Friday, May 31, 2013

Keroen Skathos and the Nel in 10003 DK.

So one of the things the guys have learned in Orcunraytrel is that the Briar King, Silver King, and their consorts are all Nel. They've also learned that Keroen Skathos is the creator and king of the Nel and he is currently masquerading as the Briar King in Serethnem and plans on bringing the Sereth to Orcunraytrel to find Evandor, the true Briar King. Since Cary, Jason, and Lance haven't been gaming with me or reading the blog as long as Eric, (the blog has officially been around for five years and eighteen days as of this post) they might not be as aware of the who and what and why of Keroen Skathos. I bring all this up because I've asked everyone that reads this blog regularly to give me some ideas about what they'd like me to write about, and Lance said he'd like to know why Keroen and the Nel are having such an impact on The Known World all of a sudden. This is going to be an explanation of events and their progression. There aren't any spoilers here. Some of this has been implied by Andorian or explained in previous campaigns or hinted at in various posts. 

So this one time I wrote a story. Took several years with long gaps between sessions of work. It was about this guy called Keroen Skathos, and his people, the Nel. Over the years I've said things, written things, and posted things about Keroen, the story, and the Nel. Little bits and pieces, or large bits and pieces, or short stories. Sometimes I posted thoughts on rules and how the Gifts of the Nel would work in the game. Hmmm, just had an idea for how to make them work in GURPS. A very very simple and easy to use method. Damn. Fucking GURPS. Unfortunately, there's no good way to depict the Gifts of the Nel with Pathfinder. They're too broad and too powerful. I think I've made it work though, and it's something I needed to do, because eventually someone may decide to take a shot at Andorian. But probably not. We'll see. I think I've laid on the "I am an immortal sorcerer-king and I can do whatever the fuck I want" thick enough that they're not going to attack him unless he provokes them extensively. 

Anyway. So there are six Nel that have had contact with The Known World in the past ten thousand and three years. The first four are Evandor (the true Briar King), Andorian (his consort), Kolenarel (the Silver King), and Vandella (his queen). They came to The Known World in like the 3800 DKs for reasons that are irrelevant to anything we will discuss here. They didn't come to The Known World specifically, they were fleeing their homeland, again for reasons that are irrelevant to anything we'll discuss here. The Nel don't even know The Known World exists. If Hekinoe is about the size of Earth, The Known World sits kind of where North America sits, albeit a little more south, and the homeland of the Nel sits about where China is. 

The fifth Nel to come to The Known World is Callifay, and he was coming after Evandor, Andorian, Kolenarel, and Vandella. He was sort of tracking them, and ended up in The Known World by following their trail. Once in The Known World, he found them, easily too, but by that time they had already turned a native population into the Vyanth and were ruling over them and Callifay lacks the means to handle four other lastborn and the kingdom that serves them. So he set up shop to watch them from the trees. He didn't do much else. Just kind of lurked, hoping an opportunity would arise. It didn't. What he did do while hanging out is irrelevant and kind of a spoiler. 

The sixth Nel to come to The Known World is Keroen Skathos himself. He didn't come there specifically for any reason beyond he ended up sailing east from the homeland of the Nel and ended up running into the western shore of The Known World. Came close to missing it though, as he ended up in The Beast Lands. This was around fifteen hundred years or so ago. He mostly just bummed around The Beast Lands fighting the tribes and beasts there, then he ran into Callifay and they started hanging out. At one point, back in their homeland, they were something of an item. 

Keroen was never a sit on your throne and rule benevolently kind of king. He's calmed over the years, but he is pretty much how I envision Conan as he rules Aquilonia in his dotage. Yells a lot, gets really pissed off a lot, and periodically has to cut off a head or appendage to get things done. Periodic culls of the population of the Nel were not uncommon when he was in charge. Keroen is a warrior more than he is a king, he doesn't really desire power, he's never had to, he's always been the most powerful thing around. This changed for him, and is part of why he ended up leaving the homeland of the Nel. So he is accustomed to violence and leading others into violence, and there is war here in The Known World. Keroen and Callifay begin collecting other warriors, starting with the Uncout and Greenskin Abraxens. Once they have a sizable band going, they start looking for work as mercenaries and get involved with Kusseth. Keroen takes on the name Cenn and calls his mercenary band Cenn's Reavers. He gets pretty popular and is pretty successful and ends up taking Meroteth for Kusseth about eight centuries ago, which is the fight he's most well known for.

So eight centuries pass by, and Keroen realizes he is back where he started. He's in charge of a bunch of shits he doesn't really like. Which is why he abdicated, sort of, back in the homeland of the Nel in the first place. He likes fighting, and if a creature like him can love, he loves Callifay. Bald William is a decent sort, as is Laram Volungson. But the rest of his warriors are some of the worst shits in The Known World. Think of Cenn's Reavers as kind of like a mobile Arkam Asylum, but replace all the bat shit crazy with equal amounts of bloodthirstiness and skill at fighting. Long story short, during The Rebellion Arc Keroen Skathos decides to fake his own death to absolve himself of his responsibilities to Cenn's Reavers and to cast off the Cenn persona so he can do something else with himself. 

He ends up pretty battered and broken, with most of his body burned away. Nel regenerate and are immortal, so all he needs is time. Callifay decides to take him someplace quiet, so he wanders into the depths of Serethnem. It takes about four years for him to be physically whole, another year or two after that for him to wake up and be capable of full sentences. In that time, Sereth have discovered him and the ancient magics that the Briar King wrought to change the desert into a pleasant place to live have found a new power source, the Gifts within Keroen and Callifay. Which is part of why Keroen took so long to regenerate. 

So the Sereth find these two Nel sitting in this patch of desert that is starting to turn into dirt where black briars are starting to grow into black trees and they come to one conclusion: the Briar King has returned. They rejoice and start coming to the center of the desert to wait for him to wake up. Callifay does his best to disabuse them of this notion, so the ground ends up littered with lots of dead Sereth. When Keroen wakes up, he finds himself stuck once more as a leader of a people he doesn't really want anything to do with. 

Now, the Sereth are pretty tough customers. They're basically Fremen with high powered rifles. Keroen's first instinct is to kill the fuck out of them and spend a few decades alone with Callifay in the heart of this desert in peace and quiet (aside from the dire hyenas and burrowing night fowls). This runs the risk of the Silver King and the Vyanth investigating the extinction of the Sereth and Keroen is going for anonymity nowadays. So he acts like the Briar King and meets with as many of the elders of the Sereth as he can get in one spot and explains to them that he is not in fact the Briar King, which isn't new information. Callifay and Keroen have been screaming at the Sereth that neither of them is the Briar King returned pretty much constantly. They don't buy it though, because Keroen and Callifay fit the descriptions of the Briar King and his consort from forty-five hundred years ago when they disappeared. By fit, I mean they vaguely resemble the descriptions found in fragmented records of the Sereth from that time. Which makes sense, because all Nel lastborn bear a passing resemblance to one another. 

Keroen explains to these elders that he is in fact the king of the Briar King, his creator just as the Briar King is the creator of the Sereth. They accept this, and those that don't, verify it with sorcery. They then determine that he is their king's king, so they are his people till the Briar King is found. Unable to argue with that logic, Keroen and Callifay kill a bunch of Sereth and sit in their camp in the center of the desert and ignore the Sereth. The Sereth are content to return the favor, but the desert has been feeding off of the Gifts of Keroen and Callifay for seven years now and the center of the desert is starting to look like earth and stone with trees growing on it. So the Sereth let Callifay and Keroen ignore them, but they set to work building a town around the two Nel. They're not stonemasons or master carpenters, but they get the gist of what needs to be done. 

Luckily for Keroen, around this time a certain group of individuals are wandering into a certain pyramid in a certain place (possibly falling into lava because someone is too busy master debating to watch his footing) and find a certain individual by the name of Andorian. The guys release Andorian, Andorian gives them all boons, and he immediately zips back to Serethnem from Orcunraytrel. He spends a few hours weeping and turning the sand to glass in his fury. He was expecting to come home to a dark and chilly forest covered by a bruise colored sky of storm clouds, not a blinding expanse of desert. Once he's vented his fury and sadness, he starts looking for the Sereth and finds the little oasis around Keroen and Callifay. He immediately shits his pants, as he realizes who Keroen is and rightly fears him. 

Keroen's first instinct is to drain the life out of Andorian, as Callifay has already told him that the Silver King and Briar King and their consorts are who they are and did what they did back in the homeland of the Nel. But, if Andorian is still around, Evandor probably is as well. If Keroen can find the Briar King, he can drag him back to Serethnem to rule over the Sereth so Keroen doesn't have to deal with them following him around. 

Keroen makes a deal with Andorian. Andorian and Evandor get to live and keep their power if Evandor comes back to Serethnem and rules the Sereth and gives Keroen the Wytchstave. Keroen sends Andorian back to Orcunraytrel to observe and gain information about Orcunraytrel and come up with ideas about where the Briar King would be if he is there while Keroen makes plans to mobilize the Sereth as scouts to follow behind him and potentially wage war on anyone that gets in his way while there. Keroen's theory is that if Orcunraytrel is as big as The Known World, it might be hard to find Evandor. But if Evandor is there, and suddenly Sereth start showing up, he might end up investigating and come to them and save them the trouble of looking over every square inch of Orcunraytrel. 

