Friday, January 30, 2015

A Story About Understanding the Culture Shock of Gen Con

Geek culture is currently the in-thing. Whether it's superhero movies, anime, video games; all the flavors of geek are being eaten up by mass culture. A generation ago being a fan of Doctor Who would have gotten you beaten up, but these days it might just help you make friends with everyone in your class.

I was part of the previous generation. The one where people made fun of you for reading sci-fi, or who snorted up their sleeves if you were a fan of comics and over the age of twelve or thirteen. While I was never really a victim of the kinds of hazing my fellow geeks have talked about (being the big kid in your grade comes with decided advantages), I never really found compatriots who shared my interests. Being a geek was in a very real way about isolation for me, and I just assumed that was how things were supposed to be.

Then I went to Gen Con.

It's like this, but with black tee shirts and more D20s.

A Brush With Culture Shock

I had never been to a convention of any sort before being invited to Gen Con by two veterans from my gaming group. I'd heard stories of the great things that could happen around every corner, and I was jazzed. Even being tossed in the deep end as my two guides went off to game without me didn't deter my enthusiasm. I wandered the dealer hall, played demos, took some pictures of displays, browsed booths full of old novels and new gaming books, and stared around like a tourist trying to look worldly.

I noticed a problem though... I wasn't actually having fun.

The convention engaged me and I saw all kinds of shiny things I wanted to own, but it was more like walking through a physical representation of the Internet than it was stepping over the border of a magical kingdom. I was surrounded by cosplayers and gaming tables, but I didn't feel like I was really a part of it. The harder I looked for the magic I'd been told about the harder it was for me to find.

Bloggers don't get Perception as a skill.
By mid day I was a little footsore, but mainly I was hungry. So I went with another virgin member of my party (neither of us knew that the hell we were doing), and we set out to find something to eat. We passed a dozen restaurants with lines around the block, and when we turned a corner into a street that had no vehicular traffic we found a Hooters. It was tucked away out of sight less than a block from the convention center, and the little side street seemed immune to the convention devouring the downtown blocks all around.

Then It Hit Me

Outside the restaurant was a patio with a half dozen tables. This being August one of the tables had four men sitting at it. They were exactly the sort of men you'd expect to see at a Hooters for lunch; big, burly, middle aged, all wearing sports jerseys. I held the door for my friend, and I caught the spirited conversation the table of sportsball enthusiasts were having.

They were arguing about a dungeon crawl.

The fellow in the blue jersey was laying out the deeds and accomplishments of his paladin, and another man in red was smirking as he countered with his rogue's tactics. The other two nodded, wearing that slightly amused expression gamers always have when these kinds of discussions come up between party members. I couldn't have stood there for more than a few seconds, but in those few seconds the full weight of Gen Con finally hit home. I was standing in a place where you could go to a sports bar in the middle of the day and even the armchair quarterbacks were talking about Dungeons and Dragons in broad daylight for anyone walking by to hear.

That was a powerful moment. It wasn't enough to make me turn towards Indy and pray three times per day, but it was enough that the next day I set aside the reservations I had and threw myself back in with renewed verve.

In the end I'm very glad that I did.

If you have a gaming story of your own that you'd like to share then please contact me and I'll see about getting you a moment in the sun on Improved Initiative. If you'd like to support this blog then drop by the Literary Mercenary's Patreon page and consider becoming a patron today! If you want to make sure you get all of my updates then make sure you follow me on Facebook and Tumblr as well.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Danish Archer Shows Characters Like Hawkeye and Legolas Might Be Realistic After All

Sooner or later someone at your gaming table is going to roll his eyes and talk about realism. He might hold forth at some length about how a longsword should easily be able to cleave through lighter armor, or how it's just so ridiculous that a character can reload a flintlock in less than six seconds. Almost nowhere are you going to get more complaints than you are with archers though, particularly when you start firing six arrows or more in a few bare seconds.

Yet no one ever calls bullshit on magic bows...
Sure, sure, we get it; a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required to play any RPG. Seriously though we all know that archers were long-distance marksmen who took forever to draw an arrow, nock it in place, aim and fire. Hell, they were lucky to get off one arrow in the time our fantasy heroes can fire three or four.

Weren't they?

Well maybe not. Lars Andersen, a mostly self-taught Danish archer, has spent the past decade of his life researching old manuscripts and training himself in what he feels are more historically accurate methods of archery. What does that look like? Well... take a look for yourself.

