of the Ancients

2

Comments

  • I think what you suggest for the wording of a disclaimer for the OPD adventure is pretty good, BabyToad - I could see a single-sentence disclaimer in that format. I remember that writing the thing was an exercise in extreme space conservation; the text we see was condensed down multiple times, and obviously enough it's still sort of a weird thing for a one page dungeon, leaving a lot of things up to the GM to improvise. Still, a one-sentence disclaimer could fit in without leaving me (speaking as the prospective author) in eternal regret about the end result.
  • "Conservatives" are a type of neo-nazi in my book. They want the same shit. One group is just more socially acceptable because of the fact that every Western nation is a fascist settler-colonialist state.
    The textbook definition of fascism was explicitly engineered to exclude those nations but that doesn't make them not facists because they don't line up perfectly with the colonialist definition that they themselves crafted.
  • I was just thinking about Sandra’s Keep on the Borderlands example and the single bit that struck me the most about it was her deep expectation and hope that the players would engage the adventure to reach her predetermined conclusion.

    hope ≠ expectation
    hope ≠ predetermined conclusion

    A DM has to hold expectations super loosely.

    If I weren’t as dedicated to the, uh, “hygienics” (a word that makes sense in programming contexts (pouring out a cup to flamewars long gone between LISP-1 and LISP-2—yes folks, there were things to argue about even before the “threefold” or whatever) but that word has a rather gruesome connotation in a thread about racism) of sandbox refereeing as I am and am committed to remaining, I obv wouldn’t have had the PCs roll up detailed family histories for the NPC hench and then roll lingering injuries for said hench in the line of battle and then have said hench insist on joining the expedition (one-eyed & on crutches #ablism) in search of her husband and then show the kobolds eating said hench husbands etc.

    Since if I was steering play towards a conclusion, doing all those things would’ve been fucking stupid.

    But that’s not how I play D&D. The husband was also a hench and he got separated from the group and I rolled randomly for what happened to him. The lingering injuries on brave wife a.k.a. badass hired fighter were similarly emergent properties from the ruleset (even though it’s exceptionally unlikely to get a 1 and a 2 result on those rolls; most of that table is like “OK light bruise heals in a day” or w/e).

    And me having that experience is why I think I can stand on pretty solid ground criticizing games with political fucked-up&racist elements, such as FDotHJT, with the aforementioned “entropic argument” that no matter how much you hope for dramatic irony, that’s not how the game works. Once you rev up that Saturday Night Engine it takes you all the way to hell.

  • edited April 2019
    "Conservatives" are a type of neo-nazi in my book. They want the same shit. One group is just more socially acceptable because of the fact that every Western nation is a fascist settler-colonialist state.
    Language, dear [grin].

    Remember, not a politics forum. We leave the good stuff implicit, dancing an intricate dance around the substantial issues of the world. Hinting, veiling, never blatantly revealing...

    We could reconvene somewhere else to chat about politics, though, if you'd like. I'd love to have any of you visit the Finnish "rpg theory" IRC channel, for instance - I always like an opportunity to introduce foreign influences there. The social contract is a bit different in that venue: we often have mighty clashes of the left, the more left and the gayspaceluxuryleft on there. Allowing the political chat does incontroversibly make the short-term awkward sometimes, but given years of massaging we've come to accept each other socially as friends, including those who have the temerity to disagree on politics.
  • Eero, I would kindly ask that you do not speak to me as if we were friends.
  • "Conservatives"[...]
    Well, the OSR aren't all conservatives either.
    (Which, as mentioned, I'm not accusing you of meaning 100% when you said "filled with". I know it's an expression that colloquially means "many of", not "wholly".)
    I know that for sure. I've been on the barricades together with people who also happen to play & make OSR games.

    As far as specifically "Fight On" goes, I don't know for sure. @PaulCzege is in there or someone with the same name as him. I haven't read those issues. I read J-Mal's blog from the archive to the end and I didn't understand that he was conservative until someone told me that years later (so, uh, I still don't have a first hand source for that).

    As you note, it's hard to spot a conservative because they operate in our kyriarchial society where, uh, they hardly stand out. So I just don't know the political affiliation of them.
  • Eero,

    For what it’s worth (not much, probably!), your post about “two conceptions of art” also came across to me as a sort of proverbial dodging of the problem (just as it did to @Aviatrix).

    I’m glad to hear you clarify that in your last post.

    On the upside, I’m now learning about all kinds of bizarre historical things: until this thread, I didn’t know about the highly disturbing history of the term “Hamitic”, for instance. It seems it has been used in at least two different (and very unpleasant) ways. Yikes! Some really twisted history here.

    Is there a reason the Mule imagery/symbolism is also particularly disturbing or problematic? It seems to suggest something, almost subliminally, but I’m not sure if it’s a reference to anything in particular. The Mule character in Asimov’s “Foundation” series comes to mind, but that’s the only thing I can think of.
  • edited April 2019
    What follows from the discussion is how do we make games and formulate game-text that can tackle these topics.

    The role playing nature presents to me such a powerful tool to gain a new perspective on things.
    Since it is a game, and since games emergent properties are inherently chaotic and entropic, of course a bunch of fucked up things happened! When they found kobold baby room they had lost so many of their own to these kobolds that unfortunately, the kobold tribe was not spared.
    I want to somewhat disagree with this statement. I get hung up on the "emergent properties" of games. Complex systems might appear chaotic, but look hard enough and you can find the laws governing them. When you design a game you formulate the "laws" that structure play. I think there is value in designing games that seek to simulate systems of oppression, because as it give us the opportunity experience them first hand and try to understand how they work and perpetuate themselves in the real world.
    For example a game that attempts to replicate the dynamics of the Third Wave Experiment, but with educational material framing the game. Understanding why you killed the baby kobolds, when before playing the module that thought wouldn't even occur to you is powerful, I think.

    Obviously this only works when everybody is aware that your intent is to deconstruct and proper context is provided. Perhaps a hypothetical game would let you first engage the oppressive system and than provide a toolbox to examine it afterwards.

    PS: Hot damn, this thread is moving at lighting speed.
  • Eero, I would kindly ask that you do not speak to me as if we were friends.
    Roger that, Emma. I'm sorry for the familiarity.

    But you really do need to knock it off with the flagrant agitprop, or we need to get some sort of revision on the engagement rules here. While you have said nothing that I fundamentally disagree with personally, I am worried that your words will make others with different political convictions feel provoked, leading to counter-arguments and ultimately, bad zen. The board culture expects us to be better than to just ignore the standards of behavior like that.

    Remember: Story Games is explicitly a casual hobby board. I think that this is a great venue for, you know, talking about our experiences and opinions about roleplaying, but it would be weird if we just shrugged at politicizing the board like that. At least do the courtesy of asking the others whether it's cool to do a politics thread.
  • Jason Morningstar's Winterhorn does a good job of doing the thing of allowing players to engage with oppressive systems to better understand them. It's a larp where the players play as members of a government agency working to destabilize and destroy a revolutionary group. It's designed explicitly with the intent of educating organizers on the tactics that the government will use against them - how to identify them, and how when possible to work against them.
  • CW racist imagery
    Is there a reason the Mule imagery/symbolism is also particularly disturbing or problematic?
    Idk, maybe this is my own racist thoughts-and-or-culture being reflected back at me but I associated it with, well, the topic in the title of the game. Half horse half donkey.

    Which, obv, is perfectly innocuous in another context (I'm not gonna remove "mule" from the equipment lists in 5e where it refers to the service animal animal rights can of worms other thread please) but in this context is pretty iffy. Obv the association with a subset of humanity being affected by "can command beasts", and the fucked up term used for that subset, is the bigger issue.
  • Jason Morningstar's Winterhorn does a good job of doing the thing of allowing players to engage with oppressive systems to better understand them. It's a larp where the players play as members of a government agency working to destabilize and destroy a revolutionary group. It's designed explicitly with the intent of educating organizers on the tactics that the government will use against them - how to identify them, and how when possible to work against them.
    Having played a lot of these larps (not that one specifically), IME it sometimes works great and sometimes backfires. That's my anecdata though. Obv the scene is thriving rn so maybe they're doing something right that I'm missing. I've seen it sometimes become misery tourism.

    Your description of Winterhorn specifically (I wasn't familiar with it, sorry @Jason_Morningstar), does make it seem really good though. So maybe my "political games can't work" theory is incorrect. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.
  • Is there a reason the Mule imagery/symbolism is also particularly disturbing or problematic? It seems to suggest something, almost subliminally, but I’m not sure if it’s a reference to anything in particular. The Mule character in Asimov’s “Foundation” series comes to mind, but that’s the only thing I can think of.
    Asimov's Mule was what I was thinking of myself. While stocking the dungeon I decided to have a big elephant type special monster, and a smaller, more intelligent and sneaky sort. I had the idea of giving the latter an animal magnetism so they could have dangerous influence over the dungeon denizens. Then it occurred to me that it'd be funny to refer to another similar character in a well-known novel - funny because this Mule is literally half donkey, as befits the dungeon theme.

    I'm not myself aware of the mule in this context implying anything particularly fascist. It is a tragic character, though, for the same reason Asimov's Mule is: the Mule is a sterile individual ruling a mountain ridden by a divine curse of fertility, which I imagine might feature in its particular interactions with adventurers.

    The detail about its preternatural influence affecting certain humans but not others was intended as a chilling sort of existential horror detail... I think I wrote about that earlier, in fact. Take that as you may.
  • BabyToad♥

    I get hung up on the “emergent properties” of games. Complex systems might appear chaotic

    With word “chaotic” I didn’t mean pure noise. I did mean inherently “unpredicted”, if “unpredictable” is overstating it.

    but look hard enough and you can find the laws governing them.

    Oh, I meant good games!

    Understanding why you killed the baby kobolds, when before playing the module that thought wouldn’t even occur to you is powerful, I think.

    (I personally did not kill them; I was the DM.)
    It’s not worthless. We did also have a fruitful discussion about it afterwards.

    However, the point was that if you are trying to tell a particular story or a particular position, I don’t know of a way to do that in a game without the risk of you saying the opposite of what you wanted to say.

    Reading Human Acts rn and she threads the line so carefully telling her story.

    Not sure that would’ve helped been by a big helping of dice.

    “ACKS, the story of how mercantile economy is the perfect system and anyone can become king”→ Whoops turns out it’s a blasted hellscape of dying in the mud for 2 silver pieces

    “KotB, the story of how the indigenous population overthrew the colonial forces with the help of some wise adventurers who could help them get inside the keep” → Whoops, turns out kobold mamas give 5 xp each

    with educational material framing the game

    In other words, “tell, don’t game”…?

  • edited April 2019
    Sorry for being patronizing, BabyToad
    Just not that into super structured & curated experiences but that doesn't mean those experiences can't be good games; it's just, hmm… another definition of good game than I was working with. Uh... I guess I also fell into the "polysemy trap" rn. Replying to a post using one definition with an answer assuming another definition.

    Again, I apologize.
  • I feel like if you're trying to portray a fucked up world without being offensive and making people think you're racist, you'd probably be best off not using words like "hamitic" and "miscegenation" in your authorial perspective stuff. If you want to have characters using it in fiction in the book or something, that's generally fine, but I don't think it should be in mechanics.
    This post is so good
  • edited April 2019
    I've ran my fair share of racist (well... intended to be anti-racist) scenarios or games most of which backfired or even when they did work they ultimately never transcended exploitation&appropriation. (I've also pulled a plug on a few, like a Lovecraftesque game that were heading towards a precipice of "I don't think I can do this material well.")
    So I can't really throw stones re MotA and FDotHJT.

