Friday, July 21, 2017

"Drawbacks" on Magic Items Can Force Players To Make Tough Decisions in Pathfinder

Magic items are part and parcel of Pathfinder games. Everything, from the types of adventures parties go on, to the CR rating of monsters, is made with the assumption that characters are going to have access to magic weapons, armor, and wondrous items at certain points in the game. If the party has the time and resources, it's even possible for spellcasters with the right feats to make practically any item in the various equipment sections.

However, the problem with magic items being so commonly found is that they can get boring after a while. I talked about this a while back in How To Keep Your Magic Items From Getting Mundane, but that post was all about using description, lore, and unique sets of circumstances to try making "normal" magic items feel more special. This week, though, we're talking about adding some cursed items to your game... but not the normal kind of cursed items. The kind that, while they have a drawback, are hard to pass up since their maker got them almost right.

It is, indeed, +5 full plate with heavy fortification. But it plays Nickelback while you wear it.

Curses and Drawbacks


Cursed items are, by and large, seen as one of those DM dick moves that's meant to screw over players. It's a bait-and-switch, where they pick up the loot, only to find that now it's a sword that makes them clumsy, or armor that deals them damage, or a cloak that's made of poison, etc.

They're like the worst possible practical jokes. The kind where only the guy who thought it would be funny to throw a venomous snake at his friend while he was walking up the stairs can see why it's amusing.

Uh-huh. Explain to me again why it was funny to hide this thing in my bed when you know I carry a gun, Steve.
However, there are varying degrees of cursed items. While some of the more extreme ones can act as a trap for adventurers who are unwary enough to pick up whatever shiny sword or weird wand they find in a necromancer's trophy cabinet, there are less-awful cursed items you might want to consider dotting your game's landscape with.

Especially if you want your players to face some difficult choices when it comes to the gear they buy.

That's where we get to Drawbacks, listed on page 538 of the Core Rulebook. This chart lists a slew of effects a cursed item might have that make it disturbing, problematic, or even silly. Drawbacks like an item that's garishly colored (like a dancing tower shield that's bright pink, with a lavender unicorn on it) are possible, or items that emit a disturbing sound when in use (like a bastard sword that screams for blood, or a keen dagger that emits a low, wicked laugh). There are items that make the wielder's hair grow, that change their hair color, or that make the temperature colder or warmer near them. Characters might change race, gender, or skin color when first picking up an item. It might mark them with some strange brand, or tattoo. And some items will change your alignment, force a Fortitude save once per day to avoid stat damage, or knock you out for 1d4 rounds once they've been put away.

These drawbacks mean that players have to make hard choices when it comes to some of their treasure. For example, a +3 heavy steel shield would be a boon to the fighter, but the disturbing, vampiric crest means he has to make a save every morning or suffer 1 point of Strength damage. A breastplate that prevents the wearer from casting spells would be ideal for a barbarian, though the item's original purpose may have been to imprison wizards. While the holy glaive that burns with pure light might seem an ideal weapon for a holy warrior, it never stops whispering prayers to its god. That can try the patience of saints, after a while.

What's The Cost?


People don't usually set out to make cursed items, or so the Core Rulebook says, since they're created as a result of a spellcaster failing their check to make a magic item. However, does that mean it's possible to get more powerful items earlier on in the campaign, if the PC is willing to put up with the cost of the curse? Especially since, in addition to Drawbacks, page 536 has a list of situations for Dependent cursed items (meaning they will only function when the conditions for the curse are met, such as being within 10 feet of a certain race, at night, during the day, in the hands of a spellcaster, a non-spellcaster, etc.).

Whether you're trying to get items on the cheap from a wizard's college, and you're buying student work instead of craft by the masters, or you're dealing with traveling merchants who have a narrow, but unusual, selection, these items can be tailored to present your players with some tough choices.

And if the ranger gets too handsy with that scimitar, it might just turn him purple.

