Saturday, September 23, 2023

3E OdditE: Ambient Tempest (Bestiary of Krynn, 2004)

Click here to return to the OdditE archive.

Dragonlance has a weird relationship with the larger body of 3E material, as well as the audience who engages with it. WotC owned the license throughout the entirety of the edition, but after one of many legal back-and-forths they handed the actual work of writing and publishing Dragonlance books off to Sovereign Press, the printing company owned by Dragonlance cocreator Margaret Weis.

Because of that technically-officially-licensed-yet-also-3rd-party status, all of the 3E Dragonlance books are in a weird limbo when it comes to whether people consider them "core" or not. You rarely ever see material from them referenced alongside other splatbooks on forums and in character build handbooks. Even other settings like Eberron were talked about far more often in similar contexts, although part of that was probably thanks to differences in sales and plain old popularity. This was the early-to-mid 2000s, and Dragonlance was no longer the same hot young IP it was in the 1980s.

As a result, I regularly learn about whole new classes, spells, and feats that I've never even heard of before cracking open one of the old Dragonlance campaign setting books for the first time. It's always a fun discovery, no matter how bland or broken or just plain weird the thing in question happens to be.

Today, I'll be sharing one such find.

The Bestiary of Krynn was originally released in 2004, but owing to the hefty amount of errata and cut content that it shipped without, a Revised edition was released in November of 2006. 3E Dragonlance books were somewhat notorious for their seeming lack of close proofreading and editing, which probably contributed to their lack of popularity online. At least the Bestiary got a second shot, unlike most others.

(And it really needed the second shot, because one of the class abilities we'll be looking at today was completely nonfunctional due to an omitted word!)

In the Bestiary we are treated to all manner of nasties and weirdos. This includes an unsurprisingly large proportion of dragon subtypes, but also some beasts, outsiders, undead, and a caste of goblins mutated by chaotic magic called the Gurik Cha'ahl. It also has a suite of monster-oriented Prestige Classes, as well as rules for handling a monster PC's initial rejection and possible acceptance by any humanoid communities they adventure in, which I wasn't expecting at all. Savage Species should have done something similar, in my opinion.

One monster PrC in particular grabbed my attention, because more than being for monsters, it's for anyone with enough primal magical power.

3E Dragonlance books were mostly set during the Age of Mortals after the Chaos War, where through multiple novels worth of machinations the dark goddess Takhisis used the cosmic battle with the gods' deadbeat dad Chaos to steal the entire planet of Krynn away from her siblings. All divine and arcane magic ceased to function for that approximately 50 year period, because even wizards are dependent upon the three magical moon gods for their spells on Krynn.

During this magical dark age, mortals rediscovered the ancient "wild" sorcery that comes from the land itself, rather than from the moons. Simultaneously, they drew upon the latent power of mortal souls to develop the more internal and spiritualistic form of divine magic called mysticism. In thematic terms they're remarkably similar to different aspects of Primal magic that we would later see in D&D 4E. In mechanical terms, the sorcerer is unchanged while the mystic is a new base class presented in the Dragonlance Campaign Setting that acts like a spontaneous cleric minus the heavy armor, undead turning, and 1 domain. Kind of sparse, but still a solid Tier 2.

Even after Takhy's plot was foiled in part by a time-traveling kender and most of the gods returned to the world, these new/old forms of magic continue to exist alongside their traditional cousins. The future is uncertain and bound to be rocky, but mortals are in a better position to steer their own destinies than they have been in ages- so long as those pendulum-obsessed rich kids they call gods can stop meddling in their plaything so much.

Delving deeper into either of these ambient forms of magic to unlock their hitherto-untapped potential is the specialty of the aptly-named Ambient Tempest.

Ambient Tempest

Unquenchable, unstoppable, and, er, unclothable.

