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Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

With the resurgence of White Wolf reviewing, I'm sort of hoping someone gets to the recently released Werewolf 20th Edition: Rage Across the World. It apparently tries to cover such topics as critically endangered wolf populations, South American political tensions, and the Arab Spring, and I'm genuinely curious as to whether White Wolf has gotten better about dealing with such subjects.

Considering I have my own writing to get to, though, I shouldn't just post my curiosity. It's time for the next Cerulean Seas post.

Part 2: Space Marine(r)s!

Adapting Existing Classes
Moving into chapter 3, our first stop is a look back at existing Pathfinder classes and how they are modified for the setting of Cerulean Seas. While some of these are simplistic cases of “move speed reference altered to swim speed”f or classes such as the Barbarian, as well as notes of the removal of the Bard, Druid, and Ranger in favor of three new classes (the Siren, Kahuna, and Mariner), some classes do have alterations worthy of noting before we head into the entirely new classes.

Alchemist: The Cerulean Seas Alchemist is mostly a case of replacing thrown potions with plunging potions, but they also get access to a new type of bomb – the boiling bomb, to be specific. Boiling bombs do exactly what their name suggests, causing ten square feet of water to erupt into a violent boiling steam bath that deals 1d6 heat damage (basically a renaming of fire damage) per round it’s active.

Cleric: Want more domains? You get more domains...sort of. The Plant and Fire domains are removed in Cerulean Seas, instead replaced by the Flora and Steam domains. The Flora domain deals with not just plants, but also algae, anemones, barnacles, coral, and sea sponges. The two non-spell powers granted by the Flora domain are Coral Fist (you can transform your hands into big coral mitts that deal lethal rather than nonlethal damage on unarmed strikes) at third level and Reef Armor (you can create a coral reef around yourself that transmits fire coral disease to foes that attack you with unarmed or natural attacks) at sixth level. The Steam domain gets Boiling Bolt (basically a boiling bomb but only targeting one enemy) at first level, followed by heat resistance 10 at sixth level that upgrades to heat resistance 20 at twelfth level and again to heat immunity at twentieth level.

Monk: There aren’t exactly a lot of times when you’re falling through the air from a cliff in a setting where the only dry land are scattered tropical islands and far away ice sheets. Unsurprisingly, then, the Monk gets two new class traits to replace those it has related to jumping and falling. Slow Fall is replaced by the ability to have neutral buoyancy even when unconscious, while High Jump is replaced by being able to "walk" (even if the species doesn't have legs) on top of the water for a distance equal to the Monk's extra speed gained from their Fast Movement class feature.

New Classes
It’s now time for actual new base classes rather than alterations to existing classes. I already mentioned what the three classes are, but let’s actually get a look at them proper rather than just saying what they replace.

Kahuna: These divine spellcasters of the waves call upon ocean spirits to empower them. They have great Base Attack Bonus progression and Will saves, but not so much on the Fortitude and Reflex. Rather than gaining any form of wildshape or any other archetypical Druid power, the Kahuna’s class features are the ability to take on the mantle of their spirit. These “spirit aspects” come in three ranks – lesser at first level, intermediate, at sixth level, and greater at twelfth level, each starting out at one use per day and gaining another use at the next two even numbered class levels. There are also an added “strength of spirit” at first level that is relegated to a number of uses per day based on the Kahuna’s Wisdom modifier plus three, an “aspect master” trait that is attained at eighteenth level that doubles that makes any of the three spirit aspects be usable as a free action and both last twice as long and be twice as effective, and the capstone ability “summon spirit” at level twenty that channels the full mojo of the spirit and has its number of uses per day based on the Wisdom modifier alone.

All of these abilities affect not only the Kahuna, but any of their allies within a thirty foot radius, giving this class a little bit of a leader aspect. They also all happen to only last one round, with the exception of the spirit summon which lasts for a number of rounds equal to the Kahuna’s Wisdom modifier, so the widespread application aspect isn’t too worrisome. The spirits that are most often venerated (read: the ones the authors wanted to create and put in) are the following. Note that I’m only going to give the full list of powers for the first to give you a feel of how they tend to be power-wise, and then generalize the rest for expedience.
  • Barracuda: Barracuda is an adaptable but impulsive spirit that emphasizes to its follower that you need to be swift both physically and mentally. Of course, one might say that’s a bit of a weird statement given that all of its granted boons are physical in nature – its strength of spirit is Darting Strike (move ten feet then melee attack) as a standard action, the lesser aspect is Lunge (+2 attack roll bonus and free access to the Lunge feat), the intermediary aspect is Hasty Retreat (+2 to Armor Class and Reflex saves, as well as a free ten feet of movement if an enemy's attack misses that same round), the greater aspect is Swiftness of the Barracuda (+2 dodge bonus to AC against attacks of opportunity, as well as a bonus to swim speed of ten feet per each positive number of the Kahuna's Wisdom modifier), and the spirit summon is Barracuda’s Assault (+4 bonus to AC and Reflex saves, as well as a free attack of opportunity against an attacker whose melee attack misses). Indeed, truly the paragons of quick wit, those Barracuda Kahunas.
  • Crocodile: In addition to being one of the most hardy watery ambush predators alive, crocodilians are adept at tender parenting, terrestrial hunting, “singing”, have a universal body and song language that almost all crocodilians understand, and even engage in mild tool use. This has nothing to do with the Kahuna, mind you, I just really love crocodilians. Anyway, Crocodile is a patient and persistent spirit who demands the same of its Kahunas, and has abilities that are both offensive and defensive in nature. The power of Crocodile is twofold, weighing damage reduction against abilities related to grapple attacks.
  • Dolphin: Dolphin inspires friendship and teamwork. All of Dolphin’s boons are related to the whole “allies are affected to” aspect of the Kahuna’s powers, granting boons such as the ability to reorganize damage taken between the allies in the radius and various bonuses when an ally attacks during the spiritual buff.
  • Great White: Great White is a voracious spirit whose main tenet is that words should be backed up with actions, not simply sat upon. Great White Kahunas don’t do a lot with their spirit, but what they do is very effective – strong toothy bites that deal bleedout, attack buffs, and the ability to sense foes around them.
  • Kraken: The creed of Kraken is to literally and metaphorically grasp at everything possible. Its spirit powers are focused heavily on granting reach and extra attacks, but also have a dash of abilities to inspire fear based on the legendary nature of the kraken.
  • Sea Lion: While Sea Lion’s gimmick is said to be cleverness, its actual boons are sort of a clusterfuck of various boosts. It starts out with a simple sonic roar attack and ends with the ability to boost a bunch of different abilities based on circumstances adverse to them (get a +2 to AC each time you’re hit, get a +2 to attack rolls every time you miss, etc.), with various stuff shoved in between.
  • Sea Turtle: Sea Turtle is plodding and planning, focused on the long term goal rather than the immediate benefit. This mostly translates into Armor Class bonuses and other forms of damage avoidance, save for having a greater spirit aspect that allows for the Kahuna to slow down a foe.
  • Stingray: Stingray is extremely pessimistic and seeks to distance itself from others, facing inevitable violence with its venomous barb. To the surprise of no one, its spirit aspects are related to poisoning foes.

Mariner: Don’t let the name fool you – the Mariner class isn’t some sort of seaborn sailor, it’s actually an aquatic warrior. The class has d10 hit dice, full Base Attack Bonus progression, and a high Reflex save progression at the cost of poor Fortitude and Will save progressions, making it a tough but swift class. And swift is the Mariner’s specialty, given that half of its class features are based on boosting swim speed, evasion, and maneuverability in some manner. The other big trait of the Mariner is the Sudden Strike class feature – think a Rogue’s sneak attack (it even has the by-the-1d6 damage progression), but rather than relying on catching a foe flat-footed, a Sudden Strike comes into play in an attack made as part of a maneuver feat (Combat Reflexes, Improved and Greater Bull Rush, Improved and Greater Overrun, Lunge, Nimble Moves and Acrobatic Step, Run, Shot on the Run, Spring Attack, Step Up, or Whirlwind Attack).

The biggest two bonuses the Mariner gets are, unsurprisingly, near the end of its class progression. Its eighteenth level ability, Deep Diver, completely negates any pressure damage, while the capstone ability Shark’s Frenzy lets the Mariner basically become a doom machine. In addition to granting 10 extra bleed damage to Sudden Strike, it also lets the Mariner get access to Sudden Strike on a round after they move at their full move speed. That means a level 20 Mariner is going to have a damage yield of their weapon damage plus their Strength score plus 5d6 Sudden Strike damage plus 10 bleed damage any time they use a maneuver feat or the round after they move at full speed.

So what exactly is the Mariner’s role, beyond lots of speed and damage? That’s a good question. They are painted as being anything from a warrior or armed scout to a spy or courier, as their talents lend them to many different paths in the underwater world. My personal feelings on the Mariner are a bit...mixed, to be honest. While it’s not a bad class, per se, it also doesn’t really feel like something that is meant to be a replacement for the Ranger, which is the Mariner’s stated intention. With the Kahuna you can see the link of “divine spellcaster that does naturey stuff”, but the Mariner has no such ‘feel’ to it. It seems more like something that should be seen along with a Ranger replacement rather than being the Ranger replacement itself. that an algae bra? :stare:

Siren:With the same hit dice, BAB and save progressions, and arcane spellcasting as Bards, you can’t really mistake the intention of the Siren class to be its replacement. The main difference is that the Siren isn’t going to be defending anybody – this class is all about musical offense. Its songs include such gems as the Predator's Song (+1 to damage rolls and +5 swim speed for allies), Shattering Note (sunder things with your voice), lullaby (guess), Dominating Dirge (replicate dominate person), and Lamentations (foe is sickened, nauseated, or stunned depending on their HD compared to the Siren). Their other abilities are various boosts to their offensive songs, including targeting multiple foes, causing foes to be stunned and then sickened after the song ends, and the ability to double the range of a song they choose as a specialty. It could be easily argued that the Siren could have just been a variant Bard, and I can’t say I’d disagree with such a statement, but the class isn’t really that bad either.

Prestige Classes
The Arcane Archer, Pathfinder Chronicler, and Nature Warden are prestige classes not available in Cerulean Seas, while the only big changes to other prestige classes are changing the Dragon Disciple’s parentage to song dragons (the only group of true dragons in Cerulean Seas) as well as renaming the Horizon Walker into the “Seeker of the Blue Horizon” and granting it a few new terrain specialties based on the ocean depths. This means that, unlike base classes, we can walk right into the new prestige classes unimpeded.

You may have noticed that these classes and prestige classes use the opposite sexes from those presented in the racial portraits. The same is true here, where the female karkanak is looking calm but terrifying.

Beach Comber: Winner of the “most innocent-sounding deceptive name” competition in Cerulean Seas, the Beach Comber prestige class reflects the groups of hardened bounty hunters that seek the fugitives that can flee (and have fled) to what dry land is left in the world. The class is pretty blatantly focused on giving and taking damage, with d10 hit dice and a full Base Attack Bonus progression at the cost of an average Fortitude save progression and poor Reflex and Will save progressions. As for class features, they can be summed up as "want some Ranger stuff back? Here, have it". Beach Combers happen to inherit the favored terrain, trap sense, and favored enemy (toward a specific bounty) features of the extinct Ranger.

Glimmerkeeper: The Glimmerkeeper prestige class reflects a type of legendary magical folk hero in the world of Cerulean Seas, individuals who fight against evil with quick minds, quick bodies, and a little bit of supernatural help. In addition to swim speed boosts, the two most prominent class features o the Glimmerkeeper are increased uses per day of abilities entitled Spectral Form and Glimmer Armor. Spectral Form is, as its name implies, the power to take on a temporary spectral form, thus becoming incorporeal and getting those sweet, sweet touch attacks. Glimmer Armor is not quite so straightforward, as it isn’t armor in the literal sense so much as in the metaphorical sense of defending the Glimmerkeeper – it allows the Glimmerkeeper to force a Fortitude save on a foe that is struck by them in melee, and if the target fails they are blinded for a number of rounds equal to the Glimmerkeeper's Charisma modifier. The capstone ability is the rather interesting Keeper of the Light power, which can either take away light to create a magical concealment within a sixty foot radius or shine an abundance of light in the same radius to grant a +2 bonus to saving throws and attack rolls for allies as well as replicate the daylight spell.

And there's that convenient nudity coverage again.

Sea Witch: The Sea Witch is a prestige class that only characters with levels in Siren can enter, and is focused on new songs that deal with death and the undead. Their songs fatigue and deal Strength damage on a critical failure by the target, can create a ward against the undead, can siphon out the life force of others (read: damage in exchange for temporary HP), and can summon the undead. This class isn’t really what I’d say I envision when I hear “Sea Witch”, I must say...still, it isn’t bad, just different.

Entering chapter 3, the first and biggest change to the skill system is presented upfront. The Swim skill? Dead. Kaput. Axed. Pushing up daisies. An ex-skill.

“Cerulean Seas” posted:

Having a Swim skill for an underwater setting would be much like having a Walk skill for a dry-land campaign, and is therefore phased out for the purposes of this campaign setting. While it is true that some species can walk on land, that too is an innate ability, and therefore does not require a separate skill.
This means that any maneuvers related to swimming, such as dealing with rough water, are instead part of the Acrobatics skill. Most of the new skill uses are pretty obvious aquatic things like “Craft checks that need fire don’t work underwater” or “the ‘guide with legs’ use of the Ride skill is instead ‘guide with tail’ if you’re a merfolk”, but a few deserve at least a bullet point’s worth of attention.
  • Climb: In addition to being used to actually climb things, a successful Climb check can allow a merfolk or merped (animal version of merfolk) to crawl itself along the land at one fourth their swim speed rather than the normal 5 foot speed listed.
  • Handle Animal: For those who want more tricks to teach their animal, there are three more added in the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide that allow you to teach how to
  • Stealth: There's a special form of Stealth for "scuttling", a difficult maneuver that requires you to move at least six squares, meet various conditions, and succeed on the check to seemingly zigzag and then disappear entirely.

While some may tear over the loss of the feats Throw Anything and Tower Shield Proficiency, they can rejoice that there are a total of forty-five new feats. These feats can basically be broken down into four categories:
  • "Simple but Effective" Feats: As with many a sourcebook that contains a lot of new feats, there are always some that are effective for the campaign setting but can't have very much said about them beyond that they exist. In the case of the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide, these feats include Ambassador to the Deep (increases depth tolerance by 100 feet each time it's taken, to a maximum of 1,000 feet), Coral Link (you can communicate with anyone adjacent to the same coral reef as you through telepathy), and School Friend (gain concealment within a school of fish while not startling them).
  • Racial/Subtype Feats: Again, as with many sourcebooks, there are new feats dedicated to certain subtypes and races as well. While some are really unexpected, like selkies getting feats to allow them to shapeshift their gear with them or cast somatic spells while in seal form, karkanak getting bigger and more damaging claws, and pisceans and nommos getting toothy fish bites, there are a few that stand out such as Breathlink (allows a feykith subtype race to share their ability to breathe underwater with an adjacent air-breather), Caustic Skin (naiads with this feat have particularly virulent kelp-bodies that deal 1d4 acid damage to creatures that bite them), and Waterjot (mogogols with this feat can run across the water like a basilisk lizard – mogogols keep proving to be such a crazy fun race in every way).
  • Combat Feats: While combat feats are, again, one of those ubiquitous feats, I'd argue that they are the least interesting ubiquitous feat in the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide. While feats lke Diving Strike (get a bull rush and then a melee attack when you make a charge), Opportunist (get a free attack of opportunity against a foe whose attack of opportunity just missed you), and Thickened Spell (spells that target a foe/foes also cause water to gel around said foe/foes, halving their movement rate and giving them a -2 penalty to melee attack rolls) may be good in combat, there's not much to say about them.
  • Class Feats: ...Actually, no, I take back what I said about combat feats. These are the least interesting ubiquitous feats. They're all either song buffs for the Siren or spirit buffs for the Kahuna, and none of them are even interesting enough for a minor parentheses-clad blurb.


Next time: I had thought about putting the equipment section in with this post, but it didn't really feel right, so next time we'll be having both it and the magic chapter. Ooh.

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 02:37 on Jan 12, 2014


Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Kurieg posted:

Edit: The Hawaiian Islands have their own breed of changelings with their own unique Kiths.
Fun fact: In the real world, the folkloric landscape of Hawaii is a syncretic fusion of traditional Polynesian Hawaiian and immigrant Japanese, to the point where there are Hawaiian urban legends about things like kappas and shapeshifting youkai alongside marching undead Hawaiian warriors and lustful pig-man demigods. I'm guessing that would be too culturally diverse for oWoD's "a place for everybody and everybody in their place" method, though.

Meanwhile, I've been ill and busy with other writing projects, so the next Cerulean Seas post isn't up yet. I do know that, unless I change it at the last minute, I'm going to be done with the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide within two posts. I figured that, as a result, I'd at least give a shout out for opinions on what Cerulean Seas book should be covered next as a bit of noise in my down time.

There are technically four Cerulean Seas sourcebooks after the Campaign Guide, but the most recent one, Beasts of the Boundless Blue, reprints a fair bit of material from the other three. As a result, I'm going to be saving that one for last and just cover the new material it adds. That leaves three sourcebook choices for the next in line after the Campaign Guide:
  • Waves of Thought: Using the popular third party Pathfinder psionics system from Dreamscarred Press, Waves of Thought introduces aquatic psychic stuff to the Cerulean Seas setting. The ins and outs of this book include six new races that range from kender-esque clownfish merfolk to snail-people that act like grumpy old men, a psionic base class that calls upon evolutionary ancestors for various powers, prestige classes for both finesse-loving telekinetics and up-and-close psychic warriors, and monsters with lots of tentacles.
  • Azure Abyss: The deep sea beckons with its various dark and doomful dangers. In those depths are new features such as six new races like terrifying urchin-anemone abominations and the most anime feykith ever, the rough and tumble Angler base class, three new prestige classes that includes one entirely based around emulating hagfish, and monsters that look like they came from the Pacific Rim drawing board.
  • Indigo Ice: A guide to Isinblare, the kingdoms of the frozen north and south. Sights include six new races (seeing a trend?) that include swole as gently caress penguin warriors and elves made out of ice, a base class that mimes traditional Inuit shamanism, prestige classes for ice-wielding martial, spellcasting, and psionic characters, and monsters such as orca-dragons because why not.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

pkfan2004 posted:

Oh hey, I know that feeling! What a coincidence that this just so happens to segue into the next part of my Cerulean Seas review.

Part 3: Shark Swords and Seaweed Spells

Ah, equipment, that thing that characters tend to need but nobody really wants to discuss. I’m going to be brief with this due to the fact that equipment chapters are second only to minor adventures in the category of things that make my brain immediately shut down any attempts to formulate humor or witty commentary.

New Aquatic Materials: If you are in the underwater world of Cerulean Seas, you can make things out of coral! Or Pykrete! Or swamp trees! Since this is basically for material hardness and HP, I don’t really care! Moving on! Exclamations!

Weapons: The Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide provides seven new simple weapons, thirteen new martial weapons, and eleven new exotic weapons. Things like fishing spears, harpoons (which are exotic rather than martial weapons for some reason), greatspears, and fisherman’s gaffs are pretty self-explanatory, but some weapons get a bit weird. Take, for instance, the fact that there are actually three different weapons specifically made for awakened (“trueform”) sharks, dolphins, and similar creatures – a nose harness that replicates a narwhal’s tusk in metal, another that is the same but replicates a marlin’s stabbing sword, and blades that attach to the caudal and dorsal fins.

Armor: Three new forms of light armor, four forms of medium armor, four forms of heavy armor, and five types of shield. While a few are actually somewhat sensible things like shark hide or turtle carapaces, most are weird poo poo like never-melting ice armor, coral, and...well, this fascinating medium armor.

Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide posted:

Jellyfish armor is created from authentic jellyfish bodies through an alchemical process that hardens them into stiff but flexible translucent plates. The armor can be quite beautiful, reminiscent of metallic plate armor of the surface world, only translucent and often tinted in blue or green.

Ships: Ships in Cerulean Seas are more of a supplemental add-on than anything of importance, as most of the adventures are meant to take place beneath the waves. Most ships don't even have weaponry due to the fact that attacks will usually come from below in the form of either undersea pirates or something ramming the hull, and are pretty much only used for cargo and person transport, fishing, and whaling by the marginally terrestrial races like the sebek-ka and mogogol. Each ship has a stat block that notes its size, material it is mostly made of, how many crew members it needs, how much cargo space/passenger space it has, its total hit points, its hardness, what type of propulsion system makes the ship move, its total speed, how many squares it needs to move in order to turn at top speed, and the minimum water depth it needs to actually move.

Statistics are given for a generic boat or raft at both ten and twenty feet of length, a buoy, an elven towboat (towed by sea creatures, because elves), genai wickership (basically a Chinese junk), kappa pontoon (more or less a literal ffloating fort), karkanak goliath (akin to a cross between a whaling ship and battleship), mogogol galleon (a galleon, surprisingly), naiad podcraft (a stupid "living ship" made out of lilypads), sebek-ka longship (longboats with Egyptian rather than Norse decorations), and selkie ice-runner (a big sailboat that tows ice to selie processing plants).

Aquatic Goods: Other than a few things like anchors and floats and, most of the new "general goods" listed are either new types of alchemical concoction or riding gear for sea creatures. Oil that makes you more hydrodynamic and ups your swim speed, weird entangling kelp, stuff like that.

Starting into chapter 6, our first introduction to magic in the Cerulean Seas setting is on how existing magic is changed. The big ones to know are that invisibility is reversed from normal Pathfinder (completely invisible underwater but appears as a water bubble above water, instead of vice versa), freedom of movement and incorporeal/ethereal effects void the effects of pressure, drag, and buoyancy, underwater fire damage is replaced by heat/steam damage which is basically the same but can't catch flammable things on fire, underwater electricity spells will always manifest as a sphere rather than a line or arc, spells that knock a foe prone instead make them disoriented, and levitation or flight spells cast underwater grant neutral buoyancy. Of course, given that almost all of the electricity and fire spells are replaced with new spells (amongst others), having this noted as a rule in the chapter seems almost pointless.

As for those new spells, there are a total of one hundred thirty-two spells. Most of them are alterations of existing spells, however, such as acid fog coming "acid murk" and fireball being changed to "mageboil". I'll at least note a few of interest in spite of this.
  • Disgorge School (Conjuration, Alchemist 2 or Witch 2): Congratulations, you have proven yourself the grossest spellcaster by vomiting up a whole wriggling mess of lampreys to attack your foes. If you're particularly strong, you can blow chunks of [/i]electric eels[/i] instead.
  • Jaws (Illusion, Witch 3): You create a shadowy size Huge shark that is basically real but can be dispelled. Rumor has it that if you cast it four times in a row, its stats will drastically diminish.
  • Mind Murk (Enchantment, Siren 5, Sorcerer/Wizard 5, or Witch 5): This violet-colored water induces a -10 penalty to Wisdom checks and will saves within the area of murk. As if spellcasters needed any more help on that front.
  • Necrotell (Necromancy, Sorcerer/Wizard 3 or Witch 3): You make a pool of stagnant water summon a human skeleton from the time before the Great Flood that has an Intelligence score of 12 and 5 free ranks of Knowledge (Ancient History) and Knowledge (Local History). It's got the Evil descriptor because apparently even calling forth ancient knowledge with necromancy counts as evil necromancy.
  • School of Scales (Transmutation, Kahuna 6 or Witch 6): You turn every part of yourself other than your skeleton into a school/swarm of lampreys, squid, crab, piranha, jellyfish, leeches, or electric eels. These critters act as part of your will and consciousness, letting you spy through their eyes.

Aquatic Magic Items
There are few enough new magical items to end off chapter 6 that I can note them all.
  • Crocodile Armor: This +2 scale armor also grants a +10 bonus to Acrobatics checks when underwater, hold your breath like a crocodile, and even turn into a crocodile five minutes per day.
  • Kraken Fork: A +1 treble fork that can transform into a subservient octopus or let you sprout two tentacles so that you can wield it while your hands are still free.
  • Spear of the Fluke: A pretty horrifying idea for a magic item, this is a +1 barbed shortspear that has a 50% chance of having one of its barbs break off, transmute into a parasitic flukeworm, and travel to the foe's heart in 1d4 rounds. Once there, it's dealing a point of damage every round until cure disease is cast. Just to make it even more pleasant, each fluke that breaks off deals damage as well, and there's no limit to how many barb-flukes can exist. The spear can also turn into a giant leech if terrifying barb-flukes weren't enough for you.
  • Water Blade: A blade hilt that turns into a keen dagger, keen rapier, or keen shortsword for up to a minute three times per day. Or, as I'd like to say, a far inferior version of just paying for an actual keen magic weapon.
  • Conch of Summoning: Once per week, these magic conch shells can summon sea life depending on how big the shell is: a Small one summons 1d6 squid, a Medium one brings up 2d4 orcas, and a lone sea serpent is called by a Large one.
  • Darkwater Pearls: Pulling one of the nine pearls from this magic item while underwater (doing it above water is a waste of a pearl) and dropping it to the seafloor will create an undead creature – a zombie orca from a white pearl, a wraith from a black pearl, or 2d4 lacedons from a gray pearl.
  • Figurine of Wondrous Power-Pearl Crab: You can turn this pearl into a weird size Large crab with human intelligence for up to eight hours twice per week.
  • Staff of the Depths: A watery magic staff that lets its wielder breathe underwater if they couldn't already and has charges to cast control water, resist energy, cone of ice, anti-life shell, or elemental body IV.
  • The Blue Vow: A shiny magic ring that counts as a ring of +5 protection, ring of regeneration, and ring of water walking at the same time, can cast summon sea monster IX once per day, and can cast dominate monster on all those that hear its special code word once per week. Sound pretty crazy? It is, but it's also a specific singular artifact that was made by a specific powerful wizard as an engagement ring.


Next time: the campaign setting and gamemastering chapters of the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide. With location names like Nw Blackensville, Sunken Hope, and the Bleeding Marsh, I'm sure this will be a wonderful vacation.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Humbug Scoolbus posted:

Pykrete as a magical material? That is fantastic...
Yeah, Pykrete's a fun material.

pkfan2004 posted:

What's the password for the magic ring? Is it "will you marry me"?
It's "the blue vow is in arcane depths". Apparently the wizard was fond of very pretentious poetry. Well, that or his lover liked very pretentious poetry.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Dragonball Z, Brazilian folklore (hope we'll be getting sucuriju gigante in there, by the by), and bomb-rear end Neptune impersonator demons? This thread's been great lately. It's definitely helped push my decision on what to do after Cerulean Seas is finished with.

Too bad the best I have to contribute until then is waterlogged fantasy. :v:

Part 4: Clerics, Cities, and Cardboard Cutouts

After six chapters of general new game rules, the actual campaign part of the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide is at hand. First off: religion! There are exactly nine gods that are worshiped in the Cerulean Seas, which just so happen to coincide with the nine alignments of D&D and Pathfinder. The number of gods is enforced zealously by the Council of Nine, a group of priests who may be of wildly varying alignments but still all agree that pissing off the gods like the drylanders did before they were murdered with the Great Flood is in their best collective interests. There are also specific "official cults" of each of the nine religions that somewhat differ but are still sanctioned by the Council of Nine as a way of allowing specific races and cultures to keep their deities while syncretically fusing them into the greater whole of one of the nine. Can you really be considered a cult if you are sanctioned by the world church? I dunno, but it's the term the book uses, so I'll be using it as well. The nine deities are as follows.

Keilona: Keilona, the Lawful Good goddess of holy war, sharks, and community cohesion, is depicted as being a gigantic mermaid with a pet Megalodon in tow and has blood red and white as her holy colors. If you couldn't already guess from that first sentence, "Lawful Good" in the case of Keilona's worshipers means "crusading Paladins". They are beloved in cities in spite of this– sure, they’re intolerant zealots who will bring down vigilante justice on “lawless” communities and refuse to stand for any satire or dissent against their religion, but hey, they’ll give you free housing and healing if you are of the same faith! Isn't that just peachy of them? Both of the official cults of Keilona are Lawful Neutral, with the sharkfolk worshiping the Megaladon Jadeel as the truest aspect of Keilona and the nommo feeling they are the only ones who are correct about Keilona's true nature which just so happens to be just as anal and archaic as they are.

Poseidon: The Neutral Good and well-bearded god of nature, storms, nobles, and horses, Poseidon in the Cerulean Seas setting is painted more benevolently than one would usually see for a Greek god. His priests revere the hippocampus, shelter orphans, and replace stagnant water with running water because the former is seen as an abomination unto their god. The official cults of Poseidon are the Neutral Good cult of Mahilon, who worship the ancient kai-lio deity Mahilon (who was syncreticized as an aspect of Poseidon) and express nomadic freedom as another key tenet of their faith, and the Lawful Good cult of Neptune who focus on the social well-being aspect of Poseidon over the nature aspect.

Mariblee: Mariblee is the Chaotic Good goddess of feykith and magic. Her priests are proponents of magic for the sake of magic and extoll the virtues of being humble but ambitious in learning its secrets. This priesthood also has a vast network of storehouses for magical knowledge from the various races kept safely tucked away just in case of the event of apocalypse or genocide. The Chaotic Good cult of Aear Emerwen is basically the same as the normal priesthood of Mariblee but with a heavy dose of elven nationalism, while the Chaotic Neutral cult of Sedna holds onto the selkie belief in a gluttonous trickster goddess in the only form they could after being forced to convert to the worship of Mariblee.

Sebek: Lawful Neutral and well-known as the god whose patrons hold the greatest sway in the Council of Nine, Sebek is seen as an adherent of loyalty and perseverance. Both of its cults are barely autonomous due to the fact that the sebek-ka won't tolerate that poo poo and that the religions in question were particularly hard to subjugate in the first place. The Lawful Neutral cult of Halbok was more or less fantasy-Islam before the drylanders and genies that worshiped it were either killed in the Great Flood or accepted the offer of very limited but nonetheless existing influence within the Sebek religion, while the ancient True Neutral dragon god Scalis was absorbed into Sebekism under the ultimatum of "you should join us, it would be a shame if we let all these dragon-slayers run wild instead, wouldn't it?".

Undine: The True Neutral goddess of the ocean, Undine, is worshiped in a manner that can basically be summed up as Taoism but with a hard-on for whales and dolphins as the most enlightened beings. The Neutral Good cult of Hefring is a bit more optimistic and tends to be proactive with helping sailors and fishermen, while the cult of Ondine felt that o was a better letter than u and living out in the wilderness as sea-hippies was the best way to practice their religion.

Clagguth: The Chaotic Neutral octopus god Clagguth sounds like a fun guy, given that his tenets are freedom, following your heart, and trolling the priests of other religions whenever possible. His two cults also happen to be the most widely different from each other. The Chaotic Good cult of Guthlak focuses less on disruptive fun and more on good old-fashioned hedonism, while the Chaotic Evil cult of Thulu (Cthulhu is in regular Pathfinder, you know, no need to do the name thing there) is all about torture and vivisection and terrorism and cannibalism and all that jazz.

Pluvak: Pluvak's the Lawful Evil god of tyranny. He likes slavery and people sell their soul to him in spite of the fact that they end up getting the raw end of the deal because he's the loving god of tyranny it's right in his name you fools. The Lawful Neutral cult of Dijo is adhered to by selkies and conducts a yearly sacrifice of one of their own members to ensure that the unmelting ever-ice doesn't suddenly fail and cause their iceberg city to melt in the tropical waters, while the Neutral Evil cult of Vanak is made up of undead obsessed with making more undead instead of the whole "deal with the devil" thing.

Dagon: This giant sahuagin is the Neutral Evil master of cold, calculating malice. He's still pretty pissed about the whole sahuagin losing the Blood War and being massacred thing, but is willing to play the long game as his priests infiltrate the civilizations of Good and Neutrality. The Neutral Evil cult of Leviathan focuses on destruction and the dark side of war, while the Chaotic Evil cult of Typhon is more or less just regular Dagon worship but with more tentacles due to a love of body modification because chaos.

Saloth: Last, and definitely actually the least, the Chaotic Evil deep drow goddess Saloth is literally a non-product identity version of Lolth. Instead of a spider body, she has a spider crab body, because ocean setting! Get it? :haw: The Chaotic Evil cult of Morganae that is the same off-brand Lolth worship but with nucalavee instead of drow and the Neutral Evil cult of Sarla is implicitly stated to be a dumbed-down version of Saloth worship for the boggers because they are big dumby dumb-heads who were too dumb to engage in regular Saloth worship but wanted to anyway due to the fact that the Council of Nine wiped out all of their original religious leaders.

Cities of the Cerulean Seas
In the world of Cerulean Seas, cities can basically be divided up into (and, in fact, are divided up into) five different categories. First, you've got your sunken cities, which are the wrecked poo poo that's left over from the time of the drylanders that ended up being inhabited by underwater beings. Most sunken cities were made by the Halbokians, the not-Arabs who practiced the not-Islam mentioned in the Sebek entry, and include the pirate strongholds Wreckage and Kraken Bay, the frontier fortress of Borderhold, and the manufacturing hub of Sunken Hope. The second type of city are coral cities, famed for being really pretty and grown as much as they are built, the main examples of which are the cindarian capitol of Corallis and the sea elf capitol of Dar Elestri. Similarly, the naiads grow kelp cities that are typically close to shore and shared or bought out by anthromorphs such as the mogogol and sebek-ka. The last two types of city are unique ones – the selkie city of Lochgelly is the sole example of a city carved out of an icerberg of ever-ice, while the legendary triton kingdom of Shazalar is made out of enchanted glass that’s as hard as steel. None of the cities listed have that much actually said about them, which is both a good and a bad thing in my opinion. On the one hand, it allows you to insert what you want if you're the type of GM who likes to heavily modify whatever you want without diverging from "canon" rather than play a more rigid setting. At the same time, though, if you're in a hurry and want some quick "this is what happens here" hooks then the lone statement that Corallis is the capitol of the cindarians and carefully guarded may not do you much good. This is admittedly a problem with any setting that doesn't assume that the setting is mostly Earth as we know it or historically knew it with some changes here and there, but it's still worth bringing up.

Gamemastering Under the Sea
While chapter 8 starts out with a guide to converting existing material to use the racial buoyancy and depth tolerance rules followed by a DIY on how to create the 3D battle mat monstrosity you see illustrated above, I figured I'd actually note it isn't just number crunching and craft store item lists. While probably more suited for the last chapter, the majority of this chapter covers the lands beyond the warm waters of the Cerulean Seas that can become potential adventures. Some of these are in the material realm, including the north and south pole (which we'll be touching in Indigo Ice, of course), the lost world of Devonia where drylanders and prehistoric beasts still live, the fabled large island chain of the Frista Mountains that is sought after by those that can live on land as well as the water, and the mysterious sebek-ka homeland of Tel-Am-Karu. Your options are even broader if you want to get cosmological. While there is no Elemental Plane of Fire, the other elemental planes do indeed exist and have their own pairs of “tertiary planes” – the Planes of Ooze and Magma (Earth), Ice and Steam (Water), and Electricity and Sound (Air).

There are also extraplanar oceans in the far realms that play host to a number of creatures from beyond. The fetid and icy sea of Kokytos is the realm of trapped demon, the realm of Lethe is filled to the brim with waters that wash away all memories and allow demons and angels alike to dwell together as blissfully ignorant amnesiacs, the great Okeanos brims with celestial sea life, the acidic Phlegethon is the home to watery daemons, devils are birthed from the titanic rotting swamp of Stygia, and the old gods and demons of the sebek-ka dwell in the great flowing plane of Yam.


Next time: encounter sea dragons, slimy slug-men, prehistoric placoderms, and more in the last, largest, and my personal favorite chapter in this and any other RPG book: the bestiary!

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Cyphoderus posted:

The niche of "giant motherfucking snake" is filled by no less than three entries in the Animals chapter, and two in the Monsters & Creatures chapter. You will not be disappointed.
I know of two Brazilian giant snake legends, so at least one of them will be a surprise. And even if it wasn't, I have a soft spot for giant snakes in general and am very rarely disappointed in them. :allears:

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

theironjef posted:

System Mastery Episode 12 is up and active. This time we're reviewing D20 Modern. Next time we'll be reviewing the Urban Arcana expansion. I've read them both so extensively that it was difficult to review one without accidentally talking a bunch about the other, but I'm definitely looking forward to talking about gnoll pimps and basketball minotaurs.
Since there are often cases of passing over reviews and that leading to a misconception that they aren't viewed, I figured I'd chip in and note that I've been enjoying your podcasts when I'm having to get out to town. I heavily disagree with you on the majority of the comments about d20 Modern (which, I'll admit, is probably due to my own biases), but you're still entertaining in spite of that, which I'd say is a testament to doing your job well.

Halloween Jack posted:

Seasons and Weather: A treatise on different seasons and how different adventures could be set in different seasons. I don’t know why (for example) demons are associated with autumn, but then again, the cast of “Supernatural” is always dressed like they’re hiking the Appalachian trail in October.
My guess on this would be the fact that autumn is traditionally the time of "oh poo poo, winter's coming, things might get bad". It's similar to how cultures that live near water have a lot of bogeymen that kids are told will grab you if you get too close to the water or how cultures where Christianity has become ingrained often have at least one undead said to come from the soul of the unbaptized.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Part 5: Here There be Dragons...and Dinosaurs...and Deep Drow...
There are a total of 93 monsters in the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide. If you’re thinking that’s a lot of loving monsters for a core guidebook to a campaign, you’d probably be right, but I’m a sucker for monsters and can’t really argue against the authors’ plea that there was a dearth of sea monsters in Pathfinder at the time the title was written. This does, however, mean that I’m going to have to split up the bestiary into three different posts, lest we be overwhelmed with entries all at once. Why three? Because it sounded nice, and because the early and late letters in the alphabet have a glut of entries compared to the more spread out mid-letters.

Viridian Algoid (CR 6 Large Plant): Our very first entry is a new version of a very, very old monster – one that’s been around since the beginning, in fact. The algoid originally appeared in the First Edition Dungeons and Dragons Fiend Folio way back in 1981 and can best be described as freaky psionic Swamp Things. They were hive-mind creatures that had the power to control trees as well as big, beefy (weedy?) fists that could stun foes, and eventually ended up entering the domain of Open Game Content come 3E courtesy of the Tome of Horrors. These are not quite the same algoids. No, viridian algoids are definitely not a case of things being better down where it’s wetter. These angry hunks of seaweed have none of the supernatural powers of their marsh-dwelling ancestors and, bucking the trend of “make something smarter = make something more civilized”, are solitary and violent ambush predators in spite of having a higher Intelligence score than true algoids. Viridian algoids also have wood-like claws instead of punching slam attacks and are resistance to piercing and slashing attacks while more vulnerable to bludgeoning attacks.

Barracuda (CR ½ Medium Animal) and Dire Barracuda (CR 2 Large Animal): The barracuda is, of course, a real life creature and needs no introduction. The dire barracuda, however, is a rather disturbing creature that has thick serrated plates rather than typical scales, a length nearly double that of the 6 foot great barracuda, and a tendency to get enraged by shiny objects rather than merely attracted by them.

Bogger (Class level-dependent Small Humanoid): Sort of a stand-in for goblins and orcs, the boggers are seafolk who were twisted into shriveled, feral versions of their once human-like forms due to their devotion to Saloth in her dumbed-down incarnation Sarla. With racial ability score modifiers of -2 to Strength and -4 to Charisma but +2 to Dexterity and Constitution, you can probably correctly guess that they are destined to usually become Rogues, but these evil beings are also accomplished sea cat cavalry riders. Why? Why not, I guess.

Giant Coelacanth (CR 7 Large Animal): A giant version of everybody's favorite deep sea living fossil. Nobody likes the taste of them, but they definitely like the taste of drow and nixie and have the vacuum suction "breath weapon" to get what they want when they suddenly appear out of nowhere in the deep. Some people want giant coelacanth oil because it works as a shark repellant. Oh, and for whatever reason this entry has a statement of "oh, if you want the real world coelacanth just slap the Young simple template on the giant coelacanth", rather than actually getting a normal and fantastical entry side by side like most animals.

Coral Shepherd (CR 8 Huge Plant): Literally treants but with coral instead of trees. The only real difference in stats is that these guys are vulnerable to cold rather than fire and they are capable of delivering stinging coral disease with their slam attacks. The cindarians are the only sapient race that the coral shepherds tolerate.

Boil Crab (CR 1/2 Small Vermin) and Giant Hermit Crab (CR 3 Medium Vermin): Boil crabs are really warm dog-sized crabs that deal 1d4 steam damage to melee attackers, while the giant hermit crab is a human-sized...well, hermit crab. Neither are particularly inclined to attack unless they're attacked first.

Dinosaurs – Cryptoclidus (CR 7 Huge Animal), Henodus (CR 6 Huge Animal), Liopleurodon (CR 9 Gargantuan Animal), Shonisaurus (CR 10 Gargantuan Animal), and Taniwhasaurus (CR 8 Huge Animal): As pedantic as I am about prehistoric life, let's just get it out of the way and state that the book addresses the incorrect nature of this entry.

Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide posted:

Technically, there is no such thing as an aquatic dinosaur. All members of the class Dinosauria were strictly terrestrial. However, there are many types of large marine reptiles that lived during the age of dinosaurs that are often put into the same category as dinosaurs. In the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary, you were introduced to the elasmosaurus, which falls under this RPG equivalent of "aquatic dinosaur."
Got it? Good. Now let's actually talk turkey, or Taniwhasaurus as the case may be. Taniwhasaurus is a mosasaur from Late Cretaceous New Zealand, and gets its name from reptilian sea monsters called taniwha that are prevalent in Maori legend. It and the turtle-like Triassic reptile Henodus are not really names that come out and grab people who aren't obsessive about prehistoric creatures, and the others are only really semi-famous for either appearing in a popular documentary series (Cryptoclidus and Liopleurodon appeared in Walking With Dinosaurs) or for being a poster boy for an atypical member of a group (Shonisaurus is a loving enormous ichthyosaur). I'd argue that such exposure is a good thing. I'd also argue that, unlike the last time I did something heavily involving prehistoric creatures, the relatively low Challenge Ratings of these beasties is not ncessarily a bad thing. While Broncosaurus Rex had to almost entirely rely on dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures for its bestiary and thus suffered from the weird CR drought it had, Cerulean Seas is a setting where you end up graduating from marine reptiles to dragons and other supernatural foes.

Song Dragons: The watery descendants of the now almost extinct chromatic and metallic dragons, the song dragons vary in alignment but are all tied together by having a sound-based breath weapon. Since these are dragon, and they have such variety, I'll be bullet pointing out these with a note on the size and Challenge Rating range of the stat blocks given from wyrmling to ancient.
  • Cacophany Dragon (CR 3 Tiny to CR 16 Huge Dragon): Fat, lazy, and ornery, the Neutral Evil cacophany dragons look like the union of dragon and toad. An individual's modus operandi is "sit in swamp wallow, bully people to get free food". Their approach to combat is just about as labor-intensive, favoring the use of their constant leaking poison, deafening croak breath weapon, ability to transform mud or even solid ground into quicksand, or debilitating spell-like abilities such as cause fear, vampiric touch, and ghoul touch. A cacophany dragon can technically fly, but it won't ever do so unless it has no choice.
  • Choral Dragon (CR 5 Small to CR 20 Gargantuan Dragon): The Chaotic Good choral dragons resemble particularly big dragon turtles that have entire reefs growing on their shells. This means that the choral dragon is also a coral dragon. Get it? :v: Designer puns aside, choral dragons are actually pretty terrifying. Their sonic damage breath weapon may be standard, but what isn't so standard is the fact that they can shoot out spores that are capable of transmuting flesh into coral. It's a good thing they're known for their patience and willingness to forgive.
  • Crescendo Dragon (CR 4 Tiny to CR 17 Huge Dragon): Looking like particularly thorny ichthyosaurs and capable of releasing sparks of electricity from luminescent spots on their bodies, crescendo dragons are the True Neutral representatives of the song dragon group. They are also kind of the random factor of the song dragon group – their whole gimmick is that they like dolphins and orcas. [i]Really[i] like them. They lead pods, act similar to their adopted families, and like to make little half-dragon dolphin/orca babies.
  • Harmony Dragon (CR 2 Tiny to CR CR 15 Huge Dragon): These Chaotic Good song dragons are the most physically like land dragons, being akin to a Chinese dragon with goldfish mixed in as you might be able to tell from the image that heads this list. A harmony dragon has a breath weapon that shoots bubbles that float opponents away, can make a bite attack that does the same weird transport bubble instead of damage, and is generally averse to combat as opposed to escape. These dragons do love sharing their magical knowledge or giving out advice, however, so they make good NPC allies.
  • Hush Dragon (CR 3 Tiny to CR 16 Gargantuan Dragon): The abominable fusion of dragon and anglerfish, the Neutral Evil hush dragon's name comes from the fact that it exudes an aura of pure noise cancellation. It can also breathe out freezing methane gas, swallow creatures even a size category larger than itself, become invisible in the darkness of the abyss, and attract creatures with a magical aura attached to its angler light.
  • Melody Dragon (CR 4 Tiny to CR 17 Huge Dragon): Weird Lawful Good catfish-dragons that go on undersea crusades to slay evil sea monsters. Not even joking there. The weapons in its arsenal include a vacuum suction attack, paralyzing breath weapon, magma breath weapon, aura of extreme water pressure, and the ability to turn its color patterns into runes to cast spells.
  • Rhythm Dragon (CR 4 Small to CR 17 Gargantuan Dragon): Unlike the crescendo dragon, the similarly True Neutral eel-like rhythm dragons have no love for a random sea animal. Instead, they have a love for themselves, and their selfish nature drives them to manipulate others. And hey, would you look at that, they just so happen to have a lot of manipulating powers - a bite that can cast dominate monster, hypnotic pattern-shifting scales, a breath weapon that causes involuntary convulsions on a failed Will save, and blood that forces a Will save to avoid losing 1d4 points of Wisdom on contact.
  • Scream Dragon (CR 5 Small to CR 18 Gargantuan Dragon): The most banal form of Chaotic Evil, the red shark-faced scream dragon is a violent monster that loves blood and gore. Their powers back up that violent attitude, with a sonic damage breath weapon and a breath weapon that shoots boiling steam, razor sharp scales that deal damage to foes attacking with their bodies, an entourage of sharks (which they will eat if they are bored, because chaos or whatever), and if they are all the way up to great wyrm in age they can just simply force a save-or-suffocate effect that drains all the oxygen from nearby foes' blood.
  • Thunder Dragon (CR 6 Medium to CR 19 Colossal Dragon): Yet another True Neutral dragon? Whatever, I guess. The thunder dragons are like spiky whales and like treasure a lot. They are capable of creating various water hazards such as vortexes and rogue waves, have an electrical aura around them, and...that's about it, really.

Giant Cerulean Dragonfly Nymph (CR ½ Medium Vermin) and Tunneler Giant Dragonfly Nymph (CR 3 Large Vermin): One is the nymph of a giant dragonfly, the other is the same thing but bigger and shoots acid. Hooray.

Reef Drake (CR 1 Tiny Dragon): Take the pseudodragon stats from the Pathfinder Bestiary, replace fly speed with swim speed, give it a disorienting breath weapon instead of sleep stinger, and you have the reef drake. To be fair, it also does have some fluff differences in that it is ill-tempered and will only act as a familiar as long as they are being fed, cared for, and not put into stupid situations.

Deep Drow (Class level-dependent Medium Humanoid): Don’t let the tattoos and glowing bits in the art fool you – the deep drow are not the magical masters their drylander ancestors were. Instead of any innate spell-like abilities, they exude a nauseating toxin that gives them some modicum of safety against the insanely freakish predators of the abyss. Light blindness and sensitivity to water pressure above 500 feet in depth means these beings are limited to the deep, dark recesses of the sea. They’re purely the same as classic drow culture-wise, though, right down to the matriarchy and obsession with Lolth Saloth.

Dire Electric Eel (CR 8 Large Animal) and School of Electric Eels (CR 5 Fine Animal Swarm): Electric eels that have adapted to saltwater. One’s big and vicious, the other’s smaller than your average electric eel and travels in a swarm. Both are shocky zappy.

Sound Elemental (CR 1 Small to CR 11 Huge Outsider [Elemental]): A freaky invisible disembodied skull that goes around making all sorts of racket with their natural ability to mimic any sound. The fact that their punches actually deal sonic damage through painful vibrations is certainly a thing too.

Steam Elemental (CR 1 Small to CR 11 Huge Outsider [Elemental]): You could say that there are two very different sides to these bubbly monsters – they’re quite calm and pleasant most of the time, but become sadistic and pain-loving in combat. Steam elementals deal steam damage, of course, but are more notable for the fact that they can travel on land, in the air, and through the water all at equal speed, making them masters of maneuvering.


Next update will be looking at F through L, including huge rock lobsters, freaky fish-imps, and horses of the sea.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Oh poo poo, Castle Falkenstein, now we're talking. It's probably one of the best and most well-researched modern attempts at Victorian fantasy around and well received enough to get both its own system and a GURPS rendition. I'll definitely be looking forward to your posts on the topic.

Humbug Scoolbus posted:

Louis Porter is a mega-douche so you're indignation is still partially valid.

This is dirt I'd love to know more on.

This is also a post that should probably have some actual new content from me, so here we go.

Part 6: From Fanciful Familiars to Ornery Oversize Otters
Alright, it's time to get back to the monster mash after yet another long hiatus on my part (yes, those are quite common, it was totally worth the free character build points). Last time, we went through the letters A to E, including goblin mermen, dragons horny for dolphins, and angry algae. This time we'll be going from F to O, as you might have guessed.

Familiars, Aquatic
As with the dragons before, this is a case where there are so many entries I kind of have to split things up with a bullet point listing rather than a small set of notes for the smaller groups like the "dinosaurs" from earlier.
  • Caiman (CR 1/6 Tiny Animal): I'm not sure what kind of caiman the authors have been measuring, as even the tiniest of caiman species edge into size Small, but whatever. The sharp toothiness grants a caiman’s master a +3 to Intimidate checks, which is a bit funnier when you take into account the fact that the book says the caiman’s stats can also be used for marine iguanas. Because we all know how fierce marine iguanas are.
  • Crab (CR 1/2 Tiny Vermin): These stats are apparently supposed to be used for hermit crabs and lobsters, which makes me wonder what sort of terrifying doom-hermits the authors have encountered to deem them as deserving a higher Challenge Rating than a caiman. You get a +2 to Fortitude saves with a crab as your familiar.
  • Cuttlefish (CR 1/2 Tiny Animal): In addition to being adorable, cuttlefish are clever, capable of camouflage, and other things that exemplify the cephalopods. Indeed, there are minor change notes to change the stats to a familiar that is a nautilus, octopus, or squid of the same size. As is befitting these slippery devils, the master is granted a +3 to Escape Artist checks.
  • Fish (CR 1/6 Tiny Animal): Any fish between 1 and 2 feet in length, be they a dainty darting reef fish or a toothy-mawed anglerfish – hell, the book even says these stats are used for seahorses, seahorses!– get these same stats with a bite attack that deals the same damage as a knife and a boon to their master of a +3 to Acrobatics checks. :effort:
  • Frog (CR 1/8 Diminutive Animal): Stated to also be applicable to newt stats, in case you want to your baleful polymorpher to constantly bring up Monty Python. The master’s benefit is literally a free case of the Toughness feat with 3 extra hit points.
  • Jellyfish (CR 1/4 Tiny Vermin): With a weak Dexterity-damaging poison, one can assume that these aren’t box jellies. The stats are also applicable to sea anemones if you remove the move speed, or so the text says. The master gains a +2 bonus to Will saves thanks to the jelly’s brainlessness.
  • Muskrat (CR 1/2 Tiny Animal): Ah, the muskrat, that chubby water-dwelling North American vole once popular in the fur trade. Not only is it somehow tougher than a caiman, it is also apparently well-suited to being used for otter stats according to the fluff box. Not, say, the nutria, a distantly related rodent that happens to have convergently evolved to be similar to the muskrat, but the sleek and slender river otter. A +2 bonus to Reflex saves is your benefit for having one of these as familiars.
  • Sea Snake (CR 1/2 Tiny Animal): Sea snakes aren’t what sticks out in this entry so much as the statement about changing the stats to reflect eels. The recipe? Remove hold breath and poison, add an electrical discharge. Yes, because your average small oceanic eel is the same as the vaguely eel-like knifefish of the great rivers. A sea snake or eel familiar grants a +3 bonus to Bluff checks, because snakes are really good at poker or something.
  • Snail (CR 1/8 Diminutive Vermin): Man, it must really suck to go to the wizard con with a snail familiar. “My familiar’s a caiman. Gnarly, toothy, once bit a rogue’s foot clean off. What’s your familiar do, Joe?” “...I hate you all so much.” If you want to be even more impotent, the stats can also double or the less defensive sea slug or the barely mobile clam. But hey, it conveniently provides a +3 bonus to Stealth for its master, so you can more easily hide your shame.
  • Starfish (CR 1/8 Diminutive Vermin): While just as impotent as the snail, the starfish at least gets bonus points for being nearly immortal thanks to regeneration bypassed only by fire, magic, or steam damage. The benefit for the master from a starfish familiar is a +3 to Heal checks.
  • Tern (CR 1/6 Tiny Animal): These stats are used for tern, seagulls, and other fluttering shorebirds, as well as penguins if you remove the fly speed in exchange for a swim speed. Strangely enough, they also suggest that you can use these stats for ospreys if you boost the claw damage it deals, rather than just using hawk stats from standard Pathfinder. These sea birds will net you a +3 to Perception checks.
  • Turtle (CR 1/6 Tiny Animal): Last, but not least due to the whole snail snafu, is this generic unspecified turtle. It gives you a +1 bonus to Armor Class, because of course it would, it’s a turtle.

Genai (Class level-dependent Medium Humanoid)
What happens when you take humans and marid genies and mate them a lot? These guys, obviously, or I probably wouldn't have brought it up. They are known for being extremely patient and calm, quiet and introverted unless you somehow manage to piss them off enough that they show their bloodthirsty and vengeful side. Almost the entire population of genai in the Cerulean Seas region come from one city, Harper's Bay, the rest chilling with their marid parents in the Elemental Plane of Water. Genai characters get a +2 to Dexterity and Constitution at the cost of a -2 to Charisma, a free Improved Initiative feat, and the ability to cast swift retreat (expeditious retreat by any other name) three times a day and undertow (gust of wind, but underwater) once a day.

Hippocampus, Reef Horse (CR 1 Large Animal) and Sea Pony (CR 1/2 Medium Animal)
While standard Pathfinder envisions these aquatic creatures of Greek mythology as Magical Beasts, but Cerulean Seas decides they are normal enough to qualify as Animals. The reef horse is the normal Poseidon cart-pulling style hippocampus, while the sea pony is a smaller variety bred either to be pets for sea elves or as mounts for size Small aquatic races.

Remora Imp (CR 1/2 Tiny Magical Beast)
In spite of the name, these freakish fish-lizard creatures with humanoid hands are not actually a type of devil, instead being genetically engineered by the sahuagin to act as hands for the awakened sharks known as the carchardians. When the carchardians rebelled, the remora imps went with them, continuing to do menial tasks for their masters because they literally cannot survive on their own. Some of these creatures that lost their carchardian masters managed to find ixarcs (awakened stingrays) before they ended up dying, bonding with them instead.

Stygian Imp (CR 2 Tiny Outsider)
Oh hey, an actual imp. Stygian imps come from the River Styx and smell like a mix of methane and sulfur. While that may be typical demon stuff, their lamprey-like heads and bioluminescence certainly aren't. Stygians are also far more rude and crude than land imps and prefer to go straight to the painful tricks over any scheming and subterfuge. To these ends, a Stygian imp can become invisible at will, transform ino a barracuda, giant lobster, muskrat, or albatross, and its bite has a venom that deals cold damage because why not it's a magical devil creature. Those omnipresent sages of D&D/Pathfinder bestiaries theorize that the reason Stygian imps are so common in the deep sea is that devils get tired of their poo poo and throw them into the material plane like a bunch of spam mail.

Jellyfish, Goliath Jellyfish (CR 1 Medium Vermin) and Jellyfish School (CR 4 Diminutive Vermin Swarm)
A particularly big jellyfish and a swarm of generic jellyfish, respectively. Not much to say about them.

Halbokian Kappa (CR 3 Medium Monstrous Humanoid)
These anthropomorphic sea turtles used to be called the turtlefolk before the sebek-ka decided "hey, these guys look vaguely like the glorious and benevolent kappa from our pre-Flood creation stories, we'll call them that". Unfortunately for the sebek-ka, they quickly learned that the Halbokian kappas are actually colossal shitlords that love to pillage, enslave, and generally be Evil. Rather than being an orc-style marauding horde, however, these sinister sea creatures are an entire species of mercenaries, doing their evil deeds for the highest bidder. Their only taboo is that they hate people who despoil nature, so necromancers and industrialists are blacklisted for kappa services.

Lampreys, Dire Lamprey (CR 1/2 Tiny Magical Beast) and School of Lamprey (CR 1 Diminutive Vermin Swarm)
I'm fairly sure that 1. lampreys being the size of lampreys doesn't count as "dire"; and 2. lampreys should be Animal, not Magical Beast or Vermin. This is kind of a dumb entry.

Lobsters, Giant Lobster (CR 1 Medium Vermin) and Phantom Lobster (CR 5 Large Magical Beast)
One's a man-sized lobster, the other is a teleporting invisible giant lobster that is supposedly the degenerate descendant of a tribe of sapient sea scorpions. Together, they fight crime are surprisingly uninteresting beyond that "civilization of the sea scorpions" thing.

Morganite Nucklavee (CR 4 Large Fey)
The nuckalavee from Pathfinder Bestiary 3 is closer to the Celtic folklore of the creature and is more interesting in its abilities, you should use it instead.

...Oh, okay, I guess I should at least go into some detail on these guys. Morganite nucklavees basically look like mer-orcs and have a gaze attack that can induce rage in people. They are violent brutes who hate elves most of all, and they worship the Morgana aspect of Saloth, which is how they get their name.

Otters, Dire Otter (CR 2 Medium Animal) and Sea Otter (CR 1/2 Small Animal)
Both of these are real animals, or at least sort of. The sea otter is self-explanatory, but the dire otter is a bit of something you have to read between the lines for. It's stated to be man-sized, chocolate brown in color, short-snouted, small-eared and very vocal even for an otter. These are all big indicators of Pteronura brasiliensis, the giant river otter of the Amazon, to the point that I'm not sure why they wouldn't just up and say it's a giant river otter.

Up Next Time...
Prehistoric plate-mouthed fish, awakened sea creatures, sharks and rays, titans who may or may not clash, and ridiculously large whales as we get through the final pages of the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Part 7: It Ends Here
Alright, let's finish this, once and for all...until the expansion sourcebooks. It's time for the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide's bestiary chapter, sections P to W, because gently caress the XYZ trio apparently.

Piranhas, Giant (CR 3 Medium Animal) and School (CR 3 Diminutive Animal Swarm)
Most animal entries in Cerulean Seas tend to be written in a matter-of-fact manner that doesn't give the same sort of legendary air to them that the actual supernatural beings in the title get - the piranha is an exception to this. We get the hyperbolic toothy terror piranha here, who "all inhabitants of the Cerulean Seas knew of, and feared", and a damage yield that most animals could only dream of. A piranha swarm deals 2d6 damage normally, and doubles that total if their target is nauseated (wha?) or helpless. Why is the piranha treated so differently from any other animal in the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide? :iiam:

Giant piranhas do a more sedate 1d8 damage, but hunt in large packs. They also have ridiculous eating habits:

Cerulean Seas posted:

While it is an extremely dangerous fish, it is also completely untamable, and worse… insatiable. Unlike a shark which will take its fill and leave, a giant piranha will eat until it regurgitates, and then it will eat again. A school of these monsters can be particularly lethal.
Oh, and they were apparently sahuagin war beast experiments that failed, just like the remora imps and the carchardians. Man, how did the sahuagin ever terrorize the seas if they sucked so hard at actually making minions?

Placoderms, Dunkleosteus (CR 9 Huge Animal) and Titanichthys (CR 7 Huge Animal)
Back in the Silurian and Devonian periods of Earth's prehistory, the placoderm fish were the new hotness. Not only were they experimenting with this new-fangled "jaw" technology, their heads and bodies were armor plated to boot. While they technically ranged all the way from just under a feet in length to "holy poo poo this is a big fish" in size, the pair presented in the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide are of course two of the largest. You may recall Dunkelosteus from way back when I first started posting in FATAL and Friends with Broncosaurus Rex: it's popular as a large prehistoric predatory fish, and it's hard to blame anyone for picking out the 30 foot long tank-fish with bolt cutters for teeth. Titanichthys is nearly as large as Dunkelosteus, but far less famous simply because it was a filter feeder and nobody picks them first in bestiary soccer. The book gives Titanicthys the role of either big game fish or "whoops, your size Small character was swimming in a school of bait fish, it's vacuuming you now".

Sea Cats, Dire Merlion (CR 3 Large Animal), Guardcat (CR 1/3 Small Animal), Merlion (CR 1 Medium Animal), and Riding Cat (CR 1 Medium Animal)
If you thought just one type of sea cat in Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder was superfluous enough, I can only imagine how you must be feeling right now. These creatures are regular lions but underwater (and yet classified as the dire version nonetheless), a house cat but underwater, a somewhat smaller than usual underwater lion that is a solitary ambush predator in kelp forests, and a somewhat smaller than usual underwater tiger that Small races like to ride around on.

Seals, Common Seal (CR 1/3 Small Animal), Dire Seal (CR 5 Large Animal), Elephant Seal (CR 2 Large Animal), Sea Lion (CR 1 Medium Animal), and Walrus (CR 7 Large Animal)
I'm fairly sure this should be "pinnipeds", but whatever. Also a walrus has 10 HD but an elephant seal has 3, in spite of elephant seals being massive slabs of flesh. Why? Again, :iiam:

Sea Titans, Abyssal Titan (CR 11 Huge Humanoid), Ice Titan (CR 9 Large Humanoid), Maelstrom Titan (CR 13 Huge Humanoid), Marsh Titan (CR 7 Large Humanoid), Steam Titan (CR 10 Large Humanoid), and Tidal Titan (CR 8 Large Humanoid)
These oversized merfolk fulfill the role of the classic D&D/Pathfinder land giants of the various alignment stripes.
  • Abyssal titans (True Neutral) have the lower bodies of giant squids and are seldom seen, to the point that they are more legend than fact for all but the few people who have a brief encounter with them. Abyssals are also the largest sea titans, which is kind of weird given that another sea titan is literally part whale. Having a squid butt allows them to jet around and spew forth an ink cloud, and utilize those tentacles in combat, but that isn’t enough – no, they also have the ability to cast ink and murk as spell-like abilities when their natural ink is recharging and wield huge shortspears in their humanoid hands. They are probably the most divorced from the stone giants they are meant to be the aquatic equivalents of.
  • Ice titans (Neutral Evil) have the lower bodies of walruses and are known being greedy, lazy, and hateful. They came to the Cerulean Seas from the far north by stowing away on the great berg-city of Lochgelly and were promptly kicked out as soon as the selkies found them. Unsurprisingly, they happen to have the Cold subtype and an ice breath weapon to match their role as the frost giants of the ocean.
  • Maelstrom titans (Neutral Good) are baleen whale merfolk who once roamed the seas in massive numbers, but are now few and far between. It’s kind of weird that they are size Huge given that they have whale parts and are meant to be the oceanic equivalent of the Gargantuan size storm giants of old. They have the same weather- and electricity-related spell-like abilities as the storm giants and are proficient in all simple and martial weapons.
  • The marsh titan (Chaotic Evil) is the aquatic equivalent of the hill giant – dumb, angry, and completely geared toward melee powerhousing without any supernatural abilities. And boy, does the flavor text read them the riot act for it, stating that "their malice is reflected in their ugliness, faces twisted with hatred and rage."
    As their lower halves belong to crocodiles, they get the ability to do a death roll when they grapple, tripping the foe while dealing 2d8 damage.
  • The steam titans (Lawful Evil) are the fire giant equivalents of the ocean, but much more interesting to look at because their lower bodies are giant spider crabs, some of the raddest dudes in the deep. While they hate everybody and live in heavily regimented military societies, evil races can apparently pay off steam titans to be their personal mercenaries and bodyguards. A steam titan, of course, can produce a steam breath weapon. Shocking, I know.
  • Lastly, we have the tidal titan (Neutral Evil), guys with shark tails. They are the only sea titan that doesn’t really have a land giant analogue, though that doesn’t really matter as you can basically sum them up as “marsh titans only not stupid”. Their human level intellect doesn’t do them much good when they are nomadic predators who could probably hunt whatever they want but prefer humanoids as they “delight” in eating them for whatever reason.

Sharg (CR 2 Medium Monstrous Humanoid)
The Chaotic Evil sharg are literally the only examples of the sahuagin not loving up one of their war beast experiments and having said experiments blow back in their face. These guys are actually loyal to their masters, vast in number, ferocious in battle, and generally not another one to add to the failure pile. They have a Barbarian rage once per day, their bites deal bleedout, and they get a free 15 foot move action after a successful charge attack that allows them to quickly move across the battlefield. While shargs are “seemingly incapable of rebellion”, the carchardians act like rear end in a top hat big brothers and think they can win over the shargs if they beat them up in combat enough times.

Sharks, Edestus (CR 7 Huge Animal) and Goblin Shark (CR 4 Large Animal)
An extinct and extant real world shark pair, these two oddballs provide a rather different shark encounter than your bulls, tigers, or great whites, definitely. The goblin shark is a deep sea predator known for being really loving weird looking, with an extendo-mouth and cranial “horn”. And Edestus? Imagine a great white shark with a chainsaw blade jammed up in each jaw. Not only is it pretty dangerous to be bitten by that kind of equipment, it also makes this prehistoric shark look fairly freaky.

Slurg (CR 5 Medium Aberration)
For once, you’ve got an abominable eldritch creature that isn’t immediately evil. These slug-people are True Neutral and truly confounding, they seem content to do their own thing while attended to by an entourage of thralls. Are these beings willingly made thralls? Are they test subjects for extradimensional research? Are they simply classic evil overlord mind slave tactics? Nobody knows. The slurgs aren’t telling anyone, either, which doesn’t help to stall the oceanic rumor mill.

In addition to having the classic mental spell-like ability trio (detect thoughts, charm, and suggestion), slurgs have an aura of "mental static" that forces Concentration saves to cast spells and a particularly potent slime that forces a Fortitude save to avoid suffering a -2 penalty to all Will saves for an hour afterward. They also have a downright strange special quality – three times per day, their eyestalks can produce a light that forces a Will save. If you fail the Will save, you are nauseated for 2d6+2 round, but are also compelled to move toward the slurg every round you stay nauseated.

Squid, School (CR 2 Tiny Animal Swarm) and Swamp Kraken (CR 9 Gargantuan Animal)
Forget the school, they’re only meant as a distraction in combat against something else with their ink clouds. Instead, let’s talk about the swamp kraken, because it’s a loving swamp kraken. While not a true kraken in the D&D sense of “smart squid overlord monster), these offshoots of the giant squid are capable of moving on land at a decent pace, have pseudo-lungs, and create a fog bank instead of an ink cloud. That is just so ridiculous it wheels immediately into the territory of awesome. I want swamp krakens to become a popular thing.

Stingrays, Dire Stingray (CR 2 Large Animal) and School (CR 2 Diminutive Animal Swarm)
Meh. It’s neat that they give out the factoid that young stingrays sometimes school together, I guess.

Triton, Shazalarian (Class level-dependent Humanoid)
Shazalarian tritons are different from regular tritons in most things other than appearance and a reverence of sea life. They are also literally birthed fully formed from the magic of the Elemental Plane of Water. Why? Nobody knows, but it's really weird, given that these guys are Humanoid with the class levels while the regular tritons are the ones with the Outsider creature type and natural HD. Perhaps the answers lie with whoever decided to have a playable no-HD Humanoid race stuffed in the bestiary section rather than the playable races section.

Whatever the reason for all the strange things about Shazalarian tritons, their stats are set in stone...and kind of dull stone, at that. They have a +2 to Strength and Wisdom but a -2 to Intelligence, can speak with all sea creatures, and have gills rather than lungs. The only somewhat interesting thing is that they can cast summon nature's ally I once per day. Doesn't sound too interesting? Well, it wouldn't on its own, but it is actually a dynamic racial trait, in that it levels up to its next spell up every other class level the Shazalarian triton gains. More races need dynamic racial abilities, they're a neat idea.

Trueform (CR +1 to +3 Template)
Have you ever wanted a quick and easy template for making awakened animals? Well, here you go. The type changes to Magical Beast, they get a +10 to Intelligence, +2 to Wisdom, and +4 to Charisma, they can use tools (that are applicable of course, there is no magical sprouting of limbs or anything), they can take class levels, and they can summon two of their base creature per day. While the carchardians (Lawful Neutral trueform sharks) and ixarcs (Lawful Good trueform manta rays) were both given discussion earlier in the book, the other examples of using the template don't really have any flavor text, just alignment and name. For the purposes of completionism, though, I'll note that the others are the delphin (Chaotic Good trueform dolphin), squibbon (Chaotic Neutral trueform octopus), and greater carchardian (Lawful Neutral trueform dire shark).

Turtles, Giant Leatherback (CR 4 Large Animal) and Marine Snapping Turtle (CR 6 Large Animal)
One's literally Archelon, the other is a terrifying adaptation of a freshwater predator. The marine snapping turtle isn't content to be as big as a cow and have a powerful bite (2d8+13 with a critical hit ratio of 19-20), it also has a swim speed greater than most playable races in spite of the flavor text assuring us they are “not too fast”.

Whale, Dire Whale (CR 13 Colossal Animal) and Sperm Whale (CR 7 Huge Animal)
Look at that image. Look at that loving image. That is a truly dire animal. Its stats back it up as well, with a massive 42 Strength score, 19 HD, and a 4d8 damage bite backed up by the aforementioned Strength score. Oh, and it has a 100 foot swim speed. Try outracing that.

The sperm whale? Eh. There’s already sperm whale stats in regular Pathfinder that have the correct size category rather than being shrunken down for no apparent reason, so I’m not actually sure why these stats are even here.

Simple Templates
The final thing we see before appendices that basically act as indexes is this, a small section on simple CR +0 templates tucked away like an unwanted child. Three of these are for converting land creatures into sea creatures to add them into the setting: Semi-Aquatic (creature still has lungs but can hold its breath for a fairly long time and is a better swimmer), Aquatic (creature is now fully amphibious), and Merped/Merfolk (creature is now fully amphibious and has a fish butt). The other template, Deep Sea Creature, takes an already amphibious or aquatic creature and shoves it into the abyssal plain, giving it an insane depth tolerance of 5,500 feet and darkvision at the cost of having pressure sensitivity for water 300 feet or shallower.

The last image the book gives before the Open Game License page. Enjoy :shepicide:
Closing Thoughts on the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide
While I still stand by this being a good campaign setting for Pathfinder, it’s not quite as shining as I recalled. Funny how selective memory works like that.

On the plus side, I genuinely like the water pressure system’s simple but effective adding of potential environmental damage if you go too far out of your element, a fair bit of the playable races are interesting, the classes other than Mariner and Siren are good, the spells and equipment aren't too bad for the most part, and the bestiary takes some interesting pulls out of the annals of both present and past wildlife from our world.

Of course, where there’s a plus side, there’s also the minus side. The big one people already touched on was the one-two punch of drag and buoyancy. They are meant to be the underwater equivalent of encumbrance, but are they really? No, not really. It manages to add the sort of math you'd more expect from a poorly optimized GURPS book than a d20 game and requires a fair bit more legwork than you would need for just regular encumbrance. The religion system of "one religion for each alignment" is kind of iffy as well, at least in my opinion, and some of the bestiary entries just have really weird choices (especially if they are a more well-known animal group). Then there's the whole art situation with female humanoids... But still, some bad and a fair bit of good is better than a lot of bad and little to no good.

Next Time...
The first sourcebook for Cerulean Seas in both voting order and publishing order is Indigo Ice, so I'm fairly sure we'll be doing that next unless I feel like having a random one-shot of some other roleplaying game as an interlude or something.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Str 42 is actually massively underwhelming for a creature of that size. That means it can lift 100 tons. If it puts one of those whales in its maw (around 120 tons for a blue whale, lowballing it), its speed drops to 5 ft and it comes to a full stop. If it eats both of the whales in the picture, it takes on more weight than it can carry and most likely sinks.
I was strictly comparing it to first party "this thing is ridiculously loving large whale" Pathfinder monsters like the astral leviathan (Str 35), bakekujira (Str 42), and thalassic behemoth (Str 47) for the comparison.

When you actually logic it out, yeah, it's pretty bad. Oh, RPG numbers... :allears:

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Wapole Languray posted:

Not mentioned in the corebook from what I remember, though the Ottoman Empire probably has that info. I don't have the book yet as it was made for the short-lived GURPS version of the game.
I took the liberty of checking for you. The answer is...well, here it is.

"GURPS Castle Falkenstein: The Ottoman Empire posted:

1258: Mongol invaders sack Baghdad; much Magickal knowledge lost or scattered.

Not exactly a huge mention, but a mention nonetheless.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Before we get into Cerulean Seas: Indigo Ice, I decided I'd push out a snapshot related to a topic near and dear to my heart – kaiju!

...No, this has nothing to do with the new Godzilla movie coming out on Friday whatsoever, why ever would you think that?

As I'm fairly sure I've said in my first review of material from The Game Mechanics, the enthusiastically pseudonymed Stan! was one of the original writers Wizards of the Coast had for d20 Modern material who happened to feel that there was more to be written about the system than what survived the cutting room floor. This is by far the smallest of such endeavors, a wee 13 pages not counting the front and back covers. Most supplements this small tend to be given out by The Game Mechanics as freebies, but for whatever reason Stan! Published this one solo as a for-purchase PDF.

As for kaiju, they probably need little introduction. The term means “strange creature”, as Stan!’s supplement helpfully tells us, but in practice it tends to refer specifically to giant monsters. No matter what your opinion on kaiju are, you’re likely to have heard of at least one at this point – they have become imbedded in international pop culture at this point, from Godzilla and his prodigious rogues’ gallery to the fishy freaks of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim.

The art for Stan! Presents: Kaiju has cutesy black and white pastiches of several Toho kaiju and two enigmatic may-be-Toho-may-be-something-else critters decorating its limited pages. His references to Godzilla and King Ghidorah in particular were picked as the images I’d show for the snapshots header, because they’re easiest to recognize. But who cares about that, let’s actually discuss the supplement.

The Contents
After a two and a half page discussion about the history of kaiju from Godzilla and Gamera up to tokusatsu villains and a paragraph on what is and isn’t a kaiju (Roland Emmerich’s Zilla isn’t but Ray Harryhausen’s Rhedosaurus is, according to our author’s opinion), our first actual discussion of kaiju in a d20 game happens. Stan!’s advice here ends up contradicting the direction the supplement heads in. He states fairly explicitly that kaiju are not to be the main focus of a campaign, but a big plot piece to motivate your player characters. He also states just as explicitly that kaiju are a force of nature that the heroes aren’t meant to fight directly.

This becomes rather confusing very quickly given that the next section after that advice is on how to stat up a kaiju. I’d liken it to the whole “stats for a god” problem faced by D&D – you have an extremely powerful entity that your heroes are not supposed to fight in the head-on murderhobo tradition, but you give them stats anyway. Rather than using the standard d20 size categories and creature types, Stan! Declares that these mighty monsters have their own size and type. The Monumental size category is given because it would apparently be more unrealistic to have a 300 foot kaiju and a 100 foot blue whale be in the same size category than it already is for the 65 foot Tarrasque and a 100 foot blue whale to be in the same size category.

The Daikaiju (“giant strange creature”) creature type gets a d12 for hit die like a dragon, a Base Attack Bonus of +10/+5 plus Strength, and saving throws of +12 plus ability modifiers of course for poor saves or +22 plus the modifiers for good saves. All kaiju get damage reduction 50 that is only bypassed by other kaiju, swallow whole, and trample as special qualities, which must be really awkward for the kaiju that don’t have mouths or legs. Oh, and if they hit a monster that isn’t a kaiju with an attack? Automatic save or die. Even if that creature may be Colossal in size or in a vehicle/mecha and probably should be able to withstand a hit or two at least.

The last part of building a kaiju are its unique special qualities, which are bought with “kaiju points”. Stan! recommends giving 5 to 8 kaiju points and keeping the points generally the same for all but the most powerful kaiju in the same setting. These points seem arbitrarily placed rather than all that thought out – for instance, having a spiky back and tail that deals a measly 1d6 damage to other kaiju (who cannot have less than 40d12 hit dice according to Stan!’s chart) costs 3 points, while being able to fly everywhere or regenerate 25 HP a round are both 2 points. For fun, I experimented with a rather famous kaiju, and it turns out that Godzilla has a total of 18 points with this system. And that’s with me being generous and assuming he doesn’t take the kaiju traits for extra skill points, higher ability scores, or a retaliatory strike. “5 points is recommended, and try not to go over 8” indeed.

The last bit of gaming info this supplement provides are three adventure ideas courtesy of Stan!.
  • It Came From Underground: The rural southwestern town of Red Rock Valley is under siege by a titanic mole kaiju accidentally created by the Manhattan Project. The heroes are supposed to investigate the US Department of the Interior’s involvement, track down the mole, and get it to eat a long lost atom bomb buried in the desert to explode it for good.
  • The Curse of Bakemono Shrine: A giant monster of unknown description is released from its millennia-long bondage when a statue of the Shinto priest who sealed it away is stolen. Generic trampling over Japan happens and the heroes have to get the statue back from the thieves and place it in the shrine once more to stop the rampage.
  • Space Monster X: Literally the plot of the Godzilla film Invasion of the Astro Monster.

My Thoughts
Stan! Presents: Kaiju is a weird supplement. Hell, even as much as I like d20 Modern and Stan!, I’m not so blind as to say that this isn’t a bad supplement. It is definitely a bad supplement plagued with a sense of indecision. You have a system to create kaiju, but the heroes are not actually supposed to fight them head-on, and indeed can’t really do so due to the whole” damage reduction bypassed by other kaiju” rule. This was written after d20 Future was already a thing, so the mecha rules were on the table, but the best mecha weapon (the far-future beam scythe held by a Colossal mecha) is still going to do no damage half of the time and deal 50 damage if it deals its maximum yield. Mechagodzilla, MOGUERA, Jet Jaguar, the jaegers of Pacific Rim? Chumps by the logic of the rules here, given that they won’t be dealing nearly as much damage as even the best case scenario above.

This is where my whole “it’s a weird supplement” statement comes in. The only way the kaiju creation rules actually make sense to me is if they were meant to emulate characters playing kaiju for big ridiculous Destroy All Monsters-style battle royales. But this is something the book never mentions, not even in passing, as a possibility! Is this an oversight on Stan!’s part? Cut content? Meant to be assumed even though the campaign ideas text says everything the exact opposite of that premise? I honestly don’t know. There are books that manage to get the most out of the d20 system, Modern or otherwise, with atypical premises. This? This is not one of them.

EDIT: Oh, and while not important to the review, this quote from the index of good kaiju films and books should probably be quoted for who amazing it is.

Stan! posted:

Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) — Probably the best choreographed of the “pro-wrestling” period of Godzilla films.

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 20:24 on May 12, 2014

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Humbug Scoolbus posted:

I like d20...but only if I use any other magic system than base.
Good thing there are so many, first and third party, then! :v:

Seriously, I can't think of any other rule that has had so many variations as magic has.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Part 1:
With the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide, it turned out that (while still good in my opinion) it was worse than I remembered. Cerulean Seas: Indigo Ice? I remembered literally nothing about it besides that there are ridiculously swole penguin-men before I started prepping this review. I guess we'll find out what this means for the title's quality when we're through.

Environmental Basics
Indigo Ice is a sourcebook about Isinblare, the collective name for the two polar regions of the Cerulean Seas world. Isinblare has a lot of ice. Ice is cold. Water around ice is usually cold as well. But not all cold ice and water is the same, and this book begins with terrain charts for different icy water environments - frozen seas, glaciers, and slush swamps (foggy ice bogs around hot springs). To a character who isn't naturally inured to the cold, there are plenty of unpleasantries to experience here. Indigo Ice supplements the rules for extreme cold from standard D&D and Pathfinder with some extra facets. Wind chill reduces the effective temperature for purposes of extreme cold by 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and creatures that are native to polar regions have a separate set of degrees for when they start taking damage from extreme cold (-55 degrees instead of -5 degrees like average characters).

If that isn't enough, there are also rules for thin ice and movement penalties from deep snow, as well as two new character conditions. The first of these, entombed, refers to being encased in solid ice at least an inch thick, and is basically the entangled condition with the added penalties o both 1d6 points of cold damage per round and suffocation. The other is the frosted condition, wherein you are coated in ice and frost in a way that causes a -1 to attack rolls, -2 to Dexterity, and 1 point of cold damage a round. It also makes you more buoyant, because you can't escape the buoyancy rules.

Aquatic Polar Races
As seen in the image above, our first introduction to the races associated with Isinblare are not the new ones, but instead a quick overview of how the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide’s races are in the icy realm. Aquatic elves in Isinblare have blue hair and green skin instead of green hair and blue skin, its karkanaks are entirely aquatic and have spider crab-inspired features such as long and spindly manipulator arms and pincers that are both small for males as well as females, the nommo are the same, the pisceans are short and stout descendants of a runaway slave caste, the seafolk are hairier and more strongly built, and the selkies came from Isinblare in the first place so of course they’re the same.

There are six new races added in Indigo Ice, two of each of the three racial archetypes. One of each is also meant to be a “we’re different!” example of a race not having its archetype’s...well, archetypical traits.

Agloolik: Aglooliks (a name taken from a fairy figure in Inuit mythology) are oddballs of the feykith. They have no innate magic, instead having a high level of technological prowess, and eschew the more overt sexual dimorphism that most humanoid feykith end up displaying. In fact, that agloolik above? She’s a female of the species. The mane of hair that culminates in a “beard” is displayed by both sexes, with the main difference between the two being that male aglooliks grow mustaches. Their nature is one of almost construct-like methodicalness. Most are Lawul Neutral, they are almost always atheists, they divide themselves up into those who create technology and those who dismantle it, and most adventuring aglooliks adventure because they want to learn more. Even their names are calculated, quite literally – a number in their language with their family name attached as a suffix. So, for instance, the fifth (“sitaman”) member of the current batch of the Axa family is named Sitamanaxa.

Gameplay-wise, aglooliks are meant to gravitate toward either Alchemist as a creator or Rogue as a demolisher, and it shows. Their Small size is offset by a swim speed of 30 feet rather than 20 feet, and their ability scores are a +2 to Dexterity and Intelligence at the cost of -2 to Constitution. Racial traits? The main one is a +2 bonus to either Knowledge (Engineering), Profession (Engineering), any one Craft skill, or Disable Device, all of which are permanent class skills no matter what class the agloolik takes. The other two racial traits are “Dodge Disasters” (a +1 dodge bonus against area of effect attacks that are acid, electricity, or steam) and the ability to consider any of their fantastical magitech weapons as martial rather than exotic.

