Weapon Wednesday: Hand Viper

Hand Viper

One-handed martial weapon. 2d3 piercing or slashing damage. x3 critical. Disarm. 20 gp. 2 lbs.

So called because of the puncture marks it can create on an opponent, the hand viper is designed as a short and nasty stabbing weapon. Reliable yet vicious, it can be used with the weapon finesse feat as if it were a light weapon.

Notes

I’ve always thought that different damage dice options can really help to differentiate a character and make them interesting. In this case, a more reliable amount of damage contrasts with the higher damage potential of the longsword or similar one-handed weapons, while having an inferior critical threat range to the rapier or scimitar.

-Max Porter Zasada

Tuesday Tweak: Sneak Attack

Sneak Attack: can only be used in melee with light weapons, or weapons that can have the Weapon Finesse feat applied to them (such as a rapier). At range, you cannot sneak attack with bows.

This tweak is very simple, but very key. Let the rogues and ninjas rage! For everyone who’s never had a rogue in the party, there’s nothing preventing them from taking one feat so they can sneak attack with a greatsword. Or a greataxe. Or a spiked chain, for that matter. To all those who might argue that they’d rather spend their feat elsewhere, I ask you: as a character who uses weapons, would you take a feat that increases your damage from a d6 to a d12? Of course you would.

This tweak is meant to preserve not only balance, but a style as well. While you might argue that the rules should be permissive enough to allow a player to do what they wish, certain character elements can come out only through limitation. If anyone can do anything–if fighters could cast spells and rogues can use a greatsword–then your choices are lacking in interest, and you cannot play to or against an iconic style. To preserve the style of the lightly-armed rogue who sneaks in serious damage, I beg you to adopt this tweak.

Enjoy!

-Max Porter Zasada

Magic Item Monday: Traveler’s Boots

Traveler’s Boots

Aura faint transmutation; CL 2nd

Slot feet; Price 1,500 gp

Description
These useful boots allow you to gain the benefits of longstrider as if cast by a 2nd-level caster, as a standard action. The command word functions up to 2 times per day.

Construction
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, longstrider, creator must be at least 2nd levelCost 750 gp

Notes

A useful item for low-level characters who require a speed bonus, or mid-level characters who have spent the rest of their money on their big-ticket magic weapon. I’ve often felt the need for useful, low-level items with an interesting mechanic and which fill of empty body slots. Enjoy the boots!

-Max Porter Zasada

Sunday Spell: Instant Study

Instant Study

School Divination; Level Wiz 1, Bard 1
Casting Time 1 full-round action
Components V, S, M (the book to be studied)
Target 1 book of up to 100 pages/level, or 10 books/level
Duration instantaneous
Saving throw: none  Spell Resistance: yes

You instantly learn and understand the contents of a book that you touch, whose length may be up to 100 pages per caster level. This spell allows you to know the contents of the book as if you had read it carefully once: you cannot gain a photographic memory of each and every page, or name obscure passages with absolute precision. You can use this ability on magic tomes and the like, but you must still wait the minimum amount of time before gaining their benefits.

Alternatively, you can use this spell to determine which books, from a large bookcase or pile of books containing up to 10 books/level, are the ones you will need or be interested in. This can greatly speed up the process of making knowledge checks in a library, reducing the time required by 1 hour per ten books searched via this spell.

Notes
A spell that covers something that drives me crazy! Having to search through a mad wizard’s library, or tediously working through a golem manual–there needed to be a spell to help speed that process up. Enjoy!
-Max Porter Zasada

Feat Friday: Body Blow

Body Blow (combat)
You can crush an opponent’s defenses with a mighty swing.
Prerequisites: Strength 15, Power Attack, Cleave
Benefit: When you make a single attack in a round with a two-handed weapon and that attack is not a critical hit, you can deal half damage and lower the target’s Natural Armor by 4 for 2 rounds. This effect does not stack with itself.

Notes

A feat that makes a mighty warrior into a tactician, setting up opponents for additional attacks. Enjoy!

-Max Porter Zasada

Theme Thursday: Interesting Characters

Today’s theme is about bringing a game alive as a player or GM with the use of characters.

Any dramatic story has roots in the characters that drive it onward. Whatever plot twists and turns you have, and no matter how exciting they seem, a narrative that lacks interesting characters just sits there, failing to pull you along. This is especially true in a Pathfinder or D&D game, because the story is literally character-driven–the players make decisions and play through, and their interactions will determine the course of the game.

As players, you have just one all-encompassing rule for the character you create: he or she must be able to work with others. They must assert themselves with an interesting and unique identity while being able, when it counts, to bend with the will of the group. You can create tough warriors, religious zealots, or magic-crazed wizards, so long as you don’t disrupt the game; make yourself fun, dramatic, or funny, while considering that others need room to do the same. Finally, you should consider the needs of your GM; help them craft the story to include your character, and provide yourself with plot hooks for them to use. Care about the characters in your world, and you will reap great rewards in richness of storytelling.

As a gamemaster, you create a multitude of other characters. You want to make them all interesting and unique, while paying special attention to just a few. Here are the general guidelines: Villains need a sympathetic (or at least understandable) streak, something that makes them worthwhile and not just another monster to kill. Allies of the PCs need to be approachable, or if they have difficulties with helping, these must be surmountable obstacles. Indeed, most NPCs should be able to help the party in some small way, should the players choose to overcome whatever obstacles (unfriendly, PC’s killed their pet, needs help with a monster), you put in the path of that potential aid.

Lastly, the largest yet often neglected category of characters: background NPC’s. Without receiving too much distracting attention, these are the characters that really make a world come alive, as they define what is ‘normal’ and give the players a real sense of fantasy. The grubby baker’s boy with dreams of adventure, the gentleman knight down on his luck, and the lonely dragon tamer help to define a game to a vastly greater degree than the mad necromancer the PC’s must kill.

The psychological power of fantasy in the everyday is hugely important to a role-playing game, and these characters are enormously worth putting thought into. Indeed, the tavern keeper of the place when”all your characters meet at a tavern” may define the player’s impression of the entire game, always unable to shake it away. A tavern keeper with a glass eye and a toothy grin makes for a game vastly different from a tavern keeper with a tattered, patchwork cloak and a religious amulet. Pay some attention to these characters, and the game will reward you by growing richer without you quite planning it. Most of all, give NPC’s a quirk when first introducing them (both the old DM guide and the Pathfinder Gamemastery guide have excellent NPC quirk tables to inspire you). If the players respond and seem to be in the mood to interact, play it up to the hilt! If you have to make little adjustments to the adventure to include this suddenly-important character, be prepared for that. Always go with what’s working in a game, rather than what you planned.

Go forth and make characters!

-Max Porter Zasada

Weapon Wednesday: Braced Mace Whip

Braced Mace Whip

Light Exotic weapon. 1d3 bludgeoning damage. x2 critical. 2 lbs. 15 gp. Disarm, trip, reach (and adjacent).

Benefit: A braced mace whip deals lethal damage, even to creatures with armor bonuses. Wielding this weapon takes up an arm slot instead of being held in your hand, and you must don it as with a shield. You may wield this weapon even with something else in your hand, although you cannot effectively wield another weapon in that hand at the same time. You must declare at the beginning of your turn whether you are using your weapon in hand or your braced mace whip, and you cannot change that decision until the beginning of your next turn.

Notes

A useful weapon that lets you carry more than the average warrior! Use for a spectacular addition to your array of arms and armor.

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-Max Porter-Zasada