Sunday, September 25, 2022

Nintendo Switch and Breath of the Wild part 1


A portable console? I never really felt I needed one. My early progression was Nintendo consoles (I had one about when Super Mario 3 came out in the early 90's), to Genesis, to PlayStation, to PlayStation 2, and on to being an XBOX guy with the 360 and now to the latest XBOX. . 

In recent years when away from home I was happy to play Poker on my iPhone or iPad when the moments were free. For about 10 years I have loved to play Governor of Poker, a great app. I started with 2, and they are on GOP 3 the last few years. In 2 you just played the computer AI, but 3 introduced playing with people from around the world. It actually seems to encourage trash talking and flirting. Fun for quick 10-minute breaks. 

And hell, I don't find the time to play on my consoles as much as I would like. It was the rare game that had me playing more than a couple hours a week. But there were great loves that had me going 6 hours a week or more. Final Fantasy 7. The Resident Evil games. Fallout 3. 

But in recent times I have been watching a lot of G4 and IGN and other video game related channels, content on Pluto TV streaming. Most of the programs are years old (besides G4 which is on a relaunch year, and just laid off most of their office and on camera people, including the odious FROSK), but I still like to watch. Nobody talks much about the Nintendo Switch lately, but it did come out half a decade ago. But the content on some of these channels is years old. And this year I have seen a lot of talk about Switch, albeit, again, from a few years ago. And some of these older bits included one of my current favorites, Scott the Woz

Scott does pretty funny little video game review and history skits, and I became a fan right away. And Every year since the Switch came out, he does a segment on it based on its existence up to that time. And this went a long way to perk my interest enough to nab my own Switch. 

So then came the long road the last several months of getting one. Yeah, I hemmed and hawed with myself. I'm not broke or anything, but with a couple games and a couple years of Best Buy Geek Squad replacement was well or 400 bucks. But I worked hard, at a hospital, during the height of the pandemic when most of my county sat home on their asses collecting fat Biden bonus Unemployment checks, and felt I needed to start rewarding myself.

Regular versions were around. But I wanted the OLED, which has a bigger screen and couple other nice upgrades. Better speakers and such. But the OLED had to be ordered. It is a popular version, there was a shortage due to pandemic demand and chip shortages (thanks again, Sleepy Joe!), and this was something I needed to impulse buy. I'm not going to wait a week and a half. 

This went on forever. But then it got a little better. Just a three- or four-day delay. I can have it by the weekend? Fuck yeah! I hit "buy." 

I was excited when it showed up. I wish I had done an unboxing video or something. But you can still watch one. 

Yeah, easy as pie. In less than a half hour I had a couple games downloaded. One was a scroller I had admired from afar for a couple years. It was Cuphead, a run and shoot side scroller that featured characters straight out of nightmarish old 1930's toons. It was originally a little indy game but got popular fast and you can find it in places like the XBOX game pass. And of course, in the Switch shop.

I got Cuphead to have a basic little game that does not need a big screen TV to enjoy (although it looks awesome on my 60 inch). This is what I would most likely play on a park bench or hotel room. But my epic game to enjoy at home would be the game most people buy the Switch to play. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Because I have a lot to say about this open world solo game, I'm going to do a part 2 about that in particular. But just a few words about the fun of the Switch console itself.

Less than half the size of my iPad, it seems weird to think of it as a console. But that is what it is. Unlike your iPhone or iPad, it is designed purely for gaming. And it seems a powerful little thing. 

The Switch surely gets the name for all the switching up you can do. First and foremost, the big feature is the portability of play, so out in the field you will play with the "joy Con" controller bits attached. 

When you slide the joy Cons in, you get a satisfying electronic "snap" sound. 

And when you want to play on the telly, you stick your console into the docking station where the HDMI cable goes to the TV. 

The dullest color pics I could find

When docked you stick your little joy Cons into the "grip, and viola you have a little controller. You can actually do this when not linked to the TV. The Switch unit has a kickstand so you can set it on a table.  The joy Con grip combo is fairly sturdy and does the job well, although if you desire the usual controller size that you are used to on other consoles you can actually get a variety of separate controllers. 

I may just get a basic controller if for no reason other than I play 90% of the time on my TV so far. I have travelled very little with it. I have used the console on its own usually kicking back on a Sunday to play Cuphead, a game that works well for a small screen. The joy Cons themselves have no battery, but the last a few hours when charged, and when attached to the console they are always charging. The Switch unit itself seems to hold a very good charge. 

