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Old Hat Monsters: Tribal Chieftain Template

Old Hat Monsters: Tribal Chieftain Template

Illustration of a scene in Robert E. Howard's "Red Nails": this picture was first published in Weird Tales (July 1936, vol. 28, no. 1).“The sight of it made the earth seem unearthly. They were accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there—there you could look at a thing monstrous, beautiful, and free.” —Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.

My first Old Hat Monster article was about breathing new life into the classic monster races with my civilized template. The idea plays off a common assumption that the monstrous humanoids are generally going to be unintelligent savages. This assumption is often reinforced by game mechanics and fantasy tradition. Breaking that mold always seems to work—the players always take the “civilized” monster a little more seriously.

The quandary, of course, is that this should be the very opposite. As the player characters explore uncharted territory, there should be a sense of unease . . . a fear of the unknown. Taming the wilds should be a frightening concept. The civilized urbane citizens of your favorite Pathfinder setting should be a little softer than those who still live off hunting and gathering.

Once again, game mechanics are to blame. Proceed cautiously after the jump as I present the first in a small series of tribal templates, starting with the tribal chieftain template (CR +1).

The easiest way to make a tribal chieftain is to use the advanced template and call it a day. That will earn you a monster that hits harder and likely rules the tribe by fear, but unless you want only a speed bump, you’ve hardly considered the full potential of this sort of encounter. As I mentioned in previous articles, the “tribal” monsters aren’t given the same respect afforded to barbarians. Instead, many might see them as being simply stupid. Stupid isn’t intimidating if your players have any sense of tactics, otherwise every villain would look like the Hulk: strong and hard-hitting but easily deceived or avoided. And with this tribal chieftain template, you have more to work with in terms of roleplaying, which can also engage your players in ways other than combat, potentially.

Considering that the tribal chieftain should be a decent leader to maintain his or her position (a feared leader eventually gets the Julius Caesar treatment), this means the creature should gain a boost to both Charisma and Wisdom. For our purposes, the tribal chieftain template adds +4 Wis and +4 Cha.

The chieftain often resolves internal conflicts and sets tribal policy toward matters of territory and the treatment of outsiders, thus he or she gains +5 to Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidation, Perception, and Sense Motive, plus gains an additional +3 to Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidation. More so, the chieftain understands the importance of being knowledgeable about nature and the land the tribe inhabits, so add +8 to Knowledge (nature), Knowledge (local), and Survival. To understand how to proceed in tribal matters, one must remember where one has been, so add +8 to Knowledge (history) and Perform (oratory), with an additional +4 modifier for recalling and telling tribal stories.

The tribal chieftain’s rise to power is rarely unopposed and more often fraught with peril, so the following feats helped the chieftain gain power: Weapon Focus (tribal weapon), Weapon Specialization (tribal weapon), Toughness, Improved Initiative, and Dodge. If the chieftain has 7 or more Hit Dice, you can add Leadership to that list, even if the character would not ordinarily qualify. In addition, if the tribal chieftain has at least a Charisma score of 13, he or she may use comprehend languages and suggestion once per day as though the chieftain had cast the spell as a sorcerer equal to his or her Hit Dice.

In battle, the tribal chieftain that stands with members of his or her tribe grants a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls and against fear effects. If the chieftain falls, there’s a 25 percent chance the rest of the tribe will surrender, a 25 percent chance they will flee, and a 50 percent chance they will all become enraged as per the rage spell (CL = the chieftain’s Hit Dice.) If a shaman or hero is present, the tribe may defer to either of those templated characters.

8 thoughts on “Old Hat Monsters: Tribal Chieftain Template”

  1. Thanks John went with leveling and changing deities of this assimar, added chieftan template and 5 points mutation. Worships Goloran god not covered by OGL…http://www.d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/outsiders/aasimar would make a great addition to the ruins you got last week.

