The University City

Game Masters

Game Information
  • Created Jan 17 '12
  • Last Post Mar 27 '12 at 11:12am
  • Status Aborted
  • System Pathfinder

Game Description

The University City

A Pathfinder game for 3-7 players.


The Holist is a the world's oldest institution. Founded thousands of years ago on a remote tropical island far from civilized lands, the Holist is contained within a complex of five cylindrical ebony towers, each one almost half the height of a small mountain. It's purpose and goals are inscrutable, and its leadership is unknown. No one other than it's members has ever been higher than the fifth floor of any of the towers, and the Holist's leadership has never been seen, only communicating with the outside world through messengers. Because the Holist's chief exports have always been cutting edge products of magic and technology, it is often colloquially called the University. Intelligent races from around the world- and sometimes from beyond it- flock to the Holist to learn, trade, and sometimes join the Holist's diverse membership. While some do become Members live in one of the towers for a time, and then leave or get kicked out, for the most part becoming a Member is a permanent decision that cuts you off from your old life and ambitions. The higher in the Holist's hierachy you rise, the less you leave the cloistered world of the tower. The more of it's secrets you know, the less of the outside world you have contact with.

Almost as long as the towers have been around, they have co-existed with an ad-hoc community on the island that exists either symbiotically or parasitically with the Holist, consisting of traders, the island's natives, diplomats, prospective Members, former Members who want to stay close to the towers, and other opportunists of various stripes. Recent events have cause the size of "The University City" to swell. The world has recently been subject to a long war between the allied nations of the Humans, Elves, and Dwarves and a similar alliance between Goblins, Orcs, Kobolds, and Drow. The Holist stayed neutral until the very end of the war, where it appeared to side with the Drow, only to suddenly change course and start supplying the Human alliance with the firearms and battle magic that gave it the leverage needed to negotiate a truce to its advantage.

The Holist was "allowed" to remain independent (although it is far from clear what would happen if anyone attempted a military invasion) in exchange for a continued trade arrangement, and for serving as the neutral meeting ground for the two sides to continue their complicated diplomatic negotiations. The Holist's status as neutral ground has also made it the primary trading post for the distant Jade Kingdoms, and also the occasional extra-planar visitor.

The University City is ostensibly governed by the Holist, but in practice their management is inconsistent and limited to making sure that things don't go to hell in a way that would be inconvenient for them. For everyday protection, residents depend on relationships to powerful visitors like the embassies, tribal connections (for the natives), and most of all the Partnerships, groups which claim territory in the city and operate like something between community organizations and crime syndicates.

You are a relatively recent arrival to the University City, seeking opportunity and your own goals in the long term and enough coin to keep a roof over your head in the short term. You've formed a loose association with a few others like yourself, people you know and almost trust. Together, you'll carve a place for yourself among the intrigue filling the air around you. If you don't get a knife in the back for your trouble...

Character info:

Character start at 5th level, 20 point buy. Max HP at first level, half after. Any class included in any of the official Paizo products (and hence listed in the SRD at is allowed, but check the setting notes and house rules below- some classes and builds will make mroe sense than others. All the Core races are allowed. Also allowed are Goblins, Kobolds, Orcs, Drow, and Duergar, as listed in the SRD. Alignment will not be used in this game, so there are no alignment restrictions related to class or race. This game will use the Hero Points optional rules from the APG- all characters must declare themselves a Hero or an Antihero at character creation. Heroes start with two hero points and will have the change to earn more, Antiheroes start with an extra feat at first level and will not have the opportunity to earn hero points. (If you don't want to worry about hero points, I suggest you just take the feat.)

House rules for this game:

The Hero Point system from the APG will be used, and all associated feats will be allowed.

The Called Shots system from Ultimate Combat will be used, and all associated feats will be allowed.

The University City will be set at an Emerging Guns level. There will also be some fluff-related house rules concerning supplies of guns and ammunition.

