Tags: rpg


Eclipse Phase Character Diary: 1

Well... that was an abrupt introduction to this new century and to the new nature of mankind. While we're based in the asteroid belt we spent most of our time on Mars, Titan and an O'Neill platform. This whole 'swapping bodies' thing doesn't sit too well with me and, like the AI in our shuttlecraft, I bemoan the lack of decent in-system travel. The bodyshock of swapping bodies is not something I particularly care for. I have a feeling I'm going to have to invest in a series of bodies around the solar system - and beyond - along a standard model, to reduce my bodyshock. I may well split my personality apart and reintegrate periodically. There's just too much to this new world that I want to see, to do, to explore. The cheaper bodies also lack sensation, but a cheap solution to that is the tawdry 'pornobots' or 'pleasure pods' they have which at least come with a good sensory suite.
My unease at transporting my conciousness around - honestly I still wonder if all this is just residual electrical activity in my vitrified brain - has been made worse by our first investigation into 'ego-napping'. If a consciousness can be kidnapped, torn apart, retooled and used to 'patch' other, damaged conciousnesses, I'm not especially keen on making my consciousness vulnerable by beaming it left, right, up, down or wherever else.
This is also going to sound odd... but investigating a glorified kidnapping and 'organlegging' operation, however rewarding in terms of reputation and the goodwill of the anti-corp Barsoomians, seems a trifle... ordinary, when the other thing on our investigative radar is so much bigger. A stealthed wormhole gate, powered by a dangerous - and apparently massless - miniature protostar. That sounds far, far more exotic and interesting but then, perhaps, that's why the others seem reluctant to investigate it.
I'm not sure I'm cut out for this work, countering 'existential threats' (shouldn't that be eschatological threats?). I'm really not good in a fight and my contributions to the danger we've faced have been shooting a 'radio' and deliberately falling down the stairs. Not my classiest moment. Still, we put paid to the 'Asynch' who was behind the ego-nappings (words cannot express how disappointed I am to find out that Uri Gellar's nonsense has some sort of actual basis) and I have discovered that my knowledge, however patchy, of Pre-Fall Earth and 20th/21st Century pop culture is greatly valued. I have a feeling it's going to make me something of a minor celebrity, especially if I keep mingling with artists.

After being confined to the Earth for my lifetime it's strange how, already, being limited to the asteroid belt, to the solar system, feels confining.
Jon Darrow, signing off.

Eclipse Phase Character Diary

My name is Jon Darrow.

I used to write science-fiction stories during that tricky period when reality was out-accelerating our imagination. As fast as we could come up with concepts and applications of bleeding-edge science engineers and scientists would conquer them and move on. It was a dying form of fiction but a growing form of speculation. We had become weathermen, economists, prognosticists, shaman even. Trying to navigate the waters of possibility that stretched before us and deal with the social issues before they came along.

I lead a good life. I sold a lot of books. I became something of an internet guru. I guested at conventions, I consulted on social and technology issues, films and games were made of my books and I made a pile of money. I never married, I don't know what happened to the children I had from the relationships I had. I grew old and fat, my indulgences caught up with me and eventually there was no option left but to die.
In a wild throw of the dice, a gamble on the future, I paid good money to have my head cut off and frozen with cutting edge technology. Hedging against the idea that someone would resurrect me in the future.
I'm told my head was taken and interred in a facility on The Moon.
I'm told that it wasn't 'economically viable' to resurrect me for some time and then 'The Fall' happened. So I languished. A dead severed head in a pool of liquid nitrogen for... well, nobody really knows how long.
Then I woke up in the future.
I woke up young and virile, bright eyed and bushy tailed into one of my novels.
The future is strange and terrible and beautiful, it is terrifying and exciting, it is not - quite - what we imagined. It is neither dystopian nor utopian. We have not overcome our social ills, we are still human - and others - we just have greater capability.
Firewall tell me that they value me for my outlook, my experience in extrapolation. They worked out who I was from fragmentary records and saw fit to bring me back. I am not about to argue. I'm a temporal tourist here and they're paying my way. If I can help, then I can 'stay' longer and I can experience more and even the horrors make me smile.
In my time I explored the universe from a computer in my office. Now the universe is really there to be explored.
I'll take it.

