Thursday, March 19, 2015

Controversial Figure In American Playful Landscape

So the eminent gameologist Jerome Larre asked me to participate in his game design series "5 Things I Learned Working On..." for the French gaming site Tartofrez--previous participants include Emily Care-Boss, of Breaking the Ice and some French RPG authors behind games like Inflorenza and Brigade Chimérique.

Since much of this is stuff I think I have already said on this blog, I thought I'd spice it up by posting not my original text (which you can read here if you're into the whole clarity thing ), but Google translate's fantastically creative retranslation of Jerome Larre's French translation of my English:

5 Tips: Red & Pleasant Land

RPLAs the excellent Vornheim before him, Red & Pleasant Land is a supplement for the least original for the game Lamentations of the Flame Princess . Built on the same approach, namely the proliferation of tools and tables to generate massive amounts of content rather than the description of a unique vision in stone, this supplement is tackling a whole country: Country wonders. If you play DnD or one of its clones, I know too advise you to take a look. Even if you do not use that as an inspiration is once again with Vornheim a playbook model filled to the brim with equipment directly playable.
About the author, S. Zak is an understatement to say that this is a controversial figure in American playful landscape. Having been initially known for his show I hit it with my shaft and his websiteDnD with pornstars , for several years he is regularly at the center of several controversies. The most ridiculous of all is to blame Wizards of the coast to have done part in the latest edition of DnDWe will do simple: it is not the subject today or will be tomorrow.By cons, if I asked to kindly participate in it "5 Things" is because I find that it produces very marked supplements with real style, particularly effective and playable. In general, it also has some interesting thoughts that are permitted by a freedom of tone and thought it particularly welcome at a time when it is difficult to publicly agree or disagree with someone without forces us to have to take the card of a particular chapel.
Besides, I want to copy here the warning that I put in the English version of the interview on the last of his 5 tips: 
+ this post expresses the views of Zak S. Not mine; 
it + said, I am delighted that he expresses them here and thank him; 
+ if anyone wants to express a different opinion on how a particular community helped on a specific project, you only need to write a " 5 tips "on it and I'll probably just as happy to publish it. The multiplicity of perspectives is part of the very concept of this series of posts, 
+ While the objective of tartofrez is not and will never be the cares of internal policy designers RPG US, I feel that this last point is particularly interesting that we, French often have a tendency to see the US scene as a monolithic and homogeneous whole.
In short, Zak just share 5 tips that he learned in Bossant on   Red & Pleasant Land  !
To discover Red & Pleasant Land  : 
To discover the site of Zak:  DnD with pornstars

0. Introduction

Red & Pleasant Land has sold very well. Within two weeks, he told me enough to pay a little more than a year's rent in downtown Los Angeles. In addition, every week, I receive messages from people who explain to me that they were able to use it to do things that I had not anticipated. More importantly, I continue to use it during my weekly sessions. This is the "thing gamer" produced independently which quickly sold this season.
This success allowed me to make sure that the 5 tips below were based.

1. Do not do things fairly well. Make them good!

In large companies RPGs, someone order something, another writing, then they return both at home and a third person did the illustrations. And it's even someone else - who has also often never played an RPG in his life - which is responsible for the layout. Conversely, small boxes, a person who wants to design a game does and then handles all other tasks, but in a somewhat mediocre because its main objective is primarily to demonstrate that it can design one game. Or go out on time.
In practice, this means that each product is usually about someone, somewhere in the chain wanted to do. More or less. And people read it and say it's almost good. But even those who wrote it does not use it.
I must say that things that are pretty much what you want, they already exist. If you want to play almost in the style of a book by Thomas Ligotti (an American horror writer), you can use Call of Cthulhu . If you want to about the District 9 , you Cyberpunk . In short, your new only useful if it is very widely and relentlessly new and specific. It should be exactly what you had in mind, right down to the last detail illustrations, rules or presentation. She has no interest if she just look like it would any RPG book dealing with the same theme. Your readers do not want to buy yet another game, just to learn the rules. They want to continue to play the games they already love, that is why they are part of the community.
So, do something that is so irresistible - at all levels - that reason comes more into play!

