On the surface, pretending to be someone else for four hours a week may not seem like an activity that you could participate in that would help you connect with yourself better. However, the similarities and differences between character and player can help you define yourself. I have had a lot of issues over the years with finding myself. With finding a way to state who I am clearly. D&D provided a way for me to explore who I am.
I started playing D&D when I was six years old. My father (a grognard) introduced me to the game with second edition intermingled with AD&D. At that age, it was really just closer to make believe. Just pretend. It also means that I’m probably the only modern D&D player I know who knows what the hell a THAC0 is. I played with my dad for another two or three years before things started to get hard in my family.
The oil crisis hit, and my dad was working up north at the time. He got laid off. My family used to sit pretty comfortably, but before long, we had to sell the house and move into a trailer, where we still live. My dad ended up depressed and he put on more weight. An issue he had been struggling with for a long time at this point. I’m talking since he was ten. I remembered at this point how happy my dad was when we were playing that game, and I brought it up again, about two years after we had moved. We went to the warehouse within the week and rounded up the old books.
At this point, the game represented a world where I had power. Where I had control over something; felt like I was progressing in some way. It was around this time in my life where I was really starting to struggle academically. I had to retake my fifth grade math course right before we moved simply because I didn’t do any of the work. I wasn’t very social either.
My sixth grade year was when I started to show promise with something - writing. I had such a flare for making up worlds and scenarios. Looking back, I know the reason was my experience with the fantastical worlds of D&D. However at the time it was chalked up to an active imagination and the fact that I read a lot, and quickly. This, quite obviously, is still a hobby of mine to this day. Another thing that sparked around the time of this reintroduction of the game into my life was my newfound love for medieval history and historical martial arts.
The year afterward, I started to play with people other than just my father. His depression was starting to get a little bit better because it had been diagnosed and he was on medication for it. He was still working minor jobs while my mother continued working two jobs. I was playing with two close friends of mine in particular, who I’ll call E and A. E was a little bit of a pain in the ass and can be a rules lawyer sometimes, but his unique characters usually means he’s got something to add to the group. A was twice as shy as I was, but he was incredibly creative. His characters were killer. My father usually DM’d for us when he had the time.
Academically I started to flourish. I saw my work as a way to increase my stats and gain new proficiencies. My life was pretty much defined by games and pretend. I was still writing and rocking a 90% or more in my english classes. However something wasn’t quite right during all this time. It all felt off. I felt these characters I was playing were more fleshed out than I was. More real than me. I had made them, yet they had a hundred things more going for them than me. As absurd as it sounds, I got jealous of my characters and for awhile I didn’t want to touch the game.
This marks a bit of a dry spell when it comes to gaming in my life and bit of a very unique time developmentally for me. I started looking around myself and seeing adventure in a different light. Adventure wasn’t just something that could happen for and shape my characters, it could happen for me and change me. I became outgoing. I wanted to do and try as much as I could, and I still do to this day. I like to refer to this point in my life as “The Great Exploration” and I feel that it is an integral part of every person development.
It took awhile of me messing around but I started to settle again close to the begining of highschool. Not that I wasn’t still ready to have fun, but I looked at myself and knew that I was in fact a character, and I had to develop my skills.
It was at the beginning of this year where I started to fall in love with D&D all over again, and I created a character I still play to this day with my dad - Aramil “Lupus” Lupintine. Lupus was just supposed to be a kinda strong one shot character. He started at level 5 with a little bit of backstory and a few magic items. But above all he had personality in spades. He was charming, dashing, and clever and he knew it. This man exuded confidence and made sure everyone was aware of this. As I played Lupus, I noticed that I felt more at home pretending to be him than actually being myself. Instead of scaring me off, I took this into consideration and started to try and act more like him. (At least his better qualities, I didn’t want to become a douchebag and a show off.)
It’s crucial to note that this was a character only I and my dad played. It was a one on one campaign. My father told me he was seeing Lupus in me more and more and that it’s not really a bad thing. It’s also worth noting that this was around the time I started writing for this site. My passion for the game at this point was unparalleled. I can still find exact pages in the 5e books without even having to check because of how much time I spent pouring over those books for me and my friends.
I’m a completely different person now in my life. I’ve seen a lot of change in a very short period of time, some good, some bad. But a lot of the better stuff was thanks to D&D and it allowing me to explore myself in a unique, safe way.
To this day, every now and then, when things get tough I look myself in the mirror and ask, what would Lupus do?
The answer is more often than not, “insult someone in a position of power, walk away scott free and take a piss in the shrubbery on the way out.” However when that isn’t an option, the answer is “just keep fighting.” Which is what I think we should all take out of our D&D characters. When faced with insurmountable odds, our adventurers don’t sit back and say “Well… shit.” They spit in the face of adversity, stomp on its foot and then beat the crap out of it while it’s still reeling. Sometimes you need to push through in the way best for you. That’s why there’s different classes, because we all have different plans for how to win. That’s the story of every D&D character, and that’s the story of everyone who is trying to make a place for themselves in this world.
Jarod Lalonde is a young roleplayer and writer whose passion for both lead him here. He’s often sarcastic and has a +5 to insult. Dungeons and Dragons is his favorite platform. Although he’s not quite sure if it’s Cthulhu whispering to him in the small hours of the night, or just persistent flashbacks to the Far Realm.
Picture Reference: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/303993043583155351/
Hey, Jim here! Before Frankie gets started, I wanted to remind you that High Level Games is bringing you game content and commentary absolutely free, as well as providing a home and launching point for a slew of great creators! If you want to support our endeavors, we'd love it if you stopped by our Patreon to show your support. Of course, if you'd like a little something for your hard earned money, you could always pick up one of our fine game products as well.
It’s no secret that adventurers stick out like a sore thumb in the Core. Heavy armor and ostentatious magic draw all manner of unwanted attention, and the wisest heroes learn quickly to travel incognito if they want to avoid overt hostility from the worst of the abominations that stalk the realms of men.
Early in our correspondence, I gave you some advice on how a spellcaster might ply their trade without arousing too much suspicion. I thought we might revisit a similar topic and discuss those of a more surreptitious bent.
Rogues (better known by their more honest sobriquet: thieves) are a staple of the adventuring party. Mundane skills of legerdemain, acrobatics, and ambush attacks make them indispensable to the travelling hero, but this sort of champion has a tendency to run afoul of the law, and with the exception of the ever-rare paladin, they top the Darklords Most Wanted lists in most domains. Fortunately, there are a number of guises the enterprising footpad can operate under if they want to avoid the watchful eye of the Core’s dark masters. Or just the local constabulary.
1) The Butler
Great warriors often travel with a retinue. Fortunately, when faced with a wrathful cavalier, very few intelligent monsters will turn their back on the most visible threat to attack the help. Wealthy merchants, priests, diplomats: really, anyone with money can have a valet with them without arousing suspicion. In matters of espionage, the butler can often go places, especially in more medieval settings, where a notable hero might be noticed.
