Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Science of a "Miss"

When making an attack roll in most role playing games, the result is about as simple as it can be. The attack either hits the intended target or it doesn't. Some games - such as Aces & Eights and Dark Heresy -  incorporate mechanics to determine specifically where the target is hit. Even the Pathfinder RPG has an variant system that allows characters to determine precisely where their want to aim their blows (i.e. called shots). But this post isn't about what happens when or where a character hits its target - this is about what happens when they miss!

In the Pathfinder rule system, making an attack roll is about determining whether or not a character is able to land a damaging blow. I emphasis "damaging" because during the course of combat, blows will be struck. It's inevitable. However, many of these may be hits that harmlessly glance off of the enemy's armor or are absorbed by an intervening shield. In game terms, these impotent strikes are still categorized as "a miss".1 So, how can we determine if that "miss" was actually wildly off target, narrowly dodged at the last moment, or turned aside by a heavy shield?

A better question you might be asking yourself is, "why would I want to"? To be honest, there's no real reason to. The character in question fails to beat his opponent's AC, you describe the futile attempt to "bring the pain" in the manner of your choosing, and the game goes on. No harm, no foul. However, for those that want a little more detail to their combat or, like me, are just curious about such minutia, read on.

What follows is a detailed explanation of how I would determine why an attack failed to wound an opponent. It is can be rather cumbersome to implement at the game table, so I've created an Excel sheet that is designed to do all the heavy lifting for you. Just fill in the relevant fields (shaded in blue) before the game and when a fight breaks out, look for the first AC value from the top of the list that exceeds the attack roll. This is the reason the attack failed to generate a wound. The file has yet to be field tested, so if you chose to use it during your games, or simply want to poke at it a bit, please send me feedback with your thoughts and, of course, any errors or difficulties you might notice in using it.

There's a certain sequence of obstacles a character must overcome if they intend to strike a damaging blow against this opponent. Each of these obstacles is represented by different modifiers that gets applied to the target's Armor Class. Typically, these bonuses and penalties get lumped together and their sum is used to determine if an attack ultimately caused damage. If we break that final number down into its components, however, we can determine exactly why a failed attack was unsuccessful.

The game assumes that a target has base AC of 10, adjusted for size and other conditions affecting the target (such as being blind, cowering, or kneeling). If a character's attack result is less than 10 (plus the relevant adjustments), we can assume that the attack failed to even threaten the target. This could be an axe swing that passes over the head of a Small opponent or a bow shot that simply goes wide of its mark.

To continue on, I'm going to assume that the target in question is of Medium size (+0 size modifier) and is not affected by anything that would further alter his base armor class from AC 10.

Now what if the result is higher than an AC 10? That would indicate that the blow is going to land somewhere on the target that is going to hurt. But what if the target has cover? Well, if the attack roll doesn't equal at least 14 (+4 cover bonus), but is higher than 10, it's reasonable to assume that the attack hit whatever the target was using for cover. At this point, a GM might house rule that the attack causes damage to the cover instead. Since whatever was proving cover wasn't the intended target, I might further rule that the attack only deals half damage.

Assuming that our character manages to find his target and circumvent any intervening cover, the target is going to want to move out of the way if he can. This is where his Dexterity modifier and dodge bonuses get applied. Since you lose your dodge bonuses any time  you lose your Dexterity modifier, these get lumped into a single group. If the attack exceeds a 14, or 10 if there is no cover, but it doesn't exceed his AC after applying these modifiers, the target has managed to not be where the blow was going to land. Perhaps he ducked at the last moment, or spun out the blade's reach.

Finally, if the character's aim is true and his opponent isn't nimble enough to get out of the way, his last line of defense is going to be his armor. First he'll try to block the attack with his shield if he has one. If that fails, he has to hope his armor is durable enough to withstand the blow. As with the situation of an attack being foiled by intervening cover, it could be house ruled that an attack defeated by a shield or suit of armor deals some degree of damage to those items. A good warrior values his armor and this sort of house rule would contribute to the sense of one's armor undergoing constant wear and the need to keep it in good repair lest it gains the broken condition, or worse - is destroyed. Lastly, some creatures may be fortunate enough to have exceptionally tough skin or hide that might protect them when all else fails.