Crystolix: These strange coelacanth merfolk are considered to be extremely beautiful and share the whole very minute sexual dimorphism thing the agloolik have (the difference between the sexes is that males have bigger facial fins). They are skilled diplomats that are typically Neutral Good, but their reasons for being all nice tend to be rather self-serving. You see, crystolix are hella meritocratic. Property and wealth are such a show of status for them that they will sell off the meat of their own dead family members rather than bury them or let it go to “waste” in nature. Crystolix names are chosen to best promote their business and can be changed whenever their profession shifts, and whatever gods are worshiped are whichever happen to be most convenient.

It’s not surprising that the +2 ability score bonuses crystolix attain are to Wisdom and Charisma, nor is it really that surprising that their -2 penalty is Strength. They also have cold resistance 10 on top of the normal higher cold tolerance the races of Isinblare have, a +2 bonus to Appraise checks, Diplomacy as a permanent class skill that they must take Skill Focus (Diplomacy) for with their first level bonus feat, a +2 to saving throws against any effect that is designed to elicit a negative emotional state, and can make one reroll on any saving throw against suffering the shaken condition.

Ice Elf: God, these things are creepy. That image above isn’t even the true ice elf. That’s just its ice exoskeleton that is magically generated throughout its life. The real (and, in fact, boneless) body is inside and totally transparent from organs all the way up to skin. And as if that weren’t disturbing enough, their main lot in life is breeding horrifying magic-juiced war beasts. And I you think I’m being hyperbolic, let me just quote the book itself.

“Indigo Ice” posted:

In the war-torn realm of Isinblare, the ice elves have perfected their skills for a darker purpose than mere domestication. Through arcane tampering, selective breeding and exposing animals to strange radiations, the ice elves have developed an arsenal of terrifying beasts of war.
The other races of Isinblare are scared shitless by the enigmatic elf-bugs with their home-grown destructive weapons and know full well that ice elves will wage war with someone they traded with just last season for no reason beyond that they feel they need more land. Oh, but they're quietly contemplative and enjoy a good adventure out in the wilderness, so I guess it's not all bad. :v:

Ice elves are mechanically very "I feel like I've been here before". Their ability score modifiers of +2 to Dexterity and Wisdom at the cost of -2 Constitution isn't that dissimilar to standard elves, they still count as Humanoid (just with the Cold subtype) as all playable races in these do in spite of how weird they are, their attunement to animals nets them Handle Animal and Ride as permaent class skills, they have a +1 natural armor bonus to AC as long as they are in or touching water (including frozen water) and their nature as a feykith gets them a +1 bonus to the saving throws of ice spells they cast and the ability to cast ice water as a spell-like abilities three times a day if they have a Wisdom score of 11 or higher.

Talilajuk Ningen: While it's common to have D&D and Pathfinder creatures and races that are based on or at least crib the names from mythology, ones that come from urban legends are a bit more scarce on the ground - the talilajuk ningen happen to be both. These guys are one of the ningen, named after a Japanese urban legend about freaky white whale-men supposedly seen down in Antarctica. The specific name for their playable ningen race, the talilajuk, comes from one of the alternate names for Sedna, an Inuit goddess of marine mammals and the hunting of them in kind. Anyway, let's actually talk about them in the game rather than the origin of the name.

Talilajuk are a bit of an example of extremes from two ends. They are the largest playable merfolk (but still on the Medium side of 8 feet rather than the Large side, because we can't have player races getting weird now, can we?) but the smallest of the ningen. They are a sociable but combat-averse species that are well-known for their mercenary natures. A good offer of food and coin can get a talilajuk as hired muscle. Typically this means physical labor or guard duty, but the fact that these cetacean merfolk are brutal if they can't avoid combat or are defending family or allies makes them also favored as soldiers.

The talilajuk is a bit of an odd duck stats-wise. While they have +4 to Strength and -2 to Intelligence as is usual for a brute force playable race, their other abilities are all less directly combat focused. They have lungs rather than the gills most merfolk have, a fast swim speed of 40 feet rather than the usual 30, gain water-specific blindsense in a 30 foot radius, have Stealth as a permanent class skill, and must take Skill Focus (Stealth) as their first level bonus feat. I'd say that this would gear them heavily toward the Mariner class, but the flavor text says they are usually Barbarians and only rarely Mariners.

Technically the next chapter's header image, but it's my favorite image of the squawk so I'm putting it here.
Squawk: Squawks are one of the two anthromorph races in Isinblare, and clearly the far superior one. What could be better than penguins? Swole fascist penguins, of course! These guys live and breathe battle, going around picking fights with sapient pinniped races such as the hydrurgans, selkies, and thanor. Foreigners entering their land is immediately met with combat as well. Religion is not permitted, nor is insubordination or other forms of disobedience. Eugenics and social darwinism? Yep, got that too, with chicks being encouraged to cull out the weak as soon as they are out of the egg. These penguin-people ride giant battle penguins into battle as well, typically while wielding giant scythes called skiths. All of this combines to hit that sweet spot of "amazingly ridiculous and ridiculously amazing" that the mogogol from the campaign guide also struck.

Sadly, squawks don't live up to the hype mechanically. In spite of the imagery and text showing and describing them as amazingly muscular, their ability modifiers are +2 to Dexterity and Constitution and -2 to Intelligence. Being size Small just further hampers their lack of a Strength bonus. Their other abilities are treating the skith as a martial rather than exotic weapon, a swim speed of 30 feet in spite of their size, being considered to have cold weather clothing at all times, a +1 dodge bonus to AC, and a +2 bonus to saving throws against poison, spells, and spell-like abilities.

Thanor: The other anthromorph race of Isinblare is the thanor. They are the Rome to the squawks' barbarian tribes, a rigid Lawful empire with large cities and expansive governments rather than the tribal or nomadic natures that other anthromorphs have. They're also colossal dicks, as their seemingly expansive an comprehensive law system has intentional loopholes that allow for backstabbing and deception toward non-thanor races if they feel like it. Their code of law also says that female thanor are inferior to males and cannot take any martial class, which of course leads to them taking spellcasting and psionic classes and breaing the whole level of logic there. Dumb walruses.

The thing that immediately sticks out about the thanor racial traits is that they are size Large. Why do they get this but the talilajuk are forced to be Medium? I don't rightly know, but it's pretty silly. Their ability score modifiers are a +4 to Constitution, +2 to Strength, and a -2 to Dexterity and Wisdom. Ability-wise, thanor have a slow swim speed of 30 feet in spite of their Large size, a +1 natural armor bonus to AC, the same insulted hide ability as the squawks, and a bite attack that is 1d8 damage if they are male or 1d6 if they are female. Oh, and weirdly enough, female thanor can be either Large or Medium. If they are Medium, they drop the Strength bonus and Dexterity penalty and have a bite attack of 1d4 rather than 1d6.

Seafolk Half-Races: Yeah, these guys are back. As stated back in the campaign guide, seafolk hybrids lose their skill point boost in favor of one ability granted by their non-seafolk parent. The new ones for Indigo Ice are...
  • Iquala: The iquala are half-crystolix and have the lobe fins and silver coloration of their non-seafolk parent. They get both the whole Diplomacy shebang and the resistance to negative emotions that the crystolix have.
  • Kyla Half-talilajuk that are white and hairless. They have the lungs of their non-seafolk parent, as well as their Stealth class skill shenanigans.
  • Frost Oceanid: These guys are half-ice elf, anad get the Cold subtype as a result. They also get the joy of causing people to panic when they see them, as they keep their bones but have the transparent everything else that ice elves do.

Next Time...
Classes, crafting, and campaign chat.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Mors Rattus posted: in the hell do you get a half-ice elf?
They still count as Humanoid, so that's all that counts apparently.

Though I guess not being the same creature type never stopped breeding efforts in D&D and Pathfinder anyway...

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Procrastination time is over now. Now is the time to post.

Aquatic Polar Classes
Indigo Ice brings us a single new base class and three new prestige classes, so they’re all going to be under this one header rather than split up like I did with the review of the classes in the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide.

Angakkuq (Base Class)
The concept of the angakkuq is drawn from Inuit culture, wherein the term refers to a shaman who gained powers from a spirit guide and had to act as a general mediator between the mortal and spirit worlds, and follows its inspiration relatively well. The Angakkuq’s stats are of a more beefy than average spellcaster, with d8 hit dice, average Base Attack Bonus progression, and high Will save progression tempered by poor Fortitude and Reflex save progressions. The Angakkuq’s divine spells are also a bit below average, only getting up to 6th level and even then not attaining that level of spells until they reach level 16 of the class. This is enough to have access to some pretty damaging magic, of course, but is still less than the Cleric, who nets 6th level spells at level 11 and can get up to 9th level spells.

The main class feature of the Angakkuq is her Tupilaq, a spirit bound to an effigy body crafted specially for it. All tupilaq are Medium-size intelligent Constructs with a 20 foot swim speed and 10 foot land speed that level up like an animal companion would. There are three types of tupilaq as well, differentiated at the start purely by their resistances and vulnerabilities. The flesh tupilaq is crafted from animal parts and has damage reduction 3/bludgeoning and vulnerability to acid, the frost tupilaq is made of ice and snow and has DR 5/bludgeoning and vulnerability to steam, and the flora tupilaq is crafted from plants, sponges, and/or coral and has DR 5/slashing and vulnerability to electricity. In Inuit lore, there are also some less scrupulous angakkuq who create tupilaq from the flesh and bones of human children, which inspired the official Paizo tupilaq stats found in Pathfinder Bestiary 3. Rather than ignore that entirely, Indigo Ice goes "oh those are just perversions of the real tupilaq made by evil necromancers. Yeah."

On top of leveling up their HD and everything, the tupilaq is also enhanced by the Angakkuq's Enhanced Imbuement ability. At levels 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, and 18, the Angakkuq can pick an extra ability for their tupilaq to gain. Most of these, such as a +2 to one ability, an additional natural attack, size category increase, or spell resistance, are basically fair game. Each specific tupilaq, however, has three unique imbuements that only it can attain. The flesh tupilaq can attain 1 bleed damage on its melee attacks, a fear-inducing melee attack that frightens foes that fail their save for 3 rounds, or a 25% chance to turn a critical hit into a normal hit, the frost tupilaq can gain a melee attack bonus that forces a foe to make a Fortitude save or be slowed for 3 rounds, fast healing 2, or a cold breath weapon, and the flora tupilaq can get extra damage reduction, a jagged hide that makes its critical hits be x3 rather than the usual x2, or be able to cast enlarge as a spell-like ability.

The Angakkuq also gains another ability straight out from level 1 besides tupilaq-craft, and that is Outer Attunement. This is basically a combo clairvoyance/clairaudience spell with a 100 foot radius that starts out at one use per day and gains another use per day at 3rd, 7th, and 10th level. It is further boosted with Improved Outward Attunement, which gives an extra +2 bonus to the spell check for the ability at levels 13, 16, and 20 of the class, for a total of +6. The Angakkuq can also expend a use of Outer Attunement to instead boost one skill check by her Charisma modifier.

Perhaps the strangest ability to the Angakkuq has, though, is Spirit's Whisper. This class feature has a different bonus each level it is relevant: at level 2 of the class it lets the Angakkuq add her Charisma bonus to Perception and Sense Motive checks, at level 5 it is Charisma bonus to Initiative roll, at level 8 it's a Charisma bonus to Reflex saves, at level 11 it allows the Angakkuq to get a yes or no answer to a question from the spirits once per day, and at level 14 it allows her to reroll any failed save once per day. Finally, the capstone ability for Angakkuq is Part of the Living World. This boosts the range of Outer Attunement to 1 mile and allows her to increase the bonus to saving throws and skill checks from "Shared Perception" after the throw or check is made rather than before. What is Shared Perception? I don't know, it's literally never mentioned anywhere else in the class features. Maybe it is referring to the effects of Spirit's Whisper, maybe not, who knows.

Congulair (10 Level Prestige Class)
Our first prestige class for this book is also definitely the weirdest. Okay, so, a group of abolitionist squid from space crashed into Isinblare on a meteor, and the Congulairs are those who symbiotically bond with these abolitionist space squid to fight against tyranny. The prestige class is obviously meant for combat, with d10 hit dice, full Base Attack Bonus progression, average progression for Fortitude saving throws, and poor progression for the other two saving throws. The one thing that is missing is a lack of gaining any armor or weapon proficiencies. That, of course, is explained by the features of the class.

The starting ability for the Congulair is Blessing of the Symbiote. This is more or less a groundwork piece that just notes that the Congulair gets the Cold subtype if they didn't already have it and that the symbiote dies when the host dies. What's actually important starts at level 2 with Gelugarma. See all that Borg-looking stuff in the class image? That's gelugarma, a hardened gelatin created by the symbiote that provides a +3 armor bonus. This bonus increases by an additional +2 at levels 5 and 8.

Gelugarma also gets an offense counterpart, of course. At level 2 this is Icesickle, which is...well, an ice sickle. Specifically, it is hardened symbiote gelatin created as a swift action that acts as a masterwork sickle made of ever-ice and overcomes damage reduction that has magic as its overcoming force. This gets upgraded with Icelance at level 4, which allows the gel to become a replicant of a shortsword or short spear as a standard action instead. Icelance upgrades again at level 7 to allow the creation of a spear, great spear, or halberd, and at level 10 it further upgrades to allow the creation of a gel long spear, lance, or ranseur. Any gel weapon melts into nothingness a single round after it leaves the Congulair's hand, making it pointless to attempt to steal them.

Both the gelugarma and gel weapons eventually get upgraded with "rimefire", a phantasmal blue aura. Rimefire Armor at level 9 makes the Congulair's armor deal 1d6 + caster level (to a maximum of 15, still assuming the Congulair has caster levels at all) when a foe hits them with a melee weapon or natural attack. And at level 10, Rimefire Weapon makes the Congulair's icelance have the Frost, Icy Burst, and Frostburn enchantments. As it is new to this book rather than a Pathfinder standard, we won't get to learn what a Frostburn magical weapon is until the equipment chapter.

Last, but not least, to know about the Congulair's abilities is Frostboon. This is a special power granted by the symbiote at a specific rate – at level 3 the Congulair has one frostboon they can use once per day, at level level 6 it becomes two frostboons that can both be used twice per day, and at level 9 it's three frostboons that can all be used three times per day. The specific frostboons are...
  • Cold Touch: Elemental touch (cold) as a spell-like ability, caster level is equal to total character level.
  • Frostsmite: It's like a Paladin smite, but with the added bonus of 2 points of cold damage per character level on the smite as well.
  • Hibernation: The Congulair goes into suspended animation until either they are damaged or a specific trigger happens. What a strange power for a combat class.
  • Icebind: Ice sickle or ice lance strikes on a foe force them to make a Fortitude save or be frosted and slowed for 1d4 rounds.
  • Icy Murk: The Congulair has to be underwater to use this. One swift action spurts out a 20 foot radius cloud of gel that provides total concealment and 1d6 cold damage to anyone inside for a minute before dissipating. All Congulairs get to ignore the concealment effect.
  • Slippery Ice: The namesake spell gets cast as a spell-like ability, caster level is total character level as per Cold Touch. Congulairs are immune to this power, though, so they often group together to make huge skating rinks of doom against their foes.

Cryokineticist (10 Level Prestige Class)
The psychic icy guy. Where the Congulair is a pure brute, the Cryokineticist provides a mixture of armed combat and psionic talent. A d8 hit die and good BAB progression will keep this prestige class combat capable, but at the same time it is tempered by poor Will saves (a decidedly strange feature for someone with mind powers) and average Fortitude and Reflex saves.

As for powers? Well, they're limited. Limited to the class features, specifically, as the Cryokineticist just has class features flavored as mind powers rather than straight-up attaining psionics in the same way as, say, a Battle Mind would. This starts out with two abilities at level 1. Rimespear is a flexible 15 foot long harpoon of ice (yes, flexible ice) that can be summoned as a move equivalent action, dealing 1d8 damage to foes on a ranged touch attack and, of course, melting into nothingness if it leaves the Cryokineticist's hands. The other, Manipulate Freeze, can be used three times per day on a close source of non-magical ice in order to do one of three tricks – create a massive crackle and pop that temporarily deafens any foe within 120 feet that fails a Will save against it, turn it into a nice ice pack that heals 2 HP per power point expended, or create a 20 foot cube of murky water that both impedes vision and forces a Fortitude save to avoid taking a -4 penalty to Strength and Dexterity until the cloud dissipates. That ice pack healing power? One of only two features this class gets that actually states it needs power points, by the way.

Moving on, level 2 introduces two abilities that both progress beyond that level. Convenient, that. Cold Adaptation grants a +4 bonus to saving throws against cold spells and effects plus cold resistance 10, which advances to a +8 bonus and cold resistance 20 at level 7 of the prestige class. Cold Hands is an offensive power by contrast, allowing the Cryokineticist to take a move action to coat one hand (always one, never more) with ice to deal 2d6 points of damage at level 2 of the class and 4d6 at level 8. More fancy ice attacks come in the form of Icebolt (a number of d6s of cold damage equal to the Cryokineticist's class level at a range of 60 feet) at level 3, and Icy Weapon (Cold Hands but for melee weapons or projectiles) at level 4 and 8.

Level 5 grants Glaze, which is usable once per day and lasts a number of minutes equal to the Cryokineticist's level in this prestige class specifically. It sort of trumps Cold Hands by being able to do the same damage as a melee touch attack (2d6 at level 5 and 4d6 at level 8), with added abilities on top. Those abilities are a +4 bonus to Charisma while glazed because ice is apparently sexy or something, damage reduction 5/melee, and dealing the Cold Hands damage to foes that strike the Cryokineticist in melee combat. Getting up to level 10 lets the Cryokineticist use this ability three times per day rather than one. This would be objectively better than Cold Hands in all ways if it wasn't for the fact that Cold Hands is unlimited use.

Speaking of unlimited use and Cold Hands, though, there is no usage limitation listed for the first level 6 ability, Leech Heat. What does it do? Well, it deals the same damage as Cold Hands (2d6 when you get it, 4d6 at level 9), but has a range of 30 feet and heals 2 (4 at level 9) HP every time you damage a foe! And again, there's no usage limitation listed, or even a windup time for that matter, so we can only presume this is a passive aura. That's pretty crazy! Especially crazy when you see that a level 6 Cryokineticist also gets Penetrating Cold, which makes the Cryokineticist so cold that they bypass cold damage equal to their class level.

Of course, not everything can be that crazy. There is yet a third level 6 Cryokineticist class feature: Frostwalk. This one allows the Cryokineticist to move in any direction freely on a trail of ice, but costs a power point a round. The prestige class's level 9 ability, Icy Death, also has an actual limiter. Expending a full round action and psionic focus allows the Cryokineticist to forcibly lower the internal temperature of a creature within 30 feet to lethal levels, dealing 4d8 cold damage every round they can keep up focus.

To end this crazy class off, level 10 nets the Cryokineticist two capstone abilities. Flash Freeze is a once per day "gently caress everything" attack that deals 9d6+21 cold damage in a 30 foot radius and entombs any creature in that radius if it is used underwater. Heart of Ice, by contrast, is passive – cold immunity, immunity to the entombed condition, and the ability to swim through solid ice at half the character's normal movement without any adverse issues with doing so.

The spellcaster to the psion and melee fighter of the Cryokineticist and Congulair. A d6 hit die, average BAB progression, average Will save progression, and bad Reflex and Fortitude save progression mark the Cryomancer as pretty bog standard spellcaster as far as those traits go. It is also a prestige class that allows the retention of caster level increase, which never hurts.

And the class features? Well, they're okay, but not anything nearly as insane as the Cryokineticist. Cold Affinity grants cold resistance 5 at level 1, increased cold resistance to 10 and +1 caster bonus to all ice-related spells (but at the cost of not being able to cast any steam or fire spells from then on) at level 5, and a change to cold immunity, +2 caster bonus rather than +1, and a -2 caster level penalty to acid or electricity spells at Cryomancer level 9. Icy Knowledge grants knowledge of an ice spell from any class at every even numbered Cryomancer level. Intensify Cold at level 3 increases the maximum amount of damage an ice spell can do by two dice. Are you excited yet? I know I clearly am. :silent:

Level 6 brings us to the start of things that are at least conceptually interesting. Create Ever-Ice converts a cubic foot of ice per Cryomancer level into the never melting ever-ice for 24 the cost of a 12 hour ritual and 25 gold worth of gemstones per cubic foot. Handy. Level 7 Cryomancers get to gain the Cold subtype and special attacks and abilities of an ice elemental once per day for a number of minutes equal to their class level with Body of Ice, as well as take a standard action to deal 2d6 cold damage to adjacent foes that fail a Reflex save thanks to the Rimefire ability. Rimefire can be used a number of minutes per day equal to the character's class level, so presumably everyone should just go bang for their buck and use both level 6 Cryomancer abilities in tandem. Oh, and Icy Ascension is the level 10 capstone and turns the Cryomancer's creature type to Outsider. Wouldn't Elemental [Cold] make more thematic sense? Whatever.

Next Time...
The rest of the book. Yeah, not a lot of stuff to talk about in heavy post detail once you get past the races and classes.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Welcome to the "catch-all" chapter of Indigo Ice. New weapons, feats, spells, and magic items are all in here, ready for us to look at.

Indigo Ice gives us a total of 14 new weapons: the aquabomb, aquabus, aquannon, bayonet, chisel spear, eel spear, fizzlepop pistol, fizzlepop musket, ice blade, ice claws, pneumatic blade, pneumatic spear, skith, and ulu. Most of these are self-explanatory, such as the chisel spear being a spear with a chisel-shaped end (which helps against Earth subtype creatures in combat), ice claws being claws made to climb ice, and the aquabus being an arquebus that works underwater. The ones that are probably worth the most actual discussion are the pneumatics, eel spear, fizzlepops, and the skith, so let's actually talk about them rather than talk about talking about them.
  • Eel Spear: A spear designed to catch eels rather than one designed to mimic an eel. Its "jaws" clamp down on any target two size categories or more smaller than the wielder of the spear and holds them in place, which is an automatic grapple that can deal more damage each round it is maintained. The unfortunate target must either break the weapon, make a DC 17 Strength check to escape, or take 2d4 slashing damage as they peel out of the weapon without regard for the serrations it has.
  • Fizzlepop Pistol and Musket: While these could be written off as just another aquatic adaptation of a land technology, there's a little more to these two firearms than replacing gunpowder with a volatile algae called "fizzle juice". For one thing, they don't fire bullets, they shoot rather large and imposing barbed nails straight into the foe's flesh to simultaneously deal slashing and piercing damage. They are also ridiculously detailed for fantasy underwater flintlocks. There are a whole two pages dedicated to describing the craft and maintenance of fizzlepop weapons, descriptions of fizzle juice algae species down to their specific binomial nomenclature, and a detailed instruction guide to creating the chemical reaction that turns the algae into underwater projectile fuel.
  • Pneumatic Weapons: Using pressurized air, the aglooliks have effectively created both an industrial buzzsaw and a jackhammer in the form of the pneumatic blade and pneumatic hammer. They aren't exactly amazing, though. While their critical hit threat range is a strong 18 to 20, their actual damage isn't that different from a regular shortsword or spear of the same size, and they have a limited charge - 8+1d4 rounds for the pneumatic blade, 12+1d6 for the pneumatic spear. Once they run out of charge, the wielder has to go to the surface and pump air into the weapon for a minute before it functions at full capacity again.
  • Skith: This is the racial weapon of our favorite swole-penguin friends. A skith is basically a scythe with a ridiculously short handle, allowing the squawks to use their silly musculature to their advantage and actually wield the things in combat. Two skiths used together by a squawk can also be used as a handy pair of ice skates, propelling the squawk at four times their base speed! Is there anything the squawks can't make better?

Well, I guess this answers that previous question. Most of the 25 new feats in Indigo Ice are either racial feats or feats to boost the Angakkuq's tupilaq, and the squawks get the most boring to recount ones with a bunch of set of combat maneuvers tied to the skith and one that grants a natural bite attack with a serrated beak. The ice elves aren't much better, with three feats that add minor cold damage to either unarmed strikes with Fists of Ice melee weapons with Freezing Weapons, or grapples with Icy Grasp. Hell, the rest aren't exactly amazing to discuss either. Thanor have Midwinter Hide (+1 natural armor and cold resistance 5) and Tearing Tusks (1 point of bleed damage and 19-20 critical threat range on the thanor's natural attack), the crystolix get Aweless (the panic and frightened conditions are reduced to shaken if the fear effect is spell-like or supernatural) and Selling Ice in Isinblare (Wisdom bonus added to Appraise and Diplomacy checks), aglooliks have Kul's Intuition (reroll a failed Disable Device check) and Redundant Processes (roll twice and take the higher result when making a Craft check), and the ningen can take Cryptid Anonymity (cast invisibility 3 times a day) and Expanded Senses (the ningen's water sense ability gets an extra 10 feet of range). Mind you, all of these feats are certainly likely to be useful, but it's hard to get excited about them.

On top of these racial and tupilaq feats, there are three feats that are made for a slightly more general audience. The feat Icy Berserker is applicable to any character who can go into a rage (Barbarian or otherwise), and grants them the Cold subtype as long as they are in the rage. Similarly, Rime Rouser grants the Cold subtype to any creature summoned by a spellcaster with the feat handy. And then there's Piercing Cold...oh, Piercing Cold. This metamagic feat allows a spell with the Cold descriptor to be ridiculously cold. Like, so drat cold that cold things get cold. This allows the spell to ignore any cold resistance, or still deal half damage to a creature that otherwise has cold immunity. I'm fairly sure there was some sort of dumb exploit in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 with a similar feat, but I can't remember the specifics.

Do you like ice? If not, well...good for you, actually. There are only a handful of new spells in Indigo Ice, and surprisingly few of them have to deal with ice. It's like an inverse of the logic behind the feats.
  • Greater Aquatic Contagion (Necromancy; level 5 Angakkuq/Cleric/Witch or level 6 Wizard/Sorcerer spell): This is a buffed up version of the aquatic contagion spell from the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide. It bestows disease just the same, but cannot be cured naturally - someone has to cast a healing spell or use a healing magic item. Hope you've got a Cleric handy.
  • Beastly Bearing (Transmutation; level 2 Alchemist/Kahuna/Magus/Sorcerer/Wizard spell): Cast this spell to turn part of yourself into an animal. You can get a dolphin tail for a bonus on Acrobatics checks, lobster pincers for extra damage and a bonus to grapple checks, octopus hide and arms for a bonus to Disable Device, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth, seal legs to get a land speed if you don't already have it, a shark tail for greater swim speed, squid suction cups for a bonus to Climb and grapple checks, or starfish cilia all over your body to gain climb speed. Fun for the whole family, save for the starfish transformation which will probably end up psychologically scarring someone!
  • Beastly Bearing, Greater (Transmutation; level 3 Alchemist/Kahuna/Magus or level 4/Sorcerer/Wizard spell): The transformations get more powerful, with a secondary ability for each one on top of the one you'd get with standard beastly bearing. The dolphin also grants double swim speed, lobster grants +1 to natural armor and Fortitude saves, octopus gains boosted skill bonuses to the same skills, seal makes you react to cold as if you were wearing a cold-weather outfit no matter what you are wearing, shark increases swim speed to +30, squid gains a +4 to Acrobatics checks, and starfish gains a +4 bonus to grapple checks and keeps you from being disarmed.
  • Encapsulate (Evocation [Ice]; level 2 Magus/Sorcerer/Wizard spell): Our first actual ice-themed spell. Casting encapsulate freezes a 12 foot ice cube with 1 foot thick walls. The ice is nonmagical and doesn't fade away with a spell duration or anything, making it possible to actively craft with the ice made by this spell.
  • Frost (Transmutation [Ice]; level 1 Angakkuq/Kahuna/Magus/Sorcerer/Wizard spell): The target gets the frosted condition. Pretty straightforward.
  • Icy Tomb (Evocation [Ice]; level 4 Magus/Sorcerer/Wizard spell):[/b] The target gains the entombed condition. Again, pretty straightforward.
  • Mage Thaw (Transmutation; level 3 Alchemist/Kahuna/Magus/Sorcerer/Wizard spell): A 20 foot radius area of ice is melted into water. If that ice happens to be something alive, it instead takes 1d6 damage per caster level. Good for quickly freeing someone who is entombed or dunking someone into the water if they are standing on the ice.
  • Rancid Tide (Necromancy; level 6 Angakkuq/Cleric/Kahuna/Witch or level 7 Sorcerer/Wizard spell): A murk spell with the added effect of moving at 10 feet per round and causing anyone inside to make a Fortitude save or instantly contract blinding sickness, cackle fever, demon fever, devil chills, filth fever, ick, sea rot, mindfire, slimy doom, tapeworms, or white spot.
  • Steed, Communal (Conjuration; level 2 Magus/Sorcerer/Summoner/Witch/Wizard spell): Communal steed summons up to six hippocampus for yourself and your party members. Strange that the Cleric doesn't get in on the mount-summoning party, but whatever, it's nice to see a team effort spell.
  • Untether Spirit (Untyped; level 1 Angakkuq spell): This is a save or die spell specifically for a tupilaq. Not sure I'd ever take up a spell slot on that unless I knew I'd be fighting a lot of enemy Angakkuqs and their tupilaq crew.

Magic Items
The last part of this rather extended chapter is a look at magic items, starting with the Frostburn weapon quality. This quality makes a weapon deal cold damage rather than whatever damage type it normally deals, but also has the added sinister effect of making it impossible for the target to naturally heal the damage taken from the frostburn weapon unless they get to moderate or warmer temperatures. Again, hope the party has a Cleric (or someone who can cast temperature-altering magic, at least). There are also a grand total of three new fully statted magic items. The Centaceph Pistol is a +1 fizzlepop pistol that has 100 charges of the mageboil spell rather than the usual needle ammunition, the Heart of Ice is a red gemstone frozen in ever-ice that can cast several cold spells (ice-water jet at will, frost once per hour, encapsulate, frazil ice, and icy tomb three times per day, and icy sphere and glacial current once per day) and automatically bestows the Piercing Cold metamagic feat if you cast them while directly touching the Heart of Ice to the target, and the Skith of Skating is a +1 keen frost skith that allows a squawk to skate at six times their base speed rather than the four of a normal skith.

Indigo Ice Setting
As we near the finish line for this title, we have finally reached the obligatory setting fluff chapter. As mentioned way back in the intro post for this book, Isinblare is the name for the polar reaches of the Cerulean Seas. There are, of course, two poles – Feldorheim is the north pole, and Fiskheim is the south pole. So how the hell did two places on the opposite sides of the planet get a collective name? Well, the answer to that is magic, because of course it would be magic. There are teleportation mirrors littered across the collective expanse of Isinblare, remnants of one of the human empires from the time before the Great Flood. These “Shining Folk” originally had most of their holdings in Feldorheim, where they kept the aglooliks as a slave race. An eventual rebellion lead by an agloolik named Kul lead to the creation of the mirrors that lead to Fiskheim as a last resort. Of course, Fiskheim was (and still is) a region sacred to the squawks, who took the invasion about as well as totalitarian warmonger swole-penguins could be expected to. Thus the Shining Folk bit the dust long before the Great Flood even happened, their magic mirrors and the technological prowess the aglooliks gained from them being the only remnants of their legacy.

The fall of the Shining Folk and the Great Flood effectively created a great migration between the two halves of Isinblare through the magic mirrors. The crystolix and ice elves of Fiskheim headed north, while the thanor and selkies of Feldorheim spread south. The squawk mostly stayed in their sacred homeland after multiple failed attempts at conquering Feldorheim made the squawk emperor of the time decree that it was illegal for squawks to own land in the shameful north. There were also those who spread both ways from the middle, such as the nomadic ningen of the temperate currents and the nommo of the Cerulean Seas proper. The nommo are rightfully feared for having gone on a big power trip of hoarding the magic mirrors and enslaving the elves and seafolk of Isinblare when they first arrived, and even centuries later their aloof attitude hasn't really helped them gain any more favor.

Rather than following the “one god for each alignment” pantheon of the Cerulean Seas, Isinblare has six unique deities that intermingle with missionaries from that far-off tropical realm.
  • Aegir (Neutral Good) The god of time and tides, Aegir is worshipped mostly by seafolk who go through the motions. Holidays of Aegir are more important than actual temples, doing good is more important than rebelling or adhering to the system, war and peace are equally important parts of life, and birth and death are both things to be celebrated as the flow of life. His favored weapon is the spear, and his Cleric domains are Earth, Healing, Protection, Repose, Sun, Water, and Weather.
  • Aumanil (Lawful Neutral): Aumanil is referred to as "the sea god that walks on land", which makes it fitting that his most ardent worshipers are the thanor. The thanor, of course, aren't his only worshippers, as they spread the word of Aumanil to the ningen as well. This god's tenets are simple: a society must be built on a solid foundation, and while you should work to progress society, you shouldn't rock the boat too hard when it comes to laws and nobility. Disrespecting royalty is the gravest sin a worshiper of Aumanil can commit. Aumanil's domains are Artifice, Knowledge, Law, Nobility, Rune, and War, and his favored weapon is the javelin.
  • Dijo (Lawful Evil): Dijo is evil, but of a practical sort. He doesn't have any mustache-twirling schemes or delusions of grandeur. Instead, he simply wants obedience, acting as the god of contracts. Breaking an oath is considered to bring the curses of Dijo upon the poor soul who dared to do so, and Dijo's priests often moonlight as assassins of those who disobey contracts and pacts they have made. His favored weapon is the glaive, and his domains are Darkness, Death, Law, Protection, Strength, and Water.
  • Helka Ilfirin (Chaotic Good): This sea elf deity takes the motto "don't worry, be happy" to a ridiculous extent, going so far as to curse sea and ice elves who have too much anxiety. She also has a foul temper and has no love for the worshipers of Aumanil and Dijo, a hatred which extends to her own worshipers. Anarchists who are carefree as they murder people don't really sound all that Chaotic Good to me, but whatever. Helka Ilfirin has the elven fork as her favored weapon, and brings her Clerics the domains of Air, Chaos, Destruction, Luck, Magic, Water, and Weather.
  • Sedna (Chaotic Neutral): The description of Sedna here is pretty much taken straight from the Inuit religion – she was once a giant goddess of the land, but her endless hunger ended up causing her to attack her dad Anguta, who threw her in the ocean and cuts off her fingers, which become pinnipeds and cetaceans. Unlike Inuit religion, however, Sedna's worshipers in Isinblare are basically the most feral selkies and ningen, who act as animal-like as possible and are generally uncivilized. The favored weapon of Sedna is the harpoon, and her domains are Animal, Charm, Chaos, Liberation, Magic, and Trickery.
  • Talakasha (Neutral Evil): Talakasha is the wicked witch archetype blown up into an entire deity. She is evil incarnate and is said to be the source of the undead, evil fey, and wendigos. People who worship her are usually murderers or necromancers, who hold ceremonies to her in the depths of night. A sickle is the favored weapon of this evil goddess, and her domains are Darkness, Death, Evil, Madness, Magic, and War.

Polar Sea Bestiary
And here it is, the final chapter. What better way to end off a book than with the best part of any RPG supplement? There's twenty new creatures to head through, so no time to waste with long intros. I never liked long intros anyway. Silly things, barring entry to actual content.

Akhlut, Fiskheim (CR 7 Huge Animal)
The akhlut is a creature from Inuit mythology, being a monstrous predator that fuses the traits of wolf and orca together. Akhlut stats were already given in Pathfinder Bestiary III, but those were for an appropriately grandiose and legendary creature, being a CR 13 Magical Beast capable of fully shapeshifting into wolf or orca form and with the Cold subtype attached. The official Paizo akhlut from the Bestiary III are referred to here as Feldorheim akhlut. Down south, they have the Fiskheim akhlut, a normal animal (well, as “normal” as an orca-wolf hybrid can get) that is a favored mount of the ice elves. The Fiskheim akhlut can see in even the most blinding blizzards, is amphibious, and has a particularly vicious bite that has an 18-20 critical hit threat range. Otherwise, though? It's sort of just what you'd end up with if you statted up a really big polar bear.

Bear, Nanoqaluk (CR 5 Large Animal)
Speaking of polar bears, this creature is literally a fish and a polar bear fused together. The nanoqaluk is a genetic engineering experiment of the ice elves that was originally meant to save the polar bear from extinction, but has ended up as a beast of war in the centuries afterward. It also happens to feel really pointless when you place it right after the akhlut. The nanoqaluk is smaller and can breathe both water and air, but otherwise it feels strange to say that the ice elves have a favored sea bear mount and then give them another favored sea bear mount as literally the next entry.

Brother of Frost (Class Level-Dependent Medium Outsider [Air, Water])
These guys basically look like blue-scaled lizardfolk and act like lizardfolk, but the similarity is purely cosmetic. They are actually human cultists from before the Great Flood who fused themselves with frost salamanders. Strangely, even though they were fused with frost salamanders and go so far as to be able to sustain themselves eating only ice (but like cold meat too much to do so fully), they do not have the Cold subtype, instead having a mere cold resistance 5. As characters, they are keyed toward being mixed martial-caster characters, with a +2 to Charisma and Constitution (but -2 to Wisdom), a +1 boost to caster levels with Water domain spells, and the ability to cast frostbite once per day as a spell-like ability.

Cryoviathan (CR 18 Colossal Magical Beast [Cold])
These immense icicle-studded sea serpents of the poles are the stuff of legends, appearing only briefly between decades of slumber and said to be capable of consuming entire villages. It can back up that fearsome reputation, too – with a simple exhaling breath it can create a mile-radius blizzard once per day, striking its icy hide with a melee attack results in 6d6 cold damage in retaliation and the possibility of the weapon just straight up breaking, nearly any ship can be easily capsized as it surfaces, and when particularly angered it will rear up and slam its entire immense weight down on a foe.

Dragon, Orchestra (CR 5 Small to CR 18 Gargantuan Dragon [Cold, Water])
Because true dragons never go out of style, Indigo Ice has a brand new type of song dragon in the orchestra dragon. These guys resemble massive scaly and spiky orcas and think of themselves as the arbiters of the natural order. They roam the seas from pole to pole with their orca posse, looking for people who are upsetting the balance of nature so they can then proceed to beat them up. They are capable of extending combat bonuses to attack or armor class to their orca pod, make their orca pod immune to cold damage, share spells with their orca pod, and generally coordinate them at will. Of course, orchestra dragons aren't entirely dependent on their orca pals, being capable of exhuding a slowing breath weapon and utilizing powerful bite, claw, and tail attacks. A great wyrm orchestra dragon can even pull a “rocks fall, everyone dies” and summon a massive (600 feet in width and length, 300 feet in height) iceberg once per day.

Kairuku (CR 1 Medium Animal)
Believe it or not, these man-sized penguins are not merely a fantasy dire animal. Kairuku grebneffi lived in New Zealand during the Oligocene period around 25 million years ago, and was actually one of a long lineage of giant penguins that existed in the region in the deep past. In the world of Isinblare, they are ridden into battle by the squawks, who apparently see nothing at all strange about penguins domesticating bigger penguins to ride into battle as some sort of omni-penguin war force. Unfortunately, no matter how well trained they are, a kairuku loves to steal shiny objects and will use its ranks in Sleight of Hand to do just that even to its master's allies.

Kraken, Polar (CR 15 Huge Magical Beast [Cold])
A twisted amalgamation of deep sea creatures, the polar kraken has the body of a massive squid combined with the lure of an anglerfish and the horrendous maw of a lamprey, all combined into a translucent package capable of sliding through ice as if it wasn't even there. Unfortunately, all it is is just a big pop scare monster to have ambush your players. Now, I have nothing against the idea of a monster being just a monster, but the problem with it in this case is that the polar kraken has an Intelligence score of 19. A creature with an intellect nearly double that of the average human is stated implicitly in the fluff to pretty much do nothing but normal apex predator stuff, being “degenerate” compared to the warm-water scheming empire-building kraken. If they're so degenerate, why not actually cut their Intelligence score? Why give them such a high Intelligence if they aren't even allowed to use it? It baffles me.

Ice Lich (CR +2 Template)
If a normal lich somehow isn't enough for you, the icy wastes of Isinblare are home to this fearsome frosty variant of the classic undead arcanist. On top of all the normal traits you'd get from the lich template, the ice lich has a compound aura that has both a fear effect and a chilling component that turns water around the ice lich into difficult to see through slush and deals 1d10 cold damage per round. In addition, rather than having the paralyzing touch of a standard lich, the ice lich has what is referred to as “rime touch”. Getting affected by the rime touch means you are entombed in ice and sustained by a magical force, unmoving but very much alive. The fluff even states that an ice lich will usually keep rime touched foes as trophies, thawing them out from time to time just to interrogate them before sealing them up again, which eventually drives these poor “trophies” insane. :magical:

Ningen – Atshen (CR 3 Large Humanoid) and Qilanappa (CR 6 Large Humanoid)
Two more forms of ningen, being based on orcas and narwhals respectively rather than beluga whales like the talilajuk. The atshen are aggressive and popular as mercenaries due to their ability to shapeshift from size Large to size Small, with little else being told about them in the fluff. That's a shame, too. These ningen take their name from a cannibal giant in Inuit mythology that becomes larger and larger the more flesh he consumes, and is protected by a guardian spirit that makes him difficult to combat even for a shaman. When you think about that, “angry mer-orca” isn't quite as impressive.

The qilanappa have no such burden of naming history, but aren't elaborated on much either. They are stated to be effectively the game wardens of the ocean, being especially protective of the narwhals they resemble. A qilanappa is capable of teleporting anywhere within a 5 mile radius once per round, but only if there is only up to a single person actively watching them. Maybe the reason they carry a spear in tandem with their natural spear-like tusk is because they want to gouge everyone's eyes out to teleport freely.

