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.

5 Fantasy Races for your Next Queer Gendered Character

How important is gender to you while roleplaying? For me, it doesn’t matter if a game’s universe is populated with dragons or Victorian socialites, the question of what’s between the legs of a bugbear chieftain, or how much facial hair a given debutante is sporting, are not the most interesting topics of conversation. That’s why it’s up to agender, non-binary, and gender-disinterested players to take the game into their own hands, creating roleplay opportunities that are more relevant and interesting.

While most of the examples below are drawn from a fantasy-style background, they’re really designed for imaginatively-minded homebrewers and Game Masters who play their in-game fiction loosely. Don’t feel shy about adding them to your next intergalactic space exploration or murder mystery.

Genasi

Playing a genasi character gives you the opportunity to think outside of the gender binary and embrace the elemental quaternary. This half-genie race comes in four flavors, and whether you prefer to sport skin of rough-hewn onyx, an ability to summon fire, water-breathing, or levitation magic, chances are the rest of your party won’t have time to notice whether or not you like to wear skirts.

There’s a lot more cool things to learn about gensai in the Elemental Evil Players’ Companion.

Lizardfolk

Early in 2018 I started playing as Halloo, the third-level Lizardfolk druid. Biologists tell us that the sex of some reptile species is determined by the temperature of their egg during incubation. In Halloo’s case, her egg was situated right in middle of the clutch—not too warm or too cold. And while she uses she/her pronouns as a matter of habit, she’s usually more interested in talking about (or with) the local fauna.

Get started with on your own Lizardfolk with Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

Eladrin

All of us have good days, bad days, and days where we don’t get out from under the covers. For Eladrin, this is a way of life. However, the weather changes with their mood, rather than vice versa. It’s like Seasonal Affective Disorder, but more, and chock-full of roleplay potential for those who feel more defined by their mental state, than their gender.

Always seeking transition and change, Eladrin are most at home in places where the borders between the material plane and Feywild are at their thinnest. Really,  the only thing that puts them off-balance is stagnancy.

Check out the Unearthed Arcana source material for more.

Nilbog

Think of these happy little friends as reverse-goblins, who love nothing more than getting thwacked by a sword or spell, and run in terror from healing magic.

Nilbogs also offer practically endless role-play fodder, letting you swap-out whatever gendered in-universe social norms you want, and replace them with their bizarro-world equivalent. Maybe your Nilbog comes from a society filled with distressed male damsels and hilariously relatable romantic comedies? Maybe Nilbogs really have nine different genders—because that’s the opposite of two, right?

There aren’t any official rules for creating a Nilbog character, but you can see some starter stats for goblins on page 119 of Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

Gnome

This is just a personal theory, but I really believe Gnomes are intended as an in-fiction manifestation of everything good about tabletop games (and democratic social-groups in general). Curious and friendly, they’re always eager to embrace the unfamiliar and celebrate life in all its forms. They seek to improve the world around them with science, and have a surprisingly killer Montessori-like educational system, especially given the fact that they often live in hollowed-out trees.

While there isn’t a ton of official source material on gender-queer gnomes, we can take courage in the fact that their main deity, Garl Glittergold, seems like a pretty open-minded guy.


Brad Fiore: TTRPG writer, fictionalist, and Iron Chef Wisconsin 1993-97. Found on Twitter at @brad_fiore