1 It seems to me that many players incorrectly assume that each individual attack roll represents a single strike that either connects with their opponent and therefore causes them damage, or misses the target entirely. Not only is this incorrect, but it doesn't make sense. Donning armor and/or a shield will raise a character's AC and makes it more likely an opponent will "miss" them. However, common sense will tell you that the purpose of armor and shields is to absorb the damage from a hit rather than to help avoid the strike altogether. For these people, Pathfinder offers the "Armor as Damage Reduction" variant rules.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mirror, mirror...

There are many superstitions surrounding mirrors, such as having seven years of bad luck for breaking one, or that they can trap the soul. A couple weeks ago, I came across this blog post with a table of some truly awful effects that mirrors - or any reflective surface for that matter - might have upon their viewers. Something about the disturbing and unfortunate nature of these effects set me to composing my own collection of horrible effects.

Although written with the Pathfinder rule system in mind, it's simple enough to use equivalent mechanics from your own game of choice. I specifically did not list a DC for any of the saving throws as these effects are intended to be used at any level - the DC should scale appropriately with that of the character gazing into the mirror. A suggested DC would be 10 + the character's level.

Become The Monster
Your reflection is a grotesque parody of your true self. Your limbs are twisted and where it hasn’t sloughed off, your skin red and scaly. If you study the image in any way, make a Will saving throw. If you fail, one of your hands twists and warps in horrifying ways. At the same time, the reflection of that same hand reverts to normal. Each time you stand in front of a mirror, you must succeed at another saving throw or suffer a similar transformation to another part of your body until your entire body is vile and deformed. The effect can be ended with a remove curse spell or similar ability. Any deformed appendages remain, although a restoration spell or similar ability can restore your body to normal once the curse is broken.

Everything appears normal in the mirror until you realize that your companions' reflections are leering at you. If you investigate the reflection further, the reflection of one of your companions unexpectedly lashes out at your image. Make a Reflex saving throw. If you fail, your reflection suffers a coup de grace attack. You take the damage and effects that the attack causes. If the result of the saving throw is a natural 1, you are cursed and the attack reoccurs anytime you are standing in front of a mirror - make a new saving throw each time. This curse is lifted when the attack kills you, or is dispelled with a remove curse or similar effect. If you succeed at the saving throw, you (and your reflection) manage to avoid the attack. Your companion’s reflection returns to normal.

Evil Twin
An image of you stares back, but something seems off about your reflected self. If you investigate the image further, make a Will saving throw. If you fail, you find yourself trapped within the mirror. The image simultaneously takes your place. The image has the same equipment and abilities as you, but is of a different moral alignment. If you are of a good alignment, your image is evil, and vice versa. If you are neutral, your image has either a good or evil alignment (GM’s choice).

Hangman's Noose
Your reflection looks back at you, a noose hanging from its neck. Make a Will saving throw. If you fail, the reflection of the noose suddenly snaps upward and both you and your reflection begin to suffocate. Another character must manipulate his reflection to cut the rope. If you succeed at the saving throw, the noose continues to hang from your reflection’s neck, but nothing happens.

The image in the mirror is not of you, but of something so inconceivable and horrifying that you can’t even describe it to yourself. The only escape from witnessing such an impossibility is madness. Make a Will saving throw. If you fail, you suffer 10 points of Wisdom drain. If you succeed, you suffer 10 points of Wisdom damage.

The room reflected back at you in the mirror is engulfed in a raging inferno. Everything – and everyone - is ablaze. Make a Will saving throw. If you fail, the room around you also appears to be engulfed in flames. So long as you are in the room, you suffer from heat damage and are at risk of catching fire and smoke inhalation. This effect persists for 24 hours. If you succeed at the saving throw, the fire in the mirror flickers harmlessly and dies out. Everything reflected in the mirror, though, remains burnt and charred.

An Itch You Can't Scratch
Something about the reflection in the mirror makes your skin itch. If you study the image further, make a Will saving throw. If you fail, you begin vigorously scratching at your flesh. Each round, you can only use your standard action to claw to yourself, inflicting 1d3 points of damage in the process (modified for size if other than Medium). If you fail by 5 or more, you use a light or one-handed piercing or slashing weapon (if available) to rake your skin, inflicting its damage upon yourself instead. If you succeed, you reflexively give a shudder, but nothing more happens.

