#RPG #TTRPG #DnD – Things by me that aren’t sold by me!

You can get a lot of stuff on RPGNOW, and some of my freelance work is up there too. If you buy using these links, I also get a kickback, which is helpful to me! So worth pimping some of these out! Plus, I wrote them, so you know they’re cool. I’ll get a kickback if you use this link to purchase anything from there, so if you want to help me out on a more regular basis, you can bookmark that link and use it whenever you go to RPGNOW!

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Like a hell of a lot of other game designers, I did a lot of stuff for D&D 3.5/Pathfinder. Amongst those, I wrote a good chunk of CITY OF STORMREACH for Eberron, bringing the setting from D&D Online (which I was in the position of having played) into tabletop. It was a bit of a challenging project with far ‘too many cooks’ making it hard to coordinate, but people seemed to like it!

Books of feats and other rules faff were a plage on 3rd edition, and I did more than my fair share of spreading that plague, but always with an eye to making things fun rather than just making things for the sake of it. I did a couple of Unorthodox books, RANGED COMBATANTS and MONK FEATS.

Louis Porter Junior is a rapid-fire powerhouse of OGL material and I worked with him on two things. One of these, the underdeveloped Pirates of the Bronze Sky, had me fleshing out races such as the KAYLATHEON and TOCARRA. With a little work these might even make interesting character races for Starfinder.

Much more complete was our horror/post apocalyptic setting ‘Obsidian Twilight’ over which I had a lot more influence. There’s a lot of material available for that, some of it free. So do check out the OBSIDIAN TWILIGHT CAMPAIGN SETTING and other material like THE WELL OF DEAD FLESH, OBSIDIAN APOCALYPSE, and more.

I also wrote an unusual adventure ‘Cross City Race’ for 4e in DUNGEON, but easily adaptable to other versions. That was good enough for me to win signed copies of the 4th Edition core books. Cool then, a source of eternal shame now!

For 5th Edition I’ve written a couple of third party products, freelance, for Asatania. THE PRISONER OF SPUR ROCK and THE NEW MINE MASTERS, which have been praised for accessibility and atmospheric writing.

Way back in the mists of time, when men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures were called halflings, I wrote a d20/OGL PUBLISHING GUIDE. Some of this is out of date, but since the OGL is still being used it’s not quite as out of date as it could have been. You may still find it useful.

Outside of D&D I’ve written material for lots of people. Not all of it is still available, it seems, or I’m not listed as a contributor, but of those that do there’s still plenty.

84193For Victoriana I contributed material to FACES IN THE SMOKE and FAULKNER’S MISCELLANY. I always preferred a more grounded type of Steampunk, so you may find the parts I wrote – at least – suited to other Steampunk games than the Victorian Shadowrun that Victoriana brings to mind.

While my relationship with the SLA Industries team has become a little fraught since Gamergate they still make very good stuff, and Dave Allsop is an artistic genius with a mind for horror that is unparalleled in games media, in my opinion. More recent material the publish with my name to it include URSA CARRIEN and HUNTER SHEETS 2.

If you’ve like my other fiction, you might enjoy the story I contributed to the DARK HARVEST collection, a number of stories set in the Legacy of Frankenstein RPG setting.

Some of my stuff has been republished in nicer format by Chronicle City, where I am still partnered with keystone of the UK RPG scene, Angus Abranson. We hope to get back into production there eventually, meanwhile you can buy the following things there:

FOREVER SUMMER: You play as a gang of children solving mysteries in the town Oceanview. If you liked Goonies, Monster Squad, Explorers, Eerie Indiana or even Stranger Things you might find something fun here.

@CTIV8: This is the second edition of my activist game, drawing on influences such as Anonymous and Global Frequency, it’s about ordinary – but skilled – people, making a difference in the world. This second edition is much tighter and more playable.

