How to Make Your Game Anti-Fascist

I might be kicking a hornet’s nest with this one, but I think it’s an important topic to talk about. America, and much of the world, has seen a new rise of fascism, in a variety of authoritarian guises. This is definitely a global issue, but all global issues are also local ones, so I think we all have a responsibility to address fascism in our communities.

There’s no denying that tabletop RPGs and LARPs have a fascism problem. The introductory work, Dungeons and Dragons, is rife with material that appeals to fascists of all stripes, from its treatment of race to its codification of alignment to its fetishization of violence. To make matters worse, many works do not examine their relationship with authoritarianism and fascism and wind up creating worlds and systems that allow fascists to take root and find comfort.

This is simply not acceptable.

Fortunately, there are tools available to game designers and runners that can be implemented to help create games that are not friendly to fascists and their ideology. Consider this a primer – an introductory text of its own.

As a note, not all of these strategies need to be used in a given work. However, the more that are used, the less room that fascists will find to engage with the material.

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Game Theory Chat: Designing for the Social Contract

I know I’ve been away for a while now. Life has been doing that thing when it gets busy. But recently, my earlier post about decolonization has been getting some attention. A lot of the feedback has been useful and informative, and there has been some good discussions about the ideas that I’ve brought up in the article.

There’s also been some malicious response, but that is inevitable when bringing discussion about social issues into the sphere of games. This article isn’t a response to them, though I would like to point out that my desire for less violent games does not mean that I want other molds of game play to go away. This blog is to help designers create more distinctive and more interesting games, rather than to attack that which has come before.

A third group of feedback has emerged though, a group which states that it’s up to the GM and to the players at the table to determine the content of the game. To a degree, this is true. The GM and the players are ultimately the ones that implement the ideas of a game, and their interpretation of the systems of the game determine how the game actually plays.

That said, the designer does carry some onus of responsibility. A good system can, and must, shape the social contract of the game space.

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After the End: An Introduction to the Story of FFXIV

Final Fantasy XIV released to negative reception, both from the players and from the critics. I did not play the game at that point, so I can’t speak to the source of this. The game limped along for some time, before the creators eventually realized that things could not go on any further. They apologized for their mistakes, promised to do better, and then destroyed the world.

They made good on the promise. Eorzea, the world in which Final Fantasy XIV takes place, was hit by a massive, dragon-filled false moon that wrecked the landscape. And the game was relaunched, better tuned, better written, better functioning, as A Realm Reborn.

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Tacoma: The Cost of a Life

Tacoma is a science fiction game set aboard an abandoned space station, empty save for the detritus of life behind and the lingering shades of digital ghosts. It’s the job of your character to collect data related to the AI left behind, and the interest of the player to delve deeper into the mystery of just what happened on Tacoma.

It’s entirely possible to leave things be, do your job while watching as a series of progress bars fill up, but the real excitement comes from interacting with the remnants that your hardware can detect. Certain themes are uncovered in this exploration, which will be discussed below the fold. Spoilers are to come.

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Game Theory Chat: Scope

Tabletop RPGs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and there is no one size fits all solution for all groups or for all games. Considering the scope of a game is an important consideration before the design process even begins. Going too large can burn too many resources while going too small can limit the design potential.

Finding the right fit for the right game is, therefore, the second step in the design process, after coming up with a concept. Knowing the scope is vital.

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Game Theory Chat: Decolonizing RPGs

RPGs have a violence problem.

In almost every non-indie tabletop RPG, combat receives special attention. It is given additional mechanical and narrative weight. It is brought to the surface and made as a primary tool of in-universe conflict resolution. Character creation is often a race to see who can cause the most harm.

And to further reinforce these notions, the advancement systems in games like Dungeons and Dragons encourage violence as a means to grow more powerful. It becomes the task of the player characters, typically self-made individuals reliant only on themselves and on a small group of ideological comrades, to go out into the parts of the world inhabited by “savages.” There, they murder the individuals that they encounter, destroy their societies, and take their gold and land in order to enrich themselves.

RPGs have a violence problem. What is the solution?

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Game Theory Chat: Random Generators

Random generators have a number of different functions in tabletop RPGs, functions that often contrast with their role in other analog games. This week, I’ll be addressing those functions as well as a number of different ways that random generation can be used.

I will begin with some general theory about how the use of random generation separates an RPG from a miniatures game or a board game, both of whom use random generation in some similar ways to RPGs. Indeed, I think that the distinction in this usage is one of the primary means of telling these kinds of games apart.

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