Old Before Your Time
Your reflection beings to slowly age before your eyes. If you continue to watch the mirror, make a Fortitude saving throw. If you fail, you age 1d10 years. You continue to age at this rate every hour until you succeed at another Fortitude save. If you fail the initial saving throw by 5 or more, you age 10d10 years within the span of a few seconds and no additional saving throws are required.

What Was Seen
The image in the mirror is a perfect reflection of the room in which you are standing – and yet something seems off. If you investigate the image further, make a Will saving throw. If you fail, blood begins to flow from your eye sockets as your eyes rapidly liquefy. You are permanently blinded. If you succeed, you realize that the mirror is warped slightly, subtlety distorting the image like a fun house mirror.

Your Own Worst Enemy
Your reflection reaches through the glass and grabs you. With a malicious gleam in its eyes, it tries to pull you into the mirror. Make a grapple check or Escape Artist skill check against your own CMD to break free of your reflection. If you fail, your reflection succeeds at pulling you into the mirror. You must then face your reflection in a fight to the death. If the reflection of anyone else is present, they take no action and do not attempt to help or hinder you. If you die, your reflection emerges from the mirror. Its intentions are left up to the GM. If you kill your reflection, you are able to pass back through the mirror, although you no longer have a reflection. If you break the hold your reflection has on you, your reflection returns to normal.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Unwelcome Guests

A new month means a new topic for the RPG Blog Carnival. This month, Of Dice and Dragons has made the theme "What Walks into Town". My first thoughts go to that iconic scene from old westerns of the mysterious stranger who pushes his way through a pair of saloon doors. Of course, mayhem and death weren't far behind and this was a great place to start when I shifted genres and starting thinking about it in a fantasy setting.

What follows is a collection of twelve guests that may follow your mysterious strangers PCs into town. Of course, they also make great plot hooks that could draw your the party to town as they seek to answer some or all of the questions these unwelcomed guests raise.

1. Pack of hellhounds. As the sky burns pink and orange with the setting sun, the distant howl of a lone dog can be heard. Other canines pick up the call as the day's light continues to fade. Their foreboding chorus comes from every direction, but always getting closer. Moments after darkness settles over the land the flickering light of flames and the smell of sulfur can be detected. A pack of hellhounds materializes on the fringes of the town, ready to run down anyone foolish enough to be outside. Who has summoned these fell beasts? Why do they appear night after night?

2. A masked murderer. As if from nowhere, a stranger appears on the road leading into town. He is plainly dressed in travelling clothes, and this goes almost unnoticed compared to his most striking feature. Piercing blue eyes peer out from behind a stone mask that bear the unflinching expression of disapproval. He does not speak, but draws a sickle from beneath his heavy cloak to wordlessly cut down any who approach him. Even when wounded, he utters nothing more than an annoyed grunt. He may force his way into one or more buildings and slay its occupants before taking his leave of the town. Who is this man? Is he even human? What is his purpose? Where is he heading? Does his mask, or his sickle, give him supernatural powers?

3. Migrating fey. Twice a year, a host of faeries, sprites, and other fey descend upon the town. The first time they come from the east, causing mischief and mayhem as they make their way westward. Several months later, they appear from the west, apparently returning to where they had originated in the east. The townsfolk have adapted to this annual pilgrimage and incorporated it into their local customs. Charms, wards, and even gifts decorate the town in hopes that the meddlesome creatures will leave the residences, their homes, and their businesses unmolested. Where do the fey come from? Where are they headed? Why do they travel like this so regularly? What does it mean if they do not make their annual migration?

4. An opposing army. An army of men, bearing the heraldry of an opposing lord has made camp just outside of town. Their numbers are sufficient to encircle the town, preventing anyone from arriving or departing without their express approval. Patrols monitor the surrounding terrain. At night, bonfires can be seen from every direction. Why have they come? What are their demands? Why have they not attacked outright?

5. A messiah. A plain looking stranger arrives in town. Although humble and soft spoken, he claims to speak for a divine power. He preaches regularly to the residence of a coming disaster and how only he can save them. Through the use of charisma, guile, and perhaps a touch of spellcraft, he gradually begins to build a flock of faithful devotees. Those who begin to oppose his increasing influence disappear. Does this man truly have the favor of a god? What is he planning for the town and its residence? What is happening to those that disappear?

6. The monarch's army. Soldiers in the regional lord's army march their way into town under banners of the liege's iconography. With practiced formality, the commanding officer makes a declaration to the gathering villagers - as faithful servants of their monarch, the community is expected to provide the appropriate hospitality to his host of fighting men. What this equates to is providing food and boarding in the homes of the residence, as well as tending to their mounts, repairing their equipment, and providing whatever other services they require - at a fraction of the normal cost. Why have the soldiers come? How long will they stay?

7. A raving madman. A dirty and scarred man has collapsed just after enter town. His clothes are in tatters, his hair and face are matted with mud. He mumbles incoherently at no one in particular as his gaze is focused on some far off illusion of horror. Those that take the time to understand him may be able to decipher some of his cryptic rambling, but eventually he turns violent. With a fury born of madness, he strikes out anyone near him with whatever implement he can obtain. His insanity is such that he fights until slain. Who was this man? What was it that drove him mad? What was he uttering and what did it mean?

8. A gift. Every morning, a bouquet of beautiful flowers is waiting on the doorstep of a local villager. The assortment of flora is exotic, certainly not a local variety, and carries a pleasant fragrance. On the night after the third gift is left, the individual targeted disappears from their home without a trace. Attempts to watch a targeted resident or their home has revealed nothing. Who is leaving these bouquets? Where do the flowers coming from? What is happening to the villager when they disappear?

9. A horde of undead. A mass of the walking dead have aimlessly shambled their way into town. With no clear direction or control, they begin to decimate the town as they break down doors, slaughter livestock, and feast on the villagers. The herd is vast and possibly outnumbers the population of the village. Can the villagers escape with their lives in time? Might the zombies be driven off or drawn away from the town? Where did they come from?

10. The murder hobos. A motley group of five men and women drift into town. Their clothing and armor represent an assortment of regional styles and each is visibly armed with an array of weapons. Their first stop is the local tavern. They spend their coin readily and behave as if the establishment was theirs. Anyone who does not please them is swiftly cut down, their corpse scoured for valuables. What are these people doing here? How long do they intend to stay? What trouble may follow them here?

11. A bounty hunter. A large, burly man arrives in town by wagon. Aside from an assortment of weapons and restraints, the wagon carries a steel cage just large enough to fit a man. He says little, but if questioned, will admit to be actively tracking a bounty although he refuses to divulge specifically who or what he is looking for. Is the stranger's quarry somewhere in town? Or is he waiting for his bounty to arrive? What collateral damages will the town suffer if the confrontation occurs here?

12. An oracle of death. A vagabond has found her way to the town. She offers to read palms and tell fortunes in exchange for a bit of coin before continuing on her travels. Her insights into the future typically portray a tragic or peculiar incident that will result in the customer's death. Within 48 hours, the events she described are coming to pass. Why is she predicting so many people will die? Is this woman causing the deaths she is foretelling? Has something else sinister befallen the town?

Friday, September 25, 2015

New Life for the Ancient Dead: Skeletons (Part II)

Originally posted: Thursday, September 17, 2015

This is the second half of the document I had started to share in my previous post. Part one offers some creative ways to modify a skeleton combat to make it more interesting than the typical "smash and grab" encounter. You can find that article here. Part two concerns itself with variant skeletons. The Pathfinder RPG Bestiary offers the bloody and burning skeleton variants; below are seven more variants that I have created.

Skeletons Originally posted: are the most basic form of undead to exist and one of the first types that a fledgling necromancer is likely to learn to create. Because the skeletal system does not decompose like living tissue, it can be animated regardless of how long ago the original creature perished. Although skeletons are the most simplistic form of living dead, much research has gone into the augmentation of these unnatural creations to make them more resilient and more dangerous.

Each of the following skeleton types modifies the base skeleton in a few key ways. Except as noted, these variations can be stacked with one another.

Adamantine Skeleton

Skeletons are easily destroyed when subjected to even a moderate blow. However, some unique methods of preparing a skeleton before animation have been discovered for increasing its durability. One technique involves a special alchemical solution of liquid adamantine. Unsurprisingly, the precise formula is a closely guarded secret of alchemists and necromancers alike.

