Four Christmas-Themed Magic Items

Ugh, man, don’t you just hate Christmas? It’s such a stressful time of the year, with all these dumb obligations and traditions you have to endure. Blech, the worst, right?

Pft, no, dumb. Christmas is the best. I’ve been listening to Christmas music all day and now it’s time for you to read this post that resulted!

The Hat of Awakening

In a distant epoch, the demon Frozti, born beneath Satan’s wing, battled with a powerful wizard. The forces of good prevailed, and in the end, Frozti’s spirit was sealed within the wizard’s hat, where it has remained ever since. But, it is an immutable law of magic that any seal must have a key. Hoping to deny the vicious Frozti any means of escape, the wizard decreed that the seal would only be broken if the demon inside was able to befriend a million children.

Time passed, and in the smallest degree the seal began to leak. Whenever the Hat of Awakening is placed upon an inanimate object with human form, Frozti can animate that object, and control it as if it were his own body. But this false body is not enough for Frozti, he wishes to truly be free. And, so, whenever he has this chance, he plays the role of friendly oaf, befriending every child he encounters.

The untold ages since this demon was sealed have been the most peaceful in humanity’s existence. Every war in our memory pales in comparison to what came before. None now living could ever begin to understand the untold violence their forebears endured.

Frozti’s long effort nears its end. He need only befriend a handful more children before he is free.

Sock of Many Things

A white woolen sock, with red stripes. It’s fairly cozy, but lacks a mate, so you’ll look like a dingus if you wear it.

If the Sock of Many Things is left to dry by a fire, and remains unobserved for 6+ hours, it will miraculously fill with all manner of cheap junk!

Whilst carrying the full sock, at any time, the player may dig around inside of it, and pull out any item they desire. The only restrictions are that the item must be able to fit inside of the sock, and must have a standard market value of 10 silver pieces or less.

There is no hard limit on how many items can be pulled from the sock each time it is filled. The referee should merely declare that the sock is empty once it seems like the player has pulled out as much stuff as the sock could have held.

Tree of Generosity

Less of an item, and more of a location, given that it’s rooted to the ground it was grown in. However, it could easily be chopped down and transported, and would retain its powers for up to a month, if properly watered.

Anyone who smells the pine scent coming off the tree must make a saving throw versus Magic. On a failed save, they will be compelled to find a suitable gift for everyone who was present when their save was failed. Until the gifts are delivered, the character cannot pursue any other goal, or attempt to do any harm to the intended recipients of their gifts, unless those people attack them first.

Gifts cannot be just anything. They must be a material object (not a service, or other intangible gift), and it must be something the giver truly believes the recipient will appreciate, based on what they know of them.

Genesis Gingerbread

There’s a strange woman who sells this stuff in various markets all over the kingdom. She always trundles out of some nearby woodlands, but attempting to tracker her movements is the path to maddness. One day she comes out of the Bluewood, sells her wares, then returns from whence she came. The next day she emerges from Yellingbird Forest, eighty leagues to the North.

And no matter how well informed people are to be on the lookout for her, she’s never spotted by anyone who is wise to her tricks. Only folks who’ve never heard of her ever seem to encounter her cart, or her curious dough.

That’s really all she sells: gingerbread dough, by the pound. It’s an odd thing to find for sale at a market stand, but she offers a fair price, and assures you that it makes the tastiest cookies you’ve ever had. But, of course, only if you cut it into cute shapes before you make it.

When cooked, the woman’s gingerbread comes to life, mimicking whatever it was shaped like. Little gingerbread dogs act like dogs, little gingerbread men act like men, and if you’re a fuddy duddy who just makes normal disk-shaped cookies, well…they roll around a lot.

Sex in D&D

This turns me on. This is the sort of thing I like. I’m comfortable with sex as a subject matter. I would imagine that’s fairly obvious to anyone who has been reading my work here for any length of time. If you keep up with my play reports, session titles like “In Which My Ex Kills My Penis Monster,” “Have Your Cake and Fuck It Too,” or “Passing Through the BDSM district.” may have clued you in. Heck, I wrote a sex worker class at one point, and have never made any secret of the fact that I write pornography under a pseudonym. Sex is something I find very artistically engaging, and I’m not shy about pursuing that interest.

