Friday, March 17, 2017

[KINK] On Leather

I realized that my blog has been mostly CRIT, and not very much KINK. With the Mr. Leather Colorado 2017 competition coming up tomorrow, I figured I should break that trend and start posting content for the other side of the ampersand.
During my preparation for the competition, I’ve been asked questions that I’ve never had the answers to; that is to say, I knew the answers, but had to take a good, hard look at my lifestyle and my values in order to articulate them.
I decided to put these questions and answers into a blogpost because it serves as a great reference for newcomers as to what Leather is and means. Just keep in mind that Leather is what you make of it; my own or my community’s interpretation of Leather could be different than yours and that’s okay.
If you plan on competing for a Leather title yourself, there are a few more questions that the judges will expect you to answer. I won’t answer them here since they’re especially subjective and not relevant to the reason why I’m making this post, but I will list them:
  • Tell us something unique about each of the judges!
  • Various questions about Leather history (I read Jill Carter’s Leather Titleholder Manual in preparation for the contest, and the answers to the questions she posits on pages 17-18 are good to know).
  • Pick three of the previous people who held the title. Tell us something each of them did that you liked, and something each of them did that you would do differently.
And remember: at any Leather title contest, you should focus on having fun. If the judges think you’re the best fit for the title, they’ll choose you. If not, it’s nothing personal; the “best fit” is determined by the needs of the community and the opinions of the judges. And if you don’t win, you should continue to serve and represent your Leather community as if you had!

Tell us about yourself!

Short Version: I’m Superhorse, a submissive, masochist, and ponyboy. My sponsors are Voodoo Leatherworks and the Marquis Lifestyle Center.
Long Version: I’m Superhorse, a submissive, masochist, and ponyboy who has been in the Leather community for 3 years.
I’ve been a member of Voodoo Leatherworks for the same amount of time, and serve it as an all-around workhorse and as a member of its Leadership Council. I’m also on the board of the Marquis Lifestyle Center (MLC), a new nonprofit dedicated to providing BDSM education to physical health, mental health, and law enforcement professionals so that they can better serve members of our community.
Both Voodoo and MLC are my sponsors for CLF. I owe to them much of my growth and involvement; I barely recognize who I was 3 years ago, and I’m pumped to see what new waters this next year will lead me to!

What is the one question you hope we don’t ask you?

I hope you don’t ask why I’m up here with only 3 years of community experience. Because when I look back on those 3 years, it certainly feels a lot longer:
I came out of my shell; realized my dreams of being a pony; was introduced to kinks I never knew I had; became involved with Voodoo by running the front counter, running petplay events and game nights, and becoming a member of the Leadership Council; worked numerous outreach events at bars, conventions, and lounges; participated in beer busts, the Exile fetish ball, Thunder in the Mountains...
I’m sure I could stand up here and keep rattling off ways in which I’ve grown and served my community over the past 3 years. You could take my years of experience at face value, but to me, the person I was before then feels like a lifetime away.

What does submission mean to you?

A submissive and a dominant is like a sword and its wielder: What is one without the other? The sword is a tool that will help its wielder accomplish its goals, but not if it’s wielded improperly or banged against rocks. Each sword is forged differently, and in the hands of a competent wielder, they both find fulfillment. Together, they accomplish things that neither could on their own.

Why are you a ponyboy?

Pony play was the kink that drew me into the Leather lifestyle. To be honest, it’s because I’m a huge showoff. I love being strictly disciplined to trot and whinny perfectly, even more perfectly than the last time I played. I will train until my muscles are jelly if it means I’m turning heads with my dressage and fabulous tack.
The only real place to practice ponyplay is in my local parks. Obviously I have a huge exhibitionist streak, and luckily my handler does to. People are more interested and entertained than shocked or freaked out, which means every scene is filled with positive vibes for us.

What does Leather mean to you?

To me, leather means exactly what the material means: it’s a timeless material that takes many shapes, forms strong bonds that last for lifetimes, and is extremely fucking sexy. So when I don leather, I am representing the many facets of this diverse community, I’m carrying with me years of history and tradition, and I’m wearing my sexuality and my lifestyle quite literally on my sleeve. It only makes sense that the members of a community so rooted in leather would take on its properties.

