Breaking Down Tropes: The Lone Wolf

It's the quickest way to make a group of gamers hate you, the gm want to ignore you, and to earn enemies faster than you can roll a 1 on a d20: be the lone wolf. For years I campaigned passionately against the lone wolf. Why were you playing a group-focused game if you just wanted to sit in the corner and not be part of the game? Why were you even here? What was the point of this character? Yet time and time again I come across the lone wolf, grinning and mad, running free and unencumbered by petty connections to other PCs.

Why is this such a problem? Why is this so common, even still? What does playing the lone wolf add to the game or story? I wasn't convinced, even when the long wolf was suggested for me to write about, that the lone wolf trope could be anything but annoying. Yet the more I talked to people, the more I began to see a complex and interesting picture of the lone wolf as more than a new gamer's attempt to be edgy and something that may be worth taking a lo…

Public Gaming: Rules for Engagement

I've had a lot of people ask me about community building and convention organizing. They're two facets of our industry that are often underlooked and underpaid (mostly you never get paid) and they're two keystones to the foundation that is the gaming industry. Community, being the part where people talk about and engage with social elements in gaming, and conventions, being the part where we get together and play the actual games. The one thing both these have in common, besides the organizers, is public play.

Public gaming is a beast onto itself. So many people think of gaming as a private affair. You invite your friends over, you have snacks or food, or hell, even dinner together. You set up your map and minis, and you might be in a basement or a dining room, and then you play for a few hours where you share beer and some good laughs. You don't have to worry about offending people because you've probably been friends since high school. You may make lewd jokes yo…

Power Fantasies: Learning To Punch Up

Power fantasies are important. I was recently asked on the Gauntlet podcast how I felt about power fantasies. It's something I've been thinking on for awhile, and I was ready to answer Jason when he asked me. I think that letting people play out power fantasies, as long as they can learn to share the table, is important because it gives people such a good way to feel important to the world. It's such a rewarding experience and a good space to let people explore. It lets them feel empowered.
Now, what is empowered? I've been thinking of how to give people a chance to feel empowered in games. It strikes me that gaming is all about feeling powerful. Or at least, a lot of gaming is. Gaming is the only world where we can strap on some armour, grab a sword, and beat the mother fucking dragon. It's the only world we can overthrow the tyrant. It's the only world where our influence on politics feels real. We don't ask "What can I do?" in a game with a hop…

Playtest Focus: The Watch

It's not very often I stumble across a game that personally resonates with my lived experiences. It's also not very often that I leave a game feeling empowered. It's not an emotion I angle for and it's not something I often get out of a game, because I often play women, and the women I play aren't usually in situations where they're fighting. Or if they are, as in the case of a hunter, they're fighting their friends and that's not empowering, it's just painful.

Of course, the solution would be to play more traditional "going out and beating the bad guy" games. Except they don't give me the emotional payback I want. So when I was talking to Andrew Medeiros and he mentioned his new game he was working on with Anna Kreider, about women warriors being badass and fighting against this invasive force called the Shadow, I was like "Oh my fucking god, yes please!" We playtested it within the week and I've been playing sessions o…

Unintentional Harm: Oops, I Did It Again

Have you ever had a game go sideways and you're not really sure how or when it happened but man, oh, man, did it every go sideways? It didn't just go sideways, it crashed and burned and everyone at the table sat there in actual shock for a few minutes? Or worse, someone got hurt and didn't say anything until they couldn't bear it anymore and you feel awful but the damage is so far gone at this point there's nothing you can do but flail at them and hope they hear you past their hurt?

This happened to me recently. I wasn't the wronged party. I was the one who had stepped in shit and didn't notice I was causing the whole place to stink. Honestly, I should've seen it coming. I should have picked up what was happening but instead, I was too busy engrossed in the fiction and playing a character and feeling a lot of feels that made me incredibly (beautifully) uncomfortable.

After this game exploded and the GM wisely called it, I felt powerless to fix the mist…

Breaking Down Tropes: The Alpha Male

There was an article recently published on the toxic belief that wolves have a hierarchy that is controlled by an alpha male. In human society, specifically American culture, the alpha male has come to represent something between the man men want to be and the man nerds hate with a passion. Most of can conjure some sort of image of the alpha male, and just how often he appears in pop culture, specifically nerd pop culture. And yet, he doesn't seem to be welcome at the game table, either as a character or as a player.

When I began to do some research into alpha males, it wasn't because they were a problem for me, or ever have been a problem for me. It was because of that stupid wolf article. I'm a huge fan of werewolves. They're my favourite supernatural being. But I hate how it's always very male centric feeling (yes yes, Gingersnaps), because it's always this person who has a hard time containing the animal, and they get aggressive and pretty toxic and they c…

Putting Rape on the Table: How to Play Safe, Push Boundaries, and Break Barriers

I'm going to start this by putting a big content warning on this article. I didn't when I wrote about abuse in gaming, and I hurt people. That was shitty of me. So in case the title didn't give it up, this article is going to contain a conversation around rape. In this article, I will discuss the inclusion of rape as a theme, a trope, and a tool in gaming, and a bunch of stuff around that. If this will make you hurt or uncomfortable, I recommend not continuing. If you feel comfortable, please proceed, but with caution.

When I was eighteen, I met a guy. He saw me, he liked me. We became a couple. He was abusive. Physically, emotionally, verbally, and eventually, sexually. I had to do things for him to be able to just walk by him. He'd hold me down when I was sleeping and rape me. I didn't know this wasn't normal. We broke up. I started casually seeing someone. We had sex. We got drunk a lot. I said I don't want to have sex anymore. I got drunk. He had sex wit…