Monday, October 8, 2018

You Don't Have A Tabletop RPG Community (Probably) - Part One

Every so often a post gets shared on social media and it's something about how we need to do something on behalf of "the RPG community" - shun a harasser, yell at someone with a bad blog post or gross cover art on their $3.99 supplement for a game nobody plays, or destroy the story game pigs.  These appeals often fall on deaf ears when they come to me, often to the consternation of others. My explanation, that I don't think there's a community that tabletop RPG enthusiasts online belong to, is never welcome to any side of whatever blow-up is happening this week. So I'm going to post my thoughts on this subject, in detail, here.
"There is no such thing as society." - Margaret Thatcher,
Halloween (1978)

A quick caveat before we begin: During the controversy (?) over a couple of Magpie Games blog posts a couple of years ago, two separate people told me they considered my statement that there was no RPG community to be a direct threat to them.  More than one person has confirmed this feeling to me in other contexts as well.

Well, sure. If you're walking down a street and a guy with a butcher knife walks up and shouts "you know, the laws don't apply to me!" that can be scary. 

So if you're someone who needs there to be a tabletop RPG community to feel safe, don't read what follows. Even if I'm right, it doesn't matter. (Perhaps that should say "especially if I'm right, it doesn't matter".)  This blog only has 6 readers (including 2 dogs) so nobody is actually listening to this, and, if you hadn't already noticed, there's literally hundreds of millions of dollars spent every year trying to convince you, me and everyone on earth that I'm wrong. I don't stand a chance, and neither do you or the rest of the world.

Google, Facebook, and Twitter don't only want to convince you that buying a thing, and then talking about that thing online is sufficient to form the basis for a viable, positive community.  They are working to convince you that the "communities" formed by doing so are actually much more meaningful than participating in communities which aren't based on buying things and talking about them.   Compared to that kind of ridiculously over-funded opposition, blog posts like this one have no power and do not do anything.  Aren't you glad you read this far? "Yeah, time well spent," is what you're thinking right now. Anyway, you will be safe and happy forever if you don't read any further, and there will never be any impact to you for deciding not to read this.  So if that's what you need, then stop here.

Monday, September 17, 2018

"Tournament of Rapists" - Three Years On, What We All Definitely Learned And Did Not In Any Way Forget Or Overlook

"Finally, some peace and quiet!" My house, before I let it run down.
In late summer 2015, a significant kerfluffle (don't ever use those two words together part 2: together again), erupted regarding a Drivethrurpg-sold supplement called Tournament of Rapists, a supplement for the Black Tokyo d20 Modern game line.  It resulted in a clarification of OneBookshelf's content policies, and an outcry that freedom of speech had been completely destroyed; permanently eliminated, never to return.

This news was a great relief to me. I for one was enthusiastic about an impending future where all free expression was eradicated, and I'm sure wasn't the only one: "Finally, some peace and quiet!"  Still, somehow I survived, and so did RPGs and, shockingly, so did talking about  them on the Internet.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Proof Story Hyphen Games Dot Com Hates D&D!!!!!!!!!

A relative newcomer to story hyphen games dot com posted a thread trying to assemble a list of everyone's favorite games. For the last few weeks he's been gathering data.  A sinister implication has arisen that will surely throw the world into chaos!

8 people said that Apocalypse World was one of their top 10 games....
But 15 people said that D&D was one of their top 10 games!!

Now, either story hyphen games dot com, speaking collectively, likes D&D more than Apocalypse World.....

....or they are trying to INFILTRATE D&D and sap its precious bodily fluids.

I KNOW WHICH ONE I THINK IS MOST LIKELY.....

.....DOES YOU?!?!?!?!?!?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

#rpgtheoryclub - A Real Game by caitlynn belle

But JD, aren't you the guy who hates RPG theories?


Okay, yes, for everyone else the door is open, and why not walk through, but as the guy who was actually topic banned from discussions about GNS theory on rpg.net because people got so tired of me ripping on it, sometimes in really funny ways, I feel like I need to talk my way past the nonexistent bouncer.  It's not that I don't like RPG theorizing. I actually think that a good theoretical underpinning can help in the creation and performance of all sorts of art, even, or perhaps especially, folk art like RPG play. I am really enthusiastic about the creation of a theory of RPG play, or preferably several! Let a thousand aesthetic schools of analysis of RPGs bloom.

However, existing RPG theories have almost all proceeded from really poor foundations.  Categorizations like Robin Laws' player types are inadequately backed up by statistically significant observations, and stink for the same reason that Aristotle's taxonomy of organisms doesn't really cohesively handle a duck.   Other theories arise from the point of view of people who are dissatisfied with the current state of RPG play.  The Threefold theory of rec.games.frp.advocacy was a response to perceived totalizing viewpoints from "dramatist" players (okay, maybe just one really annoying guy; why are you looking at me like that, my glass house will definitely withstand me throwing this stone!)  The Forge's GNS theory essays begin with the observation that most RPG players are unhappy most of the time, and this is, to put it gently, completely bonkers. Resultantly, the theories that actually exist about RPG play only rarely stumble across anything worth saying.

("People play RPGs for different reasons." is not worth saying, except perhaps to a thirteen year old, who isn't listening anyway.  There isn't a human activity that all performers conduct for the same reason.)

So, I have been perceived as being anti-RPG-theory when really I am only anti-bad-theories.  It's not my fault most of most RPG theories extant are bad. Aren't you glad you read all that?

That was my reasoning when Ben Lehman put out a call for participants in #rpgtheoryclub and I made the following suggestion:




Instead, he decided to start with a one player freeform LARP called A Real Game by caitlynn belle.

Well, as the great Lyndon Johnson once said, "OK." 


Spoilers Belong Only On Cars


Please try to erase the word "spoiler" from your vocabulary and thinking.  It is a waste of your time to concern yourself with them. If you want to hear someone talk about A Real Game, which is directed to be played sequentially, anyone who decides to talk about it "spoiler free" is wasting your time and will never tell you anything worth hearing about the work. This goes even more for Star Wars shit or whatever thing happened on whatever TV show you're watching. If you're seeking out informed opinion of course they will discuss the work as a whole and give you detailed, thoughtful analysis. If they don't give you spoilers I promise you it's not an informed opinion.  Okay? Okay.

Let's get started.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Less Math! - The RPGs talked about on story hyphen games dot com

google image search for "i got bored"
never change google image search
never change
When I got bored from reading comments, looking for negativity against the OSR like witch hunters look for witches (and just as successfully!), I just paged through old story-games.com threads.

 Anyway, here's an interesting thing. This is a list of the last 25 games that story hyphen games dot com posters have been interested in enough to make a thread about it. So, not games that are given as answers to questions or discussed when discussing experiences, but games that story hyphen games dot com is interested enough in discussing on their own.

I also eliminated all games that are still in development/not finished. But I didn't eliminate duplicates. If people wanted to talk about the same game in multiple threads, I left that in to show interest.  When two games are mentioned in the thread title, I list them both.

Note that not all of these games are in threads that are unreservedly positive. Several are like "The Quiet Year - am I doing it wrong?" or things like that.

When I figured out how to page around by year, I did it for several past years too.

Which game do you think story-games spoke about most recently? Ready to find out?


Bonus Non-Math Survey! The Story-Games Google+ Community!

Just for funsies, I broke down the posts on the much-lower-traffic Story-Games Google+ Community:

Community search for: "OSR" 


Promotional Posts/Comments for OSR Games: 8
Posts or comments directing people to an OSR blogpost: 4
OSR mentioned in list of other things: 9
OSR technique discussed: 4
Etymology debate: 1

Community search for "old school", omitting any already-counted results:


Promotional posts/comments for old school blogposts: 5
Old school approach recommended to fix problem: 2
"Old school" in list of other things: 2
"Old School" mentioned glancingly while talking about another subject: 1


However!  I did find the first instance of a discussion of "old school" gaming as it related to a discussion of inclusion and privilege.  A guy pointed out that old school D&D didn't require everyone to buy the books, making it more accessible to those that didn't have a lot of money than modern D&D.

Yes, old school gaming was alleged by a Story-Games Community poster to be more inclusive, the first time inclusion was ever mentioned in the same conversation as "old school".


Is Story Hyphen Games Dot Com hostile to the OSR? Part 2

Thank you for the comments and feedback on my first post.

this is one of the google image search results for
"painting of an editor"
flawless selection, google
flawless
One quick correction: Google results when you search the site story-games.com for "OSR" shows 350 results. I called this "350 threads" in my first post. This is not the case.  If you page through the results you'll quickly find that Google is also finding some archived duplicates of threads.  In other words, by the time you get to post 100 or so, you start to see pages of threads you've already seen.  That's the bad news. The good news is that this means my first methodology actually sampled more of the relevant pages that Google found than I thought at the time.  In other words, there are actually fewer than 350 pages for me to draw my sample from, so it is a more comprehensive look at those pages.

And a clarification. People asked a lot about the second entry in the results for each year, where I said "If someone offered an opinion or judgment about the OSR, there was an X% chance it was a positive opinion."  This could have been clarified more. Basically what I did was strip out all the neutral comments and all the tangential comments, leaving only Glowingly Positive, Positive, Negative, and Hostile comments, then measured the relative size of these comment pools. The goal was to identify whether the neutral/tangential comments were being made in an atmosphere of negativity or positivity.  As I mentioned, overwhelmingly, on story-games.com, when a poster expressed an opinion about the OSR or "OSR ideas" (as they identified them) between 2012 and 2015 it was overwhelmingly likely that opinion was a positive one.

Some sent me some critiques and these are welcome.  Here are a few responses (not all the critiques were posted publicly so I won't link to them.) Yes, I am still not putting scare quotes around stuff like "story games" and "community", you Inaccurate Basterds.


  • My post should only be seen as partly a response to the Magpie Games blog posts. If they are moving in (say) Google+ circles where they see hostility towards OSR people or ideas, my analysis of what happened on story hyphen games dot com over the years previous doesn't invalidate their observations.  However, it does suggest that to the extent story-gamers exist as a continuous community from the Forge through story-games.com to Google+, that community is, by and large, quite positive about the OSR and something else is at work in what the blog post observes.   
  • I did not analyze individual posters or their post histories. For one thing that's creepy and stupid, for another, it wouldn't tell us much about how the "community" (I can't help myself!) interacted. I mean, if it came right down to it and someone analyzed my post history (don't do this, I normally post dumb nonsense), I find most OSR stuff borrr-rriiiing (the exceptions I've posted about at rpgnow),  but I am not an influential story hyphen games dot com figure. I didn't ever post at the Forge, didn't agree with any of the theoretical work that went on there or at story-games, have never designed a game, have no interest in doing so, etc. etc. I am just some rando whose opinion doesn't matter, and the posts I found bear this position out magnificently.
  • Nothing in the posts I saw indicate that story hyphen games dot com posters associated OSR games or ideas with sexism, racism, or anything like that between 2012-2015. I bring that up because the overwhelming accusation I saw against "the story gamers" in the aftermath of the Magpie Games posts was that they were absolutely obsessed with proving that OSR gamers were sexist and racist.  To put it gently, this does not appear to be borne out by the data and the (somewhat obsessive) defensiveness on this subject (from some) seems misplaced.  If that accusation is coming from someone, it is not "story gamers."  (Story-games.com occasionally has long arguments about these subjects and never resolves anything, but it's never in connection with OSR stuff.)
  • I don't know where you could go to do a similar analysis of "the OSR community" and have no interest in doing a reciprocal analysis of how OSR people talk about story games people. I'd love to read it but this project is boring enough without even recognizing people's handles and going "oh, I remember that guy!"
  • If you want to know what "story gamers" think about any subject, there's a huge, publicly searchable database to tell you. You don't have to rely on what non-story-gamers tell you story gamers think. You don't have to take my word for it either! Click through on any of the threads I linked to and see if you think I didn't scour them closely enough for negative opinions, if you want.  But you don't have to do what I saw one forlorn person doing, which was going to "therpgsite" and asking "What's a story game?" and getting nine pages about Poison'd. 
So, as I mentioned, we can now look at story-games.com's archives through an entirely different methodology to try to pull a different facet of "OSR" stuff out. Let's see!