Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Last Day of the Big Sale: Why YOU should publicize it!

A thing I need to do better

by Jon Hodgson

You know what rules? Sections of the dungeon where bigass party-wrecking monsters roam, but smaller places where the PCs can escape them.

Monday, January 29, 2024

egghead reports research, weirdos pissed off

So if you haven't heard, last week a researcher named Dr. Clio Weisman published an article on Medium called "The Worst People You Have Never Met, or, What I Learned During A Four Year Academic Study of Online Harassment In The Dungeons & Dragons Community." It was up for about 14 hours before the author pulled it for reasons to which I am not privy. But it was preserved here, so you can read it for yourself. Becami Cusack archived the referenced audio clips here. I look forward to reading a formal, peer-reviewed version of her findings when they are published.

Apparently a few people think the article is some sort of hoax and Clio Weisman isn't real. These people must not have access to Google, as it is pretty easy to verify that she exists. And her other academic work isn't that hard to find confirm either, though you'll need access to specialized data bases to actually read the various pieces. Brian Yaksha, Olivia Hill, and Patrick Stuart have all confirmed talking to Dr. Weisman, though they aren't exactly fans of the article. Curiously, none of those three tweets complaining about Weisman and her piece bother to deny any of the allegations in it.

Dr. Weisman interviewed me for a couple of hours, several years ago. In addition to the Zak situation, we discussed her other research into bias. This was a topic of interest to me professionally, so she later sent me a draft version of an article she was working on. I assume I don't appear in her Medium article because my interview was boring compared to incestuous hate-mob she shines a light on. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about all the fuckos mentioned in the article, but since last week I've been going back and forth between sincerely hoping they get the help they need and sincerely hoping they rot in hell.

The other thing that some people are claiming is that Dr. Weisman has some undisclosed reason to slant her article. If she has any skin in the game, I have yet to see any evidence for it. As far as I can tell, she came to the project from outside the game scene and did her best to figure out what the hell was going on. Truth isn't always easy to determine in complex situations. That's why we have institutions like academia and the courts, to help us suss the truth out. These institutions are imperfect, but without evidence to the contrary, the people poo-pooing her work sound exactly like MAGA election deniers to me.

Some folks are probably going to give me the business in the comments. That's fine. Just expect to be asked some simple questions like, "Did you read the article?" and "Did you listen to the audio?"

updated Snail Quarter map for Dillhonker City campaign


Friday, November 24, 2023


The X-Card emerged from the indie/storygamer side of the hobby maybe ten or so years ago. Originally taking the form of an index card with a simply X drawn it with a Sharpie or something like that, more elaborate versions--some involving multiple cards--have appeared over the years. (Example)

The idea behind the X-Card is real simple: pointing to it or holding it up is meant to signify that the game is going in a direction that the player finds uncomfortable, disconcerting, or hurtful. The rest of the table then backs away from whatever they were up to, perhaps with some sort of rewind or revision. Since the X-Card was formulated under a framework of ongoing consent, there is no option to challenge or override the usage of the X-Card. Nor is the person who played the X-Card under any obligation to explain or justify themselves.

I've never played in a game that used X-Cards and the kind of safety rails it provides seem less necessary in the stupid and shallow games I tend to run, but I still think they're a pretty smart idea. Especially in convention play where no one knows anyone else's psychological buttons or hard limits. The X-Card strikes me as a genuine advance in the field of role-playing technology.

That naughty fellow Venger Satanis seems to feel differently, though. His Cha'alt X-Cards are a response to the inherent squeamishness of the original concept. Venger's X-Cards come in sets of 8, one each for the major themes of his Cha'alt campaign setting: eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, postapocalypse, humor, sleaze, pop-culture, and grindhouse exploitation. Players hold up the card to indicate they want more of that theme, requiring the ref to oblige. In exchange for reminding the referee that Cha'alt ain't your daddy's vanilla D&D, the player earns a point of divine favor, which can be turned in to reroll a poor die throw.

This strikes me as one of those "the opposite of a good idea is also a good idea" situations. I wouldn't use both the original and Venger's X-Cards at the same table, but I think either could could enhance a lot of different kinds of games. To use Venger's idea in a non-Cha'alt game would require coming up with your own list of campaign themes to build your X-Card deck around. I've been thinking about this vis-a-vis my current Dillhonker City campaign. Here are my ideas for card themes:

Technically, We're in Early Modern Europe
Elves Fucking Suck
Wizards Make Everything Worse
Like Tolkien But Stupider

Maybe some of my players will have some additional ideas.

PS: Venger is running a Black Friday sale on his Cha'alt hardcover. Details here.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Bidding into Danger

I've posted about the James Bond 007 game more than once in the past. Today I want to talk about one mechanic that I suspect could do a lot of good in other games, but that I don't recall seeing elsewhere. When you have a chase in 007, whether by foot, car, air, or underwater, initiative is determined by bidding. Initiative starts at 7 and whoever bids lowest gets to decide who goes first. What are you actually bidding? What currency are you spending? Difficulty level for all rolls. Well, technically its Ease Factor, the mathematical opposite of difficulty. A higher Ease Factor means something is easier to do. Either way, you take initiative of a given combat turn by willing to be more dangerous than the other guy, by increasing the chances of a car crash or some other mishap.

A fun bit is that, for vehicle chases, every vehicle has a "Redline" score. This number is the safest number you can bid without additional, additional risk. Super sporty high performance cars have a 1 or 2 for Redline, allowing for a lot of high-risk action. While ordinary sedans have a 3 or 4. This means a PC in a Lambo can do more tricky maneuvers than his pursuers, even if they have the same Driving score. (And you can hamper the PCs by forcing them to flee pursuing baddies in a Volkswagen Beetle.)

This bidding method strikes me as appropriate for the genre. The person most willing to risk everything (typically, the Bond-esque devil-may-care PCs) gets to set the agenda for the chase. I feel like this is a mechanic that could be used in other games. Chases in a Star Wars style space opera could use the same approach.What other situations? Anywhere where a foolish willingness to risk disaster grants a short term advantage. Here are three ideas:
  • An RPG where pro-wrestling is for realsies: The flippy shit high-fliers can take the initiative by willing to risk botching their attack.
  • A fantasy or horror game: Wizards may go first if they are willing to risk accidentally unleashing the forces of hell.
  • Rolemaster, just for fun: Initiative bidding where the number goes up and the result is added to everyone's fumble range. 
I'm sure there have got to be other uses for bidding in RPGs. Anybody know of another game that uses it?

Sometimes I jibber jabber about a game and fail to give appropriate credit. Not this time.