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My mention of the Bennenites–staff-wielding warrior-priests from my old Sovereign Kingdoms fantasy campaign–in an article about Staff Mastery Feats has apparently raised some interest in the worldbuilding about the order. (More than in the feats they inspired, in any case 🙂 ).
Most of my notes about that more-than-20-year-old-game are scrawled in pencil in a few different notebooks and one big red 3-ring binder. Having moved 11 times in that two decades they aren’t all in one place, and many are in boxes in storage (though I have laid eyes on most of them on the past 18 months). But I have dug some up, and can
In the Sovereign Kingdoms the major religion was the Apostolic Church, which worshiped a supreme deity who had 4 specially blessed demigods who oversaw interactions with mortals. Three of those rebelled (essentially taking the role of three differently-themed antichrist/lucifer figures), and the fourth, YSRIES, began teaching various mortals directly. Those mortals who followed his teachings to a state of high enlightenment were granted tiny motes of his divine power, becoming saints.
Sainthood was essentially treated as a mega-paladin template in that campaign, making every paladin essentially a potential saint in training. Paladins were considered to have been given a mote of divine power they were trusted to use appropriately, with only those dedicated to the concepts of benevolence and morality even giver that power. There are paladins of other faiths (though they were rarer, and included the singular Green Knight of the druidic faith, the Proctors of the Gnostic faith, and the Salt Warriors of the eastern Apostolic Church).
The power of a paladin was sometimes granted temporarily for a good, faithful follower in particularly desperate straits (as happened to a PC at least once during the campaign). However, the ability to draw on the mote of divinity required a level of dedication and purity. If a mortal failed to live up to that standard, the connection literally became metaphysically impossible. It was not that divine powers withdrew their assistance, but that mortals too far out of balance with the essence of the divinity couldn’t access it.
(As an aside, while the power of a paladin came from outside themselves, actually drawing on the power of a mote of divinity was a skill that could apply to different power sources. If a paladin fell far enough from grace, one of the three fallen demigods could grant a fiendish power source which, if accepted, turned the bearer into an anti-paladin. Anti-paladins tended to have powers diametrically opposed to paladins because they were using the same training manuals to manipulate the aligned planar energy within them.)
Within the Apostolic Church, saints were arranged in three tiers of reverence–the Apostles (taught directly by YSRIES), the ArchSaints (taught by one or more of the Apostles, usually after YSRIES left the mortal plane), and the Canon Saints (recognized as saints by the authority of the Ecclesiarch of the Apostolic Church).
Saint Bennen was the first of the Canon Saints, a farmer-turned-mercenary-turned-priest who had decided to dedicate his life to the protection of the oppressed. Most famously, during a war against devilish cultists, Bennen-as-mercenary refused to leave a town of innocents when local defenders pulled out, as the defenders believing any fight to save it doomed to total defeat. Because the retreat had to be performed swiftly, the sick, wounded, young, and old were all left behind. When Bennen refused to leave, his commander stripped him of his spear, sword, and dagger. Thus when Bennen stood at the edge of town to defend it from oncoming attackers, he did so armed with only a staff.
The half-fiend commander of the attacking forces was so amused, it decided to destroy Bennen personally before overrunning the town, so as to sow fear, misery, and despair among the townsfolk. However, as the fight began, Bennen was granted the power of paladinhood, and was joined by a Bagwyn* companion as a steed. Bennen defeated the half-fiend, the devilish cult army fled in fear, and the town was saved. Due to a wound sufferend in the battle, Bennen forevermore moved with a severe limp. In thanks for the divine aid, Bennen turned to religious studies, and became a priest, and in time a Arch-Prelate (the third-highest rank within the Apostolic Church).
*A bagwyn is a heraldic creature of mythology with the body of an antelope, mighty backwards-curling horns, and the fetlocks and tail of a horse. In the Sovereign Kingdoms, bagwyns were basically unicornlike creatures that served any good-aligned mystic forces, while unicorns were specifically angelic.
I haven’t yet found the list of who Bennen was the patron saint of, but if memory serves it included farmers, mercenaries, defenders, wood-gatherers, woodwrights, the ill, the infirm, the lame, bagwyns, and lost causes. While most Apostolic Orders were extremely suspicious of druids, Bennenites often formed aliances with them, and when a Green Knight arose, Bennenite priests would see to their training.