If that doesn't make you want to play an archer at least as much as watching The Lord of The Rings, well maybe you should watch the clip again. Just to be safe.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Fleshing Out Your Background or How To Avoid Playing A Murder Hobo

There's a very specific kind of character who ends up in a lot of games. It could be Shadowrun or Pathfinder, Vampire the Requiem, or Dungeons and Dragons, it doesn't matter; this character will eventually put in an appearance.

This character is referred to as the murder hobo.

The adventurer in its natural habitat.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the murder hobo they're fairly easy to recognize. These characters have no connection to the world, including to the party they adventure with or the society to which they tacitly belong. Their only motivations seem to be blood letting and collecting resources, but without any motivation for either. They are violent forces of destruction who take as much loot as they can for no purpose other than to upgrade their murder tools to take on bigger and bigger targets.

If you feel you or players at your table are at risk of allowing a murder hobo (or worse a pack of them!) to flourish then follow these simple steps to inject genuine character and pathos into your game.

Who Are They Connected To?

Often times player characters are treated as if they stepped out fully formed. Garth Broken-Tusk has never been a child with friends he cared for or a father whose respect he wanted to earn. Kalin Nightblade never spent time as a girl wearing dresses and thinking about boys before she became a knife for hire. No, these adventurers did not exist before their first level, and they stepped out of the mold with no family, no friends, no peers, tutors, or confidantes.

That's a good place to start.

Thus began the training of Alton Snare, First Wizard of Flame.
Every character was once a child (barring androids, golems, and other races who are formed as adults), and they had a life before becoming adventurers. That life wasn't necessarily good, but even child soldiers, homeless sneak thieves, and orphan wizard's apprentices will have people and things they care about. Ask whether or not your adventurer had a kid sister he had to care for after their parents died, and when she found a position with a local lord he realized he had no reason to stay in that town? Did your bard receive his training from his grandfather, whom he sends letters to apprising him of all the adventurers he's gone on? Does your blood-thirsty berserker like kittens?

Regardless of who or what your character is there is a connection somewhere in his or her life. It might be membership in a holy order, a position in the army, a spot in a gang, or just a family that he or she left behind for one reason or another. Point is that these things all had a hand in shaping that character.

Why Are They Adventuring?

I've harped on this before, but motivation is important when it comes to PCs. Sure it's cool that Splitshield Axebeard, hero of the Irontooth Mountains sought out and destroyed an entire valley of trolls... but why? Were the trolls attacking innocent people, and the dwarven warrior felt that had to be stopped? Did the trolls threaten his people and family, causing him to take a stand for his clan and home? Is he obsessed with his own prowess and reputation, so he sought out the biggest, most ridiculous challenge he could find?

Let's go with that last one.
Character motivation does more than legitimize PC violence (though if that's all it did that would be enough). By understanding a character's motivation you understand that character's goals, what's important to that character, and what sort of actions he or she is more likely to take. You could take two characters of the exact same class and the exact same alignment, but if you give them different motivations you will get two very different stories.

Why Are They In The Party?

So you're still determined to play a callous, cynical loner whose only real talent is laying waste to things that get in the character's way. You have no past, no family, no country, and no loyalties. All right, it's your character and you can play it how you want... but why is this character in the party if that's the schtick you're going with?

A lot of the time parties form because players acknowledge that they are in this together and they all need to follow the plot hook the storyteller is giving. That said it's still important to figure out some reason you're all following this adventure from start to finish.

The reason doesn't have to be complicated, but it should be solid. Let's say you're playing a half-orc barbarian from a desert tribe. His greatest loves are battle and spoils, and if left to his own devices he will slay anyone he feels deserving. Why is he in the northern mountains helping to make peace between two warring nations? Perhaps he owes the paladin a blood debt, and so travels with him to keep him safe. Maybe he's in love with the sorceress, and is attempting to figure out this strange feeling. Perhaps the gods sent him a vision and told him to follow the man riding the bear to find his destiny. Or, simplest of all, having fought and shed blood with the party he considers them his sword-family, a bond that in-debts him to them and which draws them closer according to the rules and customs of his tribe.

There are innumerable ways to make your character invested in the adventure. Perhaps he's running from a dark past and trying to re-make himself into a hero so no one ever believes he was once a savage bandit leader. Maybe your character has great national pride, and wants to serve as an example to her nation. Maybe you're in the army, or you're a member of an arcane order, and you've been tasked with fulfilling a mission. Whatever method you use to connect your character to the world and to the game is great, as long as it puts you there for a purpose beyond killing everything in sight and taking its stuff for no better reason than because you can.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Who The F@#k Is My DND Character? A Random WTF Generator For Gamers

I'd like to start today's post with a brief aside. Are you the sort of reader who loves sword and sorcery stories that feature barbarian warriors facing off against rusting, defunct machines guarding long-buried ships from beyond the stars? When Paizo introduced Iron Gods were you bouncing in your seat to play it? If so then you should really check this out!

