Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Lost Runes of the Northlands: Spheres of Midgard

Note: this blog post references material from Drop Dead Studios' Sphere series of products. A compilation of their OGL mechanics can be found here.

Although the Northlands Saga does a fine job of using the Pathfinder rules to emulate an epic adventure, there are times when the mechanics do not always line up. For one, the setting wishes to emulate a low-magic feel even though there are several things in the adventure path that run contrary to this (like the preponderance of +1 weapons and armor wielded by mooks in the later sagas). Some of the new archetypes, as well as the soft ban of certain classes and archetypes in the form of cultural foreignness and mistrust, are underpowered in that they lose more from their original class than what they gain in new features.

I considered adopting the mechanics of Spheres of Power and Spheres of Might to the Northlands Saga as a thought experiment, seeing how close I can emulate the intended themes while allowing for balanced, versatile options.

Classes & Traditions

Spheres of Power: Given the amount of different magical traditions and archetypes present already in Pathfinder and the Spheres system, it would be easier to focus on what is not appropriate and what is suitably iconic for the Northlands Saga.

Generally speaking, magic which the godi and the cunning women can reliably emulate are the only forms of magic trusted to an extent among the Northlanders; the Nûklanders look down on any magic that is not associated with druidism, while the Seagestrelanders are the most open-minded in viewing all magic as connected to the gods. Depending upon how a specific spherecaster's talents manifest and their casting traditions, they may be either wholly accepted at best, merely tolerated, or exiled and banished at worst.

Among the Northlanders, the Hedgewitch, Mageknights, and Shifters are the most common spherecasters. Hedgewitches come from the ranks of the cunning women, using folk charms and herbs to ply their trade. Mageknights are typically shieldmaidens and godi of a more martial bent. Armorists are devout casters, usually worshiping Thor, who draw their arsenal from the halls of Valhalla. Shifters tend to belong to bearsarker and ulfhander cults, calling upon Odin's favor to emulate the great beasts of Midgard.

Eliciters and fey adepts are shunned in most communities, the former for their ability to entrance and manipulate minds, the latter for being associated with the sceadugenga and the unknown beasts of the dark woods. Thaumaturges are power-hungry mages willing to bargain with the vilest and most dangerous of the Ginnvaettir. Soul Weavers come from a variety of traditions: some are pious godi calling upon the souls of the honored dead to join them in righteous battle, while others are necromancers who lair in Andøvan barrows to learn of their secrets.

The arts of the elementalists typically come from Southlander stock, while symbiats are virtually unheard of. Incanters come from all traditions and walks of life. and so cannot be easily put into any all-purpose category.

Advanced Magic is not available by default. Such talents are ever only possessed by the greatest of heroes from myth and legend, or are the purview of the gods and their mightiest minions. In an authentic Northlands game, only the Player Characters and a few major movers and shakers would possess advanced magic.

Spheres of Might: The people of the Northlands are no stranger to war. Even though the lives of most are sedentary much of the year, it is not unusual for a farmer to have a shield and spear at home, and many young men and women go a-viking to engage in raid and plunder. The frontiers of Estenfird crawl with monsters, while the mercenary Jomsvikings never hurt for business as long as the Gats, Hrolfs, and other clans find excuses to continue blood feuds.

Just about every martial practitioner class can be found in respectable numbers in the Northlands save the Scholar and Technician. Armigers are well-rounded warriors who come to rely on a few signature weapons whose titles are often as renowned as their wielder. Blacksmiths are valued members of society for their craftsmanship, and dvergar-forged arms are the stuff of legend. Commanders come from the stock of skalds, hirdmen, and jarls who proved their worth and gained the trust of their comrades. Conscripts come from the ranks of hirthmen, career vikings, and wandering sellswords. Sentinels are hirthmen, huscarls, and shieldmaidens who swore oaths to defend their charges, be it a specific family or even an entire community. Strikers usually come from the ranks of berserker cults who forsook weapons and armor in favor of honing their bodies into literal weapons.

The two remaining classes bear special mention: there are no grand centers of learning in the Northlands, with the Hall of the Hearthstone being the closest equivalent. Scholars are most likely found among the ranks of village herbalists, mundane godi of Odin who rely upon the mysteries of runes to gain power from knowledge, and dvergar alchemists.

The class' flashbangs attack and material impositions may be reflavored as runestones keyed to a certain world-element rather than outright alchemy. Some of the Knacks reflecting advanced technology may either be dwarven marvels or reflavored magic: for example, a lightning rod may be a facsimile of Thor's hammer.

Technicians are a bit harder to reconcile. Their gadgets and inventions are leagues ahead of Dark Ages technology, and are almost invariably Southlanders and dvergar craftsmen. Actual Northlanders among their ranks are likely specialized engineers employed by Jarl Magnus Hrolfsblood in adopting technological innovations from foreign realms.

Regarding Martial Traditions, the ones most appropriate to the cultures of the Northlands include Animal Trainer, Barbarian, Canny Hunter, Decisive Fist, Giant, Militia, Shield Master, Tattooed Warrior (berserkers/reflavored runes), Warden, and Weapon Master.

