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Samnell's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 3,931 posts (4,284 including aliases). No reviews. 2 lists. No wishlists. 9 aliases.

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Hi, I'm Samnell and I study middle nineteenth century US history.

I'm here to correct some frequent errors in the pop culture-oriented understanding of the Civil War. In most cases, seeing through them requires no more than an exercise of the dark arts of reading. I think this covers everything in the late eruption, but let me know if I forgot something. I tried to be thorough, which necessarily makes this long. I've culled the misinformation from a recent post and years of rather tedious experience, but it was asked that this be taken to another thread. So here we are.

Claim: The war wasn't about slavery at all!
Answer: It would be dishonest to call this anything short of a lie, whether spoken consciously or repeated unwittingly.

If the war wasn't about slavery then nobody ever told the Confederates. Four rebel states passed official statements of their causes when they passed their ordinances of secession. Each one was drafted by the body authorized by the voters of the state to decide whether or not they would attempt to leave the United States, voted on by that body, and published as a public statement of their reasons. These documents are revealing and ought to be read in full. I'll link to each in turn. Here they are in order of secession ordinance:

South Carolina noted that in ratifying the Constitution, the states placed themselves under various obligations.

South Carolina wrote:
The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: "No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."

Without this, the Fugitive Slave Clause, South Carolina held that it would not have ratified. And for a while, the system worked. If your slave ran off, you could go and get your slave back from another state. But the times? They were a-changing:

South Carolina wrote:
The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.

I don't know how much more plainly one can say this. There's a great deal of throat clearing about the nature of the nation as understood by South Carolina as of December, 1860, but it says in black and white that the free states are increasingly hostile to slavery and have disregarded their obligation to aid in the return of fugitive slaves, therefore South Carolina is free to secede. This isn't something that the secession convention made up after a really epic bender down in Charleston, but rather a straight out fact. Back in the 1840s, the Taney Court ruled in Prigg v. Pennsylvania that while enslavers had a right to cross state lines and seize the human property that dared steal itself from them, the states did not have an affirmative duty to facilitate that. They could pass laws barring the use of state facilities or the cooperation of state law enforcement in the recovery and rendition of slaves. These laws are usually referred to collectively as Personal Liberty Laws. The states that SC names did just that.

The slave states, always and only exponents of states rights when the right was slavery and always and defenders of the unlimited power of the federal government to suppress any species of state sovereignty employed to impede slavery or in any way threaten the right to hold slave property, had in fact demanded the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 to overrule all of those laws, expanding the power of the national government to the degree that refusal to cooperate in slave renditions became a crime and providing the power for a slave catching expedition to deputize you on the spot to help. If you refused, you were guilty of that crime. This is a slave patrol draft.

But South Carolina had more sweeping grievances than Personal Liberty Laws ten years dead, or even the fact that after several high profile renditions and a few dramatic rescues had practically nullified the Fugitive Slave Act by 1854. (The last major rendition, that of Anthony Burns from Boston, literally required the Pierce administration to call out the Army and Navy.)

South Carolina wrote:
We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

Let me break those out for you:

1) the free states assumed that they had a say in whether or not slave states should have slaves
2) the free states deny that a right to property in slaves exists
3) the free states denounce slavery as sinful
4) the free states have permitted societies that condemn slavery, encouraging slave revolt and absconding
5) those socieities have gone and done just that, to the tune of thousands of slaves, and distributed antislavery materials which prompt slaves to revolt

Furthermore, South Carolina held that the free states in their perfidy elected an antislavery president:

South Carolina wrote:
Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This deed, South Carolina insisted, was done

South Carolina wrote:
 in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

They let black people vote, even!

I've handled South Carolina's declaration in some detail. I don't intend to replicate this with the others because the grievances are largely the same.

Mississippi acted next

Mississippi wrote:
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

That's the opening paragraph, incidentally.

Florida and Alabama came next, but neither published a declaration like the first two did. A document exists for Florida, but it's not clear if it was ever officially approved and so we can't ascribe to it the same imprimatur we would to the others.

This brings us to Georgia

Georgia wrote:
For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic. This hostile policy of our confederates has been pursued with every circumstance of aggravation which could arouse the passions and excite the hatred of our people, and has placed the two sections of the Union for many years past in the condition of virtual civil war. Our people, still attached to the Union from habit and national traditions, and averse to change, hoped that time, reason, and argument would bring, if not redress, at least exemption from further insults, injuries, and dangers. Recent events have fully dissipated all such hopes and demonstrated the necessity of separation. Our Northern confederates, after a full and calm hearing of all the facts, after a fair warning of our purpose not to submit to the rule of the authors of all these wrongs and injuries, have by a large majority committed the Government of the United States into their hands. The people of Georgia, after an equally full and fair and deliberate hearing of the case, have declared with equal firmness that they shall not rule over them

The reference to equal enjoyment of the territories refers most explicitly to the matter of Kansas, where a proslavery government elected by massive fraud abetted by lynching, tarring and feathering, and all manner of other violence and threats of the same, contended with a free state government that seeing actual Kansans virtually written out of their own governance, established their own. But territorial grievances go all the way back to the Northwest Ordinance, which banned slavery from the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and a corner of Minnesota. They continued in the Missouri Controversy, which was settled by letting Missouri have slavery essentially in perpetuity but excluding it from all other states formed from the Louisiana Purchase south of its southern border.

The subject erupted again during the debates over the annexation of Texas, which was not done by treaty in part because Texas claimed a vast swath of territory (most of which it had never exercised any control over) and practiced slavery. This would include land north of the Missouri Compromise line. Texas annexation brought the Mexican War in due course, which resulted in more territory. Most of that territory ran below the Missouri Compromise line. But remember what I said about the Lousiana Purchase? The Mexican Cession was not that and slavery had been abolished in Mexico decades before. So David Wilmot (D-PA) proposed, in the famous Wilmot Proviso, that the same language that kept slavery form the Northwest Territory be applied to the Mexican Cession. The South was outraged and the outrage got worse when they found gold in California and consequently it had sufficient population for statehood almost overnight. The Californians voted overwhelmingly not to have slavery. The eventual settlement for all of this brought the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, let California come in undivided and free rather than split or with slavery imposed upon it, and left the status of New Mexico and Utah carefully ambiguous. Both territories instituted slavery in the late 1850s.

Which brings us to 1854 and Kansas. I'll spare you the really interesting and somewhat complicated story unless someone wants to know, but the short version is that as the price for opening up Kansas to white settlement a collection of Southern politicians demanded that the Missouri Compromise be struck down and slavery permitted everywhere not yet a state. They go their way, under the fig leaf of "popular sovereignty". The argument was that the people of the territory would decide one way or another, but this was instituted to and understood by all parties as meaning that the people, who already had the power to vote slavery in when they became states, would now have the power to also vote it in earlier. It was ambiguous as to whether or not slavery existed in a jurisdiction by default and freedom had to be voted in, or the other way around. In actual practice, slavery was a creature of state law that national law recognized somewhat inconsistently, but Southerners routinely maintained that slaves were property and like all other property was guaranteed by the Constitution.

In overthrowing thirty years settled law, a sectional compromise that most understood as absolutely fixed and inviolate, the South and its northern allies outraged even men in the North who had rarely ever given slavery a thought before. They instituted a party to redress this, the Republicans. They came close to winning the 1856 election and did win in 1860.

This brings us to Texas, the last Lower South state to act.

Texas wrote:

Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery-- the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits-- a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.


The States of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, by solemn legislative enactments, have deliberately, directly or indirectly violated the 3rd clause of the 2nd section of the 4th article [the fugitive slave clause] of the federal constitution, and laws passed in pursuance thereof; thereby annulling a material provision of the compact, designed by its framers to perpetuate the amity between the members of the confederacy and to secure the rights of the slave-holding States in their domestic institutions-- a provision founded in justice and wisdom, and without the enforcement of which the compact fails to accomplish the object of its creation. Some of those States have imposed high fines and degrading penalties upon any of their citizens or officers who may carry out in good faith that provision of the compact, or the federal laws enacted in accordance therewith.
In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States. 

Does this all adequately speak for itself yet? Possibly not. Let's hear the Vice-President of the Confederacy on the issue.

Alexander Stephens wrote:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

Don't believe him? He was there. But I sense you want more data. The states trying to bolt the United States send commissioners to other state states to try to convince them to join the party. These men made speeches and wrote letters that, as official communications from states lobbying other states, we should understand as similarly expressions of reasons why states would wished to quit the nation. Even when they address states that did not ultimately secede, their appeals inherently reflect what they think should induce a state to follow their lead and why the states appointing them took chose the course they did.

This is from JLM Curry (Alabama) to the governor of Maryland:

Curry wrote:

Having watched with painful anxiety the growth, power, and encroachments of anti-slaveryism, and anticipating for the party held together by this sentiment of hostility to the rights and institutions of the Southern people a probable success, too fatally realized, in the recent Presidential election, the General Assembly of Alabama, on the 24th of February, 1860, adopted joint resolutions providing, on the happening of such a contingency, for a convention of the State "to consider, determine, and do whatever the rights, interests, and honor of Alabama require to be done for their protection."


The bare fact that the party is sectional and hostile to the South is a full justification for the precautionary steps taken by Alabama to provide for the escape of her citizens from the peril and dishonor of submission to its rule. Superadded to the sectional hostility the fanaticism of a sentiment which has become a controlling political force, giving ascendancy in every Northern State, and the avowed purpose, as disclosed in party creeds, declarations of editors, and utterances of representative men, of securing the diminution of slavery in the States and placing it in the course of ultimate extinction, and the South would merit the punishment of the simple if she passed on and provided no security against the imminent danger.


 They [Republicans] refuse to recognize our rights of property in slaves, to make a division of the territory, to deprive themselves of their assumed constitutional power to abolish slavery in the Territories or District of Columbia, to increase the efficiency of the fugitive slave law, or make provision for the compensation of the owners of runaway or stolen slaves, or place in the hands of the South any protection against the rapacity of an unscrupulous majority.

The sentiment of the sinfulness of slavery seems to be embedded in the Northern conscience. An infidel theory has corrupted the Northern heart. A French orator said the people of England once changed their religion by act of Parliament. Whether true or not, it is not probable that the settled convictions at the North, intensely adverse to slavery, can be changed by Congressional resolutions or constitutional amendments.

Have you noticed any common themes yet?

Claim: Lincoln fought to return fugitive slaves to the South.
Answer: Untrue. Lincoln declared in his first inaugural, addressing himself to the South and hoping to avoid bloodshed, pledged that while he personally objectived to the Fugitive Slave Act, he understood it as his duty as president to enforce it. He did this as an olive branch to forstall violence among whites, not because he thought slavery was totally awesome and it was right for slaves to be with their enslavers.
He said so:

Lincoln wrote:
I take the official oath to-day with no mental reservations and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules; and while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to and abide by all those acts which stand unrepealed than to violate any of them trusting to find impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.

Furthermore, when slaves did arrive at United States lines and owners sought to recover them, no clear policy at first existed. Some were returned on the authority of officers on hand, but Benjamin Butler declared absconded slaves contraband of war as their labor would be used to support the rebellion. Therefore, the Army had the power in time of war to seize them and hold them without compensation to deny their labor to the enemy. This soon became official policy and thereafter the advance of US Armies routinely resulted in slaves coming to those lines to seek their freedom, however tenuous it might then be.

Claim: Lincoln fought to keep slavery as is.
Answer: Misleading. Lincoln declared that he had no intention to meddle with slavery where it already existed. This was the standard position of the Republican party, which was not an abolitionist outfit demanding the immediate end of slavery and, often, some kind of racial equality. It was an antislavery party interested in the limiting and ultimate extinction of slavery, something which they estimated may take a century or more. They proposed to do this in chief by restricting slavery in the territories, where Republicans believed that the national government had the power to do so, which would confine the institution to slowly wither and die away in the South as it had in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Southerners understood this and repeatedly identified the restriction on slavery in the territories as pernicious to their section's future. This led to demands for a federal slave code to institute bondage officially in every territory in the nation, which hit the Democratic convention of 1860 and split it in half. Twice. Thus Stephen A. Douglas ran for president as a Democrat and got the support of a state and a half (Missouri and part of New Jersey) while John Breckinridge ran as a Democrat in the South and swept the Lower South cotton states.

Claim: Lincoln suppressed the Maryland legislature, preventing them from meeting.
Answer: Untrue. The security of Maryland is obviously vital to the integrity of the nation, as it surrounds Washington on three sides, with Virginia over the Potomac on the fourth. Virginia's fate was already decided, but Maryland's was not. However, the governor had not called the Maryland legislature into session and the legislature was not then sitting.

However, it appeared in the spring of 1861 that Maryland might have an active insurrection. It included tobacco country on the east side of the Chesapeake and in the state's southern reaches that was pro-Confederate. The loyalty of Baltimore was suspect as well, and there we soon had a problem. The railroads leading to washington went through Baltimore, but did not connect directly. The first armed units answering Lincoln's call to put down the insurrection had to disembark and march through town to board a second train. A mob shadowed the 6th Massachusetts on that path and eventually attacked it. They threw stones, bricks, and eventually drew guns. Under apparent attack, some of the soldiers opened fire without orders. Four of them and twelve Baltimore residents didn't make it out alive. The four soldiers were not the first deaths of the war, technically. During the surrender of Fort Sumter, a cannon exploded during a salute and killed a man. But these were the first combat deaths of the war.

It looked like this was going to happen again and again. Baltimore's mayor and chief of police, both Confederate sympathizers, applead to Maryland's governor for permission to destroy the rail bridges that carried soldiers in from Philadelphia and Harrisburg. He reluctantly agreed. Secessionists tore town telegraph lines linking the capital with the rest of the nation as well. For days, no news could get through and it looked in Washington like they had an enemy army active to their north. Public buildings were fortified in expectation of attack.

