Skyrim, Witcher, and Tabletop RPGs

It’s 2 in the morning and I just brought peace to Skyrim by killing Ulfric Stormcloak, again. I haven’t played it much lately. For the past several months I’ve played Witcher 3 in my off hours. Both are first person computer RPGs but they are two sides of the same coin. The similarities and differences between them are long, varied, and discussed in much more detail elsewhere. For this blog post, I just want to focus on how you can use their styles in your tabletop RPGs.

It’s funny, I know. Tabletop RPGs spawned computer games, so what is there for tabletop RPGs to learn from their computer brethren? Plenty. Computer games sell much better than tabletop so it is easier for word to spread about which games are better than others. If you asked 100 tabletop gamers to name the best campaign published in the last 30 years by any RPG company other than Wizards of the Coast, Paizo Publishing, or TSR, you’ll be at a loss for a consensus. Hell, you’ll be lucky to have 100 answers. Even if you include the major companies, finding a clear winning campaign is going to be difficult. Reason being: it takes 1-2 years to go from levels 1-20 and most groups don’t last that long. But people play the same computer game year after year. So what can we learn from computer games?

1) Get It Online

With COVID-19 raging and people playing via Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, and other VTT platforms, people are playing more online. So making it easier for them to game together is something we can all take from this. I expect this change in the way we game to last long term, even beyond when “things return to normal” because it is easier for everyone to meet on their computers than to go to someone’s house game, and then go back home. It’s like going to your computer to be the Dragonborn or the Witcher, except here you can be anyone you want. So publishers should make it a regular habit to make sellable products for online gaming.

2) Adventure Pacing

This is something both publishers and home GM’s can learn. It is the pacing of the campaigns in Skyrim and Witcher 3 that I feel make them sell so well. Both have two major and interconnected plots (Skyrim: win the civil war, and kill the head dragon; Witcher 3: stop the Wyld Hunt and find Ciri), but those plots are not a single story. They are each a hundred little stories bringing you to the final story. The Bloody Baron found Ciri and will only tell you the information if you do this other job for him. The Skyrim civil war starts off properly with retrieving a crown before the other side does. This breaks the campaign up into a number of more manageable pieces.

Between each of those pieces, you can do any number of side quests. This let’s you do something different and keeps the game from becoming overly serious. One the reasons I believe that many role playing games fizzle out is that the plot becomes overly dark and heavy. Sure, time becomes difficult to find, schedules change, etc, but if something brings joy to your life, you make the time for it. If it becomes overly dark and bleak, it runs the risk ones sapping all the joy, and it turns into an obligation, one that can be easily removed.

So learn from computer RPGs and build in side quests. These should be different, fun, and not necessarily have anything to do with the main plot. Consider saving the orphanage’s puppy or returning the owlbear egg to the nest before mama owlbear comes hunting it down. On a more serious note, try escort someone to their family tomb to put their recently deceased grandmother her predetermined plot, at the very bottom of the tomb, and a necromancer previously broke in started making undead. Or retrieve the bones of an old adventurer from their tomb they had fallen in, letting both the living and the dead to find peace. Give them a treasure map or a tip about some lost magical items. No matter what, the payoff should be swift. By payoff, it can be gold or items, but what it really should be is both a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of having done good. People play role playing games to feel like heroes; let them be exactly that, both in the big campaign and to the individuals in smaller ways.

3) Pickup and Playable

This one is small but it makes a world of difference: include pregen characters with any adventure you’re publishing over a VTT. In Witcher 3, you’re playing Geralt of Rivia; the entire game is built around you being him. While I’d appreciate it if you could pick from a number of witchers, you can start playing right away. In Skyrim, the guard asks who you are and as the meme goes, you stand there for ten minutes while your face, gender, body type, and race keep shifting, horrifying the poor guard.

That is the difference between including pregen characters and not. If a GM is running your adventure during an online conversation, they’re going to have to make those pregens themselves, adding a barrier to them running your adventure at all. Remember, running a published module is supposed to make the GM’s job easier; including pregen characters is another thing to do just that.

Jon Brazer Enterprises’ Store at Fantasy Grounds is far from extensive, but we are working to improve it. See everything we have there and download something helpful to your game today. While you’re at it, check our our full catalog of Pathfinder 1e, D&D 5e, 13th Age, and Traveller products at the JBE Shop and grab yourself some awesome stuff today.

Pathfinder 1e: Frigid Grasp

We at Jon Brazer Enterprises are hard at work on the Book of Beasts: Magus Codex, the next entry in the Character Codex Subscription. However, it has become painfully obvious to us that there is a serious lack of touch spells for the class. The class is built around the spellstrike class feature and there are so few official touch spells that we are reusing the same spells over and over again or making excessive use of the close range arcana, wasting some of the spell’s potential. It really is crazy that there are not a plethora of touch spells (particularly in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Magic) for magi to use.

