Posts Tagged ‘Third-Party Support’

Third-Party Support: Capers

March 29, 2022

It’s an open secret among fans of D&D 3.X/Pathfinder 1st Edition that the Wealth-By-Level guidelines for PCs are just that: guidelines. Overlooking the Pirates of the Caribbean jokes that brings to mind, I doubt anyone would be too surprised to find that most GMs running campaigns using those systems don’t periodically audit the PCs to make sure their gear adheres to what it’s “supposed” to be for their level.

While that seems obvious, the idea that the WBL tables are carefully calibrated, and that deviating from them can bring a campaign crashing down, is one that still makes the rounds every so often. A particularly prominent example that I recall (for Pathfinder 1E) was that full plate armor was deliberately priced out of what a 1st-level character could afford (1,500 gp), since that would make their Armor Class too high for level-appropriate enemies to hit…which is a little awkward to consider when you realize you can just take the Rich Parents trait, buy half-plate (600 gp) and a tower shield (30 gp), and your AC is not only better than what full plate would give you, but you still have a few hundred gold pieces left over.

Plus that whole section in Ultimate Campaign which flat-out said that spellcasting characters with crafting feats can have +25%, or even +50%, of their WBL guidelines with regard to magic items that they can make.

If it’s okay for some of the most versatile classes in the game to earn bonus gold in exchange for some small character investments, then what about non-spellcasters? Particularly those who are known for having a lot of utility items, are often portrayed as being tricky and clever, and are classically depicted as having an acquisitive slant?

Which brings us to the subject of this post: Fat Goblin Games’ The Rogue’s Guide to Capers.

Originally put out by Tricky Owlbear Publishing, this book is based on two premises: the first is that the rogue class is underpowered compared to its counterparts (which it is); the second is, in the book’s own words, “The rogue class can be saved with gold.”

In only four pages, it sets out to do just that, but outlining what’s essentially a skill challenge (though it never uses that term) whereby rogues, when in a municipality of some sort, can pull off a caper to earn some extra cash.

The way capers are put forward here is simple, but still elegant in what it allows for. The potential gold earned depends on the size of the local settlement, and whether the rogue wants to pull off an easy, medium, or difficult job. They then make skill checks to determine the success of each of the caper’s three stages: planning (though this one can be skipped, which makes the subsequent checks harder), execution, and getaway.

I call this elegant because at no point does the system simply shut things down if a check is failed. A botched getaway check, for instance, doesn’t mean that your character is necessarily captured or killed. Rather, it means that you now have someone chasing you, which has its own rules. For that matter, the skills involved in each stage of the caper vary according to what kind of heist you’re pulling, so if one particular job doesn’t seem likely for you, the GM can simply lay down another. Right away, you can see a choice between “easy job, low payout” and “high risk, high reward” being laid out.

One thing to note here is that, while this is written for Pathfinder 1E, the actual caper rules themselves aren’t part of Pathfinder’s downtime system. That makes it especially easy to convert this over to rules such as D&D 5E; you’ll need to tweak the DCs, and the skills used will be different, but overall this borders on being system-agnostic in what it offers.

Of course, in Pathfinder the rogue can spend the ill-gotten gold their capers earn them on a plethora of magic potions, alchemical items, spell scrolls, and cheap wondrous items that most other characters overlook (feather tokens, anyone?), all the better to give them Batman-levels of magical problem-solving gizmos. If you port this system over to D&D 5E, you’ll need to figure out what they can put all of that money toward; getting rich through larceny is one thing, but not being able to buy anything with it? Now that’s a crime.

Third-Party Support: Multi-Dimensional Strike

May 14, 2021

It’s a sad truth that, even in the realm of digital publishing, things can go out of “print” and be lost to the public. While we tend to think of electronic products as being enduring, it’s all too easy for them to vanish, with no hope of them turning up on secondary markets the way used books do. This is the case for plenty of smaller RPG publishers; while many leave their catalogue up on DriveThruRPG and other storefronts, there are some who quietly take their products down and disappear from the face of the Internet.

One of those companies was Silven Publishing. Formally formed in 2004, they published a handful of supplements, but stopped putting out new products right around the time D&D 4th Edition came out. Exactly when they folded is unclear, but eventually their products were picked up by another publisher called 12 to Midnight. While they still have an active storefront, and an extant webpage, most of their products no longer available, including almost all of the Silven Publishing offerings.

I bring all this up because, even years after reading it, I recall a distinct product that Silven Publishing put out called NPCyclopedia: Psionics.

As the title suggests, this was an NPC book, one containing eleven different characters, each with a full stat block for them at each level from 1 to 20. A GM’s resource, it allowed you to pull out a particular type of character at whatever level you required. Nor was it limited to psions, psychic warriors, or other psionic classes. It had monk characters who multiclassed into the psychic first prestige class. Wizard/psion cerebremancers, and several other interesting combinations. They were quite useful if you wanted something a little unusual without being too outre.

Of course, there was some new crunch in there too. Not much, bit still a few items that weren’t found anywhere else. A psionic feat that let you pay extra power points to keep your psionic focus when enhancing a power with a metapsionic feat, for instance. Or a ring that allowed you to treat your manifester level as being +2 greater, but only for the purpose of calculating how many power points you could spend when manifesting a psionic power. But the one that stuck with me most was the book’s sole new power: multi-dimensional strike.

Fortunately, the declaration of Open Game Content for the book was quite generous, and it includes the entirety of the power. As it stands, the below corrects a typo or two, and fixes some minor formatting issues (e.g. a line break between the last line of statistics and the first line of the description), but is otherwise the full text of the power:

Multi-Dimensional Strike
Psychoportation (Teleportation)
Level: Nomad 5, psychic warrior 5
Manifestation Time: See text
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target: You
Duration: Instantaneous
Power Points: 9

You instantly teleport yourself to several places in succession each time stopping just long enough to strike an enemy. You must be able to see all the location you want to reach, and will always arrive at the desired local. You cannot manifest multi-dimensional strike through a solid object; even a curtain will stop you. If you attempt to manifest this power in a way such that it would take you through a solid object without realizing it, the power fails, but your power points are expended as normal. You cannot bring along more than a medium load carrying capacity, nor can you bring more than 20 pounds of living matter.

Manifesting this power can only be used in conjunction with a full-round attack. You make up to one jump before, between each, and after every attack you make (including attacks granted by multiple weapons, magic effects and the like). While using this power you may effectively flank a target by yourself. You must be able to appear in two squares that would be considered to flank the foe. The first attack made in conjunction with this power is not considered to be flanking, but all successive attacks effectively flank the target, and all the benefits of flanking apply. You only run the risk of provoking an attack or opportunity in the space where you initiate this power. All jumps must be in range from your starting location. Thus a 14th-level psion could not make two jumps of 50 feet each in a straight line, because the second jump would take the psion 100 feet away, out of the powers range. While it does not function exactly as a swift action, it does count towards your limit of one swift action per round.

Personally, I think the idea of a character teleporting rapid-fire around an enemy, delivering lightning-fast attacks is a very cool image! One that’s stuck with me for quite some time, despite this product being over fifteen years old. It’s the sort of thing that makes a psionic combatant feel different from other types of “sword-and-spell” characters, and it definitely deserves to be remembered instead of quietly fading away.

Third-Party Support: Binary Poison Compounds

April 11, 2021

“Third-Party Support” is a series where I take a look at a particular idea, rule, or other notable tidbit from a third-party d20 product (i.e. not from Wizards of the Coast or Paizo) that I think deserves more recognition. While I won’t rule out looking beyond d20-based RPGs, expect those to receive the bulk of the focus.

Knowledge (Current Events) #2

Knowledge (Current Events) was a series of free PDFs released by Ivory Goat Press. Each issue was only a few pages long, referencing topics from recent headlines that it offered d20 conversions for. The topics were eclectic, but delightfully so, as they covered things from unusual diseases to private space shuttles to man-eating leopards, showcasing how they could be used as inspiration for an interesting bit of mechanical crunch. It’s a shame that it seems to have disappeared from the Internet.

One item that I found particularly noteworthy came in issue #2, where it covered the use of a binary compound as part of a terror attack, using it as a basis for the following rules for “Binary Agents”:

The concept of binary weapons began to take shape in the 1980s. Binary weapons refer to the concept of developing nontoxic precursors that can be loaded in munitions. Once deployed, the precursors mix and develop the nerve agent.

As a concept, it is useful even in fantasy settings — the chief benefit being that the binary agents are not themselves toxic, and thus are not detected by spells and effects such as detect poison and neutralize poison. You can also poison someone with a half now, half later strategy.

For any poison listed in the SRD or MSRD, an equivalent poison can be produced in the form of a pair of binary agents. This increases the Craft (poisonmaking or chemical) DC by +5. The poison costs twice as much as usual to purchase or produce.

The usual 5% chance that a character has of exposting himself to the poison whenever he applies it to a weapon is reduced to 1%, as the precursors are safer to handle. However, he still risks poisoning himself on a natural 1 on an attack roll.

This strikes me as being one of those “how did no one else think of it?” ideas. Poisons are an under-powered threat in most d20 games – largely due to them being downgraded so that they tend to work as a mild debuff more than something which can put characters in serious peril – so anything that gives them a boost (ideally without requiring characters to take feats, levels in a prestige class, etc.) is a much-needed boost. Moreover, this particular augmentation is fairly intuitive: most gamers, I’d wager, know what binary poisons are.

The one critique I have with the above, from a rules standpoint, is that it doesn’t mention how long a single compound stays in the body. If you manage to get one of the two poison agents into someone, how much time do you have to slip them the other half before it’s no longer viable? There are probably various factors that go into it, but for ease of play, I’d recommend that a particular compound is broken down and metabolized out after 24 hours.

That final paragraph, about applying binary compounds to weapons, warrants further examination. As the article correctly notes, the major game use of using two-part poisons is that they’re not subject to poison-specific effects until they’re combined, typically in the body of the target. While that’s good for avoiding detection (or neutralizing agents applied ahead of time), it’s hard to see why anyone would do that in combat.

That portion of the rules seems to assume you’re using both compounds on a single weapon, hence the reduced chance of poisoning yourself during the application but the standard chance of doing so in subsequent combat. An alternative idea, if you’re fighting with two weapons (or a double weapon), is to put each agent on a different weapon. In that case, you still have the 5% chance of poisoning yourself, but it’s checked separately for each application (meaning that you’d only poison yourself if you failed both rolls, effectively a 0.25% chance). Likewise, you’d need to roll a natural 1 with each weapon while in combat in order to be at risk of poisoning yourself.

Finally, note that the above rules don’t change the delivery method of the compounds. A pair of binary agents that create a poison whose normal delivery method is ingestion must themselves be ingested to take effect; you can’t have one part be ingested and the other be delivered via an injury. (At the GM’s option, consider allowing the delivery method of one compound to be changed by increasing the Craft DC by an additional +5, cumulative with the increase for making the binary compound to begin with, and increasing the cost to triple what the poison normally goes for. Only one agent can be changed in this manner.)

Hopefully this will make poison a little more useful in your campaign.