Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Why I Create

When I started college, I had dreams of jumping feet first into working for a sci-fi/fantasy magazine along the lines of Analog or Starlog and then possibly moving into game design and writing. When I naively raised questions about getting into the profession on Usenet, a number of people were quick to tell me I wouldn't be making big money, not even steady money at that, if I went freelance. Disappointed, I quietly seethed, posted a few desultory flames, and sulked a bit before reformulating my plans for the future.

My naivete faded those next four years, but I remained hopeful that I would break into the industry and I would live my dream. As graduation neared, I weighed the options and knew that I had to have steady work in order to keep a roof over my head and a shirt on my back. So, I decided that I would work as a newspaper reporter and do my SF and RPG writing on the side. At that time I was already a member of Pete Maranci's amateur publishing association (APA) Interregnum. (Writer's Note: My first 'zine, Tales from the Electric Underground appeared in IR #5 and ran semi-regularly. After a while - somewhere between IR #31 and IR #35, the online archive for the APA is incomplete - I rebooted the 'zine and changed the title to The Chrome Libram; that 'zine lasted three issues and I left the APA in 2000 as it didn't feel the same without Pete at the helm.)

In 2009, before the luster of being a third party publisher for Traveller and an award-winning writer wore off, I envisioned my creations - and myself - being very popular. Over the past seven years, various events and individuals - some chronicled here, others not -  have made me reconsider the so-called "importance" of being popular, let alone being highly visible and well-known in the industry.

I can hear some of you saying, "But, don't you want to be successful?" Yes - who doesn't want to be successful? In a way, it boils down to defining what success means to oneself. Having lived as a small fish in a small pond before moving on to be a small fish in several bigger ponds, and dealing with people jealous of the successes I've had in life, I've learned that it isn't always good to be popular or visible. The politics of the Hugos, ENnies, and Origins awards, as well as the recurring dramatic performances of the Outrage Brigade, have reinforced that lesson. In short, it has shown me that it's better - for me, at least - to create things I like and can be proud of.

Unlike my younger self, I now like - no, I relish - the idea of some, if not all, of my works being hidden gems that someone finds unexpectedly. My products may not be groundbreaking or innovative by some peoples' standards, but I do quality work and creating something and doing it well makes me happy. If they sell well and become popular, so be it; if not, well, it's a learning experience.

Winning an award like a Hugo or an ENnie - or even just a nomination - would be nice, but to be honest, at this stage I'd rather just do what I like and do best. I'll leave the popularity contests to those who can weather it all the best. That being said, I have a lot of ideas to work on and more coming into focus every day. It's time I got to work.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Grand Theft Starship

It's rare any more that I read or collect comics. A book has to be something that stands out to me from amidst the sea of endless licensed series and nigh-continual DC/Marvel reboots and retcons. It's gotten to the point that the last Star Wars comic I read was Dark Horse's final series, which was cut short by Marvel getting the license back. (Cranky Old Writer's Note #1: What's that you say? You don't remember Marvel ever having the Star Wars license? Yep, they  ran with it for better, and well, not so great, from 1977 to 1986.)

In addition, not only do the art and story have to impress me, they have to be worthy of the current price of comic books. (Cranky Old Writer's Note #2: When I started collecting Star Wars comics at the age of 7 - with issue #49 - the comics had already gone up from their cover price of 35 CENTS in 1977 to 50 cents in 1981. By the time I started collecting comics in general - in 1991 - starting with Dark Empire, the price was $2.95 a pop.)

So enough with me waxing nostalgic for the days of lower prices - let's get to the review!

(L-R) Retailer cover by Marcus To, variant retailer covers by Tula Lotay and Nimit Malavia, respectively, ECCC variant cover by Jorge Corona.