So, Lance initially said he'd like to know why the Nel are intervening now and how they choose to involve themselves in the goings on in The Known World. The above is the long answer, and kind of shows that despite the perception of Andorian as an immortal sorcerer king/demigod/whatever, the Nel stumble around like everybody else and are neither all powerful, nor all knowing. No Nel has ever actually come to The Known World specifically because they wanted to. They mostly end up there because it is a straight shot east from the homeland of the Nel to The Known World. Neither continent is aware of the other, and there is obviously no communication between them. The Nel don't choose to involve themselves, they just stumble upon The Known World. The reason they (Andorian, Keroen, and Callifay) are intervening now is because several plot points I've had in motion in the background have finally come to a point where they converge without the intervention of PCs. Cenn was always going to die during The Rebellion Arc, pirates were always going to uncover Andorian in Orcunraytrel, and Callifay was always going to take Cenn's corpse to Serethnem while he recovered. 

So there's some stuff. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

God's Eye View of Hekinoe Part 4

Dozens of shamans, their apprentices, and Cenns of the tribes of The Beast Lands meet at the appointed time in the appointed place. Night falls as they wait, dawn comes, and they still wait. They wait still longer, finally speaking to each other. Words grow heated, apprentices bloody each other's noses, cenns argue back and forth with hands ready to draw bronze weapons, shamans glare at one another with accusing stares. No one discusses the fact that for the first time since it made itself known to the people of The Beast Lands centuries ago, the Watcher In the Trees has missed the meeting of cenns and shamans. They must deal with the Niht and their black blade without its advice. 

Seven captains sit at a table playing cards deep beneath the rock of Haven. They play in a lightless room of crystal that no average pirate could find, let alone enter. Their faux-skin and pirate garb has been cast off at their feet, and each captain is a broad-shouldered mass of glittering crystal. Sparks and flashes of blue-hued energy burst within their skulls as they each attempt to breach the psionic defenses of their opponents with little or no effect. One captain lays his hand down, a smile etched in the crude crystalline features of his face and the other captains bellow or laugh. Elsewhere in Haven, their first mates argue and yell about the growing threat of young Captain Vaux, but the Seven have not a care in the world. 

The first cave wight is neatly bisected by huge jaws full of saw-like teeth, the second is battered against a the cave wall by a tail as thick as a tree trunk. The third drowns in a gobbet of acid that drenches it and eats at it while flailing wildly with its thick talons. The dragon lumbers around its cave, snapping up bits of cave wight before settling its bulk once more into its bed of broken stone and dirt. It sniffs the air for a moment, raising its head to do so. It begins to settle its bulk once more, but pauses, sniffing the air once more and letting its tongue flicker out of its mouth. Hissing, it raises its bulk and lumbers out of its cave with purpose, its head swinging from side to side and its tongue flickering out of its mouth constantly. 

An aged and weary lawman, former lawman, dead twice and now with no cause to call his own, stands on the docks of New Haven. He smokes a cigarette, and then a second and third, and with nothing better to do he begins wandering the streets of the pirate city. His duster is as battered and worn as he is, and beneath the duster are two large revolvers, brass colored and clearly of Abraxen design. The haft of a wolf-iron breeching axe bangs against his left calf and the axe is as worn and battered as everything else about the former lawman. Pirates accost him, but the shining and well cared for Abraxen pistols, and perhaps his dead grey eyes, tell them there are better places to try and stick a knife for coin than in his side. 

The Herald, his clothing charred and streaked with blood not his own, his long grey hair matted with gore not his own, leans against the black obelisk and slumps to the ground. His head hangs and his shoulders slump and he looks out at the foes before him through half-lidded eyes of red. Rage kindles in his heart and he knows there will be no respite, nor is he entitled to any. His crime was too great, even he admits this. He jabs his red blade, quiescent and well glutted on blood, into the rock beside him and braces against the obelisk. He heaves in a breath and releases it as a scream of fury, the air rippling around him and the stone cracking at his feet and the Nel trying to win past him cease to exist as his Gifts rip them apart. Above him, seven crows perch on the obelisk and give a raucous round of caws in support. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

God's Eye View of Hekinoe Part 3

The Goebleen King and his brother scowl at a hastily written missive from their sons and nephews, respectively. The King gestures and a brown skinned Goebleen, much taller and much more burly than his grey skinned cousins, literally peels itself off of a patch of shadow and kneels before the King and his brother. The brown Goebleen's shadow remains standing. Words are exchanged between the three and the brown Goebleen nods and puts a fist over his heart and returns to the shadow, disappearing. The King looks at his brother and the witch shrugs.

The reluctant and irritable Briar King, and his consort, gaze across the desert sands and the massing Sereth. The king, black haired with one eye red and the other green, scowls at them and mutters irritable words in a language that bears no resemblance to Serevish. His consort laughs and slugs the king's shoulder. A smirk tugs at the king's lips, but his scowl returns as three Sereth riflemen approach. The king growls and brings a hand up the the vertical crescent shaped scar on his brow and itches at it. One of the Sereth, this one aged and worn and scoured by desert sands, bows to the king and his consort then speaks and gestures at the other two. The two riflemen approach and the king and his consort exchange words. The consort gives a weary nod and steels himself visibly and makes a gesture at the two younger riflemen. The riflemen disappear as the consort clutches his chest and slumps to the sands, pale and shaking. The king goes immediately to his side, screaming obscenities at the elder Sereth. The Sereth approaches the king to offer aid and the king turns to face him, both eyes as red as the blood oozing from the re-opened scar upon his brow. The Sereth retreats, leaving the king to care for his weakened consort. 

Brasscoats hiss and thump their way into battle against the Giants. Each warrior is a shiny, brass colored, almost giant of metal and sparking electricity and steam. Each one holds the power of a storm in their hands and their armor renders them as strong as the Giants. The battle is fierce, and the field ringed with the smoke of gunfire and grenades, but the Brasscoats are the ones left standing and smoking cigarettes at the end of it.

The Underlox run screaming through the armies of Panthermen, Trolls, and Cinder Ghosts, and the massed armies quickly realize the Underlox have not surfaced to make war on Ieanegatniv, they have surfaced to flee something in the depths. The Moon Clans, seeing this, retreat higher into their mountains. The two Elduman brothers staring at the skeleton of their red-eye father ignore these events and continue brooding in their tower. 

The king of the Aubernel scowls at the leader of one of the larger Sarownel clans. Sarownel howl and rage as they circle around the king of the Aubernel and his mountain-kin knights. The Aubernel are unfazed. Words are exchanged by the leaders and the Sarownel clan leaders cackles in laughter and howls for his minions to attack. The king of the Aubernel smirks and fire rains down on the Sarownel. When the ash clears and the screams end, the king of the Aubernel and his knights head deeper into the Wastelands. 

The Silver King reclines on his silver throne hurling a ball of solid silver studded with gemstones into the air and catching it as it falls. The leader of his Silver Knights kneels before him. The Silver King speaks and gestures vaguely towards the northeast, his knight nods and asks a question. The Silver King smiles and gestures at the ball he hurls into the air and the decanter of alcohol next to his throne. The knight smirks and nods, then rises and leaves his king to his business. 

A red-eye father and son duel savagely in the tomb of their red-eyed ancestor. Sorcery and psionic power flares as the two Elduman clash, their swords whirling and smashing against armor and the crystalline bones beneath faux-flesh. Sorcery warps and twists the air while psionics augments the defenses and blows of the father. From outside the screams of madmen and the clash of battle rings out, mirroring the battle of the father and son. 

Monday, May 20, 2013


Putting together Cant to fight for our next scenario has had me thinking about and revisiting some ideas I've had about archery. I've touched on some of these thoughts here when I wrote about Hawkeye. I tend to like most of the fighting man classes, the classes that primarily interact with the game by hitting things with metal objects. I don't know why that is, but I just tend to use those classes the most in my games as NPCs.

Three classes hop to my mind when considering archery and building a character that's focus is related to archery. Those classes are Fighters, Rangers, and Rogues (Ninjas too, kind of, more later). You can easily go other routes, but to me it seems like those other routes dilute the focus of the archery. The Arcane Archer certainly has merits as a prestige class. But, you could discuss and argue your way back and forth all the live long day about the merits of the ranged Magus archtype, Monks using the Zen Archer archetype, and the various Marksman psionic abilities and which ones are superior and how they make each of them superior in what way. Doing that complicates things by adding spells/supernatural abilities into the mix. This meandering monologue is more straightforward and centers on hitting things with weapons. There is no best class for doing anything in Pathfinder, but there are certain classes that are better at certain aspects of things. Who is better at using Stealth, Ranger or Rogue? That depends. Are we in a terrain that the Ranger has as his favored terrain so he can use Hide In Plain Sight and also gain his favored terrain bonus on Stealth checks? Are we using Stealth to snipe with a ranged weapon with a Rogue that has the stealthy sniper and sniper's eye Rogue talents? Does the Rogue have the terrain mastery Rogue talent and are we in that terrain? It's all situational. Unless you're a Shadowdancer. They're the best at Stealth. Although, I suppose a Sorcerer or Wizard could be pretty decent as well. Why make a Stealth check? Just cast greater invisibility and silence on yourself, then take Shadowdancer as a prestige class. Hmm. That actually sounds like an oddly entertaining little build. I might have to explore that for silly reasons.

Anyway, you get what I am saying? There is no best at everything, and there is no best at a large aspect of the game, like combat for instance. You can say the Fighter is the best at combat. It's not. Barbarians are almost always going to be stronger and have more hit points, Wizards and Sorcerers are almost always going to have spells that Fighters can't penetrate and others that probably deal more robust damage than a swung sword or they'll have control effects, Clerics are almost always going to be able to put themselves back together while attacking the Fighter (assuming they have Quicken Spell) or while using control spells on them, and so on. Don't get me wrong, I'm not maligning Fighters at all, I can think of fairly simple counters for a Fighter to use against each of those other classes in combat. Anyway, what I'm saying is that niches and specialization are where a class gets really good at something, everything else is just a broad guesstimate. When I talk about classes being good at archery, it still feels like a pretty big aspect of the game to be talking about. Do we mean archery as in just shooting arrows at people like an archer? Do we mean sniper style one shot one kill archery? Do we mean archery as in stalking and hunting with a bow? Which is a reach, but it's the only way the Ranger class is relevant to this discussion.

So in my Hawkeye post I talked a little bit about people always associating Rangers with archery for some reason. I've spoken of Rangers being a weird class to me to Jason and not really understanding the purpose of their combat style feats and I think he said it probably has to do with Aragorn being called a ranger in The Lord of the Rings and having a bow and if Lord of the Rings had it, Dungeons and Dragons needed it too (goblins, orcs, orcs and elves hating each other, elves and dwarves having grudges against each other, treants/ents, halflings/hobbits, 2nd Edition and earlier lore that elves don't actually die when they reach their maximum age limit, they just vanish from the mortal world and go someplace else, etc). I've never read The Lord of the Rings books, so I have no idea how rangery Aragorn gets, aside from the woodcraft he uses in the films. From personal experience, any time anyone in my group wanted to do something with bows and arrows or ranged combat, they chose the Ranger class. This held true for 2nd Edition, 3rd, and 3.5. As much as it confuses me now, I did it a time or two myself. Looking back, it blows my mind. Rangers have no ranged combat special abilities in the 2nd Edition Player's Handbook. Seriously. I have it out right now. They can wield two weapons in light armor, use the tracking proficiency even if your game doesn't use non-weapon proficiencies, and they have a favored enemy. They are literally no better at archer than a Fighter or Paladin.

Looking at the Ranger of Pathfinder, what makes it good at general purpose archery? It has a +1/level base attack bonus, that's as good as it gets when making attack rolls using weapons in combat, so that's definitely a bonus. But, they don't exactly have a monopoly on that, Fighters and Paladins both get the same base attack bonus, as well as Soulknives. So using this as criteria means Rangers, Paladins, and Fighters are all equally good at general purpose archery and ranged combat. Combat style, ok yeah, if a Ranger chooses the archery combat style they gain five archery geared bonus feats from a listed selection over twenty levels. They also don't need to meet any prerequisites, which is a decent bonus. The Paladin doesn't get anything like that, so he's dropped, which we were all expecting. The Fighter, well hmm, he gets bonus combat feats, one every even level and one at first level as well, for a total of eleven over twenty levels. All archery feats seem to be combat feats and the Fighter gains slightly over double the number of bonus feats that a Ranger would gain from the archery combat style (all of which are combat feats). Oh, but the Ranger doesn't need to meet any of the prerequisites for those feats. Well, first of all, if you're going to have something like Shot On the Run so you can move a bunch and make a ranged attack any time you move, why don't you already have Dodge and Mobility? If you are going to be running around combat triggering attacks of opportunities from firing in melee range and moving past people, seems like a +5 dodge bonus to AC would be handy. Also, a Fighter has double the number of bonus combat feats, he can easily afford to take all of the prerequisite feats for something like Pinpoint Targeting or Shot On the Run. Plus, the Fighter doesn't lose all his fancy feats if he puts on heavy armor like a Ranger does. So yeah, the only actual archery stuff that a Ranger has going for it that is unique to it is five bonus feats that it doesn't need the prerequisites for and it loses if it puts on heavier armor. That's it. There are no other archery related abilities in the Ranger class. There aren't even any archetypes specialized in ranged combat for the class, except the Trophy Hunter, and they use guns.

So in closing, while the five bonus combat feats for archery do seem like they would make Rangers into good archers, they don't. They just make Rangers better suited to archery than Paladins. Rangers don't have any other abilities that support ranged combat. They don't even have Weapon Focus or Specialization for bows on their archery combat style bonus feat list.

So archery. I break archery down into three aspects. Straight up shooting arrows really really well, sniping and using deadly shots to maximize damage because you are stealthy and your enemies are unaware of you, and stalking and hunting foes while carrying a bow as your primary weapon. This third thing is only here to honor the grizzled huntsman that acts as a scout trope.

In terms of straight up shooting arrows, the Fighter wins. His base attack bonus, bonus combat feats, and his access to weapon specialization feats makes him superior to the Rogue and Ranger at shooting arrows. His weapon mastery abilities further increase this competence. You give the Fighter the Archer archetype and now you've got something that can shoot in the midst of melee with no problem while tripping and disarming with arrows. Just from twenty levels and the focus and specialization feats you'll have +27 to attacks and +9 to damage and longbow arrows will do x4 damage on critical hits. This doesn't factor in any ability scores or the weapon itself. Plus you'll have a whole mess of other feats to modify what you can do with a bow and be able to increase the arrow damage with a composite bow and a higher than 10 Strength.

Sniping, which to me is making ranged attacks from hiding to maximize damage. Obviously, certain classes like the Ninja, Ranger, and Rogue are going to be better at this than others. The Fighter, even if you pile his skill points into Stealth, isn't going to be particularly adept at shooting from hiding. Even if he was, he still lacks some necessary abilities. The Ranger is a passable sniper, especially if in his favored terrain, which provides bonuses to Stealth and Perception. He's got the hiding covered. But his damage output isn't going to be any better than if he were standing right in the middle of his enemies plinking them with arrows. His base damage could possibly be superior, and his chances to hit would certainly be, but the chances of inflicting a pile of sneak attack damage are a pretty potent thing to consider when talking about striking from stealth with ranged attacks. So the Ranger, to me at least, as out, even though he gets a death attack (albeit at 20th level, and one that only affects his favored enemies and has some heavy restrictions on how often it can be used).

So what is sniping? Sniping is hiding and then shooting someone with a ranged weapon while trying to remain hidden. The way it works is that if you have used Stealth successfully to hide at least 10 ft. from someone, you can make a ranged attack against them and then a Stealth check to remain hidden on your turn. The Stealth check has a hefty -20 penalty, but, there's always a chance you could remain hidden. To me, successful use of Stealth means the target is effectively invisible until detected with Perception or you have line of sight on the person using Stealth (unless they have special abilities like Hide In Plain sight where just being able to look at them doesn't mean they can't use Stealth), or the various other means. All this does is grant a +2 to attack rolls against sighted opponents and deny them their Dexterity bonus to AC, which is not the same as being flat-footed. This means that a successfully sniping character with sneak attack can get some sweet sneak attack bonus damage in, along with having an easier time hitting enemies.

Who is best at sniping in my opinion? Fuck if I know, it's either Ninja or Rogue though. I lean more towards Rogue. The Ninja and Rogue are just about the same class, and because Ninjas have Ninja tricks that allow them to take Rogue talents and Rogues have Rogue talents that allow them to take Ninja tricks, they are effectively the same class outside of a few abilities that Ninja has that allow them to use poison and make them more difficult to track and grant them added mobility. The Rogue has some abilities that make them better with traps. The Ninja is designed to be a stealthy killer with some handy supernatural abilities (like using greater invisibility at will for 1 ki point), while the Rogue leans more towards a more versatile role. They both have sneak attacks and they both have death attacks (though the Ninja has the option to get his earlier and it takes longer to pull off and the Rogue's is more versatile). The greater invisibility ki abilities is definitely a pretty strong indicator of being damn good at hiding and attacking from stealth.

One thing that sets the Rogue apart from the Ninja is the Sniper archetype. This archetype halves the range penalties for ranged attacks and also grants the Rogue +10 ft. to the range at which they can do sneak attack damage every 3rd level. The base range is only 30 ft., so this is pretty handy if we are talking about a character that intends to snipe enemies with the intent of dealing large piles of sneak attack damage to them. So sniping as a Rogue is a little dangerous starting out. The check penalty to snipe is hefty, the range is short, and Stealth isn't perfect. Targets can still determine where the arrows are coming from and then head in that direction to look for you. Stealth isn't magic, it doesn't truly make you invisible, and you are much easier to find. But, without even min/maxing or dumping Charisma to boost Dexterity, I can get a +10 to Stealth checks at first level with a Rogue (or any class that has Stealth as a class skill and takes Skill Focus [Stealth] at first level). If I make a Goblin, I can squeeze out a +14 without taking Skill Focus (Stealth). Rogues and Ninjas make pretty slick snipers, they've got sneak attack damage and strong stealth capabilities that are not tied to a particular environment like the Ranger. 

Stalking, hunting style archery. The kind where you ghost through the woods with bow in hand picking out tracks and other sign and sneak up on your quarry and put an arrow in them before they're aware of your presence. This isn't truly a third kind of archery. It's more like a combination of the first two kinds of archery I've rambled about combined with woodcraft. There are two classes that are good at nature stuff. Druid and Ranger, and any class that has ranks in Survival can track. The Ranger's woodcraft mostly centers on tracking and hunting and ghosting through specific environments and he automatically adds half his level to Survival checks to track. The Ranger is really really good at hiding as well, he has the camouflage and hide in plain sight abilities, which mean he doesn't need cover or concealment to use Stealth (I forgot to mention earlier that you need cover or concealment to use Stealth) and can hide while people are looking right at him. These are fantastic abilities, but they're tied to his favored terrains. He can't use them anywhere else, and he only gains four favored terrains over the course of twenty levels out of a selection of eleven. Looking at a map of a campaign world, you can figure out which ones are most prominent and might be of the most use, but there are no guarantees your GM will be an enabler. The Ranger, to me, is the second best class suited to archery, and his tracking skills are much superior to the other classes, which makes him a great hunter, but not necessarily a great archer or sniper. He can shoot a bow competently with his combat style bonus feats, but he can't make it his way of life like a Fighter can and he can't do one shot one kill style ranged attacks like a Rogue or Ninja because he has no sneak attack. His 20th level death attack only works against favored enemies and he can only do it once per day per favored enemy, so it's not exactly as versatile as having sneak attack or the death attack of a Rogue or Ninja. The Ranger is basically a mishmash of whatever the designers felt they could pile together to create a class that kind of filled the woodsman/scout niche in the game. 

Archery. Fuck. Yeah. 

Friday, May 17, 2013


Alright, so APL is your average party level, you add the group's levels together, then divide by how many characters are in the group and round to the nearest whole number. If there are six or more players in the group, add one to the APL. If the group contains three or less, subtract one from the APL. Our group's APL is 7, since there are four players of level seven and (7 x 4)/4 = 7. Huzzah maths! I have debated a bit on whether or not I should increase the APL by one because of the two cohorts, thrall, and Gob. Still gotta run some of the math and statistics on fights for that. 

So as I think I've said before. A CR encounter equal to the APL of the group is an average fight, something that will use up a small amount of the party's resources but not cripple them. APL-1 is an easy encounter and something they should kind of cakewalk their way through, APL+1 is a challenging encounter, APL+2 is hard, and APL+3 is epic. Epic is probably something you only use for a main big bad enemy at the end of a campaign, APL+2 is what I use for the "main" fight/bad guy/whatever of a scenario. Once you figure out how hard you want the encounter to be, you look at a chart of CRs and experience points associated with that CR, then you basically buy enemies with that experience total. So a CR 8 fight worth 4800 experience points could fit one CR 8 enemy, three CR 5 enemies (each worth 1600 experience points), or like two CR 5 enemies and 4 arrow traps (CR 1 a piece and worth 400 experience points each). There are also a bunch of rules for designing traps and whatnot later in the core book as well. 

There are some additional rules as well. I primarily use leveled enemies. Enemies with NPC classes (Adept, Aristocrat, Commoner, Expert, and Warrior) have a CR equal to their level -2. So a 5th level Warrior is a CR 3 enemy and worth 800 experience points and you could throw six of them into a CR 8 encounter. If they have PC class levels (Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Fighter, etc), their CR is equal to their class level -1. So a 5th level Fighter is CR 4 and worth 1200 experience points and you could throw four of them into a CR 8 encounter. If the enemies/hazard/etc is on favorable terrain, like say a bunch of stealthy stalker types in a forest they've trained and hunted in from birth, you don't change the CR at all, but you do reward experience as if it were one CR higher. If you do something like encounter a water or ice elemental in the middle of a scorching lava flow or a flying creature in an subterranean room where it can't fly and use its special flying abilities, you do the opposite and reward experience points as if the encounter were one CR lower. Finally, you can modify an encounter based on the value of the gear a leveled enemy uses. Normally you use a table that breaks down gear value by level for NPCs, so a 5th level Warrior from above would have 2400 gp worth of gear, and a 5th level Fighter from above would have 3450 gp worth of gear. If you deprive them of gear, and it actually hampers them (a Monk with no weapons and armor is still pretty capable of being an obstacle, whereas a Fighter that is designed to use a mace, shield, and full plate is not), you reduce the enemy's CR by one. If you give them money to buy gear as if they were a PC (5th level Warriors/Fighters would then get 10500 gp worth of gear), you add 1 to their CR. 

Ok, so that runs down pretty much the entire section on designing encounters from the core book. The reason I bring this up is because of the math behind CR and enemies with levels. Back during 2nd Edition I was running this campaign called Montalo. There were these extraplanar creatures called the Fey that once lived on this world called Montalo, but had to flee from the world because other races didn't like how powerful they were. So they ended up in this lightless realm of nothingness on a continent floating in a void. The Fey eventually figured out how to get back and wanted to take back their world from the other races living there. So the PCs were Fey trying to sneak about to work mayhem in preparation for the race's return to the world. There were two sides to this campaign and two groups of PCs. The other side of the campaign was a group of PCs attempting to figure out some odd events in the world which would lead them along the plot to the eventual goal of keeping the Fey from returning. So there were two groups of players and there was some overlap between the groups in terms of players. The final fight of the campaign was going to pit the two groups of players against one another with each player choosing which of their characters they wanted to control if they had one on both sides of the campaign. 

Ok, so let's update this a bit to Pathfinder and say we have four PCs and players on each side of the table ready to determine the fate of this world with dice in hand and steel in their eyes. Let's say they're all 7th level characters and no one has any adjustment for templates or overpowered races and whatnot and I've distributed cash and gear evenly on both sides. Let's also say there is average party composition. There's no weird stuff like four Fighters facing off against four Wizards or four stealth geared characters that are useless unless they get the first shot fighting four boots of speed and eyes of the eagle wearing Dexterity based Fighters with high Perception. It's all even across the board. 

Now, Group A has an APL of 7 (as does Group B, obviously). So an average encounter for them is CR 7, one worth 3200 experience points. Group B is all 7th level characters with PC classes, so each of them has a CR of 6, but they all have PC gear values, so they're back up to CR 7. So Group B is made of four CR 7 enemies, so they are worth 12800 experience points and are thus a CR 11 encounter. Which is Group A's APL +4, so beyond epic in difficulty. If there are observers to this fight, it will go down in history. Tales will be told and songs sung, whatever the outcome. To continue, APL+4 is something that should not only expend all of Group A's resources even from rested and at full strength, but possibly end in a TPK or near TPK, if they do manage to win. Obviously the same goes for Group B. 

I don't dispute that, that kind of makes sense. If you are facing a foe or foes completely evenly matched with you, it is going to be a pretty damn difficult fight, and more than likely end up having a lot to do with dice rolls, because if everyone is evenly matched, the dice are the only random element in the fight. It is truly a battle that would be determined by our little, plastic, polyhedral gods and their bloodthirsty pips and cold, clattering laughter. 

What I do dispute is the math that says both groups are completely outmatched by their opposition, but are somehow also able to outmatch their opposition. Group B is so powerful that Group A, if they survive, will do so by a hairsbreadth, but so will Group B because Group A is so much more powerful than Group B. There is a certain logic to that, as in a fight between two groups of supremely skilled and powerful combatants, whoever survives would do so by the barest margin, but if they're both evenly matched, wouldn't that mean that the fight is completely fair and balanced? I'm not saying the APL calculations are misleading. The CR/APL thing is designed so that average means you use a few resources and no one should die and you shouldn't need to rest so you can restart the 5 minute work day right after the fight, not that you and your opponents are evenly matched and both equally likely to destroy each other. I understand the system and what it means and it's intent and how it is meant to be used (as a tool to assist the GM, not something he relies on completely to build his encounters for him), it's just weird when you consider it this way, that both groups are so powerful that they each are completely superior and completely overpower to the other. It's a bit of a paradox and one no one should really think too hard about. 

I do dispute that a 7th level PC class enemy, even with normal character wealth by level values, is an average strength encounter for four PCs. Even with some truly creative min/maxing, you're going to get one, maybe two rounds out of a single enemy (unless you completely design the abilities of the enemy and his gear choices to stymie the abilities of the players, which is cheating of a sort). Even a Barbarian only has a base of 48 hit points at 7th level, and with Constitution bonuses were looking at maybe 70-80 hit points, probably more if he rages. A single revolver should do an average of 4.5 hit points of damage, a Sereth long rifle does 7 damage as the average, and after you factor in people having multiple attacks and using spells and powers that do an average of 24.5 damage (assuming they use spells/powers that deal damage at 1d6/level), that Barbarian's 70-80 hit points probably aren't going to amount to much. Like I said one, maybe two rounds. Unless of course the dice really fall in the favor of that single enemy. You can add a little bit of longevity simply by adding more bodies, but now you've got two 5th level Barbarians with 40-50 hit points. So more durability overall, but now the PCs will use area of effect powers. But the fix for that is to spread 'em out and charge them into melee as quick as you can. Still doesn't seem like it is going to impact a party that much, a few valueless bullets, a few power points, etc.  

Making encounters is really hard. Sometimes the math works out perfectly, and sometimes it is wildly wildly off and you can't always predict a fight. Even if you look over your stats with a super critical eye. Oh well. 

Monday, May 13, 2013


This is posting late, and thick with spelling and grammar errors. Sorry. It got really lengthy on me and I didn't even pretend to spell check or correct grammar. Fucking dragons.

