Thursday, September 17, 2015

New Life for the Ancient Dead: Skeletons (part 2)

This is the second half of the document I had started to share in my previous post. Part one offers some creative ways to modify a skeleton combat to make it more interesting than the typical "smash and grab" encounter. You can find that article here. Part two concerns itself with variant skeletons. The Pathfinder RPG Bestiary offers the bloody and burning skeleton variants; below are seven more variants that I have created.

Skeletons are the most basic form of undead to exist and one of the first types that a fledgling necromancer is likely to learn to create. Because the skeletal system does not decompose like living tissue, it can be animated regardless of how long ago the original creature perished. Although skeletons are the most simplistic form of living dead, much research has gone into the augmentation of these unnatural creations to make them more resilient and more dangerous.

Each of the following skeleton types modifies the base skeleton in a few key ways. Except as noted, these variations can be stacked with one another.

Adamantine Skeleton

Skeletons are easily destroyed when subjected to even a moderate blow. However, some unique methods of preparing a skeleton before animation have been discovered for increasing its durability. One technique involves a special alchemical solution of liquid adamantine. Unsurprisingly, the precise formula is a closely guarded secret of alchemists and necromancers alike.

Prior to animation, the entire skeleton must be fully submerged in the emulsion, during which time it undergoes a process similar to natural petrification. As a result, the bones acquire a metallic sheen - a strong clue as to the skeleton's nature for those in the know. After 24 hours, the skeleton can be extracted and animated as the necromancer desires.

The adamantine variation cannot be combined with the fossilized variation.

Challenge Rating: As a normal skeleton +1.
Defensive Abilities: An adamantine skeleton loses its DR 5/bludgeoning and gains DR 10/-.

Blessed Skeleton

Some remote cultures consider it a mark of honor to serve one's community or diety after death. In these cultures, renowned individuals are chosen to be returned from the dead. The manner in which an individual is chosen varies between mores but, in every case, it is considered to be the greatest of proviliges. Unlike other undead, which are typically raised gainst the will of deities - if not the creature itself - these corpses are animated with the divine consent of a good- or neutral- aligned deity for a specific purpose, such as guarding over a holy site or to serve as a chieftain's elite body guard.

Challenge Rating: As a normal skeleton.
Alignment: Always neutral good or true neutral, depending on the consenting deity. A blessed skeletal champion can be of any good or neutral alignment.
Defensive Abilities: A blessed skeleton gains the positive energy affinity ability. The creator of a blessed skeleton that is not of a good alignment may choose to give the skeleton this ability.

Positive Energy Affinity (Ex): The creature is not alive but is healed by positive energy and harmed by negative energy, as if it were a living creature.

Corrosive Skeleton

A corrosive skeleton undergoes an additional step in the preparation of its animation by being saturated with a caustic fluid. Typically this involved being submersed in a viscous acid for an extended period of time. A special alchemical additive prevents the corpse from being destroyed by the acid. Although this adds a significant delay in the animation process, the result is a formidable and feared monster. Corrosive skeletons do not wield weapons or wear armor as their caustic touch quickly decays the equipment. In addition to the standard changes for the skeleton template, make the following adjustments to the base creature.

Challenge Rating: As a normal skeleton +2.
Defensive Abilities: Corrosive skeletons gain immunity to acid damage.
Melee Attacks: A corrosive skeleton's melee attacks with natural weapons deal an additional 1d6 points of acid damage.
Special Attacks: Corrosive skeletons have the corrosive ichor special attack.

Corrosive ichor (Ex): Anyone striking a corrosive skeleton with an unarmed strike or natural attack takes 1d6 points of acid damage. Whenever a character strikes a corrosive skeleton with a manufactured weapon, the weapon takes 1d6 points of acid damage.

Exploding Skeleton

Clerics, mages, and necromancers harness negative energy to animate and control undead. When the physical corpse is destroyed, the necrotic power energizing it typically dissipates with minimal impact. Sometimes, whether done intentionally or as the result of a misstep in the animation process, the negative energy disperses with volatile consequences. The resulting explostion turns the remaining bone fragments into dangerous shrapnel.

Challenge Rating: As a normal skeleton +1.
Hit Dice: An exploding skeleton's Charisma is considered to be 4 for the purpose of determining its hit points.
Special Attacks: Exploding skeletons have the shrapnel special attack.

Shrapnel (Su): When an exploding skeleton is reduced to 0 or less hit points, it shatters into countless shards that cause 2d6 points of piercing and slashing damage to all creatures adjacent to it. A successful Reflex save (DC = 10 + 1/2 the skeleton's Hit Dice + the skeleton's Cha bonus) halves the damage.

