The second chapter of the Book of Erotic Fantasy (BoEF) leaps into the nitty gritty of game rules -- ability scores, feats, skills, and more. Unfortunately, much of it is broken or ill-considered, and little of it is inspired. (Scroll down for links to reviews of other parts of the book.)
The book suggests adding a new ability score -- Appearance -- to the standard six. Now, Iím not dismissing this idea outright. In a game with a Core Story about sex and relationships and negotiation and roleplay, with little use for traditional combat, it makes sense to emphasize roleplay stats and de-emphasize combat stats. Combine Constitution and Strength into, say, Physique. Split Charisma into, say, Persuasiveness (bards, diplomacy skill) and Bravado (sorcerers, intimidate skill). Make sure that both of these new stats actually do things and are relevant to game mechanics. That might send a message that roleplay is more important than combat.
But the BoEF fails with its Appearance stat by making it the most useless of the standard 6 right from the get-go. All it does is modify a single skill, Disguise, with the option of applying it to other things if the DM so wishes. Players think of Charisma as a useless stat, but the designers of the game made it useful to paladins, clerics turning undead, and most of all, sorcerers and bards. And everybody finds Charisma useful for skills like Diplomacy, Bluff, and for the Leadership feat. On the other hand, this Appearance stat is useful to no core class, and to no one in general, either. Sure, you can use the feats, spells, and classes in the BoEF designed to play off Appearance, but unless you go out of your way, it seems to me that Appearance is destined to become a dump stat (a place to throw a bad roll so that you can boast a higher Dex or Strength or Int). So my main problem with the BoEFís Appearance stat is that it does too little.
Also, all the other stats describe things the player can DO -- lift weights (Str), dodge arrows (Dex), hold your breath (Con). But what does Appearance let you do? nothing -- it only says how you look. It is descriptive, not active. I donít like that.
I also do not like the idea that Appearance (looks, beauty, attractiveness) is an absolute. Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? The BoEF says no -- if your Appearance is a 4, you are ugly, no matter what. A dwarf might think that feys in general are skinny, hairless, and ugly, but the BoEF suggests that everyone prefers fey to dwarves, even dwarves. Similarly, oozes prefer fey to other oozes, per the BoEF. I donít buy that.
The BoEF really focuses on a single skill -- Perform (Sexual Technique). This new skill is presented as an addition to the standard Perform options, which is a mighty bad idea. Perform is used by bards to fascinate opponents and inspire allies, begging the question, for a bard using Perform (Sexal Technique), what sexual technique exactly is inspiring allies in the heat of battle? Does that provoke an Attack of Opportunity? Yes, it makes sense to sing, or play drums, or tell jokes to inspire your allies. But sex? Come on.
The Perform skill is used to entertain people, and can be used to earn a living. The BoEF follows this by describing how much you can earn by making high Perform (Sexual Technique) rolls. That makes Perform (Sexual Technique) into Profession (Prostitute). Why limit sex so?
Rather, donít short change the most important skill in an erotic game. Instead of lumping it under Perform, which is a poor fit anyway, make a new skill to represent talent in bed. Call it Lovemaking, say. Use it not to earn gold or Inspire Courage on the battlefield, but to satisfy a partner, extend duration of the act, and possibly grant bonuses to Gather Info (pillow talk) and Diplomacy (changing attitudes).
And if you want to emphasize character interaction in a romantic frame of reference, why not add other relevant skills. Flattery, Flirtation, Seduction, Repartee. Put Read Lips back in the game, from the 3.0 rules. These are the skills you need. Rather than extend Appraise to allow you to check out others' bodies (like the BoEF does), create a new skill for it. As with the Appearance stat, the skills treatment in this chapter suffers from a lack of scope and vision. The BoEF could have been bolder -- not with its willingness to deal with romance and sex (it does a fine job there), but with concrete ideas on how to change the core rules to better fit the theme.
Feats and More
The feats listed in the chapter are a mixed bag, and innocuous on the whole. Some are inventive, like Mentor, which lets you bestow a +1 on saves on a nearby ally, and Disarming Looks, which lets you reroll one Diplomacy, Bluff, Gather Info, or Intimidate check per day. A whole slew are related to the idea of extending the duration of lovemaking, with bonuses to ability scores granted after sustained bouts in bed. Others make your Appearance stat more useful, such as by letting you use it for Enchantment spell DCs.
And there are rules in this chapter for conception, pregnancy, crossbreeding, STDs, and so on. These rules are mostly reasonable, and even useful for a game that needs them. Some of the STDs seem silly ("Azure Balls"? Puh-lease!), and one ("Engorgement") is listed in a table but left out of the text -- sloppy editing.
Review: Chapter Two of the BoEF earns itself one and a half paws. One paw for the ability scores and skills sections and two paws for the rest averages to one and a half.
Explanation of ratings:
- One Paw: Broken, badly flawed, may damage your game. Discard.
- Two Paws: Flawed but not dangerous. May have a good idea or two. Not worth buying or downloading.
- Three Paws: Excellent ideas despite slight flaws. Good value.
- Four Paws: Essential and recommended. Seek this out.
- With a Lick: Slight or inconsequential feline/wemic content.
- With a Pounce: Significant feline/wemic content.
This is the last part of a seven part series on sex in role-play games: