Sunday, 15 September 2019

Interview with Venger Satanis

Today we are sitting down with controversial rpg writer Venger Satanis about his newest release, Cha’alt and a few older releases. And yes, there is some talk about politics because our politics are pretty different and these days it has to be done. 

RCK:  So, before we talk about your latest project, there are a few things we should get out of the way. In some circles, you have a reputation for being…shall we say somewhat bombastic?

VS: Yes, I am outspoken and not shy about sharing my opinions… occasionally with dramatic flair. 

RCK: There is nothing wrong with a bit of drama. When running games, for instance, I reserve my biggest d20 for the baddest monsters. Also, nothing wrong with sharing opinions, so long as you have an open mind.

VS: I do try to have an open mind.  But I’m also at an age where no one can convince me that water isn’t wet, overly complex RPGs are more fun than simple ones, or that Socialism is worth trying one more time.

RCK: I’m in my 50s, and I am not old enough to remember FDR. Or to remember socialism in the United States, or anywhere in the world that the United States didn’t actively work against. I do know that socialist programs in the US include the military, public roads, schools, libraries, fire departments, and other things which I have benefitted from. I’ve worked for both the US Military (Legal Specialist) and the US Census Bureau (various positions, eventually the Finance department in Los Angeles). I’m not old enough not to have my mind changed, if the evidence points in a different direction. For instance, experiencing both the US and the Canadian health care systems, I know that the Canadian system is considerably better.

VS: In the United States, I’d call those social programs.  There are things that everyone in the country can use collectively, that we all have in common, such as roads and the military.  I just don’t want the government controlling companies or redistributing wealth or giving away free stuff and then taxing the middle and upper classes to the point where the rich (or their money) flee to the Cayman Islands.  I prefer freedom.

In the words of Joe Biden in the Democratic debate that just happened a couple days ago, “This is America.”  While our health care system is far from perfect, I’d rather have a procedure done here, where I know it’s going to be fast and performed by the best doctors with cutting-edge medical technology. 

Also, (I just Googled this) Canada’s population is approximately 35 million, and the population of the United States is about 290 million more than that.  Population makes a difference.

RCK: Well, you can do the research. American prices are substantially higher than in other parts of the world, and outcomes are generally worse. American exceptionalism isn’t supposed to mean that every other modern country can do it except America. And I certainly am no fan of Joe Biden!

But, ultimately, we can agree to disagree about this. I don’t expect to convince you in an interview about gaming.

I’ve seen at least one YouTube video you did where you drop the persona. You’re responding to criticism that one of your games isn’t OSR, which I’ll get to in the next question. You seem very relatable in that video, and here. I guess there is a balancing act deciding when to “put on the motley”?

VS: There isn’t that big a difference between the regular old me and Venger Satanis.  The latter can be larger than life, but so can the former.  I’m both relatable and a geeky weirdo, just depends on how far past the surface you want to go.

RCK: You are the person behind Alpha Blue as well. That, and some racy imagery in other products, contributes to a reputation as your being sort of a “soft porn” peddler. I’d like to ask you, first, how do you respond to that, and second, how prominently does sexual content feature in a game of Alpha Blue when you run it? Where do you fade to black?

VS: Ah, yes… Alpha Blue.  It’s one of the things I’m best known for and most proud of, but it also carries a stigma.  Alpha Blue triggers a lot of people.  20 years ago, it would have been the far-right that took offense to eroticism, sleaze, and soft-core porn in RPGs.  But now it’s the puritanical leftist types that condemn it because there aren’t any kid-friendly drag shows or power-bottom bear and twink action explicitly called out in examples. 

RCK: I’d just like to clarify that you are not using those terms in a derogatory manner.

VS: Correct, I wasn’t being derogatory with the gay slang I learned from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.  But several gamers who’ve denounced Alpha Blue have done so because it’s not specifically LBGTQ+ enough.  If they actually wanted Alpha Blue to include more of that stuff, then ask me about licensing your adventure or something, don’t just pitch a fit and crap all over my game.

