Thursday, October 29, 2020

Rise of The Runelords Chapter 29: Crossing The Barrier of Greed

The Companions have fought their way past dangers untold, and found themselves in the lost realm of Xin-Shalast. Threatened and opposed at every turn, they have forced their way to the very doorstep of the Runelord Karzoug. Only one thing stands between him and them, and that is the barrier of greed. Only three servants hold keys, and the Companions must acquire one if they are to pass by to confront the master of transmutation in his own lair.

For those who need to catch up, previous installments are listed below:

- Chapter 1: Blood and Butterflies
- Chapter 2: Murder and Glass
- Chapter 3: The Sin Pit
- Chapter 4: Tussles in The Tangle
- Chapter 5: The Assault on Thistletop
- Chapter 6: Secrets Behind The Curtain
- Chapter 7: Murders At The Mill
- Chapter 8: Halflings and Ghouls
- Chapter 9: Fox in The Hen House
- Chapter 10: Something Rotten in Magnimar
- Chapter 11: The Crumbling Tower
- Chapter 12: Demonbane
- Chapter 13: Trouble at Turtleback Ferry
- Chapter 14: The Taking of Fort Rannick
- Chapter 15: Water Over The Dam
- Chapter 16: Mad Lovers, And Lost Captains
- Chapter 17: The March of The Giants
- Chapter 18: The Taking of Jorgenfist
- Chapter 19: The Secrets Beneath Sandpoint
- Chapter 20: At The Gates of The Runeforge
- Chapter 21: Storming The Halls of Evocation
- Chapter 22: The Bowels of Necromancy's Tomb
- Chapter 23: The End of Runeforge
- Chapter 30: The Fall of Karzoug
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Stealing From a Dragon

After evaluating all of their choices, the Companions took some time to prepare themselves. Bargaining with a devil was not a contest they relished, nor was fighting a storm giant among the clouds. But she who was draped in gold had potential. For there was something they'd noticed in walking through the marketplaces of Xin-Shalast; gold was a worthless currency in that place. Barely worth paving the streets with, the riches that would have purchased kingdoms on the material plane were nothing more than decoration here. Yet the magma dragon's hoard was filled with gold and silver, and she herself encased in it to the point that she cold only fly through magic.

It was not her hoard, however. That treasure room had become her prison, and the "gift" that Karzoug had given her was the lock that kept her there. Enthralled to a magic mirror, she would stay there of her own volition, addicted to gazing upon her gilded reflection.

A more perfect prison has never been constructed.

To test this theory, the Companions dug through the hoard of the white dragon they'd slain who'd guarded the pass. In it they found a large mirror, wrought in gold and silver, carved with artistry and skill. It was a marvel to behold, and would have been a fit gift for any queen. When they presented the mirror to Zargatoth, the massive dragon lifted the mirror and examined it. Then, as if compelled to, she destroyed it, crumpling the beautiful piece of art in her fist. Sadness choked her voice when she spoke, saying she was allowed to have nothing of her own.

Thok slowly nocked an arrow, his shoulders tense as Zhakar approached the huge dragon. She was near to weeping, confused, and disoriented. She hadn't seen her mirror in so long... she knew it was close, but she couldn't find it. That was when Ivory spotted it, lodged in the melted gold on Zargatoth's back. The mirror was far too potent to be harmed by her body's heat, and she'd lost it within her own gilded shackles. Ivory told the dragon where it was, but she couldn't reach it; not with the heavy slabs of muscle that prevented her flexibility.

Speaking softly, and assuring her that they wished to help, Zhakar asked Zargatoth to allow them to extract the mirror from her. Reluctantly, the dragon lay down, digging her claws into the stone.

 A Delicate Procedure

Zargatoth's possessive connection to the mirror, and it's tight hold over her, made removing it a dangerous endeavor. Even if the Companions were careful, one wrong move could lead to bloodshed... bloodshed they'd rather avoid if it were possible.

Mirelinda spoke softly, the soothing sounds flowing from her lips as she cast a spell to calm Zargatoth's fears and furies. Focusing on the jagged rune burned into his forehead, Zhakar erupted in protective flames, flying onto Zargatoth's back. Using the burning claws of his twisted devil's hand, Zhakar peeled away gold and silver, reducing the metal to slag as he flung it away from him. Ivory floated nearby, keeping an eye on Zargatoth and using precise beams of fire to help cut the mirror out of the dragon's golden shackles. Though becalmed by magic, the dragon's anxiety raised her body's temperature, melting the gold and silver faster, the metal running into puddles on the floor. The mirror was singing a siren's song, trying to persuade Zhakar to look into its surface, to see what he desired there, but its song fell on deaf ears as the memories of what he saw in the gaps between worlds returned to him. Wrenching the mirror free, he set it down on the stone before Zargatoth, backing away from her.

The sight of the mirror immediately smote the dragon between her eyes. She stepped out of the pool of molten metal, shaking herself off. While the carapace that had weighed her down for so long was gone, her mind was as shackled as it had ever been. Withdrawing to a safe distance, the Companions spoke in low whispers; even though Zargatoth was completely lost in the enthrallment of her addiction.

They needed that mirror to cross the barrier, and Ivory could tell from the wefts of the magic around its enchantment that once bound to a new owner Zargatoth would be free of its compulsions. But the new owner would need to break that curse as well, or over time the mirror would enchant and degrade them until they were slaves to the reflection. She could create the spell to break it, given time, but they would need to steal the mirror.

As Ivory gathered the supplies, and penned the scrolls that would be necessary, escorted by Chikara to ensure none thought to try to steal Ivory, the others watched Zargatoth. She barely moved a muscle, lying there enraptured by what the mirror showed her. For hours she stayed there, and would likely have stayed there indefinitely had the Companions not taken action.

With the simple application of a few spells, Chikara vanished from sight, running like the wind. Hefting the huge mirror, she ran, bolting into the city. Confused, the spell broken, Zargatoth cast around for the cause of her mirror's absence. The rest of the Companions fled as well, their speed enhanced by both adrenaline, and magic. Unable to fly, and with no idea where they were going, Zargatoth quickly fell behind.

When they were safely away, or as safe as they could be under the circumstances, they found the mirror had shrunk itself, and changed its form. No longer a hand mirror for a dragon, it was now something sized for any of the Companions... should they wish to take it. After a brief discussion of the risks, and what could happen, Mirelinda held her hand out to the mirror. It all but leaped into her grasp, the metal warm, comforting, and familiar as she gazed into it, and bonded with it. Across the city Zargatoth awoke, truly awoke, for the first time in ages. The hunger in her was gone, the need absent for the first time she could remember in many years.

Mirelinda gazed at her reflection, lips pursed as she examined herself. She fixed her hair, and adjusted her necklace, nodding. When Zhakar cleared his throat she jumped, as if lost in thought, but put the mirror away in her satchel with only a little reluctance.

The final challenge was still ahead.

Return Next Time For The Finale!

One of the longest campaigns I've played in a while, and the finale is just around the corner! 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 hard-boiled cat noir novel Marked Territory, 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, October 26, 2020

Too Many Game Masters Are Just Itching To Say "No"

I'm not the oldest gamer out there, but I've been around the table a few times. I've played home games, and I've run home games. I've played in organizations, I've showed up for pick-up modules in game stores, I've played at conventions, and I've done my share of LARPing as the icing on the geek cake. And while I've had good game masters and bad, permissive and restrictive, amateurish and professional, there are really only two camps I separate them into these days; were they a game master who looked for a reason to say yes, or a game master who was just looking for a reason to say no?
Because the second one is far more common, and though I've intimated this before I'd like to say it plainly this week; that kind of attitude ruins your players' experiences far more than it helps you manage your game.
You want to do what? Sure, let's figure out how to make this work.

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"No" Is Your Weapon of Last Resort

Since I can hear your throats clearing, let me be crystal on this one. What I am not saying is that as a game master you should do an impression of a doormat and let your players walk all over you to do whatever they want, say whatever they want, and play whatever they want. You don't have to give them everything on their wish list, and no you aren't supposed to just roll over and let them win because they want to. You and they are still confined by the rules of the game you agreed to play, and the setting you all agreed to be a part of. Whether you're playing it directly as it's written in the book, or you've made changes in the form of house rules, you and your players have agreed to the functionality and limits of the game as it exists. The tone of the game, and the entry rules you lay out in Session 0 must be observed, and respected.

However, this is a matter of perspective, and how you view your job as a game master. Because ideally it's your job to facilitate your players' enjoyment of the game, and that often comes down to working with them so that you and they can find a solution within the framework of the game that lets them do (or at least attempt) what they're aiming for.

I feel an example might be helpful.

Let's say you have a player who wants to make their character an homage to John Wick. Heck, I laid out exactly how you can do it both in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition and in Pathfinder using the rules as they exist. Or maybe they want to play a fantasy version of The Hulk, Killer Croc, or Guts from Berserk (guides at the links for those who are interested). The story practically writes itself, and as long as a player fits their story to the setting and world, and their build isn't breaking any of the rules of the game, what do you gain by telling them no?
And even if they don't have enough system mastery to lay out every step of their plan, as a game master, you get far more out of sitting down with your player and saying, "I like your enthusiasm. Let's talk this through and find a solution that works for both of us," than you do in sending them back to the drawing board with a, "And do it properly this time!"

As a game master, you always have that right of refusal. It hangs over everything, like that red button that launches a nuclear strike. However, if you deny your players the kind of game they want to play, and you keep putting up invisible walls above and beyond the ground rules you all agreed to, they're going to leave your table sooner rather than later. They can't play a game with no game master, but you can't run a game with no players. You both need each other, which is why you should work together.

Ensure You Are Both Operating On The Same Assumptions

This is very anecdotal as far as evidence goes, but it's something I've seen often enough that I consider it a pattern when it comes to game masters who are always looking for a reason to say no. Because a good 80 percent of the time the, "No," isn't because something is against the rules, or is directly against the lore of the setting... it's because it goes against the assumptions and preconceptions of the person sitting in the big chair. This is most common in pre-made settings where there's a rule book offering objective write ups, as opposed to a homebrewed setting where the game may exist only partially on paper, and largely within the game master's notes, but the point still stands.

Whichever situation you find yourself in, you need to make absolutely sure you and your players are on the same page regarding what's expected in the game, and why you should listen to them when they make a case for something they want to play even if it gives you a knee-jerk reaction at first.

You all need to be singing the same song for there to be harmony.

For example, the Pathfinder setting of Golarion is not Tolkien's Middle Earth, and it does not have the same lore and assumptions. If you want to play a gunslinging elven pirate with a green beard, heterochromia, and poisonous blood, all of that is possible within the rules and the setting. You could also play someone who's been kept in a statis tube in a crashed starship for a thousand years who now has to explore this strange world they find themselves in, discovering their own past and trying to piece together who and where they are. These characters can perfectly co-exist with the traditional wizards, paladins, and sorcerers we're so used to in our high-fantasy games, because that's what's in the setting as it's written. You're not defying the genre, or trying to be a weird and unique snowflake; you're just playing an option that is part of the game as it's written.

Yet there are a lot of game masters out there who will slam on the brakes for no reason other than that these character concepts are outside what they think of when they conceptualize their game. The characters fit the world, and they fit the lore, but they don't fit the game master's assumptions... and denying players the ability to play characters they want, which fits the world you all agreed to, is not a great way to start any campaign.

This happens all over the place. I've seen storytellers for World of Darkness games shoot down character concepts, or even just character choices, for no reason other than that they couldn't conceive of the events that would make these characters happen. Which is not to say that it couldn't happen, just that it goes against their views of how the game should be, or how they would personally execute a particular concept.
"A Nosferatu diplomat? Pshaw, impossible, they're too ugly and repulsive for such a high-charisma position!" Even though the clan would definitely have envoys and messengers in order to represent their interests and communicate with other clans, they can't wrap their heads around someone trying to play a face character with that clan's flaw. "A Get of Fenris who brings vehicle-mounted artillery to the battlefield instead of a hammer or their claws? Bah, the tribe would never tolerate that!" This opinion despite literally nothing in the rulebooks or write-up of tribe culture about how the warriors of this werewolf tribe refuse to use the tools of modern warfare against their enemies, and how the weapon is less important than the enemy it's turned on.

And so on, and so forth.

I could go on listing examples for a few thousand more words, but you get the picture. As a game master you get a lot more mileage out of thinking in terms of what is possible within the rules and setting, rather than what fits your preconceptions of them. And even if your player comes to you with a goal that's a little odd, a little weird, or a little off-kilter, you should try your best to find a way to give them what they're looking for within your framework.

You can still say, "No," if there just isn't a way to make it work, but if you can compromise so you both get some aspects of the story you want to tell then you're both going to have a far better experience with the game as a whole.

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That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday. To stay on top of all my content and releases, make sure you subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of the page!

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 cat noir thriller Marked Territory, 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, October 24, 2020

The Onion of Secrets (A Character Concept With Layers)

The inquisitor stormed into the room, his black robes billowing in his wake. The broad-shouldered, silver-haired Lord Janus Arendt stood near the window, leaning on his cane. His blue eyes showed mild surprise, but nothing else as the man in black approached him.
"My lord inquisitor, what a-"
"Silence!" The robed investigator hissed. "It is the only way you will be able to escape this unscathed, Lord Arendt. Understand?"
The inquisitor's tone was thick with scorn, but the older man simply nodded, as if he'd been politely greeted. He waited, his hands atop the intricate walking stick that he always carried. Once he was certain the man wasn't going to interrupt, the black-clad harbinger of the law began to speak.
"The person who calls herself the Black Rose has been meeting with members of the nobility. Those who would be considered disloyal, and open to corruption," the inquisitor said. "She is recruiting them to act in a coupe against the governor, and to force him from his rightful seat of power."
The silver-haired lord said nothing. His expression did not change, nor did he so much as shift his weight. When he said nothing, the man in black continued in a more measured tone.
"The sort of lord, for example, who has debts to the illicit gambling houses in the east quarter," the inquisitor said, his smile growing wider. "And who, despite his marriage to one of the great beauties of the city, often doesn't leave the Swallows Den until sunrise."
"What do you want, inquisitor?" Janus asked, tiredly.
"If this so-called Black Rose contacts you, you are to agree to assist her," the inquisitor said. "You will forward any information she gives you to me. In exchange my men will forget the places you go, and the slanderous things that go on there. You will be left to your life, and what little lands you have. Do you understand?"
Janus turned away from the inquisitor, glancing out the window. He leaned on his cane, shoulders slumped, and his jaw tight. Finally he said, "Yes. I understand."
The inquisitor tarried a moment to ensure his silence drove the point home. Then he turned on his heel, and left in the same whirl of movement as he'd come. The lord of the manor didn't move, staying at the window as he watched the man in black climb back into his carriage, and head off down the road.
"What a tedious little man," a voice said from near the fire.
Janus turned, and beheld a masked figure all in black. Black leather sheathed them from head to toe, and enameled daggers were slung low on their thighs, as well as under the arms. A black cloak seemed to meld into the flickering shadows. Janus twitched the curtain closed at his back, ensuring none could see within. Then he swept the figure up in his arms, clinging close.
"Careful Janus," the Black Rose whispered. "My ribs still ache."
"Yours and mine both," he said, tugging off the mask to reveal the beautiful, full-lipped face of his wife, the Lady Elsabeth Arendt.
The two of them kissed, clutching onto each other in the half-light of the study. When she finally broke the kiss, she sighed against her husband's broad chest. "It's getting dangerous out there. More so than it was."
"Darling," he said, tilting her chin up to look into her eyes. "Are you asking what I think you are?"
She took his hand, and smiled. It was a small, secret smile. "I know you haven't worn that mask in years. But would you? For me?"
"It would be my honor," he said, pressing the hidden lever that opened the stairway behind the bookcase. The two of them descended into the catacombs that ran beneath the city, and where secret tunnels ran to brothels, gambling dens, and so much more if one knew the ways. The Black Rose, and her companion the Shadow Thorn walked into the darkness together, ready to put an end to the small plans of the small men who'd had their boots on the people's throats for far too long.
What truly lies beneath our masks?


The Character With Secrets

We've all played characters with secrets. Whether it's the noble born knight trying to pass himself off as a common sellsword, or the former assassin trying to leave their old life behind, these secrets are usually kept up our sleeves to be played at dramatic moments later in the game. The Onion of Secrets, by contrast, is a character who has more than one layer of secrets active at any time.

The keys to these characters is to make sure that your secrets are relevant to the game at hand, that they do not pit you against the other players at the table, and that there's several of them to be revealed as the game goes on.

There's always something more.

If you're a Pathfinder player, one of the easiest ways to get this ball rolling is to play a vigilante. The dual identity allows one to lead a double life that can't be easily exposed by divination and other spells, and for those looking for inspiration I recently put together 5 Tips For Playing Better Vigilantes along with the supplement A Baker's Dozen of Fantasy Vigilantes to get the wheels turning. For those who enjoy the alchemist, however, the Master Chymist prestige class can offer a similar dual identity that can be equally fun to play with using the mutagenic form.

Whether you choose to use these classes or not, though, there are all sorts of secrets you can build into your character. For example:

- Membership to an organization you do not disclose.
- Belonging to a different social class than you claim.
- Possessing a curse, corruption, or affliction your companions don't know about.
- Fleeing a former life/old debts.
- A secret goal you've told no one about.

While any one of these things can work as a fun hole card for your character, the key to the Onion of Secrets is that someone discovering one secret may lead to another coming into play. Or the implications of multiple secrets all coming to a head as part of a plot.

