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Archive for March, 2008

It’s Easter! And while this is supposed to be a blog about feminism and gaming, I thought I would take a moment to talk about the primary symbol of the holiday… Peeps*!

Personally, I’m not much of a fan of Peeps, and yet every year, I wind up getting at least one box of these things. Typically, I wind up just throwing them away, but this year, my wife has been finding all kinds of suggestions on the internet about what you can do with Peeps.

So far, my personal favorite has been PeepWars.net; a site with official rules for Microwave Peep Wars. Nevertheless, while I enjoyed this site, I found myself wanting something a little more crunchy, and a little less fluffy (no pun intended). So, in the spirit of the season, I decided to create a 3.5 stat block for the dreaded, Yellow Peep! Warning: This creature has not been playtested. Please consult your DM before operating heavy machinery.

peep_medium.jpg

YELLOW PEEP
Huge Ooze
Hit Dice: 5d10+45 (72 hp)
Initiative: -5
Speed: 10 ft. (2 squares), climb 5 ft.
Armor Class: 3 (-2 size, -5 Dex), touch 3, flat-footed 3
Base Attack/Grapple: +3/+11
Attack: Slam +1 melee (1d6+2 plus marshmallow goo)
Full Attack: Slam +1 melee (1d6+2 plus marshmallow goo)
Space/Reach: 15 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Marshmallow goo, engulf, improved grab
Special Qualities: Amorphous bond, blindsight 60 ft., immunity to cold, electricity, and sonic, ooze traits, sticky body, vulnerable to fire and acid.
Saves: Fort +10, Ref -4, Will -4
Abilities: Str 14, Dex 1, Con 28, Int -, Wis 1, Cha 1
Skills:
Feats:
Environment: Underground
Organization: Solitary, pair, or cluster (4-5)
Challenge Rating: 5
Treasure: 1/10th coins, 50% goods, 50% items
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 6-12 (Huge); 13-24 (Gargantuan)
Level Adjustment:

This creature looks like a malformed, baby chick. Its exterior is covered in a rough, sandy, yellow substance, except for its sides, which ooze with white goo.

A yellow peep is like the ridiculous dream of a mad wizard. Haunting dungeon corridors, caverns, and other dark, cold places, the creatures seem to suddenly appear in mass quantities every spring, disappearing again shortly thereafter.

While these creatures routinely dine on the flesh of living creatures, they are unable to digest harder materials, such as bone, wood, metal, or stone. Thus, yellow peeps are often seen with various objects- such as swords, spears, or bones, protruding from them as these items are slowly expelled from their body.

A typical yellow peep is roughly 15 feet in diameter, and weighs approximately 50,000 pounds, though much larger specimens are not unknown.

Combat

A yellow peep attacks by slamming what appears to be its head into its opponents.

Amorphous Bond (Ex): A yellow peep can adhere its body to another yellow peep of the same size as a full round action. Yellow peeps that are thus conjoined are treated as a single creature one size category larger than the two base creatures, gaining a +8 size bonus to Strength, and a +4 size bonus to Con. All penalties and bonuses to attacks, damage, Armor class, and skills gained because of the creature’s increased size also apply. If attacked with a slashing weapon, the amorphous bond between two peeps is automatically broken and all remaining hit points are split between the two creatures.

Engulf (Ex): Although it moves slowly, a yellow peep can mow down Large or smaller creatures as a standard action. It cannot make a slam attack during a round in which it engulfs. The yellow peep merely has to move over its opponents affecting as many as it can cover. Opponents can make attacks of opportunity against the peep, but if they do so, they are not entitled to a saving throw. Those who do not attempt attacks of opportunity must succeed on a DC 17 Reflex save or be engulfed; on a success, they are pushed back or aside (opponent’s choice) as the cube moves forward. In addition, a yellow peep can engulf any creature that it has successfully grappled, as part of a move action, one round after the grapple has been established (no save).

Engulfed creatures are considered entangled, helpless and unable to breathe inside the creature’s gooey body. Creatures that perish due to suffocation while inside a yellow peep’s body have their flesh slowly digested over a period of 1d6 days (see the Dungeon Master’s Guide for rules on suffocation).

Creatures who are engulfed by a yellow peep can attempt to break loose by spending 1 round and making a DC 20 Strength check, or a DC 25 Escape Artist check. Once loose, a creature is considered automatically entangled by the yellow peep’s marshmallow goo (see below).

