. :3:

The other major locations (Mayor's Mansion, Temple of the True Gods, Five Dragons Inn) are relatively unimportant, little more than set-pieces and services for the PCs (in the mayor's case, Pegrin has a bounty on his head which can be cashed in). If the DM feels that sufficient progress has been made, you move on to the next story-based encounter.

Prophecy & Immolation.

And what better way to move along the plot with some more boxed text! The PCs encounter an old crone in the street, who upon seeing them screeches loudly and grips one of them with fright.


Suddenly those blind eyes turn your way and the figure lets out a shriek loud enough to rival a banshee's. Throwing yourself towards your group, she collapses on the ground at your feet. Slowly, painfully pulling herself up, the crone gazes up at you with a disturbing intensity. With a low, deep moan her eyes roll into the back of her head and she begins to shudder in a grip of fever. Words begin to pour from her mouth in a whispery hiss: "The stars are set into motion, a plan both cunning and divine; beware of specters in the night, beware of unseen designs; the key you hold, others desire; protect yourself from obsession's FIRE!"

By the time she says the last word, she doubles back in a scream and burns alive with a magical blue fire. Everyone adjacent to her takes fire damage on a failed save.

:tali:Vague Prophecy Count: 3.

Proper Knowledge and Spellcraft will reveal possibiities that she was most likely possessed and/or affected by an Immolation spell, that an overflow of arcane energy burned her body from the inside out, that some spirits can kill their hosts, and that the Magic Jar spell allows spellcasters to "body hop." A bunch more questions with little definite answers, but a See Invisibility spell reveals the vague outline of a figure in the Ethereal Plane.

This book doesn't say who did this, but it was Lothian, one of the Big Bad Evil Guys for this adventure path, responsible for this, who I will talk about later. He's intentionally leading the holders of the Key along to the Dragon's Graveyard so that he can gain access himself. Of course, his overly dramatic warning causes bystanders to assume that the PCs used magic to kill the woman, and they start shouting for the city watch. If the PCs don't escape, a dark knight patrol will be on them soon enough.

The Knights will try bringing the PCs in alive, beating them to unconsciousness if necessary. The inhabitants of Pashin, unwilling to involve themselves with the Dark Knights, will not help the PCs and get out of their way. If caught, the PCs are taken deep into their encampment and stripped of equipment before being tossed in an open-air prison with manacles. "The General will decide your punishment in the morning. I'd get a good night's sleep if I were you, it will probably be your last."

Whether the PCs are caught or successfully escape, an elf will approach them.


Out of the shadows emerges a black-robed figure. Pushing back the hood, an elven face is revealed. Golden hair, cut ragged and short, frames a face that would be beautiful if not for the intensity of his features. Pale blue eyes gaze at you coldly. "If you want to get out of here, follow me."

You hear an explosion in the distance. A soft chuckle escapes the elf's lips, his head turning so that you can see a smile. "That will be my friends causing a distraction. Let's not waste their efforts, no? You've been afforded an opportunity not given by many... you've been summoned to see Shaylin. Let us not keep her waiting."

2 explosions in one day for poor Pashin. I can't imagine how the townsfolk feel about all this.

This elf is Naelathan Shadowdark, an agent of Shaylin, the elven refugee's leader. Word of the Key in their possession has reached her ears, and wants to verify the accuracy of the reports. Regardless, staying up top is too dangerous and he escorts them to a hidden sewer entrance.

Thoughts so far: This part of the review's getting long, so I'm cutting off for now. This section feels rather unfinished in parts, as it's mentioned that the Legion of Steel would help the PCs if captured, but otherwise the events in town flow together well. There's even two minor encounters involving a drunken ogre and Kender thief, who if encountered, will be found in prison and can help the PCs escape. Depending on how it's run it can be very open-ended or railroady, a rare feature in adventure paths overall.

Next time, the rest of Chapter One.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 00:57 on Nov 11, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Plague of Hats posted:

Hey so I made a site to put F&F reviews on both in case of thread archiving, to make them a bit easier to read (site formatting aside) and to allow them to be read despite the paywall. It is currently sparse, but I can copy-paste with the best of them. I am interested in getting permission from reviewers, though I can also abandon all my heroic work in the face of stern disapproval. Suggestions and pointers on how to make things look better or more readable are also a plus.

You have my permission to put up all my reviews, both present and future.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path: Book One, Chapter 1, and Intermission

Naelathan takes the party to an artesian well and sketches a symbol in the dirt for the PCs to remember. Then he swishes it away and lowers them down into the sewers (PS1 on the map), for he must aid his friends stirring up trouble elsewhere in town. The symbol is an elven rune meaning "the path is clear," signifying the entrance to their hidden colony, and he tells them as such.

The sewers are quite the interesting dungeon. Solid ground consists of 5 foot wide walkways flanking opposite sides of the tunnels, with fifteen feet of sewer water between. The exceptions are the Ghast Lair and Leper Colony on the map, which have more room than the others. Random encounters consist of typical dungeon faire: Monstrous rats and spiders, ghouls, and the like, and all of them but the rats are monsters from the dungeon itself, usually searching the sewers for good. I like this idea, as it really adds a sense of "lived in" to the sewers instead of having it be awash with randomly spawning monsters (as for the rats, it's plausible that the place is crawling with them). There's good loot to be found amid the rooms and their monsters, the remains of previous adventurers or purloined goods in the case of goblin thieves. That is, if the PCs care to venture about the sewers.

The areas marked "secret" have the symbols on the wall, but they won't be spotted unless the party succeeds on a very high Search or Spot check (DC 20 or 24), and to open it they must trace the symbol with their finger and say "the path is clear" in Elven.

This is incredibly unnecessary; first the PCs must succeed on a high die roll to even notice the symbol, it requires information they do not possess unless they encounter elven scouts as a random encounter and earn their trust. Otherwise they won't get into the colony and the plot cannot continue forward. This was another element I altered in my sessions.


With a silent whisper, a portion of the stone wall swings in, revealing a long and narrow passageway that leads to a set of stairs. The stairs open out into an enormous room carved out of the earth, possibly hundreds of years ago. The soft radiance of dancing lights overheard create the illusion that the ceiling is a starlit sky.

Instantly the people taking up residence amid the tents and lean-tos of the chamber notice your presence. Weapons glint in the soft light like fireflies in the dark.

A tall slender figure emerges from the crowd seemingly without effort. Shrouded in white gossamer robes, her silver-white hair a nimbus that tumbles down her bared ivory shoulders, this woman seems a spirit more than a creature of flesh and blood.

"Greetings," she murmers softly, her voice barely more than a whisper. "I am the Lady Shaylin Moonborn of House Mystic. It was I who called you." A small, bitter smile briefly crosses her face, her hand rising to indicate the rest of the chamber. "Welcome to our humble home. Please, you must be tired. Follow me, I will show you somewhere you can rest and I will answer your questions."

This chamber is an ancient temple to Morgion, an evil deity of decay and disease. Its dwarven worshipers were driven out by Khur nomads long ago, remaining empty for years. Now the Silvanesti occupy it thanks to Naelathan's discovery of the place. Conditions are bad, but persecution by the Dark Knights would be worse, and many of them hope that they can reclaim their homeland soon, so they remain for the time being.

Unbeknownst to the elves, Morgion was not pleased with their occupation of his temple and struck them with a rotting plague not unlike leprosy. It is curable only via magic (and even then it's remarkably resistant). The PCs can discover this through more than a casual look upon the elven community. Even Shaylin, if asked, does not know the source. Sanitation is terrible and supplies are few, so disease is to be expected, but its magical resistance is unheard of.

Shaylin reveals her true reason for summoning the PCs, that she's been afflicted with disturbing dreams which somehow involve them. Their miraculous possession of a treasured elven artifact she doesn't think is a coincidence, either. Suddenly she falls into a trance:


"There is a pattern you cannot see. Instead you must set your spirit free. Take the key to the shattered ruins, through the sands and over the dunes. Seek the answers in the sands of time, search your souls and find the sign."

:tali:Vague Prophecy Count: 4. Honestly this one remains vague for a short time, as Shaylin is knowledgeable about what the vision means. The dunes reference the lands to the north of Pashin, the shattered ruins are Hurim, once an ancient temple to Paladine and the Gods of Light. In times past one of the priests betrayed the rest to a ruthless ogre horde, and since then the place is avoided by the Khurish people, but she knows little more than that. As for the Key of Quinari, she doesn't know much, either, than that it's an artifact from the Age of Dreams and meant to unlock something great. After she answers any questions the PCs have, the party has the opportunity to rest and buy supplies from the elves and treat their wounds (although they don't have much).

If they need to leave, Naelathan will escort them out of town via a secret passageway into the badlands of Khur. As wanted men and women in Pashin and their only leads the ruins of Hurim, our heroes' journey as to the Key's mystery truly begins.

Personal Notes: The diease afflicting the elves is named Sunblight, and it has stats. It infects an elven or half-elven victim with leprosy and bestows penalties in sunlight and permanent 1d3 Constitution drain every 3d4 weeks. A very slow death, indeed. What's worst about it is that it's airborne and does not manifest immediately, and it cannot be magically cured by a spellcaster of less than 18th level. This disease plays a larger role later on in the Path, as the Tears of Mishakal are a twin set of magic items and one of the few things on Krynn capable of wiping out the disease.

Personally I would not inflict it on the PCs if an elf numbers among the party, as it can be very debilitating over the course of the campaign. I could see a DM using it as a "race against time," but it could really gimp a PC's survivability long-term.

Thoughts so far: Chapter One is hit-or-miss in places, but its strong points are good enough to forge a good game out of with some work. It's heavy on urban socialization and exploration interspersed with some dungeon-crawling at the end, and the encounters, while potentially deadly for 1st-level PCs, are overall not enough to cause a TPK unless the PCs really gently caress up. And in-game rewards via experience for heroic actions are a nice touch for getting the players to act altruistically; this might sound restrictive, but it folds in well with the kind of campaign meant to be played.

Next time, Chapter 2: The Mystery Unfolds!

Intermission: The Villains of the Adventure Path

I mentioned him earlier, but I'll do an expanded write-up on the major villains of this Adventure Path. I feel that telling a lot of their stuff up-front will leave people less confused about things.

The Knights of Neraka

Also known as the Dark Knights, their order was formed by Ariakan, son of the Dragon Emperor Ariakas. While imprisoned by the Knights of Solamnia, he learned of their ways and how the Dragonarmies turned upon themselves at the end of the War of the Lance. Seeking to turn the tactics of his enemies against them, he told of his plan to form a new knighthood to Takhisis once free, and she agreed. And thus the Knights of Takhisis were born.

The Knights are guided by 3 principles: the Vision, their ultimate goal of continental domination of Ansalon; the Blood Oath, the swearing of one's submission and life to the Knighthood (and formerly Takhisis when she lived); and the Code, a complex set of laws and rules for how the Knights should conduct themselves in relation to others. They are split into 3 major orders: the Knights of the Lily, the main military arm and backbone of the Knighthood. The Knights of the Skull, divine spellcasters in charge of intelligence and security purposes. And the Knights of the Thorn, arcane spellcasters who draw power from all three moons of magic and considered renegades by the Towers of High Sorcery (the major magical power on Ansalon). The Skull lost a considerable amount of power with the brief disappearance of the gods, but they regained it shortly after the discovery of mysticism (divine spellcasting without a deity).

The Dark Knights are a regular enemy throughout much of Book One and in the early parts of Book Two, but for the most part they are unaware of the Key of Quinari's power.

Lothian, Prophecy Puppetmaster

Lothian was an elven soldier entrusted with healing the blighted land of Silvanesti in the aftermath of the War of the Lance. He fell in love with Kayleigh, a fellow soldier. She did not return his affections, and he grew bitter; “she’s fallen for another!” he thought. “Why else would she not desire me?!” He placed blame on the other male soldiers, but kept his anger hidden from the others.

A death knight came upon Lothian’s patrol, and felled everyone but him. Lothian tried with all his might to heal Kayleigh, but his goddess would not help him. The death knight offered to spare his life and that of Kayleigh’s, but only if Lothian swore allegiance to Chemosh, God of Death. He accepted.

Kayleigh’s spirit would be bound to Lothian, but both their souls belonged to Chemosh upon his death. Lothian made a bad deal in the heat of the moment, and he grew to resent Chemosh’s hold on them. He researched ways of getting around this agreement, and learned of the Shroud of Soul’s Calling. This artifact is said to be located in Quinari’s Tomb, capable of bringing a spirit back from the afterlife and out of the clutches of a God. Lothian also learned that the Tomb was located in the Dragon’s Graveyard, and he searched in vain for the Key of Quinari. It was only until the music box was brought out of the protective ward of Silvanesti that Lothian’s plans were set into action. He ordered Kayleigh to manipulate the Key’s holders on a set path to bring them to the Dragon’s Graveyard, contacting seers and using visions of a ghostly maiden in distress to direct the PCs to desired points. All of those holy artifacts gained across the adventure path? Simple, Lothian’s leading them along like puppet strings so that they’re well-equipped in the inevitable fight against Chemosh’s forces.

Before you start feeling sorry for Lothian, keep in mind that he still wants Kayleigh for himself and can't accept the fact that she resents him for all that he's put her through. Even then, I consider him less of a bad guy than Caeldor or Gellidus given that his end goal will result in breaking the hold Chemosh has over hims and Kayleigh. To him, it's survival; Caeldor and Gellidus are all about power and conquest.

Caeldor the Traitor

Caeldor's the rear end in a top hat responsible for the massacre at Hurim, and Chemosh's high priest in the mortal plane. As a powerful lich, he desires the Key of Quinari as part of his plans to raise and undead army and take over Ansalon in the process. Supplemented by the bodies and souls of undead dragons, there would be no force on Krynn powerful enough to stop him.

Gellidus, White Dragon Overlord

When Takhisis stole the world during the 5th Age and the War of Souls, the Material Plane became close to a world of titanic dragons, and Gellidus was one of the five who made his way over. They set about conquering much of Ansalon, committing genocide against much of dragonkind in the process and stealing their power via grisly magical pillars of bones known as Skull Totems. Despite being fellow chromatics, they had no intention of sharing power with each other, or Takhisis, and only two of them survive at war's end. Gellidus the White, and Onysablet the Black. With the bones of the Dragon's Graveyard, he stands a chance at becoming the most powerful person in all of Krynn, possibly to rival the Gods themselves!

Quite an assortment of fiends, don't you think? I really like the idea of multiple villainous factions warring over a legendary power source, and having one of them an established power player and Big Name NPC gives a very high sense of conflict in the campaign, that what the players are doing matters on an international scale.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 05:17 on Nov 12, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path, Book One Chapter 2: The Mystery Unfolds

Ideally the authors estimate that the PCs should be 3rd level at this point, 4th or 5th level by the time they reach the Shattered Temple of Hurim. This is overall accurate, although in my several times of DMing this adventure my groups did not hit 5th level that early. Very dedicated and meticulous parties could theoretically reach this amount of experience, though.

Khur is an arid nation of desert and badlands, flanked by Neraka to the north and Silvanesti to the south. The majority of its people are nomads divided into seven large tribes, with a few large cities. The PCs have between 50-75 miles of travel from Pashin to the ruins of Hurim, averaging 3 to 5 days of travel.

This section of the adventure shifts to wilderness travel, and Key of Destiny does not disappoint in this regard. Extensive detail the flora, fauna, and weather conditions of locations is present throughout the entire adventure path. It really helps the DM create a descriptive picture beyond random encounters. Southern Khur is a land of extremes, of great heat in the daytime and bitter cold at night. Clouds are sparse, leading a famous poet to describe the night sky as "a polished bowl of obsidian, scattered with a glittering spray of diamond dust." Small animals such as insects, lizards, and various birds of prey survive in the harsh lands, with some cheetahs, elephants, and other large mammals in the fertile valley between the Thon-Thalas River. Unique plant life includes the dangerous crystalline Shimmerweed, whose radiance can fascinate onlookers into docility for other predators, the dense living stones which are actually calcified petals saturated with concentrated proteins and minerals, and the Broad-Leaf which gathers moisture from passing fogs which sweep across the desert.

Random encounter-wise, the desert's relatively uneventful, usually in the form of giant ants, minotaur scouts, friendly centaurs, and bandits (who are all mounted on horseback and can thus be difficult, but a great reward for slow-moving PCs). Two of them are semi-linked as part of a mini-story: two giant eagle parents had their eggs stolen by draconians, humanoid dragon-men who broke off from the Dark Knights. If the PCs can help find and rescue their eggs, they'll be gifted with a one-use magic item: a Feather Whistle which can summon the eagles to fight for them in combat. Nifty!

Of course, given that the PCs were just dropped into the middle of the desert, they are probably in need of some supplies. Not to worry, for eventually they run into the Mikku, one of the seven major Khurish tribes!


In the distance you begin to make out the sounds of laughter, of voices raised in conversation and song.

You can spot the source of the noise. Situated in a dry gully is a large nomad encampment. Bright, colorful tents are spread like a field of windflowers, vivid even in the dying light of the setting sun. The camp's arranged in concentric circles, the largest tents situated near the center, ringing an enormous bonfire.

Most of the campers are situated near the camp's heart, where a celebration is being held. Scantily-clad figures wrapped in billowing scarves with gem-like hues dance about the bonfire, accompanied by a boisterous cacophony of dozens of instruments playing a raucous tune.

The Mikku are a tribe of performers who've traveled the length and breadth of Khur. They're camping out in preparation for the annual Khur festival, months away but no less eager for practice. They'll be friendly upon meeting the PCs, and if they do not take hostile action will be escorted by warriors to Alakar the Silent, the tribe's leader. Alakar encourages them to join in the festivities and will be happy to answer any of their questions, which are interspersed with small talk and ensuring that they feel welcome in the camp. As a sign of hospitality, they'll be offered salt with their meals. A bond of salt signifies that the guests will come to no harm as long as they remain within the giver's house (or tribe, in this case). This was actually a real-world tradition among Arabs in the distant past.

Alakar is more than happy to tell them the history of Khur and the tribes, and of Hurim and the Shattered Temple.

Basically, about 400 years ago, eastern Ansalon was dominated by the Empire of Istar. They started out as a Lawful Good theocracy who genuinely brought about a high standard of living among the people and a safe haven for the faithful of the Gods of Light. The last Kingpriest, Beldinas, became increasingly power-mad and delusional in his quest to purge the world of evil, harming countless innocents and bringing the wrath of the Gods of Light through a terrible event known as the Cataclysm. A giant meteor descended upon the capital, plunging a good portion of the region underwater and irreversibly changing the landscape.

Khur was a fertile grassland before the Cataclysm (known as the Drowning to the Khur), which created that sea on the map via huge floods. During the chaos, a single leader named Keja arose to unite the tribes and forge a new nation. After his death each of his sons split up and led their own tribes, which are now known as the Fin-Masker, Hachakee, Mayakhur, Tondoon, Weya-Lu, Mikku, and the "true" Khur).

Before the Cataclysm, Hurim served as an Istaran outpost. As more pilgrims settled, a temple was built, open to all worshipers of the Gods of Light. During the Night of Betrayal one of the priests helped an ogre army slaughter the temple's inhabitants, and a dire curse was left upon the valley. From that day since, no Khur set foot within and lived beyond the next lunar cycle. The Cataclysm generated a landslide which sealed off the valley, and no one has seen fit to clear it.

There's also a seer named Asmara in the camp, who can read the PCs futures. The DM is encouraged to make some up to flesh out their own side plots and play upon PC backstories, although 3 sample readings are provided detailing future events in the adventure path.


"And one shall stand upon the backs of nature's builders, walk across a floor that lives, and speak to a voice that is one above the many."

"A figure of fire and damnation, forged from a Dragon's blood but seeming Abyss born, stands guard over a weapon of light long since lost..."

"The dead are restless, driven by ancient jealousies and conflicts, fight in a graveyard over the soul of one believed forever beyond reach."

:tali:Vague Prophecy Count: 7. The first refers to a sapient ant colony in Chapter 5, the second towards Sindra (evil dragonspawn villain) and Huma's Lance, the third towards Lothian and Kayleigh. The things are too vague that the PCs, even if they piece it together, will not gain any special insight until they actually encounter the characters mentioned. It's more of an "Oh, I get it!" than a puzzle for the players to unravel.

Strange Visitors in the Night

The characters are given a tent to sleep in for the night. During their rest a ghostly entity will approach the nearest elf or spellcasting PC (or selected randomly in the case of neither) around early morning. It takes the form of a little girl who will begin speaking even if nobody spots her.


You hear the soft, lilting sound of a young girl's voice.

“You must hurry… the winds carry the voices of many spirits, and they are crying for help. You must keep the key safe otherwise all will be lost. In the temple of the betrayed, you must find the shard of light. It shall lead you on the path you have been chosen to walk.”

Before you have a chance to respond or question the young girl any further, she rises to her feet and quickly disappears out of your tent. Suddenly, you hear a high-pitched whistling sound as the leather flaps of your tent shake wildly and a whirlwind tears through the opening.

Two air elementals suddenly manifest and attack the PCs! They strike as a warning, not to kill, and will disappear in 3 rounds if not slain by then.

Lothian's manipulation again. For someone who wants the PCs to succeed, he sure loves throwing dangerous stuff at the PCs!:v:

The Mikku rush to the scene to find out what's going on, Alakar parting through the crowd with a concerned look on his face. Once the party describes what happened, Asmara will ask worriedly if the child had blue eyes, if she was Uleena.

Regardless of their response, she will stand for a bit, looking off into space (but actually looking beyond the mortal veil), before confirming her fears. "Yes, it was Uleena."

Uleena was Alakar's daughter, gifted with the abilities of a seer and trained by Asmara. She died from a landslide a year ago, the same one responsible for opening up the Valley of Hurim (if you're confused, the valley was closed during the Cataclysm and opened a year ago). Alakar will ask what Uleena told them; although he doesn't know of the Shard of Light, he believes that they are marked by the Gods will ensure that the PCs are escorted safely to the Valley for the rest of their trip (but none in the tribe will accompany them inside).

The Ruins of Hurim

The Mikku stop outside the entrance to the valley proper. There is a citrus grove to the north of Hurim the Mikku will stop at, and will wait for a week for the PCs. After giving them supplies and a back-pounding slap on the back, Alakar prays that the Gods watch over them and that they might meet again.

Hurim is where things start getting serious. Undead are present as random encounters, even at daytime (although in smaller numbers), and the curse suffuses everywhere outside the Shattered Temple with a Desecrate spell, buffing undead and evil/necromantic spells. At night an unnatural fog floats above the ground all across the valley. Monstrous scorpions, zombies, skeletons, wights, and kender are but a few horrors the PCs can expect to encounter in this forsaken place.

You read that right, Kender.

A single one-time unique encounter is with Thanator "Shroud" Grave-eyes, a Kender gifted with the ability to communicate with the spirits of the dead. The PCs find him casually talking to a skull, asking it all sorts of odd questions. What happened here, do you know my Aunt Ashe, what's your name? Scuttles? Hey Scuttles, have I told you about the time that my Aunt Ashe talked to the spirit of Fistandantalus, she said that he was a skull just like you except he still had all his teeth and...

He'll be more than happy to accompany the PCs on their travels within the valley...

:spooky:AS A KENDER DMPC!!!:spooky:

Seriously, Shroud is a 5th level Rogue/1st level Nightstalker (Kender Prestige Class which grants spellcasting and a ghost companion). The adventure advises the DM to use him as back-up so as not to overshadow the PCs, but that's not gonna happen. You see, a lot of the enemies encountered are undead, and thus immune to sneak attacks. His sole spell is Deathwatch, which isn't really useful in battle than pointing the Cleric on who to heal. He can turn undead 4 times a day (although he's not very good at it), and he has no ranks in Search, decreasing his ability to find any traps. What he is good at are Opening Locks (+13) and Spotting hidden objects and creatures (+13). He's pretty much built to be a minion/back-up.

The interesting features of Hurim include the entrance (RH1), guarded by a hungry pack of mountain lions. RH2's a guard tower inhabited by 2 shadows and a spectral guardian, a ghost who valiantly stands watch even in death. He must continue his duty until the spirits of his men find peace. The men who did not pass on to the afterlife are the shadow monsters in the basement. If the PCs are willing to help him, he will reveal reveal a secret compartment behind his corpse if they defeat the shadows. He thanks them and as he passes on as "his form is swept away into nothingness as if by an invisible river." Said compartment contains his private journal containing notes on the Temple, some potions, and a magic sword emblazoned with the title "Kiss of the Desert Sky." It's a +1 Shocking Burst Longsword with blue-tinted steel and lightning motif etched into the handle.

This is a really sweet weapon for the party's melee characters, and it was the favorite of my party's Barbarian for quite some time (until Book 2, if I remember correctly). From this point on, permanent magic items have been rare in the adventure. Beforehand the PCs could have gotten a +1 dagger at the Dark Knight Enclave, a +1 Rapier from Aranol Nightblade, and a +1 Bashing Shield and Oil of Magic Weapon from the Ghast Lair in the sewers of Pashin (all in Chapter 1).

As you can tell, combat with incorporeal undead can be really tough at this point in the game if the PCs missed any of these. The dagger in particularly is almost never found by my groups as escape was their first priority, while the others are stumbled upon mostly by chance. I'd recommend making these previous weapons easier to find if you run the adventure path yourself, or cut down on the number of incorporeal undead.

RH3 is a wild orchard home to a dryad who has been driven insane by the horrors she saw. She and her monstrous plants will attack the PCs if they don't depart from her domain:


Her flesh is dark and knotty like tree bark, with a thick, sickly-looking moss spreading across her limbs. Her fingers end in long, thornlike claws, and her hair crackles in the breeze like the dead leaves of winter. Her eyes glow with an unnatural incandescence as she speaks harshly in the Common tongue. "Be gone now, or your flesh shall be flayed from your body, my pretty flowers shall drink of your blood as your bones are ground into the earth beneath my feet.

Barring killing her, the PCs can complete the encounter if they cast any beneficial spell (remove disease, cure wounds, etc) on the tree, the dryad gains a new saving throw to recover from her madness. She'll be grateful to the PCs for freeing her from her torment, and will reveal the location of a small hoard of treasure she accumulated over the years.

And yes, saving the Dryad grants bonus experience points as opposed to just killing her. Heroism!

RH4 is a dry spring housing hundreds of skeletons impaled upon sharp rocks. During the ogre assault the monsters tossed the dead and the dying into the lake, sometimes to dispose of bodies and sometimes for fun. A single wraith, the spirit of one of the dead, lairs here.

RH5 is the Pathway of the Gods, a gently sloping trail leading up to the temple, flanked by ten pure white marble statues, half of them demolished and their fragments scattered about the sand. The columns once represented the five "lesser" gods of light (Branchala, Habbakuk, Kiri-Jolith, Majere, and Solinari) in pairs, and the temple itself was flanked by the Father (Paladine) and the Mother (Mishakal) at the top. There is enough sacred energy remaining within the statues to dissipate the Desecrate curse, and the PCs will notice a difference in the air, as if the terrible sense of dread is now more... distant.

The text highly recommends introducing Shroud here if they haven't encountered him, because his special ability allows him to communicate with the spectral flickers in the Temple "and thus makes an excellent guide." And if they're too low-level to go in yet, he can guide the PCs to the orchard or fortress to "show them something interesting."

Haven't our poor PCs suffered enough?

Thoughts so far: Shorter and more linear in comparison to Chapter One, this part more than makes up for it in mood and feel. Your group might have a lot more trouble if they don't have a Good-aligned Cleric in the group (unless they're experienced min-maxers who know what they're doing). If anything, the better sense of direction made this more enjoyable for me to run and my group to play, as they had a clear goal and I did not lack in description of the wilderness of Khur or the foreboding aura of Hurim.

Next time, Chapter 3, the Shattered Temple.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 05:38 on Nov 13, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Glazius posted:

An excellent guide... who can't search for traps.

Has he got ranks in Spot or something because that's what they thought it was?

He's got a +13 bonus, so he's good at spotting hidden opponents, at least. Shroud's really just a second set of eyes... and a glorified translator for spirits.:ghost:

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
Key of Destiny is rather fond of throwing in NPC allies to accompany the party, although few remain for the majority of the campaign. In regards to Shroud, he's actually one of the worse ones, so look on the bright side! We've got nowhere to go but up when it comes to temporary DMPCs!

My group(s) weren't fond of Shroud, either. One of them chased him away, the other used him as trap/monster bait.

Back in high school I just ran the Key of Destiny for new groups. A lot of us were into Eragon around that time, so I felt that a fantasy epic style adventure path would be more appealing to new players than a standard dungeon crawl for loot.

Here's the full statblock for Shroud:

Death Sight is a 1st-level Nightstalker ability which grants Detect Undead as a spell-like ability 1/day, except he does not need to maintain concentration for its duration.

So yeah, he isn't really doing anything that a Cleric or Rogue of much lower level can't do.

And I was wrong on his Spot modifier; it's 1 worse!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 08:56 on Nov 13, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path Book One, Chapter 3: The Shattered Temple

This is a rather infamous chapter in the Key of Destiny for its poor use of boxed text. Ideally boxed text should reveal just enough of the scene and then the PCs react. Going so far as to narrate the PC's action and thoughts, or when so much action is happening that the PCs are essentially standing around doing nothing, is a bad thing for writers to avoid. But we'll get to that later.

The Night of Betrayal was an incident which happened 700 years ago and expounds upon much of Caeldor's backstory. It's significant to the larger plot, and the writers do a clever job of the use of "spectral flickers." Basically shades of memory from the Ethereal Plane persist in the temple; not true ghosts, the emotions of that one night combined with the curse essentially replays the scenes again and again as illusions which cannot be affected by outside forces. Through this, the PCs witness the atrocities committed and Caeldor's depravity.

Long story short, Caeldor used to be a priest of Mishakal, Neutral Good goddess of healing, peacemaking, restoration, and growth. As he grew older he began to succumb to the ravages of age, something even Mishakal's divine magic could not prevent. Over time he grew bitter, eventually seeking out other gods who would help him. In the temple room of the dark gods, Chemosh, evil deity of Death and Lord of Bones, answered his prayers and promised him immortality. Caeldor accepted his offer, and his soul was cloaked so that none but Mishakal would know of his betrayal. He struck a deal with the ogre shamans of the nation of Blöde to strike Hurim. The siege began, and as the priests' forces fell to the army Caeldor struck from within, killing the high priest and spilling his blood on the altar of the Gods of Light to weaken their connection, and then summoning fiends from the Abyss to massacre everyone else, priests and ogres alike.

So Caeldor got so pissed about getting old, he massacred everyone he lived with and began the path to lichdom. Talk about a mid-life crisis!

Unfortunately if done normally, the result will be the Dungeon Master reading a story to the players, a story which they have no control over and involve NPCs talking to each other (there's not many things more awkward at the table when the DM talks to him/herself). On the bright side, this chapter's got a lot of good magical equipment for the PCs, and two interesting NPCs whose roles I enjoy.


The Shattered Temple was once a grand place, a pyramid-shaped sandstone structure hewn by dwarven masonry. Despite its location in an out of the way location, great care was given to its planning, as it was one of the few Istaran temples in the region and the Empire and Khurish people both take their religion very seriously. Almost all of the rooms succumbed to the ravages of age and no maintenance, but many of its magic rooms and traps persevere. It is now inhabited mostly by oozes, vermin, and the undead.

The complex is very large, but has little in the way of inhabitants both living and dead. For a dungeon it's rather empty, but it makes sense for this forsaken place.

The party gets a first taste of the spectral flickers at the entrance (ST3):


A loud shout rises on the air, piercing the calm night with an alarm. "Ogres!" Suddenly, the sound of heavy booted feet, followed by the echoing war of bloodthirsty warriors, drowns out the sound of the alarm as a horde of ogres tears their way up the temple steps. One burly ogre, his tusks wet with crimson blood, leads the pack, pausing long enough at the temple entrance to swing at the tall, smiling statue of Mishakal with a single mighty blow. Bending over, he lifts the cracked marble head of the goddess from the ground and hefts it over his head, releasing a booming warcry that is quickly picked up by the other ogres in the valley.

As far as flickers go, this first one isn't so bad. It's far enough away from the PCs for the events to transpire, and it's frightening enough to players who don't yet realize that it's an illusion. My party immediately fled into the temple, hoping that they could hold them off somehow.

Yet another flicker follows up in ST5, this time detailing the ogre leader slaughtering the first resistance of a priest of Paladine.


A young human, Khurish by the looks of him, dressed in loose white robes holds forth his right hand while his left graps the silver medallion of Paladine around his neck.
"Paladine, hear my word, grant me use of your holy sword!"
A glowing blade of the silvery light springs into being in the young priest's hand, which he holds with determination, if not skill.
An ogre turns the corner from the stairs and the young priest leaps forward, the silvery blade leaving a glowing trail of light in an arch as he shouts, "in Paladine's name!"
The ogre cruelly laughs as he brings up a booted foot, kicking the young man in the stomach...
"Kiss your god goodbye, little man," the ogre growls before raising his club overhead and bringing it swiftly down towards the priest's head.

I cut out a few lines but you get the gist of it. The boxed text reads like something straight out of a novel, and while it's very evocative to read, doing so out loud to players loses a lot of its feel. Especially when you do it again and again, with longer ones even!

Libertad's Notes: Personally I cut down a lot of the boxed text to the bare grist, generalizing it as a one-sided slaughter of carnage. I was more descriptive when it came to Caeldor, considering that he's the star of the show and the one I want my players to remember.

One of the doors in said hallway is a Mimic, but this one's far from a stereotypical monster. The mimic (who has no name), is actually part of a scholarly expedition. His partner's an aranea (spider woman) named Anasana, a scholar and worshiper of Chislev the God of Nature. They both figured that with the recent opening the valley that the curse had been lifted, but they were wrong. The room that the mimic is guarding is the former High Priest's Locutory, used by him and Anasana as a resting place in the Temple. Together they hope to find knowledge of what happened, and possibly a way to put the spirits to rest and lift the curse. Anasana's in the library (ST25), on the fourth floor.

I really like this addition; adventuring monsters who can be reasoned with and might cooperate with the PCs, and in part inspired me to try my hand at playable monster PCs with the Savage Species rulebook.

ST8 is the High Master's Locutory, filled with cobwebs and monstrous spiders and spider swarms. A tough fight for PCs without fire or area effect attacks, but the treasures in the egg cocoons include a few nifty magical items (wand of cure light wounds, some scrolls, and a swan feather token, among pearls and art objects).

ST10 A is a storeroom of food, with metal rods with permanent chill metal cast upon them to make the room cool; ST B is the other storeroom of the corpse of a former thief filled with a centipede swarm. He has an old map marking some secret doors with "X" signs and a wand of find traps (5 charges).

ST14 was the dining hall; there are many skeletons inside but no signs of battle. The doors were blocked up and an Ogre Mage cast a cloudkill spell to gas the inhabitants. The spectral flicker which occurs describes this event with 44 half-lines of text (the book's text fits into a small 2-column format), but still. ST15 is the kitchen home to a powerful Ochre Jelly which guards some more magic scrolls and a 1st-level Pearl of Power. This nifty item allows a spellcaster to regain one of their prepared spells they prepared and cast within that day (1st level only for this one)! The previous chapters were light on loot, but the Shattered Temple's really picking up now!

The hallways of ST16 and the third floor is home to a gelatinous cube. Anasana summoned the ooze to the Temple with her magic (there's no spell in the adventure or campaign setting which does this, it's a flavor thing) to prevent other monsters from bothering her. She effectively corralled the creature to the hallways by placing an alchemical solution known as oozebane in front of many of the doors and stairs. It's a powder that dries out liquids quickly and damages oozes the same way holy water harms the undead.

ST19 is the infirmary, its injured inhabitants slaughtered by the ogres. Another flicker details how a priestess held her ground before dying as the laughing ogres converged on one of the bedridden men, who now haunts the room as a ghost. In his delusions he'll attack the PCs perceiving them as ogres, but if anyone casts a healing spell upon him he returns to normal and casts a heal spell upon the party before departing on the River of Souls (The young priest stretches his hands as he turns his eyes to the heavens. "Light bringer, gentle healer, goddess wrap these heroes in your embrace, ease the suffering from their face.")

Our Introduction to Caeldor, one really bad dude

ST20 is Caeldor's chambers. In life he was a high priest, and since he was collecting and doing evil poo poo he put up a magical trap on it (Symbol of Pain) and placed a divine marking in the Ogre language saying "protected by the dark gods." An important flicker happens within:


A rather distinguished, coldly handsome middle-aged man with pale skin, piercing black eyes, and white-blonde hair, stands in the center of the room, apparently lost in thought. His body is lean, almost to the point of gauntness, and the pointed goatee on his chin gives him an almost sinister air, particularly when combined with the intensity of his features.

He's dressed in pitch black robes, with small ivory skulls decorating the hem. His hand is wrapped around the medallion around his neck as he gazes off into the distance. Suddenly, he nods his head and speaks in a low, whispery tone.

"Yes Chief Korblack, tonight is the night. I shall take care of the high priest and the temple's defenses. All you and your horde need worry about are the guardians."


The figure falls silent again, apparently listening to the Chief's response. "You may keep whatever treasure you find. Such things do not matter to my master or myself. Now I must go and prepare for the evening's... events. When you have cleared the temple above, meet me in the Shrine of Darkness on the lowest level. There you will receive the reward promised you."

The figure releases the Medallion from his grip, revealing a grinning skull motif. "Time to put on my last disguise." Speaking a chant, the black and copper robes bleed their color away until they're pristine white and blue, emblazoned with the symbols of Mishakal.


Leaning over, he pulls a black-bladed dagger out of [the chest]. It writhes like a snake as he tucks it among the folds of his robes and walks towards the door with purposeful strides.

The stuff I cut out was more talking with the ogre chief over preparations for the attack and him unlocking the chest with a spell. Caeldor's personal possessions are in his chest, also trapped with choking dust, of holy tomes and magic scrolls. But a secret compartment contains a tome bound in human skin detailing the rites of Chemosh, and a skull-shaped black candle (Neutral Evil Candle of Invocation), a block of Incense of Meditation. The candle's loving overpowered if you have an evil cleric in the group (or someone with a great Use Magic Device bonus), so I'd take it out just in case. Overall some really valuable stuff for 4-5th level PCs to find.

ST25's the library, home to Anasana:


"Well, it seems as if I am not the only one whose curiosity has been piqued by the temple's reappearance. Welcome, fellow explorers, my name is Anasana." Her voice is warm and heavily accented and her tone seems sincere.

Anasana will be happy to share information with the PCs, although she's keen on keeping hidden her true form (a spider creature). She's not interested in fighting to the death and will flee if she cannot overpower the PCs. She can tell them why the spectral flickers are occuring, and that there are guardian statues watching over the lower levels (she did not progress past them). If asked how to "cure" the place, she'll mention that removing the impurity is beyond her means, that it requires the Tears of Mishakal at the very least, a pair of artifacts lost since the Age of Dreams. They were said to be created by Goddess herself and fell to the earth when the first murder occurred. The Tears have the power to ease the spirits of the dead and grant them peace. They work best together, but rumor has it that one of the Tears has been corrupted by Chemosh's touch.

Guess which artifacts play a significant role in Book 2!

ST26 is a secret armory opened via a hidden panel in the wall. It has masterwork equipment, holy water, and a magic Bead of Force (it can explode and trap creatures inside a magical sphere).

Lower Levels

Floors Five and Six are guarded by a Permanent Guards & Ward spell, which locks all doors shut with an Arcane Lock spell, barring non-magical lock picking (although the ogres smashed through most of them). The Grand Hall is protected by two animated statues of the deities Paladine and Mishakal, who will part ways if presented with a medallion of faith of one of the Gods of Light. The spectral flicker here details the priests' last stand against the ogres. The battle's going against them, but suddenly out of the double doors burst forth a swarm of skeletal insects followed by a pair of devils wrapped in chains. Caeldor nonchalantly walks out from one of the shrines, unnoticed by the new monsters, and closes the door to the massacre which unfolds. He came from ST29, a shrine dedicated to the evil gods, clad in polished obsidian, terrible statues of the deities of darkness, and overall just looking all evil as gently caress. The surviving ogre chieftian makes his way in, talking to the statue of Takhisis/Tiamat telling that his brethren were betrayed. The statue comes to life and consoles him, telling that he will make up for it in the afterlife as a servant and that his revenge will come eventually. She looks over to where the PCs are, an evil smile on her face: "Yes, vengeance shall not come from my hand...but from yours!"


What a twist!

There's also a room for the Gods of Balance (Neutrality) and one for the Gods of Light. The magic in the shrine of Light does not work, having been desecrated by Caeldor's actions. The blade he used to kill the high priest lies on the ground. It's a cursed item which will try possessing the wielder, biding its time to kill one of the other PCs at the most opportune moment.

The spectral flicker shows Caeldor come into the room, a look of concern on his face. He tells the high priest that a traitor compromised them from within. Still kneeling in front of the shrine, he asks who. Caeldor kneels down and whispers into his ear, "me!" and stabs him in the back.

But the priest has one last trick up his sleeve, as he lay dying he calls upon the Gods of Light to sanctify the room, triggering a powerful gust of wind which nearly flings Caeldor out of the room as he jumps away in time. A young priest, a mere boy, is unnoticed and flees into the room shortly after Caeldor leaves, unable to heal the dead priest. He asks the Gods of Light what he must do; a soft chiming sound answers his prayers as he's bathed in light, and as if in a dream he walks away from the altar filled with new resolution.

The reliquaries and sanctums (ST32-35) don't have much except for a free Commune spell for Good-aligned Clerics once per year, and a secret reliquary (ST35) with two candles of invocation (Lawful Good and Chaotic Good) and an incense of meditation.

The young boy Neran confronts Caeldor in ST38, the Sepulcher.


The Betrayer stands before the large sarcophagus, his hands held high as he gazes up, his voice echoing through the chamber as he offers a prayer to Chemosh.
“Dark God of Immortality, He Who Stops Death, I devote myself to you, in body, in mind, in heart, and in soul…”
As the Betrayer repeats his prayer, he does not notice the door opening or the young acolyte entering with the glowing short sword in his hand. In the same vein, the young acolyte does not seem to notice the large skeletal creature lurking in the shadows of the crypt.
“Halt, Betrayer!” the acolyte cries out.
Startled out of his prayer, the Betrayer turns around, his eyes gleaming from behind his skull mask as he stares at the young man. Suddenly, the Betrayer begins to laugh, a cruel, mocking sound that causes the acolyte to tremble.
“Ahhhh, so you are the one who would face me, Neran? You have not even put on the white robes of Paladine what makes you think you can stop me from completing my ritual?” The Betrayer shakes his head, clucking his tongue.
“Ye…yes, Betrayer. I shall be the one who will bring you before the gods for Justice,” Neran replies softly, clenching his jaw as he takes a step forward, rising the short blade before him.


The fiend roars as the holy light blinds it. Before the fiend, or the Betrayer, can respond, Neran rushes forward at a dead run, the blade held forth as he skirts around the fiend toward the evil priest. Time seems to dilate, the moments stretching out as Neran lunges forward with his sword…
…as the Betrayer yells out a final, desperate phrase…
…as the fiend turns and swings is glaive toward the boy’s unprotected back…
…the Betrayer’s body jerks as the glowing sword pierces his chest with enough force that the blade embeds itself into the stone sarcophagus beneath him…
…Neran screams in pain as the fiend’s weapon slices through his spine, tossing him to the side where he collapses in a faint…
…the fiend roars in victory as he turns and swings his weapon once more toward the injured boy…
…Neran closes his eyes, clutching his medallion with a bloody fist and whispers something that only his god can hear…
…a brilliant explosion of light explodes out from the acolyte’s body, throwing the fiend across the room as a golden radiance infuses the walls.
As the blinding light fades, the Betrayer lays lifeless upon the sarcophagus, his body pierced by the holy blade. Neran lays on the floor, a peaceful look upon his features, his spirit already carried away to join with his god. And a fiend summoned by the Betrayer howls in rage as it finds itself trapped in a crypt by the last words of a hero who history would remain unknown for many, many centuries…

That blade used to kill Caeldor is the Shard of Light, a +2 Holy Short Sword and minor artifact. Its blade is transparent like glass, lit from within as if sunlight has been captured inside. Against evil creatures its bonus is +4, and deals double damage on a normal hit against the undead (and allows the wielder to deal critical hits against them!). Twice per day it can shed daylight as per the spell, once per day create a cone of light which dispels all illusions (true seeing), and can ignore nonliving matter once per day as it transforms into a brilliant energy weapon.

But before they can get the Shard, they must overcome the Bearded Devil, one of Caeldor's summons, within the sarcophagus. He'll spring to life and attack them as they pick up the Shard. He's a tough cookie, with a reach weapon and spell resistance, but a well-rested and prepared party can take him down without much trouble.

This adventure path hands out artifacts like candy. With the Shard and the Key of Destiny, our Priceless Artifact Count is at 2. In my campaign it was used by our Rogue, who immensely enjoyed its ability to pierce through heavily-armored defenses and be able to do something against the undead (I houseruled that Sneak Attack works against these creatures as long as he uses the Shard).

Once the PCs remove the Shard of Light, Caeldor's form crumbles to dust. His skull mask is his phylactary, which will teleport to a far-away safehouse of his if touched by a good-aligned creature. In reality, the sword kept his soul trapped and dormant, and in several days he will reform.

So Lothian hoped to guide the PCs here so that they would learn of the atrocities of Chemosh's minions and the location of a blade so that they might fight his minions better (Lothian knows that Chemosh has desings on the Dragon's Graveyard, but little beyond that). BUT, in so doing he inadvertently unleashed the spirit of Caeldor, now the most powerful minion of the deity on Krynn. Now that the PCs entered the Temple, Chemosh witnessed what they did, and guides Caeldor to build an army and retake the Temple in time, in addition to getting the Key of Quinari himself.

Looks like someone hosed up big time. :ironicat:

Anasana will be intrigued to hear of what they discovered, but will personally disturbed at the events. Regardless, she'll choose to remain until the PCs leave, after which she and her mimic companion will leave as soon as possible.



As you finally reach the fresh, open air outside you feel a burden has been lifted off your shoulders.

"You have found it," comes a soft voice from behind you, a voice you've heard before. Turning around, you see the strange apparition of the young girl Uleena, who stands there gazing at you with those strange blue eyes that know too much.

"You must hurry, for the sands of time are slipping away swiftly... the shard of light is a key, a key that will allow you to find what you seek in the ruins of a city that once felt no fear, but now lies beneath a shadow of fire and death..."

Without waiting for a reply, the young girl turns and disappears into the depths of the temple, leaving behind only a faint scent of lilac floating in the air.

The ruined city of which she spoke is Kendermore, once the home of the Kenders before Maylstryx the Red Dragon Overlord destroyed it. The once-fertile region around the city has been warped by the dragon's magic into a barren wasteland known as the Desolation. The Mikku tribe the PCs reunite with can tell them as much, and will offer to escort them to the port city of Ak-Khurman, where from there they can sail to Port Balifor which stands at the edge of the Desolation.


At this point, the characters may being feeling manipulated, and may actively begin rebelling against being forced to go somewhere as dangerous as the Desolation and Kendermore. The may wish instead to pursue a different track to reach the Desolation, cutting through Khuri-Khan and Delphon instead of crossing the Bay of Balifor.

The Mikku will suggest that not only is Ak-Khurman the closest city of any kind, it is held by the Legion of Steel and thus friendlier to the PCs, as it is rumored that the Khan is seeking an alliance with the Knights of Neraka.

If Shroud escorted the characters through the Shattered Temple, he will depart from the characters here, choosing to remain in the ruined valley for awhile longer. Alternately, if Shroud did not go into the Shattered Temple with the characters, once they emerge outside, he will eagerly approach them, wanting to know everything that happened within. As the characters leave, they will see the kender nightstalker gladly heading into the ruined temple, seeking out some ‘ghosts’ of his own to talk to.

This is indeed an alternative route, but truly rebellious PCs might wonder why they're going through all the trouble in the first place. One of my groups began to tire of the goose chase, but they went on because what are they supposed to do, just give up? Although it's understandable, given that there's no sense in writing a huge portion of the adventure which may not be used, and the PCs are wanted by the Dark Knights in Pashin, after all (word could've traveled via carrier pigeon of them as fugitives).

Thoughts so far: The Shattered Temple's spectral flickers need to be either altered or remade so that the PCs don't feel like they're just watching the DM read to himself. That, and the Candles of Invocation need to be removed as they can be really powerful in the wrong group. Otherwise it's a fine dungeon crawl with good rewards your PCs might enjoy.

Next time, Chapter Four: Across Sand & Sea. Port towns, rough and tumble sailors, seafaring, and urban adventure shenanigans!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 05:56 on Nov 15, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Intermission: Dragonlance 101

As Key of Destiny is closely tied to the world of Dragonlance, I feel it necessary to expound upon the setting. Already I've made mention of various people, places, and events which hold significant weight in the campaign setting.

Dragonlance Lexicon is a very useful and navigable wiki, sustained by a community of devoted fans.

The Five Ages

The world's history is divided into Five Ages by scholars. The Age of Starbirth was before the rise of civilization, beginning with a conclave of primordial entities known as deities working together to create the world of Krynn. During this era the spirits are given physical forms, creating the first dragons, elves, ogres, and humans. The Gods of Light grant them the ability to enjoy life's pleasures, the Gods of Darkness ambition and desire, and the Gods of Balance free will.

The Age of Dreams details the beginning of recorded mortal history, and sees the rise of the earliest civilizations. Lots of stuff happens in this era. Ogres, elves, and humans founded the first civilizations; the Graygem of Gargath (housing Chaos' essence) is cracked and unleashes wild magic into the world, resulting in the creation of many new monsters and races; elves war with dragons in the First and Second Dragon Wars, and the first mages use their magic against the serpents. The horrific loss of life from unrestrained magic leads to them forming the Order of High Sorcery, to act as a stewardship and regulator of those gifted with arcane magic to ensure Ansalon's safety. Takhisis attempts to conquer the continent with an army of dragons during the Third Dragon War, but is banished from Krynn by the legendary knight Huma Dragonbane and the silver dragon Heart.

The Age of Might sees the rise of the human nation of Istar, protected by the clerics of Paladine during the Third Dragon War. The elven nations impose an isolationist policy, while the dwarves forge underground kingdoms and war with the ogres. Istar becomes a theocracy and Ansalon's major power. In the Kingpriests' zeal to wipe out Evil, the church enacts increasingly oppressive measures, from enslaving "evil" races to outlawing arcane magic and worship of the Gods of Balance, and even managing an order of mind-reading inquisitors to punish those thinking evil thoughts. The Gods of Light become increasingly disgusted with this state of affairs, withdrawing their divine aid and spells, but they do not change. Eventually the Kingpriest views the Gods themselves as tolerating evil and sets forth on a magical ritual to ascend to godhood himself. Paladine sends thirteen prophetic warnings to the people of Istar, all of which are mistaken as the work of Evil. Istar's crimes are punished when the Gods of Light send a meteor down upon their capital city. Landmasses are torn asunder, freak weather spreads across the continent, innumerable lives are lost, and all the Gods withdraw their affairs from the world. This horrific tragedy becomes known as the Cataclysm.

The effects of the Cataclysm are felt for nearly four centuries in an era known as the Age of Despair. The Empire fractures into independent nation-states, plague and famine is endemic, governments and infrastructures disintegrate, banditry is rampant, and starvation among the dwarven nations leads to the Dwarfgate War as a significant portion of the above-ground population is denied entry into the nation, as food supplies are low. These exiled dwarves are now known as the Neidar (Nearest), or hill dwarves.

Takhisis brings the sunken temple of Istar to the surface and uses its Foundation Stone as a divine conduit to the world. As it is not whole, she cannot manifest on Krynn. She is the first deity to bring divine magic to mortals in this era, and her forces bring law and order to significant sections of eastern Ansalon under the banner of the Dragon Empire. Supplemented by magic, monsters, and dragons, they become an international power and set about conquering the rest of the continent. This event, which comes to be known as the War of the Lance, is part of the original Dragonlance Chronicles. The Heroes of the Lance bring knowledge of the Gods of Light and Balance back to Krynn and discover the secrets to forging the mighty Dragonlances. Eventually the Heroes lead an army against the Empire, kill Emperor Ariakas, and prevent Takhisis' summoning into the world.

The Empire dissolves, but the Blue Dragonarmy manages to hold onto a significant portion of territory. Ariakas' son creates an order known as the Knights of Takhisis and begin conquering much of Ansalon. The Irda ogres break open the Graygem of Gargath in desperation, unleashing Chaos into the world. Forces of good and evil alike are destroyed the primordial gods' spawned minions, and they unite against the monsters in an event known as the Chaos War. Eventually Chaos is banished from Krynn, and Takhisis moves the Material Plane away amid the confusion. Now she is the only deity with a connection to Krynn, beginning the Age of Mortals.

The Age of Mortals sees the absence of divine and arcane spellcasting, now that the Gods are gone. New forms of magic are discovered after Chaos' release, which draw upon one's inner power. They are primal sorcery and mysticism, respectively. No longer are mortals dependent upon deities for magic. Five titanic dragons from a neighboring plane enter Krynn and begin conquering significant sections of it. Takhisis takes the form of the One God and instills her power in a mortal named Mina, who joins the Dark Knights as a cleric and leads their forces against the Dragon Overlords and kills two of them with the aid of divine magic and a dragonlance. Raistlin Majere uses a time-traveling device to form a link to Krynn and help the Gods return. They strip Takhisis of her divinity, making her mortal, but so too to Paladine to keep the Balance. Takhisis attempts to kill Mina in anger but is killed by an elf in love with Mina. Mina takes the goddess' corpse in her arms and leaves, swearing vengeance upon the elven race. Clerical and wizardly magic return to the world (although primal sorcery and mysticism still remain), and only two Dragon Overlords yet live.

Knightly Orders

The Knights of Solamnia are a chivalric order which has ruled the nation of Solamnia since the Age of Dreams. They are dedicated to the service of the Gods of Good and the protection of their nation and Ansalon, and produced some of the greatest heroes upon Krynn. They live by the ideals of the Oath and the Measure. The Oath is "Est Sularus oth Mithas," or "My honor is my life." The Measure is a set of instructions and rules on how to live the Oath. The Knighthood is separated into 3 orders: the Crown, the Sword, and the Rose. The Crown is the backbone of the order and teaches, loyalty, obedience, and assists in the training of squires. The Sword is comprised of warrior-clerics, crusaders, and teach courage, heroism, and faith. The Knights of the Rose are tasked with the Order's administration and exemplify honor, wisdom, and justice.

The Knights of Takhisis have been discussed above in the first intermission under the "Villains" section.

The Legion of Steel is a knighthood formed around the Chaos War. They are dedicated to justice and mutual aid, holding the sacrifice of Steel Brightblade as a role model. Steel's adoptive mother, Sara Dunstan, received a vision from her deceased son to form a new knighthood to protect the people of Krynn. She drew upon the ranks of Solamnic and Dark Knights disillusioned with their order's failures and sought to not repeat their mistakes. They are the "Neutral" knighthood of the game, and are less hierarchal and more open to roguish activity.

Wizards of High Sorcery

This organization is one of the most dangerous and venerable in the world of Krynn. It was formed under the guidance of the 3 Gods of Magic, who then taught mortal apprentices the art of High Sorcery. Wizards were split into 3 separate orders, each following one of the three Gods and wearing uniformed robes. They are the White Robes, Red Robes, and Black Robes. Wizards as a whole are governed by a Conclave of mages from each order, and they established five towers to aid in the learning and teaching of magic. Only the Tower of Wayreth still stands after the Age of Might. In order to prevent high-level spellcasters from running amok, the Order sends a message to any wizard of sufficient power (5th level or higher) to visit a Tower and take the test. If they refuse, they must never progress beyond simple basic spells or be branded a renegade and be hunted down by the Wizards. Failure in a Test often means death, so it is never taken lightly.

The Wizards do not regulate or impose these standards upon Clerics, who are instead managed by their respective deities. Wielders of primal sorcery (sorcerers in 3rd and 4th Edition parlance) are viewed as potential threats to magical stability, and are expected to join the Order and take the Test if they attain sufficient power or become Renegades. The Red Robes are the most conciliatory towards primal sorcerers, viewing them as an interesting new avenue of magical attainment.


The 3 original races are elves, ogres, and humans, the children of the Gods of Light, Darkness, and Balance respectively. Ogres are like their standard monstrous counterparts: stupid, large, and brutish, cursed to have their ugliness match their hearts. A reclusive civilization of good-aligned ogres known as the Irda live on a chain of islands to the north of Ansalon. They are more cerebrally-inclined and have a knack for all kinds of magic.

Humans are the most diverse group in terms of physical appearance and culture. Generally they are separated into Civilized (urban, agricultural) and Nomadic humans, although these are more indicative of cultural background than technology levels or population sizes. For example, the Khurs are generally considered nomadic but have several great cities.

There are five major ethnic groups of elves. The proud, authoritarian Silvanesti, their close cousins the more opened-minded Qualinesti, and the hunter-gatherer and druidic Kagonesti. The aquatic elves are the Dimernesti and Dargonesti, who live amid the waves and can transform into seals and dolphins. Dimernesti live closer to the surface amid coral reefs and sometimes trade with port towns, while the Dargonesti are extreme isolationists.

Silvanesti elves are technically good-aligned, but they exemplify many of the worst tropes of elves in fantasy fiction. They are arrogant and insufferable, viewing everyone else as lesser people, tried to "domesticate" their Kagonesti cousins through slavery, and are more concerned with isolating themselves as the world outside burns instead of trying to make it a better place. Later 3rd Edition supplements made them Lawful Neutral in alignment, because let's face it, being "good" is really stretching it.

There are Goblins, who aren't much different from their counterparts in other settings, believed to be the intermixing of elf and ogre blood.

The Dwarves remain largely the same, underground, clan-based, heavily bearded, and distrustful of wizards. They were created by the Graygem's wild magic from greedy gnomes. They are separated into mountain dwarves (inhabitants of the underground kingdoms), hill dwarves (those living above), dark dwarves (exiled mountain dwarves who are generally evil and very pale-skinned), and gully dwarves (said to be the crossbreeding of gnomes of dwarves, very stupid, and live in squalor all over Ansalon).

Minotaurs were a race of exiled ogres transformed into anthropomorphic bulls by the Lawful Evil god of vengeance, Sargonnas. Before the Cataclysm they were the slaves of dwarves and Istaran humans, but won their freedom after hard-fought battles. They live amid the islands of Mithas and Kothas as warriors and sailors, valuing an intricate system of honorable combat. In recent years they sought to expand their empire eastward beyond Ansalon, and into Silvanesti and other realms of eastern Ansalon.

Gnomes mostly live on the Isle of Sancrist. In the Age of Dreams they used to be human worshipers of Reorx, but were changed into their new forms as a curse for arrogance. Now they live on the Isle of Sancrist in a technologically advanced society. They are the archetype of the absent-minded professor, consumed with desire to expand their knowledge via all manner of field-testing, yet often experiment for the sake of it without regard to future consequence. They are one of the "comic relief" races of Dragonlance.

Kender are short people created by the Graygem when curious gnomes examined it. Kender have inborn traits of intense curiosity and fearlessness, with no concept of private property and a love for travel. Their most annoying habits include the picking up objects to examine known as "borrowing," only to forget about them later, leading to 28 years of disruptive player behavior justifying PC actions as "role-playing." They're the 3rd comic relief race.

Draconians were created from the eggs of metallic dragons in an unholy ritual. They are humanoid dragon-people with latent traits of their metallic brethren, and served in Takhisis' army during the War of the Lance. They managed to gain their independence after discovering the location of female draconian eggs, and one of their generals Kang defected and formed the draconian nation of Teyr. The eggs of chromatic dragons created the "Noble Draconians," good-aligned and much rarer counterparts.

Draconians' signature abilities are their Death Throes, activated upon their death which can include an explosion of poisonous gas or flames, turning to stone and catching bladed weapons inside, and similarly inconvenient effects.

I might include more setting stuff, but I feel this covers a lot of the major setting points for now.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 00:26 on Nov 17, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path Book One, Chapter Four: Across Sand and Sea

Now that the PCs have the Shard of Light, they must reunite with the Mikku and make the trek across the Burning Lands to the port city of Ak-Khurman. The nomads are chilling out in a scenic citrus grove right by an oasis, and are more than happy to meet the party and ask them what happened. Asmara in particular will be interested in their information. The tribe as a whole cannot accompany the PCs, but they can lend the assistance of two skilled scouts, Kalid and Qatan (two 4th level Rangers). "Besides, it would be well for us to hear news from our friends in Ak-Khurman."

The region between the oasis and Ak-Khurman is a giant salt flat known as the Burning Lands. In times past it used to be a salt lake which supported some life, but after the Red Dragon Overlord Malystryx wrought changes to the region of Balifor, the lake dried up and now crossing it is incredibly dangerous. There is no plant or animal life in this area, and it reaches 120 degrees farenheit during the day and near freezing temperatures at night. Random encounter wise, there's not much except for an allip (undead entity of a man wracked with guilt for betraying his family), an azer smelting crew deriving metals from the flats (dwarves from the Elemental Plane of Fire, not immediately hostile), mystics of Sirrion (god of fire, passion, and the arts) searching for a legendary pillar of divine fire, and an elven family near death and in need of water and shelter. Peacefully dealing with the last 3 encounters (and helping the elves survive and getting them to Ak-Khurman) awards experience points. I overall like these encounters; they're a nice change from the combat in the Shattered Temple, and can earn the PCs some temporary assistance from the people.

The port town of Ak-Khurman's a small cosmopolitan city ruled by the Khan of the Mikku tribe. For a time it served as a port of call for sailors, pirates, and merchants, but in recent years it's faced major changes. Resistance against Dark Knight domination made the place a haven for the Legion of Steel, and surges of elven and kender refugees from Silvanesti and the Desolation respectively resulted in some more hardship. However both groups managed to adjust well enough where in other places they'd face extreme discrimination.

Basically the main objective is for the PCs to find passage on a ship to Port Balifor. There are three ships with three captains available at the point they arrive, and helping out one of the town's factions can help them obtain passage. Naturally these are tied into the town's random encounters. For ease of reference I'll detail them together.

Additionally the city's lighthouse is home to the Red Robe Wizard Zoe Left-Hand. She operates a magic shop and can thus buy and sell related equipment to the PCs, and help administer a Test for mages seeking to join the Wizards of High Sorcery (although this is not detailed within the adventure path).

The Legion of Steel: The Legion's official headquarters in the region is a converted warehouse. Legionnaires act as a supplementary law enforcement and regularly patrol the city. Sir Lional is currently in command of the division, but can't help out the PCs for a ship unless they're members or they help him deliver a letter to Elijayess Moonshadow (an associate of his in Port Balifor), in either case he can pay half the cost for travel. He'll trust the PCs more if they helped out the rebels in Pashin, as word of their exploits spread.

If the PCs encounter a Legion patrol in a non-hostile manner in the city, a group of Dark Knight spies will attempt to attack and kill them. If they help the patrol fight them off, their reputations among the faction will improve.

This way's the easiest of the three to obtain a ship, although the whole cost will not be alleviated.

The Khan: Kenji Mikku is a shrewd politician, but Dark Knight threats, the creation of the Desolation to the east, and factional Khurish politics has left him a paranoid man. He won't meet with the PCs, and his daughter Chatomi Mikku deals with all guests. She won't give the PCs anything unless she has incentive for them to leave town. On that note...

One of the random encounters involves a lost girl no more than six years old. She'll approach a random non-threatening PC crying, saying that she's lost in town and doesn't know how to get back home. In reality she is Niesme Mikku, the Khan's youngest daughter. Tired of the restrictive house life of a noble's daughter, she finally managed to elude the House Guards while out in town and does not know where to go now once she escaped.

PCs can recognize who she is with a successful Knowledge (Nobility) check, or if the Mikku scouts are still with them they'll remark that she looks a lot like the Khan's daughter. Regardless, the House Guards finally track her down and try to forcefully separate her from the PCs.

The PCs can manage to avoid being branded as kidnappers by not immediately taking up arms, explaining the situation to them, etc, and talking their way out of it by convincing the guards of their trustworthiness (successful Bluff or Diplomacy). In such a case Chatomi will be grateful for the PCs' help and extends her father's gratitude by paying for a week's worth of lodging or passage across the Bay of Balifor.


At night, the PCs run across a murder. A merchant's dead body is tossed out of a second story building. Three figures with silver robes jump down and tell the PCs that they can leave no witnesses. They are the Silver Shadows, Chatomi's legion of spies and assassins who deal with threats to Ak-Khurman covertly. If the party already met Chatomi, she will be present and tell the PCs to not mention this incident to anyone and will let them leave. In reality the merchant was planning on selling government secrets to the Dark Knights, and had to be eliminated. Otherwise the PCs must fight the Silver Shadows, who are multi-class Barbarian/Rogues. They're the toughest encounter, all being 4th level and good attack and damage, but have little in the way of hit points. But other Silver Shadows will keep trying to attack the PCs for as long as they stay in town.

Regardless of the outcome, he PCs staying in town is a hindrance to Chatomi, and she'll want them to leave town as soon as possible and grant them passage on a ship for a 20% discount (if they approach her at the Khan's Residence).

Rand Lucas the Information Broker: Rand is a mystic in town who's trying to arrange a trade deal between the local elven merchants and the nation of Kalaman out to the west. Unfortunately he's angered some business interests in town and is being roughed up by a pair of half-ogre goons. He'll be grateful to the PCs for saving him and will take them to his office, which is little more than a sparse room at Ghanima's Inn and Smokehouse. He knows every major merchant in Ak-Khurman and will be more than happy to arrange passage on a ship at 15% discount (he's sincere, if a little shifty). If they mention passing into the Desolation, he'll tell them to find a kender in Balifor by the name of Kronn Thistleknot.

Fun facts: Rand Lucas is detailed as a human in his stat block in the adventure, but the Dragonlance sourcebook Dragons of Krynn mentions that he's actually a Brass Dragon in disguise. On a related note, the Red Wizard Zoe Left-Hand is actually a divine aspect of Lunitari, Neutral Goddess of Magic (also in another sourcebook, Holy Orders of the Stars). The NPCs in Key of Destiny have quite interesting histories beyond this adventure, if you know where to look!

The PCs could try getting on-board one of the three ships themselves without a recommendation, but competition for space is fierce among the city's merchants and they'll need to pass a successful Bluff or Diplomacy check to convince them that they're worth their time.

Libertad's Notes: This is a nice, open-ended challenge which leaves some room for error in case the players mess up one of the quests. Clearly helping Niesme find her way home is the best option money-wise, but it's the most prone to misunderstanding and might earn the PCs trouble with the law. In my campaigns one group managed to earn the Khan's favor by returning the daughter, the other group helped out the Legion of Steel by delivering the letter.

Other random encounters in Ak-Khurman include a violent duel between two merchants (business dispute) in the elven district (PCs earn experience if they help capture the duelist who dealt the wounding blow), a stampede of camels and livestock who broke free of the marketplace (deal damage to anyone in their path, PCs earn experience if they save or shield bystanders from the herd), and a press gang looking for additional "help." They're not going to Port Balifor, and if the PCs lose against them (highly unlikely, 6 2nd-level Warriors) a Legion Patrol drives them off and takes the PCs to the fortress to heal them.

Port Balifor's a rough and tumble port town on the west side of a mountain range which protects them from the worst of the Desolation. It's a smuggler's den which over the years has been occupied by the Dragonarmies, Dark Knights, and most recently the forces of Malystryx. The last one in particular brought great ruin as red dragons flew by breathing fire on houses and smashing buildings for sport. The locals got tired of rebuilding every few months and discovered a network of massive sea caves in the cliffside with the help of the dwarven community. Huge sections of town were left in ruins as they went to live in these caves, and the refugee population of afflicted kender made residence in what is known as "Gloom Town." The neighborhood is filled with traps and they never bothered to rebuild the homes, not wanting to alert the dragons that anyone was living there.

The Dark Knights operate openly in Port Balifor, but even then they avoid large sections of town, keeping close to their headquarters in night patrols. There are no random encounters per se in town, just Dark Knight patrols spread throughout (who will give the PCs trouble if they contain good-aligned clerics, minotaurs, elves, robed wizards, and other enemies) and kender traps in Gloom Town.

The PC's ship glides past the rotting docks and jetties into a large sea cave lit with lanterns. The town sheriff, a kender named Harlowe Barstoole, keeps watch over any newcomers and makes a note of the PCs. They'll meet him later in the town's only inn, Hope's End (which the ship captain recommends they stay).

Harlowe is an afflicted kender, robbed of his childlike wonder and constant desire to "borrow" things due to the immense trauma of Malystrx's siege of Kendermore. He is the closest thing the town has to an authority figure, and he's cut down men and ogres several times his size.


Harlowe is an afflicted kender with a scar over one eye and short, spiked yellow hair. He dresses in a black overcoat and carries a hefty serrated falchion in a scabbard on his back.

Spiky hair and big swords? What's this anime bullshit doing in my D&D?! :argh:

At this time Harlowe will be trying to find out the PCs' intention for visiting town. He doesn't want them drawing attention or causing trouble, as he's got enough on his plate already. If the PCs make mention of their mission in any fashion (the letter to Elijayess, traveling to the Desolation, etc), he'll tell them that he can keep the Dark Knights off of their backs and give them directions to Gloom Town. If the PCs set out into Gloomtown without directions, are being hunted by the Dark Knights, or otherwise in trouble, will be surrounded by a team of Kender:


Like gray ghosts in the darkness, you are suddenly surrounded by a dozen short, hooded figures, some of whom have short swords drawn, others merely standing on top of barrels with hands on their hips.

"You're in danger," says one in a faintly high-pitched yet clipped voice. "There are Dark Knights everywhere." The figure throws back his hood, revealing the face of a kender with tattoos along the lower half of his face that seem to cover scarring of some kind. It gives him a strange, savage look, quite at odds with the wide eyes and gently pointed ears.

The other kender look around, as if listening for something, and then the leader lifts his chin. "My name is Blight Thistleknot. You should come with us." With that, he and his gang slip into the shadows.

drat, since when did Kender become so grim? But seriously, I think that using afflicted kender was a good choice; it downplays the race's most annoying qualities and makes players more sympathetic to their plight. In fact, I like how the adventure only sparingly uses "true" kender, with the victims of hardship (Kelwick and Mayleaf in the intro, the refugees) being the afflicted ones. It's easier for players to sympathize with them when they're not acting as hyper-energetic "borrowers."

Alternatively the PCs can find the way themselves by earning the trust of Gloom Town's community with successful social skill checks and dropping the name of Elijayess or Kronn. Either way they find themselves at the ruins of an upturned land wrecked ship, the Peryton.


You are led by the kender, climbing over fallen planks and timber frames, through the hole in the side of the shipwreck. Within, lanterns and hanging sheets of canvas form a sort of warren of dimly lit rooms and offices, where other kender sleep, throw dice, carve scrimshaw, and converse over maps and charts. The largest of these makeshift rooms offers a magnificent view of the bay through a series of portholes, and a desk made from a brightly painted wooden door supported by barrels.

A grizzled, serious-looking kender with iron-gray hair looks up from a bundle of hand-drawn maps. Beside him a well-muscled Wilder Elf in a red cloak looks on silently.

"So," says the kender, removing a lit cigar from his teeth and exhaling smoke. "Are ya here to join the cause?":clint:

It's like all the kender in this chapter just got a serious Badass Upgrade or something.

Kronn's "cause" is basically reclaiming the lands of the Desolation from the remaining forces of Malystryx (who scattered into separate groups upon her death). He's enlisted the help of experienced Kender veterans and Elijayess, the elf, to scout the land beyond the mountains every week. His son, Blight, convinced him to remain in Port Balifor after one-too-many dangerous encounters which nearly claimed his life.

I did enjoy role-playing Kronn Thistleknot as an NPC. He's definitely a no-nonsense type who's seen too much, yet he retains an engaging personality which I built upon in his dealings with the party.

He'll ask what the PCs intentions are, and as long as he can confirm that their efforts will be beneficial to his cause he'll offer to help them. He lends them the assistance of Elijayess and gets set to work for the next half-hour preparing equipment and provisions for their upcoming journey. If the PCs give the elf the note from the Legion of Steel (which is just a routine report on activities in the area), he'll nod and accept it and go about his business. "You're in good hands with Elijayess," Kronn tells them. "Fella's got something on his mind, but he aint' never let it get in the way of the cause."

The PCs are given two weeks worth of food and water (they'll need it!), a pair of tents, bedrolls, and other supplies. Once they're ready to depart Elijayess will lead them out of town without delay, up the shoreline slope and the mountain trail beyond.

With the addition of Elijayess, this brings our count of Temporary DMPCs up to 2 in this adventure path. The Mikku scouts are too brief and undeveloped in characterization to count.

Thoughts so far: This chapter isn't as eventful as the Shattered Temple, but it's definitely no less interesting in its sidequests. The variability of encounters and difficulty in obtaining ship passage and access to Kronn means that the Chapter length will vary wildly depending upon how competently your PCs perform the tasks. The open-ended nature of the chapter, combined with the opportunity to sell the loot they've gotten from the Temple in town, and the cool-as-ice kender NPCs are definite high points.

Miscellaneous Notes: Elijayess always struck me as an NPC with more going on than meets the eye. When I first got Key of Destiny, he was just a guide for the Desolation, but his character hinted at something more.

Turns out I was right. Elijayess Moonshadow was the PC of Kevin Lamb, a Dragonlance writer, back in the 80s. His backstory was that of a Kagonesti elf whose people's lands were taken by the Silvanesti and enslaved by them in turn. He fought against them when trying to free his enslaved sister, but failed and had to leave his homeland for the safety of his people.

According to what I heard from Dragonlance fans and what I read in the sourcebooks, the Silvanesti cruelty towards his people isn't that far off from the backstory.:ohdear: Need I remind people that the sourcebooks treat the Silvanesti as good-aligned.

Additionally Elijayess was meant to play a larger role in Price of Courage, including killing Gellidus, but this plan was refused as the PCs were meant to be the stars of the show.

In the meantime, Kevin Lamb had a bunch of artists in the industry commission art for his character. Here's the one originally meant to be the cover of Book 3: Price of Courage:

Next time, Chapter 5: Post-apocalyptic kender cities and insane dragonspawn!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 08:42 on Nov 18, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path Book One Chapter Five: Far Less Kender

Elijayess' Stats:

By this time in the Adventure Path, the PCs should be around 5th-6th level, and Elijayess is close by. He's pretty good at sneaking but not so much at spotting hidden danger. He doesn't have Power Attack so he was behind my party's damage-dealers when running this module. He shines the most at ranged combat, where he has a high attack and damage bonus with his composite longbow. Not so good to compete with decently optimized PCs at that level, but not so bad as to be useless in a fight. He's a better deal than Shroud from the Shattered Temple, though!

As he leads the PCs through the mountains, Elijayess and the party come across a small camp and spring.


"Everything that you have heard about the Desolation is true. As a matter of fact, you probably have not heard the worst. Even with the Red Marauder dead these last six months, the Desolation has not changed. The mountains still spew their bile, the earth shakes in pain... it's a tortured land."

Elijayess sighs softly, his gaze turning towards the campfire as he stares into the past. "In a way, it is worse than when the Silvanesti Forest was caught in the grip of Lorac's Nightmare. There was something to fight against, some hope to hold on to... here in the Desolation, however, there is nothing."

Gazing up once more, Elijayess offers a small, sad smile. "But that is neither here nor there. We have a long journey ahead of us. Get some rest; we shall leave before dawn. Luckily, it is still winter, so we shall only travel for a few hours before the heat gets too bad and we have to find shelter. After the heat has passed, we will then travel some more until nightfall. Unfortunately it is too dark to traverse the mountains at night. Once we get to the desert, however, we will only travel at night. Although more creatures come out then, they are less dangerous than the desert heat.


Finally, you see a crest and hill, spread before you, is the Desolation.

The desert sands are black and crimson, a field of soot seemingly stained by the blood of every living creature that has been slain upon the harsh sands. The sky is covered by the black shadows of smoke belched from volcanic peaks scattered throughout the Desolation.

Even across the great distance separating you from Kendermore, you can see the infamous Peak of Malys towering high in the distance, a dark shadow illuminated by rivers of lava spilling from its lip. Kendermore sits in the shadow of the peak, a journey of many days across some of the most unforgiving land in all of Ansalon.

The Desolation was formerly known as Goodlund, home to lush forests, rolling plains, and the sprawling city of Kendermore. This region was home to the majority of Kender in eastern Ansalon, before the Dragon Overlord Malystryx came along.

Malystryx possessed great sorcerous powers, and she used it to shape the region to her twisted whims through the use of her skull totem. The fertile region gave way to a barren wasteland filled with treacherous crevices, active volcanoes which fill the sky with soot and ash, and lava floes which continue to reshape the land to this day. The region is now simply called "The Desolation," and it's one of the most dangerous places climate-wise in Ansalon. Traveling to Kendermore, and thus the Peak of Malystryx, from Port Balifor takes 80 miles and thus approximately 3 to 5 days. However, Elijayess heavily cautions to only travel at night for the heat is so great it can kill even hydrated people.

Only the most resilient flora and fauna adapted to survive these changes, and even then Malystryx's lingering magic spawns new, insane mutations of creatures seemingly daily. Hundreds of thousands of dire boar herds serve as the primary food source for dragons and humanoids, as farming is impossible in this region. Giant scorpions are all over the place, and the most common animals are mule deer, mountain lions, crows and vultures, silt snakes, desert hares, and mountain rams. However, many of them stick far from the desert, and dragons are the top predators; all over animals know to avoid them like the plague.

The flora which survives can be used for all manner of herbal remedies for the party alchemist. The berries of the Black Haw tree acts as a muscle relaxant and can remove the effects of mundane and magical fear; the fluid inside the stalk of the Dragon's Claw plant can be a useful adhesive; boiled petals of eyebright can treat eyestrain, blindness, and other visual ailments.

During the day temperatures can reach over 100 degrees Farenheit, causing damage to people without adequate shelter. As it is "winter," however, the deadly heat persists for only a few hours during and after high noon. Acid rain and silt storms represent the most common weather dangers.

Non non-unique encounters in the Desolation involve large, warped animals from the results of Malystryx's magic and experiments. They include and insane humans warped into deformed giants (known as Desolation Giants) and flamestone panthers, large cats of raw magma which can burrow underground to surprise prey!

For unique encounters, one includes a dark knight patrol aways from their home fortress of Darkhaven. They number nine strong, and their captain, Crager Bloodholt, is wounded (0 hit points) yet conscious, and most of their supplies were stolen by a gnoll hunting party. They're actually trying to avoid combat, and the PCs can offer to help them via healing or supplies. If the characters aid him, they get full experience for the encounter and the adventure mentions that they'll gain him as an ally in the future. I assume the party's meant to meet him at Darkhaven in Book Two, but he's never mentioned again in the adventure path. On the other hand, he does have some magic arms and armor...

The other 3 unique encounters include a run-in with previously mentioned gnoll hunting party, a band of afflicted kender raiders who know the way back to Kendermore, and Nomad human bandits led by a ruthless ranger. All of them are basic monster entries (in the case of the gnolls) or low-level NPCs commanded by a leader with some magical equipment (usually a +1 weapon and +1 armor). They'll make use of higher ground if fighting in the mountains along with cover, hiding in the sand or striking during silt storms in the desert if they can, and similar terrain advantages.

There's also Phaethon scouts, elves who can grow wings of pure flame. Legends among their people say that it is an ancestral gift from times of old when Habbakuk, Good God of renewal, persistance, and the natural cycle of life an death. The scouts will confront the PCs, asking them what brings them to the Desolation. If truthful, they'll provide them with limited assistance via directions and supplies. They are part of a larger tribe which will make an appearance in Book Two: Specter of Sorrows.

Halfway to Kendermore, the terrain turns rocky and the flat land gives way to hills and thorny undergrowth. This place is known as the Crags, as Elijayess informs the party, the former site of the Wendle Wood before Malystryx burned it to the ground. Even then, the numerous hiding places and small springs around the area make it filled with the most life in the entire Desolation. Creatures from all over congregate to the area and attempt to hold it.

Elijayess knows of one spring which is neutral territory, looked over by a trio of three hags known as the Oracles. As long as they do not spill blood they can rest up in safety and restock their water supplies. A crescent-shaped pond with trees surrounds three sides of a small hill, from which green flames emanate forth from a cave overlooking the area. The Oracles watch the PCs descend the slope to the pond and greet them.


"Greetings, strangers..." the one in the center speaks in a low, sultry tone. Dressed in a loose caftan of nearly translucent white silk, her pale skin contrasts against the flowing raven locks that cloak her shoulders and back.
"Welcome to our spring..." the one to the left picks up, her voice a soft whisper. A delicate hand reaches up, brushing silvery white hair back from an equally delicate elven face. Her caftan is of sheer crimson silk that matches the stain of her lips.
"We have been waiting for your arrival." The last one finishes in a deep, rich voice. Her hair is of a brilliant shade of scarlet, her skin a rich shade of ebony that marks her of Ergothian heritage. The flowing black silk caftan molds itself to her strong body as she holds her hands out in welcome.

The Oracles are three hags, Sorrow (black-hair), Mourn (elf), and Lament (Ergothian), their true forms disguised. They are not evil like most of their kind, and through magic and sheer persistence they've kept the spring neutral grounds. If the PCs ask them any questions, they'll offer to read their futures and answer questions via their magical talents, in exchange for payment:


As you speak, the three Oracles all gaze at you with their dark eyes.
"Yes," murmers Sorrow.
"We shall answer your questions," murmers Mourn.
"But first, you must agree to our price," continues Lament.
"For one question, you must agree to carry a burden we shall place upon you," Sorrow says in a smooth, sultry voice.
"For two questions you must agree to carry a burden we shall place upon you and you must perform a task for us," Mourn whispers softly.
"For three questions you must agree to carry a burden we shall place upon you, you must perform a task for us, and you must also give us something you hold dear," Lament murmers deeply.
"Do you agree to our price?" the three speak together, their voices melding in an oddly disturbing symphony that causes a shiver to trace up and down your spines.

For one question, the party must carry an amber amulet with them for 30 days. It is a Hag's Eye with which the Oracles can scry upon their progress. For two questions the PCs must locate an ogre known as Grigolthan said to be lurking in the Peak of Malys. He wields a staff created from the skull and spine of a Silvanesti dark elf (exiled elf). They must return it to the Oracles. For three questions the PCs must give to them a permanent magic item of at least 2,500 steel pieces (gold pieces) in value. They refuse to accept the Key of Quinari, Shard of Light, or Blade of Betrayal.

And here are their most likely answers:

:tali:Vague Prophecy Count: 11.

Libertad's Notes: Personally I feel that the prices are too high for such vague answers. I'd recommend making them more explicit, but not so much that you spill the whole plot. Hint at an afterlife for "Krynn's mightiest creatures" for the Key, an "elf of Silvanesti seeking to break free from the Lord of Bones, an enemy of the Betrayer of Hurim" for who's manipulating them, and the "touch of Mishakal" for helping the elves of Pashin (they might have learned of the Tears from Anasana back in the Shattered Temple.

Failing to complete the first two tasks causes a Bestow Curse effect to be inflicted upon the entire party, no save. Destroying the hag's eye extends the duration to 2d6 weeks for the offending PC. The hags don't gently caress around! After answering their questions they will retreat back into their caves behind an illusory wall shaped to look like part of the stone.

By the time the PCs begin to leave, the Oracles meet with them one last time to tell them that their journey will take them to lands unseen, that Fate has chosen them but they will be the ones to choose their destiny.

During this entire time Elijayess will look very uncomfortable, as the Oracles spook him out.

I feel that this encounter played out very well with a lot of potential. It can be used by the DM to insert and personalize answers for their own groups. It strongly smacks of the role of the Three Fates from mythology: women who know of people's futures, a single "eye" shared between them. Cliche, but fitting.


Kendermore itself is only 10 hours travel from the spring, so the PCs should get there in no time flat.

The city itself was a grandiose city unlike any kind on Ansalon. Tens of thousands of Kender lived happy and carefree until Malystryx struck. Her magic and armed forces slaughtered them until the haphazard streets ran red with blood. Kender across Goodlund were sent running from the havoc and devastation, spreading word of the massacre from one to another across the continent. This event left many kender afflicted and afraid, something which has truly not happened since the Cataclysm. Even the "true" Kender are filled with a faint sorrow of the loss Kendermore.

The shadow of the Peak of Malys shelters the ruins of the dead city from the morning sun. When its rays finally do shine upon it mid-day, it only adds to the extreme heat of the lava flows nearby. Today the city is home to gnolls, goblins, and other creatures drawn to the site. Undead kender continue to wander the wreckage, filled with both a need to return to a semblance of their former lives and a burning need to make others suffer as they did. These creatures are known as the Forlorn Kender:

Looking upon Kendermore is like viewing a graveyard of Ansalon's cities. Architectural styles from nearly every major culture was replicated within the city limits: delicate elven spires lay smashed amid the golden plates that once covered the Khurish onion-styled domes and the castle-like foundations of Solamnic buildings. The streets are a confusing maze of paths, alleyways, and winding roads bereft of long-term planning. Now that everything lay in ruins, traversing the city is even more difficult than ever.

There are no unique or story-related random encounters here. Just makeshift traps which are remnants of the ogre invasion, kender undead, basilisks, ankhegs, lamias, and other monstrosities.

The two locations of note include the Palace. It is home to Deuce Spadestomper, the groundskeeper for the building before the arrival of Malystryx. He could not bear to leave his home and garden, and still tends to the plants before darting back to the safety of the palace's many hiding spots. If the PCs manage to spot him (no mean feat, he's got a +17 Hide modifier!), he'll be unfavorably inclined towards the intruders but won't try to fight them. If they win his trust the PCs will find that he knows more than anybody else the layout of Kendermore and is responsible for the set-up of traps throughout the city.

City Hall is also home to a clan of gully dwarves, who will be frightened at the PCs arrival and loudly proclaiming "you no see me!" They, along with kender and gnomes, are part of the comic relief races of Dragonlance. Dirty, stupid, and unwanted by everyone else, gully dwarves live within the ruins of Ansalon, thriving where others cannot live. Eventually the 'bravest' of the gully dwarves, the leader High Grup II, will approach the PCs begging for mercy.

The gully dwarves also know plenty about the goings-on in Kendermore, including a possible entrance to the Peak of Malystryx.

The adventure goes out of its way to tell the DM not to give out experience points if the PCs slaughter the Gully Dwarves (what kind of psycho group would try that?!).

Speaking of which, a band of ogre slavers is operating in the area. They caught several of Kronn Thistleknot's scouts, who discovered that the ogres are rounding up kender still within the city and taking them to the Peak of Malystryx. Unfortunately they got caught. Once the DM feels that the PCs explored enough of Kendermore an encounter with them starts.

The party will hear shouts and a strange whirring sound from the other side of a building. Going to investigate they'll see five ogres holding a chained throng of kender. One of their leaders slams his fist into the building another kender stands on as he flings slings at the giants with his hoopak (slingshot/staff weapon), insulting them all the while.


"You scum-sucking, toenail-eating, puppy-beating, ugly sonofa...oops!" the kender's arms flail as one of the ogres slams his fist into the precarious structure, causing it to shudder and almost dislodge the youngster from his perch.
"Get that little bastard!" the largest and heavily armored ogre roars down the alleyway as he uncoils a giant whip from his waist.
"Who you callin a bastard!" shouts the kender as he scrambles to safety. "At least my mother didn't sleep with a goatsucker bird!"
With a roar of rage the ogre takes a few strides forward as he cracks the whip forward, its spiked leather slashes through the air and wraps around the kender's leg. Before the kender can give a startled cry, the ogre pulls back, yanking the kender from atop the wall and to the ground with an audible "thump!"

The kender is Parrick Whistlewalk. The other ogres are standard of their kind, but their leader Karak is armed with a breastplate and a big-rear end spiked whip which grants him 20 foot reach! He's also got barbarian levels and can get a 30 Strength while raging! When in such a state his whip can hit most opponents (+16 bonus).

Elijayess will be enraged to see such cruelty and will knock a few arrows to shoot at one of the ogre underlings. Parrick's only a 3rd-level rogue and he won't survive against the giants unless the PCs help him.

For my group the combat was moderately difficult. The confines of the alleyway, combined with the ogre's reach and whip, made it hard for the archers and spellcasters to get into unthreatened squares and pull off their attacks. But the melee guys provoked some attacks of opportunity and took a few blows to grant the rest of the party time to reposition themselves. Once that was accomplished the ogre minions were brought down quickly.

Parrick and the captured kender will be grateful for their help. The scouts will tell the characters that they saw the ogres take in more than twenty kender up the Peak of Malystryx... including Parrick's sister Kerra. Parrick asks the PCs to help find out what has happened to them and save them if possible. At this point Elijayess offers to take care of the wounded and to reunite with him at the Palace once they've returned.

Parrick will point out that he also saw some strange creatures going in and out of the mountain's plume, which looked like strange giant copper ants.

Deuce Spadestomper, if asked, will advise against the usual routes. "You can try the plume, but you might fall and burn to a crisp. The entrance the ogres use is heavily guarded." He points out a dormant plume as the safest route into the volcano. "You might try going in that way... might be a tad safer than the other entrances, although what is safe when you're in the Peak is a question for the gods, if you ask me."

Elijayess and Parrick meet up with the party before they embark on their journey:


As you prepare to leave, Elijayess walks up and stares towards the sullen Peak of Malys.
"Be careful, my friends," his voice a soft whisper. "Even though she is dead, her presence still lingers. The land remembers the torture she put it through...Chislev weeps."
The Kagonesti's gaze turns from the Peak towards you, a faint smile appearing on his otherwise somber face. "However, I believe that the gods walk with you. Have faith and it shall carry you through the hardships ahead. I will await your return at the palace and watch over the little ones."
Clasping each of your hands in the Kagonesti farewell, Elijayess turns and walks back towards the wounded kender, hefting two of the smaller ones in his arms as he kneels down to allow a third to climb up on his back.
Parricks walks up to you, a bit downcast for the otherwise cheerful kender. Gazing up, he offers his own advice, "Keep your hands on your pouches, keep your nose to the ground, and if someone shouts 'heads up!' they mean 'duck!'" Reaching towards his belt, he pulls off one of his pouches and hands it to you. "Here, take this, you might need it in there..."

The pouch contains a bunch of random knickknacks, but some useful magic items: three potions of energy resistance (fire), a ring of feather fall, and an amulet of natural armor +1. From Kendermore, it will be a hard days' journey to the Peak of Malystryx.

Thoughts so far: I really like this chapter overall. The difficulty is amped upon with monstrous random encounters, but not so much that the PCs can be overwhelmed. The haunting atmosphere of Kendermore and the Desolation convey a good sense of what was lost, and the interactions with the Kender NPCs (especially Parrick) simultaneously manage to play up their Kenderishness without being overbearing. Parrick's advice at the end in particular earned a few smiles from the players.

I also enjoyed the boxed text for Elijayess and the Oracles. It conveyed a lot of character through just a few words. I wish that more adventures followed suit.

Next time, the final chapter of Book One! The Peak of Malystryx!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 04:56 on Nov 20, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path Book One, Chapter Six: The Peak of Malystryx

The Peak is one of the tallest active volcanoes on Ansalon, more than 15,000 feet above sea level. However, the PCs are only 3,000 feet below its tallest point. Due to the high altitude and thin air, PCs who fail a Fortitude save can become fatigued after several hours. Prolonged exposure can cause damage to ability scores over time. And that's not counting the volcano's noxious fumes. The adventure was kind enough to provide a new spell, Zone of Air, which creates a moving "bubble" of clean breathable air around the caster for several hours which keeps out non-magical toxic gases. It's 2nd-3rd level spell depending upon class, and a useful one beyond the confines of this adventure too!

Random encounters are fire-related, naturally. Flamestone panthers, medium fire elementals, magmin, lava explosions, and a unique one: a red dragon named Soulburn.

Soulburn is a Young Red Dragon. He's a very tough encounter: Challenge Rating 7, 123 hit points, a 40 foot cone-shaped breath weapon that deals 6d10 fire damage, and he can fly! On mountainous terrain he can indefinitely stay out of range and rain death from above. However, the tactics say for him to open with a breath weapon and land among the PCs for some melee (he's brash and arrogant), and he'll retreat is wounded down to 45 hit points or less. His lair is in PM4 on the map, on a cliff trail above the magma lake. It's got a good bit of treasure, including an ioun stone, boots and cloak of elvenkind, and a rope of climbing along with 1,500 steel pieces worth of precious metals.

Dragonspawn Patrols are another common encounter in sets of 3 soldiers. Basically dragonspawn are creatures created by a Dragon Overlord's skull totem, combining the spirit of a draconian with the body of a humanoid creature, typically a human, forging them with a magical tie to the Overlord. After Malystryx's death many of her dragonspawn minions suffered a violent feedback of magical energy and either died or went insane. Only a few of the strongest escaped relatively unscathed.

Like Soulburn dragonspawn can fly and have breath weapons, and are unafraid to use them. They will push characters off of cliffs and into chasms, using the terrain to its full advantage.

I'd recommend being careful around this time. Although it makes sense being the final chapter of the book, it's a rather big wake-up call to parties used to fighting ground-bound opponents (virtually all the prior encounters).

PM1 is located on the top of the Peak of Malystryx, housing the ruins of one of the Towers of High Sorcery lifted up during Goodlund's reshaping. The air's thick with choking smoke and sulpher, nauseating any character's within its radius. The heat up here is extremely hot, over 140 degrees Farenheit. Theoretically the PCs could enter the volcano here by scaling the shaft, but it's full of the same smoke and heat, and is a straight drop to the magma chamber.

PM2 is the "secret" entrance pointed out by Deuce Spadestomper back in Chapter 5. It's relatively easy to scale and leads into the home of the Phalanx Ant Colony, one of the sapient factions within the Peak. It's the safest entrance of the three into the Peak.

PM3 is near the base of the mountain and the most obvious entrance. It is by this means that the ogres are taking the trapped kender into the Peak, and is heavily guarded at all times by rotating shifts of four ogres. It leads further into PM6, a sort of mega-village separated into two levels. The upper village is inhabited by dragonspawn, overlooking a cliff inhabited by ogres below. Both are several hundred strong and are beyond the scope of this adventure, as the force arrayed is sufficient to turn away the PCs. In my games no player group bothered with this entrance; they either took Deuce's secret entrance or the plume.

PM4's a magma lake, filled with smoke. Numerous caverns dot the high walls of the place, some of them home to monsters and other strange creatures who flocked to Malystryx's side. Salamanders, magmin, magma mephits and other creatures of fire inhabit this place.

PM5 is the Serpent Cave, one of Malystryx's experiments. Miraculously the underground cavern is filled with plants, vines, amphibians, and insects, much like a rainforest. A large hot spring provides moisture for the cavern, and is home to a tribe of sligs, amphibian humanoids distantly related to goblins. It doesn't have anything significant plot-wise, either.

PM7 is the volcano's heart. Reaching for nearly a mile from end to end, a sea of magma froths around three large islands of stone. Narrow land bridges arc between them, forming a mode of transportation across. In her life Malystryx made her lair here, concealing her most precious treasures (and skull totem) in hidden passages deep below the magma. Once again, the majority of this room is relatively undetailed, "beyond the scope of this adventure."

So where are the kender, and how are the PCs supposed to find them? Well, they need the help of the Phalanx Ants to progress. The colony itself can be entered via Deuce's entrance, the Magma Lake, Serpent Cave. The ants have a secret network of tunnels all over the Peak, but the PCs won't find them by accident.

Phalanx Ants are massive, sapient entities said to have been created by Chislev (God of nature) in the Age of Dreams for Reorx (God of the forge). They would help tend the bones of the earth. These are legends, though.

The Ants are a hierarchal society of workers, where the colonies themselves are living floors and walls of millions of interlinking ants. The builder ants are the smallest and lowest, comprising these foundations. Workers are the caretakers and scouts, seeing to the Queen's needs and tending to the larva. Soldiers are the hunters and defenders, while the Queen is a spellcasting leader who links the colony's minds into a universal consciousness.

This colony in particular struck a deal with Malystryx to act as custodians for the Peak in exchange for building their colony here. Now that she's dead the political balance of the mountain has been upset and now the various groups are at war with one another. The Queen is not fond of this arrangement, hating the disorder. In fact, she won't be hostile at the PCs arrival.


If your eyes aren't betraying you, the uneven obsidian that forms the ladders, floors, and even bridges of this cavern is made up entirely of living, moving ants, each the size of a large dog.
Scurrying along the walkways formed by these ants, slightly larger ants are moving around, busy with various unknown tasks, while ants the size of small ponies seem to be carrying food to various sections of the floor. You watch as they pass the food down where it disappears, apparently to be distributed among the ants forming the architecture of the colony.


Suddenly you hear a high-pitched chittering voice rise behind you. "Greetings... the Queen wishes to speak with you."
Turning around, you see a rather diminutive ant, a little smaller than a kender, gazing directly at you with its odd, multi-faceted eyes. Twin antennae move independently from one another.
The ant twists its head slightly to the right. "You will come with us," it says once more, in that spine-shivering voice, before it turns around and scurries down the ladder that leads to the floor of the cavern.


Resting atop of a large cairn of stones is a large ant, easily the size of a knight's warhorse. Her body is designed more like that of a wasp, with a narrow thorax that flares out to a large abdomen ending in a long obsidian stinger. The torso is covered in strange sigils that glow with a subtle blue radiance. Suddenly, a soft decidedly feminine voice fills the cave, "Greetings, adventurers. What brings you to Our colony?"

The Queen is genuinely interested in what the characters' motivations are for coming to the Peak. She'll even be helpful as long as they're honest, and can be convinced with social interaction skill checks to help them find and rescue the Kender. Of course, the Queen will want to talk with the party's "Queen," and more authority-minded and nature-oriented PCs (lawfully-aligned, knights, druids, etc) gain bonuses to their rolls. On a Friendly result she'll answer their questions and tell them directions to the captured kender. On a helpful result she'll even lend a more active hand, with one soldier ant per PC as guides.

Successfully negotiating with the Queen grants bonus story experience, with is far better than killing her for experience points (which is very hard, given all the ants).

Basically, the head of the dragonspawn and ogre factions united in a tenuous alliance. Grigolthan is an ogre mage who unsuccessfully attempted a ritual to ascend to the status of ogre titan (like a magical uber-ogre), but since the ritual required elven blood it backfired and degraded his body and mind. Grigolthan seeks to retry the ritual, using the blood of over 100 kender over time as part of an experiment. Grigolthan convinced Sindra, leader of the dragonspawn, to unleash the energy of Malystryx's taint he believes the afflicted kender carry within them. Through this, they theorize, will the dragonspawn regain their former power and be able to reproduce (created dragonspawn are infertile). If all goes according to plan, Grigolthan becomes an ogre titan and Sindra can regain her glory. Everyone wins!

The ants will escort the PCs via one of their networked tunnels, which is adjacent to a thin section of wal.


As the Queen's glowing blue eyes fall upon you, her voice rises once more. "You are prepared," she says. It is not a question, more a state of acknowledgement.
"Our tunnels were built for our use, but I believe that you will be able to navigate them with ease. The first tunnel shall lead you directly to the little ones. Do not take any of the side tunnels; stick to the primary, otherwise you'll get lost. Once you have the little ones, take the tunnel back until you come to the second tunnel to the right. That will lead you to the surface near the city of little ones."

As the Queen speaks, you can see part of the ground begin to swell. The ants are shifting the structure by crawling over one another to reveal a network of honeycombed tunnels beneath them.

"You will follow my worker. He will guide you to where you need to go. May your hunt prove fruitful."


After an indeterminable amount of time spent traveling the phalanx tunnel, you hear the voice of the worker speak up. "We're here."

The worker ant touches his antenna against the right wall of the tunnel. "Through this wall, you will find the little ones. The wall here is weak; you should be able to burrow through it easily."

Backing away from the wall, the worker turns towards you. "I must return to the colony and the Queen. May your hunt prove fruitful." Once the last word is said, the ant seems to bow its head slightly before it begins to crawl back the way it came, leaving you alone in the darkness of the strange tunnel.

Indeed, acid has been strategically placed to weaken the wall. It goes into the slave pens of the underground chambers of the map above. The top of the pit is covered by an iron grating, below which 21 kender are being held, all suffering from various forms of undernourishment. Dragath, a dragonspawn barbarian guards the room, and will become aware of the PCs intrusion when one of them tries breaking down the wall. Honestly he's not that difficult, with low hit points (45) and bonus to hit (+8 with greataxe, not raging). But like all dragonspawn he's got a nasty breath weapon (4d10 fire) and a death throe. If the PCs are supplemented by phalanx ant soldiers than the battle becomes trivial.

The PCs also get bonus experience for freeing the Kender for being Big drat Heroes. One of them in particular, Kerra Whistlewalk, is very talkative...


As the last kender clambers out of the pit and her feet settle upon the ground, she looks up at you and offers a surprisingly cheerful grin, despite her grimy appearance.

"Wow, that was one of the most boring places I've ever been, let me tell you! One time I was trapped with my foot down a rabbit hole and couldn't move, but at least I got to look around and see stuff! Here, all I got to see was a bunch of other trapped kender, most of whom didn't want to talk! Imagine that!" She leans forward, whispering conspiratorially, "I betcha they're one of those afflictin' kender you hear people talkin' about!" She suppresses a somewhat delightfully horrified shudder as she turns to stare at the huddled, dirty kender clustered around the wall.
Suddenly the kender draws herself upright. "My manners, I'm sorry! I'm Kerra Whistlewalk, of Hylo! Thank you for rescuin' us! I was afraid we were gonna end up staked and spitted and bled dry for that ritual I heard'em talkin' about! Wish I could see that! They was talkin' 'bout this big magic spell the was gonna cast, said it took the blood of the afflicted kender 'cause it was filled with Malys magic or somethin'. They also said soemthing about pervetin' some big ol' magic thingy they found in Malys lair... pervertin'... you think they were gonna peek at each other wearin' only their knickers?!?"

If inquired for more information she can describe Grigolthan and Sindra. If the PCs see first to the Kender's safety (by getting them out via directions or having the Phalanx Ant soldiers escort them out), they get more "hero experience points!" Then she'll remember that she left some family heirlooms (pouches) deeper into the complex and that the "ugly guy" or "scary lady" must have them.

The next room is the ritual area where Grigolthan lairs. A large pentragram of silver contains a dragon skull on each tip over a circular pit of blood. At its center a pillar of yellowed bones rises. As the PCs go down the hallway they'll trigger a mental alarm trap which silently alerts Grigolthan to their presence. He'll drink a potion of invisibility, even though he can turn invisible at will:crossarms:, to get the drop on him. Additionally, he'll use the Staff of Bones in his possession to animate the corpses of the 13 kender zombies at the bottom of the pool to fight for him.

Like many ogre mages, Grigolthan is a glass cannon. His 32 hit points are very low for a boss monster, but he's got a cone of cold which he can fire off. Other than that he's got polymorph, darkness, and a melee attack. The zombies are the main melee force, and all "die" when Grigolthan does.

After killing the ogre mage and ruining their last chance ritual, Sindra will show up and be super-pissed at the party, unfurling her Hellfire Whip and threatening to "Burn the flesh from your bones and you. Will. Buuuuuuurrrrn!"

Here she is, the Final Boss of Book One!

Sindra's tough all her own, but immediately after Grigolthan (and Dragath), she can be deadly.

She's an 8th level dragonspawn Barbarian with a good reach on her whip, whose damage is enhanced via her impressive lash (2d4+4 plus 1d6 fire plus 1d10 critical hit). She also has a breath weapon and death throes and a good Armor Class (25). A worthy battle.

Upon her death, she evilly laughs as she sees the "hand pulling their strings" and that her death will offer them no peace. Then her entire body begins jerking violently in the midst of her death throes. If the PCs know to expect this (say, prior encounters with dragonspawn), they can push her into the blood pool and have her harmlessly explode. This action also grants additional experience points for quick thinking. The writers were being generous with rewards for this chapter, I'll say!

Then the wielder of the Shard of Light notices that the blade's light flickers in tune to a glimmer at the opposite end of the room, leading into the armory. There the PCs find a beautiful lance of burnished silver, its haft shaped like the head of a dragon of purest gold. The image of a beautiful elven woman coalesces into a nimbus of blue light in front of the weapon. "Finally, you have overcome great hardships to release us from the darkness! Come, heroes... take up the lance and embrace your destinies!" Then she vanishes along with the shard of light's glimmer, plunging the room into a faint darkness.

This elven ghost was Kayleigh, and this lance is no ordinary magical Dragonlance... It is Huma's Lance, the very one wielded by Huma Dragonbane in the Age of Dreams to banish Takhisis from the mortal realm in the Third Dragon War!

This baby's a Major Artifact...

Priceless Artifact Count: 3

...a +5 holy keen Greater Dragonlance. When striking a True Dragon it ignores all forms of damage reduction. When used against an evil true dragon it deals 2 points of permanent Constitution drain (no save) with every hit. If the wielder scores a critical hit it deals a number of points of Consitution drain equal to 5 + wielder's level + wielder's Charisma modifier. Once per day it can cast dismissal on any evil outsider (who suffer a penalty to their save equal to 5 + wielder's level). It can even be used against divine entities and their servitors!

It bestows 2 negative levels on evil creatures attempting to wield it, and functions as a normal +4 holy Greater Dragonlance in the hands of non-lawful Good characters, with none of the other special abilities.

The heroes gaining access to this weapon will have drastic, far-reaching effects into the adventure. Not only is it instantly recognizable to Ansalon's major orders (Knights of Solamnia/Neraka, Wizards of High Sorcery, etc), its presence can be sensed by clerics of evil deities, true dragons, and good/evil outsiders. Doubtlessly many of these groups will seek to part the lance from the PCs' hands for their own use (whether to safeguard it, destroy it, or study it).

After a good adventure, the Phalanx tunnels do indeed lead back to Kendermore. If the PCs have Grigolthan's staff, Elijayess will let them travel back to the oasis (although he won't accompany them). And yes, returning the staff also gets the PCs experience points. If the PCs aren't 7th level yet, they certainly will be by adventure's end.

Afterwards, the elf and the kender will strike out towards Port Balifor.

And so marks the end of Book One. There is still many mysteries left, of who is manipulating the PCs from behind the scenes, what the Key of Quinari unlocks, and how the artifacts gathered will play a future role in the saga. Till then, in Book Two, Spectre of Sorrows, will many of these questions be answered...

Next time, the appendices of Book One, new spells/items, my personalized Key of Destiny Soundtrack, and other miscellaneous stuff.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 20:12 on Nov 23, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragonlance: Key of Destiny Adventure Path Book One Intermission: Miscellaneous Stuff

Thoughts on Chapter Six: A sharp spike in difficulty, this can catch players unaware who were mostly used to fighting low-level martial characters and groundbound opponents. The Shattered Temple mixed things up with some oozes and undead, but aside from that genuine spellcasting enemies are very rare in this adventure. I feel that the adventure sort of ends on a vague note, with the PCs coming back to Kendermore with no apparent goal, but I can forgive it for that since it's technically the end.

Overall, Book One was a good book, if flawed in parts. It definitely has the feel of an epic adventure. The writers made a lot of effort including stuff in, but they accidentally left out a lot of things. Later on Sovereign Press released some adventure errata, which was 15 pages long! A good amount was missing Encounter Levels, grammar/spelling mistakes, stat blocks for forlorn kender, and the like. The most egregious was the last missing spectral flicker in the Shattered Temple, detailing Caeldor's death!

Things I'd Change

Make no mistake, there's a lot of things I'd tailor in the Key of Destiny. The adventure has several weak points which might frustrate your group.

Don't be afraid to be more specific with prophecies, or to tone them down: The players should be intrigued enough to keep going, but not so much that they feel like they're on a wild goose chase. Have the Oracles say that the Key of Quinari is coveted by Chemosh, God of Death. Make Uleena name-drop Kendermore or the Peak of Malystryx, possibly even that it holds one of the legendary Dragonlances.

