Friday, November 29, 2013

Jeff Crunch: Just a Thank You and Small Suggestion.

Today, no crunch or fluff, no stats or rules, just a very sincere THANK YOU to E. Gary Gygax and all of the first RPG grognards, without whom there would be no D&D, edition unimportant.  No Pathfinder, no 13th Age, and no RPG's of paper and pen at all; no breaking the rules of what is, and no awakening of what could be.

In so many ways The Flying Pincushion and all those who write for it owe those first fantasy gamers, E. Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, and a few others, the pantheon of fantasy, for the hobby we love.

So I shall again simply say, THANK YOU, to those immortal's, those first fantasy gaming grognards, and humbly suggest that if you are a gamer and have never read David M. Ewalt's Of Dice and Men that you do so.  It is (in my opinion) the best critical look at pen and paper gaming and gamers, its history, icons, and pit falls.  And it is written by one of the tribe, a fellow modern grognard, and a true son of Gygaxian philosiphy.


Jeffery B. Harris

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from the Flying Pincushion

                                    Picture by sugarcomakat and taken from

Jeff Crunch: What Really Matters?

By Jeff Harris
     This week’s Jeff Crunch is rather an oxymoron, as there is no physical gamer crunch, at least not of the sort I suspect you have come to expect from me.  However Willow has something much deeper that I want to talk about.  Magic acorns and polymorph gone wrong are great, but within the movie there is a subject of much greater relevance, not only to gaming but to life.
     That subject is “what is really important”, on an ethical and personal level.  We see it in the characters of the movie, which if you have not watched, after your read this, you should.  It may not have the most advanced CGI or the best FX, but what it does have in spades is far better, it has real meaning and heart.  Madmartigan is introduced to us as a crow cage bound scoundrel.  Through the course of film however the loyal friendship of Willow Ufgood and the love of Sorsha change the course of his life, revealing the selfless champion within.  Willow himself shows us again that love, in this case love for an innocent child (Elora Danan) who is not his own, and love for his family, is the greatest weapon, not magic, and not tyranny.  Sorsha learns the lesson of love at the side of Madmartigan.
    What does this mean for gaming and gamers, well, for me anyway it means this.  At the heart of what it means to gather at the table and role-play is the fact that it is a microcosm of our reality.  Our bad days at work filter in, but also some of the positive aspects of heroics filters out.  In character how many times do we fight for the good of others or stand fast in the face of terrible odds? How many innocent folk are shown simple acts of kindness, or defended from the cruel and merciless?  Many I would suspect, and just as often in character, we also covet gold, or power, or lust for that which we do not have.  We inflict our will on others because we have the power to do so, and we judge those different as “monstrous.” 
     Well now, that’s starting to sound quite a bit like the real world isn’t it.  A world in which money is power, and where the many work their lives away, for the good of the few, a world full of injustice, inequity, hate, bigotry, suffering, and war. 
     Thus this is the lesson to be learned from Willow, the lesson we can learn from the mirror that is gaming.  The lesson is to know what really matters, not gold (money), or power (things and station), but hearth and home, loyal friends and loved ones.  What matters is the love and friendship of those people, what matters is how the world remembers us, whose lives we touch, and what good we did.  Sales at the mall and buying just the right gift during this holiday season seems allot less important when we step back a ways and really look.
     I know this isn’t my usual fare, and is perhaps a bit more personal than normal, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  During this holiday season, when enjoying time with family and friends, I urge all of our readers to do just what I suggested, think about what really matters in your life, and make sure to tell the people in your life that matter just how you feel and how much they mean to you.  Because in the end, those people and how we touch their lives are really the only things that do matter.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pairing it Down: Willow

By Kiel Howell

     Welcome back or hello if you are new to the Flying Pincushion. This week's theme is the movie Willow. If you haven't seen it then you've done yourself a disservice. This movie is consistently in my top three favorite movies list (along with Episode V and The Princess Bride).