Grinning Skeleton

One of the most unsettling aspects of a skeleton is the way its skull appears to be constantly smiling. Some sorcerers and necromancers enhance their minions by playing off this disturbing visage. In addition to the changes for the skeleton template, make the following adjustments to the base creature.

Challenge Rating: As a normal skeleton +1.
Aura: Grinning skeletons possess the unnerving countenance aura.

Unnerving countenance (Ex): Creatures within 10 feet of a grinning skeleton that have line of sight to it must succeed at a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 the skeleton's Hit Dice + the skeleton's Cha bonus) or, for the next hour, they become shaken whenever they are adjacent to any skeleton. Passing the saving throw renders the creature immune for 24 hours. This is a fear effect.

Special Attacks: Grinning skeletons have the maniacal laughter special attack.

Maniacal laughter (Su): Once per day, a grinning skeleton may unleash a spiteful cackle as a standard action. Any living creature within 30 feet of the grinning skeleton must succeed at a Will save (DC = 10 + 1/2 the skeleton's Hit Dice + the skeleton's Cha bonus) or become shaken for 1 minute. This is a sound-based, fear effect.

Fossilized Skeleton

The oldest of skeletons eventually undergo petrifaction. This natural process strengths the creature when it is eventually animated and makes it less susceptible to magic. In addition to the changes for the skeleton template, make the following adjustments to the base creature.

Challenge Rating: As a normal skeleton +2.
Defensive Abilities: Fossilized skeletons lose DR 5/bludgeioning and gain DR 5/adamantine.
Speed: Size Medium or larger fossilized skeletons reduce their base speed by 10 feet.
Special Abilities: Fossilized skeletons gain immunity to magic.

Immunity to magic (Ex): A fossilized skeleton is immune to any spell or spell-like ability that allows spell resistance. In addition, certain spells and effects function differently against the creature, as noted below.

A transmute rock to mud spell deals 1d6 points of damage per caster level to a fossilized skeleton, with no saving throw.
Transmute mud to rock immediately heals any and all damage currently suffered by a fossilized skeleton.
A stone to flesh spell does not actually change the skeleton's structure but negates its damage reduction and immunity to magic for 1 round.

The fossilized variation cannot be combined with the adamantine variation.

Rime Skeleton

A rime skeleton is coated in a layer of hoarfrost that saps the warmth of nearby living creatures. In addition to the changes for the skeleton template, make the following adjustments to the base creature. The rime variation cannot be combined with the burning variation.

Challenge Rating: As a normal skeleton +1.
Aura: Rime skeletons possess an icy aura.

Icy Aura (Ex): Creatures adjacent to a rime skeleton suffer 1d6 points of cold damage at the start of their turn. Anyone striking a rime skeleton with an unarmed strike or natural attack takes 1d6 points of cold damage.

Defensive Abilities: Rime skeletons gain vulnerability to fire damage.
Melee Attacks: A rime skeleton's melee attacks (including both those made with a natural weapon and those made with a manufactured weapon) deal an additional 1d6 points of cold damage.
Abilities: A rime skeleton's Charisma is 12.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

New Life for the Ancient Dead: Skeletons (part 1)

I was going through some of my old gaming documents this week and came across this little gem. I always like putting a new spin on things as it usually leads to the players doing a double take or scratching their heads as they wonder why their tried and true methods aren't working. Everyone seems to perk up and take notice once they realize not everything is as it seems. If it's done well - especially if it's done cool - they won't even mind that you might be taking some liberties with the rules as written, such as in the case of alternative spell effects.

The entire document I unearthed includes a number of skeleton variants that I'll make a second dedicated post about later. For now, here are some ideas on how to set the scene and plan out your next encounter that involves skeletons.

The average skeleton is a pretty straight-forward opponent. Being generally mindless, its tactics are simple - tear apart whatever living creature is within reach. It attack with its claws, maybe an old blade with which it died with long ago, and it protected by whatever armor it might have been wearing at the time. The standard array of undead traits aside, a skeleton's key defensive abilities include damage reduction and immunity to cold-based damage.

Rather than being just a "meatless"-shield between the PCs and their objective, a creature GM can find new purposes for this old monster. Below are a few ideas for how you can use skeletons in your next encounter.

Symbiotic Relations

 A swarm of insects may have taken up residence in the vacant skull or a coiled viper might drape itself over the rungs of the rib age. Either way, a meddlesome adventurer is going to find that he has disturbed more than just the restless dead when he goes to dispose of the next skeleton.

Alternatively, it's also possible that a "sleeping" skeleton gets caught up in the undulating mass of a passing ooze. The acidic secretions of these amoeboid creatures typically have no effect on non-organic material, allowing the skeleton to be carried for miles without incurring damage. Larger oozes may accumulate several skeletons over time, unwittingly travelling with its own small host of undead.

Walking Scrolls

Magic spells can be recorded on a variety of mediums, from rolls of papyrus and stone tablets to inked tattoos and illuminated decks of cards. Some clever necromancers have taken to inscribing important spells on their minions. Although this isn't as efficient as more traditional means, it does provide the spell caster with a certain element of surprise. Although the script is plainly visible, it's impossible for onlookers to interpret any of it while the skeleton is in action. On fact, only when the skeleton remains completely stationary, can the arcane script be read coherently.

Unfortunately, the destruction of the skeleton also means the destruction of the spell if it was not cast first. Since positive energy is notorious for reducing the undead to ash, there is no chance of recovering a spell bared by a skeleton that is annihilated in such a manner. The crushing damage of a weapon makes the recovery of a spell possible, although not necessarily easy. Between shattered ribs, crushed femurs, and broken phalanges, the task of piecing together a destroyed skeleton can be a daunting chore for even the most patient individual.

Alternative Spell Effects

Restore corpse
While this spell is traditionally used to prepare a skeleton corpse for animation as a zombie, it can also be used to bolster an existing animated skeleton. Although an animated skeleton cannot be turned into a true zombie with this spell, it can alter its appearance and increase its vitality. As the targeted skeleton regains flesh, it also gains temporary Hit Dice in accordance with its size. In addition, it replaces its DR 5/bludgeoning with DR 5/slashing. The DC to correctly identify a skeleton that has been affected by restore corpse, and its special abilities, increases by 5. Skill checks that fail by 5 or more misidentify the undead creature as a zombie. This use of the spell has a duration of 1 minute.

Skeleton Size
Temporary Hit Dice
Tiny or smaller
Small or Medium
+1 HD (4 hp) 1
+2 HD (9 hp) 1
+4 HD (18 hp) 1
+6 HD (27 hp) 1
+10 HD (45 hp)1
1 This does not include bonus hit points from other sources, such as a high Charisma score or the Toughness feat.

Restore corpse can be countered and dispelled by decompose corpse.

Mythic: You may target the skeleton of a Large or larger sized creature.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

20 Cursed Weapon Qualities

I recently stumbled upon the RPG Blog Carnival and was intrigued by this month's topic: Curses! Cursed Items, Spells, Campaign Stories (hosted at Roleplaying Tips). It's a fun topic from the game master's perspective so I thought I'd take part.
The intrinsic value of a magic item comes down to balancing its benefits against its costs. Cursed items that hinder or, worse, try to kill a character don't have much value and it's an easy call for the party to ditch it at their earliest convenience. However, to me, the best cursed items are ones that have a beneficial aspect to them as well. Suddenly, the players need to determine if they can deal with the difficulties of carrying the item with them (at least temporarily) in order to benefit from that item's more benevolent features.
As part of a creative exercise, I've created a list of 20 qualities that a GM might give a magic weapon that could render it cursed. Since they come from a brainstorming session, these qualities should be functional, but some may need a little refining to achieve better game balance and clarity. Not every quality is entirely negative, but all have some sort of cost associated with them. In some cases, it may be more dramatic to withhold the malevolent effects of the curse from the players, especially in the case where the effect is not immediately evident.

Arcane Beacon. All spell attacks made against you have advantage.

Bloodied. While you are holding this weapon, if you do not deal damage to a living creature before the end of your turn, you use this weapon to deal damage to yourself equal to it's average damage value. Do not apply your Strength modifier or other damage dice to this damage.
Blinding. A blinding weapon is made of highly polished metal that is exceptional at reflecting light. Its effects can only occur in areas of bright light. When you confirm a critical hit with this weapon, you may choose to deal normal damage and blind your opponent for 1d4 rounds. However, if your attack roll is ever a natural 1, you automatically blind yourself for 1d4 rounds.
Booming. This weapon issues a thunderous boom when it strikes true. When you score a critical hit with an attack from this weapon, the target and all creatures adjacent to it are deafened for 1d4 rounds.
Clumsy. If you miss with an attack with this weapon, you must succeed at a DC 12 Dexterity (acrobatics) check or fall prone.
Decapitating. All attacks that threaten a critical hit against you are automatically confirmed. If you die as a result of a critical hit, the blow removes your head.
Dulled. This weapon only deals bludgeoning damage equal to your Strength modifier.
Electrified. When drawn, veins of energy begin to dance along the blade and hilt as this weapon crackles with electricity. When you hit with an attack using this magic weapon, the target takes an extra 1d6 lightning damage. In addition, while you hold the sword, you take 3 points of lightning damage each round.
Exhausting. This weapon requires significantly more effort to wield in battle, although its blow tend to be much more devastating. All hits with this weapon threaten critical hits, but if you miss with an attack with this weapon, you gain 1 level of exhaustion.
Gaseous. This weapon carries with it an aura of noxious fumes. A powerful strike causes it to expel a poisonous gas cloud. When you hit with an attack with this weapon, the target must succeed at a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or become poisoned for 1 round. If you ever roll a natural 1, you accidently inhale the fumes and are poisoned for 1d4 rounds.
Isolating. While you are holding this weapon, allies cannot approach within 10 feet of you. Any ally that is already within 10 feet of you when you pick up the weapon cannot move any closer.
Leeching. This weapon draws upon the life force of your allies to keep you safe. When you suffer hit point damage, you take no damage; instead, the closest ally within 30 feet of you takes an amount of necrotic damage equal to the damage you would have sustained. This damage cannot be reduced in any way. If there is no ally within 30 feet of you at the time you take the damage, you suffer the damage normally.
Lodestone. For each attack you make with any weapon other than this one, your speed is reduced by 5 feet. This reduction disappears once you make an attack with this weapon against a target that is within your reach.
Merciless. You have advantage on attacks made against any creature with less than one half of its maximum hit points, but attacks against you gain advantage if you have less than one half your maximum hit points.
Murderous. If you miss with an attack with this weapon, you strike yourself and deal damage as normal. On a roll of a natural 1, you score a critical hit against yourself.
Offensive. There is something about you having this weapon that other creatures find insulting or offensive. Creatures of one specific type (i.e. beast, fey, fiend, undead, etc.) chose to attack you over other targets.
Seppuku. At the end of any combat in which you did not adhere to the weapon’s honor, you must succeed at a DC 15 Charisma saving throw or impale yourself upon this weapon. If you fail the saving throw, you deal maximum critical damage to yourself. Roll on the table below do determine the weapon’s honor.
1 – Deliver the killing blow to at least one creature.
2 – Do not make an attack with advantage.
3 – All allies are alive at the end of combat (they may be unconscious).
4 – Do not attack a non-spellcaster so long as an enemy spellcaster is present.
Spell Loathing. When you are affected by a spell (even if you passed the saving throw), you have disadvantage on your attacks for a number of rounds equal to the level of the spell slot that was used to cast the spell.
Vengeful. Each time you deliver the killing blow to a living creature while attuned to it, you suffer a cumulative 1 point of psychic damage.
Xenophobic. You have disadvantage when attacking creatures of a specific type (i.e. beast, fey, fiend, undead, etc.). In addition, you become frightened of any creature of that type that causes damage to you.


Friday, September 4, 2015


To me, Talon represents how a little bit of backstory and an interesting quirk can add a whole lot of flavor to an otherwise mechanically bland item. I can already imagine the awkward social situations that could arise when the PCs dine with a noble or at the royal court. And I don't think I need to mentioned that there are a minimum of three solid plot hooks that jump out at you.



A carved ivory handle contrasts with the obsidian color of the dagger’s talon-like blade. Four figures, their likenesses worn beyond recognition, and a series of indecipherable hieroglyphs, encircle the handle.


This dagger started out as a ceremonial blade for a long-dead desert cult. Scholars know little about the cult aside from the fact that they venerated an individual known as the Prophet of the Red Sky. It is believed that the cult’s demise came when the congregation was buried alive in their temple by a powerful sandstorm. This dagger was discovered when the temple was unearthed and bought by a wealthy collector. It disappeared, however, when the collector’s manor was robbed.


The wielder develops a habit of using Talon as a dining utensil.

TALON (5e)

Weapon (dagger), uncommon (requires attunement)
You gain a +1 bonus on attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

TALON (Pathfinder)

Aura faint evocation; CL 3rd
Slot none; Price 2,302 gp; Weight 1 lb.  


This magical dagger has a +1 enhancement bonus on attack and damage rolls.


Requirements Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Craft (weapons) or Spellcraft; Cost 1,302 gp


I'm not a fan of vulgarity in a game just for the sake of it, so it's rather ironic that this magic weapon holds a special place in my gamer soul. It was originally introduced in the Expedition to Castle Ravenloft campaign I was running for my players some years ago as a plain old +1 longsword. It wasn't even something I added; just a basic magic weapon presented as part of a treasure horde from the book. Now, that group of players wasn't know for getting overly invested with the world in which their characters were busy hacking and slashing through. They tend to lean towards the "if it has hit points we can kill it" mentality. So it was with a great deal of surprise and pleasure as I watched this otherwise vanilla blade come to life over the course of a couple sessions.
Sure, they decided there was a constant swarm of flies buzzing about it and the cross guard was actually a pair of spigots that constantly dripped excrement, but they were getting into it! In fact, they were so invested in what they had created that nobody actually wanted their character to be wielding the odorous thing and they eventually they traded it to the local shop keep in exchange for a masterwork mace. All the while, it mechanically remained nothing more than a +1 longsword.
To honor that spontaneous and amazing feat of role playing, I decided I needed to provide this memorable weapon with some specific abilities that compliment it's story. So, here it is, updated for the newest edition.



This longsword appears to have been poorly maintained through the years. The blade is pitted and tarnished while the metal hilt is dirty and rusted. The noticeable stench of excrement seems to cling to it. No amount of cleaning, magical or otherwise, seems to be able to abolish the longsword’s flaws. Despite the weapon’s depreciated mien, the blade is still razor-sharp.


The sword known as Shitstorm spent untold years in the basement laboratory of an evil necromancer, collecting dust until it was discovered by a band of adventurers. Many sages theorize that prolonged exposure to the refuse of magical experimentations may have infused the sword with its current powers. After the adventurers quickly rid themselves of the unsanitary weapon, it found its way into the hands of a city urchin who used it to carve out a name for himself in the back streets of Kaldia. Eventually the urchin drew the attention of the city guard and was eventual hunted down. Shortly afterwards, Shitstorm disappeared back into the dark alleys of the city.


The wielder avoids bathing.

Shitstorm (5e)

Weapon (longsword), very rare (requires attunement)
You gain a +1 bonus on attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

The sword has 3 charges. When you hit a target with this weapon, you can use a bonus action to expend 1 charge in order for the weapon to expel a viscous pool of liquid excrement in a 5-foot radius around the target. Any creature that fails a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw falls prone. Those that fall prone must then make a DC 11 Constitution saving throw or spend their next action retching and reeling. Creatures that don't need to breathe or are immune to poison automatically succeed on this second saving throw. The sword regains 1d3 expended charges daily at dawn.

Curse. Once you are attuned to this weapon, you can't end the attunement unless you are targeted by the remove curse spell or similar magic. While attuned, you have disadvantage when attempting any Charisma checks or saving throws.

The Praell in Pathfinder

When I first created the praell, and the world of Aerth, I had intended to use them as part of a homebrew Pathfinder game. Using the guidelines laid forth in the Advanced Race Guide, I drafted the following traits and abilities. Since I have much more time for game design than I do for actual playing, it has yet to be play-tested. Should anyone be interested in using the praell in their own game, I’d love to get your feedback on the material presented below. You can find more information about the history and society of the praell in this blog post.


+2 Strength, +2 Constitution, -2 Intelligence: Praells were bred for physical combat rather than academic prowess.

Praell: Praells are humanoids with the praell subtype.

Medium: Praells are Medium creatures and have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.

Normal Speed: Praells have a base speed of 30 feet.

Arcane Incongruity: Whether or not it was as part of their creators’ design, praells have an unusually great difficulty in mastering the arduous art of spellcraft. Whenever a praell possesses levels in a class that grants the ability to cast spells, he treats his Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma modifier (as appropriate for the class) as two points lower (minimum 1) for all spell and class abilities.

Combat Bonus Feat: Praells select one extra combat feat at 1st level.

Fearless: Praells are immune to fear effects.

Praell Ferocity: Once per day, when a praell is reduced to fewer than 0 hit points but is not killed, it can fight on for 1 more round as if disabled. At the end of its next turn, unless brought to above 0 hit points, it immediately falls unconscious and begins to die.

Languages: Praells begin play speaking Common. Praells with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following languages: Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Gnoll, Goblin, Halfling, and Orc.


The following racial traits may be selected instead of typical praell racial traits. Consult your GM before selecting any of these new options.

Battle-Hardened: Praells gain a +1 bonus to CMD. This trait replaces combat bonus feat.

Cornered Fury:  Whenever a praell is reduced to half its hit points or fewer and has no conscious ally within 30 feet, it gains a +2 racial bonus on melee attack rolls and to Armor Class. This trait replaces combat bonus feat.

Craftsman: Praells gain a +2 racial bonus on all Craft or Profession checks to create objects from metal or stone. This trait replaces fearless.

Sprinter: Praells gain a +10 feet racial bonus on speed when using the charge, run, or withdraw actions and a +2 racial bonus on initiative checks. This trait replaces praell ferocity.


The following options are available to all praells who have the listed favored class, and unless otherwise stated, the bonus applies each time you select the favored class reward.

Barbarian: Add a +1 bonus on rolls to stabilize when dying.

Fighter: Add a +1/2 circumstance bonus on critical hit confirmation rolls with a weapon of the fighter’s choice (maximum bonus +4). This bonus does not stack with Critical Focus.

Gunslinger: Add +1/4 to the gunslinger’s grit points.

Monk: Add +1 to the monk’s CMD when resisting a bull rush or grapple attempt.

Ranger: Add +1/2 round to the duration of the bonus granted to the companions of the ranger using his hunter’s bond ability.

Rogue: Reduce the penalty for not being proficient with one weapon by 1. When the nonproficiency penalty for a weapon becomes 0 because of this ability, the rogue is treated as having the appropriate Martial or Exotic Weapon Proficiency feat for that weapon.

The Praell

The “blanched devils” of Aibhilon, more commonly known as the praell, exist sparingly throughout the continent. Having been bred – some say created – ages ago by a now extinct civilization, their exact origins are lost to history. The oral traditions of the praell tell how their people scattered across Aibhilon when their creators disappeared, establishing their own dispersed settlements.

goliath_barbarian_by_lordrhino15-d4rz0yyPhysical Description: The praell are a race of muscular humanoids that were originally bred to a specific set of physical attributes. They stand between six and a half to seven feet tall and weigh between 200 and 300 pounds. They are completely hairless from head to toe, with milky white eyes, and bereft of any skin pigmentation. Praell look so identical that only the normal distinctions between the sexes is typically evident. One way in which they achieve a degree of individuality is to adorn their bodies and faces with colorful tattoos and exotic piercings. It is also not uncommon for a praell to wear a distinctive piece of clothing or jewelry.
Society: Originally bred for combat, praells desire no other life than that of a warrior. Many find employment as solders, serving as part of the imperial legion or in armies of smaller kingdoms; others work as mercenaries, sentinels, or bodyguards. Those that are incapable of fighting, usually due to permanent serious injury or advanced age, continue to provide for their comrades as smiths or chirurgens.

Male and female praells hold each other in equal standing, being judged only on their physical prowess. The basic unit of praell society is the tribe, comprised of various extended families and led by a chieftain. Each village resembles a fortified camp, with palisades, warehouses for supplies, and communal barracks.
Relations: Having been enslaved by the Makers (see Alignment and Religion) for generations for their tailored physique, praells now seek acceptance as equals among humans. They eagerly seek out physical labors as a way to prove themselves useful since they typically lack the mental capacity for intellectual work. They are reluctant to boast about their feats of strength to non-praells, however, for fear of appearing arrogant; incurring the fear and resentment of others has oft times lead to a praell’s persecution or enslavement. In fact, despite their tentative acceptance by most, many remote populations and overly superstitious folk view the praell as abominations, earning them the epithet of “blanched devil”.

Alignment and Religion: Praell society is highly structured, more closely resembling a military outfit than a social community. Whether as a group or individually, praell always expect to uphold their end of an agreement or contract, and they expect the same from others. While typically lawful in nature, a praell’s morality can run the gambit from good to evil depending the individual’s own principles.

Praells do not worship deities the way humans do. Instead, they give reverence to those they refer to as the Makers. The Makers, according to the oral traditions, were a society of intellectuals who created, and enslaved, the praell but disappeared from the world long ago. Most scholars assume they are referring to the Suen, although no tangible evidence has ever been found to prove this. Since they are gone – probably dead – the paell expect nothing from the Makers in the way human faiths look for miracles or messages from the divine. Instead, they seek to honor the work of their creators by achieving their fullest potential in all that they do.

The Praell in 5e

Although I originally designed the praell race for use in the Pathfinder system, I also wanted to provide a Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition version as well. I still have yet to play the new edition, so I hardly feel qualified in designing a new player race that could be considered on par with the core races. In the end, though, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve come up with. Since I’m unlikely to get the opportunity to play in a 5e game any time soon, let alone see a praell character in action, I’d be delighted to hear from anyone that might want to give them a test drive, or at least has more design experience with the system than I do. You can find more information about the history and society of the praell in this blog post.

Praell Traits

Your praell character has an array of attributes stemming from generations of specialized breeding.

Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 2, and your Strength score increases by 1.

Age. Praell reach maturity by their mid-teens. Those fortunate enough experience the full extent of their lives can expect to live out ten to twelve decades.

Alignment. Praell society is highly structured, resulting in generally lawful individuals. However, their morality can run the gambit from good to evil depending on the individual’s own principles.

Size. Praell stand between six and a half to seven feet tall and weigh between 200 and 300 pounds. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Athletic Prowess. You have proficiency in the Athletics skill.

Arcane Incongruity. Whether or not it was part of their creators’ design, praells have an unusually great difficulty in mastering the arduous art of spellcasting. You do not add your proficiency bonus to your spell save DC or spell attack modifier.

Fearless. You are immune to the effects of the frightened condition.

