Saturday, September 21, 2019

Why Does He Do That? (Thinking About Your Character's Habits)

"Why's he doing that?" Jeren asked, nodding his head toward the corner table.

"What?" Kyros asked, glancing where his drinking companion indicated. A dark elf sat in the corner, the hood of his cloak pulled up. His eyes glimmered in the candlelight, and he ran a steel dart through his fingers, walking it from one end of his hand to the other, the sharpened tip flashing.

"That," Jeren said, adding emphasis as if it should be obvious. "Looking all mysterious and playing with that sharp. He think it's scary, or something?"

"He's from the Dark, idiot. The moon is brighter to him than the sun is to us. The fireplace is practically enough to blind him if he's not used to it." Kyros looked at his companion for a moment before sighing, shaking his head, and tossing back the rest of his drink. "And if you'd ever traveled outside this little burgh, you'd know they don't use coins down where he's from. That spider walk is something kids learn to keep their fingers agile. I had to guess, it's probably something he does when he's nervous."

Jeren glanced back at the dark elf, who dabbed at his eyes. Sure enough, they were starting to water. He favored them with a small smile, and nodded.

"Also, he can probably hear us," Kyros said, getting a fresh drink. "So you're aware."

Seriously, how do you see in here? It's so damn BRIGHT!

Some Adventurers Are More Different Than Others

You've probably seen Marvel's Avengers by now, and if you haven't, go watch it. Seriously, it's worth the time, I won't be mad.

Now, if you watch Mark Ruffalo's performance of Bruce Banner, you'll notice that he purposefully shrinks himself down. He keeps his arms close, and often holds his hands together like he's trying not to break anything. If you've ever had a friend who was on the bigger side, these are all mannerisms of someone who is very large, and very strong, who is trying not to break anything. It shows that, even when he's in his weaker form, Bruce is keenly aware of the power he contains in himself, and that one wrong move might turn this whole thing into the proverbial rampaging bull in a China shop.

Incidentally, I have a Pathfinder conversion for Hulk, for those who are interested.
This mannerism makes perfect sense when you track it back to its source, and it's a fun exercise in character building. That's why, when you sit down to make a character, ask yourself why they speak, act, fidget, or believe a certain thing. The answers you find are often surprising, and can make for some fun character moments.

For example, if your character is a gnome, they've had the ability to talk to animals their entire life. It might not even occur to them that other people can't do that, especially if they were raised in communities where magic was common. Does this lead to them being unusually sensitive to the moods of animals around them? Are they confused when people treat nature like a tool, rather than a living thing? Do they have opinions about animals that are wildly different from those held by other races, making them seem like a tiny version of the crocodile hunter?

You can pick almost any racial modifier/ability and apply this kind of logic to it. Elves get a bonus on Perception, for example, but does that also make the world around them unbearably loud beyond the quiet boundaries of deep forests? Is this why an elven character might speak softly, or keep their hood up, providing their sensitive ears some protection against the violence of the louder world? Tieflings and ifrit both have natural fire resistance, so does it feel good for them to drink scalding tea, or to relax into a fire the way other people would enjoy a sauna? Goblins are capable of eating spoiled and rotten meat, but does what smells and tastes putrid to humans instead have a more nuanced palate to this sharp-toothed race? And is a food or fruit humans would find sweet something that tastes rancid to a goblin, their tongues not being built to handle that flavor?

And that's before we get into the weirdness of cultural norms.
Even if you're playing a bog-standard human, though, you can find unusual tics, quirks, and attitudes in the cultural norms of where they grew up. Everything from fashion, to forms of address, to food, to language, to little rituals that have clung for life can make them seem odd or strange... and every one of them can add some flavor to who your character is, and why they are they way they are.

As an example, did your character come from a culture with a strong warrior ethic, where even childhood games were meant to make you a canny fighter (such as how the wrestling martial art Glima was sort of a national pastime among the Norsemen)? Alternatively, was your character raised in a communal society where everyone was referred to with familial terms since the whole village raised the next generation? Were weapons seen as a taboo where you came from, or were they to be displayed proudly? Did you pray to the spirits, to the elements, to your ancestors, or to the gods? Do you wash, groom, and comb yourself every day, keeping a razor and comb in a kit on your belt? Or do you go for days, maybe weeks, between full baths without noticing?

