Monday, April 15, 2019

Redlining, and What A Well-Placed Retcon Can Do For Your Campaign

We've all been in those situations where we just felt a game go sour on us. Maybe it was when everyone's favorite party member died, but it later turned out that in the heat of the moment a rule was interpreted incorrectly, and that PC should have lived. Perhaps it was when the DM pulled a big reveal, and it turns out that the intricate fantasy setting everyone's really been digging is actually the remains of a bombed-out space colony in a far flung moon, and all of the magic they've been interacting with are just glitching holograms and hard-light creations. More on that in DMs, Don't Pull A Bait-and-Switch on Your Players (It Won't End Well). Or, in a few cases, it might be when the DM just took a scene too far, and the rest of the table was not cool with it.

You want to keep the game going, but it's like trying to swim with a boat anchor wrapped around your leg. Which is why you should just draw a red line through it, and keep on going.

Right, so while it APPEARED that Faruk was dead, he returns with quite a story to tell you...

Editing Works For Your Campaign, As Well As A Book

Too many people around the table (the game masters and story tellers in particular) treat the events of the game as set in stone. Much like the game rules, a group has the ability to call for an amendment, if they feel collectively that it needs to be made. In those instances where everyone agrees that something was not all right and should be addressed, that's when you make an edit.

Or, as I've heard some folks call it, a redlining action.

All right guys, let's just back that up and take it from the top...
Redlining is, more or less, highlighting the incident that everyone has agreed was not acceptable, hitting delete, and doing something different. I've even got an example of a situation from my own table of how it can work.

So, a friend of mine was DMing a game a while back where the protagonists were all members of a fantasy peace keeping organization. Some came from the "good" fantasy kingdom that was heavily Tolkien inspired, others from the "evil" one where everything was dark, gothic, and run by vampires. Think Wicked City crossbred with Pathfinder, and you're most of the way there.

While he did all the heavy lifting on the world building part of this, I agreed to be the rules consultant to help make the bad guys do what he wanted them to do. Generally he kept things vague so that I still had some surprises as a player, but there were certain things he needed a second set of eyes on making work without bending or breaking the rules as they were laid out. When he mentioned that one of the available orders from the dark side was essentially the secret police who were trained in duplicity and spycraft, I was all about that life. Because a pseudo-vampiric James Bond was a character I hadn't known I wanted to play until I was given the opportunity to do so.

At that point, a plan was hatched. Because a central theme of the game was these two diametrically-opposed kingdoms working together, but there were going to be schemes and betrayals on both sides as the game went on, making the party isolate themselves from superiors on either side. However, the DM reasoned that it would have more impact if it was the professional spy in the party (given that his organization was the equivalent of vampire KGB) who kicked over the stone. The idea was that in one of the earlier arcs he would cross a line, then attempt to undo the damage and redeem himself, progressing from, "loyal, self-interested member of the evil army," to, "rebel who knows all of the evil army's methods, and who uses that knowledge to dismantle the villains from the inside out along with his friends."

Well, it looked good on paper.
Needless to say, that is not what happened at all when the incident transpired. The players made their displeasure known, and were very clear that this was not the kind of game they had signed up for (which is to say, one with inter-party betrayal, whether or not it was a pre-scripted thing). Apologies were issued (and meant), and at that point a decision had to be made. The options basically boiled down to:

- Continue On: The incident had already happened, after all, so why not just keep the game moving?
- Redline It: There was a glitch in the system. Rewind to the scene before the objectionable event happened, and go in a different direction from there.

A DM who couldn't read the room might have gone for the first option, claiming they were already in things and so they might as well keep going. While no one said it in words, the atmosphere was pretty clear; trust in the game had to be earned back if the players were going to take one more step forward. So the DM talked to the players, and proposed a rewind and rewrite. The players agreed to move forward down that other path, and in time rediscovered some of their initial spark. It took a while to get things back on track, but the game eventually came to a satisfying conclusion.

Just Another Tool in The Box

Sometimes your game falls flat. You make a mistake, or it turns out that what you thought was a great plot twist is actually a table flipper. So keep in mind that the previous events can be altered the same way you could if you were writing a story. Just make sure that everyone at the table agrees it should be changed, and that you understand why it didn't work in the first place before moving forward.

Otherwise you might find that history repeats itself.

