Saturday, March 25, 2017

Read Outside The Brand!

Over at Rawle Nyazi's blog he had a good post on why Game Masters should be, and need to be, well-read. That post followed on from a post at the Castalia House blog on how short fiction can completely eliminate the need for supplementary materials in a tabletop RPG.

This harmonizes with my insistence that all you'll want from the publisher is a ruleset, and quite frankly you don't need to buy that either anymore- you have since the year 2000 (and you can find other free option, similar to and divergent from the d20 System baseline). That assumes that you want to bother with someone's else design at all, and I don't as often as not anymore.

So, what should you--as a fan, as a gamer, whatever--do to Git Gud at this thing you love? Well, I've been harping on it over this week: READ! Read the sources the creators draw from. Read the philosophers they rest their assumptions upon. Read the histories, biographies, mythologies that they're taking from. Read widely, read deeply, read for comprehension- not speed. Oh, and a note: there are different modes of reading for different purposes, so learn and master them.

Think this isn't relevant to Your Thing? Remember what I said yesterday about Thrawn being Sun Tuz? That's proof of relevance; once you've read The Art of War a few times and know about the Warring States period in China's history you can see where Thrawn's coming from in his approach because you read that in Sun Tzu. (You can add Clauswitz and Machiavelli to that category of reading.)

Remember my complaints about the Monomyth being all over Hollywood? Well, Joseph Campbell didn't operate in a vacuum; reading, at the least, The Hero With a Thousand Faces will get you into a place in your brainmeats that will (a) ruin your ability to read/watch crap and (b) appreciate the brilliant stuff even more when you encounter it.

Love your mecha? Go read Starship Troopers. Like that? Go read the Lensman books; that's where Powered Armor (and mecha) come from. Ditto your Jedi, Green Lantern Corps, and similar Supercop organizations in popular fiction. Adore the fleet battles of Legend of the Galactic Heroes? Go read the accounts of ancient warfare through to the Napoleonic era, which is where a lot of the memetic references come from- not so much with actual naval history (though that's worth reading in its own right). Fascinated with the Autocracy-v-Democracy theme? Oh man, there's a whole world of philosophy and theology to follow there; that's worth a post to itself, and there are entire blogs devoted to it.

Do you see where I'm coming from yet? Do you see how, and why, reading/watching/playing more than Your Favorite SF/F Brand can only make your enjoyment of it better? Well, how about making you better able to participate in the world at-large, and at higher levels of complexity and sophistication, than otherwise is the case- things that can make your working life better, in many cases.

Read, dammit! So much of what I'm talking about is in the library, or published for free as public domain books, that you can do this for nothing more than the cost of the time required to get a library card or have an e-reader handy. It's nothing but good for you, and the more you do it the more fun it becomes.

Friday, March 24, 2017

My Life in Fandom: In Praise of Thrawn

Star Wars has some truly awesome villains. Everyone knowns about Darth Sideous, a.k.a. Emperor Palpatine. Everyone knows about Darth Vader. Thanks to The Clone Wars we've rehabilitated General Greivous, Darth Maul, and Count Dooku into villains fans and creators can respect in narrative terms. However, it took this closing season of Rebels to bring back the best post-Original Trilogy villain: Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Until Thrawn came about, the fans saw Force-users as being so innately superior that you had to be one to effectively beat one, making the Expanded Universe post-Jedi (1983) until Attack of the Clones(2002) or Revenge of the Sith(2005) not take mundane villains seriously, no matter how hard EU creators tried at times. West End's RPG, as it was the basis for the EU past 1987, reinforced this view: if you don't get them when weak, you'll never get them outside of deus ex machina sorts of events.

Thrawn was the first crack in that wall of fan-generated dogma. The means by which he achieved his victories over the heroes--the disciplined study and analysis of the targets of his operations, coupled with an iron will focused on the objective with flexibility in the immediate situation to take advantage of developments--was nothing more than Sun Tzu put into Star Wars, and that is why it worked.

Thrawn showed YOU, the reader, how to beat Force-wielders without being one yourself.

There is nothing Thrawn did that you couldn't apply to your life, here and now. You can study your opponents. You can analysis their culture. You can assess their psychology accordingly, and use that intelligence to inform your strategy against them. Gamers, we already have a term for this: meta-gaming, also known as "playing the player". Vox Day does this daily, to hilarious effect, which he recounts often.

That's why Thrawn is both awesome and inspiring; he shows you what any common man can do if they are willing to apply their intellect properly towards the achievement of their goals, and he demonstrates that he's created a system by which he can--and does--readily and repeatedly turn every encounter to his advantage, meaning that regardless of the immediate outcome he learns some vital piece of information that he then turns to his advantage going forward. He cuts losses swiftly, salvages failures before they're complete, and keeps cool in the face of adversity. He's the respectable adversary that Vader and Palpatine are not.

So, I do hope that Thrawn's canonical return endures past the end of this season of Rebels. The franchise needs him, badly.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Star Wars and the Return of the Pulp Tradition

Star Wars is now the great juggernaut of Science Fiction. Its presence, influence, and reach surpass all other contenders- yes, even over Star Trek. It's been like that for decades now, and the overall business that George Lucas built up and sold off a few years ago prove that fact conclusively. There are consequences to this multi-generational phenomenon, above and beyond the Oroborus behavior of fans not going outside the brand and thus becoming increasingly illiterate as to what historical and cultural developments informed the creation of the property.

We are now at the point where this illiteracy reaches the premiere products of the franchise. Both The Force Awakens and Rogue One (and the Han Solo film appears to be) were tone-deaf retreads that didn't pick up, or feel at all like the original films, until the third act- and then, if not for fan-service that sentiment wouldn't exist either. As seems to be the case, and has been for some time, the claim of these films being "official fan-fic" is accurate, apt, and devastating in its truth.

Because those now creating for the franchise, with a few exceptions, lack Lucas' education on mythology and background in pulp fiction we're in the copy-of-a-copy problem of continued degradation from the original due to a Cargo Cult mentality. This is not a corporate directive; this is the result of fans growing up, joining the business, and ascending up the ranks to where they are now at the helm- but they don't comprehend why they're doing what they're doing or how it works, for all their experience in dealing with it.

For now, the top-tier offerings will still meet business expectations; the folks doing the selling do know what they're doing, how it works, and why it works even if those making the stuff to be sold are lacking in those respects. That won't continue for long, and we're already seeing signs of this in reports over the intended story for the stand-alone Young Solo film. Rather than despair, or freak out, or whatever most fans will likely do I know what should be done- what some of you are already doing.

You're making better Star Wars than the Mouse is, because you're already going back to the same roots that Lucas did and making it your own as he did, and thus reviving what formerly was the norm in Science Fiction: adventures of a Romantic flair, filled with action, heroism, exoticism, and all of the other elements that audiences now reflexively go to Star Wars to get from their Science Fiction. (This is what drove the change in Star Trek in recent films away from being the pre-eminent "Men With Screwdrivers" form of Science Fiction; Paramount wanted that Star Wars audience.)

If there is an irony to be found in this situation, it is in the trends seen in the narratives of the active show (Rebels) and the primary film trilogy; both of them have themes of returning to the source of their cultures to find strength in the face of a powerful--but increasingly soullesst--threat. By reconnection to those roots, and the truth of existence therein, the smaller and materially-weaker upstarts can and will defeat the threat because they beat them at the Moral Level of War first and foremost. Again, those who deny you your culture and history dream of your extinction.

Like we're doing now, with the Pulp Revolution and the Superversive Movement and so on. Today Tor, tomorrow the Mouse, and onward to the return of our culture to Civilization- and the annihilation of Boskone.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

My Life in Fandom: The Forgotten Realms and the Wider Culture

That's the killshot in a thread regarding this post at the Cirvosa blog today.

The Forgotten Realms is the current dominant brand in tabletop fantasy gaming, and it's been a part of the Dungeons & Dragons property since the late 1980s. (That's right, it's been around long enough to run for the U.S. Senate.) In addition to becoming the basic bitch Vanilla Fantasy setting for tabletop RPGs, it's gone on to greatly influence fantasy RPGs in videogames and became a significant influence in fantasy genre fiction. In all cases, the pull of this influence has not been to the benefit of any of these categories and often becomes a serious cancer to it.

But, it is NOT the fault of the Realms themselves. It is NOT the fault of TSR or Wizards of the Coast. It certain is NOT the fault of Ed Greenwood (the creator, whose specific home games are VERY different from what's published). No, the reason the Realms are what they are is--once again--the fault of the fandom. And, once again, for the same reasons I laid out yesterday using Star Wars as an example.

Be it the original boxed set for 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the amazing works put out for the 3rd edition, or even the videogames using the Realms as a licensed property, there is no deficit of detail and richness there for the taking. Thay's mageocracy is a wonderful tribute to Howard's Stygia. Cormyr is a delightful fusion of French and English history, with Vangerdehast doing a wizardly Walsingham impression. You can find a fantasy Venice well before Scott Lynch ever wrote his first novel, and so on- and these allusions, following Howard's method for his Hyboria, are deliberate due to the Realms being on an alternate Earth.

And the fans did not give two shits about ANY of it. The cultural and historical sub-literacy and illiteracy is NOT new, nor even recent. That shit is as old as when the first cohort of high school and junior high kids, who had sweet fuck-all for any wargaming experience, showed up to play that D&D game that the college kids were so hyped about. The players didn't care. The DMs didn't care. Why? Because none of that information ever crossed into the stuff they cared about: the core of the game, killing monsters and getting loot.

(We see this now with prominent streamers for Diablo 3 or World of Warcraft who don't know--and don't care to know--a damned thing about the lore. They care only about the gameplay, and dismiss the rest as irrelevant fluff.)

They have this attitude for a handful of reasons, none of which are the creators' or publishers' faults.

  • The influences are not brick-to-the-face obvious, so they're missed.
  • The DMs don't see any reason to make the players deal with them because they're not hard-coded into the rules, so they don't.
  • The players don't have to deal with them, so they dismiss it as irrelevant.
  • The exceptions who try get shat upon; players get booted for wasting time, and DMs get abandoned by players similarly.
  • The obsession over what's cool and powerful--the same that keeps Darth Vader popular, despite the known consequences--drives things like Elf worship, consequence-free magic, a complete disregard of religion and culture, and other things that are so long known as issues that there's a long-running parody of them going on.

Since the first days of D&D, coinciding with the 1980 mark where the SocJus Death Cult seized control over traditional SF/F, we've had gamers take up the pen and become authors. "Pink Slime", "Vanilla Fantasy", etc. all come out of this development and it got institutionalized when TSR opened its book division and began publishing Realms novels. Now it wasn't just the strange artifacts of those early gamers-turned-authors, but increasingly the dragon ate its own tail as more and more readers only read the branded stuff and eschewed the source material. That's the point when trends already in progress accelerated and achieved the form we criticize today as being derivative to the point of being boring and useless.

It's already sufficiently bad that any well-done derivation from this norm is sufficient to break an author out and set him up for big success, even in the deteriorating world of traditional SF/F publishing. Elves, elves, and more elves- especially in the works that are more romance than SF/F despite being labeled the latter. Vampires, werewolves, and similar archetypes are similarly debased and degraded into such Mysterious Sexy Alpha Male uses for such ends- taken out of context for use by people who don't care, or want to, about the cultural context they come from (and belong to).

They write these stories of elves being cool while killing orcs because that's all they got from their gaming experiences, and that sort of thinking comes to filter out everything similar that they enjoy. It's about doing cool things and wielding cool powers, and nothing at all of substance or consequence other than gaining or losing power- even the simple Spider-Man lesson of "With great power comes great responsibility." gets ignored because they have the power to do so effectively; at extremes, it's even the avoidance of challenge until it can be overcome with brute force. There's some serious rabbit-thinking going on here.

The people administering the Realms as a property are similarly rabbit-like in their psychology, and have been since TSR bought the thing from Greenwood, so it's no surprise to me that they can't properly address this known issue with their brand identity. The people running the RPG side of Wizards of the Coast are rabbits, so they can't hack the issue either. No, this has to be done by we in the fandom, and Cirvosa's call to just improve your skills at filing off the fucking serial numbers is a Big Deal. That has to go further, and that means making culture matter directly; subtly is lost here, routinely. Not just in the games and stories we create, but also in revealing--and celebrating--the influences we take in when making our creations and enjoying them.(Again, I cannot overstate the value of the entire Appendix N blog and book in making this happen.)

Real people do NOT act outside of a cultural context. Neither do believable fictional ones. Make culture matter again, and you will make fandom great again.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Life in Fandom: If You Love It, Learn Why They Made It

I'm still checking out all sorts of Star Wars fan videos, and soon I'll post some channels at YouTube I think are good for folks looking for the gems, but today it's something else.

This isn't just a thing with Star Wars fandom. It's a thing with fandom in general, and that's the tendency to not see where the creators of whatever the thing is take their inspirations- sometimes including when said creators are on the record as to where they got the ideas that they used as ingredients in their creation process.

Last weekend, Star Wars: Rebels aired an episode that resolves the conflict between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi left over from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This had significant hype build-up by the fan community, and I could tell by the reactions of some that they do NOT know or appreciate where George Lucas and his successors got their inspiration. That final duel was a reference to (and invocation of) Akira Kurosawa's samurai films, in particular the speed of the sword duels, and anyone that's paid attention to George Lucas as a filmmaker and storyteller knows of his love for that brilliant man and his incredible work. (Go watch The Hidden Fortress.) Furthermore, anyone who knows showrunner David Filoni knows that he's a faithful successor to Lucas (and so knows Lucas' inspirations) and deliberately follows the aesthetic of Ralph McQuarrie's concept art for Rebels as a tell of how he's approaching those inspirations.

All that? Over a lot of foolish fans' heads. They expected a pair of old men to bounce around like Yoda did in Attack of the Clones and not be slower and more static like Dooku was. They wanted a long fight, lasting for a full segment, and not the blink-and-you-miss-it affair it was. They didn't know, and they didn't want to know; they had expectations out of line with what the creators wanted, and got disappointed when they didn't get those expectations fulfilled.

When Revenge of the Sith happened, fans and wankers calling themselves "critics" alike failed to see the allusion to Weimar Germany morphing into the Third Reich when Palpatine pulled off Order 66 and declared the Galactic Empire. The degree of cultural and historical illiteracy to NOT see that allusion required revealed how degraded, in 2005, the education of far too many had already become. It hasn't gotten better in the past 12 years.

The ignorance we see in tabletop RPGs is just as bad, mirrored exactly in SF/F publishing, so much so that Jeffro Johnson's Appendix N sparked a revolution in the latter and reignited the passions of the former's Old-School Renaissance. Knowing where the people who made the thing you love came from in creating it has value, especially if you--in turn--are creating new things because of this thing that you love driving you to do so.

This is why history matters: knowing the past enters you into the Grand Conversation of Generations. From this process, we create and sustain our culture. Our culture remains healthy, vital, and energetic when each succeeding generation takes its place in the forum and begins to contribute to the conversation. Those who deny your culture seek your extermination.

You can only benefit from learning the hows and whys driving the creators creating the things you love. Do so.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Tabletop RPG Designer Went Full Retard

First, my thanks to the Pundit for responding aptly.

Second: For all you folks who don't pay much attention to the tabletop RPG world, this here is evidence that yes most of the folks making the big games (and the people in many smaller companies that feed of the scraps from the big games, almost all of whom worked on the big games or knew the creators) are SocJus Death Cultists. Pramas thought this was funny, witty, and a devastating rebuke of the God-Emperor. Well...

You're damn right it's retarded. This is going Full Retard. And we all know what to say to that:

And yes, this man's politics most definitely informs his decisions on what to publish, and what to put into what he publishes. If you want the most stupid example, I direct you to The RPG Pundit and his resounding denunciation of Blue Rose, the RPG that makes "romantic fantasy" out to be a degenerate faux-feudal Socialist Dystopia and you play the enforcers of the State. It really is Paranoia with a palette swap played straight (and less party-driven backstabbing) and more going outside.

Yes, this is the issue with Tor in a different--related--arena. The man (and his wife, and his peers) have no problem corrupting escapist entertainment with their politics- and watch the reactions, wherein he defends this as alternately (a) not a problem because it's all political and (b) not a thing because this isn't an issue. (Yep, contradictory defenses; SJWs Always Go Full Retard.)

Good thing that no one needs what he publishes, eh? Fortunately for us, hobbyists in tabletop RPGs can (and should) homebrew ALL the things, so fuck this cunt and his SocJus Death Cult fellow travelers. They're the cancer killing tabletop RPGs, and that's as much due to their inability to adapt to the new reality as it is due to ideological compulsion to corrupt and adulterate what (as with SF/F publishing) is rightly an apolitical entertainment business and hobby.

I'm with Bre Faucheux on this sort of thing. I'm tired of giving money to people who hate me and mine so much that they put that hatred before their obligation to provide value to the customer, especially when they are so fungible as to be replaced with what I can make up on my own- and often of equal or superior quality (as is the case with tabletop RPGs as a whole). Here's her take on this sort of thing:

There's no other way to put it: if you've drunk so much of the SocJus Death Cult Kool-Aid that you do this shit, then you're a Fake Gamer and you don't belong here. GET. THE. FUCK. OUT!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Recommendation: The Syrian Girl

Syrian Girl provides a critical perspective on all matters of interest anent and regarding the Middle East with an emphasis on Syria (as the name would imply) that the mainstream media refuse to address or even entertain. The American and Western mainstream fake news media through its alt-Left, anti-Trump, bumper sticker, playbook, echo chamber repeater (versus reporter) media repeat the mynah bird tropes and memes as ordered and directed.

It is critical and necessary to understand the world from every possible vantage and connection. It’s that simple.

"Syria is geographically and politically in the middle of the Middle East." — Bashar al-Assad

I've long followed this brilliant woman, finding her first when I was in graduate school several years ago in the course of doing research on my Master's degree, as she came to the notice of James Corbett of the Corbett Report. While I haven't seen or heard much from her recently, that doesn't mean nothing's going on; this appearance shows that she's still paying attention.

She's important because she brings the perspective of people from Syria, about Syria, and has personal and familial ties to sources that allow her to effectively gainsay the lying, hoaxing Establishment media of the globalist traitors to the West with regard to Syria and its immediate surroundings. It was from her that I first heard the truth that most "Syrian" refugees aren't Syrian at all, and from her that I first heard that the "rebels" were CIA-backed proxies and catspaws aimed at Russia (following Obama's policies). It was her that first showed me just how blatant the MSM's Narrative Warfare in Syria was, exposing the fraud of the gas attacks.

She's worth having in your media feed, folks, and she's operating as a one-man band. Even if you don't agree, listen to her; this is a woman worthy of your respect because she earns it. She does better journalism than most "journalists", and she does it on her own with a fraction of the Establishment frauds' resources.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Revealed Preferences in Tabletop RPGs: Very Revealed. Stop Fighting Them.

Fantasy in tabletop RPGs are piss-easy to do. Make characters. Work together to explore ruins, fight monsters, get treasure. It's so piss-easy that they got automated into videogames within a few years of their invention. For all the pretensions of everyone and their mother--especially the SJWs--this remains the core of the category's gameplay because it reliably works. Everything beyond that gets away from the core appeal of the genre, which is why fantasy RPGs that are not D&D or its clones/knockoffs have sweet fuck-all for presence, influence, or power- and yes, that does include videogames. (Where World of Warcraft is to MMOs what D&D is to TRPGs, for example.)

Science Fiction's second-place status in tabletop RPGs stems from this lack of a so-simple-a-retarded-rhesus-monkey-can-do-it default structure. That doesn't mean it doesn't have equally strong default assumptions that do, in fact, serve to provide some structure to gameplay. (They also show why you can could the number of successful SF TRPGs on one hand and have digits left over.)

  • The players create characters. They have adventures.
  • Their adventures occur in a space-fairing setting.
  • Their space-fairing is under their control, using a ship that they control.
  • All characters are part of the crew.

The first SF TRPG, Traveller, codified these into the structure. The licensed Star Trek and Star Wars games make good use of them. There are very few exceptions, largely because those exceptions only frustrated one of those expectations (and enjoyed lesser success accordingly) instead of most or all of them- or they weren't called "science fiction". By their behavior over the decades, players revealed their preference that this is "Science Fiction". This same thing, "revealed preference", is how we know that fantasy is similarly bound. (And why settings like Tekumel and games like Ars Magica remain so.)

You want to know why so many TRPGs rot on the trash pile? Because they neither define their own category (e.g. Call of Cthulhu, Vampire: The Masquerade, Champions), nor surpass the reigning champion of the category by fulfilling the revealed preferences better than the incumbent. (This is where videogames have an advantage; by the necessity of having to bundle setting and campaign with ruleset, it becomes easier to successfully break out of known boundaries to attain success- at the cost of confining play experience to strictly and solely what you provide in the sale.)

STOP. FIGHTING. THESE. PREFERENCES.

It's been over 40 years since tabletop RPGs got invented. We know by now what works, what doesn't, what players want from this medium and what they don't. You're not in the business of selling books, boxed sets, pamphlets, etc.; you're in the business of selling virtual life-experience opportunities to tinker-minded hobbyists and their friends who come along for the ride. The games are not the value; they're the carrier. The value is in providing goods and services that allow users to connect and play what they what- not what you want.

That means that there is limited liminal space within a given category of TRPG, enough for one dominant property and a handful (at best) of also-rans whose sole justification for existence is to keep the top dog honest and hungry. (This same dynamic is at work with MMORPGs.) If you want to succeed, then you (a) take a slot as #1 or #2, (b) stake out your space to dominate, or (c) sell tools people can use in whatever category they want (that free resources online don't already do just as well or better for free; stop trying to compete with Discord).

If you can't do that, then GET. THE. FUCK. OUT! No, I don't care if you've been at this since the late 70s; you don't own the market, so you're not entitled to be here. Justify your existence or get run out by those that can and do. If that means the entire tabletop RPG market disappears, I don't care. My money is far too precious to waste on that which can't justify itself- and, to date, there is no tabletop RPG that does.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Podcast Recommendation: Virtue of the West

Not long ago, I found both Brittany Pettibone and Tara McCarthy on YouTube. I've immediately been taken with their intelligence, compassion, savvy, femininity. They teamed up to create "Virtue of the West", their ongoing co-hosted podcast. Below I've embedded Episode 7, which featured the Supreme Dark Lord (Vox Day) as their guest.

