Monday, January 27, 2020

5 Supplements For Players Looking For Character Inspiration

Folks who frequent my page know that, in addition to running this blog, I also work on a lot of other gaming projects. Most of those, though, are aimed at dungeon masters. Stuff like 100 NPCs You Might Meet at a Tavern, for example, of the DND 5th Edition one shot The Curse of Sapphire Lake.

You know you're curious, now.
However, I've put out a lot of content over the past year and change that is also useful for players who are looking for a bit of inspiration to spice up their characters. So if you've been looking for some unique flair to add to your PCs, I'd recommend checking out some of the following to get your creative juices flowing.

#1: 100 Fantasy Bands


I call this next one, "Hope You Roll an 18 on Your Save"!
This was one of my most recent releases, and it's still fresh enough that it hasn't even hit Copper status yet, but 100 Fantasy Bands is a collection that's full of the weird, the wild, and the bizarre in the world of entertainment. And while it's useful for all the bards and skalds out there, no doubt, there are tie-ins for a variety of character concepts.

If your character is the party muscle, were they security for a controversial band like Devil's Bargain? Or were they a part of The Wall for a time when they left the service, performing in parades and similar events with other veterans? Did your spellcaster provide special effects for some of these traveling shows? Or do they just like music, and as such they keep track of who's coming up from the underground scene on their travels and adventures?

All sorts of possibilities in this one!

#2: 100 Random Mercenary Companies


You looking for iron, friend?
 Being a mercenary is one of the most common character backstories in an RPG, but it rarely gets more development than that. 100 Random Mercenary Companies provides all sorts of free companies your character could have been a part of, and which will affect everything from your reputation, to whether you made enemies when you left your fellows in arms.

Whether your character fought for the black-armored Harbingers of Sorrow to try to fill the void after a personal loss, or they skulked through the underbrush and back alleys as saboteurs for the Eyes of Karesh, there are all sorts of unique companies that require a number of talents. There are even mercenary companies that specialize in magic, from the destructive capabilities of the Acolytes of Arannis, to the Coven and their ability to foretell the omens for coming battles.

If your skills are for sale, it pays to know who trained you, who you've fought with before, and whether that unit is respected, feared, hated, or some combination of those things.

#3: 100 Knightly Orders


My steel, my oath, my life.
 For those who want to dedicate their steel to a cause nobler than their own purse, 100 Knightly Orders is an ideal place to find inspiration. Whether you're common born or of noble stock, and whether you fight for valor, glory, honor, or reputation, there's likely an order that will fit your character's needs.

From the gray-cloaked members of the Grave Wardens who ensure the dead pose no threat to the living, to the Heralds of War who are always the first to sound the charge in any battle, these orders provide a solid background for characters who want to be part of something greater than themselves. Or who, in some cases, want to set being inducted into such an order as a goal of their character progression. And it's not just for the martial characters, either, with organizations like The Eldritch Order of The Ivory Hand, as well as the Masters of The Unbreakable Chain providing plenty of room for wizards, sorcerers, witches, and summoners to join their ranks.

#4: 100 Gangs For Your Urban Campaigns


And just how did an adventurer like you wind up down here on my block?
 Perhaps only slightly less common than sellswords when it comes to character professions are thieves, scoundrels, legbreakers, and assassins. And if you're looking for a way to flesh those characters out, then 100 Gangs For Your Urban Campaigns has got you covered, and then some!

From the confederacy of small gangs that rose to prominence in the form of the Rat Kings, to the Gilded Lilies of the pleasure districts, there's a gang for nearly every criminal specialty you could imagine. And if there aren't quite enough for you in that collection, then you'll find additional allies, inspiration, and crews you could use in both 100 Random Bandits to Meet, as well as in the nautical-themed 100 Pirates to Encounter. From plague-ships captained by dark necromancers, to former soldiers banding together to take back what's theirs from the nobles who taxed them off their lands, there's quite a variety to choose from, here.

#5: A Baker's Dozen of Noble Families


Honor to your house, shame to your enemies.
 Noble characters are already tough to play (one reason that 5 Tips For Playing Better Noble Characters is one of my most popular guides), but it helps if you don't have to do all of the heavy lifting on your own when it comes to the details of this character's family and lineage. That's where A Baker's Dozen of Noble Families comes in.

Unlike the previous entries on this list, the Baker's Dozen does a fairly deep dive on 13 potential noble families. From the backwater swamp folk of the Dredger clans who were raised to nobility for their help in a war, to the monster hunting warriors of the Silvers, each description provides a history, colors, style, and heraldry. So if you're looking to play a noble character, each of these should give you more than enough details to get you started along that path without breaking too much of a sweat.

And if you're looking for further inspiration, as well as for friends, rivals, family, or just fellow members of your social caste, then 100 Nobles to Encounter should make a handy companion supplement.

Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!


That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday. Hopefully you found these suggestions useful!

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 or my latest short story collection The Rejects, 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!

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Rise of The Runelords Chapter 23: The End of Runeforge

The Companions, seeking the tools that could destroy the Runelords should they make good on their promise to rise and reconquer their old empire, found themselves in the depths of the planar laboratory known as the Runeforge. With danger around every turn, and with everyone they meet trying to kill them, the Companions go on the attack. There's no need to waste words when steel speaks truer.

For those who need to catch up:

- 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
- Chapter 19: The Secrets Beneath Sandpoint
- Chapter 20: At The Gates of The Runeforge
- Chapter 21: Storming The Halls of Evocation
- Chapter 22: The Bowels of Necromancy's Tomb

 And now, onward, into the remainder of the Runeforge!

No Answers


Filled with a righteous fury from the battle with the lich, Zhakar led the companions back to the central chamber of the Runeforge. With several halls still to choose, they needed to push forward. Abjuration was seen as they next choice, the Companions hoping that whatever wizards they found waiting in there would protect themselves instead of lashing out.

Probably not, but it's nice to hope.
Instead of hostile wizards, what the Companions found in the halls of abjuration was... nothing. Nothing but walls covered in shadows that were once men and women, and a central spike in the floor emanating pulses of energy that sapped magic from the air. A great battle had happened there, and it appeared those wizards who specialized in defense had not been able to hold their own against the onslaught.

Unable to find any answers about how to make runeforged weapons, or where they came from, the Companions turned toward the other halls, hoping they would be more instructive.

No Parley


Enchantment was the next hallway the Companions chose, and they found a landscape dedicated to the extremes of lust. Cages sized for humans, the smell of bright incense, and a gaudy red tent like a silk brothel just offering invitation. Inside awaited the mistress of the halls, a succubus with a cruelly barbed whip in her hand, surrounded by cloying pink smoke, and several of her servants.

And what curiosities are these pretty things?
The succubus unleashed her magic, and it crashed against the rocks of Zhakar's mind, changing nothing. His eyes blazing, he let forth a battle cry that echoed through the tent, that same, bright fire filling his allies' eyes as he strode forth. Each of them filled with holy light, it was a collection of seconds before the demons were cut down. One succubus fell under Chikara's greatax, the steel slicing its flesh as if its infernal protections were no more than paper. The other broke beneath Bostwick's fists, bones shattering as if they were made of glass. The wizard, panicked, lashed out with her whip. Zhakar knocked it aside, and cut her down with a flurry of ripping, tearing cuts, his pick shattering her ribs before puncturing her skull, leaving her infernal beauty rent and ruined on the floor.

Illusion held no answers, either. Mirrors that summoned cursed dopplegangers of the Companions until they're shattered created a dangerous obstacle, and a small cadre of identical wizards put up some resistance, but it was all for naught. Behind a secret panel they found the desiccated corpse of the illusionist who once ruled the halls, along with hundreds of exact replicas of his body. His journal, the scribblings of a madman, provided a timeline as to how he'd slowly lost his mind in the isolation of the Runeforge, filling in some of the gaps of the battles between the apprentices.

