Tag Archives: Pathfinder



Or Does It Work Better As Zom-Bees?

Not Sure.

OK, let me get this out of the way early: I am 99.99% sure that I am not the first person to stumble on this particular horrid pun and make a monster out of it. I am likewise certain that the interpretation of the pun leads to a fairly narrow band of mechanics, and most such other creations will be similar to mine. I have never claimed an excess of originality. All I can offer is that I have not, recently, directly researched, looked up, or copied any existing creatures by this name; if I encountered them in the past and it’s been festering in my subconscious for years or decades, I don’t know. Almost by definition, if I go and look through my ridiculously large collection of RPG materials (seriously, I’ve got over 3000 books cataloged, and that doesn’t include magazines like Dragon and Space Gamer) to see if I’ve read this before, I’ll corrupt my chance to create the critter based on my current inspiration. So what you get is “original” in the sense I am not consciously copying, imitating, or reimagining a specific implementation of the idea. The idea is surely not original (I may have hit on it on my own, but as I said, surely others have, or, I may have read it a long time ago and it just re-bubbled to the surface of my mind), and the odds are good I will not have a particularly unique spin on the idea.

So my introduction is ~250 words telling you, the reader, you’re about to encounter unoriginal and derivative material. I really need to work on my marketing skills.

Anyway… zombees. Or zom-bees. Still can’t decide.

Zombees (CR3, XP 800)

The buzzing sound is discordant, setting your teeth on edge. Then the swarm becomes visible, a grey cloud of tiny, rotting, bodies.
NE Diminutive Undead (Swarm)
Init +0; Senses darkvision 60 ft, scent; Perception +1

AC 14 (+4 size), touch 14, flat-footed 14
hp 34 (4d12+8)
Fort +6, Ref +6, Will +1
Defensive Abilities swarm traits, immune (weapon damage)

Speed 10 ft., fly 40 ft (average)
Melee swarm (1d6 + distraction)
Special Attack consume, create spawn, defoliate

Base Statistics
Str 2, Dex 14, Con –, Int –, Wis 12, Cha 14
Base Atk +4; CMB –; CMD
Feats ability focus (distraction)

Consume (Ex) : Against helpless or nauseated targets, the zombees do 2d6 damage.
Create Spawn (Su): Any creature killed by zombees rises as a beehive zombie (see below) in 1d4 days. Such spawn are not controlled by the original swarm in any way.
Defoliate (Su): The zombees do double damage to plants — including normal, inanimate, crops and flowers. A zombee swarm can transform a fertile field into mounds of rotting vegetation in but a few hours. As such, the sighting of a swarm will inspire many farming communities to collect what little coin they may have in order to lure a few adventurers into the fray.

Environment any non-arctic, non-aquatic, non-desert
solitary, pair, comb (3–6 swarms), colony (7–12 swarms)

Negative energy tends to seep into the world. The plants and flowers around haunted or accursed places, such as profaned graveyards and the sites of particularly heinous battles involving undead or necromancy, can absorb traces of this energy… which can then pass into the creatures that feed on them. One particular manifestation is the undead bee swarm, sometimes referred to be the more grim-humored of sages as “zombees”. (Despite the name, they are not actually zombies for game purposes and any abilities specifically targeting zombies are not effective. Likewise, they are considered to be undead, not vermin.)

Design Notes

I used the Backer’s Preview of the Talented Bestiary from Rogue Genius Games to stat out the zombees. As such, it may differ in small ways from one built with the core PF rules.

Beehive Zombie

The shambling thing is clearly undead… but the cloud of buzzing insects surrounding the rotting flesh are not flies, and from the gaping wounds in its body drips a pallid yellowish muck.

Beehive Zombie    CR 1
XP 400
Beehive zombie
NE Medium undead
Init +1; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +1
Aura stinging aura (DC 12)


AC 13, touch 11, flat-footed 12 (+1 Dex, +2 natural)
hp 16 (3d8+3)
Fort +2, Ref +2, Will +4
Immune undead traits


Speed 30 ft.
Melee unarmed strike +5 (1d3+3 nonlethal) or
slam +5 (1d6+4)


Str 16, Dex 12, Con —, Int —, Wis 12, Cha 12
Base Atk +2; CMB +5; CMD 16
SQ sticky innards

Special Abilities

Sticky Innards (DC 12) (Su) The body of a beehive zombie is filled with a foul mockery of honey. Any creature scoring a successful melee attack must make a DC 12 Reflex save or be entangled by a spray of gloppy zombie-syrup. The DC to escape from the entangle is 12. This save is CHA-based.
Stinging Aura (DC 12) (Su) Any creature adjacent to the beehive zombie at the start of their turn must make a Fortitude save (DC 12) or be sickened for one round. This save is CHA-based.
Undead Traits Undead have many immunities.


Environment any non-arctic, non-aquatic, non-desert
solitary, pair, plague (3-5), hive (6-10)

Beehive zombies are created when a humanoid is killed by zombee swarm. They look much like other zombies, except that they have tumor-like growths on their bodies which are small beehives (filled with undead bees, of course), and they continually bleed a yellowish “honey” that is indescribably foul-smelling. (Anyone stupid enough to consume it will take 1d6 damage and be nauseated for 1d6 rounds. It loses potency 4 rounds after being removed from the creature, crystallizing into dust. Depraved necromancers and certain perverse chefs might pay up to 5 gold pieces for a pouch of this dust.)

Within a week after spawning, a beehive zombie will collapse and then explode, creating a new zombee swarm.

Design Notes

This one I did w/Hero Lab.

A Plethora Of Perilous Potions

A Plethora Of Perilous Potions

Well, with onezero days to go in RPG Bloggers October theme of “potions”, I decided to create some. This isn’t as polished as I’d like, even by my low standards, but I want to get it live… or undead, as it were… before the deadline.