That's all for this week's Crunch topic. Hopefully it gets the wheels turning for any DMs out there. If you'd like to help support Improved Initiative, then head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron. All it takes is $1 a month, and that gets you both my eternal gratitude, and a sweet stack of gaming swag. Lastly, if you want to keep up on all my latest work, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

Monday, July 17, 2017

For Tighter Games, Consider Nixing Random Encounters

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post titled Run Smoother, More Enjoyable Games (By Removing XP), and it was extremely well-received. Aside from one or two curmudgeons who felt the need to argue that removing an arbitrary number that determined how experienced a PC was, most readers were in support of the idea. In fact, most people who commented on the post said they'd done away with XP in games like Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and similar level-based games years ago, and it had made their lives so much easier as DMs.

And that got me thinking about other mechanics that, while perfectly functional, are about as necessary as a spoiler on a station wagon. And my brain immediately went to random encounters. Has there ever been a less-necessary, or more cumbersome, game mechanic?

You come across two males in breeding season vying for dominance. What a quirky random encounter!
Random encounters can only serve two functions for a storyteller. The primary function is to pad players' XP bars to make sure they gain the appropriate number of levels before they kick in the door at the next dungeon. The secondary function is to act as a drain on the party's resources, ensuring that they have to deal with unrelated combat, use of healing items, hostile negotiations, etc. in between wherever they were, and wherever they're going.

Now, the former is sort of useless if you're not bothering with XP. The latter function has potential, but only if used properly. But it's important to consider the drain and drag of combat, and how much time it can suck out of your session.

"Good" Random Encounters, Versus "Bad" Ones


If you want to use the mechanic of an unexpected encounter, then the encounter should be tied to what the party is trying to do in some way, shape, or form. Encounters that have nothing to do with the actual goal your party is trying to achieve just feel frustrating, and they're little more than a drain on your in and out of game resources.

For example, if the party is sneaking into a necromancer's stronghold, and you're rolling for whether or not they encounter a patrol of skeletal champions, that is a great random encounter. That actually shows the players they're entering an organic situation that can sneak up on them at any time, which can enhance danger and unpredictability. The same is true if they keep running across bandits in the forest while trying to track down the leader of the gang, or if they have to fight their way through a cult sworn to a dracolich as they climb his mountain sanctuary. The fights are part of the goal they're trying to achieve, and rather than being "random" they are just something that changes depending on the party's actions.

By contrast, say the party was walking into the burning desert wastes toward the Temple of The Broken Moon, and then they fall afoul of 6 giant scorpions. Not because they're guarding the temple, or because they've been enslaved by the mad druid who haunts the spire, but because they just happen to be there, and now they're your problem. That is a prime example of a random encounter that does nothing but act as a loading screen in your game, and which distracts from the story instead of enhancing it. It happens, the party fights it, and then it will never be spoken of again. Nor will it be meaningful in the overarching plot.

Brace yourselves... I hear percentiles rolling...
These kinds of encounters, under the right circumstances, can make the wilderness feel dangerous and unwelcoming. And if it keeps players on their toes, making Survival and Perception checks to avoid walking into a bear's territory, upsetting a tiger, or getting ambushed by bandits, that's all well and good. And if you need to make the party spend some resources on their journey to make them feel like they "earned" it, then these kinds of encounters are a good way of doing that.

However, they take time. Time that isn't being dedicated to your story.

Even if your group has combat down to a fine art, rolling for initiative, deciding on actions, appropriate description and RP, all take time. Even a small combat is going to last at least 10 to 15 minutes, and a mid-size one could go for half an hour or more. Do you really want to let a random fight on a random chart, which doesn't push your story forward at all, take up that much of your time?

Probably not.

So, while they're a staple of fantasy RPGs going way back, random encounters are often a bigger pain than they're worth. While you should randomize where enemies are in any "dungeon" area to keep players on their toes, don't throw in a rabid wolf pack and an angry crocodile just for funsies. Because they aren't going to help.

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday post. Hopefully it helps you make your games that much better! If you'd like to support Improved Initiative so I can keep sending new content straight to your screen, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron today! There's a pile of RPG swag just waiting for you as long as you pledge at least $1 a month. Lastly, keep up-to-date on my latest releases by following me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Search For The Mummy's Mask Part Nine: The Mind of The Forgotten Pharaoh

The Desert Falcons have met every threat and every challenge, but somehow the Cult of The Forgotten Pharaoh has been one step ahead of them the whole time. They've destroyed a city, kidnapped a genie lord, and may be on the verge of resurrecting the essence of one of the most powerful rulers to ever hold Osirion in his iron fist.

So what do they do? They go to save their friend, of course.

Part One: The Desert Falcons, and The Littlest Pharaoh
Part Two: Undead Children, and Resurrected Puppies
Part Three: Enemies on All Sides
Part Four: Fight Night at The Necropolis
Part Five: Who is The Forgotten Pharaoh?
Part Six: No Harm Ever Came From Reading A Book...
Part Seven: Needle in a Haystack
Part Eight: Lamias and Genie Lords

Now It's Personal


The Desert Falcons don't have much time, but what they do have is a daemonic ally willing to do them another favor before he goes off on his own to see how the world has changed since he was stuck in a musty library basement. So they write out letters, asking their allies to meet us for a great battle to the north, near the sphinx where the cult is making their preparations. They reach out to the thriae, to the criminal muscle of the Viper, and to the various mercenaries and warriors they've met throughout their travels so far. Matt teleports off to deliver the notes, and the Falcons head north to meet whatever awfulness their nemesis has waiting for them.

Yeah... it's probably something like that.
On their way north, the Falcons meet up with another motley group; a band of bullette-riding desert guides. Through the use of an extremely high Diplomacy, and the application of a healthy amount of gold, the riders showed them a shortcut through the dunes. Not only that, but they gifted Mustafa with an ancient medallion; one which showed the eye of Ra. It granted protection to the wearer, but once per day it also banished any evil outsider back to its home plane.

It took nearly a week of travel through the inhospitable waste, until they came across the cultists. It was near sunset, and the cult was in the midst of a summoning. They appeared to be calling for something infernal, and no sooner have the Falcons realized this than Matthew appears. Bound by the cult to find and slay the Falcons, he immediately starts walking into the dunes. Mustafa had enough time to cast a circle of protection before the hulking, shaggy daemon lumbers over the dune. He apologized profusely, but he had to do what he was bound to do. After several rounds of conversation, Mustafa asked Matthew to cover his eyes. The daemon was about to laugh, until Mustafa parted his robe, revealing the amulet. Matthew covered his eyes, and then vanished in a puff of bright, golden light.

Blood on The Sand


Ra'ana went off on her own to recon the cult's setup, and in the process managed to make contact with the Falcons' allies. They formed a battle plan, and as dawn broke, they charged over the dunes, burst from beneath them, and swooped down out of the sky to stop the gold-masked cultists from completing their plan.

Ready your weapons!
The great battle covered several arenas, but the enemy facing the Falcons was a powerful necromancer, as well as one of the heads of the cult. Waves of undead shambled toward them as he unleashed dark energies and fell powers. Though the walking dead were soon returned to their former, inert state, the negative energy and life-sapping bolts couldn't be so easily dismissed. In the end, Moloch tapped into the reserves of his own undead bloodline, calling forth skeletal hands to rip and tear at the necromancer, dragging him down to face his own judgment at Pharasma's feet.

It's not long after the Falcons' small victory that a larger victory rings over the sands. The cult has been routed, and their ritual disrupted... disrupted, but not stopped. What did they do? Can it be undone? And what does Hakar have to do with any of it?

Find out next time when Table Talk continues the Search For The Mummy's Mask!

