What’s Love Got To Do With It, Part VIII: Makin’ Babies!


Over the past two weeks my posts have tackled the concerns of characters having children in your RPG. Hopefully any fears or hesitations you’ve had have been calmed and you’re possibly ready to introduce a tiny NPC to your campaign. But how? I mean, we all know how babies are made, but how do you go about this in an RPG?

As I noted a few months back in an earlier What’s Love post, pregnancy is one of those sex-related things that it doesn’t hurt to have some rules for. Obviously, sex doesn’t always result in pregnancy, or there would be a LOT more kiddies running around. We don’t get to decide what gender our babies are – that’s decided by biology and chance. Some women have easy pregnancies, while others suffer with morning sickness and swollen ankles. So how do you decide what happens to your character? By consulting those handy rules I mentioned.

Do you have to use rules for baby-making in your game? Of course not. Let me repeat that: If you don’t want to use rules, you don’t have to. If you prefer to do everything through story-telling, that’s fine. If you want a few rules to aid in the story, that’s fine too. Personally, I just don’t care for arbitrarily deciding that the baby born to a character is a girl. Were I writing a story, that would be one thing – but I’d probably let the dice decide in that situation, as well. I like a certain amount of chance in my games, especially for things that are also left to chance in real life.

So how about those rules for making babies? Let’s look at the whole process, from conception to after the wee one arrives. Instead of laying out rules that I think you should use without exception, I’m going to give you general ideas so you can calculate what will work best in your game.

Conception

There are two main questions to ask when determining if characters are able to conceive a baby: Can the two races in question breed successfully, and is the female currently fertile?

It’s obvious that two members of the same race are capable of reproducing with each other, and the number of half-elves and half-orcs running around is proof that some cross-breeding is possible. But what about an elf and an orc? A human and a dwarf? A halfling and a tiefling? The Book of Erotic Fantasy published a wonderful table of interspecies crossbreeding that can answer a lot of those questions, but feel free to make up your own rules based on your game world. If you go with a Tolkien-esque theory that elves and orcs are descended from the same ancestors, it wouldn’t be impossible for the two to breed successfully today, albeit rare. If the prospective parents are both half-bloods with a heritage in common (both half-human, for example) that can increase the chance that they can make a baby together – or decrease it, if half-bloods in your world are infertile. Go with what works for your campaign setting. (Just please, don’t decide that everything can cross-breed and come up with weird names for the resultant races, like a former co-worker of mine who was very proud of his dwarf/orc half-bloods he called dorcs. Needless to say I never invited him to our game table.)

Females of most species are fertile only at select times, be it a few days out of each month, or only once or twice a year. Some fantasy races, like fey, are fertile whenever they so choose. Again, the BoEF contains a great table of conception chances based on the fertility of each race. Don’t have that chart handy? Start here: for two humans copulating, the chance of conceiving over a month’s worth of sexual activity (without birth control) is about 20%, or about 2% for a single unprotected encounter. (ETA: thanks to Alzrius for catching my mistake with the numbers!) Adjust that percentage up or down based on the races involved or the ages of the couple (the mother especially). For cases where conception would be exceedingly rare, such as two races who have never been known to successfully reproduce, make that roll a tough one – like a double-ought followed by another double-ought.

Of course, in a fantasy setting, things like magic and the will of the gods can bust through all obstacles from birth control to race incompatibility to age. That’s where story-telling comes in!

Pregnancy

How long is that bun going to be in the oven? Again, there’s a good chart in the BoEF, but you can make your own. The average human pregnancy lasts 9 months; longer-lived races gestate longer, while shorter lived ones have shorter pregnancies.

We’ve all known pregnant women in real life, and while some of them sail through pregnancy as if nothing is different, most experience at least a couple side effects. These include morning sickness, mood swings, and food cravings. Give a percentage chance for each of these effects in each third (trimester) of the pregnancy. A character suffering from morning sickness may have to seek out herbal remedies to ease her discomfort. Mood swings and food cravings can provide lots of fun roleplaying opportunities. For food cravings, make or find a table of 100 different foods, and roll percentage dice to determine the one she wants. My wizard’s husband had to go door to door, begging housewives to sell him any crabapple jelly they had, then the whole party had to hunt for wild radishes in the spring when her cravings changed. The amount of weight a pregnant character gains will depend largely on her activity; if the party is settled in for the winter, she’ll be able to put on more weight than if they were continuing to travel.

As the pregnancy progresses, most women can’t move as fast or as gracefully as they could before (in game terms, their movement is slowed and they take temporary penalties to their Dexterity). Magic-using mothers may find it hard to concentrate on casting a spell when the baby kicks at just the wrong moment, so a small chance of spell failure (whether arcane or divine) is appropriate.

While it may be unpleasant to think about, a baby is in danger when her mother is in combat. If an expectant mother takes a great deal of damage, or fails an important saving throw, a second saving throw should be made for the baby. No one wants to think about it, but if a woman loses a level due to a vampire’s drain or takes 40 hp of damage in a single combat, there is the chance that she could miscarry or go into labor early. So keep the mama as safe as possible!