Pulling off the role of the butler requires a bit of skill as a valet. Knowledge of how to prepare a meal, how to ready a horse or suit of armor, and how to craft or repair articles of clothing go a long way to selling the ruse, in addition to ingratiating you with your group, since these amenities can be welcoming comforts on the road. The best valets also double as barbers, of course, keeping their lords’ hair and faces immaculately trimmed and shaved. This provides a useful excuse for carrying a straight razor. Letter openers and small tack hammers can also be included without disrupting the image.
2) The Fur Trapper
The quests of adventurers can sometimes take them far into the wilderness, and many groups take to hiring guides familiar with the lands they’re traversing. If your group isn’t fortunate enough to have such a guide, you might make your own fortune by disguising yourself as one. Providing you speak the local language, you may find rugged ‘working poor’ types more amenable to discussing current events with a fellow peasant.
Knowledge in how to make, set, and disarm traps is one of the most quintessential thief skills, so it’s something you probably won’t have to go out of your way to learn. The profession gives you a reasonable excuse to carry a small selection of snares, wires, and jaw traps wherever you go as well as tools with which to work on them, and despite the name a skinning knife is still perfectly capable of slitting a throat when required. Of course, the large, shaggy furs that are common with these frontiersfolk are wonderfully useful for hiding any tools or items you wouldn’t want local law enforcement to find.
3) The Clown
What better way to justify your acrobatics than by being an actual acrobat? The Skurra have long been aware that performers of all types are often allowed to get much closer to targets than a wandering sell-sword might be, and given more leeway in breaking social mores. While denizens of the more buttoned-up domains like Lamordia or Mordent may give such a performer the cold shoulder, many places see a street performer as a welcome break from their daily monotony, and may be more forthcoming with information (or just easy access to their coinpurses).
Skill at performance is a must for this role, requiring the thief not only be a skilled gymnast, but that she have the ability to captivate an audience as well. Mimes, jugglers, or prestidigitators can help distract guards or crowds while their parties engage in clandestine activities, and the trappings of the clown can include a number of items that can be turned to lethal purpose, including juggling pins or knives, as well as potions or smokepowders for more dramatic effects. Oversized ruffs, shoes, and prosthetics can offer an easy place to hide smuggled goods, or as a decoy to keep eagle-eyed guards from noticing more cleverly concealed items.
4) The Bureaucrat
Kingdoms aren’t built on swords and soldiers. Real kingdoms are built on paperwork. A thief who understands the machinations of seal and signet can be a much more dangerous threat than one who works with daggers and lockpicks. Diplomats, tax collectors, and lawyers can gain access to storerooms, prisons, and state halls with ease, and a balding, ink-stained clerical worker is rarely considered a threat by the fiends adventurers make a business of confronting.
Pulling off this role requires either a wealth of knowledge in the field being infiltrated, or a phenomenal ability to bluff. Knowledge of local and international laws helps, as does being a dab hand at forgery. While the accoutrements of this disguise aren’t as useful for concealing deadly implements, wealthy or important bureaucrats can easily justify hiring professional muscle (read: the rest of the party) to keep them safe, cloaking the entire heroic venture in a veneer of legitimacy.
Every domain is accepting of at least some form of medical professional, with the more developed nations boasting a wide variety of physicians, alienists, and naturalists. The biggest benefit of adventuring as such an intellectual is the status it affords: the wealthy and the educated are often more open with someone they view as a social peer. The curiosity of these professions serves as a plausible excuse for the nosiness of the typical adventurer, and many people who balk at the idea of turning to barbarians with swords to address their needs are more willing to talk to someone they see as being able to solve their problems with reason and science.
Investigative adventurers may love this role: it encourages them to carry a number of inspector's tools, such as magnifying lenses, sample vials, and chemistry kits. The surgical tools that many medical professionals keep on their person make efficient (and at times extremely gruesome) weapons, but also provide a lucrative, if visceral, source of income, since many monster body parts can fetch a high value from the arcane crowd.
At the end of the day
Any thief is better than no thief at all. Although they don't have the martial prowess of the fighter or the eldritch knowledge of the mage, their utilitarian skillset is too valuable for any party to be without.
Still, whether you're looking to duck the wrath of Azalin Rex or just Constable Bob, a little subtlety never hurts.
Good luck, and happy hunting.
Frankie Drakeson, Lord Mayor of Carinford-Halldon
Frankie Drakeson is a retired rifleman and the current mayor of Carinford-Halldon in Mordent. He is married to Gwendolyn Drakeson, the granddaughter of Nathan Timothy.
Jim Stearns is a deranged hermit from the swamps of Southern Illinois. In addition to writing for the Black Library, he puts pen to paper for High Level Games and Quoth the Raven. His mad scribblings can frequently be found in anthologies like Fitting In or Selfies from the End of the World, by Mad Scientist Journal. Follow him on Twitter @jcstearnswriter, or listen to Don, Jon, & Dragons, his podcast.
Picture Reference: https://www.deviantart.com/gandolf67/art/Rogues-Den-375845519
There has been something of a surge in tabletop RPGs over the past few years, and while a lot of systems have grown their player base, no one has gotten as big as DND 5th Edition. Driven by the popularity of shows like Critical Role, it isn't much of an exaggeration to say that this edition of DND has finally clawed the Wizards of The Coast property back onto the lofty perch it was knocked off of when they released the previous edition.
Since I like to check out popular games, I've played my share of DND 5E. I've also created content for it, which has necessitated going more than wrist-deep into the mechanics that make it work. As a gaming system, 5E is perfectly functional. It's fast-paced, easy to learn, and you can tinker with it relatively easily. With that said, though, there are certain aspects of it that I (as a player, an occasional DM, and a designer) absolutely hate.
And, as always, one player's flaw is another player's feature. So keep that in mind as you go through my list.
1) The Narrowing of Class Features
When I sit down with an RPG, one of the things that I enjoy is outright ignoring the stereotypes of a given class, and how they use their powers. Unfortunately, though, 5E has narrowed the functionality of class features to the point that character concepts which were simple to create in previous editions are outright impossible to make now.
I’ll give you an example. A barbarian's Rage now has the caveat that you have to either attack a foe or take damage pretty much every round in order to keep your Rage going. This reduces Rage to nothing but a combat-focused ability, taking away any other potential uses for the power. You can't use your enhanced strength to pick up fallen comrades as you flee from battle, for example, and you can't use it to give you an extra boost while climbing a mountain side. You can't use it to outrun people chasing you across the rooftops, and unless you're actively being hurt you couldn't even use it for something like rescuing NPCs from a burning building. Even winning an arm wrestling contest is out, by the rules as they're written.
This single-purpose mentality extends to a lot of classes, and it restricts play style unnecessarily. Rogues can only sneak attack with finesse weapons? Paladins can only use their smite on melee attacks? Was a paladin with a longbow whose hand is guided by the divine too game breaking?
And so on, and so forth.
The desire to be less flexible in terms of how abilities work, and thus to restrict character concepts, is one thing that turns me off hard about this edition.
2) Alignment Is More Pointless Than Ever Before
Nothing starts arguments faster than talking about alignment in tabletop RPGs, but at least back in the 3.0 and 3.5 edition of the game alignment had some kind of purpose. Certain spells might affect you differently based on your alignment, you had to be of a certain alignment to be part of certain classes, and there were weapons that wouldn't work for you if your alignment didn't match theirs. It wasn't the most important feature of your character most of the time, but it would have mechanical repercussions in the game.
I've played through a dozen levels in various 5E games so far, and alignment has never once come up. I haven't seen it mentioned in any spells I've looked at, nor in the descriptions of any magic items. There are suggestions in the class descriptions, but nothing happens to you if your paladin, monk, or cleric's alignment shifts away from what it was at the start. It doesn't restrict which classes you can mash up, either.
Which begs the question; why the hell is it even here?
While I'm sure there are a lot of folks who are extremely glad that alignment no longer impacts their in-game choices, if it doesn't actually do anything, then why was it included at all? Why not replace the pages talking about alignment with a deeper, more in-depth discussion of character beliefs and morality, since that's all been reduced to pure roleplay (as far as I can tell)?
3) An Overabundance Of DM Discretion
The Dungeon Master is one of the most important positions at the table; without them, there's no game. However, 5E is a lot more like the second edition of the game, in that it expects the DM to not just rule on what's happening (like a judge or a referee), but to actively use their discretion as part of the core rules.
I'll give you an example so you can see what I'm talking about. The wild magic sorcerer's description says that the DM may choose to make them roll a d20 any time they cast a spell of 1st-level or higher. If that roll is a 1, then they roll on the wild magic surge chart.
A core feature of a class is entirely dependent on the DM's discretion. If you have a DM who doesn't know, or doesn't care, then the sorcerer will never actually roll on that table, which means a big part of that class will never function. Why put that decision on the DM, instead of just writing a rule that made the sorcerer roll that d20 every time they cast a spell, thus making it both truly random and feel like a game of Russian roulette? Or why not instead offer expanded language that states that when the sorcerer is in a stressful situation, or is suffering from any conditions, they must roll the d20 then?
It's both one more thing for a DM to keep track of and it's asking them to put their nose directly into a player's core class feature.
This isn't the only instance of this thinking showing through in the rules, either. If you look at skill checks, there's no longer a chart showing the appropriate difficulty check for certain tasks. Not so long ago, if you wanted to make an appropriate knowledge roll to know what monster you were facing, there would be a formula for determining that DC (typically something like monster CR + 10), and you would be able to ask questions about it based on how high above the DC you rolled. There were similar formulas for determining the DC for making a certain jump, for successfully persuading or intimidating a target, etc. Now there's a footnote in the Dungeon Master's Guide regarding average DC level based on how difficult a task might be, but there are no specific tables for particular tasks and challenges, or for modifiers to them.
If you have a good DM, this isn't a big deal. If you have one who isn't mechanically savvy, or who decides to arbitrarily punish the group by setting nigh-impossible difficulty checks, then there's nothing in the rules you could raise as a point in your defense.
4) Big Gaps In The Rules
It's impossible to make a rules system that covers everything. Even attempting such an impossible task is to court madness. But with the exception of when I joined a second edition campaign, I have never seen a game where there were fewer answers in the official rules about things that will actually come up with a fair bit of regularity.
For example, we have some inkling of when certain races get older... but where are the age penalties/benefits (and if they don't exist, then what difference does it make how old you are)? We have rules for breaking objects, but no specific rules about trying to sunder the weapon, armor, or shield being wielded by an opponent. We have no set DC levels for given skills, as mentioned above, and there are no real rules for how you learn new languages. As a sample of the things that, while I was trying to build characters and figure out twists for an intro adventure, left me sighing and muttering, “Goddammit, 5E...”
Sure, these aren't insurmountable problems. But if someone tries to sell you a car, and that car has parts missing, you'd be understandably irritated as you find ways to fill in those gaps. Especially if you were in the middle of a long campaign when you realized a piece you figured would be there just isn't.
When I first came across the concept of archetypes back in 3.5, and then later on in Pathfinder, I thought they were a phenomenal idea. You took a base class like the fighter or the rogue (which already had a general, level 1-20 progression), and you swapped out certain abilities to make a more custom package of abilities. Maybe your fighter gave up heavy armor proficiency in exchange for additional damage with light weapons, making them into a duelist, or your ranger gave up spells in exchange for the ability to create traps. Archetypes were taking an already solid foundation, and providing you additional options you could use to better realize certain concepts.
The keyword there is option. Archetypes were not a required part of the game. Much like prestige classes, you could use them if they suited your concept, or ignore them if they didn't.
One of the most irritating aspects of 5E for me is that it kept what I can only think of as a holdover from 4E, in that classes much choose a particular archetype which more specifically defines their powers. Rogues have to make the choice between arcane trickster, shadow dancer, and assassin, for example. Barbarians can elect to go berserker, or totem worshiper. And so on, and so forth.
Yes there are more options than that now, but these are the choices you're faced with in the base book.
The problem is that there is no longer a foundation class; every class has branching paths. And the specificity of those branching paths often eliminates certain character concepts (perhaps just as much as the narrowing of class features I mentioned in the beginning). I don't mind their existence, as several of these archetypes are fun to play with; I object to them being mandatory. Because if they are optional, they give you additional tools to use for making your best game. If they aren't, then you're just being forced to cram your concept into one of these more narrowly defined paths which feels more like something out of an MMORPG like Diablo or World of Warcraft than the free-form universe of options and customization that tabletop RPGs have the ability to offer.
While you can make the argument that the DM can just change the rules at their own table, these criticisms apply to the rules as they're written, not how someone may modify them in their personal games.
For more of Neal Litherland's work, check out his gaming blog Improved Initiative, or take a look at his archive over at Gamers!
Picture Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUDJzEagqE0
Recently going through Twitter I saw a lot of the people we follow really excited about a Kickstarter that had just launched. That game Kickstarter is Power Outage, a kid-friendly, kid-focused, Supers RPG that focused on accessibility, teamwork, and fun. So, even though I am already way over Kickstarter budget for the year I had to back this game. So, I did. Then, I reached out to the creator because I wanted to hear more about what this game was about and why the creator had chosen to develop this particular game.
So, first, Bebarce, tell us a bit about yourself and why Power Outage? Is this your first foray into writing RPGs?