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday! Hopefully it struck a chord with some folks. If you've ever had to redline a scene, why not tell us about it in the comments below?

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!

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, April 13, 2019

Have Spells, Will Travel (The Spellslinger)

The Calladaris men sniggered at the stranger as he walked up the street toward them. He wore no steel, but there was something in the way he moved; a confidence that said he might not need it. He stopped in the street, and tucked a thumb through his belt. An errant breeze flipped the long coat he wore, making it snap.

"I hate to interrupt, but I'm going to need you all to apologize to my horse for earlier," he said.

"You what?" Crassan goggled, staring at the man as if he'd lost his mind.

"I know you all were just having a bit of fun," he said, waving a hand back toward where his horse was cropping grass at the rail. "But he's very sensitive. We just got into town, and I don't want this hanging over his head."

"Look, friend, I don't know what sort of fun you're trying to have, but it ends here," Duran said, stepping down off the porch. "So go back to that sorry looking animal, and-"

Before Duran could finish what he was going to say, the stranger took his hand off his belt, and pointed. A pinprick of light shot forward, burrowing into Duran's forehead. Blood spilled down his face, and his jaw fell open. Two more star embers hammered forward, smashing into his chest. Duran stood there for a moment, then collapsed into a heap in the gutter. The stranger uncurled the rest of his fingers, fanning them out toward the gang, all of their hands freezing around their hilts.

"Does anyone else want to suggest what I should go do?" he asked, his voice pleasant. "Or will you say you're sorry?"

I asked you kindly. I ain't asking again.

The Spellslinger

Magic is a potent tool, and those who can wield it through training, birthright, or bargain often find they have a weapon deadlier than any steel blade. While some use this power responsibly, and others use it to further their own ends, the spellslinger is a unique case. Roving mercenaries, wands-for-hire, enforcers, thugs, and occasional heroes, these wielders of the arcane and divine rely on the speed and power of their incantations to win the day over any foe.

Unlike scholarly masters of the arcane, spellslingers are down-and-dirty casters. They utilize every advantage they can get, from mystical tattoos to enhance their raw power, to keeping a brace of wands on-hand should they need a little extra boost. They also tend to use sleeve sheaths as a way to keep their necessities ready for a quick draw. While they may be looked down on by more serious students of the magical arts, there is no denying that weaponizing magic in such a visceral way puts these casters in quite a demand from those looking to add some serious firepower to their ranks.

Where Do Spellslingers Come From?

Spellslingers can come from any kind of magical background. As an example, someone might be a self-taught magician, cobbling together just enough knowledge from stolen spellbooks to be really dangerous if they're cornered. Others might have been apprenticed to more senior spellcasters, possibly another spellslinger, acting as a kind of squire. Still others may have been born with their power, simply finding a way to use what they have to their advantage. And some may have been trained by elite academies, or even military units like the Acolytes of Arannis mentioned in 100 Random Mercenary Companies. There are even some spellslingers, it's rumored, who made deals with outside forces to be granted their gifts.

As to spellslingers themselves, they come from all races, and all walks of life. Though the path is particularly appealing to those who find themselves outcast, and looking to carve a life for themselves. Forcefully, if necessary.

One of the most important features of a spellslinger, though, is who they work for (or are willing to work for). Some spellslingers might be the proverbial man with no name, blowing into town, doing their part to help out with their skills, and then heading back down the road. Others might sell their services to bandit gangs or pirate crews, making their outfits significantly deadlier. Some might take work as bounty hunters, or even allow themselves to be deputized by the local law... for a time, at least. Some may even be trying to atone for past sins, using their magic for noble causes to help balance out whatever acts they committed in the past. Acts that may have even put a price on their head. Spellslingers rarely stay in one place for long, though. Their skills often mean there's always someone in need of their aid... or who's willing to pay more, for those whose loyalty can be bought with treasure.

Those looking for possible background connections, gangs, and crews mentioned above might find 100 Random Bandits to Meet as well as 100 Pirates to Encounter to be excellent places to start digging.

Build Advice For A Spellslinger

Spellslingers use magic as a weapon, but that doesn't mean their only spells are damage-dealing. A spellslinger necromancer might sap the energy from his foes, sending them fleeing in terror, for example. A spellslinger who prefers conjuration might pull fell beasts from the pit, and sic them on their foes. Even spellslinger transmuters might turn their foes into something wet and squishy with a brush of their fingertips, and illusionists might make it impossible for their foes to trust their senses.

