Monday, September 17, 2018

A Sexual Fantasy

I would like:

All of the online game people who get excited about Lamentations of the Flame Princess and the other DIY RPG work it inspired with all its weirdness and body horror and transgression and also get excited about the work of creators from other game scenes including storygames and the indie RPG scene and the critical voices from that scene to have a frank conversation about what is and isn't acceptable representation of sexuality in games. (I would say include the mainstream RPG scene but they ignore such things).

I would like this discussion to be in-depth, so that clear lines are understood and real consensus is reached (these conversations are possible: it is not so long ago pieces of simple philosophical principles like "only design a game you want to play" was obscure, and conversation clarified it) or, if not, the basic assumptions about human nature that underlie these divergent beliefs that make consensus impossible are laid bare.

I have no problem being left entirely out of this conversation so long as it is actually honest and in-depth and more thorough than before.

And, most importantly and above all---when it is done, I would like everyone who has what this conversation then understands as a morally restrictive and puritanical view of sex to be treated with the same righteous, joyous, constantly-advertised call-them-out-on-sight contempt as we more-or-less have consensus-agreed to treat any other toxic right-wing voice and anyone who supports them. I would like the puritan to be treated same as we might treat an open anti-semite (speaking as a Jew).

I would, in short, like it such views were treated as if they are harmful and a sign of being basically evil, because they are, rather than to be continued to be treated as some quaint anachronism you can just ignore.

Failing that, I'd like to know why it seems impossible to do that or have that conversation. And, quite likely, I suspect all the sex workers who have come to this table and played here over the years would like to know too.

-Z
-
-
-

Monday, September 10, 2018

Philosophy, Branding, Activism, Progress, Debate & The Future of Games

The Nice And True Thing

The other day on some social media, a popular author wrote a nice and true thing.

They were talking about some piece of entertainment for young people and noting--accurately and nobly--that it had casually inserted support for a progressive point of view in it. To be clear:
  • It was good that the piece of media did this
  • They deserve recognition for having done it
  • It was worth pointing out
  • I believe they pointed it out wholly sincerely
  • I believe this was something a big part of the commenter's audience probably needed to hear
...and the feeling I felt reading it was personal exhaustion. Nothing political, just wugh, meh, click.

Because despite all that, it's not a conversation I'd have with anyone I know irl--nor do I think it's a conversation the person who wrote it would have with anyone they chose to hang out with in real life. It would be really boring: Do you approve the Obviously Progressive Thing That Everyone We Hang Out With Would Approve Of? Yes, I do.

Nobody here at D&D With Porn Stars, for instance, sits around talking to each other about how sex work is work or that it'd be nice to be able to cam and then deposit using a bank like normal people. We know that. We say that publicly if we feel there's some important reason to point it out, but it's not a conversation we need to have, to each other, or even to our friends.

I've met many of you reading this. Few of you need to be convinced the president's immigration policies are terrible. It's assumed and known. Talking about it would be like complaining it's raining: we all wish it would stop, that's a boring-ass conversation. We're smart people with more to contribute than trading what is, in our own sphere, universally accepted wisdom.

But on social media? Day in, day out: RAIN IS BAD. IT SHOULD STOP. 30k Likes.

The author of the opinion I began this blog entry with wasn't starting a conversation that interested them, they were broadcasting a message. A cynical take would be this was branding ("performatively woke" in one alignment tongue, "virtue signalling" in another) a less cynical take would be that it's activism (that is: trying to enact large-scale change by spreading a message).


"Messaging"

Activism is an unalloyed good, branding is a bit more suspicious, but no matter what else they are, both branding and activism are a commitment to repeat yourself.

...and, simply as a person writing blog entries, that is not something that holds my interest.

I'm not saying they're not worth doing, just that--as activities per se--they're no fun.

Saying "pay your fucking freelancers a fucking living wage and you'll get better content" (which you will) isn't fun. Going "Maze of the Blue Medusa is back in print!" (which it is) isn't fun. 

These things have to be done once in a while, but they aren't why I started this blog. And reading and trading messages like this isn't the main reason I read these blogs or any social media. I've started to block people who do nothing else, not because I disagree with them (I don't) and not even because the messages they're broadcasting make me think about things I'd rather not (they don't), but just because: I'm here for conversation and these kinds of messages aren't part of an interesting conversation--even if they're part of an important one.


The Philosophical Process

So why do I do this?

I presume most of you know this, but I'll recap to be clear as possible.

Other than simply trading useful content (which is a lot of what we all try to do here on the blogs) I basically believe in what we might call the philosophical process, and I believe it can makes play experiences (including mine) better.

The process is this:

Somebody makes a claim about how games work.

Somebody else makes a contradictory claim.

They ask questions and present evidence to prove their claims, one or both are proven wrong.