Northlands Saga: Instead of going over what already exists in a sourcebook, I will discuss how to convert several of the new setting-specific archetypes into the Sphere system.

The Bearsarker as a warrior cultist of Odin would most likely be represented by the similarly-named Berserker Barbarian archetype from Spheres of Might. The Professional Wrestler would be the best starting martial tradition, as it comes with Unarmored Training. Meanwhile, the Gladiator sphere has a surfeit of abilities designed around demoralizing opponents which can be reflavored into a frightening rage. The growing of claws may be represented by taking Basic Magical Training feat for the Alteration sphere. But the Wrestling sphere's unarmed focus, and thus its ability to increase unarmed strike damage, can also represent this. The Dragon's Tattoo feat and the accompanying Zodiac Tattoos can help add enhancement bonuses to one's unarmed strikes and body.

The Ulfhander has a tailor-made Unified Tradition called the Ulfhednar. Right off the bat it grants access to appropriate Alteration sphere talents to emulate the ability to shapeshift into a wolf. The equivalent class features to rage and have a wolf animal company can be gained via the Beastmastery and Berserker spheres. The Ulfhander can work with a variety of classes for emulation, but the Shifter spherecaster is useful for enhancing the Ulfhander's magical talents, while the Berserker Barbarian archetype and Striker practitioner classes are the most straightforward and offensive options.

The Skald is an interesting one: a bard who trades in their spells and inspire competence to instead grant a limited set of combat-related feats to allies as well as alternate weapon proficiencies and bonus feats. Interestingly, the Heavy Armsman martial tradition grants the required prerequisites for everything but swords and shields, while the bonus Equipment sphere talent from said background can cover either of those. Alternatively the Conscript's Gear Training Specialization can help cover all of those bases and then some. For martial spheres Warleader represents the skald's battle-boosting buffs best, particularly the Fortifying Phalanx and Shieldbrothers tactics. In regards to magical spheres the Courage, Inspiration, and Greater Charm talents of the Mind sphere are the closest options

Regarding classes, the most thematically appropriate would be Eliciter spherecaster for its focus on enchantment, while for martial classes the Commander is tailor-made for skalds. The Troubadour from Champions of the Spheres is highly appropriate for a skald who seeks to fully emulate legendary heroes of old.

The Huscarl practically screams for the Guardian sphere, while the Sentinel class is all about being an immovable object. The Adamant Guardian archetype takes it even a step further in the defense of allies. The Assist, Defend Other, and Iron Wall Guardian sphere talents replicate some of the huscarl's bonus feats, while the Cover Ally and Extensive Defense talents of the Shield Sphere focus on the shield specialization.

The Spear Maiden loses their supernatural powers in exchange for mastery of spears. Honestly the archetype does not really grant much to feel like a great option. The Equipment Sphere's Guarded Combatant represents the defensive features, while the Conscript's Weapon Training Specialization for the spear category represent the more offensive aspects. A holy woman of the gods can be more properly emulated by the Armorist, Paragon archetype for the Sentinel, or the Martial Mageknight or Warrior of Holy Light archetypes for the Mageknight.

The Cunning Woman's focus on the healing arts more or less keys them into the Life sphere. The Soul Weaver and Hedgewitch with the green magic traditions are the most appropriate spherecaster classes. Beyond the Life Sphere, the Borrow Luck and Temperance talents of the Fate sphere represent their ability to turn fortune in their favor. The Evil Eye power works just fine with the base Destruction sphere, while the green magic tradition grants the woodland stride feature of the druid. The tradition's grant secrets of immunity to poison and disease align nicely with the Cunning Woman's base 20th level capstone ability.

Sample Stat Blocks

Rounding off our article are conversions of the Beast Cultists of Shibauroth, one of the "mook" enemies of Blood on the Snow, and a stat block for Ulnat Warriors from Vengeance of the Long Serpent. I may do more characters if there's further demand, but the two listed here should give a good feel for what the Spheres can do.

Beast Cultist of Shibauroth CR 3
XP 800
Male or female human Striker 4
CE Medium humanoid (human)
Init +1; Perception +5
AC 17, touch 17, flat-footed 16 (+4 armor, +2 con, +1 dex)
HP 40 (4d10+12)
Fort +6 Ref +5 Will +1
Defensive Abilities freedom of movement, uncanncy dodge; Immune mind-affecting effects
Speed 30 feet
Melee 2 claws +8 (1d6+4, x2)
Caster Level +1; MSB +1; MSD 12; Concentration +1
Tradition Lycanthropic; CAM WIS
Spell Points 2
Talents Alteration (Pounce)
Drawbacks Lycanthropic (Alteration), Wild Magic
Martial Tradition Tattooed Warrior; PAM Con; DC 14
Talents Berserker (Brutal Counter), Brute (Break Defenses, Hammer, Quick Force, Throw), Equipment (Unarmed Training, Unarmored Training)
Str 18 Dex 13 Con 14 Int 7 Wis 10 Cha 7
Base Atk +4; CMB +8; CMD 19
Feats Basic Magical Training (Alteration), Dragon's Tattoos (B), Extra Combat Talent x2, Improved Unarmed Strike (B), Zodiac Tattoos (B)
Skills Craft (tattoos)* 4 (+5), Intimidate 4 (+5), Perception 4 (+7), Survival 4 (+7)
*Bonus skill points from martial tradition
Languages Nørsk
SQ AC Bonus +2, Bare Knuckles (Brute), Drill Knuckle, Striker Art (Enduring Critical), Tension (Desperate Tension, Tension Boost), Uncanny Dodge
Favored Class Striker +4 HP
Gear winter furs, beast cult totem

Special Attacks:

Shapeshift: see the Alteration sphere for further details. The beast cultist typically uses Blank Form to gain darkvision 60 ft. and 2 claw attacks.

