Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Terrorize Them With Quality

1. A Year Ago...

...after the last Gen Con I said D&D with Porn Stars will be throwing a party next Gen Con. It'll be big and it'll be loud and it'll be a year in the making and the paint will peel from the walls.

And then I said: If the DIY RPG scene wants to, in less than 5 years it can run this town.

2. The First Thing I Did...

...when I got to my room was stand and go "One" and then slide over two feet and go "Two" and then slide around the bed and go "Three" and I kept dong that all over the room, trying to count how many people could fit in it.

Probably maybe enough kinda--if they were all thin and careful and managed to make it 4 whole blocks from the convention center and the staff didn't notice them crowding through the lobby.

I mean really to be clear I was worried sick. Also I'd just realized there was a very big hole in the seat of my jeans and likely had been for several hours.

Stokely had been reading up on Indiana state sex crime laws. They are not generous: blowjobs, for example, are a crime, as is having an erection while outdoors.

And Green Ronin was up for more awards than us.

It's always good to make peace with the worst-case scenario. In this case: the party will suck, there'll be nothing to celebrate anyway, and we'll all be arrested for nudity and boners by the Indiana sex police.

3. And then I beheld two figures...

...striding boldly in the sickening heat. Jez Gordon and James Edward Raggi IV, arrived from distant lands. We found a place, I ordered something with rum and pineapple and, basically, for five days straight....everything was completely perfect in the world.

The Bastille really does await, and the guards really are drunk:
Left: False Patrick, Right: me, Center: some plush fuck.
This was Patrick's first time in America, his take here.

"Hello sir! Do you like roles? Do you like playing? Do you like games?
Do you like fantasy? Do you like horror? Do you like fantasy horror? Weird or normal fantasy?
Excellent, perfect! Step this way! Dead players you say? We can help. Here at LotFP we make the best modules
supplements in the business, buy 4 get a 5th free. Maze of the Blue Medusa? No sir it is sold out,
however may I offer you this fine, all-weather, hypo-allergenic cloth Maze of the Blue Medusa Map?"
L to R: Me, RPG connoisseur of brilliant taste, Raggi, Jacob Hurst whose Swordfish Islands sold
out, too, and Mike Hubris in profile.
Charlotte Stokely at the hotel incompletely censored by half a Sir Larkins sticker.
Previous (and even less SFW) attempt at OSR sticker-modeling here.

Me, Stokely, charming fan with excellent taste, Mike Mearls.
 They had a Marilyn Monroe vent at this bar which kept blowing Stokely's skirt up.
Mike and I talked about nuclear terror and making games for like 4 hours.
His jaw moved, too.
Raggi with Nicole Pate in Flame Princess cosplay

Indiana Museum of Art
Left: False Patrick, Right: me, Center: a sample of Vantablack, the blackest substance in the world--of course James wants to bind something in it
The True Spirit Of Gen Con

Vornheim in the Gen Con museum, next to Aaron Allston's Strike Force
Ela Darling, with part of her convention haul

Narrativist RPG Uberczar Ron Edwards (left) and OSR layout mastermind Jez Gordon (right) posing as Frost Giants for my upcoming Amazons book
Brendan Necropraxis' book sold out and also he's buff

Jacob Swordfish Islands Hurst, James Edward Fucking Metal Raggi, Patrick Embarassed Constantly Because British Stuart,
Stacy Contessa Dellorfano, Jez Feral Gordon, Contessa Volunteer Whose Name I Need To Find Out Emily, Ken Satyr Press Baumann, Matthew Incredibly Gracious Cramsie 

You might feel tempted to find symbolism in the fact that Patrick was uncomfortable
standing on a piece of glass held up by thousands of tiny anonymous doll people but you'd be
forgetting he's always uncomfortable.

Improvised team vs team dungeon--Patrick kept rolling up 1 hit point
characters and died 3 times in one game. They say he writes well.
Halfway through the game one night before the awarda I got a text from Trollsmyth saying he'd
fallen ass-backwards into the Presidential Suite at the Marriott, did I still need a place
to have the party?...
A bunch of people that are in these other pictures (and Zzarchov, hiding) but most important and dead-
center is Chris H, who gets special mention because I ran into jussssst when I was trying to haul the liquor
over to Trollsmyth's suite on Ennie-morning and volunteered to help. Note his
home-made Flail snail patch.
But would the party have any raison d'etre? We approached the vast hall with trepidation....

The Ennie hall was wayyyy more packed than last year and the room was a George Perez cover of slavering foes

Stacy kicked it off...
Broodmother SkyFortress winning a judge award was a foregone conclusion
Go to 1:17:59 to see the crowd yelling "We love you Jeff!" 
Reading Jeff's Speech--the best Patrick and Zak picture.
Mike wins for Hubris, flips off the entire audience (50:43

tells me he's gonna publish Demon City
Patrick winces his way through the Ennies, visibly cringing every time
someone says something American and banal, on his way to
winning two Ennies for Veins of the Earth.
Best Writing (40:33)--where he's the only person nominated who
wrote a book solo--and (along with Scrap Princess
Best Monster/Adversary (1:37:27)
Patrick and Raggi at peak embarrassment as people (and me) yell The King In The North!
as Raggi goes up to collect Kiel Chenier's Best Adventure Gold Ennie for Blood In The Chocolate,
overcoming massive, organized online harassment, openly supported by
the Atlas Games reps sitting right in front of the stage
Jez, Mike, me, Raggi......Patrick

John Wick (the 7th Sea one not the gun one), me hugging Mark Diaz Truman
Mike Evans, Raggi
Mike Curry (7th Sea systems guy)
(Not pictured because they won nothing) the Green Ronin team

OSR party storming the Marriott--Ela Darling in the lead.
Patrick saw how big the party was and left immediately.
Trying to tell the crowd to quiet down because we have 4 floors complaining about us.
There's video of me yelling at the crowd and being interrupted by a guy in
a Captain America shirt who told us to party harder:
You can see Wick in the front at one point--his team came, half the Monte Cook crew came, the ABCs of Roleplaying crew came (who said they'd been inspired to do it by this project on the blog), Greg Stafford said he was going to bed, which means: we threw the biggest party.
The home group ably adapting to local nerd culture

So of course we got kicked out of the suite and relocated to the bar downstairs. Left: Jon Peterson, curator of the Gen Con Museum and author of PlayingAt The World Ken Hite of Trail of Cthulhu and Vampire 5e

Here is Ken Hite doing the Cabbage Patch, Michael Pfaff drops a glass, Jez massages his wrist, I tell a story and Ken Baumann stands completely still

Raggi had fled by this point so he didn't
see Ken had the greatest shirt in the history of metal

So many people BYOB'd we had a fridgeworth of liquor left over. I gave Rein-Hagen a beer along with copies of Red & Pleasant and Death Frost Doom and gave the rest to anyone who looked thirsty, especially if they were running Dungeon Crawl Classics. (p.s. Whoever brought that really nice bottle of Silver Cross--Stokely has it.)

Meanwhile, online in fake-life the jackals were out in force harassing the OSR post Ennies:
They harassed Kiel because Blood in the Chocolate was bodpositive, they harassed Mike
for flipping off the Ennie audience, they harassed me for swearing at the ceremony, they
harassed Raggi for being ok with sex and they harassed Jeff for pointing out they were lying...'s been very difficult.

Interview the next morning--
Raggi (ranty):
I WANT them to be ASHAMED of themselves when they LOOK at these weird independent adventures from a company with ONE employee and have to explain why they can't DO BETTER!???!!
Patrick (urbane):
So you want to terrorize them with quality?

I introduced Raggi to the Monte and the Monte Cook team at the airport, and James of course took the opportunity to start up some hip-hop-beef marketing.

I looked at his wife and was like "I understand your pain" and, in her lovely Finnish accent,
she was just like "He loves the controversy" and went back to knitting socks

Popularity contests aren't important unless you're not supposed to win them. We did it.



Monday, August 14, 2017

This Is The Gen Con DIY D&D Post

At the merch store
Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Booth 2904. Hall F.
Ennie Awards at Union Station 8pm Friday August 18: This is mandatory. You have to go.  Like when they elect a new First Ranger on The Wall. We will sit in the front row. The OSR will be out in force, no publisher that counts is up for more awards than Lamentations Of The Flame Princess. Kiel's Blood in the Chocolate is up for awards as is Scrap Princess and False Patrick's Veins of the Earth. Patrick will be there. Patrick is a poet. If you don't go he will cry. Do you want to make a poet cry? No. This is the moment we take the crown--forever--and never give it back. It will be televised. You will want to tell your grandchildren you were there. Games will not ever be the same. Tickets are free but you need to get one.
bottom right--across Capital St from the Con Center


I will be selling a biggggg stack of Original Zak Game Art when I'm at the LotFP booth in the afternoons--first come first served yo. 

Other important things:

Generally: Do what you want in the morning.

In the afternoons, the cool place to hang out is the LotFP booth. I'll show up between noon and 2 until the Con closes at 6pm.

If you want something signed I'm there, but you will need Gen Con Brownie Points.

Gen Con Brownie Point Rewards:

Brownie points will be easy to get, the list of things that get you Brownie Points is here (you need to be in my RPG circles to see it)*.

1 Brownie point = I will sign one thing

3 Brownie points = I will be in a picture with you

10 Browne points = I promise to look at your game thing and read it all the way through

Most Brownie points each day Wed-Sat by 5:30 pm = Win an original Zak drawing from an extant or original game product. Once you have won on one day, the next day's prize will go to another Brownie Point Grabber.

Most Brownie points total by Saturday night = the highest grabber total (including people who've already won a daily prize) on Saturday 5:30pm will be given an original Zak painting from an extant or upcoming game product.

To get in touch, email zakzsmith AT hawtmayle dawt calm

On wednesday, Brownie Point Grabbers must email me (see below) at 5:30pm to collect their prize, on other days simply show up at the LotFP booth at 5:30pm.

My schedule, subject to change when people are like Hey Zak There's A Thing and I may head over to play with the Goodman Games crew at some point:

Schedule: I'm around morning, Wednesday the 16th--Evening Monday the 21st.

*If you are not in my RPG circles on Google+, email me at zakzsmith AT hawtmayle with a link to your google + page and ask to be added.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Relevant Retropost Saturday Night

I write about Nazis a lot for a guy with a D&D blog but tonight's Relevant Retropost was because I was reading an article about the Alt Right and it reminded me: the Alt Right are nerd trashbabies and all nerd trashbabies are, regardless of overt political philosophy, nerd trashbabies--and have a lot in common.

So when I read this...

The people you describe in the book, especially the younger, more online-oriented people, seem to be struggling with a contradiction: They want to be relevant in a culture they claim to hate. Or maybe they just read too much Nietzsche.

Yeah, definitely with those guys, I think they are both participants in and very disgusted by what they consider a degenerate culture. Which is why I think it’s so interesting that a political ideology that is so disgusted by modern libertinism and gender-bending sexuality and porn and everything would find a home in 4chan of all places, because these are people who spent years watching the most horrific and dehumanizing porn you can find on the web, and they all suddenly went right-wing reactionary.

What does that suggest to you about the psychology of the alt-right?

I think it says that their sense of the world gone to hell was actually influenced by their own immersion in the forms of culture that they eventually saw as degenerate and ruined. But if they spent more time in the mainstream culture and in society in general, perhaps they wouldn’t have this sense that everything is degenerate and Western civilization is in ruins.

...I remembered this (Original post with comments here )

Radical Game Critique Isn't

That fucking lone orc guarding that fucking chest in that fucking ten foot room.

Ever since I first started playing I knew exactly one thing about the much-maligned lone orc in the ten-foot room.

That is: if he's there it's because I put him there.

As I've said before, when it said right in the Dungeon Master's Guide that you could buy adventures or make up your own, it never occurred to me why anyone anywhere ever would buy one. I'm pretty much in the same boat still. Even the best modules in the world get rewritten snout-to-tail as soon as I get them.


When I first started reading RPG blogs and forums, I was struck by two things:

1. God DAMN these people are mad about games

2. God DAMN these people have bought a lot of game crap

It was a constant stream of B1 this and X1 that and WG4 Ripped My Flesh and 3.5 Makes Your Pee Green and 4E Makes You Turn Into A Beeswax Toucher and I just thought Who has time to read all these things? For me the hobby was about: You grab a game off the shelf, you rewrite half the rules (they were written by distant corporate overlords and so suck) and then you start making stuff up.

The level of investment people had in these rudimentary accessories baffled me--and baffled me even more when I got my hands on them--This is Caves of Chaos? A bunch of dudes in corridors? White Plume Mountain has a flying canoe? It was like visiting The Big City your friends have been talking about all your life and finding three matchbox cars and a cardboard box with windows draw on it.

And the weirdest thing was: the more pointed, aggressive and would-be-radical the Internet dork's critique of D&D and its supposed impact on society was, the more accessories they'd paid for. Ron Edwards' critique of D&D as a cargo cult is clearly informed by having swallowed year after year of TSR product and there are angry 4vengers with pixel icons on Something Awful who could drown you in their Old School game collection.

And their message was: These modules taught us! And they taught us wrong!!!!!

This isn't actually a real article. Thank god.

And I just thought: what rich kid buys modules? You draw a maze and put cute stuff in it, you make up some voices and attach people to them--how hard is that? I know 5 year olds who can do that. They were critiquing a consumption-based culture they'd created and I'd never seen or cared about--and that none of the people I played with saw or cared about, like basing their ideas about the game off the quality of a buttskin dicebag they'd bought. Sure there was some inane Vietnam vet behind the register at the game store--but he's as ignorable as the pamphlet-sized pap he was selling. And conventions? Come on. You buy your dice and run--that DIY is the soul of the game.

The fact is, the modern wannabe progressive critique is a middlebrow apologia for having bought the thing in the first place.

It is an uncritical adoption of certain tropes of criticism as penitence for having uncritically adopted the previous tropes offered by the game product.

It is exchanging one failure of skepticism for another.

It happens like this:

You're on the Forge or Story-Games where there's supposed to be a hip and radical dedication to independent game making and publishing,

...or you're on RPGnet where there's supposed to be a hip and radical dedication to remaking games as a safe space for marginalized people,

...or you're on Something Awful where there's supposed to be a hip and radical dedication to joking everything terrible about modern culture to death...

...and you're hanging out and looking for something to talk about with hundreds of internet strangers. So what do you have in common? Well, not much--you live thousands of miles from each other--but there's probably some game product you've all read. So you start talking about it.

And then you remember why you're here--you can't just say you like Shadowrun or even "Meh, Shadowrun, too much like real life"--you are supposed to make a show of being hip and radical (or as much as you can sitting alone at your computer in your nerdforum). So you embed all your ideas about the world into a critique of Shadowrun. Or a Shadowrun module. Or the Shadowrun module after that.

Of course what this critique obscures is: you once thought you needed to buy a lot of Shadowrun modules. I mean, if there's some consumer out there whose mind has been damaged by too much near-future fantasy technoir it's the kind of consumer so used to buying RPG crap they think it's the reason for everything they've ever seen happen at an RPG table.

The radical Hot Take is the tax you pay for having bought and read and maybe even used the module in the first place--a tax which hides an important fact: the more radical thing to have done would be to do the thing every RPG has urged you to do since the mimeographed OD&D first appeared and write your own adventure. Most of these critiques read like screeds on the evils of nightlife by people in AA.

The postcolonial critique of Caves of Chaos is less radical than just not using Caves of Chaos in the first place 'cause its kinda fucking basic.

Perhaps this is the reason for the vociferousness of the accusations laid at the door of RPG products and RPG norms--the people making them are gnawingly aware that the only reason they even have enough familiarity with these norms to make those critiques is their own embrace of them and total failure to innovate or think for themselves.

The Drama Club dedication to picking apart each new piece of nerd media, from Batgirl to Orphan Black, as soon as it hits the ground belies an even greater truth: you'd have to worry a lot less about these things and the supposed messages they send if you weren't so intent on watching them all right away.

The Angry Consumerist Critic is not a radical and the only behavior they're critiquing is that of their own former self. And rather than this having taught them to think for themselves, it has cause them to exchange one bill of goods for another.

Independent thought is so not part of their daily lives, that they actually think games for adults should reflect their values. As if adults should be forgiven for being unskeptical enough that they're learning values from a game.
I grew up with a blanket punk rock/marxist critique: all mainstream media is sick shit trying to sell you something, handle it with kid gloves if at all. It's all racist and sexist and classist--it's made by moneypeople to make more money. The obsession with divvying every game and TV show into ones Doing It Right and Doing It Wrong has a fundamental philosophical flaw: that the milk from the corporate nipple is ever "right". Nothing Disney does with its princesses or Marvel does with its Thors is going to show up without blood on its hands.

When I critiqued mainstream modules on this blog, the attitude was always:

1. Find out if there are dysfunctional or weird parts of this that aren't part and parcel of what you'd expect from any suck-by-committee corporate design process.
2. There might might be some genuine human gold under the weight of that totally presumed and pointless low-hanging fruit. Occasionally there is.

Indie stuff is worth your scrutiny inasmuch it claims to represent an actual human or group thereof chasing something other than the most money possible. That's a situation where you might expect to see someone Doing It Right. No matter how much your favorite mainstream superhero comic is doing right, the entire background of its production is fundamentally wrong.

If you bought a product by a company that doesn't even care enough about you to put the name of the monster on the map in the place where the monster lives, being shocked that you found a bit of unexamined paleothought in it is like being shocked your McNugget wasn't free-range. Demanding the majors think better is a noble goal, but claiming to have just now discovered the lazy thinking in them shows that you were expecting otherwise.  And expecting otherwise means you are and have always been exactly that most-gullible-kind-of-person who lets that message slip into their unconscious.

It's like a war reporter who lands in Afghanistan and goes "Holy fuck, one of those guys has a gun!". Critique yourself first.