Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Artfest: Midnight Snack by Jamian Juliano-Villani (2013)

Midnight Snack by Jamian Juliano-Villani (2013)

Last February I discovered Jamian Juliano-Villani and fell in love with this artist's entrancing work. Her paintings have an easy way of both comforting and completely upsetting me when I look at them and Midnight Snack is no exception.

Midnight Snack is deceptively simple upon first glance. The scene is reminiscent of so many childhoods where a worn out mother comes home late at night looking for something to eat and a few minutes of rest only to find that the children are still up and no peace will be found. But if you give the picture a closer look things are far different than they first appeared. 

On the upper left hand corner of the refrigerator is a man's tie and on the corner of the counter are his glasses seemingly existing within the same space as the potted flowers. It's as though he's both here and gone beyond our plane of existence - which may very well be the case as looking into the freezer box you can see two hands reaching out. Yet even as these hands grasp for freedom the look on the woman's face seems not to register their appearance, as though they aren't really there. The two worlds theme does not end here as in the door of the fridge, near her knees, is a fish spitting out water as though it were still alive while a skeletal shadow with crossed eyes is cast on the refrigerator door. And then there's the bird cage where the parrot has escaped to land on the top of the cabinets while the vulture sits in the cage watching the little girl enter the room. 

I love Jamian Juliano-Villani and Midnight Snack only reinforces my belief that she is one heck of a talent. Hopefully soon I'll get to see her works in person! So what about you?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Old Words Cluttering Up Our Understanding of Each Other

My wife is six years younger than me and at times that can be a bit of a problem because our cultural reference points are so far from each other and yet, by far, the most difficult thing is our mixed lexicons. Last night was a prime example of this when we were discussing a friend of her's from college. My wife was lamenting her friend's situation and during the course of looking at some of her photos on Instagram she made the comment that the girl was looking so "ratchet."

Now for me a ratchet is something you use to tighten up a bolt so I gave her a look and gingerly asked, "She's a mechanic?"

"What," my wife asked with a look that bordered on smelling a fart. 

"You said she's looking so ratchet."

A blank stare met me. And then it lingered before she finally said, "That's not what ratchet means."


"It means that she looks all messed up," she said as she waved her hand about her face. "Her hair looks like hell. Her make-up is smeared. Things are just not right in her life. You know, ratchet."

"We call that fucked up in this house," I said in my best disapproving tone, "and I'll hear  no argument from you."

"God, you're so old."

Emmanuel and Phillip Hudson dressed as Ratchet Girls

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Gospel of Gamer John: "We Can Do Better"

Brothers and sisters, please open your guides to Chapter 1, How to Pwn:
In the beginning of role-playing games there was a belief that we had found the holy land. But being gamers we naturally said, "Fuck that noise! I can make a better game with spit, squirrel fur, and tree bark." So it was that Dungeons and Dragons beget Tunnels and Trolls, Empire of the Petal Throne, Chivalry and Sorcery, RuneQuest and a great number of house systems that never made a commercial success. Days turned to years and still the gamers said, "It's all warm piss being passed as beer. We can do better, and we will!"

New systems were born and names were brought forth as the saviors of the hobby: Jackson, Siembieda, Miller, Dee, Herman, Peterson, Wiese, LaTorra, Koebel, Crane, Hicks, Tweet, Williams, Mearls, Cordell, and Cook. Their names were added to the rolls as gamers fell to their knees and prostrated themselves before each savior only to whisper, "They're not that fucking great. I can do better."

Then the internet was brought to the masses and where once the gamer could only whisper now he could shout. He could scream his rage about the god-damned grapple rules and the inability of a traditional role-playing game to accurately simulate the damage a light mace could actually do to a human being! In their anger the gamers went online to tell their former saviors that they could all eat a bag of dicks.
There is no perfect game in this hobby and there are no savior designers that will come along to make it. The very idea that such things could happen is anathema to the core idea of this hobby and the guiding principal of every gamer, "We can do better." We can do better because nothing is perfect. Every game has errata; every module can be improved and house rules that make the game more fun at our tables will be invented. Still you'll find people saying that the game as written is sacrosanct. Its foibles, misprints, and vagaries are features purposefully put into the product to challenge both players and Game Masters alike. 

It's these people who mystify me. 

Our hobby is designed around the idea that our rules are actually guidelines. Every game, whether you're talking about Dungeons and Dragons or Burning Wheel, is built with the understanding that as a Game Master and player you're going to use and abuse this game for your own purposes. You'll build your own methods and procedures for dealing with all the situations that the game can't possibly cover - because it's impossible for any game to make a rule for every possible thing that can happen.

"We can do better," isn't a pejorative that assholes have been uttering since the hobby began. It's a maxim that has colored the direction of this hobby since Dave Arneson took Chainmail and said, "I can do better." It's the phrase that has given us every great gaming moment, house rule, and product you've ever touched.

Monday, January 26, 2015

2014 on the Dyvers Blog in Perspective

2014 represented the first full calendar year to see the Dyvers Campaign blog active from end to end; and it saw the blog actually enter into its second year of activity (my blogging anniversary is July 21). I entered into the year looking to see the blog with a few goals in mind:
  • Expand the blog's audience
  • Experiment with the blog's focus
  • Attempt to have a daily post average
  • Attempt to post daily

On the whole I did pretty well. The blog continued to see growth both in its page views and comments which saw it achieve 290,000 page views by the end of the year and over 6,500 comments. I also managed to have a daily posting average of 1.4 posts per day though that number does come with the caveat that I actually missed 110 days (with 55 of those absences coming in October, November, and December). In spite of the missed days I feel like the blog is on the right track in looking at it on through my single year view (which doesn't take into account older posts from 2013 that are continuing to achieve new views and comments).

Here's a breakdown of all this year's relevant data.

    4,634 | Total Google Pluses
    3,621 | Total Comments
116,861 |Total Page Views on Post Appearing During this Calendar Year
       551 | Total Posts Published

      26 | Average Page Views per Plus
        7 | Average Pave Views per Comment
    229 | Average Page Views per Post
    321 | Average Page Views per Day 

Creatively I wrote more short stories than ever and was able to put out a couple Actual Play write-ups that I was proud of doing. Though I will tell you that I've slowed down posting these stories - not because I've hit a creative block, but because I'm trying to make sure that I've completed the stories before I start posting them. I've also learned a lot about how to use and I'm starting to be able to do more significant actions that go beyond creating meme-ish bumpers for my posts and more towards creating my own meaningful images in a similar fashion towards collages. 

My goal for this upcoming year is to cut my missed days in half while continuing to work towards a daily posting average. I also want to see the audience for the blog continue to grow. I'm seeing trends that this is where I'm heading - especially since I've started seeing a major uptick in new readers on the blog (according to Google Analytics). Here's hoping things keep going in the right direction in this year!

