Sunday, July 31, 2011

Warhammer: Skaven vs. Orc & Goblins

Today’s blog is about Warhammer and my favorite foes: The Orcs and Goblins. And I want to type down my thoughts while my memory is still more or less fresh (despite going straight to a D&D-session afterwards).
I’m no expert at writing battle-reports. Therefore, this is not a battle-report as such. It’s me rambling about my experience with the rat men, when confronted with the orcs and their savage lot. I have a few battles with the Skavens under my belt, but I am by no means anything more than a casual gamer, hoping to inspire and encourage my fellow rat-players with advice. Take my comments and thoughts for what they are, even if it’s just simple entertainment.

My first impressions:
Ironically, O&G is one of the sides I’ve played against the least. But once I do challenge them I tend to enjoy it a lot. I’ve always favored armies with some amusing surprises up their sleeves, that at the same time didn’t take themselves all too seriously. In truth; when I returned to WFB about a year ago, my first impulse was to play O&G. A choice I was quickly discouraged from, in favor of Warriors of Chaos, that now make up one third of my Warhammer-minis. But I’ve always been in love with the green-skins, deep down inside.
But the O&G provide you with plenty of reasons to hate them too. With their new army book, the barbaric hordes have several tools to make your life a living hell. Combined with either numerous or tough-as-nails troops and potentially devastating magic, this is no longer a side to take on lightly.
First and foremost, I was blessed with a true gentleman of an opponent. I therefore didn’t expect to see any stupid or abusive list, and instead went for whatever I wanted to try out. He even was so kind to provide me with some advice that seemed valuable for my composition.
My second blessing is the fact that I’ve played O&G with my dwarf army. It was a hard lesson for me, especially because I got butchered, despite having all the odds with me. The massive horde of savage orcs was simply too savage, I was too stupid to shoot them up in time, and the Doom Divers packed a nasty punch on my poor Hammerers. But this time; I was going in with the hordes of the Underempire!
Thoughts about army-composition:
We played 2000 points and no special restrictions.
I usually go with what I feel like, but due to said crushing defeat with the dwarves, I also wanted to make sure I’d inflict at least some carnage.
As it has been argued by many; Skavens are all about numbers. Lots of them. And whereas some people swear to Skryre-armies with tons of guns, weapon teams and catapults, I’m more the “Boys before toys” kind of guy. It looks impressive, and never fails to leave my opponent with a certain impression, once he sees the black carpet of rats. Besides, I lost to some nasty attrition with the dwarves, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to do so this time.
In this light it’s likely no surprise how much I love slaves. I adore slaves. They’re so wonderful in every possible way, and I always bring at least 100 of them. Against the orcs, I was pretty certain I’d be facing something with a punch, such as trolls or savages. The slaves would be the primary anvil for this, and maybe even inflict a little damage. I made up two blocks of 50.
As the wild-card I brought 50 clan rats as a horde. Either as an additional anvil, or in horde-formation to inflict extra damage. Additionally, 20 clan rats were brought to shield the Warlord and the BSB, who were to provide the bunker with much needed leadership. For the BSB I chose the Storm Banner. It’s an old favorite of mine, and as mentioned; war machines are trouble. Disrupting just one shot can be worth all the points and more so.
My hammers: Abominations. Two of them. This was a gamble for me (yes, I hear all of you out there laughing at this statement, as these are clearly some of the most awesome units in the Skaven-army). They were to drive up between my units and smash into enemy flanks. Besides, I brought 50 giant rats for my flank. I never tried giant rats that much, so it’d be as good as any.
I also included two ‘Rat Darts’. For those who’ve never heard this term, it’s the name for five giant rats along with a pack master. For the mere sum of 23 points you have a very fast, albeit small, unit that you can basically throw away at your leisure. Against O&G they make for awesome fanatic-revealers and maybe they can even take down a war machine. Even then, they make for good harassment or just speed bumps. Just make sure to place them away from anything that might panic, once they get smashed.
Finally there was magic and gadgets. For this I took a Grey Seer with a Power Scroll, a Warlock (Level 1) and finally two ordinary warlocks with a doom rocket and a brass orb respectively. The orb, I admit, might seem like a gamble, but then again O&G aren’t really known for their great initiative, and lobbing it into a regiment of Initiative 2 trolls seemed like a really great idea for those 65 points.
My seer stuck mostly to Pestilence. This was a purely aesthetical choice. I could’ve gotten more from Ruin, depending on my opponents’ choice of troops. Luckily, he brought a lot of goblins and almost no orcs, making my spells a solid choice. I kind of regret not choosing the 13th spell, but I assumed I’d get more out of skitterleap, all my fancy gadgets considered.
Finally, five gutter-runners with poisoned slings. I hate Doom Divers. I really, really do. In a sense I could’ve brought more than five, which I likely will in future games.  These guys always make for great war-machine hunters.
To the field of battle!
I didn’t get to take either pictures or notes, since my mind is quite focused on the game at all times. But if memory serves, my opponent fielded two regiments of trolls, two hordes of night-goblins, two units of wolves, two Doom Divers  and a level 4 orc shaman along with a level 2 goblin shaman.  At the flanks, four chariots with scythes made their way.
I rolled the spells Plague, Wither, Cloud of Corruption and Skitterleap. My warlock had Warp Lightning.
We rolled up ‘Battle for the Pass’ and besides some fence and two buildings in each end, there was a fimir-mire at one end, an elven rune-stone at the other, and an arcane ruin.