The Ambient Tempest (AT) is a 5-level PrC with 1d4 HD, 2 + Int skill ranks in a modest list, 1/2 BAB, poor Fort and Reflex Saves, and 4/5 spontaneous spellcasting advancement. Between the sorcerer and the mystic, its basic chassis is closer to sorcerer. A melee mystic would get set back quite a bit by levels in this class, though its unique abilities might make up for it to some extent. Dedicated casters who are already trying to stay out of harm's way are mostly only looking at a downside of 1 lost CL.

Qualifying for AT requires 9 ranks in Knowledge (Arcana) and Spellcraft, two out of a selection of magical and metamagic feats, 3rd-level spontaneous spells from either of the above classes (or a weirder pick), and either a supernatural or spell-like ability or two more of the above feats. Mystics can qualify depending on their chosen domain's granted power, while sorcerers might need a bit more work depending on if the Familiar class ability counts as (Su) or not. Something like a dragon with innate magical abilities has the easiest time qualifying for this PrC, but PC species can potentially qualify by 6th level.

Unsurprisingly there are no online reprints of this or most other Dragonlance material.
So here's a screen grab of the table from the revised PDF. Shh, don't tell Hasbro.

The three big class features of the AT are Shifting Knowledge (Ex), Ambient Secret, and Spellshaping (Ex). Their theme is tweaking or breaking many of the usual rules for spontaneous casting, which fits well with the flavor of the PrC.

Shifting Knowledge allows the spontaneous caster to dispense with the once-at-4th-level-and-every-2nd-level-after-that rule for changing out their known spells for others, and instead change 1 spell/week with an hour of meditation as long as it's 2 spell levels below your max. While it isn't as freeing as other classes like say, the Spirit Shaman (Complete Divine) that can change their spontaneous list daily, it's a big step toward making sorcerers and mystics more versatile. With enough downtime you could redo most of your spell library, and I think that's an uncommon and neat ability.

Ambient Secret comes up 3 times during AT progression. It allows you to select 1 ability from a short list, most of which can't be selected multiple times as is standard for that sort of thing. The choices are:

  • Improved Metamagic, which allows you to ignore the normal rule that metamagic on a spontaneous spell costs a full-round action. I always wondered why that rule only existed for the less overpowered of all the full-casters, but wonky balance is part of why I love/hate 3E.
    • (This is the ability that I mentioned was unusable prior to errata, because instead of "a spell" it just said "a". Big improvement.)
  • Improved Shifting, which allows you to ignore the spell level limit on swapping spells in and out with Shifting Knowledge. Simple but good. Now your entire repertoire is mutable.
  • Metamagic Feat, which is exactly what it sounds like. You may learn any metamagic feat you qualify for, and you can take this more than once if you really want.
    • I'd personally avoid taking this more than once because you only have 3 secrets total.
  • Shifting Knowledge, which is named exactly like the other class feature for some reason. I would've gone with Expanded Knowledge or something like that but hey, I'm not the editor. It lets you swap 1 extra spell per week and can be taken more than once. This could be really good, or just kind of nice, depending on how varied the challenges you tend to face are.
    • My personal ranking puts this at the bottom—maybe tied with the bonus metamagic feat—below the other two near-mandatory secrets.

Spellshaping lets you just walk all over the normal rules of metamagic. With this ability, you can reverse your Enlarge, Extend, or Widen metamagic feats so that they reduce the spell's effect for a spell slot 1 level lower than normal. This is the first instance of reverse metamagic I've ever seen in 3rd Edition, and I love the concept. It gives so many situationally useful spells that much more utility, especially at higher levels when your lower-level spell slots start to pile up and feel less impactful. 

Imagine Narrowing a Fireball so that you don't clip your friends who are hanging around too close to the target, or Shortening all those combat buffs and debuffs that have durations measuring in the minutes/level, which rarely ever matters in a system where combat lasts less than a minute on average. It barely even feels like a cost, and that's before you get to the gravy of saving your bigger spell slots, or the hidden tech of adding one of these on top of a regular metamagic feat in order to modify its increased cost.

I've never wanted to play a sorcerer before (except for an attempt at a Greater Mighty Wallop build one time), but this PrC kinda gives me the itch to try. I'd probably opt for mystic if I was in a Dragonlance game, though. Playing a Stone-Teller of the Godless Folk would be too nifty to pass up.