Product: Joyride #1 of 4 
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Writer(s): Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly
Artist(s): Marcus To, Tula Lotay and Nimit Malavia (retailer variant covers), Jorge Corona (Emerald City Comic Con variant cover)
Colorist: Irma Kniivila, Jeremy Lawson (Emerald City Comic Con variant cover)
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Price: $3.99 (US)
Page Count: 26, including ads and front and back inside covers

I discovered Joyride in a blurb from io9 in my Facebook newsfeed. Intrigued, I read more and made a point to see if one of my local comic shops would have it since payday was coming up. Having become accustomed to a lot of sci-fi being a rehash of dystopian worlds with evil corporations and the like, I was a bit unsure about this book on all levels. However, after reading it, I found it to be a breath of fresh air that took me back to my youth, reading DC's Atari Force and Spanner's Galaxy.

Anybody remember these two series? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

The story starts in a non-specific future era. Humankind has become xenophobic and isolationist to the point of being governed by an Orwellian fascist-nanny state - the World Government Alliance. Earth is protected from the evil influences and predations of aliens by way of the "Safesky", a massive force-screen shell constructed to keep "them" out and "us" in. In addition, the fascists have a huge mass driver aimed at the Earth. Whenever "aberrants" or "aberrations" (those not practicing the proscribed social values and mores) are found, the mass driver shells their location, presumably causing damage on a massive scale.

In this husk of a society we find our young protagonists, Dewydd Abderezai and Uma Akkolyte. Uma is a free spirited, budding smuggler who works hard to bring herself and her friend Dewydd contraband goods - like sunglasses and unapproved footwear; Dewydd is a hotshot technician who works somewhere on the moon. The two meet atop one of their home city's skyscrapers to discuss their plans to infiltrate the lunar base where Dewydd works and rendezvous with someone Uma has secretly contacted to get them away from Earth and its oppressive (and depressing) situation.

Dewydd manages to sneak a disguised Uma into the mass driver base and the two make for the rendezvous point in a moon buggy that looks more like a souped-up hot rod than anything Buzz Aldrin drove. But just before they get away, a third player enters the story. Private First Class Catrin Cosanova, the child of a high-ranking couple in the government, has been assigned to work as security, "...guarding a door that never opens, in a part of the base that is used for exactly nothing."

Cosanova's prospects brighten, however, when she notices two spacesuits are missing. Spying the errant couple making a run for the Tsiolkovsky Crater, she disobeys the command center's orders and gives chase in her own flight-enabled suit. An accident occurs when she tries to make the collar. After exchanging pleasantries - of a sort - Uma's contact shows up in a massive starship. The trio are quickly brought aboard and meet their benefactor. To avoid giving any spoilers, let's just say at that point things don't just go sideways for our heroes - they go in several directions at once.

Earlier I said I was initially unsure of this book on all levels - that's no lie. Despite possessing a small shred of idealism, I've become very cynical over the years, especially when it comes to science fiction comics. I've seen a number of independent books that ranged from so-so to awful in either art or story/dialogue, or both. As a result of that cynicism, I've been longing for something in science fiction comics with a bright spot bigger than a faint pinprick.

Joyride's first issue is a pleasant surprise. The world portrayed in the book is almost like a dystopian alternate version of the Atari Force universe. Instead of having a government out to expand humanity's frontiers, we have a government hellbent on protecting humankind from itself and everything else - at any cost. Contrasted against this we have Uma and Dewydd's youthful energy and spirit as well as Catrin's fledgling wonder at the universe that's been revealed to her.

The artwork, layout - even the lettering for the alien's language - hit me right in the nostalgia center of my heart as they have the same style as that of the old Atari Force comics. (Cranky Old Writer's Note #3: Seriously, compare the design of the alien space ship to Scanner One.) The character dialogue, while not the frontier wit of Firefly/Serenity's Mal Reynolds ("...if your hand touches metal, I swear by my pretty floral bonnet I will end you.") or the star-noir thoughts of Cowboy Bebop's Spike Spiegel ("I'm not going there to die. I'm going there to find out if I'm really alive."), has its own charm. Uma's barbs provide some sting opposite Catrin's own state-programmed double-speak and propaganda. The monologue given by Uma's alien contact hearkens back to some of the alien dialogue in Spanner's Galaxy.

If you're a child of the 80s and remember stuff like Atari Force and Spanner's Galaxy, or, if you're looking for something just a bit different and more hopeful than the standard dystopian fare in sci-fi, you would definitely do well to pick this book up. I'm glad I did.

Friday, April 22, 2016

For Love of the Game?

Yesterday, hidden among people mourning the death of Prince, I found a surprising and troubling tidbit in my Facebook newsfeed. Apparently, a number of judges for Wizards of the Coast's Magic: The Gathering CCG have filed suit against the company, claiming they are unpaid employees. You can find the filing for the lawsuit here, and Wizards of the Coast's response to it here. While I'm not a lawyer, I was an intern for a newspaper and a comic book/game shop in my past life as a journalist (it's been so long ago that I don't remember if I was paid for either one or not, so don't ask), and I did serve as a game demonstrator for a game company at the turn of the century (2001 or thereabouts, not 1901, you young whippersnappers).

From what I understand of the case, its primary foundation is being laid on the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (the law which gave us the 40-hour work week and all the other rights we enjoy here as workers in the U.S.) and a number of California state laws regarding labor and professions. In short, the plaintiffs feel they were not paid for their time, overtime, missed meal and bathroom breaks, etc. If you've paid attention to the general media in the past few years, you'll also see that this whole affair has some (but not all) of its roots in the debate over unpaid interns working for (and being overworked by) for-profit companies.

The rules for unpaid interns and trainees in California - according to the Nelson Law Group and attorney David Grey - show that it's a literal minefield for any for-profit company to have unpaid interns and/or "trainees" in their ranks. Overall, the federal and state guidelines governing non-paying internships require that:
  1. An intern cannot take the place of any regular employee.
  2. There is no promise of a job for the intern at the end of the internship.
  3. Both parties (employer and the intern) understand that the intern is not entitled to payment or benefits during the internship.
  4. The intern must receive training from the company; that training must occur even if it slows or otherwise impedes the organization's work.
  5. The intern must get hands-on experience with the organization's processes and equipment.
  6. The training is primarily for the benefit of the intern, not the company.
 While I'm not a lawyer, it's pretty clear to me that Wizards has more legal standing in this case than the plaintiffs. Let's take a look at each point.

An intern cannot take the place of any regular employee - That's self-explanatory. Judges for any organized play program are not going to be replacing anybody in the corporate hierarchy of the game company. They're volunteers who are doing this out of love for the game, and perhaps for any added incentives provided by the company.

There's no promise of a job - Again, self-explanatory. You might be an awesome judge for your local MtG tourneys, but that doesn't necessarily equate into being an awesome designer, proofreader, layout composer, etc. Nobody is promised employment with Wizards of the Coast simply by being an MtG or other organized play judge.

Both parties (employer and intern) understand the intern isn't entitled to benefits or pay - I believe it's always been stipulated in agreements between OP judges and game companies that there is no legal, binding agreement between the company and judge about monetary pay or benefits (such as health insurance). As such, there's no way the plaintiffs are going to get paid.

Training - Training for organized play judges usually comes in the form of documents, which the judges are required to read and understand in addition to the rules of the game and any expansions. With MtG judges, there are tests administered by judges certified to be testers in order to be initially certified as well as to advance in levels through the program. That training is to give the judges a sound foundation in adjudicating tournaments on various levels and regulating the players and their fellow judges. In this case, the benefits to the company are tangential.

Most people in both the gaming hobby and industry know that unless you've got a blockbuster (which MtG quickly became) and possibly the backing of a larger corporation (which WotC has through Hasbro) you're not going to be making a whole lot of money in the game industry. Aside from the costs for advertising, art, layout, editing, printing, and distribution, you're dealing with a niche market - a small fraction of the general population, either locally or globally. Paying for the services of professional judges (or gamemasters, for that matter) is just not feasible. Game companies, especially those in niche markets like wargames, RPGs, boardgames, and collectible card games learned early on that the best way to promote was by word of mouth in addition to providing incentives for their fans to promote their products.

That's not to say that those who volunteer for organized play or promotional programs are hapless, underappreciated cogs in the corporate machine. Dungeon Masters for the Role-Playing Game Association (RPGA) received a number of cool bennies and items over the years in recognition of their service - I still drool over the giant "Fist of Emirikol" d20 that one of my friends acquired by being a Herald-level DM during D&D's third edition years. I also know that agents for Double Exposure's Envoy program get to keep the games they get certified to demo.

To further illustrate: Years ago, I served as a Bounty Hunter for Alderac Entertainment Group, the folks who brought us Legend of the Five Rings, the original Spycraft RPG, and 7th Sea. The program was simple: for each event a Bounty Hunter ran, depending on the product, you got a number of points. Those points could be redeemed for free product - RPG rule and sourcebooks, starter decks, booster packs, etc. That in turn allowed us to promote the new products without making an investment beyond time, effort, and enthusiasm. In short, it was a labor of love, the same labor of love which drives people to run demos for the Envoy Double Exposure program, and organized play groups like WotC's D&D Adventurers' Guild, and Paizo's Pathfinder Society.

That connects to something I agree with in WotC's response:
With the exception of the Pro Tour, the World Magic Cup, and the Magic World Championship, Magic events are run by tournament organizers and local game stores who directly engage judges. But these lawsuits claim that Wizards runs all events and that the people judging those events are Wizards employees. Anyone who has played at their local store knows this simply is not true...
...Fans choose to become judges out of a sincere love of the game and as a way to enjoy their favorite hobby. They ensure events are fair and fun, and we appreciate everything they do.
That's why I was an AEG Bounty Hunter - because first and foremost I enjoyed running and teaching the L5R and Spycraft RPGs to others. Yes, the perk of free product was nice, and it did help in the long run, but it wasn't my prime reason for being in that program.
Do you smell something burning? I do.
Art by Plognark.
At best these self-entitled troglodytes are pants-on-head morons; at worst, they are disingenuous asshats. Either way, I smell smoke. It's my sincere hope that these idiots not only get laughed out of court, but also out of the hobby and the industry. Why? Because if they win, it's going to set a bad precedent and I can foresee game companies ending their organized play/promotional programs to avoid incurring any liability under that precedent.

Of course, the Law of Unintended Consequences dictates that even if Wizards of the Coast wins, there could be a backlash from supporters of the plaintiffs throughout the program. That in itself would be a tremendous and disappointing loss as it would be evidence (in my opinion) that a portion of the hobby doesn't have the maturity (and possibly intellect) it claims to have, leading to further repercussions which I can't even begin to envision, let alone want to.

In short, this could hurt everybody involved in the hobby and the industry, not just one company.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Style and Substance in the Desert of Gaming

Earlier this week I wrote on the confined yet swirling gyre of muck and trollery plaguing tabletop gaming. In that post I promised to reveal my overarching gamemastering style as well as debut my system regarding the content of my games. Just as my gaming style has changed over the years, so will this system evolve. Whenever I run a private or public game and advertise that game, I will openly post the content info on this blog; the link to the blog entry will be provided in descriptions of my convention and game day events. Before we delve into the mix, I'd like to thank lorc and Delapouite for the open use of their icons from under the Creative Commons 3.0 license.

The Style of My Games

Being a writer, I tend to favor story over rules and roleplaying over roll-playing. I tinker with the rules when necessary, whether it's in reverting to an older version of a rule or creating house rules to cover official rules that don't seem to fit.

The Details

The GM is in Charge: As the GM, my word and judgment are first and final, period. We're here to have fun, not pixel-bitch about rules and canon. If I make a mistake or someone has a question, please say so. I'll usually either make an on-the-spot correction and fix the mistake if possible, or make a temporary ruling and look into it after the game has concluded. We can then address it at the beginning of the next session, or I might address it to the group by email. The fastest way to annoy me to the point of blacklisting is to be a rules lawyer or canonista and bog down the game.

Rule Zero is in Effect: To steal a page from a previous version of Bruce Gulke's Mythosa website: "Every [game element] is subject to change or removal at the discretion of the GM. Even if a game element is initially permitted, if it is later deemed incompatible with the campaign, it will be modified or removed. Any characters (PC or NPC) that use that element may be required to adjust to the change (in other words, grandfathering is not guaranteed). [I] will attempt to keep this sort of thing to a minimum (if at all), but sometimes this may happen in the process of keeping the rules appropriate to the campaign setting."