Every Habit Started Somewhere

No matter who your character is, they had a life before they show up at the table. If they have a quirk, ask where it came from. Is it something they picked up during their stint with the militia? Was it something their uncle taught them? Or is it just how they deal with having sharper eyes, feeling less pain, or living in a world made of cardboard?

As a note for readers, I cover a lot of aspects like this in articles like 5 Tips For Playing Better Tieflings and Aasimar and 5 Tips For Playing Better Paladins, and I keep the full archive of these tips over on my 5 Tips page. So stop on in, check it out, and see if you find yourself some inspiration!

Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday. Hopefully you enjoyed, and if you've used this tactic successfully in your games why not leave a comment below?

For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now Pinterest as well! To support my work, consider Buying Me a Ko-Fi, or heading to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron. That one helps ensure you get more Improved Initiative, and it means you'll get my regular, monthly giveaways as a bonus!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Consent in Gaming (If You Haven't Downloaded This Book Yet, You Really Should)

If you have an Internet connection and you've been paying attention to any gaming-related groups on social media recently, then you've no doubt seen people losing their minds over the recently released Consent in Gaming supplement from Monte Cook Games. This supplement is, in short, reminding us all of a very basic, very important truth when it comes to our games; we all have to opt-in to the experience being presented. We need to do so enthusiastically, we need to give our consent, and we need to make sure we discuss what we want and what we expect out of our game. And we need to be able to trust each other, and to acknowledge when we have done something that has hurt feelings at the table in order to move forward.

This supplement is free, and there's no reason not to get it.
Absolutely nothing between these pages should come as a surprise to you... and that is why it should be required reading for anyone who tries to run a game. Ever.

An Ounce of Prevention, and a Pound of Cure

I'm not going to launch into the same BDSM-themed metaphor I used in "Edgy" Games Require Trust to make my point here (even though it still works), because this supplement renders such additional illustration unnecessary. It explains important points that a lot of gamers have probably never had spelled out before, such as how you should always assume the answer is "no" until you've asked, how you need to talk about what people are and aren't comfortable with beforehand, and how it doesn't matter if there's just one holdout; either everyone's on-board, or you don't do the thing.


Yes, everyone, this isn't a Senate vote. You need to be unanimous!
One thing that makes this supplement unique (aside from discussion of actual tactics like the X-Card, and resources like the consent sheet at the end of the booklet) is that it also talks about how to step back and smooth things over with your group when things go wrong. Because things are going to go wrong, no matter how hard you try. It's an inevitable. This quote, I think, illustrates the point:

"Some people find it hard to apologize because people in general are discouraged from admitting they’re wrong. But here’s the thing: you’re a roleplayer. If you can pretend to be an elf or a cyborg, if you can insult the king to his face or stand your ground against a horde of charging orcs, if you can accept that you killed the entire party with a fireball or take credit for killing a dragon with a critical hit, then you can apologize to your friends for saying something that made someone uncomfortable."

Friendships can be tough to manage, and sometimes emotions run high at your game. You can be as careful as possible, screening everyone's sensitivities and opening dialogue, but you're going to step on a mine eventually. Rather than wasting time and energy getting mad at someone because they couldn't handle something, focus on moving forward. Acknowledge what happened, apologize, and try to move on. Don't try to shame someone for opting out, or demand an explanation; the why doesn't matter, because the important thing is they wanted out.

We're all here to have fun, and we should all feel included and comfortable while we're doing that. Even if we're pretending to be a debauched cabal of baby-eating vampires, or the chosen warriors of the fell powers, those of us around the table still have things we'd rather not have thrown at our faces while we're trying to enjoy ourselves. And the better our communication on issues like this, the better our games will become!

Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday. Hopefully you enjoyed, and if you've used run these kinds of games before, leave us a comment to let us know what worked for you!

For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now Pinterest as well! To support my work, consider Buying Me a Ko-Fi, or heading to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron. That one helps ensure you get more Improved Initiative, and it means you'll get my regular, monthly giveaways as a bonus!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

3 Bloodlines For Healing With Sorcerers (in Pathfinder)

One of the most common complaints I've heard from players who favor arcane magic is that they dislike that arcane magic can't heal. While there are entire screeds that have been written on the subject of game balance, and keeping certain powers exclusive to certain classes, archetypes, or builds, that frustration still lingers. After all, it's magic... why is there something it can't do?