It wasn't until the apprentice of conjuration was slain, his mind destroyed by a shouted word from Mirelinda before he was dispatched by Thok, that the Companions found something of use. The huge wizard's grimoire had notes on the research of the others, and on his theory regarding runeforged weapons. The central font could be used to mix the components together, different combinations from different schools leading to weapons more effective against certain schools of magic. Specifically the opposition schools. All they had to do was collect the final ingredients.

The halls of transmutation held huge constructs that fared poorly against Thok's ranseur, and Chikara's raw ferocity. The master of the halls was a transmuter whose arrogance was his undoing, unleashing fire and magic against Zhakar, only to find his own mind twisted away, and his steel body hammered into the dirt.

Kharzoug Awaits


Come... I await you in Zin Shalast.
 No sooner had the Companions arranged their ingredients, and Zordlan dipped his rapier in the pool, than the colossal statue of the Runelord Kharzoug came to life. The stony visage of the ancient transmuter stared down at those who had challenged him, frowning.

"You," it said, voice booming from somewhere far away. "You dare to challenge me? Come then, and seek me in Zin Shalast, if you dare!"

His threat delivered, the huge statue stepped down from its pillar, swinging its fists. Already honed by days of fighting through the Runeforge, the Companions scattered, each coming at it from a different angle. The massive statue flailed and thrashed, smashing blows against Zhakar's shield, kicking Chikara hard enough to crack her ribs, but it could not hold against the sheer, enraged fury at the pride and dismissive tone of the Runelord. The statue cracked, and crumbled, smashed to pieces that fell hard enough to shake the Runeforge itself.

With the tools in-hand, the Companions could see the final stretch of their quest. All that was left was to beard Kharzoug in his den, and to seek him in Zin Shalast itself.

Next Time on Table Talk!


With their runeforged weapons finally in-hand, the Companions have only one challenge left. But will they be able to defeat Kharzoug? Or will something else stop them from even reaching Zin Shalast? 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, January 20, 2020

Check Out Karol B Clothing and Costuming (You Won't Regret It)

If you're a regular reader, then there's a chance you remember the last time I talked about Karol B in Post-Apocalyptic LARP Accessories That Won't Break The Bank? Check Out Karol B! However, that post went up three years and change ago, and Karol has been doing a lot of growing since then. So I figured I'd take a moment to remind my readers that he's around, and to sing a few praises for the stuff he's been putting out since we last checked in.

Tactical leg bags are still here, and better than ever!
Also, if you're one of the folks out there who finds themselves involved in a lot of live-action games, then you may find the following links useful as well:

- 5 (Specific) Costuming Tips For Your Next LARP
- 5 Tips To Get The Most Out of Your Next LARP

Anyway, back to Karol B!

Same Great Gear, With New Additions


 Back when I first preached the good word of Karol B, I specifically pointed out the tough, post-apocalyptic backpack designs he offers, along with the badass patches (Immortan Joe's mark being one of my personal favorites). However, there have been some additions since those days that are worth your attention.

Witness me!
One of the big additions recently has been the leather bandoliers. Stock varies, but some are meant to hold altoids-style items, others are traditional cartridge belts, and every now and again there are wrist bracers with cartridge loops in them. A great bargain if you catch them while they're in stock. For those who have bigger budgets, items like the spiked leather shoulder holster bag, or the double-hooded wanderer coat are ideal additions to any character that can be used over and over again.

While there are more regular items available on the site now (and a wider array of unusual items that come and go as Karol finds and sells them), one thing remains true of the stock in general. No matter what your budget happens to be, Karol B has stuff that will fit your needs.

Also, for the record, I'm not making any affiliate earnings off these links. I'm not getting a kickback from Karol B, and I'm not even getting a discount on my next purchase from the site. This recommendation is just me trying to boost the signal for a merchant that I feel has a solid product, and which more folks should know about.

Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!


That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday. Hopefully you enjoyed!