On the other hand, I would like to go out of my way to denounce and oppose activities that combine kids with drag queens.  I have no problem with any sexual activity between consenting adults.  But I’m totally against pedophilia, the sexualization of children, and normalizing deviant sexual behavior by exposing kids to it at an impressionable age. 

Even “normal” sexual behavior should be kept away from children.  I’m not going to sit my kids down in front of a movie that’s graphically showing missionary sex between a man and a woman.  They’re kids!

RCK: I’m not sure how old you are, but I’m old enough to remember All in the Family in a fond way. All of the characters were flawed, but we loved them all despite that. Archie Bunker gave us a window into understanding bigotry, and it also gave us a window into how Archie could change for the better.

VS: I’ll be 45 in November, born the same year as D&D.  I’ve seen a few episodes of All in the Family, and I remember watching a lot of Gilligan’s Island and Bewitched as a kid, along with all the Saturday morning shows like Dungeons & Dragons, Thundarr, Scooby Doo, He-Man, G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Land of the Lost.

RCK: Sleestaks for the win! I watched a lot of those same shows, although G.I. Joe and Transformers never really caught my interest.

I don’t know where you stand politically, apart from the issue of health care, but I am somewhat to the Left of Bernie Sanders. We now live in an area where censoring people seems to belong to the “Left”. Which is weird, if you think about it. It’s like saying book burning is a progressive ideal.  It also leads to people self-censoring in case someone thinks that a person you talk to might be toxic, or some observation might be demonized. I think this has a tendency to create an echo chamber where everyone who is not “like us” is viewed as some kind of monster.

VS: Wait, to the “left” of Bernie Sanders?  What’s more leftist than an old school communist?  Pure anarchy?

RCK: The US political system has moved very far to the Right. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, Sanders is pretty moderate. From a historical perspective, Sanders is a Centrist. Most of the people who claim to be Centrists – including most modern Democrats – would have been considered Right Wing in the 70s.

VS: And 70’s Democrats would be called alt-right white supremacists by today’s standards. 

RCK: Not sure I can agree with that. Certainly racism was a lot more prevalent in the 70s than it is today.  Or, more prevalent in the mainstream.

VS: The US has always been to the right, though right and left are relative terms.  The world has a lot of problems.  Even though America isn’t perfect, I believe it’s still the greatest country in the world. 

Bernie is only calling it “Democratic Socialism” because he knows that half his base would leave if he actually went full-throttle Communist before getting elected President.  Some prominent lefties have stated that Socialism is just progress towards Communism.  Only a matter of time, slippery slope, and all that.

RCK: Hard disagreement there. There is a pretty big difference between what Sanders is talking about and what the media portrays it as.

VS: I think the vast majority are fed up with “cancel culture.”  Those types of witch hunts, demonetizing, deplatforming, online outrage, endless protests, and boycotts are toxic.  I think they’re making everything worse.  But it’s a minority of keyboard warriors perpetrating all this nonsense…  the media, Antifa, radical politicians, activists, and left-leaning twitter people following a trend.

RCK: There we can agree, at least to a degree. That kind of thinking is itself toxic. It harms our ability to understand (and thereby influence) movements in the hobby and the world. It makes us weaker as a group. And it poisons us as individuals. That’s not really “Left”. That’s fascism creeping into the Left. But anti-fascism is not itself a problem, and following Twitter trends is a problem regardless of which "side" you are on.

VS: I don’t think fascism is restricted to any political group.  Human beings are both good and bad.  Sometimes, the bad outweighs the good.  Doesn’t matter if its left or right.  Authoritarianism is destructive to a free society.  Too tight a grip and the people are strangled, too loose and there’s disarray.  I find the same philosophy goes for Game Mastering.

RCK: Which seems reasonable to me. I find the PoliticalCompass model useful, which uses a Left/Right and an Authoritarian/Libertarian axis.

VS: Under normal circumstances, I’d be in the middle.  But I feel the left has gone too far over the edge, and that has forced me further right.

