Wednesday, April 3, 2019

An Unperson Cannot Hide You (with Joesdky Tax)

Well, I run to the rock just to hide my face
And the rocks cried out, no hiding place
There’s no hiding place down here


It seems MeToo came to the OSR earlier this year. Zak Sabbath, of Playing D&D With Porn Stars fame was outed as a serial abuser. The outing, by his former partner, is chock-full of abusive goodness up to, and including, grooming of new victims and forcing one victim to sign a defense of Zak. It is ugly stuff.

I will not claim I knew it was true all along. I swallowed the defenses of Zak, especially the letter I referenced above. I will claim I’m not surprised. Zak was an asshole online. People can be asses behind a keyboard and different in person. However, it is a good bet they aren’t. Still, I thought Zak was an ass at worst. I had given up discussing things online with him years ago, but still followed his work because I thought he did creative and interesting things with Old School D&D.

I am at least a month behind the times discussing this. I originally posted this at my personal and writing blog because gaming is not the real point. I decided to cross post it because it is OSR related in part. I have also included Joesky Tax.

When popular artists have committed unspeakable crimes, there is confusion on what to do. Do we buy new works from them? Do publishers still hire them? I doubt Zak will publish again in the RPG world. Do we keep reading their works? Do we keep the items we have? Each is an interesting questions. but not the subject now. I want to look at something tangential.

Do we hide our prior associations with the artist?

Zak appeared as a consultant in the credits to the fifth edition of D&D. New printings will have no consultants credited. Many people in the OSR have scrubbed links not just to his blog on blog rolls, but individual links in their own posts using his ideas. While the former is much closer, in my mind, to the prior publishing question the latter is an attempt to hide.

This attempt to hide isn’t unique to RPGs. In the past few weeks an episode of The Simpsons featuring just the voice of Michael Jackson has been removed from circulation after Leaving Neverland appeared. Grandest of all has been the declaration Penn State won no football games for 13 years . Penn State won 112 including two Big Ten titles. The declaration was a punishment for the child sexual abuse by one of the assistant coaches and the athletic department’s cover up of the abuse.

The claim is these actions are a punishment for abuse. That, however, does not wash. Wizards of the Coast paid Zak for his consulting, archives on the Internet will show discussions of it, and thousands, if not tens of thousands, of books still have the credits. Michael Jackson was paid for his time. Even if the producers could claw the money back, he is now beyond our ability to punish. The Penn State team has already won the games and received the donations and other income they generated.

We may punish people whose degree of guilt in these matters is an open question. Did the players who actually played football in Penn State’s national championship year have anything to do with the abuse? I doubt any did and will state without reservation at least one player did not. Those players’ achievement have been memory holed as thoroughly as any adverse fact in Airstrip One. It is possible there was someone who worked on the “Stark Raving Dad” episode of The Simpsons who has no other credit on the show. The producers’ actions hide the work of such a person.

Ff we are not punishing the perpetrators and punishing the innocent, why do it? Why do we unperson Zak or Michael or Jerry Sandusky?


The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion. - Proverbs 28:1


We do it to hide. We do it to hide the fact we didn’t see the warning signs. We do it to hide the fact we believed the defense. We do because we are afraid we let a football championship or a fantastic pop song or, in the case at hand, a cool set of rules on how to play D&D become more valuable than making sure others are treated with decency.

These fears are unreasonable are most people. We knew Zak from his blog, his video show, and arguing with him online. Knowing he was an acerbic SOB in blog comments is a long way from suspecting the defenses against accusations of abuse were coerced. The lack of suspicion is part of why we fell for the excuses and defenses. It is part of why we feel guilty now. We cannot imagine doing it ourselves. As a result we have a hard time imagining someone else, especially someone whose work we value, doing it.

Still the guilt is real. We think we should have known. We think we should have seen it as clearly as the gamers who called Sydney police when MrDeadMoth assaulted his wife while livestreaming.

I have not sought anyplace I linked to Zak or discussed his ideas. The fact is I thought they were good ideas. I will not be happy when people ask, “Why do you link to that abuser?”. Deleting them now will not change my making them in the past. Even if other do not know I made the links, I will know.