If you want to keep up-to-date on my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. If you want to help support Improved Initiative, then head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron today! For as little as $1 a month you can make a difference, and get some sweet swag all your own while you're at it.

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Good DM Knows What The Party Can (And Can't) Do

The Internet is absolutely jam-packed with advice on how to be a better DM. Some people say you should use a screen, others say you should never use a screen. Some people say you should use terrain and props, other players turn their noses up at such gimmicks. One camp says you should check out Tabletop Audio to get ambient music to play while you run, and another camp shouts that down as a distraction at best, a crutch at worst.

A lot of the above suggestions come down to personal preference, and what works within your particular group. However, I'm going to give some fairly uncontroversial advice that every DM should take to heart.

Take the time to know everything you can about the PCs at your table.

And I do mean "everything".

Minimize The Monkey Wrenches You Have To Deal With


It might sound like a bunch of busy work, but trust me on this, it's not. Before you begin your campaign, review every character in the party. Look at their attributes, check their skills, and review their feats and class abilities. Look at their spells, and go through their backpacks. You don't need to know them like the back of your hand, but the more you know, the fewer the problems you'll have later. You should also review the characters every time they get new rewards, buy upgraded equipment, and every time they take a level. Sit down with your players, and ask them to explain their characters, and attributes, to you to ensure you're on the same page.

Because you have to know what you're dealing with.

For example, say your mid-level party doesn't have anyone with trapfinding, and no one has invested a lot of points into Disable Device. That's something you should know before you make them crawl through a dungeon where, if they aren't disabling the traps they find, they're going to spend 3/4 of their resources healing from the damage said traps are doing to them. Or, say you wanted to throw a challenge at your spellcasters, so you give them some monsters with spell resistance. That's a good thought, but if the casters have to roll a 19 or 20 on the die to beat the SR, then the "challenge" feels more like a cudgel the wizard and sorcerer are getting hit with.

And that's before they even pick up a die.
Then there's the opposite problem. Rather than making a challenge that's too difficult, you make one that's too simple. The mystery of who killed a room full of victims is a lot easier to solve when you can talk to the dead, or simply ask questions of the divine to confirm your theories. A group of swarms would be a problem for most parties, but you have an alchemist, and an evoker in the midst of a turgid love affair with area of effect spells, so they're unlikely to last more than a round. Perhaps you'd planned on making the climb up a decrepit clock tower a central challenge of the next session, forcing the party to make skill checks while dodging falling bells. Of course, if the whole party can fly, it sort of renders the whole thing moot.

It's a simple rule, but definitely worth remembering. Because you don't want to be halfway through what should feel like an epic session, only to have your story completely undercut by the fact that everyone in the party is immune to the poison your big bad relies on, or to have the whole party die in what was supposed to be a warm-up because you misjudged what the "average" hit points among them was by about 45.

That's all for this week's installment of Moon Pope Monday! Hopefully it helps the DMs out there, and makes your games easier to run. If you want to keep up on all my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you'd like to support Improved Initiative, all you have to do is go to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, and become a patron. $1 a month is a surprisingly big help, and there's some sweet gaming swag waiting for all my new patrons once you've signed up!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

For Want of A Nail

"Don't know why we're bothering with the brutes," Aniphaste said, shutting his tome and straightening the amulet around his neck. "The battle is as good as won, with me here."

Drake glanced up from the stump where he'd been sharpening his sword near his men. Without a word the big man returned his attention to the steel, holding it up to examine the edge for any missed nicks or notches. The wizard waited for a retort, but after a full minute of listening to the grind of the whetstone, he cleared his throat.

"Something to say in your defense, iron monger?" Aniphaste demanded.

"There was a story I was told, once upon a by," the warrior said. "A king declared war, and every force prepared for battle. A lowly squire brought his master's horse, but though one of the beast's shoes was loose he thought they were in too great a rush to pay attention to such a minor thing."

