Tuesday, March 29, 2022

WEG Memoirs: Intro Adventure Game

 This is one of the best intros to RPGs I’ve ever seen.”

Andrew Rilstone, Arcane magazine

This year’s GAMA trade show recently wrapped up. The occasional posts from folks who attended stir up memories of the few times I went with West End sales managers to promote our games, especially the Star Wars Adventure Journal and the roleplaying game. It was more than 25 years ago, so my memory remains foggy, but I recall going three times to GAMA: in New Orleans, LA, Reno, NV, and Atlantic City, NJ. These offered good opportunities to promote games face-to-face with store owners and spend off hours chatting with colleagues in other companies. At one of these the then-sales manager at Iron Crown Enterprises traded me a copy of the company’s boxed Lord of the Rings Adventure Game published back in 1991. Combined with my nostalgic love of boxed sets and my urge to introduce newcomers to the adventure gaming hobby, it provided the inspiration for the Star Wars Introductory Adventure Game.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

D&D, Sci-Fi & Banning Books

Goose-stepping morons like yourself should try reading books instead of burning them!”

Professor Henry Jones

I regret to see book banning and angry mobs back in the news again. (Apologies to those who don’t come here for my occasional descent into political issues, but if you keep reading you’ll find some mention of games in the context of this subject.) Now that the furor over “critical race theory” has slightly subsided after Virginia’s contentious gubernatorial election in November and public schools start lifting mask mandates, the right-wing has fired up its angry base against books they fear question their white-privilege morals, insisting schools ban these objectionable titles, or even burn them (yes, two Spotsylvania County, VA, school board members said particular books should be pulled from school libraries and burned). Fear of the angry mob has permeated schools to the extent that an assistant principal in a Mississippi elementary school was fired for reading I Need A New Butt! Unfortunately we’ve seen this all before in some form and to some degree, though more often from the top down, from governments officially banning books and free speech rather than vocal minority mobs aggressively forcing government policy to reflect their agenda.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Traveling the Thousand Thousand Islands

Learning about different places, people, and cultures different – whether through physical travel or wandering the internet (or, gasp, even a book!) – can provide new experiences from which we might learn and grow. These different perspectives don’t simply expose us to new elements; they challenge us to examine ourselves. We use the phrase “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there,” reflecting both our appreciation for foreign places and our own gratitude for the comforts of home. We might claim the same thing in our gaming. Many of us play in fantasy roleplaying games heavily influenced by western European history and culture. It’s worthwhile to venture out in an imaginary sense to explore new lands in our gaming...especially with tour guides native to a foreign culture. I recently embarked on such a journey, immersing myself in A Thousand Thousand Islands fanzines inspired by southeast Asian culture. It’s given me some wonderful game inspiration as well as a taste of a world quite different from my own privileged, white American male perspective.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Gaming for Peace

I believe that we are here for each other, not against each other. Everything comes from an understanding that you are a gift in my life – whoever you are, whatever our differences.”

John Denver

Russia invaded Ukraine last week amid a global pandemic, persistent supply chain issues, economic uncertainty, and continued politically fueled anger in America. Not exactly a time to sit around playing games. But just before the Russian invasion I learned of an interesting international training project, the prototype, computer-based Gaming for Peace (GAP) that intends to teach military peacekeepers “soft skills” focusing on building trust, teamwork, cultural awareness, and helpful communication. According to the website, GAP is “new training curricula for enhancing the preparedness and skills of personnel for conflict prevention and peace keeping missions.” I gave it a try. It seemed to me an exercise not only in building soft skills but in broadening one’s experience in empathizing with others, both those on your team and those you’re helping. Working with others for peace, compassion, and greater understanding seems like something the world needs a bit more of right now.