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: Rachel Ventura aka The Politician
I’m the Business Director for Legendary Games and occasionally do some freelance writing. In 2015, I was a Guest of Honor Industry Insider for Gen Con. In 2018 my debut adventure, A Feast of Flavor, was ENnie nominated for the Best Family Product. I’ve been gaming since the mid-80s. I am a woman of many talents anywhere from training wolves for movies to teaching scrapbooking at Gen Con for SPA events. I am elected as a County Board member in Will County, IL, and in 2020 I ran for US Congress.
Know Direction Network Staff Member: Monica Marlowe aka MamaUrsula
I started role playing when I was old enough to go to school and LARP/play “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” with my friends at school and in our yard. While there were no rules then, I did graduate to D&D Redbox at the age of 14, which my brother and I learned after some boys told me that girls weren’t allowed to play D&D. I have since gone on to win Paizo’s 2015 RPG Superstar contest, publish for several 3PP, co-found Marlowe House Games with my husband Andrew, which includes a Friday night actual play live broadcast, co-run a successful charity gaming convention during the pandemic named IsolaCon, and still manage to hold down a job as a Registered Nurse after leaving my career as a microbiologist. Take that 14-year old boys!
Fan: Ivis K. Flanagan aka NorthernDreamer
I’ve always loved RPGs, though I didn’t start playing tabletop until about 5 years ago when some friends assured me that it was something girls could do too. Since then, I dove in headfirst, becoming a Venture Officer for Org. Play, earning my 5th star in Pathfinder first edition, and working on a few freelance writing projects. Outside of gaming, you are likely to find me in my classroom or doing something that includes Disney – I’m a huge fan and tend to wear it on my arm.
“It’s time to put pen to paper, or more likely, it’s time to press keys on the keyboard. Your boss gave you a deadline and its growing closer every day. Writer’s block be damned, you have to submit something. After a stressful day at work, you decide to kick back and relax with your favorite piece of media tonight so that you’ll be suitably ready to start getting this project off your plate first thing tomorrow. Fortunately, as the evening’s chosen entertainment unfolds, a spark of inspiration presents itself. These characters aren’t your favorites without good reason. You enjoy them because they were conceived by ideas that were good, and because they are well-written. You feel like you could use some of the concepts from this medium to help you begin your project tomorrow, and you think you have some ideas to help make your product unique enough as to not feel uninspired. After a nice evening and a nice sleep, you awake the next morning feeling ready to get started.”
Pick one of your favorite characters or one of your favorite settings. What is it and why? If you had to write a new base class based on that character or setting, what kinds of things would that class do that is different than one of the other existing base classes?
Rachel: “The third star to the right and straight on ‘til morning.” That’s where you’ll find this class of lost boys. Embolden with the power to fly, these young child-like warriors are proficient in martial arts, traps, and ranged attacks. This class has a unique ability to turn simple objects into powerful weapons including pinecones, rocks, feathers, and shells. Objects stolen from human babies such as teddy bears, lockets, baby blankets are magically altered to deliver healing similar to a cure light wounds spell once per day after spending time thinking of their mothers. They gain the ability of uncanny dodge as they level up. This class speaks common, crocodile, mermaid, and ferry but at higher levels has the ability to persuade and even control. This class never ages as long as they are in the midst of ferries or use ferry dust.
Neverland is not the fairytale island one would be led to believe. Sure, a series of underground tunnels that connected several areas and camps the Lost Boys control makes the island easier to traverse especially when accessing areas like the Indian lair, docks, and mermaid cove. But dangerous creatures keep the lost boys on their feet when they aren’t battling or playing with the other inhabitants like the pirates, Indians, merfolk, and ferries. This setting is ripe for high sea adventures, wilderness crawls, swamp battles, and treetop attacks.
