Monday, July 28, 2014

Marilyn Manson On D&D--Live From Laney & Twiggy's Wedding 2014

Our party's intrepid halfling moves from strength to strength--last week she saved everyone from a total party kill after narrowly escaping being fat and she spent this weekend marrying a rock star.

Your humble correspondent was given a great deal of whiskey by some ladies on the catering crew that he suspects were fans of his movies, got to tell Kerry King that Slayer changed his life, and discussed with the Best Manson a lot of things on a great number of topics that are best left unrepeated and a few things I can repeat about his relationship to Gygax and Arneson's baby, the World's First and Finest Role-Playing Game on this Day Before Gygax's birthday.

I could insert a long essay here about how music industry people all inevitably turn out to be weird involuted hobbyists about something very private and how talking to people at Laney and Twiggy's wedding reveals most of their friends are people who make things and collect things and how much of what was at the wedding like the birdcages and dresses and whatever was actually put together by the folks involved and then somehow loop that around to how Laney herself became a special-effects make-up person on account of Gwar and the late Oderus Ungus is such a D&D guy he wrote a module for Lamentations of the Flame Princess and how metal and D&D and special effects and performance are all kind of locked together in exactly the kind of way you'd expect despite frequent attempts to pretend otherwise because the best way to play D&D is after a long week of being out in the world drunk in the dark and really really really not playing D&D the same way it's nice to take a bath, alone, after 8 hours of soccer and then maybe talk about the double standard where everybody takes it as read that it's grown-ups-run-amuck-conservative lunacy for parents to try to police what's in a Slayer or Manson video but some third party D&D product it's like Watch Out OMG Problematic if there's a boob but either I'll save that for another day or I just wrote it.

Anyway, here's Manson on the game:

(Note for the record lately he's taken to talking in a speeded-up True Detective accent)

Zak: Laney comes over to our house and plays D&D.

Manson: Is it advanced D&D?

Zak: Sorta, it's actually kind of a hybrid.

Manson: I had AD&D, I got DMG, I gots Monster Manual, I got pewter figurines.

Zak: Did you color in your own dice?

Manson: I didn't color in mah own dice, but I painted the pewter figures.

Zak: Did you do a base coat?
(Why did I ask that?)

Manson: I did a base coat, did a overall coat--I put the paint on all wet so it went down in the cracks.

Zak: You did a wash.

Charlotte Stokely: Should I call you Brian or Manson while you're here?

Manson: Call me God, call me Overlord, call me Boss, call me…well I guess you can't call me Dungeon Master because you the dungeon master. I like that tattoo son, it's like Carcosa--I got that Carcosa tattoo too right here.
The pair of tattoos in question

(I take Manson by the glove and hold both our spirals up to Stokely's face in an attempt to hypnotize her. It doesn't work.)
Left: Charlotte Stokely, (level 11 tiefling wizard). Right: Manson

Zak: You probably haven't heard about the Carcosa D&D module--but you'd probably like it.
(brief pause for Laney and Twiggy to get married)

Zak: You were an elf wizard weren't you?

Manson: Nah, I was the dungeon master.

Zak: You didn't ever play a character?

Manson: I was into the drow.

Zak: Were you an elf thief?

Manson: Yeah.


So there you go. Everything they say about Dungeons & Dragons is true.
Brian before D&D
Brian during D&D
Brian after D&D

And congratulations to Laney and Twiggy….

Weird footnote: the same day I did this thing on Manson, his ex did a thing on me.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mandy Morbid on the D&D 5th Edition Consultant Thing

From her Tumblr….