What are Leather values?

To me, the main leather values are pride, community, and intensity:
  • Pride: Above all else, to be Leather means never compromising a part of your identity for any reason. You may think that “integrity” would be a better word, but how can you have integrity if you can’t acknowledge every aspect of your identity without shame?
  • Community: Without community, having pride is much harder. Leather is composed of minority groups that are marginalized individually and under the umbrella of Leather. I’ve heard Leather referred to as a family more often than as a community.
  • Intensity: This is why we’re all here in the first place! The imposing look, the cracking of whips, the overloading of all of our senses. At the end of the day, none of this matters if it isn’t fucking sexy. Which it so very much is!

Why are you competing for the Mr. Leather Colorado title?

I’m competing for Mr. Leather Colorado because I want to wear my Leather on my sleeve for those who can’t. Identifying with our community can still result in the loss of jobs, housing, and families; it can result in life-changingly negative experiences with health professionals and law enforcement.
One of the things I’m passionate about is serving the greater community around us so that they’ll serve us in the same capacity. And a lot of that comes down to visibility. But there’s a lot of people who don’t have the opportunity to be visible. It’s a titleholder’s responsibility to represent them.

What makes you qualified to be Mr. Leather Colorado?

Sometimes it’s hard for me to comprehend the amount I’ve done and changed in the 3 years I’ve been involved with Leather. And I don’t see myself slowing down, whether or not I win the title. I have huge plans for how I want to serve the community, and I have the momentum to see those plans through. I see Mr. Leather Colorado as a natural part of this trajectory.

If you win the Mr. Leather Colorado title, what do you plan on doing with it?

When I was taking a drive up to the family cabin in Craig, Colorado, I looked at the FetLife groups for each town along the way. Steamboat Springs had 240 registered users, but no events and no places to go. This trend continued for every city I travelled through on the Western slope.
If I win Mr. Leather Colorado, I really want to emphasize on the fact that this is a state title. I’d start by bringing more Leather down to the Springs, where Voodoo Leatherworks has already laid a great foundation; then to Pueblo, where a lot of our members commute from; then along the western slope, travelling northward. Simple events like beer busts, tastings, education, and outreach could be all these communities need to get the juices flowing.

Some people think that there are so many titles that they lost their value. Thoughts?

There could be as many titles as stars in the sky, and they wouldn’t lose their value. A title’s value is determined by the stock that its community places in it. If there is a title for a community of ten people, it’s just as valid as a title for a community of a hundred thousand.
Titleholders are elected because they can do what their community needs at that given time. They also represent their community, show why their star is important among those thousands of other stars. They are their community putting their best foot forward. As long as titleholders do these things, their title is a valid one.

How would you introduce Leather to somebody brand new?

I remember when I was first introduced to leather: it involved two different nights of sitting outside the dungeon for half-an-hour, sweating through my clothes, before turning around and going home. I find that most people are like that, and I think the reason is because of how intense we are: how we dress, the things we do, the ways in which we carry ourselves.
The first thing I tell new people is that it is intimidating. But that’s part of the fun. Leather is a celebration of that intensity! That apprehension you feel when you’re new is less raw intimidation, and more being on the precipice of realizing your most taboo fantasies. When I tell them that, that fear starts to convert to excitement.

Some people think that pride parades are becoming more like protests. Thoughts?

The queer liberation movement began with the Stonewall riots, a violent protest that fought against institutional violence. The “validity” of queer identities are still being debated in our federal government and society at large. I think the idea that pride parades are becoming like protests is the wrong approach: being visible as a queer is an act of protest; it’s the best weapon we’ve got against institutionalized violence.
The pride parade in Colorado Springs is cordoned off to a section of the city that nobody goes to. It goes through a rotten part of town, beneath a bridge, to a park that nobody knows how the hell to get to. And if pride parades and queer communities are complacent, that’s where we’ll stay.