Praell Armor Training. You have proficiency with light and medium armor.

Relentless Endurance. When you are reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, you can drop to 1 hit point instead. You can’t use this feature again until you finish a long rest.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Praell. It took generations after the disappearance of their creators for the praell to develop a written language of their own. What they lack in literature, however, is compensated for in oral traditions. Few have the inclination or education to learn additional languages, but those that do usually learn the languages of those they deal with.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Catafalque: A Breif History (Part One)

The origins of the city of Catafalque began with the frontier settlement of Trewyggol.  Kaldian explorers claimed the land from its native inhabitants through coercion and bloodshed. Once subjugated, the ruling Kaldians convinced the native's druidic leaders to consecrate the fledgling village. Superficially, the blessing was an affirmation of the community's perseverance and prosperity. In truth, however, the act was designed by their Kaldian rulers to be an acknowledgement of the natives' submission. The blessing, however, was also a cleverly constructed curse.

The hamlet’s first boon was its proximity to valuable natural resources, including an abundance of lumber and ore deposits. In time, after the trees had been cleared and the ore veins ran dry, the town turned to raising livestock, becoming a hub for textiles and trade goods. Within its first 200 years, the quaint hamlet developed into a bustling city. Several more generations would pass as the city continued to prosper; becoming a major center of trade and its nobility playing important roles in imperial politics. The wealth and power of Trewyggol’s nobility, however, came at the price of its lesser citizens. Increasing taxes and even harsher living condition only grew worse from one sovereign to the next. The peasants protested and riots would occasionally erupt in opposition of their torment, but these were dealt with swiftly.

Eventually, a charismatic leader among the peasants organized a concerted revolt against the aristocracy. As an organized force, the disproportionate number of commoners quickly threatened both the wellbeing and empowerment of the ruling class until the city was in a state of all-out civil war. Although the rebels were far more numerous, the city militia and house guards were superiorly equipped. Each side struggled to achieve a permanent dominance. When rumors began to circulate of outside assistance arriving for the rebels, the nobles began to panic.

bdeath1Gossip mongering and flights of fancy accuse the ruling family of striking pacts with a demon, granting their mages the power to definitively quell the uprising. Supposedly, they used their demonically enhanced magic to create a plague that caused the peasants of Trewyggol to rapidly grow ill and die. Indeed, there are many unusual details about the plague that cannot easily be explained, although no proof of demon worship has ever been unearthed either. Although the revolt quickly subsided, the plague continued on unchecked, afflicting nobles and commoner alike. The pestilence, whether of infernal origins or not, decimated the city’s population and eventually the city gates were ordered sealed in an effort to quarantine the city. This triggered a second series of riots. This time, the chaos was embraced by all social classes as peasant, merchant, and noble alike fought to flee the infected city. Portions of the city that escaped initial destruction wrought by the peasant's uprising were subjected to the renewed chaos; and the body count climbed even higher.

The highest lords and ladies of Trewyggol refused to abandon their kingdom, however. Most historians presume their stubbornness was a result of an irrationally engorged sense of entitlement commonly bred into the ruling class. Others speculate that this was somehow the druids’ curse binding them to the land that their ancestors once took through blood and steel. Regardless, many of the noble families still residing within the inner city insisted on remaining with their holdings. To protect themselves from the death and pestilence that ravaged the rest of their city, the gates to the wealthy, less populated, inner city district were also closed. Those that had retreated to the inner city found refuge while those that did not found themselves trapped in a city tearing itself apart. This was the end of Trewyggol as the world knew it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Magical Items

In a world where magic is practically a myth, magical items are the rarest of treasures. Unlike high-fantasy settings, not every adventurer in Aibhilon is going to be walking around with a personal arsenal of magical gear, whether it be in the form of swords and armor or wands and robes. Time and prejudice against arcane magic have lead to the destruction of most magical artifacts in the world. Those that remain have been well hidden and/or protected through the ages.

When a party encounters a magical item, whether it is stashed in a buried treasure horde or employed by the adversary standing across from them, it should grab their attention. The best way to get the attention of the characters and players alike is to make sure the item interesting. There are a couple easy ways to accomplish this: abilities and history.

Abilities are perhaps the easiest; they are the most obvious defining trait a magic item has. Typically it implies the mechanical benefits an item can bestow upon its user: a sword that causes fire damage to those it strikes, boots that allow a wearer to walk on clouds, or a cloak that renders its user invisible. Sometimes the abilities are malicious rather than beneficial: belts that change the wearer's sex, necklaces that strangle those that don it, and armor that attracts arrows. Powerful abilities are likely to get the attention of the players, but so too can original ones.

A character's background helps set her apart from other characters, even those that might share the same race and class as her. It provides justification as to her personality and temperament. There's no reason a magic item can't have these similar attributes, even if it's not an intelligent item. By spinning a tale of the item's history, you create a backstory and personality for it just as you would a character. Additionally, item histories give the game master another avenue for weaving some of the unique lore of his world into the game.

For an additional dash of flavor, I've taken a page from the 13th Age role-playing game and given each non-consumable magic item a unique personality that manifests upon their wielders. These manifestations are not significant enough to be considered a part of the item's repertoire of powers, but are flavorful quirks that have the potential to provide additional role-playing opportunities.



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fist of the Fomorian


A long steel handle, terminated with a simple steel ring, comprises one half of this bludgeoning weapon. The femur of a large humanoid comprises the other, promising to crush limbs and break bones with ease.


[CULTURE] folklore tells of a degenerate man of unnatural size who terrorized villagers with his bulk and strength. After months of brutal rampages, the giant was seriously wounded. Refusing to let the injured brute flee, a single warrior tracked him through the jungle to a deep cave. Individual tales vary as to what transpired in the cave, but all agree that in the end the warrior emerged with the giant's severed leg slung over his shoulder. As the stories tell it, it is from this leg that the fist of the fomorian was crafted.


You walk with a distinctive limp, even when not suffering from any sort of impediment.

Fist of the Fomorian (5e)

Weapon (mace), rare (requires attunement)
The fist of the fomorian has the Versatile (1d8) property, even when it is not attuned.

When you hit with an attack using this magic weapon, the target must succeed at a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or have disadvantage on ability checks, saving throws, and attacks based on Strength and Dexterity until the target finishes a short rest, or a long rest if the weapon was used two-handed.


the All-Consuming, the Destroyer, the World Ender

Portfolio: Corruption, destruction, mutation, and monsters.

Most well-known myths: It is said that the world of Aerth was created by the other gods to imprison Goz and bring an end to the Immortal War. Although no longer able to directly interfere with the affairs of the cosmos, the Destroyer’s influence can still felt on Aerth. His foul energies bleed into the world, capable of mutating life, spawning horrid beasts, and bringing blights to the environment. It has been prophesized that if Goz were ever to escape his prison, it would result in the annihilation of Aerth and reignite the Immortal War.

Periodically in Aerth’s history, a fiery red comet has appeared in the sky for days or weeks at a time. This comet is known as the Eye of Goz and is believed to herald the coming of a great cataclysmic event.

Manifestation: Goz is most commonly symbolized in the form of a gaping, toothy orifice. In paintings, and similar forms of art, he is depicted by an empty or blank space.

Rituals: The Destroyer neither demands nor expects offerings, for in the end all things will be consumed – even his own followers. Those insane enough to venerate the god of destruction, however, will periodically pay tribute. This may take the form of animal or human sacrifices, or the razing of buildings and monuments.

Reward & Punishment: Goz is an uncaring god. He pays little attention to those that worship him. However, occasionally, his power on Aerth may grace a potentially potent cult or destructive individual. Those so “blessed” have received tremendous strength, given birth to hideous monsters (often killing the mother in the process), or burst into fits of blind destructive rage. Those that offend Goz often receive similar “gifts”, although these quickly result in an even more painful and horrid demise for the recipient.

Scarlet Angels

“Scarlet angel” is a slang term for an excessively bloody corpse. Its usage is typically reserved for when one is trying to delicately describe the victim of a horrible accident or murder, although any bloody cadaver qualifies. The social elite have a tendency to use it as part of a threat, promising to "turn their enemies into scarlet angels".

It’s believed the term was first coined by Yonson Dwelley, a bard known to frequent the [LOCATION] region. In Dwelley’s journal, he recounts having passed near Burwood Field when he stumbled upon the site of a gory massacre several days past its conclusion. Scholars will be quick to point out that Burwood Field is the location of a minor, although bloody, battle during the [EVENT] War in which both sides managed to kill each other down to the man. Because there were no survivors, it was close to a month before either side learned of what happened to their respective forces. As the road he was travelling descended upon the field, Dwelley described the scene “…as if a host of scarlet angels had chosen this particular pasture to lay down their heads and rest for a spell. It was not until my feet drew me closer that my eyes were witness to the truth of the scene. It was plain to see - the visceral carnage that had split the skulls and laid out the innards of those poor bastards.”

A more macabre source for the slang may have originated in the superstitions of rural communities. Here, scarlet angels also refer to ravenous humans that are said to feed on the flesh of the living. Most people agree, however, that these monsters are little more than a fallacy, fabricated to scare the young and gullible. Studies into the myth of scarlet angels reveal that they are often confused with vampires or ghouls as they seem to possess traits of both.