However, whatever form your spellslinger takes, there are some things you should have on-hand.

First, you want to make sure your spells are as potent as possible. That's why feats like Spell Focus and Varisian Tattoo (or Magic Tattoo for those using the PFSRD) are typically at the top of your priority list. Anything that boosts your caster level, or the DCs on your spells, means your foes will save less often, and you'll do more damage. 3 Tips For Boosting Your Caster Level in Pathfinder as well as How to Increase Spell DCs in Pathfinder both have additional resources for you, as well.

In addition to potency, you want speed on your side. A high initiative is a necessity for a spellslinger who wants to live to fight another day. A lot of your initiative boosting resources can be found in How to Top The Initiative Order Almost Every Time, but one that I didn't mention there is the Warrior Priest feat for divine casters. It gives you a +1 bonus on Initiative checks, and a +2 on casting spells on the defensive, or while grappled.

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!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, 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, April 8, 2019

Rules Might Limit Dungeon Masters, But They Also Protect Players

I've gone on the record several times in saying that I tend to prefer rules-dense games to rules-light ones. Part of this, like I said in Why Pathfinder is My Game of Choice, is because games with a lot of rules also tend to give you a lot of options as a player. As I said back then, games with robust rules back up your character concept mechanically, providing the necessary skeletal structure so that you're not just using the same three or four templates everyone else has access to with different flavor text.

There is another reason I prefer games with a lot of rules, though. It's because, simply put, I think you're less likely to get screwed if you have a contract that spells out how everything works.

Sir, if you'll reference page 357's sidebar, you'll see we've discussed why you can't do that.

The Dungeon Master is Not God

Perhaps the most-quoted thing I see about being a DM is some variation of, "You can do whatever you want. You're god, after all." While this is true in the sense that the DM is the one who handles the spinning of the cosmos, who populates the world, and who rules over decisions, the DM is more like a team lead or a boss than a deity. Ideally they should be working with everyone else on their team to reach their goals and to overcome challenges.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Johnson, your fighter's dead. Roll up a new character. No, at level 1!
Whether your dungeon master is someone who isn't good at making up necessary rulings on the fly (not every good storyteller has the skills to design a game, after all), or because they are actively adversarial in their approach, in a rules-light game it is all too easy for the players to get screwed. It's a lot like how, before the advent of labor laws, there was nothing stopping employers from working someone for 14 hour days until they dropped. Except, you know, fairness, and morality, and stuff like that. Which, if you'll recall, didn't work all that well.

Yes, I'm comparing dungeon masters to the robber barons and cutthroat capitalists of the gilded age. Because while it's true that some of these bosses cared about their employees, tried to be fair to them, and wanted to promote equal prosperity, there were also bosses who used and abused people to get their way. Bosses who wrung out anything workers had to give, then tossed them out on the street when they protested their treatment. Dungeon masters can be the same way; some of them are good, some are well-meaning but flawed, and some of them really should not be in charge.

That's where the rules come in.

To continue this metaphor, the rules of the game are like the labor laws that companies have to follow. Because it would be more advantageous for them to simply fire someone the moment they got injured on the job, but doing that is often illegal. In the same way, you might have a dungeon master who wants to declare that this fall from the rooftop killed your character, but according to the falling damage chart in the book, you would only take 5d6 damage. You've got 50 hit points, so even on a maximum roll you're going to survive, even if the DM thinks it would be more dramatic for your character to die.

Now, having the rules about falling damage, about critical hits and failures, damage dealt to sundered weapons, or about energy resistances spelled out in black and white doesn't stop a dungeon master from telling a story. What they will do, though, is stop a dungeon master from making up their own rules to suit their fancy, or imposing rules that aren't fair because, "Well, there's no rule for that in the book, so I'm going to do it this way."

In short, rules-dense games tend to put players and dungeon masters on a more equal footing, and they protect players from capricious, inexperienced, or mod-happy DMs. They're a contract between you and everyone else at the table about how the physics of the game actually function, and they cut out a lot of the wiggle room that is present in games with fewer rules.

A Paper Shield is Still a Shield

While it's true that groups can change the rules to suit their play style, those changes need to be things that everyone agrees about. And it's a lot easier to come together to collectively bargain over minor changes or modification than it is to make entirely new rules from scratch because something you want to do wasn't covered in the original text.

