Monday, May 29, 2023

more cool skeletons

These cool party dudes are from a 19th century work by an artist named Kyosai.


a fun little cartoon

I'm a sucker for anything that depicts skeletons, orcs, etc. as ordinary working stiffs.


Friday, May 26, 2023

Venger Con is a thing that is happening again.

Venger Satanis is having his own convention again, in Madison, Wisconsin on July 21-23. The funny thing is, I will be driving through Madison on the 22nd, but I don't have time to stop to play anything. 

(Of course, I might not find it to my taste if I did stop, as it is advertised as "non-woke." I don't consider myself woke, but I rarely find myself on the same page as folks who get themselves worked up about "the wokes".) 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

two new Heroforge characters

My daughter wanted to play around with making characters on Heroforge today, so I whipped up versions of two new NPCs in the Dillhonker City campaign.
Please do not invade his section of the dungeon until Undead Steve has had his morning coffee.

Stanky the Elf has all 8s for stats, a magic wand, and terrible fashion sense.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

an unexpected synthetic deity

So I just finished the English translation Konrad Schmid's Genesis and the Moses Story. I give it a strong recommendation to anyone who would see 6 untranslated ancient Hebrew words and 5 footnotes on page frickin' 1 and go "that's my idea of a good time." Not much of it is gameable unless your game is set somewhere between the 8th and 5th centuries BC. But the section on Hellenic reception of the Pentateuch had some nifty stuff about Moses and Abraham being identified by Greek scholars as wizard guys. Here's my favorite bit game-wise: 

I love the idea of Hermes-Thor! The footnote says that he is also mentioned in Eusebius, so I'm going to have to check that out.In my current campaign all mainstream gods have 2 aspects pulled from two different pantheons. Instead of Hermes-Thor, I have Osiris-Thor, who is popular among adventurers. Gods with only one aspect are considered heretical. Only crazy cultists belong to one aspect faiths. 

The idea of these double gods came from an episode of Cosmos. In a segment on the Library of Alexandria, Carl Sagan mentions the synthetic Greco-Egyptian god Serapis, who struck me as a sort of multiclassed Zeus/Osiris.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

About This Past Week

Friday, May 12, 2023

problematic critique

James removed the identifying information when he posted this tweet thread to facebook. A tweet is a public statement, so I don't see any reason to do that.

Even when I am not a fan of the work itself, I have nothing but admiration for people who try to make a go in the RPG industry. You really have to bust ass pushing the boulder uphill to pay the bills. That's why I find it problematic as fuck that a small game company (it's just two people, as far as I can tell) would decide after the fact to rob a freelancer of the credit they are due. It seems like the message that sends to future freelancers is that Leyline are willing to do the same if, at some point, the publisher decides that they don't like you.  I dunno, maybe I'm being a crazy lefty worried about the rights of a worker in the face of corporate ownership.

"Corporate ownership" is a harsh term for a two-person garage band of a game company, but I stand by it. After all, they could have dropped the editor without pushing them into the Leyline Press memory hole. They could have stood by them and said "Hey, freelancing is hard and you got to take work where you can get it sometimes." Or they could have said, "We know our editor has some fucked up stuff in their credits. We know they have a gig with that bastard James Raggi right now. Some cowards and cheapskates are urging us to drop our editor like a hot potato. But we can do better. We've decided to help them shake off these bad gigs by hiring them full time/throwing more work their way/paying a better rate. That's how you improve the RPG scene, by investing in better outcomes." Instead, they chose the Hasbro Wizards option.

The first tweet of the thread is a fascinating artifact, by the way. If I was teaching a composition class right now I would build a lesson around it. Why the choice of the preposition "on," for starters? What does it mean to work on LotFP as opposed to for or with? Is this word choice the result of a clumsy attempt to come in under the character limit, or is something else going on here? Does Leyline Press even know what a Lamentations of the Flame Princess is? Hard to tell with that "on" in play. Maybe they are just replicating the rumor mill at several removes from anyone who has actually read any of LotFP's output.