Monday, March 6, 2017

[CRIT] D&D 5e Gold-for-XP

This is a spiritual successor to my post about how I give out treasure in Lamentations of the Flame Princess. In that post, I stated that DMs can use the LotFP table for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition by simply increasing the denominations used by one step.
The thing is, the LotFP table uses Moldvay’s assumption that three-quarters of a character’s experience points come from treasure. Now that my Dungeon Master Casey is using gold-for-XP in 5th edition, I thought I’d revisit this table and remake it to fit the expected experience point rewards in D&D 5e.
The main difference between Basic D&D and D&D 5e is that the burden of experience rewards isn’t placed on the monsters, but on the characters. Since the XP value of monsters is based on their challenge rating instead of on their hit dice, the Dungeon Master’s Guide has the DM construct encounters based on an XP budget determined by the level of the party, and those encounters are meted out based on what is considered a “full adventuring day” for that party. Essentially, Basic D&D is concerned with how powerful a monster is, while D&D 5e is concerned with how powerful the party is.
Taking this into account, the amount of treasure that the party receives also must be based on their level. Tankschmidt gives us a breakdown of the wealth a party is expected to accumulate throughout their level advancement (DMG 133). This table assumes four party members, even hoard distribution, and no individual monster treasure.
Expected GP (cumulative)
Expected GP (cumulative)

The simplest method would be to replace the Character Advancement table on page 15 of the Player’s Handbook with Tankschmidt’s expected wealth table. Then, a DM could easily use the individual treasure and treasure hoard tables in the Dungeon Master’s Guide to mete out gold at a suitable pace. This assumes that players will no longer receive XP from monsters and challenges, which I prefer: monsters and challenges are obstacles to a reward, not a reward in and of themselves.

How Gold-for-XP Works

Gold-for-XP has been implemented in the different ways throughout D&D’s history, including its re-imaginings by the Old School Revival movement:
  1. Every gold piece a character receives counts towards experience points on a 1:1 basis.
  2. As above, but only treasure recovered from uncivilized areas, abandoned areas, or creatures that have no actual use for it counts towards experience points.
  3. Every gold piece that a character spends counts towards experience points on a 1:1 basis.
  4. As above, but only treasure spent on frivolities (such as carousing) and/or great investments (such as building a keep) count towards experience points.
  5. Characters purchase XP on a 1:1 basis.
Let’s quickly go over what works for D&D 5e and what doesn’t:
  1. Works. When you get the treasure, you get the XP. Makes perfect sense if you use the expected wealth table above as the new Character Advancement table.
  2. Works. This means that in order to advance, the characters have to push themselves to extremes. No robbing caravans or taking rewards from kings to level up; they have to constantly forge dangerous frontiers in order to advance, which is very in-line with D&D’s themes.
  3. Kind of. The wealth characters get doesn’t convert to experience points until it’s spent. But if the DM doesn’t have a lot of sustainable options for you to spend it on, this can quickly become a mess.
  4. Kind of. This would be a better version of #3 since it narrows down the type of purchases characters will be making; it makes perfect sense to spend swaths of money in ways that can alter the game world, provide opportunities for roleplaying, even plant seeds for an adventure. However, characters will have to be generating more wealth than what’s expected for their level if they’re going to resupply and take care of adventuring expenses. Additionally, lower levels might prove tough unless the DM scales what is considered “frivolous” and “risky” as the party advances.
  5. Doesn’t Work.* Unlike #4, the expected wealth for characters must be spent on… nothing! This option forces parties to grind out more wealth than is expected of them with nothing to show for it. Also, throwing money into a bottomless pit doesn’t make thematic sense for character advancement: #1 has dragging treasure out of a dungeon; #2 has forging new frontiers; #3 has carefully investing wealth; #4 has world-changing spending binges. #5 either feels like purchasing levels at best, or like squandering money at worst, both of which sour the thrill players should get when gaining a level or claiming a horde.

