Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Point of clarification, in this post I'll be referring to the RPG hobby, industry, and community with the following acronym: HIC.
There was a vague announcement of legendary "Red Box" Frank Mentzer's guest of honor title/privileges being taken away over here on the GaryCon website.
Now, we have some answers... but even more questions with this FaceBook page (why is it always FaceBook?!?) posted, again by Luke Gygax, just a couple hours ago.
It seems to be a mix of new, additional bad behavior from Frank Mentzer, as well as, GaryCon pivoting with these times of social change.
Eventually, I'm sure we'll find out exactly what Frank Mentzer said or did that set these new events in motion. At the moment, I'm a little conflicted as to how I feel about the situation.
Like anything, social change has a positive and negative side. We've seen both in the last few years. Words like inclusion, diversity, equity, and toxicity sound great, like they're real improvements to the overall culture and gaming spaces. But they've also been wielded like a club, turning one segment of the HIC against another until the inevitable winners and losers emerge.
I've been attacked for perceived slights against "social justice." That's probably equal parts speaking my mind and speaking out against the internet outrage mob vilifying this person or that play-style or those games.
As always, we need to be careful not to throw the dragon out with the dungeon bathwater. I don't like the idea of erasing people from gaming because they've done something or been accused of doing something inappropriate or even harmful and destructive. Who among us is without sin?
But at the same time, I think we're all better off keeping the absolute worst individuals a ten-foot pole's distance away from our HIC. This begs the question, is Frank Mentzer anywhere near the same camp as Zak S? What about Jessica Price herself... where does she fall on the scale? What about myself, RPG Pundit, Grim Jim Desborough, James Raggi, or Kiel Chenier? Who decides?
Without knowing more, I'm going to err on the side of trusting Luke Gygax and attending GaryCon because I don't have all the facts, and because taking away Frank's guest of honor status is not the same as banning him from the convention, or worse, unpersoning him from the HIC. Plus, I have a feeling there's a recent indiscretion which forced Luke's hand.
To anyone who's thinking about boycotting (or simply not attending) GaryCon over this, I think it's too late in the day and we're too in the dark to do anything so drastic. Decide about next year's GaryCon when you have an entire year to weigh the pros and cons (no pun intended).
After all, I'll be there and my "problematic" attitudes and "toxic za'akier male" swagger will be in full effect. We shouldn't let politics ruin an awesome weekend of gaming.
Saturday, February 16, 2019
So, Endzeitgeist posted his review of Sexual Predators over on his blog.
There's a few things to say about it, so I'll just dive right in...
Apparently, not having the numbers on a map is a big deal to virtual tabletop gamers. I knew about secret doors, labels saying "this is a trap right here", and obvious icons like the nuclear hazard symbol, but didn't know that an unnumbered map was even more useful to those folks.
But now I do thanks to Thilo's review and Sexual Predators has an unnumbered Crimson Dwarf map as of last night. FYI, I'm not so high up in my emerald tower of tentacles that I won't listen to fans of my work. If you guys want something, first ask me if I can provide it before cursing at the darkness.
Next, I'd like to discuss the title. Yes, Alpha Blue is a sexual game, Predators is the name of the movie I was referencing and showing in the cover image, so Sexual Predators seemed like the perfect fit. Indeed, I was also trying to be provocative... but not actually offensive.
For one, the main adventure's antagonist actually is a sexual predator, and the PCs struggle against him and what he represents. Any RPG title that mentions dungeons or lairs or keeps is inevitably about entering someone else's home, slaughtering them, and stealing their belongings. I get it, there's a reason we don't title scenarios "Home Invasion Butchery & Theft." That's an ugly thing to dwell on and we have a host of rationalizations to assuage any negative view of our selves or our characters' actions. Nevertheless, that darkness is in there.
Sure, there's some deeply unpleasant, not to mention morally repugnant, things associated with "sexual predators;" however, like most English words and phrases, there are a variety of meanings.
Here's the "sexual predators" wiki page and it mentions the really bad stuff like human trafficking. But it also mentions having to hunt for your sex partners or habitually seeking sexual situations that are self-serving or exploitative. And it's not always "toxic masculinity" displaying "problematic" behavior towards women. As we all know, the female of the species can be deadlier than the male. So, the title is apt in several regards.
I just want to make it clear that when I titled that Alpha Blue scenario Sexual Predators, I wasn't trying to pull off a Tournament of Rapists. That's a line even I don't want to cross.
Lastly, Endzeitgeist posted his review of Sexual Predators on rpg.net yesterday morning. Since then, the listing on rpg.net has disappeared, reappeared, and occasionally disappeared with no explanation. When I check the review page (like just now), it shows up. But the main page shows there are no reviews for Friday, that OSR reviews will resume on Monday. Likewise, there's no thread in the review board of their forum.
So, it's like the Sexual Predators review both exists and doesn't really exist on rpg.net. Hence the title of this blog post, Schrodinger's Review.
I'll end by mentioning the continued polarization of the entire world that seems to increase every single day. It's gone far beyond politics. It's in everything, and I don't think we can ignore it any longer. It's gone from existential crisis to palpable atmosphere of fear and hatred and irreconcilable differences.
While I'm fucking sick and tired of it, I can't simply pretend that it'll go away on its own. Deep, foundational divisions don't get better over time, they only get worse until substantive repairs are made. And I don't see that happening anytime soon.
Thursday, February 14, 2019
Ok, let's take a little break from the drama to celebrate Valentine's Day the old fashioned way - with a sleazy sci-fi scenario!
Yep, I just uploaded THOT Police to DriveThruRPG. It's the second part of a trilogy that began with THOT Audit.
Let me know what you think, and please enjoy...
p.s. There's a Cha'alt easter egg for all you spacers that backed my KS. ;)
I just read Zak S' official response. Here's the link.
Not sure why it wasn't on his blog, but I'm sure his lawyer is giving him all the appropriate advice.
It's actually pretty good and puts Mandy and company in a slightly awkward light. Of course, he produces very few actual receipts, but maybe that's to be expected. Now, it's mostly down to he said, she said, she said, she said, and she said (with at least one of those coming to Zak's defense).
Yeah, he's still in a lot of trouble, but that gives him a chance to make some sort of partial recovery. However, waiting three days to respond to those allegations seems nuts. I mean, one more week and the next news cycle would have hit, either another #metoo casualty or we find out that some big shot in the RPG community is acting shady behind the scenes.
My wife has her share of health problems (nothing like Mandy, though). So, I know the added layers of stress, strain, frustration, and emotional trauma that goes into relationships when a partner isn't well.
It's valentine's day today... and maybe it's part hormones, part health concerns, and part v-day expectations, but my wife was really antagonistic towards me today. I couldn't take a picture right and it was the end of the world. By the time she finally left this morning, she was (all her own words) furious, sad, broken, falling apart, having an emotional breakdown, sorry for the way she had treated me, and said that I was her rock and that she loved me just before leaving the house. All that in about one hour.
Or that other one... "In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns."
In the end, we'll never really know exactly what happened, what the truth of Zak S. and all his many sexual relationships with women were about. Dude, are you trying to set the record straight or just bragging?
But the one thing I keep coming back to is that Zak S. has been a fucking asshole to a lot of people over the years. That, in my opinion, is the original sin of this tragedy. If he hadn't been a tremendous dick to literally hundreds of his colleagues, peers, partners, and would-be fans, the vast majority would have given him the benefit of the doubt - at least until he'd released some kind of statement.
As it is, there's six degrees of separation between any random gamer and someone he's seriously wronged in the past.
So, the next big question is - will anyone (I'm especially interested in OneBookShelf) walk-back their pronouncements? Does Zak S. have a shot at continuing to make money in the RPG industry? Is this what James Raggi IV of Lamentations of the Flame Princess fame was waiting for... where's his statement?
I don't know if this soap opera is going to keep going or not, but if there are major developments, I'll talk about them here.
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
This blog post's job is to shed light on everything either suspect or outright wrong that's happening in the shadow of the Zak S. #MeToo scandal, in no particular order...
1. DriveThruRPG has deplatformed, unpersoned, and demonetized forthcoming books where Zak S. has contributed. Here's the link.
While I don't think that's a terrible decision (some consumers are asking for even more activism on OneBookShelf's part), it's a slippery slope. If such over-correcting nonsense like rpg.net banning support for President Trump and his policies wasn't a thing, I wouldn't be as worried about who's going to be unpersoned next.
While I don't think OBS will risk a full-scale meltdown by getting rid of Alexander Macris, James Raggi, RPG Pundit, or Grim Jim Desborough, (or me, tentacles crossed), the line is certainly getting closer.
False accusations do happen. All it takes is an edgy persona + offending the outrage brigade + someone accusing you of bad stuff in your personal life = vaporization from the RPG industry.
2. The lynch mob never stays in its lane! Revolutions have a nasty habit of throwing innocents onto the guillotine, as well as, the guilty. I've already seen where RPG Pundit and myself have been mentioned on twitter. Like, we've finally gotten rid of Zak S... who else can we execute in the chaos without too much backlash?
That's not only not cool, but a dangerous path to tread. If you're going to blame Zak S. (and I believe you should), don't go looking for adjacent scapegoats or bogeymen to also take down just because you're outrage-bloodlust hasn't been sated.
And some people, let's be honest, just don't want to get involved. Maybe they feel it's none of their business. Perhaps they're sickened by the sordid details or mob mentality or have some lingering respect for the accused.
In the end, it doesn't matter. If a person doesn't feel like piling on, that's ok. They don't have to. They shouldn't be forced to feel the same way about something as you feel about it or that guy over there.
4. While I mixed my own ideological beliefs with the Zak S. scandal (right over here), I'm not the only one. ConTessa put out a statement which contained the following, "ConTessa was founded on the principal [sic] that gaming space could be better spaces by letting women, people of color and LBGTQ+ take leadership positions, so that those spaces could be moved into less toxic directions than the default ones lead by straight, white men." Emphasis mine.
No one is gate-keeping minorities from picking up an RPG, finding players, and running all the sessions they want. Keep your identity politics the fuck away from gaming!
Those are my 4 points, maybe I'll come up others later, but these are the main ones currently sticking in my craw. Thank you for reading.
p.s. Well, that's unfortunate...
Monday, February 11, 2019
Just before going to bed, I noticed a post on MeWe about Zak S.
Normally, it would be about one of his books, since he is a good writer, and because by this time, I think a lot of people are tired of his drama, his attacks, his harassment, his arguments, his blocking people, his influence on such people as James Raggi and things like Lamentations of the Flame Princess.
It turns out that his former girlfriend just came forward with her story, corroborated with several other women, about Zak S' abuse, assault, and sheer awful behavior towards women.
Here is the public FaceBook post of Mandy Morbid.
Having been in conversations with Zak S, as well as, having lived in a hobby/industry where he parades around like the imaginary king of social justice and roleplaying, I 100% believe these women. Zak S. absolutely seems capable of what's described.
Authoritarians need to be recognized, confronted, and defused ASAP. Don't wait. Don't appease them, don't give into their demands, don't bend over backwards... just don't.
Socialism is based on government control. As government expands, that control broadens and strengthens. Power, especially when centralized like that, leads to horrific abuses. Like people being imprisoned and/or killed if they don't conform. Of course, authoritarians like it when they're the ones in control. They like to set everything in order - their order - that others have to follow... or else.
The moment you try to force me to live by your arbitrary rules, against my self-interest, I know it's time to fight back.
Here's to fighting back against tyrants!
p.s. James, I expect a full retraction of your statement disavowing Jordan Peterson. He's a goddamn Canadian treasure, and as you're probably aware, the world doesn't have many of those. Treat him with the admiration and respect he deserves.
Tuesday, February 5, 2019
So, I had this cool idea - the polar vortex temporarily froze the surface of Cha'alt... including the violet demon-worm (there was an uprising and the current priesthood faction in power prefers the color violet).
Since it's frozen, why not explore? This is turning into a fun little gonzo dungeon and I playtested it earlier today on Roll20.
The whole thing should be done in time for GaryCon. And I'll release a playtest packet around then for feedback.
Love Glynn Seal's sketch! Click on it...
Anyways, the kickstarter funded. Yay! I'm super stoked about that, and thinking about setting up a backerkit or whatever to keep track of post-kickstarter pre-sales. More info on that in a few days.
Friday, February 1, 2019
Well, the big news is that Cha'alt funded and is still going strong!
DriveThru got their bugs fixed and the files have been uploaded. Even better, they've been slightly updated based upon the awesome feedback of a couple Cha'alt kickstarter backers (thanks, guys)...
Yes, there were some typos and "WTF are you talking about, Venger?" moments. Since I was already in there poking around, I added a couple of neat little flourishes as a bonus.
Here's the DriveThruRPG link! As I've said, Beneath Kra'adumek is an easy introduction into the weird world that is Cha'alt, and a pretty kickass dungeoncrawl, as well.
If you run your group through it, please let me know the results. I want session reports, people! ;)
p.s. One bit of feedback was a nice little random table. There wasn't space or time to neatly include it in the playtest packet, but I'll refine it over the weekend and put it up on Draconic magazine. Watch this space for a link!