Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Blog Watch: That Lovecraft Statue, Everything Wrong with Star Wars, the Genesis of the Great Tarot Panic, the Moral Policing of Everything, and Taking a Flying Leap off the Fun Mesa

Game Design (The Escapist) Shigeru Miyamoto Says His Rivals Are Boring, Samey — “They want to tell stories that will touch people’s hearts. And while I understand that desire, the trend worries me. It should be the experience, that is touching.”

Dungeon Design (Semper Initiativus Unam)  A Missing Link: A Miniature Megadungeon — “It condenses into 3 levels most of the principal ideas that underlie the Gygaxian megadungeon. There are multiple entrances, multiple connections between levels, different types of terrain, sloping passages, and generally everything you’d want from a complex dungeon, all in three neat levels. None of which is to disregard Tom Wham’s great Skull Mountain diagram, but Holmes manages to do a lot with a few levels.”

AD&D (Don’t Split the Party) Monsters from the Id!! — “That’s right – those long duration divinations that allow you to look for good, life, charms, invisible creatures, etc. also make it more likely that some horrible monster is going to suck your mind dry!”

Appendix N (The Guardian) World Fantasy awards pressed to drop HP Lovecraft trophy in racism row — “People have been debating whether Lovecraft being a racist matters or whether it’s his writing that should be at issue. I’m saying: both matter. After decades and decades of deeply embedded racism being prevalent in the fantasy genre, it’s time to make courageous moves against racism, and that includes not championing a vile racist.”

Adventure Design (D&D with Porn Stars) Like Playing Monopoly With Squatters — “For me, creating a game world or plot events is less like building a sculpture and more like designing a playground. Yes, you want to bring your creativity to bear in that small world of jungle gyms and slides and animals-on-springs, but you have to remember that the fun isn’t just going to come from what you make but from what happens when real world contemporary people with sneakers and jeans use it and are on it and are contrasted with it and slide down it.”

Appendix N (The Black Gate) Sofia Samatar Confronts the Elephant in the Room — “This is how you win arguments. By being simultaneously more articulate and dignified — and funnier — than everyone else in the room. I know who gets my vote to replace Lovecraft’s visage on the statute. Perhaps they won’t even have to modify it all that much. But trust me, when they’re done, it’ll be a lot more beautiful.”

Moral Panics (God and the Machine) The Fake History of the Occult Tarot — “Antoine Court de Gébelin (1720s-1784) was an intellectual, Protestant pastor, Freemason, and occultist who traveled in powerful circles. He believed that there was once an ancient, advanced civilization that spanned the globe, and that the wisdom of this enlightened culture is at the root of common elements of symbolism and language shared by all humans.”

Appendix T (The Black Gate) What Old Futures Can Teach Us About What SF and SciFi is Really For — “The Dumarest books are awesome, like reading the Traveller campaign you wished you’d played in. It’s Robert E Howard (or Harold Lamb) in space with a hero that sits on the spectrum somewhere between Conan and Solomon Kane.”

Movies (The Escapist) Broken Movies — “The idea that every piece of narrative storytelling needs to function wholly self-contained is still rooted in the pre-digital, pre-internet, pre-democratization of information view of the world.”

Gamergate (Breitbart) An Open Letter to Bloomburg’s Sheelah Kolhatkar, on the Delicate Matter of Anita Sarkeesian — “Never in the history of public life has abuse been so professionally advantageous or financially lucrative—an observation that tells its own story…. Your piece fails to mention that not a single arrest or prosecution has been brought as a result of alleged threats in which the GamerGate movement has been implicated—without, I should point out, a shred of evidence linking any GamerGate supporter to any threat. And it fails to acknowledge that radical far-left pseudo-academic feminist troublemakers use threats as currency online in a perverted sort of Olympics, showing off to one another and begging for funds with each round of new insults that, in many cases, observers suspect they have sent to themselves.”

AD&D (Geek Dad) A Tale of Two Dungeon Master Guides – 1979 AD&D and 2014 D&D — “The AD&D DMG was invaluable as a source of reference during my early DM days. It offered up plenty of hooks to get my players involved, and there are an amazing number of pages in the book that are almost worn thin from the number of times I probably referenced them. (Plenty of handwritten comments and underlined bits, too.) It’s real power, though, was in how serious things got when I pulled the book out of my bag. It signified game time.”

