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 guests answers. It’s time to Bend the Knee!
First, let’s meet today’s guests.
Guests – Hero’s Shade
Hero’s Shade (he/him) (aka: Ryan Martin)
Hello! My name is Ryan and I’m an aspiring streamer and digital creative from Cleveland, OH. I’m a professional jack-of-all-trades and have worked across many industries from photography to instructional design to assessment science. I also once managed a bowling alley and an internet casino, the latter of which turned out to be an intricate scam I was not made privy to as the 19 year old applicant (but it was still better work than the bowling alley). I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up now that I’m over 30, but in the meantime, playing Pathfinder 2e with my best friends and trying to grow my streaming audience is probably a good segue. I tend to enjoy GMing at least a little more than playing, and our group has the interesting problem of being “Oops! All GM’s!” and so we tend to argue more over GM slots than player slots. For those of you “forever GM’s” trust me – it’s a different problem but not a better one!
Alex Friedman (he/him) “Big Tuff Al” “Louisa May”
Alex has been playing TTRPGs since the late 90’s, including Vampire: The Masquerade and Ninja Burger. Alex is one of two founding editors of The Journal of Dungeoneering for Hip and Attractive Professionals, an independent magazine collecting TTRPG art, culture, and letters with a reclaimed 2000’s “young professionals” aesthetic. He plays cleric/bard Louisa May in Hero’s Shade’s Abomination Vaults campaign. He is a writer and literary scholar in Pittsburgh, PA. Alex is also an avid home-cook.
Marten Dollinger (he/him) “Garfman” “Mar10” “Sean”
Marten gets really into his games. He’s gamemastered every Paizo system and done a deep-dive into every WOTC system since 3rd edition. He’s been a student mentor, a college counselor, and now he solves IT problems. He plays the roguish ghostbuster, Sean, in Hero’s Shade’s live-streamed Abomination Vaults campaign. Marten also GMs the gang’s private Wednesday sessions, which they spend barrelling through Age of Ashes. He lives with his family in Cleveland, OH. Once, Marten accidentally got so into Magic: the Gathering that it became his full time job. He blames Alex.
RJ Kline (he/him) “Felix the Rogue” “Löic Amon”
RJ has been Playing/Game Mastering in TTRPGs since 1989, starting with Robotech, Battletech, and Hero Games Champions 4th Edition. A few short months later, he moved to Star Wars D6, and never really looked back. He will sometimes run something else, but most of the time he will find something he likes and adapt it to D6. Normally he is the GM, but when he joined the Hero’s Shade Network, he is normally a player, which is quite cool! He can kick back, and dive deep into one character instead of fleshing out planets of people. He tends to research things heavily, so in Pathfinder he likes being a Magus or Sorcerer—even though his first Pathfinder character was a Ninja (PF1e)! He made it to 20th level with that character. Someday, he hopes to be skilled enough to play a Wizard! Some of the games he has played or GMed are: Battletech, Robotech, RIFTs, Champions 4th ed, 2nd ed Dnd (Spelljammer, Greyhawk, Planescape), 3.5 Dnd (Eberron, FRealms), Star Wars D6, Stargate D20, Heavy Gear, DCU RPG (D6), Mayfields DC Heroes RPG, DC Adventures (M+M RPG), Dresden Files RPG (Fate), GURPs, Shadowrun (2nd, 4th, 5th), Pathfinder (1e,2e), Conan (2D20), Cyberpunk (2020, Red), Mage the Awakening, and finally, Star Trek RPGs (FASA, LUG, Decipher, Mödiphiüs). Games that he adapted to D6 rules: BPRD, Dresden Files, Stargate, a retooled Star Wars D6 that he calls Star Wars 3rd Edition, and an original setting: Adventures in the Draco Galaxy. Currently playing Löic Amon, a Sorcerer in Abomination Vaults. Outside of gaming, He is a bit of a polymath, he fences competitively at the national level (Epeé), enjoys photography, cooking, reading, writing, web design, graphic design, working on my car, building things, and enjoying movies/media.
“After you wake from a memorable but not particularly pleasant fall, you notice people seem different. Words and numbers floating above their heads in the unmistakable shape of a stat block! 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 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?