A few projects I'm working on for the new year:
  • An Adventure Module
  • 2015 Great Blog Roll Call
  • Americas Campaign Setting Completed with Free PDF for everybody
  • 3 Short Stories (first one should be coming out May-ish)

Narrowing the Focus on the Americas Setting

Since I began this project it has become clear that building an Americas campaign is fraught with external problems that I've never experienced in publicly talking about a pseudo-European setting. Let's set those sort of problems aside though as I've no interest in rehashing such topics and instead would like to talk about focusing the campaign a bit more in the interest of building towards actually putting the damned thing out there. So if you're all about having those discussions take a deep drink of tea and chill the fuck out for a minute. We'll talk about that stuff on another day.

The question then is where and when to begin the campaign. For some the obvious answer is to build in a pre to early colonial period in what would eventually be the United States. There are advantages to doing so that go beyond familiarity with the geography. The area that will eventually encompass the entirety of the Untied States is wildly diverse going from steamy swamps of South Carolina, to the wooded mountains of Appalachia, to the plains of the Midwest, to the deserts of the southwest, to the formidable Rockies, to the massive forests of the northwest.  Yet if we were to begin in what came to be Canada we would have a far colder version of what's found further south, with perhaps far more formidable challenges in those frigid regions further north. Or we could abandon the North entirely and head towards Central America and their jungles and lost cities. But if we do then shouldn't we head further south into the mountains, jungles, lost civilizations, deserts, and plains of South America?

My instinct is to throw the campaign firmly into North America, focusing on an early colonial period of time in the area of the Eastern United States; but I also find myself thinking strongly about launching a campaign in the area occupied by modern day Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The allure of lost cities appearing in the jungles and mountains of that region with a ready access to the sea really appeals to my sensibilities. Focusing the campaign in this region of the world would give me access to a wide variety of actions (piracy, jungle exploration, contact with lost civilizations, tomb raiding, wild animals of practically every type looking to kill and maim the players, etcetera, etcetera). Moreover I suspect that playing here would allow me to have a bit more freedom in choosing how to set up the world as my players aren't anywhere near as familiar with the landscape down there as I am. 

The Central American nations of Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras are places that I would really like to throw my players early into the campaign. Perhaps using Belize as a starting area since it's the least mountainous and has a disarming beauty that I should be able to use to lure my players into a false sense of security. 

In the real world there was a pretty heavily fortified Mayan civilization up in the Yucatan Peninsula that kept the West from really investing in Belize - plus there was no gold readily apparent so it seemed like a low end priority when you've got some of those areas with seemingly an inexhaustible supply of the stuff. You've also got Guatemala who didn't really recognize Belize's boarders (or even its statehood) for a long time. So it would be relatively easy to draw from these to build a state that sits on a razor's edge, balancing precariously in a very dangerous world. 

John Carter of Mars Frank Frazetta
I could push the campaign further south towards Nicaragua, which might be advantageous as well. Nicaragua has jungles, mountains, and lost civilizations and is a rich area of the world where I could build up a campaign without having to invent everything wholesale (something I'm not really interested in doing). So it's a possibility as well, but I'm already pretty sold on the idea of rocking a campaign in Belize.

Now as for when I think that it would be relatively easy to set this campaign in an era similar to the early 1500s. I'd get to throw in some guns, which I'm fine with, and yet it wouldn't be an overwhelming advantage for more modern civilizations over the, relatively, more primitive ones from the jungles. In fact if the players become accustomed to the idea of using guns it could actually place them at a distinct disadvantage as these older guns are a slow reload even under the best of circumstances; let alone in the middle of the jungle with poisoned spears and arrows hurling all around them.

A great thing I've discovered about building a campaign in the Americas - whether you're talking about North, Central, or South America - is that there is enough diversity and wild spaces lurking in this side of the world that you could have dinosaurs, lost civilizations, and treasure hunts anywhere because mentally we've been prepared for that stuff to happen. Our pulp literature is filled with them and if there's one thing that I love to bring into my campaigns it's the feel of pulp novels!

Alright, so I know that my time period is going to be set in the early 1500s and I've narrowed down the location to either Central America (Belize-ish starting area) or to the South Eastern Untied States. I'm pretty sure that the Belize-ish thing is the way that I want to go at this point but since I'm not really focused on an accurate historical portrayal of the world it isn't that big of a deal to switch things up if I find that my Belize isn't kicking things in the direction I really want to go.

Damned if building a campaign over here isn't reigniting my creative fires!

Fuck yeah, Americas Campaigns for the win!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sin Eater: Week Four

I try incredibly hard to be honest in my dealings with most people - though I fail at being so at times. However this week found me lying through my teeth as I had to pretend that I was okay with a terrible event that we just found out about. Sometimes honesty has to take a back seat to being good to your wife and family. Sometimes it's an easy choice where you can simply say that this is for the better. Then there are times like this week where you bite back the truth because you don't want to poison your relationships with people that you're bound to for the rest of your life. 

I apologize for not being able to speak more openly on this matter but that's the way that life goes sometimes.
The Sin Eater series is an opportunity for each of us, you and me, to recognize our sins and failures. Each week I kick it off by discussing something I do wrong, that I have failed at, or that I find reproachful in myself. Then anyone who wants to can join in and post their own 'sins' either through the use of their own username or anonymously in the comments below (DO NOT POST ANYTHING ILLEGAL AND THAT WILL GET YOU IN TROUBLE WITH THE LAW). 

The idea behind this project is to humanize ourselves (so take your self-righteous judgments and pronouncements and shove them right up your ass). It's also a place to help each of us to let go of the 'sins' that have been dominating our lives and recognize them for what they are: the simple human frailties that all of us struggle with daily. This series is the place where you can speak honestly and let your frailties be devoured by the internet gods.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Artfest: Joker from Super Flemish by Sacha Goldberg (2014)

Joker from Super Flemish by Sacha Goldberg (2014)
French Photographer Sacha Goldberg has a brilliant and discerning eye that seems to be capable of cutting through the traditional understanding of what a subject is supposed to represent and instead focuses on the inner core of the subject. In the Super Flemish series he has used the traditional Flemish style of portraiture that dominated the 17th century to expose the underlying nature of these larger-than-life, fictional figures. 

