Friday, July 31, 2015

The Ecclesitheurge: Part One of a Powerful Mystic Theurge Build

The Mystic Theurge is one of the most popular prestige classes for players who love spellcasters. Mixing arcane power with divine might, these unique magic users draw their spells from a deeper knowledge of the universe than any single arcane or divine devotee could possibly grasp. From a practical standpoint, Mystic Theurges have a dizzying array of spells to pick from, and they can mix and match the slots from one class to cast spells from another, which can wreck all kinds of holy hell on unwary enemies.

Burning hands from domain spell, and charm person from the bard list.
Now, there are all kinds of class combinations you can put together to meet this build's prerequisites; you just need one that's arcane, one that's divine, and to be able to cast the proper level of spells. Perhaps the most traditional combination, though, is the wizard and the cleric. From the wizard you gain a huge number of spells to choose from, and a bonded item that can let you spontaneously cast a single spell of your choice from your spellbook even if you didn't prepare it that day. From the cleric you gain... exactly the same thing if you take the Ecclesitheurge archetype.

More Magic Than Your Body Has Room For!

The Ecclesitheurge is a very special kind of cleric, found on page 91 of the Advanced Class Guide. The Ecclesitheurge has a very limited selection of weapons, and gives up the ability to use armor or shields. Instead, this unique cleric takes a vow to be protected solely by the power of his or her faith (and whatever spells get cast on the character). You also lose out on the third boost of your channel's power. What you get in return is the ability to switch around the domains you draw your spells from (as long as they're still domains your god has), and you gain a bonded holy symbol (which works just like a wizard's bonded item, but for cleric spells).

Cure this disease, in the name of Cayden Cailean!
This bonded item is a lot more powerful than people give it credit for, because clerics gain access to all their spells. So any time you have that moment of, "shit, if I'd prayed for that spell today I could save the whole party!" you can just cast the spell instead of kicking yourself. And what does it cost you to get this great ability? Weapons you likely weren't going to wield because of how bad your base attack bonus progression is, and armor you probably weren't going to wear since it would have greatly hindered your arcane prowess.

Not only that, but if you're ever unsure about how safe you are, look down the sheer list of magic you have access to. Mage armor and shield never go out of style, and they'll be more than enough to see you through your first few levels until you start growing into your new found power. If you're worried about your offensive capabilities, combining domain powers like the fire bolt from the fire domain, and the telekinetic fist from the wizard's transmutation school mean that you've got plenty of power to throw around without even dipping into your spells.

And if you really want to add some more firepower to your arsenal, then check out How to Power Up Your Pathfinder Characters With The Eldritch Heritage Feats.

As always, thanks for stopping into Improved Initiative! Make sure you don't miss any of my updates by following me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. If you want to help support me and my blog, then stop on by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron today!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Esteban Colon is a Multi-Talented Performer Who is Not To Be Missed

Gamers come from a huge variety of backgrounds. From computer programmers and fast food workers, to surgeons, security guards, and everything else in between, we are all drawn to the art of storytelling. Some of us, though, crave more than the rattle of bones and the rustle of papers. Some of us perform, transforming thoughts and emotions through our words to create something that, for a time, can steal a piece of someone to send it on a journey.

Esteban Colon is one of these people, and if you don't know who he is you should pay attention to him.

Beware a man with madness in his eyes, and a mic in his hand.

A Bevy of Bardic Beats

Esteban doesn't limit himself to one game as a professional. He's a spoken word artist, a poet, an author, and a great deal more besides. He's performed with The Goods (check out their Facebook page to listen to some of their tunes), and his book Things I Learned The Hard Way is an engaging read for those looking for something truly unique and different. A busy man, his profile at Poets and Writers gives ample testimony to his accomplishments.

And for those of you who like to try before you buy, here's a tasty tune he cut with The Goods. Warning, it will get in your head if you've ever gone through a break up.

Artists are a strange lot, but we can't do what we do without your support! Speaking of which, if you support Improved Initiative by leaving a donation at my Patreon page by the end of August, there's a free book in it for you! Also, don't forget to follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter to get my latest updates.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Saga of Majenko: Blood Pig Champion!

Before we bring you the fourth installment of the Saga of Majenko, the true hero of the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path, I'd like to remind you that I've got a special deal going on until the end of August. What kind of special deal? The kind that comes with free books, and no annoying ads on this blog! For more information check out this post with all the details.

We good? Good. Also, if you want to get the full story about what's going on with Majenko and his band of intrepid adventurers, you should really start from the beginning. As such, here's the full list of all ten installments of this story.

Part One: Finding The Main Character of "Curse of The Crimson Throne"
Part Two: How Much Damage Could One Pseudodragon Do?
Part Three: Scourge of The Red Mantis
Part Four: Blood Pig Champion
Part Five: Brother to The Shoanti
Part Six: The Assault on Castle Scarwall
Part Seven: The Return to Korvosa
Part Eight: Re-Taking Korvosa
Part Nine: The Assault on Castle Korvosa
Part Ten: Down With The Queen

After The Plague

When last we left our intrepid adventurers they had saved the city of Korvosa from a deadly plague, and found evidence that the Queen was behind it! They'd been on a way to a meeting with Korvosa's legendary hero Blackjack, who was going to take them to the city's seneschal, the one man who could legally strip her of her power and crown. Then we were ambushed by the legendary Red Mantis Assassins, two of which were handily dispatched by the Great and Powerful Majenko.

No problem.
No sooner had we put out the fires and collected the dead assassin's gear than we found a secret compartment in the fencing master's bedroom. In it, to the surprise of one person, we find the costume of the city's great hero, Blackjack! Wondering where said great hero/fencing teacher is, we step outside, only to meet one of his students (who joins our party to replace the barbarian we recently lost). He also tells us that an artist by the name of Scream knows where both Vencarlo/Blackjack, and the seneschal are. So we hot foot it over there... to find the place predictably ransacked.

Ransacked, but not empty.

The Bubbly, Bright Laori Vaus

Sitting in Scream's living room is an unusual sight. An elf in spiked armor, idly twirling a wickedly vicious chain, with a pouty expression on her face. The symbol of Zon Kuthon hangs from a barbed cord around her neck, but despite this she seems genuinely happy to see us.

Happy might not be the right word...
After a brief, but tense, standoff we find out that she's also looking for Scream. Despite her membership in the Brotherhood of Bones, the enemy of our enemy is our friend. So we offer to walk with Laori to a part of the island controlled by a mad gang lord who has dubbed himself the Emperor of Old Korvosa.

Let The Games Begin!

At this point we have a fencer, a magus, a cleric of a good god, a cleric of an evil god, a guardswoman, a sorcerer whom we pulled out of the gutter on our journey, and a scaly ball of draconic power. So when we arrive at the emperor's stronghold to make our request we're given a choice; go away, or play a violent round of the game known as Blood Pig! No weapons, no magic, just one team pounding the other until someone scores high enough.

You can still keep your half-plate, though.
We agree to the game, and things quickly become a slog. None of us are unarmed combatants, and the opposing team is canny, dedicated, and really wants to win. Egil pops the cork on his Eversmoking Bottle, and Majenko communicates the party's positions to the sorcerer via telepathy. The sorcerer casts a fireball, and suddenly the opposing team is in shambles. Majenko then lands on Egil's shoulder, and declares himself the Blood Pig Champion (succeeding on a bluff check to convince the mostly-mad man sitting the throne that he just witnessed a colossal breath weapon coming out of the tiny little creature).

The emperor, nonplussed, acknowledges our victory and adds a new rule to the ledger that pseudodragons are forthwith banned from the game of Blood Pig. We're then led by the emperor and his gnome executioner, bruised and unarmed, down a back hallway to speak with Scream.

The Great Escape

We find Scream, terrified and deprived, curled up on a filthy cot. Pleased to see us, desperate for a chance to escape, he answers our questions about the seneschal. He informs us that the great man went to the Arkona compound for shelter and refuge, and that he and Vencarlo are likely there as we speak.

Majenko asks Scream telepathically if he would like to be rescued. He says yes.

Let's do this thing.
Majenko's first move is to sneak attack the emperor. He hits him, and the emperor rolls a fortitude save. His mouth is open to cry out for help, when his eyes roll back and he falls dead asleep from Majenko's venom. The executioner raises his ax, doing his damndest to kill us. Three rounds later he's also succumbed to sleep venom, and it snoring on the ground. We bind them, gag them, and remove their armor, and weapons... which is how we found out that the headsman was mute the whole time.

