Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More Like Powerflaming

I do most (well, all) of my gaming online. Unfortunately, that means most people reading this (five people and counting) are my players. So when I mention shit they’ve done, they’ll probably read it, let me know they’ve read it, ask if I’m referring to them, lodge complaints, etc. This is fine as long as they don't drag it into the comments section (or give a running commentary without any context on what they’re reading, let alone what parts they’re referring to, yes I’m looking at you). Nor am I surprised – even before they were posting “Hi Ettin!” in all my goddamn threads on /tg/ they were “stumbling across” them on the WotC forums.

But this time, I’m taking a breather from poking fun at the usual suspects and saying something about powergaming, because it only applies to two people who don’t read this shit.

My views are more complicated than I can be bothered explaining right now, but basically, I don’t mind it as long as you don’t cross the line,

It’s a very vaguely-defined line, and it varies from person to person, but I can tell you the usual triggers that set little alarm bells ringing in my head:

  • Trying to pass off rollplaying advice as roleplaying advice. If someone is trying to make an archivist with a certain theme (that isn't "I want to be powerful" and probably even if it is, too) in mind, cleric builds copy-pasted from CharOp are only going to take you so far.
  • Any character sheet which is obviously 100% crunch and 0% fluff. I don’t care if you’ve gone crazy with splatbooks and made a character which does hundreds of damage to certain creature types a round or whatever, as long as your backstory is better than “my Saint once saved an orphanage from a paragon undead balor, or something”.
  • An “it’s just a name, nothing more, hurr bi durr” attitude towards "prestige classes". I don’t care what you take, but if you want one with fluff that doesn’t fit at least bother to do something about it. Hell, I’ll write it.
    • Similarly, don’t cry if you have to roleplay taking it. Thralls of Demogorgon don’t just wake up one morning and pull their devotion and powers out of their arse, you know.
  • Sometimes, certain words or phrases. Partial list: Referring happily to your character as “so powerful”, “borderline overpowered” etc., the words “build”, “min/maxed” and “Gatorade”, wanting to use the game to “playtest” homebrew material, complaining about losing spell progression, complaining about having to roleplay... it depends on the person and their intent.
Things that are not necessarily powergaming in and of themselves but can be very irritating:
  • Treating the Monster Manual like a Big Bumper Book of Races. Playing cool-looking races is okay. Playing races because they work well with your class is okay if you don’t overdo it. Trying to play a giant on a pirate ship, what the hell.
  • Splatbooks. I actually allow pretty much anything that’s WotC material if it’s run by me first (and will at least consider 3rd–party stuff), but for some reason people keep either forgetting or misreading the “run by me first” part. I’m not even sure exactly how you can take that to mean “it’s okay to show up with an Archivist/Shadow Sun Ninja/Champion of Gwynharwyf elf paragon, and yes, I know that doesn’t make any sense.”
  • Asking for flaws. No, fuck you.

Seriously though, like I said, I’m not that picky. I’ve let most of these slide a few times, and I am much more lenient (read: hypocritical) towards those I know and trust, such as myself. Just treat roleplay as something other than a formality and we're good. (And I recognise my playstyle isn't the only way to play, but in my games you better get used to it.)

Oh, and the bard? Yeah, fuck that guy.

Let's end this post with something new: A competition Someone suggest some ways to beef up the bard a little and I’ll draw (and/or post) requests for the best ones. Comments page is fine, but I accept other forms of communication. Try for balance, but I’m not picky as long as it’s cool. I’m talking defeating enemies with The Power of Rock and such, here. (It doesn’t have to be rock music. I would also accept a bitchin’ poetry jam.)

Oh, and if you’re a player you have to say “Hi Ettin!”.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Seriously Guys, What The Hell

And more than one update a month! Two in a day, even. And it's not filler.

I'm going to cut right to the chase: If you are cybering with your characters, nobody needs to know.

I play online, can you tell? I like it, actually. I can play NPCs like Xaviana the elf princess without feeling silly. Still, sometimes you run into things you just don't want to see. Or exist.

Normally I don't care if you're homosexual or asexual or a transsexual with self-diagnosed Asperger's or you make your girlfriend dress up as a bear when you do it or whatever, but you don't have to be a pervert about it. I've described this before as "This Is My Fetish", the act of forcing your personal "tastes" on a game. Now I'm expanding it to players.

I don't mind sex in games. I personally enjoy romantic interests (particularly as plot devices) and the like, although I make a point of fading to black if and when the bedroom antics start. And if you want to actually cyber with the other PCs, sure, whatever. Not in game, obviously.

However, there are some huge "NO"s I think should be adhered to lest some big whiny hypocrite draws a stick figure cartoon about you:

  • Your character does not need to be defined in terms of a fetish. Your PC is not an "elf shota". I know what the word means, go to hell. Similarly, "gay dwarf warlock" is a little unnecessary. You can play it, but still.
  • Stressing the "deep and complex relationships between the PCs" if they are there is all well and good, but not to the detriment of the actual game, particularly if by "deep" you are referring to how far you have penetrated the party cleric. I personally prefer it when you put the adventure on hold to mount each other outside the session.
    • On that note, if you can remember all your PC's sexual relationships but not what happened adventure-wise three hours ago, there's a problem.
  • Don't discuss it in public. Augh. The above actually happened, though not to me. My DM friend in question has been actively avoiding finding out the details, but it's a little hard when his players are sitting around in a public IRC room justifying the paladin putting it in the "loli psion". And when one of his mates is giving the paladin constant shit about it, but I digress.
If you want to make babies with another PC, it's your prerogative. Hey, maybe we can do a campaign set in the future and you can play their kid. Whatever. Just... don't make a big deal out of it.

