Paizo Top Nav Branding
  • Hello, Guest! |
  • Sign In |
  • My Account |
  • Shopping Cart |
  • Help/FAQ
About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Pathfinder Society

Pathfinder Beginner Box

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Pathfinder Comics

Pathfinder Legends

PaizoCon 2014!

Hey PFS, what's with all the BDSM?


Pathfinder Society® General Discussion

Grand Lodge **** Venture-Lieutenant, Australia—Melbourne aka KestlerGunner

5 people marked this as a favorite.

I played 'Severing Ties' yesterday with a Chelish character. That experience informed a lot of this rant.

I am getting kind of exhausted with Golarion and Society Play's almost-constant focus on bondage discipline sadomasochism. It seems like the setting and organized play by extension has a recurring theme of people getting trussed up in leather and whipping themselves. It sucks for public gaming, it sucks for younger players and for me, it has gotten really old.

I've been gaming since 2000 and I cannot recall any other campaign setting where BDSM had such a major, well, FOCUS on the flavor of the world, religion in particular.

Let's run through a list of Golarion's huge amount of BDSM love:

Zon-Kuthon: Major Deity of BDSM. Okay, fair enough, he gets the portfolio. Let's give it all to him and be done with it. How is there a major deity of BDSM? Is it really that important? Is there a major deity of bread, maybe? Bread probably has a bearing on more mortal souls than BDSM. Regardless, Zon-Kuthon gets his own nation, Nidal.

Asmodeus: Technically he has nothing to do with BDSM whatsoever except for the portfolio of discipline. Cheliax is depicted as a nation with a big focus on the master/slave dichotomy however, and Zarta Dralneen is arguably a parody of someone obsessed with BDSM, despite not being a Zon-Kuthon worshipper. Effectively, she is a character defined solely by her love of BDSM. And around 10% of PFS players have to carry out her 'favours' in public play, week after week.

Cult of Lissala: I had high hopes for the Cult. I really did. When you worship an evil God in a world of magic and mystery you can get stuff done. Horrifying stuff. Powerful deeds. You really can. You don't need to dig out a bondage cave and spend your nights whipping yourself. That achieves nothing. And when you have a cult lead by someone called 'The Lashmistress'? That's not the Cult I signed up for.