If both participants do not stop and pursue the conversation back to their different opening assumptions, both learn if either position is true* and everyone watching also learns.

The sum total of knowledge in the community is increased, it spreads, everyone learns something, and new and better ideas can be built on top of the assumption that this thing has been settled.

(*or at least as true as we can tell right now)

For example, ideally:

Socrates: "Tomb of Horrors is unbeatable."

Plato: "No it isn't, I beat it in '82, here's the actual play report. Here's three more from other people. Do you think I'm lying or fabricated these documents?"

Socrates: "No. I guess I was wrong. I'm sorry. Tomb of Horrors is beatable, just really hard."

Everyone intelligent watching: "Ah, we see: Tomb of Horrors is beatable, just really hard."

Kotaku, i09, Geek & Sundry, Matt Mercer, WOTC, all other media sources: "Tomb of Horrors is beatable, just really hard."

The first thing any third party new to RPGs and eager for information Googles: "Tomb of Horrors is beatable, just really hard."

...and from then on, if anyone ever says Tomb of Horrors is unbeatable and doesn't acknowledge the error, they are immediately treated as if they just said camels were reptiles and must then either admit their error or be resigned to a life of never being trusted ever by anyone and as soon as their screen-name comes up people just block and move on. Constantly, forever, in perpetuity, unless Plato is proved to have forged his evidence.

And, most importantly, people considering buying Tomb or playing Tomb or creating something in line with its principles have real information to guide them.

The goal is never to persuade. The goal is to provide all the information to anyone present who is intelligent enough to make decisions based on information.

This is the process working. This process, though imperfectly, has worked often in the past--many gibberish ideas have been put to rest in the last ten years. RPGs apparently can be a spectator sport, 5th edition wasn't a flaming commercial wreck, you can make good money creating independent RPG products, sexy girls really do play D&D (one works at WOTC now), more than one prominent gamer-puritan is guilty of sexual misconduct, Tomb of Horrors is beatable, nobody's found good reason not to use split-column tables, you can fit several days' adventure comfortably on a page, etc. These things are facts, not opinions.

Evidence has been presented, refutation has not been forthcoming, the information has spread, peoples' behavior has changed in response to them. Like any engineering knowledge: new things can be built because we now know these are facts. 

Progress happens when what was previously in dispute is settled and things can be created knowing this or that piece of intellectual machinery is solid, will hum, the motor will go. Then you make the next thing.

It's easy to dunk on that as a "debate club" style conversation, but it's also impossible to defend the alternatives.

There are reasons not to have conversations about your game ideas in dedicated gamer-spaces that work like this, but none of them are good reasons:
  • People are just publicly venting (at the expense of authors, gamers, products and anyone googling to help them run a game)
  • People want to build community around their opinion more than they want it to be accurate (flat earth societies)
  • People have mental health issues and so just need to talk shit (and don't have a support system outside the online game community)
  • Ok, this is possibly a good reason: They're being funny (though admit it's in front of an audience where there's almost no genuine social reward for being funny--or a lot smaller social reward than if they just went the fuck outside and were funny in front of actual present people).
Most public game conversations in the online game space about what you think is true should work the way I described above. It should be philosophical. It should be directed toward solving the problem posed by opposing ideas. And if that means a weeks-long knock-down drag-out fight, have that fight, if that means you throw up your hands and go "Well we don't have enough information to know who's right" then you do that. Otherwise: seriously ask yourself why you bothered to write anything at all. What were hoping to get out of it? If nothing? Go do something else, don't be an internet addict. Improve your fucking life. There are soooo many more fun things to do with your free time.

If it's worth logging on, putting in your password, showing up and saying a thing in public about any game--no matter how silly the game (and, yes, this is a big if)--it's worth doing everything possible to be sure the thing you said is true.

(Note I'm not talking about genuinely idle conversation--like "Yo, do you think Drizz't is bi?"--I mean the far more common kind of conversation: the one where someone claims to know how a game or a part of a game or a kind of game works.)

Either you care about the dumb game thing you said or you don't. If you cared enough to write that owlbears are racist, then you can't jump ship and claim you don't care it's just elfgames when someone questions it. That doesn't help anyone and just adds noise other people have to filter out when they need actual information--it makes their life harder. It's basically spamming on behalf of a nonexistent product. Literally nothing improves, and some things get worse.

Some FAQs pop up in the comments below. If you're like "But what about..." check them.


Pro-Noise

Needless to say, the idea I've outlined above is immensely unpopular--almost as unpopular as the results of it are popular (many fine independent products that exist in their present form due to things learned during straightforward debate, nothing good's ever come out of the other model, which is:

Plato: "Here is my essay where I say Tomb of Horrors is beatable"

Socrates: "Here is my essay claiming Tomb of Horror is unbeatable"

Plato: "B...but you ignored all the evidence I put forward in mine?"