Potions, at least in Pathfinder, tend to come in three varieties: Healing, Buffing, and I Forgot I Had This What Am I Carrying It Around For? There’s a game design reason for this, or, rather, there’s a “game design caused an unexpected emergent property” reason for this. Potions in 3.x/PF are a spell delivery mechanism. They allow a magic-using character to store the effect of a spell and give it to someone without the appropriate ability. (Contrast wands and scrolls, which, rogues with high UMD skill aside, serve to enhance the casters themselves.) Outside of healing and buffing, though (and I consider various resist/protect spells in the “buff” category), the majority of the low level spells which can be put into potions are highly situational (so that you’re not likely to carry around a potion of sunder breaker just in case you run into some NPC that the GM, for malicious reasons, built as a sundering machine. (Yeah, I looked for a particularly situational spell for that one. Cherry picking for the win!)

For these, I wanted to go beyond potions as spell-delivery mechanism, to unique-ish concepts that, to my mind, work well conceptually as single use, ingestible, magics. I also wanted to be sure the effects were sufficiently “magical” that they wouldn’t work better as “mere” alchemy. (In my own personal “physics of magic”, alchemy works by drawing out the innate magical properties of some materials, enhancing, concentrating, or amplifying existing natural aspects to create effects beyond what simple chemistry could achieve. Potions, on the other hand, use the innate qualities of particular substances to serve as a matrix into which the power of a spell can be bound and contained. The process can also distort the nature of the magic slightly, allowing potions which do not precisely mimic a spell to exist. This is also how most magic items are made. Look at the requirements for mirrored armor. Spell turning does not make things shiny and reflective, but aspects of the spell’s effect are incorporated into the armor to give it its particular powers.

Distillation Of Memory

An unusual concoction that contains the full memories of a particular event in a being’s life. When consumed, the experience is transferred instantly; the drinker remembers as if it had happened to them. This can be a confusing and disorienting experience, as the rush of sensation is overwhelming; a DC 15 Will save is needed or the drinker is dazed for one round. Creating the distillation requires the living being from whom the memory is to be drawn, and they must either be willing or helpless. These potions can be used to transfer knowledge, such as a password, or to communicate events without setting them in writing, or to share an important experience.

In some cultures, distilled memories are a black market item, enjoyed by decadent elites who can vicariously experience others lives.

Requirements: Share Memory. Cost: 300 gp minimum per minute, can go up considerably based on what the memory is of. A single dose of the distillation can contain up to 10 minutes of experience.

Jellybones Potion

This potion comes in an assortment of colors: Black, green, ochre, and grey being the most common. When the potion is imbibed, the drinker’s body becomes soft and malleable, though they retain full cohesion overall. This has the following effects:

  • They gain the ability to move through areas half their size with no penalty, and 1/4 their size with the usual squeezing penalty.
  • They have a +5 enhancement bonus to escape artist checks.
  • They gain DR 2/slashing or piercing.
  • They ignore the first 10′ of falling damage.

The effects of the potion last from 1-10 minutes, determined randomly when it is used. If the potion wear off when the character is in a space too small for them to squeeze through normally, they take 4d6 crushing damage. (And may be stuck there until rescued, if there’s no safe space to move to.)
Requirements: Beast Shape, Cat’s Grace. Cost: 750 gp

Preemptive Panacea

A particularly useful draught, this potion provides resistance to effects that haven’t happened yet! Upon drinking, the magic remains in quiescent state, until it is triggered by need. Then, it takes effect as any of the following: lesser restoration, neutralize poison, remove disease, or remove sickness. The potion is effective for a full day, or until triggered.
Requirements: lesser restoration, neutralize poison, remove disease, and remove sickness Cost: 1400 gp.

Shark, Three Headed

Shark, 3-Headed, 3-Versions

Inspired by cinema…

Pathfinder Version

Three Headed Shark

The sight of a great white’s fin breaking the water is fearsome enough, but then the creature’s three heads appear briefly above the surface, turning this way and that in ceaseless rage…

Three Headed Shark CR 13
N Huge magical beast (aquatic)
Init +1; Senses darkvision 60 ft., keen scent, low-light vision; Perception +14


AC 27, touch 9, flat-footed 26 (+1 Dex, +18 natural, -2 size)
hp 189 (18d10+90)
Fort +17, Ref +12, Will +10
DR 5/magic; Immune fear


Speed 10 ft., swim 40 ft.
Melee 3 bites +25 (1d12+8/19-20/x3)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks rend (2 jaws, 2d8+12)


Str 26, Dex 12, Con 18, Int 2, Wis 14, Cha 10
Base Atk +18; CMB +28; CMD 39 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Bleeding Critical, Combat Reflexes, Critical Focus, Great Fortitude, Improved Critical (bite), Iron Will, Power Attack, Toughness, Weapon Focus (bite)
Skills Acrobatics +5 (-3 to jump), Intimidate +6, Perception +14, Swim +21
SQ devouring bite, ferocity, hero points, land survival, leaping bite, regenerate head

Special Abilities

Devouring Bite (Ex) The three-headed shark ignores half the hardness of any material it attempts to bite through. It can easily tear through the wooden hull of a warship, the stone walls of a seaside fortress, or even the iron plates of a gnomish submersible.
Ferocity (Ex) Fights without penalty even while disabled or dying.
Keen Scent (Ex) The creature can notice other creatures by scent in a 180-foot radius underwater and can detect blood in the water at ranges of up to a mile.
Land Survival (Ex) The three-headed shark can survive for up to 10 minutes outside of water before it begins to take damage.
Leaping Bite (Ex) If it starts its turn in the water, the three-headed shark can leap up to 40 feet horizontally and 20 vertically as a full-round action, and can make a single bite attack at the end of the leap.
Regenerate Head (Ex) A sunder attack with a slashing weapon that does damage equal to 1 1/2 times the three-headed shark’s hit dice will remove one of its heads, depriving it of a bite attack… momentarily. In 1d4 rounds, three new, smaller, heads will appear in place of the missing head. These heads have a reach of 5′ and attack as secondary natural weapons (-5 to the normal head attack bonus), doing 1d8+4 damage.