Tinkering and House Rules: No game system is perfect. I have yet to find a game system that I haven't tinkered with or amended with house rules. In conjunction with Rule Zero, though I try to keep this to a minimum, I will keep players in the loop with regard to changes from the rules as written.

Story First: I run RPGs in order to tell heroic stories. I'm not in this for Player-vs-Player deathmatches, evil campaigns, socio- or psychopathic PCs, lone wolves, or murderhoboes. At the start of the game we will discuss character concepts and the kind of story you want to tell - but it must be a heroic story. While I'm happy to have the players steer the story, I'm not above taking a firm hand to keep them on the right track. Don't deliberately dead-end the story, slaughter NPCs left and right, or otherwise act like a bunch of psychopathic nutbags.

Drama: The stories in my games have highs and lows - victories and defeats; ambushes and escapes. Just because the characters are heroes doesn't mean the cavalry will be there to save them at the last minute; bad things do happen to good people occasionally. However, good redeems its own in that the characters have acted to better others' state of life. Conversely, evil eats its own. Though an evil overlord may rule for years in a game world, they will fall, either at the hands of the heroes, a vicious minion, or through self-destruction.

Scary and Disturbing: This aspect is dependent upon the players and so is not a constant. Because we are telling stories of heroes, the villains in some - but not all - of my games are equally horrible - cultists, traitors, murderers, slavers, outer gods, and things that go bump in the night - those are some of the things the PCs will face. I also don't shy away from some adult situations. A character's family and friends might incur tragedy at the hands of a villain or his minions. I'm not one to revel in gore or distressing situations. I will fade to black before I do anything gratuitous.

Run!: A lot has been made in the past about game balance. Though I'm not one to kill characters wantonly, their players have to use their common sense and brains to stay alive. If they wander into a cave and start poking a dragon with a ten-foot pole or wade into the midst of a charging horde of orcs, they'd best be prepared to run - and maybe have another character at the ready.

Heroism: Even though I've lived in this world for a good many years, I still possess a shred of idealism, believing that good overcomes evil. I despise evil campaigns. That being said, I expect my players to be playing the heroes. I'm not saying the PCs have to be saints walking on water; they could just as easily be antiheroes or rogues with hearts of gold, but when push comes to shove they should be do the right thing, even if it means walking a hard road at great cost.

Consequences: This aspect is connected to the concepts of "Story First" and "Drama". Characters have the agency of free will, and as such, all their actions have consequences. Tracy Hickman wrote an excellent series of essays regarding morality in RPGs. To paraphrase part of his third essay, games without consequences cheat their players. We expect things to work a certain way in the real world - when you hit your thumb with a hammer, it hurts and you try not to do it again. In a fantasy world, if you commit a crime, there should be lawful repercussions - to have it any other way is to make the entire game a lie.

Character Death: I don't shy away from character death, but I'm not one to kill characters willy-nilly, however. I believe a character's death must serve a purpose in relation to the story - such as noble sacrifice, to demonstrate the serious nature of a situation, or the lethality of a dungeon, creature, or trap. If you are overly attached to your characters, you may want to avoid my table.

Mirror: Players have a part in building the world around their characters - it's only fair. I'll mirror back any ideas I think are interesting in the game. Feel free to fly by the seat of your pants and improvise on your character's background. However, keep in mind that I reserve the right to modify or completely veto any idea. You may say your character is the heir apparent to a great merchant house, but that doesn't make it so. However, I could always make it so, leaving you, the player, saddled with how best to handle the family business, its debts, its allies, and its enemies. So be careful what you wish for.

Tactics & Teamwork: I value teamwork and tactics in a game. I hate lone-wolf tactics and grandstanding. I reward teamwork and ingenuity in all situations, not just combat. Having a plan requires communication between players, and I encourage you, the players to do so in-character. The same goes for setting goals and objectives for your individual characters and the group as a whole.

Improvisation: No plan survives its first contact with the players. I welcome player ingenuity and the improvisation it requires and I try not to railroad the players (too much). I have seen players come up with some madcap ways of dealing with enemies and situations alike - whether it's locking a tractor beam onto an asteroid to use it as a flail to smash pursuing pirate fighters or using gold paint to defeat an eldritch creature vulnerable to gold. More often than not, I laugh my head off as the players make the wheels come off my villains' machinations...

Pre-generated Material & Maps: I'm only human and sometimes I run out of time, energy, or inspiration. As such, I do make use of pre-generated material, including characters, maps, and adventures. I will modify the material to work with the game I am running as necessary.

Technology at the Table: While I understand that technology such as cell and smartphones, tablets, and laptops can be a boon to tabletop gaming, I also know they can be a distraction. I ask that laptops and tablets be used only to refer to PDFs of rulebooks or online SRDs. Phones should be set to vibrate or otherwise left alone. I have no problem with people answering necessary calls (family and work, ordering food, etc), but that's the limit.

No Harassment: As detailed in my previous blog entry, I will not tolerate players harassing their fellows or otherwise making them to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. Offenders will be given one chance to straighten up and fly right before being told - not asked - to leave.

As I've noted before, this system is always going to be a work in progress and will no doubt change as my tastes in gaming change. Hopefully in the meantime it will serve its purpose well despite the intermittent sideways rain of mud and turds going on in the hobby.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Snowflakes, and Tempests, and Pundits, Oh My!

So, last month I wrote about how OBS is on thin ice with me in light of the recent scuffle over a certain "problematic" RPG product. While the outcome was more in line with the ideas of fairness and First Amendment freedoms, it's clear that the Special Snowflakes of the Outrage Brigade are far from done stirring this turd-filled tempest in a teapot.

Last week as I was surfing one of my usual online haunts, I found out a woman, former gamer, and former game shop employee posted on the Internet that tabletop gaming has a "white male terrorist problem." She recounted a number of incidents of sexist behavior directed at her by male gamers both in real life and online. She openly stated that rape and death threats had been made by members of the community behind Wyrd Miniatures' Malifaux game.

Since reading her post, I've been watching the arguments, counter-arguments, and trollery develop. Some fervently believe her account. Others fervently deny it amidst the blue haze of their own sexism. A third group has taken the middle road, stating that while they question some of her claims and outright reject her hateful hyperbole, they consider the issue of sexism in gaming (and fandom in general) to be a serious issue that needs to be dealt with in a serious fashion.

As a result, the period leading up to this post has been one of anxiety, introspection, and anger. Dealing with identity politics, claims of sexual abuse, as well as the propaganda that is slung about by both sides in the fight is a twisted, confusing mess. I would compare it to "going down the rabbit hole", but it's more of a black hole with Dr. Hans Reinhardt/Maximilian as your only guide. This entire fight has led me to believe that like a black hole, no light can escape this "debate" (to describe it politely). Nobody is coming away unscathed, least of all the people both sides believe they are championing.

