Tag Archives: roleplaying

Roleplaying as a woman

14 Nov

Whenever I get the chance to roleplay, I enjoy being a female character. I’m a straight male and I’ve very comfortable in my gender and sex; I just enjoy exploring different gender dynamics. Roleplaying as a woman also gives me a chance to escape the default male privilege and experience a world through the opposite gender. I’m aware of male privilege in this world, and I recognize when something like a commercial or product is constructed in a way that assumes a male consumer, but most of the time all I can do is recognize it; playing as a woman lets me get on the other end of it.

Roleplaying as the opposite gender, while fun, can be challenging. When I first started trying this, my ex, an experienced roleplayer, warned me that she’d often seen guys try to play as the opposite gender, only to descend into very heterosexual male fantasies about lesbians. The characters they are playing are female, but the players and their actions were most definitely male. I try my best to avoid this, even creating relationships with male characters, but I’m not perfect. From time to time I’ll see an attractive female NPC and think “dang, she’s good looking, wonder if….oh wait…” I’ve also noticed that male players who play female characters often have their characters fall into one of two stereotypes: cold bitch or temptress slut. I also avoid this as I feel it is a misogynistic generalization of women, damning them to two equally unfair and unrealistic archetypes.  Trying to get inside the head of a character of another gender is really hard to do, but I feel it is a lot more interesting than just playing your normal self with all your gender specific baggage.

Currently I’m playing Fallout New Vegas. My character is an independent drifter woman named Afya. (Afya is actually a character I’ve played for a while before, but in another roleplaying game. She’s always been chaotic good)

 

Normally I don’t care much for very gender deterministic clothing like this pink dress, I just liked the contrast between the inferred domesticity and the huge fucking missile launcher.

Do you live life like a game/movie?

13 Nov

Earlier today I was watching a short lecture clip discussing media’s impact on sexual fantasy. The hosts were discussing how the advent of images and film changed how we think about sex. One of the hosts pointed out that our very language is stuck on the technology: “The movie in my head” or “the sex tape.”

I’m not exactly sure how my brain made the transition, but this got me thinking about how computer games, along with movies, affect how I view the world. It didn’t take long for me to think of all the instances in which games and movies directly affect the way I think. This isn’t surprising. I grew up with video games. The first video game I ever got seriously into was Age of Empires. I was in the 4th grade and I became addicted to this real-time empire building strategy game. I played it constantly. When I wasn’t playing it I was imagining I was playing it. I distinctly remember having dreams that I was playing, only to wake up and realize I was simply dreaming…and I was doing so well! It was not until the second Age of Empires game came out, Age of Kings, that my life was changed. Age of Kings was set in the medieval era. I fell in love with the time period, joined a medieval re-enactment group at age 12, built a trebuchet, my own suit of armor, learned how to fight with a longsword, and went to college to major in history…all because of a game. (Well, no, the game was the gateway, I became interested in everything despite the game, but still, the game was the gate way)

Those strategy games influenced how I thought about the world. I guess I was frustrated at times growing up because the world’s mechanics didn’t match the game’s.

At the same time I was discovering games, I was discovering film. Throughout my teen years my friends and I were constantly working on film projects. I started to think of life like a movie. I started to look at things as “scenes” and people as actors. I wanted my life to be a perfect script. This was most evident in my romantic life. I my dates to be picture perfect. I’d work for hours before she came over to fix up the house, to make sure everything was set just right. I wanted what I said in romantic moments to be movie perfect too, like I was reading from a script, yet genuinely felt what I was saying.

For the longest time I viewed myself as an actor in a play. I was very upset because I felt that the story of my life was being told as if I was a secondary character in someone else’s  story. I always felt everything was about other people, never me; that they were all staring in their own movies and I was just an extra. I felt powerless to change this. I didn’t know how to wrestle the spotlight away from them so my life could be about me for a change. (I don’t mean that I wanted attention, I’ve never liked being the center of attention; I just felt I was always doing things for others, never for myself. I never did anything because I wanted to do it. Whenever I was in a group with my friends, we always did what my friends wanted to do.) Thankfully I’ve grown out of both this and the romantic movie scripting, but games and movies still affect my life in other ways.

One of the perhaps more normal ways they affect my life is with music. I love going places or doing things with my ipod. My ipod allows me to put a soundtract to my life. In fact, when I think back through the history of my life, I have a play list with a song for each period of struggle or triumph. My ipod lets me pick a soundtrack depending on my mood. When I don’t have it with me, I still play songs in my head.

I had a restaurant job as a teenager clearing tables and bringing waiters their food. I absolutely hated it, but one of the ways I made it somewhat fun was to imagine it as a game, or a movie. As dorky as this sounds, I used to imagine that we, the staff of the restaurant, were fighter pilots locked in deadly combat with the food and customers. We were constantly rushing around, weaving in and out of tables, swooping down to clear tables, running to refill drinks. Sometimes a waiter would be overwhelmed and would call for backup, at which point we would dive in to the rescue. Set to a high-energy soundtrack in my head, it was actually thrilling.

This fighter pilot game imagery carries over to other aspects of my life. Growing up in a navy town, on a street full of fighter pilots, I really wanted to be one as a kid, but my fear of heights, the falling sensation in my stomach, and my poor eyesight means the closet I will ever get is driving my car.

Driving is another activity that has really been affected by movies and games for me. Again, this might sound really dorky, but sometimes I like to imagine a fighter jet/terminator style HUD display when driving. Instead of a weapons targeting system, I’m tracking the curves of the road, the other cars, people on the sidewalk. When I come to a yellow light and I can make it in time, I imagine Peppy Hare from Star Fox telling me “Use the boost to get through!” (I know it’s silly, but it’s the little things in life…)

I also like to think of the car as an extension of my body, just like a character in a video game is an extension of myself. If you think about it, it’s just another layer for your brain to transmit information through. Normally when moving your body your brain sends the signal to the muscles which move you. In a game or driving you simply add the layer of physical controls, be it the mouse, controller, or steering wheel. When you are really in tuned with a game, or driving, you lose sense of your limbs interacting with the controls to make the character do something. You become that character or that car. You think and it moves, just like your body normally would. It’s an amazing feeling, especially in a car on the highway. To have the car as your body, to pull out into a lane, hit the accelerator,  feel the thrust as you lunge past another car, it’s exhilarating.

The last way gaming really effects how I think deals with objects and interacting with people. ( I know that sounds really vague, I’ll explain)

I think about things I have the same way I think of a role playing equipment list. Picking equipment has always been a favorite activity of mine since I first played Oregon Trail as a kid, having to pick what supplies to buy for the journey. I always like to be prepared. In college I viewed my dorm room as a colony from my home. I wanted to be self-sufficient, so I brought a lot of things with me. Whenever my housemates needed something that they didn’t think to bring, I usually had 3 of it. (You’re not going for a weekend sleep-over, you’re living there!)

In my car I would pack a variety of equipment I might need: an extra pair of clothes, a towel, a crow bar, 50ft of rope, a flash light, medical supplies, blankets, a fire extinguisher, emergency food rations, and my longsword. (I don’t know what events I had in mind, but I wanted to be ready for anything)

I also like to think of things in terms of abilities and spheres of influence the same way a character in an RPG would have abilities and spheres of influence. Again, it might sound silly to use game terms to describe it, but I have a repair ability, a research ability, a cooking ability, and a longsword ability. ~_^  (among others) I like to think of other people’s talents and skills in the same way you would an RPG character.

As for spheres of influence:  Your sphere of influence is you immediate surroundings along with as far as you can travel. For example, if I saw a stranger being attacked I’d help them in a heartbeat. My ability to help is obviously limited to my immediate line of sight, or sphere of influence. The people who I see while walking on the street don’t know that while they’re in my sphere of influence I would come to their aid if they were in distress, but nonetheless they would be helped. My secondary sphere of influence is as far as I can get in my car with the money I have for gas.

I realize I’ve kinda meandered all over the place. I hope this makes sense. Does anyone do something similar? Or should I check myself into a mental hospital? ^_^

Hit points

17 Aug

Hitpoints have always been a curious invention by gaming. I guess the frailty of our bodies is not very fun, and so to make gaming fun, we need to invent hitpoints.

Can you imagine if games were like real life in terms of total damage a body can sustain? You wouldn’t get three feet in a shooter game. The first bullet you took would shatter and shred your internal organs, leading you to bleed out all over the floor while going into shock. Not exactly stuff that would make a game like Gears of War a hit.

Huge battles in RTS games would be over in a few seconds. All your expensive units would die after being hit once, it would suck, but then so does war in real life.

One game that I must point out that does this differently is the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. In the game you are not a human tank. Bullets will deplete your health much faster, and even after you’ve been hit you will bleed, depleting your health further. While the damage is “more” realistic, it isn’t perfect. A bullet to the stomach would pretty much put you out of action. Still, the game is commendable for going the extra mile.

(Here is a really good and funny video review of it by Zero Punctuation)

What I find really interesting in games is how some weapons do more damage than others. Sure, if you want to talk physics a bullet has more joules behind it than an arrow, but both will still kill you. The total energy is different, but the end result is the same.

Perhaps the idea that some weapons are “superior” to others in games stems from the existence of hitpoints instead of the fact that weapons evolved for efficiency reasons and not because newer ones “killed you more”.

EdgertonBullet

Weapon effectiveness

16 Aug

So today I was playing around with Empire Earth II. I was having a great time and then a swarm of enemy pikemen surrounded one of my tanks and killed it. I was like “Hey…wait a second….” Let me see, how I can best put this? Oh, I know!

tank pwns

I know how the game calculates damage. X unit has Y hitpoints and does Z damage. If enough of unit A gangs up on unit B, then eventually the damage done by unit A is going to deplete unit B’s hitpoints. Simple. Unfortunately, in this case that scenario is totally impossible. A bunch of guys with pikes could never destroy an active tank. Maybe if it was left in a field and they had a few weekends to take the nuts and bolts off, but not if it was manned, moving, and shooting.

Now this is a computer game, and so it’s rather trivial, but it would be nice to make it as realistic as possible. Unfortunately, that would require a lot more code to be written about what the computer should or shouldn’t do when 2 units fight. Production times and costs are already so enormous, this issue will definitely be on the back burner for a long long time.

This is an area where I think table top gaming has an edge over computer gaming. D&D and its many spin offs have AC “armor class”. AC determines if, when attacked, a player takes any damage. The better your armor, the better your AC, and thus the less likely you are to take damage. Now the system is not perfect for every possible weapon/armor combination, but it really helps in trying to make the game more realistic.

I hate 3.5 combat

27 Jun

Last night I joined my girlfriend and her friends in playing as a guest star in their Arcana Evolved campaign. (Ok, so not star, but guest player) Anyways, the game lasted from 3pm to 10pm, with about an hour dinner break. For the most part it was fun, except the last 2-3 hours.

The last 2-3 hours was nothing but combat. There were 6 players versus 12 evil skeleton monsters with 40HP and AC’s of 25. Now, one of the biggest things I like about Swords and Wizardry, or Labyrinth Lord (both retro clones) is how everything is very simple. You just play.

With this Arcana Evolved game there are just so many rules and numbers. It took us 3 hours to fight 12 skeletons. I sat and watched the clock, it took 45 minutes for me to get my turn to go again, and only 30 seconds to find out that I missed every attack because I rolled too low. I then had to wait another half an hour till it got back around to being my turn.

I’m sorry but no. Fuck no. When you have time to get up and watch a TV show or take the dog for a walk without missing your turn in a game, something is wrong. When you are bored to tears watching the other players for 45 minutes, something is wrong. All my character could do was swing at things with his sword, so it took me 2 seconds to say what I was going to do, then roll. Everybody else took forever casting spells, looking at the map, calculating damage, and so on.

Now I know for some people they love the strategy involved with combat. How do I position my character, what attacks am I going to use, etc… But I think it is absurd that in a fantasy game, that by definition asks you to suspend your disbelief, so much emphasis is put on trying to make combat realistic. The player must know every little detail, they must ask a million little questions. No! That is not realistic combat! You know what it realistic combat?!?! “Oh shit! He’s got an axe! What do you do? 1…2…BAM! You hesitated! You’re Dead!” End of story.

Steampunk fail dice

23 Jun

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to work with my hands and build things. I spend a good amount of my free time crafting various….things. More often than not the things I make are of a decorative nature. They also tend to be geeky in their origin.

For example, the latest things I’ve made have been a small companion cube, aperture science baking apron, glowing water tube lights, 2 dice trays, secret anniversary present for the lady, and now my steam punk failure dice.

You see, I had a lot of left over materials from the aforementioned anniversary present. Having finished that project, I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I picked up a new project.

I originally planned on making her a d20 die. After spending two hours relearning geometry I hadn’t used in years,  finally correctly scaling an equilateral triangle, and cutting out 5 pieces, I started to regret my choice of the d20.

Luckily she told me that a d8 was her favorite die so that saved me some work. After cutting all the pieces, I carefully glued them together to *try* and get the shape. I stained all the wood a cherry red, then lined the edges with brass. (This time I managed not to slit my finger open like I did last time working with brass). To top it all off, I found some aluminium in the recycling bin and cut out little Roman numerals for the numbers. I considered putting aluminium tips on all 6 corners, but that would require about another hour of figuring out a pattern, then cutting the metal, then trying to bend it into a 4 sided pyramid shape, and it’s already 4:30am…..

So without further ado, here is my d8 failure steam punk die.

fail 1

fail 2

The cement glue makes it look kinda crappy, but it’s better in real life. I also copied my actual d8 and put all the evens on the top row and all the odds on the bottom. The die itself is extremely light, since it is hollow. I’ve rolled it around a bit and I can’t tell if it’s bias to any particular numbers. I bet you could use i it in game if you wanted, but it’s mainly just for fun.

In the future I’d like to make light up dice lanterns….

The calm before the storm

14 Jun

Trollsmyth‘s new Labyrinth Lord game is approximately 70 hours. ( I spent an hour trying to find a countdown timer that works on wordpress, but to no avail)

Needless to say even without a computer counter, I will be keeping track of the hours. I’m pretty pysched. This will be my first actual campaign with people other than the girlfriend. I got so excited that I not only made one character, but three. (Though I have been playing around with 2 other possibles)

It’s not that I think he’s going to kill off all the players very quickly, it was just that I wanted something to actively do before the game started.

The setting is pretty cool. Check this out: We’re starting out on this sunny and safe vacation island, Dreng Bdan, in the town of Pitsh, the hot get away spot for Russian Mafia playboys. There’s going to be lots of vodka, techno, and women.

Pitsh Rocks!

What could go wrong? ~_^

The first character I’m going to play is Afya, a witch with a waterbuffalo….

Afya

I think she’ll be pretty cool to play with. She’s mainly a support character. Not overly focused on combat, but good at brewing up a potion. Yet this bad girl’s got a secret.

The next character is Darastrix, a lizardman. He used to be part of the Lizardfolk army before getting kicked out for being the Lizard equivalent of a furry….(he had an affiar with a human)

(unfortunately I don’t have any crapy home made concept art for him. Yet I imagine it would be something like this:

lizard_manThe last character is perhaps the most inventive.  Meet Vicare! The flying gnome!

pure awesome

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, he may only be 2.5 feet tall, but it’s 2.5 feet of densely packed awesome. This bitch is equipped with 4 trained parrots that pull his small and adventurous body up and into the heavens!