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Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Blog Watch: Closed Chasms, Crypto-Fascists, Visible Humiliations, and Stereotypical Fantasy

History (Reuters) Don’t tear down Confederate monuments – do this instead — “Maybe the northernmost confederate memorial in America (that I know of) can be instructive. It’s on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. That’s right. A Confederate memorial stands not only on Martha’s Vineyard, but it’s located in the historically African-American hamlet of Oak Bluffs. Years ago, Tony Horwitz, the author of Confederates in the Attic, pointed it out to me. According to the local story, a Confederate veteran moved there after the war and was coldly shunned by everyone on the island. Trying to heal the breach, he raised the money to build a memorial to the Union dead, which stands in the park today, right near where the ferry docks. Some Union veterans felt that they should reciprocate, and so, in time — 1925, in fact — aged Union veterans added a plaque honoring the Confederate dead as well. You can see it here. ‘The chasm is closed,’ it says.”

History (US News) The Private Thoughts of Robert E. Lee — “Lee was devastated. He was never able to give a candid assessment of his own role in the war—where he was wrong or could have done things differently—because it was too overwhelming. Outwardly, Lee conducted himself with great dignity and was a model of how to endure the unendurable and to stay in Virginia—even though his wife has lost her home, he has lost a huge number of relatives, and he has not a penny to his name. But beneath the facade, we see some explosive feelings inside. I found scraps of paper, unfinished essays, letters to cousins in Europe with quite a lot of bitterness and anger, which is not the way he has been perceived. He’s a disappointed, heartsick man in old age. And it’s tragic because he is an appealing figure in so many ways.”

Video Games ( When Reality Becomes Fantasy: How Video Games are Hijacking the Middle Ages — “Unfortunately for gamers, the tide is turning and the inspection of their identities is happening whether they like it or not, and will continue to gain momentum. Games like Skyrim, and The Elder Scrolls are only the tip of the iceberg. What Gamergate tried to shut down, instead, opened a Pandora’s Box that can never be closed. Academics, like Cooper, will continue to challenge, examine and illustrate the ways these groups misappropriate medieval history.”

Games (Bruno Faidutti) La bulle du jeu  — “So far, the quality of the games published is still very high, and probably higher than it was twenty years ago, but I’m not sure this trend will hold. The low cost of entry, which makes easy to become a game designer or publisher, makes the boardgaming world dynamic. There are more and more great ideas, but games are not selected and, most of all, developed as they were when the industry was more concentrated. This was especially striking with the many light boardgames I pledged on kickstarter. I’ve received some really great games, but also many outstanding ideas which felt not really finalized, and many times I thought that a professional publisher or a seasoned designer / developer could have made an even better game of them. Apprentice publishers have fun, and so far they manage to break even and sometimes to make some money, but gamers could get bored or become more demanding.”

Games (PAXsims) AFTERSHOCK in the Pacific — “That story and the few others we imparted to the players were amazingly effective. They showed how all of the events in the game had actually happened and gave the AFTERSHOCK substantial credibility once players saw how it had been designed using real world events. One of the most frequent feedbacks we received from players was that the history of the event cards really added to the experience and it would be great if every card had the history behind it either printed on the card, as flavor text, or in an appendix that could be read when each event came up.”

Traveller (Dorkland!) The End Of An Era For GURPS Traveller — “Since 1998, Steve Jackson Games has published GURPS Traveller source books under license from Far Future Enterprises. Traveller, a science fiction game of merchant princes and mercenaries, has long been a favorite of gamers everywhere. On December 31, 2015, Steve Jackson Games’ Traveller license will expire, and will not be renewed.”

GURPS (Jeff’s Hobby Blog) Why I Play GURPS Over Other RPG Systems — “The former is a character with a story, a narrative, a personality, and with human flaws. The latter is a mathematical construct, designed for maximum efficiency and output, lacking of anything that would differential it from a well constructed BOT on a World of Warcraft server farming for gold.”

Game Design (Pulsipher Game Design) Video (screencast): Good once, good three times, or always good – what game do you want to make? — “So I think we’ve come to the point that most games are designed to meet the lower standard of ‘play three times’ or ‘play once’. They’re not designed do that they’re always worth playing.”

Appendix N (DM David) 4 popular beliefs Dungeons & Dragons defied in the 70s — “In the fantasies that inspired the game, no character explores a dungeon. At best, you can find elements of the dungeon crawl, such as treasure in the mummy’s tomb, orcs in Moria, traps in a Conan yarn, and so on.”

Fandom (io9) The University of Iowa Brings Fanzines To The Digital World — “These fanzines paint an almost outrageously clear picture of early fandom. If you read through every single fanzine in our collection, you would have a pretty solid idea of all the goings-on that shaped early fandom—the major players, the dramas, the developments and changes, and who instigated and opposed them. There is an incredible cultural history here that cannot be replicated.”

AD&D ( Forgotten Battle in the Mines — “At this point one could wonder if the H series was just a way to show off the latest new product, and convince people they really wanted to get them. In practice, there’s no crying need for either of the new hardbacks, and the need for the WSG is very minimal. The actual need for the DSG is also fairly minimal, but at the same time it was essential to writing the module. The DSG had discussed the idea of sprawling linked cavern complexes under the entire game world, called variously ‘deepearth’ and ‘underdark’, and this module, co-authored by the author of the DSG, featured a corner of what was explicitly just that.”

Appendix N (Black Gate) The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: By Crom – Are Conan Pastiches Official? — “He put them in his revised chronological order and inserted short intros to each, linking them to the prior story. I rather like these short links. While I myself hold all non-Howard originals to be pastiches and not authoritative Conan tales, I think the general perceived baseline among non-purists is that the stories in the Lancer/Ace series are the ‘official’ Conan tales. Stop yelling: I think that assertion can at least be argued to be valid, though it’s certainly not conclusive. But going a step further, the powers that be which control the Conan copyright would seem to have us also include the Tor Originals as ‘official.’ And I think that’s ludicrous.”

Books (New Statesman) Michael Moorcock: “I think Tolkien was a crypto-fascist” — “Fantasy became as bland as everything else in entertainment. To be a bestseller, you’ve got to rub the corners off. The more you can predict the emotional arc of a book, the more successful it will become. I do understand that Game of Thrones is different. It has its political dimensions; I’m very fond of the dwarf and I’m very pleased that George [R R Martin], who’s a good friend, has had such a huge success. But ultimately it’s a soap opera. In order to have success on that scale, you have to obey certain rules.”

Books (Bayou Renaissance Man) “Are we there yet? Huh? Are we?” — “I’m certain that in 2015 alone, the boycott will have a six-figure effect on Tor’s turnover – not much for a multi-million-dollar-turnover publisher, but that’s just the start. As those involved in the boycott continue it and spread the word, the impact will grow. I fully expect it to reach a cumulative total of seven figures over time. Again, that may not seem like a lot to scoffers and naysayers; but I think in today’s publishing market, where margins are already razor-thin, such a loss of turnover may have an impact out of all proportion to its dollar value.”

The End of Gawker (Breitbart) How #GamerGate Shattered Gawker’s Myth of Invincibility — “If there is one feature that unites the imperial downfalls of history, it is the moment of hubris. The moment at which an opponent’s strength is wildly underestimated, or one’s own is wildly overestimated. In October 2014, Gawker writer Sam Biddle did both. He no doubt intended to do to Gamergate what he had done to Justine Sacco — publicly shame them, or ‘degrade them into submission,’ as he put it. But his tweets — posted, disastrously, during national bullying awareness month — caused a PR calamity that would lead to one of Gawker’s most visible humiliations. The shamers were about to be shamed.”

DCC (Cirsova) Dungeon Crawl Classics — “Level 0 DCC feels like one of those few times that one ‘wins’ in a tabletop RPG. Everyone who gets out with one character alive ‘wins’; if someone gets out with more than one character, I don’t know, they superwin? Like I said, I could play the funnel over and over again.”

Comics (The Guardian) Superheroes a ‘cultural catastrophe’, says comics guru Alan Moore — “While many of you have been justifiably relaxing with your families or loved ones, I have been answering allegations about my obsession with rape, and re-answering several-year-old questions with regard to my perceived racism. If my comments or opinions are going to provoke such storms of upset, then considering that I myself am looking to severely constrain the amount of time I spend with interviews and my already very occasional appearances, it would logically be better for everyone concerned, not least myself, if I were to stop issuing those comments and opinions. Better that I let my work speak for me, which is all I’ve truthfully ever wanted or expected, both as a writer and as a reader of other authors’ work.”

Game Design (Violent Resolution) Violent Resolution – The End of the Revolution — “Tactics are important, and how and when to deploy your abilities make up part of the fun of the game. On the down side, fighting can take on a slogging-through-mud feel for those averse to the ablative nature of combat. A high hit-point monster is a war of attrition – your party and their abilities vs. a giant bag of HP (our party a while back went up against a 110HP fighter; an epic battle, but wow it took a while). There are alternate rules out there, such as variants on Massive Damage, which can address this, but it’s built into the game pretty hard.”

AD&D (Black Gate) The Worst AD&D Spell Of All Time — “Perhaps this doesn’t sound like much, but in reality (in game reality) this took far too long to sort out. Two hours, in fact, as I’ve already mentioned, and let’s face it, two hours for a single combat action is one point nine hours too long for any spell or attack.”