Cut damage in half and round down on successful saves. All in favor?
At the end of the day, though, both players and the DM are bound by the same contract. Each side is expected to follow the rules they agreed to. While it's true that it requires more reading, practice, and system mastery to play (much less run) these games, they're also harder for a hanging judge-style DM to simply get in the chair and start making rulings about who does and doesn't die, lose hands, get class features stripped from them, etc.

It's not for everyone, but it is a distinction that I consider important. Because if the rules are clear and spelled out, I don't have to extend a DM the same amount of trust that they can handle their position as I would if there were only a few guidelines in place they could ignore at their whim. And if players can point out where a DM's ruling is in violation of the agreement, then that helps keep everyone on a level playing field.

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday post! Been thinking on this topic for a while, so I thought I'd finally get my thoughts out there. What about the rest of you? What are your thoughts on rules systems being used as a way to protect players from bad DM decisions?

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

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

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Have You Tried Using "Spiritual Bleed" In Your RPG?

"Are you sure you want to hold to this road?" Finar asked his companion. "It's just, well..."

Kegare smiled a little at Finar, though the expression looked out-of-place on the knight's face. Something hotter than fever burned in his eyes, and his lips were a little cracked. When he straightened, the tendons in his neck stood out in stark relief, and his pulse beat hard in his throat.

"Waiting will do us no good," Kegare said, with something like his usual, calm tone. Beneath it, though, simmered the rage. The fury that was burning through the good man's resolve as steadily as acid. "The bargain hangs round my neck. There's nothing to be done for it."

Finar was about to speak again, when riders appeared over the top of the hill. They bore down, weapons in hand and black masks across their faces. Kegare's smile grew wider, and a sickening pleasure flashed across his face. Finar had squired for the knight for years, and had always known him to be a kind, just man who placed words above steel. But as darkling fire raced across Kegare's fingers, engulfing his hands, he knew that his master was one step further away than he'd been even a moment ago.

Embrace the flames long enough, and you, too, will burn.

Spiritual Bleed: When Outside Forces Change You

If you've ever played an RPG before, then you're familiar with characters who draw their power from an outside source. The traditional cleric receives their magic from obedience to a divinity or a force, for example. A witch or a warlock has a patron they've been chosen by, or made a bargain with. Mediums allow the spirits of the dead to work through them, acting as gateways. Even a barbarian's Rage might be seen as tapping into some force beyond their own muscle and sinew, dipping into a well of power that turns them into a force of nature for a brief period of time.

Power often comes with a price, though. Because the more you tap into these powers, and the more of it that flows through you, the more it can erode who you were. A concept I call spiritual bleed.

It all began with a shark...
One of the clearest examples of this idea is something I set out for a Werewolf: The Apocalypse character of mine. For those not familiar with this particular White Wolf game, it's a modern fantasy setup where players take on the role of modern-day werewolves. These warriors exist to protect Gaia from the forces of destruction, and they've been engaged in a shadow war with the forces of the Wyrm for centuries. If they lose, then we all lose, and the world ends.

Into this setup came a cub named Tucker. An albino metis (a monstrous offspring of two werewolves mating, something strictly forbidden by their own laws), Tucker spent most of his life in a junkyard being raised by his grandmother's human kin (mortals who are in on the secret war, and who provide the backbone of support in fighting the Wyrm), and a familiar spirit named Gregor... a huge cockroach. When Tucker had his first change, he sought out other werewolves to help him reach his full potential.

Tucker was unusual among the garou, in that he was not a natural fighter. A mechanical-minded young man, he had a natural inquisitiveness that led his sharp mind down interesting and unexpected paths. But Tucker was also soft-spoken, retiring, and tended to fold in on himself when others were around. Scribbling notes in his book of blueprints and murmuring to himself while drawing back from the world around him.

Until his Rite of Passage, that was...

Let me hear you howl.
When a cub undergoes this rite, they are approached by powerful spirits which each stand as the heads of the tribes of the werewolf nation. Choosing which spirit to ally yourself with binds you to that tribe, and makes you an adult in the eyes of your fellow garou.

