Skip the Game Master!

Feeling the need to get away from Dungeons & Dragons for a few sessions? Want to give your hard-working Dungeon Master a break? Looking for a new game to try out in your fantasy world? These four GM-less fantasy games are a perfect starting point for exploring the world beyond D&D, and give players an equal hand in working together to create a world and tell the story they want to tell.

Kingdom by Ben Robbins

Kingdom is a game about communities and the decisions they face; it is about confronting crossroads and making critical decisions, and about utilizing whatever kind of influence you have — be it the power to make decisions, the power to predict outcomes, or the power to understand your community.

For 2-5 players, Kingdom allows players to step into the roles of influential people within a larger community, and play through their wishes and fears. While your kingdom doesn’t have to be fantasy, it’s a fantastic system for playing the misguided kings and idealistic warriors the histories of our fantasy worlds are populated with.

The Deep Forest by Mark Diaz Truman and Avery Alder

A re-imagining of Alder’s excellent map-building game The Quiet Year, The Deep Forest is billed as “post-colonial weird fantasy.” Players draw cards and maps to tell the story of a year in the life of a post-war community of monsters after they have driven off invading humans. Players know that the community might not survive the winter, but the community does its best in a brief ellipses of peace to heal, to discover, and to live, in the wake of colonial influence.

Like The Quiet Year, The Deep Forest is a gentle game with room to breathe, which questions in its very concept the categories of heroes and monster as we use them in fantasy.

With Fire Thy Affections Hold A Wing by Taylor LaBresh

A two player game about the growing bond between a dragon and its rider at the end of the world, With Fire Thy Affections Hold a Wing is a give and take in which players build scenes together to explore the relationship between dragonrider and dragon as their world hurtles towards catastrophe.

With Fire is a particularly resonant game if you can play it in person: the mechanics ask its two players to physically bind their hands together as they strengthen their bonds, a tactile representation of the way relationships feel as the grow, change, and eventually end.

The Chronicles of… by Jonathan Semple

Reminiscent of Vincent Baker’s The Sundered Land games, The Chronicles Of… was a finalist in the 200 Word RPG Challenge in 2017. While there is no GM in this game, one player names themself the Archivist — a “traveller, tale-keeper, and stranger to these lands” — and the other players become inhabitants of this land. By asking questions, the Archivist prompts stories about the land, slowly building a new place through the stories its people tell.

Any number of players can participate in The Chronicles of… and the rules are just under 200 words, so there’s no reason to worry about forgetting any of the nitty gritty details.


Christine Prevas is a writer, graduate student, perpetual GM, and host of the delightfully queer actual play podcast The Unexplored Places.

Data! Dice! Dough!

PanopLit will be changing its data collection format… but before we do that, we want to collect as much data as possible! So we’re giving everyone the chance to win one of two $25 gift certificate to DriveThru RPG (sent via email). That’s not all! We’ll also be giving away two sets of dice. What kind of giveaway would it be without free dice thrown in the mix?

Take 5 minutes and tell us how and why you play RPGs. Here’s all the ways to win:

  • Follow PanopLit on Twitter and retweet this post. Current followers are eligible! One of our followers who retweets the linked tweet will receive a $25 gift certificate! Another will receive a free set of dice!
  • Take the May Survey (a collection of previous survey questions). Already took the previous 5 surveys posted on PanopLit? Email info@panoplit.org to be entered.
  • Share this tweet on Twitter about our survey to be entered to win a dice set! (A different one than the other dice set. There will be two dice sets.)

All entries must by made my June 30th, 2018. Winners will be announced and contacted after this. Any questions? Email info@panoplit.org.

How Gay Can We Make It?

We are in a golden era for radically queer RPG content. Quivering on the edge of a straight, cis, male dominated dark age we’ve seemingly shot toward orgiastic rainbow dice rolling. There are cute, pastel d20 stickers being sold at major cons. There are Kickstarters for D20 Pride pins 17 times funded with 20 days to go. Artists are creating pins and stickers that both announce our sexuality and are clever plays on classic Dungeons & Dragons terminology. These keep selling out!

How did the only D20 rule system your mom’s heard of get so… gay? I suspect the truth is that it’s always been gay. It just depended on which basement you played in.

D&D created personal, life changing experiences. The culture it encourages is more about the people playing it than whatever edition we’re currently in. In fact, it’s helped many discover more about their identities and key aspects of themselves for a long time, now. We just haven’t gotten the chance to hear all of those stories.

Jeremy Crawford brought the LGBTQIA gaming community to the forefront for the 5th edition release when he mentioned that there would be more queer content. As a gay man, he was uniquely positioned to both change the published D&D content to more inclusive canon narrative, and announced that ‘people like him’ (people a lot more like us than the past images of D&D players portrayed) had made it in the gaming world.

I don’t know what the outcry of that announcement was. In the past I would have been arguing in forums and fighting on Facebook and whatever else. But there’s a large enough community that I’ve been able to encase myself inside of Queer TTRPG and never have a reason to leave. That wasn’t true for me just a few years prior.

The new canon content has not been perfect. As part of the this edition, Wizards of the Coast brought back some vintage adventures for updates. One of these was Tomb of Horrors.” The rebooted module, for reasons that remain unclear, kept a component of the original adventure where characters ‘switch’ genders upon entering a specific room. The language in the adventure as its written specifically refers to flipping the player characters’ gender on a binary. So, male to female, female to male. The problems with this were already covered by Christine Prevas in the above linked essay.

If that wasn’t confusing enough, the reasons for keeping that gameplay element are even more mysterious. In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, which the original adventure was written for, female characters were capped on their strength score. They could never get as strong as a male character could. From a mechanics standpoint, a room that “switches” your PC’s gender had the possibility for very real stat consequences. This has not been the case with Dungeons & Dragons since 3rd edition. Your chosen gender has no bearing on the game beyond roleplaying, so putting it in with seemingly little narrative thought was a bizarre and possibly lazy choice.

Dungeons & Dragons remains the most popular tabletop roleplaying system of all time. Its popularity has fueled interest in the medium like never before. There have almost always been other Table Top RolePlaying games, but with the advent of crowdfunding and media of all sorts in the mainstream introducing unquestionably queer characters, the market has exploded. Each new funded project is proof that there’s room for all of our systems. People want to play more, and they want ways to play differently.

Creators have imagined systems that explore new frontiers of fandom, created settings that stretch our imaginations beyond the high fantasy/hard sci fi binary, and crafted systems that groups can mold to their own narratives.

That being said, Dungeons & Dragons may not be the queer TTRPG we’re looking for. We can queer it up, and we should continue to do so, but progress has been achingly slow. While seemingly shooting forward, getting two genders of players acknowledged in the core rulebooks took over 26 years. How much longer will we have to wait for more than two genders? When will we see explicitly queer content in modules from queer creators released with the distribution of the D&D mainstream?

Podcast Feature: PanopLit on Game Closet

LGBTQIA+ podcast “Game Closet” interviewed founder Josephine about her work with PanopLit. The interview covered a wide range of topics, from queer imagery to collaborative storytelling theory, to plans for PanopLit in the future. Take a listen below:

https://riverhousegamespodcast.wordpress.com/2018/05/13/game-closet-27-josephine-the-archivist-of-panoplit/

A big thanks to Taylor at River House Games for featuring us!

5 New Ways to Introduce Player Characters

Here are 5 questions to ask your players that aren’t “Are you a male or a female?” These 5 introductory questions will provide a clearer image of the visions of your players without limiting them to the binary of “strong female characters” or “flawed men.”

How is your character dressed?

What someone wears says more about them to strangers than perhaps anything else ever will. Are their trappings more expensive than what they can afford? Are they excessively simple? Have they dressed themselves to hide something, or reveal?

What markings can we see?

Is your character tattooed? Ritually scarred? Striped, spotted, or painted? Body markings can speak to a rich connection to their past, a traumatic history, or evidence of a fresh fight.

How does your character introduce themselves?

A strong relationship to a higher power is often felt in the first meeting with a religious PC through their blessings, or curses as the case may be. Alternatively, a greeting might open the doors to quirks a character’s picked up along the ways. Do they timidly offer their name? Does their voice boom in jolly greeting?

What does your character notice first?

Inevitably, your story starts somewhere. Once establishing the setting of the opening scene, find out what’s important to your PCs by seeing where their eyes land. Lay plenty of objects and NPCs around to trap them into revealing something deeper about their character. Who notices the coin purses at the hip and who notices blasters? Does anyone notice just how alien the architecture is, or how cold the unnatural chill in the room?

What does your character smell like?

Maybe more character development than introduction, what a character smells like can also define them. The adventurer’s will be on the road (or in the ship, no board the balloon) for what may turn into a long time. Might as well find out now who will be attracting the fleas.

How a character smells can also let you know more about their job, their upbringing, and social class. Do they smell of expensive oils? Stink like mechanic’s grease? Have the scent of a long journey without bathing still on them?

Smell is also one of the first things we react to as humans, whether passively or actively. Maybe a character doesn’t like strong perfume, or only feels at home with more earthy travelers. Using this sense also gives other PCs a threat for constant interaction beyond planning who will hit the orc, and who might delay their action.

However you choose to have your players introduce their in-game personas, make sure to get the action moving immediately to encourage the players to begin interacting.

How do you introduce your PCs?

Kickstarter to Watch: Star Crossed

Star Crossed is a two-player roleplaying game of characters destined to love each other, but kept apart in-game by a world against the match, and in real life, by a tower of blocks and your imagination. The world is truly of your making: designed to support small fictions in a variety of settings, the goal is to build a world together to keep your characters apart, while also yearning for them to be together.

Pulling from the tower in Star Crossed signifies the risk of acting on their feelings. This game adds a level of complexity to your draws by making the number of bricks you’ve successfully taken build toward a “triumphant” love.

The creative use of the tower mechanic and beautifully queer art set this game apart, and while the Kickstarter has already been funded, you still have a chance to grab everything needed to play! Reserve your copy now!

Queer Content: It’s What We Make

Since its release in 2014, Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition has received widespread attention from both experienced gamers and new players alike. This edition takes the jumble of rules and complex arithmetic that exists in previous editions and distills them into much simpler, streamlined mechanics. Given Wizard of the Coast’s new marketing model (which involved sending free player materials to game stores), as well as the creation of the Adventurers’ League, plus the growing trend in hobby gaming, D&D is being played by more players than ever before.

However, as the uncle to a certain skinny web-walker once said: “With great power comes great responsibility.” The gaming community has expanded rapidly and encompasses a wider variety of people than ever before, including the LGBTQ+ community.

Wizards has attempted to respond to the community a few times. But the attempts have ranged anywhere between unnoticed to insulting. JosephineMaria delves into this issue in her article: This is not the Gay Future I Imagined.

I played D&D 3rd edition in college, but put it down for many years since then. One day, a good friend told me that he had started playing again in a new edition. I asked if I could come and watch, and he brought me to his group. They were a super nice bunch of people, and after stalking them for three sessions, I purchased my own Player’s Handbook, made a character, and was allowed to join. We were playing the second hardcover book: Princes of the Apocalypse. I played a male paladin who was sworn against demons, but had never actually met one (and didn’t even know what they looked like). It was fun.

After we finished that book, the new Adventurers’ League season was about to begin and the group was going to run the new hardcover book: Out of the Abyss. By this point I had grown to know the group pretty well and we were all friends. I found out that they were very adamant about LGBTQ+ acceptance, and so I conceived to play a new character.

Moloch the wizard was born, but at level four, it was revealed that he was under the effects of a curse. Once the curse was lifted, he literally transformed into the female sorceress, Valerie. Val may have been a female on paper, but she spent so many years as Moloch that he never entirely left her, and she struggled with her identity as well as the demon lords in the Underdark. It seemed like many of the group had been on the same wavelength: another player character had no gender identity whatsoever and soon became Val’s best friend. Another character was trans, only revealing this fact during an intimate conversation after the characters had built much trust between them. It was with the help of these friends that Val was eventually better able to come to terms with both her male and female inclinations.

Even more important, my very good friend confessed to me, while we were hanging out one night, that they had been struggling with their gender. They had been too frightened to approach me with the information until I made Valerie, and told me that their own character, Farrera, was who they felt like inside. D&D gave my friend the outlet she needed to explore her own feelings, and I’m very happy to have helped her.

Queer content is important to a large number of people. It allows us an outlet where we can explore our own fantasies in an air of acceptance. However, it can be, and has been done, incorrectly. Meeting the female partner of a female innkeeper? Yes please. Forcing a party to “swap sexes” as some sort of cross-dressing parody challenge? No.

So, I propose to you: If we want more Queer Content…make it. Make queer characters. Write queer adventures. Share your experience online, in text, audio and video. Players, don’t be afraid to experiment with non-traditional characters. GMs, you are the single, most important person at the table: please be receptive and supportive of the stories your players want to tell.

Maybe, someday, “queer content” will just be “content.” Until then, let’s show them how it’s done.


Artemis V. is a writer, designer, and avid tabletop gamer. Also check out their blog, Gender Games.