DovahQueen: Bend the Knee
Since 2015, the DovahQueen has been taking your questions and giving advice to improve your games. Now the tables are turned in this DovahQueen series; Loren is asking the questions and a panel of three guests—an RPG-industry veteran, a Know Direction network staff member, and a fan—answers. It’s time to Bend the Knee!
First, let’s meet today’s guests.
RPG Industry Veteran: Stephen Glicker, Roll For Combat Owner & GM
Stephen Glicker first got into tabletop gaming after getting the Dungeons & Dragons “blue box” edition … which was so old it didn’t even come with dice! Instead, there was a piece of laminated paper with numbers ranging from 1 to 20. The player was instructed to carefully cut out the number chits, put them into a cup, and whatever number was pulled from the cup was your “roll.” Despite this poor excuse for a d20, Stephen was instantly hooked and has been playing and developing RPGs ever since. He’s played every version of D&D under the sun, GMed nearly a dozen Adventure Paths (including the infamous Age of Worms), and most recently developed for Paizo for both Starfinder and Pathfinder 2nd Edition.
Know Direction Network Staff Member: Ryan Costello
26 years ago, the most exciting experience on a school whale watching trip was being introduced to Dungeons & Dragons. Before the trip was done, I’d concocted my first adventure. Less than a week later, I ran my first session with classmates who were relative strangers (one of which eventually introduced me to my future wife Tina at a 3.0 game). 14 years after that/12 years ago, I started a D&D podcast and review site that grew into the modern day Know Direction Network. Which means sometime in the next two years I’ll have been podcasting for half the time I’ve been a gamer. Neat!
The extensive backlog of audio available on this site shows that there isn’t much I won’t go into, but one story that I don’t think is anywhere in audio form is the time me and my friend adopted* a three-wheeled grocery cart, named it Backstop after one of my favourite GI Joes, and kept at his house to store our unopened Warhammer 40K boxes. When his mom made us get rid of it, I walked about two hours to bring it to my house. I wrote this into a screenplay that I never produced called Backstop Rules.
*We stole it.
Fan: Andrew Mullen
I started TTRPGs in 2013 thanks to some coworkers, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and the opportunity to play a friendly agrarian wizard. When we later started Pathfinder’s Reign of Winter Adventure Path, I got really into it and wrote short fiction about our sessions. A couple years and Know Direction “how to freelance” recordings later, I’m a part-time domesitician and part-time freelance RPG writer; I’m always at the kitchen counter, either pecking away at my laptop or cooking!
“You wake up several hours before you’d like with a thirst for something from the kitchen. Your feet stumble their way from the bedroom toward your mouth’s goals, but your small toe find’s purchase on the most outlandishly hard furniture-leg any pinkie toe has ever experienced. Reflexively, you pull your foot back as fast as you can—a little too fast, in fact, as your head decides to make another purchase: the ground. You wake a few hours later with vision that takes a moment to focus. It doesn’t take long to notice something strange though. The first person you see has a floating stat block behind them! Name, ancestry, class, special abilities, attributes, and skill scores are all listed in plain text. You wipe your eyes in disbelief, but the crunch remains. Another person enters your view. Another stat block. A car speeds by; a stat block speeds by. It doesn’t take long for you to get curious and search for a mirror. Sure enough, your own stat block is there too.”
As you read the stat block that accompanies you, this you: the real-life you, most things as are as you would expect them to be. Your name is your name. Your attributes and skills all make sense to you. But what is listed under ‘class?’ What class would you be in TTRPG terms and why?
Stephen: Okay, this question is just freaky as I’ve been on a kick recently where I’ve been reading nothing but LitRPG books for the past year. For those of you unfamiliar with the genre, it’s fairly new and stands for “Literary Role-Playing Games” and combines my two greatest loves – the gaming conventions of RPGs with science-fiction and fantasy novels. A key aspect of this genre is that throughout the story, all RPG statistics are visible to the main protagonist and continue throughout the novel. Hence, I’ve been thinking about this very question for quite some time now as I believe everyone who reads these novels begins to think about their stats and abilities if they were dropped into a world such as these.
