Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Zak Smith's A Red & Pleasant Land


Gaming needs to be weird.

We have enough derivative, sanitized content for our games. The family friendly, all-ages part is covered. We need more singular visions and high concepts, and less creation by committee. This is where Zak Smith's A Red & Pleasant Land comes in.

On the surface this supplement for your D&Desque game of your choice is Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland meets Bram Stoker's Dracula, where they get into a sort of first fight, but the complexity in this book is much more than that. There are vampires, and there are weird creatures from beyond the Looking Glass, but there is much more to this book than a rehash of Dungeonland or Ravenloft.

Our group just came off of a six month campaign using this book as one of the inspirations for our game. Instead of D&D or a retroclone, however, we used the classic Marvel Super-Heroes game that TSR put out in the 80s. One of the central conceits of A Red & Pleasant Land (RPL) is that there is a "slow war" going on between vampiric factions in what may, or may not, have once been Wonderland. I interpreted that in our game as the vampires being sort of "unstuck from time," and not experiencing it in the same way that others (in our case the player characters) experienced it. In fact each powerful vampire that they encountered experienced time differently from the others.


Good RPG supplements/adventures are toolkits, whether they are intended to be or not. You should be able to slice and dice a well done RPG supplement and repurpose it to do what you want. RPL passes that test with flying colors. In fact, for many people it is probably for the best that they do dig into the book and make the pieces fit with the sort of games that they run, and the sort of world that they want to create. There is a lot of weirdness in this book, and it isn't all in easy to digest chunks. Smith assumes that there will be some level of remixing done by a GM and presents his material in such a way to make changing the text accessible. He may not make it easy, but he does provide the tools.

Much like in his more explicitly toolbox book Vornheim, RPL has a lot of random tables that allows for the quick creation of random content on the fly. Since players are notorious for zigging when they should zag, it is good to have some back up that allows you to create things as you go. The Alice character's player in our game got extensive use out of the Random Objects table, when she decided that the Alice would be able to randomly pull things from the pocket of her pinafore apron. It is tools like this that makes a GM's job so much easier at times.

In the book Smith gives you all of the pieces that you need to run the "slow war" of the setting. You have all of the important, powerful NPCs and their various "warring" factions. It is easy to take all of these pieces and repurpose them for the game at hand. Don't want to set your game in a loose, fantasy Eastern Europe? Take all of the factions and drop them into a 1970s New York City instead. Use the Pale King and the Colorless Queen as the overlays for famous people of the era and have them play out their strange, involved intrigues against the backdrop of the 70s nightclub scene instead.

Now, if you're playing a D&D game you really don't have to worry about how you're going to fit the pieces of the book into the puzzle of your game, at least not as dramatically as we did for ours. All of the monsters will fit fairly easily into a campaign, and many of them aren't all that much stranger than a lot of the creatures that you would see in the early days of RPGs.

One of the absolutely biggest selling points for me is the Alice class that I mentioned earlier. It is sort of like a Fighter, and sort of like a Thief (Specialist if you play Lamentations of the Flame Princess), with the wit and mercurial nature of Carroll's signature character rolled into the writeup. I like the random special abilities that the character receives at leveling up, because it fits well into the conceit of Carroll's Alice. And, really, are there many other characters who are as ready for the strangeness of a fantasy RPG campaign as Alice?


A Red & Pleasant Land is as much a mimetic weapon pointed at your campaign, infecting it with rogue ideas and strange, impure thoughts, as it is a game supplement. Putting this setting into your game will change it into something that you may not recognize, and that is a good thing. Instead of the stale old dungeon crawls, explore the castles that can jump and shift when your characters are turned around. Where up can be turned into down without you realizing it. If you want a more "social" campaign in your game, there are the factions of the Red King, The Red Queen, The Colorless Queen and all of their servants and creatures aligned, and unaligned, to explore and interact with. The social structures are given as many rules and details as are the monsters that you can fight in the game.

Definitely check out this book and bring it into your games, either in part or in whole. I think that you are going to like the variety that it brings to your game. A Red & Pleasant Land is one of the best books to hit gaming this year, and it is probably one of the best books for gaming in a very long time. Side by side with Smith's earlier Vornheim and his "redo" of James Raggi's DeathFrost Doom you can get a world of gaming that is outside of the ordinary.

