D&D 3.x Supplements for Pathfinder Players

Dungeons and Dragons Redbox Cover (TSR Original)Most people who play Pathfinder do so because they played Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. They are, after all, the primary demographic which Pathfinder has been geared towards. Paizo created Pathfinder with the intent of carrying on 3.5’s legacy by continuing to provide compatible products to the fans of that game after it was discontinued. However, the more I watch Paizo, the clearer it becomes that they are an adaptable and forward thinking company. They understand their customers, and their market, and know how to leverage their resources. An excellent example of this is the Pathfinder Beginner’s Box, which has been universally hailed as the best starter box-set since the original red box.

So it strikes me that if Pathfinder has created such an excellent product for getting new people to play their game, then it is reasonable to assume that there are new people playing it. Those new players, by definition, have not played any previous RPGs, such as D&D 3.5. Of course we don’t actually know how many new people have been turned on to our hobby through the Pathfinder Beginner Box, but it is safe to assume that there are some, and that there will be more. As these players connect with the hobby, they’ll move on to the Pathfinder Core Rulebook and Pathfinder Bestiary for a more complete version of the basic rules. And then they’ll want more, and they’ll turn to supplements.

Now, Pathfinder has many fine supplements. The Game Mastery Guide is a particular favorite of mine. But one of Pathfinder’s great strengths is its ability to draw on any of the supplements of D&D 3.5. I fear that new players and game masters may not be aware of this treasure trove of books just waiting to be used in their games. And so I’ve compiled a list of Dungeons and Dragons supplements (mostly 3.5 but some are D&D 3.0) which I feel work best with the Pathfinder role playing game. This list is by no means complete. The list details a modest selection of books which I am familiar with from my own collection. I still don’t own about 1/4 of the official supplements, and the list below is not complete even for the books I do own. Only the ones which are truly excellent.

Fiendish Codex 1: Hordes of the Abyss Cover SmallFiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells SmallFiendish Codices: I & II
In my most humble opinion, the two Fiendish Codices were the best books released for D&D 3.5. The first codex, Hordes of the Abyss, details demons. In D&D (as well as in Pathfinder,) Demons are being of pure chaos and evil. The second, Tyrants of the Nine Hells, details devils. Again, both D&D and Pathfinder use the word “devils” to describe beings of pure Law and evil. Demons and devils loathe one another, and according to D&D lore, have been engaged in a conflict called “The Blood War” since the dawn of time. Both books begin with a chapter expanding on the ‘fluff,’ (or ‘lore,’) of these evil creatures. This is something which I found considerably lacking throughout all of D&D 3.5’s run: good sources for information which isn’t strictly mechanical. I particularly enjoyed the story of The Pact Primeval which TotNH begins with. The books go on to tour various locals in both the Abyss and the Nine Hells. Both also contain information on the Lords and Ladies of these dark places. Rulers of incalculable power and evil, many of which are so fascinating that I had a dozen campaign ideas for them before I finished reading their descriptions. Aside from the above, each book contains new feats, spells, prestige classes, and monsters. Most of which should be compatible with Pathfinder.

Many of the characters and locals in these books are protected intellectual properties of Wizards of the Coast, so Pathfinder is unable to make use of them. Pathfinder’s world of Golarion has done a great job making up for the loss of the traditional D&D cosmology and history, but it simply doesn’t have the same impact for me. Maybe I’m simply not familiar enough with Paizo’s game world, but I can’t bring myself to abandon the gods, heroes, and villains which I came to love in my early days of role playing. But even if you’re perfectly happy with Golarion’s denizens, these two books are worth getting your hands on.

The 'Races of' Series, including Stone, Destiny, and Wild
Races of Stone, Destiny, and The Wild
As you can easily infer from these book’s titles, they provide more detailed information on the basic races of Dungeons and Dragons. Out of the seven core races, each book provides an entire chapter devoted to two of them (save Destiny, which covers 3). Each book also introduces a new playable race, given a similar amount of detail, which holds to a common theme. Races of Stone details Dwarfs, Gnomes, and a large, hard-skinned race called Goliaths. Races of the Wild covers elves, halflings, and a flighted race called Raptorans. Finally, Races of Destiny goes over Humans, devotes on chapter to both Half-Elves and Half-Orcs, and includes a new race called Illumians, which are the living embodiment of language.

The racial chapters are a good hefty size, between twenty and thirty pages in length. Each race is dissected in detail, from their psychology, to their common grooming practices. Artistry, folklore, religion, the list goes on! These chapters have proven invaluable to me over the years, and to this day I still grab these books for reference if I’m including an important NPC of a race I haven’t used in awhile. And on a personal note, I really love Illumians. So much so that I included them prominently in The Girl and the Granite Throne.

Unearthed Arcana Cover Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 SmallUnearthed Arcana
I’ve mentioned before how great this book is. In fact, I wrote an extensive post detailing my reasons for using one of its alternate rules. That entire post was based on two and a half pages of this 218 page book. I won’t say that everything in here is gold, some of the ideas presented in it are actually quite bad. And many of interesting or good ideas presented in this book have actually been updated and reprinted in official Pathfinder supplements. However, there’s still a lot in here for Pathfinder players to enjoy. Environmental races such as aquatic dwarves or arctic elves; bloodline templates which allow players to gain minor–or major–abilities due to a special ancestry; paragon classes which allow characters to level up as a model of the traits their race embodies; and that’s all in chapter 1!

I can’t think of any book which I would recommend to new GMs more highly than Unearthed Arcana, because it does a good job of teaching GMs how to apply rule 0. The core rulebooks of an RPG always throw in a few lines to the effect of “But if you don’t like it, change it! It’s your game, you can do anything you want!” It characterizes rule 0 as a blunt instrument, requiring no forethought. By presenting balanced alternatives to the official rules, Unearthed Arcana provides a model of what house rules should look like.