Why are you still here? Go check it out already!
Shadows of a Fading World is a great anthology for those who love weird tales set in the twilight of man where the looming shadow of the end times colors all. My contribution to this book, Paths of Iron and Blood, is a tale about a chieftain on the trail of a machine-cult that has stolen the tribe's children for an unknown but no doubt nefarious purpose.

It may, or may not have been inspired by a Kellid barbarian of mine to whom I wanted to grant a last, great adventure.

Anyway, onto this week's Moon Pope Monday Post!

Who The Fuck Is My DND Character?

Do you remember back in the before-fore time when you would roll your stats in order and then based on what you rolled you would be able to pick your class? While that isn't the way things are done these days it was a special kind of challenge to fulfill the role your dice gave you; especially if that role was not what you were typically comfortable with.

For those who'd like to trust the fickle hand of fate check out the Who The Fuck Is My DND Character page by clicking right here!

And how exactly does this voodoo bullshit work?
The page is pretty simple, actually. It's built with the WTF engine, and it throws together a list of random suggestions in order to built a basic character back story. You might be a bitchy dwarf bard who has already gained and lost a fortune, or a composed tiefling druid who is uncomfortable around old people because they smell like death.

The list goes on and on, and while it might not be everyone's bag it's a fun experiment. So if you want to see what the gods decide for your next DND party have everyone sit down and go to and see what the Internet grants you.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Still More Rules Pathfinder Players Keep Forgetting

I've said it before and I'll say it again; Pathfinder is a really dense game as far as rules go, so it's only natural for players to miss a few here and there. This is the fourth installment of a series covering often-overlooked, obscure, or mis-remembered rules, and the previous installments are:

Playing By The Book: Some Pathfinder Rules That Players Keep Forgetting
MORE Rules Pathfinder Players Keep Forgetting
Even MORE Rules Pathfinder Players Keep Forgetting
Still More Rules Pathfinder Players Keep Forgetting
5 More Rules Pathfinder Players Keep Forgetting

Some of these rules might not be new to you, particularly if you're the sort of player who reads the entire rule book cover-to-cover. If you're just a casual player, though, hopefully these rules will help you bring your A game to the table.

Let's get started with this latest installment, shall we?

#1: Powerful Magic Weapons Ignore Damage Reduction

Damage reduction is the bane of low-to-mid-level combat characters. If you don't deal the right kind of damage, or your weapon is made from the wrong kind of material then you're going to find even your mightiest blows reduced to little more than cuts and bruises. DR doesn't represent as big a threat at higher levels though; mostly because particularly powerful magic weapons ignore it.

They also deal bonus damage to non-magical rocks!
According to the chart on page 562 of the Core Rulebook a weapon that has an enhancement of at least +3 overcomes cold iron/silver damage reduction. A +4 overcomes DR that would require an adamantine weapon, and a +5 or higher overcomes alignment-based DR. It should be noted that if a creature has a flat damage reduction (as you get from wearing adamantine armor or being a high-level barbarian) there is no weapon powerful enough to overcome it. You're just going to have to hit them really, really hard.

#2: Cover And Concealment Are Different Things

Cover and concealment are the bread and butter of tactical combat. Whether you're tossing down a smokestick so the wizard can't pinpoint you with a blast, or you're crouching behind a low wall to avoid being shot at by archers you are taking away at least some of the enemy's ability to do you harm. While a lot of tables don't bother with them, cover and concealment can be the life or death of characters.

Also, they're very different mechanics.

Pictured: Concealment
Let's start with concealment. If you're making a ranged attack and there's anything blocking your line of sight between a corner of your square and a corner of the target's square then the target has concealment. If a target is in a square completely enveloped by a condition that grants concealment (like a smokestick) then you have a 20% miss chance. If you have line of effect to an opponent but not line of sight then the opponent has total concealment (a 50% miss chance). You can't take attacks of opportunity, or even attack the opponent; you can only attack the square and hope for the best. These conditions don't stack; so if you're attacking in a cloud of smoke in pitch blackness then the defender only gets the one 50% miss chance.

Now on to cover!

