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The look could be improved a bit. The background isn't distracting, but it's kind of dull. I don't know what I want, really. I've never been good with layout. I just think it could benefit from a slicker look.
Your history series was extremely informative--but you're right, you didn't do the 90s justice. I dig the articles about real-life RPG history, events, and sociological stuff. The regular features and series are what kept me browsing through the back issues.
I think some of the articles you publish are longer than they need to be. The really long ones might be easier to read if they were split over a few pages.
That's about it, the good, the bad, and the whatever. No
complaints, really. Hopefully some of this has been encouraging.
Take my criticisms with a grain of salt--I know how hard publishing
on the net with a small staff of writers can be.
Thanks for the analysis, Greg. We're working on the new look, and we'll keep in mind your points about article length.
If anyone can help Tom, please drop us a line!
Nick McCarthy asked whether any anthropologists out there knew about some tribe somewhere where a matriarchy existed. Well I'm an anthropology student and the Matriarchy (that being the female equivalent of patriarchy, that is a society ruled by women) is a theoretical construct. Anthropologists and archaeologists do not recognize any matriarchies existing or having existed in the past, at least not among humans.
This being said other types of social organizations exist. We call societies such as the Iroqouis Nation on the North East Coast of the United States and Canada Matrilineal, that is power passes through the female line and not the male line and so women have some measure of political power though they are not themselves rulers. Some societies are Matrifocal, that is that they center around the mothers and have no resident fathers. There is no reason that a matriarchy could not exist in a fantasy or sci-fi game however, especially not if women had an advantage over men like magic. There may not be any evidence of matriarchies in the real world but then there's no evidence of Orcs either but they show up just as often if not more so.
I would suggest that anyone trying to learn more about political
structure and descent groups find a good introductory text. The one
I got my info from was "Mirror for Humanity" by Conrad Kottak,
which is excellent, concise, and inexpensive for a text book, but I
am unsure of availability outside of the US.
Thanks a lot, Jon! Always good when we can answer questions through the forum.
I did not mention the Magic the gathering game outright, as I know next nothing about how it is organised or moderated (and am interested to hear it is going through a rough patch, does any one have any more info on that?). However the whole concept of increased professionalism in the gaming world is largely based on what I have perceived as the success of the CCGs circuit and the computer/pc gaming circuit as well. It was wrong of me not to point that out directly. Sorry.
As for the idea that the ideas I put forward are a “typical RPG tournament that you encounter at the larger conventions” I have to argue against that. It has been my experience at conventions around the UK and Ireland that there is no standard, fair or unbiased system of assessing the quality of the role playing (and that is what the competition is supposed to be for in the first place). Perhaps I have been unlucky, or perhaps John has been very lucky. The fact that we have not had the same experiences with the relative fairness or impartiality of the competitions at conventions indicates that they are not constant I think. As for the idea that amateur status is needed to ensure that certain special something that we know RPGs have, I suspect John is mistaken. Every time a sport has started to turn professional, there has been an outcry that it will be the death of the hobby. This was true of athletics, cycling, football and a bucket full of other pastimes. The same bemoaning voices were heard when soldiers stopped being amateur status, doctors and just about every profession or trade that has ever existed. All of the above have gone from strength to strength with the advent of professionalism, and the pastimes are on the whole more popular and pursued at a greater level of skill and ability than ever before. I see no reason why RPGs should be any different. The profesionalisation (how many points for that one in scrabble?) of the Gaming world is perhaps inevitable as John points out. My point has always been that if we want RPGs to continue to exist, we need to be a bit more professional as well. As for reading a Barnes and Niven book… I did that by mistake once before, and had to gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon to ensure it never happened again! (Oh dear, some idiot has let all the worms out of the tin!)