Environment any ocean
Organization solitary or pair
Treasure standard (in stomach)

Three-headed sharks are spawned in regions with large amounts of magical pollution — the bay of a city with a large alchemist’s guild, the site of a sea battle with many spellcasters involved, or near planar rifts. They are vicious creatures which attack without provocation or even hunger… they will tear prey to pieces and then leave the remains behind. A common tactic is to come up beneath a boat and tear the hull to shreds, then feast on the sailors trapped in the rapidly-sinking remains.

Terrifyingly, some sahuagin have found ways to tame and ride these monstrosities. Only their most elite, particularly rangers and druids, can master these nightmare creatures. When seen, it is usually at the forefront of a massive army.

Most three-headed sharks are mutations of great whites, but other species, primarily hammerheads and makos, have been spotted. Rumors of a mythic three-headed shark the size of a megalodon remain, thankfully, only rumors.

Design Notes

Done with the help of Hero Labs, so blame them for math errors. The damage is high for its CR, but it’s supposed to be. As with a lot of mid-level and up creatures in Pathfinder, you run a real risk of the encounter being nerfed by a failed Will save (less risk with Reflex or Fortitude, though it’s always there.) GMs might want to add “+4 vs. mind-affecting effects”. I left that out of the “official” version because my “Gygaxian naturalism” opposed it, but if you use this thing, it’s your campaign, run it your way!

Please note: The bites have a x3 critical multiplier.

Please also note: I created the charcharodoom about 12 years ago, long before this movie, or the prequel (Two Headed Shark Attack, of course!) came out.

There's two kinds of people who see things like this in their heads: Game designers and serial killers. I'm the kind that pays less. Hint: It's the first one.

There’s two kinds of people who see things like this in their heads: Game designers and serial killers. I’m the kind that pays less. Hint: It’s the first one.

Arduinish Version

SHARK, THREE-HEADED This thing makes Jaws look like a goldfish! HD 10+2 to 15+2, AC 2+2 to 2+4. Number 1-3. Speed 18 water, 2 ground. %liar too stupid to. ATTACKS 3 bites 3d8+8 each, teeth act like sword of sharpness. Looks: 30′ long great White Shark with three heads! Sense of smell can detect any living thing in 184 feet or twice that if bleeding, doesn’t need light to attack. If a head is cut off, three smaller heads appear in 1d4 rounds, each attacks as if 4 HD less and does 1/2 damage. Can leap out of water for up to 40 feet (20 feet up) and then bite. Survives out of water for up to 10 mins. before starting to “drown”. 100% immune to fear, charm, etc., they live only to EAT and EAT and EAT. Sometimes tamed by EVIL mermen as riding beasts. Oh, and they have the “steel bite” that chews through anything less hard than adamantine (up to 6″ thick per round).

(Does anyone know enough CSS to tell me how to tighten the space for the monospaced font?)

Design Notes

Design? Please, this is old school! Even the stat block format changed from monster to monster.. the order, format, and inclusion of any attribute was random. So I just went with what felt right. I tried to make sure I got all the most important things: AC, hit dice, and damage/attack.

AD&D Version

MOVE: 2″//24″
HIT DICE: 14-16
% IN LAIR: 25%
TREASURE TYPE: Q (in stomach)
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Rending and see below
Attack/Defense Modes: nil

Three-headed sharks are thankfully rare mutations that sometimes appear in areas with magical pollution, such as runoff from an alchemist’s lab. They can attack up to three targets per round, but if they hit one target with two or more bites, they will rend it (like an ape) for an additional 2-16 points of damage.

If they are in water, they can leap out of it up to 4″ and make a single bite attack when they land. They can survive up to 10 minutes in air before suffering any ill effects, are immune to fear, and can chew through non-magical material at 1″/round.

If a “20” is rolled when attacking with a two-handed bladed weapon, a head will be severed. In 1d4 rounds, three tiny heads will regenerate. Each attacks as a creature with 4 fewer hit dice and does 1d6 points of damage. These heads do not regenerate.

They normally look like great white sharks of the largest size, with three heads. Representatives of other species, such as makos or hammerheads, have been reported. Fearful sailors have claimed that in the deepest ocean, a three-headed megalodon exists, but this is surely nonsense.

Design Notes

AD&D hints at a strict formality of design, with a clean and consistent layout… but it’s mostly an illusion. Hit dice, damage, special abilities, etc., were all assigned in a “whatever seems to work” fashion, and many creatures had “one off” mechanics… only apes have the “rending” power, for instance. I used sharks and bulettes as my main guideposts for setting the numbers, but I mostly just winged it.

Helm Of The Paleoarchs

Helm Of The Paleoarchs

Life is ancient beyond easy understanding. Before the eldest elves walked the forests, before the great ancestors of the dwarves tunneled deep, before any god any sane being can name had been formed from the swirling protodivine energies of the outer planes, beings lived, thought, and died upon the uncounted material worlds. On occasion, some record of their existence remains…

The Paleoarchs, the “ancient kings”, lived at a time when nothing could live on land, when the surface of the world was a hellish waste. In the great depths, in cities so lost and ancient that not even the sahuagin imagine they existed, dwelled creatures of an utterly alien nature. Little is known of them except what might be inferred from the handful of relics recovered. Such items are found preserved in volcanic rock or layers of sediment from the earliest days of the world, exposed after untold epochs to those who dwell now upon the planet and consider themselves its true inhabitants.

