dnd


Flip Through: Waterdeep Dragon Heist

Waterdeep: Dragon Heist recently arrived in local gaming shops and I grabbed a copy of my own on Friday. I knew I needed it once I heard that Dyson Logo's maps would feature in the book and I wasn't disappointed. I've only had the time to do a superficial look at the book but if you're curious as to what you would find within the book, check out my flip through.

One of the big things I noticed during the flip through is the diversity of skin tone in the art. This makes a lot of sense in a city of Waterdeep's size, especially since it is a port city. One of my favorite images is that of Vajra Safahr, The Blackstaff.

Waterdeep Dragon Heist - Vajra SafahrWaterdeep Dragon Heist - Vajra Safahr

As I was preparing for this post, I found folks discussing a sidebar I had missed during my flip through that explains the emphasis on diversity in the artwork (and my understanding, the text as well). The sidebar is in the Volo's Waterdeep Enchiridion section and I hope folks can forgive me for the extended quote because I believe all of it is important.

A Wondrous People

Whenever you find yourself in a bustling city, you're likely to spot a wonderful variety of folk. You hear words in languages utterly foreign to you, and you smell dishes both delectable and strange. Waterdeep is the ultimate city of such delights, and before long, the alien thing becomes familiar to you, and the stranger becomes your friend.

The people of Waterdeep are among the greatest of its splendors. Fashion, comportment, love&emdash;these things are practiced with an art and a zest in the city uncommon elsewhere. Visit a festhall or festival and see for yourself! And don't miss the cross-dressing performers who regale audiences with humor and song. Fabulous&emdash;that word doesn't begin to describe it, especially when they enhance the merriment with magic.

The city is also a haven for those who define for themselves what it means to be a man or a woman, those who transcend gender as the gods do, and those who redefine entirely who they are. What confidence! I never tire of witnessing it. I have seen folk in Waterdeep whose lives are more magical than the marvels possible with spells.

There's a lot going on here. I've seen quite a few people share their joy over feeling that their way of being is explicitly and enthusiastically included in the game world. These things matter to some folk.

I also saw some negative. I don't want to dwell on it here except to say that I've had long conversations with authors of the Realms as well as ardent fans. While it is true that folks of all kinds have existed in the Realms from the beginning, it's also true that they did not always get the sort of attention that they deserved nor was it always clear that not only existed but that they were fairly common. People often bring the baggage of the real world into the fantasy world, especially around issues of gender, sexual orientation, race, and the like. If we want the fantasy world to be different than the real, we have to make those differences clear. And the art work and the sidebar help greatly with that.

Child's Play: IKEA Play Mat Turned D&D Map

Recently I finally set up my child's play mat (it was a Christmas present, life comes at you fast when you have a toddler). I fell in love with the idea of carpet play mats and when I saw a town one at IKEA, I had to get it for him. He just recently started to really play with cars and trains and can play in his room while I do chores, so it was a perfect time to set it up.

I'll admit when we picked it out, I didn't look too closely. Little dude still wasn't quite sleeping through the night. But, as he sat there playing, I started noticing some interesting details.

Like how most of the houses were all built around this single apple tree.

Or this forest with large mushrooms in with the trees.

I'm not sure I quite understand why this highway encircles the lighthouse.

But the real interesting part of the play mat is in the upper right corner.

Sure, a farm doesn't seem that strange. Even one with a cactus and teepees. (Note: I didn't notice the teepees before I bought it or I might have skipped this mat. But I will have a conversation with Little Dude about them one day.) It's what the farm is next to that made me realize that in just a few more months (ok, maybe a couple years), this might be his first D&D map.

That's right, children. One day, Thomas the tank will be exploring the cave of lost souls or whatever we decide to call it. I already have a big fluffy d20 that Little Dude can roll and a wicked imagination.

Flip through: Baby Bestiary

Today I flip through The Baby Bestiary from Metal Weave Games. I saw this while walking the floor at Gen Con last year and just had to have it.

For those who aren't interested in videos, the book is a system neutral supplement with information about baby fantasy creatures. It provides you with general details on the challenges of raising such creatures and then gets into detail for each race.

The races included are:

  • Basilisk Lizardling
  • Blink Puppy
  • Bulette Billy
  • Centaur Foal
  • Cerberus Puppy
  • Chimera Cub
  • Cockatrice Chick
  • Couatl Neonate
  • Dragon Wyrmling
  • Elementlets
  • Eyelings, Dodomeki
  • Gelatinous Cubelet
  • Gnoll Cub
  • Griffen Hatchling
  • Hippocampus Fry
  • Kirin Foal
  • Kitsune Pup
  • Kobold Kid
  • Leviathan, Little
  • Manticore Cub
  • Mimicling
  • Minotaur Calf
  • Nightmare Colt
  • Owlbear Cub
  • Phase Kitten
  • Phoenix Hatchling
  • Rakshasa Kitten
  • Rust Weevil
  • Sphinx Kitten
  • Titan Tyke
  • Treant Sapling
  • Wyvern Elver
  • Aboleth Spawn
  • Baku Calf
  • Balrog Emberling
  • Beithir Hatchling
  • Bugbear Kid
  • Djinayni
  • Dragon Turtlette
  • Elder Godspawn
  • Enfield Pup
  • Gargoyle Mouldling
  • Harpy Child
  • Hippogriff Foal
  • Hound Archon Pup
  • Hydra Snakelet
  • Kraken Paralarvae
  • Lightning Lizardling
  • Lizardfolk Whelp
  • Medusa Daughter
  • Myconid Sporeling
  • Naga Hatchling
  • Ogre Magi Apprentice
  • Orcling
  • Otyugh Scrap
  • Pegasus Foal
  • Pertyon Hinulus
  • Pseudodragon Wyrmling
  • Purple Worm Violet
  • Remorhaz Chrystid
  • Satyr Foal
  • Sea Lion Pup
  • Shambling Tuffet
  • Shrieker Button
  • Simurgh Pup
  • Tarasque Hatchling
  • Tatzelwurm Kit
  • Troglodyte Tadpole
  • Troll Buddie
  • Umberal Erebect Nymph
  • Unicorn Foal
  • Wolpertinger Kit
  • Xornling

Each race has a two page spread, with one consisting of full page artwork with an example of the creature and the other page including information about that particular race. There are two standardized bits of information about each race: rearing difficulty and intelligence.

If you enjoyed this look at the product and would like to obtain it, the PDFs can be purchased from RPGNow (Volume 1 and Volume 2 - Affiliate links). If you are interested in print copies, it appears that they are currently out of print. However, they ran another Kickstarter earlier this year to fund a reprint. You can preorder from Backerkit.

D&D Papercrafts from R-N-W

I recently found out about a series of D&D printables available via the R-N-W website. The site, run by Rose, offers creates hand drawn aids such as character sheets, item cards, and more. When I found the site, I knew I needed to try it out. So, I grabbed some pdfs, printed them out, and got to coloring.

Printing

I used my Canon ink-jet printer to print them out. One thing to know is that Rose lives in the UK, which means there are two sizes for printing out, A4 and US Letter.

I printed mine on Neenah Classic Crest Super Smooth Solar White 80# Cover 8.5"x11" (Amazon affiliate linknon-affiliate) It went great.

Coloring

Since I used an ink-jet printer, I realized it would be risky to use water-based media to color it in. So I used my Bllick Studio alcohol-based brush markers. It was a lot of fun and took about an hour (while hanging out with a friend on Skype) to finish. I didn't use them this time, but colored pencils would be great for this as well. Or if you can print on a laser printer, you can likely use water-based media such as watercolors, watercolor pencils, or inktense pencils.

Color all the things!

In addition to the item cards I colored in, there are a few other types of printables.

Equipment Packs

Image from r-n-w.netImage from r-n-w.net
When cut out and glued according to the instructions, these printables create "packs" for item cards and other aids. I purchased the full set which has packs for burglar, diplomat, dungeoneer, entertainer, explorer, priest, and scholar. It also includes the tools. Each of these packs often include the item cards for each background.

Basic Weapons

Image from r-n-w.netImage from r-n-w.net
I also picked up the basic weapons pack. For each weapon, it has the cost, weight, damage, damage type, type of weapon, and characteristics (e.g. reach, two-handed). The font is also provided as well as a blank version for your own creations.

Character Sheets

The site has hand drawn character sheets as well as 12 class-specific character sheets. The classes covered are: barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, fighter, paladin, ranger, rogue, sorcerer, warlock, and wizard. Class specific sheets are between 3-5 pages with areas containing information specific to that class. There is also a pack of character sheets to help with multi-classing and another pack with "extras" such as inventory and role playing details.

