Liana K, Characters, Their Stats and Female RPG Characters

There are a lot of good and interesting points in this, including some justification for base stat differences between male and female characters in RPGs.  For those without time to watch the video, the major point she brings up is that the female character, despite having a completely different non-martial background from the male character, has all sorts of inexplicable combat skills and physicality without any justification beyond delivering a 1-for-1 play experience.  That and the female character might even be lactating throughout the game…

In VG RPGs that let you customize the default protagonist, I tend to go for a 3:1 ratio of playing female to male characters, in part because physical stats are easier to grind up than social stats.  DCC , however, is the first time in tabletop I’ve played ‘a little girl’ (or even a female PC at all), and that was entirely the luck of the roll (random gender, random alignment, 3d6 straight down). So I play to that character’s strengths, which mostly entail her being small and inconspicuous. Would it make sense for me to play a large ripped muscle-bound fighty man with those 7s, 8s and 9s in all of my stats? Absolutely not!

In tabletop RPGs, I think characters emerge from their stats much moreso than with VG RPGs. With VG RPGs, the stats often don’t reflect (or aren’t reflected in) the physical appearance of the characters, so you CAN end up with lithe bruisers and ripped frail mages. In a lot of games with default protagonists without fixed race and gender, phenomena like Liana described can sort of jar you out of your suspension of disbelief, but games are expected to deliver the same sort of experience regardless of your ‘cosmetic’ character choices even when those choices should NOT be cosmetic. Despite being an incredibly unfun mess of a game, I think the first Killzone actually pulled this off to an extent (big ripped muscle dude carried giant chain guns, while lithe assassin girl carried scoped pistols, etc.), but that wasn’t a game with a default protagonist.

Something that would be interesting to see would be an attempt to make characters in a game better reflect their stats. Ironically, one of the few games I’ve played that really attempted to do this (and in a way that gamified fitness no less!) was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. CJ could get fat and pudgy if he ate junk food, didn’t work out and only drove places, and it would translate into reduced stamina; conversely, if he got into shape, his physical stats would improve along with his character model. Perhaps rather than having a character look like whatever regardless of starting stats, those starting stats would be determinant of possible appearance and characteristics. You wouldn’t be locked in, of course, but it would be the difference between playing a small thiefy street urchin and a weak out of shape dude. Or hell, a tough broad and a square-jawed man.

The thing is, what might be average for one person could be exceptional for another. Let’s throw out some random, but average stats:
Str  9
Dex 11
Con 8
Per 12

Reasonably strong, reasonably fast, reasonably likable, maybe can’t quite take a hit as hard as some people. Kind of ‘meh’, right? Now apply them to a 5-foot nothing girl who weighs just over 100 lbs.

This character just got a bit more interesting, right?

Your ‘average’ stats for one character could just amount to ‘some guy’ or a Saori Ishioka (Japan’s #7 ranked strawweight woman fighter) depending on the human frame you’re applying them to.  Of course there’s no reason why you couldn’t have a female character with 18s in Strength and Con; just keep in mind that it would make sense for her to look more like She-Hulk than your typical professional woman fighter.  Even in the world of professional boxing, 18 STR and CON would be more along the lines of a Klitschko than a Mayweather.  Weight Class is a very real thing, which is why fighting uses pound-for-pound ranking.  So remember, you can play a character with so-so stats that could easily be a pound for pound champ, and in the end I think that’s more interesting and has more possibilities that playing a maxed out monster.

Anyway, have a good Thanksgiving weekend.

Reading List and Planning for CARCOSA


Tales to Astound discovers the 20th century’s near-lost Shakespearean character King Kull. I think of him as more of an Othello wrapped in a Lear, rather than a MacBeth, however.

Originally posted on Tales to Astound!:


The Player Characters of my Lamentations of the Flame Princess game might well be going to doomed Carcosa(Of their own volition, mind you, to find a magical McGuffin to retrieve some of their companions from an extra dimensional trap. I’d never force such a thing on them!)

I’m very excited about this, as I find the setting compelling and crazy. And unlike many who find the material morally repulsive and too dark, I see it as a chance for PCs to step up to the plate with moral certainty. The thought of a bunch of 17th Century Europeans leaving a time of religious and political confusion and ending up on an alien world where Sorcerers cast rituals involving human sacrifice seems to me the perfect setup for a pulse-pounding pulp novel.

If they go, I expect they’ll stay a while. I can withhold the McGuffin as long as I’d…

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DCC 4th printing funded!

I suck because I didn’t have time to shill for the Kickstarter, but I did shell out for a faux leather copy of 4th printing and some wonky DCC dice in case I ever want to try running it myself.

Congrats, DCC dudes.  You have an amazing product, and I’m happy to have the chance to support you and get a crap-ton of swag by doing so.

One request, though.  The next time you do a Kickstarter, please consider making an almost-art-free saddle-stitched 72 page booklet containing all of the core rules one of your stretch goals!

Bull Run Pt. 2

The first part of our playthrough of Avalon Hill’s Bull Run can be found here.

My dad & my first play through of Bull Run is turning into a big flanking battle: we’re each delivering a strong punch from our right as our lefts collapse.  The question is who will deliver the knockout blow first?

We’ve made it into early afternoon and don’t anticipate the battle reaching evening.  Bee and Bartow’s brigades were surrounded and routed from hillock just northeast of New Market, but they managed to slow the Union advance just enough to allow a number of highly beneficial pieces to fall in place for the Rebs.  EK Smith arrived by train in time to ensure that my camp in Manassas won’t be a gimme.  Stuart along with some of Smith’s rear-guard regiments have been able to pick off the union men who got too far ahead of their column.  Meanwhile, Longstreet and “Rolling Thunder”(as he will be known hereafter in this alternate universe) Jackson have been making a coordinated push through the woods towards Centerville as Beauregard has ridden out with Ewell to attack the Union HQ from the East.

Early game, Command Path rules did not seem like a huge deal, especially when regiments were being automatically activated by proximity to enemy units.  Mid game, this turned into a real game changer.  With Confederate troops suddenly eliminated from Henry Hill to Flat Run, the Union commanders suddenly found themselves at a loss for what to do.  McDowell had ridden out back across the river down Warrenton Pike to shepherd a desperately needed relief brigade towards Centerville that had four brigades bearing down on it, leaving the bulk of the Union Army without orders.  McDowell literally spent two hours riding back and forth while three and a half divisions of Union troops sat with virtually nothing between them and Manassas!

My own issues with Command Path seem rather minor in comparison.  With both Jo Johnston and Pete Beauregard respectively leading the charge and flank through the woods south of Centerville, my batteries overlooking Blackburn’s and McLean’s Fords, as well as the infantry guarding the Union Mills Ford, have been left without orders.


“First Bull Run July 21 am” by Hal Jespersen, CC by 3.0 via Commons

Bull run map

Troop movements from morning until early afternoon.  Crosses where Confederate Brigades have been routed.  (original image from BGG).

My dad thinks I’ve won.  I think he may still have a chance to dislodge Smith if plays a hurry-up offence.  I’ve gone for an all or nothing gambit, as there’s no way I can hold that little church (red starred hex, lower portion of 2nd map board from left) for another 10 or so turns.  I’m hoping I have enough numbers I can overcome even the relief forces reaching Centerville, but a series of bad rolls could stall me out.  We’re already talking about setting up Malta next time we get together, so this game will hinge on the next few turns around Centerville I’m guessing.

One last note, It turns out that there’s very little “rallying” going on.  It could just be the way we’ve been playing, but by noon, all of my commanders were too busy driving towards the enemy or too busy being dead/captured/fleeing for their lives to spend a turn rallying a regiment.  The great mid-day stall-out of the Union advance gave my dad a chance to pull a few guys from the Rally-box, but the overwhelming majority of guys who go there are probably gone for good.

Weekend Haul + Updates (Appendix N Book and Wargame Wednesdays)

I’d been getting better about my book buying, but being in the same town as one of the best flea market book-stores in the state over the weekend meant another stack of paperbacks to add to my To-Read pile.  I’m being a bit more judicious about what I grab, simply because I have so much already, but I did not want to pass some of these up:  Sword of Rhiannon (Brackett), Hiero’s Journey (Lanier), Berserker (Saberhagen), a crumbly Incompleat Enchanter (deCamp) that was thrown in for free on account of being crumbly, as well as a book each by Norman Spinrad and Philip Jose Farmer (I don’t remember the titles offhand).  I passed up a pretty sweet looking Gardner F. Fox book in part because I’ve already got a huge stack of him in unread magazines (including the next story I have to read in the Fall 1945 Planet Stories!), but I may pick it up some other time if I make more headway in my stacks.