As an example, take the swordsman Tarn Dalls. Though he claims to be nothing more than an experienced mercenary, Tarn's swordsmanship, linguistic palate, and other skills are suspiciously broad. Because the truth is that he is a prince who went into exile so there would be no war for the throne. He agrees to lead the secret society of the Red Dust with the rest of the party to overthrown the tyrant his brother has become, but his true goal is to liberate his mother and his sister from their prison inside the palace.

Alternatively, consider Shareen DeForest. Though most believe her a noblewoman from a neighboring land with some skills in languages and scholarly matters, in truth she's a common thief. She built this false life for herself, trying to buy her way out of membership in the Gravetouched, but the last job she pulled for the gang left her with a dark secret; the spirit of an unquiet ghost that shares her mind. She can sometimes pacify the ghost with little gestures, but there are times where Shareen will lose hours of time. Others where she'll wind up in places she's never been. She's been trying to find a way to put the ghost to rest, but if someone recognizes her from the old days all it would take is a few words in the wrong ears and everyone would know the truth.

Overlapping Your Secrets

The key to remember with an Onion of Secrets is that you need at least two layers (though the more the merrier), and that while they can be related, revealing one shouldn't inherently reveal all of them. Additionally, you should work with your GM to make sure your secrets are relevant to the plot, and you should give at least a little foreshadowing that there's more going on than meets the eye to the others at the table. I talked about this in Reveal Details About Your Character Through Flavor-Based Skill Checks, but it bears repeating; if you have secrets, they need to come out at some point. More importantly, there should be hints that there's something going on below the surface. Otherwise it just feels like the end of a Scooby-Doo episode where we pull off the mask to reveal someone we've never heard of, and who we couldn't have guessed was the ghost behind this week's haunting.

Lastly, and I cannot stress this enough, do not purposefully keep secrets that are going to put you at odds with the rest of the party. If your character has been a deep-cover operative for half the campaign, then make sure they're representing a neutral third-party, or a secret society that can assist the party, or something like that. Because while it might sound like a cool idea, a lot of tables will view it as unsanctioned player-versus-player, and it can lead to hurt feelings, and a stymied game. If you need some fun examples then you might want to check out 100 Secret Societies as well as 100 Fantasy Guilds.

Make sure your secrets add to the game, that they are something everyone can have fun with, and if you know your table, intertwine them with some other players' secrets without giving each other too many details. It can make for a daisy chain of surprises when the revelations start coming, and more importantly it can avoid the feeling like you're the only one doing big plot reveals.
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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 game master.

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 alley cat noir novel Marked Territory, 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!

Monday, October 19, 2020

"The Complete Windrow-Ravenswood Deck" is an Adventure in Tarot Storytelling

It's been a while since I've boosted a signal for some fellow creators here in a Monday slot, but since it's the Halloween season I wanted to shine a spotlight on a recent release from Dee Arbacauskas. If that name sounds familiar, she's the mind (and hands) behind Tormented Artifacts, and I talked about some of her leather work a while back in Get Your Hands on Some Tormented Artifacts! (Especially if You're a LARPer). However, while you should definitely take a look at her practical, wearable art, this week I want to talk about a different, unique piece of work... namely, the Windrow-Ravenswood deck.

Because it's more than just a deck of cards.

Before we get into that, though, wanted to remind folks that I have a newsletter now! So if you don't want to miss any of my weekly releases, make sure you sign up today!

All right, now, let's get into this lovely little bundle, shall we?

The Dual Story of The Windrow-Ravenswood Deck

First, let's start off with the really real story of the deck as it's told by the creator. We'll move into the juicy framing device later.

The origin of the Windrow-Ravenswood poker deck came to the creator as part of an art challenge that went more than a little out-of-control. To paraphrase her introduction, the ideas were coming to her almost faster than he could get them down on the page. While the flurry of activity resulted in some beautiful rough work, getting them cleaned up, organized, and available for purchase took time. The first run of the deck caught a lot of attention (and for good reason), and that drove further work to expand on it, and to fill in the gaps.

For example, expanding the deck by creating the Lost Arcana allowed the poker deck to transition into a full and proper tarot card deck. You can get all of this as a bundle on Drive Thru RPG, by the by. At just under $20 it is a hell of a steal!

But what's the second story?

The second story is in the Complete Windrow-Ravenswood Guidebook (not to be confused with the 2-page guide currently available for using the deck). Because in addition to being a guide to this unique tarot, offering both interpretations and translations for those familiar with more traditional decks, the book also presents us a framing for the deck's so-called founding. It paints a picture of a shadowy institute, a bizarre family lineage, and it chronicles the journey of the deck down the years. There are even several winks to the Cthulhu mythos, for those who enjoy the occasional Easter egg. Told primarily through the communiques and letters sent by "The Archivist," the book intermingles the practical aspects of using the deck with a surprisingly captivating story about the deeper, darker world from whence it hails.
While the full and complete guidebook is not currently available, it should be out in early November. Prices, according to the author, will be $11.99 for a digital copy, and $29.99 for the standard color hardback edition.

EDIT: The book is out! Take a look at The Windrow-Ravenswood Deck Guidebook!

So How Can You Use This Deck?

As everyone here knows, this is a gaming blog where I talk about RPGs. Interesting as this deck is, what does it have to do with a roleplaying games? Well, the answer is going to depend entirely on you, the games you play, and your imagination.

There are so damn many possibilities...

The first use for the deck is as a practical game piece. If you're a Chronicles of Darkness LARPer, for example, then these decks would make an ideal stack to draw from while players determine success or failure for their actions. Particularly for a Mage game, though they'd fit well enough in Vampire, Changeling, or others as well. For those who enjoy games like Savage Worlds Deluxe, this deck would be a handsome addition to the initiative pull. Especially if you're playing a game like Rippers, and you want a little extra ambiance.

Even if you're not using the deck itself as a game piece, it makes a lovely prop. Whether you're a Malkavian who believes the cards talk to them, or you want to use the cards as something left behind by a serial killer, they're something that can be interacted with. They can add an extra layer of fun to the game... especially if the players can pass them around and admire them for their beauty, and creeping dread.

