BABD Crosspost: Baldur’s Gate 3 (Part 2 – Minthara)

Originally written for Bikini Armor Battle Damage.

Okay, I covered the stuff in Baldur’s Gate 3 is mixed and complicated. Let’s talk about an objectively well executed character and visually designed – Minthara.

From a general writing perspective, she’s exactly what I mean when I say it’s not enough to support, women’s rights – we need to support their wrongs. She is complicated, ruthless and villainous in a way we rarely get to see female characters – and every aspect of her design supports and conveys it.

Spoilers below the cut.

Continue reading BABD Crosspost: Baldur’s Gate 3 (Part 2 – Minthara)

Why 3.5E gotta be like that?

So in the recent Slovenly Trulls episode,1 Lyssa & Shardae Slovenly Trulls # 39: The Devil’s in the Details (1 June 2024, Podcast) <> Shardae asks (screams really) “3.5 E why you gotta be like this!?” in regards to its strange love of adding terrible content that barely qualifies as “edgy” and just pushing it out there like it’s cool.

So, after 29 years of growth, why did Dungeons & Dragons (“D&D”) slip back into being a socially awkward, edgy teenager for 5 years in the way that only product owned by a mega corporation can? Why did Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition (“3.5E“) seem to do a complete 180 from its previous approach of trying to be horny yet accessible to everyone? What was Wizards of the Coast thinking?

Despite the mind-breaking, eldritch incomprehensibility of it we can solve this, we can make it make sense – but to do that we need to go on a journey. So, strap on your Armour of Protection from Evil and grab your Vomit Bag of Holding. It’s history time.

Continue reading Why 3.5E gotta be like that?
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    Lyssa & Shardae Slovenly Trulls # 39: The Devil’s in the Details (1 June 2024, Podcast) <>

BABD Crosspost: Baldur’s Gate 3 (Part 1 – Introduction)

Originally posted on Bikini Armor Battle Damage.

It’s a great time to be an old school Dungeons & Dragons player, you get to smugly observe millions of people realizing the game is good actually… or at least that the game can facilitate heart touching romances with imaginary, terrible people.

Screencaps to provide front-on photos of Astarion and Shadowheart, similar to a line-up.
(To be clear, I’m not judging you – these two are, but I’m not)

As one of the biggest AAA games of 2023, it’s unsurprising that it’s big and complicated – and there’s a lot that can be talked about with many aspects of it – including female armour and costumes. Indeed, there’s already a lot of commentary on it and community activity, from the confusing, to the life affirming.

It has also been the topic of how corporate practices continually reward those who participate in the creation successful art with notice of dismissal.

And of course, both Dungeons & Dragons and Larian Studios have histories that we’ve touched on before – and I can confidently say it represents a huge improvement in quality, style and attitudes. Plus sometimes their advertising is just gay.

A screencap of the Patch 6 promotion, which was released two days after Valentine's day and used an image of Lae'zel & Shadowheart kissing.
Continue reading BABD Crosspost: Baldur’s Gate 3 (Part 1 – Introduction)

I read: Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress

Published by Wizards of the Coast as part of their 3.5 Edition Dungeons & Dragons (“3.5E“) promotion materials, Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress (2007)1 Shelly Mazzanoble Confessions of Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl’s Guide to the Dungeons & Dragons Game (September 2007, Wizards of the Coast, Seattle WA) (“Confessions“) by Shelly Mazzanoble is a modestly sized book which enjoyed limited success following a very odd release by Wizards of the Coast. It hasn’t generated enough nerd buzz to get it’s own Wikipedia page, and my “new” copy has stickers indicating it has been sold and resold among distributors at least three times.

I vividly remember being on the official Dungeons & Dragons (“D&D“) forums at the time and a thread being created in this book’s honour, with the bold declaration “This thread is a safe space for women.”

Naturally the thread was immediately hijacked by weird Mens Rights Activists (“MRAs”) types who wanted to fight over the whether women were allowed to have a safe space, spewing the theorized projections from The Myth of Male Power (1993)2 Warren Farrell The Myth of Male Power: Why Men are the Disposable Sex (1993, Simon and Schuster, USA) as though they were long established facts. Moderators dealt with this by periodically reposting “This thread is a safe space for women.”

Largely though, the release was overshadowed by other issues relating to the changes to the Forgotten Realms, such as the thread on The Orc King (2007)3 R. A. Salvatore The Orc King (25 September 2007, Wizards of the Coast, Seattle WA) which was released at roughly the same time and raised the issue of impact of both the Spellplague, and how would kill off the protagonist Drizzt Do’Urden’s woman-as-rewardwife Catti-brie (until she comes back). Oh and it seemed to reinvent orcs as Emancipation Era African Americans right down to marrying above their race and having their own version of the Ku Klux Klan, the “Casin Cu Calas“.

It’s different because it’s in elven so let’s not think too hard about the implications.

2007 was a wild time for people who played D&D and had any sense of social sensitivity or awareness at all. Weird none of the nerds writing the Wikipedia articles want to talk about that. What’s up with that? Anyway.

So, I never read it during that time but recently decided I should do so to see if it could purge those memories from my memory and my conclusion is – I understand the reason for it less than I did when my only knowledge of it was a bad thread. Only time will tell if scrutinizing and externalizing my observations changes that.

Continue reading I read: Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress
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    Shelly Mazzanoble Confessions of Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl’s Guide to the Dungeons & Dragons Game (September 2007, Wizards of the Coast, Seattle WA)
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    Warren Farrell The Myth of Male Power: Why Men are the Disposable Sex (1993, Simon and Schuster, USA)
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    R. A. Salvatore The Orc King (25 September 2007, Wizards of the Coast, Seattle WA)

Prestige Classes, Power Creep and DM Autonomy

So recently the Slovenly Trulls (who I love) did an episode where they tried to puzzle out the purpose of and general role of prestige classes in 3E/3.5E, and why they might have some caveats like “only if your DM approves” and “must stay in x region”.1 Lyssa & Shardae Episode 36: Rashemen Gynarchy & Other False Promises (Slovenly Trulls, Podcast, 2 March 2024)

As an old white man who spent too much of his youth reading shit for nerds, I naturally had to rush in and write way too many words. But hey, they like sources and explanations… I hope.

Continue reading Prestige Classes, Power Creep and DM Autonomy
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    Lyssa & Shardae Episode 36: Rashemen Gynarchy & Other False Promises (Slovenly Trulls, Podcast, 2 March 2024)

LaNasa v. Tenkar – Dismissed with Prejudice

Throughout out the TSR Saga, there have been many reporting on it – doing varying avenues and degree of investigating. One of those was the proprietor of the Tenkar’s Tavern web presence… who we’ll refer to as Tenkar (who is an old D&D character of his, of course).


Tenkar is a long time player of D&D who has a general interest in role-playing games, which he primarily expresses through his website, Tenkar’s Tavern and the connected YouTube Channel. He is also a former Internal Affairs officer with the New York Police Department and a big advocate for OSR. He also (like everyone) injects his politics and his personal opinions in there, but for the most part here’s what you need to know:

  • Tenkar did a lot of videos covering the various mistruths and questionable claims of the nuTSR crowd, sometimes with accompanying blog posts writing things up and linking to relevant information.
  • Tenkar has a lot of opinions on old school games styles, often making videos to discuss the idea of playing now vs then, talking about the principles of OSRIC, etc.
  • Tenkar also made a consistent effort over the years to expose people trying to grift or otherwise exploit the nostalgia for old school gaming. Ken Whitman, for example, has featured frequently and generally in an unflattering manner since at least as far back as October 2014.1 Tenkar A WTF are They Thinking!?! Kickstarter – Castles & Crusades: Blacktooth Ridge (T.V. Pilot) (3 October 2014) <>
  • Tenkar is wary of the pitfalls of commentary, and takes steps to prepare his receipts and evidence in advance – and to always show the material he’s using to substantiate his opinions.
  • Tenkar’s long involvement with the hobby, conventions and the history of the hobby have made him quite well networked within the niche hobby.

Naturally this did not bode well for Justin LaNasa, the Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum or the nuTSR crowd in general.

Continue reading LaNasa v. Tenkar – Dismissed with Prejudice
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    Tenkar A WTF are They Thinking!?! Kickstarter – Castles & Crusades: Blacktooth Ridge (T.V. Pilot) (3 October 2014) <>

Giantlands (2021)


Premise | Character Creation | Species | Professions | Ley Powers | Mutations | Other stuff | Core Rules | The World | How do I economy? | Species pt 2 | Monsters | No bears? No bullywugs… oh god the bugs! | Is this okay? | Demo Game | You’re walking in the woods… | That’s won’t work | You guys are being attacked… | Conclusion | Unplayable, and I don’t want to fix it | Is there a setting? | Spirtual successor?

Edit: Apologies to those who struggled through the initial release, and thank you to those who pointed out the many issues in it, will continue to try to tighten them up and cut back on my ellipses addiction.

Touted by Stephen Erin Dinehart IV as his role-playing game based on his unique vision of the world, but also written entirely by James M Ward (“Jim”)1 Wikipedia James M Ward <> as a kind of Native American themed, spiritual successor to Gamma World2 James M Ward & Gary Jaquet Gamma World (TSR Inc, Lake Geneva WI, 1978) – the original release of GiantLands was also modelled off the White Box3 Wikipedia Dungeons & Dragons (1974) <> release of Dungeons & Dragons.4 Gary Gygax & Dave Arneson Dungeons & Dragons (TSR Inc, Lake Geneva WI, 1974)

Dinehart regularly claims (incorrectly) to be the inventor of Narrative Design and a great master in game design space, but routinely avoids taking responsibility for not working to smooth out any issues in his game.

If you’ve found this via my write up of the GiantLands Saga, or anything connected to that – then you’re most likely already aware that the game is bad – but curious as to all the ways it is and if there’s tiny gems of goodness among the rotting debris. Also, since the game comes in three booklets I’ll be citing them separately.