Of the series none captured my imagination more than this beautiful Joker. Like each of the other portraits in the series there is a sense that the Joker's real essence has been captured in a way that doesn't leave him a cartoonish oversimplification bereft of depth or meaning for the wider world. Instead everything about him carries a weight that keeps bring your attention back to him. His eyes burn past the artist. His hair hangs in stringy strands as though the effort of pulling them back were simply too much for him at this point. His posture both shows an attentive eye towards what he's supposed to be doing (his shoulders and hands) and a complete rejection of that tradition (his lower body slung over the edge of the chair). Just a brilliant piece of work and I can't wait to see more from Sacha Goldberg in the future.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Merit Game

One of the things that I like about being online is that it provides me with a way to be judged solely on my work and not on the other aspects of my life. Other than my name and my gender you don't know my race, sexual orientation, or any of the other distinguishing aspects of my life. And unless I choose to share that information with you, you never will. Instead you have to judge the stories I write and the thoughts I express solely on their own merit. For me that makes being online an ultimate equalizer. 

What I look like in real life doesn't matter. Who I let touch me, when I let anyone touch me at all, doesn't matter. My words do. For other people that isn't the case. They can't help but try and find ways to put you into their neat, little boxes. You're a man and you're white so obviously you can't know anything about what it's like to be an outcast, oppressed, or poor. While you're black and a woman so you must tell us all what it's like to be an oppressed minority so that we can feel for you.

There is an argument that we all must shed any shred of anonymity online so that our actions can be fully understood from the perspective of who we are as an individual. Before we can talk about your efforts we must know the particulars of who you are. So you admit that you are a woman who is white and bisexual. Now we can begin to talk about your fantastic space adventures that you've been writing. Only we don't really need any of that when it comes to judging what you've been doing. Either what you've written is good or not. Whether you're a woman or bisexual doesn't (and shouldn't) matter in the least.

Being judged for your own merit is really easy online. You can go onto any forum and tell the world that your name is KissAlive75 and talk about anything you want. They don't know anything about you (other than you like the Kiss' Alive album) so they have to judge you by what you write. Blogs too are bastions of anonymity where you can be whoever you want to be and write about anything. In real life you can be a gay, transsexual bus driver who prefers to be called Meg but online it doesn't matter. Online you're Bliss78Kix and you're writing a fan fiction about a My Little Pony and Lord of the Rings mash up that's gotten 298,000 page views in the last two days alone and people are dying for the next installment. 

The point of all this is that I don't give a fuck about what color your skin is, what's between your legs, or who you're screwing. I couldn't care less about any of that because what matters is what you're putting out there for the world to judge you on. Your stories, your art, your thoughts matter and I judge you for those and those alone. 

Welcome to the merit game where you're judged solely on the things you do and not on anything else.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Books I'm Willing to Write

I'm having a really good day and I thought it might be fun to put out some book titles that I'm thinking about writing. What I'd like you to do is pick your favorite out of the group - the one you'd like me to write - and then share your pick with the world. Tweet it to me @Thatakinsboy, or share it with me on Google+, or leave a comment here on the blog. Or do that to your favorite book publisher and tell them to hire me so I have write that shit. I'm good with either!

1. Fucking Punk Kids: A Guide for Parents

2. When I Want Your Opinion! (How to Debate on the Internet and Win)

3. Hey Girl, 12 Easy Steps to Marrying the Orc of Your Dreams

4. Pittsburgh Burns and Other Diseases I've Gotten Online

5. Speaking in Code: A Guide to for Being Lonely

6. Jim Niven and the Swollen Colen

7. The Computer that Wouldn't Take No for an Answer

8. The Stranger and Other Sexual Positions You Can Do By Yourself

9. An End to Innocence: Three the Hard Way with Sailor Moon and Shaggy

10.  The Burning Wheel or Why I Stopped Using Public Bathrooms

11. Race of Your Life: Seven Days in Southern Georgia

12. Three Days in Nashville: Explosions, Wild Animals, and Transvestites. 

The Book Shelf: My Boring-Ass Life, the Uncomfortably Candid Diary of Kevin Smith -- Expanded Edition

Wake up and shit; wake up and shit; wake up and shit. These words that seem to begin every day of Kevin Smith's life during the year and change that My Boring-Ass Life covers in the director and author's life might led you to imagine that the book is filled with prosaic bits of wisdom on the best way to make that a far more enjoyable way to start your day, but you would be wrong. Instead this book is an often unflinching and demystifying look into the life of a man who has steadily overcome daunting obstacles that have stopped others before they even began the journey towards accomplishing their lifelong dreams and aspirations.

The book tends to go through cycles where at times it reads like a conversation with an old friend who's trying to quickly catch you up on everything that's happened since the last time you were together, complete with all the little vulgarities that we whisper to our dearest companions. Then suddenly the book will turn into an actual narrative with Smith telling you about Jason Mewes, his long time friend, and his heartbreaking struggles with drug abuse. Yet the book always feels like it's an intimate moment being shared between friends.

There's something refreshing in reading the way that Smith boldly lays himself bare. Whether he's taking a dump, bitching about the dogs, masturbating to pictures of his wife, or discussing the intimate moments that pass between him and his wife the book unflinchingly describes it all. What should make you as a reader uncomfortable is mollified by Smith's effortless writing style that takes even the most banal moments and makes them interesting.

This is actually the second time that I've purchase My Boring-Ass Life as I loaned out the first copy and never got it back. So when I decided to repurchase it I elected to go for the expanded edition and I have to say that while I enjoyed the additional content about Zack and Miri Make a Porno I feel that there wasn't enough new content included into the book for people who have a copy to repurchase this one. If you haven't read it, however, it is well worth picking up.

Final Score: Five President Bushes Holding their Breath in front of a Blue Sun Until Kevin Stops Making Fun of Them. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Whispers on the Digital Winds.

Last night I was reading through the archives of a blog that I'm planning on adding to this year's Roll Call when I ran across an old controversy* that had taken our community by storm a while back. As I was reading this blog's archives I was amazed at how quickly lines were drawn in the digital sand by the author, and it occurred to me that maybe this wasn't an isolated thing. So I started reading through the time lines of a random sampling of my contacts on Google+ and Blogger. For those of you wondering about the sample size I looked at 62 people on Google+ and 40 on Blogger, going through their public postings (and postings shared directly with me) during the time period when the controversy was at it's most fevered.
What caught my attention time and time again was how quickly people tended to array themselves along these imaginary battle lines. For some you were either with them or against them and if you listened to them long enough it was easy to fool yourself into believing that the entire internet community was just as militantly divided. Only it wasn't. Most people just wanted the entire thing to go away. But here's the thing that really got my attention: for people who were passionately involved in the conversation, and who were making allegations regardless of their side, it seemed that anything they said against their opponents was considered fair game. At times it seemed as though they were taking the opinion that their side was filled with angels who have never told lies and could be believed implicitly because they said something was so; while the other side could never be believed, no matter what they did to disprove the allegations.

