|And make it good. I didn't come all the way here for nothing.|
Saturday, September 26, 2020
Monday, September 21, 2020
One of the big issues that we run into in our games is the idea of a racial monolith. The short version of this is that, most of the time, humans are going to get a wide variety of cultures and languages, ethnicities and religions... and then the non-human races are just treated as variations on a theme. We've all seen it. The orcs are just low-brow cockneys (if you're a Warhammer 40k fan), or else they universally use a kind of Hulk-speak when they communicate. The elves are all like something out of Tolkien, with the same ethereal voice and aloof bearing. The dwarves are all thickly bearded and Scottish, no matter what part of the world they're actually from.
And so on, and so forth.
|Beings of light and love? You must have me confused with the Eladurin, friend.|
What Is This Community Like?
|Trust me, it's better this way.|
Bring It Down To The Local Level
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Saturday, September 19, 2020
Since September 19th is official Talk Like a Pirate Day, I figured that this would be a good time to think about all the salty dogs, scallywags, buccaneers, and sea reavers who've graced our games over the years. If you can feel the sea calling to your dice for your next game, here are some thoughts you should keep in mind before you set sail for high adventure!
|For adventure, for treasure, and for the fate of the realms!|
Also, before we get into the meat of this week's update, I wanted to remind everyone that I now have a newsletter! It's going out once a week on Mondays, and it will give you a full recap of the entire week's releases, project progress, and news... so sign up today if you don't want to miss anything from me again!
Now, without further ado, let's get started...
#1: Who Did You Serve With?
|Jack? Oh yeah, he and I go way back...|
#2: Why Did You Become a Pirate?
|College debt ain't going to pay itself.|
#3: What Was Your Ship's Code?
|Just make your mark, and head to your berth.|
#4: What Is Your Reputation?
|Yeah, you see those around here. I've got a history.|
#5: Remember, Any Class Can Be a Pirate
|You'll address me as Captain or Sir, sailor, is that understood?|
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Monday, September 14, 2020
Before we get started with this Monday's entry, I'd like to let readers know that I've finally taken a suggestion on something I've ignored for a long time... I'm starting a newsletter for all of my content! If you don't want algorithms to let my updates slip through the cracks, subscribe to my newsletter and you'll get updates every Monday on what's going down. Newsletters will keep you abreast of what's going on here at Improved Initiative, but you'll also get updates from The Literary Mercenary, my latest Vocal articles, book releases, new gaming supplements, news on what events I'll be attending (when that's a thing again), and more!
Additionally, if the subscribe link here gives you a hard time, scroll down to the bottom of the page and sign up there instead. The first newsletter should be going out this coming Monday, so make sure you're on the list!
Now then, for something fun, crafty, and just a little spooky. And to give credit where it's due, I stumbled across this idea from Geek and Sundry.
Death Comes For Us All (In Order of Initiative)
|Well would you look at that? Bad guys go first.|
So What Do You Do?
|Trust me, this is a piece of cake.|
First things first, you want to identify your ideal container to use as the base. Right now we're in the middle of Halloween decor season, which means there are all kinds of skull cups and mugs out there. You want something that's got a bit of heft to it so it won't topple over unexpectedly, but you also want to make sure it isn't going to take up too much space on the table. Something like this skull pen holder, for example.
|Come on... look at this damn thing!|
Once you have your base, take your craft knife and your floral foam, and use the former to shape the latter to fit. You want a steady base that doesn't wiggle, if at all possible. Ideally the floral foam should sit a little way below the rim of your cup, as well.
After the foam is situated, take your small wooden dowel and push it down through the middle of the foam. You should now have a small pole sticking up from the foam. All you have to do at this point is open up your clothespins, and write the names of the PCs (or the names of the players, if your group is always the same), and then label one as Bad Guys. Perhaps a second for BBEG, when there's going to be a powerful bad guy and then all the lesser bad guys after them. Write the names along the legs of the clips, and ensure the can be read from both sides.
When you first set the initiative order you clip the clothespins near the top of the dowel, going in descending order from first to last. Then, once someone has taken their turn, you rotate their clothespin to the other side. This shows the initiative changing, and since the names are on both sides, you can just flip then back to their initial position as you go through the next round!
Add The Final Details
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Saturday, September 12, 2020
There is an old saying one of my martial arts instructors taught me when I was young; soft on hard, hard on soft. The idea was that you need to match the type of strike to where you're hitting your enemy, otherwise you're going to do more damage to yourself than you will to them. The stomach is a soft target, so you strike it with a fist for a hard blow for best effect. The head is a hard, rigid target so you should use a softer blow like a palm strike instead of a punch so you don't shatter your knuckles on your opponent's skull.
What does that have to do with gaming?
We've all had those moments in our games where we've run face-first into a wall. Where the enemy's armor class was too high, their strength too great, their damage resistance too big, or their movement speed too fast. When you come up against one of these challenges, you've basically got two options; throw up your hands and admit defeat, or switch tactics to strike at their soft spots.
|Dammit, parried AGAIN?!|
I'll be talking about Pathfinder here, but the basic theory can be applied to almost any game. All you have to do is ask, "What is this enemy bad at defending?" and that should be the first step of your strategy.
A High Armor Class Isn't As Unstoppable As You Think
|Take your shot, there's a 20 on that die.|
High Saving Throws Aren't Unassailable
|Parry this, ye blasted casual!|
Other Issues You May Need To Counter
The Game is Always Multi-Dimensional
|I try not to play favorites... but if you were going to pick one, I'd recommend this one.|
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Monday, September 7, 2020
Since I recently started doing my Alignment Deep Dives series, I've been thinking a lot more about alignment as a concept. Because while it doesn't exist in all games, and it's been mostly de-fanged in the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons, it still has quite a lot of teeth in my preferred game of choice, Pathfinder. And while I've seen a lot of people saying they want to remove alignment from their games entirely because it, "just gets in the way," I thought I'd take a moment to go down that rabbit hole. Because I've found the roots go a lot deeper than we tend to think... both mechanically, and otherwise.
So, if you're someone who is serious about yanking alignment out by its roots, here are some things you're going to have to change, re-write, or re-conceptualize.
|Trust me, in the end it's just not worth the effort.|
First, The Obvious Stuff
There are a lot of obvious parts of the game that rely on character alignment to determine certain effects or limitations. Paladins must maintain their lawful good alignment, barbarians cannot be lawful, clerics must remain within a step of their deity in order to maintain their connection to their powers, druids must remain neutral, etc. This is the most obvious thing alignment is used for, and honestly I think it's about as far as a lot of players and DMs think of it; it's just an impediment that stops them from playing certain characters, or which restricts the actions they can take in-game without dealing with consequences.
|No, Geoff, you cannot play a barbarian/monk with Way of The Great Ax.|
And sure, alignment does do that. It also stops players from claiming to be good characters on one hand, and then casting spells with the Evil descriptor on the other hand. It makes it clear that certain actions, use of certain items, and even certain classes require you to maintain a certain philosophy and behavior. If you're going to be an antipaladin, a bloody jake, etc., then you've got to devote yourself to that.
To be very clear, alignment doesn't actually stop players from taking in-game actions. However, if you are a character that requires a certain alignment to maintain your powers, then altering too far in any particular direction might mean you face consequences for those actions. And if your character doesn't depend on alignment at all? Well, they might consider their actions necessary for the greater good, or they might think of good and evil as philosophical concepts rather than anything physical. The character may not even think in terms of good and evil, but only in terms of what is expedient and efficient. That doesn't stop them from being good or evil, but it means they themselves are not concerned with those labels since it doesn't affect their life in any meaningful way. And unless there's a local spellcaster, they'll probably go their whole life without ever having someone use a spell to check and see what their alignment actually is.
Another consideration is that eliminating alignment either removes or severely undercuts many abilities in the game. From smite, to domain powers, to specific spells and magic weapons, alignment is one of the major guiding forces that underwrites them, or makes them useful at all. So if you get rid of it, you either get rid of these things, or you need to re-write them. From the holy avenger, to holy/unholy weapons, to spells like holy smite and chaos hammer, they cease to function without alignment to determine their effects.
But alignment affects far more than just the party. It is a huge part of the cosmos at-large. Without it, entire aspects of the game just fall... the hell... apart.
When Heaven and Hell Are Real
|Go then... there are other worlds than these.|
You May As Well Go Back To The Drawing Board
|And that isn't going to get you anywhere. Trust me.|
|Seriously, go get your copy today!|
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Saturday, September 5, 2020
The Companions stand upon the doorstep of the hidden realm of Xin-Shalast. Many foul creatures, ancient evils, and terrible monsters had stood in their way, but soon they would face Karzoug on the steps of his own realm. As they turned to watch Shepherd lead his charges back home toward the south, they could hear the yawning void within the cave. They knew not what lurked beyond, but according to Mirelinda's harrowing it could be nothing good.
So they went, prepared for anything... except, perhaps, what they found. For those who need to catch up regarding this adventure, previous installments are below!
- 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
- Chapter 23: The End of Runeforge
- Chapter 24: Preparation For The Final Journey
- Chapter 25: The Hunger in The Mountains
- Chapter 26: The Gateway to Xin-Shalast
So what lies ahead? Only the darkest secrets of the soul...
Through The Nexus
|Where the hell are we, exactly?|
|My son... how you've grown...|
An Oath Made, and a Duty To Be Fulfilled
The portal collapsed as Zhakar turned his back upon it. His shoulders sagging, his face open and naked. The fear was gone from his face, the hatred drained away... the man who stumbled toward his friends seemed more like the scared child that he had been when he had lost his mother the first time, and was cast out by the zealots and witch hunters that fancied themselves crusaders. Thok embraced his friend, holding him as if he meant to keep his soul from fleeing his body.
Zhakar gathered strength from that moment, standing tall once again. He was himself, but more than that... he seemed more like the man who had stood with them at Sandpoint when the goblins attacked. Like an old sword that had been sharpened and honed, it was as if the edge had returned to him... the fire in his heart that had nearly guttered growing once more.
"Let us see this done, my friends," he said, turning once again to the bright light springing into being on the other side of eternity. "It seems I have other business to attend, and do not wish to keep it waiting long."