Epic Level Handbook Cover SmallEpic Level Handbook
In the first edition Dungeons and Dragons rulebook “Men and Magic,” Gary Gygax writes that there is no limit to the number of times a player could theoretically level up. First edition modules were often marked “An Adventure for Characters levels 28-32,” or even higher than that! The 3rd edition of Dungeons and Dragons is a little more reserved regarding levels beyond twentieth. Given the massive scaling differences between the two, I can’t blame them. Yet as a player and as a GM, I’ve always liked the idea of a character being able to scale infinitely. I would love to see my players bite and claw their way through forty or fifty levels, eventually growing powerful enough to replace a god. And once that happened, they could become a permanent part of that game-world’s pantheon.

Even if you’re less inclined towards allowing deicide, or similarly grandiose feats in your game. the Epic Level Handbook is a severely underrated guide to running games beyond 20th level. It includes a number of tools for GMs to help them create epic level obstacles and epic level monsters which their players must face in order to accomplish the epic level goals the book suggests, in order to win some epic level loot and rewards.

Manual of the Planes Cover SmallManual of the Planes
As I mentioned above, I’m not intimately familiar with the world of Golarion. Thus far I have stuck to the classic Dungeons and Dragons flavor whenever I’m not using something from my own campaign settings. So I don’t know what offerings Paizo has with regards to planar adventuring, but I have a hard time believing it could be much better than this.

I’ve honestly read the Manual of the Planes cover to cover a number of times for the sheer pleasure of it. And truth be told, I’ve never had the opportunity to run a game where my players spent a significant amount of time off of the material plane–but ever since I read this book I’ve been looking for an excuse to send my players out into the multiverse to explore.

This book is a spark to my imagination. What kind of adventures might my players have on the Twin Paradise of Bytopia; a plane with two landmasses facing one another, each serving as the sky of the other. Or what about the supremely lawful Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus, where gravity is dependent on which miles-wide cog you happen to be standing on. What about the Infernal Battlefield of Acheron, where dead warriors fight on in an unending battle which will last for a hellish eternity? The possibilities seem endless. Such places could be the location of a single whimsical adventure, or an entire deviant campaign.

The Book of Exalted Deeds Cover SmallBook of Vile Darkness Cover SmallThe Books of Exalted Deeds, and Vile Darkness
Named for the artifacts of the same name, these opposing tomes describe the absolute pinnacle of all that is good and holy, and the darkest depths of all that is depraved and profane. To my knowledge they are the only books which were sold with stickers bearing warnings of mature content, not for players under 18 years of age.

Both books are excellent examples of what good and evil should be in the game. BoED is essentially a long-form version of my recent post on Paladin Overzealousness. It encourages GMs to provide paladins (or non-paladin characters who wish to hold to an ‘exalted’ code of ethics) with legitimate moral quandaries. The book also stresses that these moral quandaries should be solvable without forcing a character to betray their ideals, and it provides tools to help GMs do that. The Book of Vile Darkness is, not surprisingly, just the opposite. Aside from terrifying monsters of pure evil, spells which cause unnecessary suffering, and basic rules for torture, the book includes a lot of information to help GMs build better villains. In particular I liked the section near the start which presented a number of simple villain archetypes.

As I mentioned above, this list is not exhaustive. Wizards of the Coast released an immense number of supplements during the run of Dungeons and Dragons 3.x. Books like Exemplars of Evil, or The Stronghold Builder’s Guidebook still see use in my games. But in going through my own collection, these are the books which really stood out to me as having the most impact on my play over the years I’ve had them. I would recommend any, or all of them, to a Pathfinder player looking to expand their collection.

Obfuscation Through Volume

Dungeon DoorGM: After falling through the floor above, you land about 10 feet below. As the dust settles, you see that you’re in a simple stone room which appears to have been used in the recent past as a large creature’s den. There are bones scattered about, and a nest of some kind in the corner. The walls in the South East corner have been knocked away, and a ten foot wide tunnel extends beyond them. To the north is a simple iron door.
Lirnef: If we just fell into the nest of the Forest Serpent, then we need to get out of here. We barely escaped that last encounter. Lets head out the door.
GM: Does the party agree to exit through the door?
*Party nods*
GM: What’s your marching order?
*Party looks amongst themselves*
Merrag: Sedger, you have the most HP. I think I have spell to boost your saving throw prepared, let me cast that.
Sedger: Alright, I think I’m ready. I open the door.
GM: When you place your hand on the door’s handle-
Sedger: Woah, woah! I didn’t say I put my hand on the handle.
GM: Then how did you plan to open it?
Sedger: I kicked it open.
*GM facepalms*
GM: You…kick it open?
Sedger: Yup.
GM: Well since you didn’t turn the latch, you’ll need to roll a strength check.
*dice clatter*
Sedger: 28!
GM: The door falls inwards. The poison dart trap in the handle fires impotently into the stone wall.

Every GM is familiar with the scenario above. It is our bane, but sometimes we must ask questions which allows the players to easily infer some knowledge which they shouldn’t know. As GMs grow more experienced, they learn ways to counteract the most common of these questions. Marching orders can be established at the start of the dungeon, requiring players to speak up beforehand if they think they’d like to change it. And common actions, like opening doors, are performed using common methods unless the players specify otherwise in advance. Yet the problem remains. Even players who try to avoid metagaming don’t want their characters to get hurt, and if the GM tips his or her hand with a poorly timed question, who can blame a player for taking advantage of that?

A few years ago, I scrolled down below the Goblins comic to read Thunt’s blog. Normally his blog is just comic news, convention news, life news, things like that. But on this particular day, it was a collection of dungeon mastering tricks which had worked for him in the past. Unfortunately, there’s not really a good navigation for the blog part of the site, and google isn’t turning up the specific entry I remember, so I can’t link to the original. In the post he mentioned an idea which has stuck with me: the problem of a GM’s questions providing players with unintended information can be solved by asking ‘useless’ questions.