     This is a movie that has just about everything for the tabletop gaming writer. Love, magic, swords, unlikely- and anti- heros, a damsel in distress (who can cause distress), and a spectacularly memorable big bad evil to defeat (Bavmorda) are all part of this movie. Val Kilmer as Madmartigen, Warwick Davis as Willow, Kevin Pollak as Rool, and pretty much the entire cast all splash excellence on the screen. There are humble beginnings, the hero's quest, monsters, and an epic final battle in which good prevails.

     So how on earth do we narrow down our ideas?

     One question I constantly ask myself, “What do I currently feel like writing?” In this case, a monster seems like a good challenge to undertake. I don't normally stat up many creatures because I really have to be interested in the concept to take the time and effort. As an example, I recently wrote up mythic leukodaemon for a play test of the mythic rules that Paizo released (OK so it wasn't too recently). I loved the concept because the creature was a lieutenant, albeit a low ranking one, to one of the Four Horsemen. He also had an ability I wrote that allowed him to take on a creature's class and abilities when he wore their freshly emancipated skull in place of the leukodaemon's normal skull.
So I've made my choice to write a monster for this theme. What can I tap into from Willow that would make for a memorable creature and encounter? Should I choose the Eborsisk that spawns in water? Could be fun, but I think we can dig deeper. Could the disgusting trolls be a viable option? They don't really need to be statted up again. How about one of the brownies? While I do love fey, the brownies already have a place in almost any gaming system.

     This is getting tough. Either it seems we are running into too direct of a choice or there are loads of the same monsters already existing in the gaming world. How about that scene during the final confrontation between Willow and Bavmorda? You know the urn on legs that gets struck by an errant bolt of magic and then comes to life? Now that feels satisfying. That is an interesting creature concept I can get behind that also doesn't have many analogues (aside from animate object type spell effects). If I add a little twist to make it my own creation then we're in business!

     Alright then, I've got a monster concept after picking a scene from the many excellent scenes in the movie; a living urn that attacks folks upon activation. Now maybe that is my twist, that it is already a living urn but only comes to life when activated with magic. Just maybe, that twist can be any magic that catches it in the spell's effects. I think I've got an idea now, a living urn that is brought to life for a short period of time when it comes in contact with any spell's effect(s).

     We need a name for this bad boy. Spell Pot (maybe). Magical Feeder (this doesn't really make any sense). Living Ossuary (bingo!). What you didn't see happen here on the page is that I went and did a good synonym search on the word urn. Ossuary came up and, according to Merriam-Webster’s; it means "a depository for the bones of the dead". That just oozes flavor and a Living Ossuary would fit the bill quite nicely. Now it is time to think up a little introductory paragraph.

“Black iron legs hold this utilitarian urn three feet off the ground. Exposure to magic brings forth action and the lid sprouts metallic teeth, gnashing at anyone close by.”

Seems like a good start since we have a description of what it looks like while catatonic, what activates it, and what it looks like after activation. How hard should this creature for an average party to defeat? In all likelihood, the living ossuary will be a type of caryatid column. Going back and reading the beginning description of the caryatid column on Paizo’s PRD makes me look back at my own description. I think I should revise that description now.

“Innocuous and utilitarian looking, this heavy urn is held three feet off the ground by three black, wrought iron legs.”

     That feels better as it is more concise and doesn’t give away too much of the creature on the get-go. Looking again, the caryatid column is a CR3 creature with some interesting effects when it comes into contact with magic. CR3 seems like a good place for a living ossuary to be because I envision this creature is something that a big baddy would have around but is easily controlled by the big baddy. Having made this decision, I will construct the monster entry by basing it off the caryatid column stats and tweaking a few things to fit what I envision.

Living Ossuary CR 3

Innocuous and utilitarian looking, this heavy urn is held three feet off the ground by three black, wrought iron legs.

XP 800
N Medium construct
Init-1; Sensesblindsight 60 ft.; Perception +0
AC 14, touch 9, flat-footed 14 (-1 Dex, +5 natural)
hp 36 (3d10+20)
Fort +1, Ref +0, Will +1
DR 5/—; Immune construct traits
Defensive Abilities magic eater
Speed 20 ft.
Meleeslam +7 (1d6+4)
Special Attacks trample (1d6+6, DC 16)
Str18, Dex 9, Con —, Int —, Wis 11, Cha 1
Base Atk +3; CMB +7; CMD 16 (14 vs. Trip)
SQ catatonic, three-legged
Environment any
Organization solitary, pair, or colonnade (6-11)
Treasure standard
-----Special Abilities-----
Catatonic (Ex) A living ossuary is considered to be under the effects of a sleep spell until they are subjected to any magical effect. Once activated in this manner, a living ossuary remains active until destroyed or all living creatures within its blindsight range are killed. Living ossuaries cannot be identified as living creatures until it is activated or studied for 3 rounds with detect magic.

Magic Eater (Ex) A living ossuary absorbs any 2nd level or lower spell. When a spell is absorbed the DR of the living ossuary increases by the spell’s level.

Three-Legged (Ex) A living ossuary is built as a tripod and suffers a -2 to its CMD against trip attacks.

Living ossuaries are variants of caryatid columns and are created by spellcasters to guard the entry into a room used for arcane magic rituals. Like caryatid columns, living ossuaries cannot be made into shield guardians, but they are often used in greater numbers because of their relatively inexpensive creation cost and functionality in arcane rituals. Living ossuaries have no programming regarding what area to guard or whom to ignore, rather they attack anyone in the range of their blindsight. Invisibility has no effect on a living ossuary’s detection of a creature.

A living ossuary stands 3 feet tall and weighs 350 pounds. Any items placed inside the lid of a living ossuary can be taken when they are inactive or destroyed.

A living ossuary is made from wrought iron and brass weighing 350 pounds in total and costing 1,000 gp in total.

Living Ossuary
CL 11th; Price 6,000 gp
Requirements Craft Construct, antimagic field, lesser geas, caster must be at least 11th level; Skill Craft (blacksmithing) DC 15; Cost 3,500

     There we have it! We fully created a construct based on the urn that came alive from an errant bolt of magic in the movie Willow. I will leave it to you, the reader, to look at the differences in the stat block between the caryatid column on Paizo’s PRD and this living ossuary. Leave any questions (or anything at all!) in the comments and I would be more than happy to answer you.

     Until next installment, in which I find an idea from Gilgamesh, have a great week.

