Tuesday, April 28, 2015

All The Zombies You Could Ever Want, With Zombiepalooza Radio!

Do you like zombies? I don't mean in the, "sure, The Walking Dead is a pretty good show," kind of way. I'm talking about the kind of breathless enthusiasm that makes you keep a walker-chopper in your bedroom, which has led you to memorize big swaths of The Zombie Survival Guide, and which makes, "Would you like to hear about my zombie apocalypse plan?" an appropriate first-date question. If you have the kind of love that bites, then you really need Zombiepalooza Radio in your life.

Or whatever your reasonable facsimile of life happens to be...

What is Zombiepalooza Radio?

Zombiepalooza Radio is a podcast that goes live from 8 pm. until 1 a.m.Eastern Standard Time on Friday nights right here. The show talks about zombies, zombie apocalypse scenarios, books, movies, and anything involving both the ZomPoc sub-genre as well as the bigger horror umbrella under which all things dark and terrible make their homes. The show features authors, filmmakers, critics, industry insiders, and news about what's going on in horror that you might want to know about.

So what the hell are you waiting for, the dead to come banging on your door? Listen to Zombiepalooza Radio on their Youtube page, and Like them on Facebook today!

Thanks for stopping in on this very late Monday update, and if you want to support Improved Initiative then stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page today! If you want to make sure you don't miss any of my updates then you can follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and yes, even on Twitter.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Undoing Character Death: Unique Methods of Resurrection in Pathfinder

Before we get started this week, I'd like you all to know that I've bowed to the pressures of the Internet. I am now on Twitter @nlitherl. Come follow me if you'd like to watch me stumble through this quip-based form of social media.

Every experienced player has a story about character death. Whether it's a heroic tale of self-sacrifice like when Blackwood the Mad held the bridge so the party could escape, or a frustrating account of how that level one dwarf fighter who didn't even have a name yet went down from an unlucky critical hit, all of us have felt the reaper's hands on our character sheets.

Some of us handle it better than others.
Death is not the end in games like Pathfinder though, especially with spells like Raise Dead, Reincarnate, and Resurrection just a few high-priced spell components away. The problem is that by reducing death to nothing more than another temporary status condition your game can lose a lot of drama, and as we know from comic books an underworld with a revolving door gets really boring really fast.

Finding the middle ground between death is insurmountable, roll up a new character and what happened last session, I was dead at the time? isn't easy. Here are some suggestions for keeping the mystique around death, without making it so every character at the start of the campaign has been killed and replaced half a dozen time by the end of said campaign.

The Death Quest

This is perhaps the oldest trick in the book when it comes to resurrecting a dead character, but it's one a DM willing to roll up his or her shirtsleeves can really make work. The formula is pretty simple; a party member dies, and the dead man's comrades want to give him another chance at life. The priests in town do not have the power to do this, but there are whispers of a miracle worker in the wilderness. The swamp hag with her queer ways, or the necromancer who lives in the frozen waste. There may even be rumors of powerful spirits or forgotten gods who will offer resurrection... for a price.

Just sign on the dotted line, and we'll get this party started.
This could be something as comedic as a trip to the Miracle Max's hut, or as foreboding as finding MacBeth's witches; it all depends on the tone of your game. The point is that the party has to seek out some entity with power over life and death, and that entity will ask some kind of price from the party. If it's a demon it might demand a sacrifice or (if its sly) ask for a seemingly innocuous cost. If it's an ancient spirit it might set a task that must be completed, or the practitioner might simply demand a favor from the party at some point in the future; the most ominous of prices.

The death quest goes one of two ways, usually. You bring the corpse to the entity, and the entity sets the cost. The party either pays it (perhaps it's a year from the end of each of their lives, or some other symbolic cost), or goes off to complete the quest to resurrect their fallen comrade. For groups that don't want to leave the dead character's player out of the action the entity could resurrect the character, and then place a time limit on their new life; so the party is back together, but if they don't bring the aged crone the Heart of Emperors, the lost ruby in the ancient ruins of Halcion by the next full moon, he will pass on to the other side never to return again.