I'm truly left wondering why. Why do so many of us engage in this sort of absolutism in our arguments and this almost tribal mindset of us versus them? Why does it seem like unfounded claims, based solely on hearsay and not on actual proof, seem to find greater purchase in this day and age? Why is it okay to manufacture claims against a person you don't like because you're having a disagreement with them? 

You know what, these sort of thoughts just piss me off and put me in a terrible mood. So I'm going to go play in space instead.

Space, where even the nice looking girl in the one piece is going to kill you.

* it's not the one you're thinking of. No, not that one either.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Trouble with the Tides, the Sun, and the Moon.

If you're going to be involving pirates, mighty armadas of warships, or even simple river crossings on the mighty Amazon or Mississippi you're going to have to deal with tides. Now it is entirely possible to hand wave this side of things and simply say that the tide rises at X time and goes out at Y time every day which is fine but doesn't reflect the changes in the sun and moon rising. Oh you could hand wave that as well by saying that each always rise at the same time every day (with each on their own cycle) but that tends to create a world that feels far from real and much closer to a boring world that doesn't reflect a change in seasons, the earth solar positioning, or any other factor that might make the world feel real. 

Now at this point you might be saying to yourself that you really don't want to go for the simulationist aspect and you just want to go for good enough. So you go online to find a few charts for simulating the tides and the rise and set of the Sun and Moon. Then you start rolling and recording the results for every day of the year in the hopes that you actually get to use them in your game. Or maybe you're down for that simulationist slog so you go out there and do a couple of years worth of research (or hours of cribbing notes off Wikipedia). Finally, your research done it's time to start building spreadsheets to work out the complex equations and build your campaign world a complex, yet entirely plausible, series of times for the rising of tides, the patterns of celestial bodies as viewed from the earth, and a never ending sense of pride in your hard work.

Only here's the thing about all that hard work you've put in: it means exactly dick in the greater scheme of things. Your players aren't going to suddenly look at you in the middle of the a game and say, "You know, Ted, I don't normally appreciate the detailed efforts of a Dungeon Master for creating a sense of verisimilitude in relation to the tides - but damned if you haven't made me gain a whole new sense of appreciation for it all." That's never going to happen.

These sorts of questions tend to fall into a gaming sphere that I like to call "Nice to Know." They have some importance on the overall world but researching them and devoting myself to studying them in any level of detail beyond the simple facts I need to know is a wasted effort. For a lot of people online this is a question that they devote to building random charts and filling spreadsheets with so that they can easily create a world that feels real. 

I don't waste my time on such things and instead buy old Farmer's Almanacs. Farmer's Almanacs are filled with everything you need to make your world feel real from the times the sun and moon rise and set; to when crops are being planted and harvested; to when the tides come in and out. Plus the things are filled with lots of holidays that you can crib over for your favorite fantasy game without having to invent things wholesale. 

If you've never bought a Farmer's Almanac - and while it seems a foreign concept to me I'm told that it happens - then I suggest the Old Farmer's Almanac that's published by Yankee Magazine. You can find old volumes of this magazine running back decades (and they're usually very cheap  with differing forecasts in each one and filled with great articles on just about every subject under the sun. Now other versions of the Almanac can be found for cheaper, but the Old Farmer's Almanac is my personal favorite as it tends to be filled with a lot of useful information that I can use not only in my games but in my actual life. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Just a Few Quick Notes of Some Importance

  • I'm working on the next short story that I'm going to be putting up here and I've decided that for such things (and actual play reports) that I'm going to hold off on putting them up until I've got all of them written this year. It may slow down my progress on releasing them, but I think it will be nicer to not have so many that seemingly end with now where else to go. Of course this is January so I may change my mind before the year's out.
  • If you see in your traffic sources then odds are it's me reading through your blog trying to update your information for the 2015 Great Blog Roll Call. Lots of interesting statistics about this project that I'll be dropping when I finish but I can go ahead and let you know that I am officially over the 400 active rpg blogs threshold on the project!  
  • The Sin Eater project is an interesting one that sees more hits each week though almost no one else is comment on their own sins. Perhaps this is turning into a bit of voyeuristic schadenfreude? But it might be that others find it difficult to talk about their own failings and the things that bother them about themselves? Hard to say at this point but by the end of the year I expect to be able to speak more certainly on this program.  
  • Project Americas (as I am tentatively calling it) most definitely has some traction judging from the hits, comments, and Google+'s - even though tracking that last one is a bitch since the blog won't show the full amount to me anywhere but on the actual post and my Google bell isn't working very well either. Fucking A. Google launches a new domain purchasing program for blogger and everything goes to hell.
  • Also, I am not eating anything sweet before I go to bed ever again. Too many god-damned nightmares to even begin talking about. 


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Sin Eater: Week 3, If Hell Exists . . .

If Hell exists then I have surely found what will be my ultimate punishment: helplessness. I don't mean the sort of helplessness that comes from being an invalid, such things are beyond your control. No I mean the helplessness that comes from being in the same room as your wife when she cries, and cries, and cries because of an awful thing that you can't do a god damned thing about but sit there and hold her. The helplessness that comes when your son climbs in your lap and tells you about the bad dreams that keep him up at night and no matter what you say there is no assuaging his fears. The helplessness that seeps into your bones when you think about him having a febrile seizure and you're holding him only he doesn't even know you're in the same room.

This week has been filled with nightmares reliving past and current moments of helplessness for me. Moments when I drove across the state praying that I wasn't about to lose my Mom and hearing my son crying into his pillow because he thought Nana and Poppa were mad at him. So many nightmares crawling through my dreams as my wife struggled with a lie from another family member that I couldn't help her through because  words failed and comforting hugs weren't enough.

Our sins and failures haunt us all and this week I just want to move on from this feeling of helplessness that has overwhelmed me. So I let it out to the void for the internet gods to feast.  Let the Sin Eating begin.
The Sin Eater series is an opportunity for each of us, you and me, to recognize our sins and failures. Each week I kick it off by discussing something I do wrong, that I have failed at, or that I find reproachful in myself. Then anyone who wants to can join in and post their own 'sins' either through the use of their own username or anonymously in the comments below (DO NOT POST ANYTHING ILLEGAL AND THAT WILL GET YOU IN TROUBLE WITH THE LAW). 

The idea behind this project is to humanize ourselves (so take your self-righteous judgments and pronouncements and shove them right up your ass). It's also a place to help each of us to let go of the 'sins' that have been dominating our lives and recognize them for what they are: the simple human frailties that all of us struggle with daily. This series is the place where you can speak honestly and let your frailties be devoured by the internet gods.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Early Thoughts on an American Setting for Dungeons and Dragons

In researching how to build an American campaign it has become increasingly clear that many people want to focus on the colonial aspects of our history. Whether discussing North or South America the discussion revolves around the impact European settlers had on the native populations and the destruction to the environment that followed in their wake. Slavery is big in the conversations as are words like "genocide" and "racism." Then the conversations become serious as people discussing these "very serious" topics ask each other how it made them feel and if they better understand the plight of the natives.