We try to hide, but as the rock cried out, there is no hiding place. We celebrated his ideas even as we excused his being an ass. However, that is all we knew. That is all we are complicit in. Quoting or publishing Zak in the future is a choice we can make. Quoting him in the past is a choice we made. We cannot, and should not, hide from it.



Joesky Tax:

The Divining Screen: This artifact is embedded in the monastery of a holy order. On the wall furthest from the door in the library is a large (3'x4') glass plate mounted to the wall. Before it are two pillars of marble with the hilts of swords, fashioned from steel and wrapped in gold and silver wire, mounted on them. When both hilts are grasped, if the patron deity of the order has a purpose for the individual grasping the hilts its critical point will be revealed to that person as a short, silent series of images in the screen. No one else can see it. Repeated viewing may show changed or different scenes as the world changes the ability, or desirability, of the image.

The purpose revealed need not be a good one. For those hateful to the patron deity the image may be of coming divine retribution or a just end.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Back with 17 Answers

I'm back and what better way to celebrate than to give you an idea on what I think OSR means via OSR Guide for the Perplexed

1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:

Taking a Bite Out of the Dungeon.

If there is something that dominated DIY D&D from the first fanzines through the late 80s it was new classes. Matt at Land of Nod is a class factory, but this one to me shows the wild inventiveness of the OSR the best. Still, the Gourmand has a better reason than many to enter the dungeon. He's just hungry.

2. My favorite piece of OSR wisdom/advice/snark:

How I Want to Hear About Your Setting

Zak gives the best explanation of what the old writer's advice "show, don't tell" means in terms of writing game material.

3. Best OSR module/supplement:

Slumbering Ursine Dunes

Speaking of laying out your setting by showing, not telling, Slubmering Ursine Dunes is a great model. It also brings in one of my favorite ideas from the article "Believe It or Not, Fantasy Has Reality" from Dragon #40.

4. My favorite house rule (by someone else):

Party Like It's 999

Carousing is a great rule to explain how gold pieces become experience. Plus, if things go back it makes it a lot easier for the DM to come up with next week's adventure.

5. How I found out about the OSR:

I had been making sure to read James Edward Raggi IV since his series on Big Purple about runing AD&D. Later, I wanted to reference his writing about how to find players, based on the game, and found them on his blog. Through it I found other early OSR blogs. His post Media Influences inspired the first post on this blog.

6. My favorite OSR online resource/toy:

Random Class Advancement System

I don't use it and probably won't any time soon. However, it is full of ideas and does the best thing the OSR does: it makes you think about this game into which you invest so much time and energy.

7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers:

I would have said G+ of late, but that is ending. I am hoping that between the end of G+ and problems with Facebook and other gated internet communities that the OSR blogs will restart (as I'm looking to do) and grown.

8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games:

I am not active many places outside my table, but I'm on a few Facebook groups, a couple of MeWe groups, and a couple of Discord servers.

9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough:

That memoir is a model for story emerging from RPG play, especially for old school play styles.

10. My favorite non-OSR RPG:

This is hard for two reasons. First, what is the OSR? Is Runequest an OSR game? Traveller? Rolemaster? (my answers are 'maybe', 'hell yes', and 'I think so, but I'm probably in the minority'). Second, I like a lot of games.

In terms of having consumed the most cycles with trying to play it I'm going to say Mage, but I will cheat a little and not say if I mean the Ascension or the Awakening

11. Why I like OSR stuff:

Because it reconnects me with what got me into this hobby in the first place. I don't consider that nostalgia, but more a touchstone. It is similar to why I re-read certain books on a regular basis.

12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yet:

The Flailsnails Conventions bring back a type of play I remember from the 70s that seems to have died off.

The Forty Questions: Jeff's Twenty Questions and Brenden's rules follow-up.

13. If I could read but one other RPG blog but my own it would be:

For a variety of reasons I'm going to say Matt's Land of Nod. It has some of the more creative energy and has sustained it for longer than most of us. It also is not as well known as it should be.

14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is:

Clockwork Skeletons

15. I'm currently running/playing:

Type IV D&D based on Greyhawk Grognard's ideas about the G/D series with Drow replaced with The Hadal.

As no plan survives contact with the players it has gone way off the rails, but the goblin tribe of which the party is honorary members does supply all the chicken wings and sauce used in taverns in a dwarven city.