A few tense days passed, but then the 7th New York arrived, with more trains behind it. They took a long route, via Annapolis, and only arrived because Benjamin Butler (the contraband guy) got word of the bridges being out and disembarked his troops ahead of the break in the line. He seized a steamboat, landed his men at Annapolis, and railway workers in his ranks repaired the damaged tracks.

Martial law was imposed on Baltimore, but given all this you can hardly blame anyone but the secessionists for it. At this point, the governor finally called the legislature. He expected bad news, but the legislature contented itself with a pro forma denunciation of war, a claim of state neutrality, and outright refused to either debate an ordinance of secession or to call a secession convention for the job.

So first off there's nothing to suppress, since no legislature in session. Then when one gets into session in mid-May, it doesn't consider any such thing as rebellion.

I realize that this isn't the actual claim most recently offered up on the Paizo boards, but it's a common one so I wanted to address it before and as context for getting into the next. It seems our resident neo-Confederates can't even get their bad history correctly bad.

Claim: The Maryland legislature was going to revoke Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus.
Answer: Garbled nonsense. Whatever you think of Lincoln's suspension of the Great Writ, the Maryland legislature had no such power and, at any rate, do not appear to have tried to assert one. At least the dates are right. Lincoln suspended the writ on April 27. I must note, however, that Lincoln did not suspend the writ everywhere, or even everywhere in Maryland. He did so in response to news that pro-Confederate Marylanders were going to burn railroad bridges and tear up tracks connecting Washington to the rest of the North, thereby obstructing troop movement into the capital. Since they did just that, one can see where he's coming from.
One of those guys, John Merryman, was arrested for his involvement in wrecking transport and communications. He had the cash for a lawyer, as well as serving as a lieutenant in a Confederate cavalry unit. (They helped him burn the bridges.) Merryman's lawyer got a writ of habeas corpus from Roger Taney, of Dred Scott fame. This was not a Supreme Court decision. Taney acted in his capacity as a circuit court judge. Back in the day, Supreme Court justices spent most of the year doing that duty.

Taney denied that Lincoln had the right to suspend the writ at all, noting the provision that authorized it in cases of rebellion was in the article on the Congress. No Congress was then in session. (The 37th Congress met in special session from March 4 until March 28, but then adjourned until July 4.) Furthermore, the line is a clear emergency power and does not in itself specify that Congress must suspend the writ to suspend it, only that it may be suspended.
Lincoln refused to comply with Taney's ruling, arguing when Congress got back that he had a real emergency on his hands and could not afford to wait a few months for Congress to get back together given the situation he faced in April. Was he supposed to let the entire government fall to an insurrection to secure a single provision of its constitution? Merryman was released seven weeks later, incidentally.

There's a bit more going on here, but this is the essential nut of the case. I'm already seven pages in, so I've got to cut details somewhere.

Claim: Lincoln didn't emancipate any slaves for two years. Obviously it wasn't that important to him.
Answer: Misleading. Lincoln did not believe that he had the unilateral power to abolish slavery. He also hoped that the war could be quickly ended and the South reintegrated with a minimum of fuss. Abolishing slavery, the very thing which they fought to save, would hardly facilitate that. He was also keenly aware that most US soldiers had not signed on to free the slaves, any more than Lincoln prosecuted the war to free them. They alike viewed preservation of the nation as paramount. Of course, if waging a war against the slave states greatly harmed slavery, then Lincoln was going to take the twofer with a smile.

When it became clear that the war would not be over by Christmas, or in a single decisive battle, things changed and Lincoln changed strategy with them. The South relied on slave labor. By taking it away and making every advance of the Army into an advance of freedom, he could deny the rebellion that labor source and simultaneously make it available to the United States. He justifed this under his war powers as commander-in-chief, not under ordinary powers that any old president possessed whenever he felt like using them.

Furthermore, Lincoln supported previous emancipation efforts. The First Confiscation Act implicitly gave Congressional imprimatur to Butler's contraband argument, allowing the seizing of slaves being used by the Confederacy. The Second Confiscation Act specifically authorized the freeing of the slaves of any Confederate who refused to surrender within 60 days. Lincoln signed both acts, which is a damned strange thing for him to do if he only magically started caring about slavery two years into the war.

Claim: The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves, but only to draft them.
Answer: Nonsense. The Emancipation Proclamation permitted freedpeople to enlist in the US Army. It did not require them to do so. They remained "thenceforward and forever free" and pledged the United States and its military to defend that freedom regardless of whether or not they chose military service. While some of them were undoubtedly compelled on the ground to sign up, the United States had no particular difficulty finding volunteers. Furthermore, the Emancipation Proclamation entered into effect on the first day of 1863. The first actual United States draft did not begin until the Enrollment Act came into force on March 3 of the same year. The draft applied to, and I quote:

The Enrollment Act of 1863 wrote:
able-boded male citizens of the United States, and persons of foreign birth who shall have declared on oath their intention to become citizens

From the Naturalization Act of 1790 onward, citizenship was limited to "free white persons." A freedperson, or even a black American born free, could not be a citizen. This changed with the Fourteenth Amendment.

Because the proclamation was an expression of Lincoln's war powers, he did not consider himself to have the authority to emancipate slaves in areas not in rebellion and where the United States government had something resembling ordinary functions. Thus Lincoln exempted the loyal slave states, but notably he declined to exempt from its effect many areas under United States control where civilian governemnt was not then functioning.

Was the Emancipation Proclamation a military act? You bet. There was, after all, a bigass war on. Was it limited? Yes. Did the United States do nothing for the slaves beyond its reach? Well, what could it do? They were out of its practical power, it was capable of doing nothing. But per its own terms, as soon as the slaves came within the ability of the United States to do something, they became free. Did it only apply during the war and do nothing thereafter? Nonsense. Go read it. The words are "forever free" not "free until the war ends, then good luck". If that doesn't suffice for you, then know that Lincoln was anxious that some peacetime court might overrule the proclamation and put the freedpeople back into slavery. Thus he spent months lobbying intensely for the Thirteenth Amendment. You can see a version of that in the Spielberg movie.

I know it's the unfun request. Sorry. But I want to say in making it that I don't intend it as any commentary on the quality of the material. I just have more APs than I will likely ever run and need to rearrange some things.

Gay Male Inhuman

Arodus 16, 4715

Armasse did not properly begin until noon, but the people of Kenabres knew that good times could pass suddenly and did not much stand on ceremony. Almost since First Crusader Day, more than a week passed, the city had slowly come to life. Wooden shields, many bearing Iomedae's sign, appeared in shop windows and over doors. Now and then the signs of other righteous gods and empyreal lords joined them. Many bore fresh coats of paint, but a few hung in positions of pride: full sized shields once carried into battle proudly bearing their wear and scars. The arms of Mendev hung from banners on nearly every street corner, and in tremendous expanses of fine Tian silk from the high walls of the Kite in the distance and the Cathedral of Saint Clydwell, which dominates the plaza that shares the saint's name.

