The King is Dead

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Belt of Transition (5e)

So... I decided I wanted one of the NPCs in my new 5e campaign to have a girdle of masculinity/femininity. She's a tiefling cleric of Sharess who is also a festhall madam (which is not an unusual occupation for a cleric of Sharess) and has hired the party to escort her from Silverymoon to Waterdeep and back as she recruits workers and buys furnishings for a new festhall in Silverymoon. I thought it would be fun for her to be a potential romantic interest for anyone in the party, so it seemed like a good idea to give her a magic item that allowed her to switch sexes as needed.

I'm well-aware that the girdle was a cursed item back in the AD&D era -- switching the character's sex against their will and not allowing a change back without the intervention of a god -- but Blog of Holding had an awesome idea about allowing PCs to "tame" cursed items rather than simply discarding them after a remove curse spell. This seemed like a good way to redeem the girdle; I thought it would involve something like Hercules' enslavement to Queen Omphale where the character could choose to embrace the sex change, learn to live as the other sex, and then earn the right to change back (after which the girdle would allow for fluid changing between sexes).

And then I realized that such an idea was still based around the offensive ideas that changing sexes is a curse and that cultural gender roles are inherently linked to biological sexes.  So I decided to just make a new magic item.

from The Order of the Stick

Belt of Transition
Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)
 
This belt has 3 charges, and it regains 1d3 expended charges at dawn. When you don the belt, you may expend one charge to switch to another of your race’s biological sexes, to an intersex form combining aspects of your race's sexes, or to a sexless form. Using the belt to disguise yourself as a different sex gives you advantage on any relevant ability checks. You return to your original sex when you doff the belt.*
 
 
 

*Originally "Common in the enlightened eons of the ancient magical empires, but rare in this decadent days, the belt of transition allows you to switch between your species' biological sexes at will or assume a hermaphroditic form combining your races' sexes. Using the belt to enact a disguise gives you advantage on any relevant ability checks."



3 comments:

  1. Interesting idea. Are the changes permanent until changed again? E.g. if someone changed from male to female, then lost the belt, are they now female?

    You'll probably want to also answer reproductive issues -- whether someone under the influence of the belt could become pregnant or make someone else become pregnant.

    I'm a bit confused by the advantage thing -- does that mean that if I'm a female character with the belt and disguise myself as male, I get advantage on the roll, but not when disguising as another woman? It doesn't really make sense to me.

    I might suggest that you allow someone to change only at the end of a short or long rest (or maybe just a long rest) to prevent it from becoming too jokey to change gender. (From a 5e mechanics POV, your item as written should say something like "you can use your action to...")

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  2. Oh one last thing, might be nice to avoid the word hermaphroditic which is considered old-fashionedly dehumanizing. The modern term is "intersex" but I suggest the following phrasing:

    "As an action, you can switch to any of of your race's biological sexes, to a sexless form, or an intermediate form combining aspects of two or more genders."

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the advice! I've integrated it into a revised description of the belt.

      I decided to keep the question of reproduction up to individual DMs. 5e allows for a lot more space for DM rulings over rules, and I'd hate to take away a gaming group's ability to interpret the item in ways that suit their needs. I personally would rule that the belt does allow the user to become preganant or impregnate others -- if they want to. (And I would also rule that preganancy can be voluntarily terminated OR suspended by using the belt.)

      As for the disguise issue... I want the belt to have some sort of actual mechanical benefit, and that's the only one that makes sense. I know from experience that if I suddenly lost by beard and appeared to have proper breasts, no one would recognize me. :)

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