Well, for those who like to twist and mold things into new and unexpected forms, I figured I'd present the results I've had on this topic. Some of them may be familiar to you, and others strange, but this is what I've come across so far. Hopefully it helps ease some of these frustrations.

Also, if you enjoy this week's advice, you might also get a kick out of 5 Tips For Playing Better Sorcerers!

#1: The Celestial Bloodline

Can you stand before my fire?
This is both the most familiar method of getting healing from a sorcerer, and honestly the least impressive. The Celestial bloodline, which debuted in the original Core Rulebook, grants you Heavenly Fire as your first-level sorcerer bloodline power. It's a ranged touch attack that deal 1d4+1 per 2 sorcerer levels of damage to evil targets, and it heals that much damage for good targets.

At low levels, that can be a seriously potent ability. It's life-saving, in a lot of cases, and it allows your sorcerer to stay out of harm's way as long as they have good-aligned allies on the field. As a spell-like ability, it also triggers feats like Fast Healer, which can give it a little extra oomph, but overall it's pretty weak on its own. There are ways to boost it, such as the monster feats that empower spell-like abilities, but for a lot of players the reward simply isn't worth the investment it takes to jack it up to meaningful potential.

#2: The Unicorn Bloodline

Because a healing arcane caster really is a unicorn.
This bloodline, which dropped in Heroes of Golarion not all that long ago, this is the easiest way to play a healing sorcerer. Unicorn sorcerers get cure spells as part of their bloodline, and as a bonus they can randomly restore bonus hit points to allies they can see whenever they cast a spell. If no one is willing to step up and play a divine caster, then a unicorn-blooded sorcerer is a great, out-of-the-gate replacement as long as someone is comfortable being a healer and party buff for everyone else.

And, of course, adding in metamagic rods and a couple of feats to really juice your healing (Healer's Touch out of the Legacy of Fire Player's Guide comes to mind) can turn you into an absolute support monster.

#3: The Phoenix Bloodline

Hold still... this might sting a bit.
If you've been listening to the gossip round the Internet, you've likely heard of the trick to turn this damage-dealing bloodline into a party heal. But in case you didn't, I'll lay out just what makes the Phoenix bloodline from Heroes of Golarion so much fun.

Your bloodline arcana states that whenever you cast a spell that deals fire damage, you can instead choose to heal targets for half damage. So you could, in theory, drop a fireball on the party and mass heal them. Which, if you maximize and empower it, is going to stack some pretty impressive numbers in a big hurry. Especially if you have the ability to exclude certain squares from your area of effect spells.

What can really unlock your potential, though, is taking a Cross-Blooded sorcerer. Found in Ultimate Magic, a Cross-Blooded sorcerer lets you mesh together two bloodlines, gaining both arcana. By combining the Phoenix bloodline with the Elemental (Fire) bloodline, now you suddenly have access to a wide variety of spells that could all be turned into fire spells... including cantrips! So if Ray of Frost Fire is a great way to avoid spamming wands of Cure Light Wounds to heal up after a tough fight, then this might be just what you've been looking for at your table.

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That's all for this week's Crunch topic! For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio! Or if you'd like to read some of my books, like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, head over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now on Pinterest as well! And if you'd like to help support me and my work, consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi or heading over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron! Even a little bit of help can go a long way, trust me on that one.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Organize Your Spell Cards With a Portable Spellbook!

One of the biggest frustrations when you're playing a spellcaster in any game is keeping track of how many bullets are left in your gun, so to speak. What spells do you know? Which ones did you prepare or pray for? Which ones have you cast? It's simple when you get started, but soon the back of your character sheet where you've kept your daily load out is so marked up and worn down by your trusty eraser that you're scared to try to write anything new on the page, lest it tear through and require a total re-write.

There is, of course, an easier way to keep yourself organized when you're a spellcaster of any sort; spell cards. Whether it's something like the Ultimate Spell Decks For Wizards from LPJ Design for use with Pathfinder Classic, The Wizard Spell Deck from Total Party Kill Games for use with Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, or even the Pugmire Shepherd's Spell Cards from Onyx Path Publishing, there is a deck out there for your class, and your edition to make sure you have all your spells right at your fingertips.

