Posts Tagged ‘pin-up girls’

The Defense of the Chainmail Bikini

February 21, 2012

Here at Intelligence Check, we’ve spoken before about issues of cheesecake art in fantasy role-playing games, and while we’d love it if you read the entirety of the previous article (and thank you if you have), the part we want to call attention to is this:

Instead, [the illustrations] often present sex in a manner that’s often wildly incongruous with even the minimal context set up by the picture itself. Does it make sense for the barbarian woman to be wearing nothing but a chainmail bikini when she’s fighting off the orc horde? Nope, but that’s how she’s dressed.

Now, that’s a charge that still sticks, but it’s also just one facet of several different ways of looking at the issue of cheesecake art (of women) in fantasy RPGs. Today, we’re going to try and get a more holistic view of what it is we’re talking about.

Obvious joke is obvious.

The first thing to do in any particular discussion is clearly define what’s being discussed. To that end, what is this particular blog post actually about?

The answer, quite simply, is to examine the different rationales behind the whole idea of “women in impractically sexy armor” and see if any of them have a practical motive – in other words, if there’s a justifiable reason for her wearing something that sacrifices utility for sex appeal.

On a final note, this discussion isn’t limited to chainmail bikinis per se, despite the article title. There’s a continuum between “form” and “function,” and as sexy armor moves closer to the former category, it can reach the point where it’s not considered armor as much as it is an accessory. Boob-plate belongs in this discussion as much as a chain-link g-string does.

Meta-Game View

Perhaps the most familiar context in which the debate about sexily-armored adventurers takes place is the one about the practical impact they have on the people who read the books such illustrations are in. This tends to run the gamut from “eh, sex sells” to “this is what drives women away from the game table.”

There can be no doubt that this is a discussion worth having. It’s also not the discussion that we’re having here.

The reason for this is that – at least on the internet – there’s virtually no way to have this discussion without it degenerating into a flame-war. The best-case scenario that you can hope for when discussing this is that everyone agrees that they all have their own individual opinions, and that’s okay. Needless to say, this rarely happens.

“You had better hate this picture even more than I do.”

What’s more likely is that you have a general mash-up of people stating their opinions as objective truths (“This is sexist! Anyone who thinks otherwise is a sexist!”), people trying to explain why other people’s opinions are invalid (“Stop being so sensitive!”), anecdotes (“my ex-girlfriend wouldn’t get into gaming because she saw the pictures in the rulebook!”), and poorly-referenced “data” (“I read in an article that 83% of women actually wish they looked like these pictures!”).

Ultimately, the discussion here is a microcosm of a much greater discussion regarding the impact of sexual art and imagery on the people who view it. It’s one about psychology and sociology, and even for the people who are educated on such topics, there’s little agreement. For now, at least, we’re going to put a pin in this one and move on.

Verisimilitude View

This particular viewpoint focuses on criticisms directed at sexy armor from a realistic standpoint. That is, on how such armors function in the real world.

In this case, there’s a fairly inarguable conclusion in that sexy armors make major sacrifices of function in favor of form. Note that when we say “fairly inarguable” we mean “completely and utterly inarguable.” Even if you didn’t have actual armorers telling you about how horribly impractical, and even dangerous, such armor is for the wearer, it should still be obvious on sight.

“Aim HERE damn it!”

So yeah…no redemptive value whatsoever from this point of view. Moving on.

Representative View

The third and final stance that you’ll commonly find in regard to sexy armor is as a visual representation of something within a role-playing game world. That is, someone will have found a particular way to utilize the rules of the game to create a character which has adequate defensive capabilities, despite wearing such sexy armor.

The in-game justification for this tends to follow one of two lines of logic. The first is that the game rules and mechanics are largely silent on the visual appearance of such things, allowing for a “flavor” modification with no impact on the game stats whatsoever. In other words, the character’s leather armor is leather armor, and has all of the defensive properties of mechanical armor in the context of the RPG, regardless of the fact that the picture of it has it showing a lot of cleavage and ending in a skirt.


But really, who would ever take such a character seriously?

The second way that this particular representation is accomplished is by effectively eschewing armor altogether. In this case, the character is given defensive abilities from sources other than armor, allowing her to put a great deal of her body on display without actually being vulnerable. (Sometimes, there may be some token armor added to the visualization, but as mentioned previously, that skirts the line from “armor” to “accessory”).

In Pathfinder, this second method is particularly easy, as there are myriad ways to increase your AC without using armor, or even shields. Just a few are: the Dodge feat, fighting defensively, a total defense action, bracers of armor, amulets of natural armor, rings of protection, defending magic weapons, Combat Expertise, belts of incredible dexterity, dusty rose prism ioun stones , monk levels, and so many defensive spells. Granted, not all of these stack with each other, but most do, and many have bonuses that can be escalated with enough gold or caster levels.

But for real though…who makes a character like that?

That’s all just from the Core Rulebook, too. Add in additional materials, and your options skyrocket. There are even third-party books with materials specifically designed to let your characters wear sexy armor, or no armor at all, while still being reasonably well-protected.

These examples are a Pathfinder-specific way of showing that the representative view of sexy armor does, in fact, allow for a practical rationale. Within the context of the game world as defined by the mechanics, female characters in revealing armor can still fight while being reasonably well-protected.

In Summary

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that these three views are, respectively, the Narrativist, Simulationist, and Gamist answers to the issue of sexy armor, that does help to illustrate an important point – that people often approach this issue from completely different mind-sets, and so tend to talk at each other, rather than to each other, not realizing that they’re starting off with differing assumptions, and defeating any hope of a real dialogue before it ever even begins.

Hopefully, this article has made such discussions flow a little easier, and in doing so made the game a little better for everyone. Because in the end, isn’t that what chainmail bikinis are all about?


The end. Now go back and actually read the article.

She’s Giving You That “Come Zither” Look

July 10, 2010

At long last we come to the final entry among the A monsters of the Pathfinder Bestiary, and this curvaceous creature is one that makes sure this section ends with a bang. Let’s take a long look at the


What to say about the lillend? A picture is worth a thousand words, and really, they’re necessary. She’s a woman above the waist, a snake below, and she has wings to boot. The Freudian imagery is so thick here that I’m sure there must be a shrink somewhere using this picture as an aid in checking patients for psychosexual disorders.

Needless to say, we’ve come to yet another of the Bestiary’s pin-up girls. Far from the chaste aasimar or the ghaele, the lillend is the most prurient (in terms of appearance) creature we’ve seen yet.

Or is she?

Part of me (I won’t tell you which part) wonders if maybe the fact that the lillend is going around pretty much topless is her overcompensating. After all, most ordinary men are going to balk at the idea of fucking a girl who’s all scaly down there; hence, wearing nothing but pasties with the chain between them is her way of trying to make sure guys’ eyes stay up top.

The “I’m a sex object!” getup aside, the Bestiary talks about how the lillends are the artists of the azatas, giving us some fairly blase information about their love of music and protection of pastoral splendors and inspiration of artists, etc. It’s nothing to write home about, which is a shame, since I think they really could have put a more interesting spin on things.

Back in 2E, lillends were noted for all wearing masks that were heavily stylized, so much so that no two lillends’ masks were the same (this may have been specific to Planescape, I’m not sure). I think Paizo should have taken that concept and expanded upon it. Not the masks, per se, but rather the thematic idea that all lillends are artists who express and define themselves through body art.

My interpretation of the lillend is that she sees her own identity as an artistic abstraction – the idea of “who she is” is something that must be expressed rather than simply answered, and her body is the canvas on which that expression takes place. Hence, lillends spend their eternal existences looking for new ways to paint, pierce, modify, and otherwise alter their bodies in a way that defines them; a never-ending quest to find the perfect representation of who they are as art.

Of course, given that, the lillend pictured above must be uninspired at the moment. She’s not so much feeling blue as she is feeling blank, which is a shame.

Won’t someone grab his brush and apply a few coats to her?

There She Is, Miss Elysium

July 1, 2010

Continuing on with the monsters from the Bestiary, we come to the next of the azatas.


And immediately, we’re again struck with how-the-hell-do-you-pronounce-it-itis. Seriously, does anyone know how to properly vocalize this name? Is it “gale”? “Gha-el”? “Gay-lay”? None of the above?

You know, back during the later days of Second Edition, TSR’s home page (or maybe it was WotC’s page by then, I’m not sure) had a download that answered questions like this. For Planescape, it was a series of .wav files of people speaking various words like “tanar’ri” and “baatezu” simply so you’d what they sounded like. From what I can tell, that’s since been lost to time, but man does Paizo ever need to bring back something like this for Pathfinder.

But let’s take at look at our ghaele ghirl here.

Despite her being fairly pretty, I waffled as to whether or not this monster deserved the pin-up girl tag. After all, she really seems to be armored up pretty well, eschewing the traditional skimpy armors that a lot of women warriors wear. So really, the ghaele seemed to be trying more for practicality than enhancing beauty.

However, the more I thought about it, the less true that seemed. Yes, her armor does cover a lot of her…but there’s still a fair amount of skin on display here. Take, for example, her legs; her knee-high boots are impressive, but above that: nothing.

That by itself wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t seem to be wearing a chainmail miniskirt. I can’t believe I actually just typed that, but there it is – a chainmail miniskirt. I’m sure that it’s actually some real piece of armor that served a particular function, and had its own weird name that almost nobody remembers today, but we let’s dispense with the plausible deniability. The chainmail miniskirt is more respectable than the chainmail bikini, but not by much.

Further up, as if to truly put the issue of “which comes first: form or function?” to rest, we find that there’s a large hole in the armor covering her torso, which shows off her cleavage quite nicely. Tip for lady adventurers here: if it’s puts your chest on display, don’t use that armor. I’m just saying.