Breath of the Wild? Well, it's a big, beautiful world in there. And such works best on a big screen. But I've had some moments with it off the big screen. You can get hundreds of games for Switch, but Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the big monkey in the room when it comes to this console. And I'll talk about my experience with it next post. 


Friday, September 16, 2022

Are many (most) RPG content creators struggling with mental illness?


Since I sort of abandoned older edition D&D in order to actually find players with ease, I don't spend much time looking at forums or old school blogs. The last few months I have invested most of my game related time trying to improve my knowledge and skill with Roll20. And since most of my online group are Roll20 and 5th ed experts who have had patience with my shortcomings, I've probably improved about 3% or so each session. 

But I do look around what still passes for OSR. Sometimes at things that are informative, and sometimes things that are dumpster fires. So I learn little bits of info on some of the OSR's more, um, unique individuals. But a blog I have looked at here and there the last few months is Tenkar's Tavern, run by former New York policeman Erik Tenkar. Unlike a lot of OSR stuff I peek at, Tenkar doesn't interest me in a "here's an oddball to have a larf at" way. He seems to be more about news. And to a large degree, showcasing bad behavior among the ranks of bad actors who are trying to get paydays from the gaming scene. 

My interest in the old school has for sure waned, but I still have some. So, this seems a place where you can get info on that, and maybe even look at videos here and there on the subject. For instance, I think it was the first place I heard about the whole Satine Phoenix/Jamison Stone fiasco. 

I'm on the Discord for the blog, and it's a rare case where I interact with gamers who are not my players from time to time. I do my best to not "get into it" with anybody. I'm not doing the act in the OSR I was doing over 10 years ago where I was taking a "Howard Stern" approach to things. But something I wrote that I thought was fairly mild got me into it a bit with a regular there who apparently a content creator and is schizophrenic, in their own words. 

Some time ago I saw a bit somewhere that included a blurb by James Raggi, on his Facebook if I recall, where the Lamentations of the Flame Princess creator wondered why anybody would clean their toilet. Sort of "I mean, you shit into it right? Why have it clean?" So I brought it up in the Discord in relation to an upcoming interview with JR, and said he should be questioned about it. 

I have a couple of friends in Berkley who are roommates, and once when I was staying over one weekend, I went to put some leftover Chinese in the microwave, and it was a sight to behold. Gross is the best word. The debris of a couple dozen exploded bowls of soup and marinara was caked and baked into it. Hanging from the ceiling like stalactites.  Long story short, I ate cold Chinese. 

Did I say anything about it? You bet. To this day. "You guys have much younger, cute girlfriends. For that alone would you not clean it from time to time?" It's mostly a joke, but also a WTF? And certainly, they could have cleaned the toidy a bit as well. I don't know that any of it is out of mental illness, but they are folk musicians, so..

I have to admit I have let the john go for a couple weeks, mostly when I knew nobody would be visiting (I don't tolerate drop-bys). I'm not a clean freak by any means, though a little germophobic. So keeping it, or the kitchen sink, or whatevers clean is half my own notion of how I want to live, and half me not wanting anybody to think I'm a fucking slob. On the weekend if I am in town I work the bathroom, the kitchen, and other spots that go to hell very fast. It's just how I want to live. And there weren't always little birdies floating around me like Snow White. I've done it at times I was unhappy as hell. But at some point you just bite the bullet and get off your ass. But in my case, sure, I am probably a little OCD.

And that is where my comment came from. I don't just assume everybody has mental illness. Unless being kind of a slob is automatically a form of mental problem. We want to tag things nowadays, and sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it does not. But clearly here, though mocking for sure, I wasn't thinking I was making fun of somebody who had mental illness and had lost all touch with humanity and could not take 3 minutes to avoid having a cesspool in their home. No more than me giving pals shit for their lack of microwave cleanliness. 

But then, suddenly, anger in a comment thread:

Regular: You're not punching down on the mentally Ill, are you? I turns out people who create imaginary worlds that few people play are likely to have some degree of mental difference.

So here for the first time I heard somebody say the person I was goofing on a bit was mentally ill. I for sure never thought of it that way. Unless just somebody seeming a bit of a slob and an oddball is to be taken as mental illness. But now I'm not so sure. And even more importantly, most DM's create imaginary worlds that few people play. So, am I mentally ill?

Regular: Ho"How many books have you published? How many hours to you spend working in isolation?"