All Kenabres seemed pressed into that space, people of all races and decent faiths shoulder to shoulder and sharing breath. Laughing, bright faced children darted about holding, and often wearing, candies in the shapes of swords and shields. They cavorted about, jousting in one moment, locked in mortal combat with a demon the next. Now and then one insisted on playing a great wizard or priest, bringing cries of cheating and furious, brief arguments about whether one had to have a proper wand or staff.

Older youths slipped away to less crowded places in ones and twos, occasionally more. Now and then one of the plaza's bushes made an oddly human noise that, for this day, most adults blamed on the absent breeze. Others stood nervously about, often in small groups, awkward in new arms and armor and waiting to say their oaths. Many clustered around harried priests and priestesses in shining armor to hear brief words of encouragement. Still more went on the heels of members of this sworn brotherhood, that band of sisters in arms.

Hawkers moved through the crowd almost as swiftly as the children, shouting their wares. Many sold food, but others declaimed for charms, favors, and amulets. Several gnomes moved about offering bright ribbons, sure to please that special someone. Daringly-dressed men and women made their way through the crowd with the rest, shouting with their bodies instead of voices. Now and then someone would draw near and they, like the youths, would vanish down an alley or under bushes. Even a few scribes worked the crowd, scribbling down commissions for letters to distant lovers and family.

Entertainers of other sorts plied the crowd as well: fools in motley pretended to joust. Acrobats in far less clothing than Kenabres normally considered decent leaped and contorted themselves in small spaces ringed by spectators. Dozens of minstrels, of wildly varying talent, dueled with the din and each other.

As the noon hour drew near, you had the good fortune to make your way to a spot near the cathedral. The white stone fairly gleamed under the labors of the faithful, who had scrubbed them tirelessly for days to remove a year's filth. A collection of dignitaries gathered upon the pale expanse, ringed by numerous guards. Commander Ashus Striegher of the Order of the Sunrise Sword frowned at the crowd and stood apart, standing stiff in his battle-scarred armor. He shot dour looks in the direction of Kurt the Fair of the Sacred Band of the Rose, who held his "thorn" a glaive seven feet tall, in one hand and waved cheerfully to the revelers. The red enamel of his armor bore not so much as a shadow, let alone a chip, and its brass filigree curled about him in the shape of vines. Irabeth Tirablade of the Eagle Watch, stood an uneasy distance from Prelate Hulrun. The half-orc wore gleaming plate and shared a kiss with a young woman in leathers, ignoring the prelate entirely. He in turn pretended to stand alone on the cathedral steps, save when he spoke quietly to his stone-faced deputy Liotr Hawkblade. At several points he gestured sharply to someone in the crowd and Liotr stepped quietly away to speak to guards.

The doors of the great cathedral, huge cold iron slabs bearing sword-shaped rivets and painted brilliant silver, swung open and people stirred in the dimness within. The official opening of the festival could be only minutes away.

Hi everyone. Feel free to situate yourselves in Clydwell Plaza. You're all relatively close to the cathedral, but it's a big area with a thick crowd about. You're free to run into one another or just be off on your own. However you like. :)

Gay Male Inhuman

So hi. Here we are. Welcome to the game. Put your feet up and dice out, or whatever doesn't sound dirty. Or whatever does. I'll go with does because I am not fit for polite company.

Don't have a whole lot to say right now because I want to get on to the gameplay thread in short order.

It would be folly to put all OOC talk here, since many times it's directly pertinent to an action or something and switching between threads would just make things more confusing. But I figure we'll use this for broader or more meta stuff, like big rules issues or quick senses of the group on when we're ready to move on.

Feel free to socialize if you'd like as well. I'm told normal people enjoy that sort of thing, but normal people frighten me and therefore I prefer not to study them too closely.

I am terrible at socializing unless there's some kind of historical esoterica or horrific atrocity involved. How are you?

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Hello! I’m Samnell, or I’m wearing his underwear, or possibly some other Samnell and/or underwear combination. Best not delve too deeply. I propose, as the thread title suggests, to run the Wrath of the Righteous adventure path for four to five gestalt PCs who will become mythic, with an outside option for six if I really can’t decide between a few. One of these spots is bespoken, so there’s room for three or four, maybe five, others.

With gestalt PCs. And mythic. Both. Together. Am I a crazy person?:
No, I am not a crazy person. My last therapist may have written that in his own blood, but that’s still an official judgment. There will be significant modifications to the more problematic aspects of the mythic rules, many swiped from posters here, with an eye toward still having fun without being able to splatter Iomedae with blood from the bowels of the Abyss when you attack Deskari, miss, and slightly graze the air. Cool powers are fun, but they’re much less fun when they reduce any challenge to the initiative roll.

About Me:
If I am not a crazy person, then who am I to think I can run this thing? This will be my first PBP as the all-quivering horror behind the great cardboard wall, but I’ve been running games online since 2000, mostly via email. My current projects are a Second Darkness game (early in book 5) and an all-Hellknights Carrion Crown (late in book two). I tried Wrath with some of my regulars, but it didn’t quick click. I still like the big ideas and Paizo has these nice PBP tools, which a friend of mine recommends highly. So here I am, a bit inspired by Acid Milk Hotel’s late Wrath game where I was a player, to give it another go. How are you?

This is WotR, but I’ll change some things:

It would be shifty, or something else spelled roughly that way, to advertise a Wrath game and then run something radically different. I don’t plan to do that, but I do reserve the right to spindle, mutilate, expand/shorten, and all the other usual GM prerogatives. I’ll certainly adjust foes. All this probably goes without saying, but I’ve gone and said it anyway because I really wanted to write the first sentence of this paragraph. You can still trust the advice of the player’s guide when planning your character.

Non-rules things to include with your PC:
Each PC should come with a paragraph, more if you like, of backstory. This should explain how and why your PC is in Kenabres, their relation to the crusade, and give me an idea of their personality.

Additionally, please give me at least one goal that your PC hopes to achieve in-game. It doesn’t have to be a huge deal, but should be something important to him or her.

Finally, give me an idea of what mythic path you intend to pursue. This needn’t be final. I’d just like it as a heads-up for when the time comes. Despite the fact that you are gestalt, you will only get the one path unless you buy access to another through some mythic ability.

Ready for rules?:

You can draw on any Paizo content you like, aside playtest stuff, but I reserve the right to say no if something seems out of whack.

PCs should be made with the gestalt rules, available at this finely crafted link. We start at first level and will level up based on hitting various story milestones rather than by XP accumulation. Please be sure to wrestle your PC into the normal Paizo statblock format for ease of reference.

Generate your PCs with 25 point buy. Feel free to avail yourself of the calculator here. You may reduce no more than one ability score below 10, before racial modifiers.

You may play any non-evil alignment that you like, provided you can play it in a way that doesn’t constantly cause needless strife. It’s fine to have some RP tension in the party, but when things really get to the point of players at cross-purposes everyone tends to lose out.

