Problematic Tabletop Blog is Problematic

As I’ve mentioned before, any time any one of the silly dramas in the RPG community comes up, so does every previous incarnation and the same old lies all over again. With the fuss over Zak and Pundit being credited in 5th Edition I’ve become aware of the existence of another source of ‘pig fuckery‘, a Tumblr (who could have forseen that!) called ‘Problematic Tabletop‘.

So what is Problematic Tabletop? It says it’s…

Problematic Tabletop is an archive dedicated to the absolute worst aspects of the RPG hobby. It curates racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and a whole host of other cruel things said by the people of this industry. Problematic Tabletop’s primary purpose is to show the current atmosphere of hostility, gatekeeping, unprofessionalism, and hatred found in this hobby, with the intent to lessen those things through education and change. It is meant to be an educational resource.

But what it actually appears to be is an intensely hyper-critical site of quote mines, context-free misrepresentations and right from the get-go, describing people as the ‘worst aspects of the RPG hobby’ is pre-judging and, frankly, inaccurate.

Do not harass anyone listed here. This is not a hate site. This is not about finding people to persecute, punish, harass, or harm. It’s about shedding light on the crimes that go unseen every day in the RPG industry, and perhaps make them see the error of their ways, or learn from their mistakes. Do not harass anyone.

I’m not sure who you’re fooling here, but it certainly isn’t me though this fig leaf is a necessary piece of protection. Call out culture, as we saw when Zak called out people who made entirely false accusations against me in public, only works in one direction. This blog absolutely will lead to more harassment of people and more angry reactions and it’ll perpetuate the cycle.

The site also goes on to list some ‘egregious offenders’, amongst whom I am listed.

This list consists of the most toxic people in the RPG industry. If your name appears here, you have a lot to think about. If your name is not here, DO NOT HARASS THESE PEOPLE.This is not a hate site. This is a resource.You should not support these people, you should not associate with them, and you do not want anything to do with them, but do not harass them.
Fighting fire with fire only creates more fire.
Each name links to all of their quotes on this site – take a click, and see who said what, and why you shouldn’t support these people.
Gareth Michael Skarka (GMS) – Author of Far West and other thingsRuns a blog.
James Desborough (Grimachu) – Owner of Postmortem Studios. Creator of Privilege Check,The Slayer’s Guide to Female Gamers, and many, many other things.
John Tarnowski (The RPG Pundit, Kasimir Urbanski) – Owner of RPGsite. Runs a blog.
Zak S. (Zak Smith, Zak Sabbath) – runs a blog (NSFW) and The Escapist web series, I Hit It With My Ax.

After years of putting up with this nonsense, what I am thinking about is when does this bullshit end, and how can people who describe themselves as progressive be so censorious and regressive?

I know GMS, time was I’d have regarded him as one of you. We would have arguments about inclusiveness, pronoun usage in game text and many other issues and have blocked each other in the past. He’s a grumpy old bastard and a grumbly old left/liberal – like me. That you have alienated him to this extent should be a warning to you, not to him. That he reacted badly to being hounded and demonised doesn’t make him a monster, push anyone far enough and you’ll find a self-fulfilling prophecy at work.

Me? I’ll address me specifically as regards what the blog says about me.

Pundit? Pundit plays an arsehole on the internet. To a large extent the ‘Pundit’ is a persona. Yes he’s often mean spirited, nasty and uncompromising in his arguments and his scorn for indie games and much of their ethos, but I’ve never seen him dish out anything he didn’t get first. Again, we don’t get on especially well, he thinks I court this negative attention on purpose and our gaming preferences are at odds, but I like to think there’s some mutual respect. I’ve not seen him do anything genuinely awful, like, say, calling a whole wing of gamers brain-damaged.

Zak? Zak is argumentative and bullheaded about making his points and rooting out bullshit, but disagreeing with people is not a crime and that is – really – all that any of us have done. Disagreed with people. I guess(?) Zak’s involvement with porn is what triggers some people into being arseholes to him because they see porn as exploitation(?). Personally I find the judgemental attitude towards Zak and his lady friends to be far more telling of people’s prejudice. I admire Zak and Mandy hugely and I think they and their whole gang are one of the best things to happen to tabletop gaming in years, plus I met Satine (artist on MotSP) through them and I’m glad to count her as a friend too.

This hatred and misunderstanding has a life of its own now and while I don’t think it’s going to stop or that arguing back serves any useful purpose (to the point where we’re now into the gaming equivalent of a rap battle) I still feel that there’s a need to try.

So, then…


What filthy piece of shit did I do now?

According to Problematic Tabletop, my ‘current’ crimes are:

Biological Realism, which according to Problematic Tabletop is:

Explanation: Biological realism is about denying trans* people their identity, saying their birth sex is their absolute real sex. It is a form of trans* erasure. It would be very easy for James Desborough to become a misogynist, indeed.

