God, Wil Wheaton is Such a Piece of Shit

It would bother me less, I think, if my town’s local gaming meetup didn’t put up these stupid “Observe Wheaton’s Law” fliers everywhere with his dumb smiling face. Every time I see it, I think about how he wants to deny women (and everyone) their online anonymity. Every time I see it, I remember the people who’ve been harassed and chased off the internet for voicing their opinions. Every time I see it, I remember that disgusting picture that was sent to Liz F. Every time I see it, I think of how on one hand we’re supposed to listen and habeeb while on the other, there’s Wil calling people liars because they’re not on the WW bandwagon. Every time I see it, I wonder “How can the axiom ‘Don’t be a dick’ be attributed to such a colossal dick?”

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Greenskins & Colonialism

I’ve written at length in the past about the plight of the greenskin and the tableau of colonization represented by the press into the goblin frontiers.   One of the best lampshades on the tropes of fantastic racism and colonialism of greenskins comes from Order of the Stick, where one of the main villain’s motivation is to avenge his people’s cultural status as cannon-fodder.     Asparagus Jumpsuit wants to move past the colonial tropes of RPGs.  But I think it order to move past them*, we need to backtrack.  Before we fell in love with the Noble Savage Orcs of Warcraft and the Proud and Honorable Orsimer of the Elder Scrolls, there wasn’t near as much discussion about the plight of greenskins in fantasy rpgs.    Let’s go back much further than the tropes of dungeons & dragons influenced fantasy, further even than Tolkien’s Orcs, who were twisted creations of an evil god, to when “Fey” was what people feared in the wilds.

Greenskins were not noble savages, no race of different men, but rather the more twisted and deformed members of the Unseelie Court, malevolent in intent against humans, soulless and cursed, and bound to the Devil through the teinde, a pact which required them to offer the blood of infants every seven years.  We’ve projected our orientalist and romantic ideas onto greenskins in fantasy because it is no longer acceptable to project them onto non-western people.

The only way to rid RPGs of the colonial race trope is to treat monsters as part of Fey, wholly opposed to humanity, God and the Godly.  The problem in D&D and any RPG that features goblinoid races is that people will project two different things on the same being, things which are in direct conflict with one another.  A goblin cannot simultaneously be a creature of magic and malice whose nature is to act in defiance of God and Man and be a proxy for a brown person.  You’re going to need to choose in your setting and choose early, and you’re going to have to deal with that choice, but most importantly, you need to make sure that your players are on the same page.  If the goblins of your world are malevolent fairy-kind, make sure that the guy who is insistent upon bringing his white-burden everywhere he goes (including your game table) is aware that the minions of Oberon do not need his guilt sympathies.

*Personally, I enjoy using goblin-folk as nomadic hunter-gatherers who are in conflict with humanity at times out of necessity rather than an evil nature, but at the same time, I don’t use them as stock low-level enemies, either.

Race & Gender Based Stat Tweaks and the Elder Scrolls

I was thinking about this because some article about negative stereotypes in video games was all “Black folks are too stupid to use magic in Elder Scrolls” as one of the several examples.

Just how bad are the starting racial and gender based stat tweaks?

There are no racial (or gendered) limits in any stats. All Races can eventually get 100s in all stats (except for Luck; that shit is hard, yo).

The differences in racial and gender based stats can be overcome within a single level with a little bit of effort and determination.

Racial and gender bonuses may reflect the base societal norms within each “race”. As they are quickly overcome and virtually irrelevant among adventurers, these stat differences say more about the values held by each fictional culture rather than what the developers believe to be the inherent strengths and weaknesses within various races and genders. (Crit theory says I’m 100% right about this, too, because it’s my opinion, and my critical opinion is more meaningful than creative intent)

All of that being said, I’m not really a big fan of systems that alter base stats on whether someone is playing as male or female. Usually, though, base stats are fixed for that character for the rest of the game, outside of magical items. Most systems don’t have any mechanism for a female character to overcome that -2 STR or whatever. But at least with most of the Elder Scrolls entries I’ve played, when a female character goes out and swings a sword for awhile, the game says “Well, since she’s been out there swinging a sword, clearly she’s gotten stronger.”

Racial stat traits or restrictions are more understandable when we’re not talking about the difference between a white guy and an asian or black but rather all whites, blacks, asians, whatever vs. hominid things with non-human morphology. Khajit used to not be able to wear boots, because they were uncomfortable on their kitty feet, until Oblivion (where the restriction would’ve broken the thieves guild and Knights of Nine quest lines).

The real problem is the uselessness of cultural understanding as a mechanic within the Elder Scrolls.  I’ve been playing as a high elven linguistic anthropologist in Daggerfall on and off for maybe 3 years now, and while I’ve got a full suit of elven armor, elven blunt weapons and dwarven edged weapons, I still can’t start the main quest because I’m only level 2.  At best, all of that cultural understanding merely allows her to improve her backstab and critical strike skills on the 1 out of every 10 orcs who aren’t immediately hostile.  “I strike you down in the name of the most benevolent Mara!”