Prior to animation, the entire skeleton must be fully submerged in the emulsion, during which time it undergoes a process similar to natural petrification. As a result, the bones acquire a metallic sheen - a strong clue as to the skeleton's nature for those in the know. After 24 hours, the skeleton can be extracted and animated as the necromancer desires.

The adamantine variation cannot be combined with the fossilized variation.

Challenge Rating: As a normal skeleton +1.
Defensive Abilities: An adamantine skeleton loses its DR 5/bludgeoning and gains DR 10/-.

Blessed Skeleton

Some remote cultures consider it a mark of honor to serve one's community or diety after death. In these cultures, renowned individuals are chosen to be returned from the dead. The manner in which an individual is chosen varies between mores but, in every case, it is considered to be the greatest of proviliges. Unlike other undead, which are typically raised gainst the will of deities - if not the creature itself - these corpses are animated with the divine consent of a good- or neutral- aligned deity for a specific purpose, such as guarding over a holy site or to serve as a chieftain's elite body guard.

Challenge Rating: As a normal skeleton.
Alignment: Always neutral good or true neutral, depending on the consenting deity. A blessed skeletal champion can be of any good or neutral alignment.
Defensive Abilities: A blessed skeleton gains the positive energy affinity ability. The creator of a blessed skeleton that is not of a good alignment may choose to give the skeleton this ability.

Positive Energy Affinity (Ex): The creature is not alive but is healed by positive energy and harmed by negative energy, as if it were a living creature.

Corrosive Skeleton

A corrosive skeleton undergoes an additional step in the preparation of its animation by being saturated with a caustic fluid. Typically this involved being submersed in a viscous acid for an extended period of time. A special alchemical additive prevents the corpse from being destroyed by the acid. Although this adds a significant delay in the animation process, the result is a formidable and feared monster. Corrosive skeletons do not wield weapons or wear armor as their caustic touch quickly decays the equipment. In addition to the standard changes for the skeleton template, make the following adjustments to the base creature.

Challenge Rating: As a normal skeleton +2.
Defensive Abilities: Corrosive skeletons gain immunity to acid damage.
Melee Attacks: A corrosive skeleton's melee attacks with natural weapons deal an additional 1d6 points of acid damage.
Special Attacks: Corrosive skeletons have the corrosive ichor special attack.

Corrosive ichor (Ex): Anyone striking a corrosive skeleton with an unarmed strike or natural attack takes 1d6 points of acid damage. Whenever a character strikes a corrosive skeleton with a manufactured weapon, the weapon takes 1d6 points of acid damage.

Exploding Skeleton

Clerics, mages, and necromancers harness negative energy to animate and control undead. When the physical corpse is destroyed, the necrotic power energizing it typically dissipates with minimal impact. Sometimes, whether done intentionally or as the result of a misstep in the animation process, the negative energy disperses with volatile consequences. The resulting explostion turns the remaining bone fragments into dangerous shrapnel.

Challenge Rating: As a normal skeleton +1.
Hit Dice: An exploding skeleton's Charisma is considered to be 4 for the purpose of determining its hit points.
Special Attacks: Exploding skeletons have the shrapnel special attack.

Shrapnel (Su): When an exploding skeleton is reduced to 0 or less hit points, it shatters into countless shards that cause 2d6 points of piercing and slashing damage to all creatures adjacent to it. A successful Reflex save (DC = 10 + 1/2 the skeleton's Hit Dice + the skeleton's Cha bonus) halves the damage.

Grinning Skeleton

One of the most unsettling aspects of a skeleton is the way its skull appears to be constantly smiling. Some sorcerers and necromancers enhance their minions by playing off this disturbing visage. In addition to the changes for the skeleton template, make the following adjustments to the base creature.

Challenge Rating: As a normal skeleton +1.
Aura: Grinning skeletons possess the unnerving countenance aura.

Unnerving countenance (Ex): Creatures within 10 feet of a grinning skeleton that have line of sight to it must succeed at a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 the skeleton's Hit Dice + the skeleton's Cha bonus) or, for the next hour, they become shaken whenever they are adjacent to any skeleton. Passing the saving throw renders the creature immune for 24 hours. This is a fear effect.

