Half-Elves, Half-Orcs, Half-Wits

There’s yet another kerfuffle in the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) hobby of late, yet again caused by poor communication and bad ideas coming from the leadership of the game’s owners, Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro. There was recently a meet-up of community influencers and third-party designers (thus far, none I’ve heard of) that did not go well. They only invited people from one side of the ongoing TTRPG ‘kulturkampf’ and then seemed surprised when they were attacked by them. One comment that seemed to get a pass from those present but not from the broader community was the decision to remove half-races. Not only that, but they also said that the very idea of half-races was racist.

This is far from the first fuss about racism to dog the hobby or its surrounding nerd media. Practically every fantasy race has been equated with the Jewish people at one point or another, and in the fevered minds of moral entrepreneurs, orcs are equated with black people on a regular cycle of about three months. The half-races thing, however, is relatively new.

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is a popular tabletop roleplaying game that millions worldwide have enjoyed for almost fifty years. One of the defining characteristics of the game is its use of various races and species, such as humans, elves, dwarves, and orcs.

Firstly, it is essential to note that the world of D&D is fictional, and as such, the races and species within it are purely imaginary. They are not intended to represent any real-world group of people or be interpreted as analogies for real-world races or races as we use the term in the real world. Indeed, in fantasy games, all human ethnicities are treated as a single race. Human. Therefore, it is misguided to view the inclusion of half races as an attempt to promote racism or to perpetuate racial stereotypes in the first place.

Furthermore, D&D is a game that is based on fantasy and imagination. Its purpose is to allow players to explore a fictional world, take on different roles from their real-world selves, and engage in various adventures and quests, embodying those characters through roleplay. The inclusion of half races is simply one aspect of this fantasy world-building. It allows players to create unique and exciting characters with traits and abilities not found in any particular race or species. This variety is part of what makes D&D such a rich and engaging experience.

In addition, the inclusion of half races can promote diversity and inclusivity within the game. Allowing players to create characters that are a mix of different races and species encourages them to think outside the traditional boundaries often imposed by real-world societal norms. Players can explore themes of identity, belonging, and acceptance through their characters, which can be a powerful tool for promoting empathy and understanding via analogy, experiencing the other and encountering fictional prejudice.

I have endured enough lectures on inclusivity by well-meaning bores to also know that the half beings in D&D have been important to people who are half and half of actual world ethnicities, most recently (and perhaps most powerfully) a blasian girl (African-American/Japanese) visiting her Japanese family and running afoul of Japanese racism and curiosity.

It is also worth noting that D&D has made efforts to address concerns about racial representation within the game, no matter how absurd those concerns have always been. In recent years, the creators of D&D have released statements claiming that some of the game’s content had perpetuated racist stereotypes in the past and committing to ‘do better’ going forward. They have since taken steps to revise and update certain aspects of the game to be more inclusive and respectful of all players, except their older players who contest these claims but whose views have not been respected while they’ve been insulted by the claims of past *isms.

Finally, it is essential to remember that D&D is a game meant to be played with others. The social aspect of the game is a critical part of its appeal. By playing together, players can share in a collaborative storytelling experience, work together to solve problems, overcome challenges, and build relationships. Including half races and the variety it brings to character creation can enhance this social aspect of the game by encouraging players to engage with one another in new and exciting ways and to consider and inhabit the fictional world around them.

Including half races in Dungeons and Dragons is not racist any more or less than evil orcs or species characteristics are, but these moral entrepreneurs have convinced the game design team otherwise. It is one aspect of the game’s world-building that allows for more character-creation options. Rather than perpetuating harmful stereotypes or promoting racism, it can encourage diversity, inclusivity, and empathy within the game and allows us to explore engaging themes around race, culture and prejudice. There is no reason why the inclusion of half races should be viewed as anything other than a positive and enjoyable aspect of the game.

#TTRPG – Rapid Prototyping – How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (AI)

I have continued to wrestle with the implications of AI in my industry (tabletop RPG design) given that AI both threatens art and writing. The technology may not quite be there yet, but with every iteration and update the software gets better at hands and better at checking its own work.

