CAR-PGa NEWSLETTER, Vol. 29, No. 8, August 2020

An international network of researchers into all aspects of role-playing games

David Millians, Editor

Paideia School, 1509 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30307 USA

millians.david@paideiaschool.org

LETTER FROM THE CHAIR

Hi All,

Two years ago I wrote an article questioning if Dungeons & Dragons should continue to use the word “race.” Comicbook.com revisited a similar topic, using orcs as an example of how broad tropes associated with race can be problematic in a modern context. The counterpoint was a blog post in Psychology Today that rejected that the concept of race implies any “biological essentialism.” At least in part due to the orc controversy and the Black Lives Matter movement in general, Wizards of the Coast released a diversity statement addressing some of the concerns:

We present orcs and drow in a new light in two of our most recent books, Eberron: Rising from the Last War and Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount. In those books, orcs and drow are just as morally and culturally complex as other peoples. We will continue that approach in future books, portraying all the peoples of D&D in relatable ways and making it clear that they are as free as humans to decide who they are and what they do.

On a similar topic, Oriental Adventures was thrust into the spotlight by the podcast Asians Represent, who took a deep dive into issues raised by the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons supplement involving Orientalism and bias. I explored some of these concerns in 2018.  Wizards of the Coast added a disclaimer to the original Oriental Adventures:

We recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website, does not reflect the values of the Dungeon & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

It is only natural that as the player base grows, it diversifies. What both of these issues have in common is that D&D is being looked at with fresh eyes and they are taking issue with the game.

As Paizo has already demonstrated by changing “race” to “ancestry” in the second edition of Pathfinder, games change to reflect their players.  If we want tabletop role-playing games to continue to reach new and different players, rather than tell those new players they’re wrong, I hope we welcome the dialogue.

Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

Mike

Committee Chair

ARTICLES

DIE by Kieron Gillen et al.

Review by M. Alan Thomas II

The popular and critically acclaimed comics writer Kieron Gillen currently has a series running called DIE (punning on both the thing you roll and what happens to all life in the end). The one-sentence plot blurb is a riff on the old “players get sucked into an RPG as their characters” trope, but it’s one with entire bibliographies of authoritative sources on the history of RPGs, the Satanic Panic, the video game industry, the Brontë siblings (including Branwell), and presumably more to come, along with essays on worldbuilding, plot structure, influences, &c.

The first volume is currently a finalist for the Hugo for Best Graphic Story or Comic (along with the final volume of one of Gillen’s other series).

The author has also written an actual RPG of the comic which is being playtested by himself and fans and revised as the series progresses. In it, you create the players of the RPG that will suck them into it, step away from the table, and return in character to play those players making their characters in the game-within-a-game. The real meat is then the negotiation of the fictional players’ interests in remaining in the game world or not, and how those might be resolved. . . .

Anyway, if you’re interested in the underlying research, you should definitely get each compilation volume through your local library as they come out and check out the bibliographies and essays.

ISBNs for ease of finding:

  • Vol. 1: 978-1534312708
  • Vol. 2: 978-1534314979
  • Vol. 3: 978-1534317161 (currently slated for December)

Film Review: Secrets of Blackmoor

By Ted Skirvin

I recently watched a documentary called Secrets of Blackmoor: The True History of D&D. Dave Arneson was the focus of the film. The film did go into the war game roots and early proto-RPGs of the late 1960’s. It talked about Dave Wesley’s Braunstein games and Arneson’s involvement in them. The latter part of the film seems to emphasize Arneson as the most important person in regard to development of this type of game. The film makers did interview many of the folks who were around for the beginnings of RPGs. Bob Bledsaw, Jr. also gets a few seconds of screen time. All in all, it was fascinating from a historical perspective. 

I rented the film from Amazon Prime for $5. It was 2 hours and 11 minutes long. There was a blurb at the end about a sequel documentary.

NEW MATERIAL

FROM DAVID MILLIANS

Bidaux, Thomas (2020 Jul 7) State o Kickstarter: Mid Year Update & Covid-19 impact. https://medium.com/icopartners/state-of-kickstarter-2020-mid-year-update-2b1677ccc8bb. Fewer game projects but higher money totals than ever.

ChaosOS (2020 Jul 7) Older D&D Books on DMs Guild Now Have A Disclaimer. https://www.enworld.org/threads/older-d-d-books-on-dms-guild-now-have-a-disclaimer.673147/. Earlier titles now come with a caution that they may reflect outmoded ways of thinking.

Dungeon Masters Guild (2020 Jul 2) Thank you, everyone, for being patient with us the past couple of days. https://twitter.com/dms_guild/status/1278809064756006912. Dungeon Masters Guild addresses criticism of their art policies. See creator Oliver Clegg’s tweet for more details.

Dunwoody, Charles (2020 Jul 28) D6 Thins to Do with RPGs Besides Play Them. https://www.enworld.org/threads/d6-things-to-do-with-rpgs-besides-play-them.673145/. From reading to modeling, the many ways we can enjoy games.

Editor (2020 Jul 1) Cards Against Humanity Workers Unionize. https://tabletopwire.com/cards-against-humanity-workers-unionize/. The company will recognize the union.

Editor (2020 Jul 7) Tabletop Industry Paycheck Protection Plan Data. https://tabletopwire.com/tabletop-industry-paycheck-protection-program-data/. Companies receiving more than $150,000.

Editor (2020 Jul 30) ‘Black Excellence in Gaming’ Wins 2020 Diana Jones Award. https://tabletopwire.com/black-excellence-in-gaming-wins-2020-diana-jones-award/. Over twenty black creators honored specifically as part of broad call to “mend the rifts that pull us apart in our industry and the world at large.”.

Editor (2020 Jul 30) Games Workshop Records Another Record Year Despite Pandemic Closures. https://tabletopwire.com/games-workshop-records-another-record-year-despite-pandemic-closures/. Best year in company’s history, but no new retail stores until at least 2021.

Editor

Garcia, Janet (2018 Sep 24) Woman Who’s Just ‘One of the Guys’ in D&D Group Roleplaying as Someone Who Doesn’t Find Them Sexist. https://thehardtimes.net/harddrive/woman-whos-just-one-of-the-guys-in-dnd-group/. Clever satire of women’s experience at the table.

Lasanta, Eloy (2020 Jul 6) Gaming While Black: RPG Community, Industry, and Winning at the ENnies. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1P5Ods-e3No&feature=emb_logo. Seeing ourselves in games, the hobby, and the community.

Modak, Sebastian (2020 Jul 24) Amid a pandemic and a racial reckoning, ‘D&D’ finds itself at an inflection point. https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2020/07/24/amid-pandemic-racial-reckoning-dd-finds-itself-an-inflection-point/. Controversy and community in the spring of 2020.

Mōdipiüs Entertainment (2020 Jul 27) A Statement About Adam Koebel. https://www.modiphius.net/blogs/news/a-statement-about-adam-koebel. Publisher and author part ways over his behavior on Far Verona livestream game.

Morrissey, Russ (2020 Jul 2) WotC’s Jeremy Crawford Talks D&D Alignment Changes. https://www.enworld.org/threads/wotcs-jeremy-crawford-talks-d-d-alignment-changes.673029/. Alignment as a suggested inclination, open to GM determination.

Morrissey, Russ (2020 Jul 4) Owen Stephens Continues ‘Real Game Industry’ Posts. https://www.enworld.org/threads/owen-stephens-continues-real-game-industry-posts.673069/. Trying to make a living under criticism.

Pulsipher, Lewis (2020 ) Worlds of Design: Is Combat Now Passe?. https://www.enworld.org/threads/worlds-of-design-is-combat-now-passe.673144/. The many options of contemporary RPG.

Redmond, J. (2020 Jul 4) Orion Black No Longer a D&D Designer. https://www.enworld.org/threads/orion-black-no-longer-a-d-d-designer.673067/. Strong and troubling criticism and examples from a WotC “diversity hire” on his resignation.

Vincentelli, Elisabeth (2020 Jul 2) Queer kids, Nerds, and Sword Fights: It’s the Hot School Play. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/02/theater/she-kills-monsters-qui-nguyen.html. The growing popularity and variety of Qui Nguyen’s play “She Kills Monsters”.

FROM MIKE TRESCA

Tresca, Mike (2020 Jul 7) D&D, Conan, and He-Man: Toys That Never Were. https://www.enworld.org/threads/d-d-conan-and-he-man-toys-that-never-were.672956/. D&D’s influence on action toys.

Tresca, Mike (2020 Jul 19) Retiring as a Game Designer. https://www.enworld.org/threads/retiring-as-a-game-designer.673371/. The challenges of retiring or never retiring.

Tresca, Mike (2020 Jul 27) secrets of RPG Success: Interview with Phil Reed. https://www.enworld.org/threads/secrets-of-rpg-success-interview-with-phil-reed.673505/. Making a living as a game creator.

FROM TED SKIRVIN

Blum, Jeremy (2020 Jul 11) ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ Book ‘Oriental Adventures’ Receives a Sensitivity Disclaimer. https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/dungeons-and-dragons-oriental-adventures-disclaimer-214922516.html. More on the critique of older D&D titles and the harassment of Daniel Kwan.

CALENDAR

If you attend a convention, be sure and check the conventions table and let us have a copy of the fliers (or at very least the when, what, where, and contact information) for upcoming conventions available there. CAR-PGa is international, so this includes anywhere in the world.

Dates, precise venue, contacts’ URLs or phone numbers, and other information, where missing from this list, would be particularly appreciated.

“[LARP]” means only LARP events as many RPG cons include at least some LARP, as likewise applies to the mention of specific game systems. The same bracketed information applies as well to game systems when the con will have only those games present.

In an attempt to get more face-to-face meetings of the membership, we list who will be going to what convention, if they will tell us. Get this type of information in at least two months before the convention itself, so we can run it at least once. Support your local cons by helping in the staff. It is a good way to promote RPG and you generally get in free for the brief time spent helping.

A review of any attended convention afterwards for the Newsletter would be appreciated too. These reviews should include demographic data such as attendance, percentage male/female, white/ethnic minorities (or what- ever is the majority/white/others), games in addition to tabletop RPG, and more subjective matters such as unusual events, quality of games and dealers’ room, encouragement of new gamers, and whatever seems worth reporting. We need to work to restore CAR-PGa’s reputation as the media’s go-to on gamer demographics, especially since the media are still citing a study that cut off all those over 35 – at a time when that was the median age of gamers – it is closer to 40 now – which indicates we also need to work on recruiting younger players, although some increase in college age players at conventions has been noted.

© Copyright 2020 by the Committee for the Advancement of Role-Playing Games (CAR-PGa), ISSN 1071 7129. The CAR-PGa Newsletter is a monthly publication. For more information contact David Millians, Editor, Paideia School, 1509 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30307 USA, phone (404) 808-1070, fax (404) 377-3491, e-mail millians.david@paideiaschool.org. Back issues are available. Contributions of material from the membership are urged, and the byline is responsible for content. Deadline is the last weekday of the month, email preferred. Permission is granted to copy anything in the Newsletter, provided we get a credit line in the publication copying it, and it doesn’t have someone else’s copyright on it. Information, including details on joining CAR-PGa, can be obtained on the Internet at car-pga.org.