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Tuesday 31 March 2015

Everyjoe Tuesday: The Last Free-Speech Liberal in the World?

Today, I'm forced to do something different, since I blew my intellectual load twice last week, with my Jeremy Clarkson article, that turned out to be the most popular Everyjoe article I ever wrote... in the world.   Apparently people love Clarkson, love Top Gear, and love to read me shitting on the BBC.

So instead of an Everyjoe article, I present you with the man who may soon be the last Free-Speech Liberal in the world, or at least in the United States.  Also, one of the last actually funny liberals, because these days being funny is not allowed, as John Stewart's successor is finding out.

Back in 2001, Bill Maher had a show called "Politically Incorrect".  Ironically, it was censored and cancelled because the right-wing objected to comments he made in light of 9/11.   Many, many liberals rallied to his side in defense of free speech.

Well, I'm going to predict that I think its only really a matter of time now, just 14 years later, where in spite of his popularity Bill Maher will again find himself facing demands that he be fired.  This time, though, it will be the LEFT who will seek to drive him out of work.  Because there's two things that are forbidden to the modern "progressive" mindset:  having a sense of humor, and daring to question the agenda.  Maher always did the former, and lately he's been doing more and more of the latter, clearly becoming increasingly frustrated over the last year with the rampant extremism of Thought-Control going on in the left.

Thought-control that goes to such extremes of absurdity as to make it so that Clapping is now controversial, a product of the patriarchy or something.  The Women's Conference of the National Union of Students held at Oxford which now famously tried to ban clapping and whooping also felt (though it was somewhat less reported) that the same group felt OK with condemning gay men for "appropriating the culture of black women" (whatever that means) but literally felt they could not bring themselves to raise enough jazz hands to condemn the Islamic State for LITERALLY "appropriating" women and girls as sex slaves or to murder and oppress them (because condemning fucking ISIS could be seen as "Islamophobic" or culturally insensitive).
So yeah, nothing says "Empowered" like being terrified of applause and loud noises while being too meek to condemn men that actually murder and enslave women.

And the above, the "empowered" women who are scared of loud noises and make excuses for kidnappers, rapists, and murderers, will be the ones who will declare Bill Maher "problematic" and keep exerting more and more pressure to try to have him blackballed.  If they can't end up getting him kicked out of HBO, they sure will do their very best to make sure that everyone who is in the self-styled Progressive Tribe knows that it is no longer Politically Correct to like the guy who was once the host of "Politically Incorrect", and shunning is clearly called for.


Currently Smoking: Brigham Anniversary Pipe + Image Latakia

Monday 30 March 2015

RPGPundit Reviews: "Brave the Labyrinth" #1-4

This is a review of the OSR magazine "Brave the Labyrinth", issues one to four. They are published by Small Niche Games, and edited by Peter Spahn.  Each is a softcover book, varying from 26 to 44 pages, in the same size and format as Small Niche's Labyrinth Lord OSR modules.  Each has a variety of articles by a number of contributors.   I am reviewing, obviously, the printed versions of these magazines (described as a "fanzine for the Labyrinth Lord community" but that can really be usable in any old-school context, pretty much); but in addition to purchase they are apparently available as a "pay what you want" program from RPGnow.

And what you get is a mixed bag of fan articles.  But on the whole, not too shabby. #1 has a bunch of new body-altering spells created by an assassin-wizard, some new monsters created by the mage guild, a dungeon map (cool, though only the map, numbered, but with no key or adventure to go with it), a halfing-adventurer-company set of NPCs, a couple of new magic items, rules on animal retainers, a neat alternative LL character sheet, a short article on tallow (what they make the candles with), a four-page adventure for lv.4-5 characters named "The Screams From Jedder's Hole", and a fairly filler review of a fan-made free adventure found elsewhere.

Generally, quite a bit of interesting stuff for 26 pages.  I actually ran the Jedder's Hole adventure for my Albion group and it played out quite well, the players very much enjoyed it as an impromptu adventure on an evening where a couple of key players were missing (and thus the main adventure was postponed).

Issue #2 has some new spells and items (made by an illusionist named Neem the Inscrutable), some new demons named Blooroes (and their brood, which are made for a horror-fantasy vibe), a map of a village (named Aldriss, which has no further detail other than the map, though it does identify the various buildings therein), an orcish warrior order called the Voltherak, a list of gods of Law, Neutrality and Chaos, rules for 0-level humans for LL, another town map (for the "fortress of Hawksford" and its environs), six short articles (on a myriad of topics), some new magic items, an 2.5-page adventure for lv.3-5 characters called "Carnival of the Setting Sun", and another review of another free adventure.  It's 30 pages long, but I think its not quite as good as issue 1; maybe because the first one had a better adventure in it.

Issue #3 is 44 pages, as the material submitted grows. It starts out with a 3-page list with illustrations of the covers of all the LL products released in 2013. Then you get a list of dwarven items. Then a 2-page article with floorplans, on a locale called the "Dagger and Wand Tavern". Then some rules on making Goblinoid characters in LL. Then a couple of pages on a new monster called the Vexare, which are described as "a cross between rats and dwarves". You also get a special ranger subclass called the Beast Rider, a strange racial class called "grimps" (which are a group of imps that work in a tandem hivemind), a bard class for LL, a description and lair map/mini-adventure for a tribe of goblins (the Targker Goblins), an article analyzing the elf class, a list of two dozen types of magic candles, a mixed bag of monsters, and another review at the end.

Finally, issue #4 is 39 pages long.  It features some variations on the Dwarf class, some rules on chaos magic for monsters, the Demonologist variant magic-user class, a couple of full-page hexmaps of "the islands of chalm" (which look a bit like a variant of the Isle of Dread, and again have no additional information beside what's on the map; all of these were pretty much there just for inspiration), some additional rules for using Zombies, a humorous 'fantasy insurance' company for more light-hearted games, rules on weapon mastery for LL, some items of faerie-magic, a 7-page adventure for lv.1-3 characters called "The Ruined Tower of Hilsosk The Mad", and a review of the Red Tide setting book.

So what do I conclude about "Brave the Labyrinth"?  As a rule, I'm not a huge fan of gaming zines, even the very best of these (Dragon, for example) seem to me to be kind of stuffed with a lot of material I'd never use. In this context, I'd say that Brave the Labyrinth does fairly well; it has a very good signal-to-noise ratio if what you're interested in is lots of good optional material for OSR play.  In particular, if you're a fan of Labyrinth Lord, B/X D&D in any of its varieties, including LotFP, BECMI, the Rules Cyclopedia, etc. the material in here is all really usable.   I think numbers 1 and 4 in particular do quite a good job, maybe because they have very playable (short) adventures in them.

Basically, if you're an OSR gamer, you can't go wrong with checking these out, especially at the price.


Currently Smoking:  Raleigh Volcano + Image Latakia

Sunday 29 March 2015

Traveller Campaign Update: Man-Toaster Love Edition

In today's adventure, the PCs brutally murdered a young boy.  Only he might not have so much been a young boy as a 200 year old crime-lord.  Or maybe a vampire.  Or a "space highlander".  Anyways, he needed to die.

They also went to a place a little like this:

and also fought some of these:

And a new PC showed up who was something like a cross between this guy:

and this guy:

And another guy who's a bit like this:

(you might not catch that reference if you're not familiar with South American comic books)

He's not very good in a fight, but he can talk his way out of anything. He also may have starred in a groundbreaking motion picture about man-toaster love. He became a dilettante nobleman mostly because he was left helplessly type-cast.  You know, as the guy who did it with an AI toaster.

Now they're all headed straight back to the last place the Imperial Intelligence forces were hunting them, right up to their doorstep in fact, all for the chance that they might be able to find the biggest haul of Ancient Super-tech So-Advanced-It-May-As-Well-Be-Fucking-Sorcery Artifacts in history, and presumably steal it from right under the Empire's nose.


Currently Smoking: Ashton Old Church Rhodesian + C&D's Crowley's Best

Saturday 28 March 2015

What the D&D Satanic-Panic Did to an Entire Generation of Geeks

So, there's a new academic book on RPGs: "Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds".  

There's an article reviewing the book, sort of, here.  Note, I have not read this book myself; what follows is my own speculations on the subject, not something related to the book.

As to the book, I think the concept is interesting, but as always I am HIGHLY dubious of anything that comes out of academia regarding RPGs, even if it's from my own Religious Studies background. Strike that - ESPECIALLY then, since I know just how indoctrinated that field is by anti-perennial Marxist ideologues who want to see all religion is a meaningless product of local cultural factors.

It does sound like it could be good, though.  And there's also this quote:

"When grown-ups told me that playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) was going to drive me insane or cause me to worship the devil, it suddenly dawned on me that adults were fallible: They ran the schools, the churches, and the police, but they didn’t always think rationally or know what they were talking about."

As far as the comment above: my own observation as a religious scholar would be that the RPG hobby, and indeed the whole generation of geeks from the time of the Satanic Panic appears (to my observation) to be disproportionately populated by two groups: atheists, and people involved in what is sometimes termed 'alternative religion' (that is, people not in a standard mainstream Christian or Jewish denomination or in an orthodox mainstream version of the traditional religion of their own cultural background, but have become converts to some fringe movement or the westernized version of a non-western religion).  We're talking here about just how many gamers are Wiccans, Pagans of other sorts, call themselves Buddhists, Taoists, some form of fringe or ultra-personal Christianity, or New-age "Spiritual" (not really following any religion, but practicing Reiki or Yoga or Crystal Healing or all of the above).

I think that the phenomenon quoted above, the early realization that the very accusation of D&D as "satanic" by trusted authority figures when any young kid playing D&D knew it wasn't, had two effects:
a) A lot of those kids felt like they could never just trust anyone's word unquestioned again.  It was a potential moment (like many others can be) where you realize that most people don't actually know fuck all about religion/philosophy/reality and are just quoting dogma, rather than a product of their own thought processes brought about by personal experiential experimentation.

b) Half (not literally half, but whatever) of the kids for whom (a) happened decided (not necessarily that very instant, but this event was something that contributed to that direction) that clearly nothing could be real then except for that which is immediately materially quantifiable, and (again, EVENTUALLY) rejected spirituality altogether; while the other half decided (eventually, as a gradual product of, among other things, etc.) that if most people didn't actually know FUCK ALL about religion, they would want to seek it out themselves and find out that experiential Truth.

Ironically, I think that the first 'half' above were the kids who were internally horrified at the idea of being accused of being satanists for liking D&D.  They became atheists because deep down they were scared of some sort of "divine punishment" for an inherent spiritual wrongness they didn't even know they had until that moment, and (most horrifyingly) didn't seem to be able to even identify, and so would prefer a world where no such danger could possibly exist.  The other kids, who became Wiccans or Pagans or Neo-Buddhists or Tantric Sex Polygamists or hippie Etheogen Experiencers or Ceremonial High Magicians (or, for that matter, literal Satanists), are the ones who deep down weren't afraid of god but outraged by the betrayal of a society that seemed like reality to them and suddenly very clearly wasn't. That moment (among others, blah blah etc.) was a realization of the fundamental illusion of Paradigm, and thus a Paradigm Shift into the weird, in search of the Real.

Of course, that's all just a poetic way of saying that when their parents said "D&D is evil because it teaches you Real Magic!!", some kids said "my parents are retarded; that must mean there's no Jesus and no Real magic!", and other kids said "my parents are retarded; so fuck yeah I'm going to go find me some 'Real Magic'!"


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Compact + Image Latakia

Friday 27 March 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: More On "Realism"

Perhaps I was a bit hyperbolic in my last post about this, but I stick by the essence of my argument with a slight modification: It seems that in RPGs, either the "realists" are very poor game designers, or the medium of RPGs itself cannot convey the "real" very well.

First of all, no RPG is meant to be a pure simulation. It's meant in its first function to be a game. This is why, shockingly, the best designer of vehicle rules for an RPG is NOT an aerospace engineer. The aerospace engineer might know more about vehicles than anyone else on earth, but in reality the best writer for vehicle rules would be a GOOD GAME DESIGNER.

And also shockingly, "experts" in their given subject are often too obsessed with said subject to maintain perspective as to what makes good game design. That is to say, if he is an expert in computer hacking, he is likely to make "computer hacking rules" so fucking complex that players will have to spend twenty-five minutes and read seven distinct tables of results to complete the action for "my PC turns on his computer".

Now, that means that generally speaking, the concept of game playabilty trumps "realism" every time, EVEN among fans of realistic RPGs. And I stick to my guns in saying that most people who claim they want "realism" in their RPGs really mean that what they want is complex rules that are internally consistent and playable, that help them visualize or complement their experience of the game, and only then within the specific parameters of what interests them.

That's the other thing: people who want what they call "realism" are usually only interested in certain facets of their game being "real". No one who plays RPGs wants absolute realism. They might want enough rules on vehicle construction and combat to fit an entire 200-page manual, but they sure as hell don't want a 200 page manual of complex rules on cooking or going to the bathroom.

Which gets us back to 'simulation'. Most RPGs are emulations. I don't disagree with that at all, on the contrary, I think there's no such thing as an RPG that isn't an emulation. The thing is, almost every RPG is either an emulation of a literary or fantasy genre (fantasy in the sense of an unreal psychological fantasy, not swords&sorcery type fantasy); NOT an emulation of actual reality. So even in an RPG like Shadowrun, you want combat rules to be "simulations" of what you think of in your head when you think "cool cyberpunk battles with high-tech guns blazing all over the place", not what would be a real firefight.

Even in historical setting RPGs, the most arguably "realistic" of all, you are still looking for emulation of a fantasy, not emulation of historical fact. You are looking, when you run a campaign based entirely on the historical Roman Empire, to do "I Claudius" with scheming senatorial politics, or legionaries conquering Gaul; not to be a Roman peasant dying at 28 from dysentery.

So even games where the emphasis APPEARS to be on realism is really only looking to be an accurate simulation of CERTAIN memes that make the particular fantasy emulation you want to achieve work. You might want really detailed "realistic" information on psychology and mental illness if you're running Call of Cthulhu; whereas if you're running a game set in the wild west you probably only need a moderately detailed set of rules for psychology, if any. So what you're talking about is DETAIL, not realism.

In fact, this is often one of the things that fucks up RPGs, either on the level of the system itself or on how people run it. If you are doing an RPG about post-apocalyptic road warriors a lá Mad Max, you probably WANT to have really detailed vehicle combat rules. On the other hand, if you're doing an rpg about a modern-day occult conspiracy, having 200 pages of vehicle design&combat rules will probably get in the way, be a needless waste of space, and kill your game's "feel" if you try to actually implement those rules.

Even in situations where it might be appropriate to have detail, you don't want "realism" that kills the fun. I remember with no fondness whatsoever my first and only experience of "actual play" with Rolemaster. It was a game of "Spacemaster" (I think that's what the sci-fi rolemaster rules were called?) with a DM who was a great believer in the "realism" of the rolemaster system and an absolute stickler to those rules. We spent nearly two hours making characters for the game, started out on a spaceship going to some planet. The DM made a bunch of rolls cross-referencing the near-endless book of tables, informed us that the starship we were in hit a meteor, and we all died. End of game.

Was it realistic? I'm not sure. Was it complex? Very. Did it totally suck donkey balls? Yes.

On the other hand, nothing would fuck up a game about futuristic Giant Robot pilots than having a one-die-roll resolution system for all Mecha piloting and combat. If you have dedicated as many pages to swordfights and swordfighting maneuvers as you have to gunfights in your wild west game, you better have a damn good reason for doing so. In other words, the areas of simulation you choose to apply a lot of detail to are the areas that the game is expected to emphasize in play.

