Friday, July 3, 2015

What We Learned This Year About The Drama Club

Mandy got out of the hospital yesterday and is recovering. They're feeding her on 12-hour cycles of Total Parenteral Nutrition--a tube of marshmallow-colored goo straight to her heart. She's in good spirits and we'll get to play D&D again soon which'll make me post more ideas about D&D.

Meanwhile we're celebrating of the one year anniversary of the Great Troll War of 2014.

Exactly one year ago today…

…the RPG internet went insane. 5th edition of D&D came out and the conservative elements of the indie RPG scene all piled on to a concerted harassment campaign against the D&DW/PS girls and me.

One year later, everything is fine--contrary to all the predictions, D&D 5 is doing great, my latest game book has record sales and 4 Ennie nominations, and most pertinently, with the exception of a brief, failed attack on Monte Cook, the RPG Drama Club hasn't managed to drum up any trouble for anyone else in RPGs for a whole year.

Their influence is effectively broken--people have been putting out amazing DIY projects left and right without anyone accusing them of hate crimes or fabricating felony charges. It's a marvelous time to be making RPG stuff. But it wasn't easy and took a lot of work.

Of course, they're still there

Four days ago Cam Banks compared you all reading this to the people who voted for Hitler. But like any dumb GW Bush quote ("I know how hard it is to put food on your family"), the cute idiocy is the tip of an iceberg of actual shitty behavior that actually affects things. The behavior is a bigger and more serious thing than dumb words that point to it.

So, for future reference, it's good to collect some lessons learned in the past year about the Drama Club. Who are they? What do they want? How do you keep them from being jackasses in any place where it matters? We've learned a lot.

Comparing the Drama 50--the 50 people most active in this year's harassment campaign--to the 50 people who most actively opposed it, a lot of striking differences emerge:

1. Failed Games

Many of the Drama Club have made games or game products. Nobody in the Drama Club much talks about having played any of these games after they're released. (This is definitely not for lack of talking about what they did that day.) The scene is littered with Kickstarters that failed to deliver or ended up doing worse than breaking even, and a couple of them straight up stole Kickstarter money.  Nobody seems publicly concerned with why this is or what can be learned from it. The only exception is Fred Hicks' game, which is relatively old and gathered a good part of its audience before the recent explosion of alternatives. The only tabletop games that you see routinely discussed as having been played by more than one person among the 50 are 'World games and the recent edition of D&D that they tried so hard to tank--neither of which were made by Club members.

2. Playing Games? Maybe. Talking About Them? No.

This is the most immediately obvious thing--the Drama Club may be playing games but they rarely post actual play reports, ideas about rules or settings, analysis or anything else about tabletop RPGs.

The Drama Club's comparatively few tabletop RPG posts in the past year have been overwhelmingly professional: limited almost exclusively to pointing out that they or their friends released a game or are going to. They pitch fits on forums, but not much--and not as much as they used to.

3. Cutting Off Comments

Comparing the Drama 50 to their opposite numbers, Drama Club members are much more likely to close threads--often even before anything contentious has come up, just as a preventative measure while they're away from their computers or phones.

4. They Talk About Mental Illness

Of the 50 most aggressive Drama Club harassers, a wildly disproportionate number--at least 15 of them--have posted about having mental health issues. This isn't my read-between-the-lines armchair diagnosis, this is people openly saying they have clinically diagnosable issues and are seeking care for them or did or have been urged to. That's way more than the folks they opposed, and a big percentage by any count--and that's only the ones who decided to tell the internet.

I hasten to add that I think more "It's salient that The Drama Club members disproportionately see themselves as mentally ill or fragile" than "They only say stuff I don't like because they're crazy".

5. Discussion Is Bad

The Drama Club is basically suspicious or dismissive of contrasting opinions, especially if voiced in public (Soft form: "Clearly there are contrasting opinions here and we'll never sort this out tonight so I'll end the discussion""Twitter isn't a good place to have this discussion" Hard form: "Don't question people"). There's an emphasis on "just listening" even when the voices being listened to are repeating each other and not introducing new ideas. Questions raised rarely get answered.