Special Attacks: Grinning skeletons have the maniacal laughter special attack.

Maniacal laughter (Su): Once per day, a grinning skeleton may unleash a spiteful cackle as a standard action. Any living creature within 30 feet of the grinning skeleton must succeed at a Will save (DC = 10 + 1/2 the skeleton's Hit Dice + the skeleton's Cha bonus) or become shaken for 1 minute. This is a sound-based, fear effect.

Fossilized Skeleton

The oldest of skeletons eventually undergo petrifaction. This natural process strengths the creature when it is eventually animated and makes it less susceptible to magic. In addition to the changes for the skeleton template, make the following adjustments to the base creature.

Challenge Rating: As a normal skeleton +2.
Defensive Abilities: Fossilized skeletons lose DR 5/bludgeioning and gain DR 5/adamantine.
Speed: Size Medium or larger fossilized skeletons reduce their base speed by 10 feet.
Special Abilities: Fossilized skeletons gain immunity to magic.

Immunity to magic (Ex): A fossilized skeleton is immune to any spell or spell-like ability that allows spell resistance. In addition, certain spells and effects function differently against the creature, as noted below.

A transmute rock to mud spell deals 1d6 points of damage per caster level to a fossilized skeleton, with no saving throw.
Transmute mud to rock immediately heals any and all damage currently suffered by a fossilized skeleton.
A stone to flesh spell does not actually change the skeleton's structure but negates its damage reduction and immunity to magic for 1 round.

The fossilized variation cannot be combined with the adamantine variation.

Rime Skeleton

A rime skeleton is coated in a layer of hoarfrost that saps the warmth of nearby living creatures. In addition to the changes for the skeleton template, make the following adjustments to the base creature. The rime variation cannot be combined with the burning variation.

Challenge Rating: As a normal skeleton +1.
Aura: Rime skeletons possess an icy aura.

Icy Aura (Ex): Creatures adjacent to a rime skeleton suffer 1d6 points of cold damage at the start of their turn. Anyone striking a rime skeleton with an unarmed strike or natural attack takes 1d6 points of cold damage.

Defensive Abilities: Rime skeletons gain vulnerability to fire damage.
Melee Attacks: A rime skeleton's melee attacks (including both those made with a natural weapon and those made with a manufactured weapon) deal an additional 1d6 points of cold damage.
Abilities: A rime skeleton's Charisma is 12.

New Life for the Ancient Dead: Skeletons (Part I)

Originally posted:Thursday, September 10, 2015

I was going through some of my old gaming documents this week and came across this little gem. I always like putting a new spin on things as it usually leads to the players doing a double take or scratching their heads as they wonder why their tried and true methods aren't working. Everyone seems to perk up and take notice once they realize not everything is as it seems. If it's done well - especially if it's done cool - they won't even mind that you might be taking some liberties with the rules as written, such as in the case of alternative spell effects.

The entire document I unearthed includes a number of skeleton variants that I'll make a second dedicated post about later. For now, here are some ideas on how to set the scene and plan out your next encounter that involves skeletons.

The average skeleton is a pretty straight-forward opponent. Being generally mindless, its tactics are simple - tear apart whatever living creature is within reach. It attack with its claws, maybe an old blade with which it died with long ago, and it protected by whatever armor it might have been wearing at the time. The standard array of undead traits aside, a skeleton's key defensive abilities include damage reduction and immunity to cold-based damage.

Rather than being just a "meatless"-shield between the PCs and their objective, a creature GM can find new purposes for this old monster. Below are a few ideas for how you can use skeletons in your next encounter.

Symbiotic Relations

 A swarm of insects may have taken up residence in the vacant skull or a coiled viper might drape itself over the rungs of the rib age. Either way, a meddlesome adventurer is going to find that he has disturbed more than just the restless dead when he goes to dispose of the next skeleton.

Alternatively, it's also possible that a "sleeping" skeleton gets caught up in the undulating mass of a passing ooze. The acidic secretions of these amoeboid creatures typically have no effect on non-organic material, allowing the skeleton to be carried for miles without incurring damage. Larger oozes may accumulate several skeletons over time, unwittingly travelling with its own small host of undead.