Orcoth (CR 10 Huge Magical Beast)
While the nanoqaluk was engineered out of pity for a critically endangered species and eventually utilized as a combat mount, the orcoth was created by the ice elves to be a living siege weapon from day one. Its massive bulk grants it a hefty natural armor bonus (+20, specifically), which is combined with a cornucopia of natural weapons – a powerful fluked tail, massive jaws, thick claws, and even a weaponized blowhole. Yes, it seriously has a weaponized blowhole, as it can spew a jet of water that acts as a breath weapon that deals 2d6 bludgeoning damage. Of course, every armor has its weak spot, and the orcoth's is that it is incredibly indecisive. Kill its ice elf handlers, and it flails around violently a little before attacking anything in sight, stand around doing nothing, or run away at random.

Qalupalik (CR 5 Medium Fey)
Another creature from Inuit lore, the qalupalik, or qalapilluk, is a sea hag that acts as what folklorists refer to as “nursery bogies” – a monster specifically created to scare children out of a specific behavior. In the case of qalupalik, the warning is to not go too close to the edge of the ice alone, lest she reach out of the water and take the child. Indigo Ice takes a much more sympathetic view on this creature, turning her from a boogeyman figure to a somewhat tragic entity. The game's qalupalik are fey that cannot reproduce on their own, so must take and transmute humanoid children in order to keep their species going. An Isinblare qalupalik may even lay her own life down if it saves a child in distress. Strangely enough, while she has a suffocating grapple attack, the qalupalik here has no actual transformation ability. This is something that the qalupalik in the Pathfinder Bestiary IV actually does have, so I guess you could graft that power over if you wanted to use this version rather than the more traditional evil creature Paizo put out.

Seals – Fantail (CR 1 Medium Animal), Pelagiarctos (CR 7 Large Animal), and Waterhorse (CR 5 Huge Animal)
A triple threat of a fantasy animal, a prehistoric creature, and a creature of folklore. The fantail seal is created specifically as a guard animal, its one unique trait being an ear-piercing screech that drowns out all sound within a 60 foot radius. This ties directly into Pelagiarctos, a Miocene walrus that was built more like a leopard seal than the walruses we have still alive today, as Pelagiarctos in Isinblare use the fantail seal as an early indicator of potential prey being in the area. For whatever reason, the authors have envisioned this animal as being a horrendous roidbeast – if you damage the Pelagiarctos in combat, it will go into a Barbarian rage until either it or you are dead.

Then there's the waterhorse. The origin of this creature comes to us all the way from the Victorian era. Zoologist Anthonie Cornelis Oudemans wrote in 1892 that he believed the source of sea serpent legends was some manner of immense seal with both a long neck and tail, which he confidently dubbed Megophias megophias. This idea was later resurrected by Bernard Heuvelmans, the "Father of Cryptozoology", in 1968 when he suggested that long-necked sea and lake monsters such as the Loch Ness Monster were most likely huge long-necked fur seals that he gave the hypothetical scientific name Megalotaria longicollis. The waterhorse as statted here is an unimpressive creature with no ability scores above 20, 8 natural HD, and none of the supernatural abilities that mark the "true" lake monsters and sea serpents found in the first three Pathfinder Bestiaries. Its only unique ability is to "pluck" a foe Medium-size or smaller and either chew it each round it successfully grapples or drop it straight down 20 feet. Thanor Paladins will pay a lot of money for a successfully domesticated waterhorse to use as a mount, too.

Sunhunter (CR 7 Large Magical Beast)
Behold, the most ridiculous monster in the frozen north! The sunhunter is some manner of big cat-like predator of the glacial expanse, stalking prey by boring holes in the ice with concentrated solar beams and hiding in wait. These solar beams can also be used to create a blinding flash in a 50 foot radius (which lasts for an impressive 2d6 rounds if the target doesn't succeed on their DC 18 Fortitude save) or straight up convert the solar beams into a breath weapon-style attack that deals a whopping 6d6 untyped damage. There is a catch, however, in that the sunhunter can only use its solar beam a number of times per day equal to its Constitution modifier, with two hours of staying in direct sunlight restoring a single use if it is still the same day. Thanors consider the sunhunter to be a sacred animal and will defend them from those who seek to harm them, so pray that a thanor isn't a party member if you end up having to fight one of these freaky fin-cats.

Tizheruk (CR 14 Gargantuan Magical Beast [Cold])
The tizheruk is a sea serpent from Inuit folklore, said to swiftly and silently grab fishermen without being seen in spite of its immense size. Indigo Ice depicts the creature rather differently, rendering it as an immense ice lizard that is an intelligent trickster spirit. They love to screw around with the residents of Isinblare, offering aid to those who go along with the pranks and eating those who react with hostility. This effectively takes the “harassment fey” monster archetype and applies it to a massive, clever Komodo dragon who can unleash a 10d6 sonic damage breath weapon and cast Trickery domain Cleric spells. I can seldom imagine something more horrifying.

Trueform, Hydrurgan (CR 3 Large Magical Beast)
The hydrurgans are awakened leopard seals that are known for being stoic, self-sufficient, and silent compared to the communal selkies. This hasn't exactly served them well, though, as the militant squawks have purged them to near extinction. What hydrurgans are left are either reclusive hermits or aggressive guerrillas that strike back against the squawk empire.

Whale, Icebreaker (CR 13 Gargantuan Animal)
Imagine a sperm whale that has its whole head extended into a thorny mess of horns – that's basically what the icebreaker whale is. And I don't just mean that physical description-wise, as it's also basically what the stats are. Their horns are used for both gore attacks and to plow through ice at half their normal swim speed. Various prey animals aren't the only thing icebreaker whales gore, as the text states they are aggressive enough to attack ships as well. Most of the warrior races of Isinblare have made attempts to domesticate them for use as a weapon of war as a result.

Winter Hulk (CR 6 Large Construct [Cold])
Our last monster for this title is a golem...sort of. It effectively looks and acts like a golem, magic immunity and everything, but is actually piloted by a Small humanoid fish called an ice hermit. The ice hermit has average human intelligence but engages in no acts beyond being hungry and territorial.

Final Thoughts
Indigo Ice is the niche title of a niche title. That alone does not drat a title to failure, though. While some parts may have been boring to attempt to recount, in actual game practice things like the feats would most likely be pretty helpful, as would the new weapons. What propels Indigo Ice upward a bit is that is succeeds in having bland but mechanically useful things tempered by actually flavorful and mechanically useful things as well. The Congulair is a pretty decent martial class that has a trippy as hell flavor to it, the races are great for the setting, and most of the creatures (issues such as the polar kraken notwithstanding) are at the very least interesting flavor-wise if not necessarily mechanically amazing. In the end, Indigo Ice is good at what it is: a niche title about aquatic polar escapades. Combined with one of the more broad polar sourcebooks such as Wizards of the Coast's Frostburn or MonkeyGod Enterprises' Frost and Fur? It could transform into something truly great.

Next Time...
I'll probably be doing some random stuff before the next Cerulean Seas book. Nothing that constitutes starting a whole new series before Cerulean Seas books are finished, as much as I want to review things like Conspiracy X, so one-off books and bestiaries can be expected. Definitely at least one d20 Modern title I've been eying a fair bit. Maybe you'll even see some GURPS reviews since those have been discussed and I do have a large GURPS collection. We'll see.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Welcome to post one of two for this book with a rather interesting-looking cover. Do you remember the conspiracy genre boom of the 90s? I do. RPG developers sure as hell do, to the point where it was extremely difficult to figure out what thing I wanted to cover first in the genre, even with the caveat of “no starting on a setting with further sourcebooks below it before Cerulean Seas is done”, which eliminated Conspiracy X and a few others right off the bat. The conspiracy theory has been around for far longer in both reality and fiction, of course – the book Voodoo Histories is a good introductory look at conspiracy theories from Victorian anti-Freemason sentiment up to modern Trutherism if you are into that – but the Clinton years seemed to have a perfect storm of the sentiment that fuels conspiracy theories and squeezed the genre into fiction in a big way with media such as the X-Files series and the rather bluntly-named film Conspiracy Theory.

My original plan was to review 100 Conspiracies and 100 Conspirators by James Desborough, who you are probably familiar with if you read the Grognards.txt thread, but the constant repetition of the same “[conspirator] wants to kill [person], players protect them” plot points repeatedly sapped my will to live before I could actually get to the creative or stupid/offensive parts. So what made me choose this particular title to start off with instead Well, this sourcebook is special because it has the involvement of actual conspiracy theorists. Developer David Jarvis looked to the amazingly insane minds of Ground Zero radio, including its creator Clyde Lewis (whose Wikipedia you should read, it's loving amazing), as creative consultants.

Our introduction to this title is through the eyes of Clyde Lewis, who tells of his supposed encounter with a Man in Black who tried to kill him in a car bombing later. The author labels this in the table of contents as 'introductory fiction', which both amuses me and makes me wonder if that angered Lewis doing the creative process. The whole thing is a gold mine, but the ending paragraph definitely helps set the town for the title.

“Introduction by Clyde Lewis” posted:

I know what I know and I am not afraid of the future. I am not fearful of the Men in Black because I have met them. I don’t wait for UFO’s because I have seen at least two. DEA agents fly black helicopters. God is an extraterrestrial and the more I see what is going on in Washington, I can only speculate using circular logic that the aliens have landed on the White House lawn. They may even be hanging out in your local desert, smoking a cigarette and swapping girlfriend stories with your red-blooded American G.I. Joe. If you’re lucky, they may even pose for a photo. Just don’t go telling everybody that you have a picture of an extraterrestrial. It just alienates people.


Chapter 1: Alien Invasion Campaigns
The first question asked by Alien Invasion is the rather important one of what type of extraterrestrial campaign you want to run. The assumed campaign type is Infiltration – this is the style of the X-Files and the like, wherein aliens have had contact with Earth and may even have agents and shapeshifters on the ground, but their overall current actions are on the down low. Occupation is a similar but bleaker campaign type wherein the aliens have already taken over Earth in disguise without any struggle and the player characters are basically playing Rowdy Roddy Piper in They Live.

The other two campaign types both have aliens out in the open but on different ends of the spectrum. Education has the extraterrestrial forces doing what they feel is best for humanity in the long run (though that may end up coming in unpleasant ways, such as forced artificial insemination or peace by force), while Raid is the beginning of a full-scale military invasion.

History of Aliens in Our World
This segment is exactly what its name implies, and starts by diving straight into old school Von Daniken with the ancient astronauts/aliens as gods concept. The pyramids worldwide? Aliens. Nazca Lines? Aliens. The moai of Easter Island? You guessed it. And top it all off, the greatest creation of the aliens is humanity, created as a slave race by the Elohim of planet Nibiru. The Elohim eventually lost Earth due to their own stupidity, deciding that the best way to stop a growing human rebellion was to flood the whole planet. The humans survived in an ark submarine (!), while the Elohim bases were wiped out and they headed back home after deciding the whole effort wasn't worth it.

Apparently nothing interesting at all happened between ancient times and now, though, as the timeline hops straight to 1942 and the “Battle of Los Angeles”. This is a real event in that on February 24, 1942, something airborne spooked the Army enough to light up the sky with anti-air fire. In real life, of course, this was most likely a stray balloon that was exacerbated by post-Pearl Harbor paranoia, but here it is a genuine alien craft. The inability to knock the UFO down is seen as an embarrassment and a sign of weakness, which leads to the creation of an anti-alien military unit known as the Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit (IPU). The IPU later goes on to nab the debris from Roswell and replace it with a torn up weather balloon, as well as capture and vivisect the Grays that were piloting the saucer. This is where the “history” technically ends. The rest of the 20th Century is covered, just farther on in the chapter for no apparent reason.

Documented Evidence
Where's the evidence? It's all around us, the text proudly claims, we merely need to be able to identify it. And identify it we can. The main check is a Forgery check, whether or not the evidence is real. If the evidence is hoaxed, the Forgery check is the investigator's Forgery check versus the hoaxer's original Forgery check to prove it is false, while actual evidence has a flat Forgery check DC of 20 and success equates you realizing it is actual evidence. Specific forms of evidence can be scrutinized further for details – a Knowledge (Art) check can be used to determine the speed, luminosity, and composition of a photographed UFO, Knowledge (Technology) can pinpoint the specifics of radar scans, Knowledge (Mechanical) is used to identify anomalous equipment malfunctions caused by a UFO's presence, and Knowledge (Earth and Life Sciences) is a big grab bag that lets you uncover various physical evidence ranging from magnetic anomalies in the soil around a UFO landing site to anomalies left on a living being.

This section is a UFOlogy 101 lesson on the “encounter scale” designed by J. Allen Hynek. In the time after his work on Projects Grudge, Sign, and Blue Book, Hynek designed his six-point encounter scale. This scale is nocturnal lights (lights seen at night), daylight discs (daytime visual confirmation from 500+ feet away), radar visual (radar confirmation), close encounter of the first kind (UFO clearly seen less than 500 feet away), close encounter of the second kind (UFO interacts with the physical world, like torching plants or leaking radiation), and the ever-famous close encounter of the third kind (a seemingly living and animate being is encountered).

Various UFOlogists after Hynek decided that the close encounter of the third kind just wasn't cutting it. Under this methodology, the third close encounter is limited to when the occupants of the UFO are seen but not interacted with. Anything further is reclassified as close encounters four through seven.
  • Close Encounter of the Fourth Kind: The aliens abduct you, maybe scan and probe you, but don't engage in any activitiies beyond that.
  • Close Encounter of the Fifth Kind: The alien speaks to you, be it verbally or telepathically. You don't have to understand what it's saying for it to count as this kind.
  • Close Encounter of the Sixth Kind: Something gets killed. A cattle mutilation, human killing an ET, or an ET killing a human are all sixth kind encounters.
  • Close Encounter of the Seventh Kind: There is an exchange of human and extraterrestrial genetic material. :heysexy: Oh, and this can also include mutations instigated by aliens.

These have no real bearing on the mechanics, but it's nice to have a lot of fluff to back you up sometimes. Having your crazy conspiracy guy be able to spout off specifics of the case at hand certainly helps add to the feeling of the session.

Alien Abduction
Welcome to Close Encounter Four. Aliens are stated to not actually like to abduct people too often, as humans are a species "intelligent and prone to violence". Their paralysis fields have a Fortitude save DC of 20, so it's not exactly easy to break free, but they'd rather not risk having their scrawny gray asses kicked here to kingdom come if they can help it. Assuming that you don't have that great a Constitution score (which most average Joe NPCs don't), the routine is simple: get blood and tissue samples taken, have an unwanted proctology exam, and if you are really unlucky you may have aliens that are sick fucks rather than the usual sort.

Alien Invasion posted:

Abductees might be subjected to sexual intercourse with aliens or other abductees while under observation. The partners might even appear disguised as a spouse or celebrity.


Depending on the motivation of the aliens, they might even witness other humans undergoing experimentation. Sometimes corpses are routinely mutilated and stacked in piles, a threat of what will happen to the abductee if they don’t cooperate.

And we're the violence-prone species? :stonk:

Rather unsurprisingly, there's a chart of side-effects that can happen due to these horrific procedures. None of them are exactly pleasant, but some are definitely more actively harmful than others. Sure, having a 20% miss chance in dark areas or having fatigue-inducing nightmares if you fail a DC 10 Will save may be unpleasant, but others are far worse. 9 to 17 on the percentile dice roll? Your nails grow so fast that you have to spend a full round action to clip them once every minute, lest you suffer a -2 penalty to Dexterity-based skill checks. 60 to 64? Congratulations, you have a permanent 50% reduction of your movement speed due to bone and muscle deformities.

There's also a high likelyhood that the aliens may have put an implant in your body during the procedure. These are all from d20 Future, but since you may or may not have read that, I'll note that the implant types are skill (+2 bonus to one skill), anti-stun (you cannot be stunned/paralyzed), feat (you gain a free feat that meet the prerequisites for), initiative (+2 to Initiative), mindscreen (+2 to saving throws against mind-affecting effects), rage (go into a Barbarian rage once per day), and psi (Wild Talent for free, congrats on your psychic powers).

There are also two somewhat out of place notes here. One is for using a Knowledge (Behavioral Sciences) check to psychoanalyze an abductee, which seems like it would have made sense to put under the "Documented Evidence" section further back, and the other is NPC stats for a farmer (a Rural occupation human Tough Ordinary 1).

Alien Cults
Well, two of them, at least. Both of the alien cults given pages of profile info here are real, though obviously they have been embellished for a world where they are completely and totally correct about aliens existing.

The Aetherius Society is the more magical half of the pair. This UK-based alien cult conveniently answers to an extraterrestrial race known as the Interplanetary Parliament. Members of this Parliament include Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and Aetherius, the guy who the society takes its name from. Aetherius contacted founder George King back in the 50s and was all "hey man, you're loving up the planet with all your capitalism and pollution, be Magic Socialist Planeteers in our service". And became Magic Socialist Planeteers they did. Most of the activiities of its members involve prayer, meditation, and supporting green movement ideals such as nuclear non-proliferation and anti-pollution efforts. Aetherius Society members get access to their own spellcasting advanced class, the Aetherian, which is described later in the book.

On the other side of the coin are the Raelians, a psionics and superscience-themed organization. They revere the Elohim - you know, those guys who flooded the planet when they got huffy about humans having a slave revolt - and have received their secrets of perfect cloning technology because they apparently changed their mind about the whole "wipe out humanity" thing some time in the past millennium. The ultimate goal of the Raelians is a world ruled by the smartest people and genetic manipulation on a mass scale to please the genius nature of the Elohim. They also have a lot of free love, because what's an alien cult without at least one hippie trait? As with the Aetherius Society, the Raelians get a namesake advanced class that won't be covered until later.

Cattle Mutilations
Why do aliens mutilate cows? Why, for science, of course! To be more specific, cattle and other large mammals apparently have the right chemical and physical composition to grow special organic devices that can be used to filter out pollution and stabilize (or imbalance) hormones. That rage implant you got? Came from a cow. It's also used by Grays in experiments to try to figure out how to make themselves fertile again, as they are completely sterile and have been for a long time.

There are also stats for a cow as a CR 1/2 Large Animal. The d20 Modern Core Rulebook already had generic herd animal stats said to be applicable to cows, but apparently the authors of Alien Invasion thought that CR 2 was too high for cattle. I've been around cattle enough to disagree, but fair enough.

Crop Circles
Messages from outer space? Not quite. Crop circles are, in fact, just the footprint left behind by a saucer landing. A footprint that happens to be crazy-radioactive, admittedly, given that the text states that for 1d6 hours after the landing a crop circle is three times more radioactive than the normal ambient radiation of the area. The strangest thing about this radiation isn't that it's left by alien spacecraft, though, so much as it doesn't act like normal radiation. Rather than use the standard d20 Modern radiation rules, the crop circle instead requires a Will save rather than a Fortitude save and does not cause radiation poisoning. Instead, creatures heal at twice the normal rate while in the crop circle's radiation if they succeed the save, and are either shaken, dazed, nauseated, or disoriented depending on how much they fail the save. I guess this is meant to be "psychic radiation" or something rather than gamma radiation.

Conspiracy Theories
It turns out that the conspiracy exists entirely because of H.G. Wells and family. The famous Orson Wells radio drama of "War of the Worlds" was actually a test to see whether we could handle the truth of extraterrestrials, and we failed big time. This incident ensured that the powers that be would not trust the truth of aliens to be revealed to the masses, which was further compounded by the fact that the powers that be are assholes:

Alien Invasion posted:

Finally, conspiracies help reinforce the superiority of those in the know, ushering in the few who know the full conspiracy into an elite group that can sneer at the unknowing populace (sometimes called “sheeple”).

This also happens to be where the rest of the timeline disappeared to. Why isn't it all just under the "History of Aliens in our World" section? Hell if I know. In any case, the story picks up with the fallout of Roswell. The Air Force and CIA got into a slapping match over who had the rights to UFO parts, which was settled by Truman going "gently caress both of you" and creating the NSA as the premiere alien snoop group. The Bilderberg Group was created soon after to insure that both sides of the Cold War would similarly get along when it came to extraterrestrial threats. he big breakthrough, however, was after Eisenhower came into office.

In 1953, Eisenhower met and negotiated with the leader of the Gray aliens, Omnipotent Highness Krill. The terms of the treaty were that the Grays would provide their technology to the US and the US alone, and in exchange the US would turn a blind eye to abductions and mutilations. Of course, both sides were full of poo poo. The Grays were secretly negotiating with the Soviets as well, and the US was prepping a squadron of secret soldiers called Majestic 12. Majestic 12 were put to use both to dissuade the Grays from pushing their luck and to keep the conspiracy a secret. They assassinated Kennedy, they forced Nixon to resign, and controlled the flow of information to purposefully leak certain key ideas into the media.

The present day is more or less the near completion of the escalation between both sides. The Grays are implied to be the cause behind widespread rage virus outbreaks spread by infected chupacabras, while Majestic 12 prepares to engage in massive ethnic cleansing of anyone with extraterrestrial DNA before conquest of the Moon and Mars. Why is the ethnic cleansing needed? I dunno, I guess everyone's potentially a species traitor or something.

Next Time...
It's been pretty fluffy going so far, but it's going to get teeth-breaking very soon in the second half of Alien Invasion: the Crunchening! Big Gubmint, player character options, and aliens from Ataiea to Zeta Reticula await.

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 01:07 on Sep 6, 2014

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Chapter 1 Continued
Yes, the first chapter takes up so much of this book it continues into the second half of the review.

Government Projects
Where would conspiracies be without Big Government poking its head up? Unsurprisingly given the timeline stuff from earlier, the first (and, in fact, only) government institution discussed is Majestic 12. All extraterrestrial-related US government business immediately bypasses other government institutions and goes straight to these guys. On top of having moles inside of all government institutions from the CIA to the FDA, M-12 has four of its own special divisions. Pounce Division retrieves UFOs and handles coverups, ]Redlight Division reverse engineers alien technology, Delta Division (AKA the Men in Black) do the dirty work of dealing with people who Know Too Much and guarding top secret facilities, and Aquarius Division are the nerds who obsessively catalog all of the information about extraterrestrials. And how is all of this funded? Not by taxpayer dollars, but through :420:

“Alien Invasion” posted:

This special fund is directly financed by the world’s illegal drug trade, actively encouraged and generated by Majestic agents who net millions (if not billions) each year from the flow of drugs in and out of the U.S. There is nothing Majestic-12 agents can’t have, including alien technology, if Majestic-12 feels the need is sufficiently warranted.

Where exactly the War on Drugs comes into this is unexplained. False flag? Do the confiscated drugs just go back into the system, even though it seems like a waste? I'm probably overthinking this crazy conspiracy theory plot.

The usual MO for dealing with people who Know Too Much is either browbeating them into silence, psychologically torturing them until they commit suicide, or skipping straight to the killin' time. Particularly persistent cases, however, are dealt with in more “creative' ways, such as using psychic powers to transform them into a meat puppet called a horlock or “recruiting” them into M-12 specifically to put them on the front lines of a mission that is 99% likely to fail.

There are also some convenient stats for generic members of M-12. The Pounce agent (Tough Hero 2/Smart Hero 2/Dedicated Hero 2) is a somewhat tanky skill monkey with an emphasis on Spot and Computer Use, the Redlight engineer (Smart Hero 6) pumps all of their talents and feats into boosting most types of Craft skill to bonuses that you'd usually see on a 10th level or higher character, Aquarius scientists (Smart Hero 3/Dedicated Hero 3) boost both Craft and Knowledge skills equally, Delta security guards (Tough Hero 3/Strong Hero 3) are tanky fight-guys who have Damage Reduction and Ignore Hardness to hammer in damage while taking less of it themselves, and the Aquarius medics (Dedicated Hero 3/Strong Hero 3) are really strange in that they have Ignore Hardness as a talent on top of their myriad healing buffs in spite of the fact that they use no weapons.

If there are any organizations in other countries similar to M-12, which presumably there are, they aren't given any of the spotlight here. The contents of this section after the low-down on the organization and its members are purely a list of US extraterrestrial-related projects, from the real and rather unimpressive Blue Book to the crazy Excalibur, wherein the ingenius conspiracy guys' plan is “strap x-ray laser beams to a nuke and see what happens when it goes off”. I don't know about anyone else, but x-ray laser beams seem like overkill when you are already nuking ET.

Government Installations
As part of the “Black World” project, M-12 has made a bunch of underground cities that they utilize in their quest for supremacy. Black World cities are made using a nuclear-powered laser drill that melts through the ground quietly and without creating any tremors, allowing them to be made without any fuss, and are populated with both human and alien occupants. The largest bases are New Berlin, a pair of massive cities beneath Antarctica that are run by a human-Reptoid coalition. There are also eighteen bases scattered across Canada and Scandinavia, five bases in Australia, and forty-five small bases in Mexico. The number of bases in the United States itself? Forty-five, spread over twenty-one states. There are nearly as many bases in Mexico alone as there are in the United States, for this United States government operation. I can only assume that America is literally the World Police for alien life, and that's why there was never any mention of other conspiracy organizations outside of the Soviets in the Cold War and no other conspiracy organizations object to bases being built all over the place.

Fringe Elements
If you aren't an alien or a fed, you're here. There are four fringe elements listed, each with its own generic NPC stat block. Believers are the hoi polloi who believe in aliens but don't delve much further, represented by a lowly Dedicated Ordinary 1 who is completely unremarkable and shoved most of their skill points into Knowledge (Popular Culture). Fans are more actively involved in the community but aren't exactly amazing either, being Dedicated Ordinary 3 NPCs with most of their ranks pumped into Computer Use, Knowledge (Popular Culture), and Knowledge (Arcane Lore). UFOlogists are the chronicles of “credible accounts” and “scientific” in their methods – Dedicated Ordinary 6 for them, again with a heavy focus on Knowledge (Popular Culture). Finally, you have the exoscientists, the people who in real life are not insane and include SETI researchers. The Exoscientist, fittingly, is a Smart Ordinary 3/Dedicated Ordinary 3 rather than straight Dedicated Ordinary, and focuses on Knowledge (Earth and Life Sciences) and Knowledge (Physical Sciences) over pop culture.

Ground Zero Radio
This the last portion of chapter 1. The least, though? Hell no. This is the part where we get to see how real conspiracy theorists who had a hand in the project chose to let themselves be represented. The entirety of the book is Open Game Content, too, including this section, which means this may be the only d20 book anywhere that has OGC stats for still living people.

“Alien Invasion” posted:

Ground Zero is broadcasted to over 200 low-power FM radio stations, short-wave stations and worldwide thanks to Omnisound Streaming Media in Miami, Florida. Ground Zero Radio is heard all over the world and is recognized as one of the most entertaining talk shows by industry magazines like Radio & Records and Rolling.


Through its news arm, News at Ground Zero, Ground Zero Radio continues to have an important presence in alternative news today. News at Ground Zero radically overturns much of the accepted paradigm within the current news media. From parapolitical affairs, to science and pseudo-science, to paranormal activity, to religious and spiritual matters, money, entertainment, health and well-being.
...And that, presumably, is why most RPG's don't have stats for still living people.

Clyde Lewis, he of the amazing Wikipedia page, is up first. Clyde was an actor in Citizen Toxie: the Toxic Avenger Part IV according to his intro paragraph, but that's far less relevant than the fact that he apparently has Raelian-bought clones of himself for when the Reptoids attempt to assassinate him. He's mainly “the man against The Man”, though, using Ground Zero Radio as a platform to reveal the horrible secrets of M12, who are apparently incapable of dealing with the problem of a man who they can't kill. He's a Charismatic Hero 3/Personality 3, meaning he's got plenty of ways to emotionally manipulate people. He also has a whopping 20 Charisma – yes, he has literally inhuman levels of Charisma – to fuel those abilities. Both of the other members of GZR don't have any ability scores that pass 16, so congrats on the honor, Clyde.

Second in command is Aaron Duran. Unlike Clyde Lewis, Duran seems to only be a colossal dork in real life as opposed to a man who believes in Men in Black, crisis actors, and Birther poo poo. Here in fiction land, however, he is the “bulwark against the vagaries of the web”, defending GZR from cyber-attacks and uniting bloggers against the conspiracy. He's a Dedicated Hero 3/Charismatic Hero 3, but the writer apparently forgot to give him any talents as if he had Ordinary rather than Hero levels. Whoopsie!

Sadie Gregg (no Wikipedia page) is the last part of the trifecta, being the “smart, honest, and sexy reporter” who can “disarm anyone with her sense of humor and charm”. In game-terms, this translates to being a complete class-dipping clusterfuck of Charismatic Hero 2/Dedicated Hero 2/Smart Hero 2 to get skill emphasis on Investigate and Gather Information plus the Fast-Talk talent for that whole humor-disarming thing. Oh, and she has Wild Talent, giving her the psionic powers missive and far hand. A telepathic, telekinetic reporter is certainly useful to have around!

Chapter 2: Character Creation
Two new occupations introduce us to chapter 2, the character rules chapter. The first of these is the Abductee. As you could probably ascertain, the Abductee occupation reflects someone who defines a lot of themselves by the fact that aliens abducted them. The occupation grants two permanent class skills out of Autohypnosis, Concentration, Decipher Script, Knowledge (Arcane Lore), Knowledge (Popular Culture), and Psicraft, a free cybernetic implant, and a +1 Wealth bonus increase. How being abducted by aliens makes you wealthier is beyond me, but whatever.

Conspiracy Theorist is the other new occupation, and it's just as obvious as the first. Its boons are two permanent class skills out of Computer Use, Decipher Script, Forgery, Gather Information, Computer Use, Knowledge (Arcane Lore), Knowledge (Popular Culture), Knowledge (Technology), Research, and Spot, one free skill out of Gearhead, Low Profile, Meticulous, and Studious, and that strange +1 Wealth bonus increase again.

Advanced Classes
As the designers apparently hold fast to the philosophy that good things come in pairs, there are two new advanced classes here.

Aetherian: The advanced class for the Aetherius Society. With d6 HD, average Base Attack Bonus, Will and Reflex save, Defense, and Reputation progression plus a good Fortitude save progression, the Aetherian effectively looks like the Acolyte from d20 Modern core with its bad Reflex and good Will progressions evened out to both average. The comparison isn't hurt when you notice that the first ability other than spellcasting, Eternal Flame of the Logos, is turning but with creatures of the Alien subtype rather than the undead. This is upgraded at level 8 of the class to Turn Black Magician, allowing the Aetherian to use turning on arcane spellcasters.

After getting the standard d20 Modern core rulebook caster standby of Combat Casting at level 4, the Aetherian gets the feature Prayer Battery at level 5. This allows the Aetherian to create what is effectively a magical mine filled with one person-targeting spell the Aetherian knows, expending a day of focus, lots of money (purchase DC 20 plus both the Aetherian's caster level and the spell's spell level), an experience point cost equal to the purchase DC paid multiplied by the spell level and caster level, and a Craft (Electronic check) that is 15 plus the spell level and caster level. This may seem like a lot of work, and it is, but the payoff is a magic item that gets fifty charges of whatever was put into it. That many free uses of something like raise dead wouldn't be something to sneeze at.

The two remaining levels that aren't the bonus feats that get granted at levels 3, 6, and 9 by almost every d20 Modern advanced class ever are, alas, both pretty boring. Level 7 nets the Aetherian Discern Lie, which is a Sense Motive check against a Bluff check. No bonuses or anything, just literally something anyone with Sense Motive can already do. And level 10? Empower Spell, another generic thing d20 Modern core caster classes both got.

Raelian: The other cult-specific advanced class. It has d6 HD, good Base Attack Bonus and Will save progression, average Defense and Reputation bonus progression, and lovely Fortitude and Reflex save progression. Mostly normal for a non-combatant class, save for that unexpectedly strong BAB. Also rather strange is that the Raelian's bonus feats are at levels 2, 5, and 8, breaking the aforementioned mold of nearly every other advanced class.

Class feature-wise, expect a lot of skill checks. Open Arms at level 1 grants the Raelian a bonus to Diplomacy checks equal to half their levels in this advanced class, Information Access at level 3 lets the Raelian make Gather Information checks without spending money if they are gathering info from a non-hostile organization, and Restricted Access at level 6 grants a flat +5 bonus to Computer Use checks made to bypass computer security and to Research checks.

Fame grants a +4 bonus to Reputation at levels 4 and 7, which is useful given that the big skill-related class feature the Raelian gets at level 9 is Select Consuls. This lets the Raelian select a number of people equal to their Reputation bonus to become "Raelian consuls", which in game terms means they gain the benefits of the Information Access and Restricted Access class features even if they don't have the Raelian advanced class. And, of course, Raelians wouldn't be Raelians without that cloning angle, and the level 10 class feature is indeed just that. As soon as the Raelian dies, their consciousness goes into a clone body and awakens 24 hours later. The only time this fails is if the character does something suspicious, such as die too many times in quick succession, at which point the Elohim say “stop being a fuckup” and cut off the psychic brain transfer.

Reprints of the Alien Weapons Proficiency, Planetary Adaptation, Starship Operation, and Xenomedic feats from d20 Future. Since d20 Future is part of the Modern SRD, I'm not sure why these are reprinted without alteration, so let's quickly move on.

As the text of the book says itself, aliens are often associated with psychic powers, so it's not surprising to get new psionics out of Alien Invasion. All of them except one (remote viewing, specifically) are explicitly stated to be for alien or NPC use rather than human player character use. There are few enough that I can do a full rundown without going on for multiple paragraphs, so let's get right to it.
  • Activate Organic Portal (Telepath 3) An organic portal is activated. What is an organic portal? Well, you'll need to wait a little longer for that.
  • Aura Sight (Telepath 3): Basically a psionic version of the detect magical aura spell. The main difference is that it is keyed in on specific types of character. Humans, organic portals, horlocks, and extarterrestrials all have different auras that can be picked up by the power.
  • Cloud Mind (Telepath 1): The target becomes blind to the manifester's presence, effectively rendering the manifester invisible unless they actively engage in a threatening act or alter the environment around the target in a very noticeable way.
  • Cloud Mind, Mass (Telepath 5: The above, but with as many people as the manifester has caster levels rather than a single target.
  • Correspond (Telepath 3): AKA extreme telepathy. Correspond has no range limit at all, but instead has the caveat that it can only be used on a target that the manifester has actively had mental or physical contact with in person before.
  • Create Horlock (Telepath 5): As with activate organic portal, this one does exactly what its name says. Also in common with that power is that the horlock is a template we'll get into soon rather than right now.
  • Demoralize (Telepath 0): The manifester imbues the target(s) with crippling self-doubt, leaving them shaken. This is stated to be used by hostile aliens to make abductions easier, but I can just as well see psychic M-12 members utilizing it to deal with those who Know Too Much.
  • Detect Hostile Intent (Telepath 1): Actively hostile individuals within a 30 foot radius are identified and cannot surprise the manifester or catch them flat-footed for the duration of the power.
  • Disable (Telepath 0): Any living thing (undead and constructs are exempt) with 4 or less HD are given the false sensation that they were just dropped to 0 HP, and fall unconscious accordingly.
  • Empathy (Telepath 0): Thanks to sensing the emotions around a 30 foot radius, the manifester gets a +2 bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Sense Motive checks on the round after they stop concentrating to keep the power up.
  • Mental Disruption (Telepath 1): Will save or the target is dazed for a round.
  • Mind Probe (Telepath 4): Psychic interoggation. The manifester gets to ask one question per round (the power lasting for a number of rounds equal to their manifester level), and the target must make a Will save or answer truthfully. If the power is manifested on a sleeping character, their privacy is immediately violated and the truthful answer is attained immediately, with the Will save instead being to wake up from the sudden intrusion upon the target's slumber.
  • Psychic Vampire (Telepath 3): This power's main ability is to siphon away power points from a psionic foe, but it has a creepier secondary use. If used on a target that has no power points (be the all expended or simply not psionic), the power drains 2 points of an ability score depending on what the manifester is doing with the target at the time – Constitution damage if just in the target's proximity, Intelligence if intimidating or seducing the target, and Wisdom if having sex with the target. This can only end in amazing places.
  • Read Thoughts (Telepath 1): Congratulations, you are capable of picking up basic surface thoughts.
  • Remote Viewing (Telepath 3): A spell that lets you view things...remotely! :v: You have to have at least some passing knowledge of what you are looking for, but otherwise the spell has no effective limit, being capable of viewing even across dimensions.
  • Tongues (Telepath 1): The same thing as the spell of the same name.

Spells far a lot less better than psionics. There are six new spells, but five of them are literally just Aetherian-themed versions of the cure light wounds through cure critical wounds spells – renamed “light radionic healing” through “critical radionic healing” – each being one spell level higher than it would take for an Acolyte to cast the same cure spell. The only purely new spell is operation sunbeam, which bathes an area in holy light that gives a +3 bonus to the Aetherian's Eternal Flame of the Logos class feature and induces a -1 penalty to attack and damage rolls as well as saves for any creature of the Alien subtype in the 20 foot radius blessed by the spell. The bonuses for operation sunbeam are doubled if they are cast on one of the “holy mountains” of the Aetherians – Holdstone Down, Brown Willy, Ben Hope, Creag-an-Leth-Chain, Old Man, Pen-y-Fan, Carnedd Llywelyn, Kinderscout, and Yes Tor in the UK, Mount Baldy, Mount Adams, and Castle Peak in the USA, and Mount Cosciusko, Mount Ramshead, Mount Wakefield, Mount Madrigerfluh, Le Nid d'Aigle, and Mount Kilimanjaro for the rest of the world.

Racial Templates
The final part of chapter 2 is a collection of new templates. This sort of baffles me, as the playable alien species and monsters are both in chapter 4, so you'd think these would be there as well.

Hybrid (+1 CR Template): A human-extraterrestrial hybrid, refered to as “Homo noeticus” or “star children”. Even the arguably kind aliens that participate in this practice use pretty horrific methods. While the alien hybrid baby starts out in an artificial gestation bag to make sure its genetic aberrations don't go too out of control, it is then forcibly inserted into a non-pregnant woman's uterus after she is abducted and experimented on. The foster mother has to carry the baby, go through labor, and then usually gets abducted again so that the aliens can take the baby back. It's not explained exactly why the artificial gestation bag can't be used for the whole pregnancy, so this ends up coming off as another reason why Majestic 12 are probably right in their eventual plan to backstab the ETs. Stats-wise, the hybrid gets a +2 to Wisdom and Intelligence, as well as one mutant power. This is selected between either Adrenaline Jolt (the hybrid can temporarily boost their Strength or Dexterity by 1d4+1 points once per day), Force Barrier (a telekinetic field that provides damage reduction 3/- but shorts out any worn electronic devices), Pheromone Attraction (+4 to Bluff, Diplomacy, Handle Animal, and Intimidate checks as long as the target is within a 30 foot radius), Telekinetic Mind (unlimited mage hand that requires focus to maintain), Telepathy (pretty self-explanatory, range of 100 feet), or Ultra Immune System (+2 to saves against disease, poison, and radiation that presumably stacks with the feat of the same name, as it's not stated to be a bonus feat).

Activated Organic Portal (+1 CR Template): Organic portals are literally soulless sheeple, and make up over half of the human populace. Because they had the misfortune to not get a soul from the Elohim's Soul Matrix at birth, organic portals think of nothing more than food, sex, and the corporate machine. Their lack of a soul also results in a lack of empathy that is stated to be the cause of all “mob mentality” issues that have ever plagued humanity. Once the psychic power activate organic portal has been used on one of these beings, however, they gain this template and the status of Activated Organic Portal (AOP), effectively becoming traitors to their own species as they seek to manipulate others and perpetuate the status quo. The template confers +2 to Charisma but -2 to Wisdom, a hive mind with all other AOPs within a 50 mile radius that prevents them from being flanked or caught flat-footed, the ability to manifest the psychic vampire power once per day, and a further +4 bonus to Charisma-based skill checks due to their manipulative and flattering natures.

Horlock (+0 CR Template): While AOPs are designed to eschew the paranormal, the Horlock template is an active player in the conspiracy. The horlock is effectively an extraterrestrial zombie, its original psyche ripped away in place of a psychically implanted consciousness mirroring the alien (almost always a Reptoid) that created it. Its actions are that of its master, effectively puppeted by the faux consciousness implanted within it, and is used as an extension of that alien's agenda. The template induces a -2 penalty to Charisma, but grants at-will aura sight, a +2 to Will saves, and a +2 bonus to damage rolls against creatures with souls that increases by a further +2 for every 5 class levels the horlock has.

Grisi (+1 CR template): More or less rage zombies. Those with this template are afflicted with grisi siknis, space-rabies that came to Earth with infected chupacabras. This happens to be the only of these templates that can be applied to non-humanoids, though said creature must have the Alien subtype to be afflicted nonetheless. A grisi has its natural HD boosted to d12 in size, +4 to Constitution and Strength, a +2 bonus to Fortitude saves, a further +5 to Fortitude saves specifically made to resist massive damage, a strong slam attack if the base creature didn't already have natural attacks, damage reduction 5/-, an immunity to mind-affecting effects, and three bonus feats (Improved Damage Threshold, Blind-Fight, and Toughness). A grisi also, of course, carries grisi siknis. The Fortitude save against it is DC 16, and those who are infected sufer 1d6 and 1d6 Charisma damage on failed saves, as well as getting the grisi template if it's applicable of course. This ability damage means that if the disease ever bypasses their boosted Constitution, a grisi will eventually end up going into a coma and dying even if some plucky band of heroes doesn't kill it.

