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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Some Advice On LGBT Representation For Cishet Game Masters

(Credit to my wonderful and perfect fiance, Loki, for helping me with this post!)

Hey! Are you not transgender, lesbian, gay, or bisexual? Have you ever wanted to add an NPC into your RPG campaign who was LGBT, but didn't know how to do so appropriately, and were worried about being offensive? Well here is a guide for you! And if you're angry about this post for some reason, skip to the bottom!

Content warning for mentions of homophobia, transphobia, and sexual assault below.

1. Be Respectful Of Trans People

This one really shouldn't be that difficult, but its so common and so gross that I'm putting it at number 1.

She didn't "use to be a man", she is a trans woman. Her real name isn't what her parents named her, its the name that she uses now. She isn't a woman in a man's body, she's a woman, her body belongs to her. 

Don't make your trans characters into stereotypes. If you have a trans man, don't make him be an overly feminine "soft boy" with a high pitched voice and childish demeanor. If you have a trans woman, don't make her be a creepy, bearded sexual deviant who aggressively hits on visibly uncomfortable cishet men and cis lesbians, getting offended if they don't accept her sexual demands.

Also; not every nonbinary character has to be thin, pale, and vaguely masculine.

2. Don't Have Your Only LGBT Representation Be Rapists And Pedophiles

(Don't do this. This guy, don't have a character who is like him.)

This really shouldn't be a difficult concept to grasp but the media proves otherwise. Almost every LGBT identity has a sexually predatory stereotype attached to them, and its really fucking gross. I don't really have anything else to say about this; just, don't have your LGBT characters be sex offenders please.

3. The "Bury Your Gays" Trope

Have you ever heard of the racist trope that black characters always die first in horror movies? There is a similar trope with LGBT characters, stating that characters who are gay, trans, etc. are more likely to die than cisgender straight characters. Try not to fall into this trope, it really isn't good. This doesn't mean that you need to fudge saving throws for a character just because they're gay, but try not to just put LGBT folks in danger for a cheap plot point. Don't have the cultists assassinate the helpful gay merchant who the PCs met for "emotional impact", when there are countless other ways you could get a similar amount of righteous anger. Note: this doesn't apply to PCs, kill them all you want, there is no gay bonus to saving throws.

4. Don't Be A Fetishist

Again; another one that shouldn't be that difficult but it is a problem so I'm gonna address this. The most commonly fetishized groups in my opinion are lesbians and trans women, but honestly nobody who is LGBT is safe from fetishization. If you use a character's identity as something "hot", then you're probably fetishizing them. Don't call special attention to a trans woman's penis, don't graphically describe lesbian sex, etc. Also if you call yourself a fujoshi and are obsessed with yaoi its already too late.

5. Don't Bring Up Homophobia/Transphobia Unless Your Group Is Comfortable With It

Honestly this one is probably one of the most important in my opinion. We face oppression every day of our lives, and a lot of us turn to role playing games as a way to have fun. We usually don't want to be confronted with bigotry in the fantasy world as well. This isn't to say you can't include these topics in a game, but be careful about it, and make sure your group is comfortable with it.

Aside from specifically dealing with homophobia and transphobia, this is just good advice in general. If your players aren't comfortable with graphic descriptions of gore; don't do it. If your players don't want to hear about sexual assault; don't have that be a part of your game! You have to remember that at the end of the day, people play games to have fun, and if they feel uncomfortable, they probably are not having a good time.

Also, very important; if your only reason why you want there to be homophobia/transphobia in your setting is "its realistic", consider the fact that you're playing a game with dragons and goblins.

6. Gay Isn't A Personality Trait

(This is a funny thing to say if you are gay. If you aren't its just homophobic.)

Don't base a character's entire personality based on their sexuality/gender identity, using a gay stock character archetype isn't representation; its laziness. If the way your NPC acts seems like one of those Monty Python sketches about gay people, you're probably doing something wrong.