Balls and Chains (Mostly balls)

One of the greatest teachers I ever had was Mr Kettle, he was an English teacher of fierce determination who managed, through sheer force of enthusiasm and his classroom antics, to engage even the brutish dunces with the joy of the English language. He used to let us play RPGs in his classroom at lunchtime and acknowledged that they were great for our English skills - amongst others.

Mr Kettle died of an aneurism a few years after I left school, just as the internet was starting to come into its own and sometimes I wonder if I'm headed for the same fate when I read the latest bout of nerd-rage, especially when it comes to gaming nerd-rage and particularly when it comes to some of the idiocy around the English language and gamer insecurity around women.

This latest argument - and its spin-offs - is one such aneurism-inducing event.

This one's about GenCon's non-gamer havens, or Spousal Activities (SPA) which is a nice idea to give non-gamers who have been dragged along to the conventions by their better half, something to do while their significant other is killing things and taking their stuff and having multiple nerdgasms.

So far so good, right? Providing a useful service, helping the convention-goers maintain marital harmony and broadening the appeal and inclusiveness of the con. But wait, what's the icon that they use to advertise SPA in the guidebook?:

Oh, a ball and chain, a traditional term for the other half of a relationship and thematically appropriate for a hobby that invokes dungeons a lot. So where's the problem? Oh... apparently it's sexist? It's a horrible thing to do? It insults and marginalises women and makes the hobby look more male-oriented and discriminatory than it is?

Unfortunately, in comments HERE

It emerged that this programme and its icon has been used for some 5 years, without incident, was chosen by women for an event primarily run by women and the SPA events are for anyone and include both gamer widows and gamer widowers. So why such a fuss? Why is gender such a massive issue for gamers? It's not like this nerd-rage over nothing is the first incident and this brings me back to my English teacher.

You may or may not have noticed but a lot of gaming books deal very clumsily indeed with pronouns. You'll find books that only refer to 'she'. You'll find books that alternate between 'he' and 'she' and you'll find other sorts of peculiarities that I'm unaware of having any real purchase in publications beyond the more extreme end of feminist literature (examples such as hirstory for history and other ridiculousness).

Now, I'm not attacking political correctness, the intent there is good, but the idea of deliberately changing language in order to promote a particular agenda is rather Orwellian rather than PC. That's not political correctness - seeking to minimise offence -that's attempting to control.

The irony is particularly thick when it comes to the linguistic issue and I've banged on about this before. Defaulting to 'he' does not indicate a presumption of maleness on the part of the person being described, 'he', like the term 'mankind' refers to humanity as a whole, regardless of gender. This is because we've actually LOST the particular terms that referred to males. 'Man' - for example - used to be prefixed by 'wer' or 'wyf' to indicate gender. When you use the term 'he', unqualified by context, you're being linguistically inclusive compared to when you use the term 'she' when you are, specifically, referring to female. Then you're being exclusionary.

1. 'A first time author can expect to have his manuscript repeatedly rejected.'
2. 'A first time author can expect to have her manuscript repeatedly rejected.'
3. 'As a first time author, Alex found that his manuscript was repeatedly rejected.'

In number 1 there's no hint as to the gender being talked about, it's speaking generally.
In number 2 it's specifically talking about a woman.
In number 3, despite the gender neutral name, we can gather from context and phrasing that it's talking about a specific man. Changing he to she would swap this around.

So, why do we do this to ourselves? Is the sight of a 'she' improperly placed throughout an RPG book suddenly going to make a neophyte gamer out of Jane Doe? Is it fuck, it's linguistically incorrect and, frankly, patronising I even find it a little sinister, which I'll go into in a minute. This kind of linguistic mangling is our equivalent of the pink Nintendo DS.
Why is gaming so neurotic and insecure about women? Face it, huge parts of the hobby are not and never will be appealing to women. It is a classically obsessional, largely male-appealing blend of adolescent power fantasy, fun with maths and borderline aspergers. You're not going to turn the appeal of the game around by fucking up the language in some misguided and erroneous attempt to be inclusive. If you're genuinely serious about reaching out to female gamers you need to pull a game-changer like the Wii or the DS (minus the patronising pink). There's plenty in RPGs that can appeal to women and has in the past. White Wolf pulled it off with V:tm and their LARP organisation, but the heyday of that is behind us. If you want to appeal to women more play to those strengths, the storylines, the romance, the characterisation, the whimsy. Yes these are stereotypes but they do exist for a reason and if past experience is anything to go by, it's what works.