ARS GOETIA: If you’re after an ‘old school’ magic system that isn’t just the same old ‘whiz-bang’ Vancian magic or similar, this is for you. Based on the Goetia, a ‘real’ book of magic, this allows you to create a magician whose power and skill derives from his pacts and command over demons, angels and spirits – and whose soul is always at risk. This would work well with RPGPundit’s Lion & Dragon, with a bit of kitbashing.

dice-png-transparent-images--png-all-4100 SEEDS: I still publish most of these myself, but several turbocharged editions were created for Cubicle 7 and the rights have since moved to Chronicle City. So if you want the more professionally laid out versions of 100 FANTASY, 100 SCI FI or 100 HORROR adventure seeds, you know where to look!

#RPG – Postmortem Studios Update June 2016

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Here’s a quick monthly update on the current state of affairs here at Postmortem Studios.

Personal
I’m a lot healthier than I have been and am working full time again for the first time in about three years. It’s taking a bit of adjustment  but so far I’m keeping it up. I’m using this energy and effort to try and keep up a regular schedule of small releases and freelancing and to build up to regaining the financial independence and self reliance I had before depression slapped me around like a ruler meeting a Catholic schoolboy’s hands.

So far this has only been going on for half of last month but I still treat that as something of a victory especially since I’ve been able to raise my monthly income by about 50% just within that period. It feels good – but exhausting – to be back on the horse.

If you want to support my work and help me out, you can donate to my Patreon, and I’m looking for ideas as to what I can offer as Patreon rewards, but at the moment all I can offer are warm fuzzies.

Work Update
At the moment I’m primarily focussed on finishing off and putting out older material that wasn’t completed. This is primarily because I need to put out material quickly at the moment, meaning it’s all going to be more support material for existing games and odd little interesting notions and side projects. I also have a few people working for me – sadly pseudonomysly – on projects that I’m ‘not allowed’ to look at.

Gor is still very nearly there. There is another slight delay which, again, isn’t anyone’s fault. This project has, I swear, been cursed. Everything that could get in the way for me or the artist has done. Still, we should hopefully be on course for the end of the month. Fingers, fucking, crossed.

Services
I am a 15+ year veteran of the tabletop game publishing world with experience in freelancing and self publishing. I’ve worked for Wizards of the Coast, Steve Jackson Games, Nightfall, Cubicle Seven Entertainment and more. I have also written fiction and worked on social media computer games, packing a lot of meaning into short pieces of text. As a self-publisher I have overseen every step of the publication process from concept through to publications including writing, editing, layout and modification.

Here’s some of the services I can offer, and the minimum prices offered – though anything is negotiable up or down depending on the client.

  • New writing (raw text) $0.03c/word.
  • Proofreading/Light Editing/Commentary $0.01c/word (second and third deeper passes are possible).
  • ePublishing/RPG Publishing consultation Skype/Hangout/Call $20/hour.
  • Consultation on your game project $20/hour.
  • Layout (InDesign) $10 an hour.
  • Stock Art Shopfront: Postmortem studios has a huge stock art catalogue from multiple artists and we’d love to add you to that storefront. If you’re an artist who wants to sell your stock art but doesn’t want to deal with the accounts and uploads etc with your own storefront (which would be my first recommendation) then I can do that for you for 50% (I round up your payouts though).

Recent Products
Clipart Critters MEGABUNDLE:
A once in a lifetime offer (at least until September the first) this is ALL of Brad McDevitt’s stock art – up to number 400 – at a HUGE discount. This is basically a company start-up resource which will provide you with plenty of fantasy, horror, science fiction and modern images to kickstart your company into progress with low initial overheads for art. It’s also a fantastic resource for existing companies.

Diversity Dungeons: Despite claims to the contrary from all sides involved this is intended as a fairly serious examination of diversity issues in gaming from a world-building/game design and publishing perspective. It outlines the obstacles and methods to overcome including (or not including) diversity in your games and some material – from bitter experience – on the current febrile atmosphere around games publishing.

The Cathedral of Misogyny: An affectionate pisstake of 4chan, internet culture wars and hyperbole via the medium of a comedic 5th Edition D&D adventure, based upon a scenario I wrote as an introduction for a new player coming in from computer games. Part of the scenario was played online and there’s a Youtube video of it here.

Fistful of Horror 3: A collection of horror scenario ideas in the theme of my 100 seeds. System neutral but geared towards modern horror.

Fifth Fantasy – The Chancer: A new 5e D&D character class, based around the gambler archetypes found in Japanese RPG computer games. This will become a series and, perhaps, a setting if there are a few more sales.

Our entire catalogue (other than the newer items) – easier to browse than the online sites can be downloaded for free HERE.

Social Media & Contact
I’m always open to contact, discussion, ideas and more. If you have questions, queries, suggestions or feedback – good or bad – please do get in touch.

You can comment here on the blog.

You can find me on Twitter @grimachu

You can find me on Facebook 

You can find me on Youtube

If you want to ask questions (or troll me) anonymously I have an Ask.fm

#RPG – Fifth Edition goes OGL

dungeon-masters-guild-2FINALLY

And while various RPG companies have been sidestepping it to produce things for 5th edition already, this makes it far easier and – more importantly – seems to have learned from the 4th Edition situation with a return to 3rd edition era openness.

Wizards have also created their own, semi-open, online webstore in which D&D material can be sold called the ‘Dungeon Master’s Guild’ though, with a cut of 50% and more stringent rules on content etc, it’s really not that tempting to a publisher like me, save – perhaps – as a place to sling a few short products.

The good thing about it is that it’s just another ‘face’ to Drivethrurpg/RPGNOW, which means an account on one of their sites is an account on all of them. That should help bring more people over to the other sites and increased attention and sales all around. Again though, recent greater pushes for censorship under the Onebookshelf banner is a cause for concern and getting the D&D online sales is another concentration of power in a single place, vulnerable to censorious pressure.

So, what to do with it, now I can play with it?

Brainstorming

There’s a couple of projects I’ve been developing for the OSR:

  • A ‘city crawl’ inspired by Bloodborne and other Renaissance/Restoration/Victorian horror.
  • A post-apocalyptic fantasy hex-crawl across an environmentally ravaged landscape.
  • A dark-fantasy waste-world, mingling technology and magic in an interdimensional junkyard city.

A 5th Edition version of Machinations of the Space Princess could be done, though it would be a lot of work for a repeat project and probably not cost effective.

House rules options – like I did in the past for 3rd Edition – might be an option. Some people prefer grimmer and grittier rules more suited to low fantasy and dark fantasy but this kind of thing is more complicated than it seems if you want to retain game balance.

New races are always an option, but it’s hard to create something that truly stands out. The work I’ve done on various fantasy worlds makes me think I could come up with some possibilities.

New classes are popular, but it’s hard to find effective niches for new character types and there’s a lot of competition in creating them. The old Prestige Class system in 3rd Edition was a way around that, but doesn’t exist in 5e, though there are sub-classes to the classes which fulfil some of the same role. It might be interesting to do some anime-JRPG style classes, inspired by Final Fantasy ‘job’ systems though. A new ‘Actual Monk’ is a definite possibility though.

Backgrounds have plenty of room for additions, but are a thin thing to hang supplementary material on.

Equipment can always use additions, but as with background probably needs to be wedded to something else. A deeper crafting system definitely has some appeal.

Mass combat rules would be a useful edition, an updated Feast of Crows might be a good thing to do.

Feats were popular things to create lists of in 3rd Edition, and it doesn’t seem unlikely that they’d be popular again. Again though, a thin thing to hang a whole supplement off.

The Skill system is not remotely as deep or interesting – or adaptable – as 3rd edition and some alternative rules for skills might be a useful thing to introduce.

There’s always room for new spells, or types of magic.

There’s all manner of real and fantastical gods and pantheons to be potentially detailed.

There’s an insatiable hunger for new magic items.

People always need more monsters.

Then there’s adventures, but they never sell well and have limited long term use to purchasers.