More Reasons People Found to Hate Me

So, a long time ago I started playing Dungeons & Dragons. Well really I started playing Warhammer 40K first, and painting the minis while I was recovering from surgery. I wasn’t healing properly and I didn’t respond to my post op pain medication—in fact it made me so sick I stopped taking it less than 48 hours after my surgery—so I was on my own basically as far as recovery was going. Zak was taking care of me. He had bought me a Wii to play during recovery but I was too sick to sit up long enough to play and in too much pain to manage the controller. I was also getting cabin fever being so sick and stuck in bed. So Zak then brought me some minis to paint, Daemonettes and Sisters of Battle and Harlequins for homebrew Warhammer 40K games. Our nerdier friends came over and I could play from bed, or sitting on the floor—we spread our terrain out over our studio apartment floor.
Warhammer 40K lead to D&D when my friend Satine Phoenix heard about my interest. She had been playing since she was in high school and she missed it—so D&D With Porn Stars was born. I first played a thief but this only lasted one or two sessions. I quickly abandoned my (to me) boring thief and rolled up a half-demon (abandoned on the steps of a cathedral) cleric of Vorn—grim god of iron and rain. I also quickly started recruiting my friends to play with us. I wasn’t well and I missed hanging out and this was an activity where my physical limitations didn’t matter at all. My friend Kimberly Kane (AVN best actress winner and Feminist Porn Director award winner) started playing with us—probably the most unlikely D&D player out of all my friends—then my friend Connie—we danced together at Cheetah’s a bikini bar in Hollywood. Connie is shy and has social anxiety and so I was well enough to go back to the club and tell her about our games backstage between our sets before she finally joined in. Then our friend Frankie who, like Connie and I, was a Suicide Girl model. And my siblings started playing with us whenever they were around, on the rare visits to LA and back home in Canada during the holidays.
Our campaign had been running for a year when the Escapist contacted us, Zak’s blogging about our adventures interested them, and they wanted us to film our games for a weekly web series, so that’s when we started filming I Hit With My Axe.
Awhile before IHWMA went online Zak had already had to defend me & my girls on an internet forum after someone on a podcast called us “brain damaged”. The guys involved in the podcast apologized to us—well to Zak first as he was the one most tuned into this stuff at the time—when Zak called them on that bullshit—but the forum reaction was appalling and the forum pretty much discriminated against Zak for years after. And what I saw, as a woman gamer, on that forum was pure hatred for anything different. For someone like me daring to play a make believe elf-game and for someone like Zak to post online about girls like me and my friends playing tabletop role playing games. I saw how they hated Zak for sticking up for us, I saw how no one EXCEPT Zak stood up for us, and then I saw how some of them decided to hate Zak for calling them on their bullshit loudly and aggressively. 
So before Axe went online I already had a certain degree of trepidation about exposing myself as a gamer to masses of mostly white male hobbyists. We talked about it. I am not one to let fear stop me from doing something I want to do. I knew parts of Axe were going to be challenging for me, and they were.
The hostility I had glimpsed on that one forum (StoryGames) had made me feel like I wasn’t at all wanted in the hobby but my reaction my whole life to nonsense exclusion like that was to fucking rebel. So you don’t like girls playing your boy games? Oh we’re not playing the games YOU like? We’re not playing exactly the way you like to play with the rules you like? Well I don’t give a fuck what you think. I give a fuck about what I like, and I fucking know what I like, and I am going to show you all how much fun we are having. I got a lot of my porn friends to come play with us as guest stars on Axe, and many of them continued to play with regularly outside of the filmed gamed sessions. I wanted all my friends to come play with me. 
So Axe went ahead and got made.
And the misogyny washed over us. In a series of tidal waves after the first few episodes aired. You wouldn’t…well women would…believe the awful stuff people said ( example:”I don’t feel like watching hookers make noise”). Satine and I got on the Escapist forums and started defending ourselves, we engaged with the people not being total dicks. Connie and Frankie joined in too. Eventually more and more people started shouting the idiots and their sexism down and Axe hit it’s stride and became quite popular. We had a lot of fun making that show but we really got shit on for doing it. 
Anyway, Zak’s blog got more popular. He also started working on Vornheim: The Complete City Kit, for running D&D type adventures in a city setting. When Vornheim was published it sold out and won a bunch of awards, including the IndieCade award (usually a video-game award) for technology of all things.
A friend of ours knew a guy who’s a writer who wanted to write about our group for Maxim. So we were in Maxim, a sweet and friendly article, a little bit about us personally, a little bit about the game session that night where we had the reporter playing with us, a little bit about how people who do porn are really just normal people, and some nude photos of us sitting around our game table with a lot of colourful snacks and dice and everyone’s nipples cleverly hidden behind limbs or copies of the Monster Manual.
(Different photoshot ^^ with me, Connie, Laney Chantal, Charlotte Stokely, shot by Paradox Productions/D23)
And we got hated on more and more. And Zak went on doing what Zak does when people say fucked up shit about me and our friends: he defends us—loudly and aggressively. And he went on doing the same thing when people said fucked up shit about him too. Or anyoneelse, even people he doesn’t know—if they are being attacked unfairly too (read the comments in that last link). 
Have you seen the youtube video about Phil Fish? You should. Especially if you, like me never heard of Phil Fish. It’s relevant. Here’s the link: 
Meanwhile, offline, and elsewhere online we went on with the non-gamer parts of our lives. I was getting sicker, not better, over the years. That’s become a pretty massive part of our lives. Zak has always always taken care of me when I needed it, and our other friends as well. For nearly all of 2011 we were in Montreal trying to use my Canadian health care to find out what was happening to me. (Originally I was going to start university there—where I’m from—and split my time between LA and porn, and home and school, but my health was rapidly degenerating and I am still not in any shape to attend classes, get around campus and cope with the work load.) We started playing a lot more games on Google +’s video chat during this time since we were away from our friends.
It was Satine’s idea to use G+ group video chats to play games and Zak started this thing called ConstantCon up, where people are running tabletop rpgs on G+ all the time and lots of people from all over can meet up and play, which is pretty great for people having trouble finding cool people to game with in person or for people who are far from their usual group.
I was in Montreal drowning in a medical system not designed to care for someone with a rare and poorly understood chronic and degenerative and difficult-to-identify genetic syndrome, waiting for the next test, the next appointment, trying not to despair as I lost my ability to walk and no one could help me, and more wouldn’t even take me seriously, when our issue of Maxim came out. G+ got pretty noisy about it for awhile. Zak was defending us again because some people were saying us being in Maxim was bad for women, and bad for women in gaming. I joined in to speak for myself. It was messy and stressful. Lines were drawn in the sand at that point. I’m currently trying to work things out, move past that notorious argument, with one of the women involved. So I am not going to link to that mess. 
But, in general, the hate kept coming…..
There was a horrible incident where I, some gamer women friends tried to articulate a different opinion about sexism in gaming than the typical anti-chainmail-bikini "ladyism"and tried to speak up about the “white knighting” we were experiencing in the online hobby community:
And Zak keeps defending people, me, my girlfriends, people he doesn’t even know, online friends, and he keeps getting seriously mischaracterized as a troll or some horrible ethically unacceptable thing just, basically, for asking people honest questions. He keeps calling people on their bullshit and so he’s seen by some people as being the bad guy. He’s not a bad guy.
He is a guy in an unusual place: he has one of the most popular blogs in tabletop gaming but doesn’t make his money in the gaming industry—so he has the ability to reach people without the same fear of making waves that a full-time RPG designer would. He is in the rare position of being able to tell the truth and be listened to, so he feels an obligation to stick up for people.
Here’s an example of an event involving Zak that pissed a lot of people off. It’s recounted on someone else’s blog: Trigger warning here, for sexual assault, threats, etc, and I don’t agree with the tone or language used in the post linked: …but it’s all true. Someone made up a lie, 80 people endorsed it, Zak told everybody not to trust those people, some apologized and that was great—most got pissed and even more self-righteous.
Fast forward to now:
There’s a lot of talk online in some places recently about some “controversial" consultants on Dungeons & Dragon’s 5th edition. 
My boyfriend Zak is one of the consultants.
I’ve dealt with a lot of bullshit online when it comes to gaming myself but it’s culminating in death threats and boycotts and smears and a lot of generally creepy and disturbing stuff.
Since the 5th edition came out Zak’s been accused of ableism and homophobia and transphobia and a few other nasty things too, sexism, trolling, etc. It’s all basically libel and I’ve posted about the nonsensical “ableism” accusations already. (Do you know how many disabled people are in my home group? 2 regulars, and one irregular.) When the people responsible for these accusations are questioned or asked for proof they invariable fail to provide any. Some claim to fear for their safety. Some claim they don’t have the time. WOTC—the company that runs D&D—has asked people to email them proof and got nothing at all damning on Zak. It’s pretty atrocious behaviour, going all the way to creepy-as-fuck threats and posturing.
The most active group started life as a weird militant pro-4th-edition D&D (it sounds stupid, I know) Something Awful thread that attacked me for having electrical cords on my wish list. These people still bear a grudge to this day for Zak catching one of their members openly lying.
What distinguishes the online RPG business from others is the trolls are actually professional game designers—the Something Awful veterans cluster around something called Funhaver Games, headed by someone variously credited as Brandon Schmelz or Alyssa Schmelz when designing games, “Smartmonkey” “Mikan” or “Brandon Mikan” when trolling, and “Tablehop” on twitter. They also keep active on RPGnet where Schmelz’s friend Paul Matijevic is a moderator under the name Ettin.
Meanwhile people like me, Connie (my black/mixed race girlfriend—yes THAT kind of girlfriend), Scrap Princess (trans- gamer in Zak’s group and longtime friend), Satine (another friend, gamer and woman-of-colour who’s spoken (TW) publicly (*some minor factual errors in that article*) about the abuse she survived as a child, Izzy (who is my friend and a fellow gamer but also suffers from the same genetic syndrome as I do and uses a wheelchair like me) and many gay people, trans- folk, women and people of colour, many of whom have never even met Zak keep getting ignored whenever we try to speak up about this or about Zak.
Connie and I
Our opinions, our experiences, don’t count. We’re harder to target and make shit up about than Zak, who’s white, cis, straight, able bodied and male. The people attacking Zak continuously pretend we don’t exist because it makes their argument easier. They are trying to smear Zak for “silencing LGBT people” by, literally, ignoring voices of LGBT people in the discussion.
One white cishet guy even decided we all have Stockholm syndrome.
All this upsets me, more than it upsets Zak I think. All the libel and negative attention, even on the tiny scale of the tabletop RPG community (which is nothing compared to the bullshit you read about yourself in the porn world, but somehow hurts more because it’s from people pretending to be responsible). I’m Canadian, I don’t like conflict, I don’t like being involved in conflict. But I do feel morally obligated to stand up for what I believe is right. I was raised on Star Trek TNG—as an educational tool. So that’s what I’m doing. Zak’s pissed some people off yeah. But he isn’t the devil he’s been painted as. He’s fucking awesome.
These are some of my negative experiences as a girl gamer, as a fairly high profile girl gamer. People have always attacked Zak because he’s an easier target, because he is brave and bold and unflinching when it comes to standing up to bullies, because he’s out there watching out for people like me, Satine, Connie, Charlotte Stokely, artists, creators, performers, and gamers, anyone who the gatekeepers are trying to shame and intimidate out of the hobby. 
If there is any such thing as an online tabletop RPG community, and I think there is a bit, I think we need to be questioning people’s behaviour, and I think it’s only fair to warn people about those who talk a big game about inclusivity and tolerance and who in practice are doing just the opposite, and have been all along. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