D&D (Dungeon of Signs) Thoughts on “Gonzo” Games — “I had my players worried about the ‘Bat Boys’ (or Screechmen) for two sessions, and the fight against them was pretty good as monster fights against weak humanoids go. There were a couple factors at play in this success. Since screechmen are blind and echo-locate, their awful screaming (human and yet mutated) echos about the first level. It actually makes these orc reskins sort of pitiful mechanically – they really can’t sneak up on you, but it’s a creepy atmospheric effect. The party knew something in the dungeon was letting off human sounding screams with astonishing regularity. The party knew the screams were mostly to the South. The party didn’t go South until they ran out of safe ways to go elsewhere, and then was proceeded very cautiously and resigned on meeting something ‘horrible’ – with ghosts being a popular choice. Before meeting the monster the players were concerned about it due to signs of its presence.”

Books (The Guardian) NK Jemisin: the fantasy writer upending the ‘racist and sexist status quo’ — “Stereotypical fantasy series like, say, The Lord of the Rings, usually present a virtuous status quo threatened by a dark and eventually defeated outsider.”

Tolerance (Every Joe) Why is the Left Making Up Fake Conservatives? — “Some of the people who didn’t like me decided to outright fabricate the story that I had been opposed to the inclusive language and gender-inclusiveness in the new D&D book. In fact, I was in no way against the inclusiveness in the new D&D. I’ve been for gay marriage since forever. I had a gay couple renting our extra room at the time I was working on the D&D project, and I actually wrote the first RPG to feature a transgender character on the cover (an Indian-themed D&D old-school game called Arrows of Indra). So they had no facts, just pure invention. They just made up crap, whole-hog, and presented it as truth. I’m a real person, but they thought it was easier to make up a fake version for them to denounce instead.”

DCC (The Word of Stelios) Why I Love Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG (and Why You Should Play it) — “Chances are, most of these peasants will die in their first adventure. So don’t grow too attached to them. But yet here’s the odd thing I’ve noticed: players do grow attached to even their ‘below average’ 0-level characters. They’re not using them as cannon fodder for their ‘best’ character to live. Players root for the ‘William the farmer’ armed only with a pitchfork to see if he can survive the dungeon, beating the odds. And what’s the backstory behind the slave with ‘the strange-looking rock?’ (Yes, you can roll that up as an occupation). Yet if they survive they become experienced and more resilient. They can’t go back to being peasants. They become first level and you chose a class.”

Books (John C. Wright) A Question about the Global Warming Hoax — “Political Correctness means judging stories on how efficient they are as propaganda. Truth never enters their mental system at any point. Truth is merely irrelevant to them.”

Books (Margaret Atwood) It’s Not Climate Change– It’s Everything Change — “Could cli-fi be a way of educating young people about the dangers that face them, and helping them to think through the problems and divine solutions? Or will it become just another part of the ‘entertainment business’? Time will tell. But if Barry Lord is right, the outbreak of such fictions is in part a response to the transition now taking place — from the consumer values of oil to the stewardship values of renewables. The material world should no longer be treated as a bottomless cornucopia of use-and-toss endlessly replaceable mounds of ‘stuff’: supplies are limited, and must be conserved and treasured.”

Books (Mental Floss) How ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Changed Sci-Fi Forever — “In these fantasy worlds, as in the real world, things can’t always be tied up neatly. Evil can never be truly conquered; indeed, a key to fighting it is knowing that. It’s a sophisticated lesson children thrill to, and one in which adults continue to find meaning.”

ACKS (The Rhetorical Gamer) Adventurer Conqueror King System is a Domain of Madness — “I intend to keep my campaign running and to enjoy the heck out of ACKS, but more than likely (perhaps in true, Old School spirit) when it comes time for things like domains and army-level conflict to spring up I’ll be ditching the ACKS rules and relying on the systems established in 2e’s Birthright (for domains) and the Dragon Age RPG (for mass battles).”

D&D (Kickstarter) Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.’s Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter — “THE HOBBY SHOP DUNGEON is an adventure game setting originally created by Ernest Gary Gygax Jr. in 1978 while working as a clerk for the fondly-remembered Dungeon Hobby Shop of Lake Geneva, WI. Inspired by the many games and campaigns he played with his father and many friends, and aided by incomplete maps initially drawn by Terry Kuntz, Ernest came up with a large sprawling dungeon complex that could be used to run games at the store. Since then, more than a thousand players have explored its depths, as remembered by Ernest, including TSR alumni, family members, customers and gamer friends, up to 22 players per sitting!”

5 responses to “Blog Watch: Closed Chasms, Crypto-Fascists, Visible Humiliations, and Stereotypical Fantasy

  1. Cirsova July 31, 2015 at 8:19 am

    Hey, do you have any idea what book cover that’s a photoshop of? It looks worth finding!

    Also, anyone who talks about crypto-fascism outside the context of the european underground neo-folk/industrial movement is probably a jerkoff trying to score lefty points; I’ve always thought it was pretty gross that Moorcock is always trying to score them against Tolkien, someone who had nearly died and had most of his friends die fighting against it. It’s like he read Mark Twain’s epic burn of James Fenimore Cooper and missed the part where Twain focused on the specifics of literary techniques and flawed prose and instead just tried calling Tolkien a Nazi.

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