Monday, June 29, 2020

"Almost" A Warhammer 40K Short

Flick on the safety, flick off the juice, then you can pull the power pack loose.
Pop out the bolt, unhook the grip, put pressure on the barrel and out it will slip.
Remove the coils, and scour them clean, then wipe the auspex till you've made it gleam.
Oil the rails, turn the screws, then run your fingers over the grooves.
Only after you've scrubbed every piece, part, and grain.
Can you throw your hands in reverse, and put it together again.

The old rhyme went through my head, the way it always did when I took apart a weapon. My grandfather taught it to me and my sister when we were still years shy of becoming white shields, and our brains were soft enough that it just got lodged in there. It didn't matter where I was, or what was going on, the old man's voice was always ringing in my ears.

"You were born with a skull, boy. The wings you've got to earn."
As I moved from my rifle to my sidearm, an old autopistol that I'd kept in my duffel for years, I thought back to those days. Looking up at the towering emplacements and the sweeping battlements, the ugly, brutish hard points, and thinking how strong they looked; just like the old man's hands whenever they taught me one of his tricks. They were old and scarred, but they looked like they'd stand forever.

It wasn't until I grew up that I realized just how frail they actually were.

It didn't scare me, finding that out. It lit my fire, as he said. Meant I was going to have to do more, be more. So I ran further, pushed up faster, swung harder, and shot straighter. Most important, when somebody knocked me down, I got up, and I got up quick. On the ground is no place to be when you're in a fight, and when you were born on Cadia you were always in a fight.

Even if you couldn't see it at that precise moment.

"That feeling you get when you look at the stars? That's because something's watching you back."
I had a shot, and I took it. Notations for marksmanship, exceeded expectations on physical trials, and I managed to make it past the psych battery. I made my first jump with a grav chute, even though I nearly pissed myself. After the fifth, I couldn't imagine being anywhere else. When the time for trials came around, I was on the line with everyone else who wanted the right to call themselves Kasrkin.

I wanted it more than anyone else there. Wanting something don't mean you get it, though, and that's a bitter bite to take.

I didn't wash out. According to my official jacket I got stamped with something called Tempus Deinde. My high gothic is shit, but the designation mostly meant I was right on the line. All it would have taken was one person getting sick, getting slapped with insubordination, or missing a step, and I would have had their place. I got sent back to my unit with a salute, and a well done from the commissar who ran the selection process. It was the only praise he'd given me, and I had no idea what I was supposed to do with it.

"172, When The Sky Comes Looking For You"
I'd earned a short leave to put myself back together, and I spent most of it drinking a cocktail primarily used in the motor pool for lubing tank treads. I didn't have some kind of epiphany that made me realize my true purpose. I didn't hear any dark whispers coming out of the void. I just drank till I puked, slept until I couldn't anymore, then picked myself up and got back on the firing line.

There was still work to do.

I got promoted, then promoted again. Not because I was the best there was, or because I had some special insight, but because I knew how to show my troops how to do something. Sometimes I only had to show them once, and sometimes I had to go through it half a dozen times, but they always got it in the end.

When part of my regiment got sent off-world to offer airborne support to a world that had been hit by a rock, we were all too happy for the chance to fly. Even after an engine malfunction that led to a crash landing where we found ourselves in hostile territory surrounded by hordes of greenskins, we still had a job to do. Our V-birds made it in one piece, as did most of our jump gear, and we were good to go. I made a dozen air assaults on that posting, every one of them past speed freaks juiced out of their minds on going fast, with my team following along behind like raptors on the hunt. I picked up two commendations, and a dozen scars, and the horde's charge to fill the world broke. There were still orks, there would probably always be orks now, but we'd helped hammer them back underground for the time being.

I was in the med center when the message came about the assault on Cadia. All able-bodied troopers were being recalled. I tried to go with, and the captain told me if I could get out of the cot and walk to the bird under my own power that I was free to ride with them to the fight. I made it to my feet, and out into the plaza. I had one step to go before my legs gave out, and I crumpled. I don't remember being carried back into the center, but by the time I was coherent again I was told my unit had left. The medic patted my shoulder, and smiled at me. She told me Cadia had stood for centuries before I'd been born, and whatever came out of the Eye this time would break just like all the times before.

I wish she'd been right. Holy throne do I wish that.

I didn't believe it when I heard. Despite the red chaos washing over the sky, and the reports of madness throughout our area, I couldn't believe it. Every bastion I'd ever walked, and every wall that had stood sentinel was gone. Guns that had fired for centuries, that had turned back black crusades that would have smashed any other world, had fallen silent. The gates of hell had been kicked open from the inside, and the darkness that had been held in check was spilling across the stars like overturned ink, seeping into every corner it could reach.

If I'd been a grenadier, I would have been on the planet when it broke. If I'd been a little faster, I would have dodged the wound I'd taken. If I'd been a little slower, it would have killed me. If I'd been a little tougher, I'd have been there. Almost. The word echoed in my head like the crack of a bolt pistol. Almost, almost, almost.

The light was fading... but it wasn't gone yet.

I checked my magazine, and holstered my sidearm. I slapped the power pack back into my rifle, and slung it over my shoulder. Transport was leaving in half an hour, and I had a berth to fill. The enemy thought their victory was within their grasp. They almost had it.

I had one more lesson to teach them. Almost wasn't good enough.

Hope You Enjoyed!

So, for the past week and change I've been working on that little art project above. The jacket is something I had hanging in my closet for a while, but with a friend helping me locate the proper symbols, a little bit of time wielding an X-acto knife to cut out the stencils, and a can of Tulip Color Shot spray paint meant for fabric, and I think it turned out pretty well.

I wanted to offer a little more than just a couple pics of my end result, though, so I thought I'd dip my toe into the grimdark and see what folks thought. Did you enjoy this little tale? If so, is it the kind of thing you'd like to see me do more often?

And for those who aren't big fans of Warhammer 40k, or don't know exactly where to get started with the lore and setting, I highly recommend checking out the YouTube channel Baldermort's Guide to Warhammer. Lots of engaging fiction, a lovely voice, and fun to keep on in the background!