Mythic Monster Monday: The Eborsisk

                                   Picture by CerberusLives and taken from

By Andrew Hoskins

The Eborsisk
With slimy mottled flesh and a bloated stomach, this creature lumbers around on two pairs of mismatched legs. Its two heads peer around atop elongated necks; engorged flesh sacs hang from each of its flabby jowls.
Mythic Giant Two-Headed Troll                               CR 11/MR 4
XP 12,800
CE Huge mutated humanoid (giant, mythic)
Init +0; Senses darkvision 90 ft., low-light vision, scent; Perception +19
AC24, touch 7, flat-footed 24 (-1 Dex, +17 natural, -2 size)
hp206 (12d8+120+32); regeneration 10 (acid or fire)
Fort +15, Ref +3, Will+6
Defensive Abilities Absorb Water, fortification (50%);DR10/epic
Weaknesses Flame Sacs
Speed40 ft., climb 20 ft., swim 20 ft.
Melee2 bites +20 (2d6+12 plus grab)
Space15 ft.; Reach10 ft. (15 ft. with bite)
Special Attacksbreath weapon (30 ft. cone, 6d6 fire, Reflex DC 26 for half, usable every 1d4 rounds), grab, mythic power (4/day, surge +1d8), rend (2 bites, 2d6+18), swallow whole (4d6 acid damage, AC 18, DR 10/epic, 20 hp)
Before Combat Eborsisks are not usually around long enough to develop behaviors outside of combat, but when they do, they’re usually lumbering around looking for food and screeching. Though they retain the intelligence of their humanoid origins, they don’t bother with tools or weapons, preferring brute strength and a direct approach to meeting their basic needs.
During Combat Because damage to their flame sacs is so painful, they go out of their way to kill creatures trying to harm them by puncturing the tender sacs. Otherwise, they will try to swallow whatever food happens to be near. When faced with particularly hard to catch creatures, or when three or more morsels cluster together, the Eborsisk will try to get them to stop moving with its flaming breath. Sometimes the heads fight over food and will continue to try to tear the food from the other head’s mouth. They continue like this until they rip the food in half and each can swallow their own portion.
Morale Not being particularly bright, the Eborsisk will continue trying to eat everything in sight until it dies, relying on its regeneration to heal its wounds.
Str35, Dex9, Con30, Int8, Wis10, Cha6
Base Atk +9; CMB +23 (+27 to grapple); CMD32 (36 vs. trip)
FeatsDazzling Display, Intimidating Prowess, Iron WillM, Power AttackM, Skill Focus (Perception), Weapon Focus (bite)
SkillsIntimidate +15, Perception +19
SQOsmotic Growth, Twin Heads
Organization solitary
Breath Attack (Su) When the Eborsisk uses it’s breath weapon, either of its heads can breathe a 30-foot-long cone of flame. When using both heads at once, these cones can be directed to affect separate squares (dealing 6d6 points of fire damage to those within), or can cover the same area (wholly or partially; dealing 12d6 points of fire damage to those within). The save DC is Constitution-based.
Flame Sacs (Ex) Each of the Eborsisk’s heads has a massive sack of skin hanging from its jowls. When the creature’s breath weapon is recharging, it becomes engorged. Once the breath weapon is ready, the sac is bulbous and vulnerable. To puncture a flame sac, an opponent must make a sunder attempt with a piercing weapon targeting a sac. A sac is considered a separate weapon with DR 10/epic and 12 hit points. To puncture a sac, an opponent must inflict enough damage to reduce the sac’s hit points to 0 or less.
        Puncturing a fully engorged sac causes 6d6 points of fire damage in a 30 ft. burst. For each round remaining until the breath weapon is recharged, subtract 1d6 points of fire damage and 5 ft. from the burst area. If the sac is punctured while fully engorged, that head is also destroyed and cannot be regrown through regeneration. Otherwise, the damage to the sac is healed in 1 round of successful regeneration and starts recharging with 4 rounds remaining. The Eborsisk cannot attack with a destroyed head and loses the Twin Heads special ability. If both heads are destroyed, the Eborsisk is slain.
Osmotic Growth (Su) The Eborsisk absorbs water through its skin at an alarming rate. If exposed to a volume of water equal to its size, the Eborsisk can spend a full-round action and absorb the water, gaining the giant simple template,3 extra hit dice, and increasing its natural armor by +2. If the Eborsisk is already colossal in size, it gains the advanced simple template instead of the giant simple template. An Eborsisk may also absorb spells with the water keyword; when it has absorbed a number of spell levels equal to its number of hit dice, it grows in size.
Twin Heads (Ex)Because the Eborsisk has two brains, it can easily control multiple attacks without penalty. It never takes penalties to attack or damage from making multiple attacks. As a standard action, it can make two attacks. If these two attacks are the same form of attack, the Eborsisk gets special advantages. If they are they both bite attacks, then add 1 1/2 times the creatures Strength bonus to damage. When making a breath attack, it can take a standard action and use both heads for the attack, increasing the saving throw DC by +2, and the delay before they can be used again is halved.

The Eborsisk first appeared at the Azata Academae, a bardic college of some renown. During one of the graduation ceremonies, the two-headed monstrosity burst from the courtyard fountain and ate two of the head professors, for which the beast is named.  Since then there have been mercifully few sightings, so little is known of the creature.

What has been recorded, mostly from eyewitness accounts and study of the creatures’ remains, is unreliable at best. Most mages agree that an Eborsisk is only created by magic, often when a poorly executed polymorph spell interacts with creatures with regenerative abilities. Since the few accounts have all involved trying to transmute a troll, the most common belief is that this is regressing the troll to a previous state.

These heavily mutated creatures have never had a long enough lifespan to develop proper living habits, that scholars are aware of. If one were to get to a large body of water, such as a lake or ocean, the horror it would become could be catastrophic.