Here is an idea on how to handle monotheism in a fantasy world:
Different divine classes or cleric domains or spell lists associated with a particular order or saint. They still all worship the single deity, but each has a different focus.
For example, ACKS has the traditional cleric, blade dancer (light armor-wearing female with swords), priestess (more spells, but no armor or fighting ability and must follow certain rules), and shaman (nature-focused divine spellcaster). Each of these has special powers and some slightly different spells on their spell list.
Imagine that the cleric follows St. Michael the Archangel, the blade dancer follows St. Joan of Arc, the priestess follows St. Agnes of Rome, and the shaman follows St. Francis of Assisi.
This idea was inspired by looking into potentially joining either the Catholic Church or Orthodox Church. Obviously, this is for a fantasy game and does not necessarily reflect actual practices of any non-heretical group. Before the comment section fills up with Catholic and Orthodox folks trying to sway me one way or the other, here are some Spurdos, which are the best arguments for converting:
In a monotheistic game world, I would keep devils and demons in it. They give power to evil clerics. Evil clerics would be just as powerful as good ones, not because evil is equal to good, but simply because sinful mortal vessels cannot properly channel the true power of Good, but they are adept at wielding Evil. That is why a Xth level good cleric is just as powerful as a Xth level evil cleric!
Now my current game is polytheistic as heck, but I wonder if anyone has ever played in a more monotheistic setting. Does it work in practice? Or is polytheism the way to go?
There hasn’t been an update from the Sunday night ACKS game in a while. We’re still playing Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (and spots are open!). This past Sunday had not 1, but 2 character deaths!
Meet Niblog the Untrustworthy.
Niblog has been with the party a looooooooooong time. Even was turned to stone for a while.
He got better.
But unfortunately, after tangling with some large spiders…he succumbed to poison. Save or die is a hard way to game, but my players are made of the sternest stuff imaginable.
The player rolled up a new character…with 4 Strength and 6 Intelligence. Sometimes 3d6 in a row can screw you over. But, he went with the punches and we now have a Mothperson Light-Taker with us!
Our second death requires a bit more set-up. Back in Liberation of the Demon Slayer, the party freed a hobgoblin slave who was more intelligent than your normal hobgoblin. He agreed to be a torchbearer / accountant. We also have a dwarven vaultguard henchwoman… henchlady… henchfemale?
The party likes to tease and insult the hired help. Also, they like to put them in danger.
A few sessions ago, the party found a magical helmet. Not knowing what to do with it, they told the dwarf to put it on. She did so and her alignment changed from Lawful to Chaotic! Due to the bloodthirstiness of the party, they didn’t notice the change in her right away.
Until this session.
Question 1: When there is a strange opening close to the ground (aka a big hole in the spaceship), what do you do?
Answer 1: If you’re the party, you send the hobgoblin to look at with the torch.
Questions 2: If you are a chaotic dwarven vaultguard who has heard the party make statements about hobgoblins not being people, what do you do?
Answer 2: Kick him down the hole and laugh!
Now we have a problem. The party realized that the dwarf’s helmet caused an alignment shift, so a quick ‘Remove Curse’ later and it is gone. Like tears in the rain.
Before I go any further, let me make a few things clear:
1) This is a free product.
2) I am more of an old school D&D person and this system has the fingerprints of new school D&D.
3) I suspect that the corporate higher-ups at Wendy’s interfered with certain gameplay elements.
4) It uses the term ‘GM’. 🙂
5) There is a lot of sassy humor.
Let’s go through the book.
You have 5 stats: Strength, Intelligence, Charm, Arcana, & Grace. Your total in the stat will give you a modifier from -2 to +4 These stats are also related to your saving throws. For example, if you have 13 Arcana, you have a +2 Arcana modifier. A trap requires you to roll an Arcana save. You roll 1d20 + 2 to see if you save or not.
Strength: C’mon, you know what this does. You hit harder. Intelligence: How smart you are. It’s divorced from magical ability, so you can be a dingus with magic. Charm: It’s Charisma the way new school D&D does it. Not force of personality that lets you lead men to their death on the field of battle (with a side order of sweet-talking ability), but how great you are at social interactions. Arcana: Your magical ability. Grace: Basically Dexterity.
How do you roll your stats? 4d4.
Also, in what I assume was corporate interference (how do we make money on this free RPG?), the actual food that you, the player eat at the table, comes into play.
If you eat Wendy’s food, you get a game-long bonus. Eat non-Wendy’s food? Game-long penalty.
Next are the classes… err… Orders.
Each one is named after a Wendy’s menu item. So you can join the Order of the Baconator, Order of the Chicken Nuggets, the Order of the Frosty, etc.
