Wednesday 30 June 2021

Once More Into the Breach

Maybe you have seen this meme floating around. Maybe you have come across it as a reaction to the dumpster fire that is the New New TSR's public relations. And I put that mildly. 

So here I go. Again.

There is a limit to tolerance, but the argument in the meme suggests that the only solution to intolerance is to be equally intolerant. Intolerance, like tolerance, occurs on a spectrum. It isn't necessary, or even desirable, to tolerate too much of it, but it is far more desirable to help the intolerant join the tolerant than it is to just thrust them outside the protection of the law.

It is also notable that, when we look at something like speech (or any other rights, for that matter), allowing people to have those rights when you disagree with them - ESPECIALLY when you disagree with them - is the only thing that safeguards those same rights when they disagree with you.

And let's be clear - if you lose a right when it is inconvenient, it was never a right to begin with. It was always just the illusion of a right. Rights are tested by the worst case scenarios, not the best.

And, Crom on His Mountain, when you start trying to silence other people, it always ends up with your being silenced. Always. Every. Bloody. Time.

Sorry. I think Karl Popper (at least as translated by this meme!) is way off-base here. There is a large difference between some sheltered idiot who is afraid of people different than themselves and Adolf Hitler. When you begin to equate the two, you join the list of people who have decided that they have the right to change people's beliefs by force.

That is not something that I can tolerate.

For instance, I have no desire to be associated with the New Coke TSR, but that doesn't mean that I think their attitudes should put them outside the law.

Their actions might cause them legal troubles. They are very likely to cause them financial troubles. But someone being a transphobe should not mean that they wind up in prison ("outside the law") for their beliefs.

Being tolerant of the intolerant doesn't mean giving their ideas a chance. It means giving them a chance to evolve better ideas.

Intolerant actions, of course, are a whole different thing. And that does include attempts to encourage others to intolerant action.

Saturday 26 June 2021

Context and Player Responsibility

I was involved in a recent reddit thread, which was related to a situation where a GM allowed a vampire (I presume PC) to be murdered as the other PCs stood around in shock and did nothing. I am of the opinion, unequivocally, that the GM did nothing wrong in the situation as described. 

The gist of it was this: The PCs decided to intimidate a group that they didn't realize were expert vampire hunters. Then they decided to threaten them with their vampire friend. Although the details are not given, I picture the result like an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer while the other players stood by and did nothing. The GM then expressed regret that they didn't make the consequences/context clear enough to the players before they decided to act rashly.

I have written a long piece about Context, Choice, and Consequence, which you can find here (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). There is no doubt that the GM's job is to provide context for choices, but the question is: Whose job is it to determine if there is enough context to make a choice?  In other words, if the players make assumptions about the situation, is it up to them to check their assumptions, or is it up to the GM to ensure that their assumptions are correct?

I argue that this is part of the players' game. A role-playing game contains both informed and uninformed decisions. It is not always easy to tell which is which (which is why rumor tables often contain false or misleading information). Part of play is trying to figure out how much you know. There is a reason why divination spells exist.

There is also a big difference between an informed decision that is a sort of "devil's choice" (hazards all ways) and one where there is clearly a "right choice". If there is a "right choice", and the players uncover it through their actions, then finding it and utilizing it is their victory. If there is a "right choice" and the GM warns them every time they choose something different, then the players might as well not play through those events. The GM can just narrate the choice they are "supposed to" make and move on. In short, providing this sort of context is just another form of railroading, which removes agency from the players involved.

So, yes, a lot of this post is just my Reddit comments with slight reworking or additions. Here we go.

If you want the players to learn that thuggish tactics work unless you tell them otherwise, by all means make sure that you telegraph when they should tread lightly. If you want the players to learn to think before acting, continue to allow the natural consequences of ill-considered action to occur.

It is not the GM's job to make sure that the players understand who any particular NPCs are. It is the players' job. The GM's job is to ensure that the means to figure it out exist.

This is no different than their being thuggish in their tactics and not helping their friend. It isn't the GM's job to adjust things to their tactics. It is their job to adjust their tactics to what they are facing.

Now, there were some disagreements, as happens. In particular, the claim was made that this position encouraged murderhoboism and harbors mismatched game expectations. 


Players being required to think before they act are not encouraged to be murderhobos. Quite the opposite. Allowing players to assume that they can simply murder anyone they meet  encourages murderhoboism.

The GM is under no obligation to tell the players which NPCs they can successfully murder and which they cannot before combat begins. In fact, doing so reinforces murderhoboing. I don't know if that can be overstated.

Mismatched Game Expectations

Likewise, mismatched expectations are a result of expecting the game milieu to adapt to you, rather than expecting play to adapt to the situations you encounter.

This doesn't assume that the players and the GM will come to the same conclusion about a specific situation. It assumes that it is the player's responsibility to draw conclusions and act accordingly. What the GM wants, does not want, or expects has nothing to do with it. If the players come up with a way to completely and utterly defeat what the GM had imagined was going to be a major challenge - good for them! We will discuss this again in reference to player agency later.

Likewise, it is the player's responsibility to seek out information. It is not the GM's responsibility to hand it to them on a platter. Not surprisingly, if a player doesn't realize that committing murder has consequences, the root cause is either

(1) the GM never enforces rational consequences, or

(2) the player really isn't thinking things through.

In case (1), yes, the GM is to blame. Because consequences are not "obfuscated"; they are pretty direct. Otherwise it is entirely on the players involved.

The GM might want to ensure that he communicated that a chasm was 100' across before the thief tries to jump across it, but the GM is not obligated to remind the thief that they can't make that jump. That decision is made by the player. Not pointing out that the thief cannot possibly make that jump (barring magic or some unusual circumstances) is not obfuscating information, and it is not failure to communicate.

The disagreement is not about whether or not the players know there will be consequence; it is about whether or not they should know what those consequences will be before they act.

If you are playing a traditional role-playing game, you can examine things like the combat rules to know how absurd it would be to expect fully informed decisions. If you decide to attack, you do not know whether or not you will hit until you roll. You do not know how much damage you do (if you hit) until you roll (in most games). The game itself is designed to prevent you from knowing the outcome.

(Including the GM. They may know AC, attack modifiers, damage range, hit points, etc., but they are not omniscient. They don't know how things will play out until the dice hit the table - in some games moreso than in others!)

The same thing goes for skill checks. Checking for traps does not necessarily mean finding traps. Trying to climb a wall does not mean that you will even be able to start, let alone offer a guarantee that you will not fall.

The GM's job is to provide the context for choices made by the players. The players' job is to make choices (including seeking out more context). The GM then determines the consequences of the choices (either through die rolls or some other method), creating the new context for the next set of choices.

It is, emphatically, not the GM's job to determine whether or not the players understand the situation outside of information their characters have. It is the job of the players to decide how much context they need. If they feel they do not have enough context, the game is full of ways to gain more. Asking questions and proceeding cautiously is just the most obvious.

None of this means that the GM cannot add context without player input; but it is emphatically NOT unfair if the GM does not.

The GM does not have to remind you that a dungeon might have traps, or that your roll to check for them might have failed, or tell you that opening the door will release a spear trap that might kill you.

I am not a child. I do not need you to hold my hand.

Player Agency

If the GM believes that players need their hands to be held, and does not enforce rational consequences for player choices, then that GM will need to warn about consequences, repeatedly and often.

On the other hand, if the GM believes that their players do not need to have their hands held, then enforcing consequences for decisions allows the players to take responsibility for their own actions, for good or ill.

Both are self-fulfilling propositions. The first GM will need to continue hand-holding; the second GM will not. In both cases, it is the actions (or lack thereof) of the GM that sets expectations for the players. Of course players are going to be shocked if the GM holds their hands again and again and suddenly does not. Of course the players are going to assume that their might be consequences before they act if they have encountered that in the past.

I am not saying that one group of players is better than the other. I am saying that the GM of the first group is artificially preventing their players from reaching their full potential. Literally, the GM is robbing the players of agency by ensuring that their choices align with the GM's expectations before they can be resolved.

If, as a player, I said I tried to open a chest, and the GM stopped me and told me that it might be a mimic, then when I failed to search the room stopped me and told me that I might be missing some treasure or a secret door, I would not want to keep playing in that game. The player gets to make decisions, and the player owns the consequences for those decisions, for good or for ill. So what if I missed the treasure? So what if the mimic killed me? At least the outcome was based on the choices that I had made.

And, maybe next time, I would prod a suspicious chest with a 10-foot pole before opening it. Or maybe I would defeat the mimic against all odds, or be able to open a dialogue with it. And, if so, or if I found that treasure or secret door, the victory would be mine. Because my choices mattered. Because my reading the situation and realizing that I needed more context mattered. I am actually playing the game.

Paradoxically, the GM who prevents you from failing also prevents you from succeeding. After all, success is only success because failure is possible. The GM who prevents you from making bad choices by layering on information until you make the choice they want you to is really just playing your character for you.

In the end, that isn't why we play these games, is it?

What the Players and the GM Know

Some people will argue that the players only know what the GM tells them. This is patently untrue in most game systems.

Unless the world/system is completely different, the players know that there will be trees, and horses, and rabbits, and a sky. They know that there will be people, and that those people will usually behave to one degree or another like people behave.

They will know that stabbing a creature with a sword does not generally improve its health. They will know, from the rules, what kind of creatures they might encounter (at least to some degree), how magic or technology works (at least to some degree), etc.

They will have a basic understanding of gravity and other laws of physics, from their own experience and from the rules. A PC might be able to survive a greater fall than would be likely in the real world, or defeat creatures in single combat that one would not expect a real person to succeed against, but the rules will make these things clear...or at least clearish.

If you can buy a sword, that not only implies that swords exist, but that creators of swords exist, and that sellers of swords exist. Indeed, the players know a great deal about the world before they sit at the table for the first game session.

They know the general picture. What they do not know are the details. Some details they will learn as they go on. Some will remain forever hidden. Some the GM will tell them upfront ("Beyond the door is a 30-foot square room with a chest near the center of the room") and others they must discover through their actions (the secret door in the far wall, the treasure buried beneath a loose flagstone, that the chest is a mimic).

Likewise, the GM is not omniscient. Until the PCs lay their plans, and the dice hit the table, the GM definitely knows more about the situation. But no one knows how the situation is going to unfold. Some GMs will fudge die rolls and change monster hit points in order to control the outcome. I have written a lot about this topic. I don't think I need to rehash it again.

One of the joys of a swingy system like Dungeon Crawl Classics is that I never know how an adventure - or even an encounter - is going to play out. Comparing this to a "finely balanced" game that relies on GM fudging to provide the balance, and I definitely prefer the Chaos of a finely unbalanced engine of adventure!

Player Intelligence

By and large, players are not stupid, and do not need to be treated like children.

It is the hand-holding GM who imagines their players foolish, not the GM who allows them to take responsibility for themselves. Players by and large adapt to the GM. If the GM hand-holds, they will adapt their strategies to take that into account. If the GM does not, they will likewise take that into account and behave accordingly.

Players are smart. They are going to play intelligently the vast majority of the time. The GM who thinks they need to handhold their players or those players will not be able to know there are consequences for rash actions is the one who imagines that they have stupid players. If your players are unable to play intelligently, it is because they are faced with a game that does not require intelligent play, or that rewards dumb play. 

That is not the fault of the players. That is firmly the fault of the GM.


In one video game analogy made in the reddit thread, the players are mashing buttons without trying to find out what they do beforehand, and ignoring the consequences of what mashing those buttons do. This is not the GM's fault. At all.

And the GM in the original post didn't simply decide what was "going to happen". There were plenty of opportunities for the dice or player choices to change the outcome. Again, this speaks to how the GM is not omniscient. 

Those who imagine that because the players try the "I intimidate" button and it doesn't work, they should just keep mashing it, and either the GM is supposed to tell them it isn't going to work or just make it work to match player expectations would certainly be surprised in any game I run.