RCK: Well, suffice to say that there are a lot of places where we disagree on the political front. And it is hard to escape talking politics these days.

VS: Sorry for the tangent.

RCK: Not a problem.  I tend to think we are all better off if we talk about these things, even with people we disagree with. Maybe especially when we disagree!

VS: Back to Alpha Blue… sex sells, controversy sells, and every so often good writing/design sells, too.  I love sex, exploitation movies, comedy, and sci-fi.  So, why not put them all together?  If that makes me a porn peddler, then fine by me.  About 15 years ago, I very nearly almost became a porn producer.  Like actual porn films.  Went to a weekend seminar to learn how and everything.  Thought I might get to meet Ron Jeremy, too, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Yes, sexual content of some kind almost always features in my Alpha Blue games.  Even if it’s a one-hour demo, I try to include something.  Maybe I’ll dangle a tantalizing cocktail waitress in front of the players or they’ll walk into an area of the space station where there’s a two-way mirror looking into the girls’ locker room.  Stuff you’d see in Porky’s, Police Academy, or Revenge of the Nerds, except it’s also science-fiction.

While I don’t detail every thrust and moan, it’s clear what’s going on.  There’s a beginning, middle, and end.  No fading to black.  Could be something like… you start rubbing WD-40 all over the sex-bot’s metallic body.  She’s getting turned on and opens her legs.  What are you doing?

Player: I want to start banging!

Ok, you penetrate her inviting soft-circuits.  You’re giving it to her good, it looks like she’s about to blow a gasket.  Eventually, you finish on her… [rolls dice]

RCK: To each his own.  I once had a player who wanted to make a “serious” D&D game about how his penis was like an elephant’s trunk. The game didn’t last that long.

VS: I can see where that might be an element of a D&D game, but the whole game?  Even something we can all agree on – like a dragon – how can the entire game be only about this dragon?  It needs other things.  I love hamburger, too, but an entire bowl of just cooked hamburger is hardly a satisfying meal.

RCK: He did, literally, want to keep bringing it up. Pun intended. It was an urban campaign, and the party couldn’t enter a bar without his describing how his dick grabbed peanuts from the bar.

VS: While I enjoy a good running gag, such things have their time and place.  Alpha Blue is that time and place, but probably not your everyday D&D campaign. 

RCK: I guess it makes a difference whether or not everyone at the table is into it.

VS: Right, we all have expectations.  That’s why there’s different games, each with their own flavor.

RCK: Last but not least – you exploded onto the scene around the same time I did, with the publication of Dungeon Crawl Classics. I can imagine that the material you were producing then didn’t hit the “family friendly” requirement for the DCC RPG logo. Can you tell us a little bit about your early experiences with the DCC community, as well as why and how you decided to go your own way?

VS: Yes, Dungeon Crawl Classics got me excited about the OSR and going back to old school gaming.  Up until then, it just seemed… kind of weird or crazy to just pick up the gaming materials we had from the early 80’s and start a campaign.

Mind you, I actually did run a Mentzer red box one-off way back in 1999 with some of my college buddies.  It was fun, but I don’t think anyone considered carrying on with it.  I guess we were playing it ironically, sort of.  But then I was a dumb-dumb in my mid-twenties and simply thought that new was always better… but it isn’t.  Progressive doesn’t equal progress. 

RCK: Not always, no.

VS: So, the OSR was a paradigm shift – a reaction to modern gaming culture ushered in by 3rd and 4th edition.  While DCC helped bridge the gap back to old school fundamentals, that game definitely has its own vibe.  Some stuff I like, but there are things I don’t care for.  And with hundreds of choices, plus the ability to craft your very own house-rules, I just didn’t see the need to follow DCC that closely.

RCK: Okay. That’s a lot of background out of the way! Now we can talk about Cha’alt.

I’m not certain if I am looking at something designed for use with a more typical fantasy rpg or something like Stars Without Number. There aren’t just science fiction elements in here – the setting is connected to other worlds. Where were you going with this, when you wrote it?

