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 it, 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

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"The Internet Is Screaming"

"The Internet is screaming with the harm caused, Zak; this very conversation wouldn't be happening if you'd not actively hurt and pissed off a great many people."

Well 'the Internet screams' when 2 boys kiss on TV. The Internet is dumb as butts.

But not always.

Got a note from Zeea last night--a trans gamer (and now RPGnet moderator) who often points out things she thinks are problematic in games, and whom, until recently, this guy Sean above might characterize as part of the "screaming" about the "harm" I caused by having the audacity to respond to the Dungeons & Dragon's peoples' request to email them my thoughts on the recent edition of D&D and then collect a check for it.

Zeea said:

Zak S:

So, I've spent a few hours doing as much research as I can, and I've talked to folks some more.

I'm not going to equivocate. People made accusations against you without proof, the accusations got amplified and distorted and repeated through the Telephone Game effect, and I bought into it when I shouldn't have.

I can't find any evidence of you making broad transphobic statements. I can find evidence of you making trans-inclusive statements. Every transgender person involved in arguments with you was in an argument about something unrelated to being trans, with the exception of the "morphodite" thing, which was such an over-the-top obscure thing to say that I'll take you at your word that you were using it to parody a certain posting style.

Furthermore, in every one of those discussions, there was a lot of shit and toxicity flying around and everyone was hot-tempered. And finally, because all of the incidents I've found any public examples of were "person and an entire faction of people vs. person and an entire faction of people," even if there was cyberstalking aimed in either (or both) directions, there's zero evidence you instigated it or posted non-public information.

I don't think anyone I talked to privately is intentionally lying about this. I think they believe it. But perceptions color memories, as does hearing the same event discussed by multiple people, and some of things look a bit stretched by this point. I can't base an opinion on stretchy-looking facts.

So, I hereby apologize for and retract any implication that you're transphobic or have engaged in cyberstalking. I'm sorry. I'm going back to my original statement on the subject before I got all the private messages, which was, "As far as I know, neither Pundit or Zak S have said anything transphobic."

Furthermore, while I highly doubt that my opinion has _any_ influence on the subject whatsoever, and I wasn't the one who started this whole line of discussion (nor was I the person that got Mike Mearls involved*), I sincerely apologize if anything I said on this subject damages your industry reputation in any way. I disagree with you on plenty of subjects, but I fucked up here and let that influence me to believe and repeat something I shouldn't have.

Oh, bonus apology. I said you were disingenuous. Know what? I've reread a lot of stuff you've posted and then read it in the context of other stuff I've found in places I don't normally frequent. I retract and apologize for that, too. While you can be abrasive as hell and tend to accuse people of disagreeing with you because they're "conservative," it seems you're arguing based on a sincere belief and not intentionally strawmanning. Plus, you've displayed more nuanced opinions on the subject in some places, and if I'd seen those before, I'd probably have had a different opinion.


A complete history of the grudges that brought on the bullshit is here. The thing that got blown up into me "stalking someone" (I found someone who lied about me online and asked them a question. I did it by clicking on their screen name) is here.

And, if you need it: further evidence of my innocence of the various fuckwadderies published about me this week. The most obvious one being: people were asked to send evidence of me being bad to WOTC, the D&D company, aaaaaand: they got nothing.

If anybody ever has me saying a single bigoted word, they haven't got a single quote. For the best shot the rest of the opposition has taken, here's a hilarious list they've made of my despicable crimes, including tagging a guy into a Google + conversation about his ideas in case he wanted to defend himself and making this awesome cartoon:

I'll be accepting apologies all week. Roll up.


Lots of other things going on in RPGland soon:

We are working on new episodes of I Hit It With My Axe (watch this one if you never saw it).

Outside-the-box genius RPG artist Scrap Princess and outside-the-box genius RPG poet False Patrick released Deep Carbon Observatory which looks to be exactly the kind of folk-art kludgewithchery the old school has been promising to make for years.

And Red & Pleasant Land is chugging along. Should be out this summer. Started working on a new edition of Vornheim and I helped James Raggi write a DeeeeeLuxe Death Frost Doom that'll be out soon.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Why Pigfuckers Fuck Pigs And People Just Watch

First, let's have an example of a pig-fucker.

Squee squee! Who will fuck me??

Mark Carroll: A Fucker of Pigs

So we were talking...

The DIY D&D crowd has (unlike many other game design cliques) consciously prioritized
-having confrontations until disputes get settled
-avoiding confrontation in order to build a community of people who all play the same games and papering over differences with positivity. It might be one reason why we keep making such awesome stuff.

Mark Carroll:
I'm fairly dubious on the 'argue until fixed' approach, but YMMV.

It works flawlessly and eliminates the weak, so I'm a big fan.

