Waiting for the Roar

The round of atrocities which have led to wide-spread protests in support of #BlackLivesMatter and defunding police, also caused the TTRPG industry to take a hard look at its history of systemic anti-Black racism. Many companies, streamers, and other hobby notables were quick to show their support, helping to raise funds and outlining tangible ways in which they were going to move forward in support of Black people in the industry. But one voice was conspicuous in its absence.

Finally, on June 1, weeks after the protests began, Wizards of the Coast tweeted out their response from the D&D account. For anyone expecting full-throated support in line with so many other, earlier, TTRPG industry messages, the post seemed more like a, “Oh, by the way…” No where did it actually say Black Lives Matter, instead landing closer to All Lives Matter in it’s blandness. It was a statement long on sentiment and short on specifics, disappointing given how long it took for WotC to release a response in the first place. (In order to be fair, WotC did send a linked tweet with the BLM hashtag…twenty minutes after the initial tweet went out. So at least somebody though that was important, if only as an afterthought.)

Since then WotC has done a few things that seem to show active support; they hosted a fundraising stream featuring Black creators, charity bundles were pulled together on DM’s Guild, and their twitter account was RTing a number of other BLM events and initiatives. Still, this was all facilitating other folx actions; helpful, but amongst all the promotion for D&D Live and various Magic: the Gathering events, I waited to see some direct action from the company itself. I mean, in this same amount of time Itch and the TTRPG community were able to raise over $8 Million dollars. Surely WotC, backed by a major corporation like Hasbro, could manage something of a similar scale?

Fast forward to June 17, when WotC tweeted out another statement. While it might have appeared they were doing little, that was because they had been listening. Okay, not a bad thing, listening is the first step to learning. And in a linked page on their website, WotC laid out what they learned and what they were going to do about it. I’ll let you read it yourself.

My overall impression is that, while it gives the appearance of being much longer on actions than sentiment, it’s a lot of stuff the community has been asking for since well before the current protests. Criticisms of the biological determinism embedded in D&D go back years and decades, and when WotC is finally stirred to action? They’re going to do better in future books, fix problem areas in specific current books when they reprint them, and will release a supplement to fix the core character build process. The first one should be a given, and is arguably the lowest bar to clear given their track record. The second is great, and has apparently already been done for a few books, but no mention of what they’re doing for folks who already purchased the books (apparently there is something happening for those folx, but it should be on the statement page, don’t make people hunt to find it).

The last one, however, raises red flags for me. Why a supplement? Why not just update the core rulebooks in the same way you are doing with other sourcebooks? If they truly believe this is the path forward, why create a “separate but equal” set of rules that will inevitably cause issues in the community going forward. Any long time gamer can tell you, “supplemental” rules are optional rules. If they aren’t wholeheartedly adopted by WotC and incorporated into the DM’s Guild and Adventurer’s League, then this is just performative and WotC is trying to have their cake (that they didn’t even bake) and eat it too.

Now, let me take a moment to extend legitimate praise to WotC for hiring sensitivity readers for their upcoming work. That is an excellent step, and while it should have been done much sooner, the fact that they have done it is a positive sign. Hopefully it is something which continues once attentions wain.

The statement ends on a seeming commitment to hiring more diversely, which on its face would seem like a positive thing. And certainly a more diverse freelancer and staff pool is a good step. But there has been no mention of dealing with any of the systemic issues inside WotC/Hasbro’s office culture, issues which have led directly to some of the problems WotC is arguably trying to fix. As well, WotC and Hasbro continue to be silent in the face of calls to fire Mike Mearls and fix their harassment problems. So any diverse folx hired are coming into an environment which does not appear to value them enough to protect them, or support them with an equally diverse management.

On top of that, no where does this statement mention the faint bit of action present in the June 1 statement, the promised donations to three agencies.  By now someone in the Finance area at WotC/Hasbro should have been able to blow the dust off a calculator, figure out a number and a sufficiency of zeroes to follow it, and be able to announce it. That they haven’t at this point, while instead pushing third party initiatives through DM’s Guild and DnD Beyond, concerns me.

I have tried to be optimistic when it comes to WotC/Hasbro. In the face of everything I hoped they might actually take some sort of action befitting an industry leader. They were so proud of all those survey numbers they talked about a few months back, after all; all those folx playing their game, how wide their impact is spread. I’ve been waiting for a roar befitting a dragon.  But in this time of crisis, with people in the community they so proudly tout facing bigotry, hatred, and in some cases, death…well, we get this.

But hey, it’s a start. At least they’re still listening, right?

#ReadIndieRPGs Master Post

I was cross posting my #ReadIndieRPGs videos here up until about Day Twelve. I stopped because I knew I was going to do a master post, listing everything I read with links to the videos and the games. It seemed to me a master post with everything in one place would be more useful to anyone coming by the site, even if it meant less daily traffic.

I’ll talk about my thoughts on #ReadIndieRPGs in another video and post that on the site as well. For now, I wanted to get this listed in one spot because I feel that if you are new to indie RPGs and want to explore what’s out there, this list is a good place to start. Not entirely unintentionally I managed to give a good cross-section of types of games, solo vs. group games, and so on. And many of these creators have other games as well, which I encourage you to check out.

A quick guide to the links below. If you click on the Day you’ll go to the video I recorded. If you click on the game title you’ll go to whatever page has more information on the game and a way to purchase it (where this is multiple locations I have opted to link the location which gets the creator more money). If you click the creator name you’ll go to whatever page best shows them off, usually their website or Twitter page. Specific entries might have other information. Enjoy!

Day One: #iHunt – by Olivia Hill and Filamena Young

Day Two: savior – by Kate Bullock

Day Three: Succulent Sorcerers – by Diwata ng Manila

Day Four: Hot off the Press – by Margaret Catter

Day Five: TTRPG Safety Toolkit – by Kienna Shaw and Lauren Bryant-Monk

Day Six: A Hero’s Journey – by Jessica Marcrum

Day Seven: Session Zero by Meghan Cross

Day Eight: Purplest Prose by Pamela Punzalan

Day Nine: Station Hunt by Graeme “POCGamer” Barber

Day Ten: Breakfast Cult by Ettin

Day Eleven: Solar Convention by Will Sobel (published by Gallant Knight Games)

Day Twelve: Camp Xander by Raven Norris (published by the San Jenaro Co-op)

Day Thirteen: you will die alone out here in the black by Ben Roswell

Day Fourteen: Wu De The Five Powers

Day Fifteen: Wishing Well by Riley Hopkins

Day Sixteen: all we know are the things we have learned by Blake Stone

Day Seventeen: Paleo Party by Dyer Rose (published by the San Jenaro Co-op)

Day Eighteen: Oathbreakers by Jamila R. Nedjadi of Sword Queen Games

Day Nineteen: Yule Army by Secrets of the Masquerade (published by the San Jenaro Co-op)

Day Twenty: Keeping the Lights On by Hekla Björk Unnardóttir (published by the San Jenaro Co-op)

Day Twenty-one: Flying Circus by Erika Chappell (published by Newstand Press)

Day Twenty-two: Los Arboles by Mercedes Acosta

Day Twenty-three: Sandwich County by Flowers

Day Twenty-four: Banquo at the Feast by Marn S.

Day Twenty-five: The Steadfast & the Rebellious by WH Arthur

Day Twenty-six: 99 cent Chamber of Death by Christian Guanzon

Day Twenty-seven: Stewpot by Takuma Okada

Day Twenty-eight: Ego by Sandy Pug Games

Day Twenty-nine: Troika! by the Melsonian Arts Council

Day Thirty: Ryuutama by Atsuhiro Okada

#ReadIndieRPGs – Catching Up

I took a few days away to relax and regroup, get my bad brain back in order. But I am back, and here are videos for Days Ten to Twelve to catch me back up. Day Thirteen resumes our normal one-a-day schedule.

Day Ten

Day Ten is here! As foretold in The Prophecy we are reading from Breakfast Cult by Ettin. Breakfast Cult is played using the FATE Accelerated rules, and each player takes the role of a student at Occultar Academy, Earth’s finest occult school. Hilarity ensues.

If you you would like to play more from Ettin, check out their Itch page and give them a follow on Twitter. I recommend Retrocausality or Oh, Dang! Bigfoot Stole My Car With My Friend’s Birthday Present Inside.

Day Eleven

Day Eleven is here, Ambassadors, and it is time to attend the Solar Convention. In this one-pageRPG by Will Sobel, published by Gallant Knight Games, you will argue and cajole your fellow players to advance your government’s agenda at an intergalactic conference. Good luck, Ambassador! You can keep track of what Will Sobel is up to on Twitter and find more from Gallant Knight Games on DriveThruRPG.

Day Twelve

It’s Day Twelve! Get your bunks squared away and head to the mess hall, we’re having breakfast at Camp Xander, by Raven Norris. You play camp counselors at a camp for monstrous children, with all the hilarity and pathos that ensues. If you would like to find more from Raven Norris you can follow then on Twitter and check out the San Jenaro Co-op compilations. Volume One has another game by Raven, Eggsecutive Powers, and Volume Two contains On Loan and Deathseekers.

Inspired by the recent #ReadtheDMG I wanted to do something similar to celebrate the Indie games I love. Permission is sought from the creator before recording. If you would like to record your own videos reading from an Indie game, please do and use #ReadIndieRPGs so we can find them. If you are not the creator I highly recommend seeking their permission first. And talk to me in the comments about your favourite Indie RPGs, I’d love to hear from you!

#ReadIndieRPGs – Day Seven: Session Zero

Day Seven! We made it through the first week, which means twenty-three more days of Indie goodness to go! Today I read and talk about Session Zero by Meghan Cross, one of the best character story generators I have come across. If you would like to see more excellent games by Meghan Cross please check out her Itch page or follow her on Twitter. I highly recommend The Silent Garden and GayMerGirls, both brilliant games.

Inspired by the recent #ReadtheDMG I wanted to do something similar to celebrate the Indie games I love. Permission is sought from the creator before recording. If you would like to record your own videos reading from an Indie game, please do and use #ReadIndieRPGs so we can find them. If you are not the creator I highly recommend seeking their permission first. And talk to me in the comments about your favourite Indie RPGs, I’d love to hear from you!

#ReadIndieRPGs – Day Five: TTRPG Safety Toolkit

Welcome to Day Five! Today we deviate a bit and read from an indie TTRPG resource, if not an actual game. But since it helps make your games safer and therefore better, it’s on my list!

The TTRPG Safety Toolkit is a resource created by Kienna Shaw  and Lauren Bryant-Monk. The TTRPG Safety Toolkit is a compilation of safety tools that have been designed by members of the tabletop roleplaying games community for use by players and GMs at the table. You can find it at bit.ly/ttrpgsafetytoolkit.

Inspired by the recent #ReadtheDMG I wanted to do something similar to celebrate the Indie games I love. Permission is sought from the creator before recording. If you would like to record your own videos reading from an Indie game, please do and use #ReadIndieRPGs so we can find them. If you are not the creator I highly recommend seeking their permission first. And talk to me in the comments about your favourite Indie RPGs, I’d love to hear from you!

#ReadIndirRPGs – Day Four: Hot off the Press

Day Four dawns! Grab your books and feed your algebra homework to the dog, we’re going back to high school with Margaret Catter’s Hot off the Press! You can check out more of Margaret Catter’s work on their Itch page (https://margaretcatter.itch.io/) or on Twitter (https://twitter.com/mcatterdev). I particularly enjoy “It’s Dangerous to go Alone, Take This” which is a micro RPG using whatever the GM has in their bag or pockets at the time.

Inspired by the recent #ReadtheDMG I wanted to do something similar to celebrate the Indie games I love. Permission is sought from the creator before recording. If you would like to record your own videos reading from an Indie game, please do and use #ReadIndieRPGs so we can find them. If you are not the creator I highly recommend seeking their permission first. And talk to me in the comments about your favourite Indie RPGs, I’d love to hear from you!

#ReadIndieRPGs – Day Three: Succulent Sorcerers

Welcome to Day Three! I was hoping by this point to be celebrating Spring by reading from Diwata ng Manila’s Succulent Sorcerers, but since it’s -20C here on the Canadian Prairies maybe I’m trying to conjure it instead. You can check out more of Diwata ng Manila’s work on their Itch page or on Twitter. Besides other games set in the “succulent” universe, like Bonsai Brawlers and Petal Paladins, you can find excellent games about relationships and mechs.

If you would like to record your own videos reading from an Indie game, please do and use #ReadIndieRPGs so we can find them. If you are not the creator I highly recommend seeking their permission first. And talk to me in the comments about your favourite Indie RPGs, I’d love to hear from you!

#ReadIndieRPG – Day One: #iHunt

I was inspired by the #ReadtheDMG videos that went around last week. I wanted to do something similar to celebrate and encourage folx to read and play Indie RPGs. Once a day, all through April, I will record a short video reading a passage or two from RPGs by some of my favourite creators. If you’d like to join in the fun, please post your videos using the same hashtag so everyone can find you.

In the meantime, please enjoy my NSFW (language warning) video for #iHunt.

From My Table: Heir’s Guardian

I was re-watching the latest episode of Saving Throw Show’s Pirates of Salt Bay today, and was struck to create this wondrous item based on an item Eoj finds, and re-finds, during the episode. I am in no way saying that the doll found on the show is any sort of magical guardian. Of course, the only way to know for sure is to see if you’re on the safe list…

Permission is given to use this item at your table. If you do, let me know how it works for you. Enjoy!

* * *

Heir’s Guardian

Wondrous Item, very rare (requires attunement)

This children’s doll comes most often in the shape of a little girl or some type of stuffed animal, with a pull string in its back. Whatever its shape, once attuned the bearer can record up to five short phrases which the doll will speak whenever the string is pulled. The bearer of the doll can select one child to become the doll’s focus, placing that child under the doll’s protection. The person attuned to the doll can also set a number of people who are considered safe.

If anyone not considered safe comes within fifteen feet of the focus (if the focus is alone), or at a command word from the bearer or the focus, the defensive powers of the guardian activate. The focus is protected as if it was the target of a sanctuary spell (DC 18 Wisdom save). In addition, the doll transforms into a Shield Guardian, treating the focus as if it wore the shield guardian’s control amulet. The doll remains in this form until there is no one unsafe within fifteen feet, or until dispelled by the bearer or the focus. This power can activate once per long or short rest.

The DM and the player are encouraged to discuss the design of the doll and therefore what form the shield guardian takes. If the doll is a standard stuffed bear, for instance, perhaps the shield guardian takes the form of a metallic grizzly bear, and its attacks do slashing instead of bludgeoning damage. You might also consider giving the guardian some form of grapple attack. Feel free to be as creative in the guardian’s design as you like, while keeping it at the same relative power level.