Sunday, March 19, 2017

Arabella of Mars Review

Here's a review of the fairly recently published Arabella of Mars.

-Nate


Arabella of Mars Review
I noticed this book at Barnes & Noble last summer when I'd stopped in to pick up the newest Star Wars novel. At the time I was intrigued, but decided to wait and check it out from the library.

I shouldn't have waited.

I loved this book.

In fact, it was the kind of book that I didn't want to read too quickly, because I didn't want it to end any sooner than necessary.

The introduction from inside the book jacket does a good job of explaining the basic premise of the novel; the titular Arabella disguises herself as a boy and goes aboard a company vessel bound for Mars. That's not a very new idea, when it comes to nautical fiction, but David Levine does an excellent job of developing what happens to her once she is on board.

Pros
  • I really like the characters in this book especially young miss Arabella Ashby and Captain Prakash Singh.
  • The relationship between Captain Singh and the “captain's boy” takes its time in developing and is very rich.
  • There's lots of great aeronautical detail, creating a fantastic yet believable atmosphere.
  • A focus on gender expectations of the time period (the Napoleonic era) create a lot of entertaining and dramatic tension.
  • The story has plenty of action, too, to keep me reading.


Cons
  • My one complaint is that, for me, the point of highest dramatic tension came on page 225 out of 348. While the rest of the story still kept my interest, it seemed a bit anti-climactic after what was one of the most gripping scenes that I've read in a long time.


Additional Notes
  • David Levine introduces numerous elements to the story—Captain Singh's background, the nature of automatons, elements of Martian culture, hints about life on Venus, the war between England and Napoleon's France, etc.—to provide fuel for more volumes in this series.





Friday, March 17, 2017

Elf Musketeers

This post is inspired by the short story that opens the Pirate's Guide to Freeport, published by Green Ronin. It takes the idea of an elf musketeer and adapts it to the Pathfinder RPG rules, using the arcane archer prestige class as a base.

-Nate


Elf Musketeers
In the Elven Navy, those officer candidates who show aptitude for magic are recruited for elite service in the Musketeers, a band of sharpshooters who wield black powder weapons and who augment their attacks with arcane magic.


Elf Musketeer
CR 7
XP 3200
Various elf fighter 5/Wizard 2/Arcane Archer 1
N medium humanoid
Init +3; Senses Perception +2; Low-light vision
DEFENSE
AC 18, touch 13, flat-footed 15 (+5 armor, +3 Dex)
hp 52 (6d10+2d6+8)
Fort +7, Ref +6, Will +6
Resist Elven immunities
OFFENSE
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Longsword +9/+4 (1d8+5)
Ranged Musket +11 (1d12+3)
Special Attacks Far Shot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Focus (musket), Weapon Specialization (musket)
STATISTICS
Str 10, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 10
Base Atk +7/+2; CMB +8; CMD 22
Feats Far Shot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Reload, Scribe Scroll, Weapon Focus (musket), Weapon Specialization (musket)
Skills Climb +8, Craft (gunsmithing) +10, Knowledge (arcane) +9, Profession (sailor) +9, Spellcraft +10
Languages Elven, Common, Draconic
SQ Low-light vision, elven immunities, elven magic, keen senses, weapon familiarity, bravery +1, armor training 1, weapon training 1 (firearms), arcane bond, arcane school (divination), cantrips, forewarned, diviner's fortune, enhance bullets (magic)
Combat Gear Mithral shirt +1, longsword +1, musket, powder and ball for 20 shots, cloak of resistance +1, spellbook, spell component pouch
Spells per Day: 4/3
Spells Known: All 0-level; feather fall, identify, jump, magic missile, shield, true strike

Elf musketeers are the elite of the Elven Navy, and they know it. Sometimes they are assigned singly to vessels, to act as sharpshooters and to lead training in firearms and siege weapons; at other times, squads of musketeers are given special assignments, like acting as bodyguards to a dignitary or performing a critical mission during a military engagement. Whatever the case, they do their duty with cool and calculating efficiency, delivering their deadly missiles wherever necessary. Many of them, as a token of their elite status, use their arcane bond ability to form a connection with an exotic familiar animal.



