5e, Game Mechanics, Subclasses

Otherworldly Patron: The Great Pumpkin

by Anna G.

Well friends, it’s pumpkin season once again, and we all know what that means.

No, wait! Put away those scythes and trowels. What I meant was, it’s Fall! Halloween, specifically. And as we all know, Halloween comes bundled with a variety of treats, tricks, and festivities including hay rides, pumpkin carving, and haunted houses! But of course, the most important event occurs after nightfall. A grand event, eagerly anticipated by people of all ages, most of them dressed in clothing that is interesting, to say the least. The atmosphere is heavy with arcane mystery and dripping with magical potential.

I’m speaking, of course, about the coming of the Great Pumpkin.

Yes, soon the Good Gourd himself will arise from his chosen pumpkin patch and travel around the world, bestowing his gifts upon those who are worthy. But perhaps you are asking yourself, “Am I worthy?” and “What gifts does the Great Pumpkin bestow?” and “A flying pumpkin? I hope it’s more maneuverable than Rudolph…or at least has better liability insurance.”

Well friends, good news. I have devoted my life to the study of the Great Pumpkin, and have compiled my knowledge into an easily digestible format. Read on to discover how the Great Pumpkin can benefit you!***

***If he so chooses. Blessing by the Great Pumpkin is not guaranteed. Further terms and conditions may apply.

The Great Pumpkin
wants YOU

In order to enter an accord with the Great Pumpkin and receive his blessings, you must be a Warlock. The Goodly Gourd himself will be your patron, bestowing upon you many arcane and wondrous powers that bear his squash-like mark. These include an expanded spell list and unique powers that other warlocks can only be jealous of.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of becoming a Great Pumpkin warlock is the battlefield control. A class feature you gain immediately is Patch Walker, a seemingly impotent ability that allows you to travel unimpeded through difficult terrain caused by pumpkin patches. But, you might be thinking, how often does one run into pumpkin patches over the course of an adventure? Less frequently than quicksand, probably.

However! This is not the case for Great Pumpkin warlocks. Many of the spells on your expanded spell list produce pumpkin patches that function as difficult terrain for everyone…except you! You can wall off your enemies and phase through the tangle of vines, or ensnare them from below while you caper about, just out of range.

In addition to physically changing the terrain around you, you’ll be able to summon scions of the Great Pumpkin in battle, perform Pumpkin Carols, and even fly! But perhaps your greatest ability is turning your enemy’s attack into their downfall. When you are damaged by a spell or physical attack, you’ll be able to use your reaction to try and transmogrify your opponent into a harmless little pumpkin! Take that, Big Bad Evil Guy!


So you wish to walk the Pumpkin Path yourself now, eh? Well good news! A full PDF of all you need to know about the Great Pumpkin is now available here! Give it a try and let us know what you think.


5e, Game Mechanics, Items, Tales, World Building

Magic Item: Icelock

by Anna G.

“Look, there!” shouted the young man, voice cracking with excitement.

Professor Smithson swiveled his head to follow Henry’s pointing finger, his eyes widening in anticipation. “By the Crafter’s Hammer, you’ve found it!” The older man adjusted his spectacles and carefully picked his way across the cracked, frozen soil and into the shadow of the icy cliff-face. He squinted, his eyes adjusting to the relative dark, and picked out the delicate shape in the distance. “I say, it’s glowing! Do you see this, Henry?” he called, beckoning to the lad.

The ruddy-faced assistant tromped forward, ice crunching under his snow shoes. “I do, sir! And it’s… becoming dimmer?”

The professor rubbed his eyes then suddenly propelled himself forward in an ungainly sprint. “You’re right! The bally thing’s disappearing!” He dove towards the cliff, grasping at the faintly glowing flower, only to watch in shock as it vanished, his fingers passing ineffectively through the spot where it had glimmered moments before. Colorful, multilingual oaths floated through the frigid night air and echoed off the icy formations as the professor vented his frustration to the uncaring moon.

Thousands of miles away, in the Khuurai Desert, a boy of six shaded his eyes as he peered curiously at the side of a dune, heedless of the caravan that was steadily leaving him behind. “Jarakun, come along!” called a tall, muscular man, as he led a team of horses pulling a wagon. The child ran, his steps propelling dust into the air behind him as he sprinted the across the short distance and launched himself into his father’s waiting embrace. “What are you looking at, my boy?” laughed the man as he tousled the boy’s hair and casually placed him onto one of the horses, which whickered in protest.