VS: It's supposed to be a hybrid of post-apocalyptic fantasy (like Dark Sun) and Stars Without Number, White Star, Star Wars, etc.  I re-use a lot of the same concepts when creating a new adventure or setting.  I’m never going to stop including tentacles, dark gods, evil sorcerers, crashed starships, robots, lasers, civilizations in ruin, and the like. 

If you like that about my stuff, great!  You get to see more of it in various shades, warped here and there so it’s fresh.  Another benefit is that most things connect, more or less.  You could use The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence and Liberation of the Demon Slayer with Cha’alt.  Or you could include elements in Cha’alt with Gamma Turquoise: Santa Fe Starport or Dead God Excavation.  Sky’s the limit!

RCK: The pdf includes Crimson Dragon Slayer, but the writing allows for almost any system to be used.

VS: Definitely.  I personally could use Cha’alt with every version of D&D or retro-clone, and pretty much any traditional rules-light system. 

The latest incarnation of Crimson Dragon Slayer focuses on a D20 hybrid between OSR and 5th edition, which I like to call O5R.  That’s what I use running virtual games on Roll20.  It lets us actually play a 60- or 90-minute game and get pretty far.  If I worried about character sheets and all the rules, we’d never get past the very first encounter! 

Plus, I like GMing for noobs.  They respond well to minimal, basic systems without all the fiddly bits.  Crimson Dragon Slayer D20 is a good fit for me, and that’s what counts.

RCK: Absolutely.

I have to ask you – Gamma Incel Cantina? What’s that about?

VS: Prince of Nothing, who consulted on Cha’alt, reviewed Alpha Blue and we were joking back and forth in the comments.  He said gamma incel something or other and it made me laugh.  I needed a name for the Mos Eisley cantina rip-off in Cha’alt, and decided to name it Gamma Incel Cantina. 

Personally, I think “incel” is kind of a dumb insult.  Just me sitting here in my chair at my desk, I’m rather involuntarily celibate.  If I had my way, I’d be having sex right now.  Alas, that’s not my day job.


RCK: I guess this interview isn’t as stimulating as you’d like?

VS: Well, even if I was having sex three times a day, I’d still need to take breaks.  I do enjoy a good interview, such as this one, so can’t really complain.

RCK: Good to hear. My understanding is that “incel” isn’t meant to imply that you aren’t having sex right now. It’s supposed to be both that you aren’t able to get a sexual partner, and that you are blaming the other (or same?) gender because they don’t find you attractive. A combination of self-sabotage combined with an unwillingness to recognize your own responsibility.

VS: Well, I’m married… so my options are rather limited.

RCK: It does get thrown around as an ad hominem pretty frequently when certain people encounter arguments that they aren’t ready to counter. Not unlike the idea that anyone who refused to support Clinton must be a racist or a misogynist.

VS: Yeah. 

RCK: As you said earlier, a certain type of Authoritarian/fascism isn’t limited to the Left or the Right. But the idea that a person’s inability to get a date makes actual misogyny or rape okay is clearly wrong. As you said earlier – I strongly believe that what consenting adults do is no one else’s business.

VS: Obviously, I’m against actual rape.

RCK: I didn’t mean to imply otherwise! And now I have to apologize for pulling the discussion off on a tangent again. But I think that we can both agree that, sometimes, when dealing with controversial content it is important to make things like this clear. It is all too easy to find yourself on the wrong side of people who want to declare you a sexist, racist, or whatever. Sometimes that tar is applied with a really broad brush.

VS: Those are the times we live in.  We’re almost at a tipping point, I think. 

RCK: There we agree...we just hope that things tip in different directions. Anyway, I’m looking at the layout of Cha’alt, and I think it is fantastic. Information is easy to find, and there is a great use of text boxes and callouts. That page background, though, is going to be murder on my printer!

VS: Thanks!  Gold Ennie winner Glynn Seal did the layout and cartography.  I wanted it to be both gorgeous and easy to use.

Yes, it would be murder on your printer. 

