#RPG – X-Cards Revisited

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“Censorship is telling a man he can’t eat steak, because a baby can’t chew it.”
– Mark Twain

The X-Card is a tool that is supposed to make roleplaying more ‘safe’. I’m not quite sure how sitting around a table rolling dice and talking is supposed to be ‘unsafe’ unless you tread on a D4.  Leaving the base absurdity of the whole idea aside, I want to articulate my problems with them, long form, as it seems that the point is hard to get across on social media.

As with so many things these days, opposition to a concept that people have decided is progressive and inclusive is taken as automagically people hateful, nasty, uncaring or whatever else is the opposite of what people assume the thing they’re trying to impose is. As is also the case with many of these things, my opposition stems from the exact same values they claim they are trying to uphold.

The idea of the X-card is that if the game strays into uncomfortable territory for one of the players, they can play down the X-card and that scene or thread is stopped and the game skips on ahead. This is meant to protect vulnerable players from PTSD, offence, the triggering (used unironically for once) of phobia and so on.

Opposition to this idea is characterised as bullying, mean-spiritedness and so forth.

Alright, let’s engage in a thought experiment to try and demonstrate why this is a bad idea.

Imagine you’re riding a roller coaster, but everyone has access to a button that will immediately stop the roller coaster and bring it gently back to the start. A panic button, if you will. The coaster slowly climbs that first rise and is about to drop when… someone pushes the button. Ruining the experience for everyone on the roller coaster who was up for the ride from the get-go.

That doesn’t work for you? How about this then?

You buy a ticket for a horror movie and enter the theatre. Taking your seat you discover that every seat has been fitted with a button that will skip to the next scene if you find it harrowing. The film starts, the slasher appears behind the first teenage camper, raises his machete and… the film skips over the murder to the next scene, a pair of teenagers sharing a dooby behind the boat sheds. One, squeamish person has ruined the experience of the film for everyone else.

No analogy is perfect, but by transferring the X-card idea to other entertainment experiences, hopefully the absurdity and selfishness of the concept is made more obvious.

The X-card doesn’t prevent bullying, it empowers it. It gives one person at the table the power – albeit only by social convention – to interrupt and spoil the fun of everyone else at the table, and to greatly inconvenience the Games Master.

There are other issues with it too.

Firstly, it’s hard to see where an X-card would ever be used. If you have a regular group then you already know each other’s social, emotional and other boundaries and have negotiated them – probably – for years. In that context an X-card has no role whatsoever.

In convention or store games the use of such a card will be purely disruptive and, by and large, you should know what you’re signing up for when you sign up for a game. If you have arachnophobia then you probably shouldn’t have signed up for a game entitled: The Spawning Caves of the feral miscegenated Neo-Arachnid Variants.

Secondly, gaming is a safe environment, automatically. There’s nothing there that can actually hurt you. It’s all words and numbers, descriptions and choice. While gaming isn’t therapy, it can provide a cathartic environment to live out a variety of fantasies and to face up to and overcome things you find difficult. The avoidance of difficult subjects can entrench and strengthen your issues with them and therapists who do deal with this kind of thing tend to recommend facing it and gradual acclimatisation. If you let a player avoid anything that upsets them or sets off their issues, you’re not doing them any favours – quite the opposite.

Thirdly, the idea of X-cards is part of a general trend to try and homogenise and beat down gaming into some sort of family-friendly, pablumesque milieu where anything irreverent, dangerous, challenging, sexual or violent – anything that could even potentially upset or offend someone is done away with.

X-cards may be limited to certain groups and you might be able to choose to play or not play in a group that does or does not use them, but it’s part of a greater context and continuum of censorship, control and well-meaning interference that now extends all the way from publishing to the table itself.

The responsible thing to do, if you’re someone who has a hard time with certain plots, actions, monsters or whatever else at the table, is to remove yourself from the game at these points – or completely – rather than to selfishly screw it up for everyone else.

The only X-rated cards at the table should be Cthentacle.

Footnote:

Some additional, useful observations from @Haunted_backlog:

1. Give people a system for it and it’ll be more common.

2. Refusing to explain (the problem that made you use an x-card – G) compounds the problem, nobody else knows what to avoid or why.

