Saturday, June 27, 2015

Rage, Frenzy, and Fury: Going Berserk in Partholon

A berserker rage is a state of violent madness that can be induced through drugs, brain damage, or deliberate practice.


In a state of rage, you are filled with bloodlust and an urge for action and violence. It is difficult to concentrate or to keep patient.
  • -2 Reaction for the team. Even if you keep your mouth shut your bristling, pacing, and glaring is overtly hostile.
  • +2 to mind-based saves, including charm-type spells and monstrous fear effects. However, if an effect instills an altered state of emotion and you fail the save, this new emotion overrides your rage. 
  • Overheating: If wearing chainmail or plate & chain, you will become fatigued (-2 attack & saves). If wearing basic plate, must adjust the fit for comfort, which reduces AC -2. (But if wearing no armor or using just a shield, gain a +1 AC bonus.)
  • Difficulty concentrating on magic or delicate tasks; requires total concentration.
  • Increased risk of chance encounters; Target Number of encounter checks increases by 1 as you find it difficult to keep quiet and patient.
  • When combat begins, enter a state of Frenzy.


When a fight breaks out, the smoldering rage explodes into violence. Depending on the source of your Rage, a frenzy may be triggered in every combat or only under certain circumstances.
  • +2 to Attacks.
  • Upgrade weapon damage by one die type.
  • Can't shoot but can throw.
  • Resistant to mental effects such as charm and fear. (Some complex interactions happen here, noted below.)
  • Any action besides attacking the nearest foe requires a mind-based save, and the +2 Rage bonus does not apply. This includes such actions as withdrawing, fleeing, defending, casting a spell, activating an artifact, or even moving past an opponent to attack a different one. 

Resistance to mental effects in a Frenzy must be adjudicated by the referee. Some guidelines:
  • Ongoing effects continue, but new ones usually can't be introduced.
  • New effects might only be delayed until the end of the frenzy, however.
  • While in a state of frenzy, the Rage can't be overridden unless something dramatically changes the situation.
For example, a hag induces a few-based weakness in those who fail their save when they first see her. A berserker could be pushed out of Rage before entering into Frenzy. Once he enters a Frenzy, the arrival of more hags won't be able to end his Rage until it is spent. However, if the first hag doesn't appear until the berserker is already frenzying, her sudden appearance could be enough to end his Rage and his Frenzy at once, if he fails his save (which still benefits form the +2 Rage bonus).

Sources of Rage have different procedures and may alter specific interactions.

Mushroom Tea
A special concoction available for 25 silver pennies.
  • Spend 1 turn preparing with a quaff of water and a source of heat (like a torch)
  • Make a Body save (poison). Additional doses in one day will add a -2 cumulative penalty. 
  • Pass: enter a Rage for 1 hour (6 turns). Frenzy in every combat. 
  • Fail: spend 1 turn vomiting, suffer 1 damage per HD, become fatigued (-2 AP & Saves). 

Head injuries sustained when dropped to 0 hit points.
  • Always in a state of Rage. 
  • If an altered state is induced, will revert to Rage at the end of that effect's duration
  • Frenzy only when fighting humans or human-like foes

Primal Fury
A feature of the Berserker subclass of fighter
  • Invoke as a free action, in or out of combat, to enter a Rage. Frenzy in every combat. 
  • After combat, may choose to make a Body save vs fatigue to sustain the Rage, or may let it go and revert to normal state of mind. 
  • After 1 hour without combat, must choose to save & sustain or let the Rage go, as above.
  • May renew invocation at cost of 1 hp per HD.
  • Additional abilities, such as Renewed Rage and Relentless Rage, allow additional invocation of the Fury without the hp cost. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Meditating upon the Blue Star

This is just a bit of fluff for Caelia, the cleric in our new delving team. 

When Caelia meditates, she is trained to meditate upon the image of a Blue Star. This is considered symbolic of the natural order of the cosmos. The lines, points, and vertices of the shape correspond with the humors and energy centers of the body, with the different facets of the awakened mind, and with the spheres and planes of the cosmos. It's a bit like the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, y'see.