Adventure Design (Dungeon Fantastic) This sounds like a job for . . . Player Characters! — “From a purely meta perspective, the game world is there for the players, not the NPCs. The PCs have the most interest, the most resources (man for man), and the most to gain by solving these issues. They are the heavyweights on the scene. They are the ones who, for better or worse, will make the most impact. What’s the point of a game world where the PCs are marginal? I’d rather have the world full of opportunities the PCs can take advantage of.”

Star Wars (Medium) Everything Wrong with the New ‘Star Wars’ Teaser — “Like the heroes of ancient mythology, the characters of Star Wars have always inhabited a narrative bigger than themselves, and as such the details of their human suffering go unreported. Cut by a lightsaber? They don’t bleed. Tortured on some weird electro-table thing? They don’t scar. Lost in the desert? They don’t sweat. You’ll never see a close-up on Luke Skywalker’s pores, or a POV from Han’s blaster. Interesting as these shots may be, they make the epic tale of Star Wars into a subjective, personal experience, and that’s just not the scale at which the drama of Star Wars occurs.”

Ogre (The Black Gate) The Classic Games of Metagaming: Ogre — “When you sat down to play a game of Ogre, you weren’t just pushing cheap cardboard counters across a piece of paper, and rolling a d6 you stole from your sister’s Clue game. You were a participant in a mini theater of the imagination. The stakes were perilously high for your human defenders as they valiantly surged across the blasted landscape towards an unstoppable enemy of mankind, and almost certain death. Every game brought surprises, and the kind of high drama and excitement that kept you and your friends talking for days — or at least until the next time the board came out.”

Star Wars (The Escapist) This Is How You Defend The Ridiculous Crossguard Lightsaber — “You can argue that with enough training, someone can learn to not kill themselves with a lightsaber. Perhaps so – but we don’t see Luke using a practice lightsaber before going blindfolded and becoming a danger to himself and everyone around him. No, the only way we can logically reconcile that the Jedi Academy isn’t filled with amputees is because their attunement with the Force grants them some form of sixth sense that allows them to safely wield their signature weapon. And given that, it doesn’t matter how many more blades you stick on the damn thing, or in what configuration – we’ve already conceded that the answer is always: the Force.”

D&D (Bat in the Attic) Delving into the 5e DMG, Final Thoughts — “There is just too much reference to story and too much borrowing of concepts from writing and scripting. The strength of tabletop roleplaying is in its ability to be a pen and paper virtual reality, its ability to place the players within a experience rather than to be observers of an experience. No other form of entertainments is as easy as a tabletop roleplaying game in creating experiences to participate in. None are as flexible in accommodating all the crazy things a player could come up with. If tabletop roleplaying is to survive in the 21st century this flexibility is what RPGs must emphasize. Especially in the face of the alternatives, like CRPGs or MMORPGs, that are easier for a player to become involved in.”

Role-Playing Games (RPG Snob) Kids Want Structure — “This doesn’t end with players, though. GMs, like me, will tell you that there’s nothing finer than a unified rule set, one that’ll let you play in any genre, any time period, any way you like. And then we’ll sit, stymied by choice paralysis, trying to decide just what the hell kind of game we want to run!”

OSR (Save Versus All Wands) Femen Demonstration — “More than twenty demonstrators stood silently for ten minutes with slogans etched in black marker across their chests, such as ‘Take your Clothes Off My Body!’ ‘Imagine the Hell Out of It!’ and ‘Fight On!’ They then unfolded a card table and proceeded to ‘role play’ a game of what one demonstrator called ‘Holmes Basic’, led by an activist wearing nothing above her waist except a three-paneled cardboard screen emblazoned with the words ‘Dungeon Mistress’.”

D&D (Random Wizard) B10 Nights Dark Terror — “This adventure is a tour de force of the lands of Karameikos, the same setting presented in the ‘Known World’ Expert Set and X1 Isle of Dread as created by David ‘Zeb’ Cook, but fleshed out in a level of detail that is neither too heavy nor too light…. I have often stated that my style of running a game is more in line with the UK series of modules. In OSR circles, there tends to be a emphasis on the older modules with their bare bones, sandbox like settings. And there is a definite vibe that Tracy Hickman’s later Dragonlance adventures are the anti-thesis of old school play. But I feel the UK modules are a nice sweet spot, somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between freeform and story.”