OK, he went on to say that he was schizophrenic, and he was clearly upset. In my defense I never heard about situations that were mentioned, such as Raggi laying naked in the snow lamenting his life. But long and short I apologized if I triggered anything (and Tenkar came in to defuse things a bit) and the conversation moved on to Critical Role or some such. 

Am I lacking empathy as one comment from the guy had claimed? I don't think so, again mental illness was not on my mind when I joked about the toilet. I for sure have empathy in lots of situations where folk are disabled. Mostly physically so. I have an older brother in a wheelchair over a decade. So for sure I relate to things with empathy. I almost got in fights with pricks who I saw parking in handicap spaces. I run to help open doors or get things off the shelf at the supermarket. When my parents got very old, I suddenly was very sympathetic to the elderly. But these are things I can relate to as it affected my family. Hell, my oldest brother was a raging alcoholic at 13 years old. I spent decades watching him struggle with booze and pills. For me personally there were times in my life I maybe should have had some help. As a teen my breakup with my first sweetheart was devastating. It probably affected my relationships the rest of my life in at least some small ways (I avoided marriage like the plague). And in my life my weight has gone up and down. I've always been very active, and when I have an accident or an injury that keep me immobile and out of the gym and off the mountain bike for a time, I start to pork up. But is that a mental or a physical thing? I guess it's all complicated.

One of my favorite sayings is "there but for the grace of god go I." But an even greater quote is by, I think, Abe Lincoln "many times in life I have been driven to my knees by the overwhelming conviction I had nowhere else to go. 

One of my best local friends was in Afghanistan. I knew that a few months ago when he and my other bestie, his wife, came over for boardgame night and I had Squid Games on. The "Red light Green light" segment, where a big crowd of innocent people are helpless shot at when they move and dozens of heads are shown with bullets blasting through them. He muttered "wow, pretty violent." I asked him if it was bothering him. "Yeah." I shut it right off. I still feel bad about it. I remember the year before going to their place one night and making them watch Kickass, one of my favorite movies. It had dozens of heads and faces being blasted to bits (mostly by a little girl). I never noticed it bothered him then. But now I know. He's not a wimp by any means. But he saw action in a fucked-up place. Saw friends gunned down or blown up. It doesn't matter that he goes hunting every year and blows the shit out of deer and whatnot. It bothers him to see people blown to bits. Now I know. Understanding. 

I have empathy. I guess just like me not assuming Raggi's toilet ponderings were just the thoughts of a "weird" dude and not a sign of true trouble, the upset guy with schizophrenia on the Discord just assumed I ran around "punching down" on folk with mental problems. I wasn't, at least not intentionally. Long ago I stopped being in road rage situations. I realized that you never know what somebody is going through. That they might be acting out from a place of desperation. They say depression is anger turned inward. That rings true. That was a long time ago, but it was a great decision. Don't assume. No more fistfights on the roadways. 

I still think joking about somebody not wanting to clean the toilet is fairly mild as far as insults go. A little mockery can be inspirational. Get called fat a lot and you might try to lose weight. I dunno. I can learn new tricks. I was fairly jokey about transgender people most of my life. As a teen I was a Culture Club fan, but then still called Boy George "Thing George." Some years later I saw footage of him publicly fucked up on heroine, and at that point just saw a person in trouble. Perhaps still slightly homophobic (I never wanted anybody to come to harm despite my mild discrimination) later in life, in the couple of years before I left Southern California, I became friends with a transgender neighbor. She was the first person to call me when I moved to a new state to see how I was. It all birthed new perspectives. 

Anyway, the cherry on top is that within an hour or two of the postings, Tenkar went on camera and spoke out on it. 

Mental Health and the OSR - Just How Prevalent Are Mental Challenges in Our Community? - YouTube

Now, you can't attack the message. He's a sincere guy, and it all has merit. Again, I just thought I was joking about a slobby metal head. I've known a few of them. And punk rock was my teens. I've seen lots of horrible toilets in some domiciles, and I never went to depression or mental illness as the cause. 

But as far as so many RPG creators having real mental issues, I don't have to think too deeply for it to start making sense. I think this hobby, especially the older school inhabitants of it, do tend towards things that I thought of as just "weirdo" and it maybe was much further than that. As Tenkar alludes to at one point, there can be degrees of it. And like most thinking people I have had my bad moments. And months. Maybe even years. Like a lot of people. Most people. 

So maybe I can be less "jokey." At least among strangers. There are a lot of oddballs in the OSR, but there often may be more to it. Hell, maybe I'm one of them. 