Conclusion

If I do anything for 5e, I don’t want it to be the kind of mindless blown-through make-work that a lot of 3e products were. A few of the shorter ideas above appeal – such as the JRPG character classes – but otherwise I’m far more interested in the potential of creating worlds and lore and tapping into the 5e audience that way.

What do you think, what would you be after?

(Sort of) Review: 5e D&D Player’s Handbook

10390393_10152396043581071_7602083816466343216_nHere’s your capsule review of 5e.

There’s nothing particularly new here except an optional, mild nod towards developments in Indie-Gaming over the last 20 years or so in the form of ‘inspiration’. That is rewarding good roleplay, or at least roleplaying according to your character’s personality and background – with mechanical benefits in game, rather than just in terms of experience points. That’s a small, but significant, update to the game in my opinion.

Otherwise there’s nothing particularly new here, the game is a sort of ‘greatest hits’ or a remix in many ways. 3e and 4e were emach radical departures for D&D with 3e arguably being the better modernisation of the two, 5e is much more retro.

On the good side multiclassing doesn’t suck like it did in 4e and ‘build optimisation’ isn’t as broken or as big of a deal (yet) as it was.

On the minus side, the Feats instead of Ability Bonuses thing makes you make a very, very hard choice and removes a degree of character individuality. Also the skill system blows goats, reducing it to a binary yes/no and a level dependent bonus (proficiency) making it more akin to non-weapon proficiencies from back in the day.

The game’s solid and, probably, the right move in the current market.

The presentation is where it kind of gets confusing. I’ll get into some of that a bit later, but it definitely lacks a definitive look and feel of the kind that 3e and 4e had. It’s all a bit… brown, wishy-washy, insipid and uninspiring. The best bits, the bits that actually catch the attention or make you want to play are the few illustrations that are outside the bounds of the Social Justice influence, the huge-ass dragon on page 171 and the little humour-filled B&W sketches for things like the condition effects (which even include some same sex dwarf/tentacle action).

Score
Style: 3/5 (Especially halflings and gnomes. Dude… wtf?!?)
Substance: 5/5
Overall: 4/5

So, into the post-script, because nobody REALLY needs another review of 5e. The ‘meta level’ discussion has been about some of the consultant’s presumed biases (spoiler: they’re not bigots) and the paragraph on gender. This all taking place as part of a much broader discussion about media representations (primarily of women and racial minorities).

This has obviously had a rather big influence on the art direction in 5e and while I have described the art as weak, uninspiring and insipid (and brown) I don’t think this is down to the pressure to diversify the depictions. While it’s true that the illustrations that are less ‘inoffensive’ tend to have a bit more animation and fun to them, the relative variety of ages, body-types and races is well handled and doesn’t feel like tokenism – which is always my big worry when people get into this.

I’d have liked to see more stylistic and sexy illustrations – especially as I like playing sexy male characters when I RP – but that’s a matter of personal taste and I’ll take the hit. Diversity is a good thing, but it needs to make sense in the context in which it is presented and assuming Forgotten Realms is the default, there’s nothing that sticks out like a sore thumb in this.

Besides, the black fighter guy is fucking badass.

Anyway, I made a decidedly unscientific survey of the images in the PHB, breaking it down some, along with my observations. I was looking at visible characters in the pieces, ignoring monsters, basically going on what I noticed, rather than poring over every page with a magnifying glass. Still, here’s the results:

Significant Male Illustrations Vs Significant Female Illustrations

MvF

Significant Illustrations by Race

Note that some illustrations were hard to tell and I gave them the benefit of the doubt. East Asian, Middle Eastern and African style illustrations were present but South Asian and Hispanic style illustrations were largely absent. Normally I’d hate to conflate PoC into one big thing, but it wasn’t especially useful with the sample size here to break it down more. ‘Green etc’ is to cover all the fantasy races with abnormal colours – such as drow and orcs.

racial

Titillation Index

The proportion of images that were, IMO, even mildly titillating or ‘impractical’ versus the number that weren’t. This is very subjective so I had to make a category for ones that weren’t – quite – either. Your opinion may fall either side of the spectrum on that.