As an example, lets imagine that a player who wields a sword and shield is leading the group through a door. After failing a stealth check earlier, the orcs on the other side of that door, which the players don’t know about, have been alerted to their presence. As soon as the door opens, a half dozen orcish bows will fire arrows at whoever is standing in front. Since the lead player’s shield will have a strong impact on how many of those arrows hit him, the GM might ask “What do you do with your sword and shield when you open the door? You’ll need at least one free hand to grasp the latch.” This is the kind of question which any competent player will recognize as indicative of something unusual going on. That doesn’t mean the players will always make the right choice. The lead player may decide that their sword will be important as soon as he or she opens the door, and will tell the GM that they set down their shield. Or they might also choose to stand to the side of the door, and open it from a covered position. The problem isn’t the choice they make, but rather, the fact that those choices are informed by information they shouldn’t have.

Now consider the same scenario. Sword & Board leader, door, orcs with arrows, and the question. But this time, imagine that the GM had been asking simple questions at many of the previous doors as well. Not all of them, and not always the same question either. Three doors ago the GM had asked which hand was used to open the door. Two doors before that, the GM said the the door was just slightly stuck, and asked how the player wanted to apply additional force to get it open. There had also been that wooden door, when the GM wanted to know whether the players opened it inward, or outward. None of those doors had anything special behind them, and at this point the players don’t expect there to be. So this time, the player won’t set down their shield because they think they’ll need their sword more, nor do they stand to the side of the door and open it from cover because they’re worried about traps. The player does whatever seems the most reasonable, which is precisely what you want them to do. Not because you want them to fail or to succeed, but because you want your players to experience the game without outside influences.

Asking questions like this has an added benefit as well. In addition to obscuring a GM’s important questions, asking players to describe how their character perform simple actions gets the players thinking the way their character would. I can imagine that after a few sessions, players might even start offering some information without being asked, if they feel they may be in danger. So even the ‘useless’ questions aren’t entirely without value.

I’ve put together some examples of situations where the GM might ask questions, along with a selection of different questions to ask so you don’t start to sound like a broken record. Bear in mind that most of the time, only one of these questions should be asked at a time, and not every time the action is performed. The goal is to ask often enough that your players don’t read into your questions, but not so often that you slow down the game.

Ocarina of Time Link Opens a Large ChestOpening a door or chest

  • What do you do with the items in your hand while you open it?
  • Do you open it particularly quickly or slowly?
  • It is somewhat stuck and does not open immediately. [Then, if the player decides to apply more force] How do you go about forcing the door open?
  • Which hand do you use to open it?
  • It opens both inwards and outwards. Which way do you open it?
  • Do you step through/reach in as soon as it is open?
  • It is particularly heavy and requires more strength than one hand. How do you apply greater strength?

Moving into or through a new area

  • Do you look back to see if there’s anything on the walls you just passed?
  • Do you walk through the light entering in through the cracks high on the wall?
  • How close to the statue do you walk?
  • [If the players indicate a door they would like to exit through, or object they would like to inspect] What is your path through the room?

An inventory item is used

  • [If the item is small] Where do you keep this item on your person?
  • [If the item is large, or if the previous question was answered “it’s in my pack.”] How do you remove it from your bag?
  • Do you need to take other items out of your pack to get to it?
  • How many of those do you have left?
  • [For potions] What do you do with the container once you’ve used the potion?

An object is touched or picked up

  • Which hand do you use to touch it with?
  • Are you wearing gloves?
  • Are you touching/grabbing it more gently, or more forcefully?
  • Do you look at it first, or do you place it immediately into storage on your person/in your pack.
  • Do you let the other party members see it?

Crossing a bridge

  • How far apart do you walk from one another?
  • How quickly do you cross the bridge?
  • [For a rope bridge] When the bridge sways, do you stop and hold on, or continue walking?
  • Where do you direct your eyes? At the other side,or at your feet?

Walking down a corridor

  • [If the corridor is wider than 5ft] This corridor is wide enough for you to walk two abreast. Do you, or do you walk single file?
  • Are you making an effort to move particularly cautiously or quietly? If so, what precautions are you taking?
  • Are you testing for traps with your 10ft pole?
  • Do you attempt to break up cobwebs before walking through them, or do you just ignore them?
  • Do you try to shield yourself from the water dripping from the ceiling?
  • Is the bard humming?
  • Are you paying any particular attention to the architecture?

Old Timey Camp Setting up camp for the night

  • Do you make a fire?
  • Do you cook any food, or just eat trail rations?
  • Do you leave the campfire burning while you sleep, or not?
  • Are you keeping watch? If so, what is the watch order?
  • Is anyone with abilities requiring 8 hours rest (Wizard, Cleric, etc) part of the watch rotation?
  • Do you leave your food out, or do you pack it away before you go to sleep?
  • Are you sleeping around the fire, or within a tent?
  • What direction does the tent face?
  • What are the sleeping arrangements?
  • Are you sleeping with your armor off, or will you take the exhaustion penalties tomorrow?
  • About what time do you decide to go to sleep?
  • Do you explore the area around the campsite at all before settling down?

Breaking down camp in the morning

  • Does the Wizard / Cleric wake up earlier than everyone else to prepare their spells, or do they wake up with the others and make them wait?
  • What time do you wake up?
  • Do you put out the fire before you leave?
  • Do you attempt to conceal your campsite at all?
  • Do you have breakfast before you leave?
  • What time do you wake up, and how long before you set out?

Looking for something in a city, or “asking around”

  • What types of places do you go to ask about/find what you’re looking for?
  • Do you attempt to bribe anyone?
  • How open are you in your questioning?
  • How do you phrase your questions?
  • To you tell people your name?
  • Do you tell anyone that what you’re seeking is urgent, or of great importance?
  • Do you lie to people to get answers if necessary?
  • Do you speak to anyone in a guard’s uniform?