Improved Grab (Ex): To use this ability, a yellow peep must hit with its slam attack. It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. Yellow peeps often use this attack in combination with their engulf ability.

Marshmallow Goo (Ex): Creatures that are hit by a yellow peep’s slam attack must succeed at a DC 24 Reflex save or be entangled in a gooey substance exuded from the creature’s body. Removing the substance requires a full round action that provokes attacks of opportunity. The save DC is Constitution-based.

Sticky Body (Ex): Creatures that attack a yellow peep in melee must succeed at a DC 17 Strength check, or risk having their weapons stuck to the creature’s body. This ability is particularly dangerous to creatures who rely on natural weapons to attack their opponents, as it makes them much more susceptible to the creature’s engulf ability.

Tune in next year, for the horrific, Purple Peep, updated for Fourth Edition!

*Unless you’re Christian. In that case, you probably think about lilies or Jesus as being the primary symbols of Easter, and then Peeps.

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Introduction

In response to my first blog entry, a reader told me, “This is probably your best post yet (besides the Lloth one). It is open, honest, somewhat balanced, and most importantly it is personal. It doesn’t sound like I’m reading a college paper, but a post from real person, with real feelings and experiences that she wants to share. I would like to hear more from this person.” Forgiving the fact that I’m a he and not a she, I have been thinking about this comment quite a bit, and I recognize that one of the things I promised at the very beginning is that I would share with people some of the things that Dove Arrow has taught me about feminism. However, while I have talked about many other subjects- all of which I would never have been introduced to if it hadn’t been for Dove Arrow- I have remained completely silent on the subject of the experiences that interested me in these issues in the first place. Therefore, I have decided to devote this entry to discussing some of my experiences as Dove Arrow, and to try and highlight how they have affected my own perspectives on feminism. Perhaps by sharing these experiences, it will help people understand why I feel so strongly about feminist issues, and will open their eyes to the issues that I myself was blind to.

Writing About Myself

Before I get very far, I have to say that I’m not very good about writing about myself. Often, when I try to write about my own experiences, I don’t write about personal feelings, or thoughts, but rather I use vivid prose to hide the fact that I’m not really saying anything. I also tend to write about ‘safe’ subjects (one of my college professor called them Reader’s Digest subjects) that won’t upset anyone, offend anyone, or hurt anyone. If I do happen to write about something deeply personal, I typically hide it behind a style of writing, such as fiction, that puts distance between myself and the reader, so that even though it’s personal, it’s never directly related to me. This is part of why I adopted the academic tone for my blog entries (that and because I thought the entries required it). The academic tone serves as a kind of buffer between myself and personal attacks. If somebody says something cruel, for example, they’re saying it about an impersonal, academic subject, not me. The academic tone is a shield I use to keep people from getting too close, because honestly, I don’t need people stabbing at the emotional wounds that are the ultimate, primeval source of all the opinions, ideas, and symbols that I discuss in my blog. With that said, I begin my story.

How Dove Arrow Came to Be

As I have said before, Dove Arrow is a female character that I created for the roleplaying chat rooms on AOL, in order to prove to my female friends that women weren’t treated any differently than men in today’s culture. However, I want to expand a little on who Dove Arrow is, and what she represents to me.

I think the first thing to do is to discuss how I settled on the name Dove Arrow. When I was initially naming her, I wanted to call her Arrow Dove. However, the screenname I wanted was taken, and so I had to settle for Dove Arrow instead. Today I’m rather glad that this happened, because I think the name Dove Arrow sounds powerful, whereas Arrow Dove sounds a little airy.

The name, Dove Arrow, is dichotomic; each half representing a concept diametrically opposed to the other. The dove, for example, is a symbol of peace, while the arrow is a symbol of war. I’m not sure I could have told you at the time why I thought this dichotomy was important, but I certainly thought it was profound at the time. It was only recently that I realized that these images are also associated with a female character from mythology, but more on that later.

I’m not sure if this is the reason, but it seems logical to conclude that the reason I made her an archer is because of the ‘Arrow’ in her name. I also think it was the association with war and peace that led me to create the following quote for her profile, which remains in my Yahoo Profile, “I am the quiet one, the peaceful one. I come and go as I desire. But beware to those who cross me, for the quivering of my bow will be the last thing you see.”

Playing Dove Arrow for the First Time

When I initially started playing Dove Arrow, I did not start playing her as the sullen, angry character that you see in the comic of my first entry. Initially, she was just happy, almost radiantly so, as she wandered through the Mystic Forest and into the various inns that made up the AOL chatrooms. Over time, though, her attitude changed. She became angry about constantly being treated as some sort of object that male characters would fight over, and attempt to possess. She didn’t appreciate it, and she often called them out for their behavior.

A typical experience for Dove Arrow in the AOL chat rooms was not unlike the one in my comic. She’d be in an inn, or a forested area, when a male character would come up and touch her inappropriately, or say something to her that was sexually offensive. Being who she is, Dove Arrow would turn around and slug the person, calling them out for what she took very seriously as a violation of her body, and her personal space.

The interesting part about these situations is that many times a male character would step in to try and defend or protect Dove Arrow. This was often done while she was railing on the person that had violated her, and when it was clear that she had a handle on the situation. In those cases, the male character stepping in seemed to be doing so not out of some sense of altruism, but in order to rob her of power, and to reduce her to a hapless victim that needed saving.

Dove Arrow and Intelligence

I never let on to anyone that I was a guy playing a female character. Even when I was engaged in conversations that had nothing to do with roleplaying, if I was using Dove Arrow’s screenname, I always maintained her female identity. Part of the reason that I did this is because I wanted to see how people would react to Dove Arrow regardless of the conversation she was having. Not surprisingly, it didn’t really matter. She still got unwelcome IMs from people who were only interested in her for cyber sex, and comments that she did not find flattering in the least. What was surprising is the comment that she kept getting. “You’re pretty smart… for a girl.” In fact, some people assumed that since Dove Arrow was intelligent that she must be a guy (incidentally, I now get the reverse from people who assume that since I’m writing about feminism, I must be a girl). Granted, I was a guy using a female screenname, but considering the fact that I have met, befriended and even dated women who are far more intelligent than I, it seemed strange to meet so many people who honestly believed that intelligence is a quality that women do not possess.

Dove Arrow and Sex

This is the part that makes me feel very self conscious discussing my experiences playing Dove Arrow, because while I’m not gay, and have never had any interest in a homosexual relationship, my character engaged in sexual relations with male characters online. I’m not sure that I can ever fully explain what was going on in these situations, except to say that by this time, Dove Arrow felt less like a character I controlled, and more like an individual with her own drives, her own thoughts, and her own impulses. And while I felt everything she felt, and experienced everything she experienced, I never really felt like I was the one controlling the action. To me, it started to feel like she was in charge.

Dove Arrow was never very happy about sex, and she never felt any sort of relationship to the male characters she slept with. She used sex as a tool for trying to get revenge against the people who treated her so poorly. She thought that maybe if she could dominate the situation, that somehow she could make men feel as hurt, and as frustrated, and as angry as she did about being used as a sexual object.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work in reverse. No matter how hard she tried to control the situation, she always felt used, and unfulfilled. Meanwhile, it never seemed to matter to the male characters that she felt this way. They used her and they abandoned her, which I guess was pretty predictable.

At one point, Dove Arrow thought that maybe trying to teach guys about how to treat women was the best route, but it never worked out. They had one thing on their mind, and she wasn’t interested in that unless they could somehow reciprocate with real feelings, which of course, they never did.

Dove Arrow and Death

There was a male character, named Caylon, that Dove Arrow became enamored with for a while. I don’t remember much about him, except that one night, in the Mystic Forest, she saw him with another female character.

When she called him out, he tried to justify his actions by telling her that he had never said anything about having an exclusive relationship with her. In the back of her mind, though, Dove Arrow could almost remember something that he had said to her. Still, as hard as she tried, she couldn’t recall the exact words, and all the while, he kept talking, even as she told him to be silent so that she could remember what it was. Finally, it came to her and she told him, “You told me that you would never look at anyone again after having looked at me.”

At that moment, there was silence. He didn’t say anything. Then after a few moments, he said “I’m sorry. I was weak. I didn’t realize what I was doing.” By then, though, it didn’t matter. She’d heard enough. She left him, placed him on her Ignore list, and refused to speak to him.

Then something happened that she did not expect. A dark figure approached her, and told her he was an assassin. He said that he had been sent by Caylon to kill her, because of how she had treated him. Dove Arrow tried to explain that it was Caylon who had hurt her, and not the other way around. Still, he had been paid by Caylon to kill her, so to him it didn’t matter.

I don’t remember the exact situation, but the assassin told Dove Arrow, that if she just played along, he’d leave her alone. After some debilitating about what playing along meant, it was agreed that the two should engage each other in combat.

There was a dice roller built into the AOL chat rooms. I don’t remember exactly how it worked anymore, but I do remember that if you typed /roll, it would generate a random number between one and six. In any event, we decided to use this dice roller to simulate combat. I had never played a roleplaying game, so as far as I know, we sort’ve winged the combat. Unfortunately, because of a few bad dice rolls, Dove Arrow went down, and the assassin made his report.

I don’t know why, but after that experience, I didn’t really enjoy playing Dove Arrow anymore. Maybe it was because even though there were no real consequences, and it was agreed that it was all for show, it still felt like she died that day. In any event, I soon stopped frequenting the chat rooms, changed over to a different internet provider, and stopped going into chat rooms almost altogether. Nevertheless, I kept the name, Dove Arrow, and have used it pretty much exclusively ever since.

To Reality and Beyond

In college, I had to take a Perspectives on Gender class to satisfy a cultural diversity requirement for my general education requirements. I remember that on the first day, we were all asked if we wanted to get up and talk about our own perspectives on gender. I got up, and I told my story about playing Dove Arrow.

“When I was in high school, I created a female character for the AOL chat rooms to prove that women are no longer the subjects of discrimination and sexism. And what I found… was that I was wrong.” That line got a big laugh.

As the class progressed, I was constantly reminded of Dove Arrow’s experiences, and while I can’t recall very much about the class itself, I realized that I could suddenly see things that were once invisible to me, and could finally understand things that Dove Arrow had experienced.

Encountering Dungeons & Dragons

I cut my teeth on 3.0, thanks to the not so gentle urgings of my best friend. What I recall most vividly from these first introductions to the game were the elements that were designed to be female friendly. I remember being very excited, for example, at seeing the word ‘she’ used as a gender neutral pronoun, instead of the word ‘he.’ I had never seen it before, and it had never even occurred to me that someone might try that. I then started taking a look at some of the artwork, noting that all of the female iconics were portrayed as strong, capable characters, with distinct personalities that shined through. This is a game that is inclusive, I thought, a game that tries very hard to bring players of all genders together. I can get behind this.

Of course, there were some setbacks with the introduction of 3.5. Artwork that had once been quite beautiful, or only mildly questionable was replaced with hypersexualized images of female characters. Still, my game was mostly intact, and I could ignore these elements, so long as they didn’t continue to creep into my game.

Reviving Dove Arrow

Then came the publication of Confessions of a Part Time Sorceress. I was very excited about the overtures that the company was making towards women, and I thought it said good things about the direction that Wizards was taking the game. I was also pleasantly surprised when I saw the creation of a new, female friendly forum, called Astrid’s Parlor, dedicated to discussing women’s issues in gaming. Very quickly, I got on the computer, created a new thread announcing my excitement about the creation of the new messageboard, told them that I thought it would give people an opportunity to voice their opinions about women’s issues, and threw my support completely behind Wizards’ new marketing campaign. I also told them about Dove Arrow.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have, but I was honestly surprised when I started getting responses to my thread from people who didn’t think Wizards’ new marketing strategy was so fantastic. They felt that it would create a wedge between gamers, that it was a form of reverse sexism, and more. To me, this seemed ludicrous, because Dungeons & Dragons had already made such sweeping overtures towards women, and nobody had ever had anything to complain about before. So where was the backlash coming from?

In any event, I started pulling together the idea of writing my own blog about feminism and gaming. I thought it could be a useful tool to try and disseminate information, and maybe generate some awareness about issues that nobody else was talking about.

That’s when I started thinking about my first post on Astrid’s Parlor, and about Dove Arrow and what she had taught me about feminism. I thought maybe I could use that as an introduction to my blog.

Dove Arrow Continues to Teach

“Treat her badly and she’ll treat you to a quiverful of arrows, for all that she looks so demure, so white, so chaste… [she is] an exterminating angel.”

The quote above is from Simon Schama, and it describes the goddess Diana. I first encountered it while reading the book “Goddesses and Monsters.” Like Dove Arrow, Diana is also an archer. In ancient times, she was compared with Astarte, a Semitic goddess, who was often depicted wearing a crown of doves.

I’m sure people see where this is going. Dove Arrow is a goddess archetype. The symbols associated with her are the very same symbols associated with Diana. What that says to me is that the feminine divine is in all of us, just waiting to be reborn and heard. It just takes a moment to listen in order to hear what she has to say.

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