We all look at the sorcerer, who is also a gnome. We put him in the headsman's garb, and he grumps out down the hall to the throne room. He lifts the box with all of our weapons in it, and walks it back down the hall to where we are. No outcry is raised, and no one pays him any real mind. We gear up, take our loot, and then we exit stealthily through a hole in the roof. Majenko gives the prisoners one more good poke to knock them out again, and we're away over the rooftops with no one the wiser.

Of course, the story is far from over! Laori takes Scream to safety, and we are now faced with going into the lion's den of the Arkona compound... and then seeing if we can actually depose the queen. To find out, tune in next time to The Sage of Majenko: Brother to the Shoanti!

If you'd like to support Improved Initiative (and get free stuff in the process) stop by The Literary Mercenary Patreon page to become a patron today! If you want to make sure you don't miss any updates, then be sure to follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter as well!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Support Improved Initiative and Get Free Stuff!

Mondays are typically reserved for funny videos, cool bits of gaming news, or promoting other products and publishers who need a bit of a signal boost. This week, though, I need a bit of a boost.

Put plainly, I need more patrons, and I'm willing to offer some pretty sweet swag to anyone throwing me their support.

With your help, Sir Troll Knight might finally earn his 10th level of samurai!

What I'm Offering

For those who don't know, I have a Patreon page which covers both this blog and my author blog. I'm asking folks who like my work, and who want to see more of it, to stop by and pledge a little bit to help make my ends meet at the end of the month. You can pledge a certain amount per blog entry, or you could set a flat donation for the month. Between Improved Initiative and The Literary Mercenary I make three total blog posts per week (one on Mondays, one on Wednesdays, and one on Fridays), but only two of those posts are "paid" posts (Monday posts like this one are free of charge).

Whatever you can spare would be much appreciated.
In addition to the satisfaction of knowing that you're giving me the necessary backing I need to keep producing the sort of thoughtful, top-quality blog posts you love, I'm sweetening the pot. First, all new patrons will receive a free ebook. There's no forms to fill out or awkward questions to ask; simply choose a book from my list and I'll hand it over to you with no strings attached (though if you enjoy it, I wouldn't say no to a review telling all of the Internet how great your reading experience was).

Second, if I can get a few more patrons every month it means I won't have to rely on irritating pop-up ads to make money from my blog. Readers hate them, and I always feel a little touch of shame knowing that they basically startle you into clicking an ad. So, by supporting me as a patron it means I can keep those ads off my site, and ensure there's no surprises between you and the content you came here to see.

Third, if I can double my current patronage (there are only 20 people currently pledged on my Patreon page) I promise to increase the frequency of my character conversion posts. I've covered the Avengers, Gotham City's vigilantes, and I'm currently working my way through the Game of Thrones cast (you can find all of these on my Character Conversions page), but I only have the time to write a single conversion a month. With proper funding I'd be willing to do one every two weeks, and there would be no extra charge for these posts; it's just one more service I provide.

How You Can Help

If you want to help the simplest way is to go to The Literary Mercenary Patreon page, and become a patron today. If that's a little too much commitment for you, but you've still got a few bucks extra, click the Bribe the DM button on the right hand side of the screen to toss a one-time tip into my PayPal jar. If you don't have any spare cash (trust me, I know how that goes), you can still help. All you have to do is keep reading my blog, sharing my links, and telling your friends to stop on by to get the latest and greatest in tabletop tips and tricks.

As always, thanks for being great readers! In a few days I will return you to your regularly-scheduled content.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

What's In A Name? How Your Character's Class is Limiting Your Creativity

Language is a funny thing in RPGs; we get a particular image in our minds, and then we never question whether or not the image we have is the only way things can be. For example, when you look at the Rage class feature, what comes to mind? Chances are good you thought of a hulking brute, howling and foaming at the mouth while attacking everything in reach. But Rage can be a lot of different things, from a physical transformation into a partially inhuman creature (through Rage powers that give you animalistic or demonic features), a no-holds-barred performance where you give this fight everything you've got, or even something as odd as a sub-routine that only takes over when you're threatened (as I talked about in The Android Barbarian).

It's the little things that we all accept without question that trip us up. That's why if you want to have a freeing experience the next time you create a new character, make sure you never, ever mention that character's class once you've sat down at the table.

What's In A Name?

More often than not we think of our characters in terms of their classes. Hakar is a ranger, so he is good in nature and he's a tracker. Beldrake is a sorcerer, so she has a great force of personality, and she will be physically weak and unarmored. Tim is a cleric, so all he's going to do is go on about his god, he'll pray quietly in the morning, and he'll heal the party.

Sir Troll Knight is a samurai and he... wait a second...
The point here is that we tend to use class as a shorthand for a stereotypical list of traits. Bards sing and are charming, rogues are dexterous and sly, paladins are church knights who refuse to break the law, etc. But if you take a step back from this accepted setup, you realize that in a lot of cases you have significantly more freedom with who your character is and how he or she operates than you think you do. Nowhere is it written that rogues can't be big, burly leg breakers who wield bastard swords. Bards don't have to be foppish and delicate, particularly given the training it takes to accomplish many of their acrobatic feats. Did you know that just calling the samurai a knight completely eliminates most people's problems with the class?

Dungeon masters do this, too, and it can broadcast to the players what a certain NPC's mechanical makeup is. That's why when I wrote the guide 100 NPCs You Might Meet At The Tavern I tried to include a few characters whose true skills and abilities simply don't match the first impression you get of them.

Who Are Your Characters, And What Do They Do?

Let's come at the issue from another direction in order to better illustrate it. Don't pick a class for your character first; instead, pick a profession. Something they would use their collection of class features and abilities to pursue.Let's say, for example, your character is a bounty hunter. That's a solid, adventuring trade, yes?

How does this character succeed at that job? Does he make the rounds of the taverns, listening to rumors and collecting tips about where a wanted person has gone to ground? Does she dog a person's trail, tracking them as much by scent and spoor as by the marks of their passage? Does your bounty hunter use magic to track the quarry, making it impossible to hide for long?

All of these are valid methods of building a man hunter. Whether you're a diviner, an oracle, a ranger, a rogue, a ninja, a bard, or a slayer, those are just the mechanics that fill out the bones beneath the flesh of your story. And like all mechanical bones they are most effective when no one sees them, or even suspects that they're there.

People's Example #1
When was the last time you asked what your character did before you asked what the character's class and stats were? For example, are you a bodyguard? A traveling thug for hire? Are you a treasure hunter? A spy? Are you a bandit? A burglar? Were you a war-drummer or a flute player with an army? Are you a soldier? A tailor? A tinker?

To belabor the point, let's take another example. Say that you wanted to play a wandering do-gooder. You know, the have sword, will travel sort of person. You could do this with a lot of different classes, but you decide to play a paladin. As we all know, in order to be a paladin you have to be of lawful good alignment, you have to follow a righteous god, and you have to maintain a certain code. Nowhere in the class's description, however, does it say you have to join a holy order. It doesn't say that you have to be trained by other paladins, or that you have to add the words paladin of (insert god here) every time you introduce yourself to someone. Nor does it say you must follow laws that clash with your code, or that you have to try and convert other people to your worship, or that you can't join the rest of the party in the tavern or the brothel (barring specific, completely-optional oaths that would be broken by intoxication and fornication respectively).

So what does that mean for your traveling hero? Well, perhaps he joined a great crusade (like fighting demons at the World Wound), and found both faith and strength in a foxhole. Maybe he was lost in the wilderness, ready to starve, when he was rescued by the intervention of Erastil. So now he lives his life doing the same, trying to help the lost and endangered of the world. Maybe she grew up in Cheliax and chose to embrace Iomede as a way of trying to make her country a better, nobler place, and to show that not everyone would sit idly by while devils made decisions in the upper echelons of power.

You know what else that means, though? It means that if you don't want to play a paladin loaded down with a foundry worth of steel, and who isn't blazing with holy symbols, you can do that, too. In fact, if you want to be a stealthy bowman who calls on the power of the divine to guide your hand and empower your arrows when hunting wickedness, nowhere in the book does it say you can't do that. It's just that focus on how the class is often depicted (and what other players feel the class should be) often blinds us to the different ways we have available to play it.