    That said, you (Eero) dug your hole deeper when my first estimation was "he is trying to unmask the under-rug-sweeping of historal atrocities" and my current is "he thinks he can use R&FU terms because he's Above It All™" and the next stop along this train of thought is probably going to be something like "he deliberately wants to cater to the edgy audience".

    (Edit: Initially had the word "provocative" in there for these terms which doesn't get across my feeling about them as accurately as R&FU does.)
  • Didn't he say pretty directly earlier in the thread that he's marketing to the edgy crowd? I might be misinterpreting, but I thought I remembered something where he describes himself as "an edgy artist on the cutting edge" or something similar. I'm too tired right now to find the exact quote. It's on the first page somewhere.
  • I'm having the old the old "someone is really really nice, to me, but me know that they're not great to my other friends" problem. [in this case, "other friends" = people experiencing racist oppression & alienation.] Also the whole "I grew up in a kyriarchy and internalized it so I'm automatically cutting white dudes more slack" problem.

    I guess all positions have been pretty much hashed out at this point and we're at the "repeating ourselves stage" or at least I think I am. So time to move to resolutions. #DramaSystem

    I.e. where do we go from here?

    I'm gonna take a break from S-G. As I had already decided. Eero can do what he wants and you guys can do what you want with him. Keep him around as cozy ol' uncle Eero or ban him or w/e.

    To be clear, he wasn't why I need to take a break. My spending all day & all night writing stuff on here is the reason. My days are pretty lonely and I'm like an addict to this form of social interaction and I neglect real work, and real prep for my own actual play, in favor of writing like simulations of 40 skeletons fighting a character in Paul's house rules or w/e.
    Which is fun and I really enjoy doing it but then my health takes a toll.

    My only personal obstacle to co-existing with Eero, who I get along fine with, is feeling guilty over the possibility of his presence being a problem for other groups whose presence I would value highly on here. I don't want to undersell that problem though.

    I went back from my break to this thread specifically, because of reasons outlined in the "insular" thread. I felt like I had been selfish & not been a good ally to the members other marginalized groups who feel unwelcome in the S-G&OSR community. But I can't do much better than this. Maybe I dug my own hole a lot deeper too.

    I'm gonna have notifications off on this thread, and other threads&mentions, except for messages. Or email me or add me on XMPP (same address as my email address).
    But, you know... sparingly. I need some time to live too

    AML

    Cross "save draft"–ing with Emma, who wrote:
    Didn't he say pretty directly earlier in the thread that he's marketing to the edgy crowd?
    I was hoping he was sarcastic in saying that.
    Not that I appreciate that kinda jokes, if it was sarcastic, but it'd be less bad than if it's the actual reality.

  • I did not say that I market to the edgy crowd, that's just... please don't twist around what I wrote, it's not that difficult to read back. Do a word search for "edgy" on the page, this is what I find:
    Yeah, that's how I roll sometimes. Pretty awkward, huh? I myself think that I'm not a moral reprobate but more of an edgy artist shedding light on uncomfortable truths, but you're not the only one to think otherwise.
    That was in reply to Sandra's initial musings about the adventure. It was also not intended to be read literally, but as a more of a humorous gesture towards how I view my writing. To wit, that I am aware that it's bold, but that it's that way because I'm trying to reach the reader/player by transcending platitudes, and not because I imagine racist things for my own entertainment. There's nothing about marketing to anybody in there.

    I mean, use a bit of common sense, will you? These are not "products" we're looking at here. One is a contest entry to an informal concept art competition, and the other's an unpublished adventure module I've shared with a few friends. I don't publish D&D stuff, or at least haven't so far. Who am I even marketing to here? What am I marketing? The only reason we're having this discussion is that I specifically asked Sandra to give more expansive feedback on something she stumbled on by accident.
  • I'm unsure of the purpose of this thread. @Eero_Tuovinen are you looking for public feedback on this piece?
  • I have thoughts, but I'm not sure if more perspective on the topic is desired here.
  • The original purpose was (I think, we sort of started this thread together) for Sandra to tell me her thoughts, but yeah, we've been going over other people's reactions as well. So yes, shoot away - I'm interested in what you think, and I promise to not take it badly if you find the adventures under consideration flawed.
  • In short, I think having a dungeon focused on a random animal hybrid table is a neat idea.

    The title and above-mentioned terminology are off-putting to me in the extreme. It's hard for me to imagine making a point with them that would outweigh the offense it might cause to reasonable people familiar with the terms.

    I agree with @EmmatheExcrucian's observation that Winterhorn does a very good job of explaining in the text and on the site it's intentions in dealing in the themes it does. I think a note of thematic guidance to the GM would be worthwhile.

    The measurable "breeding" bonus similar seems like it might lend itself to objectionable content and some clarity around the purpose of introducing these themes would be appreciated. I think some notes about how this might fit in a larger setting (Is this viewed by some as a nightmarish experiment by a power-mad deity?) could also be useful.
  • edited April 2019
    Thank you for your feedback. Again, the following is not intended as a defense of the piece; I'll just reflect on your comments and try to shed light on the thought process that led to the work as shown. Not only is this an interesting topic, but it's also a bit of a habit - I feel like ignoring a studio critique altogether is a bit rude, as if I was implying that I didn't get anything from it.

    (If any of you feel that I am being rude by replying to your observations, please let me know. It's not an attempt to shout you silent or counter what you say.)

