Amplifying the Blogosphere (v2021-06-13)

I’m done with Tunnels & Trolls

A post was made by a Person of Color (PoC 🔍), coming after the devastating murder of four Muslim people in London, Ontario, saying that it’s not enough to not be racist—we must be actively anti-racist and hostile to racists.

I hope you’d agree this is a sensible stance.

So why Ken [St Andre, creator of Tunnels and Trolls,] decided to go out of his way to respond with “why? What gives you the right to tell others how they must be” I have no idea. It was asinine and shows utter contempt for Muslims and people of colour.

We must all stand against racism in all its forms and that involves being hostile to racists. It’s not difficult to understand. Some might see this as an overreaction, which it isn’t - this is exactly how important inclusivity in gaming and life is. So fuck my favourite game.

update: From Trollish Delver cuts ties with Tunnels & Trolls in Ken St Andre protest:

Ken St. Andre has since apologised for joining the conversation. St Andre has clarified his position, stating that he simply objects to anyone telling him how to behave and that he doesn’t like racists either. Quite true. @ammourazz, I apologize for saying anything in a conversation that I wasn’t actually part of. I just kind of resent others telling me implicitly or explicitly how I must behave unless I work for them. I don’t like racists either. — Ken St. Andre (@Trollgodfather) June 13, 2021
Notice, someone made a flippant response, another person held them to account, and the initial responder clarified. In other words, challenge those “neutral” statements.

This reminds me of conversation I had over last weekend. We were at an outdoor celebration of a 3 year work project. We were talking, and our conversation drifted to respect. One of my colleagues the people that works for the same employer as me asked the group: “Now, this is a serious question, and I genuinely don’t know: Shouldn’t we tolerate the intolerant?”

I chose to respond quick and in the moment something along these lines:

No. Because the intolerant are often coming from the following perspective: “Before I respect your humanity, you must respect my authority.” Bigotry is about a desire for subjegation of others.

This isn’t the best answer, and I’m working to develop a better response. But it was disheartening to hear a lifelong late career academic in the humanities ask such a question. I take their preamble (e.g., I genuinely don’t know…) as sincere. I also received it as damning of their complacency regarding the subject of bigotry and fascism and autocracy.

I am tolerant when someone gets angry. Your emotions are valid. What you choose to do with those emotions is where problems might arise. I do not tolerate the resulting behaviors that foment a campaign of subjegation, extermination, and dehumanization.

I think to the story of the Bartender Savagely Kicks A Polite Nazi Customer Out Of His Bar And Explains Why It’s Important To Do So.

And for those of you reading this, if you have resources that you think would help my response, please . I’m working to get better. I’m also committing to engage folks in good faith conversations.

update: Trollish Delver posted an update Have I Thrown Baby out with Bathwater.

Randomization Best of the Web - Old Style and 3D Printing vs Games Workshop

Over at Ruprecht’s RPG, the author pointed out to Old School Renaissance (OSR 🔍) posts from Dweller in the Forbidden City.

Donato Giancola of Dweller of the Forbidden City has two brilliant articles. The first Running D&D the Role of the Ref lays out how Donato runs games. It’s the old style approach stripping out the Game Masters need to handle story and narrative and just presenting the world. This says a lot about how games have changed over the years because anyone that started playing in the old days will recognize the play style immediately.

The second post is Randomization - It’s Not What You Think. Well it is what I think, and it is what most Grognards would think, but a few of the things were abandoned long ago by most in the hopes of streamlining things or making players happy and Donato lays out the points with very convincing rationals why they should be reconsidered. I’ve never liked individual initiative but the case is made and I can’t really deny it is a good one worth exploring. Also Spell Distribution, my games have never had a lot of spell casters so this hasn’t been a thing but I like the way its laid out and I’ll be giving it some thought.

I started playing Role Playing Games (RPGs 🔍) as the original OSR style shifted to a narrative approach. Looking at you Desert of Desolation and Dragonlance. And yet in our early campaigns randomness was present.

I love having random elements in the game; their oracular powers help fuel the shared narrative. For some more details, I wrote and .

Let’s look at the bullet points of Dweller of the Forbidden City’s post:

I walk the walk on this particular issue, in my game I randomize:

  1. Initiative (individual)
  2. Monster HP/Player HP
  3. Encounter Reaction/Morale
  4. Random encounters
  5. Target selection
  6. Missile fire into melee
  7. NPC/monster decision making
  8. Treasure generation
  9. Spell distribution
  10. Situational modifiers


Randomization does a few things for your game:

  • It makes encounters less predictable for the players
  • Its inspirational, sometimes the dice come up with something you wouldn’t
  • Its challenging, making a random result work at the table can force you out of your comfort zone
  • It makes the game less predictable for the ref as well
  • It adds some variety to characters and NPCs

The list of things that Dweller of the Forbidden City randomizes is a means for getting to the descibed ends. And I love those ends, and have utilized those means in past (and present) games.

As I’ve been playing Stars without Number: Revised Edition (SWN 🔍) and Burning Wheel Gold (BWG 🔍), I’ve seen the randomizations help nudge the game in different directions.

In BWG, the few failed Circles tests and resulting Enmity Clause have shaped encounters; yes you find someone that can help you but something in their situation is at odds with what you want. I’ve ported the Enmity Clause to SWN’s Connect skill. This little shift helps encode a bit of randomness in going looking for someone helpful.

The Morale and Steel tests help move quickly through conflicts; triggering a morale check is a fantastic tactic to overcome more potent enemies. Just better hope they fail.

I also think of Worlds without Number (WWN 🔍)’s Instinct check: When confused, infuriated, or goaded in combat, it runs the risk of behaving according to its instincts rather than martial prudence. The details of Instinct checks are explained on page 298.

In other words, we consult the dice to see if you hit a creature or succeed at a check, but we should also make space for the dice to have a say in howelse the game unfolds. I promise you, an unlikely positive reaction or a failed morale check against all odds will create a memorable experience.

OSR Review & Commentary On Michael Moorcock’s Elric Vol. 1

One of the startling conclusions that has come my way over the last ten years is the fact that many gamers don’t read. Oh all of the excuses come down the pike, I don’t have enough time., My wife or husband won’t let me, or my personal favorite, Sorry but reading isn’t as exciting as ‘insert latest video game title here.

When I was actively parenting young children, I remember people saying I just don’t have time for such and such. My often unspoken response was to reframe that statement: I just am not prioritizing such and such. By reframing to “I’m not prioritizing”, I’m not giving more power to the thing I lament not doing. Instead I’m saying that for this thing, I’m making the choice to not pursue it.

This is a shift from victim mentality. Right now, I’m not prioritizing playing tabletop RPGs; if they happen, that’s awesome, but it’s not at the top of my list.

And the Elric of MelnibonĂ© 🔍 graphic novels caught my eye. About 20 years ago, I read and loved the books; They are anti-thetical to the J.R.R. Tolkien's 🔍 world creation. And Moorcock continues to add to the Eternal Champion multi-verse, connecting and expanding on ideas.