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Showing posts from 2017

Breaking Consent: Dominate, Charm Person, and Love Potions

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Recently I was playing D&D and we were choosing our spells. I'm a warlock, and a chaotic evil character (pirates, right?). Friend was on the list of options. I looked at it and remembered the days of Charm Person. Those days when you were caught in an alley and the brigands looked like just maybe, maybe they could be reasoned with. And you'd roll diplomacy, inevitable fail, but before the GM could toss you on your ass with an attack of opportunity, you'd reach out, touch that ugly as sin bandit, and charm his ass off.

Ah, magic.
Whether it's Charm Person in D&D, Ron Weasley drinking a love potion in Harry Potter, or the vampire hypnotizing you into liking them in Monsterhearts, our culture, and evidently gaming, has had some serious problems with consent in the past (and today). As our culture begins to shift into one where rape jokes aren't cool anymore and consent is taught in schools, gaming seems to have yet to catch up.

For decades now, the power to t…

Real Games: Gatekeeping and Dismissiveness

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Once upon a time, in the blessed lands that held our gaming ancestors, there was a way things were done. There was the GM, the players, and there were rules with mechanics that supported the game. These mechanics helped define what would happen in the fiction of the game. The fiction of the game was the world the characters, who were played by the players, inhabited. The world was illustrated and controlled by the GM. The goal of these games was to explore fantastic worlds, be the heroes, and provide a simulation of what being in that world would be like. The more close the game tried to be to real, the more rules it needed to pin down every possible bit of the world. The end.

Except it's not. Gaming has evolved so much in the last few decades that some games are hardly recognizable against the traditional games we know and love. I sometimes wonder what our original designers would think when they look at games like The Quiet Year or When the Dark is Gone or Fall of Magic. I mean…

Breaking Down Tropes: The Avenger

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The paladin waxes on his family, their loss, and how that has left him a broken man. The knight speaks of his daughter's death and how he will stop the tyrant who killed her. The wronged talks about how she became a hunter because her wife was killed by the demon she hunts. The child has grown up to become a cop because his parents were killed and now he keeps the streets safe.

By Grabthar's hammer, they shall be avenged.

Society loves the person who's hunting for the thing that hurt them. We love a good revenge story. We eat up stories about wronged children, fridged wives, dead babies, and the poor soul left behind who takes it upon themselves to right the wrongs committed against them. Well, against those they love. We love it so much entire television shows are based around the Avenger. From Revenge to Supernatural, popular media has fully embraced the very classic revenge trope. And so too has gaming.

In any game I've played, it's perfectly normal to have som…

You Belong Here: Building Inclusive Spaces

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I'm sitting in bed working on inclusivity policies and harassment policies and community guidelines. In another document I have some ideas on how we can make Breakout even more welcoming to all gamers. As I flick from screen to screen, ensuring that all my ducks are in a row and that I'm not excluding anyone, I wonder what I should blog about. It's on my list for today and honestly, I haven't really thought much about it. I know I have topics patrons have asked me to do. And one of them was how to make an inclusive community.

At the time, I thought the question was answered by my guide to making conventions more women-friendly and inclusive. Partly, I'm not comfortable talking about how to make communities more welcoming to other minority groups because I'm not part of those minority groups. I'm a woman. I'm queer. That's all I got. Otherwise I'm as white as it comes and raised in the middle class and currently live in the lower-middle class.

A…

Game Review: Before the Storm

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Once in awhile you find a really cool game that lets you make dynamic, fascinating, faceted characters in a one shot. You leave the game completely satisfied with the experience you just had, but also craving more from the character you just portrayed. Doing it once might be a fluke, but when a game continually delivers exceptional experiences again and again, you have to own that it's one hell of a game that does one hell of a job.

Before the Storm is a freeform immersive story focused role playing game by Joanna Piancastelli and is nestled within the beautiful pages of Seven Wonders.  I hadn't heard of Seven Wonders or Before the Storm until my friend, Rach, wanted to run it for our monthly meetup. She was a little worried as it was one of those weird indie games that made people flinch a little when you said something like "there are no dice" or "there's no conflict resolution."

Of course, having heard that it was a freeform immersive rpg I was one …

Bloodied Hands: Desecration and Looting the Dead

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Qeteb unleashes baby illithids that pour out of the unknown and attach themselves to the man. He shrieks in horror as he dies slowly, his mind devoured by the tiny squishy creatures. After they finish, they disappear. Qeteb looks back as her companions finish killing the last of the assassins. Around us are several corpses, all belonging to enemies we felled to ensure they didn't inform our enemy of our arrival. The synad smiles at her friend, T'or, and laughs as they joke about how easy the assassins were to kill.

The game disrupts the scene as the DM hands one of the players the loot sheet. In game, I assume this looks like the group of us start rifling through the bodies, looking at what they have, how much money they have, and keeping what we want. I'm confident it's how I got some fancy dice and interesting bits of art. In fact, we've been doing this so long that we have an vineyard estate where we keep our favourite bits of treasure.


It's the economy of D…

One Woman Party: Everything I Do Is Political

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"What's your game about?" he says. "About monsters trying to be good people as they fight a battle against evil in a dark carnival." "Awesome!" He looks really excited. I hesitate. "It's mostly about Othering and striving to belong in society but not being able to really achieve that because you're other." "Oh. Why is it about that?" "Because I'm a woman in a man's hobby."

If I talk about sexism, I'm being political. If I'm choosing to actively not talk about sexism, I'm being political. If I talk about my experiences as a gamer, I'm being political. If I'm silent because of fear of attack, I'm being political. If I walk into a convention space and sit down at a table, I'm being political. If I'm striving to say that what I'm working on isn't political, I am being political by taking a non-political stance.

Everything I do is under examination. Everything I say abou…

Breaking Down Tropes: The Damsel in Distress

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My BDT series has been short lived and just two topics so far. The Alpha-Male and the Lone Wolf. Both of these tend to be geared more towards male stereotypes than not. Honestly that's because I find breaking apart male stereotypes way more interesting because I'm not a guy and I don't really feel the pressures of those stereotypes. That, and men based stereotypes generally have layers and aren't, well, sexist. There's usually some depth there.

Women based tropes tend to be, well, gross. But I decided, probably against my better judgement, to jump into women based tropes and see if there was anything worth salvaging. At worst, I can tear apart the trope and try to make it clear why people shouldn't be using it, at best I can find some good bits and figure out how to play around with the trope without sliding into problematic territory.

A Damsel in Distress is a woman who is used to drive story forward by getting kidnapped and thus requiring rescue. She's o…