Also, be sure to check it out when voting time for the 2015 ENnies happens.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Help Send Annah And Rey To Gen Con


As anyone who has ever gone to Gen Con, or really any major convention, can tell you it isn't cheap. Travel is expensive. Accommodations are expensive. Food is expensive (we all have to eat). So, +Annah Madriñan and +Reynaldo Madriñan are having a fundraiser to help defray some of the expenses of their trip to Gen Con.

Once, a long time ago now, I put up my first ever guest post on the blog, a post about the Maid RPG from a woman who I met through G+ and had some cool things to say about gaming. That woman was Annah. I'm proud to say that I knew her before she was cool (not that she wasn't really cool then).

+Kiel Chenier of the Dungeons & Donuts blog asked for a little bit of a signal boost to help with this fundraising:
Friend of the blog Annah Madriñan is raising money so she and her husband, Reynaldo Madriñan, can afford to go to GenCon 2015! Annah is one of the official ENNIES judges and has been doing great work as one of their few female judges. 
Please consider donating a few dollars to her GenCon fund. Annah is an important voice for women in tabletop gaming, and Reynaldo is one of the masterminds behind BREAK!!
Donate $1 or more and you’ll be sent Von Bottom’s Hoard, a system agnostic adventure PDF we all collaborated on!
You can check out Kiel's full post with details here.

(Full disclosure: I run my own fundraising campaign for Gen Con, to be found at the right. It is expensive for everyone.)


The adventure is pretty cool, and anyone interested in a short, whimsical dungeon crawl type of adventure with anime tropes will enjoy Von Bottom's Hoard. Styled for the concepts of D&D, there really aren't much in the way of mechanics to this adventure, letting you use it under any system. If, for some reason, you don't want to help these people for the contributions that they've given to gaming through their blogging and their social media posting, then do it for the adventure. Von Bottom's Horde makes for an enjoyable night of adventuring that would be fun for the whole family.

Click the blog link above and get the information to support these guys now. Hit the Trouble Alert, call all the Teen Titans and move like you've never moved before.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Cypher System Rulebook From Monte Cook Games


The Cypher System Rulebook is coming from Monte Cook Games (or conversely it might have already arrived by the time that you are reading this). With the Cypher System Rulebook, Monte Cook and company have taken the rules that debuted in their highly successful Numenera RPG, and were further refined in the collaboration between Cook and fellow designer Bruce Cordell in The Strange RPG.

Featuring a streamlined "class" based system for character creation, and simple rules that allow for quick and easy play, the Cypher System rules hit a lot of sweet spots for me. Where Numenera was one of my Must Have games last year at Gen Con, the Cypher System Rulebook will be one of the top games of 2015. Hyperbole? Maybe, but I can count on one hand anymore the number of new games out there that make me want to play them just by reading the rules and the Cypher System Rulebook is one of those games. Is it going to revolutionize gaming? No, probably not, but if it motivates others to want to play it in the way that it does me it is going to build one hell of a following.

Character creation is relatively quick and class-based. The quickness comes in that you get a lot of the basics from the class (called character type in the rules), which you then customize to make the character that you want. Special abilities are given to a character at each tier of progression (think character level) which allow you to fine tune the concept of your character and customize them as their story progresses. Unlike a lot of class and level-based RPGs, however, progressing through the tiers isn't going to mean that your character is going to change a great deal during play, but instead moves along the path of their story, allowing it to change them. Cypher System characters are not zero to hero types, starting as fairly proficient characters and becoming moreso as they go.


There is some of the DNA of the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons to be found in the Cypher System, which makes sense since Cook was one of the main architects of that game. I see these rules as a progression of those, changing as the designer's tastes and interests in gaming change over time. Knowing that Cook had been one of the designers of the fifth edition of D&D, along with The Strange RPG co-creator Cordell, it makes me wonder who much of this system could have been the game that we could have gotten if Cook and Wizards of the Coast had not parted ways? I will say this, if some version of these rules had powered D&D 5e, I would probably still be playing that game now.