“Papa, I thought I saw a beautiful flower, all the colors of the rainbow! But it disappeared before I could pick it for Mama.” replied the lad, a bit sadly.

His father glanced at him, brown eyes sparkling. “Really! It disappeared, you say? A fantastic flower indeed!” His eyes returned to the horizon, scanning through the heat haze as though seeking some distant object. “You know, I’ve heard tell of such a thing before. It is a sign that Emamu is with us on our journey.” He glanced up at his son, grinning broadly. “What an important discovery! We’ll have to be sure to tell your mother you found Emamu’s Blessing.” His son returned a gap-toothed grin just as broad as his father’s, eyes glowing with anticipation.


Icelock


Icelock

Wondrous item (uncommon)

This magical plant grows in frigid conditions. Its crystalline nature provides excellent camouflage within these icy landscapes, making it difficult to detect without a keen eye.

Despite the fact that this natural anomaly is more crystal than plant, icelock possesses a slender, graceful stalk that curves gently under the weight of the 5 delicate petals at its end. Tiny leaves protrude from the stalk itself, each one ending in a gossamer-thin strand that curls gently back upon itself. The stalk gleams a pale green in the moonlight and the crystalline structure within the flower itself catches and refracts the light, creating a milky white translucency.

Icelock doesn’t grow like a normal plant, but appears spontaneously when the appropriate conditions are met. Scholars have concluded that the following conditions are necessary for growth:

  1. A clear night with a full moon,
  2. Icy terrain, and
  3. A location shaded from direct sunlight; it is especially abundant in the divots within ice walls and ice shelves.

Icelock grows magically in the hours between midnight and sunrise, and dissolves into a glittering mist when sunlight hits it. The mist produced is extremely cold and can cause frostbite if touched. If the plant is picked before it disappears, its crystalline structure solidifies and the flower becomes stable, retaining its form permanently. A plucked icelock continuously emits a slight misty vapor and is permanently cold to the touch, like a small flower made of ice.

This rare flower is sought for many reasons, ranging from folk remedies to potent magical concoctions:

  • It can be used in the crafting of potions, especially those that produce a cold- or hardness-based effect.
  • It can be used to create a lens that reveals magical auras.
  • If crushed into powder, it can be mixed with food and medicinal pastes. Folk wisdom suggests that in this form it can cure a wide variety of ailments from baldness to lycanthropy.
  • Powdered icelock can also be incorporated into magical forgework, although few possess the mastery to accomplish such a feat.

Aurora Icelock

If icelock grows under the light of an aurora, it is considered especially fortuitous and there is a chance that a variant specimen will grow. The crystalline petals shine with an iridescence that mimics the deep blues, greens, and purples of the aurora. The magical effects of this variant are ten times greater than those of a normal icelock. Some additional magical properties have been noted as well:

  • Rather than disappearing normally, sometimes this plant will shimmer for a moment, growing dim and transparent, before vanishing completely. Arcane botanists still debate the nature and mechanism of this disappearance. One compelling treatise holds that the plant physically travels, and includes numerous reports from around the world of a mysterious, colorful flower glowing briefly before shimmering into mist.
  • Aurora icelock powder, if treated and mixed with a proper base, can be used to create a dye that shimmers with a beautiful iridescent sheen. Products fashioned with this dye are prized for their beauty, and it has been said that even kings pride themselves to own such a rare treasure.
  • Stories tell of a legendary sword with the power to transcend planes, forged by the gods themselves and infused with aurora icelock.

For more info on the legendary weapon mentioned above, check out our newest release: Unique Weapons, part I!


 

Featured image by Noel Bauza from Pixabay

5e, Musings, Pathfinder

Making Your Boss Fights Epic

by Jonathan D.

Dragons look just about as terrifyingly badass as they actually are. By which I mean that if my level 3 warlock encountered one while trekking through the wild rainforest, he would probably try to use it as a mount. That’s one way to honor your bargain with Cthulhu prematurely! Well, I’m pretty abnormal, and poor Kilax the warlock (name and class changed to protect anonymity) has the scars to prove it. Any sensible person confronted with a dragon would run. That’s one of the great things in fantasy stories – the scariest foes look as dangerous as they are.

That’s not the case in real life, of course, where thieves and ne’er-do-wells can lurk undetected for years and a lethal case of heart disease might hide beneath the surface until it’s too late. A sharp knife or massive claymore may look flashier than a gun, but you’re more likely to survive an encounter with the knife. Deadlier still is the Ebola virus, which enters the body with almost no fanfare, but has a fatality rate substantially higher than either the gun or the knife.