Thursday, March 16, 2017

And Yet Another PDF Compilation

Here's a link to another PDF compilation of recent space fantasy Pathfinder RPG material.

Aetherial Adventures 6

-Nate


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Caravanserai Inhabitants

Continuing my recent train of thought, here are stats for some of the beings who can be found in the kasatha caravanserai, along with a layout for a caravan tent.

-Nate


Caravanserai Inhabitants
Most of the beings who run the Caravanserai are novice monks who use the stat block found on page 174 of Bestiary 4. Two of there leaders, however—Immaculate Teng and Superior Master Woru—are more powerful, as detailed below.

Immaculate Teng, Kasatha Monk
CR 4
XP 1,200
Kasatha monk 5
LN medium humanoid (kasatha)
Init +8; Senses Perception +3
DEFENSE
AC 19, touch 19, flat-footed 13 (+4 Dex, +2 Dodge, +3 Wis)
hp 10 (1d8+2)
Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +7
Resist Evasion, still mind, purity of body
OFFENSE
Spd 40 ft.
Melee sai +8 (1d4+1) or
unarmed strike +7 (1d6+1) or
flurry of blows +7/+7 (1d6+1)
Special Attacks flurry of blows, stunning fist (1/day, DC 13), Scorpion Style
STATISTICS
Str 13, Dex 18, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 16, Cha 8
Base Atk +3; CMB +4; CMD 25
Feats Combat Reflexes, Defensive Combat Training, Improved Initiative, Improved Unarmed Strike, Scorpion Style, Stunning Fist, Weapon Finesse
Skills Acrobatics +12, Climb +9, Escape Artist +12, Survival +8
Languages Kasatha, Common
SQ desert runner, desert stride, jumper, multi-armed, stalker, fast movement, maneuver training, ki pool (magic) 5, slow fall 20 feet, high jump
Combat Gear Light clothing, two masterwork sais

While Immaculate Teng is an apt pupil for Superior Master Woru, insofar as the martial arts are concerned, she is more curious than he would prefer. Indeed, she is fascinated by the stories that visiting aethership crew members tell, and sometimes even dreams of traveling far from this world in search of wonder and adventure. So far, however, she has not been willing to act on these desires, nor even to tell anyone of them.

Superior Master Woru, Kasatha Monk
CR 6
XP 2400
Kasatha male monk 7
LN medium humanoid (kasatha)
Init +8; Senses Perception +3
DEFENSE
AC 19, touch 19, flat-footed 13 (+4 Dex, +2 Dodge, +3 Wis)
hp 10 (1d8+2)
Fort +6, Ref +9, Will +8
Resist Evasion, still mind, purity of body, wholeness of body
OFFENSE
Spd 50 ft.
Melee sai +10 (1d4+1) or
unarmed strike +9 (1d6+1) or
flurry of blows +9/+9/+4 (1d6+1)
Special Attacks flurry of blows, stunning fist (1/day, DC 13), Scorpion Style
STATISTICS
Str 13, Dex 18, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 16, Cha 8
Base Atk +5; CMB +6; CMD 27
Feats Combat Reflexes, Defensive Combat Training, Gorgon's Fist, Improved Initiative, Improved Unarmed Strike, Scorpion Style, Stunning Fist, Weapon Finesse
Skills Acrobatics +14, Climb +11, Escape Artist +14, Survival +10
Languages Kasatha, Common
SQ desert runner, desert stride, jumper, multi-armed, stalker, fast movement, maneuver training, ki pool (magic) 5, slow fall 30 feet, high jump
Combat Gear Light clothing, two masterwork sais

Superior Master Woru is the epitome of calm and determination. Very few circumstances can shake his composure, and he runs his caravanserai with gentle but firm instructions for his trainees. While he feels a debt to the elves because they supply the place with water, he remains aloof from their political ambitions.