Lastly, A Vox in The Void has made an audio version of this story! So give it a listen, and subscribe to the channel if you haven't done so yet.


Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday!

Again, for more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife or my latest short story collection The Rejects, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now Pinterest as well! To support my work, consider Buying Me a Ko-Fi, or heading to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron. That one helps ensure you get more Improved Initiative, and it means you'll get my regular, monthly giveaways as a bonus!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Difference Between "Bad" Characters and "Evil" Characters

I've been dwelling on alignment a lot recently, but judging from the reactions my article The Punisher is Evil received, it's a topic that folks are interested in seeing more of. This week, though, I wanted to touch on the difficulty of shades of gray when it comes to our characters. When we want them to have a bit of an edge to them, but to stay out of darker realms.

What is the difference between a character who's bad, and one who is evil? I don't have an absolute answer to this question, but I have found some shadowy places that I think might be of interest to my fellow players out there.

The wearing, or not wearing, of skulls is not always an indicator.
While we're on the subject, though, are there any other characters you'd like to see me do a deep dive on their likely alignment? Or any particular alignments you'd like a 5 Tips post for, such as my 5 Tips For Playing Better Evil Characters? If so, toss a comment to let me know!

Where Do You Draw The Line?

Before we go too deep into this, first thing's first. Alignment by its very nature depends on absolutes in a setting. Moral relativism does not work with alignment because it's tied to games that have literal heavens and hells, angels and demons, etc. In these worlds there literally is a divine checklist and a neutral arbiter who decides whether your actions were good or evil.

How your character thinks about those issues, whether they feel justified, etc., is completely irrelevant. Whether they believe evil is good, or good is evil, doesn't matter. The divine laws of the cosmos have decided what is good and what is evil in many cases.

If there were no absolute goods, traditional LG paladins wouldn't be a thing.
Now, with that out of the way, the first thing you need to look at are what actions are considered inherently evil in your setting. This will vary from game to game and group to group, but we're not talking about small potatoes here. We're talking capital "E" evil actions.

Some of the more common options here include:

- Murder for profit (as well as just murder in general)
- Propagation of slavery
- Deliberate casting of evil spells
- Torture

The list goes on, but you get the idea. Evil actions are inherently bad things. Whatever your reason, whatever the character motivation, whatever the end result, it's fruit from the poisoned tree.

So, the first important consideration here is what actions are evil. Not just bad, or selfish, or harmful, but things that are outright evil. Because while it is true that characters who have committed evil acts in the past can redeem themselves and attempt to change their alignment, it takes a lot more work to climb out of that hole.

And if you commit more evil actions, it just means you dug yourself back into the hole again.

What Do Bad Actions Look Like?

Our morality as players tends to vary pretty widely. I've yet to be at a table where everyone agreed completely on what is good, and what is evil. However, a useful question to ask when it comes to characters who are bad, rather than being truly evil, is to ask what damage their actions do overall? Who is hurt by the things they do?

I said git out of my forest!
As a solid example of a "bad" character, take the classic thief. Your pickpocket, your burglar, etc. These individuals steal for a living, no question. They are breaking the law (as if that ever stopped an adventurer), and they are committing an act that most of us would really rather not have happen to us.

But under normal circumstances, I'd argue that action falls into the category of "bad" rather than "evil."

Why is that? Well, at its core, theft is a property crime. You are stealing a thing (gold coins, jewels, magic items, etc.) from another person. And in the case of pickpockets and burglars, the theft is usually the extent of the act. You might break a window to get into a home, for example, but at the end of the day you took a thing. There are going to be certain circumstances where this act is made more or less problematic (you knowingly stole the last savings from someone who then starved on the side of "makes it worse," to snatching food from a cart because you were starving and broke on the side of "well, that's not so bad"), but generally speaking property crimes aren't in the "evil" category.

What else might make you bad, but not evil?

Well, we've agreed that murdering people is generally an evil act. Murder is the deliberate killing of another person with malice aforethought, meaning that you set out to kill someone else deliberately after making the decision beforehand. However, most of us would agree that defending yourself from someone or something trying to kill you is not murder. Defending someone else is also okay, and often seen as a good act. A more questionable, "bad" thing to do might be to deliberately put yourself in a situation where someone will try to kill you, thus forcing you to defend yourself.

It's not evil, because they were actually trying to kill you. They could have chosen to walk away, and not attack you. You did provoke that response, though, which is... shady, shall we say.

Tangible Harm Versus Cultural Norms

There are dozens of different actions that might be considered unscrupulous, duplicitous, selfish, blasphemous, or otherwise "bad" that never cross over into real evil. A character might tell lies to hide their own actions, or to gain rewards they don't deserve. Someone might use threats and intimidation to force cooperation from those who don't want to help them, or to force someone else to back down from a fight. Someone might rob graves, commit adultery, burn down empty buildings, gamble illicitly, break religious covenants, or commit all sorts of other immoral acts.

But at the end of the day, it's important to ask if their actions cause tangible harm. And if so, what was the purpose of that harm?

This is where that divine slide ruler comes into the picture.
Let's go back to the thief. Did they need to steal whatever they stole in order to provide for themselves? If not, was the person they stole from tangibly harmed by that theft?

If a thief was starving and took bread from a merchant, they certainly broke the law. But did the loss of that one loaf of bread do the merchant any real harm? Probably not. But what if the thief stole a noble's jeweled ring instead? Well, given that the ring serves no real purpose other than ornamentation, the result is that some of the noble's wealth is now in the thief's hands. The noble may lose some face, and have to wear a different ring, but there hasn't been any true, tangible harm done to them. And if the thief broke into a crypt and stole the jewelry from the dead? Barring setting rules that involve the dead rising in wrath, dead people don't need money. Taking it from them harms no one, as it was just sitting there in the ground, unused and mostly unaccounted for.

Again, that doesn't make these actions good. It does, however, put them into that gray area of bad.

Anytime there's a question of whether an act should be labeled as bad or evil, it's important to ask what harm comes of it, and if the action is being taken to defend oneself against harm. And if you want a character who is bad, but not evil, don't try to justify them regularly committing evil acts. Try on someone who is irreverent, non-conformist, spiteful, or who is a little crass, vulgar, or illicit.