Which makes most of us wonder: If discussing ideas is bad, why are you posting the ideas on the internet? The sole reason appears to be: to garner support and make connections. The ideal Drama Club post appears to be:

Drama Club Member: "I like/dislike this thing!"
Friend: "Me too!"
Friend 2: "Me too!"
Stranger: "Me too!"
Drama Club Member: "Thanks everyone! Hey @Stranger, let's be friends!"

Drama Club members who disagree with each other generally just don't voice that disagreement and sit quietly instead until something they do agree with comes up.

Which is all fine--but it then comes as no surprise that they never get shit done or figured out and their conversations go in circles and they have the same conversations year after year.

The only current exception to this model is Something Awful, where discussion exists but in a constant atmosphere of personal attacks, crazy accusations and zero accountability. If this is the Drama Club's only model for discussion, you can see why they avoid it. They don't seem to have enough experience discriminating between what is and isn't fair game in a goal-oriented debate--A lot of them, for instance, don't know the difference between an ad hominem attack and just insulting someone.

6. Fact-Finding, Decision-Making, and Public Projects Are Not A Thing

This is either a cause or effect of 'Discussion Is Bad' (which is itself a cause of 'Failed Games').
The Drama Club model of on-line collaboration is: you make friends with someone by agreeing with them, then you work together in private, then you release the product of that collaboration. The public online discussion itself isn't goal-directed and the idea that you might actually nail down facts or poll opinions or place opposing views in the same place and test which one is right so you can then take action seems totally alien to the Drama Club nowadays.

The only exception here is, again, Something Awful--fact-finding and decision-making aren't things---but there are group projects.  These group projects are typically group harassment or elaborate in-jokes. So, again, if Something Awful is the Drama Club's only model for public discussions online that actually have concrete results, you can see why they're suspicious of them.

7. Never Call For Accountability For Anyone Inside The Club

Accountability is dealt with in three ways:

1. If a target who's perceived to have done wrong is outside the Drama Club (a famous company, a well-known game designer, game, or simply a non-Club indie designer)--post publicly about it, collect agreement, attack anyone who disagrees as horning in on your important discussion with their clearly bad-faith evil-outsider dissent.
2. If the target who's perceived to have done wrong is inside the Drama Club, quietly stop talking to them and say nothing about it and let them do it over and over again.
3. If someone outside the Club calls for accountability for anyone inside the Club, accuse them of harassment.

The last exception to this pattern was when John Stavropoulos called out Ben Lehman for lying about rape ages ago. This immediately immersed John in a shitstorm of harassment and there are many Drama Club members who still back Lehman to this day--including financially via Patreon.

8. There Aren't Standards of Behavior Just People You Like Or Don't

Innocent Until Proven Guilty, If You Make An Accusation Be Prepared To Defend It, Don't Lie, Apologize If You Make A Mistake, Don't Troll, Don't Give People Shit Just For Liking A Different Game are rules that many Drama Club members might subscribe to in theory, but in practice there are no consequences for breaking them.

Everybody is judged basically on a "How much do I like you?" basis and there are no hard lines. Drama Club-dominated forums all have "moderator judgment call" built into their rules and many Club members have expressed the idea that no matter what someone you like does wrong, there should be no consequences and even if someone you don't like does everything right, they're not entitled to face accusations against them because…well because you don't like them.

Which, again, is fine--people are allowed to like people or not--but they then still maintain the fiction that their disagreement is based on some kind of principles rather than just, y'know, dude likes Cannibal Corpse and that freaks me out.

9. Refusing To Own Positions

Club members repeatedly claim they don't even grasp the concept of people not having the same ideas as them. Many have been saying "I don't know what I did to piss everyone off" for a year. Uh…you publicly expressed support a bunch of legally-actionable libel? And still do? If you believe it: own it, say you believed all the crazy conspiracy theories you said you believe to thousands of people on the internet and defend that position. If you don't: apologize and do better. And if you genuinely don't know--why would you not just ask rather than constantly perform your ignorance? Pretending you can't identify the source of conflict is just weird, but weirdly common.

Outside the Drama Club, the usual way to refer to controversies is to say what you did and defend it or, at worst, refuse to talk about it. Inside it, simply pretending you didn't do anything anyone could even theoretically have disagreed with is a viable option and nobody inside the Club questions that choice.