There are also outstanding characters among the visiting shobhad nomads, including the following individuals.

Shobhad Sergeant
CR 7
XP 3200
Shobhad fighter 4
N large monstrous humanoid
Init +6; Senses Perception +8; Darkvision 60 ft
DEFENSE
AC 19, touch 11, flat-footed 17 (+4 armor, +2 Dex, +4 natural, -1 size)
hp 85 (9d10+36)
Fort +9, Ref +7, Will +5
Resist cold 5; ferocity, bravery +1
OFFENSE
Spd 40 ft. (30 ft. in armor)
Melee longsword +14/+9 (2d6+5), longsword +14/+9 (2d6+2)
Ranged shobhad longrifle +11 (2d6/x4) or
2 javelins +10 (1d8+5)
Space 10 ft; Reach 10 ft.
STATISTICS
Str 20, Dex 14, Con 18, Int 10, Wis 11, Cha 13
Base Atk +9/+4; CMB +15; CMD 27
Feats Combat Reflexes, Far Shot, Improved Initiative, Multiweapon Fighting, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Focus (shobhad longrifle), Weapon Specialization (shobhad longrifle)
Skills Handle Animal +8, Intimidate +9, Perception +8, Stealth +3, Survival +12
Languages Giant
SQ Armor training 1
Combat Gear Hide armor, 2 longswords, 2 javelins, shobhad longrifle with 20 bullets

Each of these sergeants commands a raiding party that consists of 3-19 typical shobhad, along with reptiloid beasts of burden.

Shobhad Clan Leader
CR 10
XP 9,600
Shobhad fighter 7
N large monstrous humanoid
Init +6; Senses Perception +8; Darkvision 60 ft
DEFENSE
AC 19, touch 11, flat-footed 17 (+4 armor, +2 Dex, +4 natural, -1 size)
hp 104 (11d10+44)
Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +5
Resist cold 5; ferocity, bravery +2
OFFENSE
Spd 40 ft. (30 ft. in armor)
Melee longsword +17/+12/+7 (2d6+5), longsword +17/+12 (2d6+2)
Ranged shobhad longrifle +14 (2d6/x4) or
2 javelins +12 (1d8+5)
Space 10 ft; Reach 10 ft.
STATISTICS
Str 20, Dex 14, Con 18, Int 10, Wis 11, Cha 13
Base Atk +11/+6/+1; CMB +17; CMD 29
Feats Combat Reflexes, Critical Focus, Far Shot, Improved Critical, Improved Initiative, Multiweapon Fighting, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Focus (shobhad longrifle), Weapon Specialization (shobhad longrifle)
Skills Handle Animal +11, Intimidate +9, Perception +8, Stealth +3, Survival +15
Languages Giant
SQ Armor training 1, weapon training 1 (blades)
Combat Gear Hide armor, 2 longswords, 2 javelins, shobhad longrifle with 20 bullets

In addition to leading their clans, these shobhad are skilled in handling the reptiloids that they use for hauling equipment, supplies and other goods. They are devastating with their paired longswords, but even more fearsome as sharpshooters. The fact that they control the black powder trade means that they are also influential in politics and trade on their planet.



Shobhad Reptiloids: Use the stats for anklyosaurs from page 83 of the Bestiary.

Finally, presented here is a printable layout for a shobhad caravan tent—much the same as other ones that visitors to the caravanserai pitch in the structure's central marketplace, in which they sleep and from which they peddle their various goods. 





Monday, March 13, 2017

Kasatha Caravanserai

Spinning off of yesterday's article about storyline implications, here's a writeup for a native outpost on a far-flung, "weird" world.

-Nate


Kasatha Caravanserai
This structure stands in the middle of a broad desert, an area traversed by numerous shobadh caravans as they go about their business. Additionally, the structure includes numerous pools of water in separated areas, laid out so that visiting aetherships can also land their cargo and passengers. 