The last use, and one I would suggest for any burgeoning storytellers out there who are looking for a solid world to base a Chronicles of Darkness: Mortals game or a Call of Cthulhu game in, is to adapt the cards, the setting, and the story as part of your campaign's bible going forward. While the setup could be a cousin to the SCP Foundation and other, similar creepy pastas, it's much narrower in scope, and allows you to keep things a little bit more grounded. And there are just enough references to the timeline, as well as to the sights that the Archivist witnessed, that you could attempt to ascertain what dire deeds Ravenswood committed in his pact to make this deck.

At the end of the day, it's a fun, handsome creation with unique art. Whether you use it as the basis for an entire campaign, or you just pull it out for Halloween poker nights, I seriously suggest giving the full Windrow-Ravenswood deck bundle a look, and staying tuned for when the final guidebook drops here in a few weeks!

Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday. To stay on top of all my content and releases, make sure you subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of the page!

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 cat noir thriller Marked Territory, 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, October 17, 2020

Remember, Elves Need Blacksmiths and Dwarves Need Fletchers

Archetypes are everywhere when it comes to tabletop RPGs, and the stories we tell with them. All you need to do is mention a class or race you'd see in a fantasy game, and you immediately have an image leap to your mind. When someone says elf, you probably picture a long, lithe figure holding a bow, a scimitar, or both. They probably have long, flowing hair as well. When someone says dwarf you probably picture the opposite; a bulky, bearded figure with an ax or a hammer, likely bearing armor and a shield and ready for battle (assuming you're not a Gotrek and Felix fan, that is).

If you haven't read it yet, seriously, go check it out!

This applies to other games, as well. If you say the word Ventrue to a Vampire player (Masquerade or Requiem) they'll also have a very particular image immediately spring to their minds. Likely a man in a power suit, or a woman in an elegant sheathe dress. If you say to a Werewolf: The Apocalypse player Get of Fenris that immediately calls up images that are one part Boris Vallejo and one part Harley Davidson.

To be clear, these traditional images we have of classes, clans, tribes, fantasy races, etc. in our games are not wrong. From the paladin who is a handsome, holy knight in shining armor, to the half-orc barbarian who's allergic to shirts, those archetypes became archetypes for a reason. However, at the same time, it's important to remember that they are not a requirement by any stretch of the imagination. There is more beneath the surface-level reading of what characters can be, and choosing to disregard some (or even all) of a stereotypical imagery associated with your rules chassis doesn't make you a "special snowflake" who's trying to be different.

Because if the rules don't say you must be, do, or have X,Y, and Z, then it's not a requirement for your character.

Elves Need Blacksmiths, and Dwarves Need Fletchers

Thurandill shall be your name, and you'll be as deadly as you are beautiful.

This phrase was a gold nugget that someone dropped at my feet in the White Wolf subreddit, and it's become a part of my personal philosophy (permission was granted to steal it, which is why I'm sharing it with you fine folks). Basically, any time there is a role that would be common to a society, a race, a clan, etc., there is going to be someone fulfilling that role. The dwarven smith might be the stereotypical image you think of, but there are smiths among the elves, among the orcs, the halflings, gnomes, and humans, too. There will be differences, sure, but there will also be similarities. Elves may be the ones we associate with archery, but there are half-orc and halfling longbow snipers that may be just as deadly.

And so on, and so forth.

Despite what sounds very obvious on its face, there are a lot of DMs, GMs, STs, and others who will immediately lose their cool if someone proposes a character they deem too far outside that stereotype. A character who is, "too special," "too weird," or, "too unique," so they throw on the brakes. If you find yourself in that position, I would recommend taking a step back and asking yourself why you're doing that? Because as long as a character concept follows all the rules, and is consistent with the lore and physics of a setting, what do you gain by denying your players something they want to play?

Think Deeper, Think Broader

The stereotypes in our games are meant to be a starting off point, but they're by no means the law of the land. Unless the rules expressly state something is required, then enforcing that status quo does nothing but narrow the potential of your setting, your characters, and your players. It puts additional limits on our flights of fancy, whose only limits should be the agreed-upon rules of the setting and game.

And we've got enough of those to deal with as is.

To be clear, I'm not saying you can immediately ignore anything that gets in the way of your character concept. If there's a particular form of magic only accessible to those of elven blood, then only characters who have the proper DNA can learn and harness that magic. If you can only learn a certain fighting style at a particular temple, and from a particular teacher, then you need to have that as part of your backstory. And so on, and so forth.

But if there is nothing in the setting or rules that creates a requirement for a character to possess the skills they have, or to look or act the way they do? You get a lot more out of disregarding the stereotype in favor of saying to your players, "All right, lay it out for me. How did they get like this?"

If someone wants to play a half-orc barbarian who was adopted and raised by the duke and his husband, where does it say in the setting rules that this mounted fury who's infamous on the melee field during tournaments isn't a valid concept? If someone wants to play a Ventrue in your vampire game, but instead of a business suit and a red tie he wears leathers and runs a motorcycle gang of ghouls like a pack of Old West desperadoes, what do you gain by telling the player they can't do that? If a player has a broad-shouldered armorer with rippling thews and a grip that can crush a man's skull, why would you insist they play a dwarf instead of an elf if their concept is based entirely around being an elven smith who maintains old elven relics while attempting to recreate the styles of the old masters?

Pick your battles, and work with your players so that they can be happy with the characters they're bringing to your game. It really does set the tone for everything else.

Additional Reading and Thoughts

This isn't exactly a new concept, so I thought I'd leave some links to times I've talked about this before. Not to get too repetitive, but I thought it would be of interest to some folks. Also, while I have your attention, my new supplement A Baker's Dozen of Fantasy Vigilantes just dropped today! I'm pretty excited about that, and I wanted to bring it up. Also, if you want to make sure you never miss any of my updates and fresh content, consider signing up for my newsletter! One update goes out every week, recapping all the news and releases in a single missive.

- DMs, Learn To Take Your Foot Off The Brake: One of my more recent talks on this subject, a DM looking for reasons to say no instead of reasons to say yes is one of the most common causes of table enthusiasm flagging, then going out entirely.

- Everything is Weird in Fantasy RPGs (But That's Not How You Make a Character Stand Out): A reminder that just because something is weird or unusual in your experience, that doesn't mean it's all that strange by the standards of the setting.

- DMs, Please Stop Arbitrarily Limiting Race Choice in Your Games: There are few things more frustrating than showing up to a game that is full of possibilities, and then being told you can only play characters of X, Y, and Z races, for reasons. You want your players enthused, and you don't do that by narrowing down their options for no reason.

Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!

That's all for this week's Fluff post!

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 alley cat thriller Marked Territory, 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, October 12, 2020

Game Masters, Make Sure The General Populace Actually Reacts To The Party

The figure came in from the mist like a spirit out of some dark tale. With shoulders like battlements, and a black, ragged cloak drawn up against the mist, his black mail was visible to all those who cared to look. The steel was hard-used, but more than that, it was wound through with symbols that hurt the eye to follow. Even those who couldn't read the runes could feel the palpable air of violence baking off of the armor, and of the warrior who bore it. His right hand was encased in a steel gauntlet covered in wicked looking spikes, and the hilt of the sword bore a blood ruby; the symbol of a champion of the Dread Lords.
The dark warrior's boot heels rang like a knocking on a coffin as he entered the inn. The innkeep, a florid-faced man, looked up with a smile on his face.
"Hail, traveler," he said, smiling cheerfully. "Will you be needing a room? If so I have fair rates, but no funny business or I'll have you out in the street, mark me."
The warrior glanced around the room. The maids continued on their routes. The drunks kept on drinking. One man with ragged hair and beard stubble glared at the black-garbed nightmare, and shouted a challenge at him. The figure frowned, shook his head, and sighed.
"How many towns like this do I have to slaughter before you have my character's reputation precede him, Jerry?" he asked, taking out his cursed blade.
Because I will seriously do this until you give me some goddamn respect!

The Setting's Reaction Matters (So Tailor It Appropriately)

Anyone who's ever played a video game has had that experience where the reaction of the characters around you just doesn't fit the character you're playing, or the actions you've recently taken. Maybe you just murdered five town militia in the street, yet when you walk over to the merchant he gives you the same stock line as always, and is more than happy to sell you whatever you need as you stand there covered in blood with cooling bodies no more than half a dozen feet away. Maybe you exude black shadows from your eyes, and your hands are constantly dripping blood from your dark marks of devotion to the lords of slaughter, but for some reason every farmer-turned-bandit thinks you're an easy mark.

It breaks our immersion, but in a video game we sort of accept it. There's only so many reactions you can program into characters, after all. But in a tabletop game, this is a major sin that I've seen over and over again in genre after genre. My fellow game masters, I entreat you, please make sure the setting reacts to the PCs as individuals. I guarantee you that the energy you get out of your players is going to make it more than worth the effort.

Those are nasty bloodstains, friend. Care for a shoe shine?

Now, to be clear, I'm not saying reactions always have to be positive, or that they have to be big and showy. They simply need to be individual, rather than a canned response that will read the same no matter which member of the party is stepping up to the interaction.
Even more importantly, the reactions need to be based on what the NPCs see, what knowledge they might have, and what signals the PC in question is putting out. So take into consideration every aspect of a character; what they look like, how they act, what their reputation is (more on that in Character Reputation in RPGs: The Small Legend), and even if they're bearing badges or arms that would send signals to a particular NPC that they need to modify their behavior. Hell, just being prettier or more fearsome can tip the scales one way or another.

This Applies To Every Aspect of The Game

Whether the party is walking into a store to make some purchases, having a night at the inn drinking, facing down bandits on the highway, or riding up to the lord's manor to present themselves, the world needs to react to how the decisions they make and what actions they take. Because it is that response that shows the players' actions matter, and that there will be consequences for the things they do... or don't do.

The lord recognizes your livery, and greets you with respect.

As a for-instance, take the character of Asurai Vaile. An enchantress who works her arts subtly, all that's known about her to most is that she's a diplomat who appears to have wealth. Most think that her bodyguard Murdak is the true threat. It isn't until things go sideways that their enemies realize she's a self-taught wizard, and at that point it may be too late for them to correct their course. By keeping her spellcasting on the down low, and relying more on subtle spells and raw skills, Asurai wouldn't be known as a great wonder worker to many people. They would likely respect her position, her money, or both, but the deference wouldn't be due to her powers unless the character in question had some reason to know about them (they'd spied on her, rumors were circulating, or perhaps she'd had to unleash a spell to defend herself publicly in a recent assassination attempt).

At the other end of that, though, is Murdak. An imposing orc with the unique trident-shaved hairstyle, he's marked out as a master of the Three Mountain Storms style. Even those who don't recognize that hallmark would be able to feel the static charge in the air from his falcata Thunder Fang, and note the tattoos encircling his arms and creeping up his throat. Everything from how he moves, to the scars on his hands, to the mystic weapon at his hip, marks him out as someone who is not to be trifled with. NPCs who should have knowledge of what his markings mean should address him appropriately (others trained in that fighting style, those who are from the area where it is well known, etc.). Even those who can't read the marks and know their specific meaning, though, should be able to assess the threat Murdak presents, and to treat him appropriately. Potent warriors, high-level spellcasters, or NPCs who believe their position insulates them from violence may still be dismissive, or attempt to goad him, but that should be because it's in-character for those NPCs to act that way, not because they would have delivered the same lines to whatever party member they happened to talk to.

Different aspects of a character are going to hit differently depending on the circumstances. A full-blooded elf in a place where elves are rare may be greeted as far more important than they are, with people treating them almost like a comet or a famed celebrity; someone to be seen before they vanish again. They might even have backward beliefs about how elves bring good luck, or that they can grant wishes, simply because the populace has never seen one and have only stories. Someone bearing the badge and regalia of a well-known knightly order may be able to overcome trepidation or suspicion that would normally fall on an outsider, especially if the individual bearing the badge is bizarre, unusual, or even monstrous in their appearance. The same goes for someone wearing a noble's livery or a guild uniform, marking them out as a person who has the protection of a patron.

