Play report: At the Stroke of Midnight

Continuing with play reports from Big Bad Con: Friday morning in Games on Demand, I ran Meguey Baker’s At the Stroke of Midnight (Night Sky Games). The premise:

The sun sinks in the sky, bringing long shadows and a wisp of cool air. In a handful of hours it will be midnight. The veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is growing thinner with each passing moment. At midnight it will open, and those who are able to stand unshaken before the Beloved Dead will be allowed a boon. You and your friends set out for the graveyard, each eager to meet the Beloved Dead and ask a favor from those who have gone before.

It felt perfect to play in October.

System and Setup

Meguey released it three years ago; the full version which I was using is on her Patreon site, but she also released a basic free version on her Medium blog, so you can take a look.

I had scheduled it as a two-hour game, but it’s hard to gauge how long a given episode will take: you can play with 2 to 6 players and the Yahtzee-like mechanics make it difficult to guess when the end is near. As play aids, I had created a cheat sheets for the Signs; and I used my dry-erase Noteboard so we could draw the elements we created. Continue reading “Play report: At the Stroke of Midnight”

RPG a Day: A toast! To learning, travel, and adventure!

17. What’s an RPG item you have owned for a long time but not played?

I have had The Committee for the Exploration of Mysteries (Eric J. Boyd Designs) since it was first released in 2007—ten years and three days, to be exact. I had the perfect group to play this back in Seattle, and I thought it would make a wonderful back-up game to play between our various regular games, whenever nobody had anything ready to run.

Unfortunately, it sat on my shelf for a few months, then I lost my job and we had to move back to California for my new employment, and I never got to play it. It’s not by far the oldest unused item on my shelves, but it’s the one I still want to play!

By the way, even though the original cover is not my cup of tea at all (ha-ha), the inside layout is excellent. A Jubilee Edition was released later and is still available; I liked that cover better.

#RPGaDay2017

Two Minutes’ Reflection

Wading for Your Dues

All right, let’s roll up our pant cuffs and put on our rubber boots, we’re going wading in last year’s sludge.

Last year, Mark Diaz Truman posted a reflection on his company blog (Magpie Games) regarding perceived abuse between two sub-communities of gaming, focusing respectively on OSR and story games. A few days later, Mark followed up with a FAQ explaining his position in more detail.

At the time I posted my reactions to these, to the damage that resulted, and to the separate answer Mark had given me. The thing that made me blow my top at the time was this:

I’d love to talk with you more about how this is playing out Sophie. I’d also encourage us all (including me) to look at the effects 3 mo, 6 mo, and a year down the road. This week has been hard, but I believe that many of the conversations I’ve seen have the potential to blossom into something productive. That said, I hear you! And I’m eager to discuss more and listen more.

What angered me was that people who had been hurt by Mark’s posts were essentially told: “Wait another three to twelve months, maybe something good will come out of it and make the harassment your received worth my while.”  Continue reading “Two Minutes’ Reflection”

In which direction lies progress?

Autumn LeavesI have not forgotten that I promised to go back over the “Two Minutes Hate” issue for the three-month assessment of its impact onto the tabletop role-playing community, and particularly the parts of the community centering on indie and small-press games. Since I started the assessment, I have tallied responses from a variety of threads online, and discussed with and interviewed many people closely involved with and/or affected by the events.

In short, based the evidence I collated I believe that after three months (I’ll get back to this in a moment), the impacts of “Two Minutes Hate” and its follow-up FAQ have been more negative than positive, and that the negative impacts are disproportionately felt by a few people who were already on the receiving end for frequent online abuse. The post failed to clearly convey Mark’s intended message and caused harm both directly and indirectly to people singled out as examples. I see the following as key errors: Continue reading “In which direction lies progress?”

Did we see progress?

Trigger warning: Online harassment in the tabletop role-playing community.

Three-month check-in

depression_hurts_by_deadlywolfqueen-d50nfp0In late July, Mark Diaz Truman posted a reflection on his company blog (Magpie Games) about a perceived conflict in tabletop role-playing sub-communities, followed by a FAQ a few days later. I gave my own opinion back then when Mark asked, in response to my disagreement:

I’d also encourage us all (including me) to look at the effects 3 mo, 6 mo, and a year down the road.

It’s time to check in on the effects of the post after three months. Mark concluded his posts with:

I want to inspire conversation and self-reflection, and I believe that people have engaged in productive discussions both online and offline as a result of the post.

If you have been following the various conversations that Mark’s thoughts sparked, if you have some familiarity with the tabletop role-playing community and particularly with the subsets Mark focused on, OSR and story games, what if anything did you observe? For example:

  • Do you feel this has affected the way you post? If so, how?
  • Are any voices more frequently heard since these posts? Or less frequently?
  • Has the tone of community influencers changed in any relevant way?
  • Have certain frequent or prominent discussions changed in tone, style, or frequency?

If you can cite data, like Jessica Price and Jason Corley did last time, extra special thanks.


Credits: Illustration is called “Depression Hurts“, by Inkin Oddity; released under Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Who measures progress?

Context

abused-girlBrouhaha in small role-playing sub-communities, of little interest to most people but with profound impact to a few. On July 26, Mark Diaz Truman posted a reflection on his company blog (Magpie Games) regarding perceived abuse between two sub-communities of gaming, focusing respectively on OSR and story games. The comments on Magpie Games’ blog and Mark’s Google+ discussion thread numbered in the hundreds, and a myriad of additional discussions both public and private erupted. Today (July 31), Mark followed up with a FAQ explaining his position in more detail [Edit: with its own G+ thread].

I will let people slog through the discussions if they are interested but I will not provide a summary. If you know people involved you will probably form your own views; if you don’t, you probably don’t care. But I will provide my own opinions and then address an answer I received from Mark.

My take

(Adapted from comments made on various threads as well as directly to Mark.)

The original post

I love Mark’s intentions, as a community-builder and a peace-maker, but I believe his perception of the situation of the situation is incorrect on many points. In particular, I think he equates behaviours on the part of various individuals (the ones he cites in his original post) that are simply not equivalent at all. In doing so, he appeared to excuse individuals that have a long, well-documented history of online abuse while placing the victims of such abuse in a position of equal blame.

Second, conflating this with OSR versus story games is odd and confusing. The vast majority of indie/hippie/story gamers I know also play OSR games. However, of course there are  sub-communities within these small circles that are less friendly than others; but describing this as two communities at war is bemusing.

Third, I do believe that anger has a place in effecting change, and “civility” cannot be the sole, enforceable mode of discussion. Let’s be clear: for those of us who  feel invisible at times, deeper change is the goal, not fostering unity in a particular geek sub-community. Rejecting anger and its manifestation skirts too close to a tone argument for my taste.

I have a large number of geek women and non-binary people in my circles (there are more than most people realize and they are the primary targets of abusers.) I saw several privately posting their dismay at Mark’s post, which they perceived as gaslighting and support of abusers, despite Mark’s statement to the contrary. Several mentioned that they were venting privately to their select circles because they did not want to become abusers’ next target. Some were brave enough to post openly on public threads like Mark’s (my hat is off to the ones fearing but standing up!)

I also saw several public posts by known bullies and online abusers as well as their supporters crowing over this perceived vindication and use it as fuel to launch whole new attack campaigns at their favourite targets. I find it nauseating.

It’s worth checking who reports and to believe the women and minority gamers who report having been abuse targets. Again, the uncivil discourse from various parts is not equivalent. The problem is not general discourse, it’s about extreme edge cases. It’s about missing stairs.

I do appreciate Mark’s intentions and his appeal to being the best persons we can be by listening, apologizing and collaborating. I just don’t think the later is always achievable or even advisable.