Until recently, it never occurred to me that I was unusual for feeling this way. After all, how many dungeons have you delved that included a harem? How many monster books include some creature inspired by psychosexual horror? In 2017, the ENNIE award for best adventure went to a book that includes a gangbang. That same publisher, LotFP, recently released a book called “Vaginas are Magic.” To me, it seems like sex is pretty well represented in the OSR scene.

Yet increasingly, I feel like I’ve been developing a bit of a reputation as a guy who “gets” how sex in RPGs works. I keep getting tagged into google+ threads where people are talking about it, because “Nick will have something to say about this.” And the other day, on Reddit, someone asked me point-blank to explain to them how I get away with including sex in my games without it turning into a shitshow.

So, alright, lets talk about sex.

First, why is sex interesting? Like, obviously we all enjoy a good orgasm now and again, but why include sex outside of a sexual situation? Why include in D&D?

Because sex is an elemental force. Beyond our individual lusts and experiences, it is a basic, primal thing that we all think about. And whether or not a particular flavor of fuck piques our interest, each new idea gets mixed in with the complex morass of our own sexuality. Sex is interesting because it’s universal.

But sex is also something that is deeply personal. People don’t tend to talk about it as much as they probably want to. We rarely have the opportunity to sit down with someone and intellectually engage with what sex is and what it means to us. It’s an emotional state, not so different from anger, joy, disgust, fear, or sorrow, and yet its exploration in life and art is comparatively shallow.

That’s why I feel compelled to put sex in my art. And, yeah, to some extent I do consider the D&D games I run to be my art. I know it sounds pretentious, and (even worse), story-gamey, but there it is. And I don’t mean to say that I’m rocking people’s world with how fuckin’ eye-opening my games are or anything. But, if your world has a BDSM town where everybody wears rubber and half the citizenry is on leashes, then that’s probably not something your players will have encountered before. It’s probably something they will remember, and that is a pretty decent accomplishment on its own.

Which I guess brings us to the question of how to do it right. The honest, but lazy, answer is “I don’t fuckin’ know.” You and yours are going to have different comfort levels than me and mine. I can’t write you a guide for how to make your friends comfortable with something they’re not comfortable with. But even ignoring that, even just writing about my own experiences, I can’t claim to be any kind of expert. Sex, in my games, is more of an ongoing experiment than anything else. That being said, I do have quite a bit of sex in my games, and I more or less make it work, so, what’s involved in that?

I never let sex be about anyone’s personal gratification. That’s what people are afraid of when they think about sex in a D&D game. They remember every horror story they’ve ever heard about some greasy basement dweller describing the contours and proportions of an NPC’s tits, while he fumbles and fails to hide his erection. That’s less about having sex in your game, and more about one person foisting their exhibitionism fetish onto the group.

Fortunately, if you play with decent human adults, that’s not going to be a problem.

You could probably chart a scary-accurate map of the sorts of weird sex stuff I’m into by paying attention to everything that doesn’t show up in my game world. I don’t think that sort of avoidance is really necessary to make sex work in a game, but it does help me stay honest. I know I’ll never get gross and linger over-long on the cake farting NPC, because cake farting isn’t my thing.

I also don’t make my game about sex, (most of the time). I just make sex part of the world. Players randomly encounter a dildo salesperson, but they don’t generally go on a quest to retrieve a magical sex toy. Sometimes the players are amused or interested, and they spend time role playing with the weird sex thing they bumped into, other times they ignore it and get right to the point. It depends on their mood.

When it comes to players actually having sex in the game, I want to share two examples I feel are usefully illustrative. One is the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like sex was becoming a problem, and the other is just a good example of how sex should normally work in a D&D game.

To tackle the latter case first, the players were in the middle of traveling, and had a random encounter with a succubus. She openly flirted with the party, and made it pretty clear that she would be happy to have sex with any one of them. One player decided to take her up on that offer.

The player mentioned that his character was a fairly modest guy, and would prefer to do the deed out of sight of his companions. The succubus agreed, and so the PC and the demon disappeared into a nearby bush. I then briefly described how sex with a succubus is weird, and terrifying, but so intensely good that it kinda ruins sex with anybody else. (After all, what mortal could measure up to a literal embodiment of the act? ) I tell the player what the experience is like, without lingering on sordid logistics.

In-game, the act took 30 minutes, so I ask the rest of the party if there’s anything they want to do with their 3 exploration turns. When that’s resolved, the PC was kicked out of the bushes, and the succubus left without another word. (At least, not until 13 game-months later when she showed up and handed off their infant child).

In this situation, the player self-censored by taking things into the bushes. But, even if he hadn’t, I would have described things almost exactly the same way. I might have included a few other notes for the observers, like “You see things you’d never considered, and new fetishes take root in your mind.” Given that it was a sex demon, I may even have required some kind of saving throw against the desire to join in. But one way or the other, the whole thing lasted a handful of seconds, and the game moved on.

I don’t “fade to black,” but neither do I obsess. I describe sex with the same level of detail I would use if my players said “Lets stop in this town and find something to eat.” I don’t describe the firmness of the vegetables, or the way the meat’s juice dribbles down their chin. BUT, I do make a point to come up with some interesting local cuisine, I tell the players how it tasted, and maybe throw in a tidbit about some strange local dining custom they encountered.

If those same players then wanted to have sex with the bartender, and he agreed to it, I’d say something like “He leads you back to the store room. He’s surprisingly gentle, and at one point does this weird thing with his feet that you really didn’t like at first, but was actually workin’ pretty well for you by the end. When you finish, he quickly excuses himself to get back to work, lest he get in trouble.”

Easy.

When she asks what sort of things you're into

My second example involves an NPC named The Hangman. She’s a towering bodybuilder of a woman, and a high level wizard to boot. Her role in the game is a long story, but the short version is that she is the party’s patron. She gives them access to some cool stuff, and in exchange they do jobs for her.

At one point, one of my players announced his intention to seduce The Hangman. His attitude about it made me a little uncomfortable, because it felt like he was only interested in seducing her because he found her annoying. She’s an imperious and demanding NPC, and it felt like he wanted to sexually “conquer” her as a means of bringing her down a peg or two.

(I don’t want to unfairly malign this player. He’s a decent guy, and was never anything but respectful. This is more about how I felt, how I reacted, and how the game world was affected as a result).

I waffled for awhile about how I wanted to deal with this situation. On the one hand, The Hangman is an NPC, and the player just wanted to build a stronger relationship with that NPC. It’s a completely reasonable thing for a player to want to do in an RPG. On the other, the situation was bumping up on my internal barometer of grossness. I didn’t want to let this powerful character be reduced to her sexuality. I could have easily just said “She’s not into you,” but honestly, I didn’t want to fiat an NPC’s feelings like that. I try to let the dice handle that sort of thing.

It took me awhile to come up with a solution that, in retrospect, is painfully obvious. I just played to her character. The Hangman is immensely powerful, physically, magically, and socially. Just because she’s been seduced by a player, does not mean she will become any less powerful or imperious.

So after a few game-months of (honestly pretty charming) flirtatious role play between the player and the NPC, the Hangman decided to take what she wanted. The PC had sex with The Hangman, yes, but like everything The Hangman does, she did it completely on her terms, and afterwords expected him to be ready for a booty call at any hour of the day.

Which is, again, precisely why sex is so interesting to include. Dealing with that situation forced me to understand this NPC better, and created a lot of fun role playing opportunities, and character moments, for everyone involved.

Lots of folks will read this, and think I’m some kind of deviant whack-job for including all of this in my games. And of course, there are plenty of actual deviant whack jobs out there who go even further than I do. Like anything, it’s all about your level of comfort, and what you and your group enjoy. But, if nothing else, I hope I’ve demonstrated that games with sex in them aren’t necessarily doomed to fail.

 

 

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