I’m hoping everyone that likes the PDF will buy the fancy hardcover (you’ll get a discount based on the amount spent on the digital version) coming in October.  I went the way of independent boutique RPG creators and ordered a print run from Friesens, who did Maze of the Blue Medusa, Silent Titans, and a few others.  Super high quality!

RCK: There’s a lot of stuff in your Adventure Writing and Game Master books that I really like. I’ve talked about that here. When I’m running games, I also like to include the occasional dramatic flourish.

VS: Gaming should be fun.  If it’s a slog for the GM, how great can it be for the players?  Little interesting elements added to the game here and there make sessions more enjoyable. 

I ran a playtest of Cha’alt at Gary Con this past March.  It was the Beneath Kra’adumek dungeon.  I decided to use that d100 table of things the PCs have done in their past.  One result rolled at character creation literally changed the entire session.  That tiny detail went from central character motivation to running joke to the thing that saved the day at the end. 

So, the moral of that story is never game without How To Game Master Like A Fucking Boss!

RCK: Care to expand on that? What happened?

VS: From memory, one of the PCs acquired a transparent cube.  He was fascinated by it and kept coming up with possible applications, like after the dungeon he’d go into business manufacturing and selling similar transparent cubes.  In one room of the Kra’adumek dungeon, there’s a way to subtly change reality.  The cube became a sphere.  There was a lot of inter-PC chatter about the sphere and what it might mean.  Eventually, it made sense that throwing the sphere into the purple demon-worm’s mouth could destroy it.

RCK: There is something magical about gaming that surprises everyone at the table, including the GM.

VS: Yes, the surprise or even possibility of surprise heightens the experience.  If I ran the exact same scenario the exact same way every time, I’d want to quit.

RCK: I could not agree more. There are some pretty off-the-wall things in Cha’alt that I imagine would be funny in play. The “fruities” in the Black Pyramid, for instance. As a father of three myself (two are now adults), I have seen enough kids’ programming to understand wanting the PCs to dice those things into little pieces!

VS: When I’m doing “gonzo work,” I try to find that balance between “normal” and totally batshit insane.  There are some dark things, fun things, off-the-wall things… a wide variety.  I dug deep, sifting and winnowing for as many references and influences as possible.  But I like to twist things around, cross-reference. 

RCK: Why should people buy Cha’alt? Give us your elevator pitch.

VS: I usually describe Cha’alt as eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, and post-apocalypse.  It’s both a campaign setting + megadungeon with lots in-between.  218 pages of delectable weirdness that will bludgeon your vanilla fantasy over the head like Negan, Glenn, and that barbed-wire baseball bat. 

RCK: You do Gary Con every year, I believe, but I don’t think we’ve run into each other yet. Maybe I could get in on one of your games next year?

VS: That would be awesome! 

My convention schedule is sporadic at best.  I try to hit up both Gary Con and Game Hole Con about every other year.  Five kids is no joke!  Due to a family vacation in March, I won’t be at the next Gary Con.  However, I’m planning on being there in 2021… with tentacles!

RCK: Well, 2021 then. It was a real pleasure talking to you!

VS: Thank you!  I enjoyed it.  And thanks to everyone who takes a chance on Kort’thalis Publishing.



31 comments:

  1. I can't imagine ever being old enough to feel like nothing can change my mind. I'm not much younger than VS even. What a backward worldview.

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    1. Fair comment. But I prefer to imagine that someone who feels that secure in what they believe is more likely to rethink their position through contact with those who feel differently.

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    2. Also, obviously, by having that discussion upfront you can decide how you want to interact (or not interact) with the person. Personally, I think more along the lines of Gandalf than along the lines of Conan here.

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    3. Certain things I'm firm on, the rest is open for discussion.

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  2. I like Venger's take on fantasy games, but, wow! He thinks he's an incel! He doesn't know what 'incel' means, and he doesn't care to know. Then, when he talk about socialism, or politics in general, it's obviously the same.

    This was a really strange interview, but I really like how to managed it and also like everything you bring to the blog.

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    1. I've had people call me incel over the last few years because I held a politically moderate view. I was taking the term as involuntary and celibate are defined. When I conflated the insult with how a noob would might define it, I was making a joke... something many leftists don't understand.

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    2. A couple of things.

      (1) He doesn't think he's an incel. Context, folks, context.

      (2) Not knowing what an "incel" is isn't necessarily a bad thing, is it? This leads into one of the themes in the interview - it is much better that we talk to each other than shut ourselves into our own echo chambers. How do you imagine that ANYONE is going to "care to know" about "socialism, or politics in general" AS YOU SEE THEM if you attack them for even having the discussion?

      I mean, take a close look at the interview, and remember that one interview is not the be-all and end-all of anyone. Mostly what you get there is rational, right? Mostly what you get there is respectful? Mostly what you get there isn't antagonistic? Am I wrong about that?

      Then what do you possibly imagine these responses are going to do to change Venger's - or anyone's - mind?

      That is a serious question.

      All of us, including myself, are shaped in part by the media we consume and the people we talk to. I am a progressive. I believe that the force of progressive ideas, given sufficient actual dialogue, is strong enough to be accepted by most people. I think that, when it comes down to it, breaking that conditioning that makes someone think that democratic socialism is different than having social programs requires open, honest, and non-hostile dialogue.

      And, FFS, just because someone says that their mind is made up, it doesn't mean it can't be changed. Carl Sagan said "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" (or words to that effect), and saying "nothing can change my mind" means something a lot closer to "It would require extraordinary proof to change my mind" rather than its literal meaning.

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  3. MODERATOR VOICE: Thoughtful comments are welcome. Respectful, open discussion of anything in the interview, including political positions, is not only fair game, but is encouraged.

    However, if you come to attack anyone, including but not limited to Venger, your comment might well be trashed. No one has crossed that line yet, and I really do not want to see it crossed.

    You have been warned.

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  4. ravencrowking: on the American medical system, since I have spent way too much time in the last 10 years watching one of my children almost die more times than I'd like to count...I would not have her treated in any other country in the world. Period. Without our system, which is expensive and doesn't have the kind of outcomes we see in other countries, she would be dead. The reason is that we actually are willing to take the risk to treat the untreatable in order to make someone's struggle valuable by seeing if there is a possible way to make it treatable. The hospital my child goes to touts the fact that it has a lower outcome than most hospitals BECAUSE they take the hardest cases that other hospitals won't. They take what they learn from their failures and use it to save the next one. They could easily have higher outcome rates, but that would mean refusing to treat kids like mine. There are a lot of places in the world where that is exactly what would have happened to me and mine.

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    1. I'm not sure that you understand how the medical system works in other countries. I can tell you about Canada and the US, though, because I have wide experience with both.

      You are imagining that, when I say "worse outcomes", I am saying that other countries have better outcomes because we are talking about different procedures, or different conditions. That is not actually the case. The US has, on the whole, worse outcomes no matter which way you slice it.

      Obviously, you have a child with a dramatic life-threatening illness. That is going to color your view. But the odds are good that if you were in, say, Israel, where there is universal healthcare, not only would your child have done better, but your family as a whole would be better off.

      Without more details it is impossible to say if it is true in your case, but many of the procedures used "to treat the untreatable" are, in fact, developed in countries with national healthcare programs. It wasn't that long ago, in fact, that even in the United States healthcare did not operate as it does now. Yet there was a boom in medical science, funded by the public purse, universities, and not-for-profit concerns. American history itself shows that large corporate interests are not needed for medical pioneering.

      To put another way: Outside the US, Breaking Bad ends when Walter White discovers that he has cancer, and his treatment is automatically covered. He doesn't have to deal meth to survive.

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    2. (If you were here in Toronto, you would probably have taken your daughter to Sick Kids Hospital, which is a 5 minute walk from where I am sitting right now. My second child had difficulties at birth and was taken there for over a week. My nephew beat leukemia with their help. I feel for your anguish, but I would rather you and yours had healthcare where you didn't have to go into debt to save your daughter's life. And, if you are privileged enough to be avoid going into debt over medical/drug costs, then I wish that on everyone else as well. American exceptionalism isn't supposed to mean that everyone except America can have health care.)