One such item, coveted and feared in equal proportion, is the Helm of the Paleoarchs.

The Helm Of The Paleoarchs

The Helm Of The Paleoarchs

Resembling the desiccated, yet brilliantly polished (no matter how long it lay buried in its prison of stone), exoskeleton of some insect, it is roughly the size of a humanoid skull, and can be used by any creature of small size and up. The underside of the Helm is lined with dozens of segmented tendrils, much like legs, each terminating in a burst of fine cilia. When held by a living being, it feels oddly warm, and the under-legs wriggle slightly. The holder will hear odd sounds, whispers and muttering, and may have momentary glimpses of scenes not easily described or recalled… great cities of unknown shape, formed from gargantuan, partially living, nautiloids and orthocones…. figures like segmented worms standing on their tails, manipulating incomprehensible tools with a half dozen chitinous limbs.

When the helm of the paleoarchs is worn, the writhing under-limbs instantly and irrevocably drill into the skull until they reach the brain, whereupon they explode into thousands of nerve-like fibers that weave throughout the consciousness of the wearer. The effects of donning a helm of the paleoarchs are as follows:

  • Thoughts Beyond Human Understanding: +4 enhancement bonus to intelligence, -4 penalty to charisma. The wearer’s thought processes are much faster and sharper, but their ability to relate to others is severely diminished.
  • Mind Beyond Mortal Control: Whenever the wearer must save against a mind-affecting effect, or an illusion, they may roll twice and take the higher roll.
  • Access The Ancient Library: The wearer is considered trained in all Knowledge skills, but does not gain a bonus. This allows them to make checks against a DC higher than 10 for skills they do not have ranks in.
  • Hidden From The Young World: The wearer is considered to be under nondetection (DC 21 to overcome) at all times. Anyone failing to penetrate the shield must make a DC 21 will save or take 1d4 points of Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma damage. (Roll each independently.)
  • Plumb The Secrets Of Creation: The wearer may, as an immediate action, choose to take 1 point of Wisdom drain and gain the knowledge of any spell they are capable of casting (on their class spell list for their level). The spell replaces a prepared spell of the same level in the caster’s mind. Spells with an expendable material component will not function without that component.

The wearer will never voluntarily seek to remove the helm. If it is involuntarily removed, the wearer will suffer 3d6 points of normal damage and 2d4 points of Intelligence damage as the tendrils are violently ripped out of their skull, taking a goodly amount of grey matter with them. (Outside of combat, a DC 10 Strength check is needed to remove the helm; during combat, a successful disarm maneuver must be performed, bare-handed.)

Aura strong transmutation; CL 11th
Slot head; Price 89,000 gp; Weight 3 lbs.

Boredom In Pathfinder

Boredom In Pathfinder

And I Don’t Mean Waiting While A Player And The GM Argue Over Grappling Rules

That’s Usually Amusing, And Can Enhance Your Knowledge Of Profanity

Player:”I start going through the books in the lich’s library to look for a clue.”
GM:”It’ll take (roll) three hours.”

A common scene: A character has some task to accomplish that’s going to be protracted, or at least compassed. And they just say, “I do it”, and then, dice are rolled. The end.

But what about everyone else? While Libramwormius the Wizard is happy to read the blasphemous and forbidden tomes packed with eldritch lore in the lich’s library (with the occasional mad cackle and/or whispered mutter of “Yes… yes… it’s all so clear now… they are weak fools who must serve me or perish… yes… I understand… I will pay your price for power, my master…”), Blooddrinker the Barbarian and Poncy the Bard are less likely to be so sanguine. In any kind of reality, even the kind with liches in it, they would be, within five minutes, saying, “Would you hurry it the hell up, before I rip your head off, turn you upside down, and drain you like a wineskin?” (And the Barbarian is even less patient!)

Well, RPGBloggers’ December Carnival is “Homebrew Christmas Gifts”, so, I’ve got an excuse to throw out all sort of little rules and things that burble in my brain. (“They should be thrown out!” shouts brain-Waldorf, while brain-Statler cackles in agreement.)

This is where the Usual Suspects leap out of the woodwork to exclaim, “But we’re role playing, not roll playing! We don’t need (shudder, clutch pearls) rules to tell us if our characters happily sit around doing nothing for hour after hour after hour while the wizard mumbles the names of nameless abominations under his breath!”

Yeah, just like you don’t need rules to determine if you shiv the orc. You can just roleplay it!

Obviously, this is seriously optional stuff. Less obviously, this falls into the “breakfast crunch” category, defined as “rules I make up while eating breakfast at my computer before going off to work”, and I offer my personal guarantee: All such material is as well-balanced and playtested as you’d expect, given that description.

Gods, Give Me Patience… Now!

If, in the opinion of the One Who Wears The Viking Hat, one or more PCs is compelled to do virtually nothing for a long period (at least an hour), while others engage in non-interactive activity (stuff the non-acting PCs can’t aid, support, or otherwise be even peripherally involved with), a Will save must be made. The base DC is 15, +1 for each hour of inactivity, up to a maximum of +5. (The save is made once per hour, so the first hour is DC 15, the next DC 16, and so on.)

If the save is failed, the character has had it with waiting around while the wizard bargains away his soul. They’re going to do something, and will stride out of the room (or leave their position in the ambush, or go out and explore the town) unless stopped physically or via Diplomacy/Bluff/Intimidate as appropriate.