"I don't see what that has to-" the wizard said, before Drake cut him off.

"The knight mounted up, and rode toward the front. He was nothing special, just one knight among many. No great champion, and no master of the field, but he was strong of arm, and firm in purpose." Drake tested the edge of his sword against his thumb, and nodded when it nearly drew blood. "But the horse lost the shoe on the road. The horse went lame, and the knight had to continue on afoot."

Aniphaste glared, but didn't interrupt further. Drake paused, giving him a chance to, but when the wizard didn't rise to the bait, he continued speaking.

"The knight walked into the evening, and over the horizon he saw the fires of a great battle. But he didn't reach the place it had happened until long after the final blow was struck. His side had lost, and his brothers in arms lay dead for miles. The place he would have held in the line, had he been there, had been filled by a squire. A boy less experienced, and who had been a weakness in the shield wall. The line had broken, and the enemy poured through to wreck death and destruction."

Drake slid his sword into its scabbard, and slipped the baldric over his head. He stood, and walked toward the wizard. His gait was measured, and each step drove the point home.

"The kingdom never recovered their momentum. The tide turned. The war was lost. The king was toppled from his throne." Drake stood over Aniphaste, and held the spellcaster's gaze. "Never scoff at a nail. Because while you may not appreciate it, if it doesn't do its job, it might be your head next on the chopping block."


Just one, lowly little nail.


The Making of "The Nail"


When it comes to players, most of us want to be in the spotlight. We want to deal the deathblow to the demon general, cast the lightning bolt that slays the dragon, or grab the vampire by the head and turn it to dust with positive energy. But playing an RPG is a team sport, and a team effort, and pulling a party through to victory often comes from the background support as much as it does from strong right arms, or flawless spellcasting.

Characters who understand this, and who accept it, are the nails that hold everything together.

The unsung bard who uses his song and spells to defend his allies from enemy magic while bolstering his party's attacks is an ideal example. So is the cleric who prays for guidance and righteousness, curing ailments and breaking curses before they can take hold and rob the party of strength. The tactician who sacrifices her glory in order to guard her allies (possibly by using some of the suggestions in Aid Another in Pathfinder is More Powerful Than You Think) understands that if she doesn't do her job, then the others won't be able to do theirs. The inquisitor who promotes teamwork among her allies, taking the actions that will help instead of those that make her look good, might also fit the description.

The Nail is less about specific build, though, and more about tactics, beliefs, and outlooks. The Nail understands that it's the little things that lead inevitably to great victories, or huge disasters.

Better to have and not need, than to need and not have.
This attitude can manifest itself in myriad ways, both big and small. It might be the fighter who never takes credit for the deeds done, instead reflecting the praise and glory onto others who got him close enough to plunge his sword into the heart of the problem. It might be the diviner who understands that fate is made up of big strands and small ones, and that if one strand goes missing then the whole tapestry could unravel. It could even be the enforcer who believes that the law must come down equally on everyone, great and small alike, because if anyone evades it then that erodes the glue that holds society together.

The Nail is the watchman who stands guard, knowing he may not be important, but that he is necessary.

That's all for this week's installment of Unusual Character Concepts. Hopefully you enjoyed it, and it sparks some discussion among your groups. If you'd like to help support Improved Initiative so I can keep content just like this coming straight to your door, well, why not head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to make a pledge? $1 a month helps more than you'd think, and it gets you a bunch of sweet gaming swag in the process. Also, if you don't want to miss any of my future posts, you should follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

Monday, July 3, 2017

If Your Character is Evil, Own It!

"So your character is a thief, a liar, a murderer-for-hire, a slaver, a trafficker in demonic powers, and he just threw a baby off the cliff because it was annoying him. Goddammit, Chet, I told you not to bring an evil PC to my game!"

"Dude, he's not evil! He's chaotic neutral... I'm just playing his alignment."

