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Thursday, 30 June 2016

Thoughts on Game of Thrones, and Feminism

So last night I only just got around to watching the finale of this season of Game of Thrones.  And what a trip it's been! We see now a set up where almost every important action-guy type male character is dead or sidelined (except Jon Snow) and women have become the principal players everywhere.

This, I noticed, has led to renewed questions of whether Game of Thrones is a feminist fairy tale or not.  Last season, Feminism was busy horribly condemning Game of Thrones as terrible sexist misogyny.  This season, where women did a lot of the ass kicking, it's suddenly a feminist masterpiece. I found it very interesting to see that depictions of women murdering large numbers of men seems like proper feminist values to some of these commentators, like they've taken their masks off.

Of course, some are more sophisticated than that, like this Washington Post piece which claims that Game of Thrones has strong feminist characters but that the real theme of the world is how hard it is to escape the evils of 'misogynist culture'.  The argument made is that there are a lot of great empowered women in GoT now, but that they're forced to do horrible 'misogynist' things, because the fundamental problem being the culture itself.

Now, aside from the fact that this sounds like a standard Maoist rallying cry for "let's create Utopia by tossing away the entire old order!" (never mind that the part they try to downplay is that the tossing away will require the deaths of millions, and the new utopia will be enforced by a total ban on human freedom), I found something else very interesting in that line of argument: it lays bare the nonsensical nature of what modern Third-Wave Feminism has come to describe as "misogyny".

Cersei is "misogynist" because she is mean to other women, killed a lot of women and men, let her son torture people, etc.
Daenerys is "misogynist" because she killed a bunch of people, in spite of her promises of wanting to do things a new way has always had to use violence to obtain power, and has been quick to either run away or fall back on old ways of power-mongering when anything threatens her utopian daydreaming.

Sansa is "misogynist" because she is still relying on the old system of allegiances of the patriarchal system and because she let the northern lords put Jon and not her on the throne of the "King in the North".
Melisandre is "misogynist" because she encouraged people to be burned at the stake in the name of a god.
Olena Tyrell is "misogynist" because she wants nothing more than revenge and to see Cersei destroyed for the death of her entire family.

Arya wasn't mentioned in the WP article but I'm sure she's "misogynist" too.  And of course, the women of Dorne are pretty well monsters.

The point of this, and what I'm getting to here, is that the article lays bare the truth of what it means when a Third-Wave Feminist talks about "patriarchy" or "misogyny":  they just mean human evil as it is.

The shitty part is that they've decided that all human evil must be given a masculine gender.

The thing they're having trouble handling, in Game of Thrones, is that it lays bare the nature of human evil; it's not a heroic tale of perfect heroes and totally dastardly villains, like we're used to from classic fantasy. It's not even a story of of a world that might be grey but the hero is fundamentally really good.  It's a series that defies all conventions of fantasy by presenting its characters as totally flawed, imperfect, utterly HUMAN, as anyone in our real world is.

When Feminists say "Misogyny", what they're really doing is trying to transfer the true, utterly inescapable nature of all fundamentally flawed humanity over to being the fault of one gender.

Which is not just stupid, and monstrous, it is impossible. But most of all, it's ironic: the movement that claims to despise gender roles has given evil a gender role. And in so doing, made it clear what they really despise: not men (well, yes, obviously they despise men or they wouldn't assign ALL HUMAN EVIL to the masculine gender), but more profoundly they despise humanity itself. They hate the idea that it's not just men's fault, and that we cannot create a Perfect Utopia in this world when we magically get rid of the Bad Things, because our human nature demands that instead we create progressively improved systems of actually dealing with human imperfections we will never get rid of (you know, systems like capitalism, rule of law, democracy, and government: all the things they call the 'patriarchy', which are not actually the source of all evils but the best method so far devised to mitigate human imperfection).

So here's my prediction: in the upcoming two seasons, sooner or later, you are going to see some of the same Feminists who are praising the 'strong female characters' we see in GoT today end up howling with outrage of how 'sexist' or 'anti-woman' GoT is. Because for GoT to be what it is, unless the producers end up utterly betraying the entire nature of the story in order to placate the demands of totalitarians, it will now HAVE to show "strong female characters" being complete pieces of shit, like human beings often are.  And worse still, being complete pieces of shit AT EACH OTHER. Because there is no Big Bad Male left for them all to hate.

Excepting the Ice King of course, but if the producers just put aside the whole of the last 6 seasons (and books) to turn the endgame of GoT into a fairy tale that ends with all the women teaming up and becoming besties to kill the Ice King and make feminist utopia where all the big bad men have been pushed away and culture is remade so that everything will be better because people won't be human anymore, that still ends up proving my point, better even than the alternative (of feminist writers squealing about the women characters on the show being awful to each other), because it shows just how impossible their arguments and flawed their fundamental philosophies really are.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Quiete + Peterson's Balkan Delight

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Classic Rant: Why RPGs Fail

Why do Commercial RPGs Fail?

There's a pretty short list, really. Avoid those and you will avoid most of the pitfalls that can keep your game from being a success:

1. Lack of Promotion: Before getting into anything about the writing or content of the RPG itself, this is the single biggest reason why an RPG would fail. It doesn't matter if you've written a masterpiece; if no one knows your RPG exists, then it will fail. Make sure everyone does, and even a mediocre RPG stands a chance of doing well.
Ironically, this is one of the areas where many would-be writers fail to pay proper attention; they discount the whole concept as though "if you build it, they will come" was the only guideline they needed. 

2. Unclear writing: the game might be full of potential greatness, but if no one can actually make sense of what you're saying, you're fucked. Get an editor.

3. Too much front-end commitment: if you have to memorize 10000 words of jargon, or remember that some stupid word with no vowels in it is what they use instead of "shield" in the game setting, or in some other way have to learn massive amounts of stuff UP FRONT, from the beginning, that relates only to your game, odds are most people won't bother.

4.The System Sucks: Of course, system is one of those things that falls on a spectrum: you say "GURPS" and one gamer might get wood at the thought of all that delicious point-buy and pseudo-realism, while another might cringe. But there's that, and then there's systems that just suck. If you have to do quadratic equations to play your game, or if you are missing a certain table vital to determining outcomes of most battles, or if there's a low-level spell in your game that basically makes the entire party invulnerable forever, then you've got a system that just plain sucks ass. Some people resolve this through playtesting; I think it's important besides that to have a "mechanics editor", someone apart from the regular editor (the guy who makes sure you don't have the aforementioned crap writing), that specializes in understanding how games work. Your regular editor need not be that (shit, it could be someone who's never played a game in their life), but your "mechanics editor" should be a guy who can look at something you just wrote and explain "that means that in your game nobody could ever have a high enough skill to successfully drive at speeds above 30km/hr", or whatnot.

And finally:

5. Pretentiousness & "Too Weird to Live": Both of these are categories of things that, one must admit, have had successful games. Of course, they've had far more utter failures. Generally speaking, the pretentious games that succeeded were ones that were not derivative of existing pretentious games. The whole point of a game full of pretentiousness is to make its reader feel like they're special just for "getting it"; if you are doing something that is an obvious cheap copy of an existing Pretentious work, you'll never get there. Consider how Vampire spawned an entire brood of copycat "dark", "gothy", edgy, "storytelling", "deep" games (i.e. 50 metric fucktons of bullshit), none of which anyone remembers today.

As for just-plain-weird games, their problem is that they're weird. That makes it hard for people to get the point of them, and odds are they'll fail. Bizarre settings that have no obvious sense of cultural connection to anything we know tend to be pretty hard to roleplay in. Your best shot in these cases is to try to make your writing as clear as possible, do massive amounts of promotion in the hopes of finding someone who digs your endless cultural essays on "the tgunslanttrhru rituals of the Ksaltohyanu", and pray that someone creates a small band of obsessive fanatics who'll buy everything you write, guaranteeing a tiny but loyal customer-base. 


(Originally Posted June 20, 2011)

Tuesday, 28 June 2016 Tuesday: Secret Societies Edition

So, this week on, I bring you a list of 21 of the Strangest Secret Societies in History!

You've probably heard of the Freemasons before, and the Knights of Columbus, and maybe the Oddfellows, but now you can get the real historical facts on them all.  Not to mention the Gormogons, Oculists, the Big Swords Society, the Thuggees, The Assassins, the Invisible College and, yes, even the dreaded Bavarian Illuminati.

So, please check it out, +1 it, reshare it, comment if you like, and all that jazz!


Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + Gawith's Squadron Leader

Monday, 27 June 2016

More Pictures From Uruguay!

Well, time for another quick pic-post of images from around my local area of Montevideo!

First off, some more street art.  Check out this laundromat and its aquatic theme:

Next up, I think I may have found Uruguayan Batman's secret lair:

Hopscotch is also a popular kid's game here, still.  This one has a note that "this is the best corner on the planet"!

Since it's on my block, I can't really disagree.

Finally, a peek through the window of the Esmeralda, which is maybe the best 'confiteria' in town:

You can see the pastries from the window, they're incredible.  The Esmeralda also specializes in little sandwiches of different varieties. But their best offering, and something you absolutely should not pass up if you are even in Montevideo, is their "picada".  A "picada" is a selection of small bowls of different foods, mostly finger-foods.  A lot of bars and restaurants have picadas, where what you mostly get are some potato chips, blocks of cheese, some salami, olives and peanuts.  But the "picada" at the Esmeralda is different, it's a stunning selection of a dozen different things: home-made potato chips, peanuts, potato salad, waldorf salad, savory pastries, a selection of their famous sandwiches, your choice of alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink, caviar, cheese, mini empanadas, hot cheese sticks, and chicken strognoff, finished off with a desert plate of sweet pastries. And you get all that, often more than you could eat, for under $10 a person.

Well, that's all for today.


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

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Fantastic Video Review of Dark Albion!

So, here's the Savage GM, giving us a very emphatic review of Dark Albion.  It's great, very thorough, and you can totally feel the enthusiasm he has for the book in it! Check it out:

A couple of notes:

1. I definitely got inspiration from Game of Thrones, but besides that I probably got as much inspiration from Shakespeare's historical saga plays.

2. I'm really happy he liked the Appendix P house rules! I do want to note that while Savage GM points out that "you advance in level very quickly", from level 0 to level 3 or so, I would also note that a key of the system (and why it works in Albion's low-level environment, a characteristic of the setting the video pointed out) is that after that you start to advance a lot slower.  So the rules let you get up to "expert" level faster than most OSR games but then lingers longer in what I feel is that sweet-spot between levels 4-9.

3. I totally get what he means by it, but I do think its adorable that the Savage GM associates "Cornwall" with "elegance".  For viewers who've never been to the UK, that's a bit like associating "Arkansas" with "decorum".

4. By some bizarre twist of fate, the Savage GM's real life accent (at least, I assume it's real) sounds almost exactly like the accent I use when I'm playing Zeke Bodean, Scriptural Archeologist in my DCC campaign. I couldn't let this entry go without pointing that out.

Anyways, check out the video, +1 it, like it, and Tell The People all about the awesomeness that is Dark Albion!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Volcano + H&H's Beverwyck

Saturday, 25 June 2016

DCC Campaign Update: Unnecessarily Complicated Origin Stories

So, in our last adventure, the PCs had just been kidnapped by the Time Dinosaurs, who apparently took them back thousands of years to the early years of the great disaster, where they were observers of a catastrophic battle between the heroic (but asshole-ish) Pythian Knights and hordes of tentacled monstrosities in the service of the Dark Ones.

Oh, and BOLT-0 had been destroyed, and Bill the Elf was still frozen in carbonite.


-"You guys realize that this is a universe where the religious fundamentalist is the least shitty guy it the room?"

-"Outside the time-ship there are flying fortresses, mechas and power armored elves, fighting demons and giant monsters... it looks like something out of a Palladium setting!"

-Before sending them out on their mission, the Time Dinosaurs hold a church service. Apparently they're very religious, but in a Church of England kind of way (all fancy dressed and mumbling dinosaur hymns at a half-sleeping dinosaur vicar).

-The Time Dinosaurs try to explain to the PCs their extremely complex mission in this time period, but since they can't speak Common that proves very difficult.  Trying to play charades with their tiny arms is at best partially helpful.

-Eventually giving up on explaining any further, the Time Dinosaurs give the PCs a box with a big red button that the PCs figure is to teleport them back in an emergency, and dump them right in the middle of the demon-army/mecha-elf battlefield.

-"We've got to make a run for those fortresses!"
"Fishman, I want you to know, in case I don't make it.. I love you like a brother!"
"And I want you to know, Zeke... I would be so fucking happy if you died!"

-Evading missiles and arcane bolts, the PCs are heading toward what look like some kind of elven fortresses, but get intercepted by some ground troops using hover-tanks that transform into giant robots.
"of course they do... do they make the 'transformer' sound when they change?"

-"Where the hell did you come from?!"
"we have been sent by G.O.D. my friend.. well, by G.O.D. and Dinosaurs!"

-(in elven) "Don't move or we'll disintegrate you!"
"What are they saying?"
"Zeke, quick, run as fast as you can!!"

-Scriptural Archaeologist Zeke Bodean falls for the Fishman's trick and starts running.  The Mecha-tanks fire at him as he flees, but he manages to zag out of the way.
"Should we hunt him down and kill him, sir?"
"...please... please..."
"No, leave him. He can't possibly survive out there anyways"
"God damnit!!"

-The PCs learn they have been captured by the Badass Elves, a race of elves they've never heard of, who all look and act like cool anime elves with high-tech weapons and armor.

-"These two must be mutated humans. We'd heard of such things happening."
"Yes, we are"
"Kill them!"

-The PCs manage to convince the Badass Elves to momentarily not kill the non-humans of their party, and even have them accepting their story about being from the distant future.
"I mean look at them! They MUST come from some horrible future where there are no elves left to tell them what to do!"

-"Seriously, I think we should just kill those two; they can't possibly want to live like this"
"Yes we do!!"

-"We must take these prisoners to Sky Base 1"
"We're more guests than prisoners, really"
"No, you're prisoners."

-Sent up to the Pythian Elves' Sky Base 1, they meet Sir Constantine, the Tolkien-movie-like beardo-elf commander of the valiant but super-arrogant Pythian Knights.
"Can you give me one good reason why I should let these abominations live, human?"
"Well, it's really hard to find good help in the future!"

-"So in your future, have the elves all been wiped out?"
"No, there's still a few, but they're mostly assholes... so, much like today".

-"Sir, the Dwarven units on our left ground flank have been wiped out... by a Shoggoth!"
"We have nothing that can defeat it."
"...Have you got any drugs?"

-While the Pythian elves fight the Shoggoth, the 'abomination' Fishman and Chu are put in a holding cell.
"While we're in jail, have you got any games we can play?"
"What about Cards Against Humanity?"
"We're two mutants on trial for our lives as mutants. I don't think that playing Cards Against HUMANITY would really send the right message just now."
"No, no, you misheard, I meant Cards Against CHUmanity!"

-Meanwhile, Ack'Basha finds out that in the distant past, apparently people didn't know the logical way of ordering things, like by nose-size.

-He also finds out that the Hipster Elves don't exist yet, but there were 'Art Elves', who he suspects were their less lame ancestors.

-"You know, we're going to kill you, monsters!"
"Dude, you died long before we were even born!"
"Yeah, we win by default! Suck on that!"

-In spite of the modified weed-bomb actually driving away the Shoggoth (future Bob?) in a drug-filled haze, Sir Constantine decides that they're going to drop the "nova bomb" anyways, to wipe out as much of the Dark-One forces they can in order to buy time.  The Nova Bomb will disintegrate everything in a 1000 mile radius, turning the whole area into a "Dust Sea".  Sir Constantine explains that this will give them the room they need to complete construction of their great 'secret weapon': The Pythian Living Mecha, a 100ft tall artificial-intelligence war-machine robot that they hope will lay waste to the hordes of the Dark Ones.

-Sick of it all, especially the Elves, the PCs decide to press the Time Dinosaur box with a big red button, and they are instantly teleported back onto the Time Dinosaur vessel.  Even Zeke Bodean, who miraculous survived the battlefront by using his skills as a Scriptural Archeologist to find what he thinks is the silver cape of the prophet Jebodachiah, though in fact it's more likely a Pythian MDC Cloak.

-The time dinosaurs start flying through time again, and the Time Dinosaur captain starts giving them incomprehensible mission instructions again.
"WAIT! Do you not get that we don't understand a word you're saying? None of us speak Dinosaur! Let me cast Comprehend Languages.... aw fuck, I failed and can't cast it again for the day.."
"You had ONE job..."

-The PCs are dropped off some two thousand years after their last stop, which is still around eight thousand years in the past for them.  They find out that they're in the cold north, where there is a mighty (and likely losing) war looming between the minuscule forces of the human and mutant races, against the much larger demonic army of the Daemon Zzaszz, who threatens to conquer everything in his path.  They run into a band of adventurers, which includes a sexy human wizardess named Arkaea (with a cool staff that turns into a huge snake), a very much not yet dead (and possibly not yet a Chaos Lord) Borquist, a Science Elf named Fred, and a gruff greek-accented warrior named... Nikos. Nikos insists that he's a perfectly ordinary warrior and definitely not a wizard. Nikos is also very obviously bad at lying.

-The PCs figure that whatever the time dinosaurs sent them here for might have to do with Fred, who has a cart full of old science artifacts back at the camp.  In order to be allowed to join them, the PCs are required to pay Borquist a bribe.  The Fishman tries to fulfill this demand with the "Ancient Artifact" he carries on his person, but Fred thwarts that by using his science knowledge to point out that it's just a common drill.
"Well, a drill could kill someone!"
"Not good enough, mate."

-Ack'basha finally covers the bribe with a bag full of Smithplium pieces.
"What the fuck are these? What am I supposed to do with them?? They're bloody GREEN!"
"Trust me, they'll be worth a lot in a few thousand years."
"...I guess they'll do then"

-"Nikos is obviously THAT Nikos, right?"

-When the PCs get to the other party's camp, they find it under attack by a gang of feral halflings in the service of Zzaszz!  They've already murdered Pepito, the last member of Borquist's group, and are threatening the very cart of technological goodies the PCs think they're here to get to!
"Pepito! Nooo, not Pepito!"

-"You see? I am Nikos, totally a normal human warrior and obviously mortal!"

-"Wow, Chu is very good at pretending to be warrior! Nikos could learn thing or two from Chu!"

-The halflings being driven away, Borquist mourns Pepito's death by looting his corpse and robbing his sombrero.

-The PCs get into Fred's cart, and find that he has the brain of the Pythian Living Mecha.  It turns out that the Pythian Knights did end up building the mecha, and it was instrumental in turning the war around, until it was destroyed in the final apocalyptic battle between the Knights and the Shoggoth hordes.  The war ended in stalemate with both forces largely destroyed.

-It also turns out that Fred is building his own combat robot, which he's going to put the brain into, a war machine to fight Zzaszz, which he's naming Blastr-0.  He really has high hopes that he'll be able to use his invention to help make the world a better place.  The PCs generally agree that Fred is a hopelessly naive idiot and will probably die soon.

-That night, the PCs help the other party keep watch, while they wait for Fred to copy the schematics of the Living Mecha brain, which they assume is what the Time Dinosaurs sent them here to get.

-Chu inadvertently tells Nikos pretty much everything. Including how future Nikos set everyone up to enter the Crown of Creation and kidnap G.O.D.
"Really?  Nikos did this? It sound like really good idea! Nikos would never thought of that by himself, my friend!"
"oh fuck."

-Zeke Bodean gets up in the night and really wants to talk to Chu away from Nikos.
"I have to go to the bathroom. Chu, don't y'all think you want to go to the bathroom with me?"
"Sure, because it's totally not suspicious for two men to go to the bathroom together. In the future men do that all the time."
"That's right. We do that all the time... in a totally non-sinful way mind you!"

-Once they're alone, Zeke reveals that he "strongly suspects" Nikos might be THAT Nikos.
"Seriously? You brought me here for that??"

-Zeke also thinks "G.O.D. is acting through the Time Dinosaurs" to bring them to this place and kill Nikos before he gets to kidnap G.O.D. thousands of years from now.

-"Ack'basha is a cleric."
"Clerics are holy men"
"My heart wants to say that, but at the same time all my experiences of Ack'basha are making it pretty hard."

-"Friend, I believe in G.O.D., so I don't trust my mind very often!"

-Zeke decides to ignore the others' advice, and confronts Nikos publicly, but Nikos doesn't really give a crap and the other NPCs don't believe him anyway.

-The PCs are pretty sure this whole party is doomed in their upcoming battle with Zzaszz, but they can't convince any of its members to turn back.  So finally, they give up and press the button to send them back to the Time Dinosaurs.  The Dinosaurs then send them forward in time again.

-This time the Comprehend Languages spell goes off, but only right at the end of the explanation of the mission, and the Dinosaurs teleport them before the Fishman wizard can demand the Dinosaur repeat himself.

-They end up on a fairly desolate small floating island; still sometime in their distant past, but further into the future than their last two trips. There's a single solitary factory-building on the island, so they head over there and ring the doorbell.

-Through the intercom: "Hello? Who's out there?"
"My name's Chu, you may know me? I'm pretty important!"
"..Yes! I DO know you!!"
Cue the entire party almost fainting with shock at the first time ever in the campaign that anyone actually did know Chu.

-It turns out to not be as impressive an accomplishment as Chu would have hoped, because the voice on the other side of the intercom is Fred the Science Elf, several hundred years older than the last time they saw him, a few minutes ago!

-Fred tells them about how in their fight with Zzaszz, Borquist betrayed them all in exchange for gaining Immortality from the Lords of Chaos, Arkaea the wizardess got fused to her snake (turning into the Snake Witch), Nikos just fucked off, and Blastr-0 was destroyed, though not before injuring Zzaszz enough that his forces' effort to conquer the whole northern continent was halted.  Fred has since retired from the surface world, and has lived out a quiet existence on this floating island, still hoping to make a difference in the world but no longer optimistic about his chances.

-Fred has converted part of the abandoned elven factory into a lab, and he reveals to the PCs that he managed to rescue the artificial-brain of the Pythian Living Mecha; he has hopes to use it to construct another super-robot, but notes that it was altered by chaos energies in the epic battle with Zzaszz. It no longer functions in the same logical structure as a normal robot brain should, and he's reluctant to finish his super-robot until he can figure out a way to return the brain to its normal parameters.

-Suddenly, there's an earthquake as the whole island shudders; the PCs have to make reflex saving throws, and the fishman is nearly killed by a falling object. Ironically, it's a common drill.

-"Fortunately, Zeke Bodean manages to just barely dodge out of the way of an industrial buzzsaw!"
"Son of a bitch!!"

-The floating island is falling out of the sky!  From the observatory, Fred determines that it's being pulled down by an ancient tractor beam from the surface,  being manned by a group of feral halfling raiders, who appear to have been pulling this stunt for some time now.
"More fucking halflings?"

-Ack'basha uses divine aid to pull down a divine bolt of lightning to disintegrate the entire tractor beam (having rolled a critical)!  However, the island has lost too much altitude at that point and is still falling. To make things worse, while the PCs were outside summoning up the divine wrath, a landslide destroys the factory complex, with Fred the Science-Elf still inside.

-The PCs try to find Fred, hoping he's still alive; the Fishman reluctantly realizes that just maybe, Zeke's skill as a 'scriptural archeologist' might come in handy.
"I can't believe I'm saying this... Zeke, I need your help."
"My friend, I've been waiting a long time to hear that! I'll be happy to help you in any way I can, because I love you like a brother."
"I despise you with every fiber of my being."

-The PCs see something similar to an escape pod abandoning the island, it seems to be moving too fast to be for a human occupant, and theorize that Fred might have been trying to save the Living Mecha's artificial brain.

-Zeke somehow manages to find Fred, but he's buried under rubble, and clearly dead. But they find a message he left on a recording device, where he explains that he did indeed jettison the brain, to save it from destruction or from falling into the wrong hands. And he explains that to protect it, he put it inside the body... of a simple bolt-tightening robot!

-"Oh for fuck's sake! I lost 1 point of Intelligence for this??!"
"You're not the only one who suffered. I had to give away 33 smithplium pieces!"

-They return to the Time Dinosaurs, who are transporting them back to their own time. But the Fishman just has to know: it's obvious the Time Dinosaurs did all this to be able to repair Bolt-0, but why do they give a fuck?
The Time Dinosaur leads them to a museum-like room on their ship, a monument to the founder or great leader of the Time Dinosaurs in the distant future: Bolt-0!

-With a half-dozen or so of the mysteries of the campaign resolved in one fell session, the Time Dinosaurs drop off the PCs in the present.. but not where they picked them up.  Instead, they find themselves in front of a Minotaur Underwear Factory.

-"After all this, they didn't even drop Bolt-0 off with us! They took off with him!"
"Well, maybe they need time to fix him?"
"I KNOW! I KNOW! Just don't fucking question it!"

That's it for this section.  Next time:  will the PCs finally get to the bottom of what's causing the killer Minotaur attacks? Stay tuned!


Currently Smoking: Mastro de Paja Bent Billiard + Image Virginia

Friday, 24 June 2016 Friday: Remember the Last Bunch of Guys that Made Britain Quit Europe?

So first, congratulations to the people of the United Kingdom, for recovering their freedom and sovereignty!

And now, some exciting news (after a few days' delay): I've just published my first article on

Look for me to do future articles on weird history of different kinds.  There'll be stuff on secret societies, occult grimoires, other esoteric stuff, and lots of funny or weird history.

But for today, slightly coincidentally to current events, we look back at the history of some other European Bureaucrats who behaved so god-awfully that they made Britain (and several other countries) quit their international organization.  The "god-awfully" was particularly ironic, because of course we're talking about the Popes of the Roman Catholic Church.

Here, then, is my list of 20 of the Worst Popes In History, and you won't believe some of the shit they pulled.  There's pope eye-gouger, pope Joffrey, pope gigolo, pope traitor!, pope vampire, and lots more!

Dedicated with love to the European Commission and John "Captain Smegma" Wright.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Volcano + Peterson's Balkan Delight

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Classic Rant: A Defense of SAN Points

Immersion and Deep Character Investment's Downside

I'm not actually going to be using a Sanity-Points-style character mechanic to handle fear issues in my upcoming Albion campaign, because I don't want the game delving quite that far from the heroic mold; just barely, but not quite there. But its certainly not because of any of the advice James Raggi provides in his LotFP Referee's Handbook. 

There, Raggi suggests that something like fear-reactions are best roleplayed by characters. I strongly disagree. And the reason I disagree is, I suspect, the selfsame one he'd try to cite in favour of his argument: immersion.

He would say that when you have something like Sanity Points, and you take away control of a character's actions from the player to represent something like fear, this "breaks immersion", and to a certain extent, he's right. It can be jarring, disruptive, for a player who's sure his character would want to stand and fight to be told "no, you failed your sanity check, so you run in terror". 

But the thing is, this is also a part of the trick of immersion: because you associate with your character, you, like your character, might imagine yourself more able to handle Things Man Was Not Meant To Know far better than you think you can. Raggi seems to think a good roleplayer will be able to just man up and have his character piss his pants in fear when the moment is called for; that has never been my experience. Players don't want to intentionally play a position of weakness, and running away is usually a position of weakness. There are two reasons why they might choose for their character to act in a way that unduly ignores the sheer terror of a horrific situation: the first is if they are thinking like players, of course, and don't want to "lose". But the second is in fact if they are IN immersion, and the character himself imagines that he would not act in a cowardly way. We all know people, and have perhaps faced situations ourselves, where we imagine that we would act in a far better, braver, nobler, calmer or cooler way than we actually do when the situation we speculated ends up in front of us.

These players are immersing to the character but not to the emulation of the world. So for the sake of the emulation of that world, the GM has to sometimes enforce the world-emulation on them, and that's where things like Sanity Checks come in. I'm not advocating using Sanity checks in every kind of game; as I mentioned, I won't be using them for Albion. There, save for perhaps some fear-inducing creatures that may pop up, I'm not going for an emulation of a world of supernatural TERROR, just dark fantasy. But if you are (and its pretty clear Raggi was as part of his whole "weird fantasy" schtick), then you NEED a sanity mechanic specifically to emulate that feeling of sheer terror, and the players can get to immerse in the sensation of not being in control of yourself anymore. That too is an emulative experience.

After all, SAN points more old school than ThAC0.


(originally posted July 14, 2011)

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Pictures From Uruguay

So the stupid thing I wanted to share is still not out today. So here are some pictures from Uruguay:

Sometimes, the street art spills up the steps of apartments!

Here are some outdoor tables to a cafe/restaurant a few blocks from my house. I just liked the look of them.

This building is the local public high school.

And finally, here's the working city-man's parilla (barbeque), for sale at a hardware store. You'll note the original design was from a halved barrel. All cooking here is done with wood, not coal, and on top of that anyone with a mind to with one of these could make himself some money.  There's an unlicensed corner parilla a block from my house that's really great.  You can tell it's great, because the Taxi Drivers all stop there to get their chorizos or ribs.

Anyways, that's it for today.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Some More Albion-Related Links!

Well, today I was going to post a little non-Albion related surprise, but it doesn't appear to be ready through no fault of my own.

Ah well, fuck it.

Here's some more Albion stuff!

First, we've seen Albion in Spanish, but what about Albion in French?  Apparently, the people of the land of Frogmen like Dark Albion too! Here's a French review of Albion. I've had people be offended at the "frogmen", but not one of those offended has been French.  The French seem to find it funny rather than offensive, and they get what it's a reference to (which isn't really the French at all, but the old English bias about the French).  Nice to know that Albion has some fans in France too, where no doubt they could play a great "Rebels against the Frogmen" campaign.

Second, a podcast!  The podcast "2 GMs, 1 Mic" were talking about Albion recently and I'd been planning to link it here. Check them out! They also talk about some non-Albion stuff, which you may or may not find interesting too.

So there you go, that's it for now. I'm off to a dinner party and hopefully tomorrow what I had planned to link to today will be ready.


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia

Monday, 20 June 2016

Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos Already Has Its First Review!

It's not even out yet, but because we sent them early, Dark Albion's upcoming sourcebook Cults of Chaos already has its very first review!

And, no surprise, the first review is a positive one.

It comes from the Swords & Stitchery blog, written by Eric/Needles who was one of the winners of our Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos cover contest.  So yeah, go check it out, for a break-down of just what you will be getting in the book, plus lots of awesome pictures!  You've already seen the front cover; here, from the review, is the back cover:

It's such a great review I have to admit that even I'm a little jealous of Eric for having the book, given that my own copies haven't arrived yet.  Ah well, that's what happens when you live in the depths of the third world.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + H&H's Beverwyck

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Wild West Campaign Update: "Doc"

In today's adventure, Bad Luck Miller immediately regretted a job he took for the richest man in Ford County, to get a pair of sodbusters off his land.  When he decided to get an assistant, he immediately regretted getting John Joshua Webb.

(John Joshua Webb)

Webb had a reputation as a good man to have in a pinch. And much like Bad Luck Miller, Webb was also of the habit of being fine with playing both sides of the law. He turned out to be a bit too blase, as it turned out, with murdering the unarmed sodbuster couple that they were sent to get rid of.  The whole thing left such a bad taste in Miller's mouth that he decided to 'go straight' and got a job as an assistant manager in the Dodge City lumber yard.

His troubles weren't over then, he was told by his much older and wealthier girlfriend, the widow McKnee, that her dear genteel nephew was coming to visit Dodge for a couple of days, and that Miller was expected to 'take care' of him!   The little nephew turned out to be a grown man. And he turned out be a lot more experienced than the widow believed.  And he turned out to not be very happy about Miller's intentions toward his aunt.  And, to top it all off, he turned out to be Doc Holliday.

Not that Miller knew this, until their stop off at the Alhambra saloon, where Holliday was recognized by Dirty Dave Rudabaugh.  Dirty Dave and Doc knew each other because when both were just starting their careers, it was Doc who taught Dirty Dave how to play poker, and Dave who taught Doc Holliday how to shoot (though by everyone but Rudabaugh's view, Holliday very quickly outstripped his teacher in skill).  Rudabaugh didn't know what was up, but he felt pretty sure that if Doc was in town, some son of a bitch was going to die.  It was sure looking like it would be Miller.

(Dirty Dave)

Meanwhile, deputy Young rescued a hapless Mexican named David from a vicious beating. He quickly developed a certain affection for the apparently long-suffering and pathetic but endlessly optimistic guy, and his general friendliness in spite of an endlessly shitty life. So when a bounty hunter comes to town, claiming that David (who seems incapable of hurting a flea) had murdered someone in a small Kansas town in a neighboring county, he has trouble accepting this.  He eventually finds out that the town in question has a horribly corrupt sheriff, and the charge is almost certainly fraudulent to cover up the real killing with David as a patsy.

At the same time, Doc Holliday decides to switch the target of his "PC I'm most likely to brutally murder" when he runs into Hale the Mormon Gambler, and like almost every other criminal that's shown up in Dodge, Doc mistakes him for the notorious outlaw Derek McClue.

Deputy Young (with help from some of the other PCs) ends up delaying the bounty hunter after David and tries to find a way to save him from an unearned noose. Finally, it's not Sheriff Bassett but the corpulent corrupt marshal Larry Deger who figures out the way to fix the problem.

(Larry Deger, our campaign's "Boss Hogg")

Deger wants to extort a debt from Young in exchange for his help, but Young flips it around by revealing that he knows all about Deger's involvement in the opium trade in Dodge.  Deger reluctantly explains the legal loophole which an allow the PCs to save David (that if David is wanted for a felony in Dodge that warrant would take priority over any in another county, so they just need to trump up charges for David here, to counteract the trumped-up charges there); but he also ends up promising Young that one day he'd pay for crossing him.