3. In the absence of a pressing demand or notable benefit, adopting X-cards is a proxy for a group’s overall vulnerability to SJW fatwas, and who knows what it’ll require next. Vegan snacks only? Villains can only be certain races? Sky’s the limit.

#RPG – A Critique of ‘Privilege, Power, & Dungeons & Dragons: How Systems Shape Racial & Gender Identities in TTRPGS

#RPG – Diversity Dungeons RELEASED!

Buy it HERE

Diversity Dungeons : Worldbuilding & Game Design in the Safe Space Age
Much digital ink (and blood) has been spilt taking about diversity representation in tabletop gaming and in every other field of geek and nerd endeavour. Usually these conversations are extremely combative and they tend to end poorly for everyone involved. I’ve been involved in these debates and discussions myself, to my detriment. The position I hold being that free expression and the vision of the author or creator should trump any and all other concerns – including diversity, representation and so on. To my mind the answer is for people to create according to their own conscience, not to be condemned out of hand or for their motivations to be presumed and for diversity of ideas to be the benchmark. I want a world in which Varg Vikernes and David Hill can both make and sell games and I can ignore both of them.

That said, I cannot help but be drawn to controversial topics – that is where the interesting conflicts and stories lie – and there are few topics so controversial as the treatment of ‘minorities’ within media. Here we arrive at a nexus-point between realism, expectation, demands for representation, demands for free expression, historical revisionism, magic, science fiction, truth, ‘is’ and ‘ought’. That makes it interesting, but the battle lines of identarian politics, liberalism, conservatism, the regressive left and cultural libertarianism also make it an area fraught with difficulty and wilful misunderstanding.

There are no good – or at least no satisfactory – answers to a lot of these questions. Perhaps there are just multiple approaches each of which will annoy some group or other. What’s true in all circumstances however is that these controversial topics are interesting, fascinating and important in terms of world, character and scenario building whatever your particular stance.

This booklet intends to examine these issues in and of themselves, outside of the current state of controversy and to ask – rather – how we might better simulate the plight of minority groups, understand them within the context of fictional worlds, make allowances for player-characters who might seek to buck those societal trends or allow characters – through their actions – to affect social change within the game worlds.

#SJWRPG – Class: Social Justice Barbarian

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Signature social justice barbarian

Social Justice Barbarians are all about the rrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaage.

Full of snark and nastiness, if they weren’t Social Justice Barbarians they’d just find someone else to bully and pick on. Luckily for them they’ve happened upon the one arena in which it’s socially acceptable to be a total arsehole to people with impunity.

Level 1: +2 Proficiency, Shitfit, Trigger 1, Unarmoured Defence.
Level 2: +2, Shut the Fuck Up.
Level 3: +2, Spittle Attack
Level 4: +2, Ability Score Improvement
Level 5: +3, Extra Attack, Trigger 2.
Level 6: +3, Reason Immunity.
Level 7: +3, Bully.
Level 8: +3, Ability Score Improvement.
Level 9: +4, Sonic Scream.
Level 10: +4, Trigger 3.
Level 11: +4, Unstoppable Shitfit
Level 12: +4, Ability Score Improvement.
Level 13: +5, Super Bully.
Level 14: +5, Trigger 4.
Level 15: +5, Self Righteous Fury.
Level 16: +5, Ability Score Improvement.
Level 17: +6, Ultra Bully.
Level 18: +6, Mighty Stupid.
Level 19: +6, Ability Score Improvement.
Level 20: +6, Trigger 5, Laughing Stock

Class Features

Hit Dice 1d12+Constitution Modifier per level (12+Con modifier at first level).

Proficiencies: Light and medium armour, shields, blockbots.
Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons, keyboards, YouTube, Twitter, blogging.
Tools: Yes, yes they are.
Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution.
Skills: Choose two from Animal Handling, Blogging, Athletics, Intimidation, Perception, Survival, Twitter and Vlogging.