The NPCs in the OP didn't just jump out of nowhere and kill the PCs. There was an interaction. There was communication. The players did not pick up on it. When it became a fight, what was happening was also communication. The players still did not pick up on it. None of that is the GM's fault.

Frankly, if the elite vampire hunters in the OP didn't do something about the PCs willfully consorting with - and threatening them with! - the undead, the GM let them off extremely lightly.

And that, maybe, is the GM's fault.

Sunday 20 June 2021

The Greatest Lizard People of Them All!

Forget the Sleestaks. Forget the Gorn.

Statting out these lesser creatures is, of course, nothing more than preparation for statting out the greatest group of reptile folk that science fiction has ever known. In 1970, the Silurians appeared for the first time on Doctor Who. They would appear again in Warriors of the Deep in 1984, and in the new Doctor Who series over the course of a number of stories, beginning with the two part The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood. The Silurians encountered in these stories represent three distinct species, with different abilities.

In addition to that, 1972 gave us the first appearance of the aquatic Sea Devils, close relatives of the land-based Silurians. The Sea Devils would appear again in Warriors of the Deep, which was, at the time of this writing, their final appearance in televised Doctor Who.

Silurians have domesticated, or partially domesticated, many types of dinosaur and prehistoric reptile. Statistics for pterodactyls can be found in the core rulebook. Statistics for several types of dinosaur can be found in The Mysterious Valley in D.A.M.N. #1 and in the Hhaaashh-Lusss, Lord Duke of Reptiles entry in Angels, Daemons, & Beings Between. Stats for dinosaurs can be found in several other DCC products.

Type I Silurians

Type I Silurians appear in Doctor Who and the Silurians. They are bipedal reptiles with three eyes. They are intelligent, having been able to create hibernation pods which allowed them to survive millions of years as well as a deadly plague. Although slow and clumsy, they are strong, and have a third eye which allows them to communicate telepathically, dominate weaker minds, and make psionic attacks. The third eye could also be used to activate and deactivate  Silurian technologies, such as force fields.

Domination: Treat as a charm person spell cast using 1d16+3 for the spell check. There is no chance for corruption, misfire, or patron taint. Silurians can dominate reptiles with animal-level intelligence or less without a check.

Psionic Attack: The Silurian can target a single creature within 20'. The creature must make a Will save. The result of the Will save determines the effect of the attack: (1 or less) the target creature takes 2d6 damage and is knocked unconscious for 1d6 hours if it survives; (2-5) the creature is rendered unconscious for 1d6 turns; (6-10) the creature takes 1d6 points of temporary Personality damage, which recovers at a rate of 1 point per minute, and is stunned and unable to act for 1d3 rounds; (11-15) the creature takes 1d3 points of Personality damage, which recovers at a rate of 1 point per round, and is stunned for 1 round; (16-20) the target is stunned for 1 round; (21 or better) the target is unaffected.

(Extended media has suggested that Type I Silurians are merely a "scholar caste", but this seems unlikely to me.)

Silurian (Type I): Init -4; Atk claw +0 melee (1d3) or domination or psionic attack; AC 12; HD 1d8+2; MV 25’; Act 1d20; SP infravision 60', telepathy, domination, psionic attack; SV Fort +4, Ref -4, Will +5; AL L.

Type II Silurians

Seen only in Warriors of the Deep, where they had made an alliance with the Sea Devils, Type II Silurians lack the ability to make psionic attacks. Their ability to dominate only applies to reptiles of animal intelligence or lower. They are otherwise quite similar to Type I Silurians, except that they are quicker and better armored.

It should be noted that Type I and II Silurians, as well as Sea Devils, show no mammalian traits whatsoever, and we cannot assume that any character we see is male or female. This is not true for other reptilian species in the Doctor Who universe that have appeared on-screen. Type III Silurians, Ice Warriors, and Draconians have all showed semi-mammalian sexual dimorphism

Silurian (Type II): Init +0; Atk claw +1 melee (1d3) or domination; AC 15; HD 1d8+3; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP infravision 60', telepathy, domination; SV Fort +5, Ref +0, Will +3; AL L.