Introduction/Chapter One:

Cut down on the number of bandits in Pegrin's employ. Reduce their hit points from 12 to 6. This will make the battle easier for new and inexperienced players. And is more manageable for 1st-level PCs lacking stealth skills.

Dispense with die rolling for random encounters to forward the plot. Automatically throw encounters which sound the most interesting for your group.

Have the Herald remain as a contact. He might suggest investigating the elves, go to the market to have the Key appraised, etc.

Make the hidden elf symbols on the secret doors in Pashin automatically found by the PCs.

Reduce Blackbird to a 10th-level Fighter/Rogue to a 4th-level one. He's a dick, and many groups might want to "free" Dove from his thumb after witnessing his goon's rough way of collecting their cut. He'd still be tough for 2nd-level PCs, but not impossible.

Chapter Two

Remove the bows and arrows from the Black Rider's equipment. The relatively open terrain, combined with their horses, means that they can easily stay out of the PC's range and pelt them from afar. They're dangerous enough with the increased mobility.

Have the Mikku buy and sell equipment and goods with the PCs.

Chapter Three

Rebuild Shroud's stat block, make him better at either clerical magic or thief stuff.

Reduce the length and frequency of the spectral flickers. Don't narrate the box text for every ogre atrocity, just briefly describe them as a monstrous horde slaughtering everyone. Keep the focus on Caeldor. Remove the Candles of Invocation from the treasures. Let those who wield the Shard of Light be capable of dealing sneak attack/precision damag against the undead (a great buff for a party rogue).

Chapter Four:

Nothing much, pretty cool as is.

Chapter Five:

Once again, be more specific and informative for the Oracle's answers. The PCs are paying a hefty price for the information, after all.

Make it easier to find Deuce Spadestomper via signs of habitation in the Palace (his Hide modifier's massive). Investigative PCs might eventually confront him through supplied clues and tracking him down.

If your party's well-optimized, consider giving Karak the ogre slaver a higher Intelligence, swap his Skill Focus (Intimidate) and Weapon Focus (Whip) feats with Improved Trip and Combat Expertise. PCs who provoke an Attack of Opportunity within his 20 foot range get tripped, and easy pickings for the other ogres! Perhaps allow them the ability to throw rocks as improvised weapons if the PCs follow Parrick's example and stick to higher ground out of reach.

Chapter Six:

Close off areas not important to the adventure so that the PCs don't get side-tracked. Have NPCs in Kendermore drop hints about the Phalanx Ants having the best knowledge of how to traverse the mountain. This will encourage them to seek out the Queen, as it's the best (and only) way to find and free the captured Kender.

Make the Queen be willing to work with the PCs on a Friendly result. Helpful is DC 30, and many parties might not have great enough modifiers to persuade her.

Becoming a Knight of Solamnia or Wizard of High Sorcery

The errata, however, included options for PCs who wanted to join either the Wizards of High Sorcery or Knights of Solamnia. Given that the PCs are frequently on the move, traditional means of qualifying for membership needed to be changed. This is detailed in the online errata.

The one for the Knight of Solamnia takes place in Port Balifor, labeled The Clandestine Knight. Sir Aldruth Achuran is an undercover Knight that managed to infiltrate the port's seedier side disguised as a mercenary named Daven Coldblade. The encounter takes place in Gloom Town as the PCs stumble upon a fight between him and three Draconians.


“Give up, Solamnic scum,” the sivak hisses out, its dark eyes flaring as its greatsword swings a deadly arch towards the human’s head, only to be blocked at the last moment by the human’s gleaming shield. Unfortunately, this leaves the figure open to the poisoned blade of one of the kapaks, the green-tinted point of its sword finding an opening and returning stained with the human’s blood.

“Never,” the human grits out as he brings his shield downwards, knocking the kapak’s blade aside as the human swings his glowing sword in a brilliant semi-circle before him. “Est Sularus oth Mithas!” the human cries out in a voice that resounds oddly in the cramped alleyway.

If the sivak’s curse hadn’t given away the identity of the human, the human’s oath would clearly identify him as a Knight of Solamnia; a knight far from friendly territory.

If the PCs aid him, he thanks them for their assistance, and will judge a PC to be worthy candidates for knighthood if she does not ask for material reward. If she asks about joining, he'll tell her that the Knighthood would be honored to have such a member and presents the PC with a family signet ring, and to look for him in the town of Flotsam (north of the Desolation) or present it to the captain of the Golden Helm (who'd recognize them as being sent by Aldreth).

Regarding the Test of High Sorcery, the most available means is through Zoe Left-Hand at the Khurman Tor lighthouse in Ak-Khurman. Basically every Wizard takes a Test, usually at one of the Towers of High Sorcery, to demonstrate their dedication to magic. If successful, they become a member of one of the three robed Orders and are presented with a uniform of the same color. Failure in the Test means death.

Generally a Test takes place in an illusionary reality crafted by the test-givers. The Wizard will be faced with at least 3 tasks involving the knowledge of spells and their usage. Additionally, they must face an equally powerful or greater opponent in single combat, usually a dark reflection or an entity designed to exploit the Wizard's weaknesses. The moral decisions a Wizard performs are also taken into account, determining which Order is best for them.

Now that only one Tower remains, many Wizards often incorporate Tests into everyday life. For example, Zoe might send a hot-tempered wizard into the Burning Lands and negotiate with the stand-offish Azer.

In addition to official membership, a successful Wizard is granted a permanent magic item, usually indicative of the Wizard's personality. A mage with a fondness for music and fine art might receive a harp which fascinates listeners. Additionally, mages are also permanently marked in some way after the Test, to represent the sacrifice they made to pursue powerful magic. A mage who's a compulsive liar might gain a forked tongue.

In Raistlin's case, he was cursed with hourglass-shaped irises where he could see everything around him slowly decaying and losing life. This was meant to teach the young mage compassion, but failed.

The seriousness of the Test, in both sacrifice and penalties for failure, is meant to deter all but the most disciplined magicians. In theory, a sorcerer can take the Test, but none of them have yet to even attempt.

I really like the Knighthood one, although none of my players with arcane PCs felt motivated to take the Test. They were all renegades, viewing their traveling lifestyle as being incompatible with primary allegiance to the Orders.

New Monsters

Phalanx Ants are small magical beasts with tough hides and a "hive mind." They're weak individually (Challenge Rating 1/4th for builders, 3 for soldiers, 6 for Queen), but there's a lot of them, and the Queen can cast spells as a 6th-level Mystic.

Flamestone Panthers are mentioned before. Basically they're big cats with a pounce and rake attack, and natural weapons which deal fire damage. They can also climb and burrow, increasing their mobility in combat.

Magma Wraiths are corporeal undead surrounded by a shell of magma, twisted creations of Malystryx. Their touch ignites flammable objects, non-magical weapons which hit them can become useless, and they can hurl globules of magma as a ranged attack.

Phaethons are Lawful Neutral elves who live simple lives in mountain ranges. They can manifest fiery wings and gain flight, an ability regarded as a divine gift by them. They're immune to fire damage and vulnerable to cold effects, but are relatively unremarkable except for these traits. They can be played as PCs with a +2 level adjustment (one I feel is a little too high).

Monstrous Trapdoor spiders which can build traps and pits out of their webbing. They are found in the Desolation. They have most of the traits of medium monstrous spiders, plus their webbing can conceal pits with camouflaged webbing, webbing tripwires, and sheets of webbing on the ground.

There are 3 new spells, including Zone of Air (creates a sphere of breathable air, 2nd/3rd level spell), Immolation (4th level spell which burns the target inside-out for 1d6 fire damage per round, concentration duration), and Energy Barrier, which is pretty cool:

10 foot square area per level, can't be affected by most spells, can protect from negative environmental effects, it's quite versatile in its effects.

We also get detailed write-ups of the new magic items. I detailed most of them in the adventure, but we learn more about the Staff of Bones (a staff which is an artifact)...

Priceless Artifact Count: 4

and functions as a Staff. The wielder can cast necromantic spells by expending charges, and can replenish them by killing opponents affected by its Death Knell spell (instantly kills dying opponents).

We also get the Ring of Grace (found in the Shattered Temple), which grants an effective bonus (+2 to +6) to Wisdom for the purposes of Saving Throw DCs and spells per day for divine spellcasters. Yes, it can stack with Periapt of Wisdom, as it's not an actual Wisdom bonus. I smell some serious potential abuse!

Also, picture of the Shard of Light in the Shattered Temple:


Libertad's Unofficial Key of Destiny Soundtrack

The right music can enhance the mood and atmosphere of a gaming session. I feel that these tracks are particularly appropriate for certain NPCs and events in the adventure.

Refugees (suitable for elves/afflicted kender):

Pursued by the Dark Knights:

Sewers of Pashin:

Ruins of Hurim:

Battle Music, Shattered Temple Barbazu Guardian:

Port City of Ak-Khurman:

Kendermore Theme:

Battle Music, Ogre Slavers:

Climbing the Peak of Malys:

Battle Music, Peak of Malys Dragonspawn Attack:

Battle Music, Grigolthan and Sindra:

Because It's the Key! Duh-duh! Of Destiny!:

Next time we start Book Two, Spectre of Sorrows!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 20:51 on Nov 23, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
I agree that flight's a very powerful ability, but a lot of things with Level Adjustment become trivial later on in a game at higher levels.

For example, it's entirely possible for a Sorcerer/Wizard at high enough level to cast a spell and fly all day. Overland Flight can be obtained at 9th level and grant flight for 9 hours. Slap an Extend Spell on it at 11th level and you've got 22 hour flight!

And that's not accounting stuff like small energy resistances, swim speed granting +1 LA, and other things which aren't worth the bump.

Dragonborn from Races of the Dragon can gain flight at high enough level as well. Same for Raptorans, and they have no Level Adjustment.

The Level Adjustment system as it is hurts and penalizes monster PCs in comparison to the basic races. The Phaethon is front-loaded, yes, but that LA takes experience to buy off (if your DM even uses that variant rule) that spellcasters and others don't need to spend.

Anyway, since I've got Dragonlance on the brain, I might consider writing a second review simultaneously in addition to the Key of Destiny: the Dragonlance Campaign Setting for 3rd Edition!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Ah, Dragonlance, a grand setting with humble beginnings. The setting's creators, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, came up with the fictional world during a car trip, and were hired later by TSR to write adventures. Around this time there was plenty of information on dungeons in RPG sourcebooks, but not so much on Dragons. Hickman suggested a series of linked adventures, and the design team decided that a series of novels should accompany it.

And thus the Dragonlance Chronicles were born. The setting proved wildly popular, even beyond the Dungeons & Dragons fandom, earning a spot on the New York Times' Bestseller list. For a time it even shared a spotlight with the established Forgotten Realms as a popular setting.

Of course the series had its controversy as well. Many chided the original modules as railroady, the kender race proved a hit with disruptive Chaotic Stupid players, and the "update" to the setting's 5th Age and temporary abandonment of the D&D ruleset rivaled our modern Edition Wars in dividing the fanbase. But the world and its stories still holds a place in the hobby's history for being revolutionary for its time, examining what a world functioning under the D&D ruleset would be like, and popularizing the "epic journey to save the world" model as a campaign concept.

Love it or hate it, there are few other settings like Dragonlance.

The Dragonlance Campaign Setting is a 3.5 sourcebook, published by Wizards of the Coast in 2003. Technically a 1st-party book, it received no further official support, with the production of future sourcebooks delegated to Margaret Weis in charge of Sovereign Press. It was this book I was first introduced to the world of Dragonlance.



Welcome, friend, to the world of Krynn. Step into the River of Time and let it carry you along its slow-moving current as it wends its way through the history of the continent of Ansalon. Be a part of that history, as you join the never-ending struggle between chaos and order. On Krynn, the Gods of Good and Evil war eternally, joined in the battle by mortal beings such as yourself and Krynn's true children-the dragons.

You may journey with wizards as they risk their lives to take the test that can grant them great power. You may quest with brave knights to prove their honor and worth or discover heroes in ordinary people who fight for their homes and loved ones. Your travels will take you through lands of mysterious ruins populated by terrifying creatures. You may fly on the backs of dragons in the service of your cause, be it good or evil.

The continent of Ansalon is a land of marvelous beauty with a rich and fascinating history. You can choose to fight on the side of good, serve the cause of evil, or work to maintain the balance of the world. You may restore lost knowledge to the people or search for powerful magic artifacts to aid your struggle. You will face the awesome power of enemy wyrms and soar the skies on the backs of dragons that serve your cause.

Welcome to the Dragonlance campaign.

The book's beginning gives an overview of Dragonlance and its major themes, along with some pertinent setting information. Basically the history of the world is divided into Five Ages: the Age of Starbirth, an era of prehistory when there were only Gods and souls creating the world; the Age of Dreams, a distant age of legend, rise and fall of the first empires, discovery of magic, birth of the mortal races, etc; the Age of Might, when the mighty Empire of Istar rose and fell in its zeal to cleanse the world of evil; the Age of Despair, begun when the wrath of the Gods brought about the Cataclysm and retreated from the world; and the Age of Mortals, the current age where the people now no longer need rely upon the Gods for magic, an era where five titanic Dragon Overlords reshaped the land to their whims. The last two Ages (Despair and Mortals) are the ones with the most in-game support and detail, both within living memory (the Age of Mortals began 30 years before the current date).

The setting takes place on the continent of Ansalon, which is on the planet of Krynn. Ansalon is located in the southern hemisphere and measures 1,300 miles west to east and 1,000 miles north to south. It was a large, unbroken landmass originally, but the Cataclysm at the end of the Third Age fractured it. Despite its relatively small size there are many unexplored regions, from monster-filled wilderness to inhospitable wastelands and mountain ranges. The continent of Taladas is far to the northeast of Ansalon, home to many of the same races, though the societies have progressed separately. The good-aligned metallic dragons claim the Dragon Isles to the north of Ansalon as their ancestral homeland, and almost all of them left Ansalon in a self-imposed exile during the Age of Despair.

There's also a short blurb on Krynn's races, but since they're part of Chapter One we'll skip that and talk about the Campaign.

Two themes are integral to Dragonlance. Epic Fantasy is a genre of high adventure, where the PCs take part in grand struggles and whose deeds pass into myth and legend. Even small adventures can have wider consequences down the line, and PCs who attain higher levels have the chance to make a living mark upon Krynn's history.

The other major theme is the Conflict of Good and Evil. Although Dragonlance uses the nine-fold Alignment axis, Good, Evil, and Balance (Neutrality) are the major cosmic forces. Neither can exist without the other, and even if one side appears victorious for long (such as in the Age of Might or Despair), the cosmic pendulum might swing to the other side. Individuals are chosen to champion the cause of moral forces, even in an unwitting role. But even then mortals can defy the gods and forge their own destinies, like Raistlin did in the Legends trilogy. Although Good and Evil are absolute forces, the workings of the world and the choices people make can redeem corrupt villains or even corrupt causes with good intent.

Libertad's Notes: This is what separates Dragonlance from many other settings, for both good and ill. While one could probably try running a "standard" D&D campaign of dungeon delvers, it isn't really designed for it. However, as evidenced by the Original Chronicles and Key of Destiny, it is a very friendly setting to world-saving heroics and PCs deciding the fate of Ansalon long-term. The game is a low-magic world, and although PCs encounter plenty of magic and monsters, a lot of the setting was designed to make the major events stand out that much more. There's no real magic item shops beyond spell components and scrolls/potions/wand stuff, as permanent magic items are supposed have their own legacies and stories behind them. Arcane magic is tightly regulated by the Wizards of High Sorcery for its destructive potential, although the mages of the remaining Tower of Wayreth have enough power to even repel a would-be Godling. Several countries are idyllic and go through periods of peace, only to be besieged by a hostile outside force for the PCs to protect them against (Silvanesti, Solamnia, Hylo). In the non-eventful times they're not really packed with adventure opportunity, sort of like the Shire in the Lord of the Rings.

Basically, Dragonlance is suited for a more epic, Tolkienish style of gameplay in comparison to settings like Eberron, where danger and intrigue lurks behind every corner and greed and glory are just as reasonable motivations as heroism. I would not describe it as a weakness so much as a quirk which distinguishes the setting style.

Dragonlance Campaign Setting Chapter One: Races

Now we start into the book proper. Here we look at the major (and some minor) races of Krynn and briefly into their personalities and culture.

The Humans are one of the three elder races of Krynn. Created by Gilean and the Gods of Balance, humans were the first race to be gifted with free will and are known for their variety and ambitiousness in contrast with their short lives. Generally humans are divided into the categories of "Civilized" (agricultural, urban and higher technology level) and "Nomadic" (hunter-gatherer, closer to nature spirits) humans, but even then these are more arbitrary categories. The Nomadic humans might be viewed as more primitive and barbarous, but have just as intricate histories and customs, and some even have their own great cities (the Khur in particular). Nomadic humans, however, are more suspicious of outsiders given that their homes traditionally did not have as much contact with other groups.

Prominent civilized human groups include the Abanisinians (frontier folk, have a history of turning to false gods), Ergothians (powerful nation of mariners in western Ansalon), Kharolians (southwest Ansalon, friendlier to Wizards due to close proximity to the Tower, keep extensive genealogical records), Solamnics (lawful good nation of chivalric knights), Nerakans (descendents of the ancient Istarans, live in Neraka and are the "bad guy" nation of the setting), and Nordmen (live in humid jungles of the north, known for their horses).

Prominent nomadic human groups include Abanisinian Plainsfolk (based off of real-world Great Plains Native Americans), the Khurish people (based off of nomadic Arab tribes), Nordmaarian Horselords (live in the plains of Nordmaar), Sea Folk (or Saifhumi, ply the waters of northeast Ansalon), the Ice Folk (far south of Ansalon, live in igloos and navigate tundras with giant wind-powered sleds), and Taman Busuk nomads (live in the mountains of Neraka, recruited into the Dragon Empire's armies during the Age of Despair). Nomads are also more likely to worship Chislev, goddess of nature.

All humans, both civilized and nomadic, speak Common and one regional dialect. There isn't much more to say about humanity as a whole without delving into the various ethnic groups. I might detail them later in Chapter Six: Geography of Ansalon.

The Dwarves are an industrious people who traditionally live in underground kingdoms. They were one of the races created when the Graygem of Gargath cracked in the Age of Dreams from Gnomish stock. Dwarves are proud of their facial hair, have extensive ties to family and clan, and are primarily Lawful Neutral (as opposed to Lawful Good in most settings). The primary dwarven kingdoms are Thorbadin and Thoradin, although there are scattered communities across Ansalon. Reorx, God of the Forge, is their most popular deity. "By Reorx's beard!" is a common saying uttered in dwarven halls.

Dwarves are further divided into mountain dwarves, hill dwarves, dark dwarves, and gully dwarves. Mountain dwarves are those clans who remained within Thorbadin. They include the Hylar (Highest), the oldest of the clans and are the nobles of the mountain dwarves; the Daewar (Dearest), a clan of proud warriors; and the Klar, a clan of hill dwarves trapped within Thorbadin when the realm was sealed off from the rest of the world. They were an oppressed underclass, allowed only most menial jobs and confined to impoverished sections of town, and their wiry beards and darting eyes gave them an undeserved reputation as madmen.

The Hill Dwarves are all of the Neidar (Nearest) clan. When the Cataclysm rocked the world, many dwarves living above Thorbadin rushed to the kingdom in desparate need of food. The kingdom did not have enough resources to care for them, and kept them out. This led to bitterness and hatred which erupted into the Dwarfgate Wars as the Neidar attempted to fight their way into Thorbadin, but failed. A people without a home, the Neidar lived among non-dwarven communities and in their own towns, nursing a longstanding grudge against their mountain dwarf brethren.

The wizard Fistandantalus, who fought on the Neidar side, betrayed them and created a magical cataclysm which killed thousands on both sides. Thus the overall dwarven hatred and distrust for wizards.

The Dark Dwarves are two clans of mountain dwarves who live deeper than others, completely in darkness. They are known for being evil and treacherous, and are much paler than others of their kind. The Theiwar (Thankless) clan became allergic to sunlight sometime around the Age of Dreams. They are very fair-skinned and have a knack for arcane magic. The Daegar (Deepest) clan were once noble mountain dwarves, but sided with rebel Theiwar and were banished with them to the deeper reaches.

Dark Dwarves have all the traits of PHB dwarves, except they have -4 Charisma, longer sight of Darkvision, racial bonuses on Hide, Listen and Move Silently checks, take penalties to rolls under bright sunlight, and have Rogue as a favored class. They’re definitely geared towards stealthier characters, but the light sensitivity is a big hindrance for most campaigns.

Which brings us to Gully Dwarves. They are of clan Aghar (Anguished), and are one of the 3 comic relief races of Dragonlance and thus hated by a lot of gamers. Basically gully dwarves are believed to be the result of gnome-dwarf interbreeding in the distant Age of Dreams, inheriting the worst traits of both. They earned their name for their poor status and living conditions.

Gully Dwarves live amid the ruins, sewers, and other places untouched by the other races of Ansalon. Their lives revolved around simple survival, of hunting and scrounging food most of the time. They are incredibly stupid, most being unable to count past 2 (which is anything more than 1 to them). They believe themselves to be abandoned by Reorx and thus worship no Gods. They're mostly Chaotic Neutral, having no code of rules beyond survival and not cared for by either side of Good or Evil. Instead they appeal to ancestral spirits they believe live in objects; a dead rat or lizard or wooden spoon might have wondrous powers (which don't exist) to a Gully Dwarf. They also only fight when backed into a corner, pleading piteously to have their lives spared. None of the other races of Ansalon like them, and are usually chased out of communities or forced to live in forgotten spaces of cities.

Gully Dwarves as a race are incredibly underpowered. They have +2 Dexterity and Constitution, but -4 Intelligence and Charisma. They receive bonuses on stuff gully dwarves are good at (survival checks, diplomacy checks to convince enemies not to harm them), but they receive penalties against fear effects and Intimidation rolls for their cowardice. Gully dwarves make poor thieves and arcane casters due to their slow speed and intelligence/charisma penalties (plus kender have more relevant bonuses). They're not good melee brutes due to their small size, and overall lose much more than they gain in terms of racial traits. There's nothing a gully dwarf can do that an existing race can't do better.

The Elves of Krynn are one of the three original mortal races, created by the good-aligned Gods of Light. As a people they have long lifespans and seek to live in harmony with nature. In addition to low-light vision and the common PHB elven racial traits, Dragonlance elves have Elfsight, which grants Darkvision up to 30 feet.

Qualinesti Elves live in the forest nation of Qualinost. They tend to have better relations with other races in comparison to their more xenophobic kin (+1 bonus on Diplomacy and Sense Motive), but even then they look down upon them as crude and unsophisticated. They're much more indivualistic, and their government is run by a Senate which elects their ruler, the Speaker of the Sun. Twice they had to leave their homeland, most recently after a battle with Beryl the Green Dragon Overlord turned their capital city to ruin. Like the Silvanesti they are a people living outside their ancestral home.

Kagonesti Elves, also known as Wilder Elves, live in the forests of Southern Ergoth. They are a technologically primitive, hunter-gatherer society and believe that every aspect of the world possesses a spirit. They decorate their bodies with feathers, paint, tattoos, leather fringe, and other accessories for symbolic meanings (family history, honoring spirits and granting good fortune, etc). They persevered through Ergothian incursions, the depredations of the Dragonarmies, the Dragon Overlord Gellidus, and even enslavement at the hands of Qualinesti and Silvanesti. This has made them resentful of humans and other elves for constant attacks on their way of life.

Oh, did I mention that the "high" elves in this setting are total dicks? Yeah, every negative stereotype about elves in Tolkienish fantasy has been done tenfold in Dragonlance.

Kagonesti have +2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence and Charisma, +1 bonus on Knowledge (Nature) and Survival, and are proficient with the longspear instead of the longsword. Their favored class is Ranger.

Silvanesti Elves are isolationist, arrogant people who are extremely racist against everyone else. They are the most beautiful of the elves and have one of the most advanced societies in terms of scholarly and magical might, but their cold aloofness makes it hard for others to appreciate this. They view half-elves as abominations, Kagonesti as savage children, and Qualinesti as "poor, uncultured cousins." They have one of the most strict caste systems in Ansalon, where a person's House determines their station and occupation in life. They traditionally lived in the forest nation of Silvanesti in southeast Ansalon, but after a joint Dark Knight/minotaur invasion drove them out they've been forced to live in the arid regions of Khur and the Plains of Dust. They are strongly lawfully-aligned.


Silvanesti are aligned with good, but they believe so highly in their own purity that goodness can be taken to extremes.

Racism: an extreme form of Good.

In terms of game stats they have standard elf stuff, but +2 Dexterity and Intelligence, and -2 to Constitution and Charisma. They have +1 on Knowledge (Arcana) and Spellcraft checks.

Half-elves are treated as outcasts by both humans and elves. For a long time elven-human relations were not very good, and most children between the two post-Age of Might were borne out of rape by human bandits. As such, half-elves grow up unwanted and tend to be more likely to reject society and authority. They too have Elfsight of 30 foot darkvision like their elven parents.

Sea Elves live in Krynn’s many oceans. They are separated into two groups, the Dargonesti (Deep Elves), who stick to deep water and the Dimernesti (Shoal Elves), who live closer to the surface and coastlines near coral reefs. They are very tall, ranging six to seven feet on average, and have webbed fingers and toes and gill slits on their necks. Dargonesti have many deep-sea citadels and a glorious kingdom, Watermere, while the Dimernesti mostly have small family units. Also, Dargonesti have such a fearsome reputation as aquatic warriors that many sailors fear them more than sharks!
Sea elves of both varieties have standard elf traits, plus they can swim as fast as a human walks on land and can breathe underwater and sense their depth intuitively. They are instead proficient with the trident, net and longspear, and while they can live on land they dehydrate quickly and suffer penalties on rolls if they don’t soak in water for an hour or two. Dargonesti can change shape into a porpoise, Dimernesti into a sea otter. Dargonesti also get some spell-like abilities which aid in concealment and misdirection (darkness, obscuring mist, blur, and dancing lights). The traits are very flavorful and make the sea elves the most unique of the bunch.

Gnomes are the tinkers and inventors of Krynn. Originally they were human worshipers of Reorx changed into gnomes by said deity for their arrogance. Today gnomes pursue all manner of scientific innovation in their home of Mount Nevermind, a dormant volcano. The gnomes are the most technologically advanced civilization in Ansalon, having mastered the secrets of steam power, electricity, and intricate mechanical clockwork devices. Their use among the other races is limited, as gnomes love to experiment just to experiment and most of their contraptions are needlessly complex and subject to unexpected quirks. Gnomes view this as the inevitable consequence of progress, that a project’s failure can give rise to an insightful new lead for further development.

An important aspect of Gnomish culture is the Life Quest. It is a singular goal a gnome dedicates his life to achieving, more important than anything else. It can range from all manner of subjects, although all of them relate to the pursuit and expansion of knowledge. A gnome who completes his or her Life Quest is said to earn an honored position by Reorx in the afterlife, although gnomes who complete 3 or more Life Quests are exiled from the community for making everyone else look bad. On that note, gnomes of evil alignment have a tendency to be literally catapulted out of their communities; gnomish cities also use catapults as a means of transportation in lieu of elevators and stairs.

Gnomes tend to be very talkative and obsessed with their studies, often getting overexcited and running words together to express their thoughts at the moment before they’re lost. They’re capable of speaking and listening to others at the same time, and conversations with other races tends to be a frustrating affair for both parties.

Mechanics-wise gnomes have +2 Dexterity and Intelligence but -2 to Strength and Wisdom (the archetypical absent-minded professor). They also gain a bonus on alchemy checks and a single craft, profession, and knowledge skill depending upon their Guild. Intense dedication to Life Quests has made them strongly determined, granting them a +2 bonus on Will Saves.

There are also “mad” gnomes, who do not have the gnomish inspiration for tinkering or the passion for Life Quests. They tend to be outcasts or pitied, but they’re closer to humans in mentality and speech. They lose their Intelligence and Wisdom modifiers, along with Will Saves, but they gain +2 on Disable Device and Open Locks since they’re skilled at building smaller, more compact, and more reliable machinery.

A lot of gamers hate gnomes along with kender and gully dwarves, but I honestly like them. Their behavior is not going to be disruptive to parties if role-played out, and their advanced technology provides Dungeon Masters the excuse to insert steampunk and mad science stuff into their sessions without it jarring the rest of the setting.

Oh boy, Kender. Basically kender are the children of the races of Krynn. They approach life and new things with intense curiosity, often without regard to their own safety. Every day is a new opportunity for adventure, every locked door a beckoning to find out what’s behind it, every neat-looking object to be fondled and absent-mindedly forgotten in their pocket without any regard to its original owner.

On that last note, this bit of Kender behavior is known as “borrowing.” Hickman and Weis were uncomfortable with having a traditional greedy thief character in their story, so instead they made Tasslehoff Burrfoot and the kender. When a kender finds something cool, they appropriate something which captures their eye. The concept of private property and privacy are alien to their minds, and they get so easily distracted they constantly forget what they took. They resent accusations of thievery, and have a handy list of excuses for why someone’s item ended up in their possession (such as “I was keeping it safe in my possession. You never know when somebody might steal it.”) It’s implied that this behavior is inherent to their race and not the result of cultural conditioning, meaning that any attempts to teach them will be fruitless. Kender also don’t really feel fear, although they understand that certain behavior might result in their deaths. The text also waffles between the Kender being likable and getting along with everyone to them being common pests who drive people crazy and are chased away all the time.

Mechanics-wise they have +2 Dexterity but -2 Strength and Wisdom. They’re immune to fear and intimidation and gain +2 on Spot, Sleight of Hand, and Open Lock skills (the latter two they can make untrained). They’re also great at pissing people off and gain a +4 racial bonus on taunt checks. Taunt is a new application of the bluff skill where a successful check inflicts -1 on attack rolls and Armor Class. They’re also bad at concentration, making them poor spellcasters (-4 on Concentration checks).

The problem with Kender is that a lot of players view them as the perfect excuse to engage in douchebag behavior, such as stealing items from fellow PCs for themselves (despite the fact that kender don’t care for an objects monetary/practical value). The 3rd Edition fluff text doesn’t really help, as the excuses come off more as deliberate lies when caught in the act. Overall, Kender make for great thief characters.

There is also Afflicted Kender, who were traumatized by Malystryx’s devastation of their home and lost their Kender innocence. They lose their fear immunity, but suffer no concentration penalties or Bluff bonuses, and have +2 to Climb, Hide, Jump, and Move Silently checks. Overall I’d say that they’re an improvement over “true” Kender for the skill bonuses (which ironically make them even better thieves).

Centaurs live in Ansalon’s plains, savoring life’s simple pleasures in hedonistic bliss. They are organized into nomadic herds and speak an archaic version of common (“thou” and “thy” instead of “you” and “your”). They traditionally lived in Abanasinia but migrated south into Qualinesti and then throughout the forests of Ansalon. They are very vain, and decorate their bodies with jewelry, flowers, and other aesthetically pleasing baubles.

Centaurs have a lot of powerful traits and racial hit die, effectively making them higher level characters even before they take their first class. Monster PCs in 3rd Edition use a Level Adjustment system, where abilities grant effective “shadow” levels on top of existing ones in addition to Hit Dice monsters of their race have. Centaurs are considered 6th level before they gain any class levels. Centaurs are fast and have some good ability modifiers (+8 Strength, +4 Dexterity, +4 Constitution, -2 Intelligence, +2 Wisdom), but that’s all they really have going for them. In practice the Level Adjusment system makes centaurs and other monsters underpowered. Their quadrupedal form and large size makes it awkward for them to maneuver in a lot of places, and they don’t gain any unique class features or spellcasting ability (and what caster levels they do gain will be outclassed by the normal races).

Another of the “monstrous” races, Draconians are a Dragonlance staple. In the Age of Despair the Dragon Empire used an unholy ritual on the eggs of metallic dragons to turn the hatchlings into humanoid dragon-people. They deliberately kept the female eggs unhatched to control the population, who served in the Empire’s military forces. A Draconian general by the name of Kang managed to retrieve the female eggs and defected, forming the nation of Teyr. Due to their history of conquest and subjugation, they are disliked by many of the races of Krynn, and even the Empire’s later incarnations (Knights of Takhisis, Knights of Neraka) still view them as servants which need to be controlled.

There are five breeds of “normal” draconians, but only two of them are deemed suitable for PC use: the Baaz (created from brass dragon eggs), and the Kapak (created from copper dragon eggs). Baaz are brutish and have a penchant for drinking and revelry, partying as hard as they fight. Given their military background their communities tend to adopt such trappings (including military slang and jargon), and their names derive from the Nerakan language as opposed to Draconic. Kapaks were bred as scouts and assassins, and they shared a fierce rivalry with the Baaz as both groups tried to prove themselves to higher-ranking human officers (although in battling together against a hostile world has made these tensions almost forgotten in recent years). Kapaks have glands in their mouths which exude poison (for the men) or saliva which can heal wounds (the women).

Draconians also suffer “death throes” when they die, deliberately designed to inconvenience enemy troops. Baaz’s bodies solidfy, trapping any sharp weapons inside, while Kapaks burst into a pool of acid.

Mechanics-wise both draconian breeds are of the Dragon type, death throes, have bite and claw natural attacks, immunity to disease of all kinds, vestigial wings which grant them limited flight, run as a bonus feat, spell resistance, and the ability to survive on 1/10th the normal food and drink thanks to their low metabolisms. They both have 2 racial hit dice and +1 and +2 Level Adjustment for Baaz and Kapaks respectively. Overall they’re quite a solid choice, monster-wise, as they both have a lot of useful abilities and their Dragon type grants them several immunities. As long as you stick to their strengths (don’t be a spellcaster!) they should keep up with their fellow humanoid PCs.

Ogres and ogrekin are one of the three elder races, this one favored by the Gods of Darkness. The ogres in the Age of Dreams built the first civilization and empire as they enslaved the humans through superior might. Back then they were physically and mentally gifted, yet lacking in mercy and compassion. Some Ogres learned of compassion and were exiled before the empire’s fall, becoming the Irda (or High Ogres), while ogres warped by the Graygem of Gargath became minotaurs. Eventually the ogres of the empire were cursed for their wicked ways, transformed into the huge, ugly, and brutish creatures of today.

The Irda escaped this curse, dedicated to Good and living in a remote island off the coast of Ansalon. Irda prefer to spend their time in solitude, disguising themselves as other races when forced to interact with them. All Irda still feel the pangs of evil due to their ogre blood, and thus adopted strict regimens of self-control (and are also vegetarians to further reject ogre cultural norms). They are blue-skinned and extraordinarily graceful and beautiful in their undisguised forms. In recent years the Irda rediscovered the Graygem and accidentally broke it, releasing the evil primordial god Chaos into the world and thus beginning the Chaos War, an act that fills them with shame and regret.

Mechanics-wise Irda are Medium size, have +2 Intelligence and Charisma but -2 Constitution, low-light vision, can take the form of a humanoid creature Small to Large size 3 times a day (duration is indefinite), and can cast several minor level 0 spells as spell-like abilities once per day each (detect magic, flare, ghost sound, dancing lights, light, and mage hand). They have a +2 Level Adjustment, which to me is too high (I don’t think that they deserve a Level Adjustment at all, personally).

Traditional, or “Fallen,” Ogres are a cruel and evil race who believe that might makes right. They tend to be warlike scavengers and raiders who prey on each other and the other races of Krynn, who they feel wronged by historically in different ways (they fought dwarves over territory, human slaves overthrew their empire, elves are the children of the Gods of Light and thus the enemy, etc). Most of them live in the nations of Kern and Blode, living among the ruins of their once-proud empire and doing their best to emulate what little they remember of its ways.

Ogres are effectively Level 6 before adding class levels. They are pretty much geared towards melee roles, having a massive Strength and Constitution bonus (+10 and +4) but penalties to almost all other ability scores (-2 Dexterity, -4 Intelligence and Charisma). They are Large Size and have increased melee reach in combat but nothing in the way of racial bonuses to skills, saves, or anything else in the way of special traits. Overall they’re kind of a boring option.

Half-ogres have ogre and human blood, often rejected by both societies. The ogres for being “soft and weak,” the humans who suspect them of being inherently violent and evil. Half-ogres tend to have mixed attitudes towards both races, alternatively rejecting and accepting one or both societies. Most other races aren’t fond of them, except for kender who keep an open mind. They are naturally inclined towards the adventuring life, welcome in few places.

Mechanics-wise they are Medium size (but very tall around 7 feet), have +4 Strength and +2 Constitution but -2 Intelligence and Charisma. They have a +1 natural armor bonus and low-light vision, but nothing else. They have +1 Level Adjustment, which is too high when you compare them to the minotaurs who don’t even have one. As a race Half-ogres feel bland, nothing much beyond “outcasts.”

Minotaurs are a seafaring race and are most prominent in eastern Ansalon. Their society is militaristic, holding the ideals of honor, bravery, and physical and mental strength as highest virtues. They are strongly lawfully-aligned with a tendency towards evil due to their worship of Sargonnas (god of vengeance). Their empire is a chain of islands across the Blood Sea, with the two largest being Mithas and Kothas which contain the majority of their population. Minotaurs make natural adventurers as the pursuit of glory through danger and violence lines up with their societal ideals. Many minotaurs sold their services as mercenaries in many of Ansalon’s wars, and their expansive expeditions of the seas of eastern Ansalon make them a well-traveled people.

They also have an annual Great Circus in the capital, where minotaur contestants have their skills tested in martial gladiatorial combat, chariot racing, and other risky physical activities to the delight of crowds.

Minotaurs are Medium size with +4 Strength but -2 Dexterity, Intelligence, and Charisma. They have exceptionally thick hides (+2 Armor Class) and horns as natural weapons which do more damage in a charge. They can gain the Scent quality by taking it as a feat, allowing them to detect nearby hidden opponents, and +2 on Intimidate, Swim, and Use Rope checks. And no Level Adjustment, and overall a solid race, one which was popular among my players who liked to play bruisers. They gain a lot more stuff than the poor half-ogres.

And that’s it for races!

Thoughts so far: I have mixed feelings about this chapter. On the one hand Dragonlance does a great job of balancing the line between cliché stock fantasy tropes and applying a new spin on them. The variety of subraces for the main groups, such as the dwarven clans, is well-done. The presence of monstrous races as character options, plus their usability in certain realms on Ansalon, is a neat addition as well.

On the other hand, the races are not balanced against each other. Some races are clearly better choices than others, while some have stats which box them into a specific and narrow class role. The Gully Dwarf can’t really do anything good which isn’t highly situational, and the “monstrous” races overall have too high Level Adjustments.

Next time, Chapter Two: Classes & Feats!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragonlance Campaign Setting Chapter Two, Part One: Classes & Feats

This chapter overviews the existing Player’s Handbook classes and how they fit (or don’t fit) in Dragonlance, as well as some new core classes, prestige classes, and feats.

Barbarians are not much different; they number among nomadic humans, Kagonesti elves, and ogres. They are warriors skilled in wilderness survival and tend to revere the three nature deities or practice various forms of animism and ancestor worship (although most aren’t devoutly religious).

Bards are the historians and folklorists of Krynn, keeping the memory of legends alive by incorporating their deeds into song and poetry. They are common among any race who practices musical and oral traditions, and their magic is ambient magic like that of sorcerers. As such, they can only cast spells in the Fifth Age onwards, and cannot cast healing spells at all because those are they exclusive province of the Gods.

Clerics are the worshipers of the 21 Gods of Light, Balance, and Darkness. No true Cleric serves an abstract cause, philosophy, or false deity. Clerics who don’t worship a deity cannot cast spells or turn undead. The gods of Krynn created the world and are the original source of all magical power. Additionally, every holy symbol is a Medallion of Faith, an outward sign of their devotion. Without the medallion the Cleric cannot cast or prepare spells higher than 3rd level. Additionally, they can be used to create other Medallions for new Clerics, even those of another deity (although good clerics can’t create medallions for evil deities and vice versa). Secondly, any attempts to forcibly remove a medallion from a Cleric’s neck deals 2d4 points of divine damage to the aggressor.

Druids are specialized priests of nature, worshiping either Habbakuk (neutral good deity of the circle of life), Chislev (neutral deity of nature itself), or Zeboim (chaotic evil deity of wrath and the sea), although the sourcebook Holy Order of the Stars reveals that druids can also worship Morgion (neutral evil deity of disease, decay, and pestilence). Druids do not need a Medallion of Faith, and they are most common among nomadic humans, centaurs, and Kagonesti elves.

Fighters are not much different than in other settings except that it mentions that most members of the 3 major Knighthoods have levels in this class (Paladins don’t really exist on Krynn.)

Monks are rare and isolated, sticking to self-sufficient communities in their pursuit of enlightenment. Most monks on Krynn are Lawful Good or Lawful Neutral and worship Majere (god of wisdom), part of a sect called Claren Elian. Monks are most common among humans, half-elves, and minotaurs.

Paladins are normally unavailable, as the Knights of Solamnia already fill their role aesthetically in the setting. However, the text mentions that the DM might allow them for distinguished champions of one of the Gods of Light (such as Kiri-Jolith). If they’re allowed they need to worship a deity to gain spells.

Rangers are those people who explore the wild reaches of Ansalon. They must worship one of the deities of nature to gain spells. New thing, they can choose organizations instead of monsters for their favored enemies. Of course, the examples provided are very prominent and iconic examples, such as the Knights of Neraka or the Order of the White Robes.

Rogues are thieves, swindlers, highwaymen, and others who make their way through life via underhanded means. Most of the new stuff talks about “Handlers,” Kender rogues, and how they differ from traditional thieves (basically nothing, except that they take stuff regardless of monetary value and forget to return it).

Sorcerers, also known as Primal Sorcerers, are arcane asters who can cast their spells without relying upon the Moons of Magic. Basically the world of Krynn was created with ambient magic, and a sorcerer extends their awareness into their surroundings to tap into this energy. Their art is called “Primal Sorcery” in comparison to the more focused “High Sorcery” of the Wizards. Primal Sorcery is the oldest form of arcane magic, but its influence waned among the mortal races when the three Gods of Magic helped create the Orders of High Sorcery. When the Graygem was cracked and summoned Chaos into the world, the levels of primal magic increased so that mortals could once again tap into it. Sorcerers do not derive their powers from bloodlines, in comparison to traditional D&D.

Wizards are arcane casters who draw their spells from one of the three Moons of Magic. One does not need to belong to the Orders of High Sorcery in order to be a Wizard. In fact, many hedge magicians ply minor spells without coming into contact with them, although wizards of sufficient power (can cast 3rd level or higher spells) are required by the Order to take the Test of High Sorcery and declare allegiance to one of the three factions (White, Red, or Black Robes) or risk being branded a renegade and hunted down. The Knights of Neraka boast a high number of renegade Wizards among their number in the Knights of the Thorn, and they derive their spells from all three Moons; such wizards are called the “Gray Robes” by some. Wizardry is a respected art among the elves and Irda, and Theiwar dark dwarves contain many among their number.

In regards to NPC Classes, Commoners, Experts, and Warriors are available and otherwise the same. Adepts do not exist, for magic is a rare and wonderful gift in Dragonlance, while the Aristocrat class has a PC variant known as the Noble.

On that note, we have two new core classes: the Mystic and the Noble.

The Mystic is basically a divine sorcerer, capable of drawing upon divine magic without worshiping a deity. Mysticism was also re-introduced into the world with the release of Chaos. A mystic awakens to their magic via a process of introspection and self-discovery. They are a very diverse group, from necromancers to divinatory seers. A mystic can still worship a deity, but their spells are independent of said deity’s approval.

Mechanics-wise, mystics are much like clerics except that they’re not proficient with heavy armor and can’t turn undead, and they learn and cast spells much in a manner of a sorcerer. Instead of praying every day and choosing spells to prepare, they gain spells spontaneously upon leveling up, which they cast multiple times per day with spell slots exactly like a sorcerer. The Mystic can choose one cleric domain, gaining all its benefits and learning the spells as spells known. Mystics with the Sun domain can turn undead.

Overall this is a good, solid class in both flavor and mechanics. They can cast spells more often than Clerics, but they’re less versatile overall in that they’re more or less stuck with their spells known.

Nobles are the members of society’s upper class, be they ancestral lineages of regents and kings or even wealthy chieftains. Societies with fluid and extremely egalitarian social structures do not have people of the noble class, as one must be born into nobility in order to take the class (1st level). I feel that this is limiting. The noble is sort of a generic “leader with influence” class, and can accommodate a lot of things.

In terms of game mechanics, nobles are a poor man’s Bard. There’s nothing they can’t do a Bard can’t do better and with spells. They have average BAB, good Reflex and Will Saves, a robust skill list incorporating all the “social” and knowledge ones, and good proficiencies (simple and martial weapons, light armor, shields).

Their class features are lackluster: Bonus Class Skill grants one cross-class skill to the list, while Favor is an open-ended d20 roll against a DC to call in a service (DC 10 for simple stuff, DC 25 for dangerous and illegal favors), and favors which can circumvent adventure plots always fail. A noble gains a static bonus to the roll every few levels. Inspire Confidence is a limited per-day ability which grants bonuses to rolls for allies (bards can do this) for 5 rounds, while Inspire Greatness is largely the same as the bard’s except it grants bonuses to all saving throws and also lasts 5 rounds and is gotten 2 levels later. Coordinate grants additional bonuses for aid another checks every couple levels (+7 at 20th level), and that’s it.

The Noble is an unnecessary and underpowered class whose intended role can be done better by Bards and Paladins. If you want a noble PC, make it a backstory thing while being a Bard or Fighter or whatnot.

Prestige Classes

This section divides Prestige Classes into two groups: the first covers classes which are representative of Dragonlance’s most prominent organizations, while the second covers more generic archetypes. We’ll cover the organization PrCs first.

The Knights of Solamnia are an old and respected order responsible for many of Krynn’s greatest heroes, and serve as the ruling class of the nation of Solamnia. They are bound by the oath “Est Sularus Oth Mithas,” or “My Honor is My Life,” and seek to defend the weak and fight against Evil. During the Age of Despair the nation of Solamnia went through societal upheaval as peasants blamed them for the Cataclysm and overthrew many of their holds. Many Knights during this time abandoned their principles, either giving up their codes or following the letter of the law at the expense of its spirit, but they regained their honor after fighting valiantly against the forces of Takhisis in the War of the Lance. They are Lawful Good and revere the Gods of Light, especially Paladine and Kiri-Jolith. They are split into three major groups, and thus 3 Prestige Classes: the Knights of the Crown, Sword, and Rose.

The Knights of Solamnia are a hierarchal organization, meaning that in order to join the Sword you must have been accepted into the Crown, while for the Rose you must already be a Sword. This applies to the Prestige Classes as well, meaning that if you want to be a Sword of Rose you pretty much have to plan everything about your character from level 1. For example, Knight of the Rose can be taken no less than 10th character level, as you need 3 levels in Sword, 1 level in Crown, have Base Attack Bonus +8, cast 2nd level divine spells, among other things. As Cleric and Sword don’t grant full BAB progression, you need to make up those other 6 BAB points with 6 class levels. And that’s not counting the role-playing requirements and tests of moral character!

Knights of the Crown are the first tier and embody the virtues of honor and obedience. The class focuses around tough, heavily-armored fighters, with abilities which grant bonuses on initiative rolls, resistance and immunity to fear effects, heroic resolve which temporarily boosts physical ability scores, and treating heavy armor as medium armor for enhanced mobility. Their 10th level capstone ability grants them a heroic valor (combat buff spell) once per day and bonuses on all saving throws. They’re the “tanks” of the Knights.

Knights of the Sword are the warriors who fight to defend truth and justice, composed of clerics, crusaders, and are the religious arm of the knights. In order to enter must be able to cast divine spells and pass several tests (single combat against an evil worthy opponent, tests of wisdom, generosity, and courage, a journey of at least 500 miles, etc). As a class they can smite evil, turn undead, and gain enhanced caster levels as the god Kiri-Jolith grants them divine power. Their 10th level capstone ability grants them the ability to treat their weapons as holy and cast holy aura (protective spell from evil creatures’ attacks ) once per day. They’re sort of like a Paladin-lite class, but with full casting progression.

Knights of the Rose are the highest tier and leaders of the Knights, embodying the principles of wisdom and justice. They gain leadership-related abilities and bonuses to allies in tasks, along with full casting progression and some divination spell-like abilities reflecting their judgment and adherence to the Oath and Measure. Their capstone ability makes them a living embodiment of all the Knighthood stands for, and gains complete immunity to harmful compulsion spells and can cast foresight (preternatural awareness against all threats) once per day. Overall a good class, although the excessive multi-classing to get it can be a real chore.

Overall the Knight prestige classes were too clunky to be used by my own group, who instead opted for playing Paladins while retaining the same flavor. A later sourcebook Knightly Orders of Ansalon split them up into independent classes and revising them to be friendlier entries to classes other than Fighter and Cleric, and dispensed with the Tests for entry, instead being a role-playing thing determined by individual groups and DMs.

The Knights of Neraka, formerly the Knights of Takhisis, were formed by Ariakan, son of Emperor Ariakas of the now-fallen Dragon Empire. After being held and then released as a prisoner of war by the Solamnic, he learned much of their traditions and structure and decided to replicate it, albeit this time dedicated to Takhisis/Tiamat. The Knights of Takhisis were devoted to bringing all of Ansalon (and eventually the world) under their goddess’ heel, but after her death they became a more secular organization when mystics after many of their leaders mastered said magic during the War of Souls. The Knights are guided by 3 principles: the Vision, their ultimate goal of continental domination of Ansalon; the Blood Oath, the swearing of one's submission and life to the Knighthood (and formerly Takhisis when she lived); and the Code, a complex set of laws and rules for how the Knights should conduct themselves in relation to others.

Now known as the Knights of Neraka, they are split into 3 orders: the Knights of the Lily, the backbone of the order and their warriors; the Knights of the Skull, mystics specialized in intelligence-gathering and security purposes; and the Knights of the Thorn, sorcerers and renegade Wizards specializing in divination and cosmic awareness. Unlike the Knights of Solamnia one can take the Prestige Classes independently. For example, a Knight of the Thorn needs no levels in Skull or Lily. All Knights must be Lawful Evil, and gnomes, kender, and draconians are barred from entry (draconians are viewed as lowly servants).

The Knight of the Lily are a warrior PrC which grants Sneak Attack damage, resistance and immunity to fear effects, bonus against mind-affecting spells, armored mobility like a Knight of the Crown, and their 10th level capstone ability makes them immune to becoming flat-footed or surprise unless they and every other Knight of the Lilly within 100 feet is. Overall it’s not a very powerful class, as its abilities are too back-loaded and small to matter at higher levels, and the sneak attack progresses too slowly to add much damage.

The Knight of the Skull is a divine caster, gaining full progression except at 1st level, can smite good-aligned enemies, discern lies and rebuke undead (all of which are front-loaded in the first 3 levels), and at 10th level treats all weapons they wield as unholy. The class has the least amount of unique features of the Knights, but since they only sacrifice one caster level than they would as a Mystic they’re not losing anything.

The Knight of the Thorn are known as “gray robes” for their ash-colored garments. They are the pre-eminent organization of arcane spellcasters in Ansalon outside the Orders of High Sorcery, and as such are enemies of all three Orders. They are seers who use magic to learn how every person and even fits into their order’s designs.

Entry as a pure sorcerer/wizard is impossible, as a Thorn Knight needs a good base Fortitude Save (+4) and proficiency in all martial weapons and heavy armor. However, they more than make up for it with full casting progression, lower arcane spell failure while wearing armor (maximum of -20% at 8th level), automatically learning the augury (yes/no divination spell), divination, and commune spells at certain levels along with the ability to cast one more divination spell per day, one additional divination spell known or learned into their spellbook at each level, the ability to channel touch spells through their weapons, and at 10th level once per day can add their caster level as a bonus to a single d20 roll. Overall they gain a lot of good abilities, and their flavor is cool, too!

The Legion of Steel is the third major knightly order. They are the youngest of the three, formed after the Chaos War by Steel Brightblade and former Solamnic and Nerakan Knights disillusioned with their old orders. The Legion of Steel is more populist and working-class, allowing anybody to join regardless of race or social status, and they are organized into semi-independent cells across Ansalon instead of a formal hierarchy. Instead of a written code they follow an orally-spoken ideal known as Sara’s Legacy, which teaches to stand against injustice, gain strength through knowledge, to have the courage to do what is right, and help their communities.

As a prestige class they are very easy to qualify for: you must not be of evil alignment and easy to hit base attack and saving throw requirements, along with some ranks in Bluff and Diplomacy. It’s a 3-level prestige class which grants you Legion Knowledge (like Bardic Knowledge), 2 Favored Enemies (enemies of the Legion which include evil dragons, the other Knighthoods, and some monstrous races), bonus on interaction rolls with working-class and poor people, and an apprentice at 3rd level is works exactly as a cohort like the Leadership feat. It is supplementary to any existing cohorts.

This would be a weak class were it not for the apprentice, which can effectively be a 2nd PC for the player to control.

The Wizards of High Sorcery are one of the most venerable, powerful, and feared organizations in Ansalon. Back during the Age of Dreams the only mages were Scions, primal sorcerers and mystics; during the Second Dragon War they fought on the side of the elves and unleashed devastating magic in the battle. This overwhelming power killed many of the dragons, but countless innocents died in the crossfire. The three deities Solinari, Lunitari, and Nuitari realized that such power needs guidance and order to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again, and they assumed new mantles as the Gods of Magic and taught the Scions to channel their magic through the Moons. These Scions learned the arts of wizardry and formed the Order of High Sorcery, creating five Towers to help in the teaching and accumulation of magical knowledge.

The three orders are thus: the White Robes, good-aligned devotees of Solinari who are dedicated to using their magic to eliminating suffering and promoting good works; the Red Robes, the most numerous of the orders and the neutral-aligned devotees of Lunitari who encourage a balance between Good and Evil; and the Black Robes, who believe that magic should be pursued without moral or ethical restraints and have a Social Darwinist “only the most powerful mages deserve the riches of the world.” Despite alignment differences, all Orders vow a primary allegiance to magic above everything else.

