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Showing posts from 2017

Who's To Blame: Toxic People vs Toxic Men

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As I sat on a roundtable talking about removing toxicity in gaming, a lot of the topic kept swinging back to men in the community. Specifically, straight white men. I'm the first in line to do a call in with a toxic dude or a dude exhibiting toxic behaviour. I'm also regularly concerned when I'm at a table with all dudes, or when I'm at a con with mostly dudes, or when I'm in a space with only dudes. Whether these men have done anything to me or not doesn't matter, it's the memories I have of other men who have.

Whether it's the threats I've received, the doxxing, the harassing, the stalking, or the straight up sexual harassment, I've received enough problems from men in the community that I don't need more. I don't need to blog and podcast about problems in the community that often are committed by men. But I do it in hopes that our communities will get better and do better and ultimately be better. It opens the door to a lot of issues…

How You Can Help: Accountability and the Lack Thereof

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Decompressing after a convention can be hella hard. We're combating con drop and con crud and just that overall sense of "fuck that was good" or "shit that was horrible" and unpacking everything around it. We've ben surrounded by our people for several days, had some intense experiences, and then had to return to the mundanity of our joe jobs. Gaming conventions are a weird space of dreams and fears all rolled in to one. If it's a good con, you'll have a good experience and the safe space you're in won't be invaded.

But what happens when that safe space is invaded? What do you do when you're sitting at a convention shaking after a man got aggressive with you and is now doing everything in his power to ruin your reputation? What do you do when the con you've loved and support for over a decade has a token woman on panels and when that's called out, stays silent as you take the blame even though you had nothing to do with it? What…

Finding Impact: Empathy and Exploring Lives

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I spent a lot of time at Gen Con going to panels about inclusivity and making our community better. I learned a lot. I listened. I asked questions when things got derailed in an attempt to bring them back on focus. I asked questions with stuff I was struggling with personally. If there's one message I took away from the con, after playing Psi-Run and the Watch and Love in the Time of Seid I came to some interesting conclusions about my gaming experiences.

At first I thought my conclusion was that men can't share a table very well. Even when we were playing games about women's experiences, or men were playing women, they still dominated the table and the women had less speaking space over all. It annoyed me, even though I loved the people I was playing with. They are good friends. I didn't really play with strangers during Gen Con, but I did notice the way gender dynamics played into how much each person spoke at the table.

As I sat, listening to an amazingly diverse g…

Game Hack: Writing Toronto for Urban Shadows

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I run a lot of games set in Toronto. It's my city. I love it. I hate it. I live in it. I've been here for a lucky 13 years, probably more now, and it's always one of my favourite places to run games. Toronto is unique in so many ways, and yet feels the same as any other metropolitan city at first glance. Whether it's because it's tucked away in Canada, or because all Torontonians believe themselves at the centre of the Canadian universe, or both, it isn't clear. But what is clear is that Toronto provides an excellent location in any urban game.

Running a game set in Toronto, like any game set in a place you're not from, will require you to do some research. Like many major cities, Toronto is home to dozens of neighbourhoods. Each has its own unique vibe, purpose, and subculture. Hell, someone even drew the neighbourhoods of Toronto and assigned magical creatures to them. Whether it's post-apocalyptic Toronto or urban fantasy Toronto or Victorian Toront…

Off the Beaten Path: 3 Little Games

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Between conventions, retreats, hang outs, meetup, and monthly events, one of my favourite things to do with my friends is try out weird little games. It's how I end up playing things like Lost in the Rain or Slayers or Before the Storm. At every turn, whenever I hear someone mention the words "it's this weird little game" I'm instantly listening and usually buying just moments later. I love one shots and I love intense experiences. So far, I've found the best way to get that in the short term is these tiny little games.

What makes a great little game? The same things that inspire any good game: it hits the notes it promises and hits them hard plus it's easy to play and grok. When I'm playing these games, I'm looking for how many hiccups there are on the way, how good it is at pulling emotional feedback, and how much work it is for me as a gm or a player. To me, little games should be pretty fast to pick up and play. There shouldn't be a tonne …

Absolute Power: Playing Oppressed as the Oppressor

If you don't know, I recently went on a WWII Poland and East Germany tour. It was unsettling, horrifying, impressive, incredible, and deeply upsetting. I don't have words to describe some of the things I heard, saw, experienced, or felt. I only saw echoes of a past I couldn't comprehend. I was hearing stories and seeing scars I would never have. This wasn't my past. I could listen and bear witness but I could not understand. I could stare at the wall of hair, the piles of shoes and glasses, and walk through the gas chambers into the crematorium and still not understand.

The world is inherently full of horrific things. Our history as a species is bloody. It is full of corrupted power, politics, war, and death. It has mass killings, starvations, genocides, chemical warfare, biological weapons, conspiracies, vast political lies, and bloated bodies. Some of us have benefited directly from this world. We sit in our homes and complain about how slow our internet is or how ex…

Let's Be Bad Guys: Playing the Villain

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Villains are the classic heart of a good story. As much as we love to say the heroes are the beating heart, it comes down to how they respond to the world around them and how the villain of the story is maneuvering. The heart felt moments, the beautiful moments, the breathtaking action sequences happen on screen for your heroes. But behind all these dynamic, flawed, beautiful heroes is the villain, classically twirling his moustache and spouting out his secret plans for the viewer.

In gaming though, we don't really give screen time to our villains. In fact, we make a lot of effort to hide what our villains are doing. In Trad games, our villains are the classical types, whose plots are laid out like breadcrumbs for the heroes to follow. In many story games, the villains aren't anymore grey than they are traditionally. Except sometimes there aren't villains. There's just some people who can be bad guys if you piss them off.
But in that transition from trad to story, how…