A hatred of self and the games that do it.

How many games put you in the role of playing Ordinary Joe?

Not many.

A recent thread on TheRPGSite talks about:

Originally Posted by The RPG Cliche List
Nephilim Law. In modern-day occult games, mortal humans are considered to have the same intrinsic worth as cattle. (So named for Nephilim, a game that is particularly blatant about this.)

Now, Exalted isn’t a modern-day occult game, but you can definitely view it as an anti-humanistic game: in the setting, the various Exalted are the important people in society, and mundane human beings are nigh-irrelevant.

Apart from Nephilim (which Lesley refused to play because she valued the lives of the humans in the game), there are heaps of games which treat the rank and file of the world as nothing but cattle.

The thread at TheRPGSite derails nastily into accusations of racism and a lot of debate about whether the issue is with player characters given their powers or player characters who earn their powers. Those aren’t the issue at all.

The issue is more how the game empowers the players and how thy are encouraged to treat humanity in game.

Nephilim treats humans as disposable underwear. Their incarnations destroy the lives of those they inhabit. And they’ve been doing it for centuries. This provided an issue for many people. The alternative was to inhabit a Thermos and not interact meaningfully in the game (or become a Dr Theopolis-style advisor)

Vampire dehumanises the brutality and violation of feeding in allowing a player character to have a “Herd” score where they can treat humanity like a fast-food restaurant. The designers are at fault as they lost the “tragedy” of the Embrace and the Hunt and chased the gothic-punk “everyone wears leather trenchcoats and hide Katanas up their sweaters” market.

In Exalted, the players are encouraged to become a super-elite. This is based on my interpretation of the Exalted rulebook. You exalt and the game changes into something like Godzilla versus Mothra. Sometimes you catch a glimpse of humanity.

SLA Industries creates inhuman combat monsters who fight contract killers – serial killers with advertising – both of whom take very little notice of the rank and file of humanity. They’re bullet-catchers. They’re incidental damage in the firefight. They’re categorically tragically killed by passing Fire Engines. It’s crap being Joe Ordinary.

I must say, I’m not keen on the idea of humanity hate. I think there is a lot of it owing to the idea that gamers are mostly maladjusted teenagers who want to play out power trip fantasies. It’s sadly true.

Back in my teens I was really uncomfortable playing games set in Northern Ireland. It was just a little close to home. You’re a being of power – do you take a side in the Troubles? And the one game we did play had one player work out his revenge fantasies on people who bullied him in school. Healthy therapy? I doubt it. It felt unclean and voyeuristic. Brr.

Are there many games where you play normal humans? Zombi would be one. In The 23rd Letter it probably pays to be a normal human.

A Tale of the Golden Dawn

We’ve begun an investigation as minor members of the Golden Dawn as a break from our Delta Green game. We’ve now got two more sessions before Graham goes on holiday and I doubt we’ll get things finished in time.

The game has progressed quickly enough with us witnessing assaults by re-animated blind men bearing heathen daggers. We’ve seen the effects of a powerful mentalist and his two Sikh guards. We’ve found the heart of Dr Dee’s sanctuary in Mortlake.

Guided by the Tarot, we find ourselves at the horns of a dilemma. We feel we must act quickly and put an end to the black, unfolding darkness. But doubt about the nature of our enemy has stayed our hands.

Graham plays Logan, a historian with a beard. He seems reticent and slow to act and I am afraid that his caution may be our undoing.

Fintan plays a doctor who has been called away from the action by a sick relative. We hope he remains to minister to our injuries which become ever more life threatening.

Jim plays Philip, a laissez-faire scoundrel who pretends at painting and Tarot reading when he is not drinking the Milk of Paradise. He is flanked sometimes by his man, Dai, a welshman and petty thief.

I play Franz Ritter von Becke, an Austrian nobleman and expert duellist. I bring my valet, Josef Bauer, everywhere with me and allow his taciturn wit to steer my intents.

