Archive for May, 2012

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New Fire – Ok, now I’ll give it a look

May 28, 2012

I’ve been mostly sitting on the side with this one, expecting it to be deeply problematic (since, basically, that has been par for the course when it comes to RPGs set in non-white cultures…). But this interview on Gaming as Women looks pretty hopeful:

But probably the most important and fruitful experiences came from actually speaking with people of indigenous Mesoamerican descent. I was fortunate to find many such individuals who were interested in sharing knowledge and insight about their culture.
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At the beginning of New Fire I was very focused on books and archaeological information. Like many people, I just sort of assumed that these cultures were mostly dead and gone. But I learned early on that nothing could be further from the truth! Indigenous cultures are very much alive, and actually speaking to people who are part of those cultures is absolutely essential to understanding them.

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Witch Girls Adventures 2nd Ed Kickstarter

May 9, 2012

ETA: After reading a thread on RPG.net that talked a bit more about this game, I’m going to recommend AVOIDING IT. Between the free comic and this bit, this whole thing looks like it’s full of a LOT of issues and none of them good.

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I had been meaning to pick up the 1st edition some time ago, and it just slipped my mind. Naturally, I only find out about the kickstarter today, just before it closes, while I’m super broke. Here’s the page for the Kickstarter.

I have no personal experience of the game system, but the bits I’ve heard the designer speak on sounded interesting, especially as he does a lot of playtesting with women in the young adult crowd. Plus, supporting a creator of color!

I’ll have to put this on my list to get later.

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RPGs as games vs. RPGs as programming tools

May 9, 2012

I poke my head in at Enworld every so often to read up on D&D5E. So far it seems mostly like they’re keeping their cards close about what’s going on (or, you know, most of it is unformed and therefore nothing solid can be said and they don’t want to have the fanbase assume every possibility is a promise…)

Anyway, it highlighted a specific difference in expectations for RPGs. Traditionally, most RPGs are more like a programming language- it’s a set of tools the group uses to make situations and play, therefore, it has to be very broad, flexible and robust to accommodate the possibilities. (Specifically, it was people EXPECTING rules in D&D5 for “advancing monsters”…)

Vincent Baker’s post on System is very useful here:

Vincent Baker's chart on System

As he points out later in that post, the expectation for traditional rpgs is that the rules provide a lot of support for principled decisions – whether that comes in the form of simple rules and lots of GM decisions on the spot, or lots of rules for lots of situations to cover everything.

I’m comparing this against games that have a single situation that you play out, as the focus of the game – Grey Ranks, The Mountain Witch, Shab al-Hiri Roach etc. and how often games like these also get labeled, “Not a roleplaying game”. It’s that part of the expectation that some folks have is that all roleplaying games are supposed to support near infinite situation generation and continuous play, rather than be something with a beginning and endpoint.

It should also be pretty obvious that building tools to build games (and the advice to make GOOD situations to play with out of that) is much more difficult than to build a simple game that does a single scenario or a few scenarios.

Mostly, though, this is just an observation about both design expectations and communication about the games we play.

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Who’s fun matters, again?

May 8, 2012

I’ve always talked about how to have fun with games – and a lot of that has been also recognizing the things that get in the way of fun. I consider racism, sexism, hate of all types to get in the way of fun… but it’s always funny to see how many people will argue that you’re stifling their fun by saying you don’t want that stuff… because clearly 1) their fun depends on having hate in gaming, and 2) their fun matters more than your fun.

Liam brings up the core point that I’ve been saying and continue to point out:

The question to ask isn’t “How do we attract more women (or people of color, or queer people) to gaming?”

It’s “How do we stop driving them away?”

Part of it might be actually listening to the folks you want in. Typically it seems like every year or so there’s at least a couple of game forums that get into hand-wringing about it, and mostly the conversation pattern goes like this:

1. Someone brings up the question
2. People weigh in (varying from “This isn’t a problem” to “Here’s why”)
3. Marginalized group is ignored, attacked, and basically shoved to the side in the conversation. This may repeat across different conversations until the groups learn to either never talk about who they are or what they want, or they leave the space altogether.

4a. “Happy Ending” – only the most privileged folks remain in the conversation, and give each other hugs and cookies for having had a “pleasant” “reasonable” conversation and come to reasonable conclusions that in the end, nothing really needs to be done except the most superficial of symbolic actions. (Larger historical parallel – MLK’s Letters from a Birmingham Jail and his comments on “The White Moderate” are terribly on point in these situations)

4b. “Unhappy ending” – the angriest privileged folks act completely out of pocket, are not reined in by moderation, and the most assertive folks who argue against the ridiculousness perhaps hold on and fight back. Moderation becomes, “Close the thread”, thereby declaring both sides equally invalid in the perception of the community. Longer term, mods eventually start simply saying, “Don’t talk about being a woman, because that’s political and it has no place on these boards” or equivalent.

Notice in this process, the marginalized group remains marginalized, excluded and silenced.

At the first GenCon I went to, this question came up: “Why should we care about people of color?” And, the issues of who matters, and who’s fun matters highlight everything wrong with that question.

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