This episode is typical of their production quality and content quality to date, so if you like good conversation and a high level of discourse you'll come away satisfied. That's why I recommend this podcast, in addition to the ladies' separate efforts; as of this post you'll find their YouTube channels in the Blog Roll on the right.

If you're at all concerned with Narrative Warfare, you'll find that this is a common theme in this series. Both spoken of as such, and underlying other conversation topics, you'll not fail to notice the ongoing effects of the Death Cult's deliberate and willful fraudulent storytelling about the West to the West and the poisoning of its posterity. The perspectives differ, as do the opinions and proposals of the guests, but the results are the same; independent verification on the importance of culture in the life (and death) of nations.

So yes, I do ask that you take an interest in this series. If you think you'd be a good guest, then approach them and request to come on the show. Maybe one or both of them will want to interview you separately; if so, go for it. This is the New Media. Embrace it.

Bravo to you, Brittany and Tara! Bravo, and may you enjoy even greater success down the road.

(Related: If you like either Brittany or Tara, give Bre Fauchaux a try; she's also in the Blog Roll on the right.)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Internet Changed The Tabletop RPGs Business

Okay, so if tabletop RPGs don't need to be sold with settings or campaigns, then why is this so commonly done? Well, as Lewis Pulsipher said in a comment, it stems from those turning their tabletop RPG into a business needing to find a way to bring in revenue to cover those costs. That's correct, and what Lewis says in that linked video should be heeded accordingly.

But.

The practice arose in a pre-Internet era, when that was the only viable option for a business model. You sold those products on the argument of convenience, something that adult gamers know too well as being a thing they want, and you hoped that you satisfied their want enough to keep them bringing in more repeat business.

That's not going to cut it anymore. The Internet changed everything, including what makes for a viable business model for tabletop RPGs. It used to be that convenience, plus a common reference set to a central standard, made publishing supplements viable until that treadmill wound down. What you're really selling with settings and campaigns is information, first about an environment, and then about a specific course of action within it.

Guess what does that better than any book, boxed set, or pamphlet? A wiki. Don't tell me that's not viable; Infogalactic does that for everything and has better quality control than Wikipedia with a fraction of the funding and personnel, and they've already got a better Drudge-style news aggregator than Drudge does just added to it.

What's the best setting supplement to any Star Wars RPG? Wookiepedia. Yep, the fansite for all sorts of lore and such is better than anything published by Lucasfilm or any of its license holders when it comes to setting. If the volunteers can up their game just a bit in their article quality, they'll accidentally make better campaign stuff than anything so published. Even those who just read RPG stuff find wikis better for what they want nowadays.

But, since time seems to run weirdly in Tabletop RPG Land, this fact hasn't sunk in yet for a lot of people (even as they rely more and more on crowd-funding to keep their concerns going) despite me saying so to WOTC at a panel I sat with them about this very thing at CONvergence a few years ago.

The conditions changed. Your business model has to adapt, or your business dies.

You are NOT in the business of selling shit that you can get for free on a wiki. You are in the business of selling tools that your customers need to facilitate their engagement with the tabletop RPG medium. What you have to do to make selling the old way at all viable now is to castrate its potential as a TRPG product line, and in practice that means Organized Play (because centralized canon and cross-table rulesets are worthless otherwise; your brand, therefore, is your setting/campaign and NOT the ruleset) or you're going transmedia and need a brand for your fiction line (e.g. Forgotten Realms).

That's right, you're not selling D&D. You're selling Roll20. You're selling Tabletop Simulator. You're selling Fantasy Grounds You're selling the tools to make it easy and simple for players to get together and play the game AT ALL. The games--from rules on down--are not where the money is anymore; their value is only good for brand development, which has value when applied to other media (e.g. D&D in videogames, comics, novels, movies). Holding on to the model arising in the 1970s is a losing game, and the sooner you make the shift to where the real value is the better you will be.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Caesar's Assassination & the God-Emperor

On this day, in 44 B.C., Gaius Julius Caesar died by assassination near the Theater of Pompey. This event is rightly regarded as a key turning point in the transition of Rome from a Republic to an Empire. The linked Infogalactic article is a sufficient summary of the event and its context.

History does not necessarily repeat, but it often rhymes. The assassination of Caesar has become an iconic moment in modern Western history, with many would-be and successful assassinations following that pattern and even invoking that spirit. (In the U.S. context, this is strongly visible with the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy.) When the conditions repeat, so often do the consequent behavior patterns. (See r/K Theory for a very specific take on this.)

The conditions creating the political and economic context of that Roman event are circulating again now across the West and into Russia; the rhetoric, starting in the U.S., increasing open about assassinating figures claimed (as Caesar was) to be power-hungry to the detriment of the people. We're not at the level of having the peers assassinate political enemies by their own hands, yet, but that's where this trend is going.

The thing that some people need to remember is that the West in general, and the U.S. in particular, is already an empire: two or more nations yoked to a common authority. The authority is not really a state, but rather the supranational system of finance that's centralized in the international banking system; this is John Perkins' revelation in Confessions of an Economic Hit-Man, and it is this globalist regime that Trump, Putin, Assad, Le Pen, Wilders, and more seek to destroy. (The European Union is just the most visible part of it, as that imperial proto-state is the model for what the globalist world-state would be.)

The same pattern of imperial greed that led Rome to become an empire is what the globalists are willfully pursuing worldwide, but as it began as a Western project and remains anchored here. Enforcement is based in Washington D.C., laundering in the City of London, and (as is increasingly obvious) dogma out of the defiled Holy See. From there the Round Table networks do their thing, ensuring that the Empire seizes the minds via the culture well before a single shot is fired.

We're seeing again the murmurings that come when someone unexpected arrives to upset expected outcomes of ongoing operations. Caesar's assassination came when he would not take the hint from the Senate (and the interests vested there) to stop fucking with their thing. Andrew Jackson went after the banks, and won, despite vehement and violent resistance from the Establishment. Lincoln's introduction of the Greenback so incensed the banks that they wanted him dead. Kennedy messed with so many interests that it would have been a miracle if he was NOT assassinated.

And since Reagan got shot, we haven't had any serious assassination threats. Several fakes using fuckwits, but nothing that actually got close to being effective. (And no, that dumbass who shot at an empty Oval Office wasn't effective.) Now we're seeing the noises made to signal that it's on the table once more, and like Caesar (or Jackson) the God-Emperor is not afraid.

See what I mean about history rhyming?

Nothing in politics happens by accident. That's why I saw immediately what the God-Emperor's visit to Jackson's grave meant and who it was aimed at. We talk of "the Deep State", but said group is in thrall to the globalists and they operate out of the world network of independent central banks. That is why I identified the Federal Reserve as the target of the symbolic jab; it's the local boss of the Banking Crime Syndicate that is the real global empire shitting on the rest of the world.

Now to see if the God-Emperor can avoid Caesar's fate.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tabletop RPGs: Best Kept Simple

The thing that keeps most people--including most gamers--away from tabletop RPGs is that a proper tabletop RPG comes "incomplete" by common eyes. You get a ruleset, and that includes toys (in the form of mechanics), but the user supples the rest of the game- not the publisher. In practice, this means the Game Master supplying everything but the players' characters. Setting and Campaign are not required purchases, even if many (including publishers) want to believe so.

The problem is that most people--I dare say the majority--do not, and will not, work for their entertainment. They get mad when they can't just show up and play the game, and mad people get frustrated. Frustrated people stop doing the things that frustrate them right quick, revealing by their actions their preference for ready-to-go entertainment.