PCs begin with the maximum gold specified for their class to spend on gear, keep, give to poor orphans, or whatever else you’d like. You can stretch that gold (but not the orphans) further through the use of crafting skills. Assume all pre-game rolls are successful. During the game, item crafting and item crafting feats are fair game. There will be significant periods when you are not racing any particular clock and can take time out to invest in making things and other pursuits.

PCs begin play with two traits, one of which must be a Wrath of the Righteous campaign trait. They’re in the Player’s Guide. The campaign traits make certain assumptions about your mythic path and then give you an extra benefit for choosing the “right” one. Ignore those. Traits will function the same way regardless of your mythic choices.

I have long disliked the flavor of a continental-scale common tongue. The common tongue of the crusade is Taldane. Most people in Mendev who deal with crusaders often will have at least basic competency in it, but at home most speak Hallit. You get Taldane for free and can choose Hallit as a bonus language, unless a Mendev native. Natives can have both for free.

Rather than roll for hit points, at each level just take your maximum. Foes in this AP tend to hit hard.

Norms and Expectations:

I plan for a post a day. If it’s been roughly that long and I haven’t heard from you, I may bot your PC in the interests of keeping things moving. I know from experience that it’s really easy to get into a waiting loop in online games.

Please list key stats (current/total hit points, ACs, saves, initiative, perception) on the little text bar under your alias. You can include more if you want, but those are the big ones that I’ll likely need from everyone all at once and rather often so having them in the thread is very convenient.

I’ll roll combat-beginning things like perception and initiative, as well as anything else that would benefit from immediate resolution. So if I throw a fireball at you, I’ll roll the saves. You are free, and encouraged, to write flavor text for how you dodged and made your save or how you failed to do so. I’ll do all these rolls in the open using the dice commands. I’ll probably bury the lot of them in a spoiler and just put descriptive text outside it to avoid making walls of numbers. That does mean that the dice gods may cruelly frown upon you, even lethally, but I think that mythic PCs will end up with plenty of built-in plot armor. If it comes to that point, I will make raise dead and its cousins readily available.

When you do something that requires a roll from an NPC, like casting a hostile spell, I’ll roll that save. There are too many conditional bonuses, resistances, and immunities that might come into play to frontload a listing of them all and at times the PCs should be surprised by them. When foes come loaded with buffing spells and the like, I will do my best to remember to indicate that in their descriptions under the premise that active magical effects in close proximity generally have some visible manifestation.

I aim to be a bit more forthcoming with ACs, as they tend to be all-or-nothing affairs. Thus you should ordinarily be able to resolve things requiring attack rolls in the post with your declaration. You’re encouraged to flavor your hits and misses how you like. Most of the time, I plan to outright give you the hit point totals of your targets so you can know right away if you did them in or not. For important NPCs and monsters, I’ll keep the hit point total hidden but plan to give you general descriptors of their condition like “unharmed” and “near death”.

Please try to get along, at least so far as the game threads go, OOC. We’re going to be spending a fair bit of time together.

I’m new at this medium and will probably screw it up. Be patient. :)

General House Rule:

One of the big issues I’ve read about with mythic is that you get multipliers on top of multipliers to your critical hits, plus it becomes easier to make crits, plus you get much bigger modifiers to be multiplied. Some more than once. My fix for that is a global change to crit rules:

When you confirm a critical hit, you do not roll twice and you do not multiply your non-precision damage modifiers. Instead, a crit translates into an automatic maximum damage roll, to which you add your modifiers as normal. If your crit multiplier is greater than x2, you get 50% more weapon damage per point. So x2 gives the base 100%, x3 brings you to 150%, x4 to 200%, etc.

Mythic Stuff:

This isn’t going to come up for a long while, but here are the high-level basics of my changes. I can’t foresee every possible combination and reviewing every ability in the book would be tedious even by my standards. I plan to establish some basic principles instead and then we’ll work through things together.

So here are those basic principles:

Mythic power will regenerate at the rate of 1d4 points per day. Completing a mythic trial will grant an immediate additional recovery roll.

Abilities that give you additional actions do not stack with one another. You can only have one extra of anything per round. When you can buy an extra action, it will cost you 5 mythic power and at least a swift action, possibly more depending on the ability.

The “cast any spell on your class spell list for free” abilities will cost you a swift action to expend the mythic power. They further cost 1 mythic power per spell level. If compatible with metamagic, the cost is determined by the spell’s adjusted level rather than its base. They also require the normal action necessary to cast the spell. These are over and above any restrictions in the text.

You can get off more than one spell per round by metamagic, or by casting spells which already permit it, but not by use of mythic abilities.

Abilities that bypass energy immunities and damage resistance will not do so, but will retain any other functions.

Abilities, notably mythic power attack and vital strike, which allow you to multiple your damage modifiers do not do so.

If anything's unclear, question away.

Submissions are due at 5 PM, Eastern Time, April 17, 2015.

Greetings, Paizonians. Been noodling about running Mummy's Mask for a while, possibly as a PBP, but life intervened some time back and put that on hold. Life has ceased intervening so I come here seeking advice, like it says on the tin. I haven't yet had time to read the whole thing, due to that life intervening business, but I'm sure some here have and I'll take any advice. :)

I think that I'd like to run it in a homebrew setting that recasts things a bit, but keeps the spine of the AP intact. In kicking around ideas for that, I remembered my deep, abiding love for the 2e Complete Book of Necromancers and it occurred to me that the metaplot of the mini-setting therein seems very close to the plot of the AP. So I'm considering smashing them together. The tentative idea is to set the back half with the wilderness exploration on the jungle island of Sahu. Hakotep, who will probably get renamed, would be entombed there. If anybody is familiar with the CBoN and wants to chime in there, that's also welcome.

Once I got on looking at similar themes, I realized that Age of Worms has the same themes. The BoN even as a Cult of Worms! So I might strip-mine that to augment Mummy's Mask as well. I don't think that I'd import full adventures, but maybe pieces here and there to spice things up. Advice also welcome here.

If anybody's curious, broader context of the homebrew follows but isn't really too important to the individual adventures:


Instead of Osirion, we have a coastal desert that's fairly North African. It used to be part of an empire, but that empire fell apart a few centuries ago, giving way to warring city-states that share a common culture. That culture includes a strong dislike of arcane magic and an indigenous, animistic religious tradition that teaches they must refrain from certain activities (like arcane magic) and engage in various ritual behaviors (like properly entombing their dead) and sacrifices. The various rituals, some of which are fairly unsavory, both serve to lull the Sleepers and renew the bindings upon them. If they fail, they may wake Sleepers, unimaginable horrors that ruled the land in the mythic past before being bound to sleep in their great tombs. Hakotep is variously the Herald of the Sleepers Return, their last high priest, or the last Sleeper bound. Scholars disagree.

The religion has no unified hierarchy and its chief practitioners are not priests but rather what are politely called god-touched. Through various means, these souls are cursed with the attention of the Sleepers's dreams and so realize strange powers at great personal cost. Some of them are initiated into it, but others just get born that way. So they're oracles unwittingly empowered by those they work to keep asleep. :) Alongside them maybe some variety of desert druids who minister more directly to the pastoral needs of the people.