Again, Shadowrun contains an excellent example of this. Why are Riggers important in the world of Shadowrun? Because there are sophisticated rules dedicated to Rigging. If Shadowrun had never had sophisticated rules on Rigging, it could still have existed as a game, you just wouldn't have anyone playing Riggers and it would be assumed that vehicle piloting was not an important aspect of the Shadowrun setting/game.

What you choose to make detailed in an RPG determines what will be important in that RPG.

So there is NO RPG out there that attempts to be truly "realistic" or a real "simulation" of real life. "REALITY: The RPG" would in fact be a gigantic manual with thousands of pages where the rules were EQUALLY SOPHISTICATED for every aspect of your PC's existence, from reading a book to going to the bathroom to cooking noodles, to driving a car, to getting in a knifefight. That would be "realism". That would also be boring and unplayable as all fuck.

Fortunately, no one really wants that. What one wants is DETAIL, where and when detail is appropriate. It makes sense that most RPGs dedicate one or more entire chapters to combat, while dedicating no more than a few lines if any to cooking. Because most people want to play a game where there will be a genuine expectation of conflict, but not a genuine expectation of an Iron Chef competition in every adventure. If someone wanted to make "Iron Chef: The Cookery" RPG, then you would expect that RPG to have an entire chapter or more dedicated to cooking, and only a couple of lines if any dedicated to combat rules.


Currently smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia

(originally posted July 27 2005)

Thursday 26 March 2015

Everyjoe Tuesday... er, Thursday!: Jeremy Clarkson Edition

Yes, two Urbanski articles in one week! Since he's kind of Everjoe's own personal Jeremy-clarkson, who better to write about it?

So the The progressive middle-managers have always despised Jeremy Clarkson, despised Top Gear, and despised the 98.7% of their viewers, for not liking what the managers TELL them they should like.
What was really fascinating in all this was seeing just what percentage of the public support that Collectivist mentality.  As it turns out, it's 3.2%.

Go, check out the article! Share the article! Bitch at me on the article! Whatever you want. But go do it there!!


Currently Smoking: Castello 4K Collection Canadian + Image Latakia

Wednesday 25 March 2015

What would YOU want ME to Write Next?

So I'm done with writing Dark Albion: The Rose War.  My part of it is done, in any case; now that the writing bit is finished, the rest is up to Dominique Crouzet to do what I am quite certain (based on what I've already seen of it) will turn out to be truly excellent work of layout, illustrations, editing and publishing the game.  It's going to kick ass.

But now I'm at the point where I'm in-between projects, and so I thought I'd check with you, my readers, as to what you feel the Pundit should do next.  So here's a short questionairre that you should feel free to answer, in part or in full, and tell me what you'd pay good money to see:

If I could end up working with any publisher at all in the hobby, which publisher would you really want to see me do something for, and what would it be?

If I were to do a collaboration with any other RPG writer, who would you most want to see me working with, and on what?

If I were to do something of my own, with any old publisher ending up publishing it, what would you most want to see me write?

Finally, if I were to work as a consultant on any specific project or for any RPG product line or publisher in general, who or what would you love to see me giving my 2 cents to (or putting a hatchet to, if you prefer) to radically help redesign?

So there you are, some questions for you to answer, creatively or not, seriously or not, realistically or in your wildest dreams.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Horn + Gawith's Navy Flake

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Everyjoe Tuesday: Venezuela Edition

Today:  Why would Venezuela's government embrace an economic plan that had ruined every other country that ever tried it? Why would Argentina see that and then try to copy them?  And why DIDN'T Uruguay?

What are the ingredients that lead to a Marxist-Populist Apocalypse? And can it happen where you live?

Check out the details from someone living in the region: what happened that caused Venezuela's Marxist Apocalypse, and Could it Happen Where YOU Live?

Please spread the word, send links, etc.  Thanks!  Oh, and please go comment over there, not here. 


Currently Smoking:  Brigham Anniversary Pipe + Image Latakia

Monday 23 March 2015

Blue Rose is Meaningless Until Someone Has Played it Longer Than The RPGPundit

So the big news in the Tabletop RPG world today is that Green Ronin has announced a kickstarter for the return of Blue Rose.

Take a look at the link, first of all, then then let's see if any of you assholes want to keep trying to pretend that Blue Rose wasn't in fact ideologically motivated, as some Swine had recently tried to argue it wasn't.  There's the Green Ronin folk, talking about how this time they want to make it EVEN MORE ideological.

And sadly, that means that it will be even less nuanced. It will be even more of a black-and-white statement of "Seattle/Portland-style white hipster college-educated liberal" narratives (I hesitate to call them 'values') are OBJECTIVELY TRUE AND GOOD, while any view that contradicts that worldview is clearly and OBJECTIVELY EVIL IN THE GAME".

(people already believed this back in 2005, but they didn't routinely ruin other people's lives over it)

Pramas and Lindroos are right: a lot has changed since 2005.  My position on gay marriage hasn't, I was strongly in favor of it (inasmuch as one can be in favor of it while thinking marriage as an institution is kind of stupid, but I'm in favor of anyone's right to get married to anyone else who wants to get married to them) back then and I'm strongly in favor of it now, but meanwhile he rest of the world has caught up on that. And that's a change for the better.  But there's also been big changes for the worse, especially in geek culture:  the discord caused by pseudo-activists and absolutists has since that time resulted in witch-hunts and pogroms, in censorship and language-police and thought control, and outright smear-campaigns, slander and character-assassination, including not two weeks ago where on a Blue Rose rpgnet thread that may have been viral marketing on GR's part it was repeatedly claimed by people who KNEW THEY WERE LYING (because they responded to me on G+, and their response made it clear that they knew it wasn't true, they didn't care that it wasn't true, and they were just going to keep lying anyways) that I was a homophobe and hated BR for homophobic reasons.

There's been a strong and increasingly effective effort to stifle any dissent from the ideological view of a tiny group of people who want to impose their values on everyone else, because they feel they are superior to the unwashed masses and should decide for all of us.  The geek culture in 2015 has become a world, in other words, that is a lot more like the fantasy-utopia that the people at Green Ronin told us they wanted back then: a world where if you disagreed with the Elite Collectivists you were branded "SHADOW!" and kept black-balled, censored, and where any argument to change the system would be punishable by exile.

(a fine point, Mr. Twain... but then again, on Aldis you'd be SHADOW ALIGNMENT for your views and exiled if you tried to change the system, and to the authors of the setting this is objectively presented as a good thing!)

Aldis is a fascist setting. It's a totalitarian setting that practices oppression in the name of social utopia; and in exactly the same way the kind of true-believers the Blue Rose setting was created for have, in the past 10 years, gone on to try to impose the same Thought-Control Dystopia on their hobby.

I'm sure Blue Rose will get funded, by that same small group of elites who will feel all smug for themselves for supporting it and then never actually play it.   Because that's what this is about: feeling smug. Feeling self-righteous for wearing the right button on your shirt so everyone can see how 'socially aware' you are, even if you don't actually give a shit about the 'issue' itself.

I mean, consider this: as far as I know, and no one has ever come around to contradict me on this, I (the RPGPundit) have actually run the longest single Blue Rose campaign of all time (at about 130 six-to-eight hour sessions played weekly).  Of course, it wasn't set in Aldis.  It was set in a much grungier place, inspired by the "Port Blacksand" of the old fighting-fantasy books, and so was a mix of Romantic Fantasy tropes with that Lieber/Moorcock/Theives-world style of fantasy.   It was awesome, obviously way better than BR's existing setting.

Still, one has to appreciate the irony that I've never been able to find anyone who used the Blue Rose rulebook in actual play for as long as I have.  And for me, I'll note, 2.5 years is not even a "long" campaign. It's medium.