If I’m being honest (and frankly, maybe even generous) the class “Human Expert 4” would probably be under my name, along with several flaws that didn’t seem to grant any bonus attributes. However, in the spirit of fun I think I would be a Bard (if we’re speaking in Pathfinder 2e terms, likely a Polymath Bard with the Loremaster or Marshal archetype). Growing up being a big Final Fantasy fan, I’ve always really connected with the Red Mage – pretty good at fighting, can cast both Black and White magic, and is not particularly good at any one of those things. It’s a support position, and it’s one I tend to firmly root myself in during social gatherings and group projects. I can tread carefully and jimmy a lock, but you’d probably be better off pulling the heist off with the Rogue. I can hold the line in a battle, but I’d probably be absolutely destroyed by the Fighter. I think I am a fairly experienced leader, but the Champion is probably more experienced and inspiring; though being a polite and accommodating midwesterner, people are often trusting of my opinions (and are more often all too happy to insist I make the decisions so they don’t have to).
Being a dedicated generalist and support specialist aside, I think I share a lot of unique traits with the Bard. I like to create and entertain; admittedly, I love receiving praise and recognition from an appreciative audience. I know a little about a lot of things and am pretty good at faking it if I need to. I love music, and have cheesy taste in art. I tend to blend well in a variety of groups, and although my social anxiety is pretty bad, I generally come off as extroverted and amiable. I think I’ve secretly wanted to become an entertainer or educator of some sort my whole life, since I love making people laugh and think, but the need to hustle for dollars and anxiety has always stopped me, and what’s more Bard-like than a charismatic friend who’s afraid of failure?
One thing I am particularly good at is research, which might bring my character sheet closer to a Wizard statblock. I’m an obsessive researcher when there’s something outside of my wheelhouse (see also: most things) that demands my attention. I’ve stayed up until 4AM on multiple occasions learning truly groundbreaking lessons, including the difference between ragu and bolognese sauce, which edition of Shadowrun is the best one to learn (spoilers, the real answer is Cyberpunk Red), what the appropriate soil composition for a vegetable garden should be (also did you know pressure treated wood is perfectly safe to use in a planter box?), and which knife sharpener will sharpen my knives most effectively. However, much of that knowledge leaves my head as soon as I learn it because cramming is not an effective learning method. That’s probably why Wizards write stuff down.
After recovering from his gnarly and totally bogus concussion, Alex notes that a stat block has been added to his newly discovered menu screen. Beneath his name and extremely cute portrait picture, he sees that he is a 5th level human rogue. It all makes sense now, the urban spelunking under the Terminal Tower, his ability to bypass heavy wooden doors, the sneak attack dice he got with his degrees instead of a career…
After a four month hospital stay, Marten finally recovers from being thrown from the roof of his garage by a flock of pigeons. During the months of physical therapy that follow, Marten realizes he can see some sort of GUI in the bathroom mirror at the gym. Navigating through its menus, he finds a character sheet documenting his abilities.
As a 5th level Starfinder Envoy with a deep understanding and appreciation for TTRPG systems, MAR-10 intuitively retrains feats in anticipation of the universe’s chaotically expanding entropy. Current feat selections include Startled Scream at 1st, Disease Adaptation at 3rd (retrained from Lightning Reflexes) and Profession Mastery at 5th (retrained from Tactful Advisor). Due to a brief stint as a Buccaneer that may or may not still be canon, he gained proficiency with rapier and access to the uncommon Hurley stick, which he treats as a martial weapon for the purposes of determining proficiency.
Technomage, 10th level. Forever I am a dreamer, shaper, and maker. I know many things. I can use words to inspire, cause love, and to say goodbye with. I know the invocations of equations and programming languages. I can make beauty of a blank webpage, or cause it madness. I can connect people and computers together via routers and hubs. I know the language of routers and speak it well. Firewalls do not impress me. At will I can bring harmony and peace to a machine or person. Data is the sea I can swim most readily in and breathe its heady air. Where art and tech meet, that is where I am.
I’ve heard from my guests; now I want to hear from you. Who’s your favorite character? Leave a comment below, on our Discord, or on Know Direction’s Facebook page.