Hitzagei the Righteous and Celestial Alexei: Elleara Reconnaissance

This week we couldn’t play at Gamemasters and, using the NPC Codex to quick effect, generated a duo of 7th level PCs for two of my most regular players. In between playtesting new adventures (while testing new classes and races!) I’ve taken to making “Exploratory Parties”.

I’ve got most of the main continent of Veranthea—Grethadnis, the Fair Lands—mapped out, but only the larger picture. It’s not easy for me to get down into the smaller scale while working out a multitude of global elements (there are two other continents and one of the key themes to the whole setting is maintaining divine balance with a large, active pantheon), so I literally just make things up on the fly. Knowing the history of the continent, I draw out bits and pieces to fill in the area besides. Last night around 4AM, I sketched out a map of the area I felt like expanding and jotted down maybe five notes in total for all the locales (not 5 each, five in all) where I expected things to be happening.


Naturally, they didn’t go where I expected them to (they never do) and took a westward route out of Cedrazi, the City of Piracy. After felling some dwarven rogues foolish enough to follow them (albeit, disguised as an old wizard and prostitute, it didn’t seem like the paladin and sorcerer were too dangerous) they continued near the southern edges of Rhelspahn Lake. Rolling on the random encounters for plains, I got a result for centaur so that’s what went down; I rolled 2d6, got 11 and just short of a dozen horse-men appeared on the rise as the PCs set down for camp. This actually makes a lot of sense and now the area between Cedrazi and the Red Fist Orcs has some meat in it—specifically, horse-man meat.

Realizing that numbers would probably mean bad things for them, the adventurers successfully negotiated a diplomatic truce, even trading some healing for a quick fording across the riverway. After a peaceful parting, the paladin and sorcerer were ambushed by charda hiding in the lake but quickly did away with the two monstrous four-armed beastmen, dispatching them in short order after enduring dangerous blasts of their freezing bile. The next morning, the pair passed by two settlements decimated by the expansion of the Red Fist Tribe and wisely passed them by, taking cover for the night in a copse of trees not far from the Canyon of the Fallen. For once, nothing tried to kill them while they slept.

Taking potions of spider climb pilfered from the corpses of the dwarven rogues from their first night back on dry land, Alexei and Hitzagei descended the sheer walls of the Canyon of the Fallen, coming to the horizontal again beside one of the dozens of ancient statues that sit in the valley of the entombed dead. After the sorcerer deftly crafted a map of fine make, they entered into the nearest tunnel to explore the area and determine how good of a landing point it might be for the armies of Elleara, should it come to that.

The inside of the canyon’s walls are truly places of antiquity, and some of the markings there are older than even the dead tongues—simply looking upon them with his detect magic and recognizing the markings for what they were (runes of the Nightmare Gods) caused Alexei pain that washed across his body, stabbed his mind and wrenched his heart. Were it not for Hitzagei’s detect evil, they may have met their ends as hounds of Tindalous ambushed them, teleporting to flank and wreck havoc on the adventurers. Were it not for his prodigious divine abilities to swiftly heal himself, the paladin would surely have fallen. Almost felled in a wave of vicious bites and claws, the celestial sorcerer conjured forth a magic circle against evil and the two gravely wounded warriors slowly retreated from the dungeon, ascending the walls outside again and finally leaving the purvey of the dangerous extraplanar canines that almost killed them.

Which is where the session came to a close. Looking forward to seeing what happens with these two and how I fill up Deevyce Town (aside from the Goblin Artificer Technical Institute, of course)!

What a good artist does:

I will keep this short and sweet; I am not an illustrator, and every time I see a new image that originally sprang from my mind made into art, it fills me with joy. Lately I’ve been coordinating with one particular individual—the extraordinarily talented Jacob Blackmon. If you’re wondering how to do it right as an artist, follow his lead.

The notes I gave Jacob:
COVER — A dvergr bursting out of the ground (atop a deep badger) to strike an Underworld monster from below.


Dverger Underminer cover concept




AAW-DvergarUnderminer-color-01 dooone

NPC Codex—The GM’s Best Friend

npc codex picPhil Glotfelty over at Gamemasters (Pittsburgh’s best, newly-remodeled hobby shop!) has been on to me for a few weeks about writing something for his re-vamped website. After thinking about it for a bit, I’ve decided that I owe more than just him a proper review—Paizo is due some love for the NPC Codex as well.

When I first heard about this book, I wasn’t impressed—that was a mistake on my part.