Sexy

So what does all this mean, if anything?

D&D 5e has clearly catered – to a degree – to the small by vocal crowd who have been causing ructions. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on your perspective. I like diversity, but have worried about it being done ‘just because’. 5e handles it about as well as we can expect I think, having the added bonus of not really being tied to any explicit setting as, say, something like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Middle Earth or Game of Thrones would be. This gives D&D a bit more wiggle-room than a lot of settings to include diversity without shattering suspension of disbelief.

Not every game has that going for it and while D&D has handled it well the overall presentation isn’t that inspiring and since writing the review section of this post my opinion was swished the other way. Given that the better illustrations with more interest, inspiration and panache ARE the ‘sexier’ ones, perhaps the ability to excite and engage an audience has been sapped a little by this concern.

D&D always sells well, relatively speaking (even 4e) so it’s not a great benchmark for the rest the industry. It will, however, now be cited whenever someone wants to try and influence art direction in another project so the best I can suggest is wary, cautious optimism.

Review: D&D Starter Set

dnd_products_dndacc_starterset_pic3_enOoh! A box! This reminds me of some of the first games I ever bought! It’s about the same size as Car Wars, which was one of the first things I ever got. This bodes well!

Whoops! Feels a little light. I nearly threw it across the room picking it up. Still, it’s a pretty deep box… what… two and a bit inches deep?

Why is the R.Talsorian logo on the front?

Never mind that, let’s have a look.

Dragon! Excellent. That makes for a good cover – always. It’s a little… brown and washed out, but that’s the look of EVERY COMPUTER GAME EVER MADE these days so ‘the kids’ won’t care. No dungeons in evidence but there’s a washed out brown coloured dude fighting the washed out brown coloured dragon and that’s pretty good!

OK, let’s flip it over…

Still feels a bit light.

EXPLORE! PLUNDER! BATTLE! Sounds rad!

What do we get in here… adventure book (64 pages), rulebook (32 pages) or characters of level 1-5 (slightly better than Moldvay managed!) and 5 pregenerated characters – play from the box. A set of dice! Awesome, possibly destined to become the totemic dice of a new generation.

That can’t be all, can it? I mean, from the looks of the box there’s maps and a hint of a grid map. They must have forgotten something.

OK, let’s open it…

Bag of dice! Woot!

Pre-generated characters… OK… useful for reference material on the back but they’re a little… unexciting. Would it have been so difficult to add a bit of art to these? That would have helped a massive amount with making the sheets look exciting. Why not a tear-pad of blank sheets too, damn it?

OK… what else? D&D Encounters advert? What bloody stores? Where? Not for bloody miles. Support online play, finally, you flamin’ nongs. Get some online GM tools sorted out or buy someone else’s, goshdarnit.

vg-cats-is-brown_225x217.shklRule book… ok, let’s have a look at that. Well, it’s heartening that the basic rules can fit in such a small book but I’m not finding it especially inspiring. It’s still so, so, so brown and washed out. 3rd Edition had ‘dungeonpunk’ as a style, 4e was a bit over the top but this is just… I don’t know…. dull? Sorry whoever you are, art person, but this isn’t inspiring me in the same way the new rules are making me hopeful. It’s got nothing on Iron Kingdoms or the (now sadly defunct) output Rackham had. This is just… dull and inoffensive, lacking in discernible style and – judging from the way some of these characters are drawn and dressed (with no discernible style or gender) I’m going to guess that’s deliberate.

The adventure book is bigger than the rules. So what do we have in here? In the ‘Lost Mine of Phandelver’. Well the art’s a bit more lively, especially the monsters but really, what’s the point of these tiny, tiny gridded maps? Couldn’t you have put in some play-posters or tiles? If you’re producing tons of plastic minis for your board games, couldn’t you half-inch a few for this? Failing that, Gamma World and the Monster Vault had some really cool round tokens that people should make more of as a cheap alternative to minis. Wouldn’t hurt to make this look a bit more exciting!