And that's before we get into things like the raw, physical size many adventurers boast (or don't boast in the case of gnomes, halflings, and other small races), what auras they may have, what powers they do or don't display, and how common people with those abilities are in a particular area. If sorcerers are a dime a dozen (as they might be in a city that boasts a mage's college) then one more arcane caster isn't going to be that big of a deal. In a town where magic is mostly something you hear about in fairy tales, then even a cantrip is going to be something to drop jaws.

It may sound hard to tailor every interaction, reaction, etc. to the party, but it's an easy habit to maintain once you get into it. It also helps you get more into the perspective of the NPCs you're portraying to ask, "What do they see? How does this make them feel? Are the excited? Afraid? Awed? Dismissive? Disbelieving?" Because it's the little things that make the game really stand out, and which will keep your players' enthusiasm running throughout a campaign.

Additional Reading and Inspiration

For GMs and players alike who'd like some flags to add to their characters to help clue-in the world around them, you might find the following supplements by yours truly to be of-interest.

- 100 Knightly Orders: As it says on the tin, 100 orders complete with their flavor, history, and often times a touch of heraldry. For those who are less noble, you can get the same inspiration out of 100 Random Mercenary Companies.

- 100 Gangs For Your Urban Campaigns: Out in the wilds they're called bandits, but in cities we call them gangs. If your PC used to run with a particular outfit (or still does) then what colors do they wear, and how does the population of the city react to them?

- 100 Fantasy Guilds: If you're a guild rep, that's going to carry authority depending on the size and strength of the guild in question. So whether you're a Witcher or a tax collector, this supplement has all sorts of organizations you could add in for membership, and public reaction.
Lastly, if you want to make sure you don't miss any of my updates again, make sure you subscribe to The Literary Mercenary's newsletter list! I put out one update every week, and it helps make sure readers don't miss a thing.

Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday. To stay on top of all my content and releases, make sure you subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of the page!

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 cat noir thriller Marked Territory, 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, October 10, 2020

Guns Really Aren't As Powerful As You Think in Pathfinder

It has been nearly 10 years since Ultimate Combat dropped from Paizo, and with it the gunslinger class. And despite having had the following conversation in dozens of different forums, Facebook groups, and threads, I figured that I'd collect this all in one place in order to create a simple, easy-to-reference piece for any game runners out there who are worried that guns are just "too powerful" for your game.

They're really not. And I can break down why pretty easily.

There's about to be a lot of shots fired.

Also, for those who want to make sure they don't miss any of my updates, consider subscribing to my newsletter! And if at the end of this you've got a hankering for putting a shooter on your table, then consider checking out my Pathfinder character conversions for The Punisher, Doc Holliday, and John Wick.
Lastly, if you're looking for high-caliber action with the sort of guns that are as powerful as a lot of players seem to think, then you should really take a look at the Savage Company Campaign Setting as well as the recently released Savage Company Infantryman's Handbook. That's where you'll find the big guns.

Lastly, if you're looking for some additional fun and flavor, then you might want to check out my 5 Tips For Playing Better Gunslingers. Honestly, I think it's one of the more instructive articles in that particular series.

Let's Talk About The Touch Attack

The thing that gets a lot of people wound up is the fact that firearms are touch attacks. But a lot of players and game masters alike seem to skip past all of the fine print and qualifications that actually puts this into perspective.

Just some provisos... some quid pro quo...

First of all, an early firearm (the sort you're going to have access to in an average game run by the core setting's rules, or which you acquire as a class feature as a gunslinger) is only a touch attack within the first range increment. After that it takes the normal -2 to attack for distance, and resolves against standard armor class. That usually means you have to be within 20 feet to 50 feet at the very longest, which is more than close enough for the angry enemy they shot to charge them on their turn.

Secondly, a touch attack is not some huge upset that's going to reduce difficulty to nearly nothing. Size modifiers, Dexterity modifiers, cover, concealment, and a slew of other things still apply. Ducking behind a rock, or planting a tower shield, is often enough to keep one safe from even the deadliest gunfighter. Because it's true that someone firing a pistol is more likely to hit their target than they would if they were firing a hand crossbow... but it's no more likely than if they were shooting a wand with a ray spell. And chances are good the ray is going to have a lot better range.

Guns Aren't All That Powerful On Their Own

The other misconception people seem to have is that firearms are this encounter-killing mechanic that completely wrecks challenge level if they're present. Smaller firearms deal 1d6 of damage, and the largest reasonable two-handed firearm deals 1d12 damage. The double hackbutt deals 2d12 but it is not something you can easily acquire, and the damn thing is wheelbarrow-mounted, so it's not something players should be walking around with unless you're allowing ogrekin at your table.

And if you're doing that nonsense, guns are really a drop in the bucket.

Sure, it's a touch attack. If you're playing a character with a full BAB and a decent Dexterity score, chances are pretty good you're going to hit your target barring other obstacles (there's no concealment, they're within the first range increment, etc.). But if you hit, you've done either the equivalent of a short sword, or a great ax blow. Can that kill an enemy at low levels? Sure, if you're lucky it will blast a goblin's head off, or reduce a skeleton to a pile of bone dust. But even rolling max damage on that attack after a couple of levels is just going to annoy the monster, and mark the shooter out as a target. And if there's more than one threat present on the field, you likely won't have enough bullets to go around.

And the numbers only get worse as you level up.

Guns by themselves aren't a huge threat to one's enemies; they need something to dovetail with them in order to actually be effective. For instance, combining a gun with sneak attack is a great way to deal a lot of damage really quickly, without the need to rely on a spell to get a touch attack. If a gun is combined with class features that let you use them in unique ways (such as the gunsliner's deeds), or with a class that adds bonus damage (precision damage, adding Dexterity modifier to firearm damage, etc.) then that is quickly going to beef them up. Even something like the ranged magus archetype, or the spellslinger wizard archetype that lets you combine your gun with spells is going to give you more bang for your buck. Gunslinging paladins will dole out some serious harshness on devils, demons, and undead if they combine a shotgun with smite. And so on, and so forth.