Mark Carroll:
We'll have to agree to disagree, then, since I find design-by-social-Darwinism repellent.

If the stakes were life and death, I'd agree. The stakes in RPG arguments are…almost nothing  . So people who can't even hang in a conversation for fear someone might say "I don't like Rolemaster" are not exactly the same as underprivileged youth who've fallen through the cracks of the system.

(from here)

This is a typical RPG exchange. No harm, no foul.

Now watch as Mark Carroll fucks a pig, in public, by what he changes my statement into, a day or two later:

Mark Carroll:
My personal problem with Zak is his take that ad hominem, ad argumentum, and game design by way of Social Darwinism are 'great tools' because (and I quote) 'they weed out the weak."

Did you see him fuck a pig just then?

Mark just put his dick into a pig.

He turned me saying that you produce good game stuff by openly discussing problems into me saying I support ad hominem attacks. That is putting your penis into a giant fucking sow and jizzing right up in her.

Saying "Mark Carroll lies and my evidence is he fucks pigs" is an ad hominem attack. I do not believe in that and do not stand behind that. His sexual activities with barnyard megafauna, if any, are unrelated to his honesty.

Saying "I'm comfortable calling Mark Carroll a (metaphorical) pig fucker because he lied about me in public" is true. And not an ad hominem attack. It's just being really mean to someone because they are terrible and deserve it for slowing down the RPG conversation.

Mark Carroll has gone from being a real human who we can sympathize with to being The Comments. He has proved he's useless as a voice in any RPG conversation.

How This Is Relevant To You

Now why would Mark Carroll fuck this pig? Who cares? He is shit and nothing he does matters.

The more important question for all of us is:

Why is so much of the RPG community so ok with people fucking pigs?

They're ok with it? You ask. Yes they are. Mark Carroll fucked this pig in an RPG thread with 20-odd other people in it and none of them did the honorable thing, which was go:

"Mark--Zak said ad hominem attacks are good for the RPG conversation? That is a crazy thing for Zak to say--where is that quote, Mark?" (To his credit, Viktor Haag came near the issue.)

Luckily, we have an answer: someone in the thread, in a very roundabout way, a tolerater of Mark Carroll addressed the issue of tolerating people fucking pigs (and, thereby, fucking pigs of their very own).

It was A Professional Game Designer associated with the indie scene.

He described his experience in college:

Got in the habit of picking fights with friends to flex philosophy debate skills. Won all the fights. Pissed off all the friends. Realized it wasn't about arguments but maintaining good relationships and common experiences.

In MN, the GOP tried to introduce an amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman. OutFrontMN and Minnesota United knew that every previous attempt in other states to defeat these amendments had failed. Those attempts tried using Constitutional law, refutations of Bible verse, talk about civil rights and persuasive argument. None of it worked.

We tried a different approach. We staffed thousands of phone banks, knocked on thousands of doors, engaged in thousands of one-to-one conversations with Minnesotans, most of whom were if not hostile to same-sex marriage, at the least unconvinced of the need to call it "marriage" at all. We shared stories of couples in love who wanted the same thing anyone wants, to express their love and support and commitment to their partner. We asked the opponents to share their own marriage stories. We engaged empathy, common human experiences. 

Without conflict, without trying to assert logical superiority, without resorting to semantic or rhetorical tricks, or even calling them out for being bigots, we turned them around. We won. 

And then we did it again, putting same-sex marriage on the ticket and getting a bill passed. 

Sometimes you need to get into it with people, to have those brave fights, be aggressive, poke holes in arguments, question relentlessly. I know this, I did that all through college. But true activism that brings about real social justice and progressive change comes through empathy, common ground, and love. 

So that's what I learned. 


Sounds nice, right? Persuade. Catch more flies with honey, right? However, I replied...

If writing and playing RPGs was a political campaign or activism (sides, votes, final outcome) then that would make sense.

But it's not.

I understand many indie RPG people think of it that way still-- (public campaigns, "our side", "proving things to the community" "representing the community") etc. But we're not doing a collective endeavor that gets voted on in public (that is, me and the people reading this in my community). We're making individual creative things and deciding how to get rid of people who make that conversation worse.

So it's an utterly different paradigm. Charm and coalition-building avail us nothing. Let's say you get  a coalition of people who agree on a simple idea, what do you get for that? Nothing. Unless you're selling something.

Let's say you, instead, eliminate all the irrational people, the boring, the stupid, what do you get? 

You get what we have here: The unbelievably awesome DIY D&D RPG community that keeps producing cool stuff all the time with a very low noise to signal ratio.

The job is not to convince. It is to judge the trolls and eliminate them . To bounce them out of the club so the club can pursue private goals without noise. Not suffer fools so long as the fools vote for our "side". We don't have a side. We need the wise and clever, not the gullible and the evil-but-willing-to-go-along.