    I agree that it doesn't seem like the title of "Miscegenation" and some of the specific details have the desired artistic impact on this impromptu test reader crew. My hoped-for reaction was more along the lines of having the highly specific terminology cause a mental association with modern-era Protestantism of the more fundamentalist bend, which in context would inspire the reader to view it as a horror piece: it posits a D&D setting where not only is the vilest sort of Christianity at least in competition for objective reality (it's in striking distance enough that something resembling its creation mythology, angels and race mythology is in play), but the divine plan is also not nearly as comprehensible and tidy as the Books of Moses present it; it is being contested by monstrous will, and quite successfully at that. The lesser details in the adventure that haven't been discussed here are supposed to inspire the reader-GM to put together their own take on the specific cosmology, but to me it all has a rather creepy vibe, what with the crude practicality of the breeding enchantment involved in repopulating the Earth (no blind clocksmith, this God - or clocksmith of any kind), and the way that Noah's expedition has apparently met with something very near to a disastrous failure due to demonic influence that caused the ark to become, well, the welcoming place we see in the text.

    In short, it's supposed to be cosmic horror that, regardless of the specific ideological background or alignment that a character might have (I've been envisioning an European archeological expedition in the 19th century, in the midst of the Egyptology craze, myself), will challenge their worldview when they see a foundational myth of Christianity proved simultaneously real and horrifying. This is of course only relevant for a campaign that works with this sort of thing - not nearly all D&D campaigns are horror games set in a historical milieu, obviously - but then that's the nature of the One Page Dungeon: you do the thing you do, and it's up to the reader to apply it to their own campaign. It'd be easy enough to change the superficial details and insert the ark in Greyhawk or wherever.

    But that's what I was hoping to evoke when writing it the way I did. What we seem to get here is instead a pretty consistent rejection of the entire piece; not a horror-story rejection of the reality it presents, but a real physical rejection of the text itself due to how it is perceived to interface with the social reality of the hobby scene. So yeah, I don't think that's exactly ideal either, if somebody was under that impression. I might not be skilled enough to do the piece I envisioned, because it makes sense in my head, but the rubber doesn't hit the road quite in the way I'd have liked.
    The measurable "breeding" bonus similar seems like it might lend itself to objectionable content and some clarity around the purpose of introducing these themes would be appreciated. I think some notes about how this might fit in a larger setting (Is this viewed by some as a nightmarish experiment by a power-mad deity?) could also be useful.
    I agree on that 100%, the breeding bonus has potential to be creepy as fuck in the right (wrong) circumstances; the divine will probably didn't intend it to work the way it did here. Just part of me trying to make the world a sweeter place, by which I mean, trying to make the best of the disturbing premise. (It goes without saying that not only shouldn't you cross your group's lines with that thing, you probably shouldn't play this kind of adventure at all if the group doesn't have a firm overall handle on playing horror games. Horror games are an inherently risky enterprise that requires a responsible approach, you can't just throw some disgusting stuff into the game as surprise and expect that to go well.)

    And yeah, I imagine that the reception of the piece could be different if it had more advice and other packaging surrounding it; we discussed the possibilities earlier, I probably could have included about a sentence of warning context in that OPD. Or, a larger treatment (the adventure itself has the scope of a full module, so it could be written out to 20-30 pages if desired) would make space for a full essay on the philosophy and suggested use of the adventure. As I mentioned earlier in the thread, I've been spitballing an entire campaign based in the setting presented in this adventure, so it's not like I haven't thought about the presentation.

    All in all, if I'm allowed a conclusion at this point in the thread, I'd like to say that the old school D&D adventure can be rather tricky thing when it comes to touchy subject matter; you're supposed to write your material in a clear, unambiguous format, without an excess of flowery prose. The OPD contest itself is a kind of celebration of the fact that the regimented short-hand combined with the game's procedures produces an amazing amount of content at the actual table, as the DM parses the sparse adventure notes into the full experience.

    However, here we see a side effect of how that sparse format interacts with novel and ambitious subject matter. Not very well, it seems. I am inclined to work this out by adding more encapsulating, preparatory material into the given adventure, as has been suggested; explain the theming and intent of the piece in greater length. (This as opposed to writing the reference text itself in a more lengthy way; that just wouldn't work for the way these texts are used at the table. An overall introduction that explains the thing seems like a better approach in every way.)
  • edited April 2019
    This is all very useful context for me, thanks!

    I like the idea of using more familiar Western mythology as a source of Cosmic Horror (rather than some kind of foreign "other" in the racist tradition of Lovecraft). As you said, the format of an "old school D&D adventure" make some of your intended nuance very difficult to see in the text itself.

    I think the context you've suggested adding to the text would be an improvement.

  • I agree that it doesn't seem like the title of "Miscegenation" and some of the specific details have the desired artistic impact on this impromptu test reader crew. My hoped-for reaction was more along the lines of having the highly specific terminology cause a mental association with modern-era Protestantism of the more fundamentalist bend, which in context would inspire the reader to view it as a horror piece: it posits a D&D setting where not only is the vilest sort of Christianity at least in competition for objective reality (it's in striking distance enough that something resembling its creation mythology, angels and race mythology is in play), but the divine plan is also not nearly as comprehensible and tidy as the Books of Moses present it; it is being contested by monstrous will, and quite successfully at that. The lesser details in the adventure that haven't been discussed here are supposed to inspire the reader-GM to put together their own take on the specific cosmology, but to me it all has a rather creepy vibe, what with the crude practicality of the breeding enchantment involved in repopulating the Earth (no blind clocksmith, this God - or clocksmith of any kind), and the way that Noah's expedition has apparently met with something very near to a disastrous failure due to demonic influence that caused the ark to become, well, the welcoming place we see in the text.

    In short, it's supposed to be cosmic horror that, regardless of the specific ideological background or alignment that a character might have (I've been envisioning an European archeological expedition in the 19th century, in the midst of the Egyptology craze, myself), will challenge their worldview when they see a foundational myth of Christianity proved simultaneously real and horrifying. This is of course only relevant for a campaign that works with this sort of thing - not nearly all D&D campaigns are horror games set in a historical milieu, obviously - but then that's the nature of the One Page Dungeon: you do the thing you do, and it's up to the reader to apply it to their own campaign. It'd be easy enough to change the superficial details and insert the ark in Greyhawk or wherever.

    But that's what I was hoping to evoke when writing it the way I did. What we seem to get here is instead a pretty consistent rejection of the entire piece; not a horror-story rejection of the reality it presents, but a real physical rejection of the text itself due to how it is perceived to interface with the social reality of the hobby scene. So yeah, I don't think that's exactly ideal either, if somebody was under that impression. I might not be skilled enough to do the piece I envisioned, because it makes sense in my head, but the rubber doesn't hit the road quite in the way I'd have liked.
    YES! I got that, and loved it. It was very intelligently done! Cross-breeding, the Mule (a real world crossbreed and a reference to the genetic anomaly in the Foundation trilogy), Nephilim and their cross-bred offspring (or how you referenced to them as antediluvian creatures, meaning they exsisted pre-flood)

    Then again, I’m an evangelical/pentecostal and have had the (un)fortunate chance to be exposed to these theories by people who believe in it. It’s the circle I used to move in (without actually agreeing to the reasoning, but I got exposed to it), and have contacts in still. Especially the more twisted Hamite phrasing and reasoning.

    Fortunately the first time I read that argument was in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, where a slaver uses that argument to justify his behavior to a priest, but the young priest rebutting with the argument that Christ thaught us to love our neighbour. (I think that’s the gist of the scene in the book, but it’s been a while)

    Sadly I’ve been GM’ed by people who thought this way, which makes me considerate/sympathetic of/to Sandra’s plight that even when an adventure is meant to evoke a certain reaction or pose a certain moral quandry it’s all up to the group wether it work or not, or wether even it is seen as bad or good, and the feelings it brings along. But it also teaches a person, about humanity, about people having different opinions/interpretations ... but it can sure suck.

    But yeah, I saw it, got it, and loved it. I didn’t write it out because I thought it didn’t fit the actual ongoing discussion and would be out of place. I was considering PM-ing you about it, but in the end hadn’t decided on it yet.

  • edited April 2019
    Thanks, Belgian - it's nice to hear that the adventure resonated with someone. I've shown it to my own D&D circles, of course, but it didn't generate much interest at the time, probably because of how densely written it is and how it doesn't have a map. The concept of this majestic (in the horrifying sense) setting hasn't entirely left me since then, so I've doodled out some further wickedness for it. It does somewhat well in our annual "what to play next" races, so perhaps I'll get to expose its lively awfulness to the group here some day. In addition to the horrifying implications of the Bible the setting involves plenty of real history as a backdrop, theosophy and gnosticism for further mystical fodder, snake-men (in the Lovecraftian and/or conspiracy theory sense) and funding expensive expeditions to far-away places by rubbing shoulders with the cream of European society.

    Anyway, I decided to try my hand at blunting the worst excesses people have been pointing out in the adventure, just to put the critique posited here to action. I found the original layout file for it, so it wasn't that difficult to do changes. Admittedly the layout is even more crowded and ugly now, but it already was an exercise in fitting a mass of text on one page, so what's some more margin abuse and arbitrary text size changes.

    Two of All Flesh

    The changes are minor, but I changed the name to what Sandra suggested earlier (as I mentioned, I think that it fits the piece well - I don't think that it's any worse, artistically speaking) and added a disclaimer at the beginning that is hopefully compact yet effective in suggesting the intended mindset to the reader. Obviously much more could be done if this was expanded to just two pages, but I guess we all have a pretty good idea of how that'd go - here's what can be done with the space available, which may or may not be enough to avoid offense.

    I did not discard the "Hamitic" yet, nor do anything to the breeding bonus, as I felt that both are advantageous to the big picture of the piece. Particularly concerning the former, there are few alternatives that would similarly inspire the reader to go look it up, and thus hopefully get hold of a strand of historical fucked-uppedness that I think people could stand to know of, particularly those who don't already know how very, very wicked ideas were peddled as serious spirituality before universal human rights became a thing ideologically. I also think that the challenge that kind of magic effect description posits is a powerful moment for a D&D campaign: how do you interpret that, and what does it do to the campaign? How do the various player characters react? How do you react to an uncomfortable challenge of your own character's humanity?

    (In case you're not getting hold of my train of thought here about the Hamitic thing, consider this: do you think that a human being's value as a person depends on their fitting the spiritual definition of "man" that some ancient religion provides, or do you think that their value stems from who they actually are? Arguably the most humane thing a D&D party discovering that Hamitic humans are not "magically human" as per their experiences at this dungeon is to shrug at the weirdness, as the phenomenon surely does nothing to their own moral framework. Only a man beholden to the God of Abraham, who chooses to take the Mule as a proof of something wicked, will decide otherwise.)

    If any of you have anything further to add, critique of this specific work or thoughts on the general subject matter, please go on; no need to take this as a final conclusion.
  • Cool adventures! They would both fit neatly into my 11th century setting which features both east asia and the Nephilim of the Bible prominently. I'm sad to see Sandra's hand wringing change the name. Miscegenation of the Ancients is edgy and outstanding, Two of One Flesh is generic and nondescript.
  • "Two of All Flesh" is properly chilling if you recognize it as a Bible quote, I think. It screams "bio-horror ahead" as all use of the word "flesh" tends to do in a certain context, so it's a pretty clear sign that what's up ahead is fucked up Bible stuff. I could be wrong (I'm not a scholar of English-language bibles), but it sort of seems pretty exclusive to the King James Bible, too - a quick search finds more let's say modern phrasings pop up in the English-language Internet.

    (One of the intellectual charm points of American Christian fundamentalism is the special respect accorded to old bible translations. The big cheese on that block is the King James Bible, a renaissance era translation that is, as I understand it, deprecated by more mainstream sects for its inaccuracies and outdated language, while revered as the only divinely inspired translation in some other circles. It's an oldie horror shorthand to refer to KJB as a sign of fundamentalism being afoot.)

    In case it hasn't become apparent, I'm something of a sucker for high-brow writing; I tend to enjoy obscure intertextualism and not explaining every little thing with the democratic mean in mind. While it's probably true that many people's minds won't immediately jump from "Two of All Flesh" to Noah's ark, I still enjoy it as an obscure reference myself. Those who get it get it, and the rest will get clued in by reading the adventure text, presumably.

    That being said, this is an old thing and I haven't gotten around to doing anything further with it, so it doesn't really matter much what its name is - I don't have any imminent plans to publish or market this adventure under any title. I can't change the past, so while I can make a new PDF with a new title, it does nothing for the existence of the original - for good or ill, whatever one may think. It is what it is.
  • edited April 2019
    I really like the idea of forming a new (as far as I am aware!) genre of horror based on biblical stories, as you do here with the Ark. (I hope you are aware, by the way, that there is now a “full-scale replica” of the Ark in USA, which you can visit as part of the Creation Museum... pretty wild stuff! It makes me think that could be used as an adventure hook for a more modern kind of adventure: modern-day humans accidentally replicate the magical/divine enchantment effects of the original Ark and unwittingly create some terrible effects on the visiting population...)

    I really enjoyed your notes on the adventure, here in this thread. Lots of food for thought! More so than the adventure itself, at least for me.
  • I like the new name a lot.

  • (One of the intellectual charm points of American Christian fundamentalism is the special respect accorded to old bible translations. The big cheese on that block is the King James Bible, a renaissance era translation that is, as I understand it, deprecated by more mainstream sects for its inaccuracies and outdated language, while revered as the only divinely inspired translation in some other circles. It's an oldie horror shorthand to refer to KJB as a sign of fundamentalism being afoot.)
    *Pushes up imaginary glasses* Well, actually, it’s the KJV, which stands for the King James Version! Also, if you wanna really go hardcore, you will shrug off the KJV for the AV, which is the Authorized Version, which is basically the same, but predates it sligtly, if I recall correctly.

  • edited May 2019
    I am a bible nerd, I have tons of translations, it's like one of my most read books. Three of those nine name suggestions were from it; the last was from Dylan's Hard Rain.
    I like the idea of using more familiar Western mythology as a source of Cosmic Horror
    I've had some pretty horrible & accidentally super racist failures while experimenting with these kinda tropes; well-intented but ultimately fucked up and ultimately all made from a position of privilege that ended up exploitative of a colonial divide that our society still suffers from; especially marginalized groups.

    Can’t say I'm happy about the adventure even after April 26 changes. It still seems to have an audience of white people, right?

    That said, I'm not gonna be great help in fixing this problem. I'm just not.

    Enlisting someone like me, who has made these kinds of mistakes herself (even though I've tried to learn from them) is maybe not the best idea compared to someone who has more nuanced insight into experiencing racialization and othering around these themes.
  • ESV and ASV both also use that phrase. It's Genesis 7:15.
  • edited May 2019
    Cosmic Horror is one of those genres that can't be decolonized because of how deeply everything about the genre's themes and concept is founded in racism (and misogyny, homophobia, etc, etc). The genre's canon is all so deeply rooted in those themes, especially in pseudo-science and specific texts related to those themes that generally aren't well remembered today, so even by people wanting to not be racist, a lot of the awful shit gets propagated in the genre to the point where at this point, making a "cosmic horror" story that isn't fucked up, colonialist nonsense would require making something so drastically far from the genre's canon and definition that no one would be able to recognize it as cosmic horror without being told that that's what it's meant to be.
    It's a genre that needs to just go the fuck away forever.
    Plus, there's the inherent question in trying to "fix" cosmic horror (and other such similar genres) of why do you want this? Why are you so attached to this genre based in horrible bigot shit that you want to try to somehow metamorphose the horrible bigot shit into something else? Why is this the genre you want to "salvage" (even assuming that's possible, which I would say it definitely isn't)? Why is this the genre you care so deeply about that you're hitching yourself to its train in an attempt to "redeem" it? It really calls into question whether you're acting in good faith or not - whether you actually want to see things get better, or whether you just want to write the racist hellshow genre but don't want to be criticized for it by people actually invested in breaking down colonialism and trying to mend the colossal harm it's done to so many communities.
  • This is my fave Lovecraft story.

    Cosmic horror resonates because it was made on the cusp of modernism.

    But yes, untangling the interesting tropes (horror "of the gaps", so to speak) from racist or ablist (sanity trope) is not easy and maybe not worth it.
  • To address this part specifically:
    It really calls into question whether you're acting in good faith or not - whether you actually want to see things get better, or whether you just want to write the racist hellshow genre but don't want to be criticized for it by people actually invested in breaking down colonialism and trying to mend the colossal harm it's done to so many communities.
    Getting blasted from both sides rn; Krippler calling me a handwringer (which, well, "showing concern" then yes, I guess I do hit that trope pretty spot on. I've argued for why, though, in this case) and you wondering if I'm acting in bad faith.

    Well, I started this thread for the purpose of such criticism, not to dodge it. I called it a fucked up game. I stated that I believe that these tropes can't be subverted properly or consistently in games. I recommended steering clear of those tropes because of that. Can I do more? Sure. But. It's a start.
  • Speaking of the literary theory of cosmic horror, I'd suggest that it's not merely the historical genre of Lovecraft etc. that is born of privilege; it seems to me that the creative agenda inherent to horror literature is privileged, as it may be something of a psychological luxury good that only comes into play after more basic needs have been met. The psychological need that horror literature in general addresses is existential desire to poke, reveal and examine the under-utilized stress factors of your own psychology. My understanding is that horror literature is generally favoured by people whose lives are otherwise generally humdrum, and that it's not usual for people with serious real-life problems to seek for distressing entertainment like that. A luxury good for privileged people, yes?

    If that seems like a legit analysis of the nature of horror literature, then it's not just that historical horror literature has been authored by bad people with bad ideas about the world; the very definition of what makes for "good" horror literature is in conflict with the ideal of egalitarian, accessible art: it is the very same artistic qualities that distress some and titillate others, depending on their degree of psychological detachment ultimately arising out of social privilege. The privileged people are the ones who can afford to distress themselves for fun, just like they are the ones who can afford to risk their limbs by going rock-climbing for fun. People do wacky stuff to themselves out of boredom when all the life's base necessities have been fulfilled.
  • edited May 2019
    Right; but my orig issue with the text is this: Peeps are gonna read this adventure (or, worse, accidentally gaming table) and feel unwelcome/excluded. That's just speculation on my part from reading Edward Saïd, Frantz Fanon and other.

    Have I argued against other types of privileged horror games in the past such as heterosexist horror, cissexist horror, ageist horror, ablist horror? Yes… I have!

    I also have a hard time with the depictions of Chinese Americans in the Fiasco playset "Boomtown". I get that it's representation and that I'm in the minority in saying bad representation is even worse than no representation / erasure (which also is bad). Although the tide might be changing on that. On [other site #3] they used to be really hot on putting in cheap charicatures of other cultures in the name of representation but I don't think that's gotten any widespread traction.
  • I'm not tryna put myself up as some un-glass-housable perfect exemplar. We're here to learn & do better
  • edited May 2019
    Eero, if you can read Swedish (I know, I know, "Mie ossoon neljää kieltä. Suomee ja Savvoo, hilijaa ja kovvoo") Mattias Fyhr has a pretty good Lovecraft book out, Död men drömmande.
  • Yes, of course - I didn't intend to argue that this one particular adventure is OK in comparison to other horrendous art. Just putting to words how the intersection of social privilege and horror literature seems to me: horror is inherently, as a matter of creative agenda, middle-class existentialist hand-wringing, current case included. It's something people with the luxury of self-doubt engage in. Same as many other sophisticated cultural expressions that you simply won't find among the disenfranchised, it has a luxurious purpose. The same observations goes for say wargaming, that's also something that simply isn't relevant to non-jaded people.

    So yeah, I think it's perfectly logical for you to take a stand against a wide variety of horror literature. I won't say that there isn't something that gets lumped in as "horror" that doesn't suffer from this fundamental deficit in accessibility, but I suspect that a closer read wouldn't characterize that work as horror after all. Like I don't know, Michael Jackson's Thriller music video - it may not be privileged (any more than music videos in general are, anyway), but it certainly isn't horror despite the horror fantasy accoutrements.
    Right; but my orig issue with the text is this: Peeps are gonna read this adventure (or, worse, accidentally gaming table) and feel unwelcome/excluded. That's just speculation on my part from reading Edward Saïd, Frantz Fanon and other.
    Yeah, I got that. It makes sense to me that this could happen.
  • So yeah, I think it's perfectly logical for you to take a stand against a wide variety of horror literature.
    Well, my position specifically was about adapting horror literature techniques into gaming.
    Again, I think Han Kang's Human Acts is a great novel for example. That I would not want to try to play as a game (even though those Jeep jerks would probably jump on a chance to try it). :bawling:

  • Right; but my orig issue with the text is this: Peeps are gonna read this adventure (or, worse, accidentally gaming table) and feel unwelcome/excluded.
    Sure, that’s true. But then there is the question who’s responability this is. The author, writing it with a specific audience in mind, or the GM, choosing the adventure for the table? Right?

    Is it, as a writer/creator, possible to keep everyone, literally everyone, in mind when creating something? I mean, you could say the same about kids accidentally reading a horror story/game or viewing a horror film. Is that the fault of the producer, or of whoever is actually responsible for the kid? Right?

    It might not be possible to offend no-one. And while you can read an adventure (in this case) and not agree/be offended by it’s content, it’s just an adventure, you can choose something else. Also, it is one (1) adventure (well, in this case, two), which is hardly a solid basis to judge a person on.

    I have quite a few friends which have at times offended me, and I them. But we are still friends. Rarely has someone offended me in such a capacity that I could not trust them at all anymore or felt so unsafe with them as to break off the friendship.

    Anyway, I’m in danger of starting to ramble and derail my own answer. So, I’m gonna stop here.

  • But doesn't exclusiveness stain the local hobby subculture even if it's not you reading or playing some particular material? I could see people feeling unwelcome and excluded if they saw people playing an offensive game at a convention, for example, or advertising it for sale; the community is implicitly supporting the offensive thing by tolerating it. If the goal is creating an inoffensive environment, then I suspect that it's not enough to say that everybody's responsible for choosing what they read or play. The community is responsible for its own image, and if that image includes offensive elements, then it's not an inclusive one.

    Think of it this way: we probably wouldn't consider it a sufficient safety interval if a children's carneval said that it's OK to include adult exhibits or programming as long as it's clearly marked as such. The idea that this entire edifice, this place or event, is "for children" would not be true if some parts of it were clearly not. It would at most be "for everybody", which is a different thing.

    I won't claim to be an expert on this, but it seems intuitive to me that a safe place standard of community development requires more than self-selecting out of the offensive and distressing elements - it requires actually not having inappropriate elements at all. For the community to be factually harmonious instead of merely value-pluralistic, it has to do more than just tolerate offensiveness.
  • Good analogy. It is true.

    Permit me to build on that analogy. Suppose there is a fair/carnaval in town, marketed for everyone, children included. It is safe, attention and care has been had in making sure that all attractions were child safe. The people running each attraction also behave accordingly. Now let’s say someone finds out that the person running the ring tossing stand has a second job as a stripper. Should she be cast out of the carnaval? Should she be shunned for that? Or called out on it?