So my name is Bebarce El-Tayib. I'm a supervisor of technology for a school district in NJ. Originally Power Outage came about with my (then 4 and 6 year old) daughters continuously stealing my poly dice. I figured, if they were going to have them, I might as well come up with a game for them to play. Dungeons and Dragons, as enjoyable as it was, didn't fit my needs exactly, and when I started out, I wasn't aware as much about what was out there, so we built a miniature game from the ground up with very simple rules. After thinking back over the fun we had, I decided that I'd like to really see this game become something that encourages parents to play with their kids, in a form of structured/unstructured imaginative play. Over time, that simple game developed and redeveloped, and morphed into what the game is now, and likewise, so too did it's promise.
This is definitely my first foray into writing RPGs, but not my first foray into writing or game design. This is the first time however that I've committed myself so wholeheartedly to a single purpose for such an extended period of time.
You mention accessibility and wanting to develop a product with this focus. Tell us more about what this means for you and for Power Outage?
While there is a part of me that has attachments to people in my life that have disabilities, I believe that it's importants not just for me, but for all of us to endeavor as best we can to create more inclusive and accessible environments. We don't always succeed, but it's important that we try, regardless of whether we directly connect to a person with disabilities. I've been attending a fantastic series of conventions in NJ by Dexposure (Metatopia, Dreamation, and Dexcon) and the focus and effort they put in accommodations shows. It shows on the faces of people who feel invited, and who feel welcome without exclusion. Tabletop Roleplaying games become a haven for many of us. A place to express our emotions through our avatars, to connect to other people, to gain a sense of being something. Making sure EVERYONE has access to that same feeling? That's pretty much the most important task we should all be undertaking.
Power Outage is tackling it in two ways. Within the book I have a small amount of generalized guidance on Accommodations that are divided into 5 primary domains other than general guidance (Physical, Communicative/Receptive, Behavioral, Cognitive, and Emotional). The idea was to approach things from a symptomatic approach rather than focusing on particular conditions. Addressing the effect, and providing guidance and support for that, without focusing on the cause. I've found it to be the best method for creating a large net of coverage of disability accommodations than just focusing on a single condition. But secondly the book refers back to a website that I set up called www.accessible-rpg.com. It's not much yet, and what is there currently is geared toward gaming with kids. It's a wiki that still needs a lot of revision, guidance, and thoughtfulness. Most importantly it needs input directly from people within the community. People that have disabilities. Once I finish this Kickstarting campaign, my focus will most likely shift back to that site, while my designer and artist work on the book.
What do you want to accomplish with this Kickstarter in particular?
This Kickstarter specifically is an attempt to fund the cost of a designer, editor, and artist, with whatever is left over going toward miscellaneous production costs. The honest truth is with enough time, I could probably release the book with much less art, and my somewhat shoddy design skills. I don't believe however, that this is what Power Outage deserves. I believe the system is great, and it has a lot of promise. I don't want it to be chained by my inability to make it stand out among a stack of other TRPGs. I believe we have something really special here, that I'm willing to dedicate my life to, and that means reaching out to others to get it to where it needs to be.
Have you looked into connecting with RPG Research, Wheelhouse Workshop, or any of the other RPG therapy groups out there? This seems like a game that would really help their practices.
I think it would! I've talked to RPG Research about the wiki, primarily and again because I want to ensure that the guidance I'm providing is sound, functional, relevant, and non-offensive. To this point, I've also partnered up with some local professionals that I know through my work in public education that are doctors in the fields of counseling and psychology. When I have a book, that I am confident will benefit the community as a whole, I'll do everything within my means to ensure that they have enough resources to play the game. I've also communicated with some great twitter community members to help refine and restructure guidance.But yeah, I think this would work fantastically in a counseling setting, and the professionals I work with agree. One aspect of the game, aside from it's flexibility in rule structures, is the concept of meta weaknesses applied to villains. In this way, achievements that occur outside of the game, can have an impact within. This helps bridge the gap between personal goals and game goals, and slots in perfectly as an educational aide.
If you had one thing that you wanted to leave us with today, what would that be?
There are a couple things to know about kids. They're more capable then they're often given credit for. They often think in circles around squares. And they are the next generation of players that will be sitting at your tables. This is our opportunity to use our games to impact the up and coming generation. To help give shape to the importance of empathy. Of teamwork. Of dedication to a cause. To the nobility of altruism. And we can do so, while having a pretty fun time of it. So get out there and be a hero to some kid. Help them learn about the hero they're meant to be.
Thank you Bebarce for telling us more about Power Outage. If you are interested in learning more you can go to the Kickstarter and become a backer.
Josh Heath is the COO of this outfit. He’s also organizing HLG Con. www.hlgcon.com in Atlantic City October 12-14th. Come join us!
Lorecraft has become especially popular in recent years thanks to games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and with its resurgence as a storytelling mode, many creators both professional and amateur are attempting to carve out their own plot of narrative real estate. This isn’t a new frontier, however, and savvy world builders would be wise to recognize that. Lore is all about longevity, about reaching from the past to inoculate those of the future. With this in mind, try to think about something, anything that has existed in its original, unmolested state for, say, one hundred years. What about two hundred? Or a thousand? The simple answer is none, but “simple” seldom makes for satisfying stories. That, at its heart, is what lorecraft is all about. It is simulating the persistent effect of time on a culture, idea, structure, or even a single person. It is telling the story (whatever that story may be) as it was by how it is now. To do this, you need a story that can turn into lore; here are some tips on how to do just that.
Think about lore as footprints or tracks that players have to trace backwards. Unlike conventional storytelling where the narrative unfurls before the protagonist, lore and legend by their very nature require that at least part of the story has already been told. But you already know that. You have already stepped in those footprints before, you remember. Don’t you: the house down the street, with the loose-hinged shutters sun bleached and dropping jagged paint chips like leaves from a maple tree. Derelict and abused, the house is perched on your street like a gargoyle, watching the jittering plans of you and your neighbors for years. Local children would bribe one another with melted snickers to go inside on hot summer nights when the moon was brightest. Some would go in, plucking up the courage (or naïveté) only to rocket out screaming from the houses yawning doorway. You remember hearing about the night she went in. You remember waiting for her to come out, the kids around you calling out her name in nervous laughs. You remember eventually going home. You don’t remember seeing her again.
The haunted house! Everyone has at least heard of one! It’s a great way to build micro-lore that resonates with a lot of people. This idea of a physical structure that’s mere existence compels those nearby to fabricate a story around it. It’s an important part of culture, crafting legends around structures, and we have been doing it for thousands of years. Houses of worship often fall into this column, but we will get to religion in a bit. For now, be thinking of lore in the way you think of that haunted house. What makes it unique? What makes it memorable? Most of the time, it’s the aesthetic. It’s the fact that it isn’t like the surroundings. It possesses an air about it that begs for a story. All the important ancient structures that exist today exhibit that. Maybe at one time they fit right in, but something happened. Everything changed and for one reason or another, it had the tenacity to brave the storm of time. So often, buildings don’t stand the test of time; that is why I said it’s great for micro lore. It helps creators get a grasp on the idea of persistence and setting because lore has a tendency to lean on the philosophical. Without a strong presence of mood and setting to ground wayward protagonists, lore might just be perceived as a history lecture. Buildings like temples, pyramids, even creepy homes are a good way to avoid some of the wordiness of legacy and provide engaging avenues to show rather than tell. History is learned. Lore is explored. Keep that in mind with buildings.
This may be the most familiar form of lore that we digest today. Stories of heroes of a bygone era and the adventures they undertook is the soul of most roleplaying games. While players often are participating in reactive story telling (The monster is doing this; so, you do this), lore is post-active storytelling. The analogy of the footprints is especially true for folk tales and post-active narratives. For example, one of my favorite Native American folktales from the Muscogee tribe describe the events that lead to opossums having bald tails. In short, a clever opossum catches his tail alight to bring fire to those that needed it most, Prometheus style. Post-active storytelling does not have much of a pension to be changed on the fly, but its results are able to be engaged with and are usually the reason the story is being told in the first place even if that reason is “I wonder why opossums have bald tails?”
Folktales are a way to humanize history through lore. It is a vehicle that allows us to make an impression on one of the most difficult surfaces to reach: the past. If you want to build character-centric lore, go to the folktale and see what makes them tick. Soon, you will be begin to notice that classically there are uncanny archetypal characters that mirror other characters from vastly different locations and points in history. Folktales palletize grandiose ideas of the human experience, but at their heart, they tether the present to the past through caution and familiarity. The best heroes of lore, despite how godlike or untouchable, are always actualized by what makes them most human.
The backbone of most prominent religions presently is preservation. Someone thought that the world works/should work a certain way, and they made sure that their ideology could be propagated beyond their lifetime. It’s a pretty daunting task. Regardless of validity, religions deserve a pat on the back for lasting as long as they have. This deliberate, theological persistence is engineered to imbed itself into culture to survive; it does this through lorecraft.
For sake of illustration, let’s make up a religion. A group of intelligent creatures live on the shoreline of a massive sea. Every once in a while they see curious beasts ferrying men across the water. These beasts have large white structures that catch the wind and propel them forward. Without the technology to observe these things closer, the little colony agrees that the beasts must be some massive water bird capable of carrying humans over past the horizon.
“Well what is on the other side of the horizon?” one asks.
“Who knows? Everyone that goes out there never comes back,” replies another.
There is the seed. Mystery, intrigue, mortality. Over the next couple of generations this seed grows and evolves as more people throw their theories into the ring, and before you know it, we have a fully fleshed out mythology about gatekeeping birds transporting chosen humans into another realm. As silly as it sounds, Americans actually tried to synthesize a religion to keep people out of nuclear test sites in this very way (Vox and the podcast 99% Invisible have an amazing video on this which can be found here https://www.vox.com/videos/2018/1/29/16932718/biohazard-design-nuclear-waste). Take an icon. Let that icon grow bigger in scope though intrigue, and once it grows too big or esoteric for people to completely understand, eventually someone is going to stand up and say, “Hey what if we aren’t supposed to completely understand? Maybe it is supernatural.”
We mentioned before that folklore was designed to connect the human condition to the often foggy interpretation of the past. Religion connects the human condition to the supernatural in much the same way. It’s important to keep in mind that rich lore often deals with the mortality of man and the anxiety it can induce. Throughout human history the desire to feel like the unexplainable is being orchestrated by something bigger than man has cropped up again and again. We build lore around it to contain the philosophical musings that we feel are most satisfying. When it comes to religion, think of lore as a glass terrarium that not only provides enough structure to keep everything in one place but also remains transparent enough so that we can see whats inside.
If folktales highlight the best in human design, then monsters are the downers at the party that point out how awful things are. In a way, the story of the monster is the antithesis of the folktale. If folktales tell us, “Hey, humans can transcend themselves and do amazing things,” the monster story warns us, “Humans can transcend themselves, but you may not like what the end result looks like.”
We see great examples of that warning in familiar stories like “Frankenstein,” “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” basically all werewolf and vampire stories, and so many more. The next time you read or watch something about a monster shift your perspective and try to see it as the protagonist. More often than not there is a sympathetic turn; a genesis story of sorts. Your lore alarm should be buzzing right about now. While most lore is about taking steps back in time, the specific lore surrounding monsters often has us taking steps back to scrutinize ourselves (specifically our psychology).
Where monsters are concerned, good lore builders are able to hold up a mirror and make you see something worse than your reflection. I don’t know about you, but my usual reflection is bad enough. Take the idea of the classic Kraken myth. It’s not scary because it has tentacles or is impressively large or even that it eats boats. It’s scary because it has alien motivations and wants to eat your boat. It embodies the fears of many sailors and the anxiety of traveling into the unknown, an anxiety that keep many people for exploring anything at all. The Kraken has effective lore because it begs the question, “Why is it scary?”
One more example: the witch. In fact, watching the movie “The Witch” tries to convey much of what I have already said about monsters. The archetype of the witch has us asking, yet again, why we are so concerned with relatively innocuous things when seen at face value. Old ladies are not scary, per se. Neither is magic nor the idea of the supernatural. The witch has been so alarming for much of English, Irish, and German history because of what it represents to humans in a general way. The lore behind the witch gives it its weight. The concept of dark, corrupting knowledge that poisons your very nature and potentially those around you is terrifying, especially for colonials during that time. The idea of the “other” has lead people to do terrible things, but the lore behind it is important. Lore helps us tackle these issues with a degree of skeptical separation.
Lore is a powerful tool at a creator’s disposal, but getting bogged down in time lines, he-said-she-said, and esoterica can really detract from the heart of what makes lore compelling. That is, our actions matter and can echo through time long after we are gone. An old professor said something to me once that I still think about today when I’m writing story: “The most engaging part of a treasure hunt is why it needs to be hunted in the first place. If you don’t know that, you’re just writing about a dirty box full of scrap metal.”
Andrew Pendragon is a veteran role player, Dungeon Master, and story teller. His work can be seen featured on outlets like the Simply Scary Podcast and Youtube channel BlackEyedBlonde, but he takes the most pride in his High Level Games affiliate podcast The Dragon’s Horde where he, alongside his co host, answers listener submitted roleplay questions and weaves them into a false-actual-play.
Picture Reference: https://funnyjunk.com/channel/vidyagaems/Bloodborne+lore+ilustrado+ludwig/wYGsLjL/
It’s no secret that Modiphius is the biggest company to hit the tabletop gaming scene since Fantasy Flight. They continue to produce high quality products on a regular and often reliable release schedule. From Infinity and Conan to older titles like Achtung! Cthulhu and Mutant Chronicles, Modiphius’ library seems ever expanding and continually improving. The throughline for their newest releases is the 2d20 system, a rule set and dice mechanic that itself has been growing and adapting much like the company that spawned it. I really enjoy the system; the following three aspects are some of the high points. Let’s have a look!
Whether you’re hacking a quantronic computer to dig up information about the latest rogue AI, piloting a starship through a nest of Klingon Warbirds, or seeking high adventure in the Hyborian Age, 2d20 works and works well. The system is meant to have a certain measure of “give” so that it can bend to the constraints of a particular setting or genre without breaking. The basics are always the same: roll 2d20 and try to get at or below your combined attribute and skill There’s a kicker though. Some more difficult actions will require more successes than you have dice, and while you can crit for more successes, you might find that you need 5 successes to pull off the badass move you’ve been planning for three turns. That’s where the game’s Momentum system comes into play, which I describe in more detail below.
The base system receives tweaks in order to capture the feel of the game and setting it’s attached to. In Conan, the magic is added as an additional system. In Star Trek, the skill system is reduced to only six fields of study, but the breadth of each is increased dramatically. This refocuses the gaming experience to support the thrills of discovery and clever thinking. Thus, a player will find each game that uses the system familiar, and will simply need to learn the changes before jumping into a session.
Only 2d20? But what if I don’t net any successes? What if I need three successes to perform the action in question? Time to buy more dice! The player characters receive and continually build a pool of Momentum. These points let players augment their dice pools and damage, and sometimes achieve even cooler more specific effects. Does the medic absolutely have to pass their roll to save the life of another PC? Spend some Momentum and grab three more dice. Running out of Momentum? Refill the pool by overachieving easier tasks; extra successes net you more of those sweet dice-adding points. This mechanic not only provides some much needed aid to the player characters and lets them feel awesome, it also provides a gauge of how much potential success the player characters have on their side. They can then make decisions as a team regarding whether to fight or flee. It also rewards them for doing simple tasks such as preparing for a fight by cleaning their weapons or rigging simple traps, each of which can potentially add Momentum to the pool before a big scene wherein heroics are a must.
But what if the pool runs dry and you still need extra dice? Most variants of 2d20 allow for the players to provide the GM with their own dice-adding resource in order to mimic the effects of Momentum. Referred to as “Heat” in Infinity, this resource can be spent by the GM to increase the dice pools of significant adversaries, call in reinforcements, or just cause a little mayhem for the party when they get complacent. It’s this push and pull that really makes the system come alive.
And it’s this same push and pull that creates and maintains dramatic tension throughout the gaming experience. Heat and Momentum provide incentive for players and the GM to keep the pressure up. If you sit on your laurels, you start bleeding Momentum. If you take too long deciding how to take your turn, the GM starts generating Heat. This makes conflicts feel exciting and intense. Even negotiations with new alien species have their drama turned up to 11 using this system. 2d20 effectively works to eliminate as many dull moments as possible, which is a welcome feeling in the age of the cell phone. It keeps players focused on the action and guides the GM by giving them an idea of what they can add to a scene to make it even more exciting, but still balanced. It’s hard to find another system that fights so hard for the enjoyment of the players at the table.
2d20 is a growing, living entity. It receives revisions for each game and supplement that comes out. Since Modiphius does not appear to be losing steam (they just acquired the production rights to Vampire: the Masquerade, after all), I’m positive we’ll see even more iterations of this cool new system with updates and fixes. No system is without its flaws, of course. Come back next month for my critique of the system, whereby we will explore three of the main issues that I’ve discovered. In the meanwhile, let me know what you think of the system and the games that it’s attached to!
David Horwitz is a gamer and freelance writer/editor with an obsession for exploring new forms of leisure. If you’re looking for an inquisitive mind and a deft hand, or just want to chat about gaming, contact him at www.davidhorwitzwrites.com/contact.
Picture Reference: http://www.modiphius.com/2d20.html
About a year and a half ago, in March of 2017, I was introduced to a fairly recently released game from Japan called Detatoko Saga. I was enamored with the notion of the being one of the first English speaking players of a game from Japan, and took meticulous notes on how the game ran. Though after a month or so of regular play, the group moved on to a different game, and thus my collection of the rules was incomplete.
I then did what any sensible person would do; I acquired a copy of the game myself and finished the translation on my own.
Perhaps I should say that’s what I PLANNED to do, because I didn’t understand Japanese at the time. It’s been about a year or so since then, and I’ve made significant strides in learning the language, and I’m finally able to begin my harebrained scheme of bringing one of Japan’s games into the English speaking world.
And through this journey, I’ve confirmed many things that up to this point I’ve only heard said by other people. Presented for your reading enjoyment are some of those points.
1) Japan Designs Their Rulebooks Differently (If Ever So Slightly)
Recall your favorite RPG Rulebook. What are the first few pages dedicate to? For more modern games, it’s likely a short chapter introducing the idea of an RPG to you, followed by some of the basic mechanics of the game, and then a chapter dedicated to creating your character. While Japan more or less follows this same approach, they typically lead off with something you don’t often see in American or European games at all.
The first 15 or so pages of Detatoko Saga were dedicated to what in Japan is known as a “Replay;” a complete text transcript of what went on during a session of the game. This isn’t unique to Detatoko Saga, either. Some of Japan’s games may even have several of these Replays compiled in the beginning of their rulebooks, turning them into works of fiction with a rule compendium in the back. (The translation company Kotodama Heavy Industries is planning to release the English rulebook for Shinobigami in this format, if you’re curious to see what I mean!)
One other interesting feature to Detatoko Saga hinges on the fact that many Japanese books are softcover with a dust jacket. Removing this jacket reveals that the front cover of the book is a copy of a character sheet for the game! This is an important addition, since print media still dominates the book market in Japan; it’s rare to find .pdf or other ebook variants of Japanese publications.
2) Translating Is An Art, Not A Science
One of the golden rules of translation is that it’s not a mechanical task; it’s why Google Translate is generally regarded as better for individual words and phrases than complete sentences. The way certain words are used, especially when coupled with other words, can make a world of difference.
A similar scenario I encountered when translating Detatoko Saga was the name of a skill possessed by the “Dragon” class. It was a skill that could be used in combat to retaliate against an enemy attack. This was originally translated as “Counter.”
The translator for this game was going through quickly, and admitted that a few times he picked names for the skills based on what they did, as opposed to what they were actually named. So I went back to re-translate it for practice. The skill that was known as “Counter” was spelled “逆鱗” which means “Imperial Wrath” or “One’s Superior’s Anger.”
There’s also additional layers of meaning added to the original name: the individual kanji that make it up are 逆 for “reverse” or “oppose” and 鱗 for “scales” like those on a fish or lizard. So this skill is thus used by a creature with scales to oppose being attacked, which would rightfully make them angry.
This illustrates perfectly why translating is a creative skill: neither “Counter” nor “Imperial Wrath” is more correct than the other. One gets the point across of what the skill does just by the name, while the other is specifically what was said, even if the word play gets lost in translation. Which is also to say nothing about the option of re-writing the name to capture that same whimsical word play by using a name like “Red Hot Fury.” (Since Dragon’s are popularly known as fire breathing creatures.)