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  5. There are a lot of factors going into healthcare. If we want to have a debate on healthcare services and costs vs. benefits throughout the world, we can do that. But this is primarily a gaming blog, so that's why I'm not going to drop pages and pages of information with links, testimonials, corroborating evidence, etc. Suffice it to say that population, taxes, wait times, supplementary insurance, and other issues are at play.

    Since America DOES have healthcare, your repeated "American exceptionalism" comment doesn't make sense.

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    1. /Some/ Americans have healthcare.

      A thorough examination of healthcare is not only beyond the scope of a gaming blog, but it is far beyond the scope of the /comments section/ of a gaming blog.

      At the end of the day, though, regardless of what issues are at play, you can look at things like doctors per capita, average outcomes for the same conditions, and even average lifespan to determine whether or not a system is better. And the current US system is worse than the US system when I was born (Upper Peninsula Michigan). It is also far more expensive.

      For example, not only does Israel have universal healthcare, but their outcomes are better than yours, and you pay for it. The US gives more to Israel than the cost of their healthcare system. You are literally subsidizing a benefit for others that you do not have yourself.

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    2. Israel healthcare... are you suggesting some kind of Muslim ban?

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    3. That has to be a joke. :(

      I really had to wrestle with whether or not to simply delete the comment.

      First off, Israel is not a Muslim nation.

      Second off, the situations are not remotely related. The US gives more money to Israel every year than Israel spends in its universal healthcare system. You are literally paying for them to have health care.

      The Muslim ban (Obama's and Trump's) targets specific persons, on the basis of religion, and denies them entry to the country.

      If I was suggesting that the US pay for every other foreign nation EXCEPT Israel, you would have a point. But, of course, in that case my argument about paying for others to have things you do not have would be even stronger.

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    4. "Some Americans have healthcare"...?

      During the year 2016, 91.2% of Americans had health insurance coverage, according to Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_insurance_coverage_in_the_United_States

      That's what I would call the vast majority.

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    5. Yes, Obamacare mandated that you must purchase insurance or suffer penalties. Frankly, I can see why people disliked it.

      But in order to have healthcare, you need to be able to actually use it. After you have paid your premiums and co-pays, if your insurance approves you, you have coverage. Otherwise, even if you have insurance, you do not. The US is, after all, the country where people die because they cannot afford insulin.

      So, before we go further down this road, are you really going to tell me that you believe that the ACA was a success? That Obamacare gave the majority of Americans ACTUAL coverage rather than an illusion thereof?

      Because that is something I once believed, until the weight of evidence demanded that I change my mind.

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  6. It was kind of a joke, but I was also trying to make the point that Israel is surrounded by Muslims who are hostile to its very existence. Obviously, Israel's population is mostly Jewish. There are quite a few on the left who propose the BDS movement (boycott, divest from, and sanction), which is nothing short of antisemitism.

    I trust that you aren't name-calling Israel in the same spirit of Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and similar Democrats. Israel is the only Democracy in the Middle East, which is one of the reasons why the US supports that allied country.

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    1. That's one way of looking at it. Another is that it isn't antisemitic to criticize Israel's government, just as it is not Islamophobic to criticize Saudi Arabia. Both countries are engaged in genocide, which we should not be supporting.

      But, either way, you are still paying for others to have things you do not.

      And, just to be clear, both Israel and Saudi Arabia have a better healthcare system than the US does. At least you're better than Slovenia.

      http://thepatientfactor.com/canadian-health-care-information/world-health-organizations-ranking-of-the-worlds-health-systems/

      Delete
    2. Simply put, the data shows that procedures in the US are generally NOT "fast and performed by the best doctors with cutting-edge medical technology." You are thinking of France or Italy, perhaps?

      The good news is that you can fly to France, stay at a nice hotel for a week, get a procedure done, and then fly home. Depending on the procedure, you may even save a significant amount of money!

      Delete
  7. On the healthcare front, fear of losing what you have makes it much, much harder to gain something much, much better.

    And this shouldn't be surprising, millions of dollars are spent on advertising to make you feel this way. Given that over 90% of American media is owned by six corporations, all of which are owned by people with a vested interest in the status quo, it should hardly be surprising that the media also works to (1) prevent you from understanding, and (2) ensure that you fear the alternative.

    But the World Health Organization isn't just making things up. And statistics about life expectancy, happiness, and quality of life are not simply invented from whole cloth. Other nations get stuff you do not, simply because people who already own half your country would like to own a bit more.

    Money is like blood. When it circulates things go well. When half of it pools in a very small part of the body (yours or the national body), things don't go nearly so well.

    I guarantee you that, in Canada, I have more choice - more Freedom - in terms of my medical care than you do. I can go to any doctor I want; my insurance doesn't give me a list to choose from. I don't have to check my bank balance before I go. Nor do I ever need worry that a medical condition might cause me to go bankrupt.

    https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/643000-bankruptcies-in-the-u-s-every-year-due-to-medical-bills/

    On top of that, on average, I get to live longer than if I lived in the States.

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  8. Anerican media tends to portray the US as a place people go to for "medical vacations".

    In fact, more Americans leave the country for procedures than people come to the US for the same.

    https://www.cdc.gov/features/medicaltourism/index.html

    https://www.statista.com/statistics/890134/top-medical-tourism-countries-by-industry-index/

    https://patientsbeyondborders.com/medical-tourism-statistics-facts

    (This last one lists top destinations as "Costa Rica, India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United States").

    But the best info is here:

    https://medicaltourism.com/Forms/facts-statistics.aspx


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  9. Yeah, I can do that, too...

    https://www.businessinsider.com/10-reasons-why-the-us-health-care-system-is-the-envy-of-the-world-2010-3

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/04/american-health-care-system-has-good-results-high-expenses/

    https://business.financialpost.com/opinion/william-watson-why-canadas-best-health-care-system-just-got-ranked-last-again

    https://www.city-journal.org/html/ugly-truth-about-canadian-health-care-13032.html

    And last but not least, Steven Crowder's rebuttal to the Jeff Daniels TV series The Newsroom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=qOhDFCcmgvY

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    Replies
    1. Yes...I directed you toward actual statistical data, and you direct me toward opinions as to why that data should be ignored.

      If you can point to *actual data* that shows I am wrong, that would be fantastic.

      Delete
    2. So, no, you didn't "do that, too". But you are welcome to try again!

      Delete
    3. Statistical data can be skewed via one's interpretation, that was my point.

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    4. Cost, outcome, and WHO ranking on healthcare systems can, indeed, be skewed based on one's interpretation. You seem determined to do so.

      But these things are pretty basic. You either prefer evidence-based reasoning or you do not.

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    5. It should also be noted that, if statistical data is being skewed, alternative data, or alternative rational interpretations of that statistical data, should exist.

      An argument that says "Don't look at the data" is not the same thing.

      Delete
  10. After mutually acknowledging this was probably not the ideal forum in which to engage in debate over social/economic/political issues; well, I think the DC was just too darned high and some failed rolls occurred. Soooooo....Gaming anyone?
    In all seriousness; I am a huge fan of both you gents, and was really looking forward to more insight into your processes regarding design and where you feel your work lands in the current RPG landscape. I've played in a few of Daniel's DCC games, and have chatted with Venger via email & in person at GaryCon and have found you both to be interesting people who both possess that rare endangered species called INFORMED opinions regarding Gaming. Best- MARS

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    Replies
    1. If a person couldn't be to the Right of me without being a Nazi, I would be surrounded by Nazis.

      Believe me, the politics discussion was not acrimonious....and recent events regarding a certain podcast made me feel that it was important to include.

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    2. Thank you, MARS! If you or anyone else would like to do a Q&A, simply get in touch. Cha'alt is receiving high praise from all quarters, and I'm excited to talk about it.

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