Most recently we have found the very forces of nature arraigned against us. The oppressive English summer has attracted swooping ravens, stinging bees and the attacks of savage wild dogs which were no match for my sabre.

I fear we must act quickly. Upon our return to Henley, I will introduce my sabre to Kendall, the mentalist and his burly Sikh henchmen.

Tiroconium – March 531

In the fair city of Cirencester, the Duke of Clarence hosts a tournament each year for newly-made knights, called Tiroconium. Two knights have stood out as being particularly noteworthy in this years tourney, Sir Borre and Sir Mordred. Just over one hundred knights made the journey to Cirencester, many from Ireland from whence Arthur has returned recently.

Sir Ulrus, son of Ulprus, recently knighted by Bishop Vargus of Dorset, arrives with little fanfare and sets up his camp near fellow Roman, Sir Cunobarrus. The two discuss which squadron they will join in the upcoming melee, while other knights arrive–both announce they will fight for the “South”.

From Lindsey: Sir Elad, Sir Rhufon, Sir Uwain and their handsome leader, Sir Dafydd. Setting up camp near Ulrus, the four join forces with Sir Mordred for the grand melee, almost as soon as they arrive, joining the side of the “North”.

Some sneer at the back of Sir Wolfgang, but none to his face–this mighty Saxon may be uncouth but his size and strength make even the bravest of the young knights think twice before speaking. He too announces his intention to fight on the side of the South.

The Grand Parade and Helm Inspection pass off without incident, although Sir Ulrus makes an impression with one of the judges, Sir Gawaine, and catches the eye of some of the onlooking ladies, although he is oblivious at the time. Later, at the Welcome Feast, Sir Ulrus is seen chatting amiably with a group of ladies, and perhaps quite intently with one of them.

Wolfgang, on the other hand, has challenged any Irishman to hand-to-hand combat, and Sir Cenn takes him up on the challenge. Mordred and Borre draw much of the attention, with their wealth, connections and good looks. Even Sir Dafydd feels a bit left out–his companion, Sir Uwain, is content to just partake of the tourney.

On the morrow, the joust begins. As expect, Sir Wolfgang goes out in the first round (to Sir Aimon)–while wicked with his Great Axe, he shows his lack of experience on horseback. Sir Ulrus does well in the first round, unhorsing Sir Eadric (and wounding him in the process), but goes down in the second to Sir Foulque the French. Almost immediately, Sir Ulrus issues a challenge to his conqueror, but is defeated yet again, losing one of his horses in the process. Seemingly morose, he challenges Sir Mordred to the death, but luckily Uwain is nearby and prevents the herald from announcing such a crazy course of action.

Sir Uwain himself fairs well, unseating Sir Cunobarrus and Sir Cadmar, only to fall foul of his travelling companion Sir Dafydd in the third round. Sir Mordred goes on to win the joust, taking home the destrier offered as a prize. Sir Uwain issues challenge to Sir Dafydd, lance-then-sword, which Sir Dafydd accepts. A spectacular charge by Uwain not only unhorses Dafydd, but leaves him wounded–proud Dafydd calls Uwain off his horse, and Sir Uwain obliges but handily defeats his opponent and forces him to yield. Needless to say, the two part company, especially once Sir Uwain claims Dafydd’s charger as prize.

Sir Wolfgang defeats Sir Cenn in a close fought contest of Great Axe versus Great Spear–one that draws eyes from the wilder parts of Britain. No prize is claimed, as it is simple for love of the fight.

The final event is the Grand Melee, in which Sirs Wolfgang, Ulrus and Uwain acquit themselves well, with Sir Wolfgang lasting until almost the bitter end. The victory is declared for the South, and Sir Borre claims the prize of the Silver Sword for being the last man standing.

