Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saint Grenna of Merthis

"Saint Grenna of Merthis (Grenna Fingers, The Bread Sister, The Baker of Merthis)"

"In the days of the Crenel Wars, Evandra made assault upon the city-state of Merthis, bringing press-ganged crossbowmen and slave-mercenaries from Syr-Marad, and blockading the port of Merthis with a flotilla of refitted trade cogs and barges staffed with arbalests and alchemist’s fire. The siege dragged on for weeks and months, food in Merthis quickly running low, as many of its provisions had been sent with allied forces and lost in the disastrous Battle of Ormen’s Mouth."

"Amidst the despair and confusion pervading Merthis, a lowly Sister of the Vestry by the name of Grenna emerged from obscurity with the proclamation that, by the grace of the Father and the Mother, any person (slave, free, or noble) who brought to her a finger of an Evandran would receive a small roll in exchange the next day."

"At first, few payed the Saint any heed, and those who did either mocked in scorn or shook their heads in disgust and fear. Soon, however, it became evident that Saint Grenna’s word was good: a finger earned a coarse black roll, and a hand five, enough to stave off a day’s hunger for an entire family."

"Merthis’ defenders, formerly fearful and slothful in a war most did not believe was even theirs, became zealous in desperation, seeking the fingers and hands of Evandrans with grim vigor, knowing that taking the life of an Evandran preserved their own for at least a week."

"The siege lasted not another month: the Evandrans decamped in fear and wonderment at the sudden valor of the Merthians. At this, all Merthis sought to raise the beneficent Saint Grenna to a position of high nobility and veneration, but she was nowhere to be found. It was as if she had been taken bodily to the stars at the conclusion of her service in the time of need."

"The exact means of Saint Grenna’s Miracle remains a mystery of faith. In Evandra, of course, she is still vilified as a witch or even a chthonist practicing the blackest of arts (and her veneration strictly anathematized), though the obvious beauty and charity of her Miracle renders that opinion ridiculous."

"She is venerated to this day as a patron saint of bakers, Sisters of the Vestry, and all Merthians, and is often invoked in times of hunger and duress as a provider. Her auspices are the coarse black roll with five slits in the crust, and five outspread fingers."

- From the Hagiograph of The Hundred by the Venerable Viebalde

This post is the third in my The Hundred Saints series, updating Fridays! (Well, Saturday, in this case. Sorry for the lateness, but at the same time, I'm not sorry. I spent the time doing important things. The next saint should go up on time next week!)
Previous Saints:
Saint Be'lak the Bard
Saint Cryndwr Firebeard of Wealdvale

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What's A Class?

RPGs generally follow one of two paradigms for determining the abilities a character possesses: class-based and skill-based.
Examples of class-based games are D&D, Pathfinder, World of Warcraft, etc.
Examples of skill-based games are The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Traveler, Runequest, Burning Wheel, GURPS (as I understand it, haven't played), etc.

Skill-based first, because that's not what this article is about,  but skills are something we need to talk about first:

Skills are tools for problem-solving.
Got a problem in the shape of a hungry monster? You could hit it with a sword (Fighting/Melee Weapons/etc.), shoot it (Archery/Ranged Weapons/Firearms/etc.), use magic on it (Wizardry/Sorcery/etc.), hide from it (Stealth), run away from it (Athletics/Climbing/Running/etc.), persuade it do go away or be nice (Diplomacy/Persuasion/Intimidation/etc.)... you get the point.
Got a problem in the shape of a wall? You could climb it (Athletics/Acrobatics/Climbing/etc.), tunnel through or under it (Mining/Masonry/Artifice), use magic on it (as above)... same paradigm.
Skills are tools.

Classes aren't. Classes are often associated with tools or toolsets (which is why many classes come pre-packaged with skills) but that is not what makes them a class.

Neither are classes backgrounds, or professions. They may SOUND LIKE backgrounds at times (Thief, Wizard, Cleric), but that's not what a class is about. (At least, that's not what a class SHOULD be. Sometimes games get this confused.)

A class is an approach to problems, a method of solving them. It is also a worldview.

A Fighter isn't necessarily someone who was once a soldier or a warrior (although they often are); what makes a Fighter a Fighter is that they see all problems as problems that can be solved by the application of violence; all problems are foes that need to be defeated.
A Rogue isn't necessarily a thief or a scoundrel or a criminal (although they often are); what makes a Rogue a Rogue is that they see all problems as barriers that need to be circumvented, avoided, undermined, exploited.
A Wizard isn't necessarily a trained magician or a learned scholar (although they often are); what makes a Wizard a Wizard is that they see all problems as malformations of the structure of existence itself; only by altering this structure of existence (by means of various forms of esoterica) are problems truly solved.

This is what makes a class a good class: a worldview.
An Alchemist is a good class because they see all problems as lumps of matter that can be refined and rearranged, and all lumps of matter as potential tools and weapons. (Engineers are all Alchemists. Many scientists are not, though; they may deal entirely with lumps of matter, but their tools and goals are all esoteric. They are usually Wizards, actually.)
A Cleric is a good class because they see all problems as consequences of the absence of their god(s), and themselves as vessels and vehicles of that god's presence and power. (A "god" need not be personal, with sapience and will. A god is an ideal. Karl Marx was a Cleric. He would roll over in his grave to hear me say this, though.)
A Knight is a good class because they see all problems as breaches of chivalry, and themselves as questors whose goal is to restore chivalry and honor. (Chivalry is a code of rules or regulations. Any code. Any good judge is a Knight. Note that a code is not necessarily an ideal; an ideal is a unified concept of how things should be - often embodied in the person of a god - while a code is a set of rules that maintain order. A Cleric may follow rules, but only in service of an ideal; a Knight may believe in a god, but only as a giver or guarantor of a code.)
A Warlock is a good class because they see all problems as disadvantageous power relations, and themselves as the nexus of advantageous power relations that they must maintain and leverage. (Any good Secretary of State is a Warlock.)
A Bard is a good class because they see all problems as lexical or symbolic vacuums (things not named, things without meaning), and themselves as users of words and symbols and arts to recast the very meaning of things. (Most good philosophers are Bards. So are most poets.)

A class without a worldview is a bad class.
A monk is a bad class because it is nothing but a background (it's not even a profession, as a "professional" monk wouldn't be adventuring, but rather secluded in contemplation). A monk should be some sort of Fighter or some sort of Wizard or some sort of Cleric (depending on the paradigm the game adopts), as those are the worldviews that are actually at play.
A paladin is a bad class because it is nothing but a profession or a background. A paladin is either a Cleric (if they seek to embody an ideal) or a Knight (if they seek to follow and enforce a code).
A druid is a bad class because it is nothing but a profession or a background. A druid is just a cleric minus the metal (Nature is merely another god).

These lists are not exhaustive.
I am exhausted, so my syntax my be less good than usual. I hope the ideas are good, though. What do you think: are they?
If not, how would you formulate them differently?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Metal Monster Manual Monday - Volume 7

Continuing a weekly series of posts wherein I share several album covers (mostly by death metal bands!) as brainfood for encounters in your tabletop RPG. Expect this every Monday!

Fairly straightforward. This is either a faerie portal, sapient elder tree, or fey conglomeration of deceptive, malignant vegetation. You know what to do.
Beautiful artwork, though.

What would she say to one who approaches her?

Alright, time for the BOSS BATTLE:

This town is obviously controlled by a corrupt and tyrannical government, or a wicked and perverse cult. Whether the PCs want to rescue a specific prisoner or simply stop this gruesome spectacle of terror, there's challenge to be had!
1) Obviously the executioner. Big guy with an axe and mask. Fairly standard; give him a ton of HP and damage, with not too much in the way of brains.
2) Guards. They seem well-armored, and have long polearms ideal for fighting in ranks (or hooking interfering PCs off the execution platform!)
3) That hag or wretch to the left of the executioner, holding a head. Witch? Necromancer? Just a garden-variety creep, haha?
4) Those dogs at the bottom. Obviously have a taste for blood, probably violent, possibly possessed or magical (look at the eyes!).
5) An evil necromancer showing up on the scene would have a heyday. Animate piles of shifting heads? Check. Mutilated horrors reaching from their gibbets toward the living? Check. Shuffling, burning, headless bodies? Check.

As a parting note, I notice that the execution block is a stump. Where did it come from? Was it once a sacred tree? Does it still derive nourishment from the streams of blood that run down its roots? (What eldritch changes would such nourishment bring about in it?)

How would YOU use any/all of these monsters, encounters, and scenes in your game, Reader?
(Let me know how it goes if you do!)

(Sorry that some of this post was somewhat sparse. I've got a lot on my plate and a lot on my mind this week. The stuff should still be useful and perhaps thought-provoking, though.)

Previous volumes:
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5
Volume 6