Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Sample Character Looks Just Like Me

My ten year old brother is excitedly flipping through the 5th Edition Player's Handbook.  He is excited A) because it's D&D and B) he found a sample character that "looks like him," and wants to see if there are more.  My ten year old brother is adopted, and he is African American (or whatever the PC term is this week), and he is telling me how he likes this book more than other editions, because it has black people in it so he can play a "normal" person when I let them play this time so he doesn't have to play a half-orc.  Oh, and can we play D&D tonight?  He really wants to play, and it warms my heart.  His enthusiasm is simultaneously wonderful and tinged with a bittersweet emotion for me.  He is excited because this edition has people who look like him.

There are people who look like him.

This is the character he now wants to play.

Now I'm going to say some stuff that sounds scattered, but will (hopefully) eventually make sense.

Earlier today, I read a  John Wick article on what makes an RPG, and my brain was titillated, and it made me rethink what rules I would slavishly follow and think about focusing on telling stories, and it was good.  Then I found a link to an RPG Pundit article basically saying that John Wick's article is wrong and bought into the sense of small and pointless outrage that John Wick could dare call D&D not an RPG.  Then I posted John Wick's article to my Facebook so that a few of my friends who like RPGs and discussing RPGs could see it and hopefully get out of it what I got out of it, then two of my friends mentioned that the pontificating done in the article was similar to the pointless pontificating done in academia.  Then they told me to write a blog about it, so I am.

Several months ago, Zak S. of Playing D&D With Porn Stars and being-a-name-inside-the-5th-edition-book fame and I (and a few people who have opinions I respect) had a disagreement in the comments on a blog post I made.  Now, I will fully admit that my blog was not as well thought out, worded, and constructed as I want it to be.  Also, not everything Zak S said was wrong.  And not everything I said was wrong.  However, both of us (and the other people commenting) got stuck on being "right" and ignored the point.  The point I was trying to make was that we shouldn't make people feel like they don't belong and scare them away from something that could be awesome for them.

As an interim: several of my younger siblings are now crowded around the Player's Handbook.  They are looking at the picture of the druid, who is the only character in the book who is wearing, essentially, a fur bikini.  My thirteen year old sister asked if she can have a tiger like the druid lady, but she didn't want to have to wear the fur bikini.  She wants armor like the Paladin, because a fur bikini isn't good to fight in.  My thirteen year old sister is wearing a shirt that is too tight and jeans that are too tight, and I ask her if the druid might just be wearing the fur bikini for fashion.  She says yes, but that she still wants the armor, and she can wear a bikini under that in case she needs it to be on a runway.  That prompts a discussion of if they can design their own clothes for their characters.  I say yes, and I'm sure there will be artwork by the time I visit again next weekend.  The point is that a thirteen year old understands that fur bikinis have no place on a battlefield.  The point is also that a thirteen year old might want a character in a fur bikini, but also knows that there is a time and a place for it.

Some barbarian princesses might like to feel sexy some of the time...

I have a bachelor's degree in English.  I do not want a master's degree.  I do not want to continue my education with a graduate program (at least right now).  Mostly, it's because I'm sick of academia.  There are lots of interesting and useful things taught in academia, and I loved most of my college courses.  There are also lots of pointless things in academia that mostly boil down to people trying to feed their egos and separate themselves from other people and build up ivory towers.  That is why I decided not to continue my education.  It is also what I hate most in RPG conversations.  See, I love ideas.  I love big ideas, small ideas, and middling ideas.  Creativity is awesome, and thus things that breed creativity are awesome.  

Being an asshat about why your creativity is best is not awesome.  

I love a lot of what D. Vincent Baker has added to the RPG industry.  Dogs in the Vineyard is an awesome thought exercise and presses the limits of what RPG mechanics can do.  The thought processes that the game espouses has influenced some of my conflict crafting in RPGs I've since run, and my friend and longtime GM, Jacob, used a version of it in a few of us playing out world creation in a fun thought exercise.  His focus on the story part of story games is laudable. 

I hate a lot of what D. Vincent Baker has added to the RPG industry.  Dogs in the Vineyard is an awesome thought exercise that devolves into pedantic preaching about how some types of gaming are badwrongfun.  It makes the book frustrating to read.  It makes you feel bad about liking certain aspects of roleplaying or annoyed that someone thinks the parts of roleplaying you enjoy are not things that should be enjoyed.  

Similarly, I still read Zak S's blog.  I read RPG Pundit's blogs.  I read John Wick's blog.  I read (and sometimes even engage in discussion there), and I read (or otherwise engage in) various and sundry other places where RPG conversation can be found.  They all have good ideas. 

They all have good ideas.  

They also all devolve into pedantic, angry, dickish, and obnoxious bickering over how people are having badwrongfun or arguing over social issues that should be solved by people just being nice to each other and treating each other like people.

I realize that I get on my soapbox from time to time.  It's something I need to work on.  It's also something that the RPG community in general needs to deal with.  RPGs are about having fun, sharing ideas, creating stories, and playing a game with other people.  They're about a the joy of discovery of a ten year old dressed as Spiderman telling me that he wants to do that awesome fire dragon spell he saw in the Sorceror section of the Player's Handbook.  It's also the joy of discovery of a twenty-seven year old nerd finding someone's writeup on goblins living on ceilings and speaking backwards on a blog written by a pornstar who plays D&D with a distinctly unique group of coworkers. 

The edition warring and backlash over who consulted on what is negative energy that would be much, much, much better used by encouraging someone's sense of creativity and pushing each other to make more cool things.  Someone encouraged someone to make the black fighter in the D&D Player's Handbook, and it's sent ripples through my little siblings (two of whom are black) as they now have a new source of inspiration.  They now know that there are people like them in this game, that fur bikinis are okay, but mostly impractical, and are one step closer to realizing that only their imaginations are the limit.  They now know that this is something they can be included in.