I got to chose sides, and being the ignorant I am, naturally selected the one with the biggest disadvantage for me. In hindsight, I probably figured I could push him back into the swamp or something. Not sure. It was stupid.
I’d practiced an (in my eyes) awesome setup from home, deciding to go Bunker-style in this games.
I placed my rat darts all out in the flanks, at the frontline. In the middle the 50 clan rats took the front, along with the seer. On their flanks were two deep regiments of 50 slaves, each housing a the warlocks with the doom rocket and orb. Behind them and in the middle were 20 clan rats, my BSB, general warlord and final level 1 caster with his Warp Lightning. Frankly this guy was mostly included to be a scroll-caddy. If he could lob off a lightning, great. Otherwise he just channeled.
In between the 50 clannies and two slave-units I placed the aboms. A bit behind, so they wouldn’t accidently hit fifth gear and speed off ahead of the army. Finally, the giant rats took the right flank to smash the chariots and hopefully proceed through the back. The gutter runners were set up for reinforcements.
Closing in and playing Scorched Earth:
As said, I didn’t take enough notes or pictures to really justify any kind of report. It’d be way too vague and hardly of much use.
In a broad perspective my opponent went for the first turn, meaning I swiftly turned on my Storm Banner.
I was quick to dismiss this thing back in the early days, but it’s really damn good and should pretty much be brought along for most fights in which you rely on a solid bunch of rats to do the killing. Not really sure how much good it would do in a shooty Skaven-army, but then again, I’ve been there and bought the T-shirt. I’d show it to you, but sadly it misfired on the way home and engulfed my suitcase in flames.
Sadly, the Storm Banner failed in epic proportion, as both Doom-Divers made their 4+ rolls and swiftly started nuking the poor rats. Of course it wasn’t really a biggie for me, as my bunker would easily hold, and the giant rats were well out of sight behind a house. Not surprisingly this resulted in dual-hatred against my first abomination which luckily made it’s regeneration saves for the first nuke, but took two wounds from the second.  At the start of my turn, the effect ended. Quite a short storm.
Nothing big really happened during the first two turns, as far as I remember. As we played in the pass, there was some way to navigate through, including a dangerous fimir-swamp. We both made some bold attempts to get off some magic, including my deviously planned skitterleap, but alas. Only a hand of gork managed to drag some chariots into position. I fired my Doomrocket, as the engineer was likely to get squished very soon, and I don’t need to tell you anything about me and Doomrocket-dices. We don’t roll well.
My gutter runners entered the table in the second turn. A rare incidence. They managed to take out one Doom Diver in the first turn, and got damn near destroying the second one, before being wiped out by a rallied regiment of trolls.
Once the close combat began, I will admit I got quite lucky, albeit my original plan never turned out as intended. I suppose that’s a rare luxury in the Warhammer-world.
My right regiment of slaves clashed with the wolf-riders and my giant rats assaulted the chariots on my right flank. In the middle,  my two abominations progressed up to address the two regiments of trolls (This was a very bold move for me, which happened mostly due to limited maneuverability) and my other regiment of slaves charged the remaining chariots. In the middle my clan rats took cover in the tower, in order to provide line of sight to the seer.  The small clan rat regiment scuttled up, carefully maintaining the LD-bubble. I really wanted to lob that Brass Orb into the face of those trolls, in case they broke through.

Melee and How I love Abominations and Plague
I’m so often amazed at how much punch a horde of slaves can pack. No wonder they’re the best regiment in the game!
Some miscasts meant that the Orc-Shaman lost basically all but one spell; Foot of Gork. Whereas this spell is indeed potentially lethal, it’s one of those I don’t mind falling victim to, because it’s fluff is so awesome. For my part, I got off a miscasted Wither, which was lost along with two wizard levels. Luckily, my Seer survived his 4+ chance to avoid being sucked into chaos, and the next turn it was Plague-time.
I’ve heard lots of good things about Plague, and even though it may seem like an odd pick against O&G I really wished to try it out. Through the game I tried my luck with some trolls (being the only target within range, which frankly was me being reckless) and best; the goblin hordes. Initially I hit his horde right behind the trolls, and with an awesome roll of 5 on the table, it immediately jumped right to the next regiment. I can’t remember how many goblins I took out, but it was a lot. Also, it made some dents in the characters along the way.  There is so much potential in this spell that I frankly can’t see how I’ve missed it for so long.

On a melee-note, my slaves DID manage to cause some serious mayhem. Not only did they send the wolf riders and chariots fleeing on both flanks, they also took very light casualties and advanced. Thanks to terrain, the chariots drove for the hills and ended up pretty much at the back of the table, in which my Rat Darts were ready to do some harassment.
The Giant Rats tore the chariots apart and lined up to flank charge the troll regiment engaged with my abom. Sadly, the wolf riders rallied and managed to block the way.
It didn’t matter much though, since my abomination went on a rampage, single-handedly annihilating trolls. After beating them in combat, the trolls legged it but were overrun by the monstrosity. This caused the general and BSB to take a panic-test, which was (to my joy) double-failed. So they ran for it, through the swamp, and were now well out in the distance.
This bought me enough time to bring both abominations to battle with the goblin-horde and its many heroes. Another thing I learned here, is that 1-2 on the Abom Attack-chart can be devastating to enemy characters.  Once two of them joined the fray, the rest of the army had free room to line up for a good charge and prepare once the general and the trolls returned.
The first abom died without resurrection shortly after, though. It did provide me with two nice rat-swarms, that managed to inflict an additional wound on the very expensive orc-shaman. As the game neared its end, my second abom annihilated the rest of the goblin horde and started chewing through the general’s regiment. Sadly he brought the fire, and even though it fought valiantly, it was reduced to a burning crater of charcoal soon after.
The final turn; Thinking like a skaven.
The culmination of dice luck was likely during the final turn, in which I was greatly saddened by the fact that 1) The very expensive orc shaman stood with 1 wound. 2) My brass orb was itching to be thrown. Luckily, my opponent decided to channel with a full +4 dices for being near the arcane ruins, and rolled up three sixes. Even I get lucky some times, as he took a wound and collapsed with power seething through his corpse. A net gain in victory points for me, and man did I earn it! (At least I think so).
At this time, my clan rats carrying the seer, warlord and battlestandard bearer were charged by the O&G general, bsb and remaining goblins. As this was the final turn, I decided to act like a Skaven and get out of there. If I could deny him victory-points for my characters, all the better. This might seem like a douche-way to do it, but you’ve gotta admit it’s true to the nature of the rat men.
My slaves took it like a man and braced themselves for the incoming chariot. Sadly, nothing really happened although they did make a dent in it.
The great finisher of the battle was my warlock, who decided to leave his regiment of slaves and run up to the remaining tree trolls. With a sadistic glee, I rolled my scatter-dice and found the “HIT!” result extremely appealing. The Brass Orb landed right where it was supposed to.
Of course, my opponent managed to roll a 1 on one of the dices.
But I suppose I deserve credit for trying.

Final Thoughts
I hope I have made just a little bit of sense here. As said, I’m not used to this but did my best to present the highlights of the battle.  I won, although we didn’t bother calculating, as we both had to catch the bus, but admittedly through some dice-luck. It’s certain that had he not panicked with his general, they would’ve sliced through my first abomination and down behind my ranks, which would’ve left me defenseless. But I suppose that’s why I really love this game so very much. It’s not always possible to predict these things, and even the best planned battles can end up in total mayhem.
What I learned (TLDR-version):
- Whereas ‘Boys before Toys’ is a better strategy to me, I deployed in the stupid end of the table. Going for open terrain with few obstacles is the way to go. I ended up having around 70 troops that couldn’t perform as intended, which is unacceptable.
-  Wither (on trolls, in this case) and Plague performed wonders. Especially cast into enemy regiments in close combat with Abominations.
- Abominations. Once I tried them, I realize why so many people fear them. Bringing two puts a lot of carnage of the table.
- Giant rats. I somehow wish I brought more of these guys, since they can seriously pack a punch. Just make sure not to throw them at anything with too much of a toughness or something that hits back too hard. I have a hard time not getting too cocky with these guys, which I paid for when I threw them at five trolls. Even thought they did cause some damage, they splattered and quickly broke from combat and were destroyed.
Magic items: Storm Banner, Power Scoll, Dispel Scroll, Doom Rocket and Brass Orb all did their job here (mostly). Had Doom Rocket actually destroyed anything, I’d be more optimistic. The Orb+skitterleap can be such a nasty combo against anything with low initiative (which counts for some of the nasty stuff in the O&G-army).

Friday, July 29, 2011

Warhammer: Terrain pieces - part 2

I'm currently on holiday with my better half. Just so you know the reason for my lacking updates.
I'll be back on Monday the 1th of August.

In the meantime; here's a lake.

(Click to enlarge)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Warhammer: Terrain pieces - part 1

So I finally got to finish my first few pieces of terrain. Please bear in mind that this is my first attempt at this like...ever. More should be coming up later, but for now, I'm not entirely disappointed with the progress.

Click to enlarge
This old stone has stood around for ages. Maybe once part of a bigger cliff, or pushed by a giant, it now provides valuable cover on the field of battle.

Click to enlarge
The origin of this rubble has been long lost. Now, marks of war scar the landscape, likely the result of a mortar or a cannonball. Water has gathered in the crater, and vegetation has begun reclaiming the otherwise rocky obstacle.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Warhammer: Been busy and such

Compared to the majority of last week, it's been kinda slow in here recently. I'm well aware of this, and have nothing but a humble apology to offer. I've been out, helping some people here and there, and just got home this evening. And I'm frankly feeling busted, and just want to game some Sam & Max, once I'm done with the most important stuff.

I do, however, have this great update of my recently painted Plaugewind Mortar-team.
I'm frankly quite happy about most of it, though the front-mask annoys me. I want to become better at painting leather, so consider this another step towards it.

Sadly the camera did kill some of the great glow-effect. I usually loathe that statement. 'My camera/scanner/lightening in my apartment totally ruined my picture, so that's why it looks shit!", but there are desperate times, even for me, I assume.

Either way, this model looks really good on the table, especially viewed from a distance. So at least it's half-good, I assume : )

Have a nice day and evening, to your all!

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Savage Tide: Chapter 3 - The Sea Wyvern's Wake (Pt. 1)

We recently left the heroes in “The Bulywug Gambit” as they were heading for the basement of the Vanderboren mansion. Here they took the fight to the chieftain of the Bullywugs and managed to free their lovely patron, Lavinia, from the slimy clutches of the frog-people and bring order to chaos.
Lavinia, being severely grateful and rather shocked, rewarded the heroes handsomely, and asked them to take some time off and enjoy themselves. She seemed very happy, they noticed, even when they explained her that Vanthus had once again escaped his proper punishment. Although saddened that her parents’ murderer had once again evaded judgment, there was a mysterious touch of optimism in the blue eyes of the young noble.
“There is a whole festival out there to enjoy,” she said “it would only be proper that you reaped the harvest of your hard efforts and experienced the days of the festival. I have a lot to attend to now, including bringing order to this mess. I urge you to contact me in a few days, because we have much to talk about.”
Thus began the third chapter on the heroes’ travel, which you bring them closer to a grim and dark world at the world’s end. But for now, their initial destination was the festivities taking place just outside the mansion. As the players left and the city guards started the cleaning, Lavinia thanked the Jade Ravens for their efforts as well, before she went to her tiny office and sat down. For several minutes she stared out the window, over the ocean, while gently fiddling with the golden Seeker-ring in her hand. Then finally, she reached down, pulled out a drawer, and fetched a leather-book and a handful of maps. The paper was yellow, worn and carried several passages of scribbling in the margins. In the middle a crude drawing portrayed an oblong island, with several signs of warning on various coasts.
“The Isle of Dread…” she read, in a voice nothing more than a whisper. “Mother… If this was truly your ambition, then this is what I must do.”
GM Comments:
Chapter three is one of those you might either spend ages on, or you’ll breeze right through it, depending on your preferences or players. There are several situations in here that present great opportunities for roleplaying and a chance to become acquainted with various NPC’s.
NPC’s being mentioned, there are a lot of them, and the players are more or less forced to interact with them, since they’ll be marooned on their ship with them for three months. If you’re not that keen on fleshing all of them out, as a GM, it might be beneficial to decide in advance which ones you intend to focus on. In my case, I chose Lavinia, Avner, Urol and captain Amella, with minor emphasis on the rest, including the Jade Ravens. At this point in my campaign, I wasn’t really sure what I’d use them for, so I chose to let it rest on the players and their interaction with them. At the start of the campaign, the Ravens had gone pretty quiet, and kept for themselves in subtle embarrassment of the event in the mansion.
Players who are not very fond of roleplaying will likely find some events in TSWW uninteresting or downright boring, so I suggest getting a feeling for their preferences along the way, and possibly add and remove various parts as you see fit.
Enjoying the festival!
As soon as the players left the mansion they were stopped by one of the village jesters. Guides and informants about the festivities and various activities for those unacquainted with them. After a brief conversation, the heroes decided to go and try out a few things.