I always liked dragons as kid. Any movie or book with a dragon in it instantly won with me (this includes Dragonheart with Sean Connery and Dennis Quaid). I read a lot of Dragonlance before I ever played any actual DnD or knew what DnD was, so much so that I was constantly asking in my head "What color is this dragon?" At that time I just kind of assumed all dragons were color coded by chromatic or metallic color with their breath weapon. I had just read so much Dragonlance that I assumed this rule extended to all dragons in fiction and folklore. The first time I read a DnD book that wasn't Dragonlance, the first book in the Drizzt Do'Urden series (Homeland, which was actually the fourth one published. Chronologically it is the first book in the series and details Drizzt's life in Menzoberranzan and his self imposed exile from his race due to moral objections to their culture.), I was constantly like "Where the fuck are all the dragons?" To be fair, I didn't think fuck, I was still youngerish then. I just assumed that all DnD books had as many dragons as Dragonlance did, which is the only reason I tried reading other DnD fiction. I liked dragons a lot. Eventually I learned that not all dragons adhered to Mr. Gygax's color scheme and Dragonlance's plethora of dragons. I really really wish I could find an interview or something with Gygax or Arneson to figure out who the fuck is responsible for the color coded breath weapon scheme of dragons and why it ended up being that way. While researching for this post, I discovered something neat in the 1st Edition AD&D Monster Manual. Each dragon has a faux-latin name in parentheses next to its name. For instance, a silver dragon is also known as draco nobilis argentum (noble silver dragon?), a gold dragon is also called draco orientalus sino dux (I had to actually check  this one out instead of guessing at the meaning of sino and dux and Google Translate calls it Oriental dragon allows leader.) and a black dragon is also called Draco Causticus Sputum (acidy spit dragon?) I kinda like that, makes me grin to read them.

I have issues with dragons and their biology. They sleep a lot, eat a lot, have spells, live a long time, can breed with pretty much anything that is alive, and breathe some fucked up crap. Fire, acid, lightning, and so on and so forth. Where does all that nonsense come from? These creatures aren't like golems (magically animated unliving creatures) or aberrations (living creatures that are specifically fucked up and alien in terms of biology and psychology and such), they have to adhere to some of the logic of reality, and it can't be some magical effect stemming from a magical magic organ inside of the dragon's gut either. It if were, dispel magic would be the most potent weapon in the arsenal of dragon hunters. How do they drag their heavy asses into the air with their wings? They obviously don't have hollow bones, otherwise they'd use smaller hit dice than a d12 in later editions due to their internal fragility. Can't be magic or an unspecified magical magic organ, otherwise dispel magic would be the most potent weapon in the arsenal of dragon hunters. Anyway, I try not to think about that all too hard and use my own dragons in my campaign world and stuff, which is not to say that giant Komodo dragons that spit acid make much more sense. This post isn't about addressing the weird and wonky stuff of dragon biology and how they violate the laws of physics and such. I mean, fine, I'll poke and prod at combat and make fun of abstract subsystems, but making dragons make sense or arguing that they should? Ha! Anyway, this post is just about dragons and their breath weapons, just to kind of collect as much material as I can from my various sources to see some of the crazy crap dragons have roiling in their gut. Should be a fun time. Maybe. I'm not really doing anything here other than making a list because I want to dig around and see what I can find. 

I'm going make a big long list with the following format: Name of Dragon (editions present in): Breath weapon description. The breath weapon will be followed by any other notes I feel like adding in and I'll use the most modern version of the breath weapon, unless I feel like mentioning what it used to be or ended up being.  Editions will be labelled as follows: 0 is Dungeons and Dragons. B refers to the Basic, Expert, Companion, Immortals, and Master rulesets. 1st is 1st Edition AD&D. 2nd is 2nd Edition AD&D. 3.X is 3.0 and 3.5 Edition Dungeons and Dragons. 4th is 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons (not that my access to 4th Edition material is exactly comprehensive). PF is Pathfinder. The things I add to the list will be actual dragon dragons, not drakes or dragonnes or dragon turtles or creatures that just possess the dragon type in latter editions and they will all be TSR/WotC or Pathfinder material and not third party random stuff I have lying around. I'll restrict the Pathfinder material to their core Bestiary stuff, and leave out Pathfinder setting or adventure path dragons (if there are any). I'm also probably going to stick to the main books for other editions as well, there are lots of modules and digging through them is not a feat I wish to deal with, I'll skim them as best I can, but no promises. I also lack a lot of material from 1st Edition, like the Oriental Adventures stuff, Mystara campaign, and Red Steel campaign. I'm only doing this for shits and giggles for myself though, so I suppose it isn't exactly a huge deal if some dragons are missing. 

Adamantine (2nd, 4th): Cone of fire and a cone of time stop. These are planar dragons and may only use their cone of time stop when on their home plane (the Twin Paradises). In 4th Edition, they have a cone of thunder that knocks enemies prone as their breath weapon.
Air Dragon (2nd): Varies. Air dragons are great wyrm dragons that are so ancient that their mind is the only thing sustaining their bodies. The dragons basically become a diamond colored air shape. They have all the abilities they had in life, but no physical presence. They can still use their breath weapon, but no other physical attacks. They also gain the ability to push and pull objects with control air at high velocity. 
Amethyst Dragon (2nd, 3.X): Faceted, violet lozenge that it spits into enemies that explodes with concussive force to deal damage and knock people down and unconscious. They're also psionic. 
Amphi Dragon (2nd Edition): Stream of acid that works in water as well as air. Crossbreed between green and sea dragons. Also have warty skin that oozes acid and vestigial wings. They can't fly. They are apparently a Dragonlance specific dragon.
Astral Dragon (2nd): See gold dragon. Astral dragons are another Dragonlance specific dragon, but are kind of like an primordial species of gold dragon, despite being white. Apparently the gods of Krynn created two astral dragons that gave birth to all other dragons and those dragons were adopted by the various gods and took on the color schemes and alignments of the gods that adopted them.  When the wars between the gods and dragons (the children of the first two astral dragons) of Krynn bugged the two dragons too much, they asked the gods to leave them alone, so the gods acquiesced and sent them to the Abyss, where the gave birth to more neutral dragons.  They can only be killed by power word kill, wish, or a similar spell. They apparently operate best in mated pairs, because they have the abilities of a 35th level cleric when mated. 
Battle Dragon (3.X, 4th): Cone of sonic energy and a cone of fear gas. These guys are planar dragons from Ysgard. They can rage like a Barbarian and inspire courage in their allies. In 4th Edition, their breath weapon becomes a close blast of radiant damage and some ongoing radiant damage (save ends). 
Black Dragon (0, B, 1st, 2nd, 3.X, 4th, PF): Line of acid. 
Blazewyrm (4th): None. Their bite does fire damage and they have an ability to do fire damage as a close blast that deals ongoing fire damage (save ends) and allows them to teleport to any space adjacent to where the blase damage was dealt. 
Blight Dragon (4th): Close blast of fire damage and ongoing necrotic damage (save ends).
Blizzard Dragon (4th): None. They have an aura that lets them slide enemies 1 square and their claws and bite do cold damage. The aura can also expand and deal damage. They can also do a close blast that does cold damage and slows enemies when an enemy deals damage to them, which isn't a breath weapon. These guys are dragons coated in frost that switched sides to serve the primordials after the primordials slew Io (the god and creator of dragons) and they thought the gods were going to lose against them. Traitors. Dragon traitors covered in ice. 
Blue Dragon (0, B, 1st, 2nd, 3.X, 4th, PF): Line of lightning.
Brass Dragon (0, 1st, 2nd, 3.X, PF): Cone of sleep gas or cloud of blistering desert heat. In earlier editions, the blistering desert heat breath weapon was a cloud of fear gas. 
Brine Primal Dragon (PF): Line of acid. These guys are primal dragons, which is Pathfinder speak for planar dragons, these dragons specifically live on the Plane of Water. They're covered in salt and acidic crystals that are so caustic and painful that their bite deals strength damage and their natural attacks can stun you with pain.
Bronze Dragon (0, 1st, 2nd, 3.X, PF): Line of lightning or cloud of repulsion gas.
Brown Dragon (B, 2nd, 3.X, 4th): Line of acid. Also called an amber dragon in Basic. In 2nd Edition, they lose the ability to fly and are desert burrowers. In Basic, their breath weapons were a cone of fire, cone melting (see ruby dragon), and cloud of rotting disease (see jade dragon). In 4th Edition they are also referred to as sand dragons, despite sand dragons already existing in 3.X and not being brown dragons, which also exist in 3.X. Their breath weapon becomes a swirling area of sand that blocks line of sight. They can also fly now as well. 
Carp Dragon (1st): None. These dragons are apparently young oriental dragons, when they reach 101 years of age they are metamorphosed into another random type of oriental dragon. Also called yu lung. 
Celestial Dragon (1st, 2nd): Cone of fire. Also called t'ien lung.
Cerilian Dragon (2nd, 3.X): Cone of burning venom that is half fire damage and half acid. According to the entry, there are only a dozen dragons left in the Birthright setting. 
Chaos Dragon (3.X): Randomly determined line of energy and a cone of confusion gas. These guys are from the plane of Limbo. The Githzerai tried to make a pact with them like the Githyanki did with the red dragons, didn't work out so well. 
Chromatic Dragon (0, 1st, 2nd, 3.X, 4th): Line of acid, cone of cold, line of lightning, cloud of chlorine gas, or cone of fire. Also known as Tiamat, god/queen of chromatic evil dragons.
Cloud Dragon (1st, 2nd): Cloud of cold air and icy shards that does cold damage and knocks enemies around. 
Cloud Primal Dragon (PF): Cone of clouds that hangs around for a few rounds acting as the fog cloud spell and dealing electricity damage to anyone within it. These are planar dragons that live on the Plane of Air and bear no resemblance to the DnD cloud dragons.
Coiled Dragon (1st): None. They can coil around an enemy and constrict them. Also called pan lung.
Copper Dragon (0, 1st, 2nd, 3.X, 4th, PF): Line of acid or cloud of slow gas. 4th Edition combines both breath weapons into one. 
Crystal Dragon (B, 2nd, 3.X): Cone of glowing shards that deal damage and dazzle enemies with light and penalize attack rolls. They're also psionic. In Basic the breath weapons are a cone of cold and cone of crystal transmutation breath that turns all nonliving carried items into fragile crystal
Crystal Primal Dragon (PF): Cone of sonic damage. These guys are made of crystal and shiny and they can reflect rays back at attackers and their shiny body radiates glittering light to stun or confuse those nearby. This is another planar dragon and they live on the Plane of Earth.
Deathmask Dragon (4th): Close blast of necrotic damage that blinds. They also have some fear abilities and a wail of death that deals psychic damage (huh?). These guys are purple dragons that eat souls and have dozens of legs like a centipede shoving from out between their scales. Faces of the souls they've consumed push our from between their scales. 
Deep Dragon (2nd, 3.X): Cone of flesh-corrosive gas that affects leather and hide armors as well ask skin. According to the entry, they can use most magical items and enjoy hiding their treasure and putting traps on it. They can also transform into a snake form. 
Diamond Star Dragon (B): Any breath weapon of the lawful dragons (crystal, gold, ruby, and sapphire dragons). Called a dragon ruler. 
Dracolich (2nd, 3.X, 4th): Same as original form. Name says it all, a dragon lich. Have all the toughness of dragons plus some undead resistances and immunities, but now they're fucking liches that paralyze anything they attack with their natural weapons. Yeesh. 
Dragon (2nd, 4th): Cone of superheated sand. There are no dragons as we normally know them in the Dark Sun campaign setting, as far as I know. There are dragons though, and they are ultra powerful  defilers (magic users that have no problem with the fact that magic use drains vitality from the planet and is the reason Athas is a wasteland) and psionicists. There are no natural dragons, it is a metamorphic process that occurs when a 20th level defiler/psionicist use a specific spell to undergo a metamorphosis over the next ten levels. As they progress, they become more and more dragon-like eventually becoming these 40 ft. long, 25 ton, winged dragons that look like kind of like green dragons from regular DnD. Up until the latter stages of the metamorphosis, they look like these gangly bipedal lizard guys that are like sixteen feet tall. Preservers (good guy magic users that restrain their power so it doesn't further blight Athas) also have a metamorphosis. They become an avangion and end looking like a giant, shining, metallic colored fucking butterfly thing with a ninety foot wingspan. In 4th Edition, the dragon is a epic destiny for an arcane defiler and completely loses any psionic portions that are part of the 2nd Edition material. It states you turn into a dragon, but doesn't really indicate what they means. You can breathe fire and fly, but there's no mention of transforming into a 40 ft. quadruped or anything. 
Dragon Eel (4th): Lightning that targets a creature within ten squares of the dragon and a second target within ten squares of the first. Cool. Teleporting lightning breath. That's kind of neat. Obviously it is teleporting lightning breath, because if it was a bolt of lightning or something like chain lightning it would just be a line of lightning that dealt damage to every creature it passed through. 
Dragonwight (1st): None. Dragonwights are Forgotten Realms specific undead dragons. They have no magical abilities or breath weapons that the particular color of dragon did in life, but the are immune to attacks from non-magic or non-silver weapons. Their attacks also drain one level of experience when they hit and when they kill a dragon or character, they rise from the dead at half their strength (level/hit dice?) as dragonwights and wights under the command of the dragonwight that killed them.
Earth Dragon (1st, 2nd, 3.X): None. They can cause an earthquake effect once a day as per the spell around them in a larger area as they age. They are immune to this effect. Also called li lung.  
Earthquake Dragon (4th): None. They have an aura that knocks people prone when they don't attack the dragon and they can knock other enemies in the aura prone if the dragon is pulled, pushed, slid, or knocked prone first. These guys are petrified dragons that serve the primordials, specifically because they were scared when Io died and wanted to be protected and safe. Yup. Chickenshit dragons that are petrified and can knock you over if you knock them over first. So majestic and draconic, let all heroes quail and cower before their might. 
Emerald (2nd): A sonically vibrating wail that deals damage, deafens, disorients, and stuns everyone within 120 feet. They're also psionic.
Ethereal Dragon (3.X): Cone of force. These guys are native to the Ethereal Plane and spend a lot of time watching people on the Material Plane. 
Faerie Dragon (1st, 2nd, 3.X, 4th): Cone of euphoria gas. They also have a bunch of less than deadly magic-user and druid spells they can use as they get older in 1st Edition, and they can turn invisible at will. These little guys are included in the dragon entry in the 1st Edition AD&D Monster Manual II so I put them in this list, but in 2nd they are removed from the dragon entry and put into the dragonet entry, whatever that means. In 4th Edition, their breath weapon becomes a close blast of radiant damage and lets them teleport one square away for every enemy caught in it. In Pathfinder, they retain the euphoria breath weapon, but lose the age category system of improving power that other dragons have. 
Fang Dragon (3.X): None. These guys are spiky dragons that like brawling. They have no breath weapon, but their claws and bite deal damage as if a size category larger than they are and their bite drains Constitution. 
Forest Imperial Dragon (PF): Cone of stony shards that deal piercing damage and can summon a greater earth elemental within the cone once per day. This guy is a wingless, serpentine dragon that. Also known as a dilung. The imperial dragons seem to be Pathfinder version of the oriental lung dragons of DnD.
Frostforged Wyrm (4th): Close blast of cold. White dragons enslave by demons that can be spurred to frenzy by pain and nearby demons.
Gold Dragon (0, B, 1st, 2nd, 3.X, 4th, PF): Cone of fire or cloud of chlorine gas. In 4th Edition they lose the cloud of chlorine gas, but their cone of fire also weakens targets. 
Gray Dragons (4th): Close blast of acid damage. The can also petrify (save ends) and immobilize (save ends). 
Great One (B, 2nd?, 3.X?, 4th?): Any breath weapon of any dragon. Called a dragon ruler, specifically The Great One Ruler of All. Perhaps an early incarnation of Io, the god of all dragonkind that appears in latter editions?
Green Dragon (0, B, 1st, 2nd, 3.X, 4th, PF): Cloud of chlorine gas. 
Howling Dragon (3.X): Cone of howling sound that deals sonic damage and a cone of maddening wails that deals Wisdom damage. These crazy fuckers are skinny dragons that live in the Windswept Depths of Pandemonium. 
Incarnum Dragon (3.X): Cone of resonating energy that deals damage to living creatures, but not objects, and drains meldshapers of essentia. You either know what those mean, or don't. I don't have the energy to explain the 3.5 incarnum rules here. 
Iron Dragon (4th): Close blast of lightning that pulls the target 3 squares. 
Jade Dragon (B): Cloud of chlorine gas and a cloud of rotting disease that causes all nonmetal items to rot away and deals 1 damage every ten minutes and prevents all healing spells and magic items from functioning on the victim, except cure disease.
Kodragon (2nd): Small cloud of shrinking and a small cloud that negates the effect of their shrinking breath. Another Dragonlance dragon. Their wingspan is only three feet long and they apparently live with the astral dragons. They look kind of cat-like and have fur instead of scale and give birth to live young and carry them in a pouch like marsupials, the pouch functions as a bag of holding. They also have opposable thumbs. They can also teleport without error once per round. They also write down history with a tablet and stylus. These are the fucking kender of dragons. You can also make a potion of shrinking out of a gland in their neck.
Magma Primal Dragon (PF): Cone of fire or cone of magma that clings to the targets. These guys are big fire bastards the have magma glowing in the cracks between their scales, they live on the Plane of Fire.
Mercury Dragon (2nd): Line of brilliant light that deals heat damage and ignites flammable objects. Since they're so shiny, they can also arc their wings to reflect light and blind enemies. They also talk quickly and have very...mercurial personalities. (See what I did there? Do you!?)
Mirage Dragon (4th): Close blast of psychic damage that causes the target to flee or attack their allies and also gain the weakened condition. 
Mist Dragon (1st, 2nd): Cloud of scalding vapor that blinds and drowns air breathing enemies. They can also enter a mist form that makes them almost invisible in natural mist. They can use all their magical abilities in mist form, but not attack or use their breath weapon.
Mithril Dragon (2nd): Ten foot wide line of blinding silver light that is a combination of heat and radiation that also blinds. The entry states there is no known form of immunity that protects against this damage. 
Moon Dragon (2nd): Cone of black frost that deals damage and hardens to entomb enemies. Evil dragon from the Spelljammer setting, its strength and alignment and color change in thirty day cycles, though it retains the evil portion of its alignment throughout the change.  
Moonstone Dragon (2nd): Cloud of light motes that ends all magical effects (except those necessary to sustain life) and puts enemies to sleep. These dragons live in the Ethereal Plane and eat moonbeams and faerie nectar. Supposedly, their tears are droplets of mithral that elves use to make elven chain mail and if the dragon dies well, its heart turns into a lump of purest adamantine.
Oceanus Dragon (3.X): Line of lightning and a cone of tranquility gas. These guys are winged, eel-like dragons that guard the River Oceanus, which connects all the Upper Planes. 
Onyx Dragon (B): Line of acid and line of darkness that puts a 15' darkness effect centered on victim that doesn't hinder the dragon at all.
Opal Sun Dragon (B): Any breath weapon of the neutral dragons (blue, jade, onyx, and white dragons). Ruler of all neutral dragons. 
Othlorx Dragon (2nd): Varies. These are Dragonlance metallic and chromatic dragons that either didn't join Takhisis in the War of the Lance, or didn't jump to the defense of humankind when the metallic dragons found out about their eggs being corrupted to breed draconians. According to the entry, there are no gold othlorx dragons. The chromatic othlorx are each cursed by Takhisis and the metallic othlorx all seem to have developed a crippling or crazy personality quirk. 
Pact Dragon (4th): Close blast of fire. These guys are the descendants of the red dragons that made the pact with the Githyanki. They're apparently smaller and more compact than normal red dragons. They can also astral jaunt as a minor action encounter power, which teleports them 10 squares. That'd be really useful, as the Githyanki live in the Astral Plane. I say that'd be really useful, instead of it is really useful, because all it does it teleport them ten squares instead of letting them go into the Astral Plane.
Pearl Moon Dragon (B): Any breath weapon of the chaotic dragons (black, brown, green, and red dragons). Called a dragon ruler. 
Platinum Dragon (0, 1st, 2nd, 3.X, 4th): Cone of cold, cloud of gaseous form, or line of sonic vibration that causes a  disintegration effect. Also known as Bahamut, god/king of metallic good dragons.
Pocket Dragon (B): Venom bite.
Prismatic Dragon (2nd): Cloud of gas that has the effects of the rainbow pattern spell. The dragon is also vulnerable to this hypnotic effect. The gas also transmutes water into a milky, luminous solid matter and includes the water present in humanoid bodies. This causes a slowing effect and damage while moving. According to the entry, these dragons are closely related to gem dragons.
Purple Dragon (4th): Close blast of psychic damage. They also have a dominating gaze. 
Pyroclastic Dragon (3.X, 4th): Cone of superheated ash and sonic force that deals half sonic damage and half fire damage, and a line of disintegration. The live on the plane of Gehenna. In 4th Edition, their breath weapon deals fire and ongoing fire (save ends) and blinds enemies. If the first save against ongoing damage fails, enemies are slowed as well. They also have an aura that deals fire damage and poison damage to anyone within it. They also migrate from Gehenna (which I'm pretty sure doesn't exist in 4th Edition) to the Elemental Chaos.
Radiant Dragon (2nd, 3.X): Line of force and a cone of light that blinds. These guys live in the Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia. They're also a Spelljammer dragon. 
Rattlyr Dragon (3.X): Cone of fire. A wingless dragon with a cobra hood and a rattle on its tail. When  the hood is extended, it grants the dragon spell turning. 
Red Dragon (0, B, 1st, 3.X, 4th, PF): Cone of fire. They have a pact with the Githyanki to aid them in battle. 
River Dragon (1st, 2nd): Rain clouds. Also called chiang lung.
Ruby Dragon (B): Cone of fire and cone of melting that causes all carried items to burn or melt, including items immune or resistant to fire. 
Rust Dragon (2nd, 3.X): Line of acid and cone of oxidation that disintegrates anything metal within it. These dragons live in Acheron and have butterfly wings, antenna, and an exoskeleton instead of scales. They also have no special magical abilities. The entry suggests the rust monsters are a sort of larval state of the rust dragon. These dragons also posses the base color of any of the metallic dragons, but pitted and rusted and corroded looking. These dragons only collect treasure in small amounts, and only to eat. The 3.X entry flatly denies the rust monster connection and does away with all insect characteristics of the dragon. 
Sand Dragon (3.X): Cone of grit propelled at high velocity. Its wings look more like a dimetrodon fin, but obviously more mobile. 
Sapphire Dragon (B, 2nd, 3.X): Cone of high pitched, almost inaudible sound that deals damage and causes fear and panic and makes creatures flee the dragon. The entry states this fear is a metabolic effect, and creatures unaffected by magical fear are still subject to it (the 3.X entry loses the metabolic statement. They're also psionic. In Basic, the breath weapons were a line of lightning and a line of vaporization that causes the victim and all items are turned into a gaseous form, made invisible, and cannot make noise or affect solid items. 
Sea Dragon (1st, 2nd): Cone of steam. These guys are also found in the Dragonlance setting, but the entry makes Krynn's sea dragons look fairly toad-like, despite saying they have a shell like the oriental version. They're also evil in Krynn. The oriental version is also called lung wang. 
Sea Imperial Dragon (PF): Cone of superheated steam or a line of pressurized water that deals bludgeoning damage. Also called jiaolungs.
Shadow Dragon (1st, 2nd, 3.X, 4th): Cone of energy draining shadows that inflicts negative levels based on the age category of the dragon. In 4th Edition, the breath weapon becomes a close burst of necrotic damage that drains a healing surge, inflicts the weakened condition (save ends), and negates the targets necrotic resistance till the end of the encounter.
Silver Dragon (0, 1st, 2nd, 3.X, 4th, PF): Cloud of paralyzing gas and cone of cold. The paralyzing gas used to be a cloud of chlorine gas in the earliest version of Dungeons and Dragon. In 4th Edition they lose the paralyzing gas, but the cone of cold (which is referred to as a close blast) inflicts vulnerability 5 (save ends) to all damage. 
Sky Imperial Dragon (PF): Cone of lightning that can knock flying creatures out of the sky and also penetrates immunity and resistance to electricity. Also called tienlungs.
Song Dragon (3.X): Cone of electrically charged gas. Dragons from the Forgotten Realms setting that can transform into human females and prefer to live among humans.
Sovereign Imperial Dragons (PF): Cone of sonic damage. Can coat themselves in golden armor and counterspell any spell. Also called lungwangs. 
Spirit Dragon (1st): None. They can use bless, curse, control weather, and ice storm. Also called shen lung. 
Steel Dragon (1st, 2nd): Cube of toxic gas that can be as large or small as the dragon's age category allows. Gas functions as an inhaled or contact poison and kills instantly on a failed save. In 1st Edition, specifically the Greyhawk setting, these guys were called Greyhawk dragons. These dragons apparently prefer to live within the cities of humanoids. 
Stellar Dragon (2nd): 3200 foot long cone of gravity (50 feet wide at the dragon's mouth and 600 feet wide at the other end) that draws enemies towards the sphere of annihilation stellar dragons generate in their bellies (dafuq!?). These dragons are kind of neat, they're lurker/voyeurs of the neutral alignment. According to the entry, Bigby of the Greyhawk setting learned his interposing hand and grasping hand spells from one. Their diet consists of knowledge, which they eat and transform into milky gems that are gems of wisdom and pearls of knowledge embedded in their scales. They can also teleport an attacks 1500 - 18000 feet in any direction. They can also use any wizard spell in the Player's Handbook without error, and can merge any spells it wants together to suit its needs (the example in the entry is fireball and darkness, 50' radius). They can also get to be up to 3 million feet long (tail and body combined) at great wyrm status. 
Styx (3.X): Line of acid that persists for three rounds and a cone of stupefying gas that deals Intelligence damage. These legless guys swim around in the River Styx, their physical attacks can inflict a wasting disease.
Sun Dragon (2nd): Fireballs. Not a cone of fire, but fireballs like the spell. It can also coat the fireball in special saliva to delay the detonation of the fireball for up to ten rounds. Sun dragons are another Spelljammer dragon. They can be any good alignment. As they move through the draconic age categories, their coloring matches what the Monstrous Compendium calls stellar evolution. They start out fiery red as a hatchlings, then burnt orange, then brilliant yellow, and then bluish white as venerable. When they achieve great wyrm age, they shrink back to slightly bigger than hatchling size and change to a flat white color. Apparently they make their lairs by scooping out the fiery matter of the suns they live on to hollow out good sized caverns and coat their hoard in their saliva to keep it from melting. They also turn into a sphere of annihilation or a well of many worlds when they die. Heh.
Tarterian Dragon (3.X): Line of disruptive force and a cone of will-sapping gas. These guys live on the prison plane of Carceri. 
Tempest Dragon (4th): None. They are dragons made entirely of water. They have an aura that makes every square within it difficult terrain. They can also deal electricity damage to every creature in the aura. 
Topaz Dragon (2nd, 3.X): Cone of dehydration that deals damage and dries up water. They're also psionic. The 2nd Edition version of the breath weapon also did Strength damage. 
Umbral Primal Dragon (PF): Cone of shadows that blind and deal strength damage. These guys live on the Plane of Shadow and are basically shadow dragons. Their breath does not inflict negative levels, just Strength damage, but their physical attacks do.
Underworld Imperial Dragon (PF): Line of fire. These dragons have adamantine claws and they can burrow underground during a fight and erupt from the earth in a blast of lava in a 30 ft. radius around it. Also called fustanglungs.
Vishap (2nd): None. This is a flightless, much less magically potent Al-Quadim setting dragon. They are much more stealthy and tricky and have a camouflage ability that allows them to stalk potential enemies. It will then approach them for an interview and leave them alone of they offer up their treasure and swear to serve as its slaves. If they refuse, it will immediately flee so that it can surprise them later. The few magical abilities it has are geared towards stealth and magical persuasion techniques. 
Volcanic Dragon (4th): None. They have an aura that does 5 poison damage to any enemy that ends their turn in the aura, their bite attack does fire damage, and they can expand the aura and deal fire damage and ongoing fire damage (save ends) to everyone within it. They can also deal damage at will to any enemy in their aura that attacks them with a fire attack first. Right, because the first thing I'm going to do when attacking a dragon that has been literally hollowed out and filled with fire is attack it with fire. The image is literally a dragon that looks like it has been gutted and then filled with fire. There is a huge hole in its chest filled with fire and it is just hanging out by a river of lava. These dragons were angry when Io died, so they sought power from a primordial, then betrayed him, then served the gods, then betrayed them. They're mercenaries. 
White Dragon (0, B, 1st, 2nd, 3.X, 4th, PF): Cone of cold. 
Wretch Dragon (4th): Close blast of psychic damage that teleports the targets where the dragon wants. 
Yellow Dragon (2nd): High velocity blast of scorching air mixed with sand that can blind with grit. Apparently, according to the entry, this dragon type was only discovered 5 years ago but its existence had long been suspected because of theories based on primary colors. 

A little note about the dragon rulers that appear in Basic Dungeons and Dragons and their breath weapons. In earlier editions of DnD, there were only three alignments: chaotic, lawful, and neutral. Chaotic was basically considered evil, lawful was basically considered good, and neutral was considered neutral, but the description in the Basic Rulebook makes it read is kind of selfish and reactive, they won't do things unless there is profit for them personally, but they treat people as they are treated. This stuff also comes from the time when each alignment had a language tied to it that any character or monster could use if they had that alignment. 

A little note about oriental dragons from the 1st Edition AD&D Fined Folio. These dragons all appear to be able to fly, but have no wings. Most also have an ability that prevents unintelligent, scaled, water creatures from willingly attacking the dragons . I think lung is the "oriental" word for dragon.

A little note on psionic gemstone dragons, at least the 2nd Edition ones. These psionics are nothing like what we currently use in our game. These are pretty basic attack and defense modes. I think. I don't really understand psionic abilities from earlier editions of the game. Regardless, these dragons also have piles of arcane spellcasting and magical abilities and immunities like all other dragons. 

A little note on 4th Edition metallic dragons and 4th Edition dragons in general. Apparently all the metallic dragons up and changed their minds and are no longer the good guys. They're alignment is unaligned, which is WotC for  true neutral or "we are no longer comfortable with the idea of including good monsters in books so players can kill them." I really really hate 4th Edition dragons. Most of the new ones are just stupid, and the updated versions are irritating as well. I have the chromatic dragon copy of the 4e Draconomicon, but not the metallic version, so I can only assume the brass and bronze dragons are included there to make room for the iron and adamantine dragons in Monster Manual 2. Seriously, the new dragons bug me. I mean earthquake dragons? Really? Dragons that were so terrified by the death of the god and creator of dragons that they fled to a primordial, the guys that killed him, for protection? Not all dragons are savage and terrible and fearsome, some of them are fairly cowardly, but none of them (except whites) are that stupid and if whites are going to flee to a primordial, wouldn't they flee to a primordial of cold instead of one of earth and fire, and perhaps become blizzard dragons? No? Ok, just checking WotC.

Some other interesting dragon creatures I found are the dracimera (a chimera with a dragon-lion head, dragon-goat head, and a dragon head/neck for a tail, each head has a breath wearpon), dracohydra (winged hydra with two to five heads that can each spit a line of acid), dracolisk (black dragon and basilisk hybrid), dracotaur (dragon centaurs that can spit fire, but humanoid and quadruped parts are both dragon), dragonnel (dragon and pteradon hybrid in 2nd Edition and also a somewhat horse-like dragon mount for paladins in 3.X), dragonne (lion and brass dragon hybrid), linnorm (primeval Pathfinder dragons that are evil, cantankerous bastards that are more powerful than even some true dragons, they have these death curses they inflict when they're killed, and are also poisonous), mantidrake (manticore and evil dragon hybrid), and wyvern drake (wyvern and evil dragon hybrid).

Edit After The Fact: I went to bed, added in the Pathfinder dragons. Looked around and couldn't find any 3.5 Oriental Adventures stuff that I used to have. Boo.

If that isn't comprehensive enough for your tastes, here, enjoy the glories of Wikipedia. That's a link to an actual page about dragons of Dungeons and Dragons, not just a "fuck you, go look at Wikipedia" snark. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Dragonspitter

So the dragonspitter is a weapon I really like, it's one of those things that I feel kind of proud of because it's a very iconic aspect of The Known World. It brings to mind a couple pieces of the background material that I really like to remind people of. The first is that it is essentially a flamethrower, which kind of brings to mind the fact that The Known World has a fairly industrialized nature and is a bit beyond swords and bows and such. The second is that the dragonspitter spews acid all over the place, not fire, and is called a dragonspitter because dragons spit acid and not fire in my world. Or lightning. Or negative energy. Or chlorine gas. Or amethyst lozenges that explode as psionic shrapnel. Or dehydration. Or blinding crystals. Or dog whistle noises. Seriously, those neutral gem dragons, the psionic ones, from 2nd Edition AD&D have some weird shit swirling around in their bellies. To continue, acid and not fire, which with the name of the weapon keeps people aware of the fact that dragons spit acid, not fire. We've had some confusion about dragons in Hekinoe in past campaigns. It also kind of fills my head with images of grimy, ragged looking blackcoats with cigars clamped in their lips gripping trench knives and carrying dragonspitters and spewing caustic acid down the tunnels and pits of The Great Trench as they watch pale Dwenoren scream and melt. 

The way I have the dragonspitter set up is that it isn't a conventional weapon where you make an attack roll, or multiple attack rolls. It just spits out a 20 ft. line of acid and anyone in the way makes a fairly low reflex save for half damage or takes the full 3d6 acid damage. If the wielder uses a full round action to make the single attack, the stream of acid stays in place and it becomes a a temporary bit of dangerous terrain that deals damage to anyone who ends up in the stream. No one uses a dragonspitter, but it is a weapon I've been wondering about lately. 

I'm not entirely sure if the current set up of the weapon makes it overpowered or not. The 3d6 acid damage is pretty decent base damage for a weapon, but it isn't modified by anything and there is the save for half damage to consider. On average it'll do about 11 damage, 5 if the save is made. I've also made it so Weapon Focus feats increase the DC of the reflex save and Weapon Specialization feats increase the damage it deals. I also have some upgrades that increase the range and reflex save DC. I mean, conceivable, you could ramp up damage to 3d6+4 and the reflex save DC from 15 to 20, which is pretty decent when it is kind of an auto-hit weapon. The reflex save can still drop it from an average of 15 damage down to 7 though.

Now I'd probably leave this as is in a normal situation, I mean, not one of my players would ever use a dragonspitter. It took a full campaign, an aborted one, and the current one for people to start regularly using firearms, and I think a lot of that has to do with the almost complete change in the lineup of players. The irony is that the majority of the enemies in The Rebellion Arc should have used guns and didn't and the majority of the enemies in the Orcunraytrel campaign can't and won't use firearms. There's always hope I guess. Maybe the guys will decide to start a fight with the Sereth too and then I can just have them duke it out with all of The Known World factions hanging out in Orcunraytrel. There will be so many guns!

Anyway. We're looking at shotguns and weapons with the scatter weapon quality now. We see that those weapons make touch attack rolls against every target within a 15 foot cone. No reflex saves or restrictions like I have on the dragonspitter. So since the scatter weapon quality already functions in a way similar to the way I intended the dragonspitter, wouldn't resolving the attacks in a similar way be more appropriate than the way I currently have it set up? I mean, I'd have to reduce damage just a smidge. Something like down to 1d10 damage. I'm not sure about critical range and multiplier though. It is basically just hosing someone down with acid, so I can see it being worthy of a x3 or x4 multiplier, but being liquid it could also slip through cracks and joints in armor or an open mouth fairly easily. Since it isn't what I assume the rules think of as a "precision" weapon, it'd probably be more appropriate to go with something like 1d10 damage and 20/x3 for the critical hit stuff (scatter weapons normally do x2 damage, but they're just heaps of little pellets and not a spray of caustic acid, so fuck it), which makes it kind of a ranged multi-target version of the dwarven waraxe that deals acid damage. Maybe I'll create a dragon type that breathes a cloud of dwarven waraxes at people. Or a dragon that breathes a cloud of dragons that each breathe a cloud of dwarven waraxes at people. I feel like that is probably the most appropriate option.

Man, I could do a whole post about dragons and their fucked up breath weapons. Hell, why the fuck not? 

Anyway, back to dragonspitters. I think this adjustment to the way the dragonspitter works makes the weapon more consistent with pre-existing firearms related rules. We can make the argument that the weapon functions kind of like the acidy spit psionic powers, but this is a gun, not a psionic power. Shotguns kind of function like burning hands, but they don't resolve their effects and damage the same way that spell does. So I guess it makes more sense to follow the guidelines of the scatter weapon quality for the dragonspitter than basing it on how a spell or power would resolve. I was just about to facepalm and ask myself "Why not look at your d20 Modern books and see what the rules for flamethrowers are?" and I did. Evidently I based the dragonspitter off of the rules for that weapon in the first place. Fuck it. I like Pathfinder's firearms a lot better than d20 Modern's. 

Yeah, I'm probably going to do a post about dragons. Sigh.