Saturday, January 30, 2021

5 Challenges You Have To Deal With in Every Pathfinder Adventure Path

Though I've been playing Pathfinder for years now, I've only completed a handful of the campaigns Paizo has produced. At time of writing I've crossed off Curse of The Crimson Throne, Mummy's Mask, Carrion Crown, and Rise of The Runelords, and while there's plenty more for me to do, I wanted to weigh in on something this week. Because every adventure path I've played (and every homebrew campaign too, if I'm honest) will have certain challenges you need to plan for. Having the counter to the following situations is often the difference between victory and defeat.

So without further ado...

#1: Flying Enemies

The sorceress has what? Oh son of a bitch...

As someone who loves nothing more than playing a melee bruiser with a great weapon, this is one I've felt the pain of more times than I can count. Whether it's gargoyles that swoop down out of the darkness to slash at you before flapping away again, or a necromancer that hovers up out of convenient smashing range, you are going to have to deal with a lot of flying enemies in any Pathfinder game.

My experience is that these threats can start as early as 2nd level (with small enemies like imps and quasits), but that by level 4-5 it's going to become fairly common. By the time you hit double digit levels, you should assume that every lieutenant villain can probably fly, and that every big boss is going to take to their air as soon as the party enters their lair.

How To Deal With It

The easiest way to deal with this issue at lower levels is to make sure you've got a spell/wand up your sleeve, or a crossbow slung on your back. Even if you're not playing a character who's specialized in archery, being able to send an arrow up at a manticore or a dragon can make a big difference.

Alternatively, you need to have some means to get yourself airborne. Whether it's having a party member cast fly on you, keeping a potion in your bandolier, getting a magic item like boots or armor that gives you a flight speed, or playing a race like aasimar, strix, etc. that can gain a flight speed through a trait or a feat, anything that puts you on equal footing with the enemy levels the playing field. This option is harder, and more expensive, but a lot more viable if you're a melee brute who wants to charge into battle sword-swinging like a Renaissance painting of a war in heaven.

#2: Damage Reduction

The golem doesn't seem to register that you actually hit it.

There are few things more frustrating than building up a character who packs a wallop, only to come up across an enemy that can shrug off your mightiest blows like they were butterfly kisses.

Again, this is a threat that will vary depending on the game in question. You can deal with this as early as 1st and 2nd level (again with tiny flitting nuisances like quasits or with undead like skeletons), but it grows far more common by level 4 or 5. From demons and devils to werewolves, living statues, and other hard-to-hurt creatures, damage reduction is one of the primary defenses you're going to have to overcome.

How To Deal With It

At early levels the most common form of damage reduction you're going to run into is against bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing weapon damage. So your best bet is to have one of every kind on-hand, just in case. Weapons that deal two kinds of damage, like a morning star or spiked gauntlet (bludgeoning and piercing), or a dagger (slashing and piercing) are ideal in this situation. If you're doing a lot of ranged attacking, Clustered Shots is a feat that will save your life as it allows you to deal all your damage from your iterative attacks, and just remove the DR once rather than on every hit.

When you start getting into more specific damage reduction that requires things like silver, cold iron, magic, certain alignment, etc., that's when things get tougher. If you're in a game with a lot of evil enemies, the easy fix is a paladin (since smite ignores all of a target's damage reduction). And while you can invest in materials like adamantine, silver, cold iron, and so forth for your weapons, there's actually a trick a lot of us overlook.

As page 562 of the Core Rulebook points out, the more powerful your weapon's enhancement bonus is, the more forms of DR it ignores. If you have a +3 weapon, it ignores silver and cold iron DR. A +4 weapon also ignores adamantine. A +5 weapon ignores alignment-based DR. While getting a +5 magic weapon isn't easy, classes like the paladin, magus, warpriest, etc. who can enhance their weapons with bonus enchantments during combat can most easily take advantage of this particular strategy.

#3: Energy Resistance

It's what kind of elemental? Ah shit...

This one varies a lot more than some others on the list, but my experience is that it starts becoming a real issue around level 5 or so. Because while there are going to be plenty of enemies who are just human bandits, or orc raiders, or goblins, that 4-5 range is when you start dealing with summoned devils, native outsiders, elemental creatures, and so on, and so forth. By the time you hit higher levels you're dealing with dragons and fiends, and that's when we have enemies who are immune to certain elements, rather than simply being resistant.

And that can put a big cramp in your style.

How To Deal With It

The first option is to pick an element that the fewest possible enemies are immune/resistant to. Sonic damage is one that rarely crops up, while fire and cold are perhaps the most common, quickly followed by electricity. Acid is hit or miss, but the deeper underground you go, the more things will be resistant or immune to acid as well.

A more functional approach is to ensure you have some way to switch the elemental damage you're flinging around so you can key it to the fight you're actually in. Elemental bloodline sorcerers, as a prime example, can swap any element in a spell to their bloodline element, which gives them some wiggle room. Alternatively, simply filling different spell slots with different elements ensures that you've got a wider bag of tricks to pull from. If you're a class that can add enhancements to their weapons, like the ones mentioned previously, it's best to change-up the formula based on what enemies you're actually dealing with.

Lastly, remember to keep other options on-hand. Debuffing spells can often reduce an enemy's defenses, allowing the rest of the party to gain the upper hand in a fight where your duties as an artillery piece won't get the job done.

#4: Ability Damage

Yes, Samantha, three wisdom damage for you.

The bane of combatants and cleric-less parties everywhere, ability damage (and its omega-form, ability drain) are going to come at you sooner or later. If you're in a game with a lot of undead you could be dealing with this at fairly low levels. Damage starts getting converted to drain somewhere around levels 11-13, and it might come from poison, spells, special abilities, or any of a slew of other things.

But while we all hate it, it's going to happen. So we'd best be prepped for it.