Childbirth

Not even the promise of a solid gold d20 that’s guaranteed to roll a crit whenever I need it would be enough to get me to roleplay labor and childbirth. For as much as I like some realism in my game, there are certain things that are best left vague and without graphic detail. But that doesn’t mean one has to resort to nothing more than saying, “This day, Freya has her baby. It’s a boy, and all is well.”

You can make things simple in determining the date of the baby’s arrival by just counting out the length of gestation from the day of conception. But babies rarely arrive on the day they’re due. If the pregnancy has been a normal one, give the kidlet a 10% chance of arriving right on time, 45% chance of being early, and a 45% chance of being late. In a stressful or hard pregnancy, just go with the baby coming early. Roll a single die (d4 for short pregnancies, d20 for those long elven pregnancies, something in between for everything else) to see how many days early or late the little one is.

How long will the mom be in labor? I usually go with 4d6 hours, which is a nice wide range and should work for most races. Feel free to adjust that as you see fit.

The most important thing is whether the birth is successful and without complications. Again, no one wants to think about this, and in a fantasy world laden with magical healing it should be a very rare occurrence for something to go wrong. I look at how strong and resilient the mother is by doubling her Strength and Constitution scores, adding them to her Fort and Will saves, and having her roll a d20 to make a total chance of successful birth. Got a midwife or cleric/paladin attending the birth? Add another 15%. I’ve never had a character not end up with a very high chance of successful birth using that formula.

Is the baby a boy or a girl, or maybe even twins? As a GM I would determine this early in the character’s pregnancy and keep it secret, keep it safe, until the day of the birth (unless the character goes to a diviner in the mean time). Again I break out the percentile dice and split it 50-50 for a boy or a girl, but designate a result of 1 as fraternal twins, and the elusive double-ought as identical twins (roll percentile again to determine the genders of the twins). I’ve never gone with a higher multiple birth, but if the dice keep coming up 1 or 00 you may decide that triplets are in the cards! A multiple birth often increases pregnancy and childbirth difficulties, so keep that in mind.

After the baby is born, the mom is going to need at least a few days (say, 1d6+3) to recover. Again, the presence of a healer will reduce the recovery time. Even if she’s technically all healed up in a few hours, though, few new moms would be ready to return to the road immediately after giving birth.

After The Baby Arrives

Once the little adventurer makes his or her grand entrance, you’re on your own, right? There are no rules or game supplements that can help you out. Wrong!

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary provides a “young creature” template that you can use to figure out stats for the youngling. For people-type creatures, I’d say this works best for a child of 6 years or older (or the equivalent in elf years, orc years, etc.). Younger children, and especially babies and toddlers, probably don’t need full stat blocks, unless your character is a tough-love parent who puts them into combat as soon as they can walk. Still, it’s a good idea to have some stats for them, because no matter how much you strive to protect them, kids find ways to get hurt or in trouble. They might be at the outer edge of a fire-trap blast, stick their own hands in the fire, or play in the poison ivy. I would give babies and toddlers hit points and saves as if they were ½ HD , and older kids those at 1 HD – basically, the wee ones are at character level ½, and the bigger ones are at 1st level, but not a first level in a PC class.

Only heartless bastards want to see kids get hurt, so the players will want to find ways to protect the munchkins from danger. As I mentioned in my first post on this topic, basic spells like sanctuary, mage armor, mage’s faithful hound, and protection spells, among others, can help keep the little one safe from the bad guys. Nothing’s stopping children from benefitting from extra rings of protection the party might have collected.

You might be content to sleep on the ground with nothing between you and the sky but your bedroll, but kids need more protection. Tiny hut will protect you all from the elements, and secure shelter will put an actual roof over your heads. If you don’t have the magic available, at the very least you need to buy a tent.

The best magic item I’ve ever seen for tending to children in a fantasy campaign is Penelope’s portable playroom from T.Catt’s Sisters of Rapture (a fine adult sourcebook I’ve been remiss in not shouting out to before!). When Mom is fighting undead or scouting out a good ambush point, the child needs a safe place to stay. The portable playroom is complete with toys, art supplies, and storybooks, and a teddy bear golem/nanny to keep the youngling entertained and content. It’s the most perfect thing for the adventuring parent, as it eliminates the worries of where to keep the child safe and who is going to babysit.

What About Everything Else?

There are certainly elements of pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing I haven’t covered here. If you want more rules and aren’t satisfied with what you find in game products, create your own! Or say the hells with rules beyond what I’ve outlined and let the story (and all those involved in creating it) determine the rest. What I’ve laid out is just a framework – take from it what you want, add what you want, and make it completely your own.

With a few guidelines and ideas like I’ve discussed here, there should be no more fears about bringing a baby into your campaign. Except for the fear of poopy diapers. Nothing can erase that one.

Do you prefer having rules for baby-making in your game, or do you just go with the flow? What rules have you used that differ from those discussed in this post?

About c

By day, Connie Thomson (aka Ariel Manx) is a mild-mannered shoe salesgirl, geeking out about insoles, outsoles, and shanks. But when night falls, she takes her turn at the helm of 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming, where she writes, edits, and does layout for table-top RPG products. Regardless of her persona, C is always a fangirl, bookworm, and craft diva. (Email C or follow @arielmanx on Twitter.)

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