#RPG Gor AMA – First Answers


A panther girl from SecondLife. I’m hoping for something less ‘glamazon’ from Michael.

Q: Why are you trying to engage with these people? You know they won’t listen.

A: Good point. It’s a consistent hope with me that I can get through to people, make them understand things and accept opposing points of view even if they don’t agree with them. Perhaps that simply can’t be done in a lot of cases. Not to pick on religion exactly, but as an atheist I end up in a lot of debates with people who operate on faith and that acts like a brick wall that you simply cannot – normally – get through. When it comes to certain ideologies and other ideas I think they can end up operating along the same lines, so maybe it’s pointless and I should reassess. The problem I have is that some good points of genuine crit and suggestion will sometimes turn up amongst the slime, but maybe it’s just not worth wading through the slime to get to it.

I’ll have to rethink. Engaging just seems to make them worse.

Q: Have you engaged with any of the online Gor fan communities? I know there is a vibrant Gorean RPG community on AOL (still) and Second Life (but I’ve never been there myself). If so, how has that engagement impacted your design/writing process? Have you made any mechanical changes based on feedback from the folks who’ve been RPing Gor all these years?

A: I haven’t managed to engage directly with the Gorean community particularly, though I have talked to a few people who have RPed Gor (and derivatives from it) online in various ways – IRC, SecondLife etc – to consult with them. I’ve also looked around many of the larger Gorean web pages, visited homepages for Gorean ‘Sims’ and done what I can. I’ve been impressed with a great deal of what they have done, but many of these groups are rather insular and hard to contact. I’ve left queries on a few fora but it’s proving very difficult to contact people directly.

Ultimately, though, I couldn’t let that guide me much more than giving me a few design goals by seeing the kind of play and things they were engaging in. ‘Online-isms’ as they’re called, couldn’t make it into an authorised Gorean RPG, nor could anything that strays too far from the material in the books (Panther Girls are much more popular online for example, and much more successful and powerful than they are in the books).

Fans are great and often keep games, books and whole worlds ticking along during empty patches. The downside of this is that with no ‘official’ support fans can get rather territorial and fierce about their own ideas. Examples from gaming would include SLA Industries and the LARP society of Vampire the Masquerade. It’s great that people buy in so fiercely and are so devoted, but in working on a property you have to step back a bit from that.

That said, I’d love to talk to more people from the communities and spread the word about the project.

My hope is that even those who aren’t interested in a tabletop RPG, WILL be interested in the worldbook as a reference and creative aid.

Q: James, as someone who is not a fan of the Gor books, what could I find interesting and attractive in this game to make one want to support it? What is the selling point to a non-Gor fan?

A: I think it’s a well-realised and thought-out society from its initial premises. So while not as fantastical or away-with-the-fairies as a lot of planetary romance settings, it retains fantastical elements while being a bit more grounded and gritty. From my point of view, it being a world where nothing is clearly black and white is more appealing and interesting than one where good and evil are easily delineated. There’s also the challenge that Gor’s society and cultural cues and morals are wildly different to ours. Something else that is interesting and arguably much more alien (and hence interesting) than a lot of even ‘hard’ SF.

Also, if we raise enough cash, Manning’s art should be fantastic.

Q: Why did you emphasise those parts of the book? (Trans people being killed and those horrifying secluded slaves).

A: Well, the gender representation thing is a hot topic at the moment so I felt it was worth addressing and looking at within the context of the world and the fact is that Gor is a harsh world with some rather nasty sides to it. The slaying of (most) of the deformed (and ‘deformed’) is decidedly Spartan, nasty and difficult, but it would be disingenuous to ignore or and simply wrong of me to alter the world. Plus, to correct the question a little, it would be those with visible genital abnormalities, not ‘trans’ per se, but intersex.

The worldbook entries I’ve chosen have largely been chosen because they fit nicely into a blog format and not much other reason!

I do think the ‘exotics’ are an interesting aspect and between the Gorean bred exotics and the various breeds created by the Kur there’s a good deal that reminds me of Dougal Dixon’s Man After Man. I mean, the Kur – monstrous creatures – breed humans for meat as we would cattle, yet are the humans on the Gorean world any better? The potential plasticity of the human form is amazing and one wonders how far slave breeders could push it. I also think there are parallels with plastic surgery, body modification and so on ,so you could use some of these horrors as social commentary.

I also think it’s a good illustration of the wild extremes of Gorean society, this is the ‘veal calf’ issue of the Gorean world and illustrates both the extremes of cruelty, the dehumanisation of (many) slaves – who are treated legally as livestock – and the arrogant, debauched, degenerate nature of many of the wealthier, higher castes.

Q: Do you consider the Gorean world to be misogynistic?