Walking Scrolls

Magic spells can be recorded on a variety of mediums, from rolls of papyrus and stone tablets to inked tattoos and illuminated decks of cards. Some clever necromancers have taken to inscribing important spells on their minions. Although this isn't as efficient as more traditional means, it does provide the spell caster with a certain element of surprise. Although the script is plainly visible, it's impossible for onlookers to interpret any of it while the skeleton is in action. On fact, only when the skeleton remains completely stationary, can the arcane script be read coherently.

Unfortunately, the destruction of the skeleton also means the destruction of the spell if it was not cast first. Since positive energy is notorious for reducing the undead to ash, there is no chance of recovering a spell bared by a skeleton that is annihilated in such a manner. The crushing damage of a weapon makes the recovery of a spell possible, although not necessarily easy. Between shattered ribs, crushed femurs, and broken phalanges, the task of piecing together a destroyed skeleton can be a daunting chore for even the most patient individual.

Alternative Spell Effects

Restore corpse
While this spell is traditionally used to prepare a skeleton corpse for animation as a zombie, it can also be used to bolster an existing animated skeleton. Although an animated skeleton cannot be turned into a true zombie with this spell, it can alter its appearance and increase its vitality. As the targeted skeleton regains flesh, it also gains temporary Hit Dice in accordance with its size. In addition, it replaces its DR 5/bludgeoning with DR 5/slashing. The DC to correctly identify a skeleton that has been affected by restore corpse, and its special abilities, increases by 5. Skill checks that fail by 5 or more misidentify the undead creature as a zombie. This use of the spell has a duration of 1 minute.

Skeleton Size
Temporary Hit Dice
Tiny or smaller
Small or Medium
+1 HD (4 hp) 1
+2 HD (9 hp) 1
+4 HD (18 hp) 1
+6 HD (27 hp) 1
+10 HD (45 hp)1
1 This does not include bonus hit points from other sources, such as a high Charisma score or the Toughness feat.

Restore corpse can be countered and dispelled by decompose corpse.

Mythic: You may target the skeleton of a Large or larger sized creature.

20 Cursed Weapon Qualities

Originally posted: Wednesday, September 9, 21015

I recently stumbled upon the RPG Blog Carnival and was intrigued by this month's topic: Curses! Cursed Items, Spells, Campaign Stories (hosted at Roleplaying Tips). It's a fun topic from the game master's perspective so I thought I'd take part.
The intrinsic value of a magic item comes down to balancing its benefits against its costs. Cursed items that hinder or, worse, try to kill a character don't have much value and it's an easy call for the party to ditch it at their earliest convenience. However, to me, the best cursed items are ones that have a beneficial aspect to them as well. Suddenly, the players need to determine if they can deal with the difficulties of carrying the item with them (at least temporarily) in order to benefit from that item's more benevolent features.
As part of a creative exercise, I've created a list of 20 qualities that a GM might give a magic weapon that could render it cursed. Since they come from a brainstorming session, these qualities should be functional, but some may need a little refining to achieve better game balance and clarity. Not every quality is entirely negative, but all have some sort of cost associated with them. In some cases, it may be more dramatic to withhold the malevolent effects of the curse from the players, especially in the case where the effect is not immediately evident.

Arcane Beacon. All spell attacks made against you have advantage.

Bloodied. While you are holding this weapon, if you do not deal damage to a living creature before the end of your turn, you use this weapon to deal damage to yourself equal to it's average damage value. Do not apply your Strength modifier or other damage dice to this damage.

Blinding. A blinding weapon is made of highly polished metal that is exceptional at reflecting light. Its effects can only occur in areas of bright light. When you confirm a critical hit with this weapon, you may choose to deal normal damage and blind your opponent for 1d4 rounds. However, if your attack roll is ever a natural 1, you automatically blind yourself for 1d4 rounds.