Type III Silurians

With new series Doctor Who two-part story, The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood, we were introduced to a third type of Silurian. This one was well armed and armored, fast, and was clearly semi-mammalian in its biology (at least in terms of sexual dimorphism). 

After their initial story, these Silurians appeared tangentially in stories like Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, The Pandorica Opens, A Good Man Goes to War, and others. Eventually, we would see multiple appearances by Madame Vastra, who was rescued by the Doctor when work on the London Underground disturbed her hibernation with tragic results.

These Silurians have a prehensile tongue which can strike targets up to 20' away. They have venom sacks which they can choose to use with their tongue attack (but do not have to).

The first venom requires a DC 15 Fort save to avoid falling unconscious for 1d6 minutes. Even success on this save leaves a human-sized target stunned and unable to act for 1 round. At the judge's discretion, large creatures may or may not be affected.

The second venom is mutagenic in humans. Anyone struck must succeed in a DC 20 Reflex save to avoid being poisoned. Failure causes 1d3 points of temporary Stamina damage. Every hour thereafter, the victim must succeed in a DC 10 Fort save or take additional temporary Stamina damage: 1d4 on the first failed save, 1d5 on the second, 1d6 on the third, and so on up the dice chain. Although this Stamina damage heals normally, without some form of treatment the victim will die.

Silurian (Type III): Init +2; Atk strike +2 melee (1d3) or tongue +3 ranged (venom) or energy weapon +4 ranged (2d6); AC 13; HD 1d8+2; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP infravision 120', prehensile tongue, venom; SV Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +2; AL L.

Madame Vastra, Silurian Detective: Init +3; Atk strike +2 melee (1d3) or tongue +3 ranged (venom) or by weapon +5 ranged (by weapon); AC 14; HD 3d8+6; hp 20; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP infravision 120', prehensile tongue, venom; SV Fort +3, Ref +5, Will +7; AL L.

(Madame Vastra's wife, Jenny Flint, is a 3rd level Thief. The third member of the Paternoster Gang, Strax, is a Sontaran. Providing statistics for them is beyond the scope of this blog post.)

Sea Devils

The classic serials The Sea Devils and Warriors of the Deep provided Doctor Who fans with their only glimpses of these aquatic cousins of the Silurians. Like the Silurians, they are masters of technology, including genetic engineering and sonic weaponry.  A
lthough Sea Devils are not fully amphibious - they are air-breathers, like sea turtles - they are able to function underwater without breathing for hours. Armored Sea Devils gain a +2 bonus to AC and a -5' penalty to their movement speed (-10' when swimming).
Sea Devil: Init +0; Atk claw +0 melee (1d3) or sonic weapon +4 ranged (2d6); AC 12 or 14; HD 1d6+2; MV 25’ (or 20') or swim 40' (or 30'); Act 1d20; SP semi-aquatic; SV Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +3; AL L.


Warriors of the Deep
also introduced the Myrka, a hexapodal sea creature that had been genetically engineered by the Silurians and/or Sea Devils. It had two semi-manipulative arms, four legs, and a long tail. Although clumsy, and frankly silly-looking, on land, it was very graceful in the water.

The Myrka's thick hide allows it to ignore the first 5 points of damage from any source. In addition, it can generate electrical attacks that can strike targets in either a cone 30' long with a 30' base, or in a 30' radius completely around the creature. This attack does 2d6 damage (or 3d6 damage if wearing metal armor); Fort DC 15 for half. It is only able to use this attack with a 1 in 5 chance each round.

The Myrka has only animal-level intelligence, making it easily dominated by Type I or II Silurians.

Myrka: Init +0; Atk bite +0 melee (1d6) or electrical attack; AC 14; HD 5d8+10; MV 20’ or swim 60'; Act 1d20; SP infravision 120', DR 5; electrical attacks; SV Fort +10, Ref -5, Will +0; AL N.

Fully appropriate for both your DCC and MCC games!

Grendel's Father

In the epic poem Beowulf, the monster Grendel and his unnamed mother are prominent. Details about these monsters are scanty. Although Grendel appears in The Nexus of Yule, the second adventure in Perils of the Cinder Claws, this is just one interpretation of the monster. Being Father's Day, I thought I might take a stab at creating a version of "Grendel's Father" that fits both with the epic poem, and which could be used in a Dungeon Crawl Classics game.

Angar, son of Ormgeld, is a descendent of the Biblical Cain, Nigh-immortal, save for injury, he is the father of not only Grendel, but many other quasi-humanoid, quasi-giant monsters. Grendel is the child of his dalliance with a fallen Valkyrie of the Warrior Horde of the Einherjar. Like Grendel, Angar is a "creature of darkness, exiled from happiness and accursed of God, the destroyer and devourer of our human kind". Unlike Grendel, Angar gains no joy from culling the unworthy from the ranks of living warriors; Grendel gets that aspect from his mother. Angar wanders the world, siring new monsters and seeking the grace of a death he has long been denied. Although death-seeking, the son of Ormgeld is not suicidal, and will use all of his might and cunning to bring his foes low. If he is eventually slain, though, it is with a smile. The Father of Grendel laughs with joy upon receiving the death-blow.

The Father of Grendel is a giant of a man, standing 12 feet tall and covered with thick horny scales as strong as steel. He has a Deed Die, like that of a warrior, which is used primarily to throw opponents. If wounded, he goes berserk, gaining an extra Action Die and increasing his attack rolls and damage by +2. He regenerates 3 hp per round so long as he has even 1 hp left. His Action Dice are d24s, and he gains a critical hit on a roll of 20-24, using Table G.

Angar, Son of Ormgeld, Father of Grendel: Init +3; Atk giant club +1d7+4 melee (1d8+1d7+4) or buffet +1d7+4 melee (1d4+1d7+4); AC 20; HD 5d16+10; hp 50; MV 40’; Act 1d24 (or 2d24); SP infravision 60', Deed Die, berserk when wounded, regenerate 3/round, crit as giant; SV Fort +8, Ref +3, Will +5; AL C.

Saturday 12 June 2021

Jungle Tomb of the Mummy Bride

There are three days to go for this kickstarter, but it still requires a push to get it to that all-important stretch goal at $21,000!

Thanks to generous supporters, the stretch goal I'm writing was unlocked! Thank you all!

Friday 11 June 2021

"Well, maybe the Sleestaks aren't so bad after all."

Last post presented the Gorn for DCC and MCC. Another version of reptile people that has been influential on gamers are the Sleestaks from The Land of the Lost. These are the original Sleestaks, not those from the 1991-92 series or the film.

The Sleestaks were reptilian creatures which had an interdimensional technology based on crystals. At the height of their civilization, they created the Pylons, and presumably enfolded the titular Land of the Lost into its own pocket dimension, including a river that (as with Philip José Farmer's Riverworld series) continues in an endless loop.

Sleestaks use "crossbows", a sort of dart-firing slingshot with a range of 10/15/20 that does 1d3 damage. They are averse to bright light, retreating from torches and daylight, If forced to fight under these circumstances, they suffer a -1d penalty to all attack rolls.

A very few advanced Sleestaks may still exist. These creatures have speech and reason, and may have mastery of technology or psychic powers beyond the ken of their more primitive kindred. Advanced Sleestaks also do not share the usual Sleestak sensitivity to light.

Sleestaks also appear in Secrets of the Serpent Moon in Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad #2. If you look closely, you may discover Sleestaks in D.A.M.N. #1, and a single Sleestak in The Tribe of Ogg and the Gift of Suss. Where stats are provided in those sources, they differ from the ones produced below.

Without further ado, here are some Sleestaks for your DCC and MCC games!

Sleestak: Init -2; Atk claw +0 melee (1d3) or "crossbow" +2 ranged (1d3); AC 10; HD 1d8+4; MV 20’; Act 1d20; SP infravision 60', +2 bonus to Strength checks, light sensitivity; SV Fort +3, Ref -2, Will -2; AL N.