The Pseudo-Activists think that making the 'statement' of supporting Blue Rose is important.  Green Ronin is banking on that to make money, which is one thing they obviously care about, but also to reposition themselves back in the center of the whole Pseudo-Activist hobby crowd of people who complain about RPGs, who hate RPG culture very publicly on rpgnet, G+ and elsewhere, who call for boycotts and censorship of the people who are designated The Enemy (whether or not they've actually done anything at all, other than not fawn over them as a group), and who notoriously and very clearly do not actually do much RPG playing.
They think the statement of bringing back Blue Rose's setting (which was always a stupid setting, not very playable, and as it's biggest crime wasn't even very good at being similar to the genre of Romantic Fantasy it claimed to emulate; most Romantic Fantasy involves relatively un-utopian societies and young typically-female protagonists struggling against the unfairness of that prejudiced society; whereas Blue Rose was not so much a "romantic fantasy" setting as a "Hipster Wiccan Utopia" setting) is super-duper important for.. reasons. For something they think it represents. To strike a blow against the RPG hobby (which, again, they hate; no matter how much they try to claim they don't, if most of your 'criticism' would only be solved by completely tearing down everything about the hobby and replacing it with totally different stuff, that means you don't so much 'love' a hobby as you wish it would stop existing).  To show how meaningful and progressive the backers are. Whatever. Anything, anything except actually having to play it for more than 2 or 3 sessions!

That's why no gamer should take these assholes seriously.  Never mind the pretentiousness, never mind the smugness, never mind the fascist tendencies, never mind the repugnant Collectivist insistence that they know better for you what should happen in and for your life. Never mind the hipster bullshit, never mind the utopian naivete. Never mind the Trust-fund-baby Privilege or the weaponization of minorities by white middle-class college-graduates.  No.  While all those others are good reasons, from a gamer's point of view, the biggest reason not to take Blue Rose seriously at all is that these people produce games that none of them intend or care to play.   They produce games as "Art", as "Statements", as anything at all other than games.

If the flagship game of your great mission has been played longer (maybe 10 times longer) by the person you most despise on earth than by any of your allies, then y'all might want to wonder about just how you're defining 'success' here, and consider why it is you're so worried about 'changing' a hobby you barely participate in.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Rhodesian + C&D's Pirate Kake

Sunday 22 March 2015

Terry Pratchett And Libertarian Thought

So, no time today, I'm off to the market and then to a House of Cards marathon, but I thought I'd leave you all with this very interesting article about the Libertarian ideas inherent in the recently-deceased Terry Pratchett's writing.



Currently Smoking: Gigi Bent Billiard + Image Perique

Saturday 21 March 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: On Realism

I have news for you Virginia: there is NO such thing as "realism" in an RPG. There's blatant and grotesque unrealism, at times, but there ain't no system out there that is really "realistic".

For much of RPGs history it has been misconstrued that realism means making very complicated and unwieldy rules. But this doesn't create realism, it just creates crappy systems.
In fact, not only is "realism" absent in any RPG, but its not even possible to define what realism SHOULD be. I've had self-defined "weapons experts" (usually grotesquely obese dudes who've watched a lot of Rambo films and may have gone to a gun show once) tell me that X weapons should be effective at no more than 20 yards, others say the same weapon could be effective at 200 yards. I've had one dude tell me that "realistically" a dagger should do just as much damage as any bullet, since he "knows how to stab a guy in a way that does WAY more damage than a gunshot".

I still hate to think about what THAT guy masturbates to at night.

Some people have told me that a well placed blow from a trained hand-to-hand fighter could drop a man instantly, other people tell me that "realistically" its almost impossible to actually knock someone out in one or even two or three punches.

So basically, all the so-called experts are full of shit.

What they define as "real" is just whatever suits their own deluded fantasies of how things work, and almost always an argument about realism from them is really an excuse to show off their "expertise" in "real" combat, firearms, technical training or physics. In other words, its a massive dick-waving contest that accomplishes nothing.

Hell, if you were to be really and truly "realistic", any time your PC was shot or stabbed you should fall to the ground and bleed. That's basically it. You shouldn't be able to keep fighting, score the critical and take down the bad guy. Forget that shit. You get hit, you are down. Or pissing yourself and running away, at the very best. And don't give me that Rambo bullshit about how "people" have been trained to fight when injured blah blah blah. The REAL cop, gangster, street fighter or soldier, when shot or stabbed, does NOT in fact go on to whoop ass; he goes on to drown in a pool of his own blood and urine.

THAT is realism.

And what that means is that in an RPG, "realism" isn't really a goal. You don't really want realism. No one does. You may want grittiness. You might want a complicated game that suits your own preference for complex rather than simple systems; you might want games that follow a genre or thematic you enjoy. But not realism.

All of you, Swine and otherwise, listen up because I'M ONLY GOING TO SAY THIS ONCE, FUCKERS: None of your pet RPGs are "realistic". D20 isn't realistic, GURPS isn't realistic, WoD is only realistic in the sense that bad adolescent poetry is "realistic", Warhammer isn't realistic, Call of Cthulhu isn't realistic (and while I'm at it, THERE IS NO FUCKING "REAL" NECRONOMICON.. the paperback you bought on Amazon will not let you speak with Nyarlathotep and Lovecraft was a smart but troubled writer, not the fucking "grand high wizard" of the secret society of assmasters or whatever, and that aging balding goth guy you met in the Vampire LARP who tells you he knows the "real" Elder Sign just wants to get in your pants), Star Wars is not realistic (and saying your religion is "jedi" is fucking retarded; try studying some of the real religious teachings of which the Jedi are a cheap-ripoff), and whatever other "favorite" game you might have is not realistic.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Latakia

(originally posted July 5th 2005)

Friday 20 March 2015

"Real Magick" in RPGs: Equinoxes, and Solstices, and a Case-study Account of Magick in Action

This morning I woke up earlier than I usually would.  I got up, ritually bathed using a set of motions lifted from Hindu/Tantric tradition, doing the motions quick and concentrated on the water as the embodiment of the lustral seas of life, the mother-river.

I then gave adoration to the Sun, like I do four times a day, every day and have for most days of the past two decades of my life.  The Abbey has a central atrium with a spectacular skylight (the main source of natural sunlight for the entire rest of the house), so I stand under it and salute the sun with secret signs and 2000 year old words I know by heart. I stand there a few minutes, bathed in its light, the source of all life on Earth. Materially, it is the one truest object in the entire physical universe that we could describe as our 'creator'; without it the Earth wouldn't even exist, and life would never have evolved.  Magically, it is symbolic of the bridge between the Kingdom and the Crown, it is the outer expression mirrored by the inner gold of the Magician. It is the heart of the solar system as the Heart-center is the Sun of the Body of Light.  Adorations given to it are not a prayer as such (in the sense most prayer is: an attempt at haggling with God), but rather a connection-making, between that inner Heart and the outer Sun, both representing the perfect symbol of the True Will (what could be called the 'higher self').

Today is a particularly significant day for it, because today is the Autumnal Equinox (in the southern hemisphere, Vernal in the northern), and today is the Feast of the Equinox of the Gods.  111 years ago, the old Aeon ended, and the New Aeon began; the World-Paradigm transformed profoundly and forever (although even to this day, there are many people in the world who don't know it and still live in the ruined shell of the old way of seeing reality, and there will likely continue to be so for another four centuries or so); in the old Aeon, my magician predecessors would naturally have looked up at the Sun and understood it as "dying" at the end of the day, and being "reborn" in the morning; as "dying" also in the winter, and being "reborn" in strength in the spring.  The central initiatory formula would have been one of death and resurrection.  But in the New Aeon the formula is different; the Sun doesn't die anymore, it exists eternal.  Death is the illusion; but so, you find out eventually, are "you".  The path is not to die and be reborn as a new but slightly different person; it is to unite through Love (which means Union) to what is divine, and for this you have to gradually Overcome what you imagine as "your self" to make room for that which you previously understood to be beyond "your self".  It is the formula of evolution, of Growing Up.  No longer are our gods our Mommy from whom we breast-feed helpless and dependent like an infant, or our Daddy who makes strict rules and punishments for us like a child.  Now our gods are facets of our future selves, they are what we are Becoming. We are the teenager, about to leave home for the first time and forever, and become something we never were before.

