Tuesday, 6 September 2016

D&D's New Direction: Is It A Good Idea?

So, a recent speech (and series of tweets) have told us one of the new focuses that Wizards of the Coast is taking with 5e is to focus on Actual Play, rather than Adventure Paths and League Play (though both of those will still be major factors).

So why focus on watching how people play? Well, it provides something that APs and organized play simply don't - the actual experience of playing with friends.

If you've played an Adventure Path, you know how different running through one can be to just playing - while there's often a strong theme and a tightly woven story to follow, you kinda have to follow it - a lot of player agency and choice is either removed or subsumed into the existing plot. There's a pre-written story, and if you don't follow it, it's kinda pointless buying it, right? Don't get me wrong - there's some great materials in these adventures, and the fact that they are linked means you can get some really awesome set-pieces built off the actions that led to them, and allows new or busy DMs the chance to give players an immersive experience, with long-lasting consequences and tightly-woven plots. But it means leading players towards certain outcomes, whether through Batman Gambit levels of planning to get them to do what you want, or brutal railroading.

Organised play leagues suffer the same limitations - by ensuring that everyone who takes part gets the exact same experience, it ensures that GMs are constrained in their creativity, and players don't get the full spectrum of play that RPGs can provide. When you have ostensibly limited options masked by unlimited possibilities, you can't experience "true" freedom to play.

But now, WotC is apparently focusing on Actual Play - sharing and broadcasting live gaming, giving more focus to creativity and an open attitude towards not necessarily "pushing the brand". Sure, most of these are ostensibly using the latest D&D Adventure Path (Storm King's Thunder actually looks... pretty fun!), but their previous use of Zak S and the RPG Pundit during 5e's development, followed by Zak openly discussing how he hacks 5e apart for his game, by sponsoring podcasts with more adult humour (watch the Rooster Teeth games for an idea), and by the recent opening up of the DM's Guild for user-created content, you can see a move towards being more open and willing to see how the games are played, rather than trying to tell you how to play.

Is it a good idea? I don't know. I can see how it could be a great asset for them, and how it might allow the small team they currently have to get a better idea as to what players want, but I can also see it souring some of the types who use Adventure Paths exclusively, or who want a more organised experience.

Only time will tell how this turns out, but I'm optimistic!


Thursday, 18 August 2016

Let's Read: The Book of Erotic Fantasy: Chapter 2: Rules, Skills and Feats Part 1

Welcome back, friends, for a further investigation into what a mathematician's sex life must look like.

Chapter 2 (this is really taking a while) focuses on the mechanical aspects of sex in D&D. As if reading my mind, the first header here is "Rules? For Sex?" - apparently, you should only roll dice for sex when it's important to find out how good it was. It doesn't say why the quality of the sex might be important to a game, but it at least tells us sometimes you can just fuck and not roll dice.

We're introduced to the Appearance stat - a seventh 4d6-drop-lowest roll that determines how attractive your character is. A few skills become partially Appearance-based - Bluff, Gather Information and Intimidate can be used with either Charisma or Appearance.

Do you have to flash your pecs and perfect treasure-trail to intimidate some Orcs with your App?

Are you willing to deal with the fan backlash from breaking this guy's nose?
Weirdly, Disguise is now exclusively an Appearance skill. Surely being more attractive would make disguising yourself more difficult? Looks bring scrutiny, after all, especially when you're an 18 App demigod and everyone else is either a Half-Orc Barbarian with yet another dump stat or a shit-covered peasant!

There's a table which tells us that the average dragon is more attractive than the average Dwarf, which seems weird. And that the Will-O-Wisp, a featureless ball of light, has an App score of 20.

It's literally more attractive than any normal human. A fucking ball of light.
Censored for the prudish.
It seems to be low-hanging fruit to mention that the table for aging penalties to Appearance includes Juveniles getting a +2 bonus for being "cute". With the content of this book, that seems more than a bit inappropriate.

And everyone gets a -2 penalty to Appearance checks outside of their species - except Elves, because Mary Sue.

Sidebar: Appearance and Sexual Organs isn't about having an ugly dick, but says that due to personal preferences, being well-endowed doesn't give you a bonus to Appearance checks, and doesn't assure any skill in bed. No, that comes down to Perform (Sexual Techniques), a skill we still haven't got to. 

Then we get another list of creature types and notes about their average Appearance. It has an interesting bit where Constructs require specific DCs to make them attractive (e.g. DC 30+ to give a score of 16-17), and that rotting Undead are App 1 or 2 ("Which of these corpses would you rather fuck?") and that Vampires are generally "sexy". There's a lot of vampire love going on here, and this was well before Twilight, so we can assume that Lestat had an influence here.

Then we get Size and Sex, which features some interesting quotes - "A Halfling can use fellatio to pleasure an Ogre (or vice versa)"...
Just gonna leave this here.
But if you're trying anything with something a size category away from you, that's a -4 penalty to your relevant checks - which implies there's more to fucking than just Perform (Sexual Technique) rolls. And that makes me sad.

Next time, it'll be the real meat and potatoes - How To Sustain Sex, bedroom uses for existing skills, and of course, the STD table.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Big Update!

So, regular followers will know that I've done a lot of Microlite20 content - it's my preferred no-prep system, and I use it with any new group to gauge what kind of game they might be interested in.

Well apparently, that work didn't go unnoticed - Seth Drebitko decided to take me on as a partner, so now I'll be sharing my time between here and working on the next generation of M20 content!