10. Do Nothing To Concretely Support Progress

In the wake of the complaints about The Strange, a pair of great Native American designers got hired to work on the game and put out a fantastic new supplement, Contessa, the female-run gaming con is making big waves and just got nominated for an Ennie, and trans artists like Scrap Princess and Gennifer Bone have put out amazing products in the past year. You'd think, in a community supposedly obsessed with improving things in tabletop, that these things would be front-page news on the lips of every Drama Club member. They really aren't--they're mostly occupied wrangling about whether Sense8 is feminist enough or showing each other dog pictures.

The Drama Club doesn't do stuff like: see which companies are hiring the most women in creative positions, examine demographics to see who is playing what how often, test whether x or y game attracts more marginalized people as players, routinely review games produced by marginalized people as they come out or, really, do anything else you might expect from an activist group other than get angry and type when they come near something they don't like.

11. Volume and Tone Are Policed More Than Accuracy

None of them have taken Zoe's excellent advice to heart:

The fact that someone talks a lot and whether they swear or not while doing it is more important in evaluating them than whether their claims can be proven or matches known facts. When a Drama Fact is proven to be wrong, it's dismissed as unimportant.

12. The Conservative Demographic

The Drama 50 are more often white, more often male, more often straight, more often parents and more often religious than their counterparts. They don't like to acknowledge this.

13. Actively Avoiding Solving Problems

If a Drama Club member has a problem with someone else, they never contact them to try to resolve the issue--they simply announce it to the rest of the Club and let hatred take its course.

14, They've Been On the RPG Internet A Long Time

Most of the Drama 50 have been complaining about games online longer than I've been blogging, and on average far longer than their opposite numbers.
This All Makes Sense...

...but only under exactly one set of circumstances.

If you assume that the Drama Club is on-line for the same reason people in the DIY D&D scene are--to improve and share their experiences playing RPGs with their friends--few if any of these choices or tendencies make sense. You can't learn or get shit done acting this way.

However it also doesn't make sense if you assume the Drama Club is on-line in order to improve the gaming scene by making it more diverse or fair--in fact in that scenario their behavior makes even less sense. Either I was wrong last year when I assumed that the reason the Drama Club tolerated such shitty behavior was because they were pursuing a big-tent-for-change model or they just suck at it. People who prioritized activism would pretty much do the opposite of everything that characterizes the Drama Club: they'd talk about playing games a lot, they'd be concerned if the games didn't work or attract new people, they'd be really worried about facts because those are the basis of effective action, etc.

So what does the Drama Club want? Only one hypothesis I can see matches all the facts (feel free to propose your own):

The Drama Club is not about games, the Drama Club is not about activism, the Drama Club is a support group.

In case you haven't noticed, I have a very short fuse. I am almost always stressed out or angry about something, and gaming and g.txt are pretty much my only outlets because that's damn near all I got...
Yes, I'm probably biased toward SA because they're the only place that actually gives a shit about anything I have to say about the hobby and g.txt is the only release valve I have for getting mad about the hobby.
-S.D., Drama Club and Something Awful member

Basically, the Drama 50 are this guy. They see themselves as constantly in crisis all the time.

These are lonely, sensitive, often unstable people who have had traumatic experiences in life--many of which are connected to games--and the primary and transcending purpose of all of their online interactions is to connect with other people who feel the way they do about games and pop culture not so that they can improve their games, not so that they can help other people, but so that they can feel less sad and less isolated.

They are talking to each other in game forums because they have nobody else to talk to--the online network of people who hate the same things as them is their support system. And the hating is neither an attempt to solve or even protest a problem--it is therapy.

Once you take this into account, not only does their behavior makes a lot more sense, the range of behavior they do accept from each other and don't accept from anyone else makes sense. For example, when someone Pulls a Fred Hicks--that is, they make an attack on someone and then refuse to provide support or evidence citing "mental health reasons"--most people would wonder: If they're so worried about their mental health, why did they make the attack in the first place? And why don't their friends don't discourage them from bringing up problems they aren't mentally well enough to address?

The reason is: the accuser withdraws from proving their accusations for the sake of their mental health but they also made the accusation in the first place for their mental health. Fred accuses Kingdom Death of being sexist because the game makes Fred uncomfortable and so it makes Fred feel better to make that accusation, Fred's friends back him up not because they (or anyone) can prove the game is sexist, but because it makes them feel better to support Fred in his attack on some random outsider. Everyone feels better because they're not alone in being made uncomfortable.

