Monthly Archives: April 2016
So, for some reason, if you tell some rpg players a character is lawful good, and that character is opposed to an oppressive system of laws that marginalize gnomes, there’s a subset of players who freak out because you aren’t being lawful. And if two lawful characters disagree on how to handle a tricky question of order, this is seen as a weakness of the alignment system, because it “doesn’t describe those characters properly.”
But if you tell a group of players your gnome has red hair, they normally don’t pause to ask if you mean crimson, or auburn. And if two gnomes have radically different red hair? Everyone is fine with that.
Alignment is a descriptor, not a straight-jacket. And that descriptor is a very, very simple description about some of the ways your character thinks. And because Pathfinder (and many games like it) present some non-real things like holy swords and manifest demons of carnage as rules you can interact with, those very simple descriptors are used to determine who the holy sword likes, who it hinders, and who is most damaged by the unholy aura of the demon.
But it’s still just a descriptor. And if you play someone with supernatural powers tied to how a god views you (for example), and the GM has decided the descriptor no long describes you, you may lose game powers.
But it’s still just a descriptor.
Game story time.
In the 1990s I ran a heavily-houseruled 2e D&D game. It wasn’t unusual for us to play haphazardly (coming up with a story for the character of whoever showed up, regardless of how much sense that made), and to play after a long day of people working, and to play until the sun came up.
In other words, we often played while punchy. Silliness could creep in.
In an example I remember well, I was running a game with just two players and three total characters – a wizard, a cleric, and a a paladin. They got stuck in an area with many small floating islands over a bottomless void, and needed to cross many, many chasms. After they used every spell, plan, and resource they could think of, they were still two chasms short. And we were all tired, And it was 7am, having played allllll night.
So the paladin’s player suggested she tie a rope to the cleric, swing him around her head with her 18/00 Strength (for those of you who don’t remember percentile Strength scores, that was really good – but not superhuman), throw him 120 feet over both remaining chasms, have him grab onto the far side, and then she and the wizard would jump into the void trailing the rope and climb up to him.
This was clearly a stupid plan. Throwing a fully armed and armored human 120 feet is not a reasonable feat of Strength, even for someone very strong. The world record for a 16 lb. hammer throw is only 284 feet, and that’s less than 10% of the weight and a record set by someone trained in using a well-balanced throwing item. I didn’t care. I wanted to go to sleep. So did the players. We all agreed this was reasonable, and it worked, and we ended the game session
And then we woke up, and thought about what allowing that bit of Looney Toons logic into the game meant.
When that group was next together, with additional friends, the story got told. A lot. And we all agreed it was sillier than we wanted that campaign to be.
The player who had the wizard suggested that maybe the pocket dimension they’d been escaping had been affecting their minds, and that even the characters knew that wasn’t ACTUALLY how the party had escaped. That was just the mass hallucination they had all shared.
This solved everything, and was adopted as campaign canon. The characters all remembered what we had played out, so we could reference it and talk about the rest of that game session before we got too goofy and should have stopped, but within the continuity of the world it was accepted as a hallucination. We decided not to play when that tired anymore, and the players didn’t feel like the game had become too silly for their tastes.
I try to keep this in mind whenever I am running a playing a game. Some games ARE that silly, all the time, and that’s fine if everyone is having fun. But adding something much sillier than the game’s norm into a campaign can make people unhappy, and generally it’s worth finding a ay to firewall that event from mainstream game continuity.
Sagani. A sagani is a mystic who has made a connection to the elemental powers, and attuned their soul to the four elements. This allows them to draw on elemental power and eventually even take on elemental forms. A sagani uses the hit dice, proficiencies, class skills, skill points per level, base attack, base saves, starting wealth, and starting age as a hunter. A sagani has spells per day and spells known as a bard and is a divine spellcaster. The sagani’s class spell list is comprised of all wizard elemental specialist spells, and all druid spells (which are treated as being one spell level higher than they are for a druid). At 1st level and every odd level thereafter a sagani gains a favored terrain or terrain mastery from the horizon walker class features. If at least 11th level the sagani may instead select a terrain dominance or the ranger abilities of camouflage or (if camouflage has been taken) hide in plain sight.
At 4th level, a sagani gains the ability to turn herself into an elemental back again once per day. The effect lasts for 1 hour per class level, or until she changes back. Changing form is a standard action and doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity. A sagani does not lose her ability to speak while in elemental form, and can automatically speak the elemental language connected to her elemental form (even if she doesn’t normally know it). A sagani can use this ability an additional time per day at 6th level and every two levels thereafter, for a total of eight times at 18th level. At 20th level, a sagani can use this ability at will. At 8th level, a sagani can choose to become one size category larger or smaller when assuming an elemental form. At 12th level, a sagani can choose to become two sizes larger or smaller when assuming an elemental form. At 16th level, a sagani can choose to become three sizes larger or smaller when assuming an elemental form. This acts as monstrous form I, II, or III (for modifiers based on size, without granting the abilities of any specific monstrous humanoid). The sagani builds its four elemental forms by gaining the base form of an unchained summoner elemental eidolon and adding the base evolutions of an eidolon of a summoner equal to the sagani’s class level. The base form does not gain any other evolutions. A sagani cannot cast air spells as an earth elemental (and vice versa), or fire spells as a water elemental (or vice versa).