Chapter 3: Alien Technology
Confidentiality and Weapons
Standard d20 Modern has five ranks of item restriction: None (+0), Licensed (+1), Restricted (+2), Military (+3), and Illegal (+4). Alien Invasion decides to take that up a notch, however, turning it up to 11. +11, specifically, as that is now the maximum the scale goes with the new levels to it that have been added. Confidential (+5), Secret (+6), and Top Secret (+7) are real world classification, but beyond that you go into the above Top Secret ranks. Sensitive Compartmented Information (+8) is clearance for top secret projects worked on by only a few individuals, Special Access Program (+9) is for alien technology that is eventually planned to be leaked down to the military and then the civilian populace, Unacknowledged Special Access Program (+10) is for technology that is known only to the knowledgeable inner circle of the political elite, and Black Project (+11) reflects stuff that even the elite don't know the conspiracies are working on. Hilariously, even black projects can be bought on the black market, just with a long waiting period and expensive price tag.

To show these new restriction ranks off, there are three new weapons. The particle beam pistol and particle beam rifle are both Special Access Program projects that deal fire damage (2d10 for the pistol, 3d10 for the rifle) through unspecified atomic particles launched at an enemy, their technology gleaned from the Roswell crash. The other device, the Joshua beam, is a Black Project pistol that deals only 2d6 damage – comparable to that of an average modern pistol, just in sonic rather than ballistic damage – but also forces a DC 15 Fortitude save to prevent the target from becoming deaf and shaken for 1d4 rounds.

The aliens have to get here somehow, and the stats are indeed provided for a number of their craft. Before any actual ships stats are given, though, there is a list of completely new engines to power them. The electrogravitic (electricity based anti-gravity), magnetogravitic (same, but with magnets instead of electricity), ununpentium (the enigmatic “element 115”, which conspiracy theorist Robert Lazar claims was used to power the Roswell craft), and quantum (space is folded because quantum happens) engines are all a bit more esoteric than the more or less hard sci-fi engines such as ion and induction engines found in d20 Future. As for the ships themselves, there are few enough of them that, like the psionic powers, I can cover them all in brief list form.
  • Alien Saucer: The classic large (250 feet wide) flying saucer. It is lightly armored and weaponless abduction ship, and has been appropriated by M-12. The human version is called the TR3-A Pumpkinseed due to the fact that it glows orange for some reason.
  • Alien Fuselage: Immense “cigar” motherships, 2,000 feet in length. It has no weapons of it own, but that doesn't matter because it has ridiculous defensive measures and an armada of ships to defend it. They are unsurprisingly extremely rare to see.
  • Alien Ovoid: 40 foot long egg-shaped one-man craft. Like the saucers, they have no weaponry, and are presumably meant to be utilized as scout vessels.
  • Alien Airfoil: The triangular UFOs that began to displace saucers in pop culture and UFOlogy around the 70s. It is the first ship on the list that is actively armed, having a pair of fusion beams and a pair of CHE (conventional high explosive) missile launchers.
  • Aurora SR-33A: M-12's very own brand of terrifying, this recon fighter is designed to drop nukes wherever it feels like, since it can fly through space.
  • Lockheed X-22A: A smaller type of saucer than the alien variety, designed as a fighter that carries double particle beams.
  • Nautilus: A super-juiced version of a standard NASA orbital shuttle, designed to quickly whisk M-12 agents to the super secret international space station farther out in space than the actual International Space Station.
  • Northrop Quantum Teleportation Disc: Effectively a better version of the alien saucer, with quantum engines supplementing magnetogravitic ones.
  • TAW-50: Imagine a Blackbird that can go into space and has both heavy laser weapons and a MIRV missile launcher. That's effectively the TAW-50 in a nutshell.
  • XH-75D “Shark”: In a book that already has “Enola Gay but in space”, the XH-75D somehow still takes the cake as the strangest space ship. This thing is a space flight-capable helicopter, using electrogravitic engines to covertly whisk Pounce teams to UFO crash sites.

For no really apparent reason, this section also reprints another piece of material from the Modern SRD without any alterations – in this case, the alien probe (CR 5 Small Construct), renamed the Airborne Remotely Operated Device. Long story short is that the alien probe/AROD is effectively a smarter version of an Earth drone, capable of teleportation, psionic powers, electrical blasts, and creating a sickening aura. I kind of planned on doing the d20 Modern Menace Manual in the future, which is the part of the Modern SRD that ended up getting noted here, but I guess it doesn't hurt to note it early.

Miscellaneous Devices
Just what it says. There's an add-on to armor that laces it with stealth camo nanomachines, another add-on to give armor a personal antigravity field, a neural computer interface that lets you do Computer Use checks in half the usual time, an aircraft trait that increases its speed by making it pliable and aerodynamic to a supernatural extent, a Tricorder with the serial numbers filed off, and super healing gel in a can.

From left to right: Ataien with an incorrect number of arms, Dwarf, Elohim, Gray, and Reptoid
Chapter 4: The Alien Agenda
Alien Species
The “playable” species of Alien Invasion are finally here. I emphasize those scare quotes because the idea, of course, is that you're supposed to be a crew of conspiracy theorists rather than aliens if you are playing the campaign setting "correctly". Indeed, this chapter is intended to be cordoned off as a Game Master-only zone, which even the stuff on Majestic-12 wasn't. Either way, we have seven new species to get acquainted with. All of them, of course, have the Alien subtype.

Ataien (LA +0 Medium-size Humanoid): Human-sized grasshopper men from space. If you think these guys were put in just to take up some extra space, you're actually dead wrong. While some aliens, such as the Grays and the Reptoids, have had true cultural staying power, it is best not to forget that there have been many "waves" of specific trends in supposed alien encounters. From floating brains to space mummies, there have been a lot of weird things said to come from space. The aliens referred to as Grasshoppers, Mantises, or Insectoids are one such strange trend that quickly came and went in the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps directly as a result of how little they were ever discussed, the Ataiens here are not given much backstory at all: they sometimes abduct people, but beyond that they are inscrutable. An Ataien character gets a +2 to Intelligence and Wisdom but -4 to Charisma, +3 natural armor bonus to Defense, the typical bonuses associated with having four arms (+4 to Climb and grapple checks, extra hands to hold stuff with), and the same hive mind trait that AOPs have.

Dwarf (LA +0 Medium-size Humanoid): The Dwarves, sometimes more specifically referred to as Hairy Dwarves, were almost entirely limited to the start of the Cold War as far as purported sightings go. Their appearance is that of a short, squat, and hairy humanoid figure with bulging eyes and wide mouths. Reports of these aliens always described them as effectively being the unstoppable labor force for some other alien species, mining out ore and shrugging off any attempts to harm them. Sadly, while the flavor has been changed, the playable species stats here are just a reprint of the standard D&D/d20 Urban Arcana fantasy dwarves, just with the Alien subtype tacked on.

Elohim (LA +1 Medium-size Humanoid): The Elohim are the representatives of one of the longest lasting archetypes of alien, the "Nord". These blond-haired, blue-eyed space brethren have been floating around since the 19th Century, though their biggest popularity boom was in the 1950s. They Elohim are protective of humanity and are afraid of the coming interstellar war, and have attempted to use the Raelians to prepare the best of mankind for what's ahead. Stats-wise, Elohim are pretty drat impressive: +2 to Strength and Constitution and +4 to Charisma without any ability score penalties, as well as access to the psionic powers dimension door and mass cloud minds three times per day.

Gray (LA +0 Small Humanoid): One of the most famous aliens from the '50s onwards. You know these guys – gray skin, short, big heads, big eyes, tiny nose and mouth. In the world of Alien Invasion, Grays are not actually their own faction. They were actually engineered by the Reptoids as a slave race, incapable of breeding or feeding on their own. With +4 to Intelligence and Wisdom but -4 to Strength and Constitution and -2 to Charisma, the Grays are basically tailor-made to take levels in Telepath and spam psionics. They even have some natural psionics right off the bat, being able to manifest lesser mindlink at will and suggestion once per day

Man in Black (LA +1 Medium-size Humanoid): On top of the Majestic-12 agents referred to as Men and Black, there is also this entire species of aliens referred to by that monicker, which I'm sure won't get confusing at all. MIBs all resemble adult male humans with angular facial features, all of them drive all-black vehicles, and they all have monotone voices. They have no particular allegiance to any other alien species but nonetheless have a driving obsession with keeping the Conspiracy upheld. Stats-wise, the MIBs have +2 to Strength but -2 to Charisma and a potent set of psionic powers – lesser mindlink at will and demoralize, false sensory input, and tailor memory three times per day.

Reptoid (LA +1 Medium-size Humanoid): Popular since the 1980s and the go-to guys for conspiracy theorists such as David Icke, the lizard-like Reptoids of Alien Invasion take the role of head honcho. The horlocks and Grays are their slaves, they hire mercenaries from the dwarves and the ataiens, and they have been manipulating Earth governments to move toward a one government New World Order that they plan to rule. Humans are seen as potential slaves and food sources, nothing more, and all alien negotiations Majestic-12 has undergone have been plots engineered by the Reptoids to steer humans away from the benevolent extraterrestrial species and into their waiting claws. Reptoid characters get +4 to Strength but -4 to Charisma, darkvision at an above average range of 120 feet, and psionic powers (lesser mindlink at will, false sensory input and mass cloud minds thrice per day). A larger winged subspecies of Reptoids known as the Dracos have a fly speed of 20 feet with poor maneuverability and +6 rather than +4 Strength.

Ultron (LA +4 Elemental [Fire]): These fellows are the radiant beings that oversee the Aetherius Society. They're a ridiculously powerful species, to the point that the “average” Ultron hero is a Dedicated Hero 3/Acolyte 10, but somehow haven't succeeded in just wiping out the Reptoids in the wars between them. Even at level 1, though, an Ultron would be pretty imposing. They get +4 to Wisdom and Charisma, a void Strength score with Dexterity score filling in for melee attacks as if they were incorporeal (they're not, just gaseous), 60 feet of blindsight, damage reduction 10/+1, and immunity to electricity and fire damage.

Anomalous Biological Entities
The less advanced extraterrestrial species. As with the player species, all ABEs have the Alien subtype, naturally.

Chupacabra (CR 3 Small Humanoid): You know these guys. While they are referred to as looking like a cross between a Gray and a Reptoid, it's unknown whether this is literally what they are or whether they have some other origin. Regardless of their murky origin, chupacabras on Earth are a dangerous invasive predator. With the ability to camouflage themselves in any environment, glide, leap long distances and pounce atop prey, sprint at cheetah speeds for limited durations of time, rake with vicious claws, expel quills that do as much damage as a knife blade, or straight up go for their namesake blood-sucking attack, these reptilian monstrosities have a rather wide arsenal of tools to use against foes.

Goblin (CR 3 Small Humanoid): These guys are based on the famous Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter, an incident that ended up being popular enough that it was the inspiration for the Spielberg movie that would eventually heavily mutate into ET. Alien Invasion flavors them as being space hitchhikers that stow away on ships and float down into Earth's atmosphere to cause mayhem. They aren't really dangerous so much as inquisitive, and find scaring people to be an amusing game. They have damage reduction 10/blugeoning thanks to their metallic skin, as well as an eerie glow that illuminates their bodies.

Iken (CR 3 Small Humanoid): A hardier, hairier version of the goblin, with a high Strength score to back up powerful claw attacks. These guys are actually more in line with the Hairy Dwarf aliens in UFO lore than the actual Dwarf stats earlier, right down to having that damage reduction 10/bludgeoning, and I wonder whether or not that might have been the intention.

Sasquatch (CR 3 Large Humanoid): The big guy with the big feet. Shy and unwilling to engage in combat, sasquatch prefer to live peaceful existences in caves deep in the wilderness. To help them with that end, they are capable of manifesting the detect hostile intent and mass cloud minds psionic powers. I'm also fairly sure this is the only time I've ever seen d20 Bigfoot stats that didn't have the Giant creature type.

Final Thoughts
Few times do I have so many “it's good, but...” moments as when I look over roleplaying game books I like – Alien Invasion isn't really an exception. Its greatest sin is in its organization, which is kind of a mess. Chapter headers and section headers within a chapter have the same font size and color, and multiple points exist where I do a double-take as to why something is in one section over another that seems to make more sense. The bestiary is also really poor. Only four monsters, but all have the same Challenge Rating and creature type? Not exactly a great idea. It would have been nice to have some more of the really out there and different monstrosities of UFO lore like the Flatwoods Monster or the radioactive giants of Imjarvi. It also would have been nicer to have more character options than just the two cultist advanced classes. There was technically an Alien Hunter advanced class released as a one-off cheapie PDF supplement for the book, but I cant' rightfully count that as a pint toward the book if it's not in it.

The flipside of this is the wealth of weird that comes from having an actual conspiracy theorist as your creative consultant. Not only do you get to see the sense of what it means to be the hero of your own narrative, but there is also the surreal feeling of seemingly contradictory plot points weaving together. The alien player species are also very useful. In Wizards of the Coast's Menace Manual, almost all of the extraterrestrials were adaptations of the species from Alternity's Star*Drive setting, including the Grays Fraal, so seeing some Open Game Content stats of purported UFO occupants is nice. And best of all, the only one that doesn't really work (in my opinion, at least) are the Dwarves due to their whole reprint nature. The spaceships are also really nice, even if they aren't my “thing” personally. Short of having an official conversion of something like Conspiracy X, I can't imagine a much better extraterrestrial intrigue sourcebook for d20 Modern to have.

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 19:40 on Sep 17, 2014

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

ZeeToo posted:

the fact that various gods all exist and have equal power over their own followers (what?)
Henotheism was pretty common for the time, actually. God may be the big man in charge for the Israelites, but there's an assumption that deities like El and Baal-zebul are real and have real power (albeit assumed to be less powerful than Yahweh).

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

It's time to get back to Cerulean Seas rather than procrastinating about finishing that series and going off on other ones, and what better one to start discussing on Halloween than the sourcebook of the abyssal layer?

Chapter 1: Environmental Basics
Welcome to the world of the Underdarkdeep, the gloomy realm far beneath the shimmering upper waters of the Cerulean Seas. This is the place where bioluminescent lifeforms, scavengers, and thermal vent dwellers reign supreme. Flat expanses known as abyssal plains, deep sea trenches and mountains, thermal vents, and chemical-rich and salt-dense "underwater ponds" known as brine pools. With the exception of thermal vents, the uniting feature of all Underdeep environments is that they are cold and dark. Temperatures stay only slightly above freezing and creatures without darkvision or some manner of lighting aren't going to be getting anywhere fast in the oppressive gloom.

On top of the usual environmental overview paragraphs, there are also a few new toxic hazards to add to your game. Sheets of Charisma-damaging and fatigue-inducing slime known as crimson wart hide in otherwise innocent mats of edible ooze, while geological seeps can yield poisonous amounts of barium, brine, copper, mercury, and sulfur. There is also a toxin from a fictional blue metal known as azulbryn.

Chapter 2: Deep Sea Races

Pictured: abyssal variants of the Nommo, Seafolk, Piscean, Karkanak, and Nixie...oh, and an out of place Deep Drow between the Nommo and Seafolk

Aquatic Races Revisited
As with Indigo Ice, Azure Abyss's racial chapter starts with a look back at the core races from the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide and how any of them fit in this alternate environment. The crab-like karkanaks have it best off in the Underdeep, having two different new subspecies. One, the abyssal karkanak, is themed after the real world crab creatively dubbed the deep sea red crab (Chaceon quinquedens). These karkanaks are differentiated by their bright red carapaces and lack of eyestalks, live in roving barbarian bands that pillage settlements on the abyssal plain, and the only difference between them and standard karkanaks stats-wise is that they have a depth tolerance of 20,000 feet and pressure sensitivity of 1,000 feet. Even stranger are the woolly karkanaks, based on the real world yeti crab (Kiwa hirsuta), which have deathly pale carapaces and fur-like filaments lining their limbs. Woolly karkanaks lose the Innate Craft racial ability in favor of a new racial ability known as Extremophile. This handy racial quality grants steam resistance 5, cold resistance 5, and an immunity to geological-based poisons and pressure damage.

The most extreme of the changes comes for the pisceans. Rather than the cod-like former slaves of the tropical coasts, the abyssal variant known as the ceratiodi are unsurprisingly based on the anglerfish. The hefty-bodied females gain a bioluminescent angler lure that sheds as much light as a torch, depth tolerance of 20,000 feet, and pressure sensitivity of 5,000. And the males? Well, they no longer use the piscean stats, instead using the stats of a size Tiny fish with the Trueform (Awakened) template because they are worthless little parasites/sperm banks just like real male anglerfish. It is also probably worthy of note that these are meant to be a player race alternative to the 4 HD Monstrous Humanoid of the same name from Paizo's Pathfinder Bestiary 3.

Lastly, there are the three less abyssally-inclinded abyssal races. Abyssal seafolk look like paler versions of regular seafolk, have a depth tolerance of 15,000 feet and pressure sensitivity of 500 feet, and have a 20% chance of having their mer half be that of a fish that has bioluminescent spots that grant the same lighting as a torch. Similarly, the abyssal nommo have an angler lure on their chin that sheds as much light as a torch (again), a depth tolerance of 15,000 feet, and a pressure sensitivity of 1,200 feet. The least changed of all are the nixies. They don't even go fully into the abyss, staying further up near the twilight zone of the open ocean, and simply have their depth tolerance increased to 10,000 feet without even having to worry about any pressure sensitivity being added. There's also a mention of deep drow, but purely in the sense of "hey these were in the bestiary section of the core campaign guide, go look there if you want to recall what they're like".

Okay, now it's time for the first of the completely new races, and we start off on a good foot. I really like the idea of the asterak: they're merfolk that are appropriately freaky for the abyss, with translucent skin and various bioluminescent appendages used to communicate with each other. Even their mating habits are unusual, with their crystalline eggs being "fertilized" through electrocution, which explains why they are one of the only merfolk that don't have crossbreeds. They usually keep to themselves and mostly focus on survival, living nomadic existences on the abyssal plain with no real end goal in mind. Asteraks see all lifeforms as equally basic animals and treat other sapient races as wild creatures to be respected but avoided, their opinion of verbal language is "use it if you have to or if it sounds musically interesting", and asteraks that go out of their way to become adventurers and associate with other races are seen as creepy perverts that are most likely mentally unsound. Of course, this is a species that is stated to regularly steal from or practice vivisection on wizards because they find arcane magic so interesting and useful to survival, so thinking adventurers are weird is the least of their societal quirks.

Asterak characters +2 Intelligence and Constitution but -2 Strength, darkvision at a rnage of 60 feet, electricity resistance 5, and the ability to cast shocking grasp once per day. They also have a special trait, Advanced Bioluminescence, that lets them change how much lighting they produce from no light at all up to the strength of a hooded lantern. Due to their acclimation to the depths, they suffer from a pressure sensitivity of 1,000 feet.

These guys are the last of the dwarves, spared from the Great Flood by sheer coincidence. They were originally dwarves from the Austoria Mountains who mutated themselves with aboleth technology in order to mine azulbryn from a massive subterranean lake. By the time they had dug greedily and deep, they learned from the seagoing races that the Great Flood had happened and the other dwarves were gone. Culture and appearance wise, they are just your stereotypical fantasy dwarves with a smattering of ocean living added on. They have the same ability score modifiers, speed, and most general racial traits as regular dwarves as well. The only difference is that the lose the Stability and Hatred traits in favor of the Extremophile trait and the ability to breathe air and water equally.

The echinns are the extremophile's extremophile. The abyssal voids they live in are referred to as "echinnlands" because no other sapient creature can survive there. It also happens that I like this race for the same reason that I like the asterak: they are truly strange to outsiders. Male and female echinns look the same, they cannibalize their dead out of respect and to not let things go to waste, and they communicate through touch. They are also mostly atheistic and materialistic due to difficulties in mental visualization, which often prevents them from understanding concepts such as deities and magic. One thing echinns are very good at visualizing, though, is vengeance. A tribe can hold centuries-long grudges against an entire race because a few members of that race enslaved them in the distant past.

Echinns are not as mechanically interesting as they are flavorful, however. +2 to Strength and Constitution but -2 to Intelligence and Wisdom, a +2 natural armor bonus to AC, a +4 bonus to saves against ingested poison, the Extremophile trait, and venomous spines that deal Dexterity damage all scream "tank". And look at that, their most common classes are Barbarian and Fighter! What a shocker.

For lack of a better term, obitu are "reverse-undead". That is, they were once undead, but infected with a virus that made them alive again. This virus comes from a gigantic sapient psionic brain coral called the source-mind, and obitu treat source-minds as their mothers and monarchs. More obitu are made when they travel out, beat the poo poo out of the first undead they find, take it captive, and then force feed the undead creature to a source-mind. The entire reason they even become adventurers is so that they can make more obitu for the source-minds.

I think I am in love with these guys.

As if being the reverse-undead heralds of giant psychic coral weren't great enough, they also have a really eclectic racial setup. They focus on both defense and maneuverability, with +2 to Strength and Dexterity contrasted by a -2 to Charisma, +4 bonus to saving throws against disease and poison, +2 bonus to Acrobatics, Escape Artist, and Sleight of Hand checks, resistance to negative energy damage equal to half their class level plus 5, and an immunity to sleep effects because they are a literal embodiment of that whole "they do not sleep, they merely wait" catchphrase. The only sad thing is that they aren't of the Aberration type or something rather than Humanoid, because they're so drat freaky.

Viden Oculus
The oculi are creatures of the Aberration type that, surprise surprise, are mostly made up of one big eye. The viden is the first life stage of the oculus, and the only playable one. They are paranoid, power-hungry racists, which is actually a step up from the power-mad imperialists that the later life stages become. This also presents a bit of a contradiction in the text. While viden are stated to wish to accumulate power to advance to their next life stage, they are also given the caveat of being able to just stay in the viden stage forever so that the Game Master just doesn't yank away your viden character.

Being a size Small Aberration, they are both the only non-Humanoid and non-Medium size playable race in Azure Abyss. +2 Dexterity and Wisdom but -2 Strength is pretty much expected for a small swift enemy, and bioluimescence and pressure sensitivity of 1,000 feet aren't exactly unexpected either. What's definitely a bit unexpected, however, is the Acidic Tears quality. The viden oculus is capable of oozing acidic secretions, which only do a single point of acid damage but is still certainly unique.


So Kawaii posted:

Abyssal rusalki are Medium-sized, lithe, and pale female feykith. They have large orange eyes, translucent blue-white skin, and cat-like ears. Their hair is long, transparent, and nearly invisible when not lit by two luminescent antennae that flow from the top of the rusalka’s head and down either side of her body. A skirt of dozens of jellyfish-like tendrils sprout from a rusalka’s waist, each tipped in blue luminescence. A rusalka’s blood is likewise radiant, and her heart can be seen pulsing with red light in her chest. Despite their alien composition, most humanoids find the abyssal rusalka to be hauntingly attractive.
Looks can be deceiving, though, and the flowery physical description of the rusalka leads into a far more disturbing paragraph about their society. How are baby rusalki formed? Well, when a rusalka and a male of a shallow-water humanoid race love each other very much, the rusalka murders and consumes him, converting his life essence into a new rusalka infant. :stonk:

While most abyssal races know about this terrifying aspect of the rusalki's nature, they tend to be seen as being of little threat because they prey on shallow-water races and mostly prefer to fight other rusalka clans over any of their neighbors. Peaceful democracies of like-minded rusalki become bloodthirsty when they clash against clans of opposed alignments.

Rusalki characters get +2 to Dexterity and Charisma but -2 to Strength, as well as a +1 to saving throws for Enchantment spells. Their two most interesting abilities are Blazing Blood, which allows the rusalka to eject her luminescent blood in a 1- foot cloud that provides total concealment but is very blatantly glowing, and a variant of blood drain named Stinging Skirt due to the fact that the tentacle "skirt" of the rusalka is what does the HP drain.

Not many hybrids this time around. Just two, in fact. One is the kirah, a "deep drow abomination". These are the oceanic equivalents of driders, and in the case of the kirah they are a fusion of deep drow and a type of demon known as the minion of Saloth that we'll meet later on in this book. This boosts the deep drow's sie to Large and alters their ability scores with +2 Strength and Charisma but -2 WIsdom, as well as providing a +2 natural armor bonus to AC. Kirah are unsurprisingly usually demonic in nature.

The other new hybrid is the deodona, a hybrid of seafolk and echinn. These are effectively pufferfish merfolk: they have poisonous spines on their tails and backs and they can inflate to a rounded state that halves their movement speed but lets them attack and grapple as if they were size Large. How you get a pufferfish merfolk out of a regular merfolk and an anthropomorphic sea urchin is beyond me, but there it is.

Next Time: Yet another warrior base class that out-Fighters the Fighter, weird deep sea prestige classes, undersea loot, and deep magic.

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 23:20 on Nov 1, 2014

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Mors Rattus posted:

In fairness, the Fighter is terrible. Also, you got a dead image.
I know, I just never like to miss an opportunity to kick the Fighter when it's down.

And thanks for the head's up, the image should be fixed now.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

inklesspen posted:

The Obitu were also statted up for regular Pathfinder and for 4E. I bought the 4E version a while back. Instead of a virus-making psychic coral, they were made by a lich to be immune to turn undead; in order to do this, he had them powered by positive energy, and so they promptly destroyed him.
I think psychic virus coral are cooler than liches, but that's definitely a more solid origin for a classic fantasy setting and a land-based obitu, so it makes sense that they did it.

ZeeToo posted:

Doesn't look it to me. Right after Deep Sea Races, still missing.
Another one was broken on my end, and I could see that one fine. I've reuploaded it to imgur to hopefully fix the problem.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Azazel and sea goats have already been covered, so I guess I'll grab this one.

ZeeToo posted:

Leviathan is a unique CR 22 aquatic monster with no art and no description beyond "crocodile-headed". His unique gimmick is using control water to get new places to swim in, so don't think you're safe just because you're up a mountain. This colossal swimming indescribable thing might be lurking in the ledge above you, ready to pounce down on you and make his, uh, seven bite attacks. Sure. He's not even got all that bad a hide check, really, so he might actually be able to ambush you if you're unlucky.
The seven heads part comes from Lotan, the seven-headed sea monster from the lore of Ugarit. He's either the pet of the sea god Yam or just a form Yam parades around in when he feels like it. The ancient Hebrews appropriated Lotan as being one and the same as Leviathan. A similar thing may have happened with Tiamat being conflated with Rahab/Tannin, other sea monsters in the Bible who may or may not also just be other names for leviathan.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

All the folks coming back to work on projects certainly made me realize I'd totally forgotten about been holding back on writing the next part of Azure Abyss.

Chapter 3: Deep Sea Classes
If you might recall, Indigo Ice introduced one new base class and three new prestige classes for Cerulean Seas. Well, Alluria Publishing is nothing if methodical, because the same number of classes is utilized here.

Angler (Base Class)
The Angler is effectively a combo of Fighter and non-casting Ranger, designed to be a rugged frontier warrior who takes no guff and kills deep sea monsters for profit. In spite of the comparisons I made to what role they are meant to be play, however, the Angler actually takes its biggest mechanical inspiration from the Rogue. It shares the Rogue's d8 hit die, and almost exactly copies the Rogue's Base Attack Bonus and saving throw progression, simply reversing Reflex and Fortitude to have the latter be good and the former poor in its progression. The Angler's actual class features, however, bring it into its own element.

The very first one you'll pick up is Battlefield Prep, which allows the Angler to literally shape the outcome of a battle, creating a 5 foot square of special terrain that grants a bonus to the Angler and allies or a penalty to foes. The Angler expends a number of successive standard actions, of which the total can't exceed half the Angler's character level plus their Wisdom modifier. Each standard action can be used to increase the bonus/penalty of the square's effect by 1 or to increase its size by another 5 foot square.

And what exactly does this preparation do? That varies between different preparations, of which the Angler starts with a single one and gains another at level 3 and then every three levels after that. The specific types of prep space the Angler can choose are..
  • Defensive Benefit: Occupying the space grants you a bonus to Armor Class equal to the preparation number.
  • Defensive Hindrance: Rather than boost someone's defense, you deal your prep number's worth of penalty to an enemy's Armor Class when they're on the space.
  • Movement Benefit: Anyone starting their turn on the prep space gains +5 move speed for each prep number.
  • Movement Hindrance: Yet again an inversion, with the target suffering a -5 penalty to move speed for each prep number when the start their movement on the space.
  • Offensive Benefit: Standing in the prepped spot provides a bonus to attack rolls and damage equal to the prep number. You have to choose between melee attacks only or ranged attacks only, however. The spot can't grant bonuses to both.
  • Offensive Hindrance: Yet another inversion of the last, granting a penalty to melee or ranged attack and damage rolls.

These preparations can be beefed up even more by taking three special preparations: Combined Preparation (you can put two of the previous preps on the same prep area), Lingering Preparation (anyone who spends at least a full round in the prep area still benefits/suffers from its effect after leaving the area for a number of rounds equal to the Angler's Wisdom modifier), and One Shot Preparation (the prepared area works for only one round for the first person to enter the area, but the benefit or penalty is further increased by the Angler's Wisdom modifier).

While this does mean that you're not doing anything else for every round you buff up your preparation space, the fact is that the total time a prep space (other than one made with One Shot Preparation) lasts for a number of days equal to the Angler's total character level. This means that, not unlike the stereotype of Batman, the Angler can defeat just about anyone with enough preparation time. It's definitely one of those things where how much leeway the GM gives you makes or breaks how powerful the ability is.

A far more straightforward ability the Angler also gets at level 1 is Harvest. Whenever you kill a creature that is of the Animal, Magical Beast, or Dragon creature type, you get a number of bonus gold equal to 10 x the monster's Challenge Rating. This bonus gold increases to 25 x the monster's CR at level 6, 40 x its CR at level 11, and 55 x its CR at level 16. Hopefully you're kind enough to split your profits with other party members.

There are also yet another two class features gained right off the bat by the Angler. One, Trapsmith, is is a straightforward set of bonuses: 1/2 the Angler's character level added to Craft (Trapmaking) checks, Disable Device checks, and Perception checks that are made to locate traps,as well as the ability to make traps at a third their normal price. The other is another class feature that you'll be seeing just as often as Battlefield Prep. At level 1 and every three levels afterward, the Angler gets to choose one of the listed Angler's Traps. These are unique "step in the square to activate" traps that the Angler alone can create. While some replicate spells or supernatural powers, all are considered to be Extraordinary rank abilities. Some of these traps definitely don't feel special, but see for yourself rather than take my word for it.
  • Alarm Trap: Stepping on the trap causes an alarm to sound, replicating the alarm spell.
  • Alchemical Attack Trap: The trap releases a spewing mess of either acid or steam, dealing 1d6 + half the Angler's character level in damage. A Reflex save means the damage is ignored.
  • Alchemical Explosion Trap: As above, but the damage is dealt to all adjacent squares as well as the trap square.
  • Marking Trap: The individual that set off the trap gets coated in some manner of colored dye or scent marking, which lowers all checks to track them by 4. It's stated to fade over "several days", so I guess however many the GM feels appropriate.
  • Poison Trap: Unsurprisingly, the trap delivers a poison. It can be of any poison type other than ingested.
  • Snare Trap: The trap entangles the foe, with the usual options of Escape Artist or Strength check to get out.
  • Swarm Trap: A jellyfish, hagfish, or leech swarm bursts out of a box when the trap is triggered. This is the best trap simply because it's amazing to think of taking the effort to stuff jellyfish into a box just to hurt someone with them later.

Beyond first level, you'll only find two other class abilities beyond more bonuses to those starting sets. At level 2 and every three levels afterward, the Angler gets a bonus feat. Unlike the Fighter, though, they have access to quite a variety of feats, from stealth feats such as Fast Crawl and Nimble moves to tanking feats like Diehard and Rugged Northerner. Finally, you have the capstone feature of the Angler class, Master of the Field. This doubles the bonuses of any Battlefield Prep ability. This can be combined with a feat called Quicken Battlefield Prep that does the same thing, allowing you to get 4 points per standard action.

While I usually prefer to discuss my opinions on classes and such in my final thoughts, I'll not that the Angler falls into that odd category of being an interesting class, but not quite matching up with what you expect. The flavor text prepares you for some grizzled frontiersman that looks like they wandered right out of an adventure game, but most of the class's actual abilities are related to subterfuge and preparatory measures. Harvest is the only class feature that directly ties into the opening fluff statement of "charting the unexplored and slaying the beasts that nip at the civilized world's edges".

Halionaut (10 Level Prestige Class)
Halionauts make a living going through random portals and seeing what they find. If you recall the Horizon Walker class from standard D&D and Pathfinder, it and the Halionaut are a lot alike. And by a lot alike, I mean the Halionaut is literally the Horizon Walker with land terrain names swapped out with ocean terrain names. The only thing the Halionaut has that the Horizon Walker doesn't is an ability called Eerie Foresight, which lets them see a portal's "danger rating", an arbitrary 1 to 10 scale that the GM determines.

Myxinmave (10 Level Prestige Class)
And then, as if to say "sorry the Halionaut is so boring", the very next page grants us the glory that is the Myxinmave. This is a spellcasting prestige class that reflects someone who absolutely adores hagfish, so much that they take great lengths to fraternize with and emulate these deep sea scavengers. Beyond that amazingly crazy premise, however, is the class any good? Well, it definitely starts out with a nice framework. Above-average Base Attack Bonus progression, average Fortitude and Reflex saves contrasted by a below average Will save, and d6 hit dice are the makings of relatively standard combat casting class. It also counts as a caster class for spell levels, which is always important.

A level 1 Myxinmave gets two class features right off the bat. Hagfish Servant grants a giant hagfish with the Intelligence score and various other bonuses granted to a familiar. This hagfish will split into two identical hagfish at level 5 of the class, and again into four identical hagfish at level 9, just in case one wasn't enough to love. The other feature, Hagslime, grants a +1 bonus to Armor Class, Escape Artist checks, and CMD against enemy grapple attempts, as well as the ability to spew a large slime cloud once per day. This cloud is a non-magical version of the quagmire spell from the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide that has a 10 foot radius. At level 4, 7, and 10 of the class, the various bonuses conveyed by Hagslime increase by a further +1and the Myxinmave gets another use of the slime cloud spewing ability per day.

At level 2, the Myxinmave has the ability to freely transmute their face into a hagfish mouth with the ability Consume Flesh. The bite attack deals only a single point of damage usual, but can be used to make a successful grapple attack that deals 2d6 points of damage as the Myxinmave rasps flesh from the victim. This doesn't work on creatures without flesh, but that probably won't make much difference unless your GM just constantly throws skeletons and golems at you.

Immunity to Putridness comes at level 3, granting immunity to natural diseases and mummy rot, ingestible and inhaled poisons, and undead stench. Not quite that exciting? Don't worry too much, as level 4 has Knot Armor. This class feature lets the Myxinmave wear a bunch of hagfish (known as a knot) as armor, granting a unique type of damage reduction. The knot can absorb a number of points of damage equal to 10 + 5 per level in this prestige class the Myxinmave has, dying if they take 10 damage from a single attack or if they take all the total damage they can. Fear not, however, as they resurrect and reappear every morning! The only downside is that you can't wear regular armor and knot armor at the same time.

Level 5 and we have Fins of the Hagfish. This improves the Myxinmave's swim speed by 10 feet and grants a tail slap attack that deals 1d6 damage if the character is Small, 1d8 if they are Medium, and 1d10 if they are Large. The very next level, the Boneless class feature continues the train towards becoming one with the hagfish, granting a further +4 bonus to Escape Artist checks and CMD against grapple attempts, as well as the ability to squeeze through areas as if the character was one size category smaller.

At level 7, we take a minor detour from emulating hagfish with the Spew Hagfish feature. With this ability, the Myxinmave gets a hagfish breath weapon they can use once per day, dealing 1d6 damage per Myxinmave level in a 30 foot cone. The hagfish that are belched out are also kind enough to stay around, acting as a hagfish swarm under the character's command after the damage is dealt. There's also Poison at level 8, which is...well, poison. A poison from the Consume Flesh jaws that deals 1 Strength damage per round, specifically.

Last, but certainly not least, is the capstone ability Hivemind. The hivemind is made up of up to 50 individuals, including the Myxinmave and their giant hagfish servants, and gain various bonuses. Each creature in the Hivemind gains +1 Intelligence and Charisma per 20 creatures beyond 50 that are in the swarm, a +1 insight bonus to attack rolls and Armor Class, and awareness of what is being experienced by each member of the hivemind.

Seductor (10 Level Prestige Class)
Oh boy, an entire class based around seduction and manipulation! Just what I always wanted.

The Seductor has d8 hit die, but otherwise has the poor Base Attack Bonus progression, Fortitude saves, and Reflex saves offset by a good Will save you kind of expect from manipulator classes. They also gain a bonus +1d6 sneak attack every odd numbered level of the prestige class, even if they didn't originally have any levels in Rogue. Handy.

The Seductor gets three abilities out of the starting gate. Poison Use is the standard "you can't accidentally poison yourself when poisoning a weapon" stuff, Seduction adds the Seductor's levels in this prestige class to Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Intimidate, Perform, and Sense Motive checks, and Seductor's Touch is the start of a multi-level ability. With Seductor's Touch, the Seductor makes a grapple check. If successful, they can impart the charm person spell. This extends to being able to impart the suggestion spell at level 4 of the class, 1d4 Strength or Wisdom damage at level 7, and 10 minutes of paralysis at level 10.

Level 2 has Save Bonus Against Poison, which is a +1 save bonus against poison (duh) that increases by a further +1 at every two levels afterward. Secret Alignment at level 3 grants permanent undetectable alignment as a supernatural ability. And at level 5, there's a once per day ability called Shield of Helplessness. Basically, all creatures in a 15 foot radius are forced to make a Will save or automatically believe the Seductor is a damsel in distress.

Oh, and at level 9, the Seductor gets Hidden Mind, which is permanent mind blank as a supernatural rather than spell-like ability. The description states that if dispelled, this ability cannot be resumed for 1d4 rounds. That would certainly be potentially useful if it wasn't for the fact that dispel magic only works on spells and spell-like abilities, not supernatural abilities.

Chapter 4: Deep Craft
Six new weapons are provided for characters from the Azure Abyss: one martial, two simple, and three exotic, all melee. The excaecara fork, also known as the bident, is the lone martial weapon and basically resembles a trident with only the middle and left tines. It deals 1d6 piercing damage for a Medium-size creature and was created by the oculi specifically to blind rogue oculi. For simple weapons, there is the battle spade, a combat shovel which deals 1d6 slashing damage for Medium wielders and helps dig through earth at increased speed, and the stickleback spear, a small probing stick that only deals 1d4 piercing damage for a Medium wielder and is designed more as a deterrent against attackers than a weapon of war.

Out of the three exotic weapons, the most deceptively simple is the zharaz. Created by the dwarves of Austoria, this weapon looks like a bisected hatchet, and deals 1d4 slashing damage in Medium hands. It has a dirty little secret in between the two halves of its blade, however, in that there is a small compartment meant to hold a dart made of azulbryn. On a successful hit from the main weapon, the dart (if present) lodges in the opponent and automatically starts dealing azulbryn poisoning.

More straightforward is the echinn blade. It's a big, nasty hooked blade designed to pry open crustaceans, dealing 1d10 damage for a Medium wielder and granting a +1 bonus to attack rolls against foes that have a natural armor bonus to Armor Class. The pincer blade is also pretty easy to understand, being meant for dealing with tentacled creatures. It can deal 1d6 slashing damage with a Medium wielder, but can choose to do nonlethal rather than lethal damage if it uses the dulled outer blade of the fork rather than the sharp inner one.

With twenty-one feats, you'd think there would be more variety here, but that's not really the case this time. All but two of them are racial feats, and those two that are left over both deal with the Angler's Battlefield Prep class feature! Sadly, the racial feats are all pretty bland too, with examples including Boon of Bones (an obitu gains the resistance to slashing and piercing weapons that undead skeletons have), Sharper Spines (an echinn's spines deal more damage than usual), and Virulent Poison Cloud (a deep drow's poison cloud has a +2 higher save DC than normal). The only really stand-out feats are Azulbryn Eater, which allows Austorian dwarves to gain a +1 bonus to all saving throws and skill checks for an hour after eating azulbryn as opposed to being poisoned by the radioactive blue metal, and Nibble Armor, which allows an echinn to sunder armor with its mandibles when in a grapple.

Ten new spells here, so once more I can look at all of them briefly rather than pick and choose like I would for a much larger count.
  • Abyssal Murk (Conjuration; Sorcerer/Wizard 6): Recreating the effects of a black smoker, this spell obscures as per quagmire but also deals 3d6 points of steam damage each round a creature spends in the cloud.
  • Acid Zone (Transmutation; Kahuna 5, Sorcerer/Wizard 5): In an area of one 5 x 5 cube per caster level, seawater becomes highly acidic and deals 1d6 acid damage per round to everything in the area.
  • Biolight (Transmutation; Alchemist 21, Magus 2, Siren 2, Sorcerer/Wizard 2, Summoner 2, Witch 2): You make yourself bioluminescent. Considering how many of the player races in Azure Abyss already have natural bioluminescence, it's surprising that nearly every spellcasting class has access to this spell...or at least it would be, were it not for another spell later on.
  • Bloodworms (Conjuration; Kahuna 4, Sorcerer/Wizard 4, Summoner 4, Witch 4): You summone a bunch of bloodworms, a type of oceanic polychaete worm that has a rather nasty poisonous bite. The bites deal 1 point of Constitution damage and decrease the target's swim speed by 5 feet.
  • Enemy Within (Enchantment [Evil]; Siren 2, Sorcerer/Wizard 2): This spell causes the target to believe that their own body is enchanted against their will, and they deal damage to themselves as fast as they can.
  • Extinguish Biolight (Necromancy; Antipaladin 2, Cleric/Oracle 3, Darkness domain 2, Siren 2, Sorcerer/Wizard 2, Witch 2): You permanently make something that is bioluminescent no longer bioluminescent. It is dispelled by biolight.
  • Lumenspear (Transmutation; Cleric 2, Kahuna 2): You use your own bioluminescence to make a melee weapon out of light. It can be any weapon you are proficient with, and acts as a magical weapon for purposes of overcoming damage reduction, so go crazy.
  • Parasitic Visage (Sorcerer/Wizard 9, Summoner 6, Witch 9): You fuse your lower half with the head of a creature at least two size categories larger than you are. In addition to making yourself effectively a weird hat for the creature, you get to mind control it. You gain its size, buoyancy, depth tolerance, natural attacks, immunities, resistances, physical ability scores, extraordinary abilities, and basically everything except for its supernatural or spell-like/psionic abilities and its mental ability scores.
  • Smoker Hop (Conjuration); Magus 7, Sorcerer/Wizard 7): You temporarily stop taking steam damage, and teleport from one geothermal heat source to another within 3 miles.
  • Summon Hagfish (Conjuration; Kahuna 2, Siren 2, Sorcerer/Wizard 2, Summoner 2, Witch 2): You summon either two giant hagfish or one hagfish swarm. Since it's the spell you need to be able to enter the Myxinmave prestige class, it's convenient that there are a fair number of casting classes that can learn it.