Furthermore, it's a sly rhetorical trick to not explain what is wrong with LotFP but to immediately juxtapose it with "other problematic works that have received widespread critique for bigoted and other harmful issues." This creates an association between the two in the audience's mind, whether true or not. This is one of the tricks that venues like Fox News use to convince folks that mainstream democrats like Joe Biden are pinko commies. So, well played. I guess.

While I've got my teaching hat on, I would deducts points from this piece for its reliance on the term problematic. Better yet, I'd send it back for revision. Here's my comment from James's facebook post:

I regret the day problematic escaped out of academic discourse and into the wild. In grad school problematic meant "hey, this looks kinda fucked up, so we should slow down and pay attention to it and figure out what it means." Nobody slows down on the internet. Nobody tries to understand.

The way problematic is used in public now seems to be "this is fucked up and I am running away from it." Which is fine, I guess. Language changes over time. But it seems to me that what liberals have achieved with problematic is the same sort of politically self-serving bastardization that the right has applied to the term "woke."

And this is going out on a limb, since I don't really know what the "other problematic works" are, but I will hazard a guess that they have sustained criticism but not much in the way of actual critique. Criticism is about the critic's agenda. "The magic deer in Blue Rose promotes the fantasy that authoritarianism can work and is therefore bad" is a criticism based upon my personal politics. Critique is based upon the creator's agenda. "Broodmother Skyfortress lacks an extended example of how to apply the various re-skinnings offered as options, and thus fails its avowed project as an introductory module" would be a critique.

Finally, can I just say that I find it problematic (in the academic sense) that the Leyline Press blog contains a fic with openly stated themes of "grotesque body horror, torture, dehumanization, bestiality, pregnancy, sexual situations, and non-consent?" Can we talk about that? It feeds into my (admittedly paranoid) theory that liberals believe that you can create any kind of fucked up art that you want, so long as you are willing to make your own personal identity as a victim part of your artistic persona. If James wrote and published the exact same text, would he be put on blast? I suspect so.

Anyway, the LotFP sale is still a thing. There's never been a cheaper time to form your own opinion about what Raggi chooses to publish.

RPG Editor Gets Canceled for LotFP Affiliation - James Raggi Responds

I think Tenkar's refrain here of "just let the market decide" is not quite right, but I appreciate his coverage of this topic.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Big LotFP PDF sale

Some dipshit from some game company I never heard of was talking smack about Lamentations of the Flame Princess, so James did what James does in these circumstances: he sells more stuff. From now through the 16th, every LotFP title is only $1.25 on DriveThru. If you don't already own a copy of my award-winning adventure Broodmother Skyfortress, there's no better time than now to buy one.

Friday, May 05, 2023

"I can't tell"

 One of the greatest compliments a player can give me as a DM is to express confusion of a sort. 

Like the session where the party encountered a dungeon room that was a 1970's office full of clerks and secretaries and middle management types, except they were all bugbears. Zak said something like "I can't tell if this originally appeared in the crappy old module or if it is something Jeff added for his own amusement." I'll take credit for the suit-and-tie clad boss bugbear's two-handed sword +1 bearing runes in Old Bugbearese that spell out 'complaint department', but as for the rest? I'll never tell.

Or this week when Bec's PC saw "a crow or something" fly away from the old abandoned church. She was stumped. "I can't tell if that is integral to the plot or if you just made that detail up."

I suspect that the ability to seemlessly move between the module's nonsense and my own personal nonsense is the result of two tendencies:

  1. I try to never read aloud from the module. Okay, sometimes I'll read the boxed text that sets up the adventure. And occasionally I will read from the module for comedic effect, such as if it is really poorly written. (Example: I will read aloud dumb mistakes like "32. This chamber is 40' in diameter and perfectly circular, with a chest in the northwest corner.") In general, I'd rather restate the module info in my own words and, if I get things wrong, make my misstatement the reality of the gameworld, then take the words on the page too seriously.
  2. I don't take my embellishments to the module that seriously either.