Special Abilities

Bully: Anyone lower level, or lower Challenge Rating than your level, you get +1 to hit and +1 damage against. Super Bully increases this to +2, Ultra Bully to +3.

Laughing Stock: Years of losing your temper online have made you a laughing stock, but also given you a thick skin. +4 Con and all damage you take from any source is reduced by one.

Mighty Stupid: Any magic attacks or attempts to use social skills on you fail so long as your Strength is higher than their Intelligence.

Reason Immunity: You cannot be affected be mind-altering magic or effects.

Self Righteous Fury: Your Shitfit now lasts as long as you want it to and while shitfitting you don’t get knocked out until you die.

Shitfit: When triggered (see trigger) you enter a mindless rage. This gives you a bonus of +1 to hit and do damage at level 1, +2 a level 5, +3 at level 10, +4 at level 15 and +5 at level 20. Shitfits last 3 turns.

Shut the Fuck Up: Once per encounter you can bellow at an enemy, making them unable to speak or cast verbal magic.

Spittle Attack: A breath weapon with a 2m cone, you spray anyone in the area with spittle, doing 1d4 damage for every five levels – or part thereof – that you have. Anyone caught in the blast can make a Dexterity saving throw to take half damage. The DC is equal to 8+Proficiency Bonus + Strength Bonus. Usable once per combat encounter.

Sonic Scream: A breath weapon blast with a 10m radius around you, this deafeningly shouted obscenity does 1d6 damage for every four levels – or part thereof – that you have Anyone caught in the blast can make a Constitution saving throw to take half damage. The DC is equal to 8+Proficiency Bonus + Strength Bonus. Usable once per combat encounter.

Trigger: You can only enter a shitfit if you’re triggered. Every few levels you get to choose a new trigger. Triggers might include spiders, thin people, the mention of fruit or being contradicted.

Unarmoured Defence: Works as per normal 5e barbarian ability. This is NOT an excuse for furry bikinis which are bad and wrong.

Unstoppable Shitfit: Your Shitfit now lasts six turns.

#SJWRPG – Traps & Triggers – Character Creation

24f735ff785848948d5b3Traps & Triggers (not to be confused with Tunnels & Trolls) is an RPG based on the system of 5th Edition D&D, but better, because it incorporates Social Justice™ into every single aspect of the game. In order to play you will need a copy of D&D 5th Edition and, more problematically, some friends.

You are a hero of the enlightened and beautiful Bay Queendom. An enlightened and egalitarian land, surrounded by chaotic and evil lands full of monsters, The Chan Fiefdoms. These enemies threaten the glorious Bay Queendom every day.

Character Creation

Step 1: Don’t Choose a race – Race is a social construct and makes no difference to your character. Shortness, pointed ears, beards or immortality are nothing to do with genetics whatsoever.

Step 2: Choose a Class – Classes will be described later.

Step 3: Level – You all start at level 1, though level is explicitly not a measure of a character’s worth. Everyone levels up at the end of a game, no matter how badly they did.

Step 4: Ability Scores – Pick any numbers you like for your abilities, between 3 and 20. You are encouraged, but not forced, to take at least one Ability at a really low score so you can empathise with the differently abled.

Step 5: Describe your Character – Your character can look like anything you want, you can choose any height, weight or anything else you like. You can choose any hair colour at all, blue, aquamarine, navy, anything.

Step 6: Equipment – Start with any and all basic equipment and weapons you want. You also start with a trust fund that gives you 1,000gp at the start of each session.

Step 7: Positive Discrimination – Minority gamers are too rare and must be encouraged to play RPGs, even forced. In order to encourage them to play any player who can identify themselves as a minority receives a +1 (or equivalent) magic item of their choice and an extra 1,000gp each session from their trust fund.

#Gamergate – #Weheart Games too – that’s the point

Iheart
A response to weheart.github.io – We feel it is the actions of ‘Social Justice Warriors’ who with shaming, mob tactics, blacklisting, mass blocking, insults, harassment, threats and attempts to control games media, production and content who have damaged the gaming community and we’re making a stand against it. Both sides are predominantly left/liberal. We’re just anti-authoritarian and want things to progress naturally.