These include your basic fighting, magic, and thief-type. Interestingly enough, there isn’t any mention of religion or clerics. Healing is done by several classes in small doses.
Maximum level is 5 (milestone leveling up only) and one or two abilities are given each level. Other than stats, magical items, and roleplaying, a level 5 Order of the Chicken Nuggets character is the same as any other Order of the Chicken Nuggets character. The rolls of the player, their adventures, and the player make each character different.
Ridiculous character builds are not in this game. Good!
Now onto the “adventure path”. It is designed to take a character from 1st level to 5th level on a railroad series of adventures.
Less said, the better. Except, let’s talk setting. A bunch of lands that are thinly-veiled references to other fast food restaurants and the whole “fresh not frozen beef” that Wendy’s advertises. The Wendy’s land is the big good and every else is, at bare minimum, not as good, if not evil. The big bad is the “Ice Jester”.
What fast food restaurant has frozen beef and a clown-like mascot?
But, hey, this made me laugh.
The end of the book contains a few magical items and monster to fight. With a little work, you could important these monsters into 5E or vice-versa.
All in all, for a free product, I am blown away with what was done with it. Not my cup of tea, but impressive nonetheless. The system appears functional and not just a big joke.
Would I play this? As a fun one-shot with some friends? Sure! I’ll bring all my dice to my local Wendy’s and see if they will kick me out after 15 minutes.
“Why do we need basic GM-ing advice given out to each new generation of GMs?”
Obviously, new people need to be trained on any process, job, procedure, etc. However, many GMs (myself very much included) jump in with no formal knowledge or training. Pick up a rulebook and give it a go!
While that kind of can-do attitude is admirable, it can also be a recipe for disaster. I still shudder at some of the things I did at university. If any of you knew me then, I apologize for the crappy gaming I provided.
Anyway, back to the point.
When I started GM-ing, I had no mentor, read no books (other than the rule books), and read no blog posts or forums. I just heard about D&D (vague cultural knowledge) and decided to give it a try.
And I sucked. Bad. I was a terrible GM.
To this day, despite reading more and interacting with people much, much smarter than I am, I do not consider myself more than a mediocre GM.*
I suspect many GMs are in the same boat. People who picked up a rule book and decided to give GM-ing a go. People with minimal connection to experienced GMs (maybe there are connections to other newbie GMs, but that can compound errors).
No one formally trained me or mentored me. I just tried and failed and tried some more. GM-ing has been a trial-and-error experience. In many cases, I don’t know what I am doing. Just read a book or blog post or see a conversation on social media and think, “Let’s try that.”
Why do I care about this? Simple. I don’t want people to have terrible experiences at the table, due to newbie GM-ing mistakes. It’s better for someone to walk away from tabletop RPGs due to not trying and liking them, than for them to walk away due to a bad GM.
Because of virtual tabletops, not many people play face-to-face, so face-to-face mentorship is not possible for many people. Perhaps in the past, new GMs learned from old GMs, but that does not appear to be the norm anymore.
Worse still, the advent of “D&D streaming” may be a curse for new GMs. Maybe there are good streams that will show off true gameplay and some that might even include good GM advice. But, even if there are, there are undoubtedly 10 terrible grade-school-play-level acting sessions with dice rolling.
Now, I have been accused of telling other people how to have fun and that they are having the wrong kind of fun. Let’s clear that up right now:
If you enjoy “grade-school-play-level acting sessions with dice rolling”, that’s fine. Keep at it. But that’s not the kind of D&D everyone wants. Some men and women with red hot blood in their veins want to defy death in the deep dark dungeons of the world! They want to explore new worlds, conveniently laid out in hexes. They want to conquer the frontier to bring civilization (as well as put stacks of gold in their pockets). That’s what we need more of!
GO FORTH AND CONQUER
Any way… if you spend more time telling me what your character is rather than what the party has done…
So if an in-person GM mentor-ship is not feasible for most, what to do instead?
A class, perhaps? An online course for $497?
If such a thing existed, I certainly wouldn’t be qualified to teach it, nor could I justify that kind of expense. Is it something people want?
Maybe a series of blog posts?
– ‘From 0 to a decent GM: Here’s how’. Post 1, 2, 3, 4, etc
Maybe a recommended reading / podcast episode list?
– Read book X for world-building, blog post Y for making dungeons / mapping, podcast Z for building real-ish faux-medieval settings, etc.
Converting adventures from one system to another, or using ‘system-neutral’ adventures with your preferred system, requires a little bit of work.
If, like me, your favorite system is the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System (ACKS), the trickiest part is converting the Armor Class of monsters and armor. It’s not hard, but it can be confusing if you aren’t paying attention.
Here is a handy chart for converting Armor Class, whether it is the broke ascending AC, the woke descending AC, or the bespoke ACKS AC: