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

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Pure-Steam-logo-300x90Designing a campaign setting isn’t all about world lore and locations populated by classes, races, and monsters. You need to have things for those classes, races, and monsters who populate your setting to do. What we’re talking about here are staples of play in d20 system games — feats — and how to avoid some of the problems and pitfalls of designing for such. (Note: The feat write-ups in this article do not represent fully playtested and approved final copy, but offer readers a glimpse at material in current stages of development.)

Our Lead Designer, Brennan, says, “When designing feats, we view them as customization options available to characters that meet their prerequisites, generally regardless of class (who doesn’t, right?), and that are typically on par with class features relative to power. Whenever the team offers up a feat suggestion, we research Pathfinder’s extensive library of feats to first prevent redundancies (i.e. ‘feat bloat’), and second to mirror formatting and syntax. As for functionality, we strive to provide ‘action-altering’ options over number crunch options; options that give the character new ways to use her actions, and options to better facilitate role-play and storytelling through game-mechanics.”

Equipment Trick (Combat)

You have learned at least one useful combat trick using non-weapon equipment.

Prerequisites: 5 ranks in any Craft skill, OR 5 ranks in Sleight of Hand, OR Exotic Weapon Proficiency (fighting fan), OR Point Blank Shot, OR Throw Anything

Benefit: You gain multiple equipment tricks for professional gamblers and card sharps based on your other skills and feats.

– Coin Roll (Sleight of Hand, 5 ranks): You can turn a handful of coins or poker chips into effective brass knuckles as a move action.

– Coin Toss (Throw Anything): You can hurl cards or coins like effective shuriken.

– Paper Cut (Exotic Weapon Proficiency [fighting fan]): You can use a hand of cards like an effective fighting fan.

– Shower of Cards (Point Blank Shot): You can launch a deck of cards to blind an adjacent opponent for one round as a touch attack.

– Wooden Nickels (Craft [any], 5 ranks): You can fool vending machines like nickelodeons, gum dispensers, and automated toll booths using worthless slugs with a successful Craft check in place of Disable Device.

Special: Each trick is keyed to a specific prerequisite. Any user with this feat may use tricks for which she meets the prerequisites, and only those tricks for which she meets the prerequisites. Should the character later meet additional prerequisites, those tricks too would naturally become a part of her repertoire (without needing to take this feat again).

“When working within a campaign setting, we also need to be conscious of the tone we are setting with our feats, and how that tone meshes with the one set by the setting itself. In Westbound, we are exploring the wild frontier, rife with frontiersfolk and cattle-herders, so we needed feats that complemented said tone. For example, we developed a line of lasso mastery feats that allow cowpoke-themed characters new options when using a lasso as their primary tool for combat and adventuring. With this line of feats, you’re able to disarm, grapple, and trip foes with your lasso, quickly hogtie lassoed creatures, and treat the lasso as a viably lethal weapon.”

Lasso Mastery (Combat)

You are skilled with the lasso in combat.

Prerequisites: Proficiency with the lasso, Weapon Focus (lasso), base attack bonus +2

Benefit: You treat the lasso as having a 15-foot range increment and you no longer provoke attacks of opportunity when attacking with a lasso. You may make melee attacks with a lasso that deal nonlethal bludgeoning damage (1d3 Small, 1d4 Medium), and you threaten creatures as if you had a 15-foot reach. You cannot use a lasso to attack in this way while it is entangling a foe. Furthermore, you treat the lasso as if it had the disarm and trip properties also, and you can use Weapon Finesse to apply your Dexterity modifier instead of your Strength modifier to attack rolls with a lasso. Lastly, you can loosen the knot of a lasso as a move action.

Normal: Loosening the knot of a tightened lasso is a standard action, and the typical range increment of a thrown object is 10 feet.

Improved Lasso Mastery (Combat)

You are adept with the lasso in combat.

Prerequisites: Proficiency with the lasso, Weapon Focus (lasso), Lasso Mastery, base attack bonus +5

Benefit: The Escape Artist DC to escape your lasso is equal to either 10 + your CMB or 15, whichever is higher. Any bonuses you have to attack rolls made with a lasso also apply to this DC. Furthermore, you gain the ability to grapple using your lasso, instead of using it to entangle a creature. To do so, use the normal grapple rules with the following changes.

Attack: You cannot use your lasso to attack while you are using it to grapple an opponent.

Bind: When you initiate a grapple with a lasso, you can choose to target a Large size or larger creature’s mouth, beak, or mandibles, etc., with a –5 penalty to your check. If you successfully grapple a creature with your lasso in this way, you bind the creature’s mouth shut, preventing it from attacking with a bite attack or using a breath weapon, etc.

Damage: When dealing damage to your grappled opponent, you deal your lasso’s weapon damage rather than your unarmed strike damage.

Free Hands: You take no penalty on your combat maneuver check for having fewer than two hands free when you use your lasso to grapple.

Reach: Rather than pulling your grappled opponent adjacent to you when you successfully grapple and when you move the grapple, you must keep him within 15 feet minus his own reach to maintain the grapple. If the difference in reach is 0 feet or less, such as when dealing with a Medium size lasso wielder and a Gargantuan size creature, you cannot grapple that opponent with your lasso. If you have to pull a creature adjacent to you to grapple it with your lasso, you still provoke an attack of opportunity from that opponent unless you have the Improved Grapple feat.

Tie Up: While adjacent to your opponent, you can attempt to use your lasso to tie him up. If you do so to an opponent you have grappled rather than pinned, you take only a –5 penalty on the combat maneuver check rather than the normal –10.

Special: In addition to the normal rules for escaping a grapple, a creature grappled by a lasso can also escape the grapple by breaking the lasso with a Strength check or by damaging the lasso directly.

“As the Pure Steam Campaign Setting is a member of the steampunk genre, we also needed to offer feats that use our steam-technology. To meet this need, we created a few feats that allow non-Gearhead characters to build and use a limited number of contraptions of their own.…”

For that, however — and so much more! — you’ll need to buy Westbound™ when it hits shelves and digital format next year! From all of us in the Pure Steam DevTeam to all of you, may your holidays be merry (like the sound of a critical hit) and bright (like a new set of dice)!

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