An Outside Force (For Faster, More Immediate Resurrection)

While the Death Quest is a great option, sometimes it just isn't practical. After all, if you're seven stories into the desecrated Temple of the Hanging Damned then you don't need the barbarian to come back in two weeks; you need her back now.

If you have characters that have been around the block a few times then all you need is a creative solution from the DM to make that happen.

Like a diverting chess-based minigame!
This is a solution that works best with examples. So here's a few to chew over!

- Helmund the Red, a hero of the Order of the Dragon falls in battle while helping his comrades defeat the savage Bugbear King. Assumed dead, Helmund's horse kneels by his side, pressing its forehead to his and breathing heavily. Helmund's eyes open, and his steed's close forever. (Bonded creature such as mount, animal companion, etc. gives its life for the PC, or alternatively the action links them together so that their lives are now one meaning if the mount or familiar dies, the PC dies too.)

- Caprica Vaine, alchemist extraordinaire, has a spear driven through her chest during battle. Dead as dreams, the party has just managed to catch its breath when she starts screaming and batting at the flames on her shirt. Her elixirs, potions, and one of her catalysts were smashed open and mixed in the wound. This chemical accident brought her back from death's courtyard through sheer lucky circumstances. (Some twist of fate allows the character to come back from death, but that instance cannot be repeated no matter how the character tries to figure out what happened.)

- Caldon Baile, cleric of Pharasma, falls to the grasping claws of an undead horde. While his compatriots fight them off, Caldon lies dead. Moments later a chill fills the air, and a weak gurgle hisses from his lips as breath finds its way back into his body. He awakens, and the ragged hole in the hollow of his throat has healed in the shape of a spiral scar. He has one phrase running through his head like a mantra; "It is not this day." (Servants of the gods like clerics, paladins, oracles, and warpriests can be presumed to have some sort of special pull with the divine. Similarly, characters like sorcerers from the Destined bloodline may have fate let them cheat death.)

In order for this get-out-of-dead free card to work you need to have a few elements in place. Firstly, it needs to really fit the character and the scenario. While it makes sense for the pious warrior to be given a little more life to fight the enemies of her god, it doesn't make sense for a character who eschews the divine or actively blasphemes it to be given the same deal. Generally the more roleplay heavy a player has been the more opportunities will present themselves. And secondly the Outside Force should be at the storyteller's discretion. Maybe it worked once, but what makes it special is that the player has no guarantee it will work a second time.

Boons, Gifts, and Strings Attached

This method of resurrection is the least common in most games, but it can be the best for both immediacy, as well as for making players feel like their actions really matter (both for good and for ill).

Just take a sip... what could it hurt?
These are the subtle methods which are driven entirely by a character's own actions. For example, say that the barbarian finds an old woman being hassled in an alleyway, and drives the thugs off with a snarl and some busted heads because where he comes from you respect elders for their wisdom. The old woman gives him an ancient medallion to keep him safe, pressing it into his hands and saying that she would be safe as long as men like him existed. If he takes it and keeps it, instead of hocking it at a junk shop or giving it up, then he might find when he should be killed that he's instead brought back from the brink because of the life he saved.

This could take all sorts of forms. Perhaps the fighter defeats a fae prince, but stays his hand instead of delivering a death blow. Maybe the bard was given a tattoo by a tribal shaman as a protection from death after the bard's songs gave strength to the tribe's swords in battle. It's just possible there was something to that old story about the heirloom ring the wizard bonded with, and about how no spellcaster of his line had ever died while he or she wore it.

These methods reflect on story, and on the rewards characters might earn for doing good deeds. There are also less beneficial options.

A dying witch might spit a curse at a bloodthirsty assassin, but rather than dying the curse is to live until he's washed the blood from his hands. The greedy warrior, eager to make use of his plunder, draws the sword of the immortal warrior without pausing to contemplate that all those who have wielded it have died by their own hands according to legend. A soldier who dies with vows unfinished might rise and keep fighting, unable to rest until he's kept his word.

