Friday, August 12, 2011

Dungeons & Dames


Mostly today's post is an excuse to show you this kick-ass valkyrie picture I found.  But it reminded me of a point I wanted to make regarding pseudo-historical D&D.

One of the neat things about running a pseudo-historical D&D game instead of a strictly historical RPG is that one is not tempted to be that guy.  The one who gives female players hassles over the way women were treated back in the day.  A few thick-headed DMs can't seem to figure out that having fun in a fantasy setting is not helped by whacking the player over the head with endemic sexism, racism or homophobia.  Apparently it never occurs to these knuckle-heads that even in our relatively progressive society people put up with more than enough of that crap in the real world and that fantasy gaming is meant as escapist fun.  If you want to play some narrativist hippie indie game where exploring these issues is the whole point of the operation, more power to you.  But D&D seems to work better for most people when it is about reckless adventure, gratuitous violence and flaunting societal convention.

You can still use these issues in your D&D games, but for plot fodder rather than a hammer beating down your players.  One of the reasons Empress Maude is denied the throne of England is because *gasp* [clutch pearls] she's a woman.  And Siffrid, Bishop of Chichester, is still deposed from his church office in 1145 because apparently the dude was gay.  Clearly an enterprising DM could make some hay out of these facts.  But in my campaign those events didn't just happen because everybody back then mistreated ladies and queerfolk.  They happened because some people mistreated ladies and homosexuals using a variety of pretexts and bodies of law written by previous generations of misogynists and homophobes.  In other words the problem isn't 12th century English society, the problem is that some people are douchebags.

You can build an argument that I'm making my game less realistic by compromising my simulation of southwest England during the Anarchy, but I've already got Cornwall terrorized by a dragon and an advisor to King Stephen who is a tenth level magic-user.  And if I'm accommodating the players who enjoy Gandalf or Legolas knockoffs, not making room for other players and their characters would just be rude.

115 comments:

  1. You know, maybe there should be a place in the gaming world for simulation- of genre, of history.

    When one sits down to play to Middle Earth, a gay Gandalf is completely out of place. Middle Earth isn't about that any more than it's about blaster fire and computer hacking.

    If one wishes to be hardcore about it, a female member of the fellowship who unlike Eowyn isn't forced to confront the fact that no one wants her to go becauses she's woman is a crime against the setting.

    Simulation of a church that disapproves of gays to the point that they would remove them from office is not only proper in respect of history, it is proper for today's Catholic Church and others.

    If these are points of genre simulation that a group wishes to respect, they are perfectly in their rights to do so. Just as they may drop simulation completely to suit a different purpose.

    And yes you may whine about their choice. But in doing do you come off as nothing more than the 'bad wrong fun' types you often complain about yourself.

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  3. Thought better about my comment and deleted.

    Short version: This posts rocks Jeff, and yeah Gleichman you can roleplay that stuff if you want. I for one just don't think that dealing with gender politics takes time away from being in dungeons.

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  4. "And yes you may whine about their choice."

    I'm pretty sure I noted that if you are playing a game that puts these things front and center it is no skin off my back.

    Personally, I'm not going to play in a game that picks on PCs for the same stupid reasons that real people get picked on daily, especially not in the name of some ridiculous idol called Simulation. Your crimes against the setting and respect of history are just way too abstract for me when there are real people sitting at the table.

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  5. Anonymous6:36 AM

    The problem I found with pseudo-historical gaming (particularly in Call of Cthulhu and Deadlands) is that the historical purists try to make everything accurate and decry the creative elements as "not realistic". Put the pyramids in the background of a scene and a steampunk ornithopter in the foreground, and you will get lectures about ancient egypt that add nothing to the game.

    So, interested as I am in history, my D&D campaigns are in invented worlds. Fewer headaches and arguments, and more fun, that way.

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  6. myrystyr, so far I've been lucky. The only lengthy nerd-brawl we've had in my campaign was over whether or not the longbow existed in 12th century England. We agreed to simply use one "Bow, undefined".

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  7. Jeff Rients: So games are off limits, but you will pick on other people in real life because they have a different play style and value things other than you.

    Respect for history and simulation may be abstract in your mind, but they are real concepts. They have real impact. On the individual and the wider culture.

    Here, the immediate impact was a direct insult by you against simulation gamers. Oh sure you used some weasel words- and in doing so called them narrativist hippie indie gamers which if anything is a worst insult.

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  8. My game world is pretty hard-core about this stuff - but in a fair and balanced way.

    Most of the world is homo-phobic, but the Myceneans arn't. In fact, they regard the love between two men (alas, not women) as the ideal of romantic love.

    Most of the world is chuavanistic - but the Tuatha, Drune, Zamans, Elves and Mysos arn't.

    Most of the world is run by men, for men, with women as second class citizens - but in Zama, women are expected to rule the city and run bussinesses because it's the mens job to travel and fight. So both sexes are legally and socially equal, with their own traditional (but still fluid) spheres of responsibility. In Zama, same-sex relationships are so commonplace as to not even elicit comment.

    It works for my male and female gamers of any sexual preference because I use these atitudes as a tool to foster roleplay and drama, not, as you say, a hammer to beat my players down. They know what they're getting into when they sign up.

    In fact, in my Dragon Age campaign both my female players relished the idea that they were bucking societies trends. The player of the female warrior loved the way NPC's reactions ranged initially from outright horror at her appearance to (eventually) respect and in some cases outright lust ( a woman who can keep up with me and talk swords all day! Back off, I want to court her!). They loved playing up the social conventions to the hilt, and twisting them in their favour -much like Catelyn Stark in Game of Thrones.

    "Help, help, I'm a noble lady attacked by Brigands. Won't you help me Sir Knight!"

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  9. You might also like to take a look at Sir Larkins blog. He and his wife are running a Solo Pendragon campaign right now. After her first (male) knight died she decided to play a Lady. She's having great fun breaking hearts, fluttering eyelashes and twisting all the noble knights of the setting round her finger.

    http://shirosrpg.blogspot.com/

    I do agree with you to an extent though -this sort of campaign (or even my own campaign style) isn't to everyones tastes. It's all about tailoring your setting to your players.

    Zama came about as the egalitarian society it is for one simple reason: I wanted to have a campaign setting (back then it was just one city) where my gay and female players could play their alter-ego's in an accepting environment. It's also why all the characters in my current game come from the non-sexist city-state of Mysos.

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  10. Hear Hear! It's an at times difficult subject but, well put Jeff.

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  11. Jeff Rients: So games are off limits, but you will pick on other people in real life because they have a different play style and value things other than you.

    If you think any of us make it out of this world alive without a little hypocrisy, then I have some bad news for you.

    Respect for history and simulation may be abstract in your mind, but they are real concepts. They have real impact. On the individual and the wider culture.

    So does the way you treat real people who have sat down at your table to participate in some light entertainment. In any situation where I have to pick one or the other, I think I'm pretty happy taking the living, breathing human over anyone's idea of history.

    Here, the immediate impact was a direct insult by you against simulation gamers. Oh sure you used some weasel words- and in doing so called them narrativist hippie indie gamers which if anything is a worst insult.

    Suck it up, dude. You're a big boy.

    Every play style can go off the rails if taken too seriously. My own playstyle is ridiculously flawed. You think I'm just kidding when I call it "retro stupid"? Or when I refer to out of print classics as "crappy old games"? I'm not just engaging in self-deprecating humor, I'm stating the facts as I understand them. But this, what we're talking about here, is where the hardcore simulationist falls flat on his face. "This is how woman were treated back then" rules are only half a step away from FATAL's dubious justification of in-game rape. I don't want to go down that rabbit hole and I don't think you do either.

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  12. Anonymous7:50 AM

    This is no Valkyrie, this is Germania. She wears the Imperial Shield, as you might see and should wear the Imperial Crown.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germania_%28personification%29

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  13. Thanks! I found it via google image search for cool valkyrie art.

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  14. I'm confused by your post, Jeff, which is a rare thing! Are you saying that of all the things to "simulate" in an RPG, historical sexism is not high on *your* list for *your* games? I think that is what you are saying, but I'm not clear. If so, I completely agree! Your average run-of-the-mill RPG being played by your average run-of-the-mill players isn't going to gain anything by adding shallow simulations of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.