Socrates: "I don't have to debate you, you're not my dad!"

Hereabouts Dog Corpse Libertarianism tends to rear its head:

"You can't make me talk in a useful way!"

"No, and I can't tell you not to fuck a dog corpse on a public sidewalk either, but I can say it doesn't get you anywhere."

Most places tolerate noise and misinformation more than they should. On forums it's for the comfort of those whose urge to hang out there unhealthily transcends their urge to use hanging out there to collect anything they might use in a game (including mods, who want to hang out there so much they do real work for free)-- but, more importantly, because two decades of internet and two years of ascendant fascism have gotten everyone used to the idea that it's hip, noble, and activist to avoid debates.

Originally the idea was about avoiding debates with people whose starting premises were openly opposed to your existence (I, too, see no point in debating someone who wants me in an oven) but we all know there's literally nothing anyone doesn't like that can't, at a stretch, be characterized as Naziism--especially in an environment with no debate--which is a Get Out Of Jail Free card for people who don't actually have any reasons for saying what they say. I don't have (huf) to debate you.

While I will briefly note that debate-avoiders' much-cited boogiemen--trolls and right-wing lunatics--are very easy to send packing in debate (they jump the rails into personal attacks or failing to answer questions immediately, invalidating the rest) that's not my point here today.

My point is just: People avoiding debate has consequences. And the consequence is: the work gets boring and worse. The messages become repetitive--the messages become messaging, the only goals can be maintaining an achieved level of theoretical perfection--incarnating known values that are supposedly shared, rather than applying acquired collective wisdom to new problems. The stupid are attracted (the messages are easy to parrot) and the intelligent are repulsed (nothing of value is at stake, nothing can be resolved, no new information is being generated, no new action can be taken).

In other words, if people don't kick the tires, any discussion of ideas is just reducible to activism or branding. One-way communication. The supposedly wise educate the supposedly ignorant and the best they can hope for is to clone themselves.

And before I just go "Fuck it" and leave everyone to these consequences, I figured I'd make sure I laid out my case for not letting that happen as clearly as possible.

Have conversations. Have them until there is no possible question left to answer. And if people won't do that: treat them like they're in the way. Because they are. Do something about them. Otherwise this amazing proliferation of people being creative for fun and occasionally profit will disappear.
-
-
-

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

14 Hours. And the combat system

If you're wondering how the Demon City combat system works specifically in play, here's a podcast where we demonstrate exactly that.

If you haven't yet secured your copy of Demon City, you've got 14 hours. Kenneth Hite's sections on sacred architecture and Lovecraft are up next s stretch goals.

If you have already given to the Kickstarter, and are sick of seeing these blog entries about Demon City: be happy, it's almost over.
Last chance

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Saturday, August 11, 2018

If You Want To See How It Works In Play

A lot of people are curious about how the tarot card mechanic for Demon City works in play and how the game feels at the table in general. Luckily the guys at the Red Moon Roleplaying podcast have invited me on to their show to run a game for them, so it's a good example.

After a brief, spoooky intro by the Red Moons, we get right into it...

So if you're interested, have a listen. We had so much fun we went on for like 4 hours, so I think the podcast is going to be cut up into a few different episodes.

Anyway--there's only a few more days left in the Kickstarter, so if you're interested and want a copy--jump on.

Friday, August 10, 2018

101 Nymphs 100 Octopuses 98 Adventures

Why Is There A Nympharium?


To understand what will come next, you should first accept the following premises:

-In Chapter Three of T.H. White’s The Sword In the Stone, Merlin says “But I unfortunately was born at the wrong end of time, and I have to live backwards from in front, while surrounded by a lot of people living forwards from behind.” This is wholly accurate.

An entity that might be the thing called Merlin, Emrys, Vauthes, Merlyn, Merlin Silvestris, Merlinus Caledonensis, Vermauthes, Merlin Emrys, Myrddin, Myrddin Wylit, Myrddin Ambrosius, Myr, Myrd, Magus, Merynum, Lailokem, Laleocen, Taliesin et al will, in at least one potential future, sometime after you read this, be born—to a woman and to a demon. He will age slowly through ever-more-primitive centuries until coming to be known as a wizard.

-An omniscient though otherwise ordinary observer, moving through time in the natural way, would, at some point before the 12th century, see: an increasingly-younger being—after decades as advisor to a king of the Britains—seduced by a naiad (often called Nimue, Nymue, Niviane, Niniane, Nyneue, Nyneve, Viviane, Evienne, or even Elaine) who locks him up in an awful palace made of thick green glass beneath the ocean .

There he watches Nimue’s belly swell as his hybrid children—part-water-creature, part-sorcerer, quarter-demon—gestate. They will be born less than thirty years from when you read this—centuplets, 101 nymphs like their mother in form and like their father in time. It is with these daughters and their machinations that this work is concerned.

