Ysoki Heritage Feats

If this is the first bit on Ysoki you’re reading at the blog, check out the previous posts:

One thing I want to define is the role of the Ysoki in my sequel campaign (sequel campaign? check out the Monday Musings series), and so far I’ve decided that I want them to be good at ritual magic, and also to provide food for North Harbour. I also want them to have an unsettling presence, and to be good at sneaking things. At this point, I’m just going to write the first level Ancestry feats – I’m not sure if the sequel campaign will run beyond the first few levels at this point.

Ysoki Chanter (Ysoki) Level 1
Ysoki Chanters can use Arcane, Nature, Occult, or Religion in place of the primary skill when they are casting rituals. Rituals cast by Ysoki Chanters take one hour less to complete for each additional Ysoki Chanter participating in the ritual; ritual casting still takes a minimum of one hour.

Regurgitation (Ysoki) Level 1
As a reaction you may expel one item from your cheek pouches into your hand.

Unsettling Aura (Ysoki) Level 1
Once per day you may cast Daze.

These ones meet my initial needs to define the role of the Ysoki during my sequel campaign, but typically there is a racial weapon feat, and for the Ysoki I’d also add a couple of options to improve their alchemy and crafting abilities.

We just started playing the Lovecraftian adventure path, so next week I’ll probably look at the sanity/madness rules and how they might be updated to Pathfinder Second Edition.

Monday Musings: Complications & Campaigns

Last week, I wrote about exposition; this week, it’s time for complications! In a narrative, the complication is the part which introduces the conflict. It’s Gandalf asking about the Ring at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, Captain America receiving the super-soldier serum just in time to capture the enemy agents sent to steal it, or Lovecraft’s nameless narrator discovering a collection of notes or a musty tome left behind by your grand-uncle. The complication marks the real beginning of the plot. And, as I pointed out last week, the shorter an expository phase can be, the sooner the conflict can begin. Exposition is necessary to understand the conflict, but not necessarily interesting.

When I’m planning to run my Pathfinder Second Edition sessions, I generally try to locate the complication as close to the start of the session as possible; in the first session of my previous campaign, I began with a quick description of the setting (a forest filled with mist on the outskirts of a village), their reason for being present and together (members of the Crimson Coast Trading Company), and then had them roll initiative because they were being attacked by orcs who had just raided the aforementioned village.

For this sequel campaign, I’m trying to reduce the reliance on combat as the signal that a plot development is taking place. The campaign’s villain, the Witch-King of Kærth, is under arrest and in North Harbour. I imagine a kind of house-arrest, in which the Witch-King is permitted to occasionally leave their quarters and is occasionally summoned to advise the city council, with a compliment of North Harbour city guards as the status quo into which conflict must be introduced.

Part of that conflict might be expressed in a kind of struggle among the Ysoki, who keep North Harbour supplied with food and act as a kind of underclass. Perhaps the Witch-King is able to gain allies among the Ysoki, who begin performing favors for him: a little extra food, distributing items and reagents, that kind of thing.

The central plot of the campaign should arise from the complication, and lead directly into the crisis – which I’ll discuss next week.

Favourite Thing: Pathfinder Wiki

This week, my favourite thing is the Pathfinder Wiki. When I’m playing or running a game set in Golarion, this is an indispensable resource. Want to know which deities are which alignment, what a city is like, or key information about metaphysics? Pathfinder Wiki. Check it out.

When I started running games back in 2001, I bought a copy of The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting for D&D 3e. It laid out, kind of like an encyclopedia, its titular campaign setting; however, if I wanted to know about connections between places, people, and the overall meta plot, I basically had to know the book from front to back. Wikis are the best thing because of the interconnected nature of how they present information.

Adventure writing is easier and faster because the research is easier and faster. Coming up with character backgrounds is also a snap, because I can pluck out a thing that’s interesting and write it into my background.

Next week I’m going to have some links to online rules sources.

Ysoki Part 2: Heritages

Ysoki can select any of the goblin heritages. Blog post complete!