I step into my Temple, which is also my Library (of magical and spiritual books, all the other stuff including games are in the big library downstairs).  There I perform the Banishing Rite, a set of motions one female friend once described as being "like a martial arts kata", and words spoken and sometimes chanted (vibrated, in fact, like a mantra) in Greek, from memory.  It's the first ritual most magicians learn (be it the Greek version, Hebrew, or both), the ritual you do at the start of any important magical operation, and that you practice regularly on its own in your early days of magical training, and use to learn the structural foundations of magick itself.  It's a ritual I've likely performed over 3000 times by now.
I face the shrine, on a pedestal lies the Stele of Revealing:

The image is approximately a 2700 years old.  I recite the English version of the invocation written on it, while adopting the posture of the long-dead priest depicted on it, who spoke those words so long ago. Its first line is "Unity uttermost showed".  Once again, it's all from memory, I had first learned the words nearly 20 years ago to the day, on another continent, in what just now seems like another universe entirely.

Unity invoked, I then light incense, ring the bell, anoint Fire and Water. I mark myself with this impossible union in different points of the body, vibrating words, some which anyone could look up, some which are secret and known only to me: the name of my Augoeides (my solar-self), and the name of my Magus-self.  The latter is known to some few, the former to no one in the world but me.

I vibrate the sacred words of the Aeon: LASHTAL, THELEMA, IAO, AGAPE, AUMGN.  Then I open the Holy Books, to Liber VII, chapter 2.  I begin to read it out loud.  The Holy Books of Thelema are mystical texts of western magick.  The particular selection corresponds to this date, to the start of the Thelemic Holy days, and the Equinox. The first few lines roll off my tongue:  "O my God! use Thou me again, alway.  For ever! For ever!  That which came fire from Thee cometh water from me; let therefore Thy Spirit lay hold on me, so that my right hand loose the lightning".

The Holy Books, which were not written by Aleister Crowley but 'received' by him (over a century ago) from his own Augoeides (an experience I've also had, and can assure you that what is produced as a result is not in any real sense anything you personally can take credit for, your mind is not actively making it, it is just passing through you), are incredibly complex, full of symbolism and metaphor.  They're so complex, in fact, that even most Thelemites hardly ever bother to read them (except for the Book of the Law, the most important of the holy books, which is also by a slight margin the most easily comprehensible).  In my experience, most magicians want to do rituals to get stuff.  They want cool experiences.  And to anyone who doesn't engage in a profound long and patient study of symbolism, the Holy Books look like total gibberish (the word "gibberish", in fact, being borrowed from the name of an Islamic magician, Al-Geber, whose writings on Alchemy were full of secret symbolic language so that anyone who didn't know the symbolism would think it totally meaningless).  What most of these guys don't get is that Symbol is the currency of a magician: you can only DO stuff as a magician if you understand the Symbols. The more you understand them, the more you can manipulate them, and the more you can achieve.  This goes hand-in-hand with the "overcoming" I was talking about before, the whole initiatory formula of the current aeon; the more you grok symbol, the more your Consciousness opens up to a wider/higher level of Reality.  You ascend the Tree of Life, and at each stage what seemed a big deal to you before seems small now, and problems that would have been insurmountable before, because you were operating your life and mind and being in such a small confined space, become easy to overcome now because you've opened yourself up to a much vaster playing field.  The Holy Books are a magical crucible: understand their secret messages and inside you'll find the whole formula for performing Magick, and in the long slow process of that understanding you go through to get them, you will have created a spiritual discipline that lets your consciousness get big enough to let you use that formula.

Magick has been called the "Yoga of the West"; if so, then Thelema is the Tantra of the west, the Tibetan Buddhism of the west. Complete with most westerners watering it down and wanting to skip to what they think of as the 'cool' parts and not actually do the Work.

The chapter done, by now I am completely shifted, existing partially in the material world and partially on the Astral. I am in a Trance state; whatever was 'me' is not me here. I have contacted Eternity, and brought it into the Now. Microcosm and macrocosm have touched. Light has flooded into the Kingdom. As Crowley once put it, now "I and Thou are as they had not been".
From here, I receive the secret word of the Equinox, that will govern the next six months.  I'd share it with you, but it is only for initiates. Sorry.
The word will express the spirit of the next period, but all of the above is a lot of work for an augury, even if it's a really good one.  I mean, reading Tarot or casting I Ching would give you a lot more detail than one single word.  But that's not the point.  The point is in the journey; in the whole process of ritual that creates Change in you, and the more you put in, the more you get out of it.  The word is a byproduct, a kind of sigil itself, something you can audibly manifest as a representation of the real work of Consciousness-tripping that you had done. And connected as it is to the Solar Equinox, this word will be a particularly insightful summary of what to expect.

I finish the work sealing the Holy Books, laying the dagger over them, and taking a step forward touching my finger to my lips. The Sign of Silence. It seals the work itself, closes off that moment of Eternity and shifts the Awareness back from Tiphareth to Malkuth, from the Sun to the Earth.

Where was I? Oh yes, Equinoxes and Solstices.  They are points in the natural calendar of the Sun, where the day is at its shortest, longest, or most equal.   These are times, since the days of our earliest ancestors, to do Magick.  Most religions, consciously or not, still follow that route: Jesus was "born" on the Winter Solstice, and he Died/Resurrected on the Vernal Equinox; the perfect model of the solar-god of the previous Aeon.    Most magical religions, movements, and groups of the modern age will also make use of these dates.  Wiccans include the equinoxes, solstices, and the four dates in between each of those to make the "8 spoked wheel of the year"; a festival calendar that vaguely resembles bits of a lot of ancient pagan or folkloric practices without actually being any single one of them.  In Thelema, the March Equinox is specifically and especially significant, since it was on the March Equinox that Crowley was first contacted by Horus (in his aspect of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, and through Crowley's Augoeides/Holy-Guardian-Angel Aiwass) and the end of the old world and beginning of the new world were declared. It was 22 days later that the Book of the Law finished being given to him; the book that provides the central formula for self-transformation of this new Aeon:  "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.  Love is the law, love under will".

While magicians will argue about other things, like just how much weight you need to put on astrology when considering what date/time to do major magical operations, pretty well all agree that the Equinoxes and Solstices are uniquely special time to do works, because they are completely mirrored in nature.  The Equinoxes are the time to do rituals related to balance (which, as the March Equinox of 1904 proved, can also be the "balance" of ending the world, so don't think "balance" necessarily just means lovey-dovey), while solstices, being extremes of much light or little light, are times to do rituals for extreme effects.

That's it for today.  If the above doesn't give you any fodder for your modern occult RPG needs, well, hope you liked it anyways.


Currently Smoking: Blatter Diplomat + C&D's Crowley's Best

Thursday 19 March 2015

DCC Campaign Update: Bring Me the Head of Slothy Rodriguez

This week's DCC session (after a four-week hiatus) had a nearly-full house of 7 players, and featured events worthy of any great gangland movie, full of violence, double-cross, revenge, magic missiles, and Dire Hippos. In the course of the session, the PCs:

-Came face to face with Slothy Rodriguez, Uzi-wielding Sloth and Purple Dust Kingpin of the great southern jungle.

(I swear to Christ that I only found this image today, long long after I thought up Slothy Rodriguez)

-Discovered that Slothy's dungeon has a regular cell, and a cell for bound-and-gagged prisoners.

-Found Slothy's hospitality left a lot to be desired.

-Watched Bill the Ex-Elf (who the other PCs suspect of being a traitor but don't realize is the same guy they killed with divine wrath not two days ago) betray them yet again, suggesting to Slothy that the PCs were from the dreaded Theta cartel sent to assassinate him.

-Discovered just what purple dust does, even to an experienced narcologist like Bill, when he was required to snort a bowlful of it to prove he was not a double-agent from something called 'DEA'.