Thursday 10 June 2021

Enter the Arena

Many fantasy worlds offer their characters the chance to meet lizard people. In most cases, these lizard people are primitives. literally dominated by their reptile brains. 

The Gorn, which appeared in the Star Trek original series episode Arena, were different. They were intelligent, ruthless, and every bit as capable as the average Starship captain in the Federation. Seeing past his own prejudices based on the Gorn's reptilian nature - seeing the Gorn as a person - is what allowed Captain James T. Kirk to not only survive his encounter with a Gorn captain, but impress the Metrons with humanity's potential.

(Compare with the short story, Arena, by Frederic Brown, and discussed on the Sanctum Secorum podcast here.)

Without further ado, here are Gorn for your DCC and MCC games!

Gorn: Init -4; Atk bite +0 melee (1d5), or blow +2 melee (1d4 plus hug), or by weapon +3 (by weapon+6) or thrown rock +3 ranged (2d10); AC 14; HD 3d8+12; MV 20’; Act 1d20; SP hug, +6 bonus to Strength checks; SV Fort +8, Ref -4, Will +4; AL L.

Hug: If an unarmed Gorn strikes a successful blow, it gains a free and immediate attack with its other arm. If both blows succeed, the Gorn has grappled its opponent in a hug, and can do an automatic 2d4+6 damage each round until the opponent succeeds in an opposed Strength check or disorients the Gorn with a successful Mighty Deed of 4+. The classic version of this Deed is to slam one's hands on either side of the Gorn's skull, where the ears would be on a human.

EDIT: This was post 666 on this blog.

Saturday 5 June 2021

Eating Our Young

Well, this is a tough post to write, and it is a post that is likely to earn me some approbation from the community. But if I didn't write it, I would be a poltroon. So, there you have it. This is getting written.

Some background first: I am a cis-gendered straight white man. I have people very close to me who are gay, bi, and trans. No, I am not going to exploit them by naming them, but I do want the reader to understand where I am coming from. A pride flag hangs from my house.

The first time I was kissed by another guy was in high school. It was at a science fiction and fantasy convention in Oconomowoc that I sadly no longer remember the name of. There were a group of us, out all night, having fun. Some time after midnight, he got me alone on the ski hill at the hotel (obviously unused in the summer months) and told me how he felt. And, here's the thing - if sexual orientation were something you could choose, I would have chosen at that moment to not be a straight man. Because I felt valued by this guy in a way that I don't think I have have been before or since. After we talked, when he asked if he could kiss me, I said yes. And then we went back to the group and had fun all together until some godawful early hour in the morning.

I have also been hit on by guys who made me feel extremely uncomfortable, so I am not romanticizing one sexual orientation over another. I am talking about a particular time, with a particular person. The fact that I was young may have had a lot to do with how I remember that, or just a little. I honestly don't know.

On the other hand, I have also been a real asshole. No two ways about it. I have done things and held attitudes of which I am ashamed. I have failed to do things that  haunt me. I grew up mostly in rural Wisconsin, with the attitudes of the people around me. I can remember when they desegregated the primary school I was going to when I lived in Milwaukee. I went from High School to the US Army, and the military culture did not make me a better person. If the community judged me solely by my worst day, I very much doubt that anyone would still be in my corner. To be clear, and maybe some readers will understand this, there are days (not many, but some) where self-loathing makes me consider just drawing the curtain on existence.

I have opinions. I often express them. I have been called a Nazi for arguing against censorship. I have literally been told that opposing censorship makes me a Nazi. I have been told that, when I pointed out that it was the Nazis who were pro-censorship, I was trying to "Godwin" the argument by bringing up the Nazis. There are people who, to this day, will not speak to me because of this.

I strongly believe in social justice, but I am not a social justice warrior. The idea that we are so ready to cast out anyone based on their worst day is frankly abhorrent to me. I tend to think that we should try to lead by example. I tend to think that the strength or our arguments should carry the day - and that we should call out bad arguments when they are made by "our side". If we do not, our arguments lose their force. I do think that there is a point where you have to cut people off, but I don't think that should be our first reaction. How can anyone learn that "Hey, these people are all right?" if you cut off all contact? How do you open up a dialogue once you have made dialogue verboten?

This post came about due to some recent events concerning Gabor Lux (aka Melan), a man whose game design work I really admire. Among his sins? He deadnamed Jennell Jaquays, he posted that he found an encounter with a weretiger hilarious, and he said that he found the use of certain pronouns "retarded".

The deadnaming was in reference to a post comparing two products, one of which had been written by Jennell Jaquays before they transitioned. The name used was presumably taken from the original credits of the product. This is something I do, frequently, in the DCC Trove of Treasures. Not because I am trying to cause anyone harm or offense, but because I don't know people have transitioned, and even if I did, I would not necessarily know what name that person is now using. Do I have an obligation to try to contact each writer I might post something about? I don't believe that I do.

Years back, Mark Gedak of Purple Duck Games changed a playtester name for me before a product went to print, and that was much appreciated. It was fantastic for the player. But I didn't demand a scouring through the back-catalogue, and there are older posts I have written discussion people by names and/or genders they no longer use.

I have struggled with the concept of using they/them as singular pronouns, not because of gender politics but because of language. I got over it, but that doesn't mean the struggle was any less real. 

While I don't use the word "retarded", I have, not unfrequently, told people on Facebook "Don't be a moron if you can help it"  because of the (lack of) thought put into their arguments. Is that really such a big thing? (And, lest we go down the rabbit hole of ableism, some of you may have noticed a slurring in my speech in recent years. There is a very good chance that this is due to a genetic ataxia. It scares the hell out of me.)

If I understand the weretiger encounter correctly, Gabor Lux found an encounter where a weretiger's gender identity being affected by its transformation to be very amusing.  I am playing (and promoting) a game where "Gender Bender" is a mercurial magic effect. I came to it by way of a game with a girdle of masculinity/femininity and where a famous module might leave your gender reversed as you appear naked in a room. Both games make use of an Appendix N which is replete with problematic content.

Obviously, things escalated when Gabor Lux was called out. And it seems to me that this is the inevitable result of being a social justice warrior - offense is easily taken, and the goal becomes to defeat the enemy. Instead of defeating the enemy, you solidify that enmity, and you create more enemies. This isn't to say that there are not things worth calling people out for, or that there are not people worth cutting out of your life.

But using the name on a product when writing about that product is not one of them. Being against censorship is not one of them. Because, even if you think both those things are entirely wrong, you will not convince anyone that they are wrong just by calling them out on social media. You make enemies, and you make those enemies stronger.

It is a common view that bigots, homophobes, and transphobes should be afraid to reveal themselves. I disagree. People hate because they are afraid or uneducated, and making them more afraid helps no one. To some degree, I was a bigot, and a homophobe, and a transphobe. I got better. I didn't get better because I was cancelled. I got better through contact, and because people helped me to get better.

Does that mean it is your job to help make people better? No. But if you want better people, that is the way to do it. Be a social justice cleric.

If this post made you want to unfriend, unfollow, or cancel me, that is your right.

EDIT: If you want a good example of the exact kind of worrying "reasoning" that I am talking about here, you need go no further than the comments left by Shoku on this post. From avoidance of the argument presented, to justifying cancellation as moral on the basis of a generalized claim which is then applied to specific situations without the actual situation taken into account, to the acknowledgement that cancellation can be bad where it is not justified without acceptance that justification must come before cancellation, to the idea that I am exactly like a Nazi because, before they overtly became the people we are talking about, they championed free speech for others to ensure their own....which, interestingly enough, has also been the position of the American Civil Liberties Union and that well-known arch-Nazi, Noam Chomsky.

This is exactly the kind of person who should not be making these choices: Self-righteous, unwilling to actually engage, and determined to claim that they are both smart and honestly engaging in a dialogue.

And, yes, absolutely you can say the same applies to me. But I am not arguing it does not. I don't want to set myself up as the arbiter of who should or should not be cancelled. We should be hesitant to cancel anyone, and even more hesitant to set up anyone as an arbiter of the same.