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Archive for the ‘Fluff and Inspiration’ Category

On_the_AirA close friend (and player in the group I run for) and I often sit around and discuss gaming, RPGs, game theory, dos and don’ts and whatnot. Sometimes it’s over lunch. Sometimes it’s after a game session. Sometimes it’s over instant messenger.  In having these discussions, we frequently found ourselves referencing ideas from previous installments in these talks. We talked about taking notes, or starting up a google document, in order to archive some of the revelations we had in hashing out what went right and what went wrong in the game that week, or in prep, or in how the game or group was managed. We also had discussed recording these discussions in a video format and posting it on youtube. Over time, and after some soul searching, we decided it would make more sense as a standard podcast format, audio only.

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baby bathOk, well, perhaps that isn’t literally true, but give me a chance to explain….

So, I was giving my 22 month old son a bath last night and I got to thinking about a D&D campaign I’m currently running in the context of a ruleset I recently read. I do much of my best thinking in the shower and that holds true of baths as well, including those where I’m bathing my children.  I recently read a rules-light retro clone called Ambition and Avarice. I very much liked it and will probably post about it specifically at some point. But, it got me to thinking about things I need to make sure to do, to not do and to highlight in my current campaign. Most were things that I already knew and have done, but that you often forget about in the “fog of war”; those times when you’re too busy managing the table and group to make sure you get them in each session. As I checked off the list and lathered up my sons adorable little head of hair, I realized they all held true for how I raise him, or WANT to raise him as he gets older. I’ll write them here as a simple numbered list. They are in no particular order. (more…)

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Elf on ShelfThis is a toss up for me, between Elf and Halfling. I will probably go Elf because I play them more, but Halflings and the concept of a small, quiet race is very enticing. I think the draw to Elves is based largely on my personal perception of them as a class that is closer to the natural world. As a person who loves camping, the outdoors and animals, I’ve always felt a kinship with Elves, particularly what would later be considered Wood Elves, or Sylvan Elves. I think this is partially what draws me to Halflings as well. They feel like a race that is closer to nature.  In the same way, I’ve been less drawn to High Elves, which seemed to have almost transcended this natural relationship. This natural bent I have will probably be relevant for day 3 as well. Check back to find out and feel free to give your own answers in the comments if you feel the need. I’m always curious why people play/enjoy the races they do.

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stone-hand-smallHis callused finger tips slid slowly over the dry stone wall, feeling for anything out of the ordinary. They moved in a pattern, left and right, painstakingly up and down. The dust of the stone work covered his hands. He had been doing this for close to an hour. The dim light of his flickering torch starting to gutter and fade as it lay on the floor at his side. Just as his torch died, he felt it. It was the slightest depression, but it was there and it didn’t match the surrounding stonework. Perhaps he should have been searching in the darkness all along, not allowing his vision to impede the years of training his fingers had searching for hidden treasures in the deeps below Mount Kendril. But then he heard it, a faint sniffing sound, coming from the hall outside the room he now searched. It could only mean one thing. He was no longer alone.

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Over on Sarah Darkmagic, Sarah has been highlighting the type of art she likes to see. She displays images, frequently with a focus on females, and states that she likes art that tells a story, that draws the viewer in. She mentions each piece specifically and what she finds intriguing about it. This is fantastic. This is a great example of how to better both art in general and the art of our hobby in particular. I’ve felt for a long time that the art of D&D needs to be more inclusive, something Sarah generally does a great job pointing out. A wider cross-section of people should be able to experience the art of our hobby and not feel objectified or exploited. RPG art is, in my opinion, best when it exemplifies the best aspects of the hobby, Adventure, Exploration, Devotion, Honor, Courage and a dozen other powerfully evocative states of being, all of which lend themselves to the concept of inclusivity.

So, how, as bloggers and as internet citizens do we empower artists, make our voices heard, and shine light on the idea that RPG art needn’t be oversexualized material that is appropriate only for a thin slice of viewers? I think the best way to do this is twofold.