GM Comment:
All the activities were taken from my guide on festivals at:
I’m aware that my previous blog described the festival as being related to the death of Zelkarune, the black dragon, and not to the events in Age of Worms. This is very deliberate, since I at that time didn’t know much about AOW, and was just about to start the campaign as a player. Therefore I wanted to know as little as possible, and set up the festival in another theme. Besides that, the rest was unchanged.
Most of the time was spent at the bazaar of wonders, in which the heroes had a lot of fun buying various mundane items, such as glass-miniatures. Additionally, Leopold the Bard unloaded vast amounts of gold at Mr. Gimble’s Imp and Sack and won glamorous prices such as an infinite bag of fish, a miniature iron-golem and a giant cork-plug combined with a pile of tombstones without names. Such are the wonders.
On the more conventional front, the players met Zeldarion the elf, who upgraded their armors for a humble sum, and had a fair share of drinks and sold loot.
An expedition into the south
The heroes, who for remembrance consisted of Markus the Warblade, Leopold the Bard, Bridget the cleric and Devron the Sorceror, returned to the Vanderboren-mansion two days later. They were in high spirit and pretty sure that they were to travel into the east as their next assignment, in order to hunt down Vanthus.
This was likely contributing to their surprise once they arrived at the mansion, only to find out that several day workers were busy dragging out the furniture, loading it onto a cart. Meanwhile, the majority of the garden was being dug up, except for the tallest of trees, and placed in pots that were later carried off. There was a lot of talking and mumbling around them, as the heroes entered the house and found it to be in the state of shutdown. What was left of the interior was only waiting to be packed into crates, or carried white sheets as if their owner had no intention of ever using them again.
They found Lavinia in the banquet hall, in which they had dined a couple of times. She was eagerly inspecting the far wall in which several maps and navigational charts were the sole decoration. There were enough of them to cover a small house. Sitting not far from her were the Jade Ravens, who gave the heroes an acknowledging nod, but before anyone got to speak, their patron turned around with a swirl. For the first time in so long time, a genuine smile greeted them.
“Heroes,” she said, with a cheerful voice that echoed through the naked halls. “I am so glad you could make it. Please, have a seat. I’d wish to offer you something, but as you can see, I’m pretty much fresh out!”
“Think none of it,” Devron said and found his seat “I’d rather like to know what’s happening? Are you leaving?”
“I am!” Lavinia said, and marched to the biggest map, her heels clicking loudly “In fact, WE are leaving. With your permission, that is.”
“Excuse me?”
“You remember the papers you helped me find in the castle, right?” Lavinia said, and pointed at a tiny coast. It looked like the coast of Sasserine. Leopold noticed a smug gaze from the Jade Ravens. “Well, it turns out to be just as I expected. These are my mother’s journals and records. It seems like my parents were actually quite the adventuring types, to which I would certainly not object. Truth to be told…” she eyed Markus with a wry smile “…I’ve grown rather fond of it. I might as well admit that I’ve always wanted to do something important with my life. Travel the world. See places. And luckily, a very unique opportunity has just presented itself! Only four years ago, my parents undertook a truly dangerous journey into unknown territory. They loaded The Blue Nixie with colonists and materials and sailed far to the south, into the unknown ocean, to a place they refer to as The Isle of Dread. Now, I am not sure whether you’ve heard of this place, but let me say; it’s aptly named. Mother describes this place as a hell-hole of a jungle, infested with giant lizards, savage natives and perils around every corner. However, the southern peninsula seemed relatively safe, and thus my parents decided to found the colony of Farshore.”
“And they lived safely from harm, I assume?” Bridget said.

“Oh yes, but the colony is not the only interesting thing here. You have to understand, the Isle of Dread is an untapped treasure in itself. The island is teeming with resources, spices, lumber, animals, mines, ore, gems…even ancient artifacts, perhaps? Had mother and father only the time, they could have turned this into one of the most valuable trade-routes to ever exist! Apparently, this was their sole intention when they returned…before my brother made his move, and left me in this sorry state. And now, I intend to carry through with that plan!”
Silence dominated the room for several seconds. The young noble obviously tried to read her champions.
“Before you start asking,” she quickly said “I have been busy studying mother’s journal. This is not some crazy voyage to wherever the wind will take us. Everything has been quite planned for, and I am certain we can do this, provided we set up a proper expedition. I intend to sail south for three months, carrying a vast cargo of fresh supplies and colonists, and remain at the colony for the rest of the year. I assure you that most of the expedition has already been arranged for. All I need is an additional ship…”
Lavinia turned slowly towards the heroes with an almost exaggerated innocence. “I…do recall you telling me about the ship you found in Kraken Cove. I was wondering whether I could persuade you to join me on the journey. We could really use not only your vessel, but you have proven more than capable for tending to not only yourselves. What say you?”
“This is a lot to ask, Lavinia” Markus said. “I am not saying that we wouldn’t want to offer you our ship, but I’d like to know a bit more about this voyage. Who are we dealing with onboard, exactly what does this journey involve, and what could we possibly expect?”
“I do understand your concern,” Lavinia said. “But let me assure you that the first half of the journey should prove almost trivial. We’re going around the cape of the chultan peninsula, to the west, and make our way past various harbors and rivers to fetch supplies. From thereon, the most perilous part is the journey south. We’re going off the charts, ladies and gentlemen. Mother’s journal isn’t specific on this point, but once we reach the Isle of Dread, we should be able to sail past most of the danger and directly to Farshore. Once there, we will contact Lord Meravanchi  and figure out our next step.”
“She makes it sound so easy” Devron whispered. Bridget smiled.
“I know you might be hesitant,” Lavinia continued “But think of the gains! Think of how much is at stake, and how much of a difference we could make. Not only for the colonists, but also for ourselves, once we start establishing trade-routes to the mainland. We could be rich beyond our wildest dreams! What say you?”
The heroes looked at each other. Markus smiled and eyed Lavinia through the corner of his eye. “Alright,” he said “You’ve got yourself a ship, my lady. When are we leaving?”
I chose to give my players an elaborate explanation of the situation in this scene, instead of partially revealing it. They hadn’t thought much about retrieving the Wyvern at this stage, so they had some time to fetch it and bring it back to Sasserine. Of course, it’s also viable to keep the players in the dark about the majority of the journey. Either way, notice that the printed version of this adventure originates in Greyhawk, meaning you’ll likely have to change a bit, if you’re using a different setting. In my case, Sasserine was placed on the northern coast at the chultian peninsula, meaning the players simply sailed west and I transferred the locations accordingly.
An odd crew
A few days later the heroes had successfully commandeered the Sea Wyvern, and brought it to Sasserine harbor. Here Lavinia took over the procedures, and told them about the formalities. They were, all in all, going to spend three months at sea, and Sasserine would be both the first and the
biggest city on their journey. Therefore they were encouraged to stock up on anything they might need in the future, before sitting down to meet their crew.
The preparations were handled swiftly, and mostly consisted of a shipment of Wands of Cure Light Wounds and the bare necessities, such as anti-toxins and potions. Occasionally, the citizens of Sasserine would stop the heroes to wish them a good journey, or tell them that they would be there this night to say goodbye.