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 or my latest short story collection The Rejects, 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, January 19, 2020

The Champion Barbarian

I heard you just fine,” Einar said, taking a step toward the trio.
So you can speak,” the man said. His companions sniggered, and the man on the left lifted his own bottle to his lips. “My friends and I were wondering, what do you need such a large sword for?”
It's a tool of my trade,” Einar said.
And what trade is that?” the drunkard asked, sneering before swigging again.
Champion.”
All three of them laughed. Einar frowned, but said nothing while the riffraff guffawed. As their laughter grew louder, the street grew emptier. Travelers slipped down alleys or turned onto cross streets, eager to be away whatever was about to happen. By the time the black-banded brigands had finished, Einar stood alone in the late afternoon sun.
A champion,” the leader said, putting a falsetto trill into his voice. “What kind of coward fights with a sword like that, eh?”
Some men's tools are bigger than others,” Einar said with a shrug. “It's nothing for you to be ashamed of.”
The man to the left of the door sputtered, coughing cheap wine onto the dusty boards. The other door guard goggled. The third man stared, as if the northman had started barking at him.
What did you say to me?” he demanded.
Einar smiled, showing square, white teeth. “I think you heard me well enough, friend. Or are you deaf, as well as ugly?”
The leader dropped his bottle, snatching at the butt of his cudgel. His stubby fingers were stupid with wine, and it took him a second longer than it might have had he been sober. In that lost moment Einar stepped onto the inn's porch, cupped the side of the man's neck, and heaved. The leader's head slammed into the support beam hard enough to shiver the timber, and he went down like he'd been poleaxed. With no lost motion Einar stepped over the leader, driving a heavy right hand into the second man's face. The guard's head smacked the solid wood wall, rattling his brains and rolling his eyes up to the whites.
Inbred swine,” the last man spat. He threw his empty bottle aside, snatching his knife from its sheathe. “I'll take that out of your hide!”
He slashed, and the dagger's edge dug a shallow trench across Einar's brigandine. Metal screeched against metal, and Einar grabbed the man's knife wrist. The knife fighter let go of the knife, catching it in his free hand as he drew back for another blow. Einar drove his forehead down into the daggerman's face, and blood spurted as the smaller man's nose broke. The man with the black band shook the stars from his eyes, trying to stab Einar. Einar shifted his weight, and threw his opponent bodily into the street. The daggerman sprawled, the knife went flying, and before he could scramble to his feet Einar leaped after him. The northerner brought his boot down hard; ribs cracked, and the sprawled head cracker let out a howl choked with blood.

Before you call the tune, be sure you're ready to dance.
This week's character concept and into segment is brought to you by my latest book, The Rejects. The segment is from the story titled Champion For Hire, and if you're a fan of gritty, barbaric brawls I highly recommend giving it a look.

Who Do You Stand For?


Barbarians are terrifying warriors, able to call on reserves of strength and strange powers the likes of which other combatants simply cannot match. However, while some barbarians hone their skills through long practice and many battles, others may be given their powers in order to stand as champions. As I pointed out in 50 Shades of Rage: Flavoring The Barbarian's Signature Ability, Rage Powers can have all sorts of origins in a character's story... so why not as a gift so they may defend a people, or a cause?

None dare face the Dragon Prince in single combat when he takes his war form.
As an example, a barbarian with the dragon totem Rage Powers might have grown into them naturally, being selected to stand as the royal champion to the Dragon Throne. Perhaps they are the latest in a long line of warriors to develop such potent abilities, or perhaps the Great Dragon chooses them at random, bestowing their blessing on the warriors they see fit. Alternatively, your champion may have been raised in the Faith of Bones, undergoing a ritual where they drink the black blood of the champions who came before them, filling them with the spirits of departed warriors who fight alongside them when they let forth their Rage in the form of the spirit totem rage powers. They may have made a deal with powers of the fey for strength and savagery, but they are now tied to the forces of the First World with abilities like Spring Rage, allowing their ferocity to ignore the passage of time and the wasting of their bodies, fighting as if they were in the prime of their youth until the day they die.

