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: Michael Sayre aka Ssalarn
I’m the former Pathfinder Society Developer and a current designer at Paizo, as well as a prolific third-party freelancer for both editions of Pathfinder and other gaming systems. I’ve been playing ttRPGs for about 17 years now and have accrued a collection of games that covers every edition of D&D and countless board games. As an Alaskan Native, I’m also a big junkie for Native American lore and spend a lot of time reading and looking for new books and stories about America’s Indigenous people.
Know Direction Network Staff Member: Jefferson Jay Thacker (aka Perram)
Role Playing Games have been a part of my life for as long as I knew how to pretend a stick was a sword and that cardboard boxes could make magic shields with enough crayon, duct tape, and scissors. More formally I started playing games with dice and rules (and less stuffed animal dragons) when I was 12 and have continued to do so for the last 24 years with reckless enthusiasm. Now-a-days I’m one of the Directors of the Know Direction Network, where we’ve spent 14 years providing podcasts, blogs, and news coverage for Pathfinder, Starfinder, and geeky topics that we love.
You can find me hosting the Know Direction Podcast, Geek Together Podcast, as well as playing in our Adventurous and Stellar actual play shows. I feel incredibly lucky to get to have such a rich gaming life with so many awesome people.
Outside the industry I have a passion for all things computers and programming, work as a professional Web developer and marketer, photographer, and videographer. I collect new skills about as often as an 18 INT Rogue does, but I assure you I have a DEX score of 6.
Fan: Aamir Hussain (Azih)
Hey all, I’m a programmer by trade from the Greater Toronto Area. I used to read and play a lot of video and computer games but since becoming a father the time to commit to these hobbies is hard to come by. I stumbled onto a play by post game of Pathfinder around 2014 and the asynchronous nature of the games, as well as having read D&D source and setting books just for fun when I was younger, was incredibly compelling and I’ve been down the rabbit hole of play by post Pathfinder ever since.
Since finding a good Play by Post is sadly a numbers game, I’ve joined dozens upon dozens of games on the paizo forums. So I’ve played and GMed a lot of Pathfinder in the last six or so years but I don’t actually own any dice. I’ve never even rolled an actual physical d20!
“This is Iris Hawthorne and you’re watching ‘Up to Date.’ Tonight: are hamsters a lovable and easy to manage pet or are they whispering Satanic secrets to your children at night, Peru announces its intent to separate from South America, and are beans the real reason for the season—one local farmer suggests just that. But first, some are calling it a sign of the end-times. A third creature long thought to be just a myth has appeared in the skies above Iceland. This footage was captured by a team of geological researchers, and it’s a little blurry but as you can see here, it appears to be some kind of massive red dragon. The scientists say that the footage was captured near the Katla volcano. Up to Date’s own Gary White is in Reykjavík for more. Gary?
Hi Iris. The weather may be cold but the tension in the air is red hot. People here are worried. People are scared. Iceland has very few military assets so folks around here are preparing to evacuate. Due to the current state of international politics, military aid that has been promised has been delayed by three days. For now, it seems that Iceland’s only hope is the commander responsible for protecting Milwaukee and the Gulf of Finland. A video conference has been sche… …quick quick point the camera there!’ Gary? ‘Is that… …RUN!! YOU KEEP THAT ******* THING ON!!!! Folks…I can’t believe my eyes! KEEP RUNNING YOU IDIOT!!’ Gary! You need to get to safety! ‘I SAID POINT THAT THING…OH….OH GOD….noooOOO’
An Ancient Red Dragon is burninating the countryside in Iceland. The people don’t have time to wait for international aid. You were sent details of Iceland’s few military and monetary assets in preparation for the video conference, but President Jóhannesson is calling you right now. How do you plan to use everything that Iceland can muster to deal with this threat? Most international military aid will arrive in three days, except one. The elite monster slayers of Milwaukee are on call and can be there tomorrow. Save as many people as you can using the forces at your disposal.
Michael: I should have requested a map for this one since my knowledge of geography is making my logistical scope hard to picture, but….
Given that I’ve got a population of 500,000 to evacuate, 1,800 police officers to command, and a SWAT team of 60 officers, I think we can do something about this volcanic dragon. First, we don’t know what the dragon’s travel speed or motivations are, which makes it impossible to plan around. That’s where our SWAT team is going to come in. We’ll break them up into 4 units of 15 split between three vehicles apiece and their job is going to be helping us predict the dragon’s movements by pissing it off with whatever firepower we can bring to bear.