What this makes me think of is a sort of hive-mind gamer version of the rather creepy geek dating fallacies, I can't find the exact link I'm thinking of, but THIS is close.

Yes, we want more women to be into gaming partly because we think gaming is awesome but, let's be honest here, a lot more of it is in wanting to increase the dating pool for dysfunctional nerds. If only we can get more women gaming they'll UNDERSTAND and then they might let me touch their boobies! All this linguistic abuse and special treatment isn't treating women equally or appealing to them, it's being patronising and stupid and it's as creepy as being the 'nice guy', lingering around being a 'good friend' in the hopes that you'll eventually get into a girl's pants.

In getting involved in some of these arguments the accusations have come thick and fast that, in defending proper English or pointing out the fallacies in these arguments, that you're somehow coming from a position of 'privilege' as though that somehow invalidates a truthful argument or a fact even if it were true.

I had a similar spat over a tweet I made to promote Boobquake (no such outrage about that) because I INCLUDED post-op transexuals 'Girls, ladies, women, post-op transexuals, lend me your boobs!'. Somehow, I'm not entirely sure how, someone took that as being exclusionary and insisted that post-op transsexuals ARE women. Sorry, but no, you might be legally women and you deserve to be treated as such, but the tweet was inclusive, by including them and no matter how much plastic surgery and hormone therapy you get, your chromosomes - the things which actually determine gender - aren't going to change. You're genetically male. Facts are SO inconvenient...

It seems people everywhere are looking for reasons to get upset and insulted and are getting thinner and thinner skinned, which is quite peculiar given the rough-and-tumble of the internet.

So, let's wrap up...
  1. If you think 'he' is excluding people, you don't understand the English language. If you must pick something neutral it's not going to be crowbarring 'she' in there. The consensus appears to be that the plural is the gender neutral way to go about writing, so you use 'they' instead of either.
  2. Just because you're offended, particularly by something genuinely innocuous, doesn't mean that everyone else is, or that they should be. You might only be offended because you're ignorant or hypersensitive. Getting offended on other, imaginary, people's behalf is also a bit strange.
  3. The ball and chain thing is meaningless and it's pure White Knight Syndrome to go charging in half-cocked on this. 'Look at me! See how sensitive, caring and progressive I am! Please fuck me!'. That it's run, approved and chosen by women blows away your argument. Ironically a little investigation has turned up that 'Ball and chain' these days can be used for either partner. It's lighthearted joshing and secure people with a sense of humour can deal with that.
  4. Just because you're offended doesn't mean other people are and doesn't mean something is offensive. A TV programme can attracts millions of viewers but 10 complaints is often enough to get it apologised for and withdrawn. I'm sure we can all agree that this is ridiculous and this is NO DIFFERENT.
  5. You're not going to get more 'chicks in gaming' by being creepy or treating women as some special, strange, alien creature that must be appeased with symbolic, self-deriding changes.

Stingy whingey

Tabletop gamers seem to be a curious breed when it comes to selling by unconventional means. You can sell gamers something directly and by and large we're ahead of the curve technology wise, especially when it comes to the adoption of electronic publishing, try something a little more unconventional though and things break down.
  • Donationware doesn't seem to work, you release something for free and ask for donations or hook up a 'donate' button and pretty much nobody ever does. They'll happily take what you offer, but you'll be lucky to see even a single return, even on thousands and thousands of 'sales'.
  • Shareware doesn't seem to be a model that can work particularly well, but the closest example is probably the practice of offering preview/quickstart sets cheap or free to get people's attention. I can't say that's made a noticable difference in the couple of cases I've done anything along those lines but White Wolf did it a bit more and for several games, so you'd have to ask them if it really worked.
  • Freemium model seems to be one that could work, giving away the base game for free and then charging for extensions, but in gaming you only really NEED the main book and can make up the rest yourself. In MMORPGs etc it works because you need the item/expansion to keep playing and to be competetive. I'd be interested to see how Eclipse Phase is doing.
  • Subscription ideas were something I bandied around a few years back but nobody really took seriously. DDI appears to be working, sort of, though I only think I know one gamer who actually has one. Dungeonaday seems to be rattling on but is the potential subscription base big enough to support one site along these lines or any more? I'm not sure that it does.
  • Hostageware does seem to work, to an extent, there's been a few releases put out on that basis and I met my target in terms of social media dissemination. It might be worth trying on a monetary basis some time, but I think you really need to be a 'name' in order to get enough enthusiasm for your product.
We need to innovate, find new and effective ways of supporting gaming 'auteurs' and small companies and the other way around finding ways to provide useful services to gamers and effective ways of providing value for money, but unless we can overcome some of these payment difficulties and people's seeming conservatism when it comes to alternative finance models, we're kinda stuck.