All barbarians can fight, but the key for a champion is that they fight for someone, or something. It could be an individual they represent in duels (the very literal sense of a champion), or they could be chosen by a greater power. It might be a lineage, a kingdom, a knightly order, or even a god. What makes a champion really stand out, though, is that the powers they wield are often tied to the cause they fight for thematically, if not mechanically.

The barbarian in question may not even know they've been made a champion at first. But if word of their abilities spreads through their Small Legend, then they may find themselves being sought by faiths, orders, or families who expect them to take up arms in their name. Alternatively, a barbarian may have given a vow to become a champion, but turned away from those they once stood for... in these instances, that betrayal is not likely to be forgotten any time soon.

Position, Privilege, and Plot


Champion barbarians are some of the easiest characters to pull into plots, and they can be some of the more engaging characters to play. However, it's important for the player to know (and to work out with their DM) some of the following points:

- Whose Champion Are You?: Whether it's a martial order, a noble family, a town, a city, a religious sect, a cult, or an actual god, you should know whose interests you're fighting for.

- How Do Your Powers Reflect This?: Not all these powers are flashy. A barbarian champion of Cayden Cailean may take the Rage Powers roaring drunk and good for what ails you to reflect their communion with the drunken god of bravery. However, a champion of the fire lords might have the elemental rage powers instead, their wrath manifesting in blue flames leaping from their fists and weapons, and eventually healing them as it fuels their inner furnace.

- How Did You Acquire Your Powers?: This can be as involved or not as your story dictates. You may have been a weak foundling taken in by the Brotherhood of Blood, crippled and starved until you endured the Rites of The Beast. This made you strong and fast, but also granted you the beast totem Rage Powers as you grew into the savage ferocity of what the rite did to you. Alternatively, your Rage may have manifested spontaneously, the jutting horns and armored carapace allowing you to transform into a devil's champion due to a curse in your blood, or a vow given by your parents or grandparents.

- Do You Fight For The Same Person Who Gave You Your Powers?: While your powers may come from one source, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the person you fight for now. Whether the infernal champion turns their wrath upon demons and devils to protect the innocent, or the beast brother seeks to turn back the agents of the Brotherhood, just because your powers are derived from one place doesn't mean you're bound to serve those interests if you don't wish to. However, that conflict could also provide ripe story for the DM, as well as a potential source of NPCs on the hunt to make an example of your barbarian (or people who fear them because of where their powers come from, even if they depend on the champion's strength to protect them).

Once you have answers to these questions, and you've worked out the details with your DM, you should be on the way to creating a champion barbarian. Also, for more inspiration, don't forget to check out 5 Tips For Playing Better Barbarians!

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 or my most recent collection of short stories The Rejects, 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, January 13, 2020

Somebody Who Knows You (A DM Tool For Moving The Plot Along)

At this point, most of us have heard of the "I Know A Guy" strategy. If you haven't come across it before I covered in The "I Know A Guy" Strategy For Adding NPCs to Your Game, but the short version is that whenever the party is stumped about where to go, or they need a little help, someone can declare, "I know a guy," and bring in an NPC from their backstory. Maybe it's an old contact they ran with when they were still a thief, a favorite uncle who's a respected wizard, or a friend who has a knack for finding certain kinds of information. This helps fill out the NPC roster, and it makes the PCs' stories the focus of the game (though most sensible DMs limit players to a few uses of this rule so as not to allow them to weaponize their backstories too much).

"Somebody Who Knows You," by contrast, is a tool used by the DM to help move the plot along instead of the players. However, while the person who knows you might be useful, they are always going to be a complication.



When Your Reputation Precedes You


Unless adventurers purposefully keep a low profile and ensure no one knows who they are, you're bound to be recognized eventually... for good or ill. This is where The Small Legend about who a character is and what they've done comes in particularly handy for the DM, as it can provide some fertile ground for adding difficulties that move the plot along.