I don’t want artists to be made redundant.

I don’t want my work as a writer and designer to become redundant.

I want to continue to employ artists and writers as well.

Things are further complicated by the various stances of companies such as Paizo, DrivethruRPG and others. There’s a great deal of hostility on both sides of the argument, between the Cult of the Machine on the one hand and the neo-Luddites on the other.

Ultimately, in a business with margins as narrow as the TTRPG industry, AI is always going to be a temptation. I have zero reservations about using AI to produce YouTube thumbnails and other, similar ephemera like live stream backgrounds or blog art, but when it comes to illustrating books things become a bit more complicated.

Other small press companies are using AI to great effect. Before The Red Room were shitcanned by DTRPG they used a mix of art, often a lot of it AI, which enabled them to rapidly produce material and to earn a great deal of money compared to other small companies (according to the public details). In no small part they were able (and are able to) produce content at such a rapid pace because they don’t have to necessarily wait for art. Other small publishers have followed suit.

If I am to compete (in the general rather than the specific sense) I have to follow that path, to at least some extent. If I can turn out product more swiftly and at reduced costs, I can make more money, and more profit, and invest that profit into the products I have a lot of faith in.

Yet I don’t want to go all the way that way either.

So I’ve decided to double-down on the ‘Radical Centrism’ on this topic. I’ll use AI where it makes sense to do so – filler pieces of art, rounding out what I have to add richness and quality to work. I’ll also use AI on projects where I think there’s less potential popularity, less potential profit and where I might not have otherwise been able to make the project viable. These projects, tester projects, will be tagged or in sections called ‘Rapid Prototype’/ If those projects become sufficiently popular, I’ll then return to them and give them the full, proper treatment in a proper edition.

Main works will still be predominantly human-driven.

We’re all struggling with this and figuring out where we want to be with it all, how to integrate it without undermining human creativity. Hopefully this is a step on that path.

The Wiki-War Continues

Contacted by an upset fan who is trying to keep my Wiki page up, accurate and up to date.

Seems there’s some fuss over my image.

The following photo is of me and by Michelle Quinton. If you need a photo of me for promotional purposes, author photos or similar, you are welcome to use it. Both myself (as the ‘model’) and Michelle release it for such usage.

#DnD – Messing Around with AI to Create Stupid D&D Monsters: The Allama


Medium beast, unaligned

Armor Class 11
Hit Points 22 (4d8 + 4)
Speed 40 ft.

STR 14 (+2) DEX 10 (+0) CON 12 (+1) INT 2 (-4) WIS 11 (+0) CHA 5 (-3)

Skills Perception +2
Senses passive Perception 12
Languages –
Challenge 1/4 (50 XP)

Scream. When the Allama spots an intruder, it can let out a loud scream that can be heard up to 300 feet away. Any creatures within 60 feet of the Allama when it screams must succeed on a DC 11 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened until the end of their next turn.

Sure-Footed. The Allama has advantage on Strength and Dexterity saving throws made against effects that would knock it prone.


Ram. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8 + 2) bludgeoning damage (1/10 Allamas have horns doing 1d10+2 piercing damage).

Spit. Ranged Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, range 10/30 ft., one target. Hit: 1 bludgeoning damage, and the target must succeed on a DC 11 Constitution saving throw or be blinded until the end of their next turn.


Allamas are large, woolly beasts resembling llamas with sturdy builds and shaggy coats. They have keen eyesight and a loud voice, making them ideal guardians for herds or homesteads. When an Allama spots an intruder, it will let out a loud scream that can be heard for miles around.

#TTPRG – The Red Room has been censored off DrivethruRPG

My letter of protest…

Dear Sir,

With great distress, I note the removal of The Red Room from your online store (DrivethruRPG). While I certainly acknowledge that there has been a degree of deliberate ‘nipple tweaking’ by The Red Room in their marketing and positioning, this outcome is precisely what I was concerned would happen when you changed your policies regarding controversial content and ‘hostile marketing’.

