I have a mouth, but can’t speak

A few weeks ago on a popular elf games forum at shitstorm erupted in our post-Weinstein world. Two incidents of sexual harassment were posted and then things took a turn for the weird, like mod stripped of status and banned weird.

Two weeks before this I got into an argument in another thread with someone I thought was being intentionally obtuse about a game’s presentation. I might have gone at this person a bit hard. I got red text and was asked to leave the thread. Bad because I really want to see where that game goes. Not saying the mod was wrong in giving me a warning though.

So back to the shitstorm that was eating RPG professional’s reputations and making lose a lot of respect and hope for humanity in general. I made a small post pointing out something in a post about how people had misunderstood who were mods and why some people might have made such a mistake. My post was only to point out that a current mod had made a hard run at an industry professional. I thought it was an innocuous post meant for clarification of the original misunderstanding. For my trouble I got a one day ban for a personal attack.

The only problem was I wasn’t attack the moderator I mentioned. To me it appeared the mods were closing ranks and saw an unbiased pointing to a fact as an adhomin attack. Ironically the bias was in the mods because they brought up my previous warning from two weeks before that.

The end result is I no longer feel that I can post anything but rainbows and fluffy bunnies without being moved up the warned/banned ladder. At the same time I see people sidestepping the don’t attack members by attack the company they work for or represent as proxy.

While the original thread made me sad and a bit angry about something that is supposed to make me happy and reduce my stress, this hesitation of posting to this elf game board that I have successfully not been disciplined for 15 years has become crippling.

Ironically I now feel a bit like I was harassed for pointing out harassment. There are people with much bigger problems than this. The originating forum post showed that, but a part of me seems like it has been silenced and I’m unwelcome in a place that would have been the last place I’d have ever thought it would.

Elegant vs. Simple

I’m play around with a game idea. I’m asking myself Jared Sorensen’s three questions and trying to make the nebulous more concrete. I am a firm believer that system matters, or as Adam Koebel would say if it isn’t in the game it’s not part of the game.

My outline already has some implied ideas, which I’m OK with. I want a light system that doesn’t care your attention to keep switching between role-playing and gaming. But I’m also kind of a system wonk. I especially love systems that can elegantly take a bunch of thinks and make them work together beautifully.

My problem with this is that a beautifully designed system on paper could grind to a jarring halt at the table. I love the original Shadowrun system (First to Third editions) because of the initiative passes and how amor interacts with damage and the condition monitor. I think it’s a very elegant system to make all the parts work together in a logical and satisfying way. I also admit I have no wish to play a game using it. Why?

The most successful games I ran were Rolemaster and Buffy. In retrospect these games were liked by my player for the same reason I believe people like Powered by the Apocalypse and Fate-based games. At their core is a very simple system. Often roll, add modifiers, check result, apply consequences. In many of these games the first three are so familiar to be thought of as one quick, albeit extended, action. And then it’s right back to the role-playing.

The appeal of modern indie games comes from all the other things that sit on top of a very simple resolution mechanic–and basically start skewing the results. It means all that “story game” stuff is just their to reward or punish the role-playing you already do via the core mechanic.

And so my revelation today is that most successful games often have a trivially simple core rather than an elegant or satisfying mechanic because most people don’t care if the system models the real world, but rather that their large gun does more damage or their crush on an NPC is what allowed them to win an arm wrestling competition.

Tune in next week when I argue that Fate is crunchier than Pathfinder, just because Pathfinder’s crunch is finite.