If You're Angry About This Post For Some Reason

If you're gonna be That Guy and argue that I'm "forcing diversity down your throat" or something like that, why are you even reading this post? This is advice for GMs that want to include gay or trans characters in their D&D games but don't know how to do this while approaching the topic sensitively. If this genuinely offends you for some reason, just ignore it and go on with your day! I'm a D&D blog for Pete's sake, if you're gonna get pissed off at something please choose something that is actually worth the energy. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

30 Minute Dungeon: A Spooky Tomb


(I found this on pinterest unfortunately, and couldn't find the source, if anyone knows where it is from, please let me know in the comments!)

Today's dungeon is based on my own idea, since I've run out of requests, but since this blog tends to focus on the usable rather than the imaginative, said idea is "a tomb with some undead and treasure in it". I'm also gonna experiment with a different layout for this post.

But before that, here is a 30 minute dungeon made by someone else!
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1batSQzURoCboa5CG2FZQchMgq11c5uOh/view

Hook
The local church has found evidence that the body of a Saint Jonathan was interred in an ancient tomb not far from town. Retrieving the saint's body would be a great boon to the local economy, as pilgrims from elsewhere in the nation would travel to see the relic. The local preacher has tasked you with retrieving the corpse.

Background
The tomb is ancient, dating back to the very early bronze age. Saint Jonathan was killed in battle over a hundred years ago, but his body was hidden in this tomb in order to ensure it wasn't desecrated. Unfortunately, owing to the interred mummy of a foul necromancer, the dead walk in this place, suffused with unholy power by her dead body.

Combat Encounters

Skeleton Warriors
The clatter of bones and armor greet your ears, before you is a group of animate skeletons, moving like puppets controlled by some demoniac force. They wield ancient, rusted weapons and are dressed in crude armor.
The skeletons are simple, nearly mindless monsters, and will fight to the death. They do retain a modicum of tactical sense from life, however.

Mummified Slaves
A large group of shriveled, emaciated figures move around the room falteringly, groaning and moaning in dry, desperate tones.
These are the re-animated corpses of an ancient king's slaves. Through their transformation, they have been reduced to mindless husks, and the hunger for the blood of the living.

Composite Corpse
A massive, metal coffin is in the room's center, bound by chains.
If the coffin is approached, it will suddenly burst open, the centuries-old chains being snapped by the sheer brute force of the necromancer's last, and most deadly creation. The creature interred within it is a hulking abomination created by suturing together dead flesh, and empowering it with unwholesome potions and incantations. It lives, fights, and dies to protect the tomb of its mistress, though there is a magic word which can be spoken to calm it down. However, the only one who knows the magic word is the necromancer herself, whose spirit can be talked to via ouija board in the NPC room.

Traps

Treasure Room With Spear Trap
Clay jars filled with jewelry and cold coins immediately grab your attention, shining in the light of your torches. At the far end of the room is a stone chest.
If the chest's lid is removed, a spring fired spear will shoot out of it, impaling whoever tried to open it. However, within the chest, in addition to the trap, is a talisman carved from ivory on a fine gold chain. Anyone who wears the talisman is granted with supernatural good luck for a limited amount of times each day.

Poison Darts
The hallway is empty, simply leading on into the next room. There are unusual holes in the walls on either side.
Pressure plates in the floor will cause poison darts to be fired from the holes in the walls if stepped on. The poison results in temporary blindness and horrible pain, resulting in screaming that attracts monsters, but is not deadly.

Empty Rooms

Funerary Urns
Clay jars, decorated with images of human faces, sit on stone shelves carved into the walls.
The urns are filled with a fine ash, though some contain small amounts of gold or perhaps a jewel.

Empty Grave Niches
The room appears to have been used to store human corpses, judging by the niches carved into the walls. However, every single one is empty.
Faint footprints can be seen in the dust on the floor.