Wait! There’s a white thing on the bottom of the box! Maybe there’s hidden treasures underneath!

Nope… it’s just filler. I suppose you could put other stuff in the box later on… but this is just disappointing.

Score
Style: 2 (Meh… on the plus side, I might play Wizball as a character concept because of the lack of colour)
Substance: 2 (Disappointing as hell)
Overall: 2.5/5

Final verdict: It’s serviceable, but dull, boring and artistically uninspiring. I don’t think as a kid presented with this I would be inspired or interested. It plays it safe and boring stylistically and, well…

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
– Bill Cosby

Wibbly Wobbly, Gendery-Wendery Stuff & 5e (Again)

You can play a male or female character without gaining any special benefits or hindrances. Think about how your character does or does not conform to the broader culture’s expectations of sex, gender and sexual behaviour. For example, a male drow cleric defies the traditional gender divisions of drow society, which could be a reason for your haracter to leave that societay and come to the surface.

You don’t need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous or hermaphroditic, for example, ad some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon’s image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise your character’s sexual orientation is for you to decide.

This is the passage that, coupled with the use of consultants, seems to have been causing so much trouble when it should have been a source – surely – of happiness and victory for some people. I gave my thoughts about it before, but let’s take a break from the drama and consider the implications and meaning of these options.

At the heart of any role-playing game scenario there’s conflict and at the heart of any good character is also some sort of conflict or ambition. The downside of an accepting setting is that you lose some sources of that conflict. The conflict can be wearing in real life because it can often feel insurmountable but that is part of the power of fantasy and fiction, to resolve the irresolvable, win against impossible odds. Taking the ‘Blue Rose’ route that everyone and everything is completely tolerant and lovely about everything is to miss out on all that, especially if you’re making these choices for your character.

Societal Conflict

Religion

D&D settings are primarily pseudomedieval, though they also draw on other cultures for inspiration. While in Greco-Roman culture homosexuality and other alternative sexualities were mostly celebrated (though less lesbianism than than homosexuality) and even considered divine in some cases, or as a touch from the gods.

As Christianity took over that more accepting attitude melted away along with the panoply of pagan beliefs that were being replaced. As church and state became one in a much more prescriptive way via Christianity and Islam the tolerance also melted away, though as has become apparent to those paying attention to events in the Catholic Church and cases like ‘anal jihad’ or rulings on bestiality from Islamic scholars, that’s no guarantee that the rules are absolute – just that there are rules (note that I’m not comparing paedophilia or bestiality to homosexuality or trans issues, just pointing out – via extremes – how weirdly accepting even strict religions can be sometimes).

D&D cities and cultures tend to be polytheistic and while certain gods are more associated with certain races (Lolth and Dark Elves), it’s by no means certain or absolute. One of the examples given is a defiance of the gender roles within the Faerun context of dark elf society – a cruel matriarchy – though a male cleric of Lolth would have a near impossible task to win over his goddess.

Temples and churches in broader D&D fantasy societies tend to be more… goods and services. You go to the temple to pray and appeal to that specific god, to gain the services of the temple. It’s more like attending a shop and there’s no direct political power, only influence, save where the clerics are running the city.

The moral precepts of RPG gods and goddesses are rarely codified in the way, say, the Noachide or Levitical laws of the bible are and unlike ‘real’ religions if there’s any misunderstandings the god can be directly conferred with and is capable of manifesting in the real world.

Broadly speaking ‘Good’ gods, ‘Neutral’ gods and ‘Chaotic’ gods are probably more likely to be tolerant, while ‘Lawful’ and ‘Evil’ gods are probably more likely to be prescriptive. That will, of course, depend on the religion’s concept of ‘evil’. Transgressive behaviours and sexualities are considered ‘evil’ by many cultures and may be celebrated by evil gods on that basis and condemned for it by the followers of an opposing god. This is one of the fundamental plot problems with absolute – and inherent – moralities. On the other hand, fertility and agricultural gods and goddesses, whatever their alignment otherwise, might have a rather more Catholic approach to sexuality and reproduction.