How To Deal With It

The simple answer is to make sure you've got a cleric, an oracle, or someone else in your party that can cure that damage/drain when it occurs. Lesser restoration isn't too bad as far as cost, but actual restoration can get pricey if you're constantly getting in front of serious trauma that ticks down your Strength, Constitution, or even your level!

Alternatively, make sure you have defenses in place to either negate this hit in the first place, or which allow you to ignore the negatives.

I mentioned a lot of these in 5 Ways To Sidestep Hits in Pathfinder (Without Magic), but they can be literal life savers in these circumstances. Devils that can deal Constitution drain with a touch attack can't land that blow if your swashbuckler parries the hit. The necromancer's enervation isn't going to land if the fighter has the Ray Shield feat. The poison arrow that would deal Dexterity drain has no effect on the hag bloodline bloodrager who's immune to poison. And the dhampir can just shrug off negative level penalties as if they aren't there at all... at least until the effects kill them.

Unless you're in an undead-centric campaign, you probably don't need to build your character around avoiding this kind of harm. It is going to crop up, though, which is why you need to be prepared to deal with it when it eventually rears its ugly head.

#5: Mind Control

Who knows what dangers lurks in this campaign? The Shadow knows...

This happens in every, single adventure path I've played through. The party walks into the villain's lair, the villain casts their first spell. The fighter, barbarian, ranger, etc. suddenly decides the rest of the party is their enemy, turns and begins doing their very best to kill their allies. It's one of the most frustrating situations you could deal with, because it has all the negative emotions attached to PvP, but it's initiated by the bad guys.

The baby version of this is when players are hit by spells like confusion which can leave them sidelined for the fight. One of the more common versions of this is a vampire's dominate ability (a CR 9 creature), but more potent enchantments and compulsions will become an issue typically around level 11-13 or so. And it's something you've got to be prepared to deal with.

How To Deal With It

Again, the easy answer is to play a paladin. This class is a force of "no," and one of their biggest advantages is their ability to ignore mind control and enchantments at higher levels, and to ignore fear effects fairly early on. They also bolster the saves of their allies with their aura, which can be a huge boon.

That said, the next best thing to playing a character with their own personal immunities is to make sure that you always have a protection from evil (or whatever alignment you're facing if evil isn't applicable) spell ready to hand. Whether it's a wand, a potion, a spell-like ability, or a mass cast from the cleric, warpriest, abjurer, etc., this spell is a literal life saver. In addition to the small bonus it gives to your AC and saves, and the fact that summoned evil creatures can't physically touch you, it means you're immune to outside mind control effects if you get the shield up soon enough. Even if you don't, and the fighter is starting to turn on the party, you can hit them with the spell to grant them another save, and a bonus to help mitigate the damage.

Other than that, dispel magic is always a good spell to have on-hand, and if you want to bring in elements of a wizard's duel you could try to counterspell the caster. That gets into who's got the higher initiative, though, and that may not be a strategy you want to use if this is only an occasional threat that you want to prevent with an easy-access, low-level protective spell.

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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.

Monday, January 25, 2021

5 Rules Light RPGs (That I'd Actually Recommend Playing)

Most regular readers know that, given the choice, I will take a rules-heavy RPG over a rules light one any day of the week. I enjoy being able to really tinker with systems, customize characters in meaningful ways, and explore a wide and varied toolkit of options. With that said, I understand there are also players out there who like a game they can pick up and play with minimal learning curve, and who don't need an extensive underlying skeleton to enjoy the game; they just want to get into the action.

If you're one of those players (or you just feel the need to put your complex planning instincts on a shelf for a little while), there's plenty of stuff out there to try. And if you haven't tried the following games, these are a few that I would actually recommend along with what I think makes them a cut above the competition.

#1: Grimm

Get your hands on it if you can.

Sadly it seems like Fantasy Flight's Grimm is out of print at time of writing, though I'd highly recommend checking back from time to time to see if a copy resurfaces... because this game is great!

Originally a complicated offshoot of the D20 Modern line, Fantasy Flight stripped Grimm down to its essentials. Players take on the role of children lost in the horrific realm of the Grimm Lands, and they have to figure out a way to survive and escape using only their wits and imagination! The game takes about 10 minutes to learn, and really takes nothing more than 2d6 to play. It's cut down, super simple, and the world it's set in is strange and bizarre enough that the archetypal nature of the classes sort of fits the theme. While the kids are still characters, they're also very clearly being pressed into broad archetypes of children, and allowed to fill traditional roles in a story.

I gave this one the top slot for a reason.

#2: Feng Shui

Hong Kong action theater, anyone?

Feng Shui was the first time I'd ever played a rules-light game, and it was an engaging experience. Billing itself as a Hong Kong action style game, it's far more concerned with the story beats, cinematic descriptions, and awesome look of a scene, rather than in overly complicated die rolls, precise distances on a map, or the exact radius of the explosion caused by the grenade you threw.

What really makes this game work is that it leans into the cinematic conceit, making it something of a ball for fans of action films who want to let loose their inner John Woo. My two cents, that's the key to enjoyment; if you lose that, "This is supposed to be a movie," feeling then the game is going to start going sour pretty soon.

#3: Savage Worlds

If you're going to get one game, get this one.

Some folks might argue that Savage Worlds doesn't belong on this list because it provides you with a huge variety of options and game genres you can play. However, a rules light game is one with relatively simple mechanics, and in my experience you can teach someone to play this game in about half an hour or so. Most questions they've got will be completely answered within the first hour of a given session, and from that point onward they're good to go.

Where Savage Worlds really excels is in the sheer variety of genres and settings it offers, all using this simple, near-universal system. Whether you want to do Weird West shenanigans in Deadlands Reloaded, or you want to stalk monsters through the London back alleys in Rippers Resurrected, there's something for every taste with this game!

#4: Pie Shop

This is one of the weird ones.

