Monday, April 16, 2018

Looking For A New Gaming Blog? Then You Should Check Out Brisko's Table!

A while back, I was out to dinner with a friend of mine. We were eating some wings and talking about the current project I was working on, when the shift manager wandered over to chat with us. I knew him casually from when we both went to school, but we'd never been really close. I told him I was working on an RPG project for a client, and he got a wistful look in his eyes. He sighed, and said he wished he had a reason to bring his dice out of storage.

Needless to say, I gave him a reason.
I extended an invitation to him then and there, and within the week he brought a former slave ship's cook to my game, who just happened to be a 9th-level ranger. He finished out the campaign with my regular group, and was enthusiastically invited to the next game as well. He's been with us ever since, and I'm glad we had that one, chance conversation.

But I told you that story to tell you this story. Because the more we talked, the more I found that he really wanted to get involved in the world of professional gaming (which is to say the world of gaming bloggers, content creators, and writers). He just didn't know how. He was also a little uncertain... after all, who was he that his opinion should be out there on the Internet for the world to see?

A damn good gamer, in my estimation, and someone who has some pretty interesting thoughts on what makes games work and not work. Which is why, after some urging, he finally opened a blog of his own... Brisko's Table!

Welcome To Brisko's Table!

What's Brisko's Table? Well, it's a gaming blog showcasing the thoughts, experiences, and insights of Darrell Trager. It's still fresh, but don't let how new it is fool you. Darrell has some solid insights on the nature of gaming, and he's already shared a dozen posts laying out his thoughts and feelings on tabletop, console, and other forms of gaming.

His blog is still young, but you could do worse than checking out what he's got going on. And if you've got things you'd like to see, don't be afraid to leave a few comments! He's had a strong start, and it's only going to get better from here on out.

Also, if you're looking for other blogs you should be following, check out the Creative Repository Blog by Simon Peter Munoz, and That Boomer Kid to take a look at Clinton Boomer's work.

That's all for this installment of Moon Pope Monday. If you want to check out some more of my work, then take a look at my Vocal archive, and head over to the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I work with other local gamers on skits, advice, and general gaming videos. To keep up on my latest releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you'd like to help support me and my work, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or go Buy Me A Ko-Fi. Either way, there's some sweet gaming swag in it for you!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Fossegrim Bard

The fiddler had his chair leaned back against the wall. He was quiet, smoking his pipe and resting. A pair of boys approached tentatively, each pushing the other forward. When the man opened his green eyes, his gaze pinned them both to the floor.

"What would you have of me?" The fiddler asked.

"We were wondering..." the first boy said.

"If you could teach us your magic," the second finished.

The fiddler smiled. It was a small, sad smile. He took his pipe out of his mouth, and when he tapped out the ashes the boys could see the scars across his fingers. Scars that no mortal instrument had left behind.

"If you want to play like I play, boys, you need to find a river, and give it a goat or three," the fiddler said. "But listen to me well. The music may be a gift to give to others, but it's a burden to keep inside yourself."

When she tells you to play, you had better damn well have your tune.

The Fossegrim's Gift

When we hear the phrase spontaneous caster, too often we just assume it's a thing they just discovered they could do one day. Like a natural talent that never really came up until you decided to give it a try. Creating music takes years of training, work, and experience, though. Taking it to the level of magic might take something more.

Something like a fossegrim.

For folks not familiar with the term, a fossegrim is a Scandinavian spirit or troll connected to rivers. Often found near waterfalls and mill races, these spirits played the most beautiful music you'd ever heard as the wind and water blew across their harp or fiddle strings. And, if you gave the fossegrim the right offering (typically mutton, often stolen, left on a Thursday), then the spirit would teach you to play. If your offering was small, it would only teach you to tune the instrument, but if it was satisfactory, it would draw your fingers over the strings until they bled. After that moment, you would play with the skill and supernatural beauty of the water spirit.

Who Put The Music In You?

A bard's music isn't just the talent to play, dance, or sing; it's a supernatural ability to make magic. And there are all kinds of legends about how someone might acquire the gift of music, if they were determined to get it.

Of course I give lessons. The first one's free!
Did your bard make an offering to a forest spirit to sing with the beauty of the birds? Did he beat a devil, and wind up with unexpected consequences? Did she apprentice to a master bard, and learn at the feet of someone who passed on lost songs or forgotten teachings? Or did they go into the depths of a necropolis, and summon the shades of long-dead masters, demanding they share their knowledge with the living?

There are all sorts of different ways this could go. The gist is, though, that your bard didn't just wake up one day with a song in their heart. They worked for it, sacrificed for it, and in some cases didn't realize until too late just what a heavy burden being a music maker can be.

For more advice on bringing a signature touch to this class, check out 5 Tips For Playing Better Bards.

That's all for this week's Unusual Character Concept! Hopefully it's given you a new look at what you could do with a bard, if you wanted to. For more content from yours truly, check out my Vocal archive, or head over to the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I help put skits, shows, and lore together with other talented gamers. If you want to keep up on all my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, to help support Improved Initiative, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or Buy Me A Ko-Fi. It's certainly appreciated!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Non-Problem of Making Monks Fit Your Setting

One of the biggest complaints I see from DMs regarding base classes is the monk. Not because they have a rule problem with them, per se, but rather because monks just don't feel right to them. Or, to paraphrase a lot of the arguments I see, "What is a wire-fu martial artist doing in my version of Lord of The Rings?"

Taking names and kicking ass would be my guess.
And sure, I get it. Some DMs would rather not have orange-clad, kung-fu monks spouting Eastern philosophy and inner peace in their non-Eastern settings. Even though, you know, people can travel all over the world, and a monk on a pilgrimage is kind of an ideal way to bring one of those PCs in from a foreign setting if that's what the player wants to do. But okay, you don't want any Eastern-style martial arts masters in your game.

Don't ban monks. Make Western martial arts masters, instead.

Give Your Monks A Makeover

I talked about this forever and a day ago in What's In A Name? How Character Class is Limiting Your Creativity, but the points made there need reiteration from time to time. So, power wash all of the flavor text away, and look at this class's skeleton. A monk, at its foundation, is a character who is a capable unarmed combatant, with the ability to achieve supernatural feats while wearing no armor, and who eventually becomes immune to disease, and the grip of aging.

Are you telling me you can't think of any way you can make that fit your local setting?

Start with the Brothers of Fire, and go from there.
- The Hammerhands: Warriors from the north, these men wade into battle with lightning in their eyes, and thunder in their fists. With bellowing war cries, they smash shields and break bones with their bare hands. They move with the speed and ferocity of the storm, leaving wreckage in their wakes.

- Burners: One part slam-music fight club and one part performance art, the Street-Corner Order of The Inferno both fascinates and terrifies. Called Burners by most, everything is frenetic energy and heat in their moshing war pits. Those who embrace the fire, though, can call on it to do the impossible. Heal over wounds with nary a scar, destroy diseases and poisons, and allow them to dance away from blows with the unpredictability of a flame's chaotic movements.

- Blackouts: The only thing scarier than an orc warrior with a sword in hand, is one who doesn't wear a sword at all. When the dwarven King Urdo The Overconfident moved on the Black Mountains to take them, he never expected what was waiting. Specially-trained orc commandos, called Blackouts, moved through the tunnels like ghosts, leaving dead sentries behind them without so much as a sound. It wasn't until one of these warriors infiltrated the king's own tent, and had a hand at his throat, that the King realized what a mistake he had made.

And that's just off the top of my head.

The Sky is The Limit, Here

There really is no limit to how you can spin monks. Whether they're adherents to a religious order, trained by a select branch of the military, half-mad punk rock cultists, or something else entirely, make a kind of monk that fits your game if you don't like the stereotype associated with the class. And, if you're still having trouble, take a look at the 5 Tips For Playing Better Monks post I put together a while back.