-Learned, while Bill was sleeping off his Purple Haze, that Slothy's idea of hospitality left even more to be desired when it came a "sumptuous feast" of jungle greens and grubs; disliked by all but Doctor Theobald, who noted that the grubs were just like the ones he used to pick out of his girlfriend's fur.

-Realize just in time that all the not-bound prisoners are about to be shot, while all the bound-and-gagged prisoners are about to be drenched in oil and burned alive while tied to poles.

-Find that if there's one thing Slothy Rodriguez can't stand, its when a good oil-drenched pole-immolation is ruined.

-Watched Slothy's consigliere try to reason with him, that it might be better to keep the PCs alive; only to see Slothy declare how sick to death was of that guy giving him advice, and telling him not to kill people was just crossing the line.

-As usual, decide there's no delicate situation they aren't all too happy to trigger into a total pandemonium where any possibility of things working out goes straight to hell.

-Tried to cast darkness at the magic missile, just to mix things up a bit.

-Engaged in a rather excessive amount of groin-stabbing from under the dining room table.

-Noted an exception to the above from Sandy the Bikini-Chainmail Barbarian, who displayed her usual class and panache by charging over said table and engaging in some fork-based eye-gouging instead.

-Lost track of Marvin, the Chosen One of the Clerical order, who high-tailed it out of there in mid-combat with Dr. Theobald, trying to find their own way to the Church of St.Ignatius of File Not Found, in order to complete the sacred mission of plugging in the sacred USB Cable and Rebooting the World.

-Decided that rather than go find them, they'd first engage in some looting; what with Slothy Rodriguez and most of the upper hierarchy of his cartel lying dead.

-Fell victim at that point to Bill the Ex-elf, who trapped them in the complex's dungeons through creative use of the Ward Portal spell.

-Felt certain there must be another way out of said dungeons, what with fire regulations and all.

-Discovered, unfortunately, that said dungeons were a notable fire hazard.

-Watched with some dismay as Night the pirate-elf managed to escape the dungeon, but only by having her patron (the Senile King of Elfland) teleport her more than fifty years into the future.

-Were not all trapped down there, Ack'bashah the Cleric having gone off to try to find Marvin.

-Discovered that the threat of "los Thetas" was not just a paranoid fantasy on Slothy's part, but a real imminent and novel threat.

-Observed with some amusement that Los Thetas dressed like a mix of paramilitary forces with Lucha Libre wrestling masks with a big "Z" on the forehead.

-saw the remnants of Slothy's forces trying to put up a valiant defense, by unleashing Slothy's Dire Hippos against the Thetas' pickup trucks full of gunmen.

-noted, unfortunately, that Dr. Theobald and Marvin had been captured by Los Thetas, and were now at risk not only of being executed by the gangsters, but also of being mauled to death by the aforementioned Dire Hippos.

-found that Bill the Ex-Elf had beaten the rest of the group to the Church of St.Ignatius; but he hadn't beaten the Thetas, who had already captured the place.

-were not exactly shocked to discover that the Church had been converted by Slothy to be used as his main lab and storage facility for tons and tons of Purple Dust.

-Saw Bill the Ex-Elf's eyes light up in anticipation of the possibility of becoming a one-man drug kingpin after all this was over.

-felt that this was, at this point, a very appropriate theme song for the evening's session:

-Were still mostly stuck in the dungeon while Bill the Ex-Elf immolated the Theta guards through creative use of the Sequester spell.

-Saw Bill the Ex-Elf know true fear in his moment of triumph, when just as he thought the Church was under his full and secure control, he saw someone had painted "I know you're Bill" on the wall in green mutant blood; and realized that once again he'd failed his perception check to spot the presence of Jal'udin the Rogue.

-Found, meanwhile, that the majority of the group's imprisonment in the dungeons was finally about to come to an end; but only because the Thetas were planning to blow them to bits.

-Were only comforted by the fact that Bill the Ex-Elf was only holding off the main force of the Thetas from retaking the church by his haphazard attempts to combine cantrips with a ridiculous pantomime using the severed head of Slothy Rodriguez.

-Decided the best defense was a good offense, by making maximum use of the gender-indeterminate Azure Wizard Bytharion's Magic Missiles and Fly spell, Sandy's propensity to slaughter everything in her path, and the rogue's ever-increasing talent at groin-stabbing.

-Learned that in spite of Bill the Ex-Elf's pleading, Jal'udin the Rogue is really only in it for himself.

-Were amused by a totally unrelated side-situation where Night, who had been shot half a century into the future, ended up accidentally killing her own child: a magic deer that stood for all goodness and purity and would restore joy and happiness to the whole forest through its magical fiat power. After causing its accidental death she only learned it was her son after trying to get back to the past, ending up getting back about a decade too early, and hooking up with a minor Horned God. Apparently when Elves and Horned Gods mate, they make magic-deer-babies. whether or not all of these are doomed to be killed by their own mother six decades later is unclear.  In any case, Night made it back to the group, the slow way.

-Cheered when the clerics managed to use Divine Aid to get into the Church of St. Ignatius.  But the leader of the Thetas, "El Commandante", decides that this is the last straw, and he's just going to kill every last gringo he sees.  El Commandante can be distinguished from the rest of the Thetas because he wears a little beret on top of his Mexican Wrestler mask.

-Held their breath as the Clerics, fighting for G.O.D. and the salvation of the world, face off for the last time against Bill the Ex-Elf, fighting for the daemon Sezrekan and his own greed.  Both sides plead for the still-hidden Jal'udin's intervention, but everyone is pretty convinced that at this point, Jal'udin is just one of these guys who wants to see the world burn.

-Are surprised by how the Clerics, a class which until now in the campaign had largely been distinguished as one long comedy of errors and apparently endless suffering, manage to beat the crap out of the Elf, which until now had been the ass-kicker class of the campaign.

-See triumph turn to tragedy when, just on the verge of triumph, the Thetas shower Marvin a hail of gunfire, killing him.

-Watch Ack'bashah the Cleric think that it is his time now to be the chosen one, only to have forgotten about Jal'uddin; he is very promptly reminded by a sharp pain in the back of the head and the dark embrace of unconsciousness.

The rest of the team got back together in time to wipe out the Thetas, but by the time they got into the Church found that Marvin and Bill had been ritually sacrificed, and Jal'udin and the Sacred USB Cable were gone.  Apparently, Jal'udin had a bidding war between G.O.D. and Sezrekan for the rights to the Cable:  G.O.D. offered Jal'udin the chance to heal the world. Sezrekan offered him power, money, and women. Obviously, Sezrekan won.  Slothy Rodriguez would have been proud.

As for Bill, now that Sezrekan has an even more competent servant working for him, he has no immediate need for Bill, who screwed up twice in a row, so Bill will likely be staying in side his soul-phylactery for some time to come.  But situations do change, so we may not have seen the last of him...


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Compact + Image Latakia

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Is a Neo-Nazi Worse Garbage Than Someone Who Callously Weaponizes Them?

So here's the story: not long ago, James Raggi, the publisher of Lamentations of the Flame Princess (that is to say, the most successful and innovative OSR publisher in the world) made a post where he noticed that neo-nazi murderer Varg Vikernes is apparently an RPG blogger.  I suspect he even knew about Vikernes in the first place on account of Raggi being into the kind of death-metal music that this guy once played. Whatever.  The post where he brought it up was very clearly in the style of just saying "this is happening", and included the description of it as "surreal".  In response, the usual suspects of the Pseudo-Activist Outrage Brigade have claimed that Raggi has "endorsed a neo-nazi", and YDIS' goons have posted one of their slander-pieces suggesting that if Zak S doesn't denounce Raggi as a neo-nazi it's proof of.. something (I can't quite get what their idiotic incoherent point might be, probably it has to do with Zak not wanting to work for the Escapist anymore, and that somehow the "fact" that Raggi is a neo-nazi invalidates.. again, what? the truth of Zak's feelings about not wanting to work for the Escapist? It's insane conspiracy-theory-logic level rambling at this point)

Now, there's a wide range of comments one could make about Raggi posting this. There's a legitimate argument, for example, to say "why would you even bring this asshole up"? I don't think it would even be wrong to say to Raggi "but you condemn this guy's neo-nazism, right"?

