Chronicles of Gor – RPG Crowdfunding

GorPromo1FUND IT!

Gorean Chronicles

Despite great popularity, spanning nearly fifty years, the Gorean Cycle, by John Norman has existed without much greater recognition in the broader culture. It’s high time it got some of the recognition it deserved in the form of a tabletop role-playing game and a definitive guide to the world of Gor.

With your help we will be producing:

  • Chronicles of Gor: Gorean Roleplaying – A full tabletop role-playing game based in the Gorean world.
  • World of Gor: The Gorean Scrolls – A world guide to Gor, either usable as a resource for playing Chronicles of Gor, or as a separate book celebrating and describing the world of Gor for fans who don’t want to role-play.

This project is being completed in partnership with Open Road Integrated Media:

E-book edition of Gor and all other John Norman titles are available in the United States via Open Road Integrated Media and the United Kingdom via Orion Gateway Editions. Print editions are available in the US via Amazon or in the UK at Amazon UK.

Me

I am James ‘Grim’ Desborough, I’ve been a fan of the Gorean Cycle for over 20 years and a professional role-playing game designer for 15 years. I also write science fiction, fantasy and erotica stories and have been featured in several anthologies as well as publishing my own work.

The Campaign

Gor deserves to be treated with the respect and affection that it’s thousands upon thousands of fans regard it with. The books are written, but to make it from words on a page to a proper book funding is needed to give the books the degree of presentation and polish they deserve.

What We’ll Achieve

Many different groups have done a fantastic job in creating Gorean worlds on IRC, WebChat pages and in Second Life but there has never been a definitive, common resource upon which every fan can draw or a set of role-playing rules that everyone could agree on or hold in common. With these two books we can provide a guide to the World of Gor and a common point of reference for a huge and sprawling community as well as bringing a wonderful fantasy world to a whole new group of fans.

What We Need & What You Get

To truly do the books justice we need a minimum of $5,000 USD, though $10,000 would be ideal. This will allow us to quite lavishly illustrate the books and extra money can provide additional art, layout and editing services to ensure that we end up with a pair of books as a lasting resource for both the role-playing and Gorean communities.

  • We need $5,000 if the books are to be illustrated in a unified and defining manner by a single artist – who will be named later. I want to define Gor with art in the way Brom did for Dark Sun or Diterlizzi did for Planescape.
  • What perks can we offer? At the moment, early access to electronic versions of the books (PDF) when ready and the opportunity to be immortalised in the pages of the book – in one way or another. Additional perks and stretch goals may be forthcoming as the campaign continues.
  • If we don’t reach the goal, the contributed money will go towards artwork anyway, to do the best job possible.
  • If we go over our goal the excess money will go to more art, layout, editing and to further compensating the contributors, helping to support writers, artists, layout designers and editors – all of whom often work on a shoestring budget.

Impact

Creating a Gorean roleplaying game and worldbook will create a resource for fans of Gor and role-players of all kinds for years to come, hopefully another fifty years to come. I am devoted to making this project a reality, having already spent eighteen months researching the books, cross-referencing, extracting information and writing both the guide and the game rules.

I have successfully completed two RPG projects previously, ImagiNation – an RPG about depression and mental illness – and Machinations of the Space Princess, a science fantasy ‘old school’ game.

You’ll be helping me make something great and I’m devoted to making it happen one way or another.

Risks & Challenges

There’s some risks and challenges to this project, not least of all because of the sexual content of the Gorean cycle and its perceived sexual politics. Let’s go through a few of them…

Sexual Content

Yes, Gor contains sexual content of a BDSM, D/S nature. Given that this is a huge part of the reason that it is so popular and that we live in a world where Fifty Shades of Grey can sell 100 million copies and be mainstream, I don’t see this being too much of an issue. Underneath all that Gor is a fantasy world in the Planetary Romance tradition of Edgar Rice Burrough’s ‘Barsoom’ and similar works. Sex is optional and need not be explicit, but it is part of what makes Gor so unique. To ignore it would be to do the books a disservice. The RPG book will contain advice on how to handle these complications and the illustrations should be able to avoid the problems that international censorship rules can sometimes cause.

Sexual Politics

Gor’s world is unashamedly (mostly) a patriarchal, male-dominated society. The current climate in SF&F with regard to games is quite heated about depictions of race, gender and sexuality and Gor is bound to set off some rancorous argument.

It’s a fantasy world. It’s not real.

Personal Issues

I suffer from depression, bouts of which can knock me out for some time. The project is already some six months behind my original, projected schedule but all the work that I really need to do is now complete. My health should not further affect the schedule.

Negative Publicity

As noted above, discussion over representation and sex/gender issues in games are a hot topic. The revelation that a Gorean RPG has been developed is bound to cause ripples, scorn, recriminations and many, many heated blog posts.

It’s all publicity, free publicity and hopefully these people will discover that the treatment in the book is not as terrible as they might have thought.

Existing Communities

There are many existing communities that role-play Gorean experiences and they have made their own decisions about cities, governments, laws, history, details and have played out their own story lines.

If working in gaming has taught me anything, it’s that fanboys are never happy and that they always have their own ideas.

Reviewing some of the material, art and other creations that these communities have come up with hugely inspiring and I have nothing but respect for the fan community that has kept the Gorean Cycle going.

Nothing I am doing is intended to override or replace what they have done, but to provide a common point of reference and something for them to use.

Other Ways You Can Help

Share! Tell people! I don’t have direct communications with the Gorean communities around the internet, on the forums or in Second Life and I’m not about to join them just to spam them about the game. Spread the word!

Ask questions! I’ll answer as best I can, as and when I can.

FUND IT!

#RPG [Chronicle City] @ctiv8 2.0 Released

THIS EDITION FOR FATE CORE

@ctiv8
A global anarchistic conspiracy.
A self-forming collective of individuals willing to do anything that is required to make the world a better place.
A source of consternation to intelligence and law enforcement communities.
A secret computer program, hidden in the darknet.

You can join them.
You can make a difference.
You can make the world a better place.

All you have to do is try.

Betrayed and undone from inside their own organisation, @ctiv8 rises from the ashes like a phoenix. Tighter, leaner, harder, more determined than ever to change the world for the better and accessing bleeding edge technology that authorities cannot keep up with they’ve raised the bar, the stakes and more than a little hell. In a challenging new world of information technology controls, rogue states, the dissolution of national boundaries and a clash between the 20th and 21st centuries a new vision is needed, a new compassion, a new order that can keep up with the changes that happen too fast for conventional forces to react.

A technothriller game about ordinary people making a real difference.
Set in a here and now that could be, but isn’t.
@ctiv8 contains challenging political themes.
Requires FATE Core

Buy it HERE

It will soon be available in our own STORE too, where you can also buy the excellent FOREVER SUMMER.

***

The setting has been updated to take into account developments over the last ten years or so, both in terms of technology and politics. The game setting is now much tighter with more defined goals but still drawing on the day-to-day news for inspiration. @ctiv8 is what might happen if you combined the anarchistic and utopian ideals of the early netizens with the activism of Anonymous and the hands-on approach of direct action groups.

Gameplay is a combination of technothriller, investigation and espionage with a more vicious and deadly rules-set tweak than standard FATE Core.

If you have any questions or queries about the game, the rules or any other aspect, please leave them in the comments below.

You can also follow the game on Twitter.

Patreon: You can now pay me forever! Bwahahahahha!

Hey there prospective patron.

I’m ‘Grim’ (a nickname from college that’s stuck) and I make games. I have worked on some social media games and helped out with some videogame projects here and there but my big love is roleplaying games and I’ve written… quite a lot of them.

I want to keep creating content – and branching out into fiction – but things are pretty volatile at the moment and as a depression sufferer it’s hard for me to work reliably day by day no matter how hard I work when everything is fine.

A little more financial security would hugely help my situation with my brain issues, and give me more money to plough back into games and personal projects which will also go to support young and upcoming fantasy and science fiction artists, editors, writers, typographers, layout people and other creatives all around the world.

I’ll pay forward your generosity.

You can keep up with me at my website
Or on Twitter.
Or you’re welcome to email me.

With ‘1000 true fans’ each giving me just one buck per month, I’d be safe, secure and have the freedom to experiment.

PATRONISE (In a good way)

Camelot Cosmos: Plots of the Nephilim

In The Camelot Cosmos the followers of the Nephilim are the most likely source of opposition to the ambitions and plans of player characters. All of the Nephilim Ascended believe that humanity should either be corrupted and enslaved (the position adopted most famously by Lucifer) or utterly destroyed. The thought of a human society, let alone human individuals, who refuse to bow down and serve the Nephilim is hateful to them in the extreme, and in the case of powerful individuals who refuse to serve the situation cannot be regarded as anything other than a threat. The Nephilim remember the attempts of First Empire corporations to destroy them, and the myths and legends which have accrued over the centuries since have not lessened their hatred and fear. It is for this reason that every Nephilim Ascended seeks to recruit cults of followers and continually engage in schemes designed to increase their influence and power not only over humanity but also over each other. The Nephilim are not in any sense united, and employ cultists as disposable weapons in their schemes against their fellows. GMs should remember that any of these schemes are just as likely to be aimed at other Nephilim worshippers as they are to be aimed at followers of the Seraphim.

Buy this plot/adventure inspiration and background addition HERE

#RPG Yard Sale

gremlins-1984-chinatosskny

I’m going to be boring you to tears with appeals, news, crowdfunding etc over the course of this week. Here’s why:

Winding down Postmortem Studios after joining Chronicle City means my income stream from my own company has slowed tremendously and there’s always a lull between Gencon and Christmas. New companies – as anyone with a knowledge of business will tell you – take about three years to break even and make a profit and Chronicle City is only about 18 months into full time, so I’m stuck between one income decreasing and the other building up over time. I’ve also been hit with a bunch of house costs (that need to be settled before winter), car costs and other expenses and issues including my mental healthcare (aid with cleaning the house and regularly attending therapy to keep me capable of working). The money I do have is earmarked for artists, editors and some of the house repairs that need doing. As such I’m asking for your help in a number of ways over the coming weeks.

I know that I’m a controversial figure, but I have always done my best to try and help people out and to be there to offer an ear, support, financial and emotional and to otherwise be as good a guy as possible to my extended community of weirdos, freaks and nerds. Now I need your help and I hope you’ll help me out over the next couple of weeks as I ask for your aid.

Step one is a big ‘yard sale’ of old RPG items, though it pains me to get rid of them as there’s a lot of memories. There’s a lot here, especially old World of Darkness material and I’m sure there’s some collectors or LARP groups that still play in the oWoD who will appreciate the chance to pick up old lore cheap.

If you’re in the Hampshire/Wiltshire/Berkshire area and have access to transport, you’re welcome to come down and pick items up that you want to buy. If you spot anything you want to purchase drop me a line on twitter @grimachu, on facebook, on G+ or EMAIL me.

Make me an offer, postage will vary depending on how much stuff you want, but guesstimate about £1 per item, hardbacks will be more. I’ll consider any offers and I need to sell stuff quickly.

100 Series – 100 Conspiracies (Mint) x2
100 Series – 100 Fantasy Kingdoms (Mint) x5

Agents of SWING – Agent Casefile (Mint)

Angel – Core rulebook (TV series tie-in) (Near mint)

Ant Assault – Card Game (Near mint)

Authentic Thaumaturgy (Good condition)

Authority, The – Core rules (Tri-stat) (Mint)

Barbarians of the Aftermath (Near mint)

Bloodlust – Core rulebook, French language, barbarian adventures (Good condition)

Bloodsucker: The Angst – The Juice (Mint)

Camelot Cosmos – GM’s Guide (Mint – Printing error on back cover)

Camelot Cosmos – Player’s Guide (Mint)
Camelot Cosmos – The Legend of Hawk’s Hollow (Adventure) (Mint)

Changeling the Dreaming – First edition corebook (Worn)
Changeling the Dreaming – Isle of the Might (Worn, hilarious, wrong)
Changeling the Dreaming – Second Edition corebook (Near mint)

Chill – Core rulebook (Worn)

D&D – Adventurer’s Vault, 4th Edition (Good condition)
D&D – Black Rock Bandits (4th Edition Adventure) (Mint)
D&D – Dark Sun Campaign Setting 4th Edition (Good condition – no map)
D&D – Dark Sun Creature Catalog 4th Edition (Good condition)
D&D – Dungeon Master’s Guide (3rd Edition) (Near Mint)
D&D – Dungeon Master’s Guide 2, 4th Edition (Good condition)
D&D – Encyclopaedia Arcane, Necromancy (Worn)
D&D – Forgotten Realms Setting Book 3rd Edition (Near Mint)
D&D – Manual of the Planes (3rd Edition) (Near Mint)
D&D – Monster Manual (3rd Edition) (Near Mint)
D&D – Monster Manual 2 4th Edition (Good condition)
D&D – Player’s Guide (3rd Edition) (Near Mint)
D&D – Player’s Handbook 2, 4th Edition (Good condition)
D&D – Player’s Handbook II (3rd Edition) (Near Mint)
D&D – Red Box, Moldvay Basic Rules Set 1 + DM’s Guide to Immortals (Faded colour)
D&D – Starter Set 5th Edition (Mint)

d20 – d20 Mecha
d20 – OGL Horror (Near mint)

Dark Conspiracy – Darktek (Worn)
Dark Conspiracy – New Orleans (Worn)

Darktown – Core rulebook (Good condition)

dK System – Core gaming system, d20 derived, in French (Mint)
dK System – Mantel D’Acier (French edition of Cloak of Steel) (Mint)

Dogtown – Core rulebook (Good condition)

Exalted – Return to the Tomb of Five Corners
Exalted – Second Edition Core Book (Mint condition)

FATE – Spirit of the Century, 1st Edition (Good condition)

Golden Heroes – Legacy of Eagles (Worn)

GURPS – Discworld (Worn, sight tear on spine)

Heavy Gear – Second Edition Rulebook (Good condition)

In Nomine – Core rulebook, SJG Edition (Good condition)

Inferno Battles of the Abyss – Rare boardgame (Worn box, mint interior)

Iron Kingdoms – Liber Mechanika 3.5 (Near mint)
Iron Kingdoms – Monsternomicon 3.5 (Mint)

Lamentations of the Flame Princess – Adventure Number 10 (Mint)
Lamentations of the Flame Princess – Better than any Man (Mint)
Lamentations of the Flame Princess – Forgive Us (Mint condition)
Lamentations of the Flame Princess – Qelong (Mint)
Lamentations of the Flame Princess – Tales of the Scarecrow (Mint condition)

Legend of the Five Rings – LARP Rules (Mint condition)

Mage the Ascension – Akashic Brotherhood 1st Edition (Good condition)
Mage the Ascension – Akashic Brotherhood 2nd Edition (Worn)
Mage the Ascension – Blood Treachery (Good condition)
Mage the Ascension – Dreamspeakers (Worn)
Mage the Ascension – Initiates of the Art (Good)
Mage the Ascension – Loom of Fate (Good condition)
Mage the Ascension – Masters of the Art (Good condition)
Mage the Ascension – New World Order (Worn)
Mage the Ascension – Order of Hermes (Worn)
Mage the Ascension – Progenitors (Worn)
Mage the Ascension – Sons of Ether (Worn)
Mage the Ascension – Syndicate (Good condition)
Mage the Ascension – The Book of Chantries (Very worn)
Mage the Ascension – The Book of Shadows (Player’s Guide) (Worn)
Mage the Ascension – Verbena (Worn)
Mage the Ascension – Virtual Adepts (Worn)
Mage the Ascension – Void Engineers (Good condition)
Mage the Asension – Cult of Ecstasy (Good condition)