What a terrible fucking time they must have in those games.

Anyway, If I am going to build a campaign world in the Americas then I have to reject the things that bore me and ruin the fun of a game set here. Gone then are the suggested themes of slavery, racial tension, religious strife, the plight of the poor, detailed dramas exposing the struggle of women (besides, they're too busy trying to survive just like everyone else to care about voting rights and jobs that no one else has either), and police states slowly supplanting the Republic. Nuance and complexity are mostly gone too as they have no place in an American setting. Pragmatism rules the cultural mindset here with Occam's Razor being the rule rather than a gentle lesson on disentangling our minds from over-thinking our problems. Our cultural heroes are men who cut through seemingly complex problems and dealt with the issues in a direct (often bloody) way.

Pragmatism has to be the fundamental underpinning of all that comes after if the setting is to ring true. Towns and cities are organized as best they can be at the time without holding to their ancient pathways and patters - because there are none here. Old ways have been abandoned with the transition to the New World and that means that new customs built on need rather than tradition are the way to go. No longer do you avert your gaze at the Lords and Ladies (gone too are those titles) because you're too busy trying to carve out a living on your own lands away from such frivolous titles and practices. The rich hold sway not because of title but because they can pay for what they want.

A game set in the Americas has to be different, not out of spite, but because the Americas are different. Unlike Europe the Americas are wild with large portions unexplored even today on both continents. This land hasn't been settled (occupied yes, but not settled) for the majority of its history. Its native peoples are proud and often refuse to just get up and go for the new comers. There are mysteries here too which cannot be found in Europe. Mysterious lost cities rising out of dark jungles and swamps. Strange burial mounds rise high above the forests and ancient drawings for the gods wind their way across the arid deserts. Languages with out writing are spoken everywhere while words written down long ago have had no tongue utter them in more than a thousand years.

For this setting to gain traction there has to be a feel of the wild spaces without the hope of a big, friendly city over the next hill. You have to feel alone out there and be ready for hostile natives that don't take kindly to your explorations (would you if some jackass came creeping through your woods). More than that, though, there has to be a feeling that wealth and power are within your reach. It has to feel like you can win your fortune through daring and cleverness and the world will know your name for it.

Cleverness and hope have to be rewarded and encouraged. This isn't a theocracy or dictatorship - especially out in the wilds away from the watchful eyes of kings and queens across the Atlantic. This is a land that should reward you for your efforts. So if you're smart enough to come up with a way to kill the Hill Giants without exposing yourself to danger than so much the better. Cleverness should be encouraged at all turns as their thinking will be what saves them more often than not when arms fail. As for hope, well, my group is from the United States and we've got hope covered in spades.

Magic will have to be rethought as too much freedom from danger will ruin the setting and allow them to walk over the challenges with mindless aplomb. No, no, no. Can't have that. Gone goes create food/water, light, and all similar such cheats. This game will need to feel like hard mode to get it to run right. Playing here will have to make you think and plan for the unforeseen. It will need to feel dangerous again.

I think this idea is beginning to take hold of me kids.

Friday Artfest: Inglorious Bastards (c. 2009) by Alex Pardee

Inglorious Bastards (c. 2009) by Alex Pardee

This alternative poster for the magnificent Inglorious Bastards movie is the one I wish I had in my theater when I was running it. I've always thought that Alex's work is reminiscent of Ralph Steadman's in the best possible way. It's as though he's the natural extension of where Steadman's been heading for the last few decades. 

While I think this is an absolutely beautiful poster that sets a great tone for the movie (and a somewhat accurate one) I cannot imagine that it was a good advertisement for it. The Nazi getting his throat slit has thorns coming out of him as though he were some mutated plant spreading across the earth while the eagle-man, with his Star of David emblazoned handkerchief wrapped about his clenched fist, screams a war cry has little to do with what was actually on the screen. Still, if I had found this poster it would have been up in my office and proudly displayed to anyone who ever came to visit. 

Just a beautifully, cool poster.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thousands of Invisible Lines, Triggering Traps of Every Kind.

When it comes to playing role-playing games I enjoy traps both as a player and Game Master. I like the way that dealing with them can often focus you on the problem solving aspects of our hobby in a way that goes beyond rolling a d20. It's invigorating to have to think about a trap's mechanisms, imagining where each component interacts with the next, in order to stop it and reset it so the orcs following us will set it off instead. That said, fuck riddles. I fucking hate everything about riddles from their often boorish rhyming schemes to their tendency to invoke puns (fuck them too). But I'm digressing so let me get back on topic. 

What I don't enjoy away from the table is how many traps there are in our interactions that people are constantly trying to set for each other. I see it all the time as I'm reading. One person may say, "I don't like using cheese on my pizza," and the next thing you see is some mad bastard from the internet howling in outrage. "Don't you know that by not supporting cheese on pizza that you're supporting the terrorists? Don't you even care? Of course not, because YOU ARE A TERRORIST!"

It's everywhere lately and I've got a hypothesis as to why. 

A lot of the most vocal outrages come from people who identify themselves, or others, by a word rather than on their own merits. By "identify themselves, or others, by a word" I specifically mean people who say things such as, "I'm a ______," or "He's a _____." By identifying themselves with a word it allows them to subsume their personal identity within a wider community and to take on a greater level of importance within their own lives. Any attack on that community, real or imagined, is then a direct attack on the individual. This allows the individual involved to become outraged both on their own behalf and on that of the wider community and is why you have the quick escalation in outrage from what should be a polite disagreement into the hyperbolic. Conversely identifying another person as a word allows them to stop responding to the individual and to invalidate everything they've said. For example, successfully labeling someone a "bigot" invalidates everything the individual has said about the color of trains because all of it becomes a game of "What racist agenda does his insistence on the color blue have?"

I've been thinking about this a lot over the last few months as our hobby has become embroiled with controversies and heated arguments with lines being drawn in the digital sand. The people involved are "story gamers," "trolls," "bigots," "bullies," "social justice warriors," "gamergaters," and so on. This strategy of associating the person you're arguing with to a label has become so widespread that people often launch into it without thinking now because doing so means you "win" - only you didn't win anything because you're arguing on the internet and no one's minds have been changed. It has become increasingly rare to have a conversation where two people disagree about a subject without someone resorting to this tactic. Let's look at me for a moment. In the last two days I've been labeled: a conservative, a liberal, a gamergater, a social justice warrior, a misogynist, and a feminist. Every time I received a label the person doing so was trying to associate me with a wider community so that they didn't have to deal directly with what I was saying and could invalidate everything I had argued. 

I hate how our debates have devolved into these label association traps. People attempt to force you to label yourself so that they can fit you into a neat, little box of expectations. After all, the label dissolves the individual and supplants them with the wider community. You are a white man or a black woman and thus are part of the monolithic larger community. You are not Amanda, Eric, Ocie, or Zelphia; you are a feminist, a story gamer, a troll, and a conservative. By eliminating the individual you're talking to from the conversation and turning them over to the label we have effectively ended the discussion. And if they aren't able to effectively prevent you from making the label stick they have fallen into a trap that has invalidated and silenced them. We no longer have to listen, to understand, or care about what they're saying. We already know because they're a ______.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Kickstarter Spotlight: Pyramid of the Lost King: Adventures in Basq by Johua De Santo

If you've not heard about +Johua De Santo before this post than I envy you because you're going to get to discover one of my favorite bloggers and up and coming rpg designers. I first discovered Johua's blog, Genius Loci, nearly a year and a half ago and was amazed at how much he's able to put out. Unlike blogs like mine that tend to cover a wide range of topics Genius Loci focuses on Johua's efforts to make great adventures. His adventures tend to be loose enough to let a Dungeon Master make the most of each scenario while providing the right amount of information to keep everything feeling under control.

So when I found out about his first Kickstarter, Pyramid of the Lost King: Adventures in Basq I was really excited. I like idea behind the Adventures in Basq, a low-level sandbox where your players can really get their feet wet. The place sounds like a great place to adventure and after reading through all of his free content on the blog I can't wait to see what he can do with professional art, editing, and layout.

Best part about this project? It's already written. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Think I'm Done with Pseudo-European Settings for a While

For last few months I've been feeling a bit directionless in my games. Part comes from being a natural malcontent and never being fully happy with anything that I'm working on creatively; but there's also a disconnect going on in my head when it comes to playing in a European setting. I can't tell you why either.

I mean I grew up loving reading about England, Germany, France, and Spain - my God, how do I love Spain! In recent years though there's been this growing sensation that throwing a European veneer over my games isn't adding anything to the experience and is instead cutting my feet right out from under me as I feel bound to a reality that shouldn't be intersecting with my fiction. So this afternoon I've decided that I'm done running my games in those settings, at least for a little while. 

I've mentioned several times in the past year that I think running a campaign set in the Americas would be a lot of fun. I do believe that I'm going to do that because everything else just seems so disheartening to me right now.  Perhaps I'm just having a difficult time expressing myself this afternoon. 

Tomorrow will be better. Until then . . .

Dealing with Problem Players the Dyvers Way

In the last week you've spent nearly every spare moment working on this weekend's adventure. You've built an elaborate maze for your players to explore, bought enough snacks to feed a small army, and now you're watching one of them screw it all up. Oh, he's a nice enough guy away from the table; good to his mother, takes care of his children, but at the table he's an asshole. For some people it's difficult to ask problem players to leave. After all, they're your friends and you just couldn't ask them to get out - let alone confront them over their behavior! It might hurt their precious feelings. 

What about your feelings?

This is a guide for dealing with the problem players in all our lives. What you'll find below are the ways for dealing with friends, family, and the strangers that have made your games a nightmare that I have been using for the better part of the last decade. Just follow my advice and it'll all work out.

1. He's Actually a Really Nice Guy

By far the most common problem player is your asshole friend. In this case we'll call him Denny. Denny is a great guy away from the table. He pays his bills on time, is a loving father, and can tell a hysterical dirty joke at the drop of a hat. But when this son of a bitch sits down at the table you might as well forget about playing tonight. Oh it starts innocently enough. He bitches a bit about work and then the game starts and you're thinking, "Great, the game will fix everything." Only it doesn't because now Denny is criticizing every decision that the other players make. They're rolling wrong. They've built their characters wrong. His last group was filled with real players. Everyone else at the table is miserable and just when you think things can't get worse he starts in on you. 

Now your instinct is to cut the guy a break. Everyone has an off night. But this isn't an off night for Denny, this is every week. Every time you get together he ruins it. So what are you to do? Tell your buddy to get lost?


You tell your friend that if he can't stop being an asshole that he isn't allowed back next week. It sucks because he's going to be mad. But when the alternative is allowing him to grind your games into a suckfest week after week, driving the rest of your players away from the table, what other option do you have? Do you really want to suffer through every game session because you don't want to hurt his feelings?

Look, if he's really your friend then talking to him about his behavior and how it's affecting the group will cause him to change his attitude. But if it doesn't, then he didn't give a flying fuck about you, the group, or the game. In that case fuck that asshole. 

2. She's Just Really Concerned About the Wider Effects of the Game on the Social and Political Reality of Our World

The second most common problem player is the one who takes the game way more seriously than everyone else at the table. Now this doesn't mean that if your game is about the psychological effects of rape and everyone at the table is down for role-playing that experience that you're doing it wrong. Rather it's about the kid at the table who is playing in a fun game of kill the dragon who starts trying to raise the awareness of the group to the plight of colonial natives as derived through your portrayal of the lowly (and totally sexist) bar maid. If as a table the group is down for playing in a game that looks at the world's issues through the lens of a role-playing game than that's fine. BUT when everyone else has come to the table to kill imaginary creatures, find treasure, explore dungeons, and have a good time playing together doing so makes you a dick.

So how do you deal with this type of player? Just lose their number so you don't have to deal with them any more? Fuck no. You tell them that it's fine that they have all these issues they'd like to raise awareness about but your game isn't the place to do that. When they tell you about how "You just don't get it, do you," you tell them to get the fuck out. 

See while playing role-playing games can touch on deeper issues by placing them into the narrative when everyone has agreed to explore those issues; forcing others to explore those issues by insisting that the narrative is present when it hasn't been agreed upon or brought in by the Game Master is a dick move. You're not a socially aware gamer who is trying to bring up the consciousness of the table. You're just a dick who needs to get away from the table because you're ruining the game for the rest of us.

3. They're Just Having a Good Time

The next group of problem players comes from those obnoxious guys who keep derailing the game. Oh, they tell the occasional funny story but by and large its just them talking to hear themselves talk. Did you see that game last night? Have you seen this movie on Netflix yet? I'm pretty sure that the girl at Taco Bell wanted me . . . On and on they drone about everything under the sun except the game. Now if you were running a boring game it might be understandable but you haven't even been able to start because these jackasses keep on braying about whatever comes into their heads. The best part though, that comes at the end of the night when they look at you and say, "Why didn't you run tonight?"