Underdeep Magic Items
Closing out chapter 4 are eight magic items themed around the deep sea, starting out with the Bracers of Bioluminescence. These gem-lined bracers have a constant casting of biolight and let you cast extinguish biolight, light, and lumenspear three times a day. These and the item directly after, the Goggles of Deepsight (which grant darkvision out of 60 feet) seem more tailored for those traveling to the deep than those that already live there. By contrast, the Oculus Wand is created and utilized by the oculi, and can be used to cast any level 0 or 1 spell with the word "detect" in its name. Because they're giant eyes, you see.

If jewelery is more your thing, the Ring of the Underdeep can grant steam and cold resistance 5, pressure immunity, and geopoison immunity. Then again, there's always weapons, which make up the four remaining magic items. The Rod of the Anchor is a quarterstaff that also acts as an immovable rod and can cast reverse buoyancy once per day that the caster gets to ignore, the Staff of the Vents is a boiling burst quarterstaff that can be used to cast boiling hands, boiling bubble, mageboil, volcanic vent, hot springs, abyssal murk, or smoke hop, the Sword of the Crab is a +2 keen bastard sword that grants its wielder continuous freedom of movement and water breathing as well as the ability to turn into a Medium crab once per day, and the Trident of the Depths is a +3 trident that deals an extra 1d6 damage when below 1,000 feet of water but turns into a -3 cursed weapon if it is brought above that depth.

Next Time...
Azure Abyss gets finished off with plot, location, languages, gods, and monsters.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

A new Cerulean Seas sourcebook was just released, this one focused on freshwater areas and East Asian mythology. I'm not sure how this will affect my original plan of going through all the Cerulean Seas sourcebooks before looking at any other books, but for now I'm working to get Azure Abyss wrapped up nice and neat.

Carrasco posted:

The Myxinmave is my new favorite prestige class. How does that Spew Hagfish ability even work? Do hagfish just swim around in their stomaches all day? Does a portal to the Plane of Hagfish open in their mouths?
The ability is based on the spell vomit swarm, which is a Conjuration (Creation) spell, so you are literally birthing new hagfish into the world. With your mouth.

AmiYumi posted:

I felt the same way about the "I trap an area, one 5' square at a time" class, in an environment where everyone has 3D movement. But since no one else's brought it up, maybe I'm the strange one?
It does indeed say "5 foot square", so no, you aren't the odd one out.

Kellsterik posted:

I was wondering that too. Is this supplement mainly for adventuring on the sea floor? Or do they mean 5' cube and it's like floating traps?
Floating traps that act as a 5 foot cube is a pretty good houserule for this.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

I was hoping to have this done and move onto a new book by 2015, but oh well. Let's finish off...

Chapter 5: The Azure Abyss Setting
While technically in the same world as the rest of Cerulean Seas by default, Azure Abyss is meant to have a strikingly different tone. The idea is that in the abyssal plain, there's a lot of evil and the players are supposed to be beacons of light in a sea of literal and figurative darkness. The greatest power in the abyss is the Axis of Evil Dark Trinity, a union of obitu slavers, deep drow politicians, and oculus warlords. In spite of being the epitome of Evil, their home base (named, of course, the Sinister Sink) is probably the safest place in the abyss thanks to their power, and they tend to be tolerant of other races as long as they are useful. This means that everyone ends up working together for the most part. The asterak traders come to ply their wares in the Sinister Sink, the rusalki work side by side with the Trinity as diplomats, and the austorian dwarves toil in their mines as they always have and share some of their profits in turn for the safety the Trinity provides. And...that's about it, really. Beyond the Sinister Sink, it's a big, dangerous place with lots of horrible monsters, undead, poison, traps, and general unpleasantness. Think :darksouls: but underwater.

Religion in the Underdeep
Outside of the sway of much of the Council of Nine, cults and pantheons of the old gods hold greater sway down in the depths. Of the nine gods approved by the Council, however, two are fairly well-known and widely worshiped even this far down: Saloth, the goddess of the deep drow, and the dark lord Dagon. There are also six new gods unique to the Underdeep.
  • Gorgulth, The Tentacles From Below (Chaotic Neutral): The big guy above, Gorgulth is a surprisingly kind god for a Lovecraftian entity. His domains are Chaos, Charm, Darkness, Madness, Magic, and Protection, and in spite of his whispers of insanity he genuinely cares about his worshipers and offers them protection. His most fervent worshipers are awakened starfish called the estrel (which will be seen next chapter), but the deep drow have begun to see the practical benefits of Gorgulth for the Dark Trinity as worship of Saloth has begun to wane amongst their ranks as less and less drow adhere to the Evil standard.
  • Kaydolas, What Lurks Beneath (Neutral Evil): The goddess of thieves, deceivers, and fearmongers, Kaydolas is popular with deep sea predators and characters of the Rogue class. Her worshipers are called to strike fear into their prey by attacking swiftly from the darkness or torturing them before they die. Her domains are Darkness, Destruction, Evil, Luck, and Trickery.
  • Pholos, The Luring Light (True Neutral): A giant anglerfish goddess, worshiped by the anglerfish-people known as the ceratioidi pisceans. She is unique amongst the gods of the deep in that she is not ancient at all. In fact, she is a fairly recent god, having been willed into existence entirely by the ceratioidi pisceans because they are so racist they didn't want to worship a deity that didn't look like them. Her domains are Animal, Protector, Strength, Sun, Trickery, and Water, making her one of the few non-Evil setting unique deities I've ever seen that has the Trickery domain.
  • Scalaxis, The True Goddess of Dragons (True Neutral): The primordial dragon goddess of honor and tradition. She teaches the knowledge of runes and ancient history, and places importance in those who know their place in the natural order. Her worship was once spread far and wide with the great dragons, but the Council of Nine hunted down most of her priests as heretics and placed Sebek in her stead in the shallow water realms. Her domains are Glory, Knowledge, Magic, Nobility, Rune, and Strength.
  • Torumdar, the Soul Anchor (Lawful Neutral): In addition to having a pretty great nickname, Torumdar is a primal deity who has been around since back when the dwarves were land-dwellers. The austorian dwarves worship him as the forge-father, master architect and provider of minerals, and every mine has a rock-hewn temple dedicated to him in order to protect the workers and ensure a bounty of material. His domains are Artifice, Earth, Law, Rune, and Steam.
  • Zissel, Watcher in the Darkness (Lawful Evil): The god of the oculi, Zissel is the ultimate Big Brother figure, watching at all times to make sure that his followers keep to the faith. In spite of his paranoia and tyranny, however, he does have some redeeming qualities in that he sees truthfulness and valor as laudable traits. Oh, and his holy animal is the barreleye fish, which is pretty great. Darkness, Knowledge, Law, Travel, War, and Water are his domains.

Chapter 6: Deep Sea Bestiary

Byakko (CR 8 Large Animal)
This gelatinous ambush predator is named after the White Tiger of the West from Chinese mythology and astronomical symbolism. Why? Presumably because of their association with stars and tigers, as they are said to hunt and act similar to the tigers of the days before the Great Flood, have game mechanics that are basically "tiger with a swim speed" for the most part, and have the ability to dazzle foes for 1d4 rounds with a flash of internal light for that star connection.

Demon, Echenis (CR 13 Huge Outsider)
Big, nasty, and gluttonous, echenis demons resemble gelatinous tentacled fish. These monstrosities of the hellish realms are far more dangerous than what their bloated bodies and lazy attitudes would suggest. With at-will dispel magic, a tentacle attack that forces a Fortitude save to avoid taking 1d5 Wisdom damage and being under the effects of a confusion spell for 6d4 hours, a tail slap that inflicts poison that deals 2d4 Strength damage, and a special swallow attack that forces the swallowed victim to make a DC 26 Fortitude save or be transformed into dark purple crystal, echenis demons are primed to utterly wreck anyone without a high Constitution score, be they caster or martial character. They even add insult to injury by making cavern lairs into "art galleries" of their crystallized foes.

Demon, Minion of Saloth (CR 9 Large Outsider)
A more traditional demon, for what measure of traditional a giant lobster-man with tentacle hands can have, the minions of Saloth are rabid followers of their namesake goddess that specialize in brute force combat. While definitely far less terrifying than the echenis, the minion of Saloth does share that demon's penchant for dealing with both casters and fighters alike. Their jagged plate-like teeth tear at muscle tissue to deal 1d3 Strength damage on top of 1d8 standard bite damage, while their freakish tentacle-hands have a strangling grip that prevents speech or casting of verbal spells. They also have a +7 deflection bonus to Armor Class and spell resistance 27 on the defensive side. Their most hated enemies are deep drow that have turned away from the worship of Saloth, who they mercilessly torture rather than grant the grace of a quick death.

Devil, Crustaceamid (CR 11 Large Outsider)
The crustaceamids are the footsoldiers of the devils, crawling en masse through the see as ravenous armies. Like both of the demons, these crab devils are capable of dealing ability score damage: 1d4 Constitution damage against pinned foes due to sharp beaks that line their arms. They can also press a foe up against their gelatinous chests and stick them there with an adhesive gel, which also happens to double as an attack that deals 1d6 acid damage.

Dragon, Din (CR 9 Large to CR 20 Gargantuan Dragon)
A True Neutral song dragon, the din dragons resemble a hybrid of reptile and lobster, and loves nothing more than to be left alone. They ponder things slowly, move slowly, and generally take life at a casual pace. If they actually do get into combat, however, they are not to be trifled with. Their sonic breath weapon also shatters any material as hard as stone or weaker, potentially collapsing ceilings or walls upon foes, and they can siphon HP from bioluminescent foes. Oh, and they can animate their own shed exoskeletons to act as living constructs. That's certainly unique, to say the least.

Drake, Scavenger (CR 3 Small Dragon)
When you're described as being "the seagulls of the deep", you know you're obnoxious. And indeed, the scavenger drake's goal is to be very obnoxious. These rather sickly-looking multi-limbed drakes harass larger creatures in order to steal their food or interesting-looking trinkets, and can speak just enough Dagonite (the Common of the deep) to know how to swear and insult people. Their tails have a minor paralytic toxin that paralyzes foes for 1d4 rounds, and they can also vomit balls of stomach acid that deal 1d6 damage.

Goggayya (CR 2 Medium Monstrous Humanoid)
The goggayya are your standard "Rogue in creature form" Chaotic Evil monsters. They sneak, they snatch, they torture, and they do it all because they find misery to be amusing. Unsurprisingly, they worship Kaydolas, who they claim is a giant goggayya.

Grandfather Worm (CR 5 Medium Aberration)
Gelatinous translucent worms with large eyes and tentacle-beards, the grandfather worms are effectively mercenary scholars, sharing knowledge for whoever can do the best favors for them. While they are True Neutral and hesitant to use their level 9 Sorcerer spells or burning tentacles against others, they were once a race of powerful conquerors when they and a handful of other invertebrate races were the only intelligent life to have yet evolved.

Hagfish, Giant (CR 1 Medium Animal) and Swarm (CR 2 Tiny Animal Swarm)
Hagfish are pretty great. They're dorky-looking eel-like fish with silly tentacle mouths and lots of slime. They gather in large numbers when whale carcasses hit the sea floor. Support your local hagfish today.

Imp, Squid (CR 1/3 Tiny Aberration)
Nobody's quite sure what the deal is with the squid imps. Even the grandfather worms and the zef, the two oldest races with continued records, aren't sure where they came from or what their purpose is. They're definitely not evil, but they can easily get underfoot, given that their main goal in life is to mime other intelligent creatures. They'll even go into combat alongside heroic characters, which tends to end badly for the squid imps given they are squishy little jelly things which have weak poison with a mere DC 10 Fortitude save and a 1 damage tentacle slap as their only means of offense and have a grand total of 4 HP to survive on.

Jellyfish, Death Shell (CR 14 Huge Vermin)
Weird jellyfish that dwell in spiny shells. In addition to being highly venomous, their bioluminescent organs create strange effects. These "sick lights" can either deal 1d6 Strength damage, 1d6 Dexterity damage, replicate the confusion spell, or deal 3d8 damage and nauseate the target if they live past the damage.

Jupervas (CR 23 Colossal Magical Beast)
The jupervas is a massive whale-like fish that is effectively a death sentence for most settlements when it appears. Like many primordial monsters, jupervas sleep for decades or even centuries before briefly awakening to feed, engulfing all edible matter with massive inhalations. It is also capable of unleashing a "bloop" (a reference to the mysterious undersea noise that turned out to be a quake within an iceberg, AKA an icequake) that deals 20d6 points of sonic damage in the immediate radius of the bloop that loses one die of damage every 10 feet away from the jupervas it goes. It also happens to be immune to all the stuff that the tarrasque is traditionally immune to. What ever could this mean?

Obitu Source-Mind (CR 9 Medium Plant)
These are the giant intelligent brain corals that create the obitu. Yes, corals aren't plants, but neither are fungi and they tend to be put in the Plant creature type, so whatever. Oddly enough, their intelligence was always a thing, but the ability to create obitu was the result of the obitu virus infecting these brain corals after they fell into the abyss. Source-minds are always Neutral Evil, so in spite of the will of the obitu that have come from them, they themselves are always slavery-loving curmudgeons that use their ability to cast cloud mind and control body at will, as well as a 4-saves-or-die aura that creates new obitu from bones that are psychically ripped out of their foes' bodies, to keep an entourage of slaves for whatever nefarious schemes they are thinking up.

Occylathan (CR 12 Huge Aberration)
Alas, one of the many members of the “is it an Aberration that has squid features? If so, it's Evil” club. They utilize hypnotizing bioluminescent stalks to attract prey right to their waiting beaks. While this seems like a rather wasteful use of a 14 Intelligence score, it's implied that they only pretend to be unambitious ambush predators and their true power is used to puppeteer entire cities in the deepest parts of the abyss.

Phantasmal Frogfish (CR 7 Large Magical Beast)
Frogfish are already pretty weird creatures in real life. These fantasy versions take that weirdness up a notch by having them be cow-sized magical predators with actual hands rather than superficially hand-like fins, capable of casting various illusions such as false sounds and phantasms of various fish species to trick prey. They're also braggarts and spies, often sharing confidential information they come across simply because it makes them look more clever.

Phoenix, Abyssal (CR 15 Gargantuan Magical Beast)
Truly the most majestic phoenix to have ever existed. These paragons of all that is light and good in a world of darkness are actually the same creatures as the birds of traditional lore- when the Great Flood threatened the world, they prayed to the gods to let them continue their quest to fight the forces of evil and committed collective ritual suicide as the world drowned. Luckily, the gods actually did listen to their plea, and the phoenixes were reborn in these aquatic forms. And the abyssal phoenixes certainly do have some vibrant tools: they are able to make a breath weapon that replicates prismatic spray every 1d4 rounds, a constant 50 foot aura that replicates color spray, and have an intense grapple attack that deals 4d6 electricity damage and forces a Fortitude save to avoid being blinded for 24 hours.

Plumed Serpent (CR 9 Huge Magical Beast)
While the name implies a creature akin to the couatl, or at the very least some Aztec theming, the plumed serpent is just a small sea serpent that has a plume of bioluminescent quills. It can deal a 6d6 electricity damage blast to all targets within 50 feet that are within 10 feet of each other (effectively an arcing attack rather than a radius attack) once per day, and its stomach deals steam damage rather than acid damage to swallowed foes due to a superheated gullet.

Sinkfish (CR 6 Large Magical Beast)
These creatures have the body of an eel, crab legs along their length, and a head like an anglerfish. While they are yet another ambush predator of the depths, they do have two rather unique forms of attack. One is the ability to create buoyancy-decreasing bubbles – hence the name sinkfish, actually – while the other is a special bioluminescent light show that can cause seizures in its foes. Yes, seizures. Any foe within 10 feet of the sinkfish has to make a Will save each round (DC 17 for most people, but DC 21 for spellcasters or psions) or take 1d4 Intelligence damage and be sickened. I'm not a neurological expert or anything, but wouldn't paralysis be more appropriate for replicating seizures?

Trueform, Estrel (CR 1 Small Magical Beast)
Awakened starfish that are particularly religious and tend to lead tribes of echinn. They're not actually that interesting, beyond their ability to split into two separate estrels that share class levels. Since they're starfish and all, of course.

Oculus, Vigilus (CR 8 Large Aberration) and Vilicus (CR 5 Medium Aberration)
The two larger forms of oculus. These are specifically “cultivated” specimens, reared from birth for their roles, and a note below their stat blocks states that a viden player character who becomes a vilicus/vigilus through taking metamorphosis feats will not be quite as strong even though they are technically the same. In addition to being larger, stronger, and generally more powerful than the viden life stage, each of the two other oculus life stages have an altered version of the viden's acidic tears and a new eye-based ability. The vilicus can spew its acidic tears into an adjacent square and have the ability to reroll Perception checks a number of times per day equal to its Wisdom modifier, while the vigilus has a 10 foot cone eye blast for its acid tears and gains an instant +2 bonus to Armor Class, all three saving throws, or attack and damage rolls (its choice) each round due to constant minor divination.

Viperfish, Dire (CR 4 Large Animal)
A giant version of the viperfish, of course. Its main unique trait is that its stomach holds contents like a Gargantuan creature normally would, meaning that it can swallow enemies up to size Huge whole. I'm not sure how often that would ever come up unless the players have some manner of sea creature mount or something, but it's admittedly fitting for the creature it replicates and gives it a trait that makes it unique compared to having just another giant ambush fish.

Final Thoughts
Azure Abyss manages to (perhaps unintentionally) continue the Cerulean Seas sourcebook trend from Indigo Ice of harsh environments being ruled by harsh characters, while the heroes are most likely paragons of virtue that are the odd ones out. For Indigo Ice, this was reflected by hostile barbarian cultures and prejudiced but Neutral regimes dominating the arctic landscapes, while in Azure Abyss there are Evil civilizations that band together and tolerate Neutral or even Good outsiders and allies out of pragmatism in an unforgiving underwater wasteland. It's not exactly ground-breaking or anything, but it's always interesting to see a setting have a piece of itself where it steps out of its primary conceits, in this case Cerulean Seas figuratively and literally going for a darker take on itself.

Mechanics-wise, I'd say that Azure Abyss manages to edge out Indigo Ice for fresh Pathfinder material. A glut of racial feats over general feats, everything about the Halionaut, the Seductor being a way to have unlimited mind control shenanigans if you choose to prioritize Strength alongside Charisma, and a mostly uninspired bestiary heavily dominated by creatures that fit the mold of “mind-controlling ambush predator” are its greatest flaws. By contrast, the new playable races (other than the aquatic dwarves) properly evoke that feeling of strangeness and cold pragmatism of the abyss, the Angler is a good class with interesting ideas even if it doesn't entirely match up with its intended role, and the Myxinmave has a lot more heart to it than most prestige classes I've seen. Even better is that a lot of the material could be transported to shallower waters without too much effort. If you are using with Pathfinder and have an aquatic-themed campaign, I can't see any reason why you wouldn't benefit from having Azure Abyss in your collection.

Next Time
The Cerulean Seas train is going to be derailed. With the release of yet another sourcebook for the setting, I realized that powering through them without giving myself breathing room for anything else was a dumb idea. Most – but not all, mind you – of what I have planned on covering sooner rather than later will be d20-based in some capacity, if not Pathfinder, because I'm that loser who knows d20 systems best and unironically likes them. :v:

Coming up first will be a fun law school lesson. It's a tale of the great license-based d20 boom of the 2000s, the interaction of two big name video game companies and one not so big name roleplaying game company, the intangibility of licensing, and just how much you can get away with barely altering the already written materials of a product bared around a license you've lost the rights to use.

Spoilers: the answer is a lot.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Well, I'm fairly sure that I won't be able to compete with libertarian space furry cyborgs, but I decided on what I was going to cover next and I'm sticking to it.

Introduction to the Overview
Licensing...Licensing Never Changes
In the early to mid 2000s, d20 systems like Dungeons & Dragons 3E and d20 Modern were very much the new hotness. Unsurprisingly, the new hotness attracted those with dollar signs in their eyes to engage in various license opportunities, whose quality varied from good to very much the opposite. D20 versions of everything from Conan the Barbarian to Star Wars and Star Trek cropped up across the board. This practice isn't unique to the d20 system, of course: Unisystem had an Army of Darkness game, Cortex has had varying products under its system from Supernatural to Firefly, and GURPS has had everything from Discworld to webcomics licensed under its name. Still, the point has to be made to establish the atmosphere that our comedic drama takes place in.

The first player in this tale is Interplay Entertainment. The company behind games such as Wasteland and Clay Fighter, Interplay was facing the threat of bankruptcy for the second time in its life during 2006. In an attempt to keep afloat, the license to one of the company's popular post-apocalyptic series, Fallout, was licensed out to the other two players in this story: Bethesda Softworks and Glutton Creeper Games. Bethesda was given the rights to create two Fallout games two years earlier, and Glutton Creeper Games was granted the license in order to create a d20 Modern Fallout RPG.

Roll forward to 2007, and the Fallout brand has been completely turned over to Bethesda as Interplay tries to escape its second time facing bankruptcy. Bethesda decides that the best course of action surrounding the hanging thread of the d20 Fallout RPG is to order a cease and desist to Glutton Creeper Games, threatening legal action due to purported damages to the Fallout brand were the d20 Fallout RPG and Fallout 3 to both come out. I'm not a lawyer, so I won't pretend to know whether or not any of the legal actions that transpired between the two were logical or simply two groups hashing it out. What I do know is the end results of this whole kerfuffle.

Lying, Game Professional Style
Later in 2007, Glutton Creeper Games produced a d20 Modern book entitled Exodus: Post-Apocalyptic Roleplaying. The setting is the post-apocalyptic American Southwest 32 years after the Great Last War between the United States and communist China left everything in radiation-baked ruins. It's a harsh land where only the strongest survive in the face of dangers such as the brutish Super Trans-Genetic Mutants, technology obsessed Brotherhood of Steel Disciples, and the terrifyingly strong genetically engineered war lizards known as deathmeatclaws.

If you couldn't guess, Exodus: Post-Apocalyptic Roleplaying is an exercise in just how much you can get away with treading the line, and somehow it manages to succeed. Rather than undergoing a metamorphosis from a caterpillar into a butterfly during Glutton Creeper's loss of the Fallout license, what instead happened was that the caterpillar glued on some cardboard wings and donned a mask with "NOT A CATERPILLAR" crudely scrawled on it in crayon. I almost dissuaded myself from reviewing Exodus about a year back because I wasn't sure there was enough material to have any words beyond that it was a mediocre d20 Modern setting book with some odd rules choices, but then I reread it and it hit me that there is such a low effort to mask what the product once was that there is even a prestige class to replicate a single unique Fallout NPC! Hell, there are even some things that are straight up still using Fallout names.

Hopefully, this look at Exodus will help share the wonderment of flipping through it and seeing just how brazen Glutton Creeper Games was when it made this product. As the "core" material is split up into a player's guide, GM guide, and bestiary just like a certain popular roleplaying game, we'll be looking at the player's guide (entitled the "Survivor's Guide") first. For the sake of brevity and avoiding redundancy, I'll be skipping over anything that is a reprint of material that is standard to the System Reference Document (d20 in general or d20 Modern in particular), beyond maybe posting some dumb or amusing image of "Rad Boy" associated with said rules, and focus mainly on two things: trying to fairly cover new rules the game provides and being boggled by how much crap somehow got past Bethesda's radar.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

FMguru posted:

Games that are essentially "Popular Thing X But With The Serial Numbers Filed Off" show up quite often in RPGing. Cyberpunk 2020 was an unofficial adaptation of William Gibson's "Sprawl" cyberpunk novels, Vampire is Anne Rice's "Interview" novels, Conspiracy X is X-Files, there was a very handsome D20 book that was essentially Harry Potter with some names changed, and on and on.

Even by those standards, this sounds pretty egregious.
Oh, it's definitely pretty egregious. More like trying to coat the serial number in a light coat of paint rather than file them off. Hopefully I can convey just how amazingly blatant it is at times when I get to the book look proper.

Pieces of Peace posted:

I'm going to guess Harold. Because who doesn't want to have a tree growing out of them? And because this is d20 and everything must be modeled mechanically. Everything
Got it in one.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Glazius posted:

It's been a while since I've played it, but that's actually an available perk for Ghoul troopers in Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel. The idea was that you'd get fruit regularly from the tree but the implementation was bugged.
It would be kind of neat as a perk/feat in this case as well. It's just that, for whatever reason, they decided to drag it into a full five level prestige class. But we'll get to that when the time comes, for now it's just time to actually start this thing. Apologies to Fallout veterans that will probably be annoyed that I am doing all this in a very "as if you haven't heard of this" tone.

Survivor's Guide Introduction
The introductory chapter of the Exodus Survivor's Guide is split into two segments: an overview of the setting's backstory, and “the Basics of d20” that tells you what the six ubiquitous ability scores and sizes of dice are. Since the latter needs no real explanation, the former is the obvious avenue to start with.

The background of Exodus is perhaps the point where it divorces itself from Fallout the most. While it retains the divergence of history around World War II and the ultimate war being between China and the United States, Exodus adds a few extra players into the nuclear game that would not have really been part of the whole Cold War theme of Fallout 1 and 2. The biggest is that Exodus is a world where 9/11 and the Iraqi occupation occurred, and the countries of the Middle East end up being thrown into the mix. While China and North Korea attack Russia, Japan, and Alaska, Iran nukes Tel Aviv and most of Europe. This is followed by sudden Islamic armies “from Algeria to Pakistan” all rising up in unison to create some convoluted war hivemind that is in turn nuked by the United States. The world ends on December 12, 2012, thanks to the escalating war.

Humanity survives thanks to the vaults (or shelters, or Freeholds: the name varies across the books) of Project Freehold. Created in the 60s by the Army with the supervision of a group known as Rad-Tek, the vaults also happen to be where the origin of the setting name comes into play.

“Never heard that line before” posted:

The sky darkened and sirens sounded as the children of god fled into underground shelters, built by man as an escape, an Exodus, from his own destruction decades ago. Twenty years later, when the shelters opened, the survivors resurfaced to find a new world: one of desolation, one or survival, one with the same goals as the old world for...war never changes...

Long story short: in the time between the vaults closing and their doors unlocking, those who managed to survive in the world above became the post-apocalyptic menagerie of raiders, slavers, cults, old world-coveting technophiles, and idealistic philanthropists looking toward a better future. Beyond the vaults being opened in 2032, it's not really considered important what happened between the vaults closing and the setting's present of 2044. Not important enough to note in the intro, at least.

Chapter 1: Character Creation

Playable Races
There are three playable races in the Exodus Survivor's Guide. One is the omnipresent thing that is reading this very sentence, and the other two are other familiar faces.
  • Human: What is there to even say about humans in a setting ostensibly based on an alteration of the real world? They're here, they're varied, and they have the same benefits of extra skill points and a second starting feat as in most d20 system games.
  • Ghul: Corpse-like mutant humans that were exposed to an ungodly amount of radiation, resulting in their rather startling forms. Due to having been around for a long time thanks to being radiation-fueled mutants, they tend to be well-versed in old world technology, coldly neutral, and wary of "smoothskins" (yes, Exodus kept that particular fantasy epithet) who might be up to something stupid yet again. Mechanically, ghuls are not going to be winning any marathons or fistfights: ability score modifiers of +2 to Wisdom but -2 to Strength and Dexterity combined with 20 foot move speed is a pretty notable handicap on that front, and they instead focus on durability and versatility as their benefits. On the durability side, ghuls are completely immune to the effects of radiation, a +2 to Fortitude and Will saves, and an average lifespan of 300 years. Versatility comes in a secondary free bonus feat like a human and the ability to make either Computer Use, Craft (Electronic, Mechanical, or Structural), Knowledge (Engineering, History, or Technology), or Repair a permanent class skill. Your skilled nature is offset by the fact that you gain an extra bonus feat every four levels, rather than every three levels like humans or Trans-Genetic Mutants. The race's name also happens to be listed as product identity for the setting, by the way, in spite of simply being the traditional Arabic spelling of ghoul.
  • Trans-Genetic Mutant: 7 or 8 foot tall muscular brutes with green, gray, or yellow skin, the trans-genetic mutants were the results of military experimentation in California, New Mexico, and Utah before the Great War, and now terrorize the wasteland as part of the Mutant Army. Being the Super Mutant analogues, it should be no surprise that Trans-Genetic Mutants have a +4 to Strength and +2 to Constitution that is contrasted by a -2 across all three mental ability scores. These ability scores are backed up with the powerful build special quality (count as size Large for things like grappling or wielding particularly sizable weapons), damage reduction 3 against all physical damage types, a +4 to saves against disease and radiation, an immunity to Low or lower ranks of radiation, and a bonus feat that must be selected from various physical combat and endurance-related feats such as Brawl and Run. Really, other than being mentally deficient, the only downside to being a TGM is that you suffer a -4 to attack rolls with Small or smaller weapons, and I doubt many mutants are weeping about their lovely pistol skills when they can haul around Gatling guns.

Sort of a weird hybrid of race and occupation, potentially taking traits from both such as ability score modifiers or class skills (of which you just gain a full list rather than having to select one to three like with an occupation), backgrounds are selected alongside both of those character features at level 1. These backgrounds are meant to be reflect a character's cultural origin, but a fair number of them feel like they should just be an available occupation instead of their own thing. Either way, let's go through the list.
  • Chi Descendant (Human-only Background): The first background is one of those that actually does seem like it should be a cultural marker rather than rolled into the occupation system. Characters with this background are part of an enclave of Chinese-Americans who survived the Great War and came to rule San Francisco in the new world. The Chi are a strange combination of eastern Asian cultures that have samurai, Mongol-style horse archers, and kung fu masters all in a feudal city-state, and this nature spreads to a somewhat eclectic mix of bonus class skills: Balance, Barter, Climb, Escape Artist, Hide, Jump, Move Silently, and Tumble. Chi characters also gain Armor Proficiency (Light) and either Acrobatic, Blind-Fight, Brawl, Defensive Martial Arts, or Dodge for free.
  • City Slicker: The character comes from a relatively well-to-do city where education and some modicum of technology remain. Barter, all Craft skills, Gather Information, Knowledge (Civics, Streetwise, and one of the character's choice), all Perform skills, and any Profession skill are all bonus class skills for the City Slicker, and they get Personal Firearms Proficiency as a bonus starting proficiency.
  • Cultist: You are in some manner of cult, surprise of surprises. Cultist characters get Gather Information, Knowledge (Occult, Streetwise, and Theology & Philosophy), all Perform skills, any Profession skill, and either Read/Write Language, Speak Language, or all Craft skills, as well as Archaic Weapons Proficiency as a bonus starting proficiency. It also doesn't really matter at all, because in the very next book (the game master's guide) for Exodus they turn around and go "the Cultist background doesn't actually matter at all, have these separate backgrounds for specific cults".
  • Feral Child: A Mowgli style character, raised by the beasts of the wilderness. This is the first time the pseudo-race half of the backgrounds equation comes in, as in addition to gaining Balance, Climb, Handle Animal, Knowledge (Nature), and Survival as bonus class skills, a Feral Child character gains a +1 to Strength and Dexterity but -1 to Intelligence and Charisma, +4 to Survival checks, and is both illiterate and unable to speak at character level 1.
  • Freed Slave: Exactly what it says. Freed Slave characters get a +1 bonus to Constitution and have Craft (Structural), Handle Animal, and Profession (Butler, Cook, Farmer, Laborer, Guard, Maid, and Prostitute) as added bonus class skills. They also have two downsides, in that they are illiterate at character level 1 and have a slaver's brand that imposes a -1 penalty to Charisma-based skill checks if it is visible. There's no exemption for dealing with other slaves when it comes to this penalty, which is something I would have thought would make sense, but whatever.
  • Gangster: While the background flavor text is worded to indicate it's tied to an organized crime syndicate like the mobs that are big in Las Vegas, the lack of a distinctive raider background seems to indicate that this is meant for those types of character as well. Gangster characters get Archaic Weapons Proficiency, Personal Firearms Proficiency, and Armor Proficiency (Light) as free bonus feats, as well as Barter, Bluff, Disguise, Intimidate, Forgery, Gamble, Gather Information, Knowledge (Street and Underworld), Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, and Spot as extra class skills.
  • Mutant Defector (Trans-Genetic Mutant only background): Like Fallout's Marcus, this character defected from the Mutant Army and struck out into human territory. Mutant Defector characters gain Archaic Weapons Proficiency, Heavy Weapons Proficiency, and Mutant Armor Proficiency as bonus proficiencies and Climb, Craft (Structural), Hide, Intimidate, Jump, Knowledge (Geography and Tactics), Listen, Navigate, Search, Sense Motive, Spot, and Survival. Mutant Defectors also get mutant-sized combat fatigues, which makes them the only background that gets free gear out of the deal.
  • Radiant One (Ghul-only background): These guys are so irradiated that they illuminate the area around them. They're so bright that they might even be considered glowing ones, you could say. :v: The obvious thing that Radiant One characters gain is their glowing aura, which creates a 20 foot radius that acts both as strong illumination and a Low rank radiation source. They also gain Archaic Weapons Proficiency as a bonus proficiency and Computer Use, Craft (Mechanical), Repair, and Survival as bonus class skills.
  • Shelter Dweller: A character who comes fresh out of one the vaults that actually worked as they should have, instead of either failing or undergoing freaky government-approved experiments. The Shelter Dwellers are extremely clever due to their vault members having "spent entire generations in isolation" (in spite of the 20 year time period that Exodus has compared to the timeline of the Fallout universe, whoopsie!), and gain a +1 bonus to all Intelligence-based skill checks rather than a straight up Intelligence bonus. They also get Archaic Weapons Proficiency and Personal Firearms Proficiency as bonus proficiency feats, and the expected techie-themed bonus class skills of Computer Use, all Craft skills, Diplomacy, Knowledge (Engineering, History, Medicine, Science, and Technology), all Perform skills, Repair, and Research.
  • Survivalist: Both small wasteland communities and weird lone wolf prepper types are under the umbrella of this background. Survivalist is probably as good as Gangster on the free treats front, gaining Archaic Weapons Proficiency, Personal Firearms Proficiency, and Armor Proficiency (Light) as bonus proficiencies, either Guide or Track as a bonus starting feat, and Climb, Craft (Structural), Handle Animal, Hide, Knowledge (Geography), Navigate, any Profession, Ride, and Survival as bonus class skills.
  • Techno-Reaper: The only cult that managed to get its own background before the errata that the GM's guide provided, the Techno-Reapers are obsessed with technology. While they are ostensibly based on a Fallout Tactics enemy group called the Reavers, the book emphasizes that they care more about technology than religion, so they are clearly different from other cults and thus deserve to get their own background type sooner rather than later. They get Archaic Weapons Proficiency, Personal Firearms Proficiency, Armor Proficiency (Light), and Armor Proficiency (Medium) as bonus proficiencies, and have Computer, Craft (Electronic and Mechanical), Decipher Script, Disable Device, Knowledge (Science and Technology), Repair, and Search as their extra class skills.
  • Tribal: Wilderness tribes with little to no technological skills. For whatever reason, while so many other backgrounds get free Archaic Weapons Proficiency, the Tribals of all people don't, meaning that a Techno-Reaper is better with a spear off the bat than a Tribal is. Tribals also start out illiterate and with a broken form of English due to their isolation from the rest of the world, again betraying the fact that the timeline for the setting was once longer than it is now. In any case, what Tribals do get benefits-wise is Track as a bonus feat and Climb, Craft (Structural), Handle Animal, Knowledge (Nature), Perform (Dance), Profession (Cook, Farmer, Hunter, Laborer, and Guard), and Survival as bonus class skills.
  • Urban Survivor: The beggars, scavengers, and general ignored underclass of cities as opposed to the City-Slicker's post-apocalyptic middle class. Urban Survivors get a +4 bonus to Survival checks in urban areas, Personal Firearms Proficiency as a bonus starting proficiency, and Barter, Bluff, Gamble, Gather Information, Knowledge (Civics and Street), Profession (Drug Dealer, Mechanic, Merchant, Messenger, and Prostitute), and Sleight of hand as bonus class skills.
  • Wanderer: I won't even joke about this being "last, but not the least". Wanderer is straight up one of the best backgrounds for a combatant or survivalist character. You get all the proficiencies the Techno-Reapers get, a bonus feat selectable from Endurance, Great Fortitude, Guide, Iron Will, Low Profile, Lightning Reflexes, Renown, Toughness, or Track, and the bonus class skills of Bluff, Gamble, Gather Information, Knowledge (Geography and Street), Navigate, Profession (Guard)

I think the major problem with backgrounds as presented here is twofold. One is that more than a few of them honestly feel like there is no reason for them to be differentiated from the occupations system. Two is that they honestly feel a bit too strong for their own good. Occupations let you select a few bonus class skills and maybe a bonus feat, while backgrounds just dump them on you en masse. There's no reason for a wilderness character to be Tribal over Wanderer unless you are really set on having Profession (Farmer) as a class skill or something, as there's no limited selection involved. To play the comparison game, another post-apocalyptic d20 Modern book, Darwin's World, has a background system as well. Most of these get one bonus skill from a list and two bonus feats from a list, as well as some other perk: for instance, a Tribal background character in that game gets to start play with a free mastercraft archaic weapon, while a Hedonist (Judge Dredd-style society) background character gets three bonus class skills rather than one.

Character Classes
If you are familiar with d20 Modern base classes, ignore everything about them other than that they are 10 levels long and have a system of "bonus feat at odd levels, talent at even levels". In a tradition that is admittedly closer to Fallout, you get to customize your class. Rather than take levels in Fast Hero or Tough Hero, you choose what progressions you gain, which then determines how many skill points you get. For instance, you could make a character that has full Base Attack Bonus progression, good Defense bonus progression, d10 hit dice, and one of two "Great" category saving throw options (either one poor saving throw progression, one average one, and one good one, or three average ones)...but then you are incapable of gaining any skill points other than those you'd get from having a positive Intelligence modifier. You could also go the opposite way and be a complete noodly loser with poor BAB, Defense, and saving throw progressions all around, d4 hit dice, and 10 skill points (plus Intelligence modifier of course) per level.

There are also two preset classes given. The Aggressive character gets d10 hit dice, 2 + Int modifier skill points, a full Base Attack Bonus progression, one good saving throw and two poor ones of the character's choice, and an average Defense bonus progression. The Defensive class, on the other hand, gains d8 hit dice, 5 + Int modifier skill points, average BAB progression, two poor saving throws and one average one of the character's choice, and a good Defense bonus progression. Also, rather than getting a number of Action Points (renamed Karma Points) per level equal to 5 plus half their character level like d20 Modern base classes, it's 3 plus half their character level. Custom classes do the same, it's not a variable option.

Oh, and you may noticed that I didn't mention and class skills, feats, or talents. That's because there aren't any. Any custom class gets access to all the talents and feats in the game, and has three class skills referred to as Tag Skills. Because that's what they were referred to as in Fallout, of course. This does explain why backgrounds let you have so many bonus class feats, but I think it's a weird way of handling it. Why not just add more Tag Skills, or just ignore the idea of Tag Skills entirely and say you get X amount of class skills to choose from? You lost the Fallout license, Glutton Creeper, there's no reason to still hem that close!

Traits are an optional ability you can take at character level 1, and you can have up to two of them or as little as none at all. Traits are simultaneously a benefit and a drawback, and there are enough of them that I'm going to have to bring out the list text option again.
  • Afraid: You're paranoid about something and constantly alert, which gives you a +2 to Spot checks but -1 to Initiative due to your hesitation.
  • Beautiful: Too sexy for this world, you have a +1 bonus to your Charisma score and a +3% boost to Reputation with a specific group but are likely to be targeted by jealous NPCs and slavers. Hopefully you don't have a too vindictive GM. You may note that a percentile boost to Reputation sounds odd, and you'd be right, as Exodus replaces d20 Modern's Reputation score with its own system. We'll get to that later in the chapter.
  • Big and Dumb: You get a -1 penalty to all mental ability scores and a -5 penalty to your base speed, but get a +3 boost to Strength.
  • Bloody Mess: Literally pointless. As this was before Fallout 3 and New Vegas were things that existed, Bloody Mess was purely a cosmetic trait. And you know what? Here it is too! It simply tells your GM to describe any kills you make in a particularly gruesome manner.
  • Book Smart: You are a nerd. +1 to Intelligence and all Knowledge skills are class skills for you, but a -1 penalty to all attack rolls.
  • Bruiser: Your slow but brutal strikes mean you have a -2 penalty to Initiative but a +3 bonus to melee attack rolls.
  • Chemical Reliance: Thanks to being a druggy, you are 10% more likely to get addicted to a chemical substance. If you do get addicted, though, you gain a +10 bonus to Fortitude saves to resist the side-effects of withdrawal.
  • Chemical Resistance: The above, but opposite.
  • Clumsy: You suffer a -1 penalty to your Dexterity score, but get an extra Karma Point.
  • Extreme Personality: Thanks to your nature as a caricature of humanity, you have a +1 bonus to Charisma. The downside is that earning infamy with any group increases at double the normal rate.
  • Fast Metabolism: You heal hit points at twice the normal rate, but suffer a -2 penalty to Fortitude saves against poison and radiation. Not a bad tradeoff, really.
  • Fear the Reaper (Ghul Only): You get bonus feats at the same progression as a human, but you die at 0 HP rather than -10. Not so good a tradeoff as the last one.
  • Flexibility: A straight up -1 to Strength but +1 to Dexterity. Why not just put your ability score that way in the first place rather than take a trait that does the same thing?
  • Gifted: You get +1 to every ability score, but only gain half the usual skill points per level.
  • Good Natured: Like Book Smart, but the bonus is to Charisma-based skill checks rather than Intelligence.
  • Ham-Fisted (Trans-Genetic Mutant Only): Your big, meaty fists deal 1d6 lethal damage with an unarmed strike, but you suffer a -2 penalty to Dexterity-based skills that involve your hands and a -4 penalty to attack rolls with non-heavy weapon firearms.
  • Idiot Savant: Your Intelligence score is limited to 6, but you gain a +5 competence bonus to either a Craft skill, Demolitions, Disable Device, a Knowledge skill, or Repair.
  • Jinxed: For some reason, you apparently want the GM and the game itself to poo poo on you. Your Karma Points only get refreshed every other level, and when you or anyone else gets a 1 on an attack roll you/they have to spend a Karma Point to negate a random bullshit effect (ranging from the weapon being dropped to it damaging the wielder) from happening.
  • Kamikaze: Improved Initiative is a bonus feat for you, but you never get Dexterity or dodge bonuses to your Defense. Because apparently just taking Improved Initiative as your first level feat is too easy in your opinion.
  • Large Body: You are tall and heavy, gaining a +1 to Strength, but suffer a -2 penalty to Dexterity. Given that I can't think of any feat or talent that relates to your height or weight, I can't imagine this ever being a good idea over just favoring Strength over Dexterity when you pick your ability scores in the first place.
  • Lucky: This is an odd one. You get an extra Karma Point, but if you ever expend all of your KP you gain the Jinxed trait until you regain at least one KP.
  • Night Person: You get the low-light vision and light sensitivity species traits. In addition, you have a +1 to Spot checks at night or in dimly lit areas contrasted by a -1 during the day or in bright light.
  • One Hander: You get a +1 to attack rolls with one-handed weapons at the cost of -4 to attack rolls with two-handed weapons.
  • Physically Fit: Yet another straight-up ability score exchange trait, this time +1 to Strength and Constitution at the cost of -1 to Intelligence and Wisdom.
  • Sex Appeal: You have a +2 to Charisma-based skill checks with the opposite sex, but -2 of the same with the same sex. What's that? "Ho-mo-sexuals?" What are those?
  • Sickly: You have a +2 to Wisdom saves, but -1 to Constitution.
  • Skilled: While you have a +1 to all skill checks, you gain your level-based bonus feats every fourth level (or every fifth if you're a ghoul).
  • Small Frame: Oddly enough, rather than being a pure reversal of Large Body, this one has a +1 to Dexterity but only a -1 to Strength. Instead of that extra penalty to Strength, you have a -5 to your base speed.
  • Super Genius: +3 to Intelligence, but -1 to Charisma and Wisdom.
  • Tech Wizard: You are more at home with machines than men, which means you suffer a -1 to Wisdom-based skill checks at the benefit of a +1 bonus to Computer Use, Craft (Electronic), Knowledge (Technology), and Repair skills.

Or, to TL;DR that, not all traits transfer well from Fallout to d20. I have the feeling I'm going to be saying this a lot, but when doing an adaptation from one game to an entirely different form of game, you usually have to take a look at things and realize that a 1 for 1 transfer won't work. That's why it's called an adaptation.

There aren't that many new occupations present here, so thankfully we've got a reprieve from long lists. All of the occupations from the d20 Modern Core Rulebook except for Celebrity, Emergency Services, Entrepeneur, Rural, and White Collar are present, as are as the Drifter, Outcast, and Scavenger occupations from d20 Future. Blue Collar has been renamed City Worker and Creative has been renamed Creative Artist for whatever reason, though. For completely new occupations, there are a total of seven. Bison Herders are any rancher-type character and get two bonus class skills chosen from Barter, Craft (Structural), Drive, Handle Animal, Navigate, and Ride. The rather confusing No Occupation occupation lets you have any two skills as bonus class skills, making it one of the best "occupations" in spite of being meant for a layabout or indecisive character.

Raiders are wasteland gangsters that get two class skills chosen from Climb, Gamble, Hide, Intimidate, Jump, Move Silently, Search, Spot, and Survival, which is contrasted by the city-dwelling Wise Guy who gets two class skills chosen from Bluff, Demolitions, Disable Device, Escape Artist, Forgery, Gamble, Gather Information, Intimidate, Knowledge (Civics, Occult, Street, Tactics, or Underworld), Listen, Move Silently, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, and Spot. They're also both kind of strange given that the Criminal occupation from d20 Modern core hasn't been removed in favor of these specialized variants. You could also argue that Slaver, with its two bonus class skills chosen from Barter, Bluff, Forgery, Gamble, Gather Information, Intimidate, Knowledge (Street or Underworld), and Sense Motive, might also qualify as a variation of Criminal.

Similarly questionable are a pair of military specialists that are added without the removal of the Military occupation. Ranger is a wilderness survival type, gaining Track as a bonus feat and two class skills chosen from Balance, Climb, Handle Animal, Hide, Jump, Listen, Knowledge (Geography or Nature), Move Silently, Navigate, Ride, Search, Spot, Survival, and Swim. Soldier, on the other hand, is almost entirely the same as the still present Military occupation, save that it loses Climb and Swim as potential class skills but gains Intimidate. :iiam:

Next Time
Geeze, chapter 1 isn't over yet? We'll finish it off with talent trees and the new Reputation system, then get into chapters 2 and 3. Find out why some of those Knowledge skills don't sound familiar even if you know d20 Modern, learn who really runs Barter town, and question a feat that gives you access to an unwritten GMPC.

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 04:46 on Jan 11, 2015

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Communist Zombie posted:

You forgot to finish that sentence Rappy. Im gonna guess theyre the only ones that get armour/clothes?
poo poo, yeah. They're the only background that gets free gear. I thought I'd finished that sentence before I posted.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Doresh posted:

A ham-fisted Idiot Savant mutant could also be fun. Does that one even have a flaw if you never plan to have more than 6 INT in the first place?
Nope! It's great for a dumb brute build, no real downsides.

Doresh posted:

Well, at least they keep their 9/11 influence as a historical footnote. Could be worse, like exploding mutants.
You say that now, but wait until we get into the Southwest Wasteland Guide (the Game Master's Guide). There's a class that has an ability named "Atom Akbar".

SpiritOfLenin posted:

The gently caress is that blue thing in the last picture?

It just looks like a blue woman with slightly snoutish face. Also derpy eyes.
I'm going to guess she's some manner of reptile, because the random yellow splotches seem to be an attempt to evoke scales.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Character 1 Continued

The thing that makes the d20 Modern class system go 'round is the second to last thing to cover in the first chapter of Exodus. In addition of a reprinting of all of the standard d20 Modern talent trees such as Fast-Talk and Melee Smash, there are also nine new talent trees and four new talents for old trees. Before getting to a list of the new trees, it would probably be best to briefly note the four new talents added to existing trees.

Radiation Resistance is added to the Tough Hero's (well, once Tough Hero's, now anyone's) Energy Resistance tree, and allows a character to ignore 100 x their Constitution modifier in Rad units of radiation damage. This isn't how radiation works in standard d20 Modern, but it also isn't fully discussed until chapter 5, so we'll just ignore going too deep into that for now. Of more immediate understanding is Alluring Gaze, an addition to the Charismatic Hero's Charm talent tree. Charm is already a dumb talent in d20 Modern as-written-for-the-System-Reference-Document, and Alluring Gaze is somehow even dumber. With this talent you effectively get a gaze attack to make people think you are interesting. Members of the opposite sex think you are hot and have their mood towards you increased to Friendly, while members of the same sex find you intriguing and have their mood improved to Indifferent. Both are flat-footed for a number of rounds equal to your character level because they are so fascinated by you.

The other two are both additions to the Charismatic Hero's Fast-Talk tree. Smooth Talker makes you king of bullshitting, allowing you to spend 5 minutes talking to a character 4 or more levels lower than you to automatically succeed on a Bluff or Diplomacy check against them. Unlike most talents and feats that relate to Diplomacy, there's no minimum mood requirement for Smooth Talker, meaning you can say a bunch of meaningless platitudes to an arch-villain and win them over to being Friendly toward you without any further effort as long as you are at least 4 levels higher than them. The other talent, Silver Tongue, is a far more unremarkable "you get to reroll a failed Diplomacy save at a -4 penalty, but you can only do it once per Diplomacy attempt on the same target".

And those new talent trees? Well, I guess we should get to those. I'm going to try just normal formatting rather than using the list function for these from now on, as I've been bothered by how cluttered bullet lists must make my jumbles of words look to others.

Gunslinger: Do you like guns? Do you want to be really good with guns? Then this is the talent tree for you, or at least it is intended to be. In reality, none of its three levels of talent are particularly great. Gunslinger itself gives you a flat +1 bonus to attack rolls with personal firearms, Pistoleer lets you ignore the first two points of damage reduction granted by armor (did I note that this is a system that uses damage reduction rather than Defense/AC bonus for armor? Oh well, I have now), and Machine Gun Johnny grants you Advanced Firearms Proficiency as a bonus feat.

Hand to Hand: Do you like to punch things? Do you want to be really good at punching things? Then this is actually the talent tree for you. Its first three talents allow you to deal lethal damage with unarmed attacks and increases the damage dealt to 1d6, 1d8, and finally 1d10, and you can do it at far lower levels than the Martial Artist advanced class would do the same thing for you. And no, they didn't even remove the Martial Artist advanced class either, so there's basically no reason to ever take that advanced class when you could just take three Hand to Hand talents and get the same damage by character level 6 that you wouldn't get with Martial Artist until you had 11 character levels under your belt. Oh, and there are two talents for the tree that give you the effects of Weapon Focus and Improved Critical respectively, but who cares about those?

Martial Arts: Oh hey, more redundancy. The first three talents of this tree, referred to as Karate I to III, happen to do the same thing as the first three of Hand to Hand! What a surprise. There is also Judo, which grants a +4 to Escape Artist and grapple checks, and Kendo, which effectively grants Weapon Focus and Improved Critical with any spear, staff, or sword weapon.

Mr. Handy: The first pair of talents that actually feels like a pair of talents rather than weird feat-miming or replicating an existing class that wasn't even kept out of this game. The talent Mechanic grants a bonus to Repair checks equal to your character level, while Mr. Goodwrench lets you take 10 on Repair checks even when distracted or threatened. Not particularly amazing to read about, but at least they aren't another Hand to Hand.

Quicker Than the Eye: A three talent long talent tree for disguise and disorientation-minded folks. The Matchstick Man talent allows you to substitute a Perform check for a Bluff check for the purposes of making a distraction, Magician grants a bonus to Sleight of Hand checks equal to your character level, and Quick Disguise allows you to take 10 on a Disguise or Hide check even when distracted or threatened.

Scientist: Or, more accurately, Chemist. This talent tree has two talents, one that grants a +2 bonus to Craft (Chemical) checks and a second that ups that to +5.

Spontaneous Fighting: This is a bit of an odd one. One of its two talents, Improvised Weapon, lets you circumvent the normal -4 penalty to using an improvised weapon. That's definitely spontaneous fighting. But the other? Blades, which lets you deal +1d4 damage with any melee weapon that deals slashing damage. I don't usually consider swords and axes to be that spontaneous, but I guess you can make the case for switchblades and knives being the exception that prove the rule here.

Stealth: Go ahead and take a guess what this talent tree's good at. Locksmith grants a flat +2 to Disable Device checks made to pick non-electronic locks, The Shadow knows grants your character level as a bonus to Hide checks, and Whisper on the Wind does the same for Move Silently checks. There is also Exploit Flaw and Improved Exploit Flaw, which are basically 1d6 and 2d6 damage sneak attacks that work against flanked opponents rather than the normal flat-footed conditions you'd get with a D&D Rogue.

Survival: You may be shocked and amazed to know that this talent tree mostly deals with uses of the Survival skill. If you need supplies, you can take Skilled Hunter to be allowed to make a DC 12 Survival check to find a day's worth of food or Dowsing Rod to be allowed to make a DC 15 Survival check to find a source of water. These are both things that a normal DC 10 Survival check can do in standard d20 Modern, but for whatever reason Exodus decided to move these to exclusive talents. The other talents the Survival tree grants are Camouflage (use Survival instead of Hide checks to hide in wilderness areas), Beast Soother (DC 20 Handle Animal check immediately calms a hostile creature to Neutral mood), Ambush Bug (force a -4 penalty to Spot checks to notice an ambush you set up), and Pathfinder (character level's worth of bonus to Survival checks).

In standard d20 Modern, Reputation is a single modifier that that allows a character to throw their notoriety around with a Reputation check and provides either a bonus or a penalty to Bluff, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Intimidate, and Perform checks depending on whether or not the person in question finds the character famous or infamous. In Exodus, it is literally the faction reputation system from Fallout. You have a Fame and Infamy rating with each faction, such as the Steel Disciples or the Chi of San Francisco, that is on a percentile scale of 100. There is a percentile gain to each based on specific actions. For instance, negotiating a peace treaty between two factions is listed as a +1% bonus toward both of them, while betraying a faction grants +5% Infamy.

What does this new Reputation system actually do, beyond give an arbitrary measure for the GM to decide how factions treat you? Just two things. One is that you get a +2 bonus to Gather Information checks in areas controlled by a faction that you have 50% or higher Fame with, and the other is that it affects a specific feat we'll discuss in a little bit.

Chapter 2: Skills
There's not actually a lot to go over when it comes to skills. Most skills work the same as the do in d20 Modern with little to no alterations, and there's only one new skill, so a lot of this chapter can be ignored as reprinted material.

One noteworthy change is the Knowledge skill. There are twelve Knowledge skills in standard d20 Modern, and twelve Knowledge skills in Exodus. So why are there some odd new Knowledge skills you might have noticed in the backgrounds and occupations? A few have indeed been replaced, but others have simply been renamed. To note the specifics, Arcane Lore has been renamed Occult, Current Events has been renamed Street, Earth and Life Sciences has been renamed Geography, Physical Sciences has been renamed to just Science, and Streetwise has been renamed Underworld. The Knowledge skills Art, Behavioral Sciences, and Business have been removed as well, and in their absent slots are now the Knowledge skills Engineering, Medicine, and Nature. Engineering covers knowledge of buildings, craft materials, and the ability to read blueprints, Medicine covers both behavioral sciences and knowledge of genetic engineering and medical treatment, and Nature identifies animals and plants.

Perhaps more directly affecting play, however, is the addition of a new use to the Search skill: scavenging. Scavenging lets you turn a Search check into a specific sweep of a 100 x 100 ft. area of ruins, with a higher result meaning better finds. DC 15 is the lowest result and scavenges up a single bottle of Nuka Toxicola or spoiled trail ration, DC 20 gets firearms ammunition of an unstated amount, edible rations, a simple melee weapon, or low radiation water, DC 25 gets an archaic melee weapon, pistol, submachine gun, Molotov cocktail, or StimMedpak, DC 30 gets armor-piercing ammunition, light armor, any sort of drugs, the radiation-treating chemicals Rad-Blocker or Radium X, a rifle, a shotgun, a Super Medpak, or non-irradiated water, DC 35 grants electronics components, a half-used fusion cell, or good quality crafting material, DC 40 nets heavy weapon ammunition, medium armor, a melee energy weapon, a full fusion cell, a grenade, or C4, DC 45 gets a heavy weapon or well-preserved crafting material, and DC 50 gets a ranged energy weapon. In order to get any crafting materials out, you have to make a check using the new subset of the Craft skill, Craft (Salvage).

And what of the entirely new skill? Enter Barter. For clearly no reason at all and certainly not because of its Fallout origins, Exodus rules that if you as a player are selling an item, it is half price compared to how many caps coins of an unnamed nature you would pay if you were buying that same item. Barter allows you to get the ball somewhat closer to your own playing field, or at least try to. You and the merchant both make a Barter check opposed to each other. Success means that you get to sell items for 10% more or buy items for 10% less per 5 points you beat the merchant's check, to a maximum of 50% higher/lower. Of course, if you fail the check, the merchant gets to increase how much you have to pay to buy an item by the same percentage based on their own success.

Chapter 3: Feats
In addition to being a thing that already exists in the d20 system, feats in Exodus are explicitly meant to line up with perks. Hell, they even left a rather “whoops” sentence in where they just replaced “Perks” with “Feats” and didn't even remove the part referencing the book's Fallout origins:

“Feats Introduction” posted:

Most of the Feats from the computer series are presented in one form or another (Advanced Class, Talent, or Trait) in this guide.
Computer series, eh? That wouldn't raise suspicions at all. :allears:

It's the same story with feats as it was with occupations and talents. The d20 Modern examples are still there, a few have been retooled in minor ways or renamed arbitrarily (like Improved Critical has been renamed "Better Critical" and Improved Natural Healing into "Faster Healing" for whatever reason), and there are also new feats that are often directly related to Fallout perks.

Action Boy: Do you really like the extra move or attack action you can get with the Heroic Surge feat, but don't have enough uses per day for your liking? Fear no more, then, as Action Boy lets you pop a Karma Point to get an extra use per day after you've expended the one to five times per day you normally have based on your character level.

Adrenaline Rush: If you've dropped below half your normal HP, you get a +2 bonus to attack rolls and physical ability score-based skill checks for a number of minutes equal to your Constitution bonus.

Animal Friend: Domestic animals are automatically Friendly toward you and wild animals are Indifferent. On top of that, you also get to have one animal companion in the same style of the D&D Druid.

Awareness: If you spend a full round studying an enemy, you get a +1 bonus to attack rolls against them for the rest of the encounter.

Bonus Ranged Damage: You get a +1 bonus to all damage rolls with ranged weapons. Hooray?

Bracing: Your Strength score is treated as being 2 higher for the purposes of wielding large firearms. Weapons in Exodus have a set Strength requirement to wield them, by the way, as you have just learned.

Comprehension: You gain three extra skill points. Not per level, just three skill points to spend then and there.

Demolition Expert: Explosives deal an extra 1d6 damage.

Dodger: The bonus to Defense from the Dodge feat is increased by a further +1. Dodger is also unlimited in how many times you are allowed to take it, so I'm not sure why they didn't just rule that Dodge itself could be taken multiple times.

Earlier Sequence: On top of gaining a +2 bonus to Initiative checks on top of the +4 the character would already have (as you need Improved Initiative to take this feat), you are always able to act in a surprise round.

Empathy: Congratulations, you have turned the Sense Motive skill into the discern lies spell.This kind of feat seems like something you'd use as a great justification for taking Knowledge (Behavioral Sciences), but since that Knowledge skill was removed in Exodus it instead requires ranks in Sense Motive and Diplomacy.

Exotic Weapons Proficiencies While not technically a new feat, the subsets of Exotic Firearms Proficiency have been almost entirely changed so it might as well be a new feat. In standard d20 Modern, Exotic Firearms Proficiency can be taken for the categories Cannons, Heavy Machine Guns, Grenade Launchers, and Rocket Launchers. In Exodus, Exotic Firearms Proficiency is split up into Energy Firearm Proficiency (laser and plasma firearms), Flamethrowers, Heavy Weapons (heavy machine guns with a different name), and Propelled Launchers (grenade launchers and rocket launchers). I can understand why they decided to change the existing rules that stated flamethrowers had no proficiency and energy weapons where just under Personal Firearms Proficiency, though renaming Heavy Machine Guns into something more vague while keeping its definition the same seems a bit silly.

Finesse (or "Feneese" according to the feat list): You get a +4 bonus to confirm critical hits, but deal -1 damage on all attacks. This feat has no relation to Weapon Finesse, and also seems almost more in line with the traits from earlier than it does with feats.

Flower Child: You are so :okpos: that you gain a +2 bonus to Fortitude saves made to resist getting addicted to the numerous drugs you take.

Fortune Finder: One of those classic "+2 to two skills" feats, this one applying to Craft (Salvage) and Search checks made specifically to scavenge.

Gain Ability: You, uh, gain an ability. Specifically, 1 point in one ability score. You're only allowed to take this feat once per ability score, presumably to prevent shenanigans like stacking up to 30 Strength or whatever.

Ghost: On top of a +2 bonus to Hide and Move Silently checks, you gain 3/4 cover at night or in dimly lit areas. Cover, not concealment. That means you are getting a +7 bonus to Defense just because the sun goes down.

Gunner: You gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls made with firearms while you are on a moving vehicle. Considering a moving vehicle conveys a -4 penalty to attack rolls, this feat isn't exactly useful. At all.

Harmless: For the entry fee of having a Charisma score of 17 or higher, you gain a +1 bonus to Barter, Bluff, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Sense Motive, and Sleight of Hand checks.

Healer: When you use the Treat Injury skill to heal someone's hit points, it heals double the normal amount.

Heave Ho!: All thrown weapons have a +10 increase to their range increment.

Hit the Deck: This feat gives the tradeoff of taking half the normal damage from explosives at the penalty of being knocked prone after every explosion due to a tendency to dive for cover.

Hand to Hand Evade: You gain a +2 to Defense in melee combat, but only if you are fighting unarmed.

Hand to Hand Fighter: The bonus to attack and damage rolls granted by the Improved Brawl feat increases from +2 to +4.

Karma Beacon: Take a feat, get a single extra Karma Point for your pool.

Lead Foot: Any land vehicle that runs on fuel cells (which is any land vehicle that isn't pulled by pack animals) have their top speed increased by 20 feet.

Life Giver: You gain 2 extra hit points every class level you take.

Light Step: You gain a +2 to Defense and Reflex saves against any ground-based hazard, such as pit traps or land mines.

Living Anatomy: Oh hey, a feat that has both combat and non-combat benefits, you don't see those that often. With this feat, you get a +4 to Knowledge (Medicine) and Treat Injury checks, a +1 to attack rolls against humans or human-based mutants such as ghuls and Trans-Genetic Mutants, and the healing effects of the long-term care use of the Treat Injury skill are doubled.

Magnetic Personality: Literally the Leadership feat from Dungeons and Dragons. It's been given a rename because there is already a completely unrelated talent tree called Leadership in d20 Modern, rather than for arbitrary reasons as has often been the case in this book. The one major difference between this and traditional Leadership is that your Reputation comes into play. The tens number in your percentage of Infamy or Fame dictates your effectiveness in trying to gain a companion or followers. For instance, if you have 50% Fame with the Steel Disciples, you'd get a +5 bonus to your Leadership Personality score if you tried to get a Steel Disciple Paladin as a companion. By contrast, having 84% Infamy with the Chi, you'd be suffering a -8 penalty to your Personality score if you tried to gather up members of their ranks to your side as followers.

More Critical: Is the +1 increase to critical threat range from Improved Better Critical not enough for you? Good news, More Critical boosts it to +2!

Mr. Fixit: On top of a +2 bonus to Disable Device and Repair checks, the DC of any Repair check is decreased by your Intelligence bonus.

Mutate!: You can change out one trait you took at level 1 for another. Whoopee.

Mysterious Stranger: How much do you enjoy extremely arbitrary GMPCs? Hopefully a lot, because everything about the Mysterious Stranger is pretty drat arbitrary. By expending a Karma Point when you are in "dire need" in combat, the Mysterious Stranger appears to aid you! What kind of statistics does the Mysterious Stranger have? It's up to the Game Master to stat him up, of course! His level, skills, and class layout are all entirely up to the GM. Is he lower level than your character, equal level, higher level? Who knows, it varies depending on whatever your GM decides. A feat where the GM has to make poo poo up on the fly and the player has to put their entire trust in a GMPC is assuredly a great idea!

Pack Rat: Your Strength score is treated as 2 higher specifically for determining carrying capacity.

Pathfinder: Overland travel between any two destinations is decreased by 10%.

Presence: Another +2 to two skills feat, this time for Diplomacy and Intimidate.

Pickpocket: You gain a...+3 to Sleight of Hand checks? I'm not sure you fully understand how the bland skill bonus feats game is supposed to be played, Exodus.

Pyromaniac: You gain a +2 to attack and damage rolls with any weapon that deals fire damage.

Quick Pockets: Quick Draw, but for non-weapon equipment.

Quick Recovery: You can take a free action but provoke an attack of opportunity to rapidly get up from being prone.

Rad Child: You are immune to any radiation that is 600 Rads or lower. Surprisingly, it only takes having a +3 bonus to Fortitude saves to have this rather formidable feat.

Rad Resistance: You get a +4 bonus to Fortitude saves against the effects of radiation. Given that this feat requires both a Constitution score of 13 and the Toughness feat, it seems like it would be far more useful to take Rad Child if you are that worried about radiation.

Ranger: You gain a +1 bonus to Hide, Listen, Move Silently, Navigate, Search, Spot, and Survival checks in any wilderness environment.

Strong Back: Like Pack Rat, but at a +4 bonus rather than +2. Pack Rat is nonetheless arguably more useful for Dexterity- or mental ability score-based characters, as it has no prerequisite while Strong Back requires a Strength score of 13 or higher.

Stunt Man: Falls are treated as being 20 feet shorter for the purposes of taking damage, and on top of that fall damage is 1d4 per 10 feet rather than the normal 1d6 per 10 feet.

Stonewall: You're pretty unmovable, with a +4 bonus to oppose bull rush, overrun, and trip attacks, as well as any effect meant to move you or knock you prone.

Surface Vehicle Operation: As with Exotic Firearms Proficiency, this is an existing feat that had its subcategories altered enough that it might as well be a new feat. In standard d20 Modern, the Surface Vehicle Operation categories are Heavy Wheeled, Powerboat, Sailboat, Ship, or Tracked, with general purpose cars, trucks, motorcycles, and the like not needing a feat to operate without penalty. Exodus replaces the three watercraft proficiency feats with Boats ("small" boats such as jet skis, rowboats, and sailboats) and Watercrafts (boats that require multiple crew members such as yachts and cruise liners), Heavy Wheeled and Tracked are replaced by Constructions (construction vehicles like bulldozers and dump trucks), Heavy Duty (large non-construction civilian vehicles like 18 wheelers and RVs), and Military (military APCs, tanks, and such), and the new categories Bikes (motorcycles) and Four-Wheelers (cars, trucks, dune buggies, etc.) are added.

Thief: You gain a +1 to Disable Device, Hide, Move Silently, and Sleight of Hand checks.

And to avoid ending off on a big wall o' feats, have a gander at some of the descriptions for classic feats, to get a feel for Exodus's attempts at miming Fallout writing. The typos here aren't mine (for once :v:), as I felt it would be best to actually keep these intact rather than fix them, just to add that extra flavor.

Feat Descriptions posted:

Agile Riposte: Father Nelson instructed you as a young child about strange people touching you. So now when your opponents attempt to feel you up, you know how to retaliate.

Far Shot: By calculating the wind speed of a European swallow against the glare of the sun, divided by the pitch of the horizon, you can shoot farther than others.

Gearhead: Most people dream of a beautiful woman, but you, you dream of components and gears! The closest you are going to get to a girl is dressing up your wrench like a wench.

Improved Knockout Punch: "Mama, said knock you out!" You have learned the wind up punch to deliver a devastating blow to an unwary opponent.

Quick Draw: When Wasteland Bart Black calls you out for a wasteland showdown, you re quick to draw your smoke wagon and plug him full of holes.

Next Time...
Equipment and combat, from power armor and punches to drugs and drag-outs.

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 03:20 on Jan 19, 2015

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

wdarkk posted:

I think you have the text for not-leadership under Packrat.
This is exactly what I figured would happen when I decided to make fun of my own typos on top of those of Exodus. Fixed now.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Chapter 4: Equipment

Bolding was in the actual book! posted:

War never changes... Violence in the Wasteland is a part of life, and if you do not have the proper equipment you may be taking a dirt nap. As a character travels through the Wasteland he will need the right equipment. The Rad-Tek Survival Guide lists the optimal weapons, survival equipment, medical supplies, and other items considered essential to survive the aftermath of an atomic war; but, in the Wasteland a survivor has to learn to scrounge and make the best use of what can be found hidden in a ruined building or bunker; taken off the body of a hostile traveler: or, stolen from the inattentive and unwary. This chapter details the weapons, armor, and miscellaneous equipment that can be found in the Wasteland.
Yes, it's equipment time. This chapter is actually where a surprising amount of new rules start getting thrown at us. That's at least more interesting to discuss than simply going over equipment lists, I'll admit.

Post-Apocalyptic Economics
Rather than bottle caps, the currency of Exodus is coinage. While these are scavenged Old World coins, their value is determined by their material composition. Steel coins are the "baseline" coin, with the other coins being tied to that worth: a copper coin is worth 1/100 of a steel coin, silver coins are worth ten steel coins, and gold coins are worth a hundred steel coins. Coin prices aren't the only thing characters have to be concerned about, however, as there is also an item scarcity rating. Common items include brass knuckles or rope and are found easily and sold by almost anyone, Uncommon items such as 20 gauge shotguns and bolt cutters have a 50% chance of being sold by merchants and are most often found in trading posts, ruins, or communities with manufacturing technology, Infrequent items like Desert Eagle pistols and handcuffs have a 25% chance of being sold by merchants, Rare items such as miniguns and Geiger counters have a 10% chance of being sold by merchants, Very Rare items including .50 caliber sniper rifles and the Pip-Boy 2000 PA 2000 have a 5% chance of being sold by merchants, and Unique items such as extraterrestrial technology or prototype weapons are never sold and must be granted by the Game Master in a special encounter.

Strength Scores and Weaponry
As I noted briefly in the last post, Exodus introduces a Strength requirement for wielding weapons properly. Or, more accurately, to wielding firearms properly: archaic and simple ranged weapons, explosives, and melee weapons are exempt for some reason. If you don't have the proper Strength score for a firearm, you're going to be suffering a penalty to attack rolls equal to how much lower your Strength score is than the target number. For example, a character with a Strength score of 11 can wield an AK-47 (Strength prerequisite 10) just fine, but will be suffering a -3 penalty to attack rolls with a Desert Eagle because it has a Strength prerequisite of 14. Other than heavy weapons (which are almost exclusively 16 or 18) and 2d4 damage firearms (Which are between 6 and 8), most firearms have a Strength prerequisite between 10 and 14.

Firearms: Handguns, Shotguns, and Rifles
Firearms start off the actual lists of equipment. As before and in the future, I'll be excising any material that is already in the d20 Modern SRD such as Ak-47s and Desert Eagles, and purely noting what new material that Exodus brings to the table.

Pistols: Pistols have eleven newcomers. Most of these are rather unremarkable and generic: the .22 Custom, Derringer, and Ruger MK II are 2d4 damage Tiny pistols with concealment, the MAB P15 and Mauser M96 are dime a dozen 9 millimeter 2d6 damage pistols, and the single-action and double-action revolvers are both 6 cylinder cowboy revolvers that can deal between 2d4 and 2d8 damage based on variable ammunition loads. One that is at least somewhat novel in the type of ammo it takes is the .223 Custom, a 2d8 damage rifle that has been converted into a pistol that fires five bullets and does basically nothing to justify its Very Rare scarcity and exceedingly high price of 3,500 coins beyond having a range increment that is more in line with rifles than pistols. Also at least somewhat noteworthy are the single shot 2d6 damage flintlock known as the trade pistol, the terrifying Sig-Sauer that deals 3d8 damage (that's the same damage as a minigun), and the Colt 6520. That last one? It's a simple 2d6 damage 10 millimeter pistol, which wouldn't be interesting...were it not for the fact that it isn't a real pistol. The Colt 6520 comes straight from Fallout and is the starting weapon of Fallout 2's player character. Guess the settlement lawyers missed that one.

Submachine Guns and Machine Pistols: Five SMGs, only one of them noteworthy. The Heckler and Koch P90 deals 2d8 damage, but otherwise you have the Colt 635, M3A1, Mac Ingram 11, and the Thompson M1928 “Tommy Gun” are all rather generic 2d6 automatic weapons differentiated by ammunition used and minor differences in range increment and clip size. This is fine for a game where scavenging ammo is meant to be part of the challenge or you want minute pick and choose elements over widely varying damage, but it doesn't make for good FATAL and Friends posts, so let's hurry onward.

Rifles: Twenty-one new rifles, most of them again following general conventions beyond some minor increment, clip size, and ammo type differentiations: the AK-112, bushwhacker sniper rifle, CAR-15, Colt Rangemaster, DKS 501 sniper rifle, M1 carbine, M16A1, and Mauser Bolt Action are 2d8 damage rifles or sniper rifles, the DKS 101 sniper rifle, FN FAL, Heckler and Koch 53, M1 Garand, M14, M1903 Bolt Action, and SKS carbine are 2d10 damage rifles/sniper rifles, and the Bushwhacker heavy sniper rifle is a 2d12 sniper rifle. This does, of course, leave five rifles that don't follow typical conventions. On one extreme of the spectrum, the bolt action target rifle, Henry survival rifle, lever action carbine, and Ruger 1022 are all 2d4 damage rifles of some stripe that use .22 ammunition, which definitely stands out when no standard 2d0 Modern rifle deals less than 2d8 damage. You also have the Heckler and Koch G11 on the opposite end, a Large automatic rifle thundering out 3d8 damage.

Shotguns: Oh hey, new game mechanics, that's a breather from listing inconsequential poo poo. In standard d20 Modern, shotguns suffer a -1 penalty to damage rolls for each range increment past their first (which is usually quite short) due to pellet scatter. This move has always been one that even d20 Modern fans have often questioned and designer Rich “I fought wars, you know” Redman defended. For its part, Exodus decides to actually double down on the damage penalty, increasing it to -2 per increment, but also gave all shotguns a 19-20 critical hit threat range when standard d20 Modern firearms always have a straight 20. For new shotguns, the 12 gauge double barrel shotgun, Heckler and Koch CAWS, Pancor Jackhammer, 12 gauge pump action shotgun, and Winchester City Killer (oh hey, another Fallout product identity weapon that sneaked under the radar) are all standard 2d8 damage shotguns, while the 20 gauge double barrel shotgun, 20 gauge pump shotgun, and 20 gauge sawed-off shotgun are the first introduced 2d6 damage shotguns.

Exotic Weapons
Heavy Weapons: There are five new heavy weapons, a surprisingly small amount when they only had three from d20 Modern core to reprint. The M60 light machine gun of the Vietnam War is the weakest, dealing a measly 2d8 damage that is only offset by its hefty belt-fed ammo count and a range increment that nears that of some sniper rifles. If you're looking for something with more direct punch, there's always the Trans-Genetic Mutant favorite weapon that is the minigun. A standard minigun deals 3d8 damage, and on top of that there are the even more powerful 4d8 damage Punisher and 5d8 damage Vulcan advanced military miniguns. Finally, you've got the Rockwell Launcher, which can fire either 10d6 damage explosive rockets or 8d6 damage armor-piercing rockets that ignore 10 points of damage reduction.

Energy Weapons: While energy in d20 systems typically refers to the quintuplet damage types of acid, cold, fire, electricity, and concussion/sonic, energy weapons in Exodus deal either what is referred to as laser damage if they dish out heat or “energy damage” that covers everything from electricity to plasma. In the former category are the 2d8 damage ElectroMac 500 laser pistol, 2d10 damage MegaWatz 1000 laser pistol, 3d8 damage ElectroMac 950 laser carbine, and both the semiautomatic MegaWatz 2020 laser rifle and automatic Heckler and Koch gatling laser for 3d10 damage. For weapons that deal energy damage, you've got the 2d10 damage B52 plasma pistol, 3d12 damage Winchester P94 plasma rifle, 4d8 damage electro scorcher pistol, KYJ-X2 pulse pistol, and KYJ-Z4 pulse rifle, and 4d10 damage alien blaster. The electro scorcher (a prototype pre-War military device) and alien blaster (an extraterrestrial pistol) both have the distinguished status of being the only Unique scarcity items in the entire book.

Explosives: While technically not exotic weapons, explosives happen to be listed under their header. While explosives in d20 Modern tend to deal either slashing, concussion, or fire damage, in Exodus all standard d20 Modern explosives other than the Molotov cocktail (which has been changed to deal energy damage, while the thermite and white phosphorous grenades that also typically deal fire damage are no-shows entirely) have been given an unexplained “explosive damage” type. The newly-added 3d6 damage pipe bomb, 4d12 damage landmine, and 5d8 damage plastic explosive also deal explosive damage, while the 5d10 damage plasma grenade deals half explosive and half energy damage. There's also the EMP pulse grenade, which states it destroys all electronics and robots that fail a DC 15 Reflex save in a 10 foot radius of where it falls. Not disables, straight up destroys. The description even states that all circuitry and wiring is so melted it can't even be scavenged.

Energy Melee Weapons: These are technically melee weapons that run on energy as opposed to weapons that deal energy damage, as only one of the four here (the 1d10 damage cattle prod) actually deals said damage type. The 3d4 damage cutter plasma knife and 2d6 damage power fist both deal piercing damage, and the stun club is a paralytic weapon that is used to...uh...

“Exodus: Post-Apocalyptic Roleplaying” posted:

The infamous stun club by Bushwhack, was designed for police to incapacitate criminals, and was widely used in prison. However, this weapon was sold on the black market, and became known as the new-date rape drug, as perverts used it on unsuspecting woman.
Yeah. :stonk:

Melee Weapons
There are no new archaic melee weapons, only simple meele weapons. Said new simple melee weapons are the 1d2 damage sharpened stick, 1d3 damage shiv, 1d4 damage police baton, 1d6 damage baseball bat, lead pipe, sharpened pole, and wrench, 1d8 damage sledgehammer, and 2d8 damage super sledge. Some of them, like the lead pipe and wrench, honestly sound like they should be counted under the rules for improvised weapons. But what do I know? It's not like Exodus itself still lists wrenches when it copy-pastes the SRD rules on improvised wea-

Oh wait, it does.

Thrown and Projectile Weapons
For whatever reason, these are listed after melee weapons rather than back with all the other ranged weapons. The 1d4 damage throwing knife and wrist crossbow, 1d6 damage shortbow, and 3d6 damage arbalest are the new additions.

Armor in Exodus basically has no relation to how armor is treated in standard d20 systems. Rather than just providing an armor bonus to Defense (though it does still do that), armor in Exodus has four different types of damage reduction that only provides DR against a specific type of damage. PDR is damage reduction against physical damage types, EDR is against energy damage, LDR is against laser damage, and XDR is against explosive damage. To use an example of two types of armor that were already in d20 Modern and kept in Exodus, leather armor has a +2 bonus to Defense that is augmented only be 1 PDR, while a tactical vest has DR 3 across all four categories on top of a +6 bonus to Defense.

Light Armor: Seven new armors here, though I'd hesitate to call the cloth armor new as it is literally the exact same stats-wise as a leather jacket beyond being one pound heavier. The weakest of the new light armors other than cloth is improvised armor. Being just some junk metal strapped onto someone's chest with belts or rope, improvised armor has the same +1 bonus to Defense and lack of any DR that leather and cloth armor has, but has a maximum Dexterity bonus of +3 compared to their +8. Its only upside is that it costs nothing to buy. If a +2 bonus to Defense is more your style, the field suit has 1 in all forms of damage reduction, while the riot shield grants 2 PDR, EDR, and XDR but no LDR. For +3 there's the MK II leather armor with its 1 PDR and XDR, while for a +4 Defense bonus you have the choice of either the relatively cheap combat leather jacket with its 1 XDR or the concealed mesh vest with 2 PDR, 1 EDR and LDR, and a price tag that is higher than some medium armors.

Medium Armor: Eleven new types of medium armor are present, starting down at +4 bonuses with environmental armor that has 4 PDR, LDR, and XDR and 5 EDR that is contrasted with armor penalty and maximum Dexterity bonus that are cripplingly poor, metal armor with 2 PDR, EDR, and XDR but 4 LDR, Trans-Genetic Mutant Armor with 2 in all forms of damage reduction, and Tesla Armor with 1 PDR, 3 XDR, 6 EDR, and 8 LDR. For a +5 bonus to Defense there's the MK II metal armor that has the same damage reduction spread as regular metal armor, concealed mesh suit with 3 PDR and 1 for all other forms of damage reduction, MK II environmental armor with 6 XDR but otherwise similar damage reduction spread to standard environmental armor, and MK II Trans-Genetic Mutant armor which has the same damage reduction spread as its normal. Finally, for +6 Defense bonus medium armors, there is the combat armor with 3 EDR and XDR but 4 PDR and LDR, and its MK II version which has a +7 bonus to Defense and 4 XDR but is otherwise similar.