You'll have a lot fewer arguments, and you'll have to do way fewer mental gymnastics.

Also, as a pro tip, remember what I said back in The Risen Antipaladin. You get a lot more mileage out of someone who committed evil acts in the past, and who is trying to be a better person now. So when we meet them, they've managed to plateau at "bad" instead of being actively evil. That reputation might still be following the character around, but they don't create the friction of actively committing atrocities in team-based environment when some of your companions may feel morally obliged to stop what you're doing. Even if it might solve current problems.

Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!

That's all for this week's Fluff post! If you've used this in your games, share a story down in the comments!

For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife or my recent short story collection The Rejects, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now Pinterest as well! To support my work, consider Buying Me a Ko-Fi, or heading to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron. That one helps ensure you get more Improved Initiative, and it means you'll get my regular, monthly giveaways as a bonus!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Owen KC Stephens Tells It Like It Is With #RealGameIndustry

The general populous doesn't have much of an idea about what goes on in the publishing industry in general, or the RPG publishing industry in particular. All they see are the finished products, with their flashy art, shiny minis, and polished presentations to make them look as appealing as possible. And the things people do see tend to be celebrity gamers with big budgets and huge followings, forgetting that they're putting on a show. So naturally many players assume that RPG designers, much like authors, are making some solid earnings, and that companies whose games are popular have big slush funds of cash with which to design new and exciting games for all of us to play.

Let me burst that bubble for you right now. Because none of that is remotely true.

Because trust me, the whole industry is a gamble. With VERY long odds.
I have not been in the industry as long, nor have I worked with as many companies, as some. That said, I can confirm more than a few of the #RealGameIndustry statements made by Owen KC Stephens.

No One Gets Paid, Everything is Broken, We're Trying Our Best

The first thing I can confirm is that no, no one in the RPG industry is paid well. There are lots of people who are, "paid well for RPGs," but if making games is your main job there are just certain realities you've probably had to make peace with. Things like never owning a home or property of your own, for example. Only a tiny fraction of people in the industry have benefits or insurance, and a frankly staggering number of us make RPGs as a side hustle (or have to depend on a spouse's job for main household income, vision, dental, etc.). A lot of us can't even afford to actually buy games, much less the high-end accessories you see like fancy gaming tables, elaborate dice towers, or gaming scenery.

Personally, one of the only reasons I have access to any new games is this blog, and the reviewer files I get from publishers looking for promotion. Something I'm very grateful for, and which I'd never be able to afford to buy if I still wanted to eat.

So if you have ever had that moment where you thought we game designers were some kind of big-money rock stars, scrub that idea right out of your brain pan. And if you really want to make the creators you love feel like rock stars, go support them right now! I'm on Patreon at The Literary Mercenary, and if you're a fan of Mr. Stephens' work, check out his Patreon too!

That's far from the only truth, though.
Another thing that I can testify to is that RPGs are very similar to novels in another respect. Everyone thinks they can do it, and those who have interesting ideas, those who can write compelling stories, and those who can actually sell books are rarely the same person.

Incidentally, if you haven't picked up my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife or my short story collection The Rejects, go check them out!

To be clear, here, this is not the criticism it sounds like. However, when it comes to RPGs, you often have to wear a bunch of different hats in order to get the job done, and if you can't wear a particular hat that job tends to go to a freelancer. If you have great ideas but can't put them into words, you hire someone like me to take the core of your idea and flesh it out into engaging prose. If you can write a story or create a setting, that doesn't necessarily mean you have any aptitude for designing functioning rules systems. And if you can design rules systems, that doesn't mean you have any marketing knack at all.

The sexism, racism, and other issues in tabletop gaming Mr. Stephens mentions? Definitely present. I've been fortunate enough that I've not witnessed it from other professionals or companies that I've worked with (quite the opposite, in that most companies I've worked with have been trying to educate themselves to make sure they don't alienate potential players by looking or acting biased) but I have seen quite a lot of it from the fans who play games. Mostly white guys (several of whom are older than me) who lament that they're now minorities because their games only have 40 percent white guys instead of the more accepted 80 percent when they got into the hobby. The sorts of fans who will violently stomp out of the room (or flounce from a forum) because games include black elves, non-European cultures, or because the game made it clear that prejudice against LGBTQ+ people is not a part of their game or setting.

And I've only witnessed a tiny portion of this behavior, as most of it doesn't get slung my way as a masculine presenting white dude. Though I do seem to recall there was one guy who called me a race traitor because I pointed out that fantasy settings have a somewhat less than stellar record on diversity and inclusion. That was a weird day.

It's Still a Business (Even If It Looks Like Fun and Games)

I wanted to add my own contribution to the #RealGameIndustry hashtag. This was present in the spirit, but I didn't see it spelled out, so I thought I'd add it in.

There are a lot of people out there trying to make games. But there are not a lot of folks out there who actually know how to run a business. And that becomes a problem when you expect to actually get some kind of return for your efforts.

Money make the world go round.
Finding people who are making games isn't hard. Go to a con and throw a rock, and there's a decent chance you'll hit somebody who's tinkering with an RPG project. But far too many people get caught up in the art of the game, and the rush of actually creating, and then don't ask how they're going to sell it. Forgetting, of course, that games are expensive to make... and more so if you had to hire freelancers to help get it done.

Your art, your text, your editing, your rules, your maps, the publishing... all of that takes money. And if you don't sell copies of your game, then you're not going to make money to invest in future projects and installments (or pay your bills). More than that, though, freelancers tend to avoid dead-end projects once they recognize them for what they are. Because a paycheck is nice, but if that game is never going to be published (or if it has, "pet project" stenciled on in big red letters), they're going to jump ship. If their name is in the credits, it's on their work history. If you don't treat your game like a product you intend to sell (and to sell as widely as you possibly can), then you're going to have trouble attracting serious talent to your table.

Just some food for thought.

Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday!