The Sasserinian harbor was especially teeming with activity and life, this warm day. The wind was fair and a lot of sailors, old and young, stood at the piers or sat at the inns, looking at the two impressive ships docked in the middle of the harbor. Crewmembers were swarming in between each other as they carried crates, bags, sacks and weapons onboard, or made way for the ambitious colonists. These were all lined up in a long queue in front of both ships, before they were signed on as part of the officially named ‘Vanderboren Expedition’. It was safe to say that everything was one big mess, albeit structured enough to maintain steady progress for both ships. It certainly didn’t improve matters, that a thick carpet of citizens had gathered around to point and mumble about either the madness or bravery of this venture.

 As the heroes approached, they didn’t get to stand around for long before Lavinia greeted them. The young noble was eagerly explaining how well everything was under way, and despite minor setbacks they were well on schedule. They only needed to address a few issues with the sleeping-quarters.
It was then they were abruptly interrupted by the sound of loud hooves, making their way across the cobblestones. When they turned their gaze, a mighty grey stallion was approaching the gangplank. Its rider, a handsome young man with a moustache, smiled at them with his teeth before saying “please move out of the way, rabble. Thank you.”
“What an idiot,” Bridget mumbled. “Must be one of the people from the carnival”.
“Actually,” Lavinia said “his name is Avner. Avner Meravanchi. He’s joining us.”
“You’re serious?”
“Very serious.”
“But the man is an ass? Please tell me he’s not going with—“
“Your ship, yes. It’s the biggest one, and he specifically asked for the biggest one.”
“Tell him no, then!”
“We can’t!” Lavinia hissed “The Meravanchi-family is one of our prime sponsors. Their only request was that we brought him with us. Took him far away, to his uncle in Farshore. You guys are going to take him with you, unless you’re willing to pay the sum instead!”
They heard a loud arguing. Agitated voices were shouting over the crowd and it was obvious that the young nobleman had his first clash out of many. A moment later they arrived to find him before the gangplank, fiercely arguing with a young, beautiful woman with a rough edge. She was eyeing him furiously, and her golden hair teemed with each syllable of her words.

“I am NOT telling you again, Avner. You are not getting special treatment for this nag of yours. He can stay at the cargo hold, just like the rest of the animals!”
“My dearest Captain Amella. You have obviously lost touch with this entire situation. Allow me to explain it one more time, I will even do it slowly. I am well aware that people of your status are not frequent to magnificent beings that are not nautical in nature, but this magnificent mount is Thunderstrike, a god among horses. If you would just be so kind as to find him a private place, I will immediately be off to inspect my cabin. That’s a good lass!”
“Heroes!” Amella shouted, as the group advanced. “As the owners of this ship, please knock some sense into this man’s head. I’ve got neither the time nor the patience for dealing with such imbeciles.”
“Rest assured, captain, we will deal with this. Proceed with your duties.” Leopold kindly said and turned to Avner. “I am sure your steed will be most comfortable in the cargo, Mr. Meravanchi. If you would just be so kind and let the crew transport it onboard, we’d be happy if you would just find your hammock in the crew’s quarters below deck.”
“Crew?” Avner frowned. “Young man, a hero of my status is NOT sleeping with such rabble? I was promised my personal cabin? What is this madness?”
Leopold eyed Lavinia. “What matters now, good Sir, is to get our journey started. I am sure that once we’re at sea, everything will work out fi—“ the Bard froze as a tiny man in green clothes, with a huge grey beard, was slowly lifting the tail of the horse, mumbling to himself. Avner followed his gaze.

“YOU!” he shouted. “Gnome! TINY MEN! GET AWAY FROM MY HORSE!”
“I’m sorry!” the gnome squeaked “Forgive me, I didn’t mean neither you nor your masterfully bred horse any damage!”
“Who are you?” Markus interrupted.
“I am Urol! Urol Forol. Pleasure ta’ meet ya! Ambitious scholar and traveler extraordinaire!”
“Let me guess,” Bridget sighed “you’re also coming with us?”
“Why, how perceptive, young woman! We might make a scholar out of you yet! You shouldn’t so happen to be interested in the finer arts of botanic, flora and fauna? We might just have a lot to discuss, you know, it’s always so exciting meeting foreign people around here. Do you know each other? I know I don’t. But I guess we will have plenty of time for that, right? In the mean time you might think about what particular area of the field you’d like to see addressed in the upcoming compendium of life on the Isle of Dread. I assure you there is so much to say yet, and we know so very little about, well, everything. A brilliant example which I am sure will suffice for an introducing chapter is the peculiar mating-habits of the rare Emerald Crab, which only lives in the shallow water close to—“
“Listen,” Leopold gently interrupted. “We’d love to hear more—“
“No we don’t”
“Shut up. We’d love to hear more, Mr. Forol. But for now, we’re kind of in a hurry, so if both you AND Mr. Meravanchi would be so kind as to stroll aboard, we’d get to study said rituals a lot faster, I assure you.”
“Yes, that makes sense. Let’s go Mr. Marvenchia! I am sure this is a brilliant first step towards a bigger hike!”
As both of them vanished into the crowd, one complaining, one rambling, Bridget gentle held her temples, wondering exactly how long the upcoming three months would feel.

GM Comments:
Introducing the entire crew in this way can be some challenge. Therefore, the friar, the traveler and the tomboy were introduced once the players were riding the waves. I always stray a bit from the description either way, but as I knew the players would interact with Amella, Avner and Urol not only in this but also several chapters to come they received a great deal of spotlight.
I’m actually quite happy with how I made Urol work. A true annoyance, but the players quickly realized how much they could gain from him, since he was a vault of knowledge about the Isle of Dread and the Olman Empire. Provided they could sit through his ramblings, that is. I made sure that unless they intimidated him, they’d have to put up with interesting lectures for at least a minute, before he got to the answer to their questions.
Additionally, captain Amella was the second romance-option in the campaign, so I wanted to present her properly as well.
Setting out on the sea
The heroes left port and had several opportunities to mingle with their new crew. Naturally, some received far more attention than the rest, and a few weren’t even talkative. Besides the spoiled Avner (that quickly addressed the heroes with a thorough list of approved food for his horse) and Urol, the heroes had a pleasant talk with Father Feres, a cleric of Lathander and Lirith, a female gladiator from Sasserine.

