Last Reavers game session, I suddenly found myself playing a new RPG of pregnancy and pirates, we’ll call it “P&P” for the time being… This is the kind of pickle you find yourself in as a GM when sex is a component of your gameplay.
As background, this Viking barbarian/serpent shaman druid PC named “Serpent” has become involved with a half elf wizard woman named Samaritha (an NPC). Or at first he thought she was a half elf, turns out she’s a serpentfolk in disguise (they can alter their form). As he is all snake themed anyway, this turned out to not be a dealbreaker and so they’re an item.
Anyway, it started innocuously enough – Serpent was just BSing with the other PCs as they were buying supplies about how “Samaritha talks all the time.” Another PC suggested getting her pregnant, and the rest all jumped onto that discussion mainly just to make Serpent uncomfortable (though oddly, they all took the assumption that a pregnant woman would talk less at face value… I’m the only one of the group with a kid so I had to restrain myself from pointing out the flaw in this cunning plan…). They then talked about it again later at a bar, while at the same time asking around trying to gather information on a female pirate they are chasing, which led to the novel rumor that the fled pirate is pregnant with Serpent’s love child and he’s tracking her down to make an honest woman of her. So I thought it was a joke and they were all just busting his balls about it.
But the idea took root with frightening swiftness. Given that he’s a human and she’s a serpentfolk it would seem to be a somewhat intractable problem but the other PCs were seriously going to look into fertility potions/magic and the like to help their buddy out! (This is all before Samaritha is consulted on this plan of course).
And next session, Serpent totally sat Samaritha down and had a “let’s have a baby” conversation with her. She reveals that serpentfolk aren’t able to reproduce any more, that’s a big problem with their race. They had found a serpentfolk egg in stasis back in a previous adventure (taken from the Green Ronin Freeport trilogy by the way) – I had been downplaying that, and she’d stashed it, but now they discussed raising it as a backup plan – but I was surprised how invested everyone was with really making a pregnancy happen. And it got even a little more complicated because all serpentfolk born after a long, long time ago are degenerate barbarian types and they thought about doing some divination to figure out how the baby might turn out, that is if they could even conceive in the first place… The rest of the PCs had long left the joke part of this around and were quite engaged in this whole discussion and wondering how to make it happen.
I’ve never had having a kid come up in a campaign before so I guess I’m looking for advice… Though there’s a lot of different layers here. How could it happen with a serpentfolk and a human, just technically? How’s pregnancy at sea on a pirate ship going to work (and I guess it’s not like a full pregnancy, but semi and then she’ll lay an egg or something)? The odds are all against it but PCs have a way of making “things that haven’t happened in millenia” happen… I do keep a half decent edge to my game world where the difficulty and brutality of medieval life is present… Will I get on a government watch list for Googling “serpentfolk reproduction?” I don’t know, thoughts?
I am gratified, though, by the work I’ve put into the NPCs and the realistic feel of the campaign, and the investment of the PCs in the game world and their own characters, that this would even come up. For them to see Samaritha not just as a faceless NPC or “arm candy” is great, and to be immersed in the world enough to care about things other than “killing things and taking their stuff” – well that’s what roleplaying is supposed to strive for in my opinion.
I… I am in awe. You got a bunch of non-kid-having gamers to become seriously interested, eager even, to get a baby going in a fantasy world. As you said, quite an accomplishment. I should think that in a fantasy campaign where you can buy potions to do damn near anything, it might be time to invest a little thought. Would the major temple in this world of yours have access to fertility magic that could cross species?
They cannot be that far apart genetically if they are attracted to each other physically – the visual sexual triggers that the serpentfolk woman still has are due to her hips, breasts, etc, and those in turn suggest live birth or something very close, as well as an extended nursing period. In other words, close enough to human for magic to bridge the gap.
That said, it sounds like research into the various deities they might need to propitiate, the sort of magic they will have to invoke, stuff like that. This will make a good story arc all by itself.
I strongly suggest tying the ‘quest for babies’ to a clerical presence, be it serpentfolk, human or both. Whatever else you can do with magic, thus far most fantasy worlds like to draw the line at creating life – which appears to be jealously guarded by the Gods (and with good reason). And while magic can cross huge gaps, the Gods seem to be in charge of the more mundane day to day magic we players take for granted – such as what happens when a man and woman sleep together.