Jesse Burneko's “why Bishops…” was interesting, and it is nice to have it pointed out that game balance is a major factor in the design of games, though I suspect that the people who most need to take that on board (power gamers) are the ones who are least likely to read it! I also have to say I more or less disagree with the idea of sticking to the rules in a game! All my RPG books are awash with notes and pencil marks as I tinker over and over again with the rules, usually trying to make them more realistic, often trying to make them more streamlined and free flowing (why roll 4 dice when you can roll none?). I suppose the main reason for this is that most game designers don’t really know what they are doing! Millennium's End, First edition Jorune, MERP, etc etc. Need I say more?
On a totally unrelated topic, be sure to check out
“Nathaniel’s Nutmeg” by Giles Milton (Hodder and
Stoughton (Sceptre) publication) for tales of the Spice trade in
the days of sail. A great read, and more ideas for GMs than you can
shake a very large stick at! Thanks for another great issue guys,
and luck to every one in the exam season.
I don't think I can add anything to that. Jesse's article caused more comments, however...
It's true that roleplaying games are not real world simulators. I think of them as fictional world simulators. AD&D is a swords and sorcery game, and I think it's reasonable to expect it to provide tools for recreating the style, atmosphere and genre idioms of swords and sorcery novels.
The problem is that not all swords and sorcery stories evoke the same atmosphere, or even follow the same idioms. AD&D, in all it's editions, builds in alot of world-specific rules into the game system. There is objectively demonstrable good and evil, the class system pre-empts many social and cultural questions about the world the characters live in, etc. In the fiction on which many of the ideas in AD&D are based, there are often good reasons for the way things are. Wizards may have made magical pacts to foreswear the use of blades in return for arcane powers, etc. You wouldn't expect a fantasy novel to just say that in that world wizards don't use swords - you'd expect to be told why, and not just 'because!'. Should RPGs be measured against lesser standsards?
Maybe you want to run a game in which good and evil are objectively testable absolutes. Where the social roles fit well with the class system, etc. If you don't, then you have a problem.
Finaly, I don't necesserily agree that fairness is an adequate test of the quality of a game system. Life is rarely fair, and this is often true in literature as well. Are Frodo and Bilbo the same level as Aragorn and Gandalf (who can wield a sword, by the way)?
Yes, I know it comes down to stylistic preference. I find
AD&D far too gamey for my tastes. In providing so may rules for
so many things, I believe the game actualy limits choice rather
than increasing it. For example, if I Bull Rush someone, why do
they - never - fall over? What if I specificaly want to knock them
over? Why should I trust that the game designer knows arcane
reasons why I shouldn't be able to do this? Other games have
handled so many of these issues so much better.
You make some very good points, Simon, and I agree, limiting choice is not a good thing. But as games, RPGs need structure, and that structure should provide a way of making sure each player gets equal chance to shine. I think what Jesse is saying that ultimately, this is a higher goal than suspension of disbelief...but this depends on just how much suspension our individual disbeliefs can take, of course. What do others think on this issue? Let us know!
Contrary to her assertion, comic books are a medium, not a genre. Superheroic fiction is merely one of many genres presented through the medium of comic books, albeit the most popular. A non-superhero comic would no more attract a person to superhero gaming than a non-action movie would attract that same person to Feng Shui.
That aside, it was a very insightful and enjoyable column.
P.S. A couple of other comics I would recommend to newcomers (and I agree with Rebecca's recommendations, especially "Bone"):
Castle Waiting, by Linda Medley (fairy tale-based
Thanks for the feedback guys; you both make a good point. Still, I think you could use non-superhero comics as a stepping stone to supers comics. First show them not all comics are stupid, then show them not all superhero comics are stupid. But your point stands.
Thanks Lucien, good to see you're passionate about your game of choice. It should be pointed out, though, that Gary's piece is deliberately over the top, and we bear no real loathing towards AD&D, TSR or any of the game's creators.
Any way, well done.
It's on our list of things to do, Sara. Of course, in the meantime it does help ensure people do peruse all our back issues... :)
The Forum is your page; it is entirely up to you what you fill it with, or even if you fill it at all. So get on your soapbox and send your spiel to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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