We have a few really cool things in the pipeline, so keep your eyes peeled for new content coming from us!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Let's Read: The Book of Erotic Fantasy: Chapter 1, Part Three: Sex and Species

Our first chapter still has a lot of info to get through, so I'll get stuck straight into the next section – Sex and The Species, looking at (as one might guess) how the various species in a fantasy world might view sexuality.

It goes into detail regarding the “standard” sexuality for each of the Core races, with added details about pregnancy for these races. There’s nothing too exciting here, but there’s a lot to unpack. I’ll briefly summarise anything interesting:

Dwarves are so mired in tradition, there are “Dwarven Sex Manuals”, to show young (40 year old) Dwarves the accepted positions and techniques to use. (Now there's some good loot if ever I saw it...)

Elves are almost all bisexual.

Gnomes are apparently sex-toy maniacs, and see sex as way more fun than any other race.

Half-Elves are either too mature for Elves or slower to mature for humans, making puberty super awkward.

The half-orc entry makes some really unfortunate mentions of gay half-orcs sexually dominating their tribe-mates being the closest thing they get to acceptance.

And halflings are all polyamorous!

Humans are, as always, the most varied, blah blah blah.

This section also covers centaurs, doppelgangers (and their bizarre snake-like mating rituals), dryads (and their tragic single-target sexuality), giants, gnolls (with an amazing lack of mention of female pseudopenises), Goblinoids, Kobolds, Lizardfolk, merfolk, minotaurs, nymphs, orges, satyrs (total shaggers) and sprites.

Phew.

The book also makes mention of a few races (giantborn, felids, serpentines) who aren't common OGL creatures. I'd assumed these are races from other products by the same company (the way Green Ronin offers advice for adding their base classes into their other settings), but as it turns out this is Valar Project's only book.

Not that surprising.

It also gives a brief overview of the other creature types, like Aberrations, Elementals etc - which implies some things about druids (even though they said they wouldn't cover bestiality), introduces the idea of intellective necrophilia (i.e. banging a sentient undead like a Vampire), and gives a rather worrying foreshadowing in the Construct section:

"However, there is one type of construct, the pleasure golem, that is designed specifically for engaging in sex. See Chapter 6: Gods and Monsters for more information"

Well - I'm not sure if the idea of a Pleasure Golem or the fact there's a whole section dedicated to sex-monsters is worse. Let's cut our losses and say both. Both are worse.

Now I tend to avoid using the artwork from the book, but I couldn't resist sharing this piece of wonder:
1000 hours in MSPaint to keep things under control
Sidebars 
Intelligence & Sex – your min-maxed Half-Orc Barbarian with an Int less than 6? Not considered eligible in most societies for sex, apparently. It gives another tip to the idea that 10 times your intelligence score gives you a rough idea of IQ.

House of a Thousand Pleasures - describes a brothel with doppelganger prostitutes.

Next up, the section we can all use - Rules, Skills and Feats.

Joy.

Monday, 1 August 2016

The Isle of Dread - Remix Edition Part 1

So, my previous game has ground to a halt due to grown-up issues, so I'm going to try and get everyone back together, or replace those who can't continue, with a better schedule and a new campaign.

And what better way to start a new campaign than the Isle of Dread?

I do plan on changing things up a bit, and injecting a little weird into the game. After all, the module is left fairly open with regards to what's really going on - one of the best things about older modules, in my opin
ion. That level of openness and hackability makes it way easier to make the whole thing fit into your world, rather than modern modules where you lift encounters or basic plots and have to leave the rest.

I'll be using Blood & Treasure for the game, for a nice combo of new-school ideas and old-school charm.

For a start, let's make the Kopru more interesting AND give them a little more foreshadowing than "bad things on Taboo Island!"

Sunday, 31 July 2016

The Order of Nemesis

Image from Paizo
Paladins are holy warriors. The lead the charge against the enemies of their God, pushing back the grand forces of Chaos and Evil to the edges of civilisation, hoping one day to wipe it out entirely.

They are shining beacons of righteousness and hope to all.

Except the little people.

When the Paladins stroll through town, they ask about demonic invasions, Orc warband movements, or the doings of the Evil Overlord next door. While dealing with Capital Letter Chaos and Evil, they rarely have the time to ask about corrupt landlords, abusive spouses, or uncaring madams, and even if they do, they simply dont care about these minor doings in the grand scheme of Evil.

But The Order of Nemesis cares.

Dedicated to an ancient Goddess (Nemesis, Lady Vengeance, She), considered heretical by most of the faiths of the land, The Order is made up of those who will not stand by and watch the innocent suffer. Recruited from the lowest rungs of society to protect those who can't protect themselves, they are the Grey Guardians of many a city - even if their presence is passed off as simply superstition.

Recruits are taken from those who are wronged and wish for only one thing - revenge. Once She hears their prayers, they awaken one day with an oily, grey dagger under their pillow, and a message in their hearts.

Go seek your vengeance, my Child.

If they go through their retribution, they are inducted into The Order soon after, donning no uniform bar a grey cloak and their dagger.

The Order of Nemesis always has its ear to the ground - seeking out corruption and evil in the lowest parts of society, and providing revenge for those who cannot seek it themselves. They can make excellent allies, willing to share information to take down a high-priority target, or fierce enemies if you managed to wrong someone under their protection.

Order of Nemesis Code of Honour

  • Protect those who cannot protect themselves
  • The lowest of Men deserve the same as any other
  • Any crime against the weak must be avenged
  • No man is beyond Her reach - not even Her Children
  • Forgiveness is weakness
In game terms, the Order is made up of Assassins. In systems where Assassins gain spells, they may choose spells from either the Assassin or Paladin spell lists. While they have to be at least Lawful, most are Lawful Evil.