Adventure Design (Bleeding Cool) Artist And Game Designer Zak Smith Talks About A Red And Pleasant Land — “The game is primarily about the players and GMs inventing things, not buying stuff. In the beginning of the hobby it pretty much had to be that way–there wasn’t a game you could buy so these wargamers had to make one. They cut up plastic dinosaurs with kitchen knives and glued new heads on them–that’s it right there, that’s the heart of the game on every level: you put something out and then other people build on it and send back something even better. So rather than giving people completely finished game stuff which substitutes for a lack of imagination, I want to give them the bag of toys.”

Gamergate (Spiked) #Gamergate: we must fight for the right to fantasise — “The world of fantasy is being invaded, tut-tutted over and in some cases cordoned off by the new moralists who don’t only say ‘You can’t say that!’ but also ‘You can’t imagine that!’. It isn’t only in videogames. The moral policing of culture, especially pop culture, has become weirdly and wildly fashionable in recent years. Where once it was only the most tyrannical of regimes – think the GDR’s Stasi – that monitored culture for political wrongness and rightness, now a whole new generation of activist and journalist devotes its moral energy to assessing whether culture is ‘problematic’ (their favourite word) or okay.”

D&D (The Tao of D&D) No Price Tags — “Everything about gems defies that sort of comparison. To begin with, they are very rarely cut. Historically, most gems, especially big gems, were at best polished, and that is how they remained for centuries after being found. Diamonds can’t be polished; there’s no grit in existence that will wear a diamond down, so for most of history – until diamond-cutting was developed in the 14th century – diamonds were fairly worthless, used as grit to polish other stones. A big, faceted jewel such as those commonly depicted by Hollywood in the caves of Arab Princes wouldn’t have existed – a large, rounded, beautiful stone like that in Conan the Barbarian was the norm.”

Science Fiction (Fritz’s Wiki) Ancillary Justice (review) — “I had heard that it hearing that it had on a Hugo, Nebula, and an Arthur C. Clarke Award and was curious about a novel that had won all three awards previously noted in one year by a debut author. Very impressive indeed. I was also intrigued by the idea of an AI main character that was a fragment of its original self. I started listening. And listening. I wondered what all the fuss was about. Honestly, if Ancillary Justice hadn’t won the awards it did and I hadn’t been listening to an audiobook, I wouldn’t have made it past the first few chapters.) Why had this book won so many awards? I was bored, but I persevered, hoping that I would stumble across a plot or find some reason to care about the main character. Or any character, frankly.”

Video Games (The Escapist) A New Commandment for Developing Games With RPG Elements — “My point is, there’s got to be a middleground between alienating the minimalist player and leaving large chunks of gameplay free-floating separately from the all-important difficulty curve. If you sacrifice cohesion, then the game takes on the qualities of a toybox, or toddler activity centre for grown-ups, where all the activities exist solely for the sake of completing them, and not as part of an arc. Maybe that’s not an utterly invalid design philosophy, maybe there are players who do just want to idly mess about with the shiny stones on the beach. I can only speak for myself, and my investment in video games lies in my love of interactive narrative, in both the organic and inorganic sense.”

Appendix N (Monster Hunter Nation)  Fisking the Guardian again, this time for HP Lovecraft. — “I once got a negative review that said ‘though Correia uses some Lovecraftian themes, he is more of a modern Robert E. Howard’ and he meant it as an insult. Personally, I wanted to use that as a cover blurb.”

The Crazy Years (The Harvard Crimson) Protest at Primal Scream Leads to Chaotic Exchange — “After failing to quiet the students with a megaphone, Khurana was lifted onto the back of a half-naked man, from where Khurana tried to quiet the crowd again. When the streakers continued to talk, the protesters broke their silence, chanting, ‘Silence. Silence.’ Meanwhile, shouts of ‘U.S.A., U.S.A.!’ erupted from the group of runners, drowning out the calls for silence by the protesters.”

GURPS (Gaming Ballistic) You poured rules lawyer all over my fun — “If you note that I have an exasperated tone in this post, you’re not wrong. Because much as in another parallel thread on the exact parsing of the wording in Committed Attack, I think discussions such as this, that turn on a near Clintonesque view of what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is do not help gaming in general, and GURPS in particular, draw in new blood and new fans. I’m not even sure they help resolve the issues at hand, because they’re so very particular they require a level of system mastery and textual precision that takes a flying leap off the fun mesa, landing messily in the burning abyss below.”

Appendix N (S. T. Joshi’s Web Site) Reply to Charles Baxter’s “The Hideous Unknown of H. P. Lovecraft” — “Among his sixty short stories, novelettes, and short novels, I have counted only five that have racism as their thematic foundation, and only one of these—’The Shadow over Innsmouth’ (1931), where the unwholesome mating of fishlike creatures from the sea with humans is generally interpreted as a metaphor for Lovecraft’s disdain for ‘miscegenation’ (intermarriage between members of different races)—is a major tale. And yet, this remains one of Lovecraft’s great narratives, an imperishable account of regional decay worthy of Faulkner.”

The Chilling Effect (RPGPundit) Is the Apocalypse Fast Approaching?? — “Until now, the fact that OBS was the largest game in town (in essence, the only game in town, in the sense that if you’re shut out of OBS, you stand to lose an enormous percentage of your PDF profitability) was not really a huge problem, because they seemed committed to being a neutral all-access content aggregator. Now, with this decision, they can’t claim that anymore.  And I think it is only a matter of time, having chosen to abandon their neutrality once, before they abandon it again, or are pressured/coerced into abandoning it now that a precedent for doing so has been set and can be used against them if they even try to claim neutrality in the future.”

The Chilling Effect (Save Versus All Wands) Review: Gamergate the Card Game — “They want to bring their smutty, dirty politics and Brown Shirt bullying tactics into tabletop gaming. You and I don’t want that. But what do we do? If we don’t resist, they win. If we do resist, we dirty ourselves by getting ‘political’, just like them.”

The Chilling Effect (FOX News)  Campus turns on Muslim conservative who penned satire — “There are times when I say to myself, ‘Hell yes, I should have written that! And there are times when it’s like, never in my dreams would I write it again, given the reaction I have had to deal with.”

4 responses to “Blog Watch: That Lovecraft Statue, Everything Wrong with Star Wars, the Genesis of the Great Tarot Panic, the Moral Policing of Everything, and Taking a Flying Leap off the Fun Mesa

  1. Cirsova December 17, 2014 at 9:53 am

    I would be okay with them replacing the Lovecraft bust with one of Dunsany.

  2. Jeff V December 18, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    While I must admit I always thought the choice of a bust of a single author for the Fantasy award was a bit odd (after all, even the Hugos use a spaceship for their trophy instead of a bust of Gernsback), I think this manufactured outrage over his “racism” is nothing short of ridiculous. If that’s the standard you’re going to apply, maybe it’s time you took a hard look at the people who other trophies in the arts are named after. Some of them were appalling in their personal beliefs and behaviors, but no one seems to object to them. And as for awardees, you’ve got to be kidding me. If it’s okay to award Woody Allen all kinds of recognition despite the fact that he’s a child rapist, why in the world should anyone hypocritically denounce HPL for something that, after all, was merely considered the norm of his time? It’d be like denouncing Caesar for owning slaves and demanding he be removed from any significant mention in history books because of it.

    I’m sorry that the author feels insulted by it, but the demand we replace HPL’s bust with one of Octavia Butler is just as silly. Who knows what privately held and publicly expressed beliefs she had that will, in 80 years, be considered terminally offensive by some professional victim of that day? If you insist of removing the bust of HPL from circulation, then by all means replace it with something evocative of Fantasy, instead of yet another author whose beliefs will be just as subject to denunciation at some point in the future as HPL’s are now. The award isn’t about HPL per se, or agreeing with his personal beliefs in any way; it’s about being recognized as a great author. If you can’t accept it in that spirit, then simply repudiate the award and move on.

    • jeffro December 18, 2014 at 1:17 pm

      Thank you for anger into words. That stuff makes me so mad, I don’t even know what to say about it…!

      Men that are products of their times are still capable of producing timeless works. I am sick of these people that act like nobody in history had a moral compass until about two or three decades ago. It’s just galling.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: