Hyper Score Marvel: Spider-Man

The response to Street Fighter D&D has been stellar but that’s not the only game designing that I’ve done which might interest people, so I’m starting Hyper Score Marvel where every week I use Hypercorps 2099 to put together an iconic hero or villain from the world’s most popular superhero universe! Unlike Street Fighter D&D, this series is for both the Pathfinder players out there and D&D 5E groups as well.

We’re kicking off the series with my go-to favorite, the alter ego of Peter Parker and arachnid scourge of New York: SPIDER-MAN!

If there’s someone in particular you’d like to see please comment and let me know! I’ll move them up the list.

spider-man hypercorps2099 promo.png

SPIDER-MAN      CR 15—XP 51,200
Male human brawler 8/veloces* 1 [hs 5, meganaut 1/parallel 1]
NG Medium humanoid (human, hyper)
Init +13; Senses Awareness +9

ͺ‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾ DEFENSE ‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾ͺ
AC 27, bullet 27, touch 27, flat-footed 15 (+3 deflect, +9 Dex, +3 dodge, +2 hyper)
hp 90 (8d10+1d8+26+12); Hyper Bonus +2
Fort +12, Ref +19, Will +3
Defensive Abilities evasion

ͺ‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾ OFFENSE ‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾ͺ
Speed 60 ft.
Melee unarmed +21 or +21/+16/+16 or +19/+19/+14/+14/+14 (1d10+15)
Ranged strong hurl +19 touch (1d8 per 100 pounds+12 or 4d8 per 400 pounds+16, Range 60 ft.; Spider-Man’s Heavy Load is 2,800 pounds)
Special Attacks brawler’s flurry, dash 6 rounds/day, knockout 2/day (DC 25), martial flexibility 7/day
Hyper Spell-Like Abilities (CL 14th, concentration +23)
9/day—spider climb, web*, web bolt* (DC 20) [*Flaw: Tied to web-shooters]

ͺ‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾ TACTICS ‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾ͺ
Combat Spider-Man uses Combat Expertise every round to maximize his AC (taking a -3 penalty to attack rolls, making his AC 30) and hits enemies with knockout; if that fails to work he goads his enemy and retreats to draw them away from allies before unleashing a brawler’s flurry. He frequently uses martial flexibility to gain Deflect Arrows and Improved Trip, Lunge and Monkey Lunge, or Mobility and Spring Attack. When truly pushed to the limit Spider-Man uses his dash veloces ability, increasing his AC by +4.

ͺ‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾ STATISTICS ‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾ͺ
Str 24, Dex 28, Con 15, Int 16, Wis 8, Cha 12, Luck 20, Rep 21
Hyper Dexterity 2 (Dexterous Footwork), Hyper Strength 2 (Strong Back, Strong Hurl)
Base Atk +8; CMB +17 (+19 trip, +18 disarm); CMD 42 (44 vs. trip, 43 vs. disarm)
Feats Alertness[B], Combat Expertise, Combat Reflexes, Craft Technological Item, Disorienting Maneuver, Dodge[B], Dragon Style[B], Endurance[B], Improved Unarmed Strike[B], Greater Weapon Focus (unarmed), Greater Weapon Specialization (unarmed)[B], Power Attack[B], Weapon Focus (unarmed)[B], Weapon Specialization (unarmed)[B]; Hyper Feats Extra Hyper Attribute (2), Parallel Access
Skills Acrobatics +20, Awareness +9, Craft (technology) +12, Intimidate +13, Knowledge (local, nature, technology) +6, Profession (photographer) +7, Search +5, Sense Motive +4, Stealth +20, Survival +8, Use Technology +9
Languages English, Latin
SQ AC bonus +2, brawler’s cunning, brawler’s strike (cold iron, magic, silver), close weapon mastery, fast movement, hyper attack 1, hyper focus 2/day, hyper initiative, hyper mortality, hyper rest, martial training, maneuver training (trip +2, disarm +1), unarmed strike
Gear amulet of mighty fists +2, belt of dexterity +4, ring of evasion, ring of protection +3, camera, chipfinder (green), flashlight, tracker chips (green, 4), web-line shooters

*For those wondering, the veloces a base class for speedsters in Hypercorps 2099. Obviously Spidey isn’t really a speedster, but 1 level of the class does a great. The dash ability is explained at the bottom of the page.