Old school players and game masters will find this game an interesting one. Like with the D&D 5e rules, there is a current of influence of the older D&D editions that run through the Cypher System Rulebook. The simplified approach to play, and the ease of character creation, show this influence and the underlying rules for Cyphers in the game hark back to a lot of the handling of magic items and treasure in older editions of D&D. Like in older editions, the stats of characters are relatively unchanging, and not directly linked to play, which leaves transient Cyphers to influence and inspire your character to great heights beyond what the character sheet might tell you during play. Like the potions or belts of power of old, Cyphers help to describe the world that you are playing in and also give edges to the characters during play.

Stats are interesting because, while they can show how strong or quick that a character may be, they don't directly impact play. Unlike the more recent editions of D&D, the stats do not directly modify your rolls they instead provide a pool of points that can be spent to give your character situational benefits, or sometimes help to power special abilities. This abstraction is definitely a feature for me, but I can see where it might bother others. In this approach to stats, the abstraction helps to enforce the cinematic nature of characters and play in a way that makes better sense to me than with some other systems out there.

While character types are fairly generic, which is the point since this is a generic game, you can customize characters for genre or setting through Flavors and Descriptors. Flavors are optional rules, they are basically a separate set of tier-based special abilities that can be swapped for abilities in your character's type that makes them more unique and flavorful. For instance you can apply the Combat Flavor to your Speaker (the charisma-based character type) to make a character that is like a battle-oriented bard. You can add the Magic Flavor to your Explorer to make a street-savvy occult investigator for your game. The idea behind flavors is that they open up the possibilities for your characters, making them more of a part of the world which they are exploring and less a generic "cipher." Flavors are also where GM customization comes in. You can create Flavors that are specific to the game's world.

Descriptors are character traits, terms that help describe your character and can give them some additional special abilities. Think of them almost like a feat in the recent D&D editions, but you only take this once, during character creation.


Other than the special ability choices that come with progressing to each tier, there really aren't a lot of choices to make for a Cypher System character. While you pick a couple of new ones from the list of tier abilities each time your character "levels up," that is it. There are no exploding lists of feats or combat options to bog down character creation, or advancement, or to give players a fatigue of choices. Many of these options, like Flavors, don't have to be used...cutting down on the number of choices that are made at each level. Regardless, you still end up with robust and unique characters at each tier of play, and it is still easy enough to customize characters that a group can have two warriors and they look different from each other in substantive ways.

One thing that might trip up some groups is the fact that players make all of the rolls in a Cypher System game. Players make attack rolls when attacking some monster and players make defense rolls when they are in turn attacked. Yes, you probably could change this, but the way that the system is set up makes doing all of this simple enough that it really shouldn't slow down play.

The lack of GM-oriented rolls are made up for by what the Cypher System calls "GM Intrusions." GM intrusions are where the GM can inject excitement into a game. A character accidentally drops their weapon. A monster is where they aren't supposed to be. Something goes wrong and now the characters have to do something about it. Some might see this as making a rule out of the GM "being a dick," but at its heart it is an abstraction of things like wandering monster tables from the older editions of D&D that could bring sudden action, that the players or characters might not really like, into the game. It can be a pacing mechanism to speed up or slow down play, to punctuation quiet with a bit of excitement or terror for the characters.

The GM intrusion is also one of the methods for giving XP in the game. When the GM makes an intrusion on a character, they are offered 2 XP for that. That player must then turn around and give one of those XP to another player at the table. You can give that XP as a reward for being particularly entertaining during the session, or because their character helped yours out when they needed it.

What differentiates a GM intrusion from something like a wandering monster table is that the player can choose to opt out of an intrusion by paying the GM one of their XP instead. This is a compelling sounding mechanic that might be familiar to some gamers.

The Cypher System Rulebook is rounded out with a selection of creatures for various genres. GMs could also fairly easily adapt creatures from Numenera or The Strange to their games as well. There are also explanations of various popular role-playing genres, and how a GM can customize the rules to be used in those genres. At over 400 pages, this isn't a small book by any stretch of the imagination, but it gives you everything that you need for play. This is not a basic game, or the expert rules. This is a self-contained game.