Pie Shop is one of the most bizarre RPGs I have ever played. In case the Sweeney Todd reference didn't give it away, you and all the other players are serial killers. There's no metaphysical happenings, no demons, no vampires... you're all just deeply disturbed individuals who feel a compulsive need to murder other people.

What makes Pie Shop so strange is that in order to create a workable premise for a party (since serial killers so often work alone) you almost have to put together some bizarre, fantastical setup. Whether it's a dark web gladiatorial bout, or a government experiment using murderers as disposable assassins, or some underground convention of crazed killers, it can get ridiculous.

My two cents; embrace the discomfort of the premise as it's delivered. This is a game for adults, and if you feel squirmy playing it don't worry... that just means you're not really a serial killer on the inside.

#5: Dread

Ah... we meet again.

If you haven't heard about Dread, what makes this game infamous is that it has a particularly unique mechanic. In short, it uses a Jenga tower instead of dice, cards, or something else to determine the results of your actions. Even if you're good at moving the pieces in one of these tower games, the very mechanics of Dread means that sooner or later one of your actions is going to fail. And when the tower comes down, that's lights-out for your character.

That said, if you want to give the rest of the table a chance, you can opt to knock the tower over to sacrifice yourself to save the others.

I will add a caveat to this endorsement, however. Because while Dread is a phenomenal system for running one-shot horror games where it's likely that most (if not all) of the characters are going to die horrible deaths before the night is done, the game is not really good for anything beyond that. This makes it an extremely niche activity that's really more use for seasonal one-offs or occasional light fare... you're not going to get a long-running campaign out of this unless you pull a Friday the 13th and the only recurring character is whatever monster the GM keeps killing you all with!

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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, January 23, 2021

That One Time I Single-Handedly Screwed Up a Vampire/Changeling Crossover Event

In addition to being a regular tabletop player, I'm usually down for a good LARP (before we were surviving a global pandemic, anyway), and though Changeling: The Lost was always my favorite game to attend, the organization I was part of also ran Vampire: The Requiem games. Since they were often held on the same day, in the same location, I tended to stick around and just make a full day out of it.

This is a tale of how I unknowingly turned myself into a monkey wrench, and screwed up something like 6 months worth of behind-the-scenes setup and planning with little more than malice, and a phone call.

When the stranger calls, nothing good will happen.

For those who are curious, this game was run using the Chronicles of Darkness Mind's Eye Theatre system, and all of those books are currently for sale in a bundle on Drive Thru RPG! Also, for those who don't want to miss any of my further updates, don't forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter to get all my freshest content sent straight to your inbox.

And now, on with the story...

The Doctor and The Monster

One of my favorite character archetypes to play is an homage to Jekyll and Hyde, and for the vampire game I'd had Dr. Henry Marks approved by the organization. Henry had the unique mutation of the Malkovian bloodline, and he would have occasional black outs where he couldn't remember what had been happening. A clinical psychiatrist, his creator had hoped that his knowledge would be a boon to understanding what had gone wrong within the bloodline, and how they could fix it. Quickly recruited into the Ordo Dracul, Henry spent his every waking hour attempting to understand the nuances and limitations of the unlife he found himself living.

Edward, on the other hand, had his own perverse interest in Henry's work. For while Henry wouldn't acknowledge him, Edward peered from behind Henry's eyes. He took the findings of the doctor, and applied them to his (often brutal) activities.

Murder is so banal... I call it "field research".

If this unlikely duo sounds familiar, it's because I told a story about them several months back in That One Time I Shocked Storytellers By Solving Vampire Plot With Violence.

A Strange Set of Circumstances

Henry and Edward had been doing their bloody dance for some time when a strange phenomenon began to occur in the city. The Elysium, which was typically safeguarded mystically as well as physically, had been... exposed. The protections that typically kept them hidden in plain sight had vanished. That was distressing in and of itself, but what prompted Henry to call it an early evening while Edward shouldered himself into the driver's seat was that the sheriff and his staff seemed completely indifferent to the massive hole in the Elysium's security.

Which is why Edward decided to have a bit of fun.

The first thing he did, just to test the limits, was to Obfuscate his way into the Elysium. This normally would have been prevented by the wards, but since they were down it allowed him to start some minor mischief. Mostly just to amuse himself, and to see just how lethargic the guards were. He kept escalating, but there was no push back of any kind. No one told him to stop... or attempted to make him stop.

That was frustrating, but since I had to call it an early night to drive back home, I laid down one last card. Elysium that night was being held in one of Chicago's museums in a private party. The theme was a murder mystery, but vampires being vampires they were using real blood, and authentic body parts. It was a grisly scene... and Edward simply dropped a quarter and made a call to the police from one of the museum's few remaining pay phones. He told the police there were bodies, blood everywhere, and maybe two dozen people; hard to tell if they were the killers, witnesses, or something else. He gave the address, then hung up the phone and walked into the night laughing at his own practical joke.

The Massive (Unexpected) Fallout

Because this was a Vampire game, and several players had their characters in the city's influence circles, I had assumed this last trick would be a minor inconvenience. Someone would get a phone call tipping them off that the cops were inbound, the gathered kindred could put together a plan, and either bribe, bully, or use their unique powers to "convince" the police it was all a false alarm. Just someone trying to cause trouble. A little evening excitement, but nothing more.

Hoo boy was I wrong on that score.

What do you mean that was a load-bearing plot?

It seems that, despite the amount of opulent wealth and underworld ties among the kindred populace, none of them had actually bought and paid for the police. None of them owned the district attorney's office, and it seemed none of them had the proper disciplines or skill set to take a handful of mortal cops (tooled up for a raid as they were), and bend their minds to seeing things the kindreds' way.

So what should have been a minor inconvenience blew up the entire venue for the night!