There are a lot of different ways to keep PCs in the game. As long as the player wants to keep playing the character, the method involved is appropriate to the situation, and it feels like a reward instead of DM pity (or the DM fixing a screw up on his or her part) resurrection can be something cool and unique to add into a character's growth. As a final note though, it is also important to ask what happened to your character in-between that moment where they died and where they came back. Being in hell, even for a few minutes, can be enough to make you change your ways when you open your eyes again.

As always, thanks for stopping in! If you want to support me and keep Improved Initiative going then stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron today! If you want to make sure you keep up on everything I'm doing then follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Crit Confirm is The Place For Gamers Looking For a New Podcast

Finding places that bring together community, information, and fun isn't always easy when it comes to the tabletop gaming community. Forums like Reddit are great for finding a lot of gamers in one place, but it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. Facebook groups are another good place to go, but sometimes you have to join five or six groups before you find the ones that are right for you. YouTube channels run by long-time gamers are beautiful for those of us who want to be entertained with amusing shenanigans, or to find just the right combination of abilities for that ideal character build, but they're not all that great for interaction.

Crit Confirm brings you the best of all worlds, and it does it without costing you a single penny.

They don't have silly goats though, so here's one on the house.
I've talked about Crit Confirm before, but the site has gone through something of a phoenix molting since then. The group began with a podcast centered in Indianapolis (Gen Con country has made for some fun casts in the past), and it's since grown and re-organized into a one-stop shop for gamers, movie lovers, and comic book fans.

The site contains articles on a variety of topics, ranging from movie and game reviews to roleplaying and DMing tips. The podcast comes in a few distinct flavors, one of which is D20 Debut where individuals on the show talk about how to best build famous characters, or even real world celebrities like Bruce Lee. There are also gaming videos on their YouTube channel (which is admittedly a bit heavy on the Minecraft), and the main site boasts a forum where gamers of all kinds can meet, greet, and start "spirited discussions" about the things they love best.

This sounds an awful lot like a sales pitch...
In the interest of full disclosure the last time I wrote about Crit Confirm was just to help boost the signal for a group of gamers who are doing their best to provide great content. Since that previous writing though I have become a contributor for the site which has published articles of mine like Tips and Tricks For Making Memorable Towns and the divisive The Sliding Scale of Technology and Magic where I discuss why people lose their damn minds over classes like the gunslinger.

So some of the site's content does bear my name, but if you're a regular Improved Initiative reader then that should just give you an extra push to go check out Crit Confirm for yourself!

Thanks as always for stopping in at Improved Initiative, and if you'd like to support me and my blog then go to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page and become a patron today! If you want to make sure you don't miss any of my updates then stalk my social media pages on Facebook and Tumblr while you're at it!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Some of The Best House Rules in Pathfinder

We all know that every dungeon master has his or her unique style. Some DMs like to play epic music during fight scenes, and some like to keep player chatter to a minimum during combat. Some like to create spur-of-the-moment performances, and some like to read descriptions straight out of the book. And while all of us are playing with the same rule books, every dungeon master will have his or her unique tweaks to the game.

These are some of the best, general house rules that I've encountered in my time as a player.

Rule #1: Everyone Gets Max Hit Points. Everyone.

There is nothing more frustrating than playing a barbarian or a fighter and through the power of ill-luck winding up with fewer hit points than the evoker with consumption. While being turned into a glass cannon can lead to creative uses of resources and unique methods of compensation, that doesn't make it feel any better when your hard-hitting melee combatant concept has become a one-hit wonder in the wrong sort of way.

That's why one of the best house rules I've ever come across is that everyone gets max hit points according to their level. Everyone, at all times. Don't even bother rolling.