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Roll20 in-game chat makes me feel like a Twitch streamer


So, I think we are going on game 15 in my regular Wednesday night 5th ed game in Roll20. I could not be more pleased with how things are going. Despite almost everybody having more 5th ed and Roll20 experience than me, I have yet to lose a single player due to my shortcomings. I'd like to think its my old schoolish style and over 40 years of experience as a DM. But whatever it is I love this group. Good role players, respectful, friendly, funny, patient. It's all there. I may never have a group like this again, and it makes me want to get the most of it. 

One thing that is really awesome to me is the in-game chat box. I did not pay much attention to it for my first few games. But something it has come in really handy for is posting a spell or ability you are using, official text on the particulars. The player simply has to click on it in the digital character sheet and the spell or what not appears in the chat for me to look over. This along with the in-game compendium searcher has made it so I don't really need any books or paperwork at the table. And I use this as a learning tool as well. After a session I have one last beer (or three) and go over the chat box to bone up on the spells and things. 

And once I got in the habit of checking, I discovered something else the players are furtively doing there. They have an ongoing text chat during each session where they comment and discuss or make jokes on the current encounter or occurrence. You see, I'm too busy to always have that chat box open. When somebody makes a dice roll, I look quickly because that is where the modified number shows up. But I'm usually doing 5 things at once. 

But those chat comments. It's a special treat for me to go in after a game and see what the little dickens have been up to there. It's kind of a hoot, and a new thing I am experiencing, and extra pleasure, I never had in face-to-face games.

So, I'm not streaming, but this little feature makes me feel like I am. And it's yet another thing making me feel, more and more, that this is the format for me to DM in for good.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Into the Forest Primeval - game inspiration out in the wild

 A little over 3 years ago I moved to the Northwest, where there is a lot of outdoorsy activities you can indulge in, much of it among mountains, trees, rivers, and lakes. Sadly, I don't take as much advantage of it as I should. But I have gone on occasional hikes, bike rides, and even fishing right across the street (I live right next to a beautiful river). 

But this last week I found myself on a four-day weekend in the deepest woodlands of Mendocino, where giant trees block out the sun and bears will straight up scratch your vehicle up if you leave food in it. 

Every year a lot of my friends in Northern California attend the weeklong music camp called Lark in the Morning. It's been around forever. After decades of going there and taking workshops, some of my best friends are actually now teachers there. Me? Well, a long weekend in the wilderness is enough for this city boy. And that's what I did. One of the gals in the scene (the same person who turned me on to Digital Talisman on Steam the other year) decided to do a long weekend in one of the camps since Lark was once again cancelled over Covid. So she hand-picked 50 people to attend, and I was one of the lucky campers even though I was NOT a Lark person. 

It was wonderful, because some of my oldest and best friends were there, most of them part of the inner circle fraternity within our long time Ren Faire music troupe along with me. But new friends were there for the making as well.

So, after a few hours on the road you get to Mendocino, a sleepy coastal town that always seems to have cool air and wispy fog. Most of my drive was in 100-degree weather, but in Mendo it plunged to the mid 60's. Wow. So into the camp, an area that can accommodate over 100 people, so it was roomy. 

Man, the trees. Big looming trees. They blocked out much of the sun. The 4-person tent cabin (that I had to myself) was eternally dark inside. Even at high noon you needed a flashlight to see in it. 

Showed up in the parking area, and some of my besties were tailgating. Hugs all around. Feeling the love. There were world musicians all over the place. There was a small dining hall with a fireplace, and a big kitchen, and besides the showers and bathrooms it was about as luxurious as it gets. Lots of great music and walking down memory lane with my best and closest friends. 

In the woods you might just get the
chance to cavort with a half elf bard.
Bards dig the Run DMC look...

As a DnD person I of course immediately started getting inspired by the mountain forest. Just to get to the very secluded camp, you spent about 40 minutes going up a narrow dirt road with a big plunge on one side, going as slow as you need to. Then you go down into deep wilderness. 

A lot deeper than it looks. I imagined if my SUV 
went over the edge, I'd get bounced around like
a Pinball machine ball in the way down. 

The campground was great, with lots of space. And you park right next to the big honking, sun blocking trees...

With a fairly small number of folks, I got my own tent cabin, designed to sleep 4 happy campers. 

Behold "The Love Dart Lounge"

At one point I heard a thump of something bouncing off the tent, and discovered my first ever Banana Slug.