Holy Sarcophagus
An intricately carved sarcophagus dominates the room. Next to it lies a pile of old bones, including a crowned skull.
Contained within the sarcophagus are the remains of Saint Jonathan, the bones on the floor next to it are those of an ancient king, whose body was removed to make way for Jonathan's.

Special Rooms

The Mirror Of Untimely Demise
The room here is utterly empty, save for a tall, beautifully polished mirror. One of you does not appear in its reflection.
Whoever has the lowest HP of the group that looks in the mirror cannot be seen in its reflection.

Non-Player Characters

The Ouija Board
The room you enter is filled with cobwebs and dust. On a platform in the center of the room is a rusted metal sarcophagus, with letters and numbers inscribed on its flat surface. A planchette rests on it.
By having two or more people hold the planchette, the ouija board atop the sarcophagus can be used to communicate with the mind of the long dead necromancer. She is bored, lonely, and sarcastic. Her name is Avendri.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Mini-Rant: On Distinguishing Different Weapons

So lets say you're playing JABOM (my house rules), or OD&D, or some other system where what weapon you're using doesn't matter that much, and you're just gonna deal 1d6 damage or so anyway; what is your motivation to choose one weapon over another? And if there is variable weapon damage, why not just choose the cheapest one that deals the most damage?

It all comes down to other factors, such as "Can this weapon be used for things outside of combat?", "How easy is it to hide?", and "How hard is it to carry around?"

For example, a flintlock pocket pistol in my house rules is treated as a light ranged weapon, dealing 1d6-1 damage. In theory, its basically the same as a sling, just fancier. But the pocket pistol is not able to use improvised ammunition, like rocks you just find lying around in the case of the sling, it requires less space to operate, and it is a lot louder. Shooting someone with the pocket pistol is more likely to attract attention than launching a ball bearing at them.


(Stealth and blackpowder don't work well together, image taken from pathfinder)

As another example, using a polearm would probably do the same amount of damage as a greataxe (1d6+2, if both are assumed to be heavy melee weapons), but again, there are several obvious differences between the two. A polearm could be used like a long pole to deactivate traps at a distance, the blade could be removed and it could be used for pole vaulting, and if you really wanted to you could cut down the hilt a bunch and maybe make it into a 1 handed axe. Meanwhile, a greataxe requires less space to swing, as it is smaller, could be used for chopping wood in a pinch, and could more easily be strapped to one's back.

Distinguishing weapons shouldn't necessarily have to be done through complicated combat statistics, all it does is slow down character creation and combat by adding in modifiers and exceptions to rules. Instead, let players use their imagination and apply simple logic to the game world in order to flesh out their equipment.

TLDR this sucks:

Friday, March 8, 2019

Sorry About The Lack Of Posts

I'm sorry about not posting as many 30 minute dungeons as I wanted to; when I first started doing them I had a lot more free time, but recent schedule changes and college stuff has been making free time rare, and the energy to actually write things for my own enjoyment rarer still. This doesn't mean I'm going to stop making the dungeons, but it may be a lot more infrequently than I originally thought.



Here are some dwarves for your troubles, until next time!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

On Investigative Horror Adventures

WARNING: BIG RAMBLING THEORY-POST APPROACHING



I've always wanted to run a game like Call of Cthulhu, Monster of the Week, or Silent Legions, but I've never really had the patience for that kind of game. Complex backstories, intricate plots, and overwritten adventures made it difficult for me to wrap my head around actually running a game like that. It is easy to run a survival horror scenario; all you need is something trying to kill the player characters, an isolated area, and a couple possible means of escape/survival.

But with an investigative game, there is a lot more you need to consider. For one thing, you need to give the player characters some form of motivation to actually go look in the haunted house, or hunt down the werewolf. Its all well and good to have a group of survivors in the zombie apocalypse try and survive the oncoming horde by hiding in an abandoned hospital, nobody would question that, but why would someone want to go into the scary haunted house where 7 people have been found dead in the past 10 years? And why, when the going gets tough, would they not just leave?



I think the trick is, that an investigative scenario should be divided into 3 stages: Hook, Research, and Confrontation.

The Hook is possibly the most difficult part to get right, since the entire rest of the adventure relies on it. Much like Descartes searching for a single truth to base his entire philosophy on, the rest of the game relies on you finding a good reason for the party to be there. Fortunately, this isn't all your burden to bear, and the players have to help as well.

Something I've always felt was missing from Player's Handbooks of all kinds is a section entitled "Make A Character Who Actually Wants To Go Adventuring", where it explains that being smart and playing things safe is not the reason why you're sitting down to roll dice, and that if you want anything to get done you have to take risks and make someone who has actual reasons to do stupid bullshit. If its your first session for a horror game like Silent Legions; ask your characters to make characters who want to go hunting for monsters and find eldritch secrets, not just some innocent bystanders who get thrown into harm's way.

Anyway, with the player facing side of the Hook out of the way, next comes the GM's part. You should give more than one good reason for the party to look into the mystery. Come up with things beyond just, "its a local legend and there have been strange noises at night". If you can, try to relate the hook to a player character's backstory and personality, to make it more plausible for them to look into the matter.

Research is the second stage, and this is the part that might require a bit of improvisation on the GM's part. In this stage, the players want to find out as much as they can about the mystery without just rushing head on into danger. Heck, they might not even know where the danger is yet. When they start asking questions and wanting to go into libraries to find old books and things, you have to have a list of things they could possibly find out on hand somewhere, along with clues. Keep in mind that you're probably not a genius mystery writer, and your players aren't Sherlock Holmes, so not every clue is going to stand out to them. In order to combat this, give them a LOT of information, but not enough to know exactly whats going on.

For example, lets say you're running a game where a group of vampires are holed up in an abandoned cabin, and have been killing livestock and the local homeless population around town. Your list of information and leads should be something like:

  • Someone's dog was found dead in their backyard a few nights ago. (If the players look in further, they will discover it had no blood left in its body).
  • Old Joe, an elderly vagrant who panhandles outside of the local grocery market, isn't there anymore, and nobody knows where he went. (He was last seen heading to his makeshift camp by the woods. If players investigate, his body can be found, deathly pale and drained of blood, a zipgun in his right hand which failed to fire).
  • There have been lights and odd cries coming from the woods at night. (The only possible source of light in the woods is an old cabin, long abandoned, and the cries sound like human laughter.)
  • Farmer Hanson's cows have been acting spooked, and several have died mysteriously in the night. (Also with those strange puncture wounds and no blood).
  • There have been a string of odd grave robberies. (All of those whose graves have been "robbed" were, in life, members of a strange blood cult, and the graves seem to have been dug out of rather than into.)
The above information should be enough (along with a couple NPCs written up), to run the research portion. Each piece of information not in parentheses could just be given to the player characters, and what is in parentheses could be found out through some investigation. 

After Research, the party should have a general idea of what might be going on, and begin the Confrontation phase, going to the spot where the weird stuff is originating, and trying to stop it. For this phase, all you really need is a map of the area, and what kind of stuff/people/creatures are there. This is much like a dungeon crawl, but should be more grounded in reality, with realistic layout of buildings, logical rooms, and a decent sense of cohesion. 

And there you have it! Hopefully, with a little practice I'll be able to write up some fun investigations, and maybe put them up here on this blog. I hope you've enjoyed this little rant!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

30 Minute Dungeon: Ratfolk Outpost

Today's dungeon is based on a suggestion by Matt, who said "I'm partial to skaven".

But before that, here are some more wonderful dungeons made by the folks of the blogosphere!

https://leicestersramble.blogspot.com/2019/03/30-minute-dungeon.html
https://todistantlands.blogspot.com/2019/03/the-conch-tower-30-minute-dungeon.html
http://builtbygodslongforgotten.blogspot.com/2019/03/30-ish-minute-dungeon.html?
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dfH7d35GWkdfoumHfIpW67iLXWWOVv-i/view


(Box art of the Caesar miniatures ratmen)

C= Combat
E= Empty
N= NPC
S= Special
T= Trap

Hook
Throughout the city, there have been whispers of rats that walk like men, prowling in the sewers. A local urban explorer went looking for them, and while she didn't sight any of the creatures, she did discover a large rat-hole in the sewers, leading deeper down into the underworld. A local rat catcher, Janette, has gone missing, and her family is looking for her, she was last seen entering the sewers.

Background
The rat-folk are scouts for a subterranean empire of filth and decay. They have taken Janette as a prisoner in order to study humans and their culture.

1. Poison Gas (T)
The hole in the wall in front of you is large enough for a human being to walk through. A foul stench emits from it, reminding you of rotten eggs. Looking closely, it appears that the bricks were pushed out, rather than in, meaning that this hole was dug from the other side of the wall...
The entrance chamber of the rat-folk warren is full of poisonous gas, the rat-folk wear crude gas masks in order to walk through unscathed.

2. Bear Traps (T)
A shallow level of filthy water covers the floor, with bits of excrement and trash floating in it. The water is so disgusting and dirty that it is opaque. 
Rusted bear traps lie beneath the surface of the water. Anyone who steps on one not only takes physical damage, but may contract a nasty infection as well.

3. Barrels (E)
This room seems to be a storage area of some kind, full of barrels which are made of some kind of deathly gray wood.
The barrels are full of supplies for the rat-folk scouts, including some salted meat, gunpowder, materials to mix cement, and medicine. The medicine in particular is quite valuable.

4. Rat-folk Guards (C)
Foul humanoid rats with matted fur and rusty armor stand across from you. One of them carries a small hooded lamp, and another is wearing odd, glowing green goggles. All have crossbows, which they are now aiming at you.
The rat-folk are not interested in discussion, nor do they speak the common tongue. They will seek to kill the intruders as soon as possible. The green goggles allow the user to see perfectly in the dark, albeit only in shades of green.

5. Treasure Hoard (E)
Glittering gold, silverware, and other metallic objects lie heaped in a pile here.
The rat-folk like to collect shiny things, and as a result have amassed the collection in this room. There are some genuinely expensive items here, but some is just junk.

6. Squabbling Rat-folk (C)
A group of the disgusting rat-folk appear to be arguing, chittering loudly and angrily.
The rat-folk are distracted, and off guard, but once alerted to the player characters' presence they will attack. They are arguing over who gets to have a shiny gold necklace, and one of the rat-folk is wearing it.

7. Dissection Room (E)
The stench of chemicals and death greets you as you enter this chamber. A metal table in the center of the room is covered with the corpses of dogs, cats, and even a person. Surgical implements hang from the far wall.
The rat-folk have been studying the surface's fauna, trying to find weaknesses they can exploit. A notebook written in the rat-folks' runic language can be found on the table, containing their findings.

8. The Horned Rat (C)
On a throne of bones and scrap metal sits a large rat-person, with curled horns protruding from his brow. Upon your entry, he points a finger at you and screams, causing a group of armored rat-folk to charge!
The horned rat is the leader of this expedition, a minor noble sent here mostly as punishment. He is cowardly, and if the going gets tough he will flee for the elevator in room 10, to escape back to the rat-folk empire.

9. Cages (N)
A half-dozen metal cages are the main feature of the room. 5 are empty, but in one, a middle aged woman is sleeping soundly.
The middle aged woman is Janette, the rat-catcher who went missing. Despite her situation, she is more pissed off than scared, and maintains a sarcastic sense of humor and a biting wit.

10. Elevator (S)
A rickety wood and steel elevator, powered by a steam driven engine, takes up the center of the room. You cannot see the bottom of the elevator shaft.
The elevator leads down to underworld, into the wild outskirts of the rat-folk empire.