Put as succinctly as possible. I was concerned that your policy changes would result in the following:

  1. Malicious reporting of products (even by people who had never bought or read the product in question).
  2. The inability of publishers to protest poor decisions or to mobilise their fanbase to counter those decisions.
  3. Increased censorship, whether self-censorship or otherwise.

Every one of those concerns has now been borne out.

We have a product maliciously reported by someone who didn’t even purchase or read it, subject to the censor’s eye – despite adult labelling – resulting in the loss of a publisher from a site that is a near monopoly in the space.

Your policy of taking products down to be cleared impacts release profit, doing damage whether or not a product is deemed ‘safe’ or not. This policy is wide open for malicious and abusive reporting.

Your refusal to allow publishers to protest publicly, or to face their accuser, undermines confidence, increases self-censorship and removes certainty from what is already a very precarious profession. It further exacerbates the malicious reporting issue.

We work in a field that has known the ire of more than one moral panic. We should know better than to indulge the moral entrepreneurs of such hysterias, even if they come from inside the industry.

Your job is that of a middleman, to sell products by publishers to customers. Your job is not that of a censor or moral busybody. Provided that a product is not illegal, I see no reason why you should not sell it. To censor such a product is an abuse of your monopolistic position and, more broadly, a betrayal of the values of the hobby and the arts.

It is especially disappointing following the industry-wide rejection of Wizard’s new OGL and its morality clause, which you are de facto enforcing on everyone’s games unbidden.

For those disturbed by such material (adult material, horror material, or anything else), the best option remains not to buy something if they don’t like it.

It is as though we invited Pat Pulling into the industry to act as a watchdog rather than mocking, deriding and countering her ridiculous claims.

Unfortunately, given your degree of monopolistic power in the industry, my protest is limited to this letter. As a disabled creator with an uncertain income, I am forced to prioritise that income over my principles, at least in this case. Still, as a producer of somewhat ‘edgy’ content, I’d like to know if you’re going to pull the rug out from under my feet on the arbitrary say-so of some crank with more time than sense.

Still, I appeal to you to return to the free expression values we were all assured of when we originally signed up for the sake of art and concerning your powerful position in the hobby.

There is one other matter that needs addressing. Before Miguel and Silvia set up on their own, 

The Red Room was published through me on the site. Given that their earlier work has not been subjected to such a witch hunt, I trust those older projects released via Postmortem Studios will not be affected. Would you regard the future release of (compliant) products by them via me as ‘ban evasion’ or some such?

I will be releasing this letter publicly in support of Miguel and Silvia but unattached to any marketing. My anti-censorship and pro-free expression stance is already a matter of public record since before I even started working in the industry (even for people I violently disagree with), so it cannot realistically be called ‘hostile marketing’.


James ‘Grim’ Desborough

Postmortem Studios

#TTRPG – Postmortem Studios Re-Licensing Under CC

We are relicensing all material under the Creative Commons. Details can be found in the PDF above.

Basically, if you check the old Section 15 in any and all OGL products produced by Postmortem Studios, anything we provided as open content is now available under the CC license.

We cannot release other companies’ or individuals’ material (such as OpenD6 etc.) in the same way, but it is our understanding that Section 13 of the original OGL allows sublicenses to continue even after the termination of the original OGL license. Nonetheless, we hope other designers and companies will follow suit and shift to CC licensing.

The only way in which Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro could regain the confidence of the TTRPG community at this point, would be to revise the 1.0a Open Gaming License to include the word ‘Irrevocable’, and even in the best case scenario, we do not anticipate this happening.

Please sign the PETITION against the OGL 1.1 changes, and SIGN the open letter.

Wightchester Backer Update


I have sent a barebones preview document to all backers. Please check your email and spam folders and if you paid for a Zombie insert, please submit that information.

#TTRPG – On Satine Phoenix and Jamison Stone

There’s yet another kerfuffle in the RPG Twitterverse, but when isn’t there? This time it’s around various alleged behaviour and unprofessionalism from Satine Phoenix and Jamison Stone. Now, I don’t know Jamison from Adam, but Satine I do know – at least a bit – and these allegations do not sound like her.