Berserking: As a free action at the start of each turn, the beast cultist may choose to take a -2 penalty to AC in exchange for 7 temporary hit points. The penalty and the temporary hit points end at the start of his next turn.

Bloody Counter: As an immediate action, when a creature targets the beast cultist with a melee attack, before the attack roll is made he may allow the attack to automatically hit (although the roll is still made to determine if the attack threatens a critical hit). After the damage is determined, the beast cultist may make a brutal strike targeting that creature as a free action that may be taken even when it isn’t his turn, if it is in range. If the creature attacking the cultist is battered, he may resolve his attack action prior to their attack being resolved.

Break Defenses: Whenever the beast cultist successfully uses a bull rush, drag, overrun, or reposition, combat maneuver against a creature, that creature provokes an attack of opportunity from his allies (but not him).

Brutal Strike: As a special attack action, the beast cultist may make a melee attack against a target. Creatures damaged by a brutal strike gain the battered condition until the end of their next turn. The cultist may expend martial focus to have the attack deal 8 additional damage.

Hammer: As long as the beast cultist has martial focus, whenever he would bull rush, drag, or reposition a creature into a space occupied by a wall, creature, or object no more than one size smaller than the creature, the target of the maneuver stops its movement in the adjacent space and both the creature and the wall, other creature, or object suffer bludgeoning damage. The amount of damage dealt is determined by the size of the creature being bull rushed, dragged, or repositioned, as indicated on the list below: Fine 1d2, Diminutive 1d3, Tiny 1d4, Small 1d6, Medium 1d8, Large 1d10, Huge 2d6, Gargantuan 2d8, Colossal 3d6. This damage is increased by the listed amount again for every 5-ft. square the creature would have traveled beyond the wall, other creature, or object.

Quick Force: the beast cultist may perform a bull rush, drag, or reposition combat maneuver as a move action instead of a standard action. He must still have movement remaining in a round in order to move with his target, such as a 5-foot step. He may expend his martial focus to perform a bull rush, pull, or reposition as a swift action.

Shove: as a move action, the beast cultist may move up to half his speed and make a melee touch attack against a creature. If successful, the target takes 4 bludgeoning damage and gains the battered condition until the end of his next turn.

The beast cultist may perform a shove in place of the attack granted by a charge, although this does not grant the extra movement. When he successfully performs a bull rush, drag, reposition, or overrun combat maneuver (assuming the target decided to block him and did not simply move out of the way), the cultist may apply the effect of one (manhandle) talent he knows to that creature. (Manhandle) talents cannot be applied to maneuvers performed as a free action.

Throw (manhandle): Whenever the beast cultist succeeds on a bull rush, drag, or reposition maneuver, he may expend his martial focus to throw the creature. The creature travels an additional 5 ft. in any direction and must pass a Reflex save or fall prone.

Tension: see the Striker class for additional details.

Unlat Warrior CR 1
XP 400
Male or female Ulnat human Conscript 2
N Medium humanoid (human)
Init +1; Perception +6
AC 15 (+4 armor, +1 dex)
HP 22
Fort +6 Ref +5 Will +1
Speed 30 feet
Melee spear +5 (1d8+2/x3)
Masterwork shortspear +4 (1d6+2, x2) and handaxe +4 (1d6+2, x3)
Ranged javelin +3 (1d6+2, x2) or shortspear +3 (1d6+2, x2) or spear +3 (1d8+2, x3)
Martial Tradition Canny Hunter; PAM Wis; DC 12
Talents Dual Wielding (Balanced Blows), Equipment (Huntsman Training, Throwing Mastery), Scout (Wind Reader), Sniper (Tangling Shot)
Str 15 Dex 13 Con 16 Int 10 Wis 12 Cha 8
Base Atk +2; CMB +4; CMD 15
Feats Extra Combat Talent x4 (B)
Skills Climb 2 (+7), Handle Animal 2 (+4), Perception 2 (+6), Profession (Fisherman) 2 (+6), Stealth* 2 (+6), Survival 2 (+6), Swim 2 (+7)
*bonus skill points from spheres
Languages Ulnat
SQ Combat Specializations (Favored Enemy-Animals +2)
Favored Class Conscript +2 skill points
Gear hide armor, spear, masterwork shortspear, handaxe, 2 javelins

Special Attacks:

Deadly Shot: As a special attack action, an Ulnat warrior may make an attack with a ranged weapon. He may add any one (snipe) talent he knows to this attack.