This is one of the big pushes by publishers (such as those behind TORG) to make tabletop RPGs something that folks can play cold (no preparation) and stupid (no prior or outside knowledge), just like you can with boardgames, cardgames, and other competing tabletop gaming options. (Nevermind videogames, which do ALL of that even better.) The problem is that those seeking to make that happen do it wrong by getting away from how tabletop RPGs work: describe situation, as "What do you do?", resolve actions, update situation, repeat.

That fundamental feedback loop is what drives a tabletop RPG. You need very few rules to make that happen, and that's why the earliest TRPGs are still the best ones around; the known weakness (the Game Master, when ignorant and inexperienced) can be worked around easily simply by not being a punk bitch and instead be the responsible adult most people (including gamers) are.

It is at that simple level that makes the genre most friendly to people, since all they need to do is consider how their man would act in the situations the game's events create and then act accordingly when asked "What do you do?" Let the Game Master handle those rules, and make his rulings; for players, all they need to know is what their man can do and what tools he's got to work with. Pushing more mechanics on to the players is contrary to the power of the genre.

(Yes, this means that hybrids like TORG do miss the point of RPGs. It's not the first time, and won't be the last.)

The way to get people on board is to sit them down with something already familiar to them, make creating a viable character easy and fast (which is why I prefer Character Templates, as early editions of Shadowrun as well as West End's RPGs were well-known for; pick one, personalize, and GO!), and what mechanics they do use are simple and easily-remembered ("Always roll high." was one of the smarter d20 System axioms for this reason.) The rest is all about that feedback loop.

I harp on the loop for a reason: all by itself, that loop will drive all of the gameplay you will ever want or need. "Here's the situation. What do you do?" is so simple, yet so powerful, that you never need to touch a single fucking narrative fiction trope to produce powerful, satisfying experiences of any sort. The catch? They may not be the ones you expect; what comes emergently from the results of those actions can be anything plausible in that moment, and I do mean ANYTHING. Being open to that is critical, and if you can make peace with that fundamental uncertainty--that core of chaos--then you get this genre of game and can work miracles with nothing more than a rubric for making rulings, two worn dice retired from a craps table, and some way to keep notes.

You don't need a publisher to sell you a setting, because you can create it as you play. You don't need a publisher to sell you a campaign, because your players will create it emergently as they run that feedback loop. Neither may be what you expected, but they will be what your groups' actions result in when you sit down to play. Miniatures, maps, fat tomes of mechanics and rules- all completely optional and not at all required. Once common people experience this in action, they break from thinking of TRPGs as "incomplete", see how complete it really is, and see how they are separate and distinct from other forms of RPGs (and other forms of game).

Monday, March 13, 2017

Red SF/F, Japan Has Your Back

Japan's popular culture industries, in particular animation and comics, doesn't have the same SocJus convergence affliction that we in the West contend with, and so--while they have big problems--publishing stories that the Superversives and Pulp Revolution crowd want to restore to prominence here.

As with Star Wars, Japan's long-running pop-culture SF/F franchises are built on pulpy and superversive foundations- despite significant differences in mood, theme, tone, and subject matter. Mobile Suit Gundam, as much as it gets the billing for making "Real Robot" a viable subgenre, has protagonists and antagonists motivated by passion and desire beyond all material drives- something that persists across the franchise. Space Battleship Yamato is a Space Opera that E.E. Smith would approve of, as is Super-Dimensional Fortress Macross. The Dragon Ball franchise is full of this stuff; for all the jokes about a five-minute move taking 30 episodes to execute, the heroes hero because it's right and the villains (for the most part) are evil and don't apologize for it.

We've got allies abroad, and Japan in particular is resistant to this bullshit. Thanks to some folks (Hi Mombot!) who've been good at cluing in Japan on this particular Western madness, the attempts to spread this memetic disease across the Pacific hasn't gone as well as the SocJus Death Cult would like. They just want to make a living telling stories (and pushing associated merch, but so long as that means awesome games and snap-fit model kits, I'm okay with that), and so do we. We like it when their good stuff comes over here; they like it when our good stuff gets over there. SJWs lose, and everyone else wins.

So, let's piss off some death cultists and engage in some mutual cultural appropriation.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

TORG: The Wargame Masquerading as a Role-Playing Game

TORG is a good example of a game publisher (a tabletop game publisher, in this case) providing players with all of the components needed to actually play a role-playing game. Videogame publishers, merely by the requirements of the medium, are so long accustomed to doing so that it's not even comment-worthy anymore and hasn't been for decades; tabletop publishers don't have to do that, so it's novel when they do- and moreso when it's this hard-coded into the product's design.

TORG has its own ruleset. It includes a setting, and its setting comes hard-coded with a campaign attached that you can't avoided: the High Lords' cross-cosm invasion of our cosm of Core Earth. This invasion scenario is the pretext for "Let's play a game about different realities interacting.", but that scenario is a wargame scenario with binary conditions that can't be ignored.

The tell is in the subtitle: "Role-Playing the Possibility Wars". Players take the roles of individuals who, due to a strong morale choice made in a moment of crisis when faced with an alien reality, become champions of their cosm--their reality--known as "Stormers" and propagandized as "Storm Knights". All of this? Hard-coded into the setting and supported by the ruleset; if players don't engage the wargame scenario, the enemies win by default and our world is annihilated.

The core gameplay of TORG is to find and destroy the things that allow the invading cosms to attach to and siphon off our own: stelae and Maelstrom Bridges. As with all wars, this is about territory and the resources they contain (which, for this scenario, is the interaction of sentients with the environment; this war focuses on populations accordingly). Stelae, in this context, are devices that allow invaders to forcibly impose their reality over the defending cosm within the triangular boundary established. Maelstrom Bridges are the actual link between the two, allowing invaders to pour forth to take and hold territory.

That's a wargame. Dressing it up as a RPG doesn't change that fact; it obscured and confuses what's going on, such that even the designers and developers don't know what they're really doing with the game. For those looking for a character arc, you've got one (and only one): the struggle of those that became Stormers to adapt to the requirements of the mission they alone can accomplish to win the Possibility Wars. You've got a war drama to go with your wargame, if you want it, and no the other realities representing different adventure fiction genres does not change that fact- it plays only with trappings and details, not with the core of the game or the substance of its play.

Trying to avoid this means avoiding whole chapters of the book, entire subsets of the rules, and otherwise becomes far more of a bother than it's worth to try. You're better off playing some other game instead. However, if you can see the fun to be had in this game--and man, there is a lot to be had; Star Wars isn't the only choice for Plucky Resistance Against Existential Threat of Annilation--then you really ought to give it a go, and commit to its premise. Let's hope that the new publisher doesn't fuck it up like West End did.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: No Such Thing as "Endless" Games

A role-playing game consists of the following components. Not all of them are supplied by the publisher.

  • A ruleset.
  • A setting.
  • A campaign.

The publisher need only supply the ruleset. The users can, and do, supply settings and campaigns. Publishers supply these for good reasons, not the least of which is to build up other brands that can be used to enter other business segments down the road (as we see with Forgotten Realms).

The game needs the rulesets to inform the rulings made by the Game Master. The setting exists to provide an environment for the players to conduct their activities. The campaign exists to provide context informing those decisions and give the players a focus for their efforts towards specific objectives. It is the campaign element that puts the "game" in role-playing games.

Campaigns, no matter their context or form, are finite things. The word, taking from wargaming, reveals the wargame roots of the RPG genre and shows that these are not meant to be endless exercises in meaningless dithering. Instead, the players are intended to focus attention and resources towards the pursuit of specific objectives; either you do the thing or you don't, and once concluded the campaign is done.

No, it doesn't matter if each player's objectives differ from the rest. No, it doesn't matter if the players are active agents and not reactive players. No, it doesn't matter if the players create their own campaign or use some provided by a publisher. They are still waging a campaign, and campaigns inevitably come to an end. This is not a bad thing.

Campaigns are defined by their boundary conditions. The first is their victory condition, followed closely by their defeat condition (which is not necessarily the inverse of the win). These define the physical and temporal boundary conditions; action beyond these are not relevant and need not be permitted. Resource boundaries follow accordingly; you only have so much to work with, and much of that can be denied or destroyed, impeding progress or halting it entirely. (Yes, information and player-character health count.)

The beginnings and ends of campaigns are where the game begins and ends. That doesn't mean that the characters can't move over to another campaign, which is another misnomer that just won't die, but depending on the ruleset such transitions may be difficult to accomplish. Don't mistake the lack of a publisher-provided end for the lack of an end; player-defined ends count.

All that begins must end. Games are no different, and gamers--as a class--are happy to have ends to achieve. They are the norm outside of tabletop RPGs, and without controversy for their presence. The foolish few in tabletop RPGs would do well to check themselves, lest they wreck themselves.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Narrative Warfare: Warpig on a Rampage!

Daddy Warpig's been on a tear at the Castalia House blog lately. I'm not the only one to notice, and he's right to be pissed. Even the Supreme Dark Lord mentioned it in a Darkstream over this past week.

Here's the killer point of his latest post (as of this one):

There’s a sickness in SF, it’s very nearly terminal, and Doctor Warpig is in the house to diagnose the disease and prescribe a cure.

Some of you may be in denial: “Science Fiction is NOT a ghetto! It’s not struggling. It’s just as popular as anything else!” Let’s put it to a test. Take these three books:

The Three Musketeers. Alice in Wonderland. Treasure Island.

You’ve probably heard of them. And movies and TV shows based on them. And allusions to them. EVERYBODY has.

Now name some post-Pulp prose SF works of equal or greater stature in popular culture. Spoiler alert: You can’t.

(Bold emphasis is mine.)

Say it with me now: Politics is downstream from culture.

Warpig's right to be passionate about this, because not only do we now know what the problem is, we also have the data to back it up (see the above linked blog posts; they have data on publishing trends), and because we know how this came to pass we also know how to unfuck (and uncuck) SF/F as a category. Bring back everything that got excised in the first place!

We're not going to fix the politics without the foundation of a culture to support the shift. That's why all of the SocJus Death Cult crap in genre fiction, gaming, etc. matters: they're weaponizing elements of the culture to normalize their degeneracy, as we see time and again when we hear the testimonies of people coming to our side after swallowing the red pill. We cannot sustain a politics of courage, loyalty, and honor without a culture that promotes and rewards it. We cannot sustain a politics of nationalism, sovereignty, and independence without a culture that celebrates it- and the SocJus Death Cult's masterminds know this.

While the major institutions will take time and severe measure to bring back into our hands, popular entertainment is far easier to disrupt and dislodge. (Yes, they know this too; that's why they did it.) Therefore it's far more friendly to decentralized efforts to do so, and we are in just such a position at this moment.

But to be successful, you have to know what to hit, where, when, and how to do so for best effect. That's what is valuable about Warpig's blogging at Castalia House right now: he's breaking down (backed up by others following his lead) how we got into this mess, when, where, and by whom- and, therefore, who succeeded those bad actors in turn (i.e. who we're taking on now). For any Narrative Warfare campaign, as with any form of war, knowing your enemy is fundamental and Warpig pointed out that enemy in plain language.

If you are at all serious about unfucking and uncucking what you hold dear, this needs to be done: review, assess, name, blame, and shame- and then go after them by cutting them off, and then cutting them out by replacing them with superior alternatives. If they value their fortunes (if not their lives), then they will adapt or they will be destroyed. Tor delenda est indeed.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

My Life in Fandom: An Obvious "Star Wars" Scenario to Consider

While the real world offers good news and bad in the culture war, allow me to simultaneously geek out on Star Wars and give you some fodder for your gaming (or whatever) consideration.

During the Clone Wars, the Galactic Republic under Supreme Chancellor Palpatine organized a hasty refit program for its fleet of Consular-class cruisers into viable warships. These would soon be supplemented by other warships, culminating in the Venator-class Star Destroyer, but those dedicated warships would remain in service after the Republic became the Empire. This was not so for these cruisers.

So, it occurs to me that those seeking to oppose Palpatine--surviving Separatists, dissident Republicans, etc.--would have good reason to glom on to the cast-offs of the new Imperial Navy. These cruisers would be the first capital ship class to get the boot; their decommissioning and discharge from Imperial service is an opportunity to acquire viable warships on the cheap, and if one considers the possibility of taking original-configuration models and retrofitting them in turn the opportunity is too good to ignore. (As seen with another popular consular vessel, the CR90-class Corvette.)

In addition to salvaging Republic and Separatist vessels (another great opportunity for a good front operation in this setting), and seeking out remaining Separatist vessels, grabbing former Republic vessels (and other resources) as they fall out of service with the Galactic Empire is a gold mine for playable scenarios. Strict wargaming, or as part of a role-playing campaign, or fodder for your fanfic or fanart folders- this is a heist scenario that I am surprised the Story Team at Lucasfilm haven't tackled yet. (And no, that Y-Wing theft in Rebels is only an approximation.)

Pablo, Dave- email me.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Langley is Dangerously Incompetent at Narrative Warfare

So, it turns out that the CIA is literally into Narrative Warfare, and built up a huge cyberwarfare capacity to execute it- and then fucked it all up by losing control of it. Brilliant, you fucking spooks. Just fucking brilliant. Die in a fire, you treasonous shitweaseals.

What's not been focused on much, outside of those who regularly visit /pol/, is that the CIA has a Memetic Warfare center. Furthermore, those CIA meme soldiers routinely get exposed in /pol/ as shills and blown the fuck out. So, not only do they known of Narrative Warfare, they're actively pursuing it and they suck balls at it. Routinely beaten by bored shitposters doing for free!

Good God, if it weren't for that massive media establishment behind them, the CIA wouldn't get shit done in memetic warfare. (And yes, they do rely on the dying dinosaurs for their meme warfare.) This cyberwarfare capacity was meant to be their big trump card, and they lost control of it. Nevermind that Wikileaks just confirmed Trump's wiretapping claims; Trump now has all he needs to go after the rogue spooks and hang every last one still alive for sedition and treason- and that includes their "outside" assets.

Bring on the Inquisition. It's time to purge the unclean.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Glock's Failing Is Symbolic of a Larger Pattern

Over at The Dark Herald, something happened that I suspected to be the case: Glock lost its lead with institutional purchasers. The reason is also as I expected: Glock got lazy and stopped doing what it takes to stay on top.

That's not to say that Glock is doomed, yet. They're in a position similar to the AR-15: so many aftermarket or supplementary products feed off the Glock that they have significant reserves to employ should their management stop being fucking retarded and start innovating against. Until then, having other companies make use of Glock magazines for their own products, or do custom work, and so on will buy them time to get their shit together.

Unlike the AR-15, Glocks aren't made by every last motherfucker with a mill, a billet, and some idea of what the plans are. That one fact means that there isn't any way to use the Glock platform to compete with Glock and compel them to Git Gud. Instead, you're seeing an explosion of striker-fired handguns that (for the most part) do what Glock did better than Glock has to date, and those same institutional users are noticing- such as the U.S. Army (going with the Sig P320).

The same story's playing out in Traditional SF/F publishing, in tabletop RPGs, and in Hollywood. The major players stopped putting in the work that got them there, in large part because the leaders are gone and the Starscreams took over. Many of them are also held by the SocJus death cult, which kills what it converges, but even those not so (such as Blizzard) are having problems due to a lack of innovation and too-long a time uncontested in their field.

You can't rest on those laurels. There is no "end of history"; it's never over. Yet these Starscreams, these Big Reds, they think they've hit some end-state and It's Over Forever- that they've won for all time. That's not how the world works, and we've seen this before in the historical record: too-long success, plus a retarded perspective, leading to lacking discipline and blindness to rival s rising up to take them down.

So all you involved in the Pulp Revolution, reviving Red SF/F, you see clearly that Glock's affliction is the Big 5's. Those in the Old-School Renaisance see this with Wizards of the Coast, and we veterans of GamerGate see it with Bioware and other SJW-converged outfits. And, of course, there's the BBC and NBC/ABC/CBS/CNN and the other ABC (down under)- the lying Establishment media. Hollywood too. Keep at it; we don't need them, and we're foolish to want to be part of their dying scenes. Either they'll wake up and revitalize themselves, or they'll die and make room for those that will. We can't lose. All we need to do is show up and Git Gud.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Narrative Warfare: Trump Rope-a-Dope's the Lying Mainstream Media

Razorfist is proposed for another Hugo nomination this year, and quality videos like this are why.

Sure, this isn't about the utter shitshow that is Traditional (Pink) SF/F publishing and its child-rape friendly "Fandom", but the cultural corruption in that disproportionally-influential sect of the SocJus Death Cult is part-and-parcel of (former) President Obama's administration and their allies in the lying, hoaxing Establishment media. In just over five minutes, Razorfist breaks down what Trump's doing to clean the media's clock and how he does it.

And that outro? Where he likens said media (and their cronies) to suck-tastic preachy cartoon villains? Spot-on. This is some serious Coyote-vs.-Roadrunner levels of stupid going on here, with Trump just pulling a "MEEP! MEEP!" on them every single time they think their latest ACME-level scheme will do something to him.

Which has me doubly-worried. Either our "Deep State" is made up of fucking morons, or the real talent on the other side hasn't even gotten out of bed yet. I'm hoping for the former; the last time it was the latter and we got the triple crown of major assassinations shaping American politics for two generations.

In the meantime, we're watching a true media master do the Rope-a-Dope on them time and again. Watch Trump; he's judo-thrown these narrative hits on him around several times now. It's like watching Steven Seagal (in his prime) just clean out a bar full of hoods to shake the morale of the real target of his scheme. It's brilliant, and I am astonished that no one opposed to him has any clue as to what the fuck is going on. I cannot believe that they are that dumb, but apparently they are- and I am thankful for it.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Bring Forth Your Voice, For We Are a Mighty Chorus

There's a reason I freely alternate between posts on the politics going on and then posting on gamings or films or other products of culture. It's because Politics is downstream of culture. The Old-School Renaissance in tabletop role-playing games, the Superversive and Pulp Revolution movements in genre fiction, Gamergate in videogames- all of them resisted the SocJus deathmarch and gave political resistance the proof of concept required to show the way to resisting the SocJus death cult in political realms- and yes, I do credit the Ascension of the God-Emperor as the current climax of this shift in the zeitgeist that Gamergate and the OSR started.

If you want to make lasting changes in politics, you start by shifting the culture. The SocJus death cult knows this well, as the recent stupidity on display at GDC 2017 demonstrates very well. I'm just one man with a pathetic income, an aging laptop and a blog, but I'm doing my part as best I can by bringing the good stuff I find to whomever reads this thing and hope that they pick up an audience big enough to pay bills with the proceeds.

(I really should expand into podcasting, and get a new PC. Got to get on that.)

The little things we do as individuals collect into larger wholes. When the RPG Pundit started ragging on SJWs in tabletop RPGs, calling them "Swine", that would eventually lead to him starting his own blog (see the Blog Roll), taking over a forum (The RPG Site), and then making his own products. He's had a hand in Dungeons & Dragons, 5th Edition as a consultant as a result of those efforts, and he continues to help unfuck my gaming hobby of preference and passion.

Daddy Warpig went from posting on the RPG Site, got into blogging, which lead to Geek Gab, and now has him posting at Castalia House's blog as a figure promoting the two aforementioned SF/F movements as well as putting him into contact with a staggering array of authors, celebrities, editors, and so forth. At this rate, he'll soon be asked to be a Guest of Honor at unpozzed conventions like DragonCon.

And on the political side, I've watched Tara McCarthy and Brittany Pettibone come out of nowhere to make use of YouTube to not only produce separate podcast series of interviews, but to collaborate on a joint venture (Virtue of the West). Bre Faucheax's on a similar trajectory with her blog and YouTube channel. These three women are sit in the liminal space where culture transforms into politics, each at slightly different points based on areas of emphasis, but already they're making big moves and getting support from larger players (such as Lana Lokteff of Red Ice Creasions, hostess of Radio 3Fourteen).

And Razorfist? The man went from making snarky videos to getting a fucking Hugo nomination due to both his own merit and the support of the Rabid Puppies (via gaining the notice of the Supreme Dark Lord). He and his main man Terran Gell are so good at being effective in their own corner of the culture war that they can get major metal figures to do interviews with them- and they have.

And, then, there's little ol' me. I blog, daily. Sometimes two or three times a day. That adds up, and fast, as I've noticed. I am well aware that I've got enough lying around to clean up, reorganize, and reformat into something vaguely book-length; I just have no idea what would sell if I were to do so- and yes, I do require that any book I put out, at the least, be able to help pay bills or other expenses. Don't be afraid to add to the chorus. If you need to be anonymous, then be so; none of us care if you're not really Robert T. Uberfowl, High Priest of Kek and spiritual leader of the Kekistani Disapora. Just do it.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

My Life in Gaming & Fandom: The Conflicting Wants IPs Face in Transmedia Business

I have some sympathy for people like Dave Filoni, Pablo Hidalgo, and others working on popular fiction franchises that have signficant fanbases in different hobby subsets. I'm using Star Wars as an example, but this applies just as much to Star Trek, Macross, Gundam, Forgotten Realms, etc. so this is not specific to Uncle George's cultural behemoth at all.

When a property becomes popular with two segments with very different sensibilities--gamers and storytellers, for example--those in charge will soon face fan requests expressing those very different priorities and it's still the case now that those in charge do fail to property identify what segment they're dealing with.

Requests for technical details tend to favor those into some form of wargaming or role-playing, because the salient qualities of both hobbies involve knowing the exact capabilities of the resources at your disposal vs. that of your opposition. Knowing how many fighters fit into a Star Destroyer, the limitations of a Force user's powers, how the Holonet works- all this is far more important and relevant to a gamer than a storyteller.

Storytellers care more about relationships, and not just personal ones; institutions can be (and often are) characters in their own right. Stories require the potential for comedy, drama, or both and that means the relationships between the parties involved is important. Requests for information about family, love interests, how this guy thinks of that guy, etc. are far more important for storytelling than gaming.

Note that I say "more important"; it's a matter of priority, not utility. When the Yamato get damaged in action against Gamilas, remembering what got damaged and where it is on the ship is a bothersome bit of bitchwork for a storyteller because that continuity constricts the writer's dramatic options and getting that wrong will damage the work if it's not well concealed- and it rarely is. Storytellers care about the impact of events upon the characters that they love, or hate, and such details matter only insofar as it reveals character or advances the plot.