Cover is an actual, physical barrier between you and an enemy. This includes door frames, walls, and even other people! If there is any sort of barrier you can hide behind it grants you a +4 to your armor class and a +2 on reflex saves. If more than half of you is sticking out of the cover then you reduce the bonus by half to a +2 to your armor class and a +1 to reflex saves. Improved cover, such as crouching behind an arrow slit, typically grants double the bonus (+8 and +4 respectively). If a target has total cover, meaning it's completely hidden behind a wall or other obstacle then you can't attack it.

You can have cover and concealment, and in fact it's a great idea to get both if you can! The details on these states of being are listed in the Core Rulebook 195-197.

#3: Armor Check Penalty Is Hell On The Non-Proficient

Most adventurers are familiar with the armor check penalty rules; your armor makes it harder for you to perform strength and dexterity-based actions based on how cumbersome it is. It's frustrating, but combat characters have been dealing with it for years.

If you're not proficient with an armor though that check can get heinous in a big hurry.

"Guys... guys?" Wizard's Last Words
If you are using armor you're not proficient with then you take a penalty because you just aren't trained to deal with the armor, but according to page 150 of the Core Rulebook the armor check penalty for armor you're not proficient with also applies to your attacks. This penalty stacks with any non-proficiency you take for wielding a shield you're not trained with as well.

This is the reason you never see wizards putting on plate armor without at least a level or two of fighter.

#4: You Can Direct Attacks of Opportunity Against Potions

Everyone knows that drinking a potion provokes an attack of opportunity (which is one reason the Drunken Brute barbarian variant is great, as it allows you to ignore this rule). If an enemy is drinking down a game-changing spell though a single attack might not make the difference... unless you direct the attack at the potion.

And hope it doesn't blow up in your face.
According to page 478 in the Core Rulebook you may choose to take your attack of opportunity against a potion when an enemy provokes you by trying to quaff it while threatened. If you manage to destroy the container then the target can't drink the potion, since your attack of opportunity happened before the target could pour even a little of the magical elixir into his mouth.

#5: Clerics Can Seriously Ruin A Vampire's Day

We've all seen classic Dracula movies where the count is shown a crucifix and he recoils in atavistic dread. We've also been in games where the villain is a vampire, and the party is overmatched, outgunned, and needs to pull out every trick they know in order to carry the day. If you're in a party like this then be really glad you've got a cleric or a paladin on hand (though a religious fighter will do, in a pinch).

Assuming you're all out of gummy Type-O treats, that is.
If you are fighting a vampire (which is any creature with the vampire template according to the Bestiary) then you can keep it at bay by using a standard action to present a holy symbol. The vampire has to stay 5 feet away from the person presenting the symbol, and cannot touch or make melee attacks against the target. After 1 round has gone by the vampire can attempt to overcome this repulsion by making a DC 25 Will save. At that point you'll get more use out of a good gorget than you will a holy symbol, but it's still a good idea to keep something sacred on hand if you're worried you'll be set upon by undead bloodsuckers.

What's Next...

That's all for this installment of overlooked and mis-remembered rules, but I'm sure there will be another installment. If you'd like to help support Improved Initiative then stop by my Patreon page and consider becoming a patron today! If you want to be sure that you don't miss any of my updates then either plug your email into the box on your right, or follow me on Facebook and Tumblr!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Vietnamese Barber Uses Japanese Swords to Deliver Razor-Sharp Hairstyles

Have you ever wondered what happens to adventurers when they decide to stop raiding temples and locating lost gold? After spending years honing their instincts and learning to wield deadly weapons what do they do when there are no more creatures left to slay or monsters left to hunt?

They probably do something goddamn fabulous. Something like this!

Pictured: Two Weapon Rend in action.
That picture is not a joke; it's a shot of stylist Nguyen Hoang Hung doing what he does best. This hairdresser, who works in the Thanh Ke district in Da Nang according to this source, has tossed aside shears and scissors in favor of sculpting his client's manes with more epic tools. What he did before becoming a samurai stylist is not certain, but there has been a noted dearth of dragons in Vietnam for many years. Just saying.

If you want to see this man in action check out the video below. Would you be brave enough to let him sharpen up your look?

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Making Your Own Fate (Or Why It's A Bad Idea For Chaotic Good Characters To Rear Black Dragons)

This week's Table Talk entry comes to us from the game of Benjamin Colecliffe. Some of you might have seen similar instances of trying to do the right thing that spiraled out of control into massive threats to the peace, life, and limb of the local community. If you have I'm sure you'll identify with this week's tale...