Once a Wizard attains a certain level of power and completes a Test, they automatically gain a level in the prestige class. The prerequisites are easy enough for a Wizard to meet: appropriate alignment for the Robe to wear, able to prepare and cast spells from a school their Robed Order favors (abjuration and divination for white, illusion and transmutation for red, enchantment and necromancy for black), and two metamagic or item creation feats.

Mechanics-wise Wizards gain a free magic item after completing the Test, enhanced specialization in their school (if they’re a specialist) with additional spells per day and Save DCs, a variable modifier to their caster level depending upon the phase of their aligned Moon, and access to the libraries and laboratories of the Towers (although only Wayreth still exists). Additionally a Wizard can learn Secrets from their appropriate Order at every 3rd level. Basically secrets are unique abilities which are added to spells and thematically related to their order. For example, a Red Robe’s Magic of Deception makes his spells harder to detect with divination, while a Black Robe’s Magic of Darkness converts half of the damage of a spell to negative energy. They’re overall pretty cool, and a few can grant free metamagic abilities without increasing caster level, so that’s good, but the Black Robe in particular has a super-powerful secret: Magic of Hunger. This allows the Wizard the ability to prepare an additional spell per day by suffering Constitution damage equal to the spell level, and the damage has to be recovered naturally. As a Wizard’s power comes from their spells and how much they can cast them, a Black Robe PC playing his cards right effectively gains free spells.

A Wizard can also switch Robes and alignment, and must assign their specialized and prohibited schools anew. Additionally they can no longer learn Secrets of their abandoned order, and suffer a massive -20% penalty on experience points earned until the next level.

As of Age of Mortals Sourcebook onwards, a Wizard of High Sorcery no longer needs to specialize in a school to attain this prestige class. They do not gain enhanced school specialization, though.

Overall this is a very powerful prestige class, as it supplements the abilities of one of the most powerful core classes in 3rd Edition. Power-wise there is no reason you wouldn’t take this class and remain a plain ol’ single-classed Wizard, especially now that you don’t need to be a Specialist now with errata. Role-playing wise you might not be fond of being part of a centralized hierarchy overseeing you.

Thoughts so far: I like the prestige classes in terms of flavor, but when it comes to game mechanics the spellcasters get all the good stuff. Story of 3rd Edition.

Next time the rest of Chapter Two: Other Prestige Classes and Feats!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragonlance Campaign Setting Chapter Two, Part Two: Classes & Feats

In this section, we’ll be covering the last four non-organization Prestige Classes and the new feats for the campaign setting.

The Dragon Rider is our first one. In ages long past dragons battled alongside humanoid warriors, bearing them as mounts and fighting in tandem. This tradition entered into recent history during the War of the Lance, on both sides with chromatic and metallic dragons alike.

The Prestige Class has some late level requirements: Base Attack bonus of +10, meaning you’ll have to be a single-classed warrior if you want all ten levels, must have ridden a dragon, and Leadership, Mounted Combat, and Resist Dragonfear feats. The BAB’s the only real steep entry, and like the Knights it sort of requires the player and DM to plan things out together with the “ride a dragon” prerequisite.

In terms of game mechanics this is an awesome class. First you get a dragon mount as a cohort, although there are restrictions: first they must be no older than an adult (such dragons are too arrogant to cooperate with humanoids as mounts), no younger than the young age category (still under the care of their parents and too immature), and not in opposition to the rider’s alignment. Said dragon must also be big enough to hold the rider (one size category larger), and must be treated as an equal as opposed to a dumb beast or minion. In exchange, a dragon gains bonus hit dice, strength, and natural armor as the rider gains levels in the class, and bonus feats. Also, a rider and mount over time can act on the same initiative (this is great!), gain telepathic communication with each other in line, and become immune to flanking attacks when riding as both cover their blind spots. Also, the more powerful dragon types as mounts are available at later levels; at 11th level the only choices are wyvern, and young white, brass, and black dragons, with juvenile and young adult dragons around 18th and 19th level.

I had a PC in one of my games take this, and for a time it seems as though he was on par with the spellcasters. The ability to engage in flight covers a lot of melee fighter’s shortcomings, plus the Tremendous Charge feat (new one I’ll cover later) with a lance really sends one’s damage soaring. There’s also the fact that dragons have minor spellcasting capability, so this is a really great martial PrC all-around.

The Inquisitor is an all-around spy, investigator, and those who are experts at unearthing other people’s secrets. They’re really easy to enter, requiring ranks in 3 investigation-related skills (Sense Motive, Knowledge-Local, and Gather Information), a +3 BAB and a non-chaotic alignment. He’s like a Rogue but without offensive capabilities: the class grants trap sense and uncanny dodge progression, and their first ability is Extreme Focus which allows them to add their ranks in Concentration to a single Intelligence or Wisdom skill check once per day per Inquisitor level (a good one level dip), and he can apply a synergy bonus to a skill of his choice from a Knowledge skill they’re trained in. Their capstone 10th level ability grants a Sherlock Holmes-style Intuitive Logic, which replicates the Divination spell with an 80% chance of success. Honestly this class isn’t worth it aside from Extreme Focus.

The Legendary Tactician is a leader of soldiers par excellence. The class’ iconic example is Laurana the Golden General, a PC from the original adventure path and book series, a Qualinesti elven princess who lead the Knights of Solamnia and other forces of Good against Takhisis’ army in the War of the Lance. The class has really easy pre-requisites: 4 ranks in Diplomacy, +5 Base Attack Bonus, the Leadership feat, and must have been involved in at least major skirmishes (at least ten people on each side), one of which must count as a defeat (why is failure necessary to become legendary?), and a group of at least five soldiers loyal to you. Trivial to earn with Leadership.

In terms of class features the Legendary Tactician grants buffs to his allies, such as inspire courage, rolling twice against fear-based effects, bonuses to Constitution checks on forced marches, and when retreating a morale bonus to Armor Class against attacks of opportunity. Only allies within a certain radius can be affected, usually either 30 feet per class level or just 30 feet for the higher-level abilities. It makes for a cool concept, but the bonuses are too small (usually +1) to matter unless they’re being stacked with a bunch of other bonuses.

The Righteous Zealot is a fanatic to a certain cause, viewing themselves as saviors and hoping to recruit others to the fold and force their will upon the world. The iconic example is the last Kingpriest of Istar, pictured above, a man so consumed with wiping off Evil from the face of Krynn that he only brought about more suffering and misery and the destruction of his empire. The only pre-requisites are ranks in several social skills, with Concentration and Diplomacy being the only ones above 3 ranks (8 required, to be specific).

The class is meant for bards and clerics, but it doesn’t grant any spellcasting progression, limiting its usefulness severely. A Righteous Zealot’s signature ability is Oration, which is sort of like Bardic Music in that it’s a limited-use mind-affecting ability except that it’s based on Diplomacy instead of Perform. New oration abilities can be gained with levels, and include enthralling crowds to listen to you, bestowing the effects of a confusion spell through verbal obfuscation, instilling suggestions in the minds of enthralled people, and other enchantment-based spell effects (although this last one comes in really late, at 10th level). Other class features include bonuses to Leadership, against mind-affecting magic, add their Charisma modifier to a single saving throw, and reroll a single failed roll once per day at 10th level. This class is underpowered as the Orations can only be used once per day per level total, and when they come into play they can be replicated by lower-level spellcasters via spells. If you added a full casting progression then you might have something.

And that’s it for Prestige Classes. Flavor-wise my favorites are the Dragon Rider and the Knights of Solamnia, but when it comes to ones which I’d have the most fun playing they’d be Dragon Rider and Knight of the Thorn.


We don’t have many feats here, 13 to be exact, but the ones we do have a doozy, either ranging from “underpowered and highly situational” to “holy crap pick this one, PICK IT!”

The more ho-hum ones include Cornered Rat (for Gully Dwarves, gain +2 on an attack roll when someone Intimidates you), Honor-Bound (+2 on saves to avoid being forced to break an oath/promise/duty), and Resist Dragonfear (normal and Improved grant a stacking +4 bonus each on saves against a dragon’s Frightful Presence), and Spectacular Death Throes (for draconians, your death throes are more dangerous than normal, bad because it will never come into play until you die).

The rest of the feats are nifty and cool.

Draconian Breath Weapon (and Improved), which grants you a 3d8/6d8 damaging line or cone attack of your draconic ancestor’s energy type.

Hulking Brute can be taken by Half-Ogres and Minotaurs, and you’re treated as Large when it’s advantageous for opposed rolls.

Flyby Breath and Strafing Breath are for dragons, allowing them to use their breath weapon as a free action if they do nothing but move on their turn for the former, and the latter extending the area with increased mobility (covering their area up to half their fly speed in the latter one).

Spear of Doom is a Fighter bonus feat which allows you to deal charge damage with a spearlike weapon if you ready against a charging opponent, while Tremendous Charge allows you to substitute your mount’s Strength bonus for damage instead of your own when making a mounted charge. Both have easy to meet pre-requisites, potentially at 1st-level! This last one is great when combined with a true dragon mount.

And our final feat, lest we forget, is a treat for spellcasters. Reserves of Strength allows a spellcaster to increase their Caster Level on a spell by 1-3 in exchange for being stunned for a like number of rounds as they draw upon their own force of will. These increased caster levels can extend beyond normal maximums, meaning that a 9th-level Wizard casting a Fireball spell can deal up to 12d6 damage. Naturally this has led to all sorts of min-maxing shenanigans. And if you’re somehow immune to being stunned you take damage instead.

Thoughts so far: I enjoy the feats overall, as most of them are quite effective choices. I can’t say the same thing for the last 4 Prestige Classes, however. Only the Dragon Rider is not underpowered, and it’s the most interesting choice thematically for a Dragonlance campaign.

Next time, Chapter Three: Magic!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragonlance Campaign Setting Chapter Three: Magic of Krynn

This chapter covers the different kinds of magic of Dragonlance. While there are some game mechanics in the forms of new spells, domains, and magic items, a significant amount is dedicated to the histories, origins, organizations, and practitioners of the various arts in the setting. I find it to be a nice touch for a D20 product, as a lot of settings either put the mechanics and setting in separate areas or just try to sell you the mechanics ("6 new races, and new cleric domains!") without giving the context of how it fits into the overall world. Despite its age I believe that more books should follow in its footsteps.

Arcane Magic

The purview of wizards and primal sorcerers, this form of magic involves the direct manipulation of creation. It has great destructive potential, so much so that the deities created the Curse of the Magi to limit its strength in the hands of mortals. Basically this is explicitly the "fire and forget" method of Vancian casting. Instead of permanently learning a spell and casting if forevermore, a spell leaves the wizard's mind upon casting, requiring hours of rest and restudying to learn it again. Sorcerers can sort of get around this limitation in that they intuitively "know" their spells, but even then it's physically taxing and they too must rest when they run out of spells per day.

High Sorcery

The art of wizardry, high sorcery is arcane magic channeled through the three moons of magic. The Orders of High Sorcery was created by the deities Solinari, Lunitari, and Nuitari, bound by three rules: "1: All wizards are brothers and sisters in their order. All orders are brothers and sisters in their power. 2: The places of High Sorcery are held in common among all orders and no sorcery is to be used in anger there against fellow wizards. 3: The world beyond the walls of the towers may bring brother against sister and order against order, but such is the way of the universe." These rules were implemented to discourage infighting among the orders, and to have the Towers as a "safe space" of sorts. The Towers were forged long ago in places believed to contain the greatest concentration of magical energy. As the wizards built their towers they attracted nearby communities, and from there grew some of the oldest and greatest cities of Ansalon: Daltigoth, Palanthas, and Istar. Each tower had a magically enchanted grove around it as a first line of defense, and each tower's master was taught a special secret spell which would allow a target to pass through unheeded. For example, the grove of Istar caused short-term memory loss of its boundaries, the grove of Daltigoth caused intruders to fall into a deep slumber, etc.

Only the towers of Wayreth and Goodlund were built in places of relative isolation. During the last years of Istar the Kingpriest led a crusade against the Orders, resulting in the destruction of all but Wayreth. Raistlin, one of the Heroes of the Lance, temporarily reclaimed the Tower of Palanthas.

During the early Fifth Age, when Takhisis stole the world, wizards lost their powers as the moons no longer hung in the sky and the Order disbanded. Many wizards during this time either turned to primal sorcery, gave up the practice entirely, and in some cases were murdered by enemies taking advantage of this. The Order was reformed when the deities returned, but these losses made them much less centralized.

As wizards draw their magic from the Moons, ones with the Wizard of High Sorcery PrC have their magical power fluctuate with their patron moon. Basically the fuller the moon the better, and the less full the less powerful. During the waxing and waning periods around the quarter moon (half-full) they have normal caster level, but during High Sanction (waxing and waning gibbous and full) they cast at +1 Caster Level and +1 to Save DCs of their spells. Reverse for Low Sanction (waxing and waning crescent and new moon). However, the exception is when at least two moons' phases are in conjunction, and this stacks with existing bonues (penalties for low sanction moons don't apply in this case), so Solinari and Lunitari full moons grant +2 Caster Level and Save DC to White and Red Robes. The effects are even more powerful when three moons are aligned, which applies a +2 bonus instead during Low Sanction and +3 during High Sanction (this event is known as the Night of the Eye and occurs only once every 504 days).

As you can tell by the chart, Nuitari goes through its phases the fastest, Solinari the slowest. This can be a complicated book-keeping method, and our group never bothered with it. They do present an alternative for rolling a d20 to determine moon positions each time it matters, where the moon phase matches up with the number on the chart.

Primal Sorcery

Known as "wild magic," primal sorcery is the oldest form of magic on Krynn and is more difficult to harness. Instead of using the Moons of Magic as a conduit, the caster draws directly from the creative foundations of the world to power their spells.

Every dragon can use it, due to their close connection to the world. Non-dragons who rediscovered it after the Chaos War had to learn an entirely new form of magic with no lineage of learned practitioners, unlike wizardry. Palin Majere, cousin to Raistlin Majere, gathered a bunch of sorcerers to form an Academy of Sorcery in the town of Solace, but it was short-lived when the forces of the Dragon Overlord Beryllinthranox razed it to the ground. Before its destruction classes were less formal, more based upon peer review and "learning as you go" than teachers and study. Most sorcerers today remain isolated and in hiding, with the Knights of the Thorn remaining the only real centralized organization for them.

Sorcerers are seen as a threat by the gods of Magic and the orders of High Sorcery, who treat them as renegades if they don't join the Orders and obtain sufficient magic power. Although it hasn't happened yet, a primal sorcerer can take the Test and join one of the Orders (although only Wizards can gain levels in the Wizard of High Sorcery Prestige Class).

Divine Magic

Okay, so what makes Divine Magic different than wizardry? Well for one, a cleric draws their power from their faith in a deity and receive spells for their dedication. Wizards just use the Moons as a conduit, although official members of the Orders are required to pay respects to the deity aligned with their favored moon. Mysticism draws from a person's inner self, and from the surrounding life on Krynn.

An Abridged History of Krynn's religions

We get a brief overlay of Ansalon's religious history, from one extreme to the other. During the height of the Empire of Istar worship of Paladine and the Gods of Good were central, but after the Cataclysm belief in the true Gods waned in favor and eventually forgotten as the pantheon cut off ties from Krynn. The deities were absent except for Solinari, Lunitari, and Nuitari, leaving wizards the only people capable of casting spells; many disreputable mages used magic to mimic the "power of the gods," forming their own false religions and cults. Combined with the lingering memories of the Kingpriest's crusades, this caused many people to distrust and hate them (and the Orders were instrumental in breaking up such cults for this very reason).

Takhisis was the first deity to come back to Krynn, using the Foundation Stone in the destroyed Temple of Istar as a conduit and transporting the structure to the mainline shore. From there she attracted all manner of followers who were rewarded with loyalty and divine magic. Her followers set about conquering much of Ansalon in the newly-formed Dragon Empire; it wasn't until the Heroes of the Lance in the original adventures and Chronicles brought back knowledge of the Gods of Good and the secrets of the Dragonlances that her forces were repulsed and knowledge of the Gods of Good and Neutrality were brought back to Krynn.

Unfortunately this wasn't to last, as Takhisis managed to steal the world away after the Chaos War, making her the only deity in connection with Krynn. Even the moons of magic were gone, resulting in a world without any form of magic for decades (Takhisis was too weak after this to grant prayers). During this time mysticism (along with primal sorcery) was discovered, when Goldmoon (another Hero of the Lance) was able to call upon "miracles" again through the power of her inner self. Once Takhisis regained her power she picked a champion, a young girl named Mina, to spread word of the One God, supposedly a God who was always with Krynn and did not abandon them. Resentful of the deities leaving again and so soon, Mina's forces once again became prominent in Ansalon (albeit believing to worship a different, and new God), and helped kill off two Dragon Overlords.

Once the gods returned to Krynn Takhisis was punished with mortality and killed. Now that mortals no longer have to rely upon the Gods for magic, many people are considering forging their own path with sorcery and mysticism instead. Even those without the magical talent are resentful and distrustful of the Gods, feeling that they cannot be relied upon to be there during the worst of times. The pantheon of Krynn and its faithful need to work hard to regain the mortals' trust once again in this new age. Time will tell how the opposing forces react.

Holy Order of the Stars

The pantheon of the true gods (excepting the gods of magic), along with their cleric, druid, and ranger worshipers, are known as the Holy Order of the Stars (including the evil deities). The deities are grouped into three separate groups based upon moral alignment, and although they cooperate at times, each of them have their own overviews and portfolios. The Gods of Light seek the overall welfare of Krynn, while the Gods of Darkness seek to dominate and control Krynn and its people, while the Gods of Balance attempt to maintain equilibrium in the world, viewing the Gods of Light as idealistic and impractical while the Gods of Darkness are treacherous and untrustworthy. They tend to fight on the side of the underdogs when one group becomes too powerful (for example, they aligned against Takhisis' Dragon Empire during the War of the Lance).

People seeking to become clerics (or druids) must find within themselves a deep, abiding faith with one of the gods. They must then find a priest in good standing with that deity and prove their worth. The tests usually differ: for example, Mishakal might require one to look after the poor, sick, and old, while Sargonnas might require an applicant to take revenge against their hated enemy. If they are deemed worthy, a cleric creates a Medallion of Faith as proof of the new clerics' pact with the deity. They must live by the deity's tenets or risk falling out of favor. A first major violation is visited with a warning of 1d4 negative levels which can only be removed by making up for the transgression, while further violations cause them to lose their spells.


Mysticism is a form of divine magic which draws upon the life of Krynn itself, strengthened by an individual's heart and soul. Given that it relies upon faith in oneself, one cannot be a cleric and mystic at the same time. Being a cleric requires absolute faith in a deity, although mystics can worship a deity (they just can't gain spells from them). Unlike the relation between sorcerers and wizards, the one between clerics and mystics isn't as hostile, at least on the surface. Mysticism requires a strong sense of will to fully manifest, and as such it tends to be more easily accessible than primal sorcery.

The primary centers of learning for mysticism are the Citadel of Light on the Island of Schallsea, once headed by Goldmoon, and the Knights of the Skull. For the former, mystics are trained to see if any one domain is best suited for them, and once they find their one they must ascend the Silver Stair at the end of a hedge maze to confront their fears, which manifest along the journey. If they fail they can no longer advance further in rank (although I don't know if this means an actual leveling in magic power or just an advancement in the organization). The Silver Stair's a magical place believed in ancient times to have once ascended to the planar homes of the Gods:

Other than that there's not much more on mysticism, although it has the least connection to the Gods: high sorcery and clerical spells are direct conduits, while the energies of primal sorcery were made from the magic used to create Krynn and enhanced by the essence of the god Chaos. But some argue that since life was created by the gods, mystics drawing upon life are therefore indirectly drawing upon their power.

The reasoning for their grouping in pairs (high and primal sorcery, clerical magic and mysticism) is that the effects are related. What can affect high sorcery effects primal sorcery as well, and many of their spells are virtually identical. The degrees of sameness are debated by magical scholars, but for the most part these principles overall hold true.

New Cleric Domains

Now we get to the crunch! In addition to a list of what existing cleric domains apply to which deities (magic isn't available, neither is Sun for non-mystics), we get some new ones! Mystics are have their own unique domains no present among the Gods, giving them a slight edge in variety to make up for their one less domain.

Alteration is a mystic domain which grants +1 Caster Level to transmutation spells, and grants such spells (enlarge person, gaseous form, polymorph, etc) in its domain.

Community focuses on the welfare of others, granting Calm Emotions and a bonus on Diplomacy checks and related spells (heroes' feast, telepathic bond) as domain spells.

Forge domain is all about creation, granting a bonus on craft checks and related spells (minor creation, wall of iron) as domain spells.

Insight grants uncanny dodge, and its domain spells include things like true strike, locate object, commune and the like.

Liberation grants a bonus on saves against fear-effecting spells and its domain spells involve the removal of negative conditions (freedom of movement, break enchantment, etc).

Meditation allows a caster to Empower a single spell once per day as per the metamagic feat but no increase in spell level, and its domain spells are self-improvementish (tongues, spell turning, mind blank, etc).

Mentalism is another mystic-only domain, focused on the powers of the MIND! You get a bonus on social skill checks, and mind-affecting domain spells (detect thoughts, greater command, dominate monster, etc).

Necromancy is mystic-only and grants them the ability to rebuke and command undead. It has death-related domain spells (animate dead, death knell, etc).

Passion allows one to act as if under a rage spell once per day, and its domain spells involve emotions (crushing despair, greater heroism, irresistable dance).

Pestilence makes you immune to all diseases, but you still act as a vector. Your domain spells involve summoning creatures of filth and inflicting debilitating conditions on your enemies (otyugh swarm, contagion, etc).

Restoration is sort of a Healing domain knock-off, even containing the same +1 caster level effect. Difference is that it's mystic-only and grants both Restoration spells and all the bring the dead back to life ones.

Storm is a cool domain, in that its spells are all weather-related (gust of wind, sleet storm, control weather), making for an effective battlefield controller build for a cleric. It's graned power of Electricity Resistance 5 is lackluster, though.

Sun domain is unaltered except that it just grants normal undead turning and is mystic-only.

Treachery domain's unique feature is that you effectively gain the sneak attack of a rogue once per day on a flat-footed melee attack. It's domain spells draw from multiple sources and are entrapment and deception based (glibness, magic jar, undetectable alignment as a 1st-level spell!).

Overall I most enjoyed the Storm and Forge domains, as they're very versatile and broad enough in focus that I can see them being used in other settings with little trouble. Necromancy and Restoration feel kind of superfluous, with the existence of Death and Healing already. Necromancy in particular feels that its only inclusion is to grant turning for the Mystic class and draws upon much of the same domain spells.

New Spells

There are 26 spells in total, drawn upon unique effects demonstrated by the heroes and villains of the book series. Most of them can be cast by anyone, but a rare few are only available to a limited number of spellcasters (such as Magius' Light of Truth, which is only taught to White Robe Wizards). For sheer volume I won't cover them all, instead focusing on some of the more interesting ones.

Bestow Greater Curse is a 6th-8th level spell variant of the normal kind, except its effects are permanent and greater in magnitude (reduce an ability score to 1, -8 penalty on rolls, etc). Additionally, the caster must specify a deed for the target to complete in order to remove its effects (must be something which the target can accomplish within one year). Overall a powerful debuff spell, but it requires touch range.

Deep Freeze is a 7th-level sorcerer/wizard spell which deals a small amount of subdual cold damage (6d6) per round, but unconscious opponents are frozen in a block of ice for one year per level and can only be freed by limited wish and greater magic. Bad damage, but a powerful save or suck spell to unleash at the right time.

Divine Retribution is a 9th-level cleric spell where the caster specifies an energy type. Any harmful effect of that type (breath weapon, spell, etc) dealt to her is converted to holy/unholy damage and reflected back upon the attacker. Its most famous use was when Mina, cleric of Takhisis, goaded Khellendros the blue Dragon Overlord into fighting her, using the spell to kill him with his own breath weapon. A good buff in the right place, but I feel that it's too high in level.

Earthen Shield is a 3rd level sorcerer/wizard spell which creates a small localized wall of earth from the ground 1 foot thick and 5 feet long in caster level, and can only be a maximum of 10 feet tall. It's really tough, with 100 hit points per foot of thickness and a Break DC of 15 + 5 per foot of thickness. Very useful battlefield control spell at an affordable level, as it lasts one minute per level.

Fistandantalus' Portal is an 8th-level sorcerer/wizard spell which opens a portal between two points in the same plane, 5 to 20 feet in diameter. It is subject to the limitations of the teleportation spell, in that the caster must have a good memory of the places in order to minimize mishaps. Considering that Greater Teleport accomplishes much of the same thing minus mishaps, it's rather underpowered for its level. The fact that it costs 500 experience points and 1,000 steel pieces in material components makes it a bad choice all around for spells.

Magius' Light of Truth is a 9th level sorcerer/wizard spell with the Lawful Descriptor. It was invented by Magius, one of the first wizards of high sorcery, and used by Palin Majere to fight the minions of Chaos in the Chaos War. It creates a cone of pure light which damages nonlawful creatures, banishes chaotic outsiders to their home plane, and can daze, stun, paralyze, and even kill chaotic creatures on a failed save. It requires an intelligent magic item of lawful alignment as a focus. This would be a cool spell were it not for its 500 experience point cost.

There's 3 new unique spells unique to the Pestilence domain. Looks like Morgion's faithful get a lot of fun!

Otyugh Swarm is a 9th level cleric spell which summons 3-12 normal otyughs to serve the caster for a year, or 1-3 advanced otyughs for one week. The spell requires 1,000 steel pieces worth of ruby dust per casting, and given that otyughs are mostly melee monsters of low CR, this spell is underpowered.

Plague of Rats is a 5th-level spell which summons 12 rat swarms for one minute per level. Given that rat swarms are automatic damage to people in their squares, this could be a good spell, but the rats are stationary and cannot move. I figure that this is for the best, as keeping track of 12 separate monsters can be tough on the DM.

Scourge is a 7th-level spell which sends a debilitating disease to one creature per level upon casting. It deals 1d3 strength and dexterity damage per day, and can only be cured magically. Not good in immediate combat, and the spell doesn't specify the methods of transference (is it airborne, spread only by touch, by bodily fluids?). Would be good for a "stop the plague" quest of an evil cleric, but we don't know if it's good even for that.

Share Animal's Mind is a 3rd level Cleric/Druid spell which allows the caster to forge a telepathic link with an animal for 1 minute per level and control them to a limited extent (can do anything the animal can physically do, but suicidal stuff forces a Will save on the animal's part). The caster is limited to a single move action for the duration of the spell, and the spell ends if either party is separated for more than 1 mile. A useful spell for scouting purposes, and it doesn't trigger anti-scrying defenses!

Spirit Walk is a 6th-7th level Cleric/Sorcerer/Wizard spell which allows you to project your body's spirit to an area you know. You cannot cast spells or interact with the environment. It's notable in that it has a 1 hour casting time, but a duration of 1 round per lvel, making the spell nearly useless.

Talons is a 1st level Cleric/Druid spell which transforms the caster's hands into talonlike claws. They can be used as natural weapons in combat, dealing 1d6 + Strength modifier points of damage, and the caster is still capable of fine manipulation. The caster can also fight with a weapon in their primary hand their claw as an off-hand; this is treating as a secondary attack, and the primary weapon suffers no penalty on attack or damage rolls! Since the spell lasts 1 minute per level, it's great for multi-weapon fighting builds!

Unbinding is a 9th level sorcerer/wizard spell and of the Liberation domain. It creates a 180 area burst radius, ending the effects of all forms of magical effects which contain, constrain, seal, and control. It negates charm and dominate effects of all types, spells with a duration longer than instantaneous which create physical and magical barriers, and ends the effects of magical spells which hold other spells within them (such as imbue with spell ability). It does not effect purely protective spells (protection from arrows, etc) or anti-magic fields, and only works on geas/quest if their caster level is greater than the caster of geas. Unbinding is powerful in that it does not allow for a saving throw, and its effects are very versatile and open-ended. And guess what, it requires no costly experience points or material components (lodestone and saltpeter)! Score!

We've also got a few straight damaging spells, most of which are the province of sorcerers/wizards. We got a lot of lightning-themed ones: Crackling Sphere, Electrical Storm, and Shocking Spark are much like electricity-themed versions of Flaming Sphere, Sleet Storm, and Scorching Ray respectively. Dalamar's Lightning Lance allows the caster to created and throw electrical javelins at opponents, all within the span of one round. It's got some cool artwork, too:

Rounding off we have Elemental Dart, which throws darts of energy types (except sonic) against foes, while Stone Shards turn normal rocks into exploding splash weapons.

I also notice that a lot of the spells have vague casting times, specifying "1 action." Well, what does that mean? A standard action, move action, or full-round action?

Overall a lot of the spells are limited for their level, but there are a few nifty ones, and more than a few tie into the setting's history, so I like that at least.

Special Materials of Ansalon

The final part of our chapters gives a brief overview of the unique materials of Ansalon used in the forging of mighty weapons and armor, along with game stats for the legendary Dragonlances! Wooh!

Dragonmetal can be found beneath the Stone Dragon monument in Foghaven Vale of Southern Ergoth. Formed as a liquid pool of metal, it was used in conjunction with the Silver Arm of Ergoth and the Hammer of Kharas to forge the dragonlances. Since then the spring has been used by the Knights of Solamnia to forge weapons and armor, bestowing it upon the worthiest of heroes. As such, dragonmetal items are always masterwork quality and never bought and sold in legitimate markets.

It's a glistening silver metal lighter than steel, and uses the game stats of mithril for the purposes of crafting armor and determining cost for forging. When fashioned into a weapon it grants a natural +2 enchancement bonus on attack and damage rolls which does not stack with magical or masterwork enhancements.

Star Metal is a blue ore of extraordinary strength and hardness found only in meteorites. It is prized by alchemists, craftsmen, and prospectors, and is treated as adamantine for the purposes of weapon and armor forging.

Ironwood comes from unique trees in the nations of Abanasinia and Qualinesti, known for being light as wood but as hard as steel. Its creation process is a closely guarded guild secret, and you guessed it, it's treated the same as Darkwood!

Silver and Cold Iron are largely the same in the setting.

Throughout the chapter we had several sidebars for new magic items. Given Dragonlance being a low-magic setting of rich history of days long past, none of these are "common" by any means.

Frostreaver is forged from the natural glaciers of southern Ansalon by the Ice Folk in their endless war against the thanoi walrusmen. Under temperatures of 40 degrees Farenheit it's a +4 greataxe, but higher temperatures transform it into a mere +1 weapon. There are several Frostreavers in existence, but they're all closely guarded by the Ice Folk.

The Staff of Magius is one of the most infamous magic items in Krynn. During the Age of Despair it was granted along with the Dagger of Magius to Raistlin after passing his Test. It was wielded by Palin Majere during the Chaos War, only to be lost and never seen again. It's a +2 Quarterstaff which can Enlarge spells that create light, manipulate air, or affect minds three times per day, and grants a +3 deflection bonus to armor class. It bestows a negative level on any non-arcane caster who wields it. Oddly, it seems to exhibit different qualities depending upon who wields it, but this is not reflected in game stats.

The Dagger of Magius is a +3 silver dagger which can never be discovered through magical or mundane searches while on a mage's person. Not much is known about its history other than that Magius crafted it.

The Nightjewel is a minor artifact granted by the master of the Tower of Palanthas, allowing one to pass through its Shoikan grove without succumbing to its effects. The Shoikan grove instills instense fear which can affect even kender, and is populated with all manner of undead creatures. The Nightjewel grants immunity to fear and can be used to turn undead creatures with the wielder's level as the effective cleric level. It's benefits disappear, however, if the wielder draws a weapon or casts a hostile spell within the grove.

And now, last but not least, the legendary Dragonlances! First created during the Third Dragon War, these are weapons made for the express purpose of killing dragons. When the Solamnic Knight Human Dragonbane used it to fell Takhisis in her five-headed dragon form, the weapons and their wielders' status was cemented in history. After the War they had no more use, and thus the secrets of their creation were forgotten until the War of the Lance (where they proved essential to victory against the Dragon Empire). They also saw use later on during the Chaos War, proving effective against the primordial Gods' chaos-spawned dragons.

Dragonlances are valued beyond price, never bought or sold. They do have sample prices listed for the purposes of assigning treasure value only. The secret of forging them is god-granted, meaning that it can't be made using the typical means of crafting magic items in 3rd Edition.

A Lesser Dragonlance is a +2 Dragon Bane Lance that glows with a soft light. It is created from dragonmetal with either the Silver Arm of Ergoth or the Hammer of Kharas (if both are used during the forging, a Greater Dragonlance is created instead).

A Greater Dragonlance is a whole 'nother story. Forged with both the Silver Arm of Ergoth and the Hammer of Kharas, it is a +4 Dragon Bane Lance. When used against a dragon of evil alignment, it deals 1 point of permanent Constitution drain with every hit; on a critical hit it drains a number equal to the wielder's character level. It is also blessed by the Gods of Light, bestowing two negative levels on any evil creature which wields it (although its powers can still be used). Since Constitution drain reduces a number of hit points equal to the new modifier per hit die, a critical hit with one of these bad boys can really drop a dragon's health down fast!

Thoughts so far: The spells vary widely in balance and usefulness, but that's really the only bad part of the chapter. Departing from the standard dry mechanical text of other D20 Magic sections in books This chapter does a good job of explaining the history of magic and how various organizations and societies adapted to it (especially with examples of famous figures using them in spell descriptions). The new Cleric domains are very versatile overall, and I enjoyed the sample magic items. Despite being a low-magic setting, or perhaps because of it, Dragonlance managed to impart a sense of greatness to it.

Next time, Chapter Four: Deities of Krynn!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
Thanks for pointing that out, Transient People! I hope you don't mind if I quoted this over on Min-Max Boards. I'm sure they'd get a kick out of the combo.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragonlance Campaign Setting Chapter Four: Deities of Krynn

There anything existed, there was only the High God and Chaos. The High God strove to bring order to Chaos, who in turn strove to undo the High God's creations. The High God brought three creations from the ether: Paladine, Gilean, and Takhisis, who in turn made other gods who aligned with them based upon their varying philosophies. A great triangle of Good, Evil, and Neutrality were the pillars upon which the world would be forged. Reorx struck his hammer against Chaos, the sparks from the blow creating the stars, and from their light came the first souls. The deities (except for the High God and Chaos) quarreled over these souls and what to do with them: Paladine and the Gods of Good sought to guide them on a proper course and eventually share dominion with them over the universe. Takhisis and the Gods of Evil sought to have dominion over the spirits. Gilean and the Gods of Neutrality valued free will, maintaining that it should be up to the souls who'd they'd follow.

Eventually the gods and their souls battled in what came to be referred to by mortals as the All-Saints War. Chaos delighted in this turmoil from afar, while the High God watched with worry and knew that if any were to fall all their work in the universe would be undone.

The High God called for a compromise to end the war, and bestow one gift upon the souls. The Gods of Good gave souls life and physical forms so that they could alter their reality and be more like the deities, the Gods of Neutrality free will, and the Gods of Evil hunger, thirst, and other limitations to satisfy their needs (so that they'd be more desperate to turn to them and thus be subjugated). The gods created the world of Krynn as a place for the physical beings to dwell.

And through it all, Chaos lurks at the edges of creation, still seeking to undo reality and all the deities' work.

Cosmology-wise, Dragonlance has the Transitive and Inner Planes of normal 3rd Edition, with three Outer Planes home to the three groups of deities. None of the Outer Planes can be reached via mortal magic, and portals to the Abyss on Krynn are incredibly rare artifacts. The most common means of entering the outer planes is via the Gate of Souls, a portal for spirits which flows in a constant cycle of life and death on Krynn, through the Ethereal Sea. This phenomenon is referred to as the River of Souls. Additionally, the Ethereal Plane is but a smaller part of the greater place, the Ethereal Sea, which stretches beyond even the Gods' imaginings.

The Gods

Technically there are 21 Gods, 7 for each of the moral alignments. The High God is a distant entity whose plans are unknown even to the deities, while Chaos is a primordial element who doesn't grant prayers. It does have otherworldly minions infused with a bit of it's power during the Chaos War, and in Bestiary of Krynn there is a Scourge of Chaos Prestige Class focused around this.

The Gods of Good

Paladine is the Lawful Good god of metallic dragons, good, law, light, and protection. He leads the other deities of Good by example, and his power is rivaled among the gods only by Gilean and Takhisis. All dragons, even the chromatic ones, are his children. His clerics helped fight against Takhisis' forces many times throughout history, and they acted as spiritual guides for the people. The believe that a just government is necessary for society, and historically acted as judges, barristers, and advisers. Paladine's favored weapon is the longsword, and his domains are Good, Law, Protection, and Sun. Clerics must be of any Good alignment to receive spells (an exception to the one-step rule). As of the Age of Mortals he is now mortal and can no longer grant spells.

Branchala is the Chaotic Good god of music, poetry, bards, and art of all kinds. He brings joy to the world and its creatures through these concepts, and his clerics are charged with encouraging the written and spoken word to the peoples of Krynn. They are loosely-organized with few permanent ties, but are known for hosting and organizing holidays and celebrations, and are beloved in kender and elven communities. His favored weapon is the rapier, and his domains are Chaos, Good, Luck, and Trickery.

Habbakuk is the Neutral Good god of animals, water, passion, and rebirth. He is commonly known as the Fisher King, and looks over all of nature as his charges. Phoenixes are associated with him, and he's heavily associated with the sea and popular among coastal and fishing communities. His priesthood is evenly split between clerics and druids, and neither have a formalized hierarchy. Once during their lifetime, clerics must wander the land with nothing but a walking stick and the clothes on their back to better understand the ways of nature. The god's favored weapon is the scimitar, and his domains are Animal, Good, and Water.

Kiri-Jolith is the Lawful Good god of honor, obedience, justice, and righteous warfare. He is popular among the knights of Solamnia, especially the Knights of the Sword of which he is patron, and his priesthood trains daily so that they can protect others from the depredations of evil, and actively seek out tyrants and wicked folk in positions of power to fight them. His favored weapon is the longsword, and his domains are Good, Strength, and War.

Majere is a Lawful Good god of discipline and loyalty. Of all the deities he has the best understanding of the High God's plans and acts as a sort of wise fatherly mentor to the other Gods of Good. His priesthood is small, but some of Krynn's greatest teachers and theologians come from his ranks, and their works have even influenced other good-aligned religious orders. Clerics live in isolated monasteries and follow a strict regimen of self-discipline and vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity so that they can better focus on enlightenment and the contemplation of Good. Many martial artists number among Majere's faithful, to better harness their self-discipline or for increased spiritual awareness. Majere's favored weapon is the unarmed strike, and his domains are Good, Law, and Meditation.

Mishakal is the Neutral Good goddess of healing, compassion, fertility, and community. She is very popular throughout Ansalon, as her clerics actively part in bettering their local communities and tending to the old, the injured, the sick, and other people unable to care for themselves. They're part not to withhold divine healing from everyone, even those of evil alignment, although their churches accept tithes in exchange for service for those who can afford it. The priesthood is more centralized and widespread than the other Gods of Good (with the exception of Paladine), and is led by the Chosen Prophet who is served by a council of priests representing various regions of Ansalon. They hate Morgion and his faithful, who seek to spread disease and decay. Her favored weapon is the quarterstaff, and her domains are Community, Good, Healing, and Protection.

Solinari is the Lawful Good god of magic and patron of the Wizards of the White Robes. His primary ambition is to spread magic throughout the world and bring more worthy mages to his Order. He teaches his wizards that magic is a gift to be shared with the world and worked for the benefit of all. They seek out lost libraries and magical items to expand their knowledge of magic, and promote good works. Solinari has no clerics, domains, or favored weapon, and he works closely with his siblings Lunitari and Nuitari to protect and foster magic on Krynn.

The Gods of Neutrality

Chislev is the Neutral goddess of nature incarnate. Every animal and plant on Krynn reveres her, and according to legend the four seasons are manifestations of her moods. The priesthood is mainly comprised of druids who oversee and protect plots of land in the wilderness, and a few clerics live in small farming communities. Both do their best efforts to prevent people from despoiling the land through mundane or magical means, and many of them are doing their best to counter the changes wrought by the Dragon Overlords' magic. She has a good relationship with Habbakuk and hates Zeboim as the two fought during the All-Saints War. Her favored weapon is the shortspear, and her domains are Air, Animal, Earth, and Plant.

Gilean is the leader of the Gods of Neutrality and represents knowledge, free will, and the Balance. He is the keeper of the Tobril, the book gifted to him by the High God which contains his plans for creation. He is dispassionate, interfering only when the laws of Creation are being challenged. His priesthood usually acts as librarians, scribes, and historians. They're dedicated to the spread of information and knowledge, and as such oppose attempts to restrict education and burn books. His favored weapon is the quarterstaff, and his domains are Knowledge, Liberation, and Protection.

Lunitari is the Neutral goddess of magic and the Wizards of the Red Robes. Her primary ambition is to further the cause of magic in the world and maintain the delicate balance between good and evil. Her followers, the Red Robes, are more numerous than either the White or Red Robes, and are primarily concerned with knowledge and promotion of magic for the sake of it. She's also the daughter of Gilean and has a mischievous streak, using illusions to amuse and entertain herself and others.

Reorx is the Neutral god of creation, engineering and technological innovation, and patron of the dwarves and gnomes. He has a strong following among the dwarves, and his priesthood has a significant influence among their communities. Within a dwarven thane, the Starmaster (head of the local church) has almost as much power as the thane (dwarven noble), and they have a say in most important aspects of dwarven life. They also produce some of the best weapons in the dwarven realms. The gnome branch of the faith isn't as influential among their respective race, but they still honor him as the greatest of gods. All clerics must create an object to honor Reorx during their lifetime, and as such usually takes years to complete. His favored weapon's the warhammer, and his domains are Earth, Fire, and Forge.

Shinare's the Lawful Neutral (that's a first!) goddess of commerce, industry, and wealth. Her followers are mercenaries, merchants, and traders. Her clerics are hard-working and industrious, and often use their business acumen for community growth. They must also pay their taxes and tithes on time, and taught not to pursue shady and selfish business practices which can lead to widespread suffering (that's Hiddukel's domain). As they're responsible for bringing prosperity to many communities, she is a respected and admired deity throughout most of Ansalon. She and her priests work closely with Reorx, due to the links between artisans and merchants, and she has a fond relationship with Sirrion. Her favored weapon is the light mace, and her domains are Law, Luck, and Travel.

Sirrion is the Chaotic Neutral god of creativity, passion, and fire. He sculpts the fires of the soul into many forms and grants divine inspiration to artists and other creative sorts. His domain over fire is that of an element of cleansing, renewal, and transformation. Fire can destroy impurities, change objects from one state to another, and destroy old and dying trees to make way for new ones in nature. He doesn't much care for worshipers, only actively recruiting when his friendly rival and lover Shinare appears to be gaining the upper hand. His priesthood also helps combat out of control fires, and often act as matchmakers for those in love. His favored weapon is the heavy flail, and his domains are Chaos, Fire, and Passion.

Zivilyn is the Neutral god of wisdom, foresight, and prophecy. His symbol is the World Tree and is the bearer of all insight in the universe. His branches reach into every time and place, and is the wisest and most calm of the gods. His priesthood is a hierarchal one, with older members in more prominent positions, and serve as counselors, mediators, philosophers, and diplomats, and in communities with no priests of Paladine as judges and advisers. He is married to Chislev, and works closely with Gilean as knowledge and wisdom are complementary forces. He doesn't really count any gods as his enemies, but he's not fond of Sargonnas' and Zeboim's emotional natures. His faithful have something of a rivalry with the church of Majere; Majere seeks understanding through understanding the will of the High God, while Zivilyn promotes people to look within themselves. His favored weapon is the quarterstaff (man, this is a really common weapon), and his domains are Insight, Knowledge, and Meditation.

The Gods of Evil

Takhisis is the (former) head of the Gods of Darkness and the embodiment of Evil, she is a Lawful Evil deity of hate, darkness, tyranny, and the chromatic dragons. Throughout her existence she sought to be the greatest and most powerful entity in the universe, and her followers carried out many ambitious plots on her behalf to achieve world domination of Krynn as its one and only deity. Many of her followers are nonhumans, especially among the ogres, goblins, and draconians during the War of the Lance. The chromatic dragons are her most favored, promising them a favored spot beside her the day she rules Krynn. In the Age of Mortals she was instrumental in stealing away the world and gaining followers as the One God, but she was killed by the elf Silvanoshei when she was cursed with mortality by the other deities for her crime. Her favored weapon is the heavy mace, and her domains are Destruction, Evil, Law, and Trickery; clerics must be of any evil alignment to worship her.

Chemosh is the Neutral Evil god of death, the undead, and murder. He was the first god to side with Takhisis in the All-Saints War, and he animates corpses and imprisons souls as his undead slaves by promising mortals with eternal "life." His priesthood works in secret and believes that there is no existence after death; Chemosh teaches that the other Gods are liars, that no souls exist in the afterlife and that he's the only god who can grant people everlasting existence. His church has no centralized hierarchy, and they're not fond of arcane necromancers (who either serve Nuitari as Black Robes, or are not giving Chemosh his proper respect). His favored weapon is the sickle, and his domains are Death, Evil, and Trickery.

In Dragonlance canon he's been rather active as a God of Evil (Takhisis hogged the spotlight most of the time): he is a major behind the scenes player in the Key of Destiny adventure path, and in the alternate where Raistlin becomes a God he collaborates with the mage to destroy the rest of the pantheon and absorb their divine essence for himself.

Hiddukel is the Chaotic Evil god of deception, ill-gotten wealth, and the patron deity of dishonest merchants and thieves. He constantly seeks bargains, promising people their heart's desire in exchange for servitude. Very few people willingly become a cleric of Hiddukel, usually tricked into it. Hiddukel encourages his unwitting followers to pursue material wealth and prestige by any means necessary, and he has no church as each cleric is pretty much on their own. He is an enemy of Shinare, who favors fair and honest deals with benefit the community, and as such Hiddukel encourages his faithful to destroy her temples and kill her priests.

Morgion is the Neutral Evil god of decay, disease, and suffering. Even the other gods of Evil refuse to associate with him, and he keeps to himself in the Abyss in his Bronze Tower, where he plots and schemes in secret. He uses pestilence and plagues to spread fear among Ansalon, and virtually nobody worships hims of their own free will. His most common means of gaining clerics is visiting people ravaged by disease; he offers a deal, to grant immunity to the disease in exchange for servitude. Those who accept find themselves "cured," but for the rest of their days are required to do Morgion's work and spread more disease among communities, thus gaining more opportunities of recruitment for the deity. They must keep their affiliation secret, for they are welcomed nowhere. His favored weapon is the heavy flail, and his domains are Destruction, Evil, and Pestilence.

Nuitari is the Lawful Evil god of magic and the Wizards of the Black Robes. He gains followers by promising them more power than Solinari or Lunitari can give, and that magic is to be secret and coveted from the unworthy, and to use it for personal benefit. His moon is invisible, a black hole in the night sky, to all but the Wizards who follow him. The Black Robes claim that their moon's radiance is the brightest of them all.

Sargonnas is the Lawful Evil god of vengeance, conquest, strength, and rage. He is a militant deity who demands strict obedience from those who follow him, and is worshiped among the Minotaurs (who call him Sargas and believe him to be an entirely separate deity). Among them, he is viewed as one who rewards the strong with power, while nonminotaurs often look to him as a deity of vengeance. His clerics are often sought out by individuals who feel wronged, and many turn to the god in times of hardship and war. His favored weapon is the greataxe, and his domains are Evil, Fire, Law, and War. I don't know where the Fire part comes in; I always figure that Strength is a more appropriate domain.

Zeboim is the Chaotic Evil goddess of wrath, the sea, and storms. She is feared by the civilizations of the sea and appeased by sailors hoping to stay her anger. Her priests alternatively extort sailors and shipowners into paying tithes in exchange for good weather, and serving on ships to assist passengers in paying proper respects to the goddess. She is hostile to the other two nature goddesses, and divine spellcasters who worship her often conduct elaborate ceremonies where they sacrifice material possessions to the depths of the ocean to the glory of the Sea Queen. Her favored weapon is the trident, and her domains are Chaos, Evil, Storm, and Water.

And that's it for the true Gods of Krynn!

Thoughts so far: I feel that the deities overall are a mixed bag. There are many innovating and interesting ones, but there's a sort of samey-ness to a lot of them. More than a few use the same favored weapons (quarterstaff being the biggest offender), and some of their portfolios feel like they overlap too much (such as Chemosh and Morgion, Paladine and Kiri-Jolith). On a more positive note, I like how they implemented Chemosh's teachings and the inability to travel to the afterlife with the Outer Planes to make undeath a more appealing state. It's the kind of thing you can see really desperate people reaching for. I also enjoy Sirron the most: his manifestation of fire as a multi-faceted element of renewal and transformation.

Next time, Chapter 5: Geography, where we finally cover the places and nations of Ansalon!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
It's not the same Majere. There's Raistlin Majere the Red Robe Mage, and Majere the Lawful Good god.

Maybe it's a common last name among the faithful or something. If I find a Dragonlance loremaster I'll ask them.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path: Book Two, Spectre of Sorrows; Chapter One: Clash of Fire and Darkness

See that wicked-looking bald elf on the cover? That's Lothian with Kayleigh. I did not mention it before, but Book One made absolutely no mention of their backstory until the Introduction of this book, along with the Dragon's Graveyard and Shroud of Soul's calling. The majority of the introduction of Book Two is dedicated to this task. Yes, this means the original Key of Destiny book was absurdly vague.

Last time we left our heroes, they freed a bunch of kender from the Peak of Malystryx and discovered the legendary Dragonlance of Huma. With the help of the Phalanx Ants they safely ventured back to the ruins of Kendermore, where Elijayess waits for them to escort the kender back to Port Balifor.

At least, that's the plan. When the PCs return Kerra Whistlewalk happily reunites with her brother, and Deuce Spadestomper is tending to the wounds of the kender left behind with Elijayess. The party's arrival will be met with questions by the kender, and many more if the Dragonlance is visibly carried. After 8 hours of rest (unless the PCs choose to set out earlier), Elijayess recommends that they all head out before the ogres and dragonspawn find them to take revenge for their fallen leaders.


There is a sudden deep rumbling sound from the volcano, a reverberation that causes the ground beneath your feet to tremble. A flaming spume explodes violently from the mouth of the peak and a noxious black cloud billows upwards, blanketing the sky in cinder and ash. Trails of molten light streak through the clouds, fragments of rock hurtle through the sky and strike the ground with concussive force. Unfortunately, the strength of the explosion is strong enough that some of those fragments are heading directly towards you.

The Peak erupts, sending an ash cloud 50 miles around the mountain and blotting out the sun for nearly a week. Immediate dangers include falling rocks along with toxic fumes 10 miles from the Peak's epicenter, with chocking soot and ash 20-40 miles away. The toxic gas is slow-acting, doing small amounts of nonlethal damage over a course of several hours to those who fail a Fortitude save, but should not be lethal for the PCs.

The kender are also a handful. 17 of them are afflicted kender, 1st level commoners with little in the way of talents who scatter to safety during combat. The other four kender, not including Parrick Whistlewalk and Deuce Spadestomper, are true kender and have some levels in PC classes, ranging from 2-4th level. They can provide indirect support, such as Survival checks and cloths to help guard against the Desolation's weather, and can useminor healing magic, ranged attacks, and taunts in combat. The book points out that none of the kender should be played for comic relief: the afflicted kender have been severely traumatized, and the desperation of the surrounding environs is inappropriate for the mood. Very good advice.

And if the PCs escort the kender to safety, they get a "story award" (role-playing experience) of an encounter level equal to their average party level + 1.

The PCs are supposed to head back to Balifor, but sudden changes will force them to go northward instead, to the Dark Knight fortress of Darkhaven, and then to Flotsam. We'll get to that later. First, random encounters!

6 out of the 9 encounters are straight monster fights (giants, sand wretches, and the like), but 3 of them are unique encounters. A kender vampire will strike at night, targeting one of the refugee kender. He can be tracked back to his lair, which contains treasure!

A second encounter involves a group of 8 miserable-looking goblins chased by a behir (huge multi-armed lizard who breathes lightning). If the PCs help them out, the grateful goblins will lead them to an underground network of tunnels for shelter. They span for miles all over the Desolation, and can provide a secret way to Darkhaven.

The final one's titled Lamia Seductress, of said monster in disguise as a distressed damsel. She managed to overcome a dark knight patrol and took one of the survivors back to her lair to feast. She tells the party that her brother is injured in a cave (in reality her lair), begging for assistance. Once there she'll try to convince one of the male party members to stay with here "while the rest look for help." Her magical disguise will fall if touched, and for that end she'll avoid spellcasting PCs (she fears they'll see through easily). The unconscious "brother" is Brandel Bloodstone, who will be indebted to the characters for saving him from the lamia. He'll give them a letter of writ to show to any Dark Knight patrols, detailing his location. In return he wants the PCs to swear an oath to tell any encountered patrols his location so that he can be retrieved.

And now we're on to required story encounters. One of them is a Dark Knight Patrol, as an advance unit for a larger force. Turns out the Knights somehow got wind of the Dragonlance's location (probably through their magical seers), and are heading to the Peak in a mission to secure it. They also heard that one of the two Tears of Mishakal are in the Desolation as well, and already secured one of them in their fortress.

The encounter can end in bloodshed, or bypassed entirely. The squires will break off to report back if combat occurs, and the battle will attract the attention of flying dragonspawn patrols, who will report back to the Peak as well. Either way, the party will soon be hunted by one or both factions.

The encounter itself is trivial, consisting of a 6th level Lily Knight leader and 4 2nd-level soldiers.

Twenty-four hours after the Patrol, or 3 days after the volcano explodes (whichever comes first). Bloodmane, the boyfriend of Sindra, is leading a war party of 8 dragonspawn to kill the PCs! Bloodmane is driven by a thirst for vengeance, and the others are disorganized and focus on one opponent, unconcerned about the welfare of their teammates. Still, they have breath weapons and an aerial advantage, making melee hit-and-runs before flying out of reach.

If the PCs are overwhelmed or the fight's going too easily, a second group of 15 soldiers arrives, the Dark Knights, led by a stern Captain Velaria Grimstone (what's up with these Dark Knight surnames?).

Once again the PCs can avoid this encounter if they don't display the Dragonlance and successfully bluff her or show her the writ. She'll tell them that the safest route now out of the Desolation is northwest, through Darkhaven.

The encounter can play out many different ways, as you can see. They can be escorted safely by the Dark Knights (which won't be safe for long, as Darkhaven's leaders will be interested in the PCs reasons for being in the Desolation), fought as a normal encounter, captured by the Knights and taken to Darkhaven's cells, or bypassed entirely with some clever social skills.

Remember how I mentioned the winged elves, the Phaethons, back in Book One of Key of Destiny? And how Anasana in the Shattered Temple told the PCs that only the Tears of Mishakal can cleanse the unholy taint from the ruins? Well, these two things are tied up nicely in the next encounter, Wings of Flame! More than the others, it is necessary to move the story forward and meant to be used by the DM for this time. Two phaethon brothers, appearing as normal (if stocky) elves, emerge from the shadows and tell the PCs to come with them. They mention that forces are arraying against them, and that they can help the PCs get out of the Desolation alive. They are sincere in their desires to help, and if any kender were at all separated, they will mention that they retrieved them.

If the PCs follow them, they'll be led to their village in the mountains. Elf PCs and others might recognize their markings as that of the Phaethons with a Knowledge (History) check, elves of legend said to be blessed by Habbakuk.

The village is located in an enclosed encampment with stone ramparts. The phaethons live in stone buildings surrounding a central open square with goat pens and gardens. After the PCs are gifted with clean water from the spring and goat meat and cheeses, the 3 village elders will come out to meet with them.


Three phaethons, two men and one woman, approach from one of the buildings. All three resemble bronze statues, noble and exquisite, their features serenely beautiful.

When they speak, their voices are melodious. “Welcome, fated ones, to our camp,” says the woman, who wears the medallion of Habbakuk around her neck. “Please, partake of our hospitality and rest, for your destiny weighs heavy upon you and the road ahead is long. There is much that you must know.”

They'll be more than happy to converse with the characters, telling them to ask what they wish and they'll answer as best they can. Their god Habbukuk has blessed them with answers to the PCs' dilemma in the form of visions. Unlike the previous prophets, ghosts, and seers of this adventure path, the elders are far more informative: they tell them that the Key of Quinari's magic is not in the music box, but the melody contained therein, which can open a portal to the ancient burial grounds of the dragons of Light, located somewhere in Nordmaar, a nation to the north. To aid them in their quest, they will give the PCs a precious relic, one of the Tears of Mishakal...

Priceless Artifact Count: 5

...which will be needed once they pass through the portal to the Dragon's Graveyard and in future endeavors. The other Tear has been corrupted by Chemosh millennia ago, and is now being held in the dungeons of Darkhaven. Once they have both, the knowledge required to purify the Tear can be found in the town of Flotsam to the north of Darkhaven, "your next stop on the journey to
Nordmaar and the Dragons’ Graveyard."

They are still vague on who is manipulating them:


"Several forces are moving against you and each other. One is but a pawn who shall find the strength to break free. One marked forever by betrayal shall be both a great enemy and a great ally. One cares not what you do, but shall use you if need be as a tool of vengeance. One shall have that which is not his own torn from him. And one seeks protection and is willing to destroy the world in order to do so. [Referring to Kayleigh, the
Betrayer, Chemosh, Lothian, and Gellidus, respectively.]

Know this, the ones who seek to control your destinies are not allies and, in working against one another, may in fact aid you in fulfilling your true destiny—if you have the courage to face it and accept whatever cost you must pay to fulfill it."

:tali:Vague Prophecy Count: 12, but is nicely balanced by some pertinent information. At least they finally know about the Dragon's Graveyard and the Key's real purpose!

The Tear of Mishakal is a Major Artifact glowing with a blue radiance, acting much like a charged item. It has 20 charges which can be used by a non-evil wielder to cast spells of restorative nature (the more powerful the spell, the more charges it consumes). Its most powerful spells (heal, raise dead, heroes' feast) can only be used in conjunction with the other Tear, which must be uncorrupted. The Tear regains 1 charge per day at daybreak. Additionally, the Tear can convert a gallon of normal water to holy water after 24 hours, and bestows a continual Shield of Faith (armor class bonus) and Dimensional Anchor spell, the latter of which prevents the use of teleportation magic and dimensional travel as long as the wielder carries it (and even if overcome the Tear is left behind and dropped). The only exception is the Dragon's Graveyard, to which it is attuned. The corrupted Tear is similar, except that it casts death and evil magic, glows with a sickly green light, regains charges at night, and can only be used by non-good characters.

The teleport-negation is an important feature for the adventure. By 9th level, primary spellcasters can cast teleport and plane shift. As the adventure path is heavily travel-based where the PCs get embroiled with encounters along the way and visit neat locations on their quest, bypassing all that would be a major impediment to the adventure. And even if they scout out ahead and keep the Tears in a safe place, they have to carry them all the way anyway.

The PCs now have a new mission: infiltrate Darkhaven. Before that is some good news: the Phaethon can safely escort all the Kender to Port Balifor, accompanied by Elijayess (whose path is different from the PCs now), and Parrick Whistlewalk tells the PCs that they can make use of the underground goblin tunnels if they want to get into the fortress without being spotted.

Back during the days of the Empire of Istar, human mercenaries hunted and killed goblins for money. For safety the goblins dug a series of tunnels beneath Istar, assisted in part by Kender (who themselves were persecuted and hunted by the Empire). Even after the Cataclysm the network remained intact, and its rediscovery by the Kender was used in Kendermore's evacuation when Malystryx razed the city. Now populated by the dragons' experiments and foul spawn of Chaos, it is just as dangerous as the Desolation above. Its nearest entryway for the PCs is a deep fissure plunging into darkness. Potential encounters include wights, chaos beasts, and fiendish goblins (warped by Malystryx).

Key of Destiny Custom Soundtrack: Infiltrating Darkhaven

Darkhaven used to be the major center of operations for the Knights of Neraka in southeastern Ansalon. It's composed of a main keep and a number of smaller buildings, surrounded by a high wall. Beyond the keep proper is a double wall with towers stretching across the valley. This prevents easy travel to and from the region.

These Knights are different than the main order: they worked for Malystryx. Basically, during the time when Takhisis stole the world of Krynn away and the gods disappeared once again, some within the knighthood sought out a new patron for protection. Deserting the main organization, the knights of Darkhaven sought an alliance with Malystryx, who at first violently retaliated with her minions and only accepted after their Lieutenant managed to evade their pursuit through weeks on the run. After her minions captured him, she made him pledge an oath of loyalty to her as commander of the new legion. Most of the knights fled Darkhaven after Malystryx's death, only a few left behind with decreased morale. Their mystics chanced upon a corrupted Tear of Mishakal in the region, guided by visions from Chemosh (who is working to turn them to his service).

For the purposes of this adventure only the lower levels are detailed, as an above-ground assault is fortified with legions of troops (including arcane and divine spellcasters). And then the PCs have to deal with getting past the wall. Sneaking in via the Goblin Tunnels can allow the party to get in via a passage hidden by barrels, strike quickly, get the other Tear, and escape with the main keep none the wiser. They could end up in Darkhaven, too, if they were captured by a dark knight patrol (in that case one of the Phaethon scouts will be imprisoned in the cells).

The lower levels are home to 15 Knights: 4 normal soldiers, 4 Knight of the Skull acolytes (mystics), 4 Knight of the Thorn acolytes (fighter/wizards), and 3 officers of each order of Knighthood (6th-8th level). In addition to that are trained beasts in the kennels (22 and 23 on the map), warped through experimentation by the corrupt Tear: they include 4 Dread Cats (undead leopards with unholy resilience) and 4 Dread Spiders (undead giant spiders with unholy resilence). In the event of an alarm being raised, the Knights will take out the dreadcats with an officer in tow, with a regiment guarding the upper level (basement level). The remaining beasts will be unleashed into the dungeon level to kill anyone who isn't wearing a dark knight uniform.

Combat-wise the knights, even the officers, are easy for a group of 7th level PCs to fight if caught unawares. However, combat in the complex in "alert mode" can be tough: the Dread creatures are well-suited to melee (the cats have improved grab and pounce, the spiders poison) and give off a rotting stench which can sicken enemies. They also have a telepathic link with their creators, the spellcasting knights. As for the knights, the Thorns can cast magic missile, while acolytes of both orders have an assortment of necromantic spells to unleash upon the PCs.

The dungeon level contains the typical stuff (prison cells, torture chambers, guard quarters), but areas 9 and 10 are a research library and necromantic laboratories, containing sufficient spell components and a few magic scrolls with spells! Room 15 has a permanent Wall of Ice to act as cold storage for perishable food (like in the Shattered Temple I enjoy the idea of a magical refrigerator). If the PCs were captured by the Dark Knights, they'll encounter one of the phaethon scouts in the cells (area 4), who will aid them in breaking out of Darkhaven and insist that they accompany him to his village (he knows the directions of the tunnels).

The Tear itself is in Room 25, accessible via a hall of black marble veined with red and Dark Knight symbols in room 24. The whole area is affected by an unhallow spell, which bolsters undead creatures along with necromantic and evil magic. Knights and Dread beasts who hold their ground here have an advantage in this regard. The spellcasting officers and their acolytes will be here in case of an alarm.

The corrupted Tear of Mishakal rests on a wrought iron stand in room 25, a chamber which smells of death and is dimly lit with four coal-burning braziers. A Greater Shadow guards the Tear and hides in the shadowy illumination, taking 10 on its Hide check for a DC 28 Spot check to be noticed. It will attack the PCs, and retreats back within the Tear when defeated. It can be summoned to follow the PCs bidding by expending 10 charges, remaining until dismissed or destroyed.

Priceless Artifact Count: 6.

This can be a very powerful option for the PCs; despite its low Intelligence, its strength-draining touch attack can bring down most opponents, as it does not allow a save. Its Hide bonus and fly speed make it a passable, if unintelligent, scout. It cannot abide the touch of light, so it can't be used in broad daylight, but otherwise is a good minion.

The best way to escape Darkhaven, once they get the Tear, is to go out via the Goblin Tunnels through a northern path. It leads out into the ground to the north of the Desolation and south of Flotsam, a very convenient location. The adventure doesn't give any information on how the PCs will known this, unfortunately. I'd recommend having the goblins or phaethon tell the PCs of this possible escape route if you run the adventure.

Thoughts so far: The second books leads off with a solid start. A sidequest for protecting the kender, some combat encounters, the first real information on the Key and the PCs' main quest, and a fortress infiltration mission of varying difficulty have little in the way of flaws.

Next time, Chapter 2, Flotsam & Jetsam!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragonlance Campaign Setting Chapter Five: Geography

Note: The main book and do not have a full-size detailed map, instead splitting the continent into 8 sections. I found a collection of them here so that you won't have to download them.

This chapter examines each of Ansalon's major nations in alphabetical order, detailing things such as the system of government, major population centers and the most prominent races, and important sites. In early 3rd Edition, each nation in a D&D setting had an Alignment descriptor. Supposedly it was to show the moral leaning of the government's leaders, but in Dragonlance it indicates the general tendency of the people of the land, with the most common one first. So a nation which is NG, LN has Neutral Good people the most common, followed by Lawful Neutral people. The histories of the nation are brief, generally covering 5th Age events.

Abanasinia is a frontier nation in southwestern Ansalon. The region's indigenous population are the Abanasinian Plainsmen, who are based off of real-world Great Plains Native Americans (such as the Sioux). They are united under chieftians and united into a confederation after the War of the Lance to better protect their numbers. The realm also boasts a sizable community of settlers and their descendants, ranging from Ergoth to Solamnia and lands beyond. Settler cities are relatively autonomous, each having their own distinct forms of government, with the village of Solace being the most iconic.

In fact, Solace gets the largest write-up by far. In the original Chronicles it was where the Heroes of the Lance began their adventure, at the cozy Inn of the Last Home just as the Dragonarmies came to invade. Solace is a city of trees, houses positioned in the safety of massive branches which can be easily traversed so that you never have to set foot on the ground. Solace has a huge refugee population outside its borders, of people fleeing the tyranny of the Dark Knights and Dragon Overlords.

Balifor a region at the western end of Goodlund, and now encompasses The Desolation. The Red Dragon Overlord Malystryx transformed it into a volcanic wasteland of horrors, with only the most desperate and tough individuals remaining. The majority of its population are monsters such as ogres, dragonspawn, and draconians, but there are two small population centers, Port Balifor and Flotsam, on its extremities. Unlike the other Dragon Overlords who died, the region is not returning to its normal self, which greatly worries people.

The Blood Sea Isles dominated Ansalon's eastern end, and include the four isles of Saifhum, Karthay, Kothas, and Mithas. Its human inhabitants are the descendants of Istarians who found themselves stranded on islands after the Cataclysm, and adopted to sea life. A huge red storm the size of a small country known as the Maelstrom used to encompass the majority of open water, stifling trade, although it suddenly disappeared after the War of Souls.

Saifhum is inhabited by human mariners and pirates. It is a rocky island with little vegetation, and an extensive network of windsail-powered carts is used as a mode of travel. Mithas and Kothas are part of the Minotaur nation, who are a martial culture who decides most major events through ritual combat. They sail to Flotsam for supplies now and then, but prefer to raid Saifhum ships instead. The island of Karthay is an uninhabited land of hot, barren plains and tall mountains with rainforests at the top. It is home to the mysterous Kyrie, a race of winged humanoids who keep to themselves.

Estwilde is a forested, swampy nation in north-central Ansalon, to the west of Neraka and south of Nordmaar. It is a rural region, with most inhabitants living in tribal hunter-gatherer societies, and three powerful dragons claimed vast reaches of the realm for themselves. The 3 most common tribes are the Lor-Tai, who are good-hearted and peaceful, yet have an intricate system of taboos which prevents them from even speaking to outsiders or interacting with them in any significant fashion. The Lahutians live in the Lahue Forest, and practice cannibalism on outsiders; they are Chaotic Evil and view non Lahutians as no better than cattle to be eaten. The Mountain Barbarians are supposed to be bad guys, too, but the book poorly describes why they're bad. They're "surly and treacherous," trade with goblins and ogres, hate and fear the "strong-hearted" nation of Solamnia, and "lack the imagination to believe they need anything more than what their squalid lives offer." If anything they sound xenophobic more than anything.

Goodlund is the rest of the Desolation, and doesn't really have much more info than what Balifor provided. The major settlements are underground in ancient goblin catacombs, and includes a town of afflicted kender who make commando raids against Malystryx's remaining forces.

Hylo is a kender nation in the forested northern reaches of Northern Ergoth. Its natural terrain makes it a well-defended locale, with a mountain range to the west, open ocean to the east, empty wasteland to the north, and inhospitable desert to the south. The kender lived a trouble-free existence for centuries, being unaffected by the Cataclysm (yet saddened by the disappearance of the Gods). A huge population of afflicted kender refugees moved in and were accepted to the region, causing tension and strife between them and the "true" kender. The afflicted kender are distrustful and insist on shoring up Hylo's defenses, while the true kender believe them to be cursed (yet are still too good-hearted to oppress them). Interesting locations include the tree-city of Lookit, and a mysterious obsidian structure known only as "the Tower" which a bunch of true kender live inside. A magical sentience lives within the Tower, and nobody knows its true origins, but the "true" kender regard it as their best friend.

Icereach is less a nation than a region encompassing the far southern reaches of Ansalon. Composed entirely of arctic tundra, it remains mostly unexplored and is home to human nomads known as the Ice Folk, and evil walrus-men known as the thanoi. The two have warred against each other since the Cataclysm, and neither side is willing to give up; it's pretty much a way of life by now. Two white dragons, Cryonisis and Frisindia (both female wyrms) are the closest thing the land has to a superpower, and both claim western and eastern terrain as their domain. A few interesting places include the abandoned city of Frozen Past, the ruins of the huldrefolk (the first and oldest fey on Krynn), and the ruins of Icewall Castle (once home to Feal-Thas, the dark elf White Dragon Highlord of the Dragon Empire in the War of the Lance).

Kharolis is a nation of southwestern Ansalon which was once claimed by the Green Dragon Overlord Beryllinthranox. In recent years the Knights of Neraka took over the region and know rule the land under an iron fist. They hire ogre mercenaries to patrol the southern border along Icereach to keep back the Thanoi, but unbeknownst to them the two monstrous races plan on overthrowing them. They are also aided by human rebels who plan on killing them once they overthrow the Dark Knights. The Tower of Wayreth lies in the magical forest in the northern section of the nation, and the Thorn Knights built outposts in the wilderness and towns in search of the Tower. The Tower has yet to be found, and is not admitting any visitors (even other Wizards of High Sorcery).

Khur is a nation located in eastern Ansalon, to the west of Balifor and to the north of Silvanesti. It is home to the Khur people, who are based off of real-world Arabs and arranged into seven different tribes. Their nation is no stranger to foreign influence; back during the War of the Lance, the Green Dragonarmy of the Dragon Empire invaded the nation before being driven out. In recent years the Dark Knights have established alliances with certain tribes and cities, and an influx of refugee elves from Silvanesti has made life interesting. After recovering from being under the baleful eye of Malystryx, the region is undergoing a sense of unity, as Khurish tribes seek to put aside old hatreds in face of more pressing foreign influences. In addition to native Khurs, many citizens of the cities are the descendents of Dragonarmy officers, and so there's a sizable Nerakan minority in the nation.

Neraka is an inhospitable mountain nation in eastern Ansalon. It is a very old nation with close ties to Evil, first formed by travellers guided by visions from Takhisis to a fabled lost city. There they found the magically relocated Temple of Istar, originally under the ocean of the Blood Sea. The Foundation Stone inside it allowed the goddess to communicate with these travelers and grant them the gift of divine magic. Along with her favored children, the chromatic dragons, she formed a massive army out of these forces and set about conquering much of Krynn as the Dragon Empire. Even after the temple's explosion and the end of the War of the Lance, the region was still a stronghold of those swearing fealty to the Dark Queen, and the Knights of Neraka are a major presence her (in fact, they changed their name from Knights of Takhisis to this because it was their base of power on Ansalon). The capital city, Neraka, is a shadow of its former glory, its once-great temple filled with unknowable evils which keep even the Knights at bay. The nation's cities are filled with monsters who traditionally served in the Dragonarmies, from goblins to ogres to draconians, and as such is a more accepting climate for these groups.

Nightlund was formerly an eastern province of Solamnia. Once a fertile and peaceful region, it was cursed with twilight and gloom when its ruler, Lord Soth, failed to stop the Kingpriest and instead killed his wife on suspicion of infidelity. Cursed to be a death knight, he found himself the ruler of a nightmarish realm filled with undead in a godless world. The nation has remained this way until the War of Souls, after which the curse was lifted when Soth rejected Mina's offer to join the One God's army and was killed for it. It is now a fertile and bright land, but people still avoid it for its sinister reputation. One of the Towers of High Sorcery, the Tower of Palanthas, is located here (after being teleported away from the city of the same name), filled with undead guardians.

Nordmaar is a tropical nation in Ansalon's far north. It is a feudal kingdom of highland horsemen and home to great stone cities in its rainforests. Its people are known for valiantly fighting off enemy invasions, from the Red Dragonarmy during the War of the Lance, shadow wights during the Chaos War, and most recently a black dragon wyrm named Mohrlex who also rules a portion of Estwilde to the south. Nordmaarians are organized into tribes who are all ruled by a single king, and they have good relations with the nation of Solamnia to the west. Interesting locations in the region include a great giant rock shaped like a man riding a horse in the northeastern jungles, and a legendary shrine to Habbakuk known as the Fountain of Renewal in the swamplands (which is sought after by Mohrlex's forces).

Northern Ergoth is the oldest human nation located on an island off the coast of western Ansalon. Formed during the Age of Dreams, its empire once occupied almost all of western Ansalon before the Cataclysm flooded most of it. Despite these losses, Ergoth remained a relatively stable feudal nation. Its people are known throughout the continent as skilled mariners, and Ergothian merchants are a common sight through much of Ansalon. In recent years of the Fifth Age it's becoming the continent's preeminent cultural center, home to a fabled bardic college and a flourishing university and library in the capital city of Gwynned. Mina's crusade under the One God's banner never touched Ergothian shores, and its people welcomed the return of the deities along with mysticism, and the two groups put aside theological differences to support the empire. The nation's southern region of Sikket'hul is home to several towns of non-evil goblins, who keep to themselves but have some trade with the humans.

The Plains of Dust are a hot, arid region of south-central Ansalon which was traditionally a cold, arid region due to the disappearance of the Maelstrom. Traditionally nomadic humans related to the Abanasinians lived here along with centaurs, but a recent influx of refugee elves of both Qualinesti and Silvanesti put a significant strain on the region's resources. The elves, meanwhile, are disorganized and grouped into varying factions. Gilthas, a half-elf Qualinesti noble, does his best to settle disputes, but the more bigoted factions do not respect the word of a half-human. Some elves want to reclaim their homelands by force, while others desire aid from human cities and establish ties and favors with their peoples' skills. During the Fifth Age, two dragons from the same realm the Overlords came from ruled over much of the eastern Plains, and a group of centaurs and humans formed the nation of Duntollik to counter their threat. After the dragons' death, they are now the preeminent political group in the region.

We also get stat block write-ups and backstories of Gilthas and Linsha Majere, a Solamnic Knight instrumental in Duntollik's formation.

Qualinesti is a forested nation in southwestern Ansalon, the traditional homeland of the Qualinesti elves. In the Age of Dreams a faction of Silvanesti elves were tired of their peoples' rigid society and created a more tolerant and progressive nation in the forests to the west. They maintained good relations with humans and dwarves during the Age of Might, but their society underwent significant hardship in the Age of Despair. They had to flee their homes during the War of the Lance, when the Red Dragonarmy invaded. During the Age of Dreams their nation was conquered by the Green Dragon Overlord Beryllanthranox. Eventually they were provided information that the dragon was planning on killing them all, and some dwarves and sympathetic Dark Knights helped smuggle elves out before she could destroy them, leaving the warriors among them behind to lead a joint attack on the Overlord in the capital city. The battle resulted in the dragons' death, but her massive formed crashed into the tunnels below and causing the nearby rivers to fill up a new lake. The northern reaches of the land are claimed by opportunistic human bandits, with a never-before-seen alliance of goblins to the south, who are believed to be a new nation formed during the social turmoil.

Sancrist is an island nation off the coast of western Ansalon. Its eastern half is a mountain range inhabited by gnomes, their greatest city of Mt. Nevermind containing technology leagues ahead of any other on the continent. The western section of Sancrist is home to forest and Solamnic settlers, who created the new nation of Gunthar in this region. Castle Uth Wistan is its capital, and home to the grandmaster of the Knights of Solamnia. A vicious red dragon Pyrothraxus lives among the gnomes of Mt. Nevermind, who are more than happy to pay him wealth and riches in exchange for the rare opportunity to research a living dragon.

Schallsea is an island nation off the coast of northern Abanasinia. It is home to the Wemitowuk people, who are related to the Abanasinian Plainsmen. It is home to the Citadel of Light, a preeminent center of learning for mystics, and is undergoing repair after the Green Dragon Overlord's assault on the building grounds. The island is home to the Garden of the Dead, a traditional place of punishment for the natives to send exiles who committed crimes against the community. The tunnel entrance became closed at the start of the Age of Mortals.

Silvanesti is the oldest elven nation and occupies a significant portion of southeast Ansalon. For the longest time it was a major superpower, with a rich magical history and valiant warriors. It has always been an isolated nation, closing itself off from the rest of the world after the Cataclysm. The Dragon Empire viewed them as a threat and fought against them before the War of the Lance. In recent years a minotaur invasion strengthened by the presence of Dark Knights. The great cities were occupied by forces, its inhabitants forced out. The minotaurs forced out the Dark Knights shortly afterwards; despite the elves' worst fears, the minotaurs have not destroyed or razed the cities, instead using them as new settlements for their forces.

Solamnia is a large and powerful nation covering a great portion of western Ansalon. The Knights of Solamnia served as the governing body since the Age of Dreams, but during the Age of Mortals the Blue Dragon Overlord Khellendros took over the city of Palanthas and much of northern Solamnia with the help of rogue Dark Knights. The Knights still rule Palanthas, and although society continues, some hope that one day the Knight of Solamnia drive them out.

During the Age of Despair many peasants blamed the Knights for failing to protect them during the Cataclysm and overthrew many of their counties. But the Knights' respect was restored when they played a contributing factor in the War of the Lance fighting Takhisis' forces. Bolstered by Sturm Brightblade's examples during the War, the formerly traditionalist and hidebound order became more progressive and open over time.

Solanthus is Solamnnia's traditional capital, but Palanthas is its greatest city (the Waterdeep, the Sharn, the Greyhawk of Dragonlance). A port town surrounded by mountains, Palanthas managed to escape the Cataclysm relatively unscathed and became the continent's cradle of civilization. Its Great Library is run by clerics of Gilean, led by the enigmatic Astinus who attempts to write down the collected knowledge of Krynn. It was also once home to a Tower of High Sorcery, and the High Clerist's Tower (once a holdover from the Age of Might) was home to a pivotal battle during the War of the Lance.

A dwarven nation of Kayolin supplies Solamnia with gems and precious metals, and the two nations get along very well.

Southern Ergoth is nominally part of the Empire of Ergoth, but this once-temperate land has been occupied by the White Dragon Overlord Gellidus and reshaped into an arctic nightmare. A legion of ogres and dragonspawn enforce his will from the city of Daltigoth, and the Solamnic outpost of Castle Eastwatch entered into an alliance with elven communities to fight them. During the War of the Lance the Qualinesti and Silvanesti elves moved here, and enslaved the native Kagonesti elves to build new communities. All three elves still live in Ergoth, not necessarily getting along but sharing a common enemy against Gellidus. The Solamnic Knights guard the Tomb of Huma, the resting place of the legendary hero. A natural pool of dragonmetal, along with the lore necessary to build the Dragonlances, gives the Solamnics an advantage against the dragonspawn.

Teyr is a new nation to the north of Neraka, formed by and for draconians. During the War of the Lance draconians were created from the eggs of good dragons in an unholy ritual. Only the male eggs were selected, both for population control and for the Dragon Empire to better control them. A draconian general named Kang discovered the location of the female draconian eggs, and managed to capture them with the help of his regiment after the Empire's collapse. Emboldened with the discovery that they were a true race, they found an abandoned dwarven city to form a new society. From there, Kang created a new autonomous nation for his people. And they're non-evil, too! Teyr is a military government overseen by civilian leaders, and military culture abounds even though draconians are adopting "civilian" occupations and adjusting to relative peace. The nation is very well-defended, with military outposts along the borders.

Thoradin is a dwarven nation located in the mountains of Neraka. Its sole city is Zhakar, which was ruled by dark dwarves who went insane from an insidious and poisonous mushroom colony. A particularly outspoken dwarf, Severus Stonehand, disagreed with his people's decision to seal off their kingdom from the world in light of the Dragon Overlords' arrival. He underwent a religious pilgrimage, he returned to his homeland and mounted an insurrection against the Council of Thanes. With divine magic he discovered a cure to the Zhakar's mushroom plague, and through this he earned the eternal gratitude and goodwill of the people, along with a new seat in government. He signed a trade and military agreement with the nearby Knights of Neraka, supplying them with fine dwarven weapons and armor in exchange for protection from the nearby ogre nations of Blode and Kern.

On that note, Blode and Kern are not detailed in this book.

Thorbadin is a dwarven nation located in the mountains of Kharolis in southwestern Ansalon. It is the grandest of dwarven realms: eight great cities, vast expanse of warrens, fortified gates, and a cold underground sea, it is larger than many surface realms. It is governed by a council of Thanes who vote on issues, with a High Thane as the leader of them. Traditionally there's a thane for each dwarven clan, even the gully dwarves, but there is no Neidar Thane due to the Dwarfgate Wars 400 years ago. The dwarves bury their nobles and heroes in the Valley of the Thanes, an above-ground natural valley accessible by tunnels, and whose tombs are sealed with doors which blend into the surrounding rock.

After the War of the Lance Thorbadin opened up relations with the outside world and gained the Qualinesti elves as allies. Thorbadin's finest soldiers were instrumental in the death of the Green Dragon Overlord.

Throtl is a buffer nation between Estwilde (to the east) and Solamnia (to the west). It is mostly plains, with some bogs impeding travel. The region is home mostly to hobgoblins, whose form of government is a system of anarchy where they live in moneyless, leaderless communes where decisions and disputes are resolved via community debates and direct democracy. Just kidding, the writer's definition of anarchy means roving gangs of bandit leaders. The hobgoblins do little trade with others, instead raiding nearby settlements and fighting rival tribes for territory and resources. The nation's sole great city of Throt is unique in the region and consider the smaller tribes to the primitive savages. After the Chaos War, the primordial Gods' creations roam the countryside, a threat to everyone.

Thoughts so far: And that's it for listed nations of Krynn! The ones not detailed here are Kayolin (dwarven nation in Solamnic territory), and the ogre nations of Blode (swampland) and Kern (mountains, forests, and plains where ogres live in great cities rebuilt from the Age of Dreams). They have more detail in the War of the Lance sourcebook, which extensively details the Age of Despair.

Next time, Chapter 6: The Dragonlance Campaign! Detailing Dragonlance's iconic themes and how to create a unique and authentic experience!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
Okay, some good news and some bad news. Bad news first.

My main computer mysteriously broke down, with all my FATAL & Friends material inside (stupid of me not to use external backups). Fortunately I can retrieve the files with a tech guy given time, but for now I'm stuck with an inferior computer. The Dragonlance reviews will have to be put on hiatus until I get things working again.

The good news is that I have some other entertaining reviews already written up that I'm sure you guys will enjoy.

Let's start with Vornheim, an acclaimed Old School Sourcebook for urban campaigns:

Vornheim: The Complete City Kit

Vornheim is part of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess line of work. Difference is that it's not written by James Raggi and it's system-neutral. The author is Zak Sabbath, an alternative porn star and artist who blogs a lot about tabletop RPGs (notably old school D&D). One of his home campaigns took place in a dark fantasy metropolis of the same name as this book, and he compiled a lot of notes not just on treasures, tables, and characters, but also accumulated advice for how to run a city-based campaign. And he decided to publish it as a book.


Vast is Vornheim, The Grey Maze, its towered alleys sprawling through the winds of the polar plain like a long-spined insect frozen in time… but I’m not here to bore you with that. This book is not about Vornheim, it’s about running Vornheim – or any other city – in a fantastic Medieval setting. And about running it with a minimum of hassle, so you and your players can get to the good stuff. Too often, I find, city supplements start by inspiring you and finish by exhausting you – every time the characters need a hatpin or a halberd, you have to go scurrying back to the map or the index to find out where the appropriate merchant’s set up shop.

So while I hope you’ll walk away from this book remembering that the Palace Massive and Eminent Cathedral erupt from the apex of a wracked and rigid skyline like a pair of great claws seeking the moon, what I hope even more is that you’ll walk away with some useful ideas about what to do with a Palace Massive or Eminent Cathedral, or a Randomly Generated Cheese Shop. To this end, this supplement is less about floorplans, major NPCs, and conspiracies that threaten to annihilate all the civilized nations of the earth and more about ways to quickly and easily generate floorplans, major NPCs, and conspiracies that threaten to annihilate all the civilized nations of the earth in the middle of a session while the players are breathing down your neck waiting for you to tell them what’s going on. That’s why we called it a ‘Kit’ – you can use it to build your own city, even in the middle of a game. Give somebody a floorplan and they’ll GM for a day – show them how to make 30 floorplans in 30 seconds and they’ll GM forever.

That said, anyone hoping they bought a book containing The Real Vornheim That The D&D With Pornstars Girls Play In has got it. These are our rules and tables and monsters and places. I wouldn’t want to spend all this time writing a book I couldn’t use. Feel free to fill in any gaps as you see fit. Any detail of the rules or setting left unexplained has been left that way because it's not important to the character of the setting, and the GM should interpret it however he/she feels will distribute maximum fun.

Where’s the prison? If I wrote it down, then you’d have to look it up, and Vornheim is still Vornheim no matter where you put the prison, so I didn’t (I did make a map with some places you could put it, though). Is this NPC more than just a cackling fiend? It’s more fun to decide than to remember. How much damage does slicing the dog out of a victim of a Vile Hound spell do? It’s up to you. Knock yourself out.

This book does contain some material that’s been published elsewhere – often for free. Due to the scope of this project, it’s sort of unavoidable – without things like the “Urbancrawl Rules”, this could hardly be called a “complete city kit”. wanted this volume to include everything need to run a city adventure and that, unfortunately, includes things some of you may have seen before. If so, write to me and ask for any tables, rules, or setting details you wish were included instead of the old material and I’ll think something up and send it to you if I get a minute.

Zak S

No, don't worry, Zak's blog contains nothing graphic despite the mature content warning. Edit: Nope, turns out it does contain nudity in parts as of the original posting! Tread with caution if at work!

His piecemeal, minimalist approach is surprisingly unorthodox. Many city-based products either provide an existing locale with everything already made (like Monte Cook's Ptolus or Sharn: City of Towers), or some splatbook full of the typical feats/spells/monsters with minimal city-building tips. Zak goes halfway, using elements of his own Vornheim, but the stuff in the book is not welded to the setting, so to speak.

Immediately we have a map of Vornheim's environs:

A short sidebar accompanies it, briefly detailing the lettered areas. The locales veer on the side of macabre, from the city of Ballat Osc, populated by throngs of the insane with an interior district presided over by a lich (F); to a plain of battle where two invincible frozen armies are locked in battle to be awakened once more at an unknown time (E). The elves of the region (B) are alternatively cultured or decadent, but always cold, and ruled by a pair of frost giant queens. The goblins have their own city, Gaxen Kane, and little is known except that they speak backwards and walk on the ceilings of houses (D).

The campaign setting beyond Vornheim is left relatively undetailed, and the DM is free to further fill in the histories and specifics.

In Vornheim

The following section details the relative basics of the city, from its customs and culture to some people and places (who Zak reminds us are not centrally important to the city, but rather inserted piece by piece in his homebrewed setting). The features are split into short separate paragraphs, rarely more than two or three sentences.

In general, Vornheim is a mostly human city, although the elves of the north are its largest minority, followed by dwarves. Travel to and from the place is mostly on land, with miles of underground river tunnels by boat. Snow is present throughout all seasons, and stone is the most common building material. The city is encircled by two walls, and its numerous tall towers are linked via a network of bridges so that many travelers do not even have to touch the ground on their daily errands. Open magic is rare, but there is a thriving underground occult community; it is not illegal per se, but it's not used like commonplace technology.

The Palace Massive is home to a series of administrators and regents, as the current Lord left the city for parts unknown. One of the chambers has 7 magic mirrors which present 7 different sides of a person. Rulers of Vornheim traditionally used them to consult various alternatives. The current Duke Regent holding power is Voscolous Eeben, who compromises a lot and has little interest in running the city.

Two deities commonly worshiped in Vornheim include Vorn, the Grim Gaunt God of Iron, Rust, and Rain. His church is the Eminent Cathedral. The priesthood Tittivilla, the Mother of all Flesh, used to hold their temples in long extinct colossal living beasts, but now hold small shrines in houses all over the continent.

Oddities of Vornheim

Up next is a detail of local traditions of Vornheim and some of its more monstrous inhabitants.

Theater in the city is quite unique, mostly improvised and involving ritual combat. The most popular ones are cultural holdovers from the long-lost Reptile Men, and are often used in civil and criminal trials to settle disputes. A recent fad among nobles is the use of slow pets, animals which take an inordinately long amount of time to move around; walking such animals in public is a way to show that the owner has a great amount of leisure time. The most popular pets are strange, like turtles with artificially-sculpted shells, lobsters, and various sorts of mutant snails.


It is known to some scholars that the skins of all snakes can be read like books. Those who speak the serpent language know that these creatures continuously hiss their titles. As they grow, the animals revise and expand themselves, shedding old knowledge for new. The most common and convenient method of reading a snake (among human ophidobibliologists) is to have it slither through an ivory serpent-reader – a sphere with ornately carved orifices and channels. Common snakes are usually fairly uninteresting works – garter snakes tend to be cookbooks, corn snakes are generally works of adventure fiction with cliche characters
or too-convenient endings. Rarer breeds – 100’ anacondas, albino cobras – often contain long-forgotten secrets or comprise unique works of poetry or philosophy.

Giant snakes are typically encyclopedias or great multi-volume sagas representing the myths and theogonies of entire cultures. Nagas are linguistic texts, translating from the languages of snakes to the languages of humans. The snakes growing from the heads of medusae are generally reference works and the medusae themselves are often cataloguers – tending private libraries containing nothing but caged snakes, selectively breeding exotic and daring new works. The Librarians – also known as serpent men – also catalogue and breed books, though in a far less dilettantish and casual fashion – they believe that careful control of crossspecies breeding can and will one day unveil a Great Glistening Book containing all the secrets of creation.

This isn't really specific to Vornheim, but it's one of the more unique and cool things to come out of this book. It gives even otherwise mundane and ordinary things a new twist. In addition to musty tomes and towers of bookshelves, librarians send adventures off on quests to find rare snakes and the knowledge of reptilian monsters contained within their skin.

The next section moves on to the monsters of Vornheim.

The Wyvern of the Well lairs at the bottom of a well between the Palace Massive and the Eminent Cathedral. For reasons unknown, every citizen has the right to ask the Wyvern one question in their lifetime if they pay him 700 gold. The answer is always correct, and in return the Wyvern asks a question of them, which is always of a personal nature. Nobody knows of the Wyvern's origins, or what he does with the accumulated gold and answers, and so far nobody's willing to waste their one question to find out.

The Chain are a pair of homonculi contract killers who burrow into people's skulls and control the body like a puppet. They are known to pursue targets for decades.

Three witches live in Vornheim, Thorn, Dread, and Frost. They plot to overthrow humankind by summoning demonic horrors into the world.

The Church of Vorn keeps a catalogue of known demons, which have no names but have strange hybrid forms such as a bipedal goat with a giant maw in place of a stomach and a crow-faced man wielding hooked blades.

There are also natural, non-unique creatures known to sages around Vornheim. Hollow Brides are undead creatures which have the heads and hands of human women connected by a floating mass of organs and entrails. They disguise themselves under a white dress and desperately crave to live among mortals.

Thornchilds are plantlike creatures with the head of an elven child. They move about via tendrils, and can be summoned by witches and druids.

Eyes of Fate are undead creations of northern witches who use them as scrying devices. They are made from the dismembered hand of a thief and the eyeball of a blind person or madman. Gazing into its eye can afflict a person with blindness or insanity.

Maggot Nagas have the bloated bodies of grubs and the faces of beautiful women. They live in the digestive tracts of the largest dragons, and their wisdom is sought after by many nobles for they're known to be experts in the art of governance.

The last section of the chapter gives a list of common superstitions in Vornheim, with varying degrees of truth. The city's long history of influence and pacts by demons, deities, and magicians resulted in a complex structure of taboos and cultural rituals. A few of the more interesting ones include Clerics of Vorn being forbidden from using sharp weapons (it's a sign of hypocrisy), not planting a tree where one has died (shadows of dead trees persist for months in Vornheim), and natives sacrificing a stag before setting sail on a ship (the gods of the sea hate Vornheim).

Thoughts so far: The opening parts were less "Kit for City-Building" so much as "Vornheim the City." Regardless, it's only 12 out of 75 pages, and Zak S does a great job of setting up the setting's mood and feel. The culture, surrounding region, and monsters, all give life to a dark fantasy locale distinct from many published settings. I really like it.

Next time, House Rules and DM Shortcuts!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 00:13 on Dec 14, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
Urbancrawl Rules, floorplan shortcuts, and other sub-systems

Remember when I said that I'd be covering the House of the Medusa? Well, I figured to go out of chronological order and show off Zak S' house rules before further exploring Vornheim. Otherwise we'd cover the House, the Immortal Zoo of Ping Feng, and the Library of Zorlac (all 3 of them dungeons) before delving into the kit-building stuff.

We start off with player commentary from Zak's players (using their porn stage names in the entries) on various Vornheim icons, from the Church of Vorn, and various NPCs. They're mostly nothing special, except for two entries I liked:


Kimberly Kane: Killing the ghoul with the medusa’s daughter’s head was one of my most ingenious killing sprees.

Satine Phoenix: We actually spent way more time worrying about the medusa than fighting her. This is the magic of RPGs. This is the magic of an adventure. The reality is that the villain is just an idea with stats, but the fun part is that we can scare ourselves and make the idea of the villain bigger and more exciting than it really is; over-villainizing the villain. Thinking of all the possible ways she could attack us, sneak up on us, etc. makes the game more exciting and gives us a reason to be more creative and clever. The more intensely we imagine her the more intensely we imagine defending ourselves. Collectively we all knew the myth of Medusa and this previous knowledge got us excited and thinking of ways to face her and ultimately defeat her so we could use her head as a weapon.

Connie: I don’t think i was really concerned. I just decided I wasn’t gonna look at her. I think I… didn’t I strap a mirror to my forehead or something? Yeah. I figured then she’ll turn herself to stone, then she’ll know how it feels.


SP: Surviving in Vornheim. Rule #1, 3, 32 & 59: Do not get drunk, tipsy, trip on drugs, or alter your perception in any way. You could be assaulted at any time by anything. Also, avoid speaking to anyone if you do find yourself drunk, tipsy, tripping on drugs or altering your perception in any way.

Navigation Shortcuts for Busy GMs

Zak intended for Vornheim to be like a dungeon the GM develops along the way like he did. Aside from a palace, cathedral, and well at the center of town, the rest is deliberately left vague. Nothing's fixed in place until the PCs explore it. In his view, going into detail on city streets, neighborhoods, landmarks, and history just bog down the GM with more things to memorize in order to feel comfortable with the setting.

He provides a quick and easy way to create winding city streets and major thoroughfares by writing the words of numbers onto a sheet of paper in random intervals and overlapping, like so:

Each word represents a different neighborhood. The GM can decide to develop the neighborhood's feel with die tables on the inside cover: building tables cover the most prominent landmark, rolling again to see the most prominent kind of businesses, a d4 for wealth level (1 is poor, 2-3 medium, 4 rich), and d20 to see what percentage is non-human.

It's certainly unorthodox, but the whole number-word thing feels a little silly to me.

The next part of the rules are "city crawls," or when the PCs have to navigate through a neighborhood under duress (chase scene, searching for a person/place, being lost, or other sense of uneasiness/urgency). "Crawling" from neighborhood to neighborhood just creates a random encounter for each boundary they cross. Asking for directions or getting help from bystanders is done via successful Charisma check.

Crawling within a neighborhood is done by rolling 2d10 on the table. The position of one die represents the PC's location, the other their destination. The number on the PC's die is shaped within the confines of the die. For example, a 1 on the die:

PCs who wander off the edge of the map come onto another numbered street, which is shaped like the result of another d10:

Basing the results of where the dice fall on the map is a system Zak made called the "drop die" method, which manifests in another ways. I'll cover the other examples later when they show up.

I do like this rule for its ability to make labyrinthine streets.

Floorplan Shortcut

One of Vornheim's claims is that it has a quick and easy floor generation method: "30 floors in 30 seconds." While it sounds ludicrous, it is technically possible... if you toss a shitload of d4s onto your game table all at once.

Basically it's intended for improvisation when the PCs enter an unmapped typical residence/floor (not alien architecture, secret rooms, etc). You draw a square/rectangular shape on the map and toss several d4s inside. The result on the die determines the number of lines you draw away from it. For example:

I like this one as well. I can't see myself using it often, but it's a clean and elegant way of drawing out floors.

The Law

In addition to more common-sense laws, the legalities of Vornheim are a confusing and arcane series of treaties and edicts, oral and cultural traditions, and differing standards of what the authorities can and can't do (during some holidays relevant churches are granted legal powers). Zak developed a subsystem and table for legal trials. His reasoning is that the PCs will eventually break the law in city adventures, actual medieval laws were used as examples and were very strange and weird (they actually put animals on trial in some villages!), and to represent the insane and arbitrary whims of the city's elite.

The trial in question is determined by a d20. I'll list some of the more entertaining trials:


7. Trial by drama: all involved must play themselves in a pair of improvised dramas re-enacting the events of the day/night
in question in one of Vornheim’s great theaters before a jury/audience of thousands. Each depicts one side’s version of
events. Most convincing play wins, audience decides by applause.

11. Trial by swine: The people of Vornheim believe pigs to be the only honest animals. 7 pigs are tied to the defendant by 10’
ropes and the defendant must go about his or her business in this way for 12 days. If the defendant cuts the ropes, leaves
the city, or goes mad s/he is guilty.

13. Trial by pie: The defendant and prosecutor have 24 hours to prepare as many pies (1 foot diameter) as possible. The accuser
then consumes any one of his/her pies as quickly as possible. The defendant must then consume any one of his/her own
pies as fast or faster. The accuser then must eat any one of the defendant’s pies as fast as that or faster, and then vice versa
and then the sequence starts over until one party or the other is unable to finish a pie in time (and therefore loses) or runs
out of pies (and therefore loses). The winner is entitled to any and all remaining pies.

19. Anti – trial: Some friend of the defendant is legally bound to masquerade as his lawyer and attempt to persuade an
unknowing jury that the defendant is guilty while the accuser must attempt to prove the defendant innocent. If the verdict
is guilty, the defendant is considered innocent and vice versa. This practice is believed to increase sympathy for those with
opposing points of view.

Libertad approves.

Optional Rules for Chase Scenes


If two parties moving ostensibly at the same speed are in a chase situation, both roll d10 and add their Dexterity (if running across uneven or obstacle – laden ground like a marketplace or a building) or Strength (if over open, flat ground). Whoever rolls lowest
loses a number of table top inches equal to the difference in the rolls or a number of feet equal to 6 x the number rolled. Do this every round until one party gives up or the parties meet. If both parties roll the same number at the same time, roll an encounter. If either
party rolls a “1” at any time, then an obstacle – applecart, overweight vicar, etc. – has fallen in the way and the party must make additional rolls to avoid it.

I've heard of the "opposed ability check" system before, but Zak adds some new features to it. I do like the simplicity of it.

Next few rules are Item Cost Shortcut, which is a quick generation for item prices. They're separated into Penny, Nickel, Dime, Quarter and Dollar. Their price is determined by the number of syllables in the item's name x the number of cents in the category. Penny items are common, everyday stuff, Nickel is adventure/camping gear, dime is specialist items, quarter is luxury, and dollar are dangerous items all by themselves.

It might be unrealistic, but more specialized items (warhorse as opposed to horse) will be more expensive as a result.

Eh, I'm not feeling it. The equipment tables in many D&D Editions and retroclones are broad enough to help a DM.

The next optional rule is for Library Research, which determines what kind of books they can find in a library with several hours of research. The number of books found depends on the PCs' literacy (illiterate characters automatically fail), whether they're multi-lingual, and taking 20 minutes or more. Sample book subjects can be determined on an accompanying table, and PCs who consult a book before undertaking a task gain a +1 or +2 bonus on relevant rolls. Zak also provides an optional rule for book usefulness, rolling a d10 to determine the number of uses a book has before its information is exhausted (d10 questions answered, d10 re-rolls on knowledge checks, or +1d10 to the next knowledge check, for example).

I enjoy this rule, for it makes PCs treat individual books in the setting as rare and valuable storehouses of knowledge. When the party comes across "The Celestial Arts of the Nonem Astrologers," role-player thespian types and min-maxers alike will be joshing for its use.

Some Notes on City Adventures

Zak provides three pieces of information for DMs running games in metropolitan settings:


1. In a wilderness or dungeon, the party’s adventure during any given session is defined by where they are geographically– in a volcano, in the southwest corner of a maze, at the bottom of a pit, etc. In a city, this is less important, movement is freer, easier and more certain than in a dungeon and distances are shorter than in a wilderness. In a city, the party’s adventure is defined by where they are in a chain of consequences. What’s most important, after a session, is not figuring our where the PCs left off, but who they pissed off getting there. The next session’s adventure can often be built from the consequences of what the PCs did during the last session.

2. If the city becomes too dangerous for too little reward, PCs will just leave. The city must have rewards and details that interest the players if it is to become a re-usable location.
3. Always give players as much information as you think they can handle at one time about things going on in the city. This allows them to make real choices about what to do and what resources to marshal, rather than just agreeing or not agreeing to investigate
whatever the GM puts in front of them that day. A mass email could work for some groups, a large map with notes or a calendar pinned on the wall in the room where the game is played might work best for another.

Overall, some good stuff, especially Number 2.

God's Chess

The last house rule is intended for abstracting the political machinations of the city's power players, be they official rulers, crime lords, the leader of the sewer's wererats, and likewise. Basically the PCs and DM play a game of chess between ordinary gaming sessions, representing relevant factions, and the city's map is copied into an 8-by-8 grid which aligns with the chess board. The end of the game determines results based upon the remaining pieces and what square they're in. A bishop represents a cleric sympathetic to that chess player's faction in that section of city, queen the same but for a noble, knight but for fighters, pawn commoner, and rook the faction controls a building in that area. A king means nothing (wasted potential there, Zak).

I'm not as fond of this, and not just because I don't play chess. It feels more like an add-on with vague rewards.

Thoughts so far: I really like these house rules overall. Designed for "on the fly" playing, they're quick and varied enough to spawn plenty of interesting adventures for gaming sessions. My favorite ones are the Library Research and Book houserules, and Vornheim's Laws.

Next time, the die tables!


A significant section of the book (pages 44-62) are full of tables. Zak explains that the tables of not meant to be probability-based; they simulate chances of things happening on an interesting day or adventure as opposed to regular or mundane occurrences. Basically, for when the DM needs to quickly generate an important NPC or event. The first page explains details on the tables and when they should be used.

The first table is a d% with 6 columns for Aristocrats. The first column is a personal name, second surname or honorific (quite a lot of "Von ___" in here), third column personality and background traits for adventure fodder (is a polymorphed goblin, was in love with someone the PCs killed), fourth column their occupation and position within the city, and the fifth column personality traits and dress/appearance. Sixth column determines their relationship to another generated NPC on the table. Lots of the traits make for good adventure fodder:


Commits adulterous acts on a frozen lake as an offering to the moon goddess.

Obsessed with acquiring the perfect shoes - will seek out the skins and bones of obscure
creatures to create them

Enslaved to a tentacled creature from the Isle of Oth hidden in his palatial home

Let's see what we get with these 6 rolls: 34, 85, 06, 17, 22, 65:

Baron Vorgus (34) The Decapacitor (85) is a noble who creates wax sculptures of dead loved ones and dresses them like servants (06) and runs brothels all over the city (17). He's proud, pitiless, and blue-eyed (22), and annoys (65):

Cordelia (91) Von Claw (3), a reclusive countess who only derives pleasure from others' fear (41). She controls much of the illicit substance trade in the city (54), and is limp, opulent, and carried around everywhere in a palanquin (30).

Sounds like two very interesting NPCs!

Next table is a d% for Books, separated into 13 broad subjects (magic, literature, religion, the arts), which are further subdivided into specialized works (poetry for literature, transmutation for magic, Gor the god of law for religion, etc). Results 1-12 are books in foreign languages, from the typical fantasy races to more exotic ones (serpent folk, goblin, unknown). It's meant to be used with the Library House Rules, and covers a wide variety of subjects.

City NPCs is not meant to be an exhaustive list of medieval professions, but a quick way for busy DMs to help generate characters with variety and depth. He recommends crossing already done rolls off the list and replace them with something new to prevent repetition. First column's name, second column surname or title, third column occupation, fourth column personality and backgrounds traits. What do we get with these rolls? 76, 18, 44, 59.

Greel (76) Ash (18), a bowyer (44) who is nervous because she knows secret weakness of important monster, but is probably too suspicious to tell anyone. (59)

Some other traits I like in the fourth column:


18. Radical democrat. Constantly trying to draw PCs into various regicidal schemes.

31. Is nicknamed “The Hyena.” The reason for this is, thus far, unclear...

36. Has bizarre fungus colony growing in stomach. Knows it, and sings/recites poetry
to it each night before going to bed. If slain, the colony will escape.

62. Idealistically committed to racial harmony. Calls humans, elves, dwarves, etc. “demiorcs.”
Has a wooden eye.

City Shopkeepers is a much smaller d20 table, and Zak mentions that you can pick from the list yourself instead of rolling (I suppose you can do that with any of the tables). Hope Zak won't mind if I reproduce it here:

The NPC flowchart is a d6 table which can be used for newly generated or existing characters. It's pretty nifty:

The central rectangle is used to show the relationships of NPCs 1 to 4 and the relationship of 2 to 3.

Next table is Random Encounters. Zak picked scenarios which the PCs cannot easily avoid without consequences (otherwise they'd pass on by if they have no incentive to get involved), and supernatural monsters are largely excluded (such encountrs are more interesting if rare and not a regular hazard of city life). Nevertheless, the table is d% and pretty cool. Here's some of the more interesting ones:


15-16. d10 escaped Face Rats – rats specially bred by envious courtiers to destroy the beautiful. They will attack eyes, noses,
ears, etc. Alchemical element in their saliva prevents facial wounds from fully healing. The hp damage can be healed but the disfiguring effects can only be cured by Remove Curse or similar magic.

37-38. City enters Enigmatic Phase due to rare astrological conditions. Distances distort, effects precede causes, strange alleys and streets leading to hitherto unknown parts of city appear. All things subtly dreamlike for two hours. Longtime residents have been through this before.

43-44. Lunar eclipse. Citizens become nervous, superstitious, and paranoid until next morning.

55. Troupe of viciously persistent street clowns demand some form of social justice. Exhort PCs to join their cause – they will follow the PCs, juggling and performing small magic tricks until driven away by force.