Whether or not they're nuts (I have no idea), they feel nuts, and calling them on their shitty attacks it is seen as missing the point, essentially...
They are offended and alarmed when you take their statements seriously enough to check them because even they do not take their statements seriously. They're not statements, they're cries for help--and how can you question a cry for help?

Ben Lehman accuses George RR Martin of actually wanting women to be raped because it makes Ben feel better to voice that forceful, insane idea instead of something dull-but-plausible like "Hey the way rape is used as a plot device in Game of Thrones bothers me and might unconsciously reinforce some bad ideas for some people somewhere I guess someone should do a study and write a paper". Fellow Drama Club people don't question Ben or point out how toxic that accusation is to any useful discussion of representation because Ben's in the support group and they're in the support group and just ignoring how insane that is does more to promote quiet and calm and mental health than addressing it. Not "Taking the Inventory Of Anybody Else" is a classic of 12-step programs all over the world.

A white guy named Tom Hatfield can accuse someone with more women of color in his game group than are in the entire Drama 50 put together of trying to keep women and POCs out of gaming and nobody calls him on it because they accept that making the public accusation itself is a form of therapy. The accusation (technically criminal though it may be in several jurisdictions) is simply an extreme form of an expression of a feeling--"I don't like that porn guy". Supporting him is not actually about supporting the idea, it's supporting the feeling "I don't like him either". Calling Tom to account for it is gratuitous and cruel--you're getting in the way of Tom's therapy, mannn.

Drama Club members claiming they don't know what they did to piss everyone off when everyone paying attention knows what they did is support libel is not seen by other Drama Club members as evidence they're nuts or mind-numbingly dishonest, it's seen as sensibly choosing the path of the least resistance and most mental health--if you keep pretending it didn't happen, you don't have to think about it, and not thinking about all your problems at once is actually a fairly solid technique.

It's all makes sense if you're constantly in crisis all the time. (And nobody else is, because otherwise they'd be in the Drama Club, right? This is why there's so much emphasis on how much pain it causes Drama Club members to be called out on their shit--there's a failure to grasp that their attacks might have caused pain to begin with. That's pretty much a characteristic of all conflicts ever--both sides feel pain. Presumably the constant crisis mentality cuts off empathy for everyone else.) If a guy's dying in a ditch you don't give him static about that antisemitic thing he said last week, right?

Nobody is taken to account for lying or talking out of their ass because having their corner of the internet full true and useful things is not a priority--making sure whoever said a thing feels supported and happy and good about themselves is the priority. Only then (which might take decades) can we address the difficult question of whether they're full of shit or not.

This is why discussion with the Drama Club always breaks down and they will never accomplish anything--the Drama Clubs words aren't meant to reflect any reality anyone (even other people in the Club) can see or test, they are simply crystallizations of various frustrations. Doubt is never taken as a responsible, good faith attempt to solve the problem, but as pointlessly kicking their cages. Validity is not the point, validation is.

There's literally no fact that could emerge about any of their targets that would dissuade Drama Club members from their attacks because no matter what happens, they themselves will still be terrified people in need of a kind of emotional support that only other terrified people can give them--so it's hard to see how any of this will ever change. They are troubled, they do bad things, they cannot succeed, they have no incentive to stop hurt other people, they never will.

The best you can do is know what's wrong with them and avoid them like the plague.

Monday, June 29, 2015

I Got Nominated For A Bunch of Awards So Cam Banks Compared Me To Hitler

Sorry I've been posting light--Mandy's been in the hospital again a lot (they've decided to feed her through her heart, which is strange and dangerous but so far ok).

Anyway, it's nice to wake up to see Red & Pleasant Land and the 5th ed Player's Handbook both got nominated for 4 Ennies each! RPL got noms for Best Adventure, Best Setting, Best Writing and Product of the Year.

Contessa also got nominated for Best Blog, so congratulations to Stacy and the crew.

The Ennies require self-nomination, have a small group of judges, and can overlook small publishers, so this is as much a measure of LotFP and the DIY D&D scene's growth since the year Vornheim lost Best Supplement to a bunch of dungeon tiles as it is of anything else but, still, it's a nice thing. I hope to see more stuff like Deep Carbon Observatory, Yoon-Suin and Slumbering Ursine Dunes up there in the future.

