Keyword Design – “Resilience”

In Keyword Design, I use a single word as inspiration for a mundane item, a magic item, a feat, a spell, and a class option. Today’s word is “resilience” as suggested by Aaron.

Of all the synonyms for toughness, resilience might be the best as a keyword. It’s broader in its application, and its specific definition is more about taking the damage and bouncing back, which is something I can work with.

As it happened, my last Hell’s Rebels session went pretty rough and all but one member of the party was knocked out or killed. Our pain is your gain as it inspired a lot of ways in whch I wish we were more resilient.

Mundane Item Hardening Varnish A lacquer that can be applied to reinforce mundane items
Magic Item Still Beating Heart A heart-shaped brooch that begins to beat when the wearer’s heart stops
Feat Death Dodger Your brushes with dead have acclamated you to dying
Spell Lifeline Gives allies a pool of bonuses to increases their defenses
Class Option Titanic Bloodline The hearty, magical descendents of a titan and a mortal


New Mundane Items
Price 3 gp; Weight 1 lbs
This tacky substance can be applied to mundane items so render them resistant to chipping and surface damage.
A wooden or metal object with a coat of hardening varnish increases its hardness by 1 for 24 hours for every coat of varnish applied. An item can have up to 3 coats of varnish applied at once. Additionally, a wooden object with any amount of varnish gains fire resistance 5.
Applying a coat of hardening varnish to an item takes 10 minutes per size category of the object larger than Fine, and 1 minute for a Fine object. One pound of hardening varnish can be applied to 16 Fine, 8 Tiny, 4 Small, 2 Medium, 1 Large items, or 1/2 a Huge, 1/4 a Gargantuan, and 1/8 a Colossal item.

This is an item that I can see being used beyond its usefulness. I don’t see a lot of players buying hardening varnish because they’re worried their weapons will be a few hardness shy of what they need, I see them buying it so their warriors can polish their weapons while casters are memorizing their spells.

New Magic Item
Aura strong abjuration; CL 9th
Slot chest; Price 12 000 gp; Weight
When pinned or clasped over the wearer’s, this heart-shaped ruby brooch glows as though a small candle were lit inside. If the wearer is reduced to negative hit points without dying, the light inside the still beating heart pulsates in rhythm with the wearer’s heartbeat. The wearer is immediately subject to a stabilize spell. They regain 1 hp on their turn every round thereafter until they reach 0 hp.
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, life pact, stabilize; Cost 6000 gp

I like giving my magic items names with word play. A still heart is dead, a beating heart is alive, and a still beating heart is, of course, also alive, but this heart-shaped item beats when the wearer’s heart goes still. Maybe I’m the only one who appreciates this, but oh how I appreciate it.

New Feat
You’ve come close to dying often enough that you’ve built up a resistance to it.
Prerequisites: Endurance, Diehard, has been reduced to negative hp at least twice
Benefit: You do not die until your negative hit points are equal to or greater than twice your Constitution score. When your hit point total is below 0 and you choose to act as if you were disabled, as per Diehard, You do not take 1 point of damage after completing a standard action. You still may only perform either a standard action or a move action on your turn. When your negative hit points are equal to or greater than your Constitution score but less than twice your Constitution score, you fall unconscious but remain stable.

Even before our deadly Hell’s Rebels session started, Corey and Jeff were talking about a feat you needed to nearly die a certain number of times to take. I loved the idea and considered basing the benefits of it on the number of times you’ve been reduced to negative hp. I decided that was problematic because it’s not something players generally keep track of. After taking the feat, sure, but before? I went with a simpler version of what I had in mind and flat out made it double how many negative hp you could have before dying. Given the feat requirements to qualify for Death Dodger, I didn’t mind making the benefits more powerful.
Karkerkast had Diehard, and I was wondering why more people-barbarians in particular- didn’t take it. I forgot that as a ranger/barbarian, Kark had Endurance as a bonus feat. Otherwise, it’s hard to justify taking Endurance to get Diehard. Maybe qualifying for an option like Death Dodger makes Endurance more appealing.