Again, for more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife or my latest short story collection The Rejects, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now Pinterest as well! To support my work, consider Buying Me a Ko-Fi, or heading to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron. That one helps ensure you get more Improved Initiative, and it means you'll get my regular, monthly giveaways as a bonus!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Strategic Use of "Summon Monster" in Pathfinder

Most Pathfinder players have come across the summon monster spell list at some point in their careers. Whether it was dealing with a campaign villain who called upon summoned creatures to fight for them, or as a spellcaster who attempted to do the same, it's a fairly common spell. Given that it takes a full-round action to cast (in most cases), and that the monsters one can call never seem to be quite up to the task of carrying a fight, it tends to feel like a subpar use of one's actions in combat unless you have some serious time to prepare.

However, with a little bit of strategy, this spell (and class features or spell-like abilities that mimic this spell such as the one gained by summoners, and by clerics and warpriests of certain domains) can make a huge difference when it comes to how difficult a battle becomes.

Let's get crafty, shall we?

Giving Your Summoned Monsters a Hand Up

When most of us think of summoned monsters, we tend to think of front-line baddies that stand between us, and our enemies. Whether they're as bodyguards for you, or for the bad guy, they exist on the field for a round per caster level, or until they're beaten down to the point that they poof out of existence. And in some circumstances a summoned creature can act as a battering ram, hammering into an enemy's formation and wrecking havoc.

But it is very rare that a summoned monster is going to prove more powerful than you and your companions. At least without a little help.

You called me all the way up from hell for this?
For example, let's take a low-level summoned monster like a lemure. This devil's natural attack isn't anything to write home about (it does a d4 and some change damage), and its bonus to hit isn't that great. However, it's got a pretty beefy chunk of hit points, and it's got damage reduction that's going to be tough for low-level enemies to overcome. It's also immune to fire and mind affecting effects, and it has the see in darkness ability that will allow it to function even in magical darkness.

So, in short, we have a meat shield. It's not likely to do a lot of damage all on its own, but it can take a pounding.

But let's say your party has a bard, or a skald. If their music starts going, the lemure is going to get the bonuses from song of courage or the raging song along with other allies. If the sorcerer casts haste, then the lemure can get all those benefits, too. If the tiefling in the party casts darkness on themselves, the lemure can wade right in hacking and slashing without being negatively affected by the lowered light condition in that area, but while also benefiting from the miss chance on attacks that target it.

As I said in Vulgar Displays of Power: Tips For Getting The Most Out of Your Magic in Pathfinder, if your party is slinging around buff spells that improve all your allies, you're going to quickly notice that your summoned creatures are far more effective when they get caught in the power up fields.

You Don't Always Need The Biggest, Baddest Bruisers

If you are willing to crunch the numbers, and to memorize all the creatures you could summon at any given level, you will likely be able to select something that is appropriate for any particular fight. However, it's important to remember that summoned monsters don't necessarily have to be front-line combatants. Sometimes they are the ones who provide support.

Worry not... I am here to help.
At their absolute most basic, a summoned monster can provide important positioning bonuses on the battlefield. Even if it's something small, it still threatens a space. That means the creature can move into a flanking position, granting an ally a +2 bonus to hit their target (and, if the ally is a rogue, a slayer, etc., ensuring the ally gets their sneak attack off). The monster may not be able to hit the enemy's armor class, but they could use the aid another action to provide an additional +2 to either the ally's armor class, or their next attack.

That last one can get particularly nuts if you have several small monsters all providing aid another bonuses.

Sometimes you'll actually get more bang for your buck using a monster's spell-like abilities, or their senses to help you on the field. A hound archon, for example, has an aura of menace that goes off automatically against any enemy within the area of effect, and if they fail they're shaken until they hit the archon. That can provide a serious benefit if you need enemies to fail some saving throws. More importantly, a hound archon is one of several celestial creatures who permanently exude an aura that acts as magic circle against evil. So if your allies need bonuses against attacks from evil creatures, or you want to be sure that no mind control effects can take hold, a hound archon is an ideal ally even if all it does is stand nearby and supervise. When you add in that you can summon it into the thick of the battlefield, putting itself and its aura where it's most needed, that can be a particularly useful trick.

Especially since it frees you up to cast other spells, and take other actions on your turn.

Also, though it can sometimes make us feel bad, let us not forget that sometimes the most important role a summoned monster can serve is to take the hit so that the PCs don't have to. Whether it's opening a door you know is trapped, or running straight into an attack of opportunity so the fighter can close on their turn, it's important to remember that sacrificing a pawn can often net you a much bigger advantage in the larger game of strategy between you and your enemies.

And if it helps, summoned monsters don't die when their hit points run out. They just poof back to where they came from, which can make for interesting roleplaying between you and your occasional allies when you call on them once more as I mentioned in Make NPCs Part of Your Story (It Makes Everything More Interesting).

Preparation is The Key

When it comes to getting the most out of your summoned monsters, you need to make sure you bring the right monster to the right fight. If you need a tank, if you need a shield, if you need a striker, or if you need a flanker, it's important to keep note cards on-hand with the most appropriate monsters so you can just whip them out at a moment's notice. Feats like augment summoning won't go amiss, either, if you intend on calling on others to do your fighting for you. Just remember that enemies may have protection from X spells as well, which can limit your monsters' abilities to close with them.

However, just as important, is discussions among your party about strategy, and what you can do. Because you might be able to pull an army out of your hat... but if you can get the bard, the skald, the cleric, the sorcerer, or any others with buff spells up their sleeves to wait until you field those allies, the sum of your spells together is going to be a lot more impressive when all is said and done.

Like, Share, and Follow For More!

That's all for this week's Crunch topic! For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio! Or if you'd like to read some of my books, like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife or my latest short story collection The Rejects, head over to My Amazon Author Page!

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

Monday, June 15, 2020

"The Book of Monstrous Might" Now on Kickstarter From Total Party Kill Games!

If you're anything like me, then there are probably some areas of the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons you find frustrating. A lot of it is straightforward, streamlined, easy to learn and easy to play... but there just aren't as many options as you might like. Not just for races (particularly less-traditional, more monstrous ones), but also for tactics and options to help spice things up once initiative has been rolled and it's time to really forge the narrative of your epic tale of fire and blood.

