Why I won’t be attending cons

Today I reached a hard decision. As much as I’ve always wanted to attend a Con (yes, I’m a 40-something gamer who’s never gone to one), I won’t be going to any in the foreseeable future. Not until or unless gamer culture changes to the point where my best gamer friend — my wife — could attend with me and face no more misogyny or risk of harassment than she faces from the culture at large.

The fact that women face intense misogyny and harassment in the video/online gaming community is no secret, and has been getting mainstream press in recent years. Anyone who pays attention to either the smaller world of table-top role-playing games, or the much larger Geek-o-Sphere that encompasses all forms of gaming, plus comics fandom, etc., knows that this is an issue for female geeks of all stripes. The most common manifestation is dismissal — the assumption that a woman isn’t a *real* fan/player, sometimes followed by questions to “test” her geek cred. But put lots of male gamers/geeks under one roof at a con, toss in the use of “booth babes” by marketing departments, and this dismissal is too often accompanied with overt harassment (verbal and physical).

And no, since I’ve never been to a con I haven’t witnessed this first hand. And I know there are plenty of male con goers who will say it isn’t that bad. But I also know that I haven’t spoken to or read about a single female con goer who disagrees with this assessment.

I’ve read several of these tales lately. The one that tipped me over the edge today is here.

My wife, who has been a gamer/geek in one form or another for decades, pointed out that back in the day, gamer guys were the safest guys for a girl to be with. They might be dismissive of your geek cred, but your odds of being harassed or assaulted were a lot lower than if you hung out with the jocks. I suspect the fact that this is no longer true has something to do with the increasingly violent misogyny in video games as well as the simple fact that geeks are now mainstream and thus geek guys are more confident/less timid than they were back in the day.

Whatever the reason, it’s past time for the men of gaming to act like men (not boys) and treat their female counterparts with respect. If I get word that that has happened, you may see me and my melee-loving, meat-shield-playing wife at a con someday. Until then, I have one less thing to do on my bucket list.

Fiasco, Act 1

Tonight was my first time playing Fiasco, which is one of the games I wanted to play this year. My wife and I sat down with our son and two youngest daughters (ages 13 to 17) and made it through Act 1 before it was time for some of the players to get ready for bed.

It was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to get to Act 2 (I think it took a bit longer because we were learning the game). We played the Antarctic playset. The setting is a russian icebreaker being used for tourist runs to the South Pole. We have an alcoholic captain, his sworn enemy the first mate, an eco-terrorist transexual dancer, and two members of a quasi-christian religious sect who believe the second coming will be at the South Pole. After only one act we already have a dead body, an internet feud turned cricket bat assault, and a trained bear running loose on the ship. Good times. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Session Summaries — Bane or Boon?

I was thinking tonight about one of my least favorite parts of DM’ing — session summaries. I try to post detailed session summaries online as soon as possible after a session, but most of the time I end up writing them up the day before the next session. And by then, of course, I’ve forgotten a lot. 

I’m wondering if I’m erring on the side of writing a detailed, narrative summary. Do other DM’s take that approach, or more of a key things to remember list?

Dusting off old blogs and old campaigns

So, I’m back after a three  month life hiatus. Still running three campaigns when schedules align and we are able to play. But my World of Darkness campaign is entering the home stretch and it’s time to think seriously about what’s next for this (my oldest) game group. 

A few months back we had a productive online discussion about what people preferred to play and what we might do after WoD. Most of us agreed that we preferred long-form campaigns that allow for character and plot development, perhaps with occasional breaks to do shorter (2-ish session) games. One logical choice would be returning to the D&D 3.5 Eberron campaign that we left off a couple of years ago.

This is/was a largely homebrewed campaign, though I used published modules for the early levels. I’m both excited and daunted by the prospect of resuming it — which will mean figuring out the details of the next chapter of the story, fleshing out NPCs, etc. The part that makes it especially daunting is that I can’t locate electronic copies of my old notes, session summaries, etc. I have a couple other places I can look, but I think migration to newer computers, websites for managing my gaming stuff, etc. has resulted in their loss. 

If I’m right I’m going to try to look at this as an opportunity to not be too constrained by the past. It’s a game after all, not a novel; breaches of continuity are not the end of the world, particularly when this much time has passed in real life. Wish me luck.

Have you had the experience of resurrecting an old campaign with limited documentation? How did you handle it?

Managing Lots of NPCs

Among the games I’m currently running is a D&D 3.5 campaign with only two players — my wife and our son (they are each running two PC’s). Both because there are only two players, and because the module I’m using (Expedition to the Ruins of Castle Greyhawk) presents a rich urban setting with lots of NPCs, I’m facing the prospect of having to role play potentially dozens of recurring NPCs. 

To help myself out, and hopefully avoid lots of “so and so, says . . .” I’m trying something new. For each major NPC I’m preparing an index card. One side has the NPC’s name and a picture (some are illustrations from the module that I was able to download, some are photos of celebrities or random people I found online that I decided had similar looks). Whenever I start speaking as one of these characters I will simply hold up the card with the name and picture facing the players so they know whom they are talking to.

The back of each card will have brief character notes for me. In many cases this will include a simple character quirk that I can role play (though with this many NPCs I don’t want all of them to talk or act funny). 

What do folks think of this approach? How have you managed (or seen DM’s manage) lots of NPCs?