The point team’s job is going to be shooting the dragon in the face and leading it away from civilization to the greatest extent possible, with support from the remaining teams. The remaining teams will be a spotter team that stays in position to cover the point team as needed while the other two teams are our scout and scavenger units; scouts stay ahead of the group to watch for and clear road blocks that could slow the point team down enough for the dragon to catch them, while the scavenger team’s responsibility is to cover resupply of dwindling resources, most notably fuel. When the point team starts running low on ammunition or fuel, they’ll signal the other teams so that the spotter can take over point and the scavenger team can resupply the former point team. Once they’re resupplied, the former point team becomes the new spotter team and the scavenger team resumes their task. We want to keep these rotations tight and clean so that there’s no confusion about what any team’s responsibilities are and so that we keep the experts focused on the tasks they’re best suited for and most experienced at.
Meanwhile, our main police force will be responsible for evacuating the city. I’ll send 300 of our officers down to the port to secure ships and transportation while coordinating the civilian exodus that is undoubtedly happening; their job will be to ensure that every ship that leaves port does so in an orderly fashion while carrying as many civilians as are reasonable. As they coordinate the exodus, we’ll put another 200 police on the task of gathering up members of the local fire departments together with as much equipment as they can relocate to an elevated platform near the docks. If the dragon shows up it means the SWAT team’s weapons weren’t effective enough to execute their goal, so we’ll see what a high pressure wall of water can do; if nothing else, it may produce enough steam when it comes in contact with the dragon that the resultant drop in visibility will make it harder for the dragon to target any individual group of civilians. The remaining officers, save 100 we’re holding back for another task, will be distributed throughout the city to direct civilians to the evacuation point at the docks, keep the roads clear on the northern side of the city to allow as many people as possible to escape into the less densely populated countryside, and assist in transporting the elderly and infirm who won’t be able to transport themselves. We’ll put emphasis on clearing the hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons, as those institutions will have the largest concentrations of potential victims whose ability to see to their own well-being is compromised.
That final 100 officers I mentioned before have a more daunting task: find every willing civilian pilot and every serviceable aircraft and prepare them as the last line of the defense. We can assume the dragon’s tactical superiority in the air, so we don’t plan on winning this one; pilots who go up need to be prepared for the idea that they won’t be coming back, as their planes can be used to harry the dragon, distract it from slower moving or landbound targets, and ultimately, inflict as much damage as possible by ensuring that if they fall out of the sky, they hit a dragon on the way down.
Perram: The beast is massive, powerful. It can fly, rend tanks in half, melt down pure steel with its breath. But that isn’t even the worst of it. The reasons our small forces will never stand a chance against it is simple: It knows magic. It is a master of magic with the arcane secretes we could never fathom built into its blood! It is a genius beyond the fathom of nearly all of us on earth. As much respect as I have for the brave troops willing to fight and die for the cause: this isn’t a problem we’re going to be able to solve through conventional tactics.
Thankfully we don’t have to defeat this dragon. The international militaries of the world will eventually bring it down. But what we need is TIME.
The first order of duty is reducing the damage. Those 1,800 police officers can best spend their time on evacuation efforts. The giant demon lizard in the sky should be enough motivation for even the most stubborn and foolhardy to follow evacuation instructions. The dragon may be horrible, but it is at least small and flying at a reasonable speed. Helicopters, small jets, and all manner of other modern flight will be faster, and they just need to keep well out of the way of its fire and magical spells.
The next part is going to be the hardest part. Distracting the dragon. We need as much time as we possibly can get. And the only way we’re going bot be able to do that is to keep it distracted and angry. We need to keep it emotional so that it doesn’t have time to make use of that genius level intellect and prepare itself for the real forces of arms heading towards it from countries that have standing military forces.
The SWAT team is going to be the heavy lifting on this one, but some police volunteers are important. I’m not going to make any qualms about what I’m asking them to do here. This is a suicide mission. Ticking off something literally capable of wishing you out of existence isn’t going to be highly survivable. Recording video messages for the family will be required for everyone involved, but only released after the mission to keep the dragon from potentially getting a heads up. I’m sorry.