In stories, however, we like characters that wear their power on their sleeves – and for good reason. Ninja cosplayers look incredibly badass, but their intimidating presence is dramatically reduced by the knowledge that they can’t actually bury a shuriken in your face at three hundred yards. On the other hand, a fuzzy bunny rabbit will never appear threatening even if it can shoot deadly laser beams out of its eyes or rip a knight to shreds in three seconds. Some people might even find it comical. This is why, from anime to fantasy to science fiction, the rule mostly stands: make your powerful things look powerful. The spiky-haired gentleman with the eyepatch and the sword three time as tall as he is, the giant flaming demon monster the planet-sized super-spaceship – these are generally things whose coffee you do not want to be caught urinating in. These things are all the more badass because not only do they appear badass, but you know that they could immediately vaporize you in the aforementioned scenario.

This puts you the DM in a difficult position, because you want your boss to feel epic and dangerous, but your players are only level three (or six, or ten, or whatever). The point is, you want your boss to seem incredibly powerful and awesome so that your players come away from the encounter feeling epic, but you also want them to defeat the boss without losing too many limbs. Fortunately, I’m here to offer some good solutions to this conundrum!

The most important thing to remember is that in D&D, unlike in most fantasy novels, there is often little correlation between power level and the appearance of badassery. Summoning meteors from the sky may seem awesome, but it’s probably not as good as a spell that confuses all of your opponents. And then there are the villains. Dragons do look just as strong as they are, but this doesn’t hold true for every monster. An ugly little gnome with a stick might be the most powerful being in existence. This is intentional. You want the difficulty level in your adventure to remain fairly constant, whether at a climactic boss fight or in the cave outside. By breaking the rules, D&D lets you throw appropriately difficult trash mobs at your level fifteen and level three players alike, while saving impressive and awesome boss monsters for pivotal storyline moments.

And while the weaker spells and abilities in D&D may seem pointless to the munchkins among us, they, too, can help you with balancing. Is the team’s cleric bleeding to death under the wrathful laser-vision of a rabbit whose morning coffee got ruined? Try having your bestial bunny use one of his flashier, but less powerful attacks. On the other hand, have the players brought the full brunt of their force to bear against the furry fiend faster than you imagined they would? Let the rabbit use its strobe-o-vision to hypnotize their entire party while he feasts on the fighter’s feet. As a side benefit, giving your casters a wide variety of spells and abilities can spice up a combat and keep the players guessing.

From my time as a DM, I’ve come up with a few other tips for keeping your boss monster awesome but beatable. First off, area-of-effect damage spells are your friend. Particularly at higher levels, these satisfying sorceries drop epicness on the party like napalm. Sometimes AS napalm. Who doesn’t want to rain burning hellfire on those goody-two-shoes players? And such spells often have truly impressive damage numbers attached to them, which are sure to overawe your hapless heroes. These spells seem more effective than they are, because they divide the damage equally among all of the players, and damage doesn’t really do anything unless it actually kills one of them. An excellent bonus for these spells is that they let the wizards and other squishies on the back line feel like they’re in danger too, as the hp of the whole party falls dangerously low.

By the same token, if you’re worried about a boss being too strong for your players, avoid group crowd control spells and instant death attacks. These spells frequently eliminate or incapacitate one or more of the players, reducing their damage output and team synergy significantly. This is generally more potent than area of effect damage, but it doesn’t leave an epic impression behind. If the fight is progressing too much in the players’ favor, or if one player in particular is hogging all of the glory, consider deploying a tactical crowd control strike to fix the problem.

For my second tip, why not use some interesting mechanic to lengthen the battle?  Often when you grab a published stat block for a pivotal boss encounter, the heroes finish the battle before the Big Bad has a chance to use its most awe-inspiring abilities.  This is especially true of caster bosses.  The most conventional strategies for drawing out pivotal encounters rely on reinforcements and magical protections. Take, for example, a hypothetical encounter with the Chief Diabolical Archmagus of Pointy Hats. If your nefarious gnomish wizard were beset by the group’s three barbarians, he would die quickly on his own; however, if the bruisers are busy battling the wizard’s giant mole companions, then he is free to lob generically earth-related magics at the players the entire time. Huzzah!  Alternatively, you can let the gnome magically solidify his skin into solid rock, granting him the effects of stoneskin. This achieves a similar effect but can get frustrating for players who may feel their attacks are mostly ineffective. Or, I guess you can just make your gnome really buff and double his HP or something. The best method, as usual in D&D, is to be creative. Perhaps your gnome wizard can transfer his consciousness into his mole friends, continuing to cast his infernal incantations at your players until they slay every last mole. Or perhaps your diminutive villain has trapped the souls of unfortunate villagers within the crystals in his lair, and when his HP starts to run low, he consumes one of the souls to heal himself. Creative use of wibbly-wobbly magicky stuff can help extend a battle and stretch its proportions to the truly epic levels that Glitterbob the gnome wizard truly deserves.

