Posts tagged “tabletop

Sex Sells

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I’ve played my fair share of prostitutes in roleplaying games. Okay maybe more than my fair share as it’s the sort of talky, seductive, manipulative character I like. So a game where everyone is part of the oldest profession? Gimme gimme! Courtesans is a mature RPG where the characters are part of the Demi Monde, the VictorIan underworld of accepted irrespectability, sharing a house and trading favours for money and influence. Competing for admirers, aiding each other in times of need and perhaps even providing comfort of an intimate nature? These women are complicated creatures, far removed from the street walkers of our popular culture.

Courtesans is a sister game to the previously reviewed Tough Justice RPG. Same period setting, same “Beer and Crisps” mechanics but with a few tweaks. It’s a good system focusing on character description rather than statistics and fits with the game’s ethos of player driven story rather than adventure dished out by passing monsters. Courtesans are divided into broad categories called origins, which act like classes, bestowing positive and negative qualities in line with their beginnings – Actresses, Professionals, Fallen Ladies, Goldenhearts, Schemers and Upstarts. Perhaps here I would introduce rolls to randomise the physical aspects rather than letting the players choose them. I could see how most Courtesans designed by male players could end up top heavy supermodels! The character’s experience is measured by resources in five different categories – Legend, Reputation, Wealth, Influence and Scandal and as play progresses they fluctuate. During a session, or season, Courtesans procure ‘admirers’, complete actions such as conversation, sex and spying, then attend the Cyprian Ball. The ball is a chance for the Courtesan to celebrate their achievements and give a final boost to their resources. The session is run by a Landlady, who is interestingly also a character herself. Thus the gamesmaster can guide the game in a more hands on manner, which is an excellent idea.

Other great aspects of this book are that a typical gaming session is laid out in detail for new players and GMs, the wealth of historical background information including the Royalty as customers and advanced rules for groups that want to delve deeper into the Demi Monde. I especially like the progression system where successful actions are eventually traded for character investments rather than merely improving your dice rolls.

There is one major section of the rules I personally don’t like. Not because of the mechanics but the subject and the all too gritty reality of the situation – pregnancy. Each season the Courtesan must test to see if any of her liaisons ended with a baby on the horizon. I can understand it’s inclusion but rolling for stillbirths, mother deaths and handicapped children is an emotional step too far for me and might also be for other women playing the game. Also where are the sexually transmitted diseases? Surely if you do one the other should be detailed. However this is not the focus of the game and it could be easily written out if desired.

This game is certainly entertaining, interesting and different to most RPGs out there. I would recommend it as reading for any GM wanting to include ‘ladies of the night’ in their game as more than an easy snack, giving them depth and intrigue. Coming soon is an additional setting book, Courtesans: Weird & Wonderful which could turn this game from an rare treat to a regular indulgence. Providing I can persuade the boys to play of course. I’m thinking props….

~xTamsynx

Publisher: Postmortem Studios
Website: http://www.postmort.demon.co.uk


The Care and Feeding of Your Gaming Group

I like to cook.

Scratch that. I like to cook a lot. I like to cook big meals to boot. I like to cook all sorts of things. I love Asian flavors specifically but I branch out whenever possible. I own several cookbooks, and I recently upgraded my kitchen appliances with the same passion I applied to choosing the new video card and monitor for my computer.

This becomes a problem. When we used to run a different game at my place, I cooked before every game. Apparently this didn’t fly with my gaming group. They actively resented my good-deeds (that I did without being asked, happily and without complaint) and when that game closed, these players said straight out said to my then-boyfriend-later-husband that they would no longer game at my house because I ‘forced’ them to eat.

Note that they couldn’t tell this to me. I was intensely offended when I was told about this exchange months later, but nobody apologized or even acknowledged that I was aware of this rudeness. Life goes on, though. My husband and I married, and his house and my house became the same house. He was running his Shadowrun game, and by God, he was running it in his own home. When he moved, the game moved. Nobody could argue with that logic — he wasn’t carting his books across the valley just because they didn’t want to be inconvenienced with my hostessing.

So the snubbing began. I’d let them know that I was preparing a large meal and they were welcome to join. They’d arrive, maybe one would partake but the rest would feed themselves before or after the game rather then take my freely offered, no strings attached food. No money or supplies were requested. They brought drinks and snacks of their own volition. But my efforts were routinely snubbed, to the point that they’d show up late after eating out and a top it, brought desert from a restaurant despite that I had made a full meal and desert for them and told them ahead of time I was doing so.

I very nearly threw them out that night, but behaved myself as best I could in the face of this insult. However, this is pretty much the only gaming group we have, and so we put up with these sorts of shenanigans and blatant disrespect. It was things like that that we had to warn folks about when our newest player asked about joining our group. They had decided they didn’t want to play at a decent hour, they wanted to come over at 10:30. They didn’t want to eat with us. They basically wanted to do things only on their time schedule, at their whim, and nothing else.

Our new player, however, has none of these bad habits. He is courteous, gracious and a very genteel man. We had him and his girlfriend over for pre-game dinner, and enjoyed ourselves. When I mention I’d like to make something, he’s the first to volunteer a side. His presence is actually a moderating influence, it seems, on some of the bad habits of our gaming group. This week when I said that I’d be making shrimp creole before game, they were all quick to let me know they’d be happy eat with us and brought sodas. I admit, we also used his schedule– and our need to take him home as he and his girlfriend only have one car– to leverage an earlier starting time! Yes, the GAME MASTER had to leverage against his own player group, because they had decided that starting at 10 was what they did for all the other games, and they’d do it for this one, regardless of what he wanted.

This means I’m very grateful for our new player, and enjoy his presence for more then just what he brings to the table not only as a player but as a nice person and a calming presence. I am also pleasantly surprised that being ‘good’ in front of the newbie has made them less of a pack of dicks. I mean, it’s not all that bad. We wouldn’t hang out with them if they didn’t have redeeming qualities. It just seems that a lot of the time, they’re just Big Boys who don’t want a Mommy, and I suppose that’s what they see my efforts to feed them as, though I can’t imagine why– I’m hardly matronly.

But I like to cook, and I like to game, and I don’t see why the two shouldn’t meet regularly. I don’t try and cook for game that’s not at my house — so why should sitting down for a meal with friends and then grabbing the dice bags be such a crime?

Boys. Can’t live with ’em, can’t feed ’em. What can you do with ’em?