In various religions and spiritual traditions in the real world, those of androgynous, trans or hermaphroditic nature have been regarded as special and accorded special spiritual or religious positions. That could be the position of shaman or living totem, or more formal roles such as the ‘contrary’ who would do everything backwards from speech to wearing women’s clothing. Places, however limited and restrictive, for people who were different.

Culture

Culture may shape attitudes towards people of alternate sexualities. The harder the life – generally – the less accepting and tolerant a society is while, when there’s luxury, wealth and leisure a society tends to become more accepting and tolerant – some would call this degenerate and decadent. Greek and Roman cultures did this via slavery, in a world of magic that power take up much of the strain and lead to a more tolerant and leisure oriented society but magic-users are a limited resource and – as with most places in the world – cosmopolitan cities are likely to be more tolerant and understanding than isolated rural communities. Those looking for acceptance may well move to the cities, seeking that acceptance and leaving the smaller, more superstitious rural communities to wallow in their bias – a potential problem for unconventional adventurers seeking a place to rest in the wilds. Conversely, of course, cultures in hard circumstances may end up being more accepting, more interested in a person’s capabilities than anything else, unwilling to sacrifice a single member of the group and needing everyone to maximise their chances of survival.

Subcultures are also likely to have different ideas and beliefs. Arts communities have always tended to be more accepting – or at least willing to overlook – ‘aberrant’ behaviours and lifestyles and this is also true of nobility, clergy and (less so) of wealthy merchant classes. Power buys license and causes scandals to disappear and people to refer to differences as eccentricity, rather than treating them as a death sentence.

The stage, in particular in many cultures, has been a haven. In some cultures all stage actors – even those playing women – are men which provides a plae for those who like to dress and behave as women. Pantomime especially has traditions of women playing men and men playing women but men playing women was a tradition in Elizabethan theatre.

Class

As mentioned in culture, above, wealth and nobility or other forms of power are also excuses for aberrant behaviour: “They’re not like us.” There’s also the matter that being powerful almost invariably means being wealthy – or being able to access wealth and favours. Based on older editions, for example, a permanent magical sex change would cost at least 810 gold pieces, nearly seven and a half years of wages for a skilled hireling. Needless to say, a great deal of money for most people within the fantasy setting and means that adjusting ones gender (or appearance) to conform with ones wishes would cost – roughly – the equivalent of $100,000 USD. The only people with access to the money, and thus the ability, to be the way they want to be will be magicians themselves, nobles, clergy, merchants… and adventurers. That makes a hell of a motivation for a character.

Inspiration

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Hello boys!

Bridget, from the game Guilty Gear is a boy who was brought up as a girl, dresses as a nun and acts as a bounty hunter. Voted one of the most popular characters in the game, you could do worse than emulate parts of that character!

Pie’Oh’Pah, from Clive Barker’s Imajicca is an hermaphroditic non-human, an assassin with a fluttering ‘something’ between their legs that lets them be a lover as a man or a woman. A ‘mystif’, a sort of familiar, able to become something people love and trust and to use that to be an assassin. Pie carries a lot of weight from not fitting in and not being master of their own destiny. Perhaps a concept that can be adapted for a a doppelganger, changeling or shifter.

Orlando, the character created by Virginia Woolf (in part as a means to avoid scandal about writing about lesbianism) is an immortal who slowly changes from one gender to another over the course of the years. While the original is fascinating, for roleplaying purposes I would look to the version of the character created by Alan Moore and Kev O’Neill for the expanded timeline of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – which is far more accessible for roleplayers.

Tiresias of Greek mythology was transformed into a woman for seven years after attacking two mating snakes and displeasing Hera. Making the best of it and his/her gift of prophecy, Tiresias became – according to some versions – a much sought after prostitute before regaining his/her masculinity.