The distraction team will fan out, spread out, and use fast transport to keep the dragon moving towards unpopulated areas and engaged as long as possible. We have to expect it knows what small arms fire can do because some valiant citizen or police officer will have fired at it by now. We are not going to make the mistake of trying to bargain with the beast.
Two teams will have other special duties and will be the real plan to deal with the beast. The sniper teams from our SWAT forces will be given the very best armor piercing, destructive, and illegal experimental weaponry we can get access to. The author Jim Butcher let us know the best way to take out a Wizard years ago. We just have to hope that that it works on the giant flying armored kind. A mass of sniper fire from miles away just might take it out before it knows to counter the attack. But I’m not hopeful for success.
The final team will be tasked with keeping eyes on the dragon. Our best scientists will be given every single bit of data we can gather on the beast and it will be funneled as best we can to every nation that we can trust to help the world combat this threat.
Victory for this cannot be measured in the destruction of the dragon. We will have to score our effort on lives saved.
Azih: “Well, it’s been a nice visit but I really think this whole force exchange thing between Iceland and the Great City of Milwaukee is just a darn waste of taxpayer money.” The commander grouses right before he gets a phone call.
He fumbles around and finally presses the big green flashing button on his smartphone grumbling all the while about Chinese made crap, not like the good old days.
“Hello, yes this is he, what is this… an invasion? From the Russkies? No, what? Are you pulling my leg sir? Sounds like some nonsense my grandkids watch about games of snow and thrones or some nonsense? Wait it’s on the news? Give me a second sir.”
The old man clicks on the television in his hotel room and flips through the channels. Every news story is showing the same footage ending with a freeze frame of some poor sod named Gary running towards a very shaky camera with a large red lizard breathing flame bearing down on him.
Well ain’t that something. He thinks to himself, shaking his head.
“Yes Sir, I see it now. When do you want us to pull out. What…three days? With all due respect sir that’s not what I’m used to from how we left ‘Nam back in ’75. You want us to what? With all due respect sir, I’m sure all the Icelanders who can afford it already got flight tickets out? The rest? They should pull them out of this fire with their own goshdarn bootstraps is what I say…. You want us to try and save as many as possible? That’s some soft commie nonsense if you don’t mind me saying so Sir. Is that a direct order? Yes Sir.”
The old commander drops his phone with disgust. Well, orders were orders, he would have preferred to hole up his forces somewhere and wait for evac but if he had to, he had to. At least there were some very fine folks here and it’s not like he was being asked to protect… urban… people or anything.
He strides out of his room and, to the crisp salutes of Milwaukee’s finest starts to bark out orders. “Get me our liaison on this rock. We need a war room and I need a sitrep, stat!”
In the hastily assembled command center he reviews the information he has. “Limited range, easy to track, real destructive power, gosh darn it, we can strike it with pretty much any sort of long-range weaponry, but we won’t have access to any of it for three days? That’s some grade A bullcrap, pardon my French. Now what do we know about…. Dragons? Huh one of our officers claims to know about this? Some sort of… D&D… Game… master?” he sighs. “Well bring her up here.”
A very awkward fifteen-minute conversation later. “Alright according to our field expert Office Ocado here, this monster loves… gold? Gold standard huh? A lizard after my own heart. Well get the President of this icerock on the horn. We’re going to distract this beast by taking all of this country’s gold reserves, loading ‘em up on trucks, and scattering ‘em across remote areas around here, here, here, here, and here.” The commander smacks five pretty randomly chosen points around Iceland. “Wherever the locals say we can get to easy. Then we’re going to lure that overgrown gecko to those spots with fast mobile strike units shooting at the thing and getting it to chase them to the gold drop points. Make sure there’s women on those strike teams. Dragons love taking princess hostages. Yeah I don’t care if that’s sexist, we’re in fairy tale territory now!
“As for evacuation. Huh, well we didn’t a Naval exchange did we? Well get the Coast guard here to commandeer all the boats and then loading up people and taking them on a nice cruise. Don’t think this fire thing is going to like going on water like them Pokeyman things. This place is filled with fishing ports anyhow, we’ll evacuate to those areas, get them on whatever boats are available and wait it out. This thing can only get to so many places and if we get it to chase women and gold around for three days then we’ll have Mission Accomplished! Well you all have your orders… GET TO IT!”
I’ve heard from my guests; now I want to hear from you. How would you deal with an ancient red dragon using the combined might of Iceland and Milwaukee’s finest? 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