In addition, he may expend his martial focus to increase the damage dealt by the attack by 1d10, or 1d6 if the attack targets touch AC or is made with a scatter weapon. He must choose whether or not to use this ability before making his attack roll. These extra damage dice are not multiplied on a critical hit, but are added to the total.

Some talents are marked (snipe). These talents add additional effects when the Ulnat warrior performs a deadly shot. He may only apply the effects of one (snipe) talent to each deadly shot.

Scout: as a swift action, an Ulnat warrior may identify a creature’s weaknesses (DC 10 + creature’s CR) as described under the Knowledge skill, but may substitute a Perception check for the appropriate Knowledge check at a -5 penalty. This only reveals the target’s weaknesses, or lack thereof, (such as damage reduction types and vulnerabilities), and does not reveal any additional information about the target. Once he has succeeded at a scout attempt or Knowledge check against a target, any talents or effects that require the Ulnat warrior to scout a target may be used against the target for the next 24 hours; after this period the Ulnat warrior must successfully use the scout ability against the target again to continue benefiting from related effects.

Tangling Shot (snipe): on a successful deadly shot, the Ulnat warrior gives the target the entangled condition. The target may spend a standard action to end this effect.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Lost Runes of the Northlands: Dwarves

Depiction of Dwarves from a rendition of Völuspá from the Poetic Edda

Some of my long-time readers know that I ran a Nordic-themed adventure path known as the Northlands Saga from 2016 to 2017. It was one of the best long-running games I ran, and I felt passionately enough to give it an in-depth review on several message boards. Although it's been many months since I sailed the frozen shores on dragon-headed ships, the footprints I left behind in fond memories and gaming notes endure. The Lost Runes of the Northlands are a new series of articles intended to expand on the official adventure path, with new material, GMing tips, and revisions where I deem them necessary.

Dwarves as they are in the Adventure Path

Dwarves are one of the iconic races of Norse mythology, but in the Northlands Saga Adventure Path they have a minimal presence at best. They exist in small enclaves in the largest cities of Halfstead and Trotheim, and there are rumored locations of underground kingdoms within the Waldron Mountains and Mount Helgastervän. They helped create four major wonders of the world: the Mead of Poetry, the Forge of Bvalin, the magic ship Skíðblaðnir, and the foundations of the extra-dimensional gateway leading to the Ettielweiss Vale. One of the random encounters with dwarves infer some elements of their culture: they are known as the Dvergar among themselves and the Northlanders, and they are more accepting of magic in their society. In fact, the only named dwarven NPC of major note who appears in the Adventure Path is the ghostly smith Bvalin, who informs the PCs of how to defeat one of the setting's major villains.

Northlands dwarves are very much intended to be a "race of MacGuffins," rarely seen or interacted with save of great import, and whose legacies are found in wondrous creations from earlier eras or to complete some great task. While this is in keeping with the setting's low-fantasy feel, it seems jarring especially when you see that elves, troll and giant-blooded races are viable PC options. And espcially so given the fact that although small in number, their known enclaves are closer to the main Northlands than the elven Nûkland.

Lost Runes Dwarves

History: The Dvergar are creations from the primordial blood of Ymir, the giant whose corpse was fashioned into the world of Midgard. They view their very existence as a blessing, the world around them and its wonders testament to this. Four of their number, named Norðri, Suðri, Austri and Vestri held up Ymir's skull to form the heavens. They are hailed as vigilant heroes among Dvergar, and the four winds said to be their respective breaths.

Their first years were a golden era of peace and prosperity, but this would not last. The Jötnar saw the Dvergar's marvelous creations as the desecration of their progenitor Ymir, and thus began a brutal, bloody war. The great jarl Sindri experienced a vision from the gods to seek out the "chamber of birthed blood" where his people would find both solace and supplies to defend themselves. Sindri interpreted this to mean that the Dvergar must head into the mountains and deep reaches of the earth formed from Ymir's bones, far beneath Yggdrasil's roots where most of their race still live today.

Blessed with ample minerals and endless stone to fashion into great works, Sindri knew his visions to be true, and his bloodline would go on to rule all of dwarvenkind. Although separated from Midgard, the Dvergar still pined for their former homeland and sympathized with the humans and other races warring against the Jötnar. Some of their best smiths and scholars would gift their creations to the gods and mortal heroes.

Lifestyle: The Dvergar live much like feudal subjects in Midgard, albeit in a wholly alien underground environment. Most settlements exist on clumps of earth suspended in Yggdrasil's roots, where fungal matter, stone, and minerals are used to fashion everyday objects. Giant beetles are commonly used as beasts of burden and cattle, while oozes are used for mining and disposing of waste. Dvergar living closer to large bodies of water often grow and raise cave fish, and bats are used much like humans use domesticated birds. Phosphorescent fungi is used as a light source, but only for long-range beacons as Dvergar can see in the dark to a limited range.

The godi of Odin are tasked with passing wisdom to the next generation, and as such Dvergar have a form of public schooling for the purposes of learning to read and write. It is more akin to a godi teaching children within a village or neighborhood than the in-depth multi-tutor structure of our modern world, and most Dvergar learn a proper family trade from their parents.

