Keyword Design – “Commute”

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 “Commute” as suggested by Quo.

As the meme mentions, long journeys are hand waved in Pathfinder and Pathfinder-like-RPGs. That’s the direction I thought “commute” would take me, but I drifted more towards the ‘“public transportation” definition of the word (and the Latin routes give the class options an unexpected twist). I think it’s because Pathfinder’s relationship with overland travel can’t be fixed with options, it needs a subsystem, which is outside the scope of this blog. Even still, hopefully Quo is satisfied with the options I designed (satis Quo, if you will).

Mundane Item Person carrier A backpack specifically designed to manage the weight and shape of a person.
Magic Item Stowaway sack A portable pocket dimension suitable for trasporting living creatures.
Feat Mount Ally Allies treat one another as mounts for a short period.
Spell Rally Point Teleport yourself and your allies to a nearby location.
Class Option Solventist An alchemist whose mutagen and extracts can be shared with his loyal subjects.

New Mundane Items
Price 150 gp; Weight 8 lbs
This backpack includes a wooden platform surrounded by a steel rigging designed to allow a humanoid to carry another humanoid of their size or slightly smaller comfortably but securely. In addition to the lower portion of the person carrier counting as a masterwork backpack, the upper portion counts as an exotic riding saddle for any humanoid of the wearer’s size or one category smaller, and the rider counts as half their weight for the purposes of the wearer’s load. Additional leather straps hold the rider in place, meaning if they are unconscious, too young to support themselves, or the person carrier’s prisoner, they can be secured in the person carrier. A creature of the appropriate size and type can be forced into the seat of a person carrier following the grapple rules for tying up a creature.

If you’ve heard me talk about my work on Giants Revisited, you might have heard me talk about writing rules for Hill Giants as mounts. The person carrier is not the latest in a quest to create rules for humanoid mounts. It’s a companion option to the Mount Ally feat (below). It  came about because I wasn’t sure if there was a penalty for riding a creature without a mount. There isn’t, but it still put the visual in my head of ergonomic baby carriers and, more appropriately, Hodor. One character carrying another around on their back is now an established visual of fantasy media.
Originally this was just going to be to carry creatures one category smaller than the wearer, but that really limits its use (unless you have a giant hireling). Added bonus, if you’ve ever needed to take someone hostage, now you can strap them to your back and carry on adventuring!

New Magic Item
Aura  moderate conjuration; CL 9th
Slot none; Price 15 000 gp; Weight 60 lbs
When laid out, this sack is a 10’ x 10’ burlap cloth. By bringing the four corners together, this sack creates an extradimensional space with the capacity of a bag of holding type IV. Additionally, living creatures in a stowaway sack gain the benefits of an air bubble, as the spell. Otherwise, this functions as a bag of holding.
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, air bubble, secret chest; Cost 7500 gp

I call this the Corey special, as any time my group needs to get in somewhere, he wants to stuff the party into bags of holding. Well now here’s a bag of holding that lets you breathe inside for all your Trojan horse needs!
Also, I need to bring up alternate names for this item: Manpurse (a purse for storing people) and Luis’ suggestion, Purse-son.

New Feat
MOUNT ALLY (Combat, Teamwork)
You and your ally can ride one another in combat.
Benefit: You can mount an ally with this teamwork feat, and vice versa, using the Ride skill to work together in combat. The rider can be no more than a medium load for the mount. A person carrier used as a saddle reduces the rider’s weight normally.
If the mount is carrying a medium load with the rider, they can act as a mount for a number of consecutive rounds in a minute equal to their Constitution modifier before becoming fatigued for one minute. A fatigued character can not act as a mount.

Yeah, maybe I’m wrong about not having a secret mounted humanoids goal. I promise this is the last human taxi option this week!
EDIT TO ADD: The visual reference here is the Junkions scene in Transformers the movie. The Junkions are all robots that  turn into motorcycles, but motorcycles that are big enough for them to ride in robot mode. In that fight, one Junkion in robot mode gets knocked off another in bike mode. They both transform, swapping the rider/mount dynamic, and get back to what they were doing. As is often the case in Transformers, you have to ask what advantage there was to transforming. I can’t answer that in the case of those Junkions, but in the case of characters with the Mount Ally feat, it’s to avoid fatigue.
I hope this feat inspires an encounter involving Junkion-like goblins. In fact, I’m going to use that as soon as I can. 

