Behind the Gear-spun Curtain: A Purely Steampunk Look at Game Design

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Pure-Steam-logo-300x90As the leaves turn and the skies grow cloudy, we turn our minds toward All Hallows’ Eve and things of an often creepier, spookier, or more macabre appeal. Let us turn our minds then toward a sweet sample of the garish gallery to be found in the westerly lands of the Pure Steam™ Campaign Setting.

As one ventures west across the Feral Expanse of Ullera’s frontier, one discovers more and more dangerous monsters akin to those we know so well in fantasy role-play across all genres. In our hands, though, these creatures take on a vibe that breathes into them American folklore and cryptology, much as the very geography and culture of Ullera is a “weird-Western” steampunk mirror of the real world.

This gruff humanoid has the upper torso of a weightlifter, the sturdy legs of a bighorn sheep, a pair of ox-like horns, wooly hair, and a prominent hunchback.
XP 1,200
N Medium fey
Init +2; Senses low-light vision; Perception +18

AC 17, touch 12, flat-footed 15 (+2 Dex, +5 natural)
hp 52 (8d6+24)
Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +7
DR 5/cold iron

Speed 40 ft.
Melee light pick +7 (1d4+3/x4), horns +2 (1d8+1)
Ranged short bow +6 (1d6/×3)
Special Attacks powerful charge (gore +9, 2d6+2)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 8th)
At will—create water, know direction, longstrider, speak with animals
1/day—gust of wind, summon nature’s ally III, quench

Str 16, Dex 14, Con 16, Int 12, Wis 16, Cha 12
Base Atk +4; CMB +7; CMD 19
Feats Endurance, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Overrun, Power Attack
Skills Acrobatics +10, Bluff +7, Diplomacy +13, Intimidate +13, Knowledge (geography) +11, Knowledge (nature) +11, Perception +18, Perform (dance) +11, Perform (percussion), +11, Stealth +10, Survival +14; Racial Modifiers +4 Perception, +4 Perform, +4 Stealth
Languages Common, Sylvan

Environment plains
Organization solitary, pair, band (3–6), or militia (7–11)
Treasure standard (light pick, short bow plus 20 arrows, other treasure)

Powerful Charge (Ex) The bison satyr deals an additional 2d6+2 damage on a charge when attacking with its horns.

A nomad living in peace with the animals on the prairies, the bison satyr is otherwise very aggressive toward people in motorized vehicles, or toward those who create loud noises disturbing its serenity. It has no difficulty mixing in with wild bison or other herds as they are also herbivores.

Regarding monsters like these, Brennan, our Lead Designer, notes: “The design philosophy behind each of their abilities was to first match their lore, and then add a little Pure Steam/Pathfinder spin on the creature. We also tried to design them around the standard power level of Ulleran inhabitants, when determining their CR. We wanted their CR to be somewhere slightly above that of a common person, but not so high that the creature’s power went beyond its folklore; a CR that made them just mysterious, dangerous, and troublesome enough if confronted by a small group, but not so powerful that they could wipe out entire settlements single-handedly. Aside from the design philosophy and techniques employed, the reason why we chose the monsters we did, out of the sea of suggestions, falls to Davin.…”

This doll-like figure is dressed in colorful feathers, furs, and beadwork. It peers inquisitively out from behind the contours of an elaborate mask that hides its face.
XP 200
NG Tiny fey
Init +3; Senses low-light vision; Perception +6

AC 15, touch 15, flat-footed 12 (+3 Dex, +2 size)
hp 3 (1d6)
Fort +2, Ref +5, Will +4; +4 vs. mind-affecting effects
DR 5/cold iron

Speed 20 ft., climb 20 ft.
Melee quarterstaff +1 (shillelagh, 1d6-1/x2)
Ranged sling +6 (magic stone, 1d6-1/x2)
Special Attacks hatred (goblinoids and constructs)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 1st)
At will—dancing lights, magic stone, prestidigitation, shillelagh, vanish
1/day—faerie fire, speak with animals, speak with plants

Str 6, Dex 16, Con 10, Int 12, Wis 14, Cha 14
Base Atk +0; CMB –4; CMD 9
Feats Great Fortitude, Go Unnoticed
Skills Acrobatics +7, Diplomacy +6, Escape Artist +7, Knowledge (nature) +6, Perception +6, Stealth +15, Survival +6
Languages Sylvan, empath 30 ft.
Special Qualities wild empathy

Environment Any
Organization solitary, war party (4-8), or tribe (9+)

Empath (Su) Kachinas possess a crude form of telepathy, allowing them to transmit mild impressions, general emotions, and remembered sensations to other creatures that don’t share their language. This form of telepathy cannot convey language or hinder a target in any way (such as by transmitting pain). Thus, a kachina can relate a feeling of fear or the faint smell of leaves, but cannot directly warn an ally of a monster or tell of a treasure under a dirt mound.
Hatred (Ex) Kachinas receive a +1 bonus on attack rolls against humanoid creatures of the goblinoid subtype and creatures of the construct type due to special training against these hated foes.
Wild Empathy (Ex) A kachina can improve the attitude of an animal. This ability functions just like the druid class feature of the same name, using the kachina’s HD in place of its druid level.

Kachinas appoint themselves the guardians to communities, tree groves, springs, mountaintops, and canyons in the southwest. They are brightly garbed in feather and bead costumes and body paint given to them by locals in hopes of earning their good will and protection. A fine costume is a tremendous status symbol among kachinas. Travelers should make an offering to local kachinas to appease them or they risk being harassed and harried so long as they remain in the kachina’s territory. A kachina may adopt a child, family, or community that is especially generous and guard it from predators and pillagers. The most hated foe among kachinas are goblinoids and their clockwork constructs due to centuries of Dominion raids.

Davin, our steampunk guru, shares, “Many of the new creatures for Westbound have a supernatural feel to reflect the campfire tales and pulp fiction popular in the 19th century. We touch on examples of ‘science-gone-wrong’ with our steampunk lich and clockwork plague. Native mythology is represented by kachinas, the rachache, and the cataract. We’ve even mined more recent myths like the jackalope, the dire armadillo, and the loch satyr. The rest are based on native animals gone monstrous such as the gigante gila, the dire roadrunner, the beaman, and the tumbling razorweed.”

From all of us at the Pure Steam DevTeam to you, have an eerily happy Halloween! And join us next month as we delve into the design thinking behind feats and skills — until then!

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