And one final note. The paradigm example of this problem is the perception check. The GM asks players for a perception check to see if they notice something, and the players roll low. But since players aren’t dumb, they know that the GM’s announcement that they didn’t notice anything only means that whatever is out there is too stealthy for them. This problem is easily solved by making note of each character’s perception skill, and rolling in secret behind the GM screen, without any announcements in the first place. I sometimes roll meaningless rolls and glance at the result just so my players won’t come to associate unannounced die rolls with missed checks.

Colorful Characters 9: Raughm Saltbeard

Dwarf White Beard Two Handed Hammer Candle On HeadLike all members of the Saltbeard clan, Raughm, son of Thulas, was born with stark white hair. And, also like all firstborn men of the Saltbeard clan, it was ordained that Raughm would join the clergy of Moradin. During his early life, Raughm met those expectations without complaint or incident. Though he had no skill as a scholar of Moradin’s teachings, he served his clan will with his simple wisdom, devotion to duty, and loyalty. He did not stand out amongst dwarven folk, for good or for ill.

Shortly after Raughm entered his second century, the stronghold of the Saltbeared clan was visited by travelers. They were dirty from the road, and claimed to be refugees from the Greenstone Clan, who lived far to the south in the jungle of Dejich. Their mountain stronghold, they said, had been destroyed by a great shaking of the earth. Only two score of Greenstone dwarves remained, and they asked whether they might be allowed to settle amongst the Saltbeards, as their numbers were too few to continue as a clan of their own. The Saltbeards, being an amicable people, accepted the Greenstone clan as full citizens.

The next few decades proceeded very normally for both clans. They mined for precious ores, forged weapons and armor of great beauty, and warred against goblins and orcs whenever the opportunity arose. The two clans had been living as one for thirty years before the woman approached Raughm. She was a Greenstone named Ryllen, and a picturesque example of dwarven nobility. At first she was simply flirtatious, flattering the simple dwarf. As the months progressed, though, she became more aggressive. She told Raughm that, for the good of her people, she wanted to be wed to him. Despite living together as a single clan for decades, the Saltbeards had been wary of endangering the white beards they were so proud of by becoming bonded with the Greenstones. It was Ryllen’s hope that seeing a “respected and honored paragon of Saltbeard values,” such as Raughm, wed to a Greenstone noble would break the taboo.

Raughm was excited to have the attentions of such a beautiful dwarven woman, and immediately agreed to the wedding. Ryllen had one stipulation, however, which she insisted Raughm meet before they announce their bonding plans. There were two items of great importance to the Greenstone clan which had been left behind in their destroyed stronghold. She would need Raughm’s help to retrieve them. Only them would she wed him. The task seemed minor enough, and Raughm agreed to accompany her on her quest.

The journey south to the Dejich Jungle was a long and difficult one. Raughm had never been more than a few miles from the Saltbeard clan stronghold before, and found the increasingly humid temperatures nearly unbearable. The two faced many challenges along the road, and Raughm grew ever more devoted to Ryllen during their journey. Finally, after six months of travel, the two reached their goal. The Greenstone clan stronghold. Just as the Greenstones had claimed, the mountain had split violently down the middle. Raughm wondered about what violent force could possible caused such destruction.

The two entered cautiously, and made their way through the crumbling hallways to Ryllen’s former chambers. A wooden shelf lay cracked and broken on the ground, exposing a stairway behind it. The two descended down into what appeared to be a hidden chamber. Ryllen gleefully ran over to some skeletal dwarven remains. She removed some unusual hide armor, and a great warhammer, from the corpse. Believing their great journey to be at an end, Raughm asked if these were the heirlooms they had been seeking. In response, Ryllen smashed him in the side of the head with the hammer.

Ryllen left him there to die. And as he lay bleeding on the ground, he called out to Moradin for aid. But no answer came from the All Father. Instead, the room began to warp and twist, the stone trembling. A bloody mist seeped into the room, and coalesced into the form of a 10ft tall dwarf. It spoke in a booming voice, sputtering acid onto poor Raughm as it spoke.

“Your weakling god cannot hear you here, cleric. I have profaned this room, which my servant brought you to. The hated dwarf god is blind here. But I will help you.”

“Who are you?” Raughm thought, unable to speak. He could feel his extremities growing cold, knew his life would leave him soon.

“I can give you back your life. I can grant you vengeance against she who betrayed you. I can make you my champion…all you must do is agree to serve under the sign of the Dead Mountain. I am Agg. Enthrall your will to mine and you will live.”

Raughm was no scholar, but he knew of Agg of the Dead Mountain. No god was so feared and loathed by dwarven kind. Yet death drew ever nearer, and Raughm was afraid. He found the strength to bloodily sputter the words out of his mouth: “I enthrall my will to Agg, the terrible, of the Dead Mountain. Grant me life. Grant me vengeance…”

Agg drew in a deep breath, and exhaled mightily, filling the room with ash. A moment later, Raughm emerged fully healed of his injuries. He had always been a temperate dwarf, but now he felt filled with unholy rage. He ran out the chambers, and through the dwarven citadel. He found Ryllen as she was descending the path leading back into the jungle below. He leaped upon her, taking her by surprise. She never even fought back as he smashed her head into the stone again, and again, and again, leaving nothing but a bloody mess in his hands.

When he stood from his bloody work, Agg was again standing over him.

“Don the armor, and take the weapon, then go forth into the world. Rot the trees and salt the earth. Let nothing grow where you have been.”

Raughm, unable to reject the will to which he had bound himself, merely nodded, and complied. Since that day, hundreds of years ago, Raughm has traveled from village to village doing Agg’s will.