Turns out that biological realism has a lot of different definitions, but as I meant it I meant that however you feel, whatever you believe, what you ARE comes down in no small part to your biology. I am a human, homo sapiens sapiens, as are you. No matter whether you’re a devoted creationist or not, we’re apes and share common descent with the other apes and with all other life on Earth. Physically the vast majority of people are male or female and everyone is chromosomally. This doesn’t erase trans identity or deny it to them, it is an acknowledgement of the facts which, unfortunately, put them into the position that they are in. Birth sex is immutable fact, gender identity is not. You can feel free to disagree with me, but I think the evidence is on my side. What I’m absolutely not doing is erasing trans people or saying they should be oppressed. My track record with trans people hasn’t been great, largely due to one individual, but I’ve done my best to own and move past that. It’s not fair to have one’s entire concept of a group dictated by one, awful person.

I made fun of Tumblrisms and ‘political correctness’.

The game was a way of exorcising my demons from years of putting up with this crap and of poking fun at the atmosphere of terror, indignation and two-facedness that goes on. It’s satire. Now, I know satire is dead, Poe’s Law has seen to that, but still I persist. Given that there’s criticisms of ‘Oppression Olympics‘ on all sides, I naively hoped that some people might be able to laugh at themselves. Making fun of offensive attitudes being taken as holding offensive attitudes seems like its a common problem in the kind of people who do take offence.

Also, I apparently advocate magical rape.

This spell summons a creature and binds them into your presence or that of a client long enough for a sexual act to take place. The creature summoned may not be entirely willing (some are) but is bound by the magic of the spell to do what is required and cannot return to their home save by fulfilling the demands of the spell. Beware of meeting a previously summoned creature outside the context of the spell or you may well be in trouble.

This is from Nymphology, a joke book talking about sex within an entirely fictional context of a fantasy world. The project was a little off because I was frustrated by doing comedy projects and really wanted to do something more serious (this is even more obvious in Quintessential Temptress). Tongue was required to be in cheek but I also approached the project trying to think how magic would affect human sexuality and I took my cues from reality. The internet, the abuse of drugs, snake oil claims about pheromones, hypnosis, Pick Up Artistry. Do we really think people would be any more responsible with magic, especially if its claims actually worked? Summonable sexual partners, spirits and demons are found in grimoires and ceremonial magic books going way back.

Besides, you’re happy to summon these fictional beings to fight and die for you without a second thought. If this makes you think about the consequences of magically enslaving creatures to do terrible things for you – good.  Not that you should always take games absolutely seriously.

Look, Problematic Tabletop. You’re adding to the problems here, not acting to solve any by misrepresenting and smearing people with the same old long refuted guff. This needs to become a conversation, rather than preaching, and it needs to be a conversation that’s capable of having disagreement without demonisation. As ever, if you – or anyone – wants to have that conversation, I’m here – for all the good it will do.

4 responses to “Problematic Tabletop Blog is Problematic

  1. Pingback: 5e Does Not End the Edition Wars, but Promises a New Kind of Edition War | Cirsova

  2. I love that the new edition war will not be fought over the rules but over whether or not a contributor hurt someone’s feelings.

    Mentzer hurt my feelers by clodding up Cook/Moldvay with 22 unnecessary levels!

  3. “Physically the vast majority of people are male or female and everyone is chromosomally. ”

    You ought to learn biology better. First, there is such thing as intersexuality that can make your chromosomes, gonads or genitals vary greatly across the female/male spectrum. It can bring out beautiful chromosomal variations such as XO, XXY, XXX, etc and it can even make your body produce great quantities of estrogen even if you have such thing as testicles which is “supposed” to produce androgens. Secondly, chromosomes don’t even define your biological sex, there are XX males (de la Chapelle syndrome) and XY females (Androgen insensitivity syndrome), you might even be one and not know it, unless you try for babies later. Because people who are born with these supposed “abnormalities” identify as male or female, regardless of their chromosomes. What are you talking about is not biological realism, it’s biological essentialism, you reduce gender and biological sex to the most superficial thing that you know about (which isn’t a lot I must say). 🙂

    And when it comes to trans people, well a lot of them are diagnosed with clear intersexual conditions and as much as scientific research is concerned there is a biological basis for transsexuality.

    So yes, I’m sorry that not everything is black and white, world would have been so much easier. 😀 So yah, biological sex doesn’t defines you and neither do your chromosomes.

    Have a nice day!

    • Sorry, but no. Intersex conditions and chromosomal anomalies are still M/F.
      XO – genetic male.
      XXY – genetic male.
      XX – genetic male.
      XXX – Vin Diesel.

      Seriously though, I’ve done my homework here.

      This is what determines your gender. Just not your gender identity.

      Have a good one.

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