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Topics - Hibou

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News / We're Live!
« on: February 09, 2020, 11:35:31 AM »
Hello everyone,

This'll be a shorter post than the one in the Discord, but the site is available now for posting. If you're here wondering about how you can get your old account back, ping me and I'll grab you the random one that's been generated. The site is still a work in progress, so please let us know if you encounter any issues!

News / Discord Access
« on: February 08, 2020, 09:48:46 AM »
Hello everyone,

Just a reminder that we have a Discord chat available to discuss things live (and play chat-based game sessions). Here's an invite link (ping me if it doesn't work):

News (Archived) / Preparing to Move
« on: May 27, 2019, 09:04:34 PM »
Hi everyone,

For all of you who have been patiently awaiting some sort of news about the CBG's future, this will be a long-overdue announcement. After a long period of discussing and trying out a few things (interlaced with banter and truly epic discussions on the Discord server), we've decided that we are in fact going to build a new forum to let us continue to operate with more-or-less the same format, rather than try and transition to something such as a sub-Reddit. Here's what this means:

  • We'll be locking down the current forums shortly into read-only mode, to avoid missing new work that might get posted, and to avoid accidentally destroying the data.
  • The plan is to transfer as much of the existing content as possible. In a best-case scenario this means that we'll get a mostly-seamless transfer of the content to an updated forum that you'll be able to log into like normal and continue posting. Worst-case scenario, we end up having to lock down the old forum as an archive for reference, but you'll have to restart/rebuild any threads for settings etc.
  • Nomadic and I are going to generate some backups and see what things look like after working through the data. Once we've determined which of the above scenarios has come to pass, I'll open up the new site and help people start signing up/logging in (I'll make sure anyone who requests it has their account reserved, too).

In the meantime, you can find us on Discord (use that link to be invited; you'll need sparkletwist or I to add you to the Members group there to see channels other than #general-chat). If you have any questions, ping us there or email me at tvgamblin @ gmail . com.


Meta (Archived) / Dark Souls as a Table-Top (or Chat-Based) RPG
« on: July 28, 2018, 07:32:38 PM »
So those of you who've spent any time talking to me about video games have probably heard me extol the virtues of the Souls series, which has become a bit of a phenomenon (through Demon's Souls, the Dark Souls trilogy, Bloodborne, a board game, and other media) and created a term "Souls-like" for a slew of games inspired by their "difficult" playstyle and storytelling strategy. (e.g. Salt and Sancutary, Nioh, Lords of the Fallen). As of late I've also seen various threads and blog posts about running games set the Souls universe, along with various attempts to adapt the combat, NPCs, and general gameplay to the system (or create a new one).

Although it lacks some of the combat features that are iconic in Dark Souls (e.g. the bleed mechanic), I find this ruleset makes a fairly complete attempt to emulate the experience. Has anyone out there played in a Dark Souls-inspired game, or wanted to? If you did, what'd you use? What do you think of these rules?

IC: Introduction to Traskarkka
It is winter. The snow deepens on the coastal steppe of the Traskarkka region of northwestern Kangdemar, and the ice closes in on the harbors of its tiny fishing villages, limiting all but a few to narrow passages out to to deeper water - but also generating ice routes to outlying islands, covered in eerie mists. As activity slows to a halt in all but the largest towns, the people follow tradition and ensure that their larders are full, before settling in to await the Celebration of Lords, and the spring thereafter. Things are different now (in the year 322 NG) however, as for the past two years the Skordicans from the northern isles have made regular raids even in the most difficult season.

As weary Kangs build fortifications along the frozen coastal steppes, and trade spilled blood with Skordicans on sheets of ice in the shadow of the Kangsaar mountains, strange disappearances of the living - as well as the freshly-dead on the battlefield - instill fear and worry in the town of Traskmardt, from which Baron Utmati has requested troops from the south. In spite of the growing discomfort over the disappearances and the infringing Skordican warbands, Traskmardt's most experienced hunters venture away from the town and into the forests in small groups, leaving the 300-strong town low on armed defenders and a sense of leadership. A truly brutal blizzard bears down on the region as a contingent of wool-clad knights rides out of the bogs from the south...

This is a work-in-progress catch-all post for relevant content. I'll be posting more details about the setting and common knowledge sorts of things over the next few days. I'm also using Polycarp's P6 rules where they don't supersede the ones I've already listed (e.g. E10 instead of E6). Pay particular attention to the feats and skill details. This is an experimental use of E10 instead of E6, as I'm still trying to decide the actual power level of the setting.

Map of the Subcontinent

Made with Inkarnate

Map of North Kangdemar

Made with Inkarnate

Map of Local Area

Made with Inkarnate

March of Traskarkka Details

Climate: Temperate rainforest, taiga, coastal steppe, alpine
Population: 14,000
Regional Capital: Mogmirt (pop. 1,300)
Ethnicity: North Kang (33%), South Kang (42%), Ghosmian (11%), Curlic (6%), East Krudian (5%)
Major fauna: Mastodon, wolf, bear, woolly mammoth, moose, Kangsaar lion, woolly rhinoceros, Kangsaar owl, eagle, killer whales, humpback whales, giant squid
Nobility structure: Gilbanian Standard (king > duke/prince > margrave > count > baron > knight)
Primary Industry: Fishing, logging, copper mining, sea salt, ivory, wool
Major Spirits: Baalras, Umgamet, Ghru and Avok, Urorath
Military Style: Permanent navy, conscription army, elite guilds (Knights of the Raven, Kang Tracker's Guild)
Standard Man-At-Arms Gear: Spear, shield, dagger, hide breastplate
Spellcaster Reception: Neutral

Life in Traskarkka

Although not quite as cold and unforgiving as some nearby areas, Traskarkka knows long, dark winters, and its inhabitants spend their summers feverishly stocking larders and preparing their homes to outlast them. As a result, towns take on a quiet demeanor over the winter season, and it is not uncommon for a traveler to ride through a village without seeing more than a single person out and about. The encroaching Skordican war parties have changed this slightly, as the sound of the blacksmith's hammer is heard more often, and an increased amount of armed soldiers is seen passing through to the northern front. Many of these armed travelers are relatively wealthy or of special origin, as the season prevents most from having the means to be conscripted into battle at all (and many are referring to it as the impending "Siege of Silver"). Despite it being a relatively mild winter thanks to the warm currents off of the Ocean of Dragons and the Sea of Palax, many common roads are covered in relatively deep snow, and thus are made more difficult for horses. Those on the move take to mastodons instead, as they can feed off of the pines and do not require large stores of food to be useful, allowing their masters to focus on packing supplies for themselves. Though the true war is not expected to begin until the spring, skirmishes have been attempted a handful of times since the winter began, and the dim glow of countless torches on the distant shore of Whitedome Island puts otherwise-bored knights in garrison on edge.

The village of Traskmardt, where the story is set, is a particularly good example of these changes. At a short day's ride from Castle Dakrog (where the main defensive force is fortifying), its people are busier than they ought to be in the early winter, with the blacksmith and fletcher both audible as hard at work late into the evenings. Likewise, the town's Tracker Longhouse is well-lit and offering bounties to those willing to hunt and trap game, deliver messages, and make dangerous journeys close to the hostile force. Though the village is actually under direct control of the Tracker's Guild, Sir Oftro - a knight under Baron Utmati's banner - is lodged with a small contingent of well-trained warriors in a fort overlooking the town from a cliff.

Despite the uptick in military activity through the early winter in Traskarkka, it (along with its neighbor, Syldantsk) are more heavily militarized compared to County Logvid and Bogtren to the south, meaning that a larger portion of the points of "civilization" one might find while passing through are military encampments, or castles built with relatively extensive outer fortifications (usually wooden) to protect supporting


A relatively new-looking village, Traskmardt is built among a series of old stone ruins that extend slightly beyond the inhabited limits, leaving a mix of burnt-out, collapsed huts and decaying stone fortifications as a sort of barrier around some of its perimeter. Though it is located at the mouth of the Grey River, and relies heavily on fishing to sustain the town, it has struggled to maintain a dockyard suitable for shipping or other naval purposes since the Great Deluge of 314 NG. During that year, spring ice flows in the river wiped out the largest docks, and subsequent springs have led to moderate damage on the replacements. Most traveling to Traskmardt by land follow the road northwest, crossing a bridge upriver where it is narrower, before following the river down to the coast on its north side.

Many of the villagers find work in the new dockyard in Traskmardt's outer cove (ordered by the Marchioness herself, and overseen by Baron Utmati), but also in copper mining, logging (as the village, while located on the coastal steppe, is within a short distance of the forest), fishing, and goat herding. Traskmardt uses a combination of these industries to trade with more inland hamlets that are able to grow some cold-weather crops, and with more distant towns through Mogmirt. The Kangsaar Tracker's Guild maintains a presence in the town, though they only sport seven full-time members, and as the Guild does not own the area they pay dues to the Baron and the Marchioness via game trapping and guide services.

Game Details

General Notes
  • Don't feel like you need to resolve every situation via combat. While we are using a system that is built for this, people don't necessarily want to fight you if there's a bit of contention if the numbers are even, especially in winter. If you get into trouble, another human might find you useful as a prisoner for ransom or otherwise.
  • Remember that your character can't necessarily read - they might be able to understand a few dialects, but your language points are more representative of reading ability than writing. If we get deep into a full campaign, we'll have to iron this out to make it more concrete (and fair).
  • Make sure to ask me questions if you want to know more about the area or cultural norms.
  • 0 HP does not mean dead, for the PCs or any NPCs. If you want to finish them, make sure you do, but be aware that some might look down on killing people who aren't known murderers or of similar wanted-ness.

Houserules and Character Info

  • System is E10 Pathfinder. Characters start at 3rd-level
  • Ability score array is 17, 15, 15, 13, 13, 11.
  • Human is the only playable race
  • Double your 1st-level HP.
  • When rolling for HP after 1st-level, if you roll less than half the die size, you can take the half value. For example, if you are rolling a d8 and roll a 1, 2, or 3, it becomes a 4.
  • There is no alignment, and items/spells/abilities that would normally target specific alignments do not exist. If these would normally possess utility against certain enemies that still exist, talk to me and we can work out a modification.
  • All classes receive bonus feats at 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 10th. This means that Fighters get twice as many bonus feats.
  • No magic items can be purchased.
  • Literacy is not automatic. You are assumed to be incapable of reading and writing unless you spend the points, or belong to specific classes (see the allowed classes list below).
  • If the class you pick has 2 skills/level, bump that to 4 skills per level.
  • Check Polycarp's houserules for any that don't conflict with the ones I've listed here

Allowed Classes
Ranger (becomes the Skirmisher or Trapper archetype by default)
Warlock (see sparkletwist's Warlock thread)
Wizard (literate)


Charisma now takes on a reputation-like effect (in addition to its normal bonuses), in that you gain a number of “Contact Points” equal to 5 + your character’s starting Charisma bonus when first created (so for example, a character with 17 Charisma would start with 8 points). Whenever an NPC is encountered for the first time, you can use up one of your Contact Points to declare that your character knows that NPC, and you are then responsible for describing the NPC as well as how you know them. If this is abused I may have to make changes, but this also allows your (and only your) character a +2 bonus to checks related to influencing them in some way the first time you do so (e.g. if it’s a merchant you know from the past, you might be able to convince them to give you a discount on their wares, but only the first time you take them up on the offer). Every time you level up, you gain additional points to spend in this way equal to 1 plus your Charisma modifier (minimum 1).

Note that if an NPC is referenced, heralded, or otherwise spoken of before meeting them, the characteristics that they have taken on (e.g. lord of the region, criminal wanted for war crimes) cannot be altered in your description, but you can fill in the details as much as you want, and still have the opportunity to use your character’s familiarity with them in-game with the bonus.

"Background" Feat

In addition to the default human racial traits, you may choose one of the following additional bonuses found in the Alternate Racial Traits list (this will have a significance to your character background, which we can hash out):

Eye for Talent
Focused Study
Giant Ancestry
Any “Heart of” trait
Innovative (renamed to be called Ritualistic)
Military Tradition

More to come


Tragodt the Elder ("Bluebeard")

Tragodt is the prototypical example of what the many barons of Kangdemar value in their men at arms - only aged 30 years. Famed for his ability to control even the most stubborn mastodon and wield the poorest excuse for a spear, Tragodt is a jaded-yet-loyal member of the local chapter of the Kangsaar Trackers. Appearing as a tall, burly man wearing an iconic black-dyed deer hide over his shoulders, and whose long beard seems to hold frost from the outdoors for unnaturally-long times, he moves about the town of Traskmardt, obsessively tending to the defenses. Having lost both of his sons - one to a botched hunt on a cave lion, and one in the Battle of the Blunt Blades - he has a habit of going to great lengths offering advice to longtime friends and strangers alike. Tragodt is arguably the most experienced hunter that the town possesses, yet he has often refused to leave its limits to help as of late, citing a need to protect the townsfolk against the recent Skordican interlopers. This has increased tension among the local knights, who have challenged him on multiple occasions now that the town's hunting populace has thinned, although the baron has prevented hostilities - for now.

Huwya of Istham

A transplant from the war-torn islands of the west, Huwya is a known spellcaster who dwells in a strange abode, built into an overgrown cave in the thin woods at the foot of a nearby mountain. She is a relatively tall, sly-looking woman with dark hair that has begun to show the first hints of gray, and a distinct western islander accent that drops its inflections low. Though she is quick to grow annoyed with nobles who visit her, stories of her magical ire being unleashed upon the townsfolk are largely unfounded. Having emigrated to Kangdemar at the beginning of the Pollock War under the stewardship of Sir Oftro, the warmth between the two is the only exception to her distaste for nobility, and the proximity of her home to his manor leads many to suggest that they maintain an intimate relationship - although one that is becoming strained by the increasing pressure placed on Oftro by his fellow knights, who wish her to use her abilities to aid in the war effort.

Huwya maintains a small assortment of herbs and medicines in and around her abode, which are usually given freely to the sick and prove to be expensive if another attempts to purchase them. She is often absent for days at a time, and a great many local myths have arisen about her activities since she arrived five years ago - most notably that much of her home is enchanted with devious traps, and that she keeps tabs on much of the nearby lands through the eyes of crows.

Dame Visildy of the Copper Shore

If there were ever to be a tournament for the title of most vain noble within Kangdemar, Dame Visildy would almost certainly win it. Having let the fame of slaying the Beast of the Edler Valley (whom tales say was a werewolf, though any evidence of this has not been presented) sink in, she takes a proud and aggressive stance on the defense of the region. Mustering a modest party of nine men-at-arms and Dagnian mercenaries, she has been invited to make base at Castle Dakrog, overlooking the shipwrecks now frozen in the ice along the Traskic Channel. From there, Baron Utmati's total muster (around 350 total knights, professional soldiers, and mercenaries scattered along the Channel) is controlled, and Visildy no doubt makes bold plans for surprise attacks on the occupiers of Whitedome Island.

Dame Visildy, despite being in her late forties, is still a fit woman with striking features, standing around 5'7. Usually seen in a dark gambeson and chain shirt, Visildy's hair is wild and hangs all over her gear. With a large wooden shield and spear slung over her back, she bears a simple notched circle pendant (known as a gruchi; a ward against spirits) and gestures strongly with her arms.

Roleplaying (Archived) / Holiday 2017 Game - Gauging Interest
« on: December 21, 2017, 08:25:06 AM »
Hello everyone,

I haven't been around much or GM'd in a while, but I was thinking of maybe running a one-shot campaign on the 29th and 30th of December during the day and evenings. This would be a game set in Haveneast and likely using a heavily-houseruled E10 Pathfinder ruleset.

Is anyone around during that time who might be interested? I'm looking for 3-4 players.

Availability Doodle

The only timeslot where everyone lines up thus far is from 3-7PM (eastern) on the 29th, so we'll go with that. We'll go from there and see if there's any other opportunity.

The Dragon's Den (Archived) / Starcraft Remastered Discussion Thread
« on: April 26, 2017, 09:30:18 PM »
Is anyone else freakin' pumped to play some Starcraft with upgraded graphics?! I've been watching various Twitch streamers for a couple of weeks in anticipation. I'm thinking I might attempt to make some new D&D/RP maps for the occasion, especially if they improve the map editor to the level that the 3rd-party tools are at.

EDIT: For those who haven't seen the video: Link

Quote from: LoA
Is it possible to have tiny races without them being broken?

Quote from: Hoers
If they're playing alongside human-sized races, then I doubt it. If all characters of interest are that small, then you can treat much larger creatures as a different kind of encounter entirely; maybe an "environmental" hazard, or even a watered-down Cthulhu-style "this is not necessarily something you were meant to combat" kind of encounter.

Quote from: sparkletwist
I mean, sure it is. Just don't give them any mechanical effect for being tiny. tongue

Quote from: LoA
I'm beginning to hammer down, and flesh out a world, and I'm stubbornly attached to the idea of a race of sentient toys. How "Small" can you be while still be considered "Small" in dnd terms?

Quote from: Hoers
I think once your toy is about the size of a cat or smaller, it's "Tiny" size

Quote from: Steerpike
It depends on the edition. In 5th edition, size doesn't come with a lot of pre-packaged bonuses and penalties apart from how much space you take up. Tiny creatures *tend* to be hard to hit, but don't get an AC bonus, for example. In Pathfinder, Tiny is more difficult to balance, but could easily be ignored, house-ruled, etc.

Quote from: Hoers
Another thing about smaller races, depending on how realistic you want to get, is that they're going to be less susceptible to fall damage and similar effects, as they will have a lower terminal velocity. It'd be good to comb through the combat and movement rules to see what might not make sense for them.

Quote from: sparkletwist
Thread plz

Gogo gadget discussion!

So lately I've started reading The Once and Future King by T.H. White, and while I'm only partway through The Sword and the Stone, it's brought me to do a lot of thinking about the way spellcasters are portrayed in fantasy these days.

In the aforementioned novel, Merlyn is a relatively benevolent wizard who is looked upon with wonder by children (such as young Arthur and Kay), but varying levels of distrust by adults, who at least desire some proof that he is a benevolent mage of God and not a dark magician of some sort. The particularly interesting thing about him, though, is the variety - and relatively casual use - of magic he displays. Arthur's first meeting with him has him experience what is essentially Merlyn's entire kitchen of cutlery and dishes talk, walk, and clean themselves, while his familiar - the owl Archimedes - is a bashful, but knowledgeable foil to Merlyn's backwards-in-time forgetfulness (more on that in a bit). When Merlyn returns with Arthur to his childhood home, Sir Ector requests that Merlyn provide some sort of proof of his abilities and benevolence, to which Merlyn responds by conjuring a blooming fruit tree (of a kind that won't exist for hundreds of years) in the courtyard, and causes a sudden heavy snowfall around them in the dead heat of summer. Further on, he turns Arthur into a fish, and later a hawk so that he can learn their "secrets", all without doing much more than reciting some obscure Latin, sometimes in reverse.

All of this seems to be offset by what you would consider his "curse", which Merlyn himself describes as so:

IC: Merlyn
“Now ordinary people are born forwards in Time, if you understand what I mean, and nearly everything in the world goes forward too. This makes it quite easy for the ordinary people to live, just as it would be easy to join those five dots into a W if you were allowed to look at them forwards, instead of backwards and inside out. But I unfortunately was born at the wrong end of time, and I have to live backwards from in front, while surrounded by a lot of people living forwards from behind. Some people call it having a second sight.”


“Have I told you this before?”


“You see, one gets confused with Time, when it is like that. All one’s tenses get muddled, for one thing. If you know what is going to happen to people, and not what has happened to them, it makes it difficult to prevent it happening, if you don’t want it to have happened, if you see what I mean? Like drawing in a mirror.”

As I had mentioned at the start of the post, this got me thinking about spellcasters in different settings and systems. I know that in Haveneast, I had always imagined a sort of tradeoff for the use of magic being present, usually in the form of exhaustion or physical damage if the right foci and ingredients weren't used to augment one's spells - but maybe in your world, or another you know a lot about, things might take on a different feel. Maybe there are a variety of "curses" or "burdens" that someone who wants to use magic stronger than cantrips. Using the infamous Pathfinder system, one could take inspiration from the Oracle's curses - although a lot of these are pretty restrictive from a PC standpoint - but the system just isn't geared for doing that to every caster, and I feel like longtime wizard/sorcerer/druid/cleric/oracle/witch players might be annoyed about having to choose such a curse for their character, even if it's a little less severe.

How does everyone here feel about what I said and quoted from Merlyn, or about the possibility of all spellcasters in a setting/system (not just Pathfinder and D&D) having some sort of "curse" like Merlyn's?

Homebrews (Archived) / Haveneast: Lost Kingdoms
« on: January 24, 2017, 10:27:09 PM »

IC: The Conquest of Fallen Empires
War - progress had always been about war, in some way or another. Scarcely had a pleasant song been sung, or a tale of romance told, without the horror and fear of war to provide its gloomy contrast. Gilbany had seemingly become the dominant power across the continent through war, and through vassalage from those kingdoms that aligned closely enough with them to see war as unreasonable. The old Ingari Empire that Gilbany sought to emulate had done so, too; and all of those ancient kingdoms before the fledgling land of Ingary - said to be locked under the ice in the north - no doubt had their own great conquests, if perhaps with weapons of stone over smaller realms. Indeed, it was war in Haveneast that spurred great discoveries in smithing, magic, and even the written word along, forcing entire cultures into upheaval and migration in hopes of finding shelter from not only the creeping blizzards, but from storm of combat as well.

It came as no surprise then that it was war again on the winds from the mountains, slowly bubbling in the blood of nobility who rarely brandished weapons except within their own courts, and whipped into the young, promising plunder and honor to those who couldn't be swayed into frenzy over some slight said to be made against their ancestors. It is against the Gilbanian Empire and its wedding-made ally Kangdemar - and to a lesser extent, its increasingly estranged vassal states of Warskaria and Aath - that the battle drums beat. Their opponents are many, surrounding them on nearly all fronts; and while they lack the logistical advantage that the Horse Empire possesses, they present perhaps the greatest challenge to its king. The elite of the court are frequently and proudly boasting against the coming dark - and their own choir - of their realm like so:

Gilbany, whose horse-masters conquered the plains and the low forests for nearly a thousand years and quashed all opposition;

Gilbany, where High King Athland, who led the Kingdom into the Empire by laying siege to the mountain peoples, and lived for a hundred years;

Gilbany, whose eyes are every crow, whose armies ride the fastest horses, and whose heart beats in the dire wolf;

Gilbany, of which the Truest Bloodline reigns over.

There is no question among its adversaries that Gilbany has the prestige and the power to survive yet another threat from afar; and yet, whispers and rumors from within - perhaps started by spies, but made real by assassins - begin to ask: can it survive itself?


  • Ice Age - or the edge of one: While Haveneast isn't under a devastating winter like Fimbulvinter, the world is a much colder version of our own. There are certainly steaming jungles and balmy archipelagos to be found, but they are dwarfed by the vast ranges of dry, cold deserts and equally frosty ice sheets.
  • Humanity vs the dark: One of the major themes of every rendition of Haveneast has been the struggle of humanity against its own wickedness as much as supernatural evils. This is reflected in the belief systems of the world, which are dominated by careful worship of varied, localized spirits that are mostly cruel, wrathful and sadistic. Most alternatives to these are more abstract philosophy, or different kinds of nature worship/animism. TL;DR - there are no direct analogues of the Abrahamic religions.
  • Inhospitable, frozen and/or searing wastes: As mentioned above, these are now all over the place. Since so much ice is locked up on Haveneast's land masses, the world is colder and drier, leading to fewer areas with enough water and vegetation to support significant life. These wastes are instead said to be the realm of unnatural creatures, and are believed to surround secret and/or ruined kingdoms hidden in remote valleys and the like...
  • Dire animals, and more dire animals: Many iconic real-world animals have gotten a little bigger and/or more primal, as you can imagine might be fitting for a harsher world (this even applies to stuff like cattle). There are also Haveneast variations on pre-historic species like the woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, cave lion, and smilodon roaming around.
  • Chivalry, nobility, kingdom: Monarchies are commonplace, and courts filled with those who have sworn oaths to their rulers are too.
  • Struggle against the seasons: Despite there being a decent amount of very arable, warm and wet lands to settle and farm, there are an equal number of harsher regions where fewer crops will grow. This leads to more nomadic, tribal cultures, or very guarded city-states that carefully watch for changes to the land and the weather around them, hoping the snow line might recede further each year.
  • Nature magic is best magic: Although spellcasters aren't looked upon favorably in most places, being able to control the weather, understand animals, purify otherwise soured food, and change the land for the better all go a long way in improving everyday life.
  • Distrust of spellcasters: The world is harsh enough; people don't want to have to deal with the risen dead, uncontrollable fires, or losing their loved ones to magical illnesses. Most are skeptical and can be won over, but more militant and hostile anti-magic factions exist.
  • Dawn of literacy: Most people can't read or write. Spoken word is the way of things, but to some the runes and letters that are slowly gaining acceptance are more powerful than any magic the greatest mage could muster.
  • War's just over the horizon: The world of Haveneast, locked in an ice age, sees arguably even more conflict than our world ever did in the Classical and Medieval periods - and a big one's looming.

OOC: Changes
So for the last little while I've been talking to sparkletwist and others about ice ages, woolly mammoths, and other nifty stuff. I found this page a couple of years ago and thought it was super cool. The whole ice age thing - especially when you tie it with fantasy monsters lurking around the suddenly all-too-common deserts and frozen wastes, or in endless kingdoms carved out of the ice sheets - seems to fit Haveneast surprisingly well, and it seems like I can't get the imagery of woolly mammoths and bigger, more primal animals separated from the mix of western European chivalric tropes with various Native American cultures. Let's see where this goes. For now I'll be porting over stuff from the other thread that worked, so what you see below may or may not look familiar for the time being. As far as I'm concerned, the sudden climate change has in fact always been this way, and I haven't posted a map yet because relative locations will be moving around a bit.

I've been struggling with getting this setting going. I've been thinking a lot about it - what I think it needs, where the strong points are, and what just isn't working. I've realized that in my attempts to showcase my ideas for magic, monsters, a more "modern" chivalry, and cultural blends, I've created a world where the major powers are pretty boring. This is especially the case with Gilbany, who was always portrayed as this bastion of light and honor and prosperity in (what seems to me, anyway) a pretty nondescript Rohan-esque horse-lords-and-castles thing. That's not fun for me, and probably not that much fun for players, so I'm changing it. Gilbany is essentially becoming Haveneast's equivalent of the Roman Empire, with bits of magic and a lot of help from a more prominent cavalry caste. I think the big thing missing with Gilbany - and since it features so prominently, the whole setting - has been that while it's a great and powerful empire, it didn't have that internal conflict and corruption that is often portrayed in media. So that is coming, along with many other things.

Hey everyone,

So last week I put together a discussion thread on my interests in tweaking the Pathfinder class list, which turned into a fairly long and complicated discussion that branched off in multiple directions. Then Polycarp and I got talking in the IRC channel, and he mentioned some totally freakin' awesome house rules he used for his Pathfinder games, intended for use with another freakin' awesome ruleset for alternative magic called Spheres of Power. We've decided to do some collaboration, so this will be our discussion thread. Below is a copy & paste of his document, spiffed up a bit to help make it easier to read:

Polycarp's House Rules

  • The level cap is 6.  Experience gained after that level earns bonus (“epic”) feats rather than further levels.
  • We will be using a single base ability array for all characters: 15, 13, 13, 11, 11, 9.
  • Characters gain a +1 bonus to an ability of their choice on every even-numbered level (that is, at 2nd, 4th, and 6th) rather than every four levels.  (This compels a choice between raising one ability modifier by +2 or three ability modifiers by +1)
  • Characters have maximum hit points for their first level, and average hit points rounded down for every level thereafter.
  • All classes are considered favored classes for all characters at all times.

Core Mechanics
  • Characters no longer receive iterative attacks from BAB.  Instead, a character with a BAB of +6 may make an additional attack at his highest base attack bonus as part of a full attack action in exchange for a -2 penalty to all attacks that round.  Both the additional attack and the penalty stack with bonus attacks and penalties from two-weapon fighting.
  • When wielding a light weapon, characters can choose to apply their Dexterity modifier to both attack and damage rolls instead of their Strength modifier.
  • Characters add either Dexterity or Strength to their CMB, whichever is higher.

Bonus Feats
  • All characters with a BAB of +1 or greater receive Power Attack and Deadly Aim as bonus feats, regardless of whether they meet any prerequisites for these feats.
  • Characters receive Master Craftsman as a bonus feat at 5th level, provided that they meet the prerequisites at that time.
  • All characters with a BAB of +6 receive Vital Strike as a bonus feat.

Feat Revisions

  • Feats which have a requirement of BAB +8 or Fighter level 8 instead require BAB +6 or Fighter level 6, respectively.
  • “Improved” combat maneuver feats no longer have any prerequisites.  Any prerequisites removed in this way are also no longer required for any feats which have an “Improved” combat maneuver feat as a prerequisite.  For purposes of this revision, “combat maneuver” includes using the Bluff skill to feint.
  • Weapon Focus and Weapon Specialization benefit all weapons within the same weapon group instead of individual weapons (see Fighter’s Weapon Training ability for a list of weapon groups).
    Feats that have Power Attack as a prerequisite no longer do, nor do they require Str 13 if they did previously.
  • Dodge and Mobility have been merged.  The new Dodge feat requires Dex 13 and grants a +1 dodge bonus to AC and a further +4 dodge bonus to AC against attacks of opportunity provoked by moving into or out of a threatened area.  Feats which formerly required Dodge and Mobility now only require Dodge.
  • Point-Blank Shot and Precise Shot have been merged.  The new Precise Shot feat grants a +1 bonus to attack and damage with ranged weapons within 30 feet, and also removes the -4 attack penalty for shooting into melee.  Feats which formerly required Point-Blank shot and/or Precise Shot now only require Precise Shot.
  • Combat Expertise has been removed.  Feats which required Combat Expertise no longer do, nor do they require Int 13 if they did formerly.
  • Weapon Finesse has been removed.  Feats that have Weapon Finesse as a prerequisite no longer do.
  • Piranha Strike has been removed.
  • Agile Maneuvers has been removed.
  • Fury’s Fall has been removed.
  • Dervish Dance has been removed.
  • Exotic Weapon Proficiency has been removed (see Equipment).
  • Classes/archetypes that give a bonus feat which has been removed (e.g. the Lore Warden and Combat Expertise) instead give a bonus combat feat of the player’s choice.

  • At character creation, PCs receive 1 bonus skill point.  This skill point can only be spent on a Craft or Profession skill, presumably reflecting the character’s prior occupation.
  • Perception is no longer a skill.  Instead, characters and creatures make Perception rolls by rolling 1d20 and adding their Wisdom modifier and their character level.  (For reference, this is identical to a situation in which all characters max out Perception but do not have it as a class skill).  Feats, spells, and class abilities which would modify Perception skill checks instead modify this new Perception roll.

  • Traits will not be used, and the Additional Traits feat has been removed.
  • I have toyed with the idea of custom traits as special rewards as characters advance and become more fleshed out.  No final word on this, but I’m thinking about it.

  • All exotic weapons are removed, because they are by and large gimmicky, pointless, nonsensical, thematically inappropriate, or some combination of these.  The whip, bola, lasso, and net are now martial weapons instead.
  • The whip is considered to be a light weapon.
  • The spear may be used as a one-handed weapon by a character with Martial Weapon Proficiency with no penalty.  Other characters may also use the spear one-handed but are treated as non-proficient while doing so.
  • Blunt arrows do not exist.  It hurts me that this is a thing I have to write.

Epic Characters
  • As noted, characters who reach level 6 receive bonus feats instead of gaining further levels.  These can be normal feats, but special “epic” feats unavailable to non-epic characters will also be posted if the game makes it this far.
  • Some class abilities received at 7th or 8th level (e.g. a barbarian’s DR 1/-) will be available to single-class characters as epic feats.  Lower-level abilities may similarly be available to multiclass characters.


Combat maneuvers are sad.  Not only do they require large feat investments to get working, but they’re often less effective than simply dealing damage.

Combat classes can also be sad – a common complaint is that some martial classes simply have nothing to do every round except say “I attack.”  Even those that build their characters for maneuvers typically can’t attempt more than one or two; the feat investment is otherwise simply too high.

Fortunately, each of these issues recommends a solution to the other, which in this game takes the form of the attack maneuver.

Attack Maneuvers

Whenever a character uses the attack or charge action to make a single melee attack, the player may declare a single combat maneuver that they are also attempting.  If that attack hits, the attacker may, as a swift action, attempt the named combat maneuver against that opponent.

Any combat maneuver can be attempted as part of an attack action.  The only attack maneuvers that can be attempted as part of a charge action are Overrun and Bull Rush.

As a specific exception to the “attack or charge action” condition above, an attack maneuver may also be attempted as part of the single attack made during the Spring Attack full-round action.  The only attack maneuvers that can be attempted with Spring Attack are Dirty Trick, Disarm, Steal, Sunder, and Trip.

You must meet all normal requirements and conditions for the maneuver you choose in order to attempt that maneuver.  Some maneuvers also have special conditions or restrictions when used as attack maneuvers.

Bull Rush: If you want to push an opponent back more than 5 feet, you must have the excess movement to do so.  You can’t attempt this maneuver against a creature more than one size category larger than you.
Dirty Trick: This maneuver cannot impose the blinded condition when attempted as an attack maneuver unless the target is currently dazzled (whether by a spell, light sensitivity, or a previous Dirty Trick).
Disarm: If you want to take the target’s weapon in hand (as opposed to dropping it), the attack maneuver must be made without a weapon (i.e. with an unarmed strike or natural attack).
Drag: If you want to drag an opponent more than 5 feet, you must have the excess movement to do so.  You can’t attempt this maneuver against a creature more than one size category larger than you.
Grapple: If you are humanoid, this maneuver can only be attempted if you have at least one hand free.  Remember that having only a single hand free imposes a -4 penalty to CMB when attempting to grapple a foe.
Overrun: If the target chooses to avoid you, your attack automatically misses.  You can’t attempt this maneuver against a creature more than one size category larger than you.
Reposition: You can’t attempt this maneuver against a creature more than one size category larger than you.
Steal: You must have at least one hand free to attempt this maneuver.
Sunder: No special conditions.
Trip: This maneuver can only be attempted as an attack maneuver if the attack is made unarmed, with a natural weapon, or with a weapon with the trip special quality.  You can’t attempt this maneuver against a creature more than one size category larger than you.

Note that using the Bluff skill to feint is not a combat maneuver, and can’t be used as part of an attack maneuver.


Attack maneuvers never provoke an attack of opportunity like normal combat maneuvers, even if the attacker doesn’t possess the appropriate “Improved” combat maneuver feat.

To compensate, the “Improved” combat maneuver feats now allow you to make the named maneuver as an attack maneuver as a free action instead of a swift action.  Regardless, only one combat maneuver can be attempted as an attack maneuver per turn.


This experimental rule is intended to create more interesting fighting options by making it so martial characters don’t always have to choose between dealing damage and making maneuvers.  It is also intended to allow non-specialized characters to experiment with maneuvers without completely wasting their time.

Maneuvers can still be attempted the traditional way, without being part of an attack, and there are times when this may be desirable or necessary.  Succeeding with an attack maneuver requires success with both the attack and the maneuver, so “normal” maneuvers attempted on their own – without being part of an attack – are more likely to succeed.  If you really need to push someone off a cliff or disarm an opponent right now and dealing damage is a secondary concern, you may prefer to attempt a normal maneuver.  Normal maneuvers may also still be used in situations where attack maneuvers are unavailable (e.g. when making an attack of opportunity).

One anticipated effect of the attack maneuver rules is to make full attacks slightly less dominant, as you can’t use an attack maneuver with the full attack action.  While a melee combatant may still prefer to make a full attack to deliver as much damage as possible, full attacks are no longer strictly better than standard attacks – the potential for more damage must be weighed against the potential for a successful maneuver.  For a full attack focused character, attack maneuvers may just be an added bonus for times when they can’t full attack.  For a maneuver-focused character, attack maneuvers allow them to “do their thing” while still dealing damage.

Attack maneuvers also make previously underwhelming combat feats like Spring Attack and Vital Strike significantly more powerful.

Since attack maneuvers use swift actions, they are more useful for classes who generally don’t need swift actions for much else (e.g. Fighters).  If a character isn’t using his swift action for anything else in a round in which he makes an attack, charge, or Spring Attack, there’s no reason not to attempt a maneuver.  Players whose characters are more dependent on swift actions for their class abilities should consider taking at least one of the “Improved” maneuver feats if they want to use combat maneuvers without overloading their action economy too much.


That's the core of the changes, again with the note that the assumption is that magic happens through the Spheres of Power method, rather than the classic Vancian style. The next couple of posts will be reserved for other things, including my own additions specifically for a Haveneast game, and more detailed explorations and/or Polycarp's game-specific musings (if something comes up).

Thoughts on Armor Tweaks

It's easy to look at the Pathfinder armor list and say to yourself that you'd probably never use any of the heavy stuff because of the limits it imposes, unless you weren't overly concerned with move speed and had a poor Dex score. The optimal choices seem to be either Chain Shirt or Breastplate for most builds, while everything heavier tends to get ignored for the aforementioned reasons (never mind that from a cost-per-AC-point perspective, a lot of them are garbage anyway). I think a nice improvement would be to buff the heavier armors (or at least full plate armor) in such a way that it's actually worth wearing it and taking a reduced Dex bonus to AC as a result, under the assumptions that it'd be both

a) expensive/rare (definite yes for my setting)
b) more of a "shit's about to get real serious" or "we meet on the battlefield at dawn" armor than something you're going to wear fairly often while adventuring

My proposal is to make it so that it's flat-out superior (+10 or even +11 AC, but +0 Dex to AC) to any other option that allows the armor to AC + Dex to AC (e.g. breastplate at +9 total), so that theoretically certain characters might be cool with giving up their Dex bonus as I mentioned. Doing it this way still leaves some heavy options with decent AC bonuses (field plate, or half-plate for those who have a +0 from Dex anyway). I'm certainly open to suggestions about this, including further tweaking the other armors in the heavy category.

So as some of you (sparkletwist, mainly) are aware, I've been playing around with Pathfinder yet again in an attempt to make it more amenable to the type of game I want to run with my Haveneast setting. I'm planning on maybe running a game soon (probably offline, but it could be a chat game), and I intend on selling it as a somewhat gritty, E10 (10th level is maximum) fantasy game set in a world that's mostly early medieval with heavy influence from pre-Colombian civilizations. Here's my main dilemma:

I want to improve the viability of non-casters, but I'd also like to avoid Path of War mechanics if possible.

I'm not a huge fan of Path of War (or the Book of Nine Swords that inspired it), but I'd be okay with using any that weren't too bonkers and/or supernatural. This is obviously kind of tricky - it's difficult to give a proper buff to non-casters (by which I mean classes with 4th-level casting at best; this would mainly be the Paladin in my setting, as the Ranger class takes on the Skirmisher or Trapper archetype by default), and different classes definitely have more staying power than others when it comes to comparing to full casters and PoW classes. My trains of thought so far either involve:

1) Providing a fairly light boost to all non-caster classes, such as maybe getting access to any archetype's abilities in addition to the default class features (so you might, for example, get the benefits of the Barbarian Hurler archetype without having to give anything up) - I'm not a huge fan of this one, but it does give a little bit of an extra oomph towards your combat options and character fluff.

2) Removing the fighter entirely, buffing the rogue a little, and making the fighter's bonus feat progression, armor training, and weapon training available as a class feature for all non-caster classes - I like this one the most, and compared to #3, it requires much less work. In this scenario, the Cavalier becomes the "Warrior" class and essentially takes the fighter's place as the default combat specialist (keep in mind, he's now getting the fighter's feats and training), although something would need to be done about how the class is very mount-focused as it is. My main difficulty with this approach is that I seem to have less choice for the default soldier/bandit NPC (I guess me thinking the fighter would be good for this sort of mook says a lot about its quality).

3) I could theoretically put together a simplified class system that also helps address my desire to ban/modify certain classes. This class list would be something like Warrior, Rogue, Knight, Wizard, Shaman, Warlock (sparkletwist's version) - where each class more-or-less lines up with an ability score) - and the modification would incorporate Path of War maneuvers, as well as feat and/or class feature options to gain abilities that eliminated classes would have (dat customization). This one is also pretty cool, but would be much more time-consuming and would require a little play-testing.