Besides which, it begins to sound like there is a strong ethical current beginning to flow here. Definitely the province of the Gods.
Thanks! Well, serpentfolk don’t usually have breasts and whatnot, she basically is shapechanged all the time. Magic might normally bridge the gap, but something I had imported from Freeport to Golarion before this came up was the story of “no more civilized serpentfolk are being born, just degenerates; the only civilized ones are thawed out of stasis after like a thousand years has passed.” So hell, he’s a PC, so it would be fitting for him to break that losing streak, but it should probably be more epic than buying fantasy fertility drugs. The serpentfolk deity has been beheaded, which is probably a contributor. Of course that is somewhat covered in the Serpent’s Skull AP, maybe I should just graft some of that on – I just have so many other huge adventures queued up!
It’s good that you have other adventure ready, but if my own experience is any indicator, the ‘town adventures’ were just as much fun. I always saw the grand undertakings as a means to fuel my own desire to start a tavern in the big city. That took money. As long as your party has a basic drive – in this case, siring a child and enabling a life-long bond between these two characters – they will go just about anywhere. It is the seemingly hum-drum things that motivate people, not the grand stuff. That may be one reason why their eagerness to see a child of this union was such a surprise. We tend to forget things like that when we get caught up in all the glitter. Treasure and fame may please them, but seeing your kids running and playing on a picnic – that will make them happy in a way no gold can ever buy.
I think the “kill things and get their stuff” is the necessary, ah*, humus for party and character evolution up to that point.You have to start on common ground somewhere.
Ok, maybe other common themes would be usable, as well. But this one, at least in D&D and it’s progenity**, is the traditional one and it works, so what? I mean, “things” and “stuff” is anything that get’s the PCs into interaction with the game world…
*I had to check for the english word… it’s the same latin word as in german… go figure.
** Is Pathfinder a Serpentfolk/human hybrid???
Sure, kill things and take their stuff is where many people start with RPGs, but I’m happy to be able to push past that. RPGs are IMO an art form like any other; we can listen to top 40 and watch Fox News our whole life or we can learn to appreciate the finer things… It’s the same argument in any art form. Those who appreciate classical music aren’t “better people” than those still listening to glam rock, but I think generally people understand who has a more highly developed musical taste.
I think this point is only partial a part of your overall evolution as a gamer, but it starts, in a way, with every new campaign and character and is best used for in-play personality generation.
Because it is trite and maybe even forgettable, if you make your elf an orc-hater (another one?) before play begins*, but it is something totally different, and probably something much more to remember, if your elf starts as just another elf and starts hating orcs because of this evening with the near tpk in the foothills of Glord. You know, the ones with the many orcs. Don’t go there. 😉
After I wrote that, I think more of the opening draws of a chess game. A preschooler can get them right. It’s what happens next, that shows your understanding of the game. So… you could start a chess game a few draws in (and many people do that, afaik, to replay famous games), but does that make you a better player as someone who starts again from the beginning? Not necessarily so.
I think “kill – loot” does not stand opposed to deep immersion roleplaying – because without layers, there can’t be depth. It’s only shallow if you ever stay on the surface, but it will be hard to stay deep down all the time – maybe even deadly for the game. And some people like to play in the shallows and never dive deeper – fine for them.
I will strife for deep immersion roleplaying when it has it’s time, and I’m on the boat with you that it is something of an art, but sometimes, just sometimes, you will want to kill that orc and loot his chest. And that’s ok, and maybe even necessary. 😉
Oh, and greed (or the hope for wealth, security, status… ) is a main driving force of people. Not to be underestimated as a motiviation. Reading icelandic sagas at the moment…
PS: I suck at chess.
* Oh, yeah and you could make that fabulous background with the story and lineage and all the forces (internal and external) that drive the charcter to act in a certain way… and as soon as he hit’s the table : “I bash the door in!” I know it happened to me.
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An update for those who are interested… Samaritha and Serpent got married and availed themselves of Wedding Rock in “From Shore to Sea,” the Paizo/Open Design module. I was planning to run it anyway, and turns out the villagers of this seaside town swim out to this island on their wedding nights to consummate it on this rock that seems to guarantee fertility… Of course, it’s also used by the local Deep Ones to mesmerize the happy couple and get in some illicit human-penetration, but whatever. After finishing out the adventure they decided to give it a try! Did it work? Was there an unknown fish-man three-way involved? Time will tell, but check out the session where it happens!