Before the prizes are given, Sir Ulrus must face Sir Mordred in the lists. He wears a lady’s favour in his helm, and looks sure and swift in the saddle. Bearing down on Sir Mordred, he unhorses him at first tilt, but Sir Mordred lands well and draws his sword. A clash of arms and Sir Mordred’s sword goes flying, leaving Sir Ulrus the victor.

With the prizes awarded (Sir Foulque won most challenges), Uwain, Ulrus, Wolfgang and Cunobarrus agree to travel to the Pentecost tournament in Camelot, although Sir Cunobarrus will leave them at Silchester. The four set off together on the King’s Road, eastward.

From superheroes to Knights errant.

Last night we decided to give The WatchTower a rest as we’ve lost Yellowfist for a couple of months due to his impending martial marital duties.

Thus ensued a discussion about what to play instead. A long discussion.

We eventually settled on Pendragon. Paul is playing a Roman Christian from Dorset. Rob is playing a Saxon from Silchester. And I’m playing a Cymric Christian from Lindsey.

My character, Uwain, a stocky Northerner is overshadowed by his bearlike Saxon friend and his Roman friend in terms of family glory (he starts with 15 whereas the others start with hundreds). He’s also the only player to start without a proper warhorse. He is, however, the better swordsman, lancer and horseman of the three and has gained some reknown for his valor.

At the start of next session, we journey to a tournament…somewhere…for something…

Pan’s Labyrinth

Watched it last night round with Aidan, Abi and some ice cream. It’s a good movie – personally I don’t think it’s the same sort of emotional tour-de-force as perhaps Fight Club or American History X or even Watership Down but it’s a good movie nonetheless. They manage skillfully remove a lot of the anticipation and wonder from the movie with what can only be described as fumbling with foreshadowing.

On other news – I left my three books of occult philosophy (trois libres de occulta philosophia) with Aidan to read and perhaps start to distill into something resembling a game that wouldn’t need me in the room if you wanted to run it.

Episode Seven: 28th October 2000

“This is Kitty Thoreau for LCI News Dakota in a prefab cabin built by the newly inaugurated WatchTower New York. What are they doing in Dakota? Good question and something we’ll answer after the break.”

RASA Fashion, the leading bespoke tailors are now touring the Dakotas. Call 1-80-555-5555 to find your nearest store.

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“We’re back with more news on the WatchTower. We’re not in Dakota which is one reason – we’re suspended a mile above the Atlantic coast while WatchTower New York takes steps to clean the terrible environmental disaster caused by an unidentified superpowered terrorist. To pull this herculean effot together, they’ve pulled in technical staff from Torus Research, a leading edge technology corporation and using technology licensed from the UK-based Prodigy Corporation.

The amazing thing is that this building was created from the air by Balance, the leader of WatchTower New York. We’re currently being held aloft by Yellow Fist, the superhumanly strong scrapper who provides WatchTower with much-needed muscle. I’ve been talking with Indigo, the wearer of the Torus Research prototype “Rescue Suit” designed to help locate and rescue people in danger and two senior technicians from Torus; Mikey and Pete. I’m told we also owe some thanks to SkyCrane who is acting as a forward observer ten miles up.”

[She pauses and walks around the prefab, pointing at the individuals and the equipment]

“This device, dubbed the VacScoop, is removing all of the pollutants collected on our nations beaches and removing them, dumping them into deep space. The process of cleaning all the world’s oceans of 90% of pollutants is apparently going to take less than 12 hours. The question this journalist has is: Why hasn’t anyone done this before?

[she pauses and the sound goes out]

“I’ve just been told we’re going to teleport to the Indian Ocean, on the other side of the planet, to continue this work. I can really see this being a viable alternative to aircraft flights with instantaneous travel, no risk of deep-vein thrombosis. Yes, it can send you to the Bahamas but you have to purchase your ticket 30 days in advance.”

[she grins an award winning smile]

“Just joking folks, this advanced tech is still in testing which does make me a little nervous but it seems to be working fine.

Just so we’re clear: we’re saving the world here….on live TV….”