My third and final suggestion to increase the epicness of a grand showdown is foreshadowing. Have you ever wondered why most novels start off a bit slowly, introducing their characters, describing potted plants, and developing immersion? It’s because the more time you take to establish the foundations of your story, world, and villains, the more impact the exciting parts at the end of your story will carry.

In the early levels while your players are fighting goblins, try spreading hushed whispers in the tavern about some particularly threatening cadre of nasty monster chieftains. Let the players know about the pyromaniac cyborg troll, and the legendary giant whose hammer is rumored to turn those it strikes into stone. This will build their excitement, and when they finally do meet Pyrsibog and Grindlehammer, the fight will be all the more exciting because they know they’re fighting bigshots. Additionally, Grindlehammer’s ability to turn her foes into stone won’t be nearly so threatening, because the players will have the chance to prepare counter measures, such as the stone to flesh spell. And they might bring a bucket of water for Pyrsibog, too.

Or, taking an example from my experience, suppose your boss is a powerful mage who enjoys transforming her enemies into penguins (who doesn’t)? The party’s cleric has one save from the polymorph spell, and then suddenly the newly rotund healer is waddling ineffectively around the battlefield. As you can likely tell, this is a fun spell for roleplay reasons, but it’s also one of those spells I previously advised you against using on your players. It doesn’t feel good for a player to spend the majority of the climactic boss battle searching for fish. Besides, the presence of such a high-quality instant death ability could cripple the party. In our case, the DM mitigated the strength of the spell by warning us of some of the boss’s more powerful abilities through dreams and advice earlier in the campaign. This served to hype up the battle for maximum effect, but also allowed us to prepare ourselves by acquiring magical items that protect against hostile polymorph effects. Each of us had at least one such item, and several of them activated during the battle. I quite enjoyed the fight, which became my favorite encounter in the campaign.

So, if you want to kick up the awesomeness level of your climactic boss fights without overwhelming your players, try using some of these tips next time. Your players will have fun with it, you’ll be happy because they’re happy, and when they’re happy, sometimes one of them actually brings the food. Most importantly, Sparkles the cyborg laser rabbit will thank you. But hopefully he won’t bring the food, because his taste in food is terrible. He’s British.


Image by momo_sc from Pixabay

5e, Game Mechanics, Items

Magic Item: Bracers of Terrible Vengeance

by Michael J.

What’s this?  A new magic item approaches!  Take a look, try it out this week, and let us know what you think!


Bracers of Terrible Vengeance

Wondrous Item, uncommon (requires attunement)

If you receive a critical hit from an attack while wearing these bracers, the bracers activate, forming glowing runes that spell the name of the creature that attacked you. The next time you make an attack roll against that creature, your attack is an automatic critical hit, and the bracers become dormant again. These bracers can activate only once per short rest.


Have you ever felt like the dice are out to get you? Like every single goblin you encounter has ungodly luck? And then, when you try to kill the bastard, the best you can roll is a 3? Well then, these bracers are for you. Wade into combat knowing for certain that if a lizardman slices your head off, you’ll turn around and do the same to him (right after the cleric heals you). As an added bonus, if you find yourself at a party and can’t remember the name of the cute girl in the corner, just convince her to punch you really hard, and the bracer will be your cheat sheet. Plus its so stylish! Be sure to order yours today at The Yellow Scroll. Act now and we’ll throw in a free scroll of true strike!

5e, Game Mechanics, Spells, Tales

Spell: Misalign

by Anna G and Timothy G

Today, we’re pleased to present a new 2nd-level spell for bard and warlock.  Check it out!


Misalign

2nd-level enchantment
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 hour

Choose an alignment axis (law/chaos or good/evil) and a direction (law, chaos, good, or evil). A sentient creature you can see must succeed at a Wisdom saving throw or its alignment shifts one step in the chosen direction along that alignment axis. As long as the spell is active, that creature acts according to its new alignment. When the spell ends, it reverts to its original alignment and realizes it has been enchanted.

At Higher Levels: You can target one additional creature for each slot level above 1st. They must be within 30 feet of each other when you target them.


Editor’s note: the opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the chaotic neutral tiefling bard 3/rogue 2 who wrote them, and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of Pandamancer Games.

It happens to everyone eventually: You come up with the perfect plan, the peak of ingenuity, the quintessential solution to your problem, and present it to your comrades. All of them ooh and ah at your great cleverness, your brilliance, your ability to carve a path through difficult terrain as it were…or at least, all of them except (*sigh*) Randolph. The goody-two shoes just won’t let go of his blind infatuation with rules-following. If he did, he’d see that this is the best solution! He always ruins your plans, with his law-abiding, holier-than-thou affect. Why can’t he just see it your way? If he could just swing a little bit more…chaotic, or even neutral, why…you could see a lot more of your ideas come to fruition.

Well good news, intrepid adventurer! This newly-discovered spell will ensure that all of your friends will be able to see things your way, whenever you want! No more dilly-dallying or debating over moral high ground and ethics, no sir! With just a little bit of prompting (and a failed wisdom save) your comrade will understand why your way is better! But don’t worry, the effects just last long enough for you to set your plans in motion – they’ll be back to their old fuddy-duddy self in just an hour, guaranteed!*

*see a cleric if you experience an alignment change that lasts more than 4 hours.

This spell is useful for any alignment, anytime! Need to convince the rogue not to break into the noble’s house during your investigation? Misalign will help her see the light! Does the mercenary have a good idea but the paladin just won’t listen? A quick misalign from the bard can help your party set the plan in motion! Need to convince the guard that pickpocketing isn’t that big a deal? Misalign has your back!

If you think about it, misalign is really just an advanced form of debate. What better way to convince a friend of your viewpoint than to align their expectations with yours? It’s no different than laying out the pros and cons of a case, but with fewer preconceived notions and moral baggage! All the benefits of a high-brow debate with none of the time constraints – a win-win! You’ll be able to connect with people from all walks of life, from demon lords to paladins, and show them why you’re right and they’re wrong. A true innovation! Every caster should have this brilliant spell on the tip of their tongue. Learn it today!


“I’m here for the money, it’s me job,” rumbled the half-orc, half-sympathetically. Estella glanced behind her at the cowering youth, then tried reasoning with the tough again.

“I understand it’s your job, but it’s not fair that you’re coming after a…a kid!” she sputtered, indignantly. “He’s not the one who borrowed the money, couldn’t you just leave him alone?” She steadied herself, meeting the unwavering gaze of the brute.

Org’rathnor snorted derisively. “Don’t matter he didn’t borrow it, his pa’s debt is his debt now. We’ve been very patient, but if boss doesn’t get his money soon he’s gonna get angry.” His eyes flashed dangerously at the word as he loomed closer, towering over the elven bard. “Now are you gonna give me what’s owed, or do I need to take it by force?”

Estella dropped her gaze to hide her whispered incantation as she flicked her hand in an almost derisive manner. The collector seemed to sway slightly for a split second, before regaining his composure and glaring at her. The bard steeled herself, hoping the gambit was successful, and threw her gauntlet.

“You seem a reasonable man,” she lied. “What’s the difference of an hour in getting your money? Jake doesn’t have it now, but we can collect enough for a payment if you give us just a bit more time. So what if it will be after sunset? Your boss needn’t know you gave us an extension…” She paused, gauging his reaction.

For the first time, uncertainty flickered across Org’rathnor’s face. “…Just one hour, and you’ll have a payment?” He mused, considering, then locked eyes with the bard once again. “…This once, I will allow it. You will meet me back here, with the 200 gold. If I have to hunt you down…” He seemed to fill the entire room with his intimidating physique. “You will not enjoy what happens next.” He loomed a moment more, glaring at the trembling lad, then strode heavily out of the room. “Your hour has started. You’d best get moving!” he called over his shoulder, then laughed dryly.

Estella waited a few moments, then checked the area outside of the warehouse. It seemed the collector had truly gone. Jake followed her, still wide-eyed with fright. “Where are we going to get all that money?” he asked tremulously.

The elf glanced at him and chuckled. “What money? We’re leaving. Get your things! We’ve got a 45-minute start before they realize anything’s wrong.”


Top image by Chetan Dhongade from Pixabay