Of course, finding professionalism in the RPG industry is like finding stripes on a leopard. It’s a hobby industry and runs on goodwill and handshakes, for the most part. It’s low pay, low appreciation and – increasingly – a very hostile place to work. You do it for the love and, like many creative industries, you’re lucky to be paid at all, let alone on time.

The initial issue seems to have been over tattoos, and the intellectual property involved, along with the related contract. Having been boned by contracts in the past (Munchkin) and having seen how people freak out over the wording of Facebook’s terms of service: “THEY’RE GOING TO STEAL YOUR CONTENT!” it’s hard to get worked up about this one.

A lot of the rest seems to be down to mismatched expectations between the RPG industry and the rest of the entertainment industry. Someone involved seems to have higher expectations of the hobby in terms of celebrity treatment and someone else seems to have lowered expectations.

Some of the behaviour seems to be truly assholish, but a lot of these claims are coming from people who I know to be proven arseholes. The kinds of people purity-spiralling the RPG industry into oblivion and finding any excuse to ‘cancel’, berate and be horrible to anyone – yours truly included. None of them have ever cared about what’s true in the past, so I find that I ‘haz a suspicious’ whenever they turn on anyone.

Like I said, I don’t really know Jamison at all, but Satine I do.

Back during the ‘I Hit it With My Axe’ days, Satine – and the others involved – were frequently attacked by both social conservative types and so-called progressives due to their involvement in adult/sex work. This always struck me as obviously wrong and regressive and I felt that the whole group were doing a lot of positive things for the image of RPGs and the creativity involved.

Later, in 2013, I offered Satine work on Machinations of the Space Princess, doing the cover and much of the interior art. I couldn’t pay very much (being an indie creator) but Satine was nothing but professional, grateful and accommodating throughout the process of doing the work. Her celebrity and brand took off after that and we didn’t really get the opportunity to work together again, but I would have had no hesitation in doing so and would do so again.

Some years later we had the opportunity to meet up when Satine travelled to London on a whistle-stop your while working for Wizards of the Coast as their community liaison. I felt a little like a tag-along through the whole thing, but people weren’t coming to the meet-ups to see me and during the whole visit, Satine was nothing but gracious, thankful and compassionate with me and her many fans who turned up to meet her. Satine and her companions covered my lunch, seemed glad of the company and I was made to feel welcome and wanted – even if it was just to hang out.

The only fly in the ointment of our friendship was following the UK Games Expo controversy a couple of years back when I stood up for someone else being spuriously accused of various terrible things. For the awful crime of giving an accused man a platform to defend himself I was – again – subjected to attack, and amongst those attacks was a concerted effort to get various friends to disown me. Satine was amongst those targeted by the mob and she, sadly, gave in to the pressure.

I can understand why. It is a lot of pressure to be put under, but the people doing that were many of the same people going after her now. It doesn’t seem like they can ever be appeased, and trying to do so seems like a fool’s errand. Little wonder then, that I’m suspicious of these accusations now, though they do seem to be undeniably consistent and profligate, so I’m beginning to wonder.

Whatever the case, in this feeding frenzy that’s going on it’s worth noting that Satine was never anything but professional, grateful and compassionate with me – or anyone else I saw her interact with. If anything has changed, it’s recent. Everyone deserves a chance, and I’d rather be trusting and forgiving than the alternative.

Whatever anyone has done or hasn’t done, it’s not acceptable to drag them for their past or their tattoos. Be better.


#TTRPG – Does anyone know anything about this game? IMPERIL?

Does anyone recognise this cover, or anything like it?

Apparently it’s an old game, perhaps an early RPG or RPG-like boardgame from 1980 that only had a very limited release.

I found the image in some of my old zip archives, but can’t remember where I got it. There doesn’t seem to be any other material in that archive (just some very old ‘zine content from the mid 70s) and any help, or even speculation, would be appreciated in tracking down more information in Imperil or ‘WISS’.