Thursday, December 20, 2012

Post-Pubescent Design

I am compelled to write more on yesterday's subject.

I find myself quite contentious on the matter of people who want to limit the game on the basis of what players are willing to play or what players are comfortable with.  This only means that the solution MUST be more creative and far-reaching than the limited imaginations of those who dismiss the idea of out hand.

At the risk of repeating the very, very obvious, SEX and LOVE are central, immutable elements of the human soul, more so than morality, magic or social comfort.  The failing here is not that these are not subjects suited for the game ... it is that the game at this time has not risen to the importance of these subjects.

Oh, you may sit upon your toadstool and preach the comfort zones of your players, but were someone to offer your players a rational, reasonable and playable option for them to get HIGH on their characters in love, they would grab it.

So far, I've seen people speak of all the negative aspects.  Of course no player character wants to settle down into a marriage.  Of course no player wants to be gay or have to suck up to a loved one's possible disapproval.  And no DM wants to get into all the bullshit of when a player's lovelife makes a social modifier and when it doesn't.

Playability demands that the whole situation MUST be viewed in terms of how it can be measured mathematically.  We're perfectly comfortable measuring intelligence mathematically, or wisdom, or your beauty.  We have no trouble with numbers for how likely your men are to obey you!  All existing social aspects of the game are already measured!

To remotely consider roleplaying as a fundamental solution to the matter is to propose NO solution, or to propose that a solution ought not to be supposed.  It is Victorian thinking, my dear gentle readers, and its as ignorant as Aleister Crowley and his midnight dinner parties.  You've thrown in the towel before you've begun and damn your frigid, turgid genitalia to your mother's narrow womb for that bullshit.

Betwixt the fantasy and the playability of D&D, my dear readers, a lover is a prize ... it is a phenomenal thing that is to be obtained, just as one obtains gold and magic.  it is, indeed, a 'magic' item ... one that must transform your character's kicking ass ability just as it does Parzival and just as a +4 Dwarven Hammer would.  The only thing that needs deciding isn't WHAT love would do, but how to obtain that kind of love.  We do not speak of the bar wench, or the piece of tail selling itself on the street of silversmith dildo-makers.  One does not wrench free the broken end of a smashed stairwell's bannister and call it a magic weapon.  Just so, one does not slap wet skin with the farmer's daughter and call it Guinevere.

So please spare me the conditional expectations of your players.  I do not care a whit for any such persons more pre-pubescent than their teenage children.  As ever, I'm looking to break the expectations here and lift the game out of its perpetual self-inflicted infancy.  Help or do not, but don't tell me its impractical.


Lukas said...

Never impractical, never improbable, probably just never properly approached and shared with the world.

Arduin said...

So how do we engineer Guinevere? We're talking about love as an acquisition, but what does that mean?

How do we make the player strong AND weak, and how do we make them WANT to experience it in terms of mechanics.

I imagine love in this sense as a sort of armor. Perhaps an increase in hit die, or just raw HP per hit die. Something that any class would desire, something that made them stronger, a bit more reckless, a symbol of how much better groomed they are now, etc.

That's a positive, and easily implemented, but is there a thematic counterpart that isn't stupid? Something like Sypathetic HP, where either party loses some HP alongside the other, while interesting and symbolic and lovely, also seems like shitty DM fodder.

"Ha ha! Your prince is in another castle! Take 1d4 damage while the guards molest him with a cucumber."

I love anything that elevates this game, I just wish I had a better grasp of how it might be done.

Scarbrow said...

I'll risk a tentative answer that could fit your world setting. I'm not going to treat sex in this comment (is long enough without it). Just kicking-ass Parzival-style knightly love. And as you suggest, I won't touch upon WHAT effect should have, only the HOW to get it.

Your metaphor of lover-as-a-magic-item is very useful. If a lover is indeed a magic item, it must be a rare thing. Not awarded casually, nor earned easily. However, I don't see it like a "thing" lying around, or in possession of another being, so when the battle is over and the spoils divided among the PC, such-and-such gets a lover. We may also consider that, as a magic item, the acquisition of a lover would empower the character in some way. Should we "balance" this by making things hard for the player? (negative social modifiers, increased risk by having a loved one that could be kidnapped/threatened) I think this must not be a mechanical consideration, but rather a story-based one. Like the "small problem" in Garalzapam's fiefdom with the hobgoblin invasion, on your offline party. A lover would be empowering by itself, and that's that.