The marvels of magic and science result in many labor-saving devices; although many Dvergar are limited to the resources at hand on their root-island, it is not uncommon to see steam-powered elevators, dormant golems watching over palace grounds, and for guards to be armed with adamantine-studded crossbow bolts and full plate armor.

Government: The entire Dvergar race is nominally ruled over by the King of Dwarves, an hereditary position whose members trace their lineage to their founder Sindri. Jarls rise from local populations but must pledge loyalty oaths to the King, who in turn uses their taxes to fund large projects and move resources to where it is deemed they are most needed. Dvergar communities beyond Nidavellir, particularly in Midgard, often have a "representative." This is a ceremonial title at best due to an inability to practically enforce a chain of command. Dvergar communities in the Northlands, particularly Halfstead and Trotheim, often obey the laws of the land and make themselves useful to human communities, but in their hearts they know that their true home and lord lies beneath Midgard.

Religion: Dvergar honor the Æsir and Vanir pantheons equally, even giving begrudging worship to Loki for his association with the fire most vital to the art of the forge. Odin is the most popular of the gods, for the Dvergar praise his name whenever they seek the answer to a perplexing mystery or a jarl needs guidance for proper rulership. The finest craftsmen etch his name into magical items and the foundations of marvelous halls. More than a few halls were torn down in times of war, only to be left alone promptly when a vicious bandit or great warrior found praises to the All-Father in Runic among the ruins.

The Ginnvaettir are cursed whenever their names are uttered, followed by furrowed brows and spitting in disgust. The Dvergar hold a special hatred for Thrymr, as he is the only deity among the giants with dwarven worshipers. The frost dwarves are never mentioned save as traitors to their people, forever banished from all the halls of Nidavellir.

Dvergar Characters: Unlike the Northlanders and Nûklanders, Dvergar fully embrace all forms of magic save the ones associated with forbidden gods. They hold magic as the province of Odin, one of his many holy creations since Ymir's fall. They do not make distinctions between arcane and divine magic, viewing all spells as somehow connected to the gods. Bards and skalds call upon Bragi's hymns whether they know it or not, the magical language of wizards hews from the original runes Odin discovered, druids make pacts with minor Vanir of the land, and sorcerers are viewed as the descendants of mortal-deity couplings.

Barbarians exist as religious societies of Odin, but instead of wearing bearskin or wolfskin cloaks they fashion their relics from the hides of giant beetles and aberrations of the deep. Fighters and rangers are always in demand for their ability to defend their people from monstrous horrors, while rogues are typically blacksmiths and mechanics who apply their talents to sabotaging enemy defenses.

Furthermore, Dvergar exist at a higher technological level than the rest of the Northlands. Their status as the best craftsmen in Midgard can open up all kinds of exotic classes, albeit most likely framed in the appropriate mythological context. A dwarven gunslinger PC is a legendary warrior who can "harness the breath of a dragon in a staff which roars with Thor's voice," while an alchemist is a seer of the Mysteries of Ymir, finding the fallen giants' magic in the crude physical matter which surrounds us. Beyond the official Pathfinder sourcebooks, the Path of Iron and Spheres of Might products have some new classes and options themed around advanced fantasy technology.

Banned Classes: Dvergar do not tolerate antipaladins or the worshipers of the Ginnvaettir, and such people are punished by death for treason if discovered. Classes and archetypes which forswear the gods and/or magic as a whole are rare to the point of legend, and such beings often become exiles and outcasts. Vigilantes are unheard of, as maintaining a dual life is often taxing in tight-knit family structures, while a swashbuckler's fighting style is not optimal for Dvergar physiology. Ninja and samurai hail from foreign human cultures far away from Nidavellir and the Northlands, and psionic classes are thematically inappropriate to the Northlands in general.

Dvergar Racial Traits: Dvergar are less anti-magic than dwarves in other lands, so the following alternate racial traits are appropriate for a Northlands Saga game using the Pathfinder rules:

Fey Magic (2 RP): The character has a mystic connection to one terrain type, selected from the ranger’s favored terrain list. The character selects three 0-level druid spells and one 1st-level druid spell. If the character has a Charisma score of 11 or higher, when in the selected terrain, she gains these spells as spell-like abilities that can be cast once per day. The caster level for these effects is equal to the user’s character level. The DC for the spell-like abilities is equal to 10 + the spell’s level + the user’s Charisma modifier. These spells are treated as being from a fey source for the purposes of the druid’s resist nature’s lure class feature and similar abilities. This trait replaces greed and stonecunning. Source: Pathfinder Player's Companion: Heroes of the Wild

Spiritual Support: Dwarves greatly value loyalty in faith, and their gods readily reward them for it. They gain a +1 racial bonus to their caster levels when casting conjuration (healing) spells upon allies. This racial trait replaces greed and hardy.

Stonesinger: Some dwarves’ affinity for the earth grants them greater powers. Dwarves with this racial trait are treated as one level higher when casting spells with the earth descriptor or using granted powers of the Earth domain, the bloodline powers of the deep earth bloodline or earth elemental bloodline, and revelations of the oracle’s stone mystery. This ability does not give them early access to level-based powers; it only affects the powers they could use without this ability. This racial trait replaces stonecunning.