Of course these nominations are not a nice thing for everybody. Like, for example, failed game author and RPG drama club weirdo Cam Banks. Remember, this is twitter, so to get the tweets in chronological order, read up from the bottom:

So, kids, while I'll appreciate it if you vote for Red & Pleasant Land, just be aware that doing it makes you like a Nazi.

Red & Pleasant Land:
Identity. Heritage. Xenophobia.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fantastic Damage

I was thinking there should be a robots-in-the-city game that does for underground hip hop and electronica what Vampire: TM did for goths. I haven't written or more importantly drawn it but it did get me (and False Patrick) thinking about robot games.

After thinking about it way too much, basically I decided the one thing robot games need to have that others don't is hit locations.

Here's some work toward that:

Each body part has an armor die: d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 or d20. Beginning PCs will probably have a d4 in most everything and maybe a d6 or two.

Every weapon has a damage die: d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 or d20.

Body parts used as weapons (punches, kicks, headbutts) generally inflict damage equal to their armor rating. So if your arm is armored up to d8, it does d8 damage when you punch people.

Combat works like this:

Attacker rolls the damage die of the weapon you're using and chooses a body part to attack.

Defender rolls the die of the armor for the body part being attacked.

If the defender rolls high: no damage.

Attacker rolls high, it inflict a number of criticals on that body part equal to the disparity in the dice.

This then requires cool d100 critical charts for each body part, but that's the basic idea.


Also probably want to work in a mechanic where if you give up your attack for the round (or maybe accept a penalty) you can first roll an Agility Die (likewise rated from d4 to d20) to avoid the blow. Beating the opponent by a little means you shift the attack to another limb (or a shield) beating them by a lot means you dodge altogether.

This means the defender is often rolling as much or more than the attacker, which actually seems appropriate for mech combat.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The World's Most Difficult Subject

This is not an argument from biology or tradition, but let's begin with both. Here's a dog:

Chewbacca (pictured above) was born into a life of--by dog standards--magnificent and omnidirectional luxury.

Here is a typical day for Chewie:
Life is chill for Chewie.

Nonetheless, like most dogs, like many of us--Chewie dreams at night of violence, murder, hunting, fight and flight. These are dreams of panic and survival vastly out of proportion to the amount of any of these things he has direct experience with in the waking world.

When Chewie romps, with stuffed toys or other pups, his romps are about attempted murder. More scientifically concrete, if less experientially familiar to the average reader, studies of some of the least molested and most isolated communities of monkeys in the wild reveal that though their daily lives consist 99% of doing seriously fuck-all, their play consists almost exclusively of pretending in one way or another to kill each other and to avoid being killed.

Violence in fiction, which began when the first mammal, Eomaia Scansoria "climbing dawn mother"--a kind of shrew--first lay its head down to dream, and in play--which likely began long before Eomaia, as octopuses, crocodiles and possibly even insects play--thus has a very long tradition. Nearly every genre in pop literature with the exception of some strains of romance is defined by how it uses violence (in a war, in a mystery, at the end after a long chase). There is a lot of it.

As everyone smart in DIY D&D knows, tradition is no excuse for anything. So to get beyond that...

The modern takes on the overwhelming violence in games fall roughly into three camps:

1-Many humans have inherently violent instincts which once helped us survive but now are channeled (pick one: healthily/unhealthily/sometimes healthily) into games of violence.

2-Our fundamentally unfair society has grown in such a way as to be fixated on making people accept or even enjoy violence, and so it shows up in our games.

3-Some mixture of 1 and 2.

These three ideas are incomplete and stupid and, most importantly, insult and underestimate the vast powers of art and leisure.

1 suggests games are merely mental downtime (they aren't) and 2 suggests art's positive role is purely didactic and imitative (you do nothing but parrot what you play). Neither is supported by the science: art actually involves thinking and responding individually and disparately--games especially and RPG doubly especially.


Consider this:

Since Vietnam, fewer and fewer Americans have joined the military. Consequently, when we do go to war, the US government's been increasingly reliant on private security forces--i.e. mercenaries. These private forces (Blackwater, et al) are far less accountable to the nation than their public equivalents and have been responsible for what you could fairly uncontroversially call some fucked up shit.