Heavy Armor: For whatever reason, none of the three types of heavy armor from the d20 Modern Core Rulebook were kept in Exodus, meaning all five types of heavy armor are new. The weakest heavy armors are space armor with a +6 bonus to Defense and MK II space armor with a +7 bonus. As they are meant to be space suits and thus deal with cosmic particles more than physical force, they have 3 PDR and XDR but 5 EDR and LDR. The other four are all variants of everyone's favorite Fallout standby, power armor. Bog standard power armor has a +10 bonus to Defense, 6 XDR, 7 PDR and EDR, and 8 LDR. Hardened power armor ups the PDR to 8 and the XDR to 7, advanced power armor boosts the Defense to +11 and improves on the hardened power armor with 8 EDR and 9 LDR, and MK II advanced power armor further improves things with a +12 armor bonus to Defense, 9 LDR, and 10 PDR. Power armor is also special in that while it has crippling armor penalties to armor penalty-tied skills (-7 for MK II advanced power armor, -8 for the rest), it doesn't reduce your base move speed.

Medical Supplies: The name of the game here is “make the Treat Injury skill pointless”. Poisoned? Bypass a Treat Injury check and immediately fix that up with a poison antidote. Wounded? There's healing salve to instantly patch up 1d3+2 HP, StimMedpak to heal 1d8+5, Super Medpak to heal 4d8+10, and Trauma Pak to heal 9d8+15.

Drugs: Don't get too excited about the idea of going chem-crazy, most of them really aren't worth it. Almost all drugs have an after-effect once they've worn off, and for a lot of them it's ability score damage. Rather than being a temporary debuff like all non-ability score effects (which wear off after between two to eight hours of time, depending on the drug), you have to heal 1 ability point of damage per day like normal ability damage, meaning that you are taking days to even weeks to heal up the benefits of a drug that lasts for a few hours. There's also the chance of addiction, which is low (10 or 20% for most drugs, save for two particularly potent ones) but nonetheless possible. The actual rules for addiction are found in the next chapter. There are only two drugs that avoid having any after-effects or addiction. These are Rad Blocker 2, which decreases the amounts of RAD taken by half for 24 hours, and Radium X, which removes 1000 RADs already taken. There's also the odd drug out of Black Sunshine, which provides darkvision for four hours and has the after-effects of a -10 to Spot checks rather than any type of ability score boost followed by after-effects of ability score damage.

The rest of the drugs tend to provide a benefit to an ability score and possibly some other benefit. You've got Afterburner to grant +10 movement speed, +2 Wisdom, and +4 temporary HP for ten minutes with the after-effects of taking 2 points of Wisdom damage, Burnout that grants +6 to Listen and Spot checks and a +4 to Reflex saves but -4 to Wisdom for four hours with the after-effects of 4 points of Wisdom damage and a -4 to Reflex saves, Inferno which provides +4 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence, and PDR 4 for four hours with after-effects of 6 points of Dexterity damage and +2 extra damage taken from any attack, Mindmeld that grants +2 to all mental ability scores for a whole day with the after-effects of taking two points of damage to those same ability scores, [/b]Mutagen[/b] that grants +4 Strength and +2 Constitution for two hours but has the whopping after-effects of taking six points of ability damage for the same abilities, Vigoroids which is literally Mindmeld but for the three physical ability scores rather than three mental ability scores, and Voodoo which provides +2 Dexterity and an extra Karma Point with the after-effects of four points of Dexterity damage.

Field Gear: Most new added field gear/survival items are self-explanatory as to what they do. I'm fairly sure you know what a Geiger counter, chemical light stick, cigarette lighter, motion sensor, road flare, canteen, volt-ohm meter, water skin, or USB stick (renamed a flash crystal for some reason), given that they're real world objects. This leaves two items that are explicitly not so real world in nature to discuss, both of which are created by the RoboCore company, who are also unsurprisingly known for creating security robots. The RoboCore Personal Assistant 2000 is our renamed Pip Boy, and does the things you expect a Pip-Boy to do: keep a clock and calendar, record and display text or sound files, and auto-map areas traversed. There's also the Stealth Belt, which refracts light in order to provide a +20 to Hide checks while worn.

Grub: Food and drink that doesn't really have any mechanical benefit beyond counting as some unstated amount of daily intake to avoid starvation or extreme thirst. Most items are things like fruit, bread, rations, or beer, but you've also got the ever-popular Toxicola, the cola soda of various flavors that became extremely popular before the Great War. There's also rules for getting drunk. The heavier a character is, the more alcohol they can imbibe before needing to make a Fortitude save to avoid being drunk, but also the higher the penalties. For instance, a character weighing under 100 pounds only needs to imbibe 20% alcohol before needing to make a DC 12 Fortitude save to avoid being drunk and suffer a -1 penalty to all d20 rolls, while a character 301 or more pounds in weight needs to drink 50% alcohol before they end up needing to face a DC 30 Fortitude save to avoid falling unconscious. If they're really lucky with their saves you could have the former character drink enough to need to make the latter Fortitude save or become unconscious themselves, but they're going through multiple saves to get to that point as opposed to a one-way trip to knockout city.

Manuals of the Wasteland: Yep, skill books are still a thing in Exodus. After taking between thirty minutes to an hour to read, a manual of the Wasteland imparts a +2 bonus to certain skill checks. This bonus is presumably either permanent, as there's no listed time limit on the check benefits but checks are still referred to in plural and thus are probably not “make the check once, then read the book again”. Doc Brown's First Aid Guide provides the +2 bonus to Treat Injury checks, Electronics and Gadgets to Craft (Electronic), Knowledge (Technology), and Repair checks associated with electrical equipment, Firepower and Ammunitions to Craft (Mechanical) checks to craft or upgrade either firearms or amunition, Knowledge (Tactics) to plan an assault, Knowledge (Technology) checks to determine a type of firearm or ammunition, and Repair checks made to repair or unjam firearms, Hammer Time's "How To" books to Craft (Structural) checks, Logical Science with Dr. Spock to Craft (Chemical, Electronic, Mechanical, and Pharmaceutical), Knowledge (Science), and Repair checks, Rad-Tek Survival Guide to Survival checks, Road Warrior to Drive checks, and The Widower's Guide to Gambling to Gambling checks. There's also Cherry Bomb Magazine, which is literally a Playboy magazine. It provides no mechanical benefits, but sells for far more than any other manual at 1,500 coins. That's enough for a shotgun or a decent suit of light armor.

A combination of a massive oil crisis and popularity of Cold War era cars, most pre-War vehicles of Exodus look like 50s muscle cars but run on fusion cell batteries rather than traditional fuel. There are only four vehicles, so not a lot to go through here. The Cobra Impaler is a totally-not-Chevy-Impala two seat car that tears across the Wasteland at a speed of 350 feet per round but eats up fusion cells at 25 miles per cell, the Colt Switchblade is a generic 50s motorcycle that travels 250 feet per round at 50 miles per fusion cell and has an optional sidecar attachment, and the dune buggy moves 150 feet per round but makes up for it by seating three and great mileage at 40 miles per fusion cell. Oh, and then there's the Roadmaster MK IV. While stated to be just an average family car, this six seat, 250 feet per round, 15 mile per fusion cell beast is quite literally built like a tank. It has the same object hardness as military vehicles in d20 Modern, and it has 350 HP to soak up damage with. This is far more than even an M1 Abrams in d20 Modern (64 HP), but since even the humble dune buggy here has 150 HP I'm imagining that the writers of Exodus weren't fans of the low hit point pools d20 Modern used for vehicles.

Next Time
Now that equipment is out of the way and we're halfway through the book, it's all smooth sailing on the way downhill. Next post finishes the Exodus: Post-Apocalyptic Roleplaying Survivor's Guide with rules on radiation, rehab, and rubble, as well as advanced classes that don't always play by the rules.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Doresh posted:

And d20 Modern didn't have throwing knives and a shortbow o_O ?]
Regular knives technically have a throwing range increment in d20 Modern, but in Exodus they made another set of nearly identical stats specifically for knives meant to be thrown. And just a compound bow and not any more primitive shortbow or longbow, at least not in any of the Open Game Content books Wizards of the Coast put out. They statted up four different kinds of crossbow, though. :v:

Night10194 posted:

I've run a couple of AFMBE campaigns, including one I consider one of the best games I've ever run, so I'll probably tackle it in a couple days, then! AFMBE is a really good take on generalist horror roleplaying, even if it's meant to be specifically about zombies.
Go for it! I think I have a copy of AFMBE somewhere, but I remember literally nothing about it besides it being a Unisystem game. I'd love to get a refresher on it.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

theironjef posted:

Huh, that looks a lot like a Baku spirit as well.

I wouldn't be surprised if that was more than a coincidence. Trade around southeast Asia lead to a lot of this kind of convergence, such as the firebird, eastern dragon, and nine-tailed fox being motifs in China, Japan, and Korea alike.

And speaking of motifs, it's time to get done with the Exodus Survivor's Guide. It all ends here (except not because there's two other "core" Exodus books).

Chapter 5: Combat and Tactics
While this chapter takes up a fair chunk of the remaining third of the book, most of it is reprinted standard d20 combat rules since this is Exodus and we have to follow the "reprint all the core rules" methodology to the end. There are a few things that prevent me from completely skipping over this chapter, though, so let's get those out of the way.

Targeted Attacks
Targeted attacks, or “called shots” as they are more often called in RPGs, are anything meant to be more specific than just a generic meat shot to wherever (often the torso, which has no special rules for targeting or damaging it). This chart is important because it gives you very important information, such as that you take a -6 penalty to your attack role to shoot someone in the dick, but the result is 50% more damage on a regular hit or three times more damage on a critical hit. And no, I'm not being hyperbolic. Groin (or “servos” on a robot) is indeed one of the listed options for making targeted attacks. Of course, if you want to do something more practical than making everyone in the Wasteland impotent, there are also six other listed types of targeted attack as well. A targeted leg (or attack to whatever the creature or robot uses to move if it has no legs and feet) is the easiest at a -2 penalty to attack rolls, but on a critical hit the target gets a -4 penalty to Dexterity-based skill checks that involve legs, moves at half its normal speed, and cannot run. A targeted arm is a bit more at -4, and on a critical hit you end up removing the target's ability to use any items that have to be used two-handed and induce a -4 penalty to Dexterity-based skill checks that require the use of both hands.

These two do provide a bit of a problem, though, when at a -8 penalty you have foot and hand targeted attacks that only induce the skill check penalties on a successful critical hit. This means that it's both better and easier to just go for a shot at the arm or leg rather than specifically the hand or foot. Unrelated to manipulation, a targeted head (or CPU for a robot) attack deals double damage on any hit and also conveys 4 points of Intelligence and Wisdom damage, while a targeted eye/sensor/feeler/whatever the creature uses to sense the world around it shot also deals double damage on any hit and is capable of blinding the target on a critical hit.

Environmental Hazards
While d20 Modern has its own radiation system wherein time spent in an area of a certain strength of radiation resulted in saves against a specifc strength of radiation sickness, Exodus throws that out in favor of its own take on radiation. And by “its own take”, of course, I mean something akin to Fallout's take. Radiation is measured by the RAD (Radiation Absorbed Dose) level of an area, and characters that fail a Fortitude save at each time interval listed take the listed amount of radiation damage rather than having the dosage ramp up based on time spent in the area overall as in standard d20 Modern. Weak radiation is 1 to 99 RAD and deals 1d2-1 Constitution damage every three days of exposure, light is 100 to 199 RAD and deals 1d3-1 Con damage every day of exposure, mild is 200 to 299 RAD and deals 1d4-1 Con damage every six hours, low is 300 to 599 RAD and deals 1d6-1 Con damage every two hours, moderate is 600 to 999 RAD and deals 2d4 Con damage every half an hour, high is 1000 to 4,999 RAD and deals 2d6 Con damage every five minutes, severe is 5,000 to 8,000 RAD and deals 3d6 Con damage every minute, and deadly is anything higher than 8,000 RAD, deals 4d6 Con damage every round, and has a 1% of turning a human into a ghul rather than killing them.

Another form of environmental hazard added by Exodus is toxic waste. It's basically acid, dealing 1d6 acid damage per round of exposure or 10d6 per round if you're straight up dunked in it, but has the added effect of counting as a source of low radiation. There's also structural failures, because why wouldn't you have those in a ruined post-apocalyptic world (even though a lot of post-apocalyptic roleplaying games I've read don't, surprisingly)? There's a cumulative 10% chance per floor that there is at least some structural damage that should be rolled up by the GM: this 10% starts at the first floor for structures that head upward such as skyscrapers, and at the last floor for structures that go downward such as vaults. It's entirely up to the GM what exactly collapses where as is appropriate to the party, ranging from 1d6 damage if you fail the DC 15 Reflex save to avoid minor falling debris to taking a whopping 12d6 damage if you fail the DC 30 Reflex save to avoid the total structural collapse of an entire floor.

Chemical Addiction
Don't do drugs, kids. Not only do they have after-effect penalties as listed in my last Exodus post, but if the d100 says you are in the percentile range to get addicted, you also have additional addiction penalties! Unlike the ability damage that heals over time from drug after-effects, addiction penalties are effectively like the penalties of a template, static minuses that are removed once you “lose” the addiction by making a successful Fortitude save with a DC between 30 and 45 depending on the drug. You can make this check once per day, and every consecutive day adds a +1 to your save unless you end up taking the drug again. Taking the drug again does temporarily remove the penalties for addiction for the drug's duration, but it doesn't remove the addiction outright, and of the after-effects stack with previous usage of the drug.

Specific addiction “templates” are -2 Constitution and Wisdom for afterburner, blindness for black sunshine, blindness or deafness for burnout, -8 Dexterity and a -4 to Initiative checks for inferno, a -4 to Intelligence and Wisdom for mindmeld, -8 Strength and -4 Constitution for mutagen, -6 Strength and Dexterity for vigoroids, and -6 Dexterity and -2 to Initiative checks for voodoo.

Advanced Classes
On top of reprinting almost all classes the d20 Modern Core Rulebook (the Bodyguard, Investigator, Negotiator, Personality, and Techie are the exceptions that are left out), the Archaic Weaponsmaster (renamed to just Weaponsmaster even though it still only focuses in archaic weapons), Glamourist (renamed Socialite), Shadow Hunter (renamed Bounty Hunter), Street Warrior, and Thrasher from Urban Arcana, and the Dreadnought, Explorer, and Swindler from d20 Future, there are fifteen new advanced classes introduced in the Exodus Survivor's Guide.

Some of these new advanced classes don't follow the basic rules of what an advanced class is. Wizards of the Coast codified advanced classes as being ten levels long, usually having a bonus feat at level 3, 6, and 9, and able to be accessed by a character who has focused on the right prerequisites by the time they take their fourth character level. Here there are five level advanced classes and advanced classes that cannot be accessed until further on than level 4, which I assume is a holdout from being more familiar with Dungeons and Dragons prestige classes, but it could be worse. I say “it could be worse” in confidence because I know there are advanced classes with weird layouts like three or seven levels in the next Exodus book.

Desert Ranger: Want to be a mental hero with a combat advanced class, but just can't settle for the +1 to +3 bonus to attack rolls and certain skills against a single target at a time that you'd get with the Shadow Bounty Hunter? Well, you could take five levels of a base class rather than three to qualify for Desert Ranger instead, where you get the same d8 hit dice, good Base Attack Bonus progression, good Defense bonus progression, and average saving throw progressions as the Bounty Hunter, but have those rolls and skills against multiple targets of the same type! Surely that's worth waiting two more levels, right?

No, that's not right at all, you silly person. While the level 1 class feature for the Desert Ranger is just getting Endurance as a bonus feat, its main class feature that first appears at level 2 is that D&D Ranger standard of Favored Enemy. The Ranger selects a specific group type – animals, desert reapers (though just what a desert reaper actually is isn't ever explained in this or any of the other Exodus books), ghuls, geckos (which are on their own rather than under animals for some reason), Trans-Genetic Mutants, vermin, or a specific human organization – to have a +1 bonus to attack rolls and Bluff, Listen, Sense Motive, Spot, and Survival checks against. While the Desert Ranger gets to select another Favored Enemy at level 4, 6, and 8 of the class, the bonus is always just +1. It never progresses any further like the Bounty Hunter's bounty target class feature, and you can't select the same Favored Enemy twice to boost the bonus.

In spite of this, though, the Desert Ranger isn't a totally useless class. For stealth-related abilities, level 3 of the class lets you move normal speed while tracking with the feature Swift Tracker, and level 7 has Camouflage which is basically the D&D Ranger's Hide in Plain Sight ability. If combat's more your focus, there's a bit of htat too. The level 5 class feature Combat Shooting lets you basically perform the function of the feat Power Attack with ranged attacks rather than melee attacks and doesn't require you to have said feat, and the level 9 feature Adapted Warfare gives you a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls in either indoor, outdoor urban, or outdoor wasteland environments...which is actually pretty lovely too for a class level 9 ability, but still.

The capstone ability for the Desert Ranger is Squad Leader, which makes party members and friendly NPCs within a 20 foot radius of the ranger gain a +1 morale bonus to attack rolls. This isn't exactly amazing on its own, especially compared to the things the Field Officer from d20 Future can do that could have been cribbed for this class, but what saves it from being useless is that it can stack with the Squad Leader ability of other level 10 Desert Rangers. Assuming your whole party is Desert Rangers, you can just have a big ol' attack buff circlejerk as long as you stay in formation.

Harvester: I remember Harold too, Exodus, thanks for reminding me. Harvester characters are technically the results of someone being gooped in the weird superscience chemicals that make up the FEV Trans-Genetic Mutant Project, but end up having the same stats as ghuls anyway. The class is even ghul-only as its entry point, and while it could technically be taken at character level 3, you'd need to have a high enough Wisdom score to boost your Will save to +5 rather than just the bonus you'd be getting from a base class. The Harvester is only five levels long, though, and has lovely BAB, Defense, Fortitude, and Reflex save progression contrasted with a good Will save progression and d8 hit dice.

Unsurprisingly, the Harvester's class features are all plant-themed. Fungus at level 1 grants 1 PDR because of layers of moss and bark-like skin, Green Thumb at level 2 lets the Harvester grow plants twice as fast as normal and “speak” with plants to learn local environmental conditions by tending to them for two hours, and Bonsai at level 3 causes the growth of a tiny tree on the ghul's head or torso that provides a +4 bonus to saves against disease and poison thanks to its healing nutrients. The tree has its own pool of HP (20, to be precise) and can be struck with a called shot at a -6 penalty to the attack roll, but if it's destroyed it will regrow three months later rather than disappear forever.

The biggest class feature of the Harvester, though, comes in Way of the Fruit at level 4 of the class. Every ten days, the tree on the Harvester dumps a piece of lumpy green fruit that provides a random effect when eaten by anyone. This can be either a +2 bonus to one ability score for half a day, a +2 bonus to one saving throw for half a day, induce the nauseated condition for an hour, induce nausea for two hours, induce nausea for three hours, instant curing of all diseases, instant curing of all poisons, instant curing of all addictions, instant removal of any drug after-effects, instant removal of 200 RAD, instant removal of all radiation effects, restore 1d4 HP, restore 1d8+1 HP, restore 2d8+3 HP, restore 3d8+5 HP, or do nothing at all. This is furthered by the final ability of the class, Shape Fruit. This allows the Harvester to make a Will save (DC 15 to 18 for most effects, though some of the more powerful healing ones get up to DC 35) to coerce the tree into making a specific desired fruit.

Made Man: A stereotypical old school mobster, the Made Man is all about serving the Family, maintaining a code of honor amongst thieves, and shooting people up with Tommy guns. It's a somewhat difficult advanced class to get into, because on top of needing a +5 Base Attack Bonus (so that's at least five levels in Strong Hero alone to get), either the Gangster background or Wiseguy occupation, and a rather stunning 50% Reputation with a crime syndicate, you also have to have saved the life of either the head of the Family or some other important Family member in the group. While you might think that last prerequisite might lead to the class having some enforcer themes and defensive capabilities to offset the absence of the Bodyguard advanced class, you'd be totally wrong. This is a straight up combat class through and through: Good Base Attack Bonus progression, average Fortitude and Reflex save progressions, poor Will save progression, poor Defense bonus progression, and d8 hit dice.

Two of its class features are of the sort that rank up. Street Cred provides a bonus to Diplomacy, Intimidate, Investigate, and Gather Information checks with anyone who is part of the Family or familiar with the Made Man's status as part of the Family, the bonus starting at +2 at class level 1 and then boosting to 4 at level 5 and +6 at level 9. There's also that ever popular D&D Rogue staple of Sneak Attack, going +1d6 at level 3, +2d6 at level 6, and +3d6 at level 9. For other class features, there are bonus feats at level 2, 6, and 10 that are mostly either melee combat- or firearms-oriented, Soldier at level 3 grants a free Infrequent or lower rarity firearm and concealed mesh suit courtesy of the Family, level 4 has Magnetic Personality as specified bonus feat, Connected at level 7 grants a contact as per the Investigator from d20 Modern Core, Respected at level 8 lets the Made Man get lodging, food, and prostitutes for free in any town or city where the Family holds sway, and Right Hand of the Devil at level 10 makes it so that there's a chance equal to the Made Man's Reputation percent with his Family that members of other gangs (including raiders and slavers) will either run away or grovel rather than fight.

Trade Master: A class designed for someone who really, really loves the Barter skill added to Exodus. The Master Trader isn't entirely poo poo in a fight, though, believe it or not. While the class has a poor Fortitude and Reflex save progression, it has an average Defense and Base Attack Bonus progression and d8 hit dice to toughen it up, as well as a good Will save progression for combat and non-combat issues. Alas, it's also a class that gets one-time bonuses. The first feature you'll encounter by entering the class is Trade Assets, which is straight up 500 coins for free. This class feature is also used twice more, granting 1,000 coins at level 5 and 2,500 coins at level 9. The other most prevalent class feature is Deal Maker. This grants the Trade Master an extra bonus to prices when buying or selling on top of the results from a successful Barter check, which starts out at 5% at class level 2 and increases by a further 5% every even numbered level of the class.

There are also two abilities the Trade Master has that put pressure on others. Proper Motivation, gained at level 5 of the class, allows the Master Trader to take a full round action to convince some dumb NPCs (rather than a specific number and level limit, the total people that can be convinced by this ability are measured in HD up to the Trade Master's Charisma modifier plus ten) that they'll be richly rewarded for going and shooting up some other person. They get a +1 to attack rolls for a number of rounds equal to the Trade Master's levels in this advanced class, so it's really a minor boon that ends up being a pain later when you end up having to pay up. More powerful, and somewhat sinister, is the capstone class feature Everyone Has a Price. The Trade Master can make a Barter check modified by their class level opposed to an NPC's Sense Motive check modified by said NPC's class level, and if successful the target must buy something from the Master Trader. It doesn't even matter if they don't have enough money, so using this ability could allow a Trade Master character to fleece their way across the Wasteland and buy whatever their party desires.

In between all of those abilities, you've finally got a handful of less bombastic class features. You've got Snake Oil Salesmen at level 2 giving a +2 to Bluff checks made to pass off defective items as properly working ones, Caravan Navigation at level 3 reduces overland travel times by 25%, Superior Barterer grants a +2 to Barter and Bluff checks at level 4 that increases to +4 at level 8, Assistant at level 7 grants a cohort that must have a class level layout of Defensive/Master Trader and have the Merchant occupation, and Deal Shark at level 9 stacks the Trade Master's ranks in Intimidate and Barter for the purpose of making Barter checks.

Mutant Berserker: A simple class for a simple character. This five level Trans-Genetic Mutant only advanced class is designed purely around tanking damage and then dishing damage out, nothing more and nothing less. Full Base Attack Bonus progression, good Fortitude save progression, and d12 hit dice offset by poor Will, Fortitude, and Defense progression reflects the class's nature as a big slab of meat who's too stuffed full of HP to care about how often enemy hits connect.

At levels 1, 3, and 5, the Mutant Berserker progresses in two different class features. One improves the Trans-Genetic Mutant's innate damage reduction by +1 each time, while the other is a self-buffing ability known as Adrenaline Rush. Adrenaline Rush is sort of like a D&D Barbarian's rage, except that instead of starting as a +4 buff to Strength and Constitution and a +2 to Will saves, it's a +2 buff across all three physical ability scores. This is boosted to +4 at level 3, and again to +6 at level 5. The other two class features the Mutant Berserker gets both boost Adrenaline Rush. Destructive Rage at level 2 lets the Berserker ignore 5 points of damage reduction or 10 points of an object's hardness with melee rolls during the adrenaline rush, while Berserk Frenzy at level 4 doubles all melee damage made during the adrenaline rush. It's kind of refreshing to take a breather with a class that isn't complicated or long-winded to discuss at all.

Mutant Commando: For those in the audience that aren't all that familiar with Fallout, there is a variation of Super Mutant called the Nightkin that were effectively the elite troops of the Super Mutant Army: just as big and strong as their brethren, but also smart, stealthy, and trained in advanced combat techniques rather than “hit stuff until it looks dead enough”. The Mutant Commando is effectively the Exodus way of handling Nightkin. It's a Trans-Genetic Mutant only class that requires an individual who intentionally statted themselves up to bypass their natural penalties, as Intelligence 12 or higher is needed to enter on top of a +5 Base Attack Bonus. It's an above par advanced class from a progression standpoint, with full Base Attack Bonus progression, good Fortitude save progression, average Reflex save progression, poor Will save and Defense bonus progression, and d10 hit dice.

Are its class features quality stuff as well? Definitely. While the level 1 ability Improved Stealth just provides a +4 to Hide and Move Silently checks (doubled to +8 in dimly lit areas) and bonus feats selected from a list focused around melee combat and stealth at levels 3, 5, 7, and 9, at level 2 you get Sneak Attack +1d6 that increases a further 1d6 at levels 6 and 10. Sneak attack on a character that's got full BAB progression and stealth bonuses? Scary stuff, there. Oh, but it gets better. Leave no Enemy Alive at level 4 lets the Mutant Commando get a coup de grace on a foe they knock unconscious as a free action rather than a full round action, and at level 8 this ability is boosted even further by letting the Mutant Commando ignore the attack of opportunity condition that performing a coup de grace normally invokes. Could it get even better than that? Well, hold onto your seats, because Death Strike at level 10...acts as Improved Critical for all attacks. Kind of a lackluster finish after the murderkill abilities.

Prizefighter: A five level class focused on mixing unarmed combat with charismatic actions, the Prizefighter has d10 hit dice, a full Base Attack Bonus progression, average Fortitude, Reflex, and Defense progression, and poor Will save progression that actually does have prerequisites that allow you to take it at character level 4. By contrast, with the Urban Arcana advanced class Street Warrior (which is reprinted in this book, I'll remind you), you have the same full BAB progression and average Defense progression over a whole ten levels rather than five, good Fortitude save progression at the cost of Reflex being knocked down to poor, and you get 5 plus your Intelligence modifier worth of skill points each level as opposed to the jaw-droppingly low 2 + Int the Prizefighter gets. Maybe I’m being too harsh, though. Maybe this class has some amazing abilities packed into this five levels that make up for it being otherwise unimpressively squashed down.

We've got free Knockout Punch as a bonus feat at level 1, Improved Knockout Punch bonus feat at level 2, and Whirlwind Attack bonus feat at level 3, as well as an extra talent from the Hand to Hand talent tree at level 2 and 5. Good, good, things that you could have more variety with If you just stayed with a base class are clearly a good sign for an advanced class. Oh, and at level 4 there's a class feature called Work the Crowd that literally does nothing. You make an Intimidate check to get the crowd to jeer your opponent, and...something. It doesn't say, just that it gives the Prizefighter an advantage.

Not all is lost, at least, as there are a few serviceable pieces in this otherwise shambling wreck of a class. At level 1 Taunt, which lets you gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls for the duration of a fight against an opponent that fails a Will save, and that bonus improves to +4 at level 3. You've also got Contender at level 4 that lets you gain money for engaging in an overseen fighting circuit bout (100 coins per class level of the opponent for winning, 25 per level for losing), and Finishing Blow at level 5 lets the Prizefighter make a Spot check to automatically score a critical hit on a foe that is down to their last quarter of HP.

Rigger: This class is fairly clearly intended to be a replacement for the Techie, which makes sense. The Techie was always a really weird class choice in d20 Modern Core Rulebook, as it has class features that focus on creating robots while the more modernistic Engineer advanced class was put in d20 Future. This isn't “let's discuss Wizards of the Coast's odd decisions”, though, so on to the Rigger. Good Reflex progression, average Base Attack Bonus and Defense progression, poor Fortitude and Will save progressions, and d8 hit dice are the framework we've got here. Surprisingly, while this is clearly meant to be a skill monkey class, it only gets 5 + Int skill points a level, when d20 Modern tends to grant such classes 7 + Int. I can only assume between this and the myriad of 2 + Int classes such as the Mutant Berserker, Mutant Commando, and Prizefighter that someone working on Exodus just hated high ranks in skills.

Starting off, a level 1 Rigger gets two class features: Improvised Tools lets the Rigger ignore the penalty to Repair checks made without a tool kit, while Jury-Rig lets the Rigger use the jury-rigging use of the Repair skill without penalty. The latter actually gets boosted to a +2 bonus rather than a penalty at level 3, and again to +4 at level 6 and +6 at level 9. Also on the more minor side, there's Builder as a free bonus feat at level 2, Advanced Rigging at level 6 allows for taking 10 on a Repair check even when threatened or distracted, and Super Rigger at level 10 does the same thing for taking 20.

The meatiest parts of the Rigger, though, are the class features meant to to allow for manipulation of technology. The first of these that shows up is Rig Firearm at level 2. With this class feature, the Rigger can jimmy up a temporary fix for a broken personal firearm with a DC 15 Repair check, allowing it to work as it normally would for a number of rounds equal to one plus every point over the DC the Rigger succeeded the check. This feature gets expanded to allow the rigging of heavy weapons for DC 20 at level 5 and then energy weapons for DC 30 at level 9. Rig Vehicle at level 4 takes the same principle and applies it to vehicles, the DC being 25 and the running time being upped from minutes to hours. There's also Persuade Malfunctioning Device at level 7 that is DC 30 for the same thing on generic mechanical or electronic equipment (and is again measured in hours), and at level 8 Rig Technological Device lets the Rigger make a DC 35 Repair check to hack a computer or bypass security devices.

Slayer: It's hard to imagine that a class entirely dedicated to killing things better is one of the worst ones in this book, but here we are. You'd need to take at least eight levels of a full Base Attack Bonus class to get to this five level entry here. You've got d12 hit dice, full Base Attack bonus progression, good Reflex save progression, and poor Will save and Defense bonus progression, but nobody really goes into low level count classes for those numbers, they're here for the class features. And here they're pretty lackluster for something you'd be building a character over eight levels for. Better Critical as a bonus feat for one melee weapon at level 1 and level 3, More Critical as a bonus feat for one melee weapon at level 3 and level 5, and Living Anatomy as a bonus feat at level 2 are the main features of the class. The only class features that aren't "here, we'll pick a bonus feat for you" are Bypass Armor at level 3, which ignores five points of PDR, and Death Stalks the Land at level 5, which makes you spend three full round actions watching a flat-footed, flanked, or helpless character in order to make a save-or-die melee attack.

Sniper: Basically the Slayer, but for firearms. I wish I wasn't joking. Rather than having Bypass Armor, you've got Bypass Cover, which ignores characters in one-half or less cover, and One Shot, One Kill is a replacement for Death Stalks the Land that can hit any unaware target not immune to critical hits but only causes an automatic critical hit rather than a save or die attack.

Steel Disciple Initiate: The Steel Disciples are the only organization that get any advanced class in the Survivor's Guide rather than the Southwest Wasteland Guide, presumably because they are the not-Brotherhood of Steel and everybody loves the Brotherhood of Steel. They're all five levels long, mainly because the Steel Disciple Initiate is meant to be the “first half” of the other classes to the point that both require all five levels in Steel Disciple Initiate to enter. This means that all Steel Disciples members start their careers with this five level class that has a full Base Attack Bonus progression, poor Reflex save progression, average Will and Fortitude save progression, average Defense bonus progression, and d10 hit dice.

Hopefully you like items and bonus feats, because that's what comes with the class features. Basic Training at level 1 grants Weapon Focus with one weapon the Initiate is proficient with, Initiate at level 2 grants a free personal firearm or archaic melee weapon that is Infrequent or lower scarcity, Senior Initiate at level 3 grants the choice of Brawl, Defensive Martial Arts, Dodge, Power Attack, Weapon Finesse, or Weapon Focus as a bonus feat, Advanced Training at level 4 grants one Exotic Firearm Proficiency as a bonus feat, and Initiation to BoS (hmm, looks like something got missed in the editing of the book here) at level 5 means the Initiate can enter the Steel Disciples Knight or Steel Disciples Scribe advanced class and gets a free suit of combat armor. :tootzzz:

Steel Disciple Knight: Second only to the Cavaliers and Paladins (which aren't covered until the Southwest Wasteland Guide), the Knights of the Steel Disciples are some of the most respected warriors of the Steel Disciples. The framework is a five level class that has full Base Attack Bonus progression, average Fortitude and Reflex save progression, poor Will save and Defense bonus progression, and d10 hit dice. Surprising that the Knight has worse overall progression than the Initiate when it's meant to be a direct improved version of that class that can, indeed, only be entered through said class.

Features-wise, the first one on the table is Favored Enemy at level 1, 3, and 5. This mostly works the same as it does in the Desert Ranger – or, indeed, the D&D Ranger – with the exception that there is a limitation on the favored enemies. Steel Disciple Knights can still take ghuls, Trans-Genetic Mutants, or a particularly organization as a favored enemy, but don't get access to any of the wildlife options for whatever reason. Awareness and Exotic Firearms Proficiency (Energy Weapons) as bonus feats follow at level 2, and a free suit of power armor is granted at level 3. Beyond that, Tactical Master at level 4 grants a +1 cover bonus to existing cover bonuses when taking cover, and Bolster Troops at level 5 grants a +1 bonus to saves against fear for all Steel Disciples within a 60 foot radius. Again, :tootzzz:

Steel Disciple Scribe: Meet the class that has the distinction of being the only one in Exodus that has d6 hit dice for its level-based HD. Its other framework is poor Base Attack Bonus and Fortitude save progression, and average progression for everything else. And what of class features? At level 1, Research halves the time made to make Research checks when the Scribe is at the archives of a Steel Disciples bunker, and Skill Mastery allows the Scribe to select a number of skills equal to three plus his Intelligence modifier, and be able to take 10 on those skills even if distracted or threatened. Bonus feats at level 2 and 4 (selected from a handful of feats associated with either information or crafting) are accompanied by Exotic Firearms Proficiency (Energy Weapons) as a non-selectable bonus feat at level 2 and a free suit of power armor at level 4. Finally, you've got Technology Master at level 3 granting a +2 to Craft (Mechanical and Electronic) and Knowledge (Technology) checks, and The Collective at level 5 granting a +10 bonus to all Knowledge and Research checks as long as the Scribe is in the archives of a Steel Disciples bunker.

Tribal Shaman: Oh hey, yet another five level advanced class meant to be taken at earlier levels for questionable gains. Those have been so good to us so far, so clearly this one must be good! The Shaman has good Will save progression, poor everything else, and d8 hit dice, so nothing to really dwell on before heading right into the class features. Like the Steel Disciples Scribe, there are two at level 1 of the class. Meditation allows the Tribal Shaman to take a chem and spend an hour in solitude in order to gain a vision. This doesn't actually do anything at level 1 besides blow some chems that don't convey the normal benefit of after-effects associated with the chem, but gets actual benefits later: Brew Tribal Remedies at level 3 reduces the Craft DC of antidotes, healing powder, and any chem the Tribal Shaman meditates with by 5, Blood of the Ancestors at level 4 grants 2d6 temporary hit points to allies whose total levels are equal to the Tribal Shaman's character level for one hour after meditation, and Visions of the Ancestors at level 5 grants a +1 insight bonus to Defense and Reflex saves for a number of hours equal to five plus the Tribal Shaman's Wisdom modifier.

The other level 1 class feature, Voice of the Ancestors, allows the Tribal Shaman to perform a chant that grants a +1 inspiration bonus to skill checks and saves against fear effects to all allies within hearing range for as long as the chant is kept up, and then three rounds thereafter. Level 2 brings Strength of the Ancestors, an ability that allows the Tribal Shaman to call upon their ancestors a number of times per day equal to their number of levels in this class. By spending a full round action praying to the ancestors in such a manner, the Shaman gets a +2 bonus to Strength, Constitution, and Wisdom for a number of rounds equal to their total class level, which is actually surprisingly good for a five level class in Exodus.

Tribal Warrior: Finishing off, we've got the Tribal Warrior, a ten level advanced class that can be taken after only a single level in a base class and focuses on combat. It's got a framework of good Base Attack Bonus progression, average Fortitude and Reflex save progression, poor Will save and Defense bonus progression, and d10 hit dice. It also manages to start right out of the gate with a pretty useful starting class feature, Desert Survival. This ability means the Tribal Warrior only has to make saves for searing heat every thirty minutes (rather than every ten minutes) and even then only do so after an hour's grace period, go without water for three days rather than one, and go without food for five days rather than three. While it wouldn't be that big of a deal in an average game, in one where you are expected to keep track of survival conditions – which, of course, Exodus does – it's a nice boon.

On top of being able to select a variety of survival, combat, and movement-related bonus feats at the normal-for-advanced-class bonus feat levels of 3, 6, and 9, the Tribal Warrior also gets three other bonus feats as class features. While Better Critical and More Critical are bonus feats at level 4 and 8, Tribal Weapon Master at level 3 is a bit of a unique one. It effectively grants the Tribal Warrior the Weapon Focus feat eight times at once, but for specific weapons: namely, the club, knife, javelin, pipe, rock, shortbow, spear, and unarmed strikes. The two remaining class features are also not poo poo, so we're actually ending on a good note. Ancestral Fury is straight up D&D Barbarian-style rage that can be used once per day at level 5 and twice per day at level 10, as well as any number of extra times per day by spending a Karma Point, and Wasteland Resistance at level 7 grants a +4 bonus to saves against poison and radiation and immunity to radiation 300 RAD or less.

Next Time
The Exodus trifecta continues with the Southwest Wasteland Guide, the Game Master's Guide to the Survivor's Guide's Player's Handbook. While there will be a few things that fall away from Fallout, such as the Super Mutant equivalent of half-orcs and furry soldiers, it's also the book that covers organizations and locations such as the Families of Las Vegas, the drug-running Khans, the brutal Mutant Army, and of course the Steel Disciples.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Babe Magnet posted:

never stop posting knockoff Vault Boy
Don't worry, he'll be sticking around. I'm fairly sure he's even in the Wasteland Bestiary, albeit at a far smaller rate.

Doresh posted:

Are there any restrictions in terms of family size? I can see that one be a bit weird if their family is the biggest around, while yours basically consists of you and a few buddies.
It doesn't specifically say, but I assume that you have to be part of one of the existing Families that gets listed in the Southwest Wasteland Guide.

Night10194 posted:

Alright, I don't really like the Cyberpapacy for a variety of reasons (many of them being that I've developed a strong dislike of Torg from the reviews) but the Senior Citizen is pretty goddamn great.
Heartily agreed. I've usually seen cyperpunk only associated with the youthful, so I do love the idea of old man cyborgs fighting the good fight against tyranny.


Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Young Freud posted:

It's probably an image pulled from a PDF through Adobe Acrobat. I've had that white outline appear on image elements I yanked out of Eclipse Phase stuff. You don't notice them largely because they're normally transparent or part of a mask inside Acrobat.
I can confirm that this is likely. The PDFs of Exodus have horrible artifacting around any of the not-VaultBoy images.

Speaking of which, I'm still working on the first post for the Exodus Southwest Wasteland Guide, but I've just been repeatledly mulling over wondering whether or not I should tone down going extremely specific on what game mechanics are involved when I go into these projects. Rather than doing my traditional writing like this:

Old School posted:

Cultist, Children of the Apocalypse: As I stated way back when we were starting the Exodus Survivor's Guide, the Cultist background in that book was basically pointless given that it was split into multiple backgrounds in this GM's guide. I wasn't lying, of course, as you can see here. Each of the cults is given a quote from a real world source, which isn't a thing for any other background, occupation, class, or what have you. The Children of the Apocalypse have the opening quote of Mein Kampf as their quote. If you couldn't guess, they're really fond of genocide, which makes it more awkward that they are an explicitly Arab-themed group.

The background grants Archaic Weapons Proficiency, Heavy Weapons PRoficiency, Personal Firearms Proficiency, and Armor Proficiency (light) as extra starting proficiencies, and extra class skills of Bluff, Craft (Structural), Diplomacy, Knowledge (Occult, Street, and Theology/Philosophy), Perform (Oratory), Search, Sense Motive, and Survival. In other words, you get all the tools you need to be a diplomancing survivalist, which is one of the two kinds of character Exodus attempts to encourage the most. This would be a great occupation to take if it wasn't for, you know, the fact that they're a death cult that literally have a Hitler quote to sum them up.

I could try a new, less mechanics-dense form like this:

New School posted:

Cultist, Children of the Apocalypse: As I stated way back when we were starting the Exodus Survivor's Guide, the Cultist background in that book was basically pointless given that it was split into multiple backgrounds in this GM's guide. I wasn't lying, of course, as you can see here. Each of the cults is given a quote from a real world source, which isn't a thing for any other background, occupation, class, or what have you. The Children of the Apocalypse have the opening quote of Mein Kampf as their quote. If you couldn't guess, they're really fond of genocide, which makes it more awkward that they are an explicitly Arab-themed group.

On top of getting proficiency with light armor, personal firearms, heavy weapons, and archaic weapons, taking Children of Apocalypse Cultist as a background grants a load of bonus class skills that let you put heavy focus on social interaction, religious knowledge, and wilderness survival. In other words, you get all the tools you need to be a diplomancing survivalist, which is one of the two kinds of character Exodus attempts to encourage the most. This would be a great occupation to take if it wasn't for, you know, the fact that they're a death cult that literally have a Hitler quote to sum them up.

Any thoughts?

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 21:59 on Mar 2, 2015

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