Gaming Sunday

Here’s a Kickstarter project that’s wrapping up in a few days that might pique your interest as it did mine! It’s an SF/near future/science-fantasy game that takes place in a non-colonial Americas! Led by first-nations designers, it promises to be a nifty new take and world to explore:

Check it out! I’m very excited for the project. They’re real close to closing in on 1M and it’d be rad to see them make it over that mark!

Gaming Thursday

A very cool little bit of RPG history explored here, with the delving into the idea of Fate/Fortune/Fame/Luck/Inspiration mechanics:

Extra cool in that the first RPG I ever played – Top Secret – is the first RPG to include such a thing, with its Fame and Fortune points.  Which is interesting, as I hadn’t really thought of it before, that this concept of a narrative meta-currency has always been a part of my RPG experience and even my conception of RPGs and how they operate.

And the twist that Top Secret had in it was cool too:  While Fame and Fortune points did the same thing, you gained a Fame point at the end of every mission and thus knew how many you had.  But Fortune was rolled in secret by the Administrator (GM) when you created the character, so you never really knew exactly when your luck might run out…


Let’s get down to business…

In an amusing way, I feel “compelled” to review the new live-action Mulan, if only because my review of the original animated version has been archived for decades at IMDB for the whole world to see.*  But this was also one of the only Disney remakes I was actually keen on seeing.  When they announced that they would not be doing a near shot-for-shot remake and would instead be shaking things up (not making it a musical, the removal of Mushu, etc) my interest was piqued.  As long as they had good writing, I figured, this could be a good thing: a chance to tell the story in a new way, opening up new avenues to explore and to play in.  And even though I have very much disliked most of the remakes thus far, as long as they nailed that one, crucial, thing of good writing, it could turn out well!   Continue reading

Gaming Friday

There’s this refrain I’ve seen pop up a few times over the past few weeks that, while the first time seemed amusing, by the third there was clearly some gross misunderstanding going on at best or, at the other end of the spectrum, some downright purposeful falsehood being peddled to promote hostility and prejudice.

So here’s the thing:

NO, D&D did not remove all distinction between ‘races’ in the game.

NO, all ‘races’ are not now the same.

NO, the publisher was not forced/pressured/browbeat into doing this by some sort of morality warrior mob.

NO, the game hasn’t been ruined.

What has occurred is that the recent sourcebook (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything) notes that the standard attribute score bonuses of the various races (species) speak to archetypes and gives the option for you to switch them around on your character, if you choose.  Also, you can swap out languages and proficiencies for another.

That’s it.

Now, I’ve made the argument before that attribute bonuses are the most boring way to differentiate between different species, while also being sorely restricting to RP and flavour.  So I’m quite happy that this change has been made, opening things up.

But for those who are making the argument that without these attribute bonuses all races within the game are now the same, what they’re saying is that for them, a +2 to Dex is a greater differentiator than being resistant to poison.  Or being a construct that doesn’t breathe or sleep.  Or innate magic.  Or, you know, breathing fire.

Which, to editorialize for a moment, I find absolutely and hilariously ridiculous.

Besides providing a more prominent distinction between the different heritages, these kind of abilities are also far more exciting and meaningful in their use and how they shape the feel of the character’s lineage.  Best of all, in sidelining attribute bonuses it also sidelines the potential for them to invoke or reinforce limiting and/or negative stereotypes, connotations, and contexts that can bleed beyond the game.

So I would invite those who are worried to set that aside and see that far from being a diminishment this is a flourishment instead.

And to those who say the game itself is under attack by a bunch of hysterical agitators, I would like to say that we all can see that it is, in actuality, you who has got your knickers all up in a twist.

Art Thursday

Oh this is neat.  A new production starting up at the Princess of Wales theatre in Toronto in November (coming over from the UK) that’s creatively inventive and great for these socially distanced times.  Called “Blindness” it’s an auditory only sound installation, with the audience sitting on stage (spread apart, wearing masks) surrounded by simple colour changing lights.  I’m intrigued!  Unfortunately I’m not traveling home this year so I’ll miss it, but if you’re near Toronto this might just be the ticket.

Blindness transfers to North America


Gaming Thursday

I am very much excited about WotC’s announcement that they’ll be shifting how they portray (and thus limit) ‘inherently evil races’ to open up much greater latitudes in alignment, abilities, societies, and etc.  For one, the term race is confusing, since these are really whole different species.  For two, just as our species (humans) are vast and varied, so too should be and can be members of other species (whether elves, or dwarves, or kobolds, or orcs).  For three, it’s far more interesting!  Automatic evil is easy (and still available, be it through fiends or monstrosities or undead) but allowing for greater agency by the antagonists is more juicy, and the meatiest stories often deal with the ‘evil within’ (both individual character but fellow humans/etc acting in very bad ways) vs an external and ‘black box’ kind of auto-evility machine.  For four, as someone who finds attribute bonuses the least interesting way to differentiate different species, I hope this pushes more games (even if D&D itself likely won’t adopt this unless they ever do make a new edition or come out with an optional ruleset) towards more nifty species talents/stunts/feats (such as the Dwarf’s resistance to poison, or the Dragonborn’s breath weapon) that create far more interesting options, capabilities, and side uses for players.

For five, and of great importance, is this:  who we know ourselves as a person and as a collective people is/are thoroughly governed by story – the story we know about ourselves, the stories we tell about our community, the stories we speak of about the world. As such, the stories we make up and tell each other for entertainment absolutely has an impact on how we view, interact with, and treat the real world and others within it. They are not separate.  Thus to say ‘this race is all bad’ or ‘this race is always big and scary’ or ‘this race is really only good at this’ creates mental traps for us as we relate to and deal with others in our actual and lived lives.

So yeah.  Doing away with the more rigid stereotypes and tropes and that present a gameworld view that one’s place, role, competencies, and expected outcomes in the world are governed primarily (and almost entirely) by factors of their species and instead moving towards the item(s) that often draws us to our favourite fiction: culture, style, worldview, way of life, way of building things, and ways of dealing with things. In short: towards character.

Because character and characters are what an RPG is all about.

Gaming Thursday

I love this story, as published in the editorial of Dragon magazine, issue 144, penned by Roger E Moore:

The mountain pass was called the Demon Tongue, which implied there might be a demon and treasure there, so the party headed for it right away. The characters were hungry for combat and cash – lots of each. I was the DM. We were gaming on the pool table in the medical company rec room in West Germany, a decade ago last fall.

Not many of the details of that adventure are left with me now, but I remember what happened when the adventurers got to the Demon Tongue. The paladin was the point man, mounted up and armored like a tank (he had volunteered for, no, demanded the position). Some distance behind, the wizard was checking the landscape with his amulet of ESP, hunting for enemy thoughts. Everyone else was gathered near the wizard, weapons ready. They were on a narrow road in the pass itself, with a slope up to the left and a sheer drop to the right, when the wizard got a reading.    Continue reading