    That said, I don't see why these issues couldn't be explored by folks playing an RPG. That's what confuses me about your post. You seem to be arguing that people shouldn't add these elements to their RPGs. My thinking is that if a group wants to add them, then add them. If you can't explore difficult topics in the realm of collective imagination, then where can you?

    Given your post, I guess I'm most curious about what triggered it.

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  15. It's funny...

    While women are the focus of this it could (but usually does not) apply to ethnic minorities as well.

    I love Ars Magica. My NY players, by and large, don't want to play Ars Magica in it's implied setting, a magical Medieval Europe. Why? The majority of the group is Black. There are, in their minds, very few options for them.

    As a matter of fact, if you look through the various editions of D&D, Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord and the like, I'll bet you dimes to donuts you see more female characters depicted then Black, Hispanic or Asian ones.

    Living in New York City pretty much all my life, I think this is another reason we (my groups and I) drifted toward Superhero and especially Science Fiction gaming. We wanted to be in worlds we could see ourselves in and ones where the game's designers saw us as well.

    How many Asian knights did Arthur have? Which member of the Fellowship was Hispanic? Remember the time when the cool female hero bested Fafrd and Gray Mouser?

    No? None?

    Right.

    Now I keep telling them, "It doesn't matter what real history had. You want to be a Knight whose Black, be a Knight whose Black."

    It's easy for me to say that. 'My Guys'* are everywhere.

    -Adam

    *Technically 'My Guys' aren't everywhere since I'm of Jewish decent.

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  16. I'm not trying to change your mind. I don't agree with you, but I am trying to understand where you're coming from.

    "when it is about reckless adventure, gratuitous violence and flaunting societal convention."

    Isn't it kinda hard to flaunt societal convention when the societal convention doesn't exist?

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  17. I think theres been some hair splitting about Jeffs post, especially in the overall simulation vs narrativismly divide.

    D&D is from its origins, a big mashup of different fantasy and psuedo mythological sources, especially in regards to monsters. It has a sheen of Tolkieny fantasy about it, but, especially in it original incarnation, all bets were off in regards to what made up the game.

    You can have racism,gender politics, political inequality, and all the other icky things from real life in your game, and maybe they exist in non D&D games. There was even an early Startegic Review article about women characters in D&D I believe( and how they had lower stats), so even D&D isnt immune to putting on the mantle simulationism. But why? To what end? Is that fun?

    If I want escapism and dungeon delving, I just want to know where the gold is and how bad the BBEG is that guards it.

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  18. @ Barking

    Dude, if your guys don't want to play Ars magica because they can't have black characters, set the game in Iberia or the Levent tribunial.

    Both areas had plenty of black inhabitants in the 10th 11th and 12th centuries.

    The Almarovids and Almohads who invaded Spain from North Africa in 1042 weren't Arabs or Berbers. They were black. And many of them fought and died as mercenaries, slaves, or religious warriors against Christian Crusaders in the Middle East. Hell, many of early Islams greatest and best scholars, sages and thinkers weren't arabs or berbers of even persians. They were black.

    If they don't want to play Black Muslim characters, then let them play Ethiopians: Black Christians.

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  19. Good post, Jeff. I also think that "social class" rules can sometimes cut too close to real-world uncomfortableness. The archetypical D&D PC adventurer tends to stand outside the rigid social order of the day, anyway... In the gutter today... on a throne tomorrow! :-)

    (I also don't want to crap on anyone's sandwich if medieval realism is their bag -- go have fun with Bruce Galloway's Fantasy Wargaming for example -- but if "fun at the table" is your goal, 9 times out of 10 I'd be on the side of putting that stuff aside.)

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  20. Isn't it kinda hard to flaunt societal convention when the societal convention doesn't exist?

    The flaunting is an in-game activity in response to an out-of-game convention.

    Are you saying that of all the things to "simulate" in an RPG, historical sexism is not high on *your* list for *your* games?

    That's totally what I am saying.
    Also 2) if you want a game to be about these issues, that is totally cool but 3) don't beat up your players with this stuff in the name of simulationism. That last part is how a lot of crap sneaks into otherwise fine campaigns.

    BA: If someone wanted to play a Moor in my campaign, I would work with that. If someone just wanted to be able to imagine themselves on the adventure without any in-game explanation, that's cool too.
    (Also, I tend to imagine Ice T as the Bishop of Wintoncester. He's just a badass mofo that manages to be both gritty and smooth in that weird way that he pulls off so well.)

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  21. If you think any of us make it out of this world alive without a little hypocrisy, then I have some bad news for you.

    Usually an admission of hypocrisy is done with a bit of shame and at least some showing of a desire to do better.

    You wear yours like a virtue. How modern of you.

    So does the way you treat real people who have sat down at your table to participate in some light entertainment. In any situation where I have to pick one or the other, I think I'm pretty happy taking the living, breathing human over anyone's idea of history.

    Modern living people love to hide from reality to the point that they are more than willing to rewrite history. You are helping them.

    This does not make them enlightened, this makes them gutless and ignorant.


    Suck it up, dude. You're a big boy.

    I wish I could say the same about you. But what I see is a little boy wanting the moral high ground because he throws history under a blanket. And is confused that not everyone is going to give it to him.


    But this, what we're talking about here, is where the hardcore simulationist falls flat on his face. "This is how woman were treated back then" rules are only half a step away from FATAL's dubious justification of in-game rape. I don't want to go down that rabbit hole and I don't think you do either.

    That is a crap argument and you know it. There is difference between respecting history and wallowing in its worst aspects.

    I also find someone praising LotFP on one hand and damning FATAL's obsessions on the other to be less of a moral compass than he thinks he is.

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  22. Uh guys. Let passions cool huh. Try to keep it civil.

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  23. Barking Alien: I have a great deal of sympathy for the racial issues you mention.

    You're players are likely members of western culture, which is where most fantasy traditions come from. But their race wasn't part of that until long after the fantasy period.

    Meanwhile those traditions of their racial birth are as alien to them as they are to you or I.

    In historical fantasy, they are without a home.

    A whole cloth fantasy would could resolve this to some degree. Exceptional individuals can also resolve this to some degree.

    To name but one example, for all the sexism of the 15th century- Joan of Arc was still Joan of Arc and all the more impressive for it.

    Or there is the solution your group found. More modern settings.

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  24. This does not make them enlightened, this makes them gutless and ignorant.

    Since when is the point of playing RPGs enlightenment?

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  25. Since when is the point of playing RPGs enlightenment?

    The exact minute you based upon history.

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  26. @Jeff: Ahhhh, cool. I was misunderstanding you. Thank you for clearing that up. :)

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  27. The exact minute you based upon history.

    That's the real divide here then. Not to put words into Jeff's mouth, or rather textbox, but I think he'd see his historical setting as little more than a place for some adventures.

    Speaking as an (aspiring) historian, I'd have to say that I don't think that much truth and enlightenment can be gained from playing a version of history where people can throw fireballs and Charlie Sean is a wizard.

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  28. I'm not insulted at all, since I'm a non-hippie narrativist.

    Seriously, though, I think this is a post about GM smarts, and overall a rather smart post about GM smarts. It's smart to care more about the players than about your vision of the setting, for both gaming and ethical reasons. (I want to say some guy has been blogging about some old game inventor who wrote on this subject, but I'm too modest.)

    The only critical thing that seems left out here is the mutual understanding of the gamers. If everybody is on board with exploring some issue or set of issues in campaign -- whether or not it is part of the mechanics of the game or just a background element like it would be in a game like D&D -- then that could work out fine. But if the GM has a commitment to simulating his/her vision of a setting and uses it to surprise the players in these kinds of areas, then the capacity for undoing the presuppositions of fantasy rpging and hence destroying fun are dangerously high.

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  29. Uh guys. Let passions cool huh. Try to keep it civil.

    Would love to.

    Normally I like Jeff's blog and rather enjoy it despite his horrid taste in game systems. Otherwise I would have never read this, let alone commented.

    I ignore this when it first came up a while back. Should have taken it on then before the insults started flying.

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  30. Usually an admission of hypocrisy is done with a bit of shame and at least some showing of a desire to do better.

    You wear yours like a virtue. How modern of you.


    I don't know who told you I was proud to be a hypocrite, but you've got some bad intel there, chief.