Focus: Spellcasters casting a spell that is either the highest level spell they can cast or one level below must spend a full action focusing- only if they successfully spend a full turn focusing can they cast the spell as their first action on their next turn. While they are focusing, they cannot leave their square, and if they are forcibly moved for any reason their focus is broken. If they are casting a spell with somatic components they must be free to move their hands for the entire round they spend focusing, and if they are casting a spell with vocal components they must audibly chant the entire time that they are focusing; if they cannot, their focus is broken. Whenever a focusing spellcaster takes damage, they must pass a Concentration check with a DC of 10+the amount of damage they took- if they fail this check their focus is broken. Beginning to focus provokes attacks of opportunity. 0-level spells can always be cast without focusing. Rangers, Paladins, and Magi can cast spells for their classes without focusing. Alchemists have no focusing-equivalent for using any of their formulas.

Material component supplies for spellcasters will not be glossed over and will be kept track of, even for components without a listed cost. If you're planning on casting Grease a lot, better stock up on butter while you're in town. Alchemists with access to their supplies will not have to keep track of individual supplies- if they are separate from their usual supplies or forced to hit the backpack too often without resupplying, they may or may not be able to use the formulas that they want. (If you want to be a better position to improvise with whatever's lying around as an Alchemist, invest in Knowledge skills).

Because Alignment will not be used in this game, some spells and class features will work differently than usual. Generally speaking, Detect Good/Evil can be replaced with Detect Undead/Outsiders/People Who Want To Kill Me Presently, and Protect against Good/Evil can be replaced with Protect Against Undead/Outsiders. DR/Lawful (or Chaotic, Good, Evil) is downgraded to DR/magic. Class and race alignment restrictions are removed. Give me a good backstory for your Monk/Barbarian and I'm cool with it. Any other rules problems can be dealt with as they come up.

Notes on Classes and Races:

All the different races in the world of the University of the City have both savage and civilized branches. No race has any special inclination between good and evil behavior, and the recent war was the straightforward result of two large empires each trying to eliminate their competition before same could be done to them.

Clerics, Oracles, Inquisitors, Paladins, Druids, and Witches: Divine magic can consist of anything from a relationship to a distant powerful deity mediated through a church to a personal relationship with a pantheon to a purely mercenary arrangement with an ad-hoc collection of local spirits that grant power in exchange for the occasional sacrifice of spoiled fruit. Players are encouraged to be creative in creating their own gods and relationships to them. Religion and spirituality in the University City universe exist in a constant state of flux, with no one group being dominant.

Wizards, Sorcerers, Alchemists, Summoners, and Bards: The Holist is the world's largest and greatest occult brain trust. The process of becoming a member can take years- your character may be hanging out in the City until his petition can be considered, they may have been rejected but refuse to go home, or they may be in the city for a personal reason. PC's cannot be current or former members of the Holist.

Monks, Magi, Gunslingers: Although versions of their disciplines may exist elsewhere, most beings with the skills of a Monk or Magi were part of the Enforcer class of the Holist, or (in the case of the PCs) were trained by people who were. Gunslingers owe their existence to the Holist's development and continued export of firearm technology, and they may be in the City for no other reason than to stock up enough blast-powder to last them for the rest of their careers. It is whispered that certain minor spirits have begun sponsoring select gunslingers and providing them with mystic gunpowder and ammunition in exchange for working their mysterious will, adding to the mystique of non-Holist gunfighters.

Fighters, Rogues, Barbarians, Rangers, and Ninjas: There's plenty of work for anyone who can handle a blade and keep his or her wits in a tight spot. Barbarians and Rangers may be among the human, orc, or half-orc natives of the island who serve the Holist, would like to see them expelled, or are politically neutral. Or they may be from anywhere else in the world.

Cavaliers and Samurai: This campaign will primarily be set in the crowded city, with occasional trips to the jungle and to dungeon environments. Not much room for horses. If you think of something brilliant and weird you might make this work, but for the most part this will not be a Cavalier-friendly campaign.

Other notes: Expect to being doing a lot of humanoid-on-humanoid combat. Improved Disarm will be a good way to go. Also expect stealth, recon, negotiation, and the occasional desperate retreat to be mixed in with the usual fights. Controlled conditions will be rare, specialists who are only comfortable in a given situation will run into trouble, and single-class fighters with high Charisma and Skill Focus- Diplomacy (for example) will find themselves doing pretty well. So make your character a bad-ass, but optimization from a practical rather than strictly crunchy point of view will be rewarded in-game.

Appications end January 30th. Go to town, guys!

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