-From, again, the point of view of an ordinary observer: sometime in the 17th century it will become clear that a great and subtle conflict is in progress between a large number of long-lived women, in a variety of nations, each strange, each a sorceress. The masked adept Ligea Narthex plots from her Fens Ultraviolet, the long-limbed Cianotica Bast directs armies from the island fortress of Glaucous Murdonon —and 100 other frightening women of demonic lineage and naiad blood vie with them for spoils geographical and metaphysical.

-Through the mesh of intrigue, necromancy and misdirection, Cianotica Bast eventually saw things as they were: her rivals were her sisters. Like Nimue before her, she contrived then a scheme combining hostile architecture and erotic entrapment. It was called the Nympharium and she left it rusting in Negadimensional Space until her sisters had grown too young to resist or remember her magic.

This worked—some years before you read this—in 2005—the ninety-nine nymphs were ensnared in the cruel Nympharium—which exists at once in two times and 99 places at once. Each chamber exists once in the real world, and the whole exists in Negadimensional space.

-Time and possible futures are usually imagined upright like an elm: what is past is the unsplit trunk below, what we have yet to experience expands above as potential events and consequences divide into limbs, branchs, twigs. In considering the situations presented here, we have to imagine instead a willow, or an umbrella, with the tips hanging near the ground. The tree is revealed as a curtain rises, we encounter the leaves and branch-tip spurs early, before the trunk begins to divide, we see the result before its origin, the effect before the cause, the adult before their conception, the endgames of possible futures before the crucial present which chooses between them.

-As of the moment your players encounter the Nympharium, Bast has caught the ninety-nine young nymphs who will become her enemies. She has tampered with them—but not decisively. She feared some miscalculation by which she might edit herself out of existence.

She was a cautious woman, and busy: she had a war to run. 



























Violence In The Nympharium, featuring:
demons
romance in portugal
Violet leopard orchid zombies
The PanoptiKhan
Gianlorenzo Bernini and his rival Giuliano Finelli
goblins
a race to kazakhstan
ninjas
hell
royal fist monkeys
a battle on the yangtze river
Giacomo Antonio Marta, Jesuit and spy
a scheming vizier
frost giants
a mapping challenge
Narvik Cross, a victim of the demon-cats
qelong cameo
yoon suin cameo
Harst Insidious—A green-skinned, one-eyed wretch, shambling and narrow
centipede god
zebra priest
negadungeons
posidungeons
Moriyama Utagawa, dashing, long-haired eldest son of Lord Nobuyushi and Lady Kaori, who acquitted himself admirably at the Battle of Broken Lake.
100 girls and 100 octopuses
metalized polypropylene
brassieres
the special part of a jewish temple where they keep things they can’t throw away because the name of god is on them
nymphs
the droll god
the spinneskelle
protolarvae
hyperlarvae
megalarvae
the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse
pirate queens
pterosaurs
a temple of true neutrality
venetian carnival masks
the scots and brits feuding over a bonny lass
the fearsome warlord, annihilus neroxx
SO MANY TRAPS
brain eaters
clouded leopards
the isle of nephilidia
ancient vampire tubeworms
witches
a tar cyclops
meeting your baby self
bloodfriends
the pentamorph
a time-stop heist
Thuggee cultists
homicidal scholars of several nations
the aspidochelone
the chameleon prince
a manor house murder mystery
puzzles
the octophant
the black sphinx
wizard apes
your rich uncle
the war pig
the forest of 500 shadows
The Isle of Massive Crustaceans
the undead army of onibaba
....and much more

Coming Soon from Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Terrorize Them With Quality
ps The Demon City Kickstarter is allllllmost over...

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Corruption, Repo Men and more

Some contributor work for Demon City. One from journalist and Hand to Mouth author (and, ssssh, gamerLinda Tirado (NY Times review here) and one from OSR godfather Jeff Rients of the Gameblog....


Political Campaigns (by Linda Tirado)

First thing to know is that all of political corruption comes down to influence. If I can get someone to think that I can help their career, they’ll help me. Do that with someone who’s not experienced enough to know what’s going on, well, you can get a lot done with useful idiots. 

There’s three kinds of bribes: money, connections, or work. Money might be your briefcases full of cash, or it might be free trips to the Poconos on someone’s charter jet. You can convince someone that you’ll invite them to an exclusive listserv or dinner party - or even do it; bait that hook and they’ll call you for years. Work might be legitimate contracts or the more cushy “consultant” kind.

Politicians are most vulnerable (and perhaps most interesting as game-fodder) during the campaign. When you walk into any campaign office, the person manning the front desk is usually an intern or trusted volunteer. Charm them by loving their candidate. Get them to leave the room by asking for a detailed policy position; they’ll have to go ask someone to print it off.