    Modern living people love to hide from reality to the point that they are more than willing to rewrite history. You are helping them.

    Are you suggesting that a gay person would need reminding that much of history has been down on him? Or that women need to be reminded of their lot for 99% of human history?

    I wish I could say the same about you. But what I see is a little boy wanting the moral high ground because he throws history under a blanket.

    There's a difference between looking history in the eye and using it to justify your own actions.

    And is confused that not everyone is going to give it to him.

    You think I didn't know I'd draw out someone eager to justify themselves? Man, you must have missed my once-a-year-or-so overtly political posts.

    That is a crap argument and you know it. There is difference between respecting history and wallowing in its worst aspects.

    There we agree. I think playing out needless sexism, racism and homophobia can be filed under "wallowing in its worst aspects". And more to the point, it can be incredibly rude to players who already deal with that crap in their own lives.

    I also find someone praising LotFP on one hand and damning FATAL's obsessions on the other to be less of a moral compass than he thinks he is.

    Maybe you're right. Maybe I can't distinguish between a good game with unnecessarily grotesque but well executed art and an altogether atrocious game. No, wait. I just did.

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  31. @Gleichman

    Clarifications requested (these are asked out of honest curiosity about your position, not a desire to fuck with you):

    1)
    What exactly is the point at which a setting uses so many signifiers of history that one has a (moral, pedagogical, political, ethical, whatever you'd call it) responsibility to confront social issues touched on by social issues implied in that historical setting?

    2)
    Is there a level of moral/pedagogical/ethical/political enlightenment a human could achieve -before sitting down to play- that would allow him/her to play in a game which includes historical elements without it being necessary forced by the GM to deal with these social issues during the course of the game?

    3)
    Does your whole argument imply one should not play games set in a modern setting unless one uses the game to confront the many divisive social issues which continue to devil human society to this day? Like can I run a game set in southern Arizona with interracial PCs without making immigration an issue?

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  32. Sorry guys I think you missed my point.

    I read 'let them play a' and I had to laugh.

    I am letting you play a Knight or are playing a Knight?

    Yes, there are Moors and such. They don't want to be Moors. They don't want to be the foreign guy. They want to be a guy. Like everyone else.

    Marvel Comics attracts more minorities than DC because when you look at the main teams and rosters, you don't really see minorities represented.

    Luke Cage leads one group of Avengers. Storm is a major player in the X-Men.

    Who is next to Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman on the JLA? Umm...at one point Black Lightning. Really? The guy who's less impressive than the Teen Titans' Static?

    It's not about finding minority characters to play. It's about wanting to be part of the majority setting but seeing no way in.

    Jeff is doing his Wessex game his way because the 'real way' would exclude at lot of PC possibilities.

    Is it a simulation? No. It's faux-historical. That's fine. I love history but it's full of stuff that makes some options more limited.

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  33. That's the real divide here then. Not to put words into Jeff's mouth, or rather textbox, but I think he'd see his historical setting as little more than a place for some adventures.

    That's fine, if he changes up the names and files off all the serial numbers- thus making the setting his own.

    But if he keeps them, he is required to at least reflect the most general reality of what they were.

    There is a word when untruths are told about real people- It's called a lie.

    To put this in perspective, would you be as quick to say I'm perfectly justified in have my Shadowrun setting reference Jeff Rients, who in 2010 after the awakening (moved the date for this example to make it the past) leveraged his new found magical powers for raping 200 3 year girls (to pick a random disgusting example)?


    Speaking as an (aspiring) historian, I'd have to say that I don't think that much truth and enlightenment can be gained from playing a version of history where people can throw fireballs and Charlie Sean is a wizard.

    Then my I suggest that you are a poor aspiring historian if you think that fireballs and Charlie Sean being a wizard justifies lies about those things outside the influence of fireballs and Charlie Sean.

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  34. "But if he keeps them, he is required to at least reflect the most general reality of what they were.

    There is a word when untruths are told about real people- It's called a lie."


    He isn't required to do anything of the sort. And no, it isn't a lie, unless he's trying to pass it off as truth. It's fiction.

    You must really dislike Alexandre Dumas.

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  35. To Answer Zak S questions:

    1) What exactly is the point at which a setting uses so many signifiers of history that one has a (moral, pedagogical, political, ethical, whatever you'd call it) responsibility to confront social issues touched on by social issues implied in that historical setting?

    The point exists where you're using the names of real people and places.


    2)Is there a level of moral/pedagogical/ethical/political enlightenment a human could achieve -before sitting down to play- that would allow him/her to play in a game which includes historical elements without it being necessary forced by the GM to deal with these social issues during the course of the game?

    No.

    If they don't want to deal with historical reality- don't play in historical games. It's that simple.


    3)
    Does your whole argument imply one should not play games set in a modern setting unless one uses the game to confront the many divisive social issues which continue to devil human society to this day? Like can I run a game set in southern Arizona with interracial PCs without making immigration an issue?


    Any setting has as one of its key elements the concept of focus.

    One doesn't have time for the simulation of everything. Modern settings are very complex for the simple reason we know far more (and far less- but that's a different subject) about it. Thus focus become even more important.

    If however one of the PCs in Az in a modern setting was an illegal (to pick but one example)- yes, I would expect it to be dealt with in some manner.

    Other it can exist in the background until something the players do bring it to the foreground. That may or may not ever happen.

    What you don't do is say it doesn't exist.

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  36. There is a word when untruths are told about real people- It's called a lie.

    What lie? That in my land of fairies and dragons people are more laid back about swordmaidens and wizards who play both sides of the street than maybe they were in real 12th century England? By that standard isn't every wargame a lie because it doesn't have rules for situation X, Y or Z? We always make choices when we run these games, some of which are choices of omission. I'm not going to focus on disease vectors because I want to spend my time instead trying to work out the differences between taverns and alehouses. Am I now a liar because of that?

    Every game we run we make choices about what to focus on and what to let slide. No GM is capable of running a game that is a total simulation. All we can do is think about what we want to focus on. Aren't you willing to own up to the simple fact that you pick what NPCs say and do in your game?

    To put this in perspective, would you be as quick to say I'm perfectly justified in have my Shadowrun setting reference Jeff Rients, who in 2010 after the awakening (moved the date for this example to make it the past) leveraged his new found magical powers for raping 200 3 year girls (to pick a random disgusting example)?

    That's not putting anything into perspective. That would just be you being a dick. Unless your problem is that I'm defaming some historical personage by making them less sexist, racist or homophobic, I just don't see your point.

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  37. You must really dislike Alexandre Dumas.


    I have no opinion of him. Didn't like any of his stuff to watch the movies let alone read his books.

    But a more more example- Dan Brown. Hate him.

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  38. @gleichman

    Again, not fucking with you, curious...

    Your concern appears to stem from a belief that saying in a game that (for example) "Abe Lincoln was a steel-drivin' man" that this will cause players to actually believe, consciously or otherwise, that Abe Lincoln was a steel-drivin' man. Which would be inaccurate and bad.

    Is this so? Or am I accidentally parodying your position?

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  39. "To put this in perspective, would you be as quick to say I'm perfectly justified ... (snip)"

    I think I'm perfectly justified in saying you're being a douche, not to mention creepy, for making that comment.

    Not to mention the fact that now, Jeff has to put up with the possibility of your little snippet popping up in Google searches of his name, incomplete and out of context.

    Seriously, I'd delete that comment Jeff.

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  40. What lie?

    Your lies. Done every time you have real historical person X do something they wouldn't have.

    By that standard isn't every wargame a lie because it doesn't have rules for situation X, Y or Z?

    No, and you know better to even suggest that I think.

    See my point on focus in a previous post and stop being a jerk. You know me and my thoughts on simulation well enough to understand where I'd stand on it.



    It is indeed very much putting things into perspective.

    Let me add a point to make it more clear to you.

    What in 2020 in our future real world it's considered perfectly normal and acceptable for people to rape 200 3 year olds.

    What if in the name of making you more acceptable to that culture a GM in 2020 you into the game as a person who raped 200 3 years? Is it now acceptable to you?

    If you would be dead in 2020 is it now acceptable to you?



    Your lies aren't just making real dead people less racist, less sexist or whatever. You hiding the reasons for why they were these things. Completely dismissing what they held as truths and making dance to your lies.