Personality

Even among dwarves, Raughm is quiet. Amongst other races he does not speak at all, because he was never able to master the common tongue. He tries to appear friendly, offering healing to any in need. He often offers his healing spells to poor villages with sick or wounded members, who would otherwise be unable to afford magical healing. Only once Raughm is well loved and allowed to stay in the village, does he begin his work corrupting the land, spoiling the food, eventually forcing the entire village either to move, or to die.

Tactics

Raughm is not the greatest combatant, and avoids direct conflict when he can. If forced to fight, he will use his hammer and his spells as appropriate, but will flee at the first opportunity to do so.

Thoughts on use

Raughm is a good mystery villain, much like Hiles Gorefeet. The mystery can be set up one of two ways: either the characters are in a town whose land is dying, and are tasked with finding the cause. Or, alternatively, the characters can learn of a series of towns which each suffered similar famine-like conditions, and from there learn that the same dwarven cleric visited all the towns.

Raughm Saltbeard (CR 10)

XP: 9,600
Male Dwarf Cleric 11
CE humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception +5 (+7 with regards to stonework.), Darkvision 60ft


Defenses


AC 14, Flat Footed 16, Touch 16 [10 + Armor(4) + Dex(0) + Size(0)]
hp 96 (11d8 + 33)
Fort +7 Ref +3 Will + 12 [+2 to any save v. poison, spells, or spell-like abilities.]


Offense


Speed 20ft
Melee Deadearth Hammer + 11/6 (2d6 + 3/x3)
Channeled Energy: 6d6 [6/day; Negative Energy; Will DC: 16][May substitute normal effect to heal or harm earthen outsiders]
Prepared Cleric Spells (CL 11th; Concentration +16 [+20 when casting defensively]) (Domain Spell is in Bold)
6th (1 + 1)–Antilife Shell, Harm
5th (3 + 1)–Insect Plague, Unhallowx2, Wall of Stone
4th (4 + 1)– Giant Vermin, Unholy Blight, Cure Critical Wounds, Inflict Critical Wounds, Inflict Critical Wounds
3rd (5 + 1)–Contagion, Meld to Stone, Greater Rot, Cure Serious Wounds, Inflict Serious Wounds, Stone Shape
2nd (5 + 1)–Desecrate x2, Death Knell, Undetectable Alignment, Cure Moderate Wounds, Soften Earth and Stone
1st (6 + 1)–Cure Light Wounds, Endure Elements, Inflict Light Wounds, Curse Water, Rotx2, Magic Stone
0 (at will)– Stabalize, Create Water, Purify Food and Drink, Light
Domains Destruction, Earth
Domain Powers
Acid Dart (Sp)(8/day): As a standard action, attack a foe within 30ft with an acid dart as a ranged touch attack. Dart deals 1d6 + 1/cleric level damage.
Destructive Smite (Su)(8/day): Melee attack gains damage bonus equal to 1/2 of cleric level. (5) Must be declared prior to making the attack.


Stats


Str 13 (+1) Dex 11 (+0) Con 16 (+3) Int 4 (-3) Wis 20 (+5) Cha 13 (+1)
Base Atk +8/+3; CMB +9; CMD 19 (23 v. Trip & Bull Rush)
Feats Skill Focus (Diplomacy), Combat Casting, Extend Spell, Quicken Spell, Extra Channel, Elemental Channel (Earth)
Skills Appraise -4 (-2 for precious metals & gemstones), Diplomacy +25, Perception +5 (+7 with regards to stonework.)
Languages Dwarven
Gear Famine Hide Armor, Deadearth Hammer, Holy Symbol of Agg of the Dead Mountain, Four potions of Cure Critical Wounds, Ring of the Ram (PFCR Pg. 482), Glove of Storing (PFCR Pg. 515), Wineskin filled with Blackberry Wine, Wineskin filled with Acid, 250 gold pieces


New Spells


Rot
School
Necromancy; Level cleric 1, Sorcerer/Wizard 1
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S
Range Touch
Target Food, earth, or plant
Duration Instantaneous
Saving Throw
Will negates (object); Spell Resistance yes (object)
This spell draws the nutrients from whatever it is cast upon. A pot of stew or plate of food can become fetid and unpalatable. A single tree, shrub, or other plant can will wither and die. A patch of ground with a roughly 10ft radius from the caster can be rendered completely barren for three weeks, killing all but the most hardy plants growing there.

Greater Rot
School Necromancy; Level cleric 3, Sorcerer/Wizard 3
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S
Range Touch
Target Food, earth, or plant
Duration Instantaneous
Saving Throw
Will negates (object); Spell Resistance yes (object)
This spell functions as Rot, but with greater range. Greater Rot could be used to spoil an entire store room of food, or all the food in a decently sized kitchen. It can be used to kill 3d6 trees or shrubs, so long as they are within 50ft of each other. If cast upon the ground, Greater Rot causes an area in a 30ft radius to be rendered completely barren for two months.


New Equipment


Famine Hide Armor
Aura Strong Necromancy; CL 12th
Slot Armor; Price 18,900 gp; Weight 25lb.
This armor appears to be normal Hide armor, though it is somewhat discolored. The hide used to create this armor was harvested from an animal who died due to famine. Once a week, this +2 Hide Armor allows its wearer to drain all nutrients from an area of earth up to 100 square feet in size. This process takes a minute, and grants the armor’s wearer full health when it completes. The land will remain completely barren for a year.
Requirements Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Circle of Death, Hide of an animal killed by famine. Cost 11,750gp

Deadearth Hammer
Aura
Strong Transmutation; CL 13th
Slot none; Price 50,320 gp; Weight 16 lb.
This +2 Heavy Warhammer (two handed martial weapon, 2d6 damage for medium creatures) is crafted from stone harvested from the heart of a mountain, magically strengthened to be as hardy as steel, though much heavier. The 4ft long handle is crafted of mithril, with a leather grip. Once per month, the hammer may be smashed into the ground to cause an earthquake, radiating out as much as 2 miles from the hammer’s impact.
Requirements: Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Move Earth; Cost 25,320 gp