If you want to know what‘s going on in a political campaign, make friends with the person who could find the policy stuff; they’ll be lower-level management, essentially. Field directors or volunteer coordinators. Political people love to talk shop over drinks, and very few people understand what they do for a living, so if you know anything about the field, you can draw them out at a bar. 

The campaign manager is the guy who holds the purse strings and controls the flow of information and campaign money. They’ll think they’re slick and manipulative, they might well be. The point is that they’re ambitious and prone to intellectual flattery.

All campaign work is by nature temporary; jobs after the campaign ends are at a premium. Top to bottom, you’ll find people who want to be your friend if you know where to get the rent paid after the election.

Posing as press can help or hurt you in finding out political intrigues, and it depends on how credulous your mark is, or how sophisticated. Smart politicos keep some friendly journos around by feeding them information; stupid ones can be coaxed into blabbing about nearly anything. 

As far as security, there probably isn’t any. In this internet age you might find someone leaves a camera on the front door but that’ll be it. Most of the information that’s really valuable is going to be kept at best in a locked file cabinet. 

Money will be in a portable safe in the finance office or the campaign manager’s office. There will likely be small sums stashed around the office in various drawers that serves as petty cash for various departments. Campaign offices can keep a lot of cash on hand; into the thousands on the nights before an election so they can pay the canvass staff. 

If you’re looking for financial data, all campaigns keep donor books around. That’s a printed binder with notes on all major donors, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and preferred times to call. You'll also find information about family members, anniversaries, children, party registration history, net worth and who’s in their network. 

If you want polling and field data, there’ll be a field office. It will be littered with sensitive data, including voter files. If you take all the papers with barcodes you can find (this will likely be hundreds of pages) you’ll be able to figure out what kind of voters the campaign is targeting and in which neighborhoods they’re operating.

You can tell how healthy a campaign is by how busy its offices are, so it’s not uncommon for campaigns to surveil each other. If you follow and target their lowest-level workers, the canvassers, you can buy yourself an army by offering fifty cents more an hour. 

It is the simplest thing in the world to put a mole in a campaign; send them to volunteer. The more time they spend being helpful, the more responsibilities they’ll be given. Campaigns are chronically understaffed and underpaid; a competent adult who can be trusted might be given the keys to the website or proprietary software, and will certainly have access to vast amounts of information and opportunities to eavesdrop. They’ll also have a lot of opportunity to sabotage. 

See also: Host Section—Building A Horror Investigation: Some Adventure Formats—My First Conspiracy, Library—Horrors—The Machine, Library—Horrors—Cultist, Library—Horrors—Demons of the Second Order,  Sketches and Pitches: The Mayor of Demon City, Tables—Interpersonal Conflict, Organized Criminals, Relationship to Next NPC, Crime Lord Schemes, Murder Motives


Oh and here's a layout from Shawn Cheng

Repo Men: These Fucking Guys (by Jeff Rients)

If you take out a car loan and find yourself more than a couple monthly payments behind, odds are pretty good the bank is going to hire a repo man to get their collateral back.

You can find otherwise normal towing companies that do repo work, but real repo men rarely advertise that they have a business at all.  Their place of operation is just a little out-of-the-way garage with a few bays for servicing cars and a fenced-in yard with a bunch of junk and probably a dog that can switch from sweet pooch to vicious beast without notice.  No sign giving the name of the place or its owner can be seen anywhere.  These guys don’t advertise their services and they don’t need your walk-in business.

Repo men work for banks because they like the solid cash from the Man, but the service they provide is a combination of old west bounty hunting and legal car theft.  The banks like them as independent contractors, because that allows the repo men to circumvent local laws and ordinances while remaining at arms-length.  The suits want plausible deniability when shenanigans occur.  For their part, the repo men love being authorized to do things that would normally get you sent to prison.

No one goes to school to become a repo man.  And the licensing requirements vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  The path to this life varies, but repo men all have a few things in common.  Every good repo man knows his way around a wide variety vehicles, as mechanics and as drivers.  They understand motor vehicles with the same combination of deep experience and instinct that tells the artist what to do with a brush and canvas.

To them, the lock and alarm system in your car is the least interesting problem in acquiring your vehicle.  Often times, they arrive on the scene with a key in their pocket that was custom made to open and start your particular car.  The bank is happy to provide the key code, which they get at the time the loan is made.  And if that doesn’t work, they have all sorts of ways of jimmying open the door and hotwiring the car.  Or they can just tow the car away.

Finding the car is usually the fun of the job to them, so, by all means, hide your car.  The longer it takes them, the bigger the bill to the bank.  Like a stone age human following a wounded mammoth until it succumbs to exhaustion, the repo man is willing to play a long, slow game with its target.  They will visit all your old addresses.  They will talk to your old neighbors and your current ones.  They will visit your place of employment.  They will have tea with your grandma.  Never will they mention why they need to talk to you, other than “business.”  They’ll even talk to you, if they think it will help.  They’ll look inside every old shed and ramshackle barn within fifty miles, if need be, in order to find your car.  

If they can’t find you, each repo man has a sweet little old lady or middle age Walter Mitty on speed dial.  This contact has friends in the Department of Motor Vehicles who will pull registrations for them, an old pal in the city Department of Records who can get all sorts of stuff, and a college roommate who now works  in the FBI.  Given enough time, they can find the address of unlisted garage in another country where some fool stashed their car.

They’ll also talk to the cops.  Some cops don’t like repo men (they get behind on car payments, too) but just remember that the repo men work for the banks.  The bankers are members of the same country clubs as the judges and the mayor; the bankers fund the reelection campaigns of nearly every elected position in the city.   So the cops often cooperate, or at least stay out of the way.

Repo men don’t look to get into shoot-outs or fist fights.  They’ll run if they can and will generally avoid confrontations where they would be outnumbered.  But they can be dangerous when cornered.  Many carry handguns, whether technically legal locally or not.  Nearly all of them have a taser or pepper spray handy.  Some carry collapsible batons, big knives, or heavy duty flashlights that double as brutal bludgeons.  Most of the repo men that haven’t been formally trained in boxing or martial arts are experienced barroom brawlers.  They’ll probably have kevlar on underneath a cheap black sweatshirt if they’re sneaking onto someone’s private property at night.

Repo men tend to look like any other working man.  Ratty old blue jeans and a t-shirt stained with motor oil is the standard uniform.  Footwear is either boots heavy enough for kicking in teeth or running shoes.  When on the prowl, they’ll often be wearing an old ballcap with the insignia of the local team; they’ve got more like them back home, at least one for each city they visit.  Their tow trucks and vans are usually plain white, late model but not new.  These vehicles lack any logo and are missing the department of transportation numbers commercial vehicles are required by law to display.  If called on this omission they will produce a magnetic sign that they say they removed to wash the truck and then forgot to put back on.

Most repo men are scruffy fellows, but some are the clean shaven, crew cut type.  None are physically imposing specimens, tending towards average or small builds.  Many of them have experience in the armed forces, ranging from working in the motor pool repairings hummers to driving tanks to shooting people with machine guns.  They rarely talk about this part of their lives and don’t wear anything that would tip anyone off that they have a bronze star and a purple heart in a box back home.

Most repo men are friendly fellows with single syllable names like Al or Tom.  Behind the smiles and the love of danger so typical of this type is a deep vein of melancholy.  Most repo men are divorced; being on the job at all hours--staking out leads sometimes for days at a time--is not conducive to a stable relationship.  This turns some repo men into hard drinking, love ‘em and leave ‘em womanizers.  A few turn to religion instead.  Never settling for middle-of-the-road respectable Protestantism, the repo men who find God all get there via fire-and-brimstone or snake handling Evangelicalism or a self-indulgent confession-heavy Catholicism.

Every repo man has at least one hobby that is as wild as his line of work.  Storm chasing, driving demolition derby,  hot air ballooning, collecting and repairing old Soviet vehicles and weapons, and sculpting logs with chainsaws are just a few examples.

(See also: Library—Horrors—The Machine, Library—Horrors—Serial Killer, Sketches and Pitches: Down and Out In Demon City, Tables—Organized Criminals, Relationship to Next NPC, Crime Lord Schemes, Murder Motives)
Jeff Grubb said that!

The Demon City Kickstarter is almost over!!!
Stretch goals coming up include contributions from Kenneth Hite
and online generators from Last Gasp /Logan Knight and 


Monday, August 6, 2018

Goliath's Head (Annotated)

Note: This post has gotten Redditted so that, of course, means stupidity.  A lot of harassers are trying to use it rhetorically (and repeating easily refuted bullshit) to suggest that pointing out actual, real abuses in the indie scene by harassers like John Harper, etc are just some minor interpersonal beef.  The links to what people did to deserve being called out are in the text. Address it if you like a working RPG internet, there's a lotta eyeballs on Reddit. Also, definitely hit the report button. You can't have a healthy RPG scene if bullshit isn't immediately and constantly shut down.

So if you haven't heard the news, this is a fairly accurate summary of Friday's annual Ennie awards for achievement in RPGs at Gen Con:

OSR annihilated.

This isn't just a post about how awesome that is--I also want to talk about what that means, because, contrary to popular belief, it doesn't mean fuck-all.

The Judges and the System

The Judges' spotlight awards--awarded by Ennie Judges to things they personally thought were worthy--give us a good idea where the committee's heads were at:

Eloy Lasanta, Carol Darnell and crew won one for the Pip System--definitely deserved, especially considering Eloy's hard push to expand diversity in games (he also won won last year)--and Eloy gave a nice speech. (Also another on behalf of a friend for Best Free Game.) A few other judges nominated games I knew nothing about--which was cool. That is: they didn't nominate any licensed mainstream backwash or indie-game hipster Usual Suspects. The chatter online often obscures people who are working hard and not talking about it in places that echo enough.

