Postcolonial Steampunk RPGs NOW!

Okay, that does it. I’m changing my attitude.

For the past couple of years, I have watched a variety of steampunk settings appear, some for existing systems and a few with their own systems. Each time a new one showed up, I have breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that they were doing the same old ahistorical, pro-colonial claptrap with magic (or sometimes horror) thrown into it, because it meant that Steamscapes remained unique.

But no more.

I am here not only to encourage but to demand more postcolonial steampunk RPGs as soon as possible.

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Diversity and Being Part 2 – Writing

A few days ago, I was inspired by a frustrated (I think we should give more credit to frustration as inspiration) article written by Tanya DePass of I Need Diverse Games. Her article led me to think about what I do in both my consumption and production of media with regard to people that are different from me and experiences that are different from my own.

Note – Before I dig into this topic, it’s important to acknowledge that anything I say here is built on the work of many other people who have done much more thinking about this than I have. If you are a writer of any kind, you should absolutely read Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward. That’s a good place to start.

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Diversity and Being – Part 1: Aspiring

This will be a two-part exploration on writing diverse characters. This first part focuses more on the need for such characters and how we should approach them as audience members. The second part will dig into how I address this as a writer and game designer, including how this approach helps me to write “for” rather than “about.”

Tanya DePass of I Need Diverse Games reminded us just yesterday of the tired and stupid argument against diversity that there is somehow a zero-sum game of aspirational hero characters in movies, games, comics, etc. That somehow making more A-list properties with characters that are women, or black, or gay, or (heaven forbid) all of the above will take heroes away from straight white males.

Tanya’s post dismantles this complaint pretty handily, so I don’t need to add anything to that. But there’s another side of this that I want to address:

What does it mean to aspire? Continue reading

GRRR #2 – Krendel Core

[This is my second review in the Game Review Round Robin group organized by Eleri Hamilton.]

Many generic game systems, particularly the ones that are in widespread use these days, grew organically from the mechanics of a specific game. Savage Worlds grew out of Deadlands, the Cypher System grew out of Numenera, Fate (in its modern form) grew out of Spirit of the Century and the Dresden Files. If Cortex Plus succeeds as a generic system, it will largely be because of Leverage and Marvel Heroic.

The late 80s and early 90s were the heyday of generic systems created from the beginning to be generic, but that doesn’t happen as much anymore. (And yes, people still play GURPS, but it’s much harder to establish a new generic system in the modern market.) With this in mind, I have to give props to William Altman for even attempting it. So let’s dig into his generic system, Krendel Core.

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Winifred Ward and Harriet Finlay-Johnson, LARP’s Forgotten Mothers

I have backgrounds in two communities that do not realize they are related. Mostly, this is because they are not aware of each other. Their members tend to move in different spaces both physically and intellectually, and they are each sufficiently obscure that few people from one are likely to see articles or information about the other. It is in an effort to correct this that I have written this article.

The two communities are Creative Drama and Live Action Roleplaying.

Recently, members of the Live Action Roleplaying (LARP) community held the second Living Games Conference. As this was partially an academic conference, there were a wide variety of presentations and talks, many of which were filmed and are available for viewing online. Although I could not attend myself, one of the most fascinating segments for me was the Role-playing and Simulation in Education Conference Hub. As you can see from the archived videos, there are many educators and gamers exploring ways to use immersive improvisational roleplay as an educational tool. There is some great work that these presenters are doing, and you should definitely check it out.

The only thing that’s missing is the awareness that this practice already has a 100-year-old academic legacy, and it’s called Creative Drama. Continue reading

GRRR #1 – Rewind: Temporal Tales

You might be wondering why the headline is growling at you. Well, GRRR is actually the wonderfully evocative acronym for the Game Review Round Robin, a group of game designers who have all agreed to read and review each other’s games. This group is the brainchild of Eleri Hamilton, who designed Unwritten. Eleri also did the legwork of setting up the review assignments, so that the rest of us can just sit back and read games. Thanks, Eleri!

My first review is Rewind: Temporal Tales, a solo/duet game by Todd Zircher.

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Popularity vs. Impact – The RPG Awards Season

As we come to the end of the summer, I wanted to reflect on the winners and losers of a variety of contests and awards (including my personal experiences).

Origins Awards

The Origins Awards have historically been more focused on card and board games. They contain only two awards for RPG: “Best Role Playing Game” and “Best Role Playing Game Supplement.” As you can see from the nominations, these awards tend to be focused on prominent companies and popular products. The nod to Atomic Robo is probably about as far out as the Origins Awards are likely to get. Continue reading