Content Warning: Adam Koebel, Luke Crane, Mind Control, Far Verona, Burning Wheel…
I love the Burning Wheel ruleset. I regularly re-read the rules. I have bought and gifted numerous copies. I have given my voice to cheer on Burning Wheel.
But , I sit stunned; But not surprised.
Luke Crane, the creator of Burning Wheel, launched a Kickstarter dubbed Perfect RPG. The Perfect RPG Kickstarter has contributions from many designers. One of them is Adam Koebel.
Adam Koebel who crossed a consent line in a game he ran:
During a March 24th session, Koebel surprised his players by inserting an act of sexual assault into that day’s campaign scenario.
This scene saw Johnny Collins, a synthetic human played by streamer and voice actor Elspeth Eastman, “getting his brain stimulated” in a reproduction of sexual feeling by a NPC mechanic, played by Koebel himself.
Adam Koebel who later issued a non-apology (link to Wayback machine) and slinked away. For reference, an apology does not include passive voice.
At this point, let’s distill just say that in Role Playing Game (RPG 📖) circles, it’s known that Adam Koebel is a radioactive contributor.
Luke bringing Adam back into the fold is siding with Adam’s non-apology. This is a demonstration of hubris and disdain, perpetuating systems that fail to restore and instead choose to forget.
Luke did not inform the other contributors that he (Luke) was involving Adam. Several contributors are pissed off. Some have withdrawn their participation.
This is gross. But not surprising.
And I think of a narcissist person who I gave space and time to on Google+. I didn’t see it then, but in the years since, I see the damage I did by allowing that person in my stream.
I didn’t listen when a friend told me she couldn’t participate in threads with me because this person might pop in. At the time, I valued the open dialogue more than a friend. And I’m sorry. I reached out and apologized to that friend.
In the time I spent writing this, Luke cancelled his Kickstarter.
But I’m re-reading his Risks and Challenges section:
Perfect is hard to attain and harder to maintain.
I have invited many of my friends to create their own perfect roleplaying games. I will collect all of my friends’ games into a zine and then have really sweet artists create art for said zine and have Dro do the layout for said zine and then have mixam print said zine and then have UPS take the zines from mixam to Andy’s warehouse and then Andy will put said zines in envelopes with postage and give said envelopes to the United States Postal Service who will then take said envelopes to your homes where you will receive them and open them and read said zine and laugh: HAH!
I want to barf. Luke gave his platform to include Adam. In the lead up to the Kickstarter, he didn’t include Adam’s name in a tweet.
Luke lacked either information or judgment, but in the hours that this boiled, I’m going with judgment. Anyone engaged in the RPG scene know’s the context that comes with including Adam.
I think to a game design seminar that I attended. Luke Crane and Jared Sorenson’s presented on a seminar titled Game Design is Mind Control.
That sounds powerful, but with the Perfect RPG Kickstarter, my brain’s busily recontectualizing.
Luke’s Kickstarter language has often sat poorly with me. Today, I label it. His Kickstarter writing is derisive and condescending.
He’s asking for you to give him money and mocking you. That’s fucking mind control.
I read his language as positioning himself above reproach. And think to that narcissist.
I’m thinking about Burning Wheel, a thing which I give energy. In giving it energy I’m giving it power over me. I know that.
And I want to scream.
I love that game system. But in the current context, I won’t support Luke Crane.
I’m going to reflect and give a bit of space. I also know that this is not about me, but from my platform I give water to topics I write about.
Maybe Luke will take restorative action. Adam’s had more time but this is not about him. But I suspect not.
And as I’m working through this, I found the text of Luke Crane’s update to the now cancelled Kickstarter:
Title: That Went Well
We appreciate the support but I have decided to cancel the project as I can no longer offer you what was promised. Many designers withdrew or were harassed to withdraw due to my including Adam Koebel as a designer of one of those games. Since I can no longer provide for you what I intended—a collection of these designers’ games—I have no recourse but to humbly withdraw.
This project was intended to contain the entirety of the games and the joke of the Perfect RPG. We will not relaunch or republish in a different format.
The title reads like the start of an inside joke.
Luke is an influential employee at Kickstarter and an award-winning indie game designer. This whole campaign feels like Luke Crane used his position of privilege for performative art. It echoes a narcissist and edgelord publisher’s antics.
And Luke chose not to include many (or any) of the designers in this performative art.
That is fucking mind control. It’s lying through omission.
Luke’s actions and words are callous and arrogant. And I’m not carrying water for that.