Because there are some things that need to be condemned.  And neo-nazism is one of them.  This guy Varg is a racist piece of shit. IS. His writings make it very clear that even though he's trying to mask in some folksy 'i'm just a euro-pagan' bullshit, he continues to hold views where he'd qualify large numbers of people (probably myself included) as inferior or sub-humans just by virtue of 'blood'.  That other bullshit tribalism of "blood", that is inherent racism, and given this guy's past, it's pretty clear that he's not actually honestly rejecting any neo-nazism.

The thing about Neo-Nazis is that they're almost always living walking talking proof against their very theory that they belong to a 'master race'. They're always the most pathetic, moronic examples of their race and culture (and it makes sense, because of course one of the things that draws them to the tribalism of 'racial identity' is that they can just 'identify' with the greatness of actually great human beings who happened to be of their race, as a way to avoid having to actually personally ascend to any greatness as Individuals).  But this guy is in fact a slightly more dangerous kind of neo-nazi because he's trying that trick of sounding like a 'friendly nazi': "I oppose colonialism, everyone should just live in their own places", "it is important that we preserve the diversity of all humanity (and not water it down by mixing races)".  He phrases his filth in such a way that an idiot might find it reasonable.  And he has the added appeal that in spite of being a moron who spent the prime of his life in jail, he had some minor success in a notoriously stupid and naive subculture full of people already inclined to be drawn to that kind of ideology as a kind of sophomoric expression of social-rebellion.

That makes him dangerous.

So yeah, I have no problem condemning him.  I'll condemn this guy early and often to anyone who'll listen.  He's human garbage.

What I can't immediately come to a conclusion about just yet, is what's worse human garbage: this neo-Nazi asshole, or the pseudo-activist shithead crowd (including the goons at YDIS) that are using this guy as a tool, a playing piece, in their efforts to attack Raggi.  Not because they give a flying fuck about neo-nazis but because of how intensely they care about trying to stop Raggi, who has made incredibly successful games of a style they despise.  So they're using a Neo-Nazi as a living-godwin, a cheap rhetorical trick to try to score points in their stupid shitty little pathetic war of spite against someone more talented than they are (and these are the same profoundly untalented people who have been engaging in the same war against myself, and against Zak, who they were hoping to manipulate into fighting with Raggi over this).

An even cursory glance indicates that, as usual, they're LYING about Raggi's actual initial statements about Varg, and about just what he was saying.  They essentially lied about a guy endorsing a neo-nazi... but really, why should that surprise me? It only still does because it's so utterly abhorrent, so despicable, and it seems so reckless and stupid: they have to know by now they'll be caught in the lie.  It's also so callous, because every time they do this sort of thing (be it with racism, homophobia, sexism, rape-endorsement, and now neo-nazism) they actually end up damaging and watering-down real efforts and concerns about real actual problems. They are literally giving ammunition to the neo-nazis by doing this, all to just make a stupid cheap shot at James Raggi because he's the most successful and innovative OSR publisher, and taking down the OSR is clearly more important to them than worrying about whether neo-nazis will benefit from their lies.  But I really should stop being shocked: these are people who've blatantly made-up lies about anyone they see as being in their path, and disgusting lies, and boldly and openly where they don't seem to care even a little bit that there's not a grain of truth in what they're saying.  They did that when they accused James Desborough of endorsing rape, they did it when they accused Zak of being a misogynist stalker, they did that when they accused me of being a transphobe.  And really, when you have the brass balls to accuse the guy who publishes the first RPG with a transgender hero on its cover of being a transphobe, it shouldn't surprise anyone anymore in terms of what you're capable of lying about or stooping to.

Raggi's surprised mention of Varg may have given him a signal boost of sorts.  But what the Pseudo-activists and YDIS-goons did for purely self-serving reasons that have fuck all to do with any kind of anti-nazi activism gave him a much BIGGER 'signal boost' by generating a fake controversy out of it.  And they didn't care about that even a tiny little bit, while pretending to be outraged about Raggi's (non-existent) "neo-nazi endorsement) a lot.

I think in spite of all that, the neo-nazi is still slightly worse, only because in his heart of hearts I'm pretty sure he feels that it was a good thing that four of my great-grandparents died in nazi concentration camps.  Whereas the pseudo-activists and YDIS-goons when really pressed probably wouldn't; though they wouldn't hesitate to try to use the guy, or my dead great-grandparents, or nazi concentration camps or anything else at all, and even lie about any and all of these things too, without the slightest scruples, to try to score the cheapest slightest of points in their fight for the elfgame hobby.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Poker + Brebbia no.7

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Everyjoe Tuesday: Ed The Sock!

Today I don't have a column on Everyjoe, but in my place you can go see the debut of Ed the Sock's youtube series, "Sock Puppet Account"! Note that Ed didn't choose that title, the EveryJoe people did, he thinks its problematic because it makes a play on word of his ethnicity.

You might not be familiar with Ed the Sock, but I am; I've known him for about 25 years now.  Most Canadians will be familiar with him, since he's really one of the greatest Canadian (well, Sock-Canadian) political and social commentators of his generation.  He started up back in 1987, and I remember watching him in my college years when he had a fairly amateurish public-access talk show; later on he moved to MuchMusic (Canada's version of MTV) and hooked up with the stunning and nerdy Liana K., and created Ed And Red's Night Party, which became Canada's answer to the Late Show and maybe the greatest late-night talk show ever made.

(Yes, that's Ed's real-life wife of many years)

In today's debut episode, Ed makes a shocking investigative report revealing the real identity of John Boehner's father, explains what DC's doing by fixing the one big problem with Superman, and explains the difference between British and American movies about robots.  He also reveals some surprising secrets about pirates' personal lives that you probably didn't want to know, and goes looking for the mysterious Skunk Ape, bigfoot's redneck southern cousin.

So, check it out! And before anyone says something, I'm not being paid by Everyjoe (not for anything other than my articles); this is all legitimate Ed the Sock fandom here.  Now I just have to figure out how to do a sock/Urbanski team-up, and one of my smoke-filled dreams of my college days will be fulfilled (and back then, it wasn't pipe smoke... well, it was, but it wasn't the kind of pipes I smoke these days!).


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia

Monday 16 March 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: The Lawncrappers

One of the things that blew me away when I first went to a roleplaying club here in Montevideo was that the people who were gaming were normal folks. I mean, there were some that were on the "slight nerd" side of things, guys who wouldn't exactly be playing for the world cup or lifting weights, guys with thick big glasses or a touch of shyness. But besides those guys, there were a lot of guys who were completely average people, that would fit in just as well at the local bar, or at a football game, or working somewhere respectable, or what-have-you. That was the majority really.
And the other thing was the percentage of women who roleplay. The Uruguayans still complain about the "lack" of female gamers, but there are more regular female gamers in the gaming community here than anything I saw anywhere in North America, girls who are wicked hot, too (he said, thinking of a certain Sailor Moon DM...)!

The key to the larger female presence was based on two factors:
1. Much higher percentage of gamers with girlfriends.
2. Much easier for those gamers to convince their girlfriends to play, because gaming has none of the social stigma here that it does in North America.

I have been involved with my share of women in my life, and most of them have been "alternative" kind of girls, not the sort to stick to mainstream things. Several of them were into science fiction, anime, watched buffy, read lord of the rings, etc etc.
However, in all my romantic lifetime in North America I had NEVER managed to convince a girl to regularly get into RPGs. None of them could get past that "ultimate geek barrier", the perception that roleplaying games were not alternative, they were social marginal somehow. That it was far too geeky a thing to be allowed to enjoy. The best I could manage was a sort of resigned toleration.

Here in Uruguay, the instance I got myself a girlfriend she also joined my gaming group. In fact, she told me that she'd heard of RPGs and thought they'd be lots of fun but just hadn't known where to go to be able to play them before.