So when I’m not building new NPCs, I’m creating new spells for them. We’re not using these spells anywhere in the Book of Beasts: Character Codex since those are purely Paizo-created options from the Pathfinder RPG line of books (so no, there aren’t any options utilized from the campaign setting material appearing in this collection either). One I wanted to ask about was frigid grasp. All the first level damage spells I created do something cool to make up for dealing less damage than shocking grasp. When it came to frigid grasp I wasn’t sure if a –2 penalty to Reflex saves was balanced. Should it be –1? I went with –2 because a –1 feels like it should be a cantrip instead of a 1st level spell. However, I am wondering if a cantrip-level penalty would be appropriate with a little less than a typical 1st-level damage spell. Should it be variable, like a 1d3 penalty?

Tell us your thoughts in the comments below. Also download JBE’s Pathfinder 1e game supplements at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, the Open Gaming Store, and Paizo.

Frigid Grasp

School evocation [cold]; Level arcanist/sorcerer/wizard 1, bloodrager 1, magus 1, occultist 1
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S
Range touch
Target creature or object touched
Duration instantaneous
Saving Throw none; Spell Resistance yes
Your successful melee touch attack deals 1d4 points of cold damage per caster level (maximum 5d4). Additionally, the target suffers a –2 penalty to Reflex saving throws until the start of your next turn.

Pathfinder 1e: Automatic Bonus Progression

Pathfinder Unchained introduced a number of changes to the base rules of Pathfinder 1e. We enjoy reading them, but we want to hear your thoughts. Do you like them? Do you consider them a core addition? We want to know. Vote in our poll below.

If you are not familiar with the Automatic Bonus Progression rules, read them here at d20pfsrd. The basic goal is to remove magic items like the cloak of resistance, belts of str/dex/con, headbands of int/wis/cha, ring of deflection, and numerical bonuses to weapons/armor, freeing up those magic item slots to items that do something cooler. So that green-hilted sword you inherited from your grandfather can just be a mundane sword. It doesn’t have to be a +5 sword because your grandfather received a +5 bonus from weapon attunement. You can make it undead bane without having to reforge it. Be honest, how many characters have you had without a cloak of resistance? So why not just eliminate the item, add the bonus to standard progression, and leave the spot open for something cool and interesting?

Or do you prefer the standard items? This gives you a comforting sense of just how powerful this character is. Tell us your opinion in the poll and in the comments below.

Pathfinder 1e: Wrappings, a Monk Magic Item

Let’s face it, monks get the shaft when it comes to magic items built for them. So today I am going to start breaking that by posting magic items designed with them. This one by itself isn’t a magic item, but it can be one. Check it out and see what i mean.

Wrappings

Aura no aura (nonmagical); CL

Slot feet, head, or wrists; Price 300 gp; Weight


Description


These nonmagical wrappings are expertly made. When wrapped around one of the slots designated for this item and enhanced with a magical bonus, such as on the Weapons table or the Melee Weapon Special Abilities table in the Magic Items section in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, it conveys that bonus to unarmed strikes. A creature can have multiple wrappings, each with a different combination of special abilities as long as each different wrappings uses a different body slot. The wearer can choose which wrappings to enhance their attacks as long as all attacks in a single round use the bonuses and abilities grants from only one wrappings. The wearer can choose to enhance their attacks with different wrappings the following round.

This item without any enhancements or special abilities does not convey any bonus to the wearer. Any bonuses or enhancements on these wrappings do not enhance natural attacks nor attacks made with manufactured weapons.

Download all of JBE’s 1e Pathfinder books at the JBE Shop.

JBE’s Virtual Conversation Schedule 2020

COVID-19 has dramatically changed convention schedules with most bring canceled (for good reason). But people still want to play their games, and everyone at JBE wants to join in on the fun.

Right now we are scheduled to attend three virtual conventions.

We hope that you will join us at these and other online conventions.

We are looking to attend more virtual conventions so if you are running an online con, contact us by commenting below or going to Twitter or Facebook and let us know about it.

Pathfinder 1e: Magic Talismans

As a long time Pathfinder publisher, I’ve gotten to know the magic items available rather well. This is one of the things that I think need a refresh. Take scrolls for example. It’s a spell on a piece of paper. That can be changed some, I believe. Change them to talismans. Wear them around your neck, pull out the right one, and speak the spell completion words and poof the spell goes off. Same effect as a scroll but a different in the imagination.

This particular one is an update of a an old 3.5 feat that never got as much appreciation as I felt it deserved.

After you read the feat, be sure to check out all of our spells and other magical options for Pathfinder like the Book of Magic: Signature Spells 2 at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, the Open Gaming Store, and Paizo.

Craft Magic Talisman [Item Creation]

You can create magic fetishes (also called charms) that hold spells until triggered. A talisman is a singleuse magic item and functions like a scroll.