They Should Be Put In A Pit With Wild Dogs

Still editing new I Hit It With My Axe episodes...
Connie's video editing notes
Here's some…well you wouldn't call it mainstream press I guess but literary world press--me getting interviewed for about the new edition of D&D.

I think it does a little better than hit the usual notes.
Here is a frog that has Mandy's dice.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Help Make The Ennies Not Suck!

The Ennies, EnWorld's annual RPG awards, are weird. Remember that year Vornheim lost best supplement to a bunch of dungeon tiles?

I have no idea how that works, but here's the link to vote for the judges for EnWorld's annual Ennie awards.

Personally I've seen Annah Madrinan, Harald Wagener, Kiel Chenier and Doyle Tavener all be pretty fair- and broad- minded about game stuff. So that's how I'm voting, but you should vote how you like. Put a 1 next to whoever you like most, a 2 next to your next fave, etc etc…

Here's a picture of a weird puppet you should make into a monster:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Actual Play, Actual Cake, Actual Princess Testimony

Good Morning

Editing new I Hit It With My Axe episodes...
Connie left Mandy right
…plus running an online game where like the players are sailing and ran into a floating libraryship and chaos pirates simultaneously, so it's hard to keep adventures straight in my head, so I might be writing this short actual play report more for me than you but here goes…

Actually Playing Reportage From The Red & Pleasant Land

After teleporting away from the vampire, Charlotte cornered a local woodcutter in a hidden village and--after asking about his woodsmanship and how good he was with wood and generally just doing that a lot because that's how Charlotte is, got a hot tip that the Red Knight of Tiamat had been seen menacing a nearby poet.
The ladies decided hey why not fuck with that, right?

So after putting the woodsman and some villagers to work making catapults, they headed to the Gardens of Garvalde--in the center-right here:
Count the fuckups on my map...

They hunted about and found a passage through a door that lead beneath the earth, then saw a vasty murky pool  in which floated what appeared to be and was not leopard-printed, giant, moist ravioli. It was stinging giant jellyfish floating and the the wizard incinerated them because lightning does double damage to submerged creatures.

Beyond was a sitting room, with all the furniture on the backs of old, slow turtles, happy to see anyone after thousands of years of unacknowledged service in the deep and cushy dungeon. And happy to help.

(Turtles, by and large, make poor villains--turtles are eager to help, and grateful for love. Think of Mario--the idea of an evil turtle is just funny.)

Anyway, luckily for the dramatic arc there was a demon-summoning room beyond. And luckier, the players decided to sleep in the turtle room, instructing the turtles to warn them if anyone approached.

Mandy, still playing an Alice and an inch tall due to a diminishing confection consumed a day before, slept in a drawer and got awoken by a rattling sound. "Pardonnn," said an old reptile, "there appearrrrs to be an individ-u-allll skulll-kingg abouuuttt…"

The skulker turned out to be a summoned demon--it grabbed the party cleric and demanded the others go fetchquest the poet.

Who wants a poet? I don't know. Fucking random tables. I'll think of something. I think I have two days to think of something. I know the Red Knight is very pro-censorship as is the Red Church's wont.

Anyway, while the cleric and entrapping demon flirted via parts of Mariah Carey songs (what the fuck, This Session?) (Long story: basically the cleric kept trying to entertain herself without rolling any dice) the wizard and the Alice found a bridge, with three Red Rooks.

…here represented by big dice
They froze Stokely's wizard with a riddle about something found in a mine and entombed in wood and never comes out and but everybody uses it anyway. Luckily the Rooks didn't notice the inch-tall Alice so couldn't riddlefreeze her.

After Many/Alice pulled an aborted backstab attempt and getting knocked off a bridge this unbelievably goofy fucking day was looking like a possible total party kill:

Alice was an inch-tall, had fallen 40 feet, and was a bad die roll away from zero hit points. Stokely's wizard was paralyzed by a riddle she couldn't answer and the cleric was far away in the 9-armed embrace of a nameless demon who scalded her with unholy water whenever it couldn't think of an awkward R&B reference to counter her only slightly less awkward R&B reference (Moriah is her patron goddess. Which I suppose I need to get to work on. Still smarting from having to work Captain Beefheart into the theogony.)
Luckily at that point Laney showed up...
…I think actually just to help Mandy with some stuff but everyone was like Holy fuck laney help!!!!! So she did. She ranger-sneaked through the grass on her Mome Rath and made off with the poet, just as Stokely managed to figure out her riddle (Highlight to see the answer: pencil) and quickly fended off the next one (the answer was the letter M, can't remember the question).

So that's good--next week I suppose they'll hunt the Red Knight in earnest. Or some other thing I have no idea it's not like players ever do what they're supposed to.

In Other News

It's my birthday this week...
...Mandy and Connie made a cake with a cherry and Dr Pepper reduction sauce... was good.
...I also got a 3d pen, some legos, the Book of Vile Darkness (I think the actual one), and Kirin of Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor got me Hawaiian chicken and Connie won first place in a stripper contest and I got a nice note from Scrap Princess:

Just for the record Zak Smith is a friend of mine and I am trans.
I have not found him to be transphobic or anything he has done to be transphobic.