2. Write on a topic for which you are willing to read up

I have not had to read Lewis Carroll to write Red & Pleasant Land . I had the pleasure to read Lewis Carroll to write Red & Pleasant Land . Resume each passage by asking me, "How do I make a new monster? "Was great fun. Almost a game in itself. If you do not have fun you documenting a priori it means that you should be writing something else.
Once I had the idea (probably a bit silly) to make a game in the style of D & D that could have been summed up against Dracula Elizabeth Bathory in Wonderland. The ideas have multiplied during preparation. Of course, Elizabeth Bathory resumed the role of the Queen of Heart. Obviously, valet Cœurqui stole her pies was a high-level thief. The puddings were true puddings (types of monsters) in the largest donjonesque tradition, etc.
If you read a dense material interesting, well written and exciting, if it has a voice of its own, the ideas will multiply in your head. If your documentation is to browse some texts that do not excite you, they do not inspire you more. There are a few years, I have learned as a painter that if you did not like the phones it was better not to have them appear on the image. It's exactly the same with writing. Do not write on a subject you do not want to read (or at least you do not want to find out one way or another ... if your game speaks parachute, bail !).
The documentation should not be an obligation. If there are parts of your project that you did not like to discover, this will feel and the best is to remove them directly. Anyone can do his homework. We, we want only the parts that you loved.

3. The graphic design is terrible. And, yes, it counts.

You know the difference between a book and a blog post? You can have the same mechanical and even the same images, but a blog that will make thousands of people fly over your ideas a book where they will read them, criticize them, talk with, will play and you send emails to their subject.
Why? This is not really due to printing or paper, as many people now buy PDF. So where does that come from? Graphic design and information management. This makes the object easier to use when you're actually playing. This is very important, a game book must be both a book and a component of that same game.
The problem is that the layout takes time. An eternity. Red & Pleasant Land was completely illustrated and written two years before the model is complete. And it is far from the only book in this case. I saw the full text of Broodmother Sky Fortress there are years when the game is still not out. Why?Because graphic design is hell incarnate and it takes forever.
The reasons are partly economic. Most designers are working on several projects at once and roleplayers commands simply pay enough to climb to the top of the stack.
What you can do? Unless you instruct personally problems are ahead and be as explicit as possible. Do not rely on the designer to remember that this tea cup should be positioned next to the sheep. Draw the cup and sheep on the same piece of paper. Otherwise, you'll need three more weeks for the change to take effect and that the designer put the cup next to the sheep. But it's not his fault. This week he has eight other assholes to manage, with eight other cups and eight sheep.

4. Most of the tips are zero, but are not tips

Here's a tip given to me by one of the authors freelancers less respected in the world of the game: " As much as possible, do not answer directly to criticism. At best, it's a zero-sum game that will change anyone's opinion. At worst, it still makes you look like a moron over the person who criticizes you. "
Other opinions: 
+ " Girls do not play D & D! Do not waste time writing for them ! 
+ " Do not write an additional D & D Alice in Wonderland! This has already been done! " 
+ " Be nice to the guys that crap about women in your group. They are also customers! " 
+ " Do not write games for the old. The rules do not work. Women and young people do not play . 
+ " Find a graphic design works and copy it! " 
+ " You need _____ on your blanket. "
All those who gave me this advice supposed to help me sell my book wrong. It is now a fact. No matter who it was. I did the opposite of what they told me and my book has sold more than theirs. And I'm not even a designer game. The reason is that they gave me was not really advice, but just their opinion.Some particularly social misfits like idiots formulate their opinions as advice or general truths to give them more strength, so that you do not be afraid to do what they want you to do. It is quite possible to give advice based on facts and experience - I hope this is what I'm doing - but they did nothing of the sort.
So when someone tells you that what you do will not work, ask a proof. If you can not provide it, follow the advice of William Burroughs: Do not say anything nice to inadequate social gamer; it's a bottomless pit. Tell him firmly, "I am not paid to listen to this nonsense - you are an idiot of the worst kind. »