00. Devoted servant mistakes PC for his long-absent master. Is overjoyed to see PC. Will bring him/her to a massive, lavish towertop residence and give him/her the key. (This does not count as treasure for the purpose of XP, though any subsequent money made by perpetuating this ruse does).

The next table indicates Fortunes. Nearly every known form of fortune-telling is practiced in Vornheim, from tarot cards to throwing dice to examining the death throes of animal and human sacrifices. It's a d% table which even comes with its own house rule:


Once a fortune is delivered to a PC, both GM and player make a note of it. Either one may announce that the fortune has come true any time the conditions implied by the premise of the fortune occur. For example: fortune #81 cannot come to pass until the player falls or is put to sleep during the ordinary conditions of the game and #99 can
only happen at night, but #96 could occur in any inhabited area. Whether a PC in a lava prison in a dimension of fire demons could trigger #88 and suddenly a bearded woman would appear at the bars of the cell is a GM’s call. Once the GM or player announces a fortune is being used it happens and it cannot be triggered again. Players may wish to trigger bad fortunes early, before the GM does it in more dangerous circumstances.

If a prediction has more than one part (such as #74), the parts do not necessarily have to both happen immediately and either party may trigger any part of it, so long as the time order (if any) implied in the prediction is respected.

More powerful forms of divination tend to be more dangerous and produce more than one fortune.

After a result has been used, cross it out and write your own.

I like it. They're all good for adventure fodder, and can be used by canny PCs to their advantage. Almost all of the results are interesting, but I'll list a few:


18. An axe will land in the throat next to yours.

29. A horse and a fat man will appear simultaneously.

45. You will win a race by losing a meal.

78. You will enter a fortress hidden in a carpet.

97. A hideous creature will stumble on a bucket.

"I Search the Body" is rolled for when a player declares this action. It's assumed that all NPCs have 1d6 gp, house keys, a knife, and tools necessary for their work. Once again, cross out the result and write your own in after a roll.

A significant portion of the table (d%) is gold results (8-57 is that much gp), and quite a few are mundane objects (small mirror, pair of dice, stale piece of bread) but the later options are in keeping with Vornheim's flavor a lot of loot is unique items in their own right:


61. Draft of a new law forbidding beer, dancing, and/or public-speaking among the lower classes throughout Vornheim, not yet

81. Ceremonial silver knife with a Bishop of Vorn carved into the pierced blade. Specifically consecrated for an assassination
attempt on the bishop by a mysterious cult.

92. Coin that eats other coins in the dark. This causes the coin to grow, but not large enough to compensate for the value of the lost

Results 4-5 grants a random book from the Book table.

Magic Effect Table is used when the DM needs to improvise the results of a magic curse, trap, or spell-like ability. Duration, range, and saving throw can be tailored to the situation, and can be developed into full-fledged spells later on if the DM so desires. It's a d% table with very random effects:


13-14. Small wolves’ head appears on object or on caster’s hand, capable of vicious bite (as wolf).

37-38. One of caster’s eyes emerges from his/her eye socket on spider-like legs as the caster flees. Eyespider has 1 HD but can cast spells as if it were the wizard. (If effect is not from a caster, a 1 HD spellcasting eye simply emerges.)

55-56. Small dog appears inside target’s body. d12 damage per round until it is removed.

61-62. Caster spits a small black toad into the air, which lands on a target within 15’. Toad attacks (in the same round) as a 5 HD monster, if successful, the toad bites the target for d8hp and target will vomit up another toad (still in the same round) which will leap at the next available target (within 15’) and attack in the same way and with the same consequences. The process continues until one of the toad’s attacks is unsuccessful. Toads dissolve into an inky black goo at the end of the round.

89-90. Alternating spellplague: target affected by Irresistible Dance spell, closest intelligent lifeform within 10 feet of dancer is affected by Uncontrollable Laughter spell, next closest intelligent lifeform within 10’ of laugher affected by Irresistible Dance spell, etc.

Finally, the last table is for Taverns and Games. It's a d20 table with 4 columns. First 2 columns are words which combine to form the name (the Icy Orb, the Tainted Bone, etc), 3rd column determines the game of choice played by patrons, and the 4th column details other notes. These notes are ones which give the tavern flavor (extremely exclusive, wizards can be seen mumbling in the corner, frequented by poets and anarchists, countertops made of zinc, etc).

For Games, there are more mundane ones (eating/drinking contests, darts, billiards, etc), but Zak S developed his own tavern games for Vornheim. My favorites include Basilisk Fight (blind man puts 2 iguana-sized basilisks in closet, whichever one is not in petrified pieces is the winner), Pin the Serpent (player's hands are tied and he needs to stab and kill a serpent on the table with a dagger in his mouth), and Toss (two players toss a dagger/axe/dart to each other across the tavern length. Game ends when it hits a wall, floor, or bystander, and whoever held it last loses).

There are also a Master Table on the book's front and back cover, utilizing the drop die mechanic. Gnome Stew demonstrates it with a picture on his blog.

Basically the front cover can be used for characters and creatures, locations, or attacks. You roll a d4 and see where it lands. You check the number above, below, to the left, or right to see the result.

For example, let's say I need to determine stuff about an inn. I roll a d4, get a 2 which lands in the lower left corner (7 to the left, 7 below, 13 above, and 4 right). The left number is gp per night (7 gp), the right number is number of beers for a gp (4 gp), and the d4 result represents the number of employees (2).

A clever mechanic.

The back cover's the same, but for hit locations on the body. The left, top, and bottom sides have numbers, while the right represents the body part. The left part represents to-hit roll (d20), top is damage if d6, bottom damage if d8. Naturally the higher the d20 roll the more sensitive the body part (20 and head being aligned).

Inside the back cover is a drop die method for building generation ( table with the names of buildings in differently-sized squares), and a d% generation as well. The d% table, as usual, has some insightful commentary on Vornheim life:


5. Art dealer: A thriving trade. Artists are believed to be possessed by supernatural forces. Rare dealers may be willing to buy stolen art.

27. Clockmaker: Vornheim uses mazeclocks: a steel ball rolls through a maze on a seesaw--then a spring action clicks it back & the ball runs back. One circuit=one minute.

57. Locksmith: No single locksmith stays long in Vornheim--no-one wants anyone around who can pick their lock. Lock designs vary widely.

84-85. Tailor Measurements of powerful ladies are jealously guarded. Tailors may steal them in order to impress a prospective client with a dress that fits like a glove.

Thoughts so far: I really like these tables! They're well-suited towards developing the life of an urban setting and even reading the results give you plenty of adventure ideas.

Next time, the House of the Medusa for real!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 06:38 on Dec 14, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
The Dungeons of Vornheim

*Note: These are not the only possible dungeons in Vornheim, and they don't have a set location in the city. They're what Zak S used in his games.

The House of the Medusa

The House of the Medusa is suitable for 1-4 level characters with no major magical items.

In ages long past, demons and other monstrous creations were the masters of the world. 12 sisters, who were the original Medusa, changed the demon kings to stone and forged the earth from their bodies (according to legend). The sisters still live to this day, feared and respected as powerful and enigmatic figures. One of them, Eshrigal, lives in a mansion in the city of Vornheim. She's a wealthy pillar of the community and a remorseless schemer. Her plots are undefined, for the DM to better suit his home games. The dungeon is an adventure site for when and if the PCs choose to infiltrate her manor.

Zak's dungeon maps are one of the weak points of the book IMO. They're definitely eye-catching, but less suitable than the typical grid-map.

The manor has magic permeating the complex, with impenetrable doors and windows (which are made from demons turned to glass). The PCs could enter by knocking on the front door, provided that it's daytime and they're not visibly armed. Eshrigal, disguised as a human woman and snakes concealed, entertains guests at social functions and has blind albino slave butlers.

The mansion is mostly normal, and bereft of monsters (aside from the medusa). I'll detail the significant rooms below:

Room C is where Eshrigal keeps her petrified victims in a secret room. Room M is a statue room of petrified thieves who attempted to break in.

Eshrigal has a daughter who lives in a bedroom in room D with animated toys (which act as an alarm system, too). Eshrigal's bedroom is in room F, behind a secret door.

In room N, the parlor, there is a cage of a plasmic ghoul, a bloblike monster which patrols the manor if it senses intruders via vibrations. Its body is gel-like, but with a solid human head moving about. It has 5 hit dice, 8 or 12 AC, is immune to non-magical attacks, and its touch attack deals 1d10 damage and removes a like amount of AC bonus from worn armor and shields. Pretty drat nasty for low-level PCs. It can't stand the sound of music and won't enter the room with the piano (J) if someone's playing it.

There are no mirrors anywhere in the house, as Eshrigal is vulnerable to her own gaze. There is quite a bit of loot to be made, as a lot of typical noble stuff (artwork, jewelry, elegant furniture, etc) is present throughout the mansion, although any honest merchant in Vornheim will recognize its owner (Eshrigal buys very distinctive things).

By the way, in addition to the minimalist vaguely old school stat blocks, there are 4th Edition stats for all the monsters on the last page of the book. As that Edition is not my strong suit, I can't really comment on them.

Eshrigal herself is an 8 hit die medusa with a poisoned dagger and gaze attack. Petrified victims turn normal upon her death; if the legends are true 1/12th of all the stone in the world will turn to flesh (effectively 1/12th of the planet). The effects of this are up to the DM. The 8 snakes in her hair can be read like books, and each contain a scroll of an 8th-level spell. They're illegible if she is petrified.

She too is quite powerful for PCs. I definitely wouldn't put 1st-3rd level groups against her. 4th level, maybe.

In addition to the map, there's a picture of the Plasmic Ghoul and Eshrigal herself, face concealed behind a mask.

Immortal Zoo of Ping Feng

Centuries ago, the traveler Ping Feng settled in Vornheim with a wondrous zoo of strange and exotic creatures. No trace of it remains, seemingly lost to time. But some citizens swear that it's still around somewhere, forgotten or boarded up or otherwise concealed.

And they are right. It turns out that the zoo's magic not only conceals it, it keeps the animals within immortal. One of the animals, a nightingale, escaped its cage and ate the mind of Gudge, the current caretaker. Due to the way the magic works, the "ownership" of the zoo transferred over to the now-intelligent nightingale. The bird occasionally exits into the city for errands with Gudge and to collect shiny objects.

The Zoo itself can be placed whenever and however the DM wants into a campaign. It is for PCs of 4th-7th level with few magic items. It's design is a cat and mouse game, as the nightingale is determined to protect the zoo from intruders, and unlocks the cages of dangerous animals to do so, sometimes even when the PCs are already engaged in combat or otherwise trapped. Amid all this it will try to present itself as a normal bird and stay out of the way. Once the PCs enter, a sliding gate impervious to most magic will slide up and trap them inside.

The cool part about this dungeon is that each animal (both dangerous and docile) is unique; no multiple fights of the same creature. And if the PCs capture any of them alive, they get experience equal to double their gold value once they sell them off! I won't cover them all, just the most interesting ones.

Room C contains a mutant snail which only eats printed words starting with "s." It is tiny and harmless but worth 500 gp.

Room D has Parnival, the vampire monkey hungry for blood! It's a weak monster, but has all the vampire advantages.

Room E is home to the Xortoise, a giant four-headed hostile tortoise. It's thrashing about has a chance to collapse the ceiling, and its shell has markings of great use to spellcasters (studying it for a month gains an automatic level).

Room F has a Narcissus Peacock, who uses its hypnotic feathers to transfix prey and then eat them (including PCs).

Room G has an unsettling toad which blinds any who look at it. It sings with the voice of a young girl.

Room M is home to Ozwich the griffon, an intelligent and studious creature who knows all about the nightingale and its plans. The nightingale has Gudge feed him tea spiked with alcohol to keep him drunk and docile. In his present state Ozwick will be of little use to the PCs until they sober him up.

Room S is home to Thrace the Nagadusa, sister of Eshrigal. Killing her as well has the possibility of turning 1/12th of the Earth's stone into flesh.

Room W has arguably the best monster in the zoo: the flailceratops!

Created as a cruel alchemical experiment, it's spiked ball can be used as a weapon to swing around.

The nightingale itself is a 1 HD creature with 18 Intelligence, triple normal human speed when flying, and can cast Suggestion at will as a 10th level spellcaster. It won't start trouble until the PCs are well into the zoo itself (unless they start breaking and killing stuff immediately), and the front gates open only when it is near.

I forgot, there's a unique magic item in the House of the Medusa: the Cursed Dictionary. It appears as a normal manual of psychological ailments, but in reality it's a cursed book which bestows a random mental illness on the reader (1d10), which last 10 minutes. Effects include kleptomania, viewing the nearest PC as an enemy, paralyzed with indecision, etc.

Speaking of books...

The Library of Zorlac

Zorlac is an excessive bibliophile whose five-story home contains the largest library in Vornheim. Unknown to most is that he employs a dozen thieves to find (and even steal) books of all sorts across the land. He is highly paranoid about this; to minimize betrayal he made them all swear a magical oath never to work together (or even acknowledge or recognize one another), he uses a network of secret passageways in lieu of keys, and he kills minions every few years to prevent them from becoming too knowledgeable about the workings of the library. They double as librarians, overlooking different rooms of the library which are divided by topic (philosophy, art, etc).

This is not a conventional dungeon, in that it can double as a resource for the PCs in addition to an adventure location. Treating it as a dungeon, Zak recommends it for PCs levels 4-7. Possible story hooks include Zorlac's thieves stealing a book from the PCs, him being in possession of a rare tome, or hear legends about the Oblung Rug (a magic item in Zorlac's possession).

The secret doors link to other rooms, and are hidden behind gargoyle statues on the outside walls. The thieves can scale the walls easily enough to and from the library. They can't be opened even if discovered; certain triggers must be activated in the rooms. Some are conventional, such as finding an eye-shaped key in the fake purse of a mermaid statue and placing in the socket of a stuffed lizard, while others are nearly impossible to activate without interrogating the thief-librarian:


The west door is poorly constructed and a standard check for secret doors will reveal an irregularity in the bookcases. It can be pried open. Sliding the top stone on the ivory abacus back and forth 12 times will also activate the door.

Like all major libraries in the Zakverse, Zorlac also has a room with a living chained hydra three tenders take care of to read its skin. It helps them keep up on scientific developments and current events.

Each library is massive, with the walls covered floor to ceiling in full bookshelves. Each room has (74 + d20) x 1,000 books inside, each weighing d4 pounds. There's also some setting touches in room descriptions, such as the map/cartography library having a model cube-shaped globe of Vornheim's world, and the Philosophy library has marble busts of great thinkers such as Scurrilious Korp and Zorreal the Interpreter.

When it comes to the NPC pseudo-stats is where I question the appropriate adventure level. Each librarian has 8 levels in thief, and Zorlac himself is a 10th level arcane caster with unique spells like Forget (everyone within 12 squares must succeed on a saving throw or forget the last round permanently) and Discharge (target must succeed on a save or be forced to cast a spell they prepared in a manner of Zorlac's choosing).

The Oblung Rug is the dungeon's unique magic item. Zorlac can shed blood on it to summon up to 4 demons which become free-willed if not dismissed within 24 hours. If someone sheds his blood unwillingly, it summons a humanoid Dividing Demon split in 2 vertical halves; it can merge with foes and gain their abilities.


Seemingly ordinary black and white rug containing an intricate pattern. Anyone examining it carefully must make three consecutive Wisdom rolls. If any fail, the observer gains a permanent insanity. If they all succeed, the observer gains a point of Wisdom or a vital insight into the nature of a mystery of the campaign (GM’s choice). Looking a second time results in gaining an insanity.

Looking a third time will unlock the rug’s true and transcendent metaphysical secrets – which allow him or her some thoroughgoing grasp of some vast and bizarre phenomenon underlying the entire campaign, such as: Mount Vrothgeist is the shape it is because creatures from the stars sculpted it with energy from the sun. (No one will know if this “insight” is actual real campaign information or if it’s just a delusion the PC now believes to be true.)

Continued examination of the rug after that will result in a rupture in space/time with catastrophically bizarre consequences, causing thorough and permanent alterations to the character and campaign. (GM should decide what these are, since s/he will likely have to deal with them for many sessions to come.)

It's a pretty cool "reward" of sorts if the PCs are aware of its power.

The last part of the library is descriptions of each of the library's 12 scholar-thieves. The most interesting ones are Krask of the Alien Cultures library (he's tattooed two words in an ancient language on his arms, which grant him two spell-like abilities), Zoth Catchaphract of the Mathematics Library (research into extradimensional geometry caused a demon to possess him, which can suck the bones out of targets), Azima Azaloth of the Religion Library (possesses a seemingly ordinary black stone which grants concealment from the gods and immunity to divine magic), and the Maxilla Sorrn of the Philosophy Library (she has a twin sister who masquerades as her and did not take the oath, allowing her to learn of the other librarians).

Overall I think that this dungeon's too lethal for Zak's suggested level, but it's tied with the Immortal Zoo for cool adventure potential. Combined with the in-game benefits of the Book houserule, the Library on its own can be enough to get PCs involved in its use

Final Thoughts: I really love Vornheim, and I think that you will, too. I highly recommend buying it, either a physical copy (so you can use the drop die tables) or as a PDF on Drive-Thru RPG. Its solid house rules, unorthodox setting, and adventure ideas make it one of the best 3rd Party Products I've had the pleasure of reading in recent years.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
I'll just post one more for the night so you all can catch up.


A Word from the Author
Video games have become what most people think of when “gaming” is mentioned. Even role-playing games have largely become the province of video games in the public mind. And while tabletop role-playing will never be totally eclipsed by digital gaming, there are still many interesting things in video games that can be brought to the table. Here then are magic items inspired by some of the most popular video games of all time. After years of video games drawing on tabletop RPGs for inspiration, isn’t it time they gave something to your game?

-Shane O’Connor

Video Game Magic Items, written by Drive-Thru RPG staff member Shane O'Connor, draws upon inspiration from popular video game franchises such as Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda. Lots of these magic items you might recognize from these classics and others: the 1-Up Mushroom on the cover makes an appearance here as well. Naturally a lot of their names have been changed to avoid copyright lawsuits, but we all know what they're talking about.

Without further ado, let's begin!

The BaBomb is a simple construct designed to follow a simple set of commands such as "keep walking until you hit something and explode." As monsters they are Tiny CR 3 Constructs which self-destruct akin to a 5th level fireball spell.

I like this item as a dungeon monster, but it's too expensive and time-consuming to build for PC use.

The Blue Shell Armor is based off of the Blue Shell from the New Super Mario Bros. It's a life-sized turtle shell which functions as a +3 Breastplate. It grants deflection bonuses to AC when in full defensive by pulling into the shell, and allows you to make an Improved Overrun attempt on all opponents within a straight line of movement when in this state just like a Koopa!

I think this one's nifty, although overrun maneuvers are of limited use in a conventional D20 game.

The Bow of Light is based off of Pitt's signature weapon from Kid Icarus. It's a +2 Holy Burst Shortbow (like flaming burst, but holy damage) which materializes a string and bow, both made of of light, when wielded. It can also be detached to form into two +1 holy short swords.

Also pretty cool, a neat gift for archers.

Cape of the Hero is based off of the flying cape from Super Mario World. It was made by clerics of an air deity, and grants flight speed at average maneuverability equal to twice base land speed and feather fall when falling. Additionally, it can cause an effect similar to an Earthquake spell when the user slams into the ground, and can be used as a weapon in combat and grants Whirlwind Attack for these purposes.

It comes in at a rather pricey cost (200,000 gp), although the constant flight and AoE are pretty good.

The Cloud of Flying is based off of the Lakitu Cloud from Super Mario Bros. It can hold up to 250 lbs. and has a fly speed (good maneuverability) of 40 feet. Users who duck into the cloud gain a +10 bonus on Hide checks when in the air to appear as a normal cloud.

The text does not specify if ducking in the cloud grants cover; an open blue sky doesn't sound like it'd grant much cover for the Hide skill to work.

The Club of the Smash Brothers is based off of the Baseball Bat from Super Smash Bros. It's a +2 Greatclub said to be wielded by a famous adventuring party known as the Smash Brothers, and grants Awesome Blow as a bonus feat even if the wielder does not meet the prerequisites. It can be used on corporeal opponents one size category larger than the user's size.

Uh, Shane, you're cutting it reallly close to a lawsuit with this one, I think.

The Final Sword is based off of various blades wielded by Cloud Strife in Final Fantasy 7. It is actually a set of 6 interlocking swords which can be changed out depending upon the situation, each with a different name and set of enhancement bonuses and qualities. Crusader is the base sword, Punisher specializes against golems and constructs, Pitiless against devils, Revenger against demons, etc.

It also presents the Interlocking quality as a new non-magical descriptor to add to weapons. In exchange for a +8 to the Craft DC and 500 gp to the highest weapon cost per additional weapon, two or more weapons can be combined into one interlocking set of parts which can be switched around as a free action.

We also get a new feat, Sure Grasp, which effectively functions as Monkey Grip (because Cloud wielded his Buster Sword one-handed).

The feat is superfluous (although I guess they couldn't reference Monkey Grip outright), but the Final Sword is something I'd put into my games if given the opportunity.

The Fiery Flower is based off of the Fire Flower from Super Mario Bros. It is a minor consumable wondrous item which grants the user the ability to throw fire equivalent to the Produce Flame spell when eaten. The user's clothes turn red and white for the duration of the spell.

At 250 gp, it's sort of overpriced, but can be useful if the party arcanist combines it with Pyrotechnics.

The Gi of Heaven is based off of the gi worn by Akuma in the Street Fighter Series. It is an unholy gi, granting any non-good monk wearer the Enraged Demon Technique. Once per day, the technique can be used on an opponent as a touch attack, dealing Wisdom damage equal to the Monk's level on a failed Will Save. Opponents reduced to 0 Wisdom die instantly.

The Gi's reputation as an instant death attack falls short mechanics-wise, as the Monk would need to be really high level to take out most (Wis 10+) creatures.

Thoughts so far: I really like a lot of these items. A few I find rather unimaginative and situational, but overall they're quite cool.

Next time, more magic items!

The Glove of Power is a +2 Gauntlet which cannot be disarmed from a wearer, and you do not provoke Attacks of Opportunity when fighting with it. It also grants Mage Hand and Spectral Hand at will, and Bigby's Interposing Hand and Grasping Hand spells twice per day.

It's too expensive (112,952 gp) for its utility. But Spectral Hand at will is great for spellcasters with touch spells.

Leaf of the Raccoon is based off of the Raccoon Suit from Super Mario Bros. 3. It was designed by a cabal of druids and is a one-use edible item. It transforms the user into an anthropomorphic raccoon for 10 minutes, with a natural tail weapon (with Whirlwind Attack); the user can wag the tail to fly at double base land speed (average maneuver) or feather fall.

Kind of like a one-use Cape of the Hero. It's still way too expensive (11,000 gp) to be practical.

Aw yeah, we're on the Masamune, baby! This legendary blade was wielded by Sephiroth, one of the most memorable villains in the Final Fantasy series, and it's game stats do not disappoint. It's a Large +7 keen greatsword of speed which can be wielded by Medium characters without penalty. It overcomes the hardness of all objects, and grants a BAB equal to the user's HD when wielded (if they already have this, they automatically confirm all critical hits).

Mirrors of Restoration are based off of save points from the Final Fantasy series, and are known as such in D&D settings with them as well. When a user peers into it, it makes a near-replica "save" of his or her current condition, including hit points, level, experience, equipment, etc. The mirror can be deliberately smashed to restore the user to their current condition, and "saves" can be erased in case they want to create a more up-to-date replica.

It's one of the few items worth the price, of 60,000 gp. Crafting it requires the Wish spell.

I love the idea, but the item is open to some extreme abuse.

The Mushroom of Growth is... oh come on, you all should know what this is from! It's a one-use item which grants enlarge person (Caster Level 5th) on those who eat it.

Scorpion's Sting is a +2 Spiked Chain/Whip (variable use) based off of Scorpion's harpoon from the Mortal Kombat series. As a standard action, the wielder can use a special attack where an opponent within range is pulled adjacent to them and stunned for one round on a failed Strength check. Squares the opponent passes through provokes attacks of opportunity from creatures within range.

This is an awesome weapon for AoO and Spiked Chain Fighter builds.

The Star of Invincibility is a one-use item which bestows a Prismatic Cloak spell on the user for 6 rounds.

Prismatic Cloak is a new 7th level Sorcerer/Wizard spell in this book. Basically it wreathes the target in a shimmering array of rainbow colors. Each of the 7 colors protects the user from a certain harmful effect, and each color can only be negated by a specific spell. For example, Red stops non-magical ranged weapons and is negated by Cone of Cold, Yellow stops poison, gas, and petrification and is negated by disintegrate, and indigo stops all spells except daylight (which negates it). The spell can even function in anti-magic fields and is not affected, and dispel magic can only negate the Indigo color (which blocks all objects and effects).

Since it lasts 1 round per level, this spell literally makes you invincible for the duration, more than enough time to take care of the opposition. A really overpowered spell which I would never allow in any game. The Invincibility Star, maybe.

The Suit of the Raccoon is made by the same cabal of druids responsible for the Leaf of the Raccoon, and is a wooden carving which transforms into a suit via mental command. It has all the powers of its leaf counterpart except for a +5 natural armor bonus and the ability to use the Statue spell on the user for 13 rounds per day.

Since it's not one-use, it's a lot more expensive (200,000 gp). I'd personally favor it over Cape of the Hero due to its defensive capabilities.

Summoning Spheres are based off of the Pokeballs from Pokemon. Once per day it can be thrown at a monster to capture it if empty, with user rolling a d20 + character level + ball strength, which becomes the Will Save DC for the monster to resist. If successfully captured, the monster can be summoned as per a Summon Monster spell of a level keyed to the ball's strength with a command word (usually "I choose you!"). Balls come in different levels of magnitude, which provide greater bonuses on roll (the normal sphere is +0 and replicates Summon Monster 3, while the Master sphere grants +12 and replicates Summon Monster IX).

This is my favorite item in the whole book.

The Vegetable of Might is derived from the vegetables of Super Mario Bros 2.


The original vegetables of might were grown by the same druids who created the leaf of the raccoon, adding further evidence that they must have been smoking some of the more exotic forest plants when they were dreaming up new magic items to create.


When eaten, it heals 1d8+5 hit points of damage, and can be used as a thrown weapon dealing 1d8+Str modifier points of bludgeoning damage with a 20 foot range increment. It leaves behind 1d4 seeds which grow into more Vegetables of Might in 1d4 months.

I really like this spell's theme, but it takes too long to grow and is too expensive (500 gp) to be worth it. Perhaps reduce the price to 50 gp, and then we might have something.

Thoughts so far: I'm pleasantly surprised by how accurately these items map to the d20 rules set. Unfortunately a lot of them are overpriced, meaning that per RAW they're more useful as found items than bought or created.

Next time, the final section, the Artifacts!

The Keysword is based off of Sora's Keyblade from Kingdom Hearts. It's a minor artifact and key-shaped +4 longsword which grants wielders the ability to cast Knock and Arcane Lock at will. It is designed to fight creatures with no souls, and ignores damage reduction of all undead and constructs. It's said to be the key to unlocking a "kingdom hearts" where all souls-to-be lie.

Sort of underwhelming for an artifact, but it can be a good primary weapon for a heroic sort of PC (like in the aforementioned game).

The Mushroom of Extra Life is the quintessential 1-Up Mushroom seen in all those Mario games. To outward non-magical detection it appears as a Mushroom Growth, but anybody who eats it will have True Resurrection cast upon them if they die within the hour. If they survive beyond that the Mushroom has no effect.

Overall it's worse than the Mirror of Restoration: its nature can't be easily discerned, its duration is limited, and it can't be 'updated.' I wouldn't put it on artifact-level status.

The Ribbon of Protection is named after the Ribbon equipment from the Final Fantasy series. When worn as a bracelet, it provides immunity to all forms of poison and disease, petrification, mind-affecting and death effects, ability damage and drain, and unwilling polymorph effects. Just like the video game one.

I don't know if I'd make it an artifact, but few pieces of equipment in other sourcebooks provide this much protection.

The Seven Gems of Chaos derive from the Chaos Emeralds of the Sonic the Hedgehog series. They were created by an unknown deity of Chaos long ago, and the full extent of their power is accessible only when all of them are together (left to the DM).

Individually, a Gem of Chaos grants a wielder command over time and space, with the haste, slow, dimension door, and time stop a limited number of times per day with the command word "Chaos Controlled!" Spellcasters can apply the Quicken Metamagic feat to spells 3/day without increasing their level or casting time.

Additionally, a Gem can be embedded (removable) into a magic item with charges, effectively granting it infinite uses due to the seemingly limitless power of raw Chaos.

Finally, a magic item worthy of the title artifact!

The Thriforce is a major artifact based off of the Triforce from the Legend of Zelda series. It's imbued with the power of three creator goddesses, of Wisdom, Courage, and Power. Each individual Thriforce can meld with wielders who represent virtues closest to them, manifesting as a mark on the back of their left hand.

Each Thriforce grants the wielder +20 bonus to 2 ability scores (Str and Con for Power, Dex and Cha for Courage, Int and Wis for Wisdom), and makes all saves as Fort/Ref/Will saves (Power/Courage/Wisdom respectively), among other things.

The Thriforce of Power represents strength. It grants proficiency with EVERYTHING, DR 20/epic, and can act normally at -1 to -9 hit points. Surprisingly the least versatile and powerful of the three.

The Thriforce of Courage represents skill and hope, and is traditionally wielded by history's greatest heroes. It grants a +10 bonus on all skill checks, immunity to mind-affecting effects, Spell Resistance 20 + HD, and improved evasion and improved uncanny dodge. Better than Power, but not as good as Wisdom.

The Thriforce of Wisdom is a spellcaster's dream come true. They can automatically use all magical devices and artifacts successfully, can cast spells in anti-magic fields, +10 to concentration and 0% arcane spell failure, and 3 bonus spells per day per spell level (including any granted from the ability score increase). If the wielder is not a spellcaster, they cast spells as a sorcerer equal to their HD, but substitute Wisdom for Charisma as their key spellcasting ability score. This blows the other Thriforces out of the water.

If united, the Thriforce's abilities are unknown but said to be great.

Overall I like the Thriforces, but Shane forgot to add in the most iconic ability. If anybody can unite all three together, they gain one wish. But if one with an evil heart has his wish granted, the world will fall into ruin. Of course this never manifested in the game series, though.

Yenova's Corpse is based off of the monster Jenova from Final Fantasy Seven (three items from the series, somebody's a big fan!). A minor artifact, Yenova was an evil entity from beyond the stars which sought to absorb all the magic from the world before a band of heroes slayed her. Even as a corpse her body appears freshly dead. Any spell cast on her corpse is automatically absorbed, and anyone who attempts to attack her is afflicted with a random stored spell (there's millennia worth of spells inside her). Its real power is that anybody who touches the body gains the Heir of Yenova template. Heirs are beings with immense magical powers but in telepathic contact with Yenova, which erodes their sense of will over time until they become a slave to her.

We are provided with the template. In short, they gain a bunch of spell-like abilities which increase in number and power with Hit Dice, Spell Resistance, ability to ignore magical forms of protection with a special application to attack rolls, and turn Neutral Evil and serve Yenova on a failed Will Save, which is rolled whenever they advance in hit die or level.

The entry contains two pictures, which I don't see as related to Yenova or her minions at hand:

I really love the mechanics and flavor of Yenova. It provides a great long-term enemy for campaigns.

Final Thoughts: Overall I like Video Game Magic Items. Most of their entries are faithful replications of their original appearances, and the selection is varied and interesting enough to fit well in most campaigns to override the "silliness factor" of some of them.

I'd recommend this as a purchase.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

TK-31 posted:

More d20 supplements should be like this. Just, you know, less broken.

Well, 3rd Edition is pretty much the least balanced one out there, on account of being Caster Supremacy on steroids.

In the meantime, have another review as a late night present, Goons. This was part of something I did called Courtroom Reviews, where I took a D20 Product and judged its contents based on the promises it made. "A balanced yet versatile magic system, evil adventures done right," et cetera.

In this one, John Wick designed alternate humans for his campaign setting, advertising them as a fresh take on a bland and relatively featureless race.

Courtroom Reviews

No Gods, Only Man[

Ah, good ol’ humans. Aside from their versatility, short lifespans, and lack of a monoculture, they don’t really have any signifying traits which make them stand out in fantasy gaming. In a way, this is to be expected. Humans are a baseline species in Dungeons & Dragons defined more by their particular civilization or nation than their race as a whole. Attempts to make and define humanity in sourcebooks usually end up with vague characteristics which sound empty, usually some variation of “humans are too varied to make any sort of generalization, but they do have ambition.”

Additionally, players’ familiarity with humanity serves as a form of measuring stick to provide contrast to the more exotic civilizations. Many gamers feel that standard humans are bland, not possessing any distinct characteristics. John Wick is one of these people. As part of his “Wicked Fantasy” series where classic races are reinvented, the Reign of Men re-imagines humankind as an ancient and prosperous civilization which draws heavy inspiration from ancient Athens and Imperial Rome. Humans are the oldest race, and their cities are centers of learning and home to the oldest civilizations, and they have a fierce love for democracy.

Part One

The book opens up with a mantra espousing the values of the Reign of Men. It paints a picture of a glorious land, where people are free to choose their own destinies without lords or gods and the ability to succeed and fail upon their own merits.

Among the elves, dwarves, and others, humans are known as the Old Race, because they have existed for as long as they can remember. The ancient kingdom of humanity (now known as the Reign of Men) was once ruled by warlords and autocratic noble families with sharply drawn class distinctions. Within the last 500 years it underwent drastic social change as learned scholars and philosophers argued for greater autonomy and that the citizens should choose for themselves how to be ruled. The newly-crowned monarch, derisively called the “Philosopher-King” by critics, was inspired by this movement and chose to enact laws granting citizens the right to elect their leaders. And thus democracy was born.

Human culture hews closely to the ideals of individualist autonomy. Humans should not beholden themselves to gods, and have the right to elect new leaders who fail to represent their interests. Humans believe that latent potential comes from within, and external sources of empowerment are ultimately empty paths. Through training, education, and sheer willpower, a human can become more than they are and achieve their greatest dreams. Although this unlocked ‘potential’ commonly takes on traits which can only be described as magical, humans insist that it’s not supernatural but a form of power believed to be held within every member of their race. Human Clerics and Paladins (known as Philosophers and Palatines) draw their magic from this inner strength. The text contradicts itself in saying that Palatines are granted their special powers by the Senate (the Reign’s governing body), which would effectively make it an external power source.

Interestingly, the text tells us that to be human means to be part of something larger than oneself. Humans are expected serve the Reign, and that what’s good for the Reign is good for all because it provides them the happiness and freedom they so desire. This stands at odds with the individualist rhetoric of earlier, although the flavor text does not acknowledge this and says that too many humans today are selfish and have lost sight of this ideal. Honestly I don’t mind cultural contradictions, but it feels that the author is unaware of this.

What then follows is a brief overview of an average human’s life in the Reign. Every town has a local university to ensure that all its citizens are well-read. Most parents train their children to be either be a scholar, soldier, or tradesman, and the child is pretty much locked into learning the trade for 10-12 years. Scholars attend prestigious universities of the ten cities and spend years studying about various sorts of academic lore. Unfortunately, all but the wealthiest families can hope to afford a scholarship. Adults usually live with their parents in family homes which are passed from one generation to the next. The elderly are expected to leave home and join universities in order teach new generations, especially if their family cannot provide for them any longer. Universities often double as poor houses, hospitals, and nursing homes given the lack of churches in the Reign.

Care for senior citizens (or the lack of it) is a huge problem. Although earlier the text mentioned that the elderly are "taken care of in the most humane way possible" by universities, most of them do not have the resources to care for them and are overcrowded as a result, leaving many of the old and infirm to die in the streets (perhaps the author meant "most humane way possible given the limited resources"). Senators who propose increased funding are shouted down by the militarists who would much rather use the money to guard against supposed hostile foreign powers (even though the nation is enduring a time of peace and lacks significant foreign threats).

Afterwards we get a rundown on the government. The Senate is comprised of elected representatives from the ten major cities running on 10-year terms. The city-states are supposedly independent but must obey all laws passed by the Senate. Each of the ten cities also elect their own Governors on 6-year terms; in addition to maintenance of their cities, Governors have the power to recall Senators with a 50% popular vote. The Senate also controls the military and elects a General on a lifetime position. The Reign also has a King who is elected by a 10-year term (which makes me wonder why they still use the title), and he can veto Senate laws (which is overturned by a 3/5ths vote) and introduce laws to them, much like the role of a US President. The King also has the power to form his own knightly orders (which are not part of the military). Also, humans don't like it when the other races call their nation a Kingdom.

We get a brief run-down on some local currency, holidays, and the city’s guilds, which are corrupt as hell (pulling on the purse strings of elected officials and intimidating voters).

Initial Thoughts: So far I find this revision of humans interesting, if a little contradictory in several areas. I find the idea of them being beholden to no deities interesting, a possible reason for why there’s no “God of humans” in most settings. The talk of ‘human potential’ initially came off as sort of the generic ill-defined ‘humans are special’ tripe, but making it a unique magical power source which leaves the other races in confusion is something I like a lot (we'll be getting into the game mechanics of this later).

Upon further review, the write-up does have a bit of Special Snowflake-itis, and I have to wonder if the civilization of the Reign is meant as some kind of Author Tract. The societal flaws and contradictions make me think otherwise, but it's possible.

Next Time: the City-States!

Minor Things:

Wick's humans come off like Arrogant "Enlightened Elves" in places. What makes them different than the "Our Elves Are Better" trope is that their society has some genuine flaws (guilds can influence elections, no social safety net for the elderly, etc).

Food for thought: John Wick (the author) is a Libertarian, and from what I've heard his works tend to have that political strain emerge at times. I can see this popping up in his human write-up, and I haven't read the whole thing yet. I can't tell if he's trying to make them idealized political clones or not (the nationalist collectivist angle of 'serving the Reign' throws that theory for a loop).

Some other minor things: I think that the human arrogance might be intentional. They don't like it when other races refer to the Reign as a Kingdom, and yet they elect a King (the text mentions that the term is "both accurate and misleading"). And their divine magic is obviously supernatural (still counts as spells by the game mechanics), yet they deny it.

Part Two

In addition to the many small villages and towns, there are 10 major Cities in the Reign of Men. Each city has its own dialect, history, and customs. "To be human is also to be from a City," the text says. "Just as men are proud of their heritage, they are doubly proud of their native City."

Except that many humans live outside these cities. What about them? Do they not count?

Apparently not. Only the cities have the power to elect governors and senators, and the Senate laws do not extend to the towns.

Each city has two related Skills which represent the ideals and character of the city. For example, the merchant city of Tomkin has Handle Animal and Profession (Merchant). Humans who have an aptitude with these skills get in-game bonuses (which we'll discuss in the next chapter).

Nevernare is the capital of the Reign and home to the Senate. The bureaucracy is choked with paperwork, and legal morass and government incompetence leads to loopholes, corruption, and urban decay. Most Senators are greedy politicians, which only adds to the problem.

Ajun is the Reign's center of learning, a cosmopolitan town with students traveling in from all corners. As a tradition, every weekend the teachers leave the universities to debate no-holds-barred "real philosophy" in the city's taverns, hoping to be challenged as equals outside the dry academic context of the classroom. This is probably the most complicated and roundabout excuse I've ever heard of getting smashed.

Ashcolm is nick-named the City of Shadows for its numerous assassinations and sinister sorcerer families.

Shavay is located in the Reign's geographic center and is little more than a glorified post office, as the city is used as a commerce hub and waypoint for messengers.

Wave hello to the Invisible Hand of the Free Market when stopping by in Tomkin! Trade is managed all by women called "Aunties," and the woman in charge of them is also the city's governor. Governor Rose ran on a platform of getting rid of laws she saw as useless and over-regulatory until there was only one remaining: "protect each other." She won the election.

So Tomkin is supposedly a Libertarian paradise where people aren't overburdened by those dumb legal restrictions and home to happy merchants plying their trades! It's also the most free of all the cities. And yet the person in charge of the government is also in charge of the market, technically making it...

Socialism! AAHHH!!!

The "one law" idea is dumb on so many levels. What does "protect each other" mean? Does it apply to everyone within the city, or just its residents? If the former, does that mean that you forsake this right upon setting foot outside? If the latter, are people who are not citizens free pickings for the criminal element?

In contrast to the opening mantra and the incompetent government at the capital, I'm definitely seeing a pro-Libertarian bias crop its head up.

Vanta is a martial northern City where only soldiers are allowed to vote (everyone's required to be a soldier), and frequently fend off orcs, trolls, and other such "lesser races" across the border. They look down upon their southern neighbors for pursuing art and culture, and always elect the most hawkish officials. Wait a second, the text mentioned earlier that the Reign is largely peaceful and doesn't have to worry about hostile foreign neighbors!

Tamerclimb is a spartan mountain City where all the Palatines are trained. The place is also home to a race of sapient horses known as the Uffred, who choose riders worthy enough to carry them (in other words, Paladin Mounts). The text mentions that the city is not suited to visitors, with "no elegant taverns for travelers, no theaters, and no brothels."

When I think of swinging tourist hot spots, I don't think about the destination's overall safety, its entertainment, or its climate; the prostitutes are where it's at.

Most of Millford stands in ruins, ravaged by the horrors of the wastes. Many citizens sought to reclaim it, and they're a hardy, tough lot.

Vinnick is renowned for its fine wines and wizard's colleges. Most of the city's economy revolves around servicing arcane spellcasters and their needs, from magic item shops to apprenticeship training.

Jinix is a city of thieves, where organized crime syndicates run the show. The Governor's a figurehead, and it makes most of its money exporting drugs and illegal goods.

There is still a noble class in the traditional sense (rule by bloodline), but they have no real power beyond the small villages and hamlets they still control. Most humans who live outside the cities are pretty much living on their land, and they don't get to vote for representatives or who rules them. So much for its claims at liberty and democracy; "to be human is to belong to a city," indeed.

Thoughts so far: Arguably the weakest part of the book. The Reign's vaulted ideals fall short in this part, and there's potential conflict in disenfranchisement of non-City dwellers. The antiquated nobility is a sharp contrast from democratic values, but is sadly underutilized here. This could be played straight as examples of flawed ideals, but the text does not come off that way. The town of Tomkin also left a bad taste in my mouth, too.

Next Time: Open Content, and a new, revised Human race!


Open Content: All material starting on page 22 to the end of the book is Open Content. All other material is ©2012 by John Wick. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission from the author. All characters and situations presented in this work are fictional. Except for John, Jess and Jill. They are as real as you. Aaron and Mauro, however, are entirely fictional and should be treated as such.

Now this is where we get into the real meat of game mechanics. From what I hear, it's typical in the Wicked Fantasy series to give the races a mechanical makeover with more distinctive advantages, such as Cleave as a bonus feat (as opposed to a "+1 to Diplomacy").

Here it is, the Wick-ified Human!


Human Racial Traits
• +2 to Strength, Constitution or Dexterity and +2 Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma
• Medium: Humans have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
• Movement: Base speed of 30ft.
• The Will of Men: Gain +1 racial bonus to all Will Saves. At 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th character level, gain an additional +1 bonus. Men are creatures of will; their will carries them through a harsh world of politics and physical dangers.
• Improved Teamwork: Humans count every member of their party as having the same Teamwork Feats they have. No matter size of the group, humans know how to work with others, even if they aren’t human.
• Rally: Whenever a human threatens a critical on an attack roll they can make a Charisma Check DC 10 + CR of target. If successful, all allies within 30ft gain a +1 rally bonus to attack and damage for the next round. For every consecutive threatened critical during the same combat, add +1 to the bonus. Humans can drive others to new heights of determination through shouts of inspiration and encouragement.
• Skillful: Choose one skill that permanently counts as a class skill. Additionally, gain a +2 racial bonus to that skill. The bonus gains an additional +1 every four character levels. Humans pursue a wide range of careers and live in a multitude of conditions, and as a result learn to excel in many different skills.
• Hometown: Humans pick one city in the Reign to be their hometown. Each hometown has two “city skills.” If a human has a bonus of at least +4 in one city skill, they gain one bonus feat. If they have a bonus of at least +4 in both city skills, they gain two bonus feats. Check sidebar for which skills are related to cities. Every city in the Reign is known for producing a certain kind of person. When a human matches up with the ideals of their hometown they start with a leg up.
• Hometown Advantage: When humans are in the city they were born in they gain a +2 racial bonus to all Social rolls. Additionally humans gain +2 Favored Terrain (Hometown). Humans know their hometown like the back of their hand. Every street, every common merchant and all of the people are easily recalled from days of childhood. Language: Humans begin play speaking Common and Human
(Hometown Dialect). Humans with high Intelligence scores can choose any languages they want (except secre languages, such as Druidic).
• Hometown : Humans pick one city in the Reign to be their hometown. Each hometown has two “city skills." (see pg. 15)

The standard Pathfinder Human has +2 to one ability score of the player's choice, an additional skill point at each level, and a bonus feat at 1st level. Wick-ified Humans get a net +4 to ability scores, an extra class skill which can get up a +7 racial bonus, and two potential bonus feats (which can be taken at any point and not just 1st level) for as little as a 2 skill point tax!

The Rally trait is way too weak to be worth it. Not only must you threaten a critical hit (30% at most with a specialized build and weapon), but you must roll a successful Charisma check (which you won't make against higher CR enemies unless you pump up the ability). And then the bonus lasts for only one round. An optimized character built around it can probably stack up bonuses in combat, but there are easier ways to make an "inspiring" character build.

In comparison to the Pathfinder Core races, this Human is powerful, really powerful. Overpowered, even.

Now for the feats:


Human Knowledge Feats

Love of Knowledge
You pursue philosophia, the love of knowledge.
Prerequisites: Human, any Knowledge skills 4 ranks total.
Benefit: You may make untrained Knowledge skill checks, even if you do not have any ranks in the Knowledge skill, regardless of the DC of the skill check. Once per day per four character levels (minimum of once per day), you may ruminate on a subject for 2 minutes in order to take 20 on a Knowledge skill check. As usual, you may only take 20 if you are not under stress or threat and have uninterrupted time to consider the question.
Normal: You may only make untrained Knowledge skill checks if the DC is 10 or less. You may not take 20 on Knowledge skill checks.

Flavorfull feat, but the Bard's class features make this ability superfluous.


Human Teamwork Feats

Human Tactics
Humans know how to fight well with others, and in time, they can teach others to fight well with them.
Prerequisites: Human, Profession (Solider) 5 Ranks
Benefit: As a standard action, you can grant one teamwork feat to all allies within 30 feet who can see and hear you. Allies retain the use of this bonus feat for 3 rounds plus 1 round for every two character levels you possess. Allies do not need to meet the prerequisites of this bonus feat. You can do this a number of times a day equal to you Wisdom Bonus.

This is the only teamwork feat listed, but if there are others it would still be useless. Because Improved Teamwork effectively grants the character's teamwork feats as bonus feats to other party members. Human Tactics does the same thing, but on a limited duration. Maybe it's meant to be used for people not part of the party, although "party" is really broadly defined.

Edit: I misinterpreted the text.


The way teamwork feats work is you get a bonus if you fulfill a criteria with a person who also has the feat. The human racial trait just lets you act like your entire party has the feat, it doesn't actually give it to them.

On that note, I'm not experienced enough with said feats to give an accurate assessment.


Human Rally Feats

Saving Rally
Some humans can inspire more than just inspire a better attack.
Prerequisites: Human, Diplomacy 6 Ranks or Intimidate 6 Ranks
Benefit: When you threaten a critical hit, instead of using the Rally ability you can use the Saving Rally ability. Saving Rally affects an ally who has failed a Will saving throw during the encounter and is still under the effects of the failure. Make either a Diplomacy or an Intimidate Check; the result counts as a new saving throw result for the ally against one effect; your choice of which effect to attempt the save against. This cannot be used on yourself.

Extended Rally
The more intense your words the further they can reach.
Prerequisites: Human, Saving Rally, Base
Attack Bonus +10, Diplomacy 10 Ranks or Intimidate 10 Ranks
Benefit: You can extend the range of the Rally ability to 60ft. If you use the Saving Rally ability instead you can affect a number of extra targets equal to your Charisma Bonus.

Sorcerer’s Rally
Hearing the right words can help the magically gifted to new heights.
Prerequisites: Human, Extended Rally, Spellcraft 5 Ranks, Diplomacy 13 Ranks or Intimidate 13 Ranks
Benefit: When you threaten a critical hit, instead of using the Rally ability, you can use the Sorcerer’s Rally ability. Sorcerer’s Rally allows you to select one ally with caster levels and make a Spellcraft Check DC 10 + their Caster Level. If successful, add your current Rally Bonus * 2 to their caster level for the next round.

Inspirational Rally
With the right words, people can be called to act.
Prerequisites: Human, Sorcerer’s Rally, Diplomacy 17 Ranks
Benefit: When you threaten a critical hit instead of using the Rally ability you can use the Inspirational Rally ability. Inspirational Rally allows you select one ally and one enemy they can attack without moving within 60ft of yourself. Make a Diplomacy Check DC 10 + CR of the selected enemy, if successful the ally makes an attack against the enemy. They gain a moral bonus to attack and damage equal to your current Rally Bonus * 3 for the attack. Melee, Ranged, Touch and Ranged Touch attacks can be used with the power.

Menacing Rally
The terror you can inspire in your enemies is frightful.
Prerequisites: Human, Sorcerer’s Rally, Intimidate 17 Ranks
Benefit: When you threaten a critical hit instead of using the Rally ability you can use the Menacing Rally ability. Menacing Rally allows you to make a Intimidation Check DC 10 + CR of your target, if successful all enemies within 60ft take a penalty to all attack and damage equal to your current Rally Bonus * 3 for the next round. Penalties from Menacing Rally do not stack; only use the highest current penalty.

The Triumph of Men
Men are Exceptional and do Exceptional Deeds.
Prerequisites: Human, Inspirational Rally or Menacing Rally, Diplomacy 20 Ranks or Intimidate 20 Ranks
Benefit: When you threaten a critical hit instead of using the Rally ability you can use The Triumph of Men ability. The Triumph of Men allows all humans, including yourself, who are allies to regain ¼ of their maximum hit points + your current Rally Bonus * 4 and removed any conditions that they wish to remove. This can only be used once per day.

The Sorcerer's Rally is potentially abuseable with its increased Caster Level, and Inspirational Rally can apply for some action economy shenanigans; the whole 'threaten a critical' makes the usage of Rally feats unreliable.


Human Hometown Feats

Home Away From Home
While a human may have been born in one city, it’s possible they grew up or have lived a long time in a different city.
Prerequisites: Human, Knowledge (Chosen City) 7 Ranks, own home in the Chosen City
Benefit: You gain the benefits of Hometown Advantage in the Chosen City. This feat can be taken multiple times but only Cities in the Reign of Man can be your Chosen City.

Not impressed.

Next we get the alternate Cleric and Paladins.

Philosphers are like Clerics, only better. They have 5 skill points per level, and instead of using a holy symbol or radiating an alignment aura, they have an object of sentimental value known as a focus which grants +1 to DC of all spells cast as long as it's on their person.

Cleric loses holy symbol, can't cast spells. Philosopher loses Focus, and his +1 DC bonus to spells. Fair trade, I think not.

Philosophers can also select any two domains of their choice regardless of alignment restrictions. They also get two new domains, Humanity and Philosophy, which grant a bonus Orison per day per domain chosen.

Also, Philosophers and Palatines don't call their magic "spells;" they're "meditations," with Orisons being "Insights."

Palatines are focused on justice and honor and crusade against evil, yet they can be of any alignment. They also get two Knowledge skills not in Pathfinder (Law, and Senate), which sound way too specialized and can easily fall under Knowledge (Nobility & Royalty). They're pretty much the same as normal Paladins, albeit their heavy horse mounts (not warhorses) are treated as a Druid's animal companion, and their Divine Grace applies only to Will but affects allies close by as well. Divine Health is renamed Man's Vigor, they channel positive energy like a cleric instead of laying on hands, and their capstone ability grants bonuses to allies instead of banishing evil outsiders.

Our product ends with a list of approved classes for humans. They can be any class in the Core Rulebook except Cleric and Paladins (because they don't worship gods) or the Monk. I'm confused about this last ban, as the class is all about self-improvement and discipline. They can't be any of the Advanced Player's Guide classes except for the Cavalier. There are no explanations for these restrictions, either.

The verdict, for realsies: Not guilty. The book does deliver on a reinvented human race, providing them with an overarching culture and unique traits and abilities. Unfortunately, its execution leaves much to be desired: the society feels too idealistic, and what flaws there are are either unintentional or played down. The hidden potential within all humanity is merely just class-based divine spellcasting, and it feels like a waste that only two of the classes can obtain it; I would've made it a series of human-only feats. It's also too connected to a specific setting and history, minimizing its applicability to other settings (although I guess this is to be expected when hyper-focusing humans).

In short, great idea, poor execution. It could have been a lot more.

Edit: Just realized until now that I'm not using 'acquitted' in its proper legal term. It's now "not guilty." Because it doesn't necessary imply innocence.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 19:20 on Dec 14, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Kurieg posted:

So clerics and Paladins draw power from inside the self, because the divine doesn't exist and they're all about self empowerment and improvement.

Yet druids exist completely unaltered.

The way teamwork feats work is you get a bonus if you fulfill a criteria with a person who also has the feat. The human racial trait just lets you act like your entire party has the feat, it doesn't actually give it to them.

Yeah, I remember now. I'll go back and change that.

Tasoth posted:

Hahahahaha. John Wick writes fantasy 'MURIKA! but fucks it up because he doesn't keep notes. Why not base it off of a non-European culture and get some research in? Maybe have the culture focus on familial fidelity and the inherent selfishness of adventuring.

Concerned Ninja Citizen on Min-Max Boards suggested a similar thing.

In the meantime, one more review! This is is the one that started it all. I found a misleadingly labelled 3rd Party Pathfinder product, and conducted a pseudo-court session on Min-Max Boards to determine if it delivered on its promises. What it promised was a bunch of horrifically overpowered feats which should never be taken in a game:

The Precursor to the Review

So there's this 3rd-party product called 'The Genius Guide to Horrifically Overpowered Feats.'

Released as an April Fool's Joke, it's meant to be exactly what it says on the tin. But then I saw a few reviews, which mentioned that only a few feats were horrifically overpowered, and quite a few of them made for nice boost to the noncasters.

One review, however, said that aside from the more blatant ones, they were no more overpowered than what a well-built Core Wizard could do. And a lot of the feats are geared towards non-casters.

Okay, it's a joke product. But what makes this significant? Well, it's written by Owen KC Stevens, a dude who's done quite a bit of work with Wizards of the Coast and on the Pathfinder RPG. And it has this blurb:


In many ways, these feats are classic bad examples, doing exactly the sorts of things feats shouldn’t. If you ever design a feat you expect to work in a normal campaign and it looks a lot like one of these feats, that’s a clear sign you’ve done something wrong.

So if the feats aren't very powerful, and it's heavily geared towards martial characters, I can't help but wonder if it's reflective of the pro-caster bias which permeates Pathfinder. Even worse, it might just turn people off from genuinely Nice Things for Fighters if the fixes smack of 'overpoweredness.' But that's probably me taking things too seriously.

And it has a sequel product, too! And I got to see some actual feat descriptions in this one beyond a table!

Who knows, I might do a review when I buy the products! Let's see what I've got in the previews:

Animated Leap: You can make a long jump up to your movement rate without an Acrobatics check, or a high jump equal to 1/2 that. It has a feat tax of 2 bad feats (Acrobatic, Run), and you cannot change your route mid-jump.

The verdict: Not overpowered. Overland Flight still exists in Pathfinder.

Arcane Armor Lord: You ignore all arcane spell failure. Proficiency in Medium Armor, 11th level, and 2 feats (Arcane Armory Training & Mastery).

The verdict: Not overpowered. Very powerful, in that it can grant a nice AC bonus, but spell effects can grant miss chances, and its at a high enough level that a Sorcerer/Wizard can pull up stuff to negate attacks.

Backswing Attack: 3 times per day, as a free action, you can roll a new attack against a new opponent within reach if you miss the original opponent in melee. Pre-requisite of +6 BAB.

The verdict: Not overpowered. Very situational, slightly less useful than Great Cleave.

Libertad's Review of The Genius Guide to Horrifically Overpowered Feats, Because It Must Be Done


So basically the book opens up with a blurb of how these feats are not meant to be used in campaigns, for the sanity of players and Dungeon Masters. But it knows that those brave or foolish enough to implement them in Pathfinder games are going to ignore these warnings, so it lays out suggestions and general overview of [Horrifically Overpowered] feats.

Yes, you read that right, [Horrifically Overpowered] is its own type. Any feat marked as such can't ever be taken them as a bonus feat due to race or class; you can have a maximum of 1 Horrifically Overpowered Feat at 1st level, 2 at 3rd level, and an additional 1 every 3 levels thereafter. Keep in mind that the feat progression in Pathfinder is faster than normal 3.X, so you can't just unload all your feat slots on them.

And another (but no less important) reason for the new type is that in case anybody copies the feats as part of Open Game Content, interested parties can be properly warned ahead of time. This ends Owen Stephens' public service announcement.

The second type of feat descriptor is [Meta-Attack]. Basically, they're like Meta-Magic feats, but for normal weapon and natural attacks. They can be used a certain number of times per day, and most of them are activated as a swift or free actions. All such feats are also Horrifically Overpowered, and you can gain additional uses per day as you gain levels (1 additional use to be applied to the Meta-Attack feat of your choice at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter).

The Trial: For the purposes of this review, I'll be acting as judge, jury, and executioner. The accused party is Owen KC Stephens, and his crime is false advertising of overpowered feats. After each feat's description, I'll lay down the verdict as to whether the feat in question is Horrifically Overpowered. In the rare case I cannot decide one way or the other, I'll turn things over to the community to decide on my behalf. If you disagree with any of my conclusions, feel free to state your case. Edit: The trial is long over, but I'll be posting the statements of other Min-Maxers to give a more holistic view of how it proceeded.

And now that that's out of the way, here are the Feats:


[Horrifically Overpowered]
You can simply refuse to be affected by a specific attack, spell, or ability.
Benefit: Once per day as a free action, you can decide to not be affected by a single attack, combat maneuver, spell, or effect. All its effects on you are immediately negated. This decision must be made as soon as you are aware of the effect you wish to negate. Only a single use of the effect is negated -- if you prevent an ancient red dragon from grappling you, that does not prevent it from making a new grapple check on its next attack. You may use this twice per day at 8th level, and one more time per day for every additional 8 levels you gain, to a maximum of six times per day at 40th level.

The verdict: Overpowered. It's pretty much a versatile way of avoiding negative effects and will save the PC's bacon quite a bit. But you must be aware of the effect occurring, and in some circumstances the enemy can repeat the action on its next turn.

Edit: StreamoftheSky pointed out in his post that a no-fail ability to nullify any attack can indeed be overpowered in its versatility, while Sor0 said that it's poorly worded enough to cause many headaches (especially in regards to territorial effects). Concerned Ninja Citizen pointed out the lack of duration and specifics and ignoring "effects" such as gravity.


Empowered Attack
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-attack]
A limited number of times per day, you can focus all your power and rage into an attack.
Benefit: Two times per day as a swift action, you may declare one weapon attack, natural attack, or unarmed attack to be an empowered attack. You must make this declaration prior to making your attack roll. An empowered attack increases the damage it does by 50%.

The verdict: Not overpowered. This is a nice feat for chargers and damage-dealers, but given that straight hit point damage is not an overall effective forms of offense in Pathfinder, it's not going to get balls-to-the-wall crazy.


Enlarged Attack
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-attack]
A limited number of times per day, you can concentrate all your attention and will on the accuracy of one attack.
Benefit: Four times per day as a swift action, you may declare one weapon attack to be an enlarged attack. You must make this declaration prior to making your attack roll. If the attack is with a ranged weapon, the range increment of the attack doubles. If the attack is with a melee weapon, you may throw it as a ranged thrown weapon (not taking the normal penalty for throwing a melee weapon) with a range increment of 30 feet.

The verdict: Not overpowered. Spells with Long range increments can still outpace archers with this feat (who can get about 220 feet increments with a composite longbow). And turning any melee weapon into a thrown weapon isn't that bad.


Eschew Foci
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You have no need for idols and mirrors to cast spells.
Prerequisite: Eschew Materials
Benefit: You do not need to fulfill the focus or divine focus components of spells in order to cast them.

The verdict: Not overpowered. Foci are pretty much reusable material components, and are not very expensive to purchase. Now, if it allowed you to ignore material components, then it would be Horrifically Overpowered.


Eschew Gestures
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You have no need to wiggle your fingers to cast spells.
Prerequisite: Still Spell
Benefit: You do not need to fulfill the somatic components of spells in order to cast them. You effectively treat all the spells you cast as if they had been cast using the Still Spell metamagic feat, but the spell’s level does not change, and no extra time is required to cast it.

The verdict: Depends. The best use I can think of is for gish builds, who can swing around a greataxe or dual-wield scimitars while casting spells without having to drop and sheathe weapons all the time. Plus it also has a feat tax of a feat you won't be using anymore.

However, it allows spellcasters to cast spells while hindered, restrained, and grappled, but spells still provoke an attack of opportunity. It can get overpowered if combined with Supernatural Spell Monster, which takes care of the AoO problem.


Eschew Incantations
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You have no need to speak to cast spells.
Prerequisite: Silent Spell
Benefit: You do not need to fulfill the verbal components of spells in order to cast them. You effectively treat all the spells you cast as if they had been cast using the Silent Spell metamagic feat, but the spell’s level does not change, and no extra time is required to cast it.

The verdict: Overpowered. Silence is no longer a poor man's Anti-Magic Field for enemy spellcasters, and it eliminates a big weakness of spellcasters.


Extended Attack
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-attack]
A limited number of times per day, you can drive an attack deep into a foe to insure the wound continues to tear and bleed, at least briefly.
Benefit: Three times per day as a swift action, you may declare one weapon attack, natural attack, or unarmed attack to be an extended attack. You must make this declaration prior to making your attack roll. If the attack hits, the target suffers bleed damage at the beginning of its next round. For this bleed, roll the extended attack’s damage again, using the same modifiers as the original attack.

The verdict: Not overpowered. Since you have to declare it before the attack roll, there's a chance that you'll miss or roll low damage. It's pretty much a free second attack, but only on the next round. Very nice feat for martials.


Extra Lives
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You are just hard to kill.
Benefit: Your character can come back from the dead, with no penalty, three times in its total career. This happens at the end of whatever encounter you died in, unless that would cause your character to immediately die again (such as if your body was dropped into a pool of lava). In that case, you return to life at some safe location within a week, at the GM’s discretion. If you think your character is likely to be raised quickly and easily, you may choose not to use this ability when you die, in which case it does not count against your three total uses of this feat.
Special: This feat can be taken more than once. (Although, really, you need to take Toughness if you’re dying that often. Or maybe Dodge. Or just stand closer to the cleric.) Each time you take it, the number of times your character may freely return from the dead increases by three.

The verdict: Not overpowered, especially at higher levels. Unlike other feats, it has a limited use, and becomes useless after 3 deaths. At low levels it can help increase PC survivability, and at high levels Save or Die effects are increasingly common. Given the way the feat works, 'death' is still a penalty as it takes you out of the game for 1 week. You'll still have to sit things out if the party's in a dungeon or doesn't have time to wait around for you to come back.

More to come soon!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 19:29 on Dec 14, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
Part Two of the Review


Extra Meta-Attack
[Horrifically Overpowered]
Benefit: You gain additional uses of meta-attack feats. You gain two additional uses per day, plus one additional use for every meta-attack feat you have. This does not allow you to use meta-attack feats you have not taken, only to get extra uses for meta-attack feats you have. You may spend these extra uses on any meta-attack feat you have, as long as you do not exceed 2 + (total meta-attack feats) per day in additional uses of all your meta-attack feats.

The verdict: Not overpowered. Yeah, it grants a lot of additional uses, but keep in mind that you're spending one of your limited feat slots on it, further limited by the one per 3 levels schematic for Horrifically Overpowered feats. So if you're 12th level, and spent 5 of your 6 available feats on Extra Meta-Attack and other Meta-Attacks, you deserve to gain 6 additional uses spread out among them: your character's limited resources are built around being 'Meta." And I have yet to see any truly crazy Meta-Attacks so far to drive me into conniption fits.


[Horrifically Overpowered]
The universe likes you, and gives you gifts.
Benefit: For every HD you have, you may select one favored class benefit from any character class. This is in addition to favored class benefits you receive if you actually take a level in a favored class. For more information on favored class benefits, see the Advanced Player’s Guide.

The verdict: Not overpowered. I've seen the Favored Class Options in APG, and let me tell you, none of them are very impressive.


Full Casting Action
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You can cast multiple spells as a fullround action, much like a warrior can make multiple attacks if his base attack bonus is high enough.
Prerequisite: Caster level 6.
Benefit: As a full-round action, you can cast two spells that have a casting time of 1 standard action or less. The first spell is cast normally, while the second spell uses a caster level 5 lower than your normal caster level, and the DC of any saving throw it requires is reduced by 2.

The verdict: Overpowered. More spells per round! If you can't think of ways to abuse this, you're not trying hard enough.


[Horrifically Overpowered]
You are practically a member of two character classes, rather than just one.
Benefit: Select one character class. You gain all the class features (proficiencies and abilities listed in the “special” column of the class writeup) of that class other than spellcasting, as if half your total character level was your class level. (If you are 1st level, gain only the armor and weapon proficiencies of your selected class until you reach 2nd level.) If you actually have levels in the selected class, you gain class features as if your class level was equal to your actual class level plus one-half of all your other levels.

The verdict: It's not like Unearthed Arcana's gestalt, in that it only grants class features as opposed to HD, BAB, Saving Throws, and Skills. However, it's still overpowered in that can dramatically increase the power levels of PCs with a plethora of good abilities. Score some Bardic Music for your Paladin, Sneak Attack and Rogue Talents for your Ranger, or Wild Shape for your Barbarian!


Go First
[Horrifically Overpowered]
No one can more before you. No one.
Prerequisite: Improved Initiative.
Benefit: You go first in any initiative order. If there are multiple creatures present that have feats or abilities that state they each go first in any initiative order, those creatures roll initiative to see what order they go in, and all other creatures go after them (regardless of relative initiative check results).

The verdict: Going first is really important in combat, and can make the difference in battle. Imagine a spellcaster with this thing! Overpowered.


Greater Full Casting Action
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You can cast up to 3 spells as a full-round action, much like a warrior can make multiple attacks if his base attack bonus is high enough.
Prerequisite: Caster level 11, Full Casting Action.
Benefit: This functions as Full Casting Action, except you can also cast a third spell with a casting time of 1 standard action or less. The third spell uses a caster level 10 lower than your normal caster level, and the DC of any saving throw it requires is reduced by 5.

The verdict: In case you're unsatisfied with firing off 2 spells per turn, and need an even more Quadratic Wizard. Overpowered.


Healing Factor
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You have a mutant healing factor.
Benefit: You gain fast healing equal to 1/3 your HD (minimum fast healing 1).

The verdict: Unless you consider the 15-minute adventuring day an important aspect of D&D, this feat is not overpowered. It saves the Cleric and Wand of CLW user to use his resources on others during downtime, and the Fast Healing is not large enough to make a noticeable difference in combat.


Heighten Attack
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
A limited number of times per day, you can put more muscle behind an attack to make it more effective against thick-skinned foes.
Benefit: Four times per day as a swift action, you may declare one weapon attack, natural attack, or unarmed attack to be a heightened attack. You must make this declaration prior to making your attack roll. The attack ignores a number of points of DR and/or hardness equal to your base attack bonus.

The verdict: Easy ways to bypass DR with weapon types? Check. Limited uses per day? Check. Still shown up by magic attacks? Check. Not overpowered by a long shot.

The evidence is starting to turn against you, Mr. Stephens. Your case can't afford another feat like this!


Heroic Grace
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You are destined for greatness, and are thus unlikely to be petrified by a wandering monster.
Benefit: You may add your Int, Wis, or Cha bonus to all your saving throws, in addition to your normal ability modifier. This does not stack with the paladin’s divine grace class feature, or any other ability that adds your Int, Wis, or Cha to all your saving throws. (You are still allowed to add your Wisdom bonus to your Will saves, as normal.)

The verdict: Paladins have Divine Grace, so at first glance I was inclined to strike this down as Not Overpowered. But after some deliberation, I ruled otherwise. It doesn't require a 2-level dip in a non-fullcasting class. And high-level casters can easily pump their mental scores up to impressive levels. Since Saving Throws are very important to have at high levels, it's easy for a Cleric, Druid, or Wizard to bust his Saves off the RNG.

I feared I may have underestimated you, Stephens. I declare this feat Horrifically Overpowered.

I call for a 10-minute recess. Court is now adjourned!

Other posters:

SorO_Lost posted:

I disagree with one of your conclusions, so I should state my case?

"Horrifically-Overpowered" as a term doesn't do Greater Full Casting Action justice. Perhaps "Holy crap they printed this?!" might?

Ok seriously. I'm mostly in shock and awe at some of this stuff.
I can't believe they printed it and I'm glad you're taking the time to review it.

Garryl posted:

Does Pathfinder still have the rule that you can cast a spell with a CL lower than the CL you'd normally have at the level you get the spell? That would put a damper on the Full Casting Action feats, since you'd be restricted to using your lower level spells. Not enough to remove it from the OP category, but it's worth noting.

*Rummages through the stacks of legal documents.*

Ah, here it is!


A spell's power often depends on its caster level, which for most spellcasting characters is equal to her class level in the class she's using to cast the spell.

You can cast a spell at a lower caster level than normal, but the caster level you choose must be high enough for you to cast the spell in question, and all level-dependent features must be based on the same caster level.

In the event that a class feature or other special ability provides an adjustment to your caster level, that adjustment applies not only to effects based on caster level (such as range, duration, and damage dealt), but also to your caster level check to overcome your target's spell resistance and to the caster level used in dispel checks (both the dispel check and the Dc of the check).

The lowering of Caster Level in Pathfinder prevents a spellcaster from utilizing his full arsenal of spells with the feat.

Regardless, it is still a very useful feat for higher-level spellcasters to have. Imagine multiple Evard's Black Tentacles in the same round, or Acid Fog followed by Telekinesis!

I still regard it as an overpowered feat for the potential spell combos it can unleash.

StreamOfTheSky posted:

My thoughts so far...

Denied: Overpowered. It's wings of cover for the whole family. Negating anything at all 100% is broken. Also to nitpick... if it says free action but lacks the words “that you can use out of turn”.... does that mean the feat is technically useless?

Meta-Attacks: None are overpowered, and WTF having daily limits AND needing a swift? Why don't casters have to take it up the rear end like this?

Eschew Foci: Mildly broken. Some foci are fairly expensive. It has no price limit like eschew materials.

Eschew Gestures/Incantation: Broken. Removes significant caster weaknesses and helps make every caster a druid (natural spell, cast in any form).

Favored: WTF does this even do? The class specific ones advance class specific features. If you have no bard levels, does getting +1/2 level to one type of bard performance actually do anything? If this lets you double up on FC bonus for the class you're progressing, this is broken. Most FC boni suck, but some caster ones ROCK. Like bonus sorc spells known, or summoner getting +1/4 evo point.

Full-Casting Action: Possibly the most overpowered and broken feat I've ever seen.

Gestalt: Hmm...I think F-C Action still is holding the crown. Barely.

Go First: Ok, this one might possibly be more broken than F-C Action.

Greater F-C Action: WTF? Seriously guys, WTF?

Healing Factor: Overpowered at low levels, ok by 10th and on.

Heroic Grace: Super overpowered, a caster's wet dream, AND a slap in the face to the paladin class. A trifecta of douche-baggery! Well done, Owen!

Court is now in session!

Here we continue the trial of Owen KC Stephens, game designer and head of Super Genius Games. He produced for the reading public a book of feats, not a crime in and of itself. But, he promised us that these feats would be 'Horrifically Overpowered,' in such a way as to boost a character's effectiveness and overall power, enough that a single one would be enough to boost a Monster's Challenge Rating by 2! In his defense, he mentioned that an adversary's Challenge Rating is just a guideline, and that the feats do more than the official Pathfinder ones. But are we to believe that a single of these feats is equivalent to 2 class levels worth of hit dice, class features, and a new spell level in the case of casters?

The trial continues.


Hex Maven
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
Your hexes are much more persistent than most witches’.
Benefit: Your hexes which state they can only affect a specific target once per day, can instead affect the same target a number of times per day equal to your Int bonus.

I am sure that there any many hexes in multiple sourcebooks, but I've so far located 2 hexes which qualify for this feat: Flight and Life Giver. One grants Levitation, the other Resurrection without a material component.

The verdict: Normally I'd rate this one 'not overpowered.' But there might be hexes in Pathfinder source books beyond Ultimate Magic which can be quite powerful, so I'll reserve judgment until I find more hexes (if there are any). If no such hexes can be found, I'll rule this as 'not overpowered.'


[Horrifically Overpowered]
You’ve picked up a considerable amount of spellcasting above and beyond your normal training.
Benefit: Select one spellcasting character class. You can cast spells as a member of this class of a level equal to half your total hit dice. (If you are 1st level, you cast spells as a 1st level member of the class, but can only cast 0-level spells).
Special: This feat may be selected more than once. (Why not?) Its effects do not stack. (Get real.) Each time it is selected, you must choose a new spellcasting class in which you gain spellcasting ability.

The verdict: This feat's tag is accurate. Even a low-level Wizard or Cleric has many useful spells. Combined with another class, it can be quite effective indeed. And furthermore, it serves as a nice way to meet prestige class pre-requisites without multi-classing!


Master of Magic Items
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You can use any magic item to its fullest.
Prerequisites: Use Magic Device as class skill.
Benefit: You can use any magic item, even if you would not normally be able to do so.

The verdict: The feat's wording is unclear. Does this mean that there is no need for Use Magic Device, and all uses are successful? Does it grant proficiency in all magic weapons? Does it allow one to ignore the negative effects of alignment-based weapons and similar restrictions?

I turn to the community to judge in my stead for this one!


Maximize Attack
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
Once per day, you can give an attack your all.
Benefit: Once per day as a swift action, you may declare one weapon attack, natural attack, or unarmed attack to be a maximized attack. You must make this declaration prior to making your attack roll. A maximized attack deals maximum damage.

The verdict: Not overpowered. For weapons, the modifiers after the damage dice matter more than the dice itself. Unlike fireballs and lightning bolts, the differences between minimums and maximums for longswords, battleaxes, and the like is miniscule (2-12 damage for a Medium greatsword).


Mental Paragon
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You are the peak of mental perfection for your race.
Benefit: Your Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma are a base of 18 (before racial and level-based adjustments). If you take this feat at first level and roll for ability scores, you may only roll for your physical statistics. For example, if your campaign normally has new characters roll six times for ability scores, rolling 4d6 and take the best 3 each time, you are only allowed to do this three times (using the values for your Str, Dex, and Con). If you take this feat at 1st level and use a point-buy for ability scores, you get only half as many points (round up) to buy your physical ability scores.

The verdict: Overpowered. +4 skill points per level, +4 on related ability and skill checks, +4 on Will Saves, +4 on social skills, +4 on Save DCs for spells, and 4 additional beginning spells for a Wizard, and bonus spells per day. Combine this with a +2 mental stat bonus, and you're golden!

Granted, this is not as overpowered in point buy games with primary spellcasters who rely upon one stat (just buy an 18). But for dice rolling, it's great to have.


Offensive Combat Training
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You fight like a warrior-born.
Prerequisite: Defensive Combat Training
Benefit: Your base attack bonus is equal to your total hit dice.

The verdict: Not overpowered. At most, it can grant a +5 or +10 increase in accuracy at 20th level, and is very dip-friendly for martial builds. But it's not going to make a significant difference in your campaigns.


Physical Paragon
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You are the peak of physical perfection for your race.
Benefit: Your Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution are a base of 18 (before racial and level-based adjustments). If you take this feat at first level and roll for ability scores, you may only roll for your mental statistics. For example if your campaign normally has new characters roll six times for ability scores, rolling 4d6 and take the best 3 each time, you are only allowed to do this three times (using the values for your Int, Wis, and Cha). If you take this feat at 1st level and use a point-buy for ability scores, you get only half as many points (round up) to buy your mental ability scores.

The verdict: Overpowered, but not as much so as Mental Paragon. You're getting +4 on attack and damage rolls, +4 Fortitude and Reflex Saves, +4 hit points per level, +4 Armor Class, and +4 on related ability and skill checks. It's a definite boon when you're rolling dice for stats, and for MAD martial builds.

Keep in mind for the Paragon feats that it does not preclude the other from being taken, nor does it explicitly state that it must be taken at 1st level. It just changes the base abilities to 18.


Perfect Blow
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
You can make a perfect attack.
Benefit: Once per day you can choose to make a single attack a perfect strike. Rather than make an attack roll, you hit any AC equal to 20 + your attack bonus or less. The attack automatically threatens a critical. The attack hits even if the target has a defense that would normally cause the attack to be ineffectual or have a chance to be mistargeted, such as mirror image, displacement, concealment, invisibility, etherealness, or feats that allow an attack to be blocked or dodged. The attack bypasses any DR or other defense of the foe, but can be healed, recovered, or regenerated normally.

The verdict: Not overpowered. It is a very nice ability for martial characters, and can foil many kinds of magical defenses. However, one must still roll to confirm the critical threat. I'd definitely allow this in my games.

Part Four of the Review

Stephens was off to a bad start, but eventually he got back into the game with some truly, horrifically, overpowered feats such as Full-Cast Action, Magic-User, and Gestalt.

Will he be able to keep this up? We've got 11 feats to go!


[Horrifically Overpowered]
You are practically a member of a specific prestige class.
Prerequisites: Character level 6, no levels in selected prestige class.
Benefit: Select one prestige class. You gain all the class features (proficiencies and abilities listed in the “special” column of the class writeup) of that prestige class other than spellcasting. Your effective level for the prestige class (to determine both what powers you receive, and any level-dependent effects of those powers) is one-half of (your HD -5), with a minimum of 1.

The verdict: At 20th level, you technically have 7.5 levels in a PrC. Since it can skip all the prerequisites, I can see this open to some terrific abuse. Overpowered.


Quicken Attack
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
Once per day, you can make an attack faster than the eye can follow.
Benefit: Once per day as a free action, you may declare one weapon attack, natural attack, or unarmed attack to be a quickened attack. You must make this declaration prior to making your attack roll. A quickened attack is a swift action. Targets within 30 feet of you are flatfooted against a quickened attack. If it is a ranged attack, it does not provoke an attack of opportunity.

The verdict: Not overpowered. Grants a free Sneak Attack for the Rogue at most, and it can't be used in conjunction with other Meta-Attacks.


Silent Attack
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
A limited number of times per day, you can kill while silent as a shadow.
Benefit: Three times per day as a free action, you may declare one weapon attack, natural attack, or unarmed attack to be a silent attack. You must make this declaration prior to making your attack roll. A silent attack does not end any Stealth you are using, does not count as an attack for the invisibility spell, and cannot be traced back to you with a Perception check.

The verdict: Really ups the power and potential of Rogues, but a high-level wizard with magic can avoid detection better. Not to mention that a Rogue can still be foiled by Blind-sight, True Seeing, and similar things.

I can see this as Overpowered, in that a well-built Rogue can remain effectively out of sight for the entire encounter. But it can only be used for one attack per use. I defer judgment to the community.

Edit: Not overpowered. Sor0_Lost and Concerned Ninja Citizen mentioned that it's limited use cuts down on its potential for abuse.


Skill Domination
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You are an expert in a wide range of skills.
Benefit: All skills count as class skills for you. You can always make a skill check untrained.

The verdict: Not overpowered. In Pathfinder, a class skill grants a +3 bonus, and it doesn't make you any better at untrained skills.


Skill God
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You are the best at one thing you do.
Benefit: Select one skill. Whenever you must make a check for this skill, you always act as if you had rolled a 20.
Special: This feat can be taken more than once. Its effects can’t logically stack, but if you can talk your GM into believing you should get to “roll 40” on a skill check, go ahead. The idea, however, is that each time you select it, it applies to a different skill.

The verdict: Depends upon the skill. Knowledge checks may not be so bad, but it's pure win for common skills such as Perception and Spellcraft (for things such as concentrating on a spell).


Spell Shifting
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You can twist your spells into different spells.
Benefit: You have access to pattern spells. You have a number of pattern spells equal to your HD, to a maximum of two pattern spells per spell level. When you select a spell as a pattern spell it must be a spell of a class and level you are able to cast, and the choice cannot normally be changed. You are allowed to swap out one pattern spell for a new choice at every even level. How pattern spells work depends on how you cast spells. If you are a preparation spellcaster (such as the cleric, druid, and wizard), pattern spells are spells you can cast in place of a prepared spell of the same level or higher, in the same way a cleric can replace a prepared spell for a cure spell. Your pattern spells must be selected from spells you could prepare if you chose to (nearly any class spell for clerics, but limited to spells in your spellbook for wizards). If you are a spontaneous spellcaster (such as the bard and sorcerer), pattern spells are additional spells known, which you can cast once per day by using a spell slot of the same level or higher. If you ever gain one of your pattern spells as a spell known, you may replace it with a new pattern spell of the same level.

The verdict: Overpowered. You know how Clerics and Druids can spontaneously convert spells into Cures and Summons? Well, this feat can grant you up to 20 more! With the right selection, your spellcasters will never have to worry about preparing the wrong spells again!


Still Attack
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
A limited number of times per day, you can kill without moving.
Benefit: Three times per day as a free action, you may declare one weapon attack, natural attack, or unarmed attack to be a still attack. You must make this declaration prior to making your attack roll. A still attack does not require for your arms to be free or that you move, and can be made while you are grappled or pinned (without requiring a grapple check to do so), held or paralyzed.

The verdict: Not overpowered, but it sounds totally awesome, so Stephens gets my respect for the idea if not the execution. Aside from getting paralyzed or grappled, there's not many opportunities that you'll get to use this.

Part Five: The Final Stretch

Of the 32 feats we've reviewed so far, I ruled that 16 of them are Not Overpowered, 11 as Overpowered, 2 varies in use, 3 left to the community's judgment 17 Not Overpowered, 12 Overpowered, 2 varies in use, 1 left to the community's judgment. Even if the last four are Overpowered, and the community judges the undecided feat as Overpowered, it would mean that only half of the Feats in this guide are indeed Overpowered.

StreamoftheSky pointed out that 100% negation can be overpowered, but the feat did not specify that it can be used out of turn, and so I changed it. I will do the Final Four write-ups soon.

Edit: Here they are!


Supernatural Spell Monster
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You’re not really a spellcaster, but you might be mistaken for one.
Benefit: Select one class you have levels in that casts spells. Though you must meet the casting time and all the prerequisites of those spells to use them, they do not count as spells. For rules purposes, they function as supernatural powers.

The verdict: Goodbye, pesky Attacks of Opportunity! Overpowered.


Ultimate Full Casting Action
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You can cast up to 4 spells as a fullround action, much like a warrior can make multiple attacks if his base attack bonus is high enough.
Prerequisite: Caster level 16, Full Casting Action, Greater Full Casting Action.
Benefit: This functions as Greater Full Casting Action, except you can also cast a fourth spell with a casting time of 1 standard action or less. The forth spell uses a caster level 15 lower than your normal caster level, and the DC of any saving throw it requires is reduced by 7.

The verdict: Overpowered like its predecessors.


[Horrifically Overpowered]
You are the sort of person who says “I would not be a bit surprised if the dragon is an illusion and we’re actually surrounded by invisible ninjas.” What’s more, you really aren’t a bit surprised when that turns out to be the case.
Prerequisite: Alertness.
Benefit: You are never surprised, and never flat-footed.

The verdict: Basically poor man's Foresight, except permanent and accessible at lower levels. You always act in the surprise round, and negate the offensive potential of many Rogues. I say that it's overpowered because it negates the Rogue's Sneak Attack in most circumstances, is a no-brainer for characters who boost their AC via mobility, and replicates the best features of a 9th-level spell.


Widen Attack
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
A limited number of times per day, you can lay about you in a frenzy of blows to kill foes near and far.
Benefit: Three times per day as a swift action, you may declare one weapon attack, natural attack, or unarmed attack to be a widened attack. You must make this declaration prior to making your attack roll. A widened attack allows you to compare your attack roll to the AC of every foe in any four spaces (each adjacent to at least one other of the four spaces, and all within 1 space of an area you threaten). Each foe whose AC is exceeded by your attack roll takes damage from the attack.

The verdict: Basically Whirlwind Attack, sans the ridiculous number of prerequisites and limited in use. Not overpowered.

And the very last picture in this book before the credits and SRD is of a female ninja wielding a blade amid a swarm of cherry blossoms, her nipples poking through her skin-tight suit and sporting a faint case of camel-toe. I guess this fanservice is meant as a reward for reading through this thing.

Anyway, this brings our review to a close! 18 Not Overpowered, 15 Overpowered, 2 varies in use, and 1 still left to the community's judgment! The book's advertisement was 41% correct, but at three bucks I can't really complain.

Expect a review for the Guide to More Horrifically Overpowered Feats in due time.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
Min-Max Community Responses:

SorO_Lost posted:

Libertad posted:

StreamoftheSky pointed out that 100% negation can be overpowered, but the feat did not specify that it can be used out of turn, and so I changed it. I will do the Final Four write-ups soon.
Do you think it's because Free Actions can be used whenever you want to begin with?

Edit - It also places no limitation on Duration, only it's Single Use based, nor that is has to be used in response to right now either (in fact it suggests at any point).
You can wake up one day and decide Gravity is an "effect", gain immunity to it for the rest of your life.
Which is kind of a stupid example, but you get what I mean.

Edit 2 - Does PF have Tome of Battle? Like Feral Death Blow deals an additional 20d6 damage on a successful Save. Not saying it's some kind of Saving Grace to making those Feats OP, but there is more to it than a 2d6 being Maximized (it sounds like it applies to Sneak Attack too btw).

Edit 3 - Master of Magic Items, you can use any magic item to it's fullest...
Maybe it's a Colossal +5 Starburst Necromantic Ballast, maybe it's not. But you can use it.

Edit 4 - Deserves a note. I thought "Full-Attack" spellcasting and freebie Gestated was bad. Prestigious (Beholder Mage) with Supernatural Spell Monster. *shudders*

Still can't get over the fact this crap was compiled into and book and they charged you money to read it. DnDWiki is free and their both largely a joke, just saying.


Edit 1: I checked Free Actions in the Pathfinder SRD, and only Immediate Actions specified that they could be used out of turn.

Edit 2: No, Pathfinder has no Tome of Battle Equivalent.

Edit 3: So that's a "yes" to all my questions in the verdict?

Edit 4: Why do you view Full Action Casting and Gestalt as bad feats?

Just for readers, the last feat to be decided is:

Master of Magic Items

I ruled Hex Maven as Not Overpowered, but only because I saw no other 1st-party Hexes which can greatly benefit from this.

Concerned Ninja Citizen posted:

Silent Attack is fine. Nice effect but at 3/day it's not even one of the more powerful feats out there.

Denied: It does specify that the effect is only negated "for you" which leaves out the godawful Ironheart Surge loophole stuff like turning off the sun.

On the other hand, the lack of duration or any sort of specifics on what kind of effect you can negate and when you can negate it (and the use of the word "negate" even modified by the "for you" clause) opens up a new set of stupid tricks like negating falling damage and claiming that the "effect" of gravity no longer applies to you.

I'd say the 1/day use limit means its only overpowered because it's so badly written. Used as it seems to have been intended it is only moderately more powerful than IHS or Wings of Cover and both of those can be used multiple times per day.

On the whole it's reasonable to call it overpowered.

Master of Magic Items: Yeah, I have no loving clue what this is supposed to do either. At first glance I assumed it let you auto pass UMD checks but it's so ambiguous it could mean absolutely anything (or nothing) at all. I'd call this one "broken" in the sense that it doesn't work.

On the book in general, I think you were being a bit lenient with some of those feats. They weren't just billed as "overpowered" but as "horrifically overpowered." Even some of the ones that are legitimately overpowered are only moderately so. For feats that were written as jokes, I expect more.

I also suspect the MMB community could write their own guide to overpowered feats that was actually worthy of the name and let non casters get in on the fun.

After about 5 minutes contemplation, here's a stab:

Adaptive Fighting Style [Fighter, Horrifically Overpowered]
Your martial genius is such that you can change your approach to combat to fit the battle at hand.
Prerequisite: Fighter Level 6
Benefit: Once per encounter as a swift action you may replace any number of your [fighter] feats with other [fighter] feats for which you qualify. This effect lasts until the end of the encounter at which point you lose the benefit of the new feats and regain your original feats.

Does it need a "you may not replace prerequisites" clause or would feats you no longer qualify for just stop working?

Is this even overpowered?

I'd like to thank all responsible parties for helping me come to a decision for the remaining feats! Until I finish reviewing the 2nd book, my avatar will be changed to the coolest Judge of all: Judge Dredd!

Concerned Ninja Citizen posted:

I also suspect the MMB community could write their own guide to overpowered feats that was actually worthy of the name and let non casters get in on the fun.

After about 5 minutes contemplation, here's a stab:

Adaptive Fighting Style [Fighter, Horrifically Overpowered]
Your martial genius is such that you can change your approach to combat to fit the battle at hand.
Prerequisite: Fighter Level 6
Benefit: Once per encounter as a swift action you may replace any number of your [fighter] feats with other [fighter] feats for which you qualify. This effect lasts until the end of the encounter at which point you lose the benefit of the new feats and regain your original feats.

Does it need a "you may not replace prerequisites" clause or would feats you no longer qualify for just stop working?

Is this even overpowered?

It is overpowered if you allow the use of Fighter Feats from splatbooks. Otherwise it's not, because PHB Fighter bonus feats are just not very exciting.

Also, in Pathfinder, there are no [Fighter] feats. They're [Combat] feats, which the Fighter selects as bonus feats. It's to cut down on unnecessary clutter, and allows other classes to have bonus [Combat] feats without saying "take Fighter feats as bonus feats."

Kaelik posted:

1) Those stat changing ones are actually even more overpowered than you think, because I think you missed the biggest exploit:

It says that if you take it at level 1, you get half the PB for your physical stats. It doesn't specify that it must be taken at level 1.

Solution: Take it at level 2 (Pathfinder gives a feat at level 2 right?) or 3, in any game that starts higher than level 1.

32 PB for your Wizard becomes 18 Con, 18 Dex, 8 Str/Int/Wis/Cha, and then at level 2 or 3, you suddenly have 18s in every loving stat except Str at the low cost of a few skill points. (Remember, Pathfinder doesn't give 4 times as much at level 1, so you really are just missing out on 5 or 10 skill points, depending on whether Pathfinder gives a feat at level 2).

2) Master of Magic Items is pretty much poo poo. I mean, yeah, it is really unclear what it is supposed to do, but what it actually does is let you use magic items you wouldn't be able to. So... who loving cares.

I mean, it doesn't let you use Staves at higher CL than minimum, so it is basically just worse than having ranks in UMD. It is functionally identical to a +19 UMD bonus for wands, and a slightly higher one for scrolls, who cares.

Point buy is slightly different in PF. You can pull off 2 18s with Epic Fantasy, but you'd need to reduce the 4th 8 to a 7. Feats are gained at 3rd level and every odd-numbered level thereafter.

If the game starts at level 1, you'd be a dead weight for the party because you can't cast spells. Otherwise the exploit works.

And now a review of the Second Book!

Owen Stephens Strikes Again! Libertad's Review of the Guide to More Horrifically Overpowered Feats!

Last time we left off, we found that Owen Stephens' last work had many Overpowered Feats, but even more of the feats were not overpowered at all! Normally I'd rule him as GUILTY, but the Book wasn't completely deceptive. Let's see how his next work fares!

Upon glancing at the cover, I'm noticing a theme. Once again we're graced with the image of an Asian woman in skin-tight clothing with slightly visible nipples; the oversized sword is a new addition. In front of her, at the bottom of the frame, is a white-haired bishonen with an eye-patch and a gun in his left hand and streams of fire emanating forth from his right. And the strange, alien-looking old woman on the left makes a trio.

Being no stranger to Grognards.txt, I've noticed that accusations of 'overpowered' and 'Anime/Asian' often go hand-in-hand together (particularly among AD&D players). I do not have any hard evidence to prove that Stephens associates the two together, but I didn't survive this long in the Edition Wars to smell a rat.

We covered the first three feats in the OP, but I didn't copy-paste them. Now that I know I can do so safely, here they are in all their glory!


Animated Leap
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You can make vast jumps, well beyond the range of normal mortals.
Prerequisites: Acrobatic, Run.
Benefit: You can move your entire movement in a round as one or more jumps without making Acrobatics checks. If you take an action that allows you to move farther than your normal movement rate (such as the run action), you may make this entire movement as a leap or series of leaps. Each leap must be straight, must end on a surface able to support you (though if you have Dandelion Tread, see below, that’s pretty much any surface), and takes you to an altitude equal to 1/3 of the distance jumped. The highest you can jump is equal to 50% of your normal movement rate. You must declare each leap in advance (indicating where you jump from and your planned destination), and cannot change your route if you discover an invisible wall of force in the way, or you suddenly expose yourself to fire from a column of archers with readied actions.

The verdict:Not overpowered. Seriously, what is up with people cringing in fear of people jumping far without spells? I mean, it's not like the Pathfinder designers tossed away Overland Flight! Two feat tax, all for some enhanced mobility.


Arcane Armor Lord
[Combat, Horrifically Overpowered]
You are too skilled at casting in armor to be hindered by the limited range of motion armor leaves you.
Prerequisites: Arcane Armor Training, Arcane armor Mastery, Medium Armor Proficiency, caster level 11th.
Benefit: You ignore arcane spell failure.

The verdict: Like I said before, Not Overpowered.


Backswing Attack
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
When your attacks bounce off a foe’s armor, you can use the momentum to backswing against another target.
Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +6.
Benefit: Three times per day, as a free action, when you make a weapon attack, unarmed attack, or natural weapon attack, and miss your target (but successfully hit the target’s touch AC), you may immediately reroll the attack as an attack against another target. This attack counts as the same attack for purposes of abilities that only work on a single attack roll, and the new target must be one you could have attacked instead of your original target.

The verdict: Not overpowered. Worse than Perfect Strike, and slightly worse than Great Cleave.


Brow Cut
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
You cut a foe’s brow causing blood from the wound to flow into its eyes.
Benefit: Once per round as a free action, when you hit and damage a foe with a slashing weapon, you cause the foe to be dazzled for one round, +1 round per 5 points of your base attack bonus. Any magic healing directed specifically at healing the wound bleeding into the target’s eyes ends this effect, though it does not also restore hit points.
Special: Characters with Improved Unarmed Strike and Improved Grapple may also take this feat, calling it Eye Gouge, and using it when they hit a foe with an unarmed attack.

The verdict: Look up the Dazzled Condition. Now tell me with a straight face that this is Horrifically Overpowered. Go ahead, make my day.


Channel Brightly
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You can channel energy of an impressive intensity.
Prerequisite: Ability to channel energy, Improved Channel, Selective Channeling.
Benefit: when you channel energy, you may simultaneously heal all creatures you can heal with the ability, and harm all creatures you could harm with the ability. For example, Xasha is a 16th level cleric that channels positive energy with Alignment Channel (evil), Channel Brightly, Improved Channel, and Selective Channeling. When she channel energy, she can heal living creatures and harm undead and evil outsiders (using the same channeling dice for both), or heal living creatures and evil outsiders and harm undead.

The verdict: Not overpowered from the sounds of it. Hell, it sounds nigh-useless unless you're using channeling surrounded by enemy and ally Outsiders of the same alignment!


Cohort Familiar
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You have forged a bond with a much more powerful familiar than the norm.
Prerequisites: Improved Familiar, Leadership, ability to acquire a familiar.
Benefit: Your cohort (from the Leadership feat) becomes your familiar. It’s alignment does not change, but it is devotedly loyal and obedient to you, regardless of any difference in alignment. Cohort familiars otherwise use the rules for regular familiars, with two exceptions: if the creature’s type is something other than animal, its type does not change; and cohort familiars do not gain the ability to speak with other creatures of their kind (although many of them already have the ability to communicate). Your Leadership score does not take a penalty from having a familiar if it is a cohort familiar.

The verdict: Overpowered. Deliver a touch spell through your Barbarian familiar, and give him Improved Evasion early!


Combat Assault
[Combat, Horrifically Overpowered]
You can increase your accuracy at the expense of your defense.
Prerequisite: Wis 13.
Benefit: You can choose to take a –1 penalty on your Armor Class to gain a +1 bonus on attack rolls and combat maneuver checks. When your base attack bonus reaches +4, and every +4 thereafter, the AC penalty increases by –1 and the attack bonus increases by +1. You can only choose to use this feat at the beginning of your turn, before moving or making any attacks. The effects of this feat last until the beginning of your next turn.

The verdict: I will not call it such here or there. I would not call it that anywhere. I will not do it while I eat, I will not compare it to Animated Leap, I will not call this a horrifically overpowered feat.


Combat Vigilance
[Combat, Horrifically Overpowered]
You never let your guard down.
Prerequisites: Alertness or Combat Casting.
Benefit: Once per round, as a free action, when you take an action that normally provokes an attack of opportunity, you may decide to not provoke an attack of opportunity.
Special: This feat may be taken more than once. Each additional time you take it, add one to the number of times you can stand from prone (or whatever) without having an orc stab you for it.

The verdict: Not overpowered. Perhaps it might be in single combat, and if the opponent does not have Combat Reflexes. Otherwise it's nice, but not stellar.


Concussive Attack
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
When you deal bludgeoning damage, you leave your foes reeling.
Benefit: Three times per day, as a swift action, when you make a weapon attack, unarmed attack, or natural weapon attack that deals bludgeoning damage, you may declare it to be a concussive attack. In addition to its normal damage, a concussive attack causes creatures that take damage from it to take a –2 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks for a number of rounds equal to 1, +1 per 5 points of your base attack bonus.

The verdict: Not overpowered. Isn't there like a bunch of ways to cause the shaken condition in opponents, which largely does the same thing? Could have some nice synergy with demoralizing opponents, though.

Part Two

It was a cold and dark rainy evening. I was recently called to investigate a disturbance in the Pathfinder District of Drive-Thru RPG. Place was full of interesting characters. Back in 2008, the mayor was making all sorts of lofty promises about how it would be a new 3rd City, that they would not repeat the mistakes of the past. But it never came to be; the neighborhood fell back into its old habits of spellcasters running wild and small-time publishers pushing broken, unplaytested products onto the streets.

Super Genius Games was one of the publisher gangs. To all outward appearances they came off as just another small fish joining an overcrowded pond, but they were gaining a lot of clout around town, too much for a group of their size and resources. Turns out they were getting marching orders from Owen "the Knife" Stephens, an associate of the notorious Paizo family. Prime32 cautioned against me pursuing them, called me a loose cannon like he always does, said to focus on the guppies instead of the sharks. But that's just not the kind of guy I am.


Dandelion Tread
[Horrifically Overpowered]
Your footsteps are so light you can stand on the slightest of structures, even a tiny flower.
Prerequisites: Dex 15, Acrobatic Steps, Nimble Moves.
Benefit: You may move through difficult terrain as if it was not difficult terrain. You have a climb speed equal to your ground movement, and you can climb (or stand on) structures regardless of their ability to support your weight. As long as some object reaches a point you wish to go, you can run and stand there – even if it’s standing on water, walking across the tops of blades of grass, or walking down the sail of a ship.

The verdict: Not Overpowered. Feat tax of 2 bad feats. Spider Climb's a 1st level spell. Water Walk is a 3rd level spell. Up the Walls is a psionic feat which requires nothing but a 13 Wisdom. Overland Flight still exists. It's such a shame that Stephens views this as a feat not meant to be, because it's clearly cool and cinematic.


Elemental Attack
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
When your attacks deal elemental damage, you can cause that damage to continue for 1 round.
Benefit: Four times per day as a swift action, when you make a weapon attack, unarmed attack, or natural weapon attack that deals acid, cold, electricity, fire, or sonic damage, you may declare it to be an elemental attack. If a creature is hit by an elemental attack, it takes acid, cold, electricity, fire, or sonic damage at the start of its next turn. This damage is equal to the acid, cold, electricity, fire, or sonic damage dealt by the elemental attack when it first hits.

The verdict: Not overpowered. The elemental damage of weapon enhancements are around 1d6-3d6 energy damage.

"ZOMG, 3d6 damage the next round on a successful hit?! Filthy weeaboo munchkin!"


Endless Cleave
[Combat, Horrifically Overpowered]
Your weapon attacks are made in wide, lethal arcs.
Prerequisites: Str 13, Cleave, Cleaving Finish, Great Cleave, Improved Cleaving Finish, Power Attack, base attack bonus +9.
Benefit: Whenever you make a melee attack against a foe within reach, if you hit, you deal damage normally and can make an additional attack (using the same attack bonus as the initial attack) against a foe that is adjacent to the first and also within reach. This is considered a use of the Cleave, Finishing Cleave, Great Cleave, or Improved Finishing Cleave feat. Each time you make an attack that is not instigated by a “cleave” feat, you cannot hit any given foe more than once with additional cleaving attacks. Additionally, you no longer take a –2 penalty to your Armor Class until your next turn when you cleave.

The verdict: Not overpowered. It's not actually endless; read the Pathfinder version of Cleave, now the Cleaving Finish feats. Now read the benefit description carefully: the foe must be adjacent to the enemy you just hit. And you cannot hit a foe more than once with cleave attacks if one of your attacks against him is not triggered by a 'cleave' feat.

Yeah, a definite case of false advertising. I expected an infinite combo, 4th Edition Orcus-Slayer style!


Escape Is Impossible!
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
You can latch onto a foe and be dragged wherever it goes.
Prerequisites: Str 13, Dex 13.
Benefit: Whenever you hit a foe with a weapon that is flexible over 2/3 or more of its length -- including the bladed scarf, cat-o’-nine-tails, dwarven chain-flail, flying blade, flying talon, harpoon (if a rope is attached), net, scorpion whip, spiked chain, snag net, whip, and various Asian weapons; but not flails or heavy flails – as a swift action you may make a grapple check. This does not provoke an attack of opportunity. If the grapple check is successful, the foe is not grappled, but you wrap enough of your weapon around some part of the foe that wherever it goes, you are dragged along. You maintain a distance based on the length of your weapon (adjacent to the target for most weapons, 10 feet away for reach weapons, and a variable distance based on how much slack you leave in the case of weapons with greater length such as harpoons with ropes attached).

You gain the grappled condition as long as you hold onto your weapon, and must use at least one hand to maintain your grip (the GM may make exceptions for weapons with enough slack to tie the weapon around your waist). You may disengage your weapon from the target at any time, ending the grappled condition on yourself and ceasing your automatic movement with the target creature. If you are within range of the creature you may attack it with attacks you could make while grappled. The target cannot free itself from your weapon, but it does have options to make you let go. If the creature is able to move through areas with multiple obstacles you might hit (such as a dragon flying through rocky crags, or a giant running through a forest), it can attempt to slam you against these painful protrusions as a free action if it takes at least a move action. A flying foe makes a fly check, while a running foe makes a CMB check. In both cases, you make an opposed Acrobatics check. If the foe’s check exceeds yours, you take damage equal to the difference between the two checks.

The target can also attack you freely, attempt to sunder the weapon, or take other appropriate countermeasures such as turning insubstantial.

The verdict: I'm sorry, but this feat strikes me on a personal level, and I'm afraid that my judgment will be tinged with emotion. But here goes.


Many years ago, before the dawn of Let's Plays and when the Gamecube was a current-gen console, I was DMing a Shackled City game. The volcano erupted, engulfing the PC's home city in flames. A flying dragon known as Hookface terrorized the fleeing citizens, menacingly circling about the grand cathedral of Wee Jas. The Barbarian diligently climbed the scaffolding, rope and harpoon in hand, pressed against the cover of the building and waiting for the perfect opportunity: he'd latch onto the dragon, climb up to him, and start wailing at his scaly flesh with his trusty greataxe.

The party Wizard flew up to meet Hookface and tossed a Maximized Disintegrate spell at him. The dragon failed the save, and crumbled into dust to the city streets below.

This was my moment of revelation, the first inkling that not all classes were equal, that D&D was far from a balanced game. I would never look at things the same way again.

This is a great feat! With a good readied action and a respectable grapple modifier, a melee character can close in on a downed flying opponent and actually contribute to the battle against aerial adversaries. Even then, the enemy can still slam him against stuff to damage him, and it requires multiple Acrobatics rolls to avoid this complication.

Scratch that, this shouldn't even be a feat, it's something I expect all mid-high level characters can do.

Also notice the bolded entry under 'benefit.' The overpowered/Asian connection is looking less and less like a coincidence the further I delve into this PDF.


Flaying Attack
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
When you deal slashing damage, you can painfully flay the flesh from your foes.
Benefit: Three times per day as a swift action, when you make a weapon attack, unarmed attack, or natural weapon attack that deals slashing damage, you may declare it to be a flaying attack. In addition to its normal damage, a flaying attack causes creatures that take damage from it to make a Fortitude save (DC 10 +1/2 your base attack bonus + your Str or Dex bonus) or be dazed for one round.

The verdict: Not overpowered. Isn't it funny how all the martial feats which inflict status conditions on attacked foes are "horrifically overpowered," regardless of said status effect? The dazed condition is one of the more powerful ones, but it's not like spellcasters lost their Save or Suck abilities. At most, a character can "lock down" a single foe provided he continues hitting and the opponent keeps failing the save.


[Horrifically Overpowered]
Your appearance is so intimidating, just cracking your knuckles frightens people.
Prerequisites: Cha 13, Dazzling Display.
Benefit: As a move action, you can make a display of your physique, pop your vertebrae by rolling your neck, or just put on your killing face. Make an Intimidate check to demoralize all foes within 60 feet who can see your display.

The verdict: Not overpowered. Feat Tax of 2 bad feats (Dazzling Display requires Weapon Focus) to do an AoE debuff. Unlike fear-based spells, it has unlimited uses, but a -2 on attacks, skills, and saves isn't as powerful as a lot of battlefield control spells.


Greater Alignment Channel
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You can channel energy to heal or harm all those of a specific ethos.
Prerequisite: Ability to channel energy, Alignment Channel, Improved Channel.
Benefit: When you choose to channel energy to affect an alignment you have selected with the Alignment channel feat, you may heal or harm all creatures of that alignment (rather than just outsiders). If you choose to heal or harm creatures of the chosen alignment, your channel energy has no effect on other creatures. The amount of damage healed or dealt and the DC to halve the damage is otherwise unchanged.
Special: You can gain this feat multiple times. Its effects do not stack. Each time you take this feat, it applies to a new alignment you have selected with the Alignment Channel feat. Whenever you channel energy, you must choose which type to effect.

The verdict: How is this overpowered? It's still a limited use for the Cleric, and it still tops out at 10d6 at 19th level. Congratulations, you can harm all creatures of Evil alignment with a Channel, or heal all creatures of Good alignment!


Imperial Spell
[Horrifically Overpowered, Metamagic]
Your magic can take command of the magic of others.
Benefit: You can cast a dispel magic, greater dispel magic, or disjunction spell as an Imperial Spell. When you use an imperial spell to counterspell a foe’s spell, you gain control of that spell. On the next round you may cast the spell you counterspelled without expending any spell slots of your own. You make all decisions regarding this spell (area, targets, and so on) and are considered the caster of the spell. If you do not cast the spell by the end of your next turn, it is lost.

An Imperial Spell takes a spell slot five levels higher than the spell’s actual level.

The verdict: Not overpowered. The funny part about this feat is that by RAW it can't be used with Greater Dispel or Disjunction. Even a normal Dispel Magic takes up an 8th-level slot with this feat, and Greater Dispelling is normally 5th or 6th level depending upon your class.


Mega-Magic Spell
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You know a few spells you have made horrifically overpowered.
Prerequisites: Two or more metamagic feats.
Benefit: Select one spell you can cast. Its level may not be higher than half the highest level spell you can cast. Select one or more metamagic feats you know. The total level adjustments of these metamagic feats cannot exceed the level of the spell you have selected. Whenever you cast the selected spell, you may choose to apply the selected metamagic feats without changing the spell’s level or casting time. You cannot also add other metamagic feats when you do this.

For example, Davor Runetusk is a 16th level half-orc wizard who knows fireball and has the Enlarge Spell and Maximize Spell feats. He takes Mega-Magic, and selects those two metamagic feats (with a total level adjustment of +4, half the level of the highest level spell he can cast – 8th), and fireball, allowing him to cast an Enlarged Maximized fireball as a 3rd level spell. If he decided to add another metamagic feat to the spell, he could not also apply the two feats he selected with Megamagic Spell for free (though he could add them with the normal increase in the fireball’s effective spell level).
Special: If your GM is crazy enough to let you take this feat once, there’s no reason not to let you take it multiple times. Its effects do not stack, though. Get real. Each time it is selected, it applies metamagic feats to a different spell known.

The verdict: Overpowered. Persistent Spell as we know it does not exist in Pathfinder, but this feat is still open to some horrific abuse.


[Horrifically Overpowered]
You can modify how your supernatural and spell-like abilities work.
Benefit: You can use metanatural points to apply metamagic feats you know (or have access to through a rod) to your spelllike and supernatural abilities. You have a number of metanatural points per day equal to 3 + your Int, Wis, or Cha bonus. For every spell level higher than a spell’s normal level a metamagic feat uses, it takes one metanatural point to apply it to a spelllike or supernatural ability. You cannot use more metanatural points for a single use of an ability than 1/3 your hit dice.

The verdict: Overpowered. It's really easy to get a lot of metanatural points for a caster, and you don't need to know the metamagic feats in order to use them (just have a rod handy).


Oversized Fighting
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You can swing a sword WAY too big for you.
Prerequisites: Str 19, Lunge, base attack bonus +6.
Benefit: You can use weapons one size too large for you without penalty, and those two sizes two large for you as if they were one size too large. Thus a Medium creature with this feat can use a Large longsword in one hand without penalty, or a Large two-handed sword in two hands, or a Huge longsword as a two-handed weapon with a -2 attack penalty.
Special: While you take no penalties from using oversized weapons, this feat cannot prevent you from looking ridiculous.

The verdict:

Wait a second, this is Monkey Grip. They think that Monkey Grip is Overpowered?!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 00:02 on Dec 15, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

StreamOfTheSky posted:

So, yeah, basically all the caster feats or feats more useful to them than mundanes are overpowered, and the mundane ones all suck. Shocking.

The hex feat is strictly better than Accursed Hex, which "only" gives you one re-try, only works if they save (sometimes, just being able to re-slumber someone that gets woken up before he dies is handy), and *must* be attempted the very next round or be forfeited. Since Accursed Hex is already a very strong / overpowered feat, I think one that is plainly better is thus overpowered, even if the differences aren't that wide.

No AoOs is hardly even close to the benefits that making spells Su brings. No components, can cast in grapples just fine, no SR, no concentration... Crazy broken.

StreamOfTheSky posted:

Libertad seems to have gone missing.

In unrelated news, there are reports of a series of bludgeoning attacks across the tri-state area by a crazed man with a cartoonishly over-sized plastic club, whom multiple sources have claimed was screaming “if I was just using Power Attack with a normal sized club, this would be FAR more dangerous!” Thus far, the victims have only been lightly wounded by these heinous attacks. The police are asking for anyone with information on this criminal to contact them.

*Shrug* Well, where ever he has gone off to, this trial must proceed, so I suppose I will fill in for him.


Penetrating Attack
[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
You can focus on an attack, making it more difficult for foes to ignore.
Benefit: Four times per day, as a swift action, when you make a weapon attack, unarmed attack, or natural weapon attack, you may declare it to be a penetrating attack. A penetrating attack ignores 10 points of hardness or DR on its target (even DR with no type).

The Verdict: “Penetrating Attack”? You need a feat for that? I guess this is where the “horrifically” part comes into play.

….Oh! The feat's not that at all, it's just a limited use no pre-req Greater Penetrating Strike! That's better, I guess.... Not overpowered.


Ready For Anything
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You can be ready for any possible event.
Prerequisites: Alertness, Improved Initiative
Benefit: When you take the ready action, you do not need to specify in advance what event you are readying for, or what action you will take when that event occurs. Once you take a ready action, you simply have a partial action you may use to pre-empt any one thing you can perceive that occurs.

The Verdict: Probably not overpowered. Casters with familiars will have the feats for this anyway, and it could be occasionally useful for them.


[Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-Attack]
You can ram a spear through one foe, lifting him off the ground, and still stab it into another target.
Prerequisites: Str 19, Dex 13,
Benefit: Once per round, as a swift action, you may make a grapple check against a foe you have hit with a piercing reach weapon that has a solid haft (not a flexible reach weapon). This does not provoke an attack of opportunity. If successful, you ram several feet of your weapon through the foe and take a free 5-foot step to move into the foe’s space.

You are not considered grappled, and you cannot pin the foe.

Whenever you successfully attack another target, the impaled target takes damage equal to your weapon’s base damage dice (not including any ability score modifiers, magic properties, feats, or maneuvers). As long as you make at least one attack per round with the weapon, the impaled foe cannot free itself
from this grapple until you are disarmed or forced to drop your weapon. If you do not make an attack, the creature may attempt to free itself by making a grapple check as a full-round action (crawling along the haft and dropping off the end). You may have impaled at one time, a single creature of your size category, or two creatures one size smaller, or up to four creatures two or more sizes smaller.

The Verdict: You must attack with a reach weapon, but as part of the feat you 5 ft step into the foe's space. The space you are 10 ft away from because you just attacked with a freaking reach weapon! Lolwut? Has a size restriction for maintaining the impale, but none to initiate it. Not overpowered, poorly worded, but drat cool.


Splash Spell
[Horrifically Overpowered, Metamagic]
Your single-target spell splashes onto a second, adjacent target.
Prerequisites: Int, Wis, or Cha 13, Magical Aptitude.
Benefit: When a splash spell targets only a single creature, and either hits that creature (if an attack roll is required)- or the creature fails its save (if a save is allowed), the spell can also target a creature adjacent to the first target that is an appropriate target of the spell and within the spell’s range. The second target is affected as if it was the target of the spell. Splash Spell has no effect on spells that affect more than one target, or do not either require an attack roll or allow a saving throw. A splash spell takes up a spell slot 0 levels higher than the spell’s normal level.

The Verdict: Tough call, but I'm going to lean towards overpowered. A no-cost variant of twin spell or split ray that only works on foes lined up like stupid British riflemen. And has a feat tax.

Halinn posted:


I agree with the verdict, but I also have to point out how their example doesn't even work (metamagics are based on the level of the selected spell, not potential spells) and at the same time shows that they have no idea what is good for casters (seriously, fireball at level 16?!)

Final Part

Evening, folks. Don't mind the blood on my clothes, it's mostly my own. I just needed to work out my frustrations, and am in good mind to continue the review as long as nobody mentions *that feat.*


[Horrifically Overpowered]
You can grab a foe by the throat, and lift him off his feet.
Prerequisites: Str 19, Dex 13, Improved Grapple, Improved Unarmed Strike.
Benefit: When you are grappling a single foe your size category or smaller, you may do so with only one arm and without gaining the grappled condition yourself. You cannot pin a foe you are grappling in this manner.

The verdict: Hooray, you can... have one arm free while grappling, and ignore the grappled condition. Wrong again Stephens, this ain't overpowered!


[Horrifically Overpowered]
When you have a foe by the throat, there’s not much they can do.
Prerequisites: Str 21, Dex 13, Improved Grapple, Improved Unarmed Strike.
Benefit: You know how we said back in Strong-Arm you couldn’t pin a foe you were grappling using that feat? Well, now you can. Plus, foes you grapple cannot speak or complete somatic spell components until they escape the grapple.

The verdict: Hey, you can pin now with one arm free! And can shut down enemy spellcasters! Nice, but not overpowered.


Ultimate Combat
[Combat, Horrifically Overpowered]
You are capable of delivering attacks against which there is no defense.
Prerequisite: Any Horrifically Overpowered feat, 4 or more levels in a class with a base attack bonus equal to its level.
Benefit: When you make an attack that misses, you may invoke Ultimate Combat as a free action. The attack hits. You may invoke Ultimate Combat a number of times per day equal to 1 + your Strength or Dex ability bonus (whichever is higher).

The verdict: Well, it would be overpowered at low levels, but there are things like True Strike which can boost up your attack bonus. Still not as good as Save or Suck spells, and it's limited uses per day. Not overpowered.


Ultimate Defense
[Combat, Horrifically Overpowered]
You are capable of avoiding attacks that have you dead-to-rights.
Prerequisites: Any Horrifically Overpowered feat, class feature that adds a bonus to your armor class (such as a monk’s AC bonus or a duelist’s canny defense).
Benefit: When you are hit by an attack roll, you may invoke Ultimate Defense as a free action. The attack misses you. You may invoke Ultimate Combat a number of times per day equal to 1 + your Int, Wis, or Cha ability bonus (whichever is highest).

The verdict: Just like Denied from the first book, it's overpowered. Far better than any miss chance/concealment stuff.


Ultimate Magic
[Horrifically Overpowered]
You can cast spells that bypass all a foe’s defenses.
Prerequisite: Any Horrifically Overpowered feat, 4 or more levels in a class with a spell list that includes 9th level spells.
Benefit: When you cast a spell that has a duration greater than 1 round and a saving throw that negates it, and it is negated by a saving throw, spell resistance, or use of a feat, you may invoke Ultimate Magic as a free action. The target it is still affected by the spell, but only for 1 round. You may invoke Ultimate Magic a number of times per day equal to 1 + your Int, Wis, or Cha bonus (whichever is highest). This has no effect on creatures that ignore the effect of your spell for other reasons (such as not qualifying as a target or having enough energy resistance to avoid damage).

The verdict: Save or Lose spells are even better! Overpowered.


Vorpal Critical
[Combat, Horrifically Overpowered]
Your critical hits behead things. Even jabberwocks.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, base attack bonus +19.
Benefit: When you score a critical hit with a slashing weapon, the weapon severs your opponent’s head (if it has one) from its body. Some creatures, such as many aberrations and all oozes, have no heads. Others, such as golems and undead creatures other than vampires, are not affected by the loss of their heads. Most other creatures, however, die when their heads are cut off. Alternatively, if you wish, you may slice off some other extremity when you score a critical hit.

Additionally, all your attacks count as vorpal damage for purposes of bypassing DR (normally only relevant if you are facing a jabberwock, but if your GM lets you take this feat, obviously all bets are off).

The verdict: Vorpal property on all slashing weapons at 19th level ain't too impressive, folks. Not overpowered.

It's over, it's finally over. Now I can rest...

Oh wait, there's one more thing.

The designers noticed that several feats could not work when used against each other. Like using Ultimate Defense to make an attack miss, only for the opponent to use Ultimate Combat. Well, to resolve this, both parties roll a 1d20 + their level. Whoever scores higher wins, and all witnesses who do not have a Horrifically Overpowered feat are shaken for 1 round due to the sheer awesomeness on display. And failed attempts with a limited-use feat do not count against the total, so you've got another shot at things.

I hope you all enjoyed this thread as much as it made me suffer. But who knows, I may get around to reviewing other Feat books from Super Genius Games, like the Guide to Feats of Battle.


This product presents numerous feats balanced for any character, but designed to make a few popular concepts easier to play from an early level. This product also introduces a few feats that draw on a character's resistance to magic and supernatural forces, focusing their efforts in ways that grant them benefits but require them to have no caster level. These "feats of battle" give characters who eschew magic altogether a reward for doing so without resorting to creating a whole new kind of magic under a new name.

Uh-oh, subtle dig at Tome of Battle...


Finally, among many players there is a perceived imbalance between high-level spellcasting characters, and high-level characters that lack any magic talent. While this point is debatable (and is debated hotly among many fans), it’s safe to say that for some play styles a lack of magic becomes a drawback at mid and high levels. Thus this product introduces a few feats that draw on a character’s resistance to magic and supernatural forces, focusing their efforts in ways that grant them benefits but require them to have no caster level. These “feats of battle” give characters who eschew magic altogether a reward for doing so without resorting to creating a whole new kind of magic under a new name.

Oh, so close but no cigar! Stephens realizes that this is a big problem in 3.X games, but he's weighing his words carefully to avoid upsetting the zealots who insist that "Pathfinder fixed everything!"

Tempting as it is, I don't know if I have it in me to buy this new Guide anytime soon. Someone else will have to pick up the torch if I don't.

Special Thanks: Streamofthesky for challening mistaken rulings and helping me through my darkest moments;

Sor0_Lost, Prime32, Kaelik, Concerned Ninja Citizen, ImperatorK, Bozwevial, and Halinn for giving their insight on the workings of these feats and comparing them to existing [non-overpowered] ones;

everybody who took the time to read this thread.

Wow, the 2nd Guide has an even worse track record than the 1st! 24 feats not overpowered, and only 6 overpowered!

Owen KC Stephens, we the court find you guilty of selling underpowered, average, and slightly good feats as Horrifically Overpowered to the gaming public. Your penalty: you must give up your title of "Wide-Girthed God of d20 Rules Crunch," which shall be taken by a worthier candidate if one shows up. Edit: Title has been already claimed by Agita of the Min-Max Boards.

Concerned Ninja Citizen posted:

There has got to be some kind of mysterious biological imperative that we are unfamiliar with that causes people to think Monkey Grip is broken. Seriously, people have been complaining about how overpowered that feat is (and more intelligent people have been telling them to stfu, go read power attack, and learn to math) since the drat thing was first printed.

Maybe it's the innate draw of the ability to wave an EVEN BIGGER phallic symbol than everyone else gets to wave...

Keldar posted:

It still boggles my mind that game designers can't see how broad the disparity of ability between casters and [Mooks] is and continue to widen it. Even when trying to do comedy! :twitch

I think that the comedy might be geared towards a certain kind of Pathfinder player: the fanbase has a lot of people who believe that the game fixed most of 3.X's problems regarding class balance, and fiercely argued against 19th level Fighters getting DR 10/- because it's "overpowered."

It's not meant to be our kind of humor.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 20:05 on Dec 14, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
Sorry for the delay, folks, my main computer broke down with a lot of my material on it (that'll teach me not to frequently backup!). I'm currently using an older, inferior computer for the time being, but I still managed to crank out another part of the review. Enjoy!

Dragonlance Campaign Setting Five Six: The Dragonlance Campaign

This chapter is dedicated to helping the DM bring out the unique themes of Dragonlance into their game, from variant rules to a timeline of Krynn's history to tips of story-building.

The Laws of Krynn

The first part talks about the 3 major laws of Krynn, each held by one of the moral alignments: "Good Redeems Its Own," where the champions of Good seek to redeeming and recall the lost, that everyone is potentially worthy of salvation, even the wicked. It also mentions that one of the dangers of being good is arrogance, and that such folk can potentially fall into darkness. This stands in contradiction, actually, with some setting material, as the Kingpriest of Istar was never evil-aligned, nor are the Silvanesti.

Second law, Evil Feeds on Itself." Chaotic Evil people care only for themselves, no loyalty or care for anyone else. They feed off of one another for selfish ambition. Lawful Evil people adhere to a hierarchal system where they believe that Nature rewards the strong who dominate the weak. They have strict laws which dictate how people ought to live, and those who break said laws must be punished to serve as an example to others. Lawful Evil feeds off of itself in a cyclical pattern of obedience and punishment.

The third law, "Both Good and Evil Must Exist in Contrast," that of Neutrality. Basically it is a combination of the common Neutrality interpretations: the belief that light and darkness together bring meaning to the universe and that both sides predominating can be bad. And those who examine all laws and causes carefully and tend to think of their own selves and friends and family first, but aren't wickedly selfish and mean.

Given that alignment is a thorny issue in and of itself, Dragonlance's morality system is subject to a lot of arguing and consternation. Especially regarding the Balance. How does having more evil in the world be an overall benefit? Or too much "Good" being a bad thing?

Well, remember what I said about the Silvanesti Elves, the Istaran Empire, and good's arrogance? Yeah, well turns out being of Good alignment in Dragonlance means that you can be one nasty SOB. It's implied that such examples of "Good" in the book series are that way because of this, and not in spite of this. Slavery, blatant racism, stereotypical religious zealotry? All done by both the forces of Good and Evil in Dragonlance at various points in time. In a weird way, Neurality's stance makes sense, but only by making "Good" no really good, if you get my drift.

Flavor and Tone

We get a broad brush of Dragonlance's themes here. Basically, epic fantasy. Dragons are not mere monsters who skulk in caves, but guide the fate of nations indirectly and choose sides in legendary battles. Most humanoids of Krynn have a sense of greatness beyond their own individual lives: the elves have a great legacy and must struggle with the loss of their homelands; the draconians are now a free people with their own nation, free to make their own destiny; the dwarves re-conciliate old traditions with a changing world beyond their mountain homes. And lastly, the PCs should become embroiled in the fate of nations and embroiled in the gods' affairs, especially at higher levels. A sense of grandness permeates Dragonlance and its people.

Fallen Nations & Ruined Cities

Weis and Hickman decided to work out much of the setting's history ahead of time before penning the first adventure, to give the campaign a "lived-in" sense and to make dungeon crawls a more exciting affair. Foreboding tombs of kings both great and terrible and the ruins of civilizations past are the dungeons of Dragonlance; in addition to monsters to defeat and treasure to acquire, the dungeon's history is written in its broken tablets and decaying homes. Shards of the past might hold great secrets to help propel adventurers in their quest. It advises to reveal information of the dungeon beyond just Knowledge checks, to show it in the tapestries in the boxed text, the legends written in the books of its library, and in its ancient relics.

Afterwards we get a list of known ruins of Ansalon. The more interesting ones include the corrupted Tower of High Sorcery of Palanthas (in the above picture), the Anvil of Time (home to a magical forge which simultaneously exists in all of Krynn's Ages), the underwater ruins of Istar's capital (home to many of its lost glories and now inhabited by sea elves), the magical fortress of Skullcap (home to the evil archwizard Fistandantalus which was partially consumed in a magical blast in the Dwarfgate Wars), and Xak Tsaroth (an old city of Istar present in the first Dragonlance adventure, from there the Heroes discovered the Disks of Mishakal and brought knowledge of the Gods back to the world).

Gods and their Champions

This section talks about how the Gods of Krynn keep a vested interest in the affairs of mortals. Their avatars take the disguises of simple folk, bringing indirect advice to people they believe can help further their interests. Still, the deities do not directly control mortals so much as influence them, by appealing to their better or baser natures. It advises that a god who takes an interest in the PC's affairs to be a rare, unique, and special event, but not to make it overt. Rather sprinkle clues in repeat visitations that the NPC might have more to them than meets the eye. A fighter guarding a pass might be Kiri-Jolith in disguise, challenging those who wish to pass to a non-lethal duel. PCs who react honorably and with grace might find themselves on the path of a Solamnic Knight.

Heroes of Mundane Origin

Most heroes in a Dragonlance campaign are not necessarily born and bred to the role. They often stem from humble origins only to find themselves thrust into some greater fate. They might start out as a blacksmith who must take up arms to defend his village from the Dragonarmies, or a traveling knight might embark to search for signs of the Gods with his childhood friends. They become legends through experience, often starting out with a simple and well-intentioned goal which is the further basis for heroism. That blacksmith might go on to learn the secrets of forging the Dragonlance for the forces of Good, and that knight's example in a climatic battle might bring honor back to his order.

Companions & Friends

The following section recommends that PC groups should be friends and know each other, both to create a shared group history and incentive to adventure together, and for character development. Even the best of friends may not get along, and the hard life of an epic quest can strain these bonds. Childhood friends know that they won't abandon each other in a forlorn dungeon, and a slight or wrong against the individual can earn the enmity of the entire group.

Unfortunately beyond these examples there is little information or advice on how one can practice collaborative character-building. It's often done in other RPG systems, but D&D is prone to having people design characters in a vacuum or by the roles of class. A sample selection of questions, like "how did PC 1 meet PC 2?" or "what secret did PC 2 share with PC 3?" would be a good way of doing this.

Secrets and Shadows of the Past

This section advises that DMs should hand out artifacts and magical items with a great history, especially if it ties into a PC's lineage. Not only does this add interesting dimensions to a character's backstory and ties them to the world of Krynn, it adds some spice to otherwise bland magic items. It suggests not making all of the item's powers known, instead having them be activated or accessed through study, completing a great trial, etc.

Campaign Crafting and Adventure Design

Below is a selection of advice for DMs running a Dragonlance Game:

Memorable Villains: When creating a villain, make sure that they have good reasons for doing what they're doing. Nobody decides one day to become evil, it is usually a series of events or upbringing which pushes them into it. Also, Lawful Evil villains are more interesting because they're orderly and efficient, and tend to be zealots with overarching visions. Chaotic Evil villains, by contrast, are simple, reckless, and stupid. This is the book speaking, not me. While this may sound biased, 3rd Edition's definition of Chaotic Evil isn't very kind, either, going the Stupid Evil route as well.

The section also recommends giving villains complex personalities and redeeming qualities, as well as a backstory which the PCs might be able to discover and solve over time. It also says that evil people don't necessarily see themselves as being evil (despite there being an Army of Darkness, Gods of Evil, and objective morality in Dragonlance): to an ogre, the elves slaughtering his people are evil. Some of history's greatest villains believed that their actions were of benefit to the world.

This is all rather detailed advice, and seems more fitting for a major villain than an antagonist for a single adventure. The advice for moral relativism ("I'm not really evil!") sort of doesn't gel well with the setting's themes, or what has been established. However, it can oddly work out if you play with some setting tropes, and the books themselves have delved into this. Lord Soth (the archetypical death knight) has expressed regret for his actions but does not have enough faith in himself to move past his own follies. The Dragonarmies killed many people and took over many nations, but the Empire brought order and cohesion to a fractured Ansalon plagued with instability and a loss of magic. The Kingpriest of Istar's alignment has been debated in both the setting and the Dragonlance fandom. I get the feeling that at times Dragonlance has tried to go for a simplistic black and white view while still trying to analyze why evil people act evil. It's been a mixed result at times, as you can tell.

Story Awards in a Dragonlance Campaign: Remember how in the Key of Destiny Adventure Path I made frequent mention to bonus experience points for good role-playing and acts of heroism? Well, this is where it comes from!

Story Awards is a new set of house rules and bonus avenues for experience point generation in Dragonlance campaigns. PCs can gain experience points for noncombat awards based upon the challenge type: simple, easy, average, formidable, and difficult. There are no hard and fast examples, only guidelines. An easy task might include a rogue climbing up a wall at night and avoiding sentries (doesn't sound easy to me!), while a difficult challenge might be convincing the Knights of Solamnia and Neraka to work together to fight the forces of a Dragon Overlord. A challenge type awards experience points equivalent to an encounter of a Challenge Rating from -2 (simple) to +2 (formidable) of the Average Party Level.

Mission goals are bonus experience in line with the aims of an individual PC or the party at large. They are separated into Personal and Party Goals, and those are separated into Minor and Major Goals. An exiled dwarf proving to the clan elders that he was falsely accused would be a major personal goal, while the discovery of a hidden mountain pathway into the Dragon Overlord's fortress would be a minor party goal. Experience generated depends upon the current amount of experience points generated during the adventure. A minor personal goal is equal to the current total experience divided by 8, major personal goals divided by 6, minor party goals divided by 4, and major personals divided by 2.

Finally we have Roleplaying Awards, where the DM hands out bonus experience points for when a player has a PC act in accordance with their established characterization but which does not result in a favorable outcome for the character. The experience awards earned are separated into mostly favorable (25 exp per level), unfavorable (50 exp per level), and extremely unfavorable (100 exp per level). This reminds me of the Hero Points rule from Mutants & Masterminds where a player gets a spendable token for when things don't go their way or they accomplish something in line with the character. Now handing out experience to get players to role-play is a very metagame concept, but in D&D it acts as a good incentive for them to do so. Since it's a good baseline for noncombat awards, I heartily recommend it.

Oh, and the experience awarded is for the whole party, so everyone benefits!

Next section details the languages of Ansalon. It's got the Common tongue, which is a trade language. The predominant human tongues are Abanasinian (spoken in the nation of the same name), Camptalk (mercenary slang), Ergot (Ergothians), Kalinese (Blood Sea Isles), Kharolian (Tarsis, Plains of Dust, Kharolis), Khur (Khur people), Nerakese (Nerakans), Nordmaarian (same nation), Saifhum (Saifhum island), and Solamnic (Solamnia). There is no giant language, instead being Ogre (and its long-dead High Ogre precursor), and Gnome is just Common but with highly-technical sciencespeak which might as well be a new language. Minotaurs speak Kothian, Kender Kenderspeak, Dwarves and Elves have the language of the same name, but Gully Dwarves have Gullytalk (a rapidly evolving language which takes words and dialect from all kinds of cultures) and the sea elves have their own languages (Dargonesti and Dimernesti). Dargoi is a generic trade tongue for underwater cultures, while Draconic is the only living language.

Also, all Wizards speak Magius, a spidery language which magical research notes and spellbooks are often written, and whose spoken form is used as verbal components for spells.

We get to Coinage, which mentions that gold fell out of use during the Age of Despair, where the loss of Istar and the Gods made the world a more savage and cruel place. Steel became the valued metal, and steel pieces the standard currency of Krynn. A steel piece is equivalent to one gold piece in other D&D settings, but copper pieces retain their base value. Gold pieces in Ansalson are worth 1/40th of a steel piece, silver 1/20th (why silver's more valuable than gold, I don't know. Lycanthropes, maybe). Platinum pieces are worth 5 steel pieces, and iron/bronze pieces are worth 1/2th a steel piece.

The River of Time

Our final section details the names of the hours, days, and months of Krynn, as well as a timeline of history.

Basically there are 24 hours in a day, 7 days to a week, 365 days to a year, and 12 months, just like our world. But they all have different names upon the racial and national cultures of Ansalon. The first month is known as Aelmont to Ergothians, Winter Night to the Elves, Snowfun to the Kender, and Famine to the Goblins. There is also a deity associated with each month.

Normally I'd post the tables from the core book, but seeing as how I had computer problems and lost my earlier material, I'll instead provide a link at the Dragonlance Nexus.

Also, the hours of the day were developed by the city watch of Palanthas, based upon their watches. Midnight is Darkwatch, 6 AM is Morning Watch, 12 PM (lunchtime) is High Watch, etc.

Dragonlance has a large timeline of Five Ages; instead of listing each event, I'll do an abbreviation of the major events here:

The world's history is divided into Five Ages by scholars. The Age of Starbirth was before the rise of civilization, beginning with a conclave of primordial entities known as deities working together to create the world of Krynn. During this era the spirits are given physical forms, creating the first dragons, elves, ogres, and humans. The Gods of Light grant them the ability to enjoy life's pleasures, the Gods of Darkness ambition and desire, and the Gods of Balance free will.

The Age of Dreams details the beginning of recorded mortal history, and sees the rise of the earliest civilizations. Lots of stuff happens in this era. Ogres, elves, and humans founded the first civilizations; the Graygem of Gargath (housing Chaos' essence) is cracked and unleashes wild magic into the world, resulting in the creation of many new monsters and races; elves war with dragons in the First and Second Dragon Wars, and the first mages use their magic against the serpents. The horrific loss of life from unrestrained magic leads to them forming the Order of High Sorcery, to act as a stewardship and regulator of those gifted with arcane magic to ensure Ansalon's safety. Takhisis attempts to conquer the continent with an army of dragons during the Third Dragon War, but is banished from Krynn by the legendary knight Huma Dragonbane and the silver dragon Heart.

The Age of Might sees the rise of the human nation of Istar, protected by the clerics of Paladine during the Third Dragon War. The elven nations impose an isolationist policy, while the dwarves forge underground kingdoms and war with the ogres. Istar becomes a theocracy and Ansalon's major power. In the Kingpriests' zeal to wipe out Evil, the church enacts increasingly oppressive measures, from enslaving "evil" races to outlawing arcane magic and worship of the Gods of Balance, and even managing an order of mind-reading inquisitors to punish those thinking evil thoughts. The Gods of Light become increasingly disgusted with this state of affairs, withdrawing their divine aid and spells, but they do not change. Eventually the Kingpriest views the Gods themselves as tolerating evil and sets forth on a magical ritual to ascend to godhood himself. Paladine sends thirteen prophetic warnings to the people of Istar, all of which are mistaken as the work of Evil. Istar's crimes are punished when the Gods of Light send a meteor down upon their capital city. Landmasses are torn asunder, freak weather spreads across the continent, innumerable lives are lost, and all the Gods withdraw their affairs from the world. This horrific tragedy becomes known as the Cataclysm.

The effects of the Cataclysm are felt for nearly four centuries in an era known as the Age of Despair. The Empire fractures into independent nation-states, plague and famine is endemic, governments and infrastructures disintegrate, banditry is rampant, and starvation among the dwarven nations leads to the Dwarfgate War as a significant portion of the above-ground population is denied entry into the nation, as food supplies are low. These exiled dwarves are now known as the Neidar (Nearest), or hill dwarves.

Takhisis brings the sunken temple of Istar to the surface and uses its Foundation Stone as a divine conduit to the world. As it is not whole, she cannot manifest on Krynn. She is the first deity to bring divine magic to mortals in this era, and her forces bring law and order to significant sections of eastern Ansalon under the banner of the Dragon Empire. Supplemented by magic, monsters, and dragons, they become an international power and set about conquering the rest of the continent. This event, which comes to be known as the War of the Lance, is part of the original Dragonlance Chronicles. The Heroes of the Lance bring knowledge of the Gods of Light and Balance back to Krynn and discover the secrets to forging the mighty Dragonlances. Eventually the Heroes lead an army against the Empire, kill Emperor Ariakas, and prevent Takhisis' summoning into the world.

The Empire dissolves, but the Blue Dragonarmy manages to hold onto a significant portion of territory. Ariakas' son creates an order known as the Knights of Takhisis and begin conquering much of Ansalon. The Irda ogres break open the Graygem of Gargath in desperation, unleashing Chaos into the world. Forces of good and evil alike are destroyed the primordial gods' spawned minions, and they unite against the monsters in an event known as the Chaos War. Eventually Chaos is banished from Krynn, and Takhisis moves the Material Plane away amid the confusion. Now she is the only deity with a connection to Krynn, beginning the Age of Mortals.

The Age of Mortals sees the absence of divine and arcane spellcasting, now that the Gods are gone. New forms of magic are discovered after Chaos' release, which draw upon one's inner power. They are primal sorcery and mysticism, respectively. No longer are mortals dependent upon deities for magic. Five titanic dragons from a neighboring plane enter Krynn and begin conquering significant sections of it. Takhisis takes the form of the One God and instills her power in a mortal named Mina, who joins the Dark Knights as a cleric and leads their forces against the Dragon Overlords and kills two of them with the aid of divine magic and a dragonlance. Raistlin Majere uses a time-traveling device to form a link to Krynn and help the Gods return. They strip Takhisis of her divinity, making her mortal, but so too to Paladine to keep the Balance. Takhisis attempts to kill Mina in anger but is killed by an elf in love with Mina. Mina takes the goddess' corpse in her arms and leaves, swearing vengeance upon the elven race. Clerical and wizardly magic return to the world (although primal sorcery and mysticism still remain), and only two Dragon Overlords yet live.

Yeah, it's a repost from my Dragonlance 101 section from Key of Destiny, but it's a good and useful one.

Thoughts so far: This section of the book is more a series of generic information of varying quality and miscellaneous stuff which doesn't fit into the other chapters. Still, it's Story Awards system is top-notch, one surprisingly absent from many other D20 products during and after its time. It's really the only "non-combat experience" house rule I've seen which isn't entirely ad hoc by DM Fiat.

Next time, Chapter 7, Creatures of Ansalon!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 06:35 on Dec 17, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragonlance Campaign Setting Part 7: Creatures of Ansalon

This details the new monsters of the setting. Before we get into that, we have a list of creatures not suitable/native to Ansalon: driders, drow elves, halflings, lycanthropes (those three moons will drive'em crazy!), mind flayers, orcs and half-orcs, and titans. Otherwise the Monster Manual creatures can be used pretty freely.

Our first entry's the Death Knight. Lord Soth serves as the most famous example of their kind. Basically, death knights were once champions of a god, usually one of the Gods of Light, before committing some horrible crime and being transformed into an undead warrior by the evil deities. Only a few death knights have existed in Krynn's history, with most being Knights of Solamnia.

Mechanics-wise, a Death Knight is a template which makes you undead, grants a negative energy touch attack, an Abyssal Blast (a ranged area of effect fire attack), can transform dead humanoids into skeletal warriors (new monster template), access to spell-like abilities related to pain and offense, spell resistance and the ability to see invisible creatures, and can summon undead mount and a legion of undead followers.

This template's a pretty good power boost: you get minions, a ranged attack, undead benefits, and an assortment of magical attacks. It grants a +3 to +5 CR (depending on Hit Dice) and a +5 Level Adjustment.

Next up we have the Draconians!

As a race, draconians of all varieties are of the Dragon type, are immune to all diseases, gain +1 morale bonus on saves/attacks/skills when serving under a chromatic dragon leader, have Spell Resistance which scales with Hit Dice (the higher CR ones have better values), and can survive on 1/10th the food and water of a regular human. All but the Aurak have wings which can grant limited flight in the form of gliding. All of them also have their own death throes.

Aurak Draconians are created from Gold Dragon eggs, and are superb arcane spellcasters (they make for natural sorcerers). An aurak isn't very impressive physically, but they can fire energy rays (supernatural abilities which can be used infinitely) as ranged touch attacks, cast spells as 8th-level sorcerers, and 3 times per day each can cast disguise self, dimension door, or polymorph (small or medium animal only) as spell-like abilities. They can also use greater invisibility at will. Their breath weapon is a cone of noxious gas which saps strength, and their death throes are an explosion of magical energy. They're Challenge Rating 9, and quite suited to infiltration and stealth roles (mechanics-wise, the fluff text doesn't veer this way).



We also have stat blocks for Baaz and Kapak with no class levels, but there's nothing I haven't already covered in their racial entries way back in Chapter 1.

Bozak Draconians are created from bronze dragon eggs. They traditionally served as spellcasting officers in the Dragonarmies, naturally coming to primal sorcery. They are devoutly religious, serving Takhisis when she was still alive, and pursue divine spellcasting as well. Mechanics-wise they don't have much other than a big natural armor bonus (+8) and the ability to cast spells as a 4th-level sorcerer. Their death throes involve their body's skin crumbling to dust, revealing their bones which shortly explode. They are Challenge Rating 5, but their stats are pretty weak for this level of power.

Sivak Draconians are the largest of the Draconians, clocking in at 8 1/2 to 9 feet tall. They served as infiltrators in the Dragonarmies due to their natural shapeshifting ability, and their natural strength and size made them excellent shock troopers in battle, and were naturally the leaders of draconian military units without aurak officers. Mechanics-wise Sivak are the only ones with true flight (60 feet poor maneuverability), have a tail attack which can trip opponents. A male sivak can assume the form of a large or smaller humanoid that it has just killed and can remain in the form indefinitely (but if they switch back they cannot assume that form again), while the females have natural camouflage (granting +10 on Hide checks). In the case of death throes, a male sivak's corpse takes the form of his killer before decomposing into black soot after 3 days (if the killer isn't humanoid then it bursts into flames). A female sivak's death throes just burst into flames.

The Sivak is Challenge Rating 6, and it's not really as strong as other creatures its size (Strength 16), but its natural flight is a nice addition. It can't hit as hard as a hill giant, and its melee attacks are rather weak. As far as draconians go only the aurak is really a match for its Challenge Rating.

There's no art for the Dragonspawn, sadly. These creatures are humanoids who've been warped into dragon-like monstrosities by the Dragon Overlords by infusing them with the mind and soul of a draconian. Regardless of the draconian used, dragonspawn take on the physical traits of their Overlord, such as colored scales, reptilian eyes, and other alterations. Mechanics-wise it is a template which can be added to a humanoid, monstrous humanoid, or giant from small to large size. They gain a fly speed, natural weapons (bite and claws), a breath weapon in line with its Overlord creator, and unique death throes which are explosions which deal the same type of energy damage. All of them can also cast spells as 1st-level sorcerers, which stack with existing sorcerer levels. They also gain widely varying bonuses to their ability scores depending upon the Overlord (white dragonspawn gain a piddly +2 Strength and Constitution, while the mighty Reds gain +8 Strength, +6 Constitution, +4 Charisma, and +2 everything else). It grants +1 to +3 Challenge Rating based upon the Overlord (from weakest to strongest type of dragon).

Overall Dragonspawn is a powerful template to add: flight, minor spellcasting, a breath weapon, and potentially big bonuses to ability scores is a nice package for most monsters.

Fetches are evil outsiders from the Abyss which can only enter Krynn via reflective surfaces such as mirrors and ponds. In their natural forms they are black shadows which are nevertheless solid, and their very touch can drain energy (touch attack which deals 1d4 damage and 2 negative levels). They are also invisible and can only be seen by their intended victim (they usually hunt specific targets), and even then only in a reflective surface. They can also create more of their kind if they kill someone with their energy drain and take its corpse back to the Abyss. They can also create two-way portals between the planes in reflective surfaces (functions as a gate spell) which they can see and hear through. They are Challenge Rating 6 and do not have much going for them aside from their special qualities.

Fireshadows are also Abyssal denizens, except that they're undead and usually summoned into the Material Plane by evil spellcasters. They can take a variety of forms, but are always at least 30 feet tall and surrounded by green fire. Their mundane combat capabilities aren't very impressive (AC 20, natural attacks +9 to hit on average), but they are surrounded by a 10 foot radius of burning green flame which extends to their natural attacks, and deals fire damage and constitution damage every round as the flames slowly consume them (halted by holy water or a cure spell). A fireshadow can also shoot out an invisible Ray of Oblivion every 1d4 rounds which deals a massive amount of damage (13d6) and disintegrates creatures reduced to 0 hit points by it. Fireshadows also take damage in sunlight and have their actions slowed. It's Challenge Rating 10. The creature's rather underwhelming for its CR, with a small assortment of offensive capabilities going for it.

We also have a 1st-level Minotaur warrior statblock, which tells a little more of their society: most of them compete annually in the great Circus to prove their worth, their society is gender-egalitarian, a few rebellious ones worship Kiri-Jolith, and they enjoy art and leisurely activities once in a while.

A shadowperson is a member of a reclusive race of underground folk in small, self-contained communities. They are mostly good-aligned and their kinds' existence is almost unknown by the other civilizations of Krynn (and they'd prefer to keep it that way). Their society is very communal, with the entire clan taking care of the young. They have two social roles for adults who came of age: the warrior caste or the counselor caste (spiritual advisors) depending upon their capabilities. Each clans' cave is located near vents with fresh water and air (and lave to dispose of refuse).

Mechanics-wise they are monstrous humanoids supernatural insight (+6 insight bonus to armor class, telepathy, constant detect thoughts, blindsense 30 feet) and can perform an hour-long ritual known as the mindweave which allows them to fight in perfect unison (+1 on attacks/saves/skills). They also have membrane between their limbs which grants limited flight, and wield shadowstaves as martial weapons (curved weapons which can hook into an opponents' flesh and deal continual weapon damage). Additionally, shadowpeople communities are led by disembodied entities known as the Revered Ancient One (one for each community), which is a disembodied entity which can cast cure serious wounds, greater teleport, legend lore, wall of force, and detect thoughts at will.

Shadowpeople are Challenge Rating 3.

These are my one of my favorite entries, if only because they're so unorthodox for Dungeons & Dragons. Good-aligned monstrous humanoids with telepathy-enhanced fighting abilities? Count me in!

Skeletal Warriors are dangerous combatants forced to continue fighting after death. They are created by death knights who house the undead's souls in a golden circlet to command them to do their bidding. Mechanics-wise they have a lot of the typical skeleton traits, but are proficient with all martial weapons, have a negative energy touch attack, spell resistance (13 + character level), and are not mindless (retain mental ability scores). They add +1 CR to the existing creature. A pretty nice undead minion, too bad only death knights can make them.

A Spectral Minion is the soul of an intelligent humanoid who died before they could fulfill an important vow and are bound to complete their duties even in death. They appear as they did in life, only more transparent, and possess all of their memories from their living days. However, the desire to fulfill their oaths dominates their mind, being the only thing preventing them from moving on in the River of Souls. Mechanics-wise they are incorporeal undead template, an incorporeal version of any weapons they possessed at the end of their life, spell resistance (12 + character level) and immunity to turn and rebuke undead. They lose any ability to cast spells or spell-like abilities if they had those qualities in life, and cannot attack unless they have an incorporeal weapon. They gain a +1 to their Challenge Rating, which doesn't make sense; if anything they lose far more in terms of combat potential and gain relatively little. They're also one of the few undead who can be of non-evil alignment.

Tarmak are humans from a continent far to the east. They were recruited by the Knights of Neraka during the early 5th Age to help them conquer Ansalon. Tarmak have a complex, gutteral language and spellcasters among their number are unknown. In battle they decorate their skin in war paint which grants +5 natural armor and Fast Healing 5 (stops working once it's absorbed 20 points of damage). The war paint is alchemical and completely non-magical in nature (not sold, but has an effective cost of 500 gp and DC 25 Craft check to create). The text also makes mention of a tarmak leader stat block of a 5th-level barbarian, but it's mysteriously absent (editing error, I bet).

Rounding out our monster chapter are the Thanoi. A race of walrus people native to the far south of Ansalon, thanoi live a subsistence lifestyle and frequently war with each other and the Ice Folk. Ones with class levels are almost always barbarians, but a rare few females become kagogs (medicine givers) and have levels in Cleric or Mystic. Mechanics-wise they are monstrous humanoids who can swim (40 feet) and hold their breaths for a long time (30 minutes before making Constitution checks for drowning), have the Cold subtype, and are pretty heavy hitters with melee weapons (+7 with greatclub, 1d10+3 damage). They are Challenge Rating 2.

Thoughts so far: More than a few of the monsters' Challenge Ratings are a little off, but overall I liked the assortment of new monsters for Krynn. The draconians in particular are pretty cool, and the Death Knight template is perfect for a major NPC villain.

Next time, Chapter 8: Dragons of Krynn! That's right, dragons are so special that they get their own chapter!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Pollyanna posted:

I'm not really into TRPGs, and all of my knowledge I've more or less picked up from Notable Gaming Experiences, but between how many of the magic feats are OP and poo poo like that Monkey Grip thing, I can't help but notice that this book has a heavy bias in favor of Casters. Seriously, work out what % of Not Overpowered is relevant to Casters and what % of Overpowered is relevant to Casters, and compare them.

Over the years I feel that a significant portion of the Pathfinder fanbase really does desire spellcasters to be better, and yet are dishonest about it by insisting that everything's equal and placing the blame on players of fighters "for not being imaginative enough." At least old school gamers are honest that their edition's spellcasters are the most powerful classes at higher levels, but it's the kind of game that they enjoy.

And then of course there's the whole "if it's not explicitly magic, it can't be good!" which permeates throughout caster supremacy, but that would be in direct opposition to the stated claims of 3.X being balanced, therefore the cognitive dissonance amongst the 3.X sub-section.

To use a political allegory, Pathfinder Caster Supremacy advocates are like laissez-faire capitalists who pursue goals which keep the rich richer and the poor poorer, insisting that inequality cannot be result of those in power and blame other factors (such as "poor people being lazy"). And the ones in power are the spellcasters, and the poor people are the martials.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 07:39 on Dec 21, 2013


Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragonlance Campaign Setting Part 8: Dragons of Krynn

Dragons are the oldest and grandest children of Krynn, formed during the Age of Starbirth from the world's elemental forces. Strongly aligned with either Good or Evil, as a race they have a history of meddling in the affairs of Krynn's people.

Chromatic Dragons

The chromatic dragons were once metallic (I can't find information on their original metals) and good-aligned children of Paladine, but Takhisis' corruption changed them. Throughout the Five Ages they've fought for Takhisis, who favored them higher than any other servants. As a whole they've often fought together in the three Dragon Wars and the War of the Lance.

Black Dragons are socially isolated misanthropes who distrust everyone else who's not a black dragon. They prefer to live and fight in the swamps, for it provides plenty of concealment and is difficult to maneuver in for most creatures. They are not very fond of Takhisis, traditionally only serving her for fear of disobeying her, and even she did not really trust them. During the War of the Lance they were assigned roles which required little social interaction, such as guarding artifacts.

Blue Dragons are much more sociable than black dragons, and get along relatively well with humanoids who can prove their worth to them. They proudly served Takhisis throughout the ages, and even mourned the loss of dragonriders they bonded with in battle. However, to earn a blue dragon's respect is no mean feat, requiring tactical acumen and fearlessness. They adapt well to military life, and are very loyal to their mates, even going so far as to dedicate their lives to avenging the death of their mate's slayer.

Green Dragons are incredibly arrogant who traditionally live in forests and don't work for others unless they can benefit materially from the arrangement. They prefer toying with their enemies, hoping to keep them alive to torture later, and have no compunctions with retreating as soon as the tide turns against them. They claim to be Takhisis' favorites and shower her with false praise, but in private they hate her (it's not explained why).

Red Dragons are the most feared dragons (and creatures) of Krynn. Their physical strength stands above all other dragons except the Gold, and they're skilled in magic. Their fire breaths can easily spread and lay waste to entire cities, and they have a fine grasp of military tactics. They are zealous followers of Takhisis and gladly cooperated with the Dragonarmies during the War of the Lance in spite of their otherwise solitary natures. They can also take humanoid form, and as such they have the greatest understanding of humanoids, being able to move among them unseen.

White Dragons are the most rare and reclusive of the chromatic dragons, sticking to the Icewall region of southern Ansalon. They have almost no interest in world affairs and are very anti-social, making them of limited use in military campaigns. During the War of the Lance the extent of their roles were as scouts and to guard the Icewall region against attack. Additionally, they hate the sunlight, and being exposed to it and warm temperatures over a prolonged period causes them to sicken and die (this is not reflected in game statistics, just flavor text).

Metallic Dragons

The good-aligned dragons revere the deities of Good and traditionally helped maintain the balance by preventing Evil from ruling the world. When Huma drove Takhisis from the world during the Third Dragon War, Paladine ordered the metallic dragons to depart the continent of Ansalon to maintain the balance. They fell into a long sleep on the Dragon Isles, and during the Age of Despair Takhisis' agents stole their eggs. Around this time the dragons woke up to discover them missing, and Takhisis promised that their children would come to no harm if they took no part in the coming war of Ansalon. They had no choice but to agree. However, some dragons could not abide as the Dark Queen's armies tore Ansalon apart in the War of the Lance, and Silvara helped bring back knowledge of the fabled dragonlances back into the world, and helped the Heroes of the Lance discover the true fate of the good dragon eggs. Upon hearing that their children were being warped into draconian soldiers, they entered the war with a vengeance and allied with the Whitestone forces against the Dragon Empire.

Brass Dragons love nothing better than to hear themselves talk, and can carry on conversations for hours on all manner of subjects. They'd almost rather talk than eat, and even pursue this habit into combat. They are fluent in most languages and reward those who teach them new ones. They do not revere any of the deities, and aren't very good at listening to others or taking orders. They live in the same general terrain as blue dragons (desert), and the two are mortal enemies.

Bronze Dragons take in active interest in the affairs of humanoids and often integrate into their societies by taking the form of domestic pets. They go out of their way to avoid harming and killing animals and often confound the efforts of hunters, poachers, and butchers to trap and kill the animals. Oddly, they have an extreme interest in warfare and battle, studying military history of ancient battles and modern drilling instructions. They served admirably on the side of Good in the War of the Lance and earlier Dragon Wars, eagerly carrying dragonriders into battle and obeying orders from trusted humanoid commanders (and giving advice to military strategists as well).

Copper Dragons are overall good-natured, but have the tendency to be collect and hoard wealth. They often approach situations or offers of help by asking what's in it for them, or by demanding financial compensation to those they help even when it was not asked for.

Personally this sounds less good-natured and more selfish to me. They do not participate in evil deeds, though, no matter how much wealth is to be gained. Copper dragons are fond of jokes, pranks, and tricks which they eagerly play on travelers, and grow annoyed when people don't find their antics amusing.

Gold Dragons are the most intelligent, powerful, and magically-inclined of all dragons. They are defenders of justice and fight for those unable to defend themselves. They only kill when there is no other option available, using restraint in all their actions. They can change into humanoid form, but rarely do so due to the form's relative fragility. They make their lairs anywhere and in any climate, and have been known to re-appropriate humanoid castles and fortresses once home to evildoers (which they either killed or drove off). They eagerly help people seeking their aid if the cause is just, but often use divination magic to ensure that people don't try to trick them.

With their doing good deeds for free and a code against killing except in the direst of circumstances, they're pretty much the Supermen of dragons.

Silver Dragons are the most beloved and accessible of all the dragons on Krynn. They are fond of taking humanoid forms, particularly of humans and elves. Sometimes they even live among humanoid communities for years, even falling in love with them. They are not aggressive, but are willing to fight for just causes and get along well with dragonriders and the Knights of Solamnia, as the legend of Human and his silver dragon ally is well-known to both peoples. When it comes to battle, they prefer hiding in the clouds, then swooping down upon unaware opponents.

We also get a brief description of Dragon Overlords, who are basically titanic great wyrm dragons from an unknown plane. They are capable of building skull totems fashioned from the bones of other dragons, which they use to absorb their power and gain virtual age categories and Hit Dice. Dragon Overlords are capable of (and have) grown to hundreds of feet in length, looking like titanic beefed-up monsters of a dragon.

Aerial Combat

The second half of this chapter is devoted to aerial combat. Dragonlance is famous for this, and any campaign in it which doesn't involve the PCs riding into battle on dragonback are doing it wrong. Basically it's a sub-system of new rules to handle the complications of flying combat. Basically it's only used when the fly speed of opponents is fast enough (more than 60 feet) and most of the opponents in the combat are flying in an open-air space. Otherwise one uses normal scale.

In aerial combat, there is a normal scale (mentioned above) and chase scale, where one square equals 30 feet instead of 5 feet. To determine how many squares a creature can move in this square, divided its speed by 30 (round down). So a fly speed of 60 is 2 squares, 100 feet is 3 squares, etc.

Flying creatures who take off from the ground determine they altitude they gain in the round by a Jump check modified by their fly speed (basically +4 for every 10 feet of speed), and the creature is not penalized if they do not have a running start. The altitude at take-off is based upon their size category and and result of the check. They also must make a move action when landing, otherwise they crash-land and suffer some falling damage.

Additionally, most creatures (ones without perfect maneuverability) have their heads facing in the direction that they're flying, meaning that squares directly behind it are its "blind spot" and enemies don't provoke attacks of opportunity when moving through these squares. Mounted riders are exempt from this and can attack them normally.

Also, the faster one flies in a round the harder it is to perform some actions (hovering, landing safely, turning). A creature moving at half to normal speed can only perform a standard action, while flying double allows for only charge and dive attacks (as they're techincally running and doing a full-round action). Not that different than ground speed, honestly.

Creatures without good or perfect maneuverability must move at least half their fly speed in a round while in mid-air, or they enter into freefall. During a freefall, one descends at a rate of 600 feet per round.

There are also maneuvers a flying creature can take, which are free actions performed as part of a move action. A creature is limited by how many maneuvers it can perform per turn (a physical act of turning around in flight, which can take some time) based upon its speed. Maneuvers are different than a creature's maneuverability rating (clumsy, poor, average, etc), and the two do not interact. This is just to clear up confusion.

Maneuvers are simple and advanced. Advanced maneuvers count as 2 maneuvers used. Simple maneuvers include 45 degree turns, diving, "climbing" higher into the air, and performing a slide-slip maneuver where they dodge to the side without turning around completely. Advanced maneuvers include stuff like ramming into enemies, really tight turns, recover out of a freefall, performing a sudden stop (airbrake), and similar stuff. Advanced maneuvers require a Dexterity check by the creature, or they can substitute a mounted character's Ride check in their place (a good incentive for humanoid riders if I've seen any).

We also have an abstract "altitude" system which determines the effective range for attacks when aerial and ground-bound opponents fight each other. Altitudes range from 0 to 6. 0 is where you're practically on top of each other and can do melee. 1 is very low, where all spells, melee, thrown and ranged weapons are effective. 2 eliminates the use of melee and thrown weapons and short-range spells, 3 elimates cone-shaped breath weapons, 4 eliminates medium-ranged spells and all breath weapons, 5 eliminates all but long-range spells, and at 6 no attacks are possible. A rather good abstraction to use for on-the-fly stuff, but it's at odds with 3.X's reliance on battle grids and range increments.

Next section goes over existing PHB rules about aerial combat, while the final section details collision damage when flying creatures ram into each other or solid objects. Basically the damage die type is determined by the collider's speed (or the higher of the two), and the size category of the smallest creature or object. Ones smaller than Tiny deal no damage at all. For example, a Huge brass dragon flying at 120 feet (d8 die) ramming into a stationary Large Red Dragon (8 die) deals 8d8 damage to itself and the red dragon. The struck creature immediately enters freefall, so it can be a good way of dealing potentially a lot of falling damage if you're willing to take a few lumps yourself.

Thoughts so far: I like the write-ups on the dragon types. I feel that they are a little too similar in parts to the Monster Manual entries, but I enjoyed the explanations of how dragonkind performed in warfare historically. As for the Aerial Combat rules, I feel that they can be too much for an already-complicated game system, and I can see more than a few groups avoid taking to the skies to speed the game up. But the maneuvers and chase scale can be useful for open-air combat, and it is thematic to the Dragonlance experience.

Next time, Chapter 9: Other Eras of Play!

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