So the difference, between here and "up there", is that in North America gaming has been driven to a level so far on the social margins that people who consider themselves "normal" are seriously fearful of getting involved in the hobby, in stark terror of some kind of irreparable social damage to their reputations.
Leaving aside the foolishness of such an attitude, what has led to the conditions where this attitude even arrives? Because it wasn't always like this: Those who roleplayed in the late seventies and early eighties can attest that way back then the gaming crowd was much bigger, and filled far more demographics. In college campuses, back then, gaming was something that anyone would have fun doing, and people of all varieties: jocks, women, nerds, frat boys, any of these would be fine playing without thinking it would damage their social rep any more than playing a game of monopoly or backgammon would.
In the teen set, there was a time when D&D was played by pretty much all types of kids. When I started roleplaying it was still like this. The athletic kids, the cool kids, the metalheads, the band geeks, they'd all be willing to play. Hell, my first gaming group was one where I was easily the "geekiest" of the lot, little nerd that I was, while the rest of the group was composed of guys who were part of the cool set, plus one or two sort of stoners and a serious metalhead. Back then, roleplaying games actually bridged the adolescent cliques.

But by the time I left Canada, I was the exception to the rule in a whole other sense: far from being the "geekiest" of the gaming community, I found myself in an ever increasing minority of "normal" gamers, in an environment where being a gamer in his 20s who didn't live with his mom, had his own place, had a steady and relatively good job, regularly had a girlfriend, and had a social life in general outside of gaming, was becoming ever more the exception to the "gamer norm".

So what went so horribly wrong? Why is it that now, in this foul year of our lord 2005, North American gaming has become the domain of the total freaks and losers? Who is to blame?!

If you guessed the Swine, you got it on the first try.

As I had earlier said, the "swine" are not a phenomenon limited to gamers, most hobbies end up being infected by the same sort of problem: Star Trek fandom in the 70s and early 80s was a relatively normal hobby, for example. Few people back then would dress up as klingons or make any effort to look unusual outside of gimmicky Mr.Spock ears; whole families would appreciate going to the conventions together, and the general public felt that Star Trek was a pretty cool show. But somewhere along the line the fandom fell more and more under the sway of the most extreme elements of the movement, fans who would pride themselves on dressing like idiots or insulting those who hadn't obsessively pored over episode guides and technical manuals; and over time the hobby willingly marginalized itself, excluding the socially normal by making this kind of sick behaviour acceptable and eventually the rule. The result? Today being a fan of Star Trek is code word for being a 27 year old virgin.

Comic Books suffered a similar fate. What was once a "hobby" of sorts for children of all types, and for adults who didn't mind being a bit childish, a small group of adult "collectors" began obsessing over the medium, and the comics industry began to make the mistake of catering to those collectors rather than to the kids. The result? The comics industry as a whole imploded in the 90s, after the kids stopped being interested in (or indeed even able to buy) grossly over-priced comics that had now also gained a reputation of "geekiness".

But perhaps the worst example, and a powerful warning to any other hobby interest, is the furry fandom. Furries, for those who may not know, are (or rather, they were) anthropomorphic animal comics and drawings. In the 80s, this was a normal subset of comic fandom, and comics like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Usagi Ujimbo were high-quality mainstream works with large followings. Conventions were held where people could exchange furry art and small publishing companies could show off their wares.
But over time, the movement became infiltrated by sexual fetishists who defined "furry" in a very different way, dressing up as animals for weird sexual kicks and demanding pornographic art of the same. Almost overnight the entire hobby went up in smoke as anyone who didn't want to be seen as an apeshit pervert fled for the hills. Today most recognized comic artists wouldn't do furry material if you paid them in gold bricks, more than one was quoted as leaving the genre after the tenth time of being asked at a con if he could draw a picture of pre-teen fox boys being raped by lion-men or what-have-you.

(where somehow this:)

(turned into this because of people like this (WARNING: BOTH links are RIDICULOUSLY NSFW; and sadly still not even anywhere near the bottom of the barrel of the sort of stuff furries get up to))

In each of these cases, as with gaming, the problem arose when a small minority of extremists demanded that the hobby recognize their extreme social dysfunctions as acceptable, and the Swine of these respective hobbies permitted and encouraged this, wanting to transform their hobby into an exclusive rather than inclusive fandom so that they could feel like the persecuted elite. The logic used was generally that "everyone was welcome" because "we were all picked on at some point or another", what is called a Geek Social Fallacy in some circles. But the real motive was not one of inclusion of the freaks so much as exclusion of the "mainstream", the majority of people who are socially functional that most swine despise as the "masses" who could never possibly understand them. Their poisoned logic in each of these instances convinced enough of the hobbyists of the importance of being "tolerant" that the social freaks, obssesives, losers, and/or perverts were allowed in. This ill-thought-out tolerance led to two effects: the exodus of those who were uncomfortable with those of extreme behaviours, and the introduction of ever-more people who were socially marginalized to the hobby based not on an actual love of the hobby but on the recognition that the hobby was a place where their marginalization would be tolerated.

Its like this: if a guy in your neighbourhood regularly shits on his front lawn, and the community chooses to do nothing to stop this inappropriate behaviour, eventually some of the normal folks in your neighbourhood will move away, choosing not to live near the lawn-crapper. After that, other lawn-crappers or worse will start moving into your neighbhourhood, upon hearing that yours is a community that accepts those who follow and lawn-dumping lifestyle. Pretty soon, it becomes a "community of lawn-crappers", where those who don't shit on their front yards are the exception rather than the rule, and the lawn-crappers control the city hall. By that time, no one wants to come live in your town, and everything reeks of shit.

In gaming, there was a twofold phenomenon. One was the gaming hobby's tolerance of the socially marginalized in north america; allowing those who don't bathe, don't change their clothes, can't talk without screaming, pick their nose or rub their crotches in public, etc etc. to be in gaming groups and attend conventions without changing their ways.

The second was the Swine: in the nineties, the industry under swine-influence completely gave up the effort to make gaming a mainstream pastime, instead willingly making every effort to make gaming some kind of twisted underdog-elitist practice. Something that would intentionally exclude the normal, wanting only the self-styled geek elites, the goths, and the freaks. While emphasizing the "acceptance" of those who are outsiders regardless of how obnoxious their personal habits were, gaming's products and people throughout the nineties made a point of being as intolerant as possible of anyone who wasn't part of these "anti-elites". They didn't want simple games with mass appeal that any teenager could get into or that college friends could make an evening's entertainment out of, they wanted obtuse byzantine games with artistic pretensions or insider jobs that only hardcore collectors could appreciate. And the more the normal people left, the more the freaks could take over.

It is true, of course, that market conditions shifted for rpgs after D&D stopped being a "fad", but this in and of itself is not enough to explain the social shift. In South America, for example, gaming is a relatively unknown hobby, yet in it you do not have the guys who reek of catpiss or the ones who look and smell like they haven't ever been exposed to the concept of soap, or the idea that you have to change your clothes more than once a month. Nor do you have the guys who randomly scream at certain intervals for no good reason, or the ones who wear diapers to the gaming group so they don't have to get up to go to the bathroom, or even the guys who just generally can't interact with other human beings.

The reason for this, I think, is a natural choice on the part of the gaming community in Uruguay to not tolerate that kind of "lawn-crapping" behaviour. They spend more time interacting and mingling with each other in the real world, gaming groups aren't static as they often are in north america, instead you have people going back and forth, playing with lots of different people in different locales. This greater social aspect inherently keeps out some of the social retards, and are thwarted by the general preference of the Uruguayan gamers to tell those who exhibit abnormal behaviour that they can either change or go away. The "geek social fallacy" that because you are sometimes seen as a nerd you must accept and tolerate all your "fellow nerds" regardless of how obnoxious, sick, or inappropriate their behaviour might be does not rule here, and Uruguayan gaming is all the better for it.


currently smoking: Savinelli Full-Bent + Gawith's Balkan Flake

(originally posted June 22nd 2005)