Of course, I won't outright ban that shit if it somehow seeps in, because I tend to allow things I don't like and let the rage levels rise until the grudge NPCs come out of the woodwork instead. The only things I'll outright ban are the stranger things such as furries, incest (which is reserved for creepy villains, thank you) and pedophilia.

Yes, I have to specify. God damn it, Internet.

In Which I Am Also Racist

Yesterday one of my games folded so I decided to try a new setting with some new players. I don't know what it's called yet but so far it's been described back to me as "Arcanapunk". It looks like some kind of Schizo Tech setting to me so far, and yes, I am going to tag it every time I link tvtropes.

Anyway, as far as not being Tolkienesque goes, the races (so far) are a bit of a step up:

  • Generic humans ranging from "dapper steampunk gentlemen" to "theocratic steampunk (dapper) paladins" to "evil devil-worshipping dieselpunk gentlemen (who may also be dapper)";
  • Vaguely Icelandic arctic elves with an approach towards technology which is apparently "Orky" in hindsight;
  • Actually-Small dwarves with "beer, mining and axes" replaced with "biology, nature and medicine" and a "mad scientist" bent";
  • Tieflings with the old draenei 3rd Edition look because I liked it and a backstory partially taken from 4th Edition, without the eyeshadow and "deep" personally-selected names;
  • Killoren pinched from Races of the Wild because someone suggested it was an okay idea;
  • Neogi minus the spaceships and with Glukkon-esque commercialism.
See? Slightly better. We're not just taking a cardboard cutout from Tolkien's trash bin and giving it a paint job, we're cobbling together our own cardboard cutout with bits out of other people's bins.

Too bad I'm still apparently incapable of putting in humans who aren't white dudes. There's still plenty of room in this setting for me to play Diablo II draw on more exotic and diverse real-world cultures in order to add new peoples, though, I guess.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

In Which I Reveal I Am A Massive Hypocrite

A real update will probably come soon when I am sober. For now...

Basically, I looked at my last post about how sticking to stereotype is just as bad as whining about elves being "mary sue faggots" or whatever it is this time, and then I looked at the races of my campaign setting. Let's review:

  • Humans, which (as usual) come in all kinds of flavours from "medieval fantasy" to "urban dungeon punk" to "Greeks" to "Amazons", i.e. the usual stuff. Only in hindsight do I notice all my humans are white.
  • Dwarves. Beards, beer, live on mountain slopes, etc. Dwarf women have favoured class: wizard, are in short supply, and can take multiple husbands. They like fire and fire magic. This is the extent of their originality, since I haven't fleshed them out much. (They are still better than Deegan dwarves, I guess, which I will not link to for the sake of your eyes. Let's just say "dwarf women with beards" and leave it at that.)
  • Elves. These come in two flavours, depending on whether this is Western Human Continent or Eastern Exotic Continent. The latter (the "main" elves) are dinosaur-riding jungle-dwellers who come off as Amazonian when they are not more or less acting a lot like humans. The former are basically boring standard elves for those who want to play that, only they live in giant mushrooms. Truly, I am a creative genius.
  • Gnomes that live in a swampy land and have a lot of the dungeon punk technology and magic, like floating cities.
  • Mutant half-elves spawned from Eastern Elves and what is basically Thay, with minor random magical powers. These half-elf X-men are found everywhere but some of them have a pirate city somewhere.
  • Elemental humanoids spawned from demigod elementals that went all explodey. Look like humanoids with fairy wings and some genasi-ish traits. Earth ones are so far the only recorded instance of a brown-skinned race.
Now we're getting into the "secondary races" that don't get much screentime, by the way.
  • Halflings, because I can't find a climate and a hat for them, so to speak. Naturally, I still feel entitled to make fun of 4E and gnomes.
  • Orcs which vary wildly between "pirate slavers" and "noble savage" depending on where they are, my mood at the time, my horoscope...
  • Demon-worshipping goblins.
  • Generic evil kobolds, plus some good and optimistic ones from the Grand Nation of Koboldia (population: 200).
  • Demon-worshipping gnolls who live between Eastern Elves and the humans who live on that continent (who are also white, by the way) and harass the elves a lot.
  • Drow. Yeah.
  • "Naga", four-armed deformed humanoids with snake tails that worship demons and were mostly created from elves. Ahem.
  • Sthein, elves with snake tails. Stolen from Bastards & Bloodlines with the naga from the MM replaced with the above naga.
  • Some others I might have forgotten.

I'm an unoriginal, racist hypocrite who steals from everything and I should kill myself.

Well, maybe not that bad. It strikes me as a little weird, though. I guess being "out there" is great if you can do it (Hello, Beyond Countless Doorways), but the familiar is comforting too. And I suppose throwing in "unique" races for its own sake can be fucked up just as easily as introducing an old race and applying the Stereotype template. Where's the line and what side should you be on? I don't know. Maybe it's a matter of personal opinion.

Christ, am I waxing philosophical about this? Okay, we're done.