Just kidding, although that’s a good start; I imagine the Ysoki in a fantasy setting being industrious and adaptable to a variety of environments. In my sequel campaign (see Monday Musings) the Ysoki could be primarily aligned with Kærth, but that would almost automatically force them into a outsider role.

So, then, the question I might ask is what role do I want the Ysoki to play in North Harbour? And how does North Harbour sustain itself?

Ysoki could have an ability that lets them scrounge and scavenge to fuel ritual magic, and that would let them turn cave fungus, wandering murder hobos, and very small rocks into delicious food.

What if the Ysoki are the reason the city has sustainable food supplied? How would they do that? One way would to be allow them to create food magically somehow. The spell Create Food is second level, though, so it would be fairly unbalancing to allow these rat-folk to just cast it. Similarity, the magical mansion spells are great at feeding a lot of people, except they range from seventh to ninth level. Summoning spells are explicitly not an option according to the rules as written (the creatures cease to exist at the end of the spell) to supply food. Ritual magic is a nice solution: Ysoki NPC’s can ensure a daily supply of food while also quietly directing the affairs of North Harbour.

So, here it is: Ysoki Heritages

Scrounger: Ysoki Scroungers are Trained in Crafting, and may break an unwielded item in one action.

Carrier: Ysoki Carriers may store up to one bulk of items in their cheek pouches. It takes a single action to store or retrieve a stored item from a cheek pouch.

Caster: Ysoki Casters are trained in Arcana, Religion, Nature, or Occult, and gain a +2 bonus on checks to complete ritual magic.

Skulker: Ysoki Skulkers are trained in stealth and gain a +2 bonus to Stealth checks.

Next week, I’ll come up with some ancestry feats for Ysoki.

Monday Musings: Exposition and Campaign Structure

As I continue thinking about the shape of my next campaign, I know I want a strong central hook. This doesn’t have to be a level 1-20 campaign, and I’m really looking for something that I can finish running in about four weeks. (Why four weeks, you might be thinking? My group has a round robin gm style, and that is about the length of each turn.)

In the first session, I want to introduce the City of North Harbour, the main villain (who is in North Harbour and planning to corrupt the city), the conflict (something to do with the natural capacity for evil), and … a plot. As the expository session, I also want things to start as close to the action as possible, not a situation of “shoulder we save the king,” but “you’re fighting back to back through the halls of the castle on your way to save the king.”

Some ways to use exposition include: setting or campaign primers, having a big NPC (non-player character) information dump, creating a short power point presentation, or reading some pre-written text. In a novel or short story, this can be written into a narrative at the beginning or something that works throughout the text. In an RPG campaign, player attention span matters a little more and ideally even the exposition should be more interactive.

The question is also WHAT to highlight. There are a couple of things I definitely want to hit on: the Moonfall, the capture of the rival city’s witch-king, the factions in North Harbour, and some nod towards an external threat.

Looking at The Three Musketeers, the protagonist witnesses his father killed in a duel with one of the main servants of his antagonist, grows up, travels to Paris, challenges each of the Musketeers to a duel, sides with them against the Cardinal, and is enmeshed in the larger geopolitics within a few efficient chapters. He doesn’t necessarily know everything, but because he is an outsider, can explain it to the audience as it happens.

Similarity, Hamlet opens with a scene that describes everything going on in and outside of Denmark, so that when we meet all of the characters in the next scene we have some idea of what’s going on.

So, my challenge is to think of a way to inform my players while not dumbing things down for their characters, and also getting the plot moving as quickly as possible. Next week, I’m thinking that I’ll discuss complications. Happy gaming!

Favourite Thing Friday

This week, my Favourite Thing is Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, a weekly podcast produced by Kenneth Hite and Robin D Laws. These veteran game designers group their discussions into a number of “huts” including the Gaming Hut, Trade-Craft Hut, Elliptany Hut. Topics discussed revolve around game design, game mastering, how to write well, what occult forces might be at work in apparently mundane events, and other gaming tropes. The segments are generally well presented and well researched, and deal with a variety of game genres including “F20 Games,” specific projects Ken or Robin are writing (mostly, but not exclusively Gumshoe Engine games), and a whole lot of Cthulhu Mythos, historical, occult, and espionage related goodness.

Ken and Robin’s banter is good, and this is one of my weekly favourites. I highly recommend this podcast to game masters, aspiring designers, and anyone who enjoys alternate history, horror, or weird science.

Ysoki in Pathfinder Second Edition

I had the chance to play a one-shot of Starfinder recently, and created a Ysoki technomage I’d really like to play again; however, we’ll be playing Pathfinder Second Edition for the foreseeable future, so here’s my conversion. The text below is open game content.

Ysoki Mechanics

Hitpoints: 6

Size: Small

Speed: 25 feet

Ability Boosts: Dexterity, Intelligence, Free

Ability Flaws: Strength

Languages: Common, Goblin. Additional languages equal to your Intelligence modifier (if it’s Positive). Choose from Draconic, Dwarven, Gnoll, Gnomish, Halfling, Orcish, and any other languages to which you have access (such as the languages prevalent in your region).

Traits Ysoki, Humanoid

Darkvision: You can see in darkness and dim light just as well as you can see in bright light, though your vision in darkness is in black and white.

Check back next week for Ysoki heritages and ysoki heritage feats.

Monday Musings: Sequel Campaigns Part 2

After writing some background material, I’ve decided not to start writing up backgrounds just yet. Instead, I’m really trying to get a sense of the whys and whats of the upcoming campaign. Here is where the classic five stage plot model can come in handy.

For reference, here are how I adapt the five stages for gaming.

  1. Exposition: in which the heroes are introduced to the setting, and receive the necessary information to understand the conflict. This often takes the form of a setting primer or campaign player’s guide. In my case, I’m divorcing my campaign from the published setting I used for the first game, and locating it in something of my own design instead. This is mostly accomplished through a cataclysmic event known as the Moonfall. (Quick version: the moon got smashed by an ascended player character and parts of it fell to the earth below while the tarrasque went on an extended rampage.)
  2. The Complication: in which the heroes are introduced to the conflict which will drive the plot of the campaign or session. I’ve already ruled out the Yellow King as a primary villain for this campaign, and know I want the focus to be more on the natural rather than supernatural evil, so I’ve created a main location with an external enemy. Drawing on Hamlet, I further suggest that since there is an apparent external threat, that a certain level of paranoia is present in the ruling class of the main city. Once I’ve settled a few more details, I can then break down the major phases of the plot into their own cycles for further development.
  3. The Crisis: at this point the heroes should know everything they need to know, but the villains are also initiating the final steps in their plans for whatever villainy they have opted to do. This event, whatever it is, will lead into the climax.
  4. The Climax: in which the conflict is brought to its final resolution. It’s boss fight time, or treaty signing time, or performing the ritual that ends the complication time, or some other high point of conflict in which the tension is all resolved.
  5. The Resolution: in which a new status quo is established. In my last campaign, I gave each character an appropriate send-off about their further adventures. In a session, the resolution might take the form of a temporary reprieve or incomplete victory. On the final season of Game of Thrones, mild spoiler warning, there were effectively two resolutions: the first, following the victory against the Night King in the North, and the second, with the election of a new king in Westeros.

This model is something I use to outline every session I run, and have found that it helps to strengthen the sense of continuity, drama, and enhance the plot. I’m thinking next week might be a step towards completing the exposition phase, with a short campaign primer, but am not going to make any promises.

Favourite Thing Friday

This week, the favourite thing I’d like to share is Know Direction, the Pathfinder News Reviews and Interviews podcast. A couple of big highlights: interviews with Paizo staff, great hosts, and interesting topics. In the last year they’ve been pretty focused on covering the Pathfinder play test and the launch of Pathfinder Second Edition. You can find their site at Knowdirectionpodcast.com and if you podcast at all I recommend checking them out.

One of the things I appreciate most about these guys are their seminars recorded from Gencon and Paizo Con. Covering topics as diverse as how to write for Paizo, creating a new planet, using the beginner box, or how best to add ambiance to your games, there’s something for everyone.