New Spell
School conjuration (teleportation); Level bard 6, sorcerer/wizard 6, summoner 6
Casting Time 1 round
Components V, S
Range medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Target you and up to 1 willing or unconscious creature/2 caster levels, no two of which can be more than 30 ft. apart
Duration instantaneous
Saving Throw none; Spell Resistance no
You and your allies regroup within a 10-foot radius you designate within your line of sight and the range of the spell. You choose where in the 10-foot radius everyone you teleport arrives. Each of your allies then gets to make a move action or a standard action. This does not affect their place in the Initiative order.

This spell is similar to other teleportation spells (because, honestly, there’s only so much you can do with a subschool like “teleport” that still counts as teleporting). Giving your allies an action after they teleport is what separates this from comparable spells, and it solves the clumping issue I have having with this design. I was tempted to say the spell gives the party a surprise round after it’s cast for some sweet combo action, but the repercussions of that choice reached further than I was comfortable with, and it lead to logical issues. Does this spell surprise your opponent more than most teleportation? What if they identify the spell? Instead I used the same terminology of the surprise round for what the player could do without actually making it a surprise round.


New Class Option
A solventist dilutes his magical essence from his alchemy, subsidizing it with the magical essence of his alchemical subjects.
A solventist has the following class feature.
Alchemy Subjects (Su): At 1st level, a solventist learns to experiment with the magical essence of others. He can prepare his extracts with a number of alchemy subjects equal to 1/2 his alchemist level (minimum 1). He gains a pool of extraction points equal to the number of alchemy subjects who helped him prepare his extracts. He can spend extraction points to gain additional extracts that day. An extract costs a number of extraction points equal to the alchemist spell level of the extract (i.e. a 1st level extract costs 1 extraction point, a 2nd level extract costs 2 extraction points, etc). The solventist can only prepare additional extracts of a level he can already prepare. The solventist must  prepare all of his extracts at one time, not throughout the day like a traditional alchemist. A solventist’s alchemy subjects can gain the benefits of a solventist’s extracts and mutagens.
This ability replaces the bomb class ability and alters the alchemist and mutagen class abilities.
Subject Loyalty (Ex): At 2nd level, a solventist is particular effective at helping his subjects. When he uses the aid another action on one of his alchemy subjects, they gain an additional +1 bonus on their roll. This bonus increases to +2 at 5th level, and then again to +3 at 8th level.
This ability replaces poison resistance.
Swift Loyalty (Ex): At 6th level, a solventist can perform the aid another action to benefit one of his alchemy subjects as a move action. At 10th level, he can perform the aid another action to benefit one of his alchemy subjects as a swift action, but without the benefits of subject loyalty.
This ability replaces swift poisoning and poison immunity.

Did you know the Latin roots of the “mmute” part of commute are the same as the roots of the word mutate? Etymologically, commute used to mean to change each other. In Pathfinder terms, as I applied them, that means an alchemist who can mutate his friends.
At first I was cooking up a system where the alchemist gains benefits from his alchemy subjects based on their class features, like a bonus to hit if one of his subjects has a full BAB, a bonus to Reflex if one of his subjects has good Reflex saves. It was a system that needed to be robust to deliver on its raison d’etre, but was more robust than it was worth. Instead, bonus extracts! This makes sense since this alchemist has to share extracts, which he doesn’t have a lot of until 8th level or so. That’s too late for a class feature you get at 1st level, especially since my intention was always to give up bombs to get it. I think the result is a versatile but balanced party buffer.


Thanks again to Quo 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. Quo

    Master Blaster! Why o’ why have I never thought of some game play like this? I can see our fighter in Runelords packing around the gnome caster and making a powerful combination. Would work very well in Book 3 and beyond against ogre-kin and giants.

    And I do so like that spell, Rally Point. That’s an excellent one.

    Hmmm, keyword suggestions…apprehend and delivery

    • Ryan

      I was thinking of making a Master Blaster reference, but I thought I was making enough references in the commentary for that item. Glad you saw it too. 🙂

      One thing I totally meant to reference and can’t believe I forgot was the Junkions in the Mount Ally commentary! I’m gonna go and edit that in.