    It feels like the situation for this is similar, right? You made an adventure outside of the S-G forums/community. Someone found it. You’re getting slack for it. I’ve even read a veiled suggestion of banning. This reaction, to me, seems kind of extreme.

    Now, while I’m writing this, I feel that the analogy isn’t completely accurate, since we seem to be switching in talking about communities. On the one hand you have the S-G forum community, but on the other hand you have the RP community at large. And they are more interwoven than a fair and a stripperclub. I think it would be more like if parents found out their kids had a teacher that was also a sex-worker on the side, or something like that. Political/religious views about sex-workers aside (that’s another can of worms) a lot of parents would abject to that, because they are concerned about the values they may pass on.

    Add to that that your work, as I understand it, still doesn’t fit the analogy completely, since it’s intent is to shed light on the questionable comdemnable material it presents in a manner as to show it’s bad side and make people think. Like Banksy shredding his own auctioned print and letting the art world’s reaction speak for itself in it’s absurdity.

    Now, if you’d have written a game unironically promoting racism, then I’d understand all the offence taken. I’d join it too.

    I think that if we want to be an inclusive community, we should encourage people to write from their own position (representation). Not silence the few that try to shed a light on it, but make a choir of different voices singing the same song. The song would be, repsect, tolerance, freedom, or something like that, right? Let’s find people with a different perspective from their experiences and cultures, rather than send our own people away. Let’s do this together.

    It’s like with my job. I teach protestant religion. The majority of teachers is ethnically European. The majority of students is ethnically African (mainly Congo). (you can choose which religion you are thaught in Belgian Public Schools) I would love, LOVE, for them to have people teaching them with a cultural background that is similar. Since they are not there (yet) there’s nothing to do for me than to teach, and encourage the kids to maybe also teach when they grow up.

    The same I think would go for the hobby. Let’s try to do our best with what we have, and encourage others to join doing their best with what they have. Right? I would love for someone from a post-colonial country (like, say Congo) to write a game adressing these issues. But since their isn’t, Eero’s game is the only thing I’ve got that kind of works in dealing with our problematic history.

    We can only work with what we’ve got.

    Anyway, writing too much again, using too many analogies, trying to make too many points at once. Gonna stop here. I’m ready to be schooled, but so far I’m not convinced that the reaction was appropriate in severity.
  • Anyway, writing too much again, using too many analogies, trying to make too many points at once. Gonna stop here. I’m ready to be schooled, but so far I’m not convinced that the reaction was appropriate in severity.
    I think that this is a pretty comfortable severity, actually. I wouldn't nit-pick like this - I'm in general agreement with you in the philosophical big picture, myself - but I fear that Sandra's feeling stressed enough about this even without others second-guessing her choice to bring this up. The least I can do is to make it perfectly clear that I'm fine with having this discussion, and there is no social transgression in honest critique.

    I mean, if we were to speculate about ways to discuss a problematic rpg work, what would it even look like to be more proper and polite? This is looking pretty darn good for a public review. I guess Sandra could have given me some feedback in private instead, but then we couldn't have other people's viewpoints on it, and others couldn't benefit from thinking about this important and interesting issue.

    The important thing to remember in receiving feedback as an artist, I feel, is that other people having strong reactions or strident ideological objections is not wrong per se - they're not doing anything wrong by telling me what my work makes them think and feel. I think that it's not the ideal response to a requested feedback to question the justification of the feedback; it is what it is, assuming it's honest - and why wouldn't it be here, the possibility that you guys are just trolling me isn't even on the radar.
  • Okay. With that I can completely agree.

    Also, to any other, my apologies if I have come across rather strong at times. I’ve been wondering if I seemed agressive. It has not been my intention. I was concerned with being clear and comprehendible. I hope I haven’t caused any more stress to people than needed.
  • The author, writing it with a specific audience in mind, or the GM, choosing the adventure for the table? Right?

    Author ofc.

    Is it, as a writer/creator, possible to keep everyone, literally everyone, in mind when creating something?

    I thought I was asked why do people thing S-G is insular & unwelcoming and this adventure’s fucked up name came to mind (I hadn’t yet gotten to the point that I had spotted the details in it that made me think it was also a fucked up game).

    I mean, you could say the same about kids accidentally reading a horror story/game or viewing a horror film. Is that the fault of the producer, or of whoever is actually responsible for the kid? Right?

    Kinda weirded out by how much zombie & brains stuff there is for little kids now tbh. But that’s a side topic for another day of “hand wringing” T_T

    Also, it is one (1) adventure (well, in this case, two), which is hardly a solid basis to judge a person on.

    As I said, I’ve also fucked up, I’ve also ran adventures that I ended up regretting pretty much right away.

    So that makes it difficult to judge even if I do think Eero is kind of… uh… about this; however, I am feeling even less warmly towards those who came in and was like “Oooh, a con-tro-ver-si-al adventure! Let me shower it with praise even though I had never heard of it before and would never have heard of it otherwise! #edge #fucksjw Everyone who might have any complaint are pearlclutching handwringers straight out of Bowdler”

    Rarely has someone offended me in such a capacity that I could not trust them at all anymore or felt so unsafe with them as to break off the friendship.

    Well, I live in a place in Europe where there are actual Nazis running for government & putting up stickers w/ nazi paraphernalia. That’s beside all the other conservatives who don’t flout that group affiliation as openly. I have certainly cut ties with friends because of this. This is not me doing a Godwin on Eero but on that specific argument that friends can’t offend you enough to cut ties—they can.

    That said, I have a policy, a kinda difficult policy, that says that I try to not judge anyone for who their friends are or what their friends and family have done. For all I know, they might be pleading with them every night “Please, So-and-So, stop doing such-and-such, as your friend I beg you to do better!”. That’s a difficult policy because my instinct is always to “transfer” my anger at So-and-So to So-and-So’s friend too, and I try to go against that instinct.

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