1. Exposure

We, as bloggers, need to raise awareness. Much like what Sarah Darkmagic is doing, we need to spotlight such art so that others can experience it, to know what we’re talking about and to spread the word. We need to create a vocabulary of the art we want more of, to educate consumers of art and creators. We need to make sure that those artists who are producing material that tickles our imaginations while still being inclusive get seen.

2. Feedback

We can’t, as reasonable humans, expect artists to read minds. If we want something from them, if we want them to alter their focus or to use less exploitative imagery, we need to make our voices heard. Artists, to a certain degree, are creating art not only for themselves but for the public. Art is a medium to be shared.  If the artist is including elements they think are desirable, they can’t be blamed if no one ever tells them differently. As an artist myself, I can say definitively that I desire feedback any time my work is put forth for public consumption.  Were anyone to stifle that feedback, I would be disappointed.

This brings me to an image I saw the other day on Sarah Darkmagics blogs. It can be seen here

The Cave by ~Maretenebrae

The reason I love this image is because it has a real sense of tension. When you can see the enemies faces, but not the heroes face, it makes it easy to put oneself in the heroes shoes. That’s exactly what we do all the time in RPGs so this image starts off great. I also love the gradiant, lower left to upper right, dark brown to white and back to darkness. On a visceral level, it is simply powerful.

So where does it go wrong? When we’re talking about being inclusive and having art that is based on some semblance of believability, we shouldn’t only talk about including believable women.  It sort of weakens the entire movement. While I love what Sarah Darkmagic is doing by spotlighting the really great art that depicts women in a more dignified manner, I find it surprising that she finds it unacceptable to comment on some small issues in this piece. We like to talk about women wearing appropriate clothing for adventuring and that’s great. Sarah is pretty big on this, pointing out armor that covers breasts and whether or not too much skin is exposed. But in the case of this man, holding a white rabbit, something you’d only find in arctic conditions, she finds it undesirable to point out that he is shirtless. This man would be freezing!  One could argue the lack of shirt is representative of his exposure, both to the elements and to the enemies. But this is a subtlety that is easily abused in the case of women. Ultimately, I’m not sure the lack of shirt furthers the goals of the image. Do I love the image? Yes. Could it be more inclusive? I think so.

But when talking about inclusive art, is it wrong to say this image could be  moreso? Should a person who makes such a comment be told to go away and make their own blog?  Is it a good idea to create an “agree with me or leave” environment when it comes to furthering the goals of exclusivity?  As an artist, it’s not simply important to allow criticism, it’s vital. As long as the criticism is provided in a mature fashion, I find it hard to rationalize creating an environment where it’s not welcome. It does artists a disservice to try to shut down maturely expressed critical thought. To make reasoned critical thought unwelcome is to stifle creativity, both for the artist and the viewer. And good art should never strive to do this. I’ve not met an artist who would find this acceptable.

To sum it up, lets get together. Lets promote inclusive art and lets talk about it. Lets share our thoughts. EVEN those not everyone may not agree with. Lets do it in a mature fashion. Ultimately, I think this will benefit us as artists and as consumers of art. And if you don’t agree. Go start your own blog. 😉

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So this months RPG Blog carnival centers on something near and dear to every intrepid adventurer. The Loot.  You know something is important, something has reached that apex of necessity and desire when it starts to have 733t (1337?) spellings. In this case, we could be talking about loot, or perhaps da-lOOts or even phat l3wts.  In any case, it represents the same thing, those delicious little treats that are peppered throughout adventures. In some cases, they occupy a dragons hoard, or perhaps the crypt of a buried king. They may even be the subject of myth and legend.  However, the point of this blog carnival is to discuss when those trophies of adventure take that extra step beyond the predictable, beyond a simple object of desire and become a part of the plot. (more…)

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The Nentir Vale is ALIVE!

That’s how I felt as I poured over my most recent WotC purchase, Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale.

So, a little background. I’ve always liked the points of light design. I like the idea that safe places of the world are few and far between. Whatever security is to be established in the world, the players will have to work for it. Nothing can be taken for granted.  It’s particularly fitting when you consider this world design is being laid over the top of an RPG that is a significant departure from its previous incarnations.  Take nothing for granted.  That’s the theme I’ve gotten from WotC over the past couple of years. Ironically enough, over time, the opposite occurred. (more…)

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