Prerequisite: Caster level 1st.

Benefit: You can create a talisman of any spell that you know. Crafting a talisman takes 2 hours if its base price is 250 gp or less, otherwise scribing a scroll takes 1 day for each 1,000 gp in its base price. To craft a talisman, you must use up raw materials costing half of this base price.

The base price of a talisman is its spell level times its caster level times 25 gp. Any talisman that stores a spell with a costly material component cost also carries a commensurate cost.

Activating a talisman is the same as activating a scroll.

Pathfinder 1e: Lich Slayer

Last week saw the release of the Book of Beasts: Warpriest Codex which is part of the Character Codex Subscription. So far we’ve shared with you the Mercenary Priest and the Airborne Reanimator. Both of these are low level characters. Today we are sharing with you a higher level character. This level 12 lich slayer is more than your typical warpriest. They’re a champion of the faith. One of the things we incorporated in the Warpriest Codex is the use of archetypes. The even-numbered levels are thematic, but some use archetypes, making them more unique.

Download the Book of Beasts: Warpriest Codex today at JonBrazer.com, DriveThruRPG, the Open Gaming Store, and Paizo.com and tell your friends that are sticking with Pathfinder 1e about us. Your words are the best way for people sticking with the game we love to find us and what we produce, and we need your help to do so.

Lich Slayer CR 11

XP 12,800
Changeling warpriest (champion of the faith) of Alina BoHRAC 12
LN Medium humanoid (changeling)
Init +5; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +2


Defense


AC 23, touch 11, flat-footed 22 (+11 armor, +1 Dex, +1 natural)
hp 93 (12d8+36)
Fort +11, Ref +7, Will +12
Defensive Abilities sacred armor (+2, 12 minutes/day); Resist one energy type 10


Offense


Speed 20 ft. (30 ft. without armor)
Melee +1 undead-bane warhammer +20/+20/+15 (1d10+16/×3 plus 2d6 vs. undead) or 2 claws +17 (1d4+9)
Special Attacks blessings 9/day (Community: communal aid, fight as one; Law: axiomatic strike, battle companion), fervor 8/day (4d6), hulking changeling, sacred weapon (1d10, lawful, 12 rounds/day), smite chaotic 3/day (+1 attack and AC, +12 damage)
Warpriest (Champion of the Faith) Spells Prepared (CL 12th; concentration +14)
4th—divine power, holy smite (DC 18), spiritual ally APG
3rd—daylight, dispel magic, searing light, wrathful mantle APG (DC 17)
2nd—aid, arrow of law UM (DC 16), ghostbane dirge APG (DC 14), spear of purity UM (2, DC 16), spiritual weapon
1st—bless, command (DC 13), divine favor, protection from evil, sanctify corpse UM, shield of faith
0 (at will)—detect magic, guidance, light, stabilize, virtue


Tactics


Before Combat The warpriest casts aid and wrathful mantle on an ally, then gives their full plate energy resistance with sacred armor.
During Combat The warpriest begins combat by casting divine power before entering melee, using smite chaotic when engaging demons and chaotic undead.
Base Statistics Without sacred armor and divine power, the warpriest’s statistics are Resist —; hp 81 (12d8+24); Melee +1 undead-bane warhammer +16/+11 (1d10+12/×3 plus 2d6 vs. undead) or 2 claws +13 (1d4+5); CMB +13.


Statistics


Str 18, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 8, Wis 15, Cha 12
Base Atk +9; CMB +17; CMD 24
Feats Combat Casting, Divine Interference UM, Greater Spell Focus (evocation), Greater Weapon Focus (warhammer), Greater Weapon Specialization (warhammer), Improved Initiative, Spell Focus (evocation), Toughness, Weapon Focus (warhammer), Weapon Specialization (warhammer)
Skills Heal +11, Knowledge (religion) +8, Sense Motive +11, Spellcraft +8
Languages Aklo, Common
SQ detect alignment
Combat Gear lesser ectoplasmic metamagic rod APG; Other Gear +2 full plate, +1 undead-bane warhammer, cloak of resistance +2, silver holy symbol of Alina, 13 gp

A Mix Up with the Character Codex Subscription

Good day,

Earlier this week when I made Book of Beasts: Character Codex Subscription on DriveThruRPG, I made it as the wrong type of product. Short of the long, I fixed the error by remaking it so if you have not yet purchased the subscription and are about it, all is good. If you have already purchased the Character Codex Subscription, check your email (including your spam folder) to see if you received an email from DriveThruRPG, it will have a link to download the fixed version. If you do not have an email from DriveThruRPG, contact me at contact AT jonbrazer DOT com, and we will get this resolved.

My sincerest apologizes for the situation,

Dale McCoy, Jr
Jon Brazer Enterprises

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