Alongside these faiths are a couple of religions from outside the region that have caught on, one worshiping a the-dead-must-stay-dead kind of death god and another kind of mendicant charitable group of flagellants. Both cribbed from the Book of Necromancers.

Around thirty or forty years ago, the area was conquered by a vaguely Roman power with its own religious traditions that are somewhat at odds with the Sleeper-oriented faith of the natives. The pseudoRomans believe that the dead must be cremated and their ashes stored in modest columbaria, lest they come back as vengeful undead horrors because only blessed flames can free the soul from its body. They took over after a legate was slain during a dispute with the local aristocracy that involved the arrest of a mystic who the legate placed under his protection. It's a very murky affair, but being the pseudoRomans are a prickly, expansionist power they took it as sufficient casus belli to conquer the region in the name of the Republic's honor.

These pseudoRomans do not consider themselves obligated to respect indigenous religious practices. In fact, they consider many of them utterly evil. The Sleepers sound like literal demons, and burying the dead just means offering them up as slaves to whatever bound demons that these "savages" worship. Thus they have chosen to open the tombs of the land to reliable, trustworthy citizens and those vouched for by citizens, in order to demonstrate the power of their rule, the folly of native religious practices, and separate out the undead and other true evils and their cultists from the mere "deluded fools" who the creepy god-touched have taken for a ride. In this, they have the uneasy help of the death god's religion, since they really would like to make sure any undead get cleaned up.

The Isle of Sahu (Book of Necromancers again) sits somewhere off the southwestern coast of the region, historically part of it but long abandoned to pirates and various jungle tribes. PseudoRoman rule hasn't quite extended there in practice yet.

TL;DR: Give me all your advices!

Hi, Paizonians,

I have a friend who has decided that he wants to run a Council of Theives PBEM. A real friend, not the kind of friend one has when trying to ask the doctor if it's normal to have something odd happening in a private place. I am not running the game, but will be playing in it. He's shy and doesn't want to post here. :)

The yahoo group is at this finely-crafted link.

If you want to know how to make a character, you can also go straight here and read the chargen, but the action will actually take place on the list. He's old-fashioned that way. Gory details of his contact information are also there.

Here's how he describes the game:

Samnell's Shy Friend wrote:

You’re a bunch of average Joes with as checkered pasts as you want caught in a vast web of dirty dealings, double crosses, and deceit in the corrupted underbelly of a once-grand city. Trapped as you are in the shadows between the forces of light and darkness, you can’t hope to solve the city’s problems, all you can do is try and make it a little lighter shade of gray.

Welcome to Westcrown, the City of Twilight.

The Crown on the Bay is your home. You've laughed, cried, sweated, and bled just to scratch a few coppers together to get another mug of hard milk to make you forget the killing fog, the rampant crime, the curfew, and the dirt a poor schlub like yourself has to put up with at the hands of the powerful and wealthy. So, when a sultry and dangerous looking woman named Janiven approaches you with a proposition you can’t refuse to join her little brigade, you’re more than willing to join the cause to satisfy your own personal agenda of revenge/justice.

What I'm finding online has me going in circles, so might as well ask. :) I'm a relative console virgin and never owned a Wii, but plan to get a WiiU. In addition to new games, I'm interested in playing some pre-U Wii titles and very interested in getting past console games from the Wii store thingie.

But I have read that those older games will not work with the controller that comes packed with the new console and so I will also need a different controller. I went to the store today and saw both wand-style Wii controllers (Wiimotes? Wiimotes plus?) that I vaguely recognize, but now U-branded, and more conventional controllers that look like the x-box controller I bought for my PC a few years back.

Which of those is the one I want to play, for example, the last Mario game for the Wii and/or the original Zelda game? Or is it "whichever because they do all the same stuff"?

I couldn't think of a properly alliterative title involving guru in the twenty seconds I spent on the subject. :)

So here's the deal: I want to run a sandbox PBEM. (In FR and in the North, roughly as it stood in 1e but borrowing freely from later stuff, if it matters.) I think it could be fun and cool, but I have never done such a thing before. I usually run APs with varying levels of tweaking to best fir the party. Nor have I ever played in a true sandbox game. Neither have my usual crop of players. But this sandbox maidenhead is just full of itching and someone has got to get it out. May as well be me.

The basic setup would be something like this:

*The initial PCs are explorers/archaeologists/whatevers in the employ of a college. They get some neat perks (a free house to live in, free item identification, a mostly for flavor magic item, a small stipend) for it and the college has a liaison guy who takes sort of the traditional patron role by offering them missions, which they are free to refuse if they want, etc. They're a bit like Pathfinders. The patron will hopefully be a bit of a friendly presence but the college as a whole would have a more diverse range of relationships with the party.

*In addition to being free to refuse missions, the party is free to terminate their relationship with the patron, the college, or both. The main idea is that the missions give them something to keep the sits away until things get rolling. (Don't know what to do? Go pull the liaison's arm and watch a new mission light up in his eyes!) They do have to give up their in-game benefits if they do so, of course. There are in-game strings attached to being in the employ of the college which they could also slip by ending their relationship with the institution.

*There will be other parties in the employ of the college, who may or may not work with their same liaison, ideally some that become friendly rivals, some they could end up rescuing or finding the mutilated corpses of, some they'll probably come to be antagonistic with.

*Everything is an adventure hook, especially if I don't think it is. Whatever they take an interest in, I'll try to roll with and come up with stuff for.

*At least in theory, missions/adventures/whatever should be relatively small (no giant dungeon crawls) with some sort of defined beginning, muddle, and end. But each should also include at least one new hook in itself, preferably more than one. These new hooks don't have to be related to the plot of the past mission. They can just be stuff that's coincidentally there and attracts notice.

*For hooks I can mine the small mountain of ink that's been spilled on the region in various FR books. It's a big, wild frontier with lots of former empires around to supply endless ruins, mysterious sites, etc. And I can make stuff up. But it's easier to lean on the setting a bit since I'll want a lot of this stuff.

*There's no single overarching plot, but rather a plethora of potential plots on all manner of scales involving various NPCs and groups of NPCs, not all of whom are traditionally villainous, which can through their actions and interactions spawn hooks all their own.

*There's no single, set way that a mission has to be done or a story has to be resolved. At least some of the time I'll be presenting a scenario and then letting them write the lion's share of the adventure through their choices, just as they're doing for the campaign as a whole. Less potted dungeons and you can pick the order you take them in and more players as co-writers that I'm facilitating and along for the ride.

*There are semi-invisible walls around the region the game is in. It's a rugged region the size of mainland Alaska, roughly. The meat of the game is intended to happen there just to keep my sanity a bit and keep them from running too far away from old hooks and stuff they might then forget about meaning to come back to.

*The players would be told that this is the idea up front.

Have I got it about right? What else should I know/avoid/could be helpful? Help me, Paizo boards. It's you or I jam this post up the hind end of an astromech droid and hope some inbred, whiny dirt farmer finds it. :)

I've saved up some cash and am looking to buy a tablet, which I have never done before.

Arches back, thrusts out man-boobs.

"Ravish me with your knowledge and experience!"

I bought my mother half her iPad, but that was a gift and she decided based on wanting something that worked like her iPhone. But fooling around with it in the course of helping her has sold me on the virtues of such devices.

However, I don't want an iPad. I want a device I have more freedom to work with. I'm probably not going to go and install linux and try to run a FPS on it or anything like that but I'd prefer much less of a walled garden model than Apple is going to provide.

What I do want to do is mostly use it as an e-reader with extras. I've looked at display models of nook tablets and kindle fires and they don't quite meet my needs. I want to read comics on the device and the screens are a bit too small for that, at least in conjunction with my factory irregular eyes. I had to work a bit to read a graphics-heavy National Geographic issue on a display model nook and the Kindle Fire wasn't a lot better.

I did an experiment and discovered the iPad's screen is in the ballpark of the right size for my crusty orbs. Plus a tablet is easier to take to bed or into the crapper than my laptop and has a more comfortable viewing distance for the aforementioned crusty orbs.

So wants:
Not an iPad
Screen size at or around iPad size (bigger is definitely ok)
Cost under or around $500 (a little over is ok, but not $100 over)

Aside from those factors, what should I keep an eye out for and what should I be keen to avoid? Of course specific product recommendations are cool too.

What it says on the tin.

CourtFool wrote:

Most D&D games I have been in barley seem to pay any attention to religion at all. The gods are expected to grant their Clerics spells. Beyond that, no one really cares. I have rarely seen anyone play a Cleric that actually attempts to expand their god's influence throughout the world.

"Just give me my damn spells!"

Or even serve their gods aside from the occasional application of boot leather to evil. That works for clerics of battle gods and crusader gods, but even there it's far from thorough. Take the average D&D god of war. He's pretty much the god of settling differences through battle. Battle's the best thing around. It's cool. It's what life's about. Shouldn't this guy's priests probably be lobbying to resolve every dispute through at least a duel of some kind? Wouldn't refusal to fight, at least when fighting isn't suicidally idiotic, be a kind of sin? (Maybe even if it is suicidally idiotic.) It could turn the character into a walking stereotype, but one hardly finds many real world priests who shrug off the chief commandments of their religion as casually.

Then again some typical gods would be effectively amoral and probably not care. Does the god of elemental earth have an opinion on morality? Probably not, or if he does it would be rather abstract. Now mining, that he cares about. :)

It probably does not help that a perverse amount of D&D writing on gods is focused on things that are rarely going to be relevant to any game, namely the gods' exact personalities and such. Unless one is going to meet them, which is pretty rare, this stuff is much less important than the dogmas, rites, practices, and so forth of the religion. I mean I've got no objection to using a book of god stats as a bestiary. The idea that gods are not just immortal and very powerful but effectively omnipotent and untouchable is fairly monotheistic. But even for people who want that in their games, it's not something they need every session. Religion details, however, should be relevant any time a cleric is present. Or so one would hope.

The sometimes-maligned 2e FR books on the pantheon had the right on this. They had statblocks for the deities, but aside a paragraph or two at the beginning of each entry they were chiefly about the religions, complete with major centers of worship, important holidays and practices, vestments, etc. Then a page or two of a usually overpowered specialty priest class and some religion-specific spells at the end, of course. I even had a player who, bless him, took the entry on Torm to heart and did his best to have his character perform all the recurring ritual obligations. (One was something to the effect of arranging a banquet which he then served to the disadvantaged. He had to do this I think once a month.)

Of course there is a point where all of that can turn into one player having lots of fun and everybody else just sitting around, which can be especially hard in PBEMs where such a scene could go on for weeks instead of minutes. But that's a logistic issue peculiar to how I run my games rather than a problem with the thing in itself.

CourtFool wrote:

Do Paladins even have gods? I mean, everyone knows they have strict codes they have to follow…but everyone just plays them like an over-annoying Dudly Doright.

I think even aside what entails lawful goodness, the paladin is a class that suffers from having an extremely narrow flavor niche in past editions. I'm not sure that it makes sense to have a single generic order of paladins, unless they have some kind of generalized patron like the good gods collectively or some sort of unaligned goodly celestials. To me individual orders of knighthood, or just martial priesthoods, make more intuitive sense. Have one, or more, for each god that it fits and call it good. But that's a lot more work.

Which also, of course, raises issues of the difference between a cleric and a paladin. Originally I think the cleric was designed around a kind of warrior monk type, like the Templars before the banking. My 2e PHB lists Bishop Odo as an inspiration, unless my memory has failed me. But the idea space of cleric has drifted, especially with the inclusion of less martial deities, to something more like a generalized priest role and the paladin has taken up a lot of the slack. That's fine in itself, but the cleric as a walking wall of steel second only to the fighter doesn't quite fit with anything but a sort of Norse-style warrior god or crusading orders if it's meant to comprehend the whole of the religion's theological professionals.

My inclination for years now has been to take the cleric as a priest first and a warrior maybe never, but I haven't done a lot of rules tinkering on it. A paladin would be a specialized religious warrior. The name has enormous game baggage, but one could swap out certain abilities and make it into a sort of customized-for-the-faith holy warrior. Green Ronin's Book of the Righteous does something like that, but I never looked at it too closely due to the difficulty of replacing a SRD class with one I would have to manually type in for my players to use. It's a lot of upfront work, especially knowing my most likely player of it would play a paladin type with it anyway. He loves that kind of character, whether it's a well-coiffed figure of courtly love (he used to romance elven princesses) or a grungy guy with lots of armor spikes that swears a lot. (I am informed that one of his oaths, "Bane's Codpiece!" traveled from our group to make an appearance or two at GenCon.)

CourtFool wrote:

I think religion offers one of the best opportunities to really get into your character as well as endless plot hooks.

Absolutely. For most premodern people, religion is "what they believe in" almost entirely. Even if they have all sorts of secular ideas and goals, they tend to be sacralized. (This isn't just the Divine Right of Kings, Sacred Kingships, and the like but also simple everyday stuff. We still have a bit of that, with priests blessing fishing boats and the like. I got a kick out of a Catholic player when I had the party catch an NPC priest of Moradin in the midst of the blessing of the pickaxes. "That's *exactly* what they would really do!"

Most D&D worlds are intensely god-saturated, up to and including miracles practically on demand, so one would think it even more true there. Granted most campaigns play moderns in past drag, and that's not unreasonably considering we are moderns and seriously following premodern attitudes could get awfully uncomfortable awfully fast, but it's something I've struggled with on occasion.

It cuts both ways. A person's spoken word doesn't mean a lot to us and tends to be disregarded, but it's something that was taken extremely seriously in the past when documents were fewer and held in less esteem than the sworn word of a man of known good character. (This was true even for things like titles of nobility sometimes, which of course gave everyone a good reason to go to war in disagreeing.) That's something that could seemingly be worked into a campaign fairly painlessly.

