Archive for January, 2012

Finding a Path to the Dinner Table

January 22, 2012

Last weekend I got the latest issue of Knights of the Dinner Table in my mailbox. If you’re reading this blog, then KoDT should need no introduction. I’ll say only that it’s the longest-running comic about a group of gamers, and quite frankly it’s hysterical. If you’re not reading it, you’re doing yourself a disservice (and you should check out the free web strips to see what you’re missing).

Part of what makes Knights of the Dinner Table so hilarious are the personalities of the characters. Rarely are real people so over-the-top as Dave, Brian, Sara, and Bob. Another aspect of the amusement comes from the game they play, HackMaster (a pastiche of D&D that’s now an actual RPG). Over the years we’ve seen the Knights’ characters perform a variety of unorthodox strategies that would likely never come up in a Pathfinder game. These are areas where the rules are silent, simply because the actions they take are so outrageous; for that reason alone, you’re not likely to see these happening at your game table.

So of course, we need to change that.

Presented here are Pathfinder rules for three of the outlandish strategies that have seen use in the pages of Knights of the Dinner table. None of these are presented as feats, class abilities, or other “purchasable” abilities, simply because the game already has enough of those, and because there’s no good way to practically reflect the in-game nature of having these be purchasable abilities (e.g. only select people with specific training can do them).

Taking a Chaser

A character is able to swallow a Fine-sized object, keeping it hidden within his body until it passes through his digestive system, at which point he may retrieve it. This is usually done to keep hidden something that would otherwise be found on a rigorous search.

The inventor of this hallowed technique.

A character may have a number of Fine-sized items hidden in this manner equal to his Constitution bonus at any one time (characters with a Constitution bonus of +0 or less have too weak a system to abuse like this). Characters that swallow items in excess of this amount are nauseated for 3d10 minutes before vomiting the excess item(s) back up.

Swallowed items cannot be located with a Perception check, and remain in the character’s body for 1d20+10 hours before they can be retrieved. Handling an item after retrieving it requires a DC 30 Fortitude save to avoid contracting filth fever; thoroughly washing the item for 1 minute reduces this to a DC 10 save, while thoroughly washing it for 10 minutes removes this danger altogether.

Swallowing something under these rules essentially removes the item from play for a time; it’s impossible to find, and not even the PC can access it until enough time has passed. That is the balancing factor here; enemies can’t get to such an item while it’s swallowed, but neither can the PC.

Since the rules generally disallow things to be put into or removed from a character’s body – otherwise it’d be too easy to teleport someone’s heart out – the only way to actively retrieve an item swallowed like this is to kill them and then cut them open.

Spell Tattoos

There’s no reason that a wizard’s spellbook must be a “book” per se. Any surface which can be written upon can record a wizard’s spells, including flesh. Thus, a wizard’s friends and allies may have spells written on their bodies as backup should anything happen to their spellbook.

A Medium-size character’s body may have up to thirty pages’ worth of writing tattooed on it, while a Small-size character’s body may have up to half this much. The cost of tattooing spells onto a character in this manner cost the same as inscribing them into a spellbook, and take the same amount of time. These tattoos act exactly as a character’s spellbook in all regards, save below.

Slashing or piercing damage, as well as fire, lighting, or acid damage, has a chance of disfiguring a tattoo, ruining its use in preparing spells. If the attack roll for such an attack succeeds, or if a saving throw against such an attack fails, the character must make a Fortitude save (DC equals the damage dealt) or have one randomly-determined page obscured by the damage.  Note that magical healing repairs this damage, restoring the tattoo to its pristine state.

An erase spell used against a character with spell tattoos has a 90% chance of successfully targeting them (a touch attack may be made instead, as per the normal rules of using a touch attack spell, to ignore this percentage chance). On a success, the affected character may make a Fortitude save (DC calculated normally for a spell) to resist having their tattoos affected. Otherwise, two pages of magical text, chosen by the caster, are erased. Magical healing does not restore tattoos lost in this manner; they must be re-scribed.

Characters with spell tattoos may hide them with a Disguise check. However, they take a penalty to this check equal to the number of pages they have beyond half (round down) the maximum number their body can have. For example, a Medium-size creature with nineteen pages of spell writing tattooed on his body would take a -4 penalty to Disguise checks to hide them (since half of the maximum number they can have is fifteen pages’ worth), while a Small-size character with ten pages of tattoos would take a -3 penalty (since half, rounded down, of the maximum number they can have is seven).

There was a feat in 3.5, from one of the later issues of Dragon as I recall, that let a wizard tattoo spells on his own body, but I’ve never seen anything to let a character tattoo spells on another.

Mechanically, there’s no particular reason not to allow this, as it costs the same as it would for scribing a spellbook normally. Likewise, the trade-off for having a “spellbook” with such little room for writing is that characters are actively trying to defend themselves, and so are more durable (and less likely to be stolen).

The damage rules regarding spell tattoos do place the “spellbook” in greater danger than a normal spellbook would usually be – and worse, the extra Fortitude saves can slow down game-play – but the rules regarding magical healing fixing ruined tattoos generally allow these problems to be ignored; it’s not necessary to make a character roll Fortitude saves every time they take damage if the cleric is just going to heal them after the battle.

Finally, a wizard may tattoo spells on himself the same way he would any other character. Likewise, it should be noted that these rules work for all characters that use spellbooks, such as a magus.


Similar to taking a chaser, keistering is allowing a character to store a single Fine-size item “back there.” Storing an item in this manner requires a full-round action that provokes an attack of opportunity, while removing it is a standard action that also provokes an attack of opportunity.

Handling an item after retrieving it requires a DC 30 Fortitude save to avoid contracting filth fever; thoroughly washing the item for 1 minute reduces this to a DC 10 save, while thoroughly washing it for 10 minutes removes this danger altogether.

Keeping an item keistered grants a +20 bonus to Sleight of Hand checks made to hide an item on your body (characters without any ranks in Sleight of Hand are presumed to have made a check result of 20 plus their Dexterity modifier). A searcher that conducts a body-cavity search negates this bonus when making his Perception roll.

On the surface, keistering an item is similar to taking a chaser. The big difference is that you can retrieve the item when you need it, rather than having to wait for it. This is balanced by the fact that you can only keep one such item keistered at a time (taking multiple items as chasers spreads them out through your digestive system, while a keistered item is held right at the end of it).

While Pathfinder doesn’t recognize any mechanical difference between men and women, a GM may allow a female character to keep two items keistered at once, since, as someone else once said, “women have more hiding places than men.” In this case, the second item is treated the same as the first for all of these rules, save that the Fortitude saves against disease are reduced by to DC 20 when initially retrieved, and DC 5 after 1 minute of washing.

More rules inspired by the antics of the Knights will be posted in the future; until then, if you’ve got a request for a particular bit of KoDT craziness that you want to see Pathfinder rules for, let me know in the comments section.

We're not doing this one, though.

Until next time, dear readers, may you never need to flip your game table!