Game Master and World Building Kits

There are a few variations of a game masters kit to help with organizing your game. Some kits even have paper miniatures. In addition, there are a number of sheets intended to help you build (and document) your world.

Overall I've been really happy with the items I bought from the site (Full Equipment Packs, Basic Weapons, and Game Master Kit Deluxe). I'd love to see more, especially if this type of product is compatible with DMs Guild. If you're interested, in addition to this website, Rose and Niels have a patreon where they are working on creating "quest packs" for a 5e module they are creating.

Now to find some time without my toddler crawling all over me. :)

Who makes maps and why it's important

Ebstorf MapEbstorf Map
I recently came across this story, "Who Maps the World?" It discusses the importance of who makes the maps in terms of not only if maps are made or not but also what is added to the map. For instance, when we look at maps of the world, there's a bias towards creating and updating maps in areas with more wealth, referenced in the article as "the Starbucks test."

But there's also a bias towards places that are either considered to be genderless or masculine, such as the aforementioned Starbucks as well as sports arenas, strip clubs, and bars, and a dearth of tags and mapping of places that tend to be considered feminine, such as "childcare centers, health clinics, abortion clinics, and specialty clinics that deal with women’s health." For example,

In 2011, the OSM community rejected an appeal to add the “childcare” tag at all. It was finally approved in 2013, and in the time since, it’s been used more than 12,000 times.

Doctors have been tagged more than 80,000 times, while healthcare facilities that specialize in abortion have been tagged only 10; gynecology, near 1,500; midwife, 233, fertility clinics, none. Only one building has been tagged as a domestic violence facility, and 15 as a gender-based violence facility. That’s not because these facilities don’t exist—it’s because the men mapping them don’t know they do, or don’t care enough to notice.

The article also points out other types of data that tend to be part of maps worked on by women compared to other genders. They are more likely to point out safe and unsafe areas, know where certain types of services are available, such as health clinics, and even where children tend to play. In other words, maps worked on by women tend to have a different focus and, in some ways, a richer data set.

Wage Map by Florence KelleyWage Map by Florence Kelley
So why bring this up in a D&D blog? Well, maps are a common feature not only of individual adventures but also large world-building source books. While it's common to think of them as "unbiased," are they? If they do have bias, what bias might they have? Also, as we see a resurgence of "biased" texts, such as having entire supplements from the point of view of a particular character of the world, might it not make sense to have biased maps?

So here are some quick ideas using the article as a starting point:

  • Have game world maps and/or directory of services be from a particular cartographer or editor and available as handouts to the players. The points of view of the characters can add richness to the world and suggest that there may be more for the players to uncover.
  • When coming up with points of interest, consider what is of interest to various groups? This could be as simple as looking at the types of places discussed in the article as being more likely to be of interest to women. It also could mean thinking about what a giant would look for in terms of accommodations versus say a pixie.
  • Using something like tracing paper or transparencies might help building layers.
  • If the characters tend to be in the same locale, suggest that the characters could keep a map of important events that have happened to them in that area. This could be similar to the location building that is used in games such as Dresden Files RPG.

Interested in learning about some of the women who have shaped our view of the world? Here's a great starting point of women cartographers.

Crafting Wilderness Maps

As you might remember from my much earlier article about creating homemade dungeon tiles, I love to find ways to combine art playtime with gaming. Over the past couple of years, I've been spending a bunch of time watching papercraft and art journal YouTube videos and recently had the time and supplies to try out something new, papercraft wilderness maps.

D&D wilderness maps tend to be hex based instead of the squares typically used for dungeon/battle maps. Hex maps have a long history in war games as well as a number of board games and computer/video games.

I had been trying to figure out a way to create hex maps using some of the mixed media techniques I learned. Recently I've been able to dig out my Gelli Plate for the first time and I had a bit of a eureka moment. For those who are unfamiliar, Gelli Plates are a gel printing surface used to create monoprints, essentially one time prints. Every print from the plate will be unique. While a variety of media can be used on the plates, I've been using craft acrylic paint. You can also use a wide variety of print surfaces.