WEB-LINE SHOOTERS (both Pathfinder and D&D 5E)
Price 8,500 gp; Slot wrists; Weight 1 lb.; Capacity 100; Usage 2
As a standard action, Spider-Man can fire a strand of webbing to briefly harden to anchor on corners and walls of objects and structures, trailing a thin high-tensile line back to him. As a move action, he can pull towards the anchor, swiftly carrying himself to the anchor point.
This ability has a maximum range of 500 feet and can anchor only to a structure sturdy enough to support Spider-Man’s weight. If there is not a platform appropriate for him to land on next to the anchor, he must succeed at a Climb/Athletics check (DC appropriate to climbing the surface the webbing is anchored to) or immediately fall. The strand of webbing disappears in 1d4 hours. The strands of webbing deal no damage and normally creatures other than the wielder are unaffected by them.
Spider-Man can expend 15 charges and spend a full-round action/action and bonus action to create a tether-line or net with his web-line shooters (hardness 3, 30 hit points per 5-ft. of length or AC 15, 20 hit points per 5-ft. of length) to catch or stop objects (maximum weight 5,000 lbs.). By expending 12 charges from his web-shooters, Spider-Man can cast spend a full-round action/action and bonus action to effectively cast web on a creature within 50 feet except the webbing made has the statistics listed above. At the GM’s discretion, he may create other simple objects with his webbing (such as a parachute or large pillow).
CONSTRUCTION
Craft DC 32; Cost 4,250 gp
Craft Technological Item, production lab

SPIDER-MAN
Medium humanoid (human), neutral good
Armor Class 20 (leather)
Hit Points 150 (20d8+60)
Speed 50 ft., climb 30 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
18 (+4) 27 (+8) 15 (+2) 11 (+0) 8 (-1) 17 (+3)

Saving Throws Str +9, Dex +12, Con +6, Wis +4
Skills Acrobatics +13, Intimidation +8, Perception +4, Stealth +13, Technology +8
Senses passive Perception 14
Languages English, Latin
Challenge 14 (11,500 XP)
Danger Sense. By spending a bonus action, Spider-Man can force disadvantage on attacks made against him until the beginning of his next turn.
Desperate Dodge. Roll a Constitution saving throw with a DC equal to the damage dealt when Spider-Man is reduced to below 0 hp; on a success, he is at 1 hp instead. Spider-Man requires a short rest before using this ability again.
Hyper Strength. Spider-Man has advantage on all Strength ability checks and saving throws, and his carrying capacity is tripled.
Rapid Reflexes. When Spider-Man makes a Dexterity saving throw to reduce the damage of a spell or attack, on a success he takes no damage and on a failure he takes half damage.
Superior Leaping. Spider-Man triples the distance of any jumps he makes.
Spider Strength. Spider-Man is capable of lifting up to 10 tons though his maximum throwing weight is only around 2,500 pounds.
Web Master. Spider-Man does not suffer disadvantage when making ranged attacks while within a foe’s reach. When using his webs to grapple a creature, Spider-Man does not have the grappled condition and he may grapple up to 6 creatures at once with his vines.

ACTIONS
Multiattack. Spider-Man makes any combination of four unarmed strike attacks and web attacks each turn or throws an object.
Unarmed Strike. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 17 (2d8+8) bludgeoning damage.
Web. Ranged Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, range (20/100), one target. Hit: grappled (escape DC 18). A creature already grappled by Spider-Man’s webs gains the restrained condition if hit by his web a second time (escape DC 20). A creature restrained by Spider-Man’s webs gains the incapacitated condition (escape DC 22). Each time Spider-Man uses this attack it consumes 1 charge.
Thrown Object. Ranged Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, range (50/100), multiple targets (determined by object size; make one attack roll per target). Hit: 8 (1d8+4) damage. The damage type depends on the object (bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing) and at 100 pounds and every 100 pounds thereafter, the damage increases by 1d8 (up to 44 [9d8+4] at 800 pounds).

REACTIONS
Fast Reactions. Spider-Man can take 4 reactions each round.
Reflexive Dodge. When Spider-Man is aware of his attacker, he may spend his reaction to reduce the damage of an attack or spell by half.

_________________________________

Dash (Ex) The veloces can sprint at incredible speeds for brief periods of time, weaving and lightly stepping with the grace of a leaf dancing in the wind and the swiftness of a
primordial predator. The total number of rounds of dash per day is renewed after resting for 8 hours, although these hours do not need to be consecutive.
While in a dash, a veloces gains a +4 morale bonus to her Dexterity, a +2 dodge bonus to AC and Reflex saves, ignores all types of difficult terrain (magical and mundane), and negates a number of attacks of opportunity provoked from movement equal to veloces level each turn. She must move at least her full speed (this movement does not need to be in a straight line) during any turn this ability is active. While in a dash, a veloces cannot use any Charisma- or Intelligence-based skills (except Intimidate) or any ability that requires patience or concentration.
A veloces can end her dash as a free action and is fatigued after dashing for a number of rounds equal to 2 times the number of rounds spent in the dash. A veloces cannot enter a new dash while fatigued or exhausted but can otherwise enter dash multiple times during a single encounter or combat. If a veloces falls unconscious, her dash immediately ends.
Entering a dash is a swift action.

