Monday, January 25, 2016

To Tim Kask And TotalCon,

(Note: I contacted Kask privately before posting this, just saying I wanted to talk. He didn't answer.) 

Dear Tim,

I'm Zak. I've read a lot of your Dragonsfoot threads over the years about the early hobby and, like everybody else, read a lot of Dragon back in the day.

Since one of the biggest genuine problems in RPGs is men speaking for women I want to limit what I say here as much as possible, and simply use this blog (just because it's one a relatively large number of people in RPGs read) to deliver a message to you and to my readers and then step aside, in the hopes that we have dialogue instead of dueling monologues.

There's been a lot of controversy that all started with this blurb for your For Ladies Only game at TotalCon:

This adventure is written specifically for the wives, girlfriends and daughters of gamers, as well as those females wishing to delve into the field without a lifelong commitment. It has been boiled down to the basics of role-playing as it used to be: A sheet of paper, some dice, a pencil and some numbers on that paper accompanied by an open mind and a sense of adventure. Ladies, come see what all the fuss is about

Let me summarize what I'm pretty sure about--

-There are women who are smart and have done cool things for the RPG scene who found this  language condescending.

-There are women who are smart and have done cool things for the RPG scene who have not found this language condescending.

-You didn't mean to be condescending. (Intent isn't everything.)

-Some of the folks on your Facebook page were incredibly douchey to one of the women who raised the issue even after she had wished you well about your event.

-You wrote a post responding to this controversy which ended with the words: "By the way,  I hold a Master's in Education; I am reasonably certain that I know what I am doing."

-Everyone I've talked to about this finds that sentence deeply condescending.

-I find that sentence condescending. I think it was meant to be condescending by any reasonable use of the word. I know because I'm condescending all the time.


My bit:

Making people angry online (even accidentally) is something we all do. Who you choose to patch things up with and talk to and who you tell to fuck off reveals which of those people you value.

Everyone in my corner of the DIY RPG community values women who were upset by your handling of this, including, for example, Stacy Dellorfano--the woman who built the best online con in gaming.

They have been through a lot, with a lot of genuinely condescending, genuinely sexist RPG guys telling them what to do.

Whether or not they have judged you for what you wrote in your blurb, or how you handled it, we are now going to judge you on whether you value Stacy and other young women who have been trying to improve life for women in the RPG scene over the years enough to listen and talk this out with them--without pulling rank, without blocking anyone, and without your friends and fans jumping in on the conversation to defend you or plus each other.

If you don't, it will ratify our worst suspicions about what you think of the women who are trying to keep up and spread enthusiasm for the hobby you contributed so much to over the years. You can extend a hand to the next generation of female gamers, or you can slap it aside.

I don't care where you have that conversation, but I think you need to do it. You aren't obliged to care what I think, of course, but that is the point: you are being judged on what part of the RPG community you care about. I do not think you want to or should choose these women as your enemies and if you don't indicate a willingness to continue a dialogue with them, you are doing just that.



  1. I am not a party to the conversation here proposed, but this is brilliant. If only all the discourse on the issue was like this. Let's hope that Mr. Kask has enough wisdom and honesty to dispel your (and mine) worst suspicions.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Well said. I have 2 masters degrees and have no fucking clue what I'm doing.

  4. I was part of the original conversation that Kask posted about. I commented on those threads and I saw this whole thing go down. As a woman who has been gaming for 35 years, I was disgusted by the response of Kask and the gaming community. He went after the woman who was vulnerable to his bullying because she's trying to work in a field that protects bullies like him.

    I posted to his Facebook page and linked to a public post on my own page, calling him out.

    Apparently he'll only talk to women he can boss around. I'm a consumer, not a developer, so he can't throw his weight around on me.

    I've been gaming for 35 years and know a lot of women who gamed since the late seventies and early 80s. We have ALWAYS been there, despite attempts to make us disappear. Most of us have had terrible problems with the Grognards and Gatekeepers, stretching back decades. However, one reason we haven't been seen is we don't game with these bullies. They aren't any fun. They lack imagination and make gaming unpleasant for everyone, and whine and cry and throw tantrums when they don't get to be boss of everyone.

    I posted this to his blog:

    And this publicly on Facebook.

    I'm sick of us being treated as interlopers. We've always been here, and Kask and his cronies can't drive us away, hard as they've tried.

    Also, I'm sick of hearing about his good intentions. Decades too late for that crap.

  5. How exactly are you "calling him out?" To do what exactly, get in a fistfight? Or a shouting match on convention floor? I can't excuse his words, nor would I want to but you are an escalator. You amplify problems and need to consider what exactly you want out of the exchange. Do you want Tim to apologize? Do you want a seat at his convention table? Or do you just want to be angry?

    1. I wrote exactly what I want TIm to do in the blog entry.

      It sounds as if you left a comment without reading it.

    2. I think Efie meant to reply to
      the above anonymous comment based on the quotes around "calling him out".

    3. Yes, I replied to anonymous, based on her postings, on Tims blog, here and Facebook. Anger can be constructive, but the words "calling out" to a guy,means you want to fight. I was trying to point it out, sorry if it was unclear Zak.

    4. Ok.
      "Calling out" does not necessarily mean fight and it is CRAZY to assume it does here. Regardless fo gender.

      "Calling out" on the internet and in the press usually means "calling to account for bad behavior".

    5. Yes it is crazy. But she says she is "calling him out" and in his blog she tells him to "come at me,bro". I would never tell anybody I don't know personally to come at me and include my full name, unless I wanted face to face.And if that isn't the case, I stand by my observation that she is an " escalator". If cooler heads don't prevail, at least we can rein in our outliers, especially when your post calls for rational dialogue not "come at me, bro".

    6. Do not to tone-police anyone, ever.

      Stick to facts and rational arguments.

      If you don't like someone's _tone_ --suck it up and ignore it because complaining about it achieves nothing and moves attention from the substantive issue.

  6. Isn't tone policing what we are trying to do to Tim Kask? We can't accept his tone of words as a rational argument for offense and then say that others are free to say what they want. Letting somebody know that if they said "come at me,bro, to a guy is going to get them hurt isn't tone policing, it is sound advice.

    1. Incorrect.
      Tim Kask is being taken to task by me for (thus far) refusing to have a 2-way conversation with Stacy et al and instead opting for "competing monologue".
      Tone is just incidental to the much more serious problem.

  7. I thought Stacy Dellorfano objected to the game in the first place (games for women run by men), and the language Tim Kask used was just an additional annoyance.

    1. So who would we nominate that would be a better Gm for this game than the original TSR employee? I would sit at that table even if he was the biggest asshole on planet Earth. Sometimes we just have to weigh the pros and cons.
      Con: probably a sexist dick, pro: next best thing to sitting at a table with Gygax.

  8. If you have ever spent time outside of school with Teachers (and people with degrees in Education) you start thinking they are tought to be condescending.

  9. Even if it was Gygax himself defended from the heavens to host a new module he designed while in his heavenly home or whatever. If it started with "I dumbed down and simplified the rules so you guys can invite your ladies." I wouldn't play.