The sagani gains no other class features. #QuickBaseClass
Empath (brd, drd, med, mes, occ, psy, shmn, wtch 3) As the emotion aura of the analyze aura spell, but requiring no concentration and applying to each creature within 30 feet of you for 10 minutes/level. Each creature receives a Will save when you first attempt to gain information from them with this spell, and on a success is immune to this spell from you for 24 hours.
#Spelltweets are quick, untested new spells created with minor but meaningful changes to existing spells.
You can focus on dealing additional damage with your weapons
Prerequisite: Ability to take feats requiring fighter class levels
Benefit: As a swift action, you focus your efforts on dealing additional damage with your weapons. For 1 round, your weapons deal +1 damage. Additionally, you may add one weapon damage type (bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing) to the damage done for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction. For every +5 base attack bonus levels you possess, this bonus increases by +1, to a maximum of +5 at 20th level.
#Microfeats are quick sketches of rules I am considering for possible use in a 3pp Pathfinder-compatible product, which may be altered, adjusted, or never make it into a final product.
*It’s 1982. My older sister and I are staying with my aunt and uncle for the summer while my parents go to Europe. I want my uncle to run D&D for us. My sister isn’t particularly interested in playing. I cajole. I beg. I pressure her into playing the game. She hates it. Despite being a brilliant part of fandom, she never touches rpgs ever again.
*It’s 1984. On another family trip, some older kids of friends of my parents invite me into their D&D game. It’s three other boys, and one girl. My character is encouraged by all the boys to rape the girl’s character – because they aren’t allowed to. I refuse, and get kicked out of the game, but tell no one. I don’t even remember their names anymore.
*It’s 1987. The woman who will someday be my wife recounts how her first game group sacrificed her first character to a volcano, then decided to gang-rape her character because their Twilight 2000 campaign got boring. She doesn’t play with them anymore. It doesn’t even occur to me that *someone* might play with them again.
*It’s 1992. At a live action RPG session, I am asked by still-underage women to stand in front of their tent while they change costumes, so they feel safe. I do. I feel good about myself. I don’t wonder why they don’t feel safe to begin with. I never investigate. I never try to find a way to make a safer environment,. I never even make sure there is someone they trust around in future games.
*It’s 1995. A woman tells me she doesn’t want to play in my paramilitary Hero System game anymore. I am offended. I let her know she is free to not play. I never ask why.
*It’s 1998. I get my first article published in Dragon Magazine. I feel great about it. A woman I know mentions she’s been trying to get published for three years, while I got published on my very first try. I assume it’s because I am better than her. I assume we exist on an absolute level playing field. I don’t even question that narrative in my head.
*It’s 2000. I write my first work as an employee of Wizards of the Coast. My manager calls me in. I have created a damsel-in-distress story. It’s clichéd and, worse, belittling. But he’s careful to make sure I know it’s good, and this is only a small concern. We change the gender of a single character. I’m annoyed my story won’t happen the way I saw it in my head.
*It’s 2002. I am running demos of Forbidden Kingdom at Gen Con. Two women come up and want to play together, but I only have one seat left at my table. There’s plenty of room. I refuse to seat them both. They leave the game room.
*It’s 2009. I’m part of Super Genius Games. I’m not even thinking about the art we use in our all-white, all-male game company, until someone calls us on it.
*It’s 2014. I’m developing an adventure. After I am done, an editor brings up that a major plot point concerns her. It’s super skeevy. She has to explain why.
She’s right. We change it.
I am sure there are scores of occasions where I was part of the problem that I don’t remember. Hell, in most cases I may not have noticed. And that’s a huge part of why this is such a big problem. I get to live in a safe version of the game world that the women who are my mentors, employers, colleagues, friends, patrons, and employees don’t.
And this is mostly a list of sins of omission, though that doesn’t make them any better. Like full-blown rapists, sexual abusers, and even common-variety bullies, the people who *actively* assault and harass women and minorities are amazingly good at knowing when they will, and won’t get away with those actions.
If you haven’t seen it that’s not because it’s not happening. It’s because they know to stay on the fringes of your vision.
Which means if you are actually dedicated to a safe and fair hobbyspace, not being an abusive asshole yourself isn’t good enough. You have to do more.