Chris Avery on Facebook pointed out that my memory on Spidey’s strength levels was lacking! His lifting weight has been raised up a tad but is definitely (as the rest of these statistics) in the range of year 1 Spider-Man.

Street Fighter D&D 5E: Akuma

 I’m starting  a new series of blog posts: Street Fighter D&D 5E!

Each (~weekly) entry will feature a different member of the Street Fighter cast built using Mists of Akuma (my eastern fantasy noir steampunk campaign setting) to provide you with a badass NPC to assail your adventuring group with!

It is only fitting that we begin this process with the Great Demon himself! If there’s a particular character you’d like to see, let me know and I’ll move them up the queue. 😀

*Due to popular demand, Akuma’s now got a raging demon feature! I’ve also taken the opportunity to up his AC a bit (that Haitoku-derived reduced damage helps, but he still felt a little flimsy to me for a challenge 16 foe).
*A user on the EN World forums brought up that his hit points and damage were on the low side. While that’s intentional (he has lots of little extra bits and pieces that interact with one another) I was still feeling a little wishy-washy on the low hp total and damage output so I went ahead and gave him higher Strength and Constitution (guess he just rolled well when generating attributes amirite? 😉 ) to bring those up slightly.

akuma mists of akuma promo.png

Akuma (Gouki) “The Great Ogre” and Master of the Fist

Medium humanoid (oni-touched), lawful evil monk (martial artist monastic tradition) 16
Armor Class 22
Hit Points 105 (16d8+32)
Speed 60 ft. (70 ft. during combat)

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA Dignity Haitoku
20 (+5) 16 (+3) 14 (+2) 8 (-1) 15 (+2) 15 (+2) 2 (-4) 24 (+7)

Saving Throws Str +10, Dex +8, Con +7, Int +4, Wis +7, Cha +7, Dignity +1, Haitoku +12
Skills Athletics +10, Deception +7, Insight +7, Intimidation +7, Stealth +8
Damage Resistances necrotic
Damage Immunities poison
Condition Immunities disease, poison

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages Adeddo, Common (Soburi), Undercommon
Challenge 16 (15,000 XP)
Background Feature: Never Stop (Roustabout). Akuma’s Haitoku score does not increase when he uses the attribute ability to avoid going unconscious.
Corrupted. Akuma cannot die from or be transformed by exposure to the Mists of Akuma regardless of how high his Haitoku attribute is.
Deceptive. Akuma gains proficiency in the Deception skill.
Evasion. If Akuma is subjected to an effect that allows him to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, he instead takes no damage if he succeeds on the saving throw, and only half damage if he fails.
Hated. Akuma is at disadvantage when making Wisdom or Charisma checks against any humanoid that doesn’t also have the hated condition but he cannot suffer disadvantage on Intimidation checks.
High Haitoku. Akuma gains a +10 ft. bonus to speed in combat, +1 to Strength and Dexterity, he ignores the first 3 points of damage from attacks and spells, but has a visible physical mutation, and suffers disadvantage on Dignity ability checks and saving throws. When Akuma’s anger is raised or he begins to focus his ki, scarlet flames lick and dance around him and his body stretches and distorts to appear larger and more demonic.
Ki (16 points). Akuma harnesses the mystic energy of ki and can spend these points to fuel various ki features. When he spends a ki point, it is unavailable until he finishes a short or long rest, at the end of which he draws all of his expended ki back into himself. He must spend at least 30 minutes of the rest meditating to regain his ki points.

  • Diamond Soul. Whenever Akuma makes a saving throw and fails, he can spend 1 ki point to reroll it and take the second result.
    Flurry of Blows. Immediately after Akuma takes the Attack action on his turn, he can spend 1 ki point to make two unarmed strikes as a bonus action.
    Patient Defense. Akuma can spend 1 ki point to take the Dodge action as a bonus action on his turn.
    Step of the Wind. Akuma can spend 1 ki point to take the Disengage or Dash action as a bonus action on his turn, and his jump distance is doubled for the turn.
    Stunning Attack. Akuma can spend 1 ki point to attempt to stun a creature she hits with a melee weapon attack. The target must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or be stunned until the end of her next turn.

Magic Talent. Akuma is able to cast the eldritch blast cantrip with only somatic components and the chill touch cantrip. He uses Charisma as his spellcasting attribute for these cantrips.
Martial Arts. Akuma can use Dexterity instead of Strength for the attack and damage rolls of his unarmed strikes and monk weapons, and he rolls a 1d8 in place of the normal damage of his unarmed strike or monk weapons. In addition, when Akuma uses the Attack action with an unarmed strike or a monk weapon on his turn, he can make one unarmed strike as a bonus action.
Purity of Body. Akuma’s mastery of the ki flowing through him makes him immune to disease and poison.
Stance Scion. Akuma has learned 3 martial arts feats from his monk training and is able to simultaneously utilize up to 3 at once.
Stance of the Tiger’s Claw. Akuma’s strikes deal an additional 1d4 slashing damage (this damage is not multiplied on a critical hit.) He gains advantage on Intimidation checks and may roar as a bonus action to give enemies within 20 feet of him the frightened condition for 1d4 rounds; a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw resists the effect. After using this feature, Akuma cannot do so again until he has completed a long rest.
Stance of the Waning Moon (2). Akuma’s unarmed strikes deal an additional 1d6 necrotic damage and he gains resistance to necrotic damage.
Stance of the Wicked Oni (3). Akuma’s unarmed strikes deal an additional 1d8 damage to humanoids (this damage is multiplied on a critical hit). By spending a bonus action, he can grant a creature that can see him the frightened condition for 5 rounds. A creature that succeeds on a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw made at the end of each of its turns negates this condition. Once a creature has been frightened by Akuma’s oni stance, it cannot be frightened by it again for 24 hours. In addition, he gains advantage on saving throws made to resist the abilities and spells of oni and by spending an action, Akuma may use his Haitoku score in place of any other one score of his choice for 5 rounds. Once he has used this feature he cannot do so again until he has finished a long rest.
Stillness of Mind. As an action, Akuma can end one effect on himself that is causing him to be charmed or frightened.
Timeless Body. Akuma’s ki sustains him so that he suffers none of the frailty of old age, and he can’t be aged magically. He can still die of old age, however. In addition, he no longer needs food or water.
Tongue of the Sun and Moon. Akuma can touch the ki of other minds so that he understands all spoken languages. Moreover, any creature that can understand a language can understand what he says.
Unarmored Defense. While he is wearing no armor and not wielding a shield, Akuma’s AC equals 10 + his Dexterity modifier + his Wisdom modifier + the number of martial arts stances he knows.
Unarmored Movement. Akuma’s speed increases by 25 feet while he is not wearing armor or wielding a shield, and he is able to move along vertical surfaces and across liquids on his turn without falling during the move.

ACTIONS
Multiattack. When Akuma takes the attack action he makes two unarmed strikes. By spending his bonus action he can attack a third time or a bonus action and 1 ki to make a fourth unarmed strike.
Unarmed Strike. Melee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (1d8+7) magical bludgeoning damage plus 4 (1d8) damage to humanoids, 3 (1d6) necrotic damage, and 2 (1d4) slashing damage.
Eldritch Blast. Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit with 3 beams, range 120 feet, up to three targets. Hit: 5 (1d10) force damage per beam.

REACTIONS
Deflect Missile. Akuma can spend his reaction to strike a missile when he is hit by a ranged weapon attack. When he does so, the damage he takes from the attack is reduced by 17 (1d8+1d6+1d4+7).
Slow Fall. Akuma can use his reaction when he falls to reduce any falling damage he takes by 80.

Haitoku Prayer Beads

Legendary

These dark wooden beads have been used by Akuma to focus prayers and spiritual energy for decades, rapidly instilled with fell power by the shed blood of his enemies. Haitoku prayer beads have 8 prayer points; Akuma has attuned them to grant sacred armor (2 points), sacred skill Perception (2 points), and sacred strike x2 (4 points). In addition, they allow grant him the following features:

Shakunetsu Hadoken (Scorching Heat Surge Fist). Akuma is able to use his Fury of Blows monk feature in conjunction with eldritch blast (gaining two additional eldritch blasts as a bonus action) though when doing so all of his beams must target the same creature and he deals fire and necrotic damage instead of force damage. Once Akuma has used this feature, he cannot do so again for 1 minute or until he is reduced to 20 hp or less.

Shun Goku Satsu (Raging Demon). As an action, Akuma may spend 6 ki points to become incorporeal and move towards a target enemy spending movement speed as part of this action. This movement does not provoke opportunity attacks and ignores difficult terrain. If this puts him within melee range of an enemy, a grapple attempt is made with advantage. On a success, the opponent makes a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the opponent is reduced to 0 hp and knocked prone. On a successful save, the target takes 10d10 necrotic damage and is knocked prone. Akuma’s remaining movement for the turn is reduced to 0 and he cannot take reactions until the start of his next turn. Once Akuma has used this feature, he cannot do so again until he has finished a long rest.
[The Shun Goku Satsu feature was designed by Reddit user Face_Claimer!]