    XP 200
    Aasimar cleric of monster goddess 2
    CN Medium outsider (native)
    Init +4; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +12
    AC 18, touch 11, flat-footed 17 (+5 armor, +1 dodge, +2 natural)
    hp 22 (2d8+6)
    Fort +4, Ref +0, Will +9
    Resist acid 5, cold 5, electricity 5
    Speed 30 ft. (20 ft. in armor), Flight 60 (40ft in armor)
    Melee masterwork falchion +3 (2d4+1) and 2 wing buffet attacks at -1 for (1D4-1 each)
    Ranged light crossbow +1 (1d8/19–20)
    Special Attacks channel negative energy (7/day, 1d6, DC 14), Visions of madness (9/day, touch attack)
    Spell-Like Abilities (CL 1st)
    1/day–daylight, comprehend languages, suggestion
    9/day copycat
    Spells Prepared (CL 1st)
    1st–disguise self, murderous command, lesser confusion, cure light wounds
    0th (at will)–detect magic, guidance, bleed
    D domain spell; Domains Madness, Trickery
    Str 8, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 13, Wis 21, Cha 18
    Base Atk +0; CMB –1; CMD 9
    Feats Flyby Attack, Weapon Focus (falchion), Weapon Specialization (falchion), Toughness, Improved Initiative, and Dodge
    Skills Bluff +9, Diplomacy +15, Intimidation +15, Heal +9, Knowledge (religion) +5, knowledge (local) +9, knowledge (history) +9, knowledge (nature) +9), Perform (oratory) +12, Perception +12, Sense Motive +15, Fly +12, survival +14; Racial Modifiers +2 Diplomacy, +2 Perception
    Languages Celestial, Common, Draconic
    Environment any land
    Organization solitary, pair, or team (3–6)
    Treasure NPC gear (scale mail, masterwork falchion, light crossbow with 10 bolts, other treasure)
    Evolutions (wings 2pts, skilled flying 1 point, Improved nat AC 1 point, wing buffet 1 point)
    In battle, the tribal chieftain that stands with members of his or her tribe grants a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls and against fear effects. If the chieftain falls, there’s a 25 percent chance the rest of the tribe will surrender, a 25 percent chance they will flee, and a 50 percent chance they will all become enraged as per the rage spell (CL = the chieftain’s Hit Dice.)

  2. Hi Frank,

    I’m really enjoying these articles. Thank you for taking the time to write them up for us, and then going above and beyond to provide some examples based on our feedback and requests.

    Would you please explain why the tribal chieftain with high enough Charisma receives “comprehend languages” and “suggestion” once per day? Just curious what that is modeling in the chieftain’s background and skill set. It’s not truly a magical ability, correct?

  3. @ Tim,
    Your are quite correct, not magical at all. I considered giving a skill bonus to linguistics instead of the comprehend languages bit and a feat or class feature instead of suggestion but ultimately I decided the spell represented what I wanted well enough.

    Comprehend languages was needed to break language barriers, the chieftain and later you’ll see the shaman are the most likely characters in a tribe to be able to do that. I wanted something independent of the Intelligence modifier in case you’re going with say the primitive template as well. The Chieftain is a social character and needs to be able to communicate to shine. I see allot of roleplay potential with this template.

    When I was creating the template I kept thinking of people and characters that seem to exude authority. For awhile I studied criminal justice and there was a professor that I had that had that aura about him. He had been a drill sergeant, a police captain, and was now a college professor as well. Let’s just say that when he told you to do something you dam well did it if you knew him or not, he just had that kind of natural authority*. Giving the Chieftain command 1/day just seemed natural and a nod to that old professor.

    Hope that answers your Question.

    *Feel like I should go do push-ups now…

  4. So how exactly does the “additional +3 to Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidation” fit? I don’t see it in your example. Just the original +5. Why would you not just have it as +8 for those three? Or are those additional +3 bonuses keyed to certain things like +4 for recalling tribal stories. Which, btw, do they get that on both the Knowledge AND the Perform skills?

    Finally, the cleric aasimar example has the incorrect BAB. It’s +1. Clerics are 3/4 BAB.

  5. I’d also want to know what kind of name you’d give the “+2 morale”. Maybe “Chieftan Morale” in the SQ? That way a person doesn’t forget about the bonus. Or perhaps a large aura that only affects allies.

  6. @Derek B.
    -Design note on the additional +3 in one of the social skills is based on the idea of Chieftains having different management styles, you are also sharp eyed enough to catch I forgot to place it in the example.
    -+4 is for both in the circumstance of relating oral history basically. Both are somewhat specific niches skills and the conditional modifier isn’t exactly game breaking for the adjustment.
    -Good eye on another crunch error BAB should be +1. If this was a comic in the 90s you’d get the “no-prize” nod.
    -+2 bonus is definitely the most powerful aspect of the template, Chieftain Morale seems pretty strait forward a name.

    Admittedly I rewrote this article around a dozen times. I needed to make sure to represent the power of the tribal chieftain without misrepresenting real cultures. Previous versions looked like a lit class essay as research crept into the topic. Ultimately I decided the discussion should have been focused solely on information relevant to the template.

    Next Template is Tribal hero, idea being that leader and war leader aren’t always say character. Advanced is a way to go but I wanted something with a more unique feel. Check it next Wed

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