It is through this meditation that the cleric aligns her internal energies in accord with the greater forces of the cosmos, enabling her to channel the invisible radiance that is bane to daemon and undead alike. Caelia is trained to meditate as a daily practice. She envisions the Blue Star, she recites the litany that names the spheres and segments of which the Blue Star is composed. She visualizes the correspondences and contemplates how her body and mind connect with each other and with the greater cosmic forces.

All that changed last night. Or nine days ago. Both. For the first time, she did not need to project the memorized diagrams onto the Star in her mind's eye. For the first time she did not need to visualize the correspondences one by one. Instead she perceived them as vividly as she might see her own hand in front of her face. She was marveling at this epiphany, afloat in the timeless abyss of soft blue radiance, as beyond her physical form the days slid heedlessly by.

But both rewardingly and maddeningly, Caelia came to realize that she had ventured into the shallowest waters of a great ocean. She could now perceive that there are deeper levels of revelation encoded in the Blue Star. The way its aspects interconnect, the way correspondences layer upon one another, all of this became preciously perceptible and yet tantalizingly beyond her sight.

If she is to continue this process of revelation, she must continue her crusade against the forces of Chaos and the unnatural things that lurk beyond the borders of civilization. She must continue to win glory for the name of sainted Alcidine and the sacred order that preserves his mission.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Ranger - a Specialist class for Partholon

Art by Kelly McLarnon
In my concept, a ranger is a stealthy character and an indirect combatant, an opportunist and a problem-solver. I'm treating the class as taking the role normally filled by the thief in classic campaigns, because I like this flavor more. This is an updated version of the class, which continues to owe more to Aspar White of Eslen than the Dunedain of Middle-earth.

The Ranger is an expert hunter and tracker, accustomed to traveling on her own through the wilderness and living off the land. Her nomadic lifestyle makes her a figure of suspicion when she ventures into settlements, but the opinions of ignorant strangers are a small matter in her eyes. Prior to her treasure-hunting career, she patrolled the wilderness, hunting monsters before they could become a threat to innocent villagers, and occasionally collecting bounties from whatever baron happened to be nearby when she needed money.

Rangers generally see one another as affiliates in a loose network or brotherhood. Most are solitary, but some work in bands, and some carry on a family legacy. Two of the most famous names among rangers are the Watchkeepers and the Stargazers.

The ranger's combat style emphasizes speed and mobility. She exploits opportunities when they appear, and creates them when she needs them. She is not trained to fight in plate or mail.

Stealth Skills 
(The referee should roll for stealth skills, so the player cannot be sure of the result. The PC will believe she is successful until confronted with evidence to the contrary.)
Hide in Shadows: Anybody can hide if they can actually get out of sight. The ranger can attempt to hide with no better concealment than the shifting shadows of torchlight.
Hide in Wilderness: The ranger is even better at hiding in the wild. With 1d3 turns of preparation, she can attempt to conceal her entire party. If she is only trying to hide herself, roll 2 Skill dice instead of just 1. 
Move Silently: When hidden, any movement will normally give away the hiding character's position. The ranger can attempt to move without giving herself away.

Professional Skills
Listen: Use the Skill Roll instead of the normal 1 in 6 chance for listening.
Tracking: Indoors & underground, make a Skill Roll with -1 TN for each turn of delay. In the wild, use the best of 2 Skill Rolls, with -1 TN for each day of delay, rain, or snow.
Wilderness Expert: A party with a ranger gets +1 to Travel rolls, including disorientation, searching, hunting & foraging. 
Free-climb: The ranger is skilled at climbing walls and rock faces without gear or assistance. She can climb 2d6x10 feet per turn, but never more than 100 ft or faster than her Explore speed. If the roll exceeds either limit, she is unable to make progress. If the roll exceeds both limits, she attempts progress but falls from the halfway point.

Combat Skills
Ambush: If the ranger is attacking from hiding or by surprise, add +4 AP and add an extra damage die. The target can be on guard or even involved in combat as long as the ranger herself is hidden.
Dual Wielding: When wielding two weapons, the ranger adds +1 to AP and damage if Dex is 13+.
Expert Archer:  When using a bow, the ranger can choose one special attack:
  • Move and Shoot: The ranger can move her combat speed and shoot a bow without penalty
  • Sharp-shooting: The ranger adds her Skill TN to her AP. If the d20 rolls a natural 10 or less, she may hold her shot. On a hit, her damage dice can explode (i.e., if the die rolls its highest value, roll another damage die and add it to the total).