Calistria: The savoured sting. Worshipped in brothels. Goddess of lust and vindictiveness. Lots of flavour text about wasps and people's genitals.

~~~

PFS, I love you, but I'm yelling the safe word now. I've had enough of all this kinky stuff. I know you want me to explore and cooperate, but this is getting silly.
Am I the only one who feels this way?

Grand Lodge *****

This is only a very small part of Golarion.

First, players are not required to play characters in the Cheliax Faction. If you have a Cheliax character and the BDSM aspect of it bothers you, switch Factions.

Second, players are not required to play with others whose character is in the Cheliax Faction.

Third, only a handful of scenarios/modules have anything to do with these themes and if it really bothers you, a brief chat with the GM beforehand will allow you to either a) avoid that particular adventure or b) get the GM to downplay the BDSM aspect of it.

Pathfinder Society is a PG-13 game which sometimes requires a little modification story-wise for kids.

But there is so much more than just this aspect of the world.


Don Walker wrote:
First, players are not required to play characters in the Cheliax Faction. If you have a Cheliax character and the BDSM aspect of it bothers you, switch Factions.

Pity the poor sap who tries to avoid Cheliax and the Paracountess by switching to Shadow Lodge...

Spoiler:
only to find he's still working for her in seasons 0-2.

Cheliax ****

KestlerGunner wrote:
Zarta Dralneen is arguably a parody of someone obsessed with BDSM, despite not being a Zon-Kuthon worshipper. Effectively, she is a character defined solely by her love of BDSM. And around 10% of PFS players have to carry out her 'favours' in public play, week after week.

Regarding Cheliax I posted an old post here about it.

I am very much a fan of a return to Geo-politics.

That is being addressed in Season 4.

As to all the BDSM, that is more the nature of the Gamers, then anything else. People see a whip, then they go to that thought.

But hey, Lissala are much cooler than most other baddies thus far! As for Calistria, she is the only one that is legitimately BDSM, Zon-Kuthon can be BDSM but is much darker than that... (Think Cenobites from Hellraiser)

To quote Hellraiser:


They are not angels or demons, they are simply "explorers" of carnal experience, practicing a form of sadomasochism so extreme that it transcends the boundary between pain and pleasure.

Why then was he so distressed to set eyes upon them? Was it the scars that covered every inch of their bodies, the flesh cosmetically punctured and sliced and infibulated, then dusted down with ash? ... No women, no sighs. Only these sexless things, with their corrugated flesh.

*****

From the GM side, I think it's a matter of how the GM approaches the subject in scenarios as to how prevalent it is in the actual gameplay.

I've had games that bordered on the subject that were purely innocent, and I've had games that never even touched on the subject where, through the conversations of the players (generally in character) the subject matter was brought into the session.

I get what you're saying, but in essence, it falls on the shoulders of everyone at the table, players and GMs, to keep the subject under control if there are children at the table.

Qadira

Torture does not equal BDSM.
A whip is a device of pain, and of control, which is far more what the deities you mention are about.
A good DM, especially when there are younger or less mature players at the table, can call on and direct attention to those aspects, bypassing the veil of BDSM entirely.

Andoran **

David: Wow, I was only watching the original Hellraiser a few weeks back and due to my recent reading of the Gods book.. immediately thought Zon-Kuthon. He went beyond our reality and came back.. Pinhead.

In terms of Lissala, I think she is a God who essentially was corrupted by her followers or her powerful followers. As the God of Runes, Obedience (and something else that escapes me)she dosnt seem like a candidate for what she is being depicted as now. To me at least, it seems like a faith that went along with the corruption that overtook it and then what you have now is the result of a long period of change.

Another thing to thank the Runelords for.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber

Shelyn is feeling really left out, OP. :(

'cause srsly, most couples into that sort of thing are more loving and not so much evil. ZK isn't a god of BDSM(certainly not the SSC variety) as much as a god of %#¥£ed Up.

Also, what Ash_Gazn said.

*

KestlerGunner wrote:
PFS, I love you, but I'm yelling the safe word now. I've had enough of all this kinky stuff. I know you want me to explore and cooperate, but this is getting silly.

Paragraph of the year. :)

Andoran ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Minnesota—Anoka

For those scenarios where Lissala is showing up, remember the following:

Spoiler:
The following of Lissala basically disappeared after Earthfall, and only a few disparate bands or individuals carried on her worship. They created cults. As we all know, cults are not the deity or the typical worship said deity wants. Cults are often heretical followings. So far, we have only seen one or two cults of Lissala, and so far they have been different.


Mikaze wrote:

Shelyn is feeling really left out, OP. :(

'cause srsly, most couples into that sort of thing are more loving and not so much evil. ZK isn't a god of BDSM(certainly not the SSC variety) as much as a god of %#¥£ed Up.

He's more a god of just S.

Shadow Lodge *****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Purple Fluffy CatBunnyGnome wrote:

From the GM side, I think it's a matter of how the GM approaches the subject in scenarios as to how prevalent it is in the actual gameplay.