 Each of the circular areas is a landing pit, one that is filled with water so that aetherships and boats have a place to land. These are square areas closed off by thirty-foot-high walls made of stone. In the middle of each is a pool of water some twenty feet deep and more than a hundred feet in diameter. These pools provide a place for aetherships to land, as well as a source of water for visiting shobadh caravan drives to water their reptiloid mounts.


 In the center of the caravanserai is a broad, open marketplace covered by a cloth canopy, known as the Suq. There, crews from the visiting aetherships lay out their goods for sale, as do shobhad nomads with their visiting reptiloid caravans. Additionally, various entertainers of a more or less family-friendly nature put on distracting displays, inviting spectators to pay hard-earned coins for such diversions. In the middle of it all is an open well, the source of water for the entire caravanserai.


Adventure Hooks for the Kasatha Caravanserai
There are many ways in which this desert watering hole can be worked into space fantasy adventures and campaigns; just a few of the possibilities are listed here.
  • The source of the caravanserai's water is not a well, but a decanter of endless water provided by the elves. If that were ever stolen, the settlement would face a catastrophe.
  • While such a gift as the decanter, given by the elves to the kasatha monks, might seem quite generous, it is indeed a small price to pay. That is because the elves alone of anyone from the Sol System know that this planet is the source of materials for making black powder. That, in fact, is what the shobhad nomads gather in their endless journey through the desert.
  • Needless to say, if word of that alchemical discovery was leaked to the rest of the galaxy, then many other powers—especially the Dwarven Mining Guild and the Royal Interplanetary Company—would compete in trying to harness it aboard their own aetherships or to take control of trading such a valuable commodity.
  • That is, in part, why the elves train elite squads of musketeers on this world, both to learn under the expert tutelage of the shobhad, and to protect the secret weapon.
  • The caravanserai is a truly cosmopolitan location, a place in which the PCs could meet all manner of alien creatures, perhaps witch-wyrd merchants, a mercane scholar, mi-go explorers, xill spies, a curious polymorphed outer dragon, etc.
  • When a poisoned missile hits one of the shobhad's reptiloid mounts, it goes on a rampage; it is up to the PCs first to help calm or incapacitate the wounded beast, and then to discover for whom that deadly attack was really intended.
  • One enduring mystery is why the shobhad, who inhabit this planet far from Homeworld, share a common language with other giants. Some scholars claim that they are all the offspring of mortals like humans and kasatha and immortal beings such as angels and azata—but that can't be true, can it?



  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Planetary Ecologies, Part 2: Storyline Implications

The previous article provided lists of monsters for different types of worlds; this one presents plot hooks for adventures and campaigns.

-Nate


Storyline Implications
Once these lists have been created, they can start to inform story elements for adventures on each world.

Homeworld
As mentioned above, all of the traditional monsters from Earth's fantasy and folklore are assumed to inhabit this world. As such, “normal” fantasy adventures are assumed to happen here, although the world also has connections to other worlds via harbors that act as spaceports for aetherships. The Holy City, home to the Temple of Ptah, is one such location.

Sun-Blasted Desert World
With temperatures that rise as high as 800° and can plummet to nearly -300°, it should come as no surprise that few creatures can survive on this world. Even so, certain creatures of the fire elemental subtype do manage it. What is more, certain enterprising dwarves from the Mining Guild even scour the planet's surface looking for valuable minerals and gems, traveling aboard aetherships that hover just above the ground. They stay always in the band of twilight between the world's day and night sides, but even so cannot venture very far away from their vessel. It is also rumored that certain creatures such as efreeti, salamanders and others maintain hidden retreats on this world, where some say they study rituals of powerful elemental magic.

Cold Red Desert Planet
This world is, of course, inspired by Mars—both the real version, and how it is portrayed in popular science fiction. Aesthetically, it is inhabited largely by cave-dwelling creatures that live underground, and by insectoid monsters that haunt its desert wasteland. Most of these are barely intelligent, possessing little more than bestial cunning. There are the pech, however, humanoids who once served the troglodytes that are believed to have once inhabited this world. It is also said that bands of janni travel these deserts, although their purpose in doing so is unknown.

Weird World
The inspiration for this planet comes from a description of the kasatha, who are said to have been exiled from “an arid world orbiting a red star” (see Bestiary 4 for details). In this case, however, those beings still dwell here, alongside the shobhad. The kasatha maintain small oasis caravanserai communities, while the shobhad live a nomadic life. Continuing that theme, this planet holds life of a variety that looks quite different from any to be found on Homeworld. All kinds of strange-looking monsters inhabit the place, many of which feature extra limbs or other unusual traits. In addition to the native inhabitants, the caravanserais are often a favorite stopping place for many of the sentient creatures that travel the void.

Others
In addition to the creatures that inhabit various planets and moons throughout the Sol system and others close to it, there are monsters and beings who travel between the stars. While they are included on their own list, these creatures can often be found on or around various worlds. For example, mercane and witch-wyrds travel from planet to planet conducting business, while others such as the oma and brethedans are comfortable in the depths of the void. Of course, when some—such as akata or carnivorous blobs—appear, crisis is the result.

Frozen Geyser Moon
A moon of Saturn, Enceladus, provides the inspiration for this moon. Here, liquid water—and the life that it contains—can be found beneath a crust of ice, where it is warmed by volcanism in the planet's crust. In addition to all manner of aquatic monsters, several types of intelligent creatures inhabit these seas. There are the aboleths and their skum minions, along with the tojanida. The adaro, cecaelia and iku-turso also have communities. For the most part, these beings stick to their own territory, defending it against the aforementioned sea monsters. Even so, sometimes they come into conflict, with alliances shifting between various groups in ocean-spanning wars. There are also creatures who inhabit the world's ice shelves, ones that remain close to areas of exposed seawater. Note, too, that the Elven Navy maintains a stronghold here known as Starfort Station.

Sylvan Planet
This is an example of a planet that is nearly untouched by outsiders. It is one that possesses rich plant life—indeed, flora that has run amok in its evolution—along with a few intelligent species that have evolved alongside those plants. There is conflict between the boggards and vodyanoi, which inhabit swampy areas, and the grippli that inhabit the forests. Because these populations are small in comparison to the amount of inhabitable land, however, these conflicts have remained infrequent and of limited scope. While the elves have visited this planet, they choose to protect knowledge of its existence in order to prevent settlement and exploitation. There are some members of the Royal Interplanetary Company who have learned of it, however, and who wish to harvest the valuable materials that the planet produces.

Deadworld
One question inspires this world: What would happen if an entire planet fell into riot and ruin? The creatures that inhabit this world are ones that lurk in the dark places of the world or that relish in causing death and destruction. These are beings of greater or lesser intelligence that live among crumbling structures—and just what secrets those decrepit buildings contain is left up to the GM's imagination.



Saturday, March 11, 2017

Planetary Ecologies

Building on previously posted lists of "otherworldly creatures," one can start to build ecologies for different planets in a space fantasy campaign setting. 

-Nate 


Sun-Blasted Desert
Inspired by Mercury, this world orbits too close to its primary star for much of any life to exist on it.

CR Monster
2 Thoqqua
7 Magma ooze
8 Shard slag
Homeworld
In order to highlight the unique nature of the creatures living on other worlds, this planet should be stocked with familiar monsters from fantasy, folklore and mythology.

Cold Red Desert
Based upon Mars, these selections were made both due to their aesthetic qualities and because they seemed to fit that planet's environment.

CR Monster
1 Dossenus
1 Giant solifugid
2 Blindheim
2 Cave fisher
3 Ankheg
3 Grick
3 Pech
4 Aranea
4 Dust digger
4 Faceless stalker
4 Albino cave solifugid
4 Shriezyx
6 Cytillipede
6 Death worm
6 Xorn
7 Bulette
7 Remorhaz
8 Behir
11 Carnivorous crystal
12 Somalcygot
13 Azruverda
Weird World (Brown's Planet)
These weird monsters, not a part of Earth folklore, instead can inhabit a world with a similar climate but a very different native population.

CR Monster
½ Kasatha
½ Stirge
1 Brain mole
1 Carbuncle
1 Flumph
1 Krenshar
1 Skulk
1 Zoog
2 Axe beak
3 Digmaul
3 Pard
3 Shasalqu
3 Snallygaster
4 Decapus
4 Voonith
4 Shobhad
5 Brain mole monarch
5 Doppledrek
6 Ahuizotl
9 Auromvorax
8 Baku
8 Destrachan
8 Moonflower
9 Yrthak
12 Scitalis
15 Popobala
16 Gegenees

Frozen Geyser Moon
Inspired by the moon Enceladus, all of these monsters are ones appropriate to aquatic or arctic environments, but ones that wouldn't be native to Homeworld.

CR Monster
½ Grindylow
1 Echeneis
1 Reefclaw
2 Inctulis
2 Skum
2 Slurk
3 Adaro
3 Bunyip
3 Ceratioidi
4 Devilfish
4 Sea cat
5 Cecaelia
5 Grodair
5 Tizheruk
5 Tojanida
6 Karkinoi
7 Aboleth
7 Charda
7 Chuul
7 Qallupilluk
8 Iku-turso
10 Abaia
10 Siyokoy
10 Ursikka
11 Cameroceras
11 Lukwata
12 Frost worm
13 Akhlut
13 Cetus
15 Stormghost
16 Ningen


Other
There creatures are either ones that inhabit the void of aetherspace, or else interstellar travelers that have been exiled from their home planets or that do business between different worlds.

CR Monster
½ Kasatha
½ Reptoid
1 Akata
1 Grioth
3 Cerebric fungus
4 Otyugh
5 Brethedan
5 Mercane
6 Lunarma
6 Mi-go
6 Rhu-chalik
6 Seugathi
6 Witchwyrd
6 Xill
7 Aatheriexa
8 Intellect devourer
8 Neh-thalggu
8 Shantak
9 Yithian
10 Colour out of space
11 Moon-beast
13 Carnivorous blob
14 Body thief
14 Vemerak
14 Xanthoi
15 Neothelid
16 Oma
16 Plasma ooze
17 Bhole
18 Astral leviathan
19 Shoggoth
Var. Aether elemental
Var. Formians
Var. Outer dragons

Deadworld
This planet draws inspiration from the idea of one on which civilization once developed and flourished, but that has long since descended into degradation. These are creatures that lurk in the darkness, waiting to prey on the unwary, or that relish in death and destruction for their own sakes.

CR Monster
1 Darkmantle
2 Choker
2 Morlock
4 Tentamort
5 Cloaker
7 Black pudding
7 Chaos beast
8 Gray render
8 Mihstu
9 Ahool
10 Gug
12 Athach
13 Ghorazagh
Var. Lurking rays

Note, too, that many different types of undead—the remains of those who originally lived here—could also be appropriate for inhabiting this world, at the GM's discretion.


Sylvan Planet
Loosely inspired by Proxima Centauri, this is a world on which plant life has evolved and run amok, along with a few native sentient inhabitants.

CR Monster
½ Grippli
½ Vegepygmy
½ Xtabay
1 Leaf ray
2 Boggard
2 Garden ooze
2 Slime mold
2 Tsaalgrend
2 Weedwhip
2 Yellow musk creeper
3 Phantom fungus
3 Violet fungus
4 Mandragora
4 Myceloid
4 Phycomid
5 Ascomid
5 Basidirond
5 Vodyanoi
6 Hodag
6 Shambling mound
9 Stranglereed
10 Mobogo
11 Nulmind
13 Alraune
13 Froghemoth