But just the gun all by itself? Not that much of a threat. Especially when you consider some of the following...

They're Expensive (Both To Acquire, And To Use)

Guns are probably the most expensive non-magical weapons in the game. It's one reason that gunslingers are just handed a busted gat at level one, and why only they can use it without penalty. Basic guns can cost hundreds to thousands of gold just to acquire, and that's without any special abilities, masterwork detailing, etc.
We're discounting the fire lance here, because again it's the exceptions that prove the rule.

What did it cost? GDP of a mid-sized nation, since you ask.

And if you do want to buff up your firearms to be sure you can overcome damage reduction, and get some extra elemental effects or special abilities added to your shooting irons? Then you're pouring most of your gold into those upgrades. When you add in the cost of black powder, alchemical cartridges, and other aspects of firearm use, they suck up your adventuring earnings pretty damn fast. There are specific magic items that let you get around those costs, but again, you need to either find or make them.

Financial costs aren't the only thing to consider when it comes to firearm use, though; they're also fairly rare in a lot of locations. So if a player can't fix or modify the weapon themselves, and you're not in an area of the map where there are going to be gunsmiths about, that's going to create a problem. Guns are also pretty feat intensive if you want to really make them effective, and that goes double if you aren't marrying them to a potent class feature like the ones mentioned above.

First, you need proficiency in the weapon to avoid the -4 penalty (this is usually gained from a class feature, but not always). Then you need to acquire several ranged combat feats, such as Point Black Shot and Precise Shot to avoid penalties for shooting into melee while getting a small attack and damage boost. Rapid Reload is often a necessity, because much like crossbows guns can be an absolute ass-ache to keep loaded as combat goes on. Deadly Aim is often necessary for boosting your damage with these weapons, but it's a feat that you get the biggest benefit from when you have a full BAB. For those who want to make every shot count, feats like Vital Strike may be worthwhile. The Gunsmithing feat is often required for keeping guns repaired and loaded, and if a player isn't playing a gunslinger they may not get it for free.

In summary, if you're going to use guns effectively, that's where a great deal of your monetary resources, and your character resources, are going to go. Especially if they aren't just a convenient delivery system for a spell or a sneak attack.

They Come With Built-In Drawbacks

Guns have a lot of drawbacks that you need to overcome in order to use them effectively. Their relatively short range is one, and their expense is another. As mentioned, they can also be murder on your action economy, requiring you to really cut corners, or rely on spells and special abilities to make sure that you've always got a round in the pipe.

They can also blow up in your face.

Guys... I think Flint rolled another 1!

If you roll particularly low on an attack with an early firearm, then you have to deal with misfires. And misfires can cost you... especially if you're a player who rolls a lot of natural 1s, the way I tend to. While there are ways to downplay or negate misfires, their probability also increases when you do things like utilize alchemical cartridges... so they're going to happen at least a few times.

The other major built-in drawback of a firearm is powder. Black powder and ammunition is subject to water, subject to fire, and to all sorts of other situational issues. So if an enemy uses spells to ruin ammunition, or if a gunslinger gets caught in a dragon's breath weapon or a fireball, that incident could become far more costly than it otherwise might have been. Even something like being bullrushed into a river could destroy the ammunition in their weapon, as well as the bullets in their cartridge belt. And even when it does go off, it's loud as hell, which can alert other encounters there's something going on next door.

These are things you can overcome. There are items and magic cases that safeguard your equipment, as well as spells that can silence your area, but those also play into the cost of using a firearm in a hostile world. And while a game master may opt not to use these particular weaknesses to avoid ruining a player's fun and frustrating them, they are still there, and still viable.

Any Weapon Can Be Overpowered In The Right Hands

Hey there... heard someone was talking shit about archers?

I've been at a lot of tables over the years, and I've seen players crack out every, single weapon you could use. From frenzied berserkers whose greatswords can cleave dragons in half, to dagger-wielding assassins that tore encounters apart, to a wizard that turned a first-level spell into a nuclear hellstorm by applying just the right combination of feats, boosts, and metamagic rods... the weapon by itself was just one aspect of the character.

More to the point, though, I've seen a lot of game masters who end up getting steam-rolled by the party not because the party's too powerful, but because they aren't utilizing any sort of strategy for their villains.

I talked about this more in Party Balance is Mostly a Myth. Instead, Ask How You're Challenging The Party, but it bears repeating. Every character is going to be strong in some situations, and not as strong in others. If a target is within relatively close range and has a low touch AC, that is the gunfighter's time to shine. If a target has a high damage reduction, the ability to deflect bullets, is under a lot of cover, or is shrouded by illusion, then they're far more likely to end up shooting at shadows and not doing a whole hell of a lot while someone else steps up to get the job done.

If a gun could completely destroy your game's challenge, step back and ask why? Especially when you consider all of the weaknesses, limitations, and required support from class features, feats, etc. it takes to make these weapons really dangerous.

Lastly, a Note on Genre

This is Crunch week, and as such I've been largely focusing on the mechanical aspects of firearms (and particularly early firearms) as they're written for Pathfinder's first edition. As such, I have not gotten into setting, conventions, etc.

But I feel that should be addressed.

If you are running a Pathfinder campaign set in Golarion, then firearms are a part of that setting canon. If you are running a different setting (possibly one of your own design) where firearms do not exist, then they are not a part of that setting canon. Some players love guns in their fantasy settings, some players hate them, and some players are indifferent regarding their presence. But that is a discussion you can have on its own merits.

By the numbers, though, guns are not that big of a deal by themselves in a mechanical sense. As long as you run them as they're written, and track all of the things associated with their use, they're barely be a blip on the radar regarding challenge. You aren't required to use them at your table, but if the mechanics are really your concern, you can put that concern to bed.

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 alley cat noir novel Marked Territory, 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.