    You can have whatever fantasy you want Jeff. Just don't call it by the names of reality.

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  41. Your medieval fantasy can totally skip over the place of women, or religion, fealty, technology, poverty, or whatever. Like an idealised version of today, only without cars.

    You're sort of playing the black, paraplegic, lesbian jew leading an SS unit to hunt down evil communist spies in 1943 as the brave republican Germans fight a winning war to unite the world for Jesus (with the help of endless Ninjas).

    Which I can see, as a sort of ironic thing. Has possibilities, in a Pretentious-stupid sort of a way.

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  42. The way I figure it, in a world where a female fighter is as likely to roll 18/00 for Strength as a man, where a female magic-used can cast a meteor swarm that can kill an army, or where a female cleric can prove that the God accepts her by raising the dead or smiting her enemies, the historical reasons FOR sexism pretty much vanish. The issue isn't simulationism -- it's FAILING at simulationism. Why were women so downtrodden for most of history? Because they lived in a world where rulership was determined solely by sheer muscle mass and little else. Give them equality in that regard -- and give them magic, to boot -- and you eliminate most of the sexism.

    I get a lot of grief on RPG.net for my "the game rules are the physics of the world" stance, but I find it solves more problems than it causes.

    (Oh, and I've dealt with this issue in other settings, such as my GURPS Tales Of The Solar Patrol, where I discussed the realities of 1930s-1950s attitudes towards women and how, when, and if they should or should not be included in campaigns. The 'official' setting's answer is "No", that men and women (and all ethnicities and religions) are equal, though of course some individuals will remain bigots, sexists, etc -- but these are socially unacceptable and negative traits, flaws to be overcome. I also offered the option that there is 'minor' prejudice against a woman doing 'man's work', but it's no more than quirk-level (a GURPS term, don't worry about it) for most, quickly dispelled if she proves competent (and what PC isn't?), and the option of confronting prejudice head on with a 5 point disadvantage for being a woman, but I pretty much said this should be done only if the players and GM really want to explore that aspect of the setting and times, to deal with the issue as part of the game itself. (TOTSP is very deliberately NOT a deconstruction or mockery of early SF tropes, but I also acknowledge that some people might want to play it that way and set out guidelines and ideas for those who want them.)

    PS: I totally agree with Jeff re goddam narrativist hippies.

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  43. I just want to call attention to something Barking Alien said above, which to me seems to be the core of what Jeff was getting at in the original post (though I realize we have gone far beyond that):

    Yes, there are Moors and such. They don't want to be Moors. They don't want to be the foreign guy. They want to be a guy. Like everyone else.

    This seems to me to be the point. If someone brings an African American friend to a game set in Aurthurian England and the DM is like "oh, great, what are we gonna do with THIS guy?" that is asinine.

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  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  45. Is this so? Or am I accidentally parodying your position?

    No, it's rather close.

    Most people know nothing of history. They may understand that Jeff's campaign is fiction and that nothing there is real, at the time and when asked about specific game events.

    But years down the road when someone says that good old King Henry did X, they'll respond that he did Y. They will have forgotten that Y only happened in Jeff's game.

    We see this with movies and books now (Dan Brown for example, clearly labeled fiction- but too many people think otherwise).

    We see it in gamers, many of who will insist unto death that women are every bit as strong as men because that's what their games tell them and it's sexist to say otherwise just as those games which enforced differences were sexist to do so.

    Individual all small things. But there is no need for any of it. If Jeff wants a fantasy world without sexism he can have it. Just don't use real names and real history for it.

    And then get on a moral high horse when doing so.

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  46. Anonymous10:18 AM

    1) There is a difference between medieval- and horror-show-boogey-man mysogynism.

    1a) It is perfectly possible to run a historical game, even a D&D-ified one, with respecting medieval sexual reality.

    2) I dunno which high horses are ridden to hell in this very comments section. But less US-domestic crampy politics and more talking about, you know, historic facts (as we interpret them), could help a lot.

    3) I think what Jeff meant to say was mainly not being the docuhebag GM who punishes players for HIS campaign choice.

    4) Knightly times also had an idealized view of women that could be used to great effect: whatever a PC woman of some stature does, no matter how "inapropriate", will be courteously interpreted and treated as perfectly acceptible.

    5) Sexual differentiation was already "priced into" everything of english society at that time. It worked and everybody knew his place and what he was expected to do or not do. So there was a norm. PCs would maneuvre that norm without thinking about it. So: being a douchy GM about stuff the PCs would knew anyway is still being a douchebag. I understood Jeff the way that making the mundane into sth special and problematic is much more about making a political point than a project of enlightenment.

    @culture warriors: is douchebag a mysogynist term?

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  47. @Zak_S. No, Abraham Lincon was a STAKE-drivin' man. http://www.amazon.com/Abraham-Lincoln-Vampire-Seth-Grahame-Smith/dp/0446563080/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1313162316&sr=8-1

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  48. As a person of color who speaks his ancestral language, is initiated into his ancestral religion, etc. AND lives in the modern Westernized US & enjoys playing games in fantasy faux-medieval-land, I find this statement both incredibly presumptuous and downright offensive.

    Then be even more offended now. If you can understand that all statements include room for rare exception- you can shove it.

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  49. @Steve & Barking A.

    Right on.

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  50. I see Brian's point, though I guess I don't agree that historical simulation is morally required in an RPG. I wouldn't necessarily mind running or playing in a game like that, depending on the players and group, etc. But I don't feel that the choice is forced on me just because I pick historical stuff to play with.

    There is an interesting line here. I do have some distaste for films like The Last Samurai or even Young Einstein, because most of the people watching them don't have any idea what those people and periods were actually about. I think I have slightly more tolerance for historical mash-ups in an RPG setting, especially if a GM (like Jeff) actually knows something about the period, because if there is genuine confusion things can and will be discussed, researched, etc. A film or novel is presented as a fait accompli in a way that an RPG game is not.

    I am confused by what I take to be one of Brian's main arguments, though. Compare:

    a) All magic spells, special powers, etc. have to obey the laws of real-world physics, or at least all deviations from real-world physics have to be explained in terms of additional laws of magic and/or physics that come with the setting. Otherwise, the game is hopelessly unrealistic and you are wrong to play it.

    b) All locations, characters, cultures, etc. taken from sources external to the game (real or otherwise) have to be taken over verbatim, with all the original features of those locations/cultures/characters etc., or at least all deviations from these have to be directly articulated and explained in terms of the shared world of play.

    So, questions:

    1) What is the difference between (a) and (b)? I ask because relatively few gamers (though there are some) accept (a) - why should we also accept (b) in this case?

    2) One argument might be that while deviations from (a) don't disrespect any actual persons, cultures, etc., deviations from (b) do. But while this argument might be leveled at medieval or Renaissance genre mash-ups where you have Moorish soldiers and Chinese Kung Fu experts helping Robin Hood, it simply won't help at all for Middle Earth or Viriconimum or Westeros mash-ups, since no actual people are being misrepresented in those cases.

    3) Both (a) and (b) have an opt-out clause. The opt-out clause is necessary for (a) or you couldn't have magic or fireballs at all, and even the most hard-core simulationists I've known haven't insisted on playing games with no magic, etc. But then why can't a GM and group who want to use the opt-out clause in (b)? "We're playing Middle Earth, but hobbits are gay"; "We're playing medieval England, but there are lots of Moorish and Chinese knights running around." It's fine if you personally have a distaste for this sort of thing - as I mentioned, I actually share some of that distaste in the film and literary media, though not in RPGs - but I can't for the life of me see the moral imperative for groups who don't share your distaste to go along with it.

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  51. The way I figure it, in a world where a female fighter is as likely to roll 18/00 for Strength as a man, where a female magic-used can cast a meteor swarm that can kill an army, or where a female cleric can prove that the God accepts her by raising the dead or smiting her enemies, the historical reasons FOR sexism pretty much vanish.

    People always bring this up, and don't realize how foolish of a point it is.


    This is fine for your typical D&D world, magic changes a lot. It can be just about anything.

    But it's not fine if you insist on the setting still being historical. Magic means the same people wouldn't be as important. Without Sexism and with magic it may have been Anna the Lion Hearted and not Richard.

    There a line that when crossed, means you should toss history completely, even if you steal thoughts from it and change the names.