Inspirational Sources:




Spheres of Power & Might: Converting Noctis

After finishing the Northlands Saga 1.3 years in the making (a very satisfying adventure path I might add), I've been on an extended hiatus from the Pathfinder system. Even so, there are still some books and creative projects which fascinate me enough to briefly dive into that game if only for a curious look. Spheres of  Power and Spheres of Might are two such books, an attempt at making versatile toolbox of abilities to emulate a wide variety of fighting and spellcasting styles to create the character you want.

One of the archetypes known as the Bladewalker brought up strong memories of Noctis from Final Fantasy 15, likely intentionally so. As it combines teleportation techniques with a main class built around using several weapons at once, I theorized about doing a faithful build of the Prince of Lucis.

Important Note: This stat block represents the broad area of plot where Noctis' party is on a road trip in Duscae, after the events at Leide but before his trip to Altissia. As such, he does not have many of his "end-game" abilities and equipment.

Classes: Noctis will be a 5th-level Armiger with the Bladewalker archetype, with 3 levels in Elementalist to replicate his offensive elemancy spells. He will dip 3 levels into Blacksmith for Thunderous Blows so he can sunder the natural weapons and armor of creatures, a common tactical technique in the video game.

Fighting Style: Noctis is capable of warping around the battlefield, using the sudden speed and momentum to dodge attacks and make devastating charges at enemies. Furthermore, he can manifest spectral weapons known as the royal arms which take a variety of forms, sometimes rapidly summoning several at once in a chain of flurries to assault enemies with his entire arsenal.

Noctis is primarily a melee combatant, and his wielded weapons include daggers, swords, greatswords, axes, lances, shields, katanas, tridents, firearms, and some advanced machinery such as the automatic crossbow. As his partner Prompto is better suited to using advanced machinery (and such gear would likely be replicated as magic items or Technician inventions) we'll focus on the more traditional weapons.

For Martial Tradition, Noctis will have Knightly Arts. The bonus proficiencies cover all but katanas, tridents, and firearms. As such weapons in Final Fantasy XV fall into the sword and polearm categories, we can get away with not focusing on them. He also has armor proficiency, but given he doesn't wear armor in the game we're going to reflavor his Princely Raiments into being a hybrid chain shirt/cloak of resistance.

Finally, Noctis will choose the Warleader sphere as a bonus sphere from said martial tradition to gain aggressive flanking ability and the fierce shout in keeping with his teamwork-based tactics from the game.

Noctis' Practioner Ability Modifier will be Charisma. Although he starts out introverted, over the course of the game he learns to appreciate his royal responsibilities and he does have good chemistry with his friends. 

For Spheres and Talents, Noctis will have access to the Warleader sphere along with Armor Training, Knightly Training, and Shield Training as bonus Equipment talents from his martial tradition. He'll also choose Firearm Proficiency so that he can use guns as a bonus Equipment talent from his 1st level in Blacksmith.

Given the fact he zips all around the battlefield, the Athletics sphere is a natural choice. His Athletics Package includes Leap, and for talents he'll have Diving Strike, Expanded Training for Fly and Run, Scale Foe, Wall Stunt, and Whirlwind Leap.

Being able to counter enemy attacks is another important game mechanic, so we'll pick the Fencing sphere; the Boxing sphere is more counterattack-based, but it requires the use of a talent to use with manufactured weapons instead of just unarmed strikes. Noctis' Fencing Talents include Parry and Riposte, and Repositioning Strike.

Total Combat Talents: Noctis has 4 from Knightly Arts Martial Tradition, 1 Equipment talent from Blacksmith's Equipment Specialist class feature, 3 from 3 levels in Blacksmith class, 2 from levels in Armiger class, 4 from the Extra Combat Talent feat gained thrice as regular feats and once as a bonus feat for the 2nd level in Elementalist, and 6 "shadow talents" from his 3 customized weapons.

Magic Style: Noctis' most well-known supernatural ability is the Warp Strike. He can also absorb the power of fire, frost, and lightning from geographical formations to form into spells. Noctis will specialize in the Destruction and Warp Spheres.

Noctis' Casting Ability Modifier will also be Charisma.

 For Casting Tradition, Noctis cannot use elemental magic at will in the game series. He must gather energy at geographic formations and then use portions of said energy to "craft" spells which he can use only a certain amount of before running out. He can use warp strike at will, however, and the Spheres of Power casting tradition/drawback system does not discriminate between certain spheres or types in regards to general drawbacks. However, we know that Noctis can only warp strike when wielding a weapon, and he needs a magic flask to gather materials for elemancy, so Focus Casting makes sense as a drawback. We aren't choosing Galvanized because daggers count as simple weapons in Pathfinder, which Noctis can use with warp strike. Additionally, Noctis' powers are rather obvious in nature when used; so we'll add Magical Signs as another drawback. Regarding his powers in the video game, Noctis can only teleport himself barring one time in the Adamantoise battle where he can teleport allies. As the Adamantoise is an optional boss battle and this does not happen anywhere else, he's going to have the Sphere-Specific Drawback Personal Warp. This is already part of the Bladewalker's archetype class feature, so it works out just fine.