People are calling him transphobic or passing on that other people are saying he is transphobic without checking that out.
 Which is shit because
a) It's a fucking lie
b) Transphobia is something that is bad and important and as a transperson I fucking hate you if you are using it to shore up some shitty argument you are having. Show me why you are saying this so I can know and make effective decisions or all you are proving is transphobia means fuck all to you

In the category of Birthday Presents For Everybody that link also goes to some other Scrap inventions which you should check out if you like Vornheim, there's

Weird dungeon morphologies
Wizard gimmicks
Warrior elites, and
Kinds of spies, like...

8.  Agent Provocateurs , misdirectors and sowers of vast suggestions of conspiracy. Editors of history and archeological vandal, defilers of vaults and tombs. What for? To always confuse the actual history of the world. They do not know the true history,but just know it never should be known. The possibility of It gnaws at them. The founder knew but took his own memory before starting the guild. This is one story. Others are told. Like post-modernist but even more neurotically driven.

Also, y'know the release of 5th edition has made Jeff start blogging again and Deep Carbon Observatory is the probably most avant-garde RPG product since ever and you should buy it to encourage the brave and spite the wicked.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mandy Morbid Interview, Hatter, Random Stupid Tax Table, Actual Play Report

There's still a lotta drama in the wake of 5th edition D&D being released with me credited as a consultant.

But since all the drama just makes my publisher money, it's kinda stupid and the people involved do seem to slowwwwwwwwly be realizing that. Anyway:

Here's the group getting shot for some magazine….
Heads clockwise from top left: Laney (halfling ranger and viridian knight, Connie--half elf thief, Charlotte Stokely--tiefling wizard, Mandy Morbid--tiefling cleric, make-up by LaneyBabes)

Here's an interview (with a lotta barelySFW pictures) that Mandy did. It's mostly about Mandy and her illness and how smart she is, not D&D, but maybe people wanna know, so there it is.

We're rolling tomorrow, here's what happened last weekend:

The Hatter is a guy with a cylindrical hat in which he has a hare. An Al'Mi-Raj actually. It has a horn.

They are agents of The Pale King, and like all his agents, they collect his taxes.

Roll D20:

1. Leg tax--d100gp per leg.

2. Pie fee--d100gp per pie. If the party has no pie, 4d100 fine for pielessness.

3. Motion levy--d100gp per foot moved in tax agent's presence.

4. Picture toll--d100gp per image carried, tattooed on skin or inscribed or sewn on the party's clothes or armor.

5. Smile tithe--d100gp per happy party member.

6. Consumption tax--d100 per party member with tuberculosis, or anyone looking wan and withdrawn.

7. Smuggling toll--d100gp per non-local item.

8. Pulchritude fee--d100gp per point of charisma.

9. Confiscatory tax--d100gp per gp taken by party from any defeated foe.

10. Inherit ants tax--Pale agent smears honey on party members, demands d100gp per ant attracted.

11. Cap and hole gains tax--d100gp per piece of headgear in party and for every opening or hole in equipment or clothing carried by party.

12. Poor tax--d100gp for each member unable to produce d100gp.

13. Knuckle fee--d100 per knuckle.

14. Income tax--d100gp from each party member for entering any interior.

15. Sails tax--d100gp per party member able to pilot a watergoing vessel.

16. Proper tea tax--d100gp per party member unable to produce a decent cup of tea. The Tea Party strenuously objects to this tax.

17. Valuable adder tax--d100gp per party member carrying a useful snake.

18. Ex-eyes tax--d100gp per missing eye in party.

19. Pole tax-d100gp per pole arm.

20. Lie sensing fee-d100gp per time the party notices anyone lying.

I was hoping the Hatter and his weird watch would get to reign some chronal havoc on the party, but they played it cool and made a deal: in exchange for an "intercepted" message allegedly sent by the Colorless Queen, the party made 10,000gp. They then had to pay 10,000gp in consumption taxes (the Hatter had some big scales). However, since the payment was new it got them xp. Which, hey: Wonderland, ok?

They retrieved a rusty box with a face inside, an old lady used it to fix a skin condition Laney'd managed to acquire.

They spoke into the ear of a corpse to summon The Pseudoturtle and give it another copy of the "message".

Then some overland travel and an encounter with a Pale Rook: (think big hydrocephalic tweedledum) he demanded a Motion Levy.

The best part was:

Ok, last time Laney rolled a 1 to hit a vampire and hit Tyler, then the Mome Rath she was riding also rolled a 1 and knocked him out. The exact same 400-to-1 shot happened again today.

They kept trying to throw a shrinking cake into his mouth, it didn't work--but eventually he did get ganked. Mandy--playing a shrunken Alice--did take a lot of falling damage, being an inch tall and all.

Then it was off to Castle Poenari to seek the Red King and deliver him another false message from the Colorless Queen. One of his three red brides received them--and offered the players a mountain of gold to kill him for her.