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  52. QUOTE ME:
    "
    Your concern appears to stem from a belief that saying in a game that (for example) "Abe Lincoln was a steel-drivin' man" that this will cause players to actually believe, consciously or otherwise, that Abe Lincoln was a steel-drivin' man. Which would be inaccurate and bad.

    "Is this so? Or am I accidentally parodying your position?"

    QUOTE GLEICHMAN:

    "No, it's rather close.

    "Most people know nothing of history. They may understand that Jeff's campaign is fiction and that nothing there is real, at the time and when asked about specific game events.

    "But years down the road when someone says that good old King Henry did X, they'll respond that he did Y. They will have forgotten that Y only happened in Jeff's game."

    _____





    I think we're done here.

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  53. Apparently it never occurs to these knuckle-heads that even in our relatively progressive society people put up with more than enough of that crap in the real world and that fantasy gaming is meant as escapist fun. If you want to play some narrativist hippie indie game where exploring these issues is the whole point of the operation, more power to you. But D&D seems to work better for most people when it is about reckless adventure, gratuitous violence and flaunting societal convention.

    I dig this. And I'm a gal who likes a bit of strict-gender-roles in her gaming, though I tend to prefer wacky speculative setups to the historical ones. But I only enjoy it if I have buy-in to it, and not because the DM has decided to hassle my female characters so the game can be more "realistic."

    Of course, I'm also pretty comfortable running a male character if the setting calls for it, so there's that.

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  54. Your lies. Done every time you have real historical person X do something they wouldn't have.

    Hey, man. If you can come up with what Alberic of Ostia would do in any given situation the PCs would come up with, kudos to you. I have to stick with "what makes my game work" as my standard, owing to my lack of omniscience.

    See my point on focus in a previous post and stop being a jerk. You know me and my thoughts on simulation well enough to understand where I'd stand on it.

    No, I was honestly stupid enough to not realize you would follow through on your simulationist ethic so as to drag your female, minority and gay players through the mud. That's what your advocating here, isn't it? Please tell me I'm wrong. Or at least tell me this isn't an issue for you because your game group is all straight white dudes.

    What in 2020 in our future real world it's considered perfectly normal and acceptable for people to rape 200 3 year olds.

    Now I know you're just being a douche. That's the sort of hypothetical only a reactionary nutjob would go to.

    Your lies aren't just making real dead people less racist, less sexist or whatever. You hiding the reasons for why they were these things. Completely dismissing what they held as truths and making dance to your lies.

    Okay. The truth as I understand it is that humans really can't throw fireballs. The truth as I understand it is FTL travel is impossible. You're arguing for the Dogme 95 of rpgs, aren't you?

    You can have whatever fantasy you want Jeff. Just don't call it by the names of reality.

    I think this is the part of the argument where traditionally one would sign off by saying something clever like "fuck you" or "go to hell". I'm going to refrain from ending that way because I respect so much of the work you do. Instead I'll just say I'd rather be a liar in my Wessex than a simulationist in pretty much any point in human history.

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  55. God forbid people get the wrong ideas of how history actually worked in Wessex...

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  56. I'm running a game this weekend at OSR Con in Toronto for 6 people I've never met before. I have no idea about gender, ethnicity, or anything like that.

    The game is set in Arizona in the 1870s and while I _could_ make an all-white, all-male set of characters that would be less fun, less inclusive, and *less believable* than characters from at least 5 different ethnic backgrounds, and women alongside the men.

    I don't want a simulation of conservative hollywood films from the 1950s...

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  57. @Gleichman

    Starting to sound like you're simply trolling. By your argument Shakespeare ...and Homer ...and Mark Twain ...and Euripides etc. should go hang their heads in shame for creatively riffing on historical figures and events. That's a silly argument.

    I think that Jeff is being pretty clear and generous. He doesn't think a DM should impose his or her social and/or historical views on a group unless that's a direction the group wants to go in.

    Seems like common sense to me.

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  58. Hey, man. If you can come up with what Alberic of Ostia would do in any given situation the PCs would come up with, kudos to you.

    I can't, and thus I wouldn't.


    No, I was honestly stupid enough to not realize you would follow through on your simulationist ethic so as to drag your female, minority and gay players through the mud.

    You're being an ass.

    I have never indicated that I would drag them through the mud.

    You have never even asked how I handle such things- you just automatically assumed that I must be the worst sexist and racist person in the world.

    The only statement I've made is that one doesn't hide reality when the fantasy includes real people from history.

    You're making up the rest in order to justify yourself. Nothing more.

    Now I know you're just being a douche. That's the sort of hypothetical only a reactionary nutjob would go to.

    It's history Jeff. That sort of action is acceptable in parts of the world today. It will be acceptable in parts of the world in the future.

    Answer the damn question. Would it be alright for a future gamer to put you in their game and have you commit such acts to fit their new standard of behavior. In effect, they have made you less sexually repressed like all those fools of your time period.

    Yes or no? Simple question.

    Live by your rules or put them aside. Be a man.

    Okay. The truth as I understand it is that humans really can't throw fireballs.

    Foolish point. See my comment to the exact same above.

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  59. @Gleichman: I have nothing but contempt for leftists who toss around terms like 'cultural appropriation' whenever they see a game like L5R or a setting like Maztica; I have just as much disdain for those who get their knickers in a twist if you have dragons and orcs but there's still a "King Richard The Lionhearted" on the throne.

    If you write an alternate history novel set in 2010 in a world where, I dunno, the English won the American Revolution, there would be no George Bush, no Abraham Lincoln, no Thomas Edison in that world. The ripple effects would mean that, at best, totally different sperm with totally different genetic loads would be fertilizing eggs, and so many people's great great grandparents would never have met that, 200+ years later, the entire world would be utterly different, not just "America but we all play soccer instead". Yet, it is a common conceit of alternate history that this is not the case. So in 2010, Sir Barack Obama is the Governor Of The American Colonies, having been appointed by Parliment following the vote of no-confidence in his predecessor, Lord George Bush II. Only an utter pillock would insist that such a setting is unacceptable because there's no way either of those individuals could have been born, given the changes in history.

    Likewise, if you want to say it's 1194 and King Richard rides a dragon, and his champion is a female knight who is as strong as the strongest man... this bothers me NOT AT ALL. King Richard has no rights. He's dead. Long dead. He can be turned into anything you want him to be for the purpose of your setting; your only requirement is that, whatever you establish him to be, he is consistent in his actions and they follow from believable motivations. You build game worlds from the lego of your imagination, and there are some blocks labeled 'history' and some that aren't, and they all snap together the same way.

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  60. Mel: Yes Mel, I do have a problem with creative rifs on history.

    Each of your examples can be debated on merit. Some would likely be better than others. But those debates are beside the point. The point is the changes in history being made by Jeff.

    Jeff knows he's changing history. He knows he's lying. He thinks he's justified. And think he's just lazy and too committed to modern PC thought which considers changing history a virtue.

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  61. @Gleicnman: You said But years down the road when someone says that good old King Henry did X, they'll respond that he did Y. They will have forgotten that Y only happened in Jeff's game.

    Honestly, I can see two possibilities.

    a)You know that's bullshit, and thus, this entire thread is just a troll.

    b)You actually believe that, which means that you are utterly removed from any connection to a shared reality which we can use to have a mutually informative conversation on the topic.

    Can you tell me if it's 'a' or 'b'?

    PS: Never watch 'The Tudors'. If you do, can you film yourself and have it streamed live? I want to see you do the 'Scanners' thing about halfway through the first episode.

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  62. Lizard No, one is not a "utter pillock" to not like that sort of fiction. One might in fact have taste.

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  63. You're being an ass.

    That's certainly possible. It wouldn't be the first time. But I still think you are wrong, wrong, wrongity wrong and if you think I'm going to be suckered into answering your horrible hypotheticals then you're dumber than me. You can have your own sick little 2030 fantasies somewhere else, I'm not going to aid and/or abet them.

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  64. He doesn't think a DM should impose his or her social and/or historical views on a group unless that's a direction the group wants to go in.

    The DM can't impose anything, nor can the players. They can agree to play together and under what rules, or agree not to.

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  65. Impose - (verb) to establish or apply by authority.