For those of you who really want to expand your options, this project from Total Party Kill Games is definitely something you should get in on.

Trust me, this is going to expand your toolbox in a BIG way!

What is The Book of Monstrous Might?

The short version is that The Book of Monstrous Might is a Kickstarter project from TPK Games that aims to put more options into the hands of players and dungeon masters alike for DND 5th Edition. This gaming tome adds new monsters and monster abilities for DMs to enhance and spice up their campaigns, but it also has new monstrous races for players to dig into and toy around with. And for everyone at the table, it offers new tactical rule sets and options derived from the company's Gold Medal seller Recovery Dice Options.

Speaking of which, click over to the Kickstarter page for The Book of Monstrous Might, and you'll get a code for downloading a copy of Recovery Dice Options absolutely free! Just as a way for you to dip a toe in, and see where the bigger project is going.

Make Your Game That Much Better!

Whether you're running a game in your own setting, or you're adventuring through the pages of a pre-written adventure, the content planned for The Book of Monstrous Might can only enhance your gaming experience. What makes it really useful, though, is that it's a pick-and-choose option. You can use all of it if you want to, or you can just incorporate the parts of it you like. It's entirely up to you how much of its fresh mechanics find their way into your game!

So what are you waiting for? Go back the Kickstarter today!

Also, if you're looking for some grim little scenarios to try out at your table, with or without the new rules you'll soon have in your hands, take a moment to check out the Critical Hits series that I wrote for TPK Games a little while back as well! These include:

- False Valor: A whodunnit style adventure where the party has to find out who killed a young woman in a local farming town before her death re-ignites the dying embers of a war that's three generations done.

- The Curse of Sapphire Lake: The hamlet of Kingsbridge has lain dormant for thirty years, but when it tries to rebuild something dark awakens in the lake. A figure with a bone white mask, and a hunger for destruction that was birthed in the settlement's past. The curse will take more than courage to break, and the secrets go very, very deep.

- Ghosts of Sorrow Marsh: When travelers go missing in the Sorrow Marsh, it will take brave adventurers to find out what's transpiring. Many have strode out boldly, only to vanish into the darkness. Will you find out what terror lurks in the bowels of the marsh?

Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday!

Again, for more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife or my latest short story collection The Rejects, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now Pinterest as well! To support my work, consider Buying Me a Ko-Fi, or heading to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron. That one helps ensure you get more Improved Initiative, and it means you'll get my regular, monthly giveaways as a bonus!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

That One Time a DM Gave My Table a Bait-and-Switch on a Zombie Game

I've been at my share of tables, and I've heard some great pitches for games over my life as a player. There was one particular incident, though, where the DM's pitch to my group was just a little too perfect. A little too practiced. Like he was baiting a hook, and just waiting for us to bite before he jerked on the hook and started trying to reel us in.

What We Were Promised

To set the scene, my group had been playing Dungeons and Dragons for a while. We'd had a couple of promising campaigns just fizzle out on us, and we were all looking for a change of pace to re-ignite our spark. After talking among ourselves, we decided we wanted to try something we hadn't done before; a horror game, of some variety. That was when one of the group (the DM whose campaigns had largely fizzled, which should have been the first red flag) piped up and said he could run us through a zombie survival game.

I've got an idea that I think will be great!
Now that got our attention. We were a little leery at first, but every time we brought something up, he nodded and said that sounded like something he could totally do. A game that focused on challenge and survival, instead of being about some save-the-world plot? Sure, no problem. A game set in an urban environment? That shouldn't be an issue. A game where combat would be something we should try to avoid, and where smart decisions would be more likely to see us through? Absolutely, no problem. Lastly, we specifically said we wanted something akin to the setup of All Flesh Must Be Eaten, where we'd be in a setting reminiscent of something like Night of The Living Dead or The Walking Dead (this was around the time the original comic was being praised to high heaven, and long before the series came out).

He said he could do it in D20 Modern, and that was a compromise we were all to happy to make.

What We Were Given

Honestly, we were pretty excited at this point. We took a week or so putting together an eclectic cast that included a sociopathic anarchist, an auto mechanic with some severe mental disabilities, and a homeless woman who suffered from paranoia and mild schizophrenia. We were pretty interested to see how they could work together, and even if they could work together once the dead started walking.

And at first, things were pretty solid. We were all in our respective homes or workplaces, and things started going wrong. There were sirens across the city, fires were starting, and gunshots. Then through a confluence of events, our three protagonists find themselves on the street where they come face-to-face with their first zombie hoard.

Thinking quickly, the sociopath convinced the auto mechanic to help him hot-wire a police van. They get it ready to roll, and weigh down the gas with a brick, sending it down the street as a distraction. The van plowed into the crowd of the walking dead, buying the three of them time to make good their escape down a side alley. They get enough distance to breathe a bit, make their introductions, and to all agree that they saw the same thing.

And that was when the first big red flag showed up.

She looked sort of like this.
From around the corner a woman stepped out, gun leveled at the party. She saw what they did, and after checking to be sure they were all still human, told them to get to the local precinct where they could hole up. When they get there, they're to tell the sergeant on duty that Jill Valentine sent them.

Surprise, You're in Raccoon City!

We are not a big video game crew, but even we recognized the reference. We all looked at each other, just to make sure we heard it right, but we silently agreed to let it slide. Maybe it was just a reference, or an homage, and we couldn't really blame the DM for putting in a little Easter egg or two.

Unfortunately, we quickly realized that we were not playing a zombie survival game that happened to have a clever Resident Evil reference or two in it. We were just in a straight-up Resident Evil game.

We knew this because about ten minutes after Jill ran off into the city, we were treated to a cinematic of a creature that looked remarkably like Nemesis stomping off in another direction, roaring and firing off a massive cannon. On the other hand, it was going in the other direction, so we figured maybe the game could be salvaged. After all, a story about all the people who aren't main characters in the franchise trying to hole up, help other residents, sneak around, etc. at least had the potential to be the kind of game we talked about in the pitch meeting.

That was not, of course, what we got.