Marvel Super Heroes – Avengers Assembled (Worn)
Marvel Super Heroes – Basic Battle Book (Worn)
Marvel Super Heroes – Basic Campaign Book (Worn) x2
Marvel Super Heroes – Nightmares of Futures Past (Worn)
Marvel Super Heroes – Reap the Whirlwind (Worn)

MET – Camarilla Guide (Worn)
MET – Dark Epics (Worn)
MET – Laws of Elysium (Good condition)
MET – Laws of the East (Worn)
MET – Laws of the Hunt (Worn)
MET – Laws of the Hunt Player’s Guide (Worn)
MET – Laws of the Night (Very worn) x2
MET – Laws of the Wild, Changing Breeds (Worn)
MET – Liber des Goules (Worn)
MET – MET Jounal Issue 4 (Good condition)
MET – Oblivion (Worn, ‘obilvion’ edition)
MET – The Masquerade 2nd Edition (Worn)
MET – The Shining Host (Worn)
MET – Antagonists (Worn)

NERF – Nylon thigh holster, adjustable to fit most pistols (Mint)

Palladium – Beyond the Supernatural (Worn)
Palladium – Contemporary Weapons Guide (Worn)
Palladium – Heroes Unlimited (Worn)
Palladium – Ninjas & Superspies (Worn)
Palladium – RIFTS, The Mechanoids (Worn)
Palladium – Robotech: The Invid Invasion (Very worn)

Pathfinder – Desecration (Adventure) (Mint)
Pathfinder – The Sting (Adventure) (Mint) x2

Scion – Hero (Mint condition)

Star Wars – Saga Edition core rulebook (Mint)

Traveller – Fire Fusion and Steel (Worn)

Twilight 2000 – Survivor’s Guide to the United Kingdom (Very worn)

Twister (Unopened)

Vampire the Masquerade – Second Edition Core rulebook (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – A World of Darkness (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Assamite (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Berlin by Night (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Blood Bond (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Blood Magic, Secrets of Thaumaturgy (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Brujah (First edition) (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Brujah (Good condition)
Vampire the Masquerade – Chicago by Night (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Children of the Inquisition (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Children of the Night (Good condition) x2
Vampire the Masquerade – Elysium (Good condition)
Vampire the Masquerade – Followers of Set (Good condition)
Vampire the Masquerade – Gangrel (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Ghouls, Fatal Addiction (Worn)

Vampire the Masquerade – Giovanni (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Guide to the Sabbat (Good condition)
Vampire the Masquerade – Kindred of the East (Good condition)
Vampire the Masquerade – Malkavian (Worn) x2
Vampire the Masquerade – Midnight Siege (Good condition)
Vampire the Masquerade – Milwaukee by Night (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – New Orleans by Night (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – New York by Night (Good condition)
Vampire the Masquerade – Nosferatu (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Player’s Guide to the Sabbat (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Ravnos (Good condition)
Vampire the Masquerade – Second Edition Corebook (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Storyteller’s Guide to the Sabbat (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Succubus Club (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – The Anarch Cookbook (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – The Hunters Hunted (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – The Storyteller’s Handbook (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Thrashing Dragons (Near mint)
Vampire the Masquerade – Time of Thin Blood (Good condition)
Vampire the Masquerade – Toreador (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Tremere (Good condition)
Vampire the Masquerade – Tremere (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Tzimisce (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Ventrue (Worn)
Vampire the Masquerade – Victorian Age – London by Night (Near Mint)

Victoriana – First Edition (Good condition)

Werewolf the Apocalypse – Ananasi (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Axis Mundi (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Black Furies (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Blood Red Moon (Worn)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Bone Gnawers (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Book of the Wyrm (Worn)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Caerns, Places of Power (Worn)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Children of Gaia (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Corax (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Corax (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Fianna (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Freak Legion (Worn)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Get of Fenris (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Glass Walkers (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Mokole (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Monkeywrenchers (Worn)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Nuwisha (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Project Twilight (Worn)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Rage Across Appalachia (Worn – with map)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Rage Across New York (Worn)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Rage Across Russia (Worn)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Rage Across the Amazon (Worn – no map)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Rage, Warriors of the Apocalypse (Worn)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Red Talons (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Rite of Passage (Worn)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Shadow Lords (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Silent Striders (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Silver Fangs (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Stargazers (Good condition)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Storyteller’s Guide 1st Edition (Worn)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – The Umbra 1st Edition (Worn)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Valkenburg Foundation (Worn)
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Ways of the Wolf (Worn)

Witchcraft – Core rulebook (Good condition)

World of Darkness – Blood Dimmed Tide (Good condition)
World of Darkness – Book of the Damned (Worn)
World of Darkness – Combat (Worn)
World of Darkness – Mummy the Resurrection (First Edition) (Near Mint)
World of Darkness – nWoD Corebook (Near mint)
World of Darkness – Outcasts (Good condition)
World of Darkness – Revelations of the Dark Mother (Good condition)
World of Darkness – The Book of Nod (Worn)
World of Darkness – The Erciyes Fragments (Worn)

Wraith the Oblivion – First Edition – Glow in the dark Cover (Very worn)
Wraith the Oblivion – The Risen (Good condition)
Wraith the Oblivion – The Sea of Shadows (Worn)

Dangerous Verbiage: Gaming’s ‘Race Problem’.

tumblr_mc433h7HhT1rztdgoo1_1280So I’m going to touch on another taboo topic, because I a) never learn and b) find these kinds of things fascinating c) I think a lot of people are too ready to just freeze with fear and nod along when these subjects come up.

This is prompted by, and in reply to, THIS article over on Tor, about Gencon. So I’m going to structure it as a reply, but I’m also going to go off on tangents.

As has become painfully obvious over the last few years, disclaimers and prefaces and explanations are seemingly needed before touching on sensitive topics. Nobody who wants to take something the wrong way will ever take in the right way, but perhaps one can minimise the damage by taking a bit of time out first to contextualise things.

  • I’m a ‘cishetwhitemale’ which means, according to some people, that my opinion on anything is worthless. If you think that’s true then do us both a favour and skip the fucking article.
  • I’m British, which means my context on matters of race is different to that of the US, as are my experiences. I cannot help but be coloured by that perspective.
  • Understanding a situation doesn’t mean endorsing a situation. Understanding a situation is the only thing that can lead to a useful solution.
  • Not agreeing with you doesn’t make someone ignorant or that they need to be ‘educated’. It’s possible to disagree AND be informed.

As an ethnic minority, I am apprehensive about going to GenCon.

Why? That’s the instant question I find myself asking. While ethnic minorities are scarce in many aspects of nerd and geek culture and many within the broad umbrella of general nerdery are lacking in social schools and sensitivity I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone rejected on the basis of race. If anything – like with gender – people are inclined to be TOO welcoming, even smothering.

For all that GenCon offers, it lacks in minority gamers. Last year was my first GenCon, and as I explored the convention, I saw almost no one who looked like me. By far, the most visible minorities at GenCon were the hired convention hall facilities staff who were setting up, serving, and cleaning up garbage for the predominantly white convention-goers. It was a surreal experience and it felt like I had stepped into an ugly part of a bygone era, one in which whites were waited upon by minority servants.

That seems something of an extreme reaction to me and the implicit assumption in it that this is some sort of ‘plantation wedding‘ is insulting both to the staff and to the attendees. This dichotomy is the result of a huge number of different factors and blaming it on the end result seems simplistic, blind and presumptive.

Gaming has a race problem. For all its creativity and imagination, for all its acceptance of those who find it hard to be themselves in mainstream society, gaming has made little room for people of color.

Is this right? Is this accurate? I don’t think so. The room is there for anyone and everyone to join in the fun of gaming. If that space isn’t being occupied by some people then whose fault is that? Is it anyone’s fault really? Is it gaming’s fault? What is there in gaming that actually excludes anyone? Nothing. It’s a realm of imagination and yes it accepts people of all kinds, sometimes when it shouldn’t.

“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that…

Racism is ‘prejudice on the basis of race’. The source can be involuntary (indoctrination, bad experiences and their associations etc) but the act of racism is concious.

Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on.” –Scott Woods, author and poet.

Yeah, I’m never going to agree with a lot of these terms as they’re used in social justice circles, even in terms of race. ‘Privilege’ especially is an insidious, abused term that silences the very kinds of discussions needed to make any sort of progress on social issues. After all, it’s the people with (presumed) power and agency who need to be talked to and won over if you want to make real change. Also, as a liberal lefty I see many of these problems in terms of social class and wealth, rather than race, though the nature of society (US society in particular) makes the two broadly congruous.

More on this later.

I am the first in my family to be born in the United States. The child of immigrants, I struggled between cultures. I was the only non-white kid in the neighborhood and one of only a half-dozen minorities in my high-school. I was an outsider. I found refuge in Dungeons & Dragons in my freshman year. I could escape who I was in those heroic characters and epic stories. I could be someone I was not. I could be strong. I could be fierce.

See? This is gaming’s value as an escape but as an escape that is a social one. It’s refuge in a group – by necessity. It gave you a safe space just a it has for so many others for so many different reasons.

I could be white.

OK, that’s your problem. Not a problem with gaming.

Most games—the genres, the artwork, the characters, the stories—were Eurocentric and white. It was easy, perhaps even expected, to be white when playing a character. I was always Eric, or Gunthar, or Francois; I was never a person of color. My name was never my name. And no one thought it was strange that I played people so different from myself.

Much of the canon of fantasy stems from European myths and European authors. The Greek Myths are probably the archetypical fantasy genre source, followed by Scandinavian, Germanic and Arthurian mythology. Fantasy wargaming and role-playing originated from that culture and so it’s little surprise that gaming started out with those sources. We now have a much more diverse gaming canon though and it can no longer realistically be said to be purely European. Then again, this is causing some issues with suspension of disbelief in pseudomedieval game settings under pressure to be inclusive.

Of course, the audience remains primarily white, educated and (broadly) middle class but that’s – again – down to factors outside of people’s control. More on that in a bit.

It has been a long and complex road to finding myself, and comfort in my own skin and ethnic identity. The first step was simply realizing that white wasn’t the only color of value. It came in drops: a character in a movie or a book that was of my ethnicity, who I could empathize with and imagine myself as. These characters, when they appeared, gave me my own heroes, heroes that were like me.

All well and good, but there’s a couple of issues with this.

Firstly, there’s a catch 22. If representation is that important it not only places a huge value on race which is counter to the idea of eradicating racism, but it also means that by choosing heroes of colour you are alienating your core, white, majority audience. I don’t put that much stock in this idea because it seems like human qualities that transcend melanin content are – and should be – more important.

The other issue is that of tokenism. Some (mostly Guilty White People) are making good money by making ‘socially concious’ game material, good money for the Indie scale anyway and especially off crowdfunding but none of this is making that much of an impact. Possibly because the debate is so charged that it matters too much and nobody can get it ‘right’. Look at 5th Edition D&D, they took a relatively small step and have caught a huge amount of flak over it. As a designer that makes me less inclined to try, especially when my views on free expression and the gap between reality and fantasy don’t seem to be shared by the crowd leading the charge.

Gaming never afforded me those options. I had to force them, going against the pressure to conform. The pressure was so intense that the first time I played a character of my own ethnicity was actually online. Eventually, I did become confident enough to bring non-white characters to the table, but I still sometimes faced puzzled looks, and questions about ‘whether I was trying to make a statement’ when all I wanted was to simply be me.

Was it canon? Were you being the ‘Ninja guy’ by doing this? You know the ninja guy. You’re playing a romantic fantasy game of political and social intrigue set in a royal court inn bronze age Greece, and he… insists on playing a ninja. It’s possible, of course, that you’re playing with arseholes but based on my experience I don’t find that especially convincing.

I don’t think there are official surveys and statistics on the gaming subculture, but perhaps this study on the top 100 domestic grossing films in science-fiction and fantasy is an indication of similar trends in gaming: There are only eight protagonists of color in the top 100 science-fiction and fantasy films. Six are played by Will Smith and one is a cartoon character (Aladdin). None of these protagonists are women of color.

Again, which order are we putting the cart and horse in here? Are there less media because of the audience, or less audience because of the media? A while back I looked at the general stats, outside the genre but in the top TV and films and only looking at ‘significant characters’ and most things were within not too far a distance of the demographic division, save for music where non-whites were over-represented by a significant margin. It seems likely to me that nerd culture’s demographic is more skewed white than the general demographic, so you’d probably expect to see a wider divide.

Things are changing in the world of gaming, but too slowly. The designers are mostly white, especially lead designers and executives. Equally, the key officers of most conventions are almost entirely white. Usually, they are well-meaning people who do not realize how their roles and decisions impact the larger gaming community and its lack of diversity.

The business is small and runs on contacts. People tend to work with people they know and people tend to know people similar to themselves. Cons tend to be run on a volunteer basis and to value experience and recognition. If you’re drawing from a majority white pool – especially from older generations that were less diverse than current nerdery – then it’s little surprise that these people would be the majority involved at this level. To even begin to suggest that this is due to some subconscious racism is, again, to be insulting and may even help make the problem worse by making people resentful and wary, as it has with other SJ issues.

GenCon is emblematic of this problem. Of the twenty-seven Guests of Honor (in various categories), only two are people of color. The judges of the prestigious ENnie Awards for role-playing, hosted at GenCon, have been almost exclusively white since its inception. The same is true for the nominees and winners of the Diana Jones Awards. There may be more efforts to include people of color in gaming artwork, but where are the real life people of color on the grand stage of gaming?

2/27 is roughly 7.5%, assuming your presumptions about people’s racial background is correct. Given the (likely) breakdown of nerd culture on ethnic lines, that doesn’t sound too bad at all to me. Of course, we need proper data and the last time we had anything like good information on gamer demographics was from WotC leading up to D&D3, and that’s ludicrously out of date, so we have to work on shitty assumptions.

Furthermore, GenCon is disturbingly tolerant of deeply offensive material. Shoshana Kessock wrote about her experiences with Nazi cosplay and paraphernalia at Gencon shortly after returning from GenCon 2013, and I had similar encounters. It would be impossible to imagine minority players running around GenCon in t-shirts that read ‘Kill the white man!’, yet the convention welcomes and profits from images of racial hatred. GenCon has weakly worded policies to prevent these horrific violations, but it has failed to enforce its own rules.

The assumption here, again, unfairly being that simply because this stuff is there, and exists that somehow that indicates approval of the Nazis. There are games set in WWII and most often the Nazis are the villains of the piece, they make good baddies. There’s also a fetishistic side to militaria that often shows up in pinup art, an aesthetic that informs many games. Star Wars draws on the fascistic aesthetic for its imperial designs and symbology, even its terminology. Where do you draw the line?

Who would WWII re-enactors fight? Should DUST excise all Nazi iconography from their alternative WWII game? What about Weird War or Achtung Cthulhu? Does that seem fair? We already have a big problem with over-reaching anti-harassment policies how far are we going to extend that? This is edging into denial of history and that can be dangerous.

These are symbols, important symbols. If the color of all the leadership, of all the roles of power and recognition, the entire structure is white, and if this same leadership is tolerant of hate-speech, it gives a clear unspoken signal to the non-white community: You can join us here, but only if you leave your history, your people, and your emotions at the door.

Calling something ‘hate speech’ doesn’t make it so. It’s not like RaHoWa hardbacks are being sold on the main floor. Right?