    This is absolutely something that a DM can do. I'm done with this thread. Interesting stuff!

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  66. Gleichman, I imagine you probably had a stroke when you walked into the bookstore and saw "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" on the shelf.

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  67. if you think I'm going to be suckered into answering your horrible hypotheticals then you're dumber than me. You can have your own sick little 2030 fantasies somewhere else, I'm not going to aid and/or abet them.

    Poor Alberic of Ostia didn't even get the chance to label what you did to him. I think the odds are good that he would have considered what you made him a sick little fantasy.

    And unlike me, you didn't ask what he'd think about being perverted before doing it, you just went did it and bragged about how cool it made you.

    You won't answer the question when the subject is moved from the distance past to you today, and thus you do.

    You know it's wrong. But you can't make yourself admit it.

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  68. Gleichman, I imagine you probably had a stroke when you walked into the bookstore and saw "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" on the shelf.

    I don't consider it in good taste. But few things give me strokes in today's world.

    As I said, if I didn't like Jeff's blog so much I would have commented because it's expected these day. A dime a dozen.

    It was disappointment that cause me to comment. And the hope that someday (I know it won't soon) Jeff will look back on this and realize he was wrong.

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  69. @gleichman

    But, wait--you liked Captain America.

    But neither Truman nor Roosevelt actually ordered the Super Soldier program.

    Or, is your argument that they would have if they technology was available?

    And, if it is: are you saying Abe would -not- have fought vampires had they plagued mid-19th century America? Because them's fightin' words my friend.

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  70. Gleichman's complaint seems to boil down to an inability to make a distinction between "fiction" and "lies". Kind of like those guys in Galaxy Quest, except he knows some things aren't true and he's angry about it. I don't think it's fair to get mad at him over that, it's probably a lot more troublesome for him than it is for us.

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  71. Well, I agree with Gleichman. Somewhat.

    Here's the thing: as a pronunciation of your personal preferences, that adding stuff like racism or sexism to a role playing game setting is not a thing that does it for you, because you've got enough of that in real life (i.e. emphasizing the escapism in RPGs), I'm completely fine with it.

    I also have no doubt that many gamers may share your preferences in that regard.

    That it doesn't matter to an RPG at all, or worse, that it shouldn't matter at all because it'd be WRONG to add these things into an RPG setting or campaign, I completely disagree with.

    For me, it will entirely depend on the campaign I'm actually running at the time, and with whom. Some people play role playing games for their sheer escapist values. Others, not so much. Just like you'd read a fiction or enjoy a mythological tale: some people like these sorts of things because their enjoyment takes them away from their daily lives, and others appreciate them because that allows them to consider aspects of human nature, their own psyche or doubts or whatnot through a medium that is apart from the real world. There's of course a whole lot of excluded middle not mentioned here.

    I think it's useful to identify which is which, and what speaks to which people in particular at your game table, to then tailor the contents of the campaign to the actual specific tastes of the group you are playing with.

    And really, this can be applied to all sorts of fictions and settings. Middle-earth is the obvious example here. Some people will not care about sexism in Middle-earth, and will want the fairy tale, or the epic acts of valour. Fair enough. Others will want to play characters like Eowyn who are going against some established societal value and grow accordingly. There is no doubt in my mind that Eowyn would be a poorer character in the LOTR if it weren't for the societal values of the Rohirrim which pigeonhole her in a certain role she doesn't want to stay at.

    Well. Some people will want to play these kinds of characters in a role playing game. This is not wrong, and you have no say in that regard standing up on your blog-podium.

    So. Bottom-line, as far as gaming's concerned? Be aware of your players' preferences in this regard. Think about your own preferences. Create a setting that hopefully satisfies everyone's needs from there.

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  72. I find it amusing that this argument about true historicalness vs. psuedo and speculative was triggered by a game set in Wessex, which is Hardy's psuedo historical riff on real life England, just recapitulated back in time by Mr. Rients.
    By what standard is historical accuracy to be measured? Are Arthurian Legends all wrong? The Questing Beast is a metaphor for sex, incest and sin. Are Dickens novels not a good setting? Many of those were a world view filtered through the author's childhood experiences. What about the Illiad? The world of the Arabian Nights? Tale of the Genji?
    In the end if I want robots or gays or people of color in any of the above, why not? I mean I dont know if Gandalf way gay. Maybe Tolkien never spoke of it but maybe all the Istar are gay. So why not?

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  73. Benoist, I doubt anyone here disagrees with that. It's exclusivism like Gleichman's that's the only problem.

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  74. Yeah, that's what I'm getting too: that the whole disagreement somes from being disagreeable to begin with.

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  75. Barking Alien said: "Remember the time when the cool female hero bested Fafrd and Gray Mouser?"

    Actually, that happened regularly to the Twain. They aren't "The Best Two Thieves in Lankhmar", you know.

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  76. Tadedge1:08 PM

    Thank you, Jeff, for posting this topic. I am facing some of these very same questions in a campaign that I am planning based in ancient Greece (How do I fairly represent Greek society without various forms of servitude/slavery and also make it an enjoyable setting and inoffensive to racially sensitive players). I appreciate seeing both sides to the argument -it has helped clarify my position and how to best address this at my table.

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  77. Zak S said...
    But, wait--you liked Captain America.

    But neither Truman nor Roosevelt actually ordered the Super Soldier program.

    Or, is your argument that they would have if they technology was available?


    Neither Truman nor Roosevelt was mentioned in the movie as doing anything if I'm remembering right (only seen it once and wasn't look for things like that). Don't think real person was in the movie at all (except the recording of the baseball game which I assume was a real one if we should count that).

    And that's how it should be. As such the movie is one of the better attempts at alt history. Tacking things on the edges and not altering the core in an almost believable way.

    So yes, I liked it.

    It did have it's historical faults, but they were minor enough that since I wasn't looking for them- they didn't distract or when they did it was but a passing moment easily lost in a good movie.


    And, if it is: are you saying Abe would -not- have fought vampires had they plagued mid-19th century America? Because them's fightin' words my friend.

    Oh I think if anyone would kick Vampire backside, it would be Honest Abe.

    But a lot of good men fought in the civil war for reasons good and bad. They should be remembered in relation to those reasons- not in relation to a bunch of vampires who were the 'real' reason for the civil war.

    Have some respect, and a bit of memory.

    Even if the concept and the book trailer are plain freaking cool.

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  78. It's exclusivism like Gleichman's that's the only problem.

    Funny thing about right and wrong, it does tend be about right and wrong.

    Tell you want, I won't put your dead great-great grand mother in my game as a serial killer this weekend. That's my gift to you.

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  79. Funny thing about right and wrong, it does tend be about right and wrong.

    Another funny thing is that those conversations tend to go nowhere.

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  80. But Gleichman my great great grandmother was a serial killer. So was my Great grandfather.

    So since you are into historical truths, did you just make or break your argument by including them......

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  81. @Gleichman -- do you feel that TSR, and later WOTC, providing stats for Hindu, Buddhist, Native American, and Norse gods, all of whom have active living worshippers, was offensive or immoral?

    How about GURPS Who's Who, which includes stats for many famous people who have living descendants?

    Is it acceptable to have a historical character killed by PCs in a game, when this isn't what happened to him in reality?

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  82. Wow… are you really telling me you are willing to argue over 5+ screens about that? Okay, I can see where you are coming from — flaring egos and stuff. After exchanging a few blows, of course everyone will find points in the other's arguments.



    Nevermind. I just want to add that I enjoyed reading the article. I think you can go where-ever you want to go with RPGs — that's the fun thing. As long as the group is comfortable with it, you can largely do whatever pleases your wicked minds ;) … well, unless it's forbidden in your country to do so.

    I can see the point of sticking to setting (may it be 'real world' history or any other fictional universe). Nevertheless, most settings (and I consider history to be a setting) are written by guys, having a guy-mindset. You can read stuff about the 'male gaze' if you're into movie media theory (Vivian Sobcak). Anyway, it will feel kind of natural for the typical white guy to think everything is okay the way it is.

    But what we really should be talking about is — what kind of fun are your players out for? If there is a woman/girl at the table, I'd be more than cautious to be sexist… — and also I would rather not play in a group that is homophobic.

    See… if you are of a certain minority (and I'm pretty sure that everyone has his/her odd characteristics) — you might be put off by what others consider to be 'normal' (or rather 'okay') interaction.