3) It’s Practical Experience In Using A Language
I spent around a year reading up about the basics of reading and speaking Japanese, as well as using a bunch of language learning apps. Every so often, I would crack open my copy of Detatoko Saga with the hopes that I knew enough and it’d make sense at a glance.
I’d pick a passage, and see if anything stood out or made sense. When I couldn’t recognize anything, I put my rulebook away and went back to my language books, hoping that more study would get me ready.
It never did, by the way.
Translating a game was much like how I described learning a new game; at some point, I needed to take the plunge and work with what I knew, or I’d wind up perpetually saying, “Just a little bit more study, then I’ll be ready!”
It’s been slow. I’ve clumsily had to stare at various kanji to decipher how they’re constructed before I could punch them into my dictionary, and one line of text would take me roughly 15 minutes to figure out. However, these were words that my language apps and text books weren’t teaching me, so I couldn’t necessarily wait.
I had to let the experience of figuring them out for myself teach them to me. From time to time, I’ll encounter Japanese words in other places, and since I’ve taken that leap to figure them out from Detatoko Saga, it wasn’t as difficult for me to understand it that second time around.
If it wasn’t already obvious, translation is a complicated subject. It’s why it took eight years for Tenra Bansho Zero to be completely translated. Not only was it close to 1000 pages of material, but there was also a great deal of cultural detail that needed to be considered at the same time.
Which is to say nothing of the fact that Japanese is such a wildly different language from English or many of the other European languages. Despite the long road I had to take to start making sense of Detatoko Saga, though, I’d have to say that starting it was worthwhile.
Much like the difficulty of learning about and playing roleplaying games.
Aaron der Schaedel is the resident weeb at High Level Games, and is still a really long ways off from finishing the translation of Detatoko Saga. You should find him on Twitter (@Zamubei) and tweet pictures of catgirls at him.
Picture Reference: https://www.amazon.com/Detatoko-saga-Ryo-Kamiya/dp/4775313274
The tabletop RPG industry is growing. As a result, people from all walks of life have come together at the table. While this is certainly a great thing, especially if a Game Master is intentionally inclusive, but this can also result in miscommunication and awkward storytelling. Personally, I find that there's nothing worse as a Game Master than unwittingly making a player uncomfortable at the table and not knowing until much later.
Enter the X-Card, a concept developed by John Stavropoulos. Plain and simple, the X-Card is an index card with a large X on it. If a player is ever uncomfortable, they can tap the card or hold it up. The Game Master will then continue on, or back up a bit and re-write what just happened in the story. No one is to ask for an explanation as to why the player was made uncomfortable by this particular story development. Everyone just accepts it, and moves on. Afterwards, the Game Master and player can talk it over, so that the Game Master can better understand how to guide the games for everyone's benefit in the future.
You may have a group of gamers already established, and naturally know where the line is for them. If that's the case, the X-Card may not be for you. But if you have had issues in the past, with players being hurt or upset over the content in your game, then here are five good reasons you should take a look at this handy tool.
1) It Says “I Care”
Utilizing the X-Card at your table lets the players know immediately that you care about their feelings. This is more important in an environment where you don't know the individuals very well. If you have a new player or two that are friends of your current players but who you don't know personally, the X-Card can help set up a safe environment quickly. It can help players see that you are attentive to their personal needs.
2) It Makes Players More Comfortable
I have heard other players state how much more comfortable they were at the game table when they discovered that the X-Card was being used. They realized that if they had an issue, they could say so quickly and without trouble. Having relaxed players will help keep everyone having a good time.
3) It Puts The GM In A Good Mindset
With the X-Card in play, the Game Master can feel free to tell their story and trust the players to utilize it when they need to. I am certainly not suggesting that the Game Master should just say and do whatever they want, waiting for players to tell them otherwise. Instead, the Game Master can rest easy knowing that there is a device in place should the situation arise.
4) It’s In The Creative Commons
If you're like me, and you prefer to do things the legal way when it comes to purchasing and exchanging RPG material, fear not. The X-Card document is in the Creative Commons and may be shared freely. As a matter of fact, you can even incorporate it into an RPG of your own design as a mechanic if you so desire. You simply have to attribute the original author and share the work under the same license. This flexibility makes the X-Card easy to modify and use as you see fit, and you can also exchange the document with your gaming group with ease.
5) It's Great For Convention Games
If you're running a game at a convention, you're likely to run into all sorts of people. You'll be gaming with total strangers, which can make for some potentially uncomfortable encounters. While I would recommend staying away from touchy subjects at a convention table, it's still wise to utilize the this tool. This will avoid any miscommunication that could easily happen at a table with a group of gamers you've hardly met.
For many of us, gaming is about escapism; taking a moment to explore a world that never was and slay the proverbial dragon. Making sure that these moments together are safe and even empowering can be difficult to achieve. No tool works for every situation, but the X-Card certainly is helpful.
Nathan Carmen is the founder and head writer of the Indie RPG company, Tricky Troll Games. Nathan loves building worlds and improving his craft when he’s not busy parenting. Reach Nathan at email@example.com or check out the TTG website at https://nathanccarmen.wixsite.com/trickytrollgames
Picture Reference: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1SB0jsx34bWHZWbnNIVVuMjhDkrdFGo1_hSC2BWPlI3A/edit#
One of the trends in gaming lately has been trying out new mechanics and ways of resolving conflict. Suited takes the whole “using cards” thing to its logical conclusion and breaks out the playing cards to create a wacky, setting-adaptive system, excellent for one-shot adventures. The best part is that the system was developed in the best place ever to use playing cards: a road trip. Check out what designers Ted Pick Jr. and Erin Johnson had to say about the game below.
First, Suited looks like a blast, but it seems like the car ride that spawned it may not have been. Did you have the idea to work on a game before you set out, or did the deck of cards get you thinking?
The car ride itself actually was a lot of fun, Texas has a gorgeous countryside that is worth driving through if you get a chance. But to answer your question, we had discussed working on designing a tabletop game the night before the drive, and we decided to spend some of our time during the drive working on one. At the time we had just gotten our hands on a copy of WYRD'S "Through the Breach" which uses a card-based system, as opposed to dice, and we fell in love with that idea and couldn't figure out why there weren't more card-based game systems out there. So we started spit-balling ideas on how we could put together a Two-page RPG using card mechanics, and about 3 hours later we had the bare bones of Suited. Side note: We seem to do our best game creation while driving, over the course of two other drives we designed two completely new playsets that we are planning on releasing as stand-alones at some point.
You state in the sample document that one of the goals of the game was to keep it quick. What was your biggest challenge to keeping the pace of the game up?
The biggest challenge to keeping the game fast was in trying to keep everything slimmed down. There are volumes of games out there (that we love dearly) that have page upon page on game mechanics, enemies, weapons, and chapters detailing how to level your character. While these games are fun, we wanted to create a game that people could pick up, spend maybe 10-15 minutes reading over the rules, and then start playing. Originally we designed Suited for a Two-Page RPG challenge, but as we worked on it we realized that we could never fit everything on just two pages, and as we designed more playsets we had to add in a few more rules mechanics to accommodate actions that could occur in that setting, which then required trying to keep the rules slim enough to not slow down the game, but in-depth enough to do what they needed to do.
All of the missions are randomly assembled by the GM. What’s been your favorite combination, and what were some of the hijinks that ensued?
I think my favorite combination so far occurred in the Post Apocalypse Playset. The group in the Post Apocalypse game had gotten a world that was run by robot overlords. Working with them to design the world, we decided that it was a world where humans were cloned and used as batteries by the machines, but that some humans had gotten free, but they were dying off because the robots wiped the knowledge of how to reproduce from their genes. The item that the group started with was a VHS Tape and their mission was to Save The Information. So they decided the tape was a copy of Debby Does Dallas and the information they had to save was the way humans reproduced (as demonstrated in the tape). The downside was that the only way to copy the tape was controlled by the villain, Emperor Gor-Urs, so they had to make a dangerous trek across the land to his base and convince him to allow them to transfer the data and copy the VHS tape. They started in Guttown in a desert and immediately got into a scrap with some robot sentinels out looking for free humans. The group then had a run in with some free people hiding in an old scrapyard (The Dumps), and were then chased up into the Mountains where Emperor Gor-Urs lives by a Robot Hunting Pack. They successfully destroyed the pack, found Gor-Urs base, and convinced him to let them use his VHS copier. It was a blast!
In the free sample you have rules for noir, western, and post-apocalyptic settings, and you have announced rules for anthropomorphic animals, space exploration sci-fi, and wushu settings. Can you give a hint for future settings?
Our plans are to release two Pay-What-You-Want expansion packs, both with 3 new playsets, and then combine the two expansions and the free edition playsets into a high-quality full book that will be available for purchase on DriveThruRPG. So right now we have the six playsets you mentioned, and then another seven playsets planned for the core book that would range over all of the common settings people enjoy roleplaying, everything from 80's action hero to horror to high fantasy. We also have a couple of stand-alone playsets like I mentioned earlier that we will save for special events, kickstarter stretch goals, and the occasional April Fools release. One example of the stand-alones is a touring band simulator in the idea of Spinaltap/Airheads.
We cannot express how awesome it feels to have people looking over our works and playing our game, and if you haven't checked out the DriveThruRPG file lately, we released an updated version of Suited: Free Sample Edition last month with better graphics, and much nicer layout, and a slightly larger section on the rules mechanics of the game. We hope that you enjoy Suited, and should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to let us know!
Check out Suited here.
Phil Pepin is a history-reading, science-loving, head-banging, river-running nerd, who would like nothing more than to cuddle with his pups and wife.
Picture Reference: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/241178/Suited-Free-Sample-Edition
Before you begin reading this guide, I would like to formally make note of my identity. I am Balamast, Master Thief of the local thieves guild; some of you may know me as Fox Fingers and if you don’t, I am terribly disappointed. I have spent the last 20 years perfecting my craft and now I will give you the five most useful tips I can share to improve your skills. If you are not of the charismatic or dexterous among us, please stop reading and go learn how to be like the rest of the barbarians. Well, shall we begin?
1) Make Sure You Have A Silver Tongue
Not every problem can be solved with metal, sometimes you must use your charm to get away with things you otherwise wouldn't. You must obtain a silver tongue. To do this, practice speaking to all manners of people. Try convincing someone that you’re somebody you’re not. Start simple, pretend to be a merchant from a far away place seeking land to be purchased. The more you practice, the better you will get at speaking quickly; especially when you are caught off guard. This is by far your most valuable asset as it will save your life in a pinch. This skill allows you to learn information that will give you an edge in these situations.
2) Light On Your Feet
I can boldly assume you understand that being light on your feet is an important mechanic to becoming a good thief, right? Well, when it comes to running away from a caravan of guards who just caught you stealing from the king's cache, you bet that your not fighting them. Do what we thieves do best, RUN! Running isn’t just about beating your feet and controlling your breathing, it’s about fluidity of movement. We need to teach you how to fall from great heights, jump over railings, using alleyway walls to climb up onto a roof, the like. What I am getting at is that you need to go practice. Find some buildings to play around with, practice running as fast as you can, stretch your muscles and let it become not thought, but instinct. Eventually everything will become muscle memory and will be easily applicable where ever you go.
3) Know What You Are Dealing With
Every rookie thief has made this mistake in the past, going in blind. You must know at all times what you are dealing with and the repercussions of such. What I mean by this is that when you pick your target, who does it belong to, what kind of power do they hold, are you willing it take to risks if you get caught. There are lots of different people out in the world, you could be stealing from a powerful wizard and you just might end up becoming a toad for the rest of your measly existence. So do yourself a favor and study. Learn everything you can about what it is your after so you have the best chances of succeeding. I am friends with far too many toads now.
4) The Thieves Language
So, once we have our shinies and bobbles, where the hell do we go to sell them? Well, we must look for the marks. Have you learned thieves cant? We use this to mark places of interest under the naked eye of the city. We use it to communicate guard patterns, places to sell your stolen goods, jobs or even some useful items for any traveling thief. Thieves cant can also be used to communicate directly to others with slight hand gestures, that's how group jobs are performed, we do it without saying a word. So keep an eye out for these markings throughout the cities, you will be surprised by what might turn up.
5) Last Resort
I always put this as my last lesson when it comes to teaching thieves. I am not a believer in killing, nor do I condone what ever acts you take outside of these teachings. But, as a thief you must be able to play dirty, a good majority of us are not tough fighters. I would always say run first but at some point in your career your going to be surrounded. Step one is to take a good hard look at your surroundings, see what you can use to advantage. Whether it be sand to throw in their faces or a rock to hide behind. Find a way to get in between the armor. Exploit weaknesses when possible, i guarantee you will always be able to out fight a man in plate. Exhaust him by dodging his attacks and when an opportunity arises go for it. We thieves tend to excel at knowing the human body allowing us to perform what I like to call “Sneak Attacks”; I am clever. Basicly pointing your blade into a weak point of the body, this tends to be more difficult with bigger weapons so we tend to stick with the knife.
Thank you for taking the time in reading this guide as I hope it helps you achieve your goals and dreams of obtaining whatever it is your after. Remember to speak well, be nimble as a fox, learn about your target, know our language and when you have nothing else know how to fight. I do not run an assassins guild so if you get in trouble for murder, understand that purchasing this document holds me under no legalities of your actions.
Benjamin Witunsky, artist, writer and nerd savant. Cofounder of the NerdMantle Podcast available on Soundcloud, Itunes and Google Play Music.
Picture provided by the author
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