Given that the aforementioned talent costs spell points as a limited resource, a faithful adaption of the game would be to to adapt the Sphere-Specific Drawback Shape Focus for Destruction.

This leaves us with three drawbacks. We'll call Noctis' unique casting tradition The Magic of the Lucii. The two general drawbacks will grant Noctis 1 bonus spell point plus an additional 1 per 3 levels he has in a casting class.

For Spheres and Talents, Noctis' Destruction talents include Fire Blast, Frost Blast, and Shock Blast for blast type talents, and Explosive Orb for the blast shape talent gained from the drawback. I chose Shock Blast over Electric Blast as it is a common element in the game to create magic with debuffing abilities, and the three blast type talents I selected provide deleterious conditions beyond mere damage. Noctis' spells are wide-ranging and indiscriminate, thus the Explosive Orb talent.

Noctis' Warp talents include Distant Teleport, Emergency Teleport, and Quick Teleport for warp talents, and Extradimensional Storage for a space talent gained from the drawback. Distant and Group Teleport covers the speed and length of his Warp Strike, while Emergency Teleport reflects his ability to nimbly get out of danger with it. Extradimensional Storage reflects Noctis' ability to summon weapons out of thin air.

Total Magic Talents: starts out for free in the Warp shere for the Bladewalker archetype, starts out for free in the Destruction sphere for the Elementalist class, 2 from selecting the Extra Magical Talent feat twice, 4 from Elementalist class, 2 bonus talents from taking the Shape Focus and Personal Warp drawbacks.

Now without further ado...the Prince of Lucis' Pathfinder stat block!

Noctis Lucis Caelum
Male Human Armiger 5/Blacksmith 3/Elementalist 3
NG Medium Humanoid (Human)
Init +6; Senses Perception +13
AC 21, touch 14, flat-footed 19 [+7 armor, +2 dexterity, +2 deflection]
hp 105
Fort +15 Ref +14 Will +10 (+12/+11/+7 without Prince's Fatigues)
Speed 30 ft.
Melee Drain Lance +17, Normal Attack (1d8+7, x3)
Drain Lance +14, Power Attack (1d8+16, x3)
Engine Blade +17, Normal Attack (1d8+7, 19-20/x2)
Engine Blade +14, Power Attack (1d8+13, 19-20/x2)
Force Stealer +17, Normal Attack (2d6+7, 19-20/x2)
Force Stealer +14, Power Attack (2d6+16, 19-20/x2)
Rapid Assault First Strike +15, Normal Attack (damage varies)
Rapid Assault First Strike +13, Power Attack (damage varies)
Rapid Assault Second Strike +13, Normal Attack (damage varies)
Rapid Assault Second Strike +11, Power Attack (damage varies)
Ranged Fire/Frost Blast (6d6+1 fire/cold, DC 15 Reflex halves), Shock Blast +12 touch (6d4+1 electricity, DC 15 Reflex halves)
Caster Level +5; MSB 8; MSD 19; Concentration +11
Tradition Magic of the Lucii; CAM CHA DC 15
Spell Points 8
Spheres Destruction (Fire Blast, Explosive Orb, Frost Blast, Shock Blast), Warp (Distant Teleport, Emergency Teleport, Extradimensional Storage, Quick Teleport)
Drawbacks Focus Casting, Magical Signs, Personal Warp (Warp Sphere Specific), Shape Focus (Destruction Sphere Specific)
Martial Tradition Knightly Arts; PAM CHA, DC 18
Talents Athletics (Fly, Leap, and Run packages, Diving Strike, Expanded Training [Fly and Run], Scale Foe, Wall Stunt, Whirlwind Leap), Equipment (Armor Training, Firearm Proficiency, Knightly Training, Shield Training), Fencing (Parry and Riposte, Repositioning Strike), Warleader Sphere
Customized Weapons Noctis is capable of utilizing a wide variety of weapons on his person. Although he can only have 3 active at a time, here are a few suggestions for weapons and their bonus talents by type:
Daggers (Dual Wielding Sphere, Mercurial Flow)
Firearm (Barrage Sphere, Distracting Shot)
Greatsword (Guardian Sphere, Sweeping Defense)
Longsword (Fencing Talents: Footwork, Group Cover)
Polearm (Lancer Sphere, Double Impale)
Shield (Shield Sphere, Flexible Cover)
Sniper Rifle (Sniper Sphere, Push Shot)
Str 18, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 16
Base Atk +10; CMB +14; CMD 26
Feats Craft Wondrous Item (class B), Endurance (smith insight B), Extra Combat Talent x4 (class B), Extra Magical Talent x2, Improved Initiative, Power Attack (race B), Toughness (smith insight B)
Skills (55 points) Acrobatics* 11 (+16), Bluff* 11 (+17), Climb* 11 (+18), Diplomacy* 5 (+12), Escape Artist 4 (+9), Fly 11* (+16), Knowledge (Local) 8 (+11), Knowledge (Nobility) 8 (+11), Perception 10 (+13), Profession (Fisherman) 10 (+13), Stealth 5 (+10), Survival 10 (+13)
*Bonus skill points gained from Spheres
Traits Deft Dodger (+1 Reflex saves), Prince (+1 Diplomacy, class skill)
Languages Common
SQ Artisan Savant, Customized Weapons (3), Enhanced Customization (+1), Evasion, Favored Element (Explosive Orb, +1 damage), Maintenance (3 allies), Prowess (Mobile Assault), Quick Change (2/round), Reforge, Skilled Craftsman (+1 Profession Blacksmith), Smithing Insight (Durable)
Gear 2,000 GP, Drain Lance** (+2 Spell Storing Lance), Engine Blade** (+2 Spell Storing Longsword, customized weapon), Force Stealer** (+2 Spell Storing Greatsword), Prince's Fatigues (acts as +3 Cloak of Resistance and +3 Chain Shirt), Carbon Bangle (acts as Ring of Protection +2)
**function as customized weapons and thus have a +1 higher enhancement bonus than their listed description
Favored Class Armiger +5 HP
Special Abilities
Special Attacks