 

 

———REDUCED STATBLOCK————–

 

Akuma

Medium humanoid (oni-touched), lawful evil monk 16
Armor Class 22
Hit Points 105 (16d8+32)
Speed 70 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA Dignity Haitoku
20 (+5) 16 (+3) 14 (+2) 8 (-1) 15 (+2) 15 (+2) 2 (-4) 24 (+7)

Saving Throws Str +10, Dex +8, Con +7, Int +4, Wis +7, Cha +7, Dignity +1, Haitoku +12
Skills Athletics +10, Deception +7, Insight +7, Intimidation +7, Stealth +8
Damage Resistances necrotic
Damage Immunities poison
Condition Immunities disease, poison, mists of akuma

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages Adeddo, Common (Soburi), Undercommon
Challenge 16 (15,000 XP)
Background Feature: Never Stop (Roustabout). Akuma’s Haitoku score does not increase when he uses the attribute ability to avoid going unconscious.
Evasion. If Akuma is subjected to an effect that allows him to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, he instead takes no damage if he succeeds on the saving throw, and only half damage if he fails.
Hated. Akuma is at disadvantage when making Wisdom or Charisma checks against any humanoid that doesn’t also have the hated condition but he cannot suffer disadvantage on Intimidation checks.
High Haitoku. Akuma ignores the first 3 points of damage from attacks and spells but suffers disadvantage on Dignity ability checks and saving throws.
Ki (16 points).

  • Diamond Soul. Whenever Akuma makes a saving throw and fails, he can spend 1 ki point to reroll it and take the second result.
  • Flurry of Blows. Immediately after Akuma takes the Attack action on his turn, he can spend 1 ki point to make two unarmed strikes as a bonus action.
  • Patient Defense. Akuma can spend 1 ki point to take the Dodge action as a bonus action on his turn.
  • Step of the Wind. Akuma can spend 1 ki point to take the Disengage or Dash action as a bonus action on his turn, and his jump distance is doubled for the turn.
  • Stunning Attack. Akuma can spend 1 ki point to attempt to stun a creature she hits with a melee weapon attack. The target must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or be stunned until the end of her next turn.

Magic Talent. Akuma is able to cast the eldritch blast cantrip with only somatic components and the chill touch cantrips (Charisma spellcasting attribute).
Stance of the Tiger’s Claw. Akuma’s strikes deal an additional 1d4 slashing damage (this damage is not multiplied on a critical hit.) He gains advantage on Intimidation checks and may roar as a bonus action to give enemies within 20 feet of him the frightened condition for 1d4 rounds; a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw resists the effect. After using this feature, Akuma cannot do so again until he has completed a long rest.
Stance of the Wicked Oni (3). By spending a bonus action, Akuma can grant a creature that can see him the frightened condition for 5 rounds. A creature that succeeds on a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw made at the end of each of its turns negates this condition. Once a creature has been frightened by Akuma’s oni stance, it cannot be frightened by it again for 24 hours. In addition, he gains advantage on saving throws made to resist the abilities and spells of oni and by spending an action, Akuma may use his Haitoku score in place of any other one score of his choice for 5 rounds. Once he has used this feature he cannot do so again until he has finished a long rest.
Stillness of Mind. As an action, Akuma can end one effect on himself that is causing him to be charmed or frightened.
Tongue of the Sun and Moon. Akuma understands all spoken languages and any creature that can understand a language can understand what he says.
Unarmored Movement. Akuma is able to move along vertical surfaces and across liquids on his turn without falling during the move.

ACTIONS
Multiattack. When Akuma takes the attack action he makes two unarmed strikes. By spending his bonus action he can attack a third time or a bonus action and 1 ki to make a fourth unarmed strike.
Unarmed Strike. Melee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 17 (1d8+1d6+1d4+7) magical bludgeoning necrotic slashing damage plus 4 (1d8) damage to humanoids.
Eldritch Blast. Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit with 3 beams, range 120 feet, up to three targets. Hit: 5 (1d10) force damage per beam.
Shakunetsu Hadoken (Scorching Heat Surge Fist). Akuma is able to use his Fury of Blows monk feature in conjunction with eldritch blast (gaining two additional eldritch blasts as a bonus action) though when doing so all of his beams must target the same creature and he deals fire and necrotic damage instead of force damage. Once Akuma has used this feature, he cannot do so again for 1 minute or until he is reduced to 20 hp or less.
Shun Goku Satsu (Raging Demon). As an action, Akuma may spend 6 ki points to become incorporeal and move towards a target enemy spending movement speed as part of this action. This movement does not provoke opportunity attacks and ignores difficult terrain. If this puts him within melee range of an enemy, a grapple attempt is made with advantage. On a success, the opponent makes a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the opponent is reduced to 0 hp and knocked prone. On a successful save, the target takes 10d10 necrotic damage and is knocked prone. Akuma’s remaining movement for the turn is reduced to 0 and he cannot take reactions until the start of his next turn. Once Akuma has used this feature, he cannot do so again until he has finished a long rest.

REACTIONS
Deflect Missile. Akuma can spend his reaction to strike a missile when he is hit by a ranged weapon attack, reducing its damage by 17 (1d8+1d6+1d4+7).
Slow Fall. Akuma can use his reaction when he falls to reduce any falling damage he takes by 80.

MISTS OF AKUMA available NOW in PDF & Print!

moa-cover-snapshot

IT’S TRUE! Go get your copy!

If you’re already familiar with my work then you probably already know what’s up with Mists of Akuma, but if not oh-my-god you are in for a treat.

First of all you can go download a bunch of free PDFs for my third campaign setting, little supplements that will take your D&D 5E game into a wonderfully cruel world of eastern fantasy, noir, and steampunk. Mists of Akuma was a Kickstarter that we funded in May 2016 and a book that I have been fretfully tending to like a drug-addled bonsai gardener left with too much of his vice. Before I allow myself some space to decompress over it, check out the rundown of what’s inside:

  • An overview of the recent history of Soburin and basic information about the world including the dangerous Mists of Akuma, rules for traveling the prefectures, and what rigors maddened explorers must overcome to visit the apocalypse that has become of the other continents.
  • Over 100 NPCs and monsters ranging from foreign generals to eastern dragons, powerful bengoshi and underlings from each of the 24 unique clans, and more than two dozen kami, oni, and tsukumogami!
  • Cultural practices and traditions for Soburin inspired by and drawn from eastern lore.
  • Gorgeous cover artwork by Claudio Pozas, interior scene illustrations by Indi Martin and Sara Shijo, and character illustrations by Jacob Blackmon and Nathanael Batchelor!
  • A chapter each for three different cities: the capital of the Imperial Prefecture, Sanbaoshi, the advanced mechanical metropolis of Kyōfū, and the traditionalist magic-steeped settlement of Nagabuki.
  • Short stories with gorgeous half page illustrations at the start of each chapter to firmly posit the desperation and diversity inherent to adventuring in Soburin!
  • Details on each of the two dozen clans of the prefectures, including the bengoshi that negotiate on the behalf of each ruling family’s lady or lord and how the Kengen Occupation affected each region of Soburin.
  • 7 new character backgrounds and guidelines for adapting existing character backgrounds when playing in Soburin as well as new conditions, the Culture skill, and 6 maps for the continent and its settlements by cartographers Michael McCarthy, Mike Myler, and Tommi Salama!
  • 19 different archetypes that provide exciting theme-appropriate character options for every class!
  • 14 new races to breathe life into Soburin, making it an exotic and unique world that is eager to shrug off the shackles of western imperialism.
  • 32 new character feats, over ten pages of equipment that ranges from new armor and weapons to steampunk prostheses and vehicles, and 22 new eastern-themed spells!
  • Revenge of the Pale Master, an epic 25 page mystery adventure set in the industrialized city of Kizaki beneath the shadow of an ancient, evil necromancer that has the settlement firmly within his ethereal grasp.

As you can see Mists of Akuma is just like my other campaign setting books insofar that I crammed a ridiculously large amount of material and artwork into it. In many other ways it’s different, but we’ll get to that in due time.

The Realization of a Dream

I have long been obsessed with eastern culture, philosophy, and food. Now I mention food not because I like egg rolls (I do, I love egg rolls and I will legit drive 8 hours for good dumplings or shinjeejoa, a dish I cannot spell and only rarely find but is SO good [it’s like a savory shrimp croissant IT IS AMAZING]) but because I’m extremely allergic to milk. Toss a cheese cube at my exposed skin and it will puff up with hives. If I eat or drink it, my throat swells closed pretty quick. It’s a problem — but much less of a problem if I’m getting thai, or chinese, or japanese food. It’s one of the primary reasons I spent three years of my life working in chinese restaurants (I also happen to really like the work ethic that those places maintain but that’s neither here nor there).

That’s just the start though. I’ve practiced several different martial arts (kung fu was my favorite, although I’d like to try some southern as opposed to northern styles), I started reading eastern philosophy books when I was a tween and I’ve been a daoist for about two decades now, and I am consistently amazed at the complexity and intrigue in asian history (something that american public schools barely BARELY touch upon). I’m not wearing rose-colored glasses or anything mind you–the East is just as messed up as the West and generally has been for as far as my concerns go and samurai were *not* paladins, just as prone to criminal behavior as knights–but it is as close to another world as we’re likely to get in my lifetime and has been a constant source of interest for me. I’d even go so far to say that it had an impact on my life as pronounced or more pronounced than going to college, but that’s definitely getting too personal.

Suffice to say that it really was a dream come true to get to make this book. 

