The Dungeon Master is back with another awesome gaming question! Our illustrious reader asks:
How do you feel about pregnant characters? How do you handle it and what does it change in-game?
This question comes at an appropriately awesome time, because my wife currently has a baby on the way! Hoorays!
Just like real people, imaginary people can have babies too. Not only that, but they should have babies. Your world should not be populated entirely by adults. In fact, in a world without contraception, there will probably be a lot of children and pregnant women.
But there’s a big difference between a pregnant NPC and a pregnant PC.
As with all event and plot points in a good Roleplaying game, the DM should first ask themselves: “What does this do for the game?”
Does it propel the story forward, add an interesting complication that supports the direction of the story, or is it just annoying for most of the Players? It’s also important to consider the source of the idea: was it the DM or the Player?
If it was the DM’s idea, s/he better as hell have a good reason for it, and not just want to throw a giant wrench at the Players. If you want one of the characters to birth some demon spawn for the sake of the game, that’s good, but if you want a character to get pregnant because you think it’s funny, that’s annoying. Nobody likes annoying DMs, not even your mother.
If a Player personally wants a pregnant character, that’s okay too, but figure out WHY they want that. How does it supports the story and their PC’s growth? And make sure they understand the full implication of having a baby. Which brings us to the next point: what the hell does it even mean for a PC to be pregnant?
If we’re dealing with a standard, non-magical pregnancy, than we’ve got 9 months (or 40 weeks) of in-game time to cover. Getting pregnant obviously requires some sexy-time, and depending on the age of the PC, there’s around a 20 to 15% chance each time they have sex that they’ll get pregant. Another use for percent dice!
The First Trimester
A lot of women don’t even know they’re pregnant for the first 3 weeks, so we can just skip over that. Week 4 is usually when morning sickness starts to kick in, and that can last up to about Week 12 for most people. How you handle morning sickness is up to you, but it can be triggered by eating and smelling gross things. When a PC is puking, they’re pretty much out of commission, and I generally apply a -1 Penalty for Nausea.
By Week 6 the PC is going to be needing more sleep (Fatigue Penalties for another -1). You’re going to be peeing like a maniac (more penalties if you can’t pee when you need to, or just go ahead and wet yourself), and you’re going to start getting emotional. The emotional element is really just a matter of good Roleplaying though.
- A Note on Miscarriage: There’s about a 15 to 20% change of Miscarriage within the First Trimester, and even more if your PC is an alcoholic. I roll each Week, and stop rolling for this after Week 12. Remember, strenuous exercise and heavy lifting isn’t good for pregnant women, so it’s not really compatible with the Adventurer lifestyle. This will definitely increase chances of Miscarriage as will direct blows to her uterus.
The Second Trimester
This is Week 12 to 27. The Second Trimester is often cited as being the easier part of pregnancy. The PC is still going to be more emotional and tired, and in addition they’ll probably be super gassy, so that’s always fun for Roleplaying, especially if they’re trying to impress Nobles and Lords. This is also the stereotypical time for cravings to begin.
Week 15 is when they’ll start to appear visibly pregnant, and a lot of women will start to experience back pain by Week 18. Again, I just apply penalties. Most women will also have gained a 15 pounds by now, which if you track Weight Capacity and Encumberance, make a note of it. If you don’t, just apply a Dexterity and Movement penalties.
The Third Trimester
This is Week 28 to 40. Most women will gain up to another 20 pounds in the Third Trimester, so be sure to track this and penalize appropriately. Aches and pains are going to be increasing and more regular (-1 Penatly). A lot of Women will also experience shortness of breath here, so there’s not a lot of hope in fleeing from Orcs and Owl Bears. Penalties, penalties and more penalties!
At Week 32 I start rolling Percent dice for chances of premature birth. I start at 10% and increase it by 10% each week to 100% at Week 41. And in a world without hospitals and advanced medicine most babies would have a difficult time surviving before Week 37.
Not to mention Maternal Mortality in a world without medicine is around 10%, so you’re PC could die, and Infant Mortality might have been as high as 50% in the Ancient World. I roll this each Month for the baby and reduce it by 10% until it hits 0.
So, you made it through pregnancy and now your PC has a baby! Good job, now you have a totally helpless creature to protect, feed constantly, clean up after, and keep all of your travelling companions awake all night with. You jackass.