There is a catch, though...
This rule is a bit of a double-edged sword, though, because it means the monsters get the same deal. On the one hand, this means your party is going to be in for a challenge when they come into the dragon's cave, but on the other hand it also means that you won't end up with a weak final boss because the bugbear chieftan rolled minimum pips on all of his hit dice when the DM was putting the sheet together. You simply calculate your max, dust your hands off, and get back to adventuring!

Rule #2: Re-Roll 1's (And Sometimes 2's) During Character Gen

This might seem like a pity rule to some players, but those players have obviously never seen someone like me roll stats for a new character. Adventurers are supposed to be different from the common populace, and every now and again these characters should have a lower-than-average stat or two that makes their strengths seem all the more heroic.

But what do you do when you have a sheet that's a single 10, and all the rest are single digits?

Hell, even my charisma is an 11.
If you roll 4 dice and drop the lowest number you've got a half-way decent shot at creating a workable adventurer. If you allow players to re-roll 1's then you've made the minimum stat you can have a 6 (something I think we're all comfortable saying is a big enough hurdle to overcome). Again though, this is a rule that cuts both ways, since your DM should use the same creation rules for NPCs and villains.

Rule #3: Deathblow Narration

This one doesn't have any mechanical benefits, but it can get players more involved during combat. It's particularly useful for groups where combat is already a big slew of numbers, and you want to try to slowly inject RP into things. Dealing a deathblow to a monster is always reason for a little excitement, and getting players to ride that wave by describing how the rogue's dagger slid between the orc's ribs, or how the ranger sank her final shaft into the wizard's throat before he could cast another spell, is pretty easy to do.

Not only that but it makes player narration something special. If you're not part of a RP-heavy group that narrates every attack and defense in combat then handing the mic to the player when he or she drops a bad guy is a great way to put emphasis on what just happened.

If you have Cleaving Finish you only get a single narration.

Rule #4: Death Monologue

This is another way to keep RP going, and it often lets characters go out like the badasses they should be when, inevitably, someone dies.

The idea of the death monologue is that the party are the heroes on the big screen, and if they're going to go out they should get to say something as they cross over. Perhaps the paladin, upon finally being brought low, says something like, "No, that's all right, there's no need to carry me," implying that her soul is already being escorted to the after-world. The barbarian, upon being impaled on the blade of a black knight might spit blood in his helmeted face and growl, "Be seeing you real soon," before finally dying.

It also makes zombies creepy as hell when they mutter the same thing over and over.
Death monologues are ways for players to inject one last moment of awesome into a character before decisions have to be made by the party. For instance, the rogue might have been a brash, cocky, know-it-all, but when he died clutching the cleric's sleeve and begging for forgiveness with blood flecking his lips, that kind of visceral going-out might motivate the party to at least try to bring him back. There are questions, whose answers they might not know any other way, and the player will get the chance to see how being dead for a little while affects the character.

Do they fight harder to prove they're still worthy of heaven, or do they try to balance out their mis-deeds because even a few hours in hell is enough to light a fire under them?

Rule #5: Cure Spells Have A Minimum... If You Want It

We've all been in that situation; the chips are down, the party is bleeding, and it's likely that at least one party member is going to go down before the fight gets finished. The cleric chants, holds her holy symbol aloft, and presses her hand to the fighter's wound healing him... of less damage than the monster's strength modifier.

Saw that one coming.
There are certain things in Pathfinder you just shouldn't leave up to chance, and one of those is using a 4th level spell and hoping against hope that you don't roll a whole bunch of 1's. In order to take the chance out of this roll it may be a good idea to let healing spells (or harm spells used to give HP back to undead) automatically heal 5 points per d8 that would be rolled. You can still roll, if you think you can get more, but that guaranteed minimum is often a lot more helpful than the fickle finger of fate.

And as with all of the previous rules, this one applies to the villains as well as to the heroes.

What Makes A Good House Rule?