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I am not currently suicidal. Not even close. I open with that, so people won’t worry about me.
I have been suicidal, even within the past year. I was able to get help, and my support network assisted me. Mental health issues need to be destigmatized, which is why I am often so public about mine.
If you need help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based network that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255.
It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
So, here’s how to find the elements of the Pathfinder-compatible OGL Warlock class I designed.
Also, everyone is is a $3 or better patron of my Patreon on Sept 30th, 2020 will get a free pdf with a compiled, and slightly revised and expanded, version of this class!
Here’s where you can find the elements of the class on my blog.
The class advancement chart,
Spell access rules
A Fiendish patron
A Draconic patron,
Some pact boons
The base invocation rules along with the hex-access invocations, and a set of non-hex invocations.
The shadow-haired warlock archetype.
This isn’t a game-related story, or something to inspire your gaming table. It’s just a tale I don’t recall having ever told that, at 2am, my brain has latched onto as a focal point for a lot of my pain and depression right now.
Feel free to skip it.
I love dinosaurs. It’s one of my very oldest fandoms.
Before Star Wars. Before D&D. Before Micronauts. Before sci-fi, fantasy, superheroes, and powered armor.
Maybe the first thing I grokked as a group of things, and loved, were dinosaurs.
When I was a very young child my mother took me with her grocery shopping one day. The store had a bin of soft, fuzzy stuffed-animal dinosaurs.
And I fell in love with one, in particular. So I asked my mother to buy it for me.
It was, she said, out of our price range for toys.
So, I asked, if we don’t buy it… what happens to it. What if NO ONE buys it?
Well then, she said quite reasonably, it’ll stay here and someone can buy it tomorrow.
And asked, genuinely aghast, you mean they’ll leave it in the store. At night? With the lights off?
I sat on the floor of the grocery store, and burst into tears. Not quite little trickles, but snot-out-my-nose, can’t-see, gasping-for-breath tears.
Look, I’m not saying I was above feigning being truly upset to pressure my mother to buy something for me… though I don’t recall that ever actually working. And this was more than 45 years ago, so I can’t claim to have perfect recall. But as I remember it, I was just truly TERRIFIED for the stuffed dinosaur.
I needed to know it would be safe. Be loved. And if I couldn’t do that, I was afraid no one ever would.
My mother stared at me for several seconds, then picked up the dino and told me it could come home. I could barely pick myself up. I don’t even think I thanked her.
(BTW — Thanks, Mom.)
And so I ended up with a bigger-than-most-of-my-animals stuffed dino. I slept with it for months, and then it joined the Council of Pluff that usually just sat on my toy chest. It served as chairman for many years (until I got a Stuffed Polar Bear As Big As Me, which is a different, and much more on-brand for me, story).
But if I saw sad, or upset, or afraid? If I needed to hug something and none of our cats was up fro the job?
For a lot of years, that Dino was my go-to.
We spent last week presenting the base of the Mascot class for 5e. Tuesday we laid out the concept and framework for the Mascot class for 5e, Wednesday we presented the Domestic Companion option for that class, Thursday we presenting the Inspiring Failure class feature, and Friday we presented the Torchbearer option.
All that’s left is to create its selectable class feature, shtick.
You are often surprisingly effective in combat… just not in ways that traditional heroes are. Instead you have actions that,–backed by a combination of your moxie, some luck, and the total surprise you are engaging in adventuring at all–can alter the flow of combat in surprising ways. These sometimes-comical options are known as shtick. You gain your first shtick at 2nd level, and gain an additional shtick at 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th level. You cannot select the same shtick more than once.
Some of your shtick abilities for a foe to make a saving throw. The DC of such saves is equal to 8 + you proficiency bonus + your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma bonus. You select which ability score applies to your shtick save is based on when you gain your first shtick, and once made this decision cannot be changed.
(Art by Lunstream)
The very fact you place yourself in places of extreme risk without any apparent talents or powers to make such actions look like reasonable choices on your part can endear you to foes who see you as a cute little thing, rather than a threat.
Using your action you can stand defiantly in the face of a creature within 30 feet that has attacked and damaged you or an ally. The target must succeed at a Wisdom save or be charmed by you for 24 hours, or until you attack them. Once you have successfully affected a creature with adorable bravery, you cannot attempt it again until after you take a long rest.