I’ve been told time and again by gamers, “I don’t see race” as if they were doing me a kindness. This is not enlightenment or progressiveness. It is ignorance. If you do not see race, you do not see me. You do not see my identity, my ethnicity, my history, my people. What you are telling me, when you say “I do not see race,” is that you see everything as the normal default of society: white. In the absence of race and ethnicity, it is only the majority that remains. I am erased.

This is the ultimate goal though, is it not? For race to no longer matter. That’s what the eradication of racism looks like. People being taken on the ‘content of their character’. That’s a good, simple, achievable message and while history is important, people today aren’t responsible for it. By ‘not seeing race’ people are telling you that they see you, the person, the actions, the personality.

Is it any wonder, then, that so many people of color in the community try and submerge their own ethnic identity? They do not wish to stand out or to be recognized. In most societies it is dangerous to be an “other,” and in a subculture as white-dominated as gaming, things feel especially unwelcoming.

femalecaptainamericaAnd yet, time and again from gamers of colour that I know, I hear that the pressure and the problem comes from their own communities. The anti-intellectualism that is rife across races, but especially in inner city schools and especially in the afro community. The anti-white racism that exists and the suspicion of anything seen as ‘white’, which would include nerd stuff. In other communities the dislike of anything ‘frivolous’, such as games, which to many minds appear to serve no ‘useful’ purpose. A lot of this is to do with class, which is congruent but not identical to race.

Too many conversations on race and gaming die before they even start. I have seen more energy, debate, and engagement by gamers on the minutiae of rules and trivia than I have on the weighty topics of race and gaming. Gamers will spend endless days and millions of words fighting over the pros and cons of the Wacky Wand of Welding, but when a person of color brings up issues of race and diversity in the community, too many gamers roll their eyes and say, “Oh not again. Why do they have to be so politically correct? Can’t they just have fun?!”

And they do have a valid point. What is stopping you? Perhaps even more important, what is stopping you from creating something? Stepping up? Getting involved? This is a question I ask myself a great deal when people bring up these issues. If I can’t get it ‘right’ due to my ethnicity, class etc then what’s the point of appealing to me to do these things? If every attempt is met with hostility then why even try? The barrier to entry of making the kinds of games you want to see is very low now, but still mostly what we see are Guilty White People engaging in a much less fun and less creative form of ‘blaxsploitation’.

Listen. The Gaming as Other series is a great place to start. There are a handful of panels at Cons on the topic and I’ll be sitting on two of them at GenCon: “Why is Inclusivity Such a Scary Word?” and “Gaming As Other.” Keep engaging, listening and supporting. We notice your support and it gives us the strength to keep going.

Note: Listening does not entail agreeing and doesn’t mean being silent. It’s just the first step. It’s necessary for listening to occur in both directions and preconceptions of both sides to be questioned. Case in point ‘Why is Inclusivity Such a Scary Word’ betrays a preconception in the questioner. I don’t think ‘inclusivity’ scares anyone, it’s the things done in the name of it – censorship, death threats, boycotts, petitions, hatred and bullying – that scare people.

Hire more people of color and give them agency, visibility, power, responsibility, and credit in a wide variety of meaningful and important areas in your organization. Do not simply hire a token minority. Do not use people of color as a form of marketing.

Who? How? Where? In what capacity?

A lot of my hiring of freelancers is done via the internet via open call, unless I have someone specific in mind. I often don’t have the first beginning of a clue as to what colour they are, their gender, their age, anything. As a result of this merit/availability based policy I’ve ended up working with a lot of people who have turned out to be far, far away from my person demographic position but most have still been white, educated and broadly middle class (in outlook, if not situation).

We can’t all hire in such a way as to eliminate the possibility of prejudices and nor can we hire from a pool that doesn’t exist. Positive discrimination is just going to cause problems as it has elsewhere. The best solution is going to be to hone your craft (art, editing, writing, layout) and put yourself forward or do your own thing, and again, barriers to entry have never been lower. Just be careful you don’t become Christian Rock, or Billy Bragg. Nobody likes being evangelised.

Reach out to minority groups and invite them personally to conventions. Your neighbors, your co-workers, the people at your church, all of them.

Nobody likes being evangelised.

Offer and play games that are actively and intentionally more inclusive.

How is a game of imagination not inclusive?

There is a lot we can do together as a community. Gamers have always prided themselves on being accepting of those outside the mainstream. People of color want to be accepted too. GenCon is the flagship of gaming, and thus is a golden opportunity to start this process. Let’s start to have a conversation about the structures that led to the low number of minorities as Guests of Honor and ENnies judges. Let’s push GenCon to make changes to those structures so that people of color have a seat at the table for those important decisions. For many of us, gaming is not simply a hobby, but a home. Let’s make it both inclusive and diverse.

OK, now’s the time to have the serious conversation. I’ve touched on it a little before but pinning the blame on Gencon, or the nerd population as a whole is getting it backwards. To get what’s going on we need to take a look at WHY people of colour aren’t that well represented and to this hoary old socialist it’s pretty fucking obvious why.

Wealth and class.

That race and poverty are so linked is a damning indictment of ‘trickle down economics’ (it doesn’t trickle down) and the state of social mobility in the west, especially America and the UK (there’s very little). Poverty and city life – both associated with ethnic minorities for these same reasons – are also associated with crime, which leads to a connection between ethnicity and crime in the minds of many which is unfair, but not entirely without statistical basis.