Blade's Path (Su): Whenever Noctis successfully damages an enemy or object with an attack made with one of his customized weapons, he may spend 1 spell point as an immediate action to instantly teleport to an unoccupied square adjacent to the target of that attack. When using this ability Noctis may also instantly recover a thrown weapon used in the attack as long as he has a hand free; ammunition that is destroyed or consumed by a successful attack cannot be recovered in this manner.

Diving Strike (Leap Talent): Noctis may charge an enemy by rapidly descending from above them. If the attack at the end of his charge hits, the attack deals damage as normal and also adds the appropriate amount of falling damage (1d6 points for a 10-ft. fall, 2d6 points for a 20-ft. fall, and so on), to his damage roll, to a maximum of 10d6. This falling damage is not multiplied on a critical hit. After the attack is resolved, Noctis lands in an unoccupied square of his choosing adjacent to the target, and he takes falling damage as if you had fallen 10 fewer feet.

Fatal Thrust: Whenever Noctis makes an attack action or an attack of opportunity against a target that is within 30 ft. and that he is flanking, that is flat-footed, or that has lost its Dexterity bonus to AC (such as through a successful feint), he deals an additional +3d6 precision damage to the target. This damage is not multiplied on a critical hit. Noctis may apply the effects of a single (exploit) talent to any fatal thrust.

Fire/Frost/Shock Blast, Explosive Orb: With the expenditure of a spell point, Noctis may deliver a burst of magical elemental force as a ranged attack within 35 feet with a radius of 15 feet. The blast deals 6d6+1 damage with a Reflex save for half damage. The energy type may be cold, electricity, or fire. If fire, affected targets catch on fire on a failed Reflex save. If cold, they are staggered for 1 round on a failed Fortitude save. If electricity, the damage is 6d4+1 and the targets are dazed for 1 round on a failed Fortitude save. The respective save DCs are all 15.

Focusing Switch: While Noctis is using his active weapon and whenever he succeeds on a combat maneuver, confirms a critical hit, or reduces a foe to 0 or fewer hit points, he may regain martial focus by activating a different customized weapon as an immediate action, stowing the current weapon and drawing the new one as needed.

Parry and Riposte: When a creature makes a melee attack against Noctis, he may expend his martial focus and use an attack of opportunity to attempt to parry that attack. Noctis makes an attack roll as if he were making an attack of opportunity, but for each size category the attacking creature is larger than him, he takes a –2 penalty on this roll. If Noctis' result is greater than the attacking creature’s result, the creature’s attack automatically misses and Noctis regain his martial focus or choose to instead make a single melee attack against the parried creature.

Rapid Assault: Noctis is an expert at rapidly integrating multiple weapons into his attack routines. Whenever he successfully damages a creature or succeeds on a combat maneuver while using the attack action with a customized weapon, he may expend martial focus as a swift action to make an additional attack against that creature at his highest base attack bonus. This attack takes a -2 penalty on the attack roll and can only be taken with a customized weapon other than the one used in the triggering attack. If that attack is successful, he may make an additional attack and must use a different customized weapon at a -4 penalty. Noctis may spend a move action to move up to his speed between the triggering action and his additional attack, dividing up the attacks at any creature he can reach among the movement.

Additionally, if Noctis does not have a move action available, he may still move up to his speed as if he spent a move action, but ends up staggered on his next turn.

Repositioning Strike (Exploit Talent) : With a fatal thrust, Noctis causes the target to stumble, nimbly slipping past them. Noctis may immediately move up to half his movement speed as a free action, so long as he end his movement in a space adjacent to the target, and may even move through the target’s occupied space when doing so. This movement does not provoke attacks of opportunity from the target.

Thunderous Blows (Ex): Noctis is particularly adept at striking crafted creations in exactly the right place and manner to damage them most effectively. He never provokes attacks of opportunity for attempting the sunder combat maneuver, and deals an additional 2d6 damage to the struck equipment on a successful sunder attack. If the amount is enough to destroy the equipment, excess damage is dealt to the wielder. Noctis may also sunder natural weapons and armor, inflicting  a -2 penalty on natural armor bonus and/or attack rolls. The natural armor penalty lasts until the target receives magical healing or a DC 15 Heal check, while the attack roll penalty lasts for 1 round.