That matters a hell of a lot more in gaming scenarios. The opposition cannot be counted on to conveniently ignore noticeable damage until convenient for the plot. Narrative function is irrelevant, and short-circuiting dramatic or comedic tropes because it is tactically or strategically advantageous to do so is the norm. (And you can see this lack of concern in storytelling works that fail to consider such things properly to maintain verisimilitude.) Believable conflict is not governed by the needs of a plot, especially in fiction.

At least we're finally recognizing that this is indeed a thing, and the long years of denial are finally beginning to wane; as we go forward, we're going to see more savvy IP managers and teams make lemonade of this and turn it to their benefit. Lucasfilm is one group looking to do so, as their actions show, and in Japan we can count on this sensibility coming forward with generational turnover expanding upon existing expertise. If there is any opportunity to be had, it's in those now making new IP seizing on this fact to both expand their reach and cement the loyalty of that audience by knowing whom to satisfy and how.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Legion Hype: WTF Blizz! The Patch 7.2 Changes Aren't All Good

On the Public Test Realm for World of Warcraft the development team has Patch 7.2 up for testing. Like others, I do keep track of what's being tested there so I can make preparations and decisions sensibly. I've seen the preview for the new dungeon, and I like what I see so far. The new open-world zone has grindy bits, but that's mostly for gearing alts and returning main characters who've been inactive for a while and need a hand. Flight isn't broken (yet). Nothing wrong with the content, so far, that I've noticed.

What I've noticed (along with plenty of others) is this utterly fucking retarded change to Artifact Power and Knowledge. This change has me wondering if the devs are all out to lunch, or if they've been listening too much (willingly or not) to the accounts or to Activision corporate (or both). The change? To end the current hard cap of 54 Traits to acquire in favor of a soft cap of 71 Traits and no hard cap. Artifact Knowledge had a hard cap of 25 Ranks; now it's 50, and the multiplier goes well past ridiculous, straight past retarded, and into fucking plaid levels of absurdity.

In short, instead of having a definitive end to developing one specific Specialization-defining element of a character's class we now have UN-FUCKING-LIMITED development. Since each Trait on a weapon directly increases the character's power, end-game content thereafter gets balanced around its acquisition, which means that the current You Must Be This Tall To Raid problem will only get worse.

World of Warcraft: Legion is the most alt-unfriendly expansion since Vanilla. The rate of burnout in Mythic Raiding is ridiculous, with World-First raiders (who do the content first, define the solutions, and write the fucking addons and guides) collapsing as a class into a group that can share a couple of rooms at the Hilton come BlizzCon. This is not good. The reason? The Artifact Power grind, something that must have a hard-as-the-mountain definitive end. Right now, it does; it's far too late for a healthy community scene, but it is there. The changes remove even that.

YOU FUCKED UP!

Games must have definite ends. For MMORPGs like this, that end is the hard cap of character progression. This hard cap gets people refreshing the game by playing other Specializations within the same class, or another class entirely. They play on the other faction. They play different Professions. They take breaks and don't play.

And it's that last one that's driving this change. Count on it; the fear of players cancelling their subscriptions for months at a time has been a known complaint within the WOW team for years. Finding ways to keep them playing has been an objective all this time, and since the team now has plenty of former Diablo 3 people on it they carried over plenty of D3 schemes with them. This is another one: unlimited "paragon" progression, with each point conveying power to the possessing character. That's tolerable in Diablo 3, since multi-player is limited to parties of four or less. For a MMO? That shit is cancerous, and cancer kills its host if it is not cut out and sterlized. That's happening right now.

The current hard caps for both Artifact Knowledge AND Artifact development, as they are on live servers, needs to be retained and maintained for the rest of the expansion. The current catch-up systems, in practice, are sufficient to get alts up to speed quickly and viable for end-game content; all that needs to be done is to normalize Artifact Power gains for dungeons at all difficulties so that Maw of Souls is not the only smart option, but rather to make any dungeon worth doing. The rest of the 7.2 changes should be scrapped, used as toilet paper, and then burned in an incinerator.

Games must END. Uncapped progression in a MMO is not that, and the damage already done will only get worse if this goes live. For the good of the game, the business, and the community playing it scrap this shit- NOW!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Narrative Warfare: The Sessions Hit

Since the ascension of the God-Emperor, we've had a curiously underreported series of arrests of child trafficking rings. What is curious is that these roll-ups occur within days of the Clinton Foundation's operations ceasing at that location. Furthermore, it's known that Attorney General Sessions has no love for pedophiles and is eager to turn the machine of the state against them in full and deadly earnest.

So, when the Democrats and the lying hoaxing media started going after Sessions I suspected that this had to do with #PedoGate and #PizzaGate. The Supreme Dark Lord harbors similar suspicions (and, I suspect, is far more accurate as to why than any other explanation I've heard yet).

What this hit takes the form of, as it did with Flynn, is a Shriek-and-Swarm attack. As the media and the Dems are SJWs, then we can be confident that (as with Flynn), this is a lie told knowingly for specific intent. Fortunately, we know the playbook by now, and therefore can defend against it. (Sessions is in particularly difficult circumstances, so his reactions are more constrained, but there's no There there so recusing himself isn't the scalp some say it is.)

The point here is this: the "Russian hacker" narrative is there to protect the elite pedophile network. Other parties cooperate to the degree that it advances their interests, but the objects of attack and the timing of the attacks tell you who's calling the shots and why that shot-caller's objective is. We're not being attacked by hostile foreigners within; we're being preyed upon by traitorous child-eaters within.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: Theory vs. Practice in RPGs - Setting Viability

There is theory, and there is practice. When in doubt, always err towards practice.

In the realm of role-playing games, the theory is that the medium is one wherein you can whole subsume oneself into a secondary environment ala Virtual Reality and live a secondary life therein, with an aim towards secondary life experiences that one cannot otherwise attain. The practice is that role-playing games are focused around a specific range of such experiences, build around a core experience, because RPGs are commercial products and commercial products exist solely to produce profit by satisfying demand- and the demand is far more narrowly focused than the theory would expect.

The reason for this is simple: role-playing games are games, first and foremost. It is the fact that it is a game that justifies the medium's existence, not the theory of immersive secondary life-experience. Gamers want specific things out of games, and RPGs that don't deliver get dumped for those that do. That's as true for the products as it is for the users, and it is this one fact that takes settings that have far more than what it's known for and depreciate those elements in favor of the core experience.

This is why BattleTech, despite it being as intrigue-filled as Dune, it's harder than herding cats to actually make a campaign not focus on Big Men in Big Robots stomping about doing Big Damage. The reason is that the property's core experience is built around just that. Even the tanks, fighters, etc. are secondary to that core experience. Politics? Economics? Remember how that went over with the Star Wars prequels? Yeah, like that.

(n.b.: You run into this problem with any RPG derived from a vehicle-focused action-adventure property, such as Palladium's Robotech and R. Talsorian's Mekton Zeta.)

This is why the viable settings are those that focus upon that core experience, and successful development thereafter likewise focuses on that experience. The other elements, where they are acknowledged at all, are so only to the degree that it supports the core experience and gives verisimilitude to those experiences. Franchises that don't want to do this branch into other media where that otherwise-extraneous information becomes commercially viable, and these days this is a deliberate practice for the purpose of making a transmedia intellectual property franchise. (e.g. Star Wars)

Gamers want specific experiences from specific media, specific genres, and even specific games which is why this RPG is known for one model of gameplay and that RPG is known for another. For the MechWarrior/A Time of War folks, they want to be that BattleMech pilot first and foremost and that's why stuff that takes you away from the cockpit tends to get depreciated in practice no matter now much in theory it should be really in demand. It's a matter of practical psychology, and the sooner you adapt to it and make it work for you the more satisfied your gaming life will become.