    Fact is: as a designer (or storyteller), you should find out what your group is (un)comfortable with.

    End of story for me.

    ———— 

    Oh, and also I am a narrativist indie gamer … and I don't feel I'm being attacked in the blog post lol. It's not that every narrativistic indie game was about hate-playing.

    Cheers people,
    Georg / @zydake

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  83. Or am I lying and you are now breaking your historical truth rule?

    Or was I telling the truth and my family was never caught so playing them means you can't let anybody know that you are playing them since they never got caught and it stayed a dirty little secret in the family?

    What about it?

    What if I said I really was like them and know where you live??

    What do we do in a modern game? Do I have to play out hunting you down and exclude other items in the game?

    Historical reenacments and similuations give us an idea of what it was like but not actual knowledge. Unless you know every thought, dream, nightmare of another being you DO NOT know what they did historically. You, like the rest of us, are taking a look at snapshots of their lives.

    So your hang up with Jeff is historical accuracy in games loosely based on fragmented knowledge of historical people and places being used by a fellow to play a game 900 years later with some players using creative license where creative license was already taken??

    You sir are a troll.

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  84. Another funny thing is that those conversations tend to go nowhere.

    It always goes somewhere.

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  85. So since you are into historical truths, did you just make or break your argument by including them......

    Idiot, I told you I wasn't including her.

    And the troll here is you, willing to defame your own family for the sake of internet dust up? What a tool.

    (Unless of course she was a serial killer. That would explain much).

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  86. I wanted to weigh in on this but was worried my comments would be lost in the flamewar, so I made a post on my blog about how I handle sexism in semi-realistic yet still playable manner in my Legend of the 5 Rings game.

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  87. @Gleichman -- do you feel that TSR, and later WOTC, providing stats for Hindu, Buddhist, Native American, and Norse gods, all of whom have active living worshippers, was offensive or immoral?

    I don't consider any of them to be other than myth. So defacing them isn't a big issue to me.

    Is however tasteless, especially if they're not your myths or ones your people have had to deal with.

    I'd also expect those that believe in any of those to be offended for what that's worth to you.



    How about GURPS Who's Who, which includes stats for many famous people who have living descendants?

    Is it acceptable to have a historical character killed by PCs in a game, when this isn't what happened to him in reality?


    Are we speaking of wargaming or rpg campaigns?

    It's ok in the former, tasteless in the latter.

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  88. @Gleichman: OK, I give up. It is impossible for me to follow your reasoning processes.

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  89. Great post Jeff.

    Have a good weekend.

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  90. OK, I give up. It is impossible for me to follow your reasoning processes.

    You didn't ask for my reasoning process. You asked for my opinion.

    But since you wanted to play 'guess the reasoning', I'd suggest that you don't attempt it from the comfort of your value system. Lacking one you see makes it difficult to understand how others apply theirs.

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  91. @Gleichman- No defamation occurred. I implied that it may or may not be true and asked you to expound your wonderful wisdom. You brought up the disgusting 3 yr old bs and the great great grandmother serial killer first.

    The "why" in why you did not answer shows your argument's fallacy as to why Jeff or anyone using historical locations and people as a reference to build stories, games, or camp fire tales is doing it wrong. Further your inability to answer a question posed, using the method of reason you had chosen, again shows the fallacy.

    They are not disrespecting history. They are using elements of history to tell a tale or use as a story setting and having fun.

    Now back below your bridge Troll as I wish to join those that wish to have fun and game this weekend and I am going to have Henry the Eight stay married to his first wife and guess what? The world will keep spinning and I can read you pithy response tomarrow.....if I choose to.

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  92. "You build game worlds from the lego of your imagination, and there are some blocks labeled 'history' and some that aren't, and they all snap together the same way."

    This is maybe my quote of the week.

    Also, gleichman: when you said that the various pantheon writeups are not significant or part of this conversation because they aren't real, I think you revealed that this argument is more about "beliefs" than it is about "truth".
    It the deities in question were ones you believed in, you seem like you would feel (and react) differently. My D&D group is going to fight Jesus this weekend, by the way, to keep him from releasing all the heathen but virtuous souls from Hell. Paladins can be pretty misguided sometimes.

    You paint your position as one of principle but the principle is basically "If I don't like it, it's bad."

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  93. Anonymous5:12 PM

    Funny thing about history - it was written and altered by everyone who has ever written anything about it, especially historians...

    We wouldn't even know if maybe Jeff's Wessex characters are in pars or toto more accurate than the "wikipedia article of righteousness" that is written history we as gamers aren't allowed to f**k with...

    Yeah... "respect of history", my long eared mammal with four hooves.

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  94. You paint your position as one of principle but the principle is basically "If I don't like it, it's bad."

    Really, this is your point?

    Because I don't care if someone stats up Loki and whips his butt in a Champions game, I can be dismissed completely?

    Meanwhile Jeff can continue to defamed real people known to history?

    This is the great cause that drove you waste your time posting?

    You know, if ever your parents or teachers said you were a bright child. They lied. Very common since the 60s.

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  95. "My D&D group is going to fight Jesus this weekend, by the way, to keep him from releasing all the heathen but virtuous souls from Hell. Paladins can be pretty misguided sometimes."

    I totally want to read a play report!

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  96. @gleichman:

    And once again, you continue to troll and not to respond to points.

    If Jesus were the one in question, would you react the same way?

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  97. also, you can be dismissed because:

    1. You equate "is gay" with "rapes hundreds of babies".

    2. You can't seem to tell the difference between departures from historical fact and defamation. Defamation is actually a pretty specific sort of activity, and definitely not covered under the umbrella of "things you do around the living room table to entertain yourself and some friends" by its very definition.

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  98. Just an altruistic reminder to all those who find themselves in an argument with a troll, crackpot, or intractable opponent: Ask yourself the question, "Am I enjoying myself?" If so, carry on. If not, maybe do something else.

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  99. I'm late to the fight, and would really love to contribute something to the dust-up, just on general principle, you know? Keeping up my reputation and all that. But this guy is proven to be such a tool that he's not even worth responding to anymore. Back to Friday night Porn Hunt---I mean Shark Week. Yeah, Shark week.

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  100. 1. You equate "is gay" with "rapes hundreds of babies".

    I did no such thing. You can search endingless above and you won't find anyone saying that "gay == rapes hundreds of babies"

    I should point out that which is worse of those two items, or if they are equal depends completely upon the time, place and people we're talking about.

    That's actually rather key. For by changing a historical person's viewpoint on things to make them 'less evil' in your eyes- you should consider what you've done in theirs.

    It may well turn out that you've done them no favor at all.

    Deadlands for example and its removal of any racial elements at all does no justice for the men of either side who died in that very cause. They in effect gave their lives for something the authors of Deadlands simply decided to completely ignore.

    How wonderful.


    2. You can't seem to tell the difference between departures from historical fact and defamation Defamation is actually a pretty specific sort of activity, and definitely not covered under the umbrella of "things you do around the living room table to entertain yourself and some friends" by its very definition.

    Then you should talk to Jeff about that. He's the one that decided to make Alberic of Ostia a ineffective momma's boy, not I.

    He claimed to be quite entertained by doing so as well.

    You seem to be having a difficult time reading and understanding what's going on. May I suggest you make another attempt before making a further fool of yourself?

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  101. Jeff:

    100 comments and it's just repeating itself now. Good time to call it. I return your blog to you.

    No hard feelings on my part. I think you're being foolish, but typical of your generation and upbringing. I hope someday you outgrow it.

    And no hard feeling about the crappy games you insist on playing. D&D is much harder to forgive, but most of the time your GM advice and insight rises above it.

    Good luck dude.

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  102. Hey, remember that time Captain Planet met Hitler?

    That really happened you guys.

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  103. Jeff,

    You do realise that there was no notion of being gay or having a gay identity or lifestyle in medieval times. The homosexual act would have been considered an action, degrading and anti-social by some, and when the action was complete that person did not carry around anything remotely like the modern gay complex or think of himself as a homosexual man, no more than someone who beat his dog thinking of himself as a dog-beating man or someone fond of turnips thinking of himself as a turnip eating man.

    Priests and Bishops fucking when they are supposed to be celibate is a different matter.