Besides, another traveler had joined the Sea Wyvern; a brooding person named Skald, who preferred to be left alone and stare across the ocean.
Lavinias’ ship sailed alongside the heroes, carrying mostly supplies and various materials, also featuring the Jade Ravens as body guards. Not that body guards would likely be needed, as she said, but she felt best knowing that armed men were at her side.
The first week of travel offered nothing spectacular, except some impressive sights to the south, as they passed the lush, green jungles and saw the grey harbor of Sasserine shrink, until it was nothing more than a dot on the horizon.
The wind was merciful and the weather great. As the days passed there wasn’t many challenges ahead. Bridget spent a lot of time working with the captain, learning the ropes of sailing. During the evening, the heroes would often gather up to either eat with the crew and colonists, occasionally join captain Amella in her cabin. In both cases Leopold would tell stories from near and far, especially about their deeds in Sasseine, and everyone was listening with great attention.
Every day, the two ships would exchange news and updates on their situation, but on the evening of the eight day, Lavinia invited the heroes to come dine with her. They gladly accepted, and even though the Jade Ravens were also present and sending hostile gazes, the evening turned out wonderfully. Lavinia, usually one for the regally blue colors, wore a deep red dress and orange flower in her hair. It was a feast unlike anything else the heroes had for a long time, sausages, quail, salted pork, buttered vegetables and soft bread. Their favorite wines and beverages were lined up on a nearby table, and the lightening provided a cozy, golden haze in the cabin.
As they spoke about the coming events, Markus noticed how his eyes met those of the young Vandeboren. Just for a short moment, before she embarrassedly looked down. He couldn’t tell whether she was blushing, but he had a feeling.

(Opposite in my campaign)
Lavinia went into details with the upcoming stops and ports, telling the heroes that they would eventually reach Fort Blackwell. “It is a tiny coastal, town” she said “we will make a stop for some supplies and a few days for people to stretch their legs. There likely won’t be much of interest for people like you… but it’s very scenic, and I think we all deserve a break after the first 14 days.” She then described how they would push south, making a brief stop at the mouth of the Havekihu River for fresh water. At this time she stopped for a second, as if carefully choosing her next words.
“And then,” she slowly began “later on, I have…sort of, made a promise on your part. Before you react, let me quickly add, this is likely no bother at all. But the gnome, Urol, on your ship made quite an unusual request. I am not sure whether any of you have ever heard of the Olman-empire?”
Devron’s fork halted midair. “The Olmans?” he said. “The ancient tribal civilization?”
“Those are the one” Lavinia exclaimed with an eager smile
“What about them? That old empire has been lost and gone for thousands of years? It’s a common fact that their only remains are a bunch of crumbled ruins, scattered among the southern coasts.”
“Ah!” the young noblewoman said “you’re already well versed in this matter I see. According to Mr. Urol, the Olman Empire might hold important information about our destination. I couldn’t exactly
figure out how, but he insisted to be allowed access to explore some old Olman-ruins on our way. Tamoachan, I think the name was.”
“Tamoachan can barely be called remnants,” Devron pondered. “It used to be some kind of minor temple-outpost, according to legend. Whatever would he want there?”
Lavinia shrugged. “I honestly don’t know,” she answered with a hint of a smile “But if he’s right, whatever he hopes to find could be of benefit to us. After all, he’s the only one here that’s been to the Isle of Dread before. I’d trust his word. Besides; I am only asking you lot to babysit him because that  old gnome would stay there for weeks, if nobody drags him out. I hope this is not asking too much?”
Leopold nodded. “Been there before, eh? I am sure we could manage that.”
“Excellent! Let’s have a toast. For a safe journey!”
An hour later, the heroes retired from the party and headed back to the Wyvern. A rope had been hung between the ships for them to climb, and as Marcus began traversing it, it suddenly snapped. He hit the dark waves with a loud splash, and while Bridget and Devron started shouting and tossing out rope, Leopold noticed a dark shade at the front of the Wyvern casting a spell. “Stop that man!” he screamed at the crew, resulting in immediate chaos. “STOP HIM! DON’T LET HIM GET AWA—What in the hells is that?”
Leopold looked horrified at the massive shape, heading directly for Marcus. He cried out for him, but soon after the War Blade was dragged below water by a huge, fiendish-looking shark.
“We’ve got to do something, I’m going after him!” Leopold said and leaped overboard. As he approached the dark waves, he noticed how a green mephit was screamingly heading for his two remaining companions.
The mephit was pickled.
“We’re being attacked!” Devron sneered and hurled a magic missile at the mephit. “We should’ve known it wouldn’t be this easy!”
“But who?” Bridget asked as she invoked the divine power of her deity. The silvery light gentle spread on the sorcerer’s robe, closing the bleeding wounds as the mephit started raking him. “And why?”
“Well, we haven’t exactly been diplomatic, have we?” Devron shouted. His gaze was fixed on the mephit , and yet distant, lost in thought. He shrugged off the bewilderment, trying to catch any sound of Leopold or Marcus. He straightened up, and focused all effort on gathering arcane energy, that seconds later turned into a blast of scorching light. It roared through the gloom and hit the mephit straight on, sending a screaming ball of fire to the depths. They both ran for the railing and stared at the waves.  They were stared back in silence, only interrupted by distant shouts, ringing bells and Lavinia’s hasty footsteps.
“What happened? Are we being attacked?” she asked “Where is Marcus?”
“We’re…not entirely sure” Bridget admitted. “It looks like a shark took him”
“What? That can’t be! You’ve got to help him! Get in there!”
“Well, the bard tried that”
“Yes, and it’d be better for someone to assess the situation, I am sure” Devron added “After all, none of us are exactly great swimmers”
In a roaring blast, Marcus burst through the surface, heavily wounded with his glaive in one hand and an unconscious bard in the next. He tied the rope to Leopold and slowly they were both brought up to the deck. Lavinia instantly threw herself around his neck, adding to his already befuddled look.
“What happened down there?” Devron asked. “That shark would’ve torn any normal man apart!”
“And it almost did,” Marcus admitted “but I am no normal person, am I?”
The War Blade gently removed himself from Lavinia and wearily sat down. Leopold had obviously been chewed on recklessly, which had left several bleeding fang-marks all over his body.  “That shark; it almost ate the bard… And the peculiar thing is, once I killed it, it just…disappeared?”
“A summoned shark, then” Devron said. “And the sudden appearance of a mephit. It seems like we’ve become a thorn in the side of a spell-caster.”
As Leopold got around, the heroes had a brief meeting with Lavinia, in privacy. Although there certainly was a wide range of possible identities, it was certain that someone onboard one of the ships sought the heroes’ death. They agreed that Lavinia with the Ravens and the heroes with captain Amella were responsible for searching and investigating their respective vessels. The crew and passengers were likely getting quite nervous about the recent event, so it was imperative to maintain control.
It was around midnight, and a confrontation with Avner Meravanchi about the safety aboard, that the heroes returned to their cabins. On their way, Leopold noticed Skald staring at them from the poop deck.

“It was a nasty event” he said. “You guys ought to be more careful.”
“Yes,” Leopold answered. “Next time, we will make sure to strike first.”
Skald smiled, slyly.
“In that case,” the foreigner said “I hope you know who to strike. Gentlemen.”

GM Comments:
The adventure recommends some other assassination-attempt, which I decided to include later on. The investigation-plot took a lot more time than I’ve described here. Well over two hours of talking, considering suspects and pondering as to who could possibly have an interest to see them dead. Besides obvious guesses, such as Vanthus (who was frankly a prime candidate for some time) it was also plausible to suspect the Obsidian (scarlet) Brotherhood. The heroes had originally promised the Brotherhood their cooperation in catching Vanthus, but in the end they terminated the alliance, which was never taken lightly. Additionally, Marcus’ father never approved of his son’s departure, and even less of his adventurous new friends. Finally, the Jade Ravens weren’t off the hook, as they could have a lot to gain by making the heroes appear incompetent. Or even better; dead.
I liked this part of the adventure, because it did what it was supposed to. The heroes became paranoid and strived to tighten control of the situation. It worked even better, once the passengers started worrying, questioning and even blaming the heroes for not catching the murderer. But sadly, there were plenty of trials to come, on what originally seemed to be an easy, uneventful journey.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

D&D and Romances - Part one. ”…Are you guys still playing?”

(This blog contains comments of sexual nature)
It is only fitting, compared to the weather and semi-naked people outside, that our next journey into the fantastical universe of dungeons and dragons will take us to a country so forbidden and twisted that it rivals the nation of Thay itself. I am of course talking about the ever hot potato of the gaming community; romances.
Why even wonder about D&D and romances, you sick bastard?
From the average point of view, putting D&D in the same sentence as anything remotely similar to romantic and sexual interaction is about as preposterous as a nun in a strip-club (a real nun, that is). After all, the gaming community still suffers (to some extent) from the age-old prejudice of asexuality and creepy loners hooking up in their parents’ basement. Whereas there will always be a certain grain of truth to any kind of satire, this concept is and should damn well be more and more outdated for every year. Originally this point of view is nothing more than a remnant from those times in which games (RPG’s in particular) were far less prominent as they are today. Back then, before wizards were awesome and getting off on elf-princesses was frankly understandable, it wasn’t uncommon for me to meet shocked reactions, when I expressed my gratitude about more women becoming interesting in Dungeons and Dragons. A particular beard even looked at me in fascinated horror, honestly telling me that he didn’t really think nerds even were interested in romance and eroticism.
This sparked a lot of discussion, and whereas there are still simplistic, reductionist morons in existence, who’d likely have a laugh for the night by the sole fact that I write a blog about this subject, we’ve come a long way since then.
Modern gaming-culture has not only gone to great lengths to include these (in my opinion, vital) aspects into their games, be it tabletop or on the computer, but they’ve also managed to treat the subject respectfully. Surely we saw all the pixilated titties we wanted back in Leisure Suit Larry 1, and as I’ve previously stated in my review, Duke Nukem 3D was almost game-breaking by the time, for reasons I am sure you can find out on your own. However, it hardly seems unfair to point out the immature, almost tediously basic, way this was handled. Not entirely unlike modern music videos and trailers for less intelligent action movies. After all, sex sells. Nothing new there.
Sex even sells in games. In that regard, you could argue that there was no need for this essay, since you pretty much encounter half-naked night elves and female pirates in every fantasy-setting with the least bit of self-respect these days. I admit it; I do it too. The villainess in my weekly PnP-group is a pale woman with a tight, black corset, high-heeled boots of leather, cuffs and a bosom that explains her incredible armor class. I’m not saying that I’m in any way above this tendency. Just that there certainly is more to it, and that we (as gamers) shouldn’t necessarily suffice with thin-worn clichés.
Why involve romance into gaming, when night elves are more than enough?
Deep inside, what characterizes a great story, be it on the computer or in a session, is the fact that we are presented with several obstacles and dilemmas we can relate to. That is not to say that a story can’t be good, unless it borders social realism, but to say that the element of identification is extremely important in the psychological sense. In the end, a reason why we cry and smile when we watch a movie, is because we can relate and mirror ourselves in the story presented to us. For some, this is crying when we watch a breakup with all too familiar resemblances to our own past. For others, seeing Rohan sound their horns and ride into battle, light shining in their back, is what fills us with hope and defiance, when we’re confronted with the darkest moments of our lives. This is why we remember these stories, and let them stay in our hearts.

Of course, this fact is not alien to a lot of developers, who’ve quickly learned to push some of the right buttons, as the story goes on. I’m, for example, referring to Dragon Age here, but also some of the better GM’s I have known. People who’ve not only put a great emphasis on the structural design of the adventure (treasure-building, encounters and so on) but equally so made sure to include the vital feelings and dilemmas that define us as humans.  You might’ve seen some interviews during the Lord of the Rings-days or Harry Potter-era, in which someone said “I like the movie because I know how they must feel…”, “I feel so sorry for Frodo, it’s such a horrible journey he’s on” and so on. And they’re right. It’s even on that premise that crap such as “Twilight” lives. I’ve known lots of Bellas in my time, who’ve told me what it was like to submerge into an all-absorbing romance, on the borderline to obsession, and the eternal (and in hindsight; naïve) belief about eternal love with the one and only.

In this line of thought, Twilight is just one example of how a vital aspect (albeit, exaggerated) has served to write an appealing story. I’m well aware that ‘Twilight’ might not be the best of references for my average audience, so I’ll leave the examples at that, and instead point out that love, whether happy or unhappy, and the inclusion of romance and erotic, is a powerful narrative element. An element that ought to have a place, even in D&D-games.
Do romances have a place in D&D?
They say that there is a place and time for everything, so the logical answer would be yes. Seen in an overall perspective, this isn’t exactly an innovative concept, since campaigns such as ‘Savage Tide’ and ‘Shackled City’ make sure to include some opportunities for potential romances with the NPC’s. In the computer-games department, romances were some of the big hits back in Baldur’s Gate 2. So big that later mods have expanded upon this option to include the NPC’s in the original game, and even a few of the commoners. Sadly reduced in magnitude in the Neverwinter-games, this aspect made a smashing comeback in Dragon Age – Origins and Mass Effect that presented several maturely handled options for your character to get together with a party member.  Even marry them or break their heart.
In D&D we tend to remember the times in which we’re faced with difficult decisions, the NPC’s that made an impression on us, and the gains and sacrifices we had as the story moved on. Elements that strongly mirror those of real life; those we think about not only while in the game, but also outside it. In this line of reason, including romances as a vital part of the game is just as natural as including friendships and decisions to which there are no inherently ‘good’ solution.
Are romances for everyone?
A lot of people never tried or don’t like romances in their game, and I’ll happily say I understand why, since several prerequisites have to be met, and some taboos have to be broken. To start with the latter, it has hardly gone unnoticed by now, that a lot of ‘humor’ has been made on our cost, especially regarding the gamers’ seemingly non-existent love-life. If you’re oblivious to my point, I suggest watching the abysmally horrible movie ‘Fanboys’ or listening to the significantly better D&D audio-clips from Deadalewives.