*The Milestone Method

Casey is implementing an experimental advancement system in his game, an unholy merger of gold-for-XP and milestones. Basically, he uses #5, but when the characters toss money down the bottomless pit he has them describe what they’re doing with it. It could be anything: buying a shabby house in the upper slums, moving the extended family out of poverty, improving safety conditions on a main trade road, and so on.
This is cool because it solves a number of problems not just with #5, but with other gold-for-XP methods:
  • Buying XP is a huge investment, and having that investment feed into game-changing stuff fulfills the “world-changing spending binges” of #4.
  • What the characters buy is player-defined, which removes the mess of #3; the DM doesn’t have to invent prices or sustainable investments, the players just do it. The kicker is as XP thresholds rise, so does the potential of the characters’ investments.
  • Advancement under #5 takes up all of a character’s expected wealth, but because characters get game-altering milestones in addition to advancing, they’ll be willing to take risks to increase their income. This fulfills #2’s expectation of forging new frontiers.
  • This removes the “bottomless pit” effect of #5, which adds an extra heft to what advancement means. It doesn’t mean defeating challenges or hauling treasure, it means completing goals that are important to a character and furthers their development.

Why Gold-for-XP?

My D&D 5e house rules were written in an attempt to replicate the meticulous resource management and streamlined mechanics seen in TSR- and OSR-era Dungeons & Dragons. Gold-for-XP is one such mechanic that I’ve always wanted to implement, because I have a deep appreciation for what it does to the game:
  • Provides a Drive: Sometimes it can be difficult to get the players to go along a certain path. But I’ve found that when treasure is essential to advancement, the players dive right in; offering large piles of treasure is an easy and sure-fire way to get them to play along.
  • Promotes Creativity: Restrictions promote creativity. If the players have a constant, static objective in mind, they will come up with all sorts of clever ways to achieve it. Introducing obstacles to that objective becomes second nature for the DM to implement and the players to circumvent. Having one goal post to worry about makes for a tighter game.
  • Makes Decisions Harder: But the blinders that a single goal places on the players allows the DM to brew up some nastiness in the background. Once that nastiness comes to a head, the player will have to make a difficult choice: protect the caravan, or get the gold? Get rid of the rat problem, or get the gold? Overthrow the king, or get the gold? And every time the players choose gold, the DM gets enough ammunition for ten campaigns.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

[CRIT] D&D 5e Tools Revamped

A common complaint I’ve heard about Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is that tools are just… there. Each tool has distinct mechanical applications, but they’re so niche that unless your DM goes out of his way to include certain elements in his game, you can go an entire campaign without using your tools. I know I have!
Tools have a similar problem to what the rules-as-written Ranger has with Favored Enemy: it’s a totally empty feature unless you know ahead of time what elements are going to be featured in the campaign, and with what frequency.
Wizards fixed the Favored Enemy feature in their Unearthed Arcana rewrite, and they showed that they were aware of the tool problem with their foray into tool feats. But I don’t think feats are the proper approach because feat slots are way too valuable. In addition, requiring both a proficiency and a feat to make proper use of tools is too much; if you have the tool proficiency, you should be able to use that tool for all it’s worth.
To that end, I’ve created new rules for tool proficiencies that are written specifically for my house rules and my downtime rules. My house rules and downtime rules have been edited slightly in turn in order to accommodate these new tool rules. Note that these special tool properties can be used in conjunction with the rules-as-written properties, if you wish.
A fun little tidbit: The rules for the brewer’s tools are derived from the “Intoxicated” condition that was in the D&D Next playtest material. Specifically, I use the version of the condition from the 3/2/13 release of the playtest rules.

Using Tools

  • SR: You can use this tool once per short rest. Only one tool can be used per short rest.
  • DC: Once per downtime cycle, you can use each tool that has this tag once.

Artisan Tools

The selection of artisan tools has been whittled down, focusing on the tools that provide the most immediate mechanical benefits.