So, "In for a penny, in for a pound," as some would say. Here's my take on the whole situation and where I stand on it, one reason at a time.
  •  As a GM, I live to see my players have a good time. Because of that, I was moved to introspection by the recent online confession of an acquaintance and fellow third-party publisher. In it, he recounted the times he had the chance to call his fellow male gamers on their bad behavior and failed to do so. I can recall several instances where I was GM to one or more women in my group; there were multiple women in both my private and public groups; the other instances were at two different conventions, each a different year. The first two were Call of Cthulhu scenarios at a convention back in Iowa. There were multiple women in each event, all the players were close to my age at the time (early to mid-twenties) and everybody had a blast while respecting each other. The third was also a Call of Cthulhu scenario in which the majority of the players were men. There was jocularity around the table, and the phrase "Get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich" was bandied about jokingly as they explored the haunted house - and even the sole woman player of the group laughed. I half-heartedly asked the guys to tone it down, but looking back, I feel I should have done more. Last year, I was running Beyond the Wall for a group comprised mostly of older male gamers, a couple closer to my own age, and a teenage girl. The experience hearkened back to my earliest convention games. Everybody was well-behaved, cheered each other on, and laughed at each other's foibles and botched rolls as well as their own. All that being said, in light of that one instance, my table will be a safe space within reason, which I will further detail below.
  • For the past eight years I have been married to a wonderful, empowered woman, and for the past four years we have striven to help raise a young, outgoing, and empowered foster daughter. While neither of them are interested in gaming, the fact that the daughter of one of my best friends is interested in her dad's hobby (along with the above reason), was a precursor to both the re-ignition of the debate and this statement. If anybody at my table makes my friend's daughter uncomfortable, they will have two angry dads to deal with. The same goes without saying regarding my foster daughter.
  • Having been a victim/target of abuse in the past, I am sympathetic to those who have suffered any kind of assault. At the same time, I reserve the right to be skeptical. Despite my dislike of his tribalist hyperbole, the RPGPundit made some good points regarding the issue in two separate blog posts here and here. To sum up both posts, he states - as I did in my last post - that the Outrage Brigade does not want to debate things in good faith. They want their way to be the only way and woe to those who stand between them and their goal. If that means smearing the names and reputations of those who call them on their own terrorist behaviors, then they will (and they have). I hold the right to hear both sides of the story and make up my own mind. I will not be fed a narrative wholesale without considering the facts. In this case, the other side of the story came from a statement from Wyrd Miniatures' Nathan Caroland concerning the claims made by the woman. Considering that requests for evidence made of the victim by the company have gone unanswered and that Wyrd Miniatures is a small company in a small, niche market, I highly doubt the woman's statements that the company is out to get her. That she suffered the cruelty and indignity of being assaulted and being either dismissed or threatened by others in the hobby, I have no doubt. However, to make false allegations is damaging not only to the target of the allegations, but also the victim and what little credibility they have in our troubled, victim-blaming society.
  •  I may be a nice guy, but I'm not a pushover. Having dealt with an abusive parent and no less than two abusive sociopaths in the past, I'm going to be taking a more hardline stance in dealing with abuse of any kind at my gaming table. You'll get one warning for bad behaviors in any game I GM. One. After that, you're done - blacklisted. I have no reservations about calling convention security or store management to help resolve the situation to the benefit of the group and perhaps even the hobby. If a game I run is at another gamer's house, I will demure to the host so long as the situation is resolved to EVERYONE'S satisfaction (within reason) and there is no imminent threat of re-escalation, later retaliation, or physical harm. If I'm running a game in my own home and I tell you to leave because you're blacklisted, you'd better do so. Conversely, if a convention or other game host refuses to deal with behaviors that cause one of my players to be upset or otherwise not have a good time, I will be more than happy to extend an invitation to the non-offending members of the group to game elsewhere with me; at the same time, I will advise the host that they are blacklisted for their complicity and I will not return. If this causes bridges to burn between me and the gaming community here or abroad, so be it. If there's anything I've learned from The Big Purple Cesspool, it's "no gaming - or solo gaming - is better than bad gaming".
In light of what I've revealed and said, I plan on putting into practice an idea I thought of running with in the past - namely using icons to denote what my games will be about. In the past these icons were part of the whole "GM Merit Badges" schtick, but they really have multiple uses. In this case, they won't just tell what I value as a GM, but also serve to inform people as to the content of my games, both public and private.

While there are people in the hobby who would consider this concept policing or x-carding - it's not. In short, I want to beat the Outrage Brigade to the punch and let people know up front what to expect from me as a GM. Once a person is informed, they really can't claim to be triggered or otherwise "shocked" by the content of my games. Of course, I know this won't affect the Outrage Brigade in any way other than to expose their hypocrisy.

That's it in a rather large nutshell, folks. Seeing as how I've gone on babbling for so long, I'm going to hold off presenting the details of my idea (with examples for upcoming events) in my next post...

SHORT ADDENDUM: For those of you who are wondering, I am still going to go ahead with my plan to diversify the platforms I offer my material on. Right now taxes are taking up my time, but once tax season is behind me, I'll be doing more with regard to that quest.

EDIT(S): Sorry for the constant updates. I've been working on this all night while at my graveyard shift job. It's now 6 in the morning here and so my brain center is turning to mush. I just wanted to make sure people who know me and may be reading my blog don't feel I've neglected any details here.