Difficulties, you say?
As an example, say your party needs to figure out a way to get into the duke's ball. They're coming up short on ideas, when an excitable drunk stumbles over, gushing about what an honor it is to meet them. He's heard all about Borontus the Bold, and even without the huge sword Dragonsbane he'd know that scar along the huge warrior's neck anywhere thanks to the periodicals with his portrait on them. As the party shushes the drunk admirer before he lets the whole city know who they are and that they're in town, he lets it slip that his cousin is the head of the duke's household... he's sure he could get their names onto that list. For just a small favor; or maybe to bring him along on one of their adventures!

On the one hand, this complication has provided a way to get the party where they need to be. Unfortunately, it comes with strings attached... but that's the trade off.

The somebodies who know the party can come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, catered to fit the current needs of the adventure and what the PCs have done (both as individuals, and as a group). For example, the somebody in question might be a member of a local gang who's willing to scratch the party's back if they scratch his... nothing too deplorable, but it's a job no one in his crew really has the skills to pull off. Perhaps the party is in dire straits, and the barbarian is about to be killed, when an arrow comes out of the darkness. A bounty hunter's been on the party's trail, but if Tolasha Grimtooth is dead, then there's no reward for her. Perhaps having her life saved means she's now indebted to the hunter according to the honor code of her people, and now the party have to defend her against the crime she's being turned in for (and it's possible said bounty hunter could become an ally or an enemy in the future, depending on the party's actions). Perhaps the party is cornered at the inn, about to be cut down, when a gang of hobgoblins rushes in; the war band has been on the party's trail for months, and they're not going to let a bunch of militia pink skins steal their kill!

And so on, and so forth.

Keep The Theme, Offer Opportunities


While the examples above are all characters from the DM's side of the table, you should feel free to ask your players if they would allow you to add NPCs to fit certain parts of their backstory when using this mechanic. For example, if a character is a runaway noble, make sure the player is going to be okay with you introducing one of his old swordmasters, or a rival baron's son who knows him from before he left home. Especially if you're using both the "I Know A Guy" and "Somebody Who Knows You" strategies at the same time.

You don't want to step on your players' potential flourishes by beating them to the punch, after all.

Come on, Dervish. Boss has been wanting to talk to you for a while, now.
The key thing to remember with "Somebody Who Knows You" is that it should solve the problem, but present an extra hurdle, or separate task to be completed. The bard gets recognized by an old criminal contact he owes a favor, and sure he can get them on the guest list, but the bard's got to lift some papers from the lord's study... then they're square. The sorcerer needs to get somebody out of Black Gate prison, when someone offers to tell them about a secret way in... if they'll get a friend of theirs out, too. The sheriff's deputies have been following the rogue, comparing his face to wanted posters... it means they're on-hand when a gang of cutthroats jumps the party in an alley, but it also means the party now has the law on their backs as an added difficulty for whatever they plan to accomplish.

You get the idea.

The biggest piece of advice I want to drive home to my fellow DMs with this strategy is that it should emphasize the characters' reputations, and dip into their backstories. Make them feel like this is a direct result of who their characters are, and they will bite it much harder than it you just gave them a generic plot hook.

And if you're looking for some NPCs to keep on hand as the "Somebody Who Knows You" character, you might find the following supplements to be helpful:

- 100 NPCs You Might Meet at The Tavern: My biggest seller to date it's got travelers, sages, muscle for hire, bouncers, brawlers, gang lords, and gamblers... a mixed bag to fit all sorts of situations.

- 100 Random Bandits To Meet: Because sometimes you get recognized for entirely the wrong reasons, by entirely the wrong sort of people. And for those running a more nautical-themed game, you should check out 100 Pirates to Encounter as well!

- 100 Merchants to Encounter: Whether they're big fans, or you move in the same black market circles they do, there's all sorts of dealers in this one from the mundane to the magical.

- 100 Nobles to Encounter: Perhaps they want to rub shoulders with real adventurers, or they need bodyguards for the evening, sometimes it's good to have admirers (and even enemies) in high places.