Global prejudice against women, more than cosmetic racism towards other ethnicities which are meant to be equally good in-world and options for PCs, and so forth is a lot harder. Tolkien had trouble with the orcs being a race of evil so, as I understand it, decided that there were good ones we just never saw. The popular medieval conception of Islam was pretty much Always Chaotic Evil, with Mohammed being identified with the Antichrist. In the Reformation the Protestants did the same thing with the Pope. Trying to reflect that in-game and not make everybody uncomfortable is hard, especially with the assumption in D&D that there really is such a thing as objective Good and Evil and people consciously and willingly serve both. "Gosh Samnell, your fairly clear analog to Christianity is full of baby-eating villains and not a single decent human being in sight. What does that say to us?" or alternatively "Gosh Samnell, your villains are literally the Ku Klux Klan. That's, uh..." Neither quite works, but in different ways.

And it all clashes with our sense of verisimilitude because we know in real life that a supermajority of people do not actually, consciously, without excuse or reason, do things just for the evil. Rather the omnipresent theme is that everyone does what they believe is right and good, or at least understandable. Even the social dynamics of really vile prejudice include manifold justifications for it. I've certainly read enough of them, both because I'm one of the targets and because one of my major interests in reading history is in people behaving badly on a massive scale.

Of course some things are much easier than others. Killing people and taking their stuff is already moral in the framework of the game. On a basic level, that's the D&D narrative for the great many games. We can just write orcs and goblins off as subhuman, morally or otherwise. It's a game, after all. Saying the same things as one says about orcs about the dark-skinned ethnicity native to a warm continent, by contrast, is just outrageous. (And I struggled with this and ended up rewriting two descriptions of human ethnicities for an FR game when I learned a new player was black. I had never thought about it before, and I don't think that the writers had either, but putting myself in her shoes and reading them made previously innocent-seeming description into unpleasant racial stereotypes straight from the real world.) We can honestly say to ourselves that an "orc" is just made up. It may be informed by real world referents, but it is not them.

One thing I've experimented with on and off is the fact that game worlds pretty much by definition did not have Platonism or Christianity, or other religious systems that teach that the flesh is, if not evil, at least inherently prone to sinfulness. They've never been through the Victorian period and all its prudery. As such cultural attitudes about monogamy, marriage, sexuality, nudity and the like could be very different. My players are generally relatively mature about such things, but I've seen reactions to other writers playing with less restrictive cultural tropes decried for writing their porn into the game. Maybe they are, but even if that's so it's not necessarily all they're doing.

Any fantasy world is going to have both the same constraints and restrictions pressing on cultural development as we have had, but also a whole variety of other inputs which could lead its development in wildly different ways. That could mean it produces things like less-exploitative, or even non-exploitative polyamory and the like. That would be far from the least plausible thing in a typical D&D game, and doesn't seem so strange that it breaks the sense of the world being a thing itself like, say, having jet fighters, nuclear missiles, and Barack Obama as an NPC would do for most fantasy settings.


Samnell wrote:
I've kicked around throwing what I have up in a thread or on a blog or something just for the hell of it.
I would be interested in looking it over.

And here we are. :)

I know Mage: The Awakening is very different. I'm not interested in that one. But I am a neophyte who is interested in picking up some old Ascension books because the core idea behind it sounds great and it seems like it could be a fun platform for diverse types of modern fantasy gaming.

The internet, however, has so far not given me much of an idea what's different about Mage 1e vs. Mage 2e or Mage 2e vs. Mage 2e Revised, except that I understand the latter has a much darker assumed setting where the Bad Guys (TM) have more or less won. So could someone, or diverse someones, give me a general rundown of the major themes and rules distinctions between the three?

If it helps at all, my only oWoD familiarity is with the revised editions so far as rules go.

CF wanted another thread, so here we go. The topic, I think, is the issue of compromise vs. polarization, or perhaps partisanship vs. bipartisanship in the informal sense, as a means of achieving change. A nerve (positive, I hope!) was struck. So here we are. :)

Cutting back a hair. Just the Companion though. I still want the AP. :)

I just got to preparing copies of these maps for my players. I run a PBEM, so my floor maps also double as battlemats. The Goblin's a big, frequently-used location that the players should know the layout of upfront, so I went and did the first and second floor already. They've never been down to the basement, but I have some spare time and thus here we are.

On page 63, Area 32 is the Wrangler's Chamber. The reader is told that Bjoask hangs out here and there's a portcullis that controls access to the hallway beyond. It's not on the map on page 60. Furthermore, there's a secret door and a guard post between Bojask's bedroom and the arena, so what use is the portcullis? The writing suggests that this is a security measure to keep people away from the arena and/or Sublevel Two, but the staircase down to the sub-basement isn't hidden by the secret door and said door and it's guard post already secure access to the arena for those coming Bojask's way.

I can see that access through the Red Room is probably controlled by the bartender (and the bar is right next to the door) and the flavor text generally hints that Saul keeps his arena on a need-to-know basis, but I'm lost as to how the portcullis and secret door are supposed to work out for the casino. Is it a change that got tangled in editing? Is the portcullis that Bojask controls supposed to be where the secret door now is and the reference wasn't caught in time? Anybody have any ideas?

I just signed up for the Companion subscription, to start with Elves of Golarion.

But now when I check my account page it shows a preorder for Elves of Golarion in addition to the subscription tag, etc. Does that mean I somehow accidentally subscribed to Companion and made an additional order for an extra copy of the Elves book? Or is what I'm seeing normal for starting a subscription with the next volume and just the one copy of Elves of Golarion is headed my way come October?

I noticed that both of these bonuses are typed as racial, but then it's declared that they stack. This seems like an exception to the stacking rules that doesn't really need to be and might introduce some confusion. It seems to be almost inviting the presumption that like bonus types always stack, which is more or less the opposite of 3e's simple and intuitive bonus stacking rules. The more exceptions there are to the rule, the easier it is for the core rule to be lost.

Maybe I'm the only one obsessive enough to care, but wouldn't it be easier and head off any confusion about other racial bonuses stacking if the Fearless bonus were typed morale as it is in the SRD?

I see later on that racial bonuses are added to the list of bonuses that usually stack, but I'm at a loss as to why. Do we foresee lots of PCs with multiple races? Or is there a plan that templates will be granting racial bonuses now?

I'm not sure if this belongs here or in Customer Service, but it's not yet an order so I'm putting it here. It makes sense to me, but it's possible that I'm insane.

Now that Pathfinder has finally reached an adventure path I'm not a player in, I've decided to take the plunge and donate a portion of my soul to the Great Masters of Golarion. I'm sure they shall treat it with all the kindness and generosity it doesn't deserve.

I think I remember from those hoary days of yesteryear when Runelords were rising and all that that a PDF-only subscription was available, which I would prefer for various reasons. But I can't find any mention of such in the store, just that subscribers to the print version get a free PDF when each volume ships, and that you can buy PDFs of individual volumes off the site.

Am I misremembering and there is no such animal as a PDF-only subscription, or am I just not looking in the right place for it?

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