Then there’s cultural issues which I’ve touched on before. We have a general problem with anti-intellectualism and while nerdery is much more accepted than it once was this is still a problem. It’s a problem which, according to the non-white nerds I know  is especially bad in the black community and especially in the african-American community. There’s a hatred of ‘white stuff’, a macho mindset and a rejection of education that just perpetuates victimisation. You see it in the urban poor of all races and cultures, but the pressure seems especially strong here.

  • So, really, what can we do? What can we do that makes an impact?
  • We can’t change government policy to invest more in schools and education, that’s not our responsibility as gamers but as citizens.
  • We can’t drag people out of poverty all by ourselves, that’s not our responsibility as gamers but as citizens.
  • We can’t shift the existing culture of the inner city poor, that’ll take generations of concerted effort.
  • We can’t force people to like what we like.

Original Steampunk 2 by Yaya HanMake inclusive games? Sure, but what do you even mean by inclusive? Would you insert black hobbits? Do you want to shift a creators vision on the basis of your perception of racism, regardless of intent or vision?

Work with people from minorities? Sure. They have to exist first, they have to put themselves forward and – for the foreseeable future – they’re going to be a minority smaller than the overall demographic divisions of our nations. I’m not going to hire someone on the basis of colour, I’m going to hire them on the basis of talent, reliability and price. Colour, gender, sexuality, none of these are of any concern and shouldn’t be a concern of anyone else. I’m fairly certain nobody wants to be hired on the basis of these things either.

I don’t know that there’s a lot else we can do, other than to encourage people who feel marginalised to make their own stuff and to help them do so. The history of trying to do that with other issues hasn’t gone so well though.

Just a suggestion though, don’t start by calling everyone explicitly or implicitly racist, even if you think they are.

Also check THIS out.

Review: D&D Starter Set

dnd_products_dndacc_starterset_pic3_enOoh! A box! This reminds me of some of the first games I ever bought! It’s about the same size as Car Wars, which was one of the first things I ever got. This bodes well!

Whoops! Feels a little light. I nearly threw it across the room picking it up. Still, it’s a pretty deep box… what… two and a bit inches deep?

Why is the R.Talsorian logo on the front?

Never mind that, let’s have a look.

Dragon! Excellent. That makes for a good cover – always. It’s a little… brown and washed out, but that’s the look of EVERY COMPUTER GAME EVER MADE these days so ‘the kids’ won’t care. No dungeons in evidence but there’s a washed out brown coloured dude fighting the washed out brown coloured dragon and that’s pretty good!

OK, let’s flip it over…

Still feels a bit light.

EXPLORE! PLUNDER! BATTLE! Sounds rad!

What do we get in here… adventure book (64 pages), rulebook (32 pages) or characters of level 1-5 (slightly better than Moldvay managed!) and 5 pregenerated characters – play from the box. A set of dice! Awesome, possibly destined to become the totemic dice of a new generation.

That can’t be all, can it? I mean, from the looks of the box there’s maps and a hint of a grid map. They must have forgotten something.

OK, let’s open it…

Bag of dice! Woot!

Pre-generated characters… OK… useful for reference material on the back but they’re a little… unexciting. Would it have been so difficult to add a bit of art to these? That would have helped a massive amount with making the sheets look exciting. Why not a tear-pad of blank sheets too, damn it?

OK… what else? D&D Encounters advert? What bloody stores? Where? Not for bloody miles. Support online play, finally, you flamin’ nongs. Get some online GM tools sorted out or buy someone else’s, goshdarnit.

vg-cats-is-brown_225x217.shklRule book… ok, let’s have a look at that. Well, it’s heartening that the basic rules can fit in such a small book but I’m not finding it especially inspiring. It’s still so, so, so brown and washed out. 3rd Edition had ‘dungeonpunk’ as a style, 4e was a bit over the top but this is just… I don’t know…. dull? Sorry whoever you are, art person, but this isn’t inspiring me in the same way the new rules are making me hopeful. It’s got nothing on Iron Kingdoms or the (now sadly defunct) output Rackham had. This is just… dull and inoffensive, lacking in discernible style and – judging from the way some of these characters are drawn and dressed (with no discernible style or gender) I’m going to guess that’s deliberate.

The adventure book is bigger than the rules. So what do we have in here? In the ‘Lost Mine of Phandelver’. Well the art’s a bit more lively, especially the monsters but really, what’s the point of these tiny, tiny gridded maps? Couldn’t you have put in some play-posters or tiles? If you’re producing tons of plastic minis for your board games, couldn’t you half-inch a few for this? Failing that, Gamma World and the Monster Vault had some really cool round tokens that people should make more of as a cheap alternative to minis. Wouldn’t hurt to make this look a bit more exciting!

Wait! There’s a white thing on the bottom of the box! Maybe there’s hidden treasures underneath!

Nope… it’s just filler. I suppose you could put other stuff in the box later on… but this is just disappointing.

Score
Style: 2 (Meh… on the plus side, I might play Wizball as a character concept because of the lack of colour)
Substance: 2 (Disappointing as hell)
Overall: 2.5/5

Final verdict: It’s serviceable, but dull, boring and artistically uninspiring. I don’t think as a kid presented with this I would be inspired or interested. It plays it safe and boring stylistically and, well…

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
– Bill Cosby