Archive for July, 2012


Wolsung: How’s that work?

July 30, 2012

More people are less than impressed with the exceedingly racist imagery.

The designer decided to say something:

The period of time the game is set in was chauvinistic and racist. When portraying such a period and letting players play characters grown in such an era we could take two approaches: gloss it all over and pretend racism never happens, or create a setting where racial stereotypes do exist and give the players the opportunity to face them and change them. I decided, that the first approach is not satisfying – pretending a problem do not exist rarely helps, while facing it usually does.

LOOK AT THE ART AGAIN. That’s not the European(“Vanadian”) representation of those people, that’s the actual, in-game, representation of people.

I’m failing to see how that creates a space to confront racism, instead of revel in it.

I understand why you may find the orcs/non-Europeans design choice disturbing, still it was not my intention to portray any of the races as a lesser race.


Here, this post, QUOTES THE GAME TEXT:

Orcs represent all that was unknown for the Europeans of our 19th century, dangerous and thus compelling. They are spiritual and impulsive where Vanadians are technological and calculating. Shamans, holy men, warrior monks, samurai, native hunters, desert nomads – orcs are living near to nature and their spirituality, untouched by western civilization.
Some Vanadians, driven by fear of the unknown, treat orcs as the “evil” race (not unlike the sinister Chinese and lecherous Turk clichés from 19th century novels), while others find them fascinating and compelling (not unlike the French artists of the belle époque inspired by the Far East).
For all of them the mystical, exotic, multicultural world of orcs remains a mystery.

Orcs don’t have to be chinese
Most inhabitants of Sunnir (analog to real-world Asia) are orcs. However, not all orcs are Asians and you can easily create characters inspired by other popular variants of a mysterious spiritual foreigner. These are the other archetypes and cultures that may inspire an orcish hero: gypsies, Siberian shamans, Native American hunters, Maori, Inuit.

“it was not my intention to portray any of the races as a lesser race.”

The characters you play in Wolsung are the people who can and should change the world – because they are designed to look at 19th century with your 21st century eyes and react to what they see with your sensibility.

Having said all that I do apologize once more – I really did not see that coming. Every culture has different traumas, different issues and see things in a different way. Before reading this topic I would never thought the game would provoke such a reaction. Lesson learned, I hope.

And here’s where things don’t make any sense at all.

Read the first paragraph I quoted – “create a setting where racial stereotypes do exist and give the players the opportunity to face them and change them. “

Ok, this is a game where we’re knowingly going to deal with, and fight racist stereotypes? But wait, now he NEVER EXPECTED PEOPLE TO TALK ABOUT RACIST IMAGERY and just didn’t think about all they oh-so-many histories of racist imagery.

Strange how people would claim to build a game ABOUT dealing with race issues, use Yellow Peril imagery, use the long standing bone-through-nose witchdoctor bit, that even gets used TODAY, and seem surprised that these reactions would come up.

How is it both a game about knowingly dealing with race issues but the designer couldn’t have expected to deal with race issues?

I think we know the answer.



The Stakes Hurdle

July 19, 2012

I’m realizing that one of the core aspects of most rpg play is a major hurdle – the whole process of conflict/task resolution and stake setting. What situations should we roll the dice? What are the possible outcomes?

Modern conflict resolution is simply an evolution of the past with fences put around to avoid the dysfunctional zones: railroading, test-spamming until someone fails, setting reasonable stakes, declaring stakes, negotiation amongst the table about what makes for reasonable outcomes, etc.

While this is functional enough, it’s also a high mastery technique- it demands the GM or the group be conversant enough to recognize what conflicts matter, what levels of failure matter, in the moment of play. Which is why you see groups trying a new game and having moments of “Oh, do we roll the dice now? Oh wait, maybe we should have done 5 minutes ago when you first started talking?” It’s procedurally simple and complex as a directive, which means – it works well enough, but it’s a terrible way to introduce new people and takes time to master.


Dog Eat Dog now printed and available for sale

July 4, 2012

Dog Eat Dog: A Game of Imperialsim and Assimilation in the Pacific Islands is now available for general purchase.

As far as teaching games go, this game does an amazing thing about showing people both how oppressive systems operate by hidden rules AND how people under those systems get twisted trying to survive under them. It’s an amazing game and I’m glade it’s finally hit print.

In Liam’s words:

Dog Eat Dog is a game of colonialism and its consequences. As a group, you work together to describe one of the hundreds of small islands in the Pacific Ocean, defining the customs of the natives and the mores of the outsiders arriving to claim it. One player then assumes the role of the Occupation force, playing their capable military, their quisling government, and whatever jaded tourists and shrewd businessmen are interested in a not quite pacified territory. All the others play individual Natives, each trying in their own ways to come to terms with the new regime. The game begins when the war ends. Through a series of scenes, you play out the inevitably conflicted relationship between the two parties, deciding what the colonizers do to maintain control, which natives assimilate and which run amok, and who ends up owning the island in the end.


Plot Killing Situation

July 3, 2012

So, a lot of 90’s GMing advice goes like this:

1. Create a tree of branching events (or, a line of events with branching paths that lead to the same places)
2. Along the way, the PCs are either:
a. “Investigating” (aka, following the clue trail)
b. “Doing a mission” which inevitably turns out one or more NPCs lied to them about the nature of what they were doing.

Notice that in both of these options, the pivotal issue is the PCs not knowing what is going on. And a lot of play sits around the players making their characters jump to try to get clues and find out what is going on. And this kind of stuff is used in all kinds of genres or games – not just mystery-investigation games!

It turns games into extended versions of this:
“Tell me what’s going on?”
“How about if I do this? Can you give me a clue?”
“What if I look over here?”
“This sucks.”

Anyway, aside from being an inefficient, and, for most games, a fundamentally unfun set up, what it’s done is left a lot of gamers spending too much energy and focus on developing things that aren’t fun for play at the cost of something that IS fun – situation.

A good situation is exciting EVEN IF the players know everything up front. There are compelling sides to take, and obvious stakes at hand, so the players get invested and push hard for the conflict. Compare that to clue chasing where “What are we doing and why?” is never revealed until the end.