Artist Appreciation

The Outlaw Press shenanigans are still ONGOING and I think, given that he took the name of the company a little too seriously we can all be thankful it wasn't called Buggery Press - though it might as well have been given how they've treated some people. A brief recap for people who haven't kept up on this is that Outlaw Press have thieved a huge amount of artwork from all sorts of sources and used it in their products without permission and without the artists getting a cent. There's also implications that whole adventures and chunks of writing have been ripped off as well.

Writers get ripped off a lot as well, though not quite so blatantly as this usually (the worst cases are usually 'payment on publication' for products that never get published. I feel a great deal of sympathy for the artists ripped off in this case due to getting screwed around myself a few times.

I always try to treat the artists that do work for me as well as I can. I can't afford even half as much art as I'd like and I try to make things up to the artists that do, do work for me by allowing them to keep rights, paying them in advance and other things to show mutual respect as creators. When someone like this steps in and rips people off, using fabulous art without paying for it, small publishers like me are made to look like chumps and small press as a whole gets painted with a bad brush.

So I just want to put a shout of appreciation out to the hard working, and low paid, artists out there who don't deserve to get treated so badly. In particular the artists I've worked with the most:
  • DarkZel
  • Brad McDevitt
  • Toby Gregory
  • Gavin Hargest
  • Raven Morrison
Much love and appreciation and I pledge to keep treating 'my' artists right, to make up for the arseholes out there ripping people off. To pay on time, or even in advance to pay what I can afford to, to be flexible and to give you guys as much creative leeway as I'm capable of giving, so the jobs for me are fun, engaging and at least profitable enough to bother with!

No, I don't think I'll be buying WFRP 3.0

I like RPGs and I like Fantasy Flight Games' board games like Descent and Arkham Horror so I'm clearly in their target demographic for WFRP 3rd edition, right?

Well, I still don't see myself getting it. While I'm willing to drop £30 to £40 on a game idea that interests me - even if I'm never going to play it - I can't justify that for this.
  • It's not a system I can produce material for
  • Nor is it one fans are going to have an easy time producing home grown material for.
  • It's big and bulky - and fiddly - which means transporting it around isn't going to be easy and it's likely to lose components and fall apart.
  • Speciality dice means people can't use their own dice and I've still not managed to purchase any spare descent dice.
  • All the fiddly bits take up table space, we don't usually play around a table and don't like to...
  • ...not to mention for people who DO play around a table, all these fiddly bits take up valuable battle-board/miniature space.
  • It was already expensive, but now we find out that we in the UK will be effectively paying $30 more than the US people are.

Usually a positive argument for RPGs over computer games is that they offer better value for money. WFRP 3rd is going to cost about as much as two console games, which for CRPGs you can get up to 80 hours of play out of each, so WFRP would have to offer 160 hours of gaming goodness to represent equal value.

I don't see that happening before something goes missing or gets broken and I don't see supplements being particularly quickly released, or affordable either. I'm curious of course and I'd like to get a look at a copy, but I'm not £80 curious.

Yay and, indeed, woo.

Despite various, costly, plumbing disasters I've picked up two very nice, very big jobs lately. One is for Axe Initiative and the other for Socialgears. You can also expect to see a couple of articles by me in Polymancer Magazine someday soon and the glacial pace of Cubicle7 releases should, hopefully, result in some of the work I did for them back in the pre-Cambrian era coming to light as well. Which will be very nice!

Working for Socialgears is a bit of a break for me, the pay's reasonable but it's a lot of hard work. It could lead into greater things though. They seem impressed by my ideas and it could be an in for me into working more on the world building, lore and quests of more CRPGs. Browser games are huge and, from there, I may get other opportunities. To make sure I get a proper grasp of what they're doing and their game as it stands - which is why I'll be working on improving - I'd appreciate it if people could help me out with it. Their app currently runs on Facebook and you can join it HERE, which will make you part of my adventuring party. If you also want to join clan 'Postmortem' you'll get a nice joining bonus and it'll help me explore their current iteration of the game from a user standpoint and design and write more intelligently for it.