#Gamergate – Gettin’ Ettin’

horseshitSA Goon, troll, harasser and RPGnet moderator (yeah, I know) Ettin, just published a hit-piece about me on Tumblr (yeah, Tumblr, I know).

All of his accusations and nonsense have been answered before and ‘SA Goon’ should have told you all you need to know. He’s a person who has built up a reputation along with other trolls who have been made RPGnet moderators for hurling abuse at other tabletop gamers and hiding behind the shield of ‘social justice’ – but you know that story.

Here’s the link.

Now, given that I’ve been dealing with this same bullshit for years now, I’d rather not do it again. The refutations remain the same, yet the arguments don’t change, so all I can do is repeat myself ad infinitum. Still, since there are large numbers of new people being introduced to me through this frankly libelous slant I guess I’d better.

As you probably already know, Desborough is an indie tabletop RPG designer who gave an interview about Gamergate to the Escapist recently. They removed it after receiving evidence that he’d harassed people. That should tell you what you need to know, but let’s keep going.

I have not – to my knowledge – harassed anyone but it’s a little hard to tell given that SJWs (yes, I know it’s not a perfect term but it’s what we have to work with) set the bar for harassment so low. Maybe I replied to someone on Twitter, mentioned a troll by name or stare-raped someone by looking at their Imgur, I have no idea. Nor have I been informed why the interview was removed, nor was I warned or consulted or asked to give my side. So basically, I have no idea what’s going on but this would be one of the problems with SJWs. They think accusation is enough.

Nymphology, a joke Dungeons & Dragons supplement about sex magic that uses sexual violence as a punchline.

Where?

I’ve talked about this before but the frustation was that I really wanted to come at this book with a more serious examination, but the publisher wanted comedy. I ended up with something that still had undertones of the thought ‘what would the world of sex really be like if magic was real’ along with knob jokes. I do know that some people saw the more serious side and applied it in online roleplay, many of them women.

The Slayer’s Guide To Female Gamers, another joke book about women gamers which mostly repeats the same “females are mysterious and manipulate men with their insidious boobie powers” joke endlessly. (Here’s a sample.)

What people don’t seem to get here is that ‘The Slayer’s Guide to Female Gamers’ wasn’t about women gamers at all, but about the very tired jokes and ‘women as other’ nonsense that has long been (erroneously) passed around geek culture. Women were big buyers of this and the copies I signed were mostly for women. If Suey Park is any measure, these people are tone-deaf to satire.

Hentacle, a card game about tentacle rape

I have no real idea what the objection is here. Tentacle Rape as a genre is ridiculous, I made a ridiculous game about it. Kink shaming? Cultural imperialism against Japan? I don’t really know what his point is here but I’m not going to apologise for people’s kinks or pornography given that – as we’ve established – I’m a free expression advocate.

Privilege Check, another card game about mocking social justice activists and minorities, including body-positive folk and people of color.

Not quite (see satire comment above). Mocking social justice warriors, yes, mocking minorities, no. Again, much like with the other things, I’ve had decent praise from people IN minorities for the game. Mixed race people or people of less obvious ethnic background especially loved the much presented ‘brown person’ card.

Recently, Desborough ran an Indiegogo for Chronicles of Gor, an RPG based on a universe where women are willing sex slaves.

Yes I did.

Gor is hugely popular with a great number of people, many of them women (seriously, check out some of the amazing stuff Second Life people – primarily women – are doing with Gor). It would be a huge disservice to those fans to ‘clean Gor up’ for anyone’s sensibilities, let alone those of the SJW ilk.

Ettin also makes my point for me. It’s fantasy. Not reality. Some people seem to have an issue telling the difference.

As to The Escapist and Macris helping fund me, you can find all the info on that and why it’s not an instance of corruption like the instances gamergate is against HERE.

Desborough explicitly doesn’t describe himself as a feminist because he’s a vocal men’s rights activist. Page through his blog (don’t actually do this) and you’ll find he claims that patriarchy and rape culture don’t exist, calls male feminists “quislings”, and quotes Christina Hoff Sommers. He appeared on al-Jazeera to discuss #NotAllMen and downplays connections between Elliot Rodger and MRAs. He once told someone “at least I haven’t cut my dick off as a sacrifice to Athena”. People accusing him of misogyny are just trolls and social justice warriors, though.

Not exactly. I’m an egalitarian who has been pushed towards the MHRA side of things by – amongst other things – the censorious and authoritarian nature of SJWs. Not to mention their tactic – as we see with Ettin’s post – of smearing people they don’t like. So attacks like this only reaffirm that I have been making the right life choices.

No I don’t believe in patriarchy and when people say it I hear ‘Invisible space lizards’. Patriarchy is a concept associated with radical feminism, and is pretty ‘out there’.

No, I don’t believe we live in a rape culture here in the west. I do, however, believe there are ‘rape subcultures’ (often surrounding sport in the US) and that genuine rape cultures exist in places like Saudi Arabia or Bangladesh. THIS is a rape culture. Our culture condemns rape, imprisons people for rape and even false or unproven accusations have huge social impact for the accused. To describe western nations as rape cultures is, then, laughable.

You may disagree with me on these, but smearing is not putting forth a rational argument or trying to change my mind.

‘Quisling’ is obvious hyperbole and that’s all the reply it deserves.

CH Sommers is ‘based’ and an egalitarian feminist. So why wouldn’t I quote her? She talks sense on some issues and less on others.

Yes, I appeared on Al Jazeera because I’d been active on the hashtag debunking the BS (repeated here) that Elliot Rodger was connected with MRAs or the PUA community. I have my issues with both communities, but I’m not going to stand idly by while they’re smeared with the actions of a murderer, any more than I’m going to stand by now while Gamers are smeared with the actions of sociopathic trolls.

Yes I said that in a fit of anger. Don’t tone police me. 😛

Yes, people accusing me of misogyny are trolls and SJWs. Misogyny is the hatred of women. I do not hate women.

End of.

By “biological realist”, Desborough means “transphobe with a dictionary”. It means he believes trans people aren’t the gender they say they are. Don’t worry, though — while he used to refuse to “indulge” trans people by not misgendering them, these days he’ll magnanimously use proper pronouns while insisting that you’re wrong and “can’t change reality or what I know”.

Nope. I mean biological realist. Let me click my brain over and use SJW terminology for a moment, even though I disagree with it and prefer to use biological terminology.

What it means is that no matter how much I respect your choice and personal feelings to present and live as whatever gender you happen to believe yourself to be, you are not and you never will be the other sex. I feel bad for you, I feel sorry for you, but my empathy and understanding cannot override the facts of the matter.

Nobody is going to be able to persuade me otherwise, any more than they would be able to convince me that gravity is because of goblins.

Accepting you as you want to be, while understanding that the reality of the matter (biologically) is something different should be acceptable, surely?

Desborough really wants people to think he’s got the intellectual high ground. He presents himself as “rational” while comparing his critics to religious extremists, relating everything to his deep and incredibly boring struggle as an atheist. When he wants to defend his rapey RPGs he says “it’s not real”, like everybody didn’t already know that.

If everybody knows that, why do they keep complaining and acting as though it is real? Yes, I compare my critics to religious extremists because, well, see above about biology versus feels.

When he tells trans people that science is on his side, he compares them to creationists. When he describes Goobergate with an analogy, he places himself in a position of authority as a teacher and compares people attacking him to “Nation of Islam extremists”. Even when pretends to engage his critics with a reasonable discussion he can’t resist giving his detractors a silly nickname to imply that he’s the calm and rational one.

‘Goobergate’.

What Desborough doesn’t get is that good satire punches up, not down — and if Desborough actually thinks he’s punching up when he takes shots at women and “brown people”, as Jonathan Swift once said: lmao.

What these people don’t get, is satire. Again, reference Suey Park.

When he’s not doing that, Desborough rails against censorship. The most devious form of censorship at all, in fact: Criticism. He’ll tell anyone who will listen (you laugh, but the Escapist did) that he’s constantly being bullied simply for defending his right to free speech, rather than building a career out of demeaning women. Both the Escapist and Goobergate were buttered up with tales of abuse, censorship, and “moral panic” so bad that he struggles to find work; of course it’s all the fault of “the crazies”, and not because he’s the kind of person who wants to make a Gor RPG. To him, freedom of speech means freedom from consequences, and Goobergate is a struggle against moralising censors rather than a hate campaign so ridiculous even the Daily Mail sees it.

I begin to suspect that SJWs have a very different concept of the term ‘censorship’ to that of other people. I think they mean some sort of combination of ‘critical theory’ and ‘literary criticism’ rather than, you know actual, criticism. “The analysis and judgement of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work.” To me free expression means not being hounded, lambasted on the basis of nothing, silenced by false accusations of harassment and rape apologia… you know, the kind of stuff in Ettin’s post.

Despite railing against harassment when it’s convenient for him, Desborough is incredibly dismissive of threats against women. He posts comics about feminist robots who cry rape and responds to news of women receiving rape and death threats with “Yes, that’s terrible, but can we talk about Goobergate?”. Before Goobergate, when his fans sent a critic rape threats and announced that she didn’t “deserve consent”, his response was to shrug it off with “I’m sure she knows they’re not genuine threats”. (Hot tip: Harassment is awful no matter who is getting it, and Desborough has, but using that as a weapon to encourage women to be silent and demand to talk about what some dweebs think about game journalism instead isn’t the answer.)

I think there’s a big difference between some anonymous twonk on the internet saying something vile and someone who actually has a face, profile, media platform or whatever else and doesn’t feel the need to hide trying to destroy people’s careers and reputations. As someone who has been on the receiving end of threats myself I know that they’re bad, but I also know that they’re spurious. One side (net experienced and not seeking to get mileage out of threats) plays them down or ignores them, the other side plays them up.

Gamergate is not about threats, has received threats, has constantly policed and called out harassment, contacted authorities, helped trace the person making threats to Anita Sarkeesian… yet the false narrative continues to be spread. That’s why I say ‘Yes, threats are awful, but can we talk about Gamergate now?’ We’ve been talking about trolling and women in tech for some time already, Gamergate isn’t even remotely about that… heck, you know what, I’ll let the ladies talk FOR ME.

Before the Escapist removed his article, he went out of his way to list “SJW” designers in the community so goobers could go after them. He also has a list of people who disagree with him that he distributes to his Goobergate followers. This is what happens when you downplay harassment instead of trying to remove it. (If the Escapist removed the article over something else, I’m not aware of it.)

In answer to a question I listed some people and companies as examples that the issue was also deeply rooted in tabletop games. I fail to see what the problem is there, given I get mentioned a great deal, unfairly as a ‘problem person’. I do indeed have a list of people who are ‘crazy SJW idiots’ called ‘Room 101’. It’s people I block but can then use the list to keep an eye on to see what the ‘social justice panic of the day’ is about. I didn’t share it with anyone until nonsense about it being an ‘enemies list’ and me supposedly sharing it began to be put about. So I then shared it. After all, you might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.

Desborough once wrote an article titled “In Defence Of Rape”, defending the use of rape as a “fucking awesome” element in fiction. (My understanding is it was a “response” to a much better post by Chuck Wendig.) Rather than break it down, I’m just gonna link to Mightygodking’s response and point out that if you’re going to talk about rape as a plot device, opening with a self-admitted clickbait title and comments about “pompous outrage”, writing asides suggesting evidence of rape culture is “spurious” and comparing people who talk about it to Jack Chick, writing a follow-up post that falsely compares it to murder and tells people to “grow up”, and being James fuckin’ Desborough are all bad ideas.

You could have stopped at ‘defending the use of rape as an element in fiction’, because that’s what it’s about. If you disagree with free expression, you’re my enemy.

That should tell you everything you need to know right there, and oh my god I am so done.

Yes, it should.

As you can clearly see, Ettin’s post is yet another example of the cherry-picking, abuse, harassment and misrepresentation I’ve consistently gotten. You would think this material, much of it rather old, were the only things I’d ever written.

Far from it.

If you feel like being supportive, links to places you can buy my stuff should be in the side bar.