These spell cards give you all the details of the spell, saving you time looking them up on your turn, and making sure you've got your entire arsenal ready to go. However, it's not enough to just have the cards on-hand; you also need a way to organize them. Because leaving them spread out on the table may be fine when you're a 1st or 2nd-level caster, but you don't want your spells edging out fellow players' dice and elbow room.

That's where this glorious gaming accessory comes into play.
That beautiful little tome is the Pocket Compendium, and it has enough room to fit 54 separate cards in it. A small spellbook that you can keep on-hand, and even make a part of your character if your inquisitor needs a field version of their holy text, or your wizard prefers a pocket grimoire. Durable, easy to carry, and able to fit enough magic for any character (even the vaunted mystic theurge), it keeps everything neat and tidy. And then, when you've cast your spell, simply remove the card and set it aside to keep a record of what you've got left. Refill as your daily resting and studying allows.

EDIT: There's also a Necronomicon version! It's called the Tome of Horrors, but we all recognize that face.

Wait A Minute... Isn't That Just A Fancy Card Wallet?

Astute observation, heading. Technically speaking, yes, that's basically all this item is when you cut down to its core. You could achieve much the same results bringing something like a business card book organizer or a leather credit card holder to the table. The price between the different items isn't really all that big, though, and I can tell you from experience that products meant for business often aren't properly sized for holding gaming accessories like spell cards, which can lead to a lot of frustration. And, of course, there's the matter of bringing a boring business accessory to your table over something that's got a bit of personality.

Either way, before you buy, make sure you read the fine print and check all the measurements. With that said, though, the key to a potent spellcaster truly is how organized you can make all your information. That's why I recommend giving this method some consideration... especially if you've already got decks of spell cards laying around gathering dust!

Also, if you're looking for more handy accessories to add to your gaming shelf, I'd recommend checking out:

Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday. Hopefully you enjoyed, and if you've used run these kinds of games before, leave us a comment to let us know what worked for you!

For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now Pinterest as well! To support my work, consider Buying Me a Ko-Fi, or heading to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron. That one helps ensure you get more Improved Initiative, and it means you'll get my regular, monthly giveaways as a bonus!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Rise of The Runelords Chapter 19: The Secrets Beneath Sandpoint

Jorgenfist has fallen, and as the shamaness predicted, the fight went out of the assembled giants without Mokmurian present to stoke the fires of war. Cooler heads prevailed among the stone giants, who walked back into the mountains. With no strong hands to keep them in place, the ogres soon joined them. Jorgenfist was abandoned again, the treasure trove of knowledge and books preserved beneath it ripe for the cataloging.

But more issues awaited the Companions to the south... Sandpoint's secret was about to burst wide open!

Those who need to get caught up, the previous installments are here:

- Chapter 1: Blood and Butterflies
- Chapter 2: Murder and Glass
- Chapter 3: The Sin Pit
- Chapter 4: Tussles in The Tangle
- Chapter 5: The Assault on Thistletop
- Chapter 6: Secrets Behind The Curtain
- Chapter 7: Murders At The Mill
- Chapter 8: Halflings and Ghouls
- Chapter 9: Fox in The Hen House
- Chapter 10: Something Rotten in Magnimar
- Chapter 11: The Crumbling Tower
- Chapter 12: Demonbane
- Chapter 13: Trouble at Turtleback Ferry
- Chapter 14: The Taking of Fort Rannick
- Chapter 15: Water Over The Dam
- Chapter 16: Mad Lovers, And Lost Captains
- Chapter 17: The March of The Giants
- Chapter 18: The Taking of Jorgenfist

All caught up now? Lovely! Because back in Sandpoint...

What Was Buried Rises Once Again

When the goblin raids were first conducted on the town, Nualia was looking for something beneath Sandpoint. While she'd found some ruins left behind from the time of the Runelords, she had by no means found all of them. A quake in the earth had shifted the ruins, though, breaching a sealed entrance beneath the town. Strange smoke and the sounds of mad barking rose from the darkness the night before the Companions returned, and no sooner had they been spotted returning to Sandpoint than the sheriff immediately asked them to see what was down there.

Was this shit here last time?
Upon entering the opened chamber, the Companions found it filled with conjured smoke and vapor, making it difficult to see very far. But the walls were covered in script, all of it written in mostly forgotten tongues and by a particularly ancient hand. Scholarly writings that gave way to prophecy, which in turn spiraled into madness.

As Zordlan and Mirelinda attempted to make sense of the words, a booming voice echoed through the room. The madman who had been trapped beneath the earth for so long, seemingly alive and well. Even as Thok slid a set of enchanted goggles over his eyes they'd taken from Mokmurian, he saw no figure lurking within the room. Though he did see a colossal creature standing in the chamber beyond. Still enough to be a statue, it was filled with a raw, brute menace that said it was a trap just waiting for the Companions to put a foot wrong.

Before Thok could give a warning, one of them did.

Chikara howled in pain as an invisible blade slashed into her back. A figure in tattered black, with the wide eyes of a lunatic, grinned, and ducked back into the mist, laughing as he ran into the room. Before Thok could warn her not to, the furious half-orc was hot on her assailant's heels, bellowing threats about what she would do when she caught him.

As soon as she entered the chamber, though, the statue began to move.

Into The Pit, And Out of The Ashes

The demon had waited patiently, and as soon as it had a target it descended on Chikara with claws and fangs. A hulking beast with four arms and a maw the size of a cavern, the mad priest cackled as the denizen of the pit roared for blood.

Thok howled, firing arrows as fast as he could draw them. Zordlan ran forward, pulling his rapier and rushing into the fray to distract the beast. Mirelinda's cards began to shuffle in the air as she invoked names of the long-dead in preparation for a potent spell. Even Bostwick rushed forward, fearless as he tried to harry their foes. But Zhakar... Zhakar just stood there. For a moment he was transfixed by the demon, staring at it like a man who sees something he knows is unfamiliar to him, but which he's witnessed in countless dreams.

You see where this is going.
As he stared at the creature, a nimbus of light burned behind his eyes. The skin of his face flaked away, revealing shining, burnished steel. His right arm was rusted red, turning warped and thorny where it gripped his pick. As he stepped toward the thing, twin protrusions sprouted from his back, and a pair of huge wings burst forth. The one was feathered in purest white and silver, but the other was a dark, twisted thing; red and membranous like some infernal creature.

He rose into a charge, grim and silent as he streaked toward the target of his furies. The demon looked up from Chikara, raising an arm to bat Zhakar aside. He swung his pick, and when the weapon slammed into the demon's flesh, it did so with a blinding burst of light and a thunderclap. The raw power of that blow made the beast stumble, silencing the laughter from the madman who'd summoned it.

It was the turning of the tide. Chikara's ax bit deep into the demon's flesh, and Thok's arrows sank into its chest. Zhakar hammered it, driving blows with more than mortal sinew and fury. As the demon fell, its flesh melting into cinders and smoke, Zordlan leaped at the priest with his sword flashing. The two of them exchanged blows, but when the unholy man tried to flee he found Chikara's ax waiting for him, and it silenced his laughter forever.

What Fresh Hell is This?

As Zhakar fell back to earth, his wings pulling back into his body with painful, bone-crunching twists, he dropped to his knees, trying to breathe. The steel was quickly covered as fresh, soft flesh knit back over it, and the painful light left his gaze. Thok threw his cloak over his friend's shoulders, and patted him on the shoulder. The shaman's son knew that those who dealt with potent spirits were wearied afterward, so he said nothing.

The others cataloged the messages, trying to find what the priest had been protecting. Why he'd been down there, and what purpose he'd been about. What they found was that he had been trapped, and preserved with potent magics for centuries. That in his confinement he had written of the Runelords, their time in the world, and where they had gone with the great apocalypse had come to scour the earth. He spoke of a place past the Spine of The World, lost in the snows. Where aspirants might come to study and perfect their craft within the Runeforge.

A place of such potent power that weapons capable of slaying even a Runelord might be found.

Next Time on Table Talk!

Will the companions reach the Runeforge alive? What deadly threats await therein? Who will claim the Runeforged weapon to stand against the wrath of the awakening Karzoug?

Find out on the next installment of Table Talk!

For more of my work, check out my Vocal archives, as well as the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I help out from time to time. Or, to check out books like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, head over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on FacebookTumblr, and Twitter, as well as on Pinterest where I'm building all sorts of boards dedicated to my books, RPG supplements, and greatest hits. Lastly, to help support me and my work, consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi, or heading over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron! Even a little donation can have a big impact.