You could bring in any other spontaneous caster for shenanigans, though. Imagine a spirit shaman combining daily list tweaks with the metamagic metagame, or using the Unearthed Arcana option for spontaneous clerics and druids.

Or don't, because that might be too much cheese. It won't be mozzarella nightstick levels of cheese, but at least a solid, rindy gouda.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Troika: The Spellsponge

You aren't sure if you were lucky or unlucky when the witch-hunter's spell fizzled out upon your bare skin with an inelegant schlorp. On one hand you escaped immediate, agonizing death. But on the other hand, everyone within sight of the incident couldn't shake the feeling that maybe the fanatic's suspicions about you were not completely baseless.

You've been on the run ever since. Not because you're still being hunted, although that certainly is one motivator. No, you wander because that fateful day awakened something in you. A thirst for magic that isn't academic, nor megalomaniacal, nor power-hungry. Well, maybe it's a little hungry. A hunger for spells, the look and feel of them, the sensation of intuitive knowing that fills you when you're around magic.

That ineffable feeling has sent you wandering far. Maybe somewhere in the feeling of sublime wholeness, you'll find out just how and why you randomly soak spells up like a sponge.

Or maybe you'll get to freak out another inquisitor.

The Spellsponge

Nishat by Ron Koza (formerly hvit-ravn)


  • Travelworn Cloak, stitched and patched in many colors.
  • Walking Stick, inexpertly carved out of boredom.
  • Knife, more for the outdoors than the battlefield but still quite sharp.
  • Idiosyncratic Trinkets & Charms which don't actually do anything supernatural but help you make sense of the world and your aberrant relationship to magic within it.
  • A Map scribbled with notes on local wizard schools, temples, ley-lines, etc.

Advanced Skills

    3 Second Sight
    2 Awareness
    2 Intuition
    2 Spell - Random
    1 Spell - Random


When you witness a spell being cast or are targeted by a spell, you may Test your Luck to learn that spell as if you had trained a new Advanced Skill to rank 1. Additionally, if the spell is targeted at you and you succeed your Test, you "soak up" the spell and it does not affect you. You may attempt this once per week per spell. You can't use this ability on a spell you already know.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Slag & Scale

It is known how the God at the Forge created the Sun: by complete accident.

When the Trickster wished to give the smith a gift to express its love for them, it did not know how, because it could not express anything. Deceit and concealment was so ingrained in its ways that it could not even tell a truth it wanted to share. So the Trickster fell back on old habits and presented to the God at the Forge a lump of the world's worst, most impure ore. The Trickster then dared the god to create anything of beauty out of it, teasing them and doubting their abilities as a child might the person they fancy.

The God at the Forge was insulted, for pride in the craft was their insurmountable nature. So they accepted the challenge, and set straight to work. They took the lump of ore to their forge and heated it a thousand-thousand times over, in a fire a thousand times brighter and hotter than the smith had ever stoked before. So bright and hot was the forge that all the other gods and creatures of the Rift shied away and fled to the twilit places- all but the Trickster, who watched the smith work in teary-eyed awe.

The Trickster beheld as the god at their bellows began to melt away the outer layers of the ore. Molten slag flowed like rivers and cooled into mountains, yet that vexing lump of ore remained undiminished; still impure. The smith's anger burned as hot as the forge, nearly melting it to the firmament. The god finally lashed out and sent the slag crashing to their feet, before stomping away and brooding over what next to do.

The Trickster also watched as some of that discarded slag began to move. Shattered crags picked themselves up and brushed off the smaller, crumbly bits of their fellows with stumpy, blunt limbs. They looked around with eyeless heads, and soon trundled or toddled away in fear at the sound of their creator's loud grumbling.

When the ore proved too stubborn, the smith pulled it out of the forge and laid it upon their anvil in the grip of their great and immovable tongs. If all the impurities would not melt out, then they would hammer them out. The smith deliberated at length, and finally took up one of their 6,842 hammers with which to begin the Great Folding.