As for Doc Holliday, he starts to figure out that the Mormon Gambler is apparently good friends with all the lawmen in town, and Miller, and a number of other more dubious types; and he just can't get through his head what it is that this guy, who he's absolutely sure is a train robber and cattle rustler and leader of a huge criminal gang, is up to in Dodge, under an apparently false identity. He can't figure out if the Mormon Gambler has managed to buy off or to completely fool some of the greatest gunmen and most upright lawmen of the west.  In the end, he decides it's just too much for him, and chooses to get out of Dodge, promising Deputy Young that it's the last they'll be seeing of Doc Holliday.

Yeah, right.


Currently Smoking: Raleigh Hawkbill + Image Virginia

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Classic Rants: "Real" Magick in RPGs, Part 1

The "Realistic" Emulation of the Occult world in RPGs part 1

So, as I promised earlier, I'm going to write a bit about this subject that I'm fairly familiar with; bearing in mind that the point here is to serve as a resource for those who might not be so familiar, as to how to create a real "occult scene" for use in modern-era RPGs; this series will work on the premise of magic (or "magick" if you will) doing what it actually does, and people doing what they actually do. Take it or leave it as you will.

We should begin with the majority, however. And those of you familiar with Sturgeon's Law might have guessed that a significant majority (don't know if its 90% but probably pretty close) of everyone who auto-defines themselves as being into "the occult" are basically gormless. Poseurs, or the chronically clueless. However, there are several different main categories of these gormless would-be occultists; the following is the breakdown of the four most common "types", and how to effectively emulate them:

1. The Gormless New-Ager
-the New Ager is recognized for usually wearing somewhat colourful clothing, though of the various types he or she is often one of the least unconventional of the categories of "occultist"; the new-agers often have fairly middle-class type jobs (or are housewives), and aside from their interest may otherwise lead normal lives.

-New Agers will be quite eclectic in their tastes of what they read or get into, so long as it fulfills two conditions: first, that it is not something they would interpret as "dark" and second that it is not in any way approaching what they define as "hard". 

-They will tend to be fascinated with all kinds of real and imaginary foreign cultural elements, ie. "tibetan", "indian", "buddhist", "hindu", "atlantean", "native", etc etc. but only the most superficial elements of the same; ie. jewelry, clothing, music, or crafts. They usually have no capacity to discern whether something is authentically a product of a foreign culture/religion or just claims to be. If we were using FATE aspects here, an appropriate one would be something along the lines of "Its Native American Because a White Guy With a Ponytail Calling Himself Running Bear Said it Was".

- Their actual practices: amount to buying a great number of books, many of which were recommended by Oprah, none of which are particularly profound, listening to New Age CDs of dubious musical quality, owning a significant number of crystals and trinkets that are supposed to fix their problems for them, and engaging in positive affirmations ("I will have money come to me", "I am a spiritual person", "i am bathed in white light").

-on that note, obsessions: "White" and "light". For New Agers the world is a kind of Manichean dualism (though they'd never use that term) between "white/light" and "black/dark". The whole raison d'etre of their spirituality is to try to immerse themselves in as much white-light as possible and push out and reject all that is "dark" or "Negative". They are thus easily terrified of anything that feels "dark" or "negative" to them, and constantly worried about being insufficiently bathed in the "white light" (which they do by chanting affirmations, going to new-age healing sessions (reiki, psychic healers, etc), and thinking happy thoughts.

-They are quite interested in psychics, mediums, channelers and new-age healing; though only a rare few will actually want to learn how to do any of these things themselves; instead they will be frequent customers of a great variety of those offering such services. They will be very impressed by any claims of Psychic power or "energy work" power, and will almost never disbelieve such things; instead, if for any reason at all the person making such claims or offering such services in some way annoys or causes them displeasure, they will start feeling that such a person is "negative" or has "dark energy" and will try to avoid them.

-in a random encounter with Gormless New Agers, there is a roughly 50% chance that said New Agers will be scared shitless of Gormless Wiccans, thinking that the latter are "dark" or "negative"; the chance is 100% when New Agers encounter Gormless Quasi-Satanists or Gormless Hermetic Magicians.

-There is, however, a certain level of crossover between Wiccans and New Agers, a certain amount of "cross-class" individuals exist, who touch on certain wiccan behaviours and beliefs while being mostly new age in practice.

-Gormless New Agers will automatically classify as "negative" anyone who mocks any of their ideas, beliefs, or practices, or who suggest that spirituality requires actual work, study or discipline beyond thinking about "white light".

-"Real" New Agers: There are none. Anyone in the new age who graduates to real practices will switch classes into a serious practitioner of some spiritual tradition (hindu, buddhist, shaman, pagan) or more rarely become a hermetic magician. There are, however, New Ager "prestige classes", who are more intellectually involved or specialized; the most common of these are the "theosophists" of various types: whether the traditional sort who speak a lot about Chakras, the "Seven spiritual rays", the OM or I AM affirmations, etc, or the freeform "channelers" who work on receiving "teachings" and "prophecies" from "Ascended Masters" (spiritual beings who exist on another plane of reality, usually called Shambhala). These teachings are almost always complex description of metaphysical systems describing the universe as a series of planes or dimensions, talking about the different rays or vibrations of energy that connect to our emotional, mental or spiritual problems, giving remarkably mundane and often stunningly bourgeois advice on daily living, and claiming to reveal secret history about the past that is almost always unproveable and usually has something to do with Atlantis. Essentially, none of this adds any level of practical application to new age beliefs, its just (mis)information for its own sake.

-Danger level: Virtually nil. Very rarely, some new agers can get recruited into cult-like movements; for example the channeling/theosophist cult of Elizabeth Claire Prophet that preach a coming doomsday and stockpile weapons in a bunker somewhere in the pacific northwest. Occasionally, gormless new agers can get caught up in UFO/Conspiracy movements (there being a substantial crossover between new-age believers and the David Icke "The Royal Family and All World Leaders are Secret Alien Lizardpeople" conspiracy movement. In earlier decades, new-age theosophical beliefs were intertwined with eugenics and racism (interpreting the "white race" to be the most spiritually evolved due to atlantean descent), but this has been almost entirely eliminated from modern new-age thinking. Generally speaking, Gormless New Agers themselves are pretty much completely harmless.

Stay tuned for Gormless Wiccans, Gormless Quasi-Satanists and Gormless Hermetic Magicians!


(originally posted June 1 2011)

Friday, 17 June 2016

DCC Campaign Update:It's Gotten Too Weird for the Dutchmen

As of our last adventure, the PCs were heading deep into the badlands, in search of a legendary magical artifact known as the Libram of the 10 spheres.  This book had the power to open access to any of the higher planes, including the Crown of Creation where (it is assumed) G.O.D. is being kept in seclusion by the insane wizard/daemon Nikos.  They were told about this by the daemon Sezrekhan, who has geased Bill the Elf into finding it, but of course both Ack'Basha the Cleric and BOLT-0 the robot want it for themselves.

So the PCs have made it to about a day away from the supposed location of the Libram; together with BOLT-0, Zeke Bodean the Scriptural Archeologist, 9 Dutch Crossbowmen, and a handful of zombies created by Ack'Basha.


-Bill the Elf wakes up and goes around the corner to take a wee; the rest of the PCs hear weird TARDIS sounds and when they check it out he's vanished.

-"The Part of Bill the Elf will be played tonight by Sir Not-Appearing-in-this-Film"

-Bill the Elf is away vacationing in Switzerland; no doubt this will go over very well with Sezrekhan.

-"What happened?"
"Bill went out to pee."
"But where is he?"
"We could ask Swengi.. he might know because he likes to watch all of you while you pee, isn't that weird?"

-"Where were we going again? Minotauria?"
"Hey, it's a big world, I can dream can't I?"

-"Now with Bill missing, this is the perfect time to get the Libram!"

-Suddenly there's a flash of light, and an enraged minotaur appears, reminding the PCs that they're still suffering from mysterious minotaur attacks.
"Hey guys, it's minotaur time!"

-"I cast Ekim's Mystical Mask"
"Why?! Why would anyone ever do that??"

-"The Minotaur attacks Chu"
"Chu are being attacked!"
"It'll probably keep attacking Chu..."

-The minotaur defeated, the PCs continue along the badlands, making their way up a ridge, where they run into a goblin scouting party.
They quickly dispatch the cowardly humanoids, and loot the bodies.
"I have found a Tablet, no doubt it was sent by G.O.D. and will prove useful to our quest, my friends"
"You really aren't very familiar with G.O.D., are you Zeke?"

-"There's a lot of goblins up here.."
"Sure, but Ack'basha committed genocide on a whole town of goblins the last time we were in these parts"
"Yeah.. those were good times."

-Just as the PCs find the main goblin tribe, and have almost 300 goblins rushing at them, they see a flash of light and have 2 furious minotaurs attacking them from the other side!

-Zeke manages to drop one of the minotaurs with a lucky crossbow bolt!
"I hit! G.O.D. did that! If I had missed it would have been my own fault, of course"

-the goblins are dispatched when Ack'basha uses Divine Aid to make one of the minotaurs highly explosive and send it charging at the goblin horde.

-The second minotaur gets stopped by Ack'basha's Lotus Gaze, and is now the cleric's enchanted slave.
"So now Ack'basha not only has zombies, he has a Hypnotaur."

-The deceased minotaur was a somewhat unusual specimen; he was dressed in a lab coat, and had an ID badge identifying him as "Dr. Jim Minotaur" from the Tholos General Hospital.

-The PCs step through a hallucinatory terrain effect, and end up right in front of a semi-ruined tower, with a distinctive blue color they'd only seen before in the Azure order.
"fuck them, then!"

-Chu to Ack'Basha: "Is it really a good idea to let Bolt-0 have the book?"
"I'm not planning to let Bolt-0 have the book."
Chu to Bolt-0: "Is it really a good idea to let Ack'basha have the book??"

-The Fishman goes for a swim in the lake. He's fine, and finds nothing dangerous inside, but gets a very strange sort of electric feeling as he swims through it.
"you guys, there's something really weird about that lake"
"What, like Dutch-weird?"
"...yes, actually."

-a Detect Magic spell is of little use, when it shows that the entire tower and the entire lake are magical.

-Second Sight also reveals that the Libram both is and is not inside the tower.

-The PCs become magical too, as they start going into the tower, but then some become unmagical when they go the wrong way, revealing that there seems to be a kind of code to making one's way through the tower.

-The tower is also infested by giant seagulls and giant fruit flies, which prove to be a bit of a problem, combined with another Minotaur manifestation.

-"I'm going to cast Ekim's Mystical Mask... stop laughing at me!!"
"I never thought we'd think back fondly at Ropework as being a competent wizard..."

-"Do not encourage the dutchmen! We have enough problems as it is!"

-"I'm going to cast Enlarge on Ack'basha... so he's a bigger target"

-"It is nice to have a non-Bill wizard around.."
"Yeah, it'll be great when we find one."
"Oh snap!"

-Moving deeper into the tower, the PCs start to realize it is full of twisted dimensional pockets and weird effects.  But nothing as weird as when they find a group of Water Weirds in a weird fountain.

-The Dutchmen are starting to think that this tower may be a bit too weird, even for them.

-As if the nearly-indestructible Water Weirds aren't bad enough, another minotaur pops in!

-Dutchmen are drowning in droves, and the rest of the party is freaking out. All except the fishman, who realizes that the Weirds are only able to do drowning damage, which he's immune to.

-Chu decides it's time to run away. Or rather, walk away, leaving the party to their doom.  But he changes his mind and comes back when he hears BOLT-0 is taking massive damage at the hands of the minotaur!
"What do you know? It turns out BOLT-0 is the one guy in the party I give a fuck about... I'm as shocked as anyone!"

-Zeke gets caught by a Water Weird, and is starting to drown!
Fishman: "Please.. oh please..."
But he escapes it's clutches! "Praise G.O.D.! He has saved me again!"
Fishman: "Son of a bitch!"

-Chu comes back, but too late! He arrives just in time to see BOLT-0 viciously struck down!

-The party finally kills the minotaur, and banishes the last of the water weirds, but are shocked to find that BOLT-0 appears to have been damaged beyond repair by the minotaur's attack.

-Suddenly, a light floods the room from the tower window, and the PCs hear the strange TARDIS-like sounds again.  The next thing they know, they are all (including Zeke and BOLT-0's robot-corpse, but not including the Dutchmen or Ack'basha's zombies) on board a strange high-tech ship, being greated by a small t-rex in a top hat!
"It's the Time Dinosaurs!"

-For reasons unknown (because the time dinosaurs can't speak Common, only make dinosaur noises) they are taking the entire group through time, and when the dinosaur time vessel emerges from the dinosaur time-stream, they find themselves in the middle of a titanic battle between an army of horrific monstrosities on one side, and guys in ultra-advanced power armor on the other.  The PCs realize that for whatever reason, the Time Dinosaurs have sent them back in time, to the era of the Pythian Knights!

And on that bombshell, we leave you for this session.  Stay tuned in a couple of weeks to find out what happens.


Currently Smoking: Masonic Meerschaum + Image Virginia

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Guest Video Log on Social Skills!

So, Brendan Davis (one of my former publishers) was inspired by my recent repost of a classic rant on Social Skills to talk about it on youtube! In it, he talks about how his own very troubled relationship to social skills has influenced how he presents them in some of Bedrock's games (other than my own Arrows of Indra, of course).

So, since he mentions me, I'm just going to take a break today and let him do the talking:


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Collection Canadian + Image Latakia

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Final Winner of the Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos Cover Contest Announced!

So, yesterday, I had announced that "Needles" was the first winner of our Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos cover contest!  Here's a truly great blog entry from his "Swords & Stitchery" blog that pretty much explains why.  Not only is he a great blogger, but a big fan of Dark Albion.

So today, we announce the final winner.  Swords & Stitchery was my pick, but I was really nearly at a draw between him and another candidate. Frankly, all the entrants were really great, but there were two that I felt were the best choice.  Luckily, Dominique Crouzet announced he would pick a second winner, and it was exactly who I was hoping.

So, without further ado, Dominique Crouzet's choice for recipient of a free review copy of the print version of Cults of Chaos is....

...The SavageGM!

On account of his top-notch Youtube Channel, we think that SavageGM is a great candidate to spread the word about how great Cults of Chaos really is.

Now, do keep in mind, neither of our winners are under any obligation whatsoever to provide a positive review. We only asked that they produce the review as soon as possible, that it be posted in multiple locations (including Amazon), and that it be fair.    We're just so sure that Cults of Chaos is a great book that we're confident our winners will end up giving it a positive review.  I guess we'll see very soon, though!

So, thank you very much to everyone who participated. All your entries were appreciated and we really hope you'll pick up Cults of Chaos and give us a review of it anyways!  And stay tuned for the winners' reviews, and Cults of Chaos' impending arrival.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + H&H's Beverwyck

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The FIRST Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos Cover Contest Winner Announced!

So, a few days back I revealed the awesome cover of the upcoming Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos:

And at the same time presented a contest where participants could get a free Review Copy of Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos before it's even released, if they could tell us why THEY were the best person for the Reviewer job.

Yesterday,  Dominique Crouzet, President and Le Dictateur pour Vie of DOM Publishing, threw a bombshell into the proceedings when he announced that after I made my pick, he would select a SECOND winner.

So, today I am presenting you with my choice, after conferring with Dominique, as to who wins a review copy.  Let me say first a big thank you to everyone who has participated so far! I'm really glad to see there's so much interest in this book.  And it was a close call, and I hope that all of you who got into this contest will end up getting the book and will post your reviews of it anyways!

Also, there is still one more day left and one more review copy to go, so it's still not too late to go to the contest entry and keep trying to win us over!

But now finally, without any further ado, I give you the Pundit's Choice. It was close with almost everyone, but a very very close call between two candidates, the other one who I suspect will ultimately be Dominique Crouzet's choice. Ultimately, I had to go with the one candidate that most embodied what I felt was the spirit of these proceedings.  So my choice, for winner of the Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos Cover Contest is.....


So, Needles, for your previous reviews and articles about Dark Albion on your Swords & Stitchery blog, and for your excellent spirit of competition in this contest, you are the first of two winners of a Preview review-copy of Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos.  Please get in touch with me on G+ for mailing info to get your book out to you ASAP.

Everyone else, keep up the fight for one more day: tomorrow the contest will close with the final announcement of Dominique Crouzet's choice for the second review copy!


Currently Smoking: Italian Redbark + Argento Latakia

Monday, 13 June 2016

Classic Rant: Social Skills as Superpower

The traditional conception of social skills in RPGs tends to be that the guy with very high social skills, +20 or whatever, can use his skills to manipulate and sway both masses and individuals like he was a Svengali. This has, in my opinion, been encouraged by those Swine that would like to see "social combat" be as important or effective as physical combat.

But this has always run into a certain roadblock: Player Characters. Players are perfectly fine with the idea that if they should make a "diplomacy" check, they could convince the guard to let them into his secret hideout, but they tend to go apeshit at the idea that if the GM makes a "diplomacy" check, the guard would convince the Player Characters to let him and his buddies into their secret hideout. Its a case of what's good for the goose is definitely not good for the gander; players are clearly quite pleased with the idea of diplomacy acting as mind control, or bluff as a ticket to ride. I've had players who have tried to use Intimidation against Gods; and I know for a fact that those exact same players, if I had a God use intimidation against them, would feel deeply resentful and protest if I told them the intimidation check meant their character would surrender. And they would be apoplectic if it was another mere mortal, possibly someone significantly inferior to them, who made the check and forced them to be afraid. 

And indeed, why would a mid-level player character of some renown be afraid of a 98-lb. weakling or a schoolgirl?! There's no good reason. It shouldn't matter if the weakling has +20 diplomacy or +30 intimidate, there's no way on god's green earth that the PC should be forced to act against his own interests.

And likewise, there's no way on god's green earth that a God should be forced to act against his own interests by a mid-level player character, even if he has +25 diplomacy or +35 intimidate. It wouldn't matter. And not just because he's a god.

The general answer the Swine give to this dilemma is always to try to say "well, you know, the rules have to apply to all equally... so, Social Combat! Alienation from your character! Ruining Immersion for all!"

That's the real agenda here. IF you can create a situation where its normal and expected that you will often have zero control over not only what your character does, but how he thinks and acts, you'll care less about your character. You'll stop immersing. You'll focus more on the story than the character or the setting. That's the agenda.

But really, this is stupid. If you're a regular roleplayer, the first key to good roleplaying is Emulation. And the way social skills are handled in many games and by most gaming groups doesn't pass the stink test. The Swine want to answer that by evening out the bad emulation to all sides, including the PCs. But the better answer would be to say "social skills don't work as they stand"; they require a radical overhaul, and THEN an even application.

The overhaul should be this: in real life, it doesn't matter how good your bluff is, you are never going to get someone to act against their own interest. It doesn't matter how good your diplomacy is, you are never going to convince them of something they aren't already disposed to be convinced of. It doesn't matter how great your intimidation is, it isn't going to matter if you don't have the appearance of firepower to back it up.

So none of these social skills should act as "superpowers", the way they currently do; where the character who is under their effect is basically mind-controlled. Neither PC nor NPC alike should be forced to be taken in by that. 

Instead, Bluff is mainly something that would have to exist to smooth over diplomacy; diplomacy would be something that exists to win over the neutral crowd more than someone you're opposed to (or alternately, to negotiate a compromise, rather than convince someone else to give you everything you want), and intimidate should work at best to make someone nervous. In each of the three cases, as much as it hurts the anti-emulation crowd, none of these can make any sense this way without lots and lots of contextual roleplaying. The bluff roll could only mean anything in the context of the lies you are telling, the diplomacy check could only mean anything in the context of what you are offering, and the intimidation check could only mean anything in the context of how scary you would already be to the other side.

Make social skills reasonable, which is to say, generally far LESS effective (but sometimes more desirable) than just sticking a knife in someone's throat, and then yes, make them apply to everyone evenly. Once you stop making them into Swine-fantasy superpowers, you can sort things out rather easily.


(Originally posted March 30, 2011)