A few modifiers to the roll:

Condition Modifier
Chaotic Alignment -1
Class w/mandatory Chaotic Alignment (e.g., Bard, Barbarian) -2 (does not stack w/above)
Lawful Alignment +1
Class w/mandatory Lawful Alignment (e.g., Monk, Paladin) +2 (does not stack w/above)
Each hour of waiting -1
Character is at less than 1/4 overall resources (hit points, spells, class powers w/limited use, etc.) +2
Character is at more than 3/4 overall resources. -2
Character has generally been played as impetuous, short-tempered, impatient, hasty, etc. -1 to -3, based on the GM’s judgment.
Character has generally been played as cautious, careful, patient, disciplined, etc. +1 to +3, based on the GM’s judgment.
Conditions are uncomfortable (hot, cold, rainy, cramped) and leaving or moving away would mitigate this somewhat. -1 to -2

What happens when someone fails their roll? They take some action, appropriate to the situation and the character. They do not necessarily go running off screaming for no reason, but they have some justification for not waiting around any longer. After four hours holding very, very, still in an ambush, waiting for the gnolls to wander by, a rogue might decide to ‘scout along the path’ and see what happened to them. In a dungeon, the fighter might decide he ‘heard a noise’ and go check it out. During ongoing negotiations between the party’s diplomancer and a local noble, the wizard might try to strike up a conversation with the court mage, looking equally bored at all the jibber-jabber.


Welcome To Skull Tower, Part XIII

Welcome To Skull Tower, Part XIII


And More Rules

And Still More Rules

I Got Your “Rulings, Not Rules”, Right Here, Pal!

In this part (and almost certainly the next part, since there’s no way I’m getting through all this in one go), we are covering Dave’s rule additions, alterations, addendums, and alliterations. (Yeah, I know ‘addendum’ is the plural of ‘addenda’ and there’s no such word as ‘addendums’. It’s poetic license. Gimme a break.)

But first…

Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign…

We get a page of “Dungeon Signposts”. Oddly, these are not “Turn Back, You Fool!” or “DM Hasn’t Finished Mapping This Yet”. These are a useful set of symbols for, presumably, mapping… and clearly intended for hand-mapping without intent to photocopy or reproduce.

Stairs That Go Nowhere Just For Show Are Colored Purple

Stairs That Go Nowhere Just For Show Are Colored Purple

The use of color is interesting. Most similar guides assumed the DM would be using a Number Two Pencil and that he/she would be photocopying the map, if they had access to their school or workplace’s copy machine. Dave evidently had a more artistic bent. I’m not sure using color instead of different symbols conveyed more information, frankly. I’d always forget if red meant ‘up’ or ‘down’.

At the bottom of the chart is a note:


It’s not clear what “this dungeon” refers to. I believe the meaning is “In the Arduin-inspired dungeons you design, you are not bound by the puny rules of mortal men — let your imagination run wild!” Assuming this interpretation is correct, we’re seeing early signs of a long-running, still-ongoing, struggle in D&D between the wild&woolly world of galactic dragons and psychic centaurs, and the stoic, plodding world of human fighters and pouring water on the floor to detect pit traps.

Send In The Clones (And Golems, And More…)

And the fact the first item in “various rule changes” is “Clones” tells you all you need to know about which side of fun/boring divide Dave fell on. In his campaign, the use & abuse of clones had clearly reached egregious levels, so, rules were needed. I am 99% certain most of these rules came about due to players looking for loopholes. (A DC 30 Perception check… well, back then, you could find loopholes on a 4 or less on a six sided die, except for Power Gamers, who could find them on a 7 or less on an 8 sided die.)

Summarized, clones take one month to mature per year of the character’s age, and if the character dies before that (activating his clone), there’s a proportional loss of ability, though it’s not clear if this is based on level or total XP or what. Also, if you have more than one clone at a time, they will both go slowly insane and seek to kill each other and the original. Something tells me some of Dave’s players were setting up clone banks to continually replace themselves. I wonder how many were commie mutant traitors?

Then we have a few rules for golems, which don’t have anything to do with the prices and rules earlier in the same book. Go figure.

Next up, a very interesting paragraph about casting permanent spells on sapient magic items… that this came up enough Dave had to write rules for it says a lot about his campaign.


Not sure why this is in the “rules changes” and not “monsters”… I ought to know not to ask such foolish questions by now.

Don't Blink

Don’t Blink

I’m assuming (hoping) that their AC is 2+their Dexterity modifier to AC, because 2+16 would be -14 (if you have to ask why, you’re not old school), which is pretty ridiculous, even for Arduin. They’re followed by Archangels, which are even nastier. Lastly…

Of COURSE Angels Are Vulnerable To Anti-Matter!

Of COURSE Angels Are Vulnerable To Anti-Matter!

I like that angels can only haste themselves if their opponents are, too. Fighting fair is important!

In another moment where he anticipates design trends that won’t become part of D&D until third edition, Dave has scaling saving throw difficulties for spells…

The "Etc." Worries Me A Bit...

The “Etc.” Worries Me A Bit…

How many spells over 11th level are there? In Arduin, a good many, I suspect.

Stop! In The Name Of Time!

The Doctor should say that. Totally.

I noted earlier that time magic seemed to be a big thing in Arduin, and as further evidence, here’s some more rules on time stops. (Time Yields and Time Slow Children At Play may be covered in a future book.) To wit:

  1. Time stops don’t allow a saving throw.
  2. Unless you’re a balrog or the like, in which case, your innate magic resistance applies to non-technological time stops.
  3. Or if you’re ethereal, phased, astral, non-corporeal, or married filing singly.
  4. Gods and major demons have a 25% chance of “Gating” away automatically.
  5. Time stops are mammals.


So if you regenerate from being dead, you roll to resurrect to see if you survived being dead, but if you fail your roll to see if you survived being dead after regenerating, it’s not the same as failing to survive the roll to see if you survived being dead after resurrecting, so you can still be resurrected, at which point, you must make a roll to see if you survived it.

Got all that? Good. Now, let’s discuss Pathfinder grappling rules. Hey! Come back here, you coward! God damn it, I played freakin’ Aftermath when I was sixteen! A few rules didn’t scare us! Quitters!

Where was I?

Notes On Magik

Note The First: Myspellyngz Are Majikal

Having left behind rules on such mundane, normal topics as time stops, clones, and angels, we come to “Notes On Magik”.

A brief note (as it were) on the layout and formatting… this page is a delightful hodgepodge of non-sequiters, jumping from ice storms to elves to wishes to time stops (yes, again) with gay abandon. While the previous pages at least had a header line between each leap in subject matter, this page doesn’t, except for the one time that it does. Really, it’s a large part of the charm of these books, somewhat lost in the marginally more professional sequel volumes published several years later.


Even For Arduin, This Is Confusing...

Even For Arduin, This Is Confusing…

So… what does ‘simultaneously’ mean? Round by round? Per fight? Per adventure? And does this apply to every form of multiclassing, or does it mean everything in Arduin except elves is single-classed? This reads like a very early house rule from the first year or two of D&D… the Greyhawk rules changed how multi-classed characters worked quite a bit, beginning the end of the ‘race=class’ model that fell apart as soon as it became evident that new classes would appear with great frequency. (The original OD&D rules had elves acting as either magic-users or fighting-men on an adventure-by-adventure basis; by Greyhawk, this had evolved to “split experience”, which became the standard until 3e.)

Wishes: Limited wishes in Arduin are 12th level(!) and full wishes are 25th level(!!), Also, wishes don’t work outside their native universe. Uhm… OK. Not really sure what that means… does that mean if I’m wearing a Ring of Wishes, it only works in the universe I found it in? Or that a high-level caster can only cast a wish spell in his home universe? It just seems a very odd rule that would have limited applicability… which means there’s probably a story behind it, somewhere.

Conjuration: Spells that “conjure” things, such as “Wall of Fire”, subtract their level from the caster’s Dexterity to determine when they go off in a round. Generally, most groups I know of ignored “dexterity countdowns” and similar things. Granted, they make more sense in Dave’s six-second rounds than in the standard one-minute round, but still, they were a real pain if you had a large combat, especially if the monsters all had different dex scores. Even in today’s games, with individual initiative, you roll for groups of monsters at once, so all the orcs attack on the same count. I appreciate the greater tactical depth offered by ‘countdown’ systems, and the choice between a low-powered ‘fast’ spell and a high-powered ‘slow’ one helps keep lower-level spells meaningful in the later game, but the negatives in actual play always outranked the positives, in my personal experience. (One of these decades, I’ll write something about rules I love in theory but dislike in practice.)

(The dexterity countdown rules were in The Arduin Grimoire, BTW. None of this is mentioned or referenced in this part of Welcome To Skull Tower, of course. If you’re Old School, you had the rules memorized and didn’t need to be reminded where they first appeared.)

Competence: Illusionists are light competent, Rune Singers are sonic competent, and Rune Weavers are ritual competent. Just in case you were wondering.

Time Stops: Yes. Again. There’s some fluff about why time stops don’t affect wraiths (and similar non-corporeal undead), but do affect energy, and then a note that for the caster to breathe in a time stop field, they have to keep moving, as only the air molecules touched by their aura are breathable. “Move or die”, the rules say. (So if you cast time stop in a zone filled with poison gas, you’ll still breathe it as you move in the zone… interesting….)

Tune In Next Time…

Following is “Notes On Clerics And Clerical Magik(sic)”, not to be confused with the other notes on clerics and clerical magic (I’m not sic) we covered a few articles back. So, this is probably a good stopping point for now. Next time: We delve into the notes, and probably magic (I’m feeling much better) fumbles, combat rules, and weapon breakage!


Friendslayer Blade

Friendslayer Blade, A Cursed Weapon For Pathfinder


Continuing our theme of “curses“, as in “God damn it, where the hell did we pack my copy of Welcome To Skull Tower?1“, we present a cursed… but still useful… magic item. While classic D&D tended to make cursed items all bad, a punishment for greedy players who didn’t carefully experiment with items (except that cursed items explicitly didn’t show their nature when tested, only in real combat), I think it’s more interesting to make cursed items a bit of a double-edged mace… give players a reason to try to hang on to them, or at least consider it…

Please note, this post is filed under “Breakfast Crunch”, which means “Something I wrote while eating breakfast before scurrying off to work, with exactly as much editing, playtesting, and general quality as you’d expect under the circumstances.”

The Friendslayer Blade

The origins of the first friendslayer blade are lost in the mists of time, (“Mists Of Time”, Module P-238, published by TSR in 1979 on Earth 541-A) but similar weapons reappear with some regularity. The curse seems to be a result of poor mental discipline during enchantment; the mindset needed to imbue the weapon with the desired power requires strict focus, and if that focus drifts, the enchantment is warped.

A friendslayer blade can be any +1 or better magical weapon that does piercing or slashing damage, with the following special ability:

Price: +1 Bonus
Aura: Faint necromancy
CL: 3rd
A murderous weapon allows the wielder to make a coup de grace attack as a swift action against an adjacent, helpless, foe. This does provoke attacks of opportunity, but at a -4 penalty to the attacker.

Murderous blades are common among assassins, spies, elite military units, and others who maintain a ‘no witnesses’ policy and prefer to waste not even a second if they don’t have to. Perhaps 5% of such blades, though, bear the friendslayer curse.

Friendslayer Curse: Whenever an ally falls helpless in a square adjacent to the wielder of a murderous weapon, said wielder must make a DC 20 Will save or, at the start of their next turn, perform a coup de grace with the blade against that ally. This is an Enchantment (Compulsion) effect. It can be mitigated if:

  • There is a helpless enemy also adjacent.
  • The ally or the blade wielder is moved — note the wielder cannot voluntarily move to avoid the compulsion once they’ve failed their Will save!
  • Break Enchantment is cast before the wielder’s turn begins. This negates only the current compulsion; it doesn’t end the curse.

The compulsion only comes into effect during combat situations; it does not compel the wielder to slit the throats of his allies as soon as they go to sleep, unless it’s magical sleep cast by an enemy during combat. Then…

It is generally difficult to tell a friendslayer weapon from a normal, uncursed, murderous weapon; the normal rules for detecting cursed items apply.

1)Seriously, I’ve only got like four boxes marked “Lizard’s Books” to go through, out of more than 150 to start with, and I still haven’t found it. Arduin Grimoire and Runes of Doom? Check. Skull Tower? Nada.

More Curses

More Curses (Foiled Again!)

But First, A Digression

(There’s A Shock….)

It occurs to me that dying curse is a poor choice for spontaneous casters, who have very few spells known, and would be loathe to waste one of them on something they’ll use maybe once or twice in their lifetime… erm… as it were. This is irksome, because it fits, thematically, very well with most spontaneous casters, more than with the ‘academic’ types, as it’s an expression of raw magical energy unleashed in a moment of extreme trauma. So, some ideas:

  1. Just let spontaneous casters, if it fits the nature of the specific class, and the particular character’s background, get it as a freebie. It adds a nice bit of background fluff: “For whosoever slayeth a sorcerer, they shalt suffer the fury of the departing, accursed, spirit!”
  2. As 1, but it only fires if there’s 2 spell slots of the appropriate level or higher left.
  3. Let them add it to their ‘spells known’ at the cost of a trait.

OK, on to the main article…

The Main Article!

(Trumpet Fanfare)

Bestow Curse is pretty boring. Sure, the particular curses are effective, but they’re kind of… dull. So, here’s a few more options, as many as I can think of before I have to stagger off to work. This is Breakfast Crunch: Stuff I write when eating breakfast before going to my job, with all the editing, playtesting, and quality that implies.

The Curse Of Consumptive Casting: Only useful if aimed at a being that relies heavily on spells, this curse causes the victim to take damage equal to twice the spell’s level whenever they cast a spell or use a spell-like ability — 0-level spells do 1 point. This damage cannot be avoided or mitigated, and cannot be magically healed. The same damage is also taken when spells are cast from wands, rods, or scrolls.

The Curse Of Perilous Penury: No magic (or occult, or psionic, or divine, or… you get the idea) items function for the victim. Magic armor and weapons are normal masterwork items. Rings, amulets, cloaks, boots, masks, yadda yadda, are simply mundane, if well-made, items, as far as the target of this curse is concerned. They cannot use wands, scrolls, potions, or miscellaneous magic. They can cast spells, and be affected by spells, normally — with the exception of spells that grant enhancement bonuses to either the victim or any items they’re carrying. No Bull’s Strength for you! This curse can be particularly crippling to higher-level characters, as they rely on their items to be equal to the challenges they face.

The Curse Of The Spider Queen: The target is permanently affected by a web spell. It fills the space they occupy and moves with them. Any allies moving adjacent to them are also targeted (they may make a reflex save, DC equal to the save DC of the bestow curse, as usual, to avoid). (The curse doesn’t transfer to allies, just the webs.) The victim of the curse needs to make a combat maneuver/Escape Artist check to move each round, just as if they were moving through an area affected by web. Even if they make it, each square is difficult terrain. If the web is set on fire, the victim takes 2d4 damage and the web burns away, but reforms 1d4 rounds later. Due to the cursed nature of the web, no fire resistance or immunity applies to this damage… something that might be learned the hard way… heh heh heh…

Lastly, the victim cannot climb faster than 5’/round, due to the sticky mass of webs, and suffers a -4 to all Charisma-based skill checks, because, well, you chat politely with someone who is literally exuding masses of goop everywhere they go.

The Invocation Of Malevolent Mundanity: Half of the character’s levels (round up) become levels in Commoner. The victim may choose which levels are so affected. Any levels they gain before having the curse removed will also be in Commoner. Removing the curse does transform the character’s original levels back to what they were, but not any levels gained while under the influence of the curse. If this curse affects a PC, everyone else can go get Chinese food while the player recalculates. (Alternatively, teach each Commoner level as a negative level during the current session, then they can recalculate after the game.) Any Mythic Rank they may have had goes bye-bye as well.

The Insalubrious Lubrication: The victim is permanently affected by a grease spell. Every square they enter is treated as being affected by this spell, with all DCs based on the save DC for the original curse. In addition, any adjacent squares occupied by allies suffer the same effect. Enemies are just fine, thank you very much. Beyond the usual effects of grease, any time the victim takes damage, they must make an Acrobatics check (DC 10+the damage dealt) or fall prone. Climbing is virtually impossible; all climb checks suffer a -6 penalty.

The Malediction Of The Leaded Foot: The victim is permanently slowed, as per the spell. Haste will negate the effects of the curse for only one round, regardless of the spell’s normal duration.


Dying Curse

In honor of the RPG Blog Carnival theme of “Curses”, here’s a quick Pathfinder spell…

Dying Curse
necromancy; Level  antipaladin 2, bloodrager 3, cleric/oracle 2, shaman 2, sorcerer/wizard 3, witch 2;
Casting Time 1 immediate action or free action, see below
Components V or none, see below
Range close (25 ft + 5 ft/2 levels)
Target see below
Duration permanent
Saving Throw Will negates; Spell Resistance yes

This spell functions as bestow curse, except that it is triggered by the caster’s death.

