Nice to see that Bard has made the trek across the North Channel from Handbook-World. After all, it’s a sort of homecoming for him. Today’s adventure marks day two of our ongoing trek across Ireland, and I’d like to thank the banshee for putting in a guest appearance. I’m certain that Bard appreciates the tutelage.

It’s a been a little while since we talked shop about experience, leveling up, and earning new powers. Our general XP discussion lives back here, and the concept of the master/apprentice relationship resides in this one. But with our resident horny troubadour cozying up to a tortured spirit, it’s a good time to contemplate monstrous mentors and imitable critters.

This is a fantasy trope where monks tend to shine. Just look at the big list o’ fighting styles in Pathfinder 1e. The crunchy mechanical bits are delicious, but the conceptual main course is right up top in the ability description: “For centuries, great warriors have looked to nature and the multiverse to find inspiration in battle. Countless monastic and contemplative orders have crafted intricate unarmed fighting styles based on the deadliness and grace of natural and supernatural creatures.” Crafting suites of powers based on bulettes and krakens tigers is the name of the game. But even if the cast of Kung-Fu Panda offers the go-to example for the technique, it’s not just limited to martial arts masters.

When it comes time to level up you wizard, it might be worth your while to pause and reflect on the monsters you’ve recently encountered. If you spent the past level teaching a blink dog to sit and stay, maybe she taught you a thing or two as well.  If your druid wrestled an alligator in that last swamp adventure, it might be worth pulling out the thematically-appropriate gator form for your next grapple check (or homebrewing a more powerful version for higher level). Fighter got backstabbed? Put a few ranks into stealth and go for your own ambush. Did vampires go for your warlock throat? Let him do the same!

Sure this sort of thing might run counter to optimization. “I don’t have the spare feats / spell slots / free pizzas to bribe my GM! I need to focus on getting my core mechanics online!” Well sure. This biz is a sometimes food, and certainly not a requirement for leveling up. But if you do find yourself wondering which direction to take a PC, it can be a fun way to make your journey through level-up more narratively meaningful. After all, experience points are all about learning from your adventures. This just makes that connection a little more concrete.

Question of the day then! Have you ever encountered a monster, then incorporated its powers into your build? What was the beasty? What was the ability? And did it turn out to be a fun addition to your own arsenal, or a waste of good build points? Whether you absorbed elemental powers from a dragon’s breath or fighting techniques from a tortle, tell us all about it down in the comments!


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