I think she ended up sounding like the dwarf's whore (Shae?) from Game of Thrones.

GMing Principle

NPCs with who look players right in the eye and talk verrrrry slowly freak players out.

Anyway they were like about 45 minutes worth of uncomfortable with her, trying to figure out what to do and who to trust. 

After much argument, they remembered they were D&D PCs and so walked into the vampire king's palace where he waited with a bride, 4 vampire pawns and 6 vampire knights, said hello, negotiated with the doddering and beardo weirdo, then tried to kill him and take his stuff.

The wizard had a clever plan to trap the king in with them in a wall of force.
Ok, would-be-clever because the king just turned into a bat and flew right through it, leaving the party surrounded.

Which is perfect, really--it's so hard to engineer that "archvillain gets away" moment. And there we left it.
For more pictures and stuff about the girls and the group, click the tag "players" for more actual play reports hit the "actual play" tag, for more about the unending 5E D&D consultant drama just scroll past the last few entries, for more random tables hot the tag "New Random Tables/Charts", for more about the RPG book the Hatter is from, hit "Eat Me"

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Teachable Moment From All This

...Now, then, is Mr. McNulty capable of having a civil conversation with Mrs. McNulty?
Yes, your honor.
And is Mrs. McNulty equally capable of having a conversation with Mr. McNulty? 
Good, then I'm going to lunch. And let's see when I return if we can't busy this court with something just a little more engaging than the problems of the McNultys.

-The Wire, Episode 10

Court, blog, whatever.

I would like this to be my very last post concerning D&D 5th edition-related controversy. Let's see how we can do. It will be very inside-baseball, unfortunately, so if you don't care, skip to the pictures. I will still answer any questions, though because why wouldn't I?

Trigger warning, seriously, sexual violence ahead

This isn't sexual violence...
…these are just some pictures from my book to keep the triggery bits near the bottom

Rape In Games As An Example Of Stuff Nobody Usefully Talks About Because Everybody Wants To Get Along

So one of the people who lied about me this last week because they were sad that I was a Dungeons & Dragons consultant--Wundergeek--once wrote a list of things she was "tired of". Most of them were 100% legit and anyone would be tired of them--or, more likely, deeply alarmed and angry about them.

In the middle, there's this statement:

I am tired of game scenarios that feature rape.

I am tired of game settings that feature rape.
I am tired of men who write rape being praised for their “creative vision”.

I am tired of seeing people who speak out against rape in popular game material denounced as crazy fascists who hate freedom.

I am tired of gamers who complain when games that feature rape are banned, not translated, or otherwise not made available for English-speaking audiences.

Obviously there are lots of reasons to feel this way and many are not bad.

My point in this entry here is not to defend rape in games, I'm not somebody who's ever found much that was gameable in that particular area of human experience--my point lies elsewhere.

In the list of 5th edition consultants, there is at least one of these men who write about rape and are praised for their "creative vision".  Can you spot him?

Hint: It's not me and it's not the RPGPundit.

It's the very decent (and I mean that: he's cool, he stayed on my couch) and well-respected man who wrote this:

There are 40 naga-kin in Pralaj and about 200 villagers and revived corpses held prisoner while slowly being raped, tortured, and drowned into a susceptible state for transformation into naga-kindred.


From here, they prepare the coming of the Naga into her kingdom, and send naga-kin down the River to rape and drown the people into following her. 

Now one reason he (I'll call him Doc Respectable, I hope he won't mind) has not been called out by Wundergeek or anybody else in a coterie of people that, largely gets very het up about rape in games and about what is in the world's most popular RPG is because he is a professional. And by that I don't mean he maintains a responsible and professional demeanor (although he does) I mean that, unlike the RPGPundit (the other consultant who pissed people off) and I, Doc Respectable's daily bread relies on tabletop roleplaying games.

Professional Means Pretending Not to Have Opinions

While Doc Responsible will write about rape in a game, it is dangerous for him to mount his own defense of the practice in places where RPGs are discussed on the internet. He could piss someone off who he might have to work with later. It's just not advisable.

Me and theRPGPundit don't have that problem, which is one reason we can reach levels of say-whatever-we-think-all-the-time-about-games that elude many professionals and was probably one reason we were hired. We were folks with a track record of not pulling punches because of having no reason to pull punches.

But I want to emphasize this: the other consultants--they have punches. Here is Doc Respectable, in another game he wrote, almost punching:

Tediously Obligatory Disclaimer
This game simulates mental illness as seen in Lovecraftian and Lovecraft- inspired fiction and gaming. It should not be confused with real psychology, even the real (and mostly outmoded) psychology of the 1920s and 1930s. Although no disrespect is intended to those suffering the real-life effects of mental illness, we submit to those concerned by this issue that horror is meant to be irresponsible, disreputable, and upsetting

you would not want to get into an online fight with Doc Respectable about what is and is not acceptable in RPGs. He has as many or more facts more readily at his fingertips than anyone I've ever met. But you never will get in a fight with Doc Respectable online about anything ever and neither will anyone else. His job won't allow it.