If a caster has dying curse prepared (or known, for spontaneous casters, with a spell slot of the appropriate level remaining), it can be activated when the caster drops to 0 or fewer hit points. The decision to activate, or not, must be made upon receiving the lethal damage; the caster cannot drop to, say, -5 hit points and then wait a round or two see how the battle is going before deciding to trigger the spell, nor can they do so if they receive more damage while at negative hit points. The instant the caster drops to 0 or lower, they must decide; if they do not invoke the spell at that point, it cannot be cast until some point when they’ve gone back to positive hit points and then back into negatives. (Nor can it be triggered by self-inflicted damage, including such things as the barbarian’s loss of hit points when a rage ends.)

If the caster is dying, but not yet dead, and is capable of speech (not silenced, gagged, etc.), they can designate the target of the curse (within range) and the specific effect1. This is an immediate action. If the caster is killed instantly (going from positive hit points to dead in a single attack), or cannot speak, the spell still activates, but the target is whoever struck the killing blow, or, if that person is not in range, the nearest enemy in range, and the effect is random. This is a free action.

Upon casting, the caster instantly dies. Dropping dead is a free action. No magical or mundane healing short of raise dead can help; spells or class features or the like which allow for last-second recovery from recent death do not function. The caster expends a portion of their life energy to cast the spell; this makes them really most sincerely dead. Contingent healing spells (regardless of what granted the contingency effect) likewise fail to work. Let’s be clear: There’s no loophole. The intent of this rule is clear: You invoke dying curse, you die, you are no more, you have ceased to be, you have rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible, and only raise dead or more potent spells can bring you back. The fact I cannot possibly list every interaction of every rule in the massive bulk of the collected tomes of Pathfinder should not be an invitation to find an ‘out’ and then exploit it. If a player tries, the GM has my permission to take the Pathfinder Core Rulebook and whap the offender over the head.

1: Ideally, this should be roleplayed, “From hell’s heart, I stab at thee!”, etc.

Bloodmouth Carnist

Bloodmouth Carnist


I take my inspiration where I can find it...

I take my inspiration where I can find it…

OK, the move is technically complete… we’ve been living here for two weeks, but there’s still a lot of stuff in boxes. Among the stuff in boxes is my copy of Welcome To Skull Tower, which is why no new articles in that series have yet appeared. (That, and this is the first time since we moved that things were normal enough I could get up, get dressed, and plonk down at my computer for a spell before work.)

So, in the interest of getting some content up here… here’s something I threatened to write a while back, inspired by the image that ought to be appearing to your left.

This is “Breakfast Crunch” stuff. For those of you new to this site (I like to pretend I regularly have readers; hey, I’m a roleplayer, I have a rich fantasy life), “Breakfast Crunch” is stuff I write while sitting at my computer eating breakfast before going to work. It has all the playtesting, editing, attention to detail, and overall quality you would expect under those circumstances.

Bloodmouth Carnist

Some barbarians live for one thing… the taste of living flesh. They believe they draw primal power from consuming flesh… live and bleeding preferably, but dead will do. They’ll settle for cooked, if necessary. Even dried meat contains some sparks of the former living essence.

A bloodmouth carnist will not consume plant matter (except in fermented form) unless desperately hungry. They only buy rations that are meat based (if you just use some generic ‘iron rations’ in your game, pure-meat rations, usually consisting of jerky, etc., cost twice as much). Survival checks to find food are at +2 DC, because only hunted game will do… no roots and berries! A bloodmouth carnist actually takes damage from goodberries, (or any similar spell) as much as would normally be healed. If a bloodmouth carnist consumes plants to survive, they gain a temporary negative level until they can eat an appropriate meal again.

They gain a +4 competence bonus to detect plant-based poisons concealed in food.

Rending Teeth: At first level, the bloodmouth carnist gains a bite attack, doing damage appropriate to their size category (1d6 for medium creatures). When facing any enemy other than incorporeal undead, plants, constructs (except flesh golems and the like), oozes, elementals, and similar (based on GM discretion), they must hit with a bite attack (even if it doesn’t penetrate DR) before they can use any other weapon. If they try to attack without performing this ritual, they suffer a -2 morale penalty on attack and damage rolls. This attack will never subject them to ingested poison, but this does not let them consume otherwise poisonous flesh outside of combat.

This is a natural weapon, and can be enhanced by spells such as magic fang. Whenever they score a critical hit with this attack, they gain temporary hit points equal to half the damage inflicted on their enemy. These don’t stack, but if the amount gained is more than the amount of temporary hit points remaining, the new, higher, value takes effect.

At third level, their bite attack is considered to be a magic weapon for purposes of overcoming DR.

At sixth level, their bite attack does damage as if they were one size category larger.

At ninth level, their bite attack has the bleeding attack feat, and also counts as a silver or cold iron weapon for purposes of overcoming DR. (They cannot bite themselves to inflict bleeding damage in order to use the self-rending ability.)

At twelfth level, their bite attack gains their alignment for purposes of overcoming DR, and gains a threat range of 19-20.

At fifteenth level, their bite attack is treated as if they were two size categories larger.

At eighteenth level, their bite attack ignores all DR. Yes, they can chew an iron golem. Tenzil Kem approves.

This ability replaces trap sense.

Self-Rending: When a bloodmouth carnist takes bleeding damage, they may choose to tear at their own flesh (once per each triggering wound) as an immediate action, inflicting normal bite damage on themselves, and increasing the bleeding by 1d3 points/round. This grants them a morale bonus to attack and damage, for their next attack only, equal to the increased bleed. For a full round after this, healing magic or heal checks will not end the bleed condition.