In the last year or so they’ve started a couple actual plays and added a Starfinder podcast. If you’re a Paizo fan there’s no reason not to at least try this one out. Their discussions are also of use to general gamers, as they are not constantly focused on Pathfinder mechanics.

Check back Monday for the next instalment in Sequel Campaigns, and have a great weekend!

The Half-Dwarf

Pathfinder Second Edition contains rules for half elves, half-orcs, and even mentions the possibility of other halves, noting:

By default, half-elves and half-orcs descend from humans, but your GM might allow you to be the offspring of an elf, orc, or different ancestry. In these cases, the GM will let you select the half-elf or half-orc heritage as the heritage for this other ancestry. The most likely other parent of a half-elf are gnomes and halflings, and the most likely parents of a half-orc are goblins, halflings, and dwarves. (This italicized text is open content.)

This lets a player create – with GM permission – a half-anything as long as one of the halves is either woven or orcish. But what if I want to play a half-dwarf? Or a half-halfling? Or a half-gnome? With a half that isn’t elf or orc?

The easy solution to this is to take the approach done with the other half-races and give the option of additional heritages which allow a character access to ancestry feats from both heritages.

I’d not that based in previews I’ve heard listening to Know Direction, that assimar will act something like this, essentially bolting on to the base ancestry allowing anyone to be planetouched.

Building a half-breed character, then, comes down to these steps:

1) selecting the base ancestry, and applying ability boosts, flaws, speed, hit points, etc as though you were a member of that ancestry

2) adding half-x as the heritage instead of one of the existing options, where x is one of the heritages of the other ancestry of your choice (this should definitely be done in consultation with your GM, as some options might be off the table)

With all this in mind, I’d like you to meet my dwarf/halfling hybrid Jaffa. Jaffa is searching for the perfect Halfling War Muffin, and won’t rest until they have tasted it.

Jaffa (The rest of this statblock is open content.)

Dwarf alchemist 1 CG, Medium, Dwarf/Halfling, Humanoid Perception +5; darkvision

Languages Common, Dwarven, Halfling, Sylvan

Skills Acrobatics +3, Arcana +7, Crafting +7 (+9 when Identify Alchemy action on an alchemical item you have the forumla for.), Medicine +5, Nature +5, Occultism +7, Performance +2, Stealth +3, Thievery +3, North Harbour Lore +7

Str 12 (+1), Dex 12 (+1), Con 14 (+2), Int 18 (+4), Wis 14 (+2), Cha 8 (-1)

Other Items studded leather, studded leather, club, club, dagger, sling (20 sling bullets), alchemist’s tools, backpack, bandolier, basic crafter’s book, bedroll, belt pouch, belt pouch, caltropss (2), chalks (10), flint and steel, formula book, formula book, lock, simple, manacles, poor, rations (1 week)s (2), rope (foot)s (50), sheath, soap, torchs (5), waterskin, purse (1 sp) —

AC 15; Fort +7; Ref +5; Will +5 HP 20

Speed 20 feet

Melee [1] club +4 (thrown 10 ft.), Damage 1d6+1 bludgeoning

Melee [1] club +4 (thrown 10 ft.), Damage 1d6+1 bludgeoning

Melee [1] dagger +4 (agile, finesse, thrown 10 ft., versatile S), Damage 1d4+1 piercing/slashing

Ranged [1] club +3 (thrown 10 ft.), Damage 1d6+1 bludgeoning

Ranged [1] club +3 (thrown 10 ft.), Damage 1d6+1 bludgeoning

Ranged [1] dagger +3 (agile, finesse, thrown 10 ft., versatile S), Damage 1d4+1 piercing/slashing

Ranged [1] sling +3 (propulsive, range increment 50 feet, reload 1), Damage 1d6 bludgeoning

Feats Alchemical Crafting, Alchemical Savant, Pickpocket, Unburdened Iron

Other Abilities advanced alchemy, chirurgeon, hillock halfling, infused reagents, quick alchemy

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