And, frankly, neither will Shanna Germain's job, or Monte Cook's job, or any other top-level game designer who has written settings with rape in them.

Wundergeek's friend Vincent Baker--designer of Apocalypse World and the most important designer in a scene whose members came out in force against me and (especially) the RPGPundit, is perhaps the epitome of a Male Game Designer Who Writes About Rape (in both Seclusium of Orphone and Poison'd) And Is Praised For His Creative Vision.

But they don't talk about it--at least not publicly. Even if the professionals involved weren't skittish, the indie game community is conflict-averse because it is self-conscious about trying to build a big, inclusive community that avoids conflict--and, in some cases, build a customer base. (And in some cases they're conflict averse because the people are just emotionally not built to back up what they dish out and not intellectually equipped to realized they just dished right onto someone else.)

And so we get lots of trenchant Concerned Gamers re-posting Wundergeek's I Am Tired litany and re-posting Vincent Baker's latest project in the same day and there is no good public conversation about the cognitive dissonance and how to resolve it. Like: How you handle rape and why, in public, with examples from Respectable figures in the field given first-hand and input from affected groups.

Maybe they do talk about it in private: but these conversations don't help the rest of us. How does one navigate the minefield of issues?

Taking The Bullet

So when do Concerned Gamers put Wundergeek's very popular sentiment "I am tired of game settings that feature rape" side-by-side with a game setting that features rape? When is this cognitive dissonance addressed?

When someone who is:
-Not a major professional
...and who:
-None of Wundergeek's friends likes anyway

…shows up.

Like the guy who wrote CarcosaTo perhaps over-simplify: Carcosa is an Old School Renaissance game, most of the Concerned Gamers aren't Old School Renaissance people, so Carcosa is fair game to rip apart in public, over and over, unlike Seclusium of Orphone.

In short: Carcosa was written by an outsider.

My main aim is not to point out that this is unfair (though it might be--depending on whether you think there are important differences between the way rape is depicted in Seclusium, Carcosa, Qelong, Numenera, Cthulhutech and Poison'd) but to point out that the outsider, less-respected game takes the bullet for a discussion about rape that could and should have been addressed thoroughly years before within the community making the critique.

And so does, in this case, the guy who sticks up for it. That is: me. Which I am loathe to do because the author of Carcosa is not  a guy I know much about. He might be sexist for all I know--but his game isn't. It's just a game about horror--or at least that's what the victims of sexual violence I have talked to it about that I know from the porn business say.

In the course of that discussion I linked, someone suggests Wundergeek is a standard by which to judge the morality of games. I point out Wundergeek's not exactly the most progressive voice when it comes to expressing the merits of creative freedom and I compare her to Tipper Gore, and Wundergeek decides I'm an enemy for life and attacks me.

Meanwhile the guy who ran the Story-Games site kicks me off it for having this conversation while telling me that he would totally play Carcosa.

Poor me--No. This isn't about that. If this whole controversy's not bigger than me or the RPGPundit and people being unfair, it is all pointless and dumb and of no interest to anyone else.

 But it isn't because there's a moral here: I may have been meaner than anybody on Story-Games, I dunno, but I also engaged more often on that site than anyone else outside the Story-Games community. You'll have a tough time finding a DIY D&D guy who was on there more than me. It's not about me: These incidents are the kinds of things that are going to happen when game communities that are basically isolated try to seriously talk to each other about anything important.

Disasters of First Contact

These are disasters of first contact.

Talking between RPG communities can be painful and dumb. Like here is me trying to learn  what the hate with Carcosa is all about from a bunch of pro-4e/social justice trolls. (Note that, to non-members, the word "rape" will display as "surprise sex" if you click the link.)

It sucked and they were jerks about it and some of them were the same people who engineered the smear attempt, but it was also probably the most comprehensive and useful conversation about how these people view rape in RPGs that I have ever seen.

Are you interested in finding stuff out? I am. Are you willing to take the bullet for it? Maybe not. That's ok.

But I tell you this: pretty much every single group of people I pissed off talking on-line (and who, therefore, were willing to believe half-assed troll shit about me), I pissed off during one of these gruesome "first contact" conversations.

If you believe me, skip these blocks of text. If you don't, here's the evidence:

First Ever Contact With Indie Gamers
Zak (whistles, minding own business)
Indie Gamer: I think the women in your group have brain damage
Zak: WTF?
Worst Indie Gamers: Why are you so mean, Zak?

Did nobody ever explain to Eero Tuovinen and McDaldno and Johnstone and all these other Story-Games regulars that when someone calls a bunch of women "brain damaged" because they don't play the same game as them and someone calls that misogynistic behavior out, that's awesome? Why are they bothering me with this shit?

First Ever Contact With Tracy Hurley and Filamena Young
Zak (whistles, minding own business)
Advocate for Inclusion In Gaming : The women in your group appearing in Maxim causes problems for women.
Zak : WTF?
Advocates for Inclusion In Gaming : Why are you so mean, Zak?

Did none of the women in corsets in the sexy vampire RPG writer community ever explain to Filamena Young and Tracy Hurley that some women don't like to wear a lot of clothes in public and that's their right and not bad for women? Why are they bothering us with this shit?