As a bonus, one of the most valuable things Storm Bunny Studios brought to the project was academic oversight — we got a legitimate English-speaking Japan-emigrated professor to read through the book and make sure we weren’t off-base. When he gave us the thumbs up I knew we really made something amazing!

An Auteur Project

It is ridiculous to make an entire hardcover RPG book by yourself. I’m not saying you can’t do it (I’ve done it and it’s pretty freaking dope) and I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it, I’m just saying that it is a ridiculous endeavor in terms of the scope of skills and work required.

That said I did not make this book entirely by myself. I had very talented help with writing and design (from Savannah Broadway, Luis Loza, Michael McCarthy, Jaye Sonia, Bryant Turnage, and Chris Rippee), I had an editor (other-MM again), I had help with the maps (other-MM did the continent and Tommi Salama did the three major cities), and of course I had people that do the one thing I really can’t do: illustrate the world (and Claudio Pozas, Indi Martin, Sara Shijo, Jacob Blackmon, Naiche Washburne, and Nathanael Batchelor all did a smashing job of it).

This is definitely still the book that I feel is most mine however and I am phenomenally proud of that. If I were Terry Gilliam then Veranthea Codex was my Monty Python’s Flying CircusHypercorps 2099 was my Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Mists of Akuma is either Jabberwocky or Brazil. I feel as though this book is truly a part of my psyche.

I did all the graphics, made the page backgrounds, created one of the maps, wrote the vast majority of the copy, fastidiously oversaw development of other folks’ material, and most importantly did all of the layout work. And I felt confident doing it–I think you can see why. 😀

A Chance to Geek Out

I’ve been utilizing the public domain for RPG artwork for a long time and one thing I quickly noticed was that there’s way better and way more Japanese artwork in the public domain than from any other nation. This has a lot to do with the isolationism of the Tokugawa Era (the genesis of this campaign setting) and the lithograph (a type of plate printing press as opposed to the better known Guttenberg typable printing press) but that’s a post in itself. The thing to know is that there’s no shortage of amazing pieces that were made over a century ago (or longer) and kept in good enough condition that they scan digitally without losing too much of their quality. For example:

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Whaaaaaaaat Mike what’s this thing here?

No worries — there’s still a LOT of original artwork in the book (it’s why we went black and white) but it’s one of the reasons the page count is as high as it is. I didn’t have to sacrifice my (normally intense) art schedule or the feel of the book. This feels really professional as you go through it as well (*so proud*) because I managed to wrangle the various chapters into visual themes that carry through and each opens with a beautiful half-page piece done in a specific style by Indi or Sara, something that helps tremendously to solidify things visually and an aspect of art direction I put less emphasis on in Veranthea Codex and Hypercorps 2099. The geeking out bit? I got to TRAWL all of digital existence for this artwork and while I’m a few years from visiting museums in Japan, I’m going to recognize a hell of a lot of what I see and I am stoked for it.

Also: EASTER EGGS! Some of the ukiyo-e (the predominant style of public domain art in Mists of Akuma) is literally worked into some of the custom illustrations for the book! Keep your eye out when you look at the chapter openings and you’ll see what I mean (and the effect is wonderful!)

It would also be remiss for me not to bring up (the poorly named) Oriental Adventures book from D&D 3.0. I had never before been so enthralled with an RPG book and I adored everything in it, even if the name is insensitive. The clans were like a splash of cool water on a hot day and I made countless samurai, ninja, wu-jen, shugenja, and all the rest as “backup characters” when I should have been paying attention to the table. With Mists of Akuma I wanted people to feel that same sense of intriguing wonder and fascination, and we may have gone a bit too far–in Oriental Adventures there’s 8 major clans and 11 minor clans, but true to my character we did a handful more and have 24 different clans (all of which have at least one illustrated NPC) all tied to different animals important to the setting’s aesthetic (ape, bat, bear, boar, bull, chameleon, crane, dog, dragonfly, fox, frog, hawk, monkey, praying mantis, rat, scorpion, snake, spider, stag, swordfish, tiger, turtle, phoenix, and of course, dragon).

Bringing my first GM into the fold of RPG Design

Chris Rippee has been the GM for years and years of D&D (and Pathfinder, and Star Wars d20, and [heavily modified] Aberrant, and Shadowrun) games for me and I’ve always felt indebted to him for it — I sure as hell would not be an RPG designer if his brother Stevie and I hadn’t convinced him to start running games for us back when we were in high school. These sessions were not a thing to be taken lightly either. We started in the heyday of D&D 3.0/3.5 and Sunday afternoon games ROUTINELY became Monday-dawn games as he wove us through an epic two-game four-year story in the Forgotten Realms (spawning one of the most memorable characters ever, someone that became a god in Veranthea, although others appear as well: Elaith, Rankir, Thorindin Stonefist, the drow werewolves).