A: That sounds like an easy question, but it isn’t especially. It’s certainly male dominated and tends strongly to the patriarchal but is it misogynistic? To say that Goreans men hate women – which is, after all, the meaning of misogyny – doesn’t seem accurate. Goreans prize women, seek women, fight for women, put themselves in harm’s way to gain women, enter into free companionships, work for women, guard women and so on, so ‘misogyny’ doesn’t quite seem to be the right word.

A certain amount of comparison could be drawn between Gorean society and Islamic states. You can argue that Islam (and to be fair, the other Abrahamic faiths) are misogynistic but, similarly, that’s not entirely accurate. From their point of view they are venerating and protecting women and wouldn’t say that they hate them, so we need something else as a description.

It is oppressive, or at least dangerous, for women.

Free women are venerated, protected, served and honoured, but greatly constricted by the society’s rules.

It’s slaves – of either gender – who are at the sharp end of all the worst aspects of the society.

Q: What’s with the hats?

A: I have no idea why certain people are so obsessed with hats (especially fedoras). It’s been a bit of a theme lately. The honest answer is that meeting my ‘game design heroes’ has been a consistently disappointing experience as, frankly, most of us designers are balding, middle-aged men in faded T-shirts, however interesting our ideas. I try and ‘rock star’ it up a bit to compensate. It’s also the same reason I often wear a suit at cons.

Note to the Big Purple and Gor AMA

sfr-helmet-matt-fluo-purple.7364.fullYes, I am watching you and you’re watching me. A fair chunk of ‘outrage traffic’ comes via you, but we seem to be funding OK in spite of, or because of, that so I don’t really mind. I was resigned to another hate-fest, especially from your quarter, but I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by the quality of some of the discussion on this thread, though you do have to step around the usual blithering hatemongery.

While I’ve got you, may I suggest therpgsite as a much better platform for honest discussion.

I am watching because I think there are things that should be addressed and your forum doesn’t give me the capability to answer them there. I’ve seen some valid concerns raised and have made a few revisions on that basis. If you want a discussion though, RPGnet isn’t going to be the place to do it and you’re welcome to discuss – in good faith – here.

As to a victim complex, no more or less than other people involved in recent kerfuffles and given the abuse etc I don’t think it’s entirely disingenuous to ‘play the victim’. If you don’t want me to come across that way, you could always stop trying to victimise me.

I am resigned to the hatred from some of you. You never let the facts (or the fiction!) get in the way of a good dogpiling before so why would you now? I’m not soliciting it however. In fact, I kind of hoped the kink-shaming aspect of giving people a hard time over their D/S and BDSM proclivities would give you pause – for some people, thankfully, that has indeed been the case.

I do genuinely believe in the project and have spent a great deal of time and effort on it. I do genuinely love the book series and I do genuinely believe the fans deserve a good product that reflects the enduring popularity of the books. I’ve wanted to turn the books into a game for many years and finally had the opportunity.

I’ve actually been very happy about the quality of the discussion on your forum (apart from the usual suspects) who have brought up many of the things that make Gor such an interesting and challenging environment and setting. These discussions have also made it clear that I will have to be more explicit in the book about certain things and more explanatory and helpful about others, as well as providing notes on less default ways to play.

There was some thought around indie-game format games that would play out the romantic D/S side of Gor. I sympathise and I toyed with that idea for a while but I don’t think it really suits the audience I’m trying to reach with this. There’s already a large, existing fanbase and I think normal, basic roleplaying concepts can be difficult enough to explain without bringing in a lot of indieisms.

I believe Apocalypse World engine was mentioned and I suppose that could work. Personally I find the ‘moves’ etc spoil immersion for me and I wouldn’t choose it for such a game. I did have a more indie-styled BDSM oriented game half finished which used more indie mechanics within a (default) GMless space based around a sort of transhuman future society, but couldn’t get it to work. It seems there might be some interest, so I might go back to that for an indie release sometime.

I’m neither a truly ‘traditional’ gamer, nor a truly ‘indie’ gamer. I believe that system matters and that the right system is the one that is synergistic to the goals and setting. D6 has pedigree as a beginner system, nostalgia quality for older gamers, ease of understanding for newer gamers and the advantage of using D6s with tactile dice pools. Meta-mechanics found in many indie games wouldn’t really suit the kind of sword-and-sandals focus that I expect a lot of people to take with Gor (Spartacus, 300/rise of an Empire) etc. As such I think a more robust and broadly capable system is necessary.

I’ll just end – again – by reminding you that fiction is fiction and does not, necessarily, have anything to do with the feelings or true beliefs of the author (or in this case the one making the game from the books of another author). This shouldn’t need to be said, but apparently it does.

That said, comments are open (but moderated) for genuine questions about any aspect of the project.

I’ll append Q&A to the bottom of this post as we go along.

Chronicles of Gor – Roleplaying & Sex


This is an incomplete and early version of the essay in the book on this topic which is still being updated as I read people’s concerns, wishes and thoughts.

Role-Playing Sex

The weighty question for many in more adult role-playing settings is ‘how do we handle sex’. For people who are happy to slaughter hundreds of enemies and trample their bodies underfoot, to torture for information and to commit genocide on tribes and tribes of goblins on their PlayStations, the question of sex – or even ‘nipples’ – seems to cause a huge amount of vexation, upset and outrage. That’s just regular sex too, not the kind of dominance/submission that characterises many – even most – sexual relationships on Gor.

It can be unsettling to cover sexual topics around the table, especially with friends who you may feel will be judging you. Playing online is, perhaps, an easier venue to explore these areas of role-play and even more so in a venue that preserves anonymity and creates distance (such as text chat).

Different groups will have different comfort levels. Some will wish to be explicit, others will seek to avoid the topic altogether, others will find a middle path that suits them. The golden rule here is that everyone at the table should be comfortable with what’s going on, should feel free to speak up if they’re uncomfortable and that they shouldn’t feel judged for doing so.

The Gorean novels themselves vary from coy, to suggestive to almost-but-not-quite explicit, so if you’re looking to recreate the feel of the novels in your games then even a small and terse description will be adequate.

Ignore it


So there’s naked people around and some of them are in chains. So what? The focus of the game is still going to be sword-fighting, intrigue, flying around on giant birds and exploring exotic locales. So who cares? The slaves and the sexual dynamic are just set dressing and shouldn’t come up at all. It’s just silently assumed that the characters do sexy stuff but it’s not described, just as its not – usually – described when characters go to the toilet.


“I’ll leave a copper tarsk on the table and carry the paga slave off to the alcoves.”

“Refreshed and relieved you emerge again, after a time, having slaked all your thirsts.”

With a coy approach you acknowledge that the sexual world exists but you do not go into any detail. It’s there as and when people want to access it but it doesn’t intrude. No detail is really gone into, but everyone knows what’s going on. It just doesn’t need to be said. The actual sex part ‘fades to black’.


“Buy me Master!” The slave girl writhes in her chains and presses her body against the bars of cage, wild eyed, flushed and needy. “Try me! Only a tarsk bit, one taste and you will want to buy me!” The slaver smacks the cage with the butt of his whip, but the grin on his face says he’s pleased with the girl’s display.

With the suggestive approach the sex can and will intrude but there’s a limit to how graphic and involved it gets. Sexual characteristics might be described and, perhaps, a couple of sentences on the performance but that’s about it. This is probably the best sort of level to play around tables.


I grasp hold of the silk slave’s leash and pull him down between my legs, tugging my intimate robe up around my waist as I do so. “Perhaps, slave, if you do a good enough job you can remain here in my chambers, rather than breaking rocks in the quarry.”

His broad back stiffens slightly and a scowl flashes across his face but, after a meek sounding: “Yes Mistress,” he lowers his head and begins to attend to your pleasure with an eager and fervent tongue.”

Blow-by-blow sexual encounters probably aren’t a good idea around a table as they’re the most intimate and personal and the most likely to cause people discomfort. They’re also going to take up time and cast the spotlight on a single player, preventing the others from getting their time to shine and eating up a lot of your game time. Explicit encounters are probably only worthwhile in one-on-one games or when playing online in environments were people can do their own thing.

A Word About BDSM

BDSM encapsulates bondage, domination, discipline, submission, sadism and masochism, even more broadly you could use the term ‘kink’. For a lot of people those terms are going to bring up thoughts of 50 Shades of Grey or ‘Bring out the gimp’. The term might even make you giggle or think of furry handcuffs, spanking and so on. I’ve mentioned 50 Shades simply because it’s a point of cultural reference that kink has become somewhat mainstream, even The Simpsons has had its ‘snuggle dungeon’ episode, which is another cultural touchstone.

50 Shades, of course, was awful as a representation of the BDSM scene and should in no way be taken as any sort of reflection of how that world really is. Similarly, even though there are ‘Gorean lifestyle’ people within the kink community, Gor should not be taken as any sort of guide to BDSM or any sort of reflection on how things really are.

Consent is hugely important in BDSM circles, as is obvious given the existence of the ‘safe word’, a word of phrase that when uttered unquestionably and absolutely means “No, stop!” Role-playing, similarly, needs to be a safe, sane and consensual activity and whether its that spiders creep you out or that you don’t want to know what your character is being put through at the hands of the slaver or torturer you also get a ‘safe word’ and can demand a ‘fade to black’ at any point.

If you want to know more about BDSM, kink and so on, there are better places to learn about it – and to explore it – than within a game.