New Spell
School abjuration; Level bard 6, cleric/oracle 6, druid 6, shaman 6, witch 6
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S,DF
Range touch
Target creature touched
Duration 1 min/level
Saving Throw none; Spell Resistance no
You grant the subject access to a pool of lifeline points equal to ½ your caster level to protect them from a variety of dangers. As an immediate action, the subject of this spell can spend a number of lifeline points up to your Wisdom or Charisma to gain a resistance bonus equal to points spent on a saving throw.

Another option named after a GI Joe, but this time I’m shocked that there isn’t a spell or other option in Pathfinder called lifeline yet. I’m surprised how succinct this spell’s rules are considering it’s a high level buff with flexible application.

New Class Option
An ancestor wooed or was wooed by a titan, its massive size reflected in your frame, although your added musculature negatively impacts your magical prowess.
Class Skill: Knowledge (planes).
Bonus Spells: align weapon (chaotic only) (3rd), alter self (5th), bestow curse (7th), air walk (9th), true seeing (11th), chain lightning (13th), greater scrying (15th), mind blank (17th), greater planar ally (19th).
Bonus Feats: Critical Focus, Endurance, Great Fortitude, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Initiative, Improved Sunder, Power Attack, Vital Strike
Bloodline Arcana: Your Hit Dice is increased to 1d8 and your Base Attack Bonus is equal to a magus of your level. However, you gain one fewer spell of each spell level per day.
Bloodline Powers: You use your natural strength and size to improve your magical blows.
Titanic Mass (Su): At 1st level, as a standard action you can increase in size as enlarge person cast on yourself, once per day for a number of rounds equal to 1/2 your sorcerer level (minimum 1). At 9th level, you can use this ability twice per day, at 17th three times per day, and at 20th four times per day. At 13th level, you can use two uses of Titanic Mass as a standard action to increase in size by two size categories.
Damage Reduction (Ex): At 3rd level, you gain DR 5/evil. At 11th level, this increases to DR 10/evil. An evil titanic sorcerer instead gains DR/good.
Trample (Ex): At 9th level, when gaining the benefits of Titanic Mass, you also gain trample as a special attack. Your tramble deals damage equal to your unarmed strike +1-1/2 times your Str modifier. The save DC against your trample attack is 10 + 1/2 your sorcerer level + your Str modifier.
Trueseeing (Sp): At 15th level, you permanently gain the benefits of trueseeing.
Titanic Destiny (Ex): At 20th level, you permanently grow one size category, gaining a +2 size bonus to Strength, a –2 size penalty to Dexterity (to a minimum of 1), and a –1 penalty on attack rolls and AC due to this increase in size. You can still use your Titanic Mass power to increase your size by another one or two size categories.

This is the first Keyword Design option I am not satisfied with. It started as a way to recreate the battle sorcerer from the 3.5 Unearthed Arcana, the first truly embraced alternate class and Tina’s first character’s class in any RPG. It’s basically a more resilient but not quite as magical sorcerer. Making it a Titan bloodline made sense, but I think I went too far in that direction. I’m also not confident this is a balanced option. That’s what happens when you design to a schedule, unfortunately. I might make an addendum to this bloodline one day. I’d like to, no idea if I have the time. More than usual, feedback on this one is appreciated.

Thanks again to Aaron for the keyword suggestion. If you have thoughts on the balance and use of these abilities, or you would like to offer a single word that you think can inspire a mundane item, a magic item, a feat, a spell, and a class option, let me know in the comments below.

Ryan Costello

What started as one gamer wanting to talk about his love of a game grew into a podcast network. Ryan founded what would become the Know Direction Podcast network with Jason "Jay" Dubsky, his friend and fellow 3.5 enthusiast. They and their game group moved on to Pathfinder, and the Know Direction podcast network was born. Now married and a father, Ryan continues to serve the network as the director of logistics and co-host of Upshift podcast, dedicated to the Essence20 RPG system he writes for and helped design. You can find out more about Ryan and the history of the network in this episode of Presenting:


  1. Caroline Salembier

    Word suggestion: Key

  2. Aaron

    If it is at all possible to keep making suggestions, I only got two this time around