Jesus Christ, initiative AGAIN!?
What we got was a balls-out, run-and-gun, monster-filled rendition of a video game, retold in tabletop format. By the end of the first session we had fought lickers, dozens of zombies, whatever those mutant dog creatures were, and had at least one run in with the Nemesis creature. We'd been armed with rocket launchers and grenades, Semtex, detonators, machine guns, body armor, and a rifle that shot lightning. We had met precisely zero other humans who weren't named characters from the video game, despite being in a massive city where this outbreak supposedly happened a few hours ago. There was no attention given to stealth, social skills, etc. It was a game entirely based on kicking in doors, hucking explosives, and machine gunning monsters.

Exactly the sort of game we had said we didn't want at the outset. And having all of it wrapped up in the licensed property of an action game with monsters in it rather than an actual horror game with atmosphere and subtlety just added insult to injury. It was the only session of that campaign we played.

DMs, Listen To Your Players

This is not the only time I had something like this happen to me, but it is the most memorable. In some instances it was because the DM figured that they could do whatever they wanted because no one else was willing to sit in the chair, and people would rather play a bad game than no game. Other times they figured that players would be so hooked on this new game that they wouldn't care it was nothing like the game they were originally pitched.

In all of these circumstances, it never worked.

If you're a DM, and you pitch a game to your players, be honest with them. That first pitch session is establishing a social contract with your players. If you break it by promising them one thing and then giving them something else, they aren't going to trust you. And nine times out of ten, they're going to walk away from your table.

Because it doesn't matter how delicious the pizza you served them is. They ordered ice cream, and ice cream is what you promised to deliver.

Next Time on Table Talk!

With so many games paused thanks to the pandemic, my Runelords tales are on-hold for the time being. But hopefully I can keep sharing a few amusing asides like this week's tale until we can finish out the last of that campaign. So stay tuned, and I'll see you next time on Table Talk!

For more of my work, check out my Vocal archives, as well as the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I help out from time to time. Or, to check out books like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife or my recent short story collection The Rejects, head over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on FacebookTumblr, and Twitter, as well as on Pinterest where I'm building all sorts of boards dedicated to my books, RPG supplements, and greatest hits. Lastly, to help support me and my work, consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi, or heading over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron! Even a little donation can have a big impact.

Monday, June 8, 2020

"Abattoir 8" is Bloody, Grimdark Fun!

It's been a while since I've done a review of anything, but lately I have been craving some adventure in a gritty, nasty, dark sci-fi setting. Most games I've come across that are meant for such games, like Dark Heresy or Mutant Chronicles, just haven't been scratching that itch for me. A big part of the reason, though, is the systems just don't jive well with me, or with the folks who tend to sit around my tables.

Which is why I was very interested in Grimmerspace when I found out about it.

For those who didn't see the Kickstarter when it went around, Grimmerspace is a project from Iron GM Games, with names like Richard Pett and Sean Astin (yes, that one) attached to it. A dark and brutal sci-fi setting that takes place on the rim of known space filled with bizarre aberrations and cosmic horrors, the game pits hard-bitten warriors and sci-fi protagonists against the forces of magic from the deep blackness. To paraphrase Mr. Astin, if you've ever wanted to shoot a wizard in the neck, it's time to lock and load, soldier!

Just make sure you bring your A-game.
Best of all, one of the flavors the setting comes in is Starfinder compatible, which was right up my alley. And while the core book isn't available yet, the module Abattoir 8 is out, and I managed to get my hands on a bloody little copy of it.

Grimdark Goodness!

First things first, for all the folks scratching their heads and remembering when I wrote Starfinder is My Biggest Gaming Disappointment of 2017, let me remind you of a message that might have gotten lost in that old post. My complaint was not that the system was bad. In fact, I believe I said that as a sci-fi game it was perfectly accessible, and pretty solid mechanically. My complaint was that Golarion's solar system was still the primary setting, but none of the magic, mysticism, and sheer fantastical nonsense of the old Pathfinder setting was part of the game even though they were supposed to be set in the same world.

By using a completely different setting, Grimmerspace immediately throws those objections of mine out the window! Especially when the setting it uses is meant to focus more heavily on traditional sci-fi elements, which is perfectly in-line with what Starfinder was designed for as a system.

So, let's get into the nitty gritty!
So, about Abattoir 8...

The general setup is that you and your party come to the orbiting food satellite designated Abattoir 8 because something has gone wrong. Communications have ceased, and the final transmissions were far from comforting. When you arrive at the food processing center, you find chaos, mayhem, and death. Bodies float in the black, and inside the station something has gone on a rampage. People have died the wrong way... and many of them have the marks of teeth. Human teeth.

With no way to get back on the sling ferry you took, the party must face the things that were once the employees of Abattoir 8, and hope to come out alive.

Dynamic and Unique

First things first, this module leans hard into the horrific nature of the setting. If you've ever wanted to see the bastard child of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Event Horizon, then boy oh boy are you going to love this adventure!

In addition to providing a solid setting and intriguing premise, though, the enemies in the module don't just wait around in one room to be found and fought. Events are set in motion as soon as the party arrives on-site, and what they choose to do (or not do) will affect how things play out. Whether they're stealthy and sneaky, whether they try to hack the remaining security system, attempt to use diplomacy on the individuals they come across, or whether they try to kick in the door guns blazing will all have different results.

That is a hard thing to write, and I salute the individuals who designed the encounters with a variety of resolutions and triggers in mind. It puts the tools into the hands of the storyteller, and avoids railroading the players while they try to solve the mystery of just what in the hell went wrong in this place.

Spoilers: It was something BAD!
By the time the party navigates the damaged food processing plant, they'll have gotten a solid grasp on the setting, endured several traumatic horrors, and will have reached around level 3. So already it's a pretty beefy adventure.

However, it should be said that this game is going full grimdark. Things are a little vicious in this setup, and it is perfectly possible that you and your fellow party members meet a horrible, bloody fate. There are very few safeguards in place to prevent the villains from winning, and you'll need luck, skill, and tactical acumen to come through with all your limbs as well as your sanity intact! With that said, if you want a grim, survival horror game that will hang you from a meat hook and leave you gasping for more (especially since Abattoir 8 is the first half of a two-part adventure) then I highly recommend checking this out. It doesn't cost much, and you get some serious bang for your buck.

I have yet to run this module for my own group (though I'm considering it), but I can say that just reading through it has got me eagerly anticipating the release of the full Grimmerspace core book!

Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday!

Again, for more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife or my latest short story collection The Rejects, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now Pinterest as well! To support my work, consider Buying Me a Ko-Fi, or heading to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron. That one helps ensure you get more Improved Initiative, and it means you'll get my regular, monthly giveaways as a bonus!

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Righteous Barbarian

"You?" the Great Fang asked as the man stepped into the warrior's circle. "You are the Lightning Sword? The Wrath of Thunder? Surely you jest!"

The man who stood before him was no stripling, and there was strength in his heavy chest and shoulders. But he looked no different than a dozen other dirt-streaked warriors who had taken the field that day. With his wild hair and thorny beard, there was nothing unusual about him at a glance. Certainly nothing that would warrant the reverence of those who parted to let him stand within the Ring of Skulls.

"No," the man said, shaking his head. "My name is Einar. I am but a vessel."

The Great Fang snorted, and spat, he hefted his ax high, and charged across the circle, bellowing his war cry. As the ax came down, though, there was a shift in the wind. A tension in the air, like the calm just before a storm. Faster than the eye could blink, the man called Einar drew his blade, and crashed it into the ax. The steel head creaked, then exploded in shards of burning metal. The Fang staggered back, his eyes wide. The man followed him, walking calmly. The steel fragments had bounced off his skin, and his eyes burned with a bright, white light.

"I am the Sword," the man said, his voice booming like thunder. "And now you, too, shall know the storm."

Do not challenge the gods. They may accept.

The Wrath of The Gods

When most of us picture a barbarian, we imagine someone like Conan or Kull. Warriors who rely on their own wits and strength, with no concern for the gods and spirits of the world around them. They believe in steel and strength, not in magic or in the aid of the divine.

The Righteous Barbarian, though, has dedicated themselves to the service of a god... or gods.

What form this dedication takes can vary wildly, depending on the origin and style of the character. For example, the character may be a member of a holy order of knights who is filled with righteous fury when taking the field in service of their god. They might be a tribal protector, tattooed with the sigils of their clan totem in order to summon the power of that spirit in defense of their people. In some cases, the warrior may even be possessed by a spirit, being dragged into situations it demands whether they want to be involved or not.

Whether it's simply a cultural or religious belief, an oath the character has sworn, a mechanical implication of their rage powers (as I mentioned back in 50 Shades of Rage: Flavoring The Barbarian's Signature Class Feature), or some combination of all of them, the Righteous Barbarian is the sword of the gods.

Build Recommendations

The first thing you need to ask yourself for this concept is how big a part of the character's life the divine plays a hand. On the smaller end of the scale, the Righteous Barbarian is simply a faithful warrior who shapes their life, morality, and what sort of causes they support. Larger forms of divine involvement include things like celestial totem rage powers, or for those who want to go the bloodrager route taking appropriate bloodline powers to tie you to the greater powers (including the celestial bloodline, or taking something like the abyssal or infernal bloodline and turning those powers against evil). The character may receive dreams from the divine, or see signs of the gods' displeasure much like a cleric would, but it's more of an occasional, instinctual call from their patron than a direct connection.

The most extreme version of the Righteous Barbarian is when the character is a direct instrument of the divine... willingly, or not. A character with the trait possessed for example has a spirit that lives within them, and whispers to them. Someone who gains a cohort, or who acquires an unusual mount or familiar (through the Eldritch Heritage feat tree, or by taking the Familiar Bond feat tree) could use that creature as a conduit to their deity, listening to what they demand of them. Characters who are at the most extreme end of this concept may even go into fugue states when they Rage, channeling the powers of the divine through themselves, having little to no memory of who they were (or what they did) during combat. These characters may even be prone to black outs, finding the gods control them when they attempt to go against their wishes, dragging them forcibly into adventures.

How deeply the concept runs in your character is entirely up to you!

Also, for more tips on making your barbarians unique, make sure you check out 5 Tips For Playing Better Barbarians, along with the rest of my ongoing 5 Tips series!

Like, Follow, and Stay Tuned For More!

That's all for this installment of Unusual Character Concepts. Hopefully this one gave you something to chew over, whether you're a player, or a dungeon master.

For more of my work, check out my Vocal and Gamers archives, and stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife or my most recent collection of short stories The Rejects, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now Pinterest as well! To support my work, consider Buying Me a Ko-Fi, or heading to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron. That one helps ensure you get more Improved Initiative, and it means you'll get my regular, monthly giveaways as a bonus!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Stories We Tell Make a Difference

I told myself I was going to do something a little more lighthearted for the next few weeks. I've been touching on some heavy topics of late, and I don't want folks to get burned out. But if you've looked at your news feed recently (or you just haven't been burying your head in the sand), then you know about what's going on out there right now. You know about the struggle, the riots, the violence, and all the rest. It's a big, confusing mess, and we all want to do our part to get involved in trying to fix it. To help out in some way. But as a post that came across my Facebook feed said, you don't necessarily need to be on the front lines to help. You just need to use your voice in any way you can.

Every successful party needs support casters, after all.

And while it might not seem like it matters, or that it's important, telling stories is a little thing that can have an impact going forward. Even if they're made-up stories about people who don't exist, and places that never were... because our brains are lightning-filled-jelly, and they're surprisingly easy to trick.

Before I get into this week's thoughts, though, if you have the time and extra dosh, consider donating to and boosting some of the following:

- Black Lives Matter (Chicago)
- Minnesota Freedom Fund

The stories we hear are what program our minds.

Variety in Stories is a Necessity

All too often the media we consume is dismissed as unimportant brain popcorn. Just distractions that we mentally munch on so we can get our daily dose of feel-good neurotransmitters and unwind. However, the attitudes, ideas, and even opinions and biases that we absorb from the stories we read stick with us. If you've ever talked to someone profoundly affected by the work of Ayn Rand (I don't recommend having this conversation if you've managed to avoid it thus far), then you've seen this in action.

The media we consume doesn't control our minds. But if your brain is a garden, then what goes in through your eyes and ears is a large part of the environment. It will affect what grows in your skull, whether you want it to or not.

For those who skipped the above video (I highly recommend giving it a watch when you have time for a Ted Talk), novelist Chimamanda Adichie describes what it was like growing up and only reading books about white people in America and England. Places she'd never seen as a Nigerian girl, and people who looked nothing like her. The total lack of representation meant that, when she first started writing as a girl, she wrote stories about places she'd never been, and people who were nothing like those she knew. Nothing like her.

Because she hadn't seen any examples that said people like her could exist in literature. Girls with dark skin and kinky hair were not the protagonists of the books she'd read, and it took expanding her intake of stories to realize that didn't have to be the case.

Those stories stirred her imagination, they engaged her, but they were windows instead of doors. They didn't let her in, the way they had let in children who looked like the protagonists, and who were from the places they were from. Part of her work, as a creator, was to change the nature of that message. To build doors so that children like her would be able to see people like themselves in the stories they read. So they would hear the message, "You belong here. You can be a part of this, if you want to."

And that is a powerful thing; both to say, and to hear.

Parasocial Relationships, and Fiction

There is another aspect of stories other than making sure that other people have a seat at the table, though. If you've never heard the term parasocial relationships before, it is when you form a one-sided relationship with a person. This is common in the cases of celebrities whose fans may feel connected to them, who may feel positive regard for them, and who empathize with a person whom they've never met, and who doesn't even know they exist.

This also happens with investment in made-up characters.
Parasocial relationships also extend to fictional characters, and our investments in them. This is something most of us have experienced to some degree whenever we develop a favorite character in a book, a comic series, etc. We get invested in them, and they give us feelings, even though they aren't real.

Remember how I said your brain is just a jelly jar full of lightning and pudding? Well, it's amazingly advanced in some ways, but in other ways it's really dumb. And one way that it's dumb is that it has the same reaction to reading about characters in stories, or watching portrayals in movies, that it has to actually meeting people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, etc.

When you combine this with contact hypothesis (the basic idea that the more exposure you have to people from a certain demographic, the less "other" they become to you), it shows that proper portrayals in media can do two things at once. They send the message to people from other demographics that they are part of this story, and they matter. With the other hand, though, they give people from the more dominant demographic (people who may not come into contact with these "others" all that often) some kind of exposure to different people.

Innuendo Studios touched on this in the video below, Why The Alt-Right is Like an Abusive Relationship.

So what does all of that mean?

Well, in less academic terms, this setup means that you can use fiction to empathize with people you've never met, because your brain thinks you have friends from that demographic. You haven't deluded yourself into thinking your fictional characters are real people (most of the time, at least), but your brain learns to ignore the knee-jerk reaction to "other" real people because you've had contact with them. Even if that contact was only in your mind.

Whether it's the LGBTQ+ community, black people, Native Americans, Jewish people, Muslims, those suffering from psychological trauma or mental disorders, your brain learns to identify with other humans through art, and the messages in that art.

However, the quality of the representation (and the message it sends) can affect what your brain receives.

For example, if you go back and watch a lot of cartoons over the years, you'll notice that the villains tend to be queer-coded. Whether they have soft voices, elaborate costumes, "weak" hand gestures, etc., the message being sent was clear; to resemble gay stereotypes is bad. We see it in action movies and TV where the only role you can get as a black actor is as a pimp or a gang banger, and the only role offered to those of Middle Eastern heritage is a terrorist. We see it in movies that always show tribal villages and insane warlords in Africa, but never acknowledge that would be like setting all American movies in the Alaskan wilderness ruled over my gangs of methed out religious cultists (which is to say it does happen, but it's nowhere near the norm).

And so on, and so forth.

Good or bad, the portrayals we see are poured into our heads, and they swirl around. The messages we see can color our perceptions, and make us think in certain ways over time. But just like realizing that not all stories have to be about apple-cheeked white boys having snowball fights, they also allow us to change our narratives.

What This Has To Do With Gaming

The games we play are just stories mixed with math. And even if we are in a place like the Forgotten Realms, Golarion, or a setting of our own making, the things we choose to include (or not include) in our games can make a difference. Like rain drops that fill a dry lake, or snowflakes that cause an avalanche, little messages can add up to big trends.

And I'm trying to do my part to help.
As a creator, it is my job to provide resources for people to tell stories. But part of that is also attempting to widen the variety of stories we tell, the messages we send, and the thoughts and ideas we can explore.

False Valor is a one-shot module that deals with people trying to start a race war, and taking extreme measures to provoke it into happening. Spoiler warnings, but it's not an accident that several of the NPCs in this book read like Proud Boys with hunting knives and longbows instead of AR-15s. My best-selling Azukail Games supplement 100 NPCs You Might Meet at The Tavern has gender fluid merchants, dark-skinned knights, big-boned wizards, and other characters that are outside of what one might typically expect to find bellied up to the bar. And for folks who saw A Response to The "Flaw" in my 100 Kinfolk Collection, I've made it very clear that my goal for creating more than 1,000 kinfolk NPCs for Werewolf: The Apocalypse was to specifically push back against the 90s edginess that led to so much cringe, and so much exclusion in what is supposed to be a global game. My goal is to do something, even if it's small, to make players think about what sorts of characters they have in their games, and even more importantly, why they don't have other sorts.

I don't expect my work, all on its lonesome, to make a huge difference. I like to think there are some players and storytellers out there who read through it, and smiled when they saw something unique and different between my pages, but I am under no illusions about the size of the community that follows my releases. However, given the chance, I'll make as many individual droplets of rain as I can. Because I want my hobby to expand. I want more people to be able to hear, and tell, their own stories.

And mostly, I want to try to show that we're not so different, when it comes time to stand together.

Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday!

Again, for more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife or my latest short story collection The Rejects, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now Pinterest as well! To support my work, consider Buying Me a Ko-Fi, or heading to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron. That one helps ensure you get more Improved Initiative, and it means you'll get my regular, monthly giveaways as a bonus!