The key about Gelli plate based monoprinting is creating layers. In its simplest form, this is done by applying thin coats of paint to the surface of the plate and then putting down the surface to be printed. The paint will transfer from the plate to the paper. While this will provide some visual texture, there are other ways to add texture including using soft tools to make marks in the paint, or as you'll see in the examples, using stencils.

One of the reasons I decided to use this particular technique is that the variances in the print can provide visual interest while reducing the possibility of overthinking things or seeking perfection. Most of the time the plate is a rather blunt instrument.

For this example, I decided to use the pages from a law textbook a neighbor threw away. I decided to create green (for forest), blue (for water), and yellow (for developed land).

I used stencils to provide some patterns on the pages, doing two presses per stencil use. The first press got the paint not covered by the stencil. After removing the stencil, I took a second print which got everything left behind. Here's an example of both pulls on the same piece of tissue paper.

The printing process took about half an hour. I then let them dry. The next day I had some time to test out cutting the hexes. It's possible to cut them out using scissors after drawing a grid, but I recently got a craft die cutting machine and wanted to test it out. I bought a hex die (affiliate link) that fit the machine and cut the pages down to size. Here are some example hexes I cut out:

The top image in the collage are the hexes cut out of the monoprint examples. Notice how some of the text still shows through and the variations in the color, whether through variations in coverage or through the application of the stencil, produce some visual interest. However, given how lightweight the paper is, I might suggest adhering the paper to something thicker before cutting out or cutting out and then gluing down to a thicker medium. I also give some examples of using card stock (in this case, just manilla) and foam sheets (the material I used in the original homemade dungeon tiles post).

In this case, the die is a 1/2 inch one, the smallest I could find during my quick search. However, they do make larger ones. I saw 3/4 inch, 1 inch, and 2 1/4 inch. It looks like they are commonly used by quilters.

One thing to note is that I just did this particular round of examples as a test of how it might come out. This means I didn't concentrate too much on how to make a more "natural" map. So each hex is only one color. In the future I'd love to explore how to do hexes where the colors meet within the hex. I'm also interested in looking into how I can use some of my other dies to perhaps mimic that by cutting the hexes into smaller pieces but not in a straight line.

If you're interested in trying this out but don't have the supplies, talk to your friends to see who likes to scrapbook, quilt, art journal, create mixed media, or create cards. They may have a die cutting machine such as a Sizzix BigShot (what I used) and/or the Gelli Plate. Who knows, if they don't already play, you might be able to convince them to experience the map you create first hand, as a player.

More Like This: The Hidden Halls of Hazakor

I recently backed the Kickstarter campaign, The Hidden Halls of Hazakor, and had the opportunity to interview the designer behind the adventure. I'm enjoying the previews thus far and wanted to share with all of you. At the moment, the campaign has 5 days to go and is almost 95% funded.

What is The Hidden Halls of Hazakor?

This is a starter adventure for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons, covering a lot of the same “beginner Dungeon Master” ground as most starter adventures do. But it’s also written specifically with a focus on young beginner Dungeon Masters (an age-12-and-up kind of thing), with the intent of helping those young DMs not got overwhelmed by the experience of running their first games.

Why did you pick 5e D&D?

I went with D&D partly because it’s my go-to game for both work and play. But also partly because as a ruleset, I think 5e has a pretty solid foundation of being welcoming to new players. I love a lot of other games as much as I love 5e, but as part of the idea of doing an adventure to help get young DMs and young players into the game, one wants those DMs and players to then be able to easily keep going with the game. I find that fifth edition has a pretty optimal sense of being self-contained and approachable, and I think that makes it a good fit for younger players.

Why concentrate on writing an adventure for young DMs?

When I first wrote the adventure that has since morphed into “Hidden Halls of Hazakor,” I did it for the RPG club I was running at my daughters’ middle school a few years back. So at the time, it was a reaction to seeing kids in the club trying their hand at running games for the first time. I saw a lot of the same sorts of problems, and the same sorts of questions coming up — but I also saw pretty much every kid dealing with the same general anxiety about how running a game should feel, and how to keep the other players entertained, and what to do if things went off the rails. I remembered how those were all the same uncertainties I experienced when I ran my first D&D games, so I put the initial version of the adventure together quickly as a response to that. I wanted something that would be easy for a first-time DM to get a handle on, and that could incorporate advice for dealing with the broad range of issues that the young DMs in the club were dealing with.

What are some of the areas you want to concentrate on for new DMs?

In a general sense, I wanted to front-load an adventure with as much of the information and tips that come from the experience of running games as I could. So much of being a good DM comes down to the experience of having run games. It’s very much a learn-by-doing scenario on many levels. And that’s daunting enough when you’re a teenager (as I was when I first started gaming) or even as an adult. But when you’re a kid of a certain age, it can be downright scary to suddenly find yourself in a position when you’re responsible for making sure four other people are having fun for three hours a week. And judging from my own experience, at least, that fear can get downright existential when you’re a kid coming from that feeling-like-an-outsider/not-really-that-confident mindset that draws a lot of us into gaming in the first place.

So “Hazakor” first and foremost tries to provide an adventure framework that’s relatively straightforward — a good old-fashioned dungeon crawl. Then as that adventure unfolds and things happen, the book explains to the young DM “Here’s how to think about what’s happening.” Talking about different ways to improvise comes up a lot, both in the performance sense of playing NPCs and the more esoteric sense of dealing with the players doing things that are unexpected. Because for a lot of DMs (first-time or otherwise), that remains the hardest thing to get a handle on. And that sense of how to deal with things changing in mid-game extends into a lot of the specific advice any DM can get or give, from thinking about how the environment can alter the conditions of combat, to how to deal with players intentionally trying to wreck the fun for other people, to how to deal with characters dying.

Halls of Hazakor SketchesHalls of Hazakor Sketches

I love the artwork you've released so far for the game, but I may have noticed a theme with it. Want to talk about your philosophy behind the art?

Thank you, and you’re in good company. There’s been a ton of positive feedback about the project so far, and pretty much everyone who’s commented leads off by talking about how much they love Jackie Musto’s illustrations. The underlying idea for the art was first and foremost to provide the main entry point to making running a game feel accessible for a young DM, and to make the adventure feel as welcoming as possible. There’s a fair bit of humor in the adventure, and I approached Jackie initially on the basis of knowing that her style would really suit that tone. I wanted the characters to look young because I wanted young DMs and players to be able to feel a sense of connection to them. And I wanted them to represent a balanced mix of genders and a broad range of ethnicities and cultures because that’s what I want to see in the fantasy I play and read. And though I certainly expected that Jackie would be on board with that, I couldn’t have predicted how amazingly her art would bring all those different parameters to life.

I’m extremely privileged, both in a general socio-cultural sense and in the more specific sense of being a person who gets to work in tabletop games and in fantasy fiction for a living. And I’m finding that the older I get, the less patience I have with fantasy that refuses to break out of the faux-European-Medieval tropes that have driven the genre for way too long. Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a lot of amazing non-Eurocentric fantasy out there, because that clearly isn’t the case. But I think that fantasy in general, and gaming in particular, has a real “fallback position” problem, wherein our first instinct as readers, as players, and as creators is to think about fantasy in terms of the fantasy we already know. And there’s an undeniable bit of a white-male feedback loop in the fantasy that many of us already know, and I’d really like to see that broken.

Where can people find out more about The Hidden Halls of Hazakor?

The Kickstarter campaign page has pretty much all the info on the project, its background, and the questions people have been asking about it. And for anybody who wants any more information, I’m on Facebook and Twitter pretty much anytime.

Game Journaling: Towns

One of the things I'm looking forward to with the gaming journal is the ability to plan my campaign anywhere and anytime, something that is particularly important with a little one. A key part of planning for me has to do with locations, particularly towns.

Here's an example spread for town planning. For the town map, I printed Dyson Logo's New Cresthill map onto a shipping label (Avery 8168) and placed it into my gaming journal. I then figured out a few key elements to be filled out at a future date (when I have some time) and an area for an index. I also colored in the map with some colored pencils.

Example TownExample Town

Some notes for future iterations:

  • I tried both watercolors and alcohol markers on a duplicate of the map but neither worked great. The paper soaks up the wakly to move watercolors around and it seemed to be really thirsty when it came to alcohol markers and it was often causing them to run dry for a moment with any extended coloring.
  • If I want the effect of alcohol markers, I think I would print these on marker paper, color them in, and then use an adhesive such as the Tombow Adhesive Tape Runner.
  • Adding a lot of maps will cause the journal to get wider in that area. I might try to change up where I put the maps so the top of journal doesn't get wider than the bottom or put two maps on one page and use the facing page for the notes.
  • Putting maps in the journal without any information would be a great way to seed future brainstorming sessions.

Some sources for maps:

Game Journaling: Character Sheets for D&D 5e and BubbleGumshoe

In my last post, I talked about the basics of bullet journals and the utility of the concept when it comes to gaming. I even showed examples of how to layout helper charts for running a BubbleGumshoe game. This time, let's explore how we can use any dot grid journal for keeping character sheets.

Just a quick reminder, I use the Rhodia Webnotebook. Each journal manufacturer may have different page measurements as well as placement and spacing on the page.

D&D 5e

One challenge I want to set for myself soon is to make a bunch of characters. I want to make a portfolio of these, so keeping them in a gaming journal makes a ton of sense. If I didn't have a separate journal for gaming, I'd be tempted to keep them in my primary bullet journal because I would have it handy whenever I wanted (no more "where did I put that sheet?" as I look at a pile of at least dozens of sheets).

For the first one, especially since it's meant to be an example, I largely just reworked the character sheet presented in the back of the player's handbook.

D&D Character Sheet StatsD&D Character Sheet Stats
D&D Character Sheet Character InfoD&D Character Sheet Character Info
D&D Character Sheet SpellcastingD&D Character Sheet Spellcasting

Supplies Used:

  • Watercolors (Van Gogh student set)
  • Sakura Pigma Micron pens (.005, .01, .02, .05)
  • Copic Multiliner in Cool Gray
  • White Gelly Pen
  • Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen
  • Prismacolor Color Pencils
  • Scotch Washi Tape
  • Tombow Adhesive Tape Runner

One key is that the washi tape on the right hand side can make it super easy to find your character sheet in the future and gives you an additional opportunity to customize for your character.

Of course, this is just the basic character sheet. One of the benefits of the dot journal is that you can customize however you wish. For instance, I might rework this to do the spell casting sheet as the second page if I had a spell caster. I also would come up with trackers for various character classes, such as anything that is limited to a certain number of times between rests or tracking consumables.

After I shared my work in progress, my friend, Chelsea Kerr, rushed to create a version of her own. Here's her version.
D&D Character Sheet by ChelseaD&D Character Sheet by Chelsea

You can find Chelsea online on Twitter @chelseachan.

BubbleGumshoe Character Sheet

After I made the D&D character sheet, I had a cute (to me at least) idea for how to do a BubbleGumshoe character sheet. I thought about some of the items that a high schooler might have in their backpack. (I couldn't find a plain old ballpoint pen in my bag of tricks, but it would have been a great addition).

BubbleGumshoe Character SheetBubbleGumshoe Character Sheet
BubbleGumshoe Character Sheet SecretsBubbleGumshoe Character Sheet Secrets

Supplies Used:

  • Highlighters
  • Small colored notepaper
  • Sakura Pigma Micron pens
  • Sharpie Art pens (from the set of 12)

Where to get inspiration

If you're looking for more inspiration on how to draw your character sheet, here are some great resources:

If you create your own, feel free to share them with me via Twitter, Instagram, or via the contact form on this site.

Note:
Character art:
D&D: "Half-Elf Paladin" © 2012 Brian Patterson, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ http://www.prismaticart.com/collection/half-elf-paladin
BubbleGumshoe: From example character sheet available on Evil Hat's website. https://www.evilhat.com/home/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Sleuth-Amanda-Ba...

D&D Rules for Pregnancy: Why the hate?

Yeah, it’s been awhile since my first post. Right after I finished it, little dude started to get his 12 month molars in and boy are they a doozy. After a number of low sleep nights and then Gen Con, we’re here. Last time we talked about what motivations folks might have for roleplaying pregnancy in RPGs, now I’d like to talk a bit why the thought makes some of us want to run away as fast as possible.


The birth of Saint Edmund, he is being nursed by a midwife w Wellcome V0014976

One of the big reasons, society (at least society in the US), isn’t always great in regards to pregnancy. We have the worst maternal death rate of the “developed world.” We lack all manner of assistance for new parents, including dismal parental leave policies and child care assistance (for instance, I pay more than my rent for day care). We have a weird fetishization of fetuses, to the point where it often feels like the pregnant person is no longer a person but rather just a womb. While it’s changing in some circles, there’s a huge amount of pressure to not talk about pregnancy loss, especially miscarriages or abortions, and many folks who are having infertility issues suffer in silence. We still don’t have great terminology for talking about pregnancy in a world where we acknowledge the existence of people who are trans, non-binary, agender, and the like, not to mention same-sex households. And this is just the beginning of the issues that can come up.

So, when one introduces pregnancy into a D&D game, they are walking into a minefield and not only does the game not offer any tools to help address this issue, the way D&D works can exacerbate issues. Why? Because D&D grew out of war gaming, and both are attempts to simulate/model a world, applying the average to the individual. Thus, what we often get then when folks attempt to bring pregnancy into a D&D game is a bunch of random roll tables (some of which may be based on how actual human pregnancy works on average, but many are instead based on pure fiction, superstition, and the outdated views of human reproduction), stereotypes, and something that acts as salt in the wounds (at best) if not causing hurt and trauma while often not even addressing the motivations of folks at the table who want to have pregnancy in their games.

So, what’s a person to do?

First and foremost, if you know that the topic is likely to come up in the game, talk to your players, preferably individually and in an empathetic manner, about how they feel about it. If your group tends to veer towards riskier topics, perhaps set up a system (such as the X card) where people can say that they are uncomfortable in a manner that feels safe to them and everyone agrees to accept). If you think it might come up in a con(vention) game, use something like the X card from the start. Find out what boundaries folks have, e.g. pregnancy is fine but can we not deal with miscarriage, etc. If these sorts of conversations seem unnecessary to you, consider if you are the right kind of GM for this type of content.

If there’s consent for the topic (enthusiastic consent would be great here), then consider how your and/or the table’s plan for simulating pregnancy might come across to folks. Is one of your players or their significant others someone who has been (or is) pregnant and is tired of everyone analyzing everything they eat to the point where they can’t even get a small coffee without getting epic side eye? (Yes, moderate amounts of caffeine are now considered ok again for many pregnant folks.) Are they or someone they know tired of morning sickness jokes or of how we treat pregnancy as a disability? Have you considered that many pregnant folks are quite active well into their pregnancy and that the guidelines for activity level are tied to how active they were before pregnancy (complications notwithstanding)?

Also, please run what you plan to do past more than you significant other. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve resisted doing anything more than glare when I shared how I felt about something and had to hear about how their significant other was totally ok with what I just objected to so I should be ok with it too. The fact that some are ok with something doesn’t override someone else’s objection, especially when that something is happening to the character of the person objecting.

In addition, remember that the averages of a bunch of discrete measurements (existence of morning sickness, appearance of the linea nigra, etc) taken together is not the same as the average pregnancy and every pregnancy is unique. I think this is probably one of the hardest things for everyone involved in pregnancy (including doctors), because we tend to publicize and judge ourselves and other people’s pregnancies based on averages. The number of questions where someone is obviously stressed because they have not developed a particular symptom of pregnancy or met an average milestone is so heartbreaking. And it’s one of the largest issues I have with attempting to portray pregnancy in D&D because it often can’t help but reinforce it.

Along those lines, try to be conscious of how your rules for pregnancy in D&D might reinforce other things that you may not expect. For instance, fifth edition did a great job in making explicit that there are many variations of characters, especially in regards to gender and sexuality. Are your rules heteronormative? How do they handle trans characters? Do you only ever mention intercourse as a means for conception? How do you refer to the pregnant person? The partner? Do your rules potentially force players to out their trans characters?

There’s a lot to unpack here and often not a lot of good examples for discussion because sadly, it’s often at the cutting edge of where we’re trying to go as a society. For instance, I have listened to a fair number of trans people discuss how poor medicine is at properly treating them. Everything from getting misgendered when needing gynecological services to not getting proper medical care due to assumptions, not to mention the issues with attempting to keep up a sex versus a gender classification system, where trans men are told that they have female bodies and vice versa. Many now believe that trans men have male bodies regardless of their plumbing just as trans women have female bodies (not to mention intersex, non-binary, and agender) and any medical attention that should be based on the existence of certain organs should be specific to that organ and not tied up in notions of an artificial sex/gender binary.

If I could do a tl;dr of this article, it would be this. If you want to have pregnancy in your D&D game, then try to be kind and listen to one another.

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