This is easily the best thing I got at Gencon last year and has paid for itself several times over at this point. The fact that it’s open content shouldn’t deter you either; what’s the random shopkeeper the PCs have decided to stiff have for attack options? Now those are at hand (not on a website, though that’s certainly good for preparing the game). Maybe this is their retirement from adventuring and they have class levels?

Heck, let’s say they’re a fence and some brutes are waiting across the street for just such an occasion. Now you’ve got the tools as GM to truly flesh out the world in an instant.
No excessive math, no questioning about the legitimacy of a random NPC’s skill bonus, no fuss.

This is something Paizo was smart to expand on from the (difficult to keep in stock) Gamemastery Guide and its uses go much farther than that.

Another way I utilize this as a GM (other than to quickly find basic stats for an NPC that’ll get a proper write-up later) is for character creation. As a veteran player I know exactly what I want my 1st level bard to have, but most people new to the game have enough of a time getting their head around all the numbers for attack, skill ranks, and the like already. So I hand them my NPC Codex and say, “look through these characters in the back of the book, this section here—if you don’t want to play one that’s fine, but just copy their gear until we have a chance to get you properly equipped between sessions.”
That single step has greased the wheels for new players at my table several times already and I cannot thank Paizo enough for it.

Then there’s the third reason I bought the NPC Codex; as OGL material, you can freely reference and site NPCs in the book just as you would a monster from one of the Bestiaries. It’s rare for me not to include one or two entries from the NPC Codex as functionaries from a given settlement in an adventure and on more than one occasion I’ve made the book a central part of my design for a module, fleshing out the cities within (or in one case, a single extremely detailed city) by referencing a dozen entries—giving me time and most importantly space.

I prefer to get paid by the word for my work—a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, as they say, and bill collectors are rarely encouraged by the promise of royalties. It cannot be stressed enough how valuable this book has been to me; it has literally paid for itself several times over and definitely been a deciding factor in certain contracts.

For instance, last week I wrote a module with multiple distinct settlements and an epic scale in the endgame for a publisher new to me—a very large project. We’re talking tens of thousands of words to establish a sense of completion once you factor in all the nobility (king, high mage, other town’s nobles, and a few other pertinent characters). Using the NPC Codex (retired adventurers to lord over the lesser towns and fill in the ruling class of the main city), I managed to (brilliantly) fit it just inside of 17,000 words.

Don’t get me wrong—I also did not have to create another dozen high-level stat blocks and that was a huge time saver, but the space issue easily outweighs it.

All in all, the NPC Codex is a smart buy and still one of my most valued purchases. If you don’t have it already, go buy a copy from Phil down at Gamemasters or if you don’t live near Pittsburgh, your local gaming haven—you’ll be happy you did. 

Playtesting Tuesdays

Every Tuesday from 3-7 PM, I run a Pathfinder game at Game Masters, my favorite hobby store from childhood (and it remains so). Partly for my players, partly for promoting Phil’s (the owner) site and mostly to allow folks new to the game to catch up with what’s going on (and see if it’s for them), I keep a written record of what I can talk about—a journal of their adventures.

Thus far there has been….

Out of Feiknstafir, On To Lethis and Meeting The Red

Dashing Past Dashporte and the Odd Octopus

and Duplicitous Doings, Undead Awakenings and the Twilight Twins.

If you’ve got a minute to read, you may find them interesting—I for one have been immensely enjoying the sessions with this group, and look forward to it every Tuesday.
You might too. 🙂

Kickstarter February, it looks like

I’m extremely busy so I’ll be brief: Pathfinder goodies are on the way!

Amora Game is releasing Liber Influxus Communis, a book with classes. Within are the mnemonic and the conduit! The former is a memory stealing, feat/skill swapping monk and the latter absorbs spells and shoots them back out/leaps crazy far/etc. There’s a preview of those two and Scott Gladstein’s survivor class on DriveThruRPG.com and RPGNow.com. It is already funded, but you should throw down just to get a copy.

Finally, there’s Dragon Tiger Ox. The boat already set sail on this guy, but I’m talking to Scott Gladstein right now and he’s in the final phases of layout, which means it gets released today. Pick it up for the fantastic martial arts action it’ll bring to your Pathfinder game, but read my section first: The 36 Chambers (oh I went there; I went there, took pictures of the great Brass Monkey, and now I’ve come home and they’re DEVELOPED!)

As always, there’s more going on, but this seems like a good place to stopper myself.