You ask: "How to obtain that kind of love?". My cynic side is going to answer that with: "it comes from you, not from the other one". I think the kind of trance that Parzival experienced is like an advanced form of meditation (though obsession would define it better). Doesn't require special qualities from the loved one, but from the loving knight. So there wouldn't be something easy to achieve, nor easy to change once fixed on a certain subject. Fortunately, errant knights on stories have the great benefit of having their pure, idealized, tender loved ones conveniently away, where dirty, filthy reality has no power to alter their conceptions. Has your beloved cheated on you? How are you going to know? You have blind faith in her, and besides you can't communicate over long distances. So the infatuation called love is, in a manner, self-sustaining, for once it's established it would take a substantial amount of evidence to remove (as you would tend to dismiss any hint contrary to your preconception). By the same theory, you wouldn't be able to easily swap the target of your "love". You can't "fall in love" with a conveniently nearby bar wench, for it takes time. And it would be a great risk to do so, for being nearby would multiply the possibility of having cold, hard truth pierce your belief shell, depriving you of your "power from love".

In order for love to be a rare treat, you could rule that only a few people here and there would be "worthy" of such love. You could make it so that such persons may be loved by many at once, or maybe you may need to "win" that love, after finding the right person, and before being able to benefit from that. That way, such "lovable persons" would become a resource that could be mapped and assigned, like the rest of your resource/trade references (and if I understand your system correctly, your leveled NPCs). That way you could estimate distances and even "price" of some sort, as a measure of availability of the commodity. All in all, that would make finding a right object for your love something akin to finding a 16th level cleric for a high-level resurrection spell.

A few cents worth of rambling, I hope.

Scarbrow said...

I hit the character mark on the previous comment, so I'll advance some other possibilities here (though the "meat" of my proposal was on the previous comment)

(Several lovers)
You may want to take into account the possibility (social as well as personal) that a character might get two or more lovers (through randomness or willing intent) and the many problems that could/would arise with that. Or not, like I said, depending on society. A patriarchal, warlike society may have no problem with the concept of a harem, while on almost any historical European Christian-based one that would be a serious problem. Unless the matter is considered to be a sort of serial marriage (like Parzival's father, if I understood his story correctly).

(Another, more "classical" mechanical system suggestion)
To achieve "love" you must either fail a saving throw (wisdom-based) against a seducing other or willingly try to achieve that state from a selected or preexisting object of your desire, and you would need to roll some random number to it. Low initial probability, 1 from a d10 maybe. From that point onwards, you must draw the rest from you, and it must not be an easy process. You will need to contemplate, and to fantasize, and to utterly convince yourself of the reality of this feeling to get that power. In my RPG system I would measure that in XP (I use an XP system where XP=time). I suppose you wouldn't want to use XP for this, since it has nothing to do with combat. Although it is combat based, if we look it the right way. Achieving love would make you kick ass, isn't it? So maybe... but I digress. I will stop now.

Hope something of all that is useful

(damn, those RECAPTCHA are becoming tough, 5 attempts now)

Anonymous said...

I like the idea Scarbrow advances above wherein love is a benefit that is somehow invested in and I'd be OK with XP being the investment. Is it not both mechanically and aesthetically elegant that the character in love is "giving of him or her self" to gain the benefit of the love. I'm talking a significant XP investment, enough that some might chooses never to pursue it.

This is offered having already accepted Scarbrow's premise that love comes from the lover and not the loved. Anybody and everybody feels lust. My experience has been that loving a person, particularly a complex, difficult and worthy person IS HARD WORK. Particularly when you are complex, difficult and worthy yourself.

Anonymous said...


Great, thought-provoking couple of posts Alexis. I think you're on to something. If nothing else, the discussion should be interesting.

JackFool said...

@ James C: Could we be talking about a character class? Or perhaps a "split class" like the Thief-Acrobat of fond (?) memory in the Unearthed Arcana? An XP sink with class/level based advantages and significant restrictions on behavior...

Yes, now you can be a fighter AND a lover!