    As for a woman being denied the throne. English history is littered with men and boys having their throats cut for the most spurious reasons in the name of greed and ambition and I fail to see why this woman's plight is more unfortunate.

    Your games are slight because you love comics, cartoons and fun, and bringing an adult seriousness to the table frustrates you. I don't think your post actually has anything to do with historical accuracy or political correctness.

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  104. You do realise that there was no notion of being gay or having a gay identity or lifestyle in medieval times.

    Even if I grant that, which would require evidence of absence of the state of mind of a largely undocumented minority population from 800 years ago, I don't see what this has to do with the price of tea in China.

    I fail to see why this woman's plight is more unfortunate.

    Well I find it interesting that both King Stephen and the Archbishop who crowned him had sworn oaths (twice each, IIRC) that Maude would inherit the throne. That doesn't necessarily make her a sympathetic character, just more evidence in support of my working assumption that pretty much everyone at the top of English society at the time was a big ol' jerk.

    I don't think your post actually has anything to do with historical accuracy or political correctness.

    Okey-dokey.

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  105. Rients: "I don't see what this has to do with the price of tea in China."

    Rients: "I'm not going to play in a game that picks on PCs for the same stupid reasons that real people get picked on daily"

    I explained that historically they didn't have the visible gay identity which exists now as a lifestyle affectation. There were no campy gays in every village for your idiot players to identify and beat up.

    Rients: "just more evidence in support of my working assumption that pretty much everyone at the top of English society at the time was a big ol' jerk."

    Sure. Being set aside because she was a woman spared her having her throat cut like many other poor bastards in those times. Sexism is irrelevant. Ambition and Greed are relevant

    Rients: "okey dokey"

    You presented yourself as denying homophobic and sexist actions at the table by avoiding historical accuracy. You were just making a fuss and not being historically accurate.

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  106. I hope you're proud of yourself, Rients. All this comes of blogging about Dungeons AND DAMES.

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  107. Dave R.1:09 AM

    Late to the party, and disregarding the comments, just to the main post:

    Is this even an ongoing issue anymore, or just something that outrages you in principle? Because I've never actually played or seen first-hand a game that fully qualified as the double plus un-good example you put forward.

    I think I actually run pretty close to where you say you do. Certainly I wouldn't use the game to harass a player or veto a female fighter or anything like that.

    Except that, in pseudo-historic settings I'm comfortable with a step farther towards simulation in terms of things like having common soldiers made up of men and women staying home more and sometimes learning magic more often than riding forth as warriors. Exceptions happen, certainly - that's where heroes come from. I'm not sure what the problem is with knowing the baseline of the setting before the PCs go forth and wreak what havoc they will on your carefully crafted world.

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  108. Late to the party too, and similarly skipping the flamewar so far to address the original post.

    In my personal experience, the problem with playing games with "realistic" historical prejudices is that a lot of players and GMs seem unable to reflect them at anything less than 100% max intensity.

    So racial prejudice always seems to be played out at 20th century white supremacist levels of burning crosses and white hoods. In settings where there's gender prejudice, the weaker sex are either treated entirely as property and sexual playthings or with murderous outrage if they dare to contravene the prevailing social mores.

    That's when the unfun starts. And let's face it, with some exceptions is an even less accurate representation of reality than completely ignoring the issue.

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  109. I really have to say something, and I shouldn't but I can not help myself.


    as a History major working on my Masters Gleichman is.....off the rails to put it politely

    He's worrying about defaming people in a fantasy setting? It's -fiction-. If it's alright for someone to write a book changing the outcome of history by having the confederates win the war, it's alright to have someone make a game about how a woman can do something in a -fictional- setting.

    Even Jane Austin's book has passed into public domain and are now being covered in zombies.

    The argument that you're defaming someone by giving them different attributes is at best self serving because honestly the nature of people in history and out of it are highly debatable. After all we are only left with documents written either for them, or against them and left to make our best judgments, and -hope- that they left some of their own words laying about that -weren't- intended to further their agenda.

    You have absolutely -no- idea what these people were truly like and to claim otherwise is disingenuous to the highest degree. Actions were manipulated, public opinion was manipulated -and- changes throughout history.

    Marie Antoinette for instance was regarded as a spoiled rich girl who left her kingdom to starve for how long? now public opinion has shifted to a naive spoiled isolated and unaware girl kept cloistered up and disparaged through propaganda.

    Gleichman is using a -number- of logical fallacies. Straw Man, Red herring, Ad hominum, and even a touch of slippery slope..here or there to excuse the idea that the people of history are

    1. Accurate representations of themselves in historical context to begin with.

    2. acceptable to be changed in venues of fiction concerning books, but not interactive fiction concerning RPGS

    3. Sacred cows to be held in memorandum for ever and ever amen.

    As a historian, the last is absolutely the most disturbing. Historical figures are constantly being revisited, opinions changed, theorized and re contextualized as we progress. They are -not- sacred, we are altering their place, their narrative, their position, their presence -all the time-.

    Using them in fiction as an NPC is no less insulting than being considered a spoiled trollop who allowed her entire country to starve and lost her head for a hundred years or so.

    As for his commentary on the fact that 'they will only remember the history of their games' that's bullshit.

    Because if that's true, then all they'll remember is they killed that guy with a fireball and we all know that the middle ages were riddled with warlocks and dragons and spells and sorceresses.

    To even begin to use that argument is the biggest straw man of this debate. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    Though if you're not ashamed of yourself for equating using less sexism racism and homophobia in a historical setting with the rape of 200, 3 year olds then I doubt the fact that you can't hold a decent logical argument together with duct tape and wd40 is not going to register high.

    Thank you for the post Jeff.

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  110. OK, I got a quarter way through these comments before my eyes glazed over. Whatever. You're right on, Jeff and most the people disagreeing are purposefully misinterpreting you. Keep on keeping on, I love the blog.

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  111. Wow, I've seen a lot of trolls, but it takes tenacity to be as assholish as Gleichman. I'm sure we haven't heard the last word.

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  112. Nonleftist4:04 PM

    Wow, author is not only feminazist, but also retarded. In traditional, preindustrial societies it is impossible to exist many fighting women, and equal rights, because in their economic situation, such sick ideas would lead to collapse of these societies. Making such unrealistic game is behaviour of retarded kid.

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  113. Anonymous2:42 PM

    All of Gleichman's players die of scurvy, smallpox, and syphilis before hitting Level 2.

    Their characters too.

    I seriously think this is an issue where Gleichman is either a strangely determined troll, or can't accept that some people enjoy fantasy. But it says on his Blogger profile that he enjoys "High Fantasy" and The Lord of the Rings. So it's just that he doesn't like it when people fantasy-up historical stuff.

    I read his bullshit article RPG Theory:Elements of game Design:Realism, and desipte the multiple logical and grammatical errors, one thing was obvious: realism doesn't matter.

    Fuck realism.

    We go for verisimilitude, at best, and often it's the verisimilitude of a fantasy world and not of reality. People who talk about realism in relation to games generally don't mean realism, and by interpreting those statements literally Gleichman carries on a meaningless argument.

    Gleichman can run his own game where he can feel vindicated if he decides to harass the player of a gay, female, etc. character. Whether that game has redeeming qualities is also meaningless; we're talking about a referee's style.

    By the way, as flamebait, I offer in response to his first response post, that the past and modern Catholic Church has shielded gay pedophile priests from prosecution. Just because you're wrong once doesn't make you wrong in anything else, but I just wanted to point out that one little thing. Have a great day!

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  114. Nicholas9:06 PM

    RE: Gleichman
    Not to restart the flamewar or anything, but this is what I think Gleichman's point is.
    When I put a historical character in my game, that person's character concept adds something to the game (or else I wouldn't have added it.) So lets say I use Joan of Arc for the feminism (which is there) but one of my characters is gay. Joan of Arc is catholiccatholiccatholiccatholic. In 1400's France. She's probably homophobic [/snark].
    Gleichman's point is that Joan of Arc's character is more catholic than female (or at best, as much a catholic as a female) and it's no better for me to make her more tolerant (and therefore less catholic) than to make her John of Arc, a man.
    TL,DR: If you go too far past the original material, it's no longer historical, it's just the same name on a different character, and the whole reason you wanted that name was for the character.

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