"Why didn't I run tonight," you want to sputter; but you don't because they're just having a good time. You spent your week coming up with a game and they just ruined it. Instead of being quite you have to speak up. You have to tell them that the reason you didn't get to run is because they're a pair of assholes so self-absorbed that they went out of their way to talk over you and to completely ruin the game for everyone else. And it will definitely hurt their feelings when you do. But you know what? Fuck their feelings. They didn't care about yours. 

4. What Do You Mean, I'm the Problem?

Sometimes the truth of why you're having a terrible game is because you're the problem. You're arguing with every decision the players make and punishing them for going off your script. You're a shitty Game Master.

"But what if I don't know if I'm a shitty Game Master?" you ask. Answer these questions.

1. Do you punish your players for going against your story?
2. Do you view your job as Game Master as the Joker to their Batman (or vice versa)?
3. Do you cheat your players (by adding hit points, increasing save DCs, ect) so that you can "win?"

If you answered yes to any of those you're a shitty Game Master and need to put the dice up. Stop blaming everyone else at the table and let someone else run for a change. 

5. Get the Fuck Away from My Table

Life is difficult and oftentimes unfair so why should any of us put up with the players who want to ruin our games. I refuse to let those sorts of people ruin my gaming experience and as a result I've had a tremendous amount of fun. If you follow my advice then you will be able to as well. So go out and tell those problem players to get the fuck away from your tables and start having a better gaming experience today.

Monday, January 12, 2015

15 Predictions for 2015!

Have you been listening to the internet gods while being absolved of your sins? Lord knows that I haven't. But what I have been doing is reading the digital tea leaves for where the hobby is going and what's coming for us in the upcoming year. 15 Predictions for 2015 is the culmination of countless hours losing my eyesight in front of an osculating screen that will probably give me cancer and most definitely drive me mad. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Google Me, Bitch, I'm Fabulous!

So I was walking through Wal-Mart when I happened to pass this cute, little, teenage couple, pretty little Black girl and her Hispanic boyfriend. Their deep into some cutesy talk that makes me want to gag so I skip past them and head on over to get milk for the boy. 

A few isles later I come across them again and this time the Black girl is all up in the face of this not-so-attractive Hispanic girl who's just a little over weight. The two girls are shouting at the top of their lungs about how Miguel (the Hispanic boyfriend?) actually loves them. Then the Hispanic girl says, "Bitch, you too god-damned ratchet for any man to fuck!"

"Google me, Bitch," she screams back, "I'm fabulous!" and with that she knocks that girl right out. Wal-Mart managers are running in trying to get the Black girl and she takes off running screaming, "Fuck you bitches, I'm out!"

Fucking great day over here!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Praying for a George A. Romero Apocalypse

One of my favorite things about playing with a diverse group of players is that you get to see so much about the world in new ways. It's really exciting to hear a player describe their character attempting to pull off a devastating wrestling move they saw on last night's episode of RAW or one of those bone shattering stunts that Tony Ja pulls off with such mind numbing ease. Today, though, we're talking about zombies.

In traditional Dungeons and Dragons style games your average zombie stumbles about like the walking dead from one of George A. Romero's movies. They're essentially mindless, ravenously hungry, and could be killed with the millions of guns existing in rural America - except this is god damned movie so no one has any fucking guns! Anyway, I prefer those slow, lumbering zombies because if you run it right nothing is more terrifying than cornering your players in the middle of the night when the cleric was eaten an hour ago and no one is doing any real damage.

Best. fun. ever.

Now there are alternative forms of undead that you can suffer with if you like them fast or intelligent; but by and far the worst form I've ever seen are the ones who know parkour. Yeah, you fucking heard me. Just imagine the Walking Dead zombies bounding over fences, walls, and roofs like some jacked up spider-man trying to eat your stupid face.

That video was actually inspired by a new game, Dying Light. Which is going to be a damned resource hog for you PC gamers out there. Here's the recommended specs if you're interested:

OS: Windows® 7 64-bit / Windows® 8 64-bit / Windows® 8.1 64-bit
Processor: Intel® Core™ i5-4670K @3.4 GHz / AMD FX-8350 @4.0 GHz
Memory: 8 GB RAM DDR3
Hard Drive: 40 GB available space
Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 780 / AMD Radeon™ R9 290 (2GB VRAM)
Direct X: Version 11
Sound: DirectX® compatible

Yeah, I can't run that bullshit. I've got an AMD A8-6500 APU with Radeon HD Graphics at 3.50 GHz and 14 GB ram (13.2 usable) so I'm way under on the processor side and graphics side of things. And am I going to upgrade for this game? Well, let's look at the official trailer.

Of course I'm not going upgrade. It's another Resident Evil clone only instead of splashing a nonsensical story line over it like The Evil Within we've got parkour. Hooray. 

Ah well, at least the parkour zombies in the fan video are something new that I can use to scare the shit out of my players.

Sin Eater: Week 2

I am not immune from cloaking myself in an air of self-righteous dignity wherein I become unassailable. Not because I'm right mind you; good God no. No I become resolute in my logic to the point of lunacy because I have determined that I am right and you're wrong, wrong, fucking wrong.

I can guard against it better online because I have to think before I type - but away from the keyboard my wit can become acerbic at times and I say unkind things because I'm right. It's a terrible thing to recognize in yourself and I struggle with it. This week saw me lose that battle twice. The first time was a stupid conversation about the St. Lewis Rams and the second was over cooking dinner. Stupid things to become so damned full of myself over.
". . . Verily, I wish their madness were called truth or loyalty or justice; but they have their virtue in order to live long and in wretched contentment . . ." (Nietzsche, 151-152)
Then I wandered into RPGnet's forums and found a land where all these socially conscious kids are trying to shoehorn their pet issues into role-playing games. There, if you care to believe them, role-playing games are: a racial shadow play wherein we reenact the murderous habits of our colonial ancestors as they made their way through North America (strangely not South America) and Africa; a sexist den of iniquity where women are driven from the hobby by social mores from a bygone age; a place where white men (and apparently only white men) are incapable of creating anything but pseudo-European fantasy settings because anything else involves them making use of cultural appropriation. There were more claims being made as I clicked on interesting titles but it became clear that this wasn't a place for me. 

It seemed that practically every conversation on that forum was attempting say, "We know better than the poor, ignorant bastards who engage in this hobby and think that they're having fun. The true cost of their games goes far beyond the table. Oh sure, the beer and laughter might seem nice now; but the reality of their racist portrayals of orcs and their cultural appropriation of ninjas shows these games for how terrible they are for society." If they weren't so serious in their discussions I would swear they were trolling the internet. 

So yeah, I was also being a judgmental ass-hat. It's been a week, kids. 
The Sin Eater series is an opportunity for each of us, you and me, to recognize our sins and failures. Each week I kick it off by discussing something I do wrong, that I have failed at, or that I find reproachful in myself. Then anyone who wants to can join in and post their own 'sins' either through the use of their own username or anonymously in the comments below (DO NOT POST ANYTHING ILLEGAL AND THAT WILL GET YOU IN TROUBLE WITH THE LAW). 

The idea behind this project is to humanize ourselves (so take your self-righteous judgments and pronouncements and shove them right up your ass). It's also a place to help each of us to let go of the 'sins' that have been dominating our lives and recognize them for what they are: the simple human frailties that all of us struggle with daily. This series is the place where you can speak honestly and let your frailties be devoured by the internet gods.

Let the sin eating begin.

Works Cited
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Portable Nietzsche. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. United States: Viking Penguin Inc. 1982, Print. pgs 151-152

Friday, January 9, 2015

No Dear, This Is What Happens When You Engage.

Yesterday I wrote a post, Another Example of Things I Don't Understand, where I got a bit indignant about a RPGnet forum thread where a large group of posters were arguing that a white man can't and shouldn't attempt to create a game set in a world that draws on another culture besides the traditional pseudo-European setting. The reasoning that really struck a nerve with me was that by attempting to do so the white man (and it was always a white man, never a woman) was insulting the culture that he attempted to emulate. I find that line of thought and the reasoning supporting it to be absolutely repulsive.

Like every good boy with a blog I went online and ranted about it. And you know what? I wasn't alone in finding that line of thinking worthless as I had a lot of people come by the blog and leave me notes there and on Google+ expressing their dislike of it as well. I also had some people come along who wanted to express their support for that view which was . . . interesting. The guys who were into the whole thing seemed to be striking at targets that I wasn't presenting and arguing against lines of reasoning that I wasn't expressing. It was as though they had been through this discussion numerous times with others before me and had a set way that they discussed it.

It's fascinating how differently our approaches in discussing the whole thing were. I, and I think long time readers of this blog can attest to this, am very plainspoken and have no problem expressing my distaste for needless hand wringing and projecting personal issues onto my games. Which led to me dismissing arguments like +Kevin Farnworth's where he attempted to argue that ". . . going through a forest slaughtering orcs because they're inherently evil and savage is pretty much the exact reasoning colonists used invading Africa and the Americas.  The games we're playing don't come out of nowhere, and they don't really stop existing when we leave the gaming table."

This line of reasoning expects me to feel guilty to work. I'm supposed to have guilt over my ancestors killing and enslaving people, as though I were participating in the events. Even worse it argues that my games are just a reenactment of these past atrocities with orc skins draped over African and Native American bodies.

That is such an insulting position to take.

Look I understand that there are people in this world who have issues with everything that has happened in the history of man and they want to feel guilty, and have you feel that way too, for every past transgression that has been made. The thing is that I can only be held responsible for my own actions in this life and asking me to feel guilt for the misdeeds of people I've never known and had no impact on is just not going to happen.

But that doesn't mean that my mind wasn't changed about some things in this debate. +Dan Head, who writes the blog Dan & Sally's Digital Domain, really cut away at my indignation when he wrote:
"There's a lot going on in the Real World right now that has scared people into self-censorship. For example, my wife & I wanted to go see The Interview in a theater, but we mutually decided -- back when it was scheduled for theatrical release -- to wait until it had been out a day of two before heading out.

"People are a little afraid of offending certain groups right now, especially in Europe. There's a move to make it 'liberal' and sensitive, but still... Even owners of websites get drug into it because they don't want to be hacked, attacked, etc. they wind up saying things like, 'we shouldn't even be gaming. We should all work at a soup kitchen.'

"But really, people should stand up for free expression."
Reading that kind of put a different spin on the discussion for me. While I still believe that the whole debate over cultural appropriation in role-playing games is complete bullshit this idea that people are scared and are self-censoring is true. It's really hard keep being outraged when you realize that some of the things playing behind these comments might be coming from a place of fear.

Then while I was discussing a variety of topics with +John Theli, John made a comment that essentially over inflated the importance of games in the world. Which is when +Mark Van Vlack, who writes the blog Dust_Pan_Games (which everyone should read), came along and put everything into perspective.
"I would say in the context of the greater world, and it's myriad of real  problems. Role playing games do not matter. I will use those exact words and mean them exactly as stated. None of this matters a lick.

"The idea that opinions about this niche  hobby (RPG's) has any thrift in a world where real evil, bad intent, racism, murder, and all the rest thrive holds little water in my personal world view.

"I highly respect anyone opinion who thinks differently. It's your right and your view is equally valid. My feeling is that we have these discussions because intelligent creative people gravitate to this hobby and intelligent creative people are more likely to have opinions, and a willingness to defend them.

"So people at RPGnet and in threads like this one will continue to argue. The world will continue to spin. And somewhere someone who has never seen anything close to an  RPG will cause real harm to real people for their own rationalized reasons."
Kind of puts things into perspective, doesn't it?

I love having a blog where people feel comfortable enough to speak honestly and openly.  It's rewarding to have people who have helped me reshape my own understanding of where I stand, who get worked up about different things than me, who passionately argue for their position, and who bring a different perspective into this blog. 

I never thought when I started it that I would find an audience. So indulge me for a moment because I want to take this opportunity to tell all of you who read me that I thank you for coming along, reading, sharing, liking, plus 1ing, and commenting. Because this blog has steadily become a testament to what actually happens when you engage with the people who read you and the wider community as a whole. Don't let others fool you into believing that it has to be a terrible experience because it doesn't have to be. There are great people, and there are trolls, but in the end it is an excellent experience to engage. 

Friday Artfest: That_Land Panel 1 (Reccuring Dream) by Pierre Ferrero (2014)

That_Land Panel 1 (2014) by Pierre Ferrero

That_Land panel 1 by Pierre Ferrero is the first panel in the larger Reccuring Dream series. Each panel in the series shows a single individual progressing through a series of events that lead to his death and his awakening in a new place, still himself, yet a stranger to his previous incarnation.

This first panel in the series exemplifies so much of why I really dig Pierre's work. The colors are vibrant and feel like I'm on the edge of a fevered dream. The lines are crisp and clean; and though you can easily tell what most everything in the image is supposed to be there is no clear hold on reality or its silly laws that will dictate what the image reveals to you. Then there are the shadows, which are only fleetingly given thought to, which seem to lend an other world feel to the overall image. 

Perhaps my favorite part of this beautiful panel is the man in the lower left-hand corner. His posture seems to foretell his future theft, which can be seen in panel 3, and the way he leers at the house whispers of his intent. Here is the main protagonist of the series and from this panel forward he directs his fate through his own actions, always making a terrible decision and forcing himself into worse situations time and time again.

Closing Comments.

Due to the influx of spam comments on Dyvers I am closing the comments. I'm not currently doing anything with this blog, but I don'...