30 Years Running

•November 21, 2008 • 1 Comment

And the game is still the same. The D&D game that is:

“I just think that, in the 30 years since it debuted, it could have made a bit more effort to be more inclusive and less anchored in a singular world-view, and that players should be a bit more self-conscious of the sort of tropes they are putting into place and acting out.” (Read more…)

Since so much of modern fantasy is based on that singular world view we run into a ton of problamatic material being gobbled up not just in games, but in movies, books, and comics.

It’s a good a read, go check it out.


People of Color in Fantasy

•November 3, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Link Roundup:

The Truth is out there, and it’s easy to find

[4E] Why no half-orcs?

The title alone told me so.


Racially diverse artwork in D&D…does it influence you?

Debunking White Fantasy

My own thoughts:

I’m not quite sure when or where the thought hit me when I realized that of all genres, fantasy is the last great bastion of permissible segregation. People of color in fantasy have been talked of all over the web on that site there or that board over there, and the sentiments are the same. Unless people of color are wrapped in the trappings of their real world counterparts or possess a dissertation on why they live in a mainstream fantasy culture they cannot “reasonably” exist.

Said existence is called diversity for diversity’s sake. Political correctness run amok in a fantastical setting that should bear no resemblance to our own world, in certain ways at least. Conversations on this topic tend to run in circles. Diversity is a modern and progressive social aspect of our cosmopolitan world.

When diversity is pointed out as being divisive rather than progressive, then it didn’t happen in great enough numbers in the past to be of consequence. When it is pointed out that yes in fact it did, we then move on to find a specific example in history. If an example is offered, or not offered for the ridiculousness of the demand, we once more circle back into diversity for diversity’s sake and all the lamenting of PC that is heir to.

Otherness for the sake of Otherness… Many PoC do not want to play the Other, they want to play the hero, the setting, the champion, the risk-taker. They don’t want to play the Other because they live that on a day to day basis. When they play their latino-esque wizard they want to walk down the fantasy street without stares or whispers… and of course without racism by NPCs or PCs.

Yet to hear some tell it, this is only possible so long as the wizard stays in his distinctive Othered fantasy homeland. Complete with details that bring to mind a barrio more than a multi-faceted culture. Never mind that many PoC who play D&D already live in a culture different from their genetic origins. They wear the clothes, eat the food, and live out a culture different from their respective Old Worlds. But to say it cannot be possible in a fantasy world is disingenuous.

And so we come back to accusations of modernity and “PC-ness” in a cycle I’m not going to get into again. A dissertation is always needed to explain why these characters of color exist where and how they do. None is ever asked for or offered up for white characters in any world or setting. Especially in terms of literacy, hygiene, social mobility, etc. (*nod to Bankuei*) Things just -are- for white folk in fantasy. For PoC a treatise of why, how, and who cares is needed, complete with a separate packet of footnotes.

I’m going to make a short list on why it’s possible for PoC. Not to refute or correct anyone at this point because I’m tired of dealing with people who cling to idiocy. But to give other roleplayers, gamers, writers, and dreamers a tiny peace of mind they do not find among their fellow fantasy lovers.

Causes for people to end up in a land not of their forebears:

-natural disaster
-resource mining/gathering

-curse (causing wanderlust or to find a certain place)
-malicious or kindly deity
-contraptions that make travel easy
-beasts that have the ability to travel great distances
-dimensional travel

Now with all of the above said, the great migration (through normal or magical means) could have taken place hundreds or thousands of years before your setting takes place or your character is born. Enclaves form and retain ties while adapting to the majority culture. Inter-mixing will happen as well depending on your setting. A complete and total adoption of the new majority culture is also completely plausible. Homeland origins matter little then, for your character’s people have created a new home for over two-thousand years and know little of their homeland except in stories and myth.

If your humans band together to fight the likes of dragons, trolls, and lizard men something as superficial as skin color will cease to matter. Dragons, elves, gnolls, etc. are really the true Other in fantasy and should be (but aren’t) treated accordingly. The Asian looking man fighting next to you is more comfortably familiar than the scaled lizard-looking man who is trying to beat you to death with a club.

Remember, if your peoples have lived in close proximity for a long, long while, skin color and appearance will not matter as much as shared history (as stated above to face a common threat.) Especially in a world populated by sentient races that bear little to no resemblance to what we call humanity.

One point I had forgotten to mention, by no means must your character only be a derivative of a larger culture. Places have and do exist where another culture has been adopted more or less, but in which none of the people of the adopted culture exist to any great degree.

Think trade and means of scrying for passing ideas and clothing. To take this further your character’s people can be the -only- people if you wish. Such is the nature of fantasy, magic, and a completely different history from that of our own real world.

I haven’t touched at all on PoC fantasy races. The biggest argument I know of being that of the skin color of elves, and perhaps what color dragons like to be when they take human form. These being fantastical creatures, I say go for it and make them what you wish them to be.

Genetic determinism has never been very big in fantasy except for European aesthetics or Enlightenment science. How can both black and white dwarfs exist? How can green, brown, emerald, and gold dragons exist? Why is it argued that gigantic flying lizards make more sense than Asian barbarians?

The supreme caveat to all of this is to do what you like, and tell everyone else to go to hell. Long drawn out explanations aren’t needed when you want something to just -be-. I did traipse around with justifications above, but I’m a world builder. I like to think of how, and then craft peoples and histories.

Reality should not be more improbable than fantasy in a fantastical world. Magic and myth make anything and everything possible. The only limit? The closed minds of others who say the fantastical is not possible.

WoW: Wrath of the Lich King Release

•September 15, 2008 • Leave a Comment

So the release is slated for the 13 of November. Just a little over a month after BlizzCon. Will Blizzard be able to make all the needed changes for the expansion? We’ll see.

You can preorder WotLK via your friendly neighborhood game store or use an online retailer. The Collector’s Edition has been announced as well, but of course, costs more.

Since the game should for all intents and purposes be in the bag by the time BlizzCon rolls around I wonder what announcements, if any, they make about WoW. This year’s convention may just be about StarCraft 2 and Diablo 3. And of course, maybe a bit more about the upcoming movie, something no one has really heard much about of late.

Edit to add this anyway:

I’m wondering how exactly the movie will pan out and if (if any) there will be representation of PoC as humans. Of course, there are the ridiculous portrayals of the Horde cultures to take into account. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t want to fling something at the movie theatre screen.

Escapism Collision

•September 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Escapism, pure unadulterated escapism. That’s what we love about games. Get us away from the nine to five, the hypocritical politics, and the dirty dishes in the sink. Push start, roll the dice, and turn off the real world for an hour or so.

But what happens when escapism collides? Whose escapism wins out? I’m reminded of a short story by Octavia Butler. In this short tale a woman is charged by God to make all people happy. The easiest way to make them happy was to make their dreams come true. Yet the woman in the story realizes that some dreams are nightmares to others. And so people would fulfill their fondest desires in sleep, in the dream world, wherein each tiny encapsulated paradise is kept safely separate, but equal.

This is a strange row to hoe in gaming. Many desire to leave the real world behind, but it’s the manner in which that happens that causes conflict in the gaming community. First let’s look at the more popular games which often receive low marks for sexism and racism, say Grand Theft Auto in any incarnation. For those who are tired of thinking about misogyny or prejudice these games are wonderful escapes.

And this is the collision of escapism I spoke of earlier. For those who experience misogyny and prejudice in real life this game is not a wonderful escape. And is really more of what they experience in the real world. It’s hard to lose yourself in a game that insists you are window dressing for the whims of others.

So don’t play those games right? Problem solved. Except it’s not that simple. Only so many games are created each year and arguably the biggest, flashiest, most talked about games of the year… just aren’t made for everyone. They’re made for one demographic and the hope is by the developers that it will spill over into the other “niche” demographics. Other little games are made, but they don’t fulfill the appetite of the “niche” demographics who want to save the world, defeat the dragon, or execute that military strike flawlessly.

Escapism for all?

And I would say this is why a culture war has sprung up within the gaming community (and other fandoms as well.) Let’s imagine the gaming market as a huge pie. Or Pi if you want to geek out. For the time being there is only so much pie to go around. Hopeful bakers are stirring up smaller, niche pies, but those won’t be baked and ready for a while yet. And so for now, we only have one gigantic pie. Now let’s say 65% of this pie is made up of prunes. 20% is blueberry. And the last 15% is apple.

Well, not everyone likes prunes. So a more equitable solution is proposed:

Person A: How about a little more apple and fewer prunes?
Person B: No, no, either eat prunes or STFU.
Person C: Well how about a little more blueberry and a little less apple?
Person B: Whatever, just leave our shit alone.
Person A: No wait, that’s not fair how about less blueberry and more apple?
Person C: Hell no!
Person A: How about we ditch half the prunes and up both blueberry and apple?
Person B: Fuck no! Leave our shit alone! Eat prunes or GTFO.
Person C: Well we could make each share roughly equal.
Person B: WTF is with this pandering shit? Everyone should just eat prunes, pandering is unnecessary.

In my mind I have each of these demographics laid out even though there is overlap within them. But it’s indicative of the way these conversations play out and the fear of losing ground for the things you(in the collective, not personal sense) like to play. I didn’t even touch on not having a fork to eat the pie with or being unable to sit at the table at all. There are also a few demographics that can’t even get near the table to discuss these issues.

Escapism works best when everyone is able to use it to suit their needs. But those needs are almost always in conflict: the woman who wants to save the world is contending with the man who is sick and tired of feminism in his daily life. Whose escapism wins out? And which should be worth more than the other? Many of the big name developers have already made that choice.

For people of color this often translates to others being “anti-PC” in game worlds be they multiplayer, single player or tabletop. Slurs, jokes, and outright hostility are okay, because this is escapism. And this again is an escapism collision, wherein one person’s escapism is another person’s day to day reality.

The simple-in-theory but difficult-in-practice solution to this is diversifying game offerings. And in diversifying go beyond a “game for your demographic” to “this is a game with a novel approach we think everyone would like to play.” This would be hard to do as I’ve seen when games do in fact try to diversify there is often a backlash by the current core demographic. Accused of pandering and pc-ness, games that try to branch out and explore other points of view and cultures are slammed by gamer culture.

Of Death Knights and Holy Priests

•September 10, 2008 • Leave a Comment


Death Knights:
-You can only have one per server.

-Frost=Tanking, Blood=DPS, Unholy=Utility

-Currently the DK quest line dumps you out at level 58, high enough to enter the outlands through the portal.

-Free 100% mount, this mount is summon able and only takes two short quests to acquire in the Death Knight starting zone.

-Water walking spell, usable while mounted, extends to the entire group, right now anyone who is in the general vicinity.

-Tanking, sword and board not needed. I’ve healed for a couple of Death Knights now and the two-hander mitigation is fantastic. I haven’t yet healed for a dual-wield but I suspect the results would be the same. It’s pretty much like healing a bear tank that does awesome damage.

-Killing things is easy, DKs easily wipe out an entire area within a few minutes, I can only imagine the starting zone chaos when the expansion launches.
-My experience is mostly with the frost tree, I kill things easily if I use frost presence (DK’s version of defensive stance.)

-I can mow things down but need to eat after about seven kills or so. Using blood presence (offensive stance with heal% per damage) I can go much longer. Casting spells without mana is a godsend.
-Gear for DKs… If you want to stock up do it now. Some say warrior gear, it looks like you’re going to want to stock up on attack power items for Blood/DPS, tank gear for Frost/Tanking, I have no idea what would be good for the utility tree Unholy.

-DKs have one place, and only one place to train, Ebon Hold, a necropolis in the Eastern Plaguelands. However no matter where they are DKs have a spell to return to the necropolis to train. DKs have three trainers. One for frost, one for blood, and one for unholy. Make sure to visit all of the trainers when you level to be sure you don’t miss a spell.

-What I love about Frost: Frost Fever a debuff that makes some of my frost spells hit for double damage , spell lockdowns, spell interrupts, and spell cast time increasers. Damage mitigation is phenomenal and you can haul like a truck, but in keeping things balanced you do need to eat/bandage every eighth pull or so. Runes pop up rather quickly so you never feel as though you’ll run out of oomph. Health yes, oomph no.

Death Knight Info, subject to change before the launch.

Holy Priests
-With my current post-Kara, Sunwell badge gear I only drink about twice per instance. I never run out of mana and don’t do heavy down ranking. (I do max rank and second to max rank) I have heard rumblings of another downranking nerf coming but do not have any official statements.

-Right now with the spellpower change it is worth it for every healer to collect damage pieces in Live WoW. +Heal is shifted downwards to make the transition. +Damage will just be converted over. I’m not sure if one could secure enough damage gear to make an awesome WotLK healing set but the current debate points toward yes

-The lowdown on the +heal is this. All healing spells are being buffed to make up for the change. Also talents for healing will help healing power as well, so there will be virtually no change in output at launch.

-New spells, I haven’t noticed much in the way of serendipity but the holy presence spell is awesome for those extra seconds to get flash heal or Gheal off. I love, love, love the spell haste talent, couple it with the free spell talent and you get three quick heals for the price of two

-Soloing, when outside of instances my +heal gear works out just find for doing quests and keeping myself alive. A holy priest still needs to be cautious about being overwhelmed by mobs but in most cases that’s easy enough to prevent.

-I’ve given up Divine Spirit, and for the time being don’t need it at all. I’d love to have Imp DS again, but it’s not possible while, yet again, getting the top tier talent in the holy tree, Blizz has gone on the record saying that this is to keep Discipline Priests desirable for raids.

-Spell Haste, this hardly registers to me as a priest, and really the only time I’m really aware of it is when I’m trying to pump someone with flash heal to give me a cast buffer for GHeal.Priest Spells, subject to change before launch.

The Big Bad Beta Post

•September 10, 2008 • Leave a Comment

-For your enjoyment: Full Screen Slideshow Click the pics for info about the pic.
If you do nothing else, check out the screenshots. 😉

The World

Stormwind Harbor = A new addition to the Stormwind city area. This area is huge and sweeping and really looks more elaborate than Stormwind itself does. If you drop by Stormwind now you can see the NPC workers getting ready to blow a hole in the wall.

Borean Tundra = Nice, based around Artic tundras. You have wide swaths of nothingness, oil spills, snow, ruins. BT is really a sort of hodge-podge place. The best thing about this zone however is looking up. An aurora borealis dances in the sky at all times. Here, unlike the Howling Fjord, the aurora is never blocked out by trees.

You first meet the Tuskarr here in small villages scattered around. You also meet some sort of fog people and there are of course nagas and undead. The dungeon instance on this map is called The Nexus, just that it’s centered around a mana/dragon/ice theme. Other than that I have no idea what the story is. I was asked to heal and haven’t done the quests for it yet.

Howling Fjord = Gorgeous, based on Norse culture, but honestly it reminds me of the California wilderness. I can smell the pine as I run through this place. The soft flute music, the shifting aurora in the sky, the sound of the wind in the background, this is easily my favorite zone. It reminds me of camping when I was a child.

You first meet the giant Vrykul people here and they’re none to pleased by the settlement on their land. I’m sort of offput by these initial quests but you’ll understand when the expansion launches. It’s too close to colonialism for me. The Fjord is also filled with all sorts of traveling contraptions. Ropes and pulleys that will either take you up and down cliff faces or down to the sea side like an ancient elevator. Though it makes me laugh, these things actually have ropes now unlike the Magical Thunder Bluff Elevator.

The Misc.

Gathering Spells/Buffs:
-Herbalism- Wild Growth – Instant 3 min cooldown – Embrace the natural energies surrounding you, healing you for X over 5 sec.
-Skinning- Master of Anatomy – Skinning all those dead animals has broadened your anatomical knowledge, increasing your critical strike rating by X.
-Mining- Toughness- All your hard work spent mining has made you exceptionally tough, increasing your maximum health by X.

-The death of spell damage and spell healing
-Healers have litte to fear, healing spells themselves are being adjusted to give roughly the same output when you had +heal
-Cons: healers will have to fight mages/warlocks for +stam, mages/warlocks fight for +spirit/mp5
-Pros: in theory any loot that drops will be useable by somebody instead of being called “so and so loot” and being disenchanted
Read a bit more about the pros and cons of the change

Exotic Pets:
-Large and in charge, but will they hinder views in tight instances/raids? Some like the rhino can easily cover 2-3 mobs, and become even bigger with the beast within talent, I haven’t yet seen a list of exotic pets separated into tank, dps, and utility ratings, so far personally I’ve seen the rhino, the ravasaur, and the worm. Tentative list for exotic pets. Who wants a core hound? 🙂

-Come from the inscription profession.
-If you’re planning on taking this up max your herbalism now, and hold on to every level of herbs from peacebloom to netherbloom, you’re going to need them for leveling inscription or selling them on the auction house at launch
-About 15 per class
-Special page in the character sheet, you can have about six at a time
-Glyps for all classes: Subject to change prior to expansion launch.

-I’ve only tested two races/genders. Female Humans and female Taurens. Female Humans are able to change hair style, hair colors, and piercings. No new ethnic hairstyles so far. Which I’m partly glad of. For Tauren females hair style, horn style, and horn color. Though for Taurens there are many more horn styles than hair options. Lady Taurens can finally have the huge horn spread they’ve been waiting for. Changing these things will cost a small amount of gold, so that you couldn’t change things every day if you wished to. I’ve also seen pigtails on Forsaken women and it seems that human men will get the anime hairstyles from Blood Elves. Human women also get the anime hair styles from the Blood Elf women. Here are some pics of the styles.

More Misc
I’m tossing in informational links on things I haven’t had the chance to write about or play around with much. 🙂
Changes to racials. Scroll down to Kalgan’s post #97.
Tailors get a bunch of new stuff. And a mount pattern called Magnificent Flying Carpet it’s a very fast rug. 😉
For us roleplayers there are a ton of new emotes.
The UI has been switched up a bit. Most notably there is now a guild/personal calendar so you don’t need to use an addon for this. There will also be some sort of visible threat meter.
A list of the new Achievements. I haven’t paid too much attention to these. Sorry.
Blacksmiths can now create sockets on items that don’t have them.
More info on classes besides Death Knights and Holy Priests.