These rules are built upon a solid foundation of the great rules found in Numenera, and then expanded through The Strange and countless hours of play by the designers and fans. The Cypher System Rulebook does not invalidate those earlier games, but builds upon them. There are options, like Flavors, that can be folded back into the rules of the earlier games as well, expanding your options for those games. The Cypher System Rulebook is a great game and if you haven't already tried one of the other versions of the game, you should definitely check this one out. This game will be good for those who may already have a setting in mind, and just want a set of rules that allow them to play in that world. The Cypher System Rulebook is that set of rules. Check it out and see for yourself.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mythoard! Mythoard! Mythoard!


It takes a little more than saying its name three time to get a Mythoard subscription box, but if you're a tabletop gamer it is something that you should look into. The June box goes out in a matter of hours from this post, so if you want to get in on the goodness, now would be the time to do so.

I admit that I have been sitting on talking about the April and May boxes for a bit, but I will say that I've followed Mythoard and gotten most of the boxes since its January launch. I love the idea of an inexpensive and diverse "box" of gaming related stuff. If I had a complaint, it would be that there is too much of a reliance on "old school" materials for the boxes. The material is great, don't get me wrong, but it will limit the growth of the service.

Just as an aside, if you are a publisher and you would like to get your stuff into the hands of Mythoard subscribers, you should go to the site's contact page for more information. There is a lot of options available in gaming, and inside of the various "sides" of tabletop players sniping at each other we really should look to more cross-pollination and looking at each other's games. There is a lot of interesting stuff to be found in gaming these days, regardless of what style or approach you have to gaming.

Anyway...


The April box had some interesting stuff to it, including a Dungeon World adventure, and an adventure for Pathfinder. Lichfield looks like an interesting adventure, certainly a bit darker than a lot of published adventures...but I am a big fan of dark fantasy, so this is a selling point for me. I also love the Mike Mignola-styled art throughout the adventure. Good stuff. Don't play Dragon World? It shouldn't be too difficult to figure out a conversion to your favorite fantasy RPG. You know how in the older editions of D&D your character would reach a point in their career where they would build/take a stronghold, or their class' equivalent? Well, the idea of For Rent, Lease or Conquest is build around that idea. Built for 7th level Pathfinder adventurers, this module takes an irreverent look at that idea...and how things can go terribly wrong with it.

Lichfield was also an exclusive item for the April box.

The box is then rounded out with an issue of the the Oubliette zine. Inside you'll find some interesting new spells, magic items and monsters for your fantasy games. They're written for Labyrinth Lord, but easily applicable to your favorite fantasy RPG.

The weak spot of the April box would be the old Judges Guild reproductions. Not that these are bad reproductions, or bad adventures, but both of them are for the long out of print Dragonquest RPG. Why is this bad? Well, at least with the explosion of early edition D&D clones, old material from the early editions of those games can find some use. Not so much with Dragonquest, which has no such clones available. I will admit that I was never a fan of the game, even though I still have my mouldering copy put away with my gaming stuff. I think


The May Mythoard box was interesting, and only one ruleset away from having everything that you need to get a roleplaying game going. This box included a set of very pretty Chessex dice (the second that Mythoard has done). Some people swear by Gamescience (and I have a couple of sets of dice by them, too) but for my money Chessex makes some of the besst, and easiest to read, dice on the market. It is really hard to beat Chessex dice.

The White Box Omnibus by James Spahn's Barrel Rider Games is a nice expansion of Matt Finch's basic Swords & Wizardry White Box rules (linked in PDF form in the paragraph above, if you don't already have a copy of the game). This was a distillation of the earliest version of the D&D game, before Thieves were characters and when all hit dice were d6s. I've played this version of the game, in fact I used White Box to introduce a friend to gaming, but in the long term its appeal for me starts to wear thin. I prefer weapons having a range of damage dice, and the classes having different hit dice. I also think that it isn't D&D without a Thief, but that's just me. Regardless, Spahn has put together an interesting selection of new classes, magic items and creatures for White Box that can be easily adapted to your preferred "old school" rules. There are also a couple of adventures and an overview of a setting that can be used to get your campaign going. Both of which are very important for the harried GM without a lot of time.

I will say that I love the Judges Guild reproductions, even the ones for Dragonquest in the previous box, because they provide us with a snapshot of what people were doing in gaming back in the early days, rather than the supposition and speculation that we get from a lot of blogs. The Dungeoneer reproduction issue gives us a peak into what early gamers were thinking, much like reading old issues of Dragon or White Dwarf. For people interesting in getting a real perspective onto the early years of gaming, this is an invaluable resource. Plus! The Dungeoneer has a vampire class that is useable with OD&D or your favorite retroclone. How cool is that?

The rest of the box is rounded out by a one page adventure and some various GMing aids. The Quest Essentials Doors deck from MillieModels is interesting because it gives you some images of various kinds of doors and traps that could be encountered in the dungeon by adventurers and stats them out (for the Pathfinder RPG, but as always, easy enough to convert to your favorite fantasy game).

So here we have it, the April and May boxes from Mythoard. Both have their pros and cons, but both have materials in them that could be of use to gamers and their games. Like I said earlier, I would like to see more publishers support this undertaking with a greater variety of gaming options. Diversity is always a good thing. I recommend that all publishers who read this check out the Mythoard contact information, and find something, print or electronic, that can be used to support this fine service.

Oh, and if you aren't a subscriber yet...you need to check out Mythoard now.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Sale of Cthulhu (And Other Fine Chaosium Consumables)


It turns out that Chaosium has a warehouse that is overfilled with books and stuff. To fix this they are having a huge sale that can only benefit you, the gamer. They're getting rid of a lot of their old remaining Eternal Champion stock, among other things.

Forgive all the caps, its copypasta.
THE STARS ARE RIGHT… FOR A BLOW-OUT SALE!
WE’RE HERE TO SELL GAMES, AND CHEW BUBBLEGUM. AND WE’RE ALL OUT OF BUBBLEGUM.
OVER THE YEARS, OUR WAREHOUSE HAS BECOME STUFFED FULL OF MORE CTHULHUY GOODNESS THAN THE MARTENSE MANSION. WE’RE BURSTING AT THE SEAMS AND NEED TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE NEW THINGS COMING IN!
WE’VE DECIDED TO BLOW THE DOORS OFF CTHULHU’S TOMB, AND CLOSE OUT ALL THE “NON-STANDARD” ITEMS IN OUR WAREHOUSE.
SO NOW’S YOUR CHANCE TO GET DEEP DISCOUNTS ON MONOGRAPHS, FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES’ CTHULHU GAMES, NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE EDITIONS OF OUR GAMES, CDS, MAGAZINES, THE LAUNDRY RPG, MINIATURES AND MUCH MORE!
THUS, WE HAVE 50% OFF THE FOLLOWING: ALL BRP AND CALL OF CTHULHU MONOGRAPHS! NOVELTIES & ACCESSORIES! ALL LICENSED CALL OF CTHULHU PRODUCTS, INCLUDING FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES BOARDGAMES AND MINIATURES, CUBICLE 7 BOOKS, GOLDEN GOBLIN, ARC DREAMS, AND MORE! ALL NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE BOOKS! NEPHILIM!  (THESE BOOKS WILL NOT BE REPRINTED OR REORDERED ONCE THEY’RE GONE!)
ALSO, WE HAVE 75% OFF ALL THE REMAINING STOCK OF ETERNAL CHAMPION GAMES AND D20 CALL OF CTHULHU GAMEMASTER’S PACKS! (LAST CHANCE!)
PLUS, LOOK FOR SPECIAL BUNDLE PACKS OF ETERNAL CHAMPION AND NEPHILIM BOOKS!
LASTLY, AS AN ADDED INCENTIVE, TAKE 10% OFF EVERYTHING ELSE WE SELL. JUST BECAUSE WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH.
IA! IA! DISCOUNTS FHTAGN!
Read that carefully because the discounts aren't listed (but will be applied in your shopping cart). There is a lot of really good gaming stuff there, so don't miss out.

Chris Gonnerman's Iron Falcon RPG

+Chris Gonnerman is a machine. I think that when Skynet takes over the world he will finally be revealed as the game design arm of the Terminators.

I mean this in a really good way.

Gonnerman's Basic Fantasy RPG, a retroclone (with a few liberties) of the old school D&D B/X rules, is one of the best of the best of the retroclone crowd. It is clear and concise, and in some places it is actually better written than the original material. With Basic Fantasy, Gonnerman has created a functional and playable game that both honors the past and takes it into new directions.