Point being: whether or not we enjoy violence, there is a kind of violence happening far away from most US citizens that is related in some way to the actions and ideas US citizens have that we should be thinking about. What the correct policy decision to make about mercenaries doing jobs soldiers used to isn't the point: the point is to do anything responsible at all, we should be thinking about it. This is violence that's not on a savannah 300,000 years ago, but now.

Other kinds of violence we should be thinking about: the average city cop's average call on the average day concerns domestic violence, the most powerful nations in the world (via arms trade or direct action) all profit daily from violence, women spend time finding ways to come home at night from work in ways men don't for fear of violence, and, of course, the entire world is the way it is now because of how and when this or that person managed to arrange a monopoly on violence.
Yet in the face of that, the average life of the average game-playing citizen contains (like the happy monkeys alone on that island) no violence at all.

Few people manage to get to become a teenager without the intimation that, even if things are lovely here, there is violence out there: in Rwanda, in the next neighborhood, or in the alleyway behind the bus stop--and they begin to listen to music which processes this violence, and they watch movies which process this violence. Violence and the threat of violence pervade the unconscious of the entire quiet world--and for good reason. Once violence appears, it isn't quiet any more.

The brain is a problem-solving engine, it focuses on bad places because that's where the problems worth solving are. The last century brought us three new things, the third tremendously influenced by the first two:

-Violence on a scale previously unimagined
-An ability for the average person to find out about distant or hidden violence on a scale previously unimagined
-A willingness on the part of artists to talk about violence with a rawness previously unimagined

A key point here is--as an aggregate, as a "more of this, less of this"--what fiction is actually trying to say or is saying is less culturally important than simply bringing the subject up, not letting it sit repressed and undiscussed. A Road Runner cartoon, a DMX song, an Indiana Jones movie, a Friday the 13th movie, a dungeoncrawl may or may not be articulating a new or useful idea about violence, but they exist because violence is a subject every culture's every real and currently functional survival instinct suggests is worth bringing up. Artists as an aggregate would begin to notice they were not doing their job if they didn't include an awareness of violence in their work. The relevance of the subject is, regrettably, evergreen. And any smart person is going to start thinking about a subject once it's in front of them, even if it's in front of them because of a Road Runner cartoon.

Art isn't simply downtime and it isn't simply about making people copy the art: It's exercise. Like stretching expands your range of movement--play expands the range of ways you can think about things, the kinds of creativity you can bring to bear on problems.

In the face of a lack of any evidence that violent games cause widespread societal violence or that they are made by violent or bad people, the new line is that violence in games is "boring" (denotation: "not to my taste" connotation: "unappealing to those of sophisticated sensibilities like mine") or aesthetically conservative. A point of view that pronounces boredom with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hot Fuzz, West Side Story and King Lear all for the same reason is not the mark of a thoughtful and discriminating critical voice. And: "This work of art is progressive and avant garde because it avoids making you think about the world's most intractable subject" is not really a hill I can see anyone wanting to die on.
Epidemic of nonviolence
Likewise you have to wonder about critics who feel the bizarre need to remind game designers that there are "Other Ways To Solve Problems Besides Violence": The whole reason violence holds such a prominent place in our fiction is because everyday life for most people is pretty much nothing but solving problems without violence. This is not an exotic skillset.

The average person goes to wild lengths to avoid violence even when provoked--look out the window right now no matter where you are and chances are you'll be gazing down on a positive epidemic of problem-solving via nonviolence. Tokyo, birthplace of Godzilla, every fucked-up thing in Takashi Miike's head, the Tokyo Gore Police, and that children's show with the red octopus that just hits everyone with a bat, is a really safe place to live. Since the popularity of art about violence--even the most gleeful, irresponsible, unconsidered violence--is not actually correlated with real societal violence, the strident reminder that art doesn't have to be about violence is just a case of You Must Not Like What I Like Because You've Never Heard Of It.

People who drop that particular monocle fail to grasp basic paradoxes of life: Violence is relatively rare but excruciatingly important. Thinking about things we should not do can help us learn to prevent them. It is breathtakingly unserious to suggest the way to defeat violence is to simply quench some personal attraction to committing it--especially because so many of the people who could address the problem aren't committing it. They're avoiding it--like Tetris does. Attraction to violence isn't their issue--failing to think hard enough about it is.

Violence goes unseen not because there is no violence but because violence likes to be ignored, glossed over, kept secret, smiled past, kept private or (worst of all) delegated to places we choose to ignore. There are great games that don't make violence a central feature: Peggle, Pictionary, soccer, bocce ball, billiards. But there is nothing inherently noble or progressive or difficult or even informative about a game not having violence in it, any more than ice hockey is a threat to the status quo for not having a ball in it. It's just another game. If violence in art bores you all that means is that violence in art bores you. Cauliflower bores me, I don't get all-caps about it.

Being a dick about your taste is still being a dick about your taste--even in the name of nonviolence, the worthiest goal in the world.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Things of Leon

I stole this county full of D&Dables from Noisms. I've subtracted nothing but have added some bits to it in courier below.

If you like it, I encourage you to now steal it from me and append some more stuff to it in some other font and publish it on your own blog. In a week or two or a few weeks we might have a nicely fleshed-out place.

Here is a crude map--the modern day area overlaid with 6 mile hexes.

County of Leon

Ruled by: Aqable - Count of Leon (Liege: Duke of Brittany)
Vassals: Baron of Morlaix, Baron of Douarnenez, Baron of Plogonnec
Military: 15 Heavy Cavalry (Knights), 50 Light Cavalry, 50 Heavy Infantry, 100 Medium Infantry, 50 Archers.
Income: 8,828 livres (Total guess--Deep Evan help out?)

Major Towns

Brest (Hex 40)

Population: 800
Major Industries: Fishing, trade

Count of Leon and family.

Ibn Al-Aziz - An Ogre Magi from the Sheikhdom of Catalyud, now a powerful merchant who owns five vessels, with lots of 'shady' contacts and a symbiotic eye still connected to his sister (an ogre witch) overseas

A wizard living in a lighthouse on the edge of town - advisor to the Count and ambiguous ally. The light is actually a hive of fireflies upon which the wizard experiments.

Juliette de Nevers, a dwarfess sage, researching in the old library - secretly a spy? Not actually, more just a concerned citizen worried she's more capable and informed on local threats than her lord. Still--she's suspected.

Circle of druids - headquarters somewhere in the forest, occasionally come to Brest. They gather information with the help of their owls.


            Wizards Tower - lighthouse, on the rocks on the outside of Brest (Hex 40)
            Ibn's Mansion - also on the outside of town, but on the inland side. (40)
            The Castle - where the Count calls home. (40)
            Old Monastery - housing a library (& Juliette)(40)
            Smuggler's Caves -  ancient cave system, now abandoned - except for monsters - and the smugglers' hoard? The smugglers remain, as skeletal undead. The actual complex somewhat resembles the layout and content Disney's Pirates of the Carribean ride with the revenant creatures still playing out dramas from past lives.(Hex 20)

            Meriadoc's Tomb - burial place of the semi-mythic founder of Brittany, watched over by an order of clerics. The tomb and the clerics' weapons are made of an eerily dense metal. (Hex 14)
            Conomor's Tomb - burial place of an ancient king, now haunted. It is in a swamp--the ghosts are not that of the king, but of his many lovers and victims. A lich is entombed in a bog nearby.
            Tower of Erispoe - once owned by a now extinct noble line, reknowned for the eccentricity. Glass cages are built into the walls, housing exotic reptiles.
            Giant's Cave - not apparently inhabited by a giant, but a clan of ogres. The locals suspect they are connected to the merchant Ibn Al-Aziz but they despise the foreigner.(Hex 49)
            Oessant - island, uninhabited but excellent shelter for raiders. Contains two hidden objects--one blessed, one cursed.(West of Hex 31)
            Witch's Hovel - home of an enchantress. Her features are ever changing--her head bloats into a morbid caricature at whatever woman is most powerful in the county at the time. (Hex 27)
            Castle of Mauclerc - ruined castle, magic treasure inside? There is, but it's in the belly of one of the creatures (or pigs) inside. (Hex 14)