You keep using this term. I do not think it means what you think it means.
How many times have you had to listen to (or have) this conversation at your table? Well, if you're like me, the answer is probably along the lines of, "more times than I can recall." As such, I thought I'd take a moment today to put out a public service message for all the players, and DMs, out there.

Do not waffle about your character's wickedness. Do not hedge about their heinousness. And lastly, do not equivocate about your evil. If you're bad, then be bad.

If You Want To Play An Evil PC, Then Own It


Let's not beat around the bush here; if you have an alignment system in place, then there are a lot of areas that are cut-and-dry about what constitutes an evil act. Murder for hire is evil, and that's why the assassin prestige class requires an evil alignment. Slavery, as an institution, is evil. While it might be legal in certain parts of the world, that doesn't change the nature of owning sentient creatures. Using spells with the evil descriptor inherently corrupt one's spirit, forcing them into an evil alignment if the magic is used too frequently. Dealing with evil creatures like devils and demons for personal gain, while it might seem harmless at first, is an act of small evil that can quickly get out of hand. And if there is ever a question about whether something is or isn't evil in the cosmic sense, your DM can (and should) rule on it. Especially if it's integral to your character's alignment, and beliefs.

No, of course there's no risk. Just sign here, here, and initial here...
We can split hairs all we want about certain issues. For instance, is summoning evil creatures like demons to fight other evil creatures still an act of evil? Is assassinating someone because it will prevent greater suffering still evil? What if you just use soul rend once a month, and then you say some prayers to the god of rainbows and kittens as a form of atonement?

Evil is like pornography; we know it when we see it. And you know something? It's fine if you want to play an evil PC! Nowhere in the core rules of the game does it say that you cannot have a character with an evil alignment. In fact, there are entire campaigns dedicated purely to playing evil characters. Know something else? Evil characters can perform ostensibly good acts! No one is evil just for the sake of being evil. Just like no one is good just for the sake of being good. You perform acts (good or evil) because they're what you believe is necessary, because that's how you've been socialized, or because they will get you closer to your goals. Additionally, just because your alignment box has an E in it, that doesn't mean the character thinks of themselves as evil. They might, on the contrary, protest they're a good person. They're just doing what they have to do to get by. Sometimes that means another person has to bleed, or die, for them to reach their goals.

Here's an example. A chaotic evil character tracks down a bunch of bandits, kills them, and rescues the hostages they took to claim the bounty from the local lord. Why does he do that? After all, that seems out of character for someone who's evil. Well, he likes killing people, he likes money, and this job is a way for him to legally do something he'd be hung for if he did it to anyone else. Sure he's more violent, more reckless, and less interested in the safety of the hostages than a heroic character might be, but he gets the job done. And when the job is over? Well, he'll go on his merry way in search of more work that's to his liking. Is he a bad guy? Undoubtedly. To some, though, he's a hero. Doesn't change the alignment marker in his box, however.

Make A Character For The Game You're Actually In


This is where we get to the part most players don't like. Because, as Simon Peter Munoz said over at the CRB, you need to make a character for the game you're actually playing. Because no matter how into your drow assassin, undead lord, or half-demon cult leader you are, if your DM made it clear there are no evil-aligned PCs allowed in his game, then those concepts should go up on the shelf for another day. Don't just throw a chaotic neutral skin over them, and try to sneak them into the campaign anyway. Your DM is going to get annoyed that you're trying to skirt the rules he set up in the beginning, and you're going to be disappointed every time someone stops you from doing things in your character's preferred manner (whether that's summoning an army of the living dead to do your bidding, torturing captives for information, etc., etc.).

Also, flip the script. Would you argue that you should be allowed to play a paladin in an evil campaign? And if your DM did give you the go-ahead, would you pitch a fit if (or more likely, when) you lost your powers from the sheer amount of evil acts you'd been complicit in? Even though you knew what you were getting into when you signed up?