Because it's true that PCs need to fit your world. But if your players really want a monk, then why not expand your world and meet them halfway? Especially if you end up with stick-fighting Friar Tuck cracking skulls and butting heads while quoting bits of battlefield wisdom at his foes in between slugs of communion wine... because that sounds like a pretty awesome character to have at your table.

That's all for this week's Fluff post. Hopefully it gave you all some ideas, and you're having fun following this rabbit hole down as far as it goes. For more content from yours truly, check out my Vocal archive, or head over to the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I chip in and make stuff with other talented gamers. To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. And, if you want to help support Improved Initiative, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or just Buy Me A Coffee. I really appreciate any help you can give, and it does make a big difference.

Monday, April 2, 2018

What Pathfinder 2.0 Means For Me Personally, and Professionally

It's been about a month since I heard the announcement that we were getting Pathfinder 2.0. I was not thrilled when I heard the announcement, particularly given that Starfinder Was My Biggest Gaming Disappointment of 2017. However, I didn't want to be one of those players who got so stuck in his ways that he won't admit there's room for improvement. So I took a deep breath, listened to some podcasts, read some blog entries from Paizo, and took steps to get the play test into my hands when it's available.

However, I need to get some stuff off my chest. These are my initial thoughts and feelings regarding this whole situation, and if something changes I will be sure to keep folks updated.

What We Know About Second Edition (And What I Suspect)

I've been playing Pathfinder since it first came out. In fact, I distinctly remember when the adventure paths were still using the DND 3.5 rules. When Paizo finally released their own, beefed-up version of the rules (which has affectionately been called DND 3.75 for years), I was quite a happy gamer. It was the same system I liked, with all the customization and detail I wanted, but with a little extra oomph. Since I was already familiar with the basic rules, it took minimal adjustment to go from 3.5 to Pathfinder's official first edition.

And my dice barely slowed down.
I will admit that familiarity was part of why I loved Pathfinder so much. It came along just as 4th edition DND had turned me off hard, and it was exactly what I had been hoping for. It allowed me to make practically any character concept I wanted, and as new material was released it provided an in-depth setting to match the intense degree of customization. It's why I wrote the post Why Pathfinder Is My Game of Choice some time ago.

After listening, reading, and watching what's happening, though, I feel I can say this with some authority. Pathfinder 2.0 is not Pathfinder.

Now, that is not an elitist, "this isn't the real game I knew," statement. What I'm saying is that, though the editions will share a name, the second edition is not going to be anything remotely like the first one. To put it bluntly, if Pathfinder picked up the 3.5 pieces and maintained the complexity and customization of 3.5, then 2.0 is doing exactly the opposite. It seems from everything I've seen that the next edition's goal is to strip down your options, simplify the game, and to make it as simple to play as possible. In short, it's chasing all the people who wouldn't play the first edition because of all the reading, math, and complexity involved in it.

There are not going to be any character conversion options here, like there was from 3.5 to Pathfinder, anymore than there was a legitimate way to convert your spirit totem barbarian into a Starfinder character. The system is not designed to do that, and that was never a goal. There may be a legacy conversion chapter in the back, but it's only there as a token formality. You're playing a different game here, and nothing you have previously is going to work if it's mechanical in nature.

My Problems Personally, and Professionally

As a player, I don't like this. I really, really hope that I'm wrong, but everything I see sends up big, red flags that tells me Paizo is going to make a game that appeals to the 5th edition DND crowd. The problem for me is that 5th edition already exists... if that was the game I wanted to play, then that is what I would play. Don't get me wrong, 5e is perfectly functional, does what it sets out to, and is fun... but to paraphrase a fellow at my table, it's a beer and pretzels RPG. You have a limited number of options, fairly minor customization, and there aren't a lot of rules to remember. I play Pathfinder because it's the game that lets me tweak every aspect of my character, and have those tweaks mean something mechanically. It's the game I stuck with because you could have a single-class party, but every character will be wildly different from one another.

In short, I don't want a game that sacrifices all that customization in the name of streamlining and simplicity.

Character customization is a feature, not a flaw.
Now, on the one hand, it is inherently true that no one will make me play 2.0 if I don't want to. All my books still exist, and I can keep playing Pathfinder as it exists if that's what makes me happy as a player.

However, that truth comes with a lot of caveats.

Because the books I have now won't vanish into thin air, but if wear and tear makes them fall apart I may not be able to buy replacements after a while. If Paizo puts their eggs into the 2.0 basket, then it also means I may not be able to acquire old adventure paths, or other books, if I can't get the money together fast enough. Even PDF options may not be in the store, depending on company decisions regarding support for those older products. It also means there will be no new material coming out for my version of Pathfinder. So while it could, theoretically, take years for me to work my way through all the adventure paths as they exist, in the event I do, I've got nowhere to go after that.

Also, if I want to play Pathfinder Society, then I am going to have to make the change. Unless Paizo chooses to keep the old Society mods and options available for retro tables, or something.

I can work with all of that, though. The problem is that I don't just play games for fun; RPGs are a significant portion of my income. Not only that, but Pathfinder's crunch and customization has been part of my niche for several years. It's why I have a Character Conversions page with over 50 separate guides on it, ranging from the Defenders to Game of Thrones. It's also why publishers have come to me with work offers. Because knowing Pathfinder's rule set, and being able to work within it, was a valued skill.

This second edition being so wildly different changes all of that for me. Because sure, some people are going to stick with the first edition. But how many? And with no new material coming out, that limits the things I have to talk about. Also, simplified games with broader options don't require a guide to help you find all the tricks, or to explain how you could best make a version of your favorite superhero. Because when you've only got a handful of choices, I won't be able to tell you anything you don't already know.

And, for all those asking why I don't write about a more complicated RPG that still has support instead, the simple answer is market share. If you're not writing about 5th Edition or Pathfinder, your traffic drops off pretty fast because the fan base of most other games that share the fantasy RPG niche is a lot smaller. Less people, less traffic, less return on investment.

Speaking of return on investment, my work in an older edition won't really be the foot-in-the-door it was when that was the current edition. Because while it's true there will be some publishers that want to release content for original Pathfinder to capitalize on the players who aren't biting on 2.0, that is going to be a much smaller niche than companies trying to hop onto the new product.

So whether I choose to play it or not, I literally have to look at the second edition. I have to learn it, understand it, and be able to design for it. Not only that, but I have to make the investment in getting the material for it if I want to stay competitive in my market, and that investment comes while my existing work (older blog entries, articles, etc.) is losing value since lots of it won't apply to the new edition.

I Hope I'm Wrong

Now, as I said in the intro, these are simply my thoughts, feelings, and observations based on what's happening right now with the 2.0 transition. It's entirely possible that once I get my hands on the full play test, or once the company makes changes based on feedback, that 2.0 will have plenty of things that appeal. It could be a fun game. I hope it is. Because I understand the market forces that are making Paizo change its products, games, and philosophies... however, that doesn't mean I have to like it.

I just hope the new edition goes down easy, once I get to delve deeper. And when I do, I'll have my thoughts on that, too.

That's all for this Moon Pope Monday installment. I've been thinking about this situation for a while, and I decided I had to finally get all this off my chest. If you want to help keep Improved Initiative afloat through this transition, then head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or Buy Me A Coffee! Either way, I'll send you some gaming swag as a thank you for your support. For more content from yours truly, check out my Vocal archive, or take a look at the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I get together with other local gamers to make skits, advice videos, and to present the lore of Evora. Lastly, if you want to keep up on all my latest, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Weird And Wild World of Outsiders (Exploring Alternative Aasimar and Tiefling Heritages)

Aasimar and tieflings are often thought of as two sides of the same coin. The dalliances, blessings, and curses of the celestial and the infernal, both mixed with the blood of mortals. This heritage grants their scions power, along with signs (some subtle, and others not-so-subtle) as to the origin of that power.

For most of us, though, these two native outsider races just means we get access to some fun racial feats, some resistances, darkvision, decent stat mods, and a spell-like ability. However, there is a whole slew of weird stuff that you can use to modify these outsiders. All you have to do is look at the tiefling and aasimar pages, paying particular attention to the charts along the bottom of the page with the alternative features.

99 Options

Each chart gives you 99 different options you can take, instead of the tiefling or aasimar's standard spell-like ability (darkness and daylight respectively). In some cases, the options aren't really all that great (gain a +2 bonus on a skill check or specific saving throw), while in other cases the options are pretty goddamn awesome (like switching out daylight for spear of purity, which is going to be a nasty little surprise for enemies who don't know you've got an offensive spell up your sleeve).

Say hello to my little friend!
If you're looking for specific abilities and concepts that would be enhanced by the alternative traits, I did come across a few that stuck out.

- You have oversized limbs, and can wield Large-sized weapons without penalty (tiefling).
- You gain spell resistance equal to 10+1/2 your hit dice (tiefling and aasimar).
- You can cast spear of purity once per day as a spell-like ability (aasimar).
- You can levitate yourself, plus 10 pounds, as per the spell at-will (tiefling).
- You have a natural fly speed of 20 feet (aasimar).
- Your body produces intense heat/cold/acid, and deals damage to those grappling you (tiefling).

These are just a sample of the abilities you can gain, without even needing to burn a feat slot. There's also the option for minor damage reduction, unusual abilities such as being able to turn on a halo for aasimar, or being able to eat ashes and cinders for sustenance for tieflings. There's an option that allows a tiefling to never need sleep, and one that allows an aasimar make any weapon they hold holy for three rounds as a move action once per day.

In most circumstances, these abilities provide a small bonus, or some additional flavor. Used for the right build, though, such as a titan mauler with large weapons, a grappler who specializes in burning his foes, or even an inquisitor who hunts demons and wants an extra edge on top of their bane, these little abilities can make a big impact.

Stranger Things in Heaven and Earth

Even though this is Crunch week, I'd like to take a moment to direct folks' attention to the two charts to the right of the aasimar and tiefling mechanical abilities. Because despite the infinite variety outsiders come in, it feels like our tieflings just look like nightcrawler with horns, while all of our aasimar look like cover models under perfect lighting.

There are so many more options than that.

Like this adorable little prince by Tamaj.
Just glance through some of the choices. Aasimar whose fingerprints always look like holy symbols. Translucent tieflings with see-through skin. Aasimar who make bells ring as they walk past. Tieflings with constantly smoking breath, or eyes. Aasimar with metallic lips and jeweled eyes. Tieflings with fingers that bend backwards.

I did not make any of those up. That is just a small selection of the bizarre flavor you can add to these outsiders, and the things their presence and anatomy can do just because they exist. Because while there is nothing that says you have to be a bizarre collection of inhumanly inherited features, there is also nothing that prevents you from being a bird-headed, gold-beaked, ruby-eyed peacock warrior with abnormally long legs. So, next time you get a chance to play one of these native outsiders, feel free to go absolutely nuts with it!

That's all for this latest Crunch installment. Hopefully it got some gears turning in your heads out there, and it gives birth to some unusual outsiders. For folks who'd like more from me, check out my Vocal archive, or head over to the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I get together with other local gamers who make advice videos, and present the lore of Evora! To keep up on my latest releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you'd like to help support Improved Initiative, then visit The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or go Buy Me A Coffee! Either way you'll have my eternal gratitude, as well as some sweet gaming swag.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Want Cheap Minis? Wizards and Five Below Are Here To Help!

If you are part of any online gaming groups, chances are you've heard about Magic The Gathering's Arena of The Planeswalkers board game. It allows two to four players to take on the role of planeswalkers, gives you cards to play, map tiles to place on the board, and a small legion of minions to call upon in order to crush your enemies.

All in all, a fun way to spend a few hours.
While this game is just fine on its own, it's all the components that come with it that caught my eye. There the five planeswalker minis you can see on the front, but there are also thirty monster minis, map terrain, and a black D20. Which, for what I paid for it, makes it one hell of a haul.

That is some serious swag for $5.
If you've seen this game lurking around your friendly local gaming store, or up on a shelf in one of the few toy stores we still have, you likely saw a pretty big price tag on it. However, if you are fortunate enough to have a Five Below near you (which I do, and this tip was what got me to go in there in the first place), you might be able to grab one of these for a fraction of what it should cost.

So, whether you're just looking to add some monsters to your collection, get some cheap minis, or you genuinely want to try the game on for size, keep your eyes peeled for it. I don't know why it is so cheap, if it just didn't move copies or something, but it's at a bargain basement price now.

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday. The Internet tipped me off to this find, so I thought I'd do my part to spread the word. If you'd like to see more of my work, go check out my Vocal archive, or stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I and other local gamers get together to make videos on gaming advice, skits, and lore for the world of Evora. If you want to stay on top of all my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. And, if you want to support my work here on Improved Initiative, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or click here to Buy Me A Coffee! Either way, I'll shoot you some sweet gaming swag as a thanks for your help.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

That One Time The Party Solved The Plot With A Legal Battle

It's said that even the finest battle plan never survives the first touch of actual battle. In much the same way, the most intricate and comprehensive plan by a dungeon master will never survive the ingenuity, resourcefulness, or sheer stupidity of the actions players are capable of taking. Sometimes a DM will try to force the party into taking certain options... and other times they'll just see where this new and unexpected path leads.

And this one went to pretty much the last place you'd expect... unless you read the title.
Which is why when one motley crew of renegades, rebels, and rogues ran into a problem too big for them, they decided to lawyer up.

Who Did What Now?

Let's back things up, and begin at the beginning. When the DM started his 5th edition game, set in a world of his own making, he asked for misfits, outcasts, and PCs who just didn't really fit in. Which is how we ended up with an Old One worshiping tiefling named Sophie, a furry kobold sorcerer named A.J., a wide-eyed half-orc monk who'd escaped what amounted to a penal colony named Hevvy, and a revoltingly mannered, slick-talking barbarian dragonborn by the name of Vile.

While they were of disparate races and backgrounds, this particular group of so-called adventurers had a few things they bonded over. Taste in drinks, a desire for easy money... and three of the four of them had rap sheets longer than their arms (while the fourth was traveling on an illegal visa, making his very presence in the country legally questionable, at best). But, despite their rather... colorful histories, there was no denying they delivered when they were given a task.

Which was how they found themselves on the road heading north, on the trail of a famous but retired jouster, at the behest of a man who wanted the former athlete to train his daughter for the upcoming games. While they found they guy they were looking for, there was one, small problem. He was defending an ancient fey forest from the axes of "progress" who wanted to put a magic, floating train straight through the heart of the wood.

Well... maybe "small" isn't the right word.

Can We Talk This Out?

When the jouster had retired from his public life, he'd come north, and found a new home among the ancient creatures of the forest. Satyrs, dryads, trolls, unicorns, centaurs, and the list went on and on. Many of them were rare enough that they didn't exist anywhere outside of this forest, and some were so old that their memories stretched back to the breaking of the world. The major problem was they cannot leave this forest, since their very lives were tied to it. And no one from the rail company was willing to entertain the idea that such a potent array of forces were arrayed against them, and that by forcing the issue they might be starting a war they would be hard-pressed to win (and that if they did win, they would definitely look like the bad guys in the eyes of the public).

The intense militarization of the rail company isn't helping, either.
Because the rail boss saw this as a few naysayers standing in the way of progress to protect, "a few pixies and sprites," the company went and hired a massive mercenary company called the Fortunate Sons (which inspired the entry Who Are Your Mercenary Companies? a few weeks back). A potent fighting force, if they were unleashed against the wood, it was going to be a bloodbath on both sides.

Which was why the party decided to try to be reasonable. They made their way into the camp, and tried to talk to the boss. She heard them out, then when they were finished, blew smoke in their faces, and told them that the rail would stop when the party presented her with notarized papers that told her it had to stop. Until then, the new world was coming whether the party, and whoever lived in those woods, liked it or not. Where the ley line went, the train had to follow.

Ask, And Ye Shall Receive

Between Vile, A.J., and Sofie, the party has run cons, extorted, assaulted, and destroyed property across four nations, and they were fairly familiar with the legal system of the country they were currently in. Run by wizards, and tended to by magistrates, it was a very law-and-order sort of place. Which was why, if you were going to be a criminal there, you have to be pretty good in order to stay one step ahead of the rope. No one had hung them yet, so they knew a thing or two about evading the inconveniences of the law when it suited them.

However, they also knew that for the law to work, it had to be available to anyone and everyone. Which was why while Vile, Hevvy, and A.J. had a private meeting with the captain of the Fortunate Sons to see if they could get the mercs to back off (or at least re-negotiate the terms of their employment, given what they were going to be made to fight), Sofie rode into a nearby town to find them a lawyer.

Shysters are always down at the bar, for those who are curious.
All it took was finding a half-drunk halfling barrister with a bit of a reputation, a desperate need for gold, and who perked up at the phrases, "precedent setting," and "trial of the century." She got him packed up, brought him out to the forest, and that was when he started filling out paperwork, and taking statements from the unicorn queen, the pegasus prince, and even from the hulking Mumbler, king of the trolls.

Then, in a few days time, the party went back to the camp, and served the rail boss with a cease and desist order. Rail construction was being officially halted until a magistrate could come out, and settle this current dispute.

Not Their First Rodeo

While this collection of hooligans, thugs, and blackmailers was perfectly comfortable in the thick of fighting, they were even more relaxed on the stand. They'd all done this dance before, except Hevvy, who listened very carefully when his party mates coached him on what to say, and what not to say. Especially when it came to keeping cool under harsh questioning. In addition to getting the party on the stand, though, the magistrate also wanted to hear from the fey royalty (who were close enough to the forest in our location to be all right), as well as from the ancient tree father whose next generation would be destroyed if the train followed its planned route (and thus ending the line of his people, and all his knowledge stretching back for an eon or more).

Then the magistrate listened to the rail boss, and to the workers who had survived things like troll attacks, magical sabotage, and other, assorted guerrilla attacks along the lines. Grisly, and stirring, but given that the fey creatures literally could not leave (and all attempts to contact the rail workers peacefully had been ignored or rebuffed), it wasn't quite enough to sway the onlookers.

I rule that this be taken to mediation.
Once both sides had a say, the magistrate asked very expressly if, now that all these facts had been aired, the two sides would be willing to come to the table and discuss what could be done. There was no undoing what had been wrought, but they had a chance to prevent future bloodshed, and to come to some agreement. Otherwise the case would have to be pushed further up the pipe, and that would mean results could take many more months. Perhaps even years, as more powerful legal figures ruled and decided.

So the boss and her head wizards sat down with the strange, ancient creatures that pre-dated this nation's government, and talked turkey. Which is how they found that, if they'd reached out and made allies in the first place, they could have shaved not just months, but years off their task. With the aid of the fey, now fully legally recognized as a township within the existing government, they could complete their transcontinental project without bringing more harm to anyone.

And that is what happens when three ex-cons and a border-jumping half-orc are faced with a situation that's too tough to fight their way clear of. Because it is amazing what a few affidavits, and the right barrister, will do for your cause.

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