Underground Reading: Two More from Hard Case Crime
New Releases: The Black Chalice by Steven Savile

Random List: 5 Things I Hate About D&D

I've been playing Dungeons & Dragons for a fairly unreasonable amount of time and my (very tolerant) gaming groups now knows that I've developed a few pet peeves. For the sake of the historical record, here they are... 

Gimli GimliDwarves: I think I'd like Dwarves more if there were a second way to play them. However, since the dawn of dice, Dwarves have always been role-played as squat and sullen, something fully encouraged by the ridiculous "racial overview" guide in each edition's Player's Handbook. The height of Player of Dwarf's humor is a joke about how their women have shorter beards. The rest of his comedic repertoire is made up of homophobia-tinted elf-bashing and ale-related demands. This is supposedly a race of long-lived engineering geniuses - why are they always played as hangover fratboys?

Halflings: At least Dwarves have some sort of functional use. Of Tolkien's many crimes, saddling gamers with a merry fistful of Daily Mail-reading analogues is probably the worst. Even in Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit), the furry-footed housepests are remarkably useless.

Bilbo is the world's worst rogue - even with a Ring of Invisibility he can't stay hidden due to his compulsive need for small talk (yes, level 2 thief... taunt the red dragon). A generation later, Frodo's only task is to drop a piece of jewellery into the world's largest bucket. (Spoiler: HE FAILS - thank god an NPC was standing nearby, eh?) As a result of Tolkien's Middle English Mary Sue, generations of gamers have been saddled with Tylenol Applebottom, Laxative Spottypork and their size-Pathetic sling attacks. Thanks, JRR.

DrowDrow: I loathe these fanboy pleasers as a player race but they're even worse as villains. Granted, Gygax clearly invented them in 1922 in between doses of home-brewed Grell-inspiring acid, but they're an incredibly shameful monster. There's nothing subtle about them or what they stand for. The Drow were created to be the opposite of everything heroic and noble in surface elves. Which means that ultimate villainy is expressed as a race of dark-skinned people... and for bonus evil, they're led by women. Well done, D&D - way to make escapism inclusive.

Anything from the Latest Supplement: This is a very flexible hate. But odds are, whatever came out in the latest book is a) too powerful, b) ill-thought and c) annoyingly specialized. Furthermore, it clearly conflicts with the thing from the last-but-one book and is obviously just setting us up to buy the next book. Why can't everything be like the classes in two-books-ago? That was the last good book, dammit. Everything since then is broken. I don't know why we ever started playing this-edition when last-edition was clearly superior. 

All of Bex's Characters: It isn't like Bex is a power-gamer. Anyone that's read her gaming column has essentially witnessed her rather charming (if fraught) approach to role-playing. And that makes it worse. It is always through pure dumb luck that Bex is always playing what I'm playing... plus two. My rogue? Carefully constructed after sixteen hours of forum consultations and four days of dog-earing feats. Her rogue? Thrown together in the first ten minutes of the game and somehow has an AC of 76 while wearing nothing but pantyhose. Does 23 points of damage on a miss. And only misses on a natural 1. This is always by the book. Someday she'll play a Halfling and I'll explode.

Those are my five (slightly irrational) pet peeves. What are yours?