I have been an observer of numerous discussions about sexism in gaming in recent months. My plan was to write a post about the subject, but I could not decide on a specific theme for an article. I did not want to be just another male writing about the topic, but I though it would be interesting to have an in-depth discussion about sexism and the gaming culture with a person quite knowledgeable and passionate about the topic. Thankfully, Anna Kreider of Go Make Me A Sandwich agreed to spend time discussing a variety of topics related to sexism and the greater geek culture.
I first became aware of Go Make Me A Sandwich after listening to a DM Roundtable Podcast. I visited the site and was impressed with the content. Anna has supported her assertions that the gaming culture is sexist with analysis and often hilarious comparisons of how male and female characters are dressed and portrayed in games. During the past month, we had an extended conversation about sexism in the gaming culture. Specifically, I inquired about the individual gamer’s responsibility in changing the culture and how Anna continues to enjoy sexist games and continue with her blog in the face of great resistance from sects of the gaming community. We also discuss sexism in other realms of geek culture and how some games move closer and closer to a form of pornography. I believe the two of us were quite honest throughout the discussion, and encourage readers to pay close attention to the segment on cognitive dissonance, which is a subject I will return to in future posts.
Please enjoy the interview with Anna Kreider; I realize this is a topic people feel strongly about and I encourage you to keep your Comments and questions respectful.
Thank you for agreeing to meet with me. Could you please introduce yourself, and talk about how you first became interested in gaming?
Hi, there. The canned introduction I usually give goes something like: My name is Anna, though online I mostly go by Wundergeek. I write a feminist gaming blog called Go Make Me a Sandwich, in which I explore issues of sexism in gaming. In addition to being a cranky feminist blogger, I am an artist, photographer, and somewhat half-assed writer living in the wilds of Canada with a wonderful spouse and two slightly broken cats.
I’ve been playing video and board games pretty much my entire life, but I didn’t start roleplaying until my then-fiance (now husband) introduced me to gaming and got me started. Sadly, our tabletop group has long since fallen apart, but I still do LARP. So I guess I don’t completely fit the stereotype of the woman who didn’t start gaming until her significant other introduced her to it, but I think it’s fair to say that my husband definitely made me nerdier. (Not a bad thing.)
My campaign finally reached its Heroic Tier finale last weekend. If you can indulge me, I’d like to discuss the progression to the final string of battles and the ultimate climax that now has the party moving on to Paragon Tier. Along the way, I’ll cover few house rules that might improve your game and present my creative process, which is certainly fueled by desperation. I realize discussing my campaign at length like this could be boring, but perhaps you can learn from some mistakes I made during the first 10 Levels in Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition.
The seeds for the final string of encounters were planted during the first night of the campaign. The party woke up from being unconscious and found themselves in prison at the start of Level 1. An attack from an unknown source on the prison distracted the guards and allowed the party to exit the jail. But along the way, they interacted with another prisoner that begged for freedom. They allowed him to escape; many months later, they learned the NPC they released was a notorious pirate that was plaguing the coast. They were tasked with bringing the pirate, Captain Lockes, to justice.
The pirate plot lasted for several months (we play every other Friday if schedules permit). The party had to find a ship, discover the source of the pirate attacks, and capture Lockes. Instead of establishing a straight line to that goal, I allowed the party to branch off in various directions. As they did this, the base for Captain Lockes and the pirate band took on a life of its own.
I used Campaign Cartographer 3 (CC3) to make the following map of Ernsmaw Island. I asked one of the players in the party to come up with rumors of a pirate island. His Halfling Rogue had a background of working on riverboats and it made sense that he would hear such rumors. I gave the player a few brief prompts and let him run with the rumors, informing him that some would likely be true while others would be false information. He came up with a name that was a bit too long, so I chopped it down to Ernsmaw Island. CC3 is a fun program to use and quite powerful once you learn the controls. I have only scratched the surface of what it is capable of, but I’m happy with the island below.
The party found the map after patrolling the coast and battling a lesser pirate, Lezoe. I borrowed heavily from the Waves of Fate downloadable delve at Sarah Darkmagic to relieve some of the burden of encounter planning. During the battle with Lezoe, I spent some type crafting (literally) a special healing potion for the group. I used the old Character Builder to modify a potion and created Lezoe’s Rot Gut. The potion allows the PC to spend a healing surge but gain double the surge value; however, the PC suffers a -2 to Reflex and Fortitude until the end of the encounter.
“I’ve got a fever, and the only cure is more dead angels!”
Solo monsters and the way they play in D&D 4e have been on my mind lately. First, I ran a small set of encounters that culminated in the party coming face-to-face with an Orium Dragon. Second, I was throwing ideas back and forth with David Flor about the notion that solo monsters could possible be given more standard actions to make them more epic foes. Third, I’ve played through the first third of the videogame, Bayonetta. Trust me, the last point will tie into my thoughts on solo monsters!
First, the battle with the Orium Dragon was meant to be a challenge for the party, and it turned out well enough, but the dragon did not seem cool enough. Part of the issue was we only had four players that night, so I had to scale down the creature a bit. But overall, the dragon seemed to be limited to the breath weapon and the Draconic Fury, which basically gives the dragon three Standard Actions (2 Claw, 1 Gore attacks). Draconic Fury is a nice attack the first round or two, but the dragon does not have many other options if it’s breath is spent. PCs attack, dragon attacks with Draconic Fury, rinse and repeat. At least for me, the battle felt stale after a couple of rounds. There was likely more drama for the players because several PCs were dying at various points in the battle, but in terms of playing the dragon, it wasn’t as entertaining as I thought it would be.
After that, I was thinking about the next time my group runs into a solo creature and how I could make it more entertaining for them and for me. Between getting Monster Manual 3 in the mail and having some discussions online, I started to think about solos in a new way. Yes, they are a big, bad monster, but they should feel different from the monsters I play as a DM each week. Besides the extra hit points and high-damage attacks, playing a solo should just feel different. I thought about granting solo monsters more standard actions, and that idea seems to have merit. Around this time, I started to play Bayonetta – and strangely enough – that is when something clicked in my brain.