First Ever Contact With Something Awful Goons
Zak (whistles, minding own business)
Something Awful trolls : You play AD&D & that's fucked, and that Carcosa supplement leads to rape and your girlfriend has electrical cords on her Amazon wishlist & that's fucked.
Zak : WTF?
Something Awful trolls : Why are you so mean, Zak?

Did nobody in the Concerned Gamer community ever explain to these people that they don't get to call LGBT women of color names because they play some other elfgame than them? Why are they bothering me with this shit?

First Ever Contact With Wundergeek
Zak (whistles, minding own business)
Wundergeek : Hyun Tae Kim should be pushed to the margins of the industry because he paints fetishy art and hentai is disgusting!
Zak : WTF?
Wundergeek : Why are you so mean, Zak?

Did Jessica Hammer or anyone at Gaming As Women or anybody else that Wundergeek worked with or talked to never explain to Wundergeek that other peoples' taste in porn is not her business and pin-up art is not the problem, art gatekeepers areWhy is she bothering artists with this shit?

...all this culminated in the fake-rape-threat incident, where James Des was punished by Ben Lehman and other indie gamers for defending a position Ben Lehman ally and indie game archangel Vincent Baker very likely may hold and agree with: a belief in the alleged usefulness of rape as a device in fiction. And then, apparently nobody before had told anyone in the Concerned Indie Gamer community that when you publicly endorse criminal accusations against some dude without proof, and then find out it's fake you then go and apologize.

Seriously--didn't these people have moms?

…I could go away tomorrow and James D could go away tomorrow, and James Raggi and the RPGPundit every other polarizing figure and this will just keep happening, because of all the nice people in gaming who don't ever want to get to the bottom of anything they consider important and divisive like how to deal with sex or race or violence or rape culture in games, until they have someone they don't already know to talk about it with (or, more likely, at).

All these people were pretty excited to get mad at me about 5e because I was the focus for a lot of repressed, unworked-out ire that should've been bled out through dialogue long before I ever met them.

I'm not saying they're being hypocritical, I think this is all motivated by a sincere desire to get along with friends and an apathy toward outsiders. And an outsider is going to be called "mean" or "graceless" or "bullying" for mounting a self-defense in a way that someone you already know isn't. It's an odd sociological fact that if you're looking to call someone "ableist" it's easier to pick on the guy you don't know with the girlfriend in the wheelchair than the guy you do know who is just the guy you do know.

I don't want to silence them. I want them to talk more. They might get better at it.

Old School D&D has trolls, too, but we don't believe them and retweet them and advertise their stuff. If Gleichman was like ROBIN LAWS FUCKED A GOOSE ON MY LAWN AND MADE A PIE FROM MY MOM'S BUTT! We'd be like, whatever, relax, Indie Gamers, that's just Gleichman, ignore him, and we'd tell him to shut the fuck up a lot--sorry Robin. But for some reason the indie gamers haven't evolved this behavior. Something Awful goons like Andri Erlingsson and Brandon Schmelz start smearing shit around and the indie gamers are all like "Hmmm…mayyybe…he did say 'problematic'..."

So You Have A Choice

So you have a choice, would-be-responsible RPG people with communities around you:
Fred Hicks at Evil Hat
Gaming As Women
RPGnet mods,
Jessica Hammer, Cam Banks, Lyndsay Peters, Rob Donoghue and all the rest:

A) Have some real dialogue about divisive stuff with your peeps


B) Know that you'll all basically be playing Whack-A-Scapegoat forever, because people from outside who cross your peoples' paths will get whaled on by half your friends while the other half hide in the corner glad it isn't them

And I'm not saying that choice A is obviously right at all times--there are fantastic reasons why people might not wanna talk about rape with each other.

But, really, when a Vital RPG Issue comes up: would you rather have a conversation about the Issue or about me?

If it has to be me, I'm cool with it: your friends' outrage sells books, which aren't a big source of income for me, but Raggi seems to like it. However: I'm guessing it doesn't always serve your best interests and it probably makes you feel kinda like a jerk.

"But we're not a monolith! How can 'we' have a conversation, we're a diverse group!"

No, dudes and dudettes, you totally can. If  Bruce Baugh can gin up a Zak Hate Thread on Google + or on Twitter, you can also talk about all the goddamn issues you people need to sort out. If you have more than 1000 people following you or any kind of moderation capacity: the next blow-up like this is on you for not having sorted it out before it happened. Trolls will be there forever--the fertile and gullible ground their BS needs to grow can only be provided when everybody is running around with a head full of unresolved anxiety about Who Is Good And Who Is Evil. And hey: come talk to me, come talk to DIY D&D, we are nothing if not here to help.

And like I told Mike Mearls when 5e hit: if anyone doesn't like it--you can always blame me.

Vincent Baker
4:27 AM
Yeah, I don't see anything mean or untrue about me. I think it's a sharp and good piece.
And now, some more fucking awesome pages from my fucking awesome D&D book that is coming out this awesome summer. Because why not:
Click to enlarge