New Deity: Agg of the Dead Mountain


Magmaheart, The Stonebreaker
Lesser Deity
Symbol
A mountain on one side. On the back side is a mountain split in two.
Alignment Chaotic Evil
Worshipers Evil dwarven cultists
Domains Destruction, Earth, Chaos, Evil, Fire, Maddness
Favored Weapon Warhammer
Agg was once a celestial revered by the dwarves, called Aggonem. In ages long past Aggonem entered into a great battle with the demon hordes of the abyss. Details of the battle are not known, but it is said that he fought on tirelessly for years, as only a celestial could. After long ages of war, Aggonem was brought low by the demons. A demon general stepped forward, and struck Aggonem’s head from his neck with the celestial’s own warhammer. So strong was the force of Aggonem’s will, though, that his death caused a every demon within a mile to be sucked into a vortex centered on the place of his death. When the screams of the demons had died down, and silence momentarily covered the abyssal battlefield, Agg emerged. The evil god seeks the destruction of all which dwarves hold dear.

No More Overzealous Paladins

Eddard Stark is a God Damned Paladin

Life isn’t straightforward. It isn’t black and white. The stories of vile villains and righteous crusades that we were weaned on are fairy tales. But heroes? Heroes are very real. They’re not perfect, and there’s no army of them, but they exist. They are the naive idealists without any grasp of how the world works. They are the battle hard cynics who fight on to keep the darkness from encroaching for another day. They are the unknown soldiers who die alone in the dark, with nothing to comfort them other than the knowledge that they have done what is right. Heroes fight losing battles, they are manipulated, and too often receive nothing–not even success–for their trouble. Yet heroes fight on, because some battles need to be fought.

These are the incorruptible, the charitable, the fearless. These are the paladins.

-Anonymous /tg/ contributor

I am tired of seeing paladins consistently portrayed in an un-paladin like manner. In recent years, I don’t think I have seen a single paladin–either in a game or in some other media–who didn’t suffer from a painful overzealousness. Paladins are played as assholes who object to the very concept of tolerance. They look down on anyone who doesn’t adhere to their strict (often arbitrary) moral codes. And even a slight suggestion that laws are being broken or evil acts committed will cause such a paladin to react with force. A sizable portion of the time, the paladin is so over zealous that he or she serves as an antagonist to good characters. In other cases, paladins grow so overzealous as to be actively evil according to any rational definition of the alignment.

It’s not that I don’t get it. We’ve all dealt with this kind of paladin in real life. The door to door religion salespeople, the condescendingly self-righteous believers, the snarling fundamentalists demanding that one group or another be denied civil liberties on the basis of a religion. In the real world, people with an absolute sense of right and wrong based on their religious beliefs are often brutish and unkind. Those willing to go out into the world and ‘fight’ for their religion often choose to do so by trying to bring everyone who doesn’t agree with them down. I am an Atheist, I have no reason to defend religion whatsoever. But the needless association of in-game religion to real-world religion needs to stop.

Pathfinder and D&D are games of magic and monsters. Games where gods actually exist, and frequently interact with the material world in obvious ways. In real life, a woman who kills 10 people and claims god told her to do it is crazy. In Pathfinder, the authorites would find out which god the woman is talking about, find a cleric of that god, and have that cleric ask their god why those 10 people deserved to die. If the woman were, in fact, crazy, then the cleric could use the powers granted them by their god to simply raise the dead. Whether you are religious or not, I think we can all agree that religion in a fantasy world is fantastical. Not only does it grant magical powers, but the gods who head fantasy religions are beings which can be reached and spoken to with even low level clerical spells.

Paladins are Heroes. God damned heroes. Like the religions they serve, paladins are fantastical. With the rare exception of those who have fallen, paladins are paragons of virtue. They never walk past a person who is hungry without stopping to feed them, nor could they walk past a person who was cold without giving away their cloak. This is not a matter of duty–though a paladin might disagree. Paladins act always to help those in need because they want to soothe every iota of suffering possible. And when a paladin stands to fight, it is not simply to defend their honor or that of their god. Paladins do not fight for kings or queens, nor do they fight for money or prestige. When a paladin draws steel, it is because they believe they stand between innocents, and evil. It is because the only way to soothe suffering is to defeat that which causes it–be it man or beast.

I think the best way to demonstrate this point would be to relate a story of a paladin played correctly. This story has been floating around the 4chan sub forum /tg/ (for Traditional Games) for a number of years now. It is one among many such stories, though for the life of me I cannot find any others which I want to share. I’ve edited the story to work in a non-image board format. I believe it demonstrates the paladin archetype with actions better than I can demonstrate it with words.

My Warforged paladin was alone with the villain atop his tower. The villain had wings, and could fly away at any time, but since I was alone he chose to taunt me.
“Have you ever stopped to think about why you protect others?”
“On occasion, why?” I replied.
“It’s all programmed in, you know. You care about humans because you were built by humans and programmed to care about humans. You believe in everything you do because they chose for you to believe it. Look at yourself! They made you so that you like being helpful and protective, and it’s all a lie! Join me, and I can free you from it all. From the shackles they put on you. You can be a pure and perfect being, immortal and superior, with all the power you’ve ever wanted.”
“Yes, but isn’t that desire programmed in, as well? Even if none of my emotions are true, they feel true. Even if my cause isn’t really mine, it feels just. All you can do is exchange one lie for another. I’ll keep the one that makes everyone else, the ones with real emotions, happiest.”

With that, my character leaped forward and grappled the villain. I knocked him from the tower and rode him down to the rocks below, using my weight to prevent him from flying.

Just thought I’d share my characters last moments with you.

-Anonymous /tg/ contributor

Paladins are not self righteous. They are not over zealous. They are not eager to spill blood for their gods. They aren’t perfect, but nor do they suffer from the weaknesses which often characterize the “forcefully religious” in the real world.

What paladins are is goodly and just. They are heroes, and I would like to see them portrayed as such.

Pathfinder Online: Goblinwork’s Development Strategy

Goblinworks Corporate LogoIn case you haven’t heard, there’s a Pathfinder MMORPG in the works. It’s being developed by a company called Goblin Works, and today they just made their first blog post detailing the upcoming development of the game. The post focuses largely on business aspects and broad development strategies, rather than anything specific, but there’s a lot here to be learned!

I like a lot of what I’m hearing. I’m not experienced as an analyst, but companies don’t typically talk about how little money they’re spending on a game, so I would guess that this is the truth. In fact the entire post reads like something you would never hear a game developer say. Goblinworks admits to spending a minimum amount of cash, to reducing the amount of time they’re going to be developing the game, and even to expecting to lose 75% of their new players every month. While this may be discouraging to some, it has been my experience that those who work with the least resources, tend to become the most resourceful.

I find the idea of a cap on new players to be a really cool one. By limiting new players to 4,500 a month, Goblinworks basically ensures that they’ll be able to avoid the launch-day issues which have plagued every halfway decent MMO release. And by slowly, but steadily expanding the game as the player base grows, it seems like there will consistently be new and polished content released at a good clip. But maybe I’m reading too much into things.

I’m still taking the “wait and see” approach, but Pathfinder Online is starting to look a little shinier than I first dared to hope.

Succubi Deserve More

Dungeons and Dragons First Edition Monster Manual SuccubusWarning: I do discuss sex a great deal in this post. I’ve tried to keep things clean, but this is an extended post about sex demons. Consider yourself forewarned.

I love Succubi. Not because they’re often portrayed as sexually aggressive women with fangs and wings. The overuse of that trope is precisely the problem, actually. My fascination for succubi is similar to my fascination with vampires; as monstrous foes, they are unique in their use of guile and charm. While vampires have been characterized in many different ways, particularly in recent years, my favorite kind of vampire has always been one which suffers from all the many weaknesses of his or her kind. Must avoid garlic, must avoid holy symbols, cannot cross running water under their own power, cannot enter a building unless invited, and of course, cannot go out during the day. Vampires are more defined by their weaknesses than by their strengths, and they compensate for these manyfold weaknesses with charm. They are suave, persuasive, and seductive. Before you know it, your attractive, pale lover is nibbling your neck. And not as foreplay.

Pathfinder Bestiary Succubus Art Scantily Clad SuccubusIn a fantasy world, Succubi are sex. They don’t have sex, they embody sex. Assuming you play a game with good lore, succubi are also demons. Demons are pure manifestations of chaos and evil. Ergo, succubi are everything which is chaotic and evil about sex, made manifest. They draw their greatest pleasure from adulterous spouses, breakers of chastity vows, and authority figures who abuse their power for fleshly pleasure. Any sexual immorality which exists in your game world is one which a succubus will seek to cause. And the greater the damage, the greater the succubus’ pleasure. Breaking up a marriage is lovely, but bringing down nations or causing a genocide? That’s what really gets a succubus off. Helen of Troy was perhaps the greatest succubus of all time.

Lamentably, succubi are never portrayed this way. If they happen to appear in films or literature, it is almost always as an extremely sexually aggressive woman. There’s nothing wrong with a succubus being a sexually aggressive woman, mind you, but that attitude is one tool among many, not their baseline attitude. Succubi are masters of seduction. They can switch their personalities to fit the preferences of those around them as only a master manipulator can. Of course, the portrayal of the succubus in games is arguably even worse. The index of monsters invariably includes a picture of a beautiful demon woman, naked or nearly so, resting seductively next to a statistics block which describe her ability to magically charm & dominate. D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder actually describe the succubus’ ability to bestow negative levels with a kiss.

I get it. There are not many people who want to sit around the game table feeling uncomfortable while the GM uses NPCs to play out sex fantasies. And I understand that D&D still suffers from a lot of stigmatization. Neither WotC nor Paizo want to be featured in a Fox News segment about the corruption of America’s youth. But most of the images I’ve included in this post? They come right out of D&D / Pathfinder books. I don’t think any parents are being fooled about what the succubus is. I couldn’t find a good scan of the succubus from the D&D 3.X Monster Manual. That one actually has visible areolae. Bright red ones. How’s that for cognitive dissonance? Visual representations of exposed breasts are fine, but the raciest we can get in the text is “kiss?”

World of Warcraft Burning Legion SuccubusI would like to make clear that I am not arguing that including a succubus in a game requires a GM to allow wanton eroticism. But these are powerful and interesting creatures with a unique place in human mythology. I don’t like to see them reduced to a thinly veiled excuse to include a pair of tits in the adventure. Too many times have I seen a succubus used as a wandering monster, as if they were no more sophisticated than a skeleton or imp. And once encountered, GMs rarely attempt guile, preferring the crack of the succubus’ inexplicable dominatrix whip instead.

I like to explore the mythology behind fantasy tropes. Often it’s a great deal more interesting than the tropes themselves. I’d like to take this opportunity to share some of the succubus’ mythology, to help illustrate my point. Bear in mind that I am not a scholar of medieval Christianity, nor am I well versed in Jewish mythology. Most of my information on the subject comes from google & wikipedia. And even assuming that the information I read is accurate, I could easily have misunderstood something. In other words, I am not a credible source.

A great many cultures have tales of demons and spirits which resemble the succubus. The succubus we know today draws primarily from the legends of medieval Europe. The Catholic church was even more ridiculous about sexual morality back then than they are now. So if a fellow awoke in the morning to find that he had pitched a tent, or – ahem – had a nocturnal emission, it wasn’t an innocent occurrence. Sex was so taboo that the source of these disturbances was deduced to be demonic. And thus was the succubus invented; a demoness who appears in men’s dreams in the form of a woman. Her goal was to steal men’s seed for her own devious ends.