We Make Our Own Fate

Some heroes kill dragons. Many more die trying and failing to kill dragons. And then there’s this guy, who died trying to thwart the draconic menace that he’d created.

That escalated quickly.
Our hero for this story is Roran, a barbarian from the far south. We’re playing Hoard of the Dragon Queen and have just finished looting a cave complex with several dragon eggs inside, which we promptly stole. My character has headed north to report our success and hand over some documents we acquired, while Roran has created a cart to lug the dragon eggs back to Greenest. He gets there and decides to hide the eggs until we’re ready by burying them, at which point one of them hatches.
So Roran has a baby evil dragon on his hands, and he has an idea. He takes it off the road a way and begins trying to raise it. Firstly, it’s obviously hungry so he heads off into town to get some food for it. The town has been raided, its livestock rustled, and Roran had killed off all of the town’s hunters (long story), so there wasn’t any meat for sale. Opting for a second best choice, Roran gets a pack horse, leads it back to the dragon, and kills the horse for the dragon to eat. Now the baby dragon isn’t happy with this, as it wants live prey. So Roran goes back to town and buys some puppies. With big eyes that look up at him with nothing but love and devotion, so happy to meet someone new and kind. They lick him and nuzzle him.

The baby dragon is a Black Dragon, the outright most sadistic type of dragon out there. Roran goes off and gives the dragon the puppies to eat. It’s a drawn out process, but eventually the dragon is finished with the poor puppies and puts them out of their misery. I would like it noted at this point that Roran’s alignment is supposed to be Chaotic Good.

You might want to get your alignment checked.
Next the dragon demands a drink, which Roran supplies. Now it wants a hoard, so Roran gives it all his ready cash. Finally it wants a lair, so Roran heads out to find it a suitable home. Throughout all this, Roran’s player is convinced that he’s got this dragon wrapped around his little finger.
So he takes the dragon to its new lair at the bend of the local river and it likes it. So exhausted, Roran goes back to Greenest and heads to the nearest inn. The next day he gets up, does some chores around town, picks up some more puppies and heads out to the dragon’s lair. The dragon wants more loot, and Roran’s picked up a lead on some bandits in town. So the pair go out to kill bandits and take their stuff. This doesn’t go as well as it could due to the action economy being somewhat against Roran and the dragon not being interested in putting its life on the line for him, and eventually he goes down. Now while it would have been funny for the hero to die in service of an evil dragon our tale doesn’t end there. See the bandits keep him alive in order to sell him off as a slave or the like, and that night the dragon returns, curbstomps the remaining bandits, and frees him. Why? Well, Roran’s been a good slave for the dragon so far and it doesn’t want to lose such a valuable asset just yet. So Roran is sent back to town to recover and gets a message from up north saying “Shit just got real, come up north ASAP.” He recovers from his beating and heads out to tell the dragon where he’s going. The dragon is nowhere to be seen, so he waits for a few hours until it returns with a group of kobolds in tow.

It’s at this point that Roran begins to realize that he might be slightly in over his head. He tells the dragon that he’s heading north to follow up a lead on some treasure for its hoard, and the dragon lets him go with the promise of a horrible death should he betray it.

Roran regroups with the rest of the party and lays it out bare, omitting the parts about puppy killing. This is a problem, as the plot at this point is running on a timetable and we can’t afford to backtrack several days to deal with the dragon problem he’s created. So Roran decides to head back and deal with it himself, while I go off and inform the local paladin of what’s happened. Roran heads south to Greenest, picks up the one guy the guard can spare to act as backup, and goes back to the dragon’s cave. By this point the dragon has a tribe of 20 kobolds along with drakes and assorted cultists at its disposal, and is a significant threat to the region. Roran goes in and gets into a disagreement with the cultists guarding the lair, which he then escalates into a fight. The guard he brought along with him flat out flees because he’s not getting paid enough for this, and Roran suffers a rather nasty end getting mobbed by the dragon’s servants and breathed on by the dragon itself. We haven’t yet found out what happened to the region, but it’s fairly obvious that the locals are in more danger after we left than when we arrived!

In conclusion: Sometimes you create your own villain by accident. Other times, you really have to work at it. You can read the full story of our party’s misadventures right here!

Not All Adventures Scale So Well!

If you would like to read more bad decisions from the Table Talk archive then click right here! If you have a story of your own that you'd like to share with the Internet at large then by all means contact me using the contact form on this page and I'll be more than happy to give you some time in the spotlight.

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Daffy Duck Shows You How To Be An EPIC Wizard!