Nearly all of these books start the same way – the main protagonist is someone (or a group of someones) from Earth and then gets transported into an MMORPG game world/fantasy world/VR simulation, has to learn the rules of the world, and then fight for their lives. Throughout the novel going on quests, raising their level, stats, abilities, and gear is an intricate part of the adventure. One central theme throughout the many novels I have read in this genre is that the main protagonist is often “special” and is significantly more powerful than the “average” PC within the game world. In D&D terms, think of the main protagonist playing a gestalt character while everyone else is running around with a 15-point build (or less).
With that, I would expect my character would be a Fighter/Wizard combo. Yeah, I know, this is the wimpy way out, but who wouldn’t want to be the master of both magic AND fighting? Everyone dreams of being able to cast spells, so being able to do that with my “new you” is a no brainer. However, a magic-user is always weak when it comes to hand-to-hand fighting, and with no guarantee of a supporting group of allies, fighter! One needs to be able to go toe-to-toe against any enemy in a proper fight, and then finish them off with some sneaky magic! With this combo, I should be able to last in this new world for quite some time and learning new magic spells, and fighting techniques should keep me occupied for quite some time!
Oh yes, and if you are looking to start reading LitRPG, I would recommend The Land: Founding: A LitRPG Saga by Aleron Kong and Life Reset by Shemer Kuznits. Happy reading!
Ryan: My first thought was “Bard”.
My second thought was “Is that arrogant?”
My third thought was “Wait, why would saying I’m a bard in real life be arrogant?”
Arrogance aside, I’m pretty confident I’d go with bard even if I had more familiarity with other systems. Podcasting is basically Perform (Oratory) with global reach. I know a little bit about a lot of things, mostly from stumbling across them, so that’s bardic knowledge and lore master in flavour and crunch. I am encouraging in a variety of ways in my roles as friend and owner of the network. Really, going down the list of class features, I could make a case for all of them except the musical ones, playing the spoons in a high school talent show aside.
The clincher is a bard’s access to hideous laughter. My talent for wordplay is well known, both by its fans and its enemies. I’ve often been cursed out through giggles for exceptionally bad (read: good) puns. As much as some people want to believe they are the lowest form of humour, they can’t resist my charm.
Andrew: Wait, I have to figure out what class I am? That means honestly assessing my capabilities—that’s not what writers do! We flail our arms and give in to imposter syndrome! But I suppose I’ll try anyways. While I’d love to go with bard, given my abiding love of puns, let’s go with Pathfinder 1e’s occultist. Occultists are Intelligence-based spontaneous casters who draw power from psychically resonant objects. They get bonuses to fiddle with magic items and can spend a minute reading their psychic signature to identify them, and they use a pool of mental focus to power various spell-like and supernatural abilities.
I went with occultist because I see them as ponderers, considering objects, people, and presumably just y’know, topics, to figure out what themes and emotions drive them. I tend to get lost in thought a lot, taking the factors that play into something and tumbling them around in my head. This is great for writing ‘cause it helps me dig down to base principals, such as when I’m cooking up a monster’s ecological niche or creating a fictional society. But it’s got its drawbacks. I can spend way too much time thinking about a thing rather than just doing it! I also like checking out weird stuff (aka magic items) and trying to figure out how it works. While at hotel for a con, for example, I got immensely distracted by a switch that didn’t seem to connect to anything! I traced the electrical conduit all over, but it go anywhere! What really drives home occultist as my class choice, though, is mental focus. I’ve got ADHD, so an exhaustible pool of focus seems way too apt a comparison to pass up.
Hmm. An occultist grabbing a magic item to spend a minute checking it out; an Andrew getting focused on some cool looking trash on the street and trying to figure out where it came from. An occultist using up most of their mental focus by the end of the adventuring day, and evening-time Andrew distractedly investigating Mysterious Hotel Switches. See, occultist is a way better fit than bard!
I’ve heard from my guest writers; now I want to hear from you. Which class would you be IRL and why do you think so? Leave comment below, on our Discord, or on Know Direction’s Facebook page.
Each Bend the Knee features three guest writers. One is from the RPG industry. Another is from the Know Direction network. The third guest could be you! Leave a comment on Know Direction’s Facebook, Discord, or Twitter, or you can send an email to DearDovahQueen@gmail.com for your chance to be featured on the next Bend the Knee or Dear DovahQueen.