A likely satirical tome called the Alphabet of Sirach provides an origin for the succubus. I’m not sure if this book was responding to existing folklore about succubi, or if said folklore only took hold after the book was written. According to the AoS, Eve was not the first wife of Adam. Before her, God created a woman from the earth and called her Lilith. And then, as the story goes:
The first succubus. Adam's First Wife, Lilith. Painted by John Collier.

Adam and Lilith began to fight. She said, ‘I will not lie below,’ and he said, ‘I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be in the superior one.’ Lilith responded, ‘We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.’ But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air.

Not sure why Lilith can fly. Again, I’m no scholar, but my guess would be that “the Ineffable Name” would be the true name of god. Speaking it is blasphemous in the Jewish tradition, so perhaps simply by speaking she has already taken on demonic traits such as wings.

Regardless, Adam then calls to God, complaining that his woman has run away. God pursues her, but finds her unwilling to return, and so she is cursed so that each day, one hundred of her children will die. God then returns to Adam, and makes Eve out of his rib. Apparently, ribs make for much more demure, obedient women than earth does. Lilith later mated with an archangel, spawning the demon queens, and eventually, the entire race of succubi.

So, as established above, succubi harvest semen from sleeping men. But what do they do with it? I found a couple different explanations, but my favorite comes from an Inquisitor named Heinrich Kramer in 1486. To quote him:

Another terrible thing which God permits to happen to men is when their own children are taken away from women, and strange children are put in their place by devils. And these children, which are commonly called changelings, or in the German tongue Wechselkinder, are of three kinds. For some are always ailing and crying, and yet the milk of four women is not enough to satisfy them. Some are generated by the operation of Incubus devils, of whom, however, they are not the sons, but of that man from whom the devil has received the semen as a Succubus, or whose semen he has collected from some nocturnal pollution in sleep. For these children are sometimes, by Divine permission, substituted for the real children.

There is no better fantasy sourcebook than religion.

The emphasis above is mine. To put it into slightly more clear language, what the inquisitor is saying is that a succubus is able to transform between the female form, and the male (incubus) form. So first, the demon harvests a man’s seed as a succubus, then transforms itself into an incubus, and impregnates a woman with the semen stolen from the man. And let me just say that, as a philosophy major, it tickles the hell out of me to see respected scholars like Aquinas taking this stuff seriously.

Of course, we need not tie ourselves to mythology as though it is dogma. Study of the source material merely gives us some perspective to help ground our own ideas. Part of the fun of being a game master in a fantasy game is the opportunity to place our own fantastical ideas next to time tested ones like the succubus, vampire, or Medusa. We can even modify those creatures themselves if we so choose, though, my experience is that keeping a creature grounded in its core concept always produces the best results.

So, all of that having been said, here are some things I like to add to the succubus.
Fiendish Codex Succubus Offering Crown to Victim

  • Taking on pleasing forms is basic to a succubus’ art. They become tall, short, blonde, brunette, thin, round, whatever their victim desires most. So for a creature which relies on its shape shifting ability constantly, a permanent mark which cannot be shape-shifted could lead to interesting situations. Perhaps many succubi get tattooed in obscure locations to associate themselves with a specific demon lord or lady. And while most weapons would leave no scar on a succubus, a weapon of strong good alignment could leave a small mark behind even after healing. Not much of one, but something a perceptive character could spot.
  • Succubi have their own aesthetic. In their natural state, all succubi demonstrate some number of demonic traits. Some have cloven feet, some have tails, some have spines. Some even have scales or glowing red eyes. The only demonic traits which all succubi share are wings and horns. But there is a great deal of variance in the types of even those two features. Some wings are leathery, while others are feathered, and still others seem to be made of shadow, or silk. Horns most often sprout from the head, but they could sprout from the chin, or even the cheeks of a succubus, and they form in any number of shapes.
  • Succubi have the ability to enter into the dreams of any sleeping character at will. While in a character’s dreams, the Succubi plants enticing suggestions. When the character wakes, he or she will be less capable of resisting the succubus’ charm.
  • Succubi have no technical gender. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say they are all hermaphrodites, capable of switching between the male and the female form at will. So each succubus is also an incubus.
  • Succubi may breed with any species that reproduces sexually.
  • Succubi have absolute control over their own reproduction. They may choose the gender of their children, gestation period, and even how many children will be produced from a single coupling.
  • They may also control how much of their demonic blood infuses the child. At their will, they may produce a small flock of imps, a half demon, a creature which appears completely human, or anything in between. Their only limitation is that they can never birth a child with no demonic blood whatsoever. At the very least, the child will have a predilection for chaos and evil.
  • Succubi are immune to disease themselves, but may store and pass on diseases to others.
  • Succubi feed on the suffering which sexual immorality causes. They can gain experience from any acts which result from their manipulations. (Ex. Helen of Troy would get experience for every Trojan and Greek killed. Ka-ching.)

Findish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss, Malcanthet Queen of Succubi and the 570th layer of the AbyssAs a final word on this post, I would like to give a shout out to one of the few sourcebooks which I felt actually did succubi some justice. Two of the best supplements which ever came out for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 were the Fiendish Codex I & II. FC I: Hordes of the Abyss, provided a lot of detail about demons, and the abyss they live in. Aside from including some very useful demonic archetypes (along with charts for each archetype, indicating how likely it was for a particular type of demon to fill that role), the book introduced Malcanthet, queen of the succubi. A mere four pages were all they were able to devote to her in a book which was packed tight with awesome abyssal lore, but those four pages (plus the dragon magazine article released about the same time) were fantastic. I would heartily recommend the book to anyone, regardless of what system you use.

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Thoughts and theories on tabletop games.