A handful of kindred actually surrendered, going to jail for several hours. Others fled, using their disciplines to shift forms and escape the net closing around the museum. All in all, about half the venue got away and reconvened elsewhere, forming a plan to spring the rest out of jail before the sun came up and seriously complicated things for maintaining the masquerade.

But that was only a part of what was going on.

Unbeknownst to me, the heads of the Vampire and Changeling venues had been trying to work out some crossover plot for months at that point. The irregularities in the protections of Elysium was one of the signs of the two spheres coming too close to one another and causing disruptions. There were upcoming plots that were planned for Changeling that involved the museums, weak points between reality and the Hedge, and agents of the true fae... and those were going to bleed over (pun very much intended) into Vampire.

Or at least they were going to, until I unknowingly set the charges and blew all that up with a touch of chaos.

Lessons Learned

As I've said before, communication is the most important part of running a game... doubly so for running LARPs where there are multiple storytellers and all kinds of plot plates spinning on sticks. And from what I heard in the post-action from the ST staff, one reason everything slid so far out of control was that not everyone was briefed on what was happening, so they didn't know they were supposed to be trying to preserve this scene to act as the linchpin for the plan... and by the time I'd unknowingly kicked the plan in the nuts, it was too late to ret con it without causing even further problems.

I would like to believe that had all storytellers been given a briefing on the import of that night's planned events, then the NPC who took my call at the police station would have just rolled their eyes, and written it off as a prank call. Maybe sent around a single squad car to poke around before filing it away as a false report. As a player, I would have been more than all right with an action that would have been hugely disruptive getting set aside if it meant the big plan could come to fruition that evening.

Looking back on it, this is one of the only actions I wish I hadn't taken during that chronicle. Because I was one of the most vocal players about how crossover games would be great... and nobody took me aside and told me to keep my hands in my pockets for an evening to make that happen. So storytellers, be advised, don't play things too close to the chest if you want to avoid problems; keeping folks on the same page is important for getting the game to progress in the direction you're hoping.

What's Next on Table Talk?

That's it for this installment of Table Talk! Hopefully other folks learn a lesson or two from this one.

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, January 18, 2021

Game Masters, Make Sure You Run The Setting Everyone Agreed To Play

This Monday I'd like to take a moment to address all the game masters out there. This applies to all of us, no matter which systems we prefer, or what settings we use. I want all of us to take a moment, and ask ourselves a simple question regarding our games.

"What is in the setting?"

"Whatever I say is in it," is not an appropriate answer.

This isn't a rhetorical question, either. Because I can tell you that the worst arguments I've had with game masters and storytellers across the board has been over what should be a simple, fundamental understanding. But there are a lot of us who bring our own preconceptions (and sometimes our misconceptions) to the game, and that can cause serious problems when the game you're trying to run is not the game everyone else showed up to play.

I'll give you some examples in a minute. Before that, though, take a second to sign up to my weekly newsletter so you don't miss any of my updates! And, as usual with discussions like this, those who completely make their own worlds and settings, you are mostly excused from this... provided, of course, your settings remain consistent once the game actually begins.

Magic, Technology, World Canon, and Tone

There is one example for what I'm talking about that I come across basically every other week due to the parts of the Internet in which I live, and it is game masters who are running Pathfinder games who seem to have confused Golarion for Middle Earth in terms of just exactly how rare spellcasters, magic items, non-humans, and other fantastical elements of the setting happen to be.

Because, in the minds of these game masters there should only be a few actual spellcasters in any given region of the world. Non-humans should be weird and unusual sights, often stoking panic, unless we're specifically in places where they are the dominant species. Magic items are rarities never seen by the common citizenry, and they are only to be wielded by those of great wealth or power.

And absolutely NONE of that describes Golarion as it's written. At all.

Seriously... it's all in the books.

You don't have to delve deep into the setting guide to realize these things, either. Golarion as a setting is a bubbling cauldron of high magic nonsense and insanity! Practically every nation of note has a mage's college of some variety (telling you there are enough students year after year to fill the ranks of an academy), there's an entire region that's filled with a semi-permanent gateway into the abyss (depending on if you completed Wrath of The Righteous yet or not), a fascist government literally propped up by the forces of hell, a nation of nearly-endless night watched over by a Hellraiser-style god, a meteorite that can allow someone to transcend mortality... you get the idea.

Golarion, as a setting, is meant to be a kitchen sink of nonsense and possibility. Your party might have a sorcerer birthed in a graveyard who wields the forces of death, a one-eyed gunslinging paladin, a barbarian with a great ax and a cybernetic arm he took from a robot he fought in a crashed spaceship, and a druid who has reincarnated for nearly a thousand years to maintain the eternal balance of nature... and none of that is outside the setting canon. It's all in the game, right there in black-and-white, often with specifically laid out paths and options for players to use.

It's not a low-fantasy setting, but if you approach it like one it will feel like you're trying to run a totally different game than the players agreed to if they're going off what's written in the book.

Oh don't worry, I've got more examples.

I see this sort of attitude in World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness games all the time, too. A storyteller is running a game set in the modern day (or even back in the late 1990s), but when players start tooling up with high-caliber weaponry and body armor instead of using diplomacy, stealth, or even a more magical route (for characters who have access to unique powers), suddenly the ST starts making all sorts of noises about how those options aren't available, or won't work. Rather than rewarding the players for using the options presented in the game, they instead want to get salty about how a riot shotgun or an incendiary grenade suddenly let the players dole out a lot more harshness than they'd anticipated, reducing a threat to ashes... even though it is precisely those modern advances that makes regular mortals the most dangerous things in the setting (in large enough numbers, anyway).

Shady arms deals and flying lead are as much a part of the setting as smoky backrooms and drippy sewers, and while there should be complications (illicit arms require time and resources to acquire, they tend to draw a lot of attentions, enemies will escalate the same way the players do, etc.), just denying that this is part of the setting doesn't make your game better. It just discourages players, and highlights what routes you will and won't accept for solving problems as the ST.