But music was what the weekend was about, and the bardic inspirations did not disappoint...

So eating, drinking, smoking, and making merry (i.e. hitting on the hippy chicks) was the order of the day (and night).

And the coffee was flowing 24/7 for when you needed a break from beer and wine.

That mug I DONT need... 

But again and again, my mind would flash to D&D stuff. What would it be like to travel through a forested mountain wilderness like this? Without the comforts of clearings with tables, a dining hall and kitchen, and showers? 

And really, one of my favorite "encounter in the wilds" image always comes to my mind in such situations.

When I'm in the forest, or just driving over the Sierras, I always think of that giant among the trees. It's a spectacular image.

Really, the nice long weekend was about music and friends, but it doesn't hurt your D&D Heart(tm) to get some of the wilderness inspiration for your games when you are in it. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Roll20 Voice & Raised on Radio

Okay, okay, stay with me for a minute. It'll make sense. I hope. 

I had an epiphany about my Roll20 DMing lately, and one of the problems I seemed to have conquered. That is, the adapting to voice only after decades of having a table full of folk looking at me. 

I decided to skip using camera for the most part because I might find it distracting. In a different way than actually be in front of people physically. I just knew from various Zoom meetings for work or whatnot that seeing each other was not necessary.  

Adapting to having a narrative happen with just my voice had some challenges. For one it turns out I like to gesticulate and make hand gestures and such when I am describing things in a game. So I have a hard time of breaking that habit when nobody can see me. And I've had to change a lot of my process to adapt myself to being descriptive without using my body at all. Sometimes in the last couple of campaigns on Roll20 I would think "why would anybody do it this way?" 

But I somewhat recently realized I loved doing it in this format so much so that I pretty much consider myself retired from face-to-face DnD. For a lot of reasons, but in large part I think because I remembered the power of radio DJs. And how memorable the ones I grew up with in Southern California are still for me to this day. And why. 

The first DJ I can remember from when I was a little kid was LA staple The Real Don Steele. 93 KHJ was the most listened to station, and though nobody knew what he looked like, for locals, he was a bigger celebrity than anybody in the movies. That's the power of local radio. You feel like you know them. 

One of my favorite Tarantino films is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and one of the reasons I love it is the soundtrack is a tribute to Don Steele in a way his location work was a tribute the LA I inhabited as a child. He's practically a side character, as Brad Pitt drives down Burbank Blvd with Don Steele introducing songs and commercials. It sort of blew my mind. At one point a commercial for a shampoo or something called "Heaven Sent" plays on the radio, and I flashed back to infancy. I immediately remembered the commercial with the catchy tune. I got chills hearing it. As a kid when the TV wasn't on, the radio was on, and I must have heard the commercial a hundred times before I could tie my shoes. It was a powerful nostalgia feeling. I had to be only like 5 or 6 at the oldest when that commercial was a thing. 

And that is the power of the voice of radio. What is another power? Well, you get such an image of your mind of your favorite DJ, you get blown out of the water when you see they look nothing like you imagined.

I swear to God I always though
Don Steele was a black guy. 

It seems that every 10 years or so you get new DJ's. In the 80's we loved World Famous KROQ, and we always imagined the radio station being like a circus or something, where Devo or Elvis Costello might just be hanging out in the hallway. Richard Blade, Poor Man, Swedish Eagle, Rodney Bingenheimer, and others just seemed be magic. 

Mark and Brian were huge in LA in the late 80's and into the 90's. I'm kind of ashamed of being such a fan. They were such dorks. I remember me and a buddy going before work to some stunt at the Culver City station they were doing live. Getting lifted by a crane and dipped in fudge, and we all got M&Ms to throw at them. It was like a wild rock scene. All these hot young secretaries and retail clerks where there too, screaming like Springsteen had showed up. These guys were huge but looking back I don't think they were that funny. By the late 90's I was like "boooring..and they are just ripping off Stern." But man, the magic of radio. Of just hearing the voices. And they talked about things I Loved that they grew up on. Batman, Gilligan's Island, The Munster's.

The fucking mullets were not
all that magical. 

OK, the point is as soon as I started thinking about the power in a radio voice, the mystery of it, I saw the advantage of it in a D&D campaign using just voice. You start getting comfortable with it and do things with it. To be more articulate and descriptive. No flailing hands needed. Though, uh, I still gesticulate. No need to eliminate it really, as long as your voice is conveying what is needed. 

The mystery of radio is the mystery of a faceless voice. And I feel I am starting to harness that mystery. The DM is an omnipotent presence. Eliminate the body and I feel you can tap into that in a way you cannot when the group can see you sucking down the beers while wearing a Rick and Morty T shirt. 

As an aside, another great thing for me is the mute button. I have a tendency to interject a lot when players are talking among each other in character. So that button is a great way to censor myself. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Hey kids! More Game Sex!


Not that I am in a salacious state of mind or anything, but after posting about male players and their D&D their character sex lives, I was thinking of some other situations in games related to females and their female characters in my games. I mean, their characters are fully capable of seeking romance, and sometimes they do. 

IMO though, there is a big difference between male and female players, and that may reflect real life to some degree.   For the guys make believe relationships aren't goal number one. It about their whatever getting their "jimmy" "copped." For female players I found that since my earliest days, it's about relationships and often marriage. 

It was usually around 95% of the time with NPC's. Sure, the were very often sort of stand out, heroic NPC's that they met, or were around for whatever reason. But I remember in a campaign around 10 years one of my players characters, a female fighter who grew up with lots of brothers in a military family, had met a somewhat non-descript soldier NPC in the course of the campaign and dated him briefly before heading in the underdark for The Night Below. During the course of that, the characters found a deck of many things. A couple of them got wishes, including this female character. What happened next was baffling, humorous, and controversial among the other players (who did not learn about it till way later); she used her wish to have the NPC she fancied propose marriage when she saw him again. Awesome. Some might call this daft, some might call it great role-playing. I'm the DM so I can have no opinion. I do not judge.

It can come from some unexpected places. A few short years ago when I first moved into town I met "B and L," who wanted to do some D&D and were looking for a DM and group to get together. B had some 1st edition experience from the military, and L had zero DnD experience. Well, within a year or two they had become my besties. This younger couple pretty much adopted me. In large part because I was in a new town where I didn't know anybody, it was a godsend. 

That Xmas Day they invited me over 
for booze, food and boardgames. I otherwise 
would have been home alone on the XBOX,
or in a casino. BTW after spending a holiday
alone on video games or in a casino I like to 
have a good cry. Kind of a tradition. 

But anyway, we got this little face to face group going. "L" ran a half orc fighter, Emen. 

One of very few female half orc images
that don't just look like a full orc.

L had no RPG experience, was not a heavy role-player as far as her character, but one thing stood out fairly quick about her. She fancied an NPC and went after her.

OK, here it gets complicated. So I was using The Lichway. It was an eventual destination. But in this go around I had Dark Odo and her gang, a staple of the module, and had them in the city where they met the other characters at a party held by the PC party's rich patron. Just to relieve the fact that all these unconnected groups "just were" in The Lichway, I thought I would expand upon them. Give more gravitas and make it have some sense. So Most of the inhabitants listed in Lichway were at this party. Odo's gang, the four thieves encountered there, etc. They would all hear about Lichway, and most would go there prior to the party doing it. So there was some method to the madness therein. Just a new approach to the dungeon denizens.

One of Odo's gang in the material was Runis. A female chaotic evil fighter. I changed her up a bit. I toned down the alignment to neutral. I had her obsessed with using a variety of weapons (I think because in the Lichway she had a bunch of weapons). And I also had her be a Sandlander from the module, one of this race that once ruled the area but now exist in small villages in smaller numbers. Runis was convinced by Dark Odo that as one of the last pure blood Sandlanders she could help her become a ruler in the area. 

Anway, as she was a beach-grown person, I gave her light colored hair and a build like a pro volleyball player. The material also described Sandlanders as "Dour," so I included that in the image search. Here is what I found:

"Dour?" Check. 

Emen moved in on her, and the dice responded favorably. I found this fascinating. Not only was L not a deep role-player by any means, but I saw no indication that L herself liked the ladies in any fashion. Though it's true, I've only known her like three years now. But this, to me, was a stand out moment of role-play. That she cared enough for her character to get into a relationship with another shows that she at least cared about the "story." Anway, when the campaign ended Runis and Emen (after some tension in the Lichaway as they were in opposing groups) were living together in the big city. 

I really don't know how much of this happens in other groups. I have mostly run for private groups and don't interact with the outside gaming world much. But in the 90's when I was almost exclusively running for groups made up of people I already knew well, the potential for sex among the characters was probably easier to digest. 

Though through Roll20 I am coming across more people, strangers, than ever before, and as described in my last post things got a little hot and sexy with a male character and a female NPC. And all my players, male and female, got a kick out of some of the humor that came from that. A situation I can't wait to see more of in coming days. Most of the other characters either distrust or outright hate this NPC. Will he succumb to player-on-player meta-peer pressure? The Discord is chock full of derision for him getting with her. 

But outside of all that, and to put a cap on this, I will say that the most important thing to me is that I run an adult game for adults. I want there to be adult trappings along with all the high fantasy. So, when these adult things happen in my games, I'm always glad and consider it a good sign.

Not counting that bard player mentioned last post
who made me feel like a pimp for PC's.



Friday, July 8, 2022

When a Player Character (and sometimes the player) gets Laid


In my experience over the decades, all the way back to my teens, one thing seems a constant. Most male players running a male character (or even a female character run by a male in some cases) find it important for their character to get sex. Sure, they can be a Conan type and just throw some coins and gems at a strumpet and go to town. But it seems like kind of a big deal. Sometimes as important to the player as them getting laid personally. I don't know if it has anything to do with lots of D&D dudes traditionally being "incel," though a decent number of D&D wonks of my generation have had marriages and children and all that (personally I'm a long-avowed hedonist; I have two older brothers who had kids and that didn't always look like fun to me). 

An example here, one I experienced for almost 10 years. The host of my last group in my hometown up to around 4 years ago, ran a bard in a long campaign of mine where I used the great Night Below module, and beyond. These characters were played long enough to hit higher level, which is rare for me. So here is this bard character, with a name that should be emblazoned in my mind but I just cannot remember (my brain is pretty good at healing from trauma. Or maybe its just early onset dementia) the name. Anyway "horny bard" was constantly on the make. The player put a lot of his focus on the character getting nookie. And what can you do? If a character is flashy and has a good charisma, you have to let the chances be there. Well, I guess you don't. But I run a game that I like to consider heavy on the emergent (love that word), and where possibilities are open. So I let the dice with modifiers be my guide. 

But whatever it is, I didn't always like it. I had to be "OK, look dude, we don't need to go into more than the basic description of what is happening. I'm not the actual NPC girl, you dig?" It was all in good fun, with a nice dash of "whatevs," but honestly as time wore on in this campaign, I felt like a pimp for this player character. 

But that really isn't often the case. Besides the aforementioned Conan style whoring, if you run a game where you allow role-play to pan out a bit, relationships happen. Maybe between a PC and an NPC, and maybe a bit more rarely (in my game anyway) a couple of characters hook up. It can go to extremes. Such as any girlfriend I have playing in my games from my late teens to my early 20's. If one of my NPC's hooked up with one of a GF's characters, well, that is a bit more in the way of intimate possibilities. I mean, a bit of role-play happening at night when the game is over and everybody is gone is something I experienced a bit of, and I'm sure I'm not alone there. And when I was around 20 there was about as an extreme example as you are going to get. 

I had two gaming friends who had started college at UCLA. So we had a game at their large dorm apartment. Them, me, and another friend of mine. And my GF at the time I think. We all knew each other from the year or so before at Santa Monica College and all of us had played together many times. All except this other girl present I didn't know. She was a super cutey, and she wanted to play. A couple hours into the game, it was clear she was flirting hard with my non-UCLA buddy "K," and he was responding to it. This girl was staying with the two UCLA guys. She was a student there, but something happened where she got tossed out of her place, and they were letting her stay a few days. They made it clear why they were doing that to me a day or two later when I asked about their behavior. They wanted a shot at her. Keep in mind these were some pretty nerdly dudes. Like Revenge of the Nerds level, more or less. But even at that age I found it kind of shitty that they were letting a gal stay there in hopes of hitting it. It was a different time.

Honestly, they didn't look much different than this. 

Anway, the flirting was going on in character, and it evolved into the real deal. K and the hottie adjourned upstairs to the spare room before the game was even over. I was loving it, but my other pals weren't feeling it. Though I was over the moon. Me and my pal K had a song from the great film Twins we sang to the other when we were making time with a gal:

Jealousy is a powerful emotion. An old man on a barstool (where I got all my best young advice) once told me "Jealousy is like being seasick. You think you are dying and everybody else is laughing."

One of the guys went upstairs and weirdly put a lit candle in front of the door. Maybe a Catholic curse? But it soon escalated to the door getting kicked in and the loving was broken up. It was for sure a ridiculous situation, but I guess it shows an extreme case of what I am talking about. It coming into real life. But boy oh boy, how often has something like this happened. For me, at the time, I was all like "I must be the greatest DM of all time." But of course, if that was true, I'd have been the one upstairs bringing sexy back. 

FYI I was only friends with the UCLA nerds another year or so, while King K is a bestie to this very day. 

But OK, why am I posting about this? Well, in this last Wed night session, some sexy got brought back. Uh, in game, not in real life. Now that I have retired from face to face to do Roll20, the odds of hookups are a bit light.

The fight with goblins was over from the previous game, and all that was left was to pick up the pieces and head back to town. The player of the Shadow Elf ranger was hit with Covid, so he was out. As I think I mentioned in a previous post, he was kind of a murderous mind about killing Relanis and Demul, a couple of ladies who had more or less "Stanned" (stalked) the party since game one. Though all the characters were suspicious (Especially Callie, the cookie making village girl, who seemed to be in large part the focus of the "Odd Couple's" attentions). But even though they had recruited the characters to explore some nearby caves with them, Mr. Shadow Elf ranger seemed to be close to drawing his blade to slay them, especially the albino dwarf Demul, who had the ability to raise dead with a flute and seemed obsessed with doing it whenever possible (Shadow Elf has a hatred for undead, and thus a hatred for her). 

You would think this was right 
up a Shadow Elf's alley.

But he had to miss the game, so the Odd Couple were not in much danger really. But when returning to town I had Relanis be afraid that Shadow Elf was lurking around waiting to kill them. So she used her most powerful weapon to gain a guard for the night. She asked Zip the young fighter (who grew up with Callie in a small village) to walk her to her room. How could he resist? And how could he resist her slow seduction in the boarding house room when she had him take off his shirt so she could use a washcloth to get some goblin blood and mud off him? Though disfigured and partially crippled from a childhood fire and wearing a mask, she was quite lovely and rocked a 17 charisma (and a bard who cast inspiration on him in the caves). In a previous game she had bought him dinner, and they got to know each other. He was the only character who didn't distrust her. Blind, stinking, simple, ding dong, doo dah naivety. And she was a several years older, university educated woman from the big city. 

Having half your face burned
off makes you no less sexy.

Here's M, the Callie players, recap of this last session:

"The group finally leaves the goblin caves, Ton’Rial parts ways and the rest go back to town without him. Halfway back Relanis begs Zip to walk her home, just him… The three others watch as Zip walks with her back to the place they’re staying, goes upstairs and they watch as the lights come on and go out and still no Zip… They go back to camp leaving Zip to spend the night. Callie mentions she’ll be back in the morning unless Zip comes back to camp. The group (minus Zip) goes back to the caravan and has a long rest. Welcome to lvl 3 The next day is a holiday. The Great Autumn Hunt, Callie doesn’t care, she gets up and marches into town to fetch Zip. She has a conversation with Demul briefly before being let into the building. Callie retrieves Zip and goes back to the Caravan. Once we are back, we begin to work, once work is done, we are offered an opportunity to help Howard the Wine Merchant. (Probably not his real name, but has forgotten it.) He wants us to go on an escort mission. We will go with him to a deserted town to pick up some wine he wants. "

Anyway, it was hilarious. Zip was upstairs losing his virginity, while all the others hid in hedges across the street wondering if he was being murdered or something. It was like something from a Porky's movie. 

Callie stews. Her best friend is with what could be a horrible foe of theirs, but she is powerless about what her bestie was up there doing. The next morning, she threw her chainmail shirt over her bodice and marched to the boarding house and fetches her grinning and dehydrated childhood friend away from the witchy woman. 

This was amazingly the first session I've run in many years where there was no combat. Sure, we played about a half hour less than usual, but shit. It just flew by for me. This is as good as role-play gets without becoming community theater. Poor "T," her older, no nonsense female dwarf fighter has no skin in the doings of these young fools but had to crouch in the bushes with the others while Zip was getting his groove on. 

As his virginity was taken, I gave Zip a nice bardic inspiration to use within 48 hours, while he walked around with a goofy smile and his legs shaking. With the Tonrial Shadow Elf probably back next game, odds are Relanis will be looking for another night safe in the arms of the strong and handsome Zip. Or maybe the halfling druid Tealeaf?


This strange and character development heavy game was really great IMO. And I loved doing my part in making a good and decent PC happy. And I didn't even have to feel like a pimp doing it. YMMV.