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: Grant Berger
I’ve been involved in d20 systems since 1998, but didn’t start TTRPGs until 2013. In 2015, I became a founding member of the Glass Cannon Network, playing the Dwarven Gunslinger Barron (Redheart) Ashpeak. You can check out all of our actual play podcasts, get involved with the Naish, and more at glasscannonnetwork.com.
Know Direction Network Staff Member: Amanda Hamon
I’m the Editorial Director for Kobold Press, former Managing Developer for Starfinder at Paizo, and a tabletop RPG designer, writer, developer, and editor. I’ve been making RPGs professionally for nearly a decade, and I’ve been playing tabletop RPGs, starting with Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 and White Wolf’s World of Darkness games, since I was 15 years old! I’m also a certified trash panda who likes crappy bars and underground wrestling.
Fan: Lucas Servideo the Smart Goblin
With a storied career in gaming, Lucas has played various systems throughout the ages and has the dice to prove it. A former graphic designer, now copier technician, he uses his skills to create items for his local community. Lucas is well known for his character journals as well as his “wee” core books. He is an active part of the Paizo Organized Play Community in Massachusetts as well as online. He serves as Venture Captain, managing the North Shore. Lucas is also known for his work at GenCon running Kids Track and Academy.
“Stories of heroes are a dime a dozen, and you’ve just enshrined yours as another that the bards will sing for centuries to come. It was a long series of adventures that lead to the myriads of different ways you saved the world, and it started to become apparent to you, as you neared the final climatic battle, that you’re “getting too old for this s***.’ Peoples all across the land are safe for now, and future threats will have to be dealt with by future upstarts looking to make a name for themselves. For now, you have one last adventure as far as you know—retirement. In the beginning, your plans were for your next move against those that would oppose you. Slowly, they shifted to how you would enjoy the free time of your golden years. It’s time to pass the torch. You’re ready for this, and you deserve it.”
Briefly tell me who your most successful hero is and what they did to save the day. Next, tell me how they plan to spend their post-adventuring retirement days.
Grant: (Spoiler warning for a recent episode of New Game, Who Dis? – Delta Green)
Ryker Solace had worked hard all of his life. Born on the Fourth of July, he was destined to protect his native land, but as the child of hard-working immigrant parents, everything he possessed was earned—never given. Distinguished service for the Federal Bureau of Investigation during repeated incidents of clear and present danger forged the man. Agent Solace lived above and beyond the call of duty in order to protect the unalienable rights every person living in the United States of America deserved. As his life would always come second to his sacred responsibilities, he lived his callsign: “Jagged Patriot.”
Though work was immensely fulfilling, Ryker’s life remained extraordinarily lonely. The bonds of secrecy demanded his silence towards those he loved most—his wife Almeda and his four-year-old son, Maxim. Much of his existence would remain buried and hidden away from his family, too much for Almeda to bear. “You’re so distant, Ryker,” she said. “I can’t raise our son like this.” The last words spoken during their short marriage echoed through Ryker’s mind endlessly.
To fill the bereavement of his family life, and the dispossession of his son, Ryker entrenched himself even more deeply into his investigations. Counter-Terrorism chewed up and spat out the toughest recruits from Quantico. Those wise enough to navigate their lives safely through the squall of National Security would moor themselves safely behind a desk sooner rather than later. Agent Solace ignored the warning signs, refusing promotions, and drank heavily whenever he had the spare time. It was in these desperate moments that Delta Green found him awash in despair and unanchored. He would serve this agency with the same fervor he did the FBI.
Investigating the paranormal, the umbrous fringes of reality, came easily to him. To Solace, the work was no different infiltrating sleeper cells and the stakes were just as high. In either case his failure would mean the end. The end of everything.
His final job for Delta Green took place in Keene, New York. His team had finally tracked down the source of a mathematical algorithm that drove those who understood it to homicidal insanity. Once again he excelled in the field work, placing his fellow agents’ safety above his own. They had cornered the being in the home of Frances Wei, alone in the wilderness of Upstate New York. In the process of subduing a centuries-old body-hopping paranormal entity, he saved Dr. Lyra Westover’s life. Jagged Patriot had saved the day one last time.
Five years later, Assistant Professor Ryker Solace began his first class at American University dissecting one of the recently declassified missions he had led. His eager students regarded him not just as their sagacious mentor, but as a national hero. Though he took pride in shaping the minds of the next generation of patriots that would leave his class to defend the purest ideals of American liberty, he found true fulfillment elsewhere. As the clock struck two in the afternoon, Ryker concluded, “That will be all for today. Class dismissed.”