Now, I know that I am a little behind on talking about this new game of his, Iron Falcon, but I'll admit that is because there have been a lot of games for me to read and comment upon over the last few months. Also, I figured that since Iron Falcon is a clone of the original D&D rules that I wouldn't need it because I already had Swords & Wizardry in my toolkit that I wouldn't need another game that covers the same material. Guess what? I was wrong.

Once again Gonnerman knocks a game out of the ballpark. Unlike with Basic Fantasy, where Gonnerman wanted to recreate a version of the game that he was introduced to and prefers to play, Iron Falcon started more as an intellectual exercise. With the existence of Swords & Wizardry, it didn't seem like he felt there was as much of a need for another game that covers this material...however that didn't stop him and boy howdy am I glad that it didn't.

Don't get me wrong, I love Swords & Wizardry. It has been my go-to fantasy game for a few years now (since our online group started up our first game with it), but there are flaws with it. The organization of the book isn't the best. It can be difficult (even after playing for a while) to find certain important tables during play. Iron Falcon doesn't suffer from these issues. One of the halmarks of a Gonnerman game is excellent organization, and with Iron Falcon he does not disappoint on that front.

From a rules perspective, there really isn't a lot of difference between Iron Falcon and Swords & Wizardry. The main difference seems to be that Iron Falcon uses the traditional system of saving throws, rather than Swords & Wizardry's streamlined approach. This is probably more a matter of taste, but I find myself liking the return to the traditional saves more than I thought that I would.

Iron Falcon probably has more magical items than Swords & Wizardry, but for me that is a bonus. I love having magic items in my games more than I like having actual spellcasters. I'm weird that way.

The writing in Iron Falcon is some of the best among those retrocloning old school rules sets. Just like with Basic Fantasy, the writing in Iron Falcon is clear and concise. He goes the extra bit to try to explain confusing and awkward rules, and that makes these rules a solid foundation upon which to build your campaign. There isn't anything new or groundbreaking to be found in these rules, but that's really not the point of them either.

If I had a complaint about Iron Falcon it would be that (unlike the bulk of the Basic Fantasy library) there isn't an editable version of the rules available. Why you gotta hate on those of use who like our house rules, Gonnerman? The lack of this wouldn't keep me from running the game, but if there is a feature request list out there, I would like to put an editable version of the rules onto that list. Hopefully the devoted and prolific community that has gathered around Basic Fantasy will start creating material for this new game as well. I know that I am tempted to do so.

If you're looking for a simple, streamlined fantasy game that gives you everything that you need to play in one source, you should look more closely at Iron Falcon. It may be that I just reach for it the next time I want to run a fantasy game instead of running another game of Swords & Wizardry.

Further Rumor And Speculation About Chaosium Games


Sandy Petersen, of Call of Cthulhu and Cthulhu Wars fame, game an interview to the owner of Yog-Sothoth.com the other day about the changes going on at Chaosium.



It is an interesting interview, I suggest giving it a listen. Some of it lines up with my own blatant and baseless speculation about some of the classic Chaosium lines like Pendragon and Runequest at least being distributed through Chaosium once again. I know that the rights to Runequest and Glorantha have been assigned over to Moon Design (who in turn has been licensing the Runequest name to the Design Mechanism people. But while Runequest is under and excellent stewardship with Design Mechanism, they don't seem to have gotten the penetration into the American marketplace that the game had once upon a time. Would Chaosium distributing Runequest get the game the attention that it once had? Maybe. I think that a lot of the lack of luster that Runequest has had of late is lingering from the Mongoose era. It seems that the once mighty RPG is having difficulty in recovering from the "control" of Mongoose.

This is all still rumor, of course, but I think that it could help not only Chaosium, but the individual game lines as well. Gamers could see the reunion of these lines and their original publisher as the return of a dream team, and it would give a spark to everything. There really is no lose in this situation.

With the resurgence of interest and popularity of "old school" games, there is a lot that Chaosium could do to ride on that wave again. Even a publisher like Flying Buffalo has produced "facsimile editions" of their early editions of Tunnels & Trolls and Monsters! Monsters! for new audiences. Chaosium already publishes Runequest 3e in everything but name with their Basic Fantasy monographs: Basic Gamemaster, Basic Creatures and The Magic Book (unfortunately it doesn't look like the Player's Book is offered through DriveThru/RPGnow). The Magic Book also makes a nice supplement for Magic World and the BRP gold book as well.