Perhaps the most common example of this that I come across, though, is when the person running the game changes the setting history and tone without checking with the players to be sure they're on board with that fundamental shift.

This can take all sorts of forms. From instituting new tribal social bands and customs for Werewolf: The Apocalypse, to declaring that the god Aroden isn't dead in Pathfinder (or in more extreme situations that Zon Kuthon was never corrupted to become what he is now), to cutting out all of the loss of humanity and horror elements from Vampire: The Masquerade so that it feels more like Assassin's Creed with fangs, I've seen this happen in a dozen different ways across a dozen different games.

Now, I'm not rendering judgment on these changes. If they're what you want to do to make your game more enjoyable for your table, shine on and do your thing... but talk to your players before you make changes that they're going to have to deal with.

Communication Really Is Key

The first rule of RPGs is that you can always change the game to suit your table... but that needs to be done with the approval and consent of your group. It's a fundamental aspect of the game that you all need to be on the same page about before you go forward, because if you're not it's going to lead to nothing but problems as surely as if you said you wanted to run a political thriller and your players rocked up to the table with the A-Team.

I can be diplomatic. When I want to be.

So before you change anything you should have a clear understanding of what's actually in the book. Then, once you understand the game, setting, lore, mechanics, etc. as they exist, you can discuss what you want to change, limit, alter, and tweak to make things work the way you want them to with the players around your table.

Just remember that it is your responsibility as the person in the big chair to communicate to your players what is going to be different... and what is going to be the same. Because if you ask someone, "Hey, want to join my Masquerade game?," but you don't tell them that you're running it more like a superheroes-with-fangs setting, then a player who showed up expecting body horror, angst, drama, and the dark midnight of the soul is going to be less than pleased.

My two cents, the more you're going to change, the better you need to understand the game, and the more communication there needs to be. Because just altering some notes in tone, or changing one or two minor details probably isn't going to be a big deal... but the more fundamental your changes are, and the wider the ripples go, the more important it is you have your players' full buy-in and support.

Trust me... it's better to check twice than to just assume people will go with it, "For the good of the game." Because players only have so much trust, and that's not a currency you want to spend casually.

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, January 16, 2021

The Convert (A Cleric Concept)

Tarmujan peered at the figure approaching his ramshackle throne. The bandit lord's scarred face seamed, and then recognition dawned on his face. He laughed; a cruel sound that curdled in the ear, but which was echoed by the "court" of brigands who ranged out in a half circle from where their leader sat.

"Do my eyes deceive me?" Tarmujan asked, standing and drawing the wicked blade at his hip. "Or has the child of light returned to me again?"

The young man didn't respond. His robes were torn and ragged, crusted with blood. His lank hair hung in his face. He was no bigger now than when he'd been cast out into the waste to die, but there was something different about him. Iron stiffened his spine, and there was a determination in his steps. Some of the bandits recognized it, scenting a change in the wind like wild dogs sensing a coming storm. They weren't sure what was happening, but they took a step back all the same.

"No last words?" Tarmujan shrugged, walking forward, drawing his blade back for a swing. "You had your chance, boy."

The young man snarled a single word, his voice ringing with a primal power. Cracks ran along the length of Tarmujan's blade, and then the carefully honed steel exploded. The bandit lord roared in surprise and pain, shards of metal piercing his neck, his arm, and blinding him in one eye. He cast the hilt aside, snatching at the dagger in the small of his back. He roared as he charged. There were no more words, no more bravado, just the primal, killing frenzy. The young man smiled, and Tarmujan's dogs drew back from that smile. It was a hideous, hateful thing, and it seemed an anathema on the face of the pacifist priest.

What happened next was incomprehensible to those watching. The slender figure grabbed Tarmujan's arm, stopping it in mid-swing. No matter how hard he strained, he could not move the blade an inch closer to the priest's body. He punched at the young man, but the solid, meaty blows did nothing but bloody his smile. The priest bent Tarmujan's arm back further, and further, until something snapped, and the bandit lord screamed again.

The priest didn't stop until every part of Tarmujan was broken. When he stood, blood dripping from his hands and seeping into his robe, the bandits drew back in horror. Carved into the young man's forehead was a symbol they had only seen among the roving packs of wasteland monsters; an unholy mark that promised death, dismemberment, and destruction.

"You left me in the wastes," he intoned, his voice strong, and his eyes unblinking. "There was no light there. No hope. No peace. But there was something else. You showed me the path to my new lord. So I offer you all this one chance. Step forth, and have your eyes opened... or have your bones added to his throne!"

I have seen what dwells behind the flesh, and it is destruction.

The Convert

When you think of a cleric, you tend to think of someone with a deep, abiding faith. Someone who has a personal relationship with their patron deity, and who strives to embody the ideals of that deity. You know, stuff I covered in my 5 Tips For Playing Better Clerics. However, there are times where even the gods make mistakes, or where an individual can no longer abide the creed of their god.

If a cleric breaks faith with their deity, they sever their ties to the powers granted by that deity. However, that doesn't mean another god will not hear their prayers. That another god may offer them exactly what they ask for, as long as they will bend the knee, and serve the new patron's requirements.

No one wishes to hear my word... tell them anyway.

This might be similar to the story that opened this character concept. Perhaps a servant of a god of light and mercy is pushed too far, and in their pain and rage they spurn that deity for a new patron. A god of destruction, strength, and vengeance who not only allows them to deliver retribution, but gives them the express power to do it. Alternatively, a champion of a dark god or evil cult could stray from that path of wickedness, attempting to become a servant of a god of justice, temperance, and righteousness. A progression that isn't too dissimilar from The Risen Antipaladin.

It is also important to remember that the change in a convert doesn't have to be so extreme, either. Additionally, it can happen slowly, gradually influenced by that character's actions over time.

For example, say you had a reluctant cleric of a god of war. They're trained in combat, and adept at strategy, but they tend to focus more on healing the wounded than in getting into the thick of battle. While a necessity, they may grow tired of the sight of fighting, and of the wounds it inflicts on so many. This could lead them to slowly pull away from the patron of warriors and soldiers, and instead seek induction into an order of healers. They might fulfill the same duties, and have the same role within the party or campaign, but they've found a god who is more suited to their personality and skills.

You could, of course, do that in reverse and have a medic who gradually becomes a warrior with an iron-shod staff as adept at smiting the enemy as they are at healing their allies. It's all about the journey you want your character to take, or how the story pushes them.

How Long Is This Going To Take?

Something I would recommend for this character concept is to have the conversion as part of their existing background before the game starts. This option works best if you're starting the game above 1st level so that your conversion is part of your character's Small Legend (more on that in Character Reputation in RPGs: The Small Legend), and you can enjoy the story element without dealing with mechanical bumps in the road. You could run into people who knew you as a servant of your old faith (for good or ill), people you once served with, etc. This could be particularly poignant if you are helping the party fight against your old faithful, or if there are sore feelings between yourself and your former brethren of faith who now consider you a heretic or a blasphemer.

If you're going to have the conversion happen in-game, though, make sure you talk to your GM beforehand and work out a situation that you're both happy with regarding potentials for cleric conversion down the line.

The reason I say this is that I've seen far too many GMs who want to treat this as an excuse to punish a player, rather than reward them for having an interesting story. Setting a penitent quest, or forcing the cleric to play for a dozen sessions with no spells, no domain powers, and no patron is just frustrating, both for the player and the rest of the party who depending on their cleric to carry their share of the load.

No one wants to carry your dead weight.

My personal recommendation is that, as a GM, you should have interested gods keeping an eye on the cleric in case they want to poach them from their current deity. There aren't that many mortals who can wield that kind of power, after all, so when one is suddenly open to adding their strength, will, and hands to the cause of a new deity, it can only help that deity to make the offer when the cleric is vulnerable to their sales pitch.

In this case, you're not looking for the cleric to prove themselves to a new god; their actions, beliefs, etc. should already have done that; you're simply looking for an opportunity for that new god to offer to take the cleric into their service, and for the cleric to accept the offer.

Maybe it happens in the midst of battle, when the cleric feels another influence on them offering powers that could save their allies, and crush their enemies. You might even go through the whole scenario of the cleric losing their powers, and dealing with that loss, before another patron comes to call when the cleric is grieving and vulnerable. Maybe it's in a dream, perhaps they're approached by a strange figure, or they find themselves near a shrine they didn't know about. They might have followed a glowing white stag into a forest clearing, or met a shrouded servant of a trickster god, but the point is that this should be a new chapter in their character progression. Make it exciting, make it meaningful, make it personal, but don't drag the player over concrete, or reduce their ability to participate in the game, because they wanted to use conversion to a new deity as a plot point in their development. Facilitate the transfer of power, and the cleric's new management, so they can get back in the game!

Your cleric player (and the rest of the table) will thank you.

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, January 11, 2021

Want To Get Your Character Involved in Plot? Remember Rule 303

One of the biggest issues I've seen around a gaming table is actually getting characters involved in the unfolding plot. Typically once everyone finds a reason to get involved, or a plot hook they're comfortable biting on, the game will be off to the races... but sometimes getting over that early hurdle can be a frustration.

For GMs and players alike.

Ogre raids? Sounds like a whole lot of not my problem.

That's why this week I'd like to introduce a concept that can really help make a game go more smoothly. Some folks might be familiar with it, but for those who aren't the term is Rule 303.

For those looking for another useful term, check out "Force Multiplication" is a Useful Idea For RPGs. And to make sure you don't miss out on any of my releases, consider signing up for my weekly newsletter!

Means, Opportunity, and Responsibility

The short version, according to Beau of The Fifth Column, is that Rule 303 means that if you have the means to hand, and the ability to help, then that implies you have a duty to get yourself involved in a situation. The term sees a lot of use among military contractors, as well as active duty folks, but you can apply it much more broadly than just in the profession of arms. If you see someone choking in a restaurant, and you know the Heimlich maneuver, you go over and help them expel the blockage. If you're a tall person and you see someone shorter struggling to reach a top shelf, you offer to get the thing down for them.

If you're a musclebound barbarian with a greatsword, and you're on-hand when bugbears are raiding the countryside, you unsheathe that beast and go to work.

Something else to remember is that this trait can manifest itself in a variety of different ways. For example, a character might be genuinely altruistic, and their desire to help people means they can't just walk on by if there's a serious problem that they have the means to fix. A character might be getting involved because it's a good excuse to show off, or because they think there could be a reward in it for them. It might coincide with a vow they took, or a core tenet of their faith.

At the end of the day, though, the player should ask themselves the first two questions of the formula. Because if you have the means to help, and you have the ability to help, then that suggests you also have the responsibility to get yourself involved in whatever nonsense is going down. Justification beyond that can't hurt, but if you jump in with both feet it makes the game go a lot smoother for everyone concerned.

And for those who are looking for some inspiration for characters who may have sworn oaths, accepted contracts, or who are simply part of an organization that would make them getting involved in solving problems easier for you to spin as a player, you might find some inspiration in some of my following supplements:

- 100 Random Mercenary Companies: From disciplined ranks of sellswords, to free-wheeling soldiers of fortune, those who want to embody the origins of Rule 303 can find plenty of inspiration in these free companies.

- 100 Knightly Orders: Whether you're a protector of the realm, or you're a wandering knight errant seeking to help the needy and protect the weak, this collection is full of orders you can swear your service to.

- 100 Secret Societies: The world at large doesn't need to know why you're helping out in this matter. And if you want to have a little cloak-and-dagger fun, these secret societies are always a ball to add into your history, and your game.

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, January 9, 2021

What Cultural Norms and Etiquette Does Your Character Follow?

"Ummm... Tendrick?" Edelwinn said. "Can I talk to you?"

The aquiline man with the hawkish nose nodded, following his companion a few steps down the hall. She cleared her throat, glancing around to be sure no one would overhear.

"We're just going out into the town for business," she said. "Routine maintenance. Pick up some supplies. We don't want to make anyone nervous."

"No, of course not," he agreed, nodding. "Precisely why I left my shield and plate in my rooms. I should have no need of it here."

"But what about that?" Edelwinn asked, glancing at her taller companion's hip. The sword called Devil's Bane hung at his side, the gem in its pommel glimmering, and the violence spellworked into the steel almost palpable.

"Edelwinn, I am a sworn sword of the realm, and a son of House Ebon Claw," Tendrick said. He spoke carefully, though not insultingly. "It is customary to wear a blade at all times."

"There's nothing I can say to budge you on this?" Edelwinn said.

He smiled at her. "You could challenge me to a duel, and try to take it from me if you wish. I would honor that defeat."

"Fine, wear your steel if it makes you feel pretty," Edelwinn grumbled, stalking past him. "But I see that thing out of its scabbard someone had better damn well have tried to knife you!"

What do you expect me to do? Carry a stick like a common peasant?

Cultural Norms and Etiquette Add Depth To Characters

This is something I've been thinking about a lot over the past month or so, ever since I started doing the research to write How The Cane Replaced The Sword in Everyday Carry. Because carrying a sword in Europe was, for many years, as much a mark of status and style as it was about having a weapon to defend yourself with should the need arise. And then, practically overnight, it was no longer the fashionable thing to do. Instead of a sword, a walking stick became the new accessory that was part of one's everyday carry... and this was a trend that lasted for centuries!

From the outside looking in, that is a truly unusual quirk to have in a society for that long a period of time. Especially when you consider that over the years there was an entire etiquette built up around the style of stick one might carry, how one had to walk with it, whether it was or was not appropriate to actually lean on it in certain circumstances; it got really intricate.

This got me thinking, what other kinds of cultural norms and etiquette could add flavor to our characters and societies in our games?

I can drink neither the fermentation of grape, or of wheat... it's made of honey, you say?

On the one hand, we could simply pluck bits of our real-world history and apply them to our fantasy settings to create interesting cultural norms. For example, getting back to the history of walking sticks, specific sticks were used as symbols of position and authority in ancient Egypt, so someone carrying such a stick would be immediately recognizable to those around them. On the other hand, dueling culture is often something that's added into our settings, allowing individuals to settle differences in a proscribed (if not exactly peaceful) fashion.

You could also create completely new and unique cultural norms out of whole cloth for your characters and setting if you so desire! While I put out a lot of potential examples in 100 Superstitions For a Fantasy Setting as well as in 100 Fantasy Tattoos (And Their Meanings), others might include:

- The color red is only worn by warriors among the Shar'vastri orcs. The more battles they have fought, and the more blood they have spilled, the more of this color they are allowed to wear. It is rare for a warrior to live long enough to wear a full coat of red, but those who do achieve that right are to be feared.

- Flowers are their own language among the nobles of Citrine. Every bloom has its own unique meaning, but there are some of them which are strictly regulated to members of certain professions, classes, and even houses. Someone wearing the wrong flower, or arranging a bouquet purely for aesthetics, may find themselves sending a message they did not intend.

- The particular somatic and verbal components you use are judged in Farassa as elements of how elegant your magic is. Traditionalists only cast spells in high elven, with the smooth, elegant gestures that are almost like a dance. While replacing it with languages like Ignan may be appropriate for fire-based spells, using the common tongue is seen as gauche and uneducated. Casting spells in the tongue of the Veshradi orcs is outright scandalous, and marks one out as a base caster too crude for the ways of civilized magic.

Practically every aspect of a culture comes with its dos and do-nots. Whether it's how you address someone older or younger than yourself, how to dress, how to dance, when (and how) to fight... you can tinker with practically anything! So when you make your next character, take a moment to consider the culture that shaped them. What aspects of it cling to them? What norms have they laid aside? Or, for that matter, what pieces of etiquette have they learned from other cultures, allowing them to move between different worlds and communities with as few ripples as possible?

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, January 4, 2021

World of Darkness Storytellers, Don't Forget The Mortal Side of Things!

Henlock Headbreaker frowned down at the missive in his thick hands. The Fall Queen had bid the ogre fulfill an errand, and send notice of her wroth to their neighbors, and it had taken him some time to complete. All he wanted now was a quiet night on his old sofa with a cold beer or three, and maybe some Netflix, but his door wouldn't open.

"Past due..." Henlock could feel his teeth grinding, and he tried to let go of the breath he'd been holding. If it wasn't one goddamn thing, it was another. He set his hands on the door, and made himself take slow, deep breaths. It was just fiberboard and paint, and he knew he wouldn't get any satisfaction of kicking it in... but it still took all his willpower not to do it.

He took out his phone, and carefully pushed the buttons with his calloused fingertip. He was sure Darlene would let him crash at her place tonight... as for clearing the balance, he had friends who owed him a few small favors. He hated to call them in over this, but sometimes you didn't have a choice when details slipped through the cracks.

All right, Agnes, I was out of town. Can I get you the back rent on Monday?

The Supernatural Should Be The Spice, Not The Meat

Before we go any further, I want to make one thing clear; I love the World of Darkness and the newer Chronicles of Darkness settings. Monsters are some of my favorite things, and games where you specifically get to play vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein-like creatures, fey-touched changelings, and more will always be my cup of tea.

However, the setting and text can only go so far. Often it's the storyteller that can make or break an experience, and there is a trap that a lot of STs fall face-first into time and time again with these games. I've seen it in everything from Vampire to Mage, and from LARP to tabletop, so I wanted to talk about it this week.

In short, a lot of STs forget that all of the insane supernatural shenanigans happening only make up one half of the coin. If the mortal world isn't a factor in your game, then you're only playing with half the deck, so to speak.

You need contrast for these games to work.

The first reason the mortal world needs to be an active part of your game is that it constitutes the majority of the setting. The whole conceit of every World and Chronicles of Darkness game is that you are part of the secret world. You are the things that live in the shadows, and you need to hide who you are and the things you do from the world at large. But if your werewolves spend all their time in the umbra and on werewolf territory, if your vampires only ever have scenes at Elysium and in secluded places under their control, then you are only spending time in those deep shadows rather than out in the setting at large.

The result is there's no contrast in your game; it's just the fantasy elements, which are supposed to be the marshmallows in the cereal. And while that can hurt the setting overall, it also results in players only paying attention to half their characters. Because one of the central questions that always accompanies these games is finding balance for the PCs as citizens of two worlds. If they never have to interact with the mortal world, never have to go to it, and never have to worry about it, then you end up with characters that are all fantasy, no modern.

That can lead to shallow characters, but it has another effect on the game... suddenly every challenge the PCs face (whether big or small) also has to live in those shadows.

And this can quickly cause you headaches as an ST.

You Don't Do Surgery With a Sledgehammer

Problems from the mortal side of things never seem like "real" problems to a lot of STs (and even to a lot of players). After all, if you're fighting against the supernatural engine of the apocalypse, trying to outmaneuver the political machinations of enemies you've had since Rome was pushed back across the Rhine, or if you're tooling up to hunt the creature who lurk in the darkness, dealing with purely mortal concerns can seem petty an unimportant.

When the players are faced with supernatural problems, the gloves come off. All sides know the score, they know the truth of the setting, and they can pull out all the stops. War form transformations, insane blood magic, ripping portals in reality, calling on pacts made with the elements of the world... everything is on the table!

But if players have to deal with mortal problems, they often have to do it more quietly. This means they often have to get more creative, and be more focused in their application of force/resources if they expect to succeed.

Perhaps an example would help?

If you're running an old world werewolf game, and the PC garou are facing the threat of a black spiral dancer pack, there's no mystery that needs to be preserved. No code of silence that has to be observed. Both sides know what the other is, and understand what they're out for. And if they're fighting out in the wildlands with no witnesses, or throwing down in the Umbra, then there's no need for them to play it quiet. They can bring the biggest gifts, the most ridiculous weapons, and use all their abilities to go absolutely wild on one another.

And that's not a bad thing. Games should have some of those scenes from time to time. They're fun, tasty marshmallows.

But now let's take that same werewolf pack, and face them with a problem where they can't take the gloves off. Maybe there's a corporation trying to put a pipeline through their land. Maybe there's an audit of their holdings going on, and the false documents they used to legally secure the caern aren't holding up in court. Maybe the dark past of some of the members are catching up, and there's police sniffing around, or even a team of bounty hunters looking to make an impressive collar. If the latter doesn't seem like a big enough threat, add in a reality show TV crew following the bounty hunters that the pack now has to deal with.

You can apply these mortal problems to basically any sphere, too. Is the changeling singer who uses her celebrity to collect glamour from her audience being stalked by a crazed fan who, though he might not be dangerous to one of the fey-touched, is someone who might see behind the mask and find out what she truly is? Is the careless brujah leaving too many witnesses, and too many bodies, in certain districts, and now homicide detectives and tabloid journalists are out in force, which is making things harder for everyone else? Has a mage's "magic act" drawn too much curiosity, and too many witnesses, all of them digging into incidents that had been covered up and forgotten until now?

You can't just march up to those problems, fangs-bared and powers roaring (most of the time). You need to think around them, deflect them, or hush them up quietly. And generally speaking the less subtle a group is in its day-to-day doings, the more of these kinds of problems should crop up in their wake.

Don't Forget To Make It Personal

While a lot of the mortal issues that crop up in a game should be as a result of the actions of your players, as an ST you should also keep in mind that characters are supposed to exist in the mortal world, as well as the supernatural one. Often times they have jobs, homes, friends, family, and histories that exist in the mortal world... and those things are ripe for the kind of drama that can pull players deeper into the narrative.

A glimpse behind the mask.

If you have a character who is a member of a police force, what does that expose them to? If they use their powers to investigate and clear cases (a changeling who talks to the dead, a werewolf who uses their enhanced senses, etc.), do they draw suspicion from internal affairs on just how they discovered certain evidence? If a character doesn't have a job, as such, then where do they live, and how do they earn money? If they don't, do they make their homes in abandoned or forgotten places? If the latter, what happens when new development comes knocking on their doors, or urban explorers find the former sewer tunnels of their lair? Do they allow other people forgotten by the modern world to live under their protection? Or have they become some kind of weird, urban legend the street people tell each other to keep newbies out of certain places?

Everything, from an enemy coming after a PC's friends (who may not realize what they truly are beneath the skin), to someone accidentally discovering the character's secret life (the roadie walks in and discovers the pale heavy metal singer is an actual blood-drinking vampire), these sorts of things can really impact the game for players... but you don't get any of these story beats in your game if you just ignore the mortal world because it isn't as much fun as all the dark, nasty, supernatural threats you've got lined up.

For folks looking for more ST advice, don't forget to check out Want To Run Better World of Darkness Games? Then Watch John Wick! And if you find yourself in need of a bunch of NPCs for a Werewolf: The Apocalypse game (or really any WoD game), you should check out my 100 Kinfolk Bundle. These NPC lists cover 13 werewolf tribes (100 NPCs each, and 200 for the Black Spiral Dancers), giving you 1,400 NPCs total... more than enough to populate any game! And if you want the encore piece that was released this year, don't forget 100 Stargazer Kinfolk as well.

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!