            Adventure Hooks

·       One of Ibn's ships has gone missing and he's certain it's the wreckers in Plogoff, who have caused him trouble before. (It's actually the ogres of the Giant's Cave, but the wreckers are PC-level troublesome dicks--and have treasure. Plogoff is on the coast south of Leon)
·       Juliette de Fevers wants bodyguards to visit the witch with her. They will be alarmed to discover the witch currently wears Juliette's features--because Juliette is sitting on a terrible secret about the Count.
·       A band of gnolls are causing trouble around Morlaix. Their leader communes with the bog lich. (Hex 30) 
·       Pirates spotted around Oessant. They are actually Spanish privateers, including the daughter of a powerful Venetian. Foiling them could result in a full-scale international incident.
·       Druids concerned about a troll. The troll has pustules which burst when struck, expelling poison.
. Pigs are being born with scales like fish.
. The Baron of Douarnenez is rumoured to be negotiating for the return of his food taster from bandits holding him hostage.

                   .  Skeleton warriors around Conomor's Tomb. The bog lich sent them to retrieve an artifact buried with the king which will bring the lich back to life.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

…and then the cleric became a stomach

So our session begins with Ela Darling's ranger ably employing her charlatan background to continue to pretend to be the Black Knight, champion of the Black Wing Church of Tiamat. They walked into the Black Wing camp which was pretty much an '80s Realms of Chaos pain-carnival and, secure beneath a natural 20 Intimidation roll, took up residence in the black knight's tent, got the spellcasters some much-needed rest, told the concubines to take a hike...
...and then looted it. They scored lots of weird items including a set of teeth that:
a) Blind you when you're bit with them
b) When placed singly in your mouth, allow you to channel the dead souls of those slain by users of the teeth.
…which lead to a brief encounter with Unwerth the Obese, a dead jester of northern extraction, who was all "So carriage rides? What's up with those?"…anyway...

The group then sat around trying to decide what to do next.

Brian the wizard (aka Brian the Dragonslayer) then had a decent idea: since Laney was the Knight Viridian and Ela was pretending to be the Black Knight--why not try to take out a few of the the other five Knights of Tiamat before the upcoming tournament to even the odds? They snuck over to the next closest camp--the irradiated camp of the Cobalt Claw.
Knight and Thog of the Cobalt Claw

Brian the wizard (aka Brian the Dragonslayer) then had a terrible idea: walk up to the guards and say they were adventurers with information to sell.

This was a terrible idea because the dragon that Brian the Dragonslayer was renowned far and wide for slaying (and whom Brian has bragged about slaying in every town from Voivodja to Vornheim) was Ferox the Incinerator, god-dragon of Cobalt Reach.

So it's like…

"Take us to your leader we have information"
"Wait here…"
"Guys I totally got this"
"You say you have information for the Cobalt Knight?"
"Yes! I am Brian the…wizard. I have information to sell, but only to the most powerful faction, is that you?"
"Of course, the Cobalt Claw is renowned far and wide for its mastery of magics far beyond the fallow cosmologies of the other Churches"
"Oh yes, I know the Cobalt Reach well…"
"Indeed, Brian?" (Blue wizard succeeds in a history check) "Yes, I will hear your information, come right this way into my tr…I mean tent, …"
So then there was a magnetic trap. Everyone was caught, for the most part. There then ensued a combat, made hilarious by the fact Lunessa the thief had just found a ring which reverses the value system of everyone in a 15 foot radius (friend and foe) which got put on and taken off again twice.

To make a long story short, everyone eventually got away except the druid's owl (killed by a lizardman), the druid's dog (killed by a reptile woman) and the cleric, Mariah, who found herself scrabbling out of the tent into the gaze a passing cobalt beholder.

…which resulted in this shit:

I roll that the beholder can get two of its eye rays to bear this round:

-Stone to Flesh

Crucially, the Stone to Flesh goes first.

Mariah fails her save.

Just as crucially, 5th edition D&D's Stone to Flesh works in stages: you get petrified a piece at a time.

Then the beholder aims the disintegrate at her.

Mariah fails her save again.

There is a wailing and a gnashing of teeth at the table, Mariah is turned to a fine powder that not even the 17th level cleric's Resurrection can turn back into a person…

….except the part of her that was just petrified. I roll the body part die…
…so the wizard manages to telekinese the stomach to safety.

With any luck and a day to rest, the players can prep Flesh to Stone or Greater Restoration, then turn the fragment into a disembodied stomach and then cast a full Resurrection thereafter on said stomach. Until then, Mariah the cleric is naught but a belly...