The FAQ-Pology

Mark’s new post on the topic is intended to “both make some apologies and clarify [his] position.” However, as an apology it falls short of the benchmarks; one stalwart commenter pointed out that it fails to provide:

1. A sincere expression of regret.
2. An explanation of the circumstances that led to the mistake.
3. An explanation of how you’re going to try to not do the thing in the future.

After looking at the after-effects for the better part of a week, I believe Mark’s posts have caused more harm than good to the gaming community(ies) and particularly, as many have pointed out, sent the usual targets ducking for cover rather than providing them with support. When I express my sadness at this step backward, Mark answered:

I’d love to talk with you more about how this is playing out Sophie. I’d also encourage us all (including me) to look at the effects 3 mo, 6 mo, and a year down the road. This week has been hard, but I believe that many of the conversations I’ve seen have the potential to blossom into something productive. That said, I hear you! And I’m eager to discuss more and listen more.

And this is what moved me from sadness to anger.

Let me explain again what I’ve been seeing:

  • An appeal to polite conversation that equates the behaviours of victims and their known online abusers.
  • One-sided calling out of flimsy examples versus complete silence on long-documented bad behaviours.
  • Calling out of victims.
  • Proposal for action that is vague and non-measurable compared to the specific call-outs.
  • Agreement with the sentiments overwhelmingly from white males.
  • Significant disagreement from cis and trans women, non-binary people, and other marginalized groups.
  • Renewed abuse from the original bad actors, directed at their usual targets.
  • An apology that boils down to “I wish I’d said it more nicely.”
  • An invitation to let this ride for three, six, or twelve months and check back if things have improved.

Notice the problem? The same people always on the receiving end of the abuse are told to be civil for a while more, endure the abuse longer, and hope the conversations will “blossom into something productive.”

No.

It doesn’t work that way. No progress can be made this way because the pressure has been put entirely on the victims. Sure, they’re already disappearing from the public conversation and retreating in their makeshift safe spaces when they can. In three, six or twelve months the conversation will surely be more harmonious without their voices.

And how are we to measure progress in this blossoming? On one end, I can count participants, threads and comments. We already have some demographic glimpses from early counts by commenters. We have previously documented abuse we can compare to. These are metrics. On the other side, how will we assess progress? Will it be by this lack of participation from the marginalized voices?

I’m sorry, Mark and the rest of the great publishing team at Magpie Games. While I do want to work for a friendly, welcoming, civil community of gamers, I must stand with those whose voices are being silenced again.

Playtest review: Danger Patrol!

[Cross-posted to Emerald City Gamefest.]

Last night we tried the beta playtest version of Danger Patrol.  Created by Seattle game designer John  Harper, Danger Patrol is a quick-start role-playing game where players take the roles of pulp science-fiction heroes.  Character creation takes only a few minutes and play is quick and fairly simple, revolving around eJohn Harlements of danger added on-the-fly by the players and game master.  This is a great match for the Emerald City Gamefest Thursday Night Open Game sessions or a pick-up game among friends.

Style

The game is still in beta testing so there is no lavish production.  It’s a neatly laid-out PDF document with a ’30s science-fiction look, but the only illustrations are icons, examples of use of dice, markers, etc., and a head shots of “Professor Bradbury” and “Danger Cadet Billy”, the narrators (or the Clippies) of the game, answering the questions expected from readers.

The writing is clear and kept short, and the information is well organized for quick reference.  There are many useful checklists and cheat sheets, such as the list of the “stuff you need” to play (what types of dice and how many, markers, tokens, etc.), the step-by-step character creation process, the scene sequence, the “GM jobs and threat move” page, the list of “heroic actions”, the rules summaries, etc.

Continue reading “Playtest review: Danger Patrol!”

Review: Seven Leagues

(Cross-posted to RPG.net and Emerald City Gamefest.)

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the PDF version of this game from the author and publisher, though I liked it enough to buy a print copy out of pocket.

Malcontent Games’ Seven Leagues is a charming, streamlined role-playing game intended to emulate fairy tales.

Continue reading “Review: Seven Leagues”