Now, with all of that said, if you really want to make a case for your PC, don't water down their alignment and claim it's something it isn't. Pitch them to your DM during Session 0 (and if you don't have one of those, you really should; more on that in The Importance of Session 0 in Your Tabletop Games). If you can make a compelling argument about why your evil character should be allowed into the game, then it's possible your DM will allow you to give it a spin. It's also possible your DM might work with you to put together a compromise, allowing you to play some of the aspects you're interested in, but without other aspects that would be a headache for this particular campaign. If you're a bad guy in a setting where bad guys tend to get punished swiftly and harshly, though, don't act surprised when the hammer falls.

Those are my thoughts for this Moon Pope Monday. Hopefully more of us can just stop beating around the bush when it comes to playing evil characters, and that if that's what your players want, then more DMs will hear that, and respond appropriately. If you want to keep up-to-date on my latest posts, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you'd like to help support Improved Initiative, then consider heading over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. For as little as $1 a month you can help me keep my bills paid, and get a load of sweet gaming swag while you're at it!

Friday, June 30, 2017

How Do Your Warriors Prepare?

The whistle of steel was loud in the courtyard. Korak flowed from strike, to guard, and back again, the heavy blade whirling in his grip. Every movement was precise, the muscles flexing and thrusting with singular, focused purpose. Once the army of phantoms around him was slain, he let out a slow breath, and relaxed his stance.

"Why do you practice every day?" Phineas asked from the bench.

"Why do you take a whetstone to your blade?" Korak replied.

"So it stays sharp," Phineas said.

Korak nodded, took a firm grip on his sword, and went through the form again.


Practice makes permanent.


What Do Your Warriors Do To Get Ready?


Mechanically speaking, we're used to the spellcasters needing to go through a morning routine to get their mojo flowing. Wizards have to spend an hour with their spell book, memorizing the magic they plan to use that day. Clerics and druids have to pray, going through whatever rituals they have to be granted their divine powers. Bards have to tune up, and sorcerers have to go through a 15-minute routine to get into the right frame of mind to access their powers.

But what about your bruisers, enforcers, swordsmen, and spear fighters? Do they do anything?

Mechanically, no. By the rules, fighters, barbarians, rangers, slayers, monks, brawlers, and all the other martial classes can be woken up in the middle of the night, and they're ready to rock. That's one of the inherent advantages of those classes.

Say when.
But since you have the time to wait for the spellcasters to limber up anyway, why not ask how the martial characters keep in fighting form?

As a for instance, does the brawler wake up early, and go through a warm-up routine? Planks, push-ups, shadow boxing, and maybe some pull-ups on a tree branch? Does the fighter spar with the ranger, the two of them ducking and weaving as they swing practice swords, or just stout sticks instead of steel? Does the barbarian take a certain number of swings with his ax every morning, first with the right hand, then the left, re-acquainting his grip with the weapon now that he's awake? Does the monk go through a series of yoga poses to awaken her ki, and ensure that her body is in proper, working order?

As I mentioned in What Does Your Spell Preparation Look Like?, the way your character prepares says something about them. Are you measured, going through routine to wake up the muscle memory you spent a lifetime imbuing into your body? Or do you prefer simulated combat, sparring against an opponent, or your shadow, as a way to trick your instincts in order to stay sharp? Do you warm-up in armor, or do you limber up before you put on the full weight of your gear? Or are you one of those people who rolls out of bed, tosses their hair out of their eyes, and relies on your lifetime of experience to see you through the next challenge?

It might not be a huge part of your character, and it might fade into the background in time. But it is worth thinking about what your martial character's preparation says about them, and what those who watch will learn about the way they were trained.

That's all for this week's Fluff post. Hopefully you all enjoyed it, and it got the gears grinding in your heads. If you want to make sure you don't miss any of my updates, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you'd like to help keep this blog going, stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron today. All I ask is $1 a month to help me keep creating content, and in return you'll get both my gratitude, and a lot of sweet gaming swag as a thank you.