For many people, the inclusion of romantic elements in a campaign is (wrongly) nothing more than a cementation of one’s social status as a downright no-lifer. (As a side-note, it’s interesting to see how married gamers or those in relationships tend to bypass this easier). Personally, I think we first and foremost need to break with this fundamentally flawed idea, which basically tangents to another old false observation about gamers being violent in games, only because they’re not allowed to take out their sinister brutality in real life. The implicit statement is, of course, that all gamers are sad loners with homicidal tendencies, which couldn’t be further from the truth, judging from the hordes of them I’ve met in my type. (Granted, some of them have concerned me, but that’s beyond this scope).
When all gets down to it, letting a player become romantically involved with an NPC and roleplaying it isn’t any more different than a woman renting a love-flick and crying over how perfect the world of men could be. This doesn’t mean that said woman is starved of love, or incapable of expressing her romantic desires. Neither is an actor lacking a social life when he’s on stage, pretending to fall in love with the lovely damsel. This is a sad legacy of ignorant, bleak minds which we need to forsake as soon as possible. I tend to address it at the start of every campaign, as I also explain that romances is something I am comfortable playing.
And there, I said it; ‘comfortable’. That’s the second issue. Even then, some people don’t like romances or don’t like to get into it. All said and done, romances are about intimacy, and their relation to the sexual nature of the human being also makes them a touchy subject. For many people of modern age, sexuality and intimacy is something that is simply left unmentioned, and bringing it to the gaming-table, when you’d rather eat crisps and drink beers is overwhelming.
I’m not here to argue for a sexual revolution, so I’m sworn to respect people’s wishes in that regard. But remember that works both ways, which you should obviously discuss with your players. If two players at the table loathe romantic interaction, but the remaining two would love it, the former two should show respect and be quiet if they have nothing to contribute with during romantic talks. In all too many cases, potential romances have been broken by immature comments or patronizing remarks.
Maturity is of course something of a foundation for romantic encounters. Pretty much every young boy or man can relate to a half-naked night elf-chick, no problem. But romance, bonding, intimacy and even marriage will test your level of maturity, in most cases. You might find groups whose (mental) age is so low that you might as well straight out skip this element or leave it at flirting. Just make out the rules in advance.
Rules are just as important, if not even more, once you’ve decided to venture into the romance-country. I’ve come up with a few Do and Don’ts to address rules.

DO ask your players about their limits and goals in regard to romances. It becomes tedious if your player just wants a tavern-girl he’ll eventually marry, but you keep on throwing princesses and castles at him.

DO your research. Falling in love isn’t complicated, really. Watch a movie, read a book, it’s been clichéd over and over, and if you know in advance who and what your player is looking for, it’s quite easy to set up a scene in which he’ll know his love to be will be on stage. BEING in love, on the other hand, is complicated. Therefore:

DO ask yourself and the player what they expect to happen in the romance. If they expect anything besides what your GM-mind will come up with, of course.  Do they expect a happy end? A sad end? A sacrifice for a loved one? Do they prefer tough ethical dilemmas that will challenge their love (such as choosing between her and saving a village from certain death)? As always, letting your players do some work for their free entertainment is good.

DO be prepared to call it off, if it doesn’t work out one way or the other. Some times the best ideas turn out bad. Don’t blame yourself, but remember that you might have better luck next time and that D&D is about much more than just this minor aspect.

When in doubt, usually DON’T. If you think it could be fun to let the loved one become pregnant but doubt the reaction from the player, don’t do it. This also applies to the real-life age of the people involved, especially if you're playing with younger people. In this case, it's often better to entirely skip this aspect. Don’t force anything, but let your players set the pace. Neither should you force a romance, if your player looses interest. Of course, abandoning your loved one could lead to repercussions from angered family and relatives.

DON’T go deep into the sex. This hardly ever works, and usually becomes extremely uncomfortable, if you insist that your player describes how he throws her down on the bed and in which order he will undress her. It’s also really easy to exceed another player’s limits.
Just turn it into a fade-to-black and make a straight statement that ‘You both share a wonderful night in her bed’.
DON’T push your voice. If you, like me, prefer to play your NPCs in first-person instead of third, you will likely have to interact with a player, romantically, one on one. With mature people this is likely no issue, but I’ve come to notice that men tend to go into a high-pitched voice, whenever they are to resemble a female voice. Also known as ‘The Monty Python-effect’ this quickly gets really silly (and a tad hilarious) and often you’re better served by just talking lightly and softly. Of course, if you’re a woman things become a bit different…
Male vs. Female-GM’s and romances
Putting equal rights aside, for a moment acknowledging the differences between the sexes, it goes without saying that romances (often) have better odds for working well, when executed between a player and a GM of the opposite sexes. This is not to say that it would be impossible otherwise or that romances originating in different sexual orientations are out of the picture (they’re, of course, just as plausible as any other kind). However, in the perspective of habituation, the majority of people are used to romantic entanglement with the opposite sex. And since the majority of the gaming-community is still dominated by males, it only stands to reason that a woman-man interaction can potentially make a romance smoother than one played by male-male .

Some people are put straightly down by this, unable to cope with the fact they’re playing out a romance with another man. No matter how good the imagination behind it. Respect this. In the same line of argument, some female GM’s don’t like to play romances with every male character in her group, which is also perfectly understandable. Once again, it’s all about finding out what works and leaving out that which doesn’t. Certain situations might even surprise you, such as playing a female romancing with a male character, played by a female. I can say from experience that it worked surprisingly well.
Thus we conclude the first part of “Romances and D&D”. Stay tuned for the second part, in which I intend to look at romances from a narrative point. This includes ideas and advice as to how you can structure a romance, and keep it flowing throughout the campaign.