For a length of time that would come to be called a year, the god hammered at the lump of ore. Every swing lit the Rift with showers of sparks, and shook the gulfs to their depths. The ore was beaten and shaped, tortured and purified, until the lesser metals were dragged screaming to the surface and smote.

The Trickster watched as those flakes of hammerscale rained upon the anvil like storms-yet-to-be, only to be swept away by the calloused hand of the God at the Forge. The flakes danced and shivered like black snowflakes as they fell, twisting in the heated air currents until they landed upon spindly little arms and legs. Jagged and pointy, these diminutive creatures did not flee in fear from their creator so quickly.

But just as the smith ignored the gawking Trickster, so too did they ignore the growing audience at their feet. They seized upon the progress they made, bringing the hammer down faster and harder until their arm was a blur, and their work reached a fever pitch.

When it did, they broke their hammer upon the lump of ore and ignited something deep within it. A spark unlike any other, that grew and grew to absorb the entire sphere with a brilliance that not even the smith could withstand. So they hurled it away into the darkness, where it caught in the empty void and erupted into its full glory.

At that, the little scales yipped and fled in fear. All the gods of the Rift came to look in awe at the newborn Sun. Without a doubt, it was the greatest thing of beauty the God at the Forge had ever made. Even the dust and the dregs of the Rift thought so, and began to dance around the Sun in ever greater crowds.

But the story of how the worlds were wedded together is for another time.

For now, the God at the Forge stood and basked in the warmth of their creation, and the accolades of their fellows. They waited, proud and imperious, for the Trickster to come before them and declare its challenge met. But the Trickster did not. The Trickster could not. All it could do was conceal the ache in its heart as it stole away to darker parts, where the smith's beauty did not burn so brightly, and the laughter of gods was not so loud.

There, in the dark and quiet, the Trickster found that it was not so alone. It found there, huddled and frightened, the little bits of slag and hammerscale that the smith had cast off and forgotten in their work. They were as children without a parent, in a Rift that was no longer what it once was. Yet they were sharp and rough to look upon, beautiful like lead, cruel to the touch and clumsy in all ways. The haughty gods of the Rift would never even notice them, let alone deign to welcome them in.

And so the Trickster reached out its long arms, and gathered the slag and scales up in spindly hands that could only steal the belongings of others. And then it closed its mouth so full of lies long enough to tenderly kiss them upon their jagged little heads. And then in a voice too quiet to hear it admitted that yes, the God at the Forge had made something beautiful indeed.

That, child, is why you should always treat with respect the things we might call waste: you never know when they might hold the guarded love of the Trickster.

Or perhaps that is just another lie, meant to put fidgeting children to bed. Now go to sleep.

Friday, September 1, 2023

SotU Hack: Sojourners of the Unknown

Last month I didn't publish anything because I was flitting back and forth between three or four different things that might turn out to be major, trajectory-altering projects for me, or they might end up being nothing at all. It's hard to tell at this stage. But the tiny voice in my head that embodies all the passive-aggression of a YouTube commenter saying "you should really do X again" has gotten loud lately, so I decided to take a break from flitting and focus on finishing something small.

Incidentally I've recently learned about Searchers of the Unknown, another hackable 1-page OSR system that got its start in the late 2000s. It was inspired by the single-line, barebones monster stat blocks of old school modules. If that's good enough for the monsters, why not for PCs too? So asks the expressly minimalist SotU, before going about offering an answer. It has dozens of hacks now, and I see the charm in it. So I decided to give it a shot too.

To do that, I spent a day diving into the 2012 SotU collection. If there's a more recent edition, I couldn't find it, but even back then it offered plenty of hacks and version updates to study and compare. Most of the rules down below are tweaked or outright stolen from the various hacks found within.

The remaining rules are borrowed from D&D 4th Edition's skill challenge system, because there are no gods and no masters, and we must hasten entropy in all things.

The end result took a few turns away from the spirit of SotU, but then again that's the heart of hacking. It's a watered-down nomadic exploration flavor of game, somewhere in between my old Desolate Days idea and some of the house rules I've regurgitated in the past. It also works about as well for a cozy, nonviolent camping trip style of game. Go figure.

I did a much better job limiting myself to the right size this time than with previous 1-page projects. It still spills over a little bit in the original two-column Google Doc, but that doesn't matter so much here in Blogger because either the editor lacks the support for it, or I don't know the HTML sorcery to make it myself.

Sojourners of the Unknown


Another SotU hack that turns the minimalism toward trailblazing and discovery. Your tribe/village/community is migrating after being driven from its home by marauding adventurers. You are scouts sent ahead of the caravan to find safe passage through unfamiliar lands.
Or if possible, find a new home.

Build a Sojourner

PCs are not expert guides or hardened survivalists. They’re novices, apprentices, and surplus relatives. The only reason they’re out here instead of someone else is because the community could afford to let them go.
1) Choose a Background. Could be herder, tradesperson, musician, healer, etc. You receive +2 on all related checks.
2) Choose Traveling Gear. This gives your PC survival rate (SV) and movement rate (MV).

Gear Level






Traveling Light



Always Be Prepared



Complete Packrat



You get a backpack, walking stick, waterskin, etc. regardless of gear level.
The party also gets 1 pony/wagon/travois/etc.
3) Roll for Hardiness (or don’t). Roll 1 hardiness die (HD) per level, or take half the die’s value. Do the same for all future HD.
4) Finish up. Choose a name, a 1-line description, and a 1-line background for your PC if you're feeling extra fancy.
Example: Nergui (3HD SV 9 MV 8, househusband, apprentice shaman) is a ruddy, reedy fellow in search of snacks for the village kids during his cheerful self-exile.


Any discrete scenario that offers stiff resistance, like a perilous hike or a pack of angered animals, is an encounter.
You face an encounter by rolling checks. The referee determines how many successes an encounter requires to advance, and how many failures will thwart the party. Remember to fail forward and/or complicate victories.
The players are encouraged to get creative with checks, and the referee decides if their logic and applied bonuses fit the fiction.
Example: The party failed to avoid hostilities with a neighboring tribe, and decides to circumvent them by rafting down the nearby river. The referee decides 4 cumulative successes means they navigate without issue, while 3 failures whisk them far downriver, out of control on the strong current.


All checks are made by rolling 1d20 +½ level (rounded down) +other modifiers (background bonus, etc). A result of 20+ succeeds.
Survival Checks: Knowledge and grit. Treating an injury, following tracks, identifying (and surviving) poisonous plants, befriending strangers, etc. Roll +SV.
Movement Checks: Athletics and fine motor skills. Climbing, swimming, sneaking, avoiding mauling, etc. Roll +MV.
Hazards: Exploration is dangerous. Bad encounter outcomes deal 1HD to each PC from injury, stress, or loss of resources. Disastrous results deal 2HD. Certain dooms deal 4HD. PCs recover hardiness by setting camp and resting. PCs who run out of hardiness need to be brought back to the community for healing before they can rest.


The occasional scroll, potion, wand or runed piece of tree bark bearing a magic spell can be found by the party while exploring.
Spell names imply their effects, the dimensions and details of which should be described by the players when they cast them.
A spell lasts 1 encounter and counts as 1 or 2 successes without needing to roll checks, depending on how cleverly the player uses and roleplays it.


The PCs’ community starts at level 1 with 0 XP. Each time the party reports back with new discoveries or resources to share, the community gains XP.
The community requires an additional 1000 XP multiplied by its current level to advance to the next level. There is no level limit.
The community gains 1000 XP per major discovery. Discoveries include finding a landmark, meeting another community, making alliances, recruiting new people, facing a new foe for the first time, etc.
The community also gains 1 XP per GP worth of supplies or treasure donated (i.e. not spent by the party or on the party).
When a community levels up the party shares in the benefits, gaining better rolls and another Hardiness die (or half its value). Every 3rd level the PCs each gain a new background, or improve an old one by +1.

And now, for sure, wander on!