Doing a Runequest 2e "facsimile" would probably make for a lot of very happy gamers. I know that I would personally love a copy.

Now, with further rumor-mongoring...

I have heard that there is renewed interest as well in Greg Stafford's other Arthurian role-playing game. For those who may not know, Chaosium once produced a licensed RPG based on the Prince Valiant comic strip, using another stripped down variant of the BRP system (closer to the rules of Pendragon than Runequest, but still built from the same foundations). Obviously they couldn't bring this back as Prince Valiant, but the system is really (I mean really) good for that sort of low/no magic style of fantasy play and would make for a great game even stripped from the previously published setting. It wouldn't even have to be an Arthurian game. Maybe a game in the spirit of Prince Valiant's a-historical approach, you could set the game in the court of Charlemagne and introduce Viking and/or Native American warriors to the mix. Yeah, I know that it sounds like a fan-favorite comic from the 80s (please keep in mind that this part of this post isn't even rumor, it is me saying what I would love to see done with the game).

Could we see a new/old "Courtly" fantasy game from Chaosium? Maybe. Time will tell.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Cosplay Is Not Consent


Convention season is in full swing, and the big cons are just around the corner. And apparently, for some geeks and convention goers, the lesson that you can look at but not touch the people in the costumes is still not being understood. A person dressing up in a costume, no matter how revealing or covering it might be, is not an invitation to touch them.

This past weekend at Atlanta's MomoCon, an anime and gaming convention, a cosplayer not only was repeatedly touched without permission, but the convention organizers and their security staff further harassed the woman and blamed her and her costume for what happened.


What we have here is compounded harassment. This is a major bad on the part of the convention staff. While I wouldn't call them a safe space, a convention should be protecting the safety and well-being of their attendees. Sexual harassment is in any form or shape is not good. I'm not sure who taught these people that it was okay, but it isn't.

How many times are we going to have to say this before it sinks in to the heads of these people? It is never right to touch people in any manner without their consent or approval. Wearing a costume is not consent.

This should also never lead to body shaming or so-called "slut shaming." It doesn't really matter how much skin you think is appropriate, if a person is covered to extent required by local law the rest is moot.  Community standards will also cause this to vary dramatic. I live in Florida, in a beach community, where it isn't unusual to see women in bikinis (or men in swimwear) at grocery stores or gas stations.  I hate the term "slut shaming" because it adds a moral element of "well, your clothing was inappropriate, but we are going to defend it anyway." No, you just defend it.

This is an angry post, because this is something that shouldn't still be going on in an enlightened society. It shouldn't be happening on the streets of our cities, and it shouldn't be happening at conventions. We need to treat each other with the respect that we want to be treated with ourselves.

So, what should you do, when dealing with cosplayers at a convention?

  1. Always ask for permission to take someone's picture. Also make sure that you know a convention's rules for picture taking. Many conventions will have rules that you cannot take a person's picture without asking permission.
  2. If having your picture taken with a cosplayer first ask if you can touch them, and ask them what sort of touch they are comfortable with. Come on, guys, don't just grab their asses or breasts because you think you can. Be as respectful of them at a convention as you would if you were in a restaurant or any other semi-public space. 
  3. Once you know their limits/guidelines, respect them. Don't smile and nod your head in agreement, and then grab them anyway while your friend snaps a picture. This isn't respectful.
If you see harassment of any sort occurring, quickly contact security. If you can't find security, ask the cosplayer if they need help and then help them find security. If see you harassment occurring at a convention you need to make sure that you report it, and don't underestimate the effectiveness of social media.

I know, some will take offense at this post and claim that I am making it just to score points, or (even worse from my view) to get sex. If your world view is so cynical that you see basic human decency as nothing more than currency used to attain sexual favors, I'm not sure that we have anything to talk about. I know that I don't want you reading my blog, if that is how you feel about women and sex.

We need to stop defending this behavior, and we need to call it out when we see it. We need to tell our friends that this is not okay, and harassment is not cool. Hopefully soon enough we won't have the need to keep reminding people of all of this. I'm not going to hold my breath on that.