Monica: One of my favorite classes has always been the cleric; as a nurse who’s a bit of a hot head, being able to heal and bust in heads has long been a career path goal of mine. I have played many, MANY clerics, but one of my favorites was my D&D 3.5 The Shackled City cleric. Just a warning, this was one tricked out cleric. We only had three players at the time and as you may recall, the adventure called for six. But we really wanted to play it (and it was well worth playing), so our GM (Andrew) decided we would play gestalt characters. That meant that with the benefit of setting specific bonus traits, two classes, and the use of a Prestige class, I played a half-dwarf, half-black dragon, cleric/(black) dragon-blooded sorcerer gestalt with Mystic Theurge added in at level 10, which meant I hit Level 20 in Cleric, Sorcerer, and Mystic Theurge Level 10. The other two players had fighter boss and rogue/trickster vibes. It was one amazing and yet incredibly min-max-o-matic. Andrew even took a dwarven mini with a forehead detail that he built up a little to look like black dragon horn roots on her head when he painted her for me. I love that mini so much.
Now we no longer play D&D 3.5 and we have a respectable five players at our table which means we no longer need to make the craziest characters ever. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t miss some of the more flexible spell choices I had when I could pull from all the lists. Which is where the third part of this story begins.
I play a lot of Cypher System games now due to our actual play live stream, it’s a lot easier for us to be descriptive of what we’re doing than trying to figure out how to hang a camera from the ceiling or otherwise have a usable map. The narrative nature of Cypher System means that your characters have abilities that they can do, similar to feats but also like spells. There are also methods to heal characters, which can but don’t require any special training or skills, because every skill related action can be done without training, you’re just not very good at it. But what I really miss is being able to turn undead and channel positive (or negative) energy. In a system where everything you can imagine can exist, there are methods to deal with spirits like a medium (Shepherds Spirits foci) and ways to enslave them like necromancers (Consorts with the Dead foci), but there’s just no way to shoo them along so you can do what you came to do, which it likely to discover something interesting. I want an Adept (“magic user” type) ability that allows the player to tap into the magical element of the setting, whether Numenera, science, or magic, that could send the undead on their way to the afterlife or at least the next room with no desire to return for about an hour, surely you can clear a room in a hour, right?
The reason I enjoy character creation in Cypher System is because of the vast options that you can choose from and plug into a more finely tuned image of the character you wish to portray. For a classic D&D cleric build choose any descriptor (clever, mystic, stealthy, tough) and partner it with Adept, through which you take the new “Channel energy” or focus energy, and then take a foci that supports the cleric traits you like, for example “Works Miracles” is a high healing foci, “Metes Out Justice” for a LG/Paladinesque cleric, “Never Says Die” is the battlefield tank/healer if you include area of effect healing in your channel energy abilities, or “Shepherds Spirits” for a mystical cleric medium.
Ivis: When I need to just do something that pulls my attention away from my stresses, one of my favorite things to do is get lost in a video game. I love JRPGs, with one of my favorites being Kingdom Hearts as it takes many of my favorite things and throws them into a blender giving back a near-perfect smoothie of a game. One of the main characters throughout the story of Kingdom Hearts is Kairi. Introduced as a Princess in the first game, she evolves into a competent warrior by the third main game in the series. The thing that sets her apart from many of the others is her ability to harness her emotions and use them as she protects others around her. While this emotional drive is something that you don’t see as the driving force for the focus in RPG classes, I think that it easily could be.
This would be a support class, more reactive than anything else. Like a Barbarian’s Rage, they would be able to harness the emotion of a situation to empower what they can do to help their allies. For example, they could harness Love to increase their healing ability, or Surprise to give those around them a bonus to their initiative. Each emotion would have spells or abilities is would empower, as well as spells or abilities that would be weaker or locked until that emotion cooled down; for example, Joy would shut down Sadness, and Anger would shut down Fear. Just as normal emotions don’t flip every six seconds, these would have a recharge frame, and the benefits and banes would last until that cooldown is over. As the character levels, they could choose to dabble in the abilities from other emotions or work to master the ones that they already focus on, and their growth abilities would progress based on those choices.
I’ve heard from my guest writers; now I want to hear from you. What’s setting would you draw inspiration from to make a new class? Leave a 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.