When the dust cleared, Tucker was chosen by Fenrir. For those of you familiar with Norse mythology, the giant-born colossus of power and ferocity you're picturing is exactly the spirit that Tucker is now bound to through membership in this tribe. This changed the character in some mechanical ways (access to certain powers, able to take an extra level of damage, etc.), but it also changed him in other ways. He stood straighter, spoke louder, and took up space in a way he hadn't before. He developed a presence that was bigger than when he had been a cub.

Then, when he was offered a place in a pack dedicated to Shark, another spiritual pigment was mixed into his makeup. Shark is a spirit who is swift, sure, and who shows neither pleasure nor remorse in the act of killing. When combined with the influence of the great Fenris wolf, the quiet tinkerer took on an almost uncanny focus, able to see, pursue, and complete his goals without hesitation.

Being tied to spirits, and accepting the boons they provide, rubbed off on him. Altered him. If those connections were severed, or their boons withdrawn, it would also alter who he is. Because when you accept an outside power, tying it into your being, then it colors you. And when it's removed, then that influence fades away as well.

It's an aspect of these bargains that sometimes gets lost when you're too focused on what bonuses they grant, or what rules you have to avoid breaking in order to keep your patron happy.

The Side Effects of Power

Spiritual bleed can be slow and subtle, or hard and fast. It can be disturbing, or it can be uplifting. The idea behind it, though, is that being in contact with forces beyond your ken leaves its mark on you. Especially if something from them is flowing into you!

It might mean that the warlock who wields a fiendish power too freely finds themselves becoming jaded, cruel, or even bloodthirsty. It might mean that the paladin who channels divine forces begins to lose touch with mortality, too caught up in the celestial movings of the world they glimpse through their connections to the beyond. It might mean that when a theurge makes a bargain with a spirit of the wyld that they find themselves wearing their wolf skin more and more, unwilling to put on the form of man unless they truly must.

But they reached that point (at least partially) because of a force that came from outside of themselves. Perhaps they bargained with it willingly, or perhaps they only reach for it out of desperation, but it's had an effect on them. It's changed them.

The question you have to answer is how has it changed them? And has it been for the better, for the worse, or simply in a direction you didn't expect?

Also, for more tips on how to get the most out of your warlock characters, check out my guide 5 Tips For Playing Better Warlocks. Or if you're a fan of Werewolf, and particularly the Get of Fenris, take a look at my latest supplement, 100 Get of Fenris Kinfolk!

Now get back to gaming!
That's all for this month's Fluff installment! For more of my work don't forget to stop by my Vocal and Gamers archives, as well as the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I help out. If you'd like to check out some of the books I've written, like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, then had over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases you can follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and even Pinterest, now! And if you'd like to help support me and my work then consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi or going to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron today! Every little bit helps, and if you become a patron then you'll get access to my exclusive giveaways.

Monday, April 1, 2019

All Games Are Inherently Political

Of all the phrases I've grown to hate over my years of gaming, there is one in particular that makes me sigh. It is a phrase that lets me know I'm in for a long, and often frustrating discussion. And, many times, it's a phrase that lets me know that this person is not someone I'd enjoy having at my table.

What's that phrase, you ask?

"Get your politics out of my game!"

Pictured: The kind of character this protester often plays, perhaps missing the irony.
The problem here, for those who are wondering, is that there is no such thing as a non-political RPG. Roleplaying games, by their very nature, have messages in them. Those messages convey meaning, establish themes, and generally speaking are what provide the context for the story we're all telling, here.

Because of that, all games are inherently political in some way, shape, or form. And I'd take that one step further to say that most forms of art (especially things we geeks love like movies, comics, sci-fi and fantasy novels, etc.) are also inherently political.

Do You Remember Stan's Soapbox?

Though it will likely cause all of us pain, I'd like to talk about Stan Lee for a minute. Because while we can argue about the man versus the persona, and the nature of an artist and their legacies, one thing that Stan made very clear was that he and many of the artists he worked with at Marvel were sending very clear, direct messages with the stories they told. From Spider-Man's lessons on power and responsibility, to the X-Men's civil rights metaphor, to Black Panther beating the holy hell out of a white-clad hate group, Marvel's stories were not shy about their politics.

And for people who missed it, or who thought they might have been accidental, there was the handy little feature of Stan's Soapbox.

No gray areas, no miscommunication.
Stan Lee, and other creators, felt that these messages were important enough that they needed to be spelled out in plain English once the story about super-powered men and women in Lycra costumes was over. Because, at the end of the day, they had things they wanted you to take away when you closed the rear cover of that comic book.

That tradition hasn't stopped with the modern iterations of Marvel's comics and films, by the by. Captain Marvel is one of the biggest successes they've had in a while, and the story it tells is about a woman who breaks free from a controlling relationship filled with lies and gaslighting to embrace who she really is. Something with a lot of parallels to Jessica Jones, I'd add. Guardians of The Galaxy tells a story of the importance of personal connection to others like yourself, showing that being adopted (even under odd or unusual circumstances) doesn't make you any less of a family. And, of course, Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out pretty heavily against a surveillance/police state.

Just for a few examples.

But What Does This Have To Do With Gaming?

You can pick up practically any play, any novel, and any game, and find messages like this lurking just under the skin. All you need to do is look at who the heroes are, who the villains are, and what the conflict is over. Are ugly creatures viewed as inherently monstrous and deserving of death, or do we find that orcs, goblins, ogres, and others have a vibrant culture and drive to survive past all the war paint and skulls? Is racism seen as tolerable as long as it's against elves or gnomes, or is that prejudice used to clearly mark someone who is backwards at best, and a villain at worst? Is enchantment seen as an appropriate, non-lethal way to end a conflict, or is its ability to violate someone's mind and consent seen as an art practiced only by the wicked?

Do traditional paladins define what is unquestionably good just by existing?
All of those messages, and many more, are coded into our games. Even if we're not thinking about them. And, generally speaking, players will accept those political points without question. Even defending them virtuously in-game, if they're heroes. Yet for some reason they'll suddenly roll their eyes if, say, a game includes the message of, "Being gay is all right," or, "Humans come in multiple ethnicities, and confining them to imaginary borders on a map makes no sense in a world where immigration is a reality."

Sure, those are political messages in a game. However, it's no more political than the belief that those with magic should be the ruling faction of a nation, or that chattel slavery is wrong and should be smashed at every opportunity. All of these things are inherently political (and dare we say it, moral and philosophical) points that show up in our games, and that's been true since the first dice were ever rolled in an RPG.

Don't Duck The Subject

If you disagree with a particular message in a game, that's fine. I'd even go so far as to say that's great. However, simply demanding that people keep politics out of a game doesn't help, because it would mean staring at a blank piece of paper. Instead, explain why you feel this particular political statement should be kept out of a game, or why you feel it should be altered in some way for the game to better fit your desires as a player.

We do this all the damn time. Sometimes a DM will do it by making certain creatures inherently evil and corrupt, so that slaying them is always a righteous act rather than a callous case of murder. Or players will make it clear that they feel violence is not the answer to problems by always trying to use Diplomacy or Intimidate before actually drawing their weapons. So if you feel that a certain issue doesn't belong in an RPG, you should feel free to say which issue, and why you feel that way.

But just saying, "Ugh, why is everything so political now?" does nothing but make other people think you haven't been wearing your critical thinking hat this whole time.

Speaking of Messages...

As a brief aside, I wanted to let all you fine folks out there know that I recently put together my first gaming supplement with High Level Games! It's a supplement for Werewolf the Apocalypse titled 100 Get of Fenris Kinfolk. And since we're talking about messages in our games and art, I thought I'd provide everyone a sneak preview of the message I wanted to send with this piece by giving you the description of the first NPC in this list.

Sigurd “Ziggy” Bowers: A towering black man whose roots are just starting to go gray, Zig runs one of the most successful outlaw tattoo parlors in upstate New York. His whole life, Zig was pushed to use his size and strength to its best possible end, making him a fiercely competitive boxer, and a champion weightlifter on the amateur circuit. Mostly retired from competition, he’s been known to throw down when provoked. While he sports a great deal of ink, those who see him in his working vest can’t miss the prominent runes across his chest that read, “Fuck Off Nazi Scum.”

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday installment! Hopefully it gave folks plenty of things to talk about.

For more of my work, check out my Vocal and Gamers archives, as well as the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio! Or, if you're more interested in books like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, head over to My Amazon Author Page instead.

To stay on top of all my latest releases, you can follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and now on Pinterest, too. To help support me consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi, or heading over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron! If you do that, you'll be able to get in my regular, monthly giveaways as well as knowing you're doing your part to help keep this blog going.