Beyond the Wall: The Monk

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In the course of making what was initially one of several simple options for hirelings, I realized it would be very easy to hack in a workable monk variant for Beyond the Wall. The overview and playbook are below.

The Monk (Warrior/Mage Variant)

Basics

Monks follow all progression for Fighters (hit dice, attack, saves, XP, skills, and abilities) except as noted below:

  • Unarmed Combat must be your first level trait choice.
  • You must spend your initial Weapon Specialization on Unarmed Combat.
  • You may use your Dexterity bonus to determine attack and damage for Unarmed Combat (if your Dexterity is better than your Strength).
  • You cannot wear any armor.
  • You can learn special variants of rituals (see below). You automatically learn one ritual of your level or less upon obtaining each new level (including one first level ritual at character creation).

Monk Rituals

Monk ritual variants are almost always self-only (even if the normal version of the ritual could affect someone else or the whole group). They do not have material costs, but otherwise follow the normal casting time requirements (performed in meditation, martial arts exercise practice, or other genre-appropriate ritual action). They always use Wisdom as their casting ability.

Suggested rituals include:

  1. Bind Familiar, Circle of Protection, Goodberry, Mage Armor, Naming Ceremony, Staff of Might, Wanderer’s Fortune
  2. Cleansing Ritual, Endure the Elements, Magic Stones, Traveler’s Blessing
  3. Bear’s Endurance, Friends, Nepenthean Drink, Skin of the Treant, Strengthen the Bond
  4. Augury, Heart of the Ox, Wizard’s War
  5. Arcane Sight, Dispel Magic, Greater Bond, Ritual of Healing
  6. Full Restoration, Shape of Stone
  7. Determine True Name, Master’s Bond, Word of Truth

The Martial Artist Playbook

While the other warriors of your village practice with arms and armor, counting on steel to save them from the dangers of the world, you rely only upon your own body. While your neighbors often don’t understand your decision to turn yourself into a weapon through discipline, practice, and meditation, they cannot help but admit the results.

You are agile and introspective. Your Dexterity and Wisdom begin at 10, and all of your other ability scores begin at 8.

What was your childhood like?

(Use the standard villager playbook charts for What did your parents do in the village?, How did you distinguish yourself as a child?, and Who else in the village befriended you while you were growing up?)

Somehow, you learned of the possibility to perfect your fighting ability without arms and armor, and began to practice. You become a level 1 Warrior/Mage. You gain the class abilities Weapon Specialization, Knacks, and Monk Rituals, and the skill Athletics. You gain the trait Unarmed Combat (this is your first level trait selection) and your initial Weapon Specialization is in Unarmed Combat. The tables below will further define your class abilities.

How did you begin your journey?

How did you learn martial arts?

  1. A fae trickster calling himself the “Monkey King” chose you as a special subject for torment. After months, you realized these trials were teachings. +3 Str, Monk Ritual: Staff of Might
  2. A strange traveler from far away wandered into your village one day and chose you as an apprentice after seeing your promise. +3 Dex, Monk Ritual: Mage Armor
  3. You were trapped in a deadfall and were not found for several days. A hallucinatory vision taught you secrets of how to survive and fight. +3 Con, Monk Ritual: Goodberry
  4. You uncovered an old book of martial techniques unlike any fighting manual you’d seen before, and diligently practiced its forms. +3 Int, Monk Ritual: Mage Armor
  5. You left home and wandered the world for several years with only the clothes on your back, learning to fight and survive without armaments. +3 Wis, Monk Ritual: Wanderer’s Fortune
  6. You felt at home in the wilderness around town, befriended a strangely intelligent beast, and learned to fight as it did. +3 Cha, Monk Ritual: Bind Familiar

How did you integrate your new skills into village life?

  1. You spar with the other young warriors, and they can rarely lay a blow upon you. +2 Dex, Knack: Defensive Fighter
  2. You man the town’s defensive perimeter, because you can respond to approaching danger faster than anyone else. +2 Dex, Knack: Fleet
  3. You tend to find yourself getting into brawls frequently, as the other youths of the town try to test themselves against you. +2 Str, Knack: Great Strike
  4. As part of your discipline, you take on the most grueling physical tasks without complaint. +2 Con, Knack: Resilience
  5. Your awareness of the world is uncanny, and you can almost shoot a bow blindfolded, making you an excellent archer. +2 Wis, Knack: Weapon Specialist (Longbow)
  6. You spend much of your time in introspection and meditation, knowing that you must only act when necessary, but then with great certainty. +2 Wis, Knack: Fleet

What inspired you to finally end your trials and meditations and go forth into the world?

  1. You have exceeded the challenges the village has to offer, and need to test yourself against harder problems to continue improving. The friend to your right has long been your friendly sporting rival and sparring partner, and gains +1 Str. +2 Str, Skill: Athletics
  2. You travel light and thus can easily move quietly and unseen, so the village has great need of you as a scout. The friend to your right helped you learn to travel without being detected, pointing out when you could be seen, and gains +1 Dex. +2 Dex, Skill: Stealth
  3. Your exercise and contemplation frequently takes you far into the wilderness around town, and you’ve begun to see things that could be threats if not dealt with. The friend to your right has been with you on some of these camping trips, and gains +1 Con. +2 Con, Skill: Survival
  4. You learned that, throughout the ages, there have been others that also practiced martial arts, and that you might find ways to improve yourself by visiting ancient and far-flung sites. The friend to your right found the first history book that set you on your path, and gains +1 Int. +2 Int, Skill: Ancient History
  5. Assassins with strange features tried to slip into town undetected, with deadly intentions for your village elders, and you saw them and rallied the town before they could strike. The friend to your right found a symbol they left behind that hints at the threat to the village, and gains +1 Wis. +2 Wis, Skill: Alertness
  6. The town’s leadership has long been intrigued by your ability to fight when arms and armor are not permitted, and have been encouraging you to do whatever you need to become a more effective envoy or bodyguard to diplomats. The friend to your right helped you practice your social graces, and gains +1 Cha. +2 Cha, Skill: Etiquette

Long ago, you found an item with hidden mysteries, that has long been your focus for meditation and a symbol of your quest. What is this token?