5. The independent community is appalling, but that does not matter.

Since almost the beginning of the Internet, people are talked about RPGs table. Many members of the indie community is always been there but have not managed to do anything. They created a strange dynamic: the more they fail, the longer they hang around on forums (etc.), the more one identifies as a voice-to-day, plus they make friends in agreement and are streamed online. In other words, they spent more time to fear the rod, they get more respect. It is the biggest fish of a tiny dry pond.
But the good news is that these people just do not matter. At all. Just before my book came out, I inveighed one of the main and oldest Voice-who-have editing RPG Indie: Fred Hicks ( FATE , Evil Hat, etc.). The latter had thrown a conservative attack in good standing against gambling Kingdom DeathFrench readers are perhaps unaware, but Americans are sometimes frantically conservative on everything related to sexuality, even those who claim the left. This is particularly exacerbated in the community gamer because many RPG American indie designers have never slept with anyone, or, I suppose, only with farm animals. To give you an idea, look at what did Tipper Gore in music or Frederic Wertham in comics.
Still, Hicks and his friends then orchestrated a campaign of harassment misogynist with some forum trolls who accused us of bizarre crimes against people taking women in my group. All those who have had a day against something that porn actresses playing D & D got involved. These sexist attacks began this summer and continue today. In short, not only independent community did not support me or do not talk about my project, but has actively worked against me. Even the designers of indie games that had purchased and enjoyed the game was afraid to talk about it and it attracts them problems with their friends.
Looking at the sales figures, it looks like they have helped me more than anything else. They bark but do not bite. They are harmless. So yes, do what you want and do not let shit in the boots.


  1. Nice ... and for one more day I will not fear the rise of the machines ;-)

  2. "I hit it with my shaft"! Dear god

  3. Hey man, I've seen your blog a number of times and you strike me as one of the more rational people in this hobby. Any chance you could spare 10 minutes to check out my nascent RPG system? I think I do some really nifty things with tactical combat that no one has done before... I'm a big fan of small unit tactics and I think I've managed to capture that in the RPG format.

    Anyways, I've got a thread on RPGGeek, it's got a link to a little slideshow that gives a quick and dirty overview of the rules and then runs a sample combat. I'd really appreciate hearing your opinion.

  4. I used to watch "I Hit it with My Axe", regularly. I'm kind of sad that I missed "I Hit it with My Shaft" though. :-)

  5. It's hard not to let shit get in your boots when you kick as much ass as Zak S.

  6. Do your CoC games have a Ligotti flavor to them? I would love to see your take on Ligotti.

    1. I dunno, maybe a little. it's not for me to say

  7. I don't care what you're doing: "do not let shit in the boots" is just good advice.

  8. Hey, just wanted to say this week, while on a conference, I was reading R&PL, and while I am no DnD player, it is a very good book, both visually and content wise, and already I can see ways to use the ideas and characters inside for some strange WoD Changeling/Vampire crossover. I liked the hypercube room in particular.

    1. Ah yeah, also the write up for the Mad Hatter, and of course time and consequence, and how actions will lead to the same result, was really useful too (for a game like Changeling the Lost, which deals with fate and being bound by pacts, ideas on how fate and making use of loop holes is always useful).

      I guess the main thing about the book it it doesn't feel like a DnD book, which for me is why it feels useful for lots of games - I am sure I can use something out of it for Iron Kingdoms at some point.

  9. "So, yeah: do whatever you want and don’t take any shit."
    "So yes, do what you want and do not let shit in the boots."

    Both awesome bits of advice =D

  10. + " You need _____ on your blanket. "

    Especially in light of the "shit in the boots" line, my brain refuses to fill in that blank in any way that isn't horrible.