I've had games that bordered on the subject that were purely innocent, and I've had games that never even touched on the subject where, through the conversations of the players (generally in character) the subject matter was brought into the session.

I get what you're saying, but in essence, it falls on the shoulders of everyone at the table, players and GMs, to keep the subject under control if there are children at the table.

+1

Also, for consideration, the listed groups *do* have a tendency to push their in-game followers. As the old saying goes:

"Where there's a whip, there's a way."

Shadow Lodge ****

ran through a season 4 Scenario that Dealt with Zon .. it was so well done I actually ecpected Pinhead to pop around a corner and say ...

TIME !!! TO PLAY

Paizo Employee ** Developer

19 people marked this as a favorite.

Thanks for the feedback, KestlerGunner.

First, I think there's a line between BDSM for sexual reasons and BDSM-related behaviors and actions that aren't inherently tied to sex. In the same way there are folks who like tentacles in their porn but every monster with a tentacle isn't something out of hentai, I think it's important to distinguish between the two. Of the four gods you mention, only Calistria really crosses the BDSM-sex line, while Zon-Kuthon and Lissala are, in my opinion, not in it for the kicks at all.

Zon-Kuthon is the god of pain. He loves torture and his acolytes are really into self-flagelation and using pain as a means of better experiencing the world—heightening the experience in a form of agony-induced euphoria that they feel brings them closer to their god. They're also evil because they tie people up and pierce them and torture them without the consent of the tortured. But there's not really a sexual aspect to it; it's suffering for suffering's sake.

Asmodeus is ambivalent to torture, though if it got him what he wanted he wouldn't be against it. While the paracountess often resorts to innuendo to motivate those who serve her, she's also not particularly fixated on BDSM over any other form of hedonism. And while she's a follower of Asmodeus and an influential subject of Cheliax, her libertine lifestyle doesn't necessarily represent either organization.

Lissala's worship has been documented as involving the mortification of the flesh since [i]Pathfinder #1. In fact, the self-flagellation and subservience elements of her faith tie in very well with her portfolio considering she's the goddess of obedience. Check out the full article on her faith in Pathfinder AP #65 next month for more on how those elements you feel don't fit her interact with those you find less off-putting. In the meantime, I think you'll find the next few Lissala scenarios straying fairly far from this aspect of her faith, beginning with The Cultist's Kiss which came out last month. An evil cult that believes in etching and tattooing symbols of power into their flesh and whose deity's favored weapon is a whip are only ever going to stray so far from some of the trappings of what are often associated with BDSM, though.

Now, Calistria's faith is the closest we have to one that venerates BDSM as a sexual lifestyle, but only insomuch as they're open to just about anything when it comes to that sort of thing. You'll note, however, that her faith isn't inherently evil; there's no judgment placed on these activities as long as everyone is getting their jollies off together and they're all consenting to the practice. You likely won't see many times that Calistria's faith is presented as a villainous organization in a scenario (or other adventure for that matter), though, because they're not evil.

I don't feel that any of the four faiths presented above is particularly exploitative or makes a comment on the real-world practice of BDSM (which, you're right, doesn't really have a place in gaming material we aim to keep around a PG-13 rating). I get where you're coming from, and I can see how the disparate parts taken as a whole can seem like a common throughline, but I don't know if the connections are more than surface-deep. After all, the whips used by Calistrians and those used by Kuthites serve very different purposes. Just as the whips used by slavers or wagon drivers have their roles. So while there may be some aspects of real-world BDSM elements in the game, if a GM or player feels they're inappropriate, they can, for the most part, be fairly easily avoided.

All that said, I'll make sure authors working on Lissala-themed material are aware of this thread and the concerns raised in it. I hope the distinctions I've made here between sexual BDSM and evil torturing and forced servitude can come through in adventures and other setting material instead of in an explanation of them, but we can't really control what lens our readers use to view the world we present.

Qadira ***** Venture-Captain, Indiana—Indianapolis aka Red-Assassin

Great write up Mark, pretty blog worthy...

***

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

...I am echoing the words of those posting above.

I have played a number of missions for the Para-countess and whilst some are ribald and playful (they can be managed by the GM if you care to make you concerns known before the game - I am sure, just take him/her aside and ask him/her to down-play it a bit for you).

I have also had several missions collecting various perfumes, poisons and animal parts.. none of which related to sexual acts (perhaps... other than some implied reward or gratitude from Her)...

If the issue bothers you - take it up with your GM before the game starts, it will be fine.

Cheliax ****

Chris Bonnet wrote:
Great write up Mark, pretty blog worthy...

The thing that Chris said.

Lantern Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Australia—Melbourne aka DarkWhite

I GMed KestlerGunner's table yesterday afternoon. It was a home game, and there were no children present.

There is a father/son who regularly game at our local store, and I am careful to filter any questionable material from the game whenever he's at the table, even so far as to changing the scheduled scenario at a recent convention for something I thought would be more appropriate when I saw they'd signed up to a scenario I felt had a fair degree of gore.

Having said that, I don't feel I ran the scenario any differently than was written. I can certainly see where KestlerGunner's concerns are coming from, and I do feel some recent scenarios have taken a darker turn this season. I'm not sure what to make of it yet.

Some gamers appreciate when storylines stray occasionally into mature subject matter, as it helps differentiate our hobby from the children's boardgames they're often perceived to be. However, everyone at the table takes a shared responsibility in roleplaying these situations appropriately, and not gratuitously.

Grand Lodge *****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Tales Subscriber

Thanks for the OP to post the issue. Only by posting it is it possible to influence PFS.

I have a semi-regular group of now 11 year old players. I'm still sometimes surprised about issues and situations they regard as offensive or feel skittish about - while they don't blink in regard to some other aspects.

As GM - and the only parent of them all who plays - I see the responsibility with me to select what scenarios I offer and how I describe certain aspects.

But as I said - I'm still sometimes surprised about what parts they feel uncomfortable with.

Slavery, Violence, Demons - no problems at all. 2/3 are followers of Cheliax (it is cool) and they love hack&slash the monsters - so if I describe a lobbed of head as result of a critical then I get cheers around the table.

Alcohol - that is really something that needs to be played down. The whole group was very offended when in one scenario characters got a bottle of wine as part of their trail rations for an overland hike. So I really have to dampen down Cayden Cailean.

Aspects of sexual innuendo are the only other aspect I know to downplay. But I know as GM I have a lot of options in how I present flavour text and add fluff.

edit:
Oh - and in one of the last games there was something new - seemingly innocent that caused them to feel uncomfortable. I try to remember what it was. All I remember was that I felt - WHAT - you hack all the monsters, you have no problems with all the other aspects and now suddenly this minor bit causes a lot of stir ...
Yes - as GM you also need to listen and watch the players as you can get unexpected reactions. Guess at least in this respect it can be easier to play with young ones as they show feelings more openly.

Qadira

I for one LOVE that you have some at least borderline mature content. If some folks are so worried about it just make a rating system so they can dodge the adventures that might be a problem with kids and those like me can enjoy it too

Grand Lodge *****

Don Walker wrote:
... Second, players are not required to play with others whose character is in the Cheliax Faction. ...

I'd like to correct my statement above.

Since players may not be aware of which faction other's PCs are in, interacting with Chelaxians can be unavoidable. Hopefully, those players will have common decency to adjust their play based on the comfort level of those at the table.

*** RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Common courtesy like common sense, isn't.

I do try to filter examples of sexuality/content based on who's at the table though. If I run First Steps for the niece and Nephew's friends, for example, the Paracountess won't be as vampy as I normally play her, and the St. Andrew's Cross will be deleted from the description. It all goes to playing to your audience. For example I play up the undead not because the kids are horrified of them, but because the ghoul in <redacted> scared the snot out of them by how nasty it was, so they have a, um, healthy respect for undead in general.

Likewise, if I know they're coming, I'll avoid running Kuthite based scenarios around them.

Personally I don't mind the D/s overtones from Calistra (Queen of Thorns seems to indicate, like Loviatarans, they're mostly switches) Then again, my Loviatar is more of a corrupting deity, her followers (mostly) do consent, even if it's a coerced consent. (staying on topic, I see the Paracountess being the same way). Part of being a shared gaming experience is moderating for your audience.

Even the 'torture and mutilation' parts of scenarios can be preserved for a young audience as long as you a) don't get too graphic, and b) make it clear it's not kinky or consentual. "It looks like they were skinned" is much more PG than describing "how the skin was flayed from their flesh, and their skinless faces still show the muscles are drawed back in what might be ecstacy."

Sczarni *** Venture-Lieutenant, Connecticut—Manchester aka Cpt_kirstov

Thod wrote:
Alcohol - that is really something that needs to be played down. The whole group was very offended when in one scenario characters got a bottle of wine as part of their trail rations for an overland hike. So I really have to dampen down Cayden Cailean.

I think this is realism effecting magic. In the real world, your water skins would sometimes have wine. I Think it was so that the alcohol could help purifying any water you came across as sanitation wasn't the most common of habits(I Could be wrong here). So if a group didn't have someone to cast purify water, they could get dysentery without the wine

Grand Lodge *****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Tales Subscriber