Beneath The Skin, Outside The Box

If you feel like your games are getting stagnant, it might be because you're relying a little too much on the names of your classes and abilities, and not enough on what makes up your actual character.

There are those who call me... Jeb.
The next time you sit down at your table, and everyone is introducing their characters, think of something to call them other than their class (even if their class name is applicable). Instead of being Erin the bard, why not introduce yourself as Erin Silverstrings, harper, tale-teller, and seeker of adventure? Instead of opening up your dialogue by saying you're Mortran the wizard, why not something like Mortran the Sage? Instead of telling everyone you're Dirk, Inquisitor of Abadar, why not give yourself a job title like Dirk, Accountant of the Missing?

Your class name is handy when you're discussing things out of game... but if you want to get better roleplaying in, and free your mind to create truly different concepts, stop focusing on what so many people say these classes should be, and instead ask what they could be if you just thought about them a little differently.

As always, thanks for stopping in! To keep up on all my latest make sure to follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter, and if you want to support Improved Initiative then go to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron today!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Apartment 11 Gaming is More Than Just Another Podcast

Thanks to advancements in technology it's possible for anyone to put their voice out into the gaming world. Youtube, Twitch, Blogger, and Wordpress are all crammed to the gills with people making tutorials, doing play-throughs, and creating play guides for every kind of game you can think of. A lot of these channels are just white noise, run for a short period of time before the endeavor gets too hard and the creator gives up. Some of them stay the course, though, and in so doing offer their listeners diversity, expertise, and a steady stream of useful content.

If you're looking for a group like that, then you need to check out Apartment 11 Gaming.

Dice sold separately.
So what does Apartment 11 Gaming have to offer? Well, if you're a fan of games like Skyrim, Ori and The Blind Forest, Ark Survival Evolved, or Don't Starve this studio has players who provide insightful, useful commentary in addition to masterful skills on the controller. If you're more of a tabletop player, Apartment 11 has a podcasted Dungeons and Dragons game going, with intent to add more content as time goes on. If you like Magic: The Gathering, they have you covered there as well.

Seriously, check out Apartment 11 Gaming on Facebook, or take a look at some of their Youtube videos. You should also stop by Allis Arcadia's Twitch channel to see the sort of content she brings to the table.

Off The Ground, And Building Speed

At the moment Apartment 11 is where a lot of start-ups find themselves; with a lot of ideas, and a lot of ground to cover. While they're relatively fresh on the scene, it's a good idea to start following them now. That way you won't have to catch up when their progress meets their potential.

For more updates and insights, make sure you follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. If you'd like to support Improved Initiative then stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to toss a little bread in my jar!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

How You Can (Usually) Go First During The Surprise Round

The surprise round is one of those things you don't want to be on the receiving end of. Your party might be at full power, weapons out, and ready to rumble, but after a single surprise round you can be put at a severe disadvantage by a flight of arrows from snipers, or a series of spells that change the terrain all around you. If you've been wondering how you can go first more often without playing an entire party of Sohei, diviners, and Kensai, the answer is on page 23 of Blood of the Moon.

Well son of a bitch...
Don't feel bad, most people never got their hands on the soft-cover copy of the book that introduced the skinwalker race, and provided a bunch of features to go with it (I did, because I was one of the contributors to that particular book). Page 23 introduces three feats that compliment the Fanglord, which is a skinwalker that's related to weretigers and rakshasa. The feat you're looking for is Surprising Combatant, and it provides you with a strategic advantage; as a free action made with your initiative check, you can bluff your way out of being attacked.

Suddenly Here's Why Charisma is Important

Here's how it works. If you have this feat (you don't have to be a weretiger or a Fanglord to possess it, but you should be able to explain how you did learn it if you aren't one of these creatures) you make a bluff check as part of every initiative check. Every enemy makes a sense motive check. Every enemy who fails a sense motive check doesn't regard you as part of this fight, and typically that means they'll ignore you. If all of the enemies discount you, then you may act as part of the surprise round.

They never saw it coming.
That sounds great, particularly given that sense motive isn't something most of your villains are going to have a lot of points invested in. So if you take a little time to buff your bluff by taking feats like Skill Focus or Deceitful, you're going to wind up participating in the surprise round a lot more often. With that said, a single move or standard action is only going to let you do so much in combat. This is particularly true if you are a melee combatant instead of a spellcaster.

Unless, that is, you have the 4th level ability of the rogue's Bandit archetype; Ambush.

Ambush says that whenever you act in the surprise round you may take a standard, a move, and a swift action as if it were a regular turn. Not only that, but if you're mixing and matching your rogue archetypes you can combine Thug with Bandit, making a combination that dovetails nicely.

It's Amazing What You Can Do With One Turn

How many times have you been looking at your enemies as they spring up for a surprise round and known you could end this as soon as it began if you could only act? Casting entangle on a bunch of bandits hiding in the brush, throwing an alchemist fire into the midst of a swarm before it can engulf the wizard, or putting an arrow into a spellcaster to disrupt the fireball that's about to be dropped on your head is something that will really change the course a fight could take.

Or, if you're just getting a full round all to yourself, why not get in as much sneak attack as you can with it?

Also, if you're going to be going in the surprise round then you may as well go before all the bad guys, too. Here's How To Top The Initiative Order (Almost) Every Time to help you be the fastest off the mark.

Editor's Note

It's been brought to my attention that the feat has been altered since the publication of Blood of the Moon. The errata, buried in a forum post but linked here at the D20PFSRD renders the above guide moot. However, DMs who prefer to use the original version of the feat in their games may still find this interpretation to be of use.

As always, thanks for stopping in! If you'd like to support Improved Initiative then toss a tip into my jar by clicking the Bribe the DM button on your right, or go to The Litereary Mercenary Patreon page to become a regular contributor. If you want to make sure you catch all of my updates, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The First Giant Robot Battle in History is Set For 2016!

Would you be surprised if I told you that Japan had built a giant robot with twin BB miniguns, a fully-functional heads up display, and dozens of other goodies that can be piloted by a single person? Probably not. Would you be shocked if I mentioned that America also has a giant robot, made up of a two-person crew that can fire huge paint-filled cannon rounds? Eh, unlikely.

What if I told you the Kuratas and the Mark II were going to go head-to-head next year?

This is the appropriate response.
The Mark II, manufactured by Megabots, Inc. is everything you'd expect from America. A hulking goliath at over 6 tons, it stands roughly fifteen feet tall, and boasts a huge armory that can put a lot of paintball rounds in the air at over 100 miles an hour; a fitting chassis for any mechwarrior. The Kuratas, on the other hand, is the brainchild of Suidobashi Heavy Industry, and it is technically the world's first piloted giant robot. So in a classic bout of East meets West, a throw-down was inevitable.

Megabots tossed the gauntler, and Suidobashi has picked it up. The challenge and acceptance videos are right here, and I found them thanks to The Daily What.

There's a lot of patriotic smack being talked here. Japan's response upped the ante by demanding more than machine guns at ten paces though; the Kuratas's creator wants punches to be thrown.

Ain't living in the future fantastic?

As always, thanks for stopping in. If you want to support Improved Initiative then drop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to toss a little bread in my jar. If you want to keep getting all of my updates just plug your email into the box on the right, or follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Risen Antipaladin (How You Can Play A Paladin In An Evil Campaign)

Like a lot of other gamers I've been hearing chuckles of wicked glee surrounding the adventure path Way of the Wicked from Fire Mountain Games (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, check it out right here). Not only is it a well-written level 1-20 campaign, but it is a game specifically geared toward evil PCs. It's a game where you get to open up that restricted door and let out the serial killers, the cultists, the brutes, the monsters, and all the other villains that lurk in your shadow's subconscious.

So naturally, that got me thinking about what I'd like to play in an evil campaign. So, when presented a chance to bring any terrifying monster I have locked up in the depths of my mind, I decided I should bring this.

The guy on the left is the one I'm talking about.
In the spirit of my entry about The Android Barbarian, I'd like to discuss my idea of the Risen Antipaladin.

The Redeemed Villain

In the long ago and far away there was a book that sensible DMs kept out of their players' hands; The Book of Exalted Deeds. That book was full of feats and spells of such holy power that they would melt the flesh from the bones of devils, and bring light to the deepest darkness of hell. In the flavor section, the book laid out the basic archetype of the redeemed villain. It is what you think it is; a character who has lived a life of bloodshed, violence, and corruption, but who has turned their back on that life to do good deeds.

The Advanced Player's Guide gave us the antipaladin as the exemplar of evil; a warrior who holds no regard for life, liberty, or the well-being of others. Terrible to behold, and powerful beyond belief, antipaladins are often made from fallen paladins... but sometimes they're not. Sometimes, as you see on page 121 of the APG, antipaladins are rigorously trained for that specific life. In some cases they may even be bred for the role that they'll be forged to fill. While an antipaladin may turn his back on the pain and horror that made him who he is, those things still live inside him. He may try to keep them at bay with prayers, and to smother them beneath the weight of good deeds, but he'll always know what he was... and what he might be again.

The Thin Line Between A Good Man, And A Bad

For Way of The Wicked you begin the game with a prison break. You're all bad guys, and so it makes sense for you to throw in together to get out of this place. Then in walks the new fish. A few weeks ago he was the empire's golden boy; a blade of light, and a shield against evil. Then it came out who he really was, and despite all the good deeds he'd done, he was locked up for the terrible crimes he could never wash out. Maybe some of the villains were arrested by him  when he was called the Hammer of Justice, and was a force for good in the empire. Maybe some of them know him better by his old names; the Bloody Knight, the Bone Burner, or the Shadowman. The right hand of the devil himself, there were some who said that as long as he did the infernal lords' bidding that he couldn't be killed by mortal weapons. That he'd fallen a hundred times, always to rise and wreck bloody vengeance on those who had caused him pain.

A man born and raised in darkness.
Could your villains truly turn down the help of such a powerful ally? Especially if, as some suspect, that his black heart beats closer to the surface than you'd think?

Blood and Bone

There are a lot of ways you can set this situation up. Long-lived characters like elves and dhampir are ideal for those who were once terrible villains, and who have tried to bury that past behind them for many years. Tieflings and aasimar have infernal and divine blood, which can add into the story of struggle to define oneself. Humans are perhaps the simplest, and as paladins (or antipaladins) they'd greatly benefit from the Eldritch Heritage feat tree (more on that feat tree in How To Power Up Your Pathfinder Characters With The Eldritch Heritage Feats).

My particular favorite for this setup is a human paladin with the Infernal eldritch heritage. You have someone who, before he was even born, was being pushed onto the left hand path, and it's only been through sheer will and refusal to let go that he's managed to hang onto the grace he's found at the end of his repentance.

You Won't Last Long Here, Friend

While it might seem like a noble struggle, in an evil campaign it's only a matter of time until your hand is forced. Sooner or later you'll wade through enough filth that your grip on grace will slip, and you'll fall. And when you fall you're going to fall very, very hard.

We're talking ALL the way down.
That sort of thing is to be expected, and it's part of the challenge of the concept. The goal is not to make it through an evil campaign while playing a paragon of virtue; the goal is to see how far you can get before you take that plunge. And if you see your fellow players sniggering and elbowing each other, planning to drag your down off that plinth before you or your story is ready, just deliver a little in-character speech that goes something like this.

"They say the Bloody Knight's blade was never dry. That he would quench that steel in whomever was near to hand at the slightest provocation. Even his own allies. He was a man who would cut the tongues from those who disagreed with him, and who would cripple those he thought less than worthy. He was a creature of suffering, torment, and agony, whom even demons groveled and sniveled before. Tell me truly, do you really want that man to be sitting here by the fire when you sleep tonight?"

You Put Down The Darkness Once... And You Can Do It Again

A fun little hat trick for this concept requires you to get your DM's assistance in one, major manner. You need to give yourself a liege lord, and take the Absolute Loyalty trait at creation. That way you get a get-out-of-falling-free card you can use once and only once to cast atonement on yourself, assuming that what you're doing is at the behest of your lord commander. The trait implies you need to do it immediately, but with storyteller permission you might be able to hold onto it until an appropriately climactic moment so that you can slam the door shut on the fiend, and return to grace.

Even if you don't go that route, though (or do something equally cheap like recruiting a cleric to cast atonement on you once you reach a high enough level), there's nothing that says you have to remain wicked. You redeemed yourself once, and you can do it again... but some situations really do call for a monster.

For more tips applicable to paladins, check out my 5 Tips For Playing Better Paladins!

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.

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