You can take a look at my currently short list of house rules here:

What are your thoughts on these change options?

Additional Thoughts - Making the Fighter "Better"

I did a Google search for "does the fighter really suck" and got a bunch of results for 3.5, but one (GITP) did make at least some sense. Why does a fighter have such a garbage skill selection? It seems like the Fighter class could reasonably go up to 4 skill points per level base, maybe even 6. I don't think it should be as low as the Barbarian, which is pretty much your stereotypical "smash to win" class. I've never really thought that any class should only get 2 skill points per level as a baseline, but if I were to pick one, it'd probably be the barbarian. I realize this isn't a "oh wow everything is fixed" solution, but it does make the fighter slightly more capable outside of combat.

So Pathfinder isn't necessarily going to be anyone's favorite system, but the one thing that it and its predecessors do seem to have going for it is the relative familiarity most people will have with it.  One of the things I always liked about it personally is the way character class says volumes about the setting that you're playing in, even if you've taken great lengths to dress up your character in a different way. That being said, I feel like classes available to players - while full of variety and different things to play - seems like it's maybe trying to cover too many tropes and themes. While toying with the idea of running a Haveneast game again, and the inevitable selection of Pathfinder as the system to use, I've been wondering how to convey the setting's feel (while helping to keep my own sanity intact) by limiting the choices available from the class list. As it's a late-Dark-Ages-meets-pre-Columbian-Americas, low-magic fantasy setting, there are obvious class options that don't really fit at all (Alchemist, Gunslinger in particular), while there are a bunch more that seem a little out-of-place because of the tone I'm trying to set with the world (Cleric, most bard Archetypes, Sorcerer and even Wizard).

I understand that

  • I haven't ever really given anyone a proper explanation of exactly what feel I'm going for with the setting, and it often changes
  • Trying to shoehorn setting theme into a system as rigid as Pathfinder is never going to work as well as you want

But still, I think there is a happy medium that can be reached. Specifically, I've been thinking about limiting a class list to something like the following:

  • Barbarian
  • Skald
  • Cavalier
  • Druid
  • Fighter
  • Hunter (maybe a better fit than Ranger and/or Druid)
  • Oracle
  • Paladin (a bit of overlap with Cavalier)
  • Ranger (maybe replaced by Hunter)
  • Rogue
  • Shaman (really crazy good fit, but Witch and Oracle are still within bounds)
  • Warlock (a community port from 3.5 such as this one
  • Witch

The Warlock in particular is a focal point - out of all of the classes in 3.5 or PF, I've always felt that it most closely represented the iconic spellcaster for the Haveneast setting.

What I'm wondering from anyone reading this is: how do you feel this list, taken at face value, changes your perspective on the setting, before reading anything else? What does it say about the things you'd expect to encounter? Does it change the balance of caster-vs-non-caster in a way that sticks out to you?

Meta (Archived) / Wonders of the World(s)
« on: July 17, 2016, 09:45:49 PM »
In the same vein as my heroes and villains thread, I thought it'd be interesting for people to share their worlds' natural and humanoid-made wonders. These aspects of a setting often seem overlooked or otherwise not relevant to the games in question, and while it might not necessarily be easy for some of them to feature in a game (especially if they're far-off or unknown to the players' region), they can definitely help set a tone. Some of the questions I'm asking will work for artificial wonders more than natural, but hearing about both types would be cool.

What are some of your world's wonders (If you've got a setting that is, say, sci-fi that spans multiple worlds, feel free to talk about any that might exist there, instead)?

If artificial, who were they built by?

What purpose did/do they serve, and/or what significance do they have to the surrounding cultures?

Are they ruined, intact/functional, or under construction?

How do they figure in, if at all, to the games you are currently running?

For example, in Haveneast, there are a few artificial and natural wonders in the Anglyrion region that I've previously run - in the artificial category there are the Towers of the Wilderness (or Hadia's Fingers), which were massive structures built in an attempt to protect the Gilbanian frontier in the centuries past. They're not unlike what you'd get if you took the tower of Barad-Dur, made it look a little less sinister, and put a beacon system like that between Rohan and Gondor atop each. There were nine built in total, but only three remain in good shape and another two (started later on) were never completed. A little to the south of the region, the road system is known as the Red Horizon Road and is part of a continued effort of the city-states throughout the region to improve their trading capabilities. It is a wide, well-maintained road with open shelters at regular intervals that stretches for thousands of miles. Its endurance and prominence has led to numerous tie-ins with local belief systems and folklore, and the region is said to be incredibly difficult to conquer by outsiders because of the city-states' pacts to protect their road and their neighbors.

In terms of natural wonders, the only significant one in the area is Gamurkot, a field of brilliant yet ominous and jagged ice spires in the mountains that separate Gilbany from its allies. They are said to be the home of mad shining spirits that are generous by day, but murderous in the dark. Unfortunately Gamurkot is visible from few places outside the mountains, and as a result various pilgrimage destinations are found embedded in the cliff faces high atop nearby peaks with clear views of the stunning sight.

None of these have featured in my games as of yet, although I've toyed with a game set in the region that the Red Horizon Road spans.

Meta (Archived) / The Hero and the Archnemesis
« on: July 14, 2016, 05:43:32 PM »
There are certainly no shortage of examples of this pair in fantasy and science fiction, but here at the CBG it seems we often focus on grander aspects of our settings. To that end, I thought I'd post a thread to help alleviate the slow period of the summer. I find that such small details can really add a lot of character to the themes of your setting. In the past, I've definitely had some examples, but with Fractal Galaxy and Haveneast, I've rarely focused on individuals.

Are there any very notable examples of heroes (or heroines) and their nemeses in your worlds?

How do they relate to the original setting concept?

Are they historic or current?

How has their struggle played out?

Did you base them off of characters from other media?

Is it possible your gaming group(s) will encounter them, or even come into conflict with them at some point?

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