Lupus Phallus Redux


While I work on a reply to the Wired article, this may as well have another airing.

Growling and whimpering the deformed beast makes its way – very delicately – towards you, as though it were treading upon broken glass. It’s lips are drawn back in a snarl of pain and frustration and its eyes burn with… insane lust?

Lupus Phallus Level 3 Lurker
Medium Natural Magical Beast
Initiative +6
Senses: Perception +8, Low-light vision
HP 38; Bloodied 19
AC 17, Fortitude 17, Reflexes 15, Will 15
Speed 3
Bite +8 (Standard, At-will)
1d6+4, 2d6+4 against a prone target.

Trip +8 (Standard, recharge 5,6)
1d6+4 damage, +6 Vs Reflexes or target is knocked prone.

Infuriate (Standard, recharge 6)
Close blast 6; +6 Vs Will. Anyone affected attacks the Lupus Phallus with a -2 penalty to hit and a +2 bonus to damage doing so. Attacking any other enemy retains the -2 penalty to hit but not the bonus to damage.

Surprise Sex (Standard, Encounter)
1d6+4 damage, can only be used against prone targets at +6 Vs Fortitude. Affected targets are unable to act while engaged by the Lupus Phallus and the attack automatically continues on the following turn and every turn after that until it fails.

Alignment: Unaligned

Ability Scores
Str 14 +4 Dex 15 +4 Wis 14 +4
Con 14 +4 Int 2 -2 Cha 10 +2

The Lupus Phallus – also known as the ‘dickwolf’ in the vulgar common tongue – is a creation of magic and not a natural beast at all. It is created using complex transformation magics upon the still developing pups within the belly of a normal female wolf changing them into these strange and pitiable creatures with a phallus for every limb.

Why anyone would initially want to create such a beast is unsettling to speculate about but they have come to serve a purpose in humiliating and disciplining slaves, prisoners and criminals in the mines, dungeons and stocks of lands and settlements that have access to powerful magic and which aren’t so concerned with matters of ‘good’.

The origin of the Lupus Phallus is lost to time immemorial but was first documented in the apocrypha of Onestrum Fiddler, the notorious ‘blue’ mage in the third age. The less permissive fourth age of the world has made things difficult for practitioners of blue magic, limiting their works to the more obscure corners of the published world but, during the third age it briefly flowered into serious academic debate and record and it is here, in these now-forgotten tomes that we find them first described.

The Lupus Phallus is the target of a great deal of hate and resentment, especially from those who have suffered its sticky attentions but the beast is actually as much a pitiable victim as anyone who has had to endure its lusty advances.

When a Lupus Phallus is born it cannot walk. It’s loose and floppy limbs are more like useless, uncontrollable tentacles. Each Lupus Phallus must be hand-reared until they hit adolescence and it is only then that they can – gingerly – make their way slowly around on their limbs. Even after this point they are unable to hunt and must, instead, be fed. It is also at this time that their trademark behaviour of trying to mount anything and everything kicks in and their trainers must harshly discipline them so that they only try it on that which they are supposed to.

The results may be unpleasant, but the Lupus Phallus is only acting on its natural instincts. An unfixed male puppy or dog with the loveliest temprement will still try to hump someone’s leg due to sexual frustration. Imagine that puppy with not one, but five phalloi, pumping hormones and reacting to the slightest daydream or pleasant sensation with powerful urges. The poor Lupus Phallus is driven insane, every day, with beatings and sexual frustration, little wonder then that it unleashes those urges with such enthusiasm when it is permitted.

Even then the poor beast’s suffering does not end. A quintuple orgasm not only drains the beasts vital bodily fluids but causes such strain on the creature’s heart that many die the first time they’re allowed relief.

Subject to a recent witchhunt the poor Lupus Phallus is now more endangered than ever and this majestic and misunderstood beast may soon be extinct. Adopt one today and protect the Lupus Phallus from exploitation and hatred until specialist mages can complete their work on the Coochcoyote and allow for the Lupus Phallus species to become self-perpetuating.

Review: The Last of Us


The Last of Us is a survival horror game based some years into the aftermath of a global pandemic. It is a ‘zombie apocalypse’ but it is a more plausible one than many. It combines a lush, green ruin (previously found in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West) with modern understanding of mind-controlling parasitism and aspects from 28 Days Later. It also incorporates some background atmosphere from US paranoid conspiracy theories (particularly with regard to FEMA) and has a ‘feel’ like a slightly less bleak Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’.


This feels like a game that is pushing the absolute limit of this generation of consoles. It is beautifully presented with an authenticity to the ruination that could have stepped right out of the pictures of the abandoned parts of Detroit. This authenticity underlines the entire game and is essential to getting you drawn in to everything else. The characters also feel ‘real’, with the uncanny-valley sensation masked by the grime of the hard lives the characters have had to live. The interface is minimal, so as not to overly distract you. Something that also helps greatly with the immersion. Shifting between standard view and climbing/moving/close combat actions is virtually seamless and mapping movement to the world in such a way as not to be jarring has been largely successful.

The music is excellent and would make a great soundtrack to survival-horror tabletop gaming.


The game plays out in third person view, closing in when you line up a gun or zoom in. You’ll be negotiating ruined and overgrown landscapes, searching for even the meanest of supplies. In many ways resource-hunting is a huge part of the game, a return to the philosophy of scarcity that shaped older survival horror games like Resident Evil. You will – for much of the game – be scrabbling for health kit ingredients and as many bullets as possible, even though you can’t carry that many.

Searching for supplies sounds a little boring, but moving through the ruins of other people’s lives is quite haunting and you’re never quite sure who (or what) is going to pop out at any given moment which creates a constant air of unease and tension that greatly helps the game. Sound, also an important part of the gameplay, also plays into this with some enemies drawn by sound and twigs or broken crockery giving away your position.

Combat is brutal, heart-of-your-mouth stuff, especially in the earlier parts of the game. Stealth is your friend – but not essential – and while there aren’t a huge variety of enemies to face they are sufficiently varied – and dangerous – to keep you engaged.

Periodically there are physical puzzles to solve. These are grounded in the world and make sense, but even so the repeated use of the same elements (planks/ladders/pallets) makes these puzzles a little too samey. Thankfully there aren’t that many of them.


This game is a seminal moment in computer gaming. As important – in my opinion – as Half-Life was.

Yes, there are elements of it that are fairly obvious and hackneyed – though I’m going to try to avoid too many spoilers. There is, however, no story that hasn’t been told in some form before and we return to the same tropes over and over because they are effective.

We’re introduced to the main character, Joel, just as the pandemic hits in one of the greatest opening sequences to a game ever made. This is a pandemic not of any bacteriological or viral infection but, rather, a fungal infection spread by spores and bites from the infected. The cause of the outbreak is never really explained but it seems to be sudden and violent. Joel tries to escape the chaos with his brother and his daughter (from an estranged marriage), joining the fleeing crowds and witnessing much of the destruction and terror first hand.

He survives, but he can’t save his daughter.

Many years later we find him living in a ‘safe zone’ working as a smuggler and chancer with his partner Tess. He’s still a troubled man with no real reason to carry on, doing so anyway. He and Tess have made a deal involving The Fireflies, a sort of resistance group and when it all goes south and The Fireflies are on the run he and Tess end up having to smuggle a brand new cargo outside the safe zone, a girl called Ellie.

It’s not too much of a spoiler to reveal that the reason Ellie is so important is that she’s immune. The remnants of the government have given up trying to find a cure but The Fireflies still are. Ellie just needs to be gotten to a surviving group with the right facilities and it may be possible to create a vaccine against the fungal infection from Ellie.

Joel and Tess set out, with Ellie, at first for the rewards promised but as their trek continues Ellie and Joel get closer and develop a bond, almost like family.

Along the way you run into other communities and individuals surviving in various ways. There are bandits, infected zones, the worst and the best of humanity. The setbacks are unrelenting. Every step of the way something goes wrong and there are disappointments but that just makes the moments of peace and beauty all the more stand-out.

I don’t want to spoiler the ending but it was, for me, the only blot on The Last of Us’ copybook. This is a game that tells a story, you take control of the character for the action, but the story is out of your hands. You get so drawn in that you don’t realise this too much, right up until the end where you’re denied a choice in the most important and fundamental question the game presents.

Let’s just say that I think Joel made the wrong choice and I almost threw my controller across the room in anger and frustration.

That just shows how engaged you can get with this game though.

Style: 5
Substance: 4
Overall: 4.5

Review: Defiance

Defiance1This is going to be an ‘holistic’ review, in that I’m reviewing Defiance as a whole; the TV series (of which I have seen the opening episode) and the computer game – which I have played to death.

Transmedia was a huge buzzword around the time that The Matrix got into full swing and The Matrix remains an exemplar of the idea of Transmedia. The Matrix had the films, comic books, animation, computer games, all of which wove together to create a whole ‘Matrix experience’ which – in theory – was superior to consuming any of the media individually.

There are problems with this approach and The Matrix fell afoul of several of them. You want to encourage people to consume all the media that your creation appears in, but you also want to make sure that each product can be consumed by itself and understood. You want to give the ‘true fans’ a frisson of excitement when they recognise something from the comic/film/animation/game in one of the other media, but you don’t want to create a cadre of arrogant know-it-alls.

The buzzword fell away somewhat but transmedia is now everywhere. Its getting to the point where it’s hard to buy a toy that doesn’t have some website connection or a property that hasn’t been merchandised to death. Ephemeral communities spring up around everything as companies attempt to provide extra value and keep their customers on board and engaged when so much else exists to grab their attention.

Enter Defiance, a TV Series and an MMORPG, one that’s bound to end up in other media as well. I’d expect there to be board games or RPGs in the works and if the series and the game succeed then there’ll likely be more.

Defiance isn’t really anything new, rather its a hodge-podge of existing science-fiction tropes and concepts all muddled together. Its unclear at this point whether the TV series will work as the start was a little shaky, it does have potential though. Star Trek TNG had a very shaky start, Eureka often wasn’t ‘stellar’ in the beginning but found its feet through humour, charm and great performances by Colin Ferguson and the rest of the cast. Defiance may never reach the heights of TNG but it definitely has the potential to match Eureka, Warehouse 13 or Andromeda’s better days.

  • It’s a post-apocalyptic alien ‘invasion’ (Falling Skies).
  • Its kind of a western (Firefly).
  • Its centred around a lawman in a strange town (Eureka).
  • Its full of weird mysteries and technology (Warehouse 13)

The innovative stroke in Defiance is bringing the universe to Earth rather than taking Earth to the universe. Instead of a crew aboard a starship you have the people of a town. I’m sure part of this is practical – re-using the same sets and locations is cheaper – but it also allows for a more interesting a deep character and community dynamic to evolve over time. It also means you can use Earth and yet add alien elements, technology, biology and have it all make a kind of sense.

The basic plot is this. A group of alien races came to Earth in Ark Ships, a voyage at sub-light lasting thousands of years. They arrived to find Earth occupied by another intelligent race but, desperate, they began to colonise and terraform anyway. Earth and the fleet went to war, a ruinous war that eventually culminated in both sides refusing to fight and an armistice being declared. The fleet was largely destroyed and now forms a ‘ruin ring’ in orbit around the Earth, chunks of which fall from the sky on a regular basis bringing artefacts, technology, life forms and terraforming technology to the surface. These materials are hunted for by ‘Arkhunters’ who are really a ragged mix of adventurers, raiders and fortune hunters.

Various settlements exist – including the town of Defiance in the ruins of St Louis – and border farms trying to resettle and eke out a living from the changed wasteland. Its a setting rich in possibilities and with a great deal of scope to tell a lot of different stories.

The series’ opening episode set the scene and had a few stand out characters (mostly the doctor) but was relatively disappointing when compared to the game. It was a very standard plot and with the invasion of the cyber-zombie Volge and the massive explosion the plot felt hurried and the story felt more like the cliffhanger end of a series rather than the beginning.

The game, however, is brilliant and the experience of playing the game definitely brought some extra value to watching the series. Like the series the game is a hodge-podge of ideas taken from other games. There are elements of Fallout, elements of Trion’s other game RIFT and a great deal of stuff copied almost exactly from Borderlands which isn’t such a bad way to go all things considered.

The storyline of the game and the frantic action gives hope for the series since the two are supposed to be somewhat integrated (quite how since the game is set in the ruins of ‘Frisco and the show is in St Louis I don’t know). Names from the game showed up in the opening episode though, so we’ll have to wait and see.

I enjoy the open-ended nature of the game, the free-roaming and the fact that you can play any ‘level’ character in just about any area of the map and still have a good and sometimes challenging time. Hooning about the landscape racing from Arkfall to Arkfall is also fun and while character/weapon optimisation is there its not so absolutely key that you can’t make roleplaying decisions and get away with them. In something like WoW you wouldn’t be able to do the same and remain and effective player.

This is helped by the fact that the game is a third-person shooter. This means your skill and knowledge as a player can compensate or outrank any optimisation that you feel you might have to do. Characters are customisable in appearance, dress, weapon loadout and weapon customisation as well as access to a high tech interface called an ‘EGO’ that gives you access to superhuman abilities such as invisibility camouflage, situational damage bonuses and so on.

The storyline in the game so far has you working for a weapons manufacturer, now running a great many superior Arkhunters in the search for game-changing technology. An Ark Core is the object of your quest north and south of the Golden Gate bridge but even after doing that there are random events and Arkfalls to keep you busy as well as cooperative and competitive instances.

I’m playing on the PS3 and while I thought I would miss having a keyboard to communicate it has actually been a boon. Most people in MMORPGs are fucking arseholes and not having to endure endless shouts of ‘N00b’ and OOC chat definitely enabled me to concentrate more on the game and playing my character. Team-ups at objectives tend to come together seamlessly and without being able to communicate people seem to be more inclined to be nice to each other.

The game does have bugs, a couple of bugged missions, frequent connection dropping and some interface annoyances, but overall it’s great.

The game gives me hope for the TV show, which is, perhaps, a little backwards.

If you’d care to hook up on the PS3 my PS3 nick is GRIMACHU and my character is James Grimm.

Update: Second episode was muuuuuch better than the first, there’s hope!


Examining Games

Theory-RealityComputer games are big business and because they’re big business they attract serious study without anyone feeling that they’re being silly for doing do. Tabletop RPGs attract less money and attention but they’re no less worthy of study in their own way and the same revelations and improvements in craft that computer games have gained in this way can – perhaps – be applied to roleplaying games.

Computer games studies such as this are a good starting point, though there’s a lot about computer games that simply doesn’t apply or that is made more complicated by the fact that between the producer and consumer there is the additional filter of the Games Master.

Matters are further complicated by the fact that RPGs run the gamut from tightly focussed games that target a single experience and mode of play to toolkits that are virtually devoid of narrative or worldbuilding content.

We have had GNS Theory, which has been the only theory to really gain any traction, despite being superseded by The Big Model. The problem with most of these approaches is that they are conspicuously ideological and, tellingly have not produced any knock-out, successful games as of yet. At least not commercially successful. Artistically successful is always arguable but the two need not be mutually exclusive. In the computer gaming world many of the most successful and impactful games are also those that have treated the audience as having intelligence and desire for good story alongside the game aspect.

I think we need a more objective, non-partisan, examination of RPG theory and practice and I’m not sure I’m the best person to do it, but somehow around work I’ll give it a try. Can anyone reference me to some more design models and approaches covered on a teaching/academic basis in computer games so that I can piggyback on their studies a little?

Dry, Boring, Designer Musings

brilliant_mind_cs2I’m settling into my new role at Chronicle City and wrapping up old projects which means I’m in a bit of a lull before the Chronicle City work really kicks in and I have to adjust to a whole new set of management and interpersonal skills. This has given me downtime (welcome, due to a terrible bout of depression) and the opportunity to think, ponder and ruminate on game design. Being at Chronicle City is going to give me a lot of opportunities and as a chap who is somewhere halfway between the Traditional Gaming camp and the Story Games camp (and thus loathed by both) I’ll be in a relatively good position to smuggle some new concepts and ideas into games as we develop licences and new IP. Provided of course, that these ideas actually work.

I rarely ‘talk shop’ – per se – from a design point of view, so hopefully you’ll forgive this indulgence. I am painfully aware that I will sound super, super cereal and more than a little pretentious.

The Nostalgia Train (a lot of it in the form of the Old School Renaissance) is in full swing as it rarely has been since the heady days of D&D3 brought a bunch of old gamers out of retirement. Some of these games are shamelessly just trying to recreate the old experiences while others are using it as a ‘back to basics’ approach that allows them to reinvent the wheel from first principles without the baggage of thirty years of development. This mirrors some of what we’ve seen in computer games with a division between sprawling A-list titles and casual, simple games with great hooks and addictive play that draw something from that simplicity and the constrictions it puts upon what you can do. Something you also get with the limitations of tablets and mobiles as compared to desktop machines or consoles.

Part of the problem with RPG design is that we don’t have a common set of terminology, despite best efforts on the part of Dr Bat-Dong and his nefarious allies. Rather we each develop our own thoughts and ideas and express them in our own ways and then stare at each other cross-eyed as we try to understand it. I’ve developed my own inner lexicon and set of thoughts on gaming innovation and progress and while I can’t talk about specifics or predict which – if any – of these ideas will see fruit in any games I’m prepared to share them in hopes of starting a conversation with other ‘makers and doers’.

Defining Roleplaying Games

Within the context of what would traditionally be called a ‘tabletop roleplaying game’ (more on this later) I would currently define a roleplaying game as:

A mediated conversation that results in a narrative.

That is an extremely broad definition and it encompasses everything from kids playing soldiers in the woods, through games like Once Upon a Time through to D&D. It includes traditional RPGs, murder mystery games, LARP, story games and even GMless games like Fiasco which some people seem to find it difficult to accept as an RPG.

Let’s examine this definition a little more closely.

Mediated: What I mean by mediated is that there is a filter of some kind that the conversation passes through. This might be a Games Master, referee, the consensus decision of the other players, who can shout the loudest, mum or dad, or ‘the rules’. It can also be some combination of all of these.

Conversation: Our games take place through the transfer of information from one party to another (or several others) and back again. One participant describes an action, another reacts to it, that is – in turn – reacted to and so we continue.

Narrative: I’d say ‘story’ but when role-playing you’re not ‘telling’ a story, rather a story is emergent from the conversation and the interactions involved in play. An RPG – of whatever kind – is not like a novel or even a computer game. It is not (necessarily) set or bounded and many gaming narratives that are engaging and wonderful in play would make terribly boring books, films or other media narratives.

I regard this as the quintessential core of what a roleplaying game is and while these elements may be found in or emerge from other games that are not explicitly RPGs they’re key to roleplaying as a conceptual design framework. You may disagree, please do! Poke holes in my thesis and shake it around to find the weak parts!

Anything else? That’s up for grabs.

Playing around a table? Playing in the same room? Playing face to face? Playing at the same time? Rules? A Games Master? Everything else is free to be examined, eliminated, confirmed, toyed with, messed with, spun about and shot out of a cannon at The Moon. With that in mind, here are some design concepts that are currently bobbing around in the soupy mass of oatmeal that passes for my brain.

Alternative Platform Design: Gaming takes place in a lot of different venues now. With VOIP, Google Hangouts and services such as Infrno, combined with scheduling issues, an aging gamer population, families, travel costs and so many other things a lot of gaming is taking place away from the table. This isn’t a new phenomenon, gaming has taken place on forums, IRC, chatrooms and elsewhere since the internet became a ‘thing’ but the relative convenience and accessibility of these mods of play is now at a tipping point of convenience and no longer requires ‘leet skillz’. While this kind of stuff has gone on for a long time we haven’t really had any games properly try to address and tailor themselves to playing via conference call, chatroom, email, forum or other means that aren’t face to face. Yes there’s a couple of well known exceptions, but not really at the mid or upper tier publisher level.

Asynchronous Gaming: Which is a posh, long-winded way of saying ‘playing at different times’. Again, we have been at this a long time with forum and email play (and play by post if you want to get really stone-age) but again there’s almost no games that cater to this form of play. Which is odd, given that its probably one of the most convenient and low-impact ways to play.

Experience Commonality: This is something gaming used to have but which has slipped away. People have it in MMORPGs and other computer games, ironically as a result of the limitations of those games. Story, adventure, dungeons, locations, all have to get reused in these games and the experiences of them are not individual. They’re a point of contact for people because they share the experience of fighting that boss or overcoming that obstacle. They build a community around sharing solutions, clues, tips and optimisations. We did have that in tabletop RPGs once upon a time (everyone failed to rescue Alt Cunningham or explored Keep on the Borderlands) but that has gone away. I don’t know how to reintroduce this aspect without lots of problems, but it’s on my mind.

Generational Gaming: The best and most successful way to hook new gamers is by example. Unlike many things that parents do, which become automatically ‘lame’, roleplaying does seem to manage to transfer from parents to children (and grandchildren!) with relative success. When I say generational gaming I mean that both literally and figuratively. I want (and we need as a community) to provide tools to make gaming accessible to children, easy to pick up for ‘noobs’ and exciting and demonstrative to a new generation of gamers who don’t have parents or peers to induct them. We also need to understand that our passion is not for everyone and its OK for people to like other things. As part of this I also think we need to concentrate on the strengths that roleplaying has, the things that differentiate it and set it apart, rather than trying to chase the same itches that MMOs etc scratch. This was, I think, the failing of 4e.

Non-Statistical Gaming: Are there other ways to describe characters, capabilities, worlds? Can we move outside of the dice to using cards, pictures, colours, music, words? There are means other than numbers – I think – to describe the world and I’ve explored this some in Neverwhere and ImagiNation, I think there’s further to go though and experiments to test. This is probably one of the more challenging ideas rolling around in my noggin and everything I have thought of so far still includes some numerical aspect, but its an avenue worth exploring.

Numerical-Spread: With computers, smartphones, even calculators all capable of generating random numbers between ANY values, why are we still stuck on polyhedrals? That’s inherently limiting isn’t it? True, there’s something visceral and delightful about handling dice and they become near-spiritual fetish objects for a lot of gamers but they can produce some odd statistical anomalies. Why should an Ubersword of Ming do 4d6 (4-24) damage when it could be doing a 1-25, allowing for everything from a tiny graze to a full on hit?

One-Play Sagas: What if we didn’t play our own characters and what if the adventures we played in were more… set? There’s been some tinkering along this line with the new Marvel game and with examples like Lady Blackbird but what if we told a story through group play in a way more similar to, say, Final Fantasy, J Random Fantasy Epic or the old Choose Your Own Adventure books like Lone Wolf.

Pick-Up-And-Play: ‘That looks cool!’ ‘Lets play it!’ ‘OK’ – and they gamed happily ever after. It will never be QUITE that simple, but we can TRY damn it.

Player Products: From a purely economic point of view games companies are selling books and materials to, perhaps, 1/6th to 1/4 of their potential audience. The person who – normally – buys all the books is the Games Master for that particular game. There must be a way to create materials that players would want and would use that aren’t ‘splatbooks’ which, again, fragment the audience for them. I don’t know what – yet – character journals have been tried a few times and never really taken off that well but there must be things to try.

Parachute Gaming: Dropping in on one game or another without it being a huge hassle, without characters being too far apart in capability and without it ruining anyone’s campaign. Flailsnails baked in to the game at the concept stage.

Transferable Game Engines: Deleria tried to do this. We often found ourselves playing Vampire using the old MET rules (because while you may not have dice, you always have hands). A game engine that can be used in tabletop, LARP, online and any which way (but loose) has some advantages. The compatibility between the new Iron Kingdoms RPG and the skirmish games of the same world (Warmachine/Hordes) is a good example of this working really well.

Is Tabletop Gaming Good for You? (Yes)

Nobody with that much afro can possibly be having a bad time.

Why Tabletop Roleplaying Games Are Good For You

Berin Kinsman is a writer and game designer. He’s the boss at Asparagus Jumpsuit, and blogs about creativity in its various forms at
There is a perception among non-gamers that tabletop roleplaying is merely another form of escapism. It’s something geeks do to avoid reality, like going to the movies, becoming obsessed with television shows, living inside of novels, or getting sucked into video games. There are marked difference between roleplaying games and other forms of escapism, though. Here are four reasons why roleplaying is actually good for you.

Tabletop is social
While some people now play online via Skype, Google Hangouts, and dedicated “virtual tabletops”, the majority of roleplayers still meet face-to-face to play. That means putting down the electronics, getting off the internet, and interacting with live people. The game is played largely through conversation, with periodic pauses to roll dice, flip cards, or move counters. Players don’t only have to know the rules of the game; they need to possess some level of interpersonal skills, and for young people it is a way to develop them. There is a greater level of positive social interaction than in many non-geek activities.

Tabletop is literate
Roleplaying is reliant upon the written word. From thick core books to short PDF documents, everything from the rules to the details of the setting requires you to read. It leads to other reading, too, from fantasy, science fiction, or horror novels to history, biography, and all sorts of topics directly or indirectly related to your preferred genre. Anything that gets people to read is a good thing. It also requires some level of writing, whether it’s filling out a character sheet, writing a background story for your character, or creating your own game material.

Tabletop is creative
Roleplaying requires problem-solving and decision making. You aren’t given a limited set of options to choose from, as in a video game, and the choices you’re able to make for your character are wide open. You get to affect the fictional setting in ways that reading and watching don’t allow. Many people paint miniatures or draw pictures of their characters, but even if they don’t, they’re collaborating with other players on shaping a story and building a world. You don’t just get to imagine possibilities, you get to shape them and act upon them by exercising your imagination.

Tabletop is active
Other forms of escapism involve sitting still while entertainment is presented to you. Roleplaying, as shown above, involves active engagement on several levels. In my high school it was used as an effective tool for special education students to help them develop social skills, get enthusiastic about reading, and express themselves constructively. It’s my preferred form of escapism, because I’d much rather sit around talking with friends and collaborating on something than drinking, watching football, or playing a video game where my choices and options have already been defined for me.