Archive for September, 2010

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Mixed feelings about feelings on D&D Essentials

September 15, 2010

I’m intending to check out D&D Essentials, after I handle some bills and medical costs, but seriously? I didn’t know the hate-on for Mike Mearls and 4E had reached these levels.

I understand that D&D has to compete with it’s own 30 year history, at all times. (And the Old School Renaissance per OGL means D&D has to compete with versions of itself that can take advantage of the old rules and new innovations simultaneously).

But still. I’m not happy to hear the reason for a new version of the game isn’t solely design improvements, but rather “Argh, it’s not like how D&D used to be” nerdrage. (Question: why weren’t these people nerdraging about 3E the whole time? I mean, look at prestige classes – “Dwarven Shadow Nipple-Shaver” is the kind of stuff we started getting after a point. 4E certainly didn’t begin the “WTF” departure from the core concepts.)

I’m sure WOTC has their business reasons, and I guess they know how much money they are, or aren’t making. Still, I’m frustrated because one thing that D&D did well with 3E and 4E was making significant design changes with each edition, not merely minor tweaks and a new cover like most RPGs out there.

The conservative design bent of gamers in general, is not a good thing to follow. It’s exactly why a lot of rpg game design got stuck for 20-odd years doing the same thing, over and over.

ETA: The Escapist has put up the full, unedited interview with Mike Mearls.

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The validity of stories

September 14, 2010

Julie has a great post up about Steal Away Jordan:

Anyway so one day, I decided to write a role playing game, and the voices in those slave narratives are the voices of my heroes. So voila! A role playing game set in the Ante-bellum South. I wanted to share that sense of heroism with people I play with, and with people who like to role play in the same way I do.

To be clear, I didn’t design a game to generate white guilt, or a game where you can passive aggressively beat up or victimize your friends. I don’t play victims in roleplaying. Toussaint L’Ouverture, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Lilith in Book of Night Women are not victims. They are heroes whose lives make for great story telling.

The fact that these things need to be said says a lot about how people frame the issues of history…

For example, no one has to write an explanation about how their game about the Wild West isn’t about genocide, or that a game about Spartans isn’t about child soldiers and pedophelia.

And that’s not to say that there isn’t real issues about white folks and pain porn and misery tourism, at the same point, there has to be a place where people of color can produce games, media, and art with our own communities in mind, being mindful that even being the president these days isn’t worthy enough to be treated with respect.

Anyway, it’s really worth reading, and is a good beginning for conversations we want to have.

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PAX: You fuckers need to tip

September 11, 2010

Geek Girls Rule, Quoted for Truth:

Here’s the thing. For many of the SF/F cons I’ve worked on, servers will fight over who gets to work that weekend, because we tip well. We know we’ll be back, we know they’ll be slammed and over-worked, so we tip well. Talking to my friend who works one of the coffee shops around the convention center, when it comes to PAX, they fight over who doesn’t have to work PAX, because you guys have given us the reputation of stingy ass mother fuckers. Service industry folks talk, and no one likes PAX because of this.

I was at that little discussion, and basically, when you get the average of 1 tip per 18 customers?

From people who a) flew across the country to b) buy $60 videogames?

To people who are taxed 18% above normal taxes because the state ASSUMES they get tipped every time?

Y’all make me glad I didn’t go to PAX.

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Gamers and Self Segregation

September 10, 2010

On this trip up to Seattle, I had this interesting conversation about roleplaying groups, and the issues of white male self-segregation in roleplaying culture.

For instance, I live in one of the most diverse areas in the US, yet most groups I encounter tend to be all white male, or perhaps with a token person of color and/or woman.

It’s always interesting to see how normalized privilege and racism becomes- that folks need to be educated in the idea that, no, you don’t have to join the Klan and conspire to keep the scary women/colored folks out, but… if your social groups are primarily white men, guess what your game groups will look like? (and what does it say if your social groups exclude 70% of the local human population???)

The other factor which only highlights it more, is that a great number of tabletop gaming is organized via internet these days- the way to find new groups, new players, etc. is all online… what is happening is we’re not talking about an issue of immediate physical circles and odds of finding each other.

We’re talking about the issues of whether the online networking spaces are hostile to women/people of color AND/OR whether the game groups are hostile spaces which quickly shuffle people out.

Hopefully projects like Rpgirl Zine, Able Gamers, Iris Gaming Network, Geek Girls Rule or similar, will be able to break the critical mass necessary for tabletop roleplayers to start building networks of play that don’t have to play with the “Old Boys Club” or deal with the endless bullshit on the general sites.

Or, you know, maybe a major site would consider actually making a safe space. You’d think publishers would at least consider the possibility of tripling your player/customer base worth it, but, as usual, apparently white men’s money is greener or something.

Running a forum is a nightmare, which is the only reason I haven’t seriously looked at doing it myself, though, it is sitting heavy on my mind about this unserved need.

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A little bit of gaming history

September 3, 2010

Theory from the Closet has a podcast with David Wesely, looking at the precursors to roleplaying in the wargaming community. It’s a long listen, but it’s really interesting how much the experience, as gamers, as publishers, reflects later tabletop roleplaying in general.

– That going above small print runs resulted in losing money and having to mulch games rather than pay taxes on the stock.
– The recognition of the social issues driving play, including the dysfunction of folks who are just there to be griefers and not actually play
– Clear hindsight that lack of clear rules makes even getting to play challenging
– Parlor LARPing, non-military goals… very interesting!
– “Referees” being actually a new idea to that scene – that it was, effectively an innovation for the American Wargame crowd outside of military wargames.
– The issues of having someone else publish your game and losing control of the final product

Really neat stuff!