One guy at one of the place who has all sorts of cool toys and magazines and stuff (who I got some Astounding from before) continued to posture about how rare and expensive and hard to find Planet Stories was when I asked if he’d seen them (“Oh, some of them go for over a hundred bucks!” “most of the ones I’ve found, I’ve got for $8-$12, and I’ve got about a dozen of them” “Oh, well they must not’a known what they had!”), so if I’m going to keep collecting them, I’m probably going to need to turn to eBay (where they still mostly cost around $8-$12).  Then again, I really need to read all (or some) of what I have first.  These magazines have waited 70 years for me, they can wait until I’ve at least finished half of the stack I’ve got.

I’m about halfway through Sceptre of Morgulan, and I have so many thoughts about it, especially in light of Matthew Ryan’s guest post in which he cites Tolkien as one of his biggest influences.  His own tale is very un-Tolkienien, and while the D&D influence is obvious, the output is much more in line with pre-Shannara fantasy than it is with the sort of ‘pink-slime’ fantasy that normally comes out of D&D + Tolkien.  I am not kidding when I say it’s like “vampire-hunting in Lankhmar”.  Can the process be reversed?  Can Appendix N-like stories be extracted from D&D + Tolkien by someone who has paid careful enough attention to the implicit setting and mechanical minutia of demonology even without the benefit of directly having been influenced by those things literary forebears?  Am I giving Ryan too much or too little credit?  I don’t know, but his books are amazing and a breath of fresh air!

Jeffro’s at one of those stages of “done” with his Appendix N book that is somewhere between “completed” and “finished”, but when it is done done, you can bet I’ll be buying copies for my friends and try to bully local book clubs into reading it.  I’m hoping he will go for multiple formats, including a coffee-table edition with Doug Kovacs or Erol Otis dust jacket for myself and a student’s paperback edition I can snap up a few of for everyone else.

I was going to announce this earlier, but Wednesday came and went and a few hiccups resulted in delays, but everything’s good now.  I’ll be writing an occasional piece at Castalia House for Wargame Wednesdays.  I will not be moving my entire posting series over there, since there is a rotating weekly group of writers, but generally speaking, I’ll be featuring the first of whatever series I’m covering over there and the rest over here.  So, uh.  Avalon Hill’s Bull Run pt. 1 is up!  Part two will go up here tomorrow or Wednesday.

A Brief Thought on the Importance of 4e to the OSR

There is a recurrent theme in Buddhism that crimes and attacks against Buddhism and the Buddha only serve to strengthen Buddhism because of the illustrative lessons they provide. Devadatta preached “wrong” Buddhism, decided to take a nap mid-sermon, and handed it over to guys who said “Remember what that guy just said? That’s the perfect example of ‘doing it wrong'” and brought his followers back to true Buddhism. Taira Kiyomori, whose crimes against Buddhism were so great that he boiled alive in his bathtub from his own evil, was then heralded as something of a ‘reverse-saint’ because the strife he caused that brought so many people to see the need for Buddhism was far more beneficial in the grand scheme of things than the destruction of temples and persecution of monks were detrimental. It’s similar to the school of thought that contemplates the possibly saintly and divinely necessary roles of Pilate and Judas who, while castigated as villains, are absolutely essential to the fulfillment of the Prophecies.

Which brings me to the edition wars. For all of the hatred and backlash against 3rd and 4th edition, their existence may well be absolutely necessary for the OSR. If there were nothing to rail against and say “This is how you do it wrong!” there would not be the strength of momentum behind a return to some sort of Orthodoxy. Therefore, perhaps 4th ed deserves a sainted position as one of the most if not THE most important game of OSR. And contrary to those who claimed that 5th ed might just be what sweeps away the OSR forever, it will only serve to remind those in the OSR community what they love about it and why got into it in the first place.

Hopefully next week, Bull Run Pt. 1 (and maybe 2!) will be up (somewhere).

Music – 3mg (Live @ Downtown Music, July 23, 2010), medicide +

One thing about playing in an industrial band, half the time I go back and listen to our live shows and have no idea how the hell we managed to make the sounds we did.  I know that my Gristleizer had a lot to do with it, though.

Earlier this week, Createspace FINALLY accepted the artwork I have for our new album, Supernova Black.  With any luck, it will be out before the end of the year.  Certainly in time to advertise it in the pages of Cirsova Issue #1.