Booming. This weapon issues a thunderous boom when it strikes true. When you score a critical hit with an attack from this weapon, the target and all creatures adjacent to it are deafened for 1d4 rounds.
Clumsy. If you miss with an attack with this weapon, you must succeed at a DC 12 Dexterity (acrobatics) check or fall prone.
Decapitating. All attacks that threaten a critical hit against you are automatically confirmed. If you die as a result of a critical hit, the blow removes your head.
Dulled. This weapon only deals bludgeoning damage equal to your Strength modifier.
Electrified. When drawn, veins of energy begin to dance along the blade and hilt as this weapon crackles with electricity. When you hit with an attack using this magic weapon, the target takes an extra 1d6 lightning damage. In addition, while you hold the sword, you take 3 points of lightning damage each round.
Exhausting. This weapon requires significantly more effort to wield in battle, although its blow tend to be much more devastating. All hits with this weapon threaten critical hits, but if you miss with an attack with this weapon, you gain 1 level of exhaustion.
Gaseous. This weapon carries with it an aura of noxious fumes. A powerful strike causes it to expel a poisonous gas cloud. When you hit with an attack with this weapon, the target must succeed at a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or become poisoned for 1 round. If you ever roll a natural 1, you accidently inhale the fumes and are poisoned for 1d4 rounds.
Isolating. While you are holding this weapon, allies cannot approach within 10 feet of you. Any ally that is already within 10 feet of you when you pick up the weapon cannot move any closer.
Leeching. This weapon draws upon the life force of your allies to keep you safe. When you suffer hit point damage, you take no damage; instead, the closest ally within 30 feet of you takes an amount of necrotic damage equal to the damage you would have sustained. This damage cannot be reduced in any way. If there is no ally within 30 feet of you at the time you take the damage, you suffer the damage normally.
Lodestone. For each attack you make with any weapon other than this one, your speed is reduced by 5 feet. This reduction disappears once you make an attack with this weapon against a target that is within your reach.
Merciless. You have advantage on attacks made against any creature with less than one half of its maximum hit points, but attacks against you gain advantage if you have less than one half your maximum hit points.
Murderous. If you miss with an attack with this weapon, you strike yourself and deal damage as normal. On a roll of a natural 1, you score a critical hit against yourself.
Offensive. There is something about you having this weapon that other creatures find insulting or offensive. Creatures of one specific type (i.e. beast, fey, fiend, undead, etc.) chose to attack you over other targets.
Seppuku. At the end of any combat in which you did not adhere to the weapon’s honor, you must succeed at a DC 15 Charisma saving throw or impale yourself upon this weapon. If you fail the saving throw, you deal maximum critical damage to yourself. Roll on the table below do determine the weapon’s honor.
1 – Deliver the killing blow to at least one creature.
2 – Do not make an attack with advantage.
3 – All allies are alive at the end of combat (they may be unconscious).
4 – Do not attack a non-spellcaster so long as an enemy spellcaster is present.
Spell Loathing. When you are affected by a spell (even if you passed the saving throw), you have disadvantage on your attacks for a number of rounds equal to the level of the spell slot that was used to cast the spell.
Vengeful. Each time you deliver the killing blow to a living creature while attuned to it, you suffer a cumulative 1 point of psychic damage.
Xenophobic. You have disadvantage when attacking creatures of a specific type (i.e. beast, fey, fiend, undead, etc.). In addition, you become frightened of any creature of that type that causes damage to you.

The Journey of A Thousand Miles...

...begins with a single blog post.

After some thought and consideration, I've made the decision to start this blog as a place for the many gaming related designs, ideas, thoughts, articles, and random bits that I want to share with whomever happens to stumble upon these pages, but are not directly related to my current personal project, the World of Aibhilon. Aibhilon is a world of my own design that I intend to grow and expand upon over time, yet at a significantly slower pace than the rate at which my mind generates other random gaming goodies that may or may not have a place there. The posts currently on that blog will remain there, but I intend to copy several of them over to here as well.
The rate at which I post may will most likely vary wildly as I tend to go through jags of motivation and/or inspiration in which the creative juices come flooding out of my gray matter. Other times, my attention is simply focused elsewhere, such as miniature war gaming or futilely painting my way through my vast collection of miniatures. And then, of course, there is the responsibilities of the dreaded "real world".

At any rate, I hope you - whoever you may be - enjoy what I have to share and find at least some of the content inspirational and/or useful for your own gaming-related endeavors. And I can't say it enough - feedback is always welcome, especially if something here gets incorporated into your own game(s).