The Ranger
Level XP HD AP
1 0 1 1
Skill: 2 in 6
2 1,500 2 1

3 3,000 3 2
Skill: 3 in 6
4 6,000 +1 hp 2

5 12,000 4 3
Weapon damage: 1d8
6 24,000 5 3

7 50,000 6 4
Skill: 4 in 6
8 100,000 +1 hp 4

9 200,000 7 5

10 300,000 8 5
Weapon damage: 1d10
... +100,000 +1 hp ...
Skill: 5 in 6

Saves: +2 Physical

Edit: revised the rules for Quick-shooting.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Veteran - a Fighter class for Partholon

Art by Storn Cook
As my campaign has grown, I have expanded the classes to include some subclasses. My take on the Fighter has been drawn from the original first level title, "Veteran," and I have reworked the class to emphasize this flavor in order to keep it distinct. This post is the updated version. 

The Veteran has already survived several battles before he begins his dungeon-delving career. He may have been a member of a village militia or a city guard, or may have fought in some warlord's campaign. He may come from a lineage of knights or similar warrior-lords charged with safeguarding the realm. Whatever his background, he has left the battlefield behind and turned to crypts and catacombs, hoping that his battle-skills will keep him alive long enough to collect lost treasures.

The veteran is in many ways the easiest class to play.  He doesn't depend greatly on planning and forethought (though he will benefit from both!) and with proper equipment is about as ready as he'll ever be for whatever situations come up. He can adapt to most any situation as needed, but his standard tactic (kill monsters and stay alive) is a smart choice most of the time.

Basic Traits

Guard: When a veteran chooses to fight defensively, he gets the normal +2 bonus to AC, but can also grant an additional +2 AC bonus to a nearby ally. Guard bonuses do not stack, so a given individual can benefit from only a single veteran's protection.

Overkill: The veteran is trained to fight his enemies not as individuals but as a unit. When he deals damage in excess of that needed to slay a foe, he can deliver the excess damage to another foe in reach (so long as that target's AC is no greater than the fighter's attack). He can combine his movement and attack if needed to deliver the overkill.

Martial Skill: The veteran has learned how to get optimal performance out of all manner of weapons. A fighter can:
  • wield a spear one-handed
  • throw a spear 30 ft at normal AP, 60 ft at -4 outdoors or with a high ceiling
  • charge with a spear or lance for +2 AP and x2 damage
  • set a spear or lance against a charge for first strike and x2 damage
  •  move and shoot with a bow, but lose Overkill that round
  • shoot a bow with Overkill, spending an extra shot for each additional target, but give up movement for that round
  • add his Dex bonus to AP and damage when fighting with two weapons
Expert Traits

Hero: +1 to Command and Leadership [that's Number of Retainers and Retainer Morale]

Champion: a further +1 to Command and Leadership

Daunting: Starting at 8th level, when the veteran moves to engage enemies of 4HD or less, he may force them to make a morale check.

Warlord:  By ancient custom, only the most powerful warriors could be recognized as boyars, the warlords who governed and protected the clans. Imperial rule replaced the boyars with barons who grant their position to legal heirs, but with the decay of Imperial authority, the ancient customs are being revived. A veteran who declares himself a Warlord will attract a small army of followers above and beyond the command allotted by his Charisma. If he doesn't want trouble with the local barons or Duke Bellorum, he may seek to pledge fealty or claim a domain in the wilderness beyond Imperial control. If he doesn't mind defying the authorities, he may claim existing settlements as his own, or he and his men can live as brigands and outlaws within Imperial lands.

The Fighter
Level XP HD AP
1 0 1+1 1
Guard, Overkill, Martial Skill
2 2,000 2 2

3 4,000 3 3

4 8,000 4 3
1d8 damage, Hero
5 16,000 5 4

6 32,000 6 5
7 64,000 7 5

8 120,000 8 6
1d10 damage, Daunting
9 240,000 9 7
10 360,000 10 7

... +120,000 +2 hp ...

Saves: +2 Physical