16. I don't care whether you use ascending or descending AC because:


I can figure it out. It isn't that hard people.

17. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice:

The place where (for me) it all started:



Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Pointers 2012-10-22

D4: Xylbocx Starcult
This is some of the best Hawkwind style science fantasy gonzo for D&D I've read in a while.

D6: Short Forms of Place Names in the UK
Sure, there is lots of naming stuff out there, but I like this summary of forms.

D8: Anachronisms
Not only anachronisms but creative ones at that. They are, however, not medieval for the most part. Regardless, I think they represent a classic trope of D&D.

D10: Spears of the Dawn
I'm sure most of my readers have seen it already, but I was a way for a couple of months. Finally, we're getting a Kevin Crawford fantasy game using the Stars Without Numbers take on B/X, something I'd been toying with doing anyway. The best part is he's putting it into the public domain if I read correctly.

D12: Real fighters use bows
Meanwhile RPGPundit is showing off the cover for a game also in the queue for me. If I could change one thing about the above it would be India over Africa for the setting. I've toyed with using India as source before but the richness of it is just daunting.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday Pointers August, 6th Edition

D4: Dungeons at Sea
Many dungeons use an abandoned fort as a theme. This list should provide some inspiration.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Inspirational Art: Luis Royo


This painting is by Luis Royo and was used as the cover for A Yoke of Magic by Robert Vardeman (which I'm currently reading).

A few quick descriptions from the novel of the riders and their mounts:

The three riders reined in and held their snorting mounts just beyond the ring of pale light cast by Lejena's campfire. Their horses pawed the earth, searing the ground wherever they touched; their hooves were afire.

As she neared, the foremost of the demon riders grasped a longsword forged from crystalline flame. It blazed brilliantly as it slid form a dark scabbard, tiny tongues of fire leaping and dancing along its entire length.

In the light of those hell-fired swords, Davin saw the heavy cowls pulled forward about their heads. No matter which way they turned, their faces - if they had any - remained cloaked in shadow. But the hands gripping those flaming blades were skeletal!

Between the images and the description all I can think is light-sabre wielding Nazg├╗l.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Random Campaign Idea in Pictures

So, lately I've been listening to this:
Which lead to me reading, for the first time, this:
While thinking about running:
Yet at the same time I'd like to run:
Where this:
Has always been associated with:
And I'm really excited to get this soon:

Now, post holocaust after the Martians is nothing new. The Aftermath rules suggest it and a later return of the Martians was the ruin for one of their playtest games (even including the human hunters of men the artillery man envisions). Still, the idea of a devastating Martian war where humanity, but not civilization, is saved by monsters and magicians could be fun.

Base on The World After and this, among others, it's clear I've internalized the D&D is the apocalypse trope. It's also clear that I prefer it not be nuclear war and have a strong bent on the Devil did it (the multiple images above, for those who don't recognize them, are from Prince of Darkness).


Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Pointers, 2012.07.30/NCurve Edition

D4: Drow I could get behind
Like a lot of people I'm elfed out and looking for alternate types. So, making use of my all time favorite sci-fi bad guys...hell yeah.

D6: Visual Appendix N
Although I'm not a huge fan of movie/TV references to ground a campaign I look at this and think, "Can I play?"

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Playing with History

Influenced by a old Jeff Rients post and prompted because the third has been on my mind today and the second the past week (actually about a week ago, but just finishing the post) here are some pseudo-historically based campaign ideas I've had:

PeriodCampaign IdeaNotesProbable Rules
About 110,000Clark Aston Smith's Hyperborea set in Sangamonian interglacial period GreenlandWhen reading about Greenland due to reading The Tale of Satampra Zeiros I found this map and it's been the primary inspiration.Of all the ideas this is the one most likely to have me drag out AD&D and believe it or not, second edition. Second edition seems like plays much closer to what I've called Intermediate D&D which I played in the early 80s than full blown AD&D. Also, I've never really played second.
871 ADThe Viking conquest of Britain during the reign of Alfred the Great.Having long had an SCA persona who was a pre-Conquest Saxon Although for years he actually bridged the Conquest and went on the Crusades...as I spent time in I got more interested in Anglo-Saxon England. Afred's reign. Bernard Cornwell's The Saxon Stories would be the major literary influence. Lamentations of the Flame Princess for the non-advancing fighter and the very dangerous magic which would be the halmark of the invading Vikings in constrast to the clerics of the Saxons.
late 1400sThe Valley of Mexico just before the Spainish Conquest (and possibly during).This is the most recently inspired, by the pyramids episode of Out of Egypt which I watched on Netflix. I didn't realize that Teotihuacan was not of Aztec origin but in fact predates their culture. That alone sounds like an excellent megadungeon. Plus, Aztec culture, even the poor "I read Wikipedia and a overview book plus watched some TV" cultures that characterize D&D games (even ones based on the Middle Ages or Roman), is alien enough for most of the people who might play in my games to make it interesting.While part of me wants to do straight OD&D with this one I suspect Runequest of some form (I've got 2nd and 3rd edition as well as BRP and GORE on the shelves and I'm open to either Mongoose version, 6th edition, or Open Quest). More than the other three I'd like to use An Echo Resounding with this one. The Valley of Mexico is perfectly sized for it at 3816sq miles. Remember, in Pre-Columbia America there are no beasts of burdern or riding animals so distances will always be driven by foot speed.

Friday, July 6, 2012

RPG Free Association

Matt's excellent Pars Fortuna includes all new spells. Reading them to build a list of 1st level spells for a new game that includes no stock spells I came across Miner's Nose which is described as "This spell grants the target the ability to magically smell precious metals and stones within 30 feet."

I immediately thought of this:


From Comics.org:
Once upon a time, there was a prince who was born in the shape of a donkey. He was the most beautiful, delightful, lovable little donkey in the world. But he was the saddest little donkey, too, for his greatest wish was to become a real human prince. Though he did not know it, there was one way he could become a human prince. But would he ever find the way?

The reason he was born that way was his father hired a wizard to help the barren queen give birth. When payment came due the king put copper at the bottom of the sacks of gold and the wizard smelled the different. Then the wizard cursed the child.

Outside of Scott at Huge Ruined Pile I don't see a lot of OSR people taking a lot of deliberate inspiration from fairy tales (this particular one is found in Grimm among other places). I don't know if Matt did here, but certainly his spell reminded me of a fairy tale (and wistfully...this particular comic was a favorite as a child).

Perhaps as much as Howard and Lovecraft we need to look at Grimm, Anderson, and Lang.



Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday Pointers, July 2, 2012

D4: Everchanging Book of Names
One of my favorite pieces of GM support software (in fact, one of only two RPG specific programs I use) is the Everchanging Book of Names. I have yet to see any OSR mention of it so I wanted to list it today. You can setup name parts and patterns that fit your world and let it generate away. Several books (sets of parts and patterns) are available include one for Greyhawk as well as other popular settings and literary sources. My favorite is, of course, Glorantha.

D6: Detailed Hexcrawl Rules
Justin has an interesting series of rules for running hexcrawls designed to keep the hexes behind the screen while players react to the environment.

D8: System Matters in the Sandbox
Ravencrowking has a multi-part discussion of why system aspects are needed for a sandbox to work. That he concludes the system in D&D 3.x and Type IV aren't conductive to sandbox play isn't a surprise. What I do find interesting is his conclusion on what currently available game beats out any version of D&D or retroclone for this position. By the reasoning he gives a retro-clone plus An Echo Resounding and Adventurer, Conqueror, King would meet the "best of show" standard as well.

D10: Nine Minute Campaign Design
Another one of those quick questions to get your setting down post that I've found useful.

D12: Crowd Funding by the Ton
Lamentations of the Flame Princess is trying to crowd fund 19 separate adventures. There are bundle options where you can get all that fund for much less than buying print plus pdf for each individually. If you are a Pembrooktonshire Gardening Society there are discounts on the bundles. It is Indiegogo, not Kickstarter, which means you pay upfront and get refunded if they don't fund. Given my two favorite OSR companies (LotFP and Sine Nomine) are effectively teaming up in it I'm most interested in seeing The House of Bone and Amber by Kevin Crawford (of Stars Without Number and Red Tide fame as well as the afore mentioned An Echo Resounding) although I'll be buying the bundle.

D20: Magical Pacts and Worshipful Machines
Speaking of Kevin Crawford we now have small free releases for Red Tide and Stars without Number.