Monday, September 2, 2019

The State of Improved Initiative (And How You Can Help)

Every now and again I like to take a Monday post to let all my readers out there know what's going on behind the scenes, and to bring you up to speed with the projects I'm currently working on. Since I've got more than the usual number of plates currently spinning, and I could use a little help from all of you, I figured that it was time for one of those regular State of Improved Initiative updates!

It's a long way down, but I'm hoping for boxcars all the same!

What's Going On Right Now?

To start with, my general format for Improved Initiative isn't changing. It's gotten some pretty consistent feedback, so I see no real reason to mess with a good thing. As such, I'm keeping my updates at two a week, and my general themes of Crunch, Fluff, Unusual Character Concepts and Table Talk (as well as your usual Moon Pope Monday grab bag updates) aren't going anywhere.

With that said, you may have noticed a few changes if you regularly poke around on here.

Some of them are easier to detect than others.
If you glance up at my page links across the top of the page, you've no doubt noticed that 5 Tips is now one of my available pages. This is the new archive for all my articles that feature numbered lists of advice for players and DMs alike, giving you a single archive where you can find all the pieces I've got out there. From my 5 Tips For Playing Better Paladins, to 5 Tips For Playing Better Evil Characters, all 40+ articles that have used this format are now at your fingertips, and I've got plans to add new ones every month or so from here on out!

Another thing I'm working on is something I'm calling the Great Reshuffling. For those who don't know, I have a huge archive of articles and posts currently sitting in obscurity on InfoBarrel, but I've been steadily republishing them to their new home over on my Vocal archive. While some of these are my non-gaming posts, like the badass lifehack piece How To Kick in a Door, I'm also transferring over the full archive of my Character Conversions, giving them a facelift in the process to be sure they're updating with Pathfinder content that was released after I initially wrote the guide. Characters like Captain America, The Hulk, and Theodore Roosevelt have already made the move, and I'm hoping to keep transferring at least one every week until they're all updated, revamped, and ready for your table!

In addition to all of that, though, I'm also releasing roughly two gaming supplements a month.

One of these projects I covered in detail a while ago in 100 Kinfolk: A Werewolf The Apocalypse Project, but the short version is that I'm releasing NPC character lists in partnership with High Level Games for the werewolf tribes. Each tribe gets 100 kinfolk, and at present I'm about six tribes deep into the list. The other supplements are the ones I write for Azukail Games, and you've probably seen them cropping up in other articles, as well as on my social media feeds. Supplements like 100 Prisoners For A Fantasy Jail, 100 Unusual Aasimar, or even the sci-fi supplement 100 Space Bars that came out a little bit ago, as examples.

When you add in the fact that I've been hawking copies of my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, working on another novel that's nearing completion, and that I spent the past month assembling a new collection of short stories that you should be hearing more about in the near future, it's sort of a wonder I've had time to sleep the past few months.

... And I Kind of Need Your Help

Part of the reason I'm putting out so much stuff in so many different venues is that I want to make sure I'm not keeping all my eggs in one basket. It's tough making a living as a writer, and doubly tough when your niche is RPGs. While I've had a few positive, baby steps forward this year, I want to make sure that I don't lose what momentum I've managed to gain.

Which is where you, my fine, discerning readers, come in.

No, you don't have to give me money... unless you want to, of course.
The issue is that, while I'm putting out a lot of content, I only get paid when people actually read it (or in the case of my supplements and books, buy a copy of it). So, if you're one of my regular readers who'd like to help me out, but you don't want to spend any money, here are some things I'd like you to do.

- Read some articles in my Vocal archive! Find a few you like, and share them with your friends! If even one article of mine gets popular there, that could be the difference between me paying rent and making excuses to my landlord.

- If you've bought something of mine, leave a rating and a review! Whether you've got a book from my Amazon author page, or from my ever-growing Drive Thru RPG author list, ratings and reviews make a BIG difference in how visible a piece of my work is. And giving that boost won't take more than a few moments of your time!

- Follow me! Whether you follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, or even on Pinterest, how many people you have following you also makes a big difference in how wide your signal goes. So if you want to get regular updates, and help me out a bit, just click-through on any of these platforms.

But if you DO happen to have a few bucks you'd like to contribute...
In the event you want to do me a solid and help me get back on track, and you're willing to toss a couple of bucks my way, there are a few other things you could do, as well. Again, not required, but would be much appreciated!

- Become a Literary Mercenary Patreon patron! I've been slowly losing patrons over the past year, mostly due to folks losing jobs or just not having free income anymore, and a little jump in my numbers would be quite welcome. In addition to helping ensure I keep both Improved Initiative and my writing blog The Literary Mercenary on track, patrons also get a free download of one of my supplements every month! So as long as you're giving about $1 a month (which is really all I ask) you're getting your money's worth!

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We Now Return You To Your Regularly Scheduled Updates

After this Monday post, I'll try to get things focused on gaming, reviews, supplements, RP suggestions, and all my usual topics. But if you've got the time to lend a helping click, or to boost my signal a bit, it's greatly appreciated!

Without you, my readers, I wouldn't be able to do what I do. Thanks again for all your assistance!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Self-Taught Wizard

The man was a road map of the lost places of the world, and the esoteric traditions of a dozen different nations. The Guardian Eyes of Nafresh were tattooed across the backs of his hands, and Porshari enchanter's beads encircled his left wrist. The delicate, intricate lines of a demon warder of the Korgar wastes ran along his forearms. The sacred sun of Vishtopol stood out blue and bright in the center of his chest, revealed by his loose robe.

"All my teachers are long dead," he said, without looking up from the grimoire he was perusing. "But they await any with the courage to open their long-dead pages, and the wit to learn the lessons they laid down."

He closed the book, glancing at the burn scars along his fingertips. He rubbed his thumb and forefinger together, frowning at the lack of feeling in them. "Of course, sometimes it's more error than trial. Always start small... that's my advice."

And make absolutely sure you get your designs right.

Mastering The Magic of The Mind

When most of us think of wizards, we tend to think of them as projects of magical academies or universities. In some cases they may have been taught as an apprentice by a master. However, a wizard doesn't require an outside force in order to access the secrets of magic. They don't have to be born with the proper bloodline, or exposed to some bizarre event to unlock their true potential; they just have to be intelligent enough to understand the rituals and theory behind arcane magic.

That is, by no means, an easy task. However, anyone gifted with a naturally high Intelligence score who's willing to study, plan, and who can grasp the higher calling may find that magic's mystery unspools before them, waiting only for their mind to grasp it.

That's a major reason I included it in my 10 Backgrounds For Your Spellcasters list when it came out a little bit ago.

I highly recommend checking it out, if you haven't yet.
What makes self-taught wizards so unique, as a concept, is that they can bring together disparate traditions and styles, or even invent their own ways of performing existing magic. One of the easiest ways to think about these wizards is to compare them to self-taught musicians or artists. Some of them learn through imitation, grasping the basics of the art through trial and error, and then adding their own flares and signature styles in. Others may simply mimic a traditional art form, following in the same steps of discovery as the old masters along a similar path of enlightenment.

And some self-taught wizards will take the disparate elements of arcane traditions and styles, mixing them together into a blend that traditionalists decry as sacrilege, but which gets results. Since self-taught wizards often lack an indoctrination to unlearn, and tend not to be picky about what established schools they draw their power from.

A self-taught wizard might be something akin to a chaos magician, blending elements that seem contradictory. They might invoke the names of divine or infernal powers from one nation, combining them with the rhythmic chanting of a totally separate country, and then mix it with a dead language that pre-dates both of the other elements. Alternatively, a self-taught wizard might keep all of the different traditions in their own neat little boxes, switching from one to another as the situation requires. Just like how a concert pianist might also be a talented violinist who happens to enjoy freestyle rap battles, there's nothing that confines a self-taught wizard's skills or style except the limits of their minds, and the agility of their creativity.

For folks who are looking for more character concepts and advice, you might find 5 Tips For Playing Better Wizards a good place to start! It's in my 5 Tips archive, along with dozens of other pieces of advice for classes, races, and other character and story aspects to help get you thinking outside the box.

Also, if you want to find some magic books to peruse for interesting tidbits to add to your self-taught caster's repertoire, then A Baker's Dozen of Enchanted Volumes might be right up your alley!

Like, Follow, and Stay Tuned For More!

That's all for this installment of Unusual Character Concepts. Hopefully this one gave you something to chew over, whether you're a player, or a dungeon master.

For more of my work, check out my Vocal and Gamers archives, and stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

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