  1. A staff taken from the heart of a a lightning-struck tree, covered in subtle natural patterns. +2 Str, a fine quarterstaff
  2. A bow covered in intricate, interlocking carvings, hinting at the unity of the cosmos. +2 Dex, a fine longbow
  3. A platinum-and-gold ring, delicately knotted in strange runes in a language no one can read. +2 Dex, an ornate ring
  4. A belt of several strands of colorful leather, braided through silver and iron charms. +2 Con, a braided charm belt
  5. A strand of large beads of a variety of materials and colors. +2 Wis, a necklace of beads
  6. A tunic of a fine, silken weave, patterned with designs too complex for local weavers, obviously made in a far-away land. +2 Wis, a fine woven shirt
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Pathways Fantasy World Creation

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This is kind of the opposite of my previous Pathways World Creation idea: rather than making characters first and the world to suit, this is an experiment in doing pathways creation without player characters involved. See the linked Smallville tag on this post for more information about doing Pathways creation, if you haven’t played Smallville or previously read my other posts on this topic.

As usual, start with a big blank sheet of paper for drawing nodes and connecting lines. Unlike usual, do not add the player characters to the map initially (you’re developing a world for the players to eventually create characters to fit). The goal of this is ultimately to create a world-first setting, where the player characters aren’t necessarily attached to anything from the start, but to still give the players buy-in to all the primary elements.

For every step in this process, I’d advise that the GM should be treated as a player (i.e., getting to add and connect things at least as often as the players do). Traditionally, the GM does not participate in the Pathways process, but that process is often in a framework of a greater setting that the GM has already bought into. Since this is generating so much about the world, giving the GM the ability to poke at the process to highlight ideas he or she likes makes it easier to roll with the game indefinitely.

Step 0: Theme and Conflict

This step is special: it may be done normally, with the players going around the table, or may be entirely pre-seeded by the GM to get some initial core input into the important elements of the world (i.e., this is set up so, if the GM already has some seed ideas for the campaign, it’s possible to just put them as the core for the whole framework).

  • Add a short theme (triangle) to the map. This should ideally be a single word, and certainly not more than a very short sentence: it will gain more definition as other elements link to it.
  • Add an antagonist (hexagon) or macguffin (pentagon) to the map. This should be a short but evocative name; the actual details of it will be generated from linking to other elements.
  • Draw an arrow from an antagonist or macguffin to a theme, and define the connection as an aspect-style blurb.

Step 1: Peoples and Places

  • Add a location (box) to the map. This should be a whole country or region. As usual, give it an evocative, short name, and allow details to come out from connections.
  • Add a race (double-ringed circle) to the map. The GM may veto any races from the rules that he or she doesn’t want to deal with, but this is otherwise a way to say that that race is important to the setting in some way. If your game system doesn’t have mechanical races, give a short, evocative name for a culture instead.
  • Draw an arrow from an antagonist or macguffin to a location or race and define the relationship.
  • Draw an arrow from a location or race to a theme, and define the connection as an aspect-style blurb.
  • Draw an arrow from a race to a location and give it one of three types of label: “homeland” (where the race is from), “Stronghold” (the race is politically dominant in that location), or a negative label (such as the race being banned, enslaved, or otherwise mistreated in that location). These can double or even triple-up if it makes sense logically (e.g., the elves are politically dominant in their own homeland, but are also widely feared by all other races in that land).

Step 2: Politics

  • Add an NPC (circle) to the map. This should be someone very politically important to the setting, but not directly villainous (that would be an antagonist). As usual, give the NPC a short evocative name and wait for details to fall out of connections.
  • Add an organization (star or double-ringed pentagon) to the map. This will become a politically important secret society, knightly order, wizard cabal, thieves’ guild, etc. As usual, a short, evocative name is important.
  • Draw an arrow from an NPC to an antagonist or macguffin and define the relationship.
  • Draw an arrow from an antagonist or macguffin to an organization and define the relationship.
  • Draw an arrow from an NPC or organization to a theme, and define the connection as an aspect-style blurb.

Step 3: Further Linkages

  • Draw an arrow from any (non-theme) element that is not currently connected to a theme to a theme, and define the connection as an aspect-style blurb. (If all elements are tied to a theme, tie one to a second theme.)
  • Draw an arrow from whichever (non-theme) element currently has the least connections to any other element, and define the relationship.
  • Draw an arrow from any (non-theme) element to any other element and define the relationship.

Step 4: Secondary Elements

  • Add your choice of another one of the following: antagonist, macguffin, location, race, NPC, or organization.
  • Draw an arrow from any element with no connections to any other element (except themes), and define the relationship.
  • Draw an arrow from any element (that is not currently connected to a theme) to a theme, and define the connection as an aspect-style blurb.
  • Draw an arrow from whichever (non-theme) element currently has the least connections to any other element, and define the relationship.
  • Draw an arrow from any (non-theme) element to any other element and define the relationship.

If your map is still sparse for your group’s tastes, repeat steps 3 and 4 until you’re satisfied with the map.