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!

Saturday, January 11, 2020

How Do Your Characters Sleep (And What Does That Say About Them)?

Ergoni woke with a sudden start, her eyes shooting open and her muscles tensing. The smell of wood smoke filled her nostrils, and the quiet breathing of her companions mixed with the sound of crickets rang in her ears. She uncurled her fingers from the hilt of her sword, and let her jaw relax.

"There is nothing in those woods that means you harm," a soft, gravelly voice whispered. "Go back to sleep. I will wake you at dawn."

Ergoni rolled over, squinting against the firelight. The hulking figure silhouetted against the flames had blued-steel skin, with hair the color of soiled snow. The naked blade across his thighs glimmered dully. She'd never once seen the sword sharpened, nor seen its owner rest his eyes.

"I could watch," she said.

"No need," Cithaugua said. "Though if you wish to keep me company for a time, I could make tea."

It does get lonely, some nights.

How Do Your Characters Sleep?


Sleeping is one of those universal experiences we all have out-of-game, and it's something we often hand-wave in game. After all, as long as a character receives their 8 hours of rest for the purpose of regaining all their abilities, healing, etc., most of us don't really think that sleep is all that interesting. But like a lot of other elements, as I mentioned in What Do Your Characters Eat? as well as Why Does He Do That ? (Thinking About Your Character's Habits), those little mundane things are often where you find some of the most memorable impacts.

Just one more cup... I want to finish transcribing this scroll before dawn.
The most obvious place to begin with is to ask whether your character has some ability that renders their sleep schedule completely unique, and thus makes them unusual in the world (or at least in the party). In Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, for example, elves didn't truly sleep; they simply meditated in a trance for four hours or so to refresh themselves. In Pathfinder there is an alternative tiefling trait that says the character never has to sleep, though they may sleep if they wish to, or can be forced to through magical means. Pathfinder also has traits like Awakened From Stasis that state a character was kept in a kind of cryo-stasis for years, and one of the effects on their system is that they only sleep for 2 hours a night with no ill effects. I even wrote a trait for the game in Bastards of Golarion, Rest For The Wicked, that allows a character to heal rapidly from ability damage while they sleep.

Once you know the mechanics of how your character sleeps (or doesn't), the next question to ask is what kind of sleep they get, and how it affects their lives.

For example, is your character used to roughing it in the outdoors, able to curl up on roots or in a cave and awaken refreshed and ready to go the next day? Or are they the sort of character who at least needs a bedroll and a pillow made from their folded cloak in order to get any real rest? Alternatively, is your character so inured to the trail that a bed is just too soft for them, and even at an inn they have to curl up on the floor, or sleep out on the balcony in order to have a familiar-enough environment to nod off? Or do they travel with a cart or wagon, allowing them to bring a little bit of civilization out into the wilds with them?

I swear, I don't know how those lords in their castles ever manage real rest.
The last thing you should ask is what kind of sleep routine your character has, and what sleep means to them.

For example, does this character pray before sleep, or conduct any other sort of ritual? Are they an early-to-bed, early-to-rise sort, or are they used to standing the third watch so they only get really sleepy around the time the first gray light of dawn peeks through the trees? Do they drink a particular blend of tea to help make sure they get good rest? Lastly, is this character's sleep quiet and restful, or challenging and full of terrors?

Night terrors are surely common among adventurers (especially those with the all-too-common backstory of seeing their parents murdered before their eyes when they were children by ogres, trolls, and other monsters), but it's far from the only sleep-related condition a character might find themselves dealing with. Characters who've come into contact with potent magic items, or who have a grand destiny before them, might have recurring dreams on the subject. Those with mysterious magic, or inscrutable patrons, might receive visions and commands in their dreams to provide guidance to their actions (and you might find 100 Random Oracular Pronouncements quite useful if you're looking for phrases for someone to remember upon waking).

You might even have something as simple as a tendency to sleepwalk, necessitating precautions before you turn in for the night.

Explore, and See Where It Takes You


The oddest details crop up in the most mundane places, and sleep preferences can say all kinds of things about a character. For example, the career mercenary who sleeps in her armor and just rolls herself up in her cloak might just be doing that out of habit, or it could be a metaphor for how even when she's unconscious she's not leaving herself vulnerable. The wolf druid might have trouble sleeping alone, always trying to curl up to others for a sense of community and protection, reassuring themselves that they're safe so they can fall deeply asleep. And the former bandit might come awake at the slightest change in the ebb and flow of the natural world around them, on their feet and ready to fight before even those on watch know they're being attacked.

There's a lot of potential in this area... so poke around, and see what comes out as a result!

Also, if you're looking for more nocturnal inspiration, check out 100 Dreams and see if anything in it speaks to you.

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, January 6, 2020

Chaosium Steps Up, Offers Reward For Players Who Donate To Help Fight Australia's Fires

A threat looms on the horizon, steadily consuming all in its path. Those in power are either too corrupt or too feeble to put up a defense against the mounting force, and so it falls to the heroes of the land to muster their arms, and march into the teeth of the oncoming storm to stop it before it crashes upon the heads of the commoners all around them. Their cause is just... but will they be able to stop it in time?

Or is it already too late?

While this might sound like the opening to most standard games, in this case we're referring to a very real threat that puts all of us at risk; climate change. It's making our weather more extreme, and coupled with leadership's unwillingness to take measures to stop it in many countries, it's causing serious disasters. The one that's in the news right now is the massive brush fires across Australia, which at time of writing have wiped out hundreds of millions of animals, and destroyed untold acres of wild habitats.

And the fire rages on.

Chaosium's Call To Arms


While there have been efforts to raise money to help combat these fires (including an Instagram model who raised more than $300,000 by selling nudes), there's no such thing as too many heroes when it comes to fighting a continent-wide menace. One of the latest to throw their hats into the ring is Chaosium, putting out a call-to-arms for all the players out there who are fans of their Golantha setting for Runequest.

You know, this bad boy.
For roughly the next week, at time of writing, the Golantha Bestiary is on Drive Thru RPG for Pay What You Want... but there's a catch to it. Rather than sending money to Chaosium thru Drive Thru RPG, they instead want you to take whatever you would have paid for the book and donate it to one of the list of relief organizations listed on the page.

Chaosium put more details about this on their own blog, as well, if you want to see the original post on the subject.

Every Adventurer Helps


It doesn't matter if you've only got a couple dollars to put into the effort... if that were true of every Runequest fan out there, it would make a big damn difference once the tallies were all taken. Time is of the essence on this issue, and those who are teeth-first in the fires need all the support they can get in their time of need.

But there's more to do, once the fires are out.
While helping stop the immediate harm of the fires is important, it's also important to remember what caused them, and to help put a stop to the true threat. For those who want to do more (or for those who came upon this after Chaosium's offer has passed), there are other options available to you as well.

If you want to put your time and digital muscle into reforestation efforts that will make real progress toward fighting climate change, check out the following:

- Ecosia: This search engine uses 80 percent of the profits it generates to planting trees and reforestation efforts. It takes roughly 40 searches to plant one tree, and the site gives you a handy tracker so you can chart your progress.

- Apps Planting Trees: This is a relatively fresh company, but they take the profits gained from the ads on their apps, and they put them toward planting new trees. The counter on the home page gives you some idea of the impact you're having, too.

- Forest App: This app is meant to keep you focused on your tasks, forcing you to put your phone down. While it's a useful thing for maintaining your attention and staying present in the moment, when you spend the coins in the app to plant fresh trees, they reach out to actual organizations to turn those digital trees into physical reality.

While donating to charities like One Tree Planted or Eden Reforestation Projects is also helpful, the advantage of changing your digital habits with the above sites is that you can monetize your everyday activities. This makes it something that all of us can use to make a difference, no matter what our spare income happens to be.

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!