Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Crossroads Tunnels

Although I was by and large satisfied with the material I wrote about the Crossroads asteroid colony, one element that I always wanted to expand upon was the tunnel system inside it. At long last, I've done so. Presented below is a map of the tunnels, along with area descriptions and suggestions for stocking them with enemies for an adventuring party. Additionally, I've updated the PDF version of the compilation for Crossroads, which is available in my Dropbox.

Crossroads Asteroid Colony


10. The Tunnels
Those who are familiar with the history of Crossroads know that the asteroid was once mined by dwarves, but they sold it to Luciano Reda after the veins of ore stopped producing. What most people don't know, however, is that those mines aren't entirely empty. There are rats, of course; that's no surprise, but other, deadlier things lurk here, too. The exact nature of what's inside is left for the GM to develop.

Tunnel Inhabitants
Listed here are some possible creatures that might inhabit the tunnels, ranked by CR.

CR – Creature
1/4 – Scarlet spider
1 – Darkmantle
1 – Giant spider
2 – Cave fisher
2 – Choker
2 – Slime mold
3 – Crysmal
3 – Giant black widow spider
4 – Aranea
4 – Gray ooze
5 – Cloaker
5 – Ochre jelly
5 – Spider eater

A. Entry
The entrance to the tunnel system is located on the western side of the asteroid (that is, when one considers the docks to lie on the south end), right around its centerline. In order to keep people from wandering into the tunnels, the powers that be have covered the entrance with a permanent image that disguises it as just another part of the rock's face. Those who encounter the illusion may attempt a DC 20 Will save to recognize its falsehood. 

As a general rule, tunnels are about as half as tall as they are wide. In that way, the narrower passages range from ten to twenty feet in height, while the larger caverns rise up to a hundred feet in height or more.

B. New Diggings
Those who succeed at DC 15 Knowledge (dungeoneering) or (engineering) checks may notice that one part of the tunnels has been more recently dug—that is, within the past few months. A similar Knowledge (local effort) reveals that this section passes underneath some of the settlement's notable buildings, including the Sign of the Ourobouros, the Crossroads Outfitter, the R.I.C. warehouse and the home of Governor Luciano Reda. At the GM's discretion, there might also be tracks in the area (that one can find with a DC 20 Survival effort) that could lead to the responsible party. Just what that character intends to do, however, is left open to interpretation.

C. Fungus Farm
The tunnel leading to this area slopes downward, and the walls here are slick with moisture. What is more, a tremendous variety of fungus lines the floor and walls of the area. While many of these growths are harmless—and, according to many halflings, delicious—some are downright deadly. That latter group could include violet fungus and shriekers, and possibly even phantom fungus or mindslaver mold.

D. Cess Pit
Over time, those who have made use of these tunnels—smugglers, thieves and the like—have dumped their rubbish here. Now one end of the tunnel is filled with years' worth of rusting and rotting detritus. The pile is also home to various vermin, such as centipedes and rats, and possibly including other, even more dangerous creatures.

E. Underground Lake
What from the settlement on the surface of the asteroid has trickled down through the soil and rock to form a pool here. Although cold, the water is clean and safe for drinking. At the GM's discretion, it could contain living things, ones that run the gamut from harmless cave fish up to aquatic snakes, giant frogs or even some electric eels.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Bear-Folk

Building off of a previous post, this article presents a small community of people who can present trading opportunities along with plot hooks for a nautical or space fantasy campaign.


An Ursine Longhouse
The typical home of a bear-folk family is a relatively simple but comfortable structure. It is built from roughly-hewn logs lashed into A-frames; more logs, packed with straw and clay, form the walls of a single rectangular room some twenty feet deep and fifty feet long. In this way, the bottoms of the A-frame logs protrude beyond the outside walls. A roof of thick thatch covers this structure, and the rafters beneath it create additional room for storing household goods. Inside, the building's broad double doors are flanked by two raised platforms on which the family's younger members keep their bedrolls. A similar platform stands in another corner, the sleeping place for the parents. Opposite the doors is a hearth for cooking and warmth, usually with a couple of chairs for sitting in front of it. There is also a table and chairs for meals and other activities. Storage is provided in the form of barrels, chests and baskets.

Typical Ursine Warrior: Use the stats for a werebear from page 181 of the Bestiary 2.

Using the Bear-Folk in an Aetherial Adventures Campaign
This group can provide plenty of plot elements for a space fantasy or more traditional RPG campaign; presented here are a few of the possibilities.
  • At first glance, the bear-folk might seem to be an odd fit for a space fantasy campaign. If there is truth to their legend of being the first starfarers, however, then they might possess some important lost relic or lore.
  • That would especially be the case if the aforementioned enemy, the furmah, ever returned to threaten Homeworld's solar system.
  • In a more mundane way, the bear-folk could also be trading partners for PCs who have their own vessel, exchanging fish, sealskin and even scrimshaw for foodstuffs, metal goods and other items that they can't produce for themselves.
  • The PCs could be called in to help mediate or otherwise resolve the conflict when an orc whale hunting vessel moves into the bear-folk's territory, killing off the very animals that they need to make their living.
  • Clerics or other followers of Luna might journey here to learn about the stories and other traditions of the bear-folk.
  • With the GM's permission, one of the PCs could hail from this tribe of primitive but powerful people—a proposition that entails, of course, all of the expected benefits and drawbacks of lycanthropy.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Faction: Disciples of the Destroyer, Part 2

Here are stats for some of the NPCs that one might encounter when dealing with this organization.


Running Pit Fights
These matches can be single events pitting a particular champion against another competitor or even some exotic beast, or a grand tournament in which eight or more contestants compete in a series of fights. They are usually fought until one opponent surrenders or is incapacitated, but sometimes result in death. In either case, Kurtz and his guards collect the entry fee from spectators and handle any additional money that they care to wager. Fighters are allowed to prepare themselves in one of the rooms provided by that purpose, and are often accompanied by an ally who can tend to their wounds, whether they win or lose.

Finding Foes
The NPC Gallery section of the GameMastery Guide can be an excellent source of opponents to use in the fighting pit; here are a few suggestions.

Page—Character (CR)
282—Caravan Guard (1)
266—Slaver (3)
257—Monster Hunter (5)
280—Raider (5)
263—Beast Master (6)
283—Sellsword (7)
281—Viking (7)
263—Champion (9)

Leopold Kurtz
CR 6
XP 2400
Male human bard 7
NE medium humanoid
Init +5; Senses Perception +13
AC 16, touch 13, flat-footed 14 (+1 Dex, +3 armor, +1 deflection, +1 Dodge)
hp 31 (7d8)
Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +7
Resist Bard abilities
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Shortsword +5 (1d6-1)
Ranged Light crossbow +7 (1d8)
Special Attacks Bard abilities
Str 8, Dex 13, Con 10, Int 15, Wis 12, Cha 15
Base Atk +5; CMB +4; CMD 15
Feats Alertness, Dodge, Extra Performance, Improve Initiative, Persuasive
Skills Appraise +12, Bluff +12, Diplomacy +14, Intimidate +14, Knowledge (local) +12, Perception +13, Perform +14, Profession (merchant) +11, Sense Motive +13
Languages Common, Dwarven, Elven
SQ Bardic knowledge, bardic performance, cantrips, countersong, distraction, fascinate, inspire courage +2, versatile performance, well-versed, inspire competence +3, lore master 1/day, suggestion
Combat Gear Leather armor +1, masterwork short sword, masterwork light crossbow, case of 10 bolts, pouch containing 10 of each coin, cloak of resistance +1, ring of protection +1
Spells per Day: 5/4/1
Spells Known (6/5/4/2): Daze, detect magic, know direction, mage hand, message, read magic; cause fear, feather fall, identify, sleep, unseen servant; hold person, invisibility, silence, tongues; confusion, dispel magic

Leopold Kurtz is a ruthless opportunist who will exploit any opportunity to gain wealth or influence for himself. Although he once worked for the Royal Interplanetary Company, he now makes a comfortable living organizing pit fights for the Disciples of the Destroyer. He maintains a tough front, as is appropriate for that kind of business. In truth, however, he is something of a coward and isn't too proud to plead for mercy if faced with an overwhelming opponent.

Acolyte of Lamashtu
CR ½
XP 200
Various cleric 1
NE medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception +3
AC 15, touch 10, flat-footed 15 (+4 armor, +1 shield)
hp 10 (1d8+2)
Fort +4, Ref +0, Will +5
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Falchion +2 (2d4+2)
Ranged Throwing dagger +0 (1d4)
Special Attacks Channel negative energy 1d6
Str 14, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 16, Cha 12
Base Atk +0; CMB +2; CMD 12
Feats Combat Casting, Extra Channel
Skills Knowledge (religion) +3, Spellcraft +3
Languages Common
SQ Aura, domains (evil, madness), orisons
Combat Gear Chain shirt, small steel shield, falchion, silver holy symbol, vial of holy water, throwing daggers
Spells per Day: 3/2+1
Spells Prepared: Bleed, detect magic, guidance; bane, lesser confusion, protection from good

These new adherents to the cult of Lamashtu may lack in power, but make up for it with ruthless zeal. They revel in bloodshed.

Adept of Lamashtu
CR 4
XP 2400
Various cleric 5
NE medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception +3
AC 15, touch 10, flat-footed 15 (+4 armor, +1 shield)
hp 36 (5d8+10)
Fort +6, Ref +1, Will +7
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Falchion +7 (2d4+3)
Ranged Throwing dagger +3 (1d4)
Special Attacks Channel negative energy 3d6
Str 14, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 17, Cha 12
Base Atk +3; CMB +5; CMD 15
Feats Channel Smite, Combat Casting, Extra Channel, Weapon Focus (falchion)
Skills Knowledge (religion) +7, Spellcraft +7
Languages Common
SQ Aura, domains (evil, madness), orisons
Combat Gear Masterwork chain shirt, masterwork small steel shield, falchion +1, silver holy symbol, vial of holy water, throwing daggers
Spells per Day: 4/4+1/3+1/2+1
Spells Prepared: Bleed, detect magic, guidance, read magic; bane, divine favor, lesser confusion, protection from good, shield of faith; align weapon, hold person, silence, spiritual weapon; dispel magic, prayer, rage

Those cultists who survive the initial ordeals of joining Lamashtu's faithful become even more zealous about doing harm to others, and gain the martial and magical power to inflict those desires on their victims. In addition to conducting the profane rites of their goddess, they become skilled combatants and even leaders in battle.

Priest of Lamashtu

CR 8
XP 9600
Various cleric 9
NE medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception +4
AC 17, touch 10, flat-footed 17 (+5 armor, +2 shield)
hp 62 (9d8+18)
Fort +9, Ref +3, Will +11
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Falchion +11/+6 (2d4+4)
Ranged Throwing dagger +6/+1 (1d4)
Special Attacks Channel negative energy 5d6
Str 14, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 18, Cha 12
Base Atk +6/+1; CMB +8; CMD 18
Feats Channel Smite, Combat Casting, Command Undead, Extra Channel, Improved Channel, Weapon Focus (falchion)
Skills Knowledge (religion) +11, Spellcraft +11
Languages Common
SQ Aura, domains (evil, madness), orisons

Combat Gear Chain shirt +1, small steel shield +1, falchion +2, silver holy symbol, vial of holy water, throwing daggers, cloak of resistance +1
Spells per Day: 4/5+1/5+1/4+1/3+1/1+1
Spells Prepared: Bleed, detect magic, guidance, read magic; bane, deathwatch, divine favor, lesser confusion, protection from good, shield of faith; align weapon, death knell, hold person, silence, spiritual weapon, status; animate dead, bestow curse, dispel magic, prayer, rage; confusion, divine power, tongues, unholy blight; dispel good, unhallow

The senior clerics of Lamashtu are fearsome foes, ones who can go toe-to-toe in combat with foes as well as leading their underlings into battle. What is more, they are able to animate the bodies of slain foes, calling on them to continue the work demanded by their wicked goddess.

Using the Organization in an Aetherial Adventures Campaign
This organization can provide plenty of plot elements for a space fantasy RPG campaign; presented here are a few of the possibilities.
  • Needless to say, members of this organization make natural enemies for followers of Gaea and Sol. Even those who revere Ptah and Luna have no love for them, given the Disciples' obsession with blood sacrifice.
  • There is an interesting connection between the Disciples and certain efreet who've infiltrated the Church of Sol. Those fire genies, who are more chaotic in mindset than their fellows, embrace the destructive nature of fire as another weapon in Lamashtu's arsenal. In that way, they seek to pervert the worshipers of Sol by luring them to embrace the “cleansing” nature of that element.
  • It is rumored that one or members of the Royal Interplanetary Company are also secret adherents of this order, since they view Lamashtu and her offspring as the embodiment of the fierce nature that is needed to succeed in business. If that were proven to be true, then it would be quite the scandal indeed.
  • In order to win the trust of certain Disciples, one or more of the PCs might need to participate in or otherwise infiltrate Leopold Kurtz's fighting pit.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Campaign History, Legends and Mythology Part 2

This post is my second attempt at writing a traditional tale in the Homeworld setting, a story that explains one of the world's religious beliefs and that provides a hint at future events.


The Tale of the Bear Spirit
“Among the rugged folk who dwell in the far northern regions of the world, amid the endless snow and ice, there is plenty of time for telling stories around the hearth-fire. One of those tales is a curious take on the history of aetherial travel. 

“Those people, who appear rather primitive when judged by more civilized standards, claim that it was not the long-lived elves, nor even the steady dwarves, who first dared to pilot an aethership up, into and beyond the heavens. Rather, they say, it was their own folk. 

“I know that it may sound preposterous; even so, they believe it. Those people, who subsist by hunting seals and other animals, as well as fathering other foodstuffs when possible, believe that, due to their unusual natures, they feel a powerful draw toward Luna. What is more, they assert that, long ago, they were visited by a messenger sent by that goddess. 

“They say the messenger came seeking warriors to help battle a menace from the beyond the heavens, and enemy they call the furmah. Dozens of their strongest and bravest volunteered for the undertaking, possibly in the hope of meeting Luna herself. 

“Those who remained behind in the villages never saw their kith and kinfolk again. Even so, they say that the messenger returned, and told them that the heavenly powers wished to offer them a sign of gratitude for the warriors' sacrifice. They declared that a certain group of stars, always visible in that region's night sky, should ever after be known as the Great Bear, and would watch over their people for the rest of time. That, then, is the origin of the entity they refer to as the Bear Spirit, the patron and protector of their folk.”

-Recounted to High Priest Imhotep by Yusuf the Traveler




Favored Weapon
The Bear Spirit CG Patron and protector of the bear-folk Animal, Community, Protection Battleaxe

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Faction: Disciples of the Destroyer

Here's another faction, this one dedicated to Lamashtu.


Disciples of the Destroyer
This band of fanatics is dedicated to the worship of Lamashtu, the Mother of Monsters. They embrace all of her destructive aspects, in which way she acts as the antithesis to Gaea, the Earth Mother. As such, these ruthless zealots are known to conduct blood sacrifices to honor their patroness, to conduct orgiastic rites in which they hope to spawn more of their kind, and to practice ritual scarification of themselves. In this way they are very popular among all manner of ogres and their misshapen offspring, along with clerics, blackguards and certain types of magi.

Goal: Sacrifice and Destruction
Those who dedicate themselves to the service of Lamashtu seek nothing more than to help others reach the ultimate end of life's cycle—that is, death, and in the most painful and gruesome way possible. In this way they test their own bodies through scarification and even mutilation, a practice that sometimes costs them their own lives.

Alignment: CE
Since they view death as the ultimate and inevitable end of all things, the Disciples care little for any sense of ethics or morality. Instead, they seek to shed blood in honoring the Mother of Destruction, and they compete among themselves to determine who is the most capable of doing so. In that way they establish the pecking order, or hierarchy, of the organization.

Ultimately the Disciples of Destruction answer to a magus-cleric named Mother Edimmu. Given the violent nature of the organization, of course, details regarding that individual's identity and location are a closely guarded secret. Easier to find are one of the organization's pit-fighting champions, Utukku, and the gladiatorial match promoter, Leopold Kurtz.

While the location of Mother Edimmu is a closely guarded secret, it's easier to find the fighting pit that Kurtz runs on behalf of the Disciples. While this one is located in the Holy City itself, underneath the very noses of the Ptah priesthood, it is typical of others from around Homewold and even on other planets. 

Refer to the appropriate maps for the following area descriptions.

1. Entry
From the outside, this building looks like nothing more than a typical warehouse—a facade that Kurtz carefully maintains. It has walls made of thick mud brick, with double iron-banded wooden doors that provide entrance. There are no windows.

2. Spectator Area
The main floor of the structure, along with each of the upper levels, consists of a broad, open area centered on the fighting pit, which is encircled by a wooden railing. Sconces for torches line the walls, since there are no windows.

3. Stairways
The spiral stairways lead up to additional spectator areas, as well as down to the quarters provided for the faithful and other combatants.

4. Fighting Pit
This area, little more than a hole in the ground with a packed earth floor, is where Disciples and others fight to the death. In addition to numerous bloodstains, doors lead out to the combatants' quarters.

5. Quarters
Each of these small chambers is furnished with a crude but functional bed, along with a table and a couple of chairs. Ordinarily, only combatants and one or two assistants are allowed to occupy them. On occasion, however, certain associates of the Disciples capture wild beasts and bring them to the fighting pit, where they are kept until being unleashed against competitors. (See below for a list of such beasts.)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Still More PDF Goodness

This PDF compiles my most recent batch of space fantasy material.

Aetherial Adventures 7


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Recruiting a Crew

This post solidifies some ideas that I've had bouncing around in my head about a process for PCs recruiting sailors. 


Recruiting a Crew
Whether it happens because of encountering natural hazards, losses in combat, acquiring a larger vessel or other reasons, it is inevitable that a captain at some point will need to hire new crew members. When that time comes, the Pathfinder core rulebook contains a valuable tool for adjudicating that effort: its description of the reincarnation spell. 

More specifically, the table on page 332 provides a means of determining the species of those sailors in port who are looking to hire on with a new vessel. The GM should roll on that table, and then consult the chart below to determine just how many sailors of that race are present and available for hiring.
% Chance / # Available
1 / 1d4
4 / 1d6
10 / 1d8
12 / 1d10
15 / 1d12

Note that the PCs may always continue seeking available candidates with additional rolls on the chart, but each roll after the first decreases the number of characters available by one die type. After all, passing up on the more prominent candidates means that they might need to accept whomever they can find. 

For example, Captain Horace and the crew of the Skylark pay a visit to the Crossroads asteroid colony; while there, they stop in at the Sign of the Ourobouros and look for new crew members. When they do so, the GM or a player rolls percentile, resulting in 70. Given that, the next roll is 1d10, with a result of 4. Thus, the PCs find four halfling sailors who are looking to sign on with a crew. While they could undertake negotiations to hire those NPCs, they might seek other candidates to supplement or replace the first group. 

In that case, the GM or player should roll again. This time, the percentile result is 01, which would normally yield 1d4 bugbear candidates, but that is reduced by a step to nothing, and thus yields no candidates. Eventually, of course, this means that the PCs could run through any chances of finding potential crew members at a given location, and thus must go somewhere else in order to find new candidates. At the GM's discretion, that failure could mean that the PCs receive no more attempts in that location. As always, the GM can adjudicate unusual circumstances, such as if the PCs make successful Diplomacy checks, offer large signing bonuses for recruitment or the like. Note, too, that the GM should feel free to substitute other races depending on the particular location in which they're doing the recruiting.

First Impressions and Negotiations
Recruitment also provides a good opportunity for roleplaying, as the PCs meet potential new recruits; feel out their personalities; discuss and determine shares and accommodations; and the like. At the GM's discretion, this could also involve a Diplomacy check to determine the first impression that the PCs make on these recruits, and might even have long-term implications regarding those sailors' loyalty to the captain and other crew members. 

To determine the difficulty of making a good first impression, compare the alignment of the new sailor(s) with that of the captain. Each step of difference between the two, decreases the starting attitude of the sailors one step from Helpful (and thus increases the base DC of the Diplomacy check by 5). Success on that check means that the captain has made a good impression, and thus they are more likely to remain loyal during difficult times; failure, on the other hand, could lead to dissent, factions and possibly even mutiny. Here again, the GM should apply bonuses or penalties to this check based on good or bad roleplaying or reasoning, or due to other factors.

Character Stats
Presented below is a base stat block for NPC sailors; the GM need only apply ability score modifiers and add special abilities based on the characters' race.

Typical Sailor

CR 1/3
Various expert 1
N medium humanoid
Init +1; Senses Perception +5
AC 11, touch 11, flat-footed 10 (+1 Dex)
hp 8 (1d8)
Fort +0, Ref +1, Will +3
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Dagger +0 (1d4)
Ranged Dagger +1 (1d4)
Special Attacks None
Str 11, Dex 13, Con 10, Int 9, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +0; CMB +0; CMD 11
Feats Skill Focus (Profession: sailor)
Skills Climb +4, Knowledge (nature) +3, Perception +5, Profession (sailor) +8, Survival +5
Languages Common
SQ None
Combat Gear Clothing, knife, miscellaneous personal possessions

Adding Some Personality
Finally, Table 4-4 on pages 95-6 of the GameMastery Guide can be a helpful tool for bringing this new batch of crew members to life, providing an inkling for their general disposition.

Continuing the previous example, the GM rolls an 90 on the aforementioned table. For that reason, the four halfling sailors come from a different culture, and thus frequently ask for explanation of seemingly mundane activities. Note, too, that the GM may wish to keep the result of this check secret, thus allowing for surprising drama at some point in the future.