Or, to put it another way: DIY D&Ders do not see this activity where we talk games as activism (How could they? We have no cause but to trade ideas about how to run games we play at home.)

When people go "Oh be nicer, Zak, you may convince the fence sitters". What do I need with fence sitters? I am not trying to get legislation passed, I'm trading tips on how to make dungeons with people who hopefully are even smarter than me.

If I am talking to someone who won't accept true stuff unless it's delivered with a spoonfull of sugar, I'm talking to someone dumber than me. And they have nothing I need. This isn't charity. When I make a porn movie or have an art show and then donate the profits to charity, that is charity.

A lot of gamers disagree fundamentally on a basic level and never think about this disagreement: they do think what they do is a crusade. They consider themselves and their friends to be on a path for some higher cause and so they tolerate lying, they don't ask questions when they see something "off", they don't debate because they are trying to build the biggest community possible. They consistently avoid (i.e. Story-Games) or silence (i.e. RPGnet) debate in the name of Getting Along.

I don't want the biggest community possible--I just want the smartest, fairest one online where I am. Every time I find out another person is writing an awesome game blog I groan like "Ok no, now I have to read everything Arnold K writes, too? Fuck!".

This is, I think, why we keep getting such high-quality stuff. We keep eliminating or ignoring the dumb.

I want a community that accepts every kind of person, and then ruthlessly combs out the fucked ones from among them. And when I see people willing to accept dumb--to accept people who lie, troll, attack people then flee, or believe shit without evidence--especially when it's directed at me or my friends, I wonder what the fuck is wrong with them.

Well this is what's wrong with them: they just want to get along with as many people as they can. So that one day they can all get together and… something.

Some want to change the industry's attitude toward things, some want the industry just to be big because it'll encourage diversity or because they buy a lot of commercial RPG products and want the industry to give them more or because they want to be in the industry themselves, or because they just want more people to play with. Or just because they feel embattled and want to feel loved and like other people are with them--even pigfucking people.

All these goals are fine, and they are right to think that a Big-Tent-Ignore-Conflict attitude is good to achieve those things. Love-in hugboxes are good for that.

But I don't care about those things: I just want a conversation that helps my game get better. And occasionally to help folks I like. My altruistic urges do not express themselves in a desire to enlighten or expand this industry. And I don't think the RPG hobby is a better hobby for all the non-RPG playing people than whatever they're entertaining themselves with now. RPGs aren't medicine--I see no pressing need to distribute them further.

So this clash of goals creates conflict: someone attacks my girls, I go "That's not ok". A pigfucker goes "Perhaps you misunderstood, maybe there are good intentions there" I go "It's not my job to find out if the people who just fucked a pig in front of me had a good reason. They can come apologize later if they (on their own or due to some wise entity) grow up."

I am happy to just make and help people make awesome things and invite any non-pigfucker to help.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Pay What You Wish For Vornheim

Did you hear that Zak S was a consultant on the new edition of D&D? Did you hear that a free D&D basic rules PDF was released last week, and he's credited in there?

To celebrate the achievement, we've made his Vornheim PDF Pay-What-You-Want over on DriveThru/RPGNow until the World War Three episode of Doctor Who airs here in Finland! (15:10 Finnish time Wednesday)

Vornheim, if you didn't know, is the award-winning RPG supplement that details both the city of Vornheim (featured on the webshow I Hit It With My Axe) and a plethora of tools to make running improv city adventures a breeze!

Vornheim won the 2012 IndieCade Best Technology award!

Vornheim won the Golden Crown Award for Best Supplement for a Role Playing Game... FOR THE WHOLE DECADE!

Vornheim won the 2011 DieHardGameFan Award for Best Campaign Setting!

Vornheim was also nominated for the Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming shortlist in 2012, and was also an honorable mention for the 2012 ENNIE Award for Best Aid/Accessory!

Don't believe in stuffy awards? Well listen to what fellow industry professionals have to say about Zak:

"...hearing what human garbage like Zak S has to say can provide useful context."
- Paul "Ettin" Matijevic, moderator

"Folks, seriously. This hobby's already bad enough. It's no big surprise when someone like Zak S or James Raggi or whoever else does these kinds of things, they're open about how toxic they are."
-Brandon Schmeiz (Fünhaver Games)

"(Fuck Zak)"
-Tracy Hurley (Former Wizards of the Coast D&D Columnist)

"I say this as someone who actively hates Zak (something I don't say about many people), like I really think he should self-eject from this planet."
--Fred Hicks (Evil Hat Productions)

You can't buy better endorsements than those, so click the link and Pay What You Want for Vornheim!