Jim passed away on 18 March 2024,5 Haase-Lockwood & Associates Funeral Homes Obituary for James “Jim” Michael Ward III <> with his final work widely ignored and panned, but apparently still optimistic that it could result in a theme park one day.

The Premise

The basis for the setting is that the upon re-awakening or reaching her breaking point, the spirit of the world as we know it ends the world as we know it – killing everyone as punishment for our misdeeds toward nature and creating a fresh start known as “The Great Reset”. It encourages the Spirit Keeper (who runs the game) to imagine how their world might look after such an event, but also with underground bunkers and alien spacecraft.6 James M Ward & Stephen E Dinehart GiantLands: Keepers Guide (Wonderfilled Inc, Lake Geneva WI, 2021) at 4

This results in the return of giants, not simply big humanoids but beings of immense supernatural power. As well as a new kind of human… and also robots, aliens, star ports… and all kinds of wild nonsense that never really gets explained. It’s also weirdly inconsistent – Sapiens are introduced to the players a new type of humanoid (capable of living 200 years)7 James M Ward & Stephen E Dinehart GiantLands: Spirits Guide (Wonderfilled Inc, Lake Geneva WI, 2021) but in the Keepers Guide says they were created in the 1st Age “to rival the Giants” and appear to have been present as “humans” in every age since.8 Keepers Guide, at n 6, at 16 – 17

Continue reading Giantlands (2021)

GiantLands – The Release

So Wonderfilled Inc’s 2022 effectively started with the release of their flagship game, GiantLands, a time of celebration and one that sets the standard for any new game publisher.

It didn’t go very well.

Issues seemed to include that overseas and Kickstarter orders go low priority, that there was a some bad weather which jeopardized delivery windows for the first rounds and… well, the reception was not great.

Also yeah… do not expect any consistency in capitalization of Giantlands vs GiantLands from Wonderfilled… the branding experts. It drives me nuts too… but this is just how they are.

Continue reading GiantLands – The Release

Lucky Dip DM’ing

Gary Gygax was famous for his love of filling books with tables, specifically tables where you would roll a dice (or two) to find an outcome or a prompt.

This summary on Futurama was both brutal but indisputable.

Tables for random encounters, tables for treasure hoards of the recently slain monsters, tables for magic items in the treasure hoards and even tables for sex workers to spend the treasure on. Indeed, long before procedurally generated video games were a trend, Dungeons & Dragons was a game where you could leave huge parts of the story in the hands of the RNG gods through dice rolls.

Notably though, this is not how Gary DM’d. By all reports he rarely looked at the books, never limited himself to the rules and almost never rolled on a table himself – instead relying on preparation and improvisation. Some people will say he included the tables for lesser DMs, or to pad out the books, but realistically he probably figured it was a more engaging way to provide prompts and information than just a plain list.

Today tables for random outcomes continue to be a regular feature in role-playing games, expansions, modules and even comic books about those things. To many the outcomes are so sacrosanct that, even in the privacy of one’s own home and a single player story, bypassing them is a biblical sin.

They’re an inescapable part of the hobby, and many people spend no small amount of time making their own tables for their own campaigns. Now, that includes me, so I’m not about to tell you that they’re inherently bad – but rather that a classic mistake is to rely on them – up there with relying on “a rare roll must always have an extraordinary result”.

Both are symptoms of assigning too much authority to dice, usually out of insecurity about one’s ability to perform their role – so instead outsourcing it to an inanimate object or two.

Continue reading Lucky Dip DM’ing

Common and racial tongues in D&D

D&D has always had an odd approach to languages. While J. R. R. Tolkien can probably be blamed for the normalizing of racial languages in the fantasy setting, D&D never limited itself to that approach – taken as a whole, the classic D&D approach to language was…

…it was weird.

There were specifically nations, separate cultures with separate histories… but no languages associated with those – instead we had:

Racial Languages: Elf, Dwarf, Orcish, etc
Profession Languages: Druidic
Sub Languages: Thieves Cant was a form of coded language that required speaking a base language
Alignment Languages: Yeah, you could speak Lawful Good. The premise was that alignments were real cosmic forces, their were cults built around them, and hence their were cults who had their own languages to communicate in secret (which every adventurer knows one and only one).
Default language: Common, Trade Tongue… like there’s just a language made to be lingua franca, the Esperanto of these fantasy worlds… only it actually is wide spread.

I’m not going to touch on the Sub Languages or Alignment Tongues, but I did want to address what I consider the weirdest parts: Common tongue and racial tongues.

Between universal languages and cross compatible currencies – the distinctions between nations were usually alignment, and aesthetic. That kind of functioned for simply dungeon crawls, but didn’t lend itself well to world building or lore creation – because these don’t hold up to how language works in any shape or form – I mean, when was the last time you spoke “Human”?

These days there’s an effort to mix in cultural languages etc, but it always seems to fall back on depending on Common… the weirdest language. This is a real shame since it essentially locks the value of languages behind specialist scenarios, and eliminates opportunities like needing translators, confusion or ambiguity in translations, culture shock in language, etc.

Continue reading Common and racial tongues in D&D