#RPG – The Politics of Postmortem Studios

f2388bfcfd4cad5fbf8dd05fa090cf7a.pngIn the run-up to the US mid-term elections, several game companies put out statements on their political stances and exhorting people to vote in particular ways. This struck me as a little crass, and somewhat beyond the remit of a games company, an entertainer or – indeed – an artist.

This is far from the first time that this has happened, with games companies ‘excommunicating’ fans with particular outlooks, or even outright telling them ‘we don’t want you’. In a time of increasing division, this is even more divisive and this seems – to me – to be especially unhelpful when games and other diversions are a way to reach across the aisle and to humanise each other.

Still, I thought it best to explicitly state my political position as a company writer, game designer, artist, employer – and as an individual. So first, my position as a company, and the one I would prefer (but not demand) that anyone who works with me adopts…

I do not care who you are or what you believe. Your politics are not relevant to whether you enjoy my games or not. I do not want to deny anyone access to my material and while it is inevitably, somewhat, coloured by my experience and outlook, I make no demands and exclude nobody. Whatever your politics, creed, colour, sexuality, gender identity or ice-cream preference you’re welcome to play and enjoy my games, to work with me ore interact in any which way you prefer.

Hopefully, that’s clear enough. The TL;DR is that I don’t care about your personal politics, and you shouldn’t care about mine. Games are a way to look past all that, see each other as people, set aside politics and other divisions and to just have fun.

So as regards my personal politics, if you care…

I am a left-libertarian on the political compass, waaaaay down on the bottom left. Ideologically I’m an Anarchist-without-adjectives, but closest to an Anarcho-Technocrat. Ideological ideals rarely survive contact with the real world however, and my guiding principle from Anarchism is to maximise freedom for the greatest number of people, which in the current sociopolitical climate leads me to adopt Socialism as the best option to meet that goal.

I am pro free speech, for anything that falls short of The Harm Principle and believe the role of the state should be as guarantor and defender of people’s rights, rather than a source of constriction, censorship or oppression – and I extend that to the private sphere. Those rights should be as equal as possible between everyone, without special treatment either positive or negative. I believe we should work as hard as we can to maximise people’s opportunities so that everyone has the best possible chance to achieve their full potential.

I’m also an atheist, apparently I’m obliged to mention that.

Overriding anything else I think or believe, pragmatism and correct information has to come first. Effective action can only proceed from accurate facts, and pragmatism requires compromise where such is possible without losing touch with those base principles.

You may have heard things about me that seem to be in conflict with these ideals. There is a lot of bullshit going around, mainly – ironically – because I choose to speak up about the regressive, censorious behaviour of others in the industry who – also ironically – often consider themselves progressive. If you want clarity, my door is always open.

Behind all this is, of course, is an argument over politics, art, political art, the ‘personal as political’ and all that jazz.

Can art be political? Sure. To an extent, we can’t help but project our own politics and worldviews into what we create. This is more obvious in some forms of art than others. That doesn’t mean that art has to be political, nor that it has to beat people over the head with politics.

There’s a term for wilfully, evangelical political art, and that is propaganda.

That’s also behind what I call the ‘Christian Rock Problem’. The reason Christian Rock is so fucking terrible is because it puts its religious message first, over and above the concern of making it any good. This is also why Rage Against the Machine’s breakout album is the only good one they did.

  • So, art can be apolitical.
  • Art can be about politics.
  • Art can be political, and that’s when it becomes propaganda.

Art to any purpose can be worthwhile and beautiful. Even a TV commercial or a cereal box, even a Soviet-era political poster.

In divisive times like this, streaming art and games according to political tribalism only stands to worsen things and to increase the polarising effects we already suffer from social media bubbles, tabloids and tribalistic news channels. Games, hobbies, sports, these are places where we can meet across these lines and understand each other – or they should be. I cannot stand that people are willfully and deliberately politicising these spaces and making the problem worse, not better.

If you are interested in my more political games, feel free to check out The Little Grey Book and @ctiv8.

If there are any specifics you’d like me to clarify my positions on, I’d appreciate the opportunity to do so. Feel free to ask below or via Ask.fm/grimachu

#RPG – Postmortem Studios November Update

robert-hooper-1311-1680x1050

It’s November, and about time for another update, as we Brits look forward to setting shit on fire and blowing things up.

I’m trying to get my PATREON up to over $200 a month. This is primarily to support my work on YOUTUBE, but also supports my blogging and other work. You get access to periodic exclusive content, you can request video topics,  you can get discounts on apparel and books.

As for me, my endless wrangles with the Department of Work and Pensions seem to have come to a (positive) end, which takes off a lot of pressure and allows me to take more risks and invest more in my work in order to get out of that situation, as well as to farm out more work to others.

There will be plenty of openings as we move towards the end of the year and into the new year, for writers (Gor and D6 familiarity a bonus) and for artists (send me your links and portfolios!).

The Darkzel Scholarship will be coming up soon, my regular fundraiser to help out young, impoverished or otherwise hard-up artists. So keep an eye out for that. The fundraiser runs for three months and entries are welcome up to a month after. This year we’ll be returning to the format of providing a lump, ‘prize’, sum to one lucky applicant.

Postmortem Studios will have its own, censorship-free site next year for direct sales, insulating me from issues on existing sales sites – provided everything goes well – and I hope to be able to provide a safe haven for other, censored RPG and nerd-media writers there too.

Nanowrimo? Not sure, maybe, if I do it’ll be short stories.

While I have you, remember that my new Twitter accounts are @mort_post and @grimasaur, and given that G+ is going the way of the dodo, a MeWe account too. See you there!

Anyway, fire away with any questions or suggestions and I’ll try to get cracking!

#RPGaDay2018 – 2 – What is the first thing you look for in an RPG?

paolo-giandoso-test-pg-02-v002

Gamers come in two broad types, in my experience. Those who play one thing and those who play everything. Some people are perfectly content playing nothing but First Edition AD&D until the day they die, others want to buy and play anything and everything that catches their interest.

I fall into the second category.

Being a game-slut is only part of it though, as a game designer myself I am interested in mechanics. I cannot help but check out how a game operates as part of my assessment process. If there’s an innovative or interesting mechanic (or if it uses a polished version of old mechanics) then I’m sold on it, purely from a design point of view. Feng Shui, Over the Edge and FATE all grabbed me via their mechanics.

Art and design are important of course. I tend to prefer simpler layout in my own work, just because it’s more readable. If I crack open a book to be presented with a heavily overworked layout or a ‘cool’ background that makes the text harder to read – I’m going to groan. Vampire is a game that grabbed me, immediately, via its unconventional and graphical oriented cover. Simplicity really is, sometimes, for the best.

The overall idea and concept also has to be something that interests me. A big problem with a lot of games (feel free to disagree) is that they are derivative. God knows, I’m guilty of this myself, but we really don’t need a 100th iteration of D&D or Star-Trek-By-Any-Other-Name. Some games rise above their derivative origins or gain something in the alchemy of mixing-together different influences. Vampire – again – was very derivative of any and all vampire fiction you could think of, yet rose above those origins with a combination of execution, mingling of ideas, some originality and sheer enthusiasm. Some games offer something more and come up with an engaging and fascinating set of ideas or worlds of their own. Earthdawn made waves by inverting the usual ‘dungeon’ adventure form, Mechanical Dream has a compelling (but somewhat unplayable) world and SLA Industries was post-cyberpunk before post-cyberpunk was a thing.

It is some combination of all these factors that I look for in a game, it is no single thing. As to where I hear about things? Word of mouth, so if you want to help me or my fellow designers out, leave reviews and talk about our games that you’ve enjoyed!

Hey, thanks for stopping by. I’m an independent RPG (and other games) designer and author. You can check out my stuff via the links at the side of postmortemstudios.wordpress.com. If you feel so inclined, after a look around, you can support me at patreon.com/grimachu, Minds.com/grimachu or steemit.com/@grimjim. Questions and queries are welcome, remember, ‘Nullius in verba’!

Di0STXBW4AIBHQ6

#RPG #DND Grimdark – Monsters

miss-swarm-hobgoblinMonsters would need to be handled a little differently in the game skeleton and modifications that I have laid out. They need to mirror what we’ve done to player characters in that they need to be more fragile in terms of hit points but still need to have the capacity to do greater harm and to be minor and even major villains – rather than simple ‘mooks’ – without just becoming massive hit-point sinks.

If we look at a standard monster stat sheet, we can see that we don’t really need to change that much. The only real problems that we have exist around Hit Points and Challenge Rating, but this isn’t insoluable.

For Hit Points we can do what we do for player characters, a basis of Hit Die type + Constitution Bonus, with Heroism (Morale) going up by level. However, given that players encounter lots of monsters, the CR determines how many – total – Heroism points they contribute, and their maximum spend. This going into a pool used by the Games Master – with a maximum spend equal to the highest CR in an encounter. This also does a nice job of modelling the role and value of leadership – and of taking out enemy leaders…

To read this full article, please donate $1 a month on my Patreon to get articles like this, access to me and discounts on apparel and PDFs of RPGs. You can get many of the same perks (but fewer) by following me on Minds.com and donating 1 token a month.

Grimdark – Feats & Wounds

gary-laib-the-choir-of-the-dead

Feats are both more wide and more powerful in 5th Edition. In order to compete with Ability increases, they’d have to be. Taking ‘Observant’ as an example, to compare with its 3rd Edition equivalent – which (Alert) gave you a +2 bonus to Perception checks. By comparison, Observant in fifth edition gives +1 Wisdom or Intelligence, the ability to lip read and a +5 bonus to passive Perception and Investigation rolls. That’s – approximately – three times as powerful as the old feats and something to keep in mind when doing conversions, perhaps by grouping several old-style Feats together.

Given the emphasis on personal skill rather than supernatural capabilities, Feats would have to be heartily extended in any Grimdark setting.

Example: Undead Slayer

  • When an undead creature enters a 5′ zone aound you, you may immediately make a melee attack against that creature. You are limited to one of these free attacks per turn.
  • You have advantage on Saving Throws against Undead powers, diseases and attacks that require one.
  • You do an addition 1d6 damage to Undead enemies.

Death and dying has been simplified in the new edition, and that’s fine as it…

To read this full article, please donate $1 a month on my Patreon to get articles like this, access to me and discounts on apparel and PDFs of RPGs. You can get many of the same perks (but fewer) by following me on Minds.com and donating 1 token a month.

Grimdark – Peasant, Merchant and Noble

fernando-carmona-fraternity-royal-family-scene18.pngThese three classes constitute non-specialist classes and describe the three main social classes that exist in most medieval worlds through to the end of the Early Modern era.

Hit Points

  • Peasant: 7+Constitution Bonus
  • Merchant 6+Constitution Bonus
  • Noble 5+Constitution Bonus
  • Heroism 1d8 per level.

Proficiencies

  • Peasant: Simple Weapons, Light Armour, Appropriate Tools, Strength Save, Constitution Save.
  • Merchant: Simple Weapons, Light Armour, Appropriate Tools, Dexterity Save, Intelligence Save.
  • Noble: Simple Weapons, Martial Weapons, Light & Medium Armour, Shields, Charisma Save, Intelligence Save.

Skills

  • Peasant: Choose two from: Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, Survival.
  • Merchant: Choose two from: Arcana, Deception, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, Persuasion.
  • Noble: Choose three from: Deception, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, Persuasion.
  • Peasants and Merchants may choose an additional skill determined to be suited to their trade.

Equipment:
Choose five pieces of equipment, suitable for your social class and trade.

To read this full article, please donate $1 a month on my Patreon to get articles like this, access to me and discounts on apparel and PDFs of RPGs. You can get many of the same perks (but fewer) by following me on Minds.com and donating 1 token a month.

Grimdark – Ranger

jake-waddington-jake-waddington-main-beauty.pngThe only real thing wrong with the Ranger is the magic. Everything else is pretty much useable as is. We just need to shift the focus and alter a few things to take the setting into account.

Class Features
Hit Points: 6+Con Bonus.#
Heroism: 1d8/Level

Proficiencies:
Light Armour, Medium Armour, Shields.
Simple Weapons, Martial Weapons, Hand-Arms, Long-Arms.

Saving Throws
Strength
Dexterity

Skills
Choose three from Animal Handling, Athletics, Insight, Investigation, Nature, Perception, Stealth and Survival.

Tools/Equipment
Scale Mail, Leather Armour, Warhound, Shortsword, simple melee weaon, dungeoneer’s pack, explorer’s pack, longbow, 20 shots, flintlock rifle…

To read this full article, please donate $1 a month on my Patreon to get articles like this, access to me and discounts on apparel and PDFs of RPGs. You can get many of the same perks (but fewer) by following me on Minds.com and donating 1 token a month.