In the Mahabharata, the hero Aryuna takes on the persona of Brihannala and lives as a woman for some time, teaching dance and living amongst the maidens. Modern Indian culture may be conservative – and often misogynistic – but there is a rich past of sexual and gender mythology and traditions if you go looking for them and the Indian legends and mythology are criminally under-represented in role-playing.

Alfhild was, according to somewhat apocryphal writings, a shield maiden with her own viking fleet, ‘manned’ by women.

In the old west, Charley Parkhurst lived as a man, despite being a woman, so successfully as to have voted at a time when very few women (presenting as women) could. One eyed after being kicked by a horse, Parkhurst had a reputation as a great stagecoach driver and despite living as a man, had, had a child somewhen in their past. It’s a life that makes you wonder at the REAL reason John Wayne’s real name was Marion.

Dee Palmer from Jethro Tull would make an interesting model for a bard, and a hell of a life.

Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont was a spy, diplomat, soldier and chevalier (knight) in the 18th century who spent the last thirty years or so of her life as a woman. D’Eon was consistently and constantly frustrated in attempting to serve her country but a version of them as a character could overcome those roadbocks and would be well suited to game settings of a more clock/steampunk bent.

Roman Emperor/Empress Elagabalus – whose gender and orientation are the subject of some debate – gave precisely zero fucks about the Roman establishment, took huge amounts of lovers of all sexes, forced members of their court to worship the god they insisted on, rather than Jupiter and otherwise made Caligula look like Queen Victoria. Which was all very interesting and inspiring as a power play, up until they were assassinated by the Praetorian Guard, aged only 18. A genderfluid Justin Bieber if you will.

 

 

G&D: What Would My D&D Look Like? (Part One)

All this talk about 5th Edition D&D and the various ups and downs of older editions has my curious about what I might do if I were to redesign D&D according to my own particular whims and thoughts.

As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t come up through D&D and don’t have as much attachment to it, or its sacred cows, as many do. I don’t doubt that my version of the game – as I would go about making it – would lose a lot of people but I think it’s just an interesting exercise to see how, potentially, one might tackle the heritage and structure of The Daddy.

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Abilities

The central aspect that defines any character, guides their options, channels them into their class and most strongly describes who and what they are.

Abilities have traditionally been 3d6 rolls and spanning 3-18. Low statistics have given a penalty and high statistics a bonus. There have been complications like 18/00 and so on but really all it boils down to is the bonus/penalty. The actual statistic number has almost always been irrelevant (unless the GM improvised rolls against statistics) and, frankly, there’s no need for them.

Roll flat or roll and assign is probably the least complex way to go about things, point buy is good for making designed characters but some people like to play it hardcore and play what they roll and roll-and-assign makes a good half-way house for those who want some more control.

So, for the rolling of abilities I think I’d get rid of the score and just go by the bonus. That’s all you need. To get an averaging bell-curve in the statistics I’d want to use multiple dice but I think 2d6 works better than 3d6 for the spread – positive and negative – that we’re after.

2:    -5
3:    -4
4:    -3
5:    -2
6:    -1
7:   +0
8:   +1
9:   +2
10: +3
11: +4
12: +5

I think the statistics themselves are fairly good as a spread and their familiarity to people outweighs any real advantage in changing them. I might, however, be tempted to reinstate the Comeliness stat as a measure – purely – of the physical beauty or handsomeness of a character. I think it’s a useful RP aid, even though Charisma matters far more past a first impression.

Strength: Power in combat, oomph, carrying, breaking.
Dexterity: Ability to get out of the way of harm, speed, manual skill.
Constitution: Toughness, resistance to disease, ability to cope with harm.
Charisma: Charm, wit, warmth, trustworthiness.
Intelligence: Smarts, book learning.
Wisdom: Native cunning, thoughtfulness, depth.
Comeliness: Sex appeal, beauty.