Fantasy roleplaying games have steadily wormed their way into common culture over several decades. From movies and novels to television shows and video games fantasy RPGs have left indelible marks everywhere, and on practically everything.

If you needed further proof of this fact, here is Daffy Duck as an epic level wizard.

This clip is taken from the 17th episode of this particular run on Merrie Melodies, a show which has never been shy about paying homage to pop culture. If you are from a younger generation you might not remember the starts of the silver screen like Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre showing up in every other cartoon, but you might remember similar celebrity cameos in Tiny Tunes.

We've come that far. Daffy being an epic wizard on a mind quest is something that the writers and animators never even considered the audience wouldn't get. In short my fellow culture warriors, we have won.

Mostly with the aid of a Daffy wizard.
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Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Guide To Swearing In Your Fantasy RPG

You know how in fantasy novels from the 80s and 90s authors would make up curse words for that particular setting, allowing them to bring across that characters were vulgar without putting words in their books that would keep them out of younger readers' hands? Have you ever been wrist deep in RP about to say "shit" and wished you had an alternative that felt more organic for your world? Or perhaps something you could say that wouldn't get you in trouble if the younger players either at the table or in the house started repeating it?

Well here are some ways you can do just that, and surprise the hell out of everyone else with your thundering creativity.

Method #1: Invoke The Divine

Aside from our favorite four-letter friends one of the most common swears you've probably heard is the name Jesus Christ. While it might not offend anyone but the truly religious (taking the savior's name in vain and all that), the idea of invoking divine powers is one of the oldest forms of swearing. Given that most fantasy RPGs have their own pantheon you've got all of the ammunition you need.

Asmodeus worshipers get the best swear words.
You can invoke the name of your character's god(s), or just the regional divinities where he or she grew up. You can also invoke aspects of the divine, referring to divine tools or areas of influence. An example is the word gadzooks, which we sort of associate with Saturday-morning-cartoons and Shakespeare plays. The term is a shortened word that means god's hooks. That's some serious-sounding-shit, and not to be invoked lightly. Especially if you happen to be a follower of a god of pain, agony, and torture like Zon-Kuthon.

This kind of logic extends to all gods and their accouterments. Followers of Cayden Cailean might use a phrase like busted cup to refer to bad luck coming their way (insinuating that the god's trusty tankard had been smashed, and the ale of victory spilled forever). Those who worship the nature god Gozreh might invoke the more damaging elements of nature with phrases like thunder and flood or beasts and blood. Even those who pray to Desna the goddess of dreams might say something like dark dreams or sleepless nights when something goes wrong.

Method #2: Stream-of-Nonsense Swearing

Popularized by characters like Yosemite Sam the stream of nonsense might sound like little more than gobbledy-gook at first, but it actually has a long and storied tradition. Phrases like by the double-barreled jumping jimminity are more likely to produce laughter than fright, but the formula is easy enough to apply if you want to alter the words for something a little more serious.

By the nocked arrows of the 52 fletchers, what do you want?
Whether these phrases refer to actual things and people, or they're just made up combinations of words is up to you as the player. The formula tends to start out with by the as most good swearing does, and then moves onto words that come in pairs. Alliteration is good if you can manage it, and it will make the phrases easier to remember.

The interesting part comes when you want to work something into your character's life that makes these phrases make sense. Do they swear by weapons because warriors hold those close (by the bastard blades of the seven sons), or do they instead invoke features of their geography (by the burning hills of Hartford), or of their ancestors (by the gray bearded chin of Harold the Mad). You can get pretty creative with these, but you should save them for special occasions when possible if you want them to have a bigger impact.

Method #3: Swearing By Body Parts (And Other Things)

Holy... ugh...
This is the type of swearing we're all most familiar with, though we aren't really all that creative with it. After all a four-letter word for copulation is our big swear word, and the runner-up is another four-letter word for excrement.

We can do better than that.

Look at the proud British tradition of swearing. Bollocks might not seem like a very insulting word, but try grabbing your crotch while you sneer derisively at someone and see just how quickly it escalates. The same goes for the word bloody; it probably sounds quaint to American ears but if you change the phrase and add to it something like blood and ashes has a certain vehemence that's got a lovely ring to it. You can swear by anything that's important to your character or the culture he or she comes from. Virgin's teats, devil's hands, or even something like child o' mine might represent things that a culture values, or which it finds troublesome.

In short there's a whole slew of great ways to swear-without-swearing at your table. For some more great information on old-timey cussing and where our modern profanity comes from check out this article on the subject.

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