Most of the time house rules are meant to solve specific problems in specific groups. One DM may feel that halberds are reach weapons, so he gives them that property. Another may feel that reach weapons should be able to be used against adjacent enemies as a swift action. Some DMs will change initiative rules so there's only one roll per side, and others will make it so disabling traps is a multi-step process instead of a simple roll of the die.

House rules are often judged on a case-by-case basis, but the important thing to remember is that house rules need to be applied unilaterally, and regularly in order to work. And generally speaking house rules should take chance out of something, rather than put more chance into the game. There's already enough chance for a natural 1 to be the death of your character without making players roll more often.

Also if everyone at your table really disagrees with your house rule, it's a good idea to listen. You and your players both have to work together to tell a story, and for that it's important for players to feel like they're being challenged without feeling like they're being punished. Especially if you can't use the excuse of "look, that's what it says in the book."

Thanks for stopping in at Improved Initiative! If you want to get all of my updates make sure you follow me on Facebook and Tumblr, and if you want to help support Improved Initiative then stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page and become a patron today!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Madness Awaits With The Sculpted Call of Cthulhu Dice Tower!

H.P. Lovecraft's mythos seems to have become a touch stone for readers, writers, and gamers everywhere. From Call of Cthulhu games set in the dead center of the mythos to tabletop games like Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons who brush up against him to varying degrees, the big-C has become something of a rock star in the gaming community.

Which is why if you who want the (old) gods on your side when it's time to play absolutely need one of these.

Make a will save, and then you can roll your dice.
What you're looking at is a Cthulhu dice tower designed and sculpted by the very talented Fred Fields. If you're wondering why your game shop doesn't have these available (especially since the owner is always wearing Miskatonic University tee-shirts), the reason is because this little beauty is currently a Kickstarter project. The video for the project is below, but you can still get in on it if you act quickly by going to the Cthulhu dice tower's page!

Seriously though, if you want to play a cultist who is serious business, or you're contemplating running a Call of Cthulhu game of your very own and want to let your players know they're in for some hardcore madness this is an accessory that's well worth the time and money.

If you have a hot tip about something going on in the world of roleplaying games, or you have a project you think would fit right in with our Moon Pope Monday feature then feel free to reach out and send Improved Initiative an email! If you'd like to help support this blog then stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page and become a patron today. If you want to be sure you're getting all of my updates then you might also want to follow me on Facebook and Tumblr as well.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Single-Player RPG Books That Got Me Into Dungeons and Dragons

Despite my intense love of tabletop RPGs I didn't really get involved in them until I was legally an adult. I joined my first official game in my first semester of college, and despite the roller coaster of bat shit that ensued (being thrown in the deep end with 4 well-rounded power gamers was a unique experience) I was hooked. Throughout the entire game though I had the oddest sense of deja vu. It took a long time to pinpoint why, but digging through my bookshelf years later I found the reason.

It had slipped my mind that I'd been actively involved in single-player tabletop games years before I knew that 4-person parties were even a thing.

Choosing your adventure was never quite so deadly.

What The Hell Are Those?

What you're looking at are two examples of the Fighting Fantasy series. Largely created by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson (no not that Steve Jackson) in the 1980s these books followed the same general formula as the choose-your-own-adventure books that have been popular for decades now. The difference was that these books gave you a simplified character sheet, and presented you with ways to customize your character. In Appointment With F.E.A.R.for example you take on the role of a superhero and you get to select from a half dozen different powers from psychic control to gadgetry. In Master of Chaos you take on the role of a resourceful adventurer who must find a dangerous sorcerer and put a stop to him before he unleashes a deadly, eldritch force upon the world (and you totally get to fight that two-headed crocodile beast).

Combat is simple. You have your sheet with your bonus, and your villain has a sheet with his or her bonus. You then roll 2d6 for you, and 2d6 for the bad guy, and the loser takes a point of damage. The combat is over when someone drops.

A Crash Course in Roleplaying

I picked up Master of Chaos sight unseen for $1 from a used bookstore at a flea market, mostly for the cover. It wasn't until I got home that I realized I'd purchased something strange and unique. After I went through the game a dozen different times (It might not have been Dark Souls, but it was unforgiving for a 12-year-old) until I was sure I'd discovered every path to the end and side-quest that I could. Satisfied that I'd squeezed every drop of adventure out of the book I could, I went out to find more.

I quickly found that these books weren't for sale in regular bookstores. So I combed through re-sale bookstores and libraries, digging until I turned up a few other titles. Demons of the Deep was lurking in the back of my local library, and upon further investigation I found a ragged copy of Deathtrap Dungeon too. Both kept me occupied for weeks.

I had access to a huge variety of entertainment options, from cable TV and two or three video game consoles, but I liked nothing better than the rattling click of the dice as they decided my hero's fate. The feeling of triumph that was greater than just reading. I felt like I was part of the stories, rather than just witnessing them in passing.

So, now you know what my gateway drug was... and it's still going strong!

If you have a gaming story of your own that you'd like to tell then feel free to submit it! If you want to help support Improved Initiative then stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page and become a patron today! If you want to make sure you don't miss any of my updates then make sure you're following me on Facebook and Tumblr as well!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Fyxt RPG: Play Any RPG and Play it Your Way!

No matter how much we love our games we've all experienced problems with them. There's the game you want to like, but it doesn't support the sort of concepts and game you want to play. There's the game we really enjoy, even though the mechanics are a little slip-shod and we've had to home-brew some patches to fix it. There's the game with so many rule expansions and errata that you need to have an eidetic memory just to keep your sheet straight, and there are the games that are great for one genre but which just can't do anything else.

Sure we can make it work, often by cramming an already bulging bookcase with so many game manuals that no matter what our group is in the mood for we have something that can feed the beast. Wouldn't it be easier if there was a universal system that would allow you to make any sort of character and play any sort of game? Something that didn't require you to buy a new book or crawl through game forums every few months to stay on the cutting edge? And while we're fantasizing wouldn't it be great of this thing was also free so that all you needed to play was an Internet connection and a device that could access the database?

The name of the thing we're all fantasizing about is Fyxt RPG, and it already exists.

And this is what it looks like.
Fyxt RPG is the brainchild of Troy Whitney, who decided to combine his programming skills and lifetime love of gaming together in order to create a fast, free, flexible system you can use to tell any kind of story in any kind of setting, with any kind of characters.

Haven't We Been Down This Road Before?

I know what you're thinking (because I am telepathic, since you asked). You're thinking isn't this just an online Rifts? Well... not really. While the purpose of Fyxt RPG is to allow you to play any setting, any heroes, and any sort of story, it's a game where the flavor is completely divorced from the mechanics. That means you can skin your game however you want because it doesn't matter what you call things; all that matters is what you want to do.

If you want to check out the Fyxt RPG for yourself the website is right here. If you are took a look and like what you see take a look at Fyxt RPG's current Kickstarter below!

If that sounds like the kind of thing you'd like to be part of go right here and check out the Kickstarter for yourself! Even if you can't afford to help out though you can stop by Fyxt RPG's Facebook page and give them a like.

As always thanks for stopping by Improved Initiative, and if you'd like to support me and blog then stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page and become a patron today! If you want to make sure you get all of my updates then make sure you follow me on Facebook and Tumblr!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Want to Play a Samurai, But Your DM Said No? Try Calling it a Knight Instead!

When the samurai was released in Ultimate Combat along with the ninja and the gunslinger there was an understandable amount of buzz. Not only are we bringing in firearms (albeit primitive ones), but we're also bringing in two favorite archetypes that gamers have had a love affair with for decades! The book was barely into players hands before DMs started bringing down the hammer though.

"Not in my game."- Mark, Experienced DM
As I've said before, all you have to do to start a fight among Pathfinder players is to shout, "I think the gunslinger is really great!" People either love it or hate it, and more often than not it gets the brunt of the ban-hammer. And while the ninja typically manages to sneak into the party with a little persuading, the samurai is the next-biggest recipient of the big, fat NO stamp.

On the surface it seems obvious. After all, just as there are only guns in a select few places in Golarion, so too there are only a select few areas where one might find a samurai. While ninja might be sent far and wide on missions of intrigue, and recruited from a wide populace so they can blend in, samurai are hand-picked, personally-trained warriors sworn to a noble lord. Why would the shogun ever send his men so far away that they can't protect him, his people, and his lands?

Actually, You Know What That Sounds Like...

If you're one of those DMs who keeps the samurai class out of a game because there just isn't the proper flavor in your part of the game world press pause for a moment, because we're going to do an experiment. Take the word "shogun" and replace it with "baron" or "count". Now take the word "samurai" and replace it with the word "knight". Now ask yourself if by changing these terms you find the class more palatable to your game.

"Yes, I do." -Mark, Slightly Confused DM
The problem DMs have with the samurai is never that it's not a mechanically-balanced class. The problems arise because of the name, and all of the cultural associations that come with it. The idea is that if your game isn't set across the sea in a place like Tian-Xia then there's no reason for a samurai to show up barring some extreme straw-grasping. Even a wandering ronin would have to come halfway around the world to take part in a game set in the Inner Sea.

Unless, that is, the noble warrior is a home-grown knight.

You Can't Just Re-Skin A Class Like That!

Why can't you? Like I mentioned in my post A Gunslinger By Any Other Name... the words we use to refer to our classes and abilities can have a lot of impact in our perception of what these characters can do and how they should act. If you examine the samurai though it's a class that represents a warrior dedicated to a lord who tends to be most effective when standing alone against her liege's enemies. While the class maintains the mount, banner, and challenge abilities of the cavalier, it strips out the teamwork feats and gives you resolve so that you can overcome challenges and finish any fight to the end. Not only that but it gives you more skill points than the cavalier, and if you join the Order of the Warrior you gain knowledge (history) and knowledge (nobility), both of which are things knights would be trained in.

Know who that sounds like?

Don't pretend you don't watch the show.
For those who missed my latest Game of Thrones character conversion for Brienne of Tarth I used samurai as the base for her build. Brienne is loyal, steadfast, a deadly mounted warrior, but she's still quite formidable even when she's not on her horse. Proficient and even comfortable in all kinds of armor, she holds her honor above all other things (often to a fault). You replace bushido with chivalry, and you have a class that will fit in any traditional fantasy kingdom where the nobility has a warrior class. The only ability of the samurai that should be changed (and you don't even need to, it would just be fair) is to take the weapon expertise and apply it to more western-style weapons like bastard sword, lance, etc. instead of the katana, naginata, and the other listed weapons.

Just Play A Cavalier If That's What You Want!

While you can play a character in the spirit of a knight by building a cavalier who is a member of the Order of the Lion, just saying they're the same thing is missing the point. While the cavalier is the father of the samurai, they are most definitely two different beasts when it comes to mechanics and play. For players who love the abilities a samurai has (and which standard cavaliers simply don't) this one terminology tweak is a great way to work the class into your game and to open up other character options.

"Sounds Legit."- Sir Troll Knight, 9th Level Samurai
If you're still not convinced though, there are lots of different ways you could play a samurai simply by examining the races and locations available in Golarion. For instance, would elven warriors with their honor and grace be considered samurai? What about aasimar who were raised in the celestial realm instead of the material plane; would the culture and norms of their home make sense for the samurai? Would tieflings raised by infernal forces bear the oni masks and curved blades of their forebears?

I could keep going with this list, but my point is that just because there is a certain association in your mind with what a particular class should or shouldn't be that doesn't mean it has to be that. Step outside the box, and you'll see a lot of innovation come to your campaign quite quickly.

Also, if you're looking for some unique knightly orders to be a part of, from the grim-faced Guardians of The Obsidian Gate to the scholarly Attendants of The Page, you should check out 100 Knightly Orders from Azukail Games!

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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?

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