Oct 042017

Andrew says… Recently, the paNik development server (i.e. Andrew’s computer) crashed, which put a sever crimp in our production schedule. Luckily I’d recently backed up everything to an external drive so we didn’t lose anything — except for fonts and we might be able to salvage them from the old machine. I’m still in the process of re-installing software, drivers, plug-ins and all that fun stuff on the new machine (as well as trying to re-establish all my preferences; I’m spoiled). So it’ll be a while before we’re fully back up and running.

Since there’s nothing like free content to tide you over in the meantime, I humbly offer the following 4 feats as an expansion to our Modern Adventures supplement to Pathfinder. These feats are intended for campaigns set in the 21st century and have only been play-tested for that setting. Introducing them to a medieval or ancient-era setting may unbalance your campaign.

Acrobatic Dodge

You are especially able to apply your nimbleness to avoid being struck in combat.

Prerequisite: Acrobatic, Dexterity 13, Trained in the Acrobatics skill

Benefit: As a standard action, you may make an Acrobatics skill roll and use the result of that roll as your Armor Class (including touch Armor Class and ballistic Armor Class) until the start of your next turn. You may not take 10 on this roll and must abide by the result, even if it is lower than your normal Armor Class.

Encyclopedic Dodge

You can use your detailed knowledge to predict its most likely behavior such as their preferred method – and direction – of attack. Thus forewarned, you can better avoid such attacks.

Prerequisite: Int 13, Base Attack Bonus +6

Benefit: Once per day, when you successfully identify a creature using the appropriate Knowledge check, you gain a +2 dodge bonus against that creature for 1 minute.

Nimble Tortoise Maneuver*

A gut-shot man grimaces in the foreground while a smug soldier holds a smoking gun in the background.

He should’ve used Nimble Tortoise Maneuver!

You have trained to maintain your defenses while remaining prone or crawling.

Prerequisite: Improved Unarmed Strike

Benefit: While crawling, you may ignore the first attack of opportunity you provoke each round. Additionally, you only suffer a -2 penalty to your melee armor class while prone.

Normal: Crawling incurs attacks of opportunity from any attackers who threaten you at any point of your crawl. You suffer a -4 penalty to your melee Armor Class.

Stone Ox Chi Gung*

Constant training under adverse conditions has hardened your muscles and toughened your skin to be nearly as tough as leather.

Prerequisite: Con 13, Improved Unarmed Strike

Benefit: You gain +1 natural armor. You may take this feat up to three times. The effects stack.

*This is a combat feat and can be selected as a fighter bonus feat.


Are any of these enticing? If you want to help play-test these, please let us know in the comments how it went.

 October 4, 2017  Posted by at 8:06 pm Not Game Reviews, Products No Responses »
May 182017
Cover to Harrow County Issue one

Cover to issue #1. It can’t contain the goodness inside any more than that box can contain that… thing.

About 2 years ago I started picking up Harrow County at World’s Greatest Comics. I expected to buy a few issues (because you can’t get enough story in a single issue to make an accurate decision on a comic book these days, a condition I’ll undoubtedly rant about at a later time) and drop it when it turned out to be lame. Instead it’s one of my favorite comics. Not of all time, but definitely of the stuff currently coming out.

The protagonist is a girl named Emmy who lives on a farm with her father in the American South — in the eponymous Harrow county. I can’t remember if they ever definitively stated her age but Emmy seems to be in her mid-teens; she has a strong independent streak coupled with a lack of experience with social interaction (due to the isolation of living in the middle of nowhere) that makes it hard to pin down her exact age. I’m no expert but judging from the clothing and level of available technology, the story’s set in the 1930s? It’s hard to tell, because however advanced the world at large may be, you get the sense that Harrow county is always a decade or two behind the times.

The first few story arcs center around Emmy exploring her world which, despite being small geographically, is rich with monsters, haunts (or “haints” as they’re colloquially called in the book), and various other supernatural entities that defy categorization. Seriously. What do you call the still “living” skin of a dead boy? It’s physical skin so it’s not a ghost. It’s not interested in eating people, so it’s not a monster. It crawls around (sort-of) and can talk so… not a zombie. So WTF is that thing?

Just one of a lot of the gross and cool creatures populating the shadows of Harrow County.

As the story goes on, it starts to delve into Emmy’s origins, a plot line which I found less interesting the more time they spent on it, as I’m one of those guys who likes a little bit of mystery in characters; I’d rather know what a character does next than how they spent the last ten summer vacations. So that may just be my personal bias.

The one thing that never disappoints is the art. It’s just plain pretty. Every page seems to be a real live watercolor painting (as opposed to a Photoshop paint-job) and each is a masterpiece. The colors are vibrant and highly saturated without seeming garish or crayola-unnatural. They also never turn muddy, which is what happens every time I pick up a brush; I’m a terrible painter. And an envious one. I’d probably keep buying the book if the story was nothing more than Emmy doing chores around the farm. It’s that good.

Just look at the pictures. That’ll save us all a few thousand words.

Interior art from the Harrow County Comic book

This is just trees and birds and rocks. Imagine how awesome the monsters must be?

Harrow County Interior Panel

This image is more typical of the use of color. Just enough modeling to give a sense of form but not so much that it loses any sense of spontaneity.

But I haven’t gotten to the best part yet. There’s usually a single-page “Tales of Harrow County” story at the back of most issues that packs as much creepiness as the rest of the book does. They have the feel of ghost stories told around the campfire, except actually creepy and not told by doddering old relatives who meander through digression after digression like a ball-bearing in one of those mazes you have to tilt. They feel like real folklore and bring a richer sense of the “Harrow County world” to the main stories.

I also really enjoy (and recommend) the letters column. People send in their own creepy stories about local legends they’ve heard or brushes with the supernatural they think they might’ve had. Normally, I just skip the letters because 95% fall into one of three categories:

  1. This book is awesome. Please have my babies.
  2. This book is terrible. I buy it only to burn it.
  3. Will you tell me the secret of X? I lack the patience to find out by reading future issues.

But not the Harrow County fans. They actually have something to say. Each letters page will save you a trip to the folklore section of your local library.

…which is why I’m writing about a horror comic book on an RPG website. Harrow County is a great source of inspiration for coming up with horror and fantasy adventures. I’m just itching to run a campaign where I can use some of the single-pagers or letter column stories as background material. It’d be cool to photocopy (or scan) one of the letters and reformat it as an ancillary character’s journal entry. Or if one character solos for a while I can pass out prints of the single-pagers and say: While Nik is exploring the abandoned factory, the rest of you can interact with the townsfolk. Here’s what they have to tell you.

I’m a big fan of multi-media in role playing. Also player hand-outs. They give your game world more context, make it feel more immersive for the players (even if they’re not big roleplayers themselves). I find that if you make it obvious that you put in a little prep work, not only will your players enjoy the game more but most will think more about their characters and how those characters  interact with the world in ways other than battling monsters. The more you develop your part of the campaign, the more they’ll tend to develop theirs (i.e. their character). Mostly. There’s one guy who shows up every week who only seems interested in moving his guy around the map and occasionally rolling some dice. But then there’s always one at every table, isn’t there.

Anyway, If you can, try to track down the back issues of Harrow County rather than buying the trade paperback. For one, it supports local retailers by helping them unload inventory. For two, I don’t think the trades reprint the single-page stories that are so great. I know they won’t reprint the letters columns.

 May 18, 2017  Posted by at 8:56 am Fun Stuff, Not Game Reviews No Responses »