But then, we come to the cherry on this particular sundae. As if Paizo wanted to make sure that we couldn’t take this particular monster seriously no matter how hard we tried, they added the finishing touch to the ghaele’s ensemble: a tiara.

I really don’t know what to say about this. Why is she wearing a tiara? It’s not a status symbol; the book says they’re the knights of the azata race. Did she just finish the “armor & eros” part of a planar beauty pageant? Or maybe she moonlights as a runway model? It’d certainly explain the pissed-off look she’s got, since models seem to be forbidden from smiling on the job.

Between this picture and the relative dearth of descriptive text we’re given, it’s hard to know what to make of the ghaele. In all honesty, she seems to be like a contemporary superheroine – intent on fighting evil, and dressing to impress while doing so for no reason that can be determined. It’s not necessarily unwelcome, just undefined. Still, as we’ll see next time, there are much more audacious azatas…

She Can Blow My Trumpet Any Day

May 30, 2010

Today’s entry in my critique of all the monsters in the Bestiary brings us to the last of the archons, as well as the strongest and best-looking of them. So without further ado, here’s the…


You know, I almost typed the word “trumpet” in that header with an “s” in front of it, and if you’re looking at the picture of this particular creature, I think you’ll understand why. Yes, we’ve officially come to Pin-Up Girl #2 – another monster that would make most adventurers say – to quote someone else – “man, I’d like to roll d20 to hit that.”

Leaving aside the dirty jokes that can be made about this monster – and believe me, there are many – I’m a bit disappointed that Paizo didn’t focus on the musical aspect of this particular creature more. I mean, her trumpet is a weapon that can not only play destructive music, but can also turn into a sword. Now, that’s not as cool as some other musical weapons, but still pretty badass.

And yet, the rest of her character doesn’t deal with this theme at all. There’s no powers about singing or dancing; even her spells are drawn from the cleric spell list, rather than the bard’s. Seriously, there’s no ingenuity here; given that (for reasons previously discussed), good creatures in general, and archons in particular, take a background role to help support mortals, I would have thought that they’d have made the trumpet archon fill a role like so:

You have to admit, our trumpet archon here is already dressed for this role. So I ask you Paizo, where are our Elite Beat Archons?

Introduction and the aasimar

April 14, 2010

It’s recently become vogue to comment on the various monsters found throughout D&D’s history. From what I can tell, this got started with Head Injury Theater’s Celebrating 30 Years of Very Stupid Monsters article, and others picked up the idea from there. Like many gamers, I’ve enjoyed the insights, humor, and general geek-dom that these websites have shown us by examining various facets of the game(s) we all enjoy.

Up until now, I’ve only been dipping my toes in the waters of the blogosphere, with sporadic postings on EN World or deviantART. However, reading so many great RPG blogs has inspired me to start my own, and this is the result. Unlike the afore-linked pages, I’ll try to update this blog at least semi-regularly, sharing my thoughts and opinions on RPGs in general, and D&D 3.5/Pathfinder in particular.

The Pathfinder BestiaryIn that regard, I’ll be starting off with a monster commentary. Rather than going over monsters from throughout the games history, however, I’m going to focus on the newest monster book to be released: the Pathfinder Bestiary, by Paizo Publishing. I’ll go through each creature in the book, one at a time (save for a few instances where extremely similar monsters are grouped together) and in alphabetical order. From the artwork, to changes Paizo’s made to the creature, to whatever else comes to mind, these are my ramblings on Pathfinder’s monsters.

So with that said, let’s turn to the book’s first entry…


The aasimar, as she appears in PathfinderRight off the bat, Paizo begins the Bestiary with Pin-up Girl #1. That’s the designation I’m giving to the monsters that look like they should be part of some sort of “Beast Babes” calendar that Paizo’s selling. Now, to be fair, the aasimar is depicted much more tastefully than any of the other pin-up girls; she’s not showing off any skin, but her clothes hug her figure about as much as you’d expect a nice dress to (and yes, I know she’s supposed to be wearing clerical vestments there, but come on, that’s a dress).

Of course, aasimars come in both sexes, so this doesn’t necessarily need to be the case, but Paizo apparently wanted the Bestiary to open with some eye-candy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But enough ogling…

I’ve heard some people say that the aasimar has a stupid name because the “aas” at the beginning is pronounced like “ass.” Man am I glad I never thought of that. I always made that first “s” have a hard “z” sound – to me, she’s always been called an “AZ-eh-mar.” But really, I can understand why people would want to drop the name entirely; can you imagine being a scion of celestial power, a hero and champion to the people…and having the name for what you are begin with “ass”? Just think of how that’d go.

“Fear not, good sir, you are safe now.”

“My thanks sire, I thought I was a goner for certain. Might I ask your name?”

“I am Ordirius the Great, aasimar and holy warrior of light.”

“*snort* Y-yes m’lord. I’ll tell *giggle* everyone that I was saved by…*bites lip* by Ordirius the great ass…hole-, holy…*breaks down laughing*”

“Hey! Stop laughing! Stop laughing right now!”

And people wonder why tieflings are more popular.