Earl Gendron wrote:


I think this is realism effecting magic. In the real world, your water skins would sometimes have wine. I Think it was so that the alcohol could help purifying any water you came across as sanitation wasn't the most common of habits(I Could be wrong here). So if a group didn't have someone to cast purify water, they could get dysentery without the wine

I think it was more very weak beer that was used instead of water in the middle ages.

But please don't get me wrong. I didn't try to say box text shouldn't contain alcohol. I just added this as an example how difficult or even impossible it can be for a writer to judge what someone finds offensive.
The bottle of alcohol as part of the trail ration did rank as one of the top 5 offensive moments when I GMed approx. > 20 scenarios for the kids. Actually - thinking about it - it might have been in the Crypt of he Everflame.
I was just surprised as both a GM and father as I would have rated a hundred other situations as more offensive to the kids.

Grand Lodge **** Venture-Lieutenant, Australia—Melbourne aka KestlerGunner

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Just have to post again to have a massive thanks to Mark for giving such an informative and reasoned response. The lore helps so much for creating the feel of the setting and ensuring stereotypes don't develop. I'll be sure to focus on the obedience aspect of Lissala worship.

Also thanks to all the posters for talking about their experiences and thoughts in a mature manner. Happy gaming!

Andoran **

As a GM, I consider my audience. I gloss over anything that I don't think is appropriate.

I think that we should remember the ultimate goal of PFS is to have fun. Part of this is to be considerate to other people at the table.

Silver Crusade *** Venture-Lieutenant, Finland—Helsinki

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Thod wrote:

I think it was more very weak beer that was used instead of water in the middle ages.

Most alcoholic drinks, I believe, got started as a way to preserve drinking water. Stronger drinks like wine are just easier to store as you get more alcohol in the same volume. The wine would typically then be diluted with plenty of water to make stuff that was just strong enough to kill off the germs. In fact, I recall hearing of an ancient Greek text complaining about the terrible habits of the "barbarians" who drink wine undiluted in the harbor.

"Thod wrote:


The bottle of alcohol as part of the trail ration did rank as one of the top 5 offensive moments when I GMed approx. > 20 scenarios for the kids. Actually - thinking about it - it might have been in the Crypt of he Everflame.

Not that I run many games for kids, but if this ever occurred to me, I'd explain the above and, if that doesn't work, give the players a strong hint that they might be in need of reevaluating their moral standards if they're offended about their characters receiving some alcohol while on the way to kill some people.

Qadira

lol true

****

1 person marked this as a favorite.

See, this is interesting, because I don't censor scenarios. I mean, if I were running for a table of children, sure, I'd pick scenarios without adult themes. But when someone shows up at my game day with a kid, I tell them, "This contains adult themes. Are you okay with your child being exposed to that?"

On the other hand, I won't function as baby sitter, which is to say, if a kid is at my table, so is the parent. So they can get up and leave if they want to.

Still, I do tend to watch my language. But more out of societal conditioning than any actual caring.

***** Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Carbondale aka Disturbed1

While I cant say I see too mcuh of what I would consider BDSM in the PFS scenarios, it would be nice to see some kind fo distinction between bad guys. Most of the times it sems like the bad guy plots (unless they are somehow pertaining to the metaplot of the season) are just doing bad things cause they are the bad guys.

In season 4, Lisaala's followers probably have a set goal in mind. It would be nice to see the same kind of thing involving some of the other religions or cults in Golarion. Perhaps it doesnt even have to be something involving this season. Maybe cults of Rovagug show up in a scenario once a season or so, doing seeminly random evil things, but in Season 7 their plot begins to come together and they become the primary bad guy for the season, as they have gotten close to releasing their master.

Paizo / Messageboards / Paizo Publishing / Pathfinder® / Pathfinder Society® / General Discussion / Hey PFS, what's with all the BDSM? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.

©2002–2014 Paizo Inc.®. Need help? Email customer.service@paizo.com or call 425-250-0800 during our business hours: Monday–Friday, 10 AM–5 PM Pacific Time. View our privacy policy. Paizo Inc., Paizo, the Paizo golem logo, Pathfinder, the Pathfinder logo, Pathfinder Society, GameMastery, and Planet Stories are registered trademarks of Paizo Inc., and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Player Companion, Pathfinder Modules, Pathfinder Tales, Pathfinder Battles, Pathfinder Online, PaizoCon, RPG Superstar, The Golem's Got It, Titanic Games, the Titanic logo, and the Planet Stories planet logo are trademarks of Paizo Inc. Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon, Dungeon, and Polyhedron are registered trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc., and have been used by Paizo Inc. under license. Most product names are trademarks owned or used under license by the companies that publish those products; use of such names without mention of trademark status should not be construed as a challenge to such status.