His students slowly filed out of the room, folded laptops underarms and backpacks over their shoulders. Yet one student remained in the auditorium – much younger than the rest of the students there.
“Can we go yet, dad? Practice starts soon!” Ryker smiled as he gathered his teaching materials, “We’ll get there, Maxim. And, we’ll get ice cream afterwards. Deal?” Maxim demurred, “But mom doesn’t let me have ice cream on weeknights!” Ryker bent over to pick up his son’s gym bag, filled with baseballs, cleats, a leather glove and several bats. “Then let’s just keep this classified. On a need to know basis. Your mother does not need to know. Copy?” Maxim ran to his father’s side, gripping his hand tightly. “Roger, Dad.” They beamed at one another as they left campus on that late summer day.
And thus concluded Ryker’s final dream, the evening before he would meet his demise in the line of duty. He would not make it to Maxim’s next baseball practice, even though he had promised to do so.
Amanda: I’ve had a lot of PCs whose success is questionable (ask me about my P2 hobo), but every once in a while I turn up the optimization factor to 11. That was certainly true of Ellindel, the half-elven bloodrager who years ago completed James Jacobs’ converted Temple of Elemental Evil game alongside several other Paizo developers’ characters. Ellindel’s Strength, combat feats, and gear were all kitted out, complete with a grumpy intelligent sword named Murmandamindas (Moomaw? Mothman? Ellindel loved to forget his name), who functioned as, if I recall, a +3 greatsword. Ellindel helped the party get out of more frays than she ever should have survived. One particularly memorable scene involved Ellindel and Jillian, Crystal Frasier’s fighter, locking arms and cutting down literally dozens of ghouls together. While singing.
However, despite her combat prowess, it was Ellindel’s child-like ardor for a taxidermy squirrel that eventually fully endeared her to the party. When hit with a confusion spell in a storage closet, Ellindel noticed the oddity and became convinced that it was her childhood pet, Stewart, who had finally found her. (This was all, of course, in her backstory; Ellindel had grown up in Kyonin with her elven father and loved woodland critters.) Stewart became the party’s mascot, and word about him got out through the magic of the Internet. I have more than one gifted Stewart plush. I have a Stewart finger puppet with the kill count sign he carried in-game, made by the incredible Linda Zayas-Palmer. It was a thing.
Ellindel survived the temple, and even got the last blow on its infamous juggernaut and crippled its final boss. But her adventures in the temple were so bizarre that I can only imagine she returned home to Kyonin for at least a time afterward. She had accomplished so much in her young life—plus, Stewart reminded her of how much she missed the forest and all her pets! I like to imagine that Ellindel then spent a good decade back in her sleepy forest home, toting the taxidermy Stewart around, talking to him as she always did in the temple, and “hearing” her Battle Squirrel narrating her daily life. Except this time, instead of telling stories of the foes she cut down and warning of the dangers ahead, Stewart’s stories take a more peaceful tone. “Ellindel, that’s the most beautiful pruning job I’ve ever seen on Teri the tree! Well done!” and “Ellindel, remember what happened last time we didn’t wait after our snack before swimming? That’s right. We got a tummy ache.”
I do miss that game, and all the people in it. I miss Ellindel, and I miss Stewart. Luckily, those fellow players turned into some of my best friends ever. And I’ll always have the Stewart finger puppet.
Lucas: I am going to have to cheat a bit on this because, throughout my years of gaming, I have done more GMing than playing. I have only played a few characters that came close to retiring before the games came to an end. We all know how it is—groups disbanding, scheduling issues, and life changes bring many a game to an early close. Because of that, I have played very few that retired officially. I had to make a tough choice between those few. Would it be my 7th Sea Pirate who left life on the sea to have family, or my Marvel Superhero character who left the world of man to retire alone, sick of the new generation of heroes? What follows is the story of a Werewolf the Apocalypse character I played named Samuel Irons. I chose this character because his legacy transferred to my Organized Play characters which in turn tied into the Pathfinder head canon I have—the last ride of Samuel Irons and the home for the Wayward.
Samuel was always a fan of cowboys, dreaming of shoot outs, horse chases, posses, and swift justice on the plains. These things were not something he thought would happen to a kid living in the city. Little did he know he was a Werewolf. When his dual nature came to light, it made his dreams come true. Guns, Motorcycles, and even a friend called Sheriff, were now part of his story.