....and two awards in a row went to OSR/DIY RPG folks, starting off with Judge Reece swearing aggressively and entertainingly into the livestream and going on for quite a bit:  Fever Swamp by a team including Luke Gearing, Andrew Walter, Daniel Sell, Christian Kessler and Jarret Crader and Operation Unfathomable by Jason Sholtis of the Hydra Collective. With extensive shoutouts by winners to a lot of OSR peeps and blogs.

Now these judges, I've heard, caused some sort of fracas behind the scenes where the Old School/DIY RPG-philic judges were accused of being mouthpieces directing undue attention to the barbaric and unruly OSR which somehow gamed the results.

I'll be the first to point out that the system of judge-choosing seems less than perfect and kind of electoral collegey (the judges talk about their fave games and give their real names, we vote for judges based on that) but this is important:

All of this year's indie darlings were also on the ballot in one place or another this year as well as every single major publisher in games (except WOTC and Fantasy Flight, who I think didn't submit). Once nominated, The People are just straight-up allowed to vote. And it was a slaughter.

The awards may not represent total democracy, but they do represent what people were moved to support more from the multiple choice options given them.

Let's see, in detail, how that went...

-Scenario from Ontario wins Best Electronic Book, making for the funniest thing all-night:James Edward Raggi reading a short speech written by Zzarchov Kowolski and Kiel Chenier. They've both GMed me and I liked it and they deserved it.

-Hot Springs Island by Jacob Hurst and co (which my group is currently running) won gold for Best Adventure beating oversized and conscience-free indie giant Green Ronin.

-The genuinely useful Hex Kit by Cecil Howe beat Shadowrun and Paizo for Best Aid/Accessory.

-Frostbitten & Mutilated got more than any one product (EDIT: oh wait, the Delta Green RPG got 4 as well) and I was Mr T-ing around with ones for Best Interior Art, Best Monster/Adversary, Best Setting, and Best Writing beating Monte Cook Games, Green Ronin, and Starfinder (in their case: three times). (I thanked a lot of people but, to my eternal shame considering how design-reliant the book was, graphic designer Luka Rejec. Sorry Luka. Those speeches here, here, here, and here. I was actually not drinking yet: this is just how New Yorkers talk. I got very drunk later though so don't worry.)
Sometimes you're the duck.
-In the case of Writing and Setting, I am happy to say Chris Spivey's excellent Harlem Unbound got two golds over my two silvers along with several immediate offers of employment, (his heartfelt acceptance speeches right after mine in those links up there) and Harlem artist Brennen Reece also picked one up for best cover.

-For Product of the year, Daniel Fox's Warhammer do-over Zweihander beat not only Starfinder and Star Trek, but the extensively-talked-up-and-advertised sure-thing-shoe-in Blades In the Dark from axis-of-indie-shitheadedness John Harper and Evil Hat. Zwei also took Best Game from Blades and fellow indie-darling Red Markets. Speeches here and here.

-Paizo's Starfinder was nominated for 8 things and got only one: a Silver to the OSR's Glynn Seal/Monkeyblood's Gold for his cartography in Midderlands.

-Monte Cook Games was nominated for three and got none.

-The only thing Green Ronin got was a silver for a Critical Role tie-in.

-Evil Hat got only one thing, Best RPG-Related-Product for a licensed card game.

-All the other indie darlings involving harassment-clique members that were nominated got totally stiffed, except a podcast--Fear of A Black Dragon (they had puritan hatemonger Anna Kreider/Wundergeek on their parent podcast, the Gauntlet, they still haven't removed the episode or apologized).

-Cthulhu franchises picked up whatever the OSR hadn't nailed down--Chaosium won Silver Fan Favorite Publisher which meant we got to see arguably-greatest-living-game-designer Greg Stafford go up and make a speech then WOTC got Gold and...nobody went up.

Moral of the Story

1. Nearly all of these losers from big companies were produced by multiple authors.

2. Nearly all of these losers from big companies sold more copies than the DIY products that beat them.

3. The people who bought them generally heard about them online--the same place they would've heard that they were nominated for awards...

4. ...and yet, once they purchased or Kickstarted these Goliaths, they didn't really care about them enough to throw support behind them when they went up against the Davids they vastly outsold.

Like Dylan Moran's mom once said: It doesn't matter how big the other fucker is, they all have a neck. 

The "neck" in this case is talent. No matter how big your game or your license, there is still--somewhere in the gears of the machine that produces RPGs--a need for people who actually can do things better than other people. That's why people like Kenneth Hite keep getting hired up and down the street year after year.

Is Fever Swamp going to outsell Starfinder? Of course not. But are the people who made Fever Swamp quite possibly on their way to positions where they get paid more than anyone on Starfinder--either as an indie making a fair cut of a smaller profit or as a respected hired-gun wooed by a big company? Fuck yeah. People who won this year have gotten business offers almost immediately. And business offers mean you can keep avoiding your day job.

So, good luck to y'all making your thing. I hope you beat me next year--it'll be hard 'cause Demon City'll be out by then, but, again, I would be happy to lose--I have enough of these already and a pair of day jobs I happen to like.

And, for this year... thanks!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Original Art For Sale At Gen Con

About to find out how long the line to get my Gen Con tickets is, then head over to the LotFP booth (#2911), this is just to say I'll have original art for sale over there is you want it.
And don't forget it's the Ennies tonight and there's a lot of new creators where like it's their first time not just being nominated for anything but even making anything so they'll want you to come out.

It'll be an insane night on that stage, come out!
-
-
-

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Ken Hite on Demon City and The Gen Con Info Post (2018)

Just got finished texting with Kenneth Hite--he's agreed to do two Demon City stretch goals--one on sacred architecture as horror and one on the Lovecraftian mythos.

It's not on the Kickstarter page yet because I just heard it, but Mike will add it on to the official page soon.
Who's coming?

So far me and Stokely are coming from LA, James Edward Raggi IV will be at the booth as well of course. Beyond that I don't know.

Where will you be I want to kill you?

Lamentations of the Flame Princess Booth #2911, at the Ennies when they happen otherwise text me.

When do you roll up so I can murder you because I am terrible?

I'll be at the booth Friday, Saturday and Sunday, usually after noon-1pm because I sleep late and am on LA time. You cannot murder me there will be security at the booth.

Should I go to the Ennies so that I can violently assault all of the many OSR nominees or just angrily leave and tweet about it when they win?

You should not. But if you want to cheer the many many many many deserving OSR and DIY RPG nominees this year you must definitely roll up and sit near us. It's free. Also there will be security at the Ennies this year. It's Friday night at Union Station and Contessa Stacy is one of the hosts.

Will you be throwing another party?

This year's post-Ennie party will not technically be hosted by me, but there will be another party and if you come to the Ennies and ask me I will tell you where it's gonna be at.

What if you don't win anything?

I probably won't because the competition is fierce af this year, but so much of what's nominated is worthy that there'll be a lot to celebrate. I got enough already.

Will you sign my thing?

If you buy at least 10$ worth of stuff at the LotFP booth, sure. It doesn't have to be LotFP stuff, it can be from any of the DIY RPG folks who also have stuff at the booth, but you gotta help somebody out. That's the rule.

Will you draw a funny picture when you sign it?

I usually do.

Will there be copies of Maze of the Blue Medusa available? 

Some are being shipped to Gen Con. So assuming they aren't sold out by the time you get there, yeah.

What about Vornheim, Red & Pleasant Land and Death Frost Doom?

Yup. Again: subject to scrabbling hands.

Will you be selling original art at the booth?

Yes. Mostly from game stuff.

Can I get a "Zak Sabbath Saved D&D" or "Play D&D & Worship Satan" t-shirt at the booth? Or a phone case, or...

No but they're here.

Do you or Stokely have a thing about having your hand shaken?

No, go ahead.

Can I get a picture with you and/or Stokely?

Stokes makes her own rules but my price is snacks. Or Dr Pepper. No chocolate--cashews, dried apricots, healthy things are nice. It doesn't have to be big. I don't like to leave the booth while people are there and I talk a lot to a lot of people so I get tired and need energy to hock these fucking wares yall.

What do you do while at the booth?

An extensive improvised mountebank spiel, peppered with anecdotes everyone at the booth has heard a million times. The word "barking" as in "carnival barking" refers specifically to speaking using only the front of your mouth, articulating quickly in a relatively high-pitch using your tongue and not your throat, which allows you to talk loudly and continuously all day without messing up your throat, did you know that? I learned it from Neal Adams on Kevin Smith's Batman podcast. No relation. To Kevin Smith anyway.

Are you running any public games at Gen Con?

I am not.

Can I run Demon City or something while I'm there?

Sure.

Can I tell you about my character?

Please tell me about your character.

I like your work except this one thing about it, should I just be polite?

No. I will respect and like you much more and be much less bored if you tell me about things you don't like about my stuff and then we talk about it.

Will you remember my name from last time?

Very likely not because my booth memory is terrible and I meet a lot of people but if you have an online handle remind me.

Will you tell me Borderline Unbelievable Insider Information?

Perhaps if you ply me with drinks.

Will you tell me The Secret Anecdote That You Only Tell People In Person?

If you're nice to people.

Will

Will this blog entry end with an advert for the Demon City Kickstarter?

Yes.
Get a copy of Demon City here