So I’ve been trying to include Chris in my work for years. We almost got him into the Veranthea Codex but didn’t make the stretch goal, and the same happened with Hypercorps 2099 so when we launched Mists of Akuma I wanted to make god damn sure he didn’t miss the bus again. As I expected Chris was fidgety about his writing process — the story he originally pitched pivoted and twisted maybe 75 degrees before he finally let it grow roots enough to dig into something concrete — and I had to really dance around to make everything work because what he ended up with was pretty complex, but wow.

I have no doubt that people are going to lose their collective shit when they read Revenge of the Pale Master.

Chris met and exceeded the expectations I had for the quality of his work and the mystery module that closes this book is one of the most devious, intriguing, and well-written adventures I’ve ever had the pleasure to be involved with–he hit it right the f#%^ out of the park.  I don’t want to give TOO much away, but if you know your Pathfinder, this adventure is a primary reason why translating the book to that edition of rules will require a considerable amount of doing. What really clinches it for me is that in those dope 25 pages, Chris captured everything that Mists of Akuma is about. We have a shorthand definition of the campaign setting (eastern fantasy noir steampunk) but if you want the longform explanation, read the adventure.

And for ancestors’ sake, tell me how your group fares when you run it for them.

More Mists of Akuma on the way

Rob Schwalb hooked me up with a great group of demonic minions that are helping shape the Shadow of the Demon Lord conversion of this book into something magnificent but there’s more coming along. That cover up there? That’s the (*inward shivering*) “player companion” book for the setting. I call it a handbook because it’s a 136 page hardcover — that’s how much of this book is not monsters or GM-only information. BUT THERE’S MORE!

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One of my (extremely few) regrets with Mists of Akuma was the lack of snake people and after Chris turned over Revenge of the Pale Master I had mind to make a murderous mystery of my own. Thus Fangs of Revenge was spawned! I really had a good time making this and it’s one of the most complete things I’ve ever published — various maps, a litany of character illustrations as mnemonic devices for players and GMs, and a really excellent premise that was fun to fill out. Best part? ALL COLOR! Ordering a print proof this week.

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While anxiously awaiting copy to come in I decided to explore the more monstrous side of Mists of Akuma and before long that spun out into this really cool module where the PCs are brought to a hidden oni city. So much of Mists of Akuma is harsh on nonhuman races (there’s even a condition for it called “Hated”) and I didn’t want to totally leave them out in the cold, so for GMs that have a beleaguered mutant or oni-touched among them, this baby is for YOU! It’s also in full color and is getting a print proof ordered this week.

My Sincere Gratitude

BRYANT TURNAGE came out of NOWHERE and made a huge impact on the Kickstarter and I cannot possibly thank him enough for that.

You are awesome, Bryant. Matt is awesome too (you know who you are ya fool).

There are lots of awesome people to thank here though. The design team was exemplary, the artists all did a killer job bringing this world to (bleak) life, and all of the Kickstarter backers were patient and generous with their interest and pledges.

And Stephanie (who you’ll see as the terrifying Yai Sovereign oni) of course. There were many, many, many 12 and 14 hour days where Mists of Akuma took over my life–in addition to providing me with the zeal to take those on, she was my second set of eyes on every art piece that came in. I love you babe! ❤

Other Projects

I’ve been working on other stuff too (2099 Wasteland is coming along wonderfully) but that’s for another post–we’ve gone on long enough here. If you’ve gotten this far, go check out the book preview. If you already have a copy, please leave a review or let me know how you like it via some other means! I love me some feedback.

NOW GO ON! Soburin is dying and it sure as hell isn’t going to save itself!

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DungeonBall!

I would die if somebody ran a murderball/dungeonball tournament bonanza. I may have to engineer such a thing.

Owen K.C. Stephens

The Midvale Murder Hobos are making a run for the scoring zone, with number 12, “Doomed” Dwalvitsky gripping the d-ball in both hands to qualify for the score. An ogre hits Dwalvitsky, but the dwarven halfback is just plowing toward the zone. He’s bleeding, but the Hobos’ morale coordinator, Brother Turpin, shoots out some buffs. There’s just seconds left in the segment, the crowd is on their feet, Dwalvitsky puts his head down and rushes a worg blockers, and…. Score! The Murder Hobos score! They win the Temple of Hill Giant Evil cup!

DungeonBall is a ridiculous way to play the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game to combine sports tropes in the mix of fantasy and adventure tropes. It’s a simple set of add-on rules to simulate sport-dungeon-stomping, presumably in a word where that is televised (or broadcast by crystal ball) for entertainment of the masses.

While all game rules not specifically…

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