Alchemist’s Supplies (SR, DC)

When you use this tool, you have a number of points equal to your proficiency bonus. These points can be spent to create the items listed below. Each point counts as 50 gp towards making an item. There can only exist a number of items made with this kit equal to your proficiency bonus at a time.
  • Acid (25 gp)
  • Alchemist’s fire (50 gp; see revised stats in my house rules)
  • Bomb (DMG 268; 150 gp)
  • dust of disappearance (250 gp)
  • dust of dryness (150 gp)
  • dust of sneezing and choking (100 gp)
  • oil of slipperiness (200 gp)
  • philter of love (250 gp)
  • potion of animal friendship (150 gp)
  • potion of climbing (50 gp)
  • potion of fire breath (150 gp)
  • potion of hill giant strength (250 gp)
  • potion of growth (200 gp)
  • potion of poison (100 gp)
  • potion of resistance (200 gp)
  • potion of water breathing (150 gp)

Brewer’s Tools (SR, DC)

When you use this tool, you have a number of points equal to your proficiency bonus. These points can be spent to create brews, each of which gives a creature the Intoxicated condition for 1 hour when consumed. There can only exist a number of brews made with this kit equal to your proficiency bonus at a time.
Intoxicated: You have disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks. Additionally, you add the brewer’s proficiency bonus to your melee attack damage rolls, and subtract it from each instance of damage you take.

Cartographer’s Supplies (SR)

You map a number of location that you’ve visited today equal to your proficiency bonus, allowing you to “fast travel” to those locations (see the Exploration section of my D&D 5e house rules).

Cook’s Utensils (SR)

When you consume food and water during a short rest, a number of additional creatures equal to your proficiency bonus act as if they had consumed food and water.

Jeweler’s Tools (SR)

You can instantly Appraise (per the downtime action) a number of items equal to your proficiency bonus. If you have the Spellcasting feature, you can instead cast identify on one item.

Smith’s Tools (SR, DC)

You have a number of points to spend equal to your proficiency bonus, which you can spend on either weapons or armor. You must spend these points immediately after gaining them. Each weapon and armor cannot have more than one of these points.
When you spend a point on a weapon, a d3 is added to the next attack or damage roll made with that weapon (your choice; the decision must be made when the point is spent).
When you spend a point on an armor, a d3 is added to its base Armor Class for the next attack made against you while you wear it.

Other Tools

Thieves’ tools and vehicles have not been altered.

Disguise Kit (SR, DC)

You can choose to either obscure your identity, or to assume someone else’s identity.
The DC to see through your disguise is 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier. NPCs use their Passive Insight (10 + their Insight bonus) to see through the disguise. You lose the disguise when it’s seen through.
If you choose to assume someone else’s identity, your disguise is automatically seen through by those intimate with the individual.
Additionally, if you use the Sow Rumor downtime action while assuming someone else’s identity, if your disguise DC is greater than the Charisma DC, the action occurs automatically and takes the minimum possible time. In exchange, the disguise is seen through, and can never be assumed again in that location.

Forgery Kit (DC)

When you use the Gain Renown downtime action, you gain a number of renown points equal to your proficiency bonus, instead of 1.

Gaming Set (DC)

When you are using the Carousing downtime action, you can choose to automatically roll a 0 on the table, or to add your proficiency bonus to the roll.

Herbalism Kit (SR, DC)

When you use this tool, you have a number of points equal to your proficiency bonus. These points can be spent to create potions of healing. When you create a potion of healing, it heals 2d4+2 hit points for each point that you spend on it. There can only exist a number of healing potions made with this kit equal to your proficiency bonus at a time.

Musical Instrument (DC)

When you use the Busking downtime action, you get a number of gold equal to your proficiency bonus. In addition, you act as if all downtime actions have the Income tag while in civilization.

Navigator’s Tools (SR)

If the encounter die would advance, you can decide that it does not. You can only do this once per use of the tool. You can use this tool a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus per long rest.

Poisoner’s Kit (SR, DC)

When you use this tool, you have a number of points equal to your proficiency bonus. These points can be spent to create a poison (see DMG 257). Each point counts as 100 gp towards creating a poison. There can only exist a number of poisons made with this kit equal to your proficiency bonus at a time.