Life was good for Samuel until the vampires and mages got involved. Called before the werewolf council, Samuel was ordered to assist the mages and the vampires to find a powerful spirit that had been corrupting an area close to Boston. Samuel had no choice but to agree to help these others, but was secretly excited to be part of a posse against a big bad guy. The investigation took them throughout the city of Boston with a fresh round of motorcycle chases and gun fights. It culminated in a final confrontation where Samuel took out the creature with an enchanted fire axe.
When we got together for the next session, the GM told us the city would heal, but pointed out the true cost of the battle. Many of the fallen heroes left behind children, who were now orphans and had no one. When Samuel learned of this he worked with others to make an orphanage for the children that survived. “Iron’s Home for the Wayward” became the refuge for all supernatural orphans, no matter what their flavor. He made it into a place where they were supported and trained to survive.
Many years later, when brainstorming for a character concept for Pathfinder Society, I came up with a Half-Elf Oracle who brought with him the Home for the Wayward to Ustalav. This version of the Home was founded by Samuel Tumaz. I used the last name of my great grandparents to help tie Saumel in his new incarnation to Golarion. The home for the wayward would take those orphaned/abandoned children of adventurers that did not come back in one way or another. There were other changes as well, all children who lived at the home were adopted by Samuel. Now one big family and bearing his last name, they were trained to fight the monsters that may have taken their parents. In Pathfinder Society PF1, I have 35 characters, and 4 are from this home. I am working on PF2’s first member in Society play now. The Legacy of Samuel not only inspired me in another system but allowed me to pay tribute to my great grandparents as well.
One day I woke up and realized “I’m Ryan Costello.” From a young age, that meant a joy in creating—writing specifically—and a love of fun and games. There were frustrating times and there were lonely times, as my tendency to create and my poor ability to recall knowledge meant often lead to lying, creating rifts between me and my friends who, rightly, didn’t trust me. Then in high school I discovered RPGs. Suddenly, making up stories and fun and games overlapped! I made friends! I grew as a person. I built a career and a hobby and a network of podcasts, blogs, and friends. I met my wife playing D&D, which lead to having a wonderful family. Looking back with age and wisdom, finding RPGs helped me find myself. Oh, also I’m the director of logistics here at the Know Direction network.
Sprinkling solvent into his aquarium reminded Karkerkast of his days of adventure. He hated the party he adventured with. “Never-Ending” Orsen’s arrogance. Tass’ broken brain. Talia’s optimism. Ranslarr. But he loved the adventures. Karkerkast The Troll Slayer joined them to route out invading trolls. He didn’t leave them until he beheaded Kayser the troll god of chaos.
Karkerkast had a family name. Years amongst humans made him forget it. Truly, some days he struggled to remember his first name beyond “Kark”. The human need to nickname betrayed their intolerance for syllables. And gnomes love syllables.
A family name in exchange for a life away from gnomes was well worth it for Karkerkast. Kark. He earned his Troll Slayer nickname as his village’s night sheriff. A job he took to be alone. In reality, the position was practically useless. Between the tinkerers’ traps and the illusionists’ veils, the village defended itself. If Karkerkast didn’t volunteer for the position, the position wouldn’t have been filled. Except maybe by a construct.
Kark cherished life away from his fellow gnomes with their “here’s something interesting”s and “have you ever, oh you must”s. Working at night spoiled him with silence. He passed the hours exercising, studying the weaknesses of threats in the area, and dabbling in alchemy. He toned his mind as much as his muscles.
When a troll scout penetrated the illusory veil protecting the city, Karkerkast threw himself into his role. With an acid-soaked lasso and flinted hammer, Kark mounted the back of the troll and pounded into his foe’s regenerative hide until he had dug knee deep into troll guts. By then, straps of skin cocooned his legs while the troll flailed his claws trying to reach him. Kark continued on his anatomic journey until he burst through the troll’s chest, heart in hand.
Most other aspects of his retirement reminded Karkerkast of the days before his first kill. The modest cabin he built from the same wood as his sheriff’s office. Books stacked as high as he days he had time to read. The silence of Kayser’s demiplane in which he took up occupancy once they’d cleared it of qlippoth. But his aquarium -with Kayser’s severed head and the heart of the first troll he killed both floating in just enough dissolved acid to prevent regeneration but not enough to destroy the specimens- it reminded him of adventure.
I’ve heard from my guests; now I want to hear from you. What’s your hero’s retirement plan? Leave a comment below, on our Discord, or on Know Direction’s Facebook page.
Each Bend the Knee features three guests. 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.