Using your action you engage in behavior that is both confusing, and obviously out of place with no apparent explanation (and no visible reason for you to believe it will work). You might scold a giant for being a bully, act like a bull about to charge an enraged minotaur, or challenge a lich to a dance-off. The behavior is so unexpected and novel, the target is briefly taken aback. You select one creature within 60 feet that is able to see or hear you. The target must succeed at a Charisma save or be incapacitated for 1 round. Once you have successfully affected a creature with baffling affront, you cannot attempt it again until after you take a short rest.
While your traveling companions have been learning new spells, mastering fighting techniques, and perfecting new forms of skulking, you’ve been picking up little tips and tricks from the cooks at inns, drovers of friendly caravans, and other behind-the-scenes folks. Much of this builds off a direction you might have taken in your career, but never mastered until now.
Select an additional background. You gain the benefits and items from this background.
You are adept at the endless chatter common to some working-class folk, and can both use it to get the skinny in a new region, and to overload a creature with more words than they are used to processing. When you are in a settlement where you speak one of the common languages, each day you may make one Charisma check with proficiency to learn local gossip and rumors without anyone realizing you are gathering such information.
Additionally, using your action you can direct a stream of apparently endless but potentially important words at a creature within 30 feet able to hear you. You can maintain this for a duration of concentration (10 minute maximum). As long as the target can hear you, they are deafened to any other sound.
Sometimes, you are saved by the noncombat equipment you carry on you. This might be a spider’s fangs sinking into your cookbook, a giant crushing a loaf of bread thinking it was your head, or an arrow being stopped by hitting the pewter flash you have in your vest.
When you take damage or have a condition applied to you, as a reaction you can instead have one item in your possession be destroyed and not take the damage or condition. Once you have used this ability, you cannot do so again until after you have taken a long rest.
The Right Tool
You know that sometimes the important thing is not who tries something, but what they try to do it with. While mighty heroes are busy giving speeches and staring down the forces of evil, you’re keeping track of who is holding what, which item is in which belt pouch, and what is likely to be needed in the coming moments.
Using your action, you can change what items are ready for use for yourself and every willing adjacent ally. You can ready items from yourself or a willing ally for use by another ally. Only items that can be readied or put away in an action can be affected by this ability.
Shielded By Clutter
You have so much stuff that attacks are as likely to hit your cooking pot, tailoring cloth, or portable library as to damage you. As long as you have any equipment or gear, you are considered to have the benefits of a shield without needing to hold one in your hand. If you are adjacent to an ally and they are attacked, as a reaction you can cause them to benefit from having a shield (temporarily ending your shielded by clutter benefit). This lasts as long as the ally is adjacent to you, until the beginning of your next turn.
Spoon to the Knuckles
You may see yourself as a cook, or tutor, or dressmaker rather than a warrior, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t willing to treat a monster like an unruly child and rap their knuckles with a wooden spoon (or otherwise take them to task).
Make an ability check with advantage using a tool with which you are proficient. Your DC is equal to your target’s AC. If you succeed, you do a single hp of damage (though this does not trigger rules triggered by making an attack). Additionally, the target is so flabbergasted by your effrontery they have disadvantage on any attack thy make for 1 round.
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Monday we laid out the concept and framework for the Mascot class for 5e, and Tuesday we presented the Domestic Companion option for the Mascot Archetype class feature. We’ll present the Torchbearer archetype later in the week, but today I actually want to define the Inspiring Failure class feature.
While a Mascot character is often out of their element and overmatched by the circumstances of adventuring, the very fact they keep trying can inspire their allies. When a mascot succeeds at a task everyone is delighted, even their failures can inspire the heroes around them to achieve greater success on the mascot’s behalf.
(art by Lunstream)
You get one use of Inspiring Failure at 3rd level, and gain an additional use at 11th, 17th, and 20th level.
The first time each day you fail an attack roll, Ability/Skill check, or saving throw while you are in an encounter that can earn XP (as determined by the GM), you earn one inspiring failure point (IFP). When an ally within 60 feet who witnessed your failure fails an attack, ability/skill, or save, you may expend an IFP to grant